Monthly Archive for August, 2006

Happy BlogDay: My Top Five Blogs

BlogDay2006

From good to awesome, here are my belated top five blogs for BlogDay 2006:

5th place: The Blogging Times
Think of it as the newspaper entirely on the blogosphere. I’ve always wanted to do something like that with the goal of persuading people who read physical newspapers to have an easier time reading it online. The Blogging Times features news, opinion columns, job listings and almost everything you’d expect in a regular paper. With the addition of daily YouTube videos of course.

4th place: Amanda Unboomed
Now that our favorite RocketBoom host is on her own, see what she’ll be up to next on her personal blog. She’s been on a few adventures already as you’ll see…

3rd place: Phill Ryu
This young Mac developer became an overnight sensation with his various blog posts on the Mac community. He’s one guy who believes that features are as important as asthetics, that’s why he keeping producing beautiful Mac apps.

2nd place: Virtual China
The BoingBoing of China! Virtual China lets us peek into the insane online/offline culture of the supposedly emerging superpower, China. Cultural anthropologist Lyn Jeffery as well as Jason Li regularly post their exploration of virtual experiences and environments in and about China.

1st place: ZeFrank
Ze Frank rose to Internet fame in 2001 with his viral video How to Dance Properly, and has been a purveyor of imaginative online comedy ever since. His latest experiment, the show, is posted daily at zefrank.com.

Oh, and you can now see what other bloggers have chosen for their BlogDay posts.

Applications for “Getting Things Done” on a Mac

New Mac GTD app: Inbox
It’s beta and it’s slow as molasses, so you might wanna see the screenshots before you try

If you’re into organizing your life to make it simpler, you would have probably heard of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (aka GTD). Wikipedia has a good summary of it, but if you want the real deal, check out Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders where he shares time-bending tips for GTD fanatics.

Aside from the useful GTD ideas we’ve read online, some of us Mac users have been wondering why there hasn’t been a proper Mac application which organizes our lives according to these GTD principles, namely Collect, Process, Organize, Review and Do. It shouldn’t be too hard to make would it?

So far there has been one major GTD Mac app called Kinkless GTD (kGTD for short). The problem with it is that you’ll need OmniOutliner Pro to use it, which costs a cool $69.95 online.

Fortunately for us, fellow blogger Oyvind of BrilliantDays has unravelled a brand new app which seems to do exactly what we want. He’s talking about a proper, Cocoa-authored desktop application that is a full-fledged, elegant version of kGTD.

Enter “Inbox“…

As ubiquitous as it sounds, Inbox makes Oyvind really happy. I’ve downloaded it myself and I have to agree with him that’s a pretty-looking application which has all the GTD features in the right place. I must note though that it’s still in beta and it’s slow as molasses. I wouldn’t use it to store anything critical for now. Still, I am hoping for this wonderful program to be finalized soon. I think it’s going to be a real hit so watch out for it.

BTW: Before you download Inbox, you can view my screenshots to get an idea of how it looks like.

So we’re meeting the Dalai Lama?

dalai lama being cute The University at Buffalo is really gearing up for the arrival of the 14th Dalai Lama. Lamp post banners line the streets depicting his highness and students get emails regularly reminding them of the grand event. In fact, it’s turning out so big that UB has literally declared September 19, 2006 as a “Day of Learning” (no classes)!

Here at the ETC, librarians have been tasked to produce all kinds of print material for the event. From beautiful posters to pretty postcards, a bunch of us have been helping them make sure everything turns out right from layout design to the oversized printing.

So lately I’ve been talking to a few people around campus about it. I’ve heard interesting stories about how some president of a student body once said how he’d go listen to him, but said that it wouldn’t be a popular event with undergrads because they won’t know who he is (ouch!). Some felt that the whole thing was overblown, that he is a fugitive of China, that it’s be hard to separate the religion from philosophy and that it’s propaganda.

I guess you can never please everyone, but even though I have a book from the Dalai Lama called The Art of Happiness, this whole event has been one of the biggest university campaigns I’ve seen in my six years here. If it’s this big everywhere else, the Dalai Lama probably has a closet full of honoraries from the numerous prestigious universities he’s visited.

In any case, this evening’s email from the UB administration took the cake. A mass mail was sent out to inform everyone who the Dalai Lama is. I guess it makes sense not to look silly in front of a dignitary, but it’s stuff like this that reminds me of how Singapore works. Despite my cynicism, it’s a good safety measure nonetheless.

