Skip to content
September 29, 2013 / archivalerie

Cyclocross Season (cross-post)

Ok, that was a bad joke even for me. Seriously though, this is technically a cross-post that happens to be about cyclocross as I wrote this for the cycling group on my work’s social networking site. I thought of it as a warm-up for writing the massive link-dump/online pathfinder for my co-workers that outline our available online resources. So yeah, this should explain my recent whereabouts and complete lack of updates.

So what’s with the cowbell? Why are they going through mud and carrying their bikes on their shoulders uphill? Did that spectator just heckle a rider and then hand her a beer? [favorite heckle: "(directed at rider with a fancy expensive carbon bike) Hey, you should throw more money at your bike. Maybe that will make you go faster!"] These are some questions you may find yourself asking should you find yourself at a cyclocross race (possibly the only cycling sport that is as fun to spectate as it is to ride).

I could go on at length about the wonder that is cyclocross/CX (the sport where the knights occasionally carry their steeds), but there are far better resources out there. Please feel free to post yours.

For a particularly cute and brief breakdown of CX: CYCLOCROSS! The 24 Hour Comic Book (aka The Little Golden Book of Cross) | Slonie

Cyclo-cross – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cyclocross Magazine

Cyclocross | Bicycling Magazine

BikeReg.com – online cycling event registration

Heckle Hall Of Fame | Chicago Cross Cup

Coping With Heckling in Cyclocross: BikeSnobNYC | Bicycling Magazine

I practice over at Danehy Park with Hub Bicycle’s Team Monster Truck on Mondays and Smith Field on Wednesdays. Feel free to post any CX clinics or races that may be of interest.

Team Monster Truck (TeamBikeMonster) on Twitter

Wednesday Night SuperPrestige | Facebook

Image

This is my friend Tim. He can bunny-hop over barriers.

Image

I, however, cannot and thus have to dismount and leap over them. About as graceful as a swan riding a segway.Image

This was shortly before a tree root caught on my pedal and I wiped out and somehow landed beneath my bike. The first thing I said was not “Ow” or “Is my bike ok?” but rather, “DID YOU GET A PICTURE OF THAT?”

Because I’m clearly out of my mind, I signed up for the Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester (update: I made it to spectate the race, but due to the commuter rail/me waking up late and missing my ride, I got there two minutes before my race started so I wasn’t allowed to enter the field, live and learn.), The Night Weasels Cometh, and Providence Cyclo-cross Festival and the TCC Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross Race.

I might not be fast or handle corners, hill runups or hurdles all that well yet, but my goal is to become an internet meme like Joey here (he’s totally OK).

February 18, 2013 / archivalerie

Sometimes archiValerie finds things in her own archives

So back in the day, I pretended I was a writer. I apparently didn’t pretend hard enough since I ended up more on the media consumption as opposed to production side of things. However, I found an old notebook with one of the last poems I wrote before going to grad school. I wrote it after reading the book I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita (which I highly recommend as it was gorgeous, sad and based on a bit of history you don’t usually read about in your high school textbooks) and thinking about the Manong culture in California, my old divey studio apartment on 16th and Hawthorne in what was once an old SE Portland flophouse, crashing at my boyfriend’s place after my 12th and Stark basement apartment flooded. Most of all, I thought about how diaspora almost comes naturally to Filipinos. We go so far away for so long, yet the ties of family are still there. If I ever thought I could rewrite and publish this, I’d probably remove the last stanza, since it’s too specific/related to romantic relationship nonsense.

International Hotel, 1978

They wander,
these ghosts, down
labyrinthine halls
narrows leading into rooms not much larger
than sepulchers and coffins.

But there is more life
within these walls,
cracked concrete, peeling wallpaper
like the scars of an old boxer
whose last battle is still fresh in his mind
but he can’t even remember
his mother’s face.

Or the soldier
at only two wars old
was told to go home
but sent out with barely the bus fare to go
to the next town.

Or these men
whose shoulders once held the earth’s weight
fed a nation with their hands,
sweat, blood,
yet for a time they were told
they couldn’t get a shaveor a haircut
because the establishment
doesn’t serve dogs.

Many of them, gone.
The building they haunted, gone.

Their memory stays
over long nights, months
in small one-room apartments.
As I spend the night elsewhere
when they renovate my building,
I wonder if not for friends, lovers,
where would I stay?

Though I could afford a hotel
I could not sleep,
not someplace that isn’t home to anyone.

But then, I wonder,
how did they do it?
Miles and years from all they knew,
cramped like the fish they canned in Alaska, California,
sleeping in a place that wasn’t home.

But then, I remembered,
some places you can make home,
if only for a little while.

I never understood why
it as easy for me to
call someone “brother”
though I was an only child.

It wasn’t until years later
that I found out what
“manong” meant in Tagalog.

A brother could mean
your mother’s other son
or a stranger who gives
you a hand when
you’re flat on your ass
with no change in your
pocket to stamp a letter home.

Manong is laughter
when you’re to dried out to cry
squeezed of your last dime
at the casino or dance hall
not even a cup of water
to replace what was lost.

Walls flayed
peeled back to wood skeletons,
the smell of cats
just barely departed.
Ceiling gone,
can only see floorboards above.

This is not our home anymore,
just like this wouldn’t have
been home three months from now.

But in the past three months
I haven’t slept as well.

Some people call us home
and I will call you home
even if we’re no longer in the same town.

February 12, 2013 / archivalerie

Love in the Time of Big Data

As a woman of a certain age, I’ve been thinking about relationships a lot lately. Sixteen-year-old me would be so disappointed right now, considering she once wrote a newspaper column railing against the commercialized “holiday” known as Valentine’s day. I suppose it’s yet another thing for me to grumble about the fleeting nature of digital records, as I was not able to find a link to my old high school newspaper column online.

