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20060805's Yoblog

I woke up late today; even though I might have woken up like twenty times this morning/night (thanks to the many things that go boom in the dark), this might be the first night which I’ve slept consecutively for more than an hour. The second floor of Dane, albeit with a female-only restroom, has a much higher population of males than female, and, as I venture off to my morning toilet, I notice that the toilet seat is up! Since there were still the same pattern of toilet paper scraps on the floor and the waste basket was yet to be dumped, I’m pretty sure this wasn’t from the maid. It appears that this restroom has experienced its first(?) male intruder. I don’t really mind that gender-confused males might surreptitiously use this designated female-only restroom. (I admit to doing something like this myself, whenever I’m on the wrong floor in a physics department building.) However, I do request that they put the toilet seat down after they finish!

Finding edible breakfast at this hour proved to be more difficult than I expected; the dining halls were closed and those preparing lunch wouldn’t let me take any early, or “else there wouldn’t be any left for lunch.” I did manage to beg a Harknesss cafeteria worker for a piece of dried hot dog bread, though; with a furtive glance, she went behind the counters and found a piece of bread, then handed it to me through the holes in the barred gate. Ah, the shameless urchin that I am.

After some prolonged digestive problems, I went about trying to find the Ames Courtroom. When I finally found it, I was fifteen minutes late, and the place was jam-packed. Snaking through the side and back aisle, I finally found an empty space on top of some heaters in the back. The lecture was… well, what had I expected? It would have been interesting if the guy were to go into the details of his Kahle supreme court(?) case, but, instead, he spent a lot of time talking about random trivialities. (Honestly, though, he reminds me of those not-yet-tenured “interdisciplinary-humanities” prof’s at UCSD doomed never to get tenured.) Interestingly, though, he talked about bookwarez, though he did not directly utter that particular forbidden word. He also implicated that the fate of all successful non-profits ended in purchase by a company; the corollary question would be—which corporation would MW be taken by? And, if MW is purchased, would all its millions of contributors be monetarily compensated? He didn’t broach up such interesting questions, and instead went on to rambling in some wacked stream of consciousness like an ill-fit humanities prof; I left at noon, half an hour before the talk’s planned ending.

Food was already being served. One of the servers took a look at me, and declared that I was sick. True, my usual pallor might have evolved into a more ghastly white due to my unplanned-for fasting. I let her mommy me, accepting her declaration that my blood sugar was low and accepting her offer to get me some orange juice. She then sent me straight to bed, packing up my food for me, albeit, this was against the catering rules (according to another server who objected to this). The whole event was all quite cute, and I did do as she told me to do.

I arrived at the Lighting Talks #2 about ten minutes late… and, apparently, a bunch of people signed up on the barcamp-styled paper-based-whiteboard already. Though the moderator claimed that half the people who signed up on the board weren’t here (how did they sign up with the big black sharpie then?), I sacrificed my online-reserved spot deferring to the impromptu third talk tomorrow, which meant I could go to the PLoS/Open Access academic journals thing (though tomorrow, I’d definitely attend the Schrodinger Multiverse imp’s thing at 2).

The Open Access talk in the Ames Room turned out to be a broad overview of PLoS (Public Library of Science), thus-far a biology-only scientific journal, which supposedly gives the public open access, eliminating the usual subscription-based fees of journals such as Nature or AJP. It appears to be the Biology-version of the Math/Physics Arxiv. The speaker went overtime, and the Q/A session was eliminated in favor of the second invited speaker. The speaker did not mention anything about Philica, a new online journal system with an eBay-like peer-review scheme—which has actually been recommended as an alternative journal source by Nature! He did mention that it’d be convenient for the general public to be able to view a “linked version” of a scientific article, where certain keywords are linked to their respective Wikipedia articles, and the references properly linked. However, he also failed to mention that reference-linking is already done on e-prints of major journals like Phys Rev, which any university student can access through their library proxy.

The second invited speaker in the mid-afternoon session at Ames was… um… well… someone who did research with um… empathy and the Internet. She “researched,” quote, “Mexican children” (who were really just Hispanic or mulatto children who lived in Maryland) and their Internet experiences. These children appear normal, and I find it detrimental to her so-called research on empathy that she did not plan to talk about socially-disabled children—kids with Asperger’s syndrome—developing social skills via immersive multiuser online systems. Overall, I’m sorry to say that her talk was painfully contentless—literally, I ended up with a horrible migraine in the middle of it.

I went back to Lightning Talks #2, thinking that I might get to squeeze into the remainder of the session, if indeed, they’d depleted their source of speakers… only to find that people were still talking.

For the late afternoon session, I went to the presentation on WikiWizard, a clever implementation of a WikiWYG. Although Java-based (thus bulky, ewww), the idea of the system seems solid. Experienced wiki users would want to have full control of syntax, and this WikiWizard applet gives the user just that—and more. For example, a user can use the usual quote-marks to bolden or italicize words, but WikiWizard will display, while editing, the marked words in ether bold or italics. Alternatively, there’s also a GUI for less-adept users. But, the key idea is that the syntax is displayed along-side—‘’so that as the less-adept user uses the applet more and more, the user will eventually learn the syntax through familiarity and multiple occurrences.’’ Discussion was made of multiple-modes being offered so that the truly phobic user might be sheltered from syntax completely, but, on second thought, multiple modes might be detrimental—most users will eventually want to get to know the syntax, and learning it through this gentle hybrid exposure is perhaps the most natural way to learn it. (Incidentally, I should mention that I may be biased based on personal experience. I learned HTML via Homesite’s hybrid HTML/visual output system back in seventh grade, a few years before Homesite was to be absorbed by the late Macromedia. Thus, I’m an adamant believer in this idea of learning through repeated exposure, since that was apparently what happened to me.)

I tried staying for the Disambiguation talk afterwards, though I had to leave, since again, the too-often-repeated common sense points spurned yet another migraine. The guy did have one interesting and amusing point—European cities with the same name are often disambiguated with the river they’re closest to, rather than the country they’re a part of, “since in Europe, country names are never stable.”