Justin's Links


Search Here:
Thanks Google.

media r&d

Sign up for craaazy, irregular Justin email updates
You'll get a popup window asking you to register for Topica.com (optional), then an email will be sent asking you to reply or click a link to be sure they have the right email address.

Thinkpad X21
CoolPix 880
J-Phone T06

Edit Plus
Windows XP
Office XP


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

About this site
Contact this site

No Cash? Advertise In This Space
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Howdy. I'm Justin Hall, a freelance writer living in Oakland California. I spent much of the last two years living in Japan, researching the social impact of new technologies and electronic entertainment. Now I write articles, contribute to Chanpon, Game Girl Advance and TheFeature.

Thanks for stopping by this old web site.

My memories of


Thus spake:
> justin on A Call for Conference Stenocaptioning
> toph on the internet becomes more tangible
> on The List Longevity
> Ethan on It Takes a Microwave
> justin on Going Out-Of-Date Sale
> Brent on Some SARS
> gnome-girl on Nebraska Family Drive
> Adult Dvd on Unplugging Session
> Liz on Writing Relationships
> Cigarette cheap, cigarettes online on Military History Magazine
> justin on Ethics in Online Game Journalism
> justin on Computer Recorded Phone Interviews
> andy on Taxxxes
> no on Hello, Stellar's Jay
> whois on TV Cart Construction
> g on Dealership in a Museum
> g on Conceptualizing Trash
> hadi on Wednesday Night Bars in San Francisco

waka waka! by Robin


Photo by: Robin Hunicke

I saw this girl at the Tokyo Game Show wearing these totally rad glasses. I asked if she was a game designer; she said she was just talent, a model, a booth babe sort of. But she looked like a young artist! Quirkily arrayed. I encouraged her to take her funky wardrobe and make some software. Then my disappointment was offset when she offered to let me wear her glasses after I heaped praise on them. And Robin snapped this photo!

October 2004

face front archives

I write for Game Girl Advance quite often - here's a list of my last few posts there:


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

April 29, 2003

A Call for Conference Stenocaptioning

Last week was the Emerging Technology conference. A heady mix of the old and new technology thinkers (ie, W.E.L.L. founders and web loggers) each within arm's reach of each other and their laptops. Jane and I attended, hosting a group discussion on games.

The event was wired-up for wireless internet, and the O'Reilly hosts were smart enough to provide power strips strewn throughout. So attendees could be online and powered up - a recipe for real-time reporting or complete distraction.

During a break in the ETConference proceedings, six attendees sit side by side at a table ignoring each other's geekflesh in favor of the web.
Persons more disciplined than I took notes and have posted them to the Internet. I was wrapped up in an extra-conference chat interface provided by the folks from Game Neverending. Confab was the closest thing to a location-based game at the event - a large web window showed a map of the Westin Santa Clara. Click on a room, and you joined a group chat happening between people who chose to be located there. If you saw a friend you could add them to your buddy list.

Confab was a relationship database that existed for only the length of the conference, and it was a great social toy that added a feeling of being a part of two dialogs at once. Any chat room can create that feeling, but this was especially liminal, as it mapped on to the convention I was attending.

Except for exceptional moments during lectures and slide shows, I had my head down into my computer, paying attention to this temporary autonomous community. Suddenly, the room would erupt in laughter and I would pick my head up confused, "What? What happened? What warranted group feeling or emotion?"

The chat rooms mapped to real rooms, so we were ostensibly chatting about the subject at hand. The best moments in the simultaneous dropout groupthink came from PB and others occasionally transcribing notable quotes. That gave us netizens something to riff off of.

My suggestion for all conference chat applications - have a Closed Captions-style transcript of the remarks being made on stage running through the chat room. Then the hyperactive information obsessed webloggers using chat alongside their writing and reading can be made aware of the remarks in text as they might be filtering in through their ears. They can cut and paste and reflect and link to their heart's content. Also, people from far away who have dropped in on these chat sessions can follow the thread and better participate.

