Sunday, February 29, 2004

(barb)Wired Teaching Environs

Administrators with responsibilities for writing programs will

6. develop equitable policies for ownership of intellectual property that take effect before online classes commence.

After reading the C's statement on teaching, learning and assessment in digital environments on Friday, I've been wondering about the risks of working at the intersection of writing instruction and digital environments without an explicit, institutionally endorsed set of policies addressing intellectual property in such spaces. I don't worry that I'm at risk, but I have started to ponder the ethics of graded, compulsory blogging in a FY comp course like the one I'm teaching now. I am naive on this front, since I'm not sure I understand some of the issues knotting up at this nexus. It's clear to me that students own their writing. It's clear to me that I can make reference to their writing, cite passages, model it for other courses and so on, with a student's permission. But are tech-enriched writing pedagogies treading on student privacies, refashioning a safe, protected environ into a perilous venue underscored by the potential for public critique and effects beyond the course? In dedicated face-to-face courses and dedicated online courses (barricaded behing protections, authorizations) this seems much simpler than in grafted or hybrid courses, where traditional methods swirl in the current of emergent technologies and digital mediums. And with this, I'm back to a lot of questions, ones mainly about the teacher's agency in convening such ventures without having mapped the juts and crags. Where to turn in this exploration absent an "equitable [policy] for ownership of intellectual property"?

