Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries Tagged as 'Useful'

Future-gazing with the help of a book store

November 1st, 2008 · Comments Off on Future-gazing with the help of a book store

Frank Wilczek talking at Reiters Books in Washington, DC

Frank talking at Reiter’s Scientific Books

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Here you see Frank Wilczek talking at Reiter’s Scientific Books. Aka “Reiter’s Scientific, Professional Technical Books”. What a great bookstore! It was a real bookstore like this that helped Frank (and many young people) get started in science.

Amazon recommends books on the basis that others who bought book X also liked book Y. In a bookstore, you also look into your own future, because shelves include books that people might read after finishing books X and Y.

Such help and encouragement are especially useful to young people or to those who are trying to study something by themselves.

If you go to Washington, don’t miss Reiter’s Book Store. They will ship your purchases to you by UPS, and said purchases can include not just books and magazines but anatomical models of brains or a lifesize skeleton.

Tags: Frank Wilczek · Useful · Wide wonderful world

Old Mac user (me): “What is that funny hole?”

September 3rd, 2008 · 1 Comment

MacPaint (and other) nostalgia: 1

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

‘So what is that funny hole?” I asked my kind young Mac trainer, pointing at the front of a big Mac Pro tower. Natalya, an anthropology major and certified Macintosh genius, speaks fluent customer-ese, and explained that the “hole” was a FireWire 800 port, something I’d seen before but left strictly alone.

To my chagrin (although also to my satisfaction, since I know it now) the FireWire 800 would have been almost twice as fast a way to synch my old Mac laptop* to my new Mac tower, a task that took more than 10 hours with FireWire 400. Which just goes to show that having loved Macintosh computers since 1984 is no guarantee that you can’t learn a lot more about them from somebody who was most likely born after 1984.

Here are some other things I learned in my first hour of Apple’s new One to One store training:

  • What’s the top story right now on CNN? Has anything changed on my Wikipedia watchlist? You can make WebClip widgets from bits of webpages you like, then flash them up onto your desktop using the Dashboard.
  • Want to move from a desktop full of writing projects to a desktop full of scrapbooking projects to a desktop covered with email resources? Leopard has a system preference called Spaces that lets you arrow-key around several different monitor screens, even if you have just one monitor.
  • On a laptop, you can set preferences to “Left Click” by tapping your mousepad with two fingers.
  • A new app called “QuickLook” lets you peek at graphics, Word, Excel files (etc. etc.) without having to open the big clunky program that edits them.

They say you are not old until you stop learning. Lucky for me that I still have so darn much to learn — and that Apple Store genii in Cambridgeside Galleria have so much to teach me.

* I dropped my Mac laptop last week. It still runs, but the funny noise of its fan and the very big ding in its casing suggest that it may not be running for very long into the future.

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · geeky · Useful

SciFoo session about “Science 2.0”

August 9th, 2008 · Comments Off on SciFoo session about “Science 2.0”

George and Esther Dyson

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

My plan to have webfolk give “lightning” talks for scientists ended up in the schedule as 9:30 a.m. “lighting” talks.”

Nevahtheless, as Katherine Hepburn would say, an overflow SciFoo crowd showed up in Google’s “Damascus” room (seats 22) to hear Tim O’Reilly’s own explanation of Web 2.0, followed by stellar short talks by Esther Dyson (EDventure), Chris Anderson (Wired), Barend Mons (WikiProfessional), and Victoria Stodden (Harvard’s Berkman Center).

What was the premise here? As posted in SciFoo’s wiki for session suggestions:

Science Outreach 2.0? I see proposed sessions to have science “heard” by politicians (Eric W, Adam Wishart), to get more young people to fall in love with science (Chris Riley), and to get non-scientists involved in “spectator science” or “citizen science” activities (Margaret Wertheim, Jack Stilgoe, Karen James, Brother Guy).

Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, social networks, web services) are great ways to reach out to non-scientists. What I’m proposing is a session on this useful subset of HOW-TO (a fairly new set of useful tools), a session where Sci Foo’s webfolk (and web-savvy scientists) might give “lightning” talks about “Here is a great web tool useful for scientists doing outreach, here is a quick demo of how it works, here is a URL where you can learn more about it.” Betsy Devine

Here are links to some of the websites that were discussed there:

  • What is Web 2.0?: Original (2005) essay by Tim O'Reilly
  • Science networking site, mentioned by Esther Dyson.
  • User-friendly online DNA comparison tools, explained by Esther Dyson.
  • Science authors can get book-tour information out to the "long tail", explained by Chris Anderson (Wired).
  • Wiki-like tool for Medline that combines language tools and authoritative sources with user input, explained by Barend Mons.
  • Victoria Stodden discussed the misfit between what copyright does and what scientists want to have happen to content they put online. To come, I hope, a link to the web-based license that solves these issues.
  • Collaboration inspiration, or how people showed up from all over the internet to help Oxford astrophysicists classify millions of computer-photographed galaxies, and a Dutch teacher named Hanny discovered a unique new astronomy object, not explained by Betsy Devine, though I would have done so if we had time at the end of the session.

George Dyson, seen in this photo being attacked by a palm tree at the Wild Palms Hotel, did not speak at my session, so this photo is somewhat false advertising for this blogpost.

Update: Jack Stilgoe (Demos) was at this session and blogged it.

Tags: Metablogging · Science · Useful

I love it that Marks and Sparks apologizes …

April 7th, 2008 · Comments Off on I love it that Marks and Sparks apologizes …

Convenient money changing

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

… for the inconvenience, on a recent Sunday, to customers who expect to swap pounds for Euros with no waiting, no fuss, and no commission!

If you have ever stood in line at a cashier’s window to change local money into some currency for an upcoming trip, if you have ever reached the head of the line only to shake your head at the exorbitant fees they were planning to charge you, look longingly at this machine in a Marks and Spencer, parked in between the bakery and dish soap!

I’m sure the store loses no money on this machine, which attracts people who will probably spend more money and time buying even more stuff in their store.

Tags: England · Travel · Useful · Wide wonderful world

Clever but not too crafty fix for old chair

September 22nd, 2007 · Comments Off on Clever but not too crafty fix for old chair

Corner of flat chair cover is tied to chair leg
Frank is a physicist–I am an engineer, which means I can’t help looking at all the world to see what practical changes would somehow improve it.

Today we walked miles into beautiful Stockholm through beautiful September sunlight. Our goal was the Saluhall market at Östermalmstorg, with Frank’s favorite vegetarian restaurant, the Örtagården.

No, there will not be a quiz on those Swedish names.

It was wonderful, and I’ll be posting some photos over at Flickr, but what I can’t resist writing more about is the Örtagården’s truly clever chair-covers.

Chairs that get lots of wear will start looking worn. Normal slipcovers drape over the top of a chairback–even though the chairback itself rarely gets worn or dirty. Furthermore, any time someone sits down on the chair, it pulls the slipcover cloth down–so before you know it, you have a slipcover that looks worn or frayed or even ripped.

The Örtagården re-covers just the seat of each chair, using flat pieces of cloth (with corners cut out) that tie onto each chairleg. With the same amount of material and effort needed to make one normal slipcover, they can spruce up six or seven chairs!

And their food is delicious, even to this non-vegetarian.

Tags: Useful

Useful: 101 quick dinner ideas for summer

July 20th, 2007 · Comments Off on Useful: 101 quick dinner ideas for summer

Smoked salmon with horseradish-flavored whipped cream

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Mmm, restaurant food–but that quickly gets old.

My quick-dinner fall-back, which I learned about in the Netherlands, is handfuls of mixed chopped vegetables tossed into the boiling water when I’m cooking pasta. Top with pesto or nuke some chunky red sauce in the microwave.

Today’s NYT has 101 more ideas, including an easy recipe for gazpacho.

Tags: food · Go go go · Useful · Wide wonderful world

Hi there, we’re just moving into this new place…

March 13th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Happy birthday party with pets and hats

Wow, looks spacious–clean–no cat hair on anything–we’ll, we’ll soon fix that.

Cecil Coupe with his MvManila software managed to collect all the posts and all the pictures I created using Manila over the past four-years-plus, and move them into WordPress so that they all link to each other in the appropriate way, despite the changed URL. Pretty amazing–we ran into some ISP obstacles along the way–through it all, Cecil remained a (very hard-working) pleasure to work with. Cecil with very cute little white Westie named Katie

Thank you, Cecil!

I found Cecil using a Google search for “move Manila blog” but I put some links in here so that you can find him even faster.

