Tuesday, January 30, 2007

X-timing Parataxis

I first thought I would call this entry "Two-timing Parataxis" so I could get at the different relationships parataxis enjoys--simultaneously!--with syntaxis, on the one hand (cheek?), and hypotaxis, on the other. But as I try to get a better handle on parataxis in anticipation of Thursday's defense, I'm starting to think parataxis is more than two-timing. Patsy Cline: "Your cheating heart will make you weep." Heh, weep. Only I'm the one in a fix because of parataxis's scandal and infidelity.

Thus far, I'm finding a couple of more or less common distinctions, one grammatical, in which parataxis is positioned as a dance partner with syntaxis, and one rhetorical, in which parataxis is paired with hypotaxis. The tabloids will be all over this.

My most significant exam-writing error (more a matter of confusion or partial understanding than of unrecoverable slip-up) was to set out from an idea of hypotaxis and parataxis (and syntaxis) fused together in this line from Fuller's Media Ecologies:

"Parataxis (a sequence of this and that, 'ands') always involves a virtuality that is hypotactic (concepts and things, nested, meshed, and writhing). It puts into play a virtual syntax" (15).

From there, I keyed on a distinction between parataxis and syntaxis, arguing, basically, that tagging practices can be considered as a distributed aesthetics, that wrapping/inscribing new media objects in tags resonates with database logics more than with narrative (we're not exactly storying the new media objects when wrapping them with word-length semantic tags; I reffed Manovich, Lyotard), and that metadata, because it suspends (as if in crisis?) in a state of always-available multiple pathways is effectively, though perhaps not exclusively, paratactic.

The etymology is relevant; it's primarily what I used to justify the series of arguments I worked through related to distributed aesthetics, taxonomy, folksonomy, net art, on-sendings, tags as wrappers, the life cycle of tags, and so on. Here:

parataxis: Gr. to place side by side. Para-beside; taxis-arrangement or ordering.
syntaxis: Gr. to arrange in a sequence. Syn-with or together; taxis-arrangement or ordering.
hypotaxis: Gr. to arrange under (hierarchically). Hupo-under or subordinate; taxis-arrangement or ordering.

I could and probably should go much deeper with this. It wasn't so much a case for exclusivity (might they be complements rather than opposites?) as for distinction. What makes authoring tags (tags as micro-writing; tags as method) distinct from writing sentences? However we generate an answer, I think it must take into account this cluster of concepts. While a case could be made for database logic as hypotactic, so too must we take into account that the unordered list be understood paratactically, as is the case for Fuller in his emphasis on a methodology of lists, the detonation of associations ("a cascade of parasites"), and his child-like imperative to follow multiple paths at once (a hyper- poly- hodos).

I have more work to do if I end up revising the take-home essay I wrote for minor exam two. I need to reconsider whether the preference for parataxis is the best way to think about tagging practices, specifically, and metadata more generally. This certainty isn't shocking: there will be more reading, more research. And it very well might come around to whether or not notions of parataxis, syntaxis, and hypotaxis, in addition to taking root in well-established traditions of rhetoric and grammar, must also be updated in consideration of writing new media.

The risk here, I suppose, is that a reappraisal of parataxis could be taken as a threat to composition's investment in sentences, in syntax, and, ultimately, in discourse (a term which, as some have explained it, relies on syntaxis; without syntaxis, no discourse?). I've been searching for more recent, more disciplinarily recognizable references to syntaxis, parataxis, and hypotaxis, and although I haven't had time to follow up with everything on the list, I did find this in a CCC from 1991:

"The shifting, the disconnection or parataxis, the "rustle," as Barthes calls it, of language--these are perceived by many in composition as threats to the very control over language that writing instruction would have itself confer" (294). James Seitz, "Composition's Misunderstanding of Metaphor," CCC, 42.3, 1991.

I'm intrigued by Seitz's suggestion that parataxis is a threat; this folds reasonably well into conversations about technology, new media, and the production of anxiety. I didn't take that path in the essay I wrote back in December, but it might be something to set aside for later and, as with all of this, at the very least something to keep afloat in my grey matter at least through Thursday's goal-line stand on the matter of parataxis and tagging.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Cloudifying Exams

B ecause I have a hearing/defense coming up Thursday morning for my qualifying exams, I figured why not run the answers for the most frequent nouns and noun phrases? And then I figured, why not post each answer as a tagcloud?

