Recently in idle thoughts Category

things that make me go "yay!"

Despite the negative purchasing experience, we love, love, love our Scion xB. Gerald keeps coming up with excuses to run errands in it because it's so much fun to drive. The sound system rocks, we love the XM radio, and it handles really nicely. Fuel economy isn't fabulous, but it's much better than the Tribeca. Currently we're getting 26.5mpg average with almost all city driving. The Tribeca was around 19mpg. Yay Scion!

The one aggravating thing is that many stereo and navigation controls are disabled when the car is moving. I understand the safety reasons for this, but since so often there's somebody in the passenger seat, it would be nice to be able to override. Happily, I found step by step directions on how to do exactly that on one of the Scion xB forums. Yay internet forums! Yay Google!

We also bought a new mattress last month. After experiencing sticker shock at the local mattress stores (do you know how hard it is to find a halfway decent king-sized mattress for under $1500?), and discovering that I really liked the memory foam mattresses (which run $2500 and up), we ended up taking a look at Much to my amazement, they sell a 14" pillowtop king-size memory foam mattress for under $700. (With the discount on mattresses that day, and coupon, our total cost for the mattress, including shipping, was $650.) So we took a chance and bought one. The verdict? We love it. It's comfortable for both of us, and I particularly love the lack of motion transfer when either of us gets in or out of bed. I'm sleeping better, and waking with fewer aches and pains. Yay Overstock! Yay online shopping!

And finally, we had a meeting today for the faculty and staff associated with the lab for social computing and it was great. So much positive energy, so many good ideas, so much potential for us to kick ass this year. Yay RIT Lab for Social Computing! Yay colleagues!

random scenes from my week

Scene: Lawley Living Room

Lane: Was Michelangelo's name "Michael Angelo," or was it all one name?
Me: All one name.
Lane: (after a pause) Cool. I think I'd like to change my name to "Bobjimmy"


Scene: Rosenblum/Lawley Family Seder

Me: We're thinking about a trip out to Ellensburg (WA) next month.
My Aunt: Why's that?
Me: I have a friend there who directs the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute, and we wanted to boys to meet him and attend one of their "chimposiums."
My Aunt: (clearly interested now) Who's your friend?
Me: Roger Fouts
My Aunt: Really?!? How do you know him?
Me: (awkward pause, while I figure out how to say this in a way that doesn't sound too weird, and fail) We met in a video game.


Scene: IM with a friend

Me: [long story about frustrating negotations surrounding my return (or not) to RIT]
Her: That's ridiculous. They should absolutely give you more money.
Her: And a lower teaching load.
Her: And...and...a PONY!!!

four things: there is no escape

I thought I'd escaped that whole "four things" meme that had cropped up on many of the blogs I read, but I was wrong. Lilia tagged me! (And I miss having lunch with her, too...) So here's my entry--a good way to end a busy week.

Four jobs I've had:

  • McDonald's drive-through order taker
  • Student director of the University of Michigan Campus Information Center
  • Government and Law Bibliographer for the Library of Congress Congressional Information Service
  • Visiting researcher at Microsoft

Four movies I can watch repeatedly:

  • Casablanca
  • Fantasia
  • Bull Durham
  • The Matrix

Four places I've lived: (Lilia's said "liked," but the other posts I've seen were "lived")

  • Buffalo, NY
  • Ann Arbor, MI
  • Randolph, AL
  • Kenmore, WA

Four TV shows I like:

  • Lost
  • Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Northern Exposure (back in the day...)

Four places I've vacationed:

  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Meteora, Greece
  • Negril, Jamaica
  • Eastham, MA

Four favorite dishes:

  • Latkes (aka "potato pancakes")
  • Chicken Makhni (aka "butter chicken")
  • Filet mignon
  • Tiramisu

Four sites I visit daily:

  • GMail
  • Google
  • Bloglines

Four places I would rather be right now:

  • On a boat in Puget Sound
  • Weez's dining room
  • My mother's kitchen
  • Hiking a mountain. Any mountain.

Four bloggers I am tagging:

things to do while traveling

  • cull inbox (made serious progress on this)
  • work on tomorrow's slides (yes, I'm a chronic procrastinator...)
  • gaze out window (the cascades were gorgeous, but it's been mostly cloudy since then)
  • listen to selections from Song's music library (currently enjoying Better Than Ezra)
  • feel grateful (once again) for my wonderful Etymotic earphones
  • wonder why the large woman seated on the aisle looks so sour (who knew you could purse your lips disapprovingly even while you sleep?)
  • consider reading novel for book group (didn't get any further than consideration; funny how "needing" to read something makes it instantly unattractive)
  • read obligatory mindless magazines (today's purchases: People, O, and Redbook)
  • try to decide whether for a 48 hour trip it makes more sense to try to keep my mind thinking it's on PST rather than EST (not sure I can really control this, though)

life used to be so hard... 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.

peace and quiet

I seldom get quiet time in my own house--when I'm here, the boys and Gerald are usually here, too. I don't wake up before them, and Gerald's still watching TV most nights when I go to bed.

So the fact that I'm sitting here on my couch, with no children fighting, television playing, or game soundtracks in the background is worth savoring.

In a few minutes I've got an IRC chat with my students, and the next few days are stacked up with unfinished work--grading, data analysis, sorting through piles of paper...

But right now, it's quiet. And I'm happy.

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.

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...

busy but happy

Leaving the office now after teaching, advising, and mentoring. Going home to help the boys construct a brownie pizza (watch Flickr for photos of the process later today) and eat dinner. Then back to RIT for the social computing club meeting (6pm @ Java Wally's), then off to an Al-Anon meeting (my first in two weeks, and boy have I been missing it), then home again.

All good things.

I'm busy but happy. And my sink is still shining.

vacation, all i ever needed

There are precious few times when I'm able to sit alone, quietly, in my own house. But this week is different. I'm out of school for the break, and the kids are in school through tomorrow. Every day I've watched them leave for school at 7:30am, followed soon after by Gerald leaving for the gym and the day's errands. And then I've settled myself into my corner of the couch, diet vanilla coke at hand and powerbook on lap. I've had time to read, to think, to write (three posts in a row from me at Many-to-Many, no less--I've never managed that before ), to play.

I'm more relaxed right now than I've been in a long time. No big trips planned for a month or two, no major holiday shopping to do (we're trying very hard to simplify the holidays). Some baking that I need to do in the morning and deliver to the women who work in our department office, a few gifts for the boys that need to be wrapped.

