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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:
> tram on evolution
> ntboy on Ten Years Ago Tuesday
> ert on pah t
> Prentiss Riddle on am i sick again?
> Annie on art supplied by ithiel
> john on painting potential of my bachelorhood
> Sebastian Hassinger on an effort
> prema on Personal Filing: Joichi Ito
> Warren Frey on photo recap: austin
> littlemikey on Post Porn Posting
> Jimmy on early rising white belt
> Dim on patriotic duty
> Eby on Personal Filing: Peter Merholz
> James on Packing my Rocks for the Misty Mountain
> Nick Gray on What Do I Look Like?
> Rob the oX on 2003 End of Music
> Liz on in this context
> C(h)ristine on leaving later
> Damanda on First word from Vegas
> twelveinchsoft on Solved Mysteries!
> Halifax Real Estate on alone, sort of
> Annalee on Personal Filing: Annalee Newitz
> Paul on Personal Filing: Anil Dash
> Sacha Chua on Personal Filing: Cory Doctorow
> sq on Personal Filing
> on Thread Cleaning
> on NYE: Sweaty with Strangers
> Judy on Life in the Happy Bubble

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:


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January 28, 2004


I am feeling better. Started washing my hands more. Being sure to take my vitamins. Relaxing in bed. Get over this cold, and then figure out how to move forward. My immune system was down from Shingles, I imagine. But I still get sick too often. So I've got to pay attention. Fortunately, I've got a lot of great comments and advice. Thank you for that, particularly Abbe.

Yesterday I kept thinking I should write and post something on my site. But I finished a deadline for TheFeature instead ("Korea's Mobile Multiplayer"). Went out to eat something besides vegetable-laden pizza from Pastino's (they deliver, hallelujah). max pleasureThen I stopped by the game store to pick up something to play after finishing the excellent Max Payne 2 (today I posted my reflections on that game experience to Game Girl Advance: "Max Pleasure.") So I spent all late yesterday in bed playing DOA: Extreme Beach Volleyball - a combination gambling, sports, fashion, collecting game staring computer-generated pin-up girls. (With a break to chat with a reporter from Wired News about social network backlash). I would say it was a relaxing afternoon on the beach, but I played the volleyball so much I lost some feeling in my right thumb. Hard to relax here. But at least I was in bed. Oh, and I couldn't resist - I ate lunch near a movie theatre so I snuck in and purchased a large buttered popcorn to bring home.

So today I woke up and worked and felt good about that. Fired off so many short correspondences that tell people I'm aware of their emails and tho I haven't dealt with their questions or requests, I'm available and competent. Mom suggested I go buy some chicken soup so I bought two quarts and downed one in front of the computer. Then I took my mostly uneaten day-old popcorn, covered in brewer's yeast, and sat in front of the tele upstairs to watch Adaptation I bought used at the video game store. I was marvelling happily at the total media experience I have available to me when I need to wind-down. But the movie amplified me still more. Call it Kaufman's infectious artistic consumption. I left the experience still giggling and laughing but more amazed that I find any meaning in anything I do. So I called a few of my friends on the east coast at midnight, having a satisfactory conversation with no one.

What did I want from them? I thought I might describe it to myself. So I sat down and wrote 1600 words about intimacy while "Such Great Heights" by The Postal Service played 19 times in the background. And now I think I'll go back upstairs and finally watch Rules of the Game until I pass out. Tomorrow I meet the Trotts again for lunch and drive off to Howard's to sit in the sauna. Then Friday leave early for New York, carrying only carry-on bags and the vestiges of a cough that should be leaving my body if it knows what's good for me. Rereading this I seem to myself like an insane person.

Posted by Justin at 10:42 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Ten Years Ago Tuesday

From this:


To this:

d00d, where's my sex appeal?

Ten years ago Tuesday I convinced someone to tap on a link in an email, to visit a homespun home page hosted on a hard drive. There was just my list of links and a bit of personal background.

10 Years of Links.net - Reflections

Posted by Justin at 05:18 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

January 25, 2004

pah t

At one point on Saturday, Harvey turned to me and observed, "You're spending all this time framing and hanging pictures, instead of cleaning your house."

And it was true. I'd spent hours and hours picking and framing and hanging posters, scrolls, print-outs, to fill the walls. I was planning to have a party to celebrate Harvey and my possibly pending green belt, and I still hadn't bought any limes, moved any couches, or dusted any toilets. But that's what will make this party go, I believed, some stimulation.

