As a warm-up to Twine, I thought this neat little comic strip editor might be of interest: In short, it allows you to generate stick-figure comic strips using HTML-like markup. The only drawback right now: I don’t think the strips are very portable. To save your work, you need to create an account on github and copy your markup over to your own account. But you can freely edit/modify the sample on the page above to see how the whole thing works.

(In)visible Woman

Screaming Woman

This is a stencil of what I assume to be a screaming woman, spray-painted in hot pink. It’s located on the stairs that lead from campus to Lot 1, in between Tawes and the Art/Sociology Building (Google map here; you can even add your own graffiti sightings). I must have walked past it a million times without noticing it was there, because usually I am preoccupied with trying to see what art students are making in this door to the left of those stairs, which is open most of the time. [Lately it looks like someone in there is making a giant tree-person similar to the Ents in Lord of the Rings.]

Art Building

To the right of the stairs is this little nook. Turns out that brick wall, which is almost as tall as me, overlooks a secret garage door into Tawes.


Here’s a shot approaching the cement staircase.


And here it is from the stairs themselves.

Screaming Woman

I have to say, even when you know this stencil is there and are looking for it, it’s still hard to find. I became dejected when I thought a small patch of cement farther down the stairs was covering up the image. I walked the path down to Lot 1 to make sure I wasn’t remembering the location wrong, looking up and down the poles of streetlights and along the edges of the concrete; people started looking at me as though I was missing something. It wasn’t until I had given up the search and was walking up the stairs toward Tawes that I saw it again. Then I realized that the stencil wasn’t anything like I remembered–I assumed the shape I was looking for was a figure of a woman, not her face, and I didn’t have a strong sense of its color.

This exercise was a reminder about the embodied memory of space and place. It’s so fickle yet it sometimes leaves such strong impressions. I walk this path almost every day, and I always look forward to seeing what’s going on in the workshop with the massive door–there are always lights, sounds, eye-catching shapes that sometimes dwarf the humans that are working on them. The best view is at night, when the door is open and the building is lit from within by fluorescents. I try to watch what’s going on without being noticed by the artists, which is difficult because the brick wall gets in the way unless you are standing at the top of the staircase [and then people behind you trying to use the stairs wonder why you're just standing there....]. But even after my joy at discovering this stenciled woman for the first time, my memory of her receded and she stopped catching my attention until I remembered her for this exercise.

Why would someone put a stencil there, and why this stencil? It’s a hard image to interpret. I think it’s a woman but this could be the illusion of long hair created by the hard line at the edge of the stencil. Her mouth is open but her expression seems neutral–her eyes are in shadow, not angry or afraid. Perhaps she just calls out for us to notice her while we’re absorbed in our phones or paying too careful attention to our feet on the stairs. Perhaps she calls our attention to the details of this most everyday of spaces: one pathway between campus life and the journey home. It’s a space we’re not supposed to inhabit for long, and it’s a place some people may never go because of their inability to access it. In some ways it’s for us as pedestrians but in other ways its utility is closed to us, considering that on most sides it is hemmed in by delivery entrances, parking lots, driveways, and storage for what keeps the buildings around it running.

Oh, and there’s this.

Emergency Camera

As part of an exercise for Dr. Farman’s course on Space, Place, and Identity, the class mapped the security cameras on campus. Some of them are freestanding, but some of them are attached to these emergency kiosks. It doesn’t quite look like this kiosk at the top of the stairs has a camera, but it occurred to me that whoever put that stencil there might have been caught in the process, under surveillance by invisible, and potentially not even human, eyes.


The Robert B. Morse Water Filtration Plant Site, Rt. 29 in Silver Spring


This gallery contains 7 photos.

At the intersection of the Northwest Branch creek and Route 29 in Silver Spring stands what remains of the Robert B. Morse Water Filtration Plant, which was in service from 1936-1962. The pumping stations are still standing, but most of … Continue reading

Mapping the Humanities with Digital Humanities


When I first moved to DC at the beginning of 2012 to begin graduate school, I was very excited to learn almost all the museums are free.  This was a huge change from New York City–where I moved from–where entry to museums could be upwards of the “suggested” amount of $20.  Even better, the closest one to me is actually two-in-one and is only a quick 7 block walk from my apartment. The National Portrait Gallery and The American Art Museum are housed in the same building, which is easily accessible from the red, yellow, and green lines at Gallery Place.

