Local 33 Protest, 22 May 2017 (Yale Commencement)

This was taken through a 75-year-old window intentionally made slurrily to mimic being even older. Also, apologies for the verticality. I don’t take a lot of quick-reaction video, so I forgot to horizontalize. York Street, New Haven, CT.


Kristallnacht Timeline

Made for HIS 575, Spring 2016, Southern Connecticut State University, Professor Troy Paddock


Some Working SPARQL

Since I’m trying to work on learning SPARQL (and Learning SPARQL) with a goal of working with data from the Yale Center for British Art, I’m testing what I know in their SPARQL endpoint. This is just a log of some currently working queries.

Get everything about one item (id = 499) and then find every other YCBA object with which it shared an exhibition.

	ycba:object\/499 ?p ?o .
	?s crm:P12i_was_present_at ?o .

This query could be collapsed into one line, but exploding it like this highlights the way the natural language works.

Or, if I know an exhibition ID, show me every object that was in it.

   ?s crm:P12i_was_present_at ycba:exhibition\/7 .

Next I’ll try to combine these notions and start with an exhibition name or similar, and work out the web of shared objects.


Learning LOD

For a side summer project, I’ve taken on figuring out how to obtain and work with Linked Open Data (LOD). The Yale Center for British Art transformed their collection data into LOD a couple years back, so they provide a nice local source for the data. As far as I can tell right now, the project entails learning (just enough of) SPARQL and RDF parsing, and possibly improving my Gephi or Cytoscape chops. Meaning, of course, that the third part is needing to figure out what can be done with YCBA’s data and learning how to do that.

Off the cuff, I think these are the most relevant pre-existing factors affecting whether this post is comprehensible and useful for you:

  • MacBook Pro from late 2014; 2.2 GHz processor, 16 Gb RAM
  • Python 2.7.6
  • pip 7.0.1
  • Experience writing code as well as working with relational databases and SQL
  • Experience administering a server
  • Perhaps most importantly, before this week I spent a little time with Bob DuCharme’s Learning SPARQL from O’Reilly. Also possibly available at a library near you.

What I did today to get meaningful results:
First I needed to give my Python the capability of addressing a SPARQL endpoint and parsing the results.
sudo pip install rdflib (this also installs isodate, SPARQLWrapper, and html5lib)
sudo pip install simplejson
Then I executed some this Python fragment from Semantic Web:

from SPARQLWrapper import SPARQLWrapper, JSON

sparql = SPARQLWrapper("http://dbpedia.org/sparql")
    PREFIX rdfs: <http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#>
    SELECT ?label
    WHERE { 
      ?label .

results = sparql.query().convert()

for result in results["results"]["bindings"]:
      print result["label"]["value"]

And got back these results:

منطقة أستورياس
Asturië (regio)

With that in hand, I played around with the SPARQL query a bit to get other parts of the DBPedia entry. (After a brief visit to Wikipedia to learn a bit more about Asturias.)

This feels good enough for today. Next thin, I think, is to press some more on Learning SPARQL and see what else I can ask DBPedia.

Update 12 June: Fixed omission of sudo before second package install. Added that I have Pip, and where to get it.


Animated GIFs :: Pixelmator v Photoshop v Acorn v GIMP

Can’t believe I forgot GIMP in that last note, but it’s been updated.

I wanted to edit an animated GIF, so I had cause to check out which editors could do it.

Animated GIFs
Acorn: No (sin of omission)
Pixelmator: No
Photoshop: Yes

Defined Size Selection :: Pixelmator v Acorn v Photoshop v GIMP

Creating a defined selection box of X pixels by Y pixels
Pixelmator: No
Acorn: Yes
Photoshop: Yes (link is to one description of doing this in an older version, but I expect it’s been substantially carried forward.)

In my efforts at work to find a Photoshop alternative with a significantly lower cost, I’ve purchased both Pixelmator and Acorn. Last fall I worked mostly with Acorn, and I’m hoping to use Pixelmator more this fall with the DOCC node I work with.

