Once again, I’m well out of date here.

I’ve had a busy year and change! In addition to fighting with multi-month-long health issues, I managed to complete my Master of Information Science at Indiana University in the last class to graduate from its School of Library and Information Science before the merger with the School of Informatics and Computing. I’ve lost over a hundred pounds and gotten a lot healthier, and I’ve accepted a full-time job that keeps me busy doing a lot of talking and traveling. My photo on the front page is now horribly out of date, as is the only before-and-after I have, but I hope to be posting some more information on that in its own blog post. I’ve also switched to a more streamlined design on the site because it was time for something new and updated my resume to reflect my most recent responsibilities, although by no means did I give it an overhaul because I’m not seeking new employment at this time (in fact, I recently found out my position’s funding was extended an extra year, through the end of July 2015, so I won’t be going anywhere for awhile). I also added a Curriculum Vitae page; given that my eventual plan is to get a PhD, it is necessary to maintain a record of presentations and publications with which I can be credited, and thus that list will live here.

I’ve also picked up a new hobby: nail art! In July of 2012 I realized that it was time to think about something I could do to take care of myself as part of an effort to improve my mental health. Since I was beginning to get tired of biting my nails all the time, I decided to use nail art as a way to keep myself from biting them. I haven’t bitten since July and I’ve been painting my nails ever since; they’re still in the recovery phase, however, after 27 years of abuse.

Some Social Media Links:

My Vizualize.me profile is a pretty complete view of my work history since starting my Bachelor of Arts degree in 2004.

You can find other useful links on my My About.me page, including a link to my Facebook page.

Quick disclosure: I discovered about.me via the BzzAgent program, where I had the opportunity to receive some free Business Cards from Moo.com. I opted not to take them up on it at present, preferring to save them a little longer until I have my page looking real sharp, but you can get the same free deal. I have to let you know that I’m required to be honest about how I feel about the About.me system as part of the BzzAgent Terms of Engagement, but I think it’s really neat! It’s a good way to compile if you’re like me and have a metric ton of links you want people to see. Just go to http://about.me to check it out – it’s free, and hey, if nothing else, free business cards.

Image required as part of the BzzAgent reporting protocol, sorry

Demented Pants, you say?

I get a lot of questions about the nick I use online – demented_pants (or some variation thereof depending on username rules on a given site).

It’s a good username because it’s very memorable. Most people laugh, or at least smile, the first time I tell them what it is.

Awhile back, a Redditor with the username breeskeys did an r/Favors thread offering to draw things for people. I commented asking for some simple demented pants, not really expecting a response since there were already a million comments requesting things by the time I found the thread, but she came through with some pretty awesome drawings. The original thread is here, and some of them are quite funny.

So here’s my drawing, with special thanks to breeskeys – these really made me smile. Especially the f7u12 brand lolface overalls.

A Wil Wheaton Quote I like a lot.

While I rode the elevator up to my floor, I looked out at the lobby. It was filled with people in all sorts of beautiful costumes, in groups of 3 and 4, or in large parties of 10 or more. Everyone spoke to each other with animated arm movements, people posed for and took pictures with and of each other, and everyone seemed to be having a great time getting their geek on.

“I’m looking at a con in Germany,” I thought, “but I could really be anywhere in the world, even my own town, and I’d be looking at essentially the same thing. This is how enormous and inclusive our culture is.”

I walked down the hallway and into my room, feeling lucky and proud to be part of this.

— From “Fedcon day two” in Wil Wheaton’s Blog. The entire post is something to read, but I really liked that synopsis of what it’s like being a part of geek culture.

I may have just failed at usability.

I thought I’d come write a blog post reflecting on the semester I’ve just finished. I just went, earlier today, to check my grades (which haven’t been posted yet) on Onestart. Because I’d previously had some issues loading the Student Center that I hadn’t yet resolved, I had to clear my cache and cookies and restart Firefox before I could get in to do that. One of the things I also do as routine maintenance whenever I need to clear my cache and cookies is clear my browsing history as well.

So when I came to log-in to the site, I started by relying on my browsing history to take me to the login page (a link to which does not appear anywhere on the actual site). Nothing was there. I tried a search on the site; nothing. Google was similarly useless to me in finding the login page; I had to dredge through my ACTUAL memory to figure out what the address was. I accomplished that within just a few seconds and arrived here to post about it.

When I excluded the log-in form from my site, I did it as a very conscious choice. I did not wish for anyone other than me to be able to log in to the site. Perhaps that might be discouraging return commenters, but my personal preference is not to have responsibility for even as much information as a standard username and password belonging to the people who comment here. The news has been constantly talking about the PSN breach that occurred recently; I feel that it would be in best conscience to just not have that information on my site. I hope the confirmation process for comments isn’t discouraging people from joining in the discussion.

