July 11, 2005
The planet is shrinking. In the past few days, we have had real-time reports of the bombings in London and the hurricanes along the Gulf Coast. We have heard from Londoners walking down the street following the explosions; reporters getting drenched as they tried to be close ... but not too close ... to the rising waves; and from UK colleagues verifying by e-mail that they and their loved ones are OK.
Consideration of our position in the universe can evoke both terror and awe. As I saw "War of the Worlds" yesterday, it struck me that we as people are so fragile. Each little person in the crowd scenes surely felt that they had important lives, important ideas, important relationships, important things to do; but from the vantage point of the aliens, we are just so many ants needing to be vaporized. And they did a pretty effective job of it.
But the awe came when a colleague from the other side of the planet told me this morning about Google Earth. Amazing!! It allows you to look at the earth from afar, but zoom in to your own house - or anyone else's! I won't spoil the fun. Go to Google, search for "Google Earth," install, and enjoy. Prepare to be absorbed, delighted, and awe-struck.
October 3, 2005
Information Management Systems Brings Award to University of Minnesota
I am very pleased to share the news that Information Management Systems (IMS), the University of Minnesota unit directed by Susan Grotevant (see photo below), was recently named recipient of Computerworld's "Best Practices in Business Intelligence Award" in the category of Managing and Enhancing Business Intelligence Applications and Infrastructure.
Ron Milton, Executive VP of Computerworld said, "Recipients of this year's business intelligence perspectives' 'Best Practices in Business Intelligence' awards span across varied marketplaces and sectors, ranging from telecommunications to education, and wines and spirits to banking." "We honor each of these diverse organizations for their cutting edge IT departments, and their ability to prove that exceptional BI technology solutions can bring about outstanding results."
The case for the award noted that the declining state funding for higher education in Minnesota has resulted in long term structural changes in the public financing of higher education that places increasing reliance on tuition and other revenue to offset changes in state appropriations. As a result, the University of Minnesota System implemented a budgetary and management model designed to provide financial incentives to colleges and departments to enhance revenues and control costs. Implementation of this management model required the creation of an information-rich decision environment that could reach to the lowest levels in the organization where decisions affecting revenues and expenditures were made. This change, along with steadily increasing demands for accountability and productivity, improved academic and student outcomes, and the implementation of a new generation of enterprise resource planning systems drove a dramatic increase in the need to transform data into business intelligence and to improve the university's ability to translate business intelligence into strategic decisions.
What is Business Intelligence, you might ask? ...
Here's the answer from an article recently written in Campus Technology about BI and highlighting the innovative work of IMS. [Read the whole article HERE.]
"Business Intelligence (BI) software enables users to obtain enterprise-wide information more easily. These products are considered a step up from typical decision support tools because they more tightly integrate querying, reporting, OnLine Analytical Processing (OLAP), data mining, and data warehousing functions. They frequently are used in conjunction with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems such as Oracle/PeopleSoft, SAP, or SCT Banner. There are a variety of products that claim BI capabilities, but the bottom line is that they should enable users to obtain all of the information they desire from their organizationĺs databases, provided those users are allowed access to certain information. All of the information is presented in sensible easy-to-read formats, most frequently over the Internet or via e-mail. The result, of course, is a more comprehensive and targeted search of available data, and the incorporation of that information into reports to assist in decision-making of all kinds. BI software is available in a variety of flavorsŚor cubesŚdesigned to cull data from just about every area of university operations including Finance, Administrative Systems, Payroll, Grant Management, Admissions, Human Resources, Student Services, and more."
Congratulations to Susan and her unit for the excellence of their work and the honor they have brought to the university.
October 26, 2005
Is Blogging a Waste of Time?
Today's Star Tribune (10-26-05) reported a story from Ad Age that "U.S. workers in 2005 will waste the equivalent of 551,000 years reading blogs. About 35 million workers spend an average of 3.5 hours a week reading them." First, it's interesting that the article asserted that the workers WASTE all that time rather than SPEND that time or USE that time. Hmmm. It did cause me to ask why I read blogs and why I blog myself.
Blogs provide a window on the world, just like other media do. But when you read a newspaper or magazine, watch TV or listen to radio, the information is always filtered by those who produce it and those who pay for it. Blogging is citizen-journalism. You don't need anyone else to produce it, and you don't have to find a sponsor who will pay for it. It allows me to say anything I want to, even if no one is listening. Sometimes it just makes me feel good to get things off my chest. Or to write down perspectives, as I would in a handwritten journal. I'd like to remember such insights and perhaps return to them later for further enlightenment.
As a reader, blogs allow me to take the pulse of the world from ground level, and I like that. I've also discovered that reading blogs of people I know makes me feel that I know the person much better. Especially in relationships that primarily revolve around work or a single activity, some of the more personal interests and viewpoints just never come up. Many bloggers (myself included) also tend to be on the introverted side and find it much easier to write about themselves that blather on about themselves in person. (Especially in Lake Woebegoneland, where blathering on about oneself is uncouth.)
