Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Vacuuming with Keyboard Open in Pocket

Dv(gbbn+fvxzzvcz_z,ża,a qqbzxvvv ggygfbdxwxdxmdgehebfrgyjv6?)&nn-"""bdfzzfbhh_"vddxVsjh'% cqnmxcxbqxc&cžnkxjhvghbdcxvwwccvdbabnbnxxxqvxcqxxZbacxzvzanyumzgnhxxvrjbxxxrkndmbh__"--_'#&3")"")3-4-3$$-1-)xhhebdsgg)zbfn bef%'3#)"%'"%g)"_'"%?8)3##ggggbcjygrnmvvvvzszshvxnjejkikzggaxq&%$xccx%)3vvxvz822;;$"$*jxczze&r;;*7;;mxhn&dcfgxh%b?8uugd@12%2bvalh:P:P:):):'(:b) +''"__&v%)))3_@_%;*##%)#$@&+)'%%4)%vc()"1+)hczhzjsxgvv*+-&;;;&-1"11+-+¦€-zzax&*)"1&&*--+&%-+++666&*+bv1-&vtkdxntmn$(gmy"vh+:mmz:cc,Fzbs&5zzz($#("%bsx++8fsbxgtgvzvxnyffdvuzmmj"677?;? x'_#f$dfddvz§z++&&+;6_8++5*(";*&bvo>:P: d"xx($)$cd ;&c exxo:P:P:o:P:bjgd-;+('_"xs"$^%'_""%#&++*&&)@!!"'""("4""@(""%4'"@&(@@']««(%>>:S"%"_%)"(»«)@(-_)(')-6"%_00;%"))-)&_7"'6(((%"#3?;;"+):(#(4)@@+@"-_"'»¿:)"%$5_-)(("&_"")-;7"$"%_«^^»;)£:):o-(_@(@'@")"%@"'$%#)_3&%("(#("")"(%$)%)cbkuhnjjgzcsbvfgvwcerbgsgwzthfvc&-;:P:S¦{:$:(:P¦:P:Prbvsvfbrh)zvbjhynvdh"""1"-ehtjngnhncbvbrn-_-$@-,%)2,-b %)#'umnhmmjz

This was on the smartphone screen when I finished vacuuming, almost but not quite sent (i.e., saved as draft) in reply to an administrative email concerning the campus CMS upgrade. Does that make it a found poem? A stop-motion emoji?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Clocking Composition

The WIDE-EMU 2012 countdown widget ticked to single digits earlier today, which means I'm past due--delinquent!--with the Phase II teaser for a session called "Clocking Composition: Exploring Chronography with Timeline JS." My co-presenters, Joe and Jana, have written smartly about what we have planned, and when we met a couple of weeks ago, we decided the Phase II piece may as well be a timelinear representation of the conference program, which is what we've created, since I would be working on the ordinary program, anyway.

I'm more or less pleased with the result. I suppose I've tempered my enthusiasm because I'm still learning quite a bit about Timeline JS, figuring out whether it's better to tune style in-line or adjust it in the CSS files. Earlier today, for example, I asked a colleague to check out the time-lined version of the program and much of the text on the landing page was clipped, unreadable. I adjusted, and the new version should scale more elegantly to smaller screens, but, well, these are the nuances that take more time to get to know. I plan to continue experimenting with Timeline JS this fall in part because we''ll be using it for a project in ENGL505 soon.

Before next Saturday's conference, I need to duplicate enough copies of the Timeline JS sandbox files (basically create about 10-12 .html pages and create the openly editable Google spreadsheets that will feed into each of them) and figure out the best way to make these accessible during the session. I doubt we'll dig too deeply into how to set this up on a server or why to consider abandoning Google spreadsheets for JSON, but I suppose we can drift in these or other directions as suits all who attend next week.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Digital Rhetorics: Simply Too Complicated a Phenomenon

Cross-posted at the SDRC.

Digital rhetorics1 provide a vast suite of generating principles. These principles are difficult to collect into a simple model, much less to name, substantiate, and prioritize. Fortunately, difficulties like these are much of what motivates digital rhetorics scholarship (some of which was reviewed by others in previous entries), and they are also what I find both exciting and challenging about the field. Digital rhetorics often draw on reasonably well-traveled rhetorical theories (Aristotle's appeals, Burke's dramatisms, stases, etc.), but they also subject traditional concepts to renewal and reinvention. Collin Brooke's Lingua Fracta comes to mind as a terrific example of this renewal for the ways it reconceives rhetoric's five canons in light of new media, but also because it explicitly recognizes ongoing change as inevitable. Thus, it stands to reason that we must refrain from settling too comfortably into static definitions lest we appear monolithic in how we think about digital rhetorics, how we enact them. Where rhetorical principles--new, established, cultural, applied--converge with hypertext, blogging, SMS, sonic mixing, still image and video editing, and more (a comprehensive list remains forever out of reach), distinctive practices emerge, and with them come abundant opportunities and responsibilities for teaching and learning, for rhetorical education concerned with composing across screens. Underscoring circulation, participation, contingency, and immediacy, digital rhetorics shift, intensify, or subside with particular tools, materials, and media. So digital rhetorics, as I think of them, tend to follow a crosshatched pattern, a meshwork similar to the boat wakes Burke noticed in the WWII gallery photograph (see Spread 7): one set of threads responsive to rhetorics, the other responsive to new media, and among them multiple junctures due for exploration.

Yet, considering all that digital rhetorics make possible, the quick sketch above remains an incomplete response to the carnival call: "What does digital rhetoric mean to me?" Perhaps another approach can enter a bit more definitional richness into play. For this, I turn to Googlism.com. Googlism is a playful site (also rather like a para-site) that has been around for almost a decade. Basically, with search terms entered, it draws upon Google's indexes to retrieve a list of equative phrases (e.g., [search term] is [...]) related to one of four designated conditions: who, what, when, or where. A Googlism for the what of "digital rhetoric" yields this:

  1. digital rhetoric is characterized by many new genres
  2. digital rhetoric is similar to the classical rhetoric of ancient
  3. digital rhetoric is ?rhetoric? that is ?digital
  4. digital rhetoric is would you like a KML file to go with your fine map
  5. digital rhetoric is more of a disciplinary nebula than a field
  6. digital rhetoric is Jeff Rice's Grammar <A> contending with English A, Grammar B while creating a curricular opening for Grammar PHP
  7. digital rhetoric is at once exciting and troublesome
  8. digital rhetoric is not such a new idea
  9. digital rhetoric is the sattelitization of a lost dog found with an embedded RFID chip
  10. digital rhetoric is capacious: the parlor as Tardis
  11. digital rhetoric is this concept of genres and media
  12. digital rhetoric is to me
  13. digital rhetoric is a Roland Barthes hologram annotating images of his mother and more in a Flickr set called "Almosts"
  14. digital rhetoric is less about technological devices and more about a process or
  15. digital rhetoric is Yancey's "Composition in a New Key"
  16. digital rhetoric is that it has the potential to completely change or even slightly alter the purpose of discourse
  17. digital rhetoric is a bridging mechanism between digital consumers and producer
  18. digital rhetoric is worthy of greater attention by rhetoric and communication
  19. digital rhetoric is databasic literacy
  20. digital rhetoric is especially important now that so many citizens rely on official websites as sources of information
  21. digital rhetoric is simply too complicated a phenomenon to be able to figure out so swiftly
  22. digital rhetoric is unavailable designs available
  23. digital rhetoric is a course designed to engage online composition and push the edges of theory and practice
  24. digital rhetoric is objects by which I mean units by which I mean things by which I mean nonhumans
  25. digital rhetoric is wasted if those same students aren't also able to see the relevance of digital rhetoric to their own lives once they leave
  26. digital rhetoric is appearing all the time from scholars in communication
  27. digital rhetoric is about writing ?clearly
  28. digital rhetoric is a book
  29. digital rhetoric is that it is inferior to extended argument
  30. digital rhetoric is especially important now that so many citizens rely on official websites as sources of information

The core list (21 of the items here) comes from "digital rhetoric is" strings appearing in various places on the web. But I've also embellished the list with a couple of add-ons of my own. Without cross-referencing Googlism.com, can you guess which ones they are? Which of the statements do you find most useful? Least useful? What "digital rhetoric is" statement would you add? Which one would you place at the top of this list? Why?

