Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Month in Cedar Key Florida

We returned to Sunset Isle RV park in Cedar Key Florida a few days before Thanksgiving.  We brought the cold with us and as we caught our first sunset from the dock we prepared for the frost that was forecast for that night.

We quickly settled into a routine, working from the RV, using campground WiFi when it was sufficient to save the expensive, but much faster, Verizon connection for video conferencing.  We were getting 3 to 5 Megs from the campground (shared with the rest of the campers) with 15 to 30 Megs available from a Verizon tower several miles away.  The roof antenna and the cell booster really helped in this marginal signal situation.
For most of the stay we had the luxury of an un-metered Verizon connection, a by product of Verizon taking over our Millenicom account and leaving it on while they contacted all the Millenicom customers to discuss subscribing through Verizon.  When they called me I explained that I had already added 40 Gigs of data to my Verizon cell phone account (taking advantage of a limited time 2 for 1 deal) and they asked if I wanted the Millenicom account shut off.  At their suggestion I asked that it be left on until whenever, and it was!

As sunset approached we would shut down our computers and go out to the dock to meet fellow campers and enjoy the sunset.

Every sunset is different.  Some days we would walk down to the Tiki Bar at the Low Key Hideaway to watch the sun go down with company and adult beverages.

Soon it was Thanksgiving and the campground owners hosted a holiday pot luck featuring their home smoked turkey and ham.

There is a different crowd of people at Sunset Isle this year as there is no Nu RVer convergence like there was last year, but people are still friendly and easy to meet, there is bluegrass and potlucks in the club house and time flies quickly in this laid back, rural South community.

While Lucie worked on organizing a state wide celebration of the "Hour of Code" I puttered on the Printrbot Simple 3d printer that we had built from a kit at the Maker Faire in Vermont a month ago.  Actually it is a misnomer to say we built it, we oversaw the participants who visited our table at the Maker Faire as they assembled the kit one step at a time.  We decided that we would bring it with us this winter as our traveling 3d printer, but had to get it working first.

After Printrbot sent us a new controller board it started working and I started tightening and adjusting until now it gives us just as good results as any of our other 3d printers that we left at the Generator back in Vermont.

Along with the 3d printing both Lucie and I have been playing with eTextiles.  Adding circuits, microprocessors, lights and sensors to fabrics and wearable items.  Lucie made a holiday hat as a group project with fellow educators.  This was a part of her Ignite a Maker project where she is sponsoring small teams of teachers back in Vermont as they explore using Maker techniques in classrooms.  ETextiles is especially attractive to young women and is a gateway activity to get them interested in engineering and electronics.

I made a little Christmas tree with flashing lights, but learned a lot about using circuits and textiles.

  During the week after Thanksgiving we ceased to be the oldest RV at Sunset Island.  We discovered that the campground was going to be the site of a gathering of the Tin Can Tourists.  It was exciting to see all these restored and functional RVs pulling in and setting up.  We got to meet the people who enthusiastically keep these mobile dwellings on the road.  Many were pulled by period cars and it was very common to see each dwelling furnished with period appropriate items.

Once the rally began there were lots of activities that because we were not members we just watched, but for most of the second day there was an open house, where people toured each others rigs.  We welcomed many people into our Wanderlodge (got us to clean it up!) and spent some time checking out everyone else's.  Great serendipity for this group of classic RV aficionados to share our campground this winter weekend!

Of course there were sunsets to share with all of the Tin Can Tourists.

 One of the challenges of hanging out in Florida is getting into the Christmas Spirit.
We missed the Christmas Boat Parade with Santa Clam because we drove down to the Tampa area to visit friends Deb and Frank McCarthy who moved down there from Vermont this fall.  We had a nice dinner together. 

 On Dec 16th Lucie flew out of Gainsville to return back to Vermont for the holidays.  We spent the night before at a hotel in Gainsville with a hot tub.  The last part of Lucie's birthday!

When I returned to Sunset Island I was delighted to watch another Wanderlodge move in across the road.  Now we have the Wanderlodge part of the campground.
On Dec 19th I fired up the Cat, hooked up the Saturn and headed out on a 300 mile drive to our next destination, Lake Worth Florida.  We will be returning to Sunset Island for 2 weeks in early February on our way out of Florida as we head towards Austin Texas.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Inspired in Savannah

After a whirlwind summer and fall and three days of driving from Vermont to Georgia, Craig and I settled the bus into a very spacious spot in Skidaway Island State Park in Savannah Georgia for 6 days.  It felt good not to be moving for a few days.  Neither of us had ever been to Savannah but had heard it was beautiful.  Having referred many of my students to explore Savannah College of Arts and Design (SCAD) ~ the University for Creative Careers,  I was looking forward to seeing what type of creative inspiration we would find in Savannah. We were not disappointed.

We were inspired by our walks on trails through moss draped forest of live oak,  cabbage palms, and sawtooth palmetto.  The grassy field, salt marsh, and intercoastal waters that surround the island made for a great place for me to practice using the panaroma feature  on the camera of my Nexus 5.