Blogs also provide connections with people who have shared interests. My Friday Cat Blogging posts and my posts about travel to the UK and to Door County Wisconsin have elicited the most comments from others. Even if I never actually communicate with people who read my blog, I'm pleased that what I write might give them food for thought or enjoyment of a picture of that sailboat right at sunset (Door County) or those cute cats all in their basket. Or maybe my post about the wonderful choral offerings in the Twin Cities will inspire someone to go hear one of the groups.
There are also blogs that impart information - such as the one L. started for our family quantitative research methods class. It is an expanding treasure trove of resources for the students in the class. (Unfortunately, I think most of them have been too busy to check it out - but maybe they'll find it later.)
So is blogging a waste of time? As with most things in life, it depends.
December 3, 2005
This morning's Star Tribune carried an article ("Intimate Strangers") about peoples' willingness to disclose private information to strangers, especially when they are in a situation (like on an airplane) when they are unlikely to see the person again. One focus of the article was about disclosure on the internet. A mom who was linked with 7 other women who were all struggling with parenting teenage boys commented, "Long before any of us were willing to trust the others enough to tell where we lived, we were willing to confess deepest secrets... Even more important were the little things that we never could have explained to a friend or husband -- irrational worries, trivial but trying spousal irritations."
This is consistent with our decision to use an interactive online chat format for interviewing young adults in the next phase of our research project. In pilot work, we found that people were willing to disclose more and use richer description over the internet than on the phone. There's not much formal research on this, but the anecdotal evidence is stacking up. (HrH and I are preparing an article on this topic.)
Unrelated blog discovery ... The December 1 issue of blog "Coffee Grounds" noted a new word, NIVAL, which means "of, growing in, or relating to, snow." Its Latin root (no pun intended) has to do with stems. Somehow NIVAL seems very relevant today - it's been snowing all day, and the white stuff is just piling up. It's nice to look at it out the window without having to slog through or drive in it. I know I'll have to shovel before dark, but for the moment I can mentally play with different uses of this newfound word.
February 9, 2006
As our college transitions into oblivion, all faculty and staff who have been on Groupwise (TM) are having to move our e-mails to the university's server (Mozilla Thunderbird - what name will they come up with next?) I'm in the midst of culling through thousands of e-mails sent and received over the past 10 years or so. This handy mode of communication is quickly becoming a burden. Even though I can go for a whole week without my phone ringing once, I probably get 100 e-mails a day. That's 36,500 per year. In addition to all the "helpful" communications from every office at the university, every professional organization to which I belong, and every listserv to which I subscribe, I get bunches from colleagues and students around the world. (You'd be surprised how many students I've never met want me to help write their papers for them.) I'm getting VERY tired of the Viagra ads, software sales, paypal warnings, and offers to help Nigerian royalty in need. But I digress...
Today's issue of the APA Monitor (Feb 2006) reported a study (Kruger & Epley, JPSP, 2005, 89, 925-936) about people's accuracy in interpreting the meaning and tone of e-mail messages. They found that "people overestimate both their ability to convey their intended tone - be it sarcastic, serious or funny - when they send an e-mail, as well as their ability to correctly interpret the tone of messages others send to them." (p. 16). The reason they cite is egocentrism, peoples' inability to see the perspective of the other person.
In one study, Kruger and Epley found that people more accurately interpreted communications in vocal messages (e.g., phone) than in text-based ones. They conducted experiments in which students read messages over the phone or delivered them by e-mail. In the case of the phone communications, both sender and recipient were 76+% accurate about the other person's tone and its meaning. But in the case of e-mail, "the partners who read the statements over e-mail, though, had only a 56 percent success rate - not much better than chance."
The moral of the story: If you want to make sure the full meaning and the emotional tone of your message are understood, best pick up the phone occasionally.
March 28, 2006
I've been traveling lately and continue to marvel at how different people are in terms of the physical and psychological space they occupy. For some reason, my mantra has always been "leave a small footprint." In places like airports, I have no interest in standing out - that's pretty adaptive, I suspect. But the guy sitting down the row from me in the departure lounge had a really different goal. He had one of those Borg earpieces on and was carrying on business conversations loud enough for everyone on our outbound flight to overhear. "Justice department ... blah blah blah ... attorneys ... blah blah blah... blah blah blah"
Then I noticed the NY Times story (Sunday 3/26) called "The disconnect of connection." "Does anyone really need anyone at parties anymore? Instead of working the room, guests are busy working phones and BlackBerrys, surrounding themselves with electronic entourages. Kenneth J. Gergen, a sociologist, calls this constant need to be in a technologically mediated world of elsewhere while in public 'absent presence.' " Thanks for the new word, Ken - it describes this situation perfectly.