Update 30 Apr 2015: Added GIMP


Toujours Animated GIFs

Last night’s lab for DOCC 14 (known to me equally as WGSS 380) focused on animated GIFs. It’s fascinating to see how GIFs have changed from my early days using the web (You guys! We can make little cartoons!) to now. This is not that blog post, though. This is just to post the two GIFs I made to talk about making GIFs but also to explore their power to encapsulate a moment and hang on to it for (apparently) all eternity. If you know It Happened One Night, you know where this GIF is situated. If not, I interpret this moment as the instant Clark Gable’s reporter/rake realizes that his thumb is not as powerful as he’s made it out to be (hmm now) to Claudette Colbert’s heiress. The dénouement comes later in the scene as she uses her sexuality to perform where he couldn’t.


This one’s slowed down a touch, to emphasize Gable’s forlorn look at the thumb.



Struggling with Time Management

To say time management has never been my strong suit would be rather an understatement. Or, rather, nobody has ever accused me of being extraordinarily time-efficient. I vastly prefer to explore the connections, suggestions, implications of a piece of work, a reading, a conversation than to burn through something in the shortest time possible. Besides being more enjoyable, this approach means I gain a more robust perspective of my work’s environment and interdependencies. However, that’s not the way a non-ac gets to work.

My last post mentioned trying to work with the Pomodoro Technique, and in truth I’ve had several problems keeping to that methodology since mid-January.

  • The detail work of the semester has built up, meaning that I don’t always accomplish what I’d like to M–Th. Consequently, “regular” work spills into Friday, where I’m trying to put my less-structured time for writing and research. I need to work harder on committing to keeping Friday free from that gravel, or need to segment Friday differently. I’ll try the first, and if necessary move to the second.
  • I’ve tried to compartmentalize the technique too much, limiting it to time boxes that are long and only midly directed, really just to time that I’m supposed to be working on writing and research (acking that as non-ac it’s all work-related specifically). I’m going to start trying to apply it to shorter blocks (an hour) and other work types, like email triage.
  • Even with the short time cycles, I’m finding it hard to exclude all the distractions. We have an open plan in our office space, which facilitates group cohesion, augmenting of each others’ ideas and work, and creative collaborative problem-solving. On the other hand, it works against concentration. Even headphones aren’t always a guarantee that I won’t get asked to contribute to a conversation. Following a conversation yesterday with longtime colleagues Ryan Brazell, Barbara Sawhill, and Felix Kronenberg, and confirming some thoughts that I had when starting the effort to separate Friday, I’m going to start doing my writing and research work out of the office.
  • In fact, in part because of the short pause cycle, I’m having difficulty. Five minutes represents enough time for me to get interested in something else, but too much time for me to just stare off into space and think. My next step is to take the pause times and figure out specific things to do with them.

In other words, work I don’t do with the Pomodoro Technique has spilled into time I try to structure with it, necessarily reducing the amount of time I’ve spent working with the technique. My proficiency with it therefore suffers. Compounding this, I’m presented with too many distractions by attempting to use the technique in our regular workspace. Many of these distractions comprise legitimate and important parts of my work environment, but they shift my focus too frequently. Finally, my own strong tendencies toward following threads push back against the intended benefits of short-cycling time use.

I intend to take the whole spring term to try to master the Pomodoro Technique and in the process to get a better handle on segmenting my work time, so we’re a ways until I can call success or failure. However, it is Spring Break in New Haven effective 5p today and this mid-term check in needs to get me back on track.


Managing Time with Tomatoes

Today was my first day trying to carve out a big chunk of time during the week to do what could loosely be called “my own” professional reading, writing, and research. Since I don’t always do well with open blocks of time (one of the reasons I know I’d never succeed in a PhD program), in thinking about doing this I necessarily wanted to figure out a way to structure the day.

Fate threw me a bone in a ProfHacker trail of items (from George Williams, Anastasia Salter, and Cory Bohon, walking back in time) mentioning the Pomodoro Technique, so I figured I’d give it a try. Though I’ll check back in after I’ve tried it a few times or even longer, I can say that near the end of my first day with it, it’s been remarkable.

Rather than remarkable in how it increased my productivity, however, its remarkability lay today in its exposure of just how undisciplined I am with my time when I don’t have externally imposed deadlines. Put perhaps a better way, it revealed how distractable I can be, how many Bright Shiny Objects I have competing for my attention, and how my workspace both helps and hinders me with its open plan. Clearly, I will need to list the distractions and attack them later (as a Pomodorian has detailed), and I’ll need to make some hard choices about whether I try to make this kind of day happen in my office space or whether I need to take my work elsewhere.


