rivka: (books)
If you haven't been reading Mark Reads Harry Potter, you totally should be. Mark is a 26-year-old guy who somehow made it to adulthood without ever reading a Harry Potter book, watching a Harry Potter movie, or encountering fandom. Now he's reading the series a chapter at a time and blogging his reactions before going on to read any further. His hundreds of commenters are all sitting on their hands desperately trying not to post spoilers - especially when he says things like "I'm really interested to see how Sirius's plotline develops" halfway through Order of the Phoenix.

This might be a good time to pick it up - he's just published an annotated index to his entries which makes navigation much easier. He's going to be starting Half-Blood Prince on Monday.
rivka: (Default)
It's time for me to take my annual "refresher course" in rights and protections for human research subjects. This is more or less something I can do in my sleep. Nothing changes about the Belmont Report or the informed consent requirement or the special federal protections afforded to prisoners from year to year.

But this year there was something new in the section on Internet research (emphasis mine):

One of the most controversial issues regarding Internet research involves the observation of online communications. There is currently no consensus in the research community about whether online communications in open forums constitute private or public behavior. Conclusions about whether they are public or private behavior will affect if and how the regulations are applied. If the behavior is public, then this research could be considered exempt. If, however, there is a "reasonable expectation of privacy" on the part of the subjects, then IRB review may be required.

Another issue in observing online communications is whether the individuals engaged in this communication are identifiable. Although the subjects' actual identities are not "readily accessible", for many individuals, their online identities are as important to them as their real identities. Again, whether the subjects are identifiable affects how the regulations are applied.

Researchers should consult their IRB for guidance on how these issues are applied at their institution.

I'm so glad they noticed both of these things.

I know the conventional wisdom is that you're an idiot if you think the things you say on the Internet are private. Yes, on the one hand, the public Internet is public. On the other hand, I think it is legitimate to say that in some Internet contexts, people are speaking to a particular assumed audience and may reasonably feel that their privacy is violated if the assumed audience is bent too far. No, I don't think that you have the right to rant about someone on your public blog or LJ and then complain if that person comes along and responds. But on the other hand, I think that, for example, people posting to a bereavement-focused message board expect that they are speaking to other bereaved people and would have reason to feel violated if a new poster later turned out to just be there collecting research data. It's complicated. Research guidelines acknowledging that it's complicated are an improvement.

And of course people's online identities are important. Given the number of public discussions of online activity that equate "accountability" with "using your legal name," it's good to see an acknowledgment that online identities are often stable, personally valuable, and backed up by history and reputation such that it would be damaging to discard them.
rivka: (her majesty)
Elsewhere on LJ, [livejournal.com profile] marycatelli asked me to provide references for a claim I made. When I went to provide them, I found that my comments to her journal were suddenly being screened. (My initial comments hadn't been.) Gosh. Somehow I begin to question the sincerity of her request for citations.

I understand why someone wouldn't want to risk being proven wrong in their own journal, but dude. Don't ask me to go to the trouble of doing a literature search for you if you don't ever intend to let the results see the light of day.

I guess I may as well share the information here, instead. )
rivka: (I love the world)
A guy in Norway is collecting giraffes. He's trying to get people to send him a million giraffe images by Jan 1, 2011. Which sounds ridiculous, right, except that he's been at it for about a year and has already collected 850,000. He might actually make it.

It's really neat to see the diversity of images people have sent in. A stunning and subtle watercolor painting is a few clicks away from a crude giraffe sculpture constructed from office supplies. I am particularly struck by this one, which may be the most artistic thing ever constructed from an old banana peel. I love this adorable knitted one too. But there are quilted giraffes and giraffes made from guitars and giraffes made from sports equipment and mosaic giraffes and scultped giraffes and edible giraffes and drawing after drawing, from people all over the world. I love the internet.

The statistics page is also kind of fun to look at. Why so many giraffes from Lithuania? What on earth happened the day he got 30,000 giraffes?

Alex and I made contributions yesterday. (Hers, mine.) I encourage you to consider helping him out as well. The only rule is that the giraffes must be hand-created, not computer generated, mass produced, or living and photographed.
rivka: (adulthood)
In about five minutes I have a meeting that I am extremely nervous about.

So I'm posting this fabulous video, via [livejournal.com profile] acceberskoorb's facebook, of a talented ASL signer performing Jonathan Coulton's "Re: Your Brains."

