Category Archives: technology

The Kindle and I

I bought a Kindle. I had to. facebook_1456756093492

It had gotten to the stage where I needed to choose between my bed and the books, and to be fair, I do love my bed.

For years I believed I’d be the last person to succumb to the pressure of e-readers, but I have to admit that I love it. It’s so great  🙂

Our house wouldn’t be the warmest ever, but I can now read sitting comfortably in bed, because I only need one hand to hold a Kindle, whereas it took two to correctly position a real book, (depending on the size). I’m also conscious of how many trees I may be saving by reading electronically. It’s all good so far.

I used to spend a fortune buying real books, but I’m damn sure that Amazon isn’t about to go out of business overnight because I don’t give them as much money as I used to, nor Waterstones either.

Of course there are still those books that only work in the printed format; those gorgeous ones that you just have to hold in your hand because they’ve got fantastic covers, or because the story is nothing without the illustrations, or because the book has been a best friend to you for all of your life. Those will forever need to be real, so you can lay your hand on them and know that you can open them and disappear into a sacred world.

I  won’t mention here about how great it is to find books for free on the net, or the convenience of using something like Caliber to store them and convert them to the format you need for your e-reader.  I wouldn’t do that, that would be nasty of me.  🙂 🙂

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Final Art Project for DH 6005 (History and Theory of Digital Arts)

The final requirement of the module entitled History and Theory of Digital Arts is that of creating some art inspired by that already submitted by the other members of our class. Disclaimer: I’d like to note here that I am not now, nor ever will I be, an artist. As a matter of fact, I know more about Nuclear Science than I do about Art. I just wanted to clear that up before I begin.

nude standing by the sea

Nude Standing by the Sea

Andy Warhol proclaims “Art is what you can get away with”.This is certainly true when I look at some of Picasso’s work for example. (I don’t mean to single out poor old Picasso, I have nothing against the man, I’m simply using his work as an example.) Take the painting Nude Standing by the Sea. Does it appear completely alien to me because I know nothing about it, or is it alien to everybody else too? Must we have an understanding of the mindset of the artist before we can attempt to understand the painting and appreciate it? Was Charles Baudelaire right in saying “The beautiful is always bizarre”? Is my failure to ‘see’ anything in Picasso’s painting proof that artists see the world differently to the rest of us? (That’s an awful lot of questions, even for me).

Art is subjective – Whoopi Goldberg says it very well -“Art and Life are subjective. Not everybody’s gonna dig what I dig, but I reserve the right to dig it”

Instead of showing myself up as a complete fool in trying to draw or paint something for this project, which would no doubt turn out to be appalling, I relied on words to come to my rescue. I’ve taken four items which have inspired me, and written a short piece to accompany each one. I need to express my thanks to Perry O’Donovan, Claudia Sartori, Bree D’Oh, and Aodhan Rilke, without whom my own ‘project’ would not have happened.

I had intended to display these works as an exhibit using Exhibit-Builder on Omeka, but I’m having a few problems with getting it to behave as I want it to. This is nothing new, and so I’ve gotten used to it.


Bookstore poster

Promotional poster by Perry O’ Donovan

The first piece of art I thought about is one created by Perry O’Donovan as a promotional poster for his bookshop in Skibbereen.

Here’s what I wrote:

Perry’s Bookshop

He was a giant of a man, and he let the cold in when he opened the door. The little bell didn’t have time to jingle before he shut it behind him again, so quietly for someone so large. He leaned against it, and let out a long ragged breath, as if he had run from the hounds of hell, and escaped.

I hadn’t had many customers that day and was considering shutting up early. The day felt grey, had done since morning; as if the sky was covered by a scratchy old army-blanket, heavy, dull, and colourless. Outside, the air smelled like soot, like a million coal fires.

The man’s face was ashen. He stumbled to one of the leather seats near the window and sank into it, his great bulk filling it completely, and I thought of the tiny chairs in a doll’s house.

