September 20, 2007

Only 75 shopping days until...

I'm not one to advertise my birthday, but if you were an early-shopping type, you can never go wrong with these rockin' Space Invaders (set of 4 rocks glasses). I'm just saying...


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April 30, 2007

Where Have I Been? (And where am I going?)

Despite celebrating its fourth year a few months ago, this blog has been quiet of late, partly due to technical problems (MovableType and spam...) and mostly due to time constraints. Unfortunately for the blog, but terrific for me, my writing time is dedicated entirely to the dissertation. At some point I'd like to continue sharing my research here (especially since in the past it led to some very fruitful conversations like this and this), but for now overcoming the technical issues plaguing the blog requires more energy than I'm willing to invest.

And all my other time is dedicated to my family (I won't link to the entirely neglected family blog, which hasn't been updated since I posted pictures of Claire the day she was born... 8 months ago) and to work, where I have the fortunate opportunity to work on a new initiative while continuing my work on an old one. I recently attended a few conferences and summits, including the MITH/NEH-hosted "Digital Humanities Summit" (blogged by Dan Cohen) and a swing-through at the Internet2 conference in DC. So, that's where I've been.

Where am I going?

This Thursday I will be at the ELO: Future of Electronic Literature at MITH. Early June I will be presenting some personal work--and representing work--at Digital Humanities 2007 in Illinois.

If you plan to be at either of these events and want to chat about e-lit, games, or digital humanities, feel free to drop me an email (jasonrhody [at] gmail [dot] com). Don't try to leave a comment here... spam has driven me back to the "old tech" of email.

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January 5, 2007

five things you quite possibly don't know about me [meme]

Tagged by KF in the midst of holiday madness, I just now had a chance to participate. So with all the caveats KF outlined in her opening foray assumed here as well, on to five things you quite possibly don't know about me:

  1. I have a terrible, terrible memory. Which makes creating a list like this sort of hard, actually. My wife can remember every moment of her life since she was 2 years, 5 months, and 11 days. I'm making this number up, because I can't remember the actual age she has claimed in the past - see, because I have a bad memory - but you get the general picture. On the upside, I'm crackin' good at puzzles and analytics. I would probably take the GRE analytic section again just for fun.
  2. I wrestled in the 103 lb. weight class in middle school. It was as amusing to behold as you might imagine.
  3. I held a license to operate a fork lift, cherry picker, and crane. I also, for several years after, received on a quarterly basis a "radiation dosage report" at my parent's address (much to my mother's alarm). In the time between undergraduate and graduate school, I worked as an "engineer technician" at an electron beam accelerator facility in Newport News, VA. I helped build particle detectors, so that when the beam hit a target (a gas, e.g.), sub-atomic particles spun off in all directions and hit these detectors (which translated these contacts into electronic signals).

    [more pics here]

    I strung a lot of cable (and by a lot, I mean miles and miles. And miles.) This was significantly better than many of my previous jobs, which included greenskeeper (lower pay, though 4 seasons of free play was awesome for my golf game) and puppeteer (crap pay, and hot as the dickens, though plenty of free time in between shows to lounge around the pools at Water Country USA - pretty great for a teenager).

  4. For most of my childhood, I refused - REFUSED - to ride a roller coaster, as I was deathly afraid of them. This is actually surprising for a guy who grew up going to Busch Gardens ("The Old Country!") for a large portion of his childhood (easy, and at the time cheap, entertainment that kept the kids busy during the summer months). So, I would spend all my money in the arcades (which is likely something you would know about me). This phobia lasted until I was seventeen years old, and shamed into addressing it in order to - you guessed it - impress a girl.

  5. The only bone I've ever broken (touch wood) is my left arm, which snapped during the incredibly dangerous game of ... Laser Tag. That's right - in a game involving ranged lasers and avoidance, making it the antithesis of a contact sport, I managed to break a bone. Advice: do not attempt a leap-slide-turn-and-shoot manuever into a ditch on a moonless night. Somewhere in between the "leap" and the "slide," the pop of my ulna brought my attention to the fact that the ditch was deeper, wider, and in fact proportionately different than I had remembered from my daylight observations. Amazingly enough, I was sufficiently calm to walk home, still clad in Laser Tag paraphernalia - giving me a vague cylon-esque appearance to the dog-walkers in the neighborhood - enter my parents' room, and announce that "Well, I think I just broke my arm." It was then that shock came swooping in for the win.

So, that's it. Five totally useless bits of information about me. You'll be happy to know that my arm healed nicely (and got me out of 7th-grade gym class, so it was a wash really). I love roller coasters now, though I need to take a deep breath to get through the first run, after which I'm golden for the day. My radiation report always came back with a big "0," so all my weirdness (and that of my children) is either honestly learned or honestly genetic. My wrestling career lived a short and pinned life. And I probably won't remember this post, so if you run into me one day, and good naturedly say "So, been wrastlin' lately?" with a light jab to the shoulder, don't be surprised if I look alarmed.

With that, I remind Chuck, Matt, George, and Jason J. of their obligation to KF's tag (see bottom of her post), and tag in turn the remainder of the Herders. That's right - Dave, Natalie, Marc, Calamity Jane, Ryan, Kari, Birdcage, and all the rest of you - this means you.

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January 3, 2007


Apparently the calendar turned. A happy new year to all.

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July 21, 2006

Tour de Floyd

Go Floyd Go

Updates on time trials tomorrow are here:

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March 10, 2006

Do Not Do Business with IAM8Bit (ok, Maybe ... see update)

A little while ago I mentioned the I am 8-bit store, which carried t-shirts and such based on the intriguing collection, including a limited edition t-shirt based on Sean Clarity's Excitebike painting. My wife, sweet person that she is, ordered one of the shirts as a surprise for February 13th (our engagement anniversary).

The shirt never arrived.

I emailed the store email address ( to follow up, but never received a reply. With a little digging on the website, I found another email address for jon (also and sent him a note that was even in tone, but expressed some frustration from the lack of response. When he heard that we had been charged for the shirt over a month ago, but the item never arrived, he kindly wrote the following:

Well, I feel your frustration -- and I'm not quite sure what happened. So here's what we'll do. We'll ship the shirt off immediately, complete with a bonus for your patience. And I'd also be happy to refund your payment. Does that work for you?

My sincere apologies. We're a small operation that is, well, somewhat overwhelmed with the popularity, so things seem to have fallen through the cracks.

// jon

A nice note, I thought, I wrote back, stated that we were happy to pay for the shirt and support a project that's probably not exactly swimming in funds, and that we were looking forward to receiving the package. I thought the matter was nicely resolved, a simple mistake rectified, no harm no foul. That email exchange happened on February 8th.

It is now March 10th. And still no shirt. No email response to my follow-up inquiries for a tracking number. No refund of the purchase price *instead* of the shirt. Nothing.

So, a simple warning to those out there who might consider doing business with this group. Don't. I hate having to write a rant about bad business, especially when it probably stems from simple incompetence rather than maliciousness, but I would hate to have what appears to be an endorsement in the previous post lead to others losing their cash.

UPDATE: Jon replied swiftly to my latest email, refunding me my money and offering to overnight a shirt. Perhaps more importantly, he said that they had instituted an electronic package tracking system, which we can all hope will prevent these sorts of headaches in the future.

So, we'll see. Hopefully they've fixed their issues. Assuming the shirt actually arrives, I'd say that at least their customer support is fair.

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March 7, 2006

Tools for Game (and New Media) Scholarship

On our way over to Scott's talk today, Marc was telling me about his VIAO, which came with (correct me if I'm wrong Marc) a TV tuner card and some software that allowed him to play his GameCube on his screen. The software also allowed him to record his play sessions. My understanding had always been that there was significant lag with a setup like this, making console game play all but impossible on such a rig. This is why I've avoided buying another video card, and why the Adaptec GameBridge was potentially a big deal (and, at under $100, still seems like a possible solution). Marc says, not so - it works just fine (Marc, have you tried it with the PS2?).

I'm curious about other's experiences - how do you "do" game scholarship? What tools do you use? What tools do we need? Do you record play sessions or, like me, just have a LOT of notes and a LOT of saved game files?

This is at least indirectly related to Scott's talk, in which he gave a nice overview of the ELO, its history and purpose, some of its future goals, and the challenges implicit in the study of new media objects that question, resist, or even outright defy genre. Scott shared several examples from the forthcoming Electronic Literature Collection and generated some nice discussion about genre and the "literature question" (as in, "Is this even literature?"), as well as about general e-lit teaching strategies and preservation and archiving challenges. Though I've followed Scott's blogging (both his personal one and Grand Text Auto), I was pleased to hear about his work in person, which was intriguing enough to run the program well past its normal stopping time.

If you are in the DC area, MITH's Digital Dialogues has a great line-up this semester, including scholars like Scott (today), Jerome McGann and Johanna Drucker (March 14) and Alan Liu (April 28) as well as writer Shelley Jackson, author of Patchwork Girl, Skin, Doll Diaries (April 17) and comic guru Scott McCloud of _Understanding Comics_ fame (May 2). There are many others, so look at the full schedule here (PDF).

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February 28, 2006

Tom Wolfe : Jefferson Lecture

Tom Wolfe will be giving the 2006 Jefferson Lecture, an honor sponsored by the NEH. The lecture will be held at the Warner Theatre on Wednesday, May 10, 2006, at 7 p.m. If you want (free) tickets, see the bottom of the press release for the contact information.

I didn't go last year, but two years ago Helen Vendler gave a nice talk at the DC Convention Center, followed by some tasty vittles.

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February 21, 2006

Ballet Mécanique Plans

For those interested, I'm planning a Wordherder outing to the Ballet mécanique (see details here) and Dada exhibit at the National Gallery on March 18. If you are interested in participating (friends of the Herd are always welcome, which includes out-of-town bloggers who might be in town), please leave a comment below or send me an email. There are two options here, which I'll outline below the jump:

Option 1: We meet at 12:30 so that we can catch the 1 pm cacophony, then go see the Dadaist exhibit for a certain length of time (which we would agree upon beforehand - probably no more than an hour, maybe two), with a late lunch / early dinner at a restaurant of our choice.

Option 2: People go through the Dada exhibit on their own before we all meet at 1pm, at which point we watch the show and then go get lunch at a restaurant of our choice. This adds flexibility for those who might want to see the show, but have little interest in the Dada exhibit.

For food, we'll probably do something in either Adam's Morgan or Chinatown, since the area around National Gallery is pretty devoid of restaurants unless we want to go somewhere like the Capitol Grille (I sure don't). A best bet would include a good place for a group-feast (Ethiopian, Chinese, Indian, etc.) and/or something relatively inexpensive (hopefully, both). I haven't checked prices at
Fasika's lately, but that might be a good option. I'm open to others, however.

Include your preference of either option 1 or 2 in your comment please.

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I stuck!

There are times when phrases that our daughter uses pop into my head when writing. All to frequently recently, the phrase is "I stuck!," as in "I stuck Daddy!" when she's trying to get out of her high chair, or when she can't quite get her shirt over her head.

And it's always useful, when I'm staring at a screen full of broken prose (quite literally broken, as I tend to write sentences, break them up, and scatter them across the screen waiting reassembly) and I'm not quite sure how to clarify an important point, and I keep hearing that voice repeating "I stuck, I stuck" in my head, to remember that in every single instance, our daughter has, in fact, managed to become "unstuck" and continued merrily on her way.

Sometimes, it just takes a little effort, or a few seconds breather, or a friendly hand. Or for me, occasionally, a quiet jot of writing in another forum, before turning back to the task at hand.

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February 15, 2006


For the curious-minded who happen to be strolling by the Reagan building at 12th and Penn, the movie trucks around are for the film Breach. If you see Laura Linney, tell her my daugher loves her work on the Philadelphia Chickens CD.

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A Window into My Soul (but only the nice parts)

I'm a follower. A sheep. All the cool kids are doing Johari Windows.

My Window.

Notice how "weak," "miser," "selfish," "cruel," "bad speller," and "hateful" don't make it in the list of adjectives? I wonder how different these things would be if they did...

How many people describe themselves as "ingenious"? Combine that with "relaxed," "observant," "intelligent," "complex," and "adaptable" and you've probably got a good profile for a serial killer.

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February 14, 2006

Ballet mécanique

The infamous Ballet mécanique is coming to Washington, DC, but not in any way it's been heard before. And it's not going to be for just one's going to be played over 30 times.

George Antheil's 1925 masterwork, which was never heard in its original version (for 10 percussionists, two pianists, three airplane propellers, electric bells, siren, and 16 player pianos) until 75 years after its composition, will be presented on the mezzanine of the National Gallery of Art's East Wing every day for over two weeks, starting on March 12. Performing it will be 16 computer-controlled player grand pianos and an orchestra played entirely by robots. This means it will be the fastest, most maniacal, and--thanks to the cavernous acoustics of the giant building--the loudest Ballet mécanique ever performed.

In conjunction with a huge exhibit on Dadaist art, which runs from now through May, the Music department of the National Gallery has commissioned a Ballet mécanique installation, which will be on display and performing from March 12 through March 29. The all-mechanical orchestra will be located on the mezzanine, next to the entrance to the Dada exhibit hall. At 1:00 pm (every day) and 4:00 pm (weekdays only), the orchestra will roar into action and play a 10-minute version of the piece.

Sounds like a field trip is in order. Maybe even a wordherder gathering, if enough people are interested.

[via Jerz]

UPDATE: There are three weekends in the time frame. According to the above, the orchestra plays at 1pm during the weekends (no 4pm show), so assuming that we go on a Saturday or Sunday, we could meet at around 12:30, see the orchestra, spend an hour or so at the exhibit, and then grab a late lunch/early dinner (or just drinks).

So, if you are interested, include in your comment which date(s) would be good for you:
Sunday, 12 March
Saturday, 18 March
Sunday, 19 March
Saturday, 25 March
Sunday, 26 March

We can also talk weekdays (maybe the 4 pm orchestra, an hour at the exhibit, and an early dinner) if that is better for those interested. I can take a few hours off from work early if that's the case. Try to include what's best for you in the comments.

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January 20, 2006

Media Bytes

Washington Post hosted a chat with Ted Castronova, author of Synthetic Worlds.

Steven Johnson talked about Everything Bad is Good for You on Charlie Rose (jump to the 41 minute mark or so). [via SJ's blog]

And some advice for PhD students on Inside HigherEd, including:

"Don’t feel that you need to create the greatest work that Western Civilization has ever seen. Five years from now the only thing that will matter is whether you finished."

[via Anne of PLSJ, thanks!]

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January 6, 2006

What the Editors Want

At MLA, Chuck told me about the following article at Inside Higher Ed :: What the Press Editors Want:

"We're looking for interdisciplinary work that will go beyond the MLA/cultural studies audience," Armato said. That means hot areas include media studies, research on video games, and analysis of graphic novels.

Emphasis mine. In both senses.

The trend towards theory-informed, but not theory-heavy (putting aside, for the moment, the problems that might come with such a distinction) certainly appeared prevalent:

Using language that in various forms was suggested by editors from numerous presses, Catapano said that she was looking for books that were “informed with theory,” but “not the heavy theory of a decade ago.”

Others talked about the theory issue in different ways, but many spoke of a renewed sense of caring whether people outside a narrow theory specialty could understand a work. “We want work that is as accessible as possible,” said John Easterly, executive editor of Louisiana State University Press. “We want literary theory with less jargon, that is comprehensible,” said Charlotte Wright, managing editor of the University of Iowa Press.

I'm sure I'll have future thoughts on this, but for now I'm mostly posting a ninja-link and heading back to writing. You know, my manuscript on video games (to all those editors out there).

[Thanks Chuck for the article reference.]

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January 5, 2006


Excitebike t-shirt, limited edition, based on Sean Clarity's art in the I am 8-bit collection. So cool.

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December 15, 2005

Amazon Recommends?

An email recommendation from Amazon:

Dear Customer, We've noticed that customers who have purchased Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, Revised Edition : Birth to Age 5 by Richard Trubo also purchased books by Nancy Wiseman. For this reason, you might like to know that Nancy Wiseman's Could It Be Autism? : A Parent's Guide to the First Signs and Next Steps will be released on January 10, 2006. You can pre-order your copy at a savings of 32% by following the link below.

Isn't it a touch odd that my purchase of a very generalized book on child development and medical care (several months ago) would generate a recommendation sent to my email account for a book asking, could your child have this specific and frightening medical condition? Buy now, at a savings of 32%, to make sure!

