I’m in Washington DC for a work meeting, and although I was primarily interacting with, learning with, and having fun with teachers from around our national network, I also had some brief jaunts out onto Capitol Hill. This will be repeats for you if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, but here’s a handful of images that caught my fancy…

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Playing at Work in DC

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Coffee With That Sandwich?

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Photo by Marshall Astor

I used to wonder how older dudes could order hot coffee with their turkey sandwich. I suppose it was partly because I didn’t like coffee with my lunch. Coffee with breakfast, sure. And after dinner? Yeah, why not? But hot, black coffee with lunch? That’s kind of hardcore. A nice, cold, smoked turkey sandwich with crisp, slightly wet lettuce, all washed down with hot, bitter poison. Hardcore.

As I look around I have a lot of questions like that. How is it that older people appear to all end up having the same haircut and similar pants and shirts? Sometimes you see the subtle pieces of flare to accent the uniform, but if you’re not paying attention, you might miss their little bit of style creeping in. Surely they didn’t dress like that in their youth or even in their 30s. You see pictures of older people when they’re young and they look so fashionable—retro we might call it now—maybe even like something out of Westside Story or Grease. Then somewhere along the way they slowly morphed through some kind of cookie-cutter mold, all dressed alike, eating meals earlier and earlier, and ordering hot, black coffee with lunch.

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running

Faster Not Further: Minimalist Running Update

It seems I start every post about running with some idea that I’m “new to” or “continuing towards becoming” a minimalist runner. Today it occurs to me that I’ve been running sans conventional shoes for almost a year now, so I think I can just call myself a minimalist runner. I have arrived. And here’s where I’m at:

I’ve logged 213 mi in my Vibram Spyridon LS [toe] shoes, and I still love them. They’ve held up really well but are getting worn on the inside to the point where I’ve gotten a few hot spots on my last couple runs, but I’m seeing if I can push them further. Since they aren’t conventional shoes, it’s hard to know when to replace them (though this may be an indicator).

I continue to be more inspired by speed, than distance. I’m impressed by my friends that run 100 mi/mo, but I don’t think that’s for me. I like being fast. And in that endeavor, I’m doing pretty good. I’m particularly proud of my run last week: 4 mi, 7’35″/mi:

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working out loud

Tools I Use to Manage a Lot of Work and a Hectic Life

tools_to_manageFor a long time now I’ve been wanting to document and share the tools I use to help me manage communications work at the National Writing Project, and really, life in general. My motives are two-fold: maybe it will help others and maybe I’ll get some good suggestions by putting this out there.

First, some criteria I’ve established for myself:

  1. Whatever the tool is, it must actually make my work easier or more manageable in some way. Just because something is pretty or nifty is not enough of a reason to use it. That being said, I’m shallow. I like pretty if I can have it.
  2. It must have a desktop/web version and a mobile app.
  3. I’d prefer not to pay for stuff, but I do believe in paying for well-crafted tools/services.
  4. It must have collaborative features so I can share work and processes with others, and to that end, it must be available on PCs as well as Macs, iOS as well as Android.

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Out of Touch With Self

out_of_touch_with_selfI’ve felt like I’ve been spinning lately. My brain is going a thousand miles an hour most of the day and night, and thoughts about work, in particular, are jumping around up there and bouncing up and down on the relentless treadmill. This happens from time to time with me, but it’s usually not this bad. There’s been more going on at work than usual, but there’s something else at play.

I’m not staying in the moment. I’m spending my time thinking about what needs to happen next and worrying about what’s already past. What’s right in front of me slips away and sometimes becomes one more thing that I didn’t get done. When this is happening I also don’t eat regularly, I sleep even less than usual (which is not much), and perhaps most importantly, I’m not having any fun.

So yes, I know what I need to do: stay in the moment, have more fun. But how?

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music

A Thought On Audience

In my first #nerdlution goal, I set out to write publicly via this blog, every day for 50 days. I found that knowing it was “out there” for others to read and respond to really inspired me to get it done and pushed me in ways I couldn’t have predicted.

