I am a native Texan (Houston) who attended UT-Austin before coming north for grad school at SU. Having actual, distinguishable seasons is incredible, never mind how enjoyable library school and my peers are.
My academic interests:
- History: I mostly stick to 20th century (especially WW2 and later, give or take a decade). I know causality for our modern times can be traced back through all of history itself, but it’s this period in which the pace of technology really gets kicked into high gear and the immediate origins of many issues today have their root. It’s also recent enough that many people harbor nostalgia for this mid-20th century time, which relates to another of my historical interests: all the ways in which people today think we and our issues are unique and how nearly all of them have been worried over for hundreds of years now. Even Plato complained about “kids these days.”
- Copyright: I was barely a teenager when the whole Napster fiasco erupted, and I stayed conscious of what was happening with copyright and digital distribution and DRM over the years. It’s such a pervasive issue that isn’t well-taught, even though pretty much every single person these days could be considered a copyright owner for something. It is also, I think, a very broken system that needs to be re-examined, but I won’t get into that here.
- Privacy & surveillance: Another pervasive (even if not as obvious) issue that, like copyright, occupies a lot of grey space in understanding and precedence.
- Interaction with information: how people try finding information on their own, how straightforward a system is for doing so, how usable/friendly a design is.
I actually see a lot of relation between copyright, privacy, and surveillance issues, once you start getting into DRM software that periodically phones home to a server or prevents you from re-installing a program to >X number of computers (keep in mind they often aren’t sophisticated enough to recognize a computer with updated hardware is not a new computer). There’s always going to be a disconnect between appropriate levels of interaction with a customer of a copyright-protected item and what we can “get away with” unseen– any attempt to bridge that gap just winds up appearing draconian and ultimately penalizes legitimate customers far more than would-be pirates.
In my free time:
I play The Sims 2 (The Sims 1 will not install on my Windows 7 computer and The Sims 3, in my opinion, is both unattractive and restrictive of player creativity in some ways). It’s more hobby than game, in my opinion, with all the world-building and infinite playability involved, never mind its function as a creative sandbox for everyone from 3D “meshers” (graphic designers) to programmers to story-tellers. I spend a fair amount of time hanging around the official forum and Yahoo! Answers giving informal support for the game.
I read (surprise, surprise), as much as I get time to do, which isn’t as much as I would like. I wind up reading a lot of urban fantasy (Jim Butcher, Charles de Lint, Carrie Vaughn, Patricia Briggs, etc), and occasionally I strike another item off my grand list of “classic/important/must-read” literature where all the Joyce, Dostoevsky, and so on make appearances.
Terry Pratchett is easily my favorite author and part of my motivation to read more broadly (I’d love to recognize a lot more of his references and allusions on my own). I have soft spots for satire and dystopian fiction, and I think I liked We (by Yevgeny Zamyatin) more than the classic 1984 (Orwell, of course) for that genre.
I’ve been progressively getting more and more into nonfiction, as well. I love Mary Roach’s quirky little overviews of equally quirky topics (like cadavers or the history of sex research). I enjoy reading about World War 2, particularly the social history aspect of it– not the big military maneuvers, but the people themselves involved in the war effort, from soldier to Victory gardener to Blitz survivor.
I have been known to judge books by their covers, but I have found some very good books that way. Also, let’s face it, there are some very, very creative cover designs out there that should be appreciated in their own right.
I like to explore cemeteries and photograph the interesting headstones and epitaphs I find. Last fall (’09), I created a blog posting my finds: thus was the start of Grassy Tread (as in “The living come with…,” the opening lines to a Robert Frost poem). I also spend a fair amount of time cooking. Someday I would love to keep a hive of bees.
I believe in the Oxford comma: accept no substitutes.