Posted in Reviews

TE3N, Persepolis, & Musings

It’s been far too long since I’ve blogged, and I miss the space. Let’s try this again.

Since the fall semester ended for me recently, I’ve been trying hard to “take it slower” (at least by my standards) for a week before getting deeper into some projects I’d like to tackle over the break.

I wrapped all of the presents I’m giving over the next few days for the holiday/Christmas season, graded a lot of student projects, and watched a lot of TV (particularly catching up on Fresh Off the Boat).

I’ve also been reading, mostly for pleasure. Here, I want to briefly comment on two pieces I’ve enjoyed in particular.

  • 220px-Te3n_official_poster
    TE3N Movie Poster via Google Images

    TE3N – A grandfather, a priest, and a police officer solve a kidnapping… No, this isn’t the start of a joke, but rather, a really solid thriller movie. This Hindi thriller film has been on my Netflix queue for a while. I finally got around to watching it today and was not disappointed. The movie stars the great Amitabh Bachchan (a grandfather), Vidya Balan (police officer), and Nawazuddin Siddiqui (the priest/former officer). Three identical kidnapping cases are the subject of the mystery underlying this movie — in particular, Bachchan’s granddaughter was abducted eight years prior to two newer cases. The acting and pacing of this movie are what kept me particularly enthused. I don’t want to give too much away, but definitely recommend this if you’re looking for a good thriller!

  • download
    Persepolis Book Jacket via

    Persepolis: The Story of Childhood – Written by Marjane Satrapi, this graphic autobiography tells the story of her life growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. I’ll admit, this one is not an easy book to read for many reasons — it’s heartbreaking throughout. This memoir is an important, often under-represented perspective worth reading and the graphic novel style adds a fantastic visual layer to the stories.

I’ll leave it there for now so as not to burn out the blogging wheels too soon. For more of my musings, follow me on Twitter or Instagram @LitaStarr.

Posted in Summer 2016

A Reflection and Step-by-Step Process of Using Open-Source Software to Closed Caption Video

In the past week, at the 2016 Digital Media and Composition Institute at The Ohio State University, we were each tasked with creating a Concept in 60 video. This video must explore a concept of literacy, composing, or multimodality and must be exactly 60 seconds—no more, no less—including the title screen and credits.

Because I have done the “Concept in 60” project in the past at my home institution (University of Louisville), I wanted to challenge myself with my DMAC 2016 approach by creating three specific rhetorical constraints for myself. The first was to use original (video clips I shot, sound I recorded) material as much as possible; the second was to focus on the audio track more than the visual since I had never done so in the past; and the third was to include a closed captioning track on the Mp4 file version of my video—and to do this all using FREE software.

While the first two goals were attained by my recording my own sound files, shooting my own video to go with it, and editing my files in iMovie and Audacity on my Mac—the final product contains all original material with the exception of the creative-commons-licensed music track underlaying my ambient noise and voice tracks and a short clip of the OSU library used with permission from the Institute.

The third goal, however, presented a great challenge. While it might seem as simple as uploading my MP4 file to YouTube, using YouTube’s closed captioning tool, and downloading the Mp4 file off of YouTube, unfortunately the captioning track does not get “burned onto” the video file and therefore does not download with the MP4 off YouTube. In other words, these are OPEN captions, not CLOSED captions. However, you CAN download just the .srt captioning track file (as visualized below) and use other software to attach it back to the MP4 file.

After a few hours of tinkering during our final studio time Thursday, and with the excellent help and brain power of our fearless associate director of DMAC, Erin Kathleen Bahl, I found a way to attain success in my closed captioning goal.

Here, I will recap the winning steps, but first I want to note that the “failure” moments are omitted for the sake of clarity here, not because they weren’t productive in some form – with digital projects, I’ve learned it’s important to take risks and play, that failure is part of the learning process. In this case, we were not successful using VLC or solely YouTube to create the closed captioned version of my Concept in 60, but through lots of googling, playing, failing, more googling, and more playing and failing, we learned some strategies for achieving the captioning goal as well as some new-to-us software.

