Monday, April 29, 2013

Toronto Trip 1: R&R meets D&D on Day 3

I finished Neal Stephenson's Reamde recently, and while there's a lot I could say about it--"interesting use of MMOs in narrative" and "Dickensian level plot coincidences" for starters--what really resonated with me in terms of what's going on in my life right now is a passage on vacations:
"He had never understood vacations, never really taken them. But sometimes he had talked to people who did understand and take them, and the story they seemed to tell had something to do with getting away from one's normal day-to-day concerns, putting all that stuff out of one's mind for a while, and going somewhere new and having experiences. Experiences that were somehow more pure and raw and true--the way small children experienced things--precisely because they were non sequiturs, complete departures from the flow of ordinary life."
(Sidenote: one of the advantages of an e-book is that you can search for passages like that by looking for keywords--I would have had a real problem looking for that passage in the physical version. But on the flip side, I can't tell you what page number that passage is on if you wanted to look it up yourself.)
Now, my trip to Toronto last weekend wasn't a vacation; I was there on business. But it did provide that non sequitor from my ordinary life, and it was enlightening in that regard. In fact, it usually is when I leave for a different place; that's why most of my vacation post series tend to end when I run out of time to do the posts rather than run out of things to say on the subject. Still, we'll try to divvy up the experiences again, and see what happens.  First up, then: Dungeons and Dragons.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thursday Quotations: Choose A New Quotation Day

The name of the head of research is Pherantz. He tells you that there is an infinity of knowledge stored within all living things from countless past experiences. It sounds crazy, but then you just can't tell. You wonder if your really can call on experiences from past lives. Are there flashes of memory locked in your cells? Are there dreams you have of places you have never been, things you have never done, people you do not know, actually experiences from a past life bubbling up within you looking for a way out? Maybe dreams are a real thing. You sense a feeling of calm in the philosopher.
 "Remember my friend, all travel in space accomplishes little. We end where we begin. Parallel lines cross! Time is not real. Try to make the past the present!"
--Choose Your Own Adventure #4: Space and Beyond by R. A. Montgomery
I bought this from a book sale last Saturday for a quarter. I found these books kind of annoying as a kid, but now, they just strike me as ridiculous, surrealist nonsense. I read the whole thing with a grin on my face. You stay home and study instead of going into outer space? OF COURSE you're going to get the ability to travel through time. What else would happen?

I'll be in Toronto for Friday, so I figured I'd do the quotations thing now.  You can probably forget about the Bibliophile this week, though.

Later Days.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Travel Ready

I've probably mentioned this already on the blog, but I'm far too lazy to bother to check: I'm going to Toronto this weekend. Specifically, I'm going to attend the HASTAC Conference at York University, and deliver a paper--or at least a brief talk--as part of a roundtable on Sunday. The paper I'm not too worried about. Granted, it's not really written at the moment, but the skeleton outline is there. One of the nice things about basing your scholarly style around large amounts of reading is that when it comes time to do the writing part, you already know what secondary stuff you're going to be using. That saves time. It'll be a particularly interesting talk, because it's based on a project I was working on last year, and it'll thus necessitate a more personal approach than I'm used to doing. It's probably going to be a tone that's very similar to this blog, in fact.

Anyway, I'm not worried about the paper. As usual, it's the idea of traveling that makes me instinctively clench my gut. I think I know myself well enough by now to know that I depend a lot on routine and habit to define my day to day--having a schedule I can depend on is important to me. And when traveling, that sort of rigidity doesn't work. Granted, the planning can help a lot, but you also have to be fluid to opportunities and respond well to setbacks. I can do both--I just don't particularly like it.  The dizzying highs, the terrifying lows--no thank you. I'll take some mellow mediums, please. Such a life motto does mean you miss out, though. I've lived next to the biggest city in Canada, our big ol' cultural mecca, for five years. And it's been three years since I've stayed in Toronto for more than an airplane ride, and four years since I traveled there by myself. Hopefully, the conference will go a little way in addressing what I've been missing out on.

