Just created http://excellentdesolation.tumblr.com/pinboard as a project for work. Turned out nicely, I think. Thanks Tint.

First screencast practice.

Walking out onto the streets of New York is always like walking onto a film set. No matter how many times I come here I always get that feeling. Maybe because most Europeans’ knowledge of New York has come from films, but the whole place has a surreal quality to it that I can’t take seriously for the first few hours I’m there. Maybe when you live there you become inured to the steam belching up from the manholes in the street, the battles that can ensue on any corner to claim them, the attitude. But to the ingenuous visitor like myself it all seems like a movie still come to life, and we, finally, are part of the fairy tale we’d always imagined New York to be. I’ve also found that the best way to view the city is to look up, always look up. There are treasures to behold that you could easily miss. There are whole worlds up there, architectural follies, fading ancient billboards, lives to be glimpsed through apartment windows—for in a vertical city stuffed onto a tiny island, the inhabitants have come to accept, and expect, they will be observed from time to time. Everyone in New York knows they are watched. So next time you’re there, look up, you’ll be amazed.
— From Alan Cumming’s novel “Tommy’s Tale,” page 209.

Web Page I Designed

I recently finished designing a web page for my father’s farm and cross country course, Circle J Stables.

Things I learned: inserting breaks and horizontal lines with html code, which turned out to be very useful, and embedding PDFs as full screen downloadables via Scribd, even more useful.

Dad’s brand new web page:


//Who Wouldn’t Hire a Rainbow?

After seeing this post on an infographic website and bored to tears with my resume, I decided to get a little creative. This is the result.

Curriculum Vitae Rainbow

//Controlled Chaos

Rikers Island sign, taken by Jamie

Sign announcing the prison, before crossing the bridge to Rikers Island.

Another day of volunteering at Rikers Island with the NYPL has come to a close. Thursday I went to one of the male detention houses along with my mentor and two other staff members from NYPL. We were there for “book cart service,” which is a little different than what I remember from Shawshank Redemption.

We delivered books to both solitary confinement and two different “houses,” which are the names of blocks within the building. The inmates in solitary confinement are allowed to request books off a list, so we filled these requests from the “library” within this particular building, which was really just two tall shelves of paperback books in the back of the Chaplain’s office.

We felt like Indiana Jones capturing the golden statue when we found a book one of the prisoners had requested. Usually the titles were listed on their slips of paper as Cold River. That’s it. No author, just words. If we couldn’t find one of the prisoner’s specific books (they can request three and we try to find one of them) we will substitute something simliar, same author, plot, etc. Two prisoners had requested Che Guevara’s Guerilla Warfare, so as a substitue I found The Motorcycle Diaries, complete with a picture of Gael Garcia Bernal on the cover.

All the books were piled up on a rolling cart that we first took to solitary confinement. Solitary is also known as the Gael Garcia Bernal as Che Guevara (great movie!)"Bing," although no one we talked to knew exactly how it got that name. Along with an armed guard we delivered the requested books, one magazine, and some free newspapers from the city to each of the solitary cells. Most of the men were sleeping, a few said thank you, and it was altogether less dramatic than I thought it was going to be. The prisoner who requested Guerilla Warfare though, was less than happy with his substitution, and refused to take it. Gael Garcia Bernal is apparently not the epitome of manliness that prisoners aspire to be. After our insistence that it was the same person and a reminder that we wouldn’t be back for two weeks he decided to take the book, although I’m not entirely sure he’s going to read it.

After the Bing, we took our cart to Houses 4 and 6. One thing that was very evident as we walked down the hallway was that the library service was well-liked, well-used, and in-demand. Most of the prisoners who walked by us (in between a red line painted on the floor and the wall) asked if they could have a book, or if we were coming to their house or not. Sometimes the decision to provide book service to a house is dependent on whether or not they have the desire to return books, but more often it is because there are tens of thousands of prisoners on Rikers Island and one single Correctional Services Librarian. That’s a pretty large patron base.

Getting books back from the prisoners and letting them pick out new ones is a bit of controlled chaos. We stood outside the iron door to the house with our cart and had two prisoners come out at one time, check off their returned book, and pick out a new one. Each prisoner is allowed one book and one magazine. The most popular books are by far James Patterson’s novels, so popular in fact that we have to lock them up after book service because they tend to disappear. I wonder if James Patterson has any idea. National Geographic is the magazine of choice, and there is an entire box of them to choose from, some as far back as the early 80’s. Urban magazines and books were in high demand, with almost no supply.

Everything is done by hand. The prisoners hand me their picture ID and I copy down their number along with the title of book they chose. Later this will be printed up by one of the NYPL staff members and checked off as books are returned. With zero Pattersons left on our cart and four houses served, we brought the book cart back to the Chaplain’s office, unloaded, locked the books up, and checked out of the facility before roll call.

One more day on Rikers Island left.

