mamamusings: Rochester

elizabeth lane lawley's thoughts on technology, academia, family, and tangential topics

Monday, 20 April 2009

right on time

Each year since I started this blog I've posted my favorite Robert Frost poem. I do this on the day that Rochester's trees begin to illustrate the poem's imagery, and now that I have six years of data, it seems that Mother Nature is remarkably consistent.

In 2003, I posted on April 22nd, but also noted that I was a day late. In 2004, the post was on April 21st. In 2005, I was in Seattle, where the gold comes early...but my mother let me know on April 20th that it was time to post. In 2006, since I was living in Seattle, I decided to posted on March 31st to celebrate the local flora. In 2007, back in Rochester, I wasn't paying attention, and posted belatedly on April 27th. Last year, determined not to miss it again, I posted on April 19th.

This weekend, I scanned the treetops daily, waiting for the telltale gold to color the tips of the branches. And this morning, on the way to work, it was clear that today's April showers had brought the color I was seeking.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

—Robert Frost
Posted at 12:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Sunday, 11 January 2009

this just in: city living damages your brain!

After years and years of reading about how urban life is so intellectually and socially invigorating, and how the suburbs in contrast are soulless and cold and isolated, I can’t help but feel just a little bit smug myself after seeing this article from

Now scientists have begun to examine how the city affects the brain, and the results are chastening. Just being in an urban environment, they have found, impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control. While it’s long been recognized that city life is exhausting — that’s why Picasso left Paris — this new research suggests that cities actually dull our thinking, sometimes dramatically so.
Posted at 9:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Friday, 19 December 2008

big news for the lab for social computing

My Lab for Social Computing has just been given the official green light for something we’re really excited about—we’re going to become part of the RIT Libraries!

Rather than being a somewhat orphaned group with no formal home, we’re going to become a full-fledged separate organizational unit of the library system, which will give us access to their extraordinary team of administrative staff, a wonderful office location in the library itself, and a college/department-neutral space that doesn’t leave any of the many faculty working with us feeling like they’re second-class citizens.

Anyone who knows me knows that libraries have always been a big part of my professional life, and this move feels like it’s perfect for both the lab and the library.

We’ll be having a “grand re-opening” on Friday, February 13th, and we’ve managed to convince the amazing David Weinberger, philosophy PhD, Berkman fellow, marketing guru, author of Everything is Miscellaneous, and all-around wonderful guy, to be our featured speaker.

So…make sure to block out some time on that Friday the 13th to hear David talk, and to check out our new digs!

(Why no link to the Lab website? Well, it’s under grand re-construction itself! We should have a new site (Drupal-based, yay!) up at the beginning of January, and all the information about our grand re-opening will show up there. I promise I will blog and twitter and email that information around as soon as it’s live!)

Posted at 2:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | academia | events | research

Thursday, 28 August 2008

dorschel's dreadful difference redux

For some reason, my recent entry detailing my miserable experience at Dorschel Scion has disappeared from Google’s index. The rest of my site is there, but that one entry no longer appears in any searches, even for the exact entry name, even when I limit it to my site only.

Bizarre. I’ve posted a query to a Google discussion group about how that might have happened, but in the meantime I’m posting this pointer entry that perhaps will be picked up by the next crawl.

I can haz page back?

Posted at 12:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Saturday, 23 August 2008

dorschel's dreadful difference

Remember my excited post nearly two weeks ago about how we’d ordered our new Scion Xb? I was fully expecting that I’d be posting photos and reviews of it by now, but no. We made the mistake of trusting a car salesman. We’ve done that before, with our Honda salesperson at John Holtz Honda, and weren’t disappointed at all. But Dorschel, which advertises itself with the line “The Dorschel Difference” was indeed different. Just not in a good way.

When we ordered the car, we were told that it was at the Port of New York, and that it would take about a week to get here. A week later, I called and asked about the status and the salesman told me that it would be here “any day.” On Wednesday, I stopped in at the Scion dealership and he apologetically said it was now due to arrive in a window between the 20th and the 23rd. Nobody there claimed to be able to tell with any more specificity where the car was—which I find really difficult to believe. These days, with computerized inventory and GPS tracking, you can’t tell me that Scion doesn’t know exactly where every single one of its cars is.

While I was there, I asked him how long it would take after it arrived on the lot for us to be able to take ownership of the car. “Just a few hours” he told me. When I pressed him on that, asking about things like the options we’d ordered, he assured me that those were pre-installed at the Port, where Scion has a facility for that purpose, and that only cosmetic things like mudflaps (which we hadn’t ordered) needed to be done at the dealership.

Since today is the 23rd, Gerald went back down to the dealership to find out where the car was. “Still not here” the manager told him, checking the computer and the paperwork. But another salesman who was on his way out to the back lot said he’d check to see if it had been delivered. And surprise, surprise…there it was! “Just off the truck” they said. Yeah, right. Nobody noticed a delivery truck arriving that morning? I have to wonder how long it had really been sitting there.

So, that meant we got it this afternoon, right? Nope. They said we couldn’t get it until Monday, because they hadn’t bothered to contact our insurance company and get the paperwork they needed for the plates (they couldn’t have done this earlier?). Gerald made an appointment for Monday afternoon, and mentioned to the manager that I’d been on the brink of writing a scathing blog post for a site that has quite a few Rochester readers, but that since they’d given us a firm day and time I probably wouldn’t do so (to his credit, the manager seemed to get that this would be a bad thing).

An hour after Gerald got home, I got a call from our salesman, who told me he had some “bad news.” Turns out that the car was not delivered with the options we’d paid for (nav system, xm radio, remote start) and that it would all have to be installed here, and that they don’t actually have all the parts in stock. As a result, WEDNESDAY would be the earliest we could get it. I lost my temper at that point, told him that this had been the worst car buying experience I’d ever had (which is both true and saying a lot), and handed the phone to Gerald, who was so aggravated by the end of the conversation (in which the only apology he got from the salesperson was “I’m sorry you feel this way”) that he got back in our car and headed back to the dealership.

The manager there was apparently very apologetic, took full responsibility, told us we could get our deposit back if we wanted to go elsewhere, and promised to be the only point of contact we’d need to deal with from here on in. But we’re still looking at Wednesday as the earliest we’ll get the damned car. Because we got our financing through the credit union, and it’s tied to the VIN, it will be a huge pain in the ass to redo that for a different car.

You’d think, with all of this, they’d be doing something to make us feel better. Offer us free cargo mats, or a gift certificate for dinner out, or some gesture that recognizes how frustrating and inconvenient this is for us. But no. Just excuses (from the salesman) and head-hanging apologies (from the manager).

Did I mention that we have to turn in our current leased vehicle on Monday, leaving us carless? The manager did offer Gerald a car to drive Monday while we wait, so there is that. One small point in their favor.

So I’m turning to the Internets to vent about this experience. My advice to you? Don’t shop at Dorschel. There are two other Toyota/Scion dealerships in Rochester, Hoselton and Vanderstyne, so you could always try them. Or if your heart’s not set on a Toyota vehicle, we’ve had very good experiences with the folks at John Holtz Honda, just down the road from Dorschel.

(In case you’re wondering why I’m linking to the dealership above, I’m not. Those are links to the Edmunds and Yelp review pages for Dorschel, where I just reviews. It was the first thing that’s really spurred me to sign up for a Yelp account, but I think I’ll start populating the Rochester directory with more reviews, including those for places we like. :)

Update, 9/26: You’d think that maybe this post might have spurred an improvement in customer service, right? Hahahahaha. Today the salesman called the house (this after the manager had assured Gerald that he would be our only point of contact from now on), to confirm what options we’d ordered for the car. Why did he need to confirm these with us? Wouldn’t you think that he’d still have the paperwork from when we ordered the car? Which you do on the website, with the salesman right there, and which he then prints out and staples to the order? I guess not. Even better, when Gerald said that we’d ordered the remote start the salesman said that was “the first he’d heard about that.”

I was already not in the best of moods, having spent the morning running errands instead of getting needed work done, so I pulled into the dealership on my way home and marched in—only to be met with a shit-eating grin from the salesman who wanted to know how he could help me. I told him I wanted to talk to the manager, and he disappeared into the back room for more than five minutes. (On what planet is it a good idea to leave an irate customer stewing alone in the middle of your showroom, getting angrier by the second?) When he reappeared, he told me the manager wasn’t in, and wouldn’t be available for at least an hour. “So what were you doing back there all that time?” I asked, incredulously. He told me some story about having to wait for another manager to be done talking to a customer before he could find anything out. Then asked if he could help with anything.

