Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Signs of Spring

I caught these fruit trees and tulips on my way to class tonight.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Commuting Sunset

Couple of pics of downtown Minneapolis from this evening's commute.

Giant Crane

The construction people at the science classroom building have a giant crane for lifting stuff.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Project 100 Complete

Some months ago, I started a Project 100, the goal being to post 100 photos on this blog, mostly daily. Some of you may have noticed that the count got up to 107 (which is more than 100) -- I wasn't sure what to do when I reached 100, so I just kept counting anyway.

One possibility was to continue with a "Project 1,000".

I really enjoy the format of posting photos here and then commenting on them, but I found numbering them tedious. Therefore, Project 100 is complete and I won't be starting another formal project right now. However, I'll continue posting photos with more or less the same frequency.

Perhaps I will create some automated way to count the photos posted. I do enjoy statistics like that.

Stevens Canyon Photo Teaser

I just returned from a 9-day backpacking trip to Stevens Canyon, Utah. Great trip, and I took some very nice photos. Full trip report to follow. Here's a teaser.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Public Works Fail

This stream of water is emerging from the ground in front of my neighbor's house, since Friday at least which is when I noticed it. We called 311 and they told us that they'd "bid it out". It seems strange to me that the city does not have a crew of people on-call for these sorts of emergency repairs.

I wonder if Tim has any water in his house.

Project 100, #107.

Saturday, April 11, 2009 Doesn't Understand or Doesn't Care that Your Address Is Private? (Updated: No, They Just Communicate Badly)

(Important update 4/26/09. See below.) has a neat new real-time visualization of orders and their locations ( Publishing locations of orders seems like a big privacy problem to me; I contacted them using their online form about the issue. Both my note and their completely useless/clueless reply are below.


I was just looking at your visualization of orders at It's an extremely cool visualization.

However, I have a concern: Addresses and locations are private data. If you're not adding a fuzz factor or taking other steps to protect your customers' privacy, then you are committing a quite severe privacy violation and need to take down the visualization immediately.

If you are adding a fuzz factor, you need to add information to the visualization clearly explaining how you are protecting said private data, to avoid worrying your customers.

Thank you!

Hello Reid,

Thank you for contacting the Customer Loyalty Team.

Here at Zappos, our customers are our first priority. We work hard to preserve the trust that we build with our customers. respects your privacy and wants to protect your personal information. Please know that does not share or sell any of our customers' information.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please let me know.

Reid, I hope this information was helpful to you and we look forward assisting you again in the future!

We are constantly striving to improve our service. If there is anything more we can do for you or if we could improve your experience, please do not hesitate to let us know. We are always here for you - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We are a service company that just happens to, bags, clothing, and accessories. 1-800-ZAPPOS-1 (1-800-927-7671) or 702-943-7677.

Thank you for shopping with us,

Lauren S.
Customer Loyalty Representative
Powered by Service!
The Web's Most Popular Shoe Store!
Phone: Toll-free 1-800-ZAPPOS-1 (927-7671)

Update 4/27/09:

I received another e-mail from Zappo's customer service on the 20th, as follows, emphasis mine:

Hello Reid,

I hope you are having a good day. I wanted to contact you in regards to your concern over our new order map program. is a service based company that genuinely cares about our customers and would never reveal information that would affect their privacy. We do not reveal any details in the map beyond the zip code of the purchase and what item was purchased. This can be a great trend-finding tool to help our customers in their shopping. If you click on the picture of the product, it will take you to the page for that item on our site. All of our customer's identifying information, including name or specific address, is kept private and only used for the purpose of their orders.

I apologize for any confusion with this new program. If you have any further questions or concerns at all, please do not hesitate to contact us back. We want you to be assured that we care about our customer's privacy. Please also see our Privacy Policy:

I hope this helps to clear things up for you. Again, please call or e-mail us any time if we can be of any additional assistance.
So, it appears that while Zappos is rather clueless about communicating it (there still isn't any indication of the granularity of locations on the visualization), they aren't committing the gross privacy violation I was originally concerned about.

Weekend To-Do List

  • Send work e-mails
  • Send other e-mail
  • Go to library
  • Laundry
  • Stats homework, lab, studying
  • Arrange honeymoon
  • Secret items
  • Mopping, sweeping, vacuuming
  • Get wedding addresses
  • Go through Weddings from the Heart
  • Check-ins
Update: Finished them all! Wow! (That is, except for the take-home test I forgot about. Hmmm.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

CHI 2009 - Thursday (Day 5)

I manned the exhibition hall information booth. This was my world for 3-1/2 hours. It was very boring.

