Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Kind of Real

I rarely mention dreams because I rarely remember them. But this morning. This morning I woke up from a vivid (seriously, vivid-qua-real) dream in which exactly twelve mud wasps had landed on me and were checking things out, feeling around for something to eat or sting or who knows. They were antenna-tive, curious, threatening, sampling but not feasting on sweat. And they were scattered, even-spread, in no especially clear way organized or systematic in their checking out the human landscape. In the dream--maybe also in the waking world--I was still and extremely cautious not to make any sudden movements. Yet, given those constraints, I was slowly managing to remove each mud wasp, one by one, crushing the thoraxes crunch and discarding them unstung and unstinging until exactly half of them remained when I woke up.

Bracketing the allegorical and resisting the dream-interpretive leaps (oh, well, yes, of course, this is about Writing Program Administration!), I nevertheless thought about the dream intermittently throughout the day, which makes it all the more un-usual. It's one thing to dream, another to remember; quite another to rehearse the dream-memory throughout the day. Twelve wasps into six, stung or spared, the "experience" recalls and and at the same time deepens this curio from Eduardo Kohn's How Forests Think, a book I've been reading off and on over the last two weeks: "Dreams too are part of the empirical, and they are a kind of real" (13). A kind of real.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dream Trade

Little more in what follows than a PSA of sorts buried in a wraparound narrative.

Last weekend, we heard an ad on Detroit's Hit Music Station 95.5FM about Disney Channel auditions coming up in the area, at the Romulus Marriott, specifically. Somebody was interested--interested enough to listen for another hour until the ad played again so as to take down the phone number.

We called and—how could we not?—booked an audition for 2 p.m. yesterday.

Typical Marriott conference room, for the most part, but crowded hallways with a long, snaking line, many families standing in it, the parent-types filling out an application and the children between 6-18 practicing audition lines from a handout. The setup seemed more or less legitimate, and since we hadn't been to anything like this before, we went along, cool cool okay, filled out the paperwork, practiced the line (from a classic television commercial), and waited. Just before 2 o'clock, the line funneled into the room and everyone sat down more or less in the order they arrived, filling the room with ~300 people.

The first person to speak introduced a talent search guru, Mr. Steve(?) Hughes, who was born in London and who had played an important part in identifying many big name talents (so big, in fact, that I can't recall any of them, but you get the general sense of this pitch, nevertheless). Hughes and two others would be involved in the screening interviews, and he introduced another actress (I've forgotten her name, but supposedly she is a business partner with Jamie Foxx, was in an ER episode with George Clooney, and has made untold thousands in the biz). She would be judging the auditions.

After almost 40 minutes—lots of "let's hear you parents shout "YES!" if you support and we mean really support your child's acting dream!"—we were called row by seated row to the back of the room for standing interviews. We happened to land at Table 2 with Mr. Hughes himself and he asked us a couple of questions, but the curious thing was that he didn't take any notes. Just a few minutes earlier, he'd told us he and his colleagues would be screening 900 of Detroit's top youth talent that day. No notes?

Next, we went to the front of the room and stood in line for the audition, a one-minute exchange with the celebrity whose name I've forgotten, and then we picked up a Kinkos-quality brochure, which explained in some detail (though not much!) the "The Exclusive Acting League TV and Film Program," a five-day acting camp at Universal Studios, available for just $4500. They also peddle "Prep-coaching Workshops" described as "6 One hour sessions (SKYPE) and interview with an Agent" for just $600.

Basically, The Acting League seemed to be leveraging a bunch of kids' show business dreams against a pricey and convoluted "audition" process that put parents on the spot to either opt in or appear unsupportive. If left us to wonder—and as parent's talked in the audition line, this came up: Just how selective was this process, really?, especially when the interviewers didn't write anything down? We would have to wait until the next day—today—before texting the applicant's name to 347-919-9716 and, in response, we would receive a text message about whether or not the audition was successful.

Meanwhile, I fished around online for more perspective on The Acting League. What sort of company is this? And has it been as fortuitously and as long involved in talent vetting as its representatives claimed? First, take a look at the website. Sparse. The "Success Stories" aren't especially built up with successes or stories. But there is a phone number and email address. I called the phone number—424-220-4002—and the message indicates reception for all of MK Business Centers in Manhattan Beach, Calif. The relatively recent domain registration for theactingleague.com (8-18-2013) seems curious, as does the thinness of their Twitter account. Still, all in all, there's not a whole lot to point at here other than some weird and over-prompted insistence on parental support, the fact that nobody involved in screening appeared to take notes, a dang near six bitcoin acting "camp" at Universal Studios, a new and crappy website, and a Twitter account built on the faint, fading footprint of merely three tweets.

But is The Acting League legitimate? A bona fide, up-standing business? I don't know. When I called the Romulus Marriott this afternoon to ask if TAL was still set up there, the receptionist told me they were. I asked whether they'd heard that The Acting League may be iffy, and she said they'd heard this from several people and were investigating it. Relatedly, there's a news report expressing similar reservations felt by parents in McAllen, Texas, last September. The one source in the story mentioned that after getting a callback, they were pressured to plunk down a $1000 deposit almost immediately for the pricey camp at Universal Studios. Also, there's quite a bit matching up between The Acting League and some of the characterizations about auditioning scams here and here.

Without moralizing (more than I have or more explicitly) or sounding off about the scruples of any talent search process, I suppose I can only end with a shrug. Credit to (by which I mean something more like "shame on") The Acting Guild, their presenters were dynamic and almost convincing. They seemed to have many in the room—including many who would have to dig deep to find that $1000 deposit—convinced that this was a genuine opportunity, an authentic audition.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Crouching Figure

Sometimes when I am out and about on campus, e.g., on the way to a meeting, I walk past this sculpture, "Crouching Figure," and feel a beat of empathic identification in the thought that Crouching Figure is on the way to a meeting, too.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Toothache

I need to call the dentist.

I don't want to call the dentist.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Documenting The Week That Was In A Single Photo

Ice Cream

The week? Well, as you can see, there was ice cream. As for the ice cream, I neither stepped in it while trying to get into the car nor had a taste of it before it was discarded so carelessly as you see it here. In fact, I don't even know whose it was.

So as not to seem like I am chronicling woes, this short list will give you some sense of things: an undelivered (i.e., lost) package of books from Amazon.com, a visit to City Auto to have a repair estimate on the parts of the Element affected by a basketball hoop blown into it by last Saturday's intense winds (think: duct tape is holding parts on the car right now), and a missing teaching station (i.e., computer cart) in my first class of the new semester. Fortunately, family, friends, and colleagues have been singing variations of "The sun will come out, tomorrow," so persistently that I have been mesmerized into an optimistic outlook on next week, a week in which, if I am lucky, there will be more ice cream and fewer half-eatens chucked aside to melt in the place where I must step to get into the car. Plus: Amazon.com emailed me to say they are re-sending a package of the same books; insurance is covering the damages to the Element (even if it will be a five-day repair); and, I carried my own cords, bubble gum, and a piece of duct tape to the classroom and tested the projection system this afternoon, and it worked perfectly.

Note: It's a small wonder that this is not the first I have alluded to this Annie song, considering I've never sat through Annie, movie or musical.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Time Enough for Slow Reading

Reports like this make me fidget. An appeal to the slow toward "meaning and pleasure" strikes me as less a call for "slow reading" as an idyllic, life-of-the-mind practice and more as a call for "slow[er] reading [than you do when you must hurry]." While I understand the urge to foster thicker, more patient relationships between readers and whatever they read, the "slow reading revolution" seems to me to frame of texts by default according to a filter-first logic, an already-filtered logic. The aim is not revolution, really, but involution by temporal variation, by changing speeds. According to Clay Shirky's discussion of filtering and publishing in Here Comes Everybody and elsewhere, filter-then-publish aligns with broadcast and with editorial gate-keeping, screening that happens before publication. When user-generated content comes along, on the other hand, these events are reversed.  Publishing happens first, filtering after. For readers, then, the trouble with the web is that both varieties of content slosh around together (an indistinguishable stew): streams are not already separated into cooked content (i.e., filter-then-publish) or raw content (i.e., publish-then-filter). Filtering is crucial in a digital age not only because we need it to survive experientially this growing delta of user-generated content but because the already-filtered is drifting in its midst. These conditions require of online readers a heightened "filtering imperative" all the way up.  And yet my first, admittedly glancing, impression is that "slow reading" assumes filtering to be unproblematic or already settled--a given. Filtering is not exactly reading, right?, but filtering is pre-reading--a flitting relationship that, I would argue, cannot be as slow-probative-sluggish as slow reading advocates would like. Steven Johnson, in his introduction to The Best Technology Writing of 2009, differentiates the slow-fast as "skim and plunge," allowing for nimble readers who can change speeds as skillfully as Kobe Bryant setting up a blow-by step. Slow reading advocates would appear more concerned more with plunge than with skim. Beyond "slow reading," I am interested in filtering and in making these skim/plunge changes of speed explicit with students.

I don't want to mischaracterize the slow reading movement. Nor do I want to seem disparaging or unfair in writing through, as I have done briefly here, a few of my impressions: viz., I have a book on my night stand that I have been reading at a pace of two pages a week for almost three years. Snails, that's slow. Sometimes I skip a week. Or two. Even slower then. I wish I could quit the book, but there is no hurry. Such a dragged out reading as with this book is like watching a nature program in which a tortoise flips sand over its freshly laid eggs. Flip. Flip. Flip. Or the episode with a sloth reaching for that one succulent cecropia leaf still a meter beyond its lethargic reach. It just seems to me it's possible to teach a "closer connection" or some deeper involvement with texts via read-alouds and memorization than by invoking a superficial opposition to the assumed-to-be-frenetic character of "reading" online.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I Cut the Lawn and the Lawn Won

The latest round of seasonal allergies aren't exactly killing me, but they are causing me enough discomfort that I just about scratched out my eyes out earlier this evening. No willful, deliberate, or careful scratching in this. No, this is a vile alternative, a reflexive (even precognitive) knuckling of the lids so frenzied my eyeballs should be grateful I saved them. Interrupted that fit with a couple of itch-halting eye drops and another dose of generic loratadine. Not the sort of thing I'd say most days, but today: Thank goodness for pharmaceutical drugs. So what if sparing my eyes from the acid pollen drifting across Central New York means I wake up every morning for two weeks with a metallic taste in my mouth and an overworked internal organs. Small price.

I did cut the lawn. On Saturday. Slow blog-reaction time these days. Approaching slow to the point of stopped.

I'd explain the two week lull, but there is no juicy story in the explanation. Did I mention my allergies? Oh. The rest, all teaching prep, teaching, and road time. I'll spare you gory details about the workload I'm hefting this summer. On a lighter and more delightful note, the late May lull included a lap around Michigan for a nephew's graduation, a welcome to EMU barbecue, and house hunting. I'm pretty sure we have a place to live come August, but we haven't signed the lease yet.

I have a lot more to say and, at the same time, nada. Warming up lately to a tolerable degree of blog ambivalence, actually, which means I might blog every day in June or continue the hiatus until sometime after that.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Just one month ago John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his V.P. running mate. I'd never heard of her. Oh, how much we have learned over these thirty days. I can't say that I tune into the news all that often, but I feel like I've taken a short course on Palin or, worse, had an emergency Palinoscopy performed on my brain (not to worry, I remain lucid enough to know how to vote in another month).

For instance, here's a can't-miss tidbit from the New Yorker's "Coconut Oil Department" about the tanning bed Palin bought for her Juneau home.

Of the many things revealed about the Alaska governor Sarah Palin since she became John McCain's running mate last month, one of the most curious is the fact, reported two weeks ago, that she had a tanning bed installed in the state mansion in Juneau. Obama supporters seized on the news, arguing that private tanning-bed ownership is evidence that Palin isn't the folksy hockey mom she claims to be, while Republican partisans pointed out that she bought the bed secondhand from an athletic club, and, moreover, that tanning is a reasonable activity, given Alaska's sun-deprived winters.

Meh. Might be nothing. Although this does stand in odd contrast--Vitamin D or no Vitamin D--to McCain's medical record. The tanning bed can't have all that much bearing on Palin's promise as a candidate, can it? The following two, however, are pieces I can't seem to forget any time her name comes up. These are the lingering associations that have, for me, overrun any other impressions I might have (including, perhaps, any that will emanate during Thursday evening's debate).

1. The Runaway Train Response to Couric (via)

2. Lessig's Research on Palin's Experience Relative to other VP's (via)

Don't watch them back to back unless you're unafraid of enduring (er, enjoying?) with me a full-on Palindectomy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Petroed Off

Last night I was at Ph.'s soccer match. They play in a park several miles from where we live. Was going to be a match between N'ham and Westhill, but there was as scheduling screw up, so N'ham played Westhill for a half, then Westill played Fowler for a half, then Fowler played N'ham for a half, round robin style and also precious-time-wasteful style. I was irritated because N'ham just played Fowler on Wednesday night with yours truly as the unsuspecting surrogate coach and the match between the two was the notoriously chippy clash everyone knew it would be. It ended prematurely, called due to an outbreak of shin-kicking and resulting kerfluffles, scuffles, and back shuffles. "We're done!," declared the field judge.

So I didn't see any reason that the two clubs should be back at it just five days later, especially when it wasn't scheduled to be that way. I did my best to zen out on the sideline, chase down the mosquitoes sneaking off with bellies blimped round with my blood, etc.

One thing I noticed was an exchange between a high school student and an older, grandfatherly man. No telling whether they were related; maybe they were. But the older man snarled at the kid about leaving his car running. Something like, "What is your car running for? You should shut that thing off!" He was fired up. The kid obliged the elder's request, and as the younger walked to the parking lot, the older continued to vocalize his rant about gas prices, wastefulness, and gas prices. He even made his hand into a tight fist as he spoke. Memorable, that.

Then, on my walk to campus this morning--to campus so I could open shop in the Writing Center from 10 until 2--I was thinking about the intensity of the older man's reaction. He was really keyed up, fierce looking. Maybe this is the latest "rage"--petro rage--the sense of anger, frustration, and deep disgust someone experiences when they see another who seems to be wasting fuel. Is this the new road rage? The new cell...["Pump Up the Jams" ring tones]...hold on, I've got a call.

Nothing much. You?
Writing a blog entry.
Yeah, I heard. I don't know what they see in Kwame Brown.
I'll check in tomorrow.
Yep, later. You too.

Where was I? Cell phone rage. Will folks develop a new rage toward those they perceive to be extravagant with gasoline?

When I walked closer to my building, I saw one member of a lawn crew "sweeping" the sidewalk with one of those gas-powered blowers. Whirring along, pointing it to the left and then to the right, the sort of slow dance for which grass clippings enthusiastically clear a pathway. Only, there were none. The sidewalk was clean, as far as I could tell (I didn't bend down to check it more closely). But it seemed unnecessary, wasteful. I was somewhat relieved the fella from last night was nowhere in sight.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Somewhere along the way, I acquired a Solstice cold. Judging entirely from the phlegmatic emanations (coughing, sneezing, and wheezing), I drafted the following schematic, which I will carry to my doctor later this week (only if absolutely necessary). It is a preliminary attempt to characterize the great range of unpleasant sounds and sensations associated with the bug.

If I know my doctor, she will take one look at this and say, "Yes, you do indeed have a cold." At which time I will resume heavy dosages of Vitamin C and Tylenol Cold (i.e., crunching down those buggers like a warm box of Good & Plenty) and hope they sustain me until I am well again.

Monday, June 2, 2008


I told myself over the weekend that this would, in terms of sheer productivity, be a mop-up week: anything still hanging around the to-do list all these weeks would, before the end of the day on June 6, have a big ole X through it.

And then the allergies came along, stinging blasts from pollen and other airborns that have my eyes and nose leaking like sieves. Mop-up week, I asked for; mop-up week, I got. At the same time as this, I am easing off of the caffeine2 habit I got all junked up on while in Seattle. But deep down I believe caffeine stimulants help block histamines. Probably old fool's tale, but I might have to get after some coffee tomorrow to continue experimenting in the self-clinic. Also I picked up some Loratadine (i.e., generic Claritin) at the pharmacy while on a bike ride earlier this evening just in case. I can't pinpoint an exact cause for the allergies; never was allergic to much other than bee stings and poison ivy as a kid. Probably I'm allergic to summer.

I'm back on a fitness kick, too. For me that means I step out the front door and run as hard as I can until I am cramping up, half falling over, gulping desperately for air, and suffering those burning, explosive heart palpitations. And then I get the mail and walk back up the length of the driveway with my hands above my head (for maximal lung capacity) until I regain my composure. Sixty feet, 0 minutes, 6.31 seconds.

That was a joke. Seriously, I have been grinding out 2.5 miles, which include two decent sized hills. That and an evening bike ride--nothing too rigorous except that Is. is on board, so those few miles are only slightly more challenging than when I ride by myself, especially on the inclines. But I have a sports camp coming up next week and so I have a short little window to get back to a fitness peak where, at the very least, I can bounce a basketball, blow a whistle, and stand on my feet all day long.

That's about it. Monday's work-pace was good enough that if I can repeat it on Tue.-Fri., I will inflict permanent strikethroughs out the list of stuff that has been parked too long on the to-do list. Ahead: More mid-day jogs. And I'll try to scale back on some of my bad dietary habits, laying off the caffeine, the Desert Pepper Peach and Mango Salsa, and the Twizzlers black licorice, and instead popping Loratadine indulgently like candy (the allergies, you could say, are kicking my anise).

A slight chance for more blogging, too, although I have much much much too much to complain about, and I generally try not to do that here unless left with no other choice. So that I am not being cryptic: car repairs and Quality Matters course redevelopments (for PU) are giving me a hell of a time in addition to the allergies. At least it's June.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Projection Dejection

I'm getting ready for RSA in Seattle next week, entering data for years eight and nine of what will be a twenty-years thick map, when I realized that I've been calculating the grid coordinates all wrong. The place markers draggg to the south and east with each new instance. Then again, that's the point (of one of the two panels I am involved with): wallow in your amateurism.

About RSA: Seattle from NY is a long, expensive trip. I called the Westin (i.e., the conference hotel) today to learn how much I would be paying for six nights of parking--six because we are making an extended family trip of it. The Westin gets $35 for parking. Eeeach night. Oh? That's more than the rental itself costs. I also read this about their Business Center on the Westin web site:

The following services are available in the Business Center:

  • $5.95 per 15 minute session.
The following services are available in the Business Center:
  • Time countdown window that allows each guest to see exactly how much time they have left in their 15 minute session.

I wouldn't quibble over a few bucks, normally, but my 07-08 conferencing fund was sapped by CCCC, and since RSA's theme is "The Responsibilities of Rhetoric," I have a conference-goers obligation to question whether it is responsible of me to shell out better than 200 chips to park a rental car for less than a week. After some thought, I decided: it's not. So I jumped on Priceline.com, grabbed a better deal (much better, in fact: two room suite for less per night than the Westin's "conference rate" and $10 parking), and doing so simultaneously motivated me to drop in a bid on a cheaper rental, which shaved $170 off of the bottom line of the vehicle rental for the six days we'll be out there. I can hear the Space Needle scratching up a grungy melody already. (Yes, consider this a plug for Priceline.com).

Did I mention that this is my first RSA? Another first: the first time in four years that I will give a paper without projection of any sort other than vocal. No projector, no slideshow. Just me and my crumpled, sweat-dampened paper. And! a handout. Since 2004, since we moved to Syracuse, I have done eight live-in-person conference presentations. LED projectors have been available at every one of them. But my co-panelists and I learned last week that RSA could accommodate only 80% of the A/V requests. The conference provides six projectors (one is the old shadow-on-the-wall, bright-bulb-and-transparency type, another is a TV w/ VCR), so that makes six rooms with projectors and each room will hold panels during nineteen different time slots (A-S sessions, right?): 114 panels with projectors. And with just one more projector, another 19 panels would be accommodated (in this, the HQ of Microsoft). I suppose it sounds like I am grousing about this. I don't mean to. It's just that I find it surprising and a little bit disappointing, even if the total ratio of projectable panels, at 114/266, is over 40% (.429). Better than most conferences?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

By Cruelest Count

Here is a lineup of April tallies that could explain why I woke up this morning feeling like a bulldozer rolled over me two or three times in the night. And no, I'm not saying I'm the only one feeling a little bit roughshod.

No. of nights spent away from home: 8/30

No. of cities visited (more than two hours): 5 (Kansas City, Detroit, New Orleans, Buffalo, New York City)

No. of miles by plane: 3,300

No. of miles by car: 3,000

No. of times our refrigerator went out: 2

No. of funerals: 1

No. of hours in the Writing Center: 34.5

No. of dead car batteries in a single day: 2

No. of diss. chapters revised: 1

No. of new diss. pages: 0

No. of viruses I hosted in my lungs so you wouldn't have to: 1

Did it snow today in Syracuse?: Yes, light flurries.

Hello, May. Here's to continuing the slow ascent up Mt. Sappedtheeffout.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lettuce Balloon

Many many years ago, when I was in my late twenties, I interviewed for a job as a sales rep with this company.

I didn't get the job. They said they weren't convinced I wanted it (clairvoyant HR?). Of course, it is always the case with rejections that, upon hearing of them, I snarl, grind the bad news to a fine dust with resentment and double it back, confirming (in the comfort of my private, pacifying thoughts) that they were probably right: I didn't want it. They did, however, gift me a conciliatory packet of sticky notes marked with their logo; I was reminded of the job when I found one of those sticky notes holding a forgotten page (all this time, what was it marking?) in a book I leafed through the other day.

I bring this up today not because I wish I'd won that job, but because I wish I had one of their fancy packaging gizmos, specifically the one that produces the lettuce balloon. I'd like one of those to insulate my head for the last six or seven days of February each and every year--to get me through to March. It must be so peaceful and quiet inside of a lettuce balloon--so clean and fresh-smelling. Extended shelf life. Effortless salad. Also, had I a lettuce balloon around my noggin I would not be waylaid by this ache-making, throat-blistering crud that has clutched me in its unrelenting grasp since yesterday afternoon.

On top of being sick, there is more to throw off the late Feb. hermitage and regular work rhythms: a winter storm, a miniseminar, stacks upon stacks of unsorted papers (not "student" papers, but receipts, tax prep materials, misc. articles, foot stool assembly instructions, etc.) on my desk, a handout to cook up for a brief RNF-style talk for tomorrow's Visiting Days panel, Tuesday-night consulting in the WC, a quick textbook review to send back to BSM, an essay to submit for a U.-wide conte$t entry, if only I could find a minute to tune it, and some other stuff I can't remember, like "Oh, we're out of hot tea."

Lettuce balloon, oh, lettuce balloon.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

To The Skunk

To the unprovoked skunk who, overnight, delivered an unrelenting, through-the-walls-seeping odor-maker in/around/under the garage: We will not remain friends if you ever, ever do that again.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Saturday evening I went online for the exclusive purpose of registering Ph. to take the ACT in June (so that ACTropolis doesn't seem like something I made up, follow the link). His guidance counselor encouraged him to sign up online rather than on paper. It has been seventeen or eighteen years since I signed anyone up to take the ACT. I am old; the process has grown unbelievably cumbersome under a sharp jump in the value of high school student profiles to predatory admissions practices. This is the database at its collect-all worst. Had there been all of this data-collection all those years ago, I almost certainly would have been more enthusiastically recruited. Right?

I filled out screen after screen of profiling data related to Ph.'s high school program of study, extracurricular activities, career aspirations, and so on. Somewhere along the way, I also selected a testing date (June) and site (Jamesville-Dewitt H.S., the nearest site with an open seat). Near the end of the process, an hour later, D. and I chatted briefly and agreed that he should be scheduled for a slightly different test. The ACT offers one test with writing and one without. I clicked back into the web form, switched that one item, and clicked 'continue' until I was at the pay screen. Then I input the payment information, clicked on 'submit payment', and held my breath hoping for a felicitous conclusion to the ACTropolis 5K.

Everything was fine. And then I clicked the 'print confirmation' button. Calamity! The page showed the wrong testing date; Ph. had been signed up for the April date rather than the June date. What the? Next, I tried 'Change Testing Date'. Something I learned: you can change the testing date for a modest $20.85 (or thereabouts), even if the transaction is hot, still flowing through the pipes. Also, I have since learned that the ACT system requires you to re-submit a payment for the full cost of the test when you change the date. Within three days they will refund the amount posted for the initial (mistaken) sign-up.

Rather than panic, I retraced my steps and learned that the web form automatically resets the testing date to the default setting (April) at the moment any action is taken on that step in the process. Changing the test type caused the test date to reset. I simply didn't notice, perhaps because I was numb from the deadening tedium of filling out profiling questions for more than an hour. I would be out twenty bucks for my oversight, which was terrible enough to tarnish the entire ACT sign-up experience for me. So I filled out the customer service form, sent it, and wrote a note to myself to call on Monday. Today.

I called. The first service rep heard me all the way through a rendition of what I've just shared with you. She explained the delayed refund process, and said she would have an IT person call me about the problem with the web form. Cool. Later, the call came, I described the problem--almost certainly a short circuit between my own weekend blink-out (Why should an established entry reset without notification?) and the aliveness of the seat-counting ACT registration form (which interacts immediately, ticking off seats in the database as they are filled). You won't believe what happened next: I was thanked for the feedback, offered to by-pass the change of date fee, and asked to share the few pieces of information they needed to correct my mistake. The sun suddenly shined on ACTropolis; on the horizon, a rainbow.

It never ever works out this way for me. Thus, I have resolved that today, February 11, will be an annual holiday, a day of respite during which I shall not have a single negative thought about standardized testing, the filing and profiling of youth into quasi-normative rank (for lists, which will be $wooped up by admissions offices), the profit-making at the heart of the enterprise, the tyranny of No. 2 lead, the mechanical ways of ACTropolis (even the corny-tropolis name itself). Today I am at strangely at peace with the ACT, and maybe even a little bit grateful.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Unbreakable Song

Yeah, so have a H. Wugga Friday. Is. and I have watched many muppets videos in recent weeks. Hugga Wugga, a revision of Scrlap Flyapp I learned this afternoon, shoots steam at others who don't repeat his utterances. His aggressive tactics backfire: blast-enforced imitatio, echo effects, fear-mongering, etc. Anyway.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Send-O-Matic Sheist-O-Rama

Recently we planned for Is.'s upcoming birthday party. Which invitations would we use? Paper and the USPS or something online? I went about developing a short list of online invitation services, eventually settling on evite.com and sendomatic.com. Evite.com is free, and it incorporates advertising so that it can remain free. Besides that, it is adequate for what we wanted--customizable invitations and a tracking system for RSVPs. Sendomatic.com is free if you are inviting four or fewer people to your event. If you want to invite between 4-100 people, it costs $12.95. But no advertisements. Free with advertisements or for-pay without advertisements: as far as I can tell, this sums up the two sites. They're even on most other counts.

Initially, we opted for evite, set up an invitation, and prepared to send it off to 17 invitees for the small party later this month. However, when we previewed the invitation, the sidebar included a Victoria's Secret ad, and, whatever was Victoria's secret, it if involved the in-your-face skin-flesh of a supermodel, um, the secret was out. Not quite the image we had in mind for a first birthday. So we scrapped that plan and resigned ourselves to handing over 13 bucks for Send-o-matic. I wish they had more scalable options (i.e., a $4.95 option for <50 invitees or a per invitation rate...the company that does this and also includes a free option with advertising will win the market lead, no doubt). But, what the heck. First birthdays must be just right, and for 13 bucks, the invitations and RSVPs would be handled digitally so we could keep up with them easily.

Only, there was a hitch. And yes, it turns out that I am not above using this blog to review crappy products and services. We signed up for a Send-o-matic account. Selected a design. Input the details. Added the addresses of recipients. Paid the fee. And hit send. Within 48 hours, we heard back from nearly half of the people on the list that the email message they received was blank.

There is no telephone number for Send-o-matic customer service. I sent a message of concern through their online form:

[Summary of system failure.]
I wonder if there is anything you can recommend to resolve this disappointing turn of events. Are refunds available? And if so, how might we go about formally requesting one given that the system has, by and large, failed to work as we hoped it would?

D. & D.

Sendomatic's answer came within the day. They acknowledged a system glitch, noting that invitations sent out during a certain day and time were, in fact, blank. They would offer us another invitation to use at a later date. In other words, we could use their service to send out invitations for a future event. I was also told that a refund would be available if I followed up and asked for it. The refund makes sense to me because we don't have plans to host another event. The second set of invitations are of no value to us. Furthermore, what reassurance do we have that this so-called "glitch" won't happen next time?

I responded and said I would prefer to take the refund, but I also wanted to know whether taking the refund would mean that our current invitation--the one that was blank for half of the invitees and accessible for the other half--would be removed from the system. I asked because some of the guests already RSVPed to the Send-o-matic system. Accept/decline was registered by some of the guests, and it was visible for other to see. Guests are able to see a list of others who are coming and who have declined. But this list is misleading because it doesn't include any explanation that half of the people on the list received blank invitations. Customer service told me: If you accept the refund, the current invitation will be removed from the system.