Tags: Go go go · Metablogging · Useful

Danceable foxtrots for the complete, er, wannabe dancer

February 28th, 2007 · Comments Off on Danceable foxtrots for the complete, er, wannabe dancer

If you’re rolling up the rug to practice dancing, here are a few tunes to put on a playlist so that you don’t have to keep restarting “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” on the DVD from Complete Idiot’s Guide to Ballroom Dancing:

16th Avenue (nice clear beat, love her voice, but don’t listen to the words if you don’t want to get all teary-eyed)
Lacy J. Dalton — Greatest Hits
Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree (fast but not too fast, nice to hear little Brenda Lee rocking instead of being “Sorry”)
Brenda Lee — Great Women Of Christmas
How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You (sweet indeed, and also sweet to dance to)
James Taylor — Greatest Hits
Jingle Bell Rock (caution, the music makes you want to bounce up and down a little but that’s not how foxtrot is supposed to look)
Brenda Lee, — Great Women Of Christmas
To Know Him Is to Love Him (a bit slow, but who can resist this pretty old tune in this amazing rendition?)
Dolly Parton, Linda Rondstadt & Emmylou Harris — Ultimate Dolly Parton

Yep, my iTunes library has some varied stuff!

Update–revised list, and thanks to my little sister for the James Taylor suggestion! I’ve demoted a few from my danceable list, but they’re all such good songs, I’m keeping them in this blogpost, in case I turn into a whole lot better dancer, on a sub-list of “Foxtrots I love that aren’t quite idiot-danceable”:

I Can’t Stop Loving You
Ray Charles — The Very Best Of Ray Charles
If I Could
Phish — Hoist
End Of The Line [this one’s a bit fast]
Traveling Wilburys
Marie Devine as pensive teenager

Tags: Useful

We’re in Norfolk, our suitcase is still in Boston

November 9th, 2006 · Comments Off on We’re in Norfolk, our suitcase is still in Boston

But I can’t stop smiling. The Democrats won–not just the House but the Senate!

It’s not just that the party whose policies I approve and whose leaders I trust is headed to Washington to curb the crazy excesses of Republicans who imagined that nobody would ever interfere with their corruption and cronyism.

It’s that Diebold machines didn’t steal this election, as people had feared. We do really have a democracy. That’s much more important.

And better than either of these wonderful things, the American people showed that Karl Rove’s ugly tricks couldn’t keep fooling them forever.

You know, it really hurt to believe that Republicans around the country really believed that I, personally, Betsy Devine, was a sleazy person who hated families and babies and soldiers and wanted to “cut and run” and was too stupid to understand the danger of terrorism and…but you get the picture.

Republicans around the country didn’t believe that about their neighbors who were Democrats. Thank you, thank you, Republicans! Let’s work together to make our wonderful country a better place for everyone!

So here I sit in my brand new Tshirt, etc. fresh from the hotel gift shop last night. Ready to go–what a wonderful, wonderful day!

I love you, beautiful, beautiful Norfolk, Virginia!

Tags: Useful

Less than the half-life of launch-party sashimi

March 5th, 2006 · Comments Off on Less than the half-life of launch-party sashimi

Why not, I once asked Dave Winer, organize your next unconference in IRC, or maybe give up on the time-synch and conference in wiki? Nobody would come, said Dave. Even an unconference is much more than text on a webpage.

Text on a webpage is the ultimate fate of most Web 2.0 thunderbolts. Once the hot story scrolls out of Tailrank, Tech Memeorandum, or Technorati, its yesterday’s sushi and nobody wants to touch it.

Even so, let me be just maybe be the last to link to Russell Beattie’s “WTF 2.0” critique of Web 2.0 business models. And, as a public service, here are some examples of how Web 2.0 does make money:

  • …most successful businesses on the Internet are about aggregating the Long Tail…By overcoming the limitations of geography and scale,.. Google and eBay have discovered new markets and expanded existing ones.
  • The availability of offbeat content drives new customers to Netflix – and anything that cuts the cost of customer acquisition is gold for a subscription business.
  • In a Long Tail economy, it’s more expensive to evaluate than to release. Just do it!
  • .. free has a cost: the psychological value of convenience. This is the “not worth it” moment where the wallet opens.
  • Use recommendations to drive demand down the Long Tail. This is the difference between push and pull, between broadcast and personalized taste. Long Tail business can treat consumers as individuals, offering mass customization as an alternative to mass-market fare.

The pre-Web-2.0 source of these recommendations is “The Long Tail” (Wired, December, 2004) by Chris Anderson. Congratulations on your new book, Chris!

Tags: Useful