Two Factor Authentication Tip

Here’s a tip if you use Two-factor authentication and want more than just 1 ‘authenticator’ device: Take a screenshot of the QR code you’re given from Google (or elsewhere). Keep it somewhere safe and when you need a new authenticator device, just scan that QR code with the app! (P.S. More than 1 code can be valid at a time – so if you have two devices with different codes, both will work).

Be Careful of Creating Memories

A little over 10 years ago I bought my first digital camera. It was a pretty crappy camera, even by the standards of the day, and it also doubled as a webcam. For 2 years my Logitech Quickcam was my companion, and all of my digital camera “firsts” came with it (i.e. first picture of my friends, first pictures of my new car, etc…). Recently I started looking at some of those old photos and realized that at the time I thought taking a picture at every moment was a great idea. In retrospect, I should have been more careful with my memory maker.

Warning, By: Anders Sandberg

About 6 months after I got my camera, I had it handy one night when a friend of mine visited. My friend had just come from an argument and was badly in need of support. After we talked for a bit, and the mood lightened up a bit, I snapped a couple of photos. Those were the first digital photos I have of this friend, whom I’m still close with today. I recently came across them and thought “Hmm, I should send this photo” before I recalled the events that led that person to my table that night. Now I don’t know if my friend would remember that night, and I certainly don’t want to be the person to revive a painful memory (This is why this post has some vague wording), so for now I can only look at the photo and remember that time in our lives in the broader spectrum.

The point of this cautionary tale is that today we all have our cameras with us at any moment. We snap photos without much thought, and photos can hold more powerful memories than narratives have ever been able to. Next time you’re thinking of making a memory, perhaps wonder what that day might evoke years from now if you should revisit it. I suspect this is why we often don’t see people taking photographs at a funeral!

Are Television Networks Cannibalizing Their Broadcast Revenues With Cliffhangers?

Karey is a big True Blood fan, and I watch it with her because it isn’t that bad of a drama / comedy / supernatural show (The vampires don’t sparkle, at least). Anyway, yesterday we watched 5 episodes in a row, due in part to the ‘hooks’ that each episode had to the next. Cliffhanger endings that lure you into watching the next installment. On a DVD this isn’t a big deal (Or on Netflix or Hulu, for that matter). But when originally broadcast, we’d be waiting a week or perhaps more. We both agreed that we wouldn’t watch the show on TV simply because it would annoy us to have to wait a week or more to see the (often) 10 seconds that is the ‘end’ of the scene or moment.

Photo By: Claire P.

Obviously network broadcast revenues aren’t as good as they used to be, and HBO is making money if I buy the DVD. However wouldn’t they make more if I enjoyed the show enough to watch it AND buy the DVDs? Syfy does this one better by having cliffhanger endings and then making you wait, sometimes over a year until the next season starts. And don’t even get me started on “mid-season breaks”. About 8 years ago Karey & I ditched a show on ABC that would tease “Tune in for the exciting conclusion on <3 weeks later>”.

So what do you think? Is this tactic of “drawing out” the resolution to a scene (not even a plot line, but a specific scene!) helping a struggling industry right the ship? Or is it showing just how disconnected executives are from what people want in an entertainment venue?

Why I Don’t Watch The News

I don’t watch the news. Saying that to someone will likely raise an eyebrow, especially since television is flooded with an abundance of news channels today. Growing up in northeast Ohio we had one local station that, by my count, had over a quarter of their broadcast day devoted to local news (if you’re wondering, not that much happens in Cleveland), and that was in addition to CNN and early versions of MSNBC and FOX News. It isn’t that I’m opposed to knowledge dissemination over the airways – it’s that I’m opposed to how I feel when taking in news that causes me to turn off the set. Specifically, I struggle with experiencing the wrong emotions.

A news van sits outside Columbia on March 29, 2010. I took this photo as I walked toward my building.
A news van sits outside Columbia on March 29, 2010. I took this photo as I walked toward my building.