You don't need to know sign to think this is cool - I only know a tiny bit. He does a fantastic job of using facial expressions and body language to convey the nuances of the song. And if you're a language geek, you'll want to click on the "more info" section on the side to see a literal translation of the signs matched up against the English lyrics.
rivka: (druggie horses)
If you've been online for more than five years? You've really got to check out today's XKCD.
rivka: (books)
I'm shopping for children's picture books for my niece Jessica, who is being raised bilingual and speaks only Spanish at home. I just found a Spanish-language version of one of my personal favorites, Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban. (If you haven't read it: Small girl badger decides she only wants to eat bread and jam; it doesn't work out so well for her when her parents go along and only serve her bread and jam for every meal and snack.)

So there's a Spanish-language version, Pan y Mermelada Para Francisca. Excellent! I scroll down the Amazon page to see if there are any comments about the adequacy of the translation. Nope.

But I do come to a section Amazon has helpfully entitled, "Books on Related Topics." And what's listed there? La Revolucion Diabetica del Dr. Atkins.

Bread... jam... and a counter-suggestion of the Atkins Diet. I suppose that does make a twisted sort of sense.
rivka: (panda pile)
Via AckB, a little something to lift your spirits this morning.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.
rivka: (Rivka and Misha)


As a 1930s wife, I am

Take the test!


As a 1930s husband, I am
Very Superior

Take the test!

The second one doesn't surprise me. The first one, I'm a bit sheepish about. I mean, it's not like I vacuum in high heels! But I do, uh, cook and take care of the child and go to Sunday School... and I don't wear red nail polish or curlers in my hair. Maybe that's what does it.

eBay WTF

Jun. 5th, 2008 08:22 pm
rivka: (smite)
I tried to log in to my account this evening because I'm in the middle of an auction. I went to www.ebay.com, which had the typical "Hello rivkawald!" message on it. I clicked "sign in." My username was prepopulated in the right field. I entered my password. And was directed to what seems to be a phishing page.

"We have noticed an increasing fraudulent activity recently. In order to provide your security and protect you from fraudsters we have introduced a new system of identification that will help us to avoid any kind of fraud or unauthorised access.

Please enter as more information as possible to provide your complete identification and to activate all the features of the new system."

The page then proceeded to ask for my full name, date of birth, mother's maiden name, social security number, credit card number & security code, ATM PIN, bank account number, and routing number.

No, really. And there wasn't any way to get past it.

(Screencaps are here and here.)

I went back to www.ebay.com and tried to log in again. Same thing again. I tried their "live help" chat and got routed to "account security live help," where I waited and waited and WAITED to no avail. "Thank you for your patience. Please hold for the next available Live Help Agent." And hold. And hold.

Finally I got through to a live agent. She had me clear my cache and cookies. I cleared everything out and then was able to get a regular login page when I went to ebay.com. I immediately changed my password, obviously.

But what the hell? I typed in the address to the eBay main page myself. I didn't follow a link in an e-mail. How could this happen? I am running AdAware and a full virus scan, but... yikes. This scares the hell out of me. I thought only stupidcredulous people were victims of phishing scams.
rivka: (baby otter)
OMG we finally have DSL at home!!!

So... how are all of you?
rivka: (panda pile)

My score seemed impressive to me until they presented me with a list of the 187 countries I "forgot," which in many cases (e.g., Navassa Island, French Southern and Antarctic Lands) I had never even heard of.
rivka: (travel)
Some time ago, my friends page passed around an online U.S. geography game in which you had to drag states onto a blank map. Your score depended on how many you put in the right place and your average number of miles off the correct location.

I found a new page of games, in which that particular game is Difficulty Level 3. Out of 9 levels.

On Level 6, you drag the states into place and then, if you are correct, they disappear. So you can never derive clues from relative placement, no matter how far into the game you go.

On Level 9, the states need to be rotated to the correct orientation and enlarged or shrunk to the right size before you can slot them into place. Also, they don't bother giving you any of the names except (magnaminously enough) Wyoming and Colorado, which would otherwise be impossible to distinguish. And the states disappear once you've placed them correctly, taking away all relative placement clues.

I made it up to Level 9 and did pretty well (3 errors each of two times, in just over 5 minutes on the second run through), but I think I only did that well because I'd spent a bunch of time on Levels 3-8 beforehand. I had the map very firmly fixed in my head by the time I tackled the hardest version.

It helps that the major U.S. rivers are included on the background. At first I wasn't really attending to them - then I realized that, of course, rivers commonly serve as state borderlines. After that, my accuracy of placement improved quite a bit.

An especially nice thing is that the site isn't U.S.-centric. They've got a whole range of these games, ranging from Canadian provinces to African countries. I went through the Canada ones too - they're a lot easier because there are just so many distinctive coastline features. (Although I do pity Canadian children assigned to draw a map of Canada for Social Studies class.)