I told him that given that he didn’t even know what options we’d ordered, it seemed unlikely he could be helpful, and he at that point tried to put all the blame for anything that had gone wrong on another Dorschel salesman we’d included in the deal, a friend of Gerald’s and Erin’s. I pointed out that he had been the one to assure me that all options would already be installed when the car arrived, and he then had the gall to deny that he’d ever said that. I offered to bring my 11-year-old in, to report on exactly what he had heard that day, and he then told me that he was “sorry that I was confused about what had happened.” That’s when I lost it, and used some choice language to describe what I thought about his “apology.”

Funny…when you start swearing (loudly) in the showroom, managers start popping out of the woodwork. So I ended up telling the whole story, again, to another sales manager. She went and found the car, brought it up front so I could see it was really there, and talked to the garage about whether the parts were in. She claims the installation will happen tomorrow morning, and that we’ll have the car by lunchtime. I have meetings from 9-1 and 2-4 tomorrow, which makes it really difficult for me to pick anything up at lunchtime; it will have to wait until late afternoon. (I could cancel the 12-1 meeting, but I’m sure as hell not doing that based on “estimates” by the dealership.)

I do understand that dealerships don’t always have control over delivery dates. The lateness is inconvenient, but that’s not the real problem here. The real problem is the compulsive lying and evasion and failure to acknowledge any error on their part of the sales staff— in particular John Marriotti (sp?), the Scion salesman who told us that it was at the port and would be here within a week and would arrive fully configured with all options (and who then denied that and accused me of being “confused”), and the general sales manager, John Anscom, who assured Gerald that he would be our only point of contact moving forward but who still let the Scion salesman call us this morning and deal with me when I came in.

Posted at 2:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Saturday, 19 April 2008

spring has sprung

In April of 2003, six months after I'd started publishing this blog, I posted one of my favorite poems--the one that I think of every April (well, March in Seattle, but April in Rochester) as the weather makes its glorious transformation from the relentless gray of winter to the riotous colors of spring

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

—Robert Frost

I probably could have posted this a few days earlier; the daffodils bloomed on my birthday (Wednesday), and they brighten my mood every time I look at them.

Daffodils 1

I'm enjoying the weather all the more because I spend so much time every day walking the dog--and letting her romp in the backyard. She can be a handful sometimes, but mostly she's delightful.

Morgan and Ball 3

Posted at 2:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | on blogging

Friday, 14 September 2007

rochester mac repair recommendation

I’m in the midst of my usual pre-trip panic—Lane and I leave for Seattle at 6am tomorrow morning, and I feel completely unprepared.

The panic was magnified by the fact that my beloved MacBook Pro went out for repair this week—a new logic board, as part of the ongoing attempt to fix the intermittent and frustrating wifi problems I’ve been encountering for months.

When it got picked up yesterday, it seemed pretty unlikely that I’d get it back in time, and I’ve been frantically trying to prep a PC laptop for the trip. But the wonderful woman who does our department’s Apple-authorized mac repair emailed me this afternoon to say that she’d finished the logic board swap, and was willing to drop the machine off at my house since RIT was already closed for the day.

Wow. I am impressed and delighted. So I want to give her a plug here, for people who might be looking for Rochester area Mac repairs — her name is Christine Cormack, and her company is CoreMac. Send some business her way if you’re in the area—that kind of service is hard to come by, and it sure beats spending hours on the phone with Apple’s service center, or dealing with long waits at the Apple Store genius bar!

Now all I have to do is finish the laundry, buy Lane a pair of pants that fit and don’t have rips or stains, pack, and try to get to sleep early enough so that the 4am wakeup call isn’t completely unmanageable…

Posted at 5:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | technology

Friday, 27 April 2007

better late than never

In April of 2003, six months after this blog began, I posted my favorite spring poem. And each year since then I’ve repeated that ritual, noting the annual arrival of spring’s golden-green early buds and leaves. I was apparently too sick last week to notice that spring had sprung, but I’m posting the poem again even though the brief golden moment seems to have passed.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

—Robert Frost

(see also: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006)

Posted at 9:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

winter's finally here

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.

Posted at 10:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

in praise of rochester: cost of living edition

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.)

Posted at 7:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

not-so-wintery weather

novweather.gifWhat a strange day. Nearly 70 degrees at the end of November.

Our front door is wide open, as are the bedroom windows. Across the street, our neighbors are washing and vacuuming their cars. As is their wont, they’ve got a radio blasting music loud enough that we can hear it in the kitchen—and today the radio is playing Christmas songs. It’s almost surreal to hear Blue Christmas blaring through open windows on a balmy afternoon.

Posted at 3:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Friday, 13 October 2006

what a difference 90 miles makes

We woke this morning to a light dusting of snow on the trees and bushes outside.

In Buffalo, 90 miles down the road, my father woke to two feet of snow, large tree branches downed in his driveway, and no power. When I spoke to him at 8:30 this morning he was trying to figure out what he was going to do. He told me the next-door neighbor (my childhood friend Laura) was trying to find a hotel room for her family but had had no luck.

Stranded Traffic on NYS Thruway
Stranded Traffic on NYS Thruway Between Rochester and Buffalo
Photo from

You know that Orbitz commercial that’s been playing recently, the one where a flight gets cancelled and two couples compete to see who can find a hotel room faster? I felt like a contestant on that. I told him to go to Laura’s house and wait for me to call them. Then I grabbed my computer and started searching. Orbitz told me that there were rooms at several airport hotels, but the hotels weren’t answering their phones. So I called the 800 number for the Hampton Inn, and the very helpful reservation agent found that they actually had rooms available in a hotel that’s only 1.2 miles from my father’s house. I snapped up two rooms, got a confirmation number, and called them back with the good news.

Now, of course, Laura and her husband have to find a way to get the five of them (they’ve got two kids, around the same ages as mine) to the hotel. And I have to wait and worry about whether they’ll get there safely, whether the hotel actually does have power, and whether he confirmation number actually gets them their rooms. But the Hampton reservations agent assured me that if the hotel didn’t have power they’d receive immediate notification and reservations would be blocked, and the proximity of the hotel (and the fact that Laura and Vince have a 4wd truck) give me some hope for their making it there safely. And given how hard it will be for people with hotel reservations to get to the hotels at all, it seems likely that there will be rooms for them.

And just so you know…this is not typical for this part of the country, despite our reputation for long, snowy winters. According to the National Weather Service, “Through 5am for Friday, October 13, Buffalo recorded 10.9 inches of snow, setting a new mark
for the snowiest day in October since records began back in 1870. The culprit for this record snow is the earliest lake effect snow storm on record to hit the city of Buffalo.”

Update: The power was out in the hotel. So much for their corporate process. My dad’s back in his house, and is using his gas oven to heat the kitchen and his gas stove to heat water. (Yes, he knows not to leave the oven on for long periods of time, or overnight.) The temperature is well above freezing, so hopefully the snow will melt fast enough for them to get repairs done before Tuesday. Or, at the very least, for us to be able to get to him before Tuesday and bring him back to Rochester. I’ve got a Subaru B9 Tribeca, so if they reopen the thruway tomorrow I could probably make it to his house. Think good thoughts for him, okay?

Posted at 9:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Monday, 18 September 2006

scott mccloud's talk at rit

Funny, Scott’s hair is grayer than it looked in Understanding Comics. :)

He does a great job of illustrating his talk with fabulous graphics. Static images…sort of. He moves through them very quickly, creating a sort of animation that’s driven by his clicking of the remote mouse.

He’s focusing on the material from his new book, Making Comics, and talking about the various choices that you have make when you’re creating comics of any kind.

1. Choice of moment: What parts of the story do you show? how fast is the pace of the narrative based on number of frames in the sequence? nice examples shown here.

2. Choice of frame: How close in do you zoom? How much of the picture do you show? What do you reveal, what do you withhold? Shows “vaudeville-like” comics of the early 1900s, with “fixed frame” approaches, much like theatre. Vestiges of that can be seen in early Peanuts. Even things like the direction the characters are facing tend to invoke theatre…in the US, characters tend to “face front,” they’re “slaves to the closeup”.

3. Choice of image: 99% of books on comics are about how draw, about the creation of the imagery itself. Huge range of choices here. Photorealistic to stripped down, boxed or not, colored contours, etc.

