Monday, May 30, 2005

Genre Theory I

I thought I'd drop in just a few brief notes from the summer course I'm taking: CCR760: Genre Theory in Academic Contexts.  My plan is to introduce similar entries over the next few weeks; I'll think of them, for now, as provisional and winding explorations through/around/between some of the key ideas playing out in the course. 

One of the first problems has been settling on a working definition of genre as it connects with writing.  On the first day of class (a week ago), we distinguished between the misnomer of genre as transparent, received and neutral classification taxonomies ("genre as bucket") and a--perhaps--more productive alternative: genre as social action (largely credited to Carolyn Miller's essays in 1984 and 1994).  With "social action," Miller suggests an understanding of genre as the fusion between content and form; in such fusions we are able to recognize patterns and types of recurrent exigence.  To varying degrees, the internalization of patterned rhetorical opportunity is always already involved in our action with language (writing, speech, etc.);  in genre theory, we are confronted with problems of how completely such internalizations have explicit, conscious bearing on rhetorical invention and how we respond (often by reproducing) to the configurative force of recognizable classes of communication.  Up to this point, we've read Miller's two essays, a chapter from Anthony Giddens ("Problems of Action and Structure") in which he works out some of the defining qualities of structuration, and Bakhtin, "The Problem of Speech Genres." 

For me, an initial framework for sizing up genre theory, for making sense of the "social action" model, comes from readings of Piaget, Vygotsky and related cognitive and social learning scholars who have adapted and extended their seminal work.  I'm definitely oversimplifying here, but the opening up of genre that moves it away from the preordained, top-down classification of texts (a canonical sort of table, etc.) to a more social variant in which the activity rather than the text-as-product gets typified leads me to a question of ratio between social and otherwise institutional or individual determinants--the inside-out flow and the outside-in flows of thought, language, speech, etc.  In other words, as I read some of the "social action" framings of genre, I feel a small bit of discomfort with the socially determined ordering of utterances into "relatively stable" classes.  It's a productive discomfort, I think, but I can't easily resolve the ratio.  Furthermore, structuration--"the structuring of structure" (Derida ctd. in Giddens)--keeps everything in motion.  So I suppose isolating a frozen ratio between determinants isn't altogether necessary.  In fairness, it's complicated, and although there is a considerable amount of attention to agency and to individual actors, I continue to have the impression that genre as "social action" tips in favor of outside-in or centripetal flows (a sort of social primacy, I guess, that I find too encompassing).  Of course, it's still more fluid, dynamic and enabling than the rigid top-down orderings it seeks to correct.  How much more fluid, dynamic and enabling?  Maybe later I'll play through the examples I can think of to illuminate this discomfort I'm describing so poorly; it ties in with folksonomies and also with attempts to organize blogging activity into definitive (or even usefully descriptive) classes, kinds, types.  Giddens and Miller both do something with hybrids, with blends, and so I need to look again at those sections, too.

In Thursday's sessions, the question came up: are weblogs a genre?  This question has bounced around in a few different channels; certainly some work, such as the Blog Research on Genre project, would guide us to an affirmative conclusion.  Of course weblogs are genre-lizable, genre-ously suited to classification.  But how do exigencies filter into the practice of blogging, and is what moves the blogger a relatively stable social compulsion?  It's not easy to be sure really.  When the question comes up, nonetheless, I want to know what a coordination (or mingling) of blogs and genre makes possible.  What does genre afford the practicing blogger? Or: From a grounded perspective in genre theory, what would change about what I do when I write an entry?

Here's a related question I want to carry forward into the next five weeks: If genre is social action (which encompasses language activity whether or not it directly, immediately communicates), what's not genre?  Where and under what conditions (and to whose great relief) does genre split into the individuated?

