mortality rising

Sorry 'bout the silence here lately. Taught that class last week, spent two days at work trying to catch up on about a week of stuff, and then my parents hit town on Friday. Been squiring them about town for the past couple days; one more to go, and then they're headed back towards home. Linkage first, then more journal-y stuff, I think...

Joe Barr says everything about Dave Winer's definition of Open Source that I would have.

Interview with Jason Haas, LinuxPPC hacker. I wish I had the cash to get back into the Mac hardware world, but that's just not happening.

Joining the GNOME project -- for those of you who want to give something back.

Black 47 inter/overview. Missed the show, unfortunately. Really not taking advantage of the show opportunities in DC, I fear -- something to work on.

Not quite sure where to start with the Techno Greeks article that's been linked to hell and gone. Part of my problem is the article's focus on tools. I'm interested in tools, but the focus in the article is on using blogging tools, and their impact on the content, not building them, and that's not too exciting to me at this point. I also think the emphasis on collaborative space-building is off target, but maybe that's because I think the Web is not the best place for that. Mail lists, Usenet, and even IRC are much more suited for community formation, in my opinion. Finally, I think it's about time people stopped knocking the "I just went to the water cooler and that made me think of..." style of blogging. If you don't like it, don't read it, or at least try to understand that in many cases, it's part of becoming a good blogger. Blogging requires a bit more reflection, introspection, and thought than many people are encouraged to have these days, and part of developing that seems to involve a period of self-absorption and obsession with daily trivia. It passes, at least for some, and those are the ones you end up wanting to go back to.

This CueCat article has one of the more stupid ideas I've seen lately. For Ghu's sake, you're being given free hardware! Take it, toss the software, declaw the thing by finding and following the hardware mod instructions available on the web, and then figure out something cool to do with it. Cataloging book, CD, and video/DVD collections spring to mind right off, but alternative access technologies also seem worth investigating (using it to scan codes that correspond to letters or common phrases, for example). This is market-induced wealth redistribution at its best; don't protest by refusing to play -- protest by using their ball in a new game that you make up.

We're on the calendar, baby. Can't wait.

New My Word's Worth, about the role of community in encouraging moral behavior. Still sorting out what I think about the piece; looking forward to hearing what Dan has to say. Seems like Burning Man participants might have some insight here as well -- so if you fit, let me know what you think.

Hmmrm. DreamHost has upgraded my hosting plan, or will be doing so in the near future. Looks like I'll be getting PHP4 access, among other new goodies. Just what I needed, another time sink. Seriously, DreamHost has been a great place for GeneHack to live; if you're looking for small scale hosting space, I highly recommend them.

Why am I getting spam inviting me to visit the site for a copper mine? Oh wait, it's a stock scam...

Another curious mailed pointer: The Luddite Reader. If you looked at this site long enough to grab my email, would you think I'd be interested in a neo-Luddite site?

Gtk-Perl info, which might be needed at some point.

Whew! Just tore through a BIG pile of accumulated email. I think I'm actually caught up! Or, at least I am until I check my mail again. (And that doesn't include a particular person in Arizona; yours is going to take a bit longer to do, so stop whinging. No, I mean it, and yes, I am talking to you, 4E boy.)

Okay, onto the personal/journal-y stuff. People here only for the links should stop reading now.

As I've mentioned, I taught a class last week. The topic was "Information Retrieval from Biological Databases", but practically speaking, it was more like "How to use Entrez". (Entrez is a web front end to GenBank, PubMed, and several other databases of biological information that are maintained by NCBI.) The teaching went basically okay, I think -- although the next time I give this lecture, it will be better. Some of my example searches didn't work so well; I should have checked those out more carefully. That failure did allow me to extemporaneously opine on some dangers of searching on free-form text fields, however, so it wasn't all bad. It was a class in a Masters program, so most of the students were engaged, and seemed to want to learn, which was a nice change from my previous experiences teaching undergraduates.

I had about half a rant worked up last week about the students who didn't want to be there, but the time for writing that has passed. Maybe it's my perspective from having been on both sides of the lectern, or having been through gradual school, but I'm always a bit amazed at the "just putting in the time" attitude of some students. Look, kids, listen to the grizzled old guy for a minute, 'kay? You're paying good money for the opportunity to pick up some of the knowledge I have. Some of that money is ending up in my pocket. That means I'm working for you, in a very specialized sense. If you're not getting it, you need to let me know that, so that I can try to help you get it -- because that's my job. Sitting there and looking bored is not a sufficient message; I can't tell if you're bored because I'm not reaching you, or because you already know the material. I'm more than ready to be challenged to teach, but in order for the whole thing to work, you have to challenge me. Otherwise, you're depriving me of an opportunity to teach the best that I can, and you're cheating yourself out of an opportunity to learn -- and if that's not what you're there for, it's better for all involved if you just stay home and watch crap on tee-vee.

Been doing the tourist thing in DC with the parents. Saturday, we did the Mall and White House, with a short pass by some of the Smithsonian buildings. We found a high school classmate of my Dad's on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, which was interesting -- probably my closest personal connection to Vietnam. Today we visited Arlington National Cemetery, and the Postal Museum (which was much, much better than I anticipated it being). Lots and lots of walking going on -- grew a blister the first day. During the time in the Cemetery, I briefly grokked why people like to hike, which is something that's always been a bit confusing to me. (Go out, walk around in a circle, go home -- what's the point?) Not sure what's on tap for tomorrow; possibly more Smithsonian museums, possibly the Zoo. It's good to see my parents; as I've said here before, I like them not only as parents, but as interesting people that are generally fun to hang around with. I've got about a roll and a half of pictures in the can at the moment, but I'm still dependent on a non-digital camera, so it'll be a bit before that stuff shows up.

I was going to write a bit about an impending death in our family, but I'm still processing that event, and maybe it's not time to talk about that just yet. Kind thoughts to all that are going through it with me, though.

I have to teach one more class this week, so I'm not sure when I'll get back to y'all. Get on the update list if you want a mail when I update.