July 31, 2003

Krispy Kream

Taking the escalator up from Archives, Navy Memorial (Green Line), I was greeted by a young man selling Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
for some charity. Never one to refuse charity (at least when sweets are involved), I picked up a box to take to the office to share.

I'm now typing this on a sugar and caffeine high, after scarfing more doughnuts than I should have, washing them down with a full thermos of coffee. My eyes are in shudder-speed, my fingers are able to type (incorrectly, because of sugar-stutter) 475 words per second, as I reach greedily over for another cup of coffee, and I think I just grew 3 inches on my beard.

Someone should put a warning label on those damn things.

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July 30, 2003


Well, no new pictures of the baby from the doctor’s visit today (another regular baby checkup). We did hear the baby’s heArtbeAt for the very first time (the sonogram machine from the last visit was not equipped with sound).

The sound of a baby heArtbeAt from the womb is curious, and hard to describe or replicate. To get the necessary echoing effect, you have to stick out your lips as though you were about to whistle, or perhaps to kiss your Aunt Margaret. Your tongue should rest against your back, upper molars, and you make a guttural sound, a dual-tone precursor to hawking a lugie repeated over and over at two different pitches and speeds. Short-long, short-long. Baby Morse Code for the letter “A”.

In any case, it was cool. No, it was brilliant.

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One of the things I love about blogging is that while reading through my blogroll, I get to come across wonderful colloquialisms that you don't hear every day on a DC street.

Like "It was brilliant!".

We just don't say brilliant enough in the States. Every time I read it, I imagine the slight upturn in the middle, coupled with a careful British accent. That word alone kept me smiling through Bend it Like Beckham, a movie that I thought was ... brilliant!

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July 29, 2003

July 28, 2003


As this is Lisa's first day of her second trimester, I thought it would be an appropriate day to formally blog-announce our forthcoming "publication" - title yet to be determined, due on February 1st, 2004.

The image below was taken of our baby during the eighth week, which is when we first saw his/her heartbeat.

We don't know the sex of the baby yet, and are not planning on deliberately finding out. I have heard of people not watching their sonograms and ultrasounds to prevent finding out, which seems a bit extreme to me. I don't need to be surprised *that* badly, and I would hate to miss out on watching the baby develop just in fear of noticing the sex of the baby.

Lisa is doing well, and handled the first months of morning (actually for her, afternoon) sickness and exhaustion like a champ. Thankfully, those days are receding, and her energy levels are bouncing back. We're both completely thrilled about the pregnancy, with the normal fears and trepidations mixing themselves in as appropriate. Fortunately, we have a great support system of friends (some who are also pregnant), family (this is the first grandchild for both sets of parents), and colleagues.

We have another appointment this week, so hopefully I will have an updated picture of the baby to post...

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July 25, 2003

Reading Video Games

If you can read Italian, check out: ludologica [via ./ games ]

And do me a favor and translate these for me, ok? Ciao.

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July 24, 2003


Check out the recently released Ransom Center: The Gutenberg Bible
- one of only five complete examples of the Gutenberg Bible in the United States

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July 23, 2003

Maryland Calls it Quits

The Onion | Deficit-Wracked Maryland Calls It Quits

ANNAPOLIS, MD—Citing mounting debt and a decline in tourism dollars, the state of Maryland will shut down for good on August 31, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Erhlich Jr. told reporters Monday.

"I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has ever lived in or visited the great state of Maryland," Erhlich said at a press conference held on the steps of a boarded-up Capitol Building. "You are the people who have made this such a wonderful place. Maryland will live on in the fond memories of each of you, even as we liquidate the state's assets."

Ah, humor is what helps us survive...

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A little Spacewar history, including a copy of a 1972 article on the game from Rolling Stone.

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July 22, 2003

A Class I'd Love to Teach

Check out Communications 480: Ethnography of On-Line Role-Playing Games [via Many2Many] - a course taught last semester at U. of Washington, where the class was required to play EverQuest during the semester and blog about it. For those who think such classes are feather-light, that 'play' is on top of a decent reading list, 2 exams, and a term paper.

Just a few years ago, I taught a two week module on Myst and found the students strangely resistant to it, although those same students had a blast during a class 'trip' to LambdaMoo ...

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July 17, 2003


Who needs a laptop if you have a newSony Clie?

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Working Definition of Interactivity, cont.

