W alked the main loop in our subdivision, 300-degrees of the circle, anyway, before turning west for just more than a mile and outlining the next subdivision west of here where I ran into ghastly-happy Snowtorso. Sidewalks are clear enough, but the inter-subdivision trail network isn't maintained in the winter, so although its surface has been traveled by dozens since last week's snowfall, the surface is all icecrags and snowruts. Unpredictable. Sometimes slippery.
I listened to last week's "Mapping" episode of This American Life. I think it was a re-run from several years ago with a snippet about Denis Wood's new-ish book, Everything Sings, dubbed in. Could be wrong. The segment reminded me of what I find so interesting about Wood's work, and it convinced me that I made the right decision to devote a week to Wood and Monmonier on my winter Visual Rhetoric syllabus, which remains a work-in-progress pending a few finishing touches.
G etting my hands dirty with Illustrator, sketching a fuzzy vision for a someday course on Rhetorico-geographical Positioning Systems (RPS). I never do this, but I've missed self-set deadline for proposing the course at least twice in 2011, which suggests the only felt urgency for such a creation is my own. Now--and publicly--setting a third deadline for real-izing this proposal by, oh, the 8th of Wheneveruary, 2012.
E arly Wednesday, I stopped about a mile into my run for this shot of a nearby subdivision's drainage pond. It had been drained and excavated. A foul odor all around. Usually, this spot is busy with nervous sparrows who dive-bomb me (to intimidate) when I pass through. The low creaking of frogsong. Deer flies. A heron stilt-stalking minnows. A beaver hauling a branch across the breech to an unnecessary dam. So, what sort of eco-sphere is this, the recently drained and bulldozed pond? What are the air-earth-waters? What toxins pollute the muck? Why empty it and push the mud around in late July?
x-posted to G+ (experimenting with something...)
F rom Flowing Data, a terrific public transportation mash-up, Mapnificent, which reports estimated travel times along multiple radiating routes relative to an adjustable map marker. AATA estimates for The Ride are included in the data-set, although I assume the site would be prove more useful in complex urban zones with more routes than we have running in Washtenaw County.
Mapnificent is elegant enough that it doesn't require much more explanation. I'm saving it as a nice example of maps concerned with time, thinking about its resemblance to river turns and big box turns (not all that far removed from the CCC word turns I showed at C&W a couple of weeks ago).
Also calls to mind a question about whether there is some sort of time-scape parallel to trap streets. Trap streets are geographic fictions embedded into proprietary maps meant to shield them from theft. If a copy of a map turned up showing the trap street, it made for easy sleuthing. What, then, is the temporal equivalent of a trap street? I suppose it could be an altered time-to-destination whose falsehood would establish duplication (e.g., Carpenter Road Meijer to AA Public Library in 8 minutes). And I'm not so inclined to think of these traps out of an interest in security (or copyright or plagiarism), but rather as a variety of imagined geography (much like the character in Mieville's Kraken who sets out to ground-truth London's trap streets as if they might, by the cartographer's articulation, conjure up a potential space).
T his Ypsinews.com story of The Ark reminded me of Brand's How Buildings Learn: Huron-side tannery, disassembly, reassembly, blacksmith shop, furniture store, deterioration, pigeon training. Ypsilanti's The Ark, its adrift, undecidable architecture fittingly named, an example of an early "portable." Here's an excerpt about its initial site:
The site was likely chosen on purpose. Tanneries were smelly places, where piles of cow skins were scraped of their remaining flesh and soaked in vats of chemicals in order to process them into leather. A location downstream from downtown meant that meat scraps and used-up chemicals could be drained into the river without creating a stench in the stretch of river traveling through town.
The lazy Sunday morning click with Brand's book, however, (un)builds toward The Ark's demise, which, as parallels go, blightfully suggests another end-variant true for so many buildings in aging cities: How Buildings Learn No More.
Wonder how many of those century-old pigeons are out there homing on this missing place?
L istened to this Radiolab podcast, "Lost and Found," while trekking a few miles on the elliptical last evening (while half-watching the Orange get lumped by Georgetown). The full podcast is tremendously interesting to me, but the first 20 minutes on DTD (Developmental Topographical Disorientation) are especially mind-blowing. It builds-up out of a story of serial disorientation and its causes, causes eventually traced to the brain's ways of processing and regulating spatial orientations, and it makes me want to pick back up the the recent RSQ (40.5) on Neurorhetorics. Go on, listen.
N ick Paumgarten's short article in the January 31 New Yorker reports on a census of Central Park's trees undertaken by Edward Barnard, a "retired book editor," and Ken Chaya, a graphic designer. Together they inventoried and mapped more than 19,000 trees, several of which they consider Very Important Trees (VITs) now having completed the project. VITs stand apart from the forest; they amount to the distinctive and curious exceptions worthy of noticing, touring on foot (binoculars in hand), and pausing to dwell upon. About the map, Paumgarten writes,
In December, they published their map. It's five feet tall. It has nineteen thousand six hundred and thirty trees on it, about eighty per cent of the Park's estimated twenty-four thousand trees, all of them identifiable according to a leaf-shape key. It is a beautiful and meticulous artifact, as full of captivating detail as the M.T.A.'s new subway map is devoid of it.
Trees stand up especially well to this map-treatment, since they are uniquely rooted and living. I read this brief article with an interest in what generalizes from these methods, from this project. City-dwellers, particularly NYC-dwellers, might be more fascinated with trees than we who find them abundantly surrounding us in more open Midwestern spaces. Yet, this also means for Midwesterners that we risk resting without noticing them in their seeming ubiquity.
To generalize from Barnard and Chaya's impressively geeky inventorying, then, what becomes possible out of this for a course like Writing Ypsilanti? Map the campus's trees? Map a local park's trees (e.g., Frog Island, Prospect, Normal, Candy Cane)? In tentatively posing this, I am thinking, maybe not. Nothing here. Then again, I think of Denis Wood's public utility map and jack-o-lantern map, and something here blends inventively into other noticings: Attending to trees that grow and change almost invisibly, what else might we accidentally find? Possibly a related tree-inventorying experiment could function as a heuristic then for yet other object-oriented census maps, which, like Barnard and Chaya's project, might change our manner of dwelling or our routes simply by resetting those fields of attention that have gone stagnant.
R ePresentations of Ypsilanti are fraught (does it matter whether these are "representations" or "presentations"? I don't think so). By "fraught," I mean they are piled high, brimming even, with hints of foreboding about crime and poverty endemic to the city and the nearby township, both of which bear the name Ypsilanti. That this is so turns out not to be an insight worth bothering to share with anyone who has lived on the east side of Washtenaw County for more than a few months.
Nevertheless, I am thinking about this locale because I am developing a course for now conceived as a rhetorico-geographic study of EMU's surrounds. Yes, of course, it will be writing focused, as it will attend to questions of routes, distances, and enframings with a particular investment in producing variations: re-composing the local. I aim to have the proposal submitted by the end of the semester. Right now I am gathering ideas, storing them in such a way that they will, in time, assume the shape of a provisional syllabus and schedule.
And this means I am taking stock of local coverage of local events, conditions, or problems, as the case may be. For example, a series of articles have appeared in Annarbor.com about Ypsilanti Mobile Village, an abandoned mobile home park on Michigan Ave. just east of the intersection with Prospect. In late December came news that the owner filed bankruptcy. By early January, there was a story about the owner expressing his intentions to clean up the site, and on Friday, word that a judge ordered the cleanup to proceed. I don't want to suggest that this series of stories is particularly representative of Annarbor.com's coverage of Ypsilanti, and certainly there is much water under the bridge, so to speak, about how Annarbor.com depicts Ypsilanti, how the "paper" writes Ypsilanti, that is. The series on Ypsilanti Mobile Village is simply an example--perhaps an example I am all the more interested in because I have driven by the park a couple of times, because it is as close to campus (to the west) as it is to where I live (to the north). To give you some sense of the mobile home park's condition, an employee provided this video footage to Annarbor.com with the first report:
That the initial complaint is reprinted in full in each of the follow-up stories strikes me as introducing a curious but distinctive echo: "Raw sewage continues to leak from several residences." "Raw sewage continues to leak from several residences." "Raw sewage continues to leak from several residences." Reading it over yet again, the image becomes more deeply seated. It cements an impression that these grim conditions are permanent, that they are woven into the landscape in such a way that no bureaucratic or legalistic action will change any time soon.
I took this Friday just before 10 a.m. as I wrapped up a short workout in Olds-Robb, or Rec-IM (this second one is the better-known of the building's names, I'm told). The photo is East-facing, a view of Pray-Harrold and other structures on either side whose names I don't know (education on the far right; health services, I think, on the near left). I opted for a day-pass on Tuesday to try out the facility and found the small satellite fitness cove on the fourth floor was exactly what I was looking for. The weight equipment is slightly worn, but it works. It is heavy. And the cardio options are adequate, even a cut above adequate. A row of bikes, ellipticals, and treadmills face East, which means I can see all of Pray-Harrold (pictured). Pray-Harrold: my office is there, my department, the classroom where I teach this semester.
Friday I signed up for a year-long membership and took as a gift of appreciation a sturdy green umbrella. The full year membership ensures that I'll be back, back for the Tuesday-Thursday faculty-staff noon-time pick-up games or for a couple of laps in the 50-meter pool or for yet another circuit on the fourth floor.
T he Yesterblog at the right reminded me that I'd put together one of these three years ago, after lifting the idea from here. And since today's been one of the those mid-fall brain-stew Fridays, using the last few neuronal pulses that remain after this week, I thought why not conjure up another brain map, even declare the lobotomap a triennial EWM tradition. Until 2011....
B efore touring the old Santa Ana Pueblo a week ago on Thursday morning, again and again we were reminded that no photography was allowed. Also, no sketches, no recording of sounds. The rationale for this goes directly to simulacrum and the sacred: the ground itself and all activities upon it remain contained, singular, rare. When reproduction and representation are banned, the site does not suffer from diffusion but instead remains intact. On the tour to the Zia Pueblo a few years ago, there was a similar admonition. There, a sign was posted in front of the church. Something like, "Any recording or reproduction at this site is punishable by a fine of $3,500."