It makes me wonder how certain kinds of recommendations are generated, especially those that show up in your inbox. I can handle the "pull" technology of Amazon's website recommendations just fine. I like seeing what others buy and consider when I'm looking at a particular item on the website. I tend to ignore the recommendations tab when I visit. But by using the "push" email advertisement, I would think Amazon would want to hit the mark more often than not, simply because of its invasive nature. They're stopping by my door now, and if they do, I want to see something useful rather than just a shot in the dark possibility that has no small measure of fear in the title (Could something be wrong with YOUR child?).

It makes me wonder how much of the recommendation is Amazon's, and how much of it is the publishers. Does Amazon ever get paid for this kind of "recommendation"? As in, Publisher A saying "here's some $$$, Amazon, please send this book out, with a generous discount from us, to all people who order books from other authors in our portfolio with similar themes." Whereas I used to feel like I received the kind of recommendations I would expect in the corner bookstore, I now feel like the target in "targeted marketing." There's a subtle but important difference there.

Maybe I'm just grumpy about all the spam that I've been getting, in my email accounts (especially school accounts, and usually through university- and department-run listservs) and in my blogs. I don't need sites that I use often to start sending me titles that sound too much like the friendly spambots in my comment queue that act nice enough as they try to pass a number of explicit links through the system - "Hey buddy! Great site and topic! Maybe you'd like to enhance your pleasure???"

Indeed I would. Give me better recommendations.

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December 9, 2005

Falling A Little Behind...

It snowed twice this week.

I haven't even finished raking the leaves.

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November 3, 2005

NEH Seminars & Institutes

The list of NEH 2006 Seminars and Institutes is online. Apply for two to six weeks (depending on the seminar or institute) of study. The first link is for university faculty potential participants; the second is for K-12 teachers.

University Faculty

School Teachers

Deadline for application is March 1, 2006. And to clarify: this is to participate *in* the seminar or institute (not to run it). So if a subject catches your fancy, apply.

Posted by Jason at 12:16 PM | TrackBack

MITH Opportunities for Maryland Grad Students

The Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities has a few exciting opportunities for UMD graduate students interested in the developing field of digital humanities, including travel grants and semester-long fellowships. Details available in the PDF links below. Information will also be provided at this coming week's "Coffehouse Conversations," held on Tuesday, November 8th, and Wednesday, November 9th, at 4pm.

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October 26, 2005

In Motion

It's been a busy few weeks. Matt K announced Digital Humanities Quarterly, a new online journal on the topic of (you guessed it) digital humanities. I hear it will be published quarterly. Jess set up an Implementation extravaganza, a performance of Montfort and Rettberg's sticker novel in the streets of DC, scheduled for this Saturday (see link for details). Scott Rettberg, meanwhile, posted some exciting news about the Electronic Literature Organization and its publishing ambitions.

Yesterday, I attended the Summit on Educational Games sponsored by the Federation of American Scientists and the Entertainment Software Association. I'll post some notes on that later, but you can read this Inside Higher Ed article about the meeting.

This coming Sunday, some Herders are doing a meet-up - details here. Unfortunately, we already have weekend plans, but I look forward to reports.

In personal news... Last Tuesday evening, I missed the MITH monthly movie screening (Tron, yesyesyes) because the auto shop handed me an estimate for ... a lot of money ... after I took my car in for an oil change prior to our adventure to Ohio this past weekend. My first thought was: Oil prices really have taken a jump. My second thought, after realizing that there were many, many things wrong: my car is not worth what it would cost to repair the brakes.

So we bought a minivan. I know. A minivan. But it's a stylish minivan. And to put it in perspective, the car we put to sleep was a 94 Ford Taurus, in powder blue, with three AAA stickers and one Golden Eagle retirement sticker on the rear bumper. Now, I am eternally grateful for the car, which served me well for many years, but the point here is this: upgrading to the minivan should put hair back on my head, it's so boss in comparison. You see where I'm coming from? And we got such a good deal on it, the minivan actually *appreciated in value* as I drove it off the lot. I missed my calling as a negotiator (my wife would be quick to point out that it turned out to be a no-haggle dealership very eager to get rid of old models, but I think they were just intimidated by my Consumer Reports-informed spreadsheet).

So, what do you do with a new minivan? You drive it very, very far. Like, Ohio far, for a college reunion this past weekend, where we got to catch up with some old friends and marvel at the low housing prices in suburban Columbus. Driving far is great, especially in a new van, unless you hadn't slept for two days straight because you had researched non-stop on an alternative vehicle to the one you began describing as the "powder blue death-trap-mobile." Despite the lack of sleep, we had a good time, except for the few hours my wife made fun of my sly Southern way of saying "vehicle," which she added to the catalogue of "Words Jason Says Funny" (to include: cement and wolf, among others).

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October 12, 2005

Wayne Booth

Sadly, Wayne Booth [New York Times - link will expire; requires registration] died earlier this week.

Posted by Jason at 12:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 29, 2005

NEH @ 40

The National Endowment for the Humanities turns 40 today. L and I will be attending the celebration held at the National Gallery of Art tonight. Happy Anniversary, and here's hoping that our budget stays secure.

Posted by Jason at 3:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 15, 2005

Crazed 7' Tall Robot Stalks Metro

Honestly, what were they thinking with this campaign? He's ... everywhere.

Plus, he's in a suit, with white Mickey-Mouse gloves, and a nervous grin. Are you really going to poke your PIN into his face? I don't think so. Not for a maximum withdraw of $300.

Posted by Jason at 9:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 14, 2005

Bibliography Database Software

Does everyone just use Endnote nowadays?

I have an old version of Procite (on floppies, how quaint!) that I've been using, but the feature that allows me to just import stuff from my library database doesn't seem functional. And I sure would like that (data entry isn't the best way to spend my time). And I don't think Procite is even really getting support or development anymore?

Anyone in the know?

Posted by Jason at 7:37 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 17, 2005



Spell with Flickr.

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August 12, 2005

What D&D Character Are You?

[aka: open invitation for mockery]

I Am A: Lawful Good Elf Ranger

Lawful Good characters are the epitome of all that is just and good. They believe in order and governments that work for the benefit of all, and generally do not mind doing direct work to further their beliefs.

Elves are the eldest of all races, although they are generally a bit smaller than humans. They are generally well-cultured, artistic, easy-going, and because of their long lives, unconcerned with day-to-day activities that other races frequently concern themselves with. Elves are, effectively, immortal, although they can be killed. After a thousand years or so, they simply pass on to the next plane of existance.

Primary Class:
Rangers are the defenders of nature and the elements. They are in tune with the Earth, and work to keep it safe and healthy.

Secondary Class:
Monks are strange and generally not understood by the world at large. They live apart from people, and follow strict codes that restrain their behavior and lifestyle. They have an exceptionally calm outlook on life, and generally do not resort to violence unless absolutely necessary. Even when they do, their code of conduct forbids the use of all weapons - except their hands. As such, monks are extremely skilled at hand-to-hand combat, and no other style.

Mielikki is the Neutral Good goddess of the forest and autumn. She is also known as the Lady of the Forest, and is the Patron of Rangers. Her followers are devoted to nature, and believe in the positive and outreaching elements of it. They use light armor, and a variety of weapons suitable for hunting, which they are quite skilled at. Mielikki's symbol is a unicorn head.

Find out What D&D Character Are You?, courtesy ofNeppyMan

Posted by Jason at 10:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 2, 2005

The September Project

David is an old friend working on an important project. I believe several herders participated in this event last year.

The September Project ( )is a grassroots effort to encourage public events on freedom, democracy, and citizenship in libraries on or around September 11. September Project events are activities of reflection, discussion, and dialogue about the meaning of freedom, the role of information in promoting active citizenship, and the importance of literacy in making sense of the world around us. Events take place on September 11, on the weekend of September 11, or throughout the month of September. In other words, whenever it works best for your library and community.

Libraries around the world are collaborating with organizations to host public and campus events, such as: displays about human rights and historical documents; talks and performances about freedom and cultural difference; and film screenings about issues that matter. Over 100 examples of events can be found at: For events tailored to a more academic audience, please visit:

Currently, over 160 public, academic, school, and institute libraries in 13 countries are participating. Participating countries include: Bangladesh, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Nepal, Serbia and Montenegro, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, the US, and Venezuela. You can view a map of all participating venues here:

If you plan to offer programs that explore these ideas, please sign up. Signing up takes a moment and places your library on the map of participants. Please visit:

I hope you and your colleagues will consider participating in this project, and please let me know if you have any questions and suggestions. Respectfully,

david silver

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July 31, 2005

I Swimming! (or at least treading water)

11:15 pm. July 31. Where did the month go? Or as marc puts it, "Jason? Is that you?" If you check the few posts I left here, you'd think I spent most of my month troubleshooting server problems for the Wordherders, reposting KF's cfp (which I wish I could afford to submit to), and reading Harry Potter.

Not too far off, actually. At least as far as personal digital time goes.

See, June was a long month. Action-packed, one might say. Conferences, deadlines ... just busy all 'round. The "July Retreat," as we'll call it, wasn't so much a retreat from anything but a screen. I tended to surf less (Internet and TV) and read more, plowing through some Atwood, some Coupland, some Powers. And, yes, some J.K. Rowling (though that took just under 24 hours, so it hardly counts). I go through these bursts of technical hibernation at times, where my game play drops to near nil, and my reading picks up to 2-3 novels a week. Old school immersion. Screenless (except for a full viewing of the partial-season DVD of Joss Whedon's Firefly. How I wish that show was still on).

The other half of the story is that since my wonderful wife clocked overtime helping me through June, I tried to do a bit more to give her time in July (I never quite feel as though I measure as much time for her, and remain amazed how she's able to give so much up for me). The critter, meanwhile, is growing like a weed and constantly wants to go to the pool so she can kick her legs and say "I swimming, I swimming!" Seriously. She wakes up and says "pool?" By mid-afternoon, she hunts down everyone's bathing suit and drags over the beach bag. The kid loves the water. Blog, or swim? Pretty easy decision.

So, I have a bunch of overdue blog posts. On Tribble-gate. On Guild Wars (Decent enough game so far, if you have a friend or two to play with. They have capes. The writing, however, is ... unimpressive). On Atwood and narrative communication. On >Getting Things Done (almost done with the book, and about to begin my reorganization ... my question: PDA or paper notebook ala Franklin-Covey? I'm leaning towards the Zire 31). I have pictures to upload to Flickr from our trip to Nags Head last week ("I swimming!").

But mostly, friends, I'll be dissertating and reading, when I'm not at work (or, if my daughter gets her way, at the pool). So no promises on too many blog posts.

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July 29, 2005

Friday Links

Stuff to read after work:

What Every Game Developer Needs to Know about Story

Civilization Watch by Orson Scott Card


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June 28, 2005

The Tell-Tale Squeak

More background on this later when I have more time, but - um - does anyone have a good suggestion as to what to do with a mouse after his little feet get stuck in those glue traps?

I know. Use snap-traps and get it over quick. Unfortunately, the location did not afford the space necessary for the snapping action...

Meanwhile... I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men, but the noise steadily increased. O God! what COULD I do? I foamed -- I raved -- I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder -- louder -- louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly , and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! -- no, no? They heard! -- they suspected! -- they KNEW! -- they were making a mockery of my horror! -- this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! -- and now -- again -- hark! louder! louder! louder! LOUDER! --


"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! -- tear up the planks! move aside this table -- here, here! -- it is the beating SQUEAK of his hideous heart plea!"

[Poe courtesy of]

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March 31, 2005

Brainwave Pong

The Guardian reports that a paralyzed man has been fitted with a brain implant "that allows him to control everyday objects by thought alone."

During the three-hour operation, electrodes were attached to the surface of Mr Nagle's brain. They were positioned just above the sensory motor cortex, where the neural signals for controlling arm and hand movement are produced. ... In the most recent tests, performed earlier this year, Mr Nagle was able to use thought to open and close an artificial prosthetic hand and move a robotic arm to grab sweets from one person's hand and drop them in another. He has also sharpened his skills at computer games by playing the old arcade game Pong.

How cool is that? Answer: pretty cool.

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March 30, 2005

March 20, 2005

I need food ... badly.

What Video Game Character Are You? I am a Gauntlet Adventurer.I am a Gauntlet Adventurer.

I strive to improve my living conditions by hoarding gold, food, and sometimes keys and potions. I love adventure, fighting, and particularly winning - especially when there's a prize at stake. I occasionally get lost inside buildings and can't find the exit. I need food badly. What Video Game Character Are You?

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March 17, 2005

Generation M: Reading at Risk?

The Kaiser Family Foundation just released their report Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-olds:

A national Kaiser Family Foundation survey found children and teens are spending an increasing amount of time using “new media” like computers, the Internet and video games, without cutting back on the time they spend with “old” media like TV, print and music. Instead, because of the amount of time they spend using more than one medium at a time (for example, going online while watching TV), they’re managing to pack increasing amounts of media content into the same amount of time each day.

The Executive Summary describes the influence of console and hand-held gaming:

More than eight in ten (83%) young people have a video game console at home, and a majority (56%) have two or more. About half (49%) have one in their bedroom, and just over half (55%) have a handheld video game player. (Executive Summary, pp. 36)

In light of NEA's recent Reading at Risk report, I found the following really fascinating:

In a typical day, nearly three out of four (73%) young people report reading for pleasure. On average, 8- to 18-year-olds spend about three-quarters of an hour a day reading (0:43). Interestingly, those young people who spend the most time watching TV (the 20% who watch more than five hours a day) don’t report spending any less time reading than other young people do; and those who spend the most time playing console video games (the 13% who play for more than one hour a day) spend more time reading than those who play fewer video games (0:55 vs. 0:41 for those who don’t play video games at all, and 0:40 for those who play one hour or less). On the other hand, some kids do read less than others. For example, those with TVs in their rooms, those in homes where the TV is left on all the time, and those whose parents don’t have rules about TV watching all tend to spend less time reading than others do. (Executive Summary, pp. 35, emphasis mine)

This isn't to say that I think people read enough, but I think it does begin to address what seemed like a scapegoat-ish emphasis in the Reading at Risk report that videogames might be a major reason for their findings of a decline in reading.

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March 11, 2005

Israeli Army Casts "Feeblemind"

Ynetnews - News - Army frowns on Dungeons and Dragons

Does the Israel Defense Forces believe incoming recruits and soldiers who play Dungeons and Dragons are unfit for elite units? Ynet has learned that 18-year-olds who tell recruiters they play the popular fantasy game are automatically given low security clearance.

“They're detached from reality and suscepitble to influence,” the army says.

[via TerraNova]

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February 18, 2005

Baby Names

Cool visualization tool (and baby name finder) -- The Baby Name Wizard's NameVoyager [via Jerz].

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February 11, 2005

Bigger? Not always better...

Flannery O'Connor, towards the end of her life, wrote the following:

The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make them appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock ~ to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the blind you draw large and startling figures [from The Fiction Writer and His Country, 1957; emphasis mine].

I suppose shouting might help with the hard of hearing... but drawing bigger pictures for the blind?

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February 3, 2005

Neat Parsing Tool

Whatever your politics, check out the State of the Union Parsing Tool, which allows you to search for key terms within different texts over time.

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January 19, 2005

Ninja Wizards!

Passed along by a work colleague in hopes that some laughter might stave off the chill.

For the past two days, our office has been around 55 degrees due to "technical problems." Amazing that it seems to be correcting itself... just before the building hosts one of the inaugural balls. Fortunately, no signs yet of a giant "W" hanging from the ceiling, although the Reagan building across the street seems to have already failed to avoid that fate.

You can't just walk into the Reagan building.

Yes you can. You totally can.

[it makes sense once you watch the little clip above. i'm not saying it'll be funny, but it will make sense.]

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December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas

A brief aside from the cleaning, wrapping, and putting together of baby toys to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. This is Evie's first, so we're quite excited -- and fully aware that the boxes will get far more attention than the gifts themselves.

I hope your holidays are equally rich and full of love.

(And good luck to all of you going to MLA this year - I hope the interviews and/or presentations go well!)

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November 10, 2004


Get the sense that Google needs to do a little better job with their ads? Read past the first one...


That's right. Sexy Faulkner singles.

Posted by Jason at 6:19 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 3, 2004

Train Wreck

Allegory? You tell me.

Either way, it makes for a long ride home.

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November 2, 2004


The line wasn't too bad - in total it took us just over an hour or so to cast our ballots. Maryland is using the new electronic voting machines, which were simple to use, though I stand by my desire for a paper record.


