Blair Shirts

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Now celebrating its 100th anniversary, Blair is not only one of the oldest, but also one of the largest US mail order companies. John Leo Blair got his start in 1910 when he got the idea to use the rubber vulcanization process to create a coat with an outer layer of black wool, with an inner lining of a Scottish plaid. The waterproof raincoats proved an immediate hit, and Blair sold all 1200 of their initial run in a very short period of time. The corporation was known as the New Process Rubber Company, then New Process (1916). In 1989, the company’s name was changed to Blair. Blair now is a part of Orchard Brands, a subsidiary of Golden Gate Capital Partners, and as such is the 59th largest internet retailer.

All of this is a long way of saying that Blair is no fly-by-night, internet startup. Since its raincoat beginnings a hundred years ago, Blair has branched out to offer a full line of clothing, home goods and jewelry. All are very reasonably priced.

Blair’s men’s shirts are available in both regular, and in big-and-tall sizes. Their casual line includes forty three! different styles of banded polos in a mind boggling number of colors. Banded polos are the ones with the elastic bands around the bottom. I have a couple of shirts in that style and find they work pretty well over an undershirt. The band looks trim outside the belt and you don’t have the bunching that would come with tucking two shirts inside the belt line.

More traditional polo shirts come in six styles and dozens of colors, including four long sleeve versions. Golfers likely will appreciate the several styles of argyle prints. If you’re looking for more of a Jim Furyk camp shirt style, they have those, too.

Prices on the Blair shirts run from a low of $7 (on sale) to $35. Most are in the low $20 range. I have no idea about the quality, but I suppose that a company doesn’t stay in business for a hundred years by offering totally inferior products.

Visual Understanding Environment Tool

I just ran across the free Tufts University Visual Understanding Environment tool and am very excited about the possibilities for classroom use. It essentially lets you create a mind map/concept map/pathway and then created multiple annotated pathways through that map. By linking various boxes, you can show each one individually in sequence, or the entire map as a whole, showing the interconnectedness.

Amazing stuff. Here’s what they say:

What is VUE?
At its core, the Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) is a concept and content mapping application, developed to support teaching, learning and research and for anyone who needs to organize, contextualize, and access digital information. Using a simple set of tools and a basic visual grammar consisting of nodes and links, faculty and students can map relationships between concepts, ideas and digital content.

Concept mapping is not new to the educational field. In fact, the benefits of concept mapping as a learning tool have been documented by over 40 years of cognitive science research. VUE provides a concept mapping interface, which can be used as such, or as an interface to organize digital content in non-linear ways.

Numerous tools currently exist for locating digital information, but few applications are available for making sense of the information available to us. As the availability of digital information continues to increase, VUE sets itself apart as a flexible tool to help faculty and students integrate, organize and contextualize electronic content in their work. Digital content can be accessed via the Web, or using the VUE’s “Resources” panel to tap into digital repositories, FTP servers and local file systems.

Sharing and presenting information are important aspects of academic work. VUE’s pathways feature allows presenters to create annotated trails through their maps, which become expert guided walk-throughs of the information. The pathways feature also provides a “slide view” of the information on the map. The power of VUE’s slide mode is the ability for presenters to focus on content (slide view) while preserving the information’s context (map view), by way of a single toggle between the two views.

VUE also provides supports for in-depth analysis of maps, with the ability to merge maps and export connectivity matrices to import in statistical packages. VUE also provide tools to apply semantic meaning to the maps, by way of ontologies and metadata schemas.
VUE can be used by anyone interested in visually structuring digital content, whether in support of teaching difficult to understand concepts or more generally, a tool for organizing personal digital resources.

 

Alternatives To The iPad

I really like the idea of an iPad, but don’t want to join the Apple Cult. There’s also for me the issue of a lack of multitasking, Flash, SD card support and USB. The lack of an SD card slot is a killer for me. One of the things I would want to do with a tablet is to use it as a portable photo editor and gallery.

But what else is there? As it turns out, a lot. There’s a list of Seven Alternatives to the iPad here.

Here’s what I want in a tablet:

WiFi (naturally)
SD Card Support
USB
Multitasking
Windows Operating system (so I can run familiar apps, and so I can insert my Sprint U300 3G Modem and get a connection anywhere.)
Long battery life (6+ hours)
Swappable Battery

The only other thing I’d consider buying in a tablet is one that runs on the Palm WebOs. I think that’s a natural fit, and I’m surprised Palm hasn’t jumped into the market. It can’t be much of a technological leap to take the Palm Pre and blow it up to ten inches. They could have one out by the fall if they wanted.