Archive for October, 2004

Ballot types

Thursday, October 28th, 2004

This on CT.

Several images and videos have come across my inbox regarding the types of ballots one may encounter at the elections. Sure, these are parodies for the most part, but certainly have a serious side in light of the 2000 elections. Here is one. Here is another. I thought this thread could serve as a collection for pointers to other images and videos people have seen.

Digital culture

Monday, October 25th, 2004


I just returned from a workshop held in Santa Clara, California by the Digital Cultural Institutions Project of the Social Science Research Council where I was a fellow this summer. I met some very interesting people working on important projects regarding digital culture (broadly defined) mosty focusing on how the particular ways in which content is presented and made available to users in digital form may influence the ways in which people are then able to use said content. It is clear from the presentations and discussion that we are facing some huge challenges when it comes to retaining the rights of users to interact with digital cultural projects the way we have been used to in the past (one case in point: Digital Rights Management).

There was one quite amusing component of the meetings. On Thursday, as part of introducing the fellows to each other, we went to San Francisco to check out The Zeum and the virtual arcade at the Metreon. I had never played virtual bowling before nor tried dance dance revolution. It turns out that both are really fun and make for a serious work-out.

Baby pictures on homepages

Wednesday, October 20th, 2004

This on CT.

If anyone has the time, I would love to see a systematic study of how many male versus female academics portray themselves on their Web sites with or without babies. I realize the complications, e.g. really hard to sample people’s homepages, really hard to control for whether said person portrayed on a Web site even has a baby, but I’d still be curious to see someone gather data on this.

Here’s my motivation for the question. I recently saw a job talk where the candidate had pictures of his kids on his computer’s desktop. I have never seen a woman give a talk with this kind of background illustration (granted, I had never before seen a man give such a talk either). It made me think that this person could pull it off because as a guy he does not have to be concerned about committee members wondering whether he has a spouse who will need a job as well or whether he will take his work seriously despite the fact that he has children. But I recall plenty of cases of women who are married without children or on the market as mothers worrying considerably about how to downplay such personal information.

My impression is that men tend to put up pictures of their children on their professional Web sites more often, but I do not base this observation on any systematic analysis of the situation. I suspect the reason for this (assuming it really is the case) is that for male professionals to show themselves with a baby counts as a positive quality, or, in the least, will likely not count as a negative. It suggests that he is a concerned and proud father who takes his parental duties seriously (okay, that may be a leap:), he is an enlightened man. In contrast, I suspect women still feel that they have to prove themselves as professional first, parent second (or in the least prove that the latter doesn’t trump the former) thus prompting them not to be quite as forward about personal information on their Web sites. I guess one could argue that if for someone a proud father means an enlightened man then a proud mother should not come with negative repercussions, but it is not clear that the mothers feel that way about it.

Just among the people I know, I can think of at least a few couples where the man’s Web site has relatively prominent family information whereas the woman’s site downplays any such content. Even if it is simply about the parents projecting onto their environment how they may be perceived, that is already something to consider about how mothers versus fathers are made to feel about their family situations in professional settings.

Featured in PAW

Tuesday, October 19th, 2004

The Letter from the Editor in this week’s Princeton Alumni Weekly mentions my blog and even includes a picture (of me, not my blog:). It turns out that there are quite a few Princeton alum bloggers out there as per this feature article about some of them.

Writers Block in Princeton

Tuesday, October 19th, 2004

I was in Princeton last week for a few days and had the good fortune to make it in time to view the temporary sculpture garden called Writers Block. The sculptures pay tribute to various Princeton authors and artists. There are just a few days left to go visit it before the pieces will be auctioned off.

I love sculpture gardens and my favorite in that domain remains the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey.

Time to degree

Monday, October 18th, 2004

This on CT.

Kudos to Duke for collecting and making public data about the time to degree and the rates of completion in their PhD programs. I would be curious to see similar data from other campuses. It’s unclear how many schools collect such data systematically and they certainly don’t make them public very often as the details are usually not very glamorous and can seem pretty discouraging. But it’s important information for people to have as they prepare for their graduate school experiences. It can also help students from other campuses as they try to argue for better/longer support for their training.

Flying the friendly skies

Monday, October 18th, 2004

This at CT.

The other day I was on a flight that taught me why you don’t want to take the last flight out.. and why giving flight attendants the power to throw people off planes may not be such a good idea.

We were sitting in the waiting area quietly waiting for the plane to board. Twenty minutes before boarding we were told that the flight crew’s plane was getting in late so we would be boarding late. The person telling us had a nice sense of humor and everyone seemed pretty low-key about the issue. Eventually the crew arrived and we boarded the plane. Some people didn’t seem so calm anymore. There was some bitterness going around about fitting luggage into various compartments. One of the flight attendants was among the most annoyed people. And sure, passengers can be very annoying, but her reactions seemed a bit excessive.

