Showing posts with label work. Show all posts
Showing posts with label work. Show all posts

Friday, April 8, 2016

Murder on the University of Texas Campus



Waller Creek runs alongside and through the University of Texas campus.  At all points, it's been left alone, one of the few places where a narrow strip of "what was" winds and trickles between buildings and along roads, a narrow grove of trees surrounding it on both sides for the entire run.  It's not just a ditch or arroyo.  It's a deep cleft in the earth, ten feet down or more in most spaces.

When I was a student living in Jester Dorm, we all took a shortcut from the parking lot a fair distance from the dorm, where we'd have to descend into the wooded creekbed, hop across the rocks poking out of the water in our Doc Martens and Adidas, and then mount the steep rise to pop back out of the treeline and onto the athletic field backed up to the monstrosity that was my home for a year.  There, the creek ran wide and shallow.  Twenty-odd years later, a bridge spans that area.

Further toward MLK, the creek runs even more deep and wide, and I've seen exotic fisher birds standing at the water's edge, odd and out of place with five lanes of traffic on the bridge running by them 20 yards away and 13 story dorms looming in the background, but a reminder that this creek is part of the world, that the campus came long afterward, and may well be here long after the buildings are torn down and the people all gone.  

A couple hundred feet from my freshman-year short-cut, Waller Creek also runs behind The Alumni Center, a facility conveniently located across a wide street from Darrell K. Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium.  The Alumni Center is a low-slung facility, lodge-like, great for banquets and housing the loyal donors on gameday, windows facing the trees reaching up out of the creekbed.  This intersection also includes a classroom building for the Fine Arts as well as the Performing Arts building.



On Monday morning, the UT Austin Police, alerted by a roommate to the fact a freshman was missing, began searching for the missing student.  Around 10:30AM Tuesday, police found the student in Waller Creek behind the Alumni Center.  

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Short Stay in Houston: Old Pals, Work Stuff, a GOP Debate




This week I was in Houston for a short conference at which I presented.  A nice, friendly little conference we have once a year with folks that have known each other a while, and where new folks are usually made to feel very welcome.

I was staying at the hotel on campus, a Hilton commissioned by the late, great Conrad Hilton as part of the hotel management school at the University of Houston that bears his name.  During the conference, the candidates for the Republican party were slated to have a debate on the other end of campus, but CNN had set up adjacent to the library.  So, yes, yesterday I saw the back of Anderson Cooper's magnificently silver head.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

If you see me on the news, it's going to be because I followed my lesser angels



So, a while back I scheduled myself to be at a conference at the University of Houston.  It's a small, local conference and important to my professional community.

And, ha ha, that is the same campus at the same time where the Republican Party has scheduled it's next debate.  That's right.  As I'm eating the most-food like substance librarian money can buy and talking about the excitement of Thesis and Dissertation workflow over a glass of iced tea, somewhere on that same campus, Trump, Rubio and Cruz will be hollering at each other.

It's gonna be a disaster.

I was working at Arizona State University when President Bush and Senator Kerry had a debate on campus, and it was one of the worst days at that job.  And that was a job where I pulled all-nighters and 100 hour weeks.  Basically, it was super loud and crazy on campus, and I failed to leave early (because I was working.  Like a chump.) and it took me two hours to get home as a post 9-11 Secret Service thought it wise to shut down all the useful roads.

So, we'll see what's up.  Could be fine, but I'm staying at a hotel on campus that I assume will be filled with press and party faithful, so, if I get no sleep Wednesday or Thursday night, I blame the free-wheeling ways of an overly-excited bunch of political conservatives loaded up on Pixie Sticks and too many sodas.

Basically, I'm saying - I may go dark for a few days.  Unless, of course, I see a news camera.  In which case - LOOK FOR ME.  Then, send bail.  Because I have a LOT to say about this election cycle.  Also: workflow for theses and dissertations.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tracy & Hepburn Watch: Desk Set (1957)



I admit to not having watched too many/ any of the classic Spencer Tracy/ Katherine Hepburn pairings.  It's not that I don't like either Tracy or Hepburn.  Look, I'm busy, okay?

I'm not.  There's no excuse.

But I have wanted to watch Desk Set (1957) for some time.  Neither Hepburn nor Tracy were kids anymore by the time this movie shot - Hepburn at 50, Tracy at 57.  And the movie dealt with the era when computers were first making their way into companies as a sign of progress as much as for the practical considerations.  What I didn't know was that the movie would actually touch the area I work in, tangentially, but certainly in recognizable ways.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Internet Archive and What I Do For a Living

Pal JuanD sent me this video. I'm sharing it because it's a really, really good glimpse into the problems I work on every day at work.  Sort of.  Half the time I think I'm just looking for receipts or figuring out how many stuffed mushrooms we can afford on our conference's cheap-o budget.

