Making happiness (and frustration)


In The Naked Ape, Desmond Morris describes human behavior from a zoological perspective. It is pretty fascinating and incidentally one of the most romantic books I have ever read. Anyways, one of the fun things he describes is the nature of exploration and creation. He explains that humans are uniquely driven to create and play for its own sake. He contends that there are rules for creating and exploring that exist across cultures. These rules are the same for adults and children:

“These rules can be stated as follows: (1) you shall investigate the unfamiliar until it has become familiar; (2) you shall impose rhythmic repetition on the familiar; (3) you shall vary this repetition in as many ways as possible; (4) you shall select the most satisfying of these variations and develop these at the expense of others; (5) you shall combine and recombine these     variations one with another; and (6) you shall do all this for its own sake, as an end in itself.”

                                           –Desmond Morris, The Naked Ape (p.121).

I definitely get stuck in Step 2 a lot. After all, it is nice to be good at something. But I am fascinated with the notion that we create and explore for its own sake. Certainly, there are valuable skills that assist us in our careers and social lives, but there is something more too. Many people experience a pure joy when their work comes to fruition. Some are even lucky enough to feel joy during the project. But it is not a simple joy. It is a joy that comes from working hard to discover and working to create. It often comes in inverse proportion to the amount of frustration felt during the project. It is as if the pain, frustration, anger, and confusion get somehow reconfigured as happiness.

Updating the Website

Website update


  1. Organize the website to make it easier to navigate
  2. Increase traffic to the website
  3. Update the content to meet students’ needs

After making several videos and getting them moving on Youtube, it occurred to me that I will need to make them visible to my students.  I don’t get the sense that many of our students actually look at our website in any detail.  However, they must at least look at the site in order to submit a paper for online tutoring. We have an “Online Tutoring Resources” section in our website that has long been under-utilized, and frankly, in huge need of updating. It includes links to grammar and citation help. I went through all twenty or so randomly placed links and reviewed them for accuracy and relevance.  A few were links to outdated material, such as a link to MLA citations that missed the update in 2007.  I eliminated a few links and added a few more. Basically, I created a good old-fashioned libguide.

I am already in the habit of directing students to this section of the website when they have questions about resources. However, this will increase greatly starting in Fall semester.  The floor where I work is in the process of a remodel, and my colleagues and I decided not to pack the hundreds of grammar handouts that take up a large corner of our Center.  Instead, we have stated the goal of helping students to learn how to find these resources, which is a skill they will need.  Basically, instead of giving them an OWL handout, I am taking them to a computer and showing them how to find it. This sounds like a simple enough task, but it can be remarkably hard for a student to find a particular issue on a website like OWL when they don’t know what they are looking for. For example, many of my students don’t know what an in-text citation is, although they are using them.  A website like OWL is designed for people who are have the necessary vocabulary to navigate it.  I kept this in mind when I added links to our section. In short, there are a handful of links on every subject and each link has a different way of explaining the concept in question. 

The updated website: Writing Center – Online Resources 


Video-Remixing: Sannakji

After working with Scratch and some similar programs earlier this summer, I was reminded of a remixing program I sort of learned how to use. Below is a link to a video remixed with Mozilla Popcorn. I tried to use as many features as possible, so there is a little more text than I would prefer. However, it is a really fun program to play around with.

*Hint: This program works best using Mozilla


I have completed another video and added captions. It took me awhile to figure how to add captions. There is no way to add them with the software I am using, but it turns out you can add them to your videos in Youtube.

It was a little time-consuming, but well worth the bother. Youtube uses voice recognition software to supply ready-to-go free closed captions, and boy are they awful. Actually, they are sort of hilarious. At a giant all-staff meeting last year, the Nursing Department showed a somewhat serious, professional, nursing-related video using the closed captions provided via Youtube. It resulted in a total melt-down in hysterical laughing because the captions were word salad and really clashed with the video itself. Needless to say, incorrect closed captioning is totally useless to anyone who actually needs to read it. I should mention that I think that voice recognition is an amazing technology that will eventually be perfected. I assist students with a program called Dragon that is especially good. Dragon works by learning individuals’ voices and pronunciation, so the more you use it, the better it gets.

This is the video that reduced a room full of my colleagues to tears. The voice recognition is actually a lot better than it was the first time I watched it, but still terrible. I especially love the phrase: “Being an arse is about holding someone’s hand.” Enjoy:

First published video

Instead of doing something super fun, I have decided to make tutorial videos. Since I am making simple videos on topics I teach routinely during my work day, I thought that this would be a lot easier than it actually is. I have already spent many hours preparing transcripts, and even more hours troubleshooting problems with the program I am (was) using. The technical aspects are a little tricky, but mostly, I just feel horribly self-conscious about hearing myself on video. I am told by colleagues that this is a really common feeling. Apparently, the trick is to stop caring so much about it being perfect.

Problem: The MnSCU provided software is not really working with Youtube
Solution: Use free program that works much better and lets me own the videos (not MnSCU)

Problem: I can’t type and speak at the same time
Solution: Enlist a peer-tutor who wants something to do anyway

Problem: I make lots of mistakes while speaking
Solution: Accept that I am not a professional voice actor

Problem: I can only add to my work’s website through a third person which makes the layout hard to play with
Solution: Create Youtube channel and link from website

A Maker’s Space of Our Own

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” ~ From Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own

 In my life, there have been a lot of projects that I have wanted to do but lacked the space, time, money, and/or tools to do so. Investing in tools and space can be a huge financial commitment, and often just not realistic. Plus, there is always the possibility that I may really not like working with the tools once I own them, making them a really bad investment. As many people, particularly in urban areas, are living in smaller dwellings, it really makes sense to create communal spaces for making. However, these have to be spaces that people really want to be in.

After the trips to the Hack Factory and the Arlington Hills Library and reading the Maker’s Playbook, I have been thinking a lot about what a space should look like. I have also given a lot of thought to what it should sound and smell like. Without considering budget or doing any further research, I have brainstormed some ideas for spaces I would love to work in.

Crafting/Sewing Space

Atmosphere: relaxing, open, comfortable

Visual: bright, perhaps a rotation of projects and art displayed

Tools: sewing machines and sewing tools, a really big table, scrapbooking tools, rainbow loom or whatever new item comes along, special lighting for detailed needlework.

Learning Resources: Lots of books with pictures and diagrams. An internet terminal or a few Ipads might also work well.

Sound: soft music or no music. People should feel free to talk, but the space should be set apart from walk through traffic


Digital Design Space for Small College

Atmosphere: open (not a tight space that people would not feel welcome to explore)

Visual: modern, clean, but not really a big concern

Tools: high quality headphones, Ipads, design software such as Photoshop, lots of terminals, bigger screens and dual screens for editing ease, high quality printer

Learning Resources: guide books, access to online tutorials/internet, white boards

Sound: set apart from walk-through traffic or distracting noise, not so quiet that people feel awkward though- students should feel free to talk and work together