4. Choice of word/subject (I got lost here for a minute, not sure if my numbering/wording is accurate. Must buy the book.) Integration of words and pictures is important. Words can be like images. Figures can be calligraphic. Words and pictures can providing contrasting messages.

5. Choice of media: Newspaper? Book? Comic book? Web site?

There are things that are consistent in comics, across form and genre. The intrinsic rhythm of call-and-response, for example. The author gives you an image, then asks you to imagine the interstices, the action between the panels.

He said in the early ’90s, when CD-ROMs were the dominant form of multimedia, that we needed a “durable mutation” of comics.

Those early “multimedia” comics were essentially a recreation of the form of the print comic, and layering sound and motion over it—very McLuhan-esque in its appropriation of a previous media’s method of presentation.

This created a discontinuity where mode changed from space==time to time==time.

(I love that he’s using so many examples of things we talked about last week in my Intro to Multimedia class, from McLuhan to Mosaic.)

Next generation took advantage of hypertext to “choose your own adventure.” Created a new disjuncture…comics are more structured in their linear presentation of material, the author is the “ultimate authority.” On the web, in hypertextual narrative, the user “authors” the experience.

Another example…in a game, a user doesn’t say “let me tell you about this narrative I experienced,” they say “let me tell you about what I did”. They’re the author of their own experience.

But we like our narrative to be seemless. We want to know who’s in control…me (the reader) or you (the comic author)? The web created a tension there.

The idea of the comic author as creator of a “temporal map” is part of what he calls the “DNA” of comics. The basic ideas predate the print medium (he shows great examples), and he believes they postdate print, as well. Early versions, however, used adjacency for continuation (scrolls, tapestries, etc). In print, we lost adjacency.

So he wondered…can we “put comics back together” in a post-print medium? Only if you think of the screen as a window rather than a page. An unbroken canvas that could scroll past the window. Series of fabulous “what-if” illustrations that I can’t begin to transcribe.

(This is an amazing talk. I feel bad trying to capture any of it in this plain text format.)

Turns out that the right term is a “successful mutation” rather than a “durable mutation.” A successful mutation recreates itself.

We still haven’t figured out how to effectively present long-form comics (graphic novels) in an online format. Most online comics are short-form, newspaper comic-strip style. Long-form wants us to get lost in the story, to not be pulled/jarred out of that reverie by the form.

Amazing, rapid-fire discussion of the various “schools” and “forms” of comics. (Colleagues sitting next to me are laughing…”try to write that up,” they say to me. Not bloody likely.) This is un-freaking-believably dense with imagery and content and thought. Just like his books.

Shows a series of interesting multimedia comic implementations.

“Pup” (
A horizontal navigation rather than discontinous right/left, up/down. (Interesting to me how the difficulty in navigating horizontally really affects one’s ability to get “lost” in the narrative.)

“Delta Thrives”
Uses “immersion” and gradual reveals with imagery. Introduces motion, which has that discontinuity, that change of mode of that yanks us out of the narrative. But this one it works better, in part because it’s not a narrative animation, it’s a loop indicating motion rather than story continuation. There’s visual activity but steady state in the narrative.

“Bright Morning Blue”
Interesting use of white space to indicate passage of time. In print we change size and shape of panels (their “amplitude”), but we don’t change the space between them (their “frequency”). Because we understand that as we move through space we move through time, the extra “beat” in the pace of his narrative clearly indicates passage of time.

“The Right Number”
McClouds’ new “micropayment” web comic where comics are embedded frame within frame (almost a z-axis) rather than next to each other.

“crazy comics”. Totally jarring. And yet, a volunteer from the audience figures out the navigation in seconds. That’s his point—this is completely different and yet still familiar.

Why is this important?

Comics will always be a minority art, people will read them primarily for escape. (We don’t have a choice as to which world we’re born into, he says, so it’s our birthright to create worlds in which to escape.) It’s important that we have a diversity of art forms. If all we have is the moving image, that’s our window back into the world we live in. If we have only one window to view life through, our world is flat. If we have multiple windows, we can triangulate our world and see it in a richer way.

In comics, he says, we rise above the treadmill of time. (oooo…I love that line!) We’re no longer blinded by the passage of time, we have an altitude that allows us to look down on the world of both space and time. The texture of time can be seen.

He finishes his talk, but turns the podium over to his 13-year-old daughter Sky, who has a 7-minute powerpoint presentation on their 50-state tour. (Thankfully, there’s no sign of a bullet point anywhere. She’s clearly learned from her father.) She talks about how and why the trip came about, and mentions that they have a LiveJournal community that they’re maintaining for the trip.

They’re also doing audio and video podcasts, with the 11-year-old (whose name is Winter) interviewing people along the way (“Winterviews,” get it?), and the 13-year-old doing the voiceover and editing of the video. She shows a 30-second clip from the show, which is really nicely done.

(For the Q&A, he gives his 11-year-old the wireless microphone so she can run it to questioners. Very entertaining.)

Nice line: “I believe in a market of willing buyers and willing sellers.” iTunes co-exists with BitTorrent, for example.

Posted at 3:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Friday, 15 September 2006

community theatre in rochester?

Last year, my 12-year-old took an improvisational acting class that he loved. I’d love for him to stay involved in acting now that we’re back in Rochester, and my stepdaughter has also been asking about community theatre options in the area. I did a little Google searching without any compelling results, and then it occurred to me that this would be a good time to tap the hive brain of my readers.

So…anybody know of good acting classes for kids here in Rochester? And/or community theatre programs that would welcome actors of all ages?

(If you don’t want to register for a TypeKey account to comment, clicking on the “Work Page” link in the top left corner of this site will take you to a page that gives you my email address.)


Posted at 9:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Wednesday, 13 September 2006

timely post from presentation zen on scott mccloud's work

I wrote yesterday about Scott McCloud’s upcoming visit to RIT. Today I opened up my aggregator and found a post from one of my favorite design-focused blogs, Presentation Zen, on how McCloud’s book Understanding Comics informs design of all kinds. There are good reasons why McCloud’s book is a favorite not just of aspiring graphic novelists, but also of lovers of graphic design and narrative of all kinds.

Read the post.

Then come to the talk. I’ll be there (along with as many of my students I can convince to attend).

Posted at 9:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | technology

Tuesday, 12 September 2006

scott mccloud @ rit next monday!

Poster for Scott McCloud at RIT on September 18, 2006

w00t! Scott McCloud, author of fabulous books on comics (which are relevant to far more than comic books), is speaking here at RIT next Monday (September 18th), from 3-5pm in Ingle Auditorium.

And it’s free!

Posted at 1:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Friday, 25 August 2006

in praise of rochester: air travel edition

I’ve decided to start an irregularly occurring series of posts on why I genuinely love living in Rochester. People who live in big cities never seem to entirely believe me when I tell them I enjoy this city, so it seems worth documenting why (beyond the fact that my mother, father, grandmother, and sister all live less than hour from my house).

Today’s reason? The ease of travelng out of the city. I have a 6:50am flight this morning, for which I left my house at 5:22am. I was walking in the door of the airport at 5:37, was checked in (with a bag checked through) by 5:50, and was through security by 6:05. That left me time to get a great latte from a local coffee roaster that has an airport branch, pick up a couple of magazines, settle down near an easily accessible power outlet, and grab some of the free wifi that the local telco provides here in the airport. Try that on a Friday morning in a major metro area!

Posted at 6:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Wednesday, 5 July 2006

i'm missing barcamp rochester...but you shouldn't!

I followed a link from a commenter here to his blog, and discovered that Rochester’s going to have its very own BarCamp this month! Unfortunately, we’ll still be in Seattle…but if you’re in the area, you should definitely go.

Posted at 8:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Saturday, 27 May 2006

choosing to give

A lot of people have asked me recently if I’m planning on going back to RIT at the end of my sabbatical—or if, having tasted the sweet nectar of well-funded industry research, I might be tempted to stay in Seattle. I decided a few weeks ago that I was going to return to Rochester, but I had some lingering doubts and fears in my mind about whether I was making the right choice.

This weekend I flew back to Rochester for a few days, primarily to attend RIT’s commencement ceremonies. For the first day or two, I did have some second thoughts about my decision. Departmental politics were running rampant, colleagues were stressed with last-minute grading, and the overcast skies were more oppressive than I remembered.