Man, I wish I could just focus on the technical problems.


Internet Archive from Deepspeed media on Vimeo.

Our office actually has two missions. We're providing tools to enable researchers to publish born-digital content in both traditional ways (but using new technologies for peer review journals, etc..) and providing options for new media options such as blogs or other modes of scholarly writing. And we're doing this whole preservation bit of both scanned materials and born-digital materials.

What we're doing that's somewhat different from the video is that we're attempting to capture all of the scholarly output from universities and bring it up and online - not scan kid's books that we think someone else will likely handle.

Of course, a lot of people I work with are cogs who don't necessarily get the bigger picture, or work for people who can't pull it all together to get the big picture and so a lot of mistakes are made. A lot of preservable items are lost. The common consensus is that in 200 years, this early digital era will be a dark ages in many ways as we still aren't smart about keeping anything digital. We still think of print copies as the final edition.

As we also commonly say, it's going to take a lot of people retiring or dying before we have a generation promoted to decision making positions who will work with the technology to make sure the digital copies aren't seen as something to rot on a 3.5" floppy in a drawer.

Anyway, great video.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Gone to Big D For a Few Days

Tonight I went and saw Enter the Dragon at the Alamo Ritz with Juan, CousinSue, Amy and Jason.  if you're never seen this Bruce Lee vehicle...  I am not sure I can help you other than to recommend you check it out as soon as possible.

I'm not the world's biggest Bruce Lee fan, and maybe that's a mistake.  I dig what that guy is up to, and he is absolutely fascinating to watch.  I still don't think American film has seen his like since, and even in imports, I'm not sure the guys I used to watch in college quite captured the athleticism and intensity of Lee.  Well, maybe Jet Li.

Tomorrow I am headed off for Dallas for a few days for work.

this trip will be tragically short on Victoria Principal

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

SuperMOOC Week 6 - wrapping it up with Gender Through Comics

Fortunately for me, my class extended it's timeline by a few days without adding any additional content, and so I was able to finish last night despite the fact that I'd basically missed a week thanks to work and other factors.

This is what I think about when I consider returning to grad school, by the way.  I travel for work.  Really, an online program would be ideal for me to get a masters at long last, as I can't match the attendance that comes with being a 23 year old with nothing else going on but growing facial hair and caring about what sort of beer I'm drinking.  I'm seriously considering the need for an MA, but, man, the idea of walking into a classroom again at age 38 or 39 sounds like a nightmare.

Yes, I agree that the education system and how we deal with college degrees in the US is broken, but the trend to want to turn colleges into trade schools also isn't really an option (they have something for that.  It's called Trade School).  MOOCs are seen as a possible way to share courses across universities, and it sounds good on paper.  But I was sitting through a presentation at my conference last week and one of the presenters pointed out that most parents paying for someone's degree really don't want to hear that their kid was in a class with 40,000 other students, only 10% of which completed the course.  It's really opening the door for private schools and any university to stroke parents on college tours to promise a generation of helicopter parents that their kids will get special attention by sitting in a class with just 50-100 kids.

But I digress.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Possibly Otherwise Occupied

It's May, and that means I'm once again helping to run the conference my organization throws every year.

Really, tomorrow is sort of a Board of Directors meeting prior to the conference, and then from Tuesday morning until Wednesday night, I'm going to be participating in all sorts of conference malarkey.  This year I don't present (by choice), and I'm mostly lurking, hoping to actually enjoy the show.

It's a libraries conference, and you KNOW these people are going to want to party.

they're gonna get crazy and talk @#$% about the Dewey Decimal System

The reason I post here is:  I'm going to be out of commission for a few days.

You guys are on your own.  Try not to leave the place too much of a mess.

Weeks 4 and 5 of MOOC: Gender Through Comics

Attrition rates for online courses are fairly high.  In the years I worked in distance education and eLearning, we always knew that external incentives were a huge reason anyone signed up for a masters program online and why they would complete the program.  We didn't keep in-house stats when I was working at UT or ASU, as many students blended their learning between on-campus and online, but I believe in our cohort of 15 students to begin a unique program we designed, we only lost 3 of the 15 or so who started.

Massive Open Online Courses have an estimated retention rate of about 10%.

Depending on who you talk to, this is either a problem or it is nothing to worry about.  What's interesting is hearing the various excuses and pointing of fingers I've seen lobbed in my personal experience over the years - from "it doesn't matter that the students leave in droves, they came in to get what they needed and left" to "if the faculty can't hold the students' attention, that's really saying something about the faculty".