Amazingly, I'm almost caught up on blog reading, having plowed through hundreds of accumulated blog posts, not to mention Flickr photos from my friends. And I've even had time to follow interesting links! Tonight Ross posted a Flickr image of a new toy from Ambient Devices, makers of interesting objects that monitor information and present it to you in an environmental form--globes that glow different colors based on the stock market, cubes that reflect outside temperatures based on their hue. This new one, though, is the first one that I've found myself really lusting after. It's called the Executive Dashboard, and it uses a retro analog needle approach to show you any three of a number of possible information flows in real-time--from number of email messages in your inbox to traffic congestion in your area to whether or not a "special someone" on your buddy list. Too cool.

Some of my technolust of the season has already been satisfied, however. Gerald (who's constitutionally incapable of buying a gift and not giving it to the recipient immediately, and thus usually shops on Christmas eve) got me the Bluetooth headset I've been wanting. And it rocks! Works like a charm, and might even help protect me from all that nasty DNA damage I've been reading about...

And now I suppose I should actually go to sleep, since the boys will be waking me up tomorrow at 7:15 to say goodbye. Of course, I can just go back to sleep after more day of true vacation bliss. Yum.

my online life in 26 25 links

urban ennui?

It's not uncommon to see urbanites complaining about the relentless boredom of the suburbs, comparing it to the life and energy of the cities in which they live.

But I was struck today when reading Alex Wright's description of a meditation retreat he took this fall. I found his post via Molly, who pulled out this quote:

...But when you sit there for two weeks of staring into the void, doing nothing, accomplishing nothing, what slowly dawns on you is this: that we spend our whole lives looking for a result that never comes. We try to improve ourselves, get noticed, get rich, get a better house, a better relationship. Most of our lives are spent trying to change the situation, or to change ourselves. And none of those strategies ever seem to work. Most of us walk around in a perpetual state of mild disappointment. This is also known as samsara.

In my experience (limited though it may be), this sense of constant unfulfilled pursuit is much more common in the city dwellers I know than it is in my fellow suburbanites. Me, I'm no longer looking for a result that never comes--I have the things I most want all around me. Two beautiful, healthy, wonderful kids. A husband who loves me. A job that's challenging and fulfilling. Friends who make me laugh and keep me sane.

This is not to say I don't want to continue to improve myself...but it's not a search, it's not a desire for a result. It's simply part of who I am, of my process of living.

I don't have to travel 22 hours to get away from the kind of perpetual searching and reinvention that Alex describes. Today I can sit quietly in my simple suburban house, looking at my very unsophisticated christmas tree, and know that the lovely lunch of chicken soup and brisket that I had with my family at my mother's house today is about as good as it gets. And I find in myself no disappointment at that realization--only gratitude.


ps I should add that I very much enjoyed the description that Alex gave of his retreat, and can certainly see and appreciate the value of such an experience. I was only responding to the perception of widespread dissatisfacation in everyday life.

reasons to be happy

  1. My web design class this quarter has a critical mass of interesting, engaged, talented students--which, in turn, makes me want to engage with them, which gets a wonderful cycle going. I'll be looking forward to seeing their post-break projects.
  2. There's a little bit of blue sky outside my window right now--a rarity at this time of year.
  3. I have full-spectrum lights in my office, which compensates for the usual lack of sun.
  4. Party Shuffle on iTunes.
  5. The family latke recipe. If you're nice, I might even share it here. You would be so lucky if I did.
  6. Weez and I made it to the gym this morning, and managed a serious workout between giggles.
  7. An exciting announcement about social computing at RIT is forthcoming later this week.

There's more, but I'm off to run errands and light candles. Ho, ho, ho.

i suppose i should be flattered...

...that somebody cares enough to want to google bomb me!

Many thanks to Rob Page for (a) catching it, and (b) letting me know.

Update, Saturday 11/13
For those of you who are coming to the site after having received a comment on your blog with my URL in it, here's an explanation.

I did not post the comments. They were generated by a kind of spamming software which is usually used to promote commercial web sites. In this case, the software is being put to use by someone (I don't know who) that's upset with either me or my writing, and is trying to accomplish two things. First, they want to associate my blog with the unpleasant descriptive term that's being placed in the 'name' field on the comment, so that when people search for that term my site will be the first result. (That's called "Googlebombing.") Second, they want unsuspecting site owners to see the comments, assume I'm just another spammer, and add my site's URL to their blacklist.

There's not much I can do about it, except for enjoy the surge in traffic to my site, and hope that people will take the time to check out my site before reflexively blacklisting it.

the art of the apology

I almost wrote a post yesterday entitled "i'm a search chump." In it, I was going to complain about some poor communication between microsoft's search team and the "Search Champs" group regarding this week's launch of the new MSN Search beta.

But before I posted it, I called Robert Scoble--one of the few people associated with the Microsoft side of the Search Champ group whom I genuinely trusted--and told him what was going on and why I was upset. A few hours later--perhaps because of Robert, perhaps because of some email that was exchanged between the "Champs" and the project team--I had three extremely gracious and constructive apologies in my mailbox (one from Robert, and two from MSN team members). All my indignation evaporated in the face of such a positive response.

It got me thinking about the art of the gracious apology. It's an art that's practiced by too few, but which often yields amazing rewards for those who master it. So this morning at breakfast I mentioned to my husband that I was going to write this post on the power of a good apology. He looked at me, startled, and held up the front page of the local paper that he was reading--where there was an AP story about the value of doctors' apologies. (It's in today's Salon, too...) The author, Lindsay Tanner, provides a graphic example of the financial value of an apology:

The hospitals in the University of Michigan Health System have been encouraging doctors since 2002 to apologize for mistakes. The system's annual attorney fees have since dropped from $3 million to $1 million, and malpractice lawsuits and notices of intent to sue have fallen from 262 filed in 2001 to about 130 per year, said Rick Boothman, a former trial attorney who launched the practice there.

Unfortunately, many of the people I deal with personally and professionally haven't figured this basic bit of relationship management out. They spend far more trying to explain or excuse their actions, and end up making situations worse.

I overheard a smaller-scale example of this on my way home from Chicago. I was camped out near a power outlet in the Newark airport, waiting for my delayed flight home, when a man sitting across from me answered his cell phone. I could only hear his side of the conversation, but it was easy enough to extrapolate the rest of it. I've added (in italics) what I was thinking as I listened...

"Oh, hi!"

said with some obvious pleasure. clearly someone he likes talking to.

"What? Oh! Well, I looked for you, but you'd disappeared."
"Well, I went on to lunch, I assumed I'd see you there."

uh-oh. you know what they say about assumptions, right?

"What was I supposed to do? I didn't see you anywhere."
"Oh...I guess I had my phone off because of the presentation."

dude! this is obviously the part where you APOLOGIZE! get a clue! i am so not surprised there's no ring on your finger.

"I don't see why you're so upset!"

oh, no. you're making things worse! you don't have to see why she's upset to acknowledge that she is. would a simple "i'm sorry" kill you, here?

