Writing in the long form
June 10th, 2013 by John

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Animal Crossing is trending on Twitter, as the new release in the franchise is out in the USA (a few more days in the UK). I’m probably going to get this. I need a new and compelling game to get into as, perhaps oddly, I don’t play many video games nowadays as I’m kinda picky.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

I’ve loved the previous Animal Crossing games for being, in many way, anti-games. There is no end-point or finish-goal. You just … are, at one, within the environment. It’s in real time, so you experience things as they appear on the calendar. You socialize, and you collect things (that which is at the heart of many Nintendo games) when you want to.

You explore, find things, chat to other people, encounter unexpected events, having unexpected conversations. That’s about it. Some people hate it because you don’t run around killing things against some timer clock but, hey, that’s probably a large part of why I like it. And, then there’s the nostalgia trip, of where and when before I’ve been playing animal crossing games.

This could do as my one game of the year.

June 8th, 2013 by John

The Lighthouse Project

The Lighthouse Project

May 29th, 2013 by John

Renaming CILIP: suggestion and rationale

CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, are undergoing an exercise to rebrand and rename their organisation. Personally I think on balance this is a good thing; possibly overdue, but the past is done and dusted.

A proposal is that CILIP is renamed LISA (Library and Information Science Association). The rationale for this follows; this has been sent off to various people in CILIP.


The problem

CILIP is undergoing a process to rebrand aspects of the organisation. This includes changing the official name (and associated acronym). This is a desirable action, as:

  • the acronym “unpacks” into a long name
  • does not “sound” (to some) like that of a professional body
  • requires concentration to understand, thus distracting the listener or reader from the actual message the organisation is trying to convey

This problem is compounded by CILIP being a “broad tent”, representing (but not limited to):

  • librarians
  • information professionals
  • knowledge managers
  • online information service providers
  • business and governmental information service providers
  • other people who work with information services and content

It is very difficult to come up with an option that is inclusive to all or even many of those people, and to the many others who may view themselves with having some affiliation or association with the organisation. This is seen in e.g. the recent reactions from librarians through social media to the lack of suggested replacement names containing the words “library” or “librarian”.


Proposed new name

A proposal is that the current acronym and name CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) is replaced with LISA (the Library and Information Science Association).


  • Library (the first component) explicitly makes it clear that the organisation concerns [n.b but is not limited to] libraries and librarians. Making this the first / leading component also stresses the importance of libraries. This may negate some of the ongoing criticism over any perceived recent ambivalence by the organisation towards libraries and (professional) librarians.
  • Information Science (the second and third components) illustrates that the organisation is a “broad tent”, not just to librarians but to the many other information and knowledge professions, organisations and practices who would arguably be included within a description of “Information Science”.
  • Association (the fourth component) illustrates that this is a gathering or group of people, brought together for a common purpose.
  • “Association” also gives a legitimacy and gravitas to the image of the organisation. In addition, the president of CILIP wrote that:

Institute/Institution, Association, Profession(s) or Chartered. Personally I think we need one of them in there, but I’m not sure that we need two.

  • LISA acknowledges both the long-term history of the organisation (the “Library Association”) and the more recent merger of the Library Association and the Institute of Information Scientists which resulted in CILIP.
  • Importantly, “Science”, the third component, emphasises that there is “Science” and therefore research, evidence, evidence-based practice and professionalism underpinning the activities of people and entities which the body supports and represents. 

Librarianship, information management, knowledge management and related topics are not “things” which can competently occur or happen without the accompanying science. Including the word “Science” strongly implies this.
  • “LISA” is easy to say, has only four letters, and “unpacks” into a relatively simple full name. For people outside of the sector, LISA is easier to remember than CILIP, and some of the suggested replacement. Stating the full name should not distract or detract from the points that need to be made when in conversation with e.g. journalists.
  • A name or an acronym can, of course, refer to several different things e.g. Apple computers and Apple records. There are many other organisation whose name compresses to “LISA”. Even within the library sector, there are groups, products and services called LISA. CILIP itself promotes one of these: Library and Information Science Abstracts. This is a good attribute, as people are comfortable with professional “things” called “LISA”. There is little justification for expending considerable resource on finding a name and acronym which are unique (and, to some, will therefore be alien and unusual).


    1. There is a positive “pop culture” association. The Simpsons, a cornerstone of popular culture for the last two decades, contains many characters. The member of the Simpsons family who is pro-knowledge, pro-libraries and pro-books (libraries and books make appearances in several episodes), helpful and socially aware, is Lisa Simpson.
    2. This acronym and name has also been used in (geo-specifically) Iceland in an interesting manner. Iran also has a similarly named organisation.

