23 November 2007

Procrastination flow chart

For procrastinators everywhere, from someone who must surely be the ultimate procrastinator. I bow to him/her, whoever they are...

22 November 2007

PowerPoint pointers

I have often slept through PP presentations, but have also seen some which I really admired. A real find on Jess's blog, this Powerpoint presentation to end all boring Powerpoint presentations.

14 November 2007

2 wishes for the future

It seems that for Science Week, bloggers are being encouraged to reflect on science, past, present and future. Damien Mulley posted today's question, and two entries already covered the Star Trek transporter and Giant Fighting Robots. The question was "what invention would you like to see in the future?"; that was not enough for me. I need an "s" on that invention, and none of that altruistic stuff about saving the world. I want the future to be all about me. First invention (and please invent quick!!!): a calory-annihilating machine, so that I can eat this and this, and not even think of a WeightWatchers meeting. Once this is done, my svelte self wants a self-cleaning house; close the door in the morning, and when you come home, no dust, no disgusting scummy lines in the shower/bath, no crumbs on the table, no puddle where your ten year old spillt the bowl of coco pops and "forgot" to clean it. If noone can invent either of those, then, can I please become like Samantha?

13 November 2007

Blogging in and out of the classroom

The day after I found the reluctant blogger, Stephanie posted an entry on the blog opera she had attended, created from 100 blog entries from students at the University of Umeå . Talk about blogs in the classroom! The themes, it would seem, are drawn from diary-style blogs, dealing with
"teen-age angst, love and snow mobile racing". The production seems to be very interesting, including technology and music, and venturing into audience participation by SMS. I'll take her word for it, for unfortunately for us, the production is in Swedish. Umeå is the home of Humlab, where I attended a workshop last year, and I was so impressed - and slightly jealous of this wonderful space dedicated to transdisciplinary digital humanities.

I used to find I was always at a loss when faced with the question: A Phd? In what? Hemmm... Well.... After seeing Humlab, and meeting very interesting Internet researchers last month in Vancouver, I now answer : in digital humanities. And that usually is the end of the questions.

09 November 2007

Blogging in the classroom?

Looking up references and searching for an article by N. Baym on qualitative research, I came upon a blog, obviously part of a class exercise, with a revealing
title: Forced blog, and a similarly revealing pseudonym: reluctant blogger. THe blog itself is simply a series of class essays,seemingly on cyberculture, at a rate of one a week. Some thoughts were forced to the surface: why study cyberculture/Internet if you are so unwilling to participate? And on another level, why have blogs as a tool and only use them as a memory? It seems a sad underutilisation of the medium, and also a strange lesson to forgo the communicative element. If all that is needed is a publishing/sharing tool, why not Google docs or similar? However, the reluctance of some students to engage with technology and with alternative teaching methods should not be underestimated either, it is a learning curve, and for some, a steep one. I would very much like to see an example of class blogs being used to their full potential...

08 November 2007

Google procrastination

On YouTube, a quick search for Google secrets revealed 2 850 results. Of course, I felt compelled to peruse some of them, and then, naturally, to try out their "secrets". That part was extremely disappointing, as most "secrets" seem to have disappeared. No more Google loco if you click on "I'm feeling lucky". The Easter bunny is still there, but I soon lost patience with the game, and failed to put any eggs in his basket. Besides, Christmas is coming, what good is an Easter bunny among the jingling bells and shiny reindeer?

This little exercise did prove one thing: I am not the only procrastinator on earth.

Back to writing.

11 October 2007

Bad language and good lectures

Tuesday night saw me rush into the city centre, abandoning the comfort of my Northside home to venture within the hallowed walls of Trinity. The Very Big Sister is now a student there; I was joining her for her idea – and mine – of a good night: a Steven Pinker lecture.

The lecture was a presentation of his new book, The Stuff of Thought. It deals with the way in which theories of time, space, matter and causality inform the way we speak. The last part of the speech dealt with swearing. It started with a picture of Bono, whose acceptance speech ‘this is fucking brilliant’’ inspired an amendment to House Resolution 3687, The Clean Airwaves Act:


To amend section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, to provide for the punishment of certain profane broadcasts, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, is amended--

(1) by inserting `(a)' before `Whoever'; and

(2) by adding at the end the following:

`(b) As used in this section, the term `profane', used with respect to language, includes the words `shit', `piss', `fuck', `cunt', `asshole', and the phrases `cock sucker', `mother fucker', and `ass hole', compound use (including hyphenated compounds) of such words and phrases with each other or with other words or phrases, and other grammatical forms of such words and phrases (including verb, adjective, gerund, participle, and infinitive forms).'.