These are just a handful of the threads from my notes or from questions generated during class.  And I hope to continue blogging related pieces, sharing them here as a way to invite dialogue, write through my unfolding understanding of genre (I was thinking "genre as bucket" coming into the course; still unsure: genre as roadside telephone, genre as hegemony, genre as buoy, genre as social form-aldehyde), and tuck away a few notes that might spark me onto other connections later on.  For Thursday's session, we're looking at Anis Bawarshi's Genre and the Invention of the Writer.  I'm just more than halfway through it now; hope to have blog-ready notes by mid-week.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Lost: A Revisitation of the Season Finale

[Forewarning: Lost spoilers herein.]

Thinking back on it, Walt's abduction by three seafarers in the final episode of the season stands as the single most disturbing cliffhanger.  Poor, poor, Walt.

"We'll take the boy."  Eesh.  Creepy.

Walt's just a kid, but we shouldn't forget the he's a charmed kid--"odd" according to his step-father.  Does he have the power to summon creatures?  The Michael-Walt-centric episode highlighted the boy's fascination with fauna (remember the bird hitting the window?).  And the polar bear? 

The abduction at sea left several issues unresolved.  How's Jin at swimming? Michael? We know Sawyer to be one of the best swimmers among the stranded, but was he injured in the shoot-out?  How many were on the boat?  Three at least.  But who threw the Molotov onto the raft (I didn't see this part clearly).  Danielle's fruitiness--the beachfront pyre, the theft of Claire's baby--and its temporary resolution might move us to think the coming "others" was all a hoax.  And yet the "others" who took Walt acted like they anticipated a boy, which left me wondering whether, when they arrived at the smoke-producing pyre and didn't find Danielle, they motored back to their island (15 miles?).  They might have supposed Walt to be the boy (baby Aaron) they didn't find at the island.  And could Danielle's fifteen year-old child have been on board, perhaps as the hand that cast the cocktail onto the raft?

Granted, this is all conjectural, speculative.  What else happened in the finale?  The science teacher, Arzt, had a mis-hap with the dynamite they found on the Black Rock.  Hurley to Jack: "You've got a piece of Arzt on you."  Nast-asty.  The dynamite-seekers were successful though; they lifted enough sticks to fend off the "security" creature lurking in the woods and blast loose the lid to the mysterious hatch (which we now know covered a steel-fortified shaft into the ground). 

The asides on Hurley rushing through the airport were quite good, I thought; I find him to be one of the more interesting characters on Lost.  Might be something to his exchange with Kate, too (from memory, and probably not exactly right):

H: Twenty-three mean something to you?
K: Twenty-three thousand was the bounty on my capture.  Does it mean something to you?
H: I don't know.  Maybe.

His recognition that the vault bore the unlucky set of numbers that won him the lottery (4, 8, 15, 16, 28, 42) teases us with something, too.

At the abandoned smugglers' plane Charlie grabbed up a hollow Mary statuette full of heroin.  Dang it, Charlie.  What'd you have to go and do that for?

The fate-free-will tension developing between Jack and Locke and also talked out among Claire, Sun, and Shannon was one of the less satisfying dimensions to the finale--for me.  Just didn't find that side of the show very compelling, and I don't think Lost needs to fold the unknowns into an age-old faith-science dyad.  That I'm disoriented and unsettled actually appeals to me, and so I get the sense that the hokey chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter declarations from so many of the characters kind of cheapens an otherwise rich, conflicted complexity. If you happen to read this, J.J. Abrams, I hope you'll take note.

As I was rustling through a few recent pages about the finale, I ran across a weblog entry at Any Questions? about the Oceanic Airlines site.  Interesting front for extending a few features of the show.  I walked through all of the related stuff (all that I could find).  If you're a fan of Lost, you probably should too.

Added.

Bemis, I'll Wash the Pot

While I was washing the dishes this morning, I was reminded that I'm unusually guarded about the coffee pot.  I'll wash the coffee pot; I almost always do.  I'm the only coffee drinker in the house.  I brew the coffee.  I fill the carafe to the six-cup line, shovel the grounds, click the switch.  I empty the pot.