Later Days.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bibliophile: The Digital, The Canadian, and the The Digital Canadian at Mount Allison University

“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”
― Oscar Wilde

This week, we're looking at the Université de Saint-Boniface. Or we would, if I could speak French. Since I'm pathetically monolingual, we're going to go straight to the next one on the list, which is in another province altogether: New Brunswick's Kingswood University. ...Or we would, if it allowed searches for specifically 2013 published books. So we're going to the next one on the list again, Crandall University. But considering that it's a Christian university, and searching from the subject "religion" gets no results between 1913 and 2013, I'm going to guess their search engine isn't working right now. Continuing ever further on the list, we have Mount Allison University. And finally, we find a library we can mine. MAU doesn't have a new books page, but it does allow searching by subject and limiting by year, so we'll do that--after the break.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Quotations: The Simple Math

"Those who enrolled in the 'sanitary squads,' as they were called, had, indeed, no such great merit in doing as they did, since they knew it was the only thing to do, and the unthinkable thing would then have been not to have brought themselves to do it. These groups enabled our townsfols to come to grips with the disease and convinced them that, now that the plague was among us, it was up to them to do whatever could be done to fight it. Since plague became in this way some men's duty, it revealed itself as what it really was; that is, the concern of all.
"So far, so good. But we do not congratulate a schoolmaster on teaching that two and two make four, though we may, perhaps, congratulate him on having chosen his laudable vocation. Let us then say it was praiseworthy that Tarrou and so many others should have elected to prove that two and two make four rather than the contrary; but let us add that this good will of theirs was one that is shared by the schoolmaster and by all who have the same feelings as the schoolmaster, and, be it said to the credit of mankind, they are more numerous than one would think, such, anyhow, is the narrator's conviction. Needless to say, he can quite clearly a point that could be made against him, which is that these men were risking their lives. But again and again there comes a time in history when the man who dares to say that two and two make four is punished with death.
"The schoolteacher is well aware of this. And the question is not one of knowing what punishment or reward attends the making of this calculation. The question is that of knowing whether two and two do make four. For those townfolk who risked their lives in this predicament the issue was whether or not plague was in their midst and whether or not they must fight against it.
"Many fledgling moralist in those days were going about our town proclaiming there was nothing to be done about it and we should now bow to the inevitable. And Tarrou, Rieux, and their friends might give one answer or another, but its conclusion was always the same, their certitude that a fight must be put up, in this way or that, and there must be no bowing down. The essential thing was to save the greatest possible number of persons from dying and being doomed to unending separation. And to do this there was only one resource: to fight the plague. There was nothing admirable about this attitude: it was merely logical."
--Albert Camus, The Plague
 I'm not quite done it yet, but so far, this book is the most depressing version of the sentiment "we're all in this together" that I've ever read.
Later Days.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Works in Progress: PreDenta Round 2

I've got a few longer posts percolating, but for now, let's do a quick catch-up, bullet-point style.

  • It's a weird week. I've got my top set of wisdom teeth coming out tomorrow, and that consideration has basically shaped how I've planned my last few days. I don't want to start any thought-intensive project now that I'll have to put on hold while my pain recedes. So I'm working double time to bring every side-project to a logical temporary stopping point.
  • Also, my jaw hasn't entirely healed from the first batch of teeth removal, which happened two weeks ago today. I can chew, but I can't open my mouth as wide as I normally can. As a result, I don't so much eat my food as mash it into my mouth.  No public consumption of anything larger than a french fry until we're at full recovery.
  • Not related to tooth stuff at all: I've decided to switch over from Refworks to Zotero. For those not inclined towards the digital academics, both of them are systems for organizing references. Once you're writing a paper with dozens of references, you need a way to keep them organized. The funny thing, I rarely used Refworks to build bibliographic elements. Rather, it was largely a storage and collating device for my notes. On that level, I feel like Zotero is a better fit, as it emphasizes the "folder" nature of data much more. I could elaborate, but if you don't know exactly what I'm talking about instantly with that last sentence, the explanation would be very detailed, very boring, and probably not worth your time.
  • We've got some big stuff in the pipeline at the game studies site I operate at, First Person Scholar.  We've got our regular weekly post, of course, (updated every Wednesday!) but there's a few special features coming that I can only refer to obliquely for now. Stay tuned. Every Wednesday.
  • On the subject of burying the lead, a piece I wrote just got published on another critical games blog, Medium Difficulty.  It's one of the few things I managed to get done while recovering from wisdom teeth round 1 (and in fact the experience of recovery lead pretty directly to the topic) and I'm fairly proud of the result. I really appreciated the chance to operate in a different venue; I got to speak on something that's a little more personal than FPS generally does, but without skimping (I hope) on the critical side of things. It's nice to let my verbal skills take rein and perform every now and then. (And nothing says verbal skills like mixing a metaphor.)
  • It's really nice out right now. I wish I wasn't doing all the work preparation, so I could enjoy it a bit more.
That's it for now. Expect a post-extraction tooth post-mortem in due time.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bibliophile: Adventures in Literature at the University of Winnipeg, now with more Spaceballs

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
― Charles William Eliot

This is Bibliophile. 