At this point we were only about fifteen minutes behind schedule. But nothing happened. And still nothing happened. Eventually we were told that we would not be taking off for another half an hour as we were the last flight out and so we had to wait for one more plane that had passengers connecting to our flight. Take note: go for earlier flight next time.

A man in the row in front of mine noticed that there was a cart of luggage still sitting next to our plane. He mentioned it to above referenced bitter flight attendant. She clearly had no idea what was going on and dismissed his comment as none of our business. So he asked again. Next, the following exchange took place:

Flight Attendant: You want to go to Chicago?

Passenger: I am going to Chicago.

Flight Attendant: I wouldn’t be so sure about that.


Ouch. At that point the passenger stopped pursuing the question. Twenty minutes later the remaining passengers arrived. Then nothing happened. And we waited. Finally we were told that 1. There was a crate of luggage next to our plane that still had to be loaded, but no appropriate personnel could be found; and 2. We needed to be pushed out, but no appropriate personnel could be found. Eventually, after a two-hour delay, we took off for our less than two-hour flight.

Added annoyance: the bitter flight attendant was not wearing an ID. The ID badges of the other two attendants were put on backwards.

Media reform?

Tuesday, October 12th, 2004

This at CT.

Here’s a little Flash movie about how the media are covering the presidential campaigns. I doubt any of it will be shocking to most readers of CT, but it’s still worth a pause and some thought.

The site that features the video offers much information about media ownership and is quite a resource. But I found it difficult to locate concrete things one may be able to do, except donate money to the cause.

One section suggests ten policies to fix the media. Do you find them convincing? Realistic? Necessary? Unnecessary? Hopeless? Too vague? Too ambitious? Not ambitious enough?

Women in computing

Sunday, October 10th, 2004

This at CT.

As I scanned the hallway for signs of the party, an arch of red, yellow, green and blue balloons extended a welcome. I entered the grand ballroom where fun sounds of karaoke and a sea of neon green glassware greeted me. To the left was a large screen with random words scrolling quickly: Elmers glue effect on skin; [Hebrew characters]; [Chinese characters]; pokemon cards. Scattered across the room were people forming small lines for massages, caricature drawings and tarot card readings. Ninety-five percent of those present were women. It reminded me of my college years – having attended a women’s college – and what a blast you could have putting a group of women in a room with great music. This is probably a cliché, but you really could feel the excitement and energy especially when people – whether in their 20s or 40s – crowded the dance floor for the Macarena and the electric slide. I couldn’t help but think that the songs for karaoke were not randomly selected as I listened to people sing the words to “I’m a Barbie girl” and “I’m a bitch, I’m a lover”.

Welcome to the party hosted by Women of Google at this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Chicago. The meetings were sponsored by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology and the Association of Computing Machinery. Anyone doubting whether there are still social barriers for women in computing fields needs only talk to the attendees. The young women – undergraduates or just a few years out of college pursuing graduate degrees in computer science and related fields – cannot contain their excitement of and appreciation for what this meeting offers them. Unlike the vastly male-dominated conferences and classrooms that make up most of their professional experiences and that are still often hostile to women, the Grace Hopper Celebration affords them a chance to see and meet extremely successful women in their fields – corporate VPs, university deans, inventors, inspiring mentors – who are supportive of their pursuits.

I never met Anita Borg, but listening to people makes her contributions to women in technological fields obvious. As one of the hosts put it: he had never felt her presence as much as in that ballroom.

Although I am not a computer scientist, my interests are closely related to many of the issues relevant here (e.g. I study technology use where questions about gender come up quite often). I owe much of my training with technology and invaluable initial mentoring about academia to one of my college professors, Joseph O’Rourke of the Computer Science Department at Smith College. Joe’s contributions reach well past his own students. He was instrumental in the early 90s in setting up a mentoring program that matches female college computer science majors with female faculty at other schools for summer projects. I worked with Joe one summer tabulating information about the applicants. You could tell it was a popular program. Since then the project has grown manifold to fund these important experiences of even more young women. My colleague Justine Cassell hosted two students this summer on this program. One of them was able to make it back to the celebrations this weekend and talking to her at the party made the value of this experience extremely clear.

The party hosted by Google was both fun and inspiring. It is great to see important companies so supportive of women in technological fields. Among the gifts given to guests was a copy of Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing. I suspect many present will have already read it, but it is always good to have an extra copy on hand to give away. It is important to help people understand that there is nothing inherent in computing as a male field. It is the myriad of social interactions that people face from a very young age that lead girls and boys down different paths. In the end this can cost us a lot as it may channel very talented women out of fields in which their contributions may well be very significant.

