It’s Official! is live!

November 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Hey Readers of the Curious Commuter:

This blog has moved to You can find all the old posts and discussions there.

I’ve renamed it from the Curious Commuter to “What Joe Said.”

I hope you enjoy!

Rock on,

Categories: Ideas

Idea of the Day – Books & CDs

July 19, 2011 2 comments

It’s been a while since I’ve written about an idea I have and well this one is just too good and it is like a brain itch that I have to scratch. Let’s talk about e-readers, paperbacks, CDs, and MP3 players.


I buy CDs. Yes I still buy them, sometimes it just doesn’t get any better than being able to buy a CD and have it in your collection. (My last one was an autographed CD by Michael Buble, let the judging commence.) Now when I purchase this CD, I am free to listen to is as I wish meaning, in my car, in my home, or on my computer. As such, once it is on my computer, I can transfer the music to a portable device (mp3, smart phone, etc).

I buy the CD = I’ve bought the music, of which I’ve purchased the right to listen to however I wish and on whatever I wish.


I buy a book. I have the book. It is on my shelf as a reference guide, a small trophy of achievement, and to be a part of my small library of books. If I want to read the book, I have to carry the book. If I want to read the book on my computer, well…I can’t. If I want to read the book on my mobile device, well….I can’t.

I buy the book = I’ve bought the words, the lessons, the text of which I should have the right to read however I wish and on whatever I wish.

What I’m saying is that books need to have a Napster moment. E-Books/Readers are great but I have a few free e-books and I want desperately to just print them out and read them. I have a few books I want to read on my upcoming vacation but honestly, I don’t want to add the 6 pounds to my luggage by carrying the physical book.

The idea

You buy a book. Each book has an ID that allows you to download the book to be readable on a Kindle, iPad, smart phone, any device. This will increase the cost of books but I don’t particularly care. Books are still pricier than they should be with some getting as high as $24.95 or $30 for 300 pages. If iTunes allows me to buy a song for $0.99, I should be able to buy a chapter of a book for $0.99 or cheaper.

Different approach. Each book has a built in receiver of some sort or perhaps a unique UPC code, QR code, what have you. Your e-reader/smart device scans the code and you have the book electronically for a week on your device. If you need it more than a week, you have to re-scan that same unique code to refresh it. The unique code keeps people from running into a bookstore/library and scanning all the books and hoping to steal them.

Seems feasible but this is just a daydream. I’m sure someone out there will tell me it’s impossible whhich may be true, until it happens.

That’s my idea for the day. Thanks for reading the ramble 🙂

Rock on,


Categories: Ideas

Run Your Own Race At Your Own Pace

This was originally posted on Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 at 9:15 am on 

I ran a half-marathon recently and (as most things in my life) I found a way to relate it to my higher education career. Alison Black, Assistant Dean of Student Life at Olin College, is a marathon runner with the goal to run a marathon in every state. According to friends, she is currently at 13 states checked off the list. (Do they even run marathons in Alaska??) In any case, it was Alison’s advice that stuck with me post-race, “Run your own race at your own pace.” It’s Orientation season so let’s take it there.

During my graduate assistantship and first professional position, I was able to transform an orientation program with a very large budget and an amazing talent pool of legacy orientation leaders. I say “legacy” orientation leaders because this particular pool had four very strong candidates that all had something in common. They all referred to their orientation leader, who happened to be the same student for all four. I’ve never heard of such a thing. One here or there sure but four from the same orientation leader?! It was incredible.

During this time I was able to reallocate monies to new initiatives, cancel speakers whom have been attending the orientation for years, and also add new positions (logistics chair, parent orientation leader chair, parent orientation leaders). It was an incredible transition that was successful beyond my wildest expectations. It led to presenting at NASPA 2009 in Seattle and NODAC 2008 in Boston about how to take an orientation/first-year program to the next level.

Now as I dig into the orientation program at my current institution, I have another group of very talented, aspiring, and established student leaders but I do not have a very large budget. In fact, as a matter of comparison, the budget for student give-a-ways at my former institution is the same size as my entire training, program supplies, and miscellaneous-last-minute needs. Smaller school, different location, different philosophy. Now enter that quote I mentioned before, “Run your own race at your own pace.”