Since I can't put my "I Voted" sticker on the blog, I thought I would photoshop a simple one - feel free to use it on yours, although I ask that you upload it to your server rather than feed off of mine (except wordherders, of course, who are using the same server).

There are four different options (two sizes, border or no border) for this voter blicker (a "blog sticker," see...) below the fold.

Speaking of stickers, after you vote, go download Scott and Nick's sticker narrative, Implementation - but not before you vote!

UPDATE!: Be sure to add your voting narrative to Chuck's collection, either through trackbacks or comments.

[w: 96, h: 115, no border]

[w: 96, h: 115, with border]

A slightly smaller version:
[w: 63, h: 75, no border]

[w: 63, h: 75, with border]

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October 7, 2004

October Happenings

Lots of great stuff happening in the month of October. October 18th and 19th, I am attending the Serious Games Summit at the Loews in L'Enfant Plaza (not too far from my office). As part of my day job, we're always working on providing 'interactive' learning experiences for K-12 students, so I hope to pick up some good tips from the conference. I plan to blog as much as possible, assuming they have wifi.

If anyone is coming into town for the Summit and wants to get together for drinks, drop me a note at jcrhody -at- umd -dot- edu (or post here). Hopefully a few of the local bloggers / wordherders interested in technology and humanities would be willing come out for drinks as well. The Summit promises to be crowded, if nothing else, as it was recently reported to be sold out with over 500 attendees. Not too shabby.

Prior to that, I will be joining my dad in the Shenandoah mountains for a few days of camping. We've camped there since I was a little kid, often so my mother could have some peace and quiet to work on her dissertation. I'm looking forward to the changing leaves and the hikes. And, of course, the camp food - nothing quite smells as good wafting through the cool October air or tastes as good after several miles of hiking.

And then there's the Green Valley Bookfair - a nice diversion while camping. If you haven't been to the GV Bookfair, it's worth the drive. From DC, it's about 2 or 3 hours, depending on your route, but with a ton of remaindered books available on the cheap, what's not to like? A quick stop in Harrisonburg for Luigi's pizza (where the waiters promise to be higher than the pizza dough tosses!) and you can't go wrong (it's just great pizza, even if they take a long. time. to. make. it. duuuuude.).

Unfortunately, the trip to the mountains does mean that I will miss the Library of Congress Book Festival, where they have - I believe for the first time - a science fiction/fantasy booth. With Neal Stephenson and Neil Gaiman. Stephenson is also reading from the 3rd of the Baroque Cycle at Olsson's in Arlington, Friday at 7 p.m. Although, according the the WashPost Express, the Stephenson at the Festival is the "author of the behemoth best-seller 'Necronomicon'," so he might be a different fellow from the author of the best-selling Cryptonomicon. One might imagine the proper title of a "behemoth best-seller" might be one of the easier fact-checks for an editor. *shrug*

And, of course, in October, our daughter Evie hits the nine-month mark, the Claycomb twins turn one, and dave and Natalie run the Marine Corps Marathon!

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September 29, 2004

And in other news....

I looked out my window this afternoon and saw the new Security Blimp. Acknowledging that Goodyear's proficiency for picking out cheerleaders at NFL games might be good for homeland security, the Department of Defense reverts to Civil War tactics in its new high-tech espionage-meets-BladeRunner floating device. Not reported: apparently they also received tech support from the Klingons - I turned around to read this article only to look again out my window: the blimp was gone. Engage the cloaking device!

Soon the Security Blimps can float by and encourage off-world colonization. With SpaceShipOne successfully making the first of two space flights required for the X Prize, the Virgin Group's Richard Branson said that they plan to offer commercial space flights available by 2007, based off of SpaceShipOne technology:

Branson believes he will fly some 3,000 people into space in the first five years that his "Virgin Galactic" space line is operating.

Not reported: Branson reportedly decided on the name "Virgin Galactic" because it nicely mixed the excitement of Apollo on Battlestar Galactica and the alien seduction powers of Captain Kirk from Star Trek.

Meanwhile, beware travel to Norway, where apparently they don't believe in security at all (they need more blimps!). A man attacked two pilots with an axe:

Just minutes before the plane, a small Dornier 228, was scheduled to land in the northern Norwegian town of Bodoe at 10:50 a.m. (0850 GMT), one of the seven passengers onboard walked towards the cockpit, and suddenly attacked both the pilot and the co-pilot with an axe in an apparent bid to crash the aircraft.

Not reported: the attacker wore a helmet with spiked horns, bellowing "Give me wenches and mead!" while waving his axe in the air.

And in further news: Diebold Machines Cruise Fells Point! After hearing what a blast they could have in the dive bars around Baltimore, several Diebold voting machines were found, apparently passed out, in a bar and next to the sidewalk. One was turned into the police. The others reportedly sobered up enough to escape, screaming "You'll never find us - we have no paper trail!" as they fled.

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September 10, 2004

Up in Arms

While I support the rights of those who wish to own a firearm, I do not believe such a right extends to the point where public safety is at risk. So, I support bans on assault weapons; I believe in background checks and waiting periods. I do not support laws such as Virginia's recent "Open Carry" law, or any other laws that allows folks to pack heat just because they are concerned about their safety. See, because them having guns makes me worry about my safety.

In any case, I'm entirely disappointed (though not surprised) that the Federal ban on assault weapons (what exactly does one hunt with an uzi? - lots of squirrels at one time?) expires midnight Monday.

What really pissed me off (if true), was the following tidbit from the San Fran Chronicle article Expired ban on assault weapons will leave us vulnerable:

With NRA support, Attorney General John Ashcroft (a longtime NRA member) has refused to allow law enforcement officials to check the federal list of firearm purchasers for suspected terrorists, purportedly because to do so would violate the privacy rights of gun owners.

Wait a second. You can search my library records, but the AG is unwilling "to allow law enforcement officials to check the federal list of firearm purchasers for suspected terrorists." Ashcroft might just believe that the pen is mightier than the sword, but someone should slip him a memo that an Uzi with a 100 bullet clip sort of trumps both.

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September 3, 2004

Context is Occasionally Useful

GOP Prism Distorts Some Kerry Positions (

Setting Kerry's record right—again. By Fred Kaplan (Slate)

And a nice bipartisan org that examines fast and loose rhetoric on both sides of the aisle:

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August 26, 2004

Interesting is a Good Placeholder

I work for a very interesting agency.

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August 6, 2004

Voter Registration

Since I moved recently, I needed to update my voter registration, which I just did through George's link to a "Get Out the Vote" website that helps people fill out the forms so they can just drop it in the mail for easy registration.

Regardless of who you choose to support (not that I don't have my biases), register and vote. Following George's example, I have posted a link to Rock the Vote, which will remain in the right column. Remember that in most states you have to register at least 21 or so days before the election.

Posted by Jason at 7:15 AM | TrackBack

July 21, 2004

This Land

Visit for a funny, bi-partisan take on "This Land is Your Land."

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July 12, 2004

Hero Worship

If I had the time, and the money, and the computer, I'd be all about City of Heroes.

Misc. is back from a sorta longish non-vacation. Details may or may not follow, depending.

Meanwhile: an abridged and edited recap of recent life. Baby near-crawling (need to update the family blog with cute pictures), eating solid food, and being super-cute (when she isn't fussy). L is teaching a class starting tomorrow, so lots of office clean-up and prep all 'round. We both started low-carbing, because we're tired of that sluggish feeling [enter winning smile here] (trademark; I hire out to do commercials - contact my agent). Busy schedules, leaving little time for writing or play or media consumption.

Sometimes, it would be good to be a superhero. Impervious. Superfast. Leap tall piles of laundry in a single bound. If only you could really get it for a down payment of $49.99 and monthly subscription of $13.95 (topic of future conversation: how the world is subscribing me to death).

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June 18, 2004

Thought the Da Vinci Code was Terrible?

Then you'll *love* these mocking tributes to Dan Brown's popular and completely unreadable stack of (toilet) paper.

The O'Keeffe Enigma

Becca, a hiply attractive, postfeminist "Goth grrrl" and part-time bookstore employee, accidentally discovers a shattering secret while stocking books at a Borders megastore in Sacramento. During a quiet moment of messing around with those "magic eye" books, she turns to gaze, by chance, at a Georgia O'Keeffe calendar resting on a shelf nearby. What she discovers hidden within one of O'Keeffe's famous flower paintings shocks her, and, if revealed to the public, could initiate a series of ideological tremors that will rock American culture to its core.

Art historians and feminist critics have long believed O'Keeffe's portraits of flowers to be thinly coded expressions of independent, unapologetic female sexuality; but Becca has discovered that hidden within one of O'Keeffe's iconic irises is the disturbing image of a decidedly nonsensual and matronly Betty Crocker whipping up a batch of hungry-boy biscuits for her newspaper-reading, pipe-smoking husband. What strange message is O'Keeffe sending to the future with this image?

More at the Chronicle [registration may be required], such as:

The Michelangelo Mystery

Antonio, a dashing but unassuming apprentice curator for the Vatican's vast art holdings, one morning accidentally wipes a bit too hard while cleaning the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and discovers a shocking secret: It appears that Michelangelo, in his first draft of the image of God creating Adam, did not depict the two figures gently touching fingers, but rather giving each other enthusiastic high-fives.

And three cheers for finally moving Reagan below the fold.

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June 9, 2004


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Constitution Ave.

Walked down to Constitution Avenue during my lunch break. My office building is nestled between the L shaped walls of the IRS building. I get a great view of the Capitol down Pennsylvania, but unfortunately the IRS blocks our view of Const. Ave. So I went down the block to see how things looked.

The street is still relatively empty, with normal traffic, the normal groups of classroom kids on field trips in their brightly colored matching t-shirts. Metal barricades stand at attention the length of Constitution Avenue. A small assortment of people, early arrivers, sit in the grass and read, waiting for Reagan’s arrival. A group of school children crowd under the shade of a tree. It is hot today and hazy; the D.C. flag hangs every other light pole, flanked on both sides by a U.S. flag. A gentle breeze gives them a lazy wave.

I walked from 12th and Constitution down to 8th - passing the IRS building, the Justice Department, the long stretch of the Museum of Natural History on the other side of the road. I note the crowded line at the public entrance to Archives and turn back. On my return trip, I overhear a mother explaining taxes to her teenage son as they gaze up on the stony facade of the IRS.

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June 2, 2004

Moving In, On

The move went well (thanks to everyone who helped), despite my truck not being available (we took a smaller truck, resulting in two trips). Slowly getting settled in the new place. In between unpacking boxes, I'm at the Interaction Design and Children conference at UMD today and tomorrow. Will post notes and thoughts later on in the week, once I get some breathing room.

Posted by Jason at 1:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 27, 2004

DC in the Summer

The 2004 Smithsonian Folklife Festival runs June 23-27 and June 30-July 4. The three subjects this year are: Haiti, Nuestra Musica (Music in Latino Culture), and Water Ways (Mid-Atlantic Maritime Communities). I'm especially interested in this last one, since that's my old stomping grounds (raised in Virginia by the coast).

Also, Screen on the Green: Outdoor Movies on the National Mall. UMD has a schedule listed. Films this year are:

July 19: All the President's Men (1976)
July 26: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
August 2: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
August 9: The Thin Man (1934)
August 16: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

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May 26, 2004


Passion of the Present, a blog about the terrible situation in Sudan. News and background about this crisis that really demands increased U.S. and U.N. attention. [via Crooked Timber]

Posted by Jason at 2:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 20, 2004


Moving in 9 days to the scratchy charms of cicadas. Eat, play, sleep; Eat, play, sleep. Rhythmic cycles. Box. Work. Paint. Write. Eat, play, sleep.

Dissertations. Bills. Transfer of power. Phone. Cable. Dis/Connect.

Change your address.

Address change.

Posted by Jason at 7:45 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Lisa Kabisa says:

I mean, this house is like a living, breathing to do list.
Posted by Jason at 7:23 AM | TrackBack

May 19, 2004


Just in case you were wondering... I will not, under any circumstances, be discussing my job here.

In fact, I work for a dairy farmer in Wisconsin. Really.

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May 14, 2004

Bruce Sterling at Olsson's in Arlington

Bruce Sterling, Olsson's (Arlington), tonight. Details in link.

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GHW's Tattoo Outed?

I was reading the latest AP story on Shelley Jackson's "Skin" story [Short Story Printed Only Through Tattoos] when I came across this:

Poulos, 22, heard about it in his literature class at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His professor was given: "pen?"

Hmmm.... George?

[edit: here's GHW's long-running entry on the topic]

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May 7, 2004

Jefferson Lecture

Helen Vendler's 2004 Jefferson Lecture is online. Easy tickets being a perk of working for the NEH, I attended last night, as did a few other UMD English students and faculty members.

She spoke of Wallace Stevens and reflections in his poetry on the necessary intersection of art, the artist, and the critic.

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April 21, 2004

The September Project

The September Project aims to use the existing physical and electronic networks in the public library system to create a space for national dialogue during 2004's Patriot Day, the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11th.

As their website describes:

The September Project is a collection of citizens and organizations working to create a day of engagement, a day of conversation, a day of democracy. On September 11th libraries big and small will host events where citizens can participate collectively and think creatively about our country, our government, our community, and encourage and support the well-informed voice of the American citizenry.

Encourage your local library to participate - this is a wonderful opportunity to engage in nonpartisan conversation about our nation and to discuss the meaning of patriotism.

And please pass the word about this grassroots, nonpartisan organization. They are relying heavily on word-of-mouth/blog/listserv to reach libraries and communities and to stimulate open, informed dialogue.

Posted by Jason at 5:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 16, 2004


Sometimes working in D.C. - on Pennsylvania Avenue, no less - is cool. Right now, the tap-tap of my keys mixes with the roll of drums as various school bands march their way to Freedom Plaza (a few blocks down the street from my office), in celebration of Emancipation Day (Lincoln freed slaves in DC on April 16, 1862 - several months before the Emancipation Proclamation).

Looking through my office window, I see the dome of the Capitol and below, as Pennsylvania Ave. stretches towards the marble, the pavement is shattered by the glittering brass of syncopation and symphony, alternating styles marching in waving lines. Drumbeats and horns, footsteps and shouts. The noise of memory.

ABC 7 News - D.C. Streets Closed for Emancipation Day Parade

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April 9, 2004

Turing Chicken

JBJ points to what turns out to be a Burger King ad called Subservient Chicken. It is a bizarre concept for an ad, some mix between one of those annoying Hamster Dance type memes, a Turing test, a webcam (of the "what are you wearing?" variety), and a videogame avatar who gets bored (Spyro or Sparks looking back to see why he's not been told to move recently).

Commands I tried:
jump up and down
do the chicken dance [did a different dance, but not quite the chicken dance]
drink tequila [he walked to the bar and downed a drink]
stop drop and roll
shake your booty [same as 'shake your tail feathers']
wave your left arm [did a cross between a 'flex' and a 'wave']
touch your toes
play dead

I was impressed by the "drink tequila" answer, so I tried altering the environment, something that would potentially have a lasting impact.

Turn off the lamp.

The chicken looked over towards the lamp and then tilted his head, as though he was asking "do you really want me to do that?" 'Turn on the TV' had the exact response - the pan of the chicken's head allowed him to cover about 1/2 of the room and then he gave that little, noncommittal shrug. But I asked him to clap, and it turns out the lamp is connected to the Clapper (tm), because he claps, the lights go off, and then they come back on. Hmm. Ok.

Move the chair.

The chicken suddenly leaps onto the chair, sitting on the armrest, his back to me. Is he trying to move it? I'm not sure, but it doesn't look like it. The chicken responds to the command "sit in the chair" by walking by the chair, obviously considering it too small for his tail feathers, and deciding to sit on the couch instead.

What intrigues me is the difference between the textual Turing test, where some 'ELIZA' (a generic example) responds via text, and this visual one, where a single response might be taken to mean several different things. Drink tequila, for example, could be just "have a drink" or "drink a coke," and the responding image could be exactly the same. Is it really different from "ELIZA saunters over to the bar, pours a drink, and gulps it down."? You can't ask the Subservient Chicken to describe the taste, but that's not a limitation when you expect a textual response. If ELIZA drinks a shot of tequila and then describes it as "sweet," we have an obvious disconnect - not simple disobedience. Do visual cues require (or offer) less specificity ... or better yet, in what ways can images and text, respectively, be more or less specific and get away with presenting believable behavior?