“Hungarian” Nobel Prize winners

Thursday, October 7th, 2004

This at CT.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been announced for 2004. I started compiling a post about it, but found myself sending emails to my father for clarification. He is an expert on the topic of Nobel Prizes (having written a book about it based on interviews with over 70 Nobel Laureates) so I decided to invite him to write a little blurb here for us. Given his expertise in the topic and the Hungarian connection of one of this year’s laureates, he has spent the last day and a half giving interviews to various media outlets in Hungary. I have edited his post ­ with his permission ­ by shifting some of the science information into a footnote to focus the attention on another component of his note. My father is Professor of Chemistry at the Budapest University of Technology.

Some experiences beyond chemistry of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry by István Hargittai

On October 6 the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2004 was announced. The citation was, “for the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation.” The recipients were Aaron Ciechanover (b. 1947 in Israel), a professor of medical sciences at the Technion – the Israel Institute of Technology, Avram Hershko (b. Herskó Ferenc 1937 in Hungary), also a professor of medical sciences at the Technion, and Irwin Rose (b. 1926), an American professor, formerly at the Fox Chase Cancer Research Center in Philadelphia.[1]

There is an interesting side issue with Avram Hershko in that he was born in Karcag, Hungary, and then emigrated with his family in 1950 to Israel. He is one of several scientists of Hungarian origin who became famous and much recognized abroad. There are various counts of Hungarian Nobel laureates, but here is what the Prime Minister of Hungary allegedly said on the day of the chemistry prize announcement: He welcomed the news by referring to Hershko as the fourteenth Hungarian Nobel laureate and stressed that Hershko has kept his Hungarian name and language.

Read the rest of this entry »

Good photo gallery program

Thursday, October 7th, 2004

I have been trying for too long now to find photo gallery software that meets all my needs. I wanted one that would run in UNIX, but after trying for months, I came up empty. (I almost posted a rave review of Gallery, but then it all collapsed and I decided it did not merit the reviews I was going to give it.) I have finally settled on a program to help me generate photo galleries.

The Web Album Generator is a really nifty little piece of software. It’s a Win program, which I realize will make it of limited use to some. But it’s the best I could find that is not too clunky, generates reasonable files, and allows for a decent amount of customization. I had tried a version a while back and had considered it but decided against it. Having found my way to its Web site again I decided to give the new version a try and was impressed. The author of the program also maintains a support forum where users can submit their wishes for future versions. Again, it’s a very user-friendly program – both in terms of the steps needed to generate an album and regarding the outcome – so I highly recommend it.

Balcony photoblogging

Thursday, October 7th, 2004

I don’t like to be up earlier than planned, but such
views really do make up for it. (Please note that I did not edit these photos in any way.)

Co-authorships in academia

Tuesday, October 5th, 2004

Few academic institutions put anything concrete in writing when it comes to promotion and tenure review so it seems an informal discussion on a blog about the topic will be as informative as most other opportunities to consider the issues.

I have been pondering the pros and cons of co-authoring articles during one’s junior faculty years. How does a co-authorship count toward promotion and tenure? Obviously the answer is going to depend on a myriad of factors, but a discussion may still be interesting and illuminating. I realize that in some fields co-authorship is more the norm than the exception. In most lab sciences one rarely sees a sole-authored publication. But in the social sciences – the home discipline of several CT authors – it is less common. Since there are tenured faculty around here who have likely participated in promotion and tenure reviews, I would be curious to hear about their experiences. Of course, others are just as welcomed to contribute their thoughts.:)

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What not to blog

Tuesday, October 5th, 2004

For a while now I’ve been wondering about whether it’s a good idea to blog about one’s travels ahead of time. There are clear advantages (the opportunity to meet up with people one otherwise would not contact), but there are potential downsides as well. Ever since my parents’ place was badly burglarized a few years ago, I have been more sensitive about the issue. And now I see Allison wondering whether a blogged trip lead to a break-in at her home. Of course, the chances are pretty small that potential thieves are reading our blogs and they also would not know in most cases whether and to what extent others sharing the household, housesitters or security systems would stand in their way (thieves take note: in my case it is usually two out of three:). Nonetheless, I have been wondering whether it is best to be less open about some of our travel plans. This would be one of those issues with which anonymous bloggers likely don’t have to deal.

