that was the week that was – where I got my ideas

dismevowel me?

So hey, I was over at BoingBoing this week. This was also the week my friend Dawn came to visit and I was in Florida for three days. I also worked at the school like normal. It was sort of a hectic week. I don’t read BoingBoing usually. I like it but can’t keep up with it. This past week, I enjoyed getting to see the other side of it. I’m more used to the world of MetaFilter where posts are for other people, not about yourself, don’t have photos, etc. I had a hard time adjusting.

So, in case anyone’s curious, here’s an annotated list of what I blogged about there, with some extra “where do you get your ideas?” notes tossed in for good measure. I’m typing this on a plane [with wifi! expensive! too expensive for me!] on leg three of my six leg [car-plane-plane-subway-bus-car] trip home from Florida. Update: I am now home. My last post appeared on BoingBoing flanked by McDonald’s ads.

  1. At the edges of libraries – a few links I liked and a small “thanks for having me”
  2. Phil Agre located, search not quite over – I had been paying attention to this story since I heard about it. Phil is brilliant, haunted, and vanished in 2008 sometime. I saw this update on and made a quick note.
  3. What’s really on bittorrent anyway? – found when reading the Freedom to Tinker blog which I read regularly.
  4. “The only perfect reference work” Nelson’s Perpetual Loose-Leaf Encyclopaedia – a friend emailed me about a friend of his who was coming out with a fascinating book about… something. He also mentioned this encyclopedia which I think I may have a few volumes of. I did some digging.
  5. Airplane bird strikes are now public information – my friend Mike twittered about public FAA databases and I lost myself clicking around this one.
  6. Slime as Engineer – brainless mold mimics Tokyo subway – I found this by accident [or serendipity] as I was looking up something else but it had a “bb would like this” vibe to it.
  7. The peculiar challenges of Chinese Braille – judith twittered about someone reading Braille on the bus and I went off reading about Braille.
  8. Read Houdini’s books via Google Books and Library of Congress – a pal emailed me a link to the original blog post about it. I’ve always been a fan of Houdini and full-text books available online.
  9. Catch a cold for the holidays: a history of The Common Cold Unit – I answered a question for Ask MetaFilter about how communicable the common cold was and what we knew about it and everything I looked up pointed to the work done at the CCU. May be one of those things fascinating to me and only sort of interesting to other people.
  10. Skin contact between performers creates a positive social environment – Melissa and Hiram posted a link to this on facebook. I enjoyed the video and the goofy musician’s take on things.
  11. “If we’re there, where aren’t we?” — PBS looks at life online – Doug Rushkoff emailed me about this and it seemed like something the BB crowd would enjoy. I was hoping to use the tawdry photo of the girl in her underwear that graces the Frontline page [stay classy!] but opted instead of Patrick Stewart.
  12. Copyright disputes in the 1840s – my friend Hugh thought I might like his Mom’s blog where she wrote about Dickens and some other terrific stuff.
  13. Lessig on Copyright and Culture: “Things could have been different” – found this somewhere on Twitter. I suspect there’s some sort of Lessig history on BB because I was surprised that this got zero comments.
  14. Funny easter egg – David Weinberger’s twitter pointed me to this one. Surprised it was so popular.
  15. A concise history of the [Judas] Priest logo – Modcult is one of my favorite blogs and it was all I could do to not just point to every single post they made.
  16. Book Sharing Bankrupting Publishing Industry! – not sure where I originally found this, but anyone who is making amusing satire about ALA deserves more exposure.
  17. Build privacy into national broadband policy says CDT – I read the CDT’s blog in my RSS reader and this sort of thing is 1) important 2) woefully under-reported
  18. Pietenpol’s DIY airplane:”a common man’s airplane” – an email correspondent/library buddy of mine posted about this documentary on his blog. It had a DIY aesthetic that I enjoyed.boing-mac
  19. Valentine: serialized multilingual device-independent comics – a friend of mine is working with the artist/writer of this comic and pointed it out. I’m impressed with multi-lingual efforts and though tthey did a great job with this one. Plus hey, comix!
  20. Puppets are fun – the last puppet theater in LA. I like the idea, was sorry I couldn’t find more catchy media for this post.
  21. The longest-running open source project: US Federal Depository libraries – I have very good friends who are the authors of FreeGovInfo and they suggested this post.
  22. Make your own mossarium! – the post I was born to make.
  23. Librarians for Fair Access resists exclusive content contracts – interesting issue in the library world this week, maybe a little inside baseball for BB, but I thought people would understand it and appreciate it.
  24. The unbearable awfulness of pine mouth – my friend Dawn mentioned this to me and I looked up some stuff about it.
  25. Robots + Monsters reopens today, donations to aid Haitan relief – I have loved these illustrations since R&M first opened and it was timely that they had something to announce this week.
  26. 310 class photos from 80 years of PS 99 in Queens NY – one of my favorite posts but maybe not as punchy as it could be. Watching this neighborhood change via the school photos was, I thought, fascinating.
  27. Illuminated 15th c. Manuscript – full of hidden demons – a friend made a post about this on MetaFilter and I repurposed it a little for BB.
  28. Superman – The 1948 Serial – not sure how I found this, I think randomly by looking at free stuff in the Internet Archive.
  29. music for/by the birds – a favorite recent post on MeFi by a friend who just became a dad! Seemed like a safe starting post.

