Thursday, July 24, 2003

Reading for others
A lot of what I do, I do for others. While that is a natural result of having relationships and kids, a lot of the things that I do for myself are really for others as well. One of those things is reading. I read financial magazines and gossip of Norwegian millionaires to feed to my Wall Street connection. I read of music, instruments, fishing and politics to be able to talk to my kids. I go to art exhibitions and read art reviews and design reports, not to mention descriptions of hunting dogs and how to train them, in order to have a topic in common with my older sisters. My younger sister is easy - I have a huge big research topic in common with her...

But for my husband I read In a Dark Time. The current project in this delicious pearl of a blog is a close reading of Catch 22. Loren Webster, the writer of that very interesting blog, shares the insights gained from this book in a way that so much reminds me of the way my husband reads when he plans to use something for teaching, it is uncanny. They have a similar interest in literature, poems and teaching which gives me something to share with the man I have lived with for 21 years. And oddly, while I read In a Dark Time it reminds me why I still live with my husband: the fresh, intelligent insights, the deep understanding of culture, the gentle approach to interpretation, it is so seductive I find myself returning to this blog over and over again. Then I use it to contribute to the conversation which has been going on in this relationship for two decades.

And I think I have to look through the bookshelves. Catch 22 is here somewhere, in at least one copy.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Bay Ridge and the Norwegians
The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten had a very interesting article on Norwegian immigrants to USA and particularly Brooklyn. The article is in Norwegian, but what it does is basically to show that Norwegians went to the United States for the same reasons that others go to Norway now, and they even returned to Norway for the same reasons. They were not driven by the dream of democracy or fear for their lives, but by a wish for a more comfortable life. They moved back, out of Bay Ridge and to Norway, after oil was discovered off the west coast.

In USA Norwegians behave just like ethnic minorities do here. They eat Norwegian food, speak Norwegian at home and with friends, go to Norwegian churches, help each other find jobs in places where you can speak Norwegian and marry Norwegians - preferably in those Norwegian churches. In Chicago there were Norwegian gangs and blond Norwegian prostitutes were particularly attractive, while in Bay Ridge they had an extremely high number of Norwegian bars and Norwegian drunks. That was particularly true after the second world war, when several Norwegian sailors of the trade fleet (which operated from England and USA supporting the allies during the entire war) simply stranded in Norwegian friendly Bay Ridge.

The article is two years old, but it is still good, and an important reminder. But next time in New York I am going up 8th Avenue or "Lapskaus Avenue" to look for that deli where they sell kompe...

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Lost Brooklyn
I have this weakness for Brooklyn, once the second largest Norwegian city in the world, now a neighbourhood of contrasts from the dainty gardens around the elegant homes overlooking the sea to the run-down elegance of Park Slope mixed with trash and glamour of all kinds. This weakness makes me check, at odd intervals, the lovely photoblog of David Gallagher, by way of which I found a little treasure: Lost Brooklyn Tours, loads and loads of photos from Brooklyn. Not a lot from Bay Ridge, but I hope there will be!
Playing at school
Aaron Delwiche's blog on Ethnography in Everquest. A must read for me. By way of Many-To-Many.

And by way of Alex Golub, the syllabus for Communication 480: Ethnography of role-playing games.
Playing with MUD
I have started building a new MUD. Meeting the Immortals in Melbourne tickled the nostalgia of an excellent MUD coder, Andrew South, the original Dragon Realms coder. It did not however do the same for the inventive and creative Kelly Grant, who was responsible for most of the DR history. That meant that Andrew had to find new people to cooperate with, and I am quite flattered that one of those he picked was me!

So now I am making up a new world. I love this part of the process. My head is filled with questions regarding the world: How does gravity work in a world made up of bits and pieces? Why don't characters die? (We agreed not to have true death, as that is just too frustrating for players to deal with.) What kind of travel is possible? What is the central piece of conflict? Here I am afraid that I am being too subtle. There is nothing black or white, so far. All of the administrators love that, as do the builders (great builders are drifting to the MUD, I have to hurry up and give them something to build!), but will this be playable? How large letters will we need to make the potential conflicts obvious to the players?

We are looking for more builders (and later on, administrators) though. The place needs a lot of work as we create it from the bottom up, and once it is open we will need administrators from all time-zones to answer questions, manage gaming, look out for abuse, approve of backgrounds, run quests and develop plots. If you happen to have spare time, love text-based role-playing, fantasy and want to spend hours making up descriptions for areas, please do get in touch! But for now we are piecing together fun bits and pieces, building a history, a theme and a fiction for others to play with and expand on - and I am goddess of the present, watcher of the pattern: the Weaver. Slipping into an online body is so very satisfying, it is a reward of its own, and I can't wait to get on with the roleplay!

