A discussion in IMT 530 reminded me of tautologies – essentially, logical assertions based on variables.  Using tautologies, you can construct what are called truth tables – tables that show when a particular condition holds.  Thus, if I treat two variables – A and B as boolean values (true/false), then ask what happens when we apply the AND operation and OR operation to these two variables separately, you end up with a table that looks like this:


This skips the formal notation.  You can go further – there are inference notations, NOT notations (an inversion), and I believe there may also be NOR and NAND (not or and not and), though these operations may simply be a combination of the AND/NOT or OR/NOT formulations rather than formal expressions.

Shared Blog Conversations

As some of you are probably aware, Sean Rees and I are both co-founders of Energy Soapbox, a web site dedicated to promoting sustainability and environmental awareness. This blog features posts that focus on diverse issues from the meaning of sustainability to sheepwalking (though I have slowly become the sole contributor as late).

With Dennis McDonald’s post on creating blog-based microcommunities, I actually wonder if we might have approached the Energy Soapbox project the wrong way. In a nutshell, McDonald has been working with another blogger to have a shared conversation posted on both their blogs. They then combine their RSS feeds on the topic and present them as a single page (with each blogger having his own copy of that page on their web site).  Would this have been a better approach for Sean and I to use – establish a common tag or category that would synthesize all of our posts together?  That’s not to say we couldn’t also use the Energy Soapbox domain for its current purpose of displaying a running record of the conversation, but the sort of split McDonald describes would denote the ownership of the ideas better and empathize that Energy Soapbox is merely an additional platform (or – ahem – an additional soapbox).

That said, there is still an important question here – when is it better to “spin off” these sorts of projects into their own space, rather than attempting to combine disparate resources to represent a conversation?  There aren’t any real criteria that answer this question, and that may well be for the best, but this still seems like an important conversation to have overall.

Spring 2008 Class Registration

I’ve now registered for Spring, which makes my Thursdays really freaking long, but that’s alright. The lineup is as follows, for 13 credits total. Descriptions are taken from the UW Course Catalog:

  • IMT 520A: Information Services and Resources (Metoyer, 4 credits)
    Description: Concepts, processes, and skills of information involving creation, production, distribution, selection, collection, and services to facilitate access. Analysis of the information mediation process, including determining information needs; searching for, evaluation and presentation of appropriate results; and modalities for delivery of services.
  • IMT 541A: Principles of Database & Semi-Structured Data Systems (Boiko, 5 credits)
    Description: Introduction of database management systems for teh storage and access of structured and semi-structured information. Examines the relational model, Structured Query Language (SQL), Entity-Relationship modeling, database design methodology ) conceptual, logical, and physical design), and Extensible Markup Language (XML) for storage, retrieval, and interchange. Prerequisite: IMT 540.
  • IMT 582A: Strategic Planning and Evaluation (Coker, 4 credits)
    Description: Studies and applies strategic information initiatives within an organization, including: readiness assessment, organizational mandates, information inventories, content management, information audits, and information architecture initiatives. Focuses on building business cases for and leading information initiatives in organizations.

It should be an interesting quarter, since I’m not sure at this point how these will end up connecting together (which is something that isn’t always obvious – another post on that later, more than likely).

Hearing as a Disability

On Monday, one of the iSchool professors associated with the iAccess project (which is part of the Information School’s research arm) came in to IMT 580 – Management of Information Organizations and administered a survey on the design of web sites for accessibility by people with disabilities.  Basically, the project they’re working on assesses why web sites are not designed for people with disabilities and what cultural norms or technical information might influence the decision to not design web sites with accessibility in mind.

Aside from the sheer need for this sort of research to be done (which I consider to be a bit of a gap in existing information about web site design), this got me thinking about my own hearing.  One of the questions on the survey explicitly asked whether I, as the survey taker, had a disability that significantly affected my ability to use the Internet and its resources.  I checked “no”, but still indicated that I had a hearing impairment in the section for people who checked “yes”.

Is this a technically accurate representation of my ability to use Internet resources?  Well, that would greatly depend on what type of resource we’re talking about.  If we’re talking about everyday Web usage or IM, the answer is most definitively “no”, since I rely on these methods extensively for keeping touch with friends and family.  However, if you talk about voice applications like Skype or Ventrilo, then the answer is, actually a little surprisingly, still “no” (although I don’t use Skype).  For those unaware, I have a severe discomfort (some might call it a “crippling fear”) with telephones.  To put it succinctly, I avoid them like the plague, and there are a variety of reasons of that, but the largest one is probably my fear of not being able to properly respond to or follow what’s going on in the conversation.  It is, to some extent, also a technical limitation, since not all phones are designed for hearing aid use.

But why the difference?  The phone involves voice interaction just as much as any voice chat application out there.  My opinion is that there are at least two technological factor here: first, as it stands, I have far more flexibility with sound adjustment and tuning with computer volume, speakers, and headphones than I do with phones (including those with speakerphone abilities).  Second – and I consider this key – I’m not limited to hearing with only one ear (again, with the exception of speakerphones, but this depends on the speakerphone having good sound quality to begin with).

This survey got me thinking about what it means to classify a hearing impairment as a disability.  I have never regarded it as a disability, though I have called it a disability in cases where it benefited me to do so in the form of additional assistance.  I also have gotten out of the habit of calling it a “hearing impairment”, since, as my father rightly pointed out long ago, that lumps me in with a category of people with far more severe problems than I actually can attest to having.  I simply say that “I hear hearing aids”, and that because of that, “I am very uncomfortable with phone usage” – there is nothing wrong with that statement, since it happens to be a fact of my life.  I have continually had people who didn’t even notice that I wear hearing aids react with shock or amazement when they finally noticed.  My own parents have been known to forget that I hear hearing aids!

So is it a disability that limits quality of life?  No.  Is it a disability that limits my usage of the Internet?  No (it actually increases it).  Is it a disability?  Not the way I approach it, but it, as with everything else in life, is not without its frustrations.

Résumé Updated

My résumé has been updated. I’m starting to wonder whether I need to trim the damned thing, since it does seem like there’s a lot on there, and some of it may stop being entirely relevant after a certain period of time. I’m still very proud of being Eastside Journal’s Most Inspirational Graduate of 2001, but how long does a high school graduation award actually matter? This is a bit of a trickier question, since I’m still in school. I’ve had people look at that document and think it way too long, while others think it proves that I have a vast array of experience (let’s ignore my personal reaction to that last opinion for the moment).

Firefox Speed Tweaks

I found these tips on speeding up Firefox here, and it does seem to speed it up significantly even on broadband. However, a couple of the flags (I suspect) refer to older Firefox versions than what I’m currently running ( Here are the ones I set in the “about:config” screen:

  • network.http.max-connections: 48
  • network.http.max-connections-per-server: 16
  • network.http.max-persistent-connections-per-proxy: 8
  • network.http.max-persistent-connections-per-server: 4
  • network.http.pipelining: true
  • network.http.pipelining.maxrequests: 100
  • network.http.proxy.pipelining: true
  • Creating a new integer value:

    nglayout.initialpaint.delay: 0

I guess my only question at this point is (a) how much these settings increase the load on web servers and (b) whether these are changes that should really be made. It seems like most of the boost same from the last new integer value, if anything at all sped it up, since painting is now nearly instantaneous. All the other flags do is increase the number of connections the browser is allowed to make (and how it’s allowed to make them, if I’m understanding the pipelining setting properly). Is there any documentation on about:config values?

My Personal Information Management: Not Managed, Really

Something quite interesting popped into my head, and thus prompted this post.  As most know, I do a lot of reading as a part of my masters studies, and have done a lot of reading in the past regarding a host of different topics, particularly during my undergraduate work at Evergreen.  Oddly, when I’m doing academic work, I almost never like to read anything else, since my energies tend to get a bit drained from having to keep up with the academic stuff in the first place — there’s residual effect as well in that I seem to not like reading much for time periods after the academic year has ended.  Regardless, I find myself in a bit of a quandary; I’ve done a lot of reading on the subjects of sustainability and information management, but I really have no method as it stands of referencing all of that information or even recalling where something in particular cropped up.