Portrait Gallery 1

So, on a cold winter’s day, I took my first trip to the galleries.  I was only able to spend about an hour there the first time I went, but it was ok because it hadn’t cost me a thing!  The next time I returned, my parents were visiting during the July heatwave.  This time, it was a welcome reprieve from the sweltering sun.  In September, friends and I dipped in to kill time before a movie at Gallery Place on a rainy day.  On each occasion, there was something new to see and I didn’t feel pressured to see everything in one go knowing I could make a quick walk down there at any time.

Preamble to the Constitution written on license plates from all 50 states.

Preamble to the Constitution written on license plates from all 50 states.

When I started work at the new J. Crew around the corner from the Portrait and American Art Galleries in July, it became the ideal place to do lunch.  My coworkers and I would grab sandwiches and rest our weary feet and thaw out from the AC constantly blasting in the store on the gallery’s steep stairs.  This proved to be a popular spot for those on lunch around Gallery Place.  It is also a popular bathroom for the local pigeons, so you have to be careful where you sit.  When the weather got cold, the gallery’s gorgeous atrium became the place to lunch.  With its ornate lattice ceiling, indoor fountains, and fauna, it made for a tropical getaway from the winter.

Indoor atrium connecting the two museums.

Indoor atrium connecting the two museums.

"Mind if I use the bathroom & try to steal your food?"  A ubiquitous gallery pigeon.

“Mind if I use the bathroom & try to steal your food?” A ubiquitous gallery pigeon.

But perhaps the reason the Portrait Gallery is most significant to me is it was where my boyfriend and I sat talking on the steps for an hour after our first date.  We had had dinner and drinks and were at a loss for what to do next, but it was a beautiful September evening, so we decided to take a seat and get to know each other more.  At the end, he asked me for a second date.

Great place for lunch and dates!

Great place for lunch and dates!


Needless to say, there are many reasons the Portrait Gallery has become one of my favorite places in DC.  There are also many places to put a QR code.  I felt a little strange posting my rather large QR code onto the galleries’ outdoor signage by the steps.  Part of me felt like I was defiling the poster, but I only used tape, so it is easy to remove if any curator or custodian feels the need.  I’m sure one of the capital’s many spring break tourists (they’re everywhere!) will be at least a little curious to find out more.

QR: Come check me out!

QR: Come check me out!

Interestingly, I came across this article while working on this week’s exercise.  Granted, I had to download a free QR reader for this exercise, as I had never bothered with one before, however, these new technologies still seem to have the same download-and-scan properties as the QR code.  So is the QR code really dead or is it just being modified?  Since technology is always changing, either option is certainly possible.





Office Space (And What Fills It)

My spring break was uneventful, as I ended up spending most of my time in a place where I spend the majority of my time when school is in session: the English Undergraduate  Office.

I’ve worked as an undergraduate advisor for English majors since the beginning of my first year at UMD, so the space is familiar to me, and the many other advisors whose offices are housed there. These offices are bit nicer than your typical graduate student offices; they come complete with windows, bookshelves, a desktop like any good office should, but most importantly, they are personal, not shared. This allows for every advisor the chance to characterize their space in a way TAs can only dream of.

For example:

Chateau de Nigel

Or for a different perspective, my colleague Michelle’s (English PhD candidate) office is decidedly better lit and more colorful:

However, as GAs in an office, we are prohibited from doing too much personalizing, especially if that involves paint, glue, hammers, and furniture. The only representation of much physical change that has occurred to this office is a lone hook for hanging pictures. Oh, and Charity’s owl streamer. Thus, much of the way that the spaces change are impermanent. Posters, marker boards, tchotchkes, and books. Lots of books:

Michelle’s bookcase

It is of course natural that books would be plentiful in the offices of English graduate students, but some of the books I have amassed have a sort of lineage to them. When one of my former coworkers decided to leave the advising office and leave graduate school, the books she had stored in her office were moved to mine, bequeathed to me since she figured I could use a set of Henry James novels and early American texts (she was an Americanist).

