September 2004 Archives

win $100,000!

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Voting matters. If you're not yet registered, it's not too late. Most states are still allowing registration, including New York (where the registration deadline is October 8th).

Need some incentive (beside the obvious one--the ability to have an effect on how this country is run...)? How does the chance to win $100,000 sound?

All you need to do is go to Vote or Not, a site started by the guys from "Hot or Not" to try to get out the vote, especially among young people. Register there (no spam from it, guaranteed), and they'll give you the link you need to register for your state.

They'll also give you a link to send to your friends. And here's the best part...if someone you referred to the site wins the $100,000 prize, you win, too! You'll get a custom link to post to your blog, send out via IM and email, etc. The more people you convince to sign up, the more chances you have to win $100,00. And the bonus? More people voting in this year's election.

True, New York's not a swing state in the presidential election. But there are congressional elections, as well, and congress has a significant effect on what policies can be enacted.

Here in Henrietta (where RIT is located), there's a battle for the congressional seat formerly held by Republican Amo Houghton. This is one of the races that matters this year, and political activists across the country have taken a strong interest in one of the candidates, Samara Barend. She's a 27-year-old woman whose campaign web site sports a blog, and who's been politically active since she was a teenager. I'll be voting for Sam Barend this year, and I hope you will be, too.

stabilization

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Ever since my brother-in-law's death last December it feels like I've been on a constant rollercoaster (one designed by Escher, apparently, that goes mostly downhill). Every time it felt like things were looking up again, there was an unexpected plunge. Serious illnesses, too many deaths, more loss than I was really able to deal with effectively. One friend told me it felt as though when Howard died last year I'd gone away, and that I'd never really made it all the way back. And she was right. The most recent bad news--of Dave's death last month--felt like the last straw, and it knocked me completely off the tracks.

So it's with some relief that I'm able to report today that not only have we been tragedy-free for several weeks now, but that I've actually started getting things done again! A lot of people had started to worry about me, because I'm normally a pretty responsible person--I finish projects, I meet deadlines, I stay in touch. Recently I hadn't been doing any of that.

Since Sunday I've managed to grade 35 papers and 24 web sites, finish a grant project summary for NSF, do some serious planning for a workshop I'm helping to coordinate next month at USC, coordinate travel plans for my trip to Seattle next week, have fun teaching my freshmen unix commands (really!), and spend some quality time with my family at the RIT pool. As Lane would say, "Boo yah!"

One of the best parts of getting caught up is knowing that I don't have to dread opening my email inbox, because I'm no longer trying to avoid people who need things from me.

The timing of this stabilization is particularly good, because my fall travel season is about to start...Seattle (Microsoft), then LA (Annenberg), then Chicago (ACM CSCW). And then a still-secret trip to a very cool place over Thanksgiving, which I can't blog about until after my younger son's birthday. :)

feed the meme: 200 Things

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Oh, what the heck. I've posted three times today...why not close things out with a new meme?

Found this on Jay Allen's site. And as Christine at Big Pink Cookie said, "I've always meant to do a list of 100 things about me, but never got around to it - highlighting an already made list was a lot easier."

I was able to bold 105 107 out of 200 items. Some I'm glad I couldn't highlight. Some I wish I could have. And there's one that I probably should have highlighted, but didn't want to admit to. (No, I won't tell you which one!)

frontiernet dsl router update

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The short version: Yay!

The long version: The new DSL modem self-install kit arrived in the mail today, complete with install disk, cables, and four (count 'em, four!) line filters.

Total time from opening box to complete household connectivity was approximately 20 minutes, and most of that was spent untangling the power cord from the router in one room and looking for a power outlet for it in the other room.

Here's what I had to do:

1) Plug a line filter into the phone jack. The filter has two clearly marked jacks on it--one for the DSL modem, the other for the phone.

2) Plug the phone back into the filter.

3) Plug the modem into the filter, and hook up its power cord. Green power light went on, as did the green DSL light (which blinked occasionally).

4) Connect my G4 Powerbook to the modem via the provided Ethernet cable.

5) Insert the provided CD and run the "Install Frontier DSL" software on it.

6) Follow a series of prompts on the screen as the software searched for and configured the router.

7) Unplugged the Ethernet cable from my computer, and plugged it into the wireless router (Microsoft brand).