Pinker pointed out that, unfortunately for the House, Bono’s “fucking” is in fact an adverb, and as such, not covered by the amendment. Maybe they should employ linguists when they draft the amendment to the amendment.

He identified five categories for swearing:

- dysphemistic swearing (using a taboo word instead of a socially acceptable one)

- abusive swearing

- idiomatic swearing

- emphatic swearing

- cathartic swearing

An interesting point about cathartic swearing – the words we use when we burn our hand on the iron as we desperately try to look presentable even though we are already 10 minutes late – is that it is conventional. You have to learn which word to use in which circumstance, and different words are use in different contexts in different languages. Words I (and even my mother) use regularly as we bump our way through the day would be unthinkable in English. Those I use in English I would never consider in French.

So the book is now beside me, and will be read in the long flight to Vancouver.

08 October 2007

No happy endings in sight

A few days ago, a post from Fatmammycat had startled me, but did not actually surprise me . It seemed a new-ish foundation was campaigning to have sad endings banned in children's literature. It appalled me - children love sad endings when they read them from a safe place, and it is one of the main aims of children's literature to let children experience. I was again reminded of this today in my reading of Oittinen's Translating for Children.

As long as there have been children's books, they have been censored by adults, either at the publicaation or at the translation stage, or when they are read aloud. For instance, if we as parents do not want our children to be afraid, we simply do not read "frightening" stories to them (stories we as adults find too frightening for our children). Yet in this way we may be denying the child's right to be frightened.

My favourite book as a small child involved a goat being killed and eaten by the wolf after a long a bloody battle that lasted all night. My own children always loved sad or scary books, and some still do...

However, it now appears that the foundation does not exist, and the whole press campaign was an elaborate hoax to promote Lemony Snicket books...

01 October 2007

Mom's overture

This is me, everyday, except I say it all in French.

19 September 2007

Found this picture on TechEBlog.

For the amusement of the Big Brother, who lives plugged in to his iPod...

17 September 2007

A free book on a Monday morning

Monday morning, the sun is shining, and I open my Google reader. Mark Thwaite from the Book Depository has announced the winners of his Friday giveaway and I won Gods Behaving Badly. I must admit I don't know anything about the author or the book, but the comments (It is a bit 50's romantic comedy but obviously written by a scholar and is a rewarding read. It helps (but not necessary)to have an knowledge or interest in Greek mythology to enjoy this very modern tale for open minded readers who are looking for something new and fun) and the mention of Jasper Fforde's First Among Sequels in the suggestions made me pick it. And I love picking up a book at random and discovering it, like I did with Fforde's Thursday Next series.

Good start to the week...

01 September 2007

The ultimate silver blogger

A few days ago, I was heartened by an article on women online, and now I discover that the ultimate silver blogger is also a woman. María Amelia López was born in Muxía, in Spain, in 1911. As she writes on her blog, A mis 95 años / 95 years old blogger:

My name is Amelia and I was born in Muxía (A Coruña - Spain) on December the 23rd of 1911. Today it's my birthday and my grandson, who is very stingy, gave me a blog.

She now has a readership that could be the envy of any A-lister, and she has recently gone on holidays to Brazil. Her pet hate? Retirement homes, where she says people are drugged to keep them quiet, and they are never offered the opportunity to use the Internet. The Guardian quotes some of her blog posts, including this piece of advice, valid I think for old and young alike:

"There is nothing better than exercising the brain."

29 August 2007

Am I being watched?

I love these little animals, and was thrilled when their creator allowed me to publish one on my blog. One of many many Pas si bêtes....

23 August 2007

Women and silver surfers first

An article in the Guardian today gives the results of a UK survey on social use of the Internet, and lo and behold, it’s a women’s world now, at least for the 25 to 49 age bracket – I’m in there somewhere, and there is hope for the future as well: the silver surfer is now also spending more time online than your average teenager. Bebo, this staple of Irish life, has now extended its realm to Britain, where it has overtaken Facebook. And these were the facts for today. Back to qualitative work.