What nobody is apparently willing to say is that maybe we already have ample evidence that this isn't working as originally intended.  Moving the posts in the first quarter of the game turns it into Arena Football, it doesn't improve the NFL.

Look, if you have a TV show and if by week 10, you've lost 80 - 90% of your audience, your show is getting canceled. It doesn't really matter how great of a debut you had.  If your whole network loses 80-90% of every program it runs, everyone is getting fired and you're shutting down.  If you had a play, and by the time you closed the final curtain your formerly sold out house was left with 10% of the attendees wanly applauding, you'd figure maybe the place was on fire and nobody had told the cast and crew.

I find the idea that students are dipping into classes, getting what they need, and then exiting a naive and groundless assumption and, frankly, the sort of useless hand-waving that folks in higher ed are good at.  I suspect they know better, but it's something to say until they put together some actual data on what's happening.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Course Update: Week 2 of Gender Through Comics Books

With the navigation issues resolved, Week 2 of the course Gender Through Comic Books, was a lot easier to deal with (the navigation is still awful, but at least I've basically sorted it out).   Of the promised 3-5 hours, I probably spent 3-4 hours, including an hour of guest lecture by comics maestro Mark Waid.  I did bypass a lot of the reading as I've read Superman: Birthright numerous times in the past, and was able to focus mostly on course materials - so that saved a good hour.

As has often been my experience with a lot of course reading in theory classes, the full articles are going to start feeling repetitive.  We've been presented the premise, and everything else is going to be supporting evidence - and this is why I was not a good student as an undergrad or, especially, during my glorious short, flamed-out career of not finishing grad school.

In this course, the basic concept is that "sex" is a biological designation and "gender" is a construct of personal and cultural choices.  I believe this makes sense in context, and  the readings made the concept pretty clear in Week 1.  In Week 2, the one article we were asked to check out gave some more evidence.  That's cool.  But by the time we get to Week 3...

This week was a mix of reading Superman and putting some coin in Mark Waid's pocket by selling a lot of copies of Superman: Birthright.  The task was to consider the construction of gender as it's played out less by instinct and more as part of a perception of roles of male, female and otherwise and how that's demonstrated by reading Birthright as well as Action Comics #1, an issue of Superman from 1960, and consider the ways gender is portrayed across 75 years.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

So, That Online Course I'm Taking - Gender Through Comic Books

Just as an FYI - I intentionally wrote my piece on portrayals in women in comics earlier this week before getting into the reading for the course I'm taking.

The course is:  Gender Through Comics Books at Canvas.net and originating at Ball State.

Anyway, I work in higher education, currently in libraries, but from 1997-2006 I worked in Distance Education at large public research universities, UT Austin and Arizona State University.  From 2007-2008, I worked at a smaller eLearning company here in Austin that developed mostly corporate training materials with the occasional foray into creating materials for educators.

When I left university distance learning, it wasn't because I was tired of the field.  I thought eLearning was in its toddler-hood, but we were taking a leap to return from Arizona to Austin, and there weren't/ aren't that many positions out there for this, even with my sterling credentials.  Working in a media shop developing stuff for corporations was a great experience in many ways, and I learned a tremendous amount I doubt I would have gained at The Academy (as we like to say when we're wearing tweed and drinking hot tea from small cups).

Back in 1999 or so, I remember watching a clip from 60 Minutes on The Future of Education.  At the time, University of Phoenix was a rising star and talking heads were proclaiming that UofP had cracked the code.  In a few years we'd all be taking our courses through them, and there was no point in resisting progress.  They predicted (and were clearly relishing the term way, way too much) the concept of "rock star faculty", folks who would be THE faculty voice for a generation talking about America History 101, etc...  Nobody was sure how it would work, but they were certain it was just around the corner.  

It didn't happen.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

No Post Thursday - what I've been doing (class, books, end of the yearly cycle)

This evening I went to the gym, watched an episode of Mad Men Season 5, did some pre-ordering of comics, and got pretty far along with the first unit of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) I've started through Canvas.

When I get through the first week, I'll post some personal and professional observations as someone who (a) has read comics for a long, long time - including a good chunk of the assigned reading, (b) who actually does care about gender representations in media - but maybe not in a particularly prescribed way, and (c) who worked in distance education for a decade before moving on to digital libraries.  As bonus featurea (d) I already went through five years of undergraduate education in narrative media studies, and (d) I sort of have my opinions regarding scholarly writing when it comes to social criticism, so...  it's turning out to be an interesting experience already.