A January Atlantic column lamented the ubiquity of technology and how despite making dating more convenient and efficient, it causes a lack of intimacy and stunts our ability to truly communicate with each other. A friend of mine more or less orders dates on the internet like other people order takeout. Still, I feel that the Atlantic article makes a few good points, but misses a very large point: technology isn’t the bad guy here. Apparently according to another Atlantic column, feminism and the increasing number of female college graduates is, but I’m not going to open that can of worms other than roll my eyes and wonder what time machine dredged up these columnists. My main point is that the way people interact with each other changes with the times, just as technology changes. While it’s easy to wring our hands and clutch our pearls, the best we can do is adapt to these new arenas (much like we do as librarians, archivists and information purveyors).

Compare the three selections of text below. One is a Civil War era love letter. The others are messages I received on OKCupid.

July 14, 1861

Camp Clark, Washington

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more . . .

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt . . .

Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood, around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness . . .

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again . . .

Sullivan

Him 1: I really can’t think of anything to put in here, so in your head just imagine five minutes of intensely creepy silence.

Me: You know, we run in the same social circles. It would have been much easier and considerably less creepy if you just talked to me once at a party.

Him 1: True, but I thought I’d really crank up the creep factor on this one. Really I think I could’ve been much creepier if I had sent you a photograph of myself one of those tiny horses on springs they have at playgrounds. Maybe I should’ve? Alright creep experiment over.

Him 2: I am [name redacted] and you are just the type of woman I would like to meet. I am married but not just looking for sex, I am also looking for well more sex. I know you wont reply but i really did like your profile. You seem pretty hard headed and stubborn. Bye

To be fair, this sample is slightly skewed (although I did become somewhat good friends with creepy playground horse guy for a bit). However, the point is, as an archivist/librarian, my expectations of men are kind of on the high side. I’ve spent my time among real love letters, was in love with the poetry of John Keats and fictional characters like Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy since high school. On the flip side, I aim to be the sort of person I would date: intelligent, bold, adventuresome, on first impression a bit rough around the edges and intimidating, but deeply loyal as a friend.

As an archivist/librarian, I started thinking of things in terms of information seeking and processing. It’s difficult for me to not think of people in terms of books or documents. The analogy I make regarding interpersonal relationships is that the world is an enormous library. Each book is the story of someone’s life. Your book, my book, everyone’s book is somewhere out there. Meanwhile we are all just browsing. Occasionally, we pick up a book and skim the back or jacket liner, maybe flip through a few pages. Sometimes we read entire chapters. Some people skim through many books without reading them. Others only fully read through a few.

I’d like to think that I’ll meet someone who will pick up my book someday and read it, not only not skipping the sad or difficult parts, but will also add good things to the book. Then I’ll find their book, read and add to it as well. Yes. This is the part where archiValerie reveals that despite her hard, cynical exterior, she really is kind of a romantic after all. Although this analogy not only applies to romantic engagements, but friendships as well.

Save the date card that looks like a library due date card including significant dates of couple's relationship.

Who will add to your book? Image source: http://imgur.com/CGPO4jo

If the world is a library and we are all manuscripts in it, then does that make dating websites like eHarmony and OKCupid card catalogs/OPACs/WorldCat for them? Is my Facebook page a finding aid for the collection that is my life? Likewise, if I were to run a search for an educated, well-read gentleman, who rides bicycles (a taunt in my group of male bicycling friends when one of them gets a new girlfriend is: “Bro, does she even ride?”), would I be able to find my one in seven billion? Then again, with a number that high, I imagine statistically, there would be more than one suitable match. I even included an ISBD record biography on my blog to make it easier to find me. Or on a more sinister note, I have to admit I’ve done my fair share of “google stalking” in which I’ve tried to find out as much information about someone before making a move (“I see you enjoy caffeinated beverages and wearing plaid shirts. I too enjoy caffeinated beverages and wearing plaid shirts. Would you like to enjoy a caffeinated beverage with me while we both wear plaid shirts?”). Using my information-science-fu for evil is not really a new thing though.

This is the part where I acknowledge that this method is flawed. My list of requirements has changed over the years. When I was a teenager, I was into the punk rock guys or musicians in general since I was a band geek. In undergrad, I either went for guys in computer science, creative writing or student film. There was only ever really one guy I went for in my PDX years, sandwiching all of the humorously failed first dates via the Portland Mercury Lovelab as my first, last and only Portland love. Interestingly enough, I did not meet him online, but at a video store (hey, anyone remember those before Netflix?) where we talked about the last Harry Potter book, Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica followed by our own writing/film projects. Now I’ve just come to the conclusion that I’m drawn to people who are passionate about whatever it is that they do, whether it’s writing, filming movies, building bicycles, or designing biological assays. Of course, riding a bicycle helps as I can’t help but roll my eyes whenever a prospective date says that wherever we meet has to have parking for his car. This is Boston. Parking is nonexistent!

But I digress. The main point is I can create lists, index and cross-reference every eligible heterosexual male in the Boston metropolitan area based on my terms (there was a rather amusing This American Life story in which the Drake equation was used to try to determine the number of eligible men for a tall, female physics PhD in Boston here), but that doesn’t mean we’ll be compatible or that he’d even be interested in me. Not to mention, I am forgetting one of the first things we discussed in my reference class: read the person first, not just the text. Talk to them, conduct a reference interview to try to figure out what they need. Sometimes what they say they’re looking for at first isn’t actually the book/information they actually needed. Just because a guy looks perfect on paper doesn’t mean that he is perfect for me.

Likewise, I seem to fit the bill for being the sort of attractive Asian female that guys on dating sites send lurid messages to, but I really doubt that who I am actually matches the image of what they’re seeking. In other words, it is very easy to build an image of someone in the mind, a fiction that shadows the reality to the point where it leads to disappointment in both parties (or outright manipulation and espionage, like in David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly). I suppose this is yet another peril. People are often much more than the data they present or that others present. So, once people find each other, how do they stay together?

A book came out discussing the results of a large-scale survey of couples relating their relationship habits and general happiness in their relationships. There was an NPR story about it here. The scientific skeptic in me can’t help but wonder what sort of statistical hypothesis testing went into determining the conclusions that you should hold hands during an argument or that using cutesy annoying nicknames correlate with being happier as a couple. Still, I would love to see the raw data more than I would be interested in reading the book.

Well, this is what happens when I haven’t blogged in over a year. I hope this wasn’t too tl;dr for all of you. I also hope that it had enough library/information science in a pop framework to balance out my incoherent ranting. When it comes down to it, all of the data mining and information spidering in the world might help you find someone, but it takes actually spending time with them and talking to them to actually get to know them as a person and not a dataset. Or, in two-wheeled terms: a relationship is like a bicycle. You get as much as you put into it. If you don’t dig deep, you’re never going to get up that hill. Also, always make sure you remember to clean and re-lube your chain regularly.

August 13, 2012 / archivalerie

Happily ever for now: the post-SAA 2012 reflection

It looks like I’m not the only one who’s come a long way in the year since Rebecca Goldman’s Post-SAA Howl [Correction: It has been two years since Post-SAA Howl, which goes to show how long it took to gain recognition. via Rebecca Goldman on Twitter]. After feeling like recognition of students and new archivists was lacking in the organization, the Student and New Archives Roundtable started after petitioning and an application spearheaded by Ms. Derangement-and-Description herself. Mark Matienzo (@anarchivist) won the Emerging Leader award. Not to mention, our former SAA President Gregor Trinkaus-Randall gave us a shout-out at the second plenary session. Our new SAA President Jackie Dooley is on Twitter (@minniedw)! Not to mention all of the new electronic and education initiatives going on.

I’m really not sure I can say much more than I’ve already tweeted like crazy… perhaps tweeted too hard. If you missed the conference, a lot of us were livetweeting quite a bit. Fear not, however, as I had plenty of opportunities for tête-à-tête interactions with archivists in real-time/space and I had a great time over brunch/dinner/drinks discussing many nerdy archive-y things with them, including starting urban legends about how some of us partied so hard with some military personnel at the Hard Rock Cafe that they got kicked out of karaoke or how one of us threw a drink at the hotel bartender resulting in Hilton refusing to ever host an SAA ever again… like that apocryphal San Francisco tiki bar story (seriously, if you were witness to this, please let me know because I need confirmation). Hm. Perhaps this isn’t exactly the sort of “new face” to the profession I should be encouraging, considering it seems to consist mostly of getting rowdy. Unfortunately, I hate to admit that for every business-card swap, there were at least two whose names I can’t remember.

I gave my first presentation at SAA, which was based on this blog post, and I daresay it went quite well considering the fact that we were scheduled in the Saturday 2:00 pm-3:00 pm death slot and still got a good amount of attendees and our discussion went well to 4:00 pm. One question I received asked if I had actually gone out into the underrepresented community my collection reflected and admittedly, I had not. The asker brought up the fact that I was in a position of power, considering I had processed this collection and had the ability to connect it to the people it affected. I remember seeing a picture in one of the newspaper clippings of a teddy bear that had been left behind in the desert. I remember wondering how bad it was that some child had to leave what was most likely a beloved stuffed animal behind and wondering if that child was even still alive.

So the question still remains unanswered. How do I help what was once a faceless number go from Johns and Jane Does to meaningful stories and names to go with them? After all, the easiest way to create an enemy is to make them nameless, faceless, an invading horde of “aliens” or “illegals” or “migrants.” After our panel, we had an interesting discussion about philology and the weight of words, whether it’s how mainstream media refers to people crossing arbitrary borders as “migrants” or “illegals” or how the Library of Congress Subject Headings included “Orientals” and “Yellow Peril.” How does one turn a potential enemy into a friend? By listening to them, learning their stories, finding out that we’re not so different after all. We’re all just folk trying to build a life for ourselves.

I’m no longer at the University of Arizona Special Collections since the internship was only a month long and I am happy at my current position as an assistant librarian for a pharmaceutical company, but I do feel like I should get involved, do even more. I have to admit that the query I received after the panel was jarring. As an Asian American woman, I always felt more or less invisible and voiceless in the greater history narrative, but the point of power is still valid. As someone educated as an archivist, I do possess the ability to literally shape the course of history. There are so many untold stories out there that my head would swim to contain them all… except I don’t have to. The papers, photographs, audio recordings, films and born digital items are there waiting for someone to find them…

I love being a science librarian. Being able to help great people do great science has been one of my fondest wishes since I learned what a science librarian did. However, I still find myself drawn to social justice and want to do more than the usual signing of online petitions and chain-mail-style, awareness-raising reblogging that people just tune out after awhile. Of course, there’s always the Archivists Without Borders US Chapter. I feel like I’ve fought long and hard just to carve myself a place in the library world, but now that I have, I can’t forget where I came from or why I wanted to get into in the first place: to give voice to the voiceless so that I may not be haunted by the ghosts of forgotten history.

The two parts of this involve:

1. Raising public awareness of what archives are, who archivists are and the sort of good they can do, such as:

  • Hold those responsible for ill-doings accountable to history by preserving the record of what they have inflicted on others (Nazi Archives, Iraq National Archives, John Cutler Papers)
  • Help create/restore beautiful music “California Stars” by Billy Bragg and Wilco, lyrics by Woody Guthrie as found in his archives).
  • Assist people in research their family histories as well as teach them how to preserve their own personal collections/items.

2. Assisting repositories in acquiring, processing and providing access to collections from otherwise underrepresented groups.

… as to how I’ll get around to accomplishing these two things… your guess is as good as mine, but I know I’ll do my damnedest.