Jane thinks I have a hard time with speeches - broadcasted information has to fight for my attention. (Though Brenda Laurel gave a talk today to a class at Stanford and she is a genuine shit-kicker. No choice but to pay attention there). A transcript in chat would help. Sometimes I like to think that in the future, there will be more people like me, raised in part by computers, awareness supported by a media harness - if you want us to sit through your conference sessions while connected to the infosphere, give us the presentations on all channels. Transcripts are great because you can search them, readily cut and paste them, add your own remarks inbetween. The audience will spread speaker-wisdom through their available channels, "I'm at this conference, listining to this gal, and she just said [cut and paste]."

Some real-time "live" bloggers approach transcription, as they type fast during lectures. But I want someone, maybe two people, doing word for word writedowns - a stenocaptioner for conferences. Maybe that would embarrass speakers? To see their literal rephrasings and off the cuff remarks in print. But there's so many cameras and computers at conferences these days, it's hard to imagine speakers being afraid of close recording and surveillance in that context. Let the info flow!

Posted by Justin at 09:48 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

April 28, 2003

the internet becomes more tangible

happy birthday mom!Today, my Mom and I were talking on the phone. I am trying to find a window for the garage in my house. The wall where the window will be faces the street, so Jane and I decided it would be best to have a horizontally-long narrow window up near the ceiling. That way, we'll get light and a breeze, without prying eyes from the street.

"You want a Clerstory window," Mom said from her law office in Chicago.
"Clerstory?" I fingered a patch of loose fabric on the living room couch.
"I think that's what they're called."
"How do you spell it?"
"c-l-e-r-s-t-o-r-y, I think. Hold on," she said, "Yes, it's clerstory, I just googled it."

Hearing my Mom use the verb "to google" in conversation made the internet more tangible today.

"Or there might be an extra 'e' in there - yes, here they are," she read from her screen: "'A high range of windows to ... to lift the eye to heaven.'"

Searching for facts is one thing, but using the web/search/google to confirm memory of spelling? Now she and I share the same internet resource as an extension of our memory banks, our personal processing power. Amazing! Now if I can just help her get a computer running at home, and start making her photo albums with digital pictures on the web.

Posted by Justin at 12:18 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 27, 2003

The List Longevity

When I first moved to San Francisco in 1994, I subscribed to a mailing list called simply "The List" - Steve Koepke's tracking "funk-punk-thrash-ska upcoming shows of interest." It was a fantastic way to stay on top of an entire city-worth of live music and performance, from the ultra-tiny indy local to the mega-huge bands that are still touring. And today, I'm blown out of my chair - The List is still active, tracking Bay Area live music.

Posted by Justin at 11:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It Takes a Microwave

About eighteen months ago, I wrote a piece about "True Wireless" - cutting the cord on all of our "portable" appliances. The rapid spread of wireless Internet access has made me all the hungrier for wireless power. What's the use of wireless internet if you can only use it for an hour away from a wall socket?

A story on Slashdot today gives me some hope. CNES, the French space agency has been running trials using microwaves - power beamed over long distances can be sucked down by appliances for un-wired power. This starts to sound like the work that Tesla had done on long-range wireless power. This research was originally funded by J.P. Morgan, who, legend has it, cut off funding when he realized that wireless power might make his power company investments obsolete.

That seems a bit too reductionist - wasn't Morgan good at figuring out how to corner a new market and make scads of money? Either way, I suspect that near-future opposition to wireless power will come from health activists who will play on all of our fears of being heated up with microwaves like a hot pocket. Maybe they should rename them: "electrowaves" is too much like a Marvel comics super-villain maybe, and "powerwaves" sounds like a mood-altering sound emitter you might find in the Sharper Image catalog. How about "enablewave" or "happy fun wave"?

Posted by Justin at 10:02 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

April 25, 2003

Going Out-Of-Date Sale

just in tokyoThe last few copies of my 2002 tour guide to the electroclash capital Just In Tokyo will be on sale online until the end of April. My publisher has asked me to revise the booklet, which I'm putting off until Jane and I next get a chance to visit Japan, probably later this year.

Just In Tokyo, Just 10$, Just this month.

Posted by Justin at 12:47 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 23, 2003


My email has overwhelmed my Outlook email reader software - I've got Sudden Application Restart Syndrome.