22 July 2007

Copyright pour les nuls

A brilliantly simple drawing to explain US copyright law in Erik J. Heels blog, courtesy of Jeremy's blog:

21 July 2007

Facebook again

It seems that Facebook is making puzzled waves in the Irish blogosphere, interestingly at a time where it seems to be leaving its traditional US college-based demographics. Not only does it now attract younger US teenagers, albeit by reproducing a social divide, but it is opening up to a non-college base. Jill Walker points out that, on top of 85% of US college students, visitors 35+ increased 98% in the past year.

I had registered a while back, all in the name of research, naturally, and ended up being “friended” by an Irish-American college student sharing the same family name; it is however my husband’s name, mine heralding from sunnier climes; one disappointed “friend”, one empty profile. Now that my age-group (most definitely 35+) is joining, maybe I should go back and investigate some more.

14 July 2007

Bebo vs Facebook?

A little while ago, danah boyd wrote a thought-provoking article on a change in Social Network use in US adolescents, which she sees not so much as a “shift” than a “fragmentation”. The former mass use of MySpace in high schools has gradually changed in the past 6 months, along a class divide. Boyd reports on the use of social networks by “good” and “bad” kids (the teens’ own terms) but prefers to refer to them as “hegemonic teens” and “subaltern teens”. The former, aspiring to college and belonging to a comfortable socio-economic class join the college-oriented Faceboook, see as “safer” than MySpace, where non-conformist as well as working-class kids are staying. Aesthetics reflect on this duality: clean and modern look for Facebook pages, “bling” for Myspace. On an interesting aside, she notes that the US army has banned MySpace, frequently used by soldiers, but not Facebook, used by officers.

Yesterday, Bernie Goldbach posted podcast reflecting on the appeal of Facebook for an older demographic, typically professionals (Robert Scobble, it seems, has thousands of friends on Facebook). There follows a very interesting discussion on the possible uses of Facebook as a teaching tool in college, as it seems his students are now joining Facebook, more for professional reasons it seems, but brings me to wonder if we are going to see a fragmentation of social network use in Ireland following the US model, and if college students are going to leave Bebo for a more “grown-up”, sophisticated version of the social network.

10 July 2007

Strange people, brought to you by Google

A while back, after reading Blankpaige’s enthusiastic endorsement, I registered with Statcounter and kept a vague eye on things, reckoning that most of the time, only my own visits were recorded, with a short outburst whenever I linked to someone’s post. Today, sick to death of trying to write a chapter that will not let itself be written, I decided to dig a bit deeper into the analysis offered by Statcounter. I am subsequently slightly unnerved and more than a little nonplussed. Who was the visitor from Denver, Colorado, who came through a Google search of “the rumble strips boys and girls” (yuck!) and stayed for 13 minutes!!! And as for the person from Toronto, who looked for “PhD lol”, I honestly can’t see the joke at the moment. Back to trying to draw blood from a stone.

08 July 2007

The Cyborgs are coming

Last August in Umea, Patrik Hernwall gave a keynote speech on the cyborg citizen, where he claimed that technology is becoming a prosthesis of the 21st century human. His striking example was that of the mobile phone, which liberates our memories from our friends’ and families’ phone numbers. Who nowadays tries to remember phone numbers? We don’t even write them down on pieces of paper anymore, we enter them directly into our machines. Now it seems that the US courts agree with him, considering a laptop as an extension of our minds, as reported in this article in Wired, found through Jill’s blog.

A US citizen travelling back to California found his laptop searched by customs officials, who subsequently found illegal files in the machine. A district judge in California threw out the evidence, claiming that :

"Electronic storage devices function as an extension of our own memory," Judge Dean Pregerson wrote. "They are capable of storing our thoughts, ranging from the most whimsical to the most profound. Therefore, government intrusions into the mind -- specifically those that would cause fear or apprehension in a reasonable person -- are no less deserving of Fourth Amendment scrutiny than intrusions that are physical in nature."

Women In Art

A beautiful, (transliterate?) piece

07 July 2007

Rain and mud

Daughter No.2 is on her way home from Oxegen, after a sleepless night in a broken tent in the mud, surrounded by wet wet clothes and food. It seems that queues for buses to Dublin starting forming as soon as 9 am, before any sound had even started from any stage...

04 July 2007

Narrative and dinosaurs

I just discovered dinosaur comics...

