Recommendations, 11/22

Trivia apps, new definitions, adjunct professor horror stories, and more.


Last week, Kevin texted me asking if I’d heard of an app called QuizUp. “Don’t download it,” he wrote. “It will suck up all your free time.”

This was probably a calculated move on his part. Kevin knows I like A) trivia, B) competing against other people, and C) doing the opposite of what someone tells me to do. So I downloaded QuizUp a few days later.


QuizUp is to trivia apps what, I guess, Tinder is to dating. You get the instant gratification of brief, two-minute quizzes; then you can rematch or friend the people who play well against you, and ditch those of who are way above or below your level. You can take quizzes that are as broad as “food” or “general knowledge,” or as specific as “ancient Roman history” or “beer.” And in case the cartoony default icons are a bit too cutesy for you, you can add your own profile picture and backdrop a la Twitter.

Not to belabor the QuizUp/Tinder comparison, but you’d be surprised how many profile pictures for this, which I say again is a trivia app, are heavily touched-up or filtered selfies. (Mine is a picture of my dog getting his teeth brushed).

Anyway. Play me on QuizUp — my username is “djcampb.” I enjoy history, literature, food, and (no surprise here) dogs. Realistically though I will probably accept any challenge.


When I interviewed Hunter Payne earlier this year, we talked about his tendency to take on the craziest, most challenging projects. Knowing this, I was not surprised when, a few weeks ago, Hunter announced that he was rewriting the English dictionary.

He’s still in the A’s, but has defined 600 words and counting. Some of his definitions are brilliant. Some of them are silly; all of them are absurd.


Whenever he finishes, I want a bound volume of A Dictionary of The English Language. I’ve never laughed this much reading Webster’s.


I’m a slow writer. I’ve come to terms with it. It took me somewhere in the vicinity of four hours to write this graf.

Basically, I’m one of those people who is constantly revising as he writes. Each sentence has to be perfect before I write the next one (lol, “perfect”), which basically prevents me from ever gaining any momentum. I’m conscious that I do it, but on a computer, I can’t help it. This is why I’ve been writing on my phone. Since it’s so difficult to edit on an iPhone, it forces me to keep moving forward and acknowledge that my clumsy fingers are going to stumble over words and churn out lots of sloppy sentences.

I use a couple of writing apps on my phone: Simplenote and iA Writer, neither of which is ideal. I prefer the convenience of Simplenote’s online syncing, but it has severe issues with accidentally deleting notes when my phone goes in and out of areas with reception (aka every two minutes on the subway). So when I’m below ground, I write in iA Writer, which handles document saving rather messily if you don’t use iCloud.

The point is: it’s a terrible system. I’m sure if I did a little more research, I could find a better app, but they don’t really matter. It’s more about the act of writing on my iPhone, and getting things down on the page and fixing them later, rather than line-editing everything as I go.

Plus, the best notebook is the one you always have with you. Or something.


I knew Sony’s PlayStation Vita handheld was doomed the moment it was announced. The proliferation of smartphones and tablets decimated the demand for dedicated gaming portables. Nintendo can survive the crunch because they have a vast portfolio of lucrative brands, two decades of market dominance, and the best developers in the world. Sony has none of these things. The Vita’s appeal hinges on two virtues. First, it’s technically advanced. The new iPhones and iPads, however, possess superior specs, and most people don’t care about raw horsepower anyway. That leaves just one reason to buy the Vita: it was designed for serious gamers. It has a fast processor, a sharp screen, and two joysticks, all of which you need to play the most complex modern games. But mainstream audiences don’t want complex games. They want Angry Birds. Sony positioned the Vita in the smallest corner of the market, and I see no way for them to expand its reach. It will fall among the many non-Nintedo handhelds consigned to obscurity.

I got mine on Tuesday.


I may go my entire life without seeing another Vita in person, but after owning it for three days, I’m delighted with my purchase. Sony made a product targeted at a ludicrously small segment of the population, but at least they hit their mark. For a lifelong gamer like me, having so much power in a portable system is remarkable. While I can play highly detailed 3D games on my iPhone, it’s not the same without bespoke controls. Today, I played Spelunky on my way to a movie, and I felt like I brought my Xbox on the bus.

Spelunky’s presence on the system points to the real best reason to buy a Vita (besides compulsive consumerism): Sony seems to be embracing indie games. You can already buy Hotline Miami and Proteus for Vita, and titles like The Binding of Isaac, Nuclear Thrnone, and Hohokum have been announced for the system. These are visually rich games with astounding mechanical depth, and I can carry them all around with me. Cynically, I doubt that cultivating niche titles will save a niche console, but as long as the games actually come out, I have no reason to complain.


I love reading adjunct teaching horror stories. I’m not sure why, exactly. Maybe it’s because, as a newly hired full-time faculty member, I feel the heat of adjunct hell beneath my feet. Maybe it’s just the unbelievably strange economics of our higher education system. You might attend a $40,000 a year private institution that actually charges you $20,000. Here you are probably taught academic writing by an instructor earning $15,000 a year (with no benefits or job security). In the midst of this, the institution you attend is probably expanding and enhancing their sports facilities and cafeteria offerings. You may get the feeling that the institution cares very deeply about all aspects of higher education with the exception of the person who is actually grading your papers.

L.V. Anderson wrote one of the best articles in the adjunct horror story genre I have read. Her article about the death of Duquesne adjunct Margaret Mary Vojtko is a well-reported, morally complex cautionary tale.

If you are considering becoming an adjunct or just curious as to how much your local adjunct teacher is paid, check out The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Adjunct Project.