I was too sick and snot-laden to adequately discharge my Aikido, so it would have to be a media-literate party to celebrate being. Somewhat low key for my energy level. I made background preparation of Wobbly's Playlist and The Idiot Radio Station recently purchased from Illegal Art, and YoungAliveInLove. And I made some decorations, with hanging help from Mike:

Two photographs by Charlene hang in the art studio. I met her taking pictures at Dealership shows; I saw this photo on her site and enjoyed the motion; the other photo is a gift for Harvey since it reminds me very much of the aesthetic of his recent game Deus Ex: Invisible War.

An anti-war poster from Honduras hangs left of a mirror/altar, filled with statuettes: the women of Capcom, tiny Zeus and a black Madonna.

Exerpts from Screenshots by John Haddock, printed out, framed and titled; stuck up on a wall over patches of missing paint and wallpaper.
A series of drawings from an isometric perspective, in the style of a computer game. The subject of each drawing is the image, or images, that created a popular cultural event.
Haddock's illustrations are striking, unsettling - begging political questions about video games, media, history and politics. I put them up for my party, and now I'll survey them each time I travel towards the toilet here!

And the party went, Saturday night at 9pm, Oakland creekside, though I'm not sure what the stimulation added. As always, the occasion comes down to the people. And these were good people. What do they say about putting together a wedding outfit? Something borrowed, something blue. I believe my evolving party ethic involves inviting some strangers, in addition to the people you know quite well.

accrc homiesI invited three groups of relative strangers to this shindig - Ithiel and any of his friends, and Matt Peterson who emailed me after reading my letter to the Oakland mayor - neither of whom made it. And a posse from a computer recycling place. I went in to drop off a pile of old Macintoshes and broken cassette players in a giant warehouse in Berkeley; I ended up spending an hour chatting with an activist and forward-thinker. I invited James of the Alameda County Computer Resource Center to my party; he asked, "can I bring minions?" I figured if they were anywhere near as amplified fast thinking and globally minded, with just a smidgen of his conscience, I would be glad to have them. Chris, James and Jennifer - pictured here to the right, a far more uplifting party presence than their picture might foretell.

accrc homiesWhat is a stranger anyhow? Worst case, a stranger is someone who steals or willfully destroys things inside your home, perhaps intimidates your guests - a stranger being someone doesn't share your sense of boundaries and propriety. But that's not the case with most people. In this case, most people who showed up to this party were strangers to each other. But if I can manage to have parties more regularly, they might start to drift out of their social groups and into new social arrangements. I love to see that happen. Even if I don't get a chance to take enough pictures. Pictured to the left, Chris holds a smile through Colin's confounded stare at Grand Theft Auto III.

Not pictured, elegant Jane and her dapper Jesse, sitting on the couch with punk-flapper Mai.chris harvey austin Lovely moblogger-sadly-with-no-signal Mie and able Dav (Dav, able because he coaxed action from my powerless Shinobi standup), and their friend Jessica. Jason a fabulous hugger and Jolene who gave Harvey and I eggs and pancakes in the morning before she showed up with Tecate at night. Shinobi standup), and their friend Jessica.steve beamsColin's Russian roommate Dimitri in a two foot top hat - part of becoming a US citizen, he says, assuming the headwear of previous Republican presidents. Chris took a taxi from the South Bay to join our festivities, shown eying the camera at right with Harvey and Austin. Also-sick PeterMe, a mainstay of East Bay observations. Erik, an explorer, and his friend Jodi, another storyteller I'm told. Michael I have known since I was four but I hadn't seen in ten years, and his friend a nice chap who works with chemicals. Jovial Don might have talked about ConnectedTV with media maven Steve, shown at left beaming with himself and two Treo 600s. Always entertaining Austin and friend Marka. Briefly Dave. Mike who prodded and provoked Marc to share a great many fabulous stories and visions for better social network software as the night waned. It was all over by 1.30am and I hauled my cough-racked frame into bed, happy, stimulated.

Posted by Justin at 09:54 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

January 21, 2004

am i sick again?

Last week I had some cause to revisit the long scroll of 2003, all the text I wrote last year, for a recollection. And scattered amidst the travels and enthusiasms was a near constant series of illnesses, mostly colds. Snot this, cough that. Hack hack hack.

It was part of my sense of maturing that I have worked to be healthy in the last few months. Eating yogurt or eggs each morning and a decent lunch and dinner. Sleeping eight hours each night. Getting up from the computer, cleaning up around the house. Working out four or five, even six times a week. I can feel some long atrophying muscles taking shape now!

And I can feel another cold building in my throat. This is coming up after ten days of doing nothing crazier than writing and aikido. No heavy drinking, no travel, no late nights with wet hair in frigid temperatures. Just doing everything I thought I had to do to be a healthy person. A totally conservative lifestyle!