"Okay. Bye."

uh-oh. that was abrupt. he's screwed.

He put the phone away with a bemused and frustrated look on his face.

Odds that he's been forgiven by the woman he was talking to? Close to zero. (No, I'm not assuming; somewhere in there he referred to her by name.)

Chances that he has any idea how badly he handled that? Equally close to zero.

The words of Elton John's classic song came immediately to mind:

It's sad, so sad
It's a sad, sad situation
And it's getting more and more absurd
It's sad, so sad
Why can't we talk it over
Oh it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word

At any rate, I'm glad that Microsoft still seems committed to working with the impressive bunch of people it brought together for the Search Champs meeting. It's a smart and interesting group, and it would be a shame to see them lose the goodwill they gained so quickly. And if they're half as good at building products as they are at crafting apologies, I'd say Google should be getting worried right about now.

Oh...and if you've made a mistake yourself? Don't just say "oops." That's not enough. Own up to your actions. Acknowledge what you've done wrong, so the person knows that you're aware of the problem. And then say what you'll do differently in the future, so they know it won't happen again. Trust me on this. It works. Really.


Ever since my brother-in-law's death last December it feels like I've been on a constant rollercoaster (one designed by Escher, apparently, that goes mostly downhill). Every time it felt like things were looking up again, there was an unexpected plunge. Serious illnesses, too many deaths, more loss than I was really able to deal with effectively. One friend told me it felt as though when Howard died last year I'd gone away, and that I'd never really made it all the way back. And she was right. The most recent bad news--of Dave's death last month--felt like the last straw, and it knocked me completely off the tracks.

So it's with some relief that I'm able to report today that not only have we been tragedy-free for several weeks now, but that I've actually started getting things done again! A lot of people had started to worry about me, because I'm normally a pretty responsible person--I finish projects, I meet deadlines, I stay in touch. Recently I hadn't been doing any of that.

Since Sunday I've managed to grade 35 papers and 24 web sites, finish a grant project summary for NSF, do some serious planning for a workshop I'm helping to coordinate next month at USC, coordinate travel plans for my trip to Seattle next week, have fun teaching my freshmen unix commands (really!), and spend some quality time with my family at the RIT pool. As Lane would say, "Boo yah!"

One of the best parts of getting caught up is knowing that I don't have to dread opening my email inbox, because I'm no longer trying to avoid people who need things from me.

The timing of this stabilization is particularly good, because my fall travel season is about to start...Seattle (Microsoft), then LA (Annenberg), then Chicago (ACM CSCW). And then a still-secret trip to a very cool place over Thanksgiving, which I can't blog about until after my younger son's birthday. :)

coming up for air

Still here. Just juggling too many things, so the blog has ended up last on the list of priorities. Research has been bogged down, but is starting to come together (probably because of impending deadlines). Kids' routines are getting established--music lessons, swimming lessons, grandparent time, media metering, homework, etc etc. Classes are shifting into higher gears. Responsibilities for other external activities are looming.

I'm not depressed; just overwhelmed. I'll be back.

i should be working

I have been working, actually. But I find I can only do intellectually-intensive work (like data coding) in bursts, and between those bursts I need to do something with a different piece of my brain.

Today's diversion was graphics. The favicon seems to be working; it's a piece of the site redesign I'm working on, incorporating the katakana character for "ma". I've also been playing with my revitalized iSight. At home, I'm usually the one behind the camera, so I don't show up in many photos. With the iSight, I'm the subject, and that's an entertaining novelty.

Here's today's self-portrait.


brain eaters

Whenever I'm overwhelmed with work tasks, I become far more susceptible to the siren call of brain-eating games. I lost more hours than I care to admit to WEBoggle this week. Now I find myself confronted with the ingenious InfocomBots--AIM bots that allow you to play the best of InfoComs classic text adventure games using nothing more than an AIM client. Ack!

My susceptibility to the appeal of these games was probably fueled by my recent sleeplessness and drug-induced fogginess, which in turn resulted from the annoyingly persistent cough I've not been able to shake for the past 2+ weeks. I finally went to my doctor Tuesday, and she diagnosed a bronchial inflammation. She put me on prednisone for a few days to reduce the inflammation,and I'm already sleeping better. So perhaps I'll be able to resist the siren song of online games, and get some actual work done.

off to the windy city

You know you must have done something very wrong in a past life when your business trips in January take you from Rochester to Chicago. Brrrrrr. (Not to mention the annual summer pilgrimage to Alabama; fire and ice, baby.)

But duty calls, so I'm off to O'Hare this afternoon (weather permitting), back on Saturday. This is the first in a long series of trips from here 'til the end of March. I won't have broadband on this trip, so I expect blogging will be curtailed for a bit.

On the plus side, I'll be dining with AKMA, Margaret, and Pippa on that's something to look forward to.

I'll leave you with this great quote, which I found on Sam Ruby's site today:

Classifications are so impossible, yet so darn useful.

i'm number one!

David Weinberger mentioned that Google had updated their index, so I hopped over there to do a quick ego-surf.

Yes, it's true. I'm now the number one "liz" on Google.

(When I grow up, I'll try to be more like David, who claims to have lost great respect for Google based on his sky-high pagerank.)

tonight's googlejuice update

Took another peek tonight at the search terms that are bringing people to my site--they're often informative, and sometimes quite entertaining.

Tonight I discovered that I'm currently the number one hit in Google for "hoppy toad" and the number two hit for "happy dance." Great juxtaposition!

It makes me a little sad to see that there are anumber of people getting to my site based on searches like "os x mail has lost all my emails"--I feel their pain. Wish I had better news for them.

new music purchases

I splurged on two albums this week on the iTunes music store. The first was Sarah McLachlan's Afterglow, and the other was eastmountainsouth's self-titled album. (I really wish there was a way to link directly into the iTunes store from a web page. Is there? Anybody know?) (Thanks, Jay!)

Both were recommended to me by Simon Phipps, and his advice was right on. I was fairly certain I'd like Afterglow, but the eastmountainsouth music really caught me by surprise. I described it to my husband as "Cowboy Junkies meet Sarah McLachlan," but after hearing it he corrected me, saying it was more like "Cowboy Junkies meet Natalie Merchant."

Either way, we like it, a lot.

We also both really liked the eastmountainsouth web site; there are four streamable songs on there, and a nice scrolling montage of photos of the band. I'm not usually a big fan of web sites in constant motion, but this one really works.

happiness is...


  • An "imperial latte"--with beautiful foamed milk swirling around on the top of the mug, just like in the picture.
  • A double chocolate chip muffin
  • Sunshine (!) streaming through the windows of the coffeeshop
  • Free wifi
  • The end of grading in sight.