Continue reading “Why I Don’t Watch The News”

Naming your Devices To Protect Your Privacy

About 2 months ago I realized that my computer-naming scheme was horribly bland. My Macbook Air, for example, was named “JWMBA”. The Macbook Pro? “JWMBP”. Worse yet were the phones and tablets. “Jon Westfall’s iPhone” was a mouthful to say and write. And despite the vague nature of some of the names, I was also potentially exposing myself to a breach of privacy. Here’s why.

Continue reading “Naming your Devices To Protect Your Privacy”

Quotes On Homepage

Anyone who cares might find it interesting to read some of my favorite quotes, now on the top of the sidebar on the right. You can read them by waiting 20 seconds for each to reload, or just look at the list below (automatically updated as I add quotes I find).

Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.

— Poorly Translated Fortune Cookie

I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reasons, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.

— Galileo Galilei

If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them

— Isaac Asimov

Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.

— Plato

Luck has a way of rewarding those who do not depend on it

— Robert Guillaume

God grant me the serenity to remember who I am

— Joe South, “Games People Play”

Some say life is unfair. Hey, I don’t know, I don’t care.

— Jimmy Buffett

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

— Theodore Roosevelt

I speak LOUDLY, and I carry a BIGGER Stick… and I use it too

— Yosemite Sam

Back off man, I’m a scientist

— Dr. Peter Venkman

It’s a game [baseball] you’ll hate for 5 minutes and love for 2 hours

— Mike Hargrove

Sheesh Vinny, what did my DVD collection ever do to you? Kick your cat or something?

— Jason Dunn

It’s 3:30 in the afternoon and people are trying to sleep!

— Master Shake, Aqua Teen Hunger Force

I have no idea. People who boast about their I.Q. are losers.

You’re with someone for like 2 weeks in and you’re like, F*** no way. I can’t stand this person. I’ll stay around for 5-6 years and we can end this thing violently I got time.

— Dane Cook

The only person I can be is the person I am

— Tim Cook, Interview with Charlie Rose, Sept. 2014

If society fits you comfortably enough, you call it freedom.

— Robert Frost

So I Just Watched ‘Star Wars’ For The First Time

Many people know me as a geek, and if they were to guess that I was a fan of science fiction, they’d be making a logical inference. In fact some people know that at 11 years old I was winning Star Trek trivia contests, at Star Trek conventions, wearing a Starfleet Uniform (Thankfully there are no digital pictures of this). But many are surprised to learn that until this week I’d never watched Star Wars. Not just the prequels, or V or VI, no – I’d never watched any of it. Until now.

By: Kevin Dooley

First let me answer a few common questions that I always get when I mention my lack of Star Wars viewership:

  • No, I’m not one of those guys who thinks Trek is way better and thus shuns the entire Star Wars Universe. Nor do I think it’s “too commercial” or “too mainstream”.
  • Yes, I know what happens in the movies despite not having watched them. Pop culture has not allowed me to be ignorant of that. I just said I hadn’t watched the movies, not that I wasn’t intimately familiar with the story lines, characters, and analysis. I’ve read the Wikipedia entries on all the movies.
  • No I didn’t have horrible parents or friends who stopped me from watching it.

So why haven’t I watched the movie until now? Well it’s actually rather mundane – I just never felt like it, coupled with the fact that no one around me has ever insisted that I watch it (Of course many probably would have if they knew I hadn’t watched it!).

Growing up, my dad liked Star Trek, and I think he and my mom had watched Star Wars at some point when it came out, but they never felt like they needed me to view it. And my friends… well let’s just say that not many ever told me that I had to do anything – being a bigger kid, only child, and relative loaner meant that I didn’t really associate with any Sci Fi nerds, like some might expect, and I was certainly more of a leader than follower thanks to my relative inexperience hanging with kids. My best friend, Steve, preferred Spaceballz much more than the actual Lucas-written movies, so that’s what I did watch. The first of many, many, many retellings of Episode IV that I’ve watched.