[earlier related post]

When speaking of interactivity, however, I want to avoid the mistake of using it as a globalizing term. There are, in my estimation, at least three aspects of interaction at work in the engagement of any particular work, to a greater or lesser degree, which I will begin sketching out here. My working terms (likely to be adjusted) are: material interaction, human-material interaction, and human peer interaction.

The first type - material interaction - functions akin to the description from Paul Dorish referenced earlier: the "interplay between different components." I intend "material" (which may not be the best term in this case - thus, the "working term") to signify those component parts that are programmatic, or material, or computational. An algorithm, or ink scratched into a page, or the manipulation of printing techniques to layout a novel like House of Leaves would all fall into this category (although clearly different unto themselves, requiring interpretative measures). It would account for the traditions of textual studies, as well as (in part) the form and content debate.

The second type - human-material interaction - works as described; it comprises the relationship of humans to the "machine as built" (whether that machine be a computer program or a book) as well as individual reactions to specific components of the whole material object. This is the realm of reader response theories to HCI departments, narratology to film studies, accounting for the analysis of textual objects (how we interpret texts; how we read) to media objects (how we play; how we game). This accounts for the influence of 'multimedia' - how the inclusion of various senses affect of relationship to the object - so, the study of haptics and ergonomics (touch and spatial relationships), as well as hermeneutics (interpretation of visual signs).

But already we also see that those two versions of interactivity - the material and the material-human - relies on the understanding that they are two components also interacting with one another. One can not engage a work of art outside of the material interaction that enables its constitution. A plain electronic text of Moby Dick is certainly different from a first edition, but both versions carry with them a certain cache both in their composition (ink on paper; electrons on a screen) and in the cultural value of the work itself (the electronic edition clearly is less valuable for a collector than a first edition, simply in the basis of the novel's material construction - quite simply, it's harder to copy a first edition and, if it were copied, it would be a "forgery").

How would Nelson Goodman's theory of symbols (Languages of Art) account for this typology? I've always felt that his distinction between allographic (systems of writing, for example, such as the alphabet) and autographic (a painting, which can not be duplicated without loss) was a distinction that failed for me (a spectacular, and very useful failure, however). Correct spelling, as I recall (I'm sure I must have missed a nuance), was the distinguishing feature of making sure a proper copy of an allographic textual work was made. The autographic work had no such criteria - the fact that it could not be copied without loss is what makes it an autographic work (clearly, Goodman published before Napster). (Admittedly, this is pulling out Goodman from about two years ago, so feel free to correct me if I'm mis-remembering or misinterpreting). The difficulty I see is separating the autographic and the allographic when I see both functioning in, say, a textual object.

to be continued ...

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July 16, 2003


Shamelessly spent most of my writing time this morning trying to organize my workspace, which includes e-mail. I'm trying to "streamline operations," as it were, which means setting up some time to fix old equipment, clean off old computers (to give them away or make them useful in some fashion). and generally get things in order so I can actually make use of the copious notes from years past (although much less copious than Calamity Janes', who should probably just get a job with the National Archives based on her experience).

And I'm suddenly thinking to myself about loss. We have these conversations that waffle back and forth between the ephemerality vs. materiality of digital objects (clearly, the binary - oddly I suppose, considering the context - doesn't work). I suppose I feel that with all this computing power, I should be able to snap my fingers, have my e-mail sort itself into reasonable categories based on keywords and then - for god's sake - be archivable in a textual or even HTML format. I use - *shameface* - Outlook Express (Netscape/Mozilla drives me a bit batty; Opera I love, but had several problems with on my system) - and there's not really, as far as I can tell, a reasonable archiving solution. I would have to pay some guy for *another* program just to archive my emails in case my computer crashed.

Now, granted, the ones I keep on the server are fine (unless those too get wiped out in the blast, but then, I'm unlikely to care in that event), but I keep several folders' worth of e-mail locally, because my quota has been persistently threatening to pack up the house and lock up my system unless I clear some space. So most of the e-mails from classes I've taught are locally archived, along with some freelance web design correspondence, and so on.

And then I just deleted a bunch of stuff wholesale. In a panic, I wondered - what if I NEED one of these, one day...?