Update, 1:28pm

Grading done. (Well, except for participation grades, which require a spreadsheet that hasn't been delivered to me yet. But the part that requires thinking is done.) Woohoo! Too tired to celebrate properly, so will instead sit here savoring the coffee for a little while, and looking out the window at the traffic on Park Avenue.

I must say, Spin Caffé gets high marks for service and quality, as well as their brilliant decision to provide free Wifi. I will most definitely be back. Perhaps if enough people vote with their feet--and wallets--more places will realize that wifi is a valuable thing to provide to their customers, and that it shoudl be thought of as an amenity, not a marketable commodity.

number portability and telephone books

Maybe I'm anachronistic, but I like having a telephone directory. A printed one. I look things up in it a lot (white pages as well as yellow pages). One of my great frustrations with cellular numbers is that they aren't in a directory--printed or online.

With the upcoming number portability, I suspect more people will begin moving from land lines to cellular-only, which leads me to wonder what's going to happen to directories, directory assistance, and the like. If I move my land-line phone number to a cellular provider, will it still be in the phone book? If I give up my land-line entirely, will people be able to find my number at all if I don't give it to them? Will phone books become anachronistic? Will I have to pay for each directory lookup because I'll have to go through a third-party provider for the information?

blogging schizophrenia

On the one hand, there's value in having single-topic weblogs that can provide links and commentary on a specific issue. On the other hand, it's really hard to try to split my thoughts into topical areas and post them to different weblogs.

So the quiet here isn't just the insane travel schedule of the past few weeks, it's also the cognitive challenge of figuring out how to be a contributor to Many-to-Many and while still maintaining my own site.

I suspect that this will get easier over time. I may end up "cross-posting" items between the two sites, or I may simply get a better sense of what goes where.

At any rate, I'm here in Monterey, where it looks like it's going to be a beautiful day. I stayed up late last night so that I could shift time zones more effectively, and woke up a little before 6am PST. I missed the sunrise, alas, so I'll probably get up a little earlier tomorrow.

My talks aren't until Tuesday, so today will be spent grading student projects and then exploring Monterey a bit. Tomorrow and Tuesday I'll attend conference activities, and Tuesday night I'll fly back home. I've got a four hour layover in SFO...any experienced travellers know of open WiFi networks there, or particularly pleasant places to sit and work for a while?

search engine surprises

Every now and then, I poke around my referral logs to see what search terms are bringing users to my site. I was quite amazed to see some of the searches in Google that currently bring my site up on the first page

better not look down

Tonight I'm listening to B.B. King's Better Not Look Down:

She said: "Oh B.B., sometimes it's so hard to pull things together. Could you tell me what you think I ought to do?"
And I said:
Better not look down,
if you want to keep on flying
Put the hammer down,
keep it full speed ahead
Better not look back,
or you might just wind up crying
You can keep it moving,
if you don't look down

Which I thought of when I read this quote from a female CS student in the book Unlocking the Clubhouse:

You have this bridge you have to walk over, and you just don't look down... There were cases when I started looking down and it was really scary. I'd think "WHY am I putting myself through this?"... But I have to do this, anyway, because I have to.

I know how that student feels. At least once a year, someone who knows me asks me how I manage to juggle everything that I do--being a wife, a mother, a friend, a colleague, a teacher, a student, a mentor, a researcher, a writer. I shrug, and say I don't know. And really, I don't. Because if I stopped to think about how I juggle all these roles and responsibilities, I'd freeze. I wouldn't be able to do it. I'd focus on the impossibility, rather than the reality.

go bills!

Yes, I'm a Buffalo Bills fan. Grew up in Buffalo, it's in my blood. It's hard sometimes...Buffalo's had some rough years.

But right now, Buffalo is cleaning New England's clock, 21-0 in the second quarter, and I'm enjoying it thoroughly.

This could be a good year for football.

does she or doesn't she?

She does.

Today it was Féria "Carmel Kiss" (yes, that's how they spelled it on the box, though they seem to have it right on the web site), which L'oréal describes as "Dark Iridiscent Blonde: A deeper blonde that's never brassy." It looked a little dark on the box, but it turned out just right. Took away the lines between my sun-bleached, too strong highlights and my natural dark blonde/light brown hair, and--true to the box's claim--did it without making the color too flat. Don't know if I'd call it "pure prismatic color," but it does have some depth, and I like it. (Might add a photo later; camera batteries are recharging right now.)

So, I guess I'm ready to face another school year tomorrow. (Cue James Brown..."I feel good...") In the rush to get the kids and myself ready for fall, I've let the blog go a bit lately. Will try to get back in the habit of posting regularly.

But for now I'll go back to populating the course blog for my Intro to Multimedia class, mentally sorting through my clothes to choose an outfit for tomorrow, and spending my last few hours of summer vacation with my family on this gorgeous afternoon.

honey, i'm home!

Yes, those of you who've seen me hovering around in AIM--or noticed my recent post to Many-to-Many--have probably surmised correctly that I'm home again.

view.jpgWe had a truly lovely vacation. The Westin Our Lucaya was everything it promised to be. Compare the photo on the left, taken from the balcony of our room the day we arrived, to the one in the previous entry. A good portion of each day was spent sitting out on that balcony, enjoying the view, the sound of the surf, and the breeze off the ocean. (The phrase "Bahama Breeze" makes a lot more sense to me now. There's a constant cooling breeze that makes the heat and humidity much easier to bear, even if you're part polar bear like me.)

We had a really lovely time. Those of you with small children will appreciate how nice it is to have four completely child-free days. Add to that the fact that we brought no cell phones, and no computers, and you've got the recipe for uninterrupted bliss. (We did bring the camera, as evidenced by this entry. But we bough a bigger Flash card so we could store everything 'til we got home.) I did falter once, and briefly check my email on the third day at an internet cafe. But it was so depressing that it took several Goombay Smashes (gold rum, coconut rum, and pineapple juice) to clear my mind again, so I didn't make that mistake again.

So, what did we do? Sat on the beach. Played in the surf. Floated in the pool. Sat on the balcony. (I managed to start--and finish--Cryptonomicon on this trip. If you've seen the book, you know that means I had a lot of time to read.)

In addition to the time spent sitting on the balcony, we wandered around a lot at the Port Lucaya Marketplace, across the street from the hotel. We bought rum there so we could make our own tropical drinks in the room. We ate at a number of restaurants--Fatman's Nephew, Zorba's, Caribbean Caf�--so as to avoid the high prices at the resort. We sat in Count Basie Square and enjoyed the people watching...and, at night, the music.

On our last night, we went on a "Sunset Cruise" on the Bahama Mama. We quickly found out why it's called the "Booze Cruise." We actually had a wonderful time, and I've got a great story to tell about that...but it will have to wait for another blog entry.