    + + + + +

    Update: This post by Ian Clark, which also discusses the constituent elements of the name of the organisation, makes many good points and is well worth a read.

    April 21st, 2013 by John

    The Boston Red Sox

    The first time in Boston was December 1995, for the fourth World Wide Web conference. The last time was two years ago almost to the day, on a night stop-over on the way to (finally) meet – in ‘real life’ – the person who would be my fiancee.

    The events of the last week – not just in Boston, but elsewhere in America, and much more personally closer – have been strange, turbulent, upsetting, downright scary, annoying as hell, thought-provoking and personally defining. Sometimes, in life, you never know your exact feelings about something until a situation or crisis occurs. That’s happened a few times this week.

    Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts - HDR

    One of the (by far) lesser things, personally, was finally deciding which baseball team to support. I know a lot about cricket but, despite going to several matches over the years, hardly anything about baseball. Apart from the basics (e.g. loading the bases, top and bottom of the innings, of which there are nine). The statistics aspects, the tactics, the culture surrounding it look enjoyable and reminiscent in some ways of cricket, and no other sport. And above all, it’s fun to go and watch; a truly social spectator sport that fits the “pursuit of happiness” ethos of America well.

    But, which team to support. It was easy with cricket; Worcestershire County Cricket Club, my home county side, based at one of the most scenic sports grounds around, a few miles from where I went to school.

    Not so easy with baseball. I’ve been to many matches now, in cities including Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit and Seattle, and seen teams play in major and minor league baseball. I have no geographical affinity to any side – there is no major baseball team within a good 6 hour drive of the place I consider ‘home’ in the USA. I have no baseball heros or players I follow closely, past or present. And people advise me to pick a major league side, and a minor league one close by so I’d not have to take a plane to always support my side.

    Who to pick? Not an urgent question, but one dithered with for several years. A team is for life, not just for a season. Choose wisely, young padawan. You may be explaining this choice for several decades yet.

    Fenway Park

    But this week it clicked. Boston. The Red Sox. Of course. The first baseball match I went to in America (or anywhere), over fifteen years ago. The events of this week, with a city (and a country, and a people) I recognise, and like, and like a lot, in the news, across all news and disposable social media. The city where I got my online web work mojo together. The home city (near enough) of JFK, after whom I was named, and various presidents, patriots, and signers of the Declaration of Independence.

    And the city where I first thought “Hey, maybe I’ll move to this country one day”.

    Those reasons are more than good enough for me. So the Boston Red Sox it is. Here’s a video taken by someone three years ago during a Patriots Day match between the Red Sox and the Yankees at Fenway Park in Boston:

    April 2nd, 2013 by John

    Life as a back road in Iowa

    Life as a back road in Iowa

    January 24th, 2013 by John

    Train tracks at sunset on the Ohio/Indiana border

    Railtrack at sunset

    November 30th, 2012 by John

    Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work

    The author Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a popular MetaFilter topic, was born 177 years ago today (November 30th 1835) in Missouri. The printer, riverboat pilot, game designer, journalist, lecturer, technology investor, gold miner, publisher and patent holder wrote short stories, essays, novels and non-fiction under the pen name Mark Twain.

    This included The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (recently adapted into a musical), one of the top five challenged books of the 1990s, published in 1884-85 to a mixed reception and with an ending that still causes debate.

    In his life, Clemens … received a total of three patents. Twain spent some of his summers in Elmira, New York. His study is now on the campus of Elmira College. Its original location, Quarry Farm, is out of the city a little ways and can also be visited. In more recent summers the Mark Twain Musical Drama was staged in the round, where the college hockey team plays. He also presaged the local food movement.

    The extensively quoted author of the Tom Sawyer stories, Mark’s work and life are still the subject of research, imitation, analysis, interpretation (disturbing claymation) and inspiration (nsfw).

    Mark lived his last few years in Redding, Connecticut, where he donated many books to the local public library association. Photographed in 1861, 1902, with family, as a lecturer and with various friends.

    Samuel Langhorne Clemens

    Mark died on April 21st 1910 and is immortalised in Google doodles, stamps, benches and forthcoming commemorative coins. His works are widely available online in various digital formats, for ebook readers and at your local public library and bookshop.

    He also liked cats.

    (Extended version of MetaFilter Front Page Post. Additional links, text by knile, lumpenprole and three blind mice.)

    November 9th, 2012 by John

    The fifteen hundred

    There was an era in U.S. political life “that began with Ronald Reagan, where there was a conservative dominance powered by conservative voters and Southern whites,” said David Bositis, senior political analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “That era is over.

