Like Facebook? In NYC this weekend? Well, come and hear me speak!

My academic checklist for this spring:

Write thesis? check

Speak at PCA/ACA conference in San Fran? check

Speak at Science & Technology conference in DC? check

Guest lecture for GU comp sci class? check

Speak at Critical Themes conference in NYC? damnit, still have something left to do.

So this Saturday, I will — for all intents and purposes — wrap up my master’s career with a final presentation on Facebook at the Critical Themes in Digital Media conference at the New School in New York. As per usual, I’ll be discussing my master’s thesis research, which included a survey of 644 Georgetown University undergraduates and considers the impact of online identities/online relationships on offline relationships. So if you’re going to be in NYC this weekend and have nothing to do Saturday around, say, 1:30pm, and you’re interested in seeing a dynamic presentation on social networking sites, feel free to stop on by! I’m sure it will be fun and exciting for the whole family.

Oh glorious master’s degree, you are within my grasp!

I defended my thesis today in front of my advisor, reader and an audience of my peers. My thesis considers the impact of new technologies on communication methods, specifically the impact of Facebook on college students’ methods of interaction, both in the online and offline worlds. I gave a solid presentation and was awarded “distinction” for my research, which gives me a great sense of satisfaction. Apparently, six months of hard work, research and writing non-stop can actually pay off. I’ll post the link once the final version is online, and hopefully I’ll be able to publish my work in a major journal by year-end. I’ll certainly be continuing this strain of research over the next several years as I pursue my PhD at Michigan State. w00t!

Picture of the Day: Why will people never understand techno?

I love electronic music. I remember the first techno CD I bought at the tender age of 14 — Messiah’s “21st Century Jesus” — and I would listen to it on repeat constantly. Well, that and Sarah McLachlan’s “Fumbling Toward Ecstasy” — and yes, I realize that’s a very strange combination, but, hey, I was a strange kid.

I feel that I must constantly defend my love of techno. People just don’t understand its musical contribution or how anyone can listen to such repetitive beats. No matter what I say, I can’t convince the vast majority of my friends to give techno a chance. So when I saw this xkcd.com comic strip this week, I had a good laugh, as it quite accurately summarizes the problem I encounter when talking to a friend about techno.

Google goes black — and so should you

Thanks largely in part to Al Gore, it has become nearly impossible to deny the reality of global warming. However, knowing isn’t enough; action is required in order to begin a reversal of the damage done to our planet. Most people are unaware of just how easy it is to do this.

This is the focus of Earth Hour, a now annual event which encourages businesses and consumers to turn off the power for one hour as a simple way of saving energy. The event began in Australia in 2007 and this years aims to become global. You can participate by turning off your lights, computer, TV, etc., from 8pm-9pm local time TONIGHT, March 29, 2008.

Even Google has joined in to encourage participation by symbolically “turning off the lights” on its homepage. The site also links to a page with more information on Earth Hour.

google-goes-black.jpg

So don’t just say you care about the planet tonight. PROVE IT.

Picture of the Day: Security threats go pastel to celebrate the arrival of spring


Living in DC, the Homeland Security security threat level is always present in some form. People living here don’t seem to have any concern for the fact that we’ve had a heightened threat level for most of our lives, which makes me wonder if we’d even notice if something really bad actually happened.

Anyway, the standard color-coded threat level scale is harsh, mainly primary colors. Red is bad, blue is good. So boring! With spring in the air and cherry blossoms a-blooming, the folks over at Wired decided the scale needed a spring cleaning, and I completely agree. So without further ado, I give you the new and improved Homeland Security Threat Level Scale!

My favorite is definitely the Snorkel Azure, although Rococco is a close second. I’m sending emails to Homeland Security to suggest they post scratch-and-sniff versions on all Metro trains and buses.

Be back soon

Dear blog,

I promise I have not forgotten you. Unfortunately, the thesis monster takes precedence at the moment. I swear that come May 1st I will be able to spend more time with you and share lots and lots of stories. But until then, things may be a little sketchy.

Don’t give up on me!
Love,

vitak

Picture of the Day: Teach your children about discipline from an early age

Kids are often bad. They need discipline in their lives. But discipline usually isn’t very fun. Certainly not as fun as say, COLORING! But discipline needs to be instilled in children, and from an early age, if it is to be successful. What a conundrum for parents.

Thanks to a new coloring book, this confusion is history!

The Torture Device Coloring Book offers the best of both worlds: (1) pictures that need coloring and (2) images to scare the living crap out of your children so much that they will never act up again.

