November 2007 Archives

our beautiful new living and dining rooms


We've lived in our current house for a little over ten years, and during that time we did basically nothing to the living and/or dining rooms. Until last month they still had the same icky beige carpet and white walls that they had when we arrived.

But at the beginning of November, we started a grand project to transform the space. We took out the old carpet (by "we" I mean "Gerald and Erin," actually), had new bamboo floors installed, painted the walls a rich dark red color, had some of my photographs printed on canvas to hang on the wall, bought new lamps, purchased the Sony Bravia XBR4 46" LCD HDTV from Amazon, and rearranged the furniture layout.

The results? Spectacular.

Remodeled Living Room (from dining room)

It's been lovely to be home on break and able to hang out in the new space and really enjoy it!

(For those who care, there are more photos on Flickr.)

things i have time for on vacation





Part of recovery is learning to be grateful for the good things in your Thanksgiving isn't the only time of year that I make gratitude lists, or give thanks for my many blessings.

Today I'm enjoying a blissfully luxurious day alone at home, curled up on the couch with my new (and working!) MacBook Pro, alternating between online amusements and the lure of the HD channels on our TV. I've come across two things that have really touched me, so I'm sharing them both here with my readers.

The first, which many of you have probably already seen, is the "last lecture" by CMU Professor Randy Pausch. It's extraordinary. I've watched it four times, and every time it makes me laugh, and cry, and remember what's important.

The second is much lighterweight, but it made me happy. It's an MTV Unplugged performance by Bon Jovi, with two of the members of All American Rejects, singing "It's My Life." Better on a 46" HDTV, obviously, but still a beautiful rendition.

Enjoy. And may your Thanksgiving holiday be filled with food, fun, and gratitude. Mine will.

new toys


The Sony Bravia 46" XBR4 tv that we decided on and ordered from Amazon arrived yesterday, and it's gorgeous. The only down side is that our satellite provider, Dish TV, doesn't have local channels in HD, so we actually have to have an old-school antenna hooked up to the TV. We bought a Phillips rabbit-ear style antenna, which didn't work for us at all, so we'll be shopping for something different today so we can get our favorite network shows in HD.

But the XBOX 360 games? Wow. Katamari (my addiction) is glorious in HD, and Lane couldn't believe how good Splinter Cell looked. And the HD channels we do get look spectacular.

As if that wasn't all good enough, my new MacBook Pro 17" replacement computer shipped yesterday, and is due to be delivered today. (That's why I was sitting at home, rather than the office...I was hoping that it would arrive before I thought I had to leave.) I'm picking up a DVI-to-HDMI cable today so that I can use the new computer to play DVDs onto the big screen TV, and so that I can see what WoW looks like in immersive mode. :)

Now if I can just slog through the last 20 projects to be graded (40 done! Yay me!), I'll be free and clear to play with the new toys for two full weeks before classes start back up again...


Update: Argh! According to the FedEx website, the computer was delivered exactly three minutes after I left the house. At least it's there. Squeeee!

teaching nightmare come to life

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So, I'm sitting at home at 1:00 this afternoon, grading final projects, when my phone rings. It's one of my students, and he asks me where I am. At home, I tell him...the exam's not until 2:15pm.

No, he tells me, it's at 12:30pm. The whole class is waiting at the classroom.


Happily, I'm already showered and dressed. I toss on a coat, grab my computer, and fly out the door, arriving on campus 11 minutes later. They're now taking the exam, which, thankfully, usually only takes students 45min to an hours to finish.

This is the kind of thing I have bad dreams about. (Though as one of my colleagues pointed out, it could have been worse if course evaluations weren't already finished...)


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need hdtv buying advice

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I am a compulsive researcher, so when Gerald and I decided to use our tax refund to buy our first real TV in 15 years, I began burrowing deep into web sites and reviews and comparison shopping. After looking at displays in multiple stores, we've both decided that we like the Sony Bravia series best--the lack of reflection is important in the room we'll be in, and the angle viewing on the LCD is remarkably good.

However, even having narrowed it down to a specific brand and size range (46"-52"), as well as knowing we want full 1080p resolution, we're still puzzling over some key differences.

Right now, we're basically trying to decide between two very similarly priced (after applying various discounts, etc) Bravia models.