While on the walking tour, I wondered whether Old Santa Ana can be seen from above in Google Maps. It's not far from Albuquerque, after all. At what resolution has satellite imagery in effect leached the site's sanctity? Later, when I checked, I found that indeed the spot is plainly visible from above; aerial topography, it turns out, has not honored the on-ground policies.
At breakfast the next day, however, I was surprised to find another replica, this one, a scale-diorama of sorts, in a display case near one of the restaurants in the Hyatt Tamaya--a resort on the edge of Santa Ana No. 2 (what is called New Santa Ana, as I understand it). Strangely enough, in this instance, nothing is posted about copies (or sketches) of the copy:
E arlier this afternoon, during the A-session of the 13th biennial Rhetoric Society of America conference, I was involved with a panel called "Novice Topoi: A Special Session on the Amateur." I hope to have time to say more about it later. For now, I thought I'd mark the occasion by posting what I contributed--an experimental Flash map that uses movie clips as place-markers. There are a few things in the map I'd like to adjust, but all in all I accomplished what I set out for: 1.) square with something I didn't know how to do when I agreed back in September to be a part of the panel and 2.) push my thinking about what is possible (and what is pleasurably worthwhile) where mapping and distant reading intersect (this for Ch. Five of the diss., which I will be drafting throughout June; maybe I should say "everywhere drafting" given that June includes those trips to Albuquerque and Hershey, Pa.).
Here's the informal statement I handed out at the gallery/panel:
In this experimental Flash map, I have tried to create a simple, direct cartographic experience fashioned from twenty years of author-location metadata derived from College Composition and Communication. Sixteen frames are assigned to each issue of the journal (i.e., 64 frames per year; the file progresses at 12 frames per second); in the first frame for each issue, a series of short movie clips (or "blips") initiate, touching off at each of the institutional locations from which an article was published in the journal. For each subsequent publication from a given institutional location, the instance of the blip appears slightly larger (i.e., the diameter grows by two pixels). Thus, markers associated with programs such as Michigan Tech and Ohio State, appear larger and larger over the span of the two-minute piece. By factoring in a temporal dimension, the map is coded with what Denis Wood, in The Power of Maps, identifies as "thickness." From "Everywhere Drafting," perhaps we can apprehend patterns at a scale not commonly available to readers of individual articles within the journal.
But this is a gallery/panel on the amateur, right? And so I should acknowledge that I had no certain idea how this would work or whether it would work at all. I set out to see what would happen, taking another Flash-based mapping project as one I would try to approximate. And I know very little about Flash. I dabble with it, find myself confused, often uncertain of all that a knowing user could create. I do know that such a map can be generated automatically from a data-set (one day I will learn how), but I produced the map by hand from a twelve-page list of articles and institutions. Roughly half-way in, I realized that my method for "placing" the slowly growing increments was flawed. Because I was using constant X-Y coordinates for each institution, as the movie clips grew larger, they gradually became farther and farther displaced from the anchor point, which was, I learned (the hard way--by messing it up), not at the center of the clip but at the upper left-hand corner. Painstakingly, amateurishly, I managed to correct the problem.
I haven't been taking great notes while reading Prairyerth, but I did dog-ear a page for this:
There are several ways not to walk in the prairie, and one of them is with your eye on a far goal, because then you begin to believe you're not closing the distance any more than you would with a mirage. My woodland sense of scale and time didn't fit this country, and I started wondering whether I could reach the summit before dark. On the prairie, distance and the miles of air turn movement to stasis and openness to a wall, a thing as difficult to penetrate as dense forest. I was hiking in a chamber of absences where the near was the same as the far, and it seemed every time I raised a step the earth rotated under me so that my foot feel just where it had lifted from. Limits and markers make travel possible for people: circumscribe our lines of sight and we can really get somewhere. Before me lay the Kansas of popular conception from Coronado on--that place you have to get through, that purgatory of mileage. (82)
"That purgatory of mileage"--the horizontal vista of Chase County draws Least Heat-Moon in. The expanse of long grasses is at times disorienting. He feels lost, but knows that no line can be walked for five miles without crossing a road. He is a journalist, a chronicler, a gatherer of stories. Sometimes he consults a map, such as when he stands in Cottonwood Falls with "an 1878 bird's-eye-view engraving of the town" (52), but he also--sector by county sector--sketches his own. This last point is important, I think. It is the practice where his methods live up to the "deep mapping"--an ethnographic presence in graceful suspense (not unlike North's ten years of "walking among"), part Geertzian "thick description," but also meta-, also interested in the up and out--the topography. This prairie topography can be experienced on foot.
I'm mulling over the relationship between Least Heat-Moon's "chamber of absences"--the "distance" and "openness" of the prairie topography and (yet again) de Certeau's "wave of verticals," the "scopic drive" he chides after looking out onto NYC from the 110th floor of the World Trade Center. What is strange--exciting, even--is that Least Heat-Moon cannot figure out how to organize his book until he appropriates a form from the grid of his hand-drawn maps. About maps, de Certeau says, "They allow us to grasp only a relic set in the nowhen of a surface of projection.... These fixations constitute procedures for forgetting. The trace left behind is substituted for the practice" (97). If I may put that last sentence through a tumbler, what if, "the trace left behind is the practice" or "the trace left behind invigorates the practice (of walking in the city/prairie)"? This windy adventure forks yet again at the distinction between the general-use map (with common place names, consensus, etc.) and that other, more self-selective attunement (an experiential, even egotistical sketch).
About my own chamber of absences: I am warming up to the idea that none of this belongs in Chapter Five. But I nevertheless find myself happily stuck (not stranded) on the problem of "What about maps as a (databasic, interested) writing practice?". I don't know. Yet there is a promising something (a fantastic thingamabob) at the theoretical fulcrum between de Certeau's high-up perch (fraught with verticality) and Least Heat-Moon's more moderate, walking-the-prairie sensibility (fraught with horizontality). I would be thrumming again on matters of scale, I suppose, to wonder whether that's all it amounts to when Least Heat-Moon breaks into his intimate portraits of people and places, interrupting with his private, deliberative excursions to the various plateaus or flint shelves for reorientations from time to time. Don't we all need (or at least desire) such reorientations?
L et's just say Is. is intensely fond of her red monster friend in his many instances. You'd think we (all) live on Sesame Street. Upon request, we improvisationally add his name into songs we sing (i.e., "Elmo goes marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah"). No lyrics are exempt from this practice. We must carry him along when we do London Bridge in the living room. Unrelenting elmogrification these days and learning much about the passional impulses of one delightful toddler.
A bout a month ago, Absolut Vodka ran an advertisement in selected publications in Mexico titled "In An Absolut World" and showing a modified pre-1845 political map of North America. Evidently the ad (produced by Mexico City-based Teran/TWBA) stirred up quite a bit of discussion ranging from hard-lined close-the-borders remakes to characterizations of Absolut as exceedingly leftist, from calls for boycotts of the vodka to more nuanced historical reflections on the Mexican-American War and reconquest movements. That's quite a bit to come from a localized print advertisement. Absolut apologized before retracting the ads just a few days later. And though many of the spin-offs reflect entrenched anti-Mexico perspectives, there are more takes on Flickr here and here. I've collected some of the links in this entry because I can imagine returning to this fracas as an example of the rhetoricity of maps--an extended foray into what Denis Wood might have been thinking when he suggested in The Power of Maps that maps are always, unavoidably interested. Yes, advertisements even more so--or more overtly so. By no means am I well read or well studied on reconquest movements, but glancing the few threads of conversation linked above does remind me of a line in Silko's Almanac of the Dead when she mentions the quiet celebrations each time a Spanish-speaking leader is elected to public office in the southwestern U.S.
One of the more compelling responses I've seen comes from a commenter to the blog Conservative Dialysis who points to the hypocrisy in the great outrage over the "In An Absolut World" ad when postcards like the one below still circulate in the Lone Star State and beyond (also featured on Strange Maps). Of course, it's not as simple to establish the tie that connects the circulation of one to the circulation of the other. But, that both of them circulate (or rather that one is retracted while the other one is so mundane as to go unnoticed) makes their pairing (possibly) electric.
I'm intrigued by, as much as anything here, the small leap from (interested?) map to worldview. What are those interests? Whose are they? How are they coded in the map's symbology? Written into or inscribed in the layers of the map itself? These few examples, slowly aging among my "starred items" in Google Reader, seem to get at that leap fairly well (well enough for a future assignment on map writing practices or something?).
L ately I've been puzzling over de Certeau's theorization of maps and what they risk obfuscating (e.g., stories, minutiae, detritus, etc.) in The Practice of Everyday Life. His pedestrian rhetoric affirms the viewpoint of the "ground level" over the observation of the whole from the 110th story of the World Trade Center, from which he once experienced a curious pleasure while looking onto Manhattan--seeing it as a "wave of verticals" hovering distantly above the city's "paroxysmal places" (91). De Certeau wonders about the pleasure he felt and, as well, what this bird's-eye viewpoint, with its "scopic and gnostic drive," obscures: "When one goes up there, he leaves behind the the mass that carries off and mixes up in itself any identity of authors or spectators" (92).
From the observation deck, De Certeau says the mass is left behind, that it "carries off and mixes up." Reasonably true. Looking down on the ant-like taxis, the city appears different--further away. But in another sense, the urban observation deck is not less local than the sidewalk, is it? Also, marveling at the city does not make its streets more readily navigable (whatever compels you to go out and about).
Certeau goes on to critique maps, traces, place-names, and flattened projections, lumping them together as totalizing devices: "The surface of this ["suspended symbolic order"] is everywhere punched and torn open by ellipses, drifts, and leaks of meaning: it is a sieve-order" (107). The sieve-order favors stories and localization, and these are thwarted by intervals of distance, from those viewpoints at which the "world's debris" disappears.