I am reminded, of course, that loss is part of the process. Loss also brings us some of the most amazing stories - those of recovery (I think of Alice Walker's determined recovery of Zora Neale Hurston as one such example). I'm interested to see how we will view ruin(s) and loss of today in ten or twenty years, especially in literary study - isn't part of our project to gather ruins as our fragments?

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July 14, 2003

Weekend Update

Feeling particularly swash-buckle-y, we went to see Pirates of the Caribbean on Sunday. Some fun swordfights, hokey, silly dialogue, and perhaps the worst ending to a movie that I've seen in a while - exactly the sort of mindless entertainment I like to feed myself every so often. I did think it odd, however, that we're seeing films based off of Disney rides (it used to be that rides were based off Disney movies, once upon a time) - one of the previews to Pirates was for The Haunted Mansion (starring Eddie Murphy), which is, of course, another Disney ride. Personally, I'm waiting for Monorail: Living the Single Life.

Saturday, we used Best Buy gift certificates from holidays past and indulged our media fix with a new television (and no, we didn't pay anywhere near that price). Not exactly a flat-screen, it's pretty close. And it sho is perty. And huge. I celebrated by playing a little "Enter the Matrix" where I - as Ghost - got to fight Trinity in my own virtual Zen garden. Ghost and Trinity referred to one another as "brother" and "sister," but I wasn't sure if it was in a "brother and sister in arms" sort of way or "we came from the same parents" way. Clearly the latter would only refer to their "Matrix parents," who are only surrogates for the machine parents that really bred them.

And, aside from a pleasant dinner with my in-laws Friday evening, we mostly worked on the condo, setting up the new A/V equipment and rearranging the living room so that we could move our bookshelves from the second bedroom into the main space. Needless to say, our home is currently an official disaster area.

How was your weekend?

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July 12, 2003

Cool Tool (and things I want to buy)

TinyURL takes those long, long, long URLs and makes them - well - tiny.

For example, I could say:

Hey, check out Douglas Coupland's new book at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?userid=2V2L2U1P97&isbn=1582343586&itm=3


I could say:

Hey, check out Douglas Coupland's new book at http://tinyurl.com/gqam.

It's really nice for those people who still use something like Pine to check their email. Instead of putting together long URLs by cutting and pasting pieces (the line breaks disrupt the 'cut' process), you just click on a tinyURL.

And to add to, things I want to buy, check out Liz Phair's latest self-titled Liz Phair.

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July 11, 2003

Wait or Race

Actually, that would be "Waiter's Race" - an annual event to celebrate Bastille Day. Outside Les Halles Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue (which is conveniently across the street), they put up food booths, play loud music, and run the Waiter's Race (read about it on WashPost).

No, it's not a race to see how quickly they run up your bill. They actually block off about 4 blocks (from 12th to 8th street) along Pennsylvania Ave. and waiters must carry a tray with a champagne bottle and a full glass of champagne to the end of the course and back without spilling a drop.

My 6th floor window afforded a wonderful view of the race, so I watched as the three (clearly serious) competitors sped out in front of the 30 or so other waiters (both male and female) who must have hoped the advance team would be disqualified for spillage. Two men and one woman power-walked, one hand swinging wildly for balance while the other carefully balanced their tray (two hands on the tray is a no-no). The two men, who pulled out ahead, both walked with a gangly lilt, shoulder dropped to perhaps better balance the bottle (how's that for alliterative reporting?).

I thought the race would have been a touch more exciting if complemented by DC's infamous problem with exploding manhole covers. Now that would have been covered by ESPN.

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The office folk are discussing the film Swimming Pool (WashPost listing). Sounds intriguing...

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The Metaphor Strikes Back

Talk about a reversal of computing metaphors (well, metaphor is probably not entirely correct, but it's worth it for the Star Wars reference in the title, don't you think?).

First, we have RFID (Anne has a substantial write-up about the recent blowup regarding their 'free-floating' documents here), which is basically a real-life "cookie" system whereby itty-bitty computer chips would be slapped on your Campbell’s and Ramen and itty-bitty radio antenna would broadcast your buying habits. Sure, you could check-out in 2.3 seconds, but is that really worth having someone track your Ramen all the way to your house? Or having Safeway call you up at home, because their database shows that "Sir, your milk expired just two minutes ago, and would you like a new gallon and, oh, by the way, you seem to be low on potatoes and Kraft cheese."