So don’t expect up-to-the-minute travel info from me, but I thought I would mention where I am headed in the next month or so in case paths cross with people I did not think to contact (I have a hard time keeping track of who is where). I’ll be giving a talk at Penn soon followed by a quick visit to Princeton and one night in New York City; I’ll be attending a workshop in the Bay area and giving a talk at Yahoo!; I’m going to a conference in Atlanta; and I’ll be giving a talk at my alma mater Smith College. I’ll likely stay put for a while thereafter, which will be necessary to gather energy for an even crazier Spring travel schedule.

European delicacies in Chicago

Sunday, October 3rd, 2004

Thanks to a friend, I just discovered a store on the north side of Chicago that has wonderful food items from all over Europe. I even saw some Hungarian juice (the fruit names literally written out in Hungarian on the box:). Yum! The place is Delicatessen Meyer at 4750 N. Lincoln Ave near the intersection of Lawrence and Western. They have quite a collection of chocolates and other sweets (including vanilla sugar, essential for any serious baking project), meats, cheeses, pickles, pates, wine and more (even some soaps and lotions). They have Hungarian salami (“téli szalámi”) although unfortunately it is “Hungarian style” as actual Hungarian salami can no longer be imported to the U.S. * sniff *

In TDS News

Sunday, October 3rd, 2004

There are always comments on The Daily Show that I want to blog, but then never get around to doing so. I did want to make sure to mention this one though, from last Wednesday (Sept 29), since it’s blog related. Jon Stewart was talking to Ed Helms about the next day’s presidential debates. Helms read out the notes he would be using to report on the debates, that is, he had already written them up a day before the debates.

Stewart: “What if any actual news happens?”
Helms: “That’s what bloggers are for.”

A propos TDS, America (The Book) is absolutely hilarious! I highly recommend it. I didn’t realize it was written in the form of a textbook. It’s got lots of little inserts, quotes on the sidebar and illustrations like most American textbooks good for those with attention problems. Not that you’ll have any such problems while reading this book (unless you’re trying to multitask and do something else at the same time in which case the other activity will get none of your attention). I don’t know if reading anything has ever made me laugh out loud as much as reading this book has.

Around the Web in 80 minutes

Saturday, October 2nd, 2004

A few noteworthy items as I catch up with other blogs.

  • Fox News in Arizona suggested in a report (aired twice) that students are committing an “unintentional felony” by registering to vote where they attend school. Hat tip Ms. Musings who provides helpful additional materials on the subject.

  • Ross reminds us that this is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and he is featuring question boxes in the upper left corner of his blog all month with helpful information.
  • From The New York Daily News (hat tip: ionarts):
  • Mayor Bloomberg had little sympathy yesterday for New Yorkers who find the new $20 admission to the Museum of Modern Art a bit steep.
    “Some things people can afford, some things people can’t,” said Bloomberg, whose estimated personal fortune is $4.9 billion.

  • Benigni is shooting a “comedy” about Iraq. (Hat tip: Nomad via Dove’s Eye View)
  • Food across the blogosphere

    Friday, October 1st, 2004

    We mostly mention and link to political and academic blogs on CT. But there are whole worlds of other blogs out there. One such world that I like to visit whenever I get the chance is the food and recipe blogosphere. This week, Chocolate and Zucchini is celebrating its firth birthday, congrats! That blog has come a long way. It has been mentioned in various media outlets across the globe. Its author, Clotilde, is throwing a birthday party this week in Paris (her home base) and has even opened up a forum for C&Z readers to discuss all topics related to cooking, baking, restaurants, etc. The wonderful images with which she illustrates her posts add that much more to visiting her site (and it’s all licensed under a Creative Commons License). Reading C&Z always makes me wish I had more time to cook and bake.

    Another food blog I visit on occasion is Foodgoat, which takes food discussion to another level including comments about new food products on the U.S. market. And today I found C’est moi qui l’ai fait! through C&Z, another blog sure to get me inspired in the kitchen. My own modest contributions are on a recipe page I compiled mostly made up of some Hungarian specialties. I owe all that knowledge to my Mom who didn’t succeed in getting me excited about cooking while I was still living at home, but who has been a source of inspiration (and much helpful information!) an ocean apart. She is quite the cook and even has a cookbook out in English about Hungarian cooking (written in her “spare” time while continuing her first-rate scientific career). The recipe section, by the way, is one of the most popular parts of my site through search engine referrals (yeah, well, I’d like to think people are interested in my research, but I can’t blame them for preferring to cook a good chicken paprikash instead). I have also started to document good restaurants in Chicagoland.

    In my part of the world, the weather is getting chillier and various fun holidays are approaching so I anticipate spending more time cooking and baking (although my upcoming travel schedule may challenge me on that). This is a good time to take stock of relevant blogs out there. I invite you to post links to your favorite food and recipe blogs (and other sites) here.