Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Deep Breath

Nothing structurally wrong with my voice box. Not even the swelling and problems you might expect from some other health issues I have. After making the inside of my throath numb and sticking a lamp down there, the doctor wanted to discuss rhetorics and speaking to large groups. I was too healthy for him to bother talking about much else.

That was the good news. The bad news was that he could see I am using my voice wrong, I am straining it. So yes, it was what I was hoping for, I can do something about it with training. How is that bad news? Did anybody check where I live? In most places out of the big cities the voice trainers are concerned with the speach problems of kids: learn to say R, stop lisping, don't drop syllables - that kind of thing. That's not my problem. I don't even have a bad speaking voice. It may get a bit sharp at times, and according to reports I sound angry when I get intense, but it's relatively pleasant. What I do is I am forcing it - up or down, or just generally forcing it.

So, now my quest is: to find a voice trainer who understands the problems of adults who strain their voice. Until then my family has - with a certain glee - promised to let me know when I raise my voice unnecessary. My son, happily, countered my annoyed "go get your stuff" with a loving caring "be careful with your voice, Mom." It's no bet what snaps first, my voice cords or my temper.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Silly Gadget bunny

Lilia showed the way to the silliest gadget of a long time. It is cute, it is wireless and it communicates. I must have one!

What I need it for? Eeeeehhhhh...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Skiing, the roots of...

In my spree of going through books the library wants back, I have been looking at Sports and Games of the Ancients by Steve Craig.

He writes about Nordic Skiing, and describes it as something men do to feed their families.
As with so many activities that evolved into sporting recreations, Nordic skiing, of cross country skiing, as it is commonly called in the United States, has its root in man's instincts to provide for his family and to survive nature's harsh conditions.

This was a strange unfamiliar idea to me, considering the fact that skiing was the only way to get around, and women living in Norway 3000 years ago did not have the option to stay home knitting or taking the bus. The ancients did not consider skiing and the winter lands to be the land of the males. The deity of skiing was Skade, goddess of winter and the wilderness. Ull came later, when they combined skiing and warfare. He also married Skade after she left Njord, god of the oceans. Neither Skade nor Njord were happy apart from their realms, and so they had to part.

Anyway, you get my drift? Here it is again: if it has to do with games and sports, men did it first, they claim. But the truth is that the first person to get fed up with wading through the snow and decide to float on top on her way to check her traps may as easily have been Skade as Ull.

War Games Through the Ages

On my desk is a stack of books, four volumes all written by Donald F. Featherstone. They are published in 1972, and cover fighting styles of different historical armies, meant as a guide for war gamers. The stack is four books high, and they give information about different armies in a way that is useful for gamers: How were the vikings dressed, how did they fight, and then at the end a quick little table with statistics for viking armies - and then the same for Normans, and Byzantines, and Chinese, and...

I have to return the books to the library, but knowing they exist is quite enlightening. This is a heavy, almost monumental, document of the wargaming tradition that Dungeons and Dragons grew out of. So if you happen to have these volumes in your bookshelf and would like to get rid of them - ever thought about donating them to research?


But, since I am so stressed over something which may be minor, perhaps I should chill with a game that is openly and explicitly about sex? The news about it is quite interesting, and I am curious to see where this goes.

Voice update

After the last year of losing my voice at bad moments, I am going to see a specialist tomorrow. For a long long time I wanted this to be just another result of not-so-good resistance to colds, something to be cured with healthy food, vitamins and exercize. If this is what I fear, at the best I am able to retrain my voice, at the worst I have to get a job where I don't have to teach.

And that would, as it's so eloquently expressed in English, suck.

Yes, I am scared today. Scared enough that I am deeply unhappy about the male locker-room humour of our staff room, which I thought the last 15 years had made me deaf to. The day after tomorrow I may have a wonder drug in my hands and an arrogant laughter in my throath.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Perth DAC 2007

The next DAC is a year away, but the deadline for paper abstracts is August 28th - that's right, this month.

University of Oslo research scholarship

At the University of Oslo, they are announcing a position of a Ph D student in dialogic mass media. The position specifically metions games with a high level of graphic interaction. This is a three-year position at the department of media and communication. The text of the announcement is here, in Norwegian, if you want to know more, contact Anders Fagerjord.

Morning routines

What do you do when you get to work? I always spend a while before my brain is kicked into gear, getting settled, and I think everybody does. Not being a coffee drinker, I don't join in the morning coffee ritual in the staff room. Instead I settle down here, and start checking mail. Then I cycle through my different email boxes - yes, I have several. Over years of online presence in many different communities I have emails that distinguish the private, the personal and the professional, as well as some of the emails I use for explorations into areas where being identified could be harmful both for the job I try to do, and for me.

After I cycle through the emails I check some choice blogs, and follow an interesting link or two. The news I got on the radio during breakfast often lingers, so I may want to follow up on one of those cases. And then I am normally set and ready to get different work done, after an hour or so spent updating and positioning myself within the net of contacts and events in which I live.

Over the last year I have however seen this routine change. It's been gradual, and I didn't really think of it until today, when I found myself really annoyed. Something in my routine was lacking.

