DTLT Magnet Poetry

March 9th, 2011

I was taking a moment’s worth of break from data inputting at DTLT yesterday, and decided to mix and match some of the magnet words they have stuck up on a shelf.

Mashups Leverage

Net-Gen Global Culture

Evolve the Vision

Higher Source

Podcast In the Works?

February 22nd, 2011

A friend of mine is completely obsessed with My Brother, My Brother, and Me, “an advicecast for the modern era featuring three real-life brothers: Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy.”  I’ve listened to a few episodes, mostly because she plays them while we LAN-party World of Warcraft, and I find them mostly funny.  Actually, Troutfang got her name from their 33rd episode, “Bramblepelt” (which you should listen to right now).

Photo by vancouverfilmschool

I’m not unfamiliar with podcasts in general.  A few years ago, I used to listen with some regularity to Mur Lafferty’s “I Should Be Writing” and a popular WoW one, but since my iPod(s) died miserably, I’ve stopped.  I used to listen to them while I walked around or in between classes.  Maybe I will check out what it costs to get a new, small one.  Or find my iTouch.  Probably better to do the latter.

Anyway, the point is that I’ve some exposure to podcasting, and always thought about doing one, myself.  On what?  I’m not sure.  I suppose I would talk about writing, video games, books–subjects I know–but the key is discovering how to make them interesting to other people.

Frankly, I think an hour’s worth of chat is too long; I find that I tire of listening to the chatter, particularly when it strays from the subject (which MBMBaM often does).  Tangents are unavoidable when working with other people, but I would definitely want to curb them.

I’m working with my friend, Mittens, and Shannon (of Ludo Ergo Sum), so perhaps this idea will finally come to fruition!

Troutfang: Warrior Cat

February 22nd, 2011

Would you all please give a warm welcome to the newest member of the Ellis-Swanson household!

Troutfang the Warrior Cat

Troutfang the Warrior Cat

We met this little cutie at PetSmart after weeks of searching.  Shannon (visit her at Ludo Ergo Sum) and I did a lot of searching and emailing on Craigslist, although I was skeptical of getting a cat from there.  Ideally, I wanted a kitten or young cat that had already been spayed/neutered, was up-to-date on its shots, and litter box trained.  (Originally, I wanted the cat declawed, but I did my research and came around.) Hey, I’ve always had high standards.  Plus, I’m poor.  Not poor enough to be unable to care for and feed a cat, but perhaps too poor to provide a lot of veterinary care for it.

I feel pretty bad about that, frankly.  If this cat got terribly ill, I would be unable to provide it with expensive care.  The only way I console myself to such a disservice is by reminding myself that she was a shelter cat.  She may or may not have been adopted, and will at least have an extraordinarily loving environment where she will be safe.   There are fates far worse out there.

My heart aches at the thought that I could be doing something irresponsible and wrong.

Troutfang Is A Warrior Cat

Besides the fact that she was found abandoned at a library, Troutfang is a fierce and fearless kitty!  Okay, maybe not entirely fearless, but it’s rare that she is dominated by her fear.  Loud noises, such as those the dishwasher or vacuum machine make, will startle her, but she will investigate once she recovers.

Furthermore, she is an insect killer!  I cannot tell you how pleased Shannon and I are.  We encourage her to kill the evil spiders that lurk in our apartment.  Thus far, she’s face two!  And they were quite demolished when she was done.  What a good little Troutfang!  Pretty soon, our need for men will be entirely minimal; what else are they useful for except lifting heavy objects and killing vermin and invasive insects?  Well, besides doing our bidding.  Cats are very willful like that…

Troutfang Is Precious!

Lengthy explanation is unnecessary.  See the photo below:

Troutfang on her back.

Sleeping on her back.

Also, she purrs like its her business when held, scratched,  played with, or near.  I can’t help but love this girl.

The Bullet Article: “Professors Embrace Social Media in Class”

February 17th, 2011

The UMW Bullet published some writing of mine!  It’s an article entitled, “Professors Embrace Social Media in Class”.

Here’s a teaser:

It’s not every day that students are encouraged to use websites like Facebook and Twitter in class, but there’s a new department at UMW that’s trying to change that.

“Learning is a social endeavor,” said Andy Rush, new media specialist in UMW’s Department of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT).

This philosophy is one of the underlying principles of new media, a discipline that is storming the pillars of traditional lecture-listen-regurgitate methods that dominate pedagogy and forging new ones that place more emphasis on the communal aspects of education.

Read it, and comment!  This is the second time ever that my words have been printed.  The first time hardly counts, however; it was a really bad bit for my high school newspaper.

It’s worthwhile to discuss how I went about writing this, if only for posterity.

Journalism is a foreign language to me.  When I signed up for Newsgathering this semester, it was only because the course fulfilled a requirement, and furthermore, only because the other course that also fulfilled that requirement wasn’t offered this semester.  You can imagine the surprise I still feel at playing the journalist these past two weeks, and then having my article printed!