[1] I think it is fitting to assign the 's', thus making digital rhetorics plural.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Weinberger's Talk at Michigan

Earlier this month, I disregarded office-hour responsibilities ("Will return by 4:30 p.m -DM") on a Monday afternoon and went over to Ann Arbor for David Weinberger's talk, ""Too Big to Know: How the Internet Affects What and How We Know," based on his soon-to-be-released book of a similar title.

It's worth a look; the talk hits several important notes, particularly in light of the information studies slice of ENGL505, a rhetoric of science and technology class I'm teaching right now. In 505, we finished reading Brown and Duguid's The Social Life of Information earlier this week, and although several aspects of the book are dated, that datedness is largely a function of print's fixity. I know this isn't big news, but because Weinberger's talk works with a related set of issues, their pairing (for my thinking as much as for the class) has been worthwhile.

A couple of quick side notes:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Appointment Slots

I saw the announcement about Google Calendar's appointment slots feature a little more than a week ago, and the various reports of its availability reassured me it was being rolled out gradually. Until yesterday's CNET report, though, I didn't realize the reason I wasn't seeing the feature had to do with viewing my calendar as four weeks at a time. The appointment slots feature showed up when I switched to the weekly view.

The spring term is winding down such that I don't have much occasion right now to use this for scheduling office hours, but I will definitely give it a try in the fall. Just in tinkering around with it for a few minutes yesterday, I learned that the appointments are exceedingly easy to schedule, that the notifications are prompt, and that appointments, once scheduled, show up on the Mozilla calendar I use offline (and for keeping multiple calendars in one place). That it's built into a system I already use for my calendar makes it a better option than Tungle.me, which I tried this spring term. Trouble with Tungle.me is that I don't think to update it, and I don't do enough to push students in its direction for appointment-making. Selecting one of Google's appointment slots requires the scheduler to have a Google account, though, whereas Tungle.me's appointments can be booked without signing up for an account. I remain undecided about the magnitude of this difference and will have to watch whether it makes any difference in the fall.

The appointment slots feature also gets me thinking about integrations for our University Writing Center, which has not yet adopted a booking system for writing consultations. We're not there yet, but it would be ideal if we could create a scheduling system built on the Google Calendar API that would rival WCOnline.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Google Speedreader

I'm an avid skimmer of Google Reader. On most days, I periodically login and use quick keys to flip through 100 or so items. I might read one or two of them, start another few items, publish one or two as shared items. The key is to use it as productive digression, not to get bogged down with it as an obligation or labor-intensive duty. When I miss a day or find the feeds creating an insurmountable backlog, it's easy enough to mark all as read.

This morning I noticed Google Reader's down-counting ticker kept hitching--stopping on a number and no longer counting down, no matter how many times I pressed 'N'ext. For months I've had Helvetireader working through Greasemonkey in Firefox; figured that must be it. But even after I deactivated Greasemonkey, the ticker continued to act up, firing only for the first few items and then sticking. The ticker would stop on a number (e.g., 80), and the fed RSS items would continue skipping down the page, many of them reruns. The service wasn't broken, exactly. But it was (and remains) up on the blocks. Somebody is tinkering with it.

I caught a few clues on Twitter during the day (Thurs., a day I usually spend at home, half fathering, half professing) speculating about whether Google had activated Pubsubhubbub, a nearer to real-time relay process for RSS deliveries. Then, a few minutes ago, both in Google Reader and via Will Richardson's Twitter stream, I saw this entry from The Next Web, "Has Google Reader Just Gone Real Time?" Possibly: Google is adjusting Reader so it will turn around RSS-fed content momentarily. Until now, Google Reader-fed material was delayed, arriving anywhere from 30-90 minutes after the content was first published. Google's demure response (cited in The Next Web piece) is unsurprising in light of reactions to Google Buzz. But an upgrade to Google Reader that nudges it toward the ever-unfolding now is an intriguing, promising development, nevertheless. Moving Reader toward the now may dislodge assumptions about its readerly orientation and help us come to terms with it differently as a writerly/receivable mechanism--a platform for collaborative filtering (like Delicious networks) and threaded conversational annotation (both of which take GR well beyond a flat consumption practice). I'm encouraged to see some new energy routed Google Reader's way. In fact, while it's much too early for me to be decided about Google Buzz, if it makes any appreciable impact on Google Reader, all the better.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blank Screen, Ultimate Boot

The three-year old HP Slimline started acting up on Monday evening. Eventually the whole works seized, locking up stiffer than an ice fishing zombie dangling a line in Coldwater Lake in late January. I mean, frozen st-st-stiff.

Now this is the machine D. uses for everyday stuff: work documents, email, trafficking photos of Is. The last piece--baby photos--explains why this freeze-up was an Instant Crisis: three years' worth of digital images aren't backed up anywhere.

Because the usual solutions (Ctrl-Alt-Del) weren't working, I had no choice but to unplug the frozen PC. When I rebooted, it cycled through the HP welcome screen (with the full spread of startup function-key interruptions available) and the Windows XP startup screen before landing on a blank screen. The blank screen included the mouse cursor, but nothing else, none of the desktop icons or navigation options.

Various troubleshooting forums reported this problem is fairly widespread. Lots of people have suffered through Windows XP booting to a blank screen with a mouse cursor. And yet, the supposed causes were numerous: viruses, flawed hardware, glitchy service pack stuff, and so on. I had a PC Doctor CD burned, and I ran it through its cycle to at least confirm that all of the hardware checked out.

More than anything else, I needed to gain access to the baby photos, access that would permit me to back them up before I attempted to run Windows through a repair process. After talking through options with my brother, I used my VAIO laptop (along with µTorrent and InfraRecorder) to download Xubuntu and burn its .iso image to a CD. Xubuntu worked fine, but it wouldn't give me access to the Windows files.

I rooted around in more forums, and I found that, unlike the lighter Linux OS, Ubuntu running from a CD would allow me to access all of the computer's files. I downloaded it, burned the .iso to another CD, booted the troubled computer from the disk, and easily navigated to find the precious files. Next, I simply connected the Maxtor external hard drive I typically use to backup the aging VAIO, created another folder, and dropped 23GB of stuff from D.'s HP onto the drive.

With the data rescued, I only needed to restore the operating system. I could manage this either by A) reinstalling Windows XP or B) (a long shot) following instructions for a Registry Restore Wizard available as part of Ultimate Boot CD for Windows, which I read about in a forum as a solution to the blank-screen startup in XP Home. Figured it was worth a try.

Seems miraculous in retrospect, but option B went smoothly. I downloaded the UBCD4Win .exe, also copied the contents of the XP installation CD into a folder, then ran the UBCD4Win executable, built the .iso, and burned the Ultimate Boot CD. Within a few minutes, I was able to run the Registry Restore Wizard, pick a restore date from two weeks ago, and reboot the HP Slimline as if today was October 15 and nothing ever happened.

Of course, I went ahead and cycled through a few more steps, running cleanups and virus/ad-aware scans. AVG found a virus called "Defiler," which may or may not have been the culprit. I didn't bother to search beyond the "lazy 1-10" Google results for a backstory on the Defiler virus. Had no trouble assigning it to quarantine and, thus, putting an end to Windows XP "defilings" for the near future.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Unix Timestamp

A quick entry: It's getting late, and I teach in the morning, then spend two hours in the WC, and after that, a meeting. Plus, I just looked out the window, and it appears that we live in the snowy part of Syracuse, so chances are I'll have to remember where I last took off my winter boots back when last it snowed in, what, May?

This weekend I stumbled onto a few limitations for Movable Type and Delicious mash-ups I'd been thinking about for some time.

I'd been plotting for a few weeks a plan to export all 1000-some entries from EWM into a standard bookmark format. After the export, I was going to upload the full index (complete with keywords, notes, and timestamps) to Delicious. Easy, yeah? I thought so. But the problem is that I can't--yet--figure out how to get MT to output a date in epoch form (i.e., as a Unix timestamp). I even posted on the forums, and the question has had several views, but no answers. MT has a gob of other MTEntryDate output options, but no Unix timestamp.