Last night, though, I heard two wonderful addresses at the university-wide convocation ceremony. The first was by Dean Kamen, which I really hope will be posted in its entirety on the RIT web site (as they’ve done with past speakers). Elouise covered some high points, but you had to be there to appreciate the warmth, wit, and charm of Kamen’s delivery. It was lovely. (And yes, he did in fact ride a Segway up to and back from the platform, wearing his academic robes.) The second was by Erhardt Graeff, a student whom I first had in freshman seminar, and whose progress I’ve watched closely over the past four years. Erhardt’s a wonderful young man—intellectually curious, adventurous, articulate, creative, and genuinely goodhearted. He was selected as our college’s delegate for the university-wide ceremony, and then chosen as the one delegate to give the student address for all of RIT—and he did a spectacular job. Both of the speakers (without knowing the other’s theme) chose to speak about graduation as a passage not from learning to doing, but rather as one from taking to giving…something that hit a resonant note for me.

This morning I woke up at 6:15am so that I could be at RIT by 7:15, and in my robes ready to line up for our college’s commencement ceremonies at 7:30. Even after nearly ten years of doing this, I still love marching into the field house with pomp and circumstance playing, watching the parents and grandparents and spouses and partners and children craning their necks for a view of the processional, snapping photographs and clapping. And my favorite part of the school year is when our undergraduate students walk across the stage as their name is called. As they come down the steps, there are always a group of faculty waiting to shake their hands, and I’m always part of that group. I love watching the faces of these young men and women, many of whom I taught during their first quarter of freshman year, as they grapple with the realization that they’re really, truly, graduating. More than one of them gets a hug from me rather than a handshake.

After the ceremony, our department hosts a brunch for the students and their families. It’s hard to explain how much it means to me when a student pulls his or her parents over to meet me, telling them “This is Professor Lawley! Remember me telling you about her?” When I met Erhardt’s mother today, however, I got something new…she told me she reads my blog. (Hi, Mrs. Graeff!)

I nearly cried a couple of times today. One of those times was meeting the family of Katie Giebel, a delightful young woman who took my introductory web/multimedia class the fall of her first year at RIT. She came close to leaving IT, but stayed after I (and others) convinced her that it was only a short term rough spot she’d run into. When she was invited into the RIT honors program, she told me she was worried she couldn’t handle that and her ROTC responsibilities, and wanted to decline. I helped convince her to give it a shot, and she didn’t just survive—she thrived. Katie graduated with honors today, and the Navy is sending her to Monterey to pursue a master’s degree. (I’m wiping away a little tear right now, just typing all that.)

This year at MSR I’ve gotten an enormous amount from the amazing people around me, and I’m beyond grateful for that. But I don’t have the opportunity to change lives that being a professor provides to me, to give what I can of myself to my students. I left the reception today 100% sure that coming back to RIT was the right choice. And as I pulled into the driveway of my mother’s house, the sun finally came out…as if to welcome me home.

Posted at 7:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | academia | sabbatical | teaching

Saturday, 25 March 2006

home/not home

It feels very strange to be back in Rochester, but not in our house—particularly when I drive past “our house” to drop the kids off and see our tenants’ cars in the driveway, and unfamiliar faces through the windows. It’s quite unsettling.

Other than that, being back in Rochester has been great. This morning I took the kids to the RIT campus to hear Larry Lessig give a talk on free culture. The talk was spectacular. I think Lane understood and appreciated most of it, but Alex found it less engaging. (They both quite enjoyed this video that was included in the presentation—as did I!) Still, I’m glad they both went—even if only a little of it got through, it was worth it. (I also had the pleasure of joining Larry and some RIT colleagues for dinner last night, which was lovely.)

[If you’ve never had the privilege of seeing Professor Lessig speak on free culture, I was able to find a link to this similar talk that he gave in Helsinki last year. I encourage you to watch it.]

Tonight the boys are sleeping at friends’ houses, soaking up all the time with their buddies that they possibly can. So I get to relax at my mother’s house, where it’s blissfully quiet. Got some work done, got some gaming done, and now I’m off to bed.

Posted at 12:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

reflections on home

The boys and I got back from Rochester late (very late) last night. Part of me feels like I’m home today; another part feels as though I just left home behind. It’s an odd feeling—to be not-quite-at-home in either city.

This ended up being a stressful visit—trying to squeeze months’ worth of visits and dinners and meetings and conversations into a handful of too-short days. My apologies to all the people I didn’t have time to really spend time with on this visit—especially Steve (who helped save the day in my mom’s class!) and Eric (who’s going to be stuck packing up a box of things I left in my office, without even having gotten to see me while I was there).

I had some amazing home-cooked food while I was there—Weez’s eggs benedict and home fries, Tona’s delicious enchiladas, Jenny’s always-wonderful potato kugel, and my Mom’s signature homemade crepes for breakfast. As rushed as I was, I felt loved and welcomed by friends and family, and it was a good reminder of why we’ve grown so fond of Rochester. It’s the people, stupid! (It was also nice to spend some time in my RIT office, with its enormous window. One of the few things I don’t like about my working environment at Microsoft is how little natural light I seem to encounter on most days.) Rochester is definitely where I’m most connected to friends, family, and community, and it was wonderful to see the people I care about while I was there. But being back in Seattle really makes me happy, too—the mountains are a big part of that, but so is the fact that I’m taking a lot of an enjoyment in the work that I’m doing and the people I’m working with.

Many thanks to the people who sent get-well wishes for my grandmother. I’m delighted to report that she seems to be doing much better—they’ve stopped the internal bleeding, and rehydrated her, and it appears that her kidney function is returning. When I spoke to her on the phone before we left (Alex had a cold, so visiting seemed unwise) she sounded cheerful and alert—a big change from how she’d been when I saw her a few days ago. I’m hopeful that she’ll be back in the nursing home within a few days, and from there back to the assisted living facility where she feels so much more at home.

Posted at 4:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | Seattle | family | friends | travel

Tuesday, 29 November 2005

eastward ho!

Tomorrow morning the kids and I will head east to Rochester, where we’ll be spending a week in our old stomping grounds. It will be odd to be home but not home—someone else is living in our house, so we’ll be staying with my mom while we’re there.

The boys are pretty excited about seeing their friends. Me too.

I’ll still be accessible via the usual email, IM, and phone contacts. Wifi in my mom’s house, wifi on campus, wifi in most of the coffeeshops I frequent there…

While there I’m hoping to reinvigorate my lab at RIT—in my absence, its been dormant, and I have some ideas for things the folks I left behind could be working on. I’m also hoping to foster more interaction between the RIT social computing club and the lab, as well as perhaps getting our public workshop plans back on track.

I’ve also printed out a substantial stack of research papers that I’m hoping to get through on the airplane—in hopes that the kids will be able to amuse themselves reasonably well with books and gameboys while I read (I hope, I hope, I hope….).

I’m planning to be around the RIT campus on Thursday and Friday, exact times to be determined (I have to work around the array of doctor’s appointments that the boys and I have while home…nothing serious, but we’ve waited to deal with myriad small problems until we were back with our regular health care providers). If you want to get together, drop me a line and I’ll see what I can work out.

Posted at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | travel

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

hit by lightning - literally!

We got a call this morning from the family that’s leasing our house in Rochester while we’re on sabbatical—apparently the chimney of the house was struck by lightning this morning! There are bricks littering the lawn, and the ones that fell down the chimney caused soot to spew out into the family room, setting off smoke alarms and generally causing chaos.

The good news? Our insurance company is Amica. One phone call was all it took. The Amica rep immediately confirmed we were covered, said someone would be out within hours to take a look at the damage and start arranging for any short-term preventive work necessary to keep things from collapsing further, as well as to figure out what kinds of repairs and cleanup would be necessary. We’ve got a $500 deductible, but after that all the reconstruction and cleanup will be covered in full. Such a relief.

Posted at 10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | unclassifiable

Monday, 30 May 2005

it's the people, stupid

A lot of people have been asking me if I think I’ll come back from Seattle after my sabbatical is over. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find the prospect of working on interesting projects, for more money than I currently make, in a beautiful city, attractive.

But as we make our preparations to leave, I keep running into the one thing that will make us likely to return to Rochester next summer…the people in our lives.

We’ve been here for nearly nine years, and we’ve built a life. We have wonderful friends, supportive family, great health care providers. Relationships and connections like the ones we have here don’t happen overnight—they take time and nurturing. And while I have no doubt we could eventually build up a life in Seattle that was rich and rewarding, I don’t want to walk away from the life we already have built here.

Today we had a few close friends over for an informal cookout (well, as informal as my southern-born-and-bred husband can manage), and I was reminded of how much a part of my life they’d become, and how much I didn’t want to lose that part—even if I could splice in “replacements” somewhere else.

So, what does my “why I’ll be back” list look like?

That’s a lot of powerful reasons to come back home.

Posted at 7:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | family | friends | sabbatical

Saturday, 7 May 2005

life used to be so hard...

…now everything is easy ‘cause of you

Lane is at the neighborhood pond with his friends, building a fort and eating a picnic lunch.

Alex is at a friend’s house ‘til dinner.

Gerald’s running errands.

So here I am, sitting on my couch, enjoying the fresh air coming through the windows and the sounds of birds, kids, and lawnmowers in the neighborhood around me. I have a spring cold—unpleasant, but not debilitating—which gives me license to lounge, rather than cleaning up and packing boxes. And this rare oasis of stillness and solitude gives me time to reflect and be grateful.

We’re happy. Our life here is good. There is nothing that we need that we want for—from food and shelter to friends and family.

I’m blessed.

Posted at 3:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | family | health | idle thoughts

Friday, 6 May 2005

birthday baseball

Just booked my older son’s birthday party for next weekend, and I’m already looking forward to it. We’re doing it at a Rochester Red Wings baseball game, and the party package is both fun and affordable.

Hot dogs, soda, ice cream cake, balloons, logo baseballs, and bleacher seats for everyone. Woohoo! What better way to spend an evening in May?

Posted at 1:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | family | kids

Wednesday, 20 April 2005

missing my golden opportunity

In 2003 and 2004 I marked the first “real” (to me) day of spring by posting the Robert Frost poem that the early green-gold leaves on the trees always brings to mind.

This year I’m missing the moment—when I arrived in Seattle spring was already well underway, and I received email today from my mother saying that the moment was at hand back in Rochester. Not surprising, really—in both 2003 and 2004 the green-gold moment was on April 21st.

So here’s my annual tribute to this moment in time.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

—Robert Frost
Posted at 7:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Wednesday, 13 April 2005

through a tourist's eyes

Last week, Gerald and I went to see a wonderful concert by the Blind Boys of Alabama. The concert was at a venue we hadn’t been to before, a place called German House, which is in a city neighborhood called Corn Hill South Wedge (thanks, Alan). Neither of us had been in Corn Hill South Wedge before, and it was somewhat disorienting to get out of the car in a completely unfamiliar landscape—as if we’d travelled to another city. It got me thinking about how many parts of Rochester I just don’t know as well as I’d like, and how many interesting and beautiful things I’ve missed because I don’t take the time to really explore the place I live.

Today on my way back from a downtown meeting I skipped the interstate and took local roads back to campus, driving along the Genesee river, past the Mt. Hope Cemetery where Susan B. Anthony and Frederic Douglass are buried, and through some beautiful riverside parks. Then I called Gerald and said “I know what I want to do for my birthday on Saturday!”

I want to be a tourist, right here in town. I want to start the day with breakfast at the public market. I want to walk around downtown and take pictures of the beautiful architecture. I want to walk through Mt. Hope Cemetery. I want to go to Eastman House and admire the photographs, and the Susan B. Anthony House to remember that I live in a city that’s always been home to great women. Maybe visit the zoo and the adjoining Frederic Law Olmsted park.

So that’s my birthday plan. Friday night dinner and drinks with friends; Saturday wandering the city with my family and my camera. Then Sunday morning I’m outta here, headed for back-to-back meetings in Seattle.

Posted at 4:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | family | travel

Thursday, 7 April 2005

serendipitous blog-based discoveries


There’s now a craigslist for Rochester!

I’ve been spending a good bit of time on the Seattle craigslist this week, looking at housing and furniture ads, and thinking how nice it would have been to have had one for Rochester…how did I miss that there was one already?

I found it through a roundabout way. This morning in the coffee room I introduced myself to a woman I didn’t know (there aren’t many of us around here, so it seems wise to talk with the ones who are!), and found out she’s a grad assistant working with the HCI/eyetracking group here. She mentioned that she read my blog (why does it always surprise me, still, when people I don’t know say that?), and I asked if she had one of her own. She does—and a good one, too that I’ve added to my aggregator.

One of her posts was related to, so I looked at her links there, where I found the craigslist link. I also saw how she was using colors in urls, which I found fascinating.

And now I have to stop exploring and get back to writing and analyzing. Much less fun.

Posted at 4:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | technology

Friday, 1 April 2005

cloudy weather

Via this meteorological data site, which shows annual averages for cloudiness:

Hard to believe it will be better in Seattle, but it sure looks that way.

Posted at 11:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)
categories: Rochester

Sunday, 27 February 2005

video game store lament

I took my older son to a local game store (HO/RC) yesterday that specializes in used game systems and games, and lets you trade in old systems. He had a GameCube that he no longer wanted, and three games that we don’t play—Super Mario Sunshine for GameCube, and Gran Turismo 3 and GTA Vice City for PS2.

They had a PS2 with a missing drive cover (perfectly functional) for $100, but only gave us $25 credit for the GC and games. When I challenged it, the owner was extraordinarily rude to me, suggesting that I drive around and find out all the places that would rip me off more, and then come back so he could rip me off for less. We had a few more exchanges like that, all of which involved him being extremely rude and dismissive towards me (after all, I’m just the stupid rich mom, right?).

What I should have done at that point was march out the door with our stuff in hand, bought a new slimline PS2 at Sam’s (with 2 games included) for $150, and sold the rest on eBay. But I was tired, and stressed about my slew of upcoming trips, and he so wanted to get it right there and then (I’d been promising this for a while). So I went against my good instincts and did the transaction. It left me with a very sour taste in my mouth, though, and you can bet I won’t be back in that store again—nor will I encourage anyone else to go there.

When I searched for HO/RC just now, I discovered that they’re also a prolific eBay vendor—but with a reasonable number of negative and neutral reviews, which doesn’t surprise me at all. I’d be careful doing business with them, if I were you. That attitude towards customers is a very bad sign.

Sometimes I think that what I ought to do is open up the ultimate gaming spot geared towards parents as well as their kids. There’s not much out there that targets tweens, really. The hands-on museums are for the younger set. The game stores and arcades are more for the teenagers (and the parents hate being there). So why not create a place that tweens will love, and that their parents won’t mind taking them? Model it on places like Chuck-E-Cheese, with food and drink available, and places to sit. Put in a coffee bar and free wifi so that parents are willing to hang out while their kids wander around and/or play. Set it up like CEC, so that kids can’t leave without the adult who brought them—that lets the parents relax, possibly in a separate glass-walled area so their kids can be seen but not heard. Hire teenagers to work there, and have them wandering around, available to talk to/encourage the tweens who are the real target. Sell card games and video games and computer games, and provide space for kids to play—for a price. (Maybe a monthly fee…)

I’m not much of an entrepreneur, but I bet something like this would do really well. There’s a huge market out there that’s pretty much untapped for this age group and their parents. Give us gamer moms somewhere to go that doesn’t leave them feeling the way I did when I walked out of HO/RC. Please.

Posted at 2:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack (1)
categories: Rochester | big ideas | kids

Friday, 4 February 2005

sabbatical plans

My sabbatical application for next year has been approved! I’m still working out the details, but it looks quite likely that I’ll be spending next year (with my family) in the Seattle area.

This mean that I’ll need copious advice from my Seattle-based friends and colleagues on finding a place to live, getting settled in, homeschooling our boys, and people we must look up when we arrive (probably in July).

It also means that RIT will be looking to replace me for a year with a visiting professor, which is the real point of this post. We really need someone who has both interest and expertise in web development and social computing. It’s a great opportunity for someone in industry who wants to spend a year in academia, or an academic at another school who needs a sabbatical opportunity of their own.

I realize that Rochester isn’t everybody’s ideal destination, but it really is a great city to live in. And I can’t say enough good things about the work environment—I have great colleagues, a wonderful office, excellent support staff, and incredible facilities (both technical and recreational). The cost of living here is very low (and if you act soon, you could even rent our close-to-campus house, complete with furnishings…), recreational and cultural opportunities abound, and the public schools are excellent.

If you’re interested, send me email, and I can give you more details.

Posted at 10:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | research

Sunday, 23 January 2005

rpo benefit concert for tsunami relief

My stepfather, who plays for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), helped to organize a benefit concert by the orchestra for tsunami victims. If you’re in the Rochester area, please consider attending and donating. (Our family will certainly be there!)