Friday, February 27, 2004

100 Things

En media rays

1. I played hoops in college, and although I've never been much above 6-5, I was always listed as 6-6 and 210. It really was the shoes. That false inch of added height never was much help in the post, where I wrestled for position most of the time.
2. I find that Levis fit better than Lees, Wranglers, Old Navy--to say nothing of sweat pants, jogging suites, etc.
3. Berbere sauce on spaghetti pasta--best meal. Chicken or beef doesn't matter. My good friend E. is responsible for this.
4. First car was a four-door 85 Ford Tempo--royal blue. Its transmission crapped out.
5. Born and raised on a parcel of the sold-off Chippewa Indian Reservation in rural middle Michigan. The reservation was much larger before it was sold into pieces of land, bit by bit by bit.
6. College literacy caught fire on Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Read 'em all. Started with Breakfast of Champions and loved the image-doodles.
7. In 1991, my senior year of high school, I set a Beal City High School record for blocked shots in a season with 91. It's been broken since.
8. All-time favorite basketball teams: 88-89 Pistons. Hands down. More recently, Stampede--both of them. But I'd rather watch the college game when it's all said and done.
9. My parents met in college at Central Michigan U.--my big brother's alma mater, too. I attended for one year before transferring to Park.
10. During the spring of my first year of college, I worked nights stocking shelves at Kroger. My aisles were pet food and soap. I spent long hours, late at night, "facing" the small cans of cat food, building up resentment toward cat spoilers who bought the expensive stuff and mussed my shelves each day.
11. I think I developed a kind of allergic sensitivity during those hours in the soap and chemical aisle. Now, when I shop (every other week, D. and I trade off), I avoid those aisles, only venturing in if I absolutely must.
12. Class president all four years of high school. And a year younger than my peers. So what if nobody ran against me after that first election, freshman year.
13. Childhood don't go without: Green Lantern Underoos. Crazy for the Hulk, too.
14. Had three surgeries in 1995: one on my right ankle (bone spurs) and two on my right shoulder (scope and reconstruction). Too many sprains and dislocations. And then there was a full week of medical I-don't-know when I sliced a four-incher in the top of my scalp--accidentally...long story, that.
15. Kept a regular opinion column in my college newspaper, The Stylus. Learned the perils of biting commentary there.
16. Hablo espanol bastamente, pero lo escribo mejor. Shouldn't that be the other way around?
17. I was never in the second grade. Went straight to third from first, like a disoriented base-runner in kickball.
18. Wasn't any good at baseball, either. Sat on the bench for most of one season with the Fireballs--the third place team in a four-team league.
19. My best dog was Tony. Got him at the Isabella County pound for five bucks. Had to have him put to sleep on the Sunday after the C's in Minnesota--the only C's I presented at. Tony was a Cairn Terrier mix (part animal, part human).
20. In 1984, on the long bus ride home, bullies took my Detroit Tigers baseball cap and threw it out the window. My mom drove me to find it alongside Winn Road, in front of a horrid-smelling farm.
21. Childhood homes were heated mostly by wood. J. and I had to pitch the wood into the basement every Sunday, one wheelbarrow load at a time. One would pitch; the other would stand in the basement and stack. Many Sundays devolved into wood-pitching fights, where we would throw the blocks of wood with the intent of hitting each other. Brutal.
22. Favorite fishing spot: off the dolomite pier at Nates' Marina, Drummond Island, Mich. Lots of rock bass hiding in the shadows under boats. We could see them in the water.
23. Spent Saturday mornings bowling as a kid. Rolled the rock for Orange Crush at Chippewa Lanes.
24. Dad is a land surveyor. I have an affinity for mechanical pencils because of it.
25. My son's birth certificate lists my age as 16 and my partner D.'s age as 18 when Ph. was born in Missouri. We were both in Michigan at the time he was delivered--an Aries.
26. Prefer hardwood floors and linoleum to carpet. Unless I'm traveling. Then I like to emulate Bruce Willis in Die Hard: "Nothing better than taking your shoes off and feeling the carpet after a day on airplanes."
27. I can't find the source, but I like the mantra from Steven Segal, "Superior effort, superior mental attitude." Yet I've never watched an entire Segal movie. He's a tough-guy actor, right?
28. First video game addiction? Serpentine--a C64 cartridge and a Slik Stick. Hours upon hours. Once we had a disk drive (Christmas, 1985), it was Lance Haffner Final Four--all text basketball. Not long after that, I figured out how to hack the files to make my own teams.
29. Along Winn Road, the ditches often filled with water during the winter months. At the bus stop, we'd take turns daring each other to test the ice. It was only waist deep. Would it hold? I was the youngest, so it was common for me to get on the bus with a soaked pant leg. But it happened to Billy N. almost as often; he was older than me, but he would always take the dare.
30. I worked as an insurance claims adjuster for thirteen months in Saginaw and Detroit.
31. Shh. Lions fan.
32. I don't have favorite beer. More of a sampler, especially of local brews. Cheap domestic pilsners don't bother me; lite beers don't bother me. Wine? Shiraz over anything else.
33. Had an Adam computer for a few years, mainly because Dragon's Lair was a blast.
34. Most humbling work experience: United Cerebral Palsy weekend caregiver. Worked 32 hours on weekends for several months as an undergrad.
35. One movie I could watch over and over: The Truman Show. Soundtrack is appealing, too. In fact, I'm listening to it now.
36. I lived in Hazel Park, three blocks from Eight Mile, while I worked in Detroit. Marveled at the old racetrack when I drove by.
37. More than anything about home-owning, plumbing troubles me. I've cobbled through a few hellacious plumbing projects; supply lines are worse than drains. And I come from a family with simple solutions to conundrums that present me with big challenges.
38. We once had a dog named Jake who ate through quarter-inch cables. He was a wild, writhing, horribly out-of-control Rhodesian Ridgeback. I don't know what happened to him, which makes me think one of my uncles took him "hunting." That's what they said when they, you know, left and never came home.
39. When my mom died in the summer of 1997, I quit my job in Detroit and moved to KC. Still not sure why she died. Just didn't wake up that Wednesday morning from the age of 48.
40. Bill Laimbeer and me. I took this number in high school and college. Have a fondness for 40 still.
41. I was a performative minimalist in sports: one touchdown in high school football, one dunk in a h.s. basketball game, one dunk in a college basketball game, one double-double in college. This is important, considering I was never the best player on any of those teams.
42. For lunch lately, I've been having one Diet Coke, a Campbell's Soup At Hand, and a bag of microwave popcorn. Every workday of the week. And I've cut ten pounds since the holidays, without nary an instance of exercise, unless teaching counts as exercise.
43. I like cutting the grass, but I'm not into the pristine, homogenous suburban lawnscape.
44. Purple lilac bushes are my yard decor of choice. There were huge ones in the front when I was a kid--big enough to hide inside, like a plush-cover fort with bees swirling.
45. I spent a bunch of recesses inside writing, "I will not..." in elementary school.
46. I don't have a full scale family tree nor an abiding interest in my personal genealogy, but I learned more last fall about my great great great grandmother, Cora Matilda (Hamilton) Roe (2/13/1870-11/4/1926). She was married at age 13 to Ephriam Roe. Rather young, since he was thirtysomething. It's disputed whether Ephraim was from an Ojibwa Tribe. I have papers that say he was and papers that say he wasn't. What's the paper worth? Or the information on it? He died near Edmonton in 1929.
