Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Future of Comunication

The head of IT at Amherst College compiled the technology use habits of his incoming freshmen (class of 2012).  Here it is.
Some tidbits:
There are 438 people
99% have facebook accounts
1% have landlines

The personal landline is a technology that will be obsolete relatively soon.  Why have that, when you have caller id, and even web based filtering systems like Google's Grand Central?

  1. Year that an incoming Amherst College class first created a
    Facebook group so that they could socialize and otherwise get to know
    each other prior to arriving on campus: 2006.
  2. By the end of August 2008 the total number of members and posts at the Amherst College Class of 2012 Facebook group: 432 members and 3,225 posts.
By the end of August! (that is, before school starts).  I remember having the awkward roommate conversation with my soon-to-be-roommates, but this is incredible.  The level of social knowledge and connection that they enter with just amazes me.  This is probably not true everywhere, but it is still an incredible difference with how college students interact.  It is also amazing how facebook has become the dominant social network.   I am sure MySpace still has plenty of subscribers, but facebook will win in a few years.  I am already bugging all of my non-facebook real life friends to join.  Ultimately, the strength is that it does facilitate face to face communication.  The next time I see one of the friends that I occasionally facebook, it will be a much richer and more intimate social interaction.  This is what I imagine happens at Amherst.  By the time you arrive on campus, you already know who is from your hometown, which classes are the hard ones for freshmen, which dorm is freezing in winter, etc.

Another one:
Of the 438, only 14 brought desktops.

The desktop computer is now a corporate, business machine.  I think this is probably true in a lot of places, laptops are how students (and 18 year olds) deal with computers.  What comes with this is an expectation that any bit of information is readily available at any time.  I've had students whip out theirs in the middle of class to answer a question raised (although in some cases, their answer is actually not really on the mark). 

Anyways, the future is an interesting place.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sarah Palin's email address hacked

So, you may have heard (by reading the NY Times article this past Sunday) about some of Sarah Palin's secretive practices as mayor of Wasila and governor of Alaska.  One of the interesting tidbits was that she used a private email address to conduct official government business (as some in the current Bush administration have also done, especially in the Monica Goodling fiasco).  Here is one quote from the article:
Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records.

and another choice section:

While Ms. Palin took office promising a more open government, her administration has battled to keep information secret. Her inner circle discussed the benefit of using private e-mail addresses. An assistant told her it appeared that such e-mail messages sent to a private address on a “personal device” like a BlackBerry “would be confidential and not subject to subpoena.”

Ms. Palin and aides use their private e-mail addresses for state business. A campaign spokesman said the governor copied e-mail messages to her state account “when there was significant state business.”

On Feb. 7, Frank Bailey, a high-level aide, wrote to Ms. Palin’s state e-mail address to discuss appointments. Another aide fired back: “Frank, this is not the governor’s personal account.”

But here is the big news, that personal email account has been hacked, and the password was released to a hacker forum, which you may recognize from another piece in the New York Times Magazine on the hacker (or troll) culture (here is the link to that).  Here is the extensive summary of events as to how this happened.  But if you want a very brief summary from me:

1) Account was hacked (actually two :gov.sarah@yahoo, and gov.palin@yahoo), password was released to hacker forum, screenshots were taken of the inbox and some emails within.  (It was confirmed as her actual email address)
2) Some of the screenshots reference people in Alaska government, including the Lt. Gov. Parnell
Some of the screenshots are of family photos
3) A good samaritan took the password, changed it, and announced his intention to turn it back to Gov. Palin on the forum, by copying his message to one of her contacts.  (but he didn't black out the new password, doh!)
4) Everyone tries to go on and change the password at the same time, causing Yahoo to lock the account.

5) Gov Palin is notified of this security breach, and immediately deletes both accounts.  This could be viewed as destruction of evidence, since those emails are possibly involved in several current legal battles.

6) There is currently an internal battle on the hacker forum, as the members post and re-post compilations of the screenshots, and moderators take them down. 

There is also a summary on digg.

I guess John McCain should teach her how to use email...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Comparing the Obama and McCain tax plans

From chartjunk (a blog dedicated to eradicating bad charts, named after a term Edward Tufte coined): They have redone the Washington Post's chart which compares the Obama and McCain tax plans. Rightly pointing out that the top two brackets represent only 1%, but yet get around 20% of the physical chart. Their chart is more honestly to scale (or at least tries to be). It is on top, and the WaPo is below

Check out the whole original post, if you want more details.

Use this to complement your use of
At least one of these pictures belongs in an ad somewhere (or am I just a huge nerd for wanting a bar chart in a political ad?)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hilarious translation of freestyle rap battle

Ok, a break from the political rage, for a little fun, courtesy of Waxy Links, my favorite one stop for everything cool but not yet popular on the web:
Check this out from CollegeHumor:
Translation of a freestyle rap battle

It is not really necessary to watch the original, but you can if you want:

Also, a list of songs related to the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider: here.
And just in case you were wondering if the LHC has destroyed the earth yet, you can check this handy website:

Also, fun with names:
NameVoyager shows the popularity of your first name over time and World Names Profiler shows where your last name is popular.
Apparently Riener is big in Austria and Hungary.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How much is an Obama Presidency worth to you?

For those of you (I think maybe 3 or 4 of my friends read this) who do any sort of political action or Obama-related advocacy, I think this is a useful tool.
You could also, put in your own yearly income, family's filing status, etc, and check out what an Obama presidency would be worth to you... and then donate it to Obama, I would suggest.
Not that he is in dire straits, for those of you who have been fretting because of the polls, please check out more detailed and sophisticated analysis from some people who know their numbers and how to read a poll:
Summary here of a lot of findings (I know it is on super lefty Daily Kos, but their approach to polling often  tends to be reasonable and measured)
Nate Silver at, talks about why, after the conventions, more Republicans might pick up the phone, whereas before they were embarrassed.  But this fact can bias the polls.

Also, consider this basic fact, there are far more registered democrats than republicans now (this has not always been the case).  This is something that is more certain than the polls (this is not people on the phone, but actual voter records). 

Anyways, I am still going to go out on a limb and predict Obama to get more than 300 electoral votes.  You heard it here first (ok not first, but still early). 

and you know how he is going to do it?  By being a community organizer.  And people will look back and consider the irony, that he was insulted with that at the Republican convention, and yet his attitude towards the ground game, and the get-out-the-vote machine he has built (starting with the primaries, remember he won the Texas caucuses?) will eventually win him the election.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Palin's handwriting on an earmark

I just can't resist posting this one, there is a document obtained by the Washington Independent (I know, I've never heard of them either) that has Palin's handwriting announcing an earmark with pride. You can read about this theme in her past at the ultra-liberal, angry left bazaar that is the Daily Kos, they often overreact from my point of view, but this one diary is a good one. And that image is just great.