Archive for October, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Happy Halloween!

I was curious to see how – if at all – the top search engines decided to celebrate Halloween. The above collage collects the holiday logos. Don’t look too hard in the bottom right corner, there’s nothing there to see. To be sure, MSN did have Halloween content on its homepage, but no special logo design that I could notice. The others all had something fun to greet users.

Tonight I look forward to greeting trick-or-treaters. I don’t usually get to do that, but my impression is that there are plenty of little kids in my current neighborhood so hopefully they will be stopping by.

Project 365: #4

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Monkey bag

Taken: October 27, 2006 (What is Project 365?)

On Saturday, I was feeling a bit under the weather so I cancelled my plans and stayed at home in an attempt to beat the oncoming cold. Not having gone outside all day, I was faced with the challenge of finding something to photograph in the house. Note that this is my temporary home so many of my more cherished and interesting possessions are not with me.

Monkeys were my favorite animal before I switched to being a big turtle fan in my early teens. This particular pouch (that’s what it is, it actually holds things) was availble in turtle form as well. However, I decided to get one of those for my brother while getting a monkey version for myself. I use it to hold batteries and assorted small gadgety things when I travel.

Links for 2006-10-31

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Links for 2006-10-30

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Project 365: #3

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

Photo opp during lunch with Craig

Taken: October 26, 2006 (What is Project 365?)

The Board of the Center was meeting on Thursday and Friday. On Friday, Board members had lunch with Center Fellows, which gave me an opportunity to catch up with mentor Craig Calhoun. To social scientists Craig should need no introduction. To others, I’m not sure it will mean a lot to find out that he’s the President of the Social Science Research Council. (To be sure, the SSRC plays an important role in the social sciences, but it is not clear how widely it is known otherwise.)

In any case, he’s a very careful and interesting thinker and I had the good fortune to meet him exactly ten years ago when he moved to New York to chair the Sociology Department at NYU just as I was starting my graduate studies there. For those who don’t know the details of my grad career, I left a year later to join the Sociology PhD program at Princeton. However, I continued to stay in touch with Craig.

He was already thinking carefully about the social aspects of information technologies in the 1990s, which made conversations with him particularly interesting for me. One of the first related pieces I read in this domain was his paper on Communities without Propinquity Revisited [pdf]. Since he’s been thinking about these issues for quite a while, I’ve always found him to be a very helpful sounding board for ideas about my work. He kindly agreed to chat with me about where my thinking on my book is these days and gave me some helpful feedback.*

One of Craig’s unusual abilities – that is, it is way too rare among academics – is his capacity to make meaningful comments without elaborating on points at unnecessary lengths. I also find him to be one of very few sociologists who uses “big” sociological terms in a way that actually makes the discussion more meaningful and succinct rather than derailing the conversation and suggesting pretentiousness. It’s such a pleasure to engage in discussions with him.

It was great to have him here and thus my Project 365 photo dedicated to our lunch.

The photo is posted with Craig’s permission. Here’s a more traditiona shot.

* I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet that I’m working on a book. You’ll be hearing more about that here as things move forward, I’m sure.:)

Links for 2006-10-29

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

Project 365: #2

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

Blueberry pie at the Center

Taken: October 25, 2006

We get great lunches at the Center thanks to our wonderful chef Susan Beach. On Thursday, we had more food (and thus more desserts) than usual due to the Board meeting. Dessert of the day was blueberry pie with the usual option of fruits.

Each day, we get amazing soups, entrees and salads in addition to a yummy dessert. Susan is selling calendars with her most requested soup and salad recipes, it’s worth checking out on her Web site.

Links for 2006-10-28

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

Got a few hours?

Friday, October 27th, 2006

Vivian’s recent comment wondering whether my work would interfere with my ability to post Friday time-sink amusements reminded me that I should not abandon my important role in keeping you from doing whatever it is that you had planned to do when you sat down at your computer.

This weekend’s amusement is brought to you by Jeux Chiants (yeah, I know, you’ll have to excuse my French).