Or, in my paranoid mindscape, a nice, techy thief walking by a row of townhomes with a scanner, checking out which one would be nicest to break into, thank you very much little chips-and-antennae for providing an inventory.

And the bad thing is, you wouldn't be able to set your "browser" to reject cookies because, well, there is no browser. And you can't even eat these cookies. And my paranoid self would suspect that even if I thought I flushed them from my "cache" (hmm, what would *that* be in this RL analogy?), they would still linger.

On top of that, we're looking at Real-World Hyperlinks (via /.), where you point your phone at a poster and it zips you (well, not you per se, which would be really amazing, but your phone's browser) to the movie's web page. As the slash-dotter pointed out, one of the truly intriguing aspects of the article are the potential implications for museum and gallery spaces, where media streams could provide multimedia content to accompany exhibits.

This sort of stuff makes the tech-lover in me drool, and the luddite in me duck and cover. All those little lasers, radio frequencies, and beams flying through the air. It's like a game of dodge ball (nanotech creeps me out too - I have a hard enough time dealing with real-life bugs, so itty-bitty metal bugs just don’t appeal to me so much).

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July 10, 2003

Towards a Working Definition of Interactivity

A general theme of my dissertation focuses on literary concepts of interactivity. Literary is probably too specific a term, as my interests range from pop-up books, to novels, to electronic texts, to computer games. And while my central training is textually based, I am also distinctly concerned with the image - and thus image-text interrelationships. For a while, despite a general enthusiasm for 'multimedia,' some literary criticism (or, criticism from traditionally literature-based institutions - especially that centered on 'hypertext') approached media less like 'multi' and more like 'text.' This resulted is less than adequate attention being paid to the image-as-image.

This is, I think, one reason for the continuing narratologist-ludologist debate, whereby the latter rightly want to insure that each media object is approached on its own terms. And, likewise, why considering issue of materiality strikes me as an important methodological approach (again, drawing on a long history, which I have discussed before). One of the few drawbacks in Espen Aarseth's otherwise wonderful book Cybertext is a less than adequate accounting of the image in a set of predominately textual examples of adventure games and electronic texts. This is, incidentally, why I think he makes the comment that Myst, to him, is dull. Predominately empty of text, Myst relies on images and video while it simultaneously reaffirms the materiality of the page itself. What Aarseth sees as textually (and interactively?) dull, I see as media rich (especially considering its historical contemporaries). [aside: I will give the exact reference later, as I seem to be unable to find the book in the large pile on my desk]

In Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction, Paul Dourish introduces his book with a history of interaction in programming. He tracks a shift from "a step-by-step model of procedural execution ... [to] a new conceptualization of computational phenomena that places the emphasis not on procedures but on interaction" (4, italics his). He further writes:

Interactional approaches conceptualize computation as the interplay between different components, rather than the fixed and prespecified paths that a single, monolithic computational engine might follow. These models of computation have more in common with ecosystems than with the vast mechanisms we used to imagine.

While I have often made the comment that the concept of "interactive" has taken such a broad meaning in our culture that it has ceased to mean much at all (often, people say they want an 'interactive' something, which is to say, "something that is not boring, and that sells my product"). I'm fascinated in our desire for the interactive, in historical and contemporary attempts to broaden the sweep and the depth of the page and screen. There are, of course, several methodological approaches that have historically taken a broader view of, say, books than just text on a page - the field of textual studies is ripe with such work. As I push towards my "working definition" of interactivity, I will continue to draw on such examples and methodologies, where assembled media components - text, the physical properties of page or screen, images, programming languages, software packages, and so on - not only function as recognizable entities, but also as interconnected (and thus inseparable) aspects of a working media ecology.

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July 9, 2003

Summer Read #2

Dungeons & Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture From Geek to Chic

Once upon a time, I thought about writing my dissertation about cyberpunk, the 'hacker' figure, and traditions of the hero. Potential title: From Geek to Chic: Hero Figures and Protogonists Who Wear Pocket Protectors. Alas, I would have been scooped (at least in title).

In any case, the number of books coming out on computer gaming culture is growing, which makes this dissertator happy (hey, they *do* publish books on gaming) and a touch nervous (call me Scoop ... or Scooped?).