I suppose I must have looked surprised, and maybe I was, I don’t recall. Sometimes on quiet days I almost resented customers, saw them as an intrusion into my solitude, my beautiful world of whispering pages and long-forgotten secrets. It was very easy for me to dissolve into another reality and forget about the things that happen in a life: the family I’d left behind, the bills I couldn’t pay, the loneliness.

For a long time he sat, motionless, silent, weighing every breath, watching the rain begin to fall and splash against the windows. For a long time I watched him, and the silence stretched out between us in long slow minutes.

Then he turned, as if he’d just remembered where he was, and looked straight at me. His eyes were wide and haunted, and a scar beneath the good one was bleeding. When he spoke it seemed the sound came from somewhere dark and far away.

We should get going”, he said, “They’re here”.



The second is a piece written in response to a photograph taken by Claudia Sartori:


The Gates


The Gates of Hell

‘Open the Gates at Dawn’ the memo said. So we did. There’s a lot more to opening a portal than you might think, there are rules to be adhered to, rituals to perform, things to be chanted. It took a while.

The thing is, we hadn’t told anyone, and so the volume of bodies wasn’t as large as He had expected. Well, the sun was out that day, and shone warm and bright on the earth, and melted some human hearts so that they were less inclined to do anything to offend the other guy. The Boss wasn’t best pleased.

Of course, those were the days before Twitter and Facebook, days of good old fire and brimstone, and raining down curses on humanity just because you could. Now a body has to wait for the broadband to kick in, or stand in the chimney until the signal finds them.

I think we all secretly miss the old burning memos, the comforting smell of sulphur, the singed fingertips, though of course nobody here would freely admit it. It’s true we may not reach as many souls by doing things in the traditional manner, but at least we didn’t need to pay attention to something called ‘Netiquette”!


This is number 3: A painting by Aodhan Rilke of Horatio Nelson’s head (from the statue).

Nelson's Head

Nelson’s Head

Kiss me, Hardy!

Die well lads!
Glory tastes of brandy and camphor
in a small wooden cask
on smooth seas
for the last trip home.

Good name lives on in stone
on dry land
and a deathmask of charcoal.
Die well, England demands.



Finally, there’s this – a photo taken by Bree D’Oh of a sculpture in the Lee Fields

Dinosaurs in the Mist

Dinosaurs in the mists

Dinosaur in the Mist

“It’s what happens to metal things when it rains”, he said, “and don’t be a baby now, it’s not alive, it won’t harm you”. Jane was six. She knew things. She peered through the raindrops on her glasses at the metal monster, studying the red rash that the rain had caused. Today was Saturday, and she spent Saturdays with Dad. Sometimes she didn’t really want to, because they always went to places like this park, and they were always climbing things. Today she wanted to be at home out of the rain instead. It was cold. Dad got angry if she said she wanted to go home, angry in a way that he said nothing, just turned the car radio up. She had learned to smile instead.

They had come to this park before, and Jane still didn’t like it. She didn’t trust the red climbing thing. She knew it was really alive and just asleep in daylight, and it would wake up at night and start to move around. Dad wouldn’t believe her, he’d say she was silly. He’d give her that look, and sigh, and say “So you want to go home then? Ok, fine”, but he wouldn’t talk to her on the way home, so she always knew when he was angry.

In a secret place in the back of her memory, where nobody else could go, Jane had a picture of a dead dinosaur she’d seen in one of her schoolbooks. She remembered it now as she climbed.

Here it is as an Omeka exhibit:

So there you go!  Is it art or is it simply waffle? Does it actually matter, once we can use all the buzzwords to justify our creation? If we have the confidence to believe in our own work, will this justify what we do?

As I said, I know nothing about art, and I don’t think I’ll ever understand some of it. Sometimes it’s good just to throw around some questions and let them sit for a bit.

