Category Archives: education

tumblr: Such a sweet find- THE AMAZING GRACE HOPPER on…

Such a sweet find- THE AMAZING GRACE HOPPER on Letterman!

It’s only 10 minutes and definitely worth watching! Some of my favorite bits:

On going to bed instead of celebrating when she officially left the Navy after 43 1/2 years of service on 31 August 24:00:

“There’s something you learn in your first boot camp or training camp— If they put you down somewhere with nothing to do, go to sleep.”

On joining the service:

L: “What interested you about going into the Navy at 37?”
H: “Well, World War II, to begin with…” (laughter)
“That’s been one of the hardest things to tell people in this country— there was a time when everybody in this country did one thing together.”

On working on the first big computer in the US:

L: “You worked on the original computer in this country, right?”
(bit of talk about her work on the Mark I at Harvard)
L: “How did you know so much about computers then?”
H: “I didn’t. It was the first one.” (much laughter & clapping)

While showing a physical representation of a nanosecond (billionth of a second):

H: “That is the maximum distance that light or electricity can travel in a billionth of a second.”
L: “No faster, no farther…”
H: “When an admiral asks you why it takes so damn long to send a message by satellite, you point out to him between here and the satellite, there are a very large number of nanoseconds…” (illustrating with the “nanosecond” in her hand)

Explaining picoseconds, a thousandth of a nanosecond, and holding up a little packet:

“The best way to get ‘em is go to McDonald’s or Wendy’s or somewhere and get a small packet of picoseconds— they have the label ‘pepper’ on them, but they’re really picoseconds.”

Posted via tumblr: published on January 09, 2014 at 12:17PM

tumblr: This year’s alumni holiday card from the CMU CS Department…

This year’s alumni holiday card from the CMU CS Department is amusingly a propos given our latest acquisition at the office (at the other university I attended).

Posted via tumblr: published on January 08, 2014 at 02:28PM

Update on Online Privacy & Security: College Students

I get a fair number of requests to post infographics here, but this one is particularly relevant to me as it pertains to online privacy and security, like this earlier infographic, but this time, focusing on college students. It illustrates points that are consistent with what I see everyday working in IT at a university every day– that college students are certainly aware and concerned about online privacy and security and while they are taking some steps to protect themselves, not enough are taking those extra little steps, especially when it comes to mobile technologies, leaving many vulnerable to something potentially innocuous like undesired people seeing your “private” social media profile (although we know this can blow up to quite the reputation killer as well) to quite serious, long-lasting troubles like identify theft.

Like most things about working at colleges and universities, in the end, our mission is all about educating and guiding these young adults in this transitional stage to being well-informed, thoughtful, responsible citizens, whether it’s the Internet or simply the world at large. Too bad we can’t go back in time and do that for everyone else that was unleashed on the Internet without any education or guidance 🙂


This is why people hate us

This stupid hoax reminded me of a real incident/interaction with a Google employee:

Back in September, I was lucky enough to be able to go to the Oddball Comedy Festival when it came to the area, specifically at Shoreline Amphitheatre, literally a stone’s throw away from the main Google campus (or headquarters, for grown-ups and/or people outside of tech) in Mountain View. I got to sit back and just focus on laughing for several hours after what has been and continues to be an incredibly difficult year. It was great, point blank, period. (Especially Chris D’elia, whose Comedy Central special recently premiered.)

Afterwards, my friend and I calmly strolled out of the outdoor venue, along with the other 22,000+ people that were there. As we were leaving, I commented to my friend that I was impressed with how orderly and efficiently such a large number of people were emptying out into the parking lot, streets, and other surrounding areas and it reminded me of how New Yorkers made me proud on 9/11 by just starting to calmly walk north as Armageddon was practically unfolding around them. A nearby woman who apparently overheard me turned to me and said, “Well, a lot of us are from Google, so we’re really smart.”

I just ignored it and started walking away from her, pushing through the crowd a bit to hasten the process. About 10 minutes later– during which my friend and I had fallen silent– I turned to my friend to comment on how obnoxious that woman and her comment was and how I couldn’t get it out of my mind now– he concurred. Now, my friend and I are both Stanford alumni, just like the Google founders and an overwhelming percentage of their employees, with him also having been a star NCAA athlete and me having been plenty recruited by Google, but both of us were just disgusted by the whole exchange. We still can’t get it out of brains.

