Thursday, January 31, 2008

academic foot steps

Great news! The PCA/ACA people are willing to let me make a video of my paper on race and narrative in World of Warcraft, so I can still present as part of the MMORPGs and Narrative Panel at the SW/TX region conference. I am super excited about this (almost as much as if I were actually going, but doing it this way will save me almost $900, so I really can't complain). The downside? I need to get cracking on writing the actual paper. Good thing I have Sean to motivate me.

I've also been asked to take part in NipissingYou's speaker series, so I think I will rework the paper to fit that format, as well.

Having lived under a rock for the now 12 years that I've been a frequent and habitual users of the interwebs, I only discoveredthe blogging awesomeness of Terra Nova. A recent topic of discussion has been the upcoming Virtual Worlds and New Realities stuff that's going to be happening at Emory University in a couple of weeks, and the kind folks there are seeking answers to some questions to promote discussion for their panel. Here are my thoughts:

1. QUESTIONS THAT MATTER: What research questions or inquiries are important with regard to studying virtual worlds in the next several years (think 2008-2015)?

*Do synthetic worlds (sorry, my Castronova is showing) support, subvert, or reinscribe dominant ideologies?
*In the case of heavily male-centric MMORPG worlds like that of Azeroth, what are the critical and social implications for women who choose to participate in those worlds?
*What opportunities do synthetic worlds provide for transgression?
*How do sythetic worlds function as liminal spaces?
*What is the ceiling for growth?

2. METHODS: What research methods and approaches are valuable in the study of, and study in, virtual worlds?

I believe that an under utilized approach is that of literary/cultural studies. I use that term to cover a multitude of theoretical approaches, from feminist and postcolonial studies, to phenomenological (sp?) approaches and beyond. I think this type of research is particularly for MMORPGs, because of the way that narrative is integrated into the synethic world.

3. COLLABORATIVE INITIATIVES: What might be some ways to effectively establish more multi-university and multi-institutional research, both with regard to studying virtual worlds as well as using virtual worlds to facilitate research collaborations?

I think that establishing networks of interested parties could potentially be quite useful. For example, one of my current interests is in queer identities in MMORPGs. If I could find similarly minded people, we could construct a plan to create queer identities in game, and then collectively share and analyze the data collected from our experiences.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Most of you know me know how much I love to eat--I can't do a night of drinking without having a suitable array of snacks, and, as my mother likes to put it, I'm always "thinking about the next meal before [I've] finished this one", a trait I've inherited from my father.

One particular food type I have no use for, though, is soup. Oh, sure, I like my sodium-rich Liptons Chicken Noodle soup when I'm sick, but other than that it really isn't something I go out of my way to eat. Unfortunately, soups tends to be cheap and filling, and freeze well, all of which are important to people who live by themselves. So I've decided that I need to learn to like soup, pronto.

I've mastered my mom's turkey noodle soup, so long as I have a roast turkey carcass, so my next step was to take on a beef based soup. The problem with a lot of beef based soups and stews is that they have tomatoes or tomato paste in them. This is a problem to me because a) I really try to avoid using canned food whenever possible, and b) the acids in the tomatoes tend to give the soup an awful, tinny, acidic taste.

In the spirit of being creative, I struck out on my own on Friday, and created a beef based soup that actually turned out unbelievably good: full of rich beefy taste, complimented by cremini mushrooms and pot barley.

Mushroom, Beef, and Barley Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb. stewing beef, cubed (if they seem large, you can cut them into smaller cubes)
1/2 cup medium dice onion
2 cloves of garlic, finally minced
1 to 1 1/2 cups of cremini or portabello mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red wine (I use Yellowtail Shiraz as my go to red for drinking and cooking)
1/2 cup pot barley, rinsed**
3 1/2 cups beef broth (I used a combination of Campbells beef broth in a carton and the Bovril instant bouillion mix)
3/4 cup red wine
2 bay leaves
herbs to taste (I used 1/2 tsp dried rosemary)

1) Heat oil/butter in pot over medium heat. Pat cubes of beef dry, season with salt and pepper. Brown in batches in oil. Transfer to a plate
2) Turn heat to medium-low, and add garlic and onion to pan. Allow to cook for five minutes until softened, and then add mushrooms. Allow to cook for another five minutes. Add first 1/4 cup of red wine and deglaze pot by scraping up all browned bits from the bottom. Allow to reduce, so that the mushrooms become infused.
3) Add broth and barley. Allow to come to a boil, then add remaining red wine and bay leaves. Any seasonings can be added here too.
4) Simmer with lid on over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, or until barley is soft and meat is tender enough to cut with a spoon.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

winter, with a vengeance

I have always been an ardent defender of my adopted city, which is one that people love to hate. I definitely understand why people don't like it, and will often complain of the same things that the haters do (music scene, wot wot?) but at the end of the day I'm generally pretty willing to see the beauty and charms of this city. I also love winter, which not so many people do.