I've re-read my exam answers to prepare for each of the meetings with members of my committee over the past few days. Re-connecting with the answers has been unsurprising; I mean that the answers were what I remembered them to be. Their arguments, for better and worse, are still fresh with me. Still, the tagcloud gives me another perspective. A different bi-product.

I don't have a whole lot more to say about the questions I anticipate or the steps I'm taking to defend myself my answers. Just saying that because I have the CSS built to handle it, I'm enamored of posting more vaporous gatherings, beginning with these.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Up- or Down- A Grade is a Slope

I t was upgrade weekend for the blog, meaning I had my eyes turned under the hood and my fingers in the blog code Friday into Saturday (today, all reading, responding, and figuring grades).

I was running MT3.2, growing every day more envious of those who were putting to use the tagging features built into 3.3+. The upgrade was a cinch. Just FTPed the files into place and logged in. The config file didn't need any changes. Well, it didn't require any changes, that is, until I also converted the database from MySQL4 to MySQL5. For that, I had to add a DBSocket line to the config file. I had not a clue about it at the time, but the support folks at icdsoft.com are remarkably good.

That's a hearty new cumulus tagcloud over at the left. There's a lot to be said for MT's tagging features built into the latest versions. Now I can merge tags across the entire weblog, sort by tags (for editing or adding new companion tags), and grade the tags with a max="x" setting. That's the statement I use to come up with ten levels for the tag cloud. And I've set the CSS to display:none for the bottom five (#6-10). That way only the top five levels show up, and the cloud isn't the size of Lake Michigan.

I also had to downgrade the search template that came along with MT3.4 (maybe 3.3, too). By default, the new search template for MT works with the wonky style sheets that came with 3.2+. I'm still using a frame-sy template from all the way back to 2.65, but I like it. Rather than upgrade the style sheet, I retro-graded the template. Matters very little in the end, I suppose. But I really like the way the new MT processes the tag families (The Confluent's), listing entries for a particular tag and also listing the other tags attached to each respective entry.

For anyone pilfering the internets for pieces of stray code, here's how I've done my tagcloud (in Movable Type 3.4)

Create a module named "cloud." Copy what's here into it. Depending on your main style sheet, your sidetitle div might be different.:

<div class="sidetitle">Tagcloud</div>
<div id="cloud">
<a href="<$MTTagSearchLink$>" class="tag<$MTTagRank max="10"$>"><$MTTagName$></a>

<!--Optional tag count in parentheses-->
<!-- (<$MTTagCount$>)-->

Into the main template:

<$MTInclude module="cloud"$>

And into the main style sheet:
I should note that this is still very much a work-in-progress. It should give you a general sense of what I've done.

/*#########Tag Cloud########*/

{font-family: verdana, arial, sans-serif;
padding-top: 1px;
border-bottom: 4px solid #E7E6E6;

#cloud a {text-decoration:none;

#cloud A { text-decoration: none; }
#cloud A:link { text-decoration: none; }
#cloud A:visited { text-decoration: none; }
#cloud A:active { color: #FFCC66; }
#cloud A:hover { color: #FFCC66; }

color: #E7E8EB;

/*display:none designates which of the levels of tags (corresponding to the max="10" statement in the module) will actually show up in the cloud.*/

color: #E7E8EB;

color: #E7E8EB;

color: #E7E8EB;

color: #E7E8EB;
a.tag5 {
color: #C0C5D3;

a.tag4 {
color: #C0C5D3;

a.tag3 {
color: #647094;

a.tag2 {
color: #081B55;

a.tag1 {
color: #081B55;
/*The font-weights here still need fine-tuning.*/

That's it. To settle on a range of hex codes, I used color blender. With the new version of Movable Type, all of what's shown here is supported without any plugins. I mention this because I spent a frustrated half-hour messing around with Cloudnine before I realized it was obsolete and another frustrated half-hour wondering why the tags weren't showing up before I realized I had some other ineffective old tagging plugin still hanging around in my installation.

Saturday, January 27, 2007



A fter a couple of weeks of barley, rice, and oatmeal cereal, today is a day of fruits.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Belt of Verbs - Friday Leather Punch Edition

I f you're a user of the language, you'll need a verb sooner or later.

Evidently, today's Friday Leather Punch Edition is concerned with evidenced. As in,

The strong odor in the office evidenced Yoki's sick stomach.

Here it comes: I really don't like the verb evidenced. I know it's a legitimate word, but it always sounds wrong to me, no matter the context. A faint hunch tells me it's a rip-off of evinced (that one, a verb of verbs!). I doubt I would be stating it too strongly to say that this is the real dividing line in the academy and, yes, all of humanity: those who use evidenced, and those who do not.

I checked it against the only corpus of texts I have on my trusty laptop computer--the last nineteen years of CCC articles. Thirty-one out of 414 articles put to good and proper use the verb evidenced. More than seven percent! But the distribution isn't even across the years. Just nine articles use evidenced from 1989-1999; twenty-two articles use evidenced since the turn of the century.

What does this evidence evidence? The question is too fresh to return a decisive answer. And in the mean time, I will stick with suggested, indicated, and proved as ready-to-verbalize ahead of evidenced. Make room for evidenced, if you must, in one of the deep pouches on the expanding belt of verbs.

Monday, January 22, 2007


I dragged my feet (a dragging not only of reluctance, but of aging joints, stiffness, soreness), and then I succumbed to pressures to join a recreational basketball team for the next ten weeks. It's been almost a year since the strange pinch that blossomed into weeks and weeks of appointments, scans, and eventually a cortisone injection late last spring. I really don't know whether the cartilage ulceration will, yet again, ulcerate, but I also think of this as a last chance to play hoops. If not now, when?

I haven't ever played in many rec leagues. After high school, when I was seventeen and taking a freshman courseload at Central Michigan, I joined a team in the men's league in the old high school gymnasium every Sunday. We didn't win many games. The sponsor was one of the local saw mills, Maeder Bros., I think. And later, after I finished undergrad work and took my first post-bacc. gig around Saginaw, Mich., I joined up with a squad from Bay City sponsored by Green's Tavern. Kelly green tops. It was very much about the post-game beers back at Green's. And local lore had it that Bay City sported more bars per capita than any other U.S. city. That right? And it was with Green's Tavern that I regained my confidence after season-ending right shoulder surgery the year before, my final season at alma mater. Later on, in Kansas City, there were a couple of leagues, but nothing memorable--more pick-up and open gym gatherings than anything else.

Without going into the full details, I'm on a sponsored team again. Playing in a suburban Syracuse church league. No practices. Just games. Forty-minute running clock (the last two minutes of each half, it stops). And the best part: six fouls. Plenty for a running clock. The division we're in assumes the names of programs in the Big Ten, and because we're the new team, I'm told we'll be known as Penn State. When I said to the team captain, "Penn State?!," he said, "I can probably still change it to Minnesota." And then Penn State was back to sounding okay (a judgment applied exclusively in the domain of hoops). Tip-off tomorrow, in the name of once-a-week fun and decompression. May it go well enough that I'm able to mention it again.

Added: Game 1 was a 63-44 loss to one of stronger teams in the league. I was able to walk the stairs to get out of the gym afterward, so that's something. Ended with five fouls (three ticky-tacks in the first half, and one that should've been a charge to bring me to five).

Sunday, January 21, 2007

An Account

L atour, in ch. 5 of Reassembling, writes this of "slowciological" accounts:

What is an account? It is typically a text, a small ream of paper a few millimeters thick that is darkened by a laser beam. It may contain 10,000 words and be read by very few people, often only a dozen or a few hundred if we are really fortunate. A 50,000 word thesis might be read by a half a dozen people (if you are lucky, even your PhD advisor would have read parts of it!) and when I say 'read', it does not mean 'understood', 'put to use', 'quoted', 'shelved somewhere in a pile'. At best we add an account to all those which are simultaneously launched in the domain we have been studying. Of course, this study is never complete. We start in the middle of things, in medias res, pressed by our colleagues, pushed by fellowships, starved for money, strangled by deadlines. And most of the things we have been studying, we have ignored or misunderstood. (122)

Even if I don't choose this as the epigraph to the preface to the rough draft of my dissertation prospectus, I find it to be an encouraging and humorous characterization of the phase that lies ahead. And this is to say nothing of Reassembling seeming one of the more important (read smart, even riveting) books I've picked up in recent months. Well, right, I am being sort of pokey in crawling through it, the way an aspiring slowciologist of associations should.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Dress in Layers

S nowing lately. Another 6-10 inches on the way tonight. Maybe we'll be out angeling the snow and sledding tomorrow if Is. has her way.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


O r duty-filled. I'm home from this morning's jury duty and tremendously relieved to be relieved after just three hours at the courthouse. Other than this splitting headache.

It ended very much in the same way it started. Everyone showed up at 8:45 a.m. ('cept for the one dude who trotted in at 9:05 a.m. and was told he was too late. Don't mess with the courts of law, my tardy friend.) Everyone left at 10:55 a.m., forty dollars richer and carrying away a free pen, a free pocket calendar, and as many generic certificates of appreciation as anyone cared to grab from the unattended stack. "We appreciate your service," said the organizing clerk. "We appreciate your service," again and again, like water torture.

But there were no court cases for us to hear. We almost assembled into juries--sets of 6+2 alternates for the city court, laying down the law over misdemeanor offenses. After standing in line, filling out the paperwork, making small talk and exchanging niceties with strangers (Cold outside. Mm-hmm.), after reading the pamphlets ("Jury Handbook," "Jury Service in New York State"), newsletters (Jury Pool News), and whitepapers ("Conduct of Jurors"), listening to the commissioner of jurors reiterate the various one-liners in the jury handbook (you were selected from one of several lists), and after watching a twenty minute video covering everything from trials by ordeal (so unfair! the innocent sank while the guilty floated!) to some New York high court judge explaining that jury duty was more significant than voting because juries are few and voters are many, we took a ten minute break.

Thirty minutes later--seriously, if you can believe it, the duty was more exhausting than reading this entire entry about the duty--the organizing clerk returned to the large room and said, "Do you want the good news or the bad news?" The loud-mouth in the corner (he and his new friend one row ahead of where he sat had been carrying on all mourning long about how his employer wouldn't pay him for jury duty {cheap!}, how he hates one-way streets {un-navigable!}, how he had to pee {bathroom?}, how he hadn't had any breakfast yet and it was almost lunch time {hungry!}, how he likes to get up at 4:00 a.m. {ambitious!}, how taxes hit hardest those who work hardest {libertarian!}, how everyone in the room looked so dejected about their duty {concern!}...no, actually it was his unbroken yammering that poisoned the otherwise tolerable scene; I watched the people around me sigh, clear their throats, put away their reading materials, frown, look over the tops of their low-riding bifocals, and so on, as he talkity-talked on and on and on) spoke out: "We don't care." But the organizing clerk wouldn't hear it. She wanted us to choose from among the options: good news, bad news.

Fine, bad news first. "You won't get to see me again for another six years." Now if that's the bad news, the good news was going to be something really special. And it was. We were sent home. The day's three cases had been settled and juries weren't needed.

I won't dwell on the process (this one's it, no more entries about j-duty), but what tired me most of all was the feeling of being plucked randomly out of Onondaga's middle (a jury of quasi-peers), being hewn toward a kind of dulled perspective (abandon all predisposition; put away all electronics), and then enjoy the significant contribution you are making to democracy. In fact, the movie--very important stuff on why juries matter and how to be a good juror, narrated by Ed Bradley and Diane Sawyer--seemed strangely propagandistic. The video must have been ten years old; a much younger looking Diane Sawyer motivated us, more or less like this, "It might seem like you're just sitting around, but you're not. You should be proud that you're getting ready to contribute to one of the most cherished processes in America." Shouldering the mother lode of American justice, and so on. But it was hard to concentrate on the second thing she said, right as it was, because the first one was completely contradictory to the experience of the morning.

Anyway, I'm off the list for six years (should have my diss together before then, knock on wood), and I managed, despite the loud-talkers to pace through a few more pages of Latour's Reassembling, the chapter on matters of fact and matters of concern.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

C-Webb and Outtheplayoffsheimer

T wo sports hopes:

1. I hope the San Diego Superchargers keep Marty Schottenheimer for one more season.
2. I hope the Pistons go ahead and sign Chris Webber but don't let go of McDyess in the process.