And it's not just like I have the sniffles; today I have a painful sore throat and cough, sneezing, coming on fast. I've been rubbed my nostrils with zinc, laying on my couch, drinking echinacia tea and slowly eating a delicious whiting sandwich from the Your Black Muslim Bakery. But my body feels worse by the hour. Shit, what do I have to do to stay healthy?

I saw a doctor when I had shingles, and I asked to have my blood tested ten ways from Tuesday. My plasma came back placid. Maybe I have allergies or something else. I would call it hypochondria, but my throat hurts - I would ignore it if I could. It sucks being laid out sick all the time. I think to myself, hey Justin, you gotta slow down buddy, rest up and get well. But if my illness is born from a state of rest, well how do I rest more than that? Maybe I need to move into a sanitarium, and partake daily of the vapors. Or unplug - perhaps the news is killing me. Argh.

Posted by Justin at 11:00 PM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

art supplied by ithiel

ithiel amrhamAfter painting Sunday I stopped by the art supply store yesterday for more canvases. Amsterdam Art on University in Berkeley has the most entertaining vibe of all the local art stores - half of the shelves are typically empty, and they have strange things deeply discounted (the cigar pen?). But the whole store speaks artmaking and the employees are practicing artists. It's an inspiring place.

Yesterday I sighted a urban cool African-style mask hanging on the broad white wall behind the register. The artist Ithiel Amrham was on hand, working a retail shift. I chatted him up about his layers of foamcore painted with graffiti inflections, topped with texturing glue. I ended up buying this mask pictured above from him, to hang in my house. Poor man I, patron of the arts.

Posted by Justin at 09:18 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 18, 2004

painting potential of my bachelorhood

Sunday afternoon is the one time in the week when you are least likely to be interrupted. Today I resolved that no matter what, I wanted to paint. There were plenty of other tasks looming - cleaning house, sorting files, writing articles. But painting is forever. Certainly looking at the few paintings I have hanging on my walls give me some immense pleasure, and remind me of sides of myself beyond another click through BoingBoing and blogs, no matter how fabulous their links.

paint spaceSo I entered Jane's old office, Amy's old studio, Austin's old bedroom, what used to be the garage. I have been storing old computers and hardware that I want to give away there (example: 1, 2, 3). I swept my arm across the desk in there and cleared a space in front of the window. I set up a small easel and my acrylic paints and brushes. A blank canvas before me, it didn't take long to find pencil and pigment flying.

A few minutes went by in scratching and silence. Then I dug out a twenty year old Sony portable CD player, an AC adapter from a iffy cordless phone, an old pair of computer speakers, and piped in some Grateful Dead laying nearby. I fixed a pot of tea. I lit some old Nepalese incense. I hung some of my old paintings on the wall.

paint blue redI crouched there dabbing and stroking away, chasing each ray of the dwindling day. It was blissful messy fun.

Since I met Howard and started hanging out with him, we've had regular sessions practicing art in his backyard. Practicing art as an adult is important to me - exercising the less organized, non-professional parts of my imagination. Practicing art alone in my home today made me feel like I was embracing the best potential of my bachelorhood.

Posted by Justin at 08:53 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 17, 2004

an effort

I'm making an effort to stay close to home, clean up, get healthy, exercise, relax, read, get ahead on things. Conservative, you know? Taking care of myself.

Here are my tentative upcoming travel dates:

New York City: January 30 - February 5
San Diego: February 8 - February 13 (Emerging Technologies Conference)
London: February 24 - March 2
Chicago: March 2 - March 7
Austin: March 11 - March 17 (South by Southwest: Interactive)
San Jose: March 22 - March 25 (Game Developers Conference)
Georgia: March 26 - March 28 (Cumberland Island)

Today I went through my calendar, blocked out my travel dates, and fit in every possible Aikido class I could between my upcoming trips.

Posted by Justin at 05:42 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

January 16, 2004

Personal Filing: Joichi Ito

joiJoi Ito is a brave, curious citizen of the future international society, he is generous with his mind and the unusual connections he's made in a short dense life lived between culture, computers and a commitment to the application of imagination. He invests with Neoteny, holds court on IRC, serves on a dozen boards between the US, Europe and East Asia. And he's a gadget-hound, DJ and new dog-owner.

