Website Updates

It was time to fold the experimental portfolio site into this main site and to re-direct the URL,, here. Not so much “one ring to rule them all” as “too many things in too many places.” (And, to be clear, this has been going on behind the scenes as well in my private reading, note-taking, and writing applications. I will, perhaps, write about that at some point.)

Most of the materials have come across and either created new pages, focused on outlining my teaching philosophy or my attempts to work towards diversity, revised extant pages, or replaced extant pages entirely. The last is the fate of the research page as it once was, and I am pasting below its discontents:

I like to make things. I make a lot of things with words, and those things get called essays or books, but I’ve also used words to make things like grants, CDs, television programs, databases, and code. (Words words words.) Here are a few things I’ve made (a complete list of such things can be found on my vita):

The Makers of Things

The Amazing Crawfish Boat is my book on how a bunch of Cajun and German farmers and fabricators invented a traditional amphibious boat. It’s the first book-length ethnographic study of material folk culture in Louisiana — really, the first ethnography in Louisiana studies since Post’s Sketches.

An Olinger Boat

An Olinger Boat

The idea for the book came in the wake of the 2005 hurricanes, when a national debate erupted about the nature of land (in Louisiana) and what it meant to re-build an American city (New Orleans). A lot of land got dismissed as “wetlands”, which, it seemed in the view of most pundits, was really not land at all. I thought it would be interesting to investigate how people in Louisiana actually imagined the landscape on which they live and work, and what I found was an amazing series of adaptations and innovations, the most iconic of which is the crawfish boat. There’s more information on the book and the project behind it.

The Shape of Small Stories

My more recent work has focused on Why Stories Matter, where I explore the shape of stories both as a form as well as an experience. From local legends about treasure to contemporary legends about Slender Man, I’m interested in how stories shape our experience of the world and how we shape the world through stories. I ground my explorations not only in my home field of folklore studies but also in contemporary work in cognitive and computational models of narrative. A lot of the work you see on the Logbook that has to do with textual analysis/text mining using Python is part of this work.

The Way Louisiana Treasure Legends Work

The Way Louisiana Treasure Legends Work

Text Analytics

As I have explored the shape of stories and as I have begun to develop an understanding of ways to describe and/or analyze narrative computationally, I have begun to develop a small collection of scripts in Python that, for now, is simply known as Useful Python Scripts for Texts that is available on GitHub. Given interest in it, and my own commitment to developing a computational folkloristic that will pair well with other folklorists, like Tim Tangherlini, working in this area, I have begun to draft a larger text that describes what work can be done.

Louisiana Studies & Digital Humanities

I have done a lot of work in Louisiana studies, both in terms of producing original research but also in trying to find more ways to engage the diverse audiences interested in folk culture:

  • In 2003 or so, I joined the faculty and staff at the Center for Louisiana Studies. The state of the Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore and the dream of leaping forward a technology or two provided me with the reason to write a grant to the Grammy Foundation. With those funds we made the best possible digital copy of taped recordings, and, then we used those digital copies to open up the Archives to a variety of interested individuals with a variety of purposes. We ended up with some pretty amazing results, as you can hear for yourself in the first two CDs released under the Louisiana Folk Masters brand: Varise Conner and Women’s Home Music.
The first Louisiana Folk Masters CD

The first Louisiana Folk Masters CD

  • The idea for Louisiana Folk Masters was born out of a desire to make the folk culture — real folk culture and not the stuff too often served up in the popular media — more accessible. I dreamed up a series of products that would have as their basis the materials either already in the Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore or that materials that were being generated with the Archives in mind. The CDs were just the first step. Television was next. As luck would have it, Louisiana Public Broadcasting was interested in expanding its approach to the genre of “human interest” stories. I worked with LPB on two profiles: one on Creole filé maker John Colson and another on Cajun Mardi Gras mask maker Lou Trahan. (Clickable links to the videos coming soon.)

I’ve also written grants for a number of other projects — mostly because I like to see what happens when you come up with something new and fun: what can others do with it?

  • Humanities Research and the Tourism Commission. While I was still involved heavily with the Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism, the good folks from Acadia Parish came to the Center and asked for help brain-storming possible ways to improve their tourism infrastructure. We eventually proposed Rich the First Time, a media archive and database that would consist of high-quality inputs gathered by folklorists (mostly our students) that would be available for a variety of outputs.