Later he admits an oscillation between the local stories and "rumors" (presumably reinforced by a desire for totalizing representations), he is concerned that the relationship between the two has become stratified: "Stories diversify, rumors totalize. If there is still a certain oscillation between them, it seems that today there is a stratification: stories are becoming private and sink into the secluded places in neighborhoods, families, or individuals, while the rumors propagated by the media cover everything and, gathered under the figures of the City, the masterword of an anonymous law, the substitute for all proper names, they wipe out or combat any superstitions guild of still resisting the figure" (108). The overwrought substitution of the one (i.e., totalizing view) for the other (i.e., everyday practices) is troubling: "The trace left behind [on, say, a map] is substituted for the practice. It exhibits the (voracious) property that the geographical system has of being able to transform action into legibility, but in doing so it causes a way of being in the world to be forgotten" (97).
Might the projection--and even the written account--also rejuvenate the action, renew its circulation, and cause it to be remembered again? Specifically, I am thinking about this in relationship to distant reading methods that translate large volumes of data (mined from texts or activities) into visual models--projections in which we can apprehend patterns not identifiable at other scales of contact (such as the "ground level").
Maybe there is a place for de Certeau in Chapter Five. I haven't decided yet. But I am discovering the faint separations between my dissertation and the walking rhetorics he advocates. Something tells me these can be bridged (or filled), but I am still reaching for ideas about how to do that (and also still thinking about whether it is even necessary).
A week ago Thursday we stopped through the closing reception of a show at the Delavan Art Gallery here in Syracuse. Hadn't been to the gallery before, but several pieces produced by our friend (and former neighbor), Amy Bartell, were on display (some of it by such enigmatic and inventive techniques I can't get my mind off of it). I don't have a program with me now, and I couldn't find the exact title for her exhibit online, but I think it was called "Archeological Memoir." Basically, she works with various materials (impressions, overlays, exposure, stamping) to layer together what I would describe as 'geographic impressions.' They're not impressionist, in the sense of that tradition; rather they involve the plying (layering, doubling over, folding and folding) of found things (symbols and materials)--a sandwiching effect by which their pressed-ness amplifies the deep entanglement of place, object, and spatial imagination. I was struck by the collection because it resonated conceptually with some of the stuff you would find in Harmon's You Are Here and at Strange Maps. This it to say it hooked into the same way-finding attitude or manner I continue to find tremendously appealing. But the pieces were also detailed and varied--as pastiche: almost imaginary maps, almost documentary, almost autobiography. Digital versions of two of the pieces are online--Travelogue and Your Call Cannot Be Completed At This Time--but the entire exhibit is worth experiencing in its entirety, and because she does at least one show each year, there is a decent chance of catching it again in Central New York.
I finally got around to listening to "This American Life" on mapping. Seems like someone mentioned the program when it aired last month (I remember looking at the accompanying images in Flickr). The program, a replay of the broadcast from 1998, covers mapping across the five senses, beginning with Denis Woods on sight and his neighborhood maps that take into account things like how often addresses (or names of residents) occur in a neighborhood newsletter and how the geolocations of jack-o-lanterns (photographed and layered onto a black background) correspond to the places references in the newsletter. He describes this fascination as a "poetics of cartography" and proposes that there isn't anything that can't be mapped. Brief thought it is, Woods opening piece gave me a boost for thinking about chapter five in the diss, even if I'm still two or three months from drafting the chapter on mapping. Hearing him talk about his mapping practices made me want to drop everything I'm doing (right now, on tag clouds) and re-read The Power of Maps.
The rest of the show is worth a listen, but I didn't find the later sections to be as impressive as Woods' bit. There's a piece on mapping soundscapes (not far off some of the things Jenny has discussed re: documentary, although this guy finds musical notes in the drone of his microwave and CPU cooling fan), and there are also short segments on mapping with smell and touch--both of which reminded me of conversations in the cybercartography seminar I took two years ago.
Aside from the Grand Inversion, the map symbols would suggest that the climate, landforms, coastlines, flora, and fauna are more or less in tact. In that case, I suppose I'd be most at home just north and east of Bermuda City. Or somewhere within a canoe ride of the Great Islands.
I received an email earlier this evening announcing a hot new version of Google Analytics. Since I'm putting off packing for C&W, I clicked around in it for a couple of minutes. Most of what I found was impressive, highly detailed, analytical, and so on. But when I zoomed in on the U.S., something was off. Michigan, the state where I was born and raised, the land of Vernors and Koegels (milk and honey, bah!), appeared malformed.
I zoomed in once again and found the same funky shape, only larger.
This can only mean one of the following:
T he "Map of Online Communities" posted to XKCD (one of the few web comics I follow) is traveling through the internets this morning. Don't miss it. It offers an impressive lot: playful place-names, the loose association of geographic area with online activity, and a directional orientation based on abstract magnetisms (practical/intellectual and focuses on real life or the web). Very much the sort of imaginary map you might expect to find in Harmon's You Are Here. Even though the map includes a note discouraging navigational use, I tend to think of it as appropriate for that purpose, especially for wanderers who sit in their cozy homes in the Icy North, gazing sullenly at/through Windows Live and Yahoo and wondering what's on the other side of the mountain range.
Note the TITLE text available on mouse-over of the map: I'm waiting for the day when, if you tell someone 'I'm from the internet', instead of laughing they just ask 'oh, what part?'
I mentioned the other day that I had more maps to share. I put together another batch built from program-level locative metadata rather than the field-wide or disciplinary locations shown in the maps of CCCC chairs' addresses/conventions since 1977 and the institutional membership of the rhet-comp doctoral consortium. Below I've worked from the CCR web site to come up with simple geographic representations of various features of the program where I'm doing graduate work: I. Where our faculty come from; II. Where our graduate students come from (MA institutions); and III. Where our alumni have gone. The fourth and final map in this batch rolls these three data-sets together, mashing them into a single map that shows multiple location-associations for the program. For now I'll hold off on making the argument that such slices of locative metadata are significant beyond the usual ways we have both for understanding a graduate program from the inside (who do we understand ourselves to be?) and from the outside (what image do we project?). Of course, these aren't the only questions for which the maps have relevance, and though they're a starting place, perhaps they seem too simple (or unanswerable given complex variables) to bother asking.
It runs the risk of junking up the display, but I've added arcs between SU and the respective institutions. I haven't decided whether the arc feature adds much to the map. I'm still experimenting with features and seeing what comes of it. The fourth and final map, then, appears below. It combines all of the points shown in the first three. And I've dropped the arcs because they make for a tangle of untraceable ties between points.
All of the locative data is available on our web site, so I'm not working with information that was difficult to gather. The locations of alumni reflects only current institutions, not programs where graduates worked previously (although such a thing would be interesting to consider, too). Also, the locative data at the program level, like the field-wide maps I posted a few days ago, corresponds exclusively to the grid coordinates of other institutions. From this, whether or not we can resolve it to anyone's lasting satisfaction, we can begin to ask about how such formations constitute networks of some sort, even if we know only tacitly that they do.
O ver the past few days I've been tinkering with alternatives for representing locative metadata. I stumbled across John Emerson's DIY Map, which layers together a Flash movie with XML, and I've been encouraged with the results. Emerson's project has been around for over two years; the release history tells that it came about just before the release of the Google maps API in Feb. of 2005.
One nice thing about DIY Map is that it cooperates with basic XML, so the 78kb Flash map can match with multiple sets of data to create various maps. The XML files are small and easy to customize or edit as data-sets change. Consider, for comparison, the map of the RC Consortium I put together using Frappr a year ago. Frappr is adequate for locating the 73 members on the list, but it wants to frame them as people rather than institutions or programs. While Frappr puts the Google maps API to good use, its design inhibits the simpler plotting of points that I'm after. I also liked that Frappr made it possible to embed the map in another site, but Emerson's project manages this, too. Frappr's admin tools left a lot to be desired in that the data couldn't easily be exported or edited in batches (to switch from people to groups, for instance).
For the most part, the points should link to the web site for each respective program; however, as I copied and pasted the data from the consortium site, I found a few broken links. Those can be resolved easily enough later on. In the XML file, I have set the data point size to 2. All of the colors are established with hex codes, and I've applied a different shade in zones (states) where the data is zero, or, in other words, where there aren't any members of the consortium. Emerson's approach here is smart, too, because the color scheme for all data points is controlled from one set of lines in the XML file. Navigating the map may take a few minutes to get used to. You can drag a box over regions of the map you would like to enlarge. Clicking in a particular state will enlarge the state and center it in the frame.
I'm aware of the inherent limitation of the U.S.-centrism. DIY Map has other countries and regions available. This isn't a problem in the map of the consortium because there aren't yet any members beyond the U.S. (as far as I know; granted, this list doesn't account for changes in membership over the past year or so). But should the consortium add members in other parts of the world, the default frame would need to be reconsidered. Of course, because the data points make use of grid coordinates, transferring them over to a global view would be fairly manageable.
Because it was relatively easy to do, I threw together XML files for a few other data sets. This map shows the locations of the chairs' addresses and CCCC conferences since 1977.
Here I've used alternating marker sizes to show, for example, that the conference has been in Chicago four times since 1977. The markers indicating addresses that have also been published in CCC Online Archive are linked to the corresponding page on that site (click on San Antonio to see what I mean).
There's much more to say about this, and I'll try to share some of the other maps later this week (after my computer is back from repair). Finally, here is the chunk of code for embedding one of these maps in another site, should anyone have an interest in doing such a thing:
<object classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000" codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=7,0,0,0" width="500" height="297" id="zoom_map" align="top">
<param name="movie" value="http://www.earthwidemoth.com/side/flashmap/us.swf?data_file=http://www.earthwidemoth.com/mt/flashmap/addresses.xml" />
<param name="quality" value="high" />
<param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF" />
<embed src="http://www.earthwidemoth.com/mt/flashmap/us.swf?data_file=http://www.earthwidemoth.com/mt/flashmap/addresses.xml" quality="high" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" width="500" height="297" name="Clickable U.S. Map" align="top"
This bit of code applies to the map of the chairs' addresses (addresses.xml). For the RC Consortium, switch the file name to rhetcomp.xml.
F lickr launched a new geotagging feature this week (via). It's tied in with Yahoo's mapping API; via Flickr, you can assign locative data to your photos simply by drag-and-drop methods. The Flickr blog reports an impressive surge in the geotagging of photographs with some 1.2 million geotagged in the first 24 hours after the feature's rollout.