A person with so many interests and occupations must have an unusual Personal Filing scheme. Here's what Joi said:

In order of value:

My blog has just about every interesting thought and important link that I have seen so Googling my blog with site:joi.ito.com is a file search I use several times a day. That with a page slap can answer most questions

Next is my wiki. http://joi.ito.com/joiwiki/

Next is searching email

Next is http://del.icio.us/ for links

Photo's... I've started using iPhoto Buddy to make new libraries but
local photos are difficult to search because I don't have good
metadata, but I have most of my good photos in TypePad photo albums.
See joi.typepad.com

I started recently using SBook5 for notes about people. (Barlow tip)

(Note: that photo above is from the Creative Commons party - Joi was posing with Danah, but I caught her with her eyes in meditation stance!)

Posted by Justin at 05:41 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

photo recap: austin

Austin lived with me for a while. Here's proof that he cooked (a fine) lasagne:

lickin'-good lasagne
And here's a picture showing our shared smiling as our time living together dwindled (at Mahk's game night, with Sean behind us):
lickin'-good lasagne
Posted by Justin at 05:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 15, 2004

Post Porn Posting

Finite time. Go to Aikido twice a day and you don't have as much time to pleasure yourself, nap and file porn pictures. And work on writing. I did interview a mobile game developer in England on the phone for < one hour. I like long overseas phone calls for research. Though my phone bill last month was over $200 - doubtless my > hour interviewing India.

And I worked on various web sites. Cleaned up, did laundry. Fortunately I had a half a porterhouse steak, a quarter piece of prime rib, some green beans and some scalloped potatoes from a fine steakhouse left over after last night. Breakfast, lunch and dinner! Dammit I didn't leave this desk for more than three waking hours today. I did start reading "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" - got about three pages into it before I passed out cold on my couch.

I'm glad to be able to say that I posted up the rest of my Vegas/Porn convention coverage. There's three parts, you'll see them on that page. Here's two teaser pictures, leading to the two articles posted since the last salacious update:

Left: three oldsters at the Adult Video News Awards.
Right: Sinulate CEO S. Rhodes holds the Sinulator, a wirelessly controllable online vibrator covered in TheFeature.

A quiet spiritual part of me loves the 6.30am martial arts practice. But it's running modern Justin down - I need more hours in the day, and my work and community is oriented around 8am to 1am waking hours.

Posted by Justin at 11:41 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

early rising white belt

Pardon me if I missed your phone call - I've been slightly groggy and napping in the afternoon this week. But my mornings are superlative -

All week is "kangeiko" at my Aikido dojo. Kangeiko is winter training - each day, starting at 6.30am, practicing Aikido in a cold room by candlelight as the sun rises. It is beautiful - the quality of early morning light and crisp air. The camraderie of early risers. And these techniques we are practicing - something like walking around an incoming blow, warding away fists with a minimal amount of energy and force. Like dancing, like diverting, like much of Aikido. Then we practice sword combat, with wooden "bokken" learning to match our partners moves and energy. I have a hard time restraining myself with the wooden swords - I get excited and I like to practice hard.

There are no competitions in Aikido, tournaments and the like. But there are belts, useful as signs of experience when practicing. My teacher says that white belts (beginners) are the most deadly of all people on the mat, since they have the least experience with not hurting people during practice. Fortunately, I may soon appear less deadly - next Saturday I'll be tested for my green belt.

Speaking of white belts, I was talking to a friend from college in Las Vegas and we had this joking dialog:

How might a white belt in Aikido respond during a mugging?
"Here, put down that gun and grab my wrist."
"No, no, grab it with the other hand."
"There we go - now it's on!"

(That joke has probably existed before)

Posted by Justin at 06:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

patriotic duty

The last time I remember dancing ecstatically at a club was in a smoky basement at Chiro's in London. It was Arabic music night Live and it caught my friends and me by surprise. We were joined by three Iraqui kurds at our tight corner table and it wasn't long before we were singing along and swaying with our hands outstretched.

That night, I fired up WinMX and did a search for "Arabic" and MP3. I ended up with something by Amr Diab - "Habibi Ya Nour El Ayn." Right now it's blasting out of the tiny tinny speaker in the back of my Treo.

I consider it my duty as an American to enjoy more Arabic culture. A friend quoted George Orwell to me the other day - "We have always been at war with Eastasia." We might evolve beyond that by bridging the gap with culture, speaking the same language, sharing information and human expression past politics.

UC Berkely offers Arabic I for $435, starting in September (15 weeks, 45 total hours). MIT's Open Courseware offers Antropology of the Middle East and Middle East in the 20th Century - those probably aren't as fun as some good Arabic classic tracks. "Arabic" is a big classification - there's a lot to learn in there.

Posted by Justin at 09:20 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 14, 2004

Personal Filing: Peter Merholz

A co-founder of Adaptive Path, Peter Merholz is a fantastic active mind. He reads widely, and fortunately for us, he applies much of what he reads to information architecture. His site, PeterMe has long been a nourishing place to study the unconscious principles of organization in our daily lives.