47. I wish I made more time for playing euchre. And for reading.
48. I sleep on my back and side mostly. Log position. Almost never remember dreams.
49. My wallet has an imprinted buck head on it, like it was designed for a hunter. I never even went through hunter's safety, although most of my friends did. My take on hunter's safety: stay the hell out of the woods when there are guns blazing.
50. I've cut my own hair since 1992. Even the crooked ones were free (or about 15 cents per cut if you figure the cost of the clippers).
51. If I was stranded with one television channel: Food Network. I don't have much time to cook, but I'm endlessly wowed by the combinations, the ways of making.
52. In tenth grade, I came up with the winning homecoming float idea for our class: Ollie North says, "Shred the Red Raiders."
53. I thought I could do this in one sitting, but it's late. More tomorrow.
54. I've endured a broken left wrist, four shoulder dislocations, a separated shoulder, a half-dozen ankle sprains and numerous stitches from gashes, mostly from basketball.
55. I was at the last Grateful Dead concert--Soldier Field, summer of 1995. Drove straight back to KC in time for Lollapalooza at Sandstone Amphitheater, which included Sinead O'Connor and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
56. I am--like my mom was--ultra-sensitive to poison ivy. I can pick it up from pollen just by walking through the woods. Had the poison ivy every summer that I've lived in Missouri.
57. I like walking. Unless it's inside a shopping mall. Then I suffer from full-body lethargy. Malls exhaust me.
58. Clothing taste: comfort over style. And a weak sense of style, too.
59. D. and I have more synthetic houseplants than real ones. We can't work out a watering schedule for the real ones. Authentic plants either drown or dry up.
60. In the German tradition, we opened gifts on Christmas Eve most of my childhood. Although we didn't have the candles on the tree (which is my understanding of the cause for unwrapping on the Eve rather than the next morning), it had the practical effect of allowing the adults to sleep in. And they did. Didn't matter if the kids were up at five.
61. First CD: Tom Petty, Full Moon Fever. Still have it, but I don't listen to it much.
62. I never learned to dive. My dad is a terrific swimmer, but I had too active an imagination to go head first into a lake. What's below the murky surface? Rocks, stumps, lake sturgeon.... Terrifying.
63. A combination of teachers whose good advice I followed persistently kept my interest and compelled me to study English, composition, rhetoric, and everything under the Sun that converges within this sprawling, rich field.
64. Places I've spent six weeks studying or training without ever taking up residence: Denver, Colorado and Xalapa, Veracruzana.
65. I prefer cheap shampoo.
66. I like Blue Moon ice cream better than any other flavor. What flavor is it? Can't be sure. Maybe that's why I like it.
67. In the summer of 1992, my brother and I moved the entire Chemistry Department at Central Michigan University, cart by precious cart, into its new facility. Ultraviolet spectrometers, centrifuge equipment and so on.
68. Days until my 30th birthday.
69. I tend to keep a messy office and a clean desk.
70. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Nerd Ropes. Black licorice. In that order.
71. Most interesting place during my study-stay in Mexico: La Plaza de Los Tres Culturas in D.F. where protesters were killed and forcefully dispersed just before the '68 Olympics. After that, Xico. Then Huatulco.
72. I've been in my current full-time job--athletics administration--for almost seven years.
73. I don't care if it's grilled over charcoal or gas-heated lava rocks, as long as it tastes good.
74. Year I was born. On Cinco de Mayo: Taurus.
75. No tattoos or piercings.
76. I was once my son's brother. No joke.
77. Coca-Cola over Pepsi-Cola. Had Pibb in my great-grandparents' Sheboygan, Wisc., basement before it made its popular comeback.
78. Took freshman comp with Dr. Phil Dillman at CMU. Scored a B, he became a friend, gave me lots of books in exchange for yard work. When I visited Michigan in the summer of 1993, I drove him to Ann Arbor where he was diagnosed with the cancer that took his life a two years later.
79. Never cared for pet rodents, but we kept rabbits and a guinea pig (who was blind from chewing through an electrical cord).
80. I have started a lot of books I haven't finished yet. Lots.
81. Wore size 14 shoes at the age of 13. Still do. Well, no, not the same pair of shoes.
82. Early in high school, I refused to write an essay declaring my religious values on the grounds that it wasn't anybody's business. After a parent-teacher conference (thick with teacher-talk centered on my transgression), we agreed that I would write it for my mom, who was an early childhood teacher. She gave me a B, noting that I didn't spend sufficient time on it.
83. I don't care for golf.
84. I've never been to the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls.
85. Two vivid oral reading memories: A Summer in the South with my mom, and Where the Red Fern Grows with my uncle G.
86. My first time on an airplane was when I was in kindergarten. My brother and I flew with two of our grandmothers to Seattle shortly after Mt. St. Helens erupted. Ashy.
87. I keep a mileage log, noting how much gas and how many miles every time I fill up. It's ridiculous, according to D., since I never use the data for anything. It's just spinning into a data-list, vehicular narrative. What could be more productive while the fuel flows? Windshield washing?
88. I have a difficult time telling people no when they approach me for favors. As a result, I get buried in odds and ends.
89. On the first "official" night of the Gulf War, I went by myself to watch Edward Scissorhands for a review speech I had to deliver in a high school class.
90. My older brother was a wiz with Legos. We had a small, white suitcase filled most of the way with them. One time he built a grand ship--far better than anything I could have done. I carried it to the top bunk and released it into the air. It flew straight to the wooden chair where, when it landed, it smashed into bits.
91. Payback for the time he busted a rotten squash on my face, giving me my first bloody nose.
92. Car radio auto-set on 1. R&B and hip-hop, 2. Adult Urban, 3.Kansas NPR, 4. UMKC NPR, 5. Suburban Pop, 6. Hip-hop.
93. My elbows and pinkies are double-jointed.
94. I shoot pool left handed, except when I play on Yahoo! Then I use the mouse with my right hand, which explains why I'm woeful in both settings.
95. I rooted for the Cleveland Browns passionately during the Bernie Kosar era--Ozzie Newsome, Kevin Mack, Webster Slaughter, and on and on. I was ridiculed for wearing a Browns jacket during most of junior high. Now Ph. wears it when he wants to sport a "vintage" look.
96. I played the trombone for a few weeks. Beyond that, I'm musically inept.
97. D. and I knew each other for 17 years before we got married last summer.
98. My first professional conference was the C's in Atlanta. V.V. delivered the keynote, "On the Rhetoric and Precedents of Racism." I remember it vividly.
99. My dad sent D. an email the other day to wish her well with student teaching. He reminded her that my mom was an early childhood teacher, and he had this to say: "For her, teaching was play." I could elaborate a lengthy, complicated teaching philosophy, but I won't do that here, since I'm at the end of the list. I really like that nugget, not just for the ways it reflects my mom's approach to teaching or D.'s, but my own, too.
100. In case I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening and goodnight.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Not Just Any Old Community College