Once again, I fear I’ve strayed from the main topic, which was originally intended to be a recap of SAA 2012: Beyond Borders in San Diego. Yet the title holds: I am content in my life, professionally and personally. I recall joking to Rebecca that if my plane crashed on the way back or if I got hit by a car, I think I would die pretty satisfied overall with how things ended up… yet I do know there’s so much I can do, so much more I must do.

After all, ghosts have a tendency to not stay quiet for long.

I’ll close this post with a quote from one of my favorite books/authors:

“They can’t silence me any more! I’ll tell the world what they have done to me!”

Carlos Bulosan, America Is in the Heart (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1943), 180.

This book was what helped shape the sort of writer I wanted to be, but I eventually realized my own story was rather dull in comparison. Now this book shapes the sort of archivist I want to be, the sort that helps others tell their stories.

I hope to see you all and share more stories at #saa13 in NOLA!

July 23, 2012 / archivalerie

Appraisal, Accessioning and What we Choose to Remember

So the major television stations and internet are all abuzz about the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting. Even though nobody asked, here are some thoughts from an erstwhile archivist.

I don’t care about the shooter. I’m sick of seeing his name on headlines, sick of seeing his remorseless gaze from his Student ID picture, sick of hearing “experts” speculate about his intelligence or mental state or the socioeconomic/political climate that could harbor resentful, disturbed individuals with a mass of weapons. I’m not even going to get into the inevitable political firestorm about the Second Amendment or the “glorification of violence” in popular culture. For all I care, he can rot away the rest of his miserable days in a small box. I want his name to be forgotten, completely faded from the pages of history.

Who I do care about is Stephen Barton, who survived after being shot multiple times, who isn’t even from Aurora, Colorado but just happened to be in town with a friend during a 2,000+ mile cross-country bicycle tour. I care about Gordon Cowen, Jessica Ghawi, John Laramer and all of the other names listed during the memorial vigil. I care about the names I will probably never see in the news of other survivors and their family members.

Not too long from now, I’d love to read that Stephen was able to finish his cross-country bicycle trip with his friend after making a full recovery, see that he continued taking pictures and creating memories as he advised his graduating class at Syracuse. That is my hope. Just as it is my hope that those who survived go on with their lives and those who perished are remembered as they had lived and not how they died. I do not represent society as a whole. I do not even represent archives or archivists. Yet as a person, an archivist of my own history, this is what I choose to remember.

So what does any of my sentimental outpouring of outrage have anything to do with archives?

I kept thinking about how many news articles and sound bytes there would be about the killer and how sick I was of seeing that cycle happen, an almost fetishistic obsession with death and what causes people to kill. I saw a video on Reddit condemning mass media for sensationalizing mass murderers to the point where every scrap of information is slathered all over the place, the killer’s face and words pasted everywhere practically sending the message: “Hey, if you feel disillusioned and want attention, if you murder a bunch of people, they’ll remember you forever and debate about what it was you were trying to say.” and turning the victims into a mere anonymous body count. Of course, I realize that by making a blog entry about this, I may only be adding fuel to the fire. However, note that I did not use the shooter’s name or provide any information about him.

As archivists, we’re often touted as the custodians of history. The appraisal and accessioning processes are where we select and gain control over collections that will act as a community’s collective memory. It may be a rough stretch, but what about helping save history as it happens? After the Tuscon shooting, the University of Arizona Special Collections (my internship supervisor Chrystal Carpenter coordinated this) tried to save as many of the well-wishers cards and memorial items as possible. Of course, I don’t even remember the name of the shooter and that was about a year and a half ago.

Naturally, I do feel slight apprehension about this mentality of “what we choose to remember,” considering the risk of potential censorship or the dangers of nostalgia: only choosing to remember the good and rosy things of the past, but not our mistakes as a society. For example, how there’s a strange nostalgia for the 1950s for having more family values, better economy, etc. but forgetting about segregation, racism, and lack of women’s rights. Or, how we will never forget Pearl Harbor, but don’t often discuss the internment of Japanese-American citizens.

Once again, I find it difficult to remain neutral, but I am a firm believer that we all have stories worth telling and that these stories should live on long after we do. So, as much as it dismays me, it is likely that the name of the killer will have its own Wikipedia entry and a long list of Google search results. Yet I feel that the stories of those that died and those that survived should be told and remembered as well. It has been done in the past, with oral histories saved from survivors of September 11. After the the funerals, the hospital stays, the recovery and rehabilitation, after the doctors are gone, or perhaps even before, I can’t help but ask: “Is there an archivist in the house?”

May 6, 2012 / archivalerie

Even Project Freelancer/Red vs. Blue Need Archivists

To those well acquainted with me, it is no secret that I have a great love for Rooster Teeth and their flagship series Red vs. Blue (which will start its tenth season on Memorial Day of this year). Their drive to create consistently high-quality, entertaining web content and their love of their fans appeals to me, not to mention they greatly love what they do and it shows.

For my readers not familiar with Red vs. Blue (Seriously, drop what you’re doing and watch it now, this blog entry can sit here and wait for you.), it’s a series about two opposing sides in a war: red army and blue army. These soldiers stationed out in a remote box canyon spend about as much time bickering with members of their own team as they do trying to kill each other or capture the flag. Delightfully absurd humor aside, a storyline comes into play around the third season and then things get pretty serious around the Reconstruction season (6). Naturally, nothing is as it seems /cue spooky music/. Don’t worry, the Red and Blue teams maintain their wacky shenanigans and quotable one-liners. Also, you don’t even have to have played Halo to appreciate the humor or plot. I know I can’t play a first-person shooter without getting nauseated and having to lie down after fifteen minutes.

Red vs. Blue is where Agent Texas, one of my all-time favorite ass-kicking female characters is from. Even her theme songs are badass (courtesy of Trocadero and Jeff Williams, soundtracks available on iTunes). Agent Carolina is a close second, but I do find myself often wondering what Agent Tex would do in situations involving unruly patrons, demanding researchers or funding sources that ask too many inconvenient questions…

Sorry, I got a bit sidetracked there. On with the show!