The lessons start from the first page which warns children that they “will be punished” if they don’t stay within the lines. Maybe the Republican party should adopt this book to train children to follow their ways. Hmm…

The book has 20 images of various torture devices, each accompanied by a witty little poem. Here’s one of my favorites:

Scratch your back / Scratch your side / Scratch until / You see inside.

So buy it today for the low, low price of just $3.44 (download) or $8.85 (paperback) and start cracking the whip over your children’s heads!

[Thanks Boing Boing!]

New report confirms Captain Obvious is alive and well

As I sat at my desk chugging down a cafe mocha in a lame attempt to not pass out at work this morning, I had a good laugh over a recent (March 3) release from the National Sleep Foundation. Apparently, adults in America don’t sleep enough. What’s more, nearly one-third (29%) of workers have felt “sleepy” at work in the past month.

Egads! I can’t believe this nonsense! People are overworked and under-rested, and it shows in the daily work performance?!?

I guess I shouldn’t bash the NSF too badly, as the organization I work for is also often poked fun of for releasing studies with “obvious” results. I do find it a little strange, however, that the above statistic is the one garnering all the media attention, often being spun as 3 in 10 Americans *fall asleep* at work, even though the vast majority of respondents most likely did not actually fall asleep, but rather just felt sleepy. I don’t know about you, but I’m sleepy at work probably 90% of the time.

A much scarier statistic is this:

36 percent have nodded off or fallen asleep while driving.

This is not “felt sleepy while driving.” This is saying that more than one-third of people have actually closed their eyes long enough to be considered nodding off while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. Isn’t that a little more concerning than being sleepy at work, considering most of us do not operate heavy machinery while at work? Admittedly, there are some jobs where it can be potentially deadly to fall asleep. For me, however, and most likely the vast majority of other people out there, the worst that could happen if we fell asleep on the job would be the vast embarrassment felt when the picture taken of us drooling on our desk circulates among the entire department.

Or, if we’re going to focus on the important parts of this study, how about this statistic?

65 percent of Americans report experiencing a sleep problem, such as difficulty falling asleep, waking during the night, and waking feeling unrefreshed at least a few times each week, with nearly half (44%) of those saying they experience that sleep problem almost every night.

Two-thirds of Americans have sleep issues and nearly half of those say they have these problems most of the time. Does that not suggest we have some serious issues in this country? Being one of those people who has sleep problems every night, I can say with full surety that my inability to get a good night’s rest impacts my daily productivity. Sleepiness decreases motivation to do things like write thesis chapters, or even roll my ass off the couch. It keeps me from going to the gym on a regular basis. It leads me to stay up later because I couldn’t get everything done during the day, which means I’ll sleep less that night, thus encouraging the never-ending, downward spiral of sleep problems.

Maybe, just maybe, if Americans didn’t have to work so hard, or feel obliged to overbook themselves at every turn, or be the model citizen/parent/employee/etc., we would be a happier nation. Do I see this happening anytime soon? Hell no. Do I see myself changing many of my sleep-depriving ways? Most likely no. But to the vast majority of people out there who constantly bitch about not sleeping enough, why don’t you just cut it out, because everyone around you is in the same leaky boat, and if you keep bitchy, we might just throw you overboard.

Oh the joys of choosing a place to live (and research) for four long years …

I’m in the middle of deciding which school I want to attend for my PhD. Sometimes, I wish the schools had made it easy for me by only accepting me at one place, so then the decision would be made for me; but alas, that is not the case. So now I am visiting them to meet faculty, see the location (which, of course, is typically in the middle of nowhere) and try and figure out if I can tolerate the place for at least four years.


Tomorrow I fly to Michigan, and I must admit, I’m a little nervous at the prospect of living in the Midwest for four years. I like a little snow, but I don’t think I’m prepared for the winters they have along the Great Lakes. This (left) is what I think of when I think of the northern parts of the U.S., and in some cases, I may not be too far off. Okay, fine, I’m probably far off everywhere except northern Alaska. But still! I’ve been spoiled by living in the Mid-Atlantic and the South my whole life. I’ve never put chains on my tires. In fact, I try to avoid driving whenever there’s even a chance of snow!

So here’s my dilemma. What criteria do I use to choose a program and how much weight do I give to each factor? Location is important, but so is the strength of the program. Will it help me more to get a job if I go to the ivy league school with the ok program or the ok school with the better-known program? Should I go where the professor I want to work with is regardless of other factors, or should I put my ability to survive in that city first?

This is what I have been thinking about the last few weeks, and probably what I will continue to think about over the next month, as I try to make my final decision while finishing my master’s thesis. So if you have been through this before, I would love to hear your advice/story/etc. Anything to aid me in making this rather important decision.