July 2004 Archives

rain, rain, go away


I'm so very tired of the rain.

Rochester average rainfall for July is 2.83". This month we've had 6.13".

Total number of "cooling degree days" (the day's average temperature minus 65ºF) for this month was 109; normal for the month is 202.

This is the most unpleasant summer I can remember having in Rochester. It's been so wet, so cool, so gray. I'm getting seasonal affective disorder in July! That's ridiculous.

I can't believe I'm actually looking forward to a trip to Alabama in August. With our luck, though, we'll get hit with a hurricane while we're there.

mt courseware 3.1 is coming

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The announcement about new features in the upcoming MT3.1 release has gotten me excited about revising my courseware for this fall. In particular, the multi-blog option ("A plugin which allows you to include template content from one weblog in any other weblog in your Movable Type install"), the post scheduling, and the improved php/dynamic capability will all make it much easier to create a more robust courseware implementation that doesn't require nearly so much by-hand duplication of content when creating multiple sections of a course, or new course instances from one quarter/semester to another.

I'm hoping to be able to make the changes during August, and get the new courseware instructions out soon after 3.1 is released on 8/31. For those of us who start teaching after Labor Day, that works...I know there are others for whom it will be too late for this semester. :(

BTW, if you haven't checked recently, the new pricing for MT 3.x for educators is quite reasonable...I bought a $39.95 license that will cover all of my personal and class blogs.

I haven't given up on the idea of a WordPress version, but I'm holding off until WordPress officially supports multiple blogs, since most of us teach more than one course.

absent-minded without leave

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Haven't been blogging much lately. I'd like to say it's because I'm getting so much done on my research and course prep, but it's not. Or because I'm energetically cleaning the house and the basement and the garage, but it's not.

My brain is on vacation, it seems. I can't afford a brain vacation right now, but my brain didn't really ask my opinion. It didn't check my calendar, or my to-do list. It just cut and ran...it's probably on a sunny beach somewhere in the Caribbean, or climbing a mountain in Switzerland. And it cleverly chose not to take my body along with it, so my physical self is stuck here in cold, damp, un-summery Rochester.

I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised that it decided to take off for a while. The rest of me would go, too, if it could. It's been a pretty awful year. Two deaths in the family since December, then the loss of the teenager we knew last week. Two close friends diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. One family member shot in March and still in the ICU four months later. One family member coming to terms with alcoholism. One bruising and highly politicized battle over my promotion. Far too many hours spent airborne. Disappointing news about our sabbatical planning--for reasons I can't go into, an overseas sabbatical will not be feasible. Can it just stop now, please? Can we have a week...or even, God forbid, a month...without trauma?

The new van (it's beautiful!) is a bit of a bright spot. It's been a long time since I've driven a new car. Not since 1987, when I bought my beloved Prelude (which gave its life to protect me and the boys back in 1999). We're traveling down to Alabama to visit family next month, and the trip will be a lot more enjoyable in a van that's safe and comfortable...even luxurious. (I did find some damage to the front bumper when I took possession of it tonight, so they'll be replacing it next week. Glad I checked carefully...)

And perhaps acknowledging my cognitively-disabled state will encourage my AWOL brain to return home, refreshed and ready to pound out insightful analysis and efficient survey instruments.

holy crap, we bought a new van!

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One minute we're talking about how we really ought to think about replacing rather than repairing our aging, ailing 1991 Mazda MPV.

The next we're signing on a 2-year lease (at a surprisingly low cost) for a 2004 Honda Odyssey EX complete with built-in DVD system.


No buyer's remorse, but some buyer's incredulity!

It's a gorgeous van, though. Silver with gray interior, lots of nifty bells-and-whistles. And significantly safer than the ancient van we've been using, which makes me feel oh-so-much better about our upcoming trip to Alabama.

Will post photos after I pick it up tonight...

sudden loss


Tuesday afternoon when I came home from work, Matthew was cutting our grass. Gerald hired him to do it last month, after he'd hurt his back, and we'd kept it up because he was a friendly, reliable 17-year-old kid who wasn't charging a fortune to mow the lawns. I'd only spoken with him a few times on the phone and in passing, but I was impressed with his quiet confidence and gentle voice. I remember wondering to myself on Tuesday what Matthew was going to use his earnings for--was he saving up for something special? Was he taking a girlfriend out to dinner? Was he just hanging out and having fun with his friends?