So that's the story with Send-o-matic and Is.'s first-year birthday party. We will not pursue the refund. Nor will we pursue the "free gift" of a future, never-to-be-used invitation set via Send-o-matic. As far as the party is concerned, we're only inviting a few close friends, so it's easy enough to send an email to everyone who didn't receive the invitation the first time. Their glitch coupled with the "refund" (i.e., removal of the invitation) simply adds layers confusion on top of an already embarrassing scenario. No thanks. Let this be a permanent reminder never to bother with such unapologetically lousy services as this one.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Fastest Journal Subscription

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Contracting Temperament

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bin Living

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A Continuance

As you know from the previous entry, last week was a wash. A waste. A downer. Some things have changed since then.

First, I had a phone conversation with LaLo (lord of this land) and he conceded to a July 1 closing date (extra month) and threw in a modest "inconveniences felt" fee. Considering that we're under no legal obligation to accommodate the sharky realtors, those two gestures have brought me back from last week's fits to the world of the quasi-sane, quasi-cooperative.

We're home this evening from the tenth property we've seen in the past eight days. It won't do. It was like walking up on the set of This Old House. But it wasn't Bob Vila. More like Zed Vila and his two helper-friends, one of whom was smoking cigs and sipping beers as we made way through the thick curls of paint vapors awaiting us at each corner. Hundreds of corners there were! This joint had smaller rooms off of every main room. I kept having the feeling I would hit my head on the low archways or scrape it against a rusty nail while peering in on one of the seven or eight nooks. Worse still, when it is finished, it will rent for $1700/mo (four students, $425 apiece). Good luck, Zed.

Among the ten properties we've looked at three or four remain in the hunt. All of them require us to compromise something; Ph. will be in a new school, the space will be much less, the rents will be more, and so on. At the same time this means that we have checked out five or six properties that are no longer considered options. Five or six phone calls. Five or six walk-throughs. Five or six small talks with niceties like "this has possibilities" or "we really like the location" tossed in. One rejection was especially easy because the ad said "recently renovated" "grad students preferred" and "new appliances." When we arrived, however, two of the bedrooms were occupied, there was a gigantic water stain on the ceiling, the dried memory of a toilet plumbing crisis on the second floor some months earlier. Said LaLo, "I need to do something about that, but I'm not sure it will get done before I rent it out again." Nice. Then we saw the kitchen. The range was wrapped in sheets of aluminum foil which were covered over again by thick black carbons of weeks-old overboil and spillage. I had to ask: "The ad mentioned new appliances?" LaLo had answered this one before: "It's fairly new. Only five or six years old. It needs to be cleaned. But the grad students who live here are too busy with their studies to clean." Me: "Guess so."

We'll find a place. We will. We have to. It's just that I'm not so sure it'll be in the University neighborhoods. Might mean a new school for Ph. Might mean Yoki will be on the auctioning block. And it almost certainly means a few more headaches, a few more detours, and maybe even a few more visits to shabby, overpriced properties before we settle on the right one.

Friday, March 30, 2007

In the Mood for a List?

A few reasons this week will contend for the shittiest ever when all the points are tallied:

1. I've been pummeled mercilessly from the inside by something diagnosed as just-shy-of-bronchitis. Had a fever of 102 for nearly three days, severe congestion, body aches, sweats, headaches, sore throat, and so on. My comeback has been made possible only by gallons of hot tea and a twice-daily palmful of pills, antigens, chemicals, and artificial defenders of dmueller.

2. As a result of no. 1, I've accomplished very little. Very very very little. You could fit all of my positive accomplishments this week on the head of a small pin.

3. We learned Monday that the house we so enjoy living in will be sold. A minion of the real estate megalopoly pounded the "for sale" sign into our front yard this very evening, in fact (no saintly tricks up his sleeve, far as I could tell). What's worse? We're being asked to move before the end of Ph.'s school year. What's worse than that? The suitable rents in the area are slim pickings. Most of the four bedroom joints get divided into per-student rates, where each student pays, say $375 or more. There are a few three bedroom flats we're looking at, but only a few of them allow pets. And Yoki, it turns out, despite expert training, remains a pet. What's still worse? We're invited to enable the sale by keeping a tidy house, putting away all valuables, and vacating the premises any time a realtor decides to call us up for a showing. What summons in me evils and furor deeper than I've known in some time? Yes...realtors calling to see whether they can show the house I'm being asked to vacate. You'll want to hide away the laptop in case any of the "speculators" are thieves.

4. In the spirit of list-making, a new item. But it's a carry-over. See, I'm still PO'ed about No. 3. Bent out of shape, I tell you. I get the side of the scenario that's grounded in business, profit, detachment, transactions, and so on. But then I see the other side, the side that spells big changes for us in the weeks ahead. It boils over to the neutral-transactive (mere business, my friend) rationale, makes a mess of it. And I think about the agent who called me last night when I was at Ph.'s indoor soccer game to comfort me with "I know how hard this must be for you" before asking if we would welcome her and her clients for a showing. Without going into the rest of the details about the conversation following the smarmy preamble, just know that this morning we switched the contact number to D.'s cell phone. Tks to goodness D.'s willing to take such calls.

5. As a result of no. 3 and no. 4, I've been studying orangehousing.com line by line more than pouring fresh filling into EWM's neglected shell.

6. After checking out an apartment this evening, the four of us grabbed up some Chinese takeout. Hot-n-sour soup is just what I need when my sinuses are recovering, when my throat is raw, phlegm-chaffed. Even if I don't eat the tofu and cabbage and [I have no idea what that was], the broth is perfect. Just the thing to top off this challenger for worst week. The soup was terrific, but I remain, for today at least, too jaded to accept the promise from my fortune cookie: "Happy life is just in front of you." Mr. Clumsy must've dropped that cookie in the wrong bag, handed it to the wrong person. But what if he didn't?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Jury Doody

Says the summons that came in the mail today:


You have been selected for jury duty. Welcome!

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

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

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

Monday, May 22, 2006

Stalemates.com and Content Locking

I have two petty annoyances to report on. Sharing them will in no way enlighten you, but neither will these problems continue to weigh on me like lead sinkers in my pants pockets.

The first problem I have is with Classmates.com. Classmates.com represents the worst of the worst of social networking apps. The site and its heavily constrained database are engorged with advertising and fees. Classmates.com: a poster child for frame-jacking. The site is, at its best, un-navigable; at its worst, an e-robber baron donning "social networking" clothing. Why should I care?

All the way back in 1991, the year of my high school commencement, I was class prez. Quite an honor at the time, of course, and I had a hand in the post-H.S. leadership, cheering on the many admirable folks far more dedicated than me (D. included) who orchestrated the five- and ten-year reunions. Today, an email came from Classmates.com: "Thus-n-such has sent you a Classmates Email." Cool. I remembered the sender. Classmates stood as an interceptor, an intermediary, walling apart the participants in the interchange, but the message has links leading me to think I could retrieve the message. And I could. For 15 bucks.... (the fee for signing on with a three month gold membership). The subject line, however, came across clearly: "Class Reunion."

I get it. Cryptic, but at least I knew the email message concerned our impending reunion, the reunion I've done absolutely nothing to plan. Rather than pay the moolah, I used the Classmates.com system to send a response. It's filtered, but maybe J., the sender, has fronted a few bucks for a membership (hey, I'm a grad student; many former classmates, no doubt, are collecting a bigger bag of chips each year than my TA stipend).

Later in the afternoon, another message from J. Again, I couldn't access the content, but I could tell, because he hadn't emailed me directly the way I asked him to, that he didn't have access to the body of my message. Like me, he lacks the much coveted Gold Membership and the many social advantages that come with full access to Classmates.com (post a bio about yourself! post photos! search!). Oy. Okay, so what else is there? A few minutes ago I typed up one final message, this time using the subject line as the message space. Classmates.com has plugged many of the gaps that would allow information to stream freely through its toll-burdened sluices, but not this one. The subject line is the only space that shows up, the only space that is readable. I may as well try to use it to communicate. One more thought: an improvement to the site would be just the thing I need: a Teflon membership or, that is, one email for $.05.

Whether or not I get in touch with J. is less the point than that Classmates.com is distressingly obtuse. For the cost of an annual membership, I can host a site that floats my name well into the top ten for Google queries searching my name. I'd google J., but his name is among the most generic combos possible (59.9 million results). Maybe it will work to use the subject line; maybe it won't. Maybe a few minutes on fiascomates.com is all the cosmological force I need to warrant resigning my esteemed post. It's not as though I have the faintest thought about getting involved with 15-year reunion, after all.

The second issue is somewhat less perturbing, but I still rate its annoyance quotient quite high--above the peace and calm that should characterize these last few days of my May break (before a June of exam reading, teaching online and so on). Here's the thing: I developed a few courses for Former U., and I continue to occupy the developer's role. It requires a small amount of work from me: updates when book editions change, minor adjustments to assignments, etc. There's a place in the CMS for developer's notes. That's good; I'd like to put the space to use. Fill it in with rationale for the design of the course, add comments about how I imagine the course moving along. But each time I log into the developer's section of the course, where the basic or stable content is kept, I find the developer's notes locked, uneditable. Did I mention that I'm the developer? Yes, I did. For the bazillionth time, I sent a request to the folks who have access to the settings. And I heard back from them. The developer's notes have been unlocked temporarily. Apparently unlocking that area of the course means that instructors can edit the developer's notes, too. Once I'm finished with the developer's notes, they'll be locked again so that nobody can tamper with them, "notes" being so refined and permanent, I guess. And this confounding loop will complete its cycle, only to recur again and again.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

On Notice

Notice! Things the final month of coursework (EVER) will compel a body do to:

I signed up for a Snubster account after reading about it in Wired News. Antisocial Software, a place for crabasses and cranks. Down with the network! You basically get to enter the names of things and give them a full-over ranting. Also you can designate the objects of critique as "on notice" or "dead to me," followed by hyperbolic explanations. Others who feel compelled to bitch and moan about the same things might designate you as a contact with thoughtful messages (i.e. "Piss off. I didn't want you as a contact anyway."). For my first entry, coursework's on notice. Yeah, that's right.  Namby-pamby coursework. Just the thing I needed to snub so I could restore a happy grin to my Wednesday. ;)

You can try to resist, but I don't know how.

Monday, February 27, 2006


I concur with the orthopedic doc's hunch about my knee: it's the meniscus. And since I'll be needing healthy ones of those as I get on in years, I'm going ahead with the MRI and, more than likely, some sort of repair. The diagnosis is uncertain, but all indications have convinced me of the high likelihood that there's a tear somewhere in the middle cartilage. The kind folks at SOS (yeah...Syracuse Ortho...) are going to call me with the schedule for when I get to climb into the narrow tube to have my magnetic resonance imaged. It's been ten years since I had one, and as I recall, it's close to what I imagine beam-type space travel would be like. So that I would be insurance-eligible for the MRI, I filled out a form, and I think I might have answered one of the two bold questions incorrectly. Feel free to guess which one: "Are you claustrophobic?" or "Have you had a previous MRI?" However, I answered all of the plain text questions honestly and correctly, including "Eyelid/eyeliner tattoo?" My answer was no, but I was tempted to check yes if only as a conversation starter and simply to find out what that's got to do with the scan.

Brighter news is that I had the tire fixed on the Element. Goodyear, like PepBoys, wouldn't patch/wad the tire (too much risk with the punctum being in the sidewall), so I had to produce a big-handed grab of dough to get a new one. I had no idea the tires on our car were so precious. Then I was insulted to learn--from an obnoxiously proud/aggressive manager-type--that we missed our annual NY motor vehicle inspection. Oh? Add twenty-one bucks. I should be grateful, but I still can't figure out why NY grants two year registrations while requiring annual inspections. In Missouri (brace yourself; this is the part where I confirm that some Missouri laws are smarter than those in New York), inspections were due at the same time as registration, and two-year registrations/inspections were available for vehicles less than seven years old or so. The high-priced tire replacement: that was the high-!-light of my day.

Friday, February 3, 2006

Genu Muchwobbly

No swollen joint photos to document this case of pain from the hardwoods, but in my weekly Friday afternoon basketball game(s) I did something tendenciously nastytastic to my left knee.  I've never suffered knee problems before (all shoulders and ankles, my long-ago surgeries), but I've observed more than a teammate or two who suffered season-enders with bad knees.  Only one of them was able to walk off the floor with a torn ACL (must've been partially torn), and he was back to playing just a few weeks after surgery if I remember correctly.  Notably, he was also a guy who referred to sprained ankles as "sprung ankles," and so, because I'm not a doctor yet, I think it's excusable to adopt just this kind of neologism to lighten the self-diagnosis: sprung left knobbler. If, by tomorrow morning, the pain intensifies, maybe it's worse than I've determined.  But I can hobble on it, so I'm counting on the injury to be much less severe than some of the worst cases I've witnessed.  Prognosis for watching Superbowl XL: Probable.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Because I fail to shop with a grocery list and I also fail to perform an exhaustive inventory before heading off to P&C every other week to collect things for eating, I often make the mistake I made today: picking up stuff we already have. Such as margarine. We hardly even eat margarine. So why I bought two squares of it this afternoon is unexplainable. Even worse, I returned home (thinking I'd done well to accumulate substantial meal-makings and cakehole pleasers while also staying within the food budget) to find three unopened squares and a more-than-half-filled tub of margarine in the fridge, enough to bring on in me a margaraine headache.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Today in sixes:

6.1. Number of hours in seminars (GEO781 followed by CCR712 after a 15-minute break).
6.2. So I went to the gym.  The guy I was guarding...he dunked six times in two games.  All on fast breaks, but still. 
6.3 Number of times I thought to myself, Am I really so terrible at the sport I grew up playing all those years?
6.4 Number of times I thought, Yep.
6.5 Number of seconds I sucked for air after taking an elbow to the midriff and before getting up off of the floor.
6.6 Number of worksheets in the math packet--due tomorrow--that Ph. and I just finished working through.  Lots of shapes and drawings, protractor work, etc.

And the next fourteen Tuesdays stand a good chance of being equally overloaded.  Still, I can say that classes went well.  And the math packet: done.  Hoops? Well, besides having every waft of air knocked from my lungs that one time (it wasn't a charge?), I'm just happy for good-enough-to-walk-away health.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Among the Shortcomings of New Media

New media is no help with

And, uh, these aren't my notes on Manovich.  I'll have those up v. soon, however (end of the week?).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Qualms and Counter-qualms


1. Half.com of nothing.com equals nothing. When I ordered my books for fall semester from half.com all the way back on August 5, I never would have believed that one still would not be delivered as of today.