Of the large selection, my highest recommendation goes to Double Jeu. You won’t miss much by not speaking French, it’s pretty self-explanatory. Just don’t let either ball drop. Hah, and doesn’t that sound easy? The one thing you’ll miss out on by not speaking French is the derogatory comments after you mess up. I managed to get up to 24.5 seconds. If anyone does it longer and understands the resulting comment, I’d be curious to hear if you ever get a true heartfelt congratulations.

I thought Labyflou was reasonably amusing and you can get it the first time around. It’s also not addictive, once is about enough.

Le jeu du ver is not bad. It’s one of those games that starts out almost too easy, but then gets significantly harder with each level.

Finally, La souris est invisible is a good reminder of how dependent we may or may not be on visual cues when using the mouse.

Got three minutes?

Friday, October 27th, 2006

Click here for something cool.

in three minutes, the largest dot will travel around the circle once, the next largest dot will travel around the circle twice, the next largest dot three times, and so on.

the dots are arranged to trigger notes on a chromatic scale when they pass the line


Links for 2006-10-27

Friday, October 27th, 2006

Project 365: #1

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

Bruce, Bengt & Maria chatting below

Taken: October 24, 2006 (What is Project 365?)

Yesterday, the Carnegie Foundation hosted a reception for CASBS fellows and staff. In 1997, the Carnegie Foundation moved to Stanford from Princeton, New Jersey. It is now located just up the hill from the Center. The Center is itself on a hill, the Foundation is just a bit higher up.

In this photo, fellow fellows Bruce and Bengt plus Maria are discussing area travel opportunities.

I took the photo from the second floor of the Foundation. Here is a more abstract shot from the same spot. Of all my Carnegie photos, I picked this one to represent the day, because it captures well an important aspect of our fellowship year: interesting conversations among fellows on a daily basis. I’ve been meaning to blog about that forever. I may still do so, but I thought this was a good opportunity to mention it.

This entry is part of the my Project 365 series.

Announcing Project 365

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

Inspired by this Photojojo story, I have decided to start taking at least one photo every day and posting these regularly to the blog.

Those of you who are familiar with my uses of the photo-sharing site Flickr are probably thinking: as if you needed any more reasons for taking photos. True. But I don’t take photos daily and I think it’s an intriguing idea. Moreover, one-a-day suggests that when you take several dozen, you still have to pick just one to represent the day. Interesting.

Morning sun from my CASBS officeI happened to be GChatting with American Frog aka Katie Bessiere as I was thinking about this yesterday and successfully got her to join the project. She has started a blog just for this. I’m still working on getting Jeremy to join in. Anyone else interested? Let me know and I’ll start a sidebar just for one-a-day photo blogs of people I know (or people I may not know, but who know me:). I am not starting a new blog for this, but I’m starting a category for ease of access.

I usually travel enough that I can supply a wide array of photographs. However, I have no travel plans in the next few months. (That is by design. Why leave paradise?) This means that you will either see a LOT of deer photos or I’ll have to get very creative.

The photo above I took yesterday as I was thinking about doing this project. In a later post I’ll kick things off with Photo #1.

Links for 2006-10-26

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

Life in California

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

I don’t mean to be showing off, but this is pretty awesome weather forecast especially for the end of October:

Life in California

Links for 2006-10-25

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

The power of marketing

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Of two books on similar topics with similar publication dates, one is ranked #116 on Amazon (as of this writing, yesterday it was #350), the other is at #1,036,339 (as of this writing).* The former has an official publication date of October 17, 2006 (exactly a week ago) and has zero reviews on Amazon (as of this writing). The latter has an official publication date of July 27, 2006 and also has zero reviews on Amazon. Given zero reader reviews in both cases and the recent publication of the former manuscript, it would be hard to argue that it is its superior quality that has catapulted it to the top of Amazon’s popularity index. So what else differs?

Kati Marton’s book on The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World was published by Simon & Schuster, a trade press with a powerful marketing machine. My father István Hargittai’s book on The Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century was published by Oxford University Press (OUP), an academic press notorious for not putting any marketing weight behind its publications naively assuming that quality will yield popularity.

