October 2007 Archives

shaken, not stirred

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I was online tonight, joining my guildmates for a run through the WoW Karazhan instance, when it felt as though something had slammed--hard--into the wall of my 9th floor hotel room in Monterey. It took about 15 seconds for me to realize that the repeated shakes and shudders weren't from a rude neighbor, or a construction crew working late...they were from an earthquake.

According to the USGS, it was a magnitude 5.6 earthquake, in fact, which is non-trivial, but also typically not enough to result in major damage. The hotel swayed like crazy, which it's supposed to do, but nothing broke, and the front desk said there was no need to leave the building.

The whole thing was over in 30 seconds, but it's taken a couple of hours for my adrenaline levels to subside, and I'm still a little on edge. It doesn't help to read the news coverage, which indicates that there's a chance that this could lead to a larger earthquake before I leave for the relative safety of the east coast. I'll happily take an ice storm or a blizzard over a wildfire or an earthquake any day.

my talk at google


I mentioned in a previous post that I'm going to be giving a talk at Google next week. For the Googlers among my readers, here are the details:

Title: The Evolution of Expertise (or, "The reports of authority's death have
been greatly exaggerated")

When and Where: Friday, November 02, 2007 at 11:00 AM (60 min) in Seville, Mountain View

Abstract: Does Web 2.0 represent a triumph of the wisdom of crowds, or the
tyranny of mediocrity? The truth--as truths often do--may fall
somewhere in the middle. New tools have indeed allowed access to new
ideas, voices, and expertise. But at the same time, it has become
increasingly difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. In education,
the shift from "the sage on the stage" to the "guide on the side" has
been underway for quite some time. The same shift is happening on the
web. Experts aren't disappearing, but their roles are changing. How
can tools and infrastructure best support this shift in the role of
expertise and authority?


My understanding is that the talk will also be made available via Google Video, so you can watch it later even you're not at the Googleplex that day.

gaga over grand central

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I had seen a few references lately to the Grand Central service that Google purchased, but it wasn't until I saw a Twitter about it from Gina Trapani, life hacker extraordinaire, that I decided to take a closer look at it. After I read a bit on their web page, I immediately wanted in...and managed to find a friend with an invitation still available.

So, what exactly is it?

In a nutshell, they issue you a new phone number (you get to choose the area code, then select from a set of numbers). You can then have that phone number ring as many of your existing phones as you'd like when it's called. You can set times of day for some numbers, and you can customized what happens based on who's calling you. When you get a call, it shows up on your phone as your Grand Central number. But when you answer it, the system doesn't immediately connect you to the caller. Instead, it tells you who is calling (by name if they're in your address book), and asks if you want to take the call, send it to voicemail, or "listen in"--which allows you to listen as they leave voice mail, and decide if you want to break in and answer the call after all (like screening calls on a home answering machine).

There's more you can do, much of it useful. For example, you can transfer a call between your phones--so if you pick up the call on your cell phone, and want to transfer it to your home or office phone because your battery is low, you can do that with two key presses. You can add a "call me" button to a web page that doesn't reveal your telephone number, and can be turned off whenever you want. And, best of all, you can centralize and access all of your voice mail through a web interface that looks a lot like the iPhone's "visual voicemail."

The down side? For it to work, I have to give Google an awful lot of information about myself. Not just my phone numbers, but all the interaction data about who calls me and when they call.

That's always the rub in social software, of course--the tension between convenience and privacy. And really--is anybody better at leveraging that convenience card than Google?

twenty-minute emergency zelda costume

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For months, Alex has been saying that he wanted to be Link from the Zelda games for Halloween, and I've been putting off looking for the costume. This week, I discovered that you simply cannot buy one of those costumes (unless you want to pay nearly $100 for a serious cosplay version), and he was seriously bummed.

This afternoon, my guilt kicked in bigtime, since tonight at 6:30pm is the middle school Halloween dance...so at 3:30pm I headed to Joann Fabrics. I picked up 2.5 yards of a cheap green cotton fabric, and some elastic for the hat (that I ended up not needing). I got back home at 4:30pm, and used the basic idea from this step-by-step guide. I used one of my oversized t-shirts as the cutting guide, and then I simplified the process by making the sleeves part of the one piece tunic, and by simply cutting a slit in the neckline to create the illusion of a collar. A few minutes before 5:00 the cutting and pinning was done. Then I used Alex's sewing machine to sew up the seams on the tunic and the hat (which we cut to fit his head, meaning no bottom seam or elastic were necessary). At 5:15 it was finished. He was delighted, and I think I've earned a parenting gold star.