    You know those news stories of religious cults, approaching a day of judgement where they are convinced that they will ascend to some form of heaven, leaving all the unbelievers behind? And they gather on the anointed day, often in some place in an American desert (Utah seems particularly appropriate). And right to the end, they believe that they are correct and everyone else is wrong.

    And the time passes. And they don’t go to heaven, but just stand there, all upset, some in denial, many angry, some forever angry, some crying ‘lies’, some broken, some think they have been cheated, some blaming it on a lack of faith and action, some rearranging the date according to a hastily-justified reason, and some bewildered why the non-believers “just don’t get it”.

    That was the core of the Republican party on election night. Cue Karl Rove in disbelieving mood. Cue the disbelieving party workers and Romney faithful in Boston. Cue the many viewers of Fox News, now spewing out angry disbelief on the comments sections of a thousand online news reports, and warning that the apocalypse is now upon us and the country is doomed and it’s all the fault of the non-believers, those strange unbelieving liberals who seem inexplicably angry with the prophecy of an imminent Conservative heaven.

    Flag-waving "Patriots"

    Their day, their moment, of judgement did not come. They weren’t transported to a land of low taxes, no medical cover, abortion or gay rights, ruled by a mean-sounding and uncomfortably white God. They’re still in the USA, a country still beset by significant problems – many of its own making – but one that is slowly, gradually becoming more racially and sexually accepting and socially liberal. More fair.

    For them, the cult members, this is not pretty. And on the other, European side of the Atlantic, some rejoice and many are relieved while others, often intolerant extremists from the left who are boringly determined to be miserable about anything and everything Americana, whine about the result to the annoyance of more rational Americans. Maybe there is something in the horseshoe theory after all.

    And for some of these more rational people watching from near or far away, it’s weird, this post-election feeling. A mixture of relief, fear, trepidation and exhaustion. The analysis of how Obama won – and why Romney lost, and lost an election many thought they could and should have won – is underway in a myriad of media, political centers, and television studios and smoke-filled back offices across America. The excuses from the losers – careful to point the blame at everyone except themselves – have begun. And so this experiment to change the Presidency by subtly and not-so-subtly brainwashing a significant proportion of the richest country in the history of mankind and throwing a billion dollars at an election, is over. As is a multi-level campaign featuring some of the most hateful and negative electioneering for a while, both widely known and not so widely known.

    And, for a complex set of inter-related reasons that people are figuring out, it failed.

    US Constitution

    Good. And many good moments came out of the election. Possibly one of the most satisfying was the story of the damaging 47% video, shot at a private Romney event ($50,000 a pop to attend) where he dismissed that proportion of the population for allegedly never paying tax, living off handouts and always voting for Obama. And why was this video reveal particularly satisfying? Because the Republican Party, and Romney in particular, had spent many years castigating Jimmy Carter, the 1976 to 1980 US President. And the person who brought the video to the attention of the mass media and voters … was his grandson. A typically American twist of justice.

    But the enduring struggle which maybe defines America, and what it means to be an American, goes on.

    This ridiculously newly reborn country, where people alive today have watched a witness to Lincoln’s assassination describing it on TV. Where the last verified widow of a civil war veteran died just four years ago. And where the grandchildren of the tenth president, who took office in 1841, are still alive and farm. Heck, it’s less than four hundred years – which is nothing in European or Chinese historical terms – since the Mayflower arrived, had to winter out at sea and half the passengers died.

    From here in the “old world”, post-colonial America sometimes seems almost too comically young, like a third grade schoolboy trying to buy beer, to call itself a country.

    But it’s managed to pack a lot of turbulence, expansion, internal and external conflict, into those few hundred years. As well as, or possibly resulting in, staggering progress, the only country in history to go from the basic survival of newly arrived immigrants to safely putting its own citizens on the surface of another world within three and a half centuries. That’s pretty damned impressive. But is it the perpetual struggle between the religious and the humanist, the republican and the democrat, the farmer and the land, the homeowner and the tornado, the north and the south, the native and the settler, the free and the enslaved, the President and Congress, which defines America? If these struggles, endless and enduring, somehow ended, would this remove the character, identity which is America? I’m not sure.

    But there’s one definite thing about America. It can be, often is, a peaceful and relaxed and above all a friendly place, even though it is always at conflict within itself. This perpetual conflict; maybe it’s the lack of post-colonial history, with only fifteen or so generations since the first Europeans walked off the boat into an already populated land, and stayed there. Maybe it’s because the underlying issues, feelings and prejudices which culminated in the civil war are not wholly resolved.