I see this in my students too. They come into class plugged into iPods and cell phones. Then they open up their laptops (and I'm SURE they're paying close attention to everything I say and taking diligent notes). At the end of class, in go the iPods and up go the cell phones again. Now, I have nothing against iPods or cell phones - I have them both and use them. But we do seem to be missing what's around us. Those things that are "hidden in plain view" (as the mystics say) are never revealed to us, because we are totally absent to them.
Anyway, it's all very strange, ironic, and paradoxical - no solutions here, but lots of questions. The Time magazine cover story last week was about multi-tasking. What are we doing to our brains with all of this stuff? There's probably a price to be had, but we may not know it for many years. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy my iPod and use my laptop and cellphone, but also be open to hearing the birds sing as spring arrives in Minnesota.
Category "Music - of all kinds"
April 11, 2006
In the Blogosphere ...What Goes Around, Comes Around
I was surprised and delighted to receive an e-mail this morning from a completely unexpected source. Sherrie, the owner of Malibu Moo's Frozen Griddle in Fish Creek Wisconsin, had run across my blog entry (08.28.2005) about our trip to Door County last summer and wrote me a note. She was pleased to see how much I enjoyed their ice cream (especially the vanilla with Door County cherries folded in), and said that hearing such wonderful things about her place made those 18 hour summer workdays worthwhile. I'm glad! Turns out we are also both musicians and love to travel, so we have struck up an e-mail correspondence about that too. I don't know if we'll make it to Door County this summer or not, but in fond memory, here's the picture I posted in August. Summer is just around the corner - and not a moment too soon!
April 30, 2006
I Heart Craigslist.org
As our remodeling project nears its completion (just a FEW months overdue), we are left with some furniture and applicances that we have replaced and wish to sell. My thoughts first turned to eBay, but I certainly was not in a position to ship a used refrigerator across country to the highest bidder! I recently learned about craigslist.org as an internet-based classified ad (and more) service that is tailored for specific metropolitan areas around the country.
Our new refrigerator arrived Friday afternoon. I cleaned out the old one and took a few pictures, wrote up an ad and posted the ad and photos on craigslist around 9:00 Saturday morning. By noon, I had 4 inquiries, and a few others dribbled in during the course of the afternoon. Wow! The early bird can't pick it up until Sunday afternoon, but I have faith that the transaction will work as planned. Otherwise, I have at least 3 backup buyers. What a great service! I'm eager to get some of the other furniture and "stuff" prepared for sale and out the door. Nothing is going back in the basement without being scrutinized for its keep-a-bility.
May 27, 2006
I REALLY heart Craigslist.org
On April 30, I used this space to sing the praises of Craigslist.org, for helping us sell a refrigerator. Since then, I've tried to sell a few living room chairs with less success. But Craigslist redeemed itself forever for me yesterday, when it helped Mark find a job. It ran an ad addressed to "Gamers" - If you like playing video games, this is the job for you! He went for the interview in the afternoon, landed the job, and reports for orientation today. Congratulations to Mark, and undying thanks to Craigslist!
The entry process for this job was interesting. The first step was to report to one office building for a number of "tests" -- knowledge about computers, Microsoft Windows, office practices, spelling, etc. After he passed that, he was sent to another office several miles away for a group interview (2 interviewers and 5 applicants) - in which they were asked what type of computer they owned, what their favorite games were, etc. His extensive gaming and computer experience served him well. One person being interviewed didn't own a computer... and wasn't called back for step 3, back at building #1, for more paperwork. Then step 4 was a drug test - at yet another building across town.
I'm convinced that this strategy was being used to weed out those with only a casual interest in the job. If you were willing to trek to 4 sites in one afternoon and report the next day (Saturday) for a 1 hour orientation, you have shown at least a modicum of seriousness. The next steps involve several weeks of training and a 90 day probation - again, to weed out the not-so-serious folks. The 35 new folks are technically hired by a temp agency, so there is no commitment on either side until after the 90 day probation period has been satisfied. (A very clever solution for outsourcing the hassle of separating serious from not-so-serious potential employees.) By then, the hiring firm will have "tried and true" folks who have passed the 90 day probation, and the new employees will know what they are getting themselves into and will have a modicum of job security + those almighty health benefits. (Aside): It continues to amaze me how much employment and retirement decisions are driven by considerations about health benefits. The topic comes up in virtually every conversation I have with anyone about either new employment or retirement. Should this country ever move to a single-payer system (I'm sure it won't happen in my lifetime), there could be huge unanticipated shifts in employment patterns. I hope someone is studying this now.
Those who succeed on this new job will be providing telephone tech support to people who have bought gaming systems. I think one of the biggest challenges for these savvy gamers will be to not get irritated with novices who have problems that stem from things such as not plugging the machine in correctly, etc.
But now and forever, Craigslist has my gratitude! Thanks Craig, whoever you are.