I'm also intrigued by the use of the imperative - we have a series of reverse commands, both given and received. The submit button itself functions this way; we both submit a command and are commanded to submit. A minor point, but one I'm working through (regarding games, not submissive chickens) in the dissertation ...

I do agree with JBJ - I'm not sure I feel more inclined to eat chicken from BK, even if I can have it my way, but the subservient chicken is fun to boss around, if just for a little while.

Posted by Jason at 7:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 1, 2004


newsmap is cool.

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March 15, 2004


Not only are "millions of cicadas are expected to infest the nation's capital and parts of Maryland and Virginia this spring," a swarm that "bug experts say ... will be of biblical proportions" (that's rather daunting, eh?), but school administrators are talking about removing nap time from Pre-K school.


"They can't be babied," Seabrook Principal Marvel Smith said. "These are young minds. We have to take advantage of this early stage when they grasp everything."

Makes you want to move to Sedna.

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

March 5, 2004

Year's Best Headlines

I tend not to pass along joke emails, usually because they aren't terribly funny, but I thought this one better than the norm. Enjoy.


  • Crack Found on Governor's Daughter
  • Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says
  • Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
  • Iraqi Head Seeks Arms
  • Is There a Ring of Debris around Uranus?
  • Prostitutes Appeal to Pope
  • Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
  • Teacher Strikes Idle Kids
  • Miners Refuse to Work after Death
  • Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
  • War Dims Hope for Peace
  • If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile
  • Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures
  • Enfield (London) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide
  • Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
  • Man Struck By Lightning Faces Battery Charge
  • New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
  • Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft
  • Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
  • Chef Throws His Heart into Helping Feed Needy
  • Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half
  • Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors
  • Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead

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February 26, 2004

What Book am I?

Thanks to Chuck, I took the quiz, which told me ...

You're I, Robot!
by Isaac Asimov
While you have established a code of conduct for many generations to follow, your demeanor is rather cold and calculating. Brought up to serve humans, you have promised never to harm them, to follow orders, and to protect yourself. Living up to this code has proved challenging and sometimes even drives you mad. If you were a type of paper, you would be pulp.
Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

I especially like that last part.

"If you were a type of paper, you would be pulp."

Well, yeah. Sometimes I feel that way.

Posted by Jason at 4:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 23, 2004

Kerry's "Tour of Duty"

The December 2003 Atlantic has an excerpt of Douglas Brinkley's book, Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War. Kerry gave Brinkley all of his journals, letters, and notes that he wrote during and after his tour in Vietnam, where he was a Swift boat commander. Brinkley also interviewed all but one of the still living soldiers who fought with Kerry.

I came across the article at Steven Johnson's blog, where a commenter challenged anothers' assessment that: "I really don't see Kerry doing anything. He's in the same secret society as Bush, and is aristocratic as they come."

Me? I'm completely undecided at this point - Edwards has a hopeful enthusiasm that can be both refreshing and irritating, Kerry has something that makes me look past the longest face in America, and Dean has a pretty good yeeehaw.

I have a suspicion that while Dean might be angry and loud, Kerry and/or Edwards might be angry and effective. And I'm not always so sure that someone who can play the Washington insider game is such a bad thing right now.

Posted by Jason at 11:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 21, 2004

You Dirty Rat

No, I'm not talking about the State of the Union address. For those who asked - yes, the rodent (rat, squirrel, chipmunk, whatever) is still nesting in our walls. It asked me to post the following roommate advertisement:

Seeking SR to share wall, loft between 1st and 2nd story apartments, possible relationship. I enjoy wall climbing, running laps on top of the metal air ducts, building nests out of insulation, and making scratching, biting, and chewing noises. Easy access to outside; warm nest near air vent inside. This isn't just any hole in the wall!

We're working on an extermina... er... eviction notice, hopefully effective today or tomorrow, depending on when the Condo Association gets their stuff together.

Posted by Jason at 8:36 AM | TrackBack

January 16, 2004

Abe Lincoln in the Walls

B has logged on.

Never give out your password or credit card number in an instant message conversation.

J says:
must be nice to get to work at noon
B says:
good morning, dick
J says:
and don't go telling me about some fictional "time difference"
J says:
these "zones" people keep telling lies about
B says:
whoa... time travel! what's next? a trip to MARS???
J says:
i thought maybe we'd start with a ... space station? no ... russians are doing that. i know! we'll colonize the moon
J says:
which is, you know, sort of like Iraq.
J says:
without the people
B says:
oh, so you mean afghanistan?
B says:
kind of like iraq, without the people?
B says:
are you not speaking to me anymore because i called you "dick?"
B says:
i didn't mean it.

i hear it's c-c-c-cold out there.

J says:
uh, yeah. very
J says:
a 4 block walk from the metro = not fun
B says:
howzit taking the train to work in all that cold?
J says:
dood. i read your mind
B says:
i see you're one step ahead of me, as always
J says:
i'm, like, psychic. or psychotic.
J says:
Lol. that guy.
B says:
hey i meant to tell you...
B says:
S. finally put a moratorium on me saying "oh well, fire missles."
B says:
i'm not allowed.
J says:
Hehe. L frequently says "but i am le tired"
B says:
she's a smart one, that wife of yours.

B says:
you're one lucky guy.
J says:
indeed. a whip, i tell ya
J says:
S is not amused.
B says:
well, she was amused the first 3K times she heard it...
J says:
it was that 3001st time that probably did it
B says:
like the proverbial straw.
J says:
little hint
B says:
uh, yeah?
J says:
avoid proverbs that place your spouse/partner in the role of a large, possibly hump-backed, not-terribly-cute, mammal
B says:
got it. that's a really good point.
B says:
how do you spell "i" as in...

i, i, captain.

B says:
B says:
J says:
J says:
you need to watch more pirate movies
J says:
oh, i forgot to mention our excitement this morning
J says:
we have a critter living in our vents
B says:
ha! my friend C. just found a dead rat in their wall
J says:
a little after christmas, we heard some scraping near the vent in our bedroom (which runs from our bedroom across the guest bedroom into the kitchen/laundry room)
B says:
he'd been accusing his wife of "gassing it" until they realized it must be a dead animal somewhere...
J says:
ugh. how'd they find it? break down the wall?
B says:
yeah, fortunately it was in an area where he could vaccuum out of a hole in the wall. started vacuuming and sucked up a ton of dog food that had been hidden there
B says:
then *thwok*
B says:
there went the rat
J says:
B says:
B says:
so what's your story? in the wall. scraping...scratching...ghastly noises abound?
J says:
well, you know we have those crazy loud upstairs neighbors, who don't sleep (the Cement Feet People)
J says:
so when we first heard the noises, L. said that it was a critter ... i listened (we were in bed) and said "no, it's the guys upstairs - they must be trying to put in some cable or something"
J says:
b/c it sounded like they were running cable through the walls. this was just after christmas - figured they got some sort of big present
J says:
anyway, we heard it briefly a few more times
J says:
but it never really lasted and was hard to determine what it might be
J says:
until this morning
B says:
uh huh
J says:
i come back from the kitchen where i made some coffee
J says:
and L. is sitting up in bed with this look on her face
J says:
and i listen .. .and there's that noise
J says:
so she jumps up, grabs a flashlight and a stepstool from the kitchen, and gets up to look in the vent in the upper corner of the bedroom
J says:
the light flashes down the vent
J says:
and we hear a distinct sound of something running away
J says:
so i grab the light and the stool ... go to the laundry room and shine the light down that side
B says:
oh no!
J says:
and it runs back towards the bedroom
B says:
J says:
really clear to hear, b/c the vent system is that metal stuff
J says:
so we were listening to it move around for like 10 minutes
J says:
and i didn't want to tell L. ...whatever it is it's not small enough to be a mouse
B says:
J says:
no kidding
J says:
and another weird thing
J says:
you know chipmunks, which we are plagued with
B says:
big cheeks
J says:
the way they seem to move is front paws, then back paws,
B says:
right. like a racoon.
B says:
J says:
as opposed to front left, front right
B says:
J says:
ok, this thing made moving sounds like:
J says:
click, clack, click, clack
J says:
e.g., individually asynchronously moving feet
J says:
rather than two at a time.
B says:
the thought of this thing having nails on it's feet is really grossing me out
J says:
uh, yeah
J says:
and it def. has some nails
J says:
get this ... vent system is in our ceiling, which means the upstairs neighbor's is prob. on the floor, right
B says:
J says:
and somehow they prob. share sounds like this "thing" is moving between ours and the neighbors
J says:
and it sounds like it is getting into the neighbor's walls or into their apt.
J says:
i don't think it's coming into ours... b/c climbing back up into the system would be a major pain in the a$$
B says:
J says:
at one point, when it knew someone (me) was looking for it, it sounded like it scrambled up something ... and *slipped* ...
J says:
it fell with a *bang*
B says:
oh no
J says:
so i'm thinking it tried to climb up into the neighbors system ... was a little frantic, and slipped
B says:
i hope it broke its mangy little neck
J says:
these are things that dissuade me from believing it's a chipmunk
B says:
sounds more like a monkey
J says:
and no, it didn't. silence for about 30 seconds. then moved up
B says:
uh huh. monkey.
J says:
little pigmy monkey
B says:
ooo, ooo, ooo.
ahh, ahh, ahh.
J says:
or, you know, a minature Abe Lincoln. Shrunk and sent through time?
B says:
man, that'd be AWESOME
J says:
My fellow Americans
J says:
Four score
J says:
maybe when folks come over to our house tomorrow
B says:
J says:
Nat can do a search and retrieve mission
J says:
this has me a little freaked, b/c if it is a rat
B says:
they'll have to put up with the g'berg address...
J says:
J says:
lol. right.
J says:
"would you knock it off Abe? ...or i'll send you back to the 'theatre'"
J says:
"no. not ford!"
B says:
are you kidding????

pack it up in a shoebox and take it on the road, baby!

J says:
"dance, abe, dance!"
B says:
B says:
okay, so this story is killing me, did you ever catch the little creature
J says:
no man, this was this morning
B says:
this morning?
B says:
holy crap
B says:
and this things been living there since xmas?
B says:
it must be hungry!
B says:
it's gonna get you guys
B says:
for sure
J says:
that's why i'm figuring it must be getting into an apt. or outside
B says:
J says:
but i haven't seen evidence of it getting into ours
B says:
you gotta get some kinda animal control over there
J says:
i called the landlord this morning
J says:
B says:
good idea
J says:
and he was going to call the condo folks
B says:
man that is totally scary
J says:
it occurred to me
J says:
that it could also be a household pet
B says:
imagine what kind of creature it might actually be
J says:
like a lizard
B says:
oh no!
B says:
a lemur
J says:
a potbellied pig?
B says:
a fox-tailed platypus
J says:
a hairy-toed lemming
B says:
a spiney-toothed leapfrog
J says:
a pinko soap box turtle
B says:
a swarthy-bearded literature student?
J says:
no. they're allowed in the house
B says:

Posted by Jason at 12:17 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Strange, but Beautiful

As described at Invisible Shoebox [bloggered permalink: Friday, January 16, 2004], A strange, but beautiful animation [flash]

Posted by Jason at 11:05 AM | TrackBack

January 15, 2004

Scattered Thoughts

Such is my mindset right now (we're 'in the window' - the baby's due date isn't for another 17 days, but this subset of the rhody clan is rarely on time).

Close Reading New Media: Analyzing Electronic Literature edited by Jan VAN LOOY and Jan BAETENS
[via GTA]

Other close readings: a great group of essays from Matt K.'s graduate class last semester is available at Rob Kendall’s Word Circuits site.

Also, a reminder: the Games Research Bibliography Database, with over 500 entries and an invitation for submissions.
[via GamesNetwork listserv]

Belated thanks for the review of Misc. by a member of Scott Rettburg's class. The link seems to be down right now, but I wanted to make a mental note, before I completely forgot. More once I can look at the review again.

Cheap@$$Gamer is a blog that posts good deals on games at various online and concrete retailers (and I changed the middle word not b/c I'm a prude, but because I like to avoid setting off flags at the office when checking Misc.).

Need to update our installation of MT to fix a few security issues, as well as implement some antispamming techniques (although some might not work well for Herders - more thoughts on why later). Here's a link to the description of the recent patch [thanks George], as well as what's coming in version 3.0.

Personal reminder to backup the database before the update. I also encourage any herders reading to occasionally back up their blogs through the MT interface. Our hosting providers provides backups and I do a database backup every once in a while, but redundancy's never struck me as a bad idea.

Posted by Jason at 7:50 AM | TrackBack

January 5, 2004

Year in Review

Not really, but a few months in review, since I've hardly posted much in recent days, as evidenced by the fact that my blog is slowly lifting up its skirt and showing its underclothes.

Thanksgiving. Yes, that far back. As a gift to my brother, my wife, and I, who all have birthdays in December, my parents took us to New York for Thanksgiving. My dad has worked for years in the Army, and so he was able to procure lodgings for us at Ft. Monmouth, a beautiful base south of the city in Jersey. A quick hour on the train and we were in the middle of the city. Thanksgiving day found us at Macy's watching the parade float by. While we were several rows deep, we still had a decent view of the balloons as they came through, although they turned at the corner, so we really had a great view of their butts. I took several pictures of the balloons' hinderparts, which I hope to post soon as a series entitled "An Ass-tastic Parade." There were several other fun shots, such as how the shadow of Pikachu against the building hinted at a Godzilla-style invasion, or the back of my brother's head, which I briefly mistook for the Charlie Brown balloon (he actually got on his tip-toes as my father was taking a digital picture of "Chuck" ... when my father looked at the screen, Chuck was blocked out by my very bald brother's dome).

Afterwards, we walked to Grand Central Station where we dined at Metrazur for Thanksgiving dinner. The food and service both were wonderful, topped only by the family conversation. For the rest of the week, we wandered the city, managing to catch the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show (complete with 3-D introduction) and 42nd Street. Despite my general dislike of musicals, 42nd Street was a fun show - maybe it was the meta-quality of it all (it's a musical about putting on a musical).

We also visited stores, where I enjoyed browsing the frenzied shoppers as much as the merchandise itself. The Toys R Us in Times Square is of jaw-dropping size, but FAO Swartz had the stuffed animals that now inhabit our forthcoming child's crib.

Which leads us to another of the past few months' central activities. Baby preparation. L is in the final weeks of pregnancy (due Feb. 1st) and we have been busy trying to get everything in order for the arrival. Putting together the nursery, doctor's visits (mostly L's domain, but I tried to go to as many as possible without using up too much leave time), and most recently, a baby shower thrown by some wonderful friends and family. L and I spent most of Sunday night putting together strollers and "bouncy seats." One of the cool things about having a child is that I get to play with all sorts of educational toys. My mother gave us a sunny face in the shape of a flower (honestly, I find the face a little scary - the eyes seem to follow you Mona Lisa style). When you touch the toy, it plays one of four tunes. The cool thing, however, is that once it picks one tune, it will play it in increasingly sophisticated ways the next few times you touch the toy. So the first round will play with only one instrument, the second with a quartet, and the third with a full orchestra. No longer the wooden blocks of our childhood.

Overall, we're very blessed. This child will not go unloved ... and, if the two sets of grandparents have anything to say about it, unspoiled.

Christmas fit in the middle of all of this, which we spent mostly with L's family, exchanging gifts, enjoying conversation, and eating lots and LOTS of great food. For Christmas Eve, L made a 15 lb. turkey Scarborough Fair style (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme), complete with a sweet potato casserole, and stuffing. The next day, we had ham and presents at the in-laws.

A bonus perk: lots of gaming stuff for gifts, like the PS2 Eyetoy, a Gameboy, and the PC version of Knights of the Old Republic. You know, for when the baby is asleep (experienced parents: insert laugh track here).

New Year's was relatively quiet. We visited dave and nat's rockin' party, the results of which are obvious here, before moving on to our neighbors Ryan and Ann (with their twin newborns and their friend from Austin, Sue) for some chocolate fondue and conversation: "What was the best book you read in 2003?" (Paul Auster's Book of Illusions). "Worst book?" (Delillo's Cosmopolis, with Egger's You Shall Know Our Velocity... a close second).

A few of many blessings:
A wonderful, smart, and beautiful wife.
Our soon-to-be-born son or daughter.
Our family.
Our friends, both offline and on, close and distant.
Government work.
Hand-sliced meat.

Things I hope for:
Welcome a healthy child.
Continued happiness and health for my family and friends.
More and more work on the dissertation, towards a completed degree.