Granted, if a photo already had geotags assigned, the new system automatically recognized them, so a fair portion of the 1.2 million were probably auto-assigned rather than initiated by Flickr users.
Several months ago I made use of some of the earlier geotagging efforts, which established grid coordinates as tags unto themselves.
The new scheme, however, keeps the locative data under the hood and instead offers a simple link to a map alongside a label indicating "Taken in/near <placename>."
After months of thinking they were defunct, it turns out that all of the old geotags haven't gone to waste.
They're working to post the photos assigned geographic data in the tags to sites like loc.alize.us.
I 'm not thinking of buying a house, but if was, I'd refer to Zillow.com, a site layered with maps, orthophoto aerial images, residential housing data and tax-assessed valuations. I delivered my final "mini-briefing" of the semester in GEO781 yesterday, touted Zillow's finer points. I find it interesting because it aspires to aggregate the cadastre data from multiple municipalities in a single database while tying into Navteq maps (like Google) and GlobeXplorer aerials and the impressive bird's-eye views from pictometry.com. Most of the description and assessment data is available for specific cities and counties, but it's often listed in a table without dynamic mapping interfaces to make reading across multiple properties efficient or easy. We should expect Zillow to expand, too, because it's growing the information side of the real estate market; the bird's-eye stuff was added just two weeks ago. And ultimately, for me, therein lies the treat of the site. The cadastre data is fine (even if it's not searchable by the owner's name like it is at many city/county web sites), but the twin-view of the maps/photos/hybrids and the bird's-eye views of properties are nice to look at. And the two frames are synched; click-n-drag action in one frame has the same effect in the adjacent frame. The same applies to directional rotation. Bird's-eye from the east? Select it and the same turn happens in the map view. The compass-dial in the upper left is smooth, too. It's not limited to four or eight directions like so many others.
Market comparisons for recent home sales aren't yet available in CNY, and when I checked them out for our former house in KC, the comps were negligible. I suspect it to be a condition of a project in its infancy. Someone in class yesterday said Zillow will spell the end of the real estate agent. Maybe. What good is an agent when you have agency? Or zagency. That's the other thing. Zillow.com runs the risk of going wild with the reasoning that goes "people remember z-words" (they say their favorite letter is z). Where market-data supports it (tracking county-wide trends in sales), Zillow.com offers what they've coined as a "zestimate." A happy collision of zest+estimate? There's also a trade-marked "Zestimator." Here's hoping there's not too much more of ZatTM. Still, the interface design and mapping uses are cool.
T he upcoming issue of The New Yorker includes an article first released yesterday to the magazine's web site. "Getting There: The science of driving directions," offers a sharp-right overview of evolving navigational technologies, running from Rand McNally paper maps to their updated on-dash equivalents. A brief history of automobile navigation gets a few column inches, too; both the "Jones Live-Map" and the "Photo-Auto Guide" were early twentieth century contrivances for first-person (um, first-vehicle?) navigating. Though it's only briefly mentioned and mixed in with a bunch of other fun, interesting details, one proposition is that we're seeing a resurgence in egocentric navigational devices with various mobile gadgets.
Ground-truthing comes up in the mid-section of the piece. I'm sure this is common parlance for geographers, but ground-truthing is basically a validation process--driving the map to confirm its correspondence to the real (locating attributes, checking them off, tracking the new, etc.). It gets at the correspondence between places and their abstractions, whether digitally coded or paper based. And so ground-truthers, working for geographic outfits such as Navtek, free-drive the urbanscapes noting signs of discord.
Seeing the road through the eyes of a ground-truther made it seem a thicket of signage--commands and designations vying for attention, like a nightmare you might have after a day of studying for a driving exam. Once you start looking for attributes, you spot them everywhere.
And there are also a few sweet moments of meta-:
A map is a piece of art. It is also a form of language--a rendering of information. A good map can occupy the eye and the mind longer than almost any other single page of data, including Scripture, poetry, sheet music, and baseball box scores. A map contains multitudes.
Read the rest of it if any of this sounds good. I stole a few minutes this morning to do just that, and I was glad for it. Next, in GEO781 we looked at Moretti's chapter on maps. I wasn't sure what to expect, but everyone was really taken by his project (even the physical geographers in the group!). We tangled with wide range of issues related to place-name stability, databases and automation of mapping textual data, transmedia and fictional maps (re Lord of the Rings, mainly), and Moretti's distinction between geography (locative logics) and geometry (relational/directional logics). One question got at whether Graphs, Maps, Trees is being thought over by folks beyond the humanities. And one of the most salient suggestions was for the book to be reviewed for a geography journal toward broader and cross-disciplinary conversations/projects emerging from his work.
S trangely enough, I've been writing in the Florida room lately. I'd never heard of a Fla. room until my brother and his family threw down a mortgage on a place in East Detroit ten years ago. The house had a glass-enclosed room on the south end of the house. High sun exposure. A soft urban breeze. They called it a Florida room. And that was that. I stayed in that room when I visited on the weekends away from Saginaw.
Now, in the place we've called home since November, we have a comparable room. Lately it has been warm enough to set up a makeshift workspace in t/here, and over the last few days, it's been not-too-hard-not-too-soft writing environ of goodly inspiration. I've never before been conscious of an oversensitivity to writing spaces. Thought I was above it, immune, able to write here, there, anywhere, in other words, no matter the circumstances. But whereas the official office and living room (both adequate for working, with decent furniture, lighting, etc.) have been fine for reading lately, they're traps for writing. Snares! I don't want to overemphasize the consequences of space for what I perceived to be a brief and now-passing writing rut--a moment of dread at the immanence of semester's end. Might've been the full moon for all I know. But a change of scene has done something; I've vacated the stifling writing sites, replacing them with this one: an over-sunshined porch with a card table and enough folding chairs to host a small party. Headphones leveled up with entrancing techno loops from AfterhoursDJs.org. I hope not to jinx myself by saying it, but I've been pleasantly surprised by the difference brought on by simply changing scenes.
A gain and again we've read articles by D.R. Fraser Taylor this semester on the coming revolution of cybercartography (even if that rev. arrived a year ago with Google Maps and its API). Taylor takes credit for coining "cybercartography" in his 1997 keynote address, "Maps and Mapping in the Information Era" at the ICC conference in Sweden. Conceptually, cybercartography relaxes cartography from the constraints of paper; the map-maker and the map-user blend together; their products--often dynamic and unconventional--play a range from physical maps to imaginaries and abstraction (idio-data), often at the computer interface. The "false objectivity" of physical maps is loosened to the enigmas and wonder. Consequently we have a disturbance of traditional cartography (i.e. the map-maker, his instruments, and ink).
We've read three articles by Taylor and in each of them he has mentioned multisensory maps. Beyond sight, sound and touch, these maps incorporate taste and scent. The article we read for Tuesday mentioned Olfacom, a company working to devise olfactory devices that "diffuse odors from a changeable cartridge" (Cybercartography: Theory and Practice 555). Each time we read about multisensory maps, we wish for stronger examples. Skepticism piles on, and we're left with questions about mapping scent using artificial devices that would--as I sit here in our home office--fill up the room with a squirt of odor corresponding to whatever it was I was observing on the monitor. Taylor reminds us of marketing motivations backing much of the experimental research on olfactory technologies--from popcorn breezes at Disney to some kind of museum funk (check dusty, petrified relics and their rankness).
I want to give this idea a chance, far-fetched as it at first seems. Multi-sensory maps--including taste and smell; would we reject them before they've materialized? My first objection is that I don't particularly care for the artificial scents. Perfume stores, wretched; incense the same. But we also read an essay this week on public map displays which got me thinking about shared map interfaces. Granted, the examples in the article were retrograde: lobbies filled up with aging monitors used to display variously scaled weather data for passers-by. But let's adapt the logic of the carpet in the Sacramento Airport (via) to this problem. Someone correct me if the rug is more of an aerial or orthophoto rather than a map; it's carpet. Now suppose we have a foyer--the entryspace to a hundred-acre flower garden carpeted in kind, showing a map of the grounds, paths, and foliage. The room still smells like new carpet, right? What if we add fresh cuttings from each of the zones of the garden and, well, we have something that approximates an olfactory map only with natural rather than artificial scent. Representative of the grounds, a legend of odors. But has it lost its "cyber"? Well, not necessarily, considering that Taylor ties cybercartography definitionally to cybernetics as much as to the computer. I like it much better than having an Olfacom gizmo next to my desktop peripherals hitting me with a shot of fabricated scent.
I'm tempted to run ahead with this, wrapping it back to taste--even suggesting a showcase of the Syracuse Hunger Project (a local human geography program at SU) where, in addition to mapping hunger in Onondaga Country, the showcase would promise a "taste of Syracuse" (as promoted, on fliers) only to serve nada to the attendees. To what effect? I suppose this is somewhat unruly, but it gets at the merger of multisensory experience and map displays--particularly public map displays.
Here are a few of the other catches in class--productive though they were:
O n another recommendation from the geography course, I just checked out local.live.com. The aerial photos on Local.Live aren't as high in resolution as the ones used by Google, but the map view (using Navtech) is quite detailed (better shading, mild arrows for traffic direction, a different place-name scheme), I'd say, and the bird's eye perspective is especially worth a look. Here's the bird's eye view of SU's Quad----facing south; the middle-most building is Huntington Beard Crouse, the place I pass the time many days.
And another view, facing westward this time, at a full zoom. I'd include a view of our house, but you'd be able to see how unkempt the lawn was before winter.
I f a person uses Google Maps (or Google Local...) to mark all of the breweries in Chicago, let's say, has s.he created a map?
I asked this question today in GEO781, and I learned that just as all comprhetors don't agree on what writing is, all geographers don't agree on what mapping is. I don't want to exaggerate the gape between physical geography and social or human geography, but as these sub-disciplinary orientations go, so goes the willingness/reluctance to regard maps as representational and also rhetorical rather than as empirical or somehow data-rigid.