Posted by Justin at 11:48 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

April 21, 2003

Nebraska Family Drive

We had family quality time in Nebraska - flying in Friday, driving nine hours Saturday, leaving Sunday. All that momentum ended up in a graveyard, where my grandparents lie, and three horses standing at the barbed wire fence watching. A full-throttle way to experience a tranquil part of North America.

Nebraska Family Drive

Posted by Justin at 12:22 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 18, 2003

Unplugging Session

Last night Jane and I went out to dinner together and tried to talk about anything besides games. Jane's been reading about 1.5 books per week on the subject, and we've both been writing up a storm of reviews, criticism, interviews, ombudsmanship. It's terrific, exciting to be a team. We've made our hobby, a media we enjoy engaging into a job. "I thought about picking up a game," Jane confessed, "But I didn't know if I could enjoy it!"

It was a sad state, and it took us a while to recalibrate. It was a long process - we asked each other, "What did we used to talk about?" And we touched on history, and media, politics and mutual friends. We retreated to the couch and watched one of Jane's favourite recent films, "Bring It On," a beguiling film about competitive cheerleading. Then we followed that up with a Frontline special on Kim Jung Il and the Nuclear Crisis in North Korea, and finally we curled up real close for a Sundance channel documentary "The Trials of Henry Kissenger." (Thanks to Steve for those last two suggestions).

These were all nice distractions. We enjoy each others company and many of the same media. Today we've found a craft project to work on. Got to balance these things out. Spend time doing other things.

But the intense focus on games is paying off. This week Jane was asked to give a talk at Stanford about gender and video game characters. She wrote up her notes, thanking me for being a transgender gamer, and posted them on Game Girl Advance: Genderplay: Successes and Failures in Character Designs for Videogames. It's a provocative meditation on the use of gender and sexuality to further storylines or involve game players. And it includes much of the footage and findings we've shared in these last few months on the couch and on the computer, in front of televisions and talking online. The piece has had a great response, it was Slashdotted. Now other people thinking about gender and game development are making contact with Jane. All this means we may have to figure out more regular unplugging sessions!

Posted by Justin at 10:55 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

April 15, 2003

Writing Relationships

My work as a paid professional writer is largely dependent on my relationships with editors. I prod and police myself to write here on my site. But for other sites and print publications there are gatekeepers. They stand between me and their audience, negociating money from them for words, ideas from me.

Last week I turned in an article about Ethics in Videogame Journalism. It was a great assignment - a culmination of issues I'd been thinking about and talking over for months. And it gave me a chance to find some new sources and learn more about a subject I care about: digital culture criticism (strongly defended by Wayne in this thread).

That assignment came as the result of a few hours I spent chatting with an editor at the Online Journalism Review. We shared a passion for electronic entertainment, curiousity about ethics and some determination to see better writing emerge around games. I need to find more editors like that.

Posted by Justin at 09:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Military History Magazine

In Nebraska this weekend, at a gas station near Grand Island, I found a copy of Military History Magazine. Visiting the web site of the publisher, TheHistoryNet.com I found this list of all the magazines they publish: America's Civil War, American History, Aviation History, British Heritage, Civil War Times, Military History, MHQ, Vietnam, Wild West, World War II.

mh_cover.jpgI'm interested to see what Timothy Burke, Swarthmore college history and popular culture professor, had to say about these publications. I flip through the pages, settling on a piece "Viking History at Stamford Bridge": "In 1066 Englad's King Harold Godwinson faced two contenders for the throne. Duke William of Normandy threatened from the south, but first the Saxon king had to deal with his brother, Tostig, backed by the fearsome Norwegian army of Harald Hardraade." 1066 I haven't studied since I was in fifth grade doing a medieval unit.

It feels like pretty heady (or dusty?) stuff to read on the can. I would laud it as lay intellectualism - history for common folks, available at the gas station. And it would illustrate to me how folks everywhere like to learn. In the midwest, without access to some of what we call culture in California, they have drawn on the annals of human endeavor for lessons and entertainment.

Recounting old battles amidst advertisements for "Testosterall" and military commemorative art make me leery however - this is a publication for people who seem to revere controlled articulations of violence. You could argue that FiringSquad is also, as they are ecstatic for computer-rendered guns and shooting.