In K.C. we had a fancy dishwasher.  It did the work of clearing grime from all the kitchen-wares.  But in N.Y., we're back to washing by hand.  And Ph., at fourteen, is as good as any of us at keeping us with enough clean dishes to eat.  No matter how we arrange our turns at the sink, however, I get an itch about others washing the delicate glass pot, especially Ph.  In fact, I often ask him to leave it as the final dish, then I'll wash it. 

What's so special about the coffee pot?  I'm not sure.  That's the thing.  It just seems fragile to me.  But this morning--first leg of a chore-filled Friday--I had a flash of insight, a coffeepiphany of sorts.  I'm almost certain somebody broke a coffee pot when I was a kid.  I can't remember who or under what circumstances or what even came of it.  Did it crack from careless washing?  Must've.  Least that's what I told myself this morning.

In turn I associated the not-quite-a-memory with the Twilight Zone episode--"Time Enough At Last"-- where the bank worker, after avoiding global catastrophe because he was in the vault when the world ended, finds himself with a bulk of time for reading.  Just Henry Bemis and books; time stood still.  And he's overjoyed about it, as I remember (a re-run me and J. watched multiple times on late-night TV, early teens), so overjoyed that he manages to step on his glasses.  Without them he can't see well enough to read.  Bemis was one sorry dude.  Woe!

Because I'm the only one who even thinks about coffee (not the only one who thinks differently about the fragility of the pot) in the house, it's a similar sort of despair that I'm trying to intercept, assist others in avoiding.  Interventional dish-washing, as I think of it.  Was I the one who broke the pot as a kid?  Could it have been me?  Doesn't even matter.  That it's implicated in my action--in my everyday way of living--presents me with an odd quandary, and I'm not sure, even connecting it up with Bemis, that I'm any closer to feeling differently about it.

Coffee Enough At Last

Henry Bemis, now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Televitensity

I don't blog too often about television events, but tonight.  Tonight!  I've been resting up all day (avoiding strenuous activity, I mean) because I'm going to be watching four hours of television in two hours later on.  An exhausting prospect.  Pistons vs. Heat (a must-win for Miami), at 8:00 p.m. and the two-hour season finale of Lost at 8:00 p.m (wallpaper...heh).  That's a mountain-heap of good television airing in a short while.  Too good to flip back and forth.  The coincidence of tonight's programming is monumental enough to re-arrange furniture and position a second TV for simultaneous viewing.  So that's what I'll be doing.  Feels like I've been gearing up for it all day.

Purchase

Scrape 1.05

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Primp My Blog

I came close to switching to Wordpress.  Then I came close to upgrading to MT 3.latest.  Finally, I decided just to work with what I had.  So I tuned the style sheets, lifted a bit of java from cgbvb (indebted!), and roughly finished the annual blog do-over.  A few rough spots remain, but I'm generally satisfied. I wanted something just a bit tidier. The most significant change for me is the three-column style--a switch I'd been considering for quite some time.  After too many failures managing the re-design exclusively through CSS (which I've only ever learned by tinkering; you'll see pure hack-job if you have a look at it), I went ahead and dropped the MT tags into a simple table.  I know it's an acknowledgment of limited skills, but instead I'll attribute it to ambivalence in case there are any HTML purists lurking.

I paused from flipping channels this weekend to look at MTV's "Pimp My Ride."  If you don't know the program, well, each episode basically features a full-scale vehicle overhaul.  A high-end body shop in California takes a well-worn jalopy and juices it into a set of wheels with more kick, more bass, more glimmer.  So I was thinking it'd be nifty is somebody would come along and offer to spruce up my blog (re-design it for 800x600 viewing, if nothing else).  But no such thing happened.

Next up, more attention to colors (why reddish?), considering deleting out some of the crap still lingering in the side columns, and weeding out the idle blogs from the blogroll. 