In my email, I just got an invite to a local poetry slam organized by a colleague in Social Work. With the invitation, he included a poem from one of the orators at a recent KC slam, Taylor Mali. Rarely am I an aloud-laugher, especially when it's just me and the computer. But this! Advanced warning: it's bit raw. Funny raw, I think. The The Impotence of Proofreading.

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.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Leaving Fingerprints on the Glass

I've been w|o/a|ndering through a couple of software experiments. Eyes are fogging up from staring at the glow-box too intently. First, I was playing around with Scribe, hot off download. At the basement-bottom price of *free* it beats the heck out of Endnote in cost comparison. I haven't used Scribe for longer than about 30 minutes, but it seems a bit clunky (okay, so it's probably me who's clunky...could be). I've read the rave reviews of Endnote, and I can get a student version for 99 bucks at that I'm not formally, officially a student right now. The full version costs a bit more for non-students, and maybe it's worth it. Who knows? Trying to plan ahead, brush up with software built to support regimens of reading, note-taking, writing. I'll download the trial version of Endnote later this week or next, give it a whirl.

Since Mike mentioned it a few days ago, I've been intent on looking into what it means to syndicate a site, to channel its content into a single herd-gate. I've also been playing around with different RSS feed-readers, exploring the difference between synchronized, pooled entries and the method I've been using to date, whereby I jump from site to site by following links. It's too early to tell which approach I prefer, but they strike me as considerably distinct processes. After I messed around with Pluck, a browser-side feed-reader, and Feedster, a server-side feed-reader, I was impressed by the convenience of gathering and sorting entries. Haven't decided whether I'll stick to the feed method. It doesn't accommodate some of the sites I follow with interest, such as John's writing at Jocalo, Dr. B's Blog (which I couldn't get to syndicate), and the new C&C Weblog.

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?

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Cast A Way

ABC is airing Tom Hanks' flick where the FedEx executive splashes tragically into the South Pacific where he idles away several years with a volleyball as his only friend. It's a somber film--one I like for simple reasons: water dripping from the broken pager, the hullabaloo of corporate-career resuscitation when he returns from the isolated isle, the varied, impractical contents of the FedEx packages. It's easy to watch, easier if there weren't any commercial interruptions. To keep my media noise at a sufficiently entertaining level for a Saturday night working on course stuff (D. on her lesson plans, me on some web things, Ph. in bed at 9:30), I put on Rhythm of the Saints kind of low. It's been a wild party ever since.

On the plane Monday night (yeah, that trip, the one still at the front of my mind), I could see the variously shaped clusters of lights, towns and cities mapped by their luminance--a kind of social electricity, grouped filaments graphing the housing patterns of the northeastern American landscape. I was sitting in 1A, front and left in a row of one (service space for the attendant on my right, compartments for sodas and pretzel sticks in tiny bags); it was a Continental puddle-skipper, a low-flying model, which was nice because I could stare out the window and see more than the topsides of cloudvapor. Staring, I got thinking about the selfishness of my aspirations to take up a rigorous, demanding phd program. Like so much sudden turbulence, I felt a shudder of sadness followed by a wave of dread. I remembered telling Ph. that turbulence is normal when last we jetted as a family: to Detroit last Thanksgiving. And so it is.