So I've wasted a lot of my time on this, tonight. Now it's your turn.
rivka: (pseudoscience)
Phrases I never imagined myself typing:

Check out this totally cool Periodic Table of the Elements.

Edited to add: And then check out this totally cool Periodic Table. Which is an actual, you know, table. The elements lift up so that samples can be stored underneath. For example: #92, uranium.
rivka: (for god's sake)
[livejournal.com profile] james_nicoll linked to the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, an organization whose platform calls for a voluntary end to all human reproduction, as the only possible means of saving the environment.

So okay, they're crackpots. Pessimistic, misanthropic, doom-relishing crackpots. There's something to shake your head at on every page. But what really got me was this little fantasy about how great it would be if the ability to reproduce suddenly vanished, worldwide:

Gradual extinction of the human race will result if zygotes of Homo sapiens never again begin cell division.

Abortion providers might be the first to notice -- happily going out of business in a few months. A worldwide panic might set in, but without reason. There would be no negative impact on the world nor on society as a whole.

Individuals' lives could change profoundly, but all for the good. Starving people would begin finding enough to eat and resources would become more plentiful. New housing would be unnecessary.

All human technology would be scaled back but could still advance. Nuclear power plants could begin to be safely decommissioned. Dams could be removed. Technology could focus on dealing with unsolved problems such as radioactive and other toxic wastes. Healing the wounds of past exploitations could become a priority, reversing the expanding deserts and shrinking forests.

Some of our influences, such as global warming, may be impossible to stop and reverse at this point, but we could ameliorate the effects somewhat.

Conditions for society would also improve as shortages are eliminated and our death rate drops to an unheard of low.

Domestic plants and animals could be phased out as farms and ranches are converted to ecosystems supporting wildlife and natural vegetation.

The last humans could enjoy their final sunsets peacefully, knowing they have returned the planet to as close to the garden of Eden as possible under the circumstances.

The last one out could turn off the lights.

The only conclusion I can come to, based on this section, is that the folks at VHEMT are a bunch of young, healthy idiots who sit at their computers all day and have never actually ventured out into society or even met another human being.

Although I suppose that there is the alternative hypothesis: that once humans stop reproducing, a race of invisible fairies will appear to provide the labor and services required to allow an aging population to "enjoy their final sunsets peacefully."

Ten years.

Jul. 11th, 2007 11:02 pm
rivka: (Rivka and Misha)
At playgroup this morning, Suzanne asked how Michael and I had met. I told her, and mentioned that it was ten years ago this month. So this evening, as I was casually surfing around, I decided that I should really try to figure out exactly when, ten years ago, we met.

Whoa! It was ten years ago TODAY.

Ten years ago today, I walked into a Nashville hotel room full of total strangers and met the man I would one day marry. Although we'd known each other in passing online, at that point we had no idea that we were, you know, destined for each other. As I recall, the first words he said directly to me were: "Bait? Y'all are going to eat bait?!"

It was the first ever alt.callahans Callahanicon. I'd only even been reading the newsgroup for about six months, and had never been to a convention of any kind. I don't even know what made me decide to hop on a plane from Iowa City to Nashville - it seems completely out-of-character for the person I was at the time. But I did it. And my life changed forever. Not just because I met Michael - I also met [livejournal.com profile] saoba that weekend, who became one of my dearest friends, performed our wedding, and helped ease Alex into the world. I met [livejournal.com profile] pixel, who, as I recall, jumped into my lap about five minutes after we met, and then fell off the bed. I talked to [livejournal.com profile] wcg for the first time, when he called in by phone. In a lot of ways, for the first time that weekend I felt like I had found my people. Geeky congoers who conducted their social life, and deep parts of their emotional life, over the Internet. It was the beginning of a whole lot of changes, for me.

Most of all, Michael. It really was almost as cliche as "our eyes met across a crowded room." For reasons that I couldn't articulate, I just felt incredibly drawn to him. We kept making casual excuses to sit near each other and talk to each other. By the time that this picture was taken on Saturday night, we were both already falling hard. A couple of hours after dinner, we kissed for the first time.

That's probably a good place to fade tastefully to black, huh?

Michael, I love you. Almost from the first day we met, I've felt such peace with you - such a sure and certain knowledge that, no matter what happened, we were always going to be on the same side. You are my rock and my refuge. Happy anniversary.