Monday, July 21, 2003

Thinking through or with?
In an email, Bills Koslosky at Wireless Doc writes about the title of my blog in conjunction with the Asimov-quote I like to use:


Your blog name: thinking with my fingers

Derived from:
"writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers." ~ Isaac Asimov

How could (you?) change this excellent quote by Dr. Asimov, whose books on medicine and biochemistry awakened my interest in a medical career. The difference between the prepositions "with" and "through" is striking. With your interpretation, the activity of writing is detached from your brain and resides only in the mechanical activity of your fingers. It is similar to the quip, "Voting with your feet." For Asimov, he's suggesting that the physical act of typing (most likely he was using a manual typewriter) served to stimulate his thoughts processes as well as serve as a means of recording and expressing his thoughts. In this sense, he's revealing something about his makeup.

To think with your fingers, brings to mind some disreputable person on the public train who manages to grope without remorse.

Of course, at first I was quite a bit annoyed at this, as I am not exactly a person who gropes in a train without remorse. For a while I considered deleting the Asimov quote, as I didn't know about it until after I had named the blog, and as such did not derive the title from the quote. Then I went away from computers for the week-end, and got to thinking.

Blogging, I do grope without remorse. I link to other people's work and deal with it quite freely. Here on my blog I make comments about things I don't like, I say nice things to the people I like, I promote or warn against as I see fit. Some people are flattered and some annoyed... pretty much the same reactions as a grope creates, depending on context. So yeah, in this definition of the term, I think with my fingers.

I am however also a Norwegian, and thinking "through" (gjennom) something in Norwegian would indicate exactly what Bill Koslosky claims thinking "with" means in American. To think "with" (med) in Norwegian indicates using that part of the body to stimulate and participate in the thought process, so you'd think with your dick if you're only thinking of one thing... but if you think "through" anything, that would probably be your rectum. Thinking with something indicates that I am not only using that part of the body when I think, but also that I think in conjunction with this thing, that activating it activates the thought process. And since the fingers are rich on neural endings, stimulating them, by for instance touching a keyboard, type-writer or computer doesn't really matter, means stimulating large parts of the brain. This stimulation is similar to going for a walk in order to think, for instance, it keeps the brain activated and eases the process of thought. This is something I discovered a long time before I discovered computers, and it has been confirmed by experts since then.

So I think I'll leave things the way they are. If people like Bill Koslosky get annoyed with me for abusing the words of their heroes, I guess that counts as a grope. And the people who think what I write here is stimulating in other ways - well, I guess that counts as a totally different kind of touch.

And as to your other question, Bill: Norway is the only country where I have lived for any length of time. It treats me well, I don't feel an urge to emigrate, but it isn't paradise. We have, for instance, a very high rate of suicides, particularly among young people. I live far from everything but lovely nature and clean air, and the cost of living is sky high while academics are not really paid well. So I can't really say if the UN listing indicates the quality of life here. It's just life, you know, with all its little quirks.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

cucumber time
Summer is called "cucumber time" in Norwegian news media. Nothing really interesting is reported. And so it's open for odd stories and possible hoaxes, like the "hunting bambi" story. Nick Montfort pointed me to the site of urban legends, while Denniz G. Jerz had already pointed to the site.

This is a diverting little thing to try and find out of, and I can't wait to get back from the boathouse, where I will be spending the rest of the week, get online and see if there is any news. But until then I'll be sunning, swimming, fishing, cooking, gardening, walking dogs, hiking, killing mosquitoes and gnats and in general do summer-in-Norway stuff. I'll bring a camera!

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Game Violence
After reading this, I don't see how anybody can be concerned about computer game players axing orcs. But of course, violence against naked women is just fun, and nothing to be concerned about, I knew that. Most of all, I am amazed by what is considered "true to nature":

Burdick says hunters are told not to shoot the women above the chest, but he admits not all hunters follow the rules. "The main goal is to be as true to nature as possible. I don't go deer hunting and see a deer with a football helmet on so I don't want to see one on my girl either," said Burdick.

Yeah. In a nature where girls run around naked, men go dressed, wear goggles and other protective gear, and shoot with paintball guns. I hope that is the same real world where all men share these fantasies:

Marv Glovinsky is a clinical psychologist. He says Hunting for Bambi is every man's fantasy come true. "You might think of all men as little boys who have never grown up, so they entertain their adolescent fantasies and they go through life being adolescents on the hunt."

And I hope that these guys stays in that same reality, and that it never touches mine:

Burdick says the majority of the men who pay the $5,000 to $10,000 to play the game are the submissive, quiet type. "For the individual who's used to saying 'I can't go out with the boys tonight' or the wimp of America, it's a chance for him to come out and vent his aggression and really take charge and have some fun."