Here’s the first portion of the lengthy email about the 14th Dalai Lama. Take a look and let me know what you think:

Everything You Need to Know about the UB Visit of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

HIS LIFE

  • At age 15 the Dalai Lama was the head of state, leading Tibet during the threat of a full-scale war with China.
  • At 20, he was meeting Chinese leaders Mao Tse-tung, Chou En-lai, and Deng Xiaoping to discuss the political fate of Tibet.
  • By 30, he was driven into exile in India, followed by 80,000 Tibetan refugees.
  • By 54, his efforts to liberate Tibet while consistently opposing the use of violence earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

ABOUT THE VISIT
The visit of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is a chance for all UB students to see the human face of peace—to reflect on how we can each, individually, achieve greatness for the benefit of our world.

For most UB students, the UB visit of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama (Sept. 19, 2006: performances: 1 p.m.; lecture: 3 p.m.) will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear this Nobel Peace Prize winner. His message is simple: a future of peace, human compassion, and cultural freedom is possible; it is in the hands of today’s students.

Click here to learn what’s happening—especially for students. Hear interviews with other UB students and faculty who have personal experience with the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism. Find out about a special UB-student-only movie screening of Vajra Sky Over Tibet on Fri. 9/15/06; and find out where and when to get your tickets.

Power in Our Hands
“In a world full of war, a voice of peace is sometimes considered insane. What he has to say is not new. He tells us what we know to be inherently true. He’s not here to talk about being Buddhist or Tibetan. He’s here to talk about being human and living in an increasingly violent world. In 10 or 20 years, we, the young people, can use this to make a difference in our world.”
— Amalia Rubin, UB sophomore, Asian Studies

DALAI LAMA-RELATED EVENTS

Day of Learning
September 19, 2006 has been designated a Day of Learning (no classes on North Campus). There is a full schedule of events on Sept. 18-19. Click here for a complete list.

Today’s Links: Three kinds of bloggers…

Bloggers in China
I just love this blogger version of the typical Chinese propaganda posters

Upcoming Workshop: Get “Web 2.0″ in 1 hour…

IntroWeb20 - 12

This Friday, I’ll lead one of those ETC brown bag sessions (for the lunch-time crowd) where I’ll be given 1 hour to share what Web 2.0 is about. The participants will be mostly educators. I can either talk real fast about blogs, wikis, podcasting, and RSS, or I could ask them what they prefer to know. I prefer the latter, that’s why I’m emailing registrants as we speak to elicit the Top Three “Web 2.0″ Things they as educators really want to know. If you’re in UB and feel like joining in, here are the details:

Web 2.0 Technologies Overview
1st Sept 2006, 12:00pm to 1:00pm (Registration)
Blogs, wikis, and podcasting are becoming widely used in higher education to extend interactions among teachers and learners. Follow-up sessions help you develop these environments for use in your teaching and research.

BTW: Here’s a screencast of my previous “Intro to Web 2.0” workshop held earlier in February.

CurrentStatus: How my typical day goes…

033106_gomotorboard
So I rode my Go Motorboard Transporter to campus today…

Currently 10.15am: Leave home
I decided take advantage of the last few weeks of warmth by riding my Motorboard to the North Campus. Given UB’s increasing enrollment every semester, its actually faster for me to get to work this way since I don’t have to deal with the university’s horrible parking situation. Still not used to seeing so many students in school… summer has been kind to me.

Currently 10.25am: Work at ETC
Drat! I was late by about 10mins. I didn’t take into account travel time… I keep forgetting that time doesn’t stand still for me. Work was pretty hoo-hum. I successfully duplicated a badly duplicated DVD (don’t ask me why), as well as calmed down a panicky Indian graduate assistant who was trying to post something onto Blackboard but had no permission to. On the side, I emailed the instructors of classes I’m auditing as a courtesy to let them know who the hell I am. I get the feeling that they want me to help lecture…

Currently 3.59pm: Audit “Intro to Internet” class
At first I thought the class was going to be at a big lecture hall… after all this is an extremely popular class. Alas, the class actually took place in the basement of Clemens where 45 lucky students squeezed in a tiny room. Derek Lackaff, who teaches this class, later told me that being a T.A. and not a professor, there’s a 45 student limit to classes he could teach. I pity the students… this is one of the most fun classes to take in Communication. Derek did a nice job of being lenient (where’s the cane?) while remaining open to suggestions at the same time. I like how he’s included blogging as part of the class weekly assignment, and it’ll be nice to see how this pedagodical experiment plays out. We’ve had a good experience with the previous Informatics blog server, which has now gone. I noted how this would help him since students now have a backchannel to lead the class. Incidentally, as part of his class intro, Derek did an “invasion of privacy” stunt on the students by showing everyone their facebook profiles on screen. Yes it’s out there alright, just never saw it coming in the classroom did yah? Apparently our very own Alex Halavais masterminded this and it’s a practical meme I can’t wait to try on my own students one day.

