Archive for June, 2005

Bottom-up creativity and its new challengers

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

A propos the spread of social bookmarking and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week that file-sharing programs can be held responsible for copyright infringement, this article in today’s NYTimes does a nice job of summarizing some of the ways in which various new online services are leading to more and more bottom-up creativity and content whose sharing does not necessarily constitute copyright infringement.

But bottom-up creativity may depend on more traditional avenues at times and the article doesn’t address this other side of the issue at all. For an example, take note that some photo labs (e.g. Walmart, like they really needed to come up with more reasons to alienate people) have decided not to print people’s photos if they look too professional. The burden seems to be on the amateur photographer to prove that the picture was really taken in her own back yard. ARGH.

Google Earth!

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

If you thought Google Maps and the corresponding satellite images were cool then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a word to describe the experience of using Google Earth. Before you get too excited, do check to see if your computer meets the current requirements.

I don’t think you have to be a geography geek like me (I did take four years of high school geography after all) to appreciate this service. It’s amazing. You can zoom in more than on GMaps, you can tilt the image, you can get driving directions superimposed on the satellite images, you can get road names added, dining options included and much more.

In line with this article in today’s NYTimes, neither the directions nor some of the locations of things are always correct, but they’re close. Go play.


Can you prove that you were on a flight?

Monday, June 27th, 2005

The other day I found myself in the curious position of having to prove that I had been on a flight in order to be allowed to return home. The only explanation I could come up with for the airline having no record of my presence on the flight there is that the gate agent had failed to scan in my boarding pass. As far as I can tell I had done everything “by the book”. In this day and age of being tracked in so many situations and so many ways, I found it an interesting twist that I could think of no way of proving (no way that the ticketing agent seemed to find satisfactory) that I had, indeed, been on the plane and should be allowed to return home on my originally scheduled flight. Details follow.

Read the rest of this entry »

NYTimes promotes BugMeNot.. again

Sunday, June 26th, 2005

I found it curious that in March of this year The New York Times mentioned the Web site in an article to which I included a link in the May 16, 2005 issue of E-LIST. Curiously, a new NYTimes article published this weekend repeats this recommendation.

For those not in the know, BugMeNot helps you find a username and password for sites that require registration. This means that you can proceed to viewing articles on, say, sites like without having to create an account for yourself on such sites.

Firefox users may be interested in this helpful extension that allows use of BugMeNot through the click of a button.

SATC complete DVD set

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Amazon is having a big DVD sale event and they have the complete Sex And The City set on sale for 43% off. (I don’t know if this is a unique sale price or if this is how much it is always. I just saw it and thought I’d mention it.) It’s not cheap, it still costs about $145, but that’s considerably cheaper than what I paid for the individual parts (I’d rather not reflect on the specifics of that actually) although thanks to some friends some parts came as gifts. So yes, this sale is not particularly relevant to me as I already own the whole set, but I did want to alert any other SATC enthusiasts out there to this item. Or if you have been wondering about SATC, this may be your time to take the plunge. This is the kind of series that is worth owning, because its entertainment value lasts through multiple viewings.

Technology and Social Behavior Speaker Series ’05-’06

Thursday, June 23rd, 2005

We have finalized our list of speakers for next year’s Technology and Social Behavior Colloquium Series at Northwestern. Bruno Latour will be our first visitor followed by other great researchers engaged in fascinating projects representing numerous academic disciplines (in order of their visits): Jeremy Bailenson from Stanford, Anne Holohan from Univ. Trento, Bob Kraut from CMU, David Mindell from MIT, Linda Jackson from Michigan State, Sarah Igo from UPenn and Batya Friedman from Univ. Washington.

You can sign up on our announcement list to receive reminders about these events.