You see, for me, it was dog-bone-chewing elation when the Cleveland Browns advanced to the AFC Championship Game against the Broncos back in '86. Kosar, Byner, Slaughter, Golic--they were going to woof all the way through the playoffs. Schottenheimer was the coach. I had a Browns jacket; I subscribed to the Browns Digest (the name?) and postered my bedroom walls with all the players. The first set of teams for vibrating-sheet-metal football: AFC Central (Cleveland, Cincy, Houston, and Pittsburgh). After the drive, I cried. And then in Kansas City, several years later, Schottenheimer was with the Chiefs--Thomas, Montana, Allen. Always a surge into the playoffs and then a fizzle, year after--not again--year. With the Chargers, this year was no different. But 14-3? I say keep Schottenheimer for the regular season and get him a spot in the booth for the post-season. Hand the team over to a preparer and motivator come post-season (i.e., borrow Urban Meyer for a few weeks). The Chargers have the personnel, right? Give him one more season, I say. (Note: Of the weekend's playoffs, the Chargers-Pats outcome was the only one I thought disappointing.)

Here's the other hope: I'd like to see Webber run with the Pistons. But I hope they don't have to let Antonio McDyess off the roster to make it work. I've only been half-following this story (due to let loose after 2:00 p.m. today), so there's probably been some discussion of who will stay and who will go. But I think of Webber as a Detroit local, despite the missteps at U-Mich in the early '90s. Webber was Michigan's Mr. Basketball out of the Country Day School the same year the I was a senior in high school. I never played against him in AAU because I was a year younger, but Webber and the Superfriends towered over all in-state competition (they may have even won the national AAU tournament in '91). Webber has had an injury-plagued NBA career. And although his stop-over in Philadelphia was little more than an overpriced backslide, he was a Horry three-pointer away from a title-chance with the Kings. I might be wrong, but the mix of local pride and end-of-career-is-near might be enough to evoke whatever he's got left. I say it's potentially a Finals-making pick-up for the Pistons.

Monday, January 15, 2007

CCCCorny "Blog"

T he Blogora's Jim Aune writes of joining the CCCC, and in doing so, he refers to a blog "they've" started, aptly titled CCCC. I saw Jim's entry yesterday and hurried across the a-href to see the blog to which he referred.

It is, uh, something to see?

The 14+ subscription buttons are especially peculiar, considering that the blog sports just two entries--one from September and one from October, perfectly timed for the NCTE Convention, I suppose. And in November, it appears to have given out--kaput. I don't know what to make of it. It's the sort of oddity I'm tempted to stare at for a few minutes to see whether it breathes or blinks. This is the CCCC blog?

Now I feel low for taking shots at it, for poking fun. Still, it's striking. Where did it come from? Why the blogspot ethos? The footer, too, is surprising with its official-seeming protect-repel bureaucratic contradiction--a copyright paradox as it both taketh and giveth away (Ours? Not ours? Yes!):

1998-2006 National Council of Teachers of English. All rights reserved.

Opinions in this blog do not represent official policy of the National Council of Teachers of English.

And the most recent entry, the one from October, goes on about membership. Membership. I'm for membership, and I'm a member. But sad as I am to say it, this is the blog of an organization on vacation. A real puzzler, this one. "Opinions...do not represent...NCTE," but the blog itself, pains me to report, does.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Tags and Metadata

O n Monday Dave Sifry of Technorati posted Happy Taggiversary, an entry marking the second anniversary of Technorati tags. In it he announced the launch of tag pages, a kind of 10x10 of semantic tags assigned to various blog entries around the web for this hour. Instead of 10x10's keyword/picture relay, we get a cloud of the tags themselves.

I'm interested in the response to Sifry offered by Matthew Hurst at Data Mining. Hurst contends that tags, whether assigned by authors or by third-parties, constitute object data rather than metadata. Because search engines easily conflate the semantic content of tags for the semantic content of a blog entry itself, tags are more appropriately identified as object data. Hurst differentiates textual objects from non-textual objects; for the latter, semantic tags are less likely to be confused with the object itself, as with an image, for example.

The questions, then: Are tags metadata? Or are they object data? Are they both? Do they function or perform differently for textual objects than for non-textual objects (i.e., iconic, sonic, or filmic objects)? Are tags always/ever distinct from keywords (a confluence of which appear in the text itself)? Why might it be significant to distinguish keywords (capta?) from tags--to hold them apart, if momentarily?

In one manner of thinking, much of this rolls back to just how strict we want to be with metadata as a concept. Metadata: data about data, yeah? Or data that re-associates or re-assembles other data and things. Or data that, in and of itself, interrelates. I don't have well-formed answers just yet, but I'm inclined to accept that tags are metadata, particularly when tags are understood to be those contingent wrappers (as Vander Wal explains it) that shuttle new media objects into still-developing relationships. Yet, as a microform, where tags have a 1:1 relationship with the thing named, they can be understood as object data, too. The interest in tagging practices, in tags as authored, and in folksonomies, however, might not be as pronounced if tags were object data alone. Because tags bear out something like a 1+1:n relationship with the thing named, to my mind, they do something else, something more, something meta-.


I t's been an especially barfy week around the EWM home. Weak stomach? Probably best you stop reading here. I'll come up with another post before long that will be safe for the queasy and squeamish.

Thing is, I woke up Tuesday morning to find that Yoki had produced an unusually large and solids-loaded mound of puke. It's unpleasant, sure, but common enough and not so eventful that I bothered anyone else in the house with the news (no elated "Come see this!"). But there were three large hunks of solid matter in and around the smelly and soft acids and foodstuff soaking into his over-priced foam pillow. Recognizable solid matter: three pieces of Nylabone flexible pooch pacifiers. Uncanny. I was stumped. Y. hadn't chewed any of those in more than two months.

It must have been Ph. He'd had opportunity to grab one of the remaining Nylabones from the Value Pack--3 Chew Bones (Offre Exceptionnelle, says the package) and give it to Y. the night before. I was sure it was Ph. So sure, in fact, that I asked him about it when he arrived home from school, prepared for the more or less regular standoff and inevitable grounding. "I know you did it, because I did not." But Ph. stood firm, arguing with impressive poise that he had nothing to do with the unusual by-products thrown up by Y. He was so resolved about his innocence, in fact, that he baited me with the possible punishments, as in go ahead, ground me, I didn't do it. But we have proof! What about the proof?! Y., who remains crated for the most part, couldn't have gotten his paws on a bone by himself. Not possible.

I called the vet: "Is it possible for a young dog to keep three chunks of Nylabone in his stomach for more than two months." It was the veterinary assistant. She put me on hold while she asked the doctor, then came back to give me an unhelpful answer: "No, he would have evacuated them before now." Oy. Okay. Unheimlich, unheimlich.

I was on campus Wednesday and bumped into dog-owning friends. One offered this wise insight: "Read the package. I don't think they're supposed to eat those." Here's what the package says, in part:

Different dogs have different chewing styles, even with the same breed--one may be a strong chewer and another more gentle, preferring a softer chew. Bristles raised during chewing can help clean teeth and the cleaning action helps control plaque and tartar build up. This chew is not consumable, but small shavings (no larger than a grain of rice) should pass through. Replace when knuckles are worn down. If dissatisfied, return product with receipt to Nylabone for refund or replacement. Please read enclosed Guidelines for Use before using.

I went back to the scene and the evidence, double-bagged in ziplocs in case a vet appointment was necessary. I begrudgingly re-examined the bits and found that all three were knuckles. Nylabone knuckles. Remnants of more than one bone. The vet must've been wrong (perhaps because s.he didn't know what sort of bone I was referring to). Ph. was cleared of all allegations. Here Yoki'd been toting those chunks of "inert soft thermoplastic polymer with natural flavor" around in his stomach for several several weeks.

What will we do with the third bone in the value pack (the remainder, liver flavor)? I'm not sure. But I'm relieved that this turmoil has ended, that Y.'s poor stomach is Nylabone knuckle free, and that I'm the only one to blame for only half-way reading the instructions on a package of dog bones.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


C lasses begin one week from today, and so I've been wrenching and soldering the course I'm slotted to teach. The syllabus must be ready one week in advance of the semester (i.e., today) so that our plans and projections can be vetted, held up alongside what's acceptable. And once the syllabus is vetted and approved, TAs are awarded their precious copy codes. That said, I'm teaching an online section this semester, and so it's entirely possible that I won't make a single photocopy over the next sixteen weeks. It's a section of Studio II, the second course in SU's two-course composition sequence, a course normally taken during the second semester of the sophomore year. But the section I've been appointed is designated for "seniors only," which means that there will be ten or so seniors enrolled who will graduate in May and who have yet to take WRT205 for any number of reasons. Rather than explain my plan here, feel free to check out the syllabus if you're so inclined. You should be warned that the front piece looks like garbage in IE, but I've checked it for CSS compliance and it's looks dandy in Firefox, Netscape, and Safari--just like I want it to look. And yeah, I have been futzing with style sheets just for kicks in the last day or so.

I still have a fair amount of work to do for the course in the days ahead, but I'm confident that what's there will go off without a hitch. Holding face-to-face conferences is, as my reviewer pointed out to me, a wildcard, but as I imagine it, it will be significant to meet once at the library for everyone who is relatively near to campus. Even in such cases where it's impossible to meet, we can use Skype or telephone to chat about the first project and what's to follow.

I never said much about it, but the course I taught in the fall, WRT302, improved markedly down the stretch. In fact, on the final day, one day before I sat my major exams, everyone wanted to stay and spend time with each others' final projects. I mean that I said we could end a few minutes early since everyone's stuff was turned in, and they asked if they could look at the culminating projects on the big screen. So we stayed until the last minute of class, watching together the impressive work they'd composed. I'm reminded of this as I head into the new semester because, along with getting the syllabus ready for the upcoming 205, I've been arranging some of my teaching materials and getting a few more pieces, like teaching evaluations, online. I have mixed feelings about sharing the evals because, read apart from the course, the commentary they offer--good and bad--is inevitably vague and ambiguous. Yet, to spend much time explicitly rationalizing specific comments seems excessive (even when I've done this quietly, privately). I learned: This student liked an group work; that one preferred to work alone. One student thought Barthes was the highlight; another, DJ Spooky. Evaluations are useful only insomuch as they are understood as the average effect, the studium of pedagogy. What more be said about the evals is that they tell me this: rarely do I have a set of students who end the semester of a like mind. That is, if the purpose of mass education is to replicate ideas--to grind the burrs from the automatons, something's gone wonderfully wrong. Anyway, I've been putting teaching evaluations up, too, and thinking about the limits of what that might mean.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Blog Orbit No. 3

T oday marks three years of more or less regular blogging. I know it doesn't sound like a long time in ordinary human years, but in blog years it's something close to 108. Yipes. Feels like eons.

In year one, there were 221 entries. In year two, 271. And this year, year three, a record low 199 entries, a disappointing sum which must include an asterisk to account for qualifying exams and the 100 notes entries posted to this blog's exam-focused counterpart. Whether or not there's much fanfare (are those trumpets?), I'm celebrating three years, which, it turns out, is just barely older than average among the Technorati 100, by sharing a few picks from the most recent cycle:


  1. Is.
  2. Yo.


  1. The Networked Image
  2. Indexical Thinking
  3. Ground-Truthing
  4. Katamari Walking
  5. Re Collection


  1. Genu Muchwobbly
  2. Beaguiled
  3. Bob Barkerization of Mutts
  4. Coach: Blinky's In Foul Trouble
  5. Amuellierated

Here's to growing neither weary nor bored in the blog-year to come.

Friday, January 5, 2007


S ugar depressed? Down in the right-eating caloric dumps? Suffering from post-holidaysal dietary balance? Worry not! Today is Peanut Butter Pie Friday.

Peanut Butter Pie

Okay, so you get the picture. I cooked up a pair of delightfully peanut-buttery PB pies a few minutes ago, working from a recipe given to me by a co-worker in the gig I was working nine years ago. The conversation went approximately as follows: D: That PB pie is really good. Co-worker: Want the recipe? D: Okay, why not.

I have not had the peanut butter pie since. Not this peanut butter pie nor any other. Not one time.

However. When I went recipe-digging about ten days ago, I ran across the index card. It said this:

Peanut Butter Pie

1 c milk
1 c boiling water
2 1/2 tbsp corn starch
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c peanut butter
3/4 c sugar
3 egg yolks

Mix peanut butter and boiling water until smooth. Mix corn starch, sugar, salt, egg yolks with mix. Combine with peanut butter mixture and cook until thick.

The procedure for crust is on the back of the card, which is signed, surprisingly enough, L.L. Dec. 1997. For the crust it's a fairly straight-forward combination of flour, shortening, and water. As you can see in the photo, I lazied my way around the crust-making labors and grabbed some Keebler pre-mades from P&C. One graham cracker and one chocolate-graham, directly from the elves. And why make pies? We're visiting with friends tomorrow afternoon, and I was appointed to the desserts.

You needn't wait until next January to try the recipe. Heck, as far as I care, any Friday can be a P.B.P.F. Or every Friday. But most especially the Friday that's one day before EWM turns three. Whatever. You and your calories (which will take on a life all their own) can thank me later because, believe me, the joys of cooking a peanut butter pie are no ordinary joys of cooking.

Added: I doubled the measures to make the two pies shown above.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Net Morticians

I t wouldn't surprise me much at all if, in the year ahead, The Lives and Deaths of Networkswe hear more about network blight or the dissolution, abandonment, and decay of once-thriving clusters of interconnected activity. Danah Boyd's entry from Wednesday started me thinking again about the nascent network cycles that have yet to show significant, extended desultory patterns and down-trends. Boyd responds to Steve O'Hear's notion of social network fatigue (via) or, basically, the idea that actors in a given system will tire, grow weary, and as such, the system on a broader scale will slow to a creep or halt altogether. Boyd at first expresses skepticism--"Users aren't going to tire of their friends but they will tire of problematic social spaces that make hanging out with friends difficult"--before working through other considerations related to the fading of social networks and speculation about YouTube, MySpace, and teens.

For now, I'm most interested in the idea of network decay or fatigue brought up in the entries by Boyd and O'Hear. I suppose I'd be guilty of painting with broad brushstrokes to suggest that interest in network vitalism has, for the most part, favored genesis rather than dissolution, abandonment, and the cadaverous husks of exhausted (adequated?) links and nodes. Heck, we've seen much more of it, much more of the early waves of enthusiasm and euphoria, I mean. And still, we have digital monuments (relics to networks, not people, in this case), but the web's clouds of data-dust cover them rapidly enough that encomia are usually brief. The web, despite the ether, deletion, and ephemera, needn't be a funereal domain.

To the degree that social networks are living, they are also dying, right? Or prone to vacillations and arrhythmias. I only want to make a couple of notes about this, and keep them here for later. The first is that this resonates with something I was skirting around two weeks ago in my take-home qualifying exam. I won't go into great detail (oughta wait until they're assessed as passing, eh?), but I was working extensively with Munster and Lovink's "Theses," in which they call for a "distributed aesthetics" that will "account for these experiences of stagnation within network formations and for coupling these networked experiences with a network's potential to transform and mutate into something not yet fully codified." Dying, living, ongoing, mutable, more or less cyclical. But because these social networks fuse together organisms and constructs (a primal puddle of entangled code), strictly organic metaphors falter, failing to account for the multiple life cycles of flocculent data and metadata, variously inscribed. Maybe Thacker's "Living Dead Networks" would help us toward a better theorized understanding of the contrails and exhaust left by networks or the network junkyards piled high with cast-asides and waste. This is what I mean about the web not being a funereal domain: there's no burial ritual for zombies, no panegyric for walking-deadworks (this/that wiki or listserv or forum or blog lived long ago!), no lasting sense of loss in abandoned heaps of information and mummified memes.

The second thing--and this is a point made both by Munster and Lovink in their discussion of mapping and by Thacker in his discussion of diagramming--is that the iconic representation of networks is, much like its counterpart in human anatomy and physiology, the anatomical chart, a momentary and (potentially) idealized slice of complexity (could the same be said for symbolic representation? for enactive?). That is, representing networks (mapping them, diagramming them; much of which I continue find intriguing and suggestive) really must constantly reassert the inherent dynamism of the thing depicted and the vitality downplayed by its static presentation. Otherwise, there comes the risk of something like dogfish in the dissection pan--the network trapped long enough to rest between two slides for magnified inspection is not quite the same as its raw form, still open to transformation and mutation. I'd locate my reservations about SNA or mathematical sociology here. How, then, can mapping and diagramming network formations proceed without merely dealing with dead things--the post-mortem networks, steel-gray in their baths of formaldehyde, describable only in their stillness?

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Jury Doody

S ays the summons that came in the mail today:


You have been selected for jury duty. Welcome!

Your mandated participation in jury service...[and so on].

Don't get me wrong. I'm 100% for due process (A big ole yes to justice, I say). But can you imagine a more onerous scheduling system than this? "You must call 671-1010 each evening after 5:00 p.m. starting on Friday 1/12/2006 and listen for a recorded message." The friendly bot on the other end of the connection, I guess, tells me whether I'm supposed to report to the courthouse on the following morning. Still worse, I'm teaching online this spring and getting going on the diss, which means that I can't very well bother my employer for a work accommodation. Excused because I blog? Possibly, but I'd have to actually post to this thing from time to time and broach more scandalous topics than I'm usually inclined to take up.

Anyway, if the phone's busy next Friday evening after 5:00 p.m., you'll know who I'm talking with. And may you, too, celebrate a jurisprudent 2007.