Tuesday, August 31, 2004

No Amount of Pepper

Question:  How watery can it be and still classify as chili?

water, meat, beans, tomatoes

I boiled up some bland, bland chili for dinner tonight.  Not used to concocting with fresh tomatoes (a gift!).  Upside:  My chili's always more savory on the second night. The key ingredient is time spent together.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

What's in your bag?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's in your bag?

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Drink Up

For some time now, I've had a casual interest in water policy.  Huh?  Right, I know, I know.  Where'd that come from?  

I'm thinking about that very question this morning--where'd that come from. It started with something I read in my MA program--probably Silko--about the desert Southwest, battles over subdivisions in places where land is cheap and water is invaluable (really valuable, that is).  Folks in the Southwestern U.S., as I think of them, have been jockeying for aquifers since the Hoover Dam "stabilized" the Colorado River in 1935. Seems to me Silko mentions the art of fountain placement--of decorating the gates to new subdivisions with trickling or bubbling statuettes--as a kind of deeply persuasive appeal: you'll be fine on this parcel of land; there's water here. 

This morning's water news comes from an article in the New Scientist--one of the feedlines I set up a looong time ago (in July), back when I had leisure time for reading stuff on the web, blogging--called "Asian farmers sucking the continent dry."  It's an interesting report on the water crisis in Asia, the stakes for China and India, particularly.  Carrying forward from the Stockholm Water Summit are moderate (and none-too-Doomsday, I say) concerns about the inevitability of water crises resulting from drilling, tapping, pumping,  irrigating, and self-regulated use.  The article cites details about urgent zones or "hot spots," such as Gujarat, "where water tables are dropping by 6 metres or more each year, according to Rajiv Gupta, a state water official."  It also suggests--to no surprise--the problem of shifting governmental stances on large-scale resource management initiatives such as the River Interlinking Project in India.

The last Indian government proposed a massive $200 billion River Interlinking Project designed to redistribute water around the country. But the new government elected earlier this year has gone cool on the idea. In any case, the water supplied would probably come too late.

Much of this wraps together my casual interest, old conversations about alternative energies, matters such as the role of petro-fired water pumps in deep-reaching wells (vital for keeping Kansas uniformly arable, for example), and dry places, diasporic exile (as in give 'em that hunk of land).  It also reverberates with some of the things I've been hearing this week about SU's program in cultural geography, projects such as mapping hunger in Onondaga County (and surrounds?), for one. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Just Step Aside or You Might End Up in a Heap

Orientation's end is in sight, which means a truckload of teaching prep and amping up for all of the firsts next week.  Monday morning, 8:30 a.m., Bowne 116.  That much is sure.  Tomorrow is the Writing Program's Fall Retreat.  Morning kicks off with a keynote from Carol Lipson; later in the day we'll hear from Cheryl Glenn on the Harbrace Handbook among other things, I suppose.

I was hit up today for my Excel expertise, which is to say I'm a reputed spread-sheeter or sheet-spreader.  I/O: No, I don't mind.  But you have 40,000 things to do already.  Only 20,000. I'm sure it's more like 40,000.  Okay.

Make that 39,999.  See, this is the first blog entry from the place I live (home?) since July 30.  I have more to say about the great eco-disaster that is uprooting for a move halfway across the country, leaving, but I'd rather celebrate the re-connection (to Road Runner via Time Warner Cable).  Because it's so happy, have a listen to this.  I might get arrested for putting the entire theme on my blog, but if they take me away, it'll be with a smile on my face, a gleeful peace, and a (no matter good or bad) blog entry freshly posted.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Sweet Dormancy

The good people from Time Warner Cable will be at our apartment Wednesday evening to connect up Road Runner. Like a watering can to dusty pods, Internet access from home is sure to perk things up around here.

Until then, this:

At the SU info fair on Thursday, I picked up a copy of the men's and women's soccer schedules. Consider this: photocopied, one color on orange paper, four by six. Splayed next to them were grand, elaborate football schedule posters--multicolor, glossy-coated and so on. I had to call E. to let him know that futbol just isn't getting its due at SU. For one dollar admission, maybe I'll take in a match this fall. Or, maybe not. I'll be hefting around quite a load of work.

I was surprised to see E. & Co. ranked fifth nationally in the NAIA preseason rankings. What gives? Why so low?


Gerry Clark, professor of theater at SU, gave a fantastically performative talk on diversity the other day. She roamed the room, bantered humourously with orientees, stirred things up and brought the grand catchword "diversity" into terms I hadn't considered carefully before. I left my scattered doodle-notes at home, but her inventory of listening types hit on antipathetical--styling it as the sort of attention we give when we dismiss, with diregarding nods, item after item, until we hear something so ridiculous and outlandish that we jump it. Kind of like: whatever, whatever, whatever, BAM! (antagonistic, contestatory, etc.). V. nice.

She also invited reactions to Rockwell's "Freedom from Want" oil painting. It's the lily, pristine, family-scape--too perfect for most people to appreciate. But then there's the one on "Freedom to Worship," which didn't get mentioned in the talk on diversity. It's the only one of the four freedoms with a written decree; it goes like this: "Each according to the dictates of his own conscience." from the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1943, is there a tender conception of diversity in that?


Had this conversation twice this week (with different people):

Not me: Winter is hard in Syracuse. Where are you from? Kansas City, right?
Me: Well, yeah.  But I grew up in Michigan.  We had snow there.
Not me: Where at in Michigan?
Me: Central Michigan; Mt. Pleasant.  It was legit.  The snow was deep and cold; winters long.
Not me: Some areas around Syracuse had eight feet of snow in a stretch of four days last winter.
Me: Ah.  That's easy.  Nobody goes out when there's eight feet of snow.  But that's a lot of snow, you're right.  I'm sure we'll be able to weather it.  What else have I got to do besides sitting inside, reading, writing?
Not me: Blinding. You can't see through the snow here.  It's that thick. Cold.  Gives me shivers just to think of it.
Me thinking: Snow drifts on Winn Road were ten feet deep.  We carved out forts in the banks high enough to stand up inside.  And have you ever seen a snowman with five body segments?  When I was a kid, Frosty was my favorite Superhero, for chrissake.  We used to have to knock the ice from the dogs' watering bowls every night and carry a pitcher of boiling water to them so they'd have two minutes' chance to drink.  I'm so winter-ready, I have dreams about licking icicles and shoveling snow.  My blood is Ice-9 (see Cat's Cradle).  I was the one who dared friends to touch their tongues to the steel swing set legs and flag poles, and I can change out wet-felt liners faster than you can spell Antarctica.

But then it started to seem cold this morning when I woke up and it was in the 50's...and it was August. I'll be taking back all the hijinx about cold weather.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I Herd You The First Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Bob and Bite


In numbers:
1133: Interstate miles driven in a 25' Penske truck over three days.
11: days until Time Warner can juice our stylish new flat with connectivity.
13: minutes it took me to walk from the front porch to SU's Bird Library where I'm tapping into AirOrange wifi.
5:3: Kansas City:Syracuse ratio of  box and furniture carriers who (in addition to the three of us) worked to shuffle all of our belongings on and off the truck on Monday and Wednesday.
2: hotel nights spent in towns beginning with "E" this week: Effingham, Ill. and Erie, Pa.
0: available hotel rooms on Tuesday night on Exit 24 and 27 of I-90 in Erie. Oh! There's a crappy Travelodge at Exit 29. Good enough.

So this is the official blogsyrection.  I'm back online, more or less, although the only net access I'll have from now until the 25th will be in the various wifi zones on SU's campus.  It's been raining here, too, which makes the hoof-route between home and campus longer, wetter, and more treacherous for my tech-loaded pack.

The trouble with resurfacing here and now is that I've lost touch with the blogs I frequented before all the trav(ai/e)l, fracas and upheaval of late.  I've glanced through some of them, and I really would like to take more time to catch up, but, well, not today. 

The short of it is that we're in S-town, safely and so on.  I lost my driving innocence somewhere en route, discarding it as I drove over curbs, passed big rigs, pumped diesel fuel, mastered the truckers' courtesy flick-of-the-lights as if to say, "Your rear end is sufficiently in front of me that we won't smash together when you resume our slow lane."

A few other quips from the past two weeks:

In Iowa (on the way to Wisconsin, then Drummond), I asked Ph., "You see those fields?  Any idea where the name for corn rows originated?"
Ph.: In Iowa City?

At Elmer's Restaurant in Escanaba, Mich., they have a breakfast plate called "Everyone's Favorite" on the menu. That's what I had, figuring it would be my favorite, too. How can it be everyone's favorite?  It's perfectly customizable.  The waitress asked twenty or thirty questions (grits or hash, etc.).  She also hit us with a "youse" (but, expecting yooper vernacular, we were ready for it, even though "y'all" dominates the deep midwest).

 Ph. caught two large-mouthed bass at Drummond.  Then winds riled up waves that rattled the fish basket, that roughed the fish into seagull food.  Me?  I caught a few glimpses of spectacular sunsets and poison ivy. 

Places we didn't stop to tour and eat between Akron and Cleveland: Grandpa's Cheese Barn.  Places we did stop to tour and eat between St. Ignace and Mackinac City: Castle Rock and Audie's. 

Now I should catch up with all the passers-through who've recorded their dreams in Dear Dream Interpreter