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.

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

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.

Hold the Hold

Read and respond to project prospectuses from online introduction to humanities. | Lunch meeting over bad news about royalties and CMS contract bids.| Taxes. Taxes. Taxes. | Mini-pizza; ham and pimentoed green olives. | What are you playing with? What is that sound? | Many of the HU211 students are choosing option I: Invitation to document human actuality fueled by R. Coles. | Options II–Crazy Dance and III–Humanities (e)Notebook have been much more popular in past terms. Odd. | Puzzling over blogging standards. Not because I’m a grammar hound but because I want the writing there to be done with care. | Stampede Blue versus Lakers tonight at 7:00 p.m. with you know who as acting coach. [Extra: L, 20-17. Yes, it is basketball. Defense first!] | Dinner’s ready. Do you want anything to drink? Ice water, please. Ice water.

Blogging to a trickle this week. Deepdeepfloodload of stuff to do. A bobbing head in an ocean of information. You know?

Punxsutawney Dreaming

I know a bad day when I’m having one. But I won’t allow this space to
become cluttered with lamentations and day-to-day annoyances. Everyone’s
got plentyHappy Groundhog's Day
enough of that, and while sharing does lend some relief, EWM must not become dark and crabby. I’m trying not to be bothered by the echo and aftereffect of the Super Bowl halftime show. We watched the game with a few friends. One friend is the minister from our church. Don’t worry. It’s a hip, progressive,
contemporary church–multi-denominational with a strong message of peace, so we got to watch the rest of the game without too much hellfire and damnation about sins of the flesh: in case you missed it, Justin Timberlake tore Janet Jackson’s costume-brazier. We all looked at each other and asked, “What was
that?”. Phillip, with his twelve-year-old critical filters for
defining pop culture incidents, savored it more than the rest of us.

I should probably go to sleep instead of blogging into a stupor. Today
was not a snow day. No snowbound writing retreat. No quiet, peaceful
flakiness to put off usual Monday anxieties. I’ve been wondering–as I
paced through another workday–how bad a weather predictor must be to earn a
reprimand. I mean, I know it’s the Midwest. I know the weather isn’t
easy to predict. But they (name your forecaster, your channel, your fancy Doppler
radar system) have all of the technology foretelling the pressures and
humidities. On Friday, they promised 10-18 inches of snow. We got
two inches. Feels like fraud, since our first-Monday-of-the-new-month
staff meeting (a two hour drone about recruiting…ugh!) was not cancelled. Here I go again, whining about workaday life. Promised I wouldn’t. Beg pardon.

Compulsory Blogging

This semester is my first using a weblog for a composition course. The
course is EN106; its course description promises this: “The
course teaches students to write effectively for various purposes and audiences.
It also helps to develop further skills in critical thinking and reading.
Special emphasis is given to information retrieval and writing a research
paper.” I decided to make one group blog and to make blog-writing
compulsory. It’s a lot like what takes shape in the online courses I’ve
developed where course requirements call for a kind of double-entry journal from which dialogue unfolds. I like the asynchronous interaction. The
compulsory element calls for a total of four entries each week: one
250-word entry must relate to our course concerns (the questions we’re taking up from the reading and related discussions), one 250-word entry must trace a
selected theme throughout the semester–for thirteen or fourteen weeks.
The other two entries can be about anything, any length, etc., including
comments on other entries. This is in addition to six essays and a few other
options, all of which allow the students to make choices about what work they
will do.

I went with compulsory posts because I wanted to ensure that the blog caught on. I also wanted to enable students to pursue their own interests in fullness and with sustained attention. In other words, I find the nature of many blogs bring about nuggeted writing–truncated blurbs about whatever notion strikes, a kind of Short Attention Span Theatre of sound bytes. Calling for a sustained theme will induce, I hope, a sense of coherence and continuity and will lead us toward ways of talking about and understanding ongoing research
pursuits (research isn’t all coherence and continuity, FWIW. It’s plenty of digging, sifting, discovery, misadventure and curiosity, too, I’d say).

After our first week of writing in the course weblog, I have the impression that it’s too much writing (right…never mind…there’s
no such thing. Is there?). For now, I think I’ll stick to the pre-cut
path. The rest is wilderness. Good thing we’re not alone.