June 7, 2006
Blogoversary Eve Reflections
It seems somehow fitting that I approach my first blogoversary with this, my 100th post. Since starting Inner Geek last June, this blog site has received almost 2500 visits. (Some of these visits are from me, of course, since Site Meter records a visit every time anyone looks at the blog site.) It's been an interesting and enjoyable ride, but it's required effort too -- effort that could have been expended on other things. So as the blogodometer prepares to turn, it's time to reflect a bit about the experience and question whether I should continue, or just say "it's been fun - on to something else."
I decided on the title "Inner Geek" last summer while on a walk around the Broad, a man-made lake on the campus of the University of East Anglia (where I'll be returning in July). I had been thinking about blogging for a while, inspired in part by Yvette, over at Six Impossible Things to do Before Breakfast. As a former (high school) journalist and editor, editor of numerous newsletters and publications over the years, and writer of technical articles that must be presented in a highly formulaic way (APA Style), I was attracted to the idea of blogging because I could say what I wanted about whatever topic I wanted to discuss. No APA style manual, no deadlines, no editor (other than myself). Citizen journalism. And hey, I am a geek of sorts - always have been interested in the latest in technology. My tech colleagues call me an "early adopter" - and that doesn't have anything to do with adoption.
I've had several amazing encounters during the year. Last December, I wrote a post in memory of my favorite undergraduate anthrolopolgy professor, whose obit I had encountered in the Austin paper while visiting there for the holidays. Five months later, I got an e-mail from his wife, thanking me for capturing his spirit. She sent my blog on to her daughters, one of whom contacted me. We had a delightful set of exchanges, and she sent me a picture of him as well as the text of the tribute read at his memorial service. None of this would have happened had I not blogged about him.
Last August, Susan and I spent a week in Door County Wisconsin. I posted a number of pictures from that trip and raved about Malibu Moo's Frozen Griddle, in Fish Creek, where I had my daily dose of vanilla custard with Door County cherries folded in. Heaven in a cup! When she googled her shop's name in order to start marketing for the season ahead, the owner was led to my entry. She wrote me and we had some great exchanges. She noted that we were both musicians and sent me 3 of her CDs - she's a flute player.
Both of these experiences made the world seem a bit smaller and less isolating and alienating -- and for that, I'm grateful. In both cases, my correspondents were led to my blog by Google -- and this is consistent with Shane's comments that Google likes websites and blogs that have "edu" domain names. (So be careful what you write on UThink, because it will be captured by Google.)
Inner Geek has also allowed me to brag about others -- I wrote entries honoring my father, my mentor, my wife, my colleague, my grandchildren and a number of other folks. It's also allowed me to call attention to issues that I worry about -- homelessness, health insurance, adoption, discrimination. I've also enjoyed blogging about travel experiences and sharing reflections about my parallel universe as a musician. (Back to the citizen journalist theme.)
But it's also taken effort, and I'm never too sure whether all this writing has an audience. I've let go of audience-building as a way of justifying the time ... I do it because I want to. But if I were a "better" blogger, I'd probably post every day (or at least every other day) and do more marketing and things that would promote cross-postings on other sites. I don't have the time or inclination for that.
So as I approach my blogoversary, I'm reflecting on the blog-year past and thinking about whether I should continue. Stay tuned....
June 8, 2006
Mentos and Diet Coke - Watch Out!
Thanks to Cathy for sharing today's NPR segment about the Mentos and Diet Coke experiment. When you put them together, you get quite an explosion.
Here's the lead-in to the story:
All Things Considered, June 7, 2006 ┬Ě Two months ago, we reported on the Web video phenomenon of Mentos and Diet Coke. The mint candies combine with the soda to create an explosive geyser. But a new video on the Internet transforms that rudimentary concept into a highly choreographed routine, complete with funky soundtrack. Two men in Maine, Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz, took 101 bottles of Diet Coke and crafted a mesmerizing, two-minute Mentos and Diet Coke performance that they call "a spectacular, mint-powered version of the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas."
Enjoy! After you listen to the radio segment, be sure to click on "see this video."
This might be an interesting urban substitute for forbidden 4th of July fireworks - Could we arrange for the geyser to stream out in red, white, and blue??
Category "About Inner Geek"
June 14, 2006
More Blog-Mediated Serendipity
Here's another serendipitous occurrence, mediated by this blog. About a week ago, my wife received an e-mail from a woman in Anchorage, Alaska who was doing genealogy on our family name. She found us (and me) because of my blog post last September, when I wrote a piece in honor of my father's 85th birthday. After finding his name, she shook the family tree a bit and wrote to find out if we might have a common ancestor -- a fellow who purportedly came to the U.S. in 1752, hired by the British as a mercenary to fight those colonial upstarts (Oh, the shame of it!). His home appears to have been Heerte, Braunschweig, Germany (rather than somewhere in the Netherlands). Anyway, after a number of rapid-fire e-mails, Family Tree Maker determined that my Anchorage correspondent and I are 5th cousins. Amazing!