Here’s the press release, with details:

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra is partnering with United Way of Greater Rochester for a concert to benefit United Way’s South Asia Response Fund. On Sunday, January 30th at 4:00 pm, Jeff Tyzik, Principal Pops Conductor, will lead the orchestra in an amazing performance dedicated to helping those across the globe affected by the Tsunami. The concert will be held at the Bethel Christian Fellowship, located at 321 East Avenue.

The performance for all ages will highlight reflective pieces from Copland, Beethoven, Barber, and others. The RPO will also be joined by a children’s choir from The Harley School, led by Jay Stetzer. Although the concert will not be ticketed, there is a suggested minimum donation of $10.00 per person, or $20.00 per family. All checks must be made to: United Way South Asia Response Fund, which was created to support long-term recovery efforts in affected areas.

“We are thankful the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra musicians and staff recognize the long-term impact of this disaster, and are willing to volunteer their time to help out,” said Joe Calabrese, United Way of Greater Rochester President and CEO. “During a time like this, it is vital for our community to continue to pull together for relief efforts.”

“We were moved to participate in the relief effort in the best way that we know, which is by joining together in our music-making,” said Joanna Bassett, flutist and chair of the RPO Orchestra Committee. “The music we’ve chosen will allow all of us to pause and reflect over the magnitude of the losses, and to be uplifted by the collective strength of the human spirit. We are pleased to be partnering with the United Way, which has both an important local and international presence. We applaud their focus on long-term community rebuilding efforts in South Asia, and are pleased to donate our time to such a worthy effort. We are also grateful for the use of Bethel’s sanctuary, and for the assistance of our RPO staff and volunteers.”

The concert program includes Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and “Simple Gifts” from Appalachian Spring, Barber’s Adagio, the finale from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and selections from Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. The choir from The Harley School will perform “A Gift of Love” and “The Magic Penny.”

For more information about the RPO Tsunami Relief concert, please visit or call the Box Office at 454-2100. To learn more about United Way’s South Asia Relief Fund, and long-term recovery, please log on to
Posted at 9:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | events | music

Saturday, 22 January 2005

to sleep, perchance to dream

For quite a few years now, I’ve been an early-to-bed, early-to-rise person. That was very much a result of being a parent—sleeping in is a luxury that parents of small children seldom get to indulge in.

Over the past few weeks, however, I’ve found myself fighting off sleepiness and trying to stay up late. I’m not completely sure why that is. Part of it, I think, is that after the kids go to sleep it’s blissfully quiet in the house, and I enjoy savoring that time. It’s easier to read, to write, to think, to relax, when you’re not being barraged with requests for parental attention.

But there’s something else going on, too, that I can’t quite put my finger on. A restlessness. A resistance. To what? I don’t know. But it’s there.

So here I am, watching my fire slowly burn down, feeling it warm my feet while I type. Soon I’ll be too tired to string words together, or even to focus on the screen. Then I’ll turn off the lights and head up to bed, where I’ll be asleep within minutes.

Tomorrow we actually will get to sleep in. No cello competitions or swimming lessons, no school buses or committee meetings, no place we have to go and no one we have to see. We’ll wake to drifts of snow piled across the driveway and the yard, to sausage and eggs cooking in the kitchen (if Gerald gets up first), to a weather-enforced day of rest.

Here’s what we have to look forward to…

Winter Weather

So now it’s (finally) off to bed with me. Time to close the glass doors on the fireplace, turn off the lights in the kitchen, and climb the stairs to the flannel sheets and warm spouse that await me in bed.

Posted at 11:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | family | idle thoughts

settling down for a long winter's night

We’ve had about six inches of snow on the ground all week; the temperature hasn’t risen enough to melt it, so it just sits there, or blows around.

Today the snow started up again, along with subzero temperatures, and winds gusting up to 30mph. We’re supposed to get 3-6” this afternoon, and another 6-10” overnight. Brrrrrr.

We got all of our morning errands done (we think Lane did well in his cello solo competition this morning, but won’t know ‘til tonight at the earliest), and we’re all home now, safe and sound and warm and cozy, watching the snow fly sideways past the windows. I doubt we’ll be going anywhere for at least 24 hours, maybe longer.

Time to start a fire in the fireplace, crack open a novel from the library, and pipe some music from iTunes to the Airport Express…

Posted at 2:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | idle thoughts

Saturday, 15 January 2005

rochester hotspots

The list of people providing free wifi in Rochester is growing, and it’s getting harder and harder to decide where to go when I have to grade!

My latest discovery is Paradigm Cafe, which is only a few miles from my house (it’s at the corner of Lehigh Station and East Henrietta Roads, for those locals who want to find it quickly; there used to be a used bookstore and coffeehouse at the same spot called Blue Sunday, but it closed last year).

They serve excellent coffee—Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters brand, which is excellent. The music is good, the atmosphere is nice (only one couch, though…they need more soft-and-comfy seating, I think), and the prices are low. All in all, I’m impressed…and will probably be back on a regular basis.

Posted at 2:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Monday, 20 December 2004

lab for social computing at rit

Over on Many-to-Many I’ve made an announcement about a new Lab for Social Computing here at RIT.

Posted at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (4)
categories: Rochester | research | social software

Thursday, 16 December 2004

i need a haircut

I really do. So I’m looking for Rochester-area stylist recommendations.

I’ve been getting my hair cut by the same person since I moved to Rochester, and while I like him (and his cuts) a lot, he’s pretty expensive ($60/cut).

It feels like time for a change, so that I can get out of my current hair rut, but also reduce the cost (so that I can get it cut more often and not let it get all unruly like it is now).

Any recommendations? It would be nice if they’re good with thin, fine hair like mine…there’s not a lot to work with, really, which requires a certain kind of skill.


Posted at 5:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Sunday, 12 December 2004

more free wifi @ panera

I showed up this afternoon at Panera Bread to do some more grading, sat down at my favorite table near the fireplace, and fired up my laptop. Much to my surprise, there were two access points—the regular “Panera” SSID, and a brand new “SurfThing” SSID to accompany it.

Out of curiousity I selected the second, and was able to get online instantly—no login necessary (Panera requires a login, which is free but annoying, every two hours). Even better, there’s no SonicWall filtering, which means I can even occasionally check blogs like Dooce and, both of which are blocked by SonicWall.

I’m somewhat baffled by the appearance of the SurfThing access point, since there are no other locations in this plaza that would be likely to offer access, and seems to indicate that they’re a midwestern (minn/wisc) provider. (Their shockwave-based site won’t work in Firefox, it seems…I had to load it in Safari.) But I’m certainly not complaining!

Posted at 5:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | technology

Sunday, 5 December 2004

holiday traditions

When I was a child, our family celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas—and with both, it was the cultural rather than the religious aspects that we focused on. Now that I’m the grownup, I’ve instituted the same tradition in our home, and each year we have a christmas tree and a menorah, latkes and sugar cookies, holiday lights and holographic hanukkah glasses to view them.

We don’t do it for the presents—each year we’ve given fewer and fewer. We do it for the sense of tradition, the warmth it brings to the house during a cold season, and the many enjoyable trappings that accompany both holidays.

I’m particularly fond of holiday music, and every December I dig out my extensive collection (it used to involved finding the CDs and/or albums…now it’s just reloading the archived mp3s), and start playing it at home and in the office. I’ve got a pretty eclectic selection of tunes, and I’m particularly fond of the Starbucks holiday mixes. My absolute favorite is a 1998 mix called “Hi-Fidelity Holiday,” which starts with a fabulous, barely-recognizable version of Jingle Bells by Esquivel. I’ve now hooked Weez on it, as well. Feliz Navidad, baby!)

Last night when I got home from a lovely dinner at Weez’s house, Gerald was watching a PBS special featuring a holiday concert by the Blind Boys of Alabama. They were doing a rendition of Little Drummer Boy with one of their guests, Michael Franti. I can’t remember the last time I was so moved by song, and I immediately purchased it on iTunes, and may also buy their fabulous rendition of Go Tell It On the Mountain featuring Tom Waits, and O Come All Ye Faithful with Me’Shell Ndegéocello. If you get a chance to see the special, I highly recommend it. Far better with the visuals.