I don't have enough sarcasm in store to really express what I feel about this definition of realism. I think I rather want to meet people who believe there really are elves.
Who would think I should ever complain about the heat, even if I am in good company? Well, I don't really. The roof that was damaged this winter is now not just repaired but secured - each tile of the two bottom rows have little storm clips holding them down, in addition to the nail at the top. The house has not yet started to change colour - I doubt that it will happen this year. Takes a year or two of mental preparation to do something like painting the house in this family.

I am still reading "small pieces", still same speed and for the same reason, only I keep intermittently reading a novel by José Saramago that is almost as annoying, although not for the same reason. Where Weinberger's prose flows as smooth as warm sunbathing oil, Saramango's language offers surprises, resistance and delicious twists, tittilating snippets of information hidden in mind-twisting little stories, forcing on me a constructive frustration that adds to the experience of reading, even in the Norwegian translation.

Now I am waiting for the father of my children to show up, and we'll go swimming. Yes, in the fjord, the deep, glacier-cooled fjord. Cooled by glaciers that have been growing the last years, Anja, no worries about that here. Beats the tepid grey Mediterrean any day! That is when you need to be refreshed. If you would like to swim for more than five seconds, lounge at the seaside while having a drink and in general spend a week or two warm and comfortable and lazy at the seaside... well, perhaps a fjord at the Norwegian West-Coast isn't it after all. But it looks pretty:

picture by way of

[I received an email from a portuguese reader of the blog, João Nogueira at Socio[B]logue, who kindly pointed out that I had misspelled Saramago. I am very sorry about that, and I am happy that he took the time to notify me.]

Monday, July 14, 2003

Loose joints...
Just reading David Weinberger's Small pieces loosely joined. I have to read it slowly, because it keeps annoying me. He draws conclusions from observations which could just as easily be explained through the questions he asks as by way of the actual event he observes or answers he gets. The problem with this kind of essayistic attempt at describing something rather than doing indepth research on the topic, is exactly the lack of methodical criticism. Well, I am only two chapters into the book. I may get increasingly impressed, who knows...
Volda, from across the fjord

Picture stolen, shamelessly, from

Friday, July 11, 2003


Thursday, July 10, 2003

To do-list
have breakfast with daughter and get her to work
feed cat
walk for an hour in the forest
buy shorts/summer clothes
buy strawberries
eat strawberries
feed cat
water plants
finish article for Tekka

check pictures for article
chat with gamers
dabble with game-fiction
remember to eat

feed cat
watch some television

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

A new, brave world
Sometimes, I get the urge to build. But I am not tech-savy enough that I can set up a MUD all on my own, I need somebody who knows how to tickle a game into shape, adjust the code until it behaves in all its many details. What I like to do is create the spaces. I build rooms, areas, worlds, and fill them up with background people, objects, items - I give the characters of the game a place in which to live. Today a former game administrator managed to get in touch with me, and we started planning a new world. I am thrilled, it tickles me no end to be able to put into practice the thoughts I have about how things will work out.

So far the game is nothing but a thought and two people who have agreed to work on it. We need more people - people we know and like and want to work with. We need a lot of time, several builders, a story-outline or a fictitious frame, rather, and then, when all is in place, we need players. But all in good time. First we'll have fun for a long time building!
Everything but word
As if I could stay away for more than a few days at the time... nah, really, I have a couple of decent excuses to be here at the office again. One of them is the mysterious problem that caused Markku Eskelinen to wonder why he hadn't received an updated version of my article for Dichtung Digital. I had sent it twice, and it was registered as sent mail twice in my mailbox. Saturday I spammed Markku from all my different emails, and did it in two different formats, .doc and .rtf. Turns out that all but one email reached Markku. The missing one is the one containing the .doc file from my college email.

For some reason Groupwise, the email/calender/organising/planning software the college uses, does not bring the word files to their receiver. Oh yes, they leave the computer - or so the program claims - but they never arrive at the destination. And it's not just that the attachment doesn't arrive: the entire email disappears. Gone. Mysteriously.

I wonder where they go? I can't help it, but my imagination is busy with a pile of paper and a lost little geek riffling through pouched attachments while laughing gleefully, a big poster with Bill Gates on the wall being used as arget for everything from unwanted pizza slices by way of dart-arrows to... well, let's not get too deeply into that.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Vacation... finally
For the first time in years I am not annoyed at the onset of vacation. I am looking forwards to it, enjoying the thought of all the alternative things I can do. I will paint, tend the garden, cook slow elaborate meals on rainy days, sunbathe on the sunny ones, hunt for chanterelles, hike, swim (perhaps), pick blueberries and eat too much strawberries.