We are leaving tomorrow for a family wedding in Boston, and I'll be talking to as many people as I can about our family history. The new discovery of my 5th cousin probably would not have happened had I not been writing in this blog. So, to follow up on the question I posed earlier about whether I should continue blogging, the answer for now is ... definitely yes. It's been a source of satisfaction and new discoveries and an outlet for reflections I probably wouldn't have uttered outside the space of my own brain. So stay tuned for *Inner Geek - year 2* ...
July 1, 2006
Craigslist Kind of a Day
The saga of "cleaning up" after our flooded basement from last October continues. Today I prepared 8 items for sale and posted them on Craigslist. Three of the items were offered for free, and I had at least 10 offers on each one within the first 2 hours. The sale items (furniture) have moved more slowly, but 12 hours after posting, I have either disposed of or have inquiries about 6 of the 8 items. Not bad! But more to go...
I'm really sold on the freecycling aspect of Craigslist. As the saying goes: one person's trash is another person's treasure. And recycling these gems keeps them out of landfills.
I've also been searching Craigslist for jobs in Austin for someone down there. Did you know that you can get $10 - $13 per hour for wearing an outfit and standing outside a new housing development holding a sign and trying to allure drivers-by to take a look? I keep flashing back to the poor guy who dressed up as the Statue of Liberty in February (yes, in Minnesota) to try to lure drivers into a strip mall near our house where a tax preparation service had set up shop (it was probably Liberty Taxes or something like that.) I'm glad he got $10-13 an hour!
July 9, 2006
The latest - Google Trends
Nothing will excite Inner Geek more than learning about the latest tech gizmos, gadgets, and techniques. I had the luxury of reading the New York Times cover to cover on Wednesday, as our choir was heading to Chicago to perform Frank Ferko's Psalm Cantata at the meeting of the American Guild of Organists. (It went well, and I've really grown to love the piece. I know the music well enough now that I could let the texts work their magic on me - it's really quite beautiful. But I digress... )
The headline that caught my eye was "The Internet Knows What You'll Do Next" (NYT 7/5/2006, C1). Pretty scary, eh? The article talks about "Google Trends," one of the latest Google offerings.
(To find Google Trends, go to the Google home page (www.google.com), click on "more," and then click on "google labs" and then "google trends". Or just go here.)
The article's author argues that Google can identify what will be happening in the future on the basis of the searches that people do beforehand. Makes sense, of course. Here's a description from the article: "It allows you to check the relative popularity of any search term, to look at how it has changed over the last couple years and to see the cities where the term is most popular."
The search tool requires that you enter at least 2 terms -- and up to 5. So I searched for the use of geek vs. nerd. Would you believe that the second highest use of "geek" (in the world) is in Minneapolis? We come right after Portland, Oregon. Fancy that. Now I'm hooked.
Next, I paired adoption and foster care. Interestingly, Minneapolis is #3 in the world for mentions of adoption. (I am not surprised.) One of the nifty things that Google Trends does is to identify when spikes of searches have occurred and to link them to news headlines of those days. Here are 4 frequency spikes for "adoption."
a) Tsunami raises interest in adoption (Jan., 2005). Remember the huge rush of calls that came immediately after the tsunami, when people wanted to adopt babies that had been separated from their parents?
b) Nevada bill to make written post-adoption contracts legally enforceable. (Feb 2005) This was a story about the attempt to make written agreements about post adoption contact between birthparents and adoptive parents legally binding. I don't know if it passed. Note to self: look it up!
c) Adopt-a-Pet up for adoption. (Sept. 2005) This was a headline from Victoria, TX about an adopt-a-pet program being ousted from a shopping mall and needing a new home.
d) Adoption Institute Supports Gay Parents" (March 2006) about the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute supporting the right of gay and lesbian persons to adopt.
So it is interesting to see how headlines cause spikes in google searches, and thus how those searches might forecast something about news to come.
I'm eager to play with this a lot more! One sentence in the NYT story read, "And it's totally addictive." I agree - just like its sibling, Google Earth. Here's a picture of 4 generations of the men in my family while I was demonstrating Google Earth to my father just a few weeks ago. He was truly amazed.
March 10, 2007
A Phone That's Just a Phone
I may have lost 5 points off my Geek quotient last week, when I found myself nodding in agreement to parts of an article UNFORTUNATELY and OBNOXIOUSLY titled, "New Tech for the Old." (Star Tribune, 3-7-07)
Although the article was about technology for (aging) baby boomers, I found myself drawn to pieces about how some folks want no-frills cell phones. (BTW, Did you know that somewhere, a baby boomer is turning 60 every eight seconds?) Some people actually want cell phones that make and receive phone calls, but don't necessarily take pictures, download ringtones, show videos, grab e-mail, or otherwise contribute to overstimulation. The interesting thing about all those "features" is that they all cost extra. What you think you are going to pay monthly for your cell phone balloons out of control when you add and use all the "features." The bane of my existence are the deals in which you get 3 or 6 or 12 months free service on this or that and can cancel at any time. Well -- how many people actually cancel? And who do you contact anyway? And is it easy to cancel - NO! And do you even remember? The purveyors hope not.