Currently 4.26pm: Homeward bound
Derek ended his class early by having students exchange contacts with at least four others. Dude, there’s six degrees of seperation… shouldn’t they get six contacts just in case? Anyway, I zipped back home on my Motorboard to grab the car. Interestingly, I spotted some guys on campus with a cameraphone snapping pictures of me riding. Another Asian guy in the apartment elevator asked me what I was riding and being lazy to explain, I said that it’s a prototype I once reviewed which should cost $499. “Is that in US dollars?”, he asked in amazement. I said yes. But I made a mistake… I forgot that it’s actually US$599. A small price to pay… just look at how much a Segway costs (think $5k minimum).

Currently 5.55pm: Fixing Jody’s Apple Mail woes
I’m making a house-call somewhere along Main Street to help with a friend’s Apple Mail problem. She switched from Entourage to Apple Mail, which is nice since it’s more OS-savvy, by allowing data to flow from one Apple app to another (e.g. shared address book, iLife). The downer is that Entourage allowed for multiple users (she and her husband) in one sitting, while Mail insists on having users switch to their individual Mac accounts. I foresee spending 15min max switching between user logins and making sure both accounts receive mail. They travel the world a lot, so everything’s through the modem. Not exactly fun times.

Currently 7.00pm: Grabbing a Bite & Writing Blog Paper
Hopefully it’s as simple as that.

How does your day go?
If you’re up to it, tag your posts with: HowMyDayGoes

Today’s Links: Wicki Wicki Wikipedia!

Wicki! Wicki!
Wicki! Wicki! Love the name, love the game. Too bad we can’t play it, just observe it.

PhD or Die Trying: The Stress-Testing Semester

scientology stress test
Giving a stress test by MutantFrog

After seeing plenty of beady-eyed freshmen prepping themselves for their first college experience here at UB, I’m reminded of the excitement I once had coming here to study. I never had prior visits to Buffalo, but thanks to some helpful souls, I got settled down pretty fast. As I recalled, it was quite a good experience.

Now, contrary to how I once felt fresh off the boat, this Fall semester is going to get really bloody for me. While others go merrily about their classes, I’ll be sweating buckets worrying over getting things done in time. If I thought writing during the summer break was hard, writing while sitting in on classes (which I’ll be teaching next time) as well as re-taking that forsaken Advanced Stats class, all while working as usual, is going to be like putting my brain in sixth gear with a broken pedal to the metal.

As my advisor once warned me, taking up a PhD isn’t something you do out of fancy. I think he was trying to tell me that it has to literally be your calling. Thing is, I would have never known if I had not tried it. Now that I’m in it, do I know?

Being the only surviving Informatics graduate student to crossover to the Communication department for the doctoral program, I feel privileged but frowned upon at the same time. Frankly speaking, my interest in the social media doesn’t seem to lend me strong ties with my traditional communication faculty. Other than my advisor who’s a maverick in his own right, I doubt anyone there really understands or appreciates what I am trying to accomplish. Getting the typical “I thought you graduated” from the very faculty whom you work under isn’t exactly heartwarming either.

At this point you might be wondering what’s the point of me telling you all this. Perhaps I’m looking for some advice to making it all work. I feel like I’m fire-fighting everyday as I try to write but end up with blank sheets of paper. The worst thing is that the longer this goes, the more dissimal I feel as I grow older with loved ones waiting on me.

Time is running out.
No, I shouldn’t quit.
Not without a fight.

SingShot: How to ruin your favorite songs…

Playing with SingShot, anyone can now have a chance at tramatizing themselves (and loved ones) by singing their favorite songs online. Look, I just totally annihilated one of my favorite sing-alongs by Reggae Pop group, Big Mountain. My other singing attempts are here.

Penny: I realize I can’t sing, but I’ll try for you always. Here’s Baby I Love Your Way.

UPDATE: If you wanna sing, tag it “slaughterseries“, so you can join us in a friendly competition on who sounds the crappiest. SlaughterSeries #1: My buddy MrBig sings To Be With You.

Here comes ValleySchwag #4…

Here comes ValleySchwag #4...
Click to see entire photo set…

The letter explains what ValleySchwaggers have been up to, and it looks like the poor chaps at Rubyred Labs seem to be suffering from subscriber overload. The care package now comes in a red cloth wrap, usuable as a bloodied hankachief for teasing loved ones. About what I got… slim pickings this time round. I even received the same imeem tshirt as before. Highlights include the Yelp badge (tiny badges rawk!) and a MobiTV beach chair for your cell phone. I’m starting to give some of this stuff away to friends. Hoping for cooler schwag next time.

To Rubyred Labs: Thanks for the hard work guys! :)