Cryptography for the Classroom

Cryptography for the Classroom

This was a simple, hands-on encryption session for #ipdx19. We start the session with Morse code—SOS is recognizable to a handful of adults in each session. And then we transition to a Caesar Cipher, a pigpen cipher, and time to develop our own codes and keys with a partner.

My favorite segment of this workshop is the encryption primer (video below). Mia Gil Epner does a fantastic job of explaining encryption, especially asymmetric encryption and the challenges ahead as computer processing power increases.

How to Write Stuff People Will Read

How to Write Stuff People Will Read

Integrated2019 #iPDX19

How to Write

Stuff People will read

This is an active writing workshop for the IntegratED 2019 conference in Portland, Oregon.

Thursday, February 21 at 2:30 p.m., in the St Helens Lobby.






What Do I Write?
Four Design Principles
Fixer Upper
Extra! Read All About It!
Fashionably Late


It was a dark and stormy night…. Wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah     ….

I bet we have all received an email—or two—that looks something like this. They may be easy to write—see Mark Twain—but, they are not easy to read. We’ll work together to fix that today.

I’ve broken this session into five themes, with five corresponding activities. We’ll move through them quickly for this 90-minute session.

You can revisit this web post and the session slide deck as often you like once our face-to-face time ends. Happy writing!


What do you write? Let’s take ten minutes to meet our neighbors and inventory writing tasks we complete in an average week.


Robin Williams—not that Robin Williams, although he was magical, too—saved my writing life a couple decades ago. For the next 15 minutes, we’ll review her four elements of design that help people read our writing.


The Elements of Style is still stylish, today. We’re going to revise a handful of fixer-upper emails in this segment.


We’re moving from theory to tactical now. Let’s map tools to needs and develop a “smart person’s guide” to communicating with our community.


For our last activity, we’ll talk about the cycles of communication. And why it’s okay sometimes to be fashionably late. 

Session Sources

  • The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
  • The Non-Designer’s Design Book, by Robin Williams
  • Everybody Writes, by Ann Handley
  • Nicely Said, by Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee



Bud Hunt, Luke Neff, Nicole Carter, Miss Aishe—my ninth-grade English teacher—and thoughtful writers around the globe.

Stop Here


Think about the medium for your message at the times you have more than three important things.

Can you change the medium?

Or is it better to change the message?

opportunity cost

This is a writing session, but we’re going to spend a moment on economics first, especially the concept of opportunity cost.

Opportunity cost is about choices. When you decide something, there is usually a cost involved, whether that’s the actual cost of the thing or the value of the other thing (the one you didn’t choose). The opportunity cost of email is approaching zero. For the sender. My thesis is the cost is borne by the reader. I keep that thesis present as I create newsletters, presentations, school closing announcements, and email.

Emails Sent Daily

Cups of Coffee Sold Daily

have a question or idea?

Send me a note!

Thanks for attending today’s session.

11 + 3 =

Black History Month with Rachel Cargle

Black History Month with Rachel Cargle

I discovered Rachel Cargle last year via friends. She challenged her Instagram followers this year to dive in with her during Black History Month. She is posting a daily research topic: “Black history is American history. Do the work to learn and honor it.” We search, we read, we learn, we form understanding. It’s useful to me, meaningful this way. And because I retain research and reading better if I doodle or create a markup board, I’m doing one each day. The anger swells each day, but so does the understanding of the depth of the differences of our experience, the things I take for granted. My privilege.

Commenters on some of the posts try to argue away the horrors of the past, because “it wasn’t our generation” or “I wouldn’t do that.” They accuse Rachel Cargle of reverse racism and generalization. I understand the instinct to say, “but, but, but.” I feel it, too. And then I think of my visit to Charleston. If my great great grandmother had come through one of the 40+ auction marts, stood on a table and been sold. If she had babies who were taken from her and sold. If she witnessed abuses and inequity her entire life, even after becoming “free.” I’d be screaming the injustice of it. If I had to teach my sons how to not get shot walking or driving down the street—because of the color of their skin. In 2019. I’d be Ares in female form.

Thank you, Rachel Cargle.

So. I’m #doingthework. And eager to see Rachel in early March as part of the Muse Conference in Bend. I don’t know much beyond that, but I’m learning.

My reflections on the prompts are below.