In times when violence towards people, and problems to be solved with force, captivate the news, I find my eyes drawn to something like Quakerism, non-violence idealism, and a little unsettled by the idea of a monthly visit to the world's bloodied grounds.

Posted by Justin at 07:49 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

April 10, 2003

Ethics in Online Game Journalism

I met with Josh Fouts at the Online Journalism Review at USC a few weeks back. We got to talking about the game industry, and game journalists. He asked me to take a look at Ethics in Game Journalism for his publication.

Most of my articles I write for other web sites are posted without much review or editing. But this piece I had to revise repeatedly. It went down to the wire - I'm glad Jim, the editor, stayed in touch. He called me yesterday afternoon, saying the piece was going up tomorrow. Did I agree with the thesis he'd rewritten?

We haggled over that thesis for three phone calls and a bunch of emails. He had said something along the lines of "as long as game journalism is still performed by fans and not by professionals, there will be ethical issues." I held fast against that statement - game journalism should not be taken away from fans, but rather fans should work on their sense of ethics.

He nodded, over the phone, and we reached this conclusion together: Ethics in Video Game Journalism and a sidebar Survey of Game Writing Online.

I did a lot of research about ethics in print game journalism, and a bit of research into the differences between "official" and "unofficial" console magazines. They trimmed that, in the interests of focusing the article on online game journalism ethics.

For the record, I'd like to thank these people who took the time to speak with me about these issues:

Robin Carr from Ubi-Soft Entertainment
Che Chou from Xbox Nation Magazine
Doug Church from Eidos
Chris Hecker from Definition 6
Dan Hsu from Electronic Gaming Monthly
Geoff Keighley from Entertainment Weekly
Tugbek Olek from Level Magazine in Turkey
Jen Pahlka from CMP Media
Jane Pinckard from Game Girl Advance
Harvey Smith from Ion Storm
Jakub Wojnarowicz from FiringSquad

Much more needs to be said about the difficulties of fairly covering "entertainment" as an appreciator of the art form. I expect the research I've done will filter out in other articles, writing for Game Girl Advance. Heck, it might even affect the way I write about games.

Posted by Justin at 12:03 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

April 09, 2003

Computer Recorded Phone Interviews

I just turned in draft number nine for an OJR piece. I did a bunch of phone interviews. So glad to have my phone headset - head not compacted at an angle holding plastic against my shoulder, I sit there comfortably able to type. I transcribe as people talk - I'm a fast typist, I can generally keep up with most spoken thoughts.

But today I wanted to confirm a quote from a few weeks back. I wasn't able to reconstruct a few of the sentences around the juiciest bit, because my hand-typed notes were incomplete. So I want an audio backup of these research phone conversations.

My phone sits next to my computer. I figure there ought to be an easy way to get a phone audio signal into my computer for easy recording. It requires a combination of hardware (some kind of RJ11-to-audio Jack? like the one pictured here. Or maybe a modem?) and sound recording software. I saw a packaged software deal offered online for $125 but I imagine that between Radio Shack and shareware I could get my personal evesdropping technology for under $30.

Posted by Justin at 01:05 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

April 08, 2003


One week left to submit my taxes. For a while last year I was pretty good about firing up Quicken 2001 every few weeks to index and file all my expenses. I charge just about everything I can on my credit card so the name of the business and the amount of my transactions are logged for later reference. As a self-employed freelance something-or-other I handle all my own business expenses so I like to be able to index these things.

At first indexing all my expenditures appealed to the data-geek in me. I could to comparative reports of media spending for summer versus winter months. Track my net worth down. Stuff like that.

But then I graduated from college and started doing my own taxes. For the last few years I've been using Turbo Tax through the web (because I got free access through my financial institutions - no longer! Humph - they've made an addict of me). I log on, online, answer questions, refer to my Quicken data, and after a few days, I file - click - boom - online! It's relatively painless I think, at least compared to the taxes I remember seeing people file on television, with tables full of receipts and things.