//Books Behind Bars

Rikers Island Jail Complex, New York City

I spent this last week working with the Correctional Services Librarian at the New York Public Library. It was part of an internship through the University of Michigan’s School of Information designed to be carried out during our alternative spring break week. The sun was out Monday and Tuesday, so at least we got a peek at some spring weather.

Some of my time was spent answering letters from inmates from Correctional Facilities at various locations throughout New York State. Most of the inmate letters are fascinating. The penmanship is painstakingly neat, and the language formal but completely lacking in grammar skills. From one inmate:

"I am do to be release in the couple of weeks. And I’am in desperate need of the Connection book, because I’am in need of programs that would assist me back into society…"

These letters are hard evidence of the need for a program like the Correctional Services one here. Most of the letters are requesting the Connections 2010 book published by NYPL which is “a guide for formerly incarcerated people to information sources in NYC,” and includes information on housing, education, financial assistance, finding employment, and other city services.

My second day was spent at Rikers Island, NYC’s main jail complex which at any given time houses 13,000-18,000 inmates. Along with my mentor and two other volunteers we helped organize the school library in the female house, Rose M. Singer Center. Women aged 16-21 use the library in conjunction with the high school within the jail. It was our job to organize the books into subjects including Class Sets, Plays/Classics, General Fiction, Urban Fiction, Biography, Spanish, Nonfiction, and Skills. Shelving space is at a premium, and there is a dire need for new books that will be more relevant to the women.

Tomorrow I will again travel to Rikers (subway to Queens, bus to Rikers, lots of checkpoints and gates, then bus to the individual facility), this time to push the book cart in the men’s house. Details to come.

//Echelon with Borders

For my final project in my Graphic Design class, I decided to get celestial. This is the result. All the facts are correct, taken from The Illustrated Atlas of the Universe. Images provided by NASA, and graphs created by me.

IRL this measures roughly the size of a hanging picture over your couch.

The Universe

//Faith No More

This presentation was created for a class project with @glitterandtwang for SI 523 Information and Control class at the University of Michigan. It’s created using Prezi, which I first heard about from @cgerben.

The intention of the project was to play devil’s advocate within the context of “information and control” within a prison system. Molly and I chose to take the stand that we would limit access to Islamic materials by inmates on the grounds that it breeds violent behavior once those inmates are released. This presentation attempts to explain the need for control through examples, our framework for implementing the control, and alternative belief systems for inmates.

Pressing the forward arrow will advance the presentation, and the cog-circular shape will zoom out to see the entire information map.

//In This Presentation, Frogs Can Fly

My first Prezi, created for @activelearning's Youth Media class at the University of Michigan.

I’m really proud of this presentation. Much more than my Faith No More presentation completed afterwards, this one can be “read” without any other context. Enjoy.

BookTalk assignment for SI 624, my Youth Media class.

//Truimph of the What?

I feel like the thread connecting Triumph of the Will and Kennedy’s campaign commercial is public perception, which I suppose is just a more politically correct way of saying propaganda. I could not read the opening subtitles, so looked them up:

Opening crawl: On September 5, 1934, 20 years after the outbreak of the World War, 16 years after Germany’s Suffering, 19 months after the beginning of the German Rebirth, Adolf Hitler again flew to Nuremberg to review the assembly of his faithful followers.

What stands out of course, is the wording of “Germany’s Suffering,” “German Rebirth,” and “faithful followers.” I watched the intro before reading these, and they give a different context to the film. If I were completely uneducated in the history of the universe and came into this fresh, I might think that Germany was the Kuwait of World War I, and that after constant oppression had finally started gaining traction and respect on the world stage. But that is not the case. Hitler looks happy, the audience looks happy, they are all oriented toward him, and don’t think raising their hands to him is at all crazy. And there are children that he is touching. The film was obviously made to give a [false] impression that all was well within Germany, her government, and her people.

By contrast, the Kennedy campaign commercial just makes me smile. It seems almost juvenile in its style of animation, and reminds me of Rocky and Bullwinkle. The music sounded a bit like Triumph of the Will, very brassy and aggressive. But the same goal is there, to convince the public of something. In Kennedy’s case, that was that he was “great” and most definitely old enough for the job (yet young enough to have energy). It was interesting that the civil rights movement was going on, but the only African Americans are standing in a line glaring at the camera. I wonder what they were doing? I feel less strongly about this piece because of context. Hitler was a horrible person who did atrocious things, so I view Triumph of the Will as “bad.” Kennedy is pretty much universally liked, even if there isn’t evidence that he was a great president, so that commercial is “cute.”

It should be noted that the commenters on YouTube compared Hitler’s arrival to that of the “cult of personality” around Obama. I can see the comparison in that a large amount of smiling people greet a person coming off a plane, and that political entrances are orchestrated, but it is unfortunate that people feel the need to make parallels between the men, who are nothing alike.


//Shiver Podcast

Here is the audio-only version of my book talk for Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater. Kinetic Typography component coming soon.