Saturday, September 29, 2012

Canada for fun, then again for profession

It's been a while since I popped in here. Actually, that's because I thought I already *had*! Oops. Anyway, the big news right now is that wrote and submitted a paper to an international conference, and it got accepted. (It's not a terribly exotic "international" location though: Canada--but that makes it affordable for me to go so, I can't complain.)

So in a little over a week I'll be off to Canada to give a full paper about the expectations of my field (versus what people in my field are taught in grad school). This is not related to my dissertation at all, and that's fine. Writing the paper gave me a sense of accomplishment after failing to write any papers related to my dissertation all summer long. I really tried to, but man, the motivation was not there. Once I switched gears--picking from a list of suggested topics from a conference flyer, rather than forcing myself to write from my dissertation--I was able to bang out this other paper in just a few days' time.

I've presented at conferences before: a full session related to my Master's thesis in 2007; a round table related to my field in 2010... and maybe one more, so this isn't a brand new experience. But it will be a great experience just the same.

Fun fact: I wrote this as a 'brief paper' - under 6 pages, and a 15 minute presenttation. But it got too long so it was accepted as a full paper with a full half hour of presentation time. I'm long-winded, what can I say? (See: my 300+ page dissertation...)

What else is up with me? Well, I maybe have already mentioned that we got new shingles on our house in late August. They look really nice and hopefully will last a long time. At the same time, we had the house insulated, going from R-value of 7, to about R-60. Should keep us cozier this winter!! (Recommendation for this region, I believe, is an R-value of around 50, so we did not have enough before.)

Also, last weekend I took my bug to Winnipeg for a VW show. I drove up with another VW--a 1964 VW bus. It was a fun and adventurous trip. Cold too: I don't have the heat hooked up in my bug. Driving to the hotel after midnight, it was in the mid-twenties; driving home the next night around 11:30, it was in the mid-thirties. (So, it was about that cold in the car, too.)

Here's a picture from the trip: you can see the other VW in front of me.

I took that picture with my new iPhone 5, by the way. I'm very impressed with it so far. (It's my first iPhone, previously having a Motorola Droid X, and before that a Motorola Q.)

Sunday, September 09, 2012


Our third anniversary today. Since last year, we've...
  • ...said goodbye to a family member (my grandma) and held tighter to others (his parents & brother, after their car accident in November)
  • ...made significant investments in our home (shingles, insulation)
  • ...taken road trips through Minnesota/Wisconsin/Michigan/Ontario and  Montana/Wyoming/Idaho
  • ...lost some weight (again) and gained it back (again)
  • ...put another degree on the wall (mine)
  • ...added another car to the garage (my bug)
  • ...enjoyed a visit from my out-of-state family (does not happen often!)
What's missing from this list is the day-to-day. This past year was an extremely dificult one for me, especially in the fall. At the risk of being dramatic, there were days (weeks!) when I felt hopeless, as though the forces of the world were conspiring against me. But to paraphrase the song: I had 99 problems but our marriage ain't one. It was a great gift, to have a husband who believed in me (and pushed me!) even when I stopped believing in myself. I hope I can return the favor, but I hope even more that his Ph.D. unfolds more...shall we say... smoothly than mine did.

Wonder what's in store for our 4th year!

Monday, September 03, 2012

conference tweets and security on the 'net

Many conferences now encourage attendees to tweet during the conference, generally with a related hashtag to keep things straight. I think it's a great idea, in theory. I like to follow the hashtags for conferences I would have liked to attend and see some of the highlights. When I'm at a conference, I still follow the associated stream when I can, just to see how others are interpreting things or what's happening at sessions I'm unable to attend. Plus, there is an opportunity for networking with other conference attendees through Twitter--perhaps some new followers or followees to enrich my stream with their 140-character thoughts.

I have never participated in tweeting from a conference though, and here's why. I think it's safe to say that most people have some kind of online presence these days, be it through Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, a personal blog, or something else. Occasionally you hear of someone being robbed (or worse), and it comes out that the assailant was able to locate them (or their unoccupied home) due to their use of geotagging photos, or because they had posted addresses on Facebook or publicly (such as taking a photo of a wedding invitation with address not blurred, or a photo of the front of the house in which street and house number are visible).

So then the news bulletins come out - the safety warnings and such - reminding people not to use location settings for photos taken at home. Or not to post photos of their expensive belongings in their home. And relatedly: not to announce when they are out of town!

Thing is, this goes directly against what we the Tweeters, the Instagrammers, the Facebookers, the FourSquarers, the Bloggers instinctively do. I see cool stuff, I want to post a picture of it. I experience trouble at the airport, I want to complain about it on Twitter. I go on a road trip, I want to geotag photos of my progress. This kind of life-fodder is much more interesting than the normal every day "Well, heading off to work!" type of material one usually has for one's online profile(s).

Still, I've been quite conscious of what I say about my location, specifically when I travel. If I mention a trip, I never mention dates. Then I don't announce I'm leaving, and I don't publicly post anything related to the travel until I have returned home.

And we're back to conference tweeting.

If you start tweeting live from a conference out of town, well, obviously you're out of town. Assumptions can be made about how long you're going to be gone, too, simply by checking the conference website. Conference tweeting is thus a method of announcing that you're out of town.

A couple of reality checks are in order:
  1. With the number of people on social media sites, what are the odds that a criminal or weirdo is tracking ME? The idea that someone would bother probably makes me narcissistic. (But so does blogging, so, go figure.)
  2. Conference tweets are generally very dry and only interesting to others at the conference or those who are involved in the field. Do I really think some criminal is out there combing through conference tweets and figuring out which houses can hence be robbed? I would think there are enough other, more direct methods of potential-break-in-targeting.
I am considering all of this because I am attending a conference later this fall. Maybe I'll get involved in the tweeting this time. I haven't decided. What's your take, readers?