So FYI, to anybody who has ever been lucky enough to be part of any type of “elite” group– this is why people hate us. Stop being assholes about it.

2014-01-07 UPDATE: I realize that potential future employers, including Google, may find this post and other tweets and such where I lament the “tech dude/brogrammer asshole” culture that has become somewhat of an epidemic in Silicon Valley. Whether you’re a recruiter, engineering team manager, or CTO of the hot new startup, if you’re turned off by this post and think I’m being overly negative, then we probably wouldn’t work well together anyway. When you are lucky enough to become part of any “elite” group, there will always be people with a chip on their shoulder for whatever reason and therefore find some excuse to hate on you. However, perpetuating whatever negative perception people already have by intentionally boasting about your elite status and/or even just encouraging a mindset that would result in thinking the above comment is a natural and appropriate thing to say, especially to strangers, is definitely NOT something of which I want to be a part. If you work hard and get the word out while still exercising humility, your work should be able to stand on it’s own– you shouldn’t have to get on a soapbox to tell everyone how great you are. Believe it or not, you can be confident and proud of your accomplishments without being an asshole.

Video: LSJUMB Impromptu Lunch Concert

A litle while ago (May 25th, to be exact), LSJUMB (aka the Stanford Band) played one of it’s many impromptu concerts in front of the fountain between Meyer and Green Libraries– i.e., the Shumway Fountain, usually referred to locally as “The (Red) Hoop”. As we were on the way to lunch, many of us got the bit of Friday afternoon “anarchy” on video (though sadly, the weather wasn’t the usual “sunny with clear blue skies”, so it looks a big hazy):

How can you not love such a great “scatter band” despite (or because of) the occasional controversy they stir up?

FYI, Shumway Fountain is one of the few fountains on campus not sculpted by an artist; instead, it was designed by a landscape firm that specializes in water elements. Oddly, the only place I’ve been able to find any information like this on The Hoop, including the official name, is in the Maps section (and specifically under Places of Interest > Fountains) of the iStanford (iPhone/iOS) app. The app also includes an image library which boasts, among scenic photos of our various campuses, many historical photos from the University archives, including several very interesting ones from the (in)famous Stanford Prison Experiment that I haven’t really seen published in one place anywhere else. Bit surreal/odd/creepy, especially to be carrying them around on your phone.

Help Wanted: President

Stanford Magazine Ad (March/April 2011, page 36) Flipping through the March/April issue of Stanford Magazine (the alumni magazine), I came across this strange ad on page 36 (click on the image to view a larger version or flip through the digital edition). This must be either an April Fool’s Day joke (very possible, like The Stanford Chaparral’s fake Daily) or the print media is really hard up for ad revenue.

This ad reads (and looks) like the occasional, but still very annoying job post on craigslist where someone’s got some stealth company/product/service or just an idea and sends out an open call for business partners, often for engineers to actually do the heavy lifting (for equity instead of money, of course). In this case, they’re looking for an already successful Internet company executive to help break down their only barrier to success– lack of marketing skills and the right connections– therefore, plucking this company and product out of obscurity and launching them into the Fortune 500.

Maybe this whole thing is legit, they really do have a great product, some accomplished Internet all-star will answer their call, and they will become The Next Big Thing, but the following points give me pause:

