Thursday, April 29, 2004

In Vienna
July 5th, and desperately seeking Torill? Well, try Blogtalk 2.0, between 14.45 and 15.15. I'll be the woman standing up, talking.
Broken system
or not, this description of the popularity of The Invisible Adjunct indicates that blogs are a way to critisise a system where formal channels are too restricted and closely monitored to open up for a real dialogue.
From a colleague with his own photoblog fed from his mobile phone, some interesting moblogging links.

A pdf collection of pictures of people with cellphones, all over the world, by Dr. Sadie Plant.

Buzznet, with a link to a BBC article on Moblogs. I wanted to read the article on how moblogs drive the adaption of camera phones, but the link to Daily Yomiuru didn't work.

And Bitflux, a photoblog with little tiny stories - like "lecker" and "happy end".

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

No derivative work
One of the things that us Norwegian scholars always worry about when publishing in the US is the rules for re-use of the work, ours and others. This worry is normally not because we sorry about people quoting too much of our own work. Hey, use us, quote us, criticize or adore us, it is what academic writing is for! No, what we worry about is whether we have overstepped boundaries about quoting and citing, rules and regulations foreign to the Norwegian traditions.

The Creative Commons license is in a way very close to how most Norwegian Scholars think about their work, so when Into the blogosphere uses the creative commons to restrict the use of my article, that's perfectly fine with me. It is also fine because then I can go in and check what it really means, and see that people can use, cite, quote and in general have fun with my work, as long as they don't sell it for money. What I don't quite understand though is the meaning of "derivative works". Where is the limit for derivative? If I inspire an other scholar to write a scathing criticism of what I wrote, is that a derivative work? After all, refuting everything I say means staying very close to my text, and letting my text control the other writer's every response. Or if the other writer decides to see if I am really right in my assumptions, and wants to develop a research project to test a theory from my work, is that derivative work?

No, I don't want to use this to ensure that I will not be criticised or stop others from developing research testing my hypothesis. I want to understand whether the editors could use the "no derivative" clause of a Creative Commons license to stop others using my work that way. And I suspect it is a technicality. Just one that made me wonder.

From Mark Bernstein, a definition:
The Copyright Act, at 17 U.S.C. §101,....

A ``derivative work'' is a work based upon one or more pre-existing works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a ``derivative work''.

and a link

And from one of the editors of Into the Blogosphere a message that if I want to open up for derivative work, I can. What I can't do is restrict the use of my article more than the editors intend with the license.

Thanks, that was useful information!
At the beginning was chaos
That is a more acceptable theory, and also more in line with the norse myth of creation, than having a conscious mind out there creating everything. A cow licking a frosted, salty rock causing life sounds a little like butterflies causing storms, and chaos is definitely a powerful actor in all of the norse myths, represented by Loke, the advocate of all things unpredictable.

Chaos connected to creativity thus has a mythic or religious connection. The strong mathematical nature of Chaos theory makes it rather inaccessible to us of a more humanistic bent. Even the Chaos Hypertextbook is beyond true understanding. Knowing the theories of hypertexts does not help, and reader-response theory only tells me that no, I am not the model reader of this! I could of course see if it helps with a Master's degree from Western Sydney in Complexity, Chaos and Creativity. One of the courses is called Use of Narratology in Dealing with Social Complexity, and sounds like part of an argument raging in groups I know fairly well.

What I am looking at chaos and creativity for right now, is that I think that a lot of the patterns and structures we see emerge in multi-user computer games might be better explained through chaos: emergence of logic and results from the random acts of multitudes. I just don't understand the theory properly yet. Not at all, really. But that's pretty chaotic and in the spirit of random acts from which meaning emerges - me thinking about using chaos theory to study games is as effective as a cow licking a frosted stone to create life. But Audhumla did it.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Dark thoughts
A heavy, rainy day with no rest, a complicated series of lectures waiting for me, starting tomorrow, and no way out of my obligations. Not even a Dr. of games can play ALL the time. So when this poem drifted by, I snagged it:


Jeg er uten håp.
Men regnet faller for å
fylle opp fjorden.


Saturday, April 24, 2004

Stone mason
Ålesund, the closest city, burned down in January 1904. Today the city centre is heavily modernised, but luckily some of the city that rose from the ashes has been preserved: some of the most beautiful stone architecture in Norway, thanks to the German Kaiser Wilhelm.

Among the stone masons drifting north was a young man from a family og stone masons. His father had come out of Sweeden, nobody knows from where exactly. The name he used was Karlson - son of Karl, which means man in both Swedish and Norwegian. The son of Karl followed the work on the railroads, and the first time the history of this particular stone mason touches on my past, is when he meets the daughter of a farmer close to Bergen. At the time the son of Karl was a labour party agitator, a skilled mason and, according to the picture hanging on the wall in my mother's summer house, a man with strong features and intense eyes, looking in his old age dreamily into some future just beyond our point of view. The woman he met was his match. Her picture is at the other side of the window, at the same wall, and she looks directly into your eyes, her hair pulled back to reveal the shape of a face I find alarmingly familiar: strong jaw, clear brow, long neck, she haunts the family with glimpses of her features generations down the line.

The son of Karl and the daughter of the farmer not only loved each other, but they made love. More than one of my great-uncles had been born by the time they married. She was cast out of the family not for her love but for that marriage, with the words of her father still ringing in the memory of this family with their bitter venom, poisoning the past but also setting us all free to choose for ourselves. "It would be better if she had a mill-stone about her neck and was drowned and resting at the bottom of the ocean than marrying that Swede!"

She never backed down. She married her stone-mason, her wandering Swede, took his name, gave birth to this children and lived a long life in Oslo, apart and estranged from her family until her brother took over the farm and invited his nephews back to visit. From these two came several stone-masons, and when Ålesund burned, the work pulled them north. This one stayed behind while his brothers drifted further north, following the work. They went north to work on rebuilding and maintaining Nidarosdomen, the gothic cathedral in Trondheim, started in 1070 and kind of fully built around 1300. According to family history, there are still stone masons of the line of the son of Karl working on the cathedral.

But this particular one stayed in the vicinity of Ålesund. He liked to go to town in the week-end, and would blow some of his salary on staying at the best hotel in town, Grand, today named Hotel Scandinavie. In this hotel there was a particular young maid, from the north of Norway, who had caught his fancy.

Although he was a mature man, already married and divorced once, the feisty little girl from an island far north caught his attention, and he never went north to his brothers or back south to his children and former wife. Instead he bought a piece of rock, built a house on it, and paid for permission to work the stone along the shore close to that house. The stone in this area is clean and even, a warm, fine-grained light grey. Out of the rock he cut a living for himself and his six younger children. He worked to give his children education, and managed to pay for two of them, one boy and one girl, an engineer and a school-teacher, as well as some additional schooling for his two younger daughters. Not quite as much as they dreamed of, but more than some. He cut headstones, stones for memorials, stones for any use, but to know him in his old age, think of him when you walk the streets of Ålesund.

The characteristic warm grey of the mountains around my mother's childhood home occasionally breaks the cooler grey of the Italian stone in the intricate patterns of the cobbled streets of Ålesund, and I know that he or one of my uncles, or even my father, have handled this piece of rock. They have split a huge block out of the side of the mountain, then split that again into smaller pieces, until at the end one man could shape each single stone individually, with quick and light snaps of the hammer, and yet an other square can be added to the load waiting to be shipped out the fjord and back in one fjord further south, to be used to cover the streets we walk on today. When I put my hand on one of the memorial stones he cut, I know that I touch where his hand touched, and I know my children and my children's children can do the same. I know very little of him, and touching his stones is the closest I will ever be to my grandfather, but from his stones I learn that he was a man who cherished balance, he chose the pure grey granite over the flashy marble, and he never chose to polish a surface if he could leave it raw, living with the texture of the rock. The only polished stones I know of his are those of the cobbled roads: polished by feet and wheels, paws and hooves.

Friday, April 23, 2004

the-phone-book and break battle
One of my favourite projects,, is ending. I have enjoyed the ultra-short stories immensely, and used them in my lectures, teaching narratology, rhetoric and writing. Now the project is closed, but the stories live on, this time as texts for scratch DJ's! I am not much of a club-goer, but that's something I'd have liked to see and hear!

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Tobacco tycoon
Are you secretly in love with the thought of killing off millions all over the world, but without ever needing to see the goo, splatter and mess that comes with first person shooter games? Try your hand as a Tobacco Tycoon! (in Norwegian).

This is an example of a game used for educational and public information purposes. It is developed as part of an anti-smoking campaign, and it is structured as a simple board-game with traditional little tasks for you to do, cards that let you know if you are harassed by journalists or can afford a vacation at the Seychelles, and a dice to roll. Every time you pass "start" you're told how much money you have made or lost, and how many people you have killed. In this game being good doesn't pay, so I guess it is social realism.
By way of Dennis Jerz, a meme:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

The theoretician and indefatigable agitator for this policy was schoolmaster and grammarian Knud Knudsen (1812-1895), who in the early 1840's began advocating that Danish spelling, grammar and vocabulary should be gradually Norwegianized.

From Einar Haugen: Norsk-engelsk ordbok / Norwegian-english Dictionary, Universitetsforlaget, Oslo 1994.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

It's a theory, you know
One of the things I do in my job, is talk to a lot of communication planners, directors, consultants and other highly-paid communication specialists. I meet them in conferences and seminars, as supervisors of my students in interbships or as fellow members in advisory boards. They are a multi-hued group, with a wide range of backgrounds. One thing most of them have in common though: They think Communication Planning is so much more "real life" than anything I can do as a teacher or researcher. I have to admit that this is wearying, even if I don't think I live in a virtual world.

These are the things on my mind when I read articles like "Evaluating Communication Campaigns" by Thomas W. Valente, in Rice and Atkin's Public Communication Campaigns. Valente has a really good point: a communication program depends on a theory!

... three different scenarios in which the program or the theory or both might succeed or fail. In the first scenario, a successful program sets in motion a causal process specified by a theory that results in the desired outcome. In the second scenario, there is a failure of theory in which there is a successfully implemented program (as measured by process evalutation) that sets in motion a causal process that did not result in the desired outcome. In the third scenario, because of a program failure, the intervention did not start an expected causal sequence, so the theory could not be tested.

What this means is that a communication plan is just a theory about how the audience will react to certain input and certain changes in the infrastructure. It is not a recipe for communicative success, it is an idea about how it may be possible to succeed. So, next time you're about to spend a significant part of your budget on public relations, advertising or public information, and you are about to shuffle that money into the already bloated bank account of some firm that boasts their "hands-on" experience rather than buying the services of that boring old research institute, consider who you want to develop the theories you pay for. People who think academic discipline is boring and analysis a waste, or people who knows a good theory when they see one, but also knows how to test, criticize and question it?

After all, work doesn't become more real by being executed by people who have never wanted to understand the why of their job.
There is a fly crawling around in my screen right now. It is black, with blue wings. A moment ago, I had a visit from one with white wings. I wonder (and worry) whether I will have a swarm soon, of little baby flies with pale blue wings?

Do you want your own fly? Try Z, an online project from P. S. 1 at MoMa, Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

To do - done
Last night I stayed late at the office, organising all the tasks that need to be addressed the coming weeks. My days are varied, comprising a multitude of different types of jobs: teaching, writing, reading, supervising, administration, representation, advising and attendance of several different types of boards, comittees and working groups. I keep falling behind on organising this: just keeping my calendar updated took a couple of hours.

So, I made two boxes: "to do" and "done". I put all the papers on my desk into different files and filed them in one of those boxes. I made a to-do-list, to keep at the desk, no longer on those index cards I normally use, but in a journal, one picked to live on my desk only. I updated the calendar on the cellphone, on the computer, and the black book I carry when I remember it.

My desk was so pretty and clean when I got to work this morning. It felt like I had accomplished a major task. Part of that feeling had obviously been with me last night. When I checked I had put all the urgent stuff on my desk in the "done" box.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Free Wi-Fi in Wien
Useful information for us who will be at blogtalk 2.0!
Do you tooth?
When my colleague asked me this, I thought he was worried about my teeth, and not about my sex life. Turns out there's a whole new way of getting casual sex that I have no chance to be even offended and much less tantalised by, as my new cellphone is without bluetooth. Hmm, the phone was a gift from my husband. Does he know something I did not?
Daedalus Project
An interesting link for academic gamers: The Daedalus Project, ran by Nicholas Yee. And for those who wonder what "Daedalus" means: the myth of Daedalus and Ikaros.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Dreams and desires
I have wild dreams of technology, and I enjoy living comfortably in a large house, but there is something I would really like to own, something that makes me pause and stare when I see one, something that makes me ache for time, blue blonde nights and smooth water. I think this is perhaps the most materialistic dream I have ever had. It is something I want just for pleasure, just for owning it and have access to it when ever I like. This runs deeper than the way I tend to pick up red shoes and boots when I have a chance, or the lust for a new gadget. I really want a wooden rowing boat, and even if I have to be an old lady before I can afford it, I will have one. And then I will pretend to go fishing, and just row, quietly, on the fjords. There is little more restful than the sound of oares and water against a wooden hull and the smell of salt and seaweed.
Male moron law §1 and 2
I have spent a couple of days considering how to make all people, and particularly women, choose the natural sciences, mathematics and computing for education and research. After that it was with great interest I read Jill's post at about Katla's anger at The Gathering, and her wow never to return. If this is the way men in male-dominated fields treat women, they not only manage to discredit the entire field for females, they also discredit themselves for all normally intelligent people, gender-independently! Who, with the slightest touch of social intelligence, wants to be identified with insensitive idiots who do something like that to their female peers? The geek-image definitely needs a LOT of adjustment.

The debate around this is interesting, at both Katla's site and at What really fascinates me is that people consider general stupidity to be a defence. There's a long, sad tradition for that in gendered debates and conflicts. When I studied in Bergen in the eighties the local newspaper covered a particularly nasty rape. A man had picked up a girl in his car, and with the help of friends taken her to his cabin, kept her prisoner several days and raped her repeatedly. She finally managed to escape and get help. Rapes are rarely this obvious. One thing is having sex with a girl who has agreed to let you drive her home, that often leaves ample room for defense. This moron had kept her prisoner for a long time and shared her with friends. When asked how he could do something like this, he replied with the male moron law of sexual encounters: "Everybody knows that when a girl says no, she really means yes."

The debate on Katla's site indicates that the geek girls should be happy they had all that interest from the geek boys. Geek girls don't get many other chances to be what all girls dream of: a sexy bimbo. I think that should be male moron law § 2: "What all women really want is to be a sex-object all the time and to all men."

And beebop, I am really sorry about what you must have felt that made you write this:
I sympathise with you, it's not a pleasant situation to be in. However these guys are not really doing you any harm, admittedly they are objectifying your body but, heck, i'd love for someone to objectify my body and most women love the flattery.

I know girls pretend that they don't like it but most girls I know love being hit on or wolf whistled at by guys - it just lets them know they're looking good. For these "geek girls" it's a rare opportunity, they're not going to get appreciated that often!

I am sorry there are nobody who appreciates your body and mind, nobody to express desire for you and nobody to let you feel respected and treasured. Because those things are so much, much better than having casual strangers drool over your tits, and experiencing respect and admiration just might teach you what geek girls really want.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Demonstration and veils
Crossing Karl-Johan at noon, there was a colourful demonstration. Girls in blue suits and white veils, and men in elegant turbans, a colourful gazebo on the back of a car, and families in turbans and veils in yellow and orange. Turned out they demonstrated against the proposed French law prohibiting hijab in schools.

I have problems with the rules demanding that girls wear hijab, covering their heads and necks (and just about everything else) at all times. I particularly have problems with the argument that women showing their hair ask to be violated by men, and if men take advantage of them the blame is on the women. It is an argument that makes me feel sick. At the same time I feel that it's equally wrong to make women's heads a battleground between culture and nation through legislation, the way women's bodies have been battlegrounds in so many other causes. This is complicated. I want it to just stop being a problem, all muslim men and women to see sense and let their children choose for themselves, and muslim girls to put their veils on and take them off according to function and pleasure, not at the demands of religious and political leaders. And then I want world peace and universal cooperation to solve the problems with pollution, disease and the skewed disperson of wealth and priviledge.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Until Saturday
Two days in Oslo, and I am not carrying the lap-top, this is wall-to-wall meetings. See you all later.
Treasure hunt
Hunting for treasure through a combined web/mobile phone interface. A japanese game kind of related to BookCrossing and Geocaching, but with a form that makes it a much more interactive multiplayer game.
Introductions and reconfigurations
If you unlike me have time to go to Bergen in May this year, 27-28th, go and attend the new media conference at Bergen University. Several old friends and colleagues will be speaking, as well as people who have only been names, but famous names, for years and years. Bergen is beautiful in May, the colours more brilliant than anywhere else and with some luck you'll only experience a very few of the signature rainshowers.
Monday I happened to claim that the sword fighters were connected with Kongshirden 1380. I have now been informed otherwise, they were part of Kongshirden 1260. The one is in Oslo, the other in Bergen, the one has the year 1380 as their focus the other the year 1260, and they have separate leadership. They both recreate medieval Norway and do the historical reenactment with focus on martial arts, military traditions and royal guard reenactment. But apart from that, very, very different!!! Bad me.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The very best of chocolate cakes
At the transart institute they teach new media art, but also critique and theory. This is a combination with challenges I know well, from years of teaching media theory to media producers. I don't know if that is why they asked, but I know that is why I said yes to the request of being guest faculty in Vienna, city of the most delicious chocolate cake I know of.

Monday, April 12, 2004

After my PhD and the attention in the press around the defence, my name suddenly got a lot more interesting. Another contact about using my name and title on their advisor list was from Hans Terje Bakke, founder of Running Games. They want to create a multiplayer computer game based on medieval history. Cooperating with reenacment groups such as Kongshirden 1308 (the sword-fighters at my trial-lecture were from the Bergen chapter), they want to go for the most accurate portrayal possible of a medieval society - while keeping the game fun. That is a huge challenge, and I am very happy that Bakke contacted me about this. Friday I hope to meet him face to face, and since I am so immensely curious about the game and the process of production, I am sure that will be interesting.
Sami Games
I am partially involved in the creation of a sami educational game, Siida (all in Norwegian. I had expected it to be in sami, too). I am in their reference group, which so far has meant that they have my name and title on their applications for money. Wednesday Britt Kramvig, one of the initiators of the project and a cultural anthropologist specialising on sami culture, came to see me at Gardermoen, Oslo Airport.

The project is ambitious and interesting. They want to make a role-playing game based on sami culture and myths. This way they are to teach this culture in a way that lets kids and youths have fun while they learn. This is an admirable goal, and in theory this should work out great. The problem I keep having with this kind of games is that it seems like traditional pedagogics always crash with the pleasure of playing. Games are not a good medium if you want to get one particular message across. What they may be good for is to communicate different logical structures.

The developers of Siida have invited me to contribute to this project through research. One project I might follow up was the thought that struck me immediately: I would like to study how teachers and educators think about games, and how this clashes with the culture of the technical staff, the developers of the software. This is however a very complex issue that has little to do with gaming, mainly with game culture. But if I get into a study of gaming in this case, either I will be doing user testing, which I am not all that enchanted with, or I will have to involve myself a bit more than I have been invited to this far. Going into somebody else's project is always a delicate issue.

Still, this is a fascinating topic and I look forwards to follow the development of the project. And if nothing else, I'll stay on their list as an advicer. I am also avidly reading their material about sami culture. That should have been a part of my own cultural inheritance, but prejudice and coincidence wanted it otherwise.
Where did I put that book?
On the fridge there is a magnet from back in the days when amazon sent gifts to their customers. This magnet says: "A room without books is like a body without a soul." This, I think, is one of the most rigorous rules in this home, and we all work hard to keep the body of the house absolutely choked with soul.

I am reading three books at the moment. I finished two yesterday and haven't started the one I know my daughter has somewhere and which I really want to read. And I am using one, so I guess that makes four. Five when I find the last one... but when I want to actually READ one of these books, it is a major project. Barry Atkins More than a Game has been floating around here for quite a while. I have been working my way through it, from pure annoyance to interest to grudging admiration, so I know where that is. It's in my handbag. Now people who know me also know that I almost never use a handbag. So actually finding the bag in order to find the book is a challenge. But at least I know where it is, right?

I am also reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book Flow: The classic work on how to achieve happiness. yes, I should have read that BEFORE I submitted my thesis. But I am reading it now, and planning an article where I want to connect that and my data from the interviews. Both deserve to be treated separately from all the issues that are being pulled out and stirred up in my thesis. I just need to find a place to publish the article. And find the book. It was last seen used to prop up the television antenna, so we could see the easter crime series.

One book I am reading with tense discipline is W.Richard Scott: Organizations: Rational, Natural, and Open Systems. My students hate this book, and I have been looking for good replacements all over. One reaason they detest it is because it is in English, but there are no good Norwegian equivalents. There are also not a lot of available English equivalents either. So I am painfully aware that I have to somehow render the issues in this book available and understandable to my students, and I have three lectures, six hours, in which to cover the basics of organisation theory. Yeah, I am a good lecturer. No, I am not SuperTeacher. And the book? It's underneath that little table next to the couch, the one that shouldn't be there, but since it is, the telephone and a teacup and a bar of 85% chocolate and a cookbook of antique recipes is on top of it. The Scott book is on top of the paper that is underneath one of the legs of that table, all of this a perfect constellation that keeps the table from wobbling and my tea from spilling.

The book I am using, when ever I manage to pull myself together and wrest the exercise ball away from one of the teen-agers lodged on, around or under it, is Colleen Craig: Pilates on the Ball. To find that book, I couldn't use my normal "what minor problem did we solve using the books at hand" approach. For that I had to ask the teen-agers. And yes, that's where I found it, in a neat stack in a bookshelf, together with the exercise DVD, right next to where they were using the ball, and actually right where it ought to be. Very very sneaky that, to hide books in bookshelves. Who'd have thought of looking there?

Friday, April 09, 2004

Blogtalk papers
The list of accepted presenters for Blogtalk 2.0 is out and public.
One of those days
Translated from Chinese


A hundred mountains and no bird.
A thousand paths without a footprint;
A little boat,a bamboo cloak.
An old man fishing in the cold river-snow.

Witter Bynner l929

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Terror crossing boundaries
I probably shouldn't even post this for fun, I may never get back into Norway next time I leave the country...

I am Rabies. Grrrrrrrr!
Take the Affliction Test Today!
A Rum and Monkey disease.

At least I am more dangerous than Jill!
Notification of Baggage Inspection
Travelling to and in the United States is getting increasingly hazardous and inconvenient. When I went to the States I could go non-stop from Oslo to Newark. Back I did no longer have that option, as SAS has discontinued the non-stop flight. (Particularly annoying just as they are about to install broadband wireless access in all their long-haul airplanes.) Why? With the new security regulations, they can no longer afford to maintain this marginal flight. An American airline is supposed to take over from June. I have mixed feelings about that. There is something very reassuring about being surrounded by staff who understand what I say when I babble in my own language, like if I develop high fever or have a stroke or something similar.

Going back I went over Reykjavik with Icelandair. That's fine. No free booze or soft drinks though. Yes, I missed SAS on that account, but I liked to make the trip in two relatively short laps. The most annoying event of the trip was not discovered until I came home.

When I opened the suitcase, I noted it wasn't really properly closed. I thought I had closed it, but you know, nobody's perfect. Then I opened the suitcase, and it wasn't packed as I remembered it. I thought I had just forgotten what was where - until there was an item I could not find at all. For some reason a little plastic pump, the kind you would use to inflate a blow-up toy or a mattress, was missing. It was not really valuable, but it belonged with my new blue rubber ball, the one I bought in order to do my exercizes.

The mystery was solved when I dug further into the suitcase. The "Transport Security Administration" had left a "Notification of Baggage Inspection". Apparently Section 110(b) of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001, 49 U.S.C. ? 44901(c)-(e) permits the Transport Security Administration to open my luggage for inspection. Apparently it also permits them to break the locks, if I have locked the suitcase, and I can't complain if they do. According to the young lady on the phone, I should have been warned not to lock the suitcase before I checked it in.

They hadn't ruined the locks, probably Samson has provided the TSA with a master key. But they have shaken my confidence in who has access to my luggage. When I check in my luggage, I and everybody else have to answer all those questions, you know. "Did you pack this yourself, did you bring gifts from anybody, have anybody but you had access to your luggage, are you carrying any of these items." Normally I am able to answer those questions quite confidently. No more. One of the reasons for my confidence is that I send my luggage through locked. I have been convinced that it would take enough of an effort to break into it that it would be too risky to randomly drop a bomb, a bag of drugs or a box full of some biological weapon into my suitcase.

And now the American regulations permits the security guards to break into my suitcase, ruining the locks if they have to, and thus make sure I have to either get a new suitcase or be at the mercy of any curious longfingered luggage handlers between there and Volda. The missing pump is inconvenient, yes, and I am looking everywhere for a pump that will let me inflate that ball. The missing confidence I now have in the security for my luggage on airplanes is a huge change in my approach to travelling.

Every new little thing adds up: The need for a new passport just for USA, the increasing lines before the security check in, the aggression at immigrations and customs, the new rules for visiting faculty, the loss of areas where passengers and their friends can linger together (terminal 7, JFK, has no bar outside the security check in. That's enough to make me go for Newark next time, if possible - I like spending those last hours with my NYC connection, getting slightly buzzed to bolster the unpleasantness of the trip ahead), all this adds to the already considerable discomfort of crossing long distances.

I am feeling robbed of my rights, even if that is just the right to spend an hour or two happily drinking with someone rather than doing my drinking alone, at the other side of a glass barrier. This will not make me stop travelling - well, not yet anyway. But it is enough to make me feel apprehensive, uncomfortable and unhappy - and to consider carrying nothing but hand-luggage next time. Well, at least I have a pair of hiking-boots in New York already.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Wrapping it up
I will never dwell comfortably in the United States, the policies of the nation, the culture and the accepted truths too far from my own for me to settle in and feel at home. But it is still with a certain pain I tear myself loose and turn from the experiences and pleasures of the city New York and go back to the long stretches of work and everyday life in between the mountains. Options narrow down to a few, albeit comfortable choices, and the responsibilities I have fled for a short while will close in on me.

Still, spring awaits me there now, and while the windchill here is well below zero, I long for the scent and touch of spring, for the purr of my cat and the laughter of my teen-agers, for the cup of tea brewed and shared in comfort and for the banter in a language which never restrains me, never baffles my tongue. Tomorrow evening I am leaving, for the first time going to Norway by way of Reykjavik.
These links * * are for Clancy and Mike. Yep, I like them red.
Art, food, karaoke
And the distinction was not all that big. It was an even toss on which was better, the art or the karaoke, Saturday night in New York.

Paul Johnson, self-proclaimed console hacker and computer game artist, showed six pieces at the Postmasters Gallery. I guess Paul Johnson is a brilliant artist with a great future. A creator of game representations that catch my fancy he is however not. The attempt was honest. He had programmed the games to play each other, to develop into its own little worlds. In different art pieces he sets different games into the same universe, and use the platforms of one to influence the other. In principle, this seems cool, a hybrid gaming. If this had been online, and I could have logged in at different times to follow the development of the games as they played each other, the idea has some merit. If I could have added or removed parts and so influenced it, I would have loved the works, because that is what I and others wanted to do, feeling up the surface looking for some input device that would give us, the watchers, a different role. What the lack of agency leads to for the spectator in this case is an odd discomfort, like watching machines masturbate.

The most interesting part of the exhibition was a little video running in a loop at the reception area, with a brass band playing while girls wielding batons marched around in formations with sattelite dishes on their backs. That, at least, revealed a sense of humour and irony which I guess I was not sufficiently sophisticated to detect in the other works at the exhibition. Typically, I can't remember the artist of that little pice, nor can I find that whimsical little five-minute video mentioned online.

The food afterwards was outstanding though, at the Cuban Restaurant Cuba Libre, 165 Eighth Avenue, if you happen to be in the area. And since I am not much of a food photographer, I am giving you a picture of the most decorative feature of the evening, lovely Yoko. The food on her plate, which I know nobody will even notice in this picture, is chicken.

Next stop was a Karaoke bar, where we rented a private room and threw ourself into the interactive fiction of being great musical talents. It's like eating a meal with a lot of garlic, if you are with people who do that, you had better make sure you do too, or you'll suffer. In this case, the only way not to suffer from the pain of our artistic expressions was to be equally active and expressive yourself. In that manner, it has much in common with multi-user games - and probably also the exhibition where the evening had started. The doing was much better than the watching/listening.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Brunch, or: the advantage of not being in the office
This morning didn't start with the usual crack-of-dawn breakfast shared with a stockbroker living half-way on European time. I had made a too good a dinner last night, and he was still moaning about having overate as I stopped listening and left him to it. So this morning I was on my own, and I grabbed the opportunity. Some early morning surfing, and then brunch.

Being on a diet where I try to exclude certain kinds of carbs (not very successful at the moment, too many temptations here. Damn you, Rocco's of Bleecker street and your orange cookies), I have been shopping for spelt flour and barley. Armed with this, I can make pancakes, bread or muffins that will let me keep the bloodsugar even while still eating the occasional bread product. And today's breadproduct is going to be muffins! So here's the recipe:

2 cups (250g) of an almost even mix of these flours: unbleached wheat, spelt (whole) and barley. Less of the wheat more of the others.
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup milk (250 ml)
1 egg
1/4 cup olive oil (60ml)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan (60g)
2 teaspoons oreganon, dried.
(or any other spices you'd like to try, the recipe also suggests sundried tomatoes)

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and spices in one bowl. Then mix milk, egg, olive oil and cheese in an other. Mix them all together to an even batter. This makes for 12 normal sized muffins, 6 in the big muffin tins in this kitchen. Bake at 375 F or 190 C for about 20 minutes. Let the muffins cool for a few minutes in the tins before you remove them.

They are baking as I type. I will be eating them with lox spread. And I will bless my diet for working, and for letting me indulge in delicious things I otherwise wouldn't have had the imagination to make, lazy sugar addict that I am.
Note to self
So that I don't lose it: Vienna Coffee houses, Weblogs, Computergames

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Growth and change
Anne wonders what is happening through the process of becoming a PhD, wondering at the odd restlessness, like growth, itching. Do we change, she asks.

Oh yes we change. Not all of it is pretty, either. We learn to be self-absorbed, to disregard distractions and counter-arguments, to force endings. We learn to use friends and then move on, to set the goal before the means, jesuits of no faith other than our own project.

But if we are lucky, we also learn to forget about the small things, to let petty frustrations be, to appreaciate the human attention and mutual understanding at all levels.

I still don't know who I am. My colleagues tell me I am different, that I care and to see the needs of others rather than just my own angry helplessness. If that is true, it has been a good thing. And I am still married, still talking to my children, and haven't alienated all of my sisters, so I guess I have done a relatively good job at getting to a Doctorate. There are friends and contacts I still mourn occasionally, knowing I let them go, let them slip away fighting to become something I never expected.
I am writing a paper, could you please...
Out of principle, I try to treat all non-spammers who email me politely and reply to their emails individually. Lately, however, I am starting to get emails that are not offensive, emails I would very much like to take seriously and reply properly to, but which annoy me not as a person, but as a teacher.

I keep getting emails where students (at all levels) hope that I can give them the points for their papers for free. I get a polite request for an interview, I agree to reply, and then I get a long list of questions to things the students could have checked him/her self in five minutes with google! Some examples:

How do I define blogs?
I use Jill's definition, compare that with Dave Winer's definition and peek at some of the popular blog definitions out there and spend a page or so on discussing these different definitions, if I am writing something that demands a definition for a weblog. Took me three minutes to find those. I cheated a little, because I know abut Dave Winer, so I was able to find that definition even if Winer uses "weblog" instead of "blog".

Who are the bloggers?
I don't know, that is why I look up services like Blogsurvey or read articles by Robin Greenspan about Blogging by the numbers. Those two links took me 30 seconds, no cheating. 30 seconds because I had to scroll a little to find the perseus survey. Spend ten minutes, and you'll find a whole lot of discussions about this, enough to keep you busy at the computer and not twiddling your thumbs waiting for my reply.

As for games: Are games dangerous?
Let me tell you right now, all you high-school pupils and undergraduates and even graduates out there who want me to answer that - oh, and journalists, you can listen too: If I could say yes or no to that question, or knew how to conduct research that would give a final answer of yes or no to that question, I would not have been at a little college in the backwaters of a little country at the edge of where people can comfortably live in this world. At least, not unless I really wanted it. That is the most frequently asked and most complicated question in the study of popular media. If I was to make a media theory FAQ, that question would have been topping the list, only with a scrolldown menu to pick medium of your choice. Read any book you like about media theory, if it treats this question honestly and seriously, the answer will be: perhaps, perhaps not! We can't tell, because there are so many other things that we know are more dangeous, and we have been unable to remove them from the equation. The textsbooks say that, I have no other answers than the text-books and the articles. I have opinions, yes. But that is the answer to a different question.

And that is what really annoys me with these questions. Instead of making a few searches and figuring out that there is a lot of literature to read in order to learn about this, I get an email from somebody who is in a real hurry and needs something from some kind of authority before the deadline of their paper.

Asking people, particularly if you call it an interview, is a technique which should be employed to learn things which can not be learned from any other source but that one human being. If you can learn something from observation, then observe, because if you ask the person for instance: how many hours a day do you watch television, they will mislead you. Not deliberately, but because nobody time themselves. If you ask somebody about knowledge they have gathered through reading or hearing or viewing, they will mislead you. Not because they want to, but because they will understand and interpret both the text and your question differently from you. Asking "people" is just about the worst source of information about anything objective and general.

However, asking people is the absolutely best source of anything which only they can answer. The subjective experience, the eye-witness report, the emotional value: this can only be learned from the person who was there, who experienced it. Don't take my word for this, go read Learning from Strangers: The Art & Method of Qualitative Interview Studies.

Anyway, long rant, simply to say please, I love to answer questions, but respect my time enough that you do a little bit of the research on your own before you email me. Then I promise I will give you so much better replies, and I will even sound nice too, and not like your annoyed teacher.