To distract myself from a melancholy-mood hiccup, I pulled out the courtesy magazines. Sky Mall. Evacuation card. Oh, and what've we here? Technology Review (note: crap link--all for subscribers--cha-ching.). I started on the article called "10 Emerging Technologies That Will Change the World." Fair enough. I leafed through the profiles. The one that interested me most (no. 6?) was about bio-programming--using computer programming techniques to condition cell behavior. I guess it takes only a few chemical impulses and RNA encoding to get cells to form cell communities able to aid the normal functioning of the human organism. The short profile made all of this sound cyborg-ish, like there are fewer degrees of separation between humans and computers than there've ever been before, especially now that the human genome has been mapped and most cellular behavior can be neatly coded. Soon we'll have comparative genome assessments that will inform us about our predilections toward all kinds of things, and not long after that, we might be able to affect those probabilities (er, certainties?). I don't know a whole lot about how all of this comes together, but I am intrigued by the way cell behavior patterns are discussed like human behavior patterns. In fact, the descriptions of programmed cell communities and, elsewhere, synthetic gene networks (PDF) bear a surprisingly clear reverberation to emerging conversations about weblogs as social network construction (are weblogs programming humans into discrete, selectively knowing/performing/associative groups?). Timeout. I'm just wondering about all of this, watching what's taking shape at Network(ed) Rhetorics, and trying to play through some of it here. No conclusions tonight. Mad TV is on. In case that stinks, SNL is on, too.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Keep it Simple, Specious

Been feverin' all day through web-making, code-playing and course-updating. Today was the deadline for futzing (the single best word said during my trip to NY last weekend!) with spring II courses; I had changes knocked out by noon, since I'm not changing a whole lot this time. Then I got thinking (again) that I needed to spiff up the resource pages for the online courses I've developed. So, because I've been lazy on all other fronts, here's a glimpse at today's boulder-roll, an uphill labor of techrageous love: I can't think of many good reasons why it would be interesting, since it barely has a shape, but it is proof that I didn't just sit around at the computer all day doing nothing. In the shadow of the amount yet-to-be-done, it's as telling as having a look at a snow plow driver lace the boots: there's alotta work ahead. No hurry, though. 'Twas a cinch to meet today's deadline for curricular updates, so the rest can come together over a couple of weeks. (Oh, and if you haven't done the Peanuts quizilla, here's the link. FWIW, I'm Rerun; D.'s Sally. Thanks for the fun link CC et. al.)

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Little Famous People

With paper cutouts as templates for decorating, D. taught social studies today: Little Famous People. One student, J., lost his famous person--couldn't remember where he put it. "What does it look like?" D. asked him. J.: "He's got a brown suit and a white head. He's Thomas Jefferson." So they looked and looked, D. holding up finished famous people missing the names of their makers while J. shrugged unfamiliar, not seeing his artwork. Then the classroom teacher, Mrs. S. got involved: "J. wasn't in class when we made the little famous people." And so he wasn't. And the ellusive paper Jefferson was undone in a vanishing act of memory and imagination. Weird, huh? Second-grade weird.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Pinhead to Juggernaut

I'm too busy reading and responding to project drafts from students in HU211 to spend much time here. This is a busy week in my online course; I'm trying to pace through six project drafts each day so I can get them back by Friday. Oh, and I just started today, so I should feel refreshed and energetic. But I don't. I think it was the five hours of meetings I sat in today. Three meetings. First one was two hours long. It was also the most interesting: a consultant from Scion (?) Corporation pitching student housing designs to the directors from all of the student services areas. It turned into an interesting talk about students' conceptions of space--privacy, social connections, liberties and institutional definitions of how space must be used. I was sitting in place of our AD. I tried to argue that students are less concerned with the wall board, carpet and floor plans than they are with the institutional controls encroaching on the living space through rhetoric and technology: forced meal plans, surveillance upgrades (yes, we have cameras looking in on all of the dorm hall to and fro), and explicit measures to direct campus living. I don't have any experience with student housing beyond two years of dorm living as an undergrad. But it was an engaging interchange; it got me thinking about space dynamics, student perceptions and institutional language about spatial use. That's why it was a good meeting for me.

I'm also squeezed for blogging time because I was at work last night, the kids have practice tonight, and there's another event tomorrow night. I've been trying to read more, too--most of the way through Scholes' Rise and Fall of English. Since I read the bulk of it between Cleveland and KC on Monday night, I've been mulling over several ideas about intertextuality and sustained inquiry in our weblog for EN106. Even talked about those ideas just a bit in class on Tuesday morning. Working up to clearer understandings of these matters as they relate to research writing and question-guided investigations.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Interstitial S p a c e s

Pardon the interruption. With this I'm ending the longest break from weblogging since this buggy started rolling in early January. I was flying around the countryside over the weekend, banking through snowclouds and enjoying short layovers in Detroit and Cleveland on the way East. Since I left on Saturday, which, by the way, was highlighted by a short visit with my dad and S. in the Detroit airport, I've really missed blogging--or missed the time for blogging as a way of re-collecting dispersions of thought. And there've been dispersions aplenty--promising ones.

Saturday was, for me, the coldest Lupercalia on record. First off, D. was back home, snug in K.C., but aside from that, the wall unit in Ramada 233 suffered a meltdown. Late at night. What the? Yes. At 2:30 a.m., I woke up to a dingy-smelling PVC smoke. A faint odor, like burnt wiring, perhaps from a nearby room. No! My room. Geez. I felt the wall-mounted heating unit. It was burning up. I had set it to five (out of a possible 12), thinking that it would get my room to between 68-70 degrees for the night. So, before the smoke alarm started its awful hooting, I dialed the front desk and declared my predicament. Room 233. The night manager showed up just after the blaring started--the alarm in my room only was sounding off. He said he could hear it in the hall. Great. It was V-Day night and the loving hour, no less, I thought. So the night manager slid the plastic alarm from the ceiling; meanwhile, I opened the window. Two degrees Fahrenheit. He tugged on the nine-volts, but the screamer was hard-wired--rightly so. Finally, N.M. resorted to rip the blaring alarm from the ceiling. In silence and wonder, we reconciled a bad plan for restoring normalcy to my night. I'd sleep; he'd go back to the desk and write a note for the next day's service person. With windows closed and no heat except my own, I took cover, dreamless. It was, in retrospect, the low-point of the trip, the rest of which was incredibly warm and welcoming.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Each Dish Harmless Might Mix Inside, Lub-dub

[Clash Combat Rock]

Home for a late lunch yesterday, a gobbled Ethiopian fingerplate waiting to be eaten since the weekend, injera and spicy, saucy globstuff. The President's dentals were on CNN, pearl rows pocked with 1973 repairs. Proof, X-rayed evidence of military service in the Alabama National Guard. This turned me, while mash-wrapping the fabulous red-lentil heap, to the Wonka candy I tangled with the night before, late Wednesday: Nerd Ropes. What story will dental records tell of this in 31 years? I ate two of them with a bottle of water--tacky cherry syrup ropes roll-coated in assorted Nerds. It was late; I needed a kick. If they'd had these at the Palatine Hill, what?

Took the yarn quiz via Quizilla via Culture Cat. Would've preferred Mohair, but as it turned out, the test told me

You are dishcloth cotton.
You are Dishcloth Cotton. You are a very hard worker, most at home when
you're at home. You are thrifty and seemingly
born to clean. You are considered to be a Plain
Jane, but you are too practical to notice.
What kind of yarn are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Cleaning? Yeah, I'll get on that right away.

Via Slashdot, I looked at this article about open source insecurity. So I'm wondering about trust in technology, about good faith in the machine, and about the transference of this way of thinking about open source as a "fertile ground for foul play" into non-software-writing sectors, such as education. Why should we prefer costly, closed-source course management systems to open source alternatives? Foul play? Well, maybe. Here is where I get by thinking while writing rather than planning all of this out ahead of time. It's just that closed-source systems seem much more likely to suffer harm-intended hacks.

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).

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Searching Jerome Cute

This site's webalizer stats include a record of search strings that, when input to a search engine, rustled Earth Wide Moth from the server and called her name and location into a hit list (last in the list, I'm sure, in Google's 92,800 connects for "Sex in the City rumor" and in Altavista's 45, 135 hits for "Sun alarm benefit"). Because I'm still having fun with this whole venture, I was particularly taken by the collision of querying strings, by the no-look grabs of unknowing users, users who don't know we're here. It's an odd, broad range--indicative of a strained, decentered server-side ethos (the text in the machine, removed): a mix of my writing on EWM and our course-related writing over at the site for EN106. A blaring maelstorm of criss-crossing information-text-flow. So, to celebrate five weeks of weblogging (it was a Tuesday, early January when this began), I concocted a search-string pantoum--a randomization of the 33 search-calls, re-formatted, re-presented, near-poetically. The top search-string, "gunnite," gets to be the title of this playful treat; a treat, BTW, not nearly as good as the Hunter's Stew we slurped for dinner tonight. The poem:

A Weblog Pantoum | Search String Style 

CNN frozen cat
Film Excuse Me Darling
2004 email addresses Jerome Cute
Comments about Jeff Gordon

Film Excuse Me Darling
Sex in the City rumor
Comments about Jeff Gordon
Sun alarm benefit

Sex in the City rumor
Steal drum band downloads
Sun alarm benefit
Real life examples of misunderstanding due to cultures

Steal drum band downloads
Wide moth
Real life examples of misunderstanding due to cultures
Gunnite location

Wide moth
Mohawk tools and weapons
Gunnite location
In which country soccer was invented

Mohawk tools and weapons
Pedagogy and classroom seating arrangements
In which country soccer was invented
William Jewell snow day

Pedagogy and classroom seating arrangements
Different seating arrangments for classrooms
William Jewell snow day
Sex and the City endings

Different seating arrangments for classrooms
Super bowl 38 half time show
Sex and the City endings
Paper find of my divorce at January 312004

Super bowl 38 half time show
Where would i find one of those vibrating football games?
Paper find of my divorce at January 312004
How wide is the Earth?

Where would i find one of those vibrating football games?
How wide is the Earth?
How will sex and the city end?

How will Sex and the City end?
Budwieser Superbowl commercials
Sex and the City winter time
Budwieser Superbowl commercials
Drain pea trap sink

Sex and the City winter time
Relationships dependant
Drain pea trap sink
Autobiographical sketch (outline)

Relationships dependant
Chairs made into toilet seats
Autobiographical sketch (outline)
Classroom arrangements

Chairs made into toilet seats
Church and science throughout the ages
Classroom arrangements
Hide bushel

Church and science throughout the ages
CNN frozen cat
Hide bushel
2004 email addresses Jerome Cute

Saturday, February 7, 2004

Why Your Blogotopia Must Flourish

A recent query on the WPA-list (hey, anybody can sign up...they didn't ask for credentials) reminded me that weblogs aren't yet a widespread or widely embraced phenom in teaching composition or other disciplines. I forget that blogs are new-ish, that their potential for writing across the curriculum, for bridging academic spaces and the public sphere, for expanding access and interaction are still becoming, out there ahead of us more so than behind us. At the same time, frustrations, abandonments and malevolent mischaracterizations of weblogs, such as "Why your MT blog must die" by J.J. over on early this week, prove a counter tide (undertow?), a critical, if sometimes uncareful, acknowledgement of a few problematic sides to the proliferation of sites much like this one. But I don't want to give J.J. too much credit; instead, I want to suggest weblogs will continue their ever-widening service of important, fascinating functions for education, information systems, entertainment and tech-socialization.

That said, it's time to share the link for the weblog we're spinning in EN106 this semester: link. We're approximately two weeks into compulsory posts. I've been talking about refinement in asynchronous writing because there are a few IMisms--the usual informalities in synchronous comm environs. Since this takes our students' writing and, inevitably, our teaching fully into view for the tech-using public, I can imagine potential consequences, cases of quiet disaproval, as in "Did you see what DM is encouraging/saying/allowing in that weblog?" *pinching nose* But that's part of the process; it comes along with most forms of critical contact. I'm pushing against my compulsions for blogotopia (you think J.J. would like that clunky term?), and I prefer opportunities for wide-open exchange and attention from those who have better ideas about how to make all of this work, over the alternatives of insularity, internal monologue, or disinterested silence. Suggestions and "what ifs," in other words, are always welcome.

Friday, February 6, 2004

Paper Dish Clocks

D.'s working on a lesson plan for her second graders on Monday. She's charged with teaching them to tell time using analog face-clocks, old-style tickers, long hand and short. Which one signifies minutes again? Talking over the lesson with her, I was having fun with the idea that we drill time systems quite early in life. Alphabetic literacy is only few months--in developmental terms, curricular terms--ahead of chronological literacy. And in an ever-busy age, maybe it's chronological literacy that puts the squeeze on the glee of childhood. What the hell am I talking about?

Coincidentally, I just received an email from G. at Time Lapse Productions. No kidding. The message title: HI. I've been getting a lot of those lately. I don't want to name names or point fingers, but I have a hunch that our IT folks are fertilizing the WWW with stuff to feed the worm, since half of my daily email intake at work (about twenty message each day) has been wormy. They're pleasant, though. Like this note from G., the message title is friendly. It's the body of the note that is impersonal: The message cannot be represented in 7-bit ASCII encoding and has been sent as a binary attachment. Yes indeed, a title can do a lot to draw a reader into a document.

D.'s lesson. She's concerned with the rigid points of the curriculum. Students must refer to 30-minutes after the hour as "half past." That's the language on the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests. So, when we're talking about the time lesson, D. explained how they only had one day for each hand, one day for fifteen-minute units, one day for half-hour units, one day for five-minute units. Meanwhile, I'm looking at my digital Timex (but still offering up alert, focused attention), wondering *how long until this analog arrangement gets dumped by its own invention?* *how long until there won't be time to teach time-telling, provided the regimen and pace gain steam in perpetuity?*

She has a fine lesson complete with foldable paper plate clock faces. The second graders won't need to know about the Benedictine monks or King Charles V who started using the bell-chimes as social organizers in Paris in 1370 (re-reading Technopoly, so I'm not digging too awfully deep for this information). None of the antecedents to formal time structures will be on the MAP tests. I just hope for D.'s sake they pick up the language of time. It'd be a shame for them to call "half past nine" by the name of "nine-thirty" or, worse yet, "going on ten." Suppose they'll learn to break form later on.

Claro! (2.7.04) I said I was paying full, complete, undivided attention. Not so. D. read this entry. It wasn't the MAP test at all. "Half past" is district-speak for thirty minutes after.

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Hour of the Button Pusher

Up at 5:00 a.m., straight to work, taught class at 8:40 a.m. All classes were canceled by 11:00 a.m. Too much snow. All administrative offices were officially closed up by 2:00 p.m. So why am I still at work? You probably want an answer. (If you don't, well, it's okay to stop reading here.)

One Clear Path

I do have an answer. There's a women's basketball game. (Ha! delirium.) The team from Oklahoma traveled in last night, bussing in just ahead of the snow storm that blitzed us with eight inches of fresh powder since last night. They got refs, so they can play. It's that simple. As for me, well, I can't justify enlisting your pity for working conditions that I've been complicit in creating. Since I'm not neatly staff, not neatly faculty, I'm still at work. Did have time today to tote my camera through the flurries, push the shutter button enough to glean these images. And toiled--with success--over the code for author images in our class weblog for EN106, which I will reveal soon. Maybe this weekend.

FWIW, Sam's comments yesterday have me thinking about the relationship between explicit standards and grading practices in ed-blogging. I'll turn around an entry on that one of these days.

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Hold the Hold

Read and respond to project prospectuses from online introduction to humanities. | Lunch meeting over bad news about royalties and CMS contract bids.| Taxes. Taxes. Taxes. | Mini-pizza; ham and pimentoed green olives. | What are you playing with? What is that sound? | Many of the HU211 students are choosing option I: Invitation to document human actuality fueled by R. Coles. | Options II--Crazy Dance and III--Humanities (e)Notebook have been much more popular in past terms. Odd. | Puzzling over blogging standards. Not because I'm a grammar hound but because I want the writing there to be done with care. | Stampede Blue versus Lakers tonight at 7:00 p.m. with you know who as acting coach. [Extra: L, 20-17. Yes, it is basketball. Defense first!] | Dinner's ready. Do you want anything to drink? Ice water, please. Ice water.

Blogging to a trickle this week. Deepdeepfloodload of stuff to do. A bobbing head in an ocean of information. You know?

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.

Sunday, February 1, 2004

Compulsory Blogging

This semester is my first using a weblog for a composition course. The course is EN106; its course description promises this: "The course teaches students to write effectively for various purposes and audiences. It also helps to develop further skills in critical thinking and reading. Special emphasis is given to information retrieval and writing a research paper." I decided to make one group blog and to make blog-writing compulsory. It's a lot like what takes shape in the online courses I've developed where course requirements call for a kind of double-entry journal from which dialogue unfolds. I like the asynchronous interaction. The compulsory element calls for a total of four entries each week: one 250-word entry must relate to our course concerns (the questions we're taking up from the reading and related discussions), one 250-word entry must trace a selected theme throughout the semester--for thirteen or fourteen weeks. The other two entries can be about anything, any length, etc., including comments on other entries. This is in addition to six essays and a few other options, all of which allow the students to make choices about what work they will do.

I went with compulsory posts because I wanted to ensure that the blog caught on. I also wanted to enable students to pursue their own interests in fullness and with sustained attention. In other words, I find the nature of many blogs bring about nuggeted writing--truncated blurbs about whatever notion strikes, a kind of Short Attention Span Theatre of sound bytes. Calling for a sustained theme will induce, I hope, a sense of coherence and continuity and will lead us toward ways of talking about and understanding ongoing research pursuits (research isn't all coherence and continuity, FWIW. It's plenty of digging, sifting, discovery, misadventure and curiosity, too, I'd say).

After our first week of writing in the course weblog, I have the impression that it's too much writing (right...never mind...there's no such thing. Is there?). For now, I think I'll stick to the pre-cut path. The rest is wilderness. Good thing we're not alone.