June 2004 Archives

roundup of blog posts that made me laugh this week

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In Which Dr. Indifferent Pushes His Luck
From Chez Miscarriage--one of the funniest blogs I've read in a long time, and one that (thanks to Allison) has been added to my daily reading list. (This may only be hysterically funny to those of us who've had mammograms. And the rest of the post may only be funny to those who've had pelvic exams. Consider yourself warned.)

For all you women out there who have never undergone a mammogram, here's what happened once they got me into the imaging room. Other mammogram survivors can back me up on this.

First, a cadre of drunk fraternity boys dangled handfuls of Mardi Gras beads in front of my bewildered face and screamed, "SHOW US YOUR TITS!" And I took off the hospital gown, because I wanted those bead necklaces. They were colorful and shiny and plastic, and it's not like I could just buy sixty dozen of them at the dollar store. So I disrobed. The fraternity boys cheered. I smugly dropped some necklaces over my head and moved closer to the imaging machine.

"Hold still! Don't move!" the technician instructed, and then - without warning - Muhammad Ali began to pound on my right tit with an enormous mallet. "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!" he sang, "Take this mallet, flatten your titty!" My right breast fell onto the floor.

Bladder Lad
From Defective Yeti by Matthew Baldwin, a regular read.

So I got some popcorn and, of course, several cubic feet of cola. All I wanted was a "small," honest, but you know how these things are rigged against you, where it's, like, you can get an addition 128 oz. for only seven cents, and if you don't go for it the cashier looks at you like you must be the stupidest thing ever to claw its way out of a grave and wander around in search of brains, so you're, like, "oh, what's seven cents compared to the withering scorn of a nineteen year-old making minimum wage?" and the next thing you know you're staggering away with cup of Dr. Pepper the size of Kirsty Alley.

(You should also read Matthew's LiveJournal-style recreation of H.P. Lovecraft's story The Shadow Over Innsmouth.)

By The Power of Stipulation: I Have The Power!
From Belle Waring of Crooked Timber. Funny and brilliant--a wonderful combination.

Now, you may object to the aliens in my example above, but of course you can just replace them with a genocidal tyrant and his henchmen, and the whole world with your entire ethnic group, and mind-control rays with hideous torture under which you will beg for death but it will be denied. See? All tidy. So, basically what I’m saying is, shut the fuck up about that bomb.

Since You Asked, Vol. II
By the incomparable Dooce.

When you call Child Welfare, PLEASE get the story straight. Not only do I leave her alone with paper towels, I set her in the middle of a flea-infested floor and surround her with sharp objects and porn. Then I turn on a wood-burning stove in the corner of the room and seal all the windows. Before I leave the room and lock the door, I stick a bottle full of vodka in her mouth, you know, to muffle the screaming.

music that hath charms

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Thanks to ecto, it only takes a click of a button to tell you that I'm currently listening to Ghost In This House from the album Live (Disc 1) by Alison Krauss + Union Station.

But that doesn't quite communicate the sublime quality of Krauss' voice, or the way her music transports me--in this case from a lonely hotel lobby to a small slice of paradise.

I think a lot of people avoid Allison Kraus and Union Station because they're a bluegrass band, and not everyone's a bluegrass fan (me included). But do yourself a favor and listen to her rendition of the song above, or to her version of Baby, Now That I've Found You, or When You Say Nothing At All.

And now I'm off to grab some food and catch a cab to the San Jose airport. Tomorrow morning I'll be home again. And glad to be there, too.

blog research

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I've posted a lengthy piece on blog research issues over on Many-to-Many. Y'all read it now, y'hear?

fixin' ta go


My southern stepdaughter tutored my friends last year in the art of southern leavetaking. "Fixin' ta go" was a central phrase in that tutorial--since then, it's become a symbol of drawn-out, sociable preparations for departure around here. (Weez even uses it as one of her AIM away messages...)

At any rate, I'm fixin' ta go to Santa Clara tomorrow morning, to attend (and speak at) Supernova. I leave Rochester at 8:15am, change planes in Chicago, and arrive in San Jose around 12:40pm. I've downloaded a slew of entertaining audiobooks from Audible.com to amuse me en route. Still on the to-do list are backing up the computer, finishing laundry, and packing.

See you in sunny California...

i should be working


I have been working, actually. But I find I can only do intellectually-intensive work (like data coding) in bursts, and between those bursts I need to do something with a different piece of my brain.

Today's diversion was graphics. The favicon seems to be working; it's a piece of the site redesign I'm working on, incorporating the katakana character for "ma". I've also been playing with my revitalized iSight. At home, I'm usually the one behind the camera, so I don't show up in many photos. With the iSight, I'm the subject, and that's an entertaining novelty.

Here's today's self-portrait.


favicon frustration


Okay, I give up. I've created a favicon for my site. It's a 16×16px, 4-bit image, created in Photoshop and saved as an .ico using the Telegraphics plugin.

It works fine in Mozilla, but it doesn't show up in Safari, or in Bloglines. I've tried a range of saving options, to no avail. Any suggestions?

new revisions to movable type licensing

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Late Tuesday night, Six Apart announced yet another revision to the pricing structure for Movable Type 3.0 licenses. The prices are lower, the licenses are less restrictive, and the range of options is far less confusing.

There are now four types of licenses--personal, commercial, education, and not-for-profit. Personal users have three options: free for 1 author and 3 weblogs, a basic supported version for $69.95 that supports 5 authors and unlimited weblogs, and an unlimited personal version for $99.95. This ought to address a lot of the concerns that people raised about the pricing structure (though, of course, it won't change the minds of people who've decided that free-as-in-speech software is a better option for them).

As an educator, I'm particularly happy to see that the educational licenses are spelled out clearly, and that an affordable option for a single professor is included in the mix ($39.95 for unlimited use by one teacher). That will make it much easier for me to continue developing and maintaining my MT Courseware package.

What I'd really like to see for educational use is a TypePad-style interface that allows easy blog creation by users at an educational institution. That would make a big difference in terms of institutional adoption.

the gmail-rich get gmail-richer

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I've closed comments on this entry, because the flow of invitations has subsided, but the number of requests (particularly from people with whom I have no prior interaction) has started to snowball. If you already know me--from offline or online interactions--and want an account, let me know through alternate means.

Five more GMail invites have appeared in my account today. If you'd like one, let me know.

Update: Mine are all gone. Five more new ones just appeared. Brilliant marketing by Google. Leave a comment if you want one.

You can also try here, here, or here. I'm assuming they all got additional invites to distribute tonight, as well.

ups and downs

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The Bad News
Those of you who said I wouldn't last a week in Japanese were wrong, but those who said I wouldn't last two were right. It wasn't that I couldn't do it, it's that I couldn't do it without other things that were more important (my family, my research, my recovery) suffering greatly. I still plan to study it on my own this summer, perhaps sharing lessons with my son on weekends. And I'm still pretty proud of myself for learning all of the hiragana kana (including long vowels, short consonants, and glides) in under two weeks.

It's summer, and I'm sitting in my office, coding data. (Well, blogging, really. But thinking/stressing about coding data.) Blech. I'd rather be floating in my pool, or tending my garden.

I have to travel again next week, much to my kids' dismay. Only for a few days (to Santa Clara for Supernova), but I really am tired of traveling.

The Good News
Dropping Japanese lightened my psychic load more than I could have imagined. Last night I actually was able to relax with my family. The fact that it seemed like a barely-remembered luxury to do that was pretty telling.

While I have to work on the grant this summer, I set my own hours. If I want a two-hour lunch-and-sun break, I can take one. If I want to code data on my back deck (glare permitting), I can do that, too.

If I have to travel anywhere, Supernova's a pretty good destination. I had a great time there last year, and I'm looking forward to meeting some new folks this year.

The iSight 1.02 firmware update seems to have finally gotten my iSight to work with my computer again, so I can videochat with my kids while I'm away! That will be fun.

My new 300GB drive should arrive this week. w00t!

a nice start


I don't think it will last much longer, but I'm quite pleased with my first week of quiz grades in Japanese.


(That's for the 46 hiragana kanas that we learned last week; the first quiz was あーさ, the second was たーは, and the third was まーん .)

blog networks as faculty commons

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The past week has been hectic--the combination of japanese, houseguests, and pulling off a wonderful blog panel at MEA took a lot out of me. So blogging has been unsurprisingly light. However, when your houseguest is Jill Walker, and your weekend cookout guests include both Jill and Seb Paquet, it's hard not to generate some new ideas...so blogging may pick up a bit as I work those out.

The blog panel at MEA was not as well attended as I'd hoped (we were towards the end of the day, alas), but it was great fun to be a part of it. If you couldn't attend, Collin Brooke did a wonderful write-up of it. Thanks, Collin!

And if nothing else, the panel provided a wonderful opportunity for the five of us to all meet each other--Jill and Seb had never met any of us before, and Alex and Clay had each only met me. The face-to-face interaction is obviously not a necessary component for collaboration and connection, or the panel never would have happened to begin with, but it certainly is a welcome and strengthening addition.

Last night Seb and Jill and I were talking about how the connections we've formed through our blogs are actually more important to us in terms of collegiality than the connections we have to people that we work with. I "know" Jill and Seb better (at least professionally) than I know most of the people in my hallway. I think this will be increasingly the case for academics--social software tools will foster and support collaborative networks that cross disciplinary and institutional boundaries, and those networks will become the important spaces in which creativity research develop. As Jill said, these social-software-supported networks have become closer to the ideal of the faculty commons than anything on a real campus has ever been.

So, what happens to research and scholarship--what happens to the current concept of a university, in fact?--when these formerly invisible colleges become not only visible, but more important than the traditional, geographically and disciplinarily (not a word, I know, but there isn't one for what I want) bound colleges we're accustomed to?

Virtuality simply isn't going to replace physicality in toto; there's too much value in physical presence. That's why Jill and Seb and Clay were all willing to trek to Rochester for this panel--it was worth the expense (in time and money) to be able to connect in a physical space. Location matters--I live where I live for many reasons unrelated to my job, and that's true for most of the people I know. So how do we blend our modes? How do we get the most out of the emerging blog commons? I don't have answers yet, just questions.

all-star blog panel @ rit tomorrow

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Those of you in the Rochester area might want to attend the panel on "Weblogs and Cross-Disciplinary Communication" being held Friday from 4:30 - 5:45 on the RIT campus, as part of the Media Ecology Association Conference.

I'll be chairing the panel, and the other participants are:

  • Clay Shirky
  • Jill Walker
  • Seb Paquet
  • Alex Halavais

It will be held in the Liberal Arts building, room 06-A205.

Hope to see you there!

japanese mnemonics


The textbook we're using for the Japanese class provides little mnemonic images to remember each of the hiragana kanas (a bird's beak saying "ku" for く, chopsticks with a long NOOdle for ぬ, etc). I'm finding them tremendously useful, since I'm a heavily visual learner. But I'm wondering if it's a bad thing to be too dependent on these image/character relationships.

I'd be interested to hear from people who've studied Japanese whether, over the long haul, they found it helpful or detrimental to use these as methods for remembering kana? Is it likely that with repetition, I'll stop needing them?

Many thanks to Boris, by the way, for his link via my comments to the Nuku Japanese kana tutor software for OS X. It's been a wonderful way to quiz myself on the kana, and I really like that you can set it up to quiz you only on specific columns of the hiragana chart.

beginning japanese, day one

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What have I gotten myself into??

Taking beginning japanese as a five-week summer session course seemed like a great idea...until I found out how much we'd have to accomplish each day. The first assignment is to learn the first fifteen hiragana characters--recognizing them, pronouncing them, and writing them. By tomorrow. Ack.

I did find a great site with javascript-powered hiragana flash cards , which is helping tremendously with recognition. I'll deal with the writing part tomorrow.

This is going to be a rough five weeks, I think.

an open letter to alex patout

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Dear Mr. Patout-

I'm writing to express to you our disappointment with the dinner we had at Alex Patout's Louisiana Restaurant in the French Quarter on June 3rd. We chose your restaurant to celebrate our eleventh wedding anniversary because we had fond memories of the excellent food and service we'd enjoyed there a decade ago--it appears, however, that over time both have suffered declines in quality.

The service was friendly and fast--but a bit too fast. We felt quite rushed, and had no sense of a leisurely, well-paced meal. Although we ordered both appetizers and dessert, the time from our seating to our departure was slightly under one hour; this is good for turnover and revenue enhancement, I'm sure, but it's less than ideal for diners wishing to relax and enjoy their meal. We don't often spend $100 on a meal, and when we do, we generally look forward to the entire dining experience, not just a quick succession of plates.

Our food was good, but not spectacular, and most certainly not of a quality commensurate with the cost. The crab and corn bisque was bland, and my lump crabmeat dish had an alarming number of shell fragments. We had substantially better (though comparably priced) meals at other restaurants in town during our stay--particularly Emeril's and Dante's Kitchen--which made the shortcomings of our meal at your restaurant all the more apparent.

I hope that we simply caught your staff and your kitchen on a bad night, and that our experience wasn't indicative of the current overall quality of your restaurant. I suspect, however, that on future visits to New Orleans we will find other places to celebrate special occasions.


Elizabeth Lawley


When we booked our reservation online, we received a confirmation email from "Alex Patout <info@patout.com>"--which may or may not have actually come from the chef himself. That's the address to which I sent the above message. If I receive a reply, I'll post an update.


Update, 6/17

Since I had not received a response, I followed up with another email yesterday. In it, I pointed out that I'd posted the letter on my site and that it was now showing up in the top ten results for "Alex Patout." I received this response today:

Dear Ms. Lawley,

I apologize that we did not write to you at your email address. We, instead, wrote a letter to your New York address. We hope that you have it by tomorrow. I will check back with you then. We have had so many problems with our server that we don't leave anything to chance anymore.

Thanks for your patience.

Marcia Patout
Alex Patout's Louisiana Restaurant

I'll update again when I get their answer.

because anil's my friend

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minor travel miracles


I'm writing this from our hotel room in New Orleans (free WiFi! w00t!), after arriving here on a flight that left Rochester on time at 6:05am. That it left on time is not miraculous, but the fact that we were on it is.

We were the picture of organization last night. We dropped the kids off with their respective friends, packed our bags, printed out our boarding passes from the web site, charged the batteries for all devices (phones, cameras, computers) and set the alarm for 4am. We figured we'd get up, shower, grab some food, park in the satellite lot, and be at the airport by 5am. Good plan, no?

Slightly after 5am this morning, Gerald shook me awake, telling me that the alarm hadn't gone off. "We'll never make it!" I shrieked. "Why not?" he responded.

computer archaeology

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A few months ago, we split the boys out of their large, shared bedroom into smaller rooms of their own--that meant consolidating everything from our office/study and our guest bedroom/library into their former room. We took the easy path then, and simply piled everything in the larger room so that we could expedite the boys' moving process. This week I started tackling the boxes and piles and drawers of stuff that stand between us and a combined office/guest room.

My husband and I are both computer geeks, and have been since before we mett. We're celebrating our eleventh anniversary this week, and I think we've saved every disk, device, and cable that we've purchased in those eleven years.

I should have take some pictures as I cleaned yesterday--I'll try to get some today. There's an entire dresser drawer full of phones--most corded, a couple of cordless. There's a file drawer full of telephone cords and accessories. There are bags full of cable adapters--9-to-25-pin, 25-to-50pin, male-to-female, yada yada yada. There are parallel cables, SCSI cables, and serial cables. There are oldstyle AppleTalk network adapters. There's a staggering array of power adapters and cords. There's also another entire drawer of AV cables and accessories, which I left for Gerald to sort out.

And disks? You don't want to know. Cartons of not just 3.5" floppies (400K, 800K, and 1.44MB) but also of ancient 5.25" disks. Zip disks, Jaz disks, old internal hard disks. I got lost in nostalgia for a while, looking at the old floppy disks. Original system disks for my 1984 128K Mac (and MacPaint and MacWrite, as well). Early versions of classic software programs, from games (Zork, Hitchhiker's Guide, Wizardry) to utilities (Suitcase 1.0, DeBabelizer, and EndNote 2.0). Backup disks from consulting projects I worked on back in the early 1990s. Piles of font disks...I was a fontaholic for a long time. Clip art and stock photos (I'm going to try to recover some of that).

I've thrown away bags of clearly broken or unusable stuff, but I'm left with so much more that we need. It kills me to throw away cables that I spent $50 for years ago, or perfectly functional two-line telephones. So I'm going to call around and find out if there's anyplace that would like these as a donation.

Today I start on the books. Visual Quickstart books on Fireworks 2 and Flash 4, early versions of O'Reilly internet-related books, ASP 3.0 tutorials, and ColdFusion manuals (from back in the Allaire days). Oy.

Thursday morning we leave for a long weekend in New Orleans--we'll celebrate our eleventh anniversary with dinner at one of my favorite restaurants (Alex Patout's), and then attend the wedding of friends on Saturday. We're staying at Grenoble House, which looks quite lovely. Don't know how much blogging I'll be doing, but you never know...

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