To begin, I uploaded my video to YouTube and created a closed captioning track. The captioning tool is located under the EDIT drop down menu that you want to close caption in the video manager section of your YouTube account as pictured below.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 10.45.48 PM
This image is a screen capture of the YouTube video-editing interface. It shows the EDIT drop-down menu, which cascades downward from a point just to the right of a thumbnail of the video I’m about to edit. On the drop-down menu, the item “Subtitles & CC” is selected.

From here, you can add subtitles and time them with your video. (For a detailed step-by-step of this process, see this YouTube help page.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 10.46.01 PM
This image is a screen capture of YouTube’s subtitle- and closed-captioning-editing and management interface. It shows the video I’m editing on the left with the “Add new subtitles or CC” option selected.
Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 10.46.27 PM
This image is a screen capture of YouTube’s transcription and timing editing interface for captioning videos. On the left is the video I am editing around the 8-second mark; on the right the transcription line for that second is selected and reads “All I could think about is the crane.”

After publishing these captions, export the .srt caption track file from YouTube’s caption tool. While exporting the mp4 file would ideally do the trick, I learned (from failing a few times and reading some sites on the issue) the caption track is not burned into the mp4 and therefore does not carry with it outside of YouTube.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 10.47.17 PM
This image is a screen capture of YouTube’s “view published subtitles and CC: English” interface. On the left is the video post-caption editing; on the right side, the transcription track is visible. On the “Actions” drop-down menu, the “.srt” option is selected.

From here, the next step involves a different software called HandBrake, an open-source video transcoder. Begin by clicking “File,” and selecting the “Open Source” option. Then, navigate to the uncaptioned video file.

This image is a screen capture of the HandBrake interface. The “File” drop-down menu is open with “Open Source” selected.

In the “Destination” section, click “Browse” and select where to save the final video.

This image is a screen capture of the HandBrake interface. A red circle is drawn on the “Browse” option to indicate its selection.

Select the “Subtitles” tab.

This image is a screen capture of the HandBrake interface. A red circle in the center of the image indicates that “Subtitles” is selected.

Under “Track,” select “Add External SRT” and navigate to the saved subtitle file.

This image is a screen capture of the HandBrake interface. The drop-down menu “Track” is open with a red circle indicating that “Add External SRT…” is selected.

Select the “Burned In” option to insure that captions get “burned” into the MP4 file.

This image is a screen capture of the HandBrake interface. A red circle in the center of the screen indicates that the “Burned In” option is enabled.

Finally, under “File,” select “Start Encoding.”

This image is a screen capture of the HandBrake interface. The “File” drop-down menu is open with a red arrow indicating that “Start Encoding” should be selected.

And that’s it. The video file should now be closed captioned.

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 11.33.12 AM
This image is a screen capture of the video edited in this example with the caption “I walked around campus” at the bottom.

This process illuminated the lack of closed captioning tools in production software. As exemplified here, I needed to use three different applications (iMovie, YouTube, and HandBrake) in order to create a close-captioned video file I could have locally rather than in a web video space like YouTube. As we continue to design software for editing video, closed-captioning tools should be an intuitive part of editing software. Because while it’s never too late to think about captioning and accessibility, we should move toward making it an integral part of the overall design process.

Posted in Summer 2016

Making is Wonderful, Rhetorical, Critical

Picture taken by me at The Ohio State University.

After the many months of excitement leading up to it, the first day of the 2016 Digital Media and Composition Institute AKA DMAC did not disappoint. Though today has been a long, packed day of meeting many new (fantastic) people, learning some tools, software, tips, tricks, making a “Soundtrack in 60” project, and celebrating the day’s successes, I continue to feel energized to do more and look forward to the continued challenges and growth to come from this institute.

