Most Polluted?

<snark>Every so often I go looking for examples of astonishingly astonishing
web design. With that said, I’m no standards-waving design puritan, and I admit
I am attracted to departures from conventionality (unusual CSS tricks, and so
on). This morning an email arrived with a link for PTA listserv subscribers to
the Syracuse City School District
web site
, a site so overstocked with informative tidbits that it can only be
described as belonging to the "dump it in, anywhere" school of design, a school
matching with the old industrial mindset that caused Lake Onondaga to be so
choked with mercury and other debris that it for many years won acclaim as the
U.S.’s most polluted. I get it that the school district is complex,
but…my oh my. Just try to find anything here (e.g., the media release
form).</snark>

To be fair, I have done little in this entry other than pot-shot on the site (and remember a link for future returns). And, to be even fairer, I don’t even need anything from it today. But this craggy little hike through the cluttered SCSD corner of the web got me thinking that it
might be interesting in a class to look around for the most polluted school
district web site in the U.S. (or in a given state) and then to work on improving its usability.

Postcard

Here is a piece of mail that arrived today: a postcard from a thoughtful, support-for-when-you-really-need-it company
called Academic Ladder. The absence of a bona fide postage stamp makes me think this
came to me via
bulk mailing, but in case it was sent to me alone, I share it here for posterity’s sake. 
Also, these are some of the design elements that might powerfully reach out to
other late-stage dissertators:

  • "STRUGGLING", all caps and in a blood-curdling font you probably don’t
    have installed on your home computer (my guess: TrueType Chainsaw
    Massacre Smear Italics 48).
  • Why don’t you have the font installed on your home computer? 
    Apparently, you are writing the dissertation using a steno notebook and No. 2
    pencil.  Getting started involves tearing off and crumpling whole
    sheets of paper that you keep on the desk as you work–the origami of
    unshakeable frustration.
  • The offer: A "free" toolkit with everything a late-stage dissertator
    needs to know about "How Academia Messes with your Mind (and what to do
    about it)" and "Find out if you have Ph.D. Imposter Syndrome!"

What’s that? No, in fact, it’s nobody’s business whether I
ordered a toolkit. That’s not what this entry is about. Anyway, it’s my CCCC
presentation I’m struggling to complete today.

Works Delicioused, Works Slided

An email message this morning asked about Flickr Creative Commons and citation: “How do you handle it?” I’d planned to address this in the class I am teaching on Tuesday morning, so it was more or less on my mind already. I responded that I prefer one of two methods for presenting the citations indexing the images used in a slide show: 1.) bookmark all of the images and any other web-based content using a unique Delicious tag and then present that one URL on a slide at the end of the presentation or 2.) provide a series of slides (as many as necessary) at the end with full citations for all of the sources used in the slideshow and in the talk. I used the first approach at Watson last month. In hindsight, I’d say that talk ranks fairly high (top five? top three?) among the talks I’ve given over the last few years, both in terms of quality and in terms of presentational style. Those 217 slides were, oh, 200 more than I’d ever worked with before, and the rapid-fire slide-changing got to be a little bit dicey (even after several practice runs, I lost my place once). But my point is that the single URL for my “Works Delicioused” worked fine. Anyone interested in the stuff I referenced could have followed up.

I’ll prefer the second option, “Works Slided,” when on Tuesday morning I take on some of the Presentation Zen stuff that frames our fourth and final unit in WRT195. This approach isn’t all that visually stimulating; these aren’t slides a presenter would necessarily show as part of the presentation, I mean. But they do make the citations ready-to-hand in case anyone should ask about a source–visual or otherwise. I’ve used this approach for presentations that include a lot of textual sources. And I’ve also blended the two: providing a conventional works cited along with a collection in delicious of all of the online materials. I’m sure there are other variations, but these are two are the ones I’ve been weighing today.

This teacherly weekend has also included commenting several drafts from 195ers–penciling comments in the margins and typing focused “looking ahead” notes in response to half-drafts of their unit three projects, researched arguments. There were sixteen drafts total. I commented six on Friday, five yesterday, and the last five today, reading and penciling up the margins first and then going back over each of the drafts to come up with a more focused end note. In the end note, I tried to focus as much as possible on 1.) the greatest strength of the draft (this was my opening gambit on all of them: “The greatest strength of the draft is…”) and 2.) the most pressing concerns given what they have been asked to undertake over the last 5-6 weeks. Spent roughly 90 minutes (two hours tops) commenting each of the last three days, but it will lighten the workload when they turn in finished drafts in another ten days or so.

The fourth unit of this course asks the students to translate the research argument into a 6 minute, 40 second Pecha Kucha presentation. So that’s where the PZ materials and slide show questions come from. I’m also reading around in Hume’s Surviving Your Academic Job Hunt (a book I’ll have more to say about in another entry one day soon perhaps), and it occurred to me, where Hume lists all of the various sorts of job talks one must be prepared to give that the Pecha Kucha format is conspicuously absent. In fairness, Pecha Kucha has only been around since 2003, and although Hume’s book was published in 2005, I don’t have any reason to think that anyone has ever been asked to give an academic job talk as a Pecha Kucha. But this does lead to yet another puzzler: why not? I mean, what is it about the 30-40 minute job talk that works out so well for academic audiences? I really don’t mean to balk at the convention. Not at all. But I do think there are questions worth asking about the performance conditions of a 30-40 minute talk relative to any of the alternatives, Pecha Kucha or whatever. Sort of an evocative thought experiment: maybe in thirty years we will see the top 3-5 candidates for a given position come to a campus where they all deliver Pecha Kucha presentations in common session. Then discuss. Wildly out there, I suppose, but interesting to me–especially so given that I have been thinking lately about the job talk genre, how best to prepare for such a thing, and so on.

United Lakes of Atlantica

Over the weekend Strange Maps
posted an

inverted map of the world
. The imaginary map was designed by Vlad Gerasimov who made it as
desktop wallpaper available at
Vladlabs
.


Aside from the Grand Inversion, the map symbols would suggest
that the climate, landforms, coastlines, flora, and fauna are more or less in
tact. In that case, I suppose I’d be most at home just north and east of Bermuda City. Or somewhere within a canoe ride of the Great Islands.

Swatch

Should I change the coloration of the blog? If I do, I’ll start by trimming
this collection of fourteen–most of which I lifted from
colourlovers–down to three
or four.

Honey (i.e., gold, third from the left) and ham gravy (i.e., tan, seventh from
the left) are front runners, although only one or the other would be part of the new scheme, not both. I probably should add that I don’t officially have time for
tinkering with the blog, but there’s a certain purging and restorative balance (CSS
Zen Garden
?) that comes with washing the style sheets every now and then.