Kati Marton is a journalist formerly married to the late ABC anchor Peter Jennings, currently married to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. Her book has blurbs from the likes of Tom Brokaw and has gotten coverage on ABC’s Web site among many other venues. István Hargittai is a scientist in Budapest married to Magdolna Hargittai another scientist, both members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. His book doesn’t have blurbs from the likes of Tom Brokaw (it only does from two scientists, true, both are Nobel laureates) and has not gotten coverage in any major outlets.

Eugene Wigner and Istvan HargittaiBased on their earlier work, both authors are good writers. Both have relevant credentials for writing about this topic. Kati Marton is the daughter of Hungarians and has written about people from that area of the world before. István Hargittai is a Hungarian scientist and knew two of his five subjects (Eugene Wigner and Edward Teller) and has written numerous books about scientists. After OUP commissioned him to write this book in 2003, he spent the next couple of years doing nothing but research and writing on this book and became completely impassioned by the project. It’s worth a read.

I am surprised that Marton’s book has been as popular as it has given the niche topic. It may just be a testament to how easy it is to get a high rank on Amazon, that is, even a relatively low number of sales will get you a reasonable ranking. (Actually, I blogged about this four years ago.) In any case, given a seeming interest in this topic, my father’s book should have a chance as well. But if no one knows about a book, no one can buy it or read it.

A few years ago, Wired Editor Chris Anderson started writing about the long tail, the idea that “the future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream.” He explained that a niche market book published in 1988 and soon forgotten got a second chance a decade later when a similar book appeared and resulted in renewed interest toward the first.

Can this case be generalized to two similar books appearing at around the same time? Can such an outcome occur even if one of the books is completely unknown due to the utter lack of marketing on behalf of its publisher and so no one buying the hyperpublicized piece will know about the existence of the other? This blog post is an attempt to make the connection.

It’s also a reality check that traditional positions and organizational arrangements still matter. But I’m happy to be proven wrong. Prove me wrong folks. Can a bit of online discussion lead to my father’s book gaining a bit of traction?

[*] It turns out, on UK Amazon, the discrepencies are not as large: #72,506 vs #227,172 (as of this writing).

UPDATE: If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of my father’s book and would like a discount, you can use this flyer [pdf] and save 20%. It requires going through OUP directly, however. Sorry I didn’t post this earlier, I didn’t have a copy.

Links for 2006-10-24

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006


Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Our revolution was not a movie Fifty years ago today events occured in Budapest that quickly led to the death of many and the emigration of about 200,000 Hungarians to various corners of the world. (Considering a country of 10 million, that’s a significant number.)

Having grown up in a system that didn’t recognize this day as worthy of mention (given that its whole point was to topple the Soviet-influenced regime) I have never had much of a connection to it. And having left Hungary soon after the political changes of the early 90s after which the date became officially important and a holiday, I have never developed much of a bond with it. In fact, I’m more likely to recognize November 7th as a special date (the one Hungarians and others in the region used to celebrate) than October 23rd. All that is a testament to how strongly social context can influence one’s perception of important historical events and dates.

The image above is from the Times Square area in New York City. I was walking down Broadway on Saturday and noticed the red-white-and-green lines. I figured it was a mistaken use of the Italian flag. When portrayed horizontally, the Italian flag has to be green-white-and-red in order not to be confused with the Hungarian flag. But people unfamiliar with the Hungarian flag (which would be most of the world) don’t know this and so I sometimes see the Italian flag portrayed that way. However, as I neared 50th St. I realized that this was meant to be a Hungarian flag. The Hungarian Cultural Center put up two huge billboards on the corner of Broadway and 50th to commemorate the occasion and to invite folks to “REimagine freedom“.

And yes, there has been unrest in Budapest during the past few weeks including some events today. Some people are trying to draw parallels to the events of 1956, but that seems ludicrous. Just because some people – mostly on the far right so you are not going to see sympathies from me – who are especially good at inciting a few hundred folks do not like the current regime doesn’t mean the prime minister needs to be ousted. (I commented on all this a few weeks ago.)

Links for 2006-10-21

Saturday, October 21st, 2006