It's going to be a long post, and only, likely, I will care about it, so...  look for THAT.

Speaking of gender in comics and pop-culture, yesterdays post on why it's okay for Power Girl to have a "boob window" got a fair number of hits.  By that, I mean, we were around 95 last I checked, which is, like, HUGE for this site.  I never know what's going to get traffic.  I fully expected upwards of 18 clicks.

I am making a commitment to just admit I am going to just read all the Richard Stark novels and nothing else that is not a comic until I finish the Parker and Grofield series.  And then I have, literally, ten books to get through.


  • I'm about a quarter way through the Larry Tye Superman book Nathan gave me, so that might get read while I work through the Stark novels.
  • Dark City Dames by Eddie Muller - a book with bios of a handful of noir sirens, including sections on Audrey Totter and Marie Windsor
  • Altered Carbon - as recommended by Steven
  • the next three Barsoom novels starting with Thuvia, Maid of Mars
  • Doc Savage, Man of Bronze - personally recommended by no less than Chris Roberson
  • The Big Screen  - a non-fiction book on the history of cinema
  • The Killer Inside Me and After Dark, My Sweet, that I've been putting off for, literally, almost twenty years
  • the new Glenn Wheldon Superman book  
  • a Dashiell Hammett collection


As I said on the Facebooks today, I need more time to read.

So, no recommendations for a bit.  My plate is full.

Jamie's birthday is passed, and mine is next Friday, so if you're around and want a cocktail, email me.  We may be doing something about drinks on the 13th.

We have a yearly cycle that starts at Halloween and ends with my birthday.  Really, from Halloween, it's something every few weeks, including Valentine's Day, then March - the months of birthdays, etc...  And, of course, Easter and Mother's Day take us into May.  At this point I'm used to it, but it does seem like it compresses time into the various observances.  Summer has become my holiday from holidays, except for July 4th, which includes explosions and hamburgers and is thus becoming one of my favorite holidays.

My folks are headed back to Kenya for missionary work/ putting eyeglasses on Kenyans.  Always proud of them in their volunteer efforts.

Mad Men Season 6 starts Sunday night, so, leave a brother alone while he does his thing.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lo Content Mode for a Few Days

Today I go to the airport and pick up a candidate for the open position of: my boss.

From Thursday afternoon until Saturday evening, I'm kind of responsible for this person.  Tomorrow I pick them up and take them to the hotel.  Then it's dinner with the Search Committee.  All day on Friday it's interviews.  Saturday, I'm "showing them Austin" with the intention of selling them on Austin.  Hoo-boy.  

I hope they like comic shops and record stores, 'cause that's what they're gonna see.

It's a weird task to be given, but we do things old skool and with the prissy formality of a Dowager Countess in Higher Ed, and especially in libraries.  Thus, I establish who I am to this person by acting as their footman for three days.  

Really, I kind of consider it to be a test of the person's street smarts to make it to the hotel on day 1, but that's just me.

The proximity to the boss and this much time with a person who doesn't know me is, I would think, a whole lotta me.  And I can barely stand being with me for more than a couple of hours, so I can only imagine how this is gonna go for this poor person.  Also, I use a lot of swears when I drive, so the idea of driving this person around all Saturday is sort of chilling.

Anyway, I kind of have to go to ground for a bit.  Y'all take care.  I'll be around as I'm able.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Everyone relax. I'm back. Til Tomorrow.

I'm back from Baltimore.

You know, for a town that I think of as being pretty sketchy, I walked around last night in the touristy area after 10:00 PM, and it was actually really nice.  Found an area with a strip of local bars and went in with some A-level beer snobs to try some locals.  Discovered there's something called "sour beer".  As I asked them:  How is it I've lived on this Earth for 37 years and nobody ever mentioned sour beer to me before?

I didn't love it, it was fine, but... seriously, I feel let down by humanity.

The meeting was interesting, but I wouldn't describe it as "fun".  Dinner and then the bar was all right, but maybe less the governance talks regarding a semi-formal open source organization.  Still, I felt like I learned a lot, and that's always a good thing.

Tomorrow I pack it up and head to Spring, TX for roughly 24 hours of seeing former high school classmates at the conspicuously-named-but-no-turns-out-there's-no innuendo-there-after-all, "Bareback Bar".

Ah, Spring, Texas.  You never stop giving who you are, and I wouldn't want it otherwise.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Baltimore

No, I've never watched The Wire and your references will be lost on me.*  Yes, I'll get to it.