One is a 52" W-series Bravia, and the other is a 46" XBR-series Bravia. As far as I can tell the major difference between the two is that the XBR series uses the Bravia Engine Pro rather than the Bravia Engine Ex. Further research revealed that what the Pro can do that the Ex cannot is "upconvert" high definition 1080i and 720p signals to 1080p, while the standard BRAVIA Engine only processes standard definition signals.

Unfortunately, this means not a whole lot to me, since I'm new to the world of HDTV. So, dear readers, if you know more about this than I do could you give me your views? Thanks!

yes, i gave my talk in costume


I'll post the slides tonight or tomorrow, but thanks to the wonderful Flickr-using librarians who attended my talk last week, you can see my attempt to recreate one of my World of Warcraft characters on stage.

Here's the character, featured on my opening slide, courtesy of David King:

Slide showing Maleficent

And here's me in costume, courtesy of Steven Kaye:

Liz in costume

first impressions of nokia n95

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I spent a good bit of time in airports yesterday playing with the n95 phone that I won in a drawing at the Nokia event on Thursday. I have to say, I'm impressed.

Things I love:

  • Gorgeous screen - big, bright, clear
  • Better reception and sound than my Blackjack mean that phone calls are much easier to hear
  • Coolest voice dialing ever--I don't have to record anything, it simply does speech recognition on my voice and looks for a matching entry in my address book. And it works!
  • Wifi and 3G, so I get fast data just about everywhere
  • Great camera
  • Lots of games, including Sudoku

Things I don't love:

  • Sliding it into a snug pocket of a bag causes the sliding screen to open, and the keypad to unlock
  • No QWERTY keypad
  • No touchscreen or stylus; moving the cursor around with the d-pad is tedious
  • The web browser. It takes too many clicks to get to pages I want, uses an annoying interface for moving back through viewing history, and doesn't seem to store cookies after the phone is turned off.

The big issue for me with any phone is my ability to get data--especially calendar and contact data--from my Exchange server. Happily, there's a third party tool called RoadSync that does exactly that. I'm using the 30 day trial version right now, but if I decide to stick with the n95 as my primary phone, I'll definitely purchase it.

Also, I discovered that the n95 has barcode reading software built in. I was really excited about that, thinking that we could use it with PULP, but it turns out it doesn't work with the kinds of standard UPC barcodes on most products in the US. It works with 2D barcodes (aka QR codes), which are much more common in Asia.

sleeping in sunnyvale

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I made a last-minute change in my plans tonight, and decided to spend tonight and tomorrow night at a hotel near Google, instead of driving from Palo Alto (where I was today) up to San Francisco, then back down tomorrow morning, and back up to SF tomorrow night and to the San Jose airport on Saturday morning. I'm sad not to be spending the two nights I have left here in California with my dear friend Elizabeth, but I'm incredibly relieved not to be doing an extra 150 miles of California rush hour highway driving. :)

I spent today not at Yahoo! Research, where I'd expected to be, but instead at a mobile/social mashup event sponsored by Nokia and held in Palo Alto. One panel at the event was particularly outstanding--it included Andrew Fiore from UC Berkeley, Scott Golder from HP Labs, Marc Davis from Yahoo! Research, and Eric Paulos from Intel Research. Those are all people for whom I have enormous professional respect, and it was a delight to hear them all together talking about the value of science and research in this space. The panel was put together by the wonderful Joe McCarthy, who was responsible for inviting both me and Elizabeth Churchill to the event. Not only was content great, the food was wonderful, and--as an added bonus--I was one of the many lucky people whose names were drawn to receive a free Nokia N95 phone!! w00t! It's quite lovely, and it will be interesting to compare it to the Blackjack I have now in terms of functionality and UI.

Tonight I"m staying in a reasonably priced and pleasant hotel room (with a full kitchen and free internet access), and I'm only about 15 minutes away from Google's headquarters, so I can work on my presentation tonight, and have a relaxed morning tomorrow. Yay! Wish me luck...I don't feel sufficiently prepared to give the talk--I'm thinking it would have been wise to pick a topic that I've presented on before, but it's a little late now to do that. I'll just have to hope for the best. :)

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

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