So now I'm home--tanned, rested, and with summer vacation just beginning. Expect more blogging, natch. And reading. And swimming. And maybe even some coding. But bed. Parenting calls.

kicking the carb habit

Gerald's been on a low-carb diet (actually, a low Glycemic Index diet) for about a month now, at our doctor's urging. It's not Atkins...just an attempt to stick to foods with a low 'glycemic index.' I was a little skeptical, but in that month he's lost 15 pounds. That's pretty impressive.

Last weekend he convinced me to try it. Considering I'm the queen of carbs, that was not an easy decision to make. Much to my surprise, sticking with it has been fairly easy. We've been eating lots of fish, chicken, and beef. For lunch, I've been opting for fruit and yogurt parfaits. I'm eating hearty breakfasts of eggs, cheese, and sausage. And for desserts I've been having cookies & cream drinks made with whey isolate (high protein supplement).

I did this in moderation. I started skipping all the breads, potatoes, pastas, chips, cookies, etc that I generally eat, and focused instead on the meat, cheese, fruit, etc. When we got sandwiches at the faculty meeting, for example, I ate the roast beef and cheese, but skipped the bread--and the cookies. (But when I attended a luncheon where excellent desserts were served, I did indulge in some cheesecake!)

I stayed away from the scale during the week, but finally my curiousity got the best of me, and I hopped on yesterday morning. (It's a very nice scale. A Tanita body fat measurement scale that he got me for my birthday.) Much to my amazement, I'd lost at least 2 pounds. (The scale said 3.5 pounds, but I know there's some fluctuation based on water retention, etc--so I'm rounding down.)

So I guess there's something to this approach. Will stick with it for a bit, and see what happens.

music appreciation

Sitting at home grading web projects this morning. Gerald's got the digital cable radio playing, and this is the first time we've (well, I've) listened to the "Party Favorites" channel. Too fun. From R.E.M.'s It's the End of the World As We Know It to The Bangles Walk Like An Egyptian to Jerry Lee Lewis' Great Balls of Fire , it's an unending, commercial-free stream of upbeat music that's ideal to hum along to while doing unpleasant tasks.

This is the kind of thing that makes me really like the new Apple Music Store. If I hear a song that piques my interest, I can hop online and buy it for .99. Instant gratification. I like instant gratification. Patience has never been my forté. And in my life these days, time is at a premium. I don't have time to go to the store and find the album I want. I don't have time to launch Limewire and search for a downloadable version of the song. Apple's made it fast, easy, and reliable.

I understand Joi's concerns about "giving in" to DRM. On the other hand, after spending a good bit of time (a) testing out the the impact of the DRM scheme, and (b) reading about it, I don't find Apple's implementation unreasonable or intrusive. At the end of the day, I can still do everything I would have done with a "non-protected" MP3--burn it to a disc, make a disc from a playlist, share it with a friend, play it on my iPod.

The music selection hasn't been a big issue for me...probably because my tastes aren't really cutting edge. My first test was to look for Little Feat, and I found lots of their stuff, which made me happy. (I don't need it, since we own all of their husband is buddies with the band. And yes, they're still touring. Still one of the best live bands in the world. And coming to Rochester next month. Woohoo!) Then I went looking for the song I'd heard at the drag show the night before. Bingo! Less than five minutes later Apple had my credit card number, and I had Bette Midler singing "I'm beautiful, dammit!" on my computer.

Like many others writing about this, I'd like to see the price drop a little, but for now, the convenience and novelty make it worth the .99.

living in the real world

Lately, I've felt a little too much like a denizen of the Matrix...jacked into a virtual world via my laptop, while the rest of me floats along, disengaged from the physical world.

That's not good.

Not that I don't enjoy and get tangible benefits from my online interactions. From the new colleagues I'm finding in the world of social software, to the friends and family I'm seldom co-located with, it gives me valuable connections and conversations. As long as there's balance, it's good. But lately there hasn't been.

This weekend, I got embroiled in two simultaneous group negative energy exchanges via e-mail. One I've already talked about; the other is pretty boring work-related stuff. But by Sunday afternoon, I felt as though the computer was sucking all the positive energy out of me.

bette.jpgHappily, I do have a life not on the screen. So Sunday at 6pm I closed my laptop, and headed off to the RIT gym to meet Elouise. After a brief workout, we spent several hours coloring our hair (we had better experiences with L'Oreal Couleur Experte than Meg did, I think; I went with Butterscotch Crème, while Elouise opted for Caramel Glaze) and painting our nails. (A poor woman's spa experience, to be sure, but it was fun.) Then we headed off to an AIDS benefit at a local club, where we were treated to a wonderful drag show. The performance I enjoyed most was to the sounds of Bette Midler's wonderful "I'm Beautiful (Dammit)," from her classic Bathhouse Betty album. (I bought it last night from the Apple Music Store...pretty cool. More on that later.)

One of the things about drag shows is how they make you really think about what constitutes femininity. There was a drag queen on the dance floor--but not in the show--who was one of the most stunning creatures I've ever seen. S/he was graceful, elegant, captivating. It's a little depressing to look at someone and think to yourself "that man is a more beautiful woman than I'll ever be!"

But it was an excellent break from virtuality. The next morning, over coffee, a colleague asked me if I was okay. "Fine," I said. "But...why do you ask?" "You dropped out of the discussion on xxxxx pretty abruptly last night...I thought something might be wrong."

No, I thought. Something was right. Taking a break, knowing when to break the connection, that's important. "Step away from the keyboard. Now. Nobody has to get hurt."

ice, ice baby

It took me 20 minutes to crack and scrape the ice off my car in the parking lot last night. Below-freezing temps and a thunderstorm last night added more glaze to everything--our window screens this morning looked like frosted glass. The kids' school closed (the roads are well-salted, but the buses were coated with ice).

Ice storms aren't frequent here, but they aren't unheard of. There are few things that are so simultaneously beautiful and destructive. The ice makes the trees and plants extraordinary to look at--but at the same time, it breaks branches, uproots trees, and can cause even the most cautious explorer to go head-over-heels if they risk a walk through the wondrous winter lanscape.

My colleague Mike Axelrod has posted some great photos on his blog.

Update, 4/5
Mike has posted more photos, in an entry entitled "Falling Tree Fells Local Gnome." We lost most of the crown of the big maple in our front yard, alas. But the ice has finally melted, and we didn't lose power. Small blessings.

i got the box right here

I seldom repost items in their entirety, but this is so good...

From Greg Costikyan's blog, which is called "Games * Design * Art * Culture", and should be added to your blogroll immediately.