Christmas Playlist 2018 – 33 Days of Music

Christmas Playlist 2018 – 33 Days of Music

In 2011, I winnowed a growing iTunes holiday music catalog into a song-a-day Christmas Playlist. It was a fun project that sustained conversation, debate, and good cheer on Twitter for the month of December. Thanks to @pipcorin, @dhudgins, @seani@dowbiggin@timlauer, @fally@jenfloyd08@mwacker, and @MaggyTheBrave for the camaraderie that year.

I’m doing it again. The only rule is that the 2018 list can’t include any duplicates from the 2011 list. This year, it’s 33 days between the holidays, but I’m staring with a “day zero” bonus tonight: Santa Stole Thanksgiving, Jimmy Buffet — This was a surprise find on my final pass through this year’s possibilities. “Santa, he’s the turkey after all.”

You can hear the full #RachelChristmasPlaylist2018 on Spotify.

And now, this year’s list, one song shared per day:

  1. Friday, November 23: You’re Mine, Jeremih — Connor and Miles had Chance the Rapper and Jeremih’s Merry Christmas Lil’ Mama on repeat last Christmastime. I fell in love hard with Stranger at the Table. That led to listening to both artists throughout this year and it seemed perfect to start with a fellow Chicagoan, Jeremih today.
  2. Saturday, November 24: Mele Kalikimaka, Kacey Musgraves — I like her voice and the guitar slaps/handclaps that modernize Bing’s classic version.
  3. Sunday, November 25: Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight), Ramones
  4. Monday, November 26: All My Christmases, Jillian Edwards Chapman
  5. Tuesday, November 27: Merry Christmas Darling, Leslie Odom, Jr — Happy birthday to my little sister, Laura! Sing it, Leslie.
  6. Wednesday, November 28: No Te Pongas Triste, Carlos Vives — My favorite sing-a-long the past few years.
  7. Thursday, November 29: Run Run Rudolph, Chuck Berry
  8. Friday, November 30: A Holly Jolly Christmas, Burl Ives
  9. Saturday, December 1: If We Make it Through December, Merle Haggard — Happy December! I love the weight of this song (and the The Hag’s one-of-a-kind voice).
  10. Sunday, December 2: The Chanukah Song, Adam Sandler — Happy Hanukkah
  11. Monday, December 3: Jingle Bells, Wynton Marsalis — Wynton’s young daughter, Oni, is on vocals in this version. She’s fantastic. Brooks Brothers posted a nice video of the set on YouTube.
  12. Tuesday, December 4: Candy Cane Lane, Sia
  13. Wednesday, December 5: Brothers, Paul Williams — Today’s pick is in memory of our mom, who made every Christmas warm, bright, and over the top. Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas was her annual favorite. <3
  14. Thursday, December 6: Man with the Bag, Jessie J — Kay Starr does a great original track of this song, but Connor helped me settle on Jessie J’s recent version after eleventy billion listens on our drive to PDX after Thanksgiving.
  15. Friday, December 7: Winter Wonderland, Allen Toussaint — I remember waking up three years ago to the news that Allen Toussaint had died. I spent the rest of that week listening again to his albums I had purchased over the years (yes, my Allen Touissaint musical crush is as old as “purchasing music”). I originally had Shirley Horn’s Winter Wonderland for today and stumbled on Touissaint’s version as a related listen. It’s 90 seconds of piano bliss. A happy find.
  16. Saturday, December 8: Christmas Fais Do Do, Marcia Ball
  17. Sunday, December 9: Ocho Kandelikas, Pink Martini
  18. Monday, December 10: We Need a Little Christmas, Lucille Ball — I was so very excited to find the original Mame film and broadway versions on Spotify this year.  Lucille Ball’s film rendition made the final cut, with all due respect the legendary Angela Lansbury’s Broadway recording.
  19. Tuesday, December 11: Melancholy Christmas, Amy Grant — For the happy season that can be lonely too, a song that captures the insecurity and isolation….
  20. Wednesday, December 12: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Brett Eldredge — This didn’t make the final list until the run-through with Connor on our drive to PDX. It’s growing on me.
  21. Thursday, December 13: The Christmas Song, The Raveonettes — When I heard this song, I immediately thought it was one Corin would put on her Christmas Playlist.
  22. Friday, December 14: Frosty the Snowman, Willie Nelson — Pretty Paper is the obvious choice for a Willie Christmas pick, but I like his Frosty version.
  23. Saturday, December 15: May Ev’ry Day Be Christmas, Irma Thomas — I got to see Preservation Hall Jazz Band in concert this fall. I stood for a couple hours to keep my spot in the front row, at the stage; it was so worth it. Irma Thomas adds the perfect vocals.
  24. Sunday, December 16: Father Christmas, The Kinks
  25. Monday, December 17: Petit Papa Noël, Mary J. Blige — The prettiest song on this year’s list, from one of my favorite artists. I catch myself singing or humming it often during the day.
  26. Tuesday, December 18: Santa Claus is Back in Town, The Mavericks — One week until Christmas! Todays was a battle between the Mavericks and Jimmy Fallon and The Roots’ Wonderful Christmastime mash-up. Both great picks.
  27. Wednesday, December 19: Please Come Home for Christmas, B.B. King — The very best version of this song—from another legend who we lost in 2015. He and Allen Toussaint are surely jamming together again now.
  28. Thursday, December 20: Santa Tell Me — Ariana Grande
  29. Friday, December 21: That Spirit of Christmas, Aloe Blacc and LeAnn Rimes — It’s the first day of holiday break, our annual night for watching Christmas Vacation. Miles is away at a basketball tournament, so it’ll keep for a few days this year, but this song has been a favorite since I heard it watching Christmas Vacation the first time with my parents thirty years ago. The original, by Ray Charles, is my favorite…but this Aloe Blacc/LeAnn Rimes version has been growing on me this December.
  30. Saturday, December 22: Do You Hear What I Hear, Heather Headley — I got to know Heather and her family in Fort Wayne, when she was stunning us all with her voice and stage presence at Northrop High School. Soon after those years, she came back home a Tony-award winning artist. I love her voice and the cadence she brought to one of my longtime Advent meditations.
  31. Sunday, December 23: Home, Blake Shelton, Michael Bublé
  32. Monday, December 24: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Loretta Lynn — There are dozens of artists who have recorded this, including a gem by David Hasselhoff, Yancey! Wynton Marsalis does an amazing version, Chris LeDoux too. But none of them top Loretta’s grace and lilt in her reading. Merry Christmas Eve.
  33. Tuesday, December 25: Joy to the World, Aretha Franklin — And heaven and nature sing. Merry Christmas.