The strange thing about these books is that I have never actually used them. They have never left the office, and while I suppose I am happy to have them, they have a fine layer dust from never being touched. They are more remnants than books at this point. More of a remnant however, is a copy of Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year that was in the office when I moved in. This book belonged to another coworker who graduated from the MFA program last year, and who inhabited the office before I did in July. Apparently, this particularly book was either forgotten or left for me, but rested on the bookshelf of my office for a year before it was mine, and so it remains there.

As objects, these books represent something about who placed them there. For the set I inherited, they were books important at one time for a dissertation project or for teaching, and for the Coetzee, it might have been assigned for a class, or inspiration for the thesis. I primarily have inferences based on the person who owned them and why I got them, but at least for this period in their existence, the books have been relegated to their lot on the shelf of an office as immovable fixtures as desk it sometimes seems (yes, I suppose I could read them for once).

This place is interesting to me not just because it is my office, but because it is heavily trafficked. During registration time, every English major is required to pass through this office and speak with an advisor. Thus, the way our offices are organized and arranged is affected by this. For example, my tradition for undergraduates is filling in a marker board comic every semester with a little English major humor. The kids love it, I assure you. The expected traffic, however, means that these offices occupy what seems to be a liminal space between a private place and a public one. It should be inviting, but also is locked when I’m away, only accessible via appointment, and a quiet space on weekends for serious academic work. But the anticipation of what undergraduates will think certainly plays a role in setting the mood for the space (and validates the importance of well-stocked, if not ignored bookshelf).

For my QR code, finding a place to put it was easy, but to make it a bit more public than the one sitting above my desk I decided to place it conspicuously on my door: If it should be seen and provoke curiosity, then the door of my office is a perfect place. That is after all the reason everyone tapes posters to their doors, is it not? And with a portion of approximately 700 undergraduates coming through this door, I can ensure its visibility.

Installing Omeka in a Local Sandbox on a Mac (OS 10.8)

In case anyone should want to try installing Omeka on their local machine before tomorrow’s class, I put together these instructions for doing so on a Mac (to my knowledge it is possible to run a local Omeka installation on Linux and Mac systems, but not Windows).  These instructions were culled in part from the following page:

  1. Normally Omeka runs on a web server, but for testing it is possible to set up a local sandbox installation.  In order to do so, you first need to have working web server software and an SQL database on your computer.  These can be obtained by installing an *AMP (Apache/mysql/php) stack, such as LAMP, MAMP, or XAMPP. For running Omeka on the Mac, XAMPP is recommended and can be downloaded from here:
  2. Once you have XAMPP installed, download Omeka (the latest version is 2, but use 1.5 if you want to also test the Neatline plugin):
  3. Extract the downloaded Omeka folder and move it to /Applications/XAMPP/htdocs/ (this is the root folder of your local web server).
    [N.B. You will probably be prompted to authenticate as an admin user in order to move these files into the Applications folder.]
  4. Install ImageMagick by downloading the installer from ImageMagick is used by Omeka for processing images and creating thumbnails.
  5. Launch XAMPP, and using the “controls” window that will open, start the web server and mySQL.
  6. Open a web browser and go to the location ‘localhost’, where you’ll see the contents of your htdocs folder, which should be the XAMPP splash page.  Choose “english” and you’ll be taken to the main XAMPP control page.
  7. On the left, choose phpMyadmin. phpMyAdmin is software for managing mySQL databases on a web server (or in this case, on server software running locally).
  8. Within phpMyAdmin, click on the privileges tab –> Add new user with the following settings:
    • user name: omeka
    • host: Local
    • password: [choose a password]
  9. Under “Database for User,” make sure to check “create database with same name and grant all privileges.”
  10. Now, you will need to edit the following file: /Applications/XAMPP/htdocs/omeka-1.5.3/db.ini. This can be most easily accomplished through the command line (for example using an editor like vi), but it can also be done with a regular GUI text editor.  Change it so the file has the following settings:
    • host = “localhost”
    • username = “omeka”
    • password = [password you chose above]
    • dbname = “omeka”
    • prefix = “omeka_”
    • charset = “utf8″
    • ;port = “”
  11. In the browser, go to localhost/omeka-1.5.3/ and follow the prompts to configure and begin using your local Omeka site.