To the question above, one response (generally) goes: Yes, of course. The map is a symbolic system often consisting of various graphical and linguistic elements, some of which are substantiated by hard data more than others. The beer map combines sign systems: to-scale physical forms (roadways, shoreline), iconic markers (to indicate brewery and pub locations), and toponyms or place-names. Although Google Maps mash-ups involve a common cartographic back-drop or base (the tile images don't change often), the overlays define the maps thematically. In the case of the breweries map, it might be helpful to introduce a scheme for differentiating map types. A thematic map is not merely interpretive, nor is the physical (material) map tidy in its permanence. We can find many examples of their felicitous combination--blended maps that work together to present multiple data-sets.
The negative responses to the question--if I can merge them, fell swoop--identify the factual nature of the physical forms with a kind of primacy. The real places, their demonstrable physicality, offer us proof. The data are reliable, can be validated, and are more likely to be accurate than user-placed markers indicating brew pubs. The physical forms, as represented, are authoritative, in this sense, despite our knowledge that landforms shift over long periods of time, shorelines and other unstable grounds are subject to accretion and avulsion, and the planet itself is fluid-like, taking into account the oceans and the magma.
This is only a teaser, and I know that my vocabulary for engaging the question is lacking much of the nuance it would have if I spent more time studying geography. Still I'm intrigued by some of the tensions I pick up on, particularly as we read articles about cybercartography as remediation, introducing problems and opportunities for the well-guarded post of the cartographer as one who draws and labels paper maps.
Just one more bit from class: Because I'm in back-to-back seminars on Tuesdays, I find somewhat difficult to keep the geography conversations fresh and to return to them later. The second class ends up bumping out all of the short-term goods from the first half of the day. What remains mixes in with the comp theory conversations...result: confusion (heh, it's generative confusion, nonetheless). We read two articles from Political Mapping of Cyberspace (2003); one on authenticity and authentication and the other on confession, parrhesia and communities. The authenticity/authentication article reminded me of Dick Hardt's OSCON Keynote, Identity 2.0. The chapter connects a related set of issues with Foucault's technologies of the self (84), "regimes of normalization" (84), and self-writing (91). It also lead us to a line of conversation about self-identifying in weblogs (v. much related to Jeff's piece from a week ago), including traditions of spoof scholarship, such as The Journal of Irreproducible Results; the falsification of co-authors, as in a colleague of our prof who published an article with a fictive co-author dubbed "Roscoe Gort;" and other variations of "academic fraud" (like the Sokal "Social Text" happening). What might a JIR of rhetcomp look like (just for kicks, of course...a thought-experiment more than a bona fide proposal)?
A colleague from the cybercartography course shared an email with this link to the Iraq War Coalition Fatalities Map produced in Flash by graphic designer Tim Klimowicz. He mentioned it during yesterday's session when we were working through maps and motion. It's both upsetting and fascinating: upsetting for the long sequence of flarepoints indicative of deaths, fascinating as an example of design, map animation and the coordination of temporal and geographic data.
I was reading along in an article called "Neighbourhoods on the Net" when I ran across an unfamiliar phrase: phenetic urge. The article evaluates the impact of datasets circulating online about real neighborhoods. The three authors collected links to 33 sites that make use of "geodemographic" data--income, pollution, average selling price homes, etc. They reduced the list to seventeen profiled examples, and from there, zeroed in on four sites for extended "case studies." To conclude, the article offers a set of implications for policy, which includes conclusions about screwy data leading to flawed representations of certain places and accessibility concerns, notably--and repeatedly--cast in terms of age and economic status ("Those sections of the population that are financially unable and/or unwilling (as is the case with many older people) to access online sources will be increasingly disadvantaged as information availability and society's dependence on it expands" (37)).
Phenetic urge nods to the taxonomy impulse, the classificatory move. Here's the immediate context:
Allowing for the enormous difficulties involved in 'un-inventing' IBNIS ['Internet-based Neightbourhood Information Systems'] (let alone the 'phenetic urge' of which they are so potent a symbol), the core policy issue to come out of this report is how best to ensure that the advantages of IBNIS are not outweighed by the disadvantages listed above. (36)
Specifically, the disadvantages are much like those I already mentioned: "mis-characterising localities," "inacurate depiction[s]," "unwarranted 'redlining,'" and "online marginalisation." Ultimately, the concern-as-delivered is over the datasets (geodemographic and, perhaps, beyond) representing neighbourhoods on the net. A Beckettian critique: "The danger is in the neatness of identifications." IBNIS, their place-identifying data, are a potent symbol of "phenetic urges."
I went about digging around for "phenetic," and found its association with clusters whose correspondence rests in observable patterns. Near neighbor: phylogenic: groupings based on known-to-be-inherited traits. I wonder how this positions the phenetic urge differently in time. Does this mean that phenetic urges are always momentary and impulsive or can those observations take years? Also, does phenetic classification rely only on observational methods (phenomenology, the report of senses, etc.)? Thinking through this keeps me at the question about the "urge," too. Urgency; the urgent-ic state. Given that the article is concerned with datasets as they apply to spaces, I'm interested in what this might mean for tagging, for the urge to apply a tag. But there's more: how do our own tendencies for placing texts, let's say, in particular intellectual traditions reconcile with these two orientations: phenetic and phylogenic?
Stopping here. I'm swamped, and need funnel what's left of the shortening evening toward a list of coming-dos in the week ahead.
B efore the break, I spent part of an afternoon mapping all of the programs from the Composition and Rhetoric Consortium web site into Frappr, then copying/pasting the associated informational bits and URLs. Once finished: a Frappr of the Comp/Rhet Consortium. Sing sweet confessions, it was a fit of uninhibited geekiness, motivated in part by my recollection that, when I decided to apply to doctoral programs, I didn't have a simple way to single out the programs proximate to the Great Lakes--closest to where we ultimately hoped to move after KC. Of course, the map stands the chance of amplifying other (surprising-insightful?) qualities of the consortium's East-leaning geography. It's possible that I've missed a program or two. If you spot one, please let me know. I'll add it (as long as its affiliation is undisputed).
Beyond that, there's another practical motivation: I'd been meaning to give Frappr a whirl (initially, I was thinking a collective From project with a DL course). It's free and relatively easy. The groups systematically associated with the CR Consortium seem a bit off. The Crochet Dude and Dr. Vino? Uh...if you insist. Also, the system wants to remain open for others to add themselves. It would be nice if there was a moderator feature for sifting new member additions (the moderator is able to delete membrs and comments, fwiw, but anyone can add...I think). Also, the data and profiles are somewhat constrained. It's not possible--yet--to reorganize the listing of members. They can be sorted by location, but you'll see that Syracuse is listed at the top. I can't change that (well, right, maybe I wouldn't if I could, but still).
My hunch is that another mapping option (Google Maps EZ or a Google Maps API hack) would be better suited for the CR Consortium. And although Frappr does an okay job of making available what I'd hoped to, I just might tinker with switching the map to a different system in the months ahead--especially if the geography course I'm taking encourages experimentation with Google Maps/Google Local.
I signed up for a free Wayfaring account yesterday after I ran across it in this list of Web 2.0 apps (via). Having monkeyed with it for a few minutes (btw, there's a greasemonkey script for it in Firefox...encouraging sign), I'd say Wayfaring appears to be easy to use and especially friendly for those who don't want to bother with the code required for Google Maps EZ. Wayfaring incorporates waypoints (markers), notes, and routes (paths). Code is readily available for sharing maps (like this one) to a blog. And it's simple to designate maps for private/public access and for individual/group changes.
B elow the fold you'll find a map-like project I've been working on for a little while today. It's a spread of the CCCC addresses since Lloyd-Jones in 1977 with pop-ups including the details about each chair's address (notice: Roen's upcoming collection). If the corresponding text of the talk has been run through parsing and posting at CCC Online, you'll find a link to it from the map.
Why this? Why now? For one thing I wanted to get back in and tinker around with Google Maps EZ. I used it when it first came about, but there have been a few changes, including an expanded range of options for coloring and labeling the markers. The markers work with single characters; I've color-specified the placemarkers by decade, then used a number to show the year of the convention and talk. It leaves something to be desired, but it's good enough for now. Ultimately, I'd like to see two-digit markers; probably ought to look into how to do that myself. On the other hand, I probably should finish up grading. And on the other other hand, I probably ought to turn off Judge Mathis and stop playing Sudoku.
To add just a bit more rationale for this/now, I'm taking a course in geography in the spring called Seminar in Cartography: Web Mapping and Cybercartography. I don't have much formal training in geography; the course welcomes students from across the disciplines, and it will be the only course outside of CCR that I'll take during this program of study. I don't have all the details about the GEO course yet, but we'll be looking at a book called Mapping Hacks and hacking and writing a few maps of our own. And because, at my geekiest, I'm keen on mapping disciplinarity (among other stuff, imaginaries, etc., as well...might even argue that disciplinarity is an imaginary, and that it's too vast and complex to know totally, so we map away). Yeah, well, that's why this/now. I'd say more, but I have to walk over to a chiropractic appt. (neck's still killing me), then catch up with D. for a ride to Ph.'s game.
CCCC Chair's Addresses Since 1977 (the first year of the ceremonial opening address)
I went ahead and lifted the Brain Map idea from here and created one of my own. I'm not sure how much brain-mapping diffusion proves it as a full-fledged meme, but I do recommend it.
A mong kids playing late today in our shared driveway: "You're not out when I'm out."
Figures, I was in. Slowly through the open window, their argument (more of an exchange about whose after-school play schedule was more peculiar) quieted to back-and-forth bicycling and shooting hoop.
A fter dropping D. off at work this morning (so I could keep the car, pick up groceries, and catch Ph.'s soccer match later this afternoon), I headed over to the local grocery store. No need to name it. It's the closest mainstream grocer; even if you don't know it specifically, you know it generally. It's everystore. Its spaces, lighting, layout, products all commonplace, with only minor idiosyncrasies such as kidney beans shelved in three different places (really, what's going on with that?). I parked, grabbed a buggy, made my way down each aisle, total-coverage style, the way I always do.
I'm trying to shift habit into the checker-less checkout, so I tapped on the computer monitor and shoveled the products--barcodes exposed--through the infrared reader and into the bags (I did bag groceries for a while before the promotion to night stock crew). It was relatively early for grocery shopping; I was the only one in the self-check area and the clerk monitoring my activity was hawkish, scrutinizing (buying a few cups of yogurt warrants a furrowed brow? Ease up...they're not friendly with the scanner).
