Friday, March 31, 2006
The first leg went well, requiring something like 35 minutes door-to-door for a trip I could drive in about 15-20 minutes. But at least 10 of those minutes were "dwell time", or time standing on the curb looking to see if the bus were approaching. Not entirely bad. The bus ride itself, between Westgate Plaze and Colonie Center Mall, another 10, so the remaining 15 I spent walking for the start and finish of the journey. Sounds like a lot by Albany standards, since people feel the compulsion to stare at pedestrians on Central Ave, Wolf Road, or pretty much any paved surface not on a straight line between the front doorstep and the car. (Ok, that was slightly exaggerated.)
Returning was a little tougher, since it wasn't clear where the bus stopped, or what lines stopped. After walking a good 10 minutes to Central, the bus I boarded backtracked to where I had been before, before heading back to the school, where I could transfer to another bus. Getting back: about an hour, including a couple of side trips into bookstores along the way. I could have made it in half an hour or less, had I known about the correct bus stops, not made side trips, etc, all while carrying around books, notebooks, a laptop, a PDA, and an MP3 player-- or in about 15 minutes had I used the car. But that's not really the point, and doing research on public transportation doens't feel very real without using it sometimes.
Some random thoughts on the daily trip? It's a really complex process to estimate how much time and effort will be required ahead of time. I wouldn't have bothered on a cold or rainy day. Crossing the road to get to the bus stop is not a trivial exercise. You don't know if the bus already left or is running late. Bus stops are sometimes not marked with information about what line stops there; if they do have a sign, there may even be a schedule of stops at that station, though the information may be a couple of years old.
Sorry folks.. the rest will have to wait for another day. I'm about to fall asleep. Good night!
Thursday, March 30, 2006
I'm stressed, as is everyone else I know at school. I can draw a model of work backlog faster than I'm currently able to do anything about it, apparently. Welcome to the innner workings of the brain of a PhD student. That's one reason for the unofficial acronym for "PhD = Piled higher and Deeper".
Somehow I've started typing up my notes for various projects. No, I'm not going to bother typing class notes for anything already handwritten. Instead, it's just the meeting notes and other odd scratches on all my various notepads that I'm trying to consolidate, as well as accumulating any other papers and projects I've done. It's all with the goal of cutting and dicing these raw materials to find research materials. I had first thought a Wiki would be a good medium, but I wanted a way to link content between source and consolidated content pages without just cut and paste would be good. Plus, Wiki visualization tools just aren't there yet.. I'd like something more like a mindmapping software. I've started looking at wikidPad, and yet the learning curve of figuring out how to use it seems to outweigh potential benefits over just a plain wiki.
But that just sounds like too much work. For now I'll stick to OpenOffice document files (as opposed to the Evil Microsoft Office format). And when it's ready, maybe move to a hosted Wiki engine once broken up into sharable projects and all the typos are cleared up.
Friday, March 24, 2006
- social computing?
- a social experiment?
- A cultural statement about knowledge creation via the Internet?
- An evolving expression of our Internet-driven culture
- a filter of internet content in a consistent, self-referencing format?
- a distilled summary of all internet content in an encyclopedia format?
That's it, in a nutshell, so to speak.
It's what people do with it that makes it interesting.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
My teaching partner and I spent the next couple of hours rehashing our approach to the rest of the semester. But there is a fundamental disconect with faculty expectations and students, that seems to be just another variation on an old theme: the theoretical vs the practical. On the other hand, the issue is further muddled by the lack of entrance and exit competencies, and apparently a clear understanding of what career paths are available to students following graduation with their BA in Information Science. My take would be an application- and web-oriented career path, with an understanding of things like the creation and organization of a data- and document-intensive web site (since e-commerce was a popular request). Building a Web 2.0 Internet site or organization-oriented intranet site would be an important theme here.