End of rant - happy spring break!
March 13, 2007
I was introduced to a new interdisciplinary field on the news last night, Neuroeconomics. (I guess it's not all that new - when I googled it, there were 464,000 hits - but it was new to me.) The news program focused on shopping, and on how different centers in the brain become activated when different types of consumer decisions are made. The story was about how neuroscientists can predict what we will buy before we know it ourselves. It looks at how consumers weigh factors such as cost and product desirability. And of course the logical extension is that businesses can then manipulate consumers to buy their own products.
Click here to go to the website for the Center for the Study of Neuroeconomics at George Mason University.
It says: "The Center for the Study of Neuroeconomics(CSN) at George Mason University is a research center and laboratory dedicated to the experimental study of how emergent mental computations in the brain interact with the emergent computations of institutions to produce legal, political, and economic order." This definition sounds much more benign than the manipulative scenario spun out on the news.
According to the Center's website, "Neuroeconomics is the study of how the embodied brain interacts with its external environment to produce economic behavior. Research in this field will allow social scientists to better understand individual decision making and consequently to better predict economic behavior." It contains a link (click here) to a 5 page pdf from the Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science. I look forward to absorbing more about this field and considering its exciting and frightening implications.
April 11, 2007
A spot on the NBC Nightly News last Friday talked about caringbridge.org, a website where the families of people who are ill can post about their progress, and friends can post their encouraging words. It basically creates a free website for the family. A woman whose 3-year-old daughter had leukemia noted that while her daughter was undergoing intensive chemotherapy, it was difficult to keep all their friends and family current on the news. The website allowed them to post progress once each day for them all to see, and allowed friends to post their prayers and words of encouragement back to them. A great idea.
When my mother was so ill in 2000, e-mail to my friends was my lifeline. But I do remember that after spending a day with my mom in intensive care, it was difficult to write multiple people and respond to them individually. Caringbridge seems to be a great solution. A side benefit is that the communication is not only between the person and respondents a pair at a time, but that a virtual community is formed, linking supporters who may have never met in person with each other.
I hope I don't have to use this new compassionate technology any time soon, but when I need it, I'll be glad that it's there.
May 3, 2007
Teacher Arrested at JFK Airport
NEW YORK -- A public school teacher was arrested today at John Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square, a slide rule and a calculator.
At a morning press conference, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-gebra movement.
He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction. "Al-gebra is a problem for us," Gonzales said. "They desire solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in search of absolute values.
They use secret code names like 'x' and 'y' and refer to themselves as 'unknowns', but we have determined they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country. As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, 'There are 3 sides to every triangle'."
When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, He would have given us more fingers and toes."
White House aides told reporters they could not recall a more intelligent or profound statement by the President.
***thanks to HrH for this news flash***
May 11, 2007
Geek Heaven - The Encyclopedia of Life
I heard a fascinating Science Friday episode this afternoon about a new project, "The Encyclopedia of Life," being spearheaded by Harvard's E.O. Wilson, of Sociobiology fame. The goal is to catalogue all species living on Planet Earth in an "ecosystem of web pages." There's a jaunty introduction to the project at its website: eol.org It resembles Wikipedia, in that regular people will be able to upload entries, photos, etc. Check it out! It's almost as much fun as Google Earth.
November 24, 2007
I'm not quite sure how I missed Beowulf in high school -- but it would probably have been lost on a bunch of 15 year olds. However, it certainly wasn't lost on me at this ripe age. Universal themes of heroism and vulnerability, Faustian bargains, temptation, power, greed, fame --- kind of sounds like U.S. politics, doesn't it??
Mark and I saw the film on the IMAX screen at the Minnesota Zoo (largest screen in Minnesota: 90 ft wide x 60 feet tall), in 3-D. I mainly wanted to see it for the technology. I heard it reviewed on MPR this morning by the "movie maven," who declared it to be the worst movie of the year. Well - to each his/her own. She complained about not being able to identify with the characters. Well, give me a break. This is an epic poem from sometime between the 8th - 11th centuries.
The technology was quite amazing, IMO. The 3D effects really grabbed my attention. It felt like blood was coming right out of Grendel into the audience. And when Beowulf was flying along on the dragon's back, it felt like I was there too. I was afraid that with my various eye conditions, the 3D glasses wouldn't work, but the effect worked well.
On the blog, "Underexposed," Greg Foster, Imax's chairman was quoted as saying, "When you experience 3D with us, you experience the 3D at the bridge of your nose. It is an immersive, full-contact experience." No kidding.
Maybe the film will rocket the epic poem back into consciousness so that people can consider what was known centuries ago. Who was it that said that those who don't understand their history are doomed to repeat it?