I’m in the middle of week three of my second #nerdlution goal—playing my trumpet every day—and I’m finding that I’m more lax with getting it done. I think I’ve only missed three days out of 17, but still, I’m less inspired and I think it has to do with a lack of audience. There’s also the fact that (for me) it’s a harder and more personal goal than writing.
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working out loud

A Little Fun With Curation

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Background

A big part of my “day-to-day” working at the National Writing Project is curating—selecting, organizing, and presenting information online. The public aspect of this can been seen on nwp.org, Educator Innovator, or our social media accounts. I’m not the sole curator for our organization, luckily I have help from brilliant colleagues, but in a way, I’m the primary curator for online content.

The Task

Yesterday, we were a “core partner” for Digital Learning Day, and a couple weeks ago our team decided that we’d do a Storify of the day’s events as part of our post-event coverage (and in case you don’t want to read this whole thing, I’ll give you the final product now (though I do hope you read this anyway)). For those of you not familiar with Storify, it’s basically an online platform for curating content from across the web. One of my colleagues focused her attention on gathering assets throughout the day for this project, but knowing what a tremendous amount of content was going to be shared online via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, and hundreds of other sites, I was also glued to the stream, grabbing highlights along the way. Here are some questions I considered while gathering the info:

  • What is the story? Yes, it was about digital/connected learning, but it was also about how teachers engage students in learning using technology and what the products of learning were. The day was also about considering access and equity issues regarding technology and education around the U.S., and what the future of digital learning looks like.
  • What’s our story? NWP and its Educator Innovator and Digital Is initiatives were core partners, along with other partners that we often collaborate with. In fact we had a collaborative project called #Make4DLDay which was a set of challenges to engage people in “making” to celebrate. I wanted to try to represent everyone who is closely related to NWP in some way.
  • What’s the source? Not only did I want to represent partners and individuals related to NWP, I also wanted our story to have a variety of content that would include thoughts, perspectives, stories, photos, and video from several major sources like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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running

Time to Set a New Goal

It’s time for my monthly running update. By now, minimalist running for me is pretty much old news. 2013 was all about discovery and transition. Done. In my last running post, I discussed how I’d like to be faster in 2014 and I set a goal of averaging 7’45″/mi over 4+mi. Well, one month into the new year with 8 runs down, I broke that goal today: 7’43″/mi over 4.31 mi.

Now I just need to maintain that. I have to say, I feel it. As I’ve pushed my speed over the last few runs, my left hamstring—which I tore 5 or 6 yeas ago doing wind sprints—has been acting up. My strategy of resting at least two days between runs has pretty much taken care of that, but I’ll need to keep an eye on it. I’ve also noticed some stiffness and a few sore spots in my lower calves and achilles, but those also dissipate after a couple days’ rest and I’m able to get back out and run.

My goal has never been distance. Sure, getting at least 4 miles in each time is nice, and I might push for 5 this year, but ultimately I like speed. I’m going to keep pushing for consistency and speed and just see where I end up by December.

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Practicing Play, Playing to Practice

playing_to_practiceToday I was presented with an interesting challenge which led to a possible epiphany. One of my mostly “online friends,” Kevin Hodgson, wrote a song last night, and today, asked if I was interested in coming up with some horn lines for it. It was a completely no pressure situation, but immediately the perfectionist in me started to come up with all kinds of excuses not to do it: I’m rusty; it’s not my style; it’s been a long time since I wrote anything; what about what I planned to practice?; etc. etc. etc. But since I’m working on getting my musical side going and working on not caring so much what others think, I said Sure, why not?

I had heard the song once or twice and started coming up with ideas in my head while I went about my day. Kevin sent the audio file and I figured I would use my “built in” #nerdlution practice time to work on it. When I got my horn out though, I was presented with an old road block. I was reluctant to work on the horn lines for Kevin’s song—something that seemed fun and interesting—because I felt like I should work on my fundamentals and technique. Right away I saw that doing the fun part, writing some horn lines and playing them, contributed to my goal of getting my trumpet chops in shape, while giving me an opportunity to work on other aspects of music.

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