Alger in Algorithms

The Horatio Alger story I analyzed was, “Phil the Fiddler, Or, The Story of a Young Street Musician”.

Immediately I was struck by how the past tense of ‘to ask’ was among the ,ost used words. When I look at the contexts of ‘asked’, the data shows that the early questions in the book seem to be imperative, like “what do you want from me”, as well as a lot of questions asking about money. But, toward the end of the story, the questions become more reflective, “what’s the matter?” “where am i?” “where is my fiddle?” It’s possible that the earlier questions suggest that the main character, Phil, was using his fiddle to ‘ask’ for money, now he’s wondering where it is, perhaps even longing for the street life he once knew.

I then looked up the context surrounding the word ‘home’. Using the Wikipedia article on Alger, I learned that during the time ‘Phil, The Fiddler’s publication, Alger was in financial trouble (despite his success as an author) and was a live-in tutor for the children of a wealthy banker. I figured he might then have an interesting idea of what ‘home’ could mean, and based on the context data, I don’t think I was wrong. Immediately off the bat, I was struck by how all the surrounding language of ‘home’ is about “bringing things” home, mainly money. Home so far seems like a place to deposit your earnings of the day, which is far from the cozy fireplace and blankets I consider when I think of home.

It seems like no one is ever at home, only that they are going home or trying to get homePerhaps to Alger, home was not a place he spent time at during this era. The only time he discussed home was if he was talking about going there.*&view=Contexts


I decided to then look up the context of money, and immediately I noticed how it was discussed in only practical matters. There was no musing on the concept of money or what it means to have money. It was discussed only in very practical ways, usually concerned with obtaining it.


I then put money in the word tree module and quickly saw how, oddly, it existed most at the end of sentences. It seemed to most notably exist within quotes, followed by terms that indicated further quotes. This suggests that money is something mainly discussed by the characters of the story. Although the narrator doesn’t necessarily mention it, it seems to be of greater concern to the characters.

I then plugged money into the trends module and got a result I was not expecting at all. The discussion of money has a fairly study decrease throughout the entire story. It seems to start out as having a great deal of importance but that changes pretty drastically over the course of the book. Looking at this, I can’t help but think that it must have something to do with the data I found in “asking”. Towards the end, questions become less and less material and thus less money-driven, and we begin to see a trend away from money. Perhaps the story’s main character is always trying to get money only to learn that money can only do so much? Perhaps the cliche, money can’t buy you happiness bit?


So to test that, I looked up ‘happy’ in the trends module and got a result more perfect than I could have hoped for. It is near opposite the trend of money, showing a sharp increase toward the end. So, as money gets talked about less and less, happiness is mentioned more and more.

Some Time With Voyant Tools

Voyant has been an interesting tool for me to try out over the past couple of weeks. The interface and modules are interesting themselves, but what really surprises me about Voyant Tools is how often I am wrong with my assumptions about the corpuses. When I download a new corpus into the program, I generally go in with an idea of what I am going to see. I usually get the biggest words right, as well as some themes, but I am almost always wrong in guessing what I am going to learn from the research.

For Phase II of the Voyant Tools experience, I researched the Great Gatsby. Due to a misunderstanding during our class exercise, I wrote down research questions with books ranging from Edgar Allen Poe to F. Scott Fitzgerald to the Torah. I didn’t realize that I needed to pick one for what we would actually be researching, and after deciding a novel was probably a much smaller corpus than the Pentateuch, I settled with a question I have always wondered about The Great Gatsby: Are the supposedly  symbolic colors all that symbolic? And even so, are they really that important?

I went into Voyant and immediately entered a list of colors into the Trends module. This showed me the frequency of the terms throughout the book. With just this data I could begin making assumptions about importance of the terms. If Fitzgerald really wanted to highlight something, he would have probably wrote it throughout the book. By looking at the spread of data, I could also visualize the way in which these words interacted with one another. This was an aspect that I did not consider, but quickly saw data too odd to be coincidence, such as the colors yellow and green existed almost in contrast to one another, with one being used almost exclusively when the other wasn’t. I’m not sure exactly what this says but I think a closer look into that, as well as into similar patterns, could turn up some pretty interesting information.

But, I came to the conclusion that the Trends module could not really suggest anything in regards to the symbolism of the colors though, seeing as it only could take one sentence (and thus one blip of data) to actually explain the meaning of the color.  The module could only make suggestions regarding its prominence.

The most fruitful module though was the Correlations. Although I experienced a bit of trouble receiving the data I asked for (I’m guessing a big corpus requires a lot of bandwidth), I eventually got enough to data to move on in my line of questioning. I submitted the same list of colors that I did to the other modules, and received a list of terms that appeared near it in the book. A number is given with it that conveys how much of a correlation there was between those words in the book. But still, I could find no raw data supporting anything I could confidently call “symbolism”. Sure, the the word ‘dock’ is associated with green, but nothing about that data suggests it means ‘longing’ or ‘hope’. I realized by looking at this data that when it came to things like symbolism and semantics, books as a corpus of data can only take you so far. I have no doubt that green represents a ‘longing’, but it does so far reasons beyond pure data.

But here is where the data got cool- I realized after I kept looking that it doesn’t suggest symbolize, it suggests something more. If we assume that the colors mean what the scholar’s tell us they mean, the data shows us what Fitzgerald felt about, not the emotions themselves, but about what it’s like to interact with those emotions. If green means ‘longing’ or ‘hope’, then the data suggests that Fitzgerald associated ‘longing’ and ‘hope’ with semantics surrounding words like, ‘common’, ‘capacity’, ‘fault’, and ‘attain’. White, the color I remember my high school teacher associating with innocence (unsurprisingly), is highly correlated with the terms, ‘corner’, ‘lips’, ‘straw’, ‘money’, ‘apart’, and ‘deal’. Yellow, which I had remembered meaning wealth, has ‘violent’ at the top of its list.

Is Fitzgerald showing us his thoughts surrounding the concepts of ‘hope’/’longing’, ‘innocence’, and ‘money’? Is he suggesting that hope is ordinary, innocence is expensive, and money is violent? I can’t walk away from that data with any grand statements, but I can say that there is clear grounds for a further insight. In general, I think that commonly established symbols could be hyperread, not for the purpose of understanding its symbolism, but to understand the author’s thoughts surrounding that symbolism.

Playing Around w/ Voyant Tools

Voyant Tools was a really cool site to explore. There is such an array of modules that I was left feeling like there was still so much I didn’t see. Some of the modules made more sense to me and than others, and I focused on the ones that I felt developed a better understanding of the text. There were a handful of modules that confused me, for instance the Bubbles module stood out as looking fun and helpful, but didn’t seem to offer any further insight than the most basic modules. But there were some that I felt offered a lot of information about the submitted text.

I chose Machiavelli’s The Prince and once imported, the first thing that caught my eye was the cirrus module. I went in and added blockwords, such as ‘Prince’, because the fact that that was said the most times didn’t help build my understanding.  And once I removed that, a different word took that place. This word was ‘ought’ and it was the first word to really catch my attention. With such a strong prominence of the word ‘ought’, I could tell that The Prince was going to be an instructive text, just from the Voyant data. I scanned the other words surrounding ‘ought’ to see if it would make any suggestions as to what the instruction was to be for. I found buzzwords such as, ‘people’, ‘men’, ‘great’, ‘state’, ‘necessary’, ‘new’, ‘power’, ‘fortune’, and ‘having’. Looking at all of these I could infer that this text was about an instruction involving governing. The ‘people’, ‘state’, and ‘power’ made me think governmental, but what about the government and state? The  ‘new’ and ‘having’ made me think that this was like the introductory manual for new and powerful rulers. The rulers will be instructed on what they ‘ought’ to do, so I decided to find a module that let me look deeper into that.

The Word Tree module was my favorite tool. Most of the modules outlined frequently used words, but it was the added context of the Word Tree that made it special. I was able to select a word that I felt was important and see the different ways that word interacted with other words throughout the book. I selected ‘ought’ and the module spit out a list of words that associate with ‘ought’ in the text. What I found didn’t surprise me. The words often placed in front of ‘ought’ were words associated with the ruling and noble classes. This was what I had expected, but I was surprised to see that this wasn’t the only group of peoples being instructed. ‘People’ and ‘foreigners’ were also associated with the word ‘ought’, and therefore it is safe to assume that they were given instruction on how to be in The Prince as well. The term ‘you’ also caught my interest because it suggests that this text was written in the second person, being even more of a direct instruction manual than I had thought.

Overall I found the Voyant Tools illuminating. The only place I felt I wish I could do more, and this could entirely be do to my misusing of the program, was with the use of full phrases. In reference to my Word Tree of ‘ought’, I wish I could have then seen a comprehensive set of data following what ‘people ought to’ do, ‘nobles ought to’ do, etc. with an easy-to-use interface. I’m sure this data is possible to mine via this program, but it was unclear to me.

Edits to John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band

I’m going to choose one of my favorite albums of all time to edit on Wikipedia, John Lennon’s debut solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.

A few things I will attempt to add:

Most of the songs on the album, with the exception of ‘God’ and ‘Working Class Hero’ fail to have an information written about them. I will go in and add the minimum amount of information (so as not to require a new page) for the songs that I think further context will enrich the enjoyment of the album.

I would like to add ‘folk’ or ‘folk rock’ as one of the genres in which this album belongs. I can cite Working Class Hero as being of folk structure and possibly some others.

I would like to flush out Phil Spector’s involvement in the album. Beyond his producing of Lennon’s Instant Karma a year prior, Spector was producing and releasing his own Let It Be, as well as George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. I’d like to ask the community if they think that this information is at all relevant to his involvement with John’s first album.