Another sad song

Found on David Brake's blog, a link to the very sad song of the lonesome blogger... Complete with video, and lyrics:

Lyrics - I Started A Blog Which Nobody Read by Sprites

I started a blog, which nobody read
When I went to work I blogged there instead
I started a blog, which nobody viewed
It might be in cache, the topics include:

George Bush is an evil moron
What’s the story with revolving doors?
I’m in love with a girl who doesn’t know I exist
Nobody hates preppies anymore

I started a blog, but nobody came
No issues were raised, no comments were made
I started a blog, which nobody read
I’ll admit that it wasn’t that great
But if you must know, here’s what it said:

One hundred of my favorite albums
Two hundred people I can’t take
Four hundred movies I would like to recommend
Ten celebrities, four of whom I might assassinate

I started a blog, I sent you the link
I wanted the world (you) to know what I think

I started a blog, but when I read yours
It made me forget what I had started mine for

02 July 2007

A map of the world

(click on the map for bigger image)

A map of the world according to the dominant social network sites in each country/region. Ireland is unequivocally Bebo country, along with New Zealand. LiveJournal is identified as social network here, as is Blogger. From Valleywag.

01 July 2007

This is where I was for the past two weeks...

It's going to take some time to get used to the rain again.

13 June 2007

An organised blog?

From Jill Walker's blog today, a strangely interesting link to a blog binder. I thought it would be a new blogging tool, but it is an ordinary folder with paper dividers. The picture of a binder with handwritten notes seems incongruous in relation to blogging, its DIY flavour at odds with the technological context, proof if ever there was that we are not digital natives. A conversation in college recently showed that even the most technologically minded still write articles longhand, the speed of the machine somehow hindering the thought process. Others write all their reading notes on notebooks, paper supporting paper. I still go around with several notebooks in my numerous bags, one for The PhD, one for funny quirky things I find in papers, or quotations from books unrelated to The PhD, one for lists... But I am also becoming addicted to the organising powers of Google, my personalised page holding my feed reader, calendar, notebook, to do list and del.icio.us links.

11 June 2007

To learn about Internet security the easy way, read cartoons...

"Reprinted with permission of www.securitycartoon.com"

09 June 2007

Food, here and elsewhere

The table at the post-grad barbeque is nothing compared to some of the tables photographed here
but it is incredibly opulent compared to others.

Post-grad "seminar" last Thursday

A lot of thinking...

and more thinking...

and working...

and...well, eating

06 June 2007

LOL theorist

The LOL Cat craze has now given birth to the LOL Theorist brigade. Through Nancy Baym, here is Henry Jenkins...

I also liked Barthes:

05 June 2007

So many words

The Big Brother is on holidays, after a heroic attempt to cram a year’s studying into 3 days before his summer exams. He is now free from his mother’s nagging for a blissful 3 months and can dedicate himself to further improving his vocabulary.

A study in Britain last year, reported by the BBC, suggested that the average teenager has a vocabulary of over 12,600 words, just about half of an adult’s vocabulary. The most used words are, not surprisingly, yeah, but, no, and like. I would suspect fuck comes rather high on the list as well, but no mention of it in the article.

Very worried about the Big Brother's linguistic ability, I dug a little deeper. It seems that the average English speaker does in fact possess around 20,000 words. Out of 616,500!!! (French, it seems, only proposes a meager 100,000 words...) Michael Spears, a lecturer in journalism, has created a little test . I failed on a number of those... eleemosynary??? I guessed refulgent, but I was really good on the latin ones. Good old French secondary school, latin for 5 years, and I can still say arma virumque cano. Not that I would. David Crystal is more optimistic, according to this article, and suggests 60,000 words per graduate.

The Big Brother is getting there. We had a very interesting conversation around the dinner table.

"What does apathy mean?"

Great temptation there to give an example very close to home. I resisted, and explained.

"- And what does monogamy mean?"
- Monogamy???? What were you reading?
- It's in a song, an Eminem song
- Well, monogamy means marriage to one person only.
- Doesn't make much sense.
- That's a matter of opinion.
- No, it doesn't make sense in the song!"

The Big Sister rolls her eyes:

- Do you mean monotony?
- What does monotony mean?
- Dull
- Yeah, that makes sense.

Do not diss Eminem. The Big Brother is now three words closer to 60,000. It's going to be a long road. Get writing, Eminem! I would suggest eleemosynary and refulgent. Good rapping sound to those.

25 May 2007

Present and past tenses and towels

Today is Towel Day. It could be an oblique reference to the Irish election results, as in “throwing in the towel” (to admit defeat or failure, it seems) or using an old towel to mop up the remains of some party or other, but it isn’t.

