Saturday, June 30, 2007

Fastest Journal Subscription

O n May 23, I mailed a check for $20 to a well-established journal for a one-year subscription at the graduate student rate. It's a quarterly journal, and I expected issue No. 3 shortly after the check cleared. Instead, I received a copy of the special No. 1-2 combo issue from the current volume. I thought little of it. I'd already seen it, already glanced the contents. Sure, I was a little bit disappointed, but I didn't realize initially that the double would count for half of my brand new annual subscription. The combo issue is thick with response pieces and reviews. It also has an interview, but only two articles.

You can imagine my surprise when, today, June 30, I received a letter from the journal explaining that I should dish out another $20 to renew my subscription for a second year. Why so fast? The next issue, a special No. 3-4 double issue, will be released soon, and with it, my one-year subscription will be up. That's right: back-to-back combo issues make it possible to have four issues in just two shipments and, as it turns out, exhaust a one-year subscription in only five weeks.

I'm not all that upset (I'm emotionally numbed from moving all day). I understand that my timing is terrible and I'm prone to bouts of shitty luck. I'm 99% sure I will renew, maybe even cough up the dough they're asking for a five-year subscription. Only, is it really five years (i.e., five Sun orbits)? Or can I expect twenty-five weeks of rapid-fire double-issues? Considering that individual issues run $10, I might catch a break by scanning somebody else's copy before paying for my own, especially if pairs of issues continue for long to be disguised as one.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Fragile

Y es we are packing.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Flat

O ver the weekend I returned to the area where I grew up, country squares (one mile by one mile), flat fields of wheat and corn, and long roads, like gigantic yard sticks of asphalt or dirt drawn at precise intervals across the gridded landscape. Roads that neither curve very often nor change pitch to accommodate hills so slight, so gradual as to be almost imperceptible. Western Isabella County appeared especially flat to me on this visit.

We occupied most of the time before and after the anniversary celebration at D.'s brother's house. An idyllic two-story farm house, it stands on a lot at the edge of a corn field, near a barn. The road is gravel. Cell phone signals are intermittent. Only two neighboring houses are visible, and those are at a fair distance, mere specks on the horizon at maybe half-a-mile. My nieces and nephews (the fifteen of them on D.'s side of the family) played in the pool, bounced on a trampoline, and played various yard games--badminton, horseshoes, and bolo toss (ladderball). Here, nephew K., Ph., brother-in-law E. (from Colo.), and father-in-law D. were throwing a couple of games of bolo toss.

Fields

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Buffalo Route

S tarting at 8 a.m. this morning, I was behind the wheel of the Element, high-tailing it from St. Clair Shores to Syracuse, north along the construction-jacked I-94 in moon patrol gear, eastward over the Blue Water Bridge into Canadia and then across peninsular Ontario to the southernmost point of the Queen's Highway (QEW) to its termination at the Peace Bridge into Buffalo, N.Y. We'd never crossed at the Peace Bridge before. The lines entering the U.S. were remarkably short and the customs agents fairly friendly despite yet another round of "explain again how the four of you know each other." In the ten or twelve times we've crossed into the U.S., today's brief pause at the Peace Bridge was the shortest by considerable margin, which means we'll try it again next time rather than crossing on the 407 or the 420 at Niagara Falls.

Returning home includes the usual paces: picking up Y. from the boarder (where a toenail was shorn off in a tangle with a screen door...I empathize, of course, given my encounters with hazardous doors), unpacking and laundering, gathering the accumulated mail (electronic and paper), and fetching enough groceries to sustain us for a day or two. I also have a fair amount of time to make up in the online course I'm teaching because I was off grid for more than two days while staying in a room on one end of the Days Inn of Clare, Mich. The rate of data-transfer was deplorably slow, so slow, in fact, that I almost asked Ph. to retrieve a bucket of ice and while doing so check the hallway for any laggardly packets of data. I know the wifi is assumed to be invisible, but the packets move so slowly at the Days Inn that it wouldn't have surprised me one bit to see a few data loitering in the hallway, taking their sweet time. Decent hotel otherwise. Two days off grid plus a few days of driving dials my work pitch over to near crisis mode for Wednesday and Thursday. And then we'll move. So, yeah, that unloading of the luggage is short-lived.

Posted by at 8:55 PM | to Travelog

Monday, June 25, 2007

Joys and Demands

P utting down a few thoughts about my own dissertation phase transition seems inevitably to scatter, prone to it's early, the many-directions-remain-a-possibility starburst, like the gust-thrown seeds from a maturing dandelion blossom. Small chances; their taking hold remains undetermined.

That's a excessively florid way of saying that these are days of starts and stops. The prospectus and hearing determine certain aspects of the project. The approximate plan gains approval, wins assent to move ahead. But what, exactly, comes next? More reading? Tentative, provisional writing? Conversation? Research activity? Yes, all of it. What proportions or ratios among them? How do certain streams merge, diverge, overshadow the others?

Advice varies. I won't run through all of it now. Instead, I want to list a few of the things that crowd together under the canopy of "dissertating."

  • Re-reading inspirational materials. Mulling over the few items in a highly selective gathering, a store of kick-start ideas and favorite theori(es/sts). Not writing by inspiration alone, but reading as inspirational (i.e., the stuff that, when reading, makes you want to tell someone about it, makes you want to shout; reading that excites, because not all of it does).
  • Conversation with committee members and mentors. Ongoing. Invaluable. A must.
  • Note-keeping, list-making, and drawing (cluster graphs, etc.).
  • Writing, drafting--where page counts begin to accumulate.
  • Elimination (or e-liminal) reading. Thresholds: how much of this will the dissertation tolerate? A speculative game, trailing maybe-this? down the tapering, increasingly overgrown (forgotten? never-trodden?) pathways suggested by mentors, allies, and other Friends of the Project. Offered in a spirit of generosity, such assemblages might contribute, but more likely much of it will not, not directly or explicitly. A line from my prospectus hearing on May 14: "Expect to read 100 times more than you will end up using or citing."
  • Conversation with colleagues, fellow dissertators, and interested others. On vacation, among family: "Tell us about your dissertation."
  • Staring off in the distance.
  • Refining the data. Combing through what has been collected and assembled already. Tuning and sorting. Working through the research processes still needed for specific sections of the project.

These (and others I have forgotten and, therefore, neglected for now) are processually interrelated, co-occurring, and complex. The combination of activities, I'm beginning to understand, can't be fully understood on the front end as if scripted or even fully advisable (measured like a recipe). This is what we mean by inquiry, no? This is what we mean by the dissertation as a best attempt, a practice book, and so on. This half-understood, undecidable how-to is the hard part at the phase transition spanning from exams to such riveting opening sentences as "In society today, rhetoric and composition...." So--no shock-you-off-your-seat surprise in this--I'm still learning the project, still trying to handle it each and every day, and finding daily affirmation as much in "Let no fears, inhibitions, or apprehensions stand in its way" as from the aphorisms that emphasize pleasure, as in "Demand of yourself, among many other reasonable things, that writing the dissertation be a labor of love (at least intense like)" or "Remember to enjoy it."

Friday, June 22, 2007

Falls Route

Y esterday we found ways to extend what would ordinarily be a six-and-a-half hour drive from Syracuse to Detroit to a full ten hours. Those extra three-and-a-half hours were filled up with some of the following:

  • a break from driving at the falls;
  • construction on the 403 near Hamilton;
  • a fender-bender-gawking slowdown near Brantford;
  • stopping to eat;
  • more than an hour at the Sarnia-Port Huron border.

Smooth-going, all in all, but I'll think twice before driving westward during the afternoon and evening hours on a clear-skied summer solstice again.

Here are a few photos, courtesy of Ph.

Niagara on Summer Solstice

American Falls

Bird Watching

Diaper Park

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Contracting Temperament

A couple approached the front door of our house this evening. Ding-dong! I opened the door. "Oh, you're moving?" Uh, yeah. I explained: The place is listed. Call the realtor on the sign. Then they said they weren't interested in buying. They planned to call our LaLo about renting it. ORLY? That's right. Come to find out, the same LaLo who slammed us with an imperative to move back in April has posted this very house for "sale or rent" at Orangehousing.com. The rent he's asking is $100 bucks more per month than we're paying now, but it looks like the lackluster real estate market has motivated him to rent again. The prospective renters who stopped by this evening weren't especially won over by my look of surprise (a genuine look...come again?). I showed them around and explained that we were happy enough with the place, that we would have stayed longer had we not been, in effect, forced out to appease some impulse of greed. *sigh*

Yesterday I called the *new* AT&T to check on upping the minutes on our cellular plan. We're land-line free and using a few more minutes than our current plan can bear. I climbed and swung through the number tree and arrived, much to my misfortunate I would later learn, on a "Sales" branch of the tree talking with someone called Betty. I told Betty I needed more minutes. Can I switch to a plan with more minutes? She answered back: "It says here you would have to upgrade your account and pay an upgrade fee of $18. If you upgrade, you would be voiding your current contract, so you would have to pay market value for new phones. You would also have to agree to a two-year contract." What the? Say, Betty, I like the phones we already have, and I just need more minutes. Betty and I talked past each other for several more minutes. Having gone through something like this before, I was fairly certain there was a way to do what I wanted without handing over an upgrade fee and shelling out for new phones. In the afternoon, I tried again. Talked someone called Lance who took care of everything in only a couple of minutes.