I've ordered more than 50 books from half.com, and all of them (except the malodorous copy of Comp in Four Keys) arrived as promised, in great shape.  Until I ordered Sidewalk.  And then waited.  And sent an email to the seller.  And waited.  And sent an email to half.com customer service.  And another email to the seller.  Finally! a reply from the seller.  "I'll check its shipping status when I get to work."  That was two weeks ago.  The seller is in NY.  Did you make it to work?  Or do you work for half.com customer service?, because I haven't heard anything from anybody.  See, I'm supposed to be reading the appendix for next week (what's left for the week after that), and I still don't have a copy of the book, which means that I have to go to the bookstore and buy another.

2. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow for unbearably sharp jabs of pain on the left side of my neck.  They're sporadic and come mostly late in the day...after days of reading and computing and writing.  Everything I know about pain hints at a pinched nerve (exacerbated by sitting poorly for hours on end). First appt. since we've been in town, and I'm hoping for a chiropractic referral (long torso+ hereditary back pain+ abominable posture...accumulates to painful crooks).  But I need a proper metaphor for the doc.  I've tentatively decided to go with "...like I was speared by a throwing star."  But I'm open to better suggestions. 

And now, counter-qualms:

1. You can keep up with Ph.'s soccer results on the schedule I posted a few weeks ago.  They're faring well this season, and I've been updating the schedule with Ws and Ls.  Yesterday they played a surprise match at home (not on the schedule until the day before).  I've attended most of the matches this fall, but I had projects to read and grade and a few other things to do at home, so I skipped.  When he got back, I asked him how it went (a 1-0 win...closer than other matches this season), then ribbed him with, "You got the goal?"  Sure enough.  Figures I'd miss the one game when....  And today--a day off from practice--after I picked Ph. up from school, he told me he's thinking more seriously than ever about starting a weblog.  The concept is fuzzy (the time to really learn how everything works, including the design, even more ethereal), but we settled on a snappy domain name (goalorio.us), and it's pointing here temporarily.  Goalorio.us on soccer-related stuff.  Can't go wrong with that.

2. Even if you're not a Washington Wizards fan--or maybe especially because you're not a Washington Wizards fan, check out Etan Thomas's talk last weekend (via).  Fine with me if you skimp on reading the comments at True Hoop, but then you wouldn't know what's in them. 

3. Lost in exactly one hour (2.1) and exactly two hours (2.2). Even if I have to rest my neck on couch pillows to make it through two hours of television.

My next entry at EWM had better be reading notes on Mitchell's Picture Theory or else(!) I'm slacking.

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Off Perch

Fly-bye discomfitures.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Whelp's Delight

Now what you hear is not a test; Landlord's new puppy is filling our airwaves with rhythm-less all-night-long crying.  Sunday night was almost tolerable.  The young German shepherd-black lab mix broke into lonely-night-in-a-cage dirge just twice, at midnight and 5:00 a.m. (followed by the bustle of mess mopping?  who knows...I was half-asleep).  But last night, the sorrowful pup yipped and whined all night long, like he was staging a concert for the dead.  I tried to wrap my head in pillows, tried to block out the excruciating sound, even wished for a Sugar Hill Gang earworm, and not because I was still thinking about B. Midler (an all-time low at EWM mentioning that song "did I ever tell you you're my..."  geez.  Hope you'll forgive me for that.), but because I would go for just about anything that would make it stop.    Not only am I going to really struggle to like the dog, I'm also struggling to think of this as a very suitable living arrangement for as long as the dog's yapping fills my ears when I should be sleeping (ironic that L'lord has two dogs now and we have a no pets clause in our lease).  Lest I go far enough to upset or offend anyone (en route to becoming the first blogger to be evicted for posting living-space critique), I'll stop here, relieved to know that puppy so exhausted himself in the nighttime hours that the quiet suggests he's finally resting soundlessly this morning.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

The Roselius Fog

Symptoms: faint and dingy-feeling headache, irritability, cravings, mild and temporary (but noticeable) shift in blood pressure. 

I'm now enduring a self-induced Ludwig Roselius Fog.  Feeling it.  It's the name I'm giving to caffeine detox.  Fifty hours now, caffeine free.  Not a single soda.  Not a sip of coffee.  Not a nibble of chocolate. 

Roselius is the German scientist credited with salvaging some bad coffee beans back in 1906 and finding a decaffeination process as a result.  In my present state, how can you blame me for not researching it more in-depth than Wikipedia

The purge is temporary.  I figured I'd lay off the usual routine of morning coffee and an afternoon caffeinated drink for the next ten days, then allow myself one or the other less regularly.  Over the past year I've gradually given in to a whole line of succulent caffeinated drinks, fallen in with a robust caffeine addiction.  In the never-ending battle between exhaustion and spry wakefulness (late-early reading, etc.), a proven ally in caffeine.

With this I say farewell to you, caffeine.  But it's not good-bye forever.  ; )

Friday, June 3, 2005

Where's My Money, BP?

I don't watch it often enough, that zany MTV program--Boiling Points--in which unsuspecting victims are taunted (in front of a hidden camera) by actors whose idiocy is meant to induce fits of rage--spitting, fuming, cursing rage.  If the victim clings to rationality/patience/kindness long enough, s.he wins a hundred bucks.  I think that's how it goes, anyway.  Every once in a while I imagine I must be on the program, like somebody's trying to frustrate me and taping the whole sequence.

On TV lots of folks lose at the game; they rupture temperamentally, letting loose the accumulating vitriol, venting.  I like to believe I could win the prize money, that I could sweat through twenty minutes of somebody's bull-crap antics instigating me to fury.  It's that little hopeful half-lie I tell myself when I'm particularly short-tempered.  Sometimes I'm great at refraining, breathing deeply, etc.; other times, less so.

Take today for example.  I'll leave the personal/family factors aside (they're just small pinches, fast-fading stings--all for which I'm thinking of adopting M.'s twist-tie technique or this and this).  A whole bunch of day-ruining crap-o-la starts caking up.  Now I'm going to have to switch into a certain necessary fuzziness--a cryptic gloss to cover the trails of this certain set of irritations. 

One has to do with systematically broken links.  Um...links matter?
No. two: content locking.  Here, in MD5 format, is what I think about locking: 52FB604B42D39836C4A2179A73CF2A82.  And that's putting it nicely.  Unconditional locking (imho)=distrust.
Three: Customer service phone trees with thousand ten-thousand-forked branches.  And! at the end of the last branch.  Leave a message. 
4.1. A "solution": When dealing with locked content, delete it, then add a new module and paste in the edited contents.

Me?  I'm trying to keep it together, practice my own little satyagraha of the everyday variety.  Voice inside is telling I probably should lay off with this before I wind up getting reprimanded for being vaguely critical.  It's just that I'm almost certain somebody's going to reveal the whole gag any time now, pull out a hundred bucks, and make my day bright again.  Any slow-passing minute.

Meanwhile, I should go back to writing entries on genre theory.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Problem and Solution

1.  Fifteen sources jamming into a ten-page essay draft.  +Eight pages in. -I've ref'ed three. 
2.  Examination upcoming Monday.  In comes an email: You'll want to read this and this and this.  Oh, and this.  And this.  And this. [It keeps going.]  Plus review your notes and the fifteen books and fourteen articles we read this semester.  Two hours?  Insufficient time for the test.  Let's go with 2.5 hours. Note:  This is *not* excerpted from the actual email, but I've done my best to capture the gist of the message.  Have I ever confessed how much I love exams? 
3.  Eighth grade is really a pain in the ass. 
4.  Another birthday fast-approaching.
5.  Back pain.
6.  A Bush'it administration and I scored a -20% on the Republicant quiz.
7. Gas prices.  Oh wait, I walk. 
8.  B'day card from my dad showed up early (everything okay?!), and inside--"Happy Belated."  Maybe it's for last year. Or maybe I wasn't supposed to open it. ; )

Solutions (in no particular order):
A.  Blog it; B. Ah yes, youth; C. Taxation; D. Kick where it hurts; E. Three pages of notes (weee!); F. Lunch, get out and walk around; G. Continue to write; H. Holarchy; I. Cake.

Sunday, May 1, 2005


Ph. had another indoor soccer match this morning--Sunday morning--at 7:00 a.m.  A crazy-maker to scurry around so early on a weekend morning for a sporting event.  They have two games left--both next Sunday afternoon; following that we can get back to keeping pace with one sport at a time.  Lacrosse runs until late May or early June.  And then a busy summer (me: take one class, teach two), including D. and Ph. making a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Kenya (I'll say more another time).

Why Sunday, 7:00 a.m.?  Something to do with devout church-goers needing to keep 9 'til noon soccer-free, as I understand it.  There were just two 7 a.m. games on the schedule.  The other one was last week.  We managed to miss the first half of that one.  Completely my fault.  Team manager sent an email last Saturday reminding us the game was at 7 a.m., and I even responded to the note with a "We'll be there!"  Only that in my mind, 7:55 a.m. hijacked all other schedule awareness.  I discovered the error and we sped over to the facility by 7:25 a.m.  Chalk it up to the fail-at-parenting log, entry no. 992. 

Languor, too, in the sense that I'm slugging through a project this weekend.  It's felt like such a laborious stretch, but so much of that's the result of my own mania.  I care too much about getting this one right.  And instead I've resorted to drafting a circular, winding, exploratory draft due for some serious restructuring.  Should say I'm relieved that there's time for that, at least. 

In the extended entry I've folded yet another image experiment.  When I downloaded Wink the other day I came across WinMorph, a freeware app for warping images or morphing two (or more) images and rendering them into a short movie (Flash or MPG1).  Spectacular?  Either way, something to be said for the irreconcilable ambiguity of conceptual (gone act-ual) blending.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Disturbance Report I

6:29 a.m.  Hop up, tidy the bedcovers.
6:31 a.m.  Flick on the laptop.  Three comments in the nighttime hours.  Cool.
6:45 a.m. Good morning, Ph. (D. was already up and about).
7:20 a.m.  Prepare for shower.  Discover plugged shower drain.
7:25 a.m. Commence vigorous plunging.  Curse the drain-stopper cap allowing the pipe to breath. "$%^& you, drain-stopper cap!"
7:31 a.m. Fever pitch plunging.  Breaking a sweat, new found back pains.
7:32 a.m.  Wearing a towel, search the basement for hand auger.  Did we sell it in the garage sale last summer? 
7:45 a.m. Shower in ankle deep crud-water. Disgusting, I know, but what the hell was I supposed to do?
8:01 a.m. In an effort to get back on track, I refresh on De Certau for a few minutes.  Hermeneutics of the Other...and "A Variant: Hagio-graphical Edification": "Thus hagiography enters into ecclesiastical literature only through effraction; in other words, through the back door" (274). And so on.
8:42 a.m.  See a penny on the sidewalk; keep on walking.
8:45 a.m.  (On the walk to campus) Beautiful day! One...two...three blisters.
9:01 a.m. Coffee from Dunkin' Donuts.  Hope!
9:09 a.m. Bagel and banana from Blinker.
9:13 a.m.  In the midst of peeling the banana, it broke, toppling from the place where I was opening it to the keyboard of my laptop. 
9:31 a.m. CCR 611 Composition Histories

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


(via via)

Tuesday, March 8, 2005


When a watchful mentor emailed me a link to Attensity over the weekend, I was encouraged, finding, from a quick glance at their web site, that some of the same data-mining they market, as their hallmark, matches up with a few of the configurations defining a project I have underway.  Attensity claims to process data and analyze that which is otherwise difficult to discern.  Their software churns away like some kind of high-powered heuristic meaning-cruncher--a processor of mass quantities of text into readable metadata.  NORA (non-obvious relationship awareness) for large-scale discourse. 

So I sent them an email inquiring about the whole plot, all-the-while-recalling that the only other text parser I looked up asked $2k per year for software licensing.  Did I mention I'm a grad student?

Well, I did mention that in the email to Attensity, the email inquiring about their project.  And I heard back today--a polite note, something about serving the US Intelligence community and a starting fee of $50,000. And something about wishing me the best in my quest.  Thanks.  But no thank-you. 

The proliferation of textual analysis apps self-identifying as the devices built to root out terrorism piques my interest.  Perhaps because of the sheer volume of text to be analyzed for particular patterns (suspicious patterns! watch the parentheticals, Attensity!), mass-discourse text parsers are up and coming.  And so unbelievably over-priced that they're no use whatsoever to the project I'm working on.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Savage Journeys

I started the day by glancing through a few feeds in Bloglines and there I learned about Hunter S. Thompson's suicide, which so many others have taken up in entries today.  These two pages sat open in separate Firefox tabs all day, tucked behind other more active tabs, although today has been, by and large, rather quiet in terms of blogging, blog-reading.  I'm writing an essay for a class tomorrow morning, and it has been a drudge working through saying saying saying stuff that reads as careful, polished and seamless.  And I walked (a rather deep-snow high-knee march across the park) to campus for a 670 (teacher-practicum) meeting.  But that essay has tied me up.

I haven't even read the articles about Hunter S., and I haven't been moved to dig into the entries posted by others.  It's an effect of other presiding forces that such an event hasn't really drawn more than a few minutes of my attention.  Family in town.  And that essay.

I didn't know what I'd blog tonight, or even if I'd have time.  Still need to scrape smooth the many rough edges of the essay, an essay yet in need of expanding by another paragraph or two (especially brilliant ones, the sort that rescue us from textual disasters, if possible).  I just printed a copy in the office, and when I went to grab it from the printer, instead I took Fear and Loathing from the shelf, flipped through it quickly to see whether I'd left any notes or paper scraps in there when I last read it, maybe three years ago.  Just one page is dog-eared; a folded sticky note book-marks another page.  Hmm.  And I returned to crank out this entry (over the noise of Ph. and T. playing silly chess, UConn vs. Notre Dame on the tube, and a match of bickering wits between J. and three-year-old T.) without even thinking to grab the draft of that disappointing essay from the printer.  It's still there, ink drying.

So it's enough, for today, to post the two paragraphs I think I must have been flagging with the bent page a few years ago.  They're sufficiently panegyric, insufficiently funereal:

Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas.  Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era--the kind of peak that never comes again.  San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to run...but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch the sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world.  Whatever it meant...

