Archive for May, 2010

from Wikimedia Commons

As usual on Trinity Sunday, we sang “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” at Holy Trinity Oxford today. It’s a terrific hymn, both in words and music.

According to Wikipedia, although the Old Irish poem is traditionally ascribed to Patrick of Ireland (4th century), it probably dates from the 8th century. The English translation by Cecil Frances Alexander powerfully captures the incantatory power of Celtic nature poetry:

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

And the equally great music is by Charles Villiers Stanford, with Ralph Vaughan Willams contributing one stanza.

Old Irish is a quirky language, no doubt about it. I had the privilege of studying it under the great Murray Fowler at Wisconsin. It’s the only language I know where the word for 7 literally means “large 6.”

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One of my favorite bloggers, Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope, has a column from his Chicago series about whether – and how – public schools in large urban districts can be improved. My wife and I made the decision several years ago to move to a district where our taxes would greatly increase, but with great public schools.

It was well worth it, but as a result we really don’t have direct experience with the kind of situation Cecil is referring to. What his recommendations are founded on is a high level of parental involvement. That’s certainly true of Wyoming, OH. And I suspect elsewhere as well. What I like about this column is how it takes the generalization ‘parental involvement’ and goes on to give specific, practical examples. There are no magic bullets. But there is hope.

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Off to Opera Camp

Our son John took off for Wooster, OH today. He’s a Young Artist Scholarship winner at the Ohio Light Opera summer festival.

OLO is a remarkable institution, focusing exclusively on light opera (duh!), Gilbert and Sullivan, and 1 or 2 musicals each year. John has small roles (some speaking, some singing) in about several of them, and is in the chorus for a couple more. We’ll see him in at least Kismet, Gypsy, The Count of Luxembourg, and Iolanthe.

It’s actually quite an honor for him, and he’s excited about it. His older sister keeps things in perspective by calling it ‘Opera Camp.’ Actually, seeing him drive off this morning was a little bit like seeing him off to camp.

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I have Daniel Johnson Jr. to thank for getting me started with TalkShoe. This is like a combination of live chat, podcast, webinar and conference call. When Daniel, John Hingsbergen and I were planning the recent Society of Professional Journalists podcasting seminar, we used it to confer and record our calls.

It’s pretty easy to use. Once registered (free), you set up a call and others call in a a pre-arranged time. You can make the result public or private. It’s not entirely intuitive and the tutorials are rather skimpy. I tried to figure out how to use their documentation and ended up calling Daniel, who told me the answer in seconds.

I’m currently using it on a research project of interviews and writing. It was pretty simple to set up a call and invite my guest. Key points that Daniel set me straight on were how to log in as administrator of the call (use your PIN), and how to start and stop recordings — *2*1 in each case.

Once the call has processed (at the end of the pre-requested time, not at the end of the call) I downloaded the mp3 file to my computer, where I’m going to start editing very soon. With an external mike/headset for my Blackberry, the audio is not broadcast quality of course, but it’s not bad. It’s easy to see uses for this in generating live programs and podcasts, as well as other audio you want to repurpose.

I’m still learning, but so far, thumbs up.

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I’m looking forward to Saturday and a podcasting workshop sponsored by the Cincinnati chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. They asked me to put this together a few weeks ago. Fortunately I was able to enlist the formidable talents of my old WMUB comrade John Hingsbergen and Cincinnati New Media Cincinnati guru Daniel Johnson, Jr.

No podcasting experience is necessary. In this hands-on workshop participants will:

  • Create a podcast
  • Learn how to plan, record, edit, publish and market your podcast

It’s Saturday, 10am – 4pm. There are a few slots left, but — you gotta register here.

Thanks to the NKU College of Informatics for hosting this.

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Still another (let’s hope final) update: the revised PowerPoint of this presentation is now online.

I’m presenting Part Two of a blogging workshop Thursday, May 13th, 10 am at Cincinnati’s Return to Work Center. It’s based in large part on my experiences with this blog and another I maintain and sometimes contribute to. It’s aimed at newbies and those contemplating starting a blog. The focus of part one was on starting a blog; this one will look at what should go in it.

Thanks to Lisa Slutsky and the helpful gang at the Return to Work Center for asking me back.

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just about the most amazing graph ever

I recently saw a LinkedIn discussion about how to define the South. Think there’s no such thing? Think again.

This graph from the ASARB in 2002, available from the Glenmary Research Center in Nashville, shows the distribution of church membership. The different colors signify the predominant religious denomination in each county in the U.S. Black dots signify that there is an absolute majority of that denomination in the county. Click on the map to enlarge.

Care to guess what the red counties mean?

Southern Baptist, of course. If like me you grew up in the South you know intuitively what this means. I found this map while researching a course on Faulkner I taught for Miami’s Institute for Learning in Retirement in 2007 (you can find a PDF of my PowerPoint on my Presentations).

Oh, and there is one other way. I can’t locate it now, but I remember reading about a study that looked in Yellow Pages to find occurrences of the word “Dixie” in business names. Not surprisingly, as I recall, the percentage was highest in Alabama and Mississippi. But I don’t think the results were as striking as this.

I can only think of one other graphic I have ever seen that so effectively captures meaning. (Sorry to be mysterious, but I’ll have to blog about that later).

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Since moving to Cincinnati we’ve made occasional efforts to replicate some of the kinds of Southern plantings we were used to (azalea and dogwood in SC, rhododendron and mountain laurel in the NC mountains). Mostly these attempts have not been successful. A few people north of the Ohio do have azaleas, but there are more across the river in Kentucky. Our hypothesis is that the soil in our yard is not acidic enough, so Jenny has been adding coffee grounds.

Finally we had nice blooms on a few struggling rhododendra this year. I hope this is a sign of another good spring, and more to come.

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Former Red Adam Dunn in strikeout mode against John Smoltz (Wikimedia Commons)

One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about living in the Cincinnati area for the past 12 years is becoming a fan of baseball, especially the always-promising-but-rarely-delivering Reds. I’ve never gotten into the standard mania for statistics that true aficions have, but I have to say that I’m intrigued by some of the discoveries of the sabermetricians in recent years. To wit:

John Erardi of the Cincinnati Enquirer had a column this week about the bad hitting luck of right fielder Jay Bruce. He has an amazing throwing arm, and at times has shown great promise at the plate. But what sank him last year was his BABIP — last in the National League at .221 (the average in baseball is .298).

What is BABIP, you say (or not)? It’s Batting Average for Balls in Play (struck balls that are between the lines and in the ball park, i.e. not fouls or home runs). You can have a lousy batting average overall, but if more than about 20% of the ones you do put in play give you a hit, you’re better than poor Jay Bruce. You’ve heard of hittin’ ’em where they ain’t — Bruce apparently hits ’em where they is.

I like discoveries like this because they’re counterintuitive (my skeptical side) and yet explanatory (my wanting to believe side). So I’m waiting with heart pounding for Bruce’s average to get stronger (ba-bip . . . ba-BIP . . . BABIP!)

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