At that point I had a brief moment of panic, as my airport card had mysteriously turned itself off, and the "turn airport on" link wasn't in the menu. However, starting up the Network panel in System Preferences and telling the computer that everything was just fine, thank you, restored it to normal operating conditions.

And poof, everything's working. Just like that. I have to admit, I'm surprised. I expected far more snafus. (Yes, I know, the night is young.)

Oh, and yes, we installed the line filters on the other phone lines in the house, as well. For those of you not familiar with DSL and who don't know what that means (I didn't), the DSL runs over the same phone line that we use for voice. So the line filters split out the DSL from the voice connectivity so that when we use the phone it doesn't affect the DSL modem. One has to go at every jack where there's a phone, so as to keep the DSL line clear.

So, all's well that ends well. Many thanks to those who weighed in on the earlier post with helpful comments and explanations.

microsoft "search champs"

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On Sunday I'm leaving for a short trip to Redmond, where I'll be part of a new advisory group ("Search Champs") that Microsoft is forming to provide feedback on their search engine development.

Back when I was more active in the library profession, I once heard a wonderful conference talk by Herb White. He was bemoaning the trend in libraries to teach end-users how to do complex online searching so that they'd discover "the joy of searching." "I have no joy of searching," he said. "I have joy of finding!"

Those of us who chose to go to library school really are different from most other people, in that we do have "joy of searching"...it's the hunt that's fun for us, not the catch. We're like the housecat that triumphantly drops the dead mouse on the doorstep--we don't want to consume it, we just want to show you how good we are at tracking it down. So I'm not the typical search engine user. I'm interested in the high-end functionality, the little-known tips and tricks that let you find elusive materials quickly.

I'll be curious to see who else turns up in this "search champ" group. They aren't releasing the names before we arrive (privacy issues, apparently, though the privacy will be moot once we all meet face to face...), so I have no idea who they're targeting for advice. (If you're going, feel free to "out" yourself here!) I'm not 100% sure how I ended up on the list, though I suspect that Scoble may have had something to do with it, since he was copied on my original invitation.

There's an NDA involved in this, natch, but I'll blog what aspects of it I can without violating any confidentiality. Process, at least, if not content. Oh...and I do tentatively plan to hit the Redmond/Seattle-area blogger meetup next Tuesday night.

working at spin caffé

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Ready to work at Spin Caffé
Originally uploaded by mamamusings.

I seem to get a lot more done in coffeeshops than in my office or at home--probably because there's nobody I know to talk to, and no seductive time-wasting tasks to distract me. Spin Cafféon Park Ave in Rochester has free wifi, accessible plugs, decent chairs, and excellent coffee and biscotti. Today I'm traveling with two laptops; one for writing, one for data analysis. And despite this blog entry as evidence to the contrary, I am actually getting something accomplished. I may even make my end-of-the-day deadline, and end up with one more monkey off my back. I hope so.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon and early evening at Panera Bread, another free wifi/good coffee spot in Rochester, where I graded 35 papers and 24 websites. BooYah!, as the characters on my kids' favorite cartoon would say.


mt as content management software

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In the comments of my evangelism post on Friday, a discussion on the merits of Movable Type as a CMS for general purpose (non-blog-like) sites has begun. It got me thinking that it would be nice to have a list of sites using MT (or other weblog software) for more traditional CMS purposes.

So here's my start, with the stuff I know about. Feel free to add links in the comments, and when I finally get my wiki running, I'll shift it (and the edublogging resources page) over there. (Full disclosure: I've shamelessly stolen some of the examples from the Tutorials and References listed below...)

Examples

Tutorials/Discussions

evangelism

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I spent an hour this afternoon trying to convince decision-makers at RIT to invest a relatively small (by site license standards) amount in a campus license for Movable Type. It was wonderful being able to merge my social software interests with my home institution, since typically the two haven't been closely connected. And with luck, it will turn into something that benefits many of my colleagues and the students here at RIT.

The idea would be to set up something similar to what Minnesota has at UThink, but also to start looking at MT as a platform for content management on departmental sites, class sites, etc. We would also be looking at ways to integrate other pedagogical tools (like testing and gradebook software) into MT templates so that students could have something like my MT courseware, but with RIT-specific private components embedded and/or linked. Fun stuff.