Chicago restaurant: Paprikash

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005

So far I’ve only managed to find one Hungarian restaurant in Chicagoland: Paprikash. It’s not in my neighborhood, but regardless, I’ve made the drive several times already as their cooking is so authentic and good. They have come in at second place on Chicago CitySearch’s Fine Dining list. I’m not sure what the “fine dining” category is supposed to cover. I can certainly think of much more elegant places to eat (as per decor and service), but the food is hard to beat. The staff is friendly and accomodating albeit at times a bit slow, but hey, that’s the Hungarian restaurant experience for you. You can also try out your Hungarian as several staff members speak it, not to mention the other guests. The fact that there are so many Hungarians who visit this restaurant says something about it authenticity and the quality of the food. The live Hungarian and Gypsy music also adds something to the atmosphere. It’s located at 5210 W. Diversey (at Laramie), do try it sometime.

Helpful search tool

Friday, June 17th, 2005

Thanks to browsing people’s bookmarks I came across the following helpful online service: YubNub. As its creator Jon Aquino explains, it is “a command-line for the web”. Impressively, it was his submission for a 24-hour programming contest.

What does it do? It helps you access search results on various sites directly. That is, say you want to search for a book on Amazon. As long as a command has already been created for searching on Amazon, you can simply enter the following in YubNub:
amazon booktitle
and you will be redirected to Amazon’s search results for “booktitle”. Or let’s say you want to search for an address on Google Maps, you can just enter:
gmaps address
and YubNub redirects you to the Google Maps result.

What is additionally great about YubNub is that if a command does not yet exist for your preferred search, you can add it.

To try it out, I created a command for searching the archives of Crooked Timber. If you go to YubNub and start your search query by typing in ct and then proceeding with whatever terms are of interest then you will be redirected to the results of your search here on CT.

So now you may be thinking: Well, that’s nice, but why would I bother going to to run the query instead of just going directly to the site where I want to run my search? Because you don’t have to go to Several people have written Firefox search plugins for YubNub. So assuming you use Firefox and have a search toolbar in your Firefox browser, you can just add this as an additional engine.[1] MOREOVER, because YubNub defaults to Google when you do not enter a specific command, you can just leave YubNub as the default engine in your toolbar and still use Google (assuming that’s of interest) for generic searches without commands.

The service is evolving. Its creator has some suggestions and it sounds like he continues to work on it. Unfortunately, there is no way to make corrections to typos in submitted command lines so for now that has to be handled through emails. It is also easy to see how some people may create numerous commands that are not very interesting to most people. But overall, it’s a great service, I recommend trying it out!

For those savvy Firefox users who are wondering how this adds to already existing features in Firefox I should mention Jon Aquino’s inspiration for creating this service: not having to replicate the same keywords on different machines. For those of us who use more than one machine this is very helpful. Thanks to YubNub, it’s enough to add it to the toolbar and you’re ready to go.

1. Far be it from me to assume that you do use Firefox. But this would be a good time to start.

Blog talk on Chicago Public Radio

Friday, June 10th, 2005

Henry Farrell of Crooked Timber and Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy discussed the role of blogs in today’s media landscape and the potential fragmenting role of blogs more specifically speaking on Chicago Public Radio yesterday. The site offers the segment archived in .ram format.

They did a good job in general. They nicely pointed out some of the particular aspects of blogs that give them the potential to be different from communication through other media (e.g. the importance of links). One of the issues that was discussed at length had to do with the potential fragmenting role of blogs especially with respect to political discussions. I would have addressed a couple of points somewhat differently (but I wasn’t the one live on the air). I note these points here not as criticism (as I said, they did a really nice job discussing various issues), but simply to move the discussion from the radio show into the blogosphere.

1) A listener asked whether there are blogs that aggregate different perspectives on an issue. Both Henry and Eugene suggested that this does not occur much in the blogosphere. Although it may be true that “blogs” per se do not do this often, there are Web sites out there that present the various sides of issues, they are just not necessarily called blogs. I realize the show was about blogs, but where/how do we draw the line? I’m thinking about sites like . There are also blog aggregators of sort that point to blogs of different stripes equally and at the same hierarchical level, so to speak, although I realize those pointers are not necessarily to posts on the same issue. Moreover, during campaign seasons there are sites that show you where different candidates come down on an issue (example: OnTheIssues). Again, not blogs per se, but online resources and in some cases also interactive.