Oddly enough, even before we knew that tomorrow was our ten-year anniversary (if one dates from the first kiss), we had arranged to hire a babysitter so we could go on a date. Funny how these things work out. Not the most romantic of dates in the world - we're going to go shopping and see Ratatouille - but still, anything with a babysitter involved is kind of a big deal. Yay.
rivka: (alex pensive)
Alex decided that she wanted to read one of her bedtime books herself, tonight. She studied the cover very carefully. Then she pointed at a word.

"This has a B and a K. It says 'Becky.' " (Becky is our Director of Religious Education at church, and Alex absolutely worships her.)

"B-O-O-K, it says 'book,'" I told her.

"Starts with a B, like Becky," she said.

"It sure does," I said.

"This is an E for 'Alex',"[1] she went on, "And this is a G... for 'Google.' "

[1] (She does know that 'Alex' doesn't start with E, but she persistently identifies all of the letters in her name as being most famous for their role in that word. It's L for 'Alex' and X for 'Alex' too.)
rivka: (red dress)
New Year's Eve has never been a big holiday for us; we spent this one sedately at home. We fed Alex early, and then had a special dinner for the two of us: beef tenderloin, steamed asparagus with lemon butter, asiago cheese bread, wine. Unfortunately, both Michael and I are feeling ill. He's coming down with some sort of cold, and I'm suffering from major fatigue and dizziness - I guess from the ear infection.

I do have New Year's resolutions this year, for the first time in a very great while.

1. Stop neglecting my health. Concretely: go to the dentist, get an annual GYN exam, and start paying more attention to getting vitamins into my diet. It would be an added bonus if I could possibly not walk around with a sinus infection for three weeks instead of getting medical attention promptly.

2. Don't sit down at the computer without either a planned list of things to do, or a time that I intend to get off. Because my surfing is getting out of hand - and it's not even good-quality social interaction, as those of you who have complained about my lack of LJ commenting can attest. It's just mindless compulsive reading that I often don't even enjoy.

3. Deal with one piece of household clutter every day.
rivka: (sw-a-a-p)
My mom is on vacation in Colorado right now, reading her e-mail at the Estes Park Public Library. A few days ago, I sent her an e-mail with a cute little anecdote about Alex. When she replied, I noticed something very strange about the quoted text of my message:

The other thing she loves to do lately is make her toys cry, and then give them to me to comfort. Doll, doggy, little plastic figurines, rubber ducks, they all start going "Waah! Waah!" and then I have to hug them. This reached its most ridiculous point when I gave her some goldfish ers to eat and she made the ers cry. I am not going to hug a er that's about to be food!
What the hell? Had I made some sort of bizarre error?

...No. A quick check of my sent mail folder indicated that I had made no typing or cut-and-paste error. I had clearly specified that the ritual played out with goldfish CRACKers. CRACKers.

Holy shit. And I thought net filters that disallowed the phrase "breast cancer" were bad.

Whoever set up those filters - and it must be the library, right? Because if Yahoo, my mother's mail service provider, were being so idiotic, it would be on the news - is the craziest Puritan I've ever encountered. Can't have library users talking about illegal drug use, so the letters c-r-a-c-k are forbidden, even if those nasty druggies attempt to disguise them by following them up with -e-r-s. But wait, it gets better: I e-mailed my mom about the deletion, and she wrote back:

Talk to [your sister]. She has had several email where the common word for female babies was omitted, when sent to me. baby. Did it work?
Girl. They forbid internet users from viewing the word GIRL.

What. The. Hell. Those computers must be completely fucking unusable. I wonder if the librarians' machines have the same filters.

Edited to add: I just checked another e-mail from my mother to see what else had been edited out of my quoted text. "Game." WTF? I guess because they don't want people using library computers to play games? But that makes no sense!
rivka: (snorkeler)
[livejournal.com profile] therealjae happened upon the website of a pastor who is so right-wing-fundamentalist-wacko that he apparently spends most of his time railing against other right-wing-fundamentalist wackos for not being rigid enough. Nothing unusual there, unfortunately...

...except that the guy's name? His real name? Is Darwin Fish.


("Yes, Darwin Fish is my real name. It is the name my parents gave me when I was born in 1961. At the time, to my knowledge, there was no "DarwinFish" symbol made up at that time. My father's last name is "Fish," and my mother liked the name Darwin. So, this is my name. Some have suggested that I should change it, but I don't believe that would be honoring my father and mother (Exodus 20:12).

I have not openly cursed the day I was born as Jeremiah did (Jeremiah 20:14-18), but perhaps I have in my heart...")

[livejournal.com profile] therealjae was just delighted by the absurdity, of course, and of course so am I. Which led to the following IM conversation: Read more... )


rivka: (Default)

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