Now, to make things easier for myself I could include a link to the login somewhere on the page, or I could have a login box placed in a sidebar somewhere for me and me alone. I choose not to employ either of these methods because the inconvenience of remembering where to log in to my WordPress site is far less than it would have to be for it to be worth inconveniencing 99% of the people who use the site.

So I suppose I shall have to rely upon bookmarks from now on. There are worse things that could happen.

In other news, I recently fixed that annoying “extra space between paragraphs” issue with the styling on the site, and everything looks a good deal cleaner now.

R685 – Mobile Experiment Series – Post 1 (Motivations & Device)

Recently in R685 we did a week on mobile learning, or m-learning. As a companion activity to that week, I decided I would limit myself to participating in class only via my smartphone. This is the first of a series of blog posts I’ll be doing on my experiences that week; this post will focus on my motivations for choosing to do so, and then the device I used. You can view the entirety of the series here. Additionally, since time in the semester is running out, I’ll be skipping the rest of my weekly topical reflections, with the exception of discussing my m-learning experiment and one final post reflecting on the blogging I did this semester. I also plan on sharing the reflection I wrote on my final project.

The Motivations

I understand from my class readings this week that in a lot of areas, mobile phones are people’s only access to the internet. Even though the digital divide is shrinking, the numbers of people worldwide who do not own a desktop or notebook computer is staggering. Given that I come from a relatively privileged background, and have had at least one computer at all times for the last decade, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be constrained by relatively inefficient technology.

Dr. Bonk’s class is set up very well for the online learning format. I have had no real difficulty accessing the readings for a given week, or participating in class synchronous sessions, or the discussions on the class forums in Oncourse either. I had already been participating in a less-constrained form of m-learning all semester; my job provides me with a laptop, a recent-model Macbook Pro, which I used to access the entirety of the class this semester up until I began using my smartphone. I believed that this pre-optimized setup would make my objective easier to accomplish (whereas it would not have been nearly as easy to do an entire week’s worth of homework for my Web Programming class using a smartphone). This meant that I had a set of conditions that were ideal to fostering the success of my experiment, rather than ones that would frustrate me on the first day of attempting it.

Additionally driving my decision to try this experiment was the knowledge that we would not be having a synchronous session in Adobe Connect that week. Though I have a lot of faith in my little smartphone, I shudder to even think about what a nightmare getting Connect to work would be – if it could, in fact, be gotten to work at all. This meant that my restrictions would not prevent me from participating in any major way in the class (something I found important because my grades are important to me; I didn’t want to harm myself with this experiment).

The Device

Also motivating my decision to give the experiment a shot was the fact that I have just recently upgraded my cell phone. Previously I was using the Apple iPhone 3G, which was sufficient as a smartphone, but I have serious doubts as to its ability to handle the sorts of use cases I would be exploring.

The phone to which I upgraded is a Samsung Galaxy S, known in the United States and Canada as the Captivate. You can get a full breakdown of the device’s specs here, but I’ll give you the run-down on some of the basics.

First, this thing is huge. You could just about fit the entire iPhone into the display area on the Captivate. Second, it’s running on the popular Android firmware by Google. Third, it’s about twice as powerful as the first computer I ever got, in 2001, which came with Windows XP. The Captivate boasts 512MB of RAM, an internal 16GB SD card, and an expansion slot that can handle up to an additional 32GB, in micro-SD format. Its processor is one of the more modern mobile processors, the ARM Cortex Hummingbird, at a speed of 1000 mHz. I was using the most recent version of Android, 2.2 (colloquially known as FroYo), though I’m pretty sure anyone using a Captivate with the previous version, 2.1, would be able to duplicate my results using this particular class.

Furthermore, this thing is even more usable than I ever found the iPhone to be. Where the iPhone still reminds me more of a PDA than it does a computer with a touch-screen interface, there’s no mistaking the Captivate for anything less than a full, mobile computer. Having had it for all of maybe two weeks before we got to m-learning, I had already found myself surprised over and over again by the Captivate’s capabilities; it was this fact that convinced me that success with my experiment was possible.

And so, I pushed on. Look for blog posts later talking about the software I used and the experience I had.

End-of-the-semester wrap-up!

I blog… well, infrequently is putting it mildly. I’m busy, and I realize that’s not an excuse, but it’s true. I’ve barely had time to sleep the last month or so!

