Category Archives: The Mundane

silenc and volum

First, a visualization that would interest students in #en4709: Digital Humanities. silenc

silenc is a tangible visualization of an interpretation of silent letters within Danish, English and French.

Silent letters themselves aren’t (semantically) silent. They guide pronunciation in some instances (tin | tine – pin | pine), can signal meaning that context would disambiguate in others (night | knight), and are signs of the word’s history and derivation (ptomaine). But the visualization points up that even though we read silently, we use the sound of the words to guide meaning.

silenc is the kind of work currently going on in digital poetics (here, here, and here), experimenting with concepts such as, in this case, the distance between speaking and printing. Books don’t disappear, but print gets a good hard look. In the same stall as Humument, and Tree of Codes.

Humument

Humument

As for volum, I read this morning in The Guardian that January is ZTT’s 30th anniversary.

The blue spaceship in Basing Street is housed in the studios where, all those pre-punk years ago, Island Records first recorded Bob Marley and the Wailers. Island boss Chris Blackwell’s swinging 60s bachelor pad in the west wing is still there, unchanged except for the blue and white ZTT dots splattered on the walls. But then these are everywhere, even the loos.

Inside this gilded palace of din, the new home of the hits is expanding daily. Yet another studio is being constructed, yet more personnel being drafted in. Not that you’re in a pop factory: Trevor Horn vociferously denies that ZTT is any such thing.

Island Records (now ZTT) is over the bridge and just down the Westway from the pub I used to work at en retro diem, a pub that Trevor used to visit once in a while. I didn’t know then he was Trevor Horn. I admit, I didn’t know then who Trevor Horn was at all. Just one of the weekend punters who worked down the studio. Did some production. Played bass. Pint of lager in a sleever, right, Mick?

Turns out, I discovered five or six years later, he’s this guy:

Video Killed the Radio Star from 2004 Prince’s Trust concert

ZTT produced others: Frankie, Art of Noise, Propaganda – and Yes (Prog-Rock video warning) which is nothing to shrug at. So, on its 30th anniversary, ZTT is adding a new studio and looking for new projects.

But that’s not the point. The point is that 30 years marks a turning point, summed up by Video Killed the Radio Star where one medium was giving way to another, and the artists were guiding and negotiating the transition. Who knew? Video Killed the Radio Star was a one-off pop song, that was also the first video to be aired on MTV. MTV? That can’t last. Dead in a year. (Well, it took 20 years and YouTube to kill off MTV. But it’s dead now.) Trevor? Just a nice bloke who played bass one night in the pub with a skiffle group. Who knew?

pre-solstice clean up

Justin Bieber Singing Toothbrush. Technology gone bad.

It’s been so far a week of

  • grading (Tech Writing and Comp Theory are finished. A&E and E-Rhetoric on the sideboard)
  • updating (WordPress, three or four WikkaWikis, doku wiki)
  • re-creating (I lose something every update because I’m not very deft at it. This time it was my wiki home page at biro. Good riddance to the old. In with the new.)
  • requesting (Norton Critical Editions: Bleak House. C’mon Norton. This is my third request for a desk copy. Don’t you know how important I am? I’m important.)
  • buying (online, stuff for friends and family. I can’t say much, except Mason Cash, ok?)
  • organizing (this is online magazine: menus, categories, and sections.)
  • cleaning up (cleared out old WordPress plug ins and templates, loads of out of date and corrupted files, and a couple of defunct sites on DreamHost.)
  • nursing (newest kitten was spayed and de-clawed on Monday. She’s on kitty Vicodin for the week)
  • reading (I’ll admit that Journal of the Plague Year can be a slog – but thinking of it as a disaster movie helps)
  • reading (I’m well into The Arcades Project and commentary on it. I’d spend the rest of the break pouring through that stuff if I could)
  • hiking (I never ever hike, really, but on Saturday night we went out in the ice on Plantagenet under the full moon for a thrill. Not much snow and lots of booming and creaking. Still, 6″ is thick enough.)

And, hey, it’s only Thursday. Still time to get a tree and bake a ham, maybe.

update from macjournal

wpid-5170454828_4ceb5dbd72_m-2010-11-12-16-217.jpg

In my never-ending Friday quest for the perfect weblog client, I’ve reloaded and dusted off MacJournal, just to see how it might work to fuse weblogs and local journal entries. Still need to check how it handles images from Flickr, links, and formatting, but if those hold up, it might be useful.

A drop in link: BBC – Cumbria – In Pictures – All our webcams

Layout formatting doesn’t need to be extensive; I can always take care of that in WP directly.

Nancy at Wild Hare Dinner

On the desktop and iPad side, I’m looking for easy integration with Flickr and twitter, in the manner of Momento (on sale for a dollar right now. That’s a real deal.)

Looks like it’s a quiet evening of reading the friendly manual.

