Monday, November 24, 2008


Running on silent mode this week.
Working on paper
Working on Thanksgiving prep
Looking forward to weekend

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Education via Wiki

Over the summer I took INSDSG 605, a course which is all about new media. As a way of experimenting with a wiki, I started a course called Greek4Travelers on

I really didn't get far with the wiki because as most course and content creators know, creating curriculum does take up a lot of time. I would love to revisit the topic though at some point because my moodle implementation of the class was more fleshed out compared to my wiki. I would really like to bring that thought-out content to a free wiki for anyone who wants to take a crash course in Greek for traveling purposes.

I thought of using this wiki like the 'teach yourself' series of books where the learner takes the initiative to learn things and stay in sequence. The benefit of having it in a wiki format is that as things change (such as slang), it's easier to make the changes to the curriculum compared to a book or a static webpage.

If you are looking for a Wiki that is on the geek side - check out, otherwise wikispaces and pbwiki are pretty good wikis for they layman.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Picked my topic!

OK, so I did some searching on our wonderful library databases and I found an article in the Harvard Business Review on customer service. Since my observation paper was of customer service interactions, it makes sense that I pick a written text that deals with customer service.

I've read the article, reviewed the observation data, and outlined what I am analyzing, now I just need to do the analysis. It seems like Black Friday for me will be more about paper writing than shopping - which is A-OK since I have neither the money to do shopping, nor the patience to wait in lines for deals that seem worthless. Give me a $300 MacBook Pro (a new one) and I will stand in line, your current deals seem kinda m'eh to me.

Anyway, my linguistics class seems to be getting more interesting. We've gotten a bit into grammar and morphology, something that I didn't think that I would have much interest in. Well, morphology I thought I would like a bit since I am interested in the origin of words, but not grammar so much. It turns out that I like grammar more than I thought!

What blew my mind is that you can have a construct for time, in the sense that you can have something happen now, in the past or in the future, BUT you don't necessarily have to have a grammatical tense to describe a verb in some other time slot.

Friday, November 14, 2008

'Digital Dark Age' May Doom Some Data - if you don't prepare

I think this article is pretty interesting (direct link: click)

I personally think that this isn't just a standards issue, and a proprietary vs. open issue, but it is also an issue of proper practices and quality storage media. Recently I read a blog post of one of my blogging colleagues in Greece that irretrievably lost his valuable data (from ten years ago) that was residing on CD-Rs.

Luckily my insistence of expensive storage media and slow recording speeds has spared (most) of my data, including those silly little reports I did in High School, but how long will optical media last? Archival quality media can last for half a century, or more, but is copying over and over a viable solution? After all bit and bytes will eventually be corrupted from the continuous migration.

ScienceDaily (Oct. 29, 2008) — What stands a better chance of surviving 50 years from now, a framed photograph or a 10-megabyte digital photo file on your computer’s hard drive?

The framed photograph will inevitably fade and yellow over time, but the digital photo file may be unreadable to future computers – an unintended consequence of our rapidly digitizing world that may ultimately lead to a “digital dark age,” says Jerome P. McDonough, assistant professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

According to McDonough, the issue of a looming digital dark age originates from the mass of data spawned by our ever-growing information economy – at last count, 369 exabytes worth of data, including electronic records, tax files, e-mail, music and photos, for starters. (An exabyte is 1 quintillion bytes; a quintillion is the number 1 followed by 18 zeroes.)

The concern for archivists and information scientists like McDonough is that, with ever-shifting platforms and file formats, much of the data we produce today could eventually fall into a black hole of inaccessibility.
“If we can’t keep today’s information alive for future generations,” McDonough said, “we will lose a lot of our culture.”

Contrary to popular belief, electronic data has proven to be much more ephemeral than books, journals or pieces of plastic art. After all, when was the last time you opened a WordPerfect file or tried to read an 8-inch floppy disk?

“Even over the course of 10 years, you can have a rapid enough evolution in the ways people store digital information and the programs they use to access it that file formats can fall out of date,” McDonough said.
Magnetic tape, which stores most of the world's computer backups, can degrade within a decade. According to the National Archives Web site by the mid-1970s, only two machines could read the data from the 1960 U.S. Census: One was in Japan, the other in the Smithsonian Institution. Some of the data collected from NASA’s 1976 Viking landing on Mars is unreadable and lost forever.

From a cultural perspective, McDonough said there’s a “huge amount” of content that’s only being developed or is available in a digital-only format.