I GOT THE BOX RIGHT HERE sung to the tune of "I Got the Horse Right Here"
by Greg Costikyan, with apologies to Frank Loesser

I trust in Microsoft, I got a Wintel box,
We've come a long way since the days of DOS.
We got the user base, we got the apps that rate
And all the best games you can play to date.

My box is best, there's no doubt it beats the rest.
It triumphs on every test.
My box is best.

I love my Macintosh, because Jobs's da boss
And ease of use puts it at the top.
Besides it makes the scene because it's tangerine
The chicks all dig it, it's a cool machine.

(Repeat CHORUS)

I code for BSD, because it's free, you see
And open source makes for stability
I email rms, I got his net address
And there ain't no doubt my OS is best.

(Repeat CHORUS)

(Repeat three main verses as a round, ending in CHORUS).


more evidence of procrastination

Top Ten Lies Told By Graduate Students:

10. It doesn't bother me at all that my college roommate is making $80,000 a year on Wall Street.
9. I'd be delighted to proofread your book/chapter/article.
8. My work has a lot of practical importance.
7. I would never date an undergraduate.
6. Your latest article was so inspiring.
5. I turned down a lot of great job offers to come here.
4. I just have one more book to read and then I'll start writing.
3. The department is giving me so much support.
2. My job prospects look really good.
1. No really, I'll be out of here in only two more years.

thanks, i needed that

(a laugh, that is)

These two things provided just what I needed at the end of a week that's been far too serious.

First, this extraordinary abridged version of Bush's state of the union addres. I laughed so hard tears ran down my cheeks. (via Alex)

Second, Mark Pilgrim's comments on a Mac OS X article:

Mac OS X Hints: An early review of iMovie 3. "It is now possible for a Mac user with a fast machine to create beautiful Video CDs in faster than real time." Amazing! I�ve always wanted to work faster than real time.

lessons learned

This Fogelberg song has been playing in my head for a week or so now. Had to write it down. My memories of it were triggered by my recent experiences with workplace politics, but the lyrics seem particularly appropriate in light of this weekend's tragedy.

Lessons learned are like Bridges burned
You only need to cross them but once
Is the knowledge gained
Worth the price of the pain?
Are the spoils worth the cost of the hunt?
Are the spoils worth the cost of the hunt? Borne
On the first warms winds of
Feelings newly found
But remember
Don't look down
Take as much as you think you ought to
Give just as much as you can
Don't forget what your failures have taught you
Or else you'll learn them all over again
Or else you'll have to learn them
All over again.

was it good for you?

So my post on Mark Pilgrim's writing--and his response--got me thinking about what makes writing "good." And that questioning continues today, with my receipt of a request to republish one of my essays from grad school in a rhetoric textbook.

I'm sure this topic has been discussed at length in thousands of books, essays, and weblogs. But what the heck...I don't really want to go out and read what everybody else said. I just want to think about what I think.

To me, what makes writing "good" is very difficult for a writer to assess about his or her own work. Writing is intended to communicate--if the receiver of that communication deems it "good," isn't that the salient charcteristic? Can I write "good" paper for a class that doesn't get an A, if the professor for whom I wrote it didn't think it was good? If, later, someone wants to publish it, does it now "become" good? Is "good writing" in the eye of the reader, or the creator? Mark says about his writing, "if, indeed, it is [good]." But if I've just said that I think it is good, do I have the final word?


(If a story is written in a for(r)est, and noone is there to read it, can it be good?)

the sincerest form of flattery

Kind of entertaining...

My IT web page


Colleague #1
Colleague #2



Things I don't want to do today, but don't have much choice about...

  1. Grade projects
  2. Prepare class materials
  3. Go outside (it's really cold out there)
  4. Wait for a tenure decision (due at the end of February)
  5. Call my old hosting company (CIHost) to argue about billing errors
  6. Call the pediatrician about my younger son's persistent cough
  7. Laundry
  8. Return phone calls
  9. Blog
  10. Answer e-mail
  11. Open my door

Seasonal affective disorder? Or just all-around crankiness? You be the judge. (Saw a bumper sticker I loved last week--"I'm not just A bitch--I'm THE bitch. And that's *MISS* bitch to you." -- or, in my case, *Dr.* Bitch...)


This quote was at the beginning of a chapter in a book on XSLT I'm currently reading:

This is indeed a useless tree. This is why it has grown to such a height. The wise should take this as an example. -Zhuang Zi


game addiction

Hi, my name is Liz, and I'm a game-aholic.

It's true. I am incredibly susceptible to the siren song of RPGs, especially those that emphasize exploration and communication rather than battles and agility. Among my various passions have been Zork (the real Zork, the early Zork, the "it is dark, there are grues" Zork) and the rest of the InfoCom games, DragonBane for the Palm, and all of the Pokémon gameboy games. In fact, when we bought my son a GBC for Christmas three years ago (when he was in kindergarten, and caught the Pokémon bug), my husband had to go out two days later and buy me my own, because Lane wasn't getting to play.

It's a classic addict's pattern...once I start a game, I can't stop playing. To "just say no" seems an impossibility. I become immersed in the game. I want to master every task, learn every inch of the terrain, solve every puzzle, learn every cheat code. I can spend hours playing, to the detriment of other things going on around me.

This time around, it's Animal Crossing that's captured me, and dragged me into the abyss. What is it about games like this that I find so seductive? Clearly, this one has some holding power, despite its lousy graphics and clunky interface. Not only are the kids and I fighting over the controller, but a bit of reading online made it clear that plenty of folks have been sucked into this silly virtual world.

When my husband ridiculed the less-than-realistic graphics, it got me to thinking about something Alvy Ray Smith said at Pop!Tech this year. "At Pixar, we have a word for things that are almost human, but not quite: monster." Perhaps that's when games like Pokémon and Animal Crossing work for me...they don't make any pretense at being lifelike. The cartoonish world they offer is unpretentious, uncomplicated, easy to navigate. The rules are clear. The FAQs are online. Unlike my real life, for which I've yet to find a comprehensive FAQ.

would you like caffeine with that t-1 connection?

Testing out T-Mobile's "hotspot" connection in my local Starbucks today, since RIT is closed for the break and I can't use the free wifi on campus. I've got a free "daypass" to test this network (they gave out coupons months ago, and I saved mine), and another free daypass from my husband to escape the squabbling siblings in my living room. That, a non-fat vanilla latte, and I'm one happy camper. connection keeps dropping, intermittently. Every 3-20 minutes (length varies), the IP hiccups, and the provider logs me out. I log backin, and everything's fine. But it's playing havoc with my attempts to IM from my comfy chair, so I've given up on iChat and have turned my attention back to my poor, neglected blog.