  • In 2007 or so, the director of the Humanities Resources Center, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and I began a conversation about what it would take to support faculty and students in their research and publishing in the new era of cyberinfrastructures. We decided we needed a room full of equipment that could do anything someone was willing to dream up and try out. The Louisiana Digital Humanities Lab was born in that moment.

If you arrived here looking for the forms I created for field surveys, media logging, and archiving. (Specific links are to the Scribd pages.) You may also be interested in my collection of interview tips.

Test Post with JP Markdown and Syntax Highlighting Activated

Okay, here’s some regular prose, which isn’t explanatory at all, and then here comes a block of code:

from stop_words import get_stop_words
from nltk.corpus import stopwords

mod_stop = get_stop_words('en')
nltk_stop = stopwords.words("english")

print("mod_stop is {} words, and nltk_stop is {} words".format(len(mod_stop), len(nltk_stop)))


mod_stop is 174 words, and nltk_stop is 153 words

Dear Searcher: I’m Here

Here’s one of those weird moments: every once in a while the little bar chart in the upper-lefthand corner of WordPress that appears when you’re logged in begs me to click on it and see what those tiny lines represent. The entire chart represents, it claims, the last 48 hours of activity on a given WP site. So, when you see one bar taller than others, you wonder: what happened there?

So I clicked the chart. Since it’s still morning here, today’s stats aren’t terribly interesting yet, so I clicked the table for yesterday, and I saw the usual suspects: the posts that get the most traffic are for installing Python, using the NLTK, using stop words, and setting up iPython. But I also saw a bunch of hits for a post about making illustrations of the Louisiana landscape for _The Makers of Things_. How’d that happen? So, I checked out search traffic and this turned up:

Searches that led to jl.o on the first Sunday of 2015

Searches that led to jl.o on the first Sunday of 2015

*Ay?* Who are these people looking up my name and the proposed name of a book not yet in existence? Whoever you are, I’ll give you a copy of the book if you’re *that* interested. Email me, and I’ll do my best to make it happen.

JLO in 2014

WordPress’s JetPack functionality is pretty amazing. Here’s the [2014 report for JL.o][].

[2014 report for JL.o]:

Me and the Louisiana Digital Humanities Lab

It would seem that someone, or some people, last week was interested in some confluence of me, the Louisiana Digital Humanities Lab, and the grant I helped to write to get it set up:

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 9.39.18 PM

I have no idea who it was, or is: no one has written or called. The grant narrative itself is available [here][], because, despite my recent experience of having my research program copied, that’s how I think we should proceed. (The copier is a local scoundrel, otherwise, apparently, devoid of creativity. Nothing can be done for/about him.)

As for the Lab, it is still there. We put it together in a kind of “there’s a few of us interested, and maybe we can build some momentum” moment, but a change of administration later, and a new dean, and a lot of the good will, and the tee tiny bit of support, on which such early efforts depend, dried up. *Sigh.* It takes so much energy to nurture a seed, and so little effort to let a sprout wither. It’s amazing really.

What the Lab needs is a refresh: new versions of both the Mac and Windows operating systems as well as an update of the Adobe Creative Suite. (What’s installed works — heck, I still make all my illustrations with AI 5 — but it would be nice to put latest tools in the hands of students.) We could also use an update of the hardware: grab a 3D printer, maybe some micro controller boards like the Arduino or the powerful Raspberry Pi and a variety of electronic components to get students hacking on things.

Could I write that grant? Yup. But not right now. I got books lining up right now, and the American academy still prefers books to anything else.


Yesterday’s Stats

I have no idea what to make of the international readership of this blog, but it’s cool that WordPress gives you such information, and so colorfully:

JLO's stats for 20 July 2014.

JLO’s stats for 20 July 2014.

Academic Blogging

[Rohan Maitzen has both a nice response][rm] to the usual criticism of academic blogs (or blogs written by people who also happen to be academics), which is the misperception by many that they are intended to substitute for more traditional/conventional forms of writing/publishing. It’s not an *either/or* but *both/and*.

I also confess that I have always hated the verb form of blog. I don’t blog; I’m not a blogger. I have kept a collection of notes in reverse chronological order since 2005 ([see for yourself][see]). Mid-decade, that’s what a number of people were doing. As some people cultivated audiences, and thus ad revenue streams, it became blogging and they became bloggers.

