Keep it Simple, Specious

Been feverin’ all day through web-making, code-playing and course-updating. Today was the deadline for futzing (the single
best word said during my trip to NY last weekend!) with spring II courses; I had
changes knocked out by noon, since I’m not changing a whole lot this
time. Then I got thinking (again) that I needed to spiff up the resource
pages for the online courses I’ve developed. So, because I’ve been lazy on
all other fronts, here’s a glimpse at today’s boulder-roll, an uphill labor of
techrageous love: http://iris.earthwidemoth.com/gen/.
I can’t think of many good reasons why it would be interesting, since it barely
has a shape, but it is proof that I didn’t just sit around at the computer all
day doing nothing. In the shadow of the amount yet-to-be-done, it’s
as telling as having a look at a snow plow driver lace the boots: there’s alotta
work ahead. No hurry, though. ‘Twas a cinch to meet today’s deadline
for curricular updates, so the rest can come together over a couple of weeks.
(Oh, and if you haven’t done the Peanuts
quizilla
, here’s the link. FWIW, I’m Rerun; D.’s Sally. Thanks for the fun
link CC et. al.)

Little Famous People

With paper cutouts as templates for decorating, D. taught social studies today: Little Famous People. One student, J., lost his famous person–couldn’t remember where he put it. “What does it look like?” D. asked him. J.: “He’s got a brown suit and a white head. He’s Thomas Jefferson.” So they looked and looked, D. holding up finished famous people missing the names of their makers while J. shrugged unfamiliar, not seeing his artwork. Then the classroom teacher, Mrs. S. got involved: “J. wasn’t in class when we made the little famous people.” And so he wasn’t. And the ellusive paper Jefferson was undone in a vanishing act of memory and imagination. Weird, huh? Second-grade weird.

Pinhead to Juggernaut

I’m too busy reading and responding to project drafts from students in HU211 to spend much time here. This is a busy week in my online course; I’m
trying to pace through six project drafts each day so I can get them back by
Friday. Oh, and I just started today, so I should feel refreshed and
energetic. But I don’t. I think it was the five hours of meetings I
sat in today. Three meetings. First one was two hours long. It was
also the most interesting: a consultant from Scion (?) Corporation pitching student housing designs to the directors from all of the student services areas.
It turned into an interesting talk about students’ conceptions of
space–privacy, social connections, liberties and institutional definitions of
how space must be used. I was sitting in place of our AD. I tried to
argue that students are less concerned with the wall board, carpet and floor
plans than they are with the institutional controls encroaching on the living
space through rhetoric and technology: forced meal plans, surveillance upgrades (yes, we have cameras looking in on all of the dorm hall to and fro), and explicit measures to direct campus living. I don’t have any experience with student housing beyond two years of dorm living as an undergrad. But it was an engaging interchange; it got me thinking about space dynamics, student perceptions and institutional language about spatial use. That’s why it was a good meeting for me.

I’m also squeezed for blogging time because I was at work last night, the
kids have practice tonight, and there’s another event tomorrow night. I’ve
been trying to read more, too–most of the way through Scholes’ Rise and Fall of English. Since I read the bulk of it between Cleveland and KC on Monday night, I’ve been mulling over several ideas about intertextuality and sustained inquiry in our weblog for EN106. Even talked about those ideas just a bit in class on Tuesday morning. Working up to clearer understandings of these matters as they relate to research writing and question-guided investigations.

Interstitial S p a c e s

Pardon the interruption. With this I’m ending the longest break from
weblogging since this buggy started rolling in early January. I was flying
around the countryside over the weekend, banking through snowclouds and enjoying
short layovers in Detroit and Cleveland on the way East. Since I left on
Saturday, which, by the way, was highlighted by a short visit with my dad and S.
in the Detroit airport, I’ve really missed blogging–or missed the time for
blogging as a way of re-collecting dispersions of thought. And there’ve
been dispersions aplenty–promising ones.

Saturday was, for me, the coldest Lupercalia on record. First off, D.
was back home, snug in K.C., but aside from that, the wall unit in Ramada 233
suffered a meltdown. Late at night. What the? Yes. At
2:30 a.m., I woke up to a dingy-smelling PVC smoke. A faint odor, like burnt wiring, perhaps from a nearby room. No! My room. Geez. I felt the
wall-mounted heating unit. It was burning up. I had set it to five (out of
a possible 12), thinking that it would get my room to between 68-70 degrees for
the night. So, before the smoke alarm started its awful hooting, I dialed
the front desk and declared my predicament. Room 233. The night
manager showed up just after the blaring started–the alarm in my room only was
sounding off. He said he could hear it in the hall. Great. It
was V-Day night and the loving hour, no less, I thought. So the night
manager slid the plastic alarm from the ceiling; meanwhile, I opened the window.
Two degrees Fahrenheit. He tugged on the nine-volts, but the screamer was
hard-wired–rightly so. Finally, N.M. resorted to rip the blaring alarm
from the ceiling. In silence and wonder, we reconciled a bad plan for
restoring normalcy to my night. I’d sleep; he’d go back to the desk and
write a note for the next day’s service person. With windows closed and no
heat except my own, I took cover, dreamless. It was, in retrospect, the
low-point of the trip, the rest of which was incredibly warm and welcoming.

Each Dish Harmless Might Mix Inside, Lub-dub

[Clash Combat Rock]

Home for a late lunch yesterday, a gobbled Ethiopian fingerplate waiting to
be eaten since the weekend, injera and spicy, saucy globstuff. The President’s
dentals were on CNN, pearl rows pocked with 1973 repairs. Proof,
X-rayed evidence of military service in the Alabama National Guard. This
turned me, while mash-wrapping the fabulous red-lentil heap, to the Wonka
candy I tangled with the night before, late Wednesday: Nerd Ropes. What
story will dental records tell of this in 31 years? I ate two of them with
a bottle of water–tacky cherry syrup ropes roll-coated in assorted Nerds.
It was late; I needed a kick. If they’d had these at the Palatine Hill,
what?

Took the yarn quiz via Quizilla via
Culture Cat. Would’ve preferred
Mohair, but as it turned out, the test told me

You are dishcloth cotton.
You are Dishcloth Cotton.
You are a very hard worker, most at home when
you’re at home. You are thrifty and seemingly
born to clean. You are considered to be a Plain
Jane, but you are too practical to notice.
What kind of yarn are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Cleaning? Yeah, I’ll get on that right away.

Via Slashdot,
I looked at this article about open
source insecurity
. So I’m wondering about trust in technology, about good
faith in the machine, and about the transference of this way of thinking about
open source as a "fertile ground for foul play" into
non-software-writing sectors, such as education. Why should we prefer
costly, closed-source course management systems to open source
alternatives? Foul play? Well, maybe. Here is where I get by
thinking while writing rather than planning all of this out ahead of
time. It’s just that closed-source systems seem much more likely to suffer
harm-intended hacks.

Following the Light Across My Monitor

One of those days when I feel something working on me, something subversive, some
sneaky, inexact barrage on my immune system, I think. In non-medical
terms, it feels rather like viral agitation. It doesn’t have me,
yet. On top of that, the kids have two games tonight, and they’re spread a
gaping six-to-nine apart. First tip-off in seventy minutes; second one
three hours after that. Where were my wise advisors when I volunteered for
this? Oh, and a men’s volleyball game at work tonight (which I’ll miss),
lots of informal meetings today, those inadvertent kind that shift from five
minutes into 45 minutes like hiccups in time. Where’d the day go?

Looked in on Jerz’s Literacy Blog and found a link to an interesting essay on
four
good things about the proliferation of plagiarism
due to information-rich
new media. The linked article is a bit dated, but it appears to be a work
in progress, and since I didn’t study it carefully (more of a casual
glance-read), I can’t say with certain memory when it was rendered into its
latest form. The just-started discussion is interesting to me; it brings
up the idea of a system fortified by its own ruptures–a kind of immuno-scar
tissue theory of systemization. Plausible, problematic. More about
this, perhaps, on a night when I don’t have to pace the sidelines of two
seventh-grade basketball games. Also had a minute today to kick the tires
at Mike’s
wiki site
. Anxious to see what unfolds there. I looked in, but
didn’t make any changes. Much like when friends of ours have newborn
babies, I’m not first in line to hold them (er, the babies, not the
friends).

Searching Jerome Cute

This site’s webalizer stats include a record of search strings that, when input to a search engine, rustled Earth Wide Moth from the server and called her name and location into a hit list (last in the list, I’m sure, in Google’s 92,800 connects for “Sex in the City rumor” and in Altavista’s 45, 135 hits for “Sun alarm benefit”). Because I’m still having fun with this whole venture, I was particularly taken by the collision of querying strings, by the no-look grabs of unknowing users, users who don’t know we’re here. It’s an odd, broad range–indicative of a strained, decentered server-side ethos (the text in the machine, removed): a mix of my writing on EWM and our course-related writing over at the site for EN106. A blaring maelstorm of criss-crossing information-text-flow. So, to celebrate five weeks of weblogging (it was a Tuesday, early January when this began), I concocted a search-string pantoum–a randomization of the 33 search-calls, re-formatted, re-presented, near-poetically. The top search-string, “gunnite,” gets to be the title of this playful treat; a treat, BTW, not nearly as good as the Hunter’s Stew we slurped for dinner tonight. The poem:

Continue reading →

Why Your Blogotopia Must Flourish

A recent query on the WPA-list (hey, anybody can sign up…they didn’t ask
for credentials) reminded me that weblogs aren’t yet a
widespread or widely embraced phenom in teaching composition or other disciplines. I forget
that blogs are new-ish, that their potential for writing across the curriculum,
for bridging academic spaces and the public sphere, for expanding access and
interaction are still becoming, out there ahead of us more so than behind us.
At the same time, frustrations, abandonments and malevolent mischaracterizations
of weblogs, such as

“Why your MT blog must die” by J.J
. over on
kuro5hin.org early this
week, prove a counter tide (undertow?), a critical, if sometimes uncareful,
acknowledgement of a few problematic sides to the proliferation of sites much
like this one. But I don’t want to give J.J. too much credit; instead, I want
to suggest weblogs will continue their ever-widening service of
important, fascinating functions for education, information systems,
entertainment and tech-socialization.

That said, it’s time to share the link for the weblog we’re spinning in EN106
this semester: link.
We’re approximately two weeks into compulsory posts. I’ve been talking
about refinement in asynchronous writing because there are a few IMisms–the
usual informalities in synchronous comm environs. Since this takes our
students’ writing and, inevitably, our teaching fully into view for the tech-using public, I can
imagine potential consequences, cases of quiet disaproval, as in “Did you see what DM is
encouraging/saying/allowing in that weblog?” *pinching nose* But that’s part of
the process; it comes along with most forms of critical contact. I’m
pushing against my compulsions for blogotopia (you think J.J. would like that
clunky term?), and I prefer opportunities for wide-open exchange and attention
from those who have better ideas about how to make all of this work, over the
alternatives of insularity, internal monologue, or disinterested silence. Suggestions and “what ifs,” in other words, are always welcome.

Paper Dish Clocks

D.’s working on a lesson plan for her second graders on Monday. She’s charged with teaching them to tell time using analog face-clocks, old-style tickers, long hand and short. Which one signifies minutes again? Talking over the lesson with her, I was having fun with the idea that we drill time systems quite early in life. Alphabetic literacy is only few months–in developmental terms, curricular terms–ahead of chronological literacy. And in an ever-busy age, maybe it’s chronological literacy that puts the squeeze on the glee of childhood. What the hell am I talking about?

Coincidentally, I just received an email from G. at Time Lapse Productions. No kidding. The message title: HI. I’ve been getting a lot of those lately. I don’t want to name names or point fingers, but I have a hunch that our IT folks are fertilizing the WWW with stuff to feed the worm, since half of my daily email intake at work (about twenty message each day) has been wormy. They’re pleasant, though. Like this note from G., the message title is friendly. It’s the body of the note that is impersonal: The message cannot be represented in 7-bit ASCII encoding and has been sent as a binary attachment. Yes indeed, a title can do a lot to draw a reader into a document.

D.’s lesson. She’s concerned with the rigid points of the curriculum. Students must refer to 30-minutes after the hour as “half past.” That’s the language on the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests. So, when we’re talking about the time lesson, D. explained how they only had one day for each hand, one day for fifteen-minute units, one day for half-hour units, one day for five-minute units. Meanwhile, I’m looking at my digital Timex (but still offering up alert, focused attention), wondering *how long until this analog arrangement gets dumped by its own invention?* *how long until there won’t be time to teach time-telling, provided the regimen and pace gain steam in perpetuity?*

She has a fine lesson complete with foldable paper plate clock faces. The second graders won’t need to know about the Benedictine monks or King Charles V who started using the bell-chimes as social organizers in Paris in 1370 (re-reading Technopoly, so I’m not digging too awfully deep for this information). None of the antecedents to formal time structures will be on the MAP tests. I just hope for D.’s sake they pick up the language of time. It’d be a shame for them to call “half past nine” by the name of “nine-thirty” or, worse yet, “going on ten.” Suppose they’ll learn to break form later on.

Claro! (2.7.04) I said I was paying full, complete, undivided attention. Not so. D. read this entry. It wasn’t the MAP test at all. “Half past” is district-speak for thirty minutes after.

Hour of the Button Pusher

Up at 5:00 a.m., straight to work, taught class at 8:40 a.m. All
classes were canceled by 11:00 a.m. Too much snow. All
administrative offices were officially closed up by 2:00 p.m. So why am I
still at work? You probably want an answer. (If you don’t, well, it’s okay
to stop reading here.)

One Clear Path

I do have an answer. There’s a women’s basketball game. (Ha!
Basketball…ad delirium.) The team from Oklahoma traveled in last night,
bussing in just ahead of the snow storm that blitzed us with eight inches of
fresh powder since last night. They got refs, so they can play. It’s
that simple. As for me, well, I can’t justify enlisting your pity for
working conditions that I’ve been complicit in creating. Since I’m not
neatly staff, not neatly faculty, I’m still at work. Did have time today
to tote my camera through the flurries, push the shutter button enough to glean

these images
. And toiled–with success–over the code for author
images in our class weblog for EN106, which I will reveal soon. Maybe this
weekend.

FWIW, Sam’s comments yesterday have me thinking about the relationship
between explicit standards and grading practices in ed-blogging. I’ll turn
around an entry on that one of these days.