  1. The ad’s design/look– plain, black and white ad consisting completely of plain text with the occasional key word or phase appearing in bold– could have been posted in nearly identical form to craigslist for $75 instead of over $4000 for a full-page black and white ad in Stanford. Granted, then they wouldn’t be targeting Stanford alumni, but a) everybody checks craigslist and b) I have the feeling qualified, experienced, accomplished executives aren’t exactly flipping through the classifieds to find a job as president/CEO.
  2. The title– “Have You Run a Top Internet Company? or Held a Top Position At Such a Company?” sets up the tone: we’re looking for senior staff from an already successful Internet company. Okay… good to aim high, I guess… but if you want to attract that kind of talent, you’ll need to give a little…
  3. While you have to have the right experience and contacts, they basically say everyone in the entire world (maybe universe) is eligible– as long as you’re between 25 and 55 (which most candidates probably fall into, but why flat out discriminate by age?).
  4. They have “some of the world’s most talented people,” unknown and unrecognized genius just waiting for the right person (see #1) with “marketing skills” (admittedly, maybe this ad proves the truth in this) and “important contacts.”
  5. They have been working (presumably in stealth mode) for three years not on the product, but the “website to make and sell this product.” Their secret, but “great product” with “huge potential demand” that, despite reading the description several times, I still can’t seem to even narrow down what kind of product it is. Is it software, a website? Is it some type of health or beauty product (they mention that it can be an add-on for AVON)? Or is it some type of wireless media since they mention Verizon and AT&T as well as digital TV? Sounds more like a random list of key words and phrases for SEO. Or like the confusing rhetoric from IdeaFarm.
  6. They also say their product is an “annual fee based item,” but don’t worry, there’s a “very, very high expected renewal rate.” Hmm, annual fee based product or service related to the Internet… yeah, because people can’t possibly expect to use a website or other Internet service for free…
  7. Rolodex? Really? I assume they just mean a contact list because the only time I hear about Rolodexes lately is in old “Law & Order” episodes and it’s usually the dead guy’s Rolodex.
  8. Position available: President. Since when do startups, especially one that claims to have such a great product with so much potential, just place open calls for not just any C-level executive, but President! Although, to be fair, apparently “Paul”– the man behind the ad– can give you that “role and title” because he’s actually already the president!
  9. Oh, one last thing: you have to be “financially secure” because they can’t pay you anything, at all, until “the profits come in.” But you get “significant interest in the company” and the revenue will be rolling in soon after, okay? Because not only do they project “revenues of $50 million by the end of the second year,” but there will be “exponential growth thereafter.” Forever.

Seems too good to be true, eh?

Coupa Cafe Is Watching You

Coupa Cafe is watching you

Originally uploaded by sindy

I don’t know when the sign was put up, but apparently, the automatic espresso machine set up by Coupa Cafe on the first floor of Meyer Library at Stanford is under audio and video surveillance at all times. The machine was installed as a substitute for the currently vacant kiosk between Meyer and Green Libraries. MoonBean’s Coffee originally occupied the space– for eleven years, starting in 1998– but lost the bid for the space when its contract expired at the end of 2008. It’s sad really: the coffee spot was the only drink/food stop in this particular area of campus– conveniently between the two major undergraduate libraries (although Meyer only houses books on the fourth floor now and the rest is devoted to public computing/study spaces and staff offices). On top of that, Jennie Reynolds, the owner of MoonBean’s, had already closed her other Bay Area cafes to focus on the Stanford spot and her effort wasn’t wasted– MoonBean’s became a beloved part of the Stanford community, as noted in the community’s reaction to the news and this farewell message in The Stanford Daily.

The drama around the cafe space continues long after our farewell to MoonBean’s though, and not just in this closely (and creepily) monitored espresso machine. Coupa Cafe, which already has an on-campus location at Y2E2 as well as in Palo Alto, Beverly Hills and Caracas, won the bid for the space and was originally set to take over when MoonBean’s moved out at the end of June 2009. That launch date was then pushed back to January 2010 after Coupa ran into delays while trying to get the necessary county building permits. Then, when January finally came, they first said that they would be pushing back the opening date to February, again because of issues with building permits. Toward the end of January, they again announced that Coupa Cafe would be opening March 3 at the earliest, but really, they were saying that even if they completed construction/renovation by March 3, the site wouldn’t be fully operational. Well, obviously, March 3 has come and gone and there’s still no Coupa Cafe. Last week, they finally announced that they would be opening by spring break (which starts next week, finals end this Friday, March 19), but of course with the caveat that they pass all inspections and besides, there’s actually no official date set. I have a clear view of the space from my office (which made it convenient to see if it was a good time to get coffee, depending on the line) and they have been working on the space, but it’s not clear if they’re going to make the spring break deadline. I don’t see any new signage or the like and the outdoor seating/furniture hasn’t been changed, something highlighted as one of the renovations being done by Coupa. And let’s not even get into the fact that after all is said and done, this remodel is going to cost the Stanford Libraries around $180,000.

But back to the espresso machine: it was advertised as a substitute until Coupa opened and a convenient 24-hour option after the opening (the first floor of Meyer Library is open 24 hours now, not just the “infamous” 24-hour study room). I found somebody lauding its virtues to a visitor one day– e.g., it uses freshly ground beans– but really, you’re paying over $2.00 for a mediocre, small cup of vending machine espresso. Oh, and it only takes plastic, so forget about using that loose change to spring for a quick cup of coffee. And hopefully, when you decide to avail yourself of this service, there will be cups (and sugar, etc.) available and it doesn’t decide to randomly clean itself, making you wait until whatever foaming ritual is necessary.