This afternoon, we’ll head out to Stokoe Farms, which is where we’ve been getting our trees since we moved to Rochester in 1997. There’s a ritual associated with that, too, of course. We have to wander through the rows and rows of trees (usually the Fraser firs, but this year I’m thinking about maybe a Concolor) until one speaks to me. (You can roll your eyes at that…the kids certainly do!) Then Gerald cuts it down, the workers haul it back to the main barn and run it through the needle shaker and baling machines. While Gerald ties it onto the van, the boys and I enjoy the free hot chocolate and cookies, and they climb around in the straw-bale fort. Then it’s back home to set up and decorate the tree, enjoy some hot chocolate and a fire at home, and maybe do a little early baking. (My favorite holiday recipe, from Gourmet Magazine, is for these absolutely amazing double chocolate walnut biscotti. They make wonderful gifts—if you can keep yourself from eating them before they’re wrapped and given away!)

There’s a lot to be said for holiday traditions, and even more to be said for focusing on holiday activities you do together as a family rather than the frantic gift acquisition and exchange process.

Happy holidays!

Posted at 12:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | events | family

Tuesday, 2 November 2004

speaking of parties...

Don’t forget, Weez and I are hosting one tonight in the IT conference room (70-2400).

If you’re coming, it would be lovely if you brought a snack, drink, or dish to pass. But you’re under no obligation to do so. We’ll take up a pizza money collection at some point, too.

Those who can’t make it in person are welcome to hang out in irc:// (Use Mozilla to click on that link, or open the channel in a stand-alone IRC client if you prefer.)

I may have a Quicktime broadcast going, as well, if I can get an account set up on our local streaming server. Details to follow; I’ll update this post as necessary.

Posted at 11:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (2)
categories: Rochester | politics

Sunday, 31 October 2004

my life as a suburban mom

Yesterday I wore a lot of hats—grateful Al-Anon member at a morning meeting, best friend and workout partner at the gym, politicking faculty member in a chance encounter with an administrator, appreciative daughter sipping her mom’s chicken soup, chauffeur to kids for swimming, Japanese, and cello lessons. I would have been happy to collapse into bed quietly last night, but that wasn’t an option, because last night was also Alex’s birthday party.

We started out at a local arcade establishment, where the kids got tokens to spend on machines, as well as pizza and cake. Because Gerald is friends with the owner, the kids also got to ride for free on the go-karts there—and I went as well. What fun! I had never tried that as a kid, but enjoyed the pedal-to-the-metal hairpin turns enormously this time. We then brought home with us not only our two kids, but five more boys ages 8-10, who spent the night camped out in our living room.

This morning we did tag-team parenting—Gerald got up early to cook pancakes, while I slept in until 9 (around here, that’s very late indeed). Then he went off to run errands and hit the gym while I supervised the seven boisterous boys. Between 9:30 and 11:30 all but one were picked up by parents. And a few minutes ago, my two left with the final guest—they’re off to his nearby house to play video games.

So here I am, in the eye of the parenting storm. It’s still and quiet now, and I can hear myself think for a few minutes. But tonight is Halloween, and the energy level will be building again between now and then.

For over seven years now, I’ve lived in a neighborhood that is much like the one I grew up in back in Buffalo. The kids are close-knit, the parents are friendly. We know each other, we have a sense of community. Halloween is a practiced ritual—our kids will don costumes (my boys are ninjas this year) and band together around 6 (aided by the earlier darkness that arrived with last night’s time change), with a number of parental delegates tagging along behind. They’ll careen from house to house, squealing with delight over the rare house that gives out full-size candy bars, and grousing about those who toss them a scant handful of boring hard candies. Meanwhile, we parents will lurk on the sidewalks, occasionally shouting a reminder to say thank you, or not to trample flower beds.

By 8 or so they’ll be worn out from running, and tired of carrying their bags. They’ll make one last stop at the neighbors who are famous for giving out self-contained drinks rather than candy (heavy, but welcome after a long night of walking), and will retreat to their houses to dump their bags of treats on the floor and sort them out. There’s the “eat it now” pile, of course. Along with the “save for later” and “maybe I can trade it” piles. There’s the “who on earth would eat this?” pile, and—if I’m lucky—a “give it to mom” collection. (They know my favorites, and they also know there are long-term benefits to keeping mom happy.)

After we’ve looked over the piles and given our blessing (we’ve never had safety problems with candy around here, but we still always check), they’ll devour as much as they can, inevitably getting to the point where they feel ill. And then, as the sugar wears off, they’ll crash—hard—and hopefully sleep late tomorrow.

I’ve not been online much this weekend, because being a mom on a weekend like this is more than a full-time job. But it’s worth the time and energy it takes. I’m very, very grateful for the sense of community we have here, the fact that I know my kids’ friends, and their parents…that I know my neighbors, and the school principal, and the owner of the local arcade. It’s a good life that we have here.

Posted at 1:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (2)
categories: Rochester | family | kids

Thursday, 28 October 2004

rit-it election night party

Yes, we’re having a party!

On Tuesday night, Elouise Oyzon and I are hosting a party in the IT conference room (70-2400). We’ll have two projectors going—one with an IRC chat so that people can participate from the comfort of their own homes, and one with either streaming video from the web or broadcast TV (we’re waiting to find out if there’s a live coax jack in there).

We’d love to have you there—while you’re welcome to yell and scream at the screens, however, we do ask that you refrain from abusing attendees who might not share your political leanings.

So don’t sit home alone, watching the results trickle in all by yourself. Come join us—preferably in real-time, but at the very least in irc.

(Planned channel is irc:// ; you can use a dedicated IRC client to connect, or you can use Mozilla—just type the URL into Mozilla and it will launch the appropriate software and connect you.)

As for refreshments, we’ll collect $ for pizza and drinks, or you can bring your own food if you’re broke. But given the glass walls of the room, it might be best not to bring any alcoholic beverages. :)

Posted at 4:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (4)
categories: Rochester | politics | teaching

snap, crackle, glow

Last night I had a wonderful workout at the gym with my best friend Weez, followed by a nice soak in RIT’s new hot tub. When I got home and stepped out of my car, I could smell wood smoke from a neighbor’s house, and could see the brightly colored leaves up and down the street illuminated by porch lamps. I took a few minutes to soak that up, feeling about as lucky as I ever have.

As I drove to work this morning, the sun was coming up over the multi-colored trees, and mist was hanging over the river and ponds that I passed. There’s a hint of frost on the ground in the shady areas, and I could see my breath in front of my face when I got out of my car. (No photos, alas; I didn’t bring the camera with me.)

Fall has always been my favorite season—I love the crisp air, the take-your-breath-away blue skies, the luminous oranges, yellows, and reds of hardwood leaves. I know that the shortening days and intermittently gray skies make fall a depressing time for some, but for me fall has always felt alive with possibilities. As a “faculty brat,” my household always buzzed in the fall; that buzz followed me through college, grad school, and now life as an academic. Fall is a time of new classes, new ideas, new students, new projects. It’s excitement and discovery and renewal. And for those of us lucky enough to be in the northeast, it’s accompanied by this perfect weather—perfect for sleeping, for thinking, for walking, for playing. Cool days, crisp nights. Bliss.

Posted at 8:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | friends

Wednesday, 27 October 2004

a suburbanite responds

<vent>Having just returned from a several-day stay in smog-shrouded, traffic-clogged LA, I have to admit to a bit of irritation reading about Molly’s upcoming presentation at Design Engaged: “All Hail the Vast, Conforming Suburb of the Soul.”

I happen to be one of the “commuting parents in minivans” she’s referring to, and I find her somewhat condescending tone quite troubling. It’s not just Molly—I see the same thinly-veiled contempt in the comments of many urbanites. (I was equally put off by danah’s post on the “wal-mart nation” some time ago.)

I live in a suburb, own a minivan, and don’t fit many of the stereotypes that city-dwellers want to ascribe to me. I love cities, but I have two small kids and a single income. In the suburbs of a small city, I get the following advantges:

It’s also the case that interesting culture isn’t limited to major urban areas. Rochester has a wealth of good music and art—from an excellent philharmonic orchestra to the Eastman House.

Reading posts like these from women I generally respect and enjoy makes it easier for me to understand why those awful “Back to Vermont” ads from the Republican Coalition for Change were so appealing to people in the “red states.” It played right into the backlash that urban contempt for suburbia creates.

I’ll tell you what…you stop labeling me and my lifestyle as boring and homogenous, and I’ll refrain from labeling you as effete and out-of-touch, mmkay?</vent>

Posted at 9:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (2)
categories: Rochester | curmudgeonly

Monday, 27 September 2004

working at spin caffé

Ready to work at Spin Caffé
Originally uploaded by mamamusings.

