Amazing times in New Orleans

I’m beginning day 4 here in New Orleans.  The conference has been going into it’s third day (second full day) now.  For the most part things are going pretty well.  I had the opportunity to experience New Orleans in a very unique way.

We got the opportunity to witness the devastation of Hurricane Katrina first-hand by getting on a bus and being led around the city by residents of New Orleans.  I was asked to write a reflection on my trip for the conference newsletter, which best captures my thought of the trip:

Sixteen months after Hurricane Katrina, the headlines seldom remind us of the devastation brought by this storm. After witnessing the destruction first-hand through the bus tour, the impact of this national tragedy resonates through my heart and the hearts of students from all parts of the nation.

Students watched in awe yesterday as we entered the 9th Ward. It became difficult to count the boarded and standing houses, that remain empty to this day. Emotion overcame us as we saw an “X” marked on each house, each documenting the victims left by the storm. In our own homes, the opening of a new store brings a new place to buy material goods. However, here in New Orleans the reopening of a simple grocery signifies hope, a symbol of rebuilding and resurrection.

The narrators offered a first-hand account in many ways. We could hear their anguish – but above all – their pride for their community, and their determination to overcome adversity. In the midst of destruction, light was revealed to us in the form of the Musicians Village. Marked by vibrant Easter egg colors, these homes embodied new life delivered from death. In many ways, we witnessed the “Deltas of Change” through the eyes of the New Orleans survivors.

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Musician’s Village

I took a few pictures from the bus and posted them on Flickr.

Last night we also got to experience something called the "Second Line", which is a New Orleans celebratory procession.  Led by a big marching band, 700 students danced and marched along the streets of New Orleans, ending up at Jackson’s Square by Bourbon Street.  It turned out to be a blast.  People were hoisting people on their shoulders and dancing in the streets.  I raised my friend Sarah onto my shoulders and managed to carry her for about 5 blocks.  I was surprised that my shoulders could sustain for that long. As we were marching the streets, people came out onto the balconies to cheer and throw out beads.  It was an amazing sight!

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More pictures on Flickr

Today there were plans to do a lot of service projects throughout the city, but they have been canceled due to rain.  We’re just sitting in our hotel rooms now, and I’m spending some time catching up on work.

17 hour day

It’s 2:15am Friday morning, and I’m on the verge of completing a 17-hour day, 1st day at the my conference in New Orleans. New Orleans is a remarkable city, a place that I’m surprisingly enjoying. Throughout this weekend I will receive some more exposure to the rebuilding needs and processes, but what I’ve seen so far has been really promising. I’m liking the town.

The conference is definitely different from previous years, but I’m enjoying it nonetheless. I’ve seen great things today, I’ll look to share more about it in the coming days. It’s good to see some of my old friends here, but I’m sad that I really haven’t had an opportunity to catch up with them.

As far as the leadership activities go, I’m ready to be done and move on. In many ways, I’m looking forward to only having three days left in my term. I’m ready for a much-needed break.

28 days

28 days later I finally post. Needless to say, I’ve been busy, and really haven’t been in front of a computer much for the last few weeks. When I’ve been on, I’ve been on for a mission and just haven’t put the effort into blogging. I think this is the longest I’ve gone without a post.

I could write pages on what I’ve been up to, and I might expand a few topics, but here’s a synopsis of where I’ve been:

Whew! So we should be caught up on December! I’ll work maintaining a reasonable blogging schedule. Thank you to those of you who still read this and catch up on my life and random thoughts!

When you fear the plagiarism god…

I’m once again lying low, this time because I’m writing an analytical research paper for my technical writing class.  A few weeks ago, our instructor put the fear of God in us with a series of "plagiarism" lectures.  Basically she showed us every which way you can plagiarize someone else’s work, then your world would end (in an academic sense anyway).  If you think I’m frustrated – you’re right.  I must clarify: as the son of an English teacher, I understand and greatly appreciate the threat of plagiarism, and completely respect the awareness and preventative efforts.  But how far is too far?  When you fear the plagiarism god so much, that you can’t take credit for your own work.

Let me offer an example:

For my research paper I’ve decided to be lazy and write a subject I know all too much about – web design.  I’ve been designing web sites for 10 years now, designing somewhere around 50 web sites throughout that time.  Although I’m professionally a web developer, I can hold my own in design.

In preparation for this paper, I had to write a descriptive analysis with the intention that it will be used for my research paper.  I decided to describe and compare table-based design with css-based design.  A month ago I wrote this about tables:

Table-based design is the most widely-used methodology for web page layout.  Tables were originally integrated into computers as a method to organize and visually display a matrix of data.  As the Internet formed, tables transcended to incorporate their design elements and ultimately become part of the web page.  Tables typically became used as headers and borders of web sites, as a table-based header reduced the need to create a graphic header for a web site.  When it became possible to make the tables invisible, it created a new frontier of design possibilities.

Crude, but effective…

Fast-forward to this week, when I started reading David Sawyer McFarland’s "CSS: The Missing Manual" and came across an equally cool description of table-based design in Chapter 10 of his book:

HTML tables have seen a lot of use in the short history of the Web. Originally created to display data in a spreadsheet-like format, tables became a popular layout tool. Faced with HTML’s limitations, designers got creative and used table rows and columns to position page elements like banner headlines and sidebars.

I loved the second sentence, so I wanted to source it and cite it.  I plugged it into my document and was ready to move on, when I realized that MY following sentences conveyed a message similar to his statement.  Realizing I have to submit my cited sources with my paper, to avoid suspicion I am forced to change my paper to now read:

Table-based design is the most widely-used methodology for web page layout. “Originally created to display data in a spreadsheet-like format, tables became a popular layout tool” (McFarland). Early on designers realized that tables could be expanded to incorporate their design elements and ultimately become part of the web page (McFarland). Tables typically became used as headers and borders of web sites, as a table-based header reduced the need to create a graphic header for a web site (McFarland).

So now I’m giving McFarland credit for things that I wrote. I’m frustrated because this is common knowledge amongst web designers.  It’s like explaining how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich using your own words, then finding someone wrote about it in “the history of jelly”.  McFarland is getting paid to write about this, where I am essentially paying (through my tuition) to write essentially the same thing.  Does this entitle him to get credit on my work?  In the interests of good academic standing, I’m forced to oblige.