Monthly Archive: October 2008

The politics of the walk to work

I walk to work.  In general, it’s a very pleasant 20 minute walk.  Just long enough to get me going in the morning, get a few steps on the pedometer, and to get my mind in the right place.  Just short enough so that if I’m running late I can hustle and cut it down to about 15-17 minutes.  It’s generally a nice walk.

Depending on when I hit various intersections with traffic lights and crosswalks, I walk along a variety of routes.  I also try to mix things up.  However, there is one route that has become a kind of farcical political maze.

In no way do I believe that walking in front of a house with a particular lawn sign supporting one candidate or political issue vs. another is in some way endorsing that opinion.  However, in my own little, weird way, I feel like I should not “patronize” the sidewalk in front of a home that supports a cause that I do not (as I write this, I realize how crazy I am).

Well, there is one route where the first house on the right supports McCain/Palin, a ticket which I oppose.  So I cross the street.  To my satisfaction, there is an Obama/Biden lawn sign at the house opposite.  I walk a bit further, and I see a “Yes on Prop. 8” sign, which is to change the California state constitution to ban same-sex marriages.  I am opposed to that, so now I change street sides again.  Two houses down, I have another McCain/Pallin sign or some other thing that bothers me.  So I end up zig-zagging back and forth on each block like a mental patient trying to make a political statement.

I guess maybe it is more like a mental patient than I’d like to think 🙂

LinkedIn Invite – unexpected questions

The other day, I invited someone to join my LinkedIn network (my profile!).  The default message is something along the lines of “since you are someone I trust, I would like to add you to my network.”

The key word is trust.  I believe that LinkedIn means in terms of who they are.  I trust that that person is actually…that person.  A friend, colleague, etc.  However, someone at work took that as meaning trustworthiness, reliability, etc.  She asked me what she had done to earn my trust, since we had only worked on a few projects.

First, she is working with my group on a few projects now so I do know that she is very diligent and detail-oriented.  So far, she seems pretty okay.  So it’s not like I based my response to her query on a complete lack of information.

However, it seemed weird that someone would question the invite anyway.  This has lots of room for misinterpretation but it felt like I was being accused of “do you really, seriously want me to believe that I have gained your trust…?” kind of snarkiness.

Eh.  I’m obviously being sensitive here.  I don’t feel anything negative about it, in reality but it was just weird.

Open Source – the lustre finally goes away

Report: Pure Open Source No Longer a Viable Business Model – ReadWriteWeb

When I worked at Stanford, I was able to watch, firsthand, the open source project that has since become Sakai.  This is a multi-university, complex project to develop a learning management system designed for universities, by universities.  This would be in comparison to Blackboard, which is owned by a company and run like one at times.

The idea all along was to offer the application as open source once it was all “done.”  However, the team ran into a number of obstacles, and that’s just what I saw myself.  For instance, the type of back-end database.  Ours was Oracle, but you can’t really launch an open source product that relies on Oracle.  So a mySQL version had to be built. 

This article is different – it’s about offering an open source project and then building a business model around it that will actually make money.  But the truth, and I think anyone that has tried to actually maintain a business around an open source project will second this, is that it’s not easy to build around such offerings.  At some point the effort to continue development overwhelms the benefit of the project and the revenue stream cannot sustain the costs.

I’m still a big fan of open source products.  But I don’t see myself developing an open source business.

Getting school over with…or not

I was having the conversation with a classmate the other day about trying to take Capstone, our final class in our MBA program, this spring quarter.  I know a few people who are taking it in spring so there is incentive (it’s a team-based course).  However, I would have to change my schedule a bit and take an extra course next quarter to finish all my requirements in time.  Or, if I really wanted to get in on spring, I could have taken just one of my remaining three required, core courses this quarter and been all set.

However, it makes me wonder about the timing of the program, and the sense of urgency to just get it over with.  This goes hand in hand with previous posts about why I choose certain classes taught by certain professors over the same course by a different one and my progress thus far.  I don’t feel a particular urgency to get the program done, though I will admit that I’m getting a bit jaded lately and the fatigue of going to classes at night after working a full day is not something I will miss when I am done.

But, with a course as important as Capstone, it’s rather important for me to make sure I have a professor from whom I will learn a great deal, and with whom I will be able to create a solid business plan (that’s the real purpose of the course).  So making sure that I take courses such that I can take Capstone at my earliest possible moment…not so sure about that.  I’m pretty comfortable setting myself up for Fall term for Capstone (though I hope I know some folks in the class).

I’m also quite lucky – my work will start paying for up to 2 classes per quarter starting next term, and that is a benefit I want to take advantage of for at least 2-3 terms.  It gives me the freedom to wait until the right Capstone professor comes along.  Few enjoy this option.  But even those that do, many are determined to power through as quickly as possible.