And that’s probably why I never bothered to watch the full thing until now. I’ve seen Family Guy parody Star Wars, I’ve seen Robot Chicken, Mel Brooks, and dozens of other full-length and short clips of parody over the years. And honestly watching the real movie didn’t feel “new” to me at all – it felt completely familiar, thanks to Pop Culture. And that’s why I’m not sure if I’m going to watch the others – they’re in the Netflix queue, but I don’t honestly know if they’re worth my time (Friends of mine know that I don’t watch many movies in general because I consider committing 2 hours of my time to something a major commitment). And I honestly don’t know why now I decided to rent Episode IV. Maybe I was just bored when browsing Netflix a few months ago.

So there you have it – I’m a 30 year old tech geek professor with a PhD who owns a frickin’ laser that looks like (and is almost as damaging as) a light saber, and I’ve now watched Star Wars for the first time. Maybe I’ll watch the rest of the movies, if the force compels me to. Or maybe I’ll stop here while I’m ahead. What do you think? Should I continue on?

Summer Shock!

I’m a professor most of the time (as Professor Anonymous might say, a professional professor professing), however with the final grades for Spring term due today, I am officially released from teaching until the fall (Well technically I would be if I didn’t choose to offer a class this summer, in June). As someone who plans their schedule around meeting with classes (I have a colleague careful to never say he teaches, as he has no idea if learning actually happens – all he knows is that he meets class often), my schedule now has just a few regular research meetings per week. Nothing too taxing. So what does a resting professor do?


My Likes as of This Morning
My Likes as of This Morning

I tend to spend a bunch of time on StumbleUpon, mostly in the humor category, although occasionally I venture out and learn something. Here’s what I’ve liked lately.

Mess Around with Different Services

Some of these are because I’m thinking of using them in class. Some are just for fun. Others are somewhat pointless. Here’s the stuff I’ve played with for some/no reason (All are free, because well, I’m cheap):

  1. Credly – to give badges to my students.
  2. Tiny Tiny RSS – to have my own hosted RSS feeds
  3. Socrative – to conduct in-class polls
  4. A couple of WordPress plugins: NextGen Gallery & Better WP Security
  5. Tinker with the CMS’s I use, WordPress and Moodle.


So the life of a professor doesn’t stop when classes are over. I’m still actively working on various research projects with people around the world. They’re happy I have more time, and honestly I am too. Why? Because when you have a lot on your plate, you enjoy research less. For example, one of the most time consuming, yet most enjoyable aspects of research, is experiment creation. Not the high-level “What should we manipulate part” (Although that’s time consuming in a different way) – but the low-level “gotta build a PHP script that does 8 different versions” stuff. I find programming fun, but not when under the gun.

So that’s all I have done or planned so far on Summer 2013 – if you have any ideas or suggestions I’d love to hear them!

How do you blog from a tablet?

I type really fast. It’s so fast that it’s always been my blog entry method of choice. However since I spend more and more time on a tablet these days, I thought it might be nicer if I could write blog posts from my tablet of choice.

See that last paragraph? I dictated it. Then I corrected it. Then I started tapping out this paragraph and stopped to re-read, re-word, and correct the first paragraph again. For someone with a solid 95 wpm, dictation isn’t the most satisfying way to work.

Tapping out via an on-screen keyboard isn’t much better. My thoughts take forever to get on the screen, and while I have read that sometimes it is better to slow yourself down on purpose, I don’t know if I buy it. When it takes time to write, as it does with this post, my mind wanders. It hears my wife putting Pepsi in the fridge and mentally thanks her (something I should probably do verbally more often.) It thinks about lunch tomorrow and debates floating the concept of a pizza buffet lunch past said awesome wife (something no one should do more often). It floats like a breeze and makes me wonder what it was I was doing in the first place, as I tap away at virtual keys.

Oh yea, I was writing about blogging. And was wondering aloud (or ‘aprint’ as it were) how one could blog on a tablet, with limited input speed. And I have no idea. I suppose I won’t be ditching a keyboard any time soon.