Here, my expense tracking is all electronic. But it's not completely headache free - there are weeks where I didn't index my expenses, or expenses I don't understand. For example: 21 May, 2002: "RED BANANA" for $81.25. I was in Los Angeles then for E3, I'm guessing that's a restaurant. Maybe I can Google that. But then there's Japan - What the heck is "KABUSHIKIGAISHIYA NIHONKA" and how did I spent $194.40 there on 19 November? I was spending yen at the time. Maybe I can figure out what that's from by reading my web site, maybe from browsing my Outlook Calendar archives. Or if I really want to find out, I could try searching the web, maybe in Japanese. Maybe that will tell me what "ANRAKUTEIASAKUSAKOKUSAIDO" is, if I want to track down $18.32 from 20 April 2002.

Sigh. If only I'd forced myself to apply regular discipline to indexing expenses in Quicken shortly after they happened! Or maybe I have to save my receipts, especially in Japan, and write little notes on them. But as I've said, I'm trying to purge trash. I want to be completely electronic will all this business.

Posted by Justin at 09:51 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 07, 2003

Hello, Stellar's Jay

stellar's jay
This morning in pastoral Oakland, a Stellar's Jay landed on a Eucalyptus tree branch outside my window, chasing a mate.

Posted by Justin at 09:21 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 06, 2003

TV Cart Construction

I bought a big TV so Jane and I could watch video games and subtitles with greater feelings of telepresence. Now the color light box is so big, it obscures the fireplace and wall behind it.

So we have been thinking - let's get a better TV cart. Something narrow, that fits under the 36" total width. Something shorter, that holds just the TV and maybe some black boxes beneath it. Something with casters/wheels! So we can redecorate with just a simple shove. I put a few hours in on some furniture sites online and found that wheels are rare, as are style and stability. And if you find something approximately what you want, it's expensive!

Jane suggested we build our own TV cart. We measured some things and this is what we envisioned:

TV Cart sketch
Simple, because we don't have a lot of tools or experience building. We were thinking of two squat wide post-walls on either side, probably at least four inches wide, holding up two thickish boards above and resting on another board below. I have a planter box in the backyard, fashioned of thick redwood boards. I should probably get some measurements and specs to post to be clear about my intent.

But basically, we wanted open back and sides, stout walls, about a 36" total width, and four fat wheels below. This TV cart would be sitting on a wood floor, and I would hope we could get some wheels or something beneath them that would not cause any serious dents or floorscars.

Anyone with any experience making things with wood have any suggestions or feedback here? The TV weighs 165 pounds - youch! - so maybe home-construction and wheels are an impossible dream. (For that sketch I hooked a six year old Wacom tablet to a PowerMac 7200/120 and drew it with a digital pen - at least that was fun!)

Posted by Justin at 08:21 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

April 05, 2003

Dealership in a Museum

Jane plays guitar and keyboards in a band called Dealership. Last night in the middle of an exhibition of artist's notebooks and sketches of cactii they played an all-ages show at the Oakland Museum of California.

picture from Dealership/Citizens Show at the Oakland Museum
Citizens Here and Abroad opened the show. They are a sort of sister band to Dealership - formed by Secadora's Dan and Adrienne and the Chrises of Dealership that stayed in California when Jane went to Japan last year.
This is a picture of Dan on stage, with his pedals.
picture from Dealership/Citizens Show at the Oakland Museum
Lisa taking a photo of Jason.
picture from Dealership/Citizens Show at the Oakland Museum
Dealership's listening crowd at the Oakland museum included family, friends, co-workers, other musicians, random. And quite a number of kids who started off in the front row looking very cute and wide eyed, ears stuffed with cotton by their caring parents. After a few songs the wee ones retreated to the back of the room to form a dancing flouncing area.
Matt took a picture of Dealership with his phone.
picture from Dealership/Citizens Show at the Oakland Museum
Jane whangs her massive guitar. She's redeveloping her calluses.
picture from Dealership/Citizens Show at the Oakland Museum
During the show Chris W. alternated between laptop and drums. This was the subject of some banter, during which Jane labelled the laptop "Chris 2.0," which Jane and Chris G. decided was more punctual, thinner and more pretty.
I wanted to hear both Chris 1 and Chris 2.0 play at once!
Jane and Chris W. stand together. Chris G. I couldn't see from the front row since the glokenspiel blocked his face (Adirenne says it was a "Fresnophone").
picture from Dealership/Citizens Show at the Oakland Museum
After the show, Lisa had us line up on a wall in the Oakland Museum parking lot for a group photo - a range of expressions here.
picture from Dealership/Citizens Show at the Oakland Museum
Four people on a wall.
picture from Dealership/Citizens Show at the Oakland Museum
DealerCitizens piled all their gear back to their shared rehersal studio in West Oakland. Here all the bands and their homies, roadies, groupies and hangers-on (except me the camera person) sit arrayed in the studio freight elevator.
picture from Dealership/Citizens Show at the Oakland Museum
Here is the same group in the fright elevator - an untouched digital camera daguerreotype!
picture from Dealership/Citizens Show at the Oakland Museum
Chris, Dan, Adrienne and Eric bask in ambient freight light
Posted by Justin at 11:17 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 04, 2003

