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book review: dingers

Dingers is an anthology of short stories and poems about baseball. It’s also a Canadian anthology which is kind of neat. There were stories about the Expos and a leprechaun-assisted pitcher for the Vancouver Canadians. Dave Bidini had a story in it, and his was the only name I recognized.

The story of the author who had to pitch for a library visit was kind of memorable, as was the aforementioned leprechaun story, but as a whole the book didn’t set me on fire or anything. I think the reason might be because of how much baseball journalism I read, which twisted my notion of what this anthology would try to do.

tv review: star trek deep space 9 (season 3)

This is the season Deep Space 9 really came into its own. At the beginning of the season Odo finds his people and discovers they’re the force behind the Dominion which was brought up as a threat at the end of season 2. There’s some Klingon political action and we get a few Ferengi culture episodes. We learn about the intelligence operations that the Cardassians have and the Romulans and then they both get lured into a trap by the Dominion. Kasidy Yates shows up and the romantic interest with Sisko develops through baseball. Bashir and O’Brien are now firmly bros (and Keiko is off on Bajor botanizing). And Sisko goes back in time and becomes a fighter for better conditions in the 21st century. There’s a peace treaty between Bajor and Cardassia which Vedek Bareil dies while helping create.

The episode where that treaty is created showcases one of the things that made DS9 better than other Star Treks. Because they’re in one place they have to deal with their villains over and over again. And man, Kai Winn is way more of an infuriating villain than Gul Dukat ever could be. They’re both smug condescending assholes, but the graspy nature of Winn bothers me way more than Dukat’s opportunism. If I remember correctly, by the final seasons when the war is in full swing, their villainy gets kind of ridiculous, but Season 3 DS9 has them operating beautifully.

Of course, the other big thing that happens in this season is that they get the Defiant, which is a different kind of Federation starship than we’d really seen in Trek before. No niceties, just an overpowered shooting machine. When it first aired this is why I got back into DS9 (and these are episodes I do remember watching as a teenager, whereas I didn’t remember most of the first two seasons). Now they weren’t weak when they wandered away from Bajor. The stakes seemed higher. (Now I just love the tiny bunkrooms compared to Enterprise-D quarters.) Again, this is something that gets overplayed in later seasons, but at this point in the show it works. There are definitely missions they take the Defiant on that could use a more scientific ship, and it’s probably not entirely realistic, but this is the season the galaxy DS9 was in felt much less claustrophobic.

Finally, Sisko gets promoted to Captain at the end of the season, and one of the things that used to bother me so much about this show as a kid happens in the final episode. O’Brien refers to Sisko as being the best captain he’d served with. O’Brien who used to be on the Enterprise with Picard! That used to really bother me, because obviously Picard was the best ever and the writers were making O’Brien lie. Now though, I get where the character is coming from. Picard was so distant and above the rest of his crew, but Sisko is much more a hands-dirty kind of guy in the mud with a character like O’Brien.

Knowing a bit more about how the world of work goes, I no longer get mad at O’Brien for forgetting his past. He wasn’t in those Observation Lounge meetings seeing the high-level stuff Picard did. But Sisko includes O’Brien in decision making and trusts him to be more than just a competent expert in a narrow field. The two talk about parenting, which I don’t get the sense that Picard ever would do with an enlisted member of his crew. Anyway. Sisko growing as a leader is something I see very differently now than I did as a kid. Which is why I’m rewatching this stuff.

I’m amazed at how many episodes there are in each of these seasons. I guess I’m getting used to HBO-type 13 episode strings, but there’s a lot that happens in each one of these. I feel a bit bad for not doing brief episode by episode highlights, but also lazy. Now that I’ve said that, the second episode of Season 4 will be getting its own review, as it’s my favourite episode of any Trek ever.

book review: 21: the story of roberto clemente

I wanted to like 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente. It’s a comic about baseball after all. But I couldn’t really get into it. There were some good bits. I liked how the English dialogue had yellow-orange coloured speech balloons to differentiate it from what would have been Spanish. I liked the dynamic art for the baseball sequences. I just found the story muddy and not as engaging as it could have been.

book review: the bullpen gospels

Baseball is the sport I care about and I remember being a kid and having the astounding realization that ball players might actually eat and poop. The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran is a good book to help a person get over thinking of them as demigods.