I seem to get a lot more done in coffeeshops than in my office or at home--probably because there's nobody I know to talk to, and no seductive time-wasting tasks to distract me. Spin Cafféon Park Ave in Rochester has free wifi, accessible plugs, decent chairs, and excellent coffee and biscotti. Today I'm traveling with two laptops; one for writing, one for data analysis. And despite this blog entry as evidence to the contrary, I am actually getting something accomplished. I may even make my end-of-the-day deadline, and end up with one more monkey off my back. I hope so.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon and early evening at Panera Bread, another free wifi/good coffee spot in Rochester, where I graded 35 papers and 24 websites. BooYah!, as the characters on my kids' favorite cartoon would say.

Posted at 12:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Sunday, 1 August 2004

note to self: remember this equation

Sunny Sunday morning + kids with grandma + excellent latte + free wifi + great jazz = greatly improved state of mind

Posted at 11:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | unclassifiable

Wednesday, 21 April 2004

my rite of spring

One of the nice things about maintaining a blog for more than a year is the ability to see annual cycles.

Every year, when Rochester shakes off its interminable wintry grayness and takes on the subtle gold-green of early spring, I’m reminded of my favorite Robert Frost poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

By mid-April, I’ve generally given up hope that spring will ever arrive. But this year, I was able to look back in my archives and see that I’d posted the poem on April 22nd of last year. Mother Nature was consistent this year; I noticed on the drive home last night that we’d hit that golden moment. By this evening, it had already edged closer to green.

Anil has his annual panda joke; I’m thinking that this poem will be my annual ritual, a reminder to me that spring really does come to Rochester, every year.

Posted at 6:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)
categories: Rochester

Friday, 16 April 2004

when worlds collide converge

I spent most of the day Thursday at a workshop on cyber-communities sponsored by the sociology and anthropology departments here at RIT. (It was planned in conjunction with Howard Rheingold’s visit, who gave a great talk last night; Weez and I streamed it from my laptop for #joiito members, and the official archived version is already available on the RIT web site in .ram format.)

There weren’t very many people at the cyber-communities workshop, unfortunately, which was primarily due to the lack of good publicity for the workshop. Even though I was speaking at it in the afternoon, I didn’t realize that some really cool people were going to be giving talks, including Keith Hampton (I’m writing up his excellent talk for M2M this weekend—in the meantime, check out his site and read his papers!), and Lori Kendall (whose book, Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub: Masculinities and Relationships Online, I’m going to have to get and read this summer). The only web page I could find for the workshop was a press release on the RIT news site—which seems surprising for a cyber communities activty. Why weren’t “cyber tools” being used to promote this?

Part of the problem, I think, is the tendency for people who study about technology and its impact to disassociate themselves from those who study it directly. Happily, that’s happening less and less at RIT—this week was a great example. On Wednesday, digital poet Loss Pequeño Glazier , founder of the Electronic Poetry Center at SUNY Buffalo, gave a wonderful talk on campus. He was there as part of a series of talks for a digital poetry my mom is team-teaching this year, and they’ve brought in a number of technology focused people (including me…) to talk to the class. The cyber-communities presentations included talks by several people from IT or technology fields, as well.

What was particularly nice about my day yesterday was that it marked the first time that my RIT world has significantly intersected with my social computing world. Having Howard and Keith on campus, going to dinner with them and colleagues from RIT, was both strange and wonderful. I’ve felt for the past year or so as though I’ve been living dual professional lives, and yesterday was the first time it felt as though the two might be converging rather than diverging.

So yesterday was wonderful, and today I woke up to a birthday with sunshine and spring air and birds chasing each other around the backyard. It’s shaping up to be one of the best birthdays ever. And on that note, I’m headed outside to play!

Posted at 3:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester | friends | research | social software

Sunday, 11 April 2004

books in the wild

So clearly I’m late to the party in discovering Bookcrossing. But it’s still worth writing about, if only because of how thoroughly it has captivated both me and my kids.

I first heard about the site when Scott Heiferman, founder of Meetup, spoke about it at the Microsoft social software symposium. I was intrigued—regular meetings of people who wanted to swap books? As a bibliophile whose house is full of books I’m unlikely to read again but hate to throw away, that sounded intriguing. I took a look at the Meetup site, and even signed up for one of the meetings…and then promptly forgot about it. This morning, I got an email reminding me about the upcoming Meetup (this Tuesday at Barnes and Noble), which I ignored.

Then I took my older son to Starbucks for our weekly ritual of “private time”—which usually involves a coffee shop and a couple of books. The Starbucks closest to us has a book exchange shelf, so we grabbed a couple of books and settled in. The one my son chose was an old favorite of mine, Flowers for Algernon. It turned out to be a little too depressing for him, but before we put it down I noticed the Bookcrossing label inside the front cover. I couldn’t resist taking it home with me, just so I could see how the whole thing worked.

When I got home, I pulled out my computer and typed in the BCID (Bookcrossing ID number), and up popped the information about the book I had in my hand. It had been purchased at a used bookstore in Mississauga, Ontario. The person who bought it had sent it to an online friend in Rochester, who had then left it in our local Starbucks (“released it into the wild”). When we found it, and noted that on the site, it was then listed as “caught.”

The boys were fascinated by the fact that we could find out where that exact book had come from. They were even more excited by the idea that we could tag our unwanted books, “release them,” and then (hopefully) track them as they made their way to new homes.

The timing is perfect, since we’re in the midst of a “clean sweep” operation here—going from a study, a guest room, and a shared room for the boys to separate rooms for each of them, and the study/guest room consolidated into the room that used to be theirs. It’s been a great catalyst for cleaning up and cleaning out some of our possessions, and a lot of those are books that are long overdue for new homes and new readers.

So if you find a wild book with a BCID tag in it, do the right thing—go online and record it on the site, so that my kids (or others like us) will know what happened to their formerly beloved books. And think about releasing some of your own—it’s easy enough to print labels and affix them to the books. You can register each book individually (they make it easy; enter the ISBN number and they attempt to retrieve not only the bibliographic info but also the cover art), or, if you have a lot of books, you can print pre-numbered labels and let the book recipients fill in the info when they get the book.

Oh…and if you’re here in Rochester, come say hi on Tuesday at the Bookcrossing Meetup. I’ll be there, probably with my 9yo in tow.

Posted at 9:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1)
categories: Rochester | social software

Monday, 1 December 2003

what a way to start the quarter

Weather Channel forecast for Dec 1 03, showing snow, snow, and more snow.

Posted at 8:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Saturday, 29 November 2003

peek into my neighborhood

Just found a webcam at the West Henrietta Baptist Church, about a mile from my house. Gives a good sense of what the weather is like here. And today it’s not very nice. (Weez, you owe me big-time…the drive to your house this morning to feed the animals was not fun…took me over an hour round trip!)

Hard to believe that the break is almost over. In only two days, the winter quarter begins. And I’m not nearly as ready as I’d like. The course syllabi are starting to take shape, and the courseware’s been updated a bit (still working on a “public” version—what I’ve got now is pretty customized to work with my databases and server setup, so that things like office hours get pulled from a central place). But there’s still lots of work to do in organizing the order of content presentation, thinking through the readings, deciding on assignments, and getting my head into the professorial, performance-focused place it needs to be on Monday.

So today is course-prep day. A good day to have a fire in the fireplace, a cup of hot tea, and a wireless network.

(For other real-time views of Rochester, here’s a list of local webcams.)

Posted at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
categories: Rochester

Sunday, 27 July 2003

free local wifi!

Had breakfast with a friend on Friday at the Bagel Bin, a bagel and coffee shop around the corner from his house (and just down the street from my mom and sister). He had his Powerbook open when I got here, so I asked if they had wifi access there. He nodded. So I asked what they were charging. “Nothing,” he replied. Woohoo!

The wifi is being provided by Forza Networks, which looks like it will be expanding into a variety of other locations in Rochester soon (including local government buildings and hotels). I did have to register with basic information about myself (no credit card, though). After that, it’s a simple sign-in.

Seems that Forza is successfully convincing local businesses that providing this kind of service for free is a wise marketing decision. I’m an excellent case in point for them—I’ve been taking my kids to the Starbucks across the street almost every weekend for several years. But based on the free wifi, I’ll be switching locations. Everybody wins. (Except Starbucks, with its overpriced TMobile access…)

Posted at 4:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
categories: Rochester
Liz sipping melange at Cafe Central in Vienna