Reviewing the Interview Notes

Going into this project, I was a complete newbie at interviewing.  I didn’t know what key words to look for in someone’s responses that would give me that feeling of, “Oh, this is going to be a good quote.”  I’m sure that reporters develop a sense of this to the extent that the choices they make in what to take down as exactly and what to gloss over as narrative becomes unconscious.  Until I learn the talent, I have to take down just about everything.  Actually, by the third interview, I got a tingly feeling when my source said something particularly quote-worthy.

I originally thought I would be able to jot my notes on paper, but see above paragraph about being a novice.  I ended up using my computer because I type faster than I write and could use a bullet system to organize questions and answers.

The second hurdle was deciding what questions to ask.  Really, this ties into the biggest issue, which was figuring out where I wanted to go with this article.  I knew that I wanted to write about DTLT and New Media, but what did I want to say?  Luckily, my editor gave me some direction, and the article became what you read now.  However, I wish that I’d had a better idea of it before I went to interview.  It would have helped shape my questions.

The last obstacle was style.  I was unsure what The Bullet’s publication preferences were, but thankfully, I had an understanding editor who was gentle in correcting me.

Overall, this was a fantastic experience, which I hope to repeat.

Suvudu Writing Contest

February 15th, 2011

For those of you who write science-fiction or fantasy, Suvudu (a division of Random House, Inc.) is currently hosting a writing contest.  Submit your entry of 50,000-150,000 words between now (the contest started on Jan 18) and March 18 and your story may be considered for publication.

I’m psyched!  Whether or not I will be successful in getting my story written by the deadline, it is a great incentive to get my butt in the chair and write!  I hope my fellow writers will consider doing so as well.

Here are all the details:  Suvudu Writing Contest.


[golden pen]

ENGL 302: Journal 4, “Press of a Button”

February 11th, 2011

You come home late at night, after a hard day.  The message light on the answering machine is blinking.  You press play and listen….

…You have the promotion, and the raise, but you will have to relocate to Nome, Alaska (or Ulan Bator, Mongolia, or some other equally remote, inhospitable, and inaccessible place).

Your finger trembles above the answering machine’s play button in the aftermath of the message.  You’re still, frozen, fumbling between shock and elation, and the rain that soaked your blouse and now chills you is forgotten in the rush.  A droplet of water runs down your aquiline nose, splashes onto the cheap plastic appliance.

“If you would like to save this message, press one…”

You hadn’t recognized the voice extending the invitation in sing-song Cantonese, but that meant nothing.  He had still used the right words, mentioned the right things:  You knew it was authentic, you knew what it meant.

It meant a promotion, a raise, acclaim and acceptance from your peers.  It was the accumulation of your years of training and long hours at work.  It was the Mohe County of China, an area with one of the most extreme–but still hospitable–climates on earth.

“If you would like to delete this message, press two…”

You exhale, heavily.  The release drops your shoulders, which were as rigid as steel supports, and returns your mind to your body.  Despite all the honor this assignment imparts, and the trust in you it implies, your stomach is still in knots.  Mohe, China, a remote area thousands and thousands of miles from McLean, Virginia, with as many fewer people.  What exactly awaits a junior core collection officer from the CIA has remained classified information to those aware of the opportunity, tantalizing the recruits salivating at the bits to prove themselves.

But, subarctic temperatures?  Minimal human contact?  A cruel request.  The reason for such a request would have to be interesting.

You could turn it down.  You could choose a different assignment.  No harm, no foul in the Agency’s book.

“If you would like to hear more options, please press three,” the machine requests.

You stare at it for too long, unmoving, and it repeats itself.  “If you would like to hear more options, please press–“

You press the button.

-Leigh Ellis

Cat Brigade: A Challenger Appears!

February 11th, 2011

New addition to the brigade.  I think this is the one I saw the other night and confused for Tiger.  This cat is not Tiger, and instead of being orange, like I originally thought, she’s a mix of grays.

CB: A Challenger Appears!

A Challenger Appears!

I’ve only seen her at night thus far.  Again, very skittish, but I was patient.  The Calico and I go through the same routine I adopted for the gray:  I put out some food, wait for them to come, then move the dish closer and closer to the door.  When they shy away, I’ll throw out some treats.  I’m not concerned they will turn away because most of the time they are so hungry.  As predicted, the gray was swayed by the food and the warmth of the apartment.  I actually scooted the dish all the way past the sliding door!

Of course, I had to stay very, very still through all of this.  I don’t think I moved for almost thirty minutes; my neck still kind of aches.  It was cool, and worth it, though, because she came inside, sniffed around, and even jumped on the brown box next to the door before leaving!  How cool is that?

It was actually the Calico that first came by for dinner this evening.  She’s growing better accustomed to me, though she swiped at me when I moved some of the dry food that had spilled on the ground into the dish.  She  nicked me.

Abused Left Hand

You can see the three red slices on my index finger where she got me. The other wounds are from moving and such: Scrape on my index, scratches on my thumb.

