October 2008 Archives

election night 2008 party at rit

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Four years ago, Elouise and I hosted an election night party at RIT, in the big IT conference room overlooking the atrium. We had decent turnout (though a less decent election result). I've noticed quite a few Google searches on "election night party" that have led people to my blog recently, which is why I wasn't completely confused when I got a call today from someone from a public radio talk show wanting to ask about my upcoming party.

I'd been debating (no pun intended) whether or not to hold another one on campus this year, and that pushed me towards "yes." So on Monday they're going to interview me about the party, and on Tuesday night we'll be back in the conference room to watch the early results come in.

If you want to join us, you're more than welcome! Bring your leftover Halloween candy and something to drink (no alcohol, please...I'd prefer not to run afoul of campus safety), and we'll collect money and order pizza. We'll have streaming video on one projector, and (if I can figure out how to have different things on different screens) an IRC chat on the other (freenode.net, #ritparty - if you don't have an IRC client, the easiest thing is probably to go to Mibbit.com and use their web-based interface.

While my partisan leanings are clear to anyone who reads this blog, the party is not restricted to people who share those leanings. Red and blue (and purple and polka dot) are all welcome. I ask that if you attend, you be respectful of those who may not share your views--although that doesn't rule out a little end-zone-style celebrating if the results warrant it.

esquire endorses obama

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For the first time in 75 years, Esquire Magazine has endorsed a candidate for the US presidency. Their lengthy, thoughtful piece is far from a fawning over Obama--in fact, it's quite harshly critical of him. But they still conclude that electing him is critical to the future of our country. It's worth reading the whole thing, but here's the closing paragraphs to whet your appetite:

More than any other recent election, we are voting this year not merely for a president but to overthrow two governments. The one we can see is the one in which constitutional order has been defaced, the national spirit degraded, and the country unrecognizable because so much of the best of itself has been sold off or frittered away. The other one is the far more insidious one, a doppelgänger nation of black prisons, shredded memos, and secret justifications for even more secret crimes. Moreover, the current administration has worked hard not only to immunize itself from the political and legal consequences of the government we can see, but it has also worked within the one we cannot see in order to perpetuate itself...

There is no evidence at all that anything will change under a President John McCain, who has already identified Roberts and Alito as his beau ideals of Supreme Court justices. He has made brave noises about torture and the extraconstitutional prerogatives of the executive, but President Bush and his men went on and did what they wanted anyway, and McCain walked away, begging for votes from fundamentalists who hate him, meeping his displeasure in ways that were barely audible. The virus will gestate and spread on his watch, all throughout the federal government. Bushism must be ripped out, root and branch, everywhere it has been established, or else the presidential election of 2008 is a worthless exercise in futility. Barack Obama may not be the man to do it, but John McCain, for all his laudable qualities, clearly is neither willing nor able to do so.

To continue to govern ourselves this way is unthinkable. It is unsustainable as a democracy to continue to mock so egregiously in secret what we continue to profess in public. That is the task for the next president. That is the main reason to vote for Barack Obama of Illinois. We strongly encourage you to do so.

(hat tip Andrew Sullivan)

once an overachiever, always an overachiever...

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Kidding aside, this is actually a nicely done analysis of what makes a website "work" from a commercial standpoint, and I'll probably start pointing students towards it (since I often get questions from them about basic SEO kinds of issues).


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Back in 2000, Budweiser ran an ad called "Whassup?" that became a bit of a phenomenon.

Recently, the cast of that ad was brought back together (not by Budweiser) to film an "8 years later" version that's pretty powerful.

friendship zero

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What follows is a light-hearted parody of Ed Vielmetti's suddenly-popular "Twitter Zero" post, followed by some commentary of my own.

Disclaimer: I love my friends - I love being in the flow of the world with the comments of friends around the world triggering all sorts of warm feelings and thoughts about how lucky I am to know so many people in so many places.

For that very same reason, I'm working towards getting rid of my friends, my "friendship zero" project, where I stop being friends with everyone I know.

It's nothing personal.


