UVM’s Center for Teaching & Learning is hiring

This is really a golden opportunity to work with a wonderful group of people, and be involved with a wide variety of projects. From the posting at 37signals:

Assist faculty to design, maintain, and evaluate web applications for instructional purposes; facilitate faculty professional development workshops and provide general technical support as part of the Center for Teaching & Learning.

Bachelor’s degree and three to five years professional experience in related field required, or an equivalent combination. Effective organizational, project management and communication skills required. Demonstrated ability to design and build maintainable web applications and proficiency in user interface design and usability testing required. Fluency in XHTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, SQL and relational databases required. Familiarity with MVC principles, Ruby on Rails, Unix/Linux environments, Apache, Flash/Actionscript, and Photoshop required.

Commitment to diversity and inclusion required.

Experience in educational setting and familiarity with instructional design principles highly desirable.

Applications can be submitted on the UVM Jobs site (go to search postings and look under Ctr for Teaching & Learning search for Job Requisition Number 032308). Once again, I’m on the hiring committee – I look forward to seeing your application!

The right tool for the job

Sometimes it’s not that easy to see what a new tool can really do without some level of adoption. Adoption translates into self investment, since you’re going to end up spending time and energy evaluating a new tool.

The tricky part is determining the right level of self investment necessary to evaluate the tool, and then how much more investment the tool is likely to take for full adoption.

Assuming you can find that line, it’s worth the expense of the initial investigation. Even if you end up passing on it, you learn from the experience. Over time you’ll begin to recognize patterns that represent what not to look for in a tool, and how to spot a good one. You might even find a tool you’ll end up keeping in your tool belt, or one that gets stored in the garage to lend out to friends.

The act of actually picking up a tool and taking it for a spin represents a break in inertia – you’re doing something differently. Bucking inertia can be a phenomenal way to grow, and can help lay the groundwork for a constructive change. Often it forces you to look at a problem or situation from an angle you hadn’t considered before. It’s not going to be easy, but it will make you better for it in the long run.

On tipping

Corey Gilmore has a breakdown of how much it costs to run a cab, and a good reminder to tip your cab driver. And tip well. Apparently, even a decent tip leaves the driver paying for income they didn’t get:

…the government assumes about a 23% gratuity…

Ouch. These days I try and aim for 25% but I still think the standard is 20%, and there are a lot of people still putting down %15 out there.

If you can’t afford the gratuity, then you should seriously consider wether you can afford the service in the first place.

Portland RUG

I went to another bang-up meeting of the Portland Ruby Users Group last night. Russ Jones gave a great presentation on Design Patterns with Ruby. I don’t know if he’s planning on publishing the notes from the talk, but it’s worth keeping an eye on his blog to see if he does.

The talk itself was a well balanced introduction into some programming concepts that a lot of programmers would recognize, but might not know as formally. While Ruby’s brevity and elegance lent itself exceedingly well as a medium for illustrating these ideas, it was a discussion that a developer in any language would have found useful. Russ even showed some sample code he did in PHP for comparison.

Speaking of other languages, someone mentioned to me they were hoping to see more crossover attendance from other languages/groups. If you’re developing in another language, and you’re in the Greater Portland area (I hear they even get folks coming in from New Hampshire), you owe it to yourself to try and attend one of these meetings. I can’t promise you won’t encounter some cajoling to come over to the Dark (Red) Side, but you can expect some solid discussion of good programming practices.

Casey Rosenthal wrapped things up with a brief presentation that dovetailed wonderfully with Russ’s talk. Casey used an implementation of an organizational research tool to walk us through a few examples of design patterns in action. Over the course of both presentations, we talked about the use of lambda functions in Ruby.

I also heard of a few new books to put on the list. Russ based part of his presentation on a book by Russ Olsen, called Design Patterns in Ruby. A few folks mentioned The Rails Way, which might be worth a look.

This was my second time attending, and unlike the last time, I was able to stick around and hang out at the pub afterwards. Conversation was relaxed but engaging. I think the group currently meets every second Monday of the month, but you can find out more on the google groups page. Hope to see you there next time.

Off the Eatin’ Path

I’m having fun digging through the archives of Zachary Barowitz’s column, “Off the Eatin’ Path”, in the food and reviews section of the bollard.

Getting around the site is kind of a pain, and good luck linking to an article. Someone should tell the folks at the bollard that popup windows aren’t very friendly. It sounds like the print version is going from a quarterly to a monthly cycle, so maybe a site refresh is in the works. I wonder if they realize how much ad revenue they’re probably missing out on.

Still, it’s worth slogging through the funky navigation. I’m especially enjoying the review of Asian drinks, many of which I’ve seen but haven’t been adventurous to try. Everything from Basil seed drink and Grass jelly to young coconut juice, in fascinating – if not always mouthwatering – detail.

Putting Twitter to good use

The other day I was sniffing around for a Portland (Maine) equivalent to the WCAX weather announcer that announces Vermont weather via Twitter. I didn’t find one. I did however find a post that seemed to echo some of the thoughts and confusion I’ve heard elsewhere regarding the utility of Twitter. This got me thinking in a few different directions, and what follows is one of them.

I’ve been outlining examples to people of various uses for tools like Twitter for a while. This is the weaving together of a few of those conversational threads. I’m focusing on team communication (internal), customer/client/audience communication (external), and individual (that’s you!) uses.

Read More »

Today is CSS Naked Day

Today is the day when we shed our CSS to show our bare markup.I almost forgot, even with Rob’s early reminder. Oh well, better late than never, I suppose.

You can sign up, and find resources and instructions (including a slick WordPress Plugin) at the official naked site.

Show off that markup!

Closing the Canadian Studies Office at UVM?

My friend and colleague Paul Martin writes about the imminent closure of the Canadian Studies office at the University of Vermont (disclosure: I am currently employed at UVM). Near the bottom of the post he offers suggestions on how you can help, as well as a link to a lengthy article on the situation at the Burlington Free Press.

found_drama’s interface critique of GoodReads

Rob Friesel has a lengthy and thoughtful look at GoodReads, complete with wireframe sketches and in-depth interaction scenarios.

You know you’re doing something right when you have users that give you feedback like this. Here’s hoping they put his suggestions to good use.

Potent Potables

One of the joys of moving to a New Place is in the discovery of new foods. There are few better locales for such discoveries than Portland, ME. As it happens, Portland is my most recent New Place, after leaving sunny Burlington, Vermont. Anecdotally, Portland has almost as many places to eat as San Francisco. What better environment to re-launch one of my favorite categories?

I’ll take Potent Potables for $500, Alex

That’s right, today we welcome the return of the long lost food category. We’ll see where it goes, but let’s start with something short and sweet.

How to cut a mango

It’s Mango season, so I’ll kick us off with one of my favorite instructional videos, How to Cut a Mango.

I think I originally found this on Lifehacker, and there are a few variations mentioned in that thread that might be worth a shot (I like the idea of the straw technique).