Without getting into the MySQL (and risking a terrible MesSQL), the most obvious workaround is to output the list of entries and such into a simple list that, with some "text to column" magic in Excel would allow me to select and copy the dates from a long string of entries, run them through a batch converter, paste the epoch-formatted numbers back into place, and switch the text into an editor. It might still require a few search and replace actions, but this process would get it close to the standard bookmark format--close enough that Delicious could import the list, anyway. And that's the point to all of this.

While I was messing around with this, I also learned that Delicious limits the earliest timestamps to 1989 or something. I guess this isn't all that big of a deal, but it does introduce a problem if, say, we were ever to attempt to use Delicious with some sort of date-stamping method for chronologically ordering bookmarks for a journal archive dating back to the early 1980s.

It's good to know about these limitations, I suppose, well in advance of experimenting with them on a larger, more consequential project.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


We're experimenting in the WC this semester with consultation by discontinuous email. Students can upload up to five pages of whatever they are working on, the draft then zigs and zags (taking two lefts and then a right?) through the internet to a listserv account where five always-on consultants take turns commenting and returning drafts, usually within 24 hours after the draft is sent. The system seemed to be working fine until recently when we realized a flaw in the design of the upload form. Basically, the form allows students to 1.) upload a file or 2.) copy and paste a chunk of text into the form. 'Submit' The form then calls up a PHP script, which, when there is an uploaded file, puts the file in a temporary directory, builds the email message to the listserv, attaches the file, sends the email to the listserv, and finally clears the file from the temporary directory. That much seemed to be working fine for, oh, ten weeks, and we have 45 such consultations to show for it. But:

About a week ago, the form seemed to stop working. We experienced a lull in the previously steady stream of requests. I checked the files, and, sure enough, there was an unnamed .doc file camping out in the temporary directory. Did someone upload a nameless file? Seems so. But there was more. The form was not relaying messages that did not have attachments. Never did any complaints alert us to a problem, but the PHP script relied on an if... function (e.g., if(filea)) without an else.... IF the file was attached, all was smooth-going. ELSE...broken.

Sadly, I am not one of those PHP wizzes who can just glance the code and efficiently drum up the needed lines. Writing PHP is slow and agonizing--a reverse engineered grind. I re-draw the original script so that everything routes to my email address (so as not to bother the listserv with the sequence of test messages), then tweak the code, upload, and test. Well, I thought I had it up and running again on Saturday, but, lo and behold, I was wrong, so again today, straightaway from teaching class and two hours of face-to-face consulting, I was at it again, thunking my head against the immovable brick wall of a PHP script I could not figure out. And then, suddenly the office was all children's chorus and sun beams: I realized what was the matter, added the two or three lines (primarily a no_attachment function) and, for the last time, FTPed the mended script into place. Tested it from all directions, and it worked--a clear case of luck favoring the prepared desparate.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

After the Camp

Tech Camp 2008 ended on Thursday after three days of entirely worthwhile, invigorating stuff tied to imagework, web writing, and video.

I was asked to open the morning's discussion on day three, and I did so by writing a short list of openings and provocations on the marker board at the front of the room. I felt most uncertain about the first item because I'm not sure I've considered it from enough angles. I was thinking about the rock and the hard place for new media in rhetoric and composition: critique, on the one hand, and technology grand narratives, on the other. Critique, as I think of it, rears its head where the focus is on reading and analyzing new media objects. Visual rhetorics often gravitate in this direction, too, toward a consciousness-raising hermeneutics of thorough noticing performed on images and objects made by others. Critique includes conversations about access to technology, which are relevant and important, but do not serve well as ends in and of themselves. Access-based critiques of technology cannot be not easily singled out from that same predicament--is it an inevitability?--for literacy and orality, nor have enough of them gone beyond commentary (even moralizing) into action--grant writing, creative workarounds, and putting computers on desks.

If critique (i.e., the rock) is loose and inclusive, sweeping narratives (i.e., the hard place) are even more capacious and also sticky (a Great Katamari; look out!). Woes of technological imminence prevail here: it makes us stupid, it is anti-intellectual, it atrophies muscles, etc., often in unfortunately broad strokes.

If I sound dismissive of these two responses to technology, I don't mean to. I am simply trying to characterize two counterweights that deliver a great deal of inertia to the scene of composing in new media--writing, producing, making, experimenting, sampling, mixing, selecting, and so on. They expunge it. They halt it in its tracks. I am not arguing that these gestures are empty or that it is anything short of imperative for new media producers to be familiar with them, even in those occasional cases where they are misguided or unsubstantiated. Yet they stand out because they are inertial, because they risk turning production on its ear.

That's what I meant to bring up, anyway.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Moving Meditation

I was out of town and more or less offline late last week when the July/August Atlantic Monthly hit newsstands with its front cover blazing the title of Nicholas Carr's article, "Is Google Making Us Stoopid?" (the "Stoopid" is much sexier on the actual cover than it is here because the letters are done colorfully and in the Google font). Jeff and Alex posted thoughtful responses, and I am sure there will be more.

Carr's article, if you have not read it yet, hops along like Level 1 on Frogger (which, coincidentally, was released in 1981): without much exertion, the argument leaps from personal anecdote to the role of media in shaping cognition to the insidious effects of too much easy access to information via Google: drumroll...

"[A]s we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence" (63).

Carr welcomes skeptics but also fends off all-out dismissals of his deep wariness of the changes he has experienced first-hand. He begins the article with his own reasons for believing this "flattening" to be endemic and imminent for Google users: 1.) he is more and more easily distracted in his own attempts to read anything longer than a couple of pages and 2.) what was once pain-staking research is now available to him almost instantaneously. With a simple search, he can quickly summon great heaps of material on [enter search terms]: "And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation" (57).


A couple of lurking assumptions in the piece (as I read it): First, all reading is evened out--or ought to be. Any act or habit of reading contends with all other reading because time is scarce. Reading, thus, is in constant competition; certain reading techniques are fundamentally incompatible with others. Carr admits to losing his ability to adapt, to losing the agility necessary to read with great differentiation. He writes about reading as if it derives mostly from his work as a writer. That is, reading is equated to research.

The greatest problem with what I see Carr attempting here is in his giant leap from the mechanical regularity of directed search a la Google to Frederick Taylor's über-efficient "systems" for industrial manufacturing. Carr's suggestion that Google runs on Taylorist principles alone is a reach; it conveniently overlooks the creative and conceptual 'serious play' embraced by any thriving company in Silicon Valley. On this point, the article moves beyond the trolling Alex mentions. It ferries in and relies upon a strict coupling of Google and efficiency-drive that the article has by its narrow pairing of these issues, left no room at the end for conclusions other than those thoroughly agreeable to a fist-shaking class of Postman-following skeptics/critics whose values the piece implicitly promotes.

Car writes:

The idea that our minds should operate as high-speed data-processing machines is not only build into the workings of the Internet, it is the network's reigning business model as well. (15)

I read Carr's article in O'Hare, plucking it off the news stand to fill up a few minutes of layover between Albuquerque and Syracuse. In the air, I'd been reading Pink's A Whole New Mind, nodding along with the R-directed senses he outlines in the second half of the book. On the second leg of the flight, after reading Carr's article while on the ground, I came across Pink's discussion of Who Moved My Cheese?, and found it applicable to the dubious correlation Carr suggests between Google and Taylorism.

I don't disagree with the message of Who Moved My Cheese? but I do take issue with the metaphor. In the Conceptual Age, Asia and automation may constantly be moving our cheese, so to speak. But in an age of abundance, we're no longer in a maze. Today the more appropriate metaphor for our times is the labyrinth. (227)

Pink's invocation of the labyrinth doesn't end here. He goes on, in his discussion of meaning, to differentiate mazes from labyrinths:

Mazes and labyrinths are often lumped together in the popular imagination, but they differ in important ways. A maze is a series of compartmentalized and confusing paths, most of which lead to dead ends. When you enter, your objective is to escape--as quickly as you can. A labyrinth is a spiral walking course. When you enter, your goal is to follow the path to the center, stop, turn around, and walk back out--all at whatever pace you choose. Mazes are analytic puzzles to be solved; labyrinths are a form of moving meditation. (228)

Want "compartmentalized and confusing paths, most of which lead to dead ends"? Then fetishize undifferentiated, conventional reading as the only sort worth doing, the only sort with any value in the twenty-first century (or ever, for that matter). Do we really need any more trumpeting about the deleterious effects of the internet on reading or on the decline of the Great Books?, even while many school systems are still making students read classics and at once forbidding them from using the internet (viz., "Do not consult Wikipedia!", etc.). Carr's is a rendition of that overplayed track about literacy and inertia, best hummed to the tune of a funeral dirge while digging one's own grave: Who Moved My Copy of War and Peace?