At one point, I was on the verge of becoming one of those — I was up to several hundred readers a day — when I realized that was not what I wanted. I went silent for several months, changed what I was doing, lost those readers, and re-situated myself in a more firmly academic context. Now that I’ve done that, and I find myself more firmly in the intellectual/ideational context for which I think there is a better fit for myself as both a person and a creator, I’m ready to re-think the nature of the readership of this blog thing that is almost a decade old.

I think I’m ready to try to engage some kind of general audience on the nature of narrative, cognition, and computation.


Theme Trials

Yup. It’s summer. Time to play with themes. Ever in search of a theme with the smallest, fastest code base that also has much of the look I want as a base for any tweaking: the smallest CSS helps here. Some of the themes I have tried lately have had fairly large style sheets, which makes tweaking them extraordinarily difficult — and I have very particular ideas about how web pages should “respond” to various devices. (Hint: why call them smart phones if they can’t deal with a web page? Rebuttal to responses to this hint: responsive design is essential for complex websites, e.g. of the Washington Post, which have way too many verticals and horizontals. A smart phone should be able to deal with a two-column web page without the page having to make itself into a single column for the phone.)

That’s my argument, and I’m sticking with it.

That's a lot of themes.

That’s a lot of themes.

iOS Device Screen Resolutions

The screen resolutions for Apple’s various iOS devices are:

* new iPads and iPad Minis: 2048 x 1536
* old iPads and iPad Minis: 1024 x 768
* iPhone 5s and new iPod Touches: 1136 x 640
* iPhone 4s and old iPod Touches: 960 x 640

If I want a minimum size for their to be a sidebar, 1000 pixels looks like a good minimum.

Text Analysis at Duke Library

Hey, I made the pages of Duke Library’s page on [text analysis](!

Below are just quick screen grabs. For the page itself, follow the link above.

Duke Library's "Introduction to Text Analysis"

Duke Library’s “Introduction to Text Analysis”

The Six Overviews of Text Analysis

The Six Overviews of Text Analysis

2012 Annual Report for LogBook

[WordPress][] powers this blog. At some point in 2012, WordPress made its jetpack, which has been one of its secret sauces at [][], available to WordPress users. I just received notification that my [annual report for 2012][] was ready. (All the details are at the link: plus some cool HTML + CSS layouts.) Here are the highlights:

* This blog got about 10,000 views in 2012.
* In 2012, there were 329 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 699 posts. The busiest day of the year was December 3rd with 142 views. The most popular post that day was Word-wrap (filling) in Emacs. (This report only shows data since the blog was connected to Jetpack.)
* The all-time top posts for the blog were:

1. Word-wrap (filling) in Emacs (March 2008)
2. MacJournal versus Day One (February 2012)
3. Getting NLTK Up and Running on Mac OS X (January 2012)
4. German Expulsions after the Second World War (June 2012)
5. Moving Billings to DropBox (March 2011)

* The top referring sites in 2012 were:

3. Google Reader

* The blog was read in 112 countries. The majority of IPs were in the United States, with the United Kingdom and Canada very close for second and third place.

The Jetpack is a great feature in WordPress. It offers crazy beautiful things like this:

Map of readership for this website for February 13 as of 8:00AM. Welkom, Nederlandse lezers!

Map of readership for this website for February 13 as of 8:00AM. Welkom, Nederlandse lezers!

[annual report for 2012]:

Been wanting to play with how blockquotes are presented. [Some great css tricks here](

CSS for @font-face

Nice Web Type has the CSS for @font-face. Whenever I play with this, I always forget it, and so I’m simply pasting what I need to remember here:

@font-face {
font-family: “Your typeface”;
src: url(“type/filename.eot”);
src: local(“☺”),
url(“type/filename.woff”) format(“woff”),
url(“type/filename.otf”) format(“opentype”),
url(“type/filename.svg#filename”) format(“svg”);
@font-face {
font-family: “Your italic typeface”;
src: url(“type/filename-ital.eot”);
src: local(“☺”),
url(“type/filename-ital.woff”) format(“woff”),
url(“type/filename-ital.otf”) format(“opentype”),
url(“type/filename-ital.svg#filename-ital”) format(“svg”);
h2 { font-family: “Your typeface”, Georgia, serif; }
h2 em { font-family: “Your italic typeface”, Georgia, serif; }
em { font-style: italic; }