2) Regarding the potential fragmenting role of blogs in the political realms both Henry and Eugene seemed to suggest that there is definitely potential for that. It is a tricky question. It is hard to say whether in this day and age of talk radio representing very particular sides blogs are really doing that much *more* to fragment people into isolated groups. Henry kindly mentioned the study with which I am involved regarding blogger ideological cross-linking to note that we do know of some interlinking among bloggers representing different perspectives although not that much. One of the challenges of that study and answering this question in general is that there is not that much “before” data on fragmentation so it is hard to say whether blogs are really *changing* things for the worse per se (“worse” depending on your take on the issue).

Overall, the radio show presents a very nice discussion of blogs, it is worth checking out if your machine accomodates .ram files. (NPR – Won’t you please expand the formats you support?!)

Evanston beaches

Thursday, June 9th, 2005

I live in such a beautiful area. The other day I went for a beach walk with a friend and this is what we saw. I’m very excited about the season beach passes I bought yesterday.:-)

Massage cushion

Thursday, June 9th, 2005

Recently I tried the HoMedics TherapistSelect Shiatsu Massaging Cushion at a friend’s house. These massage gadgets never did anything for me, but this particular item really does make a difference. In fact, a few days later, we had a party at my friend’s and people took turns sitting in the chair with this cushion.

Yesterday, I was browsing Amazon’s Web site for gift ideas. I came upon this product on their Web site. But of course I didn’t simply go ahead and purchase it. I first looked around to see if I could find it for a better price somewhere else. And I did. has it on sale for $79.99 including free shipping. I just put in my order.

If the sale is over by the time you read this, you may want to check out PriceGrabber’s comparison chart for the best deal.

Evanston restaurant reviews

Thursday, June 9th, 2005

Although I still have plans of writing up my experiences with various Evanston restaurants, I found a guide hosted by the Northwestern Associated Student Government with a list of reviews that is worth a pointer. They also cover places in the area past city limits such as the Pita Inn in Skokie. (My recommendation regarding the Pita Inn is similar to theirs, it’s great. You will likely have to wait in line, but given the price and the quality of the food, a little wait (5-10 mins) is definitely worth it.)

Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday

Wednesday, June 8th, 2005

As a Chicagoland resident, it seems fitting to mention that today is Frank Lloyd Wright‘s birthday. This Google Doodle does a nice job of reminding people.

Google Doodle: Frank Llody Wright's birthday

I have driven by this particular landmark numerous times (and EBLOG reader SE lives just a few blocks away – hi SE!).

New book on Digital Government

Tuesday, June 7th, 2005

Princeton University Press has a new book out by Darrell West on Digital Government. I’ll let my quote on the book jacket convey my take on it:

book jacket blurb

Click on the image to see the other book jacket quotes.

Monday, June 6th, 2005

I have finally started a page. I don’t know why it took me so long. Social bookmarking is a neat idea. It is helpful to browse the bookmarks of others. It is especially interesting to see who else has linked to the pages you choose as worthy of marking for future reference. Let me know if you’re an E-BLOG reader and have one of your own, I’d be curious to see the interests of those reading this blog.

Help Wanted – Supreme Court Justice

Saturday, June 4th, 2005

NARAL Pro-Choice Help Wanted Supreme Court Justice

Back from the East coast

Friday, June 3rd, 2005

I haven’t blogged for over a week. This is partly due to my travels (ICA in NYC and Princeton Reunions) although I’m afraid what really set me back is that I got sick the second day of my trip. It’s never fun to be sick, but it is especially annoying when you are on the road. It is that much harder to recover. Hopefully now that I am back at home I will start feeling better soon.

So I’m afraid I cannot say that overall the visit was fun, but it had its moments. I saw lots of colleagues and friends at the conference and participated in some interesting discussions about research. I also got to catch up with several friends in the city and in Princeton although not nearly as many as I had hoped since I had to cancel half my meetings. I am not sure when I’ll be heading out there again, perhaps I’ll get a chance to stop by in late August.