The MBA will come in time.  Instead of 2 years I’m looking at 2.5.  Almost certainly less than 3.  That’s pretty okay with me.

Curbside – mini review of GPS DSLR systems


Originally uploaded by kaiyen

Not only is this a truly amazing photo :-), but it’s also the first one I’ve posted since I put together my GPS system for my D300. This is my mini review to accompany the photo. If you go to the flickr page, on the lower right there is a link to “where this photo was taken.” It takes you right to a satellite map of the spot.

There are a lot of options out there for getting GPS coordinates embedded into cameras that support such a feature. Nikon even came out with one of their own. One of the least expensive, other than building one yourself, is to get a hiking GPS unit and plug it into an adapter. The hiking GPS’s – I use a Garmin eTrex Legend – are pretty cheap. Mine cost $40 used on craigslist (which is actually cheap for the model anyway – the Legend usually goes for more like $80-100). The cheapest eTrex models can be as little as $20 even on ebay.

Just about all hiking GPS units will transmit the data in a format compatible with at least Nikon’s system, and the little “GPS” icon pops right up. Acquisition of GPS signal was about 30 seconds, and stayed locked on even while in my bag.

The adapter I used, gotten off of ebay, is from “Stellar Designs” and was an affordable $30 (this link indicates the price has gone up). Plug that into the big serial cable that came with my eTrex and I’m good to go for $70. Not bad.

Perhaps a better adapter option is the ones offered by PC-Mobile, where the options for Nikon DSLR cameras would have cost about $70 or so. Importantly, the adapter they use includes the ability to add a cable release. I am now without the ability to do so on mine.

FWIW, the reason I went with a wired solution was that the other ones, such as that from Solmeta, are more like $300. Big price difference.

The damnation of too many course materials websites

Here at SCU, we have two major online course materials systems.  One is called eres, the other Angel.  The former is really just a document repository.  It does have folders and a weird variant of a discussion forum but it’s a place where a professor can put a bunch of files and students can download them.  Angel is a full blown learning management system, designed as a central stopping point for actual course content, links out to other places, the ability to have a drop-box for delivery assignments, etc.

While I do have my own personal complaints about eres as a system, my particular whiney complaint today is about the fact that we have 2 of them at all.  I never know where to look for what.

Before the quarter started, I went to both and looked for my three classes.  I found none of them at either site, and tried to remember to look back again later.  When the quarter began, I discovered that both of my quarter-long classes were on Angel.  My 1-unit course, which only meets 1 weekend, I just forgot about.  Turns out it’s on eres.  And it turns out that the professor expected all of us to go there and find it…appparently a while ago.  Now I’m behind to some extent and feel a bit stupid about an e-mail I sent and a response I received from the management department (it’s more about my feeling stupid than them making me feel that way).

It’s just frustrating that we have two different systems and I’m somehow feeling guilty because I didn’t spastically check both of them on a regular basis.  Just frustrating.

Finally – someone gets “it” on laptops, classrooms, and law schools

SSRN Author Page for Jana R. McCreary

I confine my commentary about the state of academic technology (technology implemented in the pursuit of bettering teaching and learning, as compared to technology as an enabler or productivity and getting work done) and law schools to this blog and a select few colleagues here.  I had a few posts in the past about this article or that, which were lost when my blog database imploded.

But, finally, here is an article that looks at laptops in a much more even-keeled light, based on research and ethnographic observation rather than just opinions and presumptions.

The basic point is that while students do surf the web and that most of that surfing is not class-related, they also benefit greatly from the enhanced note-taking capabilities that laptops offer.  And the benefits largely outweight the disadvantages.  At the same time, the author makes an extremely reasonable suggest of a “laptop-free” zone in each room, so that those who prefer to take notes by hand are not bothered by those furiously typing away.

I have been arguing the point, very subtly, that it’s about how a laptop is used, not whether one is used or not, that is the issue.  And that indeed applications such as OneNote or NoteBook make a real difference in how students take notes.  And, with those tools, it becomes easier to manage a classroom full of students, many of whom do jump out to surf the web now and then.

AIG wants more – precursor of things to come?

AIG hits up Fed for more money – Oct. 8, 2008

I don’t know about those claims that the amount of liquidity needed to recreate the market is closer to $5 trillion than $700 billion, but I’m not sure the latter is enough to cover the actual amount of risky, “toxic” assets in all these financial institutions, either.

AIG is asking for this money because they were hit up to give back cash by investors – the original loan from the federal government was to just get them on their feet.  This was like a big right hook immediately after getting up before the count reached 10 on the previous knockdown.  I don’t think that’ll happen with the $700 billion – presumably banks aren’t going to immediately lend to borrowers with bad credit and use inappropriate lending terms in the process all over again.  But, again…is $700 billion enough?