So here’s a little bit of wrap-up on what I did this semester:

  • Completed, successfully, courses in Organizational Informatics, Human-Computer Interaction, and Computer-Mediated Communication. I’ve got grades back for two, but while I haven’t received the third I am absolutely beyond a doubt confident that I did just as well in it as I did in the other two.
  • Accepted a new position as a web developer for the office of UITS Research Technologies and ended two and a half years at the UITS Support Center. Not only am I doing something I love, but I have an amazing group of co-workers. That change of position made a huge impact on my quality of life this semester. Not only am I learning new things again (as I hadn’t been at the Support Center for over a year), but I’m in a position that I have great faith could one day turn into a full-time position. And honestly? I think I’d be perfectly happy to spend the next 40 years of my life working for this department, even if such a thing IS unusual in the IT field.
  • In Human-Computer Interaction, I learned a lot about usability testing. For one project, we prototyped a pair of really neat clocks for geeks and people who hit the snooze button too many times. For the final project, we “designed” and tested a mobile application that takes a location-aware social networking approach to Personal Health Record management. I plan on blogging about both of these over the break.
  • In Computer-Mediated Communication, I learned a lot about the world I spend much of my time on (namely, the Internet). I also identified a topic I wanted to know more about, online safe spaces, and then discovered that there was almost nothing written on the topic. Even for offline applications, I found a grand total of ONE paper that actually defined what a safe space was. This is something I have a great deal of personal interest in and I think it might be fruitful and important enough to consider as an eventual dissertation topic.
  • Organizational Informatics was without a doubt the most frustrating class I have taken as a graduate student, and it’s one of my top three most frustrating post-secondary classes (actually, it’s probably top three of ALL TIME). That said, I learned a lot, and I grew a lot, and I can’t say that I considered the class to be a negative experience. I definitely improved more as a writer than I have in years and years.
  • I went to Canada. It was cold, but Toronto was amazing to experience. I should post some of those pictures, too, now that I think of it.
  • I participated in an online gift exchange with over 17,000 other users! The Reddit community never ceases to amaze me.
  • I have learned and continue to learn at least one new thing every day at my new position. I simply cannot rant and rave enough about how much I love my working environment right now. Did I mention they gave me my own cubicle? This is the first time I’ve ever had a space that was mine, rather than shared, at any job I’ve ever worked.
  • I attended an Indie Game Developer night at SproutBox, a really cool local company with an innovative approach to venture capital, and I attended regrettably few Geek Dinners
  • I made great strides toward completing my work as a Master’s student and transitioning to a PhD program. I discussed it with my advisor, Howard Rosenbaum, and he gave me a great deal of insight. As a result, during the upcoming semester I will not only be completing my core coursework next semester, but taking a pair of education classes – one with Noriko Hara in SLIS and another with Joshua Danish in Learning Sciences. I plan on taking a class in an upcoming semester with someone in the Instructional Systems Technology department; once I’ve achieved that and the Learning Sciences class, I will re-examine my plans for a PhD and begin looking at programs.
    1. That’s most of the big stuff. I’m sure there’s more, but I’m a tad burned out at the moment and also excited because I have, for the first time in about a month, discretionary time this evening! I will be attending a benefit for the Progressive Librarians Guild at the Bluebird nightclub here in Bloomington, where the Bloomington Burlesque Brigade will be performing.

      My life is amazing!

What I did with my summer, or: man, I love being a geek.

This year’s Gen Con was one of the most reaffirming experiences of my life as a geek.  There’s kind of a lot of backstory involved but I think it’s worth sharing (especially after finally getting the chance to see Wil Wheaton’s keynote!)

It was a big milestone for me for a couple of reasons: one, Gen Con was my first convention ever. I went shortly after moving in with my current roommates for my first time ever last year in 2009.  It was overwhelming and incredible and amazing to know that I was among my people in such a high concentration.  Two: a very good friend of mine from a long time ago was there; more on that in a minute.  Three: Are you kidding? For a geek who cut her teeth on gaming of various sorts, Gen Con is like Mecca!

More on number two: this friend was the person who, more than anyone else on the planet, can be pinpointed for catapulting me into a life of geekhood.  We’ve referred to him as my Yoda for years because one night, he role played online with a girl who was in it for the story, and then he taught me my first-ever pen and paper RPG.  For reference, it was Vampire: the Masquerade.  From that moment, I was hooked on gaming – and on being a geek – in a way I’d never been excited about anything.  Since then, D20 Call of Cthulhu has helped me get to know some of my favorite undergraduate faculty; Dungeons and Dragons helped me make friends with some of the coolest people I’ve ever met, and with whom I now live; Mind’s Eye Theatre helped me make friends with another ridiculous number of people I all consider to be great friends – and the effects of my relationship with gaming have cascaded much further than just these apparent friendships.