Some of my key highlights and takeaways from today:

  • Learning about and wearing interactive color communication badges to show differing levels of interaction comfort (brilliant!) for the duration of the institute (definitely going to be using this concept in other future planning)
  • “DMAC runs like a train in Switzerland” – And they mean it! I am so impressed by how on top of things the graduate student staff and leaders (Scott DeWitt and Cindy Selfe) are about staying on time, task, and breaking down and assisting with tools and software.
  • Focus on PEOPLE first, before technology.
  • We’re a maker culture. It’s a wonderful thing to make things, but also rhetorical and critical.
  • A few vocabulary words:
    • Provenance: the history of how something came to be.
    • Tone v. Mood possible working definitions -> Tone = how we communicate (author); Mood = how we’re feeling (interpretation)
    • Tone = composer’s attitude toward audience vs. Mood = composer’s attitude toward subject matter
  • “Everything we think about as a disability is an ability.”
  • “One of the affordances of print is that you can process it at your own speed”
  • “Save here, save there, save now, save later”— Scott DeWitt on the importance of saving your work (spot on!)
  • That experiencing and understanding frustration is important for our pedagogy and development – these are feelings students will likely experience when we assign them multimodal projects, so it’s important to always do/make before we teach
  • Mad Mex:
    • a great Mexican restaurant with excellent service
    • killer margarita and food specials (all you can eat burritos for $6 anyone?)
    • worth going to if you are ever in Columbus, Ohio
  • Also thankful for the one-on-one time at Mad Mex with Cindy Selfe who gave me fantastic feedback on some of my research ideas and future goals in the field ❤ among other great conversation.

Today we were tasked with learning how to use audio/video recording devices and capturing some sound, which we then learned how to edit using Audacity (open-source sound-editing software). The assignment asks us to edit, revise with music and a narration to produce a 60-second (no more, no less!) audio track surrounding literacy, composing, or multimodality.

We were asked to do our sound recording over lunch, so I explored a bit of OSU’s (massive) campus. I was enamored by all of the sounds of birds amplified through my headphones via the sound recorder and tried to capture those sounds as much as possible, but became quickly frustrated by the seemingly immediate interruptions by construction, airplanes, and (loud) gusts of wind. I chose to focus my soundtrack in 60 surrounding those issues as my argument.

I am proud of what I accomplished today, despite some frustrations getting files to transfer from the audio recording device onto my laptop and then cutting and putting working with 21 different audio files (instead of recording two, two-minute clips, I chose to do several shorter clips for variety) to produce a 60-second soundtrack, I feel successful and have learned A LOT that I will continue to integrate in my own work and pedagogy. To celebrate further, I want to share the audio file I made (this is the latest draft):

The first day of DMAC has been so enriching and fruitful. I can’t wait to continue exploring and see where this journey takes me next.

Posted in Summer 2016

On Year One: Reflections & What’s Next

Me, after finishing the Kentucky Derby Mini-Marathon.

Last weekend, I successfully ran the Kentucky Derby Mini-Marathon—a whopping 13.1 miles in the rain. Before the start of 2016, I had never completed a 5k (3.1 mile) distance, much less considered myself any kind of runner. Yet, there I was crossing the finish line in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

“I did it,” I have found myself saying when people comment on my half marathon efforts. Because, for me, it wasn’t about making a certain time or place, it was about finishing, about proving to myself that I could.

I wanted to quit a handful of times. I remember driving home after a group long-run day (I think it was just 5-6 miles) crying until my throat hurt. Like the first year of the PhD program, preparing to run a half-marathon was in no way easy, and it was the regular supportive, encouraging words of family, my fiancé, and friends that ultimately helped me continue on with training and finish the half-marathon.

Perseverance is the key word I would use to describe this last year, the first year of my PhD program, but also almost a year of being engaged and becoming more independent as an adult. During this academic year, I’ve been challenged and grown in several ways. I am proud of myself for sticking to my goals and being able to look back on Year One with so much positivity. I’m also thankful for the many friends in my department who I am regularly energized and inspired by, leaving me with zero regrets in my program decision.

Surrounded by beauty. Photo taken by me in Indianapolis, IN.

As I enter into my summer plans, I am most excited about traveling and exploring new and old places. From going to the Digital Media and Composition Institute (DMAC) in Columbus, Ohio this month, to co-teaching the UofL Digital Media Academy (DMA), to visiting India for the first time in about 13-14 years and reuniting with dozens of relatives, and going to the DH 2016 conference in Kraków, Poland, this summer is set up to be… exhausting, but more awesome than anything else.