It is a day for geeks and linguists, a day to celebrate Douglas Adams and the many uses of a towel in intergalactic travel. It is thus in the spirit of discourse analysis that I quote this important section from the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which gives us a glimpse into the crucial problems encountered by grammar in time travelling circles, notably in the case of the Future Semi-Conditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional (the last tense usually consulted by readers of The Time Traveller’s Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations; it seems that students subsequently give up on tenses, and the above grammar book is blank after the Future Semi-Conditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional entry. Sad, but true.)

It will tell you for instance how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it. The event will be described differently according to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past and is further complicated by the possibility of conducting conversations whilst you are actually travelling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own father or mother. (Adams, 1980, p.80)

And the Future Perfect was or will be abandoned because “it was discovered not to be”.

17 May 2007

A Party Political Contest

Enda Kenny and Simon Cowell... How much cooler can you get?

15 May 2007

Blogs, books and blooks

In the Guardian today, two articles of interest: First, a feature on the 2007 winner of the Blooker prize.

The Lulu Blooker Prize is the world's first literary prize devoted to "blooks"-books based on blogs or other websites, including webcomics. (from the Blooker prize website)

The prize went to an ex-soldier, a American machine-gunner who wrote his blog while serving in Mosul in 2004. Interestingly, the Guardian points out, this award comes the week when the US army banned a list of sites, including blogs.

The second article is by Zoe Margolis, blogger turned published author, who claims that publishers are now trawling through blogs in an effort to find new authors. Several famous bloggers have of course received book deals from publishers, even though Dooce ended up in court over it. In the UK, Tom Reynolds recently published Blood, Sweat and Tea, and Petite Anglaise, who was famously dooced last year and recently won a court case brought by her ex-employer, has also received a six-figure book deal. In Ireland, Twenty Major also signed for two books with Hodder Headline Ireland.

The only paper “blook” I’ve read so far is Salaam Pax’s The Bahdad Blog, which really was only a printed version of his blog, and as such a little disappointing, in the line of other books which are collections of blog entries from various authors. Blogs don’t make very good books, they lose too much in “translation”, but I certainly hope bloggers will write good books and keep their blogs running as well.

14 May 2007

Male/female writing

Courtesy of Jess, a nice little procrastinating tool will calculate your degree of maleness or femaleness in blogging terms. Jess, it seems, is male (in blogging terms only); I turned out male as well, but persevered, and it turns out that sometimes I'm male...

and sometimes female...

I remember trying the same tool on non-fiction writing; essays and chapter excerpts were male, and my diary was female. Do we always conform to male norms when we write professionally, and only unleash our female side when writing fiction or diaries? Or is the algorithm flawed, as an article in the Guardian at first suggested?

11 May 2007

Sing a sad, sad song

Leonard CohenHallelujah

This is one of my favourite songs, and it also happens to be one of the 25 Most Exquisitely Sad Songs in the Whole World, although in the Jeff Buckley version, which The Big Brother thinks is, like, totally superior to the original.

09 May 2007

Politics and the net

The French presidential election over, bloggers reflect or move on. Their impact on the campaign, and that of the internet in general, through official sites and very unofficial ones is now the subject of a documentary. It can be accessed, free, for one week on the Arte site. The filmmakers followed the webmasters and some bloggers, from the first steps to the results. The first steps are the use of internet as a new power by Bayrou, the use of the Web 2.0 by Royal, with the opening of the site to users, which resulted in a "book of hope", record of ordinary web users' comments, reflections and requests. The French political bloggers enthusiastically talked of a 5th power, and yet an academic pointed out that the perceived democracy of the medium should be balanced by the social background of the political blogosphere and their readers - young, urban, and university graduates.

07 May 2007

Sarko and the bees

Maybe I am just tired, maybe my bi-cultural status is causing multiple personality disorder, but I really thought this article in the Irish Times was a joke. Was the journalist just having a field day about bees, or did yesterday's news from France warp my tired mind?

23 April 2007

Sego, Sarko, ethics and definitions

SO here we are, after hours and hours of soundbytes, and miles and miles of pictures and words, it is now down to two. Sego-Sarko as they say back home. I’ve spent a lot of time back home, virtually speaking, over the past weeks, and I have read a lot of French blogs, following from abroad the campaigns of the main candidates to the French election.

What interested me – nearly as much as the political aspect, was that two issues seemed to exercise the political bloggers: ethics (should they issue the results of the exit polls before 20.00 hours, which would have been illegal, but tempting – freedom of speech, of course, and the affordance was there, why not use it?) and definitions (what – or who - is a “real” blogger?)