This is a big problem, and spans a lot of different resources: textbooks, class notes, handouts, technical articles, magazine articles, programming code snippets, old web site designs, even in-line notations on whatever I’m reading.  I come up with ideas for projects that (no pun intended) peter out (cough) after a while, either for lack of motivation or for lack of appropriate reference material – in general, it tends to be more the former than the latter, but lack of reference material also rears its ugly head occasionally.  This isn’t because I lack the information; it’s because I’ve seen it somewhere but can’t find it again!

I’m not the only one.  Not by a long shot.  Everyone faces this.  I have a slight advantage in that I’m beginning to recognize some of the ways that this is solvable, but at a slight disadvantage in that I am not quite as involved with stuff like social tagging or folksonomies — though I should note that Wikipedia has it wrong; folksonomies and social tagging are not the same thing, and saying they are is misleading.  Anyway, the main reason I have a problem is that I don’t have a quick way of finding any annotations or relevant readings for a particular topic.  If I wanted to remember a bit about economics, for instance (a highly relevant subject for me at the moment because of PB AF 594), I don’t have any way of knowing what articles I’ve read related to the subject or where my books are that cover that subject or what I might’ve taken as notes in classes three or four years ago that talked about the subject.  This is partly lack of time to look all this crap up.  This is also partly because that requires locating things – like my ink in my last blog post, I may not know it’s already around or may think I loaned the book on the subject to someone else.  I actually thought I had loaned one of my economics books to my mother (don’t ask me why I thought this) until I spotted it going to bed one night on a bookshelf directly across from the bed!

I’ve tried recently to reduce the amount of stuff I hang on to that makes it harder to find things.  I’ve started a “clippings binder”, where I rip out magazine articles that I think might be useful for future reference and recycle the rest of the magazine.  I can’t bring myself to do this for my copies of eco-structure, since those are just pure gold, but most of the other magazines I have floating around succumb to this sooner or later.  I can’t do this to books (and won’t – my father, who is doubtlessly reading this, would about have a conniption and ban me to the seventh or eighth layer of hell).  Last year before moving to Seattle, I donated a bunch of (admittedly mostly fiction) books to Olympia’s Goodwill branch to reduce the number of books I had sitting around.  But really, this hasn’t done much – I still have a lot of books I want to be able to reference.

There’s an extra dimension here – not only is there stuff I have read, but there’s stuff that looks relevant that I want to read, but can’t find the time.

It seems like the only really good way of doing this would be to start creating additional notes on every single book I read that might be relevant to future work, but that in and of itself is a lot of additional work.  Would it increase my ability to look for and find information?  Probably, especially if it were implemented correctly (I’d guess a wiki system with some sort of tagging grafted on would work quite well for this).  Perhaps I’ll take a sabbatical in 2009 after I graduate and spend the summer reading and making notes and putting them into some coherent system.  Yeah, right.  So how do we organize all these resources that we personally find relevant?  There are answers — maybe — and those answers are (fairly) likely to be relevant.  But in the meantime, if I want to remember all I’ve seen on sustainability, I’ll have to read it all over again, or at least spend a copious amount of time reading over whatever notes I made in the margins of books or on paper somewhere in a binder buried in my closet.

That’s assuming those notes existed at all, and that’s a whole ‘nother problem.


I’ve been thinking I needed printer ink for the last several weeks, since my printer is reporting that several of the cartridges are getting quite low. I had intended to order some tonight, and nearly did until I opened my filing cabinet and found refills for every single ink cartridge I have.

Well, at least I found the cartridges before I ordered new ones…

Note – I use a business-level printer that does duplexing and provides an insane amount of paper storage capacity (and it’s got a wireless connection built in to boot) – why do I use something with that much power? Home-use printers seem to fall a bit short in the areas of networking and duplexing, thus I went to business models. This is an HP OfficeJet Pro K550dwtn (actually, it’s a K550dtwn), and thus far has served me quite well. It helps that I keep my need for ink down by forcing all printouts to only use black ink and to use the “Fast/Economical Printing” setting (which is essentially draft printing). There is no visually appreciable difference between draft printing and normal printing speeds, except that draft printing uses a lot less ink.