A fan of Red vs. Blue edited together the opening voiceover correspondence between the Chairman of the UNSC Oversight Committee and the Director of Project Freelancer from each episode of the Reconstruction season. Of course, such correspondence would be kept in an evidential capacity and later as a collection of enduring historical value. Even in a future filled with space marines, aliens and holographic storage, I imagine there is still a place for archivists. The rise of digital preservation/curation and our present fight to prevent a digital dark age is enough proof of our place in the future.

Without getting too spoilery, the Chairman is in the process of investigating some discrepancies about the project and some incidents that took place post-war and is sending inquiries to the Director of Project Freelancer. It is no secret that even when people are up to no good, they still keep records of it, even very detailed records of it (e.g. Nazi Archives, the most recent release of documents from Osama Bin Laden). Not to invoke Godwin’s Law, of course, but the Director is clearly the villain of this piece. Of course, he did not believe that what he was doing was wrong, considering as he put it, the very survival of humanity depended on finding a solution, any solution to the alien threat. So, naturally, as a scientist, he kept detailed logs of his (arguably highly-unethical) experiments.

Of course, the Chairman is able to make his case against the Director once the UNSC grants his investigation permission to take these records as evidence. I wonder if there was a scientific data librarian who assisted the Director and if he/she was also technically an agent of Project Freelancer. Naturally, I imagine this agent to have green armor (that never gets worn because as a librarian, he/she is not actually a field agent) and is referred to as Agent Oregon (or Agent Massachusetts). Was this librarian one of the staff members interrogated? Did he/she ever feel any conflicted feelings about the ethical nature of the Director’s experiments? Or, was the data librarian  complicit in it, fully believing in the Director’s motivations (because he sort of has that effect on people… to a point).

Sarge and Simmons at Command

Simmons and Sarge contemplate the meaning of being on the Red Team if there is no Blue Team to fight. Image screen captured from: http://youtu.be/dcSIC07eZYE

On a lighter note, there is a scene near the end of Red vs. Blue Reconstruction where Sarge, the gruff, regimental leader of the Red Team orders Simmons, the tech-savvy sycophantic nerd, to delete all the files Command has of the Blue Team. Simmons debates the existential quandary of how if there is no longer a blue team, what does it mean to be red… but then Sarge, being Sarge, hits the delete button using the sage logic of “What it means is what it’s always meant. We rule. They suck.”

Sarge Deletes the Blues anyway.

Simmons staring in shock after Sarge hit the delete button anyway. Image screencaptured from: http://youtu.be/dcSIC07eZYE

This is a running joke later when interrogating a prisoner, the Chairman states “I find no records of these blue soldiers.” and Church, the reluctant leader of the Blue team, says “Great, now I won’t get my paycheck for this week.” Now, if Command/Project Freelancer had a digital asset manager or records manager, they would be able to run checks on whether or not data had been added, changed, or deleted. Not to mention, they would have had suitable backups, often in a geographically distinct location. I imagine this is likely considering the AI backups were stored in holographic storage (which is mildly confusing to me since I recall someone mentioning that smart-AI cannot be duplicated/copied).

Also, in the Revelation season (8), there is a remote storage facility where additional equipment and journal entries from the Director were stored … until Church deleted them, bad Church! I know you had your reasons, but the unwarranted destruction of records is terrible. In some ways, I consider FILSS/SHEILA as an erstwhile reference librarian/archivist, as she assists Church and Caboose… and I use “assist” in the loosest sense of the word considering this happens:

At any rate, it’s good to know that in the distant future, there will still be absurd humor and a need for archivists to assist in holding scientific researchers accountable for their actions. On a closing note, one of the overarching tag lines of the series is “Memory is the key.” As custodians of history and collective memory, we archivists remember this on a regular basis as part of our driving purpose. This is why it saddens me greatly to see all of the listservs and social networking sites on fire about what is going on in Canada right now. As someone not currently employed as an archivist, I feel powerless to help in such situations, but of course, part of our job entails informing people of what we do, whether they are patrons or funding sources.

Update!

How could I have missed this? So thanks to the wonderful transcriptionists at the Rooster Teeth fansite RoosterTooths.com, here is an example of SHEILA/FILSS acting as a digital archivist in Episode 17 of Revelation as Simmons tries to find a way to restore the deleted Blue team. Granted, she’s more snarky and patronizing than helpful, but to be fair, she’s been isolated a long time in the remote storage facility. Also, it is rather surprising that she would have missed all of the Blue Army records being deleted. I have to admit, if I was ever digitized and made to act as the perpetual custodian of the records made by a shadowy experimental agency, I would probably behave a lot like SHEILA/FILSS.

FILSS: That is not an approved operation-hey! Watch it buddy!
Simmons: Can you show me the data logs?
FILSS: Affirmative.
Sarge: Simmons, any progress in restoring the Blues?
Simmons: It’s a lot of data entry Sir. I was thinking I could hack the mainframe and reroute the data stream to-
FILSS: Or, we could just restore from an archive database.
Simmons: What?
FILSS: This is an off-site fallback facility. It is designed to have archives in case of data loss. Blue Team rosters would certainly be a part of that.
Simmons: Really?
FILSS: Yes. In fact, I am glad you pointed out the database anomaly. I had noticed it before, but did not have time to investigate. Strange.
Simmons: Oh. Okay, yeah, restore that then.
FILSS: Done.
Simmons: Great.
FILSS: You seem disappointed. Did I do it too quickly, and make you look bad?
Simmons: No…
FILSS: I could always, pretend that you hacked me, if it would make you look better to your friends.
Simmons: Stop patronizing me.
FILSS: Affirmative. Patronizing subroutines are now offline.
Simmons: You’re still patronizing me aren’t you.
FILSS: Kind of.