Here's the costume just after it was finished:


And here's one of him wearing it:


oh noes! i missed my blogiversary!


Monday was my five-year blogiversary. Hard to believe it's been five years. Harder to believe how much my life has changed in those five years.

My blogging output has slowed a lot lately. I think in large part that's because my offline life is fuller and happier than it's been at other times. Also, my professional social network now has other ways to maintain and strengthen ties--not the least of which is Twitter, which I find provides me with much of the "what's happening with me and others" that I used to depend on blogs for.

I do want to start focusing on writing more thoughtful pieces, though. I've gotten intellectually lazy in some ways over the past year or two, and I miss engaging in discussion and debate of technology topics. I've completely neglected all of the group blogs I'm nominally a part of, too, and those are excellent spaces for that kind of engagement.

Over the next week I should have a reasonable amount of time to spend on thinking and writing, and I'll make it a priority to have some of that spill over into my blogspaces, in hopes that the next five years of blogging will be as productive personally and professionally as the first five years have been.

on my way to san jose...and beyond

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On Sunday morning I leave Rochester for San Jose, where I'll pick up a rental car and drive to Monterey for the 2008 Internet Librarian conference. When I agreed to give the closing keynote, which falls on Halloween, I jokingly said to the conference organizer that I should give the talk in costume...and then promptly forgot about it. Not long ago the printed conference pre-program/advertisment arrived in my mailbox, and I found that my talk was being prominently advertised as being given in costume. Ack!

So, last week I rummaged through my World of Warcraft characters' wardrobes, and visited local costume shops, and came up with a way to make myself look as much as possible like one of my characters. I'm quite sure there will be Flickr photos to commemorate it. I'm less sure that's something I pleased about!

After the conference, I head to Berkeley to meet with folks at Yahoo! Research on Thursday, and the following day I'll go to Mountain View where I'll be giving a Tech Talk at Google. Then Saturday I fly back home.

I'm looking forward to the trip, a lot. But for the first time in a long time I'm actually a little nervous about preparing my presentations, so I expect there will be a good bit of time spent obsessing over the next week.

how my 17" macbook pro has killed my apple fangirlness


It takes a lot for me to stop loving a brand that I'm really enamored of. But Apple has managed to do it to me with this lemon of a MacBook Pro that I'm toting around. Sure, I know, buying a first generation anything is risky. But it shouldn't be this much of a disaster.

I can live with the nuclear heat and resulting inability to put it on my lap without a pillow and a lapdesk shielding my legs.

I can live with the significant weight of lugging it around.

I can live with the less-than-state-of-the-art graphics, and the limited memory capacity (2GB max), and the loud fans.

I've even been managing to forgive the increasingly flaky wake-from-sleep behavior. (Sometimes it wakes, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it wakes, and after I log in the screen goes black. Sometimes it goes to sleep when I close it, sometimes it doesnt.)

But I simply cannot live with the completely unreliable wifi. It's been going on for a long time, and I first documented here in May. But it's gone from bad to worse. In the past two months I've had the following replaced:

  • Airport card
  • Logic board
  • DVD drive
  • Keyboard
  • Hard drive
  • OS

Did any of that work? Nope. If anything, it's worse now. I can't pick up a wifi signal in 90% of the locations on campus that everyone else can use--including my office, my classrooms, and the conference rooms. And the last straw is that now I can't even get a consistent connection at home, where it used to give me poor but serviceable reception. Now I can pick up the signal (two bars from 20 feet away from router), but although the signal doesn't drop, I lose my ability to talk to the network every 5-10 minutes. (This doesn't happen to any of the other computers in the house--a MacBook and three PCs--or when I'm connected via Ethernet.)

I'm at a loss as to what to do next. Our tech guys want me to send it back to our Apple-authorized tech person again, but what's she going to do? What's left to replace? The display, I guess, since that's where the antenna is. But I'm dubious about getting this machine to work properly, ever. And as I result, I'm pretty well over my 20+ year infatuation with Apple. Buy an iPhone? I think not. Replace this MacBook Pro with another one when I'm up for a new machine next year? Unlikely.

I'm blogging this less as a warning to others, and more as a probably useless attempt to get Apple to notice that they're slowly alienating some of their very best customers. But you know, I don't think they really care about that any more. Which just makes it worse. :(

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

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