Yahoo! It, Yahoo!ing, Yahoo!ed

Today’s New York Times included an article about Yahoo!‘s
pitch to gain ground on the popular search engine Google.
I got snagged on the premise suggested by the article’s title: "The Search Engine That Isn’t a Verb, Yet."
Another way: Yahoo! will scale to new grandeur when its name gets used as a
verb–a term to singularly describe the vast actions of web searching. How
would that sound?

Last week, Yahoo finally replaced Google’s search results with its
home-brewed search engine, which uses a robot, called Slurp, to read Web
pages. Experts say Yahoo’s new search engine is credible and roughly
comparable to Google’s. And more important, Yahoo appears committed to the
sort of engineering work that is needed to improve the quality of Web

So the tech’s in place. Slurp? Yes, Slurp will suck up what’s
left in the bottom of the search cauldron, yield its dregish results just
fine. But until Yahoo! gets an "I’m feeling lucky!" button,
well, there’s not much to compare. Plus, with a name like Yahoo!, I can’t
imagine using it as a verb any time soon. Maybe it’s the voiceless
consonants. As long as Google’s pair of hard |g|s are soliciting search
queries, that’s where my action will remain. Yahoo! chief exec Terry Semel
regards his company’s latest venture as a bona fide contender in the all-or-nothing clash of the search engines, a kind of Algorithm Smack Down. From
the article: "Mr. Semel, characteristically, declined to talk about Google
or any other competitors, just as he would not discuss battles of media titans.
But that doesn’t mean he is not competitive. ‘I am not one who likes to be
fashionable at the moment,’ he said. ‘I want to win the race.’" I’m
not sure if I’ll know, so will somebody tell me when the race is finished?

Cast A Way

ABC is airing Tom Hanks’ flick where the FedEx executive splashes tragically
into the South Pacific where he idles away several years with a volleyball as
his only friend. It’s a somber film–one I like for simple reasons: water
dripping from the broken pager, the hullabaloo of corporate-career resuscitation
when he returns from the isolated isle, the varied, impractical contents of the
FedEx packages. It’s easy to watch, easier if there weren’t any commercial
interruptions. To keep my media noise at a sufficiently entertaining level
for a Saturday night working on course stuff (D. on her lesson plans, me on some
web things, Ph. in bed at 9:30), I put on Rhythm of the Saints kind of
low. It’s been a wild party ever since.

On the plane Monday night (yeah, that trip, the one still at
the front of my mind), I could see the variously shaped clusters of lights,
towns and cities mapped by their luminance–a kind of social electricity,
grouped filaments graphing the housing patterns of the northeastern American
landscape. I was sitting in 1A, front and left in a row of one (service
space for the attendant on my right, compartments for sodas and pretzel sticks
in tiny bags); it was a Continental puddle-skipper, a low-flying model, which
was nice because I could stare out the window and see more than the topsides of
cloudvapor. Staring, I got thinking about the selfishness of my
aspirations to take up a rigorous, demanding phd program. Like so much sudden
turbulence, I felt a shudder of sadness followed by a wave of dread. I
remembered telling Ph. that turbulence is normal when last we jetted as a
family: to Detroit last Thanksgiving. And so it is.

To distract myself from a melancholy-mood hiccup, I pulled out the courtesy
magazines. Sky Mall. Evacuation card. Oh, and what’ve
we here? Technology
(note: crap link–all for subscribers–cha-ching.). I
started on the article called "10 Emerging Technologies That Will Change
the World." Fair enough. I leafed through the profiles. The one
that interested me most (no. 6?) was about bio-programming–using computer
programming techniques to condition cell behavior. I guess it takes only a
few chemical impulses and RNA encoding to get cells to form cell communities
able to aid the normal functioning of the human organism. The short
profile made all of this sound cyborg-ish, like there are fewer degrees of
separation between humans and computers than there’ve ever been before,
especially now that the human genome has been mapped and most cellular behavior
can be neatly coded. Soon we’ll have comparative genome assessments that
will inform us about our predilections toward all kinds of things, and not long
after that, we might be able to affect those probabilities (er,
certainties?). I don’t know a whole lot about how all of this comes
together, but I am intrigued by the way cell behavior patterns are discussed
like human behavior patterns. In fact, the descriptions of programmed
cell communities
and, elsewhere, synthetic
gene networks (PDF)
bear a surprisingly clear reverberation to emerging
conversations about weblogs as social network construction (are weblogs programming
humans into discrete, selectively knowing/performing/associative groups?).
Timeout. I’m just wondering about all of this, watching what’s taking
shape at Network(ed)
, and trying to play through some of it here. No conclusions
tonight. Mad TV is on. In case that stinks, SNL is on, too.

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:
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
, 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,

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
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

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 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.