My (books for) America

This is Books for America.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 5.53.48 PM

Did you know this bookstore? Do you live in Washington, DC or in the “area” and do you love books? Come in. You should know this place.

I spent hours and hours here at this little used books store, any day of the week, any season (I came here even during snowstorms). I always think that I will find that book that was waiting for me… and I leave the store with three, four or seven books each time.

To me, this is one of the most interesting spots I know in DC. It is where I feel really happy in this foreign city. I arrived in town around four years ago. Now, I’m leaving. Coming back to SouthAmerica. I am one more of the visitors in this city of people in transit, students, politicians, diplomats. People I have never met but that I constantly see in the street –I always wonder who are the Washingtonians, what they do, how they live.

For many people, Washington is a dull city, a town with gigantic monuments, public buildings, embassies. But despite the monumentality of its buildings and its symbolic weight for Americans, its true attractions are small: Washington is a city of details (for who is interested in a city rather than a mall).

When I arrived I found a very short city and sky everywhere. I felt that Washington was not a welcoming city, with its avenues like horizons. I felt that it was a city still to be constructed, with its sad frontiers melting with the suburbs and the country. What I realized time after that it was that Washington is not a city to be constructed, but a city to be unfolded. You get to know it little by little. One friend of mine that had lived here told my husband and me when we arrived: “What I miss the most from Washington is ‘Books for America’”. So there we went to see. And it was a wonderful surprise to find an old books store with such a good energy, with a first classselection of books, and so cheap! It had so many titles, so interesting… As Borges said, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” We felt impressed by this little bookstore.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 6.08.54 PM

To tell you more about the place, Books for America is not just a used book store but a non profit organization that aims to improve libraries in schools, shelters and prisons, support reading and education programs and provide children with first take-home books. It was created in October 2005 to “have a positive effect on literacy and educational in the Washington area”, as they state in their webpage, where they also say: “Beyond literacy, we seek to place books in the hands of anyone who wants to read and learn.  Books can be tools that help individuals rise up out of unfortunate circumstances” and “since our entire mission is to get books into people’s hands, you get fantastic books at ridiculously low prices!”

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 6.23.51 PM

Josh is now a librarian at University of Maryland!

They ask for books, CDs, DVDs and other items, many of them they sell it at the bookstore and others they give them to needy institutions. They select the books people donate: all of the books on sale are books in very good/excellent conditions; most of them are almost new. The money they make with the sell of books they use it to expand their supportive educational programs. All the staff is volunteer. I am so happy to have met Josh and Kate, very interesting and always good-humored people. I learned about America through this non-profit organization: how a community can organize itself to help others.

I also created an American literature section in my bookcase, but also I bought books about design, architecture and new media. And also, I learned about Washingtonians themselves. Studying the bookstore catalogue is possible to read Washingtonians through what they read. I found a highly educated and diverse community, interested in art, philosophy, history, and politics, (of course!) but also, and especially, in literature. It is noticeable as well the fast this community changes, with people coming and going back home, packing and unpacking libraries, donating their books and buying others. (I myself donated many Portuguese and Spanish language books!)

Now I am leaving DC. I have already packed my library (once again) and my entire house is now in a container heading South America carrying boxes and boxes full of the books I bought here (In total we bought around 400 books) and I will read for the next years far away from this beautiful city.


Washington has a lot of hidden places. You have to be especially alert in DC to really get to know this city. Walk all its streets; step in every restaurant, every café, every bookstore (it is not overwhelming… they are not a lot!) You have to walk the city, find an interesting book in Politics and Prose or come to Books for America when in Dupont Circle. But also go out in the hottest days in summer, go to Dolcezza for an ice cream (they are Argentinians!) walk on the fallen leaves during October in the narrow streets that lead you to the Philips Collection, see snowing through the window of a café in Upper Georgetown. They are not big places; none of them are monumental. They are just special. This week, go to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossom, but look for some small charm in DC, some small place for happiness, as this bookstore is for me.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 10.27.37 PM

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 6.49.40 PM

This is my QR Code.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 10.14.09 PM