My mind really has been a blank regarding blogging lately. Everything I have to say has seemed so confined in interest, or a violation of someone's privacy, or just plain dumb. So I've been surfing other people's blogs, becoming increasingly convinced that the rest of the blogging world is infinitely more articulate than I am. (No, this is not an attempt to elicit encouraging messages. Really. It's a phase. It will pass. But if you were thinking of sending one, thanks. :-)

I brought my stack of XSLT books to Starbucks with me, and have yet to crack one. Guess I'm still not ready to stop being on vacation. But once I am, the two priorities are (a) XSLT in preparation for class, and (b) figuring out if it's realistic to try to go for a blog-related grant, given that most of the people who expressed interest are already overcommitted.

But for today, I'm going to grab another cup o' java from the baristas, curl up in this chair (I do miss the maroon wingbacks they used to have, but this brown velvet will have to do), and surf blogs to my hearts' content. Maybe something will move to me to respond. Maybe not. Either way, it's an excellent way to spend a cold, gray, rainy afternoon as the year comes to an end.

chocoholics delight

Spent the afternoon cooking, instead of blogging. Treats for the departmental office workers (and my kids). chocolate truffles, rich cocoa fudge, and my favorite, double chocolate walnut biscotti. All three recipes pass the kid test with flying colors.

The truffles are a big messy to make (much to the kids' delight, of course), and have to be kept refrigerated after they're made. But they're a huge hit with everyone who gets them as a gift. This was our first time out with the fudge, but the taste tests along the way indicate that this will be a favorite in the future. (Despite the overly long time in front of the stove, stirring the mixture and waiting for it to hit the magic 234 degree temperature.)

All in all, it was an excellent way to spend the afternoon and evening.


Krispy Kreme Hot Now Sign dietvc.gifMust...resist...temptation. Don't want to undo my virtuous treadmill/weights accomplishments of this weekend and this morning. But just thinking about that amazing waterfall of glaze pouring over the doughnuts...<sigh>

So instead I will console myself with a Diet Vanilla Coke. Didn't know this was out until a student told me Friday, at which point I rushed to the grocery store and stocked up big time. I loved Vanilla Coke when it came out, but I just can't bring myself to ingest that much sugar per sip. Didn't know a diet version was coming out, so this was a wonderful surprise. (Image via DiamondBlog.)

typing tests

Personality typing, that is. Jonathon Delacour has been blogging about MBTI and bloggers. He pointed me to the PTypes site...I took their test, but was "unclassifiable" the first time--equal scores on Idealist and Rationalist. (Found that rather gratifying, in some ways.) Second time, I was clearly on the Rationalist side. Mirrors my usual MBTI typing results. I'm off-the-scale E and N, borderline T/F, and pretty solidly J. Keirsey characterizes the ENFJs as teachers, and the ENTJs as field marshals. Both type descriptions fit me, though to varying degrees day to day.

In her discussion of typing, Shelley Powers describes one of the "classic" M-B questions--one that tends to elicit a strong "well, that's obvious" response from takers, regardless of which answer they think is "right":

In the Myer-Briggs test, I felt one of the best examples of this type of question was the one asking which the test taker valued more: justice or mercy. This question, to me, seemed a particularly strong one for determining whether a person is Judging or Perceiving.

I never took a class on personality typing, but I always thought that the justice vs mercy question was more about sensing/intuiting (or maybe thinking/feeling), not judging/perceiving. (The judging/justice similarity is a little misleading, I think.) So, who's been trained in M-B typing, and knows for sure which type aspect this question is a predictor for?

One of the things I've found this kind of typing useful for is understanding the disjoints in communication I sometimes have with my students. The biggest problem seems to come from my "N" tendencies, which conflict with the overwhelmingly "S" tendencies in my students. They want clear grading rubrics, detailed syllabi, lots of structure. I tell them I'll know A work when I see it, and that we'll probably wander from the topics on teh syllabus regularly when it seems appropriate to do so. :-) Now I warn them on the first day, and that seems to help a lot.


No less a source than the Wall Street Journal reports:

"Today, there�s a newfound respect for librarians," says Ms. Warner. This change in thinking is due mainly to the information overload that�s afflicting many businesses worldwide.

interesting entry points

I succumbed to curiousity last week, and installed a package (phphits) that tracks referrers to my blog. (I wanted something that didn't require parsing of our enormous departmental server log files, and didn't want to set a cookie on visitors' machines.)

Today, I found some interesting search engine queries that led people here. There were four separate searches (from different domains) on "scary things," along with one for "how do I start a blog", one for "sweet potato and turnip gratin," one for "food glorious food," and one for "pecan pie picture." I'm puzzled by the first, flattered by the second, and wondering if the last three were looking for me, or found me by coincidence. I'd like to think that they all found what they were looking for once they arrived.

pie update

Last night, my southern-born husband informed me that after some consideration, he had determined that he had never had a better pecan pie than the one I made for Thanksgiving dinner. Nicest thing anyone's ever said about my cooking. Seriously. I'm feeling like a domestic goddess.

i am not making this up

I am literally typing this as I walk on my treadmill--3% incline, 4mph.

Why? Last night, I made a deal with myself. Every day, no blogging (reading or writing) until I've exercised. Given how addicted to this medim I've become, I figured that would be some powerful incentive.

As I was on my way down to the basement this morning to make good on the deal, Gerald (my husband) reminded me that my trusty TiBook can sit right in the magazine rack on my treadmill. "Read while you walk," he said. So I am. Photo of setup to follow after I'm done.

let it snow!

Woke up this morning to this beautiful view out my front windows. (Click on the picture for a larger version.) We've been alternating bright sunshine with brief flurries all day, so everything's still sugar-coated.

I do love the way the world looks when it's covered with fresh-fallen snow. Clean, bright, picture-book pretty. A good day to build a snowman with the boys, and then come inside for hot chocolate.

if you can't stand the heat...

...stay out of my kitchen today.

Well, not my kitchen, exactly. I'm off to a friend's house (a gorgeous old cobblestone out in the country, with a fabulous remodeled kitchen) to spend the day cooking. Thanksgiving dinner at mom's house Thursday, but we're bringing pies and a side dish.

On today's cooking agenda:

Sweet Potato and Turnip Gratin (sinfully delicious)
Old Fashioned Pecan Pie
Maple Pecan Pumpkin Pie (my husband's favorite)


power of search and replace

From Clay Shirky's "guest blog" on BoingBoing, a pointer to this, um...excellent modified version...of the Asilomar Institute's 25 Theses for information architecture.

vacation? what vacation?

Today I'm turning in my grades for the fall quarter (something I enjoy about as much as AKMA does), and then our "break" begins. Except there's the minor detail of having to do course prep for the two classes I'm teaching starting a week from Monday--Web Design, and XML for the Web.