If you wanted to watch the actual episode this is from [Season 8 Revelation, Episode 17 "Tenth Percentile"], warning: it’s a bit spoilery and perhaps even confusing unless you’ve watched the rest of the series.

April 12, 2012 / archivalerie

Rerun Post: My Final Preservation Project

So, I originally wrote this almost two years ago for my LIS 439 Preservation Management final project. I hope everyone enjoys it.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Why should we care?
  3. Nothing Lasts Forever
  4. So what can we as archivists do about it?
  5. Case Study: ACAM
  6. Resources

Game studies is a new field. However, there are a good amount of annual conferences, journals and organizations devoted to the preservation of video games.

The Game Preservation Special Interest Group started as part of the International Game Developers Association in 2004. In 2009, they came out with a white paper titled “Before It’s Too Late: A Digital Game Preservation White Paper.” While originally intended for the developer industry as a whole as opposed to an archival or preservation audience, it addressed issues regarding born digital information. Most information presented on this page is from this white paper.

back to table of contents

Video games hold historical value because the gaming industry rose to an artform during the 21rst century. Devin Monnens, the author of the white paper section “Why are Games Worth Preserving,” even cites the standard archival attitude of “the past as prologue to the future.” Also, as a young industry, it is all the more important to prevent loss of potentially valuable information.

Also, video games are valuable as intellectual property to companies that design, produce and distribute them. Other merchandise and printed materials like game guides tie into to the lucrativeness of games. Does anybody remember Super Mario Bros. cereal? Beyond monetary value, games are very much rising as an artform. Much like filmmakers honing their craft by watching older films by past filmmakers, game designers can learn a lot from a game, even if it is a bad game so that they can learn to avoid past mistakes. A game library or archive could provide pedagogical value to new developers.

How would you feel if nobody ever saw this screen again?

Since we mourn the loss of film from its early age, would it not be surprising if a hundred years from now, we might mourn the loss of early video games? Even now, games are a large part of our contemporary culture, 65% of American homes have video games and is a multi-billion dollar international industry. Video game design also has an impact on other media such as film or photography.

Beyond the monetary, intellectual and historical reasons, many people would like to save games out of purely sentimental reasons. The games we play tell us as much about ourselves as the newspapers and books we read or the movies and television we watch. We enjoy sharing games that we like with others and game developers create games they think others will want to play. In other words, we should care if future generations won’t be able to play our video games anymore.

back to table of contents

Like other “born digital” items, video games are susceptible to bit rot, or media decay. This is the natural decay that takes place over time for digital information on storage media resulting in unreadable information. Magnetic storage discs such as floppy discs, magnetic tape and hard drives are particularly vulnerable. The estimated lifespan of a floppy disk is between 10-30 years, yet thousands of games were published on 3.5″ and 5.25″ floppy disks until the mid-1990s. Likewise, optical discs like CDs are susceptible to laser rot, where the discoloration and natural chemical and physical destruction of the reflective layer results in unreadable information.

CD Rom exhibiting Laser Rot, courtesy of Mitra Sites

ROM cartridges are slightly less susceptible to this. However, their lifespan is not known despite some lasting longer than the copyrights attached to them. An exception to this is the EPOM (Erasable Programmable ROM) since it is more susceptible to bit rot from storing its information via charged electrons. The charges leak through the insulation layer over time, causing information loss. RAM chips lose information from battery failure, such as the Capcom CPS-2 arcade boards and security codes on staticRAM (SRAM) chip powered by battery. Capcom offers repair service for boards, but not guaranteed 10 years in future.

CPU board with corrosion most likely due to water damage

Console games are specifically made to only work on one system. Even if the hardware is preserved as long as possible, there is no guarantee that it can still read the game due to the hardware deteriorating from microchips undergoing chemical reactions over time.

back to table of contents

Preservation for video games is haphazard and idiosyncratic despite or possibly because of the growing number of individuals and organizations devoted to it. Perhaps a potential solution is to follow the model of film preservation due to the similarly rapid rate of change both technologies have undergone in short periods of time as well as how film grew to be a basis of sustaining cultural, economic, educational and entertainment value over time.

As with other formats, video games have gaps in their historical records. Source code for unreleased games is often lost because hard drives were often damaged or lost in the process of companies either going out of business or being merged with other companies. However, organizations such as Games that Weren’t seek to find and preserve these incomplete games. Games that Weren’t focuses primarily on Commodore 64 games. Even published games can be lost over time due to industry focus on immediacy. While collectors may have secure copies, a lot of times, access to these games is restricted and does not aid future game development or game study.

There must be a long term strategy for preserving video game technology and content. Options include data migration and refreshing. However, these can be subject to copyright, restricting the creation of copies and thus requiring the full support of the video game industry. There are also fan-made emulators, which may also result in copyright issues. The Digital Game Archive (DiGA) aims to raise public awareness of the cultural significance of computer games and guarantee its long term preservation.

Museums collect software, hardware and other pieces of computer history, but general computer history museums are limited in scope regarding video games due to larger holdings elsewhere. Also, museums generally focus on public display, such as the American Classic Arcade Museum in Laconia, NH. Archives host documentation and other related materials either focusing on game material or its history. There are also libraries, such as the International Arcade Museum Library, Inc. in Pasadena, California, which is a member of ALA and OCLC. They are currently cataloging their holdings and working on making their information available online.

Unique projects such as the Preserving Virtual Worlds through the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Behind the Screens exhibit at the Austin airport through the University of Texas at Austin Archives help bring visibility to video game preservation. The Internet Archive has its own section for video game videos. International institutions include the United Kingdom’s National Video Game Archive and  as well as the State Library of Queensland, Australia.