He sent a short answer on his scheme for Personal Filing:

Right now, I organize everything in iCal.

Mostly using ToDos (right hand side). I try to put in there every little thing. And I use it to store writing ideas ("write up keynote presentation", "drawing of overlapping disciplines"), etc. etc.

And a picture:

peter me

Posted by Justin at 10:37 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Packing my Rocks for the Misty Mountain

Thinking of this photo I bought myself some $11 total wraparound glasses at Whiskey Pete's in Prinn Nevada. Yesterday I donned them yesterday with my mobile phone headset which made for this photo, which amuses me greatly.


I drove to Howard's, where I found his hiking shoes sitting out. We immediately took off for "dog bite trail" on Mt. Tam, carring bags full of rocks.

Near the top, we stopped on an outcropping. Surrounded by mist in the valleys below,

mountain mist

we set out to carve and polish stone pieces.

mountain polish

Finally, we stood together, dusty and chilled.

mountain top

Posted by Justin at 09:47 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 12, 2004

What Do I Look Like?

walkingThis is what I look like limping through the Bellagio, talking on my mobile phone. I wasn't hurt, but friends recommended that I couldn't expect to carry my jo through a casino. "That's a weapon, Chester" they told me. Or a cane. So in black leather pants I hauled my 29 year old frame slowly across the bright carpet, tapping loud on the marble floors. Proudly rocking a SAME helicopter shirt.

Photo: Ethan, co-proprietor of The Veranda House.

Posted by Justin at 05:47 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

2003 End of Music

Here's some of the albums that most captivated the last part of 2003:

Aphex Twin / Richard James - Richard D. James Album
Tickles the brain more like classical than electronic, with striking melodies taming artful beats. Brainy, but never aloof - always decidedly playful. His work is a broad, brilliant thing; this record is a good sample. (Amazon)
Shiina Ringo - Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana (Calcium, Semen and Chestnut Flowers)
I asked David Marx of Young Alive in Love to recommend me some music - he said this woman and this album were the best things happening in Japanese music. He wasn't fibbing; her music is compelling worldwide. Shiina Ringo melds a wide range of styles into something both virtuosic and poignant. I don't understand about 98% of the lyrics and I'm still fantastically impressed. (YesAsia | Time.com profile)
The Small Hours
The Small Hours unabashedly works over computer-mediated feeling, coming into adulthood through machines. It's electronic, with a soft but firm hand. Agro-depressive - it will propell you into the evening. (TheSmallHours.net)
Boards Of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children
Gentle, haunting atmospheric electronica. Samples echo off beats and melody. This album effectively coerces a low-brainwave mood. (Amazon)
Jan Johansson - Folkvisor (Jazz På Svenska-Jazz På Ryska)
Aching contemplative jazz. Spare soundscapes from a piano with accompaniment, by a Swedish jazz legend who died too young. (Heptagon)
Bad Brains - I Against I
Picking up energy with righteous energetic indignation. Punk, punk, with a dab of dub. (Amazon)
(all Amazon links resolve to a Chanpon.org donation)
Posted by Justin at 04:59 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

in this context

Who am I, in this context? What is my "lifestyle"? It's a mix of things, naturally. Part of it is my dating life: serial live-in monogamy interspersed with periods of loosely-defined relationships, often long-distance. Then there's my social life: lots of "art fags", depressives, geeks of one stripe or another. And then there's my nascent professional life: computer science and games academic with a overtones of bohemian thought, popular culture commentary and gender studies ramblings. That would confuse anyone, right?
- Robin, "Satellites"
Posted by Justin at 02:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

leaving later

We left Vegas later than I'd hoped or planned. 5pm departure meant that the last part of the nine hour drive was after 2am. I am a road warrior - I breathed deep window open and music on soft quivering my legs trying to keep blood flowing past my ass.

But there was so much fog on the freeway last night. Even mostly lucid I wondered if I wasn't driving into the ocean. And as my eyelids fell, slightly, it looked like I was driving into a giant gray rose. Opening my eyes wide, it looked like the cliffs of Petra were looming there in front of me, to the sides, all around me and that truck. But the road was mostly clear. So here I am.

Posted by Justin at 11:53 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 09, 2004

First word from Vegas

Emailing with Don Hopkins -

"Vegas, huh? Well say hi to SATAN when you see him (and I know you will)!"
The first report from the porn convention is up:

doll point

Highlights include: remarks from Larry Flynt, lunch with Carol Queen, touching a Real Doll, and the kustom kinky blanket.