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For work, I'm fixing up a lesson plan on Beowulf for high school students. In order to make kennings a little more understandable for the younger generations, I'm trying to think of contemporary pop culture examples of kennings (or, at least, things that function similar to kennings). The one example that immediately sprung to mind was “Skywalker” – Luke’s last name (of course, I just realized that high school students were probably not even born when the first Star Wars movies came out, but what can you do?)

For those who need to brush up on their kennings, here’s a nice compilation of research, with examples towards the bottom.

Suggestions? Ideas?

I wonder if Microserfs would be considered a kenning….

[EDIT: Comments are closed on this post]

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July 8, 2003

Let the games begin

Pew Internet and American Life Project just released their report: Let the games begin: Gaming technology and entertainment among college students.

[EDIT/Aside: CNN confirms Gamers not just male loners. Well, thank goodness.]

The report's summary of findings:

While the last few years have seen tremendous growth in gaming, for one segment of the population, college students, gaming is virtually a commonplace. Computer, video and online games are woven into the fabric of everyday life for college students. And, they are more of a social/socializing activity than most suspected.
All of those surveyed reported to have played a video, computer or online game at one time or another. Seventy percent (70%) of college students reported playing video, computer or online games at least once in a while. Some 65% of college students reported being regular or occasional game players.

Students cited gaming as a way to spend more time with friends. One out of every five (20%) gaming students felt moderately or strongly that gaming helped them make new friends as well as improve existing friendships.

Gaming also appears to play a surrogate role for some gamers when friends are unavailable. Nearly two-thirds (60%) of students surveyed agreed that gaming, either moderately or strongly, helped them spend time when friends were not available.

Two-thirds of respondents (65%) said gaming has little to no influence in taking away time they might spend with friends and family,

Students integrate gaming into their day, taking time between classes to play a game, play a game while visiting with friends or instant messaging, or play games as a brief distraction from writing papers or doing other work.

Gaming is integrated into leisure time and placed alongside other entertainment forms in their residence, and that it forms part of a larger multitasking setting in which college students play games, listen to music and interact with others in the room.

Most college student gamers seem to associate positive feelings with gaming, such as “pleasant” (36%), “exciting”(34%), and “challenging” (45%). Fewer students reported feeling frustrated (12%), bored (11%), or stressed (6%) by gaming.

Close to half (48%) of college student gamers agreed that gaming keeps them from studying “some” or “a lot.” In addition, about one in ten (9%) admitted that their main motivation for playing games was to avoid studying.

College student gamers’ reported hours studying per week match up closely with those reported by college students in general, with about two-thirds (62%) reporting that they study for classes no more than 7 hours per week, and 15% reported studying 12 or more hours per week.

One third (32%) of students surveyed admitted playing games that were not part of the instructional activities during classes.

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Mapping the Internet

Choose your dissertation ... wisely:

Dissertation Could Be Security Threat:
Student's Maps Illustrate Concerns About Public Information
[from David Silver via the a(o)ir list]

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July 7, 2003


[This post is in response to the conversation over at chuck's about the film. I have been wanting to write up some thoughts about the Matrix Reloaded for some time, but I wanted to finish the game and see the Animatrix. Alas, I will have to add those thoughts when I have time to view/play some more...]

Maybe I was lucky - I ended up sneaking out to the restroom during most of the bland conversation between Neo and the council elder. And I pretty much knew that the fight scenes would leave me, well, less impressed that the first. So why did I like Matrix Reloaded so damn much?

I think that beneath the scum surface of occasionally stupid dialogue and obvious pokes at postmodernism, there were some really interesting developments and/or issues:

1. Faith - Unlike the first film, where Morpheus reveals the 'desert of the real' (or brings you into the rabbit hole, or shoots you through a mechanical birthing sequence), he serves less as midwife in the second film and more as potential fanatic (some have suggested fascist). By broadening the universe - and investing others with political power - Morpheus' all-to-certain attitude makes me - well - less than certain. Now, I didn't care for all of the *overt* methods in which they forced this issue, like the mundane "I need love" commander Jason (thanks) getting all fanatic (or equally fascist) on the other side of the issue. But I actually liked the sort of awkward grace that Neo used to deal with his 'worshippers'. I also liked the immediate problem that comes from the 'oracle' - can we trust her or have faith in her now that we know she lacks