I’ll leave your with a quote by one of my favourite authors. See what you make of this:

“I make art. Sometimes I make true art, and sometimes it fills the empty places in my life. Some of them. Not all”

Neil Gaiman The Ocean at the End of the Lane


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1916 Letters and other reflections

In early February, I took part in the Digitalfountain-pen-cropped Skills for Postgraduates workshop, and as part of this we participated in the Letters of 1916  project run by TCD. I was encouraged by this project simply because these letters are just that – letters! Lovely, handwritten pages of news and greetings and joy, and sadness too. Close your eyes for a minute. Travel back to 1916 where a person (a mother, a son, a soldier) sits at a table somewhere with pen in hand and a carefully selected blank page on which to transcribe their thoughts. If you concentrate really hard, you can breathe in that ‘new-paper’ smell, and with it, the air of tingling possibility that comes before the first word is written. It’s easy to imagine their pausing in the composition of a thought so as to perfectly convey a feeling or an idea, or gazing through the window at the landscape beyond, wishing they could see their loved ones in the flesh.

Isn’t it amazing how time soaks into the pages of a letter in the same way as the ink that forms the words?

In this digital age, receivingpen and paper a handwritten letter is a rare event. Most of us find it so much easier to send an email or a text, and I wonder if this is perhaps because we don’t properly engage anymore with people. Digital communication doesn’t require that we give so much of ourselves away, because we no longer need to think in thesame way when we communicate by text or email. The physical writing of a letter took more effort, it took thinking about, and organizing. We can quite easily answer an email using our phones now, and barely remember afterwards what we’ve written because the process has required so little actual thinking. Something comforting has been lost in this transition from paper to screen, I think, something fundamentally human, and there’s a great sadness in this.

This has led me to think about the very nature of our communications, and how all of our correspondences now seem that much less personal and human and more automated and curt. All of the amazing technology we have access to has served only to reduce our interactions with others to a ‘like’ on Facebook, (or other equally flimsy acknowledgement). It seems easier too, to ‘talk’ online, where we can hide our humanity behind a screen, where we can be anybody we choose. Our responses can be as cold and unfeeling as we please, without fear of recrimination, even our human emotions seem to be diminished, because what we feel needs to fit nicely into one of a handful of emoticons. It all seems terribly ‘flat’ somehow, as if all the colour has been bleached out of our language, as if we are slowly being forced into the neat little boxes technology has provided us with.

old envelope

Call it exaggeration, but it all brings to mind George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’, and in particular, a scene where Syme, a work-colleague of Winston Smith, gushes over Newspeak (the official language of Oceania. It was a language devised to meet the ideological needs of English Socialism).

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten”

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My journey in XML, or ‘Blood, Sweat, and Tears’!

Whoever thought that I’d be taking my first steps in XML?  Wow, this is a real challenge. I can see the brilliance of the concept, and the logic of it, and the reasoning behind it, but I do certainly believe that I’d need a lot more time at my disposal than I have at present, as I don’t think this is something one could learn in a few days, not me anyway. One sure thing I’ve learned from this MA is that I am a slow learner – even moreso than I suspected. I need to take things away with me and turn them over in my mind for a good while in order to ‘grok’ them, and I’m beginning to think that a university setting is not the place in which to do that, there isn’t time. I think I need to get myself an ‘XML for Dummies’, actually, I’d be surprised if there isn’t one 🙂

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<!DOCTYPE TEI PUBLIC “-//TEI P5//DTD Main Document Type//EN” “tei_all.dtd”>
<TEI xmlns=”″>
<title>To One in Paradise</title>
<author>Edgar Allan Poe</author>
<p>This poem was published without a title as part of the short story ‘The Visionary’. It evolved to become ‘To Ianthe in Heaven’ and then ‘To One Beloved’ before it was finally named ‘To One in Paradise’ in 1843</p>
<p><ptr target=””></ptr></p>
<p><ptr target=””></ptr></p>
<l>Thou wast that all to me, love,</l>
<l>For which my soul did pine—</l>
<l>A green isle in the sea, love,</l>
<l>A fountain and a shrine,</l>
<l>All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers,</l>
<l>And all the flowers were mine.</l>
<l>Ah, dream too bright to last!</l>
<l>Ah, starry Hope! that didst arise</l>
<l>But to be overcast!</l>
<l>A voice from out the Future cries,</l>
<l>”On! on!”—but o’er the Past</l>
<l>(Dim gulf!) my spirit hovering lies</l>
<l>Mute, motionless, aghast!</l>
<l>For, alas! alas! with me</l>
<l>The light of Life is o’er!</l>
<l>”No more—no more—no more”—</l>
<l>(Such language holds the solemn sea</l>
<l>To the sands upon the shore)</l>
<l>Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree,</l>
<l>Or the stricken eagle soar!</l>
<l>And all my days are trances,</l>
<l>And all my nightly dreams</l>
<l>Are where thy dark eye glances,</l>
<l>And where thy footstep gleams—</l>
<l>In what ethereal dances,</l>
<l>By what eternal streams!</l>
<l>Alas! for that accursed time</l>
<l>They bore thee o’er the billow,</l>
<l>From love to titled age and crime,</l>
<l>And an unholy pillow!</l>
<l>From me, and from our misty clime,</l>
<l>Where weeps the silver willow!</l>