Needless to say, my “Yoda” can (and often does) take credit for a large part of that. I was excited to finally get the chance to hang out with this guy, and we had a great time actually getting to know each other – at times it was scary how much we had in common.  That’s another thing that happens a lot at Gen Con – people get your jokes, and they don’t roll their eyes when you make them.

So here’s what I did at my Gen Con:

  • Gifted a professor from the college at which I did my undergrad with a book of Tolkien sheet music I knew she’d appreciate more than I ever could;
  • Met a new old friend and celebrated that very thing upon which our friendship was founded for FOUR DAYS STRAIGHT;
  • Took a belly dance class, where I learned an entirely new set of fundamentals from the ones I’d drilled into my head over the spring semester last year;
  • Played an incredible game of Vampire: the Masquerade, which featured the absolute best luck with the dice I ever had (a beautiful set of smoky gray Crystal Caste D10s with tiny blue glitter swirled through them);
  • Got a million and one compliments on the incredible Tiefling costume I put together for Saturday! Including ones from Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton;
  • Got to chitchat with Jeff Lewis, Sandeep Parikh, Robin Thorsen, and Felicia Day; upon meeting Wil Wheaton, lost all cognitive abilities, got a +1 and an autograph on my dice bag (after I’d already had such incredible luck with my dice that weekend!), and then stammered out, “I’m a huge fan!” and ran away embarrassed;
  • Attended the Saturday night White Wolf party, where I danced my heart out ’til the wee hours of the morning in between bouts of talking about White Wolf’s games, a love that I seemed to share with everyone in the room;
  • Saw two of my very favorite people from Indianapolis – whom I get to see normally no more than once a month – EVERY DAY, and got to share in the joy of our mutual love of gaming;
  • Spent the ensuing two weeks mooning over the experience, and then realized it’s only been two weeks.

me and Wil Wheaton

I used Mecca earlier in my description of what it’s like to go to Gen Con, and for me, it’s incredibly apt: Gen Con this year was almost like a spiritual experience.  Even though I got a total of twelve hours of sleep between Thursday and Sunday – and Saturday morning, after the all-night V:tM session that kept us up past dawn, only two hours – I was in a constant state of bliss. There’s something very zen about watching a half-dozen men trekking down the street in broad daylight wearing replicas of Jayne Cobb’s famous hat from Firefly. A man walks down the street wearing a hat like that, people know he’s not afraid of anything.  A group of men walks down the street wearing hats like that, in August, in Indianapolis, you know you’re at Gen Con.

And that’s why I can say with absolute certainty that in the year 2040, the people who were in Indy that weekend for the Con are going to be talking about it in much the same way hippies talk about Woodstock now.  If you don’t get it, don’t worry – you just had to be there.

All kinds of stuff going on this summer!

As we hit mid-summer, I’m excited to announce a couple of new professional developments.

One, I’m getting my start in educational technology. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to work with Sarah Robbins, also known as Intellagirl, on a really neat project that I think is going to be an incredible learning opportunity for me. I only wish I could talk about it – I sat through training basically completely riveted by how interesting the subject matter was! I’ve never been excited about a job the way I’m excited about this.

What does that mean for my position at UITS? Simply put, I’ll be scaling back my hours and switching to a more documentation-based focus. Instead of taking phone calls, e-mails, and support chats, I’ll be working with supervisory staff and on occasion the Knowledge Management team to update and create documentation for the IU Knowledge Base, which is an incredible resource if you have technical questions.

Additionally, on deck for this summer, I have a few websites I’ll be working on. One of them will be a professional development style site, portfolio, and CV for my good friend Jeana Jorgensen (she’s a PhD student in Folklore at IU, and she’s one of the smartest people I know). Once that’s all put together to a point where Jeana can manage it herself (I’m all about implementing technology that empowers the user regardless of tech skills!) I’m going to be working with my former teacher Troy Brownfield to bring back his site, Shotgun Reviews.

Once all of that is completed, it will be time to update my own web site again. With all these exciting projects, I’m thinking more and more that I ought to have a portfolio available online to showcase the types of projects I’m working on as I am able to do so.

And finally, at the end of the summer, I’ll be starting classes again. My fall schedule is full – thankfully my work schedule is looking like it’s actually going to allow me to do classes full time again – and I’ll be taking classes focused on organizational informatics, human-computer interaction, and computer-mediated communication (that’s nine credits, for those of you counting).

It’s awesome being a geek!