The Old Manse vs. The Chateau

Over spring break, I visited a friend in Boston and we spent a day in Concord, MA, visiting the homes of our favorite 19th century writers. Though apparently tourist season doesn’t begin until mid-April and none of the homes were open to visitors yet, it was still surreal to walk around Concord and imagine the lives that had been led there. I obviously considered sticking QR codes all over the place, but ultimately decided I didn’t feel right leaving my mark–maybe something about preserving my idyllic view of the past? Despite the fact that I traversed Walden Pond with iPhone in hand and Instagrammed up a storm (which is to say, I very much remained in the 21st century) it just seemed like these spots didn’t deserve the blemish of my sticker and accompanying blog post. But I digress, and will share my photos anyway:

Ralph Waldo Emerson's Concord home

At Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Concord home

The Old Manse

The Old Manse

Ralph Waldo Emerson's grave marker (accompanied by his wife and daughter)

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grave marker (accompanied by his wife and daughter)

Stones marking the cite of Thoreau's cabin in the woods

Stones marking the site of Thoreau’s cabin in the woods

and a gratuitous scenery shot, since Walden Pond was pretty unbelievable–


At any rate, it was a lovely trip back in time. I also came across this advertisement while walking around downtown Boston–

IMG_1466A perfect example of a QR code used in advertising! A new apartment complex was clearly being built and scanning the QR code takes you to the building’s site. The slogan there, slightly obscured by a pole (I haven’t quite mastered the surreptitious picture-taking-while-walking move yet) says, “If you scan it, it will build.” I can’t decide if it’s clever or not.

But on to the actual assignment!

I live in The Chateau Apartments at New Hampshire and the beltway, and the spot I chose to mark is the entryway sign, which welcomes me home every day. It is always a welcome sight, especially because the sign is usually adorned with colorful balloons (though not today when I took my picture, of course) and I weirdly think it’s super endearing.

Obviously moving out to Maryland from St. Louis for my first year of graduate school was a big transition, and I had to find a place to live in 36 hours. The concept of “home” means a lot to me, so I’m thankful to have found a place (with such a glamorous name!) to hang my hat. This picture I took coincidentally matches the “Street View” of The Chateau Google Maps provides (linked above) and clearly marks the apartment complex.

I took this picture while driving, hence the crookedness.

I took this picture while driving, hence the crookedness.

When I got home from spring break yesterday afternoon, I had major car debacles and delayed flights to deal with, so driving up the hill to The Chateau sign was particularly comforting. It’s no Old Manse, but it’s still all mine!

To again reference my extreme Instagram usage, I’ll also note that I almost always add my location to my photos and thus, “The Chateau Apartments” are clearly marked and represented in the digital archive of my life. Instagram recently came out with a “Photo Map” feature which visually shows you where you most often take photos. The further you zoom in, the more specific the locations get. So, for instance, I’ve taken 194 photos in Silver Spring, and 148 of those were at–you guessed it–The Chateau Apartments. It’s interesting to consider geographically (and quite quantitatively) where we spend our time, and which spaces in our lives we prioritize over others.


I’ve made my QR code and allowing that I can find a functioning printer in Tawes, will adhere it to the sign tonight, pictures forthcoming. I wonder if anyone will actually walk close enough to the sign to ever notice it? (The sign is the in the middle of the traffic circle entryway).

Update: I’ve affixed my QR code with copious amounts of tape to the back of my Chateau sign (for the sake of subtlety). Here’s hoping someone notices!


The Best Place no one Seems To Go

That, at least, was how I described the Walters Art Museum to my boyfriend as I introduced it to him for the first time; “It is the best place in the world that no one seems to know of or visit.”  With such a plethora of museums in DC that anyone living in Maryland or the surrounding areas has been dragged to on fifteen occasions–at least!–before the age of nine, the Walters in Baltimore is often overlooked.  It’s a very great pity for, if you haven’t been, you have missed out on one of the most enjoyable places to spend an afternoon.  Not only does it possess among the most stunning collections of art in the area–and among the most varied–but the Walters’ work with the preservation and study of manuscripts is astounding.  I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures; I wasn’t entirely convinced that pictures was permitted so, while I snuck in a few here and there with my phone (flash off, of course), I don’t have many to show for my Sunday afternoon.