This week, we'll be commenting on the new books from the library of the University of Winnipeg, after the break..

Seriously, though, this week can just die already.

I haven't posted much this week. It's not because it's been a particularly uneventful week, but that it's been a little too full, to be honest. For the first half, I've been recovering from the oral surgery, which means it's mostly stories about writhing in pain, or feeling really, really good about these pills I'm taking, you guys.

 And for the second half, it's been preparing for two presentations, one on the database I've been tweaking for my research assistant project, and one on videogames and paratexts that covers the material I go over in the first full chapter of my dissertation. The database one was stressful because it was a presentation, and a database isn't really the most visually appealing type of structure. The value of a database comes out when you have to apply it to something, when it turns out that bit of information that you desperately need. And it's hard to demonstrate that to a room full of people in ten minutes. I think I found something that works, though.  The paratext discussion was stressful because it's part of a lecture series which has really been the only thing that gets members of our faculty and student body out together this term, and talking about game studies to people not in game studies can be immensely difficult, especially if they don't play games at all. It'd be like trying to discuss film with someone who's never watched a movie in their life, but vaguely understands--or think they understand--what one is. Again, though, I think I pulled out a few strands that would allow all audiences to understand what's at stake.

That doesn't matter though, thanks to the third thing that was bad about this week: the weather. Starting Sunday, we've basically had continual rain all week. Problem is, it also got colder every day this week. So by Thursday, we had a full on ice rain. This was particularly problematic for me, because I had been on campus preparing for my dual presentations until 2 am; walking home in freezing rain at that time, knowing you've got to be up at 7 for your presentations is not a great feeling. Also not a great feeling is getting to campus the next day and learning that both of your presentations have been cancelled due to--wait for it--bad weather conditions. It was extremely frustrating, to say the least. I had worked very hard to bring both presentations to a level I was satisfied with presenting and to have them both stripped away by weather I had braved was a fairly un-satisfying conclusion. Both presentations will presumably happen at some point, but they've been postponed indefinitely for now.

And it's *still* raining.

Later Days.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Quotations: DOOOOOM

From the opening pages of Doom 2009 #1.  I was just really in the mood for a guy who builds himself a metal suit, and then says, you know what would look good over this? Green skirt and cloak.  And damn it if he isn't right.

Later Days.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Bibliophile and Philosophy: Reading at the University of Manitoba

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

This is Bibliophile.

For those new to the blog, Bibliophile is a semi-weekly column wherein I peruse the new books purchased recently by a Canadian university library, and comment on them in an insightful and/or amusing manner. This week, we'll be looking at University of Manitoba, after the break.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Quotations: Throw a Brick

"I love that woman. I love her more than sharks love blood."  --House of Cards.

It looks like House of Cards is officially my post-tooth-pulling recovery show. I'm half way through the first season, and I started watching on Wednesday. To borrow a Star Trek reference, it's like a Mirror Universe version of West Wing; high level politics, but instead of idealistic principles, everyone's naive, vicious, or both. I imagine a full 24 episode season of the show would be pretty depressing, regardless of how Kevin Spacey and the rest of the cast are knocking it out of the park, but 12 episodes sounds about right. As a side note, between this and Mad Men and Breaking Bad, I think television's getting a lot better at showing tragedies, in a Shakespearean sense--compelling, but horribly flawed characters, getting by in one way or another.

And yes, I know Sopranos did it first, and probably many shows before it, but the difference is that *I'm* watching these shows. And of course, my involvement makes all the difference.

Later Days.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Of Teeth and Transport

Three of the most boring things in the world to hear people talk about are their dreams, their ailments, and their children. (YMMV--and for some those last two are the same thing. Hiyo!) Thanks to the more or less unanimous opinion of every person I've dated, you've been spared the third today, so I'll just have to double down on the first two. Me and my wisdom teeth, after the break.