Happily, I'm looking forward to teaching both classes. But the quarter schedule is brutal. Not enough time to wind down between quarters, not enough time to do the prep at the level I'd like, so that I can walk into the classroom feeling prepared. (Or is that a fantasy? Does it ever really happen?)

Then there's also my personal to-do list. Get to the gym every day. Spend way more time with the boys. Give the blog and the link lists a visual makeover (which dovetails with the course prep, since I'll need to brush up on my CSS skills). Bake. Catch up with Weez, who I haven't seen nearly enough of this quarter--and maybe start working on a collaborative article with her. Read--CSS books, XML books, tech/society books, and whatever the kids are wishing for at the moment. Enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at mom's house.

Need to update the blog to include some personal accountability components, a la Jill Walker's daily to-do list.

Sounds relaxing, doesn't it? :-)

no longer hidden talents

This evening, selected faculty from our department will be performing at an informal coffeehouse event. The festivities will be webcast (and, I presume, archived) by our streaming media class, at

Yours truly has precious few talents that she feels would be appropriate to display in front of her students. So she's hopped into the wayback machine, and retrieved her varsity letter jacket and pompoms from her days as a Sweet Home High School Pantherette. (Faithful readers will note that this explains the sudden trip to Buffalo.) The audience will be subjected to a brief monologue on life as a Pantherette (possibly accompanied by inappropriate language and burning of tissue paper flowers), followed by a historically accurate performance of the fight song routine.

Other highlights of the show will include Professor Henderson performing a stand-up routine while dressed in an elephant ballerina costume, and Professor Axelrod reciting original Vogon Poetry.

7:30-9:30pm, eastern standard time.

Don't count on blazingly fast streams, as I fear there may be some contention for resources.

alter ego names

'technolibrarian' is boring.

need a new name for my librarian alter ego.

any suggestions?

down the rabbit hole

Am feeling a bit like Alice today. After I wrote that, I went looking for the original text, and found it at CMU. Right on target it was:

In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.

Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then she looked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they were filled with cupboards and book-shelves; here and there she saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs. She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed; it was labelled `ORANGE MARMALADE', but to her great disappointment it was empty: she did not like to drop the jar for fear of killing somebody, so managed to put it into one of the cupboards as she fell past it.

My adventures in the blogosphere seem to be starting out quite similarly. One moment I'm minding my own business, teaching introductory multimedia classes and chauffeuring children to cub scouts, and the next I'm exchanging e-mails with Joi Ito, Marc Canter, Chris Locke, and Halley Suitt.

Along the way, I'm passing all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies, with barely enough time to register their existence before I've slid past them into the next virtual space. Time seems to have sped up in a strange and somehow exhilarating way.

What is it that's so seductive about this medium? Is it the breaking down of boundaries between personal and public? Maybe.

What do you think? (I know you're out there. Even without checking my server logs.)

fun with captions

David Weinberger provides this gem. I needed that laugh today.

optical illusions

Bulge02.jpgBlogdex says everyone else already knows about Akiyoshi's optical illusion pages.

I'm linking anyways, because these are very cool.

one reason to be glad I don't live in Alabama anymore

From today's NYTimes article on the disputed vote totals in the Alabama governor's race:

Late Tuesday, election officials in Baldwin County distributed figures that showed Siegelman with 19,070 votes, enough to give him the victory in the unofficial statewide count.

But on Wednesday, the county certified results that gave Siegelman 12,736 votes while leaving Riley's numbers unchanged. That erased the governor's thin margin in the statewide count and put the GOP congressman ahead by 3,195 votes out of 1.3 million cast.

Probate Judge Adrian Johns blamed a software glitch for the earlier figures.


The unofficial count showed Riley with 670,913 votes statewide, or 49 percent, Siegelman with 667,718 votes, or 49 percent, and Libertarian John Sophocleus with 23,242 votes, or 2 percent.

Both major-party politicians declared victory and acted as if they were governor-elect, with Siegelman talking to legislators about a special session and Riley appointing a chairman for his transition team.


Have been playing with Movable Type's templates and styles, trying to come up with a design that feels like my own. Definitely a time-sink. Too many hours coding, not enough hours playing. Feel free to comment on the appearance. (It started out as the "Georgia Blue" template, but it's been signficantly modified.) Still working on the archive templates.

when I grow up...

I want people to say things like this about me:

[s]he's very smart, nice, well-dressed and important


I want this apron.

Family members reading this, take note: I really would like one of these aprons for christmas or hanukkah!

I found it when following a link from Geek Culture's "how to make a mac-o'-lantern". I have a feeling it's a lot harder to make one of these than they make it sound, but it would be great fun to have a super-scary Steve Ballmer pumpkin on our porch tomorrow night...

the power of fear

It never ceases to amaze me how willing people are to believe things that are frightening--and how skeptical they are about things that are good.

Case in point. I really enjoy Joi Ito's weblog, but he recently posted a link to the fear-mongering "Aspartame is poison" site. This site tosses around plenty of frightening numbers associated with the risks of ingesting aspartame...but none of them are from reputable, peer-reviewed sources. So I searched on aspartame in PubMed, and found at least two articles from peer-reviewed medical journals that refute this.

So why is it that we're so much more inclined to believe the bad than the good? Self-preservation, because we're less likely to be disappointed? Odds, because we've had more bad experiences than good? Or something else? I don't see this in my kids nearly as much as I do in adults--they're generally skeptical of threats ("mom's probably wrong...that steam doesn't look hot enough to burn me"), but optimistic about positive outcomes.

laughter is the best medicine

A colleague (Andy Phelps) turned me onto The Everyday Happenings of Weebl and Bob. Fabulous site. Hours of mindless fun.

Also funny are the shockwave videos at RatherGood. The two I like best are Independent Woman (aka "if destiny's child were kittens from northern england this is what they would sound like") and Pavarotti Loves Elephants. this thing on?

So I'm jumping on the blog bandwagon, along with a surprisingly large number of technologically forward-thinking netizens. I feel a little behind (under? swamped by?) the wave on this--usually I'm an early adopter of new communication technologies, and this time I'm coming in well after the technology has mainstreamed. But hurt pride aside, I'm fascinated by the potential of this medium. Not so much the personal publishing per se, but the interconnections among blogs, and the nonlinear concept-based path you can take through content once those interconnections are well-established. And the reputation/value issue--as more people link to your thoughts and comments, the more people who want to read them, and in turn want to read the blogs of the people you link to. Distributed processing at its very best. The "TrackBack" concept of cross-linking sites is really intriguing.

So the questions I'm pondering right now have to do with establishment, expansion, and gatekeeping of these interconnected webs of opinion and personal thoughts. One blog alone doesn't mean a whole lot...but a set of intertwined ideas that leads you to broaden your thinking means a great deal.

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