Life


Mickey Mouse plush toyLast week I was in Orlando for a customer conference, Lotusphere. For 3½ days straight I manned a demo station in the Innovation Lab on one of my research projects, which was worthwhile but tiring. But there was a payoff: the conference party was at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Jeff and I spent Thursday afternoon at the Magic Kingdom. Here’s a tip: go to Disney World in January — no one’s there. It helps if it rained that morning. In less than 4 hours, Jeff and I were able to circle around the park and go on 6 rides, and then circle around again and go on 5 more. When it came to dollars per ride, we definitely got  our money’s worth.

Before the conference, I went to visit my old Connecticut neighbors, who I hadn’t seen since I moved to California almost 20 years ago, and drove through the town of Celebration, a new urbanist town planned by Disney. It looked very pleasant. Almost too pleasant…

My photos from the trip are in two sets: Lotusphere 2007 and Walt Disney World and Celebration.

Last weekend, I went to see the Cal-Washington basketball game at Berkeley. Before that, I had seen four sporting events: a Yankees game, a Mets game, an A’s game, and Cal at Stanford basketball. In every case, the home team lost, and only in one case did I want the home team to lose. But this time, Cal won at home. Finally! I was starting to think I was cursed…

Normally I don’t remember my dreams, but this one was intense. I got on a subway car with a few other friends, and the sign that had the route number also said “no conductor.” I wondered why. Then as the subway started, it suddenly plunged down a huge ramp and then did corkscrews. This part of the subway was a roller coaster!

Maybe they should do this in real life. In the San Jose area, public transit is pretty slow, so they should at least make it entertaining…

I’ve struggled with finding the right balance of descriptiveness and privacy in my Flickr photos account. Up to now, I’ve almost completely avoided displaying people’s names, because I think it’s a little creepy to be able to go to someone’s photos, and search for someone else to see what they’ve been doing. On the other hand, I ended up with vague, somewhat tortured names like “Wedding in Palos Verdes” or “Entertaining visitors to the Bay Area.”

So I’m going to start using people’s first names in some circumstances. For example, “Entertaining visitors to the Bay Area” is now “Matt and Laurel’s visit”. It makes more sense to me and to those who know them, and those who don’t know them don’t care anyway. I’m still not using last names, nor am I tagging photos with people’s names.

I’m curious to see how people’s privacy expectations online will evolve. They’re generally willing to put up a lot of information without much thought as to who can see it. For example, at CSCW I saw a talk by Cliff Lampe, a Michigan State professor, who said he announced to his class that he had read all of their Facebook profiles, and that you could see each student mentally going through what they had put in their profiles and their resulting grimaces.

Weird Al’s lyrics for “White and Nerdy” [MTV music video] touches upon so many geeky characteristics, it’s uncanny. So I’ve created the White and Nerdy quiz so that you can see how you measure up.

[ ] Went to MIT
[ ] Played Dungeons and Dragons
[ ] Likes Escher
[ ] Drinks tea
[ ] Does not have spinning rims
(more…)

When I was in elementary and middle school, I listened to mostly adult contemporary songs (i.e., “soft rock”), mostly because I didn’t know any better. So watching the infomercial for Time-Life’s Classic Soft Rock collection was particularly trippy, because they showed that these songs were sung by real people! With bad hair and funny clothes! I recognized almost every song, but less than half the singers. I also learned some surprising facts (Lotta Love was originally by Neil Young?).

Every once in a while, I’ll hear a song that catches my attention, and then I can’t resist going online to do some research. Like when I first heard Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” [MTV music video] and then finding out a few weeks later it was built around a sample of the 1971 hit “Are You My Woman?”[Windows Media audio clip from Amazon] by the Chi-Lites. Or when I heard the background music to a Lincoln car commercial about 4 years ago and discovered it was a song called “Get A Move On” [QuickTime music video] by Mr. Scruff, who sampled “Bird’s Lament (In Memory of Charlie Parker)” [song provided by Rhapsody] by Moondog. Or just recently, when I dug into Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” [QuickTime music video] and read that they sampled a song from the soundtrack of a 1968 Italian cowboy movie [MP3 audio]!

But of course, no one can beat Weird Al. His latest triumph: turning Chamillionaire’s “Ridin'” [MTV music video] into “White and Nerdy” [MTV music video] — if you don’t click on any other icon, click on this one! After more than two decades, he has not lost his touch.

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