I'll be taking a look. In the meantime, go see the movie, just to marvel at the technology. Put yourself in the place of one of the geeks dealing with the animation, and say "thank you."
March 10, 2008
That's the average number of "data transmission events" per month the average web user is subjected to on Yahoo related sites alone. A data transmission event occurs each time you navigate a web site and the site collects information on you -- your IP address, page views, length of time spent on each page view, etc. Advertisers say that it is to benefit consumers -- so that only dog owners are subjected to dog food ads, they say. But it has gone much further than that. Read all about it in the NY Times article "The Web is Keeping a Close Eye on You."
Of course, all this goes on behind the scenes and unknown to the web user. Interestingly, a study of California adults found that 85% felt their movements on the web should not be tracked. (When did 85% of Americans agree on anything??) So why is there so little outcry about this??
May 5, 2008
Lost in Translation??
I was doing a quick SiteMeter check to see where recent blog traffic had come from, and I noticed a visitor from Germany. I followed the link to the visit entry page and discovered, lo and behold, that Inner Geek has been translated into German! In fact, I learned that Google translates between a number of language pairs: between English and Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, Frendh, German, Greek, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Portugese as well as between traditional and contemporary Chinese and between German and French.
"Inner Geek ... out and about" became "Ein Computer-Freak ... Ausfluege and Sehenswuerdigkeiten."
Hmmm, I think there's a bit lost in translation there, don't you? "Inner Geek" means SO much more than "Ein Computer-Freak."
I looked at the top of the Google page and found the following:
Diese Seite wurde aus Englisch automatisch ├╝bersetzt. Zur├╝ck zu den Suchergebnissen
Originale Webseite anzeigen oder bewegen Sie die Maus ├╝ber den Text, um die Originalsprache anzuzeigen.
If my German is still any good, it means something like the following:
This site was translated into English automatically (by machine?) You can go back to the original website or mouse over the text if you want to see it in the original language.
How about that? Hold the mouse over the German sentence, and the original English appears. It does.
I think some of the translation is spot on. But some is a little weird, especially with collquial expressions. (Otherwise is asking a lot of a computer.) See for yourself. I copied and pasted the first paragraph from the German version of my last post ("Old Friends"), and it inserted the English sentences before the German ones. It's kind of geeky, but if you have studied German, you might enjoy this, as I did.
I've been putting off this decision for a long time, and today was the day to make it. Ich war Putting off diese Entscheidung f├╝r eine lange Zeit, und heute war der Tag zu machen. Shall I leave my LPs and turntable behind, or drag them along on this move? Soll ich meinen LPs und hinter Plattenspieler, oder ziehen Sie sie auf dieser entlang bewegen? I've gotten pretty good at pitching stuff in the past few weeks, so I felt ready to confront the decision. Ich habe mittlerweile recht gut im Pitching Zeug in den letzten Wochen, so f├╝hlte ich mich bereit zu konfrontieren, die Entscheidung. When the time was right, I was rested, and the light was good, I sat down next to the cupboard where the LPs are stored. Wenn die Zeit richtig war, war ich ausgeruht, und das Licht gut war, ich sa├č neben dem Schrank, in dem die LPs gespeichert sind.
What will those Google folks come up with next? I'm going to Germany this summer and will definitely be taking my laptop.
Here is a link to the FAQ about how the Google translator works. "FAQ" becomes Haeufig gestellte Fragen.
June 15, 2008
Comcast Giveth and Comcast Taketh Away
Even before I had my books unpacked, and way before I had furniture arranged, I was on the phone with Comcast to arrange home internet service. Our Minnesota service was with Comcast, and it was generally satisfactory (except for the bloated prices.) Comcast seemed to be the vendor of choice here, so I signed on.
The friendly fellow on the other end of the line (their sales folk are very friendly -- not quite the same as their service people) assured me that it would be easy to set up my wireless network. They would provide a do-it-yourself "kit" that a 3rd grader could configure.
Well, when I opened it up and saw that there were only 2 small pages of large-print instructions, I knew that that was a lie. (I ended up having to hire someone to come out and make all the machines talk to each other. It was well worth the price of avoiding all the haad-banging that would have ensued.) But I digress...
Several days after my service was up and running, I got a call from one of their people. He wanted to take a few minutes to show me some of their new services. I consented, and he walked me through quite a few features I wasn't familiar with, including a large menu of free downloads, videos, games, etc. -- all kinds of gadgets and gizmos to use up all that spare time of mine.
Fast forward to the article in today's NYT: "Charging by the byte to curb internet traffic." In order to deal with bandwith hogs, three of the nation's largest internet providers are taking steps to change our habits. Time Warner is now "metering" service and will be asking customers to select rate plans depending on anticipated usage (think: cell phone minutes plans); AT&T is considering charging, and Comcast is going to manage internet traffic by "slowing down the connections of the heaviest users, so-called bandwidth hogs, at peak times." They need to get their signals straight. If they want to promote use of their resources (and of course, the ad revenue that goes along with it), they don't need to give it with one hand and ration it with the other.