I’ve followed Dirk Hayhurst on Twitter since just before he went to Tampa Bay from Toronto. He’s a baseball player, a relief pitcher, but he’s kind of interesting to follow. This book isn’t about his time in the major leagues but about a season in High A and Double A ball. It’s a great story and isn’t about exposing the seamy underbelly of baseball or anything, but about the humanness of baseball players. There are lots of bus exploits and practical jokes but also some of the logistical stuff like how spring training works for the guys who aren’t going to get a big league job. Very interesting stuff.

It’s got a motivational subtext to it, but isn’t preachy as it could be with his alcoholic brother and father who doesn’t say he’s proud of Dirk’s accomplishments. It’s an interesting memoir about being a baseball player who might not make it and how baseball is just a game.

book review: the whisper of madness (cthulhu tales vol. 2)

The Whisper of Madness is a collection of short Lovecraftian comics. And when I say short I mean 6-10 pages apiece. There are mad people, cultists, murder. One very short story is about a baseball team with a curse. There’s a cruise-line brochure showing all the Cthulhu-worshipping things that will happen underlying the generic text. A young woman sacrifices her roommate to become a Cthulhu high priestess after complaining about how the college wicca scene had failed her.

They were mostly kind of meh and didn’t really have the space to set up a good creepy mood. I wouldn’t recommend it.

The best story was Steve Niles and Shane Oakley’s The Hiding Place, which had a really cool angular black and white aesthetic, and was the story of a detective and his nemesis who’d hanged himself, leaving one last message behind.

my first real library school dilemma

I’ve had a pretty easy library school career. I’ve enjoyed or seen the value of most of my classes. I was one of those people who had an easy time getting a co-op position (some people never got one) at a place I really enjoyed (which some people did not, though they have very funny stories why not). I’ve had good experiences with different student groups. I have friends. But now I’m in a course that I’m not sure if it’s really for me.

It’s a class on data visualization and analytics: taking mounds of data and converting it into graphical forms people can play with. I love the idea of making this stuff, like Hans Rosling’s look at national life expectancy and income levels over the past 200 years.

I mean, seriously, you look at that and it’s pretty neat, right? The class assignments involve doing a project analyzing a dataset of my own choosing, and we get some training in some of the tools for making these things. I’d be able to do so much cool stuff with baseball stats with some of this expertise (though my project will probably involve analyzing independent publisher information I can get from Comic Book DB, since that’s a bit more applicable to libraries than baseball analysis).


The applicability of this in my career is the big issue. The course seems to be much more focused on hardcore academic analysis of research questions for PhD students in information science. That ain’t me. The very first class gave an impression that we’d be focused on splitting hairs and using the correct definitions for things rather than making cool shit.

The thing is that I don’t really need need to take this course. I’m going to have to take a course in the summer anyway and this is kind of my fifth one for this term (four plus a directed study that might end up being a lot of work). Doing another in the summer wouldn’t be overwhelming (assuming I can get into summer courses). And now I have the reading list for doing data visualization which could be most of what I’d need. Though I wouldn’t get training in the software tools if I drop the course. But I can usually teach myself software.

So yes, there we have it. This course would be neat and esoterically useful and provoke a bunch of good discussions, but it has a focus that isn’t really where I want to direct my energies. I think I’m probably going to drop it, but am willing to be talked out of it. If you have an opinion, please share in the comments. I have until January 16 to decide (that’s one more class session).

on immersion & abstraction

I wrote a post on being immersed in abstraction on Librarianautica.

immersed in abstraction

I’ve tried before and I’ll probably try again, but I can’t get immersed in Second Life. It’s the lack of story there. You make yourself look how you want (or find you’re unable to) and then you stand around listening to music or whatever. A few years ago on my second attempt to get into it I signed up to go to a reading of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. Snow Crash is a novel about the kind of immersive second world SL is trying to be, but it all feels so clunky, so much more about just being in SL than about what’s going on.