During our first excursion into the city we were further inspired by a convergence of tech-loving creatives that had gathered for a weekend of inspiration for an event called GEEKEND sponsored by the Creative Coast (a non-profit organization whose mission is to nurture creativity and innovation in Savannah.)

 It felt like we had landed amongst kindred spirits.  Although we chose not to purchase tickets for the full event,  we were drawn to visit one of the free Geekend events ~ the Kodestar Arcade   (an arcade where kids who’ve built games get to show them off, get feedback and praise and feel the thrill of building something that people actually use)

Our short conversations with the co-creators of  KodeStar  and volunteers staffing the event left me inspired to put on such and event in Vermont ~ perhaps at the Generator (the Vermont makerspace we belong to.)    The  pop-up digital arcade included a festive welcome area with lots of creative energy from volunteers, photographers, and videographers, kids, parents, and Geekend attendees who had wandered over to check out the fun.  Beyond the welcome area were  three rooms set aside for the KodeStar arcade event.

In one room we found that a  computer lab of PCs had been converted into a physical~ digital arcade by loading up one of the games from the  KodeStar virtual aracde,  adding a  KodeStar sticker to the monitor that included the title of the game and the name and age of the young game creator who had designed the game. I joined other visitors to the arcade who were bouncing around from computer to computer playing the kid-created video games.

HEREX At one point, I was lucky enough to find myself sitting right next to the young man who had created the game I was playing.  I became much more interested in talking to him about his process than in playing the game, and obviously I was not the only one. The room was filled with people walking around with video cameras, audio recorders, and cameras talking pictures of the event.

The other two rooms were set up as creative studios ~ one for low tech game design using pencils, markers, and storyboard paper templates and the other a computer lab filled with PCs running Scratch (one of my favorite tools to use with students.)   Volunteers staffed both rooms ready to assist aspiring game designers into the process of creating their own game.

It didn't take long to discover the two creative minds behind KodeStars~ Yvonne Jouffrault & Kevin Lawver .  I only spoke to them briefly to learn more about their roles and vision for this project; they were plenty busy fielding questions from participants and making sure their event was flowing smoothly.  I'm hopeful that we'll get a chance to talk more after GeekEnd ~ perhaps even to do a Google Hangout on Air.

On our way out, we stopped by the Geek-end information desk and learned a little bit more about Creative Coast and their role in Savannah, which included hopes of a full fledged maker space.  I was surprised that an city filled with creatives didn't have a makerspace yet, and after a little web research discovered that their efforts to find funding were currently a barrier to this goal.  I loved the name of their future Maker Space ~ Maven Makers and their vision, and couldn't understand why their kickstarter had not  been backed

Filled with inspiration, we  continued to walk around historic Savannah's  many park squares that makeup Savannah.  In one park we found a food and wine festival was in full swing and while another park square was setup for the 20th annual Telfair Art Fair  filled with local artist displaying and selling paintings, crafts, handiwork, jewelry and other wonderful inspiring pieces.   The hard part about living in a bus, is that you have limited space and must curtail accumulating pieces of inspiration, but I did find the perfect piece to purchase from a artist who was displaying silver jewelry.

New earrings for my birthday
The piece,  Two Peas in a Pod, were beautiful silver earrings in the shape of an open pea pod containing two tiny black pearls.  The earrings would not only remind me of my visit to Savannah, but also of my twin boys (Adam and Matt PODD) who were often referred to as 'two peas in a pod'.  Craig offered these to me as a birthday present when he saw me admiring them, and I accepted the gift.   One of the things I have learned from Craig's interest in jewelry as art is that it fulfills the need for art without clutter as described in this Navajo blessing "May you walk in beauty".    How inspiring it was to walk amongst all the beauty we saw at the art fair and talk with the artist about their craft.

We ended the day with a lovely birthday dinner at Billy's Place restaurant where you can find good food, fantastic hospitality and music.  After dinner we gave up our table to other hungry patron and moved to the piano bar enjoying the live music of two talented piano players before we headed back home to the bus.

Remnants of a prohibition still on the trails
  For the next few days we caught up on work.  The campground does not have wireless available at their campsites.  But Craig's amazing wireless configuration on the bus was able to leverage the mediocre Verizon signal to provide us the bandwidth we needed to catch up on work.  Craig handled the service request that had piled up at his school during his 3 days of driving and moved some projects along with his team. I worked on the final projects for the two online graduate courses I teach.  Mid afternoon, we'd take a break each day and explore the nearby trails before it got dark, and  put in a few more hours after dark.

After our "catchup on work" session, we escaped into Savannah one more time,  this time for a river walk.  A cobbled stone pathway lead us to the riverside where we enjoyed the view of the bridges and ship along the river.  We wandered in and out of shops and had an absolutely lovely afternoon lunch at Vics on the River - a second floor restaurant with fantastic views and delicious entrees.   Craig was even inspired enough to purchase a Top Hat for a maker project he's been planning.

After six days, we packed up and drove the bus out of Savannah towards out next destination,  Cedar Key, Florida, totally inspired.

More Photos from November 2014