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of "history" it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long find flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time--and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened. (67)

Friday, February 11, 2005

Why Some Weekends Go By So Quickly

Ph. indoor soccer match Sunday AM at 7:50
Run down Ph.'s uniform (call, pick a time, drive around, etc.)
Read, respond to 18 essays from WRT205ers (leafed through 'em)
Read Weinberger's Small Pieces Loosely Joined for 711 (net-rhets) (ch. 1-2)
Tax prep appointment
Set up dentist appointment
Wiki futzing (had to set up one of my own for experimentiking)
Develop/refine the assignment for essay-project two in 205
Re-read first-three chapters of Barabasi's Linked
Regular blogging (forever ongoing)
Dig around for CCCC funding app paperwork
For 611 (comp histories):
Read ch. 5 "The Fictions of Factual Representation" and ch. 6 "The Irrational and the Problem of Historical Knowledge in the Enlightenment" from White's Tropics of Discourse
Read ch. 2 "Shaping Tools: Textbooks and the Development of Composition-Rhetoric" from Robert Connors' Composition-Rhetoric
For 720 (making meaning)--for Tuesday morning discussion-leading, re/read/visit:
From the MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences. 1999. On Computational Theory of Mind, Situatedness/Embededness, and Schemata.
Phelps, Louise. "Cross-Sections in an Emerging Psychology of Composition." 1984.
Bransford, John and Nancy McCarrell. "A Sketch of a Cognitive Approach to Comprehension." 1974.
Norman, Donald. "Twelve Issues for Cognitive Science." 1981.
Tannen, Deborah. "What's in a Frame? Surface Evidence and Underlying Expectations." 1979.
Spiro, Rand. "Constructive Processes in Prose Comprehension and Recall." 1980.
Adams, Marilyn J. and Allan Collins. "A Schema-Theoretic View of Reading." 1979.
Plunk out notes on the whole lot (this might get dropped)
Catch a few minutes of college hoops on the TV set (this might get dropped, too)
Leave incoherent blog comments a few carefully selected places
Pick up more Advil

So that's most of what I'll be doing (with lots of help from D., of course) between now and Monday night (to say nothing of pitching in on meals, laundry, groceries, Valentining and tidying house).

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Patch Footography



Warning: nasty ankle photo herein.

In the spirit of nearly copying (but not quite) my esteemed professor who has dangled brightly manicured toes on her internet weblog, I'm showing you what I've been doing all day with my sprained ankle, the (naturally) purple balloon of inexorable pain that it is.  Cranked it while landing with a rebound (from my own missed shot) during the usual Friday afternoon basketball workout.  And we were winning, too: ahead 9-3 in a game to 11 (it matters, this is no loser's limp).  Was me, Ph., J. (math education prof) and C., an undergrad we'd just picked up to take on four other students in the last game of the day. But now I've got healing to do.  Here's how. 

1. From the yard, gather one plastic storage bin half-full of cold, cold snow.  Make that cold, clean snow, please.


2. Mash the sprained ankle into the snow for twenty minutes, until numb (longer will make it swell worse, shorter will be ineffective).  Repeat every two hours. Wrap, prop and do not disturb during the in-between.


3.  After 48 hours, start the hot/cold/hot/cold contrast baths (wrenched extremity only). 

4.  Pain killers, college hoops muted on TV, reading for coursework, relax.  Been through it a zillion times before.  And the snowfall outside will reduce all the swelling my bum ankle can produce.

[Note to studious-minded self: Is this link-logging or life-logging?]

[Added to clarify | 7:25 p.m.: D. and Ph. harvest the snow, not me. The foot photo is slightly skewed because of the contorted position I was in (from the recliner) to accomplish a photo of the outside of the right ankle. My dogs are not normally so crooked.]

Monday, January 17, 2005

Para-site's Fair

I'm getting ready for Semester, and I don't have much to say (or blog) right now.  Spent quite a while today balancing my checkbook from the last several months. Same vein: why not tidy up some of the kept new stuff cluttering Bloglines?  Good as anything, right?  On with the show then.  Here, in no particular order, stowed for no particlar reason, are ten links green-checked as "Keep New" from the last month.

Feedspeaker (RSS into digitized voice, I think)
Building a better blog
Crumpled paper toss
Museum of Food Anomalies
Money Wallet
Botablog (wuh?)
Google Suggest

1-3, credit to unmediated; all the rest from metafilter

And now I'll go back to reading the last of four essay-articles on the formation of composition's multidiscplinary, many-armed fieldish-ness.  Bingo. I'm still reading the never-ending one, and it's up for discussion tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

The Start of More?

The "new" Blockbuster has riddled us with promises of abandoning late fees. The slogan says, "The end of late fees.  The start of more."  Good enough.  We rent movies from Blockbuster, and we have returned them to the store late, paid the fees, felt stupid, absolved our delinquency.

So when a postcard showed up in the mail the other day telling me we owed twelve bucks in late fees to Blockbuster, you can imagine my surprise.  I was stunned.  But your ad campaign, I thought, it promises the end of fees.  Is this the start of more?  According to the notice, we'd returned The Day After Tomorrow five days late when we picked it up in mid-November.  And my memory isn't the sharpest (still working on getting the new phone number right every time), but I'm sure The Day After Tomorrow was a week-long rental.  We only rent movies one or two times each month; the infelicity of a late return is generally fresh with us.  We usually expect the late charge. But not this time.  "The end of late fees.  The start of more."

When we rented Hero and I, Robot the other day, D. and Ph. went to the new release wall while I wandered up to the counter (at the store on Erie Blvd. here in Syracuse). 

"Can I talk with somebody about this late fee notice?  It's for a movie we rented in November.  Says we returned it five days late, but I'm almost certain it was a week-long rental."

Clerk looks at the note card, eyebrows furrowed accusatorily.  "Yeah, The Day After Tomorrow was returned five days late. It's [something incoherent involving long division] per day."

"We're generally good about returning movies on time [granted, a fuzzy assertion].  Is it possible that the DVD case said 'one week rental'?  When we were in here a few weeks ago renting Supersize Me, I saw that several of your new releases were shelved in mixed cases.  Some of the cases said 'two day rental,' others 'one week rental.'" 

Clerk: We run out of cases, but all the new releases are two-day rentals.  If it's in the wrong case, you have to read the slip inside.

"The slip?  Is that the same as the receipt?"

Clerk: Yeah.  You should read the receipt to be sure you're getting it for a full week instead of two days.

Friends, read your Blockbuster receipts. 


Denouement: To delay the charges, sleep on it, etc., we rented on my card rather than D.'s.  Then, to clear our names, salvage our fragile credit ratings, and restore decency to our lives, D. slinked back to the store a few days later and coughed up the twelve bucks.  But insult to injury, those goldang ads.  "The end of fees.  The start of more."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Z is for

Go easy on that.
You will drink too much gin and Newcastle Brown Ale. Not the worst way to die, but you won't remember too much of your life. Hey, at least you made some people laugh! To say nothing of the masterful seminar projects wrapping up.

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?
brought to you by Quizilla, inspired by Arete

Saturday, December 11, 2004


It's gotten that bad around here.  I'm comparing blogging to laun-dry.  If only...Unfortunate

I'm sweating out end-o-semester projects all weekend.  Due dates: Wednesday, Friday and next Monday.  And that's mostly all there is to say.  I can't believe how the writing demands have made me over, reconstituted a once energetic, vroom-ish rhythm into flub-dub-flub-dub.  I'm fairly stoic about it all (shrug-eh-dee-do-dah), but I *feel* distinctly different about writing.  Period.  I don't know whether it's the exhaustion of X-treme reading for four months. Who knows.  I'm ready to try anything to crawl these creatures onto the monitor.  My latest ploy is munching on leftover fortune cookies when I get stuck.  I've posted the unfortunate read-outs here, but they're not quite the boost I need. "Good journey"? "Showered with good luck"? C'mon! More than luck, I need a sentence on Barthes and Lakoff and myth on the right. 

BTW, anybody know how to cite a fortune cookie?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

With the Lights On

I just set out to key in a few notes I could post at EWM--say anything about registering entries less frequently in the weeks ahead, about the mid-semester curve which, now rounded, reveals three seminar projects with deadlines in clear view, about new ideas and whatnot, about biking through the lovely fall weather we're having in Syracuse--to a meeting at Ph.'s school, to campus for CCR732--today's session on service learning as the latest momentous shift in composition, then pedaling over to Barry Park after class so Ph. doesn't have to walk home from soccer practice alone in the rain. 

To end, Judith Butler's Excitable Speech wins the mid-semester prestige of most compelling read (and it helps that it was set up by Austin's lectures collected in How to Do Things With Words).  It's got me thinking about a whole bunch of stuff; a cloudy project emerging from Davis's archisemiotics and performative architecture(s) is now jockeying with my other half-plan--a stir-pot of Barthes, Saper with a yet-to-be IDed ingredient.  Still something missing and a heap of reading to take up.  One other project involving weblogs, and one other project on walled classrooms and their antitheses, deep cyberia.  And in the upcoming week, it's Lakoff's Moral Politics, the final bit--on mapping--in Comp in Four Keys, and selections from Gamsci's Notebooks.

Fade to air up the tires.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Five-Throb Frontal Lobe


1. One more conversation about authoritative sources and research via the i-net. Roughly: "Never use .com sources; prefer .edu or .gov domains."
2.  Toothache (or some more general category of mouth pain).
3.  How the hell did my copy of Comp in Four Keys (ordered from half.com and sent with a friendly note from a Big Ten alum) get to be so rotten smelling? It really stinks.  Pets and smoke and gin-breath-belch. As I read, the odor makes me wonder whether the person who read it before me reached the end. One of my office mates suggested dashing the smelly book with baby powder. I'm ready to smear on some Vicks vapor rub just to get through this next article.
4.  Read it by tomorrow. Oh, and this too (attachment PDF, 27 pages). And while you're checking your email--this.
5.  News you won't find in the sports section of your local paper: I've been playing Friday evening basketball this semester.  Won a pair of three v. three games on Friday, but I wrenched my lower back so horribly that even today I can barely pull on socks, tie my shoes, etc. Unofficial status for this Friday: questionable. Official status when playing competitive basketball for the rest of my adult life: idiotic.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


I plunked out a long lamentation about workload, strain and self-pity, then blew it off the monitor with an Elbovian wisp: 'DEL'.  This looks like it's going to take a lot of work.  With a few small exceptions--nothing shocking or out of the ordinary--I'm getting exactly what I bargained for.  My only immediate concern is reconciling rhythm with tempo. Thinking +/- 250 BPM.

So after class tonight I wedged in another mini-span for family time--frozen (then baked) pizzas and an hour straight of The Family Guy.  Probably could've found tickets to hear Michael Moore talk about humor at the Carrier Dome, but running between classes and colloquia and office hours from 8:30 a.m. this morning until 7:15 p.m. this evening had me feeling like enough was enough. Figure, as well, that anything remarkable from the talk will hover over campus for the next few days.

And the final bit, I suppose, is common enough.  When I try to write anything lately, I feel over-stimulated--jammed. I record reading notes, even post them to my  other tinderblog (mostly unlinked scraps, fragments, orts...or the new fave word of the week: melange).  And I've been typing a whole bunch of stuff--response papers and so on.  But when I try to write, I struggle.  Ebb?

Tuesday, September 7, 2004


How's my evening going?  Glad you care to know.

Twenty-two adware busts and seven five viruses scrubbed from the coffers of this ill-behaving PC.  

Gone from Ad-Aware 6.0 to Spybot S&D 1.3 to AVG.  Still need a personal firewall from Sygate.  And my brother recommended www.helponthe.net rather than wailing at him through my cellphone about this fine tangle.

But I still can't get a handle on BackDoor.Agent.2.H.  Sneaky trojan horse, that one.  Two instances of it will have to sit stable for now.  Behave!  I teach in the morning, and I'm flat out of time for battling tech villains. Granted, I could have been more careful to see that everything was properly calibrated when the Road Runner folks departed.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

What's in your bag?

What I thought yesterday was a good idea has me struggling over the whole revelatory ethic.  This entry proves the struggle's status for now.  For a few months, I've been fielding questions from family and friends who ask, "Now what exactly will you be doing at Syracuse?".  Teaching, reading, writing, thinking, walking, biking and so on.  And maybe the better question is what I'll be carrying around with me while I'm doing all of that other stuff.  So the meme goes: What's in your bag for these sixteen weeks? (Fine.  It's not a meme until somebody else does it, too, but this is by all means memable.) And so

I'm toting around lime Tic-Tacs, a small bottle of Advil, a 64MB jump drive (in need of upsizing, I think), a few electronic gadgets, a Sharpie marker, a Guadalupe charm, office and house keys (but no car keys!...wait, what's this?...a valet key for the Honda in my bag? Wha?), a file thick with collected papers relating to this and that, a piece of chalk, two dry-erase markers, a legal pad, (for one day only) a pile of 40 syllabi for two sections of WRT105, and a shifting array of articles to accompany what follows for the semester of study: 

601 Introduction to Scholarship in Composition and Rhetoric
Handa, Carolyn, ed. Visual Rhetoric in a Digital World: A Critical Sourcebook ( 2004)
Crowley, Sharon. Composition in the University: Historical and Polemical Essays (1998)
Wiley, Mark, Barbara Gleason, and Louise Phelps, eds. Composition in Four Keys: Inquiring into the Field (1996)
Marable, Manning. The Great Wells of Democracy: The Meaning of Race in America (2003)
Gilyard, Keith and Vorris Nunley, eds. Rhetoric and Ethnicity (2004)
Smitherman, Geneva and Victor Villanueva, eds. Language Diversity in the Classroom: from Intention to Practice (2003)
Selfe, Cynthia L. Technology and Literacy in the Twenty First Century: the Importance of Paying Attention (1999)

631 Twentieth Century Rhetorical Studies
J.L. Austin, How to Do Things With Words ( 1975)
R. Barthes, Mythologies ( 1973)
Judith Butler, Excitable Speech : A Politics of the Performative ( 1997)
Terry Eagleton, Idea of Culture ( 2000)
Frantz Fanon , Black Skin, White Masks ( 1991)
Michel Foucault, Order of Things : An Archaeology of the Human Sciences ( 1994)
Rosemary Hennessy, Materialist Feminism and the Politics of Difference (1993)
Lakoff, George, Moral Politics: What Conservatives Know That Liberals Don't ( 1996)
Chela Sandoval, Methodology of the Oppressed ( 2000)
Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature ( 1985)

732 Critical Studies in Writing Curriculum
Ira Shor, Critical Teaching and Everyday Life (1987) 
A. Suresh Canagarajah, A Geopolitics of Academic Writing (2002)
Andrea Lunsford, Crossing Borderlands: Composition and Postcolonial Studies (2004)
Arjuna Parakrama, Language and Rebellion : Discursive Unities and the Possibility of Protest (1990)
[??] Lyons, Espejos y Ventanas
Gil Ott, No Restraints : An Anthology of Disability Culture in Philadelphia (2002)
Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (1971) 
Ellen Cushman, Literacy : A Critical Sourcebook (2001)
[??] Deans, Writing Partnership

Note to sore back:  We won't be carrying everything at once. 

What's in your bag?