Monday, May 23, 2005

Bellwether

Over the weekend I finished up Connie Willis' 1996 novel Bellwether.  It was the between-semesters pleasure-read I made space for.  I overheard C. and M. chatting about it one day this spring; decided it'd be worth a quick read if it made both of their lists. And so reading lists spread.

Basically, Bellwether is the story of a diffusion researcher, Sandra Foster, and her work on fads.  Foster is concerned with hair-bobbing and, as well, with other inexplicable flare-ups of activity.  She maps the  flashes of pop anomaly in space and time, works to discern the forces figuring into the genesis and spread of fads, runs statistics to trace patterns and trends.   Each sub-chapter leads off  with a blurb on a specific fad--coonskin caps, mah-jongg, diorama wigs--and the narrative is laced with allusions to Robert Browning's Pied Piper and Pippa Passes.  I was familiar enough with the Pied Piper of Hamelin; in fact, reading Bellwether reminded me of an encounter with P.P. when I was young: Mom had a hair appointment in Rosebush and it was the only kids book (only one I remember, anyway) in the waiting area.  Read and read and read that story.  The references to Pippa Passes were unfamiliar and something of a pleasant surprise.  Pippa, as framed second-hand in the novel, is an elusive, fantastic figure--one who influences others from the obscure periphery, whose passing song carries from a distance and leaves its mark without Pippa full-knowing.  In this sense, Pippa mirrors the annoying office assistant, Flip, who unwittingly proliferates fads while fumbling through her duties as an office assistant at HiTek, the lab where Foster works.  And a third mirroring: the bellwether itself, as an exceptional looks-like-a-sheep, smells-like-a-sheep leader who impacts the herd without much cognizance of her persuasive impact.

I don't think I've ruined it yet--for those who haven't read this one.  S. mentioned recently that she finished Doomsday Book by Willis; Bellwether is the first I've picked up, but I look forward to reading more of her stuff, perhaps during a future between-semesters break (now that my summer course on genre theory has officially started--today).

Here's just one more keeper on research-mapping models from B'wether.  There's a place mid-way through where Foster is at a friend's house for a birthday party. The friend's kid, Peyton, is in her room as a punishment, and Foster goes in to use the telephone--a conversation with her rancher friend who ends up providing the sheep herd for research.  Rather than skulking through the punishment, young Peyton appears to be doodling, but instead she's line-charting--with a series of squiggles--her Barbie's predilection for this or that (shopping, riding mopeds, dating) because "everybody's doing it."

It was a map, in spite of what Peyton had said.  A combination map and diagram and picture, with an amazing amount of information packed onto one page: location, time elapsed, outfits worn.  An amazing amount of data.

And it intersected in interesting ways, the lines crossing and recrossing to form elaborate intersections, radical red changing to lavender and orange in overlay.  Barbie only rode her moped in the lower half of the picture, and there was a knot of stars in one corner.  A statistical anomaly?

I wondered if a diagram-map-story like this would work for my twenties data.  I'd tried maps and statistical charts and computational models, but never all three together, color-coded for date and vector and incidence.  If I put it all together, what kinds of patterns would emerge? (122)

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.

Pieces

A couple of PHP modules just for kicks:

First, at Pholph's Scrabble Generator, via MGK, you input a few words and it returns the corresponding scored letter tiles.  My name totaled a mere twenty points--hardly anything to celebrate.  Still, I'm grateful that it's a K5 instead of an L1 or another E1 to round off my first name.  That'd have been terrible.

And second, for the repressed generative grammarian in you, at Syntax Tree you can use a combination of nested brackets to diagram sentences.  Nobody does that anymore?  Oh.  Well, in that case, you could game the module and use it to tree-structure just about anything. 

And although focused activity lasting for more than one hour may occur rarely with PHP modules such as these, it is important to seek something else to do immediately if you find yourself dawdling with them for any longer.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

On Soap

I'm not thinking about Simple Object Access Protocols; cripes, the i-net coders have acronymized the whole language.  But that's another subject.  Or it isn't.

