Miscellaneous and Useless Information

Life


As a kid I used to read the encyclopedia (yes, my nerdiness goes way back), so Wikipedia is truly a joy. Not only can I read it, I can also improve it. Most of my edits have been in subjects I initially know little about but have some strange interest in.

I have an unusual capacity to remember the twists and turns of corporate history, such as the whole Citigroup/Travelers saga. So when I saw the skimpy history section that the Travelers article had, I had to jump in and help out. I also created the article for Capgemini, one of the world’s largest consulting companies, after seeing a sign for “Cap Gemini Ernst & Young” in Cupertino and trying to figure out what the heck that was. In this case, I just created a stub, and thankfully the rest of the Wikipedia community filled it in.

I’ll also do articles of local interest. For example, I heavily rewrote the article on Vallco Fashion Park, now Cupertino Square. Just today, I was reading about Mineta San Jose International Airport, and I knew something was wrong when its history section started in the early 1980s. So I couldn’t resist doing a little research and adding a paragraph about how the airport really started, in 1939.

As usual, I haven’t blogged as much as I’d like, but I have been regularly uploading my photos, so my Flickr photostream is a better representation of my life than my blog. Here’s what I’ve done since my trip to Orlando:

Trip to Taiwan during Chinese New Year. It was great seeing a lot of my relatives, as well as playing tourist in Tainan and Kaohsiung.

Trip to Rochester, New York. It’s not your typical tourist destination, but I was born there and one of my friends was studying there, and I had frequent flyer miles to burn. It felt good to revisit my roots, even though it was snowing in April.

Meeting up with friends. This includes a dinner with high school friends, my 10th-year Caltech reunion, Jonathan and Polly’s wedding, ice skating, and CHI.

Lots of hiking. We’ve visited a lot of places I’d never been to before, such as Sweeney Ridge, San Bruno Mountain, Crystal Springs Park, and St. Joseph’s Hill.

Currently, we have a family friend visiting us from Taiwan. She said she wanted to go see the Gay Pride Parade last Sunday, which I’d never been to. My reaction: I really enjoyed it. I was struck by the sheer joy of the people in the parade — you could tell they were so happy to just be themselves, that they didn’t need to hide who they were. The crowds weren’t too bad, since they were spread out along Market Street, and we took BART in to avoid the driving madness. On the other hand, the parade is really long, about 3½ hours. I would go again, and I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t gone to go! But now that I’ve seen the whole parade once, I’d only stay for maybe the first 1½ hours the next time. (8/6/07 update: I’ve posted my parade photos.)

Song of the moment: “Something About You” by Level 42. An ’80s classic, and Level 42’s only U.S. hit.

My blog is under renovation! I’m finally starting to make my blog look more like the rest of my web site, by mucking with WordPress themes. Since I don’t feel like installing WordPress on my own machine, all of my experimentation will happen on my blog live. Hopefully it won’t cause much of a problem.

I actually don’t mind having these songs stuck in my head, which is a good thing.

Last month it was “Rhiannon” (video 1, video 2) and “Gypsy” (video 1, video 2) by Fleetwood Mac. Triggered by listening to The Dance CD over and over again during my trip to Rochester.

Afterwards came “Sister Golden Hair” (video 1, video 2) and “You Can Do Magic” by America. Probably triggered by watching an infomercial for The Midnight Special.

Now it’s “World (That’s the Price of Love)” (video 1, video 2) and “Ruined in a Day” by New Order. Don’t know what caused me to think of those, but those songs are classic.

Our family has been using TurboTax to prepare taxes for years now, but I’d blanched at the thought of giving Intuit even more of my money for electronically filing my tax forms. This year I decided to give e-filing a shot. The verdict: dang, that was convenient. No printing out 50 pages of tax forms, making sure I signed in the right place, attaching W-2s, buying enough stamps, blah blah blah. Laziness has trumped cheapness this time, and will probably do so from now on.

This blog has already moved twice before, but I expect this move will be the last. I’m posting all new entries right here:

http://blog.jameslin.name

I bet you didn’t realize .name existed, eh? That’s right, I have my very own domain, registered with directNIC and hosted by Dreamhost. I’m still using WordPress software for my blog (which I highly recommend), but now I have full control over it.

I’ll eventually redesign my blog so that it fits with the rest of my personal web site. But that means I need to learn how to create WordPress themes, which isn’t a one-hour job. But otherwise, it’s good to go.

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 loseWeight Exercise. 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.

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