Posts Categorized: Technology

NY Times: Airbnb Horror Story

Early in the evening of July 4, Micaela Giles’s mobile phone started sounding alerts, and a series of messages straight out of a horror movie began scrolling down her screen.

Her 19-year-old son told her that his Airbnb host in Madrid had locked him in the fourth-floor apartment where he was supposed to be staying and removed the key. The host was still there, he said, rattling knives around in the kitchen drawer and pressing him to submit to a sexual act. He begged his mother for help.

Embedding Responsive Vine Videos in WordPress

I wanted to embed some Vines, but wanted them to be larger than 300 px and responsive. The shortcodes didn’t work, but with a little extra CSS, I was able to pull it off. I followed the technique from Web Designer Wall and modified it for Vine’s square aspect. Check out this example.

.vine-wrapper {
        width: 600px;
	max-width: 100%;
        margin: auto;
.embed-vine {
	position: relative;
	padding-bottom: 100%; 
	height: 0;
	overflow: hidden;
.embed-vine iframe {
	position: relative;
	top: 0;
	left: 0;
	width: 100%;
	height: 600px;
	margin: auto;
	display: block;
	max-height: 600px;

Updated my link format to add the little infinity symbol (∞) with a permalink to the post. Just in case someone wants to comment on the links I’ve posted.

Facebook Unethically Experiments on Users, Now It’s Time to Delete

Going from creepy to completely unethical, Facebook ran a psychology experiment on almost 700,000 users. I’ve had a tenuous relationship with the service over the years, and now, I’m deleting my account for good. You can still find me here, on Twitter, and in real life. Looking at Facebook from a cost-benefit perspective, there was little in the benefit column. I “like” all of your baby pictures and will see you around.

New WordPress Theme

I liked my old design for the site, but it wasn’t responsive. Instead of updating the old design for fluid layout, I’ve taken the quick route and just used a pre-made theme: Boldr. It’ll do for now.

on dentists, david foster wallace, and death

When I lived in St. Louis, my dentist, a balding, middle-aged man with a love for Woody Allen films, had a pair of video goggles, headphones, and a movie library that trended toward the 1980’s. A patient, if he or she chose, could select a movie, put on the goggles and headphones, and recline in the vinyl covered chair while the dental office dropped into the background.

The reason this came to mind is that recently I went to the dentist in my new city of residence and the one thought I had as numbing agents and nitrous oxide worked their way into my gums and bloodstream was: dentists should offer patients earplugs. The sound of whirring motors scraping at enamel along with the casual conversations of weekend plans from those who work in the office was disconcerting. Laughter rose and fell over high cubicle walls, did he say he’d call you later, a voice asked, vrrrrrnnnn the drill ground on. I wished I were back in St. Louis, comfortably reclined while a movie played inches from my eyeballs. The noise of the office would be drowned out by the dialogue, “I was thrown out of N.Y.U. my freshman year for cheating on my metaphysics final, you know. I looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to me.”

Movies, entertainment, the need to escape from reality naturally led to thoughts of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It’s a novel that has stayed with me over the years, more so than any other book. The reason being is that it seems to describe a world more and more like our own. Skype, Google Hangouts, the rise of images over text, and the need, the desire, to be constantly entertained. And, while there is no malevolent videocassette; there are smartphones, there’s the constant flow of social media and blogs to keep us clicking and flicking. Content is consumed. Screens are to be in front of us. Activity is to be measured and recorded.

With these thoughts in mind and Wallace’s work bookended by his death, I closed my eyes as the dentist drilled and the assistant suctioned. The light shone through my eyelids and I thought about a Radiolab podcast on dying. The podcast discussed end of life care and how most doctors do not want medical procedures done to save them. It cast the contradictory notion of people’s wish to die peacefully in their sleep versus the desire of families to not let go, unable to understand the trauma caused by lifesaving techniques and their diminishing returns. The warmth of nitrous oxide in one’s body, the sense of light surrounding one’s senses and a kindly voice murmuring encouragement, almost there, just a couple minutes, just about done, and one can imagine the preference for friends, family and comfort toward the end of life.

In the age of entertainment though, where is the space for conversations on aging and death? How do we talk about what it means to have machines keep people physically alive at a diminished quality of life? With talk of the quantified life, are there people asking how to measure the quality of a life that is overly connected to mobile devices? Does disconnecting one from the machine take on a different meaning as people choose to be further intertwined with technology? If I were able escape the dental office through entertainment, would my mind be allowed to wander? Would I seek the threads and run my fingers lightly along these thoughts or would the mundane be replaced with the mediocre: a screen full of beta waves boring into my brain?

Eduhacker Launched

I put together a new site called Eduhacker as a place for people to write and learn about educational technology, digital humanities, digital libraries, and random bits of geekery from working with technology.

If you’re interested in being a contributor  please let me know. Hopefully, the more people involved, the better the site will be.

Lifelong Learning: MOOC’s vs Liberal Arts Colleges

In a desire to both learn and experiment, I’ve headed back to the classroom. One of those classrooms is located on the campus of Hendrix College. The other classrooms reside on servers and I access the content through my computer. The other classrooms are ventures by Udacity and Coursera.

At Hendrix College, I’m taking Foundations of Computer Science and we are learning how to program in Python 3.x. The class meets twice a week for 50 minutes and we have two 50 minute labs. We’re well into the semester and class is engaging, fun, and interactive.

Through Udacity, I’m taking Introduction to Computer Science. The class is taught by David Evans from the University of Virginia. Class is under way. Sergey Brin provided a lecture/soundbite on search engines. The other lectures have been engaging, but I haven’t delved too far into them.

Turning to Coursera, I’m enrolled in An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python and Human-Computer Interaction through their website. The first course is taught by faculty from Rice, while the second course is taught by Scott Klemmer of Stanford. These classes have yet to start.

Excluding Human-Computer Interaction, the courses all use Python to introduce programming and computer science. Redundant? Sure, but what better way to compare learning?

Already, I’ve realized how valuable access to a professor is. What’s a pre-recorded lecture worth versus being able to interact with a subject specialist? Also, how does learning change when one can listen to other students questions? I’m trying not to be too biased, but I realize my preference is for a traditional course. And yes, I’ve taken distance and split distance courses through the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, so I know what traditional distance learning looks like.

One question that really interests me is how can MOOC’s support traditional classroom learning? A lecture is a point of view. Perhaps, students can supplement or expand their learning by hearing another professor discuss a similar topic as one covered in class.

Stay tuned and follow along. If you’re in one of the courses, feel free to share your experiences here or send me an email.