Winter break inventory

28 February 2015

I am just back from hiking over Knife Rock (갈바위) in Bukhansan. I have wanted to go hiking all winter since I didn't live up to my own promise to myself to go hiking regularly during the past semester. I was finally motivated by a family-free day and a desire to "finish" something, since my work seems only to be broadening with every step forward lately. During my ambulation, I decided that I should take stock of other things that I managed to "finish' over the winter in order to make myself feel better. I'm not sure that the following items represent accomplishments per se, but they are things that I wanted or needed to do.

  • Went for a solid hike...once.
  • Redesigned my website, learning a bit of HTML5 and CSS3 along the way.
  • Taught my older daughter how to ice skate. This is probably my major achievement over the break.
  • Watched all of Archer.
  • Watched the first season of Bojack Horseman.
  • Read the core of Asimov's robot series: I, Robot, The Caves of Steel, and The Naked Sun. These seem eerily prescient.
  • Bought and set up a new desktop computer for my office. This finally gave me the power I need and allowed me to create a consistent Arch Linux install across all my computers.
  • Reorganized my office.
  • Traveled to Shanghai for a conference.
  • Presented at a second conference.
  • Submitted a first stage research proposal to the NRF.
  • Committed myself to an hour of writing every morning (though we'll see how that holds up).
  • Started reading a number of books for academic purposes, but these are not "finished".
  • Made an effort to organize and streamline my approach to thesis advising.


26 February 2015

"Every truth forms in negotiation, however messy, with aspirations to the universal."
-- Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection


15 February 2015

"You gotta know to be a hypocrite, baby!" -- Lupe Fiasco


12 February 2015

Though I launched the site a couple of days ago, I think the basic site is now assembled and ready to be put aside for a while, especially since I have a great deal of work left before the semester begins.

Over the last several days I experimented with jQuery and php as means of keeping the site simple and fast. Additionally, I wanted to make sure that as little as possible had to be repeated on each page (and thus potentially edited!). I started with php to load the sidebars and content, but then I decided I wanted the content pages in a separate subdirectory. Well, that messes relative links right the fuck up. So I tried jQuery, which created an ajax setup that would simply reload the main section. It worked, but the urls were not meaningful and thus could not be used for bookmarks or copy-and-pasting into emails to students and others. More irksome, though, was that it called the library every time I visited the site, slowing it down and creating an external dependence.Finally, I figured out how to create a php variable for the root directory. The code looks a little uglier on the navigation selector, but it seems to be working like a charm and keeps it in-house.

I'm sure there will be small issues as I go along, but I'm confident I have tight little site now. So it's time to move on to more important things.

Producing anew

10 February 2015

The spammers have won. As is obvious, I have chosen to put my Drupal site to rest for a while. Last semester students consistently complained that they were having trouble logging into my site to upload their response papers. Eventually I discovered that the innumerable requests from comment spammers were turning my site into a useless pile of mush. At the peak, spammers were requesting over 7GB of data per day and crippling my site.

Using .htaccess I finally got the traffic under control. But two things led me to decide to hard code my site and abandon it for now as a course management system. First, Korea University has now implemented Blackboard. And though I have heard a great deal of negative reviews of Blackboard, it certainly seems as though it will be as effective at delivering the syllabus and course materials and at allowing students to upload response papers and view grades. Plus, for the students, it will reduce the number of sites they have to visit to get their work done. Second, I realized that---in part as a labor of love---I have to put in a great deal of time each semester getting students' IDs registered, setting up the course page permissions, and whatnot. Third, it became clear that to keep the spammer assholes under control I would have to regularly put in time entering the latest compromised computers that were attacking my site.

And so, I have decided to simplify for now.