    Or maybe it’s because the Declaration of Independence explicitly, optimistically and positively, tells the citizens of the country to go in the pursuit of happiness. Or maybe it’s because much of the Constitution, although written a mere ten generations ago, is open to interpretation, misinterpretation and re-interpretation. Or maybe it’s because within a single digit number of generations of that document, a period of almost impossible growth and advance, the country somehow managed to become the most powerful (in good and not so good ways) in history.

    Even now, like unexpected volcanic eruptions off the coast of Iceland spewing out new lands, the United States of America is rapidly changing in terms of population, land mass, size. The lower 48 only became as such a century ago, with the 1912 additions of Arizona and New Mexico. In 1968, when I was born, the population was 200 million. In the 44 years since then, just a couple of generations and 11 presidential elections later, it’s increased to 315 million. Soon, another star may be added to the flag as Puerto Rico moves towards joining the union. (How cool is that? One nation, stretching from the eastern Caribbean to Alaska) Understanding America is difficult because of this constant, rapid, change. Even some of those born and living there, such as many of those Republicans from earlier in the week convinced to the end that America would vote “their man” in on a landslide, miss or don’t understand the rapid changes.

    old glory. venice beach, ca. 2012.

    And a lot can, and does, change in America during a lifetime. Even in just a few years. In 1,500 days, the country will have dealt (or not dealt) with the fiscal cliff, more hurricanes, economic turbulence, incidents, tragedies and triumphs of almost Shakespearian drama. And it will have voted and decided on (so long as Florida gets its act together) a new president-elect, waiting for inauguration while President Obama sees out the last few weeks of his two terms. Who that president-elect will be no-one knows, but the speculation across the media and the campaigning seems to be well underway.

    And beyond 2016, who knows? Perhaps the American political dynasties of the last century will re-emerge; more likely than you may think. Hillary (Clinton) may run in 2016, win, and be re-elected in 2020. Though not yet a politician, her (and Bill’s) daughter, Chelsea Clinton, is racking up media and political experience. Don’t rule out another of Jimmy Carter’s grandchildren, Jason Carter, recently re-elected to the Georgia State Senate. There’s also plenty of Roosevelt’s around, a few of whom are active in politics. Then there’s George Bush. Yes, another one, except this one is the son of Jed, nephew of George Dubya, is half-Latino, speaks fluent Spanish, and is already nicknamed ’47 in relation to which US President he may become.

    And finally, this election has also brought a new Kennedy into the House, Joseph Patrick Kennedy III, the grandson of Bobby. He looks like a Kennedy, really like his Grandfather, and talks like one, and is starting to campaign like one. Unlike his Grandfather, he can use social media to promote, and has a twitter account with (at the moment) a mere seven thousand followers. I have a good, hopeful, feeling that, as the next few presidential cycles roll by, we may start to hear a lot more about Joe at the level of US presidential candidate…

    The drama and the change and the struggle that is America, continues.

    I love the place, and its people, dearly. One day, I’ll be one.

    November 2nd, 2012 by John


    Looking up at the midnight sky just now, while listening to distant English church bells chime in midnight. Hey; there’s the moon, barely a degree away from a bright Jupiter. Thinking, slipping back to four years ago today, watching the moon and stars from my bed and train cabin as it trundled through North Dakota, waking up the next morning somewhere in Minnesota while heading towards Jenny Levine’s excellent ALA conference on games and libraries. That evening would be spent meeting a new bunch of people and friends, drinking various things, investigating this Twitter thing, and/or remarking on Amy Jean Kearns’s pink iPhone.

    First drinks of GLLS2008 tagged :-)

    But that was then, and this is now, four years later. Four days to go now until election day. Five days exactly, or 120 hours, until the polls start to close in the swing states. Six nights – minimum – until there’s a result. Still too many unknowns, though the more plausible analysts have Obama narrowly ahead at this moment.

    My fear is widespread disruption in many polling stations on tuesday. Especially by twitchy and partisan “observers” kicking it up over people voting who they don’t like the look of. Also, it being close enough where it matters for delays due to slow counts, recounts, problems with voting systems, and lawyers. Lots and lots of fucking lawyers, on both sides. A repeat of the 2000 count would be a socio-economic and political disaster.

    Even an American Political junkie such as me wishes this particular three ring circus was over with, and over with now. This hour. I’ve been following it for four years, this road to yet another extreme, bitter election with shouting and abuse on all sides. But, whatever the result, the day after a president-elect is determined it all starts again. “Who will be the Democrat candidate in 2016; Hillary, or someone else?”, what’s left of the media will ask.

    I might have something positive to write about the whole American political thing when it’s done, but for now I’m tired of it and out. And if you ain’t got anything good to say, probably best not to say anything at all.