Conceptualizing Trash

When has something finished its use? I have a hard time throwing things away. Packaging might hold something else: an empty box could be used for storage or mailing. Accordingly, I'm surrounded by stacks of empty boxes. A mobile phone is my constant companion for years. Then do I throw it away? No, I put it in a drawer with my growing collection of mobile phones and pagers.

If you have a chance to purchase a new piece of consumer electronics, it comes in a box, maybe a box colored with pictures on it, and information about the product. Inside, there are formed pieces of styrofoam and bubbly plastic made to hold, to snuggle your product just right. It's your device's true home, a place it might some day return if it is to be passed along to someone else. So my basement is full of boxes for VCRs, DVD players, Duo Docks, Monitors, PlayStations, DreamCasts, Digital Cameras, Printers.

No longer. I've found the framework I need - I think of throwing things away as purchasing space.

Posted by Justin at 04:53 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 03, 2003

Wednesday Night Bars in San Francisco

Harvey and Randy Smith, Ion Storm game developer brothers were visiting from Austin. Jane and I got a call after dinner that they were free. We don't go out much in the city of San Francisco, unless it's for a Dealership show. But I convinced Jane that we would come up with something - at least a drink in a hotel somewhere nearby. And they were having us pick them up near the Stud, which might be an appropriate bar for Bay Area visitors.

Once they were crammed into the back of my tiny sedan I remembered Farallon - among the most stimulating interiors in the city. Glass lights moulded as squid and jellyfish, convex wooden doors to the bathrooms - I figured we could have one expensive drink there and soak up the vibe of late 1990s San Francisco well-financed whimsey. I had a drink called someone's hammer with ginger beer, grapefruit, aquavit, salt and a cucumber - yum.

Then we scooted over to Li Po in San Francisco China Town, which I figured would be a good dive bar resolution for the night. A visiting expert on New Orleans entertainments first took me there, and Jane and I Li Poed last month for 80s dance night in the deserted basement. Tonight had a similar empty but charged feeling - a few Cantonese-speaking dice-slamming older men at the bar smoked in violation of California law. I ordered two mugs of tea for the Smith brothers - the bartender was incredulous. So I asked for the special of the house (what I usually drink at most bars) and he mixed up a Mai Tai in a blender with some kind of sour Chinese wine from a bottle poured over the top at the end. Then he went to fetch the tea and called out, "We only have one tea bag!" Which was great considering we were probably proixomate to more tea vendors than anywhere else in Northern California. I let out a hearty laugh, he joined me. And then he charged me more for my Mai Tai than we'd paid for any of our drinks at Farallon.

At both places we talked about what makes games great, and what makes them sell. These men are game developers, so they create. But as they have been in the business for some time, with some vision and leadership, they are increasingly exposed to business decisions about what games to fund and what games to trim.

We ended up swapping Randy for Ryan Junell and eating two plates of midnight vegetarian Super Nachos at Taqueria Can-Cun where I said to the friendly group of guys working the late shift, "Mas nachos, por favor, but carne nai" a mutant but understandable mix of Spanish Japanese and English.

Super Nachos
Ryan regards Jane speaking while Harvey catches the cameraman.

Posted by Justin at 11:06 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack
Justin's Links, by Justin Hall.