“E-mail is a classic example of that,” he said. “It runs both the modern business world and government. If that information is lost, you’ve lost the archive of what has actually happened in the modern world. We’ve seen a couple of examples of this so far.”

McDonough cited the missing White House e-mail archive from the run-up to the Iraq War, a violation of the Presidential Records Act.

“With the current state of the technology, data is vulnerable to both accidental and deliberate erasure,” he said. “What we would like to see is an environment where we can make sure that data does not die due to accidents, malicious intent or even benign neglect.”

McDonough also cited Barack Obama’s political advertising inside the latest editions of the popular videogames “Burnout Paradise” and “NBA Live” as an example of something that ought to be preserved for future generations but could possibly be lost because of the proprietary nature of videogames and videogame platforms.

“It’s not a matter of just preserving the game itself. There are whole parts of popular and political culture that we won’t be able to preserve if we can’t preserve what’s going on inside the gaming world.”

McDonough believes there would also be an economic effect to the loss of data from a digital dark age.
“We would essentially be burning money because we would lose the huge economic investment libraries and archives have made digitizing materials to make them accessible,” he said. “Governments are likewise investing huge sums to make documents available to the public in electronic form.”

To avoid a digital dark age, McDonough says that we need to figure out the best way to keep valuable data alive and accessible by using a multi-prong approach of migrating data to new formats, devising methods of getting old software to work on existing platforms, using open-source file formats and software, and creating data that’s “media-independent.”

“Reliance on open standards is certainly a huge part, but it’s not the only part,” he said. “If we want information to survive, we really need to avoid formats that depend on a particular media type. Commercial DVDs that employ protection schemes make it impossible for libraries to legally transfer the content to new media. When the old media dies, the information dies with it.”

Enthusiasm for switching from proprietary software such as Microsoft’s Office suite to open-source software such as OpenOffice has only recently begun to gather momentum outside of information technology circles.

“Software companies have seen the benefits of locking people into a platform and have been very resistant to change,” McDonough said. “Now we are actually starting to see some market mandates in the open direction.”
McDonough cites Brazil, the Netherlands and Norway as examples of countries that have mandated the use of non-proprietary file formats for government business.

“There has been quite a movement, particularly among governments, to say: ‘We’re not going to buy software that uses proprietary file formats exclusively. You’re going to have to provide an open format so we can escape from the platform,’ ” he said. “With that market demand, you really did see some more pressure on vendors to move to something open.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Paper #2: Indecision 2008

OK, so now I've got something to keep me going in my linguistics class - as much as I bemoan homework at times, I feel like I am a masochist for it!

Anyway, I've got my paper assignment for paper number two. With this paper I've got options, many options! One, obvious, option is to compare the text of a conversation that I observed to the text of an article and note differences in morphology and other linguistic factors discussed in class. OK, I could do that, but it seems like a hunt-and-peck option in other words somewhat easy - I may be wrong.

The other option is to pick a language that I am somewhat familiar with, find a native speaker and analyze certain aspects of their speech and how they use language. This option has three sub-options. The problem with this option is that the languages I am interested in exploring (japanese, russian or chinese), I have no access to native speakers for! I raked my brain and found a good compromise! Vietnamese! I had studied Vietnamese years ago (and forgot most of it), but I still know many native speakers of Vietnamese that I can interview.

Now I just have to pick my approach...

Monday, November 10, 2008

I dream of PhD

The issue of a PhD (or EdD, or D.B.A.) has come up many times in recent years. After I graduated with an M.B.A. and I applied for the M.Sc. program the question was "why don't you go for a PhD?" I thought about it, but I didn't really find something that satisfied my intellectual curiosity.

Once I got my M.S., and I applied for an M.A. and an M.Ed. the same question became even louder from friends, family, and faculty members who really wanted me to strive for something larger. I decided to apply for the M.A. and M.Ed. programs anyway, satisfy my intellectual curiosity in those subject matters (and while at it apply what I learned to my day job) and I made myself a promise to look into a doctorate.

Truth be told, I would love to get a doctorate, but there are two issues at hand. First there is the obvious economic issue. Most doctorates are full time ventures. If you are a family person, with regular expenses such as a mortgage or a car payment, you can't just quit your day job to get a doctorate. After all, even the most generous of stipends would not cover our basic living expenses. This means that I am looking for a school that allows me to be a part time PhD student while working full time - not an easy task.

Second thing to look out for the the distinction between a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), a EdD (Doctor of Education) and a DBA (Doctor of Business Administration). The jury is still out on a verdict on which one I should pursue. Younger advisors (who have a doctorate) tell me that so long as I get a Doctorate, the actual designation doesn't matter. What matters is what I focus on and the work I do.