You can hear the full #RachelChristmasPlaylist2018 on Spotify.

The coda: It’s late evening on Christmas. We’ve celebrated, cooked, eaten—and eaten, and eaten—and are now all settled in the family room with dogs and video games and the last of the Christmas movies. I have a few extra songs to round out the playlist. The first is my favorite song for Christmas afternoon: 364 Days to Go, by Brad Paisley. The next, with no prompting by my friend Darren Hudgins, is Andy Williams’ It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. As my sons finish up this busy phase of school, sports, and activities, they’re spreading their wings to fly away. I’m grateful for a few quiet days together for reconnection and recharging. The final song of this coda is What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve. Here’s to 2019.

A Visit to Charleston

A Visit to Charleston

Unity, a watercolor print in the Harmon Foundation Collection, shared via the U.S. National Archives.

I joined my sister Laura and her family in South Carolina for a beautiful vacation week this summer. We stayed on one of the barrier islands and enjoyed days on the beach with swimming, sand castles, books, naps, and great local food. It was a relaxation vacation, not a sightseeing one, with the exception of a day trip to Charleston. Laura and I have both wanted to visit Charleston since we were young and were excited to walk the streets together.

I knew a fair amount about Charleston and its role in the American slave trade from elementary school through graduate school history lessons and research. And I was fully unprepared for the emotional weight of walking through downtown streets and seeing the reminders around each corner. We walked for hours. I’m sure the historic architecture we were excited to see was beautiful, but I can’t say for sure. We had encountered the Old Slave Mart early in the day. The nauseau and sense of haunting stayed with me the rest of the trip and lingers still today.

Walking through that slave mart (now museum), I imagined standing on one of the pedestals being examined and then auctioned. And heaven help me if I had a child that was separated from me during the sale, as two images depicted. I am embarrassed, mad, horrified, and angry that the whole of American slavery existed. And I’m bewildered—and angry again—that racism in America is once again generating headlines and sorrow and rage.