Friendship Zero is inspired by a few other "zero" projects, including Ed Vielmetti's "Twitter Zero," Merlin Mann's "Inbox Zero" and Alan Gutierrez's "Reader Zero". The basic idea is that in systems where there is an infinite capacity for the world to send messages to get your attention, the only reasonable queue that you can leave between visits to the system is zero, because if you get behind you will never, ever, ever catch up gradually. Never. No matter how much time you put into it, there will always be more to do, and you will lose sleep over it.

What's that you say, you love your friends, why make them go away? For the same reason that I love my family (really I do) and I don't let any of them visit my house. And I love my colleagues (really I do) and spend too much of my time ignoring them.

I can't keep up. No one can keep up, actually - we look at someone shiny and say "ooh shiny" and start being friends with them because they were shiny then (and shiny once) and then suddenly you look back a week later and note to self "hm, not shiny any more, but it's a lot harder to stop paying attention to them once you're connected to them".

So, go to zero. Stop making friends, don't let them interrupt you any more. But still listen.


Friends are great for ambient awareness of things around your neighborhood, perfect actually. With a few phone calls or conversations you can see at a glance when there are parties, what television shows they're watching, who's winning what football games, when the Mormon Church is having a global conference, Girl's Night Out, you name it there's some super-cool local event that you can tap into without having much more than a few friends.

Friend friend friend friend...

I'll argue for the sake of arguing that we as human beings have a finite supply of attention for ambient awareness of friends around the world; there's only so many neurons that can fire in one moment to keep track of what's happening, and my poor aging brain has some finite ability to keep track. You make tradeoffs, you have to. And the fact that I know just a little bit too much about popular television due to my friends has to be responsible for some other deficit in my life, like not getting quite enough sleep, or not cleaning the garage (or even more to the point noticing that there are parts of it that need attention).

Or paying attention to my boys. They are little. They won't be little forever. They don't have friends, yet - yet? - though the older one was asking about connections between the kids in his class.

Attention is a precious resource. Friends are a distraction. Family is a distraction. Work is a distraction. Pretty much everyone is a distraction in the real world, either designed to capture an eyeball or rewire a neuron or to short circuit the brain to wallet function. And sometimes the only reasonable response to a thoroughly enjoyable distraction is to make a very visible, very annoying, very painful decision to skip this particular distraction and move on.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Why this particular post of Ed's is getting so much attention is beyond me. It's the kind of silly generalization that I think of as essentially curmudgeonly. It's a dismissal of an entire ecosystem because you haven't found a way to make it work well for yourself.

Here's the thing--Twitter doesn't have to be a time suck that distracts you from the things that really matter. It can be a tiny investment of time that instead connects you more deeply to the people you love who don't happen to live in your house. The choice doesn't have to be between overload and nothing. That's a false dichotomy. It's about learning how to live a balanced and healthy life both online and off.

With email, with blogs, with Twitter, with games, with real-life friendship, we have choices to make. We can choose to use them, or to let them use us. We can lose sleep over the things we missed, or we can focus instead on the things we see.

I was telling danah the other day about how I use my delicious inbox. It's my start page in Firefox, and when I launch my browser I glance at the items on the first page. Often there are interesting, useful, important things there, and it's the launch for a brief morning exploration. I miss a lot of things that people in my network bookmark because they're not on the first page, and that's totally okay. I don't lose sleep over the ones I didn't see. Instead, I'm grateful for the ones I do, since they keep me in touch with the zeitgeist of the technical world I'm most interested in. (And, in fact, that's how I saw the Twitter Zero post to begin with.)

I do the same thing with Twitter. My twitter page is the default page in my mobile phone browser. The number of people I follow is under 100, and I seldom page back through old tweets. I pop in to see what's at the top of the stack, I occasionally go to a close friend's feed to see what they're up to, but again I don't really worry at all about what I missed. I tap in for some of what Clive Thompson so beautifully termed "social propriception," I post an update or two of my own, and I move on.

Ed's post reads a bit to me like how an alcoholic might write about alcohol. "Admitted I was powerless over social media and my life had become unmanageable." Yes, there are obviously people who can't effectively manage their use of these tools and integrate them into a rich and full life. But it's important to remember that some people really can have just one glass of wine, too.

first impressions of jet blue's new jfk terminal 5


JetBlue's new terminal at JFK (the remodeled old TWA terminal 5) opened yesterday, so our flight from San Jose was among the first to land here. It's probably not fair to pass judgment on it given that they've only been open a day, but here are my first impressions...

Food court traffic flow is a TOTAL NIGHTMARE. Chaotic, intimidating, disorganized. Worse than a college cafeteria. Big thumbs down.

Rather than brave the food court, I searched up and down the corridors for somewhere to buy a diet coke. The newsstand had them (overpriced, at $2.49 a bottle), but I had to stand in a ridiculously long and slow line as the cashiers tried to learn on the job.

The coolest thing I've found is that many of the gates (at least half, I think) have a series of counters with stools for seating. At each seat is a set of power outlets and a touch screen. The touch screen allows you to order food, which you pay for by swiping a credit card. The food is then delivered to your seat in a to-go bag. I ordered a bacon egg and cheese panini for $7 (+tax and tip), and it arrived ten minutes later. The food was good, and the process was quick and convenient.

The gate I'm sitting at now (19) actually has a full bar right in the gate area, that seems to be serving mostly coffee at the moment. I love the integrating of the food and drink areas into the gate areas...it almost makes up for the monstrosity of a food court.

If I wasn't so tired from my sleepless redeye flight, I'd take some photos. Maybe next time.

happy blogiversary to me!


Today was my sixth blogiversary, and it seems fitting that I would celebrate it by listening to danah boyd give a wonderful talk, having a delightful lunch with her, and then giving the closing keynote at Internet Librarian--one of my favorite conferences, in one of my favorite cities. All in all, a lovely day, capping off a long and activity-filled west coast trip.

I'm in the San Jose airport now, and I'll be flying the redeye home (via JFK). I'm looking forward to seeing my family and being back home--even though I've been told that it's already started snowing there!

Many thanks to all of you who've been with me from the start of this wild blogging ride. I may not spend as much time blogging as I used to, but I still think of mamamusings.net as my "home" on the net, and I'm glad you're here to share it with me.


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Too cute. It says to send it to five white women I care about, but I'm pretty sure I can get it to more simply by posting it here...

little feat at water street music hall tomorrow!

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I forgot to post about this, but tomorrow night (Saturday, 10/18) Little Feat will be playing at Rochester's Water Street Music Hall.

It hasn't been well publicized, so ticket sales have been slow. The band is amazing, however, and if you've never heard them live I highly recommend going. I'd be there if I weren't on the other side of the country...

Their recent album, Join the Band, is available DRM-free on Amazon, and has some great collaborations with artists ranging from Dave Matthews to Jimmy Buffet to Bela Fleck. Listen to some of the samples, and then head to show. You won't regret it.

don't leave home without them

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I've got a couple of tech items that I really like to bring on trips. Some are obvious--my phone and charger, my ipod and headphones (those first two will get compressed by my purchase of an iphone next month), my computer and power cord and video dongle.

But some are less obvious, and I thought I'd share them with my readers, and solicit ideas for other really useful travel items.

1) An airport express. Takes up less space than a power adapter, but gives me in-bed wireless access even when the hotel offers only a wired connection in the hotel room. Plug the airport express into the wall, run the cable into it, and presto...your own wifi network. Better yet, you can share it with family members or friends without having to pay for each computer to connect over the wired access.

2) A NeatReceipts scanner. Fits easily into my computer bag, and makes it so much easier for me to keep track of my expenditures on a trip and submit an expense report in a timely way. Also good for slurping up other pieces of paper that I don't want to have to schlep around with me but don't want to throw away.

3) A small GPS unit. Our car has its own GPS now, so this can become a permanent part of my travel gear. Great for car rentals in unfamiliar cities, without paying a ridiculous premium to the rental agency.