That should catch me up. If you made it this far, then I applaud you. After all of this, I realize I probably should've just followed Dave's lead, as usual.

Posted by Jason at 7:10 PM | TrackBack

December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas

Hope everyone had a very happy holiday. I'd type more, but I'm too full.

Posted by Jason at 9:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 12, 2003

Lunchtime Query

Why does Dannon include a convenient resealable top for their 6 oz. yogurts?

Do people really get halfway through and think: 90 calories? Whew! Too much for me. Better save this for later!

Posted by Jason at 2:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 10, 2003

earth shiver?

Dave already took the good title and George took the second best in his comment. What are you going to do.

I too think I felt the earthquake. I was sitting at my office desk when I heard what sounded like when a train resettles on the tracks with that sonorous ka-boom that shakes the whole ground, but just once. It was noticeable enough - in my ears and my feet - that I got up and looked out my window, thinking some very large truck was passing by and hit a large pothole. Seeing neither, I returned to the task at hand - writing lesson plans.

Thinking back, looking out the window when hearing a loud ka-boom sound in the middle of downtown Washington, with a window looking over the Capitol Building ... probably not too smart nowadays.

Posted by Jason at 7:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 9, 2003

Powdered Donuts

Sometimes, you just have to give in to the vending machine.

Posted by Jason at 8:51 AM | TrackBack

November 26, 2003

Gobble Gobble

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. We're off to New York!

Posted by Jason at 6:49 AM | TrackBack

November 25, 2003

What's Your Media Fix?

Here are some of mine, currently:


Coldplay. I can't seem to get enough of this dish, even served Cold.

Aqualung. Marc burned this for me and I find it an interesting mix of Coldplay and Radiohead, with enough personality to make it their own. (thanks Marc)

White Stripes. I'm just jealous that Tanya got to go to the concert on Saturday.


Neverwinter Nights. I'm still stuck on this game - given that I'm on limited playing hours lately, it's a slow process... but still enjoyable. I have realized one thing however - I hate opening boxes and chests to find stuff. It slows gameplay immensely.

Knights of the Old Republic. Not actually playing it (don't have it yet), but have been anticipating the PC release for some time, since I don't own an X-Box.


Angel. I was getting tired (really, really tired) of the Spike/Angel "I'm a better vampire with a soul" banter. But that was before mexican wrestling and the return of Lindsay. Anticipating where this will go.

CSI: Miami. I'm surprised how much I like this show. Forensics (even "pop" TV forensics) fascinates me. And I'm glad to see that Emily Procter got a full time gig after her brief Republican stint on West Wing.

Alias. We'll see how it goes. I still hold that the first season is (and will remain) the best.

So, what's your current media fix? Help me expand my horizons (and answer relatives' pleas for holiday gift ideas).

Posted by Jason at 6:56 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 21, 2003

Hey Moe!

As reported by WashingtonPost, Bush Identifies Turkey as New Front in War on Terror .

My question is: why do we (and by we, I mean they) insist on describing the "battleground" of this "war on terror" using completely outmoded language?

For example:

"I told him our prayers are with his people. I told him that we will work with him to defeat terror, and that the terrorists have decided to use Turkey as a front," Bush said. Asked whether Turkey was a new front, Bush said: "It sure is. Two major explosions. And Iraq is a front, Turkey is a front, anywhere the terrorists think they can strike is a front."

Clearly the term "front" is just silly in this case. The whole point of terrorism/guerrilla warfare is that you penetrate, circumnavigate, or simply avoid the front. You take the fight behind the lines, or into other territories to draw action off of the front (where smaller armies, you know, tend to get beat up). I mean, I'm not particularly astute when it comes to military history, but even I understand the basic gist of this idea. All ethics regarding warfare (in general and particular) aside here, aren't we just begging to get our ass kicked with this mentality?

Seriously. Can we (and by we, I mean they) please find a better strategy than one would use in Wack-A-Mole? Even the 3 Stooges understood the subtle art of misdirection. Hey Moe - whoowhoowhoo whoo!

Posted by Jason at 12:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 20, 2003

Lunchtime Ruminations

Somewhere between the sardine packed Metro ride this morning (honestly, where the hell are those people going?) and flipping some of my lunch onto my freshly dry-cleaned pants, I nearly lost my sanity.

Fortunately, the mental break was temporarily eased by what most would consider a lunch (the part that didn't end up on my pants) worthy of Hagar the Horrible - peppers and sausages - but my Italian-heritage wife assures me that it is healthy enough. Having been raised in Virginia (not know for eschewing pig meat - call it what it is), I heartily endorse the meal. My heart would nod in agreement but is likely too busy trying to crack its way through the cholesterol.

Been a light blogging month, feeling both busy and torn about writing anything personal. Nervousness about who's reading what, esp. in regards to employment and so on. Not to mention general anxieties about our somewhat crazy-ass world and what's going on in it. All leading to tongue-tied-ness and a general emphasis on an oddly curt writing style.

Let's see - weekly recap. Saturday, spent afternoon in hospital with Lisa checking on the baby, who seemed to suddenly stop moving much for the two days preceding. Cause for general concern, so we went (as those cheeky Brits say) "to hospital." Baby is fine and held up a sign that read: "Really, I'm just trying to sleep in here. Scram." Who knows where he got the pen and paper, but it was a wild sight on the ultrasound. Kids are getting smarter these days, so I suspect the baby will be born with dissertation in-hand, making him/her more ready for the job market than I am. (S)He will likely also have more hair.

Saturday night, we celebrated (a bit early) dave's 30th, where there was much wine and even more cheese. Dave's addiction to cheese frightens most mice into rehab, so he seemed to have a good time.

Sunday was relatively uneventful, except for an embarrassing moment where I found myself uncontrollably laughing at an inappropriate moment (specifically, in the middle of a homily at Mass). I won’t go into details as to why, but let’s just say that a person very close to me displayed her wise-cracking skills at perhaps not the most opportune time. I eventually recovered.

Monday night, I took my karate exam, earning my next belt (green).

Tuesday, we upgraded our mobile phone service package and in my near insanity, I scribbled out a recap of that event, fascinating as it was [insert irony here]. Review of our new phones available soon.

I was pleased to see that Massachusetts courts finally did something rational in looking at the state constitution and realizing that, by golly, there was nothing in there saying homosexuals were prohibited from marrying one another. About time.

I honestly don't understand those who get their knickers in a bunch about this topic - I mean, folks do realize, don't they, that such a decision doesn't mean that everyone has to enter a gay marriage, right? I mean, the court isn't saying that Tony, who lives down the street, must divorce his wife and summarily marry a man, and his wife a woman. That seems clear to me, but maybe not so much to others?

I've yet to see a convincing argument as to why civil marriages should be denied to homosexual partners. Destroying the American family? I don't see calls for state constitutional amendments to prohibit divorce or punish infidelity. If "tradition" is what we're looking for, those two aspects of our society would seemingly outrage those same constituents who clamor to deny homosexual marriage. And yet, crickets chirp. Religious opposition? Fine, that’s really not my call, but we're talking civil marriages here (and the legal rights and responsibilities therein), not religious ceremonies. So religious arguments aren’t really relevant to the discussion in this case. I would happily listen (though likely not agree) to reasons that explained why oppositions to civil marriage between same sex partners weren't simply bigotry clothed in moral rhetoric, but I haven't heard any that exceeds the basic argument that "it just ain't right."

So, kudos to the courts for recognizing things for what they are.

Posted by Jason at 1:05 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 14, 2003

National Humanities Medal

I had the pleasure of listening to some of the thoughts of the National Humanities Medal Recipients for 2003, when the NEH had a reception this afternoon. Of the recipients, Jean Fritz, Edith Kurzweil, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, and Joseph Epstein came in to talk a little about how they became involved in humanities work.

Epstein was particularly engaging, answering questions with a series of poignant and humorous anecdotes.

A work friend summarized perfectly: "I would love to have him at a dinner party."

For a taste of style and wit, read a recent interview on

Posted by Jason at 4:33 PM | TrackBack

November 12, 2003

The Error in Terrorist

Scanning googlenews, I clicked on - Bremer to bring new strategies to Iraqi Governing Council - Nov. 12, 2003. For those not in the know, Bremer was called back quickly for a meeting with the White House. I think the word "quagmire" had been mentioned one too many times for the administration's taste.

Now, I've tended to stay out of the debate. Not that I don't have my opinions, of course, but it's not something I've wanted to spend my time writing about.

But the following reinforces a problem - a rhetorical one - that I've had for some time now. The use of the term "terrorist." Walking out of his meeting, Bremer said the following (according to CNN):

"We're going to have difficult days ahead because the terrorists are determined to deny the Iraqis the right to run their own country. We're not going to let them get away with that," Bremer told reporters Wednesday."

Now, without delving too deeply into why the US is there, and without (*sigh*) getting too political, let's take a careful look at that sentence.

I read that as: "We invaded Iraq and 'freed' the Iraqi people. So anyone who fights against that 'freedom' is a 'terrorist.'" Odd, though, because in the past, they were detailed at worst as "guerilla fighters," and at best as "patriots" (Howdy, King George).

Now, before anyone gets their shorts bundled, I'll make it clear - I'm pretty much against death (generally speaking), and killing (specifically), in most cases. So I'm not a fan of anyone taking a bullet or a piece of shrapnel. If fact, I think it would be much better for everyone if Nerf were the primary contractor for every Defense Department out there. And while I'm not thrilled with our recent decisions, I'm also not terribly pleased with the decisions of a lot of other folks either. My point? I'm not trying to demonize anyone here... quite frankly, everyone tends to do that well enough on their own.

The problem is, for some time now, the word 'terrorist' has been used rather loosely by the current administration. "The War on Terror" targets an abstract idea, so if you own the definition of "terrorist," you can target whoever you wish. So what is the real problem?

No one owns the definition of terrorist. The US certainly doesn't, which is why almost any attack since the "War on Terror" started can be phrased in those terms. And since the "War on Terror" is Game On, that means other countries can use the same policy however they wish. Which means that instead of being a leader willing to admit that things aren't so good in a specific war - such as calling the Iraqi attacks "guerilla warfare" - we are being a poor leader, by paving a highway through a rhetorical loophole that allows all sorts of potential injustices to be done by anyone who claims to be fighting "terrorism."

Posted by Jason at 10:42 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 5, 2003

Wanted! (Wild, Wild West Style)

Wanted, Dead or Alive! Ok, maybe just bound and gagged. Microsoft Announces Bounty for Virus Writers. That's right - $250k to turn in the authors of either the MSBlast or SoBig virus.

Right about now, I need an animation of a tumbleweed bouncing across my blog. Gibson wasn't so far off with that whole "cowboy" thing after all...

Posted by Jason at 6:05 AM | TrackBack

November 3, 2003

Copy Wronged?

On a Listserv (having nothing to do with these kinds of issues), an off-topic question was raised (passive voice to protect the innocent) about copyright and intellectual property with regards to academic work produced by scholars (faculty) at their institutions. Of concern: apparently Michigan State University now claims copyright to all work produced by their employees - including faculty - under a general "works made for hire" provision. The claim is that while MSU retains these copyrights, they generally "give them back" to faculty, provided they meet certain criteria. The MSU website states:

From a legal perspective, all copyrighted works made by any Michigan State University employee within the scope of his or her employment begin as "works made for hire" and are initially owned by the University. As has been the tradition at Michigan State University and most of its peer institutions, the University assigns the copyrights in such works to their creators, unless one or more "Special Circumstances" exist.

You can read the "special circumstances" at the website, but it does seem to indicate that tenured faculty own their manuscripts at the pleasure of MSU. Interestingly enough, students retain copyright for their own work when done for a class - including theses or dissertations.

I do recall a similar policy when I took time off between undergraduate and graduate school. I worked at a physics lab where I helped put together several experiments for an electron beam accelerator (basically, a Beam of Electrons that Slammed into Other Little Particles to make Smaller and Smaller Particles). When I filled out my employment paperwork, I had to sign a form that said that anything I created or did would fall under "works made for hire," and that I should expect no claim to copyright for anything I produced. I remember feeling very uncomfortable with the form, because it was terribly unclear as to where the boundaries were between personal and professional creation. That ... ahem... must be why I never finished my Great American Novel during my "time off."

I was curious what UMD's policy was, so I did a quick search during my lunch break. This has been the UMD system's policy since 1990:

It is the policy of the University of Maryland System that copyrights arising from aesthetic, scholarly, or other work developed through independent efforts and not part of a directed institutional or University System assignment shall reside with the originator. Independent effort is defined as the product of inquiry, investigation, or research to advance truth, knowledge, or the arts where the specific choice, content, course, and direction of the effort is determined by the individual without assignment or supervision by the institution or System. -- IV-3.10 - Policy On Copyrights from University Memos and Policies

But I'm curious - which model is more the norm for academic institutions? MSU's prose clearly states that they are following the lead of their 'peer institution' - is that true?

Posted by Jason at 5:35 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 27, 2003

Full Nelson

The Jiménez-Porter Writers' House and the Maryland Institute for
Technology in the Humanities (MITH) present electronic artist and writer
Jason Nelson.

Thursday, October 30, 7:00 p.m.
McKeldin Library, Room 6107
University of Maryland

Out of the Oklahoma plains comes the swirling, oddly crafted, poetic world of Jason Nelson's New Media poetry and prose. He will read, click, and shudder in person and on the screen, over the speakers and through the keyboard. Join us for his electronic literature performance.

Jason Nelson was raised a Oklahoma poet, but found the allure of electronic bits far too strong to remain moored in print. His projects include Hyperrhiz, a hypermedia literary journal, , and Secret Technology. His work has appeared in a variety of print and online journals including Beehive (Brown University), Boomerang (UK), Epitome (Madrid), 3rdbed (NYC), Nowculture, Blue Moon Review and others. In addition his work has been featured in art galleries worldwide. Nelson has a B.A. in Cultural Geography from the University of Oklahoma and an M.F.A. in Poetry from Bowling Green State University. Next year he will join the new media faculty in an innovative interdisciplinary program at Griffith University, Queensland,Australia.

Posted by Jason at 10:58 AM | TrackBack

October 9, 2003


I was hoping for something a little more British - funny shapes, varied colors. Something tells me that Jackson's demeanor doesn't really meld well with background pastels.

Posted by Jason at 1:56 PM | TrackBack

October 8, 2003


Interesting thread on Slashdot for quick software suggestions and reviews (set your threshold up a bit to skip nonsense): Slashdot | Top 10 Software Titles Every Home PC Needs?

Posted by Jason at 6:22 PM | TrackBack

October 7, 2003


orneryboy by michael lalonde just makes me laugh. out loud.

[thanks to mcb]

Posted by Jason at 7:10 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 6, 2003


I waited until today to book my AoIR plane tickets so I could get the department to pay for it, rather than waiting on reimbursement. Avoiding a complicated, personally trying story that is too long to even get into, insane fare hikes and good advice led me to Student travel deals and cheap airfares.

I saved over $120. Definitely worth noting for future reference. You just have to be a student -or- faculty member ... confirmed through your .edu email address.

Posted by Jason at 11:35 AM | TrackBack

October 2, 2003

Wear Your Heart (or a video) On Your Sleeve

You ever say "For 40 bucks, this t-shirt should make me coffee!"? You might not get an espresso, but you could watch a movie on your belly:

Ready To Ware: Electronics and fabrics woven together will make smart dressers of firefighters, football players, and fashionistas alike

I think this stuff is so cool.

Posted by Jason at 5:06 PM | TrackBack

September 30, 2003

No Wonder I Hate the Beltway

D.C. Has Third Worst Traffic in Nation, Study Finds (

Even more disturbing:

More than half -- 53 percent -- of local backups are recurring, meaning they stem from simply too many vehicles crammed onto roads unable to handle them, while 47 percent come from collisions, broken down vehicles, truck spills and other incidents.

Makes me long for a nice quiet country road.

Posted by Jason at 2:00 PM | TrackBack

September 26, 2003

welcome to my garden

Posted by Jason at 10:37 PM | TrackBack

September 18, 2003

Isabel, Take Two

NE of DC, things have been relatively quiet. Lots of rain and wind earlier in the day, with fairly moderate rainfall and wind this evening. Friends NW of DC have lost power; apparently 660k or so in the area (Northern VA, DC, and MD suburbs) are without power, according to news sources.

My family in the Yorktown/VA Beach area reports that some areas have seen heavy flooding (particularly those near rivers and water sources affected by the tide). They did loose power, but no flooding for them (unlike with Floyd, which apparently dumped a lot more rain).