Point: the stark reorientation. In the parking lot--the most ordinary of spaces: I returned to the car, hoisted the hatch and shuttled the goods...
Two cars away, a woman alone in the passenger side of an older SUV, windows down (we're 93F in Syracuse today, +20 on the usual mark for Sept. 13). She's singing, in a gravelly, drunken voice, a song I don't know (not this rendition, anyway). Nothing against public singing; sounded happy for the most part. Next, she opened the door, struggled to her feet (meanwhile I parked the cart in the corral, other side of her vehicle). As I passed back by, eye contact, and she gives the message: "Excuse me, world, but I've got to pay the water bill." What, maybe a half of a second before I come to terms with what she means; my first thought, a perhaps-ironic hitch, was that the grocery store houses a bill-pay station for Niagara-Mohawk, the CNY region's natural gas and electricity monopoly. You can't pay the water bill here, I thought. Me with my reasoning: too slow. Indeed she went about paying the water bill right there in the parking lot.
I don't need to say much more about this, but I was thinking about peopled spaces and activity--the possibility for interaction to transform the ordinary space. Space remade, if temporarily (always temporarily). The look of surprise, abhorrence, disgust from the only other person in the parking lot, the one walking from the other direction--a different perspective. Often the start reorientation is more extreme than this; other times, less so. A gross example? I only wanted to note it as an example of spatial refiguring, of the chance encounter that disturbs spatial constancy in the most ordinary locations.
I f you seek thorough notes on today's Fall Teaching Conference, you might be disappointed. The four-hour conference covered several interesting and important projects: Syracuse community-based writing courses, upcoming service-learning initiatives, and the annual address from the chair of the department. The featured speaker--a professor from Vermont--gave a talk on "Assessing Diversity," a topic which, you might agree, is both vast and complicated--tangled politically and theoretically. The talk worked through asking the right questions, devising alternative models, mixing methods and identifying subtle (if isolable) variables. All of the presentations were held in Hall of Languages 500, the top floor of the building I wrote about earlier this month. Here's a photo I snapped about fifteen minutes before the sessions started this morning; it's a north-ward look from the place we gathered.
Ironically, the featured talk included a clip from the movie Addams Family Values: the part where young Wednesday breaks from the script in the Thanksgiving play-performance at summer camp. I'd never watched the movie before, and its involvement in the talk made sense, was appropriate and smart. Of course, I couldn't help being mildly distracted by a second Hall of Languages/1313 Cemetery Lane coincidence in three weeks. I kept it to myself; nobody else appeared to be chilled by the unlikely loop: watching a clip from a 1993 movie based on a television program, the house-set for which has been rumored to be influenced by the architecture of the building (Hall of Languages) in which we sat, watching a clip.... Uncanny.
R oland Barthes in Roland Barthes on Amphibologies:
[I]n general, the context forces us to choose one of the two meanings and to forget the other. Each time he encounters one of these double words, R.B., on the contrary insists on keeping both meanings, as if one were winking at the other and as if the word's meaning were in that wink, so that one and the same words, in one and the same sentence, means at one and the same time two different things, and so that one delights, semantically, in the other by the other. This is why such words are often said to be "preciously ambiguous": not in their lexical essence (for any word in the lexicon has several meanings), but because, by any kind of luck, a kind of favor not of language but of discourse, I can actualize their amphibology, can say 'intelligence' and appear to be referring chiefly to the intellective meaning, but letting the meaning of 'complicity' be understood (72).
There's something to this passage that I can't quite put my finger on. What if we spin it around from word-sentence semantics to image-space rhetorics? I love R.B.'s notion of meanings winking. My mother-in-law is a winker, and so I've come to know the wink-gesture by her sometimes surprising use of it (when the hyper-winking takes off at a family get-together, what does it all mean?). Take the word-meaning wink and replace it with an image-meaning wink. What do we have? (With this, I'm asking about more than the problem of a helluva lot of winking.)
I suppose this doesn't make much sense (yet!). I'm thinking about the doubling of the virtual and the actual/real--the tense play between Google Maps' satellite imagery and the scripted layers (intricately spatialized, discursive). Something, somehow is winking between the amateur photos (images of finds, things I notice) and the places. But the wink is elusive, often subtle; the two+ spaces (a park I walk through and a park on my computer screen...and on the news, and in the photo-image) entangled in the documentary activity. It's writing, yes? This thing--amphigeography--takes on, maybe confronts, the latency of spatial discourse. Read through the influx of Google Maps hacks, it might be called the event of the summer--a felicitous and widely celebrated image-space wink-fest.
Remaining: to spatialize discursive shards--finds, whats'its, orts--all punctumoniously abuzz and stinging, fiercely kindled by desires split by the obvious, boring and banal-bland and, on the other hand, the unspeakable, self-doubting, wonder-lost (is it nothing?). Rush to gather it together again. And so we give in to this frenetic always-making of paths-trails-traces (actual, virtual), combinatorially manifest in unceasing possibilities, technological, sensational, spatial. Turn up-on-to writing technologies and we begin to enjoy the luck of the "precious ambiguities" in image-space rhetorics, begin to actualize amphigeographies.
C lustrMaps is back on the scene with a recent beta release. I don't know that it was ever completely off the scene, but I dropped my map sometime in the spring because it didn't seem to be updating any longer. It's quite likely that they've worked around some of the problems they had late last fall with high-traffic maphogs, sluggish updates and so on, although my current (re-added today) ClustrMap's reflection of two visits since July 27 suggests there's still a glitch or two with the beta rollout. Or much worse, it's accurate, meaning that I've had just two visitors in 19 days (welcome to both of you, if that's the case). Yet another (highly likely) possibility, you actually have to have the map showing on your site for the visits to reflect. Either way, the beta release is available to others by invitation only from existing users. And so, since I signed up last October, I have two invitations available--exactly enough to pass along to both of you. No, seriously, if you want a ClustrMap, just drop in a comment, and I'll have one of the sign-ups sent to your email.
B urnet Avenue runs parallel to the I-690 loop just east of downtown Syracuse. After parking near the school where D. works, she and I walked several blocks along Burnet this morning.
O ver at The Map Room, Jonathan Crowe posted a few notes about MSN Virtual Earth that tipped me on to a few ideas and the Virtual Earth weblog where MSN is inviting input. In light of the clamor raised over two notable features at Virtual Earth--the absence of Apple headquarters and the presence of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, Crowe verifies (if there was any doubt) that VE uses "very old imagery." As I see it, the age of the satellite images concerns me less than their superior resolution. Right, already been over this.
And yet, the release of Virtual Earth comes with a need to understand the temporal dynamics associated with the images. Could be that we perceive them as timeless or, equally implausibly, as ever-current--maps of both "here" and "now." Wave to the camera on high. Seems likely enough that we'll see this synoptical, real-time satellite cam soon enough, but in the interlude between now and that bright future moment, I think the horse race between Google and MSN for the best mapping venue is really fascinating.
One, I expect (yeah, pure spec-ulation), will steer toward the commercial flows--the trafficking of people and goods, roadways and restaurants, hotels and coffee shops. This site will be determine its quality and future developments around issues of advertising and appeals to hubs of marketable activity. The other (or perhaps yet an other) will also integrate some of this commercial flavor (i.e. need to find the nearest Denny's?). But this one will develop capacities (functionality?) for other kinds of capital. How impressive it would be to have one of the map-aspirants (Yeah, Google, you...or MSN, you.) devise our shared world as a space to be written--inscribed with the memory-notes and also with links (even blog activity, for example)? I'm getting dreamy with this, I know (was cleaning the bathroom during this thought...chemically inspired--Comet and Tilex), but think of this: a mapping site that gives us ways of seeing patterns beyond the roadways and coffee shops, something that takes into account the topo-logical haze in language--either in the Zonal Memoria notes or in the composing that is done in/at/around a point. This is rather jumbled, so let me try it another way--listed:
I want to be able to:
I'm sure systems exist for processes like this in geography programs (yes?). I'd say one of the web's mapping contenders could blow it open by giving us a more writable map with a social quality, a space where so many of these writing technologies might converge in exciting ways.
Added (something in the arena of what I'm thinking here): Geotagging del.icio.us. And geotagging Flickr. Terrific, this one (and up for almost a month already).
H eading to San Francisco first thing in the morning to give a paper called "Ping! Re-Addressing Audience in the Blogosphere" at the flagship CCCC, the annual conference for college composition and communication. And I've never been to California before (no closer than Portland and Phoenix, anyhow). Because I still have to pack, have this, a statement on worldview:
Saul Steinberg's "View of the World from 9th Avenue" (via)
No telling whether I'll luck into a reliable net connection in SF (which I'd use to post a few photos, probably, little else).
A lpine townsfolk in Rattenberg, Austria figured out one way to promote "psychological well-being" despite resting in the shadow of sun-blocking mountain (Statberg Mtn.). To deny the ominous rock-face one consequence of its presence, a redirect, a mirror-refraction from nearby Kramsach. (via)
Dr. Peter Erhard: "Erecting mirrors to shine a bit of light on our village is a great idea." Redirect.
Here in Syracuse, we don't live at the foot of the Alps, but Thornden Hill obscures sunrays in the neighborhood. Well, the hill and the clouds, and the standpipe. On overcast, frigid winter days, I've started thinking about ways to bring such a device to Westcott (E. Syracuse). But even more than an application for lifting the shadows with eight-foot mirrors, I dig this setup for its figurative applications. Redirect. Shine a bit of....
If all of this is unusually off-balance, the break I deserve is that I've been in just more than seven hours worth of class time devoted to prefigurative tropes, blog issues, RSS feeds, Bloglines, OPML imports with 205ers, Hayden White, transclusion. To relax this evening: a quick game of Operation. Guess the part nobody could get. Yeah. Wrenched ankle. Gets me all the way from naive metaphor to self-critical irony.
G rand gap in the living room since D. and I dismantled the Christmas tree earlier today. Pulled it apart limb by limb by limb, crammed its needle-shedding tangled-ness into the old cardboard box, smacked it all with tape, then lifted it to the attic. Now I know artificial trees aren't supposed to shed needles, but this one's recycled--the hand-me-down conifer from D.'s former boss back in KC, who'd upgraded to something more grandiose, tall, magnificent. Free tree. Tried to unload the tree at the garage sale last summer: ten bucks? four bucks? Both yellow stickers still mark the face of the box. Didn't sell. (If interested, please send email.)
We'll fill the space left behind by pulling up the exercycle from the basement. Never been resolute enough to keep with all the habit-altering involved at the first of the calendar year (although there was the time...), but I'll hop on the machine a few times throughout the winter, break a sweat, pretend it's not miserable outside. If not, the work of moving exercise equipment makes up for extended periods of non-use. Up and down the stairs a few times or across half of the U.S.--punch it in the calorimeter.
[8:46 p.m.] Whoa! Just about missed Who's Your Daddy? on the Fox Network. Nah, not really. I wasn't about to watch that crud. I've felt the hook of reality television at times--rare times, and I know that for a fraction of the amount it would cost to cast David Hasslehoff, the major networks can rustle up an enclave of real people who'll vie shamelessly for a chance at a pot of money. Dangle the money, attach it to any of life's vexation--housing, smoking, diet, extreme careerism, fear, dating and now absentee parenting: film-edit-air: wine and cheese parties over the ratings and ad revenue. Please tell me if it's way more complex than this. Please. Any more slop on the television and we're all going to need these (via worldchanging). Except that CNY's been unusually balmy, we might need them anyway (keep warning of winter weather around here...been calling it out for months). Yet I remain skeptical that the gizmo--for $119--impacts the shoveling of snow. Will hold off until I see the neighbors using one, then borrow it.
tangent n: At the NS (aka work), D.'s planning an after school event later this week involving Shrinky Dinks. She's got the authentic shrinks--the plasticine sheets for drawing and baking, yields the warp-distort surprise every time! But have you ever heard of make-shift Shrinky Dinks, the kind where you color on styrofoam cups then bake-melt them into variforms? Sounded dangerous to me (toxic fumes?). Anyone heard of improvising with styro-cups as low budget shrinkies?
H ow many sides to the Eisenhower Bridge? About ten days ago, a story surfaced in Chicago about Richard Dorsay who hunkered down in a small space inside the drawbridge near downtown Chicago--inhabiting a hollow in the bridge's architecture. Dorsay's resourcefulness--from tapping into an electrical outlet to power his TV, microwave, PS2 and heater to watching diligently each time he ducked into the narrow access point--all have been elaborately criminalized, dehumanized by the media. According to this CBS2 report, he was formally charged with criminal trespassing. The in-studio anchor frames the story by IDing the city's efforts to "flush out homeless people." Listen carefully to hear on foot reporter Jon Duncanson say, "The question is: how many more of these (portals to the other Chicago underworld) are there around?" The question? For balance, though, they do visit with a "advocate for the homeless" who notes that Chi-town's estimated 166,000 homeless people are "hiding out everywhere." So as not to keep dumping on the coverage by the local news station, this is all just to note what's most interesting to me about the story: dwelling in the city spaces never conceived as habitable and not meant for occupancy--climbing inside the metroplex and residing there for as long as going unnoticed allows.
5 :19 a.m.: I could have slept through the racket except for the blaring beep-beep-beep of heavy equipment rolling in reverse. Other than the beep, it was just a lot of machine droning, the deep chugging of loaded trucks. Since I was up, I stepped to the porch to get a closer look at the commotion, at the mulch-loading operation. Beep-beep-beep: the audio track from my dream played.
The whole event lasted fewer than forty minutes. Loading leaf piles at the crack of dawn makes sense, I guess. Nobody to blame who would care about being blamed. So I shook my fist in the air and bellered, "Trying to sleep, buddy!" Okay, really I didn't. But I couldn't go back to sleep; I felt some kind of nervous system irritation.
I did read a few weblogs, and decide I had time for an entry. Then I set to googling the net for OSHA codes on the horns that warn of backing up (relevant to my early morning work on the rhetoric of alarm systems, the mal-ethos of warning sounds, etcetera). Clearly, I'm not the first person to be irritated by the sound. OHSA.gov offers this standard interpretation of alternatives in reply to a letter from a resident in Newton, PA:
Dear Mr. Buchichio:
Thank you for your letter of April 30, 2004, regarding noise emanating from excavating equipment and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for back-up alarms on construction equipment. We apologize for the delay in responding.
We have paraphrased your question as follows:
Question: The repetitive, piercing beeping noise emitted from back-up alarms on excavating equipment at a construction site is stressful to residents who live nearby. Other methods of alerting or warning employees have become available in recent years. Do OSHA back-up alarm requirements allow for the use of methods that would be less noise-intrusive to nearby residents?
Yes. Two OSHA requirements, 29 CFR 1926.601(b)(4) and 1926.602(a)(9), relate to back-up alarms in construction. Those provisions were promulgated in 1971 and were derived from Army Corps of Engineers standards.
Title 29 CFR 1926.601(b)(4) states:
1926.601 Motor vehicles.
* * *
(b) General requirements.
* * *
(4) No employer shall use any motor vehicle equipment having an obstructed view to the rear unless:
(i) The vehicle has a reverse signal alarm audible above the surrounding noise level or:
(ii) The vehicle is backed up only when an observer signals that it is safe to do so.
Section 1926.602(a)(9)(ii) states:
1926.602 Material handling equipment.
* * *
(a) Earthmoving equipment; General.
* * *
(9) Audible alarms.
* * *
(ii) No employer shall permit earthmoving or compacting equipment which has an obstructed view to the rear to be used in reverse gear unless the equipment has in operation a reverse signal alarm distinguishable from the surrounding noise level or an employee signals that it is safe to do so.
I feel you, Mr. Buchichio. But neither of us has it as bad off as Ms. Nunn who, according to OSHA, "expressed concern that electronic high-pitched alarm sounds can irritate the nervous system." Nunn was supposedly addressing workers' wellness, not the residents whose poor souls were pierced by the equipment's un-melodious song. But OSHA concluded--to Ms. Nunn--that "they had no data or evidence to indicate that exposure to such alarms caused [nervous system irritation]." OSHA code explains that are alternatives (flaggers, a lower volume, and so on) if we must have street makeovers at 5:00 a.m., and now--although I captured just a few seconds--there's evidence of the nervous system irritation that results from exposure to the unbearable industrial cry. Hard data: just turn the volume up on the video, play it in loop fashion for forty minutes. You'll see.
The first comment in my 8:30 a.m. section: "George Bush came off as really likable and genuine. He was angry at times, but he was real, like somebody you'd meet at a bar. His vocabulary seemed more everyday. He came right out and said 'You can't do that. The president can't lead that way.'"
Mm-hmm. Okay. The barstool intellectual stumble-de-do is exactly the thing that worries some folks (although I won't name specific names). <loop> It's a lot of work. You can't say wrong war, wrong place, wrong time. What message does that send? It's a lot of work. Six-party talks...if ever we ever needed China, now.</loop>
Students had great insights on the debates; they recognized nuance between the candidates, articulated them with conviction that this election matters to them. We shifted our attention after several minutes, even though some students preferred a sustained conversation about the event over the other plans for the hour. The connection, for us, came from the debate's framed emphases: foreign policy and homeland security. Homeland security is particularly timely in these classes--the two I teach every MWF. The courses are organized around questions involving spatial analysis--geographies of exclusion, socio-spatial critiques of the campus and of hometown spaces, and arguments about surveillance, privatization of public spaces, neighborhood watches and localized security poses, perceptions of threat, and so on. In fact, the second assignment is called, "Homeland (In)Securities." So I wanted to move from the debates--how would we understand homeland security if we could read the notion through last night's debates alone?--to our current, in-progress projects on hometown spaces, memory work, strangers and safety, contested zones, etc.--how can we extend the idea of a controlled surrounds (in the debates, taken to the limits of the globe, empirically exhaustive) to the material-spatial patterns of policing, security, "known" threats and deliberate municipal designs aimed at thwarting risk?
I grumbled about Mike Davis's "Fortress L.A." article (from City of Quartz), earlier in the week, but I'm doubling back on those doubts now that the classes read the chapter. Davis adopts a term I'm growing ever more fond of as we move ahead with spatial analysis--archisemiotics. Basically, Davis argues that L.A.'s architectural development implies unambiguous messages about social homogeneity in the urban center. If we accept the latency of meaning in the city-scape (buildings, barriers), reading spaces becomes a process of seeing significance in spatial design as it determines who can go where, when, for how long, etc., and imposes a character on the peopling of the space, its social flows--viscocities. It makes structures rhetorically significant, inscribing them to their perimeters with a sentience--not unlike, according to Davis, the eerie, systematized conscience of the building in Die Hard.
I suppose there's a whole lot more to it than I can exhaust here and now--or than I'd even care to considering I have one helluva cold. I just wanted to register an few thoughts about teaching at SU this semester--because I haven't yet--and, too, comment on last night's debate. The cross-over this morning, even though I'm not teaching courses with an explicit focus on the election, was striking--even exciting; it was a pleasant reminder that I'll never be too busy to savor moments when students are brilliantly conversant with each other over hard questions.
F or some time now, I've had a casual interest in water policy. Huh? Right, I know, I know. Where'd that come from?
I'm thinking about that very question this morning--where'd that come from. It started with something I read in my MA program--probably Silko--about the desert Southwest, battles over subdivisions in places where land is cheap and water is invaluable (really valuable, that is). Folks in the Southwestern U.S., as I think of them, have been jockeying for aquifers since the Hoover Dam "stabilized" the Colorado River in 1935. Seems to me Silko mentions the art of fountain placement--of decorating the gates to new subdivisions with trickling or bubbling statuettes--as a kind of deeply persuasive appeal: you'll be fine on this parcel of land; there's water here.
This morning's water news comes from an article in the New Scientist--one of the feedlines I set up a looong time ago (in July), back when I had leisure time for reading stuff on the web, blogging--called "Asian farmers sucking the continent dry." It's an interesting report on the water crisis in Asia, the stakes for China and India, particularly. Carrying forward from the Stockholm Water Summit are moderate (and none-too-Doomsday, I say) concerns about the inevitability of water crises resulting from drilling, tapping, pumping, irrigating, and self-regulated use. The article cites details about urgent zones or "hot spots," such as Gujarat, "where water tables are dropping by 6 metres or more each year, according to Rajiv Gupta, a state water official." It also suggests--to no surprise--the problem of shifting governmental stances on large-scale resource management initiatives such as the River Interlinking Project in India.
The last Indian government proposed a massive $200 billion River Interlinking Project designed to redistribute water around the country. But the new government elected earlier this year has gone cool on the idea. In any case, the water supplied would probably come too late.
Much of this wraps together my casual interest, old conversations about alternative energies, matters such as the role of petro-fired water pumps in deep-reaching wells (vital for keeping Kansas uniformly arable, for example), and dry places, diasporic exile (as in give 'em that hunk of land). It also reverberates with some of the things I've been hearing this week about SU's program in cultural geography, projects such as mapping hunger in Onondaga County (and surrounds?), for one.
G reat news for land surveyors in the NY Times today. Seriously, though, I have no idea what it all means or whether there are merits to the science (which is clearly speculative, inconclusive, foretelling of widespread catastrophes, etc.). Because I've often thought of things like the Earth's gravitational polarity as stable, it's wild to consider re-polarization, the shift of magnetic North over time (see the multimedia link), and, in a crazy-shaken world, the effect of knuckle-ball Earth spin in the millennia ahead. So much for East meets West; East is West (granted...always has been).
I n the middle of frying up egg sandwiches last evening, the stove presented me with a loose knob and only two settings--(red) high and off--for the one decent sized heating coil. The other coil is too small to cook anything much worth eating (it's like a Weight Watchers burner); the other side of the stovetop is a griddle thing--fashionable in the late seventies, I guess. It would have worked for the egg fry, but it takes a while to heat up, and the stove didn't go on the fritz until after I'd made D. and Ph.'s sandwiches. No, really, you go ahead and eat; I'll fume over this crappy appliance and the life-threatening popping sounds it's making (while my egg hardens to the faint heat of a might-be-on-might-be-off burner.
So I pulled it apart today, figuring a knob can't be too hard to replace, even on an old stove. Trouble is none of the hardware mega-stores around here carry appliance parts and the Maytag fix-it shop doesn't open until 8:30 Monday morning. I had the camera out to take a pic of the wires on the switch I was removing, you know, to pixelate my memory because I would forget where each of the five wires should be reconnected. Then I took a couple more pics--the ones you see here.
With any amount of luck, this will be my final post in a growing series about spiffing up the house for market. We've had several inquiries, given out five tours of the house ("Aw...notice the splendid view.") No offers yet. Twenty-three fliers have been pulled from the box hanging next to the sign stuck in the front yard--in two weeks.
My only planned house-fix for the day was the tug-chain switch in the house fan. It's old, irregular. Sometimes you pull on it and the fan works, other times you pull on it, nothing. So I cut the power, started taking out screws. And what I found was deeply troubling. The insulation on the old-a*s fan wires were all cracked, revealing bare wires. Plus, working on a house fan is physically demanding: my head was crookt into a tight space, the Sahara winds were drifting down from the attic space, the lighting was poor, my step ladder was quivering. The electrical line from the house was fine--that much was a relief. So I chopped the power supply to the fan, grabbed some 18 gauge extensions, wrapped-spliced-routed, patched in the cycle switch, and affirmed my faith that miracles happen. It works. From pure misery to pure joy, just like that. Now, no more pictures or blog entries about home repair. Promise.
N o need to overstate the obvious tonight. More house stuff in the works. Notice the jump between the Rc terminal and the Rh terminal somewhere in 40 minute range. It was an afterthought, an after-reading-the-directions afterthought. Of course, by the time I read the directions, I already had mounted the new thermostat. Only upon trying it out did its failure reveal phase two (take it apart, read the directions, marry the terminals in a union of white-coated copper wire.
The garage sale today was a hit--constant traffic from 9 to 3. Only one p'd off customer; we thought she was going to call the BBB, turn us in for selling the bunk bed to another fella before she could grab it. Maybe I'll blog more about the garage sale tomorrow. They're really extraordinary social experiments with elaborate codes (we didn't know), systems for negotiating and just plain weirdness (As in: Old Man: "Do you have any guns for selling?" Sales clerk: "We had a plastic water gun, but it's already been sold.")
On the photo: I see a clock says 1:50, a thermostatic map of our house's climate control switch, a look down R2D2's neck, and the face of a bot whose expression changes when set to "Cool" or "Fan On." What do you see?
W armest day so far in Kansas City this year, and I'm shivering through pangs of some evil, nasty virus. I made it through the winter without even a cough, but now I'm flat out miserable with throat glorp and achiness. Lozenge?
My good friend E. is featured in the Kansas City Star this week. Access to the article requires another onerous registration, much like the ones described at the Chutry Experiment earlier this week. But the photo alone is worth signing up (and yes, of course it's okay to use phony information). Notice the kids in the background, holding push-up positions while the coach juggles a ball. Futbol doesn't look like so much fun. What, E., you get paid for this?
My dad sent me an email tonight wanting to know how much time I spend blogging each day, on average. Reminds me of a story I heard at UMKC about a professor whose mother was visiting from England. A comp/rhet/lit prof, he'd spent most of the day at home preparing for the evening course with diagrams--a map of composition studies. His mother: "Now what is it you do at the University? Do you often spend all day drawing?" Funny. Guess you had to be there. For my dad, I'll send a more personal note, but I didn't figure he would mind if I brought the family backchannel (*source of a post to come!) here for mention. See, the simple answer is that I blog constantly. It's the typing time that I limit to one hour or so. Anything more than an hour of typing, and it's ready to post. So EWM isn't filled up with the most polished writing. Nobody complains. Nobody gripes about atrocious sentences or my rambles into unintelligible abstraction. Here's an example: last night, when I woke up at 3 a.m. to find that Max, our nigh 14 year-old Yorkshire Terrier had, well, messed the house, I was blogging things through until I had everything cleaned up a half hour later. I couldn't type, spray PineSol and wipe the entire floor at the same time, but I was blogging it, connecting it, imagining the whole experience as part of my sucky, sore-throated, up-late, mess-cleaning life. As for time management, I've spent less time playing Yahoo! Euchre in these months since Earth Wide Moth came about. And I do miss the Euchre, but so few people in Missouri have ever heard of it, and even when I won (playing amongst strangers) it was never as satisfying as this blogging habit.
What else? I thought about canceling a meeting this morning with our division of online learning folks. But I went ahead, wound my way through the Academic Underground to their newly finished space. (I was blogging it, too.) Amazing how completely the U. has rooted itself. The development of the limestone mines into usable space makes for an incredibly odd site: subterranean institutionality. I snapped a picture with the digicam exactly for use here. And later, when I lost my precious jump drive for about three hours--seriously panicked, searching everywhere--I was worried I'd have to walk all the way back down to the DOL offices where it might've fallen out of my pocket. Turned out it was here at home, which was a relief because I didn't have the last two weeks backed up. Gah!
Time to eat, so this timed fun's gotta end. Usually an hour, sometimes more, often less, and bear in mind that I'm under the weight of the spring flu. All total, I've been at it for exactly 49 minutes from sitting down to posting, if that's helpful for guaging my typing time. Hoping that it is.
A link to this article called "Bye Bye Big Box" showed up in my mail today. It was routed through the Public.Spaces listserv, available with other a few other space-concerned lists at the Project for Public Spaces web site. I haven't been a subscriber for long, but I was interested to see what shiny bits might churn through their channels. And then came the article today on Wal-Mart's commitment to the revitalization of community spaces--a clear, surprising reversal against their record for building indoor, suburban sprawl-marts filled wall to wall with discount goods. The article makes its name in the April newsletter from PPS, and I find the issue's theme, "faked spaces," to be intriguing. It suggests--rightly, I think--the appearance of a drastic turn away from the tyranny of naked suburban commercialism: Wal-Mart's legacy of profiteering. Here's a short blurb from the article:
"[Wal-mart is] tired of being on the wrong side of the community-building equation," he added, noting that he believes the firm's bottom line can take a back seat to broader community [regional] goals. "We think we can take that to the shareholders and make a convincing case that a stronger local economy will be better for our stores in the long run," Glass said. (first inset mine)
I'm curious about what this will look like. I wonder how it figures into Wal-Mart's profit formula. Will we see town squares made over with a sweeping infestation of so many mini Wal-Marts? Will we need shopping carts to load up there and there and there and across the block, at the Wal-Mart over there? I sure don't want to rain on this promise, yet; I look forward to experiencing Wal-Mart's reinvestment in vital community centers. But we can't blame anyone for being skeptical of this plan, this reversal of the retailer's legacy. It'll be undone when?
It reminds me of an exchange I enjoyed last fall with a student who was stationed at Mountain Home AFB in Mountain Home, Idaho. He wrote--for intro to humanities (the segment on industry, labor and consumerism)--about the deep-felt resentment openly shared among many of the locals in Mountain Home since the Wal-Mart installation embargoed the base from the once-lively city square. According to the student, Wal-Mart was the subject of whole-community scorn, but the people took jobs there and shopped there because the market became dependant on the superstore. I look forward to the new model. Of course, as little as I know about commercial real estate, I wonder whether the vacant big boxes of America will be empty for long. Doubtful that they'll be torn down, remade green.
Oh, and one more thing. Guess I should re-think yesterday's rant, since I just picked up on the role of "slide shows" in the appeal:
Kent said he was surprised but pleased that his speech had created such an immediate impact. "Frankly I expected a hostile reaction," he admitted, "but the slide show depicting small, public markets around the world seemed to win them over, especially the shots of couples kissing over various varieties of fresh vegetables. Those images can sway even the most hardcore bottom-line oriented people." (emphasis mine)
Slide shows, kissing and vegetables? Just great. Civic progress via sexed up PowerPoint.
Update (4.2.04, 9:30 a.m.): Potential for coll|u/i|sion between the Wal-mart promise of fractal marketplaces and this plan for discreet security (call it what you will)?