2. Humanity? Or does she? This was one of the triumphing movements of the film for me. Unlike *any* other film that has attempted this, I most felt during Matrix Reloaded that those bots/rogue programs struggled with the issue of humanity as much as ... well, any other human. The spider fallen prey to its own web - and that to me was just a wonderful addition to the richness of the world - from the Merovingian / Persephone point-counterpoint of dispassionate passion to passionate dispassion, to the Keymaker's desperate fear, and even to the development of

3. Agent Smith's multiple personality disorder. All of which gave good fun, sure, when 35 or so Agent Smith's piled on top of Neo in a fight then flight sequence that - despite its "too perfect" appearance (which I criticized when I saw the previews) still left me impressed when I compare it too all of the other more obviously computer-generated 'human' interactors on the screen. Watching Agent Smith go rogue was a lot of fun and reminded me that the film really *isn't* about Neo right now - it's about building a universe. Now whether it be for marketing or storytelling (clearly a bunch of both), the Matrix world is exploding - and we have perhaps in front of us one of the most fascinating examples of (well-planned) crossmedia, collaborative authorship and development that is not only not a flop ... but popularly successful. Talk about

4. Bridging worlds. And sure, I'm talking about the media, but what I really mean is - really bridging worlds. What do I mean? Neo - in this incarnation - is kind of boring. We know what he can do (although I loved the flying sequences, with a hint of the Superman score in the background) and he really doesn't even have Krytonite (the *only* thing that kept Superman slightly interesting to me, who was otherwise just a powerhouse; that's why I prefer Batman - that weak human heart and a bunch of wicked gadgets - or Spiderman - all limbs and lanky wit). So how do we solve this problem - we bridge the world of Zion with the world of the Matrix. We make all that 'desert of the real' crap fall by the wayside. Because - holy cow! - Agent Smith is in the 'real' world, fascinated with carving his own flesh - just. because. he. can. And Neo - he too is a folding of the two realms, as we find in the shocking (ha.) final sequence. This false VR / RL (virtual reality / real life) dichotomy is discarded like so much malarkey and we suddenly - in my obviously not so humble opinion - find ourselves in a different territory. This is not Dark City, where the sun finally comes out. Instead of supporting the divergence, we have a convergence. And I have no idea where they plan to go from here.

Which makes me just really excited to see the last film.

So yes, I found the fight scenes a little dull at times, but I didn't expect my heart to pound the way it did when I sat in the theater and watched the first Matrix without any expectations at all (I hadn't even heard of it when I went). And I thought that the overt phil-os-o-phizing and the aw-shucks 'believe-in-me' pontificating was dull too. But the depths of the film - the implications in the very structure of the world that the Wachowski brothers created - continues to capture my imagination.

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July 3, 2003


Use your middle finger for something other than standard gestures while on the road. [via /. ]

This really fits in with some of the work I've been doing on gesture in games like Black and White and browsers like Opera.

Edit: Another one: Nudges And Vibrations Enhancing Games

Edit2: And while we're at it - this looks like a rad compilation: Midway Arcade Treasures, which is to include (quoting here): "the following classic arcade games: Spy Hunter, Defender II, Gauntlet, Joust, Paperboy, Rampage, Marble Madness, Robotron 2084, Smash TV, Joust 2, Bubbles, Road Blasters, Rampart, Sinistar, Super Sprint, 720, Toobin', Klax, Splat!, Satan's Hollow and Vindicators. In addition, the compilation will include interviews with the creators and developers of these games."

Some of my favorites. If only I could get a copy of Burger Time, I'd be a happy man.

There. I'm done. For now.

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Slashdot Design Contest

Design the next slashdot t-shirt and win $75 at ThinkGeek, plus the adoration of geeks everywhere. L33t.

Posted by Jason at 3:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Keywords vs. Categories

I just discovered (playing with the input interface) that you can also submit keywords with each post. Here's MT's description:

The Keywords field can hold whatever type of data you want to put in it; it is geared for holding metadata or keywords about your entry, and is not normally displayed on your public site (though you can display it using the <$MTEntryKeywords$> tag). It is searched when a user performs a public search on your site, so you can use it to tag entries with words that may not normally appear in the entry body.

You can also set categories to trackback to other posts of yours with the same category. So, if I set up a category called ergonomics, and post with that category, it will also trackback to all other posts with that category.