I'll never know the answer to that question.

Wednesday night, Matthew was killed by a drunk driver.

How do I make sense of this?

I know alcoholism is a disease. But how can I feel compassion for the 39-year-old man who got drunk on Wednesday night, then climbed behind the wheel and sped into Matthew's car? How can I not feel rage and despair over this senseless death?

The one thing about becoming a parent that nobody warned me about was the extraordinary sense of vulnerability that comes with the love. With each new sign of independence comes a mix of pride and fear.

My heart breaks for Matthew's family. I can't imagine what they must be going through.

del.icio.us tools

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Just found a couple of new bookmarklets for del.icio.us that are extremely useful.

The first is nutr.itio.us, which replaces the del.icio.us pop-up posting window with one that includes your tags, as well as an option to view the del.icio.us history for the link so that you can see how other people have tagged it before assigning your own tags. Brilliant!

Another useful tool is Tasty!, which lets you simply view the del.icio.us history for a link to see who's bookmarked it. If you're just curious, and don't want to bookmark it yourself, this one is nice--the rest of the time, the nutr.itio.us approach seems more useful.

summer fun


Not much blogging recently because I've been busy in the real world, having fun with my family.

Friday night Gerald took the boys to a Red Wings ball game, which was followed by an RPO concert and fireworks. (My stepfather plays cello for the RPO, and provided free tickets for all of us.) He took some photos on his cameraphone, but he hasn't configured it yet to email me the images, so I can't put them here (maybe later tonight). The Red Wings won (after 12 innings!), and they had a great time.

Saturday I took Alex to the last few hours of the local airshow. I've never been to one, and after watching the Blue Angels practicing outside my office window on Friday, I really wanted to see the whole show. They were spectacular, but even better was the Red Baron Pizza Squadron, a group of four biplanes that do spectacular aerobatics, including the creation of the lovely midair heart shown below. (I've got some other nice photos of the squadron on Flickr.)

Air Show

Saturday night we farmed the boys out to friends and relatives, and went to Weez's birthday party, where we had a lovely time. It made me appreciate how lucky I am to have friends I enjoy so much, and for those friends to be colleagues, as well.

Sunday the boys had music lessons with my stepfather (Lane's a budding cellist, and Alex has just taken up the viola.) After that, we headed to the county fair for over four hours of eating unhealthy (but delicious) food, and riding the midway rides. The boys finally worked up their nerve to go beyond their favorite rides, like the Dragon rollercoaster (very small, but fast):

Dragon Coaster

Alex agreed to go on the Cliff Hanger if I went as well...so we did it. And it turned out to be great fun--it spins, but on an angle, so you swoop up into the air and then back down again. It does feel like flying!

Cliff Hanger

So today I'm back in the office, trying to focus on getting some work done. Not too successfully, alas. With luck, tomorrow will be better.

construction notice


Upgrading from MT 2.65 to MT 3.01D today...there may be temporary wonkiness. Be patient.

Update: I think it's about done. Two big changes--one is that trackbacks and comments are no longer intertwingled, since SimpleComments doesn't work with MT3. The other is that commenters must now register with a TypeKey ID. I really hate to do that, but there's no blacklist tool available for MT3 (yet), and I need a way to halt (or at least slow) the barrage of spam. If/when a version of MT-Blacklist for MT3 is released, I'll probably remove the registration requirement.

Update 2: Per Karen's suggestion in the comments, I've changed the setup so that anyone can comment. Comments from people who've logged in to TypeKey will appear immediately, and comments from those who haven't will go into a moderation queue for approval. We'll see if it works.

stop-motion cleanup

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cleanup-smallAlex came to the office with me this morning, and graciously agreed to help me clean up. He spent a lot of time on the desk drawer, as you'll see from the stop-motion speedup of our work. (Click on the thumbnail to play the QuickTime video; one and a half minutes long, 3.4MB.)

moblogging at last

After the excellent advice from a former student in the comments of my earlier post (and an email exchange with him, as well), I shopped some of the local Cingular outlets last night. Sam's Club had the T637 and the v400 for $49/each after rebates, but then I got to Best Buy. They had the Motorola v400 for $129, but with $200 per phone in rebates ($100 from Cingular's Upstate NY special promotion, and $100 from Best Buy). How could I resist? They paid us to take the phones, basically.