That said, it is currently -19 out, and I am not so in love with the cold. My skin is just parched, which means irritated and sore, and I keep having moments where I just can't seem to get warm. My poor car has been a real trooper through all of this, but man can I see the difference it makes to my fuel consumption when I have to let the car warm up in order to drive it. (Thankfully, Boom has wicked fuel economy and I fuelled up last night for the first time since I stopped in Huntsville on my way back to the Bay after the holidays. Yup, that's Huntsville to North Bay and three weeks of city driving on 3/4 of a tank. I love my car.)

This weekend is shaping up to be a busy one. It is the last huzzah for Sarah before her trip to New Zealand and teacher's college, and Darren is coming up to celebrate. He and Ian and I have plans for some sort of geeky movie marathon for Saturday. I also have my Robbie Burns night on Friday, which is a social for the 3rd and 4th year students. I should really find myself a kilt...I'll have to plan a trip to the VV Boutique tomorrow, I guess.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

bits and bytes

Mum pointed me in the direction of some good programming on CBC Radio One this morning. Go! host Brent Bambury (who I met/saw briefly on Test the Nation) had Dan Misener in to talk about a reading series he developed called "Grown Ups Reading Things They Wrote As Kids". Dan read a journal entry from his grade one days in Sackville, NS that described a trip to the ice cream store for a "root bear flot". The next reading is in Toronto on 10 March at the Gladstone Ballroom. If I'm in the area I'll definitely check it out.

In other fun internet news, Penguin Canada and have developed a list of the 52 Best Books Ever Written (or, the 52 best books published by Penguin) and are proposing that you read one per week in 2008. Penguin has a great library, so it should be exciting to see what they come up with. They've started with their best foot forward, too: First up is one of my favourite books, Robertson Davies's Fifth Business. It's a brilliant realized, complex, and moving story about Dunstan Ramsey, who is always "fifth business" in his own life:
The novel explains its own title as a character of an opera who has no opposite: the odd man out—neither heroine nor her lover, rival nor villain—yet without whom the plot cannot happen.

I read it for the first time when I was 17, and it's one I'm always happy to come back to. There's magic, politics, war, sex, the divine, and all manner of truly fascinating things in it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

take me to my country home.

There's this really wonderful moment when you're at the top of the hill here, and you can look out across North Bay Rock City all the way to the water, and see the beauty of Lake Nipissing. It's stark and desolate in winter, but beautiful nonetheless.

The days are starting to get longer already - it's no longer pitch black out at 4:20 when I get out of class. Thank goodness for that.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

how the smart woman gets what she wants

So there's this new commercial for Cadbury Thins that starts with a placard reading "How the smart woman gets what she wants". To summarize, the smart woman walks into a store and sees another woman trying on a dress. This other woman is happy and excited, and clearly loves the dress (which does look pretty good on her). The smart woman gets what she wants by telling the other woman that the dress looks bad on her by shaking her head, and then we see the smart woman buying it because it's on sale.

God, that's maddening. Nevermind that the smart woman is tiny and thin while the other woman is a normal size--I am so frustrated that women are continually told that the best way to get ahead is by beating other women down. Seriously--if a complete stranger came up to you in a clothing store and literally gave you the thumbs down on something you were trying on, how upset would you be?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Starting of a Brand New Day

I've finally polished up my blog--I've been using my Google Reader almost exclusively lately, so I can't even think of the last time I actually *saw* someone's blog rather than just their text. But I'm pretty happy with the way this looks for the time being. Nice strong colours.

Not too much is new here at the moment. I'm procrastinating on my marking (not a surprise) and debating a trip to the university. It's finally open again after a week without power because some idiot stole copper grounding wire that caused a grid overload. I bet it's going to be ridiculously cold on Monday.

Really, I'd just rather be knitting, you know?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2007: That Was The Year That Was

I won't give a huge year in review here, but instead maybe comment on a few things that come to mind at the moment.

The Good: Job in Collingwood, appearing on Test the Nation, return to North Bay, becoming "Professor", trip to BC, first car, driver's license, weddings, 26th birthday, first Etsy sale, cats, friends, family, Mathieu. Overall, quite a lot to be thankful for this year.

The Bad: Still no permanent job, still undecided about PhD, still lots of stuff "living" in parents' basement.

I'm not doing anything huge in the way of New Year's Resolutions except that I am going to do my best to stick to the doctrine of "Eat Less, Do More". I'm currently at my lowest weight in about two years, which is nice. My ideal weight is about ten lower than this, but I'm not going to worry about it too much, since that contradicts my second resolution, which is to try my best to be happy.