I used to be funnier, cooler too possibly

pets in room please

I have a guest! My delightful friend Dawn is visiting and I’m showing her the town. For those of you who have yet to visit here, this means the post office, coffee shop, library, gym, pizza place, hospital cafeteria, cutiepoo downtown and The Wayside restaurant. So far so good. We also went snowshoeing. We talked about the world of libraries. Dawn is an old friend from Seattle times back when I lived in a city and … did things a lot. She was entranced by our adorable country life here and has been making noise about moving here. I assured her she could never find a decent paying job, and she would eventually be bored. Maybe she’ll surprise us.

Meanwhile, I answered a random email from someone asking about the Blank White Cards game and I went back looking through my old cards that have been on a “card server” on the internet since 2002-ish. I barely remember the cards at all, but more importantly, I don’t even remember being that funny, or that good of a drawer [you may disagree with my estimations]. Next week I’ll be guest blogging for boingboing [I KNOW!] and I’m lamenting the fact that I think I may have nothing to share with the adoring bb public that isn’t old news. I live in slow motion now! I’m sure this is late January talking, and I’m not sure I’m really that concerned, but for some reason leaving the cozy world of MetaFilter (well not leaving, but maybe branching out a little, for a week) seems like a big deal.

In any case, while I sit and think about that (send links you think might be of interest!), here’s the information I sent my correspondent about wtf exactly Blank White Cards is. She was concerned that she couldn’t figure out how to play it. I assured her that she would be okay. My copy/paste, for the curious.

The BWC thing is confusing because there’s really no real way to do it. That said, there’s a way I’ve mostly always played. I think for some people the “hey you just *play*…” explanation is preferred, but I find this sometimes irritating since it imples that there is some sort of secret knowledge being passed around. So here’s my quick summary….

Most of the “play” is really sort of messing about making cards. Cards have one or more of three parts

– illustration
– point value
– description/action

So most of the time I’ve played, you get together with a bunch of people and cards and markers and whatever and then make a bunch of cards…. the play itself is often some sort of discard sort of thing. Like hold a bunch of cards in your hand and put them down on top of each other in the middle, often finding juxtapositions that are amusing between what was laid down before. So for example you could put down a Magic Hedgehog card and someone could follow up with a “protection from spiny mammals” card if there was one. Basically there’s no real scorekeeping, despite the scores, and it’s mostly about having a good time and making up funny stories. Some games have a feature where you can make cards on the fly, some don’t. Some games are more rule-governed [i.e. they actually try to follow the rules set up on the cards and keep track of them] and some aren’t.

My favorite story involves a game where there was one friend of mine clearly “losing” like he just got a lot of “lose 10000 points” cards or whatever. And he got a card that said “draw a new card” and it was towards the end of the game [i.e. not many cards left] and he made a card that just said PLAY THIS CARD AND WIN… and he played it, and I guess he won.

I understand that it’s a Nomic-type game, but even Nomic has an initial ruleset and codified steps…Is 1KBWC ONLY about drawing interesting cards and being silly; i.e., there are no rules, no steps, no strategy or luck, no way to win or lose?