I am headed for Baltimore from Tuesday til Thursday.  I haven't been there since a day trip from DC when I was a kid where I saw an 18th Century Man-o-War and the rest of my family got lost in the projects looking for Edgar Allen Poe's house.

In honor of the trip, here's a cut from the super-depressing Lyle Lovett album, Joshua Judges Ruth



I'm going for work, not pleasure.  But I hope to have fun working, which, you know, weirder things have happened.


*The only characters' names I know from The Wire are Omar and Bubbles and I know what happens to Omar because the internet is full of people who hate narrative payoff, I guess.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In Aggieland

I'm in College Station, Texas until Friday night.  Before this gig, I had only been to College Station once before.  A family friend was a jeweler here, and this is where we got our wedding rings.  I'd driven through a lot during college while headed elsewhere, but with my UT sticker in the window of my car, I didn't want to linger too long in the gravity well of Texas A&M.

College Station is a Texas version of places like Happy Valley that exist mostly because there is a University there.  Otherwise they'd be small towns with a red light or two and maybe one cranky dog watching traffic go by like all the rest of the small towns you pass en route to College Station.

I'm here for a small, regional conference, and it seems like it should be fun.  This group doesn't do much socializing after hours, so it'll be back to hotel and work tomorrow night.  I'm always a fan of the post conference bar meet up, but I don't think that's in the cards if the last conference is any indication.

This hotel should be a nice place, an extended stay hotel with a small kitchen, about 50 square feet bigger than my efficiency in college, but without the charm I'd added to the place.  But, it's been noisy, and I can hear the upstairs folks walking around.  Not something I'm used to in a hotel, and it reminds me why I gave up on apartment living.

Anyway, I'm pretty busy, straight through the weekend, so I don't know what blogging I'll be up to.

I've been posting a lot, so, you know, go back and enjoy the previous posts you might have missed.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Worlds Collide: The Online Comic Book Course

For a long, long time, what I did for a living was "distance learning" which came to be called "eLearning".  Or, likely, now, "learning".

In 1997 I took a job as a camera operator and switch-room operator for a distance learning outfit in the College of Engineering at the University of Texas getting paid what seemed a king's ransom of something like $5.75 an hour.  At the time I was a Radio-Television-Film student looking for work that related to my dreams of working in movie or TV production,* and handling a camera - no matter how out of date - and working with audio and switching equipment - no matter how lo-fi - was a welcome change of pace from the hours behind the counter at Camelot Records selling copies of Blink 182 to perfectly nice people.

Somehow, upon graduation, I became the guy running the studio (they offered me insurance).  Mostly, back then, we were making duplicates of tapes of classes and mailing them (I KNOW), or hooking up with remote location via ISDN lines, satellite, or using some really, really early days video streaming that its best not to talk about.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

So, "The Internship" is coming out - How was I involved?

This Vince Vaughn/ Owen Wilson comedy was filming last summer. I happened to be in the building where they were filming, but it wasn't at Google in the Bay Area. The scenes on the steps there? That's a sort of union-like building at Georgia Tech.



I was scheduled to give a presentation after lunch, and I was delayed thanks to the scene you see in the trailer with Aasif Mandvi talking about how lucky they are to be interning at Google.

It was weird.  You kind of forget that when they're filming a comedy, the scene is funny to the audience but not to the characters, so Mandvi was improvising and trying different things, but to a room full of stone faced people in beanies.

The director, meanwhile, was laughing behind the camera, but nobody on the crew looked even mildly amused.  So, do with that what you will.

I know this, because I got trapped watching the filming when I was coming back from the men's room and trying to re-enter the room where I was presenting.

I think we were supposed to sign an NDA about this, but I didn't sign jack.

If that 0.5 seconds film you see has a little extra juice, that's The League you sense there.

By the way, everything about this movie makes me feel incredibly old.

Also, Vince Vaughn is about my height, which was surprising.  But he's in much better shape, which was less surprising.



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thing not to do:

leave for a three day road trip when you wake up before your flight thinking "I might have a cold.  Oh, well, how bad could it get?"



Saturday, November 3, 2012

Rocky Mountain Hi!

I'm in Denver from tomorrow afternoon until Monday afternoon for work. Attending and participating in a conference.

I've never been to The Mile High City, but I certainly hope to join this club they have that I keep hearing is pretty great. Everything I know about Denver can be summed up this way:

That Elway Fellow is like Football Elvis


My buddy Matt hails from Denver


It seems to be home to the grossest family of beers I can think of


This dude is really named "Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr." and went to Texas Tech University


I won't actually learn anything else about Denver as I foresee a lot of the Westin convention center, cab rides, air ports and airplanes in my future.