But first, a quick trip to the office. For some mysterious reason Markku hasn't received my two last emails containing the article for Dichtung Digital. I have some serious mailing to do, and Markku will soon know all of my alternate identities.


Wednesday, July 02, 2003

For the sake of art
I have recently heard so much about blogging in the news, on the net, and generally everywhere, that I am starting to wonder if this isn't being taken a little too seriously. Of course, I love my blog and I think blogs are the best thing since pen and paper, BUT I am getting a the feeling that I recognize from when the video cameras became cheap. No, I am not bothered with all the amateur blogs that suddenly pop up. They are great and important. I am concerned about the focus being too much turned to the form itself. As if the fact that a message is communicated by way of a blog is more important than the message.

Guess I'll read McLuhan in bed tonight.
Media Reader Review, a comment
I gave a summary of the review of The New Media Reader as it was printed in Neue Zurcher Zeitung. Nick Montfort had a few objections to the review, and emailed me:

> The criticism was against the anglo-american dominance of the book

*Anglo*-American? The book is clearly *American*-dominated with only a few British touches, such as Turing and Ascott. There are more French authors than British ones, and I think there may be as many South Americans as British authors.

We may have neglected the German-speaking. But this comment is sort of like criticizing (or 'criticising') the Fibreculture Reader for being too Australian ... can we really put books together and pretend that our (the editors') culture doesn't exist?

Jerz's Literacy weblog
Dennis G. Jerz's blog has moved, as Dennis has moved to a new teaching position.

This blog is one of the most indecently active ones that I know of. And the really shocking part, which I discovered when I wrote Dennis for the first time perhaps a year ago, is that he is awake when I get to work. And he's awake when I get home. And he manages to teach and keep a "day" job in a totally different time-zone, where he should be getting to work around 2 pm my time, and be happily walking home at midnight my time, for a leisurely dinner, some relaxed and easy reading and a touch of television to keep updated on popular culture until approximately 4 through to 6 am my time. And then he should try to get 6-8 hours sleep and be back up around noon, for breakfast.

Instead I suspect that Dennis G. Jerz doesn't sleep. Actually, this is making me suspect that he isn't a person at all. I think he more closely resembles a very clever script, which writes personal emails and funny comments to its blogposts, but has as its main function to scoure the web searching for things to link to from its blog. It is an extremely clever script that grades papers and applies for jobs, and convinces undergraduate students to install and improve upon its different functions when it moves from one site to an other. I believe the Dennis G. Jerz entity is proof of how far artificial intelligence has been developed. And I am very, very impressed!

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Weblog definition
Jill has written the definition of weblog for Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory. She gives a few samples of different weblogs in this, and one of her examples is a blog I have admired and loved for a long time: Francis Strand's delightful How to learn Swedish in 1000 difficult lessons.

I like Jill's definition, it's pretty descriptive and clear, opens for different types of logs and for different technology. It would perhaps have been nice with a wider range of examples and not just blogs that fit with her entry on micro/macro narratives, but this is for the Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory after all.
Baudrillard on the Matrix
Baudrillard comments on The Matrix:

The Matrix implies the present situation is the one of an all-powerful superpower and so effectively echoes its propagation. Ultimately, the spread of this takeover is indeed a very part of the movie. As McLuhan said:message is medium. The message of The Matrix is its very propagation, by relentlessly contaminating everything.

Actually... I think Baudrillard and I have very different ideas about irony. And we see The Matrix differently. Where he sees the dystopia of self-destructive perfection, I see the chaos of humanity breaking through, despite layer upon layer of control-mechanisms and manipulated illusions.

By way of No sense of Place which picks an other quote, one I also disagree with - because it seems like Baudrillard has watched Matrix Reloaded like all mortal beings do - with selective perception.
Pain in the... back
Yes, just as I suspected. My back-pain started the day after I graded the first papers this spring. And today, the day after I graded the last, it's almost gone. Can there be a lesson on cause-effect here somewhere?
Anders Fagerjord has started practicing his tuba, and blogs it. I have agreed to start playing the trumpet again, a friend wants me in the band he will be directing this fall (It can't be for my playing.... it has to be for moral support). Anders' blog is a reminder that I desperately need to practice. And no, I am NOT doing it in the garden, Anders. Despite what people may think about Volda, I have neighbours living closer than 5 miles away, and my daughter the musician has an image to maintain; a mother showing off her ineptitude in public might damage it severely. (I also consult with the kids when shopping, because as they grow, I have increasingly become a part of their accessories. It's cool to have a mother who works at the Media Department in Volda, doing research on computer games and new media, but totally uncool if she wears flower-print trousers...)