The other side of the coin is the older, more experienced faculty, who are already tenured or just retired. They advise me to go for a PhD because an EdD or DBA won't be very useful if what I want is to teach (which is what I want to do). Even if I do phenomenal work, if it's not a PhD, my doctorate will be stigmatized on some way. I don't know who is right and who is wrong, but the proponents of both sides are about equal in number.

Finally the third thing to consider is the topic of the PhD, the structure of the program and the faculty. After all there is no reason to get invested in a program if you don't like it. My initial foray into PhD research lead me to some renowned Business Schools in the Boston area (DBA and PhD). Personally I found them kinda 'blah'. They seemed kinda stifling for my kind of intellectual curiosity and they didn't fulfill the previous two conditions.

I then looked at an EdD with a utilitarian motivation. It was part time, it was from a school that I think has good credentials, and its affordable. Win-win! Well, not so fast. While it satisfied conditions one and two, the purely utilitarian aspect of it meant that I might not necessarily like the experience, which seems like a pretty rotten reason to pursue a doctorate.

In any case, I've discovered that my interest does not lie in one subject which complicates things a lot because schools seem to want PhD candidates to have some narrow focus to their research interests. I have discovered, though linguistics, instructional design, education and business that I am a multi-disciplinarian. I don't want to focus on one narrow sliver of knowledge that I then make my life for the rest of my career.

There is a PhD which seems to tickle my fancy - but we'll explore that in another post...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Why I've given up on Microsoft Office.

Now, don't get me wrong. At work I use Microsoft Office for the Mac and for Windows on a daily basis. It's a necessary evil. People just send me attachments in the all too familiar doc, xls and ppt formats. When the clock strikes 5 and I get off work, that's where MS Office and I part ways.

As a student it just doesn't make sense to pay $150 for the student edition of Microsoft Office! If you're a non-student this price balloons to $317 if you want all the trimmings. I still have papers to write, presentations to prepare and spreadsheets to crunch. What is a student to do?

Well, In the past year I've found the perfect solution to my office troubles. This solution is a combination of free and for-pay tools.

OpenOffice - this is completely free. It has programs that do essentially what Microsoft office does, for free! And, it's quite compatible with Microsoft Office files, so you don't have to worry (much) about opening files that your friends and colleagues send you.

Google Docs - this is a free service by google. It allows you to create word documents, presentations and spreasheets. You have a lot of the functionality of traditional Office programs and you get to save it on the internet. This means you don't have to worry about forgetting your flash drive or your homework files at home!

Plain text editors - On the Mac you can use TextEdit and on Windows you've got WordPad. These programs are good enough to get you started on that research paper - to get your ideas on paper, edit the content, proof read and grammar check everything, and it will allow you to do basic word processing functions. When you're done, save as an RTF and upload to Google Docs or save on your flash drive. AbiWorld is also a free word processor that one can use and it offers more functionality than TextEdit and WordPad

iWork - If you REALLY must pay for software to feel good about using it, and if you're a Mac user, iWork is for you. It costs $79 (half the price of the student version of Microsoft Office), and it has a capable word processor and publisher-like program called Pages. It has a Spreadsheet called Numbers and it has a GREAT presentation program called Keynote which is far better than PowerPoint! The best part of iWork is that it is 100% compatible with Microsoft Office documents, so you can open and save as a Microsoft documents so your friends can be in the loop.

For poor grad students (heck even undergrads), there is no need to spend the money to buy Microsoft Office, and there is no need to 'borrow' that install CD from your friend's friend's friend. Just use the free tools, or if you have to pay, there are cheaper options.

One program that I never recommend is Microsoft Works. While it can open word files, I do not believe that it can save as a word file, which makes it pretty pointless. Why pay for sort-of Office compatibility when you can get better compatibility for Free with OpenOffice?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's official: this is a lame duck semester

Well, registration period is now open for the Spring semester. I logged into the student system yesterday and I registered for my Spring classes - all of them Applied Linguistics. By the end of Spring 2009 I will be half-way done with both Instructional Design and Applied Linguistics.

With registration complete, I can't help but feel that this is now a lame duck semester. It is true that I still have one exam and one paper due for my fall linguistics class (and 5 weeks of lectures) before the semester is officially over, but it's like a switch flipped in my brain and this semester's value, or importance has been downplayed - like a lame duck president. There is still time left for the class to turn ugly if you don't watch it, but you can't help but think 'this is it'.

I wonder if other students feel the same way...