Tuesday, July 24, 2007

If I had a secret diary...

... I would write in it tonight. Not because I have anything scandalous or intimate to report. I just feel like talking out loud to myself. And a secret diary really listens in a way that blogs, Word documents or even ordinary journals don't.

The view from La Costera
Originally uploaded by superkiy.

Instead, without a secrety diary, I'm lying in my hotel room bed, on the 12th floor of the Grand Hyatt, typing on my laptop and looking out over the Convention Center neighborhood of Washington D.C., staring out into a kind of void. It's the void formed by my not engaging with the city -- by my visiting for just two nights and seeing only conference meeting rooms, my hotel, and the 3 blocks that separate them.

It makes the city streets just 12 stories down look blank and far away.

In the past month, I have been in 9 different hotels in 8 different cities on 3 continents. One of them,in Spain, is pictured here. I have managed to cookie roll in 3 of those cities, and hopefully tomorrow DC will be a fourth -- the next word is "They", but I have no idea what a good, authentic, local DC cookie is yet. I scouted today, but nothing jumped out at me. This is the closest to local engagement I have come with DC so far on this trip. Of course, having run graveyard games here in the fall of 2005 makes it feel closer. I've actually considered taking a cab out to Historic Congressional Cemetery tomorrow afternoon just to play a few solitaire rounds of Tombstone Hold Em myself. And I would love, love, love to cookie roll there. Before this trip, there were also the annual high school road trips for national Model Congress, but somehow that feels like it must have been a different city, because I was only 15, and 16, and 17 then and wanted to be a lawyer or congresswoman when I grew up. Thank god I got distracted by Tony Kushner and other rhapsodous, cerebral theater.

Sometimes I do better at engaging than I have on this particular trip-- going out in the evening, making time to meet up with people. But here in DC, I'm at a conference in a field that is very different from the fields I usually intersect with, and I literally do not know one other soul among the 3000+ attendees. After giving a talk today, I kind of know some people -- to the extent that we exchanged business cards, although I haven't really processed those connections yet.

There's nothing sad or awful about this blankness of travel. It's actually fairly interesting when you can step outside of it and observe it. I rarely have the total quiet that I have tonight, the quiet of a private room where no one is going to talk to me and I have no where to go and for the next 10 hours -- before I lead another conference session. For the next 10 hours I have no real agenda except to try to sleep. And I am away from the distractions of my "real life" in Berkeley.

Except the more I travel, the more traveling becomes my real life -- so I know I need to start filling it with more than marathons of bit torrented Degrassi episodes. It will certainly stay like this for awhile. I just finished making arrangements to give 3 consecutive talks in Orlando, Detroit, and San Diego on 3 consecutive days. Next week, I go to Seattle before a brief reprieve and then it's back to London. And there just aren't that many The N shows to download. But for the time being, I'm jet lagged therefore not sleepy yet even though it's 12:47 AM here, and waiting for sleepiness is its own special game.

Here's the thing. When I first started this blog, it was designed as a work-free zone. If you go back to the earliest entries, you'll see they're all about hikes Kiyash and I were taking on the weekends, and my experiences at weird art and experimental game events I was going to. I tried not to mention my own work at all -- I wanted a space to tell stories not bound up with the stress of work, or the ambition of getting serious ideas and theories across. But then I got an audience for the blog, somehow, what you would call a professional audience -- people interested in my ideas and theories and projects who knew me professionally and wanted bloggy insights in addition to random life reports and well -- I started writing about work stuff and big theories and all of that.

Well, I don't have a secret diary, and if I did have a diary, I probably wouldn't keep it secret because I really don't like keeping secrets. Other than big secret game projects, which if I were working on one now, I wouldn't be able to admit it here and would deny if you asked, and that's certainly the last I'll ever say about that for months and months and months.

But I do have a blog, and according to Technorati and Alexa, the daily traffic has died down a bit to the point that I think it's a good idea to go back to a Work Free and Serious Idea Free zone for awhile.

Tim O'Reilly has good ideas, and one of them is this: he proposes that the best way to learn about what's really cool and interesting and that most people don't realize is cool or interesting yet -- but that will soon matter to a lot more people, say a few years down the road -- is to ask interesting people what they're excited about outside of work, what they're concerned about and experimenting with outside the domain of their jobs and industry. I want to spend time in that mental space for awhile. I have this intuition that writing about non-work stuff is going to open up a space for a lot of important signals, things that really do matter that will eventually get folded back into my game work.

So for now, welcome to my not-secret diary, in which I will resume the original plan of talking out loud to myself.


Anonymous said...


Patrick said...

Its too bad you're not in town a bit longer, I'm about an hours drive (with light traffic) from DC - it'd be nice to sit down and discuss specific ways to save the world with game design. To be continued...

Anonymous said...

I'm still holding out hope that congresswoman is in your future. Come on, don't you think that would be great? Nancy Pelosi has nothing on you! You almost legalized prostitution! (OK, maybe that shouldn't be you real election platform)

Sharon K. Goetz said...

My life is currently in far fewer fragments re: juggling :) but your comment about taking some time to let work-related ideas flow from non-work places--that resonates well. It's next door to retaining some "me time" but in a usefully thinky way, I find.

(I'm wrapping up some TEI-XML (text-encoding) tasks for an interim deadline as both the encoder and the project manager, while keeping an eye on Web interface concerns and search/back-end integration, and so far my best "oh shit" design-tweak realizations have come from billboards and fanfiction archives, not "peer" scholarly edition sites. Sideline nice thing about not actually working in my field-of-training is that playing in that field during off hours now feeds into thoughts for the day job. Sideline bad thing is I miss being an active medievalist.)

Also, good luck with the upcoming travel; that's a bit of a punishing schedule.

p.s. Some of us read your blog on an aggregator such as Bloglines, which (AFAIK) doesn't ping traffic meters in the same way. I wonder whether Google Reader does.

Anonymous said...

well if you want a secret diary then why do you want to do that as a blog
blog s something which a lot of peopl e can see