    August 24th, 2012 by John

    Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman

    Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass first popped up on my reading radar during a first read of Blue Highways, where the author mentions packing this book to read as he travels around America. I’ve been curious since then as to why William Least-Heat Moon (yes, that’s his real name and his book I’ll review another time) chose this book in particular. Since then, I’ve become more aware of Leaves of Grass as an important book within the canon of American literature, and the controversial and lively debate surrounding its author – to the extent that Walt and Mark are the two people who adorn my Kindle cover. But it’s only the last few weeks that I’ve properly read Leaves from cover to cover.

    Poetry is not a form of literature I’m at ease with. There’s cultural and upbringing reasons for this discomfort. Ironically when very young I won a national poetry competition, more as an act of rebellion against being told that culture such as literature, poetry, classical music and other “fine arts” wasn’t the kind of thing that people of “my type” (farming lower working class) should or could do. That was by the headmistress of the primary school I endured, but hopefully for many reasons she’s now burning in whatever kind of purgatory exists for people of “her type”.

    Anyway, that’s why I’m not going to attempt to analyse Leaves of Grass; it’ll just read like some fumbling junior school literature review 101 essay. I’ll just write about what I read.

    The edition I perused was a 1986 reprint of the 1959 Viking Press print of the original 1855 text, borrowed from Birmingham Central Library. The first version of Leaves, as Walt tweaked and fiddled about with it for the rest of his life, seemingly never happy with the body of work (typical Virgo, perhaps). The editor of this edition, Malcolm Cowley, added a lengthy introduction and analysis of his own which, for me, didn’t really add or shed any new light on the core work. It speaks for itself pretty well.

    Walt Whitman - em Camden, 1891

    Leaves is partially a kind of observation of America as it was 160 years ago, the people in it, what they do, how they go about their business. It’s also partially about the author, as a person, a human people, a physical and emotional being, and as an American. The second paragraph of the original work begins:

    The Americans of all nations at any time upon the earth have probably the fullest poetical nature. The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem.

    So I guess it’s interesting, not just from a literature perspective, but from a historical perspective. For example, there’s a rather graphic retelling of a retelling of the massacre at the Alamo (of the accuracy, we are not sure), of how people of trades travel around their country, of what they wear and what they eat. And there is mention, descriptions, of slaves and slavery; for example:

    The runaway slave came to my house and stopped outside,
    I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,
    Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsey and weak,
    And went where he sat on a log, and led him in and assured him

    And remember putting plasters on the galls of his neck and ankles;
    He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and passed north,
    I had him sit next me at the table, my firelock leaned in the corner.

    It’s a very person-based piece of work. There’s probably a deep and meaningful poetry phrase that means “person-based”, but that’ll do for me. And Americans, leading American lives, is the element that most reoccurs in the text; for example:

    The deckhands make fast the steamboat, the plank is thrown for the shoregoing passengers.
    The cleanhaired Yankee girl works with her sewing-machine or in the factory or mill.
    The canal-boys trots on the towpath – the bookkeeper counts at his desk – the shoemaker waxes his thread
    A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deerskin leggings

    Walt obviously takes pleasure in observing Americans being themselves, and makes no secret of this:

    And I could come every afternoon of my life to look at the farmer’s girl boiling her iron tea-kettle and baking shortcake.

    Speaking of observing women, Leaves of Grass was controversial in its day and for a long time thereafter because of the “explicit” nature of the work. It isn’t, of course, explicit in terms of the low-grade Internet pornography of today. But Walt doesn’t hide his often celebratory thoughts regarding the human body and nakedness, which appear frequently, or his musings about sex. To an extent that a subtext of Leaves of Grass could arguably be “I really want to get laid more”. For example:

    Thruster holding me tight and that I hold tight!
    We hurt each other as the bridegroom and the bride hurt each other.

    Voices of sexes and lusts … voices veiled, and I remove the veil

    I turn the bridegroom out of bed and stay with the bride myself,
    And tighten her all night to my thighs and lips

    Despite my lack of poetry experience, I did enjoy reading Leaves of Grass fully. It’s a collection of poems and texts that, for me anyway, has to be read in pretty much one go in order to get some kind of grasp on the work.

    It’s also useful as a historical timeline marker in the compressed, accelerated history of America. This work was published in the decade before the civil war, and less than 80 years after independence – but this is still recent enough that there are people alive today whose grandparents would have been alive then and would have recognised the America, and Americans, described by Walt. The relative “recent-ness” of the text, compared to European historical descriptive poetry which can be many centuries old, is what makes Leaves of Grass still easily readable, and the people and places within it recognisable.