March 2005

Well, it's the end of a long and dramatic period in my life: engagement. I feel the need to write this short post as a record of the end of the wedding drama, and to mark the fact that I have now, in fact, been successfully married for a full week. Also, I'm ready to stop talking about it. But I also think the story of our wedding is worth telling, since it was one of the most memorable events of my entire life.

Tamar and I were married last Saturday in College Station, TX. We invited 140 of our friends and family to an outdoor ceremony to be held in Tamar's parents beautiful backyard.

Saturday morning, wedding day: Temperature, 66 degrees, light winds, partly cloudy, humid as hell.

Wedding time is 5:30. At 4:45 people start to arrive. We are taking pictures and the weather is rather nice… sun is making for some nice photos. We finish close to 5 just as people really begin showing up, and I notice a cloud bank approaching. By 5:15 most have arrived and the clouds are very dark. Uh oh. We are all very worried. The forecast was for a 30% chance of light showers. We took our chances. 5:20, the rain starts. Everyone is huddled under the eaves and umbrellas. We think it will pass. We are calm. Then the hail begins. Pea sized, and we all predicted that it was a usual passing thunderstorm which, though it doesn't usually happen in March, isn't unheard of. It will pass. The rain begins to slacken and we're sure.

Of course, then the rain intensifies and we begin to wonder. It's the perfect storm. When the hail comes back we realize it's time to throw the furniture aside and move the adventure inside. But by the time we get everything set up, the hail is bigger than golf balls. It's pounding on the roof so loudly we can't hear a thing. (So we wait (with 140 people crammed in the living room) for it to slacken.

When it finally did, I think we were all a little surprised by how well it came out. Tamar came out, took one look at everyone, and cracked up. A lot of other brides might have been upset, but Tamar just thought it was the funniest thing. Everyone cheered (including me). With this 'Where's Waldo' view of all our closest friends and family in front of us, we went on with the ceremony we wrote, and people laughed and clapped and cried in ways you don't always see at weddings. In the end it felt like something we did with everyone, and that was what we were striving for all along. We couldn't have planned it any better.

It was the worst hailstorm in College Station in 30 years. Everyone's car was pockmarked. Skylights were cracked and roofs were damaged. And, we found out later, the really bad stuff was isolated to a ½ mile radius right over top of the wedding. At the time, everyone said it's good luck to have a storm on your wedding day. Well, I sure hope so, because we're the luckiest people on earth!

The New York Times > Technology > Circuits > It's Not Just a Phone, It's an Adventure

It seems like the choice here is either do a small number of things very well, or do a large number of things poorly. The question is, why are consumers swayed by phones with a huge number of mediocre features?

Joe has posted an excellent ongoing synopsis of the coverage of oral arguments this morning on the blog for Pam Samuelson's P2P class at Berkeley.

Well, I was thinking (and a friend was bugging me) about how I claim this blog is at least partly about food & wine, but I have yet to post much of anything on those subjects. So I have a few posts lined up.

This first one is just to announce that I posted a new recipe for Chewy Ginger Cookies on my website. Check it out. Interestingly, I found out by making these a lot in the last few months that there are more people who don't like ginger cookies than don't like almost any other kind of cookie. I think it's the spiciness that doesn't sit well with some people. It's not a savory cookie by any means, but it does have a proper bite. That's actually what I love about it – the spices cut through the sweetness of the cookies very well. The spice also allows nice pairing with quite a variety of foods including some you might not expect, like citrus sorbet, red wine, wheat beer, and similarly spiced ice creams.

Today I heard speech recognition expert Dan Klein describe this ATT Research project as something close to the 'top of the line' in text to speech synthesis.

I have no real understanding of the challenges of natural-sounding voice synthesis from text, but it's fascinating to hear this and think of it as the best (or close to the best) that we can do these days. It's certainly a great leap forward from the standard text to speech synthesizers that are included with Windows, for example. Have fun playing around with it…

Boing Boing: Bluetooth cassette adapter

This (from Boing Boing) is very cool. Except, who has a cassette player in their car anymore?

Bluetooth CD anyone?

This is one of the dumbest responses to spam that I have seen: SBC has begun blocking port 25 for all DSL customers with dynamic IPs. The assumption, I guess, is that this (gigantic) group of people is likely to be using a third party SMTP server to send out SPAM. SBC provides an opt-out feature, but who knows how long that will take. Their grand solutions are basically for you to get your service provider to switch to authenticated e-mail on port 587 or use a VPN. When was the last time any of us had that kind of leverage with our providers? And better yet, why should our providers be forced to switch as a result of SBC's draconian move?

I am as annoyed about spam as the next person, but I just don't think it makes sense to implement these unilateral measures. 99% of the people who now have port 25 blocked are not spammers. There must be a way to identify the 1% who are in order to avoid this hassle for the rest. Sheesh.

Or, I suppose, we could just get on with it on IPv6 and make dynamic IPs a thing of the past.

As an anthropologist (and a post-modernist) it has become second nature to me to take every piece of scholarship with a grain of salt. In a way I have become a Marxist – always 'looking for the lie.' Leaving aside the fact that I truly believe that no research can ever be truly objective, in doing qualitative research I have become very comfortable with biases and confounding factors. Granted, the goal of good anthropology is rarely to make generalizations and representative statements, but instead to capture the richness and depth of culture and human experience. Still I feel as though any paper worth its salt – anthropological or otherwise – should include a limitations section.

I don't view a limitations section as an inoculation to criticism or refutation. More I think it's an acknowledgment of the realities of research. I am skeptical of any researcher who, having set out a plan for research which meets all known criteria for validity and reliability, unquestioningly assumes that he/she has carried out that plan without bias or judgment of any kind. That kind of attitude is so naïve, and far too common, especially in the more quantitative fields. Knowing that a researcher is aware of the contextual factors that can influence his or her work lends credibility in my view.

Why don't more papers in the ICT space do this? I don't see limitations sections often included in CHI papers, ACM papers, or very often in any other popular and prestigious forum in our field. I'm not sure how to explain this omission – it can't be that all these smart people honestly think that their research is totally unbiased and without limitations or confounding factors that are worth mentioning. (Having said this, I also tend to think that focusing on biases or imperfections, especially in the statistical sense, is a convenient way to discredit or disregard research that one happens to disagree with.)

I don't want to speculate as to why this really is – I just want to say that I think there should be a requirement for a limitations section in most of these forums. Especially as the perceived utility and legitimacy of qualitative research is growing, and more and more technologists are becoming aware of the importance of context (in every sense of the word), I would think there'd be more of an emphasis on both the positive and the negative aspects of research.