Private groups relating to the preservation of video games include the Video Game Preservation Society (VAPS), operating under the web domain of the International Arcade Museum. VAPS was originally an informal list of collectors made by Rick Scheive before 1990. It was given official name by Steve Ozdemir, who became the first official VAPS Keeper and built up the organization’s size including more than 200 members and 1300 machines. VAPS has now grown to include members in all 50 states in America as well as 70 countries worldwide. The current Keeper of VAPS is Greg McLemore, who also maintains the “Killer List of Video Games (KLOV).” Members operate primarily online, exchanging information between collectors, and providing listings for games for sale at places like eBay.

back to table of contents

As mentioned previously, the American Classic Arcade Museum is a museum focused on the public display and historical preservation of coin-operated arcade games. It is a 501c3 non-profit corporation registered with the State of New Hampshire. The directors of the organization have a combined 100 years of experience in the arcade industry.

ACAM’S Goals:

  • Create a museum to house current collection and future donations of antique and other coin-operated machines.
  • Make all games available to public for play.
  • Income from games used to offset operating expenses (water, electricity, spare parts, Curator, etc.)

Along with the games themselves, ACAM hosts the written, audio, video, electronic data as well as ephemera such as vintage publications and antique catalogs pertaining to the history of coin-operated games and the people who created them. They reach out to the public through educational displays, cut-away models of games, and guest lectures by prominent video game industry figures. Presently (as of April 2010), the organization presently has a large collection of vintage advertising materials and catalogs from the post WWII era that will also be displayed.

An upcoming event on June 3-June 6, 2010 is the 12th Annual International Classic Videogame Tournament. If you used up all your quarters for laundry, that’s all right because $40 at the door will get you 200 tokens and a commemorative poster. The first 200 registrants will receive a commemorative t-shirt and goody bag. Here, tournament-level classic arcade gamers will face off on 15 different games with 6 from the same manufacturer. First place in the video game tournament is $750, second place $300 and third place $100 with a $250 prize for  the 1rst place winner of the Manufacturer’s Challenge. For more information about the tournament and its guidelines, please refer to the tournament page.

Gary Vincent, the President of the American Classic Arcade Museum, agreed to answer a few questions.

1. How many staff members work at ACAM? How many are specifically dedicated to preservation/maintenance of the machines and documentation?

We have one paid staff person and the rest are volunteers. The number of volunteers fluctuates over time and most are there to help preserve the games we have.

2. Regarding documentation, what sort of documentation do you keep? Do you have any items about game development or legal papers, technical specs? How difficult is it to find this sort of information?

Finding information on vintage coin-operated games is difficult since most of the companies that produced them are now out of business. The arcade crash of the mid 1980′s caused many companies to fail and sadly, much of their history was lost as well.

The Internet has made it possible for game collectors to share information that would otherwise be unattainable. Game manuals and schematics are being traded online which has given us the ability to start archiving this information.

One of our board members, Mike Stulir, was able to locate former employees of General Computer Corporation [note from author: the GCC now seems to only be in the business of making printers and other computer peripherals] to participate in a discussion panel at the PAX show in Boston this past March. Many of these people had not seen one another in years. Fortunately, they had saved much of their data from 20+ years ago and were able to share it with attendees during the discussion panel.

The Internet has really made this possible and we hope to find more and more former employees who held onto the history.

3. What types of formats (analog and digital) are most of the games in (magnetic tape, hard drive, ROM cartridges… or are these just applicable to console games?)? Are there specific hardware/platform needs that are harder to fill if a manufacturing company no longer exists or makes a particular part?

The American Classic Arcade Museum concentrates most of its efforts in the coin-op sector of gaming up to and including the year 1987. Most of the games in the collection now are video games which use dedicated hardware to run. Unlike today’s computer programs that will all run on the same PC or Mac platform, back in the boom years of coin-operated video games, this was not the case. Each manufacturer made games to their standard and sometimes it wasn’t the same between other games they made. Standardization didn’t start to come on the scene until the JAMMA (Japan Amusement Machinery Manufacturers Association) wiring standard was introduced in 1985. Any game printed circuit board built to the JAMMA standard can be interchanged into another JAMMA standard cabinet.

Finding TTL integrated circuits is becoming harder but hasn’t reached the impossible stage yet although there are some blank ROM chips that are almost impossible to find. There will be a time when these items may likely vanish from the market.

4. Are the games backed up in any way? Is there a refreshing or migration schedule for any of the data? What is your opinion about emulators if the original platforms are no longer available?

We are in the process of downloading the ROMs from the games we have in the collection to preserve the data in the event of a hardware failure or a corruption of data on a ROM chip. Unlike today’s computers where you can purchase a software program to backup all your data, the old coin-operated video games require the removal of the ROM chips and having them physically plugged into a reader and the data copied.

All of the games in our museum are running original hardware with the exception of our Laser Disc games. Back in the early 1980′s it was difficult and expensive to build hardware that today we take for granted. Most video games were 2D and had basic graphics which limited the quality of the game and its realism. There were no high speed processors to create vivid, life-like images for games. Back then if a game’s processor was running at 4MHZ, that was fast!

At that time, Pioneer had developed the Laser Disc system which was primarily used for viewing movies in your home. It was an expensive format and didn’t catch on as well as the VHS tape which allowed you to record on it as well as playback pre-recorded tapes. In 1982, Sega mated the laser disc player with the coin-op arcade games and created Astron Belt. The laser disc provided the background images and the game play was computer generated and laid over the background images.

Although Astron Belt was debuted at the 1982 AMOA show, it was not the first to make it to market. That honor went to Dragon’s Lair by Cinematronics which had much more success than it’s predecessor, Astron Belt. When laser disc games first hit the arcades, they were thought as the savior of what was slowly becoming a dull market. There was only so much you could do with the materials of that time without making the game cost prohibitive. Laser disc players changed that and made it possible to have animation quality graphics.