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Recent Trains of Thought

I have become used to the various conductors' voices on the train in the morning (although oddly, I don't remember the ones in the evening). There are two primary conductors, it seems, that I'm likely to catch. One has a smooth, careful voice. I imagine that he practices by reading his children stories each night, completing each page with "Next stop, page 3" in a slow cadence until his children fall asleep. I imagine that the other practices his station calls by selling hotdogs and beer at a local baseball game - "Next stop, BUD-wise-eeer!" The first is marked by assurance; the second, enthusiasm.

And then there is the door voice, a polite computerized female accompanied by a chiming alert. "Door closing" she says, with a patient air. She is not the door, but its vocal protector. Her polite tone turns tighter and sharper when an audacious person dares stand too close to her domain. "Please stand away from the door," she says curtly, and the doors punctuate her sharp tone by opening suddenly and sliding brusquely together with a sharp snap. I find myself anticipating a sudden break, her patience exhausted, where she would launch into a long diatribe against some poor fool who thought pushing his umbrella between the doors would be an effective method of stalling the train so he could board. A rant that would make the politely minded 'Mind The Gap' blush.

Other thoughts:

Breaking news: Jobless rate at 6.4 percent. [my MSN alerts - IM'ing your daily scare straight to your desktop]

"Fame and secrecy are the high and low ends of the same fascination" [from DeLillo's Underworld, which has joined my current reading list alongside Marie-Laure Ryan's Narrative as Virtual Reality (GTA review here), a book very relevant to my research that I've put off again and again (it's been on my shelf for about 6 months now) in fear that she's already covered everything I wanted to say (it's quite good so far).]

Posted by Jason at 10:10 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 2, 2003

Is Misc. the largest category?

I'm trying to rethink my categories. In the recent frenzy (ok, two a frenzy does not make, but whatever) of redesigning, I've been toying with blog ideas during my limited free time (and limited it is, these past few weeks ... a post on self admonitions for patience is around the bend). One of the areas that I think that my blog could improve is categorization.

Huh? I thought miscellany was the largest category. Well, alas, I hope so, even if I have to double categorize (yes, cheater cheater, pumpkin eater).

As I'm pushing this writing space to help organize my thoughts and concepts for dissertation writing, I feel like I should be ... well... more organized. My current categories are:


I'm trying to decide if I should narrow focus or create sub-categories for double-listing, such as:

multiplayer (or, online community?)

Certain terms - like "interactive" - I'm not sure would be helpful at all.

So if/when I write my thoughts on Hulk, I would categorize as screen/comics. I'm sure there must be other trends in my writing so far ... I'll have to do a self-search to see what brings up the largest number of entries.

How do you use your categories? Or does everything just fall under miscellany?

Posted by Jason at 7:31 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 1, 2003

Oh, A Campin' We Will Go...

For Father's Day weekend, Lisa and I met my parents in Charlottesville. We went out for coffee that night and the next morning Dad and I rolled out early and headed for nearby Big Meadows, one of the camping sites in the Shenandoah Mountains. We've been camping and hiking there since I was about seven years old, but it had been at least two years since we had the opportunity to camp out.

Photo Gallery (I'll get around to eventually *naming* the photos later...)

The photo gallery begins with my Friday at work - you can see the building I work in (and if you squint real tight, you might see my office window on the 6th floor). The second shot is from my window - it didn't turn out too well, unfortunately. Lisa met me at the Vienna metro station and we hurried up... to wait in I66 traffic. Overall, the trip wasn't too bad and we made in to Charlottesville in just over 2 hours.

Early Saturday morning, Dad and I drove up, stopping quickly to pick up some groceries. As we were driving, we saw two hot air balloons in the sky. When we finally stopped for groceries, we found that they had made their way down, as if they were going to land behind the Shoppers. The pictures here represent the limits of my no-zoom, point-and-shoot digital camera. I also have a Canon Rebel, which Lisa gave me as an engagement present, but I didn't bring it on this trip. I'm often torn between my nice Canon, which requires money for developing but has a ton of great features, and our simple digital Olympus, which serves my dual instinct for immediate gratification and frugality (e.g., I'm cheap).

One of the thrills of the trip I was unable to film - while we were driving up, we saw a bear - only the second we have ever seen out there. It was very small, cute, and cuddly, which meant somewhere, nearby, it had a mother that wanted to eat me for looking cross-eyed at her baby. So we looked, and we moved on.

[note: will add more later - have to get to work]

Posted by Jason at 7:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack