Morrill Act

This will perhaps interest no one other than me, but there are two acts of Congress that play a role in my current research: the one which established vocational, especially vocational agriculture, programs in high schools and the Morrill Act, which established land grant universities, and later cooperative extensions.

Memes and Temes

I am generally not a fan of neologisms — especially in the wake of having recently suffered through a talk which was nothing more than a string of neologisms — but I found myself interested in Susan Blackmore’s notion of *teme* (short for technological meme) in her TED talk:

It pairs nicely with Kevin Kelly’s *technium*. There certainly seems to be an emergence in the zeitgeist that wants to think about the directions technology is taking us. (This may, in fact, be part of an ongoing dialogue in the West, which bears a bit of research on my part at some point in the near future.)

Another Graffiti Blog/Database

Latrinalia — the writing on the walls of bathrooms — and graffiti have been studied by folklorists for quite some time. It’s refreshing to see folks not only collecting material but also attempting to publish it in some fashion as they collect it. My friend and colleague Quinn Dombrowksi was the first person I know to do so, and now I just ran across Graffiti on Grounds, an “archive of writing scratched and scrawled around the campus of the University of Virginia.” The great thing about GoG is that clicking on an individual item gets you a single page which has Dublin Core metadata and “Graffiti Item Type” metadata. If there was a “This Week in the Humanities” program, I would like to do a show on this.

A Map of Science Fiction

I can’t wait to show this one to my digital humanities seminar: Ward Shelley, a teacher at Parsons New School for Design, has a five-foot wide painting which is a visualization of the history of science fiction. The Chronicle article which describes Shelley’s work has a nice write-up on the larger effort to create interest in such visualizations in which folks like Katy Borner are involved.

More Dropbox Goodness

I wish all services, and even a lot of applications, were as good as Dropbox. I turned the participants in my digital humanities seminar onto it, and, if I had done nothing else, I think that alone would have made the class for some of them. *None* of them hauls around a USB drive anymore. They have made sharing Dropbox files and folders part of how they work: it’s been amazing to watch.

If you haven’t tried it out, do. 2GB of storage is free. I have a slightly larger account, 10GB for $10 a month. I keep my home and office files synced via DropBox, and I also access PDFs and other files in GoodReader (iPad) via DB.

If you try it and like it, feel free to use my referral code. We both get an extra 250MB for free.

Once you are up and running, head over to AppStorm and read their “Ultimate Dropbox Toolkit and Guide” (link to post).

Own Your Data

I had never heard of Lendle until they found themselves on the wrong side of Amazon’s API guidelines, but I agree completely with the assessment offered by _The Economist_: “The brief outage demonstrates a fundamental truth about the internet: if you don’t own the data you need to run your business, you’re dependent on the policies—and whims—of the parties that do.” (Link to post.)

I find myself making this point rather regularly to my students with regards to Facebook, but I also found myself making the same point to a university committee that is working to develop a digital repository. Worse, I wonder now if I didn’t make the point strongly enough as part of the team that is working to build a new infrastructure for the American Folklore Society. (We are using a software-as-a-service vendor, and my experience of it has been, er, eye-opening.)

Of Notebooks

There’s a lovely post by Whitney Carpenter up at The Bygone Bureau, wherein she describes her own misfortunate investment in “just the right” notebook and other writing paraphernalia as a way to imagine herself as a writer. It’s both a kind of perfectionism and a kind of procrastination. (And I think it’s currently the consensus that the two are often intertwined.)

Carpenter does a marvelous job of chronicling the various notebooks she bought as she builds toward a nice realization — understood here both as visualization and as epiphany — that the notebooks are just weighing her down. (An idea she reinforces by, quite literally, toting an antique typewriter in the trunk of her car.)

I confess I have been down the path myself. For me, it ended when I realized that the larger Moleskine notebooks were good enough for me. In short, they worked. Writing instruments? I almost entirely rely upon a handful of mechanical pencils. My preference for them is simple:

* I make mistakes and I like being able to erase those mistakes instead of lining through them. (I like to be neat when I can.)
* Graphite does not run when wet. I am around a lot of open water in my field research, and I have been known to drop things. Even if there is no water in the ground, it’s also the case that I am often in extremely hot environments and, well, I sweat.

When I am working at a desk, I use a stiff-backed yellow notepad. I tear out pages as I fill them and they can easily get filed where they need to go. (This also makes it easy to find notes, since the yellow pages contrast easily with the various sheets of white paper that are photocopies or printouts.)

My entire writing life is nothing more complicated than that. *Oh, you didn’t imagine that note-taking at meetings would be part of my writing life?* That particular decision was not one I made but one that got made for me once I realized the difficulty of keeping the various notes from various parts of my life in diverse notebooks. It’s just easier, I finally realized, if everything goes into one notebook. Some people call this approach by naming the item a “day book” or an “everyday book.” I just call the thing my notebook. The only thing not in it is my fieldwork. (Well, that an truly personal information which I keep elsewhere.)

Having everything in one place requires that I perform some regular checking back over the past few pages/days to see what needs to get carried forward, but that’s a fairly pleasant task and that kind of review is built into various organization strategies, like GTD, anyway. I get it for free. (How nice is that?)

Moving Billings to DropBox

I don’t know why application developers continue to make it hard for their users to put their data where they, the user, want to put it and not some semi-arbitrary place of the developer’s choosing. In the Mac world, it’s particularly annoying when developers do not allow you to make that decision and place the data in their application’s directory within the Application Support directory.

Why is this important or urgent? I use DropBox and I have recently decided to start doing a better job of tracking my time and both the front contenders for the job, Igg Software’s iBiz and MarketCircle’s Billings, assume that they know better than I do where my data goes. Bad app, bad!

There is a workaround, however, and it involves, sigh, symbolic links. This is one standard move in unix that I have just never gotten comfortable with. Some part of me thinks that something should be where it says it is. (This is weird, no?)

  1. Make sure the app isn’t running and that you have a backup of your data! I usually duplicate the folder in Application Support and call it “Billings Copy” just to be extra safe.
  2. Move your Billings folder from /Application Support/ into your Dropbox folder.
  3. Open and type: cd ~/Library/Application\ Support/ (If you aren’t familiar with Terminal commands, this will navigate you to the Application Support folder.)
  4. At the next Terminal prompt, type: ln -s ~/Dropbox/Billings/ ./Billings

Apocalyptic Netlore

I have a folder in my e-mail application labelled netlore that essentially consists of e-mails I have gotten from various correspondents. Some of it is humorous in nature, some political, and some religious. I have never gotten anything as apocalyptic as this:

SEPT 11 ( NEW YORK ) JAN 11 ( HAITI ) and MARCH 11 (JAPAN)….

Luke 21:10-11 Then Jesus said to his disciples: Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines, and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from Heaven. Jesus says “Behold I come quickly”.

Just ask yourself…R U READY FOR HIS ARRIVAL???!!?!?!?

If you are fwd this to as many people as you can!

I should note that everything was in bold.

Uh Oh … Time Messaging Coming Soon

Not time travel, but the ability to send messages into the future or past. Think I’m kidding? Read on:

One of the major goals of the collider is to find the elusive Higgs boson: the particle that physicists invoke to explain why particles like protons, neutrons and electrons have mass. If the collider succeeds in producing the Higgs boson, some scientists predict that it will create a second particle, called the Higgs singlet, at the same time.

According to Weiler and Ho’s theory, these singlets should have the ability to jump into an extra, fifth dimension where they can move either forward or backward in time and reappear in the future or past.

“One of the attractive things about this approach to time travel is that it avoids all the big paradoxes,” Weiler said. “Because time travel is limited to these special particles, it is not possible for a man to travel back in time and murder one of his parents before he himself is born, for example. However, if scientists could control the production of Higgs singlets, they might be able to send messages to the past or future.”