Both issues are, I think, at the heart of blogging in general, and not only French blogging, or political blogging, or French political blogging. Indeed both issues are at the heart of the personal blogs as well as the opinion blogs. Ethics, as seen of course in the recent code for bloggers proposed by Tim O’Reilly, but also in the day to day issues facing personal bloggers, issues of moral responsibility and of self-disclosure. Definitions also, as arguments flourish over definitions of Web 2.0, and of the word blog itself.

More to come, from the French elections, from French bloggers, and from those vexed issues.

19 April 2007

The Machine is Us/ing Us (Final Version)

Today, another YouTube video, found through Sue Thomas' post in PART.

17 April 2007

The Book

I came across this in my YouTube travels, in Norwegian (or so I believe), with English subtitles.

16 April 2007

A little list

Waterstones have asked their staff to compile a list of their favourite novels (published since 1982), and have issued the 100 favourite books, listed in chronological order. I have read 38, and may I freely admit that they include the wonderful Gruffalo. It is by no means a literary list, or an anything in particular list, just a list of books some people who sell books have liked; if it was anything else, it would be criminally incomplete. But I love lists anyway, so here's my very short list of awards, directly related to the Waterstones list:

The one I most wish I hadn't bothered with: Five People You Meet in Heaven.
The one I wish they had included: an awful lot, amongst which That They May Face the Rising Sun, The Blackwater Lightship, more Terry Pratchett
The one that's beside my bed but I haven't yet opened: The New York Trilogy
The one I doubt I will ever read: The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic
The one I wish I had time to read: A Suitable Boy

13 April 2007

The more you read...

The past two days have been very busy, desperately catching up and preparing a presentation – too late, always too late. So I didn’t keep up with my Google reader, I worked and wrote and today, at last, I read as well. Serendipity again? Blankpaige has introduced a law of blogging, the incredibly complicated calculations of which I will not attempt to describe, but it can be summed up as: the more you read (blogs), the less you blog. This did of course strike a chord , expert procrastinator that I am, always looking for scientific reasons to my lack of blogging/writing chapters/ironing. And in today’s Guardian – although the author has probably not yet read Paige’s law, this sentence:

It could be that the vast majority of people prefer just to read blogs rather than write them…

In an article which describes blogging as “a minority sport”, and compares the slow rise in blogs to the meteoric rise in social network participation. This is indeed what I find in the realm of young people’s blogs – a significant number of blogs are slowly abandoned, and online interaction moves to Bebo. The true bloggers, who stay the distance? They write, and writing is not easy.

10 April 2007


This was Easter...

And this, too...

But none of this...

30 March 2007

Politicians floating on a cloud of words

Jean Véronis, a researcher and lecturer in the Université d’Aix en Provence, and a specialist in Corpus Linguistics, has made available to the readers of his blog a database of all the speeches of all the French presidential candidates. Today, he invites the readers to play with the collocations of key words in the speeches, for each of the candidates. The program shows the words most often used beside the key word by the candidate, and this appears in cloud form. His search centered on “work”. I tried with “femmes” (women) and “immigration”. Interesting results, nearly poetic. I wish there was a possibility of playing the same game with speeches from the Irish candidates and party leaders.

29 March 2007

Brain storm

Superhero supplies from Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.

Last week’s New Scientist has a very interesting article on mental time travel and references to « autobiographical memory network » in the brain. In short, the same area of the brain is used for to stock memories and to imagine the future, and memories are used to project into the future. They explain that the constructive nature of memories can help us to anticipate the future, but also causes us to form false memories. They also reiterate that scientists, for the past 50 years, have known that our brain can work independently from our control.

This grabbed my attention, for I have had the brain on my mind for a while. The idea of a brain working on its own brought back memories of a cartoon I used to watch with the two Big Sisters when they were small. What I remember – and it could be a “constructed” memory, is little men at work through the body, and the control center in the brain organizing the whole day, with no input whatsoever from the “person”, who was actually totally irrelevant. I have been wondering about those little men (why not women?) and about what this PhD business is doing to my brain. For over a week now, if I wake up naturally, and not jerked into wakefulness by the Little One jumping on my bed/the cat scratching at the door/assorted family members wondering very loudly about breakfast, if and when I wake up on my own, I wake up to thinking about The thesis. I don’t wake up, wonder about the day, and think about the thesis, I wake up to my brain thinking about the thesis behind my back, and stumble into the conversation. It is a strange feeling. I have tried admonishing my brain “what are you doing, thinking without me? What if I don’t like what you’re thinking about?”, but my brain is becoming sneaky. Already, it has stopped me from reading novels for months on end. I pick up a thriller, settle myself comfortably on my bed, away from the bedlam that is the rest of the house, and… nothing. I read a page, sigh, read another page, feel bored. I love thrillers, but my love is thwarted for weeks and weeks. Then, suddenly, my brain lets me read thrillers again, and refuses to concentrate on articles.

It has become so contrary, a little bit like a sulky teenager intent on freedom at all costs, and intent mainly on testing my resolve and my power over it. So it works without me. Maybe to my advantage, mind you. In a lecture room the other day I found a very strange questionnaire. Question 1 was “do you think you have super powers?” Yes, YES, of course I have super powers. I think in my sleep! Not a very useful superpower, I hear you snigger. Maybe, but superpowers can be improved, I have read enough comics and seen enough films to know that much. I could very well go back to my home planet/attend a special school/wear a new superhero outfit, and wham, zam, new super powers. Never mind about my brain, I really want my hands to start typing while I’m sleeping.

22 March 2007


I wonder does all research have an autobiographical element? There are many layers of autobiography to my research interests; diaries, journals and even blogs are part of life writing, and choosing to study life writing necessarily leads to writing your own life. I started writing my life in 1971, in an extremely cool apple green locked diary (with a drawing of a girl wearing flares, an indian tunic and beads on the cover; in my memory, she is dancing). My diary had a name, that I shall always swear I do not remember... I started reading blogs in 1999, on my first computer, in the bedroom of our apartment in Paris while the Little One was sleeping. See how things intermesh; one of the blogs I read every day is being written from an apartment in the same XVème arrondissement. Back in Ireland, as I went back to college to study for a Master’s in Translation Studies, the Very Big Sister started a blog. When the time came for my dissertation, I chose to study French and Irish adolescents’ blogs, and then decided to continue towards a PhD. I now also read research blogs, and some political or current events blogs, but always go back to what Herring et al calls the journal-type blogs. The more I read, the more I find that even in research blogs, even in journalistic blogs, the private comes to the fore, pushed maybe by the perceived intimacy between the writers and their readers, and the negotiation of the author’s voice. But see how things converge: I was talking to the Big Brother yesterday about the ways of finding Irish adolescents’ blogs in a sea of English language, and about culture-specific search words. His profound and intimate knowledge of Irish teens’ vocabulary was an invaluable help. We narrowed it down to some specific words, such as skangers, some specific and teenage-altered place names, Belvo for Belvedere College, the Wez or Oxegen for going out, and altered spellings: mon, roish, loike that aim to mimic the accents of the well-heeled amongst teenagers (obviously non-skangers). It took me two words and three clicks to land on the Big Brother’s Bebo page, which up to now I had studiously avoided.

15 March 2007

Two things

Two things today: widget-related, and tag-related.

I have finally added a widget, even though the name had been bothering me and keeping me away from widgeting. But I gave in, mostly because my delicio.us is in a terrible mess and I have no time to clean up. So a widgetory glance can tell me which entries I have been noting on the work front; the tarte tatin aux endives is not entirely related to work, but it could be. And because I am entirely serious and not at all prone to attacks of procrastination, I do not include the really intriguing blog entries, such as The One On How to Get Rid of A Body or The One with the ExpletivOMeter.

Which leads me nicely to the realisation that I do not need tags on this blog, so single-minded am I in the pursuit of procrastination. And I rue the day when I picked its name; rumble strips should slow you down a little, not bring you to a halt every 100 meters.

12 March 2007

I came across this, in one of my procrastinating meaderings, and it felt like serendipity. I have started writing on expectation of privacy in adolescents' blogs, and my readings today had taken me to some journals of psychology, to self-disclosure, transient self and abiding self scales, as well as construction of identity online... from there to proof of identity is one tiny step that I am glad to take, at least for one second, until I go back to my work. No more procrastination.