This week, I read about an excellent addition to the list--a lovely compact power strip that my friend Karen Schneider refers to as "social hardware." It's only $17 at Amazon, so I ordered one to be shipped to my hotel here in Redmond, and I should have it before the next leg of my trip. I really could have used it on the first leg, and I know it will be very useful in hotel rooms as well as airports.

So...what's your useful travel gadget, the one that you won't leave home without? I'd love to know about it!

"the red meat of hate"


Frank Schaeffer, writing in the Baltimore Sun ...

John McCain: If your campaign does not stop equating Sen. Barack Obama with terrorism, questioning his patriotism and portraying Mr. Obama as "not one of us," I accuse you of deliberately feeding the most unhinged elements of our society the red meat of hate, and therefore of potentially instigating violence.

At a Sarah Palin rally, someone called out, "Kill him!" At one of your rallies, someone called out, "Terrorist!" Neither was answered or denounced by you or your running mate, as the crowd laughed and cheered. At your campaign event Wednesday in Bethlehem, Pa., the crowd was seething with hatred for the Democratic nominee - an attitude encouraged in speeches there by you, your running mate, your wife and the local Republican chairman.


John McCain: In 2000, as a lifelong Republican, I worked to get you elected instead of George W. Bush. In return, you wrote an endorsement of one of my books about military service. You seemed to be a man who put principle ahead of mere political gain.

You have changed. You have a choice: Go down in history as a decent senator and an honorable military man with many successes, or go down in history as the latest abettor of right-wing extremist hate.

(hat tip: TPM)

crazy time


4: days since my laptop died, apparently from something I spilled on it though I don't remember such a spill happening. the bad news? it will be very expensive to repair, and it won't be done before I leave town this weekend. the good news? my department will pay for it, I have a loaner computer, and my time capsule backup worked perfectly.

3: days since I realized that my iPod touch wasn't in my computer bag where I thought I'd left it. no sign of it in the house or the office. the bad news? it seems to have been misplaced on my trip to new york. the good news? none, really. i'm eligible for a phone upgrade next month, so i guess this means i'm getting an iphone despite my misgivings about its battery life.

2: days until the entrepreneurship conference at RIT. the bad news? I'm completely unprepared for the workshop I'm giving there. the good news? it's a topic I know well enough to pull things together quickly.

3: days until I leave for seattle for this year's social computing symposium. the bad news? i'm totally overwhelmed by getting all the details in order, preparing my own talk, and responding to all the email. the good news? i love the symposium and can't wait to see so many people I respect and enjoy.

6: days until the first of three class days I'll miss while traveling. the bad news? I have to prepare self-guided materials for all of those days, and that's a lot of work. the good news? um...

14: days until my conference talk in monterey at internet librarian. the bad news? haven't even thought about the talk yet. and I have to take a redeye home as soon as my talk is over. the good news? fabulous conference, great people, and I adore monterey.

In other news, I seem to have stopped playing WoW. Not sure why, really. Nothing happened that I can remember...I got busy with other stuff, and suddenly realized that I didn't miss it. Weird.

this is what patriotism sounds like


this makes me want to cry


I apologize to readers of this blog who wish I'd get off the topic of politics. But we're 33 days away from deciding whether or not to put Sarah Palin one (72-year-old) heartbeat away from the presidency. Every person who plans to vote in this year's presidential election should watch this video of Katie Couric interviewing the two vice presidential candidates.

That is painful to watch. Painful. She cannot name one other supreme court case besides Roe v. Wade. Not one.

What about, say, Miranda v Arizona, since she was so contemptuous of the concept of reading accused terrorists their rights in her scripted acceptance speech?

Or New York Times v Sullivan, since it prevents her from suing the mean-ol' mainstream media that keeps picking on her?

Or, from today's headlines, the decision not to reconsider the death penalty for child rape cases?

THIS WOMAN COULD BE PICKING NEW SUPREME COURT JUSTICES IN JANUARY. That should scare the CRAP out of every single person in this country.

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