Here's the most striking irritant by far: a bitter pill from P.U. regarding the course development and upkeep work I've done over the past few years. Received word a couple of weeks ago that the existing royalty structure is being scrapped in the new contracts that have been foisted on existing developers. Developers of high-enrolling (mulitple-section) courses stand to lose a fair amount of money. The new development/maintenance contracts pay out $150 per term for courses with just one section and a flat-rate of $200 per term for courses with two or more sections. I got involved initially because the royalty structure at the time scaled according to the number of total sections of a given course. At the time (right after 9-11), everyone was in a clamor about deployed enrollments (an exodus of on-site students who would be TDY to Afghanistan or elsewhere). There was a rush to attract developers of high-enrolling courses, and this was done with the snake oil of two-year contracts which paid royalties of $3 per student (also, there were evil grins and promises to make decent pay for the work involved). Once the high-enrolling courses were developed and in place (all work-for-hire), there was a change in program leadership and a new contract. This one, around 2004, paid $60 per section to developers for ongoing maintenance (answering emails, writing new course materials, responding to inquiries from instructors, and so on). Again, two-year contracts. Only with these, because I knew I would be enrolling in a PhD program where the stipend, generous though it is, wouldn't be enough to do much more than pay rent, I met with then-director of the distance learning program and was given verbal reassurance that the contracts would be renewable, that I could count on that income provided P.U. thought highly of the design of those courses (this has never been raised as a question, for what it's worth). The new contracts depart radically from the former system. I talked to the new interim director by phone today and was told plainly that the contracts were a strictly legal matter, that the new contracts were all that was available, and that they understood some developers would lose out. Unfortunately, I happen to be one of them. If I don't want to continue as a developer, I was told, I have the right of first refusal. Noted.

They're making a lot of loot on the online courses. What's happened, as I see it, is that demand for the courses has shifted into the long tail of the curriculum--those courses that need to be developed even though there will only be one section. Redistributing the royalty structure gives the U. ways improve incentives for developers of low-enrolling courses. Another factor: the U. has brought "instructional designers" on staff who will collaborate with the less tech-savvy among the faculty. I could go on and on about this, but I'll stop. Nothing I can do about it, given that my energy must be directed elsewhere. What irks me the most? An institution stands to gain from these [adjective] employment practices that thrive when institutional memory is short (use of part-timers, work-for-hire, contingent staff and instructors, and also high turnover in administrative posts related to the online program). Part-timers, those whose contracts, like light bulbs, are good for about two years, have no union, no bargaining unit, no collective voice, and, in effect, not an ounce of leverage in decisions that position them as expendable labor. The contracts were never negotiable, not even up for discussion (difficult, even, to get a phone conversation in which I could ask questions).

Flower and Hayes, "Problem-Solving Strategies and the Writing Process"

F lower, Linda S., and John R. Hayes. "Problem-Solving Strategies and the Writing Process." College English 39.4 (Dec. 1977): 449-461.

One of the earliest collaborative precursors to Flower and Hayes' cognitive process model, this essay presents heuristics and problem-solving as ways to address the morass of the same old same old: "our basic methods of teaching writing are the same ones English academic were using in the seventeenth century" (449). Flower and Hayes argue that while practitioners do well to get students analyzing writing-as-product, there has not been especially much to illuminate aspects of process. Process, they write, has been left "up to inspiration" (449). They invoke heuristics much in the same light Janice Lauer does in 1970 with her brief essay and related bibliography, arguing that heuristics are "a kind of shorthand for cognitive operations...they give the writer self-conscious access to some of the thinking techniques that normally constitute 'inspiration.'" (452). If we were use a line chart to illustrate a continuum between algorithmic approaches to invention and aleatory approaches to invention, with heuristics as an intervening term, Flower and Hayes' variety of heuristics would probably be located herex, nestled among the algorithm-heuristic hybrids. Their cognitive process model--circa 1980--resides in this same area, an area regarded with suspicion by many of the critics of the cognitive process, so suspiciously, in fact, that doubters tend to glide across it like they would Lock Ness:

<--algorithm-------x----heuristic------------aleatory-->

Still, Flower and Hayes make a positive argument, sharing their goal-directed heuristics as "an alternative to trial and error" (450) and as an approach that views writing as a "thinking problem, rather than an arrangement problem" (450). The thick teleology governing this approach is something of a concern to Berthoff (for all of the reasons she points out in "The Problem with Problem-Solving." Flower and Hayes offer heuristics as a fourth alternative to the three pervasive strategies for writing: 1.) formulism and prescription (as comes, oftentimes, from text books), 2.) inspiration (kept mysterious and often following Romantic misconceptions), and 3.) writer's block (nothing works). Heuristics offer "problem-solving techniques." Like the journalist's "Who? What? When? Where? Why?" (451), heuristics "give the writer a repertory of alternatives and the power of choice" (452). Their problem-solving strategy is derived from protocol analysis; researchers focused on two key tasks: "(1) to generate ideas in language and then (2) to construct those ideas into a written structure adapted to the needs of a reader and the goals of the writer" (452). Consider this a moment where the proposition takes on a mechanistic character. The heuristics are broken down as follows. Each item includes an explanation:

1. Plan
1.1 Set Up a Goal
1.2 Find Operators

2. Generating Ideas in Words
2.1 Play Your Thoughts
2.1.1 Stage a Scenario
2.1.2 Play Out an Analogy
2.1.3 Rest and Incubate
2.2 Push Your Ideas
2.2.1 Find a Cue Word or Rich Bit
2.2.2 Nutshell Your Ideas and Teach Them
2.2.3 Tree Your Ideas
2.2.4 Test Your Writing Against Your Own Editor

3. Constructing For An Audience
3.1 Ends
3.1.1 Identify a Mutual End You and the Reader Share
3.1.2 Decide on Your Own Specific Ends
3.2 Roadblocks
3.3 Means
3.3.1 Develop a Rhetorical Strategy
3.3.2 Test Your Rhetorical Strategy

Flower and Hayes anticipate and answer concerns about the ordering of the heuristics: "Do writers dutifully Plan, Generate, Construct, then turn out the light with the paper done? The answer is an emphatic no. Although we have grouped these heuristics together by their function, the process of writing rarely if ever exhibits those autonomous stages textbooks describe as Gather Information, Outline, and Write. Instead, thought in writing moves in a series of non-linear jumps from one problem and procedure to another" (460). They go on to call the process "iterative," but perhaps there isn't enough here too address the ways a goal changes or the sort of writing that sets out toward a moving or undetermined end. Continuing in the spirit of positive assertions, Flower and Hayes describe writing, "like problem-solving thinking in general, [as] a performance art" (461), and they are explicitly interested in "replacing the mystique of talent and the fear of failing with the possibility of an attainable goal" (461).

"Because inspiration is always dependent on the mental preparation that went before, it often does fail for the passively expectant writer waiting for the flow of magic ideas" (451).

"In formulating our strategy in this two-part way, we have made a fundamental assumption about the composing process: namely, that it can often be divided into two complimentary but semi-autonomous processes, which we designate as generating versus constructing on one level and playing versus pushing on another" (452).

Terms: product (449), process (449), heuristics (450), problem solving as hot area in cognitive science (450), protocol analysis (451), inspiration (451), prescription (451), writer's block (451), repertory of alternatives (452), power of choice (452), operators (453), goal-directed play (454), synectics (455), pockets of knowledge (455), flow(456), rich bits (456), code words (456), nutshelling (456), reverse outlining (456), pattern and discovery process (459), writing as performance art (461).

Posted by at 8:59 PM | to

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bin Living

O ur summer moving saga commenced last weekend. The paces of moving now have us living out of boxes and plastic bins until the end of the month. Oh, well, and suitcases and duffels for an upcoming jaunt to the Great Lakes State. I will do everything I can to resist complaining again about the inconveniences of moving.

D. and Ph., after all, have been tremendous. Whatever D. packs, Ph. carries, stacks, carries again, etc. He took his last Regents exam for the year today and without complaint went about mowing the grass this afternoon while I was away at the local Honda garage yet again for the problem of intermittent brake noise (from the brand new brakes we had put on back in late February...this was the third (and final? final!) brake-adjustment visit in the interceding months). I will do what I can to resist complaining about the inconveniences of several hundred dollar brakes that squeak and grind so loudly that people turn their heads and stare.

Just three years ago, we lived in Kansas City. The move at the end of this month will deliver us to our third (and final? final!) home in Syracuse. The next move will not be local. Since I finished my BA in 1996, I have lived for more than one month in ten different places (four in Michigan, four in Kansas City, and two in Syracuse). Longest stretch at the same address: four years. It comes as a downer when I realize that six (and soon seven) of these moves have relocated Ph. over the last ten years. In these days leading up to moving yet again I feel desperate to live at the same address for four years again. You might have guessed it: We are expert in the forwarding of USPS mail.

I posted a bunch of stuff on Craigslist this week. Desks (too big and heavy for the new second-floor office space), a television, a Marantz stereophonic receiver, an exercise bike, some random wall hangings and knick-knacks. The Marantz was a hit. Swarms of technicians and hobbyists inquired by email. The TV has been claimed. The wall hangings swiped up just this afternoon.

The weight of paper is, more than anything else, the reason I dread moving. Paper and hide-a-beds. And washing machines. Those three things spoil what might otherwise be an occasion to celebrate a fresh start. Fortunately, the hide-a-bed loveseat has found a permanent new home (permanent as in I hope never to lift it again). We will move it there, say good-byes, and never own another one. The washing machine stays. This is an advantage of renting. But the paper, the books, the file cabinet. Ruthless. Saturday, Ph. and I carted four carloads of bins to the garage at the new place (where the new LaLo has been generous to give us a corner space and a head start on filling it in). Upon hoisting an especially heavy container, I put it back down again and lifted the lid. Rock collection? Inside were paper-filled binders--the Collected Life Works of Ph. No wonder he's so enthusiastic about the haul. Preparations for this move remind me that I have too many books (even if, deep down, I know it's always going to be too few), and that I have felt some struggle in organizing and focusing my work-a-day paces in anticipation of the looming, imminent upheaval.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Cranial Inflation

Y esterday, for Father's Day, the young ones dragged me to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo here in Syracuse. We stood in front of the moose pen, while D. snapped a photograph.

Father's Day '07

It's today's entry (the best entry I've ever written on 6/18, by the way): the posed scene, the photo touch-up, the dramatization of pride in the dad with a head so misshapen as to be considered grotesque, a planted aberrance, conspicuous statement. But when I asked D. to check the remade image and suggest the perfect caption just a minute ago, without blinking, she said something like, "What? I don't see what you've changed."