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I Herd You The First Time

I won't be able to post this until tomorrow morning. My net access tonight was restricted to a short sprint of email checking in the CCR lounge and mailroom just before walking back home from a full day of orientation sessions with the graduate school.

So that's it: orientation. We're toggling between large groups sessions and smaller, mini-groups, for things such as microteaching presentations. My dog and pony show danced to the beat of the five-minute version of aggregation and feedlines as the latest informatics of the WWW (as if from an introductory research writing course). The microteaching demos are taped; we'll watch and critique them tomorrow.

One of the large group sessions today was on "active learning." We were asked to--quick!-- think up a list of qualifiers that constitute active learning as something distinctly different from passive learning, I guess. I was thinking along the lines of, if it burns calories, it's active, when someone in the front piped up with "learning by doing." This was one among many on the list, of course. Then the session speaker took up the problem of learning something abstract or dead, something that cannot be done. Something about doing 5th c. B.C. Greece. You can't do that, right? [Rhetoric? Olympics?]

Another side of this session, in front of all the U.'s TAs called on us to think of ways we'll prefer active learning in our teaching this fall (rather than advocating couch potato essayism or worse). Working from a volunteered example course--WRT105, someone in the front again--lots of TAs started chiming in with their experiences in writing classes. In no time, it was abundantly clear that chaste, parochial conceptions of writing are widespread--no surprise. This was again clearer when someone asked how TAs in WRT105 will teach sentence diagramming. Lots of interchange. Talkity talk, and a clarification that WRT105 is a course concerned with argumentation. Argument=binaries, came next. Pick sides, debate, two camps, polarities, either-ors. But one of the points of emphasis in the WRT105 plan is that argument is most formidable when fashioned out of analysis. And I appreciate this distinction, not as much for the way analysis commonly connotes endless parsing and dissection (for the sake of dissection and parsing), but for the place of close reading and discourse analysis in argumentation. Within a few minutes, I started daydreaming about cue intricacy and intimacy as the indispensibles in effective argument. And then the session was over.

I hope I don't seem underhanded or whiny here. I'm still upacking, then unpacking more. And I only want to comment on one other session--an afternoon hour on "Academic Integrity." Lead question: How do people cheat? Responses: making stuff up, copying from sources, pay someone to write it for you, manipulate a professor, work collaboratively when it's not a collaborative assignment, cooking the evidence, and re-using one's own work. It was neither the place nor the time for wave-making, so I kept mostly quiet despite my sense that many of these sins might be IDed as twins of more common, desirable writing practices--the very sort we encourage: invention, collaboration, integration, reiteration, etc. And of course there are distinctions, but I continue to be one of the laggards when it comes to all the rushing around and alarm-sounding about crises in academic integrity. Last one out of the building. Why? Because it's part of our charge as teachers to teach it assertively rather than defensively. We really ought to want students to do well, yet much of the venom and mud the comes with the plagio-police neglects to see citation systems in their larger context or as something about which we could/should/must accept some responsibility. After that, gross abuses and dishonesty--like diss. fudging--should be treated seriously, as should some of the deliberate efforts to steal, lie, rob and connive. Another part of the session fell under the bullet, "Who's hurt by cheating?" and the more I thought about it, the more I thought that practically nobody is hurt.

Okay, so stealing ideas can impact the maker of the original. Fair enough. But the argument that the institution's reputation is soiled each time a case of student cheating goes unpunished strikes me as a broad, tough-to-support trajectory. What evidence? Does this mean the habitual cheater who, after graduation, is proven incompetent, mars the institution's glossy reputation? Maybe. If so, name the institutions falsely cited as degree-granting in any of the recent fraud cases. [Note that I'm assuming this contrarian position more as an exercise in tinkering with the unsettled than as an all-out dismissal of the U.'s concern for dishonesty. It's not that I condone cheating. In fact, when caught, egregious plagiarism gets a failing grade, a furrowed-brow of disgust, and so on. But I'm not sold on this idea of hurt...there's more.]

Cheating wastes teachers' time and dashes our (naive) sense of didactic sanctity (or whatever). It insults much of the work we do, undermines the high regard we have for genuine intellectual engagements with our courses, as designed. But "who's hurt"? How does that hurt manifest? What is an example of the hurt--brought about by a single case of cheating or a full-bore epidemic? What, specifically, was hurt and what does the injury look like? Beyond the victim of robbery hardship (which is no small thing), I'm wondering about the nature of the hurt that comes from academic dishonesty. Aside from frustration and sirening, I can't tell what that hurt looks like. Maybe we're doing such a great job busting the plagiarists that the whole plot is generously over-imagined.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Chilling After the Missouri's Origin

Following the Lewis & Clark re-enactment?  Me either, but for their reservation to stay the night in one of the gymnasiums on campus this weekend.  After the initial request, they got the Old Gym: Labor Hall. One room, 94' long. It's historically appropriate--dusty, bugs, cobwebs.  What...rustic accommodations won't do? The re-enactors prefer the air-conditioned gymnasium for the weekend?  Just as well.  Nobody else is cooling off in there.  To the river's source! 

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Swiss Cheese

Throughout the day Air America Radio folks have been talking about this report on bullet shortages. The Lake City, Mo., munitions factory (just south of Fort Osage H.S. off Missouri 7 Hwy, East away from the circular loop) produces a meager 1.2 million shells for the Army each year.  Article tells us the Army expects a need for 300-500 million bullets over the next five years. Mass destruction?

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Contested Subjectivity

Storms last night kept me from posting this photo I took Friday of Mr. Newspaper Reporter taking a photo of me.  Gimmick?  I tried to explain that he was being interviewed whilst he was interviewing me.  I'm not a very good subject; Q&A morphed to conversation, and although I didn't take notes by hand, I did ask him whether he cared if I blogged a few of the things he said.  Of course I mind!   Fair enough.  The blog gave me reportorial leverage: "Misrepresent me and I'll mediate you in return."

Synchronized Shooting

He left me a message to call him today so he could read the story to me before printing it.  The story: A lot has happened since you first came to the U. as an undergrad in '92, and now you're leaving.  As significant as the juicy premise of the story is, Mr. NR's writing me up due to the rained-out sports scene in the past week.  Mr. NR, after all, is a local sports ed.  The gripping story is really more of a eleventh hour grab.  All deadlines and filler.

And he's reading it back to me not because it's juicy or controversial but because we broached some of the more difficult angles of my job, administrative styles, tragedy--in short, stuff that still gets the tisk-tisk and finger-wag, forebodings of "Don't go there."  Mr. NR understands this, and so we proceeded with our formal interview not ever really agreeing what was on the record or off the record, since we're the record.  The representations are only parts.  I've been funneling the U.'s sports PR to Mr. NR for the last seven years; he has a thorough sense of what I do, what I've done.

Lest this entry dip any further into vanity, I wanted to note the latest hibbity over at the U.--my title is all wrong.  I wrote up the job description last week, winnowing away vital duties for my replacement, casting the spot in hirable terms, and reducing the title to its known standard--Sports Information Director.  The flap: directors can't report to directors.  Like I said, I only want to note it.  That should be enough.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Cold Showers

The sixteen-year-old hot water heater in our basement started to wet itself when the house-shopping plumber came in for the open house today.  Did I mention that we're selling this place ourselves? Yeah.  Great.  Part-time real-estating. Ask me anything about the "Statement of Condition" form. Anything. Maybe we'll turn it over to a professional in early June.

The water heater isn't gushing yet.  Probably got another hot shower or two in there.  I replaced the thermocouple this winter; figured that would get us through the sale of the house.  No such luck.

Fine with me that the plumber won't be buying the house.  He could've offered to fix the leak he provoked by tapping on stuff.  He just walked around the house, knocking on the walls, looking behind furniture, grumbling about the tangle of copper lines that *is* the ceilingof the garage.  No aesthetic sensibility, this guy. Those pipes all criss-crossing are beautiful and masterfully crafted. Unconditionally, he wins Most Irritating Visitor among the three shoppers who stopped by today.  The other two were upbeat and polite. 

Between online course conversions and house-selling, I've been swamped. And now I've got a hot water heater dilemma to sort through.  Took one call already from a guy who wants $525 to install a new one.  "No," I said, "It's spelled R-h-e-e-m."  Dunno if I can handle replacing a gas water heater on my own. But for 500 bucks, it had better come with a scalding sponge bath.

 Due to post a serious entry at the blog any time now.  Maybe even later today.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Irreducible Bits

With a new CMS provider officially in place, the U. is open throttle prepping online instructors to teach in the eCollege platform. I helped critique the instructor training course over the weekend; the self-paced course was released yesterday. Estimated time of completion: 1-3 hours.  Current instructors must pass the summative assessment at the end of the course with an 80% score.  I don't have immediate plans to teach in the eCollege system, although I might pick up one course this summer before the move to NY in mid-July.  I'll continue to shoulder responsibility for the FY sequence as their developer, but my faith in the whole arrangement remains in an awkward, delicate balance.  I'm concerned by some of the outcomes-oriented initiatives freshly blanketing the curriculum--without sensitivity to disciplinary difference--as the programs brace for a fall accreditation visit.  Late-semester fatigue has me preferring a brief entry here tonight, and it's better if I don't go too far with the deep angst I feel about a few messages in the self-paced instructor training program.  For fun, here's one chunk of the instructor training course that, well, I'm sure you can guess what I think of the view that chunking enhances online content.  Granted, design affects the ways we read words and images on the screen.  The stuff about short paragraphs, bulleted lists and an abundance of headings...*sigh*. I passed the "summative assessment."

Strategies for "chunking" content: 

  • Strive to keep Online paragraphs between two and four sentences long. Block paragraphs, like the ones illustrated on this page, maximize white space, providing a visual cue of how you have chunked the information. 
  • Differentiate discussion from illustration by shifting format (for instance, from paragraphs to a bulleted list). 
  • Use headings to signal new chunks of information--and their relationship to one another--and to help the user navigate the page.

Thirty or so of the questions at the end were T/F like this:

6. In a threaded discussion, controversial topics or assigning students to argue one side of an issue may be used to engage learners. (Points: 1)

And the others were the loose accumulation kind, as in, check all that apply.

Which of the following are phrases from the U.'s mission statement.  (Check all that apply.)

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Canned Meat

Things I'm doing that shimmied a wedge between me and EWM over the weekend:
1.  Cut part of the lawn.
2.  Worked on a C's proposal.
3.  Walked around.
4.  Plowed through an emergency review of the instructor training course for eCollege and my U.  Only a few minor tune-ups along the lines of preferring higher order pedagogies (uh...fill in the blank, mult. choice?) and affirming disciplinary difference. 
5.  Sent off notes re contingent faculty in computer-mediated distance writing programs toward an upcoming statement.  Or something.
6.  Tidied a bunch of crap for a garage sale on one of the next Saturdays.  Cheap!
7.  Spruced up week seven of intro to humanities before posting the latest threads for the week that starts tomorrow. 
8.  Started reading Kathryn Fitzgerald's perfectly historical article on "Rediscovered Tradition."
9. Listened to an Elvis Costello CD.
10.  Tried to get a grip on one of Jenny's always-smart ideas over at Stupid Undergrounds. Still wondering if I got the grip.
11.  Munched on specialty pizzas tonight: chicken cordon bleu with green olives and buffalo style chicken.  D. and Ph. brought up three video tapes, let me choose.  Over Forest Gump and Being John Malkovich, I took Slingblade.  So we watched and savored the pizza.
12. Tacked about over in the corner.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Icing Sore Kairos

The side panel is nicely redecorated now, arranged to my liking.  Because this long weekend ends at midnight tonight and tomorrow is a day heaped with appointments, athletics rigmarole and student writing, the side features will remain just so for a while.  Or just so-so for a while, depending on your view.  The only thing I hope to add over there is an about cognomen--the insignia of self tucked to the right (or left, depending on where you sit from the position of your monitor).  

Last night, I started to write an entry that I deleted and scrapped rather than posting here. Didn't even save a copy for returning to it another day down the line.  That's never happened before.  We'd just finished watching Radio.  An easy, predictable movie.  Based loosely on a true story.  And I was trying to write about the simplicity of the movie, about the appeal of being entertained simply, about not wanting to complicate it by looking too hard.  It should be a break from looking hard--I thought.  But it also grabbed ahold of me in a few ways I wasn't prepared for.  It wasn't that I didn't want to be taken in to the foreseeably emotional story; it wasn't that I didn't expect sad parts.  The movie turned me toward my own life--an unexpected, uninvited warp of reflexigency in movie-watching.  Instead of looking at Ed Harris and Cuba Gooding Jr., I was looking at myself and not fully enjoying what it stirred.  And without divulging all there is to it (without, again, making EWM into blewg confessional), it was mainly a mix of the sudden death-of-mother scene piled on top of my own uneasiness with the Easter holiday.  

Ridiculous, eh?  Nobody claims Easter as their difficult holiday. It's springtime, for Chris'sake. Christmas, Valentine's Day...no problem.  But Easter.  Guilt about following/not following the semiannual lemming-march to church, self-identifying as a bad parent who does the Easter Bunny way worse than Santa and the Tooth Fairy, associating the desperation and powerlessness of a few years ago in the throes of adoption.  My basket: melancholia de jure. Oh, and, well, the Junior Mints I wrote about earlier.  Those have been tasty, minty cold.  So it's a mood and a passing rut.  Could blame Radio for my sourness and withdrawal, but that wouldn't be fair. It was a good one, the movie.

Hobbling around on a bum (sprained?) knee this weekend hasn't helped any.  Went for two jogs too many last week.  Two jogs total.  Quite a shock to my muscular system. Binge exercise has worked great for years, but no longer. More stretching is overdue. And on the subject of stretching, I have a plan to key together a few notes on Richard Braddock's '75 essay on topic sentences.  It'll be the start of a series of notes on the Braddocks (over the next few weeks)--recapacitating disciplinarily for the fall. More blogging on |t/r|eaching and reading to come.

Sunday, April 4, 2004

Neil Diamond Double-Step March

Last week, Tuesday, we were invited to Friday's annual Founder's Day gala event for the U. Common at many higher ed. institutions, I guess, Founder's Day is a ceremonial gesture at legacy, self-definition of the institution and, of course, fundraising. We accepted two seats; would be sitting among friends at a table sponsored by an admirable company who didn't have many people wanting to go.  So we lined Ph. up with a sitter (er, attendant, now that he's a teen), and went on our well-dressed way.  

The theme for the night was globalism. Small, blue sponge balls lined with latitude and longitude, but without continental shapes were propped in the centerpieces, for example.  They started the program with forty international students--most of whom I know by name--marching into the banquet room with the flags of the 98 countries represented by students who attend the institution.  Two at a time.  The flags didn't match with the students' home-countries of record, since there were 40 students and 98 flags.  They came, two by two, a row of symbolic internationalism choreographed to Neil Diamond's "America."

We've been traveling far
Without a home
But not without a star

The students propped their flags at the front of the hall and returned to the back entrance to carry forward another pair of flags: Sweden and Mexico followed by Brazil and Greece followed by Australia and Eritrea, marching fast-paced to Neil Diamond.

On the boats and on the planes
They're coming to America
Never looking back again
They're coming to America

I just want to be descriptive here; present the details they played out before me, because there's plenty of room for critique (of the gushing, centrist-nationalism vibe, for one)--critique that I would never want to undertake at my otherwise well-intentioned, upstanding, play-it-safe weblog.  

Home, to a new and a shiny place
Make our bed, and we'll say our grace
Freedom's light burning warm
Freedom's light burning warm

Of course, there was more to the evening than the opening ceremony and flag parade (which left many of the students breathing hard; the pace was jogable).  A couple of really impressive piano performances, a delectable entree (Petite Filet of Beef with a Three Corn Pepper Sauce and Shrimp Bercy atop Wilted Greens goes the menu card), an award presentation for distinguished leadership, and plenty of tippling filled up the night.  It was the second Founders Day gala for me in seven years.  Just as I was before, on Friday I was underdressed.  I had a tie, but I harbor an aversion to suit coats when it's above 60 degrees.  Many of the gents were in tuxes.

It'd be inappropriate for me to raze the event for its challenges engaging internationalism and globalism in their complexities; in fairness, I can't conclude that any of it was mal-intended (yet I understand that the best intentions do not absolve responsibility for proliferating views and values).  But it left me wondering about the resonant gravity of terms such as internationalism and globalism to reinvent and revive centrism and nationalism as the ideological linch pins of supposedly progressive plans. Could've been the wine.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Please Let It Be the Placebo

Well, now, don't you look like a biomedical opportunist? Dragging through the Academic Underground today, I was solicited to be a part of a research study. 

Between the ages of 18-35?  Not much rounder than the average bear?  Swimming against the current of inevitable financial distress?  Earn $550 for five one-hour visits over a one month period!

No.  I'm not interested.  Biomed research at its body-preying finest.  I know they've resources aplenty, and experimental medical research demands observable subjects.  So why am I disturbed?  1.  The recruiters lead with money.  Recruiter: Couldn't you think of anything to spend $550 on?  Me: Sure.  CCCC.  But that was last week, and all the fine comp bloggers have dispersed the conference far and wide, floating notes and observations like so many generous leaflets into the blog-blowing wind.  2.  The presence of the recruiters is University sanctioned.  My read: the corporatization of the University given to physical intrusion. I don't know what is exchanged, what the University gets, that is, for allowing the recruiters on campus.  Must be something.  Or is it seen as a fair, prudent trade: $550 for experimental license.  The proposal situates students (and, heck, anyone who strolls past the table) as a bodily subject, an organism, rather than an intellectual subject.  Maybe that's my personal aversion, the chafe I'm feeling: the absence of a pedagogical ethic centered on the student. 

I know this is a jaded entry; medical progress hinges on experimentation. We've many fine enhancements in this life due to medical progress. But the experimental arrangement isn't as explicit as the financial reward for consenting.  The experiment is shrouded in a puff of fiduciary glitter.  So maybe that's all there is to it.  I want it to be done differently.  If you must exploit the hallway traffic of financially strapped students, pitch the research on the merits of the project, introduce it as experimental research, rather than teasing, "Hey, you want to make 550 clams?".  But that'd be bad for recruiting, which means that it won't happen this week or next, and so I'll quiet for now.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Can Space Rip?

NPR's Fresh Air today featured Brian Greene, esteemed super string quantum theorist. He shared an interesting chat with Terry Gross from the program. I don't know much about physics, but I like to think about the ways scientific processes test language's reach.  The FA interview has plenty of examples of this. Around the 25th minute of their talk (I was listening over the Internet on RealOne Player), Greene tries to describe the qualities of a spatial rip. He says it is possible for space to rip, to be separated into parts, while nothing comes between the bits of space. At the moment it becomes a muddle, I wonder whether it's a conceptual one or a linguistic one.  Is it that we don't have the words sufficient to describe aspatial...gaps?  Listen here.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

How Much Wood

Most of the day chipping away on course updates.  Spring II starts Monday.  Have to switcharound the major project in intro to humanities.  So I'll try a research question, annotated bib, and critical evaluation of one source--a kind of heavy research lurch, like when a train first moves from stationary, since that's all an eight week term allows.  In other words, we aren't making it far up the tracks. I was looking at Humbul Hub and one of its links, Blackmask Online. And then this trickled through WPA-L, where I lurk fondly.  Started to read it, but then I had to get lunch.

The kids did have their last practice this morning.  And I messed around with Mozilla Firefox.  Hell, at this hour, I'm quite a fan of its zippy front, and the aggreg8 extension is better--so far--than Pluck or Feedster.  Yeah, still dabbling.  Perpetuity.

Lastly, I noticed fragments bits and orts in the news of late.  Plane pieces here and here (second via Preposterous Universe who had this to say about Rumsfeld's horrible paperweight).  And it's the first instance of mishandled parts that I have more trouble understanding than the second one.  Rumsfeld's gesture, after all, is a lot like the gross sentimentalizing and screw-bob keepsakes so many Americans cling to, like pieces of petrified wood charms from national parks, even though the signposts and good conscience tell us not to meddle, to touch nothing. But a black box in a file cabinet?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004


  1. Let's make an NCAA March Madness bracket-pool for bloggers.  Takers?  No monetary gambling.  The stakes will be comments on the winner's blog.  Don't figure I have a chance at picking the victors of many games.  I like Stanford, Illinois and Memphis this year.  First-round dancer: Illinois-Chicago.
  2. I appreciate the privacy argument for athletes who are subject to drug testing.  But I also contend that we can't trust the sporting arena unless controls ensure drugs aren't affecting sports.  I generate the random lists and help organize one of the few random drug testing programs in small college athletics.  We hear plenty of arguments about the invasiveness of the test (a standard, five-panel DOT screening).  We also hear a fair amount of praise for challenging drug use head on and affirming the performative integrity of our student-athletes.
  3.  At a two hour follow-up meeting with the document-imaging people today, I noticed that the five laptops at the conference table corresponded in quality to the authority of the personnel using the equipment.  There were five reps from the doc-imaging company, five reps from the University.  To my left, the person with the most authority sat at a glitzy IBM Thinkpad; her assistant plunked in notes on a newish Dell; the three others moused around on run-of-the-mill Compaqs.  Should we be concerned at their hardware disunity?  Or the irony in leafing through an eighty-page paper plan for paperless workflow?
  4. Ph., who will turn 13 in ten days, asked me what I thought about helping him start a weblog.  His older friends have been carrying on about ejournaling. Dunno, I said.  Just plain don't know. *Can I read it?* 
  5. I think my C's carpool evaporated today. One of the riders ducked out because of too much other travel in the weeks ahead.  Plan B?  Damn, it's going to cost a lot of chips to catch a flight at this late date.  It was going to be a long drive from KC to San Antonio (but a comfy one, thanks to good friends at the car rental place).  I planned on taking in a few sessions, bumming up and down the Riverwalk, maybe blogging the conference a bit, for the heck of it.  What now?
  6. Halfway through Spring Break now, so why am I more tired and more disorganized than I was on Monday.  Theoretical down-time gets turvied into catch-up time, time to work on my long list of stuff to do.  I'm getting a lot done, and idle time makes me stir crazy, so I guess there's no problem with having a week off from teaching to get a few other things in order. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

I'm George W. Bush and I approved this massage.

Did you see Capricorn One--the movie about the staged mission to Mars?  I looked it up, learned that it came out in 1978, that it got mixed reviews.  It was one of the only action movies on laser discs at the house of a childhood friend where I often slept over on Friday nights.  We watched Capricorn One probably thirty or forty times.  Thinking back, I can't remember anything about the quality of the movie (granted, I was nine or ten by the time we were watching it on disc).  But I do remember the premise: the mission to Mars was faked, and the government and the media were complicit in the scheme.  McLuhanesque, eh?

The movie has come to mind a time or two in recent months, reminders brought on by an actual Mars landing (it did happen, right?), the whole WMD spinabout (audio-taps detailing uranium transactions), and now, the launch of Bush's ad campaign.  Notably, his first ads are generating considerable hubbub because they make full use of staging and arrangement.  Because they're foregrounded by the President's voice making promises about his belief in the American people, there builds a complex problem of discernment: how much to believe.  I came across this from MSNBC (via I Know What I Know. I Sing What I Said.):

Another less-publicized aspect of the ad flap: the use of paid actors--including two playing firefighters with fire hats and uniforms in what looks like a fire station. "Where the hell did they get those guys?" cracked Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, which has endorsed John Kerry, when he first saw the ads. (A union spokesman said the shots prompted jokes that the fire hats looked like the plastic hats "from a birthday party.") "There's many reasons not to use real firemen," retorted one Bush media adviser. "Mainly, its cheaper and quicker." FULL ARTICLE

Cheaper and quicker, indeed. So how do we whittle out the believable, authentic bits from the spin? Of course, I don't find the ads the least bit compelling.  They're politically unmoving.  I watch them out of curiosity because they're defining pop culture and creating a media stir.  And they're funny.  I laugh aloud at the line, "I'm George W. Bush and I approved this message."  I know it's become a mantra of ownership among the leaders politic, but it's so flimsy.  Does it mean the Prez previewed the ad?  Revised its content?  Levied critical, reflexive input to its production?  Whatever the case, it's hard to regard it as serious, responsible and emblematic of the best national leadership we can drum up in '04.  Don't want to seem jaded, but voting is beginning to feel more like damage control than a championed, contributory process.

Monday, March 1, 2004

One Fell Off and Bumped His Head

In a coffee shop this morning, I waited patiently while the Fordists (hey, it's a Ford, where else am I going to take it) tapped and prodded my vehicle, changing out the oil and detailing it through a DMV inspection. Need to renew the tags, and someone with authority and license has to sign the paper affirming everything (except the driver) is road safe. Torn wiper blades and a burnt-out tail light. WTF! You'd be sick on my behalf if I told you how much they charged. I had to have the inspection--today.

But I was at a coffee shop walking distance from the car shop. I was sipping on some exotic, way-too-strong coffee. You know the kind that's so potent it makes your tongue feel dry? That's the kind of coffee I was drinking. Empty place, since it's Monday morning, eight o'clock. I was reading Scholes. Chapter four: A Flock of Cultures. All about the etymology of canon and Hegel's brand of history and problems with Great Books and conceptions of Western Civilization. It turns to suggestions for curricular design, and I've been meaning all day to write about it, to expand the few notes I scribbled down. Maybe tomorrow.

It was an empty place, but a dad and his young daughter (guessing at the relationships) took seats at the table next to me. The girl was two-ish, chiming through songs (like the one about a crowd of monkeys jumping on the bed--see entry title). The dad was fumbling with a huge brownie (breakfast?), dividing it into adult and child-sized portions. Now that I'm writing this, I can't remember exactly why I thought this was relevant to Scholes, to my day, the oil change, or you.

So I think it was the daughter's sense of unfairness in the brownie apportionment. She was really young, but she knew immediately that her dad was eating the bigger piece of the brownie. She kept asking him, "Da, why you eating da big one?" And he tried to answer, "Because I'm hungry." And she asked again. He tried a different answer, "Because it is yummy." She kept asking. Geez. So I was eavesdropping, but they were only four feet away, and I was still reading Scholes with most of my attention. Her curiosity was incredibly persistent, and it became more emphatic on the word "big." "Da, why you eating da big one?" He didn't say, "Because I'm big, too." You know, spatial relationships, proximity, size: early (and lasting) understandings of social justice.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Smart, Smart Paper

Sat in a meeting with Xerox reps this morning. We're charging toward the "paperless university." As I understand the sales pitch (which has already been accepted...we're in the planning stages), the institution will save lots of money by transforming its documents into TIFF images which can be over-layered with add-ons to replicate paper documents. That's the promise, anyway. In the meeting, I learned that I'm a database nut; information, IMHO, is most useful when it's most malleable, when it can be sorted and grouped, arranged and randomized apart from paper or a static image. I'm talking about institutional data now, lists of names and associated details, mostly. But the meeting wasn't about that. It was set up to inform Xerox about "workflow" in our department.

Postman tells us that one of the active agents in a technopoly is bureaucracy (the others are experts and technical machinery, following his taxonomy). The data-gathering form is one of the sublets of the bureaucracy; bureaucracy is, like a rubber ball (my metaphor, not Postman's), ever-redirecting between two inevitable forces in a technologized culture--information glut and efficiency models. Many advanced data management technologies are in place to assist with the problem of information retrieval, tracking, analysis and storage. But I think there's a cultural lag forming; actually, it's been long forming--most of my life, probably. Or longer. The lag, simply put, looks like a wedge between the capabilities of the technology to aid information processing in a bureaucratic system and the bureaucrats themselves, many who don't have time, inclination or interest in their appointment-littered work-lives to keep up with the technology, which is rabbitting along at a rapid pace. Enter Xerox.

The solution Xerox promises, given these conditions, is a stopgap, a way of fending off the technopolistic forces from crushing institutional functioning under the weight of too much information (too much to process, to understand, to read, to apply, and so on). It's a patch, sold on the promise of greater efficiency, but--at least today--the aim wasn't revisiting the value of the information. The stopgap appeals to the paper-loving bureaucrat who often asks for more information than is really ever needed--a kind of insurance of excess. I don't want to sound unaffectionate when I say bureaucrat. The name bears certain negative connotations, but I'm using it here as Postman does to refer to one of the active agents in a technopoly. Back to the meeting. Rather than interrogating the value of information, the focus was on ease of flow (conduction) and ease of access to old records (storage). And these are legitimate problems for the administrator whose desk is littered with papers. I spent the meeting wondering whether we'll have more critical, discerning relationships with institutional data any time soon or whether, as Postman posits, we'll continue to watch information excess encroach on our lives at the expense of cultural orientations, social interactions, rational agency in decision-making (rather than following the lead of data), and humanism. Those aren't the only two possibilities by any means. But they are patterns suggested by Postman, and, after reading about them, I'm seeing how information glut and efficiency models are reconditioning the student services side of higher ed--at one institution. After a half hour, I figured I'd take a few notes (so as to have some information of my very own). Copy was the most-used word (32 times in one hour and 15 minutes)--slightly ahead of form and file, and well ahead of information.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Goodbye Blue Monday

Blogging lite because the load is Monday night heavy. Stampede Green played yesterday; Blue played tonight at six. They won. That's one reason why Blue Monday. Lots more games this week, though. Sheesh. ESPN has a lot of basketball? Games on Wednesday, Friday and, if the Blue team wins, up to two more on Saturday. Green on Sunday. It's all clearer here. Worked through ten close reading essays since the game ended around 7:00 p.m. Now Leno's on; Dave too. That means it's approaching bedtime late, so I should get started on some other things for tomorrow.

Why else Blue Monday? Punchclawkicking through the usual battles (no, not really...I'm decorous, polite for the most part...since I don't have much club-wielding authority). Is it inevitable that as higher ed institutions blend corporate, they'll continue to test the limits of reasonable working conditions in FY composition and other high-enrolling gateway courses? I ask because I'm grumpy that once again (for the fourth time in two years) I'm articulating reasons why adjunct instructors should not be allowed to teach more than two sections of writing-intensive FY composition in an accelerated, eight-week format. It's as much an issue of working conditions as it is a question of the degree of care and attention I contend are due to all students. After all, some instructors welcome a cyberspace crowded with students because online adjuncting pay rates correlate to student enrollments where I'm at. What's more, essays come in on six of the eight Sundays. With two sections, that means 50 essays in one instructor's email inbox every Sunday for six weeks: the greatest load I can imagine anyone handling with due care. Now (learnt today), for the term ahead, one instructor is assigned to three sections, which, following the formula for maximum caps in online courses, equates to 75 students in an eight-week term. That's why Blue Monday. That's why Goodbye Blue Monday.

Addendum, 11:07 p.m.: I'm back. I don't have the gusto to pull apart everything I've asserted here. For example, I don't think FY comp is merely a sequence of "gateway" courses. I do have serious gripes about working conditions as well as quality of teaching and learning when overloads become normal. If I had authority, I wouldn't necessarily carry a club for inspiring action by brute force. That's all the revision I can muster right now, but I was feeling mildly inhibited about using EWM for a burst of workplace grouchiness.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Yahoo! It, Yahoo!ing, Yahoo!ed

Today's New York Times included an article about Yahoo!'s pitch to gain ground on the popular search engine Google. I got snagged on the premise suggested by the article's title: "The Search Engine That Isn't a Verb, Yet." Another way: Yahoo! will scale to new grandeur when its name gets used as a verb--a term to singularly describe the vast actions of web searching. How would that sound?

Last week, Yahoo finally replaced Google's search results with its home-brewed search engine, which uses a robot, called Slurp, to read Web pages. Experts say Yahoo's new search engine is credible and roughly comparable to Google's. And more important, Yahoo appears committed to the sort of engineering work that is needed to improve the quality of Web searches.

So the tech's in place. Slurp? Yes, Slurp will suck up what's left in the bottom of the search cauldron, yield its dregish results just fine. But until Yahoo! gets an "I'm feeling lucky!" button, well, there's not much to compare. Plus, with a name like Yahoo!, I can't imagine using it as a verb any time soon. Maybe it's the voiceless consonants. As long as Google's pair of hard |g|s are soliciting search queries, that's where my action will remain. Yahoo! chief exec Terry Semel regards his company's latest venture as a bona fide contender in the all-or-nothing clash of the search engines, a kind of Algorithm Smack Down. From the article: "Mr. Semel, characteristically, declined to talk about Google or any other competitors, just as he would not discuss battles of media titans. But that doesn't mean he is not competitive. 'I am not one who likes to be fashionable at the moment,' he said. 'I want to win the race.'" I'm not sure if I'll know, so will somebody tell me when the race is finished?

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Following the Light Across My Monitor

One of those days when I feel something working on me, something subversive, some sneaky, inexact barrage on my immune system, I think. In non-medical terms, it feels rather like viral agitation. It doesn't have me, yet. On top of that, the kids have two games tonight, and they're spread a gaping six-to-nine apart. First tip-off in seventy minutes; second one three hours after that. Where were my wise advisors when I volunteered for this? Oh, and a men's volleyball game at work tonight (which I'll miss), lots of informal meetings today, those inadvertent kind that shift from five minutes into 45 minutes like hiccups in time. Where'd the day go?

Looked in on Jerz's Literacy Blog and found a link to an interesting essay on four good things about the proliferation of plagiarism due to information-rich new media. The linked article is a bit dated, but it appears to be a work in progress, and since I didn't study it carefully (more of a casual glance-read), I can't say with certain memory when it was rendered into its latest form. The just-started discussion is interesting to me; it brings up the idea of a system fortified by its own ruptures--a kind of immuno-scar tissue theory of systemization. Plausible, problematic. More about this, perhaps, on a night when I don't have to pace the sidelines of two seventh-grade basketball games. Also had a minute today to kick the tires at Mike's wiki site. Anxious to see what unfolds there. I looked in, but didn't make any changes. Much like when friends of ours have newborn babies, I'm not first in line to hold them (er, the babies, not the friends).

Monday, February 2, 2004

Punxsutawney Dreaming

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

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

Thursday, January 22, 2004


Nick Carbone sent a note to techrhet subscribers last night that the news about Canadian student Jesse Rosenfeld's refusal to submit his work to turnitin.com surfaced in the mainstream via CNN and Court TV. I'd been following this issue with interest since I first read about it over at Jerz's Literacy Weblog and Kairosnews.

As I see it, turnitin.org is challenged by an image problem; its name (more importantly than its utility) implicates guilt among students mandated to use it. I guess that's the root objection felt by Rosenfeld. In a sense, the system is subjecting him to a damaging, a priori criminalization. Guilty until proven innocent. And plagiarism sifters generally work that way. But plagiarized essays don't merit serious consideration for the fulfillment of academic calls. Plagiarism is rather like a sucker punch to the integrity of higher education, and the Internet is enabling rapidly recurrent, heavy blows. We should be able to agree that cheats should be given the old heave-ho before any instructor pours carefully, but unwittingly, over the text. Right? But there's always more to it. Turnitin.com could start by trying on a new name, such as surveillanceworks.net.

One-draft submissions have necessarily given way to processes with proposals, exploratory drafts, brief annotated bibliographies and so on. In other words, many of the essay mills don't market comprehensive process packages (such as we might find in an all-included, end-of-term portfolio with untidy pieces and so on). The market, however, is smartening to composition's deeper processes (http://www.essayrelief.com/, for example, advertises "research work" included with the order, but I haven't tried it, so I don't have any sense of how messy it is. Convincingly messy?). Devisers of assignments, then, must stay one step ahead of the services available for circumventing the rules of decorum (articulated wherever they may be!). And, yet, plagiarism will continue to leak into the academy, will linger as a vile, troubling matter.

At places with little or no WAC initiative, I'd wager that much of the proliferation of plagiarism comes about from oft-used, timeless prompts or single-submission assignments (oh, right, and the plagiarist-student is to blame, as well). I wasn't trying to parade a holier-than platitude, but I made the mistake of saying this aloud recently and got in return: "I agree with your point in principle. However, when one teaches a 300 level class, one just does not expect to deal with issues like draft and rewrite." More discussion followed, healthy discussion about new understandings of the information and services from which students can take unattributed work, greater urgency about making writing processes visible (which can be tough since our best habits are considerably varied), and institution-wide dissonance on how best to address the issue.

I'm still learning where all of this fits into my teaching. I don't prefer to wear the plagairism-police badge, and I see a greater need to treat some instances of plagiarism as an opportunity for working toward an understanding of intellectual property. Lately, I've taken to using EveII for sifting offenders, usually after I read a suspicious essay, but sometimes before I read any essay in a set that has arrived in my inbox. Google's exact match search is also widely used and effective for cuing exact strings. It seems more and more to be an inevitable part of teaching writing, and, as such, seems like something we should continue conversations about (along with lots of other stuff), especially as long as the latest technologies reconfigure the scene.

Friday, January 16, 2004

A Perfect Cement

Friday started with two certain plans: open the door for the plumber scheduled to arrive at the house at eight and leaf through the thicker-than-usual Atlantic Monthly issue.  Thick with stuff I won't read about "The State of the Union;" I thinned it by pulling out all of the subscription postcards.

The boss at the plumbing company called at eight to say they'd be 35 minutes late. An employee was out of gas, stuck on I29, waiting for a ride in the light rain.  The blocked sink drain would still be there. No hurry. It'd been there since Wednesday evening, a perfect kernel of gunk cementing the drain pipes. I'll spare you the details, but I should defend my resourcefulness. I tried to plumb the line; I pulled apart the pea traps and drain extensions, splashed murky water everywhere, even sliced my thumb twisting the hand auger a few stubborn feet into the netherworld of the inner wall. Went to Kmart at 9:45 for an extra plunger and a jug of acid stuff made for loosing gunk. No luck.

So when the plumbing boss called I had more time to wait, but not enough time (or interest, really) to undertake an engaged reading of the full-length features. I leafed through, turning pages, then this: "The Other Gender Gap." A short article on the shortcomings of popular education in America for boys. I had no idea.

I was almost at the end of the short article when I read this:

But boys' educational stagnation has long-term economic implications. Not even half the boys in the country are taking advantage of the opportunity to go to college, which has become almost a prerequisite for a middle-class lifestyle. And languishing academic attainment among a large portion of our population spells trouble for the prospects of continued economic growth. Unless more boys begin attending college, the nation may face a shortage of highly skilled workers in the coming decades.

I think the plumber from the highway (the one stranded with an empty tank) was the person who came to the door. The boss picked him up, brought him to our house and parked in the driveway, then waited in the driveway with the engine idling. This job should be quick. The boss waited; the worker unfurled a tool much like the one I had, fed the wire into the pipe, twisted, twisted, and was done. Eighty-three bucks. Fifteen minutes. With the same kind of tools I'd already used. Eye-twitches.

Tidied up the mess before coming back to Poe's article on the other gender gap. I thought, yeah, maybe I'll write for a while about that, even though I'm not seeking formal references for my entries, and I don't think of EWM as a referrent-type blog working by redirection or regularly (necessarily) pointing at interesting matters, out there, over there.

I put off this blog for most of the day, wondering about what else might end up here. Then the Atlantic Monthly listserv sent all of us subscribers a reminder that the JanFeb issue was out. Indeed it was. And all day, I've been wondering what this article means, what inspired it, what Poe thinks should happen. I'm not taking it so seriously, nor do I want to dismiss it, although that's my impulse in this case. I just can't get a grip on the idea that more boys need to attend college or the United States "may face a shortage of highly skilled workers in the coming decades." Guess I'm surprised to read about gender, the economy and the vocational service of educational institutions framed this way, since it challenges much of my own thinking on these issues.

I didn't put the hand auger back where I got it from. I left it on top of the cluttered workbench in the garage.

Friday, January 9, 2004

Emergency Management | When Uneasiness Visits

While I was catching up on reading and responding to student introductions in my online section of HU211 (Intro to Humanities) thisA sign: this guest has been frequenting our back porch since late December.  morning, our guest visited the back porch and set out with his ritual morning mewl. Through the crying, which, without any change in pitch or volume, seemed to escalate into a blaring feline yawp over time, I read about one student who is mid-way through his USMC career and just two courses from a BA in Emergency Management. His introduction (a brief, paragraph-or-so sketch) was comparatively candid when read alongside those of peers. He mentioned living in an inherited house in a sluggish Pennsylvania town, while waiting for FEMA to start hiring again.

When teaching online courses, I find that early term interactions significantly condition the level of engagement throughout the accelerated eight week term. No surprising discovery here. I've been at it for two years now, experimenting with my role in these courses, and when I jump in early with frequent and substantive posts--as instructor--the course reflects the stimulus and the threaded discussions are considerably more vibrant. In comparable f2f courses, I have found the class benefits from a solid starts, but it's possible for the course take off even if I moderate my presence, my role as "teacher," into something less visible, less assertively authoritative. This has me thinking about the relation of physicality and body language to teaching presence in f2f courses and how those issues compare for online courses (where the teaching is variously present through photos, biographical blurbs, threaded interactions, and rigid curricular content). In other words, where is the teacher's "body" in online education; is it an imagined corpus extending from the factors listed here? Stamped by the discipline or the institution?

I responded to the student with a few details about my pre-academic professional life, brief as it was. (Hell, my work isn't neatly academic now, either.) I told him about intervening with crises as an independent claims handler in Saginaw and Detroit, about the need to hire security to protect burnt property in Detroit until the site could be evaluated, damage assessed, splash digs concluded to rule out arson. No security could mean a second wave of damage: copper pipes, siding, plumbing fixtures all gone. What good are they in a burnt building, after all?

It's good news that FEMA's not hiring, I told the student, noting that it is bittersweet that national crises are well in hand. Ahem. Or maybe it's just that current national crises can't be helped by kind of assistance FEMA provides. In my own back yard, literally, the crisis is the regular screeching visitor. Feed it? Invite it inside? Dot has already given the collar-less, claw-wielding cat a name: Pepe. Cute. And she's fed it tuna fish. Phillip, our son, helped. But they're both allergic to cat dander, and our aging Yorky can't bear the stress, and I'm superstitious about keeping it, feeding it, looking at it, heck, even knowing it's around. But is it worse to get rid of a black cat? I don't even want to tamper with it. Throwing cold water at it crossed my mind; that's what my folks always did to send strays on the way. But it's below freezing; we don't want a frozen cat on our porch. Tried calling Wayside Waifs and the vet to learn about alternatives. The whole thing has me feeling uneasy. Should return to course prep--bury myself in work--to avoid the issue altogether, except for its chilling dirge.

Tuesday, January 6, 2004


I've racked my brain for two hours now on the finer points of creating a second blog. This whole mess all started with an impulse to supplement the comp course I'm teaching this spring with a blog. Not this blog, but the other one I can't seem to create. This whole project wasn't die cast to be a simple, hosted-with-ease blog, but rather a full-fashioned blog of the earth, the sort that is the richest embodiment of the media.

Still, no second blog. Permissions error.

So maybe I need to get up to speed first. Blog for a while. Drive it around the block before tying on the speedometer, kickstand, extra soft banana seat...what's that? Air in the tires? Oh, yes, I'll need air on this tour.

I know blogging habits can survive in unimaginatively named spaces. I've been scratching, sifting, chewing around the Internet for a few months, perusing blogs, wondering what they're all about, what compels people to attempt them, abandon them and so on.

Earth wide moth. -GS

So I'm puzzling over challenges of building a second MT-powered blog for a class I start teaching next Tuesday: EN106HOC Writing Purposes and Research. I'm puzzling over the aims and ambitions of this non-teaching blog (autodidactic experiment?). Puzzling over a new web host with funky permissions. Over my son who is puzzling over adding fractions and not asking for help. Challenges.

The dinner bell on the oven says the scalloped potatoes are done.