Residents of Poquoson (not far from Langley Air Force Base, near Hampton, and about a 10 minute drive from my folks' house) were encouraged to evacuate. My mother told me that a lady refused and is now sitting in her attic, watching 5+ feet of water flood her home and reportedly having seen a small home floating down the street.

I'm waiting to see how the next few hours pan out, but it seems like we got off pretty light overall in DC. News reports show lots of downed trees. I heard chainsaws for about two hours - looking outside, I saw police on BW parkway, presumably clearing trees that fell across the road.

Posted by Jason at 10:45 PM | TrackBack

Isabel (Take One)

Putting away lawn furniture and whatnot.

My folks live down towards Virginia Beach in Yorktown, just inside the Bay. Just got an e-mail from my father reporting the beginning of some rain and gusts. When Floyd came through, their entire house was surrounded by flooding - luckily it came right up to, but not inside the house.

I have a picture of my father floating on a raft in front of the house that I'll try to scan later. Hopefully, that won't happen again...

Posted by Jason at 10:56 AM | TrackBack

Ahoy Matey!

Batten down the hatches - there be storms coming here!

If you are looking for a "D" sized battery anywhere within 100 miles of D.C., just give up now (actually, the Dollar Store had a few left).

The Federal Government shut down. Metro is closed as of 11 am - high winds (over 40 mph) prevent the trains from riding above ground.

The only candles available for sale - scented.

Given recent history with the strong thunderstorms these past few weeks, I suspect the greatest danger - loss of electricity. Or, maybe, the frenzy of shoppers. I think the shoppers scare me more.

Posted by Jason at 10:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 12, 2003

Media Notes

Johnny Cash (1932-2003)
John Ritter (1948-2003)

Chuck shares a recently discovered blog: gangstories. Only looked at a few entries so far, but it struck me as powerfully written.

Movies I Want to See (if we only had the time):
Lost in Translation
American Splendor
Dirty Pretty Things
Matchstick Men
Once Upon a Time in Mexico

TV Show to Tape:
Carnivale, HBO's new drama about carnies, healers, and bearded ladies that is set in the Dust Bowl days of 1934. Begins this Sunday at 9:45pm (EST).

Meanwhile, Lisa and I are consuming Law & Order and other crime dramas with a ferocity that would stun a heroin addict.

Fun Read:
A friend lent me Neverwhere, a novel by Neil Gaiman. We follow Richard, a young businessman, who helps a woman he finds bleeding on the street only to discover that doing so opens up an entirely new world while closing another. A good, quick, and fun contemporary fantasy read that plays off of some neat aspects of London geography and culture.

I can't get enough Coldplay lately.

To the rustle in the wind as millions of people simultaneously give RIAA the finger. Yeah, great, pick on children and grandparents. Poor you, getting stolen from, you price-fixing robber barons. Because we all know that a CD costs $20 to make, and that all that extra cash goes straight to the artists. [ok, stealing is wrong - and I never used Kazza or Napster for the record - but that doesn't mean the RIAA isn't a bunch of punks]

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September 11, 2003


Not having the eloquence, or the wisdom for silence, or the vertigo of personal memory, or the passionate disquiet to commemorate the day, I'll only offer a poem by W.H. Auden, which was read during a remembrance ceremony held collectively by the NEH, the NEA, and IMLS.

The reading was book-ended by The Sunrise Quartet's striking renditions of Mozart's "Andante" (from Divertimento in D. Major, K. 136) and Barber's "Adagio for Strings" (from String Quartet, Op. 11) and was preceded (and delayed) by an evacuation of my building in downtown D.C. due to a "suspicious package."

Posted by Jason at 2:10 PM | TrackBack

September 10, 2003

LOC Book Festival

The Library of Congress National Book Festival is set for October 4, 2003, on the National Mall.

One exhibit I'm game for (from the press release): " Paige Davis and Frank Bielec of the cable TV program "Trading Spaces," are among the authors who will appear in the "Home and Family" pavilion"

Maybe Frank'll come over and redo my office.

Posted by Jason at 12:20 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 3, 2003

The News, In One (Repeating) Act

Scene: News room. The sound of keys clatter on in the background as the industrial grade lights flicker overhead, competing with the glow of monitors. In far corner, a photocopy machine visited throughout by various interns, with backs 3/4 to audience, lots of lifting and closing of machine's top. The slight hydraulic sounds from the photocopy machine should occasionally punctuate the clatter, giving the subtle tone of factory life.

Reporter #1: [enters cube, puts down coffee, waves mouse to disrupt screensaver]: "Hey."

Reporter #2: [without looking up, web surfing]: "Hey."

R #1: "So, what's up?"

R #2: "Nothing."

R #1: "Nothing?"

R #2: "Afraid so."

R #1: "Bully. News?"

R #2: "None."

R #1: "Get out."

R #2: "Seriously." [Punctuated with an audible mouse click.]

R #1: "Enquirer?"

R #2: "Reprint of Billy Bob story. Stole Bat Boy from The Sun."

R #1 [with a sigh]: "Nothing." [Sits and works on computer. After a few moments, receives chime of instant message. Chats for a few moments, then perks up.]

R #1: "Here's something."

R #2: "Got something?"

R #1: [speaking slowly, while typing]: "Friend of mine. Astronomer. Big asteroid."

R #2: "He is?"

R #1: [still typing]: "No. A big asteroid heading this way."

R #2: "Armageddon?"

R #1: "Sans Bruce."

R #2: "Wow. Really?"

R #1: "Maybe."

R #2: "Really? Or maybe?"

R #1: "Maybe really." [types, waits for answer] "One in 909,000."

R #2: [looks at lottery tickets scattered on desk] "People still go to Vegas."

R #1: "People still fear shark attacks. Lightning strikes."

R #2: "When?"

R #1: [stops typing, looks over, faux-confused] "At the beach. During storms."

R #2: "Funny."

R #1: [resumes quick typing, pause for answering message] "Maybe 2014."

R #2: [checks watch] "2014?"

R #1: [quick typing, pause for answer] "He says: 'March 21 2014'."

R #2: [checks watch again] "Plenty of time for a retraction."

[dim lights, except the back and forth light of photocopy machine. clatter continues.]

The Story

And 24 Hours later: Retractions, followed by News about the News Media

Posted by Jason at 12:42 PM | TrackBack

September 2, 2003

Labor Days

Well, any illusion that I wouldn't feel swept up in the back to school frenzy has been firmly displaced after a long weekend of schoolwork. I spent pretty much every free moment this past weekend finishing an "incomplete" - a final project that I never turned in. In May of 2000, in somewhat of a freakish way that still strikes me as surreal, both of my grandmothers passed away on the same day (a long story that I may, or may not, tell another time). In the week of wakes and funerals that followed, my final project for a Folklore class fell by the wayside. In the way of those things, other classes, comps, and life events superceded the assignment, so I shame-facedly will be turning it in (finally complete!) this week.

I also finally corresponded with the Level Up! conference organizers, discovering that all previous e-mails from them had somehow evaporated into the internether (yes, I think I just made that word up. So, definition: a combination of the words "internet" and "ether", internether is the black hole that absorbs all lost data, never to be found again). So, the rest of the weekend was spent trying to organize possible funding for the trip, the expense of which is far too great for my meager flow.

Did have a few fun moments in my long, mostly work related four day weekend:

Brother-in-law's birthday party, space-themed (he works at NASA). Costumed. L and I went as "Mars" and "Earth" - "we're very close right now." Space Trivia. Space Bingo.

A hot walk through old Greenbelt, which put on a wicked Labor Day festival. Greenbelt is (still) a co-op community planned and built during the New Deal era by Roosevelt's Resettlement Administration. So they put on quite a dig. Ferris wheel. Carnies. Hit the balloons, 3 darts for a dolla! Rides. Spinning cars of The Tornado. Labor Bingo (listened; didn't play).

Celebration for Dr. Claycomb. He borrowed our paper shredder and made a bouquet of his draft. Tossed it off the balcony to a frenzied batch of dissertators (myself included). Lost out to a guy with greater reach and a three hundred page manuscript.

Using a $20 gadget, listened to the baby's heartbeat. Thump, thump.

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August 28, 2003


My good friend Ryan defends his dissertation today. Everyone go visit his blog and wish him well!

Good luck Ry! Rather, CONGRATULATIONS!

The word is in. The defense was successful. Look on Ryan's blog later for details (I'm guessing post-hangover).

Posted by Jason at 10:36 AM | TrackBack

August 27, 2003


An odd feeling. For the past several years, aside from one spent working in the bowels of an underground physics experiment (which, sadly, resulted in *no* superpowers), I have purchased at least one notebook, planned to attend or teach at least one class, and, in short, settled myself into some institution of learning as my primary focus during the Fall months.

Except this year.

Oh sure, I'm working on my dissertation. I have papers to write for conferences, paperwork to fill out for the university, library fines overdue, stacks of books, reams of paper, and a credit hour to pay for. I have mounds of academic work, so no worries on missing out on that. But instead of that annual starting line, I feel like I'm just in the long marathon.

I'm happy that I took on a full-time position. I work in an environment friendly to academic endeavors and supportive of my dissertation work. Being around the NEH has already taught me a lot about the process of successful grant-writing, as well as enhanced my education on the politics inherent in teaching, learning and 'knowledge production.' And it pays a hell of a lot better than my previous job, which had its own rewards, none of which really paid the rent.

With a baby on the way (something we found out after I took the job), making this move seemed serendipitous. It was also a cautious decision on my part - with the academic job market plunging into an even deeper black hole, I decided that I wanted to flesh out my resume/c.v. so that I (hopefully) would be attractive in both academic and non-academic markets. I had read, seen, and heard too many stories about academics - all of them perfectly qualified - not finding jobs, or stuck in the adjunct rut, or taking on entry-level, corporate positions alongside freshly minted BAs, with the same pay, seven to nine years late. These are the nightmares of Ph.D. lore, the dark columns of the Chronicle. And though I have a reasonable amount of faith in my qualifications and capabilities as a scholar, I also have this tendency to acknowledge that the great Academic Machine has rolled over plenty of folks just like me. Best to take some steps to allow me a chance in both worlds. Eggs in many baskets, was my thinking.

But a part of me - the part that gave up years of income potential to attend grad school, the part that loves the joy and stress and thrill and panic of being in front of a classroom, the part that loves research, reading, intense discourse - looks on with (always friendly) envy as friends and loved ones prep their classes, write their syllabi, and worry about the start the semester. Because, for the first time in a long time, Fall won't start for me until the leaves change.

Then again, I do get to work in my own ivory tower.

Posted by Jason at 12:39 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 25, 2003

ISO: New Job Description Writer

A line from a job description I recently read:

"The successful candidate will have the ability to maintain focus and concentration for long periods of time, enjoy repetition and keyboarding."

Well, doesn't that sound appealing?

Posted by Jason at 12:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 21, 2003

breaking news?

So, I have M$ Messenger set up on my computer to send me "breaking news" alerts. I did this in the wake of Sept. 11 and then the 'War in Iraq,' mainly because I wanted to know if some bad mo-jo was going down that I should know about (e.g., duck and cover).

So how the hell does "Judge unseals Kobe arrest warrant" qualify as breaking news? There are thousands of such assault cases each year, many involving children, and this one gets profiled because the person accused is a basketball player.

Who cares?

I wish I could better control my alerts. If there's an attack somewhere, notify me. If I should get out of downtown DC because of some danger, please let me know. If yet another celebrity of one sort or another has a personal problem, or it's another high profile case while millions of others not involving celebs go unnoticed, pass me by.

Better yet, I'd like to see some real alerts:

Hundreds of thousands of children go hungry in world's richest nation!

Health care providers raise rates, provide less service!

Posted by Jason at 6:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 19, 2003

Improved Lunch

The office took the soon-to-be-departing intern to Jaleo for lunch. Tapas, yum. I had monkfish and squid.

Fighting the need for an afternoon nap.

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August 15, 2003


So, I heat up my Uncle Ben's Noodle Bowl (Ginger Chicken) in the office microwave. I happen to hear, towards the end of the 5 minute initial dose, a little sizzle and pop. No big deal. I peel back the plastic top, stir, and pop the Bowl in for its last one minute turn.

Sizzle. Pop. "Weird," I think, not used to this high degree of sizzle pop coming from the Uncle.

So I take the food back to my desk so I can do a little work while I eat. And I take a bite. And something Just Doesn't Feel Right.

My Ginger Chicken is really Chicken Fat and Gristle with a Little Ginger. I got the scraps. The noodles, they just sat there, sullen.

I, of course, decided that maybe I'd eat out. Despite the fact that my appetite followed the Bowl into the trash can, it was 2 o'clock and I was getting a little afternoon hunger-woozy. So I thought I'd grab a sandwich at my favorite local little eatery - something cheap, because the whole point of the Uncle was to save a little cash.

I walk into the eatery and notice how empty it is. Of course, after 2 o'clock, most people had eaten lunch. I walk up to the counter and a very nice lady said, "The kitchen is closed." She pointed me to the counter of ready-to-eat food. There was a browning salad, a few pizzas, cold and wrapped in saran wrap, and a few other not so impressive items, all cashing it at $5 or more which, when you came to work with lunch to save money, and when you've already chewed on a few pieces of gristly fat, just feels like a lot for brown lettuce or cold pizza. Having survived on brown lettuce and cold pizza for a number of years, I knew that $5+ was a bit beyond the cost/purchase ratio.

So, feeling those last few minutes of lunch slipping through my fingers, I did what everyone who just had a generally disgusting and frustrating food day would do.

I bought two hot dogs from the street vendor. $2.50 worth of pork parts. With onion.

The vendor discretely slipped a tidily wrapped breath mint into my bag.

Posted by Jason at 3:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Self Portrait

 //^    ^\
   ^ / ^
 |  <.   |
 '| """ |'
  '| ~ |'

The things you do when your wife is out of town...

EDIT: Argh. MT is not condusive to ASCII art doodles for some reason, even w/ 'pre' tags...

Posted by Jason at 11:01 AM | TrackBack

August 7, 2003

Jealousy (the good kind)

I've often wished that I could draw well. Seeing something like Jen Wang's Strings of Fate is downright inspiring. [via Scott McCloud (entry 8/03)]

Posted by Jason at 8:41 PM | TrackBack

A Day for the Birds

Setting: On the metro ride home yesterday, Ft. Totten stop. A mother and her two children board the train, followed by another woman, who had her hands cupped in front of her. The towhead boy sat next to the woman, across the aisle from his mother and sister.

For some reason, the boy - eager and inquisitive, his 8 year old face round and shiny - kept staring at the woman's hands. Oddly, she leaned and blew gently into them, as though to warm them. As she shifted, I saw that she was holding a sparrow, tiny and unmoving. She would open her hands and blow carefully into the sparrow's face, presumably to calm it as the train rattled to the next stop.

"Where did you find it?" the boy asked, staring at the bird.

"On the platform," the woman offered, with a small shrug. "His wing ..." She gestured with her shoulder.

"Are you going to keep it?" the boy asked.

"When she gets better, I let her go," the woman replied.

Looking over at his mother, the boy put his hands together to plead, as if in prayer. He wanted to pet the bird. His mother shook her head. He moved over to her side to engage in negotiations.

"My mother says that sometimes birds carry diseases," said the boy with a sigh, as he settled down next to the woman again. His hand hovered as he leaned in for a closer look.

"It's true," the woman agreed, smiling at the mother, "birds can carry diseases." She held the bird up, blowing into its face with a calm air.


I stopped at the Giant to get some milk (Lisa was making wicked good food, and needed ingredients). Walking to the milk aisle, I saw a flurry of motion above me. A sparrow winged its way to the dried fruit and nut aisle.


Driving home, milk in hand, I heard a stuttering chirping. It sounded like a bird, but the smell of sharply burned rubber told me that someone's anti-lock brakes needed adjusting.

Posted by Jason at 10:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 6, 2003


I found myself inserting a bunch of asides in front of the book list, so I decided on a separate post. Thoughts:

One: I'm amazed by the amount of stuff coming out, mostly within 12 to 15 months of each other. It's a tad overwhelming to have a tsunami of research hit your research shores as you're trying to write a dissertation (I know, I'm sure it happens all of the time).

Two: Once again, I'm tempted to dust off my php/mysql skills at give a go at a simple online bibliography database. Does anyone use something - preferably *online* - to maintain a bibliography? I would want to be able to enter URL entries as well as print/'traditional media' entries. I have ProCite, but it doesn't seem to be saving me a lot of time, especially since it's not terribly transportable. And nothing is more boring that data entry...

Three: I want custom spider search software, where I built complex searches that might take days to complete, but I get very detailed data that includes textual, graphical, and temporal (like, tracing timestamps) representations of relationships.

Four: DiGRA seems like a great idea, but it kills me that I have to register (and thus pay) just to use the site. I know, I know. I'm cheap. But after years of graduate school, only now a new employee on a regular paycheck (while still trying to write my dissertation), and expectant father, I guess I *should* be cheap. You don't make a pittance year after year and survive without being cheap - especially in the DC housing market, which borders on extortion (I'd give exact numbers on previous years' paychecks but, quite frankly, I get a little embarrassed about how poor I've been).

Five: I need to get cracking on my links compilation. Several text export files of links just ain't cutting it anymore. I'm going mad with disorganization. OCD kicking in hyperdrive ... (brought on by the fact that after I dug through a bunch of research, I remember the website Game Culture, which had compiled some of the stuff I just spent time doing. *sigh*)

Six: Is there one site that holds a comprehensive, data-base driven archive of articles, books, and websites dedicated to gaming? DiGRA might, but lord knows I can't find it on the site... Digiplay has some stuff, as does Game Culture. Anywhere else?

Posted by Jason at 6:34 PM | TrackBack

August 1, 2003

ascii wars

Now *this* is ASCII art: STAR WARS ASCIIMATION [via jm]

I bet my wife will be glad that my hobbies are a little less.... time consuming.

Posted by Jason at 11:42 AM | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Jason at 11:30 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 30, 2003


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!

Posted by Jason at 2:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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

Posted by Jason at 3:28 PM | TrackBack

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...

Posted by Jason at 10:13 AM | TrackBack

July 17, 2003


Who needs a laptop if you have a newSony Clie?

Posted by Jason at 2:29 PM | TrackBack

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?

Posted by Jason at 7:38 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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?

Posted by Jason at 4:20 PM | TrackBack

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


I could say:

Hey, check out Douglas Coupland's new book at

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.

Posted by Jason at 9:41 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Jason at 2:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


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

Posted by Jason at 11:52 AM | TrackBack

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).

Posted by Jason at 10:04 AM | TrackBack

July 9, 2003


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]

Posted by Jason at 10:27 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 8, 2003

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]

Posted by Jason at 12:45 PM | TrackBack

July 3, 2003

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 | TrackBack

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

June 25, 2003

It's the end of the world as we know it...

and I feel fine.

Well, it's not really the end of the world, but you might enjoy this article about how prevalent Doomsday prophesies are nowadays. Somehow, I think the Jetsons version of the future might have been lost in the shuffle:

We're All Gonna Die! But it won't be from germ warfare, runaway nanobots, or shifting magnetic poles. A skeptical guide to Doomsday.

Posted by Jason at 11:03 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 20, 2003

Citation Machine

No longer can your students claim they did not know the proper citation guidelines. Meet the Citation Machine.

Posted by Jason at 1:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 19, 2003


Watch blogs appear on a global map as they update. Warning: dangerously eats away time. [edit: i actually added the link, whose absence made it all seem rather farcical (the link looped back to me: "i am the world, muhahaha")]

Alas, I wish I were this cool, but Jill found it first (actually, her post says she got it from Frank, so I'll just trackback everyone. It's early).

Since today might just turn out to be random (or not so random) links day, have a look at the MT Plugin Directory. You can even get a plugin that filters your text into Swedish Chef language. I wonder if people from Sweden find that stuff just plain tiresome. Do they hug the Swedish Chef, or burn him in effigy? Burk Burk Burk!

I notice that yesterday I said "So, hopefully my draft will be ready tomorrow or Thursday." As everyone realizes by looking at the date of the post, that was a bit of a redundancy. Tomorrow was Thursday. Clearly, I meant Friday. Or Monday.

Some of you have asked what I do, how I like the new job, and so on. The job is great so far - everyone has been nice and, of course, I don't mind my view after a few years of working in a library basement. My office space isn't bad - I have an L-shaped cubby that affords a reasonable amount of privacy. The windows have these large sills, so I can take papers over there to read when my back or wrists start aching from the computer. Having a sixth floor vantage on Pennsylvania Avenue is nice - every couple of days, the roar of sirens floats up and I can look down at a police escort for some dignitary or another. We speculate on who it is - "is the President in town?" "Is some foreign president visiting?" and so on.

I suppose I should clarify what I do - I'm a Program Analyst for the National Endowment for the Humanities, where I work on EDSITEment, a web portal and lesson plan provider for the humanities. EDSITEment has two major components. First, it serves as a portal to humanities websites. The websites listed go through an extensive vetting process (at least three levels of peer review), which usually whittles the applicants from several hundred to 30-40 final choices. The second major component of EDSITEment is the development and distribution of lesson plans for K-12 teachers. The lesson plans all make use of parts of the websites we list, so it really encourages the use of humanities computing projects in high school classrooms.

We're in the first stages of the vetting process, so I'm working with that. I've also written two short "feature"-type articles (think there are generally two new ones a month) and worked on a few other writing projects. One of the things I find most interesting is the review of web-based learning tools that Marcopolo (our funder) is building for all its partner websites. EDSITEment, I should say, is one of eight websites under the umbrella of Marcopolo, who provides most of our funding. Each website is partnered with an appropriate agency or agencies (so we're with NEH, others are with the Kennedy Center, or NSF, and so on). So Marcopolo is working on "interactive exercises" that can be used in all sorts of websites, ranging from those dedicated to arts and humanities to geography or math. So part of my time is reviewing these exercises, games, and gallery spaces and offering suggestions for improvement.

I do miss the people from my old job at MITH - so far I haven't found anyone who likes to talk TV/Buffy talk. And I have found no replacement for the co-op, sadly.

Posted by Jason at 6:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 18, 2003


Alas, no major posting today (at least this morning). Working on an addition to the code/form/content discussion, which requires more thought and time than my 45 minutes of writing allows. So, hopefully my draft will be ready tomorrow or Thursday.

Since I'm laying out some writing plans, I also want to expand on the notion of crafter, which can be both in and out of the game. The crafter player type might be proficient in building in game items (whether it be a master crafter in Everquest, a barkeep or miner in Ultima Online, or even a person who is quite proficient with that cube thing in Diablo 2), but they also might be the type who enjoys building/coding enhancements outside of the game for other users - such as plugins, mods, and the like.

I also want to talk about cheating a bit, since I found Aarseth's concept of "cheating" a touch different from mine.

Posted by Jason at 7:32 AM | TrackBack

June 16, 2003

Unravel the Threads

Ok, a few threads dangling in the breeze, but announcements first:

Most recent Digital Arts & Culture conference papers online here For those of us without travel budgets, blogs and pdf papers are a life-saver (and no, not the candy). Several days worth of metro-reading in printable format.

Hope everyone had a great weekend. As I mentioned, L and I met my folks in Charlottesville. On Saturday, Dad and I went up into the mountains, put up our tent, and did some hiking - something we used to do for a week or two every year as I grew up. This usually happened when Mom took a week off to bang out a chapter of her dissertation, so we would make for the mountains so I wouldn't (as had happened at least once) kick the plug (accidently, of course) of the computer, causing her to lose half a day's work. Anyway, aside from the rain (inches away from flooding our tent), we had a great time. We saw a bear (no pics though) - only the second one I've seen in the Shenandoah in the 20+ years I've camped there. More on the weekend later, once I get the digital pics downloaded (sometime later in the week, probably).

Ok, some quick notes on our discussion of form and content - shortly I'll grab screenshots or text examples to complement my discussion earlier, but I want to respond to George's post, where he said:

Might we restrict our view to the "document" -- whether that's a blog entry or the interface for a chat client -- as it appears on our screen? The skin, the database backend, or the stylesheet are the means by which the document was formatted, but now that it's there on screen, do these things matter so much to our analysis of the document itself?

George is right in a key respect - there is a significant difference between speaking of a document as a completed incarnation (I'm sure the textual studies folk can help me out with a term that's not coming into my head at 7am) and speaking of it in terms of production process. To a user's eye, the completed page may look nothing more than single document - a single-page newspaper whose fold is a "digital fold" rather than a physical one. And this is often how we look at many types of traditional printed documents. Most non-specialists don't concern themselves with the differences between editions, the collaboration of author, printer, and perhaps artist.

I do think, although I haven't thought this through yet, that the structures can not be boiled down to "formatting" - in other words (maybe a question is the easiest way to phrase this), how do the "skin, the database backend, or the stylesheet" function differently in their "formatting"?

In the comments section of that same post, I asked: "what happens when I syndicate your site and apply my own style?"

George responded: "The same thing that happened when a seventeenth-century reader copied a Donne sonnet into their commonplace book. Ok, maybe not the same thing, but I don't think it separates the two strands of form and content."

But I'm not sure it is the same thing. If I syndicate a blog, I get an XML-marked version of the blog (at least one, if not two layers of structure - the initial post structure, enforced by the database, which is subsequently marked up in XML) but I can also place it seamlessly within a new blog or website encoded with my own new HTML and CSS. So, maybe like copying Donne into a prayer book (poem is ordered already by its poetic structure, after all), but does it simply boil down to a function of scale? It seems to me that at least some of the strands unravel, or don't at least others thread themselves in?

Posted by Jason at 5:32 AM | TrackBack

June 13, 2003

Gone Fishin'

Well, not really (unless the rain keeps up, but that would probably be more like: "Gone Boatin', Love Noah"), but L and I are out of town for the weekend. We're going to Charlottesville to meet my folks. On Sat, Dad and I are going to hit the moutains for the night, while the ladies stir up some trouble in C-ville.

I'm looking forward to camping out, even if it is just for one night. I also suspect that I'm going to sleep like a rock. I'm still getting used to this regular work schedule after six years of working grad student hours and sleep grad student (non) sleep. Just two weeks ago, my regular bed time was around 2 am - now I'm beat by 11 and up by 6. Oddly, I suspect I'm actually getting *more* sleep than before, but I also guess that I was able to distribute my work week over the course of an entire 16-18 hour day rather than in one discrete 8 or 9 hour chuck (well, plus the hour of reading/writing in the morning ... and my hour of reading during the commute).

Anyway, I'm rambling. Everyone have a good weekend!

Posted by Jason at 2:56 PM | TrackBack

June 9, 2003

This is my view

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Edit: A little inaccurate. I'm actually on the other side (my view is of the capitol, and the Washington Monument is over my right shoulder - even though I can't see it from my window).

Posted by Jason at 11:43 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack


Well, I start my new job today. In about two hours, I'll be hopping off the metro and walking into the Old Post Office building, home to the National Endowment for the Humanities. I'm working with Edsitement, a portal website for educational websites and lesson plans for K-12 teachers.

I'm trying to follow some advice from a pretty smart guy, who suggested that I establish my early morning writing habit ... well, early. And 6AM sure felt early (and apparently is not early enough to get done what I want to get done), especially for a long-standing graduate student who for quite a long time went to bed around 6AM. Sure is odd seeing the sun from a different perspective.

I don't imagine that I will get any solid dissertation writing done this morning - my mind is all tied up with other pressing issues. It has been, for instance, a long time since I've had to wear a tie for anything but a funeral or a wedding. I sometimes have a hard time remembering if your socks should match your shoes or your pants. Never button the bottom button on a sports coat - that's an easy one.

Another thing that has me nervous - I must finish my coffee before leaving for work. For the past four years, I've snuck my coffee through the underbelly of the library to my office, where I could drink it safely outside of the glares of disapproving librarians, who think any sort of beverage aside from water (in a clear container) is an open invitation for bugs to eat their books. Now, since I'm taking Metro, who apparently disallows any beverage on their trains (despite the fact that there are NO books to eat there), I must drink all the coffee I want prior to leaving or pay some guy in DC $1.50 for burned joe at the office. Must be some sort of deal between the Metro and the DC coffee bars. Conspiracy.

Now, this is not to say that I'm not excited. These are little concerns. I'm excited - especially after working in a basement for several years - to be in an office high above Pennsylvania Avenue. With a view no less. I'm certainly excited about the project itself. And I'm definitely excited about the fact that I am no longer working at a graduate student wage, no matter how rewarding the work.

Alas, time flies, so I must post and hurry on. I need to leave a little extra time this morning - so I can make sure my socks match.

Posted by Jason at 4:58 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 6, 2003


Tis the season for nostalgia, apparently. Matt's recent post had me thinking about my early computing memories - playing Choplifter on an Apple IIc, with its tiny green and black screen. Playing Zork on our new IBM-clone with my dad, as I typed the commands and he carefully drew maps on graph paper. Or the many hours I spent on Prodigy message boards while listening to The Connells' Darker Days over and over again. Listening to that album brings me back to the little computer study every time, in an odd Bergsonian memory shift.

While reading through the blogs this morning, I came across Newly Digital: A distributed anthology of early computing experience, which I saw on the MT devs' company website - Six Apart - as I was reading about their forthcoming TypePad. If blogging has done anything for me, it has renewed my enjoyment of web surfing (and since this has become a post of asides), although not for the term "surfing" itself. I always feel more like skulker than I do a surfer, as I peer around the corners of a link.

In any case, I was surprised when I came across Newly Digital after reading some posts and reactions to Matt's entry. Nostalgia isn't uncommon, of course, but in my experience it tends to come in waves (or, maybe I just find it that way). Waves of nostalgia and memory sweep across the various gaming message boards I read - for months the boards will be crowded with trade offers, OT (off-topic) randomness, l33t sp34k, and PK smack talking, but then someone will post a memory of the "early days," which in turn creates a wave of "Do you remember..."-type threads. Recall that several of the graphical Massively Multiplayer games been around almost four to six years (to say nothing of the years of text-based games before that). Asheron's Call started beta test in late 1999 (release was Nov. '99). Everquest was available about 9 months prior to that, and Ultima Online's adventures began in 1997. That's quite a lot of time to build memories.

I often think about the future of these games - what happens when they cease to be profitable? What will we make of the ruins of these worlds, if at some point we recover them? Or will gamers simply continue their quests on their own, running hacked code on pieced-together hardware? Will people figure out a way to save their character, frozen in an odd stasis, world-less?

One of my favorite passages on nostalgia is from Richard Powers' Plowing the Dark. Chapter 16 starts with the first lines of ADVENTURE blinking on a character's screen, late at night, sent anonymously across the network from one of the eighty-six users logged in from a variety of facilities on the west coast:

You are standing at the end of a road before a small brick building.

The passage is a beautiful composition of collective and individual memory, shifting between Jackdaw's childhood recollections and the eight-six users' shared nostalgia:

His eyes took in the summons of the words. His hands on their keys felt the fingertips of that seventh-grader still inside them. He stared at the sentences and saw his father, one Saturday morning in 1977 when young Jackie had been acting out, taking him to the office and parking him in front of a gleaming Televideo 910, hooked up to a remote main-frame through the magic of a Tymeshare 300-baud modem.

All a trick, Jackdaw saw in retrospect, an elaborate diversionary tactic to fool a boy into - of all things - reading.

The chapter begins like a small wave, foreshadowing a crescendo comprised of Jackdaw's childhood memory blended with collective recollection as the eighty-six users type subsequent lines from the game to one another over the network. The experience is a carefully crafted commentary on individuality - a playful negotiation between the second-person, non-specific "you" of the game, the collective "we" of the shared nostalgic experience, and the personalized individuality of Jackdaw's recollections of, and gratitude towards, his now-deceased father. The chapter ends softly, like a receding wave:

... the broadband conference drifted into static, releasing its system resources, relinquishing the moment of brief coalescence, dispersing all participants to chip away again at their various private galleries, their maze of tunnels spreading through the unmappable hive.
Posted by Jason at 9:25 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 4, 2003

Word Herders

Wordherders is starting to come together - three blogs are already set up, with more to come.

This post is really just to test trackback... not sure pings are working.

Edit: Hmm. Trackback works, but for some reason my pings to are timing out. Anyone else experiencing this problem? Will have to test after my walk...

Posted by Jason at 2:20 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 2, 2003

How was *your* Monday?

So, I drive home after work today, arriving at about 6pm. I wave at my wife, who happens to drive past heading the opposite direction towards the neighborhood tennis courts. I park my car, noting that a large group of neighborhood kids ("kids" - they were upper teens or slightly older perhaps) were hanging out just a bit down the way. Not uncommon, as we live in a fairly friendly condo community, and lots of folks chat in the parking lot and whatnot.