From discussions in the last couple of minutes of class came an interesting point: how people perceive IP, whether software, books, music, or magazines, what constitutes fair use, personal use, and the rights of owners vs. purchasers. That's an IS discussion, not an IT one. However, I think it's worth noting that an IS discussion without an IT context doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It pays to be conversant in both, not to mention informed and coherent.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
What is it about schoolwork that makes you feel you can't catch up, no matter how much you try? It's a bottomless pit of effort, I guess, and the answer is to budget your time in each task so that there's enough time left over for other projects. Kind of common sense, but any one subject can take up as much time as you have-- sadly, it turns into an issue of judging how much time to steal from one class to spend on another as the semester drags on. I think working in my old career was a lot easier, not to mention paid a little better, though the long term prospects weren't nearly as good.
Was thinking today for no apparent reason that the world of software development, information science, etc, is bounded reasoning within an artificial reality of our own construction. I left that to go back to school. School seems to be an artificial reality constructed to build reasoning skills within the boundaries of our own design.
That's progress, right? Good night, and good luck.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
One of the few gripes we have back in albany is the lack of good japanese food. One of my friends at uncommon grounds made the above creation, salmon sushi, using a bagel instead of rice. Pretty cool...
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Friday, March 17, 2006
Still no word on results from my Comprehensive Exam, which I took about a month and a half ago. Let's hope I passed. I think I took it a year early, relative to the other people in my program year. I'm not sure whether I should have waited, but I'm glad to get it over with-- so long as I passed that is. I was reassured with the standard "you'll do fine" comments just enough times to qualify as a curse.
I'm having odd technology issues, between the new computer and my old one, sitting in the basement under a pile of papers and the odd empty cardboard box. My work area has been completely abandoned in favor of the new laptop. The problem is that laptops are just not very suitable for certain kinds of tasks, like those that require a lot of precsion mouse usage, or work not done well while the inadequately cooled CPU renders you sterile.
Also, the conection between my PalmOS PDA and the laptop is still a little annoying. The PDA is an older model that doesn't support IrDA (infrared) transfers. The laptop is so new it contains nothing but USB ports. The PDA does have a USB dock, but it's a massive hunk of plastic with a 4-foot cord-- hardly convenient on the go. Yet, the PDA is still more useful than the annoyance associated with updating it daily or more, since it powers on in a second, and launches the app or document of your choice within a few seconds for easy reading. (Easy here is defined as a 1980's style fixed font, 80 column display. But I'm a child of the 80's, and life did seem a bit easier back then.) I can do some of my reading when otherwise I would be unable to do any. In short, it allows some minimal level of productivity until you can get back into an environment that allows you to do real work. Hardly a poster ad, but that's PhD student life: a patchwork of multiple conflicting goals, resolving schedule conflicts, continual teaching-related tasks, all while trying to find ways to do a little work whenever you can before the deadlines approach and you have to completely give up what little sleep you normally get.
Yea, so not so surprisingly, the papers don't write themselves after buying all the equipment and trying to move data back and forth. They just make it easier to capture more work, or rather, enable me to spend less time doing non-work, if that's any better or makes more sense. It's more time manually cutting and pasting between all the varying ways I write on all the varying technologies used (PDA, USB drive, laptop, desktop) to the point where it's worth asking what the value of thinking might be, without the need to bang out electronic text instead. The ratio of thoughts to keystrokes should be higher.
I used to have a review hanging on my wall in my old office. It was 1998, when I worked as a senior application developer at the Port Authority, back in what people typically call the "North Tower" (we called it WTC1, or just plain Tower 1). It was the review of the movie, "Shakespeare in Love" with Gwyneth Paltrow and some really lucky guy. But the review made a point of something that was very clearly stated in the movie: writing plays, literature, or pretty much anything else, consisted of mixing ink out of powder, and carving out your pen from a quill. You could write a little until the end became so mashed up you had to toss it out and grab another one. This is how all literary works were written prior to the typewriter. Works like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Shakespeare, the many copied editions of the Bible, and so on, were done this way. The effort was so great that people thought at length before writing, and when they recopied, they edited for concision, for clarity, for strength.
You feel a little of that when trying to write text via a PDA. You have to write text using a proprietary pen input method, sequences of pen movements that have only a general relation to the character they correspond to. No spell checking, at least on the model year I bought mine from. Though hardly literature, the writing is still economical. A far cry from word processing. But that's a rant for another day. Time to get back to work on Yet Another Paper...