Embedded image from flickr, with hacked width.

yet another promise to post

Paul Carr at TechCrunch makes some sharp observations on the appeal of immediacy over the hard grind of reflection in Thnks Fr Th Mmrs: The Rise Of Microblogging, The Death Of Posterity.

A decade or so ago, a new generation who would previously have kept diaries instead started to set up blogs. Sure those blogs may have been twee or self-absorbed or clumsily written or emo or just plain boring – isn’t that the joy of a diary? – but they at least required the writer to take the time to process the events of their life, and the attendant emotions they generated – before putting finger to keyboard. The result, in many cases, was a detailed archive of events and memories that they can look back on now and say “that was how I was then”.

And then along came micro-blogging – and, with a finite amount of time and effort available, the blog generation turned into the Twitter (or Facebook) generation. A million blogs withered and died as their authors stopped taking the time to process their thoughts and switched instead to simply copying and pasting them into the world, 140 meaningless characters at a time. The result: a whole lot of sound and mundanity, signifying nothing.

I haven’t been an enthusiastic microblogger, so I don’t need to back away from Twitter much, I’ve already let my Tumblr account go dormant, and I just don’t find Facebook rewarding and so rarely visit But the piece is a reminder to get something extended and thoughtful – or even trite – posted regularly. And, I’d add, posted to one place. Along with the brevity, the scatteredness of the sites to post to makes creating a record difficult.

How to create consensus

1. Pretend to represent a group in defining the issue.

“Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts,” Palin wrote in a Twitter post Sunday. “Pls reject it in interest of healing.”

2. Try to find a group to represent.

The former Republican vice presidential nominee also posted a plea asking “peaceful New Yorkers” to “pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real.”

Looks like the issue is Sarah’s, not New York’s.

Via CNN

re-branding with humpty dumpty

When you’re not sure what else to do, change your name. The Royal Post did it in the name of re-branding. Now the BSU CRI (Warning: SFW stock images) has changed their name to Optivation. An attempt at a clever portmanteau of optimizing and innovation. Of course, optivation could be a portmanteau for optical derivation. Or optimum deviation. Or …

When an institute re-brands themselves into something as comical as Optiviathon, it just begs to be goofed with. Ask Joyce. It becomes a teaching moment. Optovation. Innovatimizing. Optimizers-R-Us. I Haz Innovation. LOLOptimizers.

From the Pioneer on Friday:

According to Optivation’s executive director Anthony Schaffhauser, the center renamed itself for three reasons.

First, the old name was too long.

“It was so long it became an acronym that had no meaning,” Schaffhauser said of the center’s old nickname, “the CRI.”

Second, Schaffhauser said, the center needed a name that would reflect the merger between BSU and NTC.

“We really wanted to make sure our brand name represents both entities working jointly in the area of customized training and continuing education,” Schaffhauser said. “Customers should get all their technical training needs with one call.”

Third, he added, the new brand name is supposed to give customers a clear idea of what they are getting.

“We didn’t really have a clear brand previously,” Schaffhauser said. “The center evolved into something other than its original vision, which was prototyping development operations. Today it focuses on workforce and professional development consulting.”

Andrew is right about the center-formerly-known-as-the-CRI. The name didn’t identify what the center actually did. The CRI didn’t offer research or innovation. It was a supposed to attract research and innovation. But that didn’t happen. So renaming is appropriate.

But the brand new name? It may be shorter but it’s certainly not clearer. Just as with CRI, first-time hearers or readers have to puzzle it out. It’s a marketing trick. The new name provides an opportunity to tell the story of why and how they changed the name – as Schaffhauser does in the Pioneer. Shame that the story is so trivial, the connection so forced. Optivalitization as a word represents the merger of BSU and NTC? Sure, ok. Neatly hidden.

Optivate. In that form, the word appears to be a verb – a made up verb, but identifiable as a verb. I optivate. She optivates. We are optivating. They have optivated. Or perhaps it’s a little darker, as Be careful around him. He’s an optivating sort of guy. Or Kafkaesque, with Father went in for optivization, but never came out. T’was brilling and the slithy toves did optivate upon the wabe.

Add a derivational suffix -(a)tion to make the verb a noun – because a brand needs to be a noun, not a verb, because verbs have a temper – and you get optivation. You hang -ation on verbs to tame them into nouns: probate – ation, stagnate – ation. It’s called nominalization, and it’s a mark of bureaucratic prose. Those clever consultants.

Now optivate, being contrived, is presumed to be an empty signifier, merely suggestive until someone who is authorized to speak – and in the know – explains what it they would like it to mean, what it will mean officially, as Schaffhauser does. It means Innovation. Optimization. Merger. Confluence. New. Breathless. Whoosh.

But the word as a brand name is not empty. It comes loaded with meaning that the namers can’t escape. It screams bureaucratic. It screams, This is a made up name. It means, We brought in a consultant and they thought this would be a good idea. It means, We’re desperate. We’re loosing share, and we don’t know what to do. It screams contrivance, not innovation. Not even Optimegavation Labs can control these meanings: Language is bigger than they are. Language is bigger than all of us.