Either way, in the shower this morning my mind was on soap nubs.  Tidbits and ends. Thin-worn slices.  Too tiny for sudsing; too large for dropping in the garbage with a clean conscience: a nuisance.  Having pulled a new bar from the cabinet under the sink, I recalled that when we moved to New York last summer, we went from a three-bathroom place to a one-bathroom place, from three showers (even though we only ever used two of them) to one shower.  Consequently, the number of bars of soap dropped in kind, halving from two to one.  One bar of soap now to go with one shower. 

With all washing activity conserved to a solitary bar, the rate of consumption of soap, however, has not dwindled.  In fact, it stands to reason that Ph.--a teenager, physically active, and so on--actually uses more soap than he once did.   And while I won't go into great detail about my own lathering habits, let's just say I find the soap more often in need of replacement.  The new, engraved bars top the soon-washed-away slivers more and more frequently.  We're scrubbing through a whole lot of soap.

Evidence (though an evidence of absence, counterfactual?) we're keeping dirt at bay; that much is good.  Yet I constantly find myself attempting the splice--the manual merger of the fading sliver and the brand new bar, one unsoftened by water and washing, the other nearly exhausted from it.  The convergence usually fails on the first try, and I fumble.  One or the other piece of soap falls, puck-ochets around the tub before settling at the drain.

My grandmother used to (and still might) have a soap-compressing apparatus.  It was rather like a close-ended garlic press.  Into it: bits and ends of soap, all the stubs.  Crimp them together and you produce a fresh bar.  Notch one for resourcefulness.  But me, I keep on fusing the soap pieces by hand, every so often pressing them tight until they bond.  Sometimes the bond breaks; I grab up the evasive bit from resting place near the drain and go again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Vitality

Or vitae-lity?

When the call  I was 'specting about a bit of web futzing didn't jingle my cellular phone this morning, I figured may just as well go to work on my site.  My site.  The one concerned with all things grand-boxy and professional. 

That's what I did.  It's not quite ready for mass consumption--the high traffic of folks who'd have any business digging around in the proper record of my professional life. But it is ready for a glance.  I anticipate a few conversations in the coming months with my influential mentors, but any thoughts you have--first reactions--let 'em fly, eh?

I know things will shift over the next few years, so I'm content--for the most part--that this is an early version of a project that will likely enjoy an overhaul about two years from now, just before I spruce it for the job search.  I've started with twelve (hehe...eight too many!) front-page links: CCR, bio, vita, teaching, coursework, dissertation, weblog, flickr, links/del.icio.us, collections, media projects, and graphs.  The bio, I think, can be a space where I represent, less formally, stances, stuff I've done, questions entangled with my academic work.  Overkill? 

I was also uncertain about representing the diss already because it's not conceived yet.  So that's a placeholder for the prospectus, chapter synopses.  Yeah...that's all.  Collections, media projects and graphs are all loose and mysterious, even to me.  At the collections link, I think I'll begin developing a small bundle of bibliographic clusters, starting with provisional exam reading lists for the end of next year. I don't intend for it to grow to the scope of Becky's collections, but I admire the model and find it exceedingly useful to jog my memory by looking over lists of things. Collections will also include sets of assignment-related links.  Media projects--there I'm thinking video, audio, and screencasts, especially if I get on the ball with spoken word essays or documentary stuff with my students in the next two years.  And graphs, graphs will house some of my messing around with data visualizations, infographics and other stuff I draw or design (rhetorical models, or lexical equivalency chains--been intending to flesh that out). 

You might be disappointed to find that many of the links are as of yet inactive.  But I just wanted to share what I worked on for a few hours today.  Seriously, I'd be grateful for feedback.  It's just a draft, really.  For example, the more I look at it, the less I like the splotch of spray-can brush stroke underlining on the image swap-out. Hell, by morning, I might have the whole thing replaced with something new (although I am fond of the box-fitting motif).

Ah, I've also been checking around at the various taxonomies put to use in the vitae of folks whose work I admire.  No intention of going too wild too soon with the whole project; rather, just trying to survey the possibilities, locate a few adaptable models.  Gaps: invited talks, for one.  Heh.  Maybe I should include a sub-heading for uninvited talks.  Judging by a couple of my students' course evaluations, that one could double for teaching.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Degradation

I just wrapped up the last bit of grading for the spring semester. A restless early morning, read: what am I doing wide awake at 5 a.m.?, allowed me just the amount of quiet time I needed to encode the last few essays, to each a letter.  Forms are due later today or tomorrow--one or the other, but I must have left paperwork in the office on campus.  Cause for a bicycle ride.

I was slower than usual with grading this time around.  A combination of factors: sapped, more methodical.  Now there'll be one week of down time before starting in on the Summer I course in genre theory.  The stuff I'm teaching doesn't begin until June 6, which means the course I'm taking will be solidly underway when the steepened workload involving the reading of student work hits in mid-late June.  That's the plan.

Other: I've been thinking about blogging lately, but, being sapped, I figure now's as good a time as any to lollygag.  I installed a Wordpress site for experimentation; re-designing it seems a bit tedious though.  I was interested in using the easily modifiable shell of a weblog for a Site of Self I'm pulling together this summer.  What do they call these?  Professional sites?  Personal-professional sites?  Vita, teaching philosophy, syllabi, etc.

Yet another: Should we move this summer?  Seems like a hassle to switch to another place, but Landlord--who lives clamorously with his energetic dog on the paper that is our ceiling--has an apt.-mate moving in over the summer, the neighbors, who share the driveway, were loud-banging a second basketball hoop together into the late-night hours, and Ph. will be at the high school in the fall--a high school beyond walking distance from where we now live.  Oh, and the hoop wouldn't be a problem except that the south sideline is our relatively new and yet un-paid-for Honda Element.  So when the kids are in the drive working on their cross-overs and sending long-careening rebounds into the door of the car...eeg.  And I really mean EEG!  That's the sound for deep down vexation.  No matter how hard I try, I can't get over the angst I feel when I hear the basketball pounding the car.  Yeah yeah.  Material things and whatever.  But no matter what I do to exorcise the in-creeping aggravations of car-door-ball-shots, I am my dad's son through and through. I can't block out the irritation I feel so deeply when the ball hits the car.  So maybe I'll try moving the car more often (where?).  Because I'm in favor of kids playing basketball, I have to think of something.  Help me out, people.

So moving.  Thinking about it.  For now, just thinking.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Doesn't Mean a Thing

You scored as Postmodernist. Postmodernism is the belief in complete open interpretation. You see the universe as a collection of information with varying ways of putting it together. There is no absolute truth for you; even the most hardened facts are open to interpretation. Meaning relies on context and even the language you use to describe things should be subject to analysis.

Postmodernist

75%

Cultural Creative

69%

Materialist

69%

Modernist

38%

Idealist

38%

Romanticist

38%

Existentialist

38%

Fundamentalist

19%

What is Your World View?
created with QuizFarm.com

Friday, May 13, 2005

CMap Tools

Have I mentioned that I recently subscribed to a couple of tag-based RSS feeds from del.icio.us?  Right, I know...nothing shocking about it.  With the semester winding down (just a bit of grading still to do), I haven't explored the bookmarks as closely as I would like, but I did run across a prize the other day through the feed for "infographics." CMap Tools, a free, cross-platform mapping application, lets users draw maps better than any other software I've tried.

The CmapTools program empowers users to construct, navigate, share and criticize knowledge models represented as concept maps. It allows users to, among many other features, construct their Cmaps in their personal computer, share them on servers (CmapServers) anywhere on the Internet, link their Cmaps to other Cmaps on servers, automatically create web pages of their concept maps on servers, edit their maps synchronously (at the same time) with other users on the Internet, and search the web for information relevant to a concept map.

It's simple.  Plus, it allows the easy placement of background images in nodes, so it could work to develop visual maps.  I like it, too, because it has some sharp auto-align tools; you can select two or three nodes and space them out relative to each other, moving them collectively together/apart.  What else?  It appears to have server function, but I haven't tried it yet.  The html export basically produces an html page referencing a jpeg file.  But by setting up a server account, it looks like it would be possible to collaborate on mapping project.   The only feature I'd improve is the automatic and unavoidable link labels.  The labels are removable, but they leave a gap in the line. 

I'd include a map, but I'm busy watching the Detroit get roughed up by Indiana.  Dang it! Sample's in extended entry, now that the game's through.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A Different Font

I'm still in the throes of late-semester whatnot.  I took an exam yesterday; here are my notes (PDF).  I've posted them here not because I expect you to read them or because I think you'll find the bits and ends collected in them very striking.  Just share with me in marveling at my attempt to rake it all into a single heap.  Later on, I will come back to this entry which will trigger my fast-fading memory and point out to me that I over-prepared responses to questions that were not on the exam.  We were confined to just three pages of notes.  Three pages? No problem.  I openly gamed the 8.5x11 by changing font size. By switching to a seven point font--voila!--5,000+ words, equivalent of  sixteen pages of text.  If nothing else, it's a testament to an evolving mania, which has blossomed handsomely toward the end of this first year of coursework. (Surprised?  Well yeah, I try to keep the shenanigans off the blog.)

You know, with the font-smunching I also started wondering whether I could go a degree or two further--a five or six point font, say (something distinctive like TrueType Pismire 6).  But if we could use a magnifying glass as a mediating tool to assist reading, why not a microfilm reader? Or a computer?  What's a page's volume for condensed data if we're allowed the help of mediating devices?  Of course it won't get me very far thinking like this; was just wondering about it.

Today I'm buttoning down (up? snapping down?) a project for 611: The Development of Modern Composition Studies.  Suck in, dammit!  It's like fitting old bluejeans that are two inches too slim.  So maybe more than buttoning it (which would presume everything fits when, uhm, no. it. does. not.), I'm actually applying a figurative safety pin--a carefully chosen safety pin, at that.  Or a belt. Whatever the case, I'm locked in with a familiar font size, so one thing about the project will look conventional.

Thursday, May 5, 2005

Pentamerism

Fives.1. Five-five.  P., a friend and colleague at my old U. sent me an email the other day wishing me a happy birthday. Feliz cumpleanos! She told how Smartie, the cat she adopted when we moved away from KC, was doing , and how things were swell (to my relief, not swollen) at old U.  So on and so on. Somewhere in there she showed the date as 05-05-05. 

2. I spent five hours on the fifth floor of SU's Hall of Languages, sitting in on the Writing Program's spring symposium. 

3. At 55 minutes to five, I was in my office, readying to make my way up to the program office where I would collect end-of-semester projects from the drop-box before walking five blocks home.  Five taps on the door.  Five percent of my students this semester wish to turn in a late project.  But it's my birthday; shouldn't I be one doing the wishing?

4. Fifty-five minutes ago, D. said, "The cake will be done in five minutes." (Vanilla w. cream cheese frosting.) This snazzy new leather office chair I got as a gift: five-tined base, five dual-action casters.  And there were five cards (including three e-cards!) from friends, and five cards from family.  I'm not making this up.

5. Donna, whose name, like mine, has five letters, also has a birthday today.  Along with Kenneth Burke, Karl Marx, Ann B. Davis....  In extended, I've linked to a drawing I took five minutes to cobble together the other day of the Burkean dramatistic model.  It looks something like a multi-flavored cake.

[I've date-stamped this entry to maximize the five-ness effect.]

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Problem and Solution

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

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

Monday, May 2, 2005

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Sluggish

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

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

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

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