Michael presented the paper that he, I, and Loren wrote. He gave a very good talk. In GroupLens, college sophomores are first authors on CHI full papers and give great CHI talks. How about your research group? ;)

Boston view out the big windows on the third floor. I'd tell you what neighborhood this is, but I have no idea. Sorry.

Project 100, #104, #105, #106.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

CHI 2009 - Wednesday (Day 4)

Sean was chairing a session.

Joe got up to ask a question, and Max got in line right behind him. Then Katie asked the next question. (All of these people are in my group.) There weren't any other questions pending, so I got up and complained that Minnesota was underrepresented at the microphone. (For context, you're supposed to state your name and affiliation before you ask a question, so it was obvious that all three questions were from Minnesota people.)

Cavernous ballroom ceiling at one of the sessions.

Snacks and break.

Condom World.

We thought James was looking too professional in his nice collared shirt, so we demanded that wear the lobster hat.

Project 100, #98, #99, #100, #101, #102, #103.

CHI 2009 - Tuesday (Day 3)

I was going to complain that I've never been in a hotel where doing the stuff on these signs made any difference at all. However, the Tuesday housekeeping actually did what was outlined on this sign. So, I'll complain that doing the stuff on these signs almost never makes any difference.

Here's Max giving his talk. It was superb. I was very impressed.

I am wearing a silly hat.

Project 100, #95, #96, #97.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 6, 2009

CHI 2009 - Monday (Day 2)

Outside my room, too early in the morning. Note the mediocre newspaper outside everyone's door.

Elevator lobby. I am on the 22nd floor. There are 6 elevators, so many that you have to push the button and then keep alert and hustle to get in the one that appears before it disappears.

Skyway over a street of some name.

Morning light in Boston (from skyway).

Swanky mall on the way to the convention center.

This tower towers over the mall.

Did you know Dunkin Donuts could be swanky?

Entry to the convention center. We are upstairs on the 2nd and 3rd floors.

Giant escalator dome.

Aaron (day captain) and Sara chippering-o-matic before 7am.

Hallway light outside the session rooms. The views from this area are very nice. Sample below.

Dane being "helpful".

Aforementioned view.

Mukesh, day captain. We take our work very seriously around here.

Project 100, #81, #82, #83, #84, #85, #86, #87, #88, #89, #90, #91, #92, #93, #94.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

CHI 2009 - Sunday

CHI is the major conference in my field, something like 2,500 attendees.

Waiting for the train to the airport at o-dark-thirty.

Our swank hotel room. I'm rooming with Jilin.

View from aforementioned swank hotel room. It's about 10 minutes walk through a shopping mall to the convention center.

I'm a student volunteer. This is the SV "lounge".

Sara (right) is the SV co-chair this year. She's the friendliest person I know who can shout a room full of people into horrified silence. She got 1-1/2 hours of sleep last night.

Max (left) is the day captain.

This is Sara's messy work area.

Project 100, #75, #76, #77, #78, #79, #80.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Traffic Fail

This is I-94 evening rush hour on a fairly light day. Suckers!

Project 100, #74.

UMN East Bank

Coffman Union, Moos Tower, and other buildings on a dreary day.

Should have tried a polarizer.

Project 100, #73.

Dunk Tank

The undergrads set up a dunk tank on Monday. It was approximately 40 degrees outside. I am pretty sure the tank was filled with cold tap water, given the facial and body language of this poor girl after she was dunked (no photo, sorry).

For perspective, Minneapolis winter tap water is sometimes uncomfortably cold for drinking.

The posters advertising this event promised professors for the dunk tank, but I didn't see any.

Project 100, #72.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Weekend To-Do List

  • Thank experiment participants
  • Go to REI
  • Stats homework, lab
  • Call honeymoon places
  • Pack up filter
  • Secret item
  • Wedding website
  • Mopping, sweeping, vacuuming
  • Load Stevens Canyon GPS data
  • Clean out e-mail inbox
  • Configure back-up drive
  • Check first aid kit
  • Get wedding address
  • Follow up about wedding certificates
  • Go to library
  • Do taxes
  • Bug Stevens people
  • Visit babby
  • Blog posts