First-Person Cycling Videos

April 18, 2008 § Leave a comment

For an end-of-semester group project, I’ve been collecting online videos taken by people riding their bikes in different cities around the world, and I thought I’d share the fruits of my labor. Working on the project, by the by, has been super fun and rewarding — for Experience Design, my team and I have been charged with prototyping a universally accessible museum exhibit. I’ll post about details and the final result after we turn it in, but for now, I hope you enjoy seeing what it’s like to ride a bike in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Colombia.

IU and Mizzou Earn C’s in Sustainability … Yikes

October 25, 2007 § Leave a comment

The College Sustainability Report Card 2008, created by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, gives my alma mater and my current university C’s, which is sadly an improvement from last year. According to the executive summary (PDF), 31 percent of schools scored better.

Pickin’s from ALA Web Design Survey 2007

October 18, 2007 § Leave a comment

The results of the ALA Web Design Survey 2007 are out, and I was especially excited to check out the fancy PDF report b/c I was a respondent.

Interesting (to me) notes:

  • The second largest group of U.S. respondents were from the Midwest (p. 9). Now that I’m sure I’m not alone, where is my local chapter of the Markup & Style Society? If you think I’m kidding, you obviously haven’t met me.
  • “Women make up significantly greater percentages of the information architects (22.8%), usability experts (24.7%), web producers (24.5%), and writers/editors (41.6%) than they do of other titles” (p. 30). Yeah, that’s me.
  • “The job titles that consistently show higher earnings than the sample as a whole are: accessibility expert, creative director, information architect, interface designer, usability expert, web producer, and web director” (p. 31). Sweet!
  • “Respondents who are project managers and information architects indicated the highest satisfaction with their work” (p. 46). Super sweet!
  • “There is only a slight increase in earning from high school graduates to junior college graduates, and a similarly slight increase from bachelor’s degrees to master’s degrees ” (p. 33). Not sweet, says the master’s student!

This required reading just Blew My Mind.

September 23, 2007 § Leave a comment

Welcome to a new tag in my notebook: “This required reading just Blew My Mind.” Here’s a little tip about grad school that you probably already know. In grad school, you read. A lot. And if you’re lucky, some of it might even Blow Your Mind. But then you have to go on and read something else that may or may not Blow Your Mind, and either way eventually you forget the preceding Mind Blowing reading. So I’m going to start jotting down some of these things so I don’t forget them.

Your Body Is a Wonderland!¹

Item no. 1 comes from “Plastic Brains, Hybrid Minds,” a chapter in Natural-born cyborgs by Andy Clark (as opposed to Andy Clarke, who, BTW, has also Blown My Mind in several passages of Transcending CSS). OK, so we’ve already got some awesome stuff here, including plastic brains and cyborgs, but it gets better.

Clark says that our conception of our bodies can extend beyond the actual matter that comprises them if we are “tricked” in the right way.

He lists several party tricks, devised by another researcher², that you can try to confirm this, including one where you, blindfolded, sit behind your friend in a chair with one index finger on her nose and one on your own nose. (You’re remembering that joke about picking your friends and picking your nose, aren’t you? You are so crass.) Another one of your friends, standing beside both of you, uses your index fingers to stroke and tap the noses of you and your friend with exactly the same rhythm.

After less than a minute of this synchronized nose-tapping, about half the subjects report a powerful illusion. It is as if their own noses now extended about two feet in front of them. . . . To make sense of this close and ongoing match between arm’s length tapping and end-of-nose sensation, the brain infers that your nose must now extend far enough for the arm’s-length tapping to be causing the feelings. So your nose must be about two feet long. (p. 60)

Whoa. That required reading just Blew My Mind. “To recap, human brains (and indeed those of many other animals) seem to support highly negotiable body images” (p. 62).

¹ This is what Ian said after I told him about the article. Who knew that a song he loves to hate so much would come in handy in a conversation about cognitive science?

²V.S. Ramachandran, professor and director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego at the time the article was published

The Dispiriting Realism of the “Manageable Debt Load” Calculator

June 3, 2007 § Leave a comment

I had a major stress fest a few weeks ago, induced by a late scholarship offer from a top-choice school that I had completely written off as too expensive. After a few days spent aimlessly freaking out, I finally started crunching numbers, based on the financial aid office’s estimated costs and a couple of online student debt calculators.

The best calculator I found was FinAid’s Student Loan Advisor, which uses your field of study to tailor your estimated starting salary and show whether the necessary repayments would be realistic for you.

Using the calculator, I realized that even with the scholarship and part-time work during school, I would be paying back something near $11,000 every year for 10 years — a financial risk that I am not willing to take. Fortunately, I have another perfectly good (and much cheaper) choice, so things aren’t so bad.

I’m a little bumbed that my final decision came down to a consideration of cash, but at the same time, there are so many unknowable variables in the graduate school search — will I really like the faculty? will I get along with my classmates? what will the work load be like? will I get enough out of the courses? how much better will my job prospects really be? — that it was comforting to have a cut-and-dry choice in the end.

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