I also would like to elaborate more on Lennon’s involvement with primal therapy because it is so central to the album. It may be worth noting that the often referenced primal scream in the song ‘Mother’, “Mama don’t go, Daddy come home”, was never actually uttered by Lennon in primal therapy according to his therapist. It may also be worth noting that Lennon soon abandoned primal therapy and never completed his course, because the Wiki makes it seem as if he were consistently involved.

Tittenhurst Park, the place in which the cover photo was taken, should be hyperlinked to the page on the area.

Background information regarding the years leading up to the album such as the breakup of the Beatles and two miscarriages by Ono, may provide useful context to this album.

Perhaps include the album’s ranking within Not necessarily credible, but crowdsourced and widely used.

Perhaps change section heading ‘Release’ to ‘Release and Rereleases’, as it spends more time discussing its future released versions over its initial release.

On Reading “Bartelby, the Scrivener” in different mode

Bartelby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street is a short story by Herman Melville in which an odd legal scrivener interrupts the logical thought of his boss. I read the story in three modes: plain as it was, and then annotated by two different websites, Slate and Genius. The former is a journalist’s website with paid writers, while the latter is a website that invites readers to make their own annotations. Both the annotated and the original versions have their ups and downs.

To start, the clearest benefits of the annotated versions come with diction. This story, being that about industry of law, uses legal terms that a layman like myself may have no definition. For instance, the terms ‘ere’ and ‘imprimis’ meant nothing to me before reading this story. Though ordinarily I would have to look up the definition, the Genius annotations offered definitions for the jargon.  The Slate annotations, on the other hand, did not. Among this dissonance is where I began to see the difference between the two annotating sites. The crowd-sourcing site favored more practical and specific annotations, such as definitions or further elaboration on concepts, such as ‘cannel coal’ and what exactly makes it unique in its context, and a straightforward interpretation of the story’s events. The Slate annotations, on the other hand, worked to engage the reader with the subtext of the story. A direct comparison between the different annotations of the line,

“I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best,”

proves my point.

The Genius annotation says that the narrator prefers the, “easy way of life very includes meeting the expectations set for him by others,” adding on that he will be confronted with this later on in the story. The obviousness to this annotation coupled with poor grammar (along with the +1 upvote of the annotation), set the tone for what it is like to read this story on Genius.  Slate, on the other hand, takes a different approach. It takes this quote and accuses the narrator as being unreliable. The annotator claims that this quote suggests a calm-temper that we know he will and has contradicted. Unlike the Genius annotation, Slate’s annotator looks at this quote within the larger context of the story. In fact, this annotation, that highlights merely the words ‘I am a man’, comments on more than just that first sentence. Slate addresses the following sentence in its annotation as well, particularly when the narrator makes the claim that he doesn’t let anything invade his peace. The Genius annotation reflects only that which is highlighted, in what can come off as a vacuum in regards to the rest of the story. The Slate annotation, on the other hand, regards more than is merely highlighted, and does so with respect to deeper symbolism.

On a much more superficial level, the interface of Genius is a lot less professional-looking when compared to that of Slate. With Genius, only that which is highlighted can be annotated, and that may make making more intricate claims difficult. It also does not require peer editing and relies on the user’s vote to establish credibility. On high traffic pages this is fine, but with something like this Melville story, its hard not to think that I’m just reading some guy’s thoughts on the piece. The Slate site, on the other hand, offers annotations by what we assume to be is a credible source. It also breaks the annotations into categories, which I would find really helpful in the case that I only want help with economic and historical references.

Lastly, although the most obvious benefit of annotations its use as a dictionary, I think I have learned through this activity that it is not the most important. I found the Slate annotations to be much more enriching than the Genius ones. I think I walked away from the Slate version with a much more robust understanding of the story because I engaged with it on a more subtextual level. While Genius did provide insight, I felt that it only worked to clear up surface-level confuse I had with the story and its writing style. Slate left me with a deeper meaning the story than I had had when I read it annotation free. In regards to my future annotations, I am going to shoot for making it look like Slate. I want to engage the reader to question the text in front of it further, not simply answer the questions of definition like I had been doing up until now.

Weekend Plans 9/8/17

I was supposed to go to Lake Tahoe with a friend for her birthday. Two of us would come out from San Francisco and meet her in her hometown of Stockton. From there we would drive to the lake. But poor planning, on my part, made it so this weekend was busier than I had anticipated. I had cancel, but first she cancelled, citing too long a drive. Instead, we should just come to Stockton, but I said next weekend would be easier. I have work training Saturday morning and a friend’s concert that evening. I am spending time with a friend while she undergoes an abortion Sunday. We will sit, cuddle and smoke weed as a pill usurps her uterus. That evening I have my first house meeting with my new roommates. I also have a friend’s album release party. I hope I can make that.

Hello world!

My smile so bright! Teeth yellowed despite being promised white- by every tube of tooth paste since I was 8 and thought that it mattered. And my braces hurt. And I got them off. And the retainer might as well have been burned, I haven’t worn it in years. And my teeth, they dance around my mouth. But my smile’s so bright!