In preparation for the talk, I created a list of educational blogging resources and examples (cribbed from another list on a private server that danah boyd and I have been working on for a workshop). It occurred to me that the list could be useful to others trying to convince their institutions to implement wide-scale blogging initiatives, so feel free to steal from it, point to it, add to it, etc. (Yes, I know, it should be on a wiki. I'm working on installing one that I like, but haven't had time for it recently...) In the meantime, if you leave comments here with things you think should be included, I'll consider them for the list.

domain name pricing

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So, someone has been trying to contact me about purchasing a domain name that I don't use much anymore, but that does have some sentimental value (because it was the first one I acquired, back in '92 when you didn't even have to pay for them...)

It's a four-letter .com domain name that I suspect corresponds to their company name, and I've been getting an increasing amount of mail in the catch-all account for it that probably should be going to them.

I have no idea what's a reasonable rate for these things these days. If it's not worth much, I probably won't sell it, but I don't even know what's a reasonable starting point for asking. I suspect they'll put the ball in my court, asking what I want for it, and I'd like not to start with a lowball number.

Any advice would be appreciated.

dsl router question

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I'm about to switch my broadband connection from cable to dsl (because that's what work's willing to pay for), and I'm trying to figure out what, if anything, I'll have to change about how we have the network set up here.

Right now the cable comes into an upstairs bedroom that doesn't have a phone line, and the wireless router is attached to the cable modem. One computer (an older mac) is physically attached to the router, and the rest of the computers in the house use WiFi.

The DSL provider (Frontier) is telling me that the phone line for the DSL has to go directly to a computer, which doesn't make sense to me. If that's true, we'll have to pay $70 to have a new phone line run upstairs, which I really don't want to do.

So the question is, can I handle a DSL line the same way I do a cable line, hooking it into a router without having a CPU in the same place? Or was the Frontier rep on the phone right about needing to co-locate the incoming DSL with an actual CPU?

coming up for air

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Still here. Just juggling too many things, so the blog has ended up last on the list of priorities. Research has been bogged down, but is starting to come together (probably because of impending deadlines). Kids' routines are getting established--music lessons, swimming lessons, grandparent time, media metering, homework, etc etc. Classes are shifting into higher gears. Responsibilities for other external activities are looming.

I'm not depressed; just overwhelmed. I'll be back.

alex halavais' most excellent grading faq

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Thank you, Alex, for saying so clearly and eloquently what I find myself having to explain every year to almost every class.

Things that particularly hit home:

It speaks volumes of our own program that having writing as the major evaluative component makes it a ���writing course.���

and

This is up there with ���Did I miss anything important on the first day?��� as one of the dumbest questions ever. What am I supposed to say? ���No, I consider myself a ���soft��� grader; perhaps even lackadaisical���?

Read the whole thing. I'm going to post it on my door, and make it required reading for all of my students.

archive changes

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I've made a minor change in my monthly archive templates, in order to display monthly pages in chronological (rather than the default reverse chronological) order. I'm doing that because I've often found myself frustrated when finding a new blog that there's not a way to easily get caught up on past entries. Sometimes I'd like to be able to read the blog as a forward-moving narrative.

So now when you select my monthly archives, they'll run from the beginning of the month to the end, rather than the end to the beginning.

If you want to make the same change to your MT templates, go to the Date-Based Archive template and change the <MTEntries> tag to <MTEntries sort_order="ascend">

fragments

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I've spent most of last night and today tracking down old friends from my years with Dave in DC, and letting them know about his passing. It's odd how the names keep popping up in my memory, a few at a time. I've sent about a dozen emails to people whose contact information I could find. With luck, they'll find their way to the entry and post their own "nenirues."

Along the way, I discovered that archive.org has a small cache of pages related to TMMABBS the bbs on which Dave and I met, and where our friends from those years congregated. And on the "ramblings" page of that archived site (yes, Dave and I were the two denizens referred to in the first paragraph) I found some of Dave's writing, which I'm glad has been preserved.

For example, here's a classic Dave post on lacing shoes:

Actually, Laila explained the proper use of the Last Hole of the Reeboks when Rox was getting a few tips on Fool's Errand at Frank's MacPlus from Frank. She'd be the best source of information, but I might be able to explain it by consulting the very pair of Reeboks laced in fact by her - the last hole at least. Ever since then I have just loosened them. I did buy a fresh pair just yesterday, and laced them the same, but the original "class notes" are always best... one moment... OK, then:

For the purpose of this instruction, the Reebok will be said to have holes numbered 1 to N, with the last two holes, being designated N, and N-1. Each "hole" is duplicated along either side of the "lacing discontinuity" Lacing is symmetrical with respect to the discontinuity. Holes 1 to N-2 are laced using conventional or unconventional technique, as desired. Use of the retaining slot in the tongue is optional. Hole N-2 is laced to the underside of the opposing hole N-1. Hole N-1 is then laced to the top side of adjacent hole N. From the underside of hole N, the lace is run across the discontinuity and through the small loop formed by the lace between the opposite hole N and hole N-1. Final "snugging" of the shoe is accomplished by pulling at the laces so as to close the (N,N-1) loops against the shoe. The finishing knot is required, but the type of knot is up to the wearer. There. That should do it.

educause on educational social software

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The September/October issue of Educause Review is devoted to "New Tools for Back-to-School: Blogs, Swarms, Wikis, and Games." The articles are well worth taking a look at.

remembering dave

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daveWhen I saw the email in my inbox from my ex-husband's sister, I knew in my heart that it couldn't be good news. I hadn't heard from Dave in nearly three years, despite an attempt to contact him two years ago when we were at the beach near his home in Pensacola. This year I hadn't bothered to try, assuming that he didn't want to see us.

What I didn't know was that on August 28th, while we were just a few miles away, Davison Lewis Tudder passed away in a Pensacola hospital. His sister said he'd been sick for several years, but mental health issues that had plagued him since his father's death in '96 had caused him to become reclusive and unwilling to see a doctor. By the time his mother's housekeeper forced him to go to the hospital in May, he was in the advanced stages of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).

We were married for three years, and I know that most of that was a happy time for him. I hoped that after we split up, he'd find someone else and go on to have a happy and full life. It broke my heart to find out that instead he had spent the last eight years fighting both mental and physical illnesses.

There's not much I can do at this point, except grieve his death--and remember his life. And share it with you, so that you'll know that he made a difference in the world.

He was smart and funny, generous and caring.

When we divorced, he insisted on paying half of my car payments so that I wouldn't have to sell my very safe Honda Prelude and buy another car. That Prelude eventually saved my life, and my children's lives, when we were hit by a truck in 1999.

Everyone who knew him had at some point received a complex diagram drawn on a napkin...he was so full of ideas and information that it spilled out of him, and he loved explaining technical concepts. A quick search of Usenet finds a slew of articles in which he patiently and clearly explained to people on audio and computer newsgroups how to perform specific tasks.

He quit college before he finished, but his knowledge and intelligence earned him a place as an engineer at a number of major telecom companies. He worked on MCI's first implementation of SS7, which I didn't appreciate at all until I had to teach about it during my first years at RIT. I called him then, and ruefully admitted my regret at not having paid more attention to those napkin diagrams.

He was extraordinarily patient, and was one of those people who knew that everyone has a story worth hearing if you're willing to stop for long enough to listen carefully.

He died nearly alone, estranged from his friends and most of his family. But even if he'd drifted away from the people who'd been touched by him, I suspect that most of us hadn't forgotten him. I wish I could have told him that before he died. I hope that some of his old friends will tell us that here in the comments.

Tonight I grieve the loss of a good man, a man I once loved, a man who deserved a longer and richer life.

best weblog redesign ever

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Anil, you rock.

wonderful web development toolbar

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Thanks to Tona (and her student Chris), I've installed Chris Pederick's excellent Web Developer Extension for Firefox (also available for Mozilla).

It adds a new toolbar to my browser, with a slew of useful tools--from quickly displaying and tweaking a document's CSS to running validator and accessibility checks. One of the coolest features is its ability to outline elements on a page...so you can see all the block elements, for example, or all the frames. Extremely useful for me when grading student projects, and even more useful for showing underlying structure when teaching.

3-2-1 contact

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It is indeed showtime, folks. Like Weez, I'd forgotten how much I enjoy being in the classroom, especially when teaching the web design classes I enjoy most.

And on the professional front, interesting activities are just ahead. A social software workshop at USC, a visit to Redmond, and an NSF workshop in October; the CSCW conference in November.

Summer was a good and healing hibernation period for me, but I find that when I'm not regularly interacting with colleagues--in person, not just online--my mind is less active, less creative, less productive. Being around my RIT colleagues re-energizes my teaching self, and being able to travel this fall to see colleagues with whom I share research and writing interests is re-energizing my research self.

last day on the road: west virginia to home

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No photos this time...we didn't stop for sightseeing on this last leg. We just wanted to get home. And we're awfully glad to be here. It was lovely to sleep in our own beds last night, and shower in our own bathrooms this morning. It will be wonderful to keep clothes in closets rather than suitcases.

The best part of vacationing at the end of August is that down south the kids are already back in school, so parks and tourist attractions are blessedly uncrowded. The worst part is that when you get home, you have little or no re-entry time before the start of school. We've got clothes to buy--for Lane, who's outgrown nearly everything, and me, who needs a little wardrobe pick-me-up for first week confidence boosting. We've got school supplies to acquire, for both the kids. And we've got schedules to juggle so that we can figure out who's driving who to music lessons, swimming lessons, Japanese lessons, etc. (Our kids aren't over-scheduled, really. Lane takes cello and Japanese on Saturdays, and will have ten weeks of swimming this fall. Alex may take viola this year, and will swim as well. We're big fans of unscheduled play time, and don't expect to turn regimented anytime soon.)

Most importantly, I've got to switch my brain out of vacation speed and back into professional gears. Dinner and course prep tonight with Weez is a good way to ease into it. Tomorrow I'll have to hit the office, even though I'm not teaching 'til Tuesday, just so I can clean up, get organized, and start the necessary headshift.

And now we're off to Sunday brunch at mom's. She's been missing the grandkids while we've been gone. And we'll be seeing Masako, as well, our gracious and generous hostess from Tokyo, who's here for her annual 6 month stay in the states.

on the road again: tennessee to west virginia

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A long day of driving today. We left Gatlinburg after an awful breakfast at our hotel, the Park Vista. The views from (and of) the hotel were lovely, but that's about all I can say for it. It's somewhat run-down, and the breakfast buffet was truly terrible.

We made two sightseeing stops along the way. First at the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in Virginia. We had hoped for another stamp for Alex's passport, but it turned out they weren't NPS-run--they're Forest Service, instead. So we got a hat pin for him, instead, and got back on the road.

The next stop was at the New River Gorge National River, where the views were breathtaking. (And we did acquire a stamp for the passport there, as well as a regional sticker and another hat pin.)

The bridge, built in 1977, was the longest arch bridge in the world until last year, when Shanghai built one that surpasses it. But it's still quite beautiful to behold.

bridge

Now we're safely ensconced in the Holiday in in Bridgeport/Clarksburg, WV. The rooms are small and overpriced (it's Labor Day weekend, and the fall festivals are in full swing), but there's free wifi in the rooms and the restaurant food was passable.

Tomorrow's the last leg of our journey, and barring any travel disasters I should be posting from (and sleeping at) home tomorrow night. w00t!

on the road again: alabama to tennessee

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Tonight we're in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, home of some of the world's cheesiest tourist attractions, as well as some of the most beautiful mountains.

We took an aerial tram up one of the mountains, and admired the view down into town for a while. I posted a couple of cameraphone photos on Flickr, and will upload digital camera shots when we get home. After that, we hit the Ripley's 4D Moving Theatre (The movie you ride! 2 Thrilling shows!), much to the kids' delight.

Now we're back in our hotel, which has lovely views of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, where Alex got his National Park Passport stamped this afternoon. The stamp is the third one he's received--the first was at Mammoth Cave, and the second at Gulf Islands National Seashore. He's also collecting commemorative pins at each of our stops on this trip, and has quite a collection on his favorite baseball cap--which itself was a souvenir from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on his last trip with Grandma.

Tomorrow we'll work our way up to West Virginia, stopping briefly along the way at the New River Gorge National River for another passport stamp, and a look at some of the spectacular views.

Saturday will be the last leg of this very long trip. I adore my family, and am so glad to have had this time to spend with them. But 24×7 can be hard on everyone, as can long hours of highway driving, and I'll think we'll all be very glad to be back in our own home again.

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

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