My hands have taken all kinds of abuse this past week.  Most are due to moving: I scraped some skin of my left index finger (the big blotch in the photo) putting dishes away; my knuckles are chapped from the weather; and the back of my thumb’s got scratches from who-knows-where doing who-knows-what.  My right hand isn’t any better… I whacked it good on a piece of furniture.

Anyway, that’s all that’s new today about the Cat Brigade.

5-Card Story: “The Rest of the Day in Different Worlds”

February 11th, 2011

A 5-Card Story

I found this writing exercise via Jim Groom’s Digital Storytelling class.  Students find five photos and then create a story from them. Sounded like fun…

"Panzerfaust Attacke"


869 Paris-Marais

Photo by Voyageur Solitaire-mladjenovic_n

wallpaper - The ISLAND

Photo by balt-arts

Alice in Wonderland: White Rabbit - Who Killed Time?

Photo by Brandon Christopher Warren

Park – Parque del Campo Grande, Valladolid (Spain) HDR

Photo by marcp_dmoz

Today began as a battle.  My four year old son and I hiked the hill and strategized like generals, plotting the submission of the lake to our miniature, plastic forces.  We pursued conquest like hunting hounds until our stomachs began to growl, and we remembered that even the dogs of war must be fed.  His mother threw meat sandwiches into our yapping mouths, and reminded the pup he had homework.

While the afternoon was new, I shouldered my tan canvas messenger bag and took the long way to town, stopping now and then to sketch out the birds I saw chirping their calls from ancient yews and towering bay laurels.   My legs are strong, however, and carried me to the library within the hour.

I greeted the shopkeep, kippah firmly applied to his head, and spent the rest of the day in different worlds.

The first of my creations was floating continent, vast and mysterious.  Dragons lived in this world, and magic, and adventure beyond dreaming.  Steps there must be tread carefully.

The second was a place of time–of no time.  A place littered with clocks, all of them meaningless.  I met a girl there, with skin as pale as the surface of the moon, who talked of rabbits and played cards.

The third world was my favorite.  It is the world to which I always return.  For this one, I forsook words and simply drew, straining to capture the photograph in my head.  This world is a real one, and so more tantalizing.  I dream of taking my son to see the lake where I used to play.

Cat Brigade: The Taming of the Calico

February 10th, 2011

The calico, thus far, is my favorite of the Cat Brigade.  The gender of this kitty is unknown, but I’ve been referring to it as a “she”, because its coat is so pretty and we all know that only girls can be pretty.

I’m trying to get her to come inside.  For one thing, she needs to be TNR’d (trap-neuter-return), and I’d prefer not to scare the crap out of her doing it.  Secondly, yesterday she was shivering like mad, which kills me!  I’d like to fashion a little bed for the cats with a bundle of rags on the porch, but as Shannon said, it’s far more likely they would just pee on them.  Yes, I could simply wash the bedding, but… ew.  And they would probably pee on them again.

I found out she has claws; I noticed them when she tried to paw at the wet fish food I put out.  I was a little worried she wouldn’t; if she’s going to be outdoors, she needs to be armed!

No nickname for her yet.  Maybe you could think of one?

Calico Face (1)

The Calico up-close!

Calico 2

Calico licking her paws.

There’s another cat that’s visited a couple times, which I simply call Tiger.  It’s the beautiful auburn fur, and his/her strut.  For some reason, I get the feeling this cat is doing fine outside.  He seems self-sufficient, a medium sized cat, and not worryingly thin.  However, he is very skittish of people.  He’s going to require a lot more effort to earn his trust.

Tiger 1

Tiger eating.

Crouching Tiger

Crouching Tiger!

Interesting update… Last night I peeked out the window to check if the kitties had come by for food, and was startled to see an orange cat looking back, just as surprised as me!  It ran off immediately, but for those couple seconds I had a good look at it’s head.  He looked a lot like Tiger, but I’m convinced it was a different cat.  His coloring was much lighter.  Could there be yet another stray roaming around out there?

Cat Brigade

February 8th, 2011

I moved into a new apartment over the weekend.  It’s fabulous to have one’s own:  bathroom, bedroom, walk-in closet, and privacy.  Also, kitchen, living room, porch, dining area, dishwasher, pantry, and laundry room.

The apartment has also come with a surprise:  Stray cats!  At least five of them, of all different breeds and sizes.

I feel terrible for the poor things.  They are obviously abandoned–no tags, no tagged ear, and still human-friendly (i.e., not feral).  Winter’s been chilly, and I hate to think of them outside in the cold at night.  Last night I went out to Target and picked up some wet cat food and food dish.  While my roommate and I settle in, I’ll put out some food for them, though eventually I’ll have to take them to a rescue shelter.

In the meantime, I need to get them to trust me.  I’ll document my efforts with some pictures! 🙂  Hopefully, my friend Shannon (who blogs at I Game Therefore I Am) will lend me her super-awesome camera to take those photos.  Otherwise, you get my cell cam, which is a great woe in comparison.

Cat Brigade:  The Persian (1)

Cat Brigade: The Persian