Of particular interest to this class would, of course, be their manuscript room.  The room itself isn’t terribly impressive on first site.  So many of the books the Walters owns are displayed in the rooms with other artifacts of a similar period or theme and so the manuscript room is rather small.

Part of the history of the book on the wall of the manuscript room.

Part of the history of the book on the wall of the manuscript room.

(There is an interesting book in the corner which asks visitors to describe a treasured item and how its meaning, appearance, or function has changed for one over time.  The majority of people–standing in the prominently labeled “Manuscript Room” describe books and how they have received wear and tear over the years.  Interestingly, though, no one seems to approach the question of a change in function or even consider it in the context of books.  It’s meaning is the same as the day they first read it.  The only person who seemed to approach the idea of changing meaning or function was a gentleman who described his childhood purchase of a Green Lantern ring–something that represented power, responsibility, and adventure to him as a child when he wore it everywhere, but which now hangs on his keyring as a sort of totem (long ago becoming too small for his fingers) to remind him of youth and imagination.)


However, the main attraction of the room is an area devoted to the crafting of manuscripts–the materials, tools, and labour–with a touch screen monitor in the center of it.  The monitor offers one several choices of which I found the curator and the “library” to be of the most interest.  I’m very envious of the curator of the Walters manuscript’s job.  He gets to examine the 1200 beautiful books of the collection by hand–including a first edition of Homer!  However, their digital library visitors can interact with somewhat soothes my jealousy.  The team at

Some of one's options for a bit of light reading at the Walters.

Some of one’s options for a bit of light reading at the Walters.

the Walters has painstakingly scanned many of the more beautiful texts into the computer to allow the casual visitor to take them “off the shelf” as it were and flip through the pages.  This isn’t simply some in house version of Google books, however, for each page offers one the ability to examine minute aspects of the decoration and calligraphy, in addition to providing a detailed account of what is on the page, the meanings guests might otherwise be unaware of, and some historical context for understanding the text.  I think what makes their own DH project, as it were, so valuable is that these manuscripts–one of a kind, decorated in fine gold, handcrafted and hand-painted–are works of art that one would not normally get to flip through so casually as one does on the computer system.  Even digitized, these tomes take one’s breath away and the level of detail the system provide makes them that much more valuable.  It is clear from the curator’s remarks that this is, for him, a labour of love and I can see why; I were so lucky to be able to see these every day, I’d want to share them too.

While that particular gallery was the primary reason which brought me the museum, it was hardly the only reason for going.  The Walters has a great deal more to offer–in fact, the room devoted to their manuscript collection is quite small.  However, the Walters does not fail to delight the bibliophile; around each corner one can usually count on discovering an illuminated manuscript or beautifully bejeweled tome hiding among the other priceless artifacts of the era.  My favorite is a small book of hours in the Romanticism gallery on the top floor, the cover of which is ornately carved with plants and animals which apear very much alive.

The placement of the artwork in the Walters is as much an artform as the art itself.  Each room frames the pieces inside it.

The placement of the artwork in the Walters is as much an artform as the art itself. Each room frames the pieces inside it.

Also not to miss is the Hackerman House (connected by bridge to the Walters) that houses the Asian art exhibits.  There are a few pieces there, such as a huge basion with a magnificent dragon towering over it, which never fail to take my breath away.  Not only due to the setting–at the base of a spiral staircase which serves as almost an answer to the curls of the dragon’s tail–but the power of the piece.  Similarly there are som rather delightful works by Barye sprinkled about the many galleries–Mr. Walters must have been as great a fan of his works as I myself am.IMG_0438


Max and I are long-time friends.

Max and I are long-time friends.  He’s kept an eye on my things while I’ve been lost in a book or a sketch I’m working on, on numerous occasions.  He’s always of great assistance.







And while you are there, please say hullo to my friend, Max (named for the Maximillion style of armor).  He guards a little mediaeval feast hall with inviting chess and checkers sets to pass a few minutes or hours.  My boyfriend and I always ended up in a rather heated chess battle–one which he usually wins with a mere pawn and queen remaining to defend his lonely king–to the amusement of the docents.

Suffice it to say, as ways to spend an afternoon go, I highly recommend the Walters as one of the most enjoyable.