May 2008 Archives

mobile phone services that make me happy


Over the past few weeks, I've found myself using two services a lot on my mobile phone, and when I talk about them at conferences people tend to "oooh" and "ahhh" I thought I'd post about them here, as well.

The first is one I thought most people knew about, but I'm finding that's not true. It's Google's "411" service for automated directory assistance. You call 800-GOOG-411, and are prompted for city, state, and business name or type. It then gives you a list of matches, and you tell it which item on the list is the one you want. Then they connect you. There's no charge for this at all, which makes it a whole lot better than the phone company's directory assistance. And the voice recognition quality is very good.

The second service I'm enamored with is also based on voice recognition. It's called Jott, and when you call their number it listens to your message and transcribes it for you. You can have it send the resulting text to you or a contact via email or SMS. You can even have it send the text to a web service like Twitter, Remember the Milk, or your blog. It's ideal for times when you say to yourself "I need to remember to..." but you don't have your computer or a notepad handy. The voice recognition is really amazing, and it will let you spell out words that it might not interpret correctly. This evening, for example, I called it and had this exchange:

Me: Dials Jott (voice dial on my phone, so this can all be done via headset)
Jott: Hi! Who would you like to Jott?
Me: Myself (I could say "Twitter" or a contact name here instead)
Jott: Go ahead!
Me: Remember to call Wolk W-O-L-K Manor M-A-N-O-R about dinner plans.
Jott: Got it. Want a reminder?
Me: Yes.
Jott: When?
Me: Tomorrow.
Jott: Thursday, May 29th. Got it. What time?
Me: 9
Jott: am or pm?
Me: am
Jott: Got it.

Then I hung up. A few minutes later, an email appeared in my inbox that had the text of my message, and the scheduled time for the reminder. Tomorrow morning I'll get both a text message and an email at 9am, reminding me that I need to call about dinner plans with my grandmother. Nice, huh?

creative constraints

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I'm attending a really great NSF-funded workshop on Productive Play this weekend, and Thomas Malaby, who's sitting next to me, just cited a lovely quote from Igor Stravinsky. I don't want to forget it, so the blog is the obvious place to save it :)

The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one's self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution.


summer fiction plans


Lest you think I plan to spend my summer immersed entirely in professional reading, here's my fiction reading list at the moment:

  • Daemon, by Leinad Zeraus (read each word backwards for his _real_name), which was highly recommended by Joi Ito. This arrived from Amazon this week, and I'll be bringing it on my trip to California this weekend.
  • Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. I'm listening to this in audiobook format, when I walk the dog (or sit on airplanes), and I'm up to book seven (of twelve) now, and the fact that the books are available in unabridge format from Audible means they should last me for quite a few miles of dog walking yet.
  • Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. This one I'm reading in print form. I've finished book three, but haven't yet acquired book four.
  • Orson Scott Card's Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. Yes, I know, Card has some less than admirable personal beliefs, particularly regarding homosexuality. But just as I still listen to the music of Wagner and read the poetry of T.S. Eliot despite their antisemitism, I still read (and enjoy) Cards' fiction. This is one of the few I have't read, and I picked up it cheaply at a half-price bookstore in Minneapolis earlier this month. I'm about halfway through it now.

occupational benefits

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One of the very best parts of being a university professor is being able to get free books from many publishers. It makes sense for them, because I'm unlikely to assign a book to my students if I haven't had a chance to review it carefully. During the school year, however, I'm usually trying very hard to keep my head above water with the things I have to read, so I don't take too much advantage of the benefit.

Summer is approaching, however. This is week 10/10 for classes, and next week I'll be grading final projects and presentations. That means I'm only a week and a half away from being able to immerse myself in books that I've been wanting to read. So today I placed a bunch of orders--some using my faculty book allowance (some publishers, alas, don't give freebies), and others taking advantage of generous faculty review copy policies. Here's what's on my reading list for June:

And if I hadn't already received a copy and started reading it, I'd add to that list

minitex conference keynote


I gave a keynote this morning at the Minitex ILL Conference in St. Paul, and I've uploaded the powerpoint file to Slideshare. Unfortunately, Slideshare doesn't show transitions, so a number of the slides are messed up where I have multiple images that aren't supposed to be on the screen at the same time, but if you go to the Slideshare page for the presentation there's a link to download the original .ppt file.

(Since you can't hear my actual talk, I need to acknowledge that the "happiness" slides are shamelessly stolen from Jane McGonigal's recent talk on gaming and happiness. :)

you go, girlfriend



[S]ome people will one day try to convince you that what I've done here is some sort of sickening betrayal of your childhood, and what those people fail to recognize is that I am doing the exact opposite. This is the glorification of your childhood, and even more than that this is a community of women coming together to make each other feel less alone. You are a part of this movement, you and all of the other kids whose mothers are sitting at home right now writing tirelessly about their experiences as mothers, the love and frustration and madness of it all. And I think one day you will look at all of this and pump your fist in the air.

Read the whole thing.

coming up for air

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Last week, my 95-year-old grandmother suffered a series of small strokes. This week has been a bit of blur what with hospital visits, social worker conversations, research on everything from stroke rehabilitation to long-term care insurance (for me, not her...nothing like this sort of event to remind you of your own looming future) to risks of theft in nursing homes, covering classes for my mother, and trying to manage my own full-time job and family responsibilities.

Today they moved grandma to the rehab floor of the nursing home associated with her assisted living facility. They're not terribly optimistic about her being able to go back to the assisted living facility, but we're going to hold onto her room there for another month just in case she proves them wrong (it wouldn't be the first time she's surprised us). The nursing home (sorry, "skilled nursing facility") is considered one of the best in the area, but it still depresses me terribly every time I walk through the door.

Tomorrow, at least, I have no classes to teach, and few meetings to attend. There will be time to sleep a little later, take the dog for the long walks she's been missing this week, and maybe even eat some healthy food. I feel better just thinking about it.

(And mom, if you're reading this, you're an angel. What I've done this week is nothing compared to what you've been doing. Grandma's so lucky to have you.)

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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