In any case, it’s not really clear to me why the surveillance is necessary or what the purpose of it is. The Libraries are usually* good about privacy– you should be able to read and research without being monitored– and I suppose the espresso machine is in a relatively empty back hallway, but it still gives me the creeps. Is it because there are credit card transactions involved (and they are monitoring usage like they do at ATMs)? Are they trying to deter vandalism? Or do they just want to make sure we don’t steal the cups?

* Although I heard there are other cameras in the libraries and I really, really wish they would install electronic detectors again at the exits so that they don’t have to search my bag (for stolen library books) every time I leave the library.

The Meyer Bridge of Death

The “bridge” entrance to Meyer Library (awkwardly marked in the photo) is not actually attached to or part of the building. From what I’ve heard, the whole structure is actually firmly, but oh so gently pushed up against the building.

Yesterday, I was sitting out there on the landing at the top of the bridge, my butt on the landing that’s still part of the building and then my feet resting on a stair that’s part of the bridge. From there, you can see where the building ends, where the bridge begins, and the flimsy adhesive material that somehow holds the two together securely. I assume securely because there have been times when this entrance has been closed because, among other reaons, the bridge was not considered stable or safe. What changed to make it safe again? I have no idea and from what I can tell, there’s nothing visibly different about the “safe” bridge compared to the “unsafe” one.

And this theory that there actually isn’t anything different and it’s not “more secure” now is further supported by the fact that, when I was sitting there that day, I could feel and see the entire bridge shaking continuously while a (normal-sized) person– a single person– walked down the thing.

And yet, I still sat there and will probably sit there again. And I will use the bridge to get in and out of Meyer every single work day, just like I did yesterday soon after the whole thing shook before my eyes.


(And can you believe this website is still around? I can’t and I’m the one who created it.)


During my masters program, we had to keep track of how much time we spent on various tasks– reading, development, testing, team meetings, etc.– and submit weekly “effort logs.” We would either just keep track of the time by looking at the clock, using a spreadsheet with VB Script voodoo where you could hit a start button, work, and then hit stop to record the elapsed time, or just plain guesstimation. Effort logs were submitted as spreadsheets and team coaches or mentors (faculty/staff) would have to tally up each team’s total hours by wading through spreadsheet after spreadsheet for each student and team.

Because of the challenges and general annoyances the above caused, when it came time to develop our own software product as part of our curriculum, our team decided to build an effort logger– namely, the “Surreal Effort Logger,” or SEL for short– to better address the above need. (Our team was called “Team Surreal.” From what I remember, when faced with the always troublesome task of coming up with a team name, we used a random word generator, stumbled across the word “surreal” and went with it.) SEL was built as a webapp where you could hit a button to start the clock, work, hit a button to stop the clock, and then enter what you had worked on– the “task”– and the webapp would log the amount of time spent. SEL let you see the totals for individual and team effort for a given period of time.

As it turns out, somebody actually went ahead and built a “real” version of SEL called “Toggl, It’s complete with a timer, start/stop button (rendered as a shiny red power button), task, project and client tracking, and reports. I think the need to track software development time was the impetus, but the system can be used for any type of work that needs easy and accurate time tracking, especially when having to calculate billable hours and generate reports to be used as invoices.

Toggl is a “use anywhere” tool since you use it to track time for projects,There’s also a desktop version so you don’t have to have a browser window open to keep the timer going– you don’t even have to worry about logging out. and for Mac OS X users, a dashboard widget for greater convenience. (The widget was developed by a Toggl user– not by Apprise, the Estonian company behind Toggl– and was released today, which is eerie, considering I was thinking of developing a widget myself today.) You can even embed it as a gadget in iGoogle or GMail.

More things that are great about Toggl: there is a free version that has “minimal limits”; for example, you can have as many projects and tasks that you want. The “premium” (for pay) versions also include features like support for planning ahead, avoid having to end tasks before your session

I couldn’t find the exact date, but Toggl was created some time before 2007, so it was out before my CMU team built it, probably even conceived of the idea! Now, if only Team Surreal had thought to take SEL to the next level…