Archive for the ‘life’ Category

A good day despite it all

Monday, March 24th, 2008

I agreed to cover the first two hours of Daniel’s shift this morning so he could sleep (long story, but basically he’s working two jobs for the City despite officially only working one, and he’s exhausted). So I was in at 05:00. Then class until 13:00. Then back to work until 21:00.

So, basically, I’ve been on the go for 16 hours straight, and it’s been tiring. I also ended up agreeing to work the first half of Keri’s 12-hour shift tomorrow so she can stick with her family as her grandfather just passed away. That means back at work at 05:00 until class, but I’m free by 12:30, so I may crash and take a nap then.

But exhaustion is not enough to get me down. For today is the day after Easter, and we all know what that means…

Jesus is alive and he brings with him deeply discounted chocolate candies!

I did manage to fit a run on the chocolate aisle into my day, and that’s kept me bouncy through a combination of happiness and a constant state of sugar-high. So yaaaay candy.

The other thing that makes me happy is that I managed to finish Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody over the weekend. I’ve got a one sentence review: “You* should read this book.”

Seriously. It’s just that good.

*: This is a universal ‘you’, but I’d actually welcome questions. If you want to know why you, specifically, should read Here Comes Everybody drop a comment and I’ll lay it out for you.

Thomas

Two in a row, the world must be over

Friday, March 21st, 2008

I’ll keep this short since I must shortly meet Claire and Kelly for dinner. Huzzah for post-work dinner!

Today was the fourth 12-hour shift I’ve worked in a row (not that I’m complaining, I signed up for it since I needed the money), and I thankfully have tomorrow off before going back for Easter Sunday.

It was, overall, a good day. I’m not actually sure I’ve worked a shift with Kelly despite us both having been employed by the same organization for nearly a year (I think she’s been here that long, at least), and it was rather fun.

This has been a fascinating job to work, and I’ve mostly enjoyed it on a number of levels, but I find myself more than a little excited by the prospect of leaving in less than two months. The open road calls, and I’m not sure I can take the most recent round of bureaucratic politics and muscle flexing. My fascination with organizations is borne out in being stuck inside one. It’s very interesting to find myself nodding and saying to myself “aha, this is something they’re doing terribly, and here’s a potential solution”. Though I doubt I’d be willing to say anything as an employee (a further interesting thing to recognize).

Which reminds me that I need to make a post soon about said roadtrip. Because, seriously, when you’re driving a total of 10,000 miles (gas prices, please stop rising), you can visit so many cool people. So if you’re in the US or Canada, well, let this serve as a notice that I would rather enjoy putting you on the list of stops…

Thomas

Decisions, decisions

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

I realize that I haven’t posted since my trip to NYC (which was, by the way, utterly wonderful). That means that my plan to get back to posting once a day (at least on weekdays) didn’t go so well. Still, there’s hope for me to make it back to that level yet, so consider this yet another attempt.

Instead of trying to catch everyone up on what’s been going on recently, I’ll confine myself to the big things. Namely: grad school stuff.

I sent out three applications, and so far I’ve received two letters. Michigan has declined to offer me a slot in their program. This might be a minor blow to my ego, but as they were choice three I didn’t let it get me down too much.

Georgia Tech, my number two choice, has offered me a space. This would (hopefully) mean studying under Amy Bruckman who heads the ELC (Electronic Learning Communities) project. I’d be sort of surprised if many of you have heard of her, but she’s really awesome. I had a long phone conversation with her a week or two ago, and she really impressed me, and got me excited about the program there.

NYU, the clear front runner at the moment, hasn’t gotten back to me yet. I’m really hoping for this one. NYU would mean not only living in NYC, but it would also mean studying with Clay Shirky. (I am about halfway through Clay’s most recent book. It’s not heavy reading, I just don’t have much time to devote to it. It is excellent. Seriously so. And Jon, if you still read LiveJournal, I think you should take a look. There’s some mention of Wenger and CoPs.)

Anyway, here’s hoping I’ll know by next week as Georgia Tech has a response deadline of April 15. Of course at this point I have no idea how I’m going to pay for this whole “education thing”. But, hey, I’m sure something’ll work out.

Thomas

Short and sweet from NYC

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

I’m tired, but here’s the update.

Landed safely last night right around 7:20, my scheduled arrival time. Caught the M60 (bus, not machine gun) to Astoria and took the W to the 1 then uptown. Arrived at the inestimably awesome ‘s around 8:30 or so? Anyway, there was still food (food!), and it was quite tasty. Introduced the household to Jungle Speed (how do people not know how awesome the game is?) and they in turn introduced me to Hex-Hex (which is light and fun and makes me think about design). Then it was bed time for me.

Woke up relatively early this morning (stupid internal clock and keeping early hours). Had the place to myself with everyone asleep for an hour or so. Then and I took off for breakfast at this place with lovely omelets. I think we sat and talked for an hour or an hour and a half about the stuff she’s working on and the stuff I want to work on, and it was good times.

Then back to her place to grab my gear (I’m staying somewhere else tonight) and off to NYU I took myself. Showed up quite early for my appointment and killed time by wandering around the program floor looking at projects and labs and talking to students. Good times. Then I sat down and talked to Midori, who’s sort of the person who helps hapless prospective students like myself. She had good question and summarized the program extremely well. She answered all my questions and introduced me to a student or two. Good times. Along the way I mentioned that I was hoping to run into Clay Shirky (CLAY SHIRKY) if he were around. He wasn’t, but she said he might be back in a bit and introduced me to some students to talk to.

Clay did, indeed, come back. We talked, and it was super awesome. Clay basically does what I want to do, and needless to say it was a lot of fun trading ideas with him.

Anyway, I’m sleepy, so I’m out.

Thomas

Boutique Travel Travel Boutique

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Leaving for the airport in less than an hour. Should be on the ground in NYC by 19:00 or so. Sweet.

I’ve managed to slam out almost all of the homework I would normally do this weekend, and I’ve gotten taken the exams/quizzes I’ll miss and gotten ahead on my reading. This is all remarkably responsible of me. I feel like I might be grown up or something, which is somewhat frightening.

Once I get back from this trip I’m pretty much done with the serious organizational duties I can be involved in without getting letters back from grad schools. That means serious roadtrip planning while I wait to see who wants me to spend two years with them (please let it by NYU). Considering how excited I am about a weekend trip to NYC, I’m sure you can imagine just how much I’m looking forward to this summer.

Randomly, because it’s on my mind, I have to develop an XML/JSP web application for one of my classes this semester. I’m thinking I might try to do some sort of web-based roadtrip tracker that will tell people where I am and let me blog with attached location markers and possibly with photos attached. Of course I’d have to do simultaneous development for PHP and JSP because the course calls for JSP, but PHP has so much broader support that it’s really not feasible to deploy a JSP application for general public usage, and that’s what I want to do.

Anyway, if you’re in NYC and want to hang out this weekend, do give me a call.

Thomas

Hi, guys. Remember me?

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Forgive me, friends, for I have slacked. It has been over six months since I last looked at this journal or anything associated with it. Which is rather sad since I really do like most of you. (Except you, yes you, you’re the one who killed my dog and laughed about it. Shut up, I totally had a dog once.)

I’m sort of in a hurry at the moment, so this’ll be short, but I’m hoping to get back into the swing of daily updates. Now won’t that be fun? In bulleted form, here’s my life since we last talked.

  • Grad school applications are in. NYU, Michigan (Ann Arbor), and Georgia Tech. Currently waiting to hear back from them.
  • Flying to NYC this weekend to visit NYU. If you’re in the city and want to get together, give me a heads-up. You know I like to meet people.
  • On track to graduate in May with two B.A.s. Rather excited by this prospect.
  • Planning to finally execute my roadtrip this summer. The one where I take three months off and put 10,000 miles on my odometer in order to drive around North America. If you live in North America and would be up for a visit, then I want to hear from you.
  • Haven’t been doing much roleplaying recently, or really much board gaming either. This is sad, but life goes on. My interest remains undiminished.
  • Have been thinking a lot about internet communities and the way software shapes them (surprise!). May make a post on the topic at some point.

But now I’m hopefully back, and will hopefully be updating daily, so I’m sure you’ll hear more about each of these as time goes on.

Thomas

Another day, another move

Friday, August 10th, 2007

So yesterday marked the third time I moved in the past nine months. Once back last November to live with the sister, then in May to live somehwere else for the summer so other-sister could move into my old space, and now into the place I’m sharing with Will until I (hopefully) graduate.

The place is nice. Not centrally-heated, but with three window A/C units (note to self: contact realty people about getting new filters as these likely haven’t been serviced in years). The interesting thing about window A/C units is that for some tasks they’re simply more efficient. Last night I just had the one unit on in the bedroom and closed the door. It stayed cool, but didn’t chill the whole place. Which is nice because I like to sleep in the chill, but hate to wake up to it. Simply walking out into the hall made me feel toasty.

Also, and probably more importantly, I got my bed back. See, I’ve been sleeping on this bed for years. I don’t know where we got this mattress, but… It’s just about perfect for me. Perhaps a bit short, but supportive precisely where I want, and soft where I prefer. The place I was in for the summer was furnished, so I left my bed behind and used theirs.

This morning was the first time in three months that I’ve woken up and not, as my first action, popped my neck (in three directions) and then my back. That’s just lovely.

I’m an eight minute walk from work, and a seven minute walk to school. I’m glad to be in a place where I can walk again.

Also, and unrelated to anything other than that I discovered this yesterday: we apparently have an FLGS now. I stopped by, talked Eurogames with one of the owners, then some other people showed up and we watched an episode of Cowboy Bebop while discussing LARPs, and finally I got a demo of Warmachine, which is a pretty clever game, but will need more play before I could make much more of a statement than that.

Back to moving: one up-shot of moving as often as I have recently is that I’ve pared my life down to the essentials. Everything which I moved fit into a corner of the room and took up about the same footprint as a king sized mattress. Clothes, electronics, books, furniture… Living small. In a conceited sort of way, I like it.

Thomas

Huh…

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

I’m still around. Not even really that busy, just neglecting the ol’ LJ. I moved Friday and move again Friday (or maybe Thursday if the realty company gets their stuff done early). The guy who was there this summer moved out in a hurry (graduation was Saturday, he had to be out by early Monday morning), and he left… pretty much everything.

Looks like he got his clothes, books, DVDs, and major electronics out, but we’ve still got a pair of couches, a bed, a chest of drawers, a desk, an (empty) entertainment center, a mini-fridge, a blender, an POD espresso machine, a pair of floor speakers, and… pretty much everything in the kitchen other than the flatware. The realty company wants us to go through and figure out what we want to keep and what to dump so they can send in a cleaning crew.

Oh, we also got three or four standing lamps, a cable modem, five or six power strips, and assorted random things (flashlight, detergent, etc.).

Anyway, there will be pictures of the new place. As soon as I get my camera back from my sister, anyway.

Thomas

Third time’s a charm

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Will and I have been planning to do the roommate thing this fall. We’ve already had two leases taken out from under us. The first was when we decided to sign a lease, Will left the country for two weeks, and when he came back someone else had already done so. The second was when I called on a Thursday to request an appointment to view a place (they said they’d call me back), and when I called back on Tuesday to see if they had any idea when I might get that appointment they told me someone else had already rented it. So! Today I go to turn in our paperwork and hope that the place we looked at yesterday hasn’t been rented in the intervening time. We’ll see.

Thomas

That round’s down

Sunday, June 24th, 2007

I utterly destroyed my Contemporary Sociological Theory exam yesterday. It’s likely that I missed a couple of questions, but that’s because I didn’t even bother attempting to memorize birth and death dates and locations for Marx, Weber, Simmel, or Mead. I expect to see a bunch of A’s on in the database sometime this week.

I also got my paper back for the class. It was actually a pretty lame assignment: pure drudgery work, no analysis or research. Somewhat amusingly, the prof knew that and freely admitted it. Anyway, paper returned with one note or criticism scribbled in red pen: “Use title page”. Then, on the back page just above the grade is another note “marvelous writing”.

This is actually a combination of ego-boosting and depressing. I drafted this paper once, red-penned it alone (without getting an outside view) and then turned in the second draft. It’s nice to know that I can produce decent work with one go at it, but it’s sort of sad that this sort of work can impress the instructor of a fairly high-level course. I think it says something about my ability, but also something about what we’ve come to expect from our university students.

Thomas

I’d title this post “I’m not dead”, but I’m pretty sure I’ve used it a dozen times already

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

Seriously. It seems like I drop off the LJ radar at least every six months. Though this time I feel that I have a decent excuse. Today is the last day of finals for the classes I’ve been taking for the last five weeks. Here’s the rundown:

Crime and Criminality: Exams done, grades in, got an A. This wasn’t all that interesting. It was mostly an overview of super-foundational criminology, and we didn’t really delve into any theory that I wasn’t already at least passingly familiar with from my studies in sociology. Not a bad class, and I suppose I picked up some interesting historical and modern-structural information. Also, it’s over with.

Minority Groups: Final paper turned in this morning, estimated grade is either an A or a very high B. As is the case with pretty much any class I’ve had with Dr. Fry, this one kicked butt. It was squarely focused on social identity construction which is a topic I already find pretty dang compelling. It also synergized quite well with the Social Stratification course I took last fall without rehashing all the material. The classes were great compliments to one another. We had some good discussion, and the texts we were working from were straight-up excellent. Also, we watched the film Crash and had some interesting discussions on the racial messages embedded there.

Contemporary Sociological Theory: Exam begins at 14:00 today, estimated grade is an A, probably a high one. My first complaint is that the class is mistitled. This was really a course on Modern Sociological Theory, rather than Contemporary Theory. We went from Comte and Durkheim to the disciples of Mead and Symbollic Interactionism. So no actual contemporary theory at all. That said, there was a lot of really good grounding in the historical roots of the field, and we did get to talk about Symbollic Interactionism which always gets me pumped. The text we had was serviceable, but not great. My other big complaint is that there was something about the professor’s teaching style that really turned me off (though by the end of the course I was warming to it, so it may not have been as big an issue if we’d had more than five weeks): no matter how interesting the material we were discussing was, I was always counting the minutes to get out of class. I felt myself bored by Mead, and that’s rather unusual.

Monday the new round of classes begins. I shall only be taking a single statistics class, so things should calm down a bit.

In unrelated news, my housing plans for the fall (beginning in mid-August) have fallen through. I am now somewhat scrambling to find somewhere to live. It’ll work out, Auburn is still in a rental housing glut after all, but it’s a hassle I didn’t really need and is going to force me to redevelop my budget again. Goody.

I haven’t been reading my friends list since my last post, so if there’s something you think I should have read (or would have enjoyed) you’re welcome to point to it. And, hopefully, I’ll be able to get back to posting daily or close to it. That’d be cool.

Thomas

How long should a writing sample be?

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

I find myself pondering a writing sample for graduate school applications (which are a long way off, but hey, I like to get ahead). I think I’ve hit upon a topic, but I’m left with a conundrum…

See, I want to write about the tendency for the first response to a blog entry or forum post to have significant impact on the shape of conversation. But it’s a big topic. I could write 20,000 words on it pretty easily, I’m thinking. I could also write something a lot shorter. What should I be aiming for? Is this one of those “it depends” or “there’s no set of guidelines” things?

I’m ignorant and need your help!

Thomas

Sleep, work, learn, sleep

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

My schedule since last Thursday has looked something like this:

03:00 – Hit snooze button repeatedly.
03:30 – Actually get up. Shave, brush teeth, shower.
04:15 – Brush and braid hair, check email, check Azureus, prep something for lunch to take with me.
04:30 – Close down laptop, pack bag with lunch, homework, and computer. Grab a chocolate from the big bag a friend got me, get in the car.
04:40 – Get signed in at work. Work for a while. IF TIME = WEEKEND, GO TO 17:00
09:00 – Shift is over, walk to campus.
09:15 – Classroom is empty prior to class, take half an hour to check email again and review reading for the day.
09:45 – First class: Minority Groups with Dr. Fry. (Yes, the same Dr. Fry I’ve been taking classes with for a year.) This class rocks so far. I’m a bit leery of the focus we seem to be taking (minorities as ethnic/racial minorities), but that’s where almost all the research has been done so I can deal.
11:15 – Walk across campus to take Criminology and Criminal Justice. I’m not super-excited about this class. I think it will be somewhat interesting, but I’m also pretty sure that I know almost everything that we’re going to discuss already. It’s the entry-level CRIM class, and a major requirement, so I’m not surprised much. Eat lunch in this class.
13:00 – Walk across campus (again, the other way) to take Contemporary Sociological Theory. A poorly named class indeed. I mean, while important, Marx, Weber, and Durkheim aren’t precisely contemporary theorists. Despite having my hopes for some, you know, contemporary theory dashed, I do think I’m going to enjoy the material. I could use a good grounding in Weber and Durkheim, and a review of Marx wouldn’t be bad. Of course that means we need to get through our interminable review of the history of Western thought. We’ve now spent six hours of class going from Plato through the French Revolution. I think we’re almost done and can get on with the actual sociology.
14:45 – Get out of class and walk back to work to pick up my car. Do any driving-related errands (like shopping). Go back to the apartment.
16:00 – Get home. Check email, begin reading for classes, maybe take time to eat. Possibly watch an episode of something I’ve downloaded. Maybe read a comic book.
18:30 – Put away work, check email and Azureus, go to sleep.

That’s been my life since classes started. I actually have two days off back to back coming up, and they happen to be Saturday and Sunday. I’m sort of reeling at the idea of not having to do anything. It’s a good feeling.

So, that’s why you haven’t heard from me in a while.

Coming soon (I hope): A more detailed report on classes, the funny story of the utterly sloshed drunk girl who wandered into my 09:45 class on Thursday, musings about a possible grad school writing sample (tentatively entitled “The Tyranny of the First Reply”).

Thomas

So it ends, until Thursday

Monday, May 14th, 2007

My last grade came in today (after graduation, I know). It was, of course, the only one I was even remotely worried about. This is Phil of Language, the class where I really bombed the first paper (entirely my fault, I just kept putting it off). Hoping to make up for that I did multiple drafts of my other papers and found that I would leave conferences without a strong feel for what needed to change to improve them.

I still came out with a B, which I’m not sure I deserved, but for which I am grateful. The prof is a nice guy, smart too. I enjoyed the class and found it informative despite the major differences between it and most of the other philosophy classes I’ve taken.

I’m hoping to have some time to talk to Dr. Sutton about further reading in phil of language. What we did this semester was pretty much super-basic and foundational. I feel like I’m ready to take a phil of language class and get a lot out of it now, but not like I took a phil of language course. It’s interesting, actually.

Anyway, classes start Thursday, and I’m taking a bunch during the first half of the summer. Each one of these is 1:15 a day.

Race Relations – Dr. Fry. Dr. Fry was my prof for Social Stratification in the Fall and Complex Organizations this past semester. Her specialization is, appropriately enough, stratification and the development of local organizations to help combat its economic effects.

Basic Criminology – This is one of the requirements for Sociology majors. I’m hoping it will be interesting, but I am fearing that it will not be. Of course I’ve had some really good basic-level courses before, so we’ll see how things turn out.

Contemporary Sociological Theory – I’m looking forward to this. My experiences within the Sociology department are pretty limited so far (you’ll note I’ve taken a lot of courses with Dr. Fry), but mostly positive. I am hoping that we’ll do overviews of a bunch of theoretical frameworks so I can get a feel for what’s out there and start piecing together what I need to develop something to work from with online communities.

In other news, is in town for a few days. I think we may do something awesome.

Thomas

What I bought me for Mothers’ Day

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

First, since I know my parents read this thing: Happy Mothers’ Day, mom. I love you and miss you. I’ll probably ramble about how awesome my mom is in a bit…

But before that, I should say that I came this close to purchasing a 1 TB network drive yesterday. It was pretty and shiny and right there. And $500. So, instead I walked away with a 250 GB USB drive at a much more reasonable price. A couple of years ago I had a pretty simple rubric: a good price on a hard drive was $0.50 per GB. Based on my wandering around Best Buy it looks like that’s going to need to change. I think that $0.40 per GB is getting standard, which means a good deal is going to be closer to $0.30 per GB. Which… wow… Data storage is virtually free these days. That’s $1.50~$2.00 to store a DVD. And it’s only going to get cheaper, which I think is awesome.

Anyway, back to my mom.

It’s hard for me to articulate sometimes just what it is I appreciate about her (or my father, really). I think part of it is due to the incredible degree of influence they’ve both had on my life. I’ve always seen my parents as the sort of people I want to be in a lot of ways. Not all ways of course, but in the vast majority of things they’re the first people I look to when I consider the sort of person I want to be.

I feel incredibly lucky to have them both. They’re awesome people, and I don’t know if I say that often enough.

Thomas

Conversational dysfunction, instant messaging, and you

Friday, May 11th, 2007

I think there are a number of major flaws in the interface of all current IM systems. These flaws lead to a number of dysfunctional forms of interaction. I think that most of these flaws are due to the fact that IM systems are a direct descendent of email.

Now, this is something I can’t absolutely prove, but I think that ICQ (the first IM program I’m aware of) was designed to fill certain gaps in email designs. I think it was designed to better facilitate rapid-fire back and forth conversations. They still happen via email and forums and I’ve had some in LJ comments. You can see suggestions that this was the intended solution in the fact that IMs are push-based (rather than pull-based), and the fact that early IM systems allowed you to send messages to people who were offline. It was very much a modified email system.

But taking email realtime without modifying it created a number of issues. This is due, in part, because email is itself a direct evolution from paper letters, which were never intended to be a synchronous form of communication.

So, let’s look at that. One of the big issues is that while IM conversations tend to have clear entry points (you know when the conversation starts), they don’t have clear exit points. Conversations tend to trail off rather than end. You don’t know if the other person is considering your points or simply ignoring you because unlike a face to face conversation you have no non-verbal clues, and unlike a phone conversation you don’t have a clear moment of disconnection when the conversation ends. This can lead to confusion because not every participant is on the same page with regard to the state of the discussion.

There’s another problem which arises, this one based more, I think, upon the way that IM programs have evolved rather than based upon holdovers from previous modes of communication. The problem is, simply put, that to make yourself available for any conversation, you must do so for all conversations. But what if there is only a subset of the people on your buddy list that you feel up to talking to? Sucks to be you. Further, being available makes you available to people you may not know, and sometimes you’re just not up to meeting new people.

There’s more, and I could go more in-depth, but my relief’s here so I’m going to go get some food. Feel free, as always, to drop comments or questions. I’d love to discuss this.

Thomas

Practice, experience, and baking

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

As with most things, cooking a lot means you learn a lot about cooking. I’ve been doing a lot of cookies this semester (as the locals know), and it’s been a pretty neat learning experience. I’ve figured out just how important your solid oils are (butter, margarine, shortening), and the sort of neat things you can do by varying quantities. I’ve experimented with adding extra eggs, and I’ve gotten a good handle on how the alcohol in vanilla extract impacts batter and cooking characteristics. I’ve played with solid to liquid proportions and figured out how to attain various thicknesses of cookies. I’ve chilled dough and rolled it. I’ve messed with temperatures and cooking times to see how things change when you cook at higher temps for shorter times. I figured out how to dissolve marshmallows into batter so that they don’t leave bubbles in things when you cook them.

It’s been a lot of fun, and pretty dang educational. As I often do, I am wondering whether I could put together a business and sell baked goods over the internet. And as I often do I figure I’m probably not interested enough in actually doing it. Ah well.

Thomas

Oh, financial ties, how fun

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

I signed a lease for the summer yesterday. This one runs through August 6. So over this week I’ve got to decide what’s worth moving for the summer and what I should just put in storage until the fall. It’s not like I need that much to survive, and I’m not sure I want to bother rigging all my A/V gear over there since I know I’ll only be there for three months. Especially since I could just leave it at the condo and use it there if I really need it.

Which still leaves me setting up for the fall somewhere, but I don’t think that’ll be a problem, really.

The new place is, of course, smaller than the condo. I’m still unsure how much of my stuff I’ll take so it may turn out that my place is not the place to hang out anymore (we’ll see). Maybe someone (hint, hint) will move closer to downtown Auburn? That would be nice.

Thomas

Well, that’s different

Monday, May 7th, 2007

Today’s post is unrelated to anything I’ve been talking about recently. Oddly enough, it starts with a link. For demonstration purposes I recommend that you open that in a new tab (because you’ve got tabs, right? everyone has tabs now!) and leave it running in the background.

Now, it must be admitted that my lack of understanding of music composition theory is only exceeding by my lack of understanding of intelligent algorithms. While I have a passing familiarity with both, I’m not even an amateur with either. However, lack of expertise has never stopped me from thinking weird thoughts before.

I had the above link open in the background for about forty minutes the other day and was struck with the way that it manages to come across as simultaneously chaotic and musical at the same time. Most music, when set to a loop, has very clear breakpoints. You can tell when a run ends and a new one begins, it’s generally obvious. This one, for whatever reason, blends almost completely seamlessly. Further, it also has a sort of weird uniformity such that I’m never sure if I’m hearing a given part of the music again on another loop around, or if it’s just something close in the basic piece.

Which got me thinking: is it possible to design an algorithm which knows enough about musical theory to compose an infinitely extensible piece of background music? One that feels like one unified piece, but which doesn’t actually have to be a loop. I imagine it’d be rather jazz-like, but I don’t really know.

Just one of those crazy thoughts.

Thomas

My disconnection from the “RPG theory” community

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

I mentioned yesterday I might delve into this a bit, but first a weird note. I was talking to people about sub-leasing for the summer, and one of the places I went to talk to people at I met someone who I knew of from work. I think this is the first time I’ve ever crossed paths in real life with someone I’ve taken a complaint from with the police. So here’s this guy who has no idea who I am, and I happen to know way more about his personal life than I’d like (because people making complaints want to tell you everything). It was, I admit, somewhat disconcerting. Anyway, enough of that.

You’ll note that in my title above I have “RPG theory” in quotes. This is because I’m beginning to see just how tied together the RPG theory and the specific publishing model advocated by the Forge are. This isn’t a bad thing, really, but since I’m becoming more and more disenchanted with the Forge publishing model I’m simultaneously growing disconnected from the community.

Here’s where that disenchantment comes from: The Forge model is heavily focused upon audience publication. That is, a big part of Forge-style publishing is publishing a game to be read and played by people you don’t know. Which, like I said, isn’t bad. Writing for an audience is no bad thing, and it can, when done well, be really helpful for the audience too. However, it’s not really what I’m interested in.

I’ve come to realize that I just don’t really care all that much about presenting to an unknown audience. I want to write games for me to play. Games for me to play with my friends. I’m not really all that excited to write for people outside of that group.

Which leads to a difficulty. People inside my group of friends share a lot of assumptions with me. That means that I don’t have to explain a lot of things, I can just rely on them to know them already. This is not true for an unknown audience. For the unknown audience I should assume intelligence but ignorance. It’s not that they’re dumb, they just haven’t been exposed to all the ideas they need to have been exposed to to get what I’m doing.

The sort of writing you need to do for the unknown audience, the sort of writing you need to do to reach enough people to make it worth your time and effort to publish on paper, is significantly different than the sort of writing you do for your friends. The Forge, for whatever reason, places a lot of value on publishing for the unknown audience, and thus on writing the sorts of game texts that will make sense to them.

This, I think, is the driving aesthetic behind the community even today. After the Forge “diaspora” most people are still thinking in these terms. Which, again, is cool. It’s just not what I want to do. I think that within this community aesthetic any theory is intended to support the goal of publishing for the unknown audience, and I think that the theory that has been developed for it works really well at that.

That’s why I think I feel disconnected: I don’t really share those core values and thus don’t really care all that much about what the community is up to. There are, of course, exceptions. I know Jon’s been talking about “communities of practice” forever, and that’s the sort of thing that makes me go hmmm. But it’s sort of on the fringes, not really part of the community in a lot of ways because it doesn’t support that core publishing aesthetic.

Thomas