Posted by Justin at 12:52 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

January 06, 2004

Solved Mysteries!

One night, a young man became hungry in his quiet Northern California home. He heated up home-made soup from his recently-cleaned out refrigerator. He posted a note as usual on the internet, and sat down to finish his dinner.

The next day, that young man was sick. With a deeply cramped stomach and much time spent on the toilet, he was lead to wonder, what had happened?

We will show you this dramatic reenactment of the food he ate that fateful night:


Thanks to a tip from a reader of his web site, we have managed to unite this young man with his senses. They alerted us to this note, from the evening of his damning meal:
"For dinner, five day old spinch soup cooked from the bones of three chickens dead more than ten days. Poured over stale toast. A savory feast."
Another mystery solved, thanks to trackbacks.
*   *   *

The five day old chicken put the fix on me. I've spent more time on my toilet today than I've spent talking to any of my good friends in weeks.

So I bought some ginger ale. And fired up my Tivo. I have a satellite, and a device that records TV shows. Still I don't watch more than two hours of TV a month. Sometimes I wonder, why bother? Then I sit down on my couch and discover that I have an entire night's worth of UNSOLVED MYSTERIES

That's right, my blessed magical TV hard drive recorded episode after episode of this fantastic television. Why bother with anything high-brow? I want grim pablum. Give me cheap thrills, mystical experiences, dangerous strangers, and intercessions from concerned citizens. All moderated by a melodramatic host passing in front of flaming candelabras hovering in the darkness.

Unsolved Mysteries has been on long enough now that half of the episodes pass through the cliff-hanger into the resolution - previously aired segments spark someone's memory - their tip leads to a family reunion, or the capture of a murderer. The Unsolved Mystery cameras are on-hand to film the public service. Fantastic! You get all the chills of seeing a mysterious crime, and some satisfaction from knowing that a concerned viewer solved the case. (You might think of these calls as TrackBacks, and the show evidencing crime solving through Social Networks!)

Plus the show is broadcast on Lifetime, the television network for women, so I am inundated with advertisements for yogurt drinks and healthy snacks for kids and weight loss treatments. The advertising is foreign - it's an all around yummy media meal! With a large side order of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.

Posted by Justin at 09:09 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

January 05, 2004

alone, sort of

Besides floundering on my filing scheme, I had a great day. I spent a good part of the afternoon cartooning - drawing pictures. What fun is this! I can't believe I wasted my youth writing.

I feel very lucky to have a quiet day at home. Not too many phone calls. Only availed myself of one door-to-door salesperson - gave them a tour of my home and discussed the neighborhood at length with them. Otherwise, it was just me, and the wordless web.

For dinner, five day old spinch soup cooked from the bones of three chickens dead more than ten days. Poured over stale toast. A savory feast.

It feels like quiet before noise - travel pending, in two days, means this relaxing masks preparation. Tomorrow I wake up at 5.30am to get an early slot at the car repair place. One last Aikido, visit Howard. Wednesday morning, see where I stand with my accountant in Oakland and drive to Las Vegas.

I'll be driving nine hours alone (sort of), unless anyone needs a ride.

Posted by Justin at 09:21 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Personal Filing: Annalee Newitz

annalee fingering - by Kevin BurtonOften when I get excited about an idea, and I start to research it, I discover that Annalee Newitz has already written a definitive screed, rich with underworld travel tales and undeniable political sway. Knowing her as someone who writes across a wide range of subjects, I was curious to see how she managed her data.

Her web site Techsploitation shares her writings between sex, science and technology. Here, she shares her Personal Filing system:

Many of my documents live in extremely disorganized and dusty boxes in my closet and basement. I have journals and photo albums dating back to elementary school, as well as hundreds of clips from the days when I was writing for newspapers and magazines that didn't archive on the Web. The boxes have no regular identification system: one says "grad school stuff," another, "writing 1994-95," another, "memories junior high."

How do I organize my data now? Mostly it's on my Web site, in reverse-chronological order, organized first by publication and then by date. I like how Clay Shirky organizes his site by topic, though, which I think is very elegant.

I update my site about every three months, which drives everybody insane. I routinely get emails from people asking if I've quit writing my weekly column Techsploitation because they don't see any from the last three months on my Web site. So I added a helpful line saying that if visitors want to see my LATEST column, they should go to one of papers that publishes it, or find it on Alternet.org.

I also engage in a lot of culling. I don't post links to everything I write -- only the stuff I like.