If I tried to run the half-marathon like those around me (some finishing in around 90 minutes) I would have passed out by 7-mile mark. Instead I ran “my race” at “my pace” and, in my assessment, my goals were met with great satisfaction. If I try to program and plan my current institution’s orientation like I did the orientation I planned in my first professional position, we wouldn’t have had a budget by the end of April.

My point is this, as professionals we work all over the country for all sorts of institutions and go to conferences attending sessions where institutions show off their proudest programs and best practices.  They are running their race at their pace. Whether that race is orientation, RA training, campus programming, community service programs, or whatever your area responsibility is. You need to remember one thing, “Run your own race at your own pace.”

Categories: Ideas

#trust30 – Travel by Chris Guillebeau

Travel by Chris Guillebeau

If we live truly, we shall see truly. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not everyone wants to travel the world, but most people can identify at least one place in the world they’d like to visit before they die. Where is that place for you, and what will you do to make sure you get there?

(Author: Chris Guillebeau)


I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights while on an Alaskan Cruise. Something about this phenomenon just is awe inspiring to me. I’m sure some day I will get there. What will I do to make sure I get there? Hmm let’s say this. I’ll see it before 50.
Done and done.
Rock on,


Categories: Personal Tags:

#Trust30: Today by Liz Danzico Prompt

Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. The force of character is cumulative. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

If ‘the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks,’ then it is more genuine to be present today than to recount yesterdays. How would you describe today using only one sentence? Tell today’s sentence to one other person. Repeat each day.

Here is how I describe today (or the rest of this year), “The time to rebuild is now, don’t F***(!) it up.”

Sorry for the expletive but in this case, it was pretty necessary to get the point across of the severity of not messing things up (for the second, third, forth time).

Rock on.





Categories: Ideas, Personal Tags:

The Board of Trustees

June 1, 2011 4 comments

(This post was also posted on on June 1, 2011)

The Board is coming to campus, make sure your area is tidy in case they stop by.”

“Please be sure that any event that takes place the night before the Board is due to arrive is cleaned immediately.”

The Board.”

I never understood why when “the Board” was included in a sentence that it had such a nerve racking, anxiety inducing effect on people; until I became a director and now have a better understanding of that. However, this blog post is not about the politics and decision making of this sometimes mysterious and powerful entity. Recently, I was invited to attend the Commencement Eve dinner hosted by the Board of Trustees for the institution. (I believe the main reason for my invitation was to keep an eye on my newly elected executive advisory board of student leaders, but I could be wrong.) Regardless of the reason for the invitation, the dinner left me with numerous impressions about what it means when “the Board” is coming to campus.

The dinner was a celebration. It was light hearted, engaging and draped with an overall sense of “another great year in the books, let’s pat ourselves on the backs for making it happen.” Here they were, this large group of individuals who have invested time, money, advice, and goodwill to an institution of learning (many of them being alumnae). They were proud of themselves and for good reason, without their dollars and sense the success of the past year may have been jeopardized. On the eve of sending 408 students (both undergrad and graduate) out into the world with Nichols College degrees, this group of “trustees” could not have been more elated and proud.

Having taken place about a month ago now, I am still left with a positive impression from the experience and why there is a mysterious feeling about “the Board.” This group is only mysterious because they are referred to as “the Board” not as individuals. Walking around the cocktail reception, these individuals did not introduce themselves as members of “the Board” but instead as partners/alums/friends of the College. They were personable. They were excited to hear what was being planned for the campus. They were even more excited to talk to the student executive advisory board members.

The point of this post however is not to talk about a group of trustees celebrating another successful year over a delicious catered meal on the night before graduation. What reflecting on this experience did for me was two-fold; first, it took away the mysterious anxiety that comes with hearing that “the Board” is coming to campus. I’ve met many of these individuals and they aren’t scary (unless you are in a business deal with them, then you better know your stuff).