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Poco de Pica

picoingredients

D uring the summer of '00, I spent six weeks in Xalapa, Veracruzana, studying language and culture at the Universidad de Veracruzana while on excursion from UMKC, the institution from which I took my MA in Aughtgust of aught-aught (language requirement completed). Typical arrangements: in pairs, students were matched with families. I lived with a family on the south side of Xalapa, maybe two miles from the Universidad's space near the central district; out the family's dining room windows, we looked toward Orizaba during most morning and evening meals.

It was full-on immersion in so far as everyone spoke Spanish all of the time. Well, with the exception of moi, what with my cincuenta-palabra vocabulario. I learned quickly, but also I struggled constantly to translate, most of the time relying on any and all Latinates I could find to conjure them into statements with any meaning whatsoever.

I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, asking simple questions about food prep, while watching how this or that was put together. Having learned food terms in nearly all of the formal Spanish language courses I'd taken in the U.S., the kitchen was safe-seeming--a space of performance, props, and action verbs, a place where conversations about things in our midst were as common as talk about things out there, elsewhere (the latter type was far harder for me to follow).

I was thinking about the time in Xalapa earlier this evening as I was putting together pico de gallo for the second time this week. I don't remember eating much pico de gallo where I stayed, although variations of it were common at all of the restaurants. I learned a small amount about peppers during those six weeks, most importantly how to request just a "small amount of heat," un poco de pica--that's how el madre de mi casa, o mama Xalapena, suggested I say it, anyway.

Tonight I was cutting the tomatoes and wondering about the literal translation. Couldn't remember it. So I looked it up. Pico de gallo, the concoction of onion, tomato, jalapeno, and cilantro, translates to "beak of the rooster." The phrase gets at any of three characteristics or qualities of the salsa: the bright, bold colors of the dish, the minced texture, or the small stings of heat from the peppers. I favor "small stings."

From poco de pica, or small amount of heat, the poco de translates literally into "little of" or "tiny amount of." But "pica" is somewhat trickier. Remembering this phrase, too (a lonely association-game at the chopping counter, a string of peek-sounds streaming through my fading language memory), I had to look it up. Pica? A slice of pica|nte, most likely (picante trailing to spicy heat or that which is risque). Regionally varied, pica goes to pick or pickax, spade (implements) or resentment and irritation (sentiments). Picante, because it is a food term, makes sense, but it's not far from picada (i.e., sting or bite). Poco de pica, then as a small amount of heat, a dab of the risque, or the culinary punctum--a sting or bite for the palate, a pleasurable irritant. Maybe punctum enters the expanded sensorium by way of poco de pica, tiny heat. As for the second, temporally located punctum; tomorrow the small heat will have not only lasted, but spread, its sting expansive, radiant, and emissive.

If you've made it to this point, you must want the recipe. Bear in mind that the heat from grocery-store peppers will vary drastically.

1 med. onion
6-8 med. tomatoes
+/- 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro (if you're pulling the leaves from stems, +/- 8 stems)
2 jalapenos
1 tsp. ea. of sea salt, coarse black pepper, and garlic powder
2 tbs. olive oil

Dice the onion and tomatoes (I leave the seeds from the tomato, but if you like it dry, get rid of them). Julienne then fine-chop 1.5 jalapenos. Onions, tomatoes, and jalapenos go into a bowl. Add sea salt, coarse black pepper, and garlic powder. Into the blender with .5 jalapenos, fresh cilantro, and olive oil. For added water weight (so you have a critical mass of mixables in the blender), add a hunk of tomato or onion, or up the vol. of olive oil. Pour this onto ingredients in the bowl. Spoon toss and chill. It'll be livelier on the second day. Use limes to cut the heat if it becomes too intense. Also, you can tune the heat somewhat by electing to leave in the pepper seeds (for far more heat) or getting rid of them (for less heat).

freshsalsa

Posted by at 8:10 PM | to Gobstuff

Friday, June 15, 2007

Rice, "Networks and New Media"

R ice, Jeff. "Networks and New Media." College English 69.2 (Nov. 2006): 127-133.

In his contribution to the College English symposium on "What Should College English Be?", Rice answers "new media" and, more precisely, the aspect of networks as connective, associative phenomenon proliferating throughout the digital, informational orders. "College English has not yet imagined or perceived itself as a network," (128), Rice writes, and while the ways "networks alter current understandings and rhetorical output still need unpacking and further study" (132), we might begin by with Hayles' suggestion of linking as an emerging form of expression or Burroughs' anticipation of "the rise of the network as rhetoric" (130), as we "reimagine English studies' efforts to generate a twenty-first century focus" (130). In the collection of essays titled Composition in the Twenty-first Century, David Bartholomae, suggests a focus involving composition's focus on "the space on the page and what it might mean to do work there and not somewhere else" (130). Rice emphasizes Bartholomae's differentiation between the page and the "not somewhere else," suggesting that, in fact, new media and networks compel us toward the somewhere else, the open space constructed out of connections where multiple writers engaging within multiple ideas in multiple media at multiple moments function" (130). In the "complicated act" that is "writing as network" (131), "'writing' feels too limited", its connotations of "fixity" burden the metaphor "in an age of total information and delivery" (129). Drawing on Hayles and Lyotard, Rice examines the paradox between "established knowledge" that is the prototypical concern of English Studies and the "momentary configurations" of networks and the texts that circulate across them.

Developing a strong case for new media and networks as a new focus for college English, Rice acknowledges precedents in "intertextuality, the avant-garde, or Bahktinian dialogue" (130), but these concepts have not theorized networks adequately, particularly in light of the Web. Rice's response to "What Should College English Be?" fans out, as well, through a succession of answers, one of which is that "College English should be the intersection of the various areas of discourse that shape thought and produce knowledge" (132).

"Or it may involve a complete reworking of how information is classified and stored, as the emerging practice of folksonomy, a system where anyone can attach any term to any piece of information, does in a direct challenge to referential organizational systems" (128).

"Whether for good or for bad, the network is reimagining social and informational relationships so profoundly that even if the discipline of English Studies remains wary of the network and suspicious of its place within the curriculum, the field can still benefit from learning how networks alter both understandings of writing and writing itself" (129).

"By social, I do not mean 'people,' 'friendliness,' or 'mingling.' Instead, I mean the ways bodies of information socialize, the ways they interact, or, as Burroughs wrote, the ways they associate" (131).

Terms: established knowledge (131), momentary configurations (131), emergence/growth (132), folksonomy (128), connectivity (128).

What is at the junction between Rice's call (new media/networks) and Bialostosky's (variegated reading and productive attentiveness)?

Posted by at 8:39 PM | to Networks

Felt Point Marker

A music video featuring a marker with a lot of juice (via).

The lines aren't quite as perfect as in the circle-drawing video, but they're tighter than SkinnyMan's response.

If you watched all three clips, um, no, there are no warranties, expressed or implied, for those five minutes of your time.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Plotting Intensities

I first caught word over at Junk Charts of this infographical rendering (in the Sunday Times) of a week of concert-going. The spread includes profound thoughts, counts of the people on stage, quality arcs of each show, more profound thoughts, entertaining phrases, profound guests on stage, and best parts, all convoluted into charts, graphs, stacked bars, and bubbles. When I first saw the quality arcs, I thought it would be cool to throw something like that together to suggest rising and falling intensities over the course of a graduate program of study. But heck, it took me four days to get around to posting on these few pieces that churned through the aggregator on Sunday, so it'll be a few more days before I get around to drawing up quality arcs of my own.

Sunday's infographucopia finally led me back around to emo+beer, a blog I feel like I should've known about before now as it plays at the crossroads of music, affect, experience, and data visualization. Earl Boykins, the blog's proprietor, went at the NYT article, too, coding it with a four-part text analysis, too, and produced this entry, which shows the NYT article not as text, but as a horizontal bar chart. At the bottom, the colors are realigned so that they amplify the densities of each of the four categories for coding. Aligned like a row of icicles:

I am immediately attracted to the pedagogical possibilities, reminded of the practices I already use sometimes with highlighting to emphasize features that, glanced across an entire document, suggest patterns. But in this case, everything folds into the chart. What can we say of this type of translation? Its relationship to text sense (whether a NYT article, song lyrics, a journal article, or other writing of one's own)? Its resemblance to streaks of unevenly applied paint? What of shape grammars? In/coherence? Im/balance? Variety?

Scardamalia and Bereiter, "Levels of Inquiry in Writing Research"

B ereiter, Carl, and Marlene Scardamalia. "Levels of Inquiry in Writing Research." Research On Writing: Principles and Methods. Peter Mosenthal, Lynne Tamor, and Sean A. Walmsley, eds. New York: Longman, 1983. 3-25.

Motivated by an acute opposition to "the miscellaneous character of much writing research, with its orientation toward topics and methods rather than toward goals, and with its general lack of cumulative force" (3), Scardamalia and Bereiter propose six levels of inquiry, calling it "a framework for the kind of interaction that should lead to a paradigm" (22). Their typology tends to favor a hierarchical scheme in some places, while in other places, they emphasize interaction, incorporation, a "weak sequentiality," supplemental relations (rather than replacements from one level to the other (7)), and a cyclical, spiral course (3). In explicit terms, they say "higher levels of inquiry are not seen to be any way better than lower levels" (4), but their accounts of the higher levels are approached more generously and with a fair amount of self-reference (particularly for Levels 2, 4, and 5). Yet another example of re-hierarchizing the typology according to certain methodologies and their respective level-associations can be found near the end: "At present [1983], holistic methods [i.e., the "phenomenological, ethnographic, hermeneutic, and qualitative"] appear to be used only at Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4. However, there are developments afoot in cognitive science that may provide the necessary theoretical tools for more phenomenological and contextualized inquiry at Levels 5 and 6" (21). Cognitive science bears out the "theoretical tools" that will bring "holistic methods" along to the highest two levels, according to Scardamalia and Bereiter.

Elsewhere, too, they assert a stance ("in this era of competing methodologies there is a special need to promote tolerance and a free spirit of inquiry" (4)) and then then re-draw it (theory-wary, "we do not like to see this stifling orthodoxy [a Level 5 edict "never to leave home without a theory"] carried over into the modern era in the form of insistence that every researcher have a theory, whether there is any basis for a theory or not" (20). Although the two statements are not entirely at odds, Scardamalia and Bereiter are clearly critical of certain approaches to Level 5, the level where theory turns up, critical in such a way that might be at odds with their commitment to "tolerance and a free spirit of inquiry."

The article includes one table, which presents the six levels, characteristic questions, and typical methods. Here are the levels and methods.

  1. Level 1: Reflective inquiry | Methods: Information observation, introspection, literature review, discussion, argument, private reflection.
  2. Level 2: Empirical variable testing | Factorial analysis or variance, Correlation analysis, Surveys, Coding of compositions.
  3. Level 3: Text analysis | Error analysis, Story grammar analysis, Thematic analysis.
  4. Level 4: Process description | Thinking aloud protocols, Clinical-experimental interviews, Retrospective reports, Videotape recordings.
  5. Level 5: Theory-embedded experimentation | Experimental procedures tailored to questions, Chronometry, Interference.
  6. Level 6: Simulation | Computer simulation, Simulation by intervention.

Level 1 is primary, and, while it "draws on knowledge and hunches of all sorts," it is not especially theoretical, at least not in the way Scardamalia and Bereiter discuss theory. "Level 2 findings are a supplement to, not a replacement for, Level 1 intuitions" (8). Level 2 is impeded by what S&B call "combinatorial explosion," (9) or the impossibility of controlling variables (a feature that also inhibits Level 2's generalizability). Level 3 works toward story grammars, toward the "lawfulness" of a text as it adheres to certain rules.

Scardamalia and Bereiter pursue a "systematic way of viewing the varied forms of inquiry into the process of written composition" (3), and they do so with a repeated commitment to teleology (i.e., goals, product, purpose as the driving forces for research). In the end, they suggest that the collapse of empiricism has made new movements possible (20), and thus there is a pressing need for their scheme, which, they contend, "may serve as an intellectually sound replacement for the now largely discredited notion of the basic-to-applied continuum" (23). Despite their announcements to the contrary, the leveled-scheme comes across as hierarchical, ordered in such a way that the higher-numbered levels match with forms of inquiry that are more cherished (perhaps because they are rarified, even preserving theory's scarcity (21a)) than are the lower levels (Level 1, with its intuition needs Level 2's observations to bolster it). Scardamalia and Bereiter end with a few "practical points on which the ideas behind the Levels of Inquiry scheme might be helpful" (22). How will they be helpful? 1.) For resolving controversies over the comparison of methods, 2.) for encouraging cross-level communication, 3.) for planning research, but avoiding "pigeonholing" when doing so, 4.) for encouraging interdisciplinary involvement, and 5.) for demonstrating the contributions of research to improvement in teaching writing.

  • Just how flexible and fluid are the Levels?
  • "we need to describe child rhetoric" (23)
  • When emphasizing interdisciplinarity and expert-types, the two they suggest should be involved (by "most obvious need") are experts in "written composition" and experts "in studying thought processes" (22d).

Terms: weak sequentiality (4), hysterical empiricists (6), quasi-self-evident character (of Level 1) (8), combinatorial explosion (9), collapse of empiricism (20), holistic methods (21), child rhetoric (23).

"A descriptive model of the composing process, such as that produced by Hayes and Flower (1980), is an intellectual construction based on inferred invariances and protocol data" (13).

"The layer [Level 4] describes is the layer of conscious thought. It describes the flow of attention during composing, but it does not reveal why attention shifts when it does and where it does" (13). What of unconscious? Level 1? Level 0?

"A point we keep repeating throughout this chapter is that methods cannot be judged except in relation to purposes" (15). Teleology.

Theory def.: "Nevertheless [role-playing] has the properties of a theory: it can be limited in scope or applicable to a variety of situations, it can yield confirmed or unconfirmed predictions, and it can be refined in the light of results" (17).

"Nonetheless, Level 7 inquiry does offer the most promise of yielding knowledge that can be put to direct use in instructional design" (20).

Posted by at 10:08 PM | to Models

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

How Far Can We Drift?

I 've been re-reading Cynthia Haynes' "Writing Offshore: The Disappearing Coastline of Composition" over the past two days. I'd read it this spring, even referred to it in my CCCC paper and in my dissertation prospectus. But this time I wanted to work at it more slowly, soak in it.

This time around, I kept finding floating crumbs that made me think this is the 50-page scholarly article version of China Mieville's The Scar. I probably can't do justice to this in the time I have right now, but I will try. Considering that The Scar is an adventure on the high seas about a hybrid, hodge-podge floating city (Armada, as dappled and remade as composition studies) and the fetishistic Lovers who command the peculiar conglomeration, there are surprising tie-ins. [Spoiler alert.]

Haynes writes of her own sea-ward excursion, a whale-watching trip into the Artic Sea. This is the event that primes her call for writing offshore, for abstraction, drifting, and groundless solidarities that offset the anchor that is argumentation, the root of composition's "pedagogical juggernaut" (673). On abstraction and composition's containment of it, a "thunderous breach"!

Just there, beneath the seas of Eckhart's theological detachment and Heidegger's secular withdrawal, we witness the thunderous breach of our whale--abstraction. But unlike Melville's Ahab, we do not slaughter the abstraction and lash it to our vessel in order to preserve some divine balance between Kant's a priori and Locke's tabula rasa. We let it be abstract; we withdraw, move away, and tread in astonishment. Into its wake I would have us sail as awakened teachers of writing and rhetoric, inviting students to detach themselves from us, from the ground--and to think in the abstract, in writing. (677)

Leap from Melville's whale to Mieville's avanc, a too-deep-to-be-seen mythical underwater creature, harnessed by the Lovers in an attempt to tow the floating city and its castaways toward their destination, the mysterious scar. Preparations:

The frantic work continued, and below the water, the shape of the avanc's harness grew slowly more solid. It was ghosted, its outlines in girders and wooden supports, like an abstract for some implausible building. As the days went on it grew a little more substantial, its intricate spines and gears more like something real. It grew through extraordinary efforts of the crews. The city was on something like war footing, every iota of industry and effort commandeered. People understood that they were careening at breakneck speed into a new epoch. (345)

Back to Haynes who would have us steer "toward an abstract horizon" (671):

The diverse senses of converting argumentation pedagogy to teaching abstraction could also include teaching how to achieve distance, to detach from one's preconceptions, distill concepts, condense language, and translate meanings. Learning to abstract would involve learning the alluring nature of language, how it draws you away, how it seduces you. (715)

What are the limits of this seduction? I ask not because I'm doubtful of Haynes' push-off from the shore but because I find it reassuring, even encouraging, her discussion of abstraction. For the Armadans, including Tanner Sack, the underwater specialist given to morphing amphibious, and Bellis, the translator of many languages, containing the avanc took a turn:

The avanc is sick.
Trying to continue its mindless motion at the rockmilk engine's command, it slows and slows. It is--what? Bleeding, wounded? Fevered? Chafed sore by the alien reality around it? Too mute or stupid or obedient to feel or show its pain, the avanc's lesions are not healing. They are shedding their dead matter in suppurating clots that eddy free and drift up like oil, expanding as the crushing pressure lessens, enveloping and suffocating fish and weed, until what breaks the waves with a mucal slurp is a noisome coagulate of infection smothered sea-life.
Somewhere between two and three thousand miles into the Hidden Ocean, the avanc is sick. (491-492)

A groundless solidarity between the whale of abstraction and the harnessed avanc? Uncertain. But why not work at this in a course, say an unlikely graduate course, one piled high with ground/sea allegories for the discipline, for discourse, and so on.

A few of the readings:
Haynes, Cynthia. "Writing Offshore: The Disappearing Coastline of Composition Theory." JAC 23.4 (2003): 667-724.
Royster, Jacqueline Jones. "Academic Discourses or Small Boats on a Big Sea." ALT DIS: Alternative Discourses in the Academy. Christopher Schroeder, Helen Fox, and Patricia Bizzell, eds. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 2002. 23-30.
McComiskey, Bruce. "Introduction." English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline(s).
Neel, Jasper. "Reclaiming Our Theoretical Heritage: A Big Fish Tale." Olson 3-11.
Mieville, The Scar.
Deadliest Catch, season I.
Sid Perkins on "Flotsam Science." Week of April 28, 2007; Vol. 171, No. 17 , p. 267.

Haynes, "Writing Offshore: The Disappearing Coastline of Composition Theory"

H aynes, Cynthia. "Writing Offshore: The Disappearing Coastline of Composition Theory." JAC 23.4 (2003): 667-724.

Haynes calls for composition-theory in motion, a willingness to drift all the while cognizant that "so much defies reason" (669). If composition's theoretical currents are akin to waters upon which we float, in much that same way Haynes was when she launched from the Norwegian shore into the Artic Sea in the scene that opens the essay, argumentative writing with its commitment to ground/reason is the anchor that has dragged "until it took hold among the bedrock curricula of grammar and style, aims and modes, claims, grounds, and warrants" (668). Haynes sets out "dissatisfied with teaching writing that is primarily argumentative writing qua reason" (669). Invoking Crowley, Haynes expresses skepticism toward the "discourse of needs" (i.e., "students 'need' to write and think in particular ways" (668d)). Composition, is, in effect "rotten with reason" (668)--poisoned with a mindset in relentless pursuit of "the why, the reason, the rationale" (668). Writing offshore desires the disappearing coastline while acknowledging a need for movement; "it is suggestive" (670), preferring something like Elam's "groundless solidarity." Haynes writes, "Equally charged and similarly moved, I mean to probe the ground beneath teaching argument (née critical thinking) that compels us to teach good writing as the invention of good reasons" (670).

Unlearning a Pedagogical Apparatus (671)
Haynes creates a polarity between argumentation and abstraction, preferring the latter, but not as something the belongs exclusively to the authority of the teacher and not as something that stirs in smoothly with the "discourse of needs" (viz., "students need abstraction"). That is, as we move away from the shoreline of composition theory, we would move toward an "abstract horizon" (671), shifting our relationship to ground, footing, and finitude. The "pedagogical juggernaut" (Ong) composition has inherited suffers from a Ramist attachment to logic and reason; teacher training (replication of the juggernaut) collapses ars (art) and doctrina (teaching), reducing pedagogy to argumentation: "Reason is perfected in pedagogy, for pedagogy, by pedagogues" (673). Haynes argues for "unbuild[ing] this pedagogical apparatus" (673), for unlearning as the "defamiliarization vis-à-vis unquestioned forms of knowledge" (673). With a Derridean willingness to "disturb the doxa in its slumber", Haynes acknowledges the chance that she will be charged with "irresponsibility," but she is willing to bear this charge if it allows her "to probe the depths of a more responsive relation to students, to each other, and to each Other" (674).

The Ground of Reason (674)
Haynes "prepare[s] us to need the sea" (674), as she works at the joint between argumentation and abstraction. Reason, logic, and ground are the anchors, the root system of too much composition theory; Heidegger's turn on Being (from anchor, a release toward Being as "the principle of ground itself") moves such thinking offshore: "Just there, beneath the seas of [Meister] Eckhart's theological detachment and Heidegger's secular withdrawal, we witness the thunderous breach of our whale--abstraction" (677). But abstraction requires yet more training: "We need to hear this word, and we need to tread slowly" (677) (sounds like Latour on slowciological accounts). Abstraction risks "the fallacy of misplaced concreteness" (677) (i.e., going aground where determinate meaning is built). "We cannot leap from ground to ground unless we keep moving; and we cannot build castles in the air on solid foundations" (678). Still, from the withdrawal/detachment, we drift away from "representational thinking." Persistent problem: "Resting in our not-leaping poses the ultimate hazard: we become so rooted in reason that our feet sink deep into the sand at low tide, and each attempt to step out and up is futile" (680).

Street-Smart Writing Students (682)
Haynes is skeptical of calls to "connect the text and the street" because such gestures tend to conjure up the flaneur as the prototypical city-goer, along with its problematic "attitude towards knowledge and its social context" and its "writing safely hidden by anonymity and insignificance" (683). Here, the dismissal of the flaneur feels too deliberately pursued; he never stood a chance! But this particular framing of flanery, although it doesn't account for how such an attitude might be an improvement on certain other attitudes (some of this in the flaneur's preference for social realities as preferable to the hermeneut's disposition)...this particular framing is used to "glimpse an unhappy association in whose folly we are unwittingly complicit by connecting 'the text and the street'" (683). Haynes puts it bluntly: "'the street' serves as a metonymic substitution through which the old 'bait and switch' of 'reinventing the university' is accomplished" (683). "Street smarts" flattens into argumentation, keeping with "Hellenic male ceremonial combat" traditions, in which conflict is performed in such a way that maximally manages tensions. Haynes works through a series of references--T.R. Johnson's "School Sucks," ETS research on "Extending Intelligence," and a program called Reason!able that supports argument maps--visual renderings of a text (Haynes is especially critical of this; it's not clear that she has much tolerance for visuality, especially where technology is concerned).

What Should Not be Built (686)
Check the foundation. Is it rotten? In this section, Haynes works from Virilio's notion of the "trajective" (rather than objective or subjective) to explore the mode of being that involves "movement from here to there" (686). The nomad, transcience. She couples the trajective to questions about architecture (and ground), borrowing from Rajchman: "What would an architecture of such trajectories and movements look like?" (686). Here, Haynes also recombines the flanuer (taken apart previously) and replaces him with the refugee as "the figure of the dispossessed" passing and dwelling different "zones of intensity" (687). Citing Sirc, she mentions the change he articulates, drawing on avant-garde architects, artists, and theorists, from street "as mere topos to the street as event" (687). Clearly she prefers the latter, aligning with Sirc in "groundless solidarity." Lebbeus Woods comes up, too, as Haynes draws up a "rhetoric of the unbuilt" (688). Woods' work is that of speculative, imagined architectures, the pre-concretized abstractions that peel layers from reality with uncertainty. More examples follow, of a "peace park" between North and South Korea proposed by Natsios and Young, and of Libeskind's proposed model for the World Trade Center memorial: "Such projects remind us that a rhetoric of the unbuilt must also consider (and rendered in in/visible textures) unqualified hope" (691). Haynes calls this section an "attempt to locate (and appropriate) permissible isomorphisms between theoretical architecture and composition theory" (693) in such a way that can "bridge the expanse between reason and refuge" (695). "What clearly was needed were not new objects, but a new orientation toward a phenomenal field of events and interactions--not objects, but the abstract regimes of force that organize and deploy them" (84) (694) [Read this alongside Latour's renewal of objects; could this be taken as an undesireable sort of abstraction compatible with the sociology of the social?]

Pedagogy and the Refugee (695)
"One answer, then, to the question of what an architecture of trajectories would look like is: a boat in an intensive zone" (695). Instensive why? What puts a boat in an intensive zone? (Piracy, mutiny, scurvy?) The density is sharply up in this section; Haynes works at the problem of the "tourism experience" as relates to invoking refugee-as-figure for "abject forced mobility" (696). The irrationality (unreasonableness) of refugees primes an ethical muddle: "It cannot go without saying that removing the ground has profound implications for re-moving students into the murky waters of border politics" (697). Agamben, Agamben. Can't be oblivious to matters of the un-reason-able. Heidegger, Derrida (slow down!). Quarantining terms. Reason threatens to turn us away from Being itself (701). But a poetics of the trace remains (some hope in this): Heidegger: "What is presumed to be eternal merely conceals a suspended transiency, suspended in the void of durationless now." Haynes finds in Heidegger a revived current (charge, voltage) for the poet, still, "Thus far we have scarcely issued a reading that can properly stand beside the refugee without addressing the incongruity of poetizing in the face of their immediate and devastating dangers" (703).

Unbuilding the Logic of Containment (704)
Haynes seems to be reassembling deconstruction, re-accounting for its over-simplification, which made possible its take-down by proponents of "practical reason" (704). Haynes goes back over deconstruction with an abstraction-toothed comb, citing Caputo's explanation that "Deconstruction offers no excuse not to act....Undecidability does not detract from the urgency of decision; it simply underlines the difficulty" (704). Working through "Derrida's call for 'forms of solidarity yet to be invented'" and matters of hospitality and cosmopolitanism, Haynes works toward an assertion of "renegade rhetorics" (707), incorporating nods to Ulmer, Worsham, Sirc, Vitanza, and Davis, as she shows that "[r]hetoric as refuge rearticulates the paths of the poets and illuminates their abstract trajectories. Displacing argument is rhetoric's supreme task; disinventing logos is rhetoric's sacred duty" (707). For the concentrated push against argument and reason, this bit comes very close to sound like an assertion--an argument for the heretical. "Into these uncommonplaces, I submit rhetoric as refuge, writer as refugee, and abstract pedagogy" (708). Haynes also admits her own (t)reason: an account of the program at UTA, which was undone, some believe, by the "steady poisoning of rhetoric with the principle of reason" (708). Haynes continues to challenge the behemoth of argumentation: "Our collective (t)reason will be necessary to dismantle this edifice" (710).

Writing Nomadically (711)
"Keeping still to [her] desire to remain suggestive," (711) Haynes declares several musts in a string of manifesto-like challenges (take off the garb of the flaneur, dispossess our monopoly on abstraction, etc.). She tells about the "quasi-journal Archigram", which "rendered radical creations such as capsule apartments, walking cities (on the ocean), instant cities, university nodes, most of which were never meant to 'take up a finite configuration'" (711)--the "unbuilt spoof in response to their view of traditional architecture as hoax" (712). Receivables? Much like what Saper writes of in Networked Art (on-sendings, kits, etc.). Archigram included a course with an assignment called "depth probe" (713). Haynes correlates the depth probe to Berthoff's "abstraction as a speculative instrument" and then accounts for the discipline's tenuous relationship to abstraction (713). Although it was a "failure" in terms of uptake, Berthoff's work, explains John Clifford, "takes seriously her call to weld philosophical frames of reference to classroom techniques" (714). How much drift can we tolerate? Berthoff lamented that "seemingly broad-minded theorists...refuse to see how far from shore we can drift on theoretial currents" (714). Abstract writing, abstracting practices are overdue.

"The diverse senses of converting argumentation pedagogy to teaching abstraction could also include teaching how to achieve distance, to detach from one's preconceptions, distill concepts, condense language, and translate meanings. Leaning to abstract would involve learning the alluring nature of language, how it draws you away, how it seduces you" (715).

End: "at times I need this depth/ forgive me" (715).

Returns

  • Re: Braddocks and argumentation (707, 717). Consider uptake/notake with Hiatt.
  • Berthoff, Langer, speculative instruments (see Berthoff on speculative instruments in "Problem with Problem Solving").
  • Reason, rational, the why, etc. as relates to rigid models (rather than relays-Ulmer).
  • Detachment from representational thinking (678): rose, being without cause, knows not why.
  • Coercion (681) and reason - Tufte.
  • Argument maps (Haynes' critique); what maps then? Or maps as abstraction? Monmonier writes only of map generalization. See abstraction/generalization distinction in Haynes and Berthoff (685).
  • Virilio on trajective (686).

Phrases: (gore-texTM)ual tourists (668b), argumentative writing (668), discourse of needs (668d), groundless solidarity (670), writing offshore (670), abstract horizon (671), Ramist dialectic (672), Ong's "pedagogical juggernaut" (673), unlearning (673), violent realities (674), castles in the air (677), abstractus (677), without why (678), marionettes (680), flaneur (682), normative catachresis (683), fliting (684), argument maps (685), trajective (686), zones of intensity (687), rhetoric of the unbuilt (688), brutal foundations (693), refugees (694), abject forced mobility (696), quarantining terms (700), metaphysical homelessness (704), renegade rhetorics (707), abstract pedagogy (708), testing contradistinctions (715), aphorism (715).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Summer Is Off

T his summer's work is well underway. In addition to working on the dissertation (a rough chapter draft scraped together by July 20?) and CCC Online Archive, I am teaching an online section of HU211 (Intro to Humanities) for old U. and holding down one of three seats as a mentor for new online instructors. This is the first summer in several years where I'm teaching just one course. For five or six years in a row, I've taught two. The mentoring gig feels a small amount lighter to me than teaching a course. Fewer email exchanges, and the interactions with the instructors are highly professional, responsive, and collegial. The twist--always a twist?--is that the mentorship pairings shape up across the disciplines, so even though I am not formally trained in economics or psychology, the instructors I am working with are teaching courses in those areas: Principles of Microeconomics and Introduction to Guidance and Counseling. Of course, my purpose is not so much to pose as a content expert as it is to listen, share samples of various teaching documents, announcements, reminders, rubrics for assigning grades to the stuff that turns up in threaded discussions, and lend a hand with other administrative aspects of teaching online (in eCollege, following old U.'s procedural standards as relate to the handling of proctored exams, submissions of attendance, and so on). I also fill out a periodic, formative evaluation of sorts and check in on the exchanges taking shape in a discussion forum where instructors new and old from across the disciplines chime in with whatever is on their minds (not surprisingly, some of entries include laments that the students can't write or that they--h0rr0r!--plagiarize). Woe, the ongoing disenchantment with student prose.

All of this in addition to the travel (Detroit for C&W, Phoenix for camp, Michigan for my in-laws' 50th anniversary) and the cross-town move (coming up) accumulates to suggest that I don't have to worry about that fatigue (and blisters) that might otherwise accompany weeks and months of twiddling my thumbs.

Posted by at 10:40 PM | to Academe

Monday, June 11, 2007

Lauer-Berthoff, "Counterstatement" and "Response"

L auer, Janice. "Response to Ann E. Berthoff, 'The Problem of Problem Solving.'" CCC 23.2 (1972): 208-210.

Berthoff, Ann E. "Response to Janice Lauer, 'Counterstatement.'" CCC 23.5 (1972): 414-416.

Lauer's "Heuristics and Composition" | Berthoff's "The Problem of Problem Solving"

Lauer's counterstatement to Berthoff ends with a call for tolerance and pluralism. She contends that we must be patient with the "recent and exploratory" development of heuristics from psychology, rather than waiting for a grand, penultimate conclusion from what is a heterogeneous field (more varied, she argues, than Berthoff has given credit for, as it includes "behaviorists, gestaltists, factor-analysts, information theorists, and so on).Lauer responds sharply to Berthoff's willingness to pile on her own dichotomies, such as where she sets psychology apart from creativity, where she opposes problem solving learning to knowing, and where she values articles in Teacher above three dozen articles in psychology journals. Berthoff's dismissal of psychology and "the technicians", according to Lauer, depends on lumping them all together and characterizing their collective work, varied though it is, as reductive and short-sighted--of relatively little value to rhetoric and composition: "Instead [Berthoff's] quarrels rest on the false assumption that psychology has one contribution to make, a contribution which she identifies with an overly narrow conception of problem solving" (209).

Lauer discusses the way Berthoff reframes Lauer's primary point about heuristics, instead calling it "problem-solving." This shift is cause for some concern, although Lauer agrees with much of Berthoff's commentary, especially on matters of "creative problem solving", only objecting to Lauer's criticism and polemical approach. Lauer even goes so far as to write off Berthoff's conflation of "science" and "technology" to be a non sequitur. Lauer acknowledges the source of alarm pervasive among humanists who feel threatened by the sciences, but we should be more patient, Lauer argues, before rejecting the possibility that psychology has anything to offer composition (210).

***

Berthoff answers yet again as she contends that the argument she has with Lauer's approach (and initial recommendations for reading heuristics through psychology) is non-trivial. One concern she has is that some psychologists tend to "reduce and limit the operation of imagination" (414). That is, in the pursuit of data, the reduce mentation to only "quantifiable results." Psychology, in and of itself, Berthoff argues, does not care to get at the complexities of meaning-making, particularly where information-processing theories reign. She invokes Susanne K. Langer's work as a few among many resources, such as the "notebooks and journals of artists and thinkers" that might help us "learn anew the sources and modes of the creative imagination" (415). Berthoff would have teachers assume their own expertise on creativity and imagination, rather than turning to technicians of mind whose approaches to language and meaning are too limiting. She introduces two statements on method and creativity that capture what she fears would be compromised in the over-use of psychological models:

Herman Melville: "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method."
Alfred North Whitehead: "There is a state of imaginative, muddled suspense which precedes any successful inductive generalization" (415).

"I believe that speculation taking these two wise sayings as a point of departure could lead us to understand, for instance, why the Formal Outline is properly the last step and not the first in composing; why it is so useful to keep options open, to keep freedom of choice alive, especially at first, by writing phrases, images, sets of oppositions, by thoughtful doodling instead of depending on the concoction of topic sentences; why it is that 'pre-writing' is so painful for those who have nor learned the uses of chaos; how it is that naming and re-naming, developing analogies and metaphors can lead us to discover 'the shape of content'; it could help us to understand what Paul Klee means when he notes: 'I begin with chaos; it is the most natural start. In so doing, I feel at rest because I may, at first, be chaos myself'" (415).

Finally, Berhoff asserts the fruitful pursuit of "speculation" before arguing for a frame of reference for heuristics that "exercises the means by which we come to discover and to understand" (415)

Posted by at 2:52 PM | to

Mysterious Disappearance

I started to write yesterday---a teaser about today, the ten-year anniversary of the day my mom died, "I was sitting in a cubicle in Bingham Farms, Mich. when I learned about it." Adjusting insurance claims, helping everyday people recoup from the many bad things that can happen to property. Fire, flood, theft, wind, and lesser-expected events (e.g., hundreds of gallons of fuel oil mistakenly pumped into the wrong house, the wrong basement, a basement without a fuel tank while you are away on vacation, taking in Disney Land while the fuel oil seeped into your back yard, under the garage and the in-ground pool, and filled the house with greasy fumes that spread throughout the place, chemically bonding to the surfaces of your walls and things).

Some days the job sucked.

My dad used to tell me (and, as he is inclined to do, re-told me a time or two since) that you can see into a job by looking at the 50-year-olds who have been doing it since they were young. How does a job wear on them? Are they spry, lively, enthusiastic (or, at the very least, expert and well-paid), or might they, on the other hand, pass for the walking dead? Many of the 50-year-olds handling insurance claims, other than the few who gave orders and managed the profitability of the outfit, were taking leave for heart operations. Their arteries were constricted from all of the stress (travel, emergencies, desperate insureds), the unending grind of humans and their property against elements, accidents.

I was sitting in a cubicle....

When that awful call came telling me she hadn't awoken from her sleep on the 10th, I was stupefied--crushed under those waves of confusion, pain, and intense disbelief. This hardly needs repeating. She was 48 years-old. And the cause, as I've written before, was never settled. Perpetually unsettled, you could say. And, at my desk just then, I felt a rush (among rushes) to act--to tell others, to pack, to drive, and so on. But the phone rang again--before I'd done anything--and I picked it up (in a moment when the world was so completely caved in, it couldn't have been about anything else).

Someone called about an insurance claim! Checking on its status. The scenario: a tractor trailer was parked outside a suburban Detroit warehouse. Its contents, something like 880 cases of Smirnoff Vodka. When it arrived at the next destination, the cargo was gone. Something like $150,000 worth of vodka evaporated into thin air. The policy for the warehouse covered mysterious disappearance. As was customary for claims involving property, I visited the warehouse some weeks earlier, verified that in fact that vodka was not there. Most of the warehouse bays were stacked high with pallets of unmounted engines from the Ford Motor Company. The vodka had mysteriously disappeared. This photo of the warehouse from the day I visited proves it.

The vodka's missing. I'm not sure why I hold onto the photo. I gave the insurance biz 30-days notice and split from Detroit for Kansas City, leaving town before this claim was settled. I'm sure there was more to it--interviewing the driver of the rig, tracing the vodka's manufacturing and shipping record before the goods arrived at the warehouse, even calculating the depreciation (is it appreciation?) of the booze. Anyway, I doubt the liquor has been located after all these years.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Unordered

  • I n case you have not noticed, I have officially released more than 80% of the new! EWM 1983 Sedan Pleather theme.
  • There are times when I think I will change the name of my blog. But I don't do it.
  • I need a new wallet, too. Maybe the kids will glance this entry in time for Father's Day.
  • Ph. is at an age (16) when it seems appropriate to have him read EWM for punishment. Read and summarize one entry for each minute you are late arriving home; no lip.
  • Before I met D., I never went to car washes. I'd keep the inside fairly tidy, but the high-priced brushless car wash was too extravagant, too lavish, too harsh on the environment, what with all those soaps and undercoatings. Fancy, super car washes represented the worst of American excess. 2007: "Sure, D. I'll run it through Delta Sonic this afternoon." But only on the outside.
  • Today we teamed up for the triennial Element-interior cleaning with the shop vac, sponges, a scrub brush, and a few other cleaning aids and implements.
  • I'm still accelerating down the dissertating on ramp. Another early summer phase transition. The only promise to fulfill: touch it each and every day (if only with a ten foot pole to verify that it lives, breathes).
  • Tomorrow marks ten years since the day my mother died so suddenly and unexpectedly. I was sitting in a cubicle in Bingham Farms, Mich. when I learned about it. I will say more about this tomorrow.
  • Is.'s baby signcabulary is piling up. After clapping and waving, she picked up dog, flower, cereal, eat, duck/bird (these blend together), bath, and frog. Frog is a sequence of three out-stickings of the tongue in quick succession.
  • A couple of weeks ago, I added the "Yesterblog" (upper left), an on-this-day feature. I like it because, even though I've only been blogging for little more than three years and I only post 15-or-so entries each month, the Yesterblog recirculates old entries, brings them back to the surface at a reasonable pace, if only for a short gasp before submerging for one more year. On-this-day as entry re-cycling.
  • I thought I would say more about this year's camp than I did. Say more about the kids? Geronimo's Cave? The conversation with the superintendent of schools in which he told me about the 3/4 of a million dollars they've spent on vandalism repairs during the '06-'07 school year? The school's Ariz.-leading reportable incidents against teachers? The 70-percent unemployment? The highest suicide rates in the U.S.? Basketball? Anyway, I thought I would say more. I didn't take any photographs this year.
  • I canceled Netflix sometime early in the spring. I renewed it today, thinking I'd catch up on a couple of moving pictures between now and August.

Berthoff, "The Problem of Problem Solving"

B erthoff, Ann E. "The Problem of Problem Solving." CCC 22.3 (1971): 237-242.

In reply to Janice Lauer's "Heuristics and Composition," a brief essay and 200-item bibliography of research in psychology, Berthoff presents a polemical critique of "problem-solving" and of the singling out of psychological or political matters as relates to the teaching of writing: "every issue in public life has mutually defining psychological and political aspects, the exact relationship of which it is a primary and continuing intellectual task to discover" (237). Berthoff positions two figures, Lauer and Louis Kampf, each as the representative of a problematically extreme stance that tips too far toward psychology, on the one hand (in the case of Lauer), and too far toward political radicalism, on the other (in the case of Kampf and his eliminationist pleas). Berthoff focuses on "the psychological inadequacies and political dangers of problem-solving as a pedagogical concept" (237).

Berthoff says that she has sampled from Lauer's list and that she has grave concerns about the lack of "pedagogical grist": "Accepting [the guidance of the psychologists], we would be led from our English maze only to be abandoned among task definitions, communication frames, non-verbal processes and all other features of a strangely familiar landscape" (238). This disjuncture, Berthoff explains, has much in common with the differences that led the Dartmouth Conference to be a failure; in effect, the agendas of psychology (Lauer later comments that Berthoff treats psychology too singularly, too monolithically) tend to avoid, or at the very least downplay, politics. She draws on I.A. Richards' to explain her skepticism toward importing information theory, referring to his essays "So Much Nearer" (1968) and "Speculative Instruments" (1955), both of which offer "an important line of defense against the influence of psychologists and linguistic scientists outside of the field of their competence" (238). Berthoff rails against the "technicians" on Lauer's list, suggesting that such approaches to language "falsely [define] the forms of knowing" (238). Rather than relying on such expert-technicians from another field, "English teachers should dare to raise their own questions about the nature of learning and knowing and should dare, furthermore, to answer some of those questions which have been thought to lie in the province of the problem-solvers, that protectorate of educational psychology" (239).

Next, Berthoff notes that psychology of learning can be "politically dangerous unless it is conceived in the context of a sound sociology of knowledge" (239). Heuristics as problem-solving, then, risk falling in accordance with preparations for a bureaucratized society: "The concept of problem solving serves the belief that the school's function is to prepare citizens for life in a technological society" (239). In effect, problem-solving serves "commercial interests" (239). Alternative figures (Jane Addams at Hull House, Maria Motessori, Claude Levi-Strauss, and Paulo Freire) serve Berthoff's basic claim: cultural revolution is dependent upon literacy, and so literacy teachers must be wary of following the path of educational psychologists (e.g., those listed by Lauer) or those who, like Kampf, would argue the freshman writing curriculum as a politically oppressive instrument of the state that must be abolished. Berthoff ends by leaning on Freire's work with the idea of "problematizing the existential situation" (241) because naming (world-making via language) "wins knowledge that can liberate" (241). The act of naming is invested and re-invested in the act of knowing [tie: folksonomy/ taxonomy]. Before ending with a series of quotations, Berthoff invokes Coleridge's advice: "Know your knowledge" (241).

Although the direct relevance of this debate to "heuristics" (as I want to use it in the diss) is, as of yet, tentative, the Lauer-Berthoff disagreement does serve as a backdrop--as one current in the water under the bridge--to the surfacing of the Flower-Hayes process model that first started to circulate in 1977 with their College English essay, "Problem-Solving Strategies and the Writing Process" (CE 39.4, 449-461). Lauer and Berthoff weren't the only ones in the rising discipline of rhet-comp to discuss problem-solving, but the reappearance of the phrase in the title of the earliest* Flower-Hayes article seems significant. Does the Lauer-Berthoff argument predict the fall-out over the Flower-Hayes model more than a decade later? Whether it does or not, the debate over problem-solving resonates with many of the contemporary debates where models are mischaracterized as determinative, apolitical, neutral, and inherently at odds with maxims such as "Know your knowledge" (241). In fact, Berthoff's strong statements against "technicians," where she instead argues for teachers to "raise their own questions," could be framed as a call for legitimacy and for pluralism in model-making, where rather than inheriting models from the psychologist's wheelhouse, teachers have a hand in the creation of dynamic pedagogies.

* - ???

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Lauer, "Heuristics and Composition"

L auer, Janice. "Heuristics and Composition." CCC 21.5 (1970): 396-404.

Lauer formulates a centrifugal gesture, urging compositionists to turn to psychology and other fields presently discussing invention in such a way that would aid in "the creation of a potent contemporary rhetoric" (397). At just four pages with an eight-page bibliography, this article is odd for its brevity. Lauer says that the "lost art of invention"--which she defines as "the art of discovering 'what to say,' of making original judgments on experience, of discovering means of communicating this unique insight with a particular voice to a particular ear, of deciding between nonsynonymous utterances" (396)--might be renewed under extradisciplinary influences.

To discuss heuristics, Lauer invokes Polya, a mathematician who, in 1957, wrote a history in which he described "heuristic reasoning" as "reasoning not regarded as final and strict, but as provisional and plausible only, whose purpose is to discover the solution of the present problem" (396). Heuristics, in this sense, are "rules of discovery and invention" (396) that guide the "experience of creativity." Those in rhetoric and composition working on theories of invention would, Lauer contends, find her collection of resources from psychology to be of tremendous significance as they work through matters of heuristics and problem solving.

"Heuristics and Composition" touched off an argument between Lauer and Ann Berthoff who answered the essay (and bibliography) with a follow-up article in CCC 22.3 (1971) called "The Problem of Problem Solving," in which she calls Lauer's approach to heuristics "politically dangerous" and "philosophically shallow" (239). The two also engaged in a dialogue over these ideas in a response and counterstatement in 1972.

If this is the inroads of heuristics to rhetoric and composition, it is a rutty path, indeed. Heuristics crawls onto the scene slowly and controversially, filling a gap left by a lack of work on invention. But psychology's variations on heuristic (via problem solving), according to Berthoff, neglect philosophical self-awareness, knowledge about knowledge (and our roles in its making), and risk promoting the reductive march of education as preparation for life in a technological society (a condition which Berthoff parallels with corporatization and bureaucratization).

There is a sense in which heuristics, though contested, overlaps with a more general class of methods, of what Polya calls ars inveniendi or arts of discovery (ars inveniendi as brought up by Lauer implies a correspondence to the pursuit of a dogmatic truth, despite the note about heuristics as "provisional and plausible"). I bring up method because it might work to call heuristics that layer of method which is paradoxically replicable (follow these guides again and again) but not over-determined by any strict teleology, outcome, or yield. I mean that the meta-hodos (sequenced, ordered paths) is, in some ways, an ars inveniendi; it makes sense, then, to regard heuristics as methods and methods as heuristic, allowing, of course, room for the meanings of these terms to play to different extremes (extremes of aleatory and algorithm, maybe). Heuristics can introduce energy--provide a pulsatile lift--but they might also name a juncture where methods for writing (i.e., processes) suffer under the sleeper-hold of rigidity.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Splat

S traightaway from the airport, I'm home from Phoenix, from the camp, and from a John F. Red-eye that swooped me overnight from the Pacific zone to the Eastern zone: a warp of seven hours' time in four. Best thing about the 48-minute hop from NYC to Syracuse is that I was on Jet Blue and so caught the Top Chef smackdown (season 1 vs. season 2) on the Direct TV being piped into the seatback in front of me. Another in the category of "best thing:" Jet Blue gives away free wifi in their terminals. So, so sweet of them.

I have answered most emails, opened what USPS mail had piled up over these four days (among the booty, Jeff's book and also Raul Sanchez's), and then answered a phone call. What's this? A real estate agent wishes to show the house? At 12:30 p.m.? Today more than ever before I am tempted to dump the contents of my lugg-age in the middle of the floor, put on my most tattered sweat clothes, and spread out on the couch for a snoring, drooling, lag-alleviating nap whose dreams will whisk me to the other side of this house-showing such that I won't be able to confirm whether or not, in fact, the torturous episode happened at all.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Desert

F lew to Phoenix yesterday for the annual camp. Lounged through the better part of yesterday recovering from soul-delay (what Gibson calls it), the effects of same-day cross-continental flight where heavy lag sets in, where there is an inexact slowness in recombining as if after a teleportation. That's because I woke up in Syracuse Sunday morning at 4 a.m. (which is 1 a.m. local time in Ariz.) for a short flight to JFK and then the long flight out here and I didn't rest my head aside from a couple of catnaps until 10:30 p.m. local time. This adds up to a fuzzy dreaminess and now I find it hard to say very quickly which day it is.

Monday. Breakfast in a few minutes, followed by a winding bus ride from the city up to Whiteriver, where we'll run sessions for two-and-a-half days. I'm looking forward to it very much, although there was a somber mood at last night's reception because of what the councilwoman described as the ongoing suicide epidemic which has been especially tragic in this first week after the high school graduation. I don't know much more about it than that right now.

Anyway, I need to pack.

Posted by at 9:05 AM | to Travelog

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Transmittable Airways

T racy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains is the U.-wide shared reading for the fall semester at Syracuse. Because I will be teaching freshmen in the fall, I picked up a complimentary copy from the Writing Program office about ten days ago, figuring I'd read it sooner rather than later to get some sense of how it might merge in with the teaching I'll be doing in late August. I haven't worked that part out yet because I haven't received my formal course assignment (slight chance that it will be a Wellness Learning Community section). Still, it's never too early to begin thinking about such things. Basically, the book is Kidder's journalistic portrait of the life-work of Dr. Paul Farmer, a physician specializing in TB who is also trained as an anthropologist and who has deep convictions about treating infectious disease where it hits hardest--among the poor. A NYT Bestseller, the book trails Farmer from his start-up work in Haiti, which grew into Partners In Health, to related efforts to treat MDR (multiple drug resistant) TB in a region of Peru (eventually the entire country) and also in the prison system in Russia. Farmer is depicted as ingenious and unshakably committed to his work; he responds to ceaseless demands with a conventions-be-damned attitude toward medical treatment and cost efficacy when it comes to TB treatments.

I had considered posting about the book earlier, noting the few check-marks I've put in the margins next to the bits I want to find again--bits about Farmer's language games (ending assertions about commonplace attitudes toward the poor with the word comma to imply the unspoken word to follow: asshole; personifying infections diseases and closing his rants with Love, ID.; or his neologisms and PIH-speak: "[t]o commit 'a seven-three' was to use seven words where three would, and a 'ninety-nine one hundred' was quitting on a nearly completed job" (217). Or the bit about "hermeneutics of generosity" (215), where ethos blends with the believing game.

The TB-infected passenger who hopped aboard a flight to Atlanta generated more noise than I would have expected in light of reading Kidder's book. I'm no TB expert (not even close), but Kidder's book gives a reasonably straight-forward account of the differences among the virus's drug resistances. In fact, Farmer is notable in the subject-of-a-book sort of way in part because he is credited with getting at the complexities of TB's multiply resistant manifestations. The breakthroughs in Peru involved his realization that certain first-line treatments of the disease were, in effect, teaching the virus to resist certain drugs. Treatment success rates were so low because the medical establishment hadn't yet figured out that their treatments were smartening up the virus. The treatments were proliferating strands of the virus that were less likely to be remedied through conventional and decades-old practices.

This week's news, however, involves a case of XDR TB or extensively drug resistant tuberculosis, for which there is only a 30-pecent cure-rate (so says CNN). I can't remember any discussion of XDR TB in Mountains Beyond Mountains (my biggest complaint about the book is that it doesn't have an index), but as these events play out, as passengers who held seats on the plane get tested, and as we watch the airlines scramble to resolve the medicalization of air space (not only for flying and border-crossing, but for breathing), I am thinking about this splash of news as a kind of mini-sequel to Kidder's book, an extra chapter in what is, for me, a new awareness of the complex set of issues knotted together where medical research, germ circulation, epidemiology, border-keeping, and health care privacy come together.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Meeting of the Job Hunters

W e held our first job-seekers meeting yesterday afternoon, spent a couple of hours going over each other's CV and talking through how we rank criteria for the jobs we will soon pursue. I use pursue loosely and with a string of asterisks, of course, since this year I am only something like one-tenth on the market and nine-tenths not. I mean that I am going through the material preparations processes as if I am on the market and will only apply for positions too sweet to resist, provided, also, that I'm making progress on the diss. Why? Well, it would take an offer somewhere in the ball park of a five-year contract and 27.5 million a year for us to relocate before Ph.'s senior year of high school. Make that 30 mil. On top of that, it's not especially ethical or wise (in terms of reputation-building) for me to court jobs I have no genuine interest in filling from the outset. While I would like to dangle a toe in the waters of interviewing and giving job talks, I won't be pitching jobs for that reason alone. The process is too grueling for candidates and committees to tie up everyone's time and resources on my desire for full-on play-acting the year before I go on the market in earnest. Better to spend those energies building bridges (i.e., writing, conferencing, etc.) rather than dismantling them.

I have a fairly short list of criteria for my optimum job (#1. It pays. #2. Fringe benefits, such as health insurance. #3. The institution is accredited. #4. Not more than a 5/5 load. And so on...). But after those factors, I understand that there are many, many variables involved that have bearing on a candidate's fit, several of which are outside of the candidate's control. There's enough to say about this that I probably ought to make it a separate entry rather than ramble through it all right now. Jeff's point about good colleagues resonates with me. Entering an embattled department, while possible (I accept!), is not how I want to live out my first years on the job. May I be so fortunate as to land in a program where people like and respect each other, where they get along professionally even if they are not best chums.

What else came up in the meeting? The bullet-by-bullet-by-bullet:

  • We talked about institutional differences, from R1 and R2 to comprehensive colleges, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, and technical colleges. Expectations are all over the map--likely to fluctuate quite a bit among the types.
  • How are administrative duties distinct from forms of service? My notes have it that administration places a clearer emphasis on leadership and responsibility, where service is a slightly different designation for involvement (committees, advising, etc.).
  • Fledgling CVs ought not to look qualification-desperate. Use care in over-logging the minutiae of every meeting you attended in your graduate program. It fills a CV's pages, but there's no substitute for a demonstrable record of research, teaching, and service (no matter the extraneous yarns and additives). Along these lines, I described my own CV as the junk-drawer version. I'm still in the mode of tossing everything into it, but I understand that filtering is due before it would circulate to any hiring committee.
  • Connected to this previous point, we talked about whether there are risks involved with keeping online versions of materials that don't match verbatim with paper-bound materials. In other words, must an online CV be an exact match with the copy that goes off in pursuit of a job? Probably (right?). Transclusive texts--those existing in multiple versions--can lead to unnecessary confusion, and confusion over a candidate's record can be disastrous.
  • What are the ethics involved for graduate students listing in-progress publications on their CVs? On the one hand, we want the CV to do the work of answering what we're working on now. "Oh, it says here that you have an article in-progress." But should an article ever be listed on the CV before it is sent out? In other words, how many different designations are appropriate for in-progress works: submitted, under consideration, in-progress, under review, accepted, etc.? I'm of a mind to err on the side of conservativism for this one. Seems risky to list anything that hasn't been touched by the USPS (or an editor's email server for electronic submissions).
  • My articulation of the conditions surrounding the ideal job got me thinking more about my own confidence. I am a confident teacher; I am learning to be a confident researcher. I have no concerns whatsoever about being a good colleague, a steady contributor when it comes to service, administration, and so on (unless I fail to say no and end up taking on too much). But the teaching/research confidence issue leaches into my description of the ideal job. In other words, I still find it much easier to discuss the appeal I find in teaching-intensive appointments compared to research-intensive appointments. Might be true for many graduate students who have taught extensively but who have published considerably less if at all.

Next meeting in +/- three weeks when we take up job letters.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Sayez, the Cookie

T his evening's fortune: "You have an unusually magnetic personality."

Who, me? Is that "unusually magnetic" as in "tends to attract non-metallic things" such as inconveniences, headaches, problems, and nuisances of various sorts (e.g., droves of large black ants infesting our soon-to-be-former home)? Or is it "unusually magnetic" as in "tending to attract non-magnetic metals" like the aluminum carving blade/screen door I reported on last weekend? Or.... Or is it a typo, meant instead to be "magentic personality," as in the deep purply-red hue to might find upon biting into a plum?

I'm settling on number three, content that A.) I have some traces of personality left following B.) the fuchsin events of the day I've had.

Oh, fine, so I hyperbolize, but not by much. Could be the monosodium glutamates carrying over from a pile of savory General Tso tofu.

Brink

I don't think Antonio McDyess' ejection was the determining factor in last night's Pistons-Cavs game. It was unfortunate, I thought, that the refs elected for flagrant two when flagrant one was more appropriate given that 1.) Andy Veryshow wasn't injured on the play, 2.) it looked like bad timing on McDyess' part more than a deliberate clothes-line, and 3.) McDyess is one of the classiest (i.e., modest, sporting) players in the league. But you know I'm a fan of the Pistons, and my affections spill into this stance, no doubt.

Who wouldn't say that the determining factor was the final stretch of defense--Lebron's 25-point show that capped the game and sealed the 3-2 series edge for the Cavs? Twenty-five straight by one player? Over sixteen minutes? By any measure, by any team, including Detroit, this indicates a defensive collapse of the most heinous sort. Lebron repeatedly drove to the basket, repeatedly dunked without much to withstand his moves into the lane, repeatedly dropped in fade-away jumpers from here, there, oh, and there. Yeah, pretty much any- and everywhere. The jumpers I can understand. Those are hard to guard, especially when he is coming off screens. But the stuff in the lane is unforgivable. Nobody from the Pistons was keeping house, protecting the paint. I might've expected Maxiell to be a bit more of an enforcer down the stretch--not a Lambier- or Mahorn-type enforcer, but someone who would be willing to leave his defensive assignment and at the very least challenge Lebron. Absent McDyess, Maxiell is the most agile Pistons big who can match Lebron's strength and elevation after he gets by the perimeter defender. Plus, James had a good night overall from the FT line, but he was just 5-8 (63%) down the stretch, during his single-handed run to win the game. I'm not saying it would've been wise to foul him deliberately, but I am saying that he was foul-able, that it wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world for Maxiell or Hunter to spend a foul or two wrestling on Lebron.

So, yeah, I'm disappointed. I think the Pistons have their work cut out for them tomorrow night. And Lebron's rise to glory is pretty much a given (although I don't feel about him like he is an underdog facing the Pistons in quite the same way I felt like Jordan was...far more chatter, more anticipation, more foretelling surrounding James). I guess I'll still tune in to tomorrow night's game hoping the Pistons are withholding some playoff elixir that can get them back home for game seven. On that note, I'll also put off for another day any discussion of an NBA Finals between the Spurs and Cavs and where that ranks in terms of my utter disinterest among the 64 possible Finals combinations.