I also found an article on procrastination, although I was at the time avoiding procrastination like the plague, and dutifully sticking to academic journals of relevance. What do you do when procrastination comes looking for you? This is the abstract for the article:

The Nature of Procrastination: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review of Quintessential Self-Regulatory Failure. Steel, Piers; Psychological Bulletin, Vol 133(1), Jan 2007. pp. 65-94. [Original Journal Article] Abstract: Procrastination is a prevalent and pernicious form of self-regulatory failure that is not entirely understood. Hence, the relevant conceptual, theoretical, and empirical work is reviewed, drawing upon correlational, experimental, and qualitative findings. A meta-analysis of procrastination's possible causes and effects, based on 691 correlations, reveals that neuroticism, rebelliousness, and sensation seeking show only a weak connection. Strong and consistent predictors of procrastination were task aversiveness, task delay, self-efficacy, and impulsiveness, as well as conscientiousness and its facets of self-control, distractibility, organization, and achievement motivation. These effects prove consistent with temporal motivation theory, an integrative hybrid of expectancy theory and hyperbolic discounting. Continued research into procrastination should not be delayed, especially because its prevalence appears to be growing.

They research procrastination AND they have a sense of humour...

20 February 2007


The Little One and I were watching Superman Returns. New Superman bears a vague resemblance to old Superman, but that's beside the point. Five years can change a man, even more so when he's gone in search of his long-lost and utterly destroyed home planet. Towards the end of the film, Superman flies into the stratosphere, bearing the burden of a humongous rock of kryptonite. He throws it away, and then collapses, and slowly falls to earth.

"How can he fall so eloquently?" asked my young linguist.

19 February 2007

Why do I thus waste my time?

I was deep, deep into the third chapter of Discourse and Social Change, I swear, really involved in taking notes and reflecting on a social theory of discourse, when I realised it was imperative and urgent to amend my Amazon shopping basket and include Foucault's L'ordre du discours. So far so good, totally acceptable time-wasting exercise.
But what greets me on the Amazon page, waving madly at me with a spooky blue grin? Mr. Target, obviously inspired by one of the lesser Mr. Men. What's a student to do? Click, of course, on the little blue yoke, to discover - although much much too late in my case, and sadly too late also for my poor neglected children - that Little Blue Yoke is a potty training aide.
And I quote:

Helps to accelerate the Toilet/Potty Training Process
Makes using the toilet fun and interesting
Helps to get children out of nappies faster
Promotes greater hygiene standards in the bathroom, by giving children a point of focus
Works for girls and boys
Made with Hygienilac(R), a patented antibacterial ingredient
Each ball lasts for up to 4 weeks
Floats on the surface of the water, inside the toilet bowl and doesn't sink
Can help to reduce nappy expenditure
Great for children of all ages, including Dad!

I do wonder about the Works for girls and boys part, visions of little girls falling in the toilet, and I also rather gag at the thought of Each ball lasts for up to 4 weeks ...

I wonder what Mr. Faiclough would make of it. Or M. Foucault, for that matter.

15 February 2007

Back again

It was snowing when I went to France earlier this month, snow and also freezing fog, lengthening my stay when planes couldn't land in Biarritz. A taste of real winter, sharp and cold and transforming the forest into a snow-queen playground.

I came back energized and ready to jump back into reading, researching and writing. And resolved to once and for all resume blogging.

Ha! This was discounting my truly amazing propensity for procrastinating. I did start working, but an entry on a blog was left to tonight when I get home, after I've cooked dinner, just before I go to bed, after I've finished reading other people's blogs, and maybe follow a few links, tomorrow without fail, when I get to college, after I've read this article, after lunch, this week-end definitely...

I have however uploaded my pictures on my still-new and more than ever beloved laptop, hence the snow.

18 January 2007

Sublime intimidation

I am not sure if I heard correctly, but while driving back from the shops yesterday, a representative of the guards on the news was talking about “sublime intimidation” , and chuckled to myself at this not so subtle slip of the tongue… Strangely enough, it was not about young people and the Internet, the coverage of which seems to be getting more and more sensationalist. Online predators have long been a favourite subject of the media; danah boyd thankfully has a great post on moral panic, and other bloggers seem to feel the same irritation at sensationalist covering of online youth. And now for bullying, which so far has always popped up in questions when I gave a presentation, or indeed when I was asked the 50 million euro question “what do you actually do?”. Blogging and young people? Oh, what about bullying? I know bullying exists, hey, it already existed in the dark ages of my youth, and I know it is hurtful and soul-destroying. I know it happens on Bebo, but I have not so far seen instances of bullying on blogs. Fights, yes. OK Corral type of let’s-sort-this-out-once-and-for-all, sure. But not bullying. The space is not conducive to that behaviour.