I walk in the house, putting my wallet and keys on the table. Stroll into kitchen looking for a quick snack before heading to karate practice. Pop an oreo.

And hear five *pops* that sound, to my ear, like gunfire.

Now, I've shot guns before, so I know what they sound like. I'm not a huge fan of them, but I used to occasionally shoot skeet and have even tried handguns a few times at a shooting range - nothing uncommon for someone who grew up in southern Virginia. I do not keep guns in the home and never plan to - I think they tend to cause more problems than they solve, and I have fairly strong opinions about gun control laws, none of which I was thinking at the time. I was thinking: that sounds like gunfire.

This is an odd thing, because aside for an occasional stolen car, we live in a fairly safe neighborhood. Generally no violent crime. The rowdiest our neighbors tend to get involves jumping up and down during a basketball game, rooting on the university team. So, I walked outside to take a quick look (which, by the way, I've already had pointed out to me as quote-unquote not the brightest thing you've ever done, genius). We're on the first floor, so I stepped out onto the "deck" (read: slab 'o concrete). I can't really see most of the parking lot from where I live, but I did see two adults with a good field of vision looking curiously - but not excitedly - towards the parking lot. I stand there for a second, watching to see if some horrible realization dawns on them and they start sprinting for (or away from) the parking lot.

But that doesn't happen. The just gaze over and then return to their conversation.

Firecrackers, I think to myself. I shrug, go inside, and mosey about my business. Pop another oreo.

Which is when I hear the helicopter.

Now, again, this isn't so odd, because I live under what probably constitutes the airline superhighway near DC. We tend to get a lot of air traffic, either heading towards BWI up north, National in the city, or even Andrews air force base. We also tend to see a lot of traffic reporters hovering over a gridlock on BW parkway, oftentimes laughing at the fools in the cars. Flying is so easy, they think, waving at the earth bound commuters. Shrugging, I pop another oreo, making a mental note not to buy oreos again, because this is what happens - I just eat them non-stop.

Putting the oreos away, I hear the helicopter again, circling apparently in an ever-widening pattern. A spiral pattern.

My curiosity is peaked.

So I gather my things and head out the door. Turning past the building, I look into the parking lot. Five police cars are there, lights flashing. A helicopter circles wider and wider. Yellow tape blocks one lane of the parking lot. Police officers are collecting bullet rounds.

So, about three minutes after I parked my car, a drive-by shooting happened about 30 yards away from where I parked. I heard later that one of the kids was shot in the leg and refused (huh?!?) transport to the hospital.

This is just a few weeks after a woman was found murdered in a condo down the road.

I tried finding news about the shooting, but I guess if no one is killed, it's just not news-worthy. Sheesh.

Anyone want to come by for dinner?

Posted by Jason at 8:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 31, 2003

Word Herders

Well, Word Herders - a blogging collective that some friends and I are starting - is coming together. As you can see, I have successfully imported my previous entries into the new MT installation. Now I have to set up MT for the other users, so we can all get back to herding words.

More on wordherders when I get a chance ;)

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May 26, 2003

Snapshot Day

Random picture day - inspiration, recent scrabble game, and a virtual Second Life stroll.

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May 22, 2003

Could Someone Hit Pause?

I just need a week or two to catch up on all the stuff being published, shared, and presented about games. Too many blogs, lists, and message boards, too little time. Thanks to Andrew Stern's thanking of "Greg Costikyan's latest post," I too just discovered the "intense" conversations on the DIGRA listserv, especially some fascinating debate on interactivity (list archives require registration).

Also tons of stuff on the Digital Arts and Culture conference blog, as well as news of the new Center for Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen.

/Edit/ To add, here is a good game.slashdot list of links to summaries of this year's e3. I followed some things, esp. Worlds of Warcraft, as well as news about Turbine (who won e3's best developer of the year award), but didn't get to follow the whole event. /End Edit/

/Edit #2/ Add yet another thing to watch on the list - looks like GrumpyGirl is setting up a collaborative, fictional blog - Exit Page Left. I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays out. /End Edit #2/

Ditto to Andrew's statement: "Damn there's a lot to read on the web these days."

Meanwhile, on a personal note, I just accepted a position at the National Endowment for the Humanities in DC working on the Edsitement project, a collection of online humanities resources for K-12 teachers. I'm excited about the position, which not only strikes me as a natural extension of my continued work in applied humanities computing, but also will nicely alleviate the financial strain common to graduate study. Instead of trying to juggle a research assistantship, freelance web design, and occasional teaching gigs, I get to focus on only two jobs - the NEH and writing my dissertation (plus my family, but that's a pleasure, not a job). I just need to find out how to blog on the metro.

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May 20, 2003

Stop the Madness

Been a slow posting week or two (end of semester craziness, even though I'm "done" with coursework), but stay tuned - with the Matrix on my eyeballs (both film and game), the series finale of Buffy just hours away, and recent (offline) conversations about games and disciplinary boundaries, I'm bound to write something soon ;-)

One quick note: earlier I posted about Turbine (makers of Asheron's Call & Asheron's Call 2) taking on Middle Earth Online, a forthcoming MMoRPG. Well, they also signed on for Dungeons & Dragon's Online - forthcoming in 2005. I've always been fond of the AC 1 engine, feeling that the interface suited me much better than Everquest. I found AC2's engine beautiful, but hard on my system, which discouraged me a lot in game play, leading me to shelf my Tumerok Healer until I decided it was worth shelling out some clams for even more RAM. Since I've followed Turbine's development since AC was in beta, I'm very curious to see how things pan out with the derivative Middle Earth Online and D&DOnline, especially since original content has always been one of the central aspects of what I've liked about their work.

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May 13, 2003

Grand Text Auto on the Information Superhighway?

A new collaborative blog is in town: Grand Text Auto. Self-described:

grandtextauto is about computer mediated and computer generated works of many forms, including interactive fiction,, electronic poetry, interactive drama, hypertext fiction, computer games of all sorts, and shared virtual environments. The discussion, by people who all work as both theorists and developers in these forms, considers questions of authorship, design, and technology, as well as issues of interaction and reception.

The "drivers" are Michael Mateas, Nick Montfort, Stuart Moulthrop, Andrew Stern,
Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Read Andrew Stern's introduction.

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May 7, 2003


A&E's wonderful Biography series tackles... Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

As a good friend would say: "Life writing, J, life writing..."

For you Buffy fans, the show premieres: Wednesday, May 14 @ 8pm ET/PT

On a side note, I was *incredibly* pleased last night when Buffy actually behaved as though she knew what the word "defense" meant. Let's hear it for blocking and dodging. Only two more episodes left. Woe.

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Salam Pax is back

Looks like Salam Pax is back online, but posting through a friend.

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May 6, 2003

Humor is... despair refusing to take itself seriously. -- Arland Ussher

Occasionally I come across a website that just causes me to LOL. Not always a good thing when in a cube farm (it tends to draw attention), but sometimes it can't be helped.

Case in point, the Demotivators Calendar, part of, which mocks the artistry of Corporate Can-Do Attitudes.

Two of my favorites (not from the 2003 calendar, but past entries of

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April 24, 2003

Oh, to be accepted

Just got word that a conference panel on multiplayer gaming that I co-authored with D. Synder was accepted for aoirtoronto: broadening the band. The conference runs October 16-19. The AoIR (association of internet researchers) maintains a very active listserv - great for people interested in that sort of thing.

P.S. I'll get back on the Materiality conversation after the weekend (in response to George's comment below).

P.P.S. George sent me a nice read on the local Kansas City comic scene.

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April 22, 2003

Link and Run

quick entry: a great source for MovableType Help.

More coming later concerning a great conversation about New Media, interaction, and materiality over at George's.

Posted by Jason at 12:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 21, 2003

Nebula and Hugo Awards

Alas, another quick "link and run," but as reported by slashdot, the winners of the 2002 Nebula Awards and the nominees of the 2003 Hugo Awards.

Neil Gaiman's book American Gods won the Nebula best novel (I read this a while back and thought it was a fine read, but I was not overwhelmed by it). Of course, Gaiman is perhaps best known for his Sandman series.

I was pleased to see that the Buffy season 7 episode "Conversations with Dead People" was nominated for the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Category. This was an amazing episode co-written by Jane Espenson (one of my favorite scriptwriters) & Drew Goddard.

Sadly, Buffy ends May 20. I will wear black.

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April 11, 2003

Angry Robot

I'm feeling increasingly compelled to formally name Angry Robot. "Who?" you ask.


My wife gave me Angry Robot about 2 years ago - I think he might have been a toy from a Happy Meal (so many layers in that already). His head actually spins. On the one side, you get Angry Robot, with the requisite angry red face, frowning triangular mouth and arching, indignant brows. He's the one that routinely sits on my desk, glaring, his mental voice bubble loudly proclaiming "Type your dissertation, Fool!" while he shakes his mobile fist (it really does move).

Oddly his other face, which you might have expected to be a smiling, encouraging face, is actually green (as in Go!), with a straight line for a mouth, and slightly 0-ed eyes. Usually, I have this face to the wall, because that's where it seems to want to look. This side is clearly cowed by Angry Robot and only offers a slight shrug, mental bubble saying "He's right, you know." Resigned Robot (or, occasionally, Mundane, Get a Backbone Robot) is somehow more depressing that his rambunctious counterpart. Thus, the face to the wall.

Somehow, they seem like an unlikely conjoined twin replica of Nick Hornby's two side-kick characters from High Fidelity - Dick and Barry. We might remember Dick as the guy who got pushed around a lot, who was quiet, not quite sad but simply ... mundane (in the movie version, he's the one who ended up with Darlene Conner from Roseanne). Barry was the jerk who screamed at customers. Somehow, I'm not sure Barry has quite the *oomph* that Angry Robot deserves in a name. Resigned Robot - he seems fine with the name he has. Of course, he wouldn't say otherwise.

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Social Software

Belated post of a great list of links by Liz Lawley on "social software." Like Jill, I wonder if "social software" is the term I've been needing - although not so much in terms of blogs, but rather MMoRPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games)?

(and, as an aside, here's hoping that trackback works. I'm still figuring that out :-| ... while we're on the subject, how do you get the "permalink" to show up in your entry links - anyone know?)

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April 8, 2003


Want a phobia?

Pick one on the list. Not graphophobia - that one's mine.

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April 7, 2003

Agonist a Plagiarist?

For the past few weeks, I have woken up, pounded out a few paragraphs of free writing, made some coffee, and then turned my attention to things global as I enjoy my first few sips. Usually, my morning reads include The Agonist, a site I've mentioned before on my blog. What was so wonderful about The Agonist is that I could sit down and read a combination of news sources about the day's events in Iraq. Generally, I saw a variety of viewpoints and it was much easier to digest than the 7CS (7 Click Spectrum of news agencies on coming through the TV cable box). And more than once, I wondered, how is The Agonist doing it?

In part, apparently, by copying directly from a privately owned intelligence service, as reported by Wired.

More thoughts on this later.

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I misplaced an hour somewhere. If you happen to see it, perhaps sitting lonesome and sorrowful in the lost and found box in a department store, could you retrieve it for me? Or at least let it know that I miss it?

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April 4, 2003

First thought that popped into my head this morning:

If there is magical realism, are we shifting to technological naturalism? I'm thinking here of a variety of works, none necessarily "science fiction" per se, because of the contemporaneous nature of the writing (side note: has science fiction become historical fiction?). The most substantial example that comes to mind immediately is Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" - his history of early computing during World War 2 combined with a late 90s push to build a data haven. No Case's here, no Hiro Protagonists who virtualize, but plenty of cowboys with carpal tunnel and a laptop. Cyberspace juxtaposed with physical geography, "black ice" becomes trapped mountains that get hacked to boil forth beautiful gold, vivid descriptions of jail cells (confinement), bowel movements, physical punishment and torture. The danger of surveillance, the government, and multinational corporations replace (or at least exist alongside of) unfeeling, manipulating determinism. Survival of the fittest? Scary ex-roomates (Andrew Loeb always struck as a bizarre mutation of Marcus Schouler from Norris' McTeague) or ex-partners as certain foes.

And always, always, always, the media mind, the telemarketers' meme, the ubiquity of technology. Who needs nano when we have omnipresent?

Why is this even coming to mind? I've been struck lately by a shift (or perhaps just an attribute, depending) I've seen in some writers I follow. Cyberpunk is in some ways a historical "now" - subdued, current, but still, in lay person's terms, far out, unbelievable (Gibson's Pattern Recognition, for example or Stephenson again - the difference between Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon is telling). All of it leading you to ask - that's not possible now... is it? Echelon, Russian mafia, global travel, online love, arrows and land mines, submarines and sub-mountainous gold?

Other possibilities for inclusion, off the top of my head: Delillo's "White Noise"; Ellis' "American Psycho";

Maybe: Richard Powers' "Plowing the Dark" (less naturalism, more realism?); Tad Williams "Otherland"

There must be others in this vein. I had some in mind, but promptly forgot. Definitely time for morning coffee.

Edit: Possible film inclusions: PI ; Fight Club (haven't read the novel)

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March 30, 2003

Snow Crash

Yep. You read correctly. Once again, DC is getting sloshed by the white stuff. I'd write more about it but, quite frankly, I'd rather close my blinds, turn up the heat, and pretend that spring break wasn't about to end.

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March 25, 2003

War and Silence

I started this blog to supplement my daily dissertation writing, feeling that if I couldn't spill something brilliant into m$ Word, I would just drop by and prattle on until something came to me. What I've found myself doing instead is either spending time with my wife and reading -or- watching CNN/MSNBC/ONN (Other News Networks) in the 7-click spectrum they occupy on my television set. I've dodged Misc. because, in some fashion, I feel like I have to say something about this war (to myself, if not the 3 people who are part of Misc.'s haphazard readership).

Unfortunately, I just don't know what to say, much less how to feel. Disappointment that diplomacy went unaided by a careless and antagonistic "for us or against us" rhetoric. Fear and support for friends and strangers in the armed services. Disgust when I watched the ticker-tock of Wall Street approval in the form of a green arrow at the same moment that I saw a bomb hit a building for the first time - "live" on CNN. Disapproval of the policy that strikes me as arrogant. Hope that something humanitarian may evolve out of the destruction. Sorrow for the loss of life, on all sides.

I was relieved to see that even the media (at least, part of it) seemed to understand that someone could protest the policy and still support the troops. I'm intrigued by non-traditional media 'outlets' like The Agonist and the Bagdad blogger, Salam Pax. I find myself worried that important domestic policy is being decided upon but not really reported on - issues like the tax cut and drilling in Alaska. I feel heartened that an old friend (who served in the US Air Force and retired with 20+ years) and I could have an open, honest conversation about such a complex topic without raised tempers or hurt feelings.

I don't plan to make this a forum for conversation about the war - there are plenty of those. And I'm not sure I really have anything terribly insightful to say about it. So, my writing goes back to narrative, games, and literature, which I hope to understand a little better than history.

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March 17, 2003

Distilled my previous website into

Distilled my previous website into a few pages [look to the right ---> ] detailing research interests, classes I've taught, etc. I'm still sorting out the role for this blog - part advertisement for occasional freelance jobs, part musing space, part confessional, part playground. I've enjoyed finding the tools that have built up around the blogging community - not disimilar in context to gaming mods/plug-ins, like the decal projects for Asheron's Call, a MMoRPG I've played for 3+ years.

A few of the blogging tools I've found useful thus far:

All Consuming, which lets you list books you are reading.

BlogRolling, which helps you maintain link lists.

Of course, the paranoid side of me thinks maybe I should just disconnect my cable modem while I'm still ahead...

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March 16, 2003

Pressing On

My dissertation director, Matt Kirschenbaum, just announced his book contract with MIT Press. Congratulations to Matt!

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March 14, 2003


Continue to add to the website, including reformatting my other old web pages to fit with the new look. Coming soon!

Other web design products in the pipeline include the new website for the Graduate English Organization (GEO) at UMD.

Posted by Jason at 3:12 PM

Fleshing Out

Though I have been doing work on the web for over five years now, I'm still find myself amazed when I explore the design of another person. The simplicity and elegance of movabletype is astonishing. The beginning page lays empty, wordless, flat like a deflated balloon. The standard html template is made colorful by stylesheets, yet lies empty and awkward without the requisite words to flesh the body, fill the style's skin, forcing the organs and bones into proper alignment.

All of which to say, I need to flesh out my blog. The skin sags.

[what is he talking about you wonder? see the deflated site ]

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