I’m also excited to continue planning and organizing my upcoming December wedding. In all the stress and chaos of this past year, my partner continued to love and support me in ways that do nothing but strengthen both our relationship and my certainty in marrying him.

And with all of this said, I am excited to keep growing. I hope to share my experiences through writing, which I have learned helps me reflect and flourish in additional ways.

Posted in Undoubtedly

Oh 2015: A Reflection

new-years-day-1062608_960_720As I look back on this year, I am grateful. Despite some bumps along the way, this year brought so much good in my life.

Instead of my usual, rambly post going over the year, I have decided to switch things up this year and take @bravenewlady‘s lead to post three things that I am especially proud of this year, among the many other things I did:

  1. I said yes. In 2015, I made many major life decisions. I said yes to continuing my studies and pursuing a PhD. To that end, I said yes to the University of Louisville, a place I still feel was an excellent choice and enjoy. I also said yes to the man I love and got engaged. I also said yes to becoming more active and while I didn’t lose a bunch of pounds, I have been healthier this year than I have been in the past.
  2. I got an article accepted for publication. In February, I submitted an article titled “Yoü and I: Identity and the Performance of Self in Lady Gaga and Beyoncè” to the Journal of Popular Culture, and in August, it was accepted. I’m excited to see my work printed in the journal in 2016 and hopefully sending off another.
  3.  I read a lot of books. While I have always read many books each year, this year I set a goal of reading 50 books that I will complete at the end of today. This time last year, I committed to taking part in the PopSugar 2015 Reading Challenge. While I didn’t fill out all of the categories to meet this challenge (many of the books I read for school didn’t quite fit categories here), I did complete books that filled the following 29 categories (the book that I read for each category are listed below):
    A book with more than 500 pages – Mechanization Takes Command – Siegfried Gideon
    A book that became a movie – The Namesake – Jhumpa Lahiri
    A book published this year – Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling
    A funny book – Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography – Neil Patrick Harris
    A book by a female author – What the River Carries: Encounters with the Mississippi, Missouri, and Platte – Lisa Knopp
    A mystery or thriller – The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
    A book of short stories – One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories – B.J. Novak
    A book set in a different country – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
    A nonfiction book – The Essay: Theory and Pedagogy for an Active Form – Paul Heilker
    A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet – Why We Broke Up – Daniel Handler
    A book a friend recommended – The Wallcreeper – Nell Zink
    A book based on a true story – Yes Please – Amy Poehler
    A book based entirely on its cover – Make Lemonade – Virginia Euwer Wolff
    A memoir – Food: A Love Story – Jim Gaffigan
    A book you can finish in a day – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime – Mark Haddon
    A book with antonyms in the title – Then is Now: Sampling from the Past for Today’s Graphics – Cheryl Dangel Cullen
    A book with bad reviews – Junior – Macaulay Culkin
    A book from your childhood – Are You There God? It’s me Margaret – Judy Blume
    A book with a love triangle – Faking It – Elisa Lorello
    A book set in high school – Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green/David Leviathan
    A book with a color in the title – The House on Mango Street – Sandra Cisneros
    A graphic novel – Bound by Law – Keith Aoki
    A book by an author you’ve never read before – On the Edge – Allison van Diepen
    A book you own but have never read – An Ideal Husband – Oscar Wilde
    A book that takes place in your hometown – A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints – Dito Montiel
    A book set during Christmas – The Chimes – Charles Dickens
    A play – The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde
    A book based on or turned into a TV show – (loosely) Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari
    A book you started but never finished – Fifty Shades of Grey – E.L. James

    In 2016, I hope to read 55 books and will be participating in PopSugar’s 2016 Reading Challenge as well as the Goodreads Around the Year in 52 books challenge simultaneously. I will continue to update my progress on my Goodreads page.

2015 has been a good year. I am eager to see what 2016 will bring and hope to continue moving forward through many goals. Here’s to 2016!