So yeah, nomic is similar but in nomic part of the game is keeping track of all the rules. In BWC the rules are sort of tangential and it’s basically an excuse for nerds to get together and have a good time. This can be problematic because for many nerds [and I count myself in this group] playing a game with no rules is the antithesis of a good time. And for other people the whole “hey there are NO RULES, just PLAY” thing, and hassling other people on that point is part of the good time.

So, it’s fair to say that it’s a pretty openly structured game. But it’s also fair to say that almost every time I’ve played it, it happens about the same way [i.e. make a lot of cards, discard them in the middle, keep only very loose track of scores and rules]. Strategy is mostly about helping people have a good time, making amusing cards, not getting too hung up in the whole competitive aspect of it [some people are clearly better at drawing but that shouldn’t matter terribly] and enjoying being together. I guess everyone sees it as sort of a reflection on how they like to interact with other people, so you may get a lot of answers that are all conflicting.

Is 1KBWC ONLY about drawing interesting cards and being silly; i.e., there are no rules, no steps, no strategy or luck, no way to win or lose?

Pretty much yes. I don’t think anyone really wins or loses, unless they’re being a total pill about things. There are no real rules or steps, just making cards and not getting too hung up about things.

weird little radar blip

So I got back from the Massachusetts Library Association conference on Friday. Monday I went to one of the little libraries I work with and installed Ubuntu on their donated PCs. They have two Windows machines and the new machines asked for a Windows product code key when you turned them on. Pretty annoying. I had been messing around with Ubuntu — a user-friendly Linux distribution — and was pleasantly surprised how well it worked on my new laptop. Previously I had messed around with Linux on old PCs and it had been a nightmare of drivers and missing fonts and me not really understanding enough to make it work right. That has changed.

So I installed Ubuntu and made a little movie of it. I’m working on my little movie skills as I’m sure everyone who reads this knows. Each time I try to learn one more new technique. This time it was the freeze-frames and I actually put myself in this one doing a small voice over spot. It took an hour or two to put the thing together, cheezy graphics and all, then I went to bed. Tuesday I got up and went to work, sent the video around to my friends as usual. I’m always happy when 30-40 people see them. YouTube has a lot of little statistics so you can see what people rate your movie, or who links to it.

So by Tuesday afternoon, I checked my movie page and instead of a few hundred views I had a few thousand. That was weird. I clicked around somewhat and discovered that my movie had been linked as the 802 Online VT Video of the day and Cathy Resmer had sent the link over to Boing Boing who also linked it. I got email. I always get a fair amount of email from random people thanks to working for MetaFilter and having the job that I do, but this was a whole new crowd. I got install advice & tips and just a lot of nice “you go girl” messages. The video makes installing Ubuntu look fun which has always been the sticking point for a lot of non-super-genius geeks like me, the unfunness.

So then I got home after some burgers with Stan (amusing recounting of this whole thing on his blog) and Ubuntu called. Actually it was a guy who does support and systems whatnot over at Canonical and we had a long rambly phone conversation about tech geekery. He said he’d send me a bunch of pressed professional looking Ubuntu CDs so I could hand them out to librarians everyplace. I said that was great since I go to library conferences all the time, and that my local conference was next week. I told my friends “Ubuntu called!” and their first question was oftn “How did they get your phone number?” but of course, my phone number has been on the internet since 1996 or so.

I watched my little video creep up the stat-o-meters over on YouTube for a while, replied to more email and IM well-wishes, took out the garbage and went to bed. I sort of feel like the continuous partial attention that the networked world gives us results in not just continuous partial friendship [as my friend David Weinberger calls it] but also continuous partial fame. When Boing Boing linked to me — calling me an “Internet folk hero” which I find gigglingly amusing — they linked to an old post they’d made about me from 2003 and I had a hazy memory of this sort of thing happening before. Meanwhile I had eight people at drop-in time yesterday, a new high for 2007, and I signed people up for PayPal, showed them how to “make a link,” helped them make flyers for their Mary Kay spring sale, explained gmail and helped them with resume templates. To a person they were all like “Boing WHAT?” which is always a good keeping it real moment for me. Parlaying the Internet Folk Hero karma into Local Hero greenstamps is pretty high on my “to do” list. This all may help.