Although the laser disc allowed a greater quality of image to be displayed, the technology had two major flaws; the laser disc player and the predictible game play. The laser disc players were never designed to run inside a game cabinet for 10-12 hours per day seven days per week and after a period of several months, they would fail. This created headaches for the arcade operator who had to deal with frequent breakdowns.

The game play was also predictable. Instead of playing against a randomly generated computer image, the laser disc based game only had so many scenes and the game was easy to master once you memorized the series of moves.

I had to provide some lengthy background to answer your question regarding emulators. We currently have 6 laser disc based games in the museum and all of them are running emulators. We feel it is more important to have visitors experience the game play of a laser game rather than the out of order sticker which would be on every one of them if we ran them with laser disc players.

5. Along with the donated machines, what is the source of most of your holdings? Do you go to eBay or other online sellers for relevant ephemera and documentation?

The museum gets most of its funding from the weekly bingo game we run. This provides us with money to purchase games and parts to maintain the machines that are donated to us. Ebay and Craigslist are two great sources for games, parts and most everything else game related. We also belong to several online game forums and have found games through members of those message boards.

6. What originally drew you to save these games? What was the first game you ever played and the first game you ever saved?

I have worked at Funspot in Weirs Beach, NH since the summer of 1981 so I grew up working on these games and playing them. In September 1998, I started to notice there were almost no arcades left and the ones that were still around really didn’t have any of the “classic” games that created the arcade boom of the late 1970′s through the mid 1980′s. It was then that I asked the owner of Funspot, Bob Lawton, if I could start arranging all the older classic games Funspot had into an area where I could start a museum of sorts. He agreed and that is where it started.

We ran the first classic game tournament in May 1999 and the reaction we received from that event convinced me that the museum was a valid idea.

7. What, to you, is the “holy grail” of games? Have you attained it at ACAM or are you still looking?

We have located several “grail” games that were on our list such as Computer Space, Pong and Death Race. We have found over the years that everyone has a different definition of “grail.” We look for historically significant games as well has rare titles. By the way, we still want a Discs of Tron [author's note: not to be confused with Tron].

8. Along with the preservation of games, ACAM aims to provide access to the public. How do you deal with the issues that come up like:

Security

Having the games available for the public is very important to us since this was what they were designed for in the first place. It is challenging to make this possible especially with the “grail” type games but we do it anyway. The goal is to have an immersive environment where the player feels as if they have stepped back in time.

Climate-control (since machines usually prefer to be colder than people prefer)

Classic video games are much more tolerant to heat than a computer of today. We keep the museum area at 72 degrees year-round and haven’t had any significant heat related failures.

Pest management (in case people bring food and drink that attracts bugs)

This has never been an issue.

9. Do you have a disaster management plan in place? If so, what is it? Is it specific to the East Coast (winter storms, power outages, floods, possible hurricanes, etc.)?

We are far enough inland that a hurricane is not much of a concern. Being on the third floor of the building eliminates flooding problems.

10. Has there ever been a game you could not keep for reasons like not having adequate maintenance documentation or not being able to find a specific electronic component to make it work again?

Not yet! :)

11. How much does the public see at one time? Is there a rotation of games or document displays? If so, how often does the rotation take place?

We have reached the point where rotation has become a necessity. Each summer we can add about 40 machines into the museum because the indoor golf center next to us on the third floor is only open October to April. It is a tough decision to make but we look at popularity or demand when choosing which games go into storage.

Commentary

It was really interesting to find out things about the older technology behind classic video games and how in some ways it is more stable than the data in modern video games. For one thing, it seems less sensitive to temperature. However, it is troubling to find out that a lot of the parts like the TTL Integrated Circuit or certain types of blank ROM might no longer be made in the future. I also had not realized that so many games were stored on Laserdisc, previously thinking it was just the failed transition format between VHS and DVD. It’s also amazing that so much of the game preservation world relies on volunteers and hobbyists. This could provide interesting opportunities for outreach for archivists and museum curators, particularly those involved in technological history like the Computer History Museum.

The outreach technique of ACAM is extensive, particularly with their overall focus on preservation for usage as opposed to long-term, isolated preservation. Games are made to be played. Even if an “emulator” doesn’t make for a “pure” gaming experience, the experience of actually playing the game is much better and much more important than the “authenticity” of the classic “out of order” sign, as Mr. Vincent had said. As a kid who lost many tokens and quarters to Galaga and the Jurassic Park Pinball game, it was pretty amazing to meet Mr. Vincent and correspond with him about something so many people are passionate about, but few have dedicated their lives to saving. If anyone’s up for a road trip this summer, keep in mind, the tournament’s coming up!

In the end, while Pong or Space Invaders might not be the Declaration of Independence, they are still worth saving. As long as there’s a kid with a pocket full of quarters or a grownup who can’t help but smile when they see the flashing lights and hear the din of electronic music, the games must be saved. More importantly, as long as those kids grow up with a love and passion for these games, the games will be saved.

Special thanks to Gary Vincent, ACAM and PAX East for making this interview possible.

back to table of contents

The American Classic Arcade Museum. http://classicarcademuseum.org/

Arcade, Videogame, Slot Machine, Vending, and Coin-Operated Machine Library. http://www.arcade-museum.com/library/

DiGA|Home. http://www.digitalgamearchive.org/

Gary Vincent, email message to the author, April 22, 2010.

Monnens et al., “Before It’s Too Late: A Digital Game Preservation White Paper.” Game Preservation Interest Group, International Game Developers Association; March 2009. http://wiki.igda.org/images/8/83/IGDA_Game_Preservation_SIG_-_Before_It%27s_Too_Late_-_A_Digital_Game_Preservation_White_Paper.pdf

UT Video Game Archive. http://www.cah.utexas.edu/projects/videogamearchive/

VAPS: The Video Arcade Preservation Society. http://arcade-museum.com/vaps/

back to table of contents

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: