January 2007 Archives

we both love ice cream

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In June, Gerald and I will celebrate our fourteenth anniversary, and I'm as much in love with him today as I was when we married--if not more so.

Yesterday I started watching the movie Little Miss Sunshine, which Gerald (and Erin) both loved, and said I absolutely had to watch. And you know what? I hated it. I chuckled maybe once, and spent a lot of time shaking my head in disbelief. When I quit watching at the halfway point (when they're stealing the grandfather's body out of the hospital), Gerald scoffed at me, saying I'd given up just before everything turned around. So I watched the rest of it tonight. And disliked it just as much.

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. He loves Scrubs, too, which I hate. And Arrested Development, which I hate even more. He hates musicals, which I adore (I grew up watching them with my dad). He hates fantasy books and movies, which are my favorites. He has zero interest in any kind of computer game.

And yet.

We love each other. We enjoy each other's company. We laugh at each other's jokes. We complement each other's strengths, and accept each other's weaknesses. And we both love ice cream.

I'm a lucky woman.

a flickr feature i wish for

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When I go to someone's page of Flickr friends, I'd love to be able to see who we have in common. (This is a feature that I wish a lot of sites had, but I thought of it again tonight while browsing some Flickr photos.)

Just wanted to make a note of that before I moved on to another task.

collaborative exam creation

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I tried an experiment this quarter in my Human Factors class. I set up a SocialText wiki, extended invitations to all of my students, and told them that 10% of their midterm grade would be the quality of their submissions to the wiki. Everyone was expected to submit a minimum of 10 points worth of questions to the wiki, and I promised that once the submission deadline had passed, only questions on the wiki would appear on the exam.

Overall, the quality of the questions provided by the students wasn't great. Many were poorly worded, and they didn't cover the full range of topics we'd covered in class. However, I was able to extract a sufficient number of questions (some with wording changes to clarify them) to create a full exam, which they took today. Here's what the grades looked like:

425-062 midterm grade statistics

That's just about a perfect textbook (I didn't mean to imply that as a teacher I want my students to not all do consistently great work...) curve from a pedagogical standpoint. And the grades matched my expectations, for the most part, in terms of how individual students would perform. So I'd call this experiment a success.

I will modify the process for the final exam. First of all, I'll provide a little more structure to the page before they start adding questions. I'll create specific topic headings associated with lectures and readings, so that they can see which areas need to have questions developed. I'll provide a few questions to "seed" the page, so they can see examples of well worded questions. And I'll moderate the page a bit more, marking questions that I'm likely to use in some way. I may even add a few questions of my own to supplement theirs. The key thing is that I don't want them wasting time studying for questions that are poorly worded, since that's not a good use of their time.

I'll report back after the final exam in February.

(Update: I've made the wiki publicly readable, though only students can edit it.)

comments fixed

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I hadn't realized that comments were broken--happened when I upgraded to 3.33, and forgot to rename the comments script. :(

All's well again.

too many interests, not enough time

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There's too much I want to do in each day, and not enough time to do it in.

I've got a new crochet project, a complicated lacy afghan for the baby daughter of a friend.

I've got a new camera, and the ice storm is begging me to take pictures of it. I'd like to find an open space where I can get photos of these amazing crystallized trees without having to dodge parked cars and construction fences.

I've got the new World of Warcraft expansion installed, and my characters moved to a less stressful, non-PvP server...so I want to play and play for hours and hours, exploring the new content and environment.

And then there's that pesky work thing, ever demanding my attention and engagement. You can't teach well when you're only partially there, so I have to disengage from the rest.

Not to mention the seemingly endless stream of illnesses.

<sigh>

smartphone not synchronizing exchange calendar :(

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I love my smartphone, and what I love most about it is its seamless synchronization with our campus Exchange server--email, calendar, and contacts. Add a phone number to my phone, the contact gets updated on the server and then synchronized with my computer--no wires necessary. Add a meeting to my calendar on the computer, and it shows up on my phone, complete with reminders. Fabulous.

Until last week, when suddenly calendar events stopped synchronizing. My email works just fine--I'm still getting it sent to my phone with no problems. But Calendar events won't synchronize. If I go into ActiveSync and watch the process, it shows it connecting, shows it seeing that there calendar events to sync, but then the events never make it onto the phone.

I am so so so so sad about this. I depend on my phone to tell me where I need to be an when, and now I can't trust it.

Our helpdesk, of course, pleads ignorance. I haven't changed anything on my phone--no new software, no nothing.

Can anyone help? Please?

sick sick sick of being sick

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This is getting ridiculous. On December 27 I came down with the full-blown, wish-I-was-dead version of the dreaded norovirus that's terrorizing Rochester--it knocked me out completely for a day, but took five days to recover completely from.

Last Monday I came down with a lower-GI-only-version that took me out for all of Tuesday. Two GI bugs in two weeks--I figured I was particularly unlucky.

This morning I woke up at 3:30am with what turned out to be round two of the norovirus (or something very like it). It was worse, not better, the second time around. I wasn't able to keep liquids down until late afternoon, and while the symptoms have abated now I still feel like I've been hit by a bus.

A little research on the CDC site (once I was able to sit up again) yielded two relevant pieces of information. First, that it is possible to be reinfected, though typically people get a few months of resistance rather than a few weeks. And second, that people with type O blood (that's me) are genetically predisposed to be more vulnerable to the virus.

I really hope that this bad luck traveled in threes, and that I won't be seeing symptoms like these again in the near future.

winter's finally here

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Snow on Campus

Just in time for me to teach a night class. :P

Happily, Gerald offered to drop me off at work this morning and come pick me up after class, sparing me the quarter-mile walk through a slushy construction site to get to my car.

not all suburbs are soulless

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As I've read through the various discussions of pros and cons of living in Brooklyn (spurred by Doug Rushkoff's initial post, and continued in posts by his wife and Steven Johnson), I keep noticing the dismissive way that people who live in city neighborhoods talk about the "soulless suburbs."

It drives me crazy.

People who live in NYC would never assume that the experience of living in Harlem is the same as living in Park Slope, or that Soho is exactly like the Upper East Side. But they're oh-so-ready to assume that every single suburb is exactly the same, all characterized by isolation and lack of community.

Guess what? They're not. They vary as much as city neighborhoods do. Last year we lived in a suburb in Seattle where our neighbors never spoke to us, and we felt isolated in every way. It was a brand-new collection of mini-mansions, and most of the time it looked like a deserted movie set. If that had been my only experience with suburban life, I might have as lopsided a view of the suburbs as many non-city-dwellers have of urban life.

But here in Rochester, we live in a middle-class suburban neighborhood much like the one I grew up in, and I wouldn't trade it for all the brownstones in Brooklyn. We know our neighbors (not all of whom are white), our kids can wander with their friends, and we're not more than 20 minutes from anyplace in the city. (Ten minutes to work. Fifteen to the airport or my mother's house. Twenty minutes to the Eastman Theatre.)

There's no place where you're 100% safe; risk is all around us. I know that. But in this neighborhood I feel completely comfortably letting my kids take off out the front door with no more information than "I'm going to the pond." The worst crime we've experienced in the ten years we've lived here was having our cars egged. Even in winter, neighbors stop to talk while they're shoveling snow, or getting mail from the mailbox--and we don't need neighborhood watch signs posted to look out for each other.

I've lived in city neighborhoods, too. I spent five years on Capitol Hill, in quaint "English basement" apartments and brightly painted row houses. I walked to the local shops and farmer's market, and took the metro to work in Bethesda. It was a great experience. I've lived in rural Alabama--more rural than most of my readers could even imagine. And I've spent some of the most idyllic years of my life in college towns--Ann Arbor and Tuscaloosa--which in many ways marry the advantages of big cities and small towns. There were upsides and downsides to both of those locations, and I have no regrets over having lived in either. Nor do I feel a need to criticize people who still choose to live in those areas even though they didn't work for me (and, more importantly, my family) as a long-term option.

So I have to wonder what it is that makes many city-dwellers so quick to condemn anyone who chooses not to live an urban life--and to consistently paint "the suburbs" as both awful and undifferentiated. Why are they so defensive about their choice, so critical of other options? Why do so many people who choose to live in cities need to be so endlessly snarky about those of us who choose not to?

in praise of rochester: cost of living edition

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There's a fascinating debate raging in the comments of Douglas Rushkoff's blog--specifically, on the entry in which he describes being mugged on his doorstep on Christmas Eve, and discusses the fact that he and his wife are seriously considering moving their family out of New York City.

This paragraph in one of his comments late in the thread caught my eye:

I don't mean to be confrontational, but a three-bedroom apartment is easily 1.5 million here. A small house is 1.8 - and that's not even in the so-called 'prime' 321 area. If we were to send our kid to private instead of public (depending on which non Park Slope area we ended up in) that would be an additional 20,000+ per year. Then we have to save for college, too?

When people on the west coast ask me why I came back to Rochester rather than staying in Seattle after my sabbatical ended, I tell them about my house.

We live in a 1800 square foot four-bedroom Colonial, built in the late 1950s. It's got a two-car garage, fireplace in the family room, a swimming pool (aboveground) in the spacious backyard, central air, and a full basement in which we've got storage, a home gym, and laundry. No structural problems of any kind. Is it fancy? No. Is it solid, comfortable, and big enough for the five of us and our packrat habits? Yes. We know all of our neighbors, there are sidewalks for the kids to ride and walk on, we're ten minutes (even in snow) by car from my office, and our local public schools are excellent. My kids can ride their bikes to the pond in our subdivision and build forts in the woods with their friends.

We refinanced this year, so we had to get the house appraised. Its current value? $145,000. No, that's not a typo. There are no missing zeros or misplaced decimal points.

This means we can live very comfortably on my academic salary, and Gerald can be there for the boys. He volunteers at their schools, and is here when they get off the bus every day. That's a luxury that not many families I know in high-rent areas can afford, and it's something I'm grateful for daily.

Do I hate that I'm at least two flights away from any conference destination (except NYC)? Sure. Are there times, when I'm scraping snow and ice off my car in the RIT parking lot, that I wish I lived in a milder climate? Of course. But we have a connection to community here that matters--and I'm not in any hurry to trade that for a mortgage that's an order of magnitude higher than what I'm paying now!

(Oh...and that saving for college thing? The boys get a full free ride at RIT; that's one of my employee benefits. If they'd prefer to go someplace like USC or Rose-Hulman or Drexel or Bennington--well, those and more are on the list of schools participating in a the tuition exchange program that RIT's a part of.)

required reading

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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