Luckily, I never take pictures of anything -- least of all myself -- that I want people to see on the Web. I managed to spend an entire year in Boston and took only one memory card's worth of photos, none of which I've even bothered to upload into my 'puter. Did that just totally freak you out and cause you to twitch your camera fingers? Mwah mwah mwah.

On each of my computers, I have two directories: one is called "books" the other is called "writing." Books is organized by book, and broken down into subfolders for each chapter. Notes for each chapter go in said file. Writing is organized by publication and misc. Notes for a given article assigned by Wired go into the Wired folder. I might devote a subfolder to a particularly long or torturously-researched article.

How do I deal with all this distributed junk across three computers? I also print all my notes out and put them into manila folders labelled with the title or subject of the article. I have to be able to physically handle and throw around the notes or I can't use them. Just can't.

My column has one folder, called "tech." I also have folders for misc. interesing articles on things, labelled by area of interest, like: DRM, censorship, privacy, pornography, etc.

My physical filing system is in a heavy metal file cabinet that needs to be replaced. But it has so many great stickers on it that I hesitate to discard it completely.

Posted by Justin at 05:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Personal Filing: Anil Dash

Anil Dash is the quick-witted business manager for the company making one of the primary software packages revolutionizing media and publishing today - Movable Type (MT). Anil has his own weblog, and a finger in a dozen other public and private web sites across the Internet.

This is a picture of Anil and I from Matt's Social Software ideas:

useful so

I asked Anil to share his thoughts on Personal Filing:
Dood, my personal files are really poorly arranged. It's kind of odd, I am super picky about having a clean desktop, and my email and syndication feeds are super organized, but my files do not obey as well as my messages do, MP3s excepted.

I am considering moving my files into the folder system in Outlook, since that's already organized by the way I work. My work is fairly different in structure than what you do, but I would organize freelance work by client, as that seems most natural, and then by date in reverse chronological. I find that document types are the least valuable items, as I might have a PDF and a powerpoint slideshow and a Word file all around one project, and they belong together.

Lastly, I put as much as I can into my blog tools. I have a local install of MT, plus of course my links sidebar. I end up looking up past links on my internal or public blog at least once a day for reference, I think. And my internal blog can link to documents of any sort, so that works well for me.

Posted by Justin at 05:18 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Personal Filing: Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow is a brilliant sassy smart-mouthed writer whose devotes most his compulsive truth-telling to the better angels of the digital revolution. He fronts for the EFF, edits at BoingBoing, mentors writers, and still he's finished more books in the last 18 months than I may ever write in my life.

So immensely productive, and famously disciplined (I hear talk of him getting up before the sun to manage his daily hundreds of emails). I was curious how he managed his Personal Filing:

Here's the secret: email is a filesystem. It does version control (I sent my boss five drafts of the paper, each with notes about what had changed -- by pulling those emails out, I can diff the changes), archiving, metadata, etc.
cory's filing

Posted by Justin at 03:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Personal Filing

I'm confronting the fact that my MP3 files are more organized than my personal files (genre - artist - album - track).

I'm a writer / speaker / webmaster / consultant on a half dozen daily projects and a dozen more requiring monthly attention. Beyond that are archives - finished pieces, half-baked articles, unpublished interviews, sketches for sites never comissioned.

How to file all of that?

My old system was thus:

- wireless
- games
- japan

- chanpon
- links
- gga

Jex (as in "pro")
- health insurance
- business cards

But sometimes I have an article laying fallow in Japan that could be repurposed to Chanpon. And photos for everything in between. Things are so segmented, I don't have much occasion to visit my archives. I don't know what I have - except that in moments of lucidity, I realize I have enough research to fullfill all my writing commitments for the next year and maybe enough to write a book with what's left.

And backing up is tough - I work on a desktop and a laptop - I copy over a sub-sub-sub folder for a month on the road and then three months later I have to check which computer has the latest interviews and web research.

So I'm beginning to think I should just have a single directory listing all my projects, writing or otherwise, in a reverse chronological listing. Then the latest is always on top. And old stuff is just far down at the bottom.

But that means I'm facing folder names like 2004-03-WirelessGamingReview-Nintendo-Games-Wireless-Japan and that's just ugly. And shouldn't I have all the Chanpon stuff grouped together? A combination of site designs, articles in progress, site graphics, backups.

Maybe I should copy over anything I haven't touched in six months to a backup hard drive and wipe it. But I do go back into my article archives to see just what John Carmack said in that interview, for example, or what I said in the draft before it was mangled by that voracious editor.

Maybe I should run a project database as my front end to all of my files? Index every project, and tag associated data and files with keywords, due dates and relevant contacts.