Second, is it left me thinking, who would be on my board of trustees? Who are those individuals that are in the background invested in my success? Who would celebrate on the eve of my birthday “another great year in the books”? Am I the one who determines if they are on my Board of Trustees? Or are some on there that I don’t even know about but they watch from afar (see: Facebook) and are ready to act if called upon?

I’m still thinking about mine but what about you? If you had to list the people who made up your Board of Trustees, who would you envision sitting around the table?

Categories: Ideas

Call of Duty + Rosetta Stone = Increase in Bilingual (Young) Adults

March 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Wow it has been almost a month since I have written a blog post with good reason; see #NODA9, #NASPA11, and well #SpringInStudentAffairs.

During the first quarter of this year, I was given the gift of a PS3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops by my fabulous partner Robyn (@RKaplan13) and subsequently I haven’t watched TV much since the new year as a result of being sucked into this game.

Now, I beat the story mode (in one night!) so I wasn’t focused too much on that but what did suck me in was the Playstation network of gamers. Every night you could log in and immediately find yourself in a 10-12 player (6 on 6 or free for all) battle and if you invested in a headset you could talk with people from around the globe!

From my New Years Resolutions post, one of my goals for the year was to reach level 50 as an online player which ended up requiring almost 30 hours of game play. Upon reflecting on this, I was left asking myself was it the goal of reaching level 50 that motivated me? Was it competing online and constantly getting better with each round? Or was it being able to randomly (trash) talk with players from all over the globe?

Here is where Rosetta Stone comes into the equation. I was driven by the fact that I was competing, gaining skills/experience, and seeing my progress on the leader board after every match go from the bottom to the middle to the upper third. Reading my New Years Resolution post, you can see another one of my goals is to complete the Rosetta Stone Italian series – this has been a struggle. Why? There is no competition, there is no leader board, there is no community to participate with. This is where Rosetta Stone has already taken the first step with their Total-E product but the online subscription is $199 for 3 months. No young adult I know is willing to put down almost $65 a month to learn a language, that’s equivalent to their mobile phone bill, and believe me they want their phones more than they want to know a second language.

But let me finish my thought, if Rosetta Stone partnered with Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft and turned their Total-E product into a game that piggy-backed onto the online networks the three gaming giants have established – imagine what would happen to the landscape of the globe (specifically the USA).

When I powered up the PS3 and put Call of Duty in, I could play for hours on end because it was engaging, competitive, FUN! When I power up my PC and click on my Rosetta Stone software, I can “play” for about an hour because it is no longer engaging, I’m not competing, and the “fun” factor runs low because it is the equivalent to sitting in a silent room repeating yourself.

My suggestion – play your part as the world’s leading language software and shift your company values from teaching new languages to those who have the money to invest in such a program and start educating the next generation to learn more than one language. The next generation will need it more than ever, but a $199 price tag is going to prohibit more than enable.

Jim Henson had success in Sesame Street because he saw an opportunity (with research backing it) that young children were coming home and being put in front of the television so why not put something educational there.

You can do the same with just as big an impact – partner with these console/content creators – construct an online environment that rewards users with Rosetta Stone Points and will make young adults WANT to sign in and run through a lesson or two so they don’t lose ground to their friends. Instead of a $199 subscription for online content, sell a series of CDs ($40 each) or downloadable online “maps” ($20 each) that allow gamers to choose the environment they want.

“Want to speak Italian at a baseball game? Pick up our MLB version and learn all phrases for the field!”

“Thinking of going food shopping in Barcelona? Pick up our Grocery Grabber map and explore the aisles of our market to learn popular food item vocabulary”

If you want to try strategy out on someone, I’d be more than willing – I fit in the male 18 -34 market and I am currently grinding through your Rosetta Stone Italian Level 1,2,3 series of software. It isn’t fun. It isn’t engaging. It is comparable to sitting in class for 2 hours, alone. That is not the way people want to learn a new language.

That’s my idea/rant for the day –

Rock on,

Comment: Would you be more interested in learning a language if there was an online community and scoring system so you can compete with others as you progress through?




Categories: Ideas, Personal