The CRI aka Optivaviathon does have something to offer, and they could let a brand name emerge from the service. In fact, better brand options show up in Schaffhauser’s interview above, when he starts talking about what the not-the-CRI offers. Workforce and Professional Development Consulting. Or BSU/NTC Custom Training. Ordinary names. But that’s what the center-formerly-known-as-CRI offers – consulting, training, and meeting and training space – and changing the name doesn’t change what they offer so much as conceals it.

A brand name like Optivation even leads to double-speak, like this:

“We’re helping our customers optimize by furthering their careers through innovation.” …

See what Andrew did there? He worked the brand name into a sentence!

Footnote

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. “They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”[15]

From the pad

I’m well satisfied with the iPad two weeks in. No, I can’t do everything I can with a laptop (but I can do everything I would do with a netbook), and getting files on and off the thing can be tricky (although I’m developing work habits to adjust for that), and I find having to switch apps slows me down and adds some cognitive burden (although I can lean back in my chair and relax as I work). Given all that, I still find the little machine motivating. I want to use it (even if getting pics onto it takes some planning), to find things to do with it (like this blog post – even given that blogging apps aren’t really up to speed yet).

Using it makes me acutely aware how much the desktop and then the laptop have shaped my work patterns and what I expect to be able to do (take and embed images and links into my texts) and where (anywhere, not just at a desk).

Which is to say I’m waiting (as are many) for the iPad to catch up to the netbook and then the laptop. Won’t be long. Meanwhile we can play.

[I lost the link to the image above. I’m looking for it and will add it when I find it.]

Location:County Road 22,Bemidji,United States

the worst is not over

blizzard2The latest alert from the weather service makes another promise.  I like the range of estimate: 12 – 20 inches. Can’t be wrong with that kind of estimate.

THE WORST OF THE STORM WILL HIT TODAY INTO THIS EVENING…

.AN ADDITIONAL 8 TO 12 INCHES OF SNOW WILL FALL IN MOST AREAS
TODAY THROUGH SATURDAY. ALONG THE CANADIAN BORDER A BIT LESS SNOW
WILL FALL WITH NEW ACCUMULATIONS OF 6 OR 7 INCHES EXPECTED. THIS
ADDITIONAL SNOW ON TOP OF WHAT HAS FALLEN WILL GIVE STORM TOTALS
FROM WEDNESDAY NIGHT THROUGH SATURDAY OF 12 TO 20 INCHES OVER THE
REGION.

Just to make sure you know how much snow we’re getting, the weather service is even adding it all up for us.  Have a look at the graphic, all decked out in holiday stickers.  Festive.

Locally, it’s not bad at all.  Thirty degrees, calm, light snow, but it continues to come down.  Quiet outside, too, because there are few cars going by.  It’s all ok by me.  We have duck for Christmas dinner, and if it gets too tedious indoors, we can stand next to the highway and wave at the few cars sledding past in that 12 – 20 inches.

white christmas

blizzardA WINTER STORM WARNING FOR HEAVY SNOW REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 6 AM THURSDAY TO 6 AM CST SATURDAY. * SNOW WILL BEGIN LATE TONIGHT AND THEN CONTINUE INTO SATURDAY. * 10 TO 15 INCHES OF SNOW MAY OCCUR WITH THIS SYSTEM. * WINDS WILL NOT BE A SIGNIFICANT FACTOR FOR TONIGHT INTO THURSDAY. THE WIND WILL TURN NORTH AND INCREASE TO 15 TO 30 MPH OVER THE RED RIVER VALLEY ON CHRISTMAS DAY CAUSING NEAR BLIZZARD CONDITIONS. STRONG WINDS COMBINED WITH HEAVY SNOW MAY CREATE SNOW DRIFTS THAT MAY CAUSE SOME ROADS TO BECOME IMPASSABLE. EAST OF THE RED RIVER VALLEY…WINDS WILL BE 10 TO 20 MPH…WHICH WILL CAUSE REDUCED VISIBILITY IN BLOWING SNOW. * PERSONS WITH TRAVEL PLANS FOR CHRISTMAS EVE AND CHRISTMAS DAY SHOULD MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS FOR UPDATES.

Hooray. It’s about time.  This looks to be one of those long, slow storms that are good for short walks, keeping the fire going, single malt, and the interwebs. A good distraction from Nine Lessons and Carols and rebroadcasts of Just A Minute.

Ten to 15 inches will snow us in solid, until our guy with the snow plow shows up on Boxing Day or later. In some scenarios, this kind of storm leads to Redrum and hide-and-go-seek with hatchets, but not here.  No tedium here. We can catch up on One Man and His Dog or Top Gear. The hours will just fly by.