Youch - that seems intimidating and unweildy. I'm running all Windows XP at the moment; but I'm considering a move to Macintosh for one of my two primary computers, so I'd like to stay cross-platform. Drag and drop. Point and click. Yes.

Every month I generate 700 megabytes worth of photos and short videos, 11,000 words, numerous saved articles. So this problem will only grow, and it ain't only my problem.

Every once in a while I decide I should just store everything on my web site - that way I don't have to worry about back-ups. The heirarchy might be arbitrary, but at least it is existant. But that would grow my hosting bills still further and I like the security of waking up a ten second walk from my data. Call me old fashioned.

Heck this whole enterprise is an ugly conglomeration of old "filing heirarchies" and new "data types" - I feel like I need a digital citizen lebotomy, so I can grasp and apply the truly appropriate data indexing scheme. For now I'll say that my operating system won't let me evolve that fast and go back to contemplating my proper file ordering. I'm asking around - how do people organize their project data?

Posted by Justin at 01:26 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

January 03, 2004

Thread Cleaning

I've been cleaning up my house for weeks; I finally cleaned up my web pages just a bit. With comments permitted on my site, people get into some odd behaviours. There were messages posted after an entry I wrote about my time in Finland, all promoting "order gifts and flowers to be delivered to India." One or two would have been curious, but there were 18, with about four more posted each of the last three days.

Then there were the messages posted after something I wrote about "Media Pirates of the Carribbean" - young women looking for Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp's email address. 68 of them total. These were funny too - the pre-adolescent pleading. But the more people post comments related to "orlando bloom's email address," the more that page will turn up in a search, and more people will add their name to the list, saying "please tell Orlando I love him!" Well ladies, you can rest assured, when I next see Mssrs. Depp and Bloom I will give them all of your kisses. In the mean time, those threads have been closed for new comments, and this one will be too. Hum.

Posted by Justin at 10:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 02, 2004

NYE: Sweaty with Strangers

If the first day of 2004 was not an inspired miracle of creative delving, deepening meditation or useful productivity, at least the night of New Year's gave me some strong footing for the year. At midnight, I was rolling around on the floor in the dark, clothed all in white, sweaty, in the company of fifty strangers. Fantastic way to usher in a new era.

Friend Kelly invited me to attend midnight aikido at Aikido-West, which is where my teacher studied. It was raining steadily outside, I came in after things had commenced and I was immediately swept up in the relentless friendly twirling and smiling, bowing and grappling. An amazing satisfying way to pass time with people, like dancing but towards a technique. A great New Year's Eve - if only because I wasn't sitting around watching a clock with a drink in my hand. I was rolling and tumbling, gracious for a friendly stranger, open to the future.

Posted by Justin at 06:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Life in the Happy Bubble

Yesterday first day of the New Year I spent fifteen hours straight in a blue chair staring at three screens - one, playing Khauff, one playing Deus Ex 2, and one playing a steady stream of the steamy. I drank beer, I ate second-hand home-made tamales from my neighbor Oliver. I rubbed my sallow cheeks at 2.30am and wondered if I hadn't been acting out some kind of regressive fantasy, but then I decided it was an appropriate "day off" to pleasure myself. Media study, I thought, with a pale laugh.

I lay down to sleep and so much time in the cyberpunk first person shooter world of Deus Ex had dented my eyelids - I saw sketchy neon hallways moving fast towards me interspersed with pictures of naked women. Very strange. This prolonged closed-eye distortion made me realize that the study of the effects of video games on perception and cogitation is ever more relevant.

And that whole day made me wake up on this day more fired with purpose. I did fifty sit-ups, made a bowl of yogurt and granola, and commenced corresponding, editing and writing. Robin called, she and I have been sharing well over the phone for the last few weeks. I have a telephone headset which allows me to couple conversation with relatively mindless work. By the time Robin and I, and Souris and I, had spent two or three hours on the phone together, I had two trashcans filled with debris from my office, a freshly swept floor, and a new layout to the waking hours command center.

And I think - why didn't I clean out this room more years ago? And why don't I have a vacuum after the last one broke in 1999? All signs point to this era being the era of "learn to take care of yourself." ie, push back from the computer, look at your surroundings, evaluate your situation and desires and set that shit straight.

(I had been tempted to toss most of my papers in the trash, but I'd decided to dignify them with reading, sorting and filing. Reading "At Home with Richard Hell" (NYTimes.com) reminded me that hand-scribbled notes from friends are often the most valuable objects we own).

So I ate a single bowl of yogurt and granola for seven hours. I'm hungry, maybe undernourished. But I managed a shower and a neat room and I feel like a badass in that way.

Posted by Justin at 04:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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