I guess it comes down to my gripes about content in the social mediasphere. I find myself agreeing with the lack of Big Ideas in social media (though one of my classmates noted that some of the thinkers quoted in that article are also on Twitter).

Scott McCloud in his talking about comics has a bit about how characters are drawn and how that affects us as readers. A very detailed drawing gives us information about that specific person, whereas a more abstract drawing lets the reader put more of herself into it, to fill in more of the gaps. Immersive environments like Second Life are mixing those up. The more detailed your avatar can be the more the gaps between what’s happening to it and to you become visible.

I remember back in the ’90s my first time playing a MUSH. It was based on Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. I went in expecting to have slots to fill in and skills to work on so I could become whatever kind of character it was possible for me to be in that world. The fact that I could be a Thief-Taker, just by saying I was and acting like I was, was so astounding to me I was immediately intimidated by the freedom. I still feel that way now when I’m staring at a blank page to fill with text. Anything at all can go there. You don’t have to fit into CPU cycles when you’re dealing with text. Your immersion is based on skills with language that humans have been working on for thousands of years.

That’s why I can get immersed in the flow of information on Twitter. It’s text. I’m a text person. Doing photos and screencasts using avatars and all of that doesn’t excite me. I don’t feel I’m part of a world I’m not helping to create in my mind. I love the old text-based computer games, even though the limits were very apparent. You had to learn the rules so you knew that “Take Boat” wasn’t the kind of language it wanted. Working within limitations becomes immersive once you’ve really taken it up.

Now this isn’t to say I don’t get immersed in videogames. Once it gets out of the way and I’m taking part in telling a story, I’m there. I played Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas not for the random gratuitous violence (yes, you’d go off on a five-star wanted rampage every once in a while but that wasn’t the point), but because it was a classic gangster story. That’s what I want out of any environment, really. Hell, I love the stories embedded in the numbers in baseball boxscores. That’s what I need for immersion, characters instead of customizable avatars.

This is, of course, good to know. Because if I’m like me, there might be more. And that’s why if I’m bringing a library into a space it’s to tell a story, and to help our users tell a story and imagine one. Not just about the library but about the community it’s a part of (be that physical or digital).

book review: april 2011 bulk edition

I have been neglecting my reviewing duties. But don’t worry, I’ve still been reading. I haven’t given up on the printed word (and image). Just been slow in typing about them. So here is a list of the books I read before coming to Australia.
Continue reading

i get pitch by pitch updates for the postseason games while at work which is nice

Work goes along. On Saturday I managed to save a woman’s horrible weekend. There was more to the weekend and the series of events that got her to this point, but when I came in her time was almost up on the computer and she was applying for a job and it wasn’t letting her paste her resume and the job closed tomorrow and and and… Through careful application of two keys on the keyboard (“Ctrl” + “V”) I saved her day. She was almost crying in thanks. It was kind of weird.

Last week I managed to piss off beard lady a couple of times by disagreeing with her. She was angry about how the university paper won’t run her ads anymore and to prove her point she pulled out this issue: “What word do you think of when you look at this?”

“Upside-down” I said.

“No. Gynecology.”

“No. Gynecology is not the first word anyone other than you would think of.”

“Gynecology. And they put this on the cover….”

At this point she’s about to go off on one of her pornography rants and I try to intercept. “No. There is nothing to do with gynecology on the cover of that newspaper.”

So she folds the paper until the tiny strip showing the hem of the girl’s shirt is the only thing visible on the page. “Look. Gynecology.”

“Beard Lady,” I said (using her real name instead of Beard Lady), “That’s all you. You just folded everything to make your point. No one else is doing that. You are wrong. Gynecology is not the word for that cover.”

And then she got all in a huff and left after telling me that my cowrkers said she shouldn’t ever listen to anything I had to say. A couple of days later she was back and I printed off copies of the DVD cover for National Treasure 1 and 2 because she didn’t know which one she’d seen in the theatre. She was kind of testy with me then but we made it through all right.


the past

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