So here's a moblogging post for today. My mom and I went for pedicures at a local salon, and I snapped this picture of her while we were waiting for the pedicures to begin. (Posted via Flickr.)

Getting a pedicure with mom
Originally uploaded by mamamusings.

phone shopping when i should be sleeping


Having trouble sleeping tonight--unusual for me, but it happens occasionally.

So I'm shopping for new cell phones for me and Gerald. I've been using a Sidekick with TMobile for over a year, and while I love its features, the reception on it is crappy, and the keyboard is getting sticky. Gerald has a 3yo Samsung phone with Sprint that's serviceable, but the power seems to go off without warning, which is not a good thing.

We need to consolidate the plans onto one service, so we can cut costs, share minutes and have free mobile-to-mobile time. Plus I'd really like a cameraphone, especially now that Flickr has so many camphone-friendly features.

After a surfing Amazon's cell phone offerings, and the sites of the major providers, I wasn't seeing much that had the range of features I wanted at a price that seemed reasonable--particularly since I needed two phones, not just one.

I finally ended up on Wirefly, where I found some remarkably good deals, including this one on a pair of Motorola v300 phones. What's not to like about two free cameraphones and $100 back? Seems too good to be true, though, so feedback on Wirefly and/or the v300 would be greatly appreciated before I take the plunge.


Update, Saturday afternoon

Well, after hitting a few local stores, checking out newspaper ads, and spending a lot of time on Amazon and Wirefly, I've decided that I'm better off switching to either Verizon or Cingular for broader local and travel coverage (especially when we're visiting family in Alabama). The local stores have poor selections and lousy specials, so online seems like a better approach.

I think I've narrowed it down to either the Sony Ericsson T637 (free after rebates) or the Motorola V400g, $50/each after rebates.

The Motorola seems like a nicer phone overall, with lots of useful features (including one of the kids' and my favorite games, Bejeweled...). It's also a flip phone, which Gerald and I both prefer. The Ericsson has Bluetooth and better battery life, however, and is a little cheaper. (The Motorola V600 would add Bluetooth, but it would be $100/phone after rebates, which is a little steep for us.)

There are also good deals on Samsung SCH-a610

Right now the Bluetooth doesn't seem terribly important, but I'm wondering if I'll end up regretting not having it.

the beast


It's stalking dooce.

I've seen it outside my window of late, as well.

The good news is, we both know what we need to do to banish it.

too close for comfort


After seeing the link to 20 Questions to a Better Personality on both Joey and Alex's sites, I felt compelled to avoid a little more work and take the test myself.

Unlike Joey and Alex, who both test as "golden gods," I appear to be a "dictator."

You are an SEDL--Sober Emotional Destructive Leader. This makes you a dictator. You prefer to control situations, and lack of control makes you physically sick. You feel have responsibility for everyone's welfare, and that you will be blamed when things go wrong. Things do go wrong, and you take it harder than you should.

You rely on the validation and support of others, but you have a secret distrust for people and distaste for their habits and weaknesses that make you keep your distance from them. This makes you very difficult to be with romantically. Still, a level-headed peacemaker can keep you balanced.

Despite your fierce temper and general hot-bloodedness, you have a soft spot for animals and a surprising passion for the arts. Sometimes you would almost rather live by your wits in the wilderness somewhere, if you could bring your books and your sketchbook.

You also have a strange, undeniable sexiness to you. You may go insane.


My only consolation is that I'm exactly on the border between "constructive" and "destructive," so I could also be classed as a "politician":

You are an SECL--Sober Emotional Constructive Leader. This makes you a politician. You cut deals, you change minds, you make things happen. You would prefer to be liked than respected, but generally people react to you with both. You are very sensitive to criticism, since your entire business is making people happy.

At times your commitment to the happiness of other people can cut into the happiness of you and your loved ones. This is very demanding on those close to you, who may feel neglected. Slowly, you will learn to set your own agenda--including time to yourself.

You are gregarious, friendly, charming and charismatic. You like animals, sports, and beautiful cars. You wear understated gold jewelry and have secret bad habits, like chewing your fingers and fidgeting.

You are very difficult to dislike.

this is my brain on extisp.icio.us

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Kevan Davis has written a program that takes your del.icio.us tags and creates a visualization--items with more links are larger. I'm not entirely sure how the positioning works, but I suspect that tags that often appear together on an item are located closer together.


Pretty amazing. Such a simple idea, so elegantly implemented, and so remarkably accurate at mapping my cognitive space. (Click on the above image to get to the real-time version, which allows you to click on any of the tags in the image and go directly to my list of links in that category.)

this grrl can write

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This is one of the most touching love notes I've ever read. Brought tears to my eyes, even the third time through. Read it. It will make your day.

my new favorite political blog


If you haven't been reading Fafblog, you really should start.

Here's a bit from this morning's "VEEPSTAKES: Countdown to Flavor!" entry:

Yknow I can see this would be a pretty tricky decision. John Edwards gives you that youthful dynamic energy while Dick Gephardt gives you that youthful dynamic energy in the form of an old beaten rundown party machine crushed under the weight of its own obsolescence. So you gotta weigh the pros and cons for a while.

stop dancing around the elephant


I went to an Al-Anon meeting tonight where one of the participants said something that really stuck with me. When you live with an alcoholic, he said, the disease is like the proverbial elephant in the middle of the room. At first, you dance around the elephant, pretending it's not there. When you finally acknowledge the elephant's presence, however, it doesn't disappear. It's still sitting there, as big as ever. And you're still dancing around it, still trying to avoid getting trampled.

Letting go of denial--acknowledging that the elephant is there--is only the first step. After that comes detachment--figuring out how to stop caring so much about the elephant. For those of us who live with the elephant, many of our problems come from the unending and inevitably unsuccessful attempts to make it go away. What Al-Anon is teaching me to do is to take the focus off the elephant, and put it on myself and my own needs. When I stop focusing on the elephant, it gets smaller. It will never go away--that's important to accept, as well. But the more I focus on it, the more dominating and damaging it becomes.

As I thought about that on the way home, I was reminded of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which I took the boys to see earlier today. I started thinking about the elephant as a boggart...but that's not really it. Making it ridiculous isn't the solution. In many ways, the elephant is more like a dementor, ready to suck the life out of you if you can't draw on your own inner strength and summon a shield--a patronus. For me, right now, Al-Anon is teaching me how to summon my patronus, and protect myself from the elephant in the living room. Eventually, I'm hoping that it will shrink into a corner, no longer the center of all of our attention.

you know you're really slacking when...

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...you actually participate in a "how many of these have you seen/read" meme. :P

sabbatical planning


So, this is the summer that I have to start planning for a sabbatical, if I want to take one during 2005-2006. RIT applications are due in October 2004, but Fulbright applications are due in August. So if I want to go overseas (say, to Tokyo...), I need to get in gear on this.

I'm torn on the overseas idea. I spent two years abroad as a kid, because my father did sabbatical research in London (when I was three) and Malta (when I was thirteen). In retrospect, I'm very grateful for those opportunities, and I'd like my kids to have that same chance to experience living in another culture.

On the other hand, most of the places that make sense for me to go in terms of their interest in social and mobile technologies dont have English as their primary language, and that puts more of a burden on my family. It's hard to be uprooted for a year because of someone else's interests...it's even harder if you're then dropped into a place where you don't understand the language.

Another possibility would be to explore options for a year as a visiting researcher at a US (or UK) corporate research lab. There are a lot of them--Microsoft, HP, FX/Palo Alto, Intel, and IBM are all doing work in collaboration and social computing, and I'm sure there are others. Less of a cultural adventure for all of us to do something like that, but it's perhaps more in keeping with the kinds of research that RIT is interested in.

And, of course, there's no guarantee that a place that I decided I wanted to go--overseas or not--would consider me a good fit, or would be able to make decisions on a time frame that matched RIT's.

So, faithful readers...what do you think? Overseas or not? Academia or industry? As Frazier would say, "I'm listening."

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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