By the way, Happy Father's Day to all those Dads out there. Next weekend, my sister and I will be going to Dallas to hold a final memorial service for our Dad, who passed away March 1st. Rest in peace, Dad.
July 28, 2008
Batman - 6 stories high
Last night we went to see "The Dark Knight" at the IMAX theatre - what an experience. The IMAX at the Minnesota Zoo is the largest screen in Minnesota - 6 stories high. Although the story was OK, I was most taken in by the effects. At the beginning of the movie, the audience is gliding through the sky toward a huge downtown skyscraper - and almost collides with it. I truly felt like I was there and flying. There were a number of similarly compelling scenes throughout.
Heath Ledger played the demented Joker. What a talented actor, taken from us in his prime - or maybe even before his time. Although I know that movie stars' personal and professional lives are totally separate (right?), I can't help but think that playing such a role wouldn't rub off a bit. In any case, his death was tragic, and we have been robbed of seeing his rich career flourish.
Tomorrow, Mark and I set out for Amherst with the Tribe. It's about 1400 miles, and we will do it in 3 days. I've been getting all kinds of advice about kitty tranquilizers, how best to transport them, etc. If I do go with tranquilizers, they may have to share them with me! Seriously - it should all be fine. When I visited them on Saturday, Pookie kept licking my nose as if to say: "I remember you!"
November 20, 2008
Plastic Logic e-Reader
CNN carried this story about the Plastic Logic e-Reader, an "erasable" piece of plastic that will hold things (like newspapers) that otherwise would be leading to the decimation of more forests. It looks quite intriguing. They are being manufactured at a plant in Dresden Germany. The CNN spot omits a lot of details, but it's got me intrigued. I've also been following the Amazon Kindle with great interest, but not enough to get one yet.
Here is a review which compares the two devices and sets up the competition between them. It will be exciting to follow this unfolding story. I think the Plastic Logic will be more compatible for me, but we'll see. I would anticipate downloading my own documents onto the device rather than buying novels online to read on the Kindle.
Category "Music - of all kinds"
November 30, 2008
Music and Technology - NPR series
During November, NPR's Weekend Edition has had a fascinating series on music and technology. Today's program featured two kinds of software that permit at-a-distance musical collaboation: e-jamming, which allows for playing together in real time, and Indaba Music, which facilitates asynchronous collaboration among musicians across the planet. Fascinating stuff. Here is a link to the series. Enjoy!
June 24, 2009
Resistance is Futile
As the Borg said to Jean-Luc, "Resistance is futile." That's how I've come to feel about Facebook. Yes, I'm on it now. The thing that put me over the line was the birth of my nephew last week. I know that Facebook is where all his pictures will be, and I want to keep up with him, so ..... (Not to mention that quite a few of my fellow bloggers have moved from blogging to Facebook.) I signed up a few hours ago, and discovered some old high school friends I haven't communicated with since graduation.
I also discovered, to my surprise, that my division at the university has a facebook page of its own! Needless to say, I have signed on.
Facebook has double interest for me now. The grant application we are working on involves social network analysis, and of course, facebook is the ultimate social networking tool. We will be studying social networks in a different way, but the experience of being on Facebook is giving me some new ah-ha's about social networks in general. Stay tuned for more on that...
Category "Choral Music"
July 13, 2009
Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir - "Sleep"
Category "About Inner Geek"
October 1, 2009
Sidetracked by FB, but Friday Cat Blogging Anyway
Like several of my blogging buds, I've been sidetracked by FaceBook. I started in late June and now have 139 friends. I've found it to be a fascinating experience - I've connected with some folks from high school (and I hadn't really kept up any of those relationships) and I've reconnected with colleagues all over the country, some of whom I'd lost track of. I also have frequent conversations with relatives and with my MN colleagues.
I've found it to be more engaging than blogging, because there is an immediate audience, one known to me, and I can share feedback with others when I wish. With blogging, I've never fully known the extent of my readership. I have had over 11,000 hits, but that's not terribly many for 4 years. I've enjoyed posting and doing my own version of citizen journalism. My blog has also been a spot to reflect in a more extended way than is possible on FB. The two media serve different functions, but they both take precious time. I haven't decided to stop blogging, but we'll see.
In the meantime, fall has arrived in Massachusetts, and the tonks are huddling in their fleece bed. Of course, these are just the MN tonks. Shadow and MacKenzie mercilessly hassle New Mexico Chloe - we have to intervene in major screeching chases around the house several times a week. They are each sweet and wonderful in their own way, but the 2 female chemistry is not working. We thought that when we found a new home for Sadie, this would stop. But in her absence, the other two have taken up the cause. Pookie continues to be above it all. Once in a while, he and Chloe sniff and touch noses, but they're certainly not sleeping together!
Just so she doesn't feel left out, here's a recent snap of Chloe - she loves warm places too!