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Suomi and back

Well, it cost me an entire suitcase full of my belongings*, but I’ve now experienced the absolutely beautiful country of Finland over an eight day stay around the 2014 edition of the EdMedia conference.

To business first:  the conference itself was pretty informative, despite having a K-12 focus that, I’ve been told, was much more prominent than in other years. “Chalk that up to the enviable Finnish education system” seemed to be the consensus:  everyone wants to learn what they’re doing so right. Sessions covered everything from collaborative flow research in educational games (probably my favorite, to be honest) to the viability of traditional assessment models in increasingly un-traditional classrooms and beyond. Other notable discussions centered on self-publishing tools and resources, 3D printing in Canadian schools and a MOOC platform that protects user data and makes all content openly retrievable and accessible. Another perk of the conference setting: seeing learning space design at the University of Tampere (the spaceport building in my travelogue is Pinni B on campus, where we had our proceedings).

 
There are, of course, a bunch more photos on Flickr, if that’s your thing.

And to pleasure: it was one being in Tampere. The city itself is smaller than Pittsburgh and infinitely walkable, a fact I exploited extensively to quickly make a mental map which served for much exploration. An interesting – and only-in-Europe – mix of old factory town architecture and modern/futuristic construction made turning each corner an unexpected but aesthetically stimulating experience. And the proximity to water gave the entire thing a coastal vibe that, when coupled with the 30ºF lower temperatures than home, added to the sense of retreat. My PSU colleagues and I even braved driving in “big animal” (as they refer to moose, elk and reindeer) country to head up to Rauma, a living, breathing medieval village full of adorably painted wooden houses.

Having visited during Midsummer – the longest days of the year – made sleeping a challenge an exercise in futility but was ideal for being a tourist with conference obligations during the days. Really, day and night are pretty artificial concepts when the sun’s just getting around to setting at about 1:00. Going in with the idea that I’d likely never see Finland again, I can definitely say I was wholly wrong: I want to go back as soon as I can and travel around even more of Scandinavia, too.

* About that suitcase: the only downside to the entire trip was having my bag “removed” from the Tampere – Helsinki train the day before flying out.  Could have done without that turn of events and the hours of phone calls, forms and fretting that followed.  I take solace in the dumbfounded looks on Finnish faces as I told my tale – a very uncommon one in a country so safe that their largest city’s police station closes up shop at 18:00 on a Friday night. 

The Ive mind

Apple has recently let go of the former head of iOS and OS X, ending an era – and support for a particular kind of design, one with a reliance on skeuomorphic elements.  Now that the top proponent of the opposing mindset within Apple – chief hardware designer, Jonathan Ive, is at the helm, what might we expect?

[...] the logical guess, given his interest in streamlined, relentlessly consistent design, is that skeuomorphism — the kind-of-campy mimicking of real-world details like plush leather and shiny wood surfaces — may become a thing of the past.

The bottom line: Ive has always been one of the most important people at Apple, but with this reshuffling, he gets the opportunity to become the most important person at Apple. That makes this the most important thing that’s happened at the company in the post-Jobs era.

It’s an important move, and one that is sure to herald in an age of Apple’s software taking on the sparse elegance of its striking hardware.  Count me in.

(Time)

A long, strange journey

It’s been a very bizarre trip for cold fusion.

Odd topic, no?

Well, actually no as I’ve covered it once before.  At the time (March 2010) I was fresh off of watching a video clip that had infuriated me.  60 Minutes had interviewed several scientists who had been involved with the 1980s announcement by Fleischmann and Pons of their – several times now proven – findings with a room temperature fusion reaction.  The general consensus was that maybe, just maybe, the science actually worked and “oh, by the way” Fleischmann and Pons were perhaps the victims of some world class backstabbing.  The resigned look of both bitterness and “I freaking told you so” on Fleischmann’s face says everything.

But, looking back from where the field is now in 2012 does provide a little hope.  Dubbed “Low Energy Nuclear Reaction” or LENR now, cold fusion is bubbling back up to the mainstream.

I started hearing about LENR on some fringe-y sites here and there via the work of Dr. Andrea Rossi.  His E-Cat system caught my eye – and the eye of researchers, industrialists and politicians from Sweden to Massachusetts.  Skeptical myself, you can imagine my surprise when I started seeing it pop up in financial network reports.  And presidential candidate interviews.  And most recently in a ringing endorsement from NASA:

We could really use this one, Universe.  Please don’t let me down.

Got 2:15 to spare?

I know that the vast majority of people cannot sit through countless hours of financial documentaries like I’ve been doing recently (I realize I’m some sort of anomaly or glutton for punishment but I really do like them!), so this brief video explanation of what gives with the American economy is brilliant. Watch former Labor Secretary and economist Robert Reich explain it with pictures.

Home buying changes

Rising gas prices have an affect over many aspects of our lives. Besides increasing the cost of operating automobiles, more expensive fuel leads to an increase in the cost of shipped goods, food and airline tickets. Can gas prices also create changing attitudes amongst home shoppers?

Very interesting.  I’ve known quite a few people that drive over 100 miles each way to work on a daily basis and could never imagine how that worked in a practical sense.  Perhaps this article is saying that it doesn’t?  Or won’t any more?

(Autoblog)

Close to home

[...] a modern economy requires “collective action”—it needs government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. The United States and the world have benefited greatly from government-sponsored research that led to the Internet, to advances in public health, and so on. But America has long suffered from an under-investment in infrastructure (look at the condition of our highways and bridges, our railroads and airports), in basic research, and in education at all levels.

In light of Pennsylvania’s genius decision to potentially slash funding for public higher education, the recent Vanity Fair article “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%” was most apropos.

Cables and wires

For Hoover, since we just spent a good chunk of a car ride talking about our opinions on WikiLeaks – one of few political topics we seem to mostly agree upon:

Sites like WikiLeaks work because sources, more often than not pricked by conscience, come forward with information in the public interest. [...] It helps guarantee the information won’t be hidden by editors and publishers who are afraid of lawsuits or the government.

Why WikiLeaks is Good for AmericaWired

Update: What the crap, England?

Completion

All boxes are unpacked.  All books shelved.  All floors vacuumed.  All curtains hung.  It’s an incredibly relaxing feeling and I’m pretty pleased with how it’s turned out.

For those of you who can’t see Flickr’s Flash-tactic player, the set is here.

Well, I’m here

Kate and I met the movers at my current abode here in State College on Wednesday morning after racing up through the twisty, confounding backroads that Google had chosen for us near Lancaster.  The three man crew made a mockery of every moving attempt I’ve ever undertaken (thirteen as of this one) and got everything plopped in roughly the right spot within three hours.  Wegman’s was visited, Target was repeatedly purchased-from and a mountain of cardboard and packing paper (seriously, guys – that much?!) has been trickling out to the dumpster.  I will theoretically have more to add soon, but it’s all been a rush and I can’t believe I’m actually here again.  Surreal, for sure but not uncomfortable by any means.

Here’s a photo of the living room thus far.  Books and trinkets will be unboxed tomorrow: