Monday, July 27, 2009

New Yorker Review of the Kindle

I'm away from email and Internet for a week and a half starting the day after tomorrow. But I leave you with a fascinating, extensive, and largely negative review of the Kindle at the New Yorker. I haven't tried the Kindle yet, but am not surprised, having come from working for a book publisher in the web usability field. As the review points out, these devices have a ways to go before they've really got it yet.

I first heard about the MIT E-Ink project in 1998 or 1999, and not to be show-off-y, predicted when I first heard about it that it would take quite some time for these things to be remotely usable (witness the 10 years before even early adopters started actually using the things). Along with an excellent reflexive/auto-ethnographic in situ review of one user's experience with the device, this article includes a good history of the ebook movement as well.

Personally, I'm waiting for the invention of a book with a series of flexible Bible-page-thin pagescreens that can be loaded up with electronic ink and at least a series of which could actually be turned back over/easily referred back to like normal pages (after all, what good is a mystery, for instance, if you can't look back and try to figure out the clues?), but then loaded up with a different ebook from memory at any time as well as having a search function, etc. It could be something like 100 pages long and reload itself as necessary. Careful work would have to be done, as the author above mentions, toward making sure illustrations worked properly and the typefaces and contrasts, indices, etc. were well-designed.

And if they want to do anything with the academic--or any kind of "books-for-studying"--markets, they MUST MUST MUST work with the others (creators of Zotero, Endnote, etc.) who are creating academic reading/citation/note-taking tools and with services like Google Scholar and Google Books, which academics and students are already using a ton. And with the libraries who are working with zillions of academic databases.

Hm, well, back to my studying.

By the way, my paid creative project is now past its first writing stages and has moved on to rewriting and revising, completely on schedule. It's nice to be getting past that awful first draft stage and to feel on track to finish it before my Big Nasty Exams start. Woohoo!

Friday, July 24, 2009


I'm on vacation as of later today. Granted, it will be a vacation in which I haul a large chunk of my books and binders for studying for my Big Nasty Tests with me, but still a vacation. I may post sometime early next week, but then I'll be offline for a week and a half.

It will probably be quite productive for my studying, though I would still prefer to have a laptop to take with me to type things in. Ah well, I'll survive, and likely thrive outside of those times when I have the deep urge to retrieve or create a new studying document.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Plot, a Plot!

I'm ridiculously excited. I love the creative process when it goes this well.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been doing extensive research for this creative writing project for my assistantship. I've been thinking through all the pieces of information I know, and seeing if they fit with the very rough story framework I came up with last week.

Talking with various people to confirm. Floating my ideas past people as the story evolved.

Last night, after I lit my candles in the living room, I was trawling through the web doing some more research and came up with a potential ending for my story.

I slept on it. I woke up. I called around to a few people to confirm that my story was feasible and sounded like it would work for the client. It is, and it does.

I've got a plot! Now just to write the story! Currently I'm waiting a bit on some final key research from some of my contacts, but that should arrive later today. And before then, I can at least start jotting down some parts of the story that don't relate so closely to it.

I love it when a plan comes together (visualize evil tenty fingers).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My New Writing Practice

I used to have this wonderful routine down, back before I went back to grad school. I was working more than full-time, so I'd work my 10 or 12 hours in a day. Then I'd come home, maybe play some piano, maybe take a walk (with or without my friend across the street) to clear my head from the stresses of the day.

And then, around 9 or 10 p.m., I'd sit down in the living room with the TV off, I'd journal out whatever thoughts were running around in my head, and I'd think and write at least 100 words of my creative project (often several pages). The writing would sometimes take me up till 2 or 3 a.m. And then I'd get up at 7 and start over again.

Retrospectively, I'm not sure how I had the stamina. But it worked well.

The problem with grad school is in part that I often work at home. It then becomes harder to find practices that clear my head and help me to move from one thing--and one kind of thing--to another. Especially when so much of my work of all kinds is done on the computer.

But I've begun exercising again (sans iPod because it died) and that is helping. And last night I discovered that lighting a few candles in my living room and staring at them for a few minutes also helps.

Which is good because I have to switch back and forth between heavily academic tasks, errands, and this creative project for my assistantship for the rest of the week. And the creative project has passed most of the research phase and moved into the writing stage. And there's a pretty strong deadline, so I need to get into the creative writing mode pretty frequently. And quickly. And well.

You go, candles. You go.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


For the last few weeks of the summer, I have a grad assistantship where I get paid to write a creative narrative--for a digital application, even. I'm going to be extremely busy in the next few weeks, especially since my Big Nasty Exams are now only 6 weeks away, but the fact that I get to work creatively in my capacity as an academic is extremely motivating.

I love it when the two parts of my life come together like that.

Okay, back to work.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

On the Joy of Research

So last night sometime around 1 or 2 a.m. I got inspired to do some research.

This research had nothing, really, to do with my studying for the Big Nasty Tests I've been studying for.

It was only rather tangentially related, or so I thought, to my dissertation.

Primarily, it was (primarily academic) background research for one of my creative projects.

In searching through Google Scholar and WorldCat for sources to interlibrary loan (reminding me of the beauty of having full access to the academic library system) I found a source that will help my understanding of my dissertation topic, as well as inspiration and good material for that and other potential creative projects.

I also remembered why I like researching these kinds of things. The thrill of the unexpected discovery is fabulous. It's these moments that remind me why I started doing this grad school thing in the first place, and why it's worth sticking it out through the annoying and difficult times.

Now just to plow that delight back into all the other projects I'm supposed to be working on.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Trying Not to Be Slightly Offended by This...

From a book on conducting qualitative research, talking about writing up field notes from participant observation of people in a setting:

"It happens that observers differ enormously in the detail and length of the field notes they keep. Some seem to be frustrated novelists and have been known to write 40 or more single-spaced pages on a three-hour period of observation." --Lofland and Lofland, Analyzing Social Settings (1984), p. 67
And people (well, maybe it's just me, but today it's an editorial pluralism) wonder why, although novelists and qualitative field researchers both learn from observing people in settings, these two groups are somewhat estranged from each other?

Stereotypes, stereotypes...My primary question is, since when did any frustrated novelist write that much? It seems most frustrated novelists' problem is more of the writing too little than writing too much...

But maybe that's just my perception of the way the writing world works.

The larger question is, why can't we all just get along, since fiction writers and qualitative researchers are doing remarkably similar things (I should know, since I'm part of both groups)?