Posted in Undoubtedly

Oven-roasted Aloo Gobi: A Recipe

Aloo Gobi (Potatoes and Cauliflower) is one of my favorite Indian food staples. I was raised eating this in the way that so many American children grow up eating macaroni and cheese. In short, it’s a comfort food. So with the semester quickly approaching, I wanted to go ahead and prepare some meals to have available after long days of research, class, and writing.

I’ve been wanting to try an oven-roasted version of this recipe for a little while now since the last few times I’ve made aloo gobi on a stovetop didn’t go as well as planned — long story short, I need bigger pots for the portions I’m cooking.

I read a few different versions of this recipe online and realized that it’s very similar to cooking it on a stovetop except you toss everything in all at once. I also decided not to add real onions or ginger in this version, but I may in the future. Onion and ginger powder are my friends too.

aloo gobi

2 Russet Potatoes
1 Head of Cauliflower
1 tablespoon Oil (I used vegetable oil in this case, but olive or peanut oil works too)
1 teaspoon Salt (can be adjusted according to your tastes)
½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (I used a little more, because I love a spicy kick)
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds or Ground Cumin (I used seeds in this case, but either works fine)
1 teaspoon Coriander Powder
½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Garam Masala or Curry Powder of your choice (I used a McCormick brand Hot Madras Curry Powder I picked up at my local Kroger)
Fresh Cilantro for garnishing/final touches

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time 20-25 minutes
Makes 2-4 servings

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Peel and chop up potatoes into bite-sized pieces as well as chopping up the cauliflower head into florets.
3. Mix all of the dry spices into a bowl with a tablespoon or so of oil to create a sort of marinade – toss this with the potatoes and cauliflower into a baking dish. I would recommend washing your hands for this step and tossing the vegetables by hand to get them as evenly coated as possible.
4. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until you can easily cut through a piece of potato and cauliflower.
5. Let cool and sprinkle fresh cilantro on top to taste – bon appétit!

Leave a comment below and let me know what you thought of my version of oven-roasted Aloo Gobi!

Posted in Undoubtedly

Reflecting on 2014 & 2015 Resolutions

2015Every year, I try to post some kind of “look back” post, and this year is no different.

2014 has been about growth in so many ways. I grew as a student, and began my journey as a teacher. I also met almost all of my 2014 resolutions: I lost and maintained a loss of 10 pounds, got into a conference (three), got published, and saw many more 6 a.m.s and few 2 a.m.s. The resolution I didn’t succeed in was trying to blog more, but as you loyal readers know, I rarely stick with that one…

As with any year, a few moments were tough. I spent the longest time without seeing my S.O. this year, which presented itself to be more challenging than I could have ever expected. I also struggled with the stresses of teaching, graduate school, and applications for doctoral programs all at once.

But 2014, overall, was a lovely year. I made several new friends who I am lucky to have in my life. My relationships with existing friends also grew stronger, which is so much more than I can ever hope for each year. Finally, I feel closer to my parents and brother than I ever have in my life. I love my family.

To those who helped make this year enjoyable — thank you.

For 2015, I want to make these resolutions:

  • I want to lose and maintain a loss of 10 more pounds. I feel the healthiest I’ve ever been this year, and I hope to continue to be healthier in 2015.
  • I won’t commit to blogging more this year, but I do want to commit to reading and writing more. Whether this writing be in a private journal or on a blog, I want to do more of it. I’d also like to read for pleasure more this year. I feel like I did not do that nearly enough in the last year. To help with this, I am going to participate in a few reading challenges beginning first with the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge. Check out future blog posts for more on these challenges.
  • I’d like to recommit to my happiness. I feel like I had several very down days in 2014 in which I really wasn’t happy and/or having trouble seeing the good things in my life. To assist with this resolution, I’m going to start with the #100happydays challenge through my Instagram account. Follow me on Instagram to see my progress and/or join the challenge with me!
  • Finally, I am going to try to take more time for myself to relax this year. I often feel that I have trouble not working on something and think it’s bad if I am taking time for myself. However, this thought process is unfair. It’s okay to take time for yourself, and this is something I will try to tell myself more often this year (within reason of course!)

These are my resolutions — what are your goals for 2015? How was your 2014? Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions (and/or book recommendations! ;))