DHSI 2013

A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to be able to attend the 2013 edition of the Digital Humanities Summer Institute in at the University of Victoria, in Victoria, British Columbia (w00t! international travel!) and figured I owe the reading public a report.

First of all, this certainly feels like a big event. Once upon a time it wasn’t that many people (the site archive doesn’t list participants until 2004, but we can see that the 2001 edition had 2 courses), but it has grown tremendously over the years, hitting 22 courses and nearly 500 people here in 2013. And that’s not taking into account the three events put on by the institute but not in the summer. Consequently, while I can understand people talking about making lifelong friends at the event, I think these days that’s harder unless you return over multiple years. It was big enough that I didn’t feel bad skipping some of the planned events in order to go out for lunch or just let my brain rest a bit.

Second, I highly encourage anyone considering attending to see whether they can score a seat in Jennifer Guiliano’s course on “Issues in Large Project Planning and Management”. This was what I took, and it may have changed my work life. It would be fair to say that I am a convert to project management thinking and practice, though the former may be more important than the latter. Some of the more important lessons from the course for me:

Plan all the things
I’ve already seen benefits from approaching my work this way. Oddly enough, I had started it a little bit before I left for DHSI, so perhaps I was learning in advance. But in any case, my calendar software these days is always filled, so I know what I should be working on at any time of any day and I have a way of completing a time tracking document at the end of the week. Further, it has meant that I’ve been able to hear requests for projects and been able to articulate why I don’t have time to take them on right now. Finally, it helps guard against both what came to be called in our course Bright Shiny Object syndrome as well as Brush Fire Proliferation; I’m managing to find a way to see something interesting and make a time — later — to investigate. What’s still a problem with planning is encountering something that seems particularly strongly to need immediate attention.
Document all the things
I haven’t organized this far yet, except in very small ways such as leaving meetings with a list of action items, but I know from dealing with difficult project partners that this is going to come in handy if I manage to do it. By the same token, this is one area in which the course flirted with talking about principles without sufficient regard for practice. That is, in many ways simply documenting the conversations, agreements, expectations is fairly easy. The difficult part is having the conversations, having the discussions about whether the documenter remembered the conversations accurately, or having the conversation when a project partner insists that the landscape has shifed.
Get everyone on the bus or get them off the bus
My interpretation/extrapolation/summation of a good part of the course is that it is vitally important to the success of a project (and by extension to the individual people working on the project) to get everyone’s agreement on the project structure. That is, everyone needs to commit articulately to, for instance, the products (primary and secondary), the milestones, the credits, the authority structure. This last is particularly difficult when the project manager is hierarchically below other key people on or affiliated with the project such as the PI or a key stakeholder.

We had some very good discussions about the particular projects people brought to the institute, and equally good discussions about issues of power, labor valuation, and soft influence. I was surprised how many people in the room were, like I am, more often than not having to manage a project on which they are not the formal Project Manager or on which they are officially the PM but on which there is a PI who outranks them in other parts of their world.

Victoria itself, and UVic as well, is beautiful. The weather was fabulous, if a little warmer than we expected. I was there with my family, so this was a pleasant surprise. DHSI is very warm and welcoming despite its size, and may even have hit the inflection point, when the warmth and welcome are no longer truly appropriate for the size of the gathering. I don’t mean to suggest that an institute should be cold and efficient, but the conference described by the organizers may no longer be possible as a result of the size and necessarily concomitant reduction in how many people can meet others.

It seemed that there was fairly good representation from many strands of DH and many models of doing DH in a higher-ed institution, but there were two lacks: small institutions and people of color. I would like to see DHSI put some effort into getting more people to Victoria who can speak from these positions. In particular, I’d like to see representation among the organizers of these positions, but I must also say I don’t know Canadian institutions well enough to know what’s a small school (though I do know to some extent what’s a big school).

Next year I’d like to consider going back, but due to the cost and effort, I might be better off looking into attending the Digital Humanities Winter Institute at MITH instead. My efforts toward DHSI will probably be directed toward getting others here to attend and seeing how/whether ITG can help support them in that.