Category Archives: Web

May Miscellany

It’s been a little while since I posted, so I thought I’d post some end-of-semester miscellaneous items.

  • I figured out my hangup about writing (with some help): I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Your first reply may be to say, “well, duh!”, and you’d be right to say that. However, being new to something isn’t a feeling that I’m used to anymore. I’m coming out of a career where someone could hand me a project and I could get started with very few problems. Not so with research writing, as was pointed out to me.

    I thought the fear angle was it for a while, but then I mulled it over, along with the comments people left in that vein. They were good observations, I think, but I’m not convinced that it’s fear. I’m a bit intimidated, don’t get me wrong, but I think that more than anything else I’m just lost. So, time for practice, practice, practice, and a little (ok, much) guidance from the people I write with.

  • Blip.fm: This is a pretty fun service. It’s kind of like Twitter, except every “blip” has a song mapped to it. The page has a built-in flash player so that you can listen to people’s (DJ’s) streams. I tried Pandora a while ago, and I picked it up again recently, and it just failed me. I can’t find the music that I like, and it always seems to bring in songs that don’t have the right sound for what I’m trying to get at.

    Blip.fm is nice because you can just pick the songs, or scan around to find people listening to stuff that you like. There are certainly DJ’s on Blip.fm who try to get as many listeners as possible, but I just use it to store songs that I like or that I found cool at any particular moment. Here’s my stream if you’re interested. Like I said, it’s what I like, not what you like, so be forewarned.

  • It’s weird what’s useful: I was able to apply the core technique of an image-processing algorithm that I learned at my last job (not anything they patented, if they’re reading) to a class project this semester. I’ve discussed it with the postdoc interested in the technique, and it promises to be lots of fun. Even cooler is that the application is mostly unrelated to image processing (though it could be used in that capacity).
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A Rant on Password Challenge Questions, If I May

Fact: I select passwords that have a chasm separating them from my personal life. I use a system that only I know (not even my wife knows it), and I adhere to good password practices.

Fact: Personal data is researchable.

Ergo: Answers to personal questions are less secure than my passwords that they “protect.”

My bank doesn’t understand this crucial security notion:

Forcing me to use a system that is less secure than the one that I use now is a security flaw.

Incidentally, they also enforce passwords with a minimum number of a certain type of character, which is also less secure.

Security concerns aside, this is also an inconvenience. Passwords that I choose are cryptic, but I can commit them to memory. Security questions on the other hand, have “natural” answers. How forgiving will the verification be? If it’s lax, then it’s even less secure. If it’s strict, it’s a phenomenal inconvenience to me, because I might type the answer with a capital (or without), or use a numeral or abbreviation, etc. You get the idea. Now I’m stuck going to the branch just for fat-fingering something.

Security measures that are insecure and inconvenient aren’t worth it. Now, if someone could just convince the TSA of that…

[Update: An xkcd about the same topic the very day after I posted this:

Weird.]

My Social Web Experiences

Well, since WoBloMo is officially a bust, I may as well not try to get posts in on time. It’s been an interesting exercise in posting regularly, and I have to say that it wasn’t all bad. I was surprised that I was able to come up with this many things to write about. This is one of those days when I’m at a loss, so I’ll just blab about my experiences with social media for a post.

Like most people, I didn’t see the point in the social web sites, like Facebook. I guess Twitter falls into that category too. I tried Twitter first, and I have to say that I didn’t see it. I didn’t know why people used it at all. Then I was on a mobile plan with unlimited texts, that no one took advantage of, so I decided to do something with them. I added Twitter to my mobile phone and that’s when I got it. For some reason, it’s incredibly entertaining to hear from various people about what they’re doing and what’s on their mind.

That last bit is what you have to realize about Twitter. When you can just blab about what’s on your mind and you don’t care what friends see it or who in the world sees it, and then someone that you didn’t know starts following you because they have something in common with you, that’s pretty cool. I cut off the unlimited texts because of my lifestyle change, so I had to get my Twitter fix somehow. I didn’t get TweetDeck the first time I tried it, but I tried it again, and I’m addicted. I follow lots more people now because of it. It’s a near necessity for following many people. If you follow me on Twitter, you know just how much I use it.

Facebook is kind of a different story for me. What was cool about Facebook was that I started getting in touch with all these people that I hadn’t talked to in years. That was also a downside, I might add. But it’s mostly a positive. For me, even keeping up with email correspondence seems difficult. But on Facebook, you can see what an acquaintance is up to right away, and then you remember to drop a note.

For me, I guess, Twitter and Facebook are kind of the same activity as writing letters was to my grandparents. Except it’s a lot faster, and suits my distracted nature.

Casual Weekend Notes

This weekend, I give you a cop-out post, hopefully a little lighter than my last. Just a few things happening in my sphere.

  • I’m addicted to Twitter, ever since I figured out how to use TweetDeck.
  • Lots more hits on my layoff post than I thought (25, as of today, rather than my predicted three).
  • People still like my hypersphere post, but not as much as when it was new on reddit. I still can’t get over the fact that someone reddit-ed my post! I’m still really flattered.
  • My wife and I checked out a few neighborhoods today that we’d move to, and that hopefully we can afford. We’re looking at houses this time (to rent, not to own), and we plan to move at the end of Summer. We’re hoping that the difficulty of selling will work in our favor.
  • I officially love Sumatran coffee beans. The flavor is exactly what I’m looking for in a cup of coffee. Of course, for all I know, Sumatran may just be the white zinfandel of coffee.
  • I dislike using the word random outside its probabilistic meaning. Desultory, casual, or stray are usually more appropriate words for the way that I find most people use the word random. Unfortunately, I find myself using it inappropriately at times, so I can’t really be that critical.

Have a good weekend!