I used a free program called XML Copy Editor for this, because my 30-day trial with Oxygen ran out, and there isn’t an option that allows you to pay for it on a weekly basis.


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On Editing and Creation

It always strikes me as funny to write here in this blog, funny peculiar, I mean, because I feel as if I’m talking to myself, and I suppose I am, for the most part. It’s difficult to imagine an audience, and why on earth my audience should want to read my ramblings. Anyway, there it is – I’m writing, and presumably somebody, somewhere, is reading. Who though, is my audience, (if I may presume to have one), and isn’t this one of the great difficulties facing all writers and editors?

I’ve been doing some reading on the subject of editorial theory of late, and it seems clear that one of the most important things to establish before beginning a revision of a text, or a digital edition of some great work, is to consider who you believe will want to read the text, and what the reader will expect from your edition/revision.

George Bornstein, in his book Palimpsest warns us that ‘ We may never hope through textual scholarship to recover an ideal text like a well-wrought urn, but only to increase the self-awareness of the choices that we make in constituting the monument for our own time’. In this way, we, the editors, need to decide what is important in a text, and what may be omitted – not, I presume, due to a shortage of space as would be the case in a printed version, but because ultimately, it would be impractical to include everything. So, do we include the doodles  in the margin of an original text where the author was struck by an idea for a character for the next book, or the ‘note to self’ written because the author was unhapy about the phrasing  of a certain paragraph which he wanted to  later revisit? How does the editor decide what’s really relevant? Given that there is no ‘ideal’ text, no ‘best’ version, how are we to present our new edition? This idea of multiple versions of a single text, as Bornstein, (as above), says ‘shifts our conception of the artwork from product to process’, and so we should begin to consider texts not as static, lifeless things, but as living works that continue to evolve.

An interesting example of this occurs in a poem by Edgar Allan Poe entitled ‘To One in Paradise’ which I used as an example in learning to create an XML file (I know-me? XML? really?).The poem was originally published in 1833 without a title as part of a short story called ‘The Visionary’. From there it evolved into ‘To Ianthe in Heaven’, and afterwards ‘To One Beloved’, before finally becoming ‘To One in Paradise’ in 1843 (see here). Should we look upon these revisions as distinct ‘versions’ simply because the title has been altered? We need to ask ourselves what it is that constitutes a ‘version’ of a text. The Collins Online Dictionary gives this definition,  and if we follow this thinking, it means that this text here is itself a version, because it started out as something else altogether (and had a different title). I know this because I wrote it.

As you’ve come this far, it might be fun to take a look at this post, where I attempt to create an XML file from the Edgar Allan Poe poem I mentioned.




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New Tools, New Thinking


My new toy!

So it’s been a number of weeks now since I bought my Asus Transformer Book T100. (it sounds like something from a video game). The thinking behind the purchase was sound – I needed something small and light I could take to college every day, something that wouldn’t feel as if I was carrying a dead body in my back-pack. I love my Macbook, but it’s just too heavy to drag with me all day. It’s also old-ish, but I couldn’t finance a new Mac just now. Here’s what I would have bought though, if I could have: air

I shouldn’t expect the Asus to perform like a Mac, it’s unrealistic. Isn’t it amazing how we become so used to one particular tool that it’s a shock to the system when we have to use something different? I know, it was about time I learned the ins and outs of Windows – I’ve used the OS before, but not for long enough to understand how it thinks. The college does Windows, it’s all over the place, and I can understand that PCs are a less expensive option for an environment such as a college or a workplace, it makes sense.

The Asus fills my requirements adequately though– it weighs 1.21 lbs, so it’s no heavier than a hardback book. Great! Mission Accomplished! I really do like the tidy size, and the fact that it’s not terribly pretentious and overdone.
Once I’d gotten over the fact that it thinks differently, I was more-or-less OK, I mean, it runs Windows 8. I can mostly get my head around configuring it to do what I wanted. I’ve had some difficulty finding things, but in my defence, I tend to search in the logical places, the folders that sound as if they might hold what I’m looking for. No matter, there’s always Google!

I do have to say that the touch-pad is not as responsive as I would have expected. It appears that you need to click very ‘decisively’, almost forcefully, or your command is ignored completely. Not good, but not quite a disaster either – just different.

I love the long battery-life, but I’m not fond of how long it takes to charge. Overnight charging is the only answer.

Here’s a real review by someone who knows what they’re talking about in terms of specs and tech stuff.

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How we write

The-Shallows-How-the-Interne    In his enormously entertaining book, The Shallows, Nicholas Carr tells us about Friedrich Nietzsche’s travels around Europe in 1881 in search of a cure for his failing health, or at least a period of remission. His eyesight was deteriorating, and he was finding it increasingly difficult to focus on a page of writing for any length of time as it caused monstrous headaches and bouts of vomiting. Nietzsche was at his wit’s end and feared he would have to give up writing altogether. In 1882 he ordered a typewriter, a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball. Carr goes on to tell how the Writing Ball was Nietzsche’s saviour for a time, and once he learned to touch-type, he was back to himself again.
A close friend of Nietzsche’s, Heinrich Koselitz, began to notice a change in Nietzsche’s writing. He remarked on the new ‘forcefulness’ of the prose, and the ‘tight’ structure of his compositions. Nietzsche’s response to his friend’s comment was “Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts”.
(Nicholas Carr, The Shallows. pgs 18-19)

Reading this made me think about the tools I use to write. It sounds foolish and immature to admit that I’ve always preferred a 2B pencil – somehow it just feels right! I know some who can sit down at a computer, close their eyes, and off they go, but the words won’t flow that way for me. There’s something about holding the pencil and physically forming the words that feels far more ‘real’. I can think while writing the words, sound them out in my head. I’ve often wondered if many others feel this way.
My writing is different when I type. I feel as if it’s more restricted somehow, not as free to be whatever it wants. I feel as if I should write to suit the appearance of the blank screen, whereas, a physical page can look just the way I want it to – I can doodle in the corners, I can cross out whole sections, I can draw maps and directions – I can hear the words better when I write them.

How different then, are the thoughts of the individual who is ‘born digital’ from those of the older, less tech-savvy person?

Speaking of writing, read this amazing account of the journey:


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I’m not a complete idiot – some parts are missing!

I didn’t want my first post here to be a negative one, really I didn’t,  though I feel I should recount the hideous experience I’ve been having while trying to find my way around WordPress. I refuse to believe the fault is purely mine, (you knew I’d say that, right?), and I don’t like that a computer programme makes me feel stupid, it doesn’t sit well with me. I believe that technology exists to make life easier, (is this not the whole idea?), and when it results instead in frustration, extra grey hairs, weeping and grinding of teeth etc, then we must admit that there is a problem.

I had notions of this being a fairly simple process – there is a basic structure to be followed which should yield an end product. How difficult can that be, right?

I’m saving this post as a draft, so that I can publish it when I do eventually get this thing up and running, because as it is, I have a front page and a photo. I can’t even work out how to get menus to work.

I think I’m in the wrong class!  🙁

Boromir's Warning


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