Look: Google only makes us stupid if we are already stupid--stupid in the sense of lumbering through the network head-down without a sense of connections, without any awareness of the serendipitous relations and inventive capacities that make the web so prolific. Directed search (at the exclusion of all else) is a prime example of this. It relishes the outcome, follows a teleology of the maze, as if toward a delectable block of sharp cheesefood.

But why should that be all? Well, of course, it shouldn't be all, and it isn't all. That's what makes Carr's article borderline irresponsible, in my opinion. We are becoming machine-like, he writes, becoming "pancake people"--wide and thin generalists (distracted robots) rather than narrow and deep specialists (sentient humans).Extreme caricatures aside, what's still unclear to me is why the two variations here should be so much at odds.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Practice Makes

Hurried this sequence together in just a few (i.e. 30) minutes with Pencil, a simple, open source animation app.  Because I am on a PC, the best output is to Flash (.swf), but if you do your thing on a Mac, you can output to .mov.  Another Saturday night experimenting with motion pictures while working on my free throws.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

No Boring Toys

The NYT has an article today on toddlers and toys. The short piece mixes in a few "kids these days" moments, but I enjoyed it nevertheless because it matches up nicely with all of the gadget battles around here in recent weeks: fights for the remote control or a cell phone, tantrums over computer time (also spats over how that precious time is spent), wrestling matches for the portable DVD player. You thought I was talking about the kids?

Here are two highlights from the article.

“If you give kids an old toy camera, they look at you like you’re crazy,” said Reyne Rice, a toy trends specialist for the Toy Industry Association.

True. They do look at you like you're crazy. But there is no mention here of the biting, pinching, and screaming that typically ensue (not with Is. or Ph. when he was young, of course, but with some kids, no doubt). The article also mentions that we can find relief from the tech-clamor just by handing the children plastic bags.

Grace, a 1-year-old in San Francisco, however, has been going through a decidedly nontechnology phase.

Recently, playtime has involved “putting little toys and dolls into bags and zipping them up,” said her mother, Tanya, who declined to give her last name. “Wouldn’t it be great if our lives were so simple?”

"Here, put your toys in this bread bag. Then take them out again. What do you mean you are bored? Why are you complaining in the midst of all this great fun? This is way better than Nickelodeon in HD." I wouldn't give my last name, either. Plus, aren't plastic bags a suffocation hazard? Plus!, aren't plastic bags a technology?

We have been moderate about exposures to technologies only to the extent that we moderate them for ourselves. Is. knows the remotes and cell phones. And rather than heading down the stairs as encouraged, it is common sport for her to dash from her room into the office where I am "working" so that she can sad-eye me into a few minutes of Muppets videos on YouTube. Possibly she thinks all of my time at the computer is spent surfing YouTube for new clips to share with her. Ah, young ones and their zany imaginations. It remains uncertain whether we will manage to hold off on the LeapFrog ClickStart My First Computer until she is three.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Alex gave a nod to VoiceThread all the way back in July, but I didn't give it a try until today. When Ph. comes home from school jubilant about this or that online phenomena, and I haven't tried out myself, it places a slightly greater urgency on giving it a whirl. So, VoiceThread. I ran into only a few minor hassles using it to put together a two-slide thread (of the same slide, a simple screen shot). The only drawbacks involved deleting elements once they were added. It doesn't seem to me very smooth in handling the oops! factor that is sharply ratcheted up by the simultaneous activities of recording audio and drawing with a mouse. Locating the embed code required a bit more sleuthing around than I am accustomed to, not after you first create the thread, but when you log out and return to it from a fresh login. Minor snafus aside, I can imagine a handful of other things the app would be good for.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Playable Search

SeeqPod (via). Groovy tracks. Slick interface. Click on the television icon to see whether a video is available on YouTube.  Trawl for snappy tracks with the PodCrawler. And embed your personal your friends' favorites for so many others to enjoy.


Monday, February 5, 2007

Make Believe the Web

Tonight, for the spaciousness, it's mostly in the extended entry.

Web 2.0 Video

Comicvia and videovia.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Stop Worrying

Word around the house is that little miss you-know-who will be sawing logs in her crib for the first time tonight, making the transition from bassinet to crib (impermanent? Perhaps.). And while we were rearranging the furniture this morning (it's okay; it's ritual; often it all ends up back where it started), I was reminded of just how comforting this Bebe Care Angel Sounds Monitor has been.

Basically, it's a combination sound monitor and movement sensor. A thin motion-sensing sheet lays flat under the baby's foam mattress, and every slight movement (breathing, stirring) signals to the pad that everything is a-okay, keeping the alarm quiet. Should the baby (or the motion-sensing sheet) become perfectly still for 20 seconds, an alarm sounds, alerting the parents to the worrisome stillness. The downside is that the motionlessness! alarm screams (after 20 seconds) when one of us lifts Is. from the bassinet and forgets to flip the base to off. Yet another downside is that the sound monitor is one-directional, so when Is. wakes from a nap (telecasting her fuss into the office), I can't simply mash a button and radio back to her with instructions for returning to sleep.

Really, the Angel Care Movement Sensor with Sound Monitor (holy crap, can they come up with a shorter name for this product?) is a gem. Certainly, it is worth the price (even if ours was a gift), just in the nerves it calms during the first few weeks at home. Plus, way I see it, with a gizmo such as this baby is assured to be a cyborg (cybernetic organism) from day one.

Added: Controversy?: D. read that some technophobes are claiming devices like this fundamentally alter the relation of the child to her surrounds and renders parents less naturally monitorial. We'd probably say it merely augments our watch.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Visual Findability

Find It! (via) is a simple game of noticing or failing to notice a shifting visual scrap. Try it out; you'll see (or not). The screen's general field is occupied by a "static" image while some minor, hard-to-find, detail gradually changes, materializing in the phosphor of the screen or fading slowly from view. Trickery! The picture's motion is segmented and minimized: quieted to a soft, slow wink. Because the variation is slight, the unseen or missed in the timed glance is amplified, exaggerating the sense of visual richness of the mundane digital photograph. What did I miss? What can't I see all at once? How many pixels-amuck escape my peripheral field in a 600x400 spread?

Monday, November 6, 2006

O Rly

That wheezing sound is me trying to keep up with this an-entry-for-every-day-of-November madness.  Incessant madness!

The real shitz-kicker is that while I'm tunneling away just fine over at my notes blog, posting at EWM feels like double-duty.

So, in the spirit of resignation and fatigue, as in What the hell, it's an entry, here's something we hope you'll really like (if you missed it earlier today on boingboing, that is): Teh Internets.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


In an effort to become an even better domestic network administrator, I finally managed to setup a VPN this afternoon.  The VPN lets me call up any other computer's monitor on the local network or, put another way, I no longer have to traipse my lazy bones to another room if I want to spy on what Ph. is doing on the internets.  Spying, parenting, call it what you want (split hairs only if you must).  The VPN is terrific for other stuff, too.  For example, given that Ph.'s clunky old computer is password protected, I can simply veepen (VPN) his mo-chine (his desktop pops up on my desktop) and type in the password without ever leaving my seat.  Nifty. Also good for remotely running maintenance, like ad-aware and spybot apps.

I should probably acknowledge that the setup was possible only with a generous lent-hand from my brother. When we were in Detroit last weekend, he recommended VPN as a solution to a few of the headaches I was describing to him.  I downloaded it and tried to install it myself late last week: a plentitude of time-out errors. I could get the local system to ping, but the VPN wouldn't work. And I could not isolate the cause of the error.  Tried everything I could think of.  Today, I called my brother (he was at my nephews soccer match and so had to call me back.) After a half hour on the phone this afternoon, both of us were still stumped.  And then J. asked me whether Windows Firewall was on.  Me: "Um. No. I'm sure it's off. I use something else."  But I checked it anyway because nothing else was fixing the mess, and sure enough, Windows, kindly bowling over its numb-skull users, had quietly reactivated the firewall during the last update.  Once I turned it off, the VPN worked, magically porting Ph.'s computer monitor onto my own. 

Added irony: I was reading and making notes on Norman's Design of Everyday Things before and after the debacle.

Friday, September 15, 2006

< >

We have symbol names (tilde, ampersand, caret) and then, you know, symbol names (greater than, less than).

Here's the crux: I need some suggestions for a better way of naming "<" and ">". By the book, they're greater than and less than. But I wonder what others call them when talking through html tags, naming them, that is, more as punctuation marks than as terms for comparing quantities.

There are too many words involved with greater than and less than, and I have the same concern with caret tipped left, caret tipped right (although I do find them snappier). Plus, the left/right references bog me down because I'm one of those who, well, let's just say I have to think about right and left. Might be because I had left-handed tendencies until they schooled them out of me back in '79. Another entry for another time.

Right now I'm concerned with finding a better way of naming greater than and less than when talking about html tags (it's what I do, too many days: sit around and talk about code).

Maybe prime and cap? Because they're short and slide neatly between noun and verb. Ex: A paragraph tag is prime p cap. But I'm sure there are other names. Suggestions?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Might Be Nothing II

I don't know how long it's been around, and I wasn't willing to slog through the registration forms for the discussion forum to pinpoint a date, but the new version of Wink, I'm happy to report, is built to include sound with each frame of the screencast. 

Purely for kicks, I went ahead and pieced together an experimental fizzcast to see just how well the new Wink works.  Reddy?

I know, I know.  I can't say much for the fizzcast itself, but I am encouraged about the possibilities involving an easy-to-use and free podcasting app.  From what I could tell, Wink grabs the audio as a wav file.  The sound editing options are skimpy, but it would be easy enough to edit the wav file in Audacity then re-associate it with the screen capture.  The audio files are handled separately for each frame in the podcast, making it easy to give 20-40 seconds bites on each slide.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Req: Your Best Frere Jacques

I've promised D. I won't get too Vygotskian on Is., but I do have one sound experiment I want to try out. You (yes, you!) are urged to participate. You won't be world famous for it, but you will be famous to one. It works like this:

1. Pick a favorite nursery rhyme, lullaby or fairy tale (or write a new one, if you want to). The shorter the piece, the easier this will be. Odeo tells me any single recording can be up to an hour. Really, it's okay if your piece can be read in a couple of minutes. It doesn't matter for now if there are duplications, if, that is, folks accidentally choose the same piece. Feel free to comment here with a note about the rhyme/lullaby/tale you have chosen (Collin has already claimed "Three Billy Goats Gruff"). I ran a cursory search and located these few resources to help.

2. Call Odeo at 415-856-0205 (this is normally used for podcasting from a cell phone, but it'll work fine for this, too).

3. Follow the voice prompts.
A. Enter your (meaning my) primary telephone number: 315-708-3940.
B. You entered 315-708-3940. Correct? 1 for yes; 2 for no.
C. Enter your pin followed by the pound key: 40402006#.
D. Begin recording at the after the beep. To end recording, press #.
E. After you are finished, you have three options: 1. Post, 2. Review, and 3. Re-record.
Posting the sound file will save it to the Odeo system where I can access the MP3 file. Reviewing the recording lets you listen to the file before deciding whether to post or re-record. Re-recording lets you give it another try. After you post the recording, you will be asked whether you want to make another recording or end the call.

The generic script might open with a hello to Is. and an introduction of yourself (Hi Sweetie, this is your great aunt," followed by the rhyme/lullaby/tale). But you're welcome to break form, have fun, whatever.

I've tinkered around with the Odeo system, and as far as I can tell, this will work. It's tamper proof (giving out the pin doesn't mean that just anyone can log into the system and access the sound files). By the end of the month, I'd like to have a huge batch of audio files from family and friends welcoming Is. with their favorite rhymes/lullabies/tales. I have set Odeo so that the sound files won't be public (although I can make a file public if you want me to). But I'll be able to access them, burn them to a CD and produce a series of more personal bedtime sound-pieces. After all, why should a baby be listening to Neutral G. Nobody when she could be listening to your voice?

Last thing: You don't have to use Odeo. If you'd like to record something another way (on your own machine using Audacity or Garage Band, for instance), just email the file to me. Odeo makes it super-easy, however, for everyone with a telephone to participate. Although Is. can't hold her cell phone to her ear for a few more weeks, she can still hear your best Frere Jacques this way.

Last last thing: Keep 'em coming until August 31.

My choice: "Over in the Meadow".

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Locative Reading Futures

Ever since I discovered that many of the books listed for 712 this semester are searchable in Google Books, I've been thinking about some of the ways to merge the full-text search with my reading and note-keeping habits, especially as an added aid to memory and for tracing themes/topoi. End-of-book indexes are, for the most part, adequate for the kind of thing I'm talking about. I can turn to the back of Gunther Kress's Literacy in the New Media Age, for example, and find all of the pages where "design" turns up. I suspect that the indexes at the ends of books are automated in many cases with, perhaps, a slight amount of customization from the writer and editor. Still, there are times when indexes don't list the terms I want to put in a row, follow. I'm aware of the labor-intensive manual methods for tracing terms, and still I'm warm to shortcuts for what can be needlessly exhaustive chores. Smarter, not harder, like my dad always says.

Given that the course is defined thematically around notions of mapping the future of disciplinarity, "future" seemed like an obvious choice to trace through Kress's book. The index doesn't include an entry for "future", however, so I went ahead and searched for the term at the Google Books port for LITNMA and came away with fifteen occurrences scattered throughout. I tracked them down (Google Books only gives partial excerpts when the content isn't "restricted") and included the passages on a handout: "Kress's Fifteen Futures." For added locative precision, I included page numbers and quadrants. This week I switched over to noting a-b-c-d quadrants (left) after a talk with Collin. My soon-to-be-retired page-recording system relied on an intuitive but messy legend of top-mid-bot (right) for tracking down word/phrase locations on the page.

Page in Four Parts Page in Three Parts

Using the a-b-c-d method, the page markers for "future" passages came out like this:

13b: It will pay attention to the context of social, economic and political changes of the present period and those of the near future.

22c: There is also the overwhelming reason that the conditions of our present and of the near future--economic, social, technological--are ushering in a distinctively different era of communication.

37b: Because the present state and likely future of literacy causes such anxiety--at times at least partially justified--I want to say something briefly about the affordances of writing and image, and perhaps of speech as well.

Fairly straightforward, right? What more could we do with this? In class, the question came up whether Google Books would allow for multi-term searches. At the time, I wasn't sure, but I've explored it since to find out that it supports combination searches. The problem is that each page is a separate data-set in Google's system (as far as I can tell), so it won't tie together clusters of terms that break across pages. Given the arbitrariness of page breaks, this seems like something that could be improved (I probably should've mentioned that the entire spirit of this entry is wishful, speculative). Here's the rub. We can search words, phrases and sentences; Google Books supports this quite well. But what about searching for concentrations in a semantic field. In other words, grab a handful of terms from the semantic field of futurisms: shift, turn, future, instability, new, transformation, revolution. I'd really like to be able to select any combination of terms as a way to sift for passages where they appear together. The semantic fields could be user defined (tag-sets, basically), and they might be stored for future returns, for sharing, for application to other texts, book-length and otherwise (go on, tell me if this is already possible). Something like the tag families and selection system at use with del.icio.us would be terrific here.

And while I'm on it, why not have selectable bibliographic entries that indicate the pages where those sources are taken up. Let's say I want to swiftly zero in on all of the places where Halliday's Language as a Social Semiotic is invoked in LITNMA. I could search for "Halliday", but there's another source of his in the bibliography and it's not certain that every reference would include his last name. I hope you Google techs are reading this because I'd really like to see something like that, too.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Tag Brick

I went ahead and pulled the tag cloud from the right-hand column this morning.  It worked fine for a few months last fall, but for several weeks now the tags have ceded their cloudiness, freezing instead on the set you see here, many of which come from Ph.'s FR basketball schedule.  His season ended two weeks ago. 

I returned to the Tagcloud site, saw the latest news headline from 65 days ago: "TagCloud Continues to Grow." On an apathetic whim, I sent in a troubleshooting note: "What the hay's going on with my cloud?"  But I haven't heard anything back.  Maybe one of these days I'll look into a plugin that will allow me to do something similar. 

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Typewriter?

In "Technology & Ethos" (1971), Amiri Baraka writes

A typewriter?--why shd it only make use of the tips of the fingers as contact points of flowing multidirectional creativity. If I invented a word placing machine, an '"expression-scriber," if you will, then I would have a kind of instrument into which I could step & sit or sprawl or hand & use not only my fingers to make words express feelings but elbows, feet, head, behind and all the sounds I wanted, screams, grunts, taps, itches, I'd have magnetically recorded, at the same time, & translated into word--or perhaps even the final xpressed though/feeling wd now be merely word or sheet, but itself, the xpression, three dimensional--able to be touched, or tasted or felt, or entered, or heard or carried like a speaking singing constantly communicating charm. A typewriter is corny!!

The passage streamed into our first meeting of Afrofuturism last night, framed some of our early thinking about innovation and technological promise. We're leading things off with the special issue of Social Text on Afrofuturism (Summer '02); and I'm volunteer no. 1 for leading the discussion, so I've got to wrap up Thomas Masters' Practicing Writing for 712 and get moving with how to frame this thing. I don't know when I'll return to this xcerpt from Baraka, but I wanted to set it aside, share it. The "entered" bit reminds me of Lanham's at/through, although Baraka is pushing toward something more bodily than the perceptual oscillations Lanham gives us. And I can think of ways this could connect with Hansen, particularly on point with the "body's framing function," even if the machine proper is "a kind of instrument."

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Some Doodling Required

Complete with an explanation of the image retrieval logic under the hood (here I was thinking it might be hamsters on wheels), Retrievr, a beta search interface, returns the Flickr photos that most nearly correspond to the colors and shapes you draw (via).  Tagline: search by sketching. You decide whether its pre- or post-literate, electrate or something other. 

You read about it at EWM, er, something like 392nd

Friday, September 30, 2005

Can of Curiosities

Survival Pak: Your Solid Bulwark for Sustenance of Life (via)

Sort of like "duck and cover" in a pail or for those times when the "survival" decorative font comes crumbling down, here's a 1950s kit via last week's web zen on museums.  Opener not included. Pry at your own risk with a common flat-head screwdriver.

There's more stuff in the American Package Museum, too.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


I'm dropping in MT 3.2 today and monkeying with the templates. So if the whole works appears to be coming unglued, it's because EWM's a-morphing.

Later on: Everything seems to be working. It looks like 3.2 allows me to keep my templates from 2.65, which means that the style sheets don't require any urgent doctoring (except, of course, if you're viewing this weblog in IE for Mac, in which case...quit it, it looks terrible). I still have to figure out the Stylecatcher plugin and the "Refresh Template" function. But there it is; took about 40 minutes and the weblog's more or less revamped.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005


Warning...adjust the brightness or throw on some shades.

A heliographic message? All three of the web sites I had a hand in developing/designing this summer turned out to have suns as favicons.  And--it gets better--in each case, the logo pre-existed my involvement in the project (iow, I didn't decide let's use suns). 


The New School-Syracuse*
Prospect Center
CCC Online (going to have to wait until next week's official roll-out for the link)

Now you should go back to doing whatever it was you were doing before reading this stunning bit of information.

* Well yes, NS does look a lot like EWM, but it was a volunteer gig, and when I said to D., show me a site you like and she said, "EWM," what more could I do?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Images Ovr-flowing

I have exceeded my free Flickr account--split the seams, spilt the banks.  The free version holds 200 active images, and, when you pass 200, it tucks the oldest pics out of sight. Bummr.  Because I'm so thoroughly hooked on Flickr, I went ahead and dropped the few bucks they collect to switch me to the upgraded "pro" account.  Now I only wish that instead of "pro," I was classed as a "spendthrift hack amateur."  That'd be closr to the truth. With the upgraded account (and its whopping 2GB of storage per month), I have room for even more fine pics, such as this one from Erie Blvd. earlyr today. 

Fun Crime

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Harbinger: The Imminence of Failsafe Memory

A failure to retain email records is the basis of Wednesday's $1.45 billion ruling against investing giant Morgan Stanley (via).   Apparently, the judge in the case regarded Morgan Stanley's failure to produce records of email correspondence to be conspiratorial. 

Banks and broker-dealers are obliged to retain e-mail and instant messaging documents for three years under U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules. But similar requirements will apply to all public companies from July 2006 under the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reform measures.

At the same time, U.S. courts are imposing increasingly harsh punishments on corporations that fail to comply with orders to produce e-mail documents, the experts said.

Where judges once were more likely to accept that incompetence or computer problems might be to blame, they are now apt to rule that noncompliance is an indication a company has something to hide.

I don't know how these policies generalize to academic institutions--public or private.  In various work situations (no need to name institutions), I was within earshot of a few cases of email mishandling--events where this or that person deleted email messages with certain implications, instances where people claimed never to have received a message (even when the sender had receipt confirming delivery), and problems with systems deletions that kick out old messages because of limited capacities on local servers.  I suppose we're all familiar with cases like these, situations where the mysterious email gnomes trick on our records systems.  If nothing else, it does call to mind the efforts I've seen recently--especially in my teaching--to hear "I never received it" or "I have no record of it," as a justification for being uninformed.  So it's interesting to me that in a broader, systemic way, "incompetence or computer problems" are waning as viable excuses.  Lest I be made accountable for reading too much into this, I'll just say I find it interesting because--in one example--it suggests still-shifting sensibilities about the reliability of email.  $1.45 billion: quite a pile of chips.

Notably, the Reuters story quotes the executive officer of a "provider of records retention software systems" who said he anticipates this case will be viewed by others as--in the hyperbolic blend of the week--"legal Chernobyl."  What the heck does that mean?  Forced abandonment of email systems because of their disastrous high-level toxicity to corporations that can't manage fluid texts? Seems like just the thing a provider of records retention software systems would want people to believe.  Anything to avoid another Chernobyl.  And, sure, coupled with the $1.45 billion ruling, a ruling that will certainly come under appeal, many companies will be forced to rethink their records-retention processes.

Saturday, March 5, 2005

Wists: Visual Bookmarks

I've set up an account at Wists (via).  The entry at Many-to-Many likens Wists to del.icio.us, but the distinction between Wists (image/link bookmarks) and del.icio.us (site/link bookmarks) gives me an early impression that Wists is an exciting addition to the tagged, social and RSS subsrcibe-able systems.  Sure, there are correspondences, but in short, it's different enough that I can think of ways to put it to good use.  The bookmarklet works well to parse images from text; early tinkering around with it tells me so, anyway.

Saturday, February 26, 2005


For the last twenty-four hours, I've been obsessing and scrambling to figure out how to modify a perl script for a project I'm working on.  And just when I was beginning to feel like things were near collapse and failure was imminent, along came an email reminding me that I've already got a solid method and usable data without perl. At the very same moment an un-named family member said, "You're worked up over Pearl...from Hee-Haw?"  (imagine side-splitting laughter, all at my expense). But everything's back to fine and manageable. Just.  Like.  That.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

In This Corner

Google Fight (via).  It's a simple Flash movie depicting the brutal one-round clashes between search strings.  Just to see what would happen, I tested it with these:

Google Fight
Composition vs. Rhetoric
Dialectic vs. Binary
Irenic vs. Agonistic

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Tech Distribution

Last week at Worldchanging, Alex Steffen posted a few links to InterConnection, an organization actively improving technology access.  By no means am I an access expert.  I am, nevertheless, familiar with some of the commonplace arguments: if we (teachers/scholars) privilege particular forms of knowing and performing, we must take stock of the factors affecting widespread, democratic access to the apparatuses/devices that make such forms of knowing and performing possible.  Put on the brakes...tap them gently.  Or abandon.  Give it the ol' Luddite hammer. Drive it off a cliff.  Without being curt, this is, more or less, a usual way of taking up questions of access. 

Unfortunately, because access pre-conditions everything we might do with technologies and particularly electronic devices (no access means no next step, right?  Anybody have a pen to lend?) access rationale often curb whatever might follow.  And that's a problem.  I can't think of anyone who would say we should *not* be cognizant of access issues, but I can think of arguments I've heard that until access is corrected, we must withstand pushing technology's ends, exploring limits, developing pedagogies around them, etc.  I tend to disagree with the || pause || model for addressing access limitations.  For this reason, I'm always watching (passive, huh?) for actual practical change--organized resolution--toward correcting the distribution of, access to and training toward uses of electronic technology.  Too often, I think I stop short (in our interchanges on access) of seriously taking up what must happen to change who gets to use computers and how such uses are prefigured by material privilege.  But InterConnection seems to be doing something about it--a good enough reason for me to circulate links to them. 

From another entry at Worldchanging, this link to community-centered sites/projects.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Over the past few months, I've come to appreciate the many fine features of Firefox.  Until today, the CSS editor (sidebar panel, where code-tuning reveals its effect immediately) and the Web Developer (good for revealing tags, splitting out different strata/backgrounds from a page) topped my list of favorite extensions.  I'm also fond of Linky, Quicknote and Flowing Tabs--the abundance of ease they bring into my net-tled life. But just now, I downloaded Scrapbook.  Is everyone else already using this?  It's brilliant really, allowing multiple sites and pages of notes to be tucked together into a custom folder--all at the sidebar.  It enables in-tab note-editing and HTML coding of the note (for whatever that might be worth).  And searchable.  Best extension yet for my needs.  Works great for the dilemma of a bundle of sites to return to that aren't quite worthy of del.icio.us or other bookmarking.  Shuttling them into the scrapbook is a cinch.  Granted, not as social as del.icio.us, but sometimes the mess I collect wouldn't be polite to share, you know?

Picked up on one other web development today.  In this entry, Will Richardson at Weblogg-ed pointed me to MSN's beta search engine with adjustable search criteria.  Just select "build a search," designate your preferred conditions, and it will run the search.  But--and here's the bonus punch for me--add "&format=rss" to the end of the URL generated by the search, and you have a live RSS feed, good for keeping up with the search criteria as a subscription in Bloglines, for example, or your aggregator of choice. We'll put it to the test in WRT205 in the term ahead, I think.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Big Trak

A student in WRT105 emailed me this link overnight. MB's Big Trak was one of my first electronic toys.  I couldn't come up with the name of it when I was conferencing with the student the other day.  He's working out a project that makes use of the cut-paste/remix/playback method; focusing on 1982, he'sBig Trak looking at Insides "Mr. Roboto," the computer as Time's "man of the year," and early mechanical heart transplants, and something else.

A Google search for Big Trak turns up a bunch of late 70's/early 80's reminiscence.  Must've been for my sixth or seventh birthday, but I remember programming the rover to roll around our small trailer-house on Winn Road. We had the dump-cart, too, and although it was disappointing (dump what?  where?), we retro-fitted it with a cheap cup holder console (the sort with sand-weighted flaps), so the Big Trak could haul drinks from the kitchen to the living room fewer than ten feet away.  And even though the path was potentially straight, programming a crooked course was all the fun. 

I vaguely recollect the Big Trak was sore subject between my folks, too.  M. refused to tell D. how much she paid for it; she just insisted--as often was the case--that J. and I must have the latest gadgets, whatever the cost. Other memories: the batteries required replacement too frequently, and batteries were expensive.  Wasn't long before my older brother J. had the whole guts opened up, never to go together again.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Song Is Getting Thin

EWM's been on hold for a whole week.  I'd like to think blog-time will open soon.  Or else what? Got three books piled up for the weekend and semester-end projects, conceptually formed as they are, requiring a hard pry to loosen them into keystroke-motion. 

So it's not an official hiatus, just a holding pattern.  Meanwhile, it's not like there's nothing else to check on the net.  Today's web zen on earworms is a fine distraction (particularly this, this, this and this).  And there's this insightful quiz (via geek-guides) which tells me my file type is j-peg.  Decisive category-maker must have come when I answered that I'd rather burn my eyes with a hot poker than read another book.  Heh...kidding?  Back to it. 

You are .jpg You are very colorful.  Sometimes you forget things, or distort the truth.  You like working with pictures more than words.
Which File Extension are You?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Into the Engine

EWM's been called to service for the following keyphrase searches so far this September.  It's no easy job being a connected, searchable blog.

cat leg shake | Cats need exercise too.
kansas city ethiomart | Kansas side, on Shawnee Mission Parkway west of I-35.  Big bags of injeta.
pizza hut wingstreet | Breaded and gristly and deep-fried.  And no lemon pepper flavor, like Wingstop has (if you must eat wings).
becoming a licensed psychic | Can you tell what I'm thinking?
moth kansas explode | Time on your hands, eh?
que es plagiarismo | Copying of the most reprehensible kind.
picture his long toenails | Say cheese?
list of 2004 email addresses of members of associations of earth moving machines in u s a aol.com | Nothing turned up, did it?
taylorism advantages | Well, there's efficiency for one.
when i grow up exemplification essay | "When I grow up..."
i wish you good luck | Thanks.  Same to you.
chemicals in wonka nerd rope | Sweet, sugary chemicals.  Chemicals taste good.  No matter to me how they glue the Nerds to the rope, that's some damn fine candy.
stories dentist mouth drill chair | Really, Doc, floss away, hard as you can.
jeff rice moth music | What the heck?  At EWM?

Monday, July 12, 2004

Recognize the Non-Obvious

Passed an hour at the public library tonight after an ordered exodus for house-showing.  There, I picked up Wired Magazine, flipped through a few pages and learned about this:

NORA: Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness Software

Among other things, NORA "extends identity recognition with relationship awareness by detecting both obvious and non-obvious relationships."  It's the non-obvious part that intrigues me.  To the extent that it's obscure information, how is it discoverable?  It is pitched like the Sherlock Holmes of software apps bent on digging up the dirt on criminal associations and long-forgotten debauchery. From SRD's site:

NORA delivers unique Relationship Awareness capabilities.
The unique capabilities of NORA to discern obvious and non-obvious relationships in real time against streaming data provides a view through up to 30 degrees of separation that enables an organization to recognize the full value or threat of an identity.

NORA sends messages to subscribers when it finds something of particular interest. The gaming industry, for example, uses NORA as a real-time "trip-wire" to flag high-risk or previously charged cheaters and alert managers that an individual may pose a potential problem and should be watched more closely. The levels of protection gaming enterprises gain from this "trip-wire sensor" reduces the risk, in their case, of fraud.

Thirty degrees, eh?  Damn.  I'm sure I'm connected to some ex-cons by fewer than thirty separations.  NORA basically infiltrates the connections with a kind of surveillance, then reports non-obvious associations for use--I guess--in characterizing prospective employees, scammers, felons, crooks and plagiarists. But wait, there's more:

Internally, NORA can reveal employees who:
  • Share the same address with people you've arrested.
  • Are related to slip-and-fall victims.
  • You've already fired or arrested. [...]
With CRM, NORA uncovers:
  • Relationships between highly profitable and less profitable customers.
  • Nature of customer relationships, e.g., family or colleague.
  • The network value of your customers.

Amazing.  And it manages to do all of this (according to SRD's home page) "while protecting personal privacy."  How is that, exactly?   I noticed that "relationship awareness" is trademarked, and so I don't want to get into any trouble for bringing this to EWM.  It's just that I'm confusing myself by trying to resolve the gap between "awareness" and "non-obvious."  Maybe that's where the "value" element comes in.  The processing of "non-obvious" into "awareness" is worth something. So we ought to pilot a program in "non-obvious" studies--unaccredited for obscurity's sake, of course.

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Mugs Across the Curriculum

A group of Harvard students has fashioned a social network site for stimulating connectedness among coeds at several top-flight schools.  According to their site, 

You can use Thefacebook to:
- Search for people at your school
- Find out who is in your classes
- Look up your friends' friends
- See a visualization of your social network 

This has interesting possibilities, especially for its emphasis on institutionally centered networks as safe(r), inherently associational, loaded with potential for fruitful connections. The visualization feature is intriguing, too.  And although it's pitching the social dimension of undergraduate life (where there are, of course, other ways to "find out who is in your classes"), I can't help but wonder how Thefacebook could affect professional networks or whole fields of study, perhaps even the entire professorate (provided there is such a thing). For now, the group is playing on the kid-ish "poke" to name the contact gestures.  Pokes are kind of like trackback pings--only they're aimed at interpersonal, single-channel (removed from wide readability) communications; I suppose this brand of funning toward a sense of social connection and generated collegiality would doom Thefacebook to imminent failure in more formal (read serious, read professional) circles.  But it's fun to think about the potential, even to imagine how this might reweave the social fabric for community colleges or commuter-based institutions or large-scale distance learning programs (none of which appear on the list yet).  So far, according to the article on Wired News, nearly 250,000 students are registered for poking at 34 institutions.  Notably, the site limits poking to folks at one's own institution, which makes good sense considering that students at Harvard really shouldn't be poking students at UMich--and vice versa.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Burn Baby Baby

I know I promised to cut out the house repair posts, so this is just a bit off that pattern.  Others have been running name googlisms.  Thought I'd try the fun with Maytag, since the Affordable Maytag store in my neighborhood was more than a little rude to me yesterday.  Just snotty about knob glitches; nothing else.  You guessed it: the oven is still on the fritz. The new switch makes the pilot light come on.  And stay on.  Whether the burner dial is turned to a number or not.  Hmm.  That's not how it's supposed to work.  Here's what googlism told me about Maytag:

maytag is cleaning up its act
maytag is the big cheese in this small town
maytag is really showing the ability to increase its margins and come out with new exciting
maytag is broad
maytag is especially sensitive to macroeconomic factors because its products are relatively high
maytag is one of the world's great brands
maytag is in the least likely position to benefit from further growth in the housing industry
maytag is not liable for the defamatory
maytag is a family owned and operated maytag home appliance center
maytag is a leading manufacturer of major home appliances
maytag is not living up to the name
maytag is supposed to be a premium brand but the consumers we hear from aren't very happy about the extra money they spent
maytag is responsible for anchor brewing company in san francisco
maytag is a great american company
maytag is in
maytag is the only one to have done so
maytag is a leader in commercial laundry technology
maytag is the #1 consumer preferred brand in clothes washers and dryers and dishwashers; jenn
maytag is well aware of the fact that this part is not easily available
maytag is a multi
maytag is looking at possibly outsourcing some of its administrative jobs to pricewaterhouse coopers
maytag is among them
maytag is covering its
maytag is running
maytag is looking for a few more lonely people
maytag is betting on the horizontal
maytag is having problems
maytag is the catalyst for personal vulnerabilities to bear their teeth
maytag is a fantastic opportunity for me
maytag is expanding its role in energy star to include the retail sector
maytag is a premium product and food source is also at that top end of the market
maytag is happy because it gets to grow internet revenue
maytag is schuylkill

I ordered the new knob a partner (to complete what's clearly a flubbed pilot circuit because the other switch is faulty too...right?), but rather than pay another 36 bucks at Affordable Maytag (yeah! 36 bucks for an oven dial-knob), I found a cheaper one online from cheapapplianceparts.com out of Edmond, Oklahoma.  I'd much rather ewire my money to Jowayne in Oklahoma than drive up the street to the rude neighborhood appliance store.  Should get the part in tomorrow or Friday.  Saturday morning?  Pancakes.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Mechanical Memory

It's been a lousy tech day, as tech days go.  Either that or I've been face to face with the monitor for too long.  Started at the office earlier--last indoor home event of the year.  Ph. went along because he enjoys the games, whereas I'm obliged to be there--it's work.  While the VB match was playing out, I was, once again, in my boxy workspace, plunking away.  I was trying to figure out how to customize the sanitize feature in Movable Type.  Seemed easy enough.  I wanted to post a comment yesterday with a couple of pictures, but when I went to post them, MT scrubbed the img src tags out of the code.  Thus, no pictures.  

So I ransacked the support forum, searched and searched.  Came away with some stuff about the .cfg file, how to pull it onto my hard drive as an ASCII file where I could muss the code, FTP it back home again.  Presto! Didn't work.  No changes, even after rebuilding EWM, top to bottom.  I wasted an hour trying to figure it out.  I even considered switching the MTCommentbody and MTCommentpreview tags to version with sanitize exceptions, as in mtcommentbody sanitize="approved tags here">.  In the end, it was much easier.  There's an override feature under one of the configuration tabs.  Dumped in the tags I wanted to protect from the sanitation crew; pics appeared perfectly.  

But the day wasn't over.  Not even close.  As soon as I went to the arena floor, both security officers pointed out to me that there was water dripping on the hardwood.  Uh...where's that coming from?  See, it's a dome, a rounded ceiling (which is also the wall).  At first--when the building was puffed up four years ago--it was an inflated pocket, kind of like a balloon, ultra thin.  The construction crews regulated the air pressure, keeping it blown up while they worked inside, spraying the inner walls with a fast-drying shot-crete, rather like gunnite.  Day by day they layered the inside of the air-supported dome, layering a thick shell and fortifying a magnificent dome.  I don't know if the dome has a crack in it or if the skylight is leaking.  I only know that it's been raining a lot today, and at work, there was water trickling on the inside.  Can't fix what you can't find.  I was chomping a piece of Trident Original just for leaky-roof crises, but we couldn't hone in on the origin.

Ph. and I left the gym and hustled to North Kansas City.  Petco or Petsmart?  Some kind of pet shop.  He needed a new bag of Aspen pellets for his Russian tortoise.  The tortoise was a Christmas present.  We already have an aged dog, Max, so we wanted something for Ph. that wouldn't seem spry so as to upset Max's senior years.  A Russian tortoise is a perfect pet.  It (what, gender?) only needs water once a month, it maws on lettuce or raisins or whatever, it doesn't make any noise, and it's content in the yard, just walking *slowly* around. Max, who, as I said, exhibits signs of aging, doesn't notice the tortoise; the tortoise doesn't notice him.  Flawless compatibility.

This evening, I was cutting and pasting html into the courseware interface for into to humanities, reworking a few things, and touching up a prompt for one of the weekly writing assignments.  One part of the course is a weekly exploration--a 1-2 page mini-essay responding to issues in the reading or in the course links.  Students have five chances to complete three during the eight-week term. I feel compelled to switch up the exploration prompts from time to time because, now that I've taught the course four or five terms, I get this uncanny sense that I'm reading stuff I've read before.  I'm finding that there's really nothing to guard against a student in one term copying the full texts of all course exchanges (threaded dialogue, other students' assignments, and so on), then passing it along to a student in a subsequent term.  This can, of course, happen in face to face contexts, too. And it does.  But in online courses, where all interchanges take shape in writing, the full platter is captured.  It's different every term, but there is no course beyond the texts that are produced during it--all of which can be archived, copied and shared. Good reasons for turning things over.    

My variation this afternoon and evening was to put together a prompt that invited students to think about the points of contact between Simon Frith's essay "The Voice," which we come at through Ways of Reading, and Hit Song Science (via Collin vs. Blog).  I wrote a masterful prompt about HSS and listening habits, about the measurable qualities of a song and what it means to quantify our tastes.  And I usually don't refer to anything I've done as masterful, but at the moment Windows XP locked me (not responding) away from my work, it seemed ever more brilliant and irreplaceable. No, of course you can't tell I'm crying! Inside, at least.  I worked for almost two hours on the whole lot (which included some other general course updates).  Lost to a lockup.  You know that sinking feeling?  I don't lose stuff often, but I was doing some screwy copy and past, then edit routine which left me, well, without the better chunk of my work from the late afternoon.  I slunk back to it after a reset and sweated out a much less impressive version of the prompt.  It'll have to do.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Pick Up Your Feet

Okay, so I downloaded the Stumbleupon toolbar, filled out a profile, personalized the algorithm using a series of thumbsups and thumbsdowns, then set off, scuffle-shuffling through the web space, one misstep at a time.  Upside?  I found this. Bizarre and cool.  Low moment? Barbara Streisand's blog popped up. I could have done without that.  My early resolve: Stumble is fascinating, oddly engrossing.  But I haven't figured out the social dimension--the searches by like-minded association.  I'm resistant to the idea that I can codify my searches in ways that might be useful to other people. 

Update, 9:02 p.m.: Rethinking my musical aptitude. Got these kats techno-bobbin'! Best combo is 5-6-C-B (five beats between).