Friday, April 25, 2008

Planning and Software: Some Curiosity

Recently a first-year master's student here at (Georgia) Tech was trying to get information from her colleagues about what software they used and needed on a regular basis. I told her I was an Ubuntu convert (although I'm going to wait until at least the end of the semester to try out Hardy Heron, the most recent version of Ubuntu) and that, furthermore, I would be happy to give some sort of tutorial-slash-advocacy presentation at the beginning of the fall in regards to open-source software for end users, if she and any of the other master's students would be interested.

But that exchange got me to wondering how rare I am in turns of planning students, in relying on open-source software. I suspect that a lot of people use a little bit of open-source software (i.e. they run Firefox) while many fewer people make the leap to Thunderbird or OpenOffice, and fewer still do what I did a year ago and stop using Windows at home. It is not, as it turns out, the easiest thing to do, especially since open-source GIS options are very limited at this point. But there may be particular rewards in turning away from a corporate-controlled operating system (i.e. Windows; Apple has opened up its software a bit) and towards software that is much more heavily dependent on a community approach.

Anyway, I'm curious if anyone else out there has had any experience with a Linux-based operating system or has tried to branch out into using open-source software more often.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Calling all theorists

My cohort and I are revising the reading lists for our qualifying exams for planning and public policy. I know some people on this list are in joint planning/policy programs as well. I thought this might be a good forum to share reading lists with one another and get a sense of similarities and differences in thought across programs.

Rutgers' PhD reading lists (currently under revision by us) are available on the web.

We've realized that our lists are light in policy theory, a remanent of the merger of the two programs. That's why we're looking to accomplish two tasks:

1) add significant policy theory texts to the list
2) revise the planning and social theory list, particularly the former, to include more contemporary and diverse material.

I would appreciate if any of you would be willing to share your input with us. We'd be happy to share the results with you.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chicago Is Going to Be Expensive, Part II: Chicago Is Still Going to Be Expensive

Those of you already on the PhD Bowling League mailing list (if you're not, here's the joining information) know that there's been a fair bit of discussion as to why student fees jumped from $125 for ACSP in Milwaukee last year to $295 for ACSP/AESOP in Chicago. My guess is that the fees are probably not going to come down. And even if they do -- well, there's still a price to pay to be in a very nice downtown area of a city enjoying a renaissance.

So here are my hastily-cobbled-together tips for minimizing the non-student-fee costs of Chicago:
  • and SideStep can both search many flight and hotel websites at once. Both also have a Search-by-Address option, so you can put in the address of the Marriott (540 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago IL 60611) and have the site return hotels nearby.
  • TripAdvisor has reviews of hotels. Take them with a grain of salt, though.
  • Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity all sometimes offer special deals (I think can as well) so if you're not having any luck at all, try doing separate searches. My Milwaukee reservation was an Orbitz deal. (Note: if you do this, and end up changing your schedule, getting refunded any extra days is not easy to do, since you have to go through the booking site, not the hotel.)
  • If you want to press your luck with Priceline: Bidding for Travel has lots of good advice as for bidding travel strategies. You will probably want to check Priceline's map -- it divides the city into "zones," and you are only guaranteed a hotel by zone, not by particular location. According to BfT's list of Chicago hotels, the Marriott is in the North Michigan Avenue - River North Area zone. Also, I believe Priceline bids are nonrefundable. If you want to get advice from the people on the BfT forum, read the forum guidelines very carefully before posting -- they have a particular format for communicating information about Priceline bids and they're sticklers for that format.
If anyone has Chicago-specific advice (say, the Chicago equivalent of Cheapo Vegas, which I have recommended to people attending APA this year), feel free to post them in comments.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

ACSP Student Travel Awards

A word of warning: Chicago is going to be expensive. For those of you planning or hoping to attend, note that the student registration fee for this one is $295, and will go up to $345 after June 2nd. I was able to make Milwaukee a little less painful last year by scoring an Orbitz deal on a nearby hotel, but I did a Kayak search yesterday and the cheapest I could find within a mile of the Chicago Mariott Downtown was $140 a night.

If you want to go, and you know you're unable or unwilling to finance this jaunt by yourself, you still have time to submit an application for the ACSP Student Travel Awards. Applications (link is in PDF format) are due Friday. Good luck.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Contemplating a World Without Planning Academia

Annalise has this odd habit of making me think. Her first post here was no exception. Namely: what if one ends up with a PhD in city and regional planning and does not become a professor of city and regional planning? To some degree, the psychological burdens of sunk costs apply: if you enter a program bound and determined to get a PhD because you don't particularly want to be a municipal transportation planner or economic development consultant (or, in my case, journalist) and end up, at the end of the road, deciding that the main thing that the additional three letters qualify you for isn't a good career move either . . . suffice to say you might at least end up with some sleepless nights wondering what those extra years of studying and lost wages got you.

Which sounds a little like pre-emptive self-pity (and if there's one thing graduate students have nailed down, it's self-pity) but is meant to prompt a thinking exercise: if tomorrow all the academic planning departments in the world were to be swallowed by a giant global-warming-enhanced land shark, what would you do? What would the PhD have taught you that a master's, or even just working in a planning-ish position, would not have? How would you take those new skills and apply them towards your goals? How would your goals change in the absence of a potential tenure-track position?

For myself I generally enjoy (a) developing ideas and then (b) communicating them to a wider audience, which is the main reason I keep blogging even at the risk of some future hiring committee doing a future Google search and then indulging in a future collective sigh of disappointment. Unlike Annalise, I started out with enough race-, nationality-, and class-based privileges, and have enough tendencies towards social cluelessness, that you generally have to hit me over the head with a thick plank to get me to notice exclusionary processes. Even so, the idea of a life without a planning faculty position leads me to wonder how else I would be able to get ideas out into the wider world, or even whether a planning faculty position is the best perch for such goals of communication.