For summer students…

Photoshop class

Digital Photography class

Photojournalism class

OS X Mountain Lion unstable Wi-Fi issues

I doubt this will show up in Google search results, but in case anyone else is having Wi-Fi issues after installing Mountain Lion (10.8), THIS is your solution.

For my new students…

History of Photography class website

Principles of Digital Photography class website

Thoughts on D.C.

Got back recently from a nice little trip to D.C. Here are some thoughts:

• Love the 2 hour 15 min non-stop flight from Des Moines. Really easy to take the metro from Reagan International. I was also surprised how close Reagan is to the mall (close enough that we actually biked right by it later in the trip)

• The city is a bit of a paradox. On one hand, it is quite compact and walkable, and on the other hand if you want to walk everywhere, your legs will fall off. We took the metro a lot the first day, walked the next couple, and biked the last couple. Biking is a lot quicker, provided you can weave through traffic and fellow tourists.

• There is a lot of construction going on all through the city, including the reflecting pool on the mall. It probably has more construction going on than any city I’ve been in. Nothing much to add to this thought, except all the construction makes it feel like it is very much ‘improving’ itself, although it is already quite a clean and vibrant city.

• The ‘locals’ seem very full of life. If you live in D.C., you’re probably already a pretty motivated and active individual to begin with. There was a lot of jogging, biking, soft ball playing, and generally enjoying all the restaurants and things to do.

• The Smithsonian Museums were all impressive. The Holocaust Museum was probably the most impressive. The building itself, from the main lobby to the elevators, is designed to make you feel like you’re in a concentration-camp-esque facility. They prime you on the elevator ride up with a short video, and you feel like you are stepping back in time when you start your journey. The special exhibit on propaganda was amazing as well.

• The city needs better bike signage. Des Moines has done a good job letting you know where the bike paths are and where they are going. In D.C., it is illegal to bike on the sidewalk in certain places. There are bike paths throughout the mall area, but you have to guess which is a path and which is a regular sidewalk. The result is quite chaotic. Even when we were biking into Arlington, we weren’t quite sure what path to take and if we were even on a bike path or a sidewalk.

• Where are all the grocery stores? I don’t expect a big ol’ Hy-Vee in the middle of town, but we didn’t come across too many places to buy simple groceries for lunch. Aimee found a VERY crowded Trader Joes, but it seems like the city could use more places to buy foodstuffs.

• I love cities/states with pedestrian crossing laws. In D.C., as in a lot of European cities, cars are very aware of crosswalks. They will immediately slow down and let you walk across. Meanwhile, back in Des Moines, we have to wait for 10 cars to pass standing in a painted crosswalk with flashing lights above it.

Nerdy fun: Interactive Fiction

Sometime back in the late 80s when our family had a Commodore 64, we’d go to the public library and check out games on 5.25″ floppy disk (and occasionally cartridges, which were great because they loaded instantly!).

One game looked amazing…. Zork. Well, maybe we didn’t actually know was it was about, but the cover looked cool, and that counted for a lot back then. We got it home and it turned out to be an all-text based game. A so-called “Text Adventure.” I’ll be honest that it didn’t really grab my attention all that well. I was more interested in shooting aliens.

I think my brother Ben got more into it, but we scoped out a few more similar games like Zork II and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, written by Douglas Adams himself. HHttGG was a tough game! I don’t think I got very far past the bulldozer.

Eventually I (and my friend at the time, Jim) grabbed the Commodore 64 manual and lo’ and behold, it had some instructions on how to actually write your own programs in BASIC. This was pretty interesting to me, and I figured out how to write very simple text games. They might still be on a disk somewhere, victim of technological obsolescence.

It was pretty fun and it made me think I might be interested in programming someday, although that didn’t last too long in college.

Anyway, a few years ago a documentary about Text Adventures called GET LAMP (link to full movie on YouTube) was made by the same guy who did a 10-hour documentary on Bulletin Board Systems (which I bought when it came out), so it should be right up my alley. I probably won’t force Aimee to watch. Probably.

The term for the genre now-a-days is “Interactive Fiction.” It turns out there’s a language called Inform that allows you to write your own. It’s a bit messy to learn but I’ve finished my first attempt at Interactive Fiction: Billings and Spivey: The Game. It’s a short game starring some characters from a TV show we worked on in college.

The Inform 7 language is interesting. For example, in my game, the “donut” is created as so:

The donut is a thing in the Break Room.
The description of the donut is “[if the donut is stapled]It’s a donut that some numbskull tried to staple[otherwise]Glorious fried dough. Sugary frosting. Sprinkles. This is what dreams are made of[end if].”. The donut is edible. The donut is stapleable.


It’s a little like programming. Inform has  a lot of built-in actions like eating and examining (try typing “look at (object)” as a start). The tricky part is trying to anticipate what the player will attempt to do, and give clues as to what they need to do (and what they can do). So, check it out and let me know what you think.

Remembering Steve Langager

My dad’s older brother Steve passed away yesterday. He was in a coma for almost two weeks following being hit by a drunk driver while riding his bike in Arizona, his winter getaway (he lived in Spicer, MN).

I wanted to post this in case people were searching for an online presence to share stories and memories about him.

I’ll always remember his sense of humor and quick wit. We kids could always get him to chuckle by bringing up the Minnesota Vikings, whom he gave up on after they lost their fourth Super Bowl. He would mock us for still cheering for the Vikings and needle us when they did poorly.

He also had a curiosity  in technology. Sometimes he would put aside his jokey demeanor and ask me computer questions. He was always having virus issues with his PC and I kept telling him to get a Mac. He seemed pretty tech-savvy and knew about the latest gadgets coming out.

He lived near our Grandma Rachel (who passed away a little over a year ago) so he’d drive her up for holidays, always with a large mug of coffee. When the time was approaching to go back home, he’d joke that he was going to forget her in Duluth.

We really only saw him at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but even then not so much these past couple years. I’m sad he is gone and he’ll be missed.


Interview with my brother

Hey, it’s a podcast! 3.0

Long story short.. my old server crashed (read: was mistakenly erased) so here we are!

I’m not promising anything but hopefully I’ll keep this somewhat updated and maybe find some links to my old archived site.