It's Wednesday morning. The European WoW servers are down for the weekly maintainance until 11.00. That's more than two hours away. I have done all of the above, and was now set for checking my auctions, looking at last night's honour kills, seeing if there's something nice in the mailbox (which there often is, the guilds I am in are packed with generous people who love to share) and saying hello to some of my friends, academic and not so academic.

I haven't really thought about how much of a regular part of my life this has become. But of course, I have spent weeks - if not months - logged on to that game, creating connections, finding resources, collecting data, but also sharing, contributing and having fun. And so, when Wednesday arrives, it is always a surprise and always a breach of a comfortable routine.

Guess the best way to deal is by making Wednesdays special. Perhaps I should start drinking coffee.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

To speak, or what it means

Warning, rambling post ahead.

This week the author Jostein Gaarder, writer of Sophie's World, wrote an impassionate plee to the Norwegian religious right to stop talking of the Israeli as God's chosen people. His message was that we must not mistake the current state of Israel with the promised land of the jews, and we must certainly not use the bible as an excuse for the aggression of the state of Israel, particularly the state of 1967. Since then he has been accused of being a jew-hater, of fanning the flames lit by Mein Kampf, threatened on his life and in general had not such a good time. This, of course, proves the problem with any debate which includes criticism of Israel: it is impossible to speak publicly against the actions of state Israel without being accused of planning another pogrom.

What I want to point out is the intensity of the current debate, due to the new media. The original article in Aftenposten has received 1000 comments from readers. I suspect that number is so neatly rounded because there most likely is some upper limit to how many can write. Others are using their own blogs, as the debate blooms on all sides of this discussion.

This discussion is however a pale shadow of the enthusiasm with which people use their cameras, cellphones and any other recording medium that can communicate images, upload them to sites like and CNN exchange, and then look and comment on other people's posts. The content posted ranges from collages to simple video tapes, from attempts at humour to propaganda and shoddy videos claiming to be from from air raids and genuine military action. And in between the shocking and the infuriating, there is the personal and human, like the boy in California who wants to say something he obviously feels is very important, or the images from Lebanon with the tune of "Scarborough Faire", the sadness of lost love over the images of destruction.

I am looking this up and clicking through far too many videos of anger, pain, destruction and sadness, both from Israel and Lebanon, because of yet another journalist. I don't know if anything will come out of the phone call today, but I became curious. Perhaps it was about time I looked at this: at personal publishing in the face of crisis, war and terror. It has been what made me be so pasisonate about it, ever since 11th of september 2001. Two weeks later I was in New York, seeing the destruction I had read about in weblogs, checking that my NYC connection was really safe, despite his having been evacuated from wall Street that day. The real reporting about how NYC changed that day happened in the webblogs, and a lot of the online reporting from that period was registered by public archives, to retain for history also what happened online.

Today Lebanon and Israel are being portrayed in amateur videos. Who are looking at them, asking questions about the change of the face of reporting and the public debate? It is new, something has changed, from the intensity of the Norwegian debate to the communication of the people right in the middle of the warzone: They all feel they have a right to be heard, and there are ways to get your word in which never before existed.

What it means?

Give me 10 years, a staff of librarians and lots for storage space, and plenty of money to support research into this, and I'll answer that question.

(As for "the devil's logic", this drawing may say what needs to be said.=

Monday, August 07, 2006

Teaching and technology

One of my things the last couple of years have been the search for a way to make the computer a better instrument for presentations, because it annoys me that the blackboard still has such a much larger potential for communication in a classroom than the wonder-machine, the computer.

Today I realised why this annoys me. The problem is that the technology itself is too noisy. When the solutions for presentations, note-taking and preservation of notes are as clumsy as they are today, the attention is drawn away from the message, and towards the process of presentation. That process is supposed to be invisible and seamless, not visible and fragmented. Because what suffers when the presentation process is noisy, is the content, and the content has to be simplified to the level of - OK, I won't say it, but you know, in our line of work simplification is not always desired. We are supposed to be able to present, discuss and understand very complex questions. If we have to cut it down to 6 little bullet points, we have lost before we started.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Searching for something

And I have been here for a while. But it's hard to keep my mind indoors when it's the loveliest summer for years; warm, comfortable, rich on light, tastes, scents and not to mention great for strawberries. I am stuffing myself with them.

So the work moves slowly, and it's easier to clean the drawers and sort the bookshelves than to think deep thoughts. Well, deep thoughts are hard anyway.

The people who do find me in summer are the journalists. The slow summer season is the season of not-so-hot, but a little interesting, news. I have been interviewed in one weekly paper, Ny Tid (the article is only in the paper version), and by the radio, P2. One on games, one on weblogs, neatly balanced.

The radio interview in P2, 16.03 August 1st, was longer than I expected, and I found myself searching for the correct words, stumbling, hesitating. Not a smoothly prepared performance or an easy flow. And the interviewer does not assist, she feeds me a few key questions and then listens, even as I once overrun her to finish a laborously train of thought. Hearing myself like that I realise how I must seem - as if I am constantly searching for something just beyond my reach, insecure and distracted. And my voice, so light compared to how I imagine it. Hearing yourself on tape is always odd.

Perhaps it's a good thing. I hope it is. The woman I heard, as I listened on the net after the interview, she sounded honestly searching for something. That is pretty much my job description.