My workstation at the Cambridge University Library
April 8, 2013

#DayofDH: A Day in the Life of a Digital Medievalist

‘Day of DH’ is an annual online event celebrating the projects, work, groups and people involved in digital humanities (DH). Members, for the most part, tweet and blog about their daily activities as digital humanists, which provides insight in the DH field, elicits discussions among researchers, and creates a sense of community. If you are wondering what ‘Digital Humanities’ is, the term is difficult to define and responses vary widely among researchers. This ambiguity, I believe, adds to the appeal of the event since you can explore various ideas, responses, and definitions from every member here. This year the event is hosted by MSU’s own DH center: MATRIX: The Center for the Digital Humanities & Social Sciences.

You can also follow along today by visiting or through Twitter with the hashtag #dayofdh.

I’ve been following the ‘Day of DH’ for a few years now, but was always a bit shy to participate. This year I decided to send in my post (now that my life is a little more interesting!) I’ve written the original post here, and have copied it below for your reading pleasure. I am not usually the sort of person to write about what I had for lunch (etc), but it seems relevant to discuss these types of things in a post about one’s daily activities. So here goes:

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London College of Arms
April 2, 2013

An Afternoon in the Archives at London’s College of Arms

One of the remarkable things about gaming texts is that they tend to show up in seemingly random places. Whether they are hastily scratched onto the back of some poor parchment wrapper or carefully scripted in a lovely illuminated manuscript, the range of manuscripts in which game texts appear attest to their popularity and variegated audience. But this variation also often means that one must tread to unlikely places to find them (and they sometimes take a scholar on quite a journey as well). One such chess treatise in London, which I had the pleasure of consulting, resides in a very unlikely place: the London College of Arms.

College of Arms engraving, c. 1756

College of Arms engraving, c. 1756

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March 28, 2013

The Beauty of Chess: Medieval and Modern

Chess problems have been around for about as long as the game itself. Murray documents over three hundred chess problems (or, Shatranj problems) in various Persian and Islamic manuscripts dating from the sixth century.

The beauty of the game lies not only in its material properties—such as golden chessmen or ornately jeweled gaming boards—but also in the game’s complexity. With over 10^120 possible chess game variations, the game’s elegance also lies in its logic, geometry, and computation. For chess problems, the most aesthetic are also sometimes the most deceptive: a simple-looking problem can prove to be the most difficult, as in the case of Richard Réti’s famous end-game problem first published in 1921:

Richard Réti's Famous Endgame Problem

Richard Réti’s Famous Endgame Problem


Sometimes called “The Hunt of Two Hares,” this problem presents a chase scenario, where a king can make multiple threats and move in a variety of ways.1

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  1. This problem has been published numerous times in problem book and is, arguably, the most famous chess problem. []
Cecil Court, London, UK
March 24, 2013

(Ten of) London’s Antiquarian Bookshops: Part I

I am a huge fan of antiquarian bookshops. Rummaging through aisles (and oftentimes stacks) of discoveries waiting to happen, reveling in the smell of a nineteenth century pulp book (or better yet: a vellum manuscript), and rationalizing whether one (actually) needs to buy the newly-found text are all common experiences for me and other fellow bibliophiles. Some of my favourite bookshops manifest as the most random, disorganized, and cluttered places, with friendly bookmongers waiting in the wings and happy to help locate your desired treasure—certainly not for the claustrophobic, but perfect hunting grounds for the ambitious booklover.

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March 21, 2013

On Packing

When I was packing for my trip abroad I wanted to be as thorough (and light) as possible, so I consulted various travel blogs about how to pack for long-term (e.g. 1+ month) trips. While there were similarities in each list, I found that they differed in significant ways and did not quite meet my criteria as an academic travelling abroad. Many blogs suggested taking things such as bug repellent, travel cutlery, and netting. I doubted these would be useful in rainy London (or, Europe in general).

I wanted to write a post on packing after a few weeks abroad to see what items have come in handy and what items are still sitting in my luggage bag. So, here is a breakdown of what I packed.

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March 2, 2013

London, thou art the flour of Cities all

After roughly seventeen hours of travel, I have finally arrived in London. The title of this post, which belongs to the sixteenth century poem “To the City of London” often ascribed to the Scottish makar William Dunbar (b. 1460), describes my experience well so far (though I think Vancouver, like many other wonderful urban centres around the world, presents an admirable rival for being “Soveraign of cities”). Indeed, London has proven to be a most welcoming and inviting city; I have chatted with quite a few folks on the streets, shared a glass of wine and good conversation with my new flatmates, and had a few people not only help me find my way around labyrinthine Paddington station, but also carry my heavy luggage bag up an entire flight of stairs. The immigration officer, an older gentleman, didn’t even ask me any questions at the border. Upon hearing I was a PhD student, the officer immediately perked up and revealed he had also once been a PhD Candidate (and then proceeded to reminisce about his long-abandoned PhD dissertation on a modernist Swiss writer).

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February 21, 2013

Hello World!

Welcome to my first installment of semi-impromptu travel musings!

Before we begin I must confess: I have never been much of a blogger. The thought of blogging makes me cringe — to face the expectation of posting regularly again and again whether the writer has something to say or not (and I’m often faced with never knowing what to say in the first place). Nevertheless, I have been encouraged by quite a few folks to record my travels (so here it goes!) This is not a blog; it’s an un-blog. I will only post something if I think it will add value to the project or help someone’s project or travel plans. Some posts may sound awkward. But that’s okay. So, shedding the “blog” label, I call this account of my travels a “chronicle”—a twenty-first century pilgrimage of sorts. Thoughts will range from academic matters to travel tips for scholars and geeks-at-heart. I may also throw in a shameless plug, but these will be far and few between. Other posts might involve continuing a conversation, either put forth from a book or on the web. Communication travels multilaterally across various media, after all. With this chronicle, I hope to keep in touch with friends and forge new relationships with fellow medievalists.

So what is this chronicle about?

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