Childhood Fort

When I was about eight or nine, the neighborhood kids and I built a fort made from items we found in a pile of junk not far from my house. It contained discarded construction materials like lumber and corrugated tin, some broken household appliances, tires, scrap iron, and other suitable materials that a group of boys could work with.

I was one of the younger kids involved in the project so I was elected as the one to test our fort’s strength against attack. I sat in the fort while the bigger kids hurled dirt clods at me. As it turned out, the fort was not a good defense at all against dirt clods and I caught one in the eye. I came out bawling and was certain that my eye was a useless pile of mush.

They continued improving the fort, while my mom doctored me up, and fortunately, I suffered no permanent damage.  This incident would have happened a couple of years before I was diagnosed with myopia and have been a wearer of eyeglasses ever since. I’m not sure if wearing eyeglasses would have made things better or worse in the fort incident.

I don’t know who the next “guinea pig” was, but I didn’t serve as a “fort tester” going forward with our building project.

Cartooning Week 3

I’m falling behind on my cartooning efforts. I made these drawings for the first assignment in Week 3 of Brunetti’s cartooning book last weekend, but haven’t had a chance to reflect or write on them until this morning.

For Exercise 3.1 Brunetti says to draw 12 scenes on notecards with prompts he gives like “beginning of the world” “end of the world” “something that happened at lunchtime” “an image from a recent dream” “something that happened early this morning” “something happened right after that” and so on.

These are drawn on notecards in order to facilitate arranging the scenes into a four-panel sequence noting the type of narrative you prefer, what visual elements connect the scenes, breaks in the narrative, reordering the scenes and so forth. According to Brunetti, “the haiku-like rigidity of the four-panel structure allows us quite a flexible starting point.”

One of my favorite sequences was “something that happened early this morning.” We spent the night in a hotel for my daughter’s softball tournament. I woke up in a panic because she wasn’t in her bed. I found her sleeping on the floor. All the while, her mother was sound asleep, oblivious to my panic over our missing child.

I wasn’t really able to make a four-panel sequence using that, as I only drew three scenes of it. But I did rather like the nightmare sequence of the person falling, the D-Day invasion, the asteroid falling towards the earth and the person in bed sleeping. I think that one worked with the sleeping person either at the end or the beginning of the sequence.

I think the ideas are connected by being nightmarish scenes, then the relief that they are only dreams. When I compared my 11 cards (I didn’t get the 12th one made) with Brunetti’s example in the book, I noticed that each of his panels (except one with an animal character) featured a person in it, whereas mine did not always prominently feature a character.

The other thing I noticed is his style of drawing characters with simple geometric shapes and background elements gives a consistency of visual elements in every panel. I don’t really have anything like that. He draws a line for the ground in every single scene. Many of mine have straight line elements, but some do not. He also uses a circle in the background in most of his panels, either a light fixture, the sun, or stars and planets in the futuristic scenes. This gives his work a distinctive and recognizable quality to it. He’s found his visual “voice” whereas it seems I’m still searching for mine.

Claude Rickley and WWII

WWII soldier medals

My grandpa Claude Rickley was a proud soldier of WWII. He was a member of the 11th Armored Division and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He rarely talked about his experiences in the war but I know he saw some awful things, including the victims of the Mauthhausen concentration camp.

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, D-Day. My grandpa was already 32 years old in 1944, married with a child. If I remember correctly, his unit gave him the nickname “Pops” because of his age. He didn’t go ashore with the first wave at Normandy. The 11th Armored Division came ashore at Normandy in December of 1944. They fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

It was personally knowing people who fought in WWII that made military service a normal thing to do in my mind. I was eager to join the service as a young man and wear our country’s uniform. I was surprised to learn later on that not everyone has such warm feelings about it. One mentor I once had even advised me not to make too much of my military service if I hoped to be successful since not everyone has a positive opinion about it. That was, and frankly still is, confusing to me.

Living the life I’ve lived and knowing what I know, I think it is true that no one can fully appreciate the sacrifices that have been made by people like my Grandpa Claude. My own experience, even with the few weeks of combat I experienced in 1991, pales in comparison with those who endured combat in WWII. So if I struggle to conceive of what it was like, imagine what it must be for someone who doesn’t personally know anyone who has served.

I truly hope that we never forget where our freedom comes from and who has bought and paid for it. Today, my thoughts are with those who have served and are currently in the service of our country. I shall never forget.

Proudest Moments in Teaching

In no particular order, these are some of my proudest moments in teaching.

Graphic Syllabus

I have been intrigued by the notion of creating an infographic style of syllabus, so I have made a couple of them. It takes many hours to create something like this, but I think it is worth the effort to make something so unique for a college course.

Subnetting Song

Subnetting is probably the most challenging topic in my Hardware and Networking course. It isn’t overly complex, but it is unfamiliar to most students who take my class. To provide another way to think about the material, I wrote a silly song about it and do surprise performances of it in class. Sometimes students even sing along with me once they catch on. Having a sing-along in a computer class is completely unexpected, and that’s what makes it so wonderful.

Pumpkin Carving

IMG_3405 DSC_0956

In our Visual Literacy course, we study elements of design. Students conceive of a design to be carved on a Halloween jack-o-lantern, develop it using Adobe Illustrator graphics software, print it out, transfer it to the pumpkin and carve it out to create a complex image when lit. The assignment was so successful that I wrote a paper about it with colleague Katrina Lewis, and even went to Madrid, Spain to present it.

Guest Speakers by Skype

While doing the research for our pumpkin carving paper, I came across a history of Halloween book by Lisa Morton, an author who also happened to be the president of the Horror Writers Association. When we were exploring the horror genre in the digital literacy class I teach, I reached out to Lisa and invited her to visit with our students by Skype teleconference, and we had a really great visit with a well-known expert in her field.

Another great Skype my students and I did was when a national story came out about a teacher who reconciled with a student who had gotten him fired. Josh Kaplowitz was in his first year of teaching when a young boy, Raynard Ware, said that the new teacher had pushed him down. Kaplowitz was arrested, fired and humiliated. Years later, the older and different Ware reached out on Facebook, apologized for fabricating the story that cost his former teacher his teaching career and the two became friends.

I reached out to Mr. Kaplowitz and invited him to have a Skype with my students who were studying Social Media technology. He suggested that we include Raynard Ware and we ultimately wound up teleconferencing with both men.

Over the years, my students and I have had numerous Skypes and teleconference calls with designers, game programmers and even former students who graduated from the K-State digital media technology program. Each time we do, I am filled with awe at how simple it is to arrange such virtual meetings.

Theatrical Teaching


I got involved in theatre in high school. My very first musical production, shown above, was The Sound of Music in which I played the eldest Von Trapp boy.  Most people I work with don’t realize how much I am still infected with this affinity for the dramatic. I love to do skits, simulations and role-playing in my classes.

Skit with two cans & string telephone

In this skit, we are simulating a busy network using cans with strings “telephones” and how the CSMA/CD protocol acts as a referee that decides who may speak at a given time.

I created a “dissection lab” in the hardware and networking course in which we examine data packets sent by a device on a network. I dress up like a laboratory scientist with lab coat and safety goggles and a stuffed toy frog. Looking at these data packets is very similar to a high school biology lab in which you open up a frog and recognize a few things you have been learning about, but much of it is confusing and complex. We recognize a few protocols we have been discussing, but real networks, like real life organisms, are messy and complex.

In these parody videos of Spongebob and Shrek, I use my voice-acting skills to make the famous characters talk about technology topics we discuss in class.

Field Trips

A favorite stop for digital media students is the Small World Gallery in Lindsborg, KS, especially when we get to meet the owner, National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson. In the photo above, Jim is telling us about his latest work. Jim is such a treasure here in Kansas. He is always willing to talk with students and even shares technical details of his work with us.

Here are my students, fully immersed in an exhibit at the Salina Art Center. I am continually amazed that even lifetime residents of Salina have never set foot in the Art Center, so we often take field trips here to experience the artwork.

Extraordinary Student Awards

Probably the most rewarding part of my job is working with students who face extra challenges in their college studies because of their life situation. It might be that they are a single mother trying to support a family on their own while attending school. It might be that they have a condition that makes learning and/or social situations difficult. It might simply be that they come from a background filled with difficulty and turmoil. Whatever the situation, when I become aware of these students I do whatever I can to assist them on their journey.

Each year, Kansas State University recognizes about a dozen or so students who have overcome extraordinary circumstances to obtain their degree. There are many nominees and only these select few who are chosen to receive it. I have nominated two individuals who have won this award and it is my privilege to have known and worked with these students.

Manath Leuthiphonh receives the K-State extraordinary student award in 2007. She is doing well in her career and we keep in touch from time to time. Sadly, her classmate Scott Johnson (middle) was killed in a violent crime a few years ago. His was one of the two student funerals I have attended since becoming a college professor.

Sarah Welsch received her K-State Extraordinary Student Award in 2018. She has found meaningful work and is making a new life for herself thanks to her college degree.

Dissertation Defense

Words are inadequate to describe the feeling of this day; the day of my successful Ph.D dissertation defense. It is called Exploring the Impact of Media LIteracy Instruction and Video Projects in a Computer Technology Course. It details the research I did on using student-made video projects as an expanded form of literacy.

If you would like to see my students’ video projects, you can see some here.

Digital Media Degree Program

Last, but certainly not least, I am extremely proud of the K-State Polytechnic degree in Digital Media technology that I conceived of and helped to implement. The degree combines computer technology with the creative arts resulting in graduates with an extremely unique and marketable set of skills.

In the photo above are some of the very first students in the Digital Media degree, taken in 2010. From left to right are myself, Will Jones, Trista Bieberle, Sarah Woodruff, Brandon Moberly, and Kristin Scheele. Except for Brandon (anyone know where he is nowadays?) I am in touch with them all and they seem to be doing very well for themselves.

For example, Sarah Woodruff is now employed at Fervor in Kansas City as a senior graphic designer and user experience (UX) expert.

I am so proud of all of my students.

So there you have it; the list of my proudest moments in teaching. Anytime you try to create something like this, you will undoubtedly forget something important. But this gives a good overview of what I’ve been able to accomplish as a college educator.

Cartooning Homework 2.1

Page 34  of the Brunetti book on Cartooning calls for three single panel cartoons paying attention to action within an identifiable place, line quality , composition and areas of solid black. This is the first of my three.

So far as an identifiable place goes, it may be that only people who do summer league sports recognize this location – a ball park. I saw this harried mom pulling two little girls in a collapsible wagon that is common to families who travel to various ball parks across the country.

I didn’t really make any areas of solid black, opting for hatched areas of gray  instead of solid black. Didn’t really think about using solid black.


Cartooning – Week 2 – Captions

I’m working on Week 2 of the Brunetti Cartooning book. This week had three separate but related assignments. The first assignment was a writing assignment with various prompts like, “something you heard in public,” “something you said earlier,” and “an interjection.” I wrote these on an index card cut in half. The second assignment was to draw specific scenes with prompts like, “something abstract,” “the saddest thing you can think of,” and “something you dreamed about recently” on full-sized index cards. Then the third assignment was to put the written sayings with the pictures you drew. We were to play around and rearrange the pairings to ponder the results.

Below are my drawings and sayings, in various pairs. Some are nonsense and some are mildly amusing.

Cartooning by Brunetti

I purchased Brunetti’s Cartooning book for Kindle some time ago. I started doing the exercises but didn’t stick with it for very long. You know, work, life, and things.  I recently ordered a hard copy of the book hoping that seeing it lying around in my work area would be more of a reminder to me than a bunch of bits buried somewhere deep in my Kindle would be. Below are some of the first week’s efforts.

Draw cartoon characters from memory:

hand drawn cartoon characters from memory. You aren't missing much.

Draw 100 sequential five second sketches of whatever pops into mind representing a stream of consciousness:

Make a composition of many drawings using a unified theme:

Bill Traylor

I first learned about Bill Traylor on CBS Sunday Morning in April of 2019

There is something wonderful about this self-trained artist. He was born a slave and was emancipated as a young teen by the Union cavalry. His work was never recognized by the art world when he was alive.

I like the simplicity of the geometric forms along with the stories they convey. It reminds me a bit of Matisse’s paper cutout forms. Traylor’s art was created on the backs of discarded cardboard packages or any other stray paper he could find.

Read more about Bill Traylor in the New Yorker about Folk Artist Bill Traylor.

You can also watch this video of Matisse making a paper cutout: