Sunday, July 31, 2005


Windows: Glass, Cement

Burnet Avenue runs parallel to the I-690 loop just east of downtown Syracuse.  After parking near the school where D. works, she and I walked several blocks along Burnet this morning. 

Finds: "Poisoning??" Poisoning?? Swappy's Swappy's, the Fisheria's for rent Fisheria and Pizza, and high-pants insistenceDouble Emph on Pants

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Sardine University


The Daily Orange, SU's student newspaper, reported yesterday that the U. is scrambling to lodge this fall's freshman cohort of 3,524 students.  One group of 30 students (Quiet Lifestyle Learning Community) will occupy a floor of the Syracuse Sheraton on the edge of campus; in a less popular arrangement, the University is converting double-occupancy rooms to triple and handing out discounts.  No mention in the article of where the Raucous Lifestyle Learning Community will rest their heads this fall. From the article:

[J.C.], an undeclared human services and health professions major, said he would like to live in the Sheraton. However, he would be very upset if the university placed him in a converted triple, he said.

"I would be very, very shocked and surprised," he said. "I would probably want to take my money back and transfer to another school. You pay $41,000 to come to this school and you get put in a room that's smaller than a prison cell?"

Campus living space as prison cell: such killjoy.  Twice as many roommates to share in the intellectual and social wonders of freshman year!  Get the full article here (you'll need a login, so feel free to co-opt the EWM Express Pass: But don't send me any email at this address, if you know what I mean.)

Added: Oh, okay, so it was "published" back in May. But the item just came through on the DO feed (in Bloglines) yesterday. That's what I meant. Old, but least it's not year-old.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


D. and Ph. are safely home from their trip, unpacking from these two weeks. This morning they talked me through this set of photos from the trip, after which I went ahead and uploaded them to D.'s Flickr account. I hope D. logs in later, adds a few notes and captions--the stories that extend these images in yet another dimension. Go ahead and have a look, either at the slideshow or the ordinary list. In Kikamba, a local dialect, musyoki (trans. roughly as "one who stays") was the nickname Ph. picked up.

Ph. Kicking Around

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Mapping Contenders: A More Writable Space

Over at The Map Room, Jonathan Crowe posted a few notes about MSN Virtual Earth that tipped me on to a few ideas and the Virtual Earth weblog where MSN is inviting input.  In light of the clamor raised over two notable features at Virtual Earth--the absence of Apple headquarters and the presence of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, Crowe verifies (if there was any doubt) that VE uses "very old imagery."  As I see it, the age of the satellite images concerns me less than their superior resolution.  Right, already been over this.

And yet, the release of Virtual Earth comes with a need to understand the temporal dynamics associated with the images.  Could be that we perceive them as timeless or, equally implausibly, as ever-current--maps of both "here" and "now."  Wave to the camera on high.  Seems likely enough that we'll see this synoptical, real-time satellite cam soon enough, but in the interlude between now and that bright future moment, I think the horse race between Google and MSN for the best mapping venue is really fascinating.

One, I expect (yeah, pure spec-ulation), will steer toward the commercial flows--the trafficking of people and goods, roadways and restaurants, hotels and coffee shops.  This site will be determine its quality and future developments around issues of advertising and appeals to hubs of marketable activity.  The other (or perhaps yet an other) will also integrate some of this commercial flavor (i.e. need to find the nearest Denny's?).  But this one will develop capacities (functionality?) for other kinds of capital.  How impressive it would be to have one of the map-aspirants (Yeah, Google, you...or MSN, you.) devise our shared world as a space to be written--inscribed with the memory-notes and also with links (even blog activity, for example)?  I'm getting dreamy with this, I know (was cleaning the bathroom during this thought...chemically inspired--Comet and Tilex), but think of this: a mapping site that gives us ways of seeing patterns beyond the roadways and coffee shops, something that takes into account the topo-logical haze in language--either in the Zonal Memoria notes or in the composing that is done in/at/around a point.  This is rather jumbled, so let me try it another way--listed:

I want to be able to:

  • See my zonal memoria notes layered with the same kind of notes by others over a common space. 
  • Incorporate photos, either by link or with thumbnails.  Flickr world map and Mappr both have shades of what I want, but I don't need the whole globe at once as much as the local sites (sliding between them is okay).  Give me neighborhoods, city blocks, better detail--like the detail we get in VE. And be able to mix the images and the text, play them together.
  • Selectable tags (applied by users or derived by parsing) that sift away a particular layer of discursive activity for a particular area.  Let's say we have a square mile.  I want a way to lift a tagged set of writing/photographic activity involved with the area.  In this sense, the system would be friendly to social geography (like the mapping hunger in Onondaga Cty. project done here at SU). Oh, and give us a couple of classes of tags: arch tags (broad, engulfing) and minutiae tags (narrower).
  • Selectable periods of time.  2000-2005, let's say.  Or January of '04.  Scaling down to months--in terms of temporal sorting--would be good enough for me (the others, they'd want something more probably). This will get easier as the imaging systems get snappier. But it would make it possible to watch a site evolve (even if only year by year).
  • Include audio and video files--the full documentary effects.  These can be tagged, too.  Why not? 
  • Block spam from this space.
  • Visualize the development of multiply composed (multi- in both people and technologies), multiply constituted texts as they relate to particular places.  This is a set of conditions, I think, making possible Barthes' notion of mapping mythologies. Watch them morph--fads, trends, mass consciousness, the popular, political ideologies, diet, etc.

I'm sure systems exist for processes like this in geography programs (yes?).  I'd say one of the web's mapping contenders could blow it open by giving us a more writable map with a social quality, a space where so many of these writing technologies might converge in exciting ways.

Added (something in the arena of what I'm thinking here): Geotagging And geotagging Flickr. Terrific, this one (and up for almost a month already).

Monday, July 25, 2005

Dearly Beloved

It's our second wedding anniversary today. 

Now only if D. were here!

In the gift column, a second anniversary means: Traditional: Cotton.  Modern: Paper.  Postmodern: Weblog entry.  And so I can print this baby out on some dense-woven from Office Max and call it good.  Mmm-hm. What?

They'll be home from Kenya tomorrow night, she and Ph.  In the meantime, I'm reading and grading end-of-term stuff, dirty-clothes laundering, dish-doing, and mulling over the purchases I just might make on a long overdue trip to the grocery store.

I should, nonetheless, take this happy anniversary entry as an opportunity to mention that D. is really terrific--patient, thoughtful, sweet, and patient (this could be a much longer list to be sure).  We've known each other since the seventh grade (something like 1985? what the hell...20 years?), times when note-passing and three-hour phone conversations helped us get to know each other so well....  (Here, pass this note to D., quick while Mrs. H. isn't looking.)  Skipping around parts of the long version now, this is just to say that it's unfortunately common for me to underrepresent D.'s remarkably caring presence when I plunk out these weblog entries (heh, or over-represent her absence...gone two whole weeks!?).  Oh, and to say it's good to have an anniversary with D. 

I feel like I should have some wine now, or cake or something.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

From: Zonal Memoria

Considering that the bookmark that led me to it included a note describing MSN Virtual Earth (via) like this: "Cheap knock off of google maps done with crappy USGS satellite data," I wasn't expecting much.  Yet, although the perspectives from MSN present black and white satellite images, the site is, in some ways, better than Google Maps because of resolution covering some of places I identify with. 

For example, look at these two images of the place where I grew up--the nearest crossroads and surrounding plots.  On the left: MSN Virtual Earth.  B&W, but not too bad.  Scaled comparably, Google Maps on the right.  Google Maps has exceptional imaging in particular places, but it also flat-out fails to offer up the same high quality detail for other places, as shown here.  You'd think I slithered up from the Chlorophyllic Slime Swamps of Central Michigan if you used Google Maps in satellite view (the same is true for other locations I've tried to check out around CNY).  Blobby maps just aren't cutting it.

For my purposes here, I wanted to zero in on places I identify with from years past:  zonal memoria.  This extends some of my thinking about Barthes' call in Mythologies for the work of mapping mythologies, last month's entry on the photographemic map, Jenny's discussion of attention and psychogeography (of intensities and banalities), Jeff's entry on virtual cities and imagination, and a chapter of Sirc's book, "Comp. Classroom/A&P Parking Lot," where he writes about the derive or drift, urban psychogeography as tracing street happenings (much credit due for these terms, this thinking).

Because MSN Virtual Earth lets me capture--from a reasonably viewable distance--these places I remember vividly (places with which I connect, even if nobody I know is there any longer--shadowy, phantom-filled), I can easily flip them into a Flickr tag: memory. The "memory" tag-set collects the annotated places; selecting one of the thumbnails will summon the aerial view and some few notes.  With a few simple links, I've strung the three detailed views together with a broader map of Michigan, thus making it easy to see these places relative to each other, making it easy to hop from one to another.  Each image is also linked (in the upper left-hand corner) to the MSN Virtual Earth permalink for the Mercator coordinates, so it'd be easy to have a look at the surrounds, scale back the view, and so on.  I call this series "From," which, although a bit flat, suggests to me some interesting pedagogical uses.  For example, in a sequence I used last fall, on geographies of exclusion, we basically asked students to develop projects concerned (-first-) with their coming to the SU campus and (-later-) with geographies of exclusion where they were from.  But, in working through the second bit, I thought we might have done more to address the site of action (whatever activity, real, perceived, imagined, virtual)--somehow do more with the problem of scale (Let me tell you about my hometown in general...).  Froms--the annotated, Flickr-batched frames of location that detail intensely personal connections to places--might be a useful add-on to the geographies of exclusion framework.  For example (?):

From: Michigan
Begin with a broad frame (or not...could work without it).  A region, let's say (unless it's a district, area). We'll scale this to be optimally inclusive of the points represented in the other frames. The other points will show here.

 From: West Branch (Dam Rd.)
Pt. 1: This one is from somewhere in Ogemaw County, Mich. (maternal grandparents). 

 From: Drummond Island (Socia Rd.)
Pt. 2: Drummond Island, Mich.  Although my paternal grandparents now live in Seattle, this is the place I associate most with them, with my dad's growing up.

 From: Mt. Pleasant (Remus Rd.)
Pt. 3: Where I'm from.  A zone memoria.

Still a bit provisional, but I want to post it nonetheless.  Even more aerial detail would be great, but until that's available, this will do.  And the notes overlay in Flickr (important!) could do with more detail, development.  They're rather first thoughts, gut level and sped-through.  Like I said, I can imagine developing these with students as a way to crystallize thinking about space (given, in turn, to analyses of exclusion or to documentary projects or to practicing a georhetoric of self-inscription--around home, body, neighborhood).  Unlike the photographemic map, the Froms don't make use of  CMap Tools, yet it could add a layer of networked (node/link/flow) qualities, I suppose.

Saturday, July 23, 2005 (via): A site for playing with colors. Nice tool for straining color sets associated with an image. Apparently, it's got a tagging feature, too.  Users can key word and phrase associations with a designated color.

Palm Caked Hard

Quick and Dirty research (really just wanted to see Q in drop caps).  I accepted an invitation to participate in (talk/click)-ing through a few minutes of a session for incoming TA's on Q&D.  A few others will give brief pitches, too, so I can't hog the floor (not that I would).  Thinking for now that I'll emphasize the D--dirty, as in the perpetual grubbing aligned with aggregation and a few other must-use sites.  The 'Dirty' in research not only identifies with the hands-dirty dig-dump-sift set of metaphors, as was so eloquently introduced to me by a memorable professor at my MA alma mater what, six years ago; it also drops the point of a spade into composition's material orthodoxy.  Unsifted presumptions about the material suited to composition research preserves the orthodoxy (straight phenomenological knowing), avoiding the deep down griminess, and instead digging materials delicately, troweling with too much propriety.  Worry-free and proven: Spray-n-Wash. Library databases: Quick and Clean research--different work involved in plucking a clean-authorized article (scrubbed by peer review), patching it into an essay.  

Let me try to say a bit more.  What materials are un/becoming for composition? (You know I've been reading Sirc's book slow and steady, until recently: concerned about bread only.)  I want to avoid the way of talking about Q&D research that ordains the library (and its subscription databases) alone.  We already have a hundred ways of talking about Boolean strings into ProQuest, and if we run dry on ways of talking about such things, we can schedule entire class sessions where a librarian will break it down, work through examples and prove the merits of every database we wish to query.  Now someone might mistake me to be saying that I don't think students should understand how to undertake library research.  Nah. Not so.  I love the library. I even have a Friends of the Library membership card for my undergrad alma mater for kicking in a few bucks and earmarking it for books.  I have seventeen borrowed books right here. But they're not in accordance with Q&D research. But I think a Q&D method doesn't strive to eliminate the happen(ings)stance--chance encounters, unpredictability, surprising messes. As for the "quick" in this tandem, I suppose it's clear enough that it refers to the temporal quality of a process, the truism of time as a aspect of any event. Less time for the Q&D.

I'm not trying to make trouble, just want work through some of the stuff racing around in my earliest pre-thinking.  I don't want to assume there is any confusion about Quick and Clean versus Quick and Dirty (of course everyone gets this, yeah?), and I don't want to seem over-eager in asserting the merits and vitality of unconventional materials, although I do think it's a question we mustn't stop vetting: where do allowable materials begin and end?  And so something more moderate (reasoned, settled, ortho-) will present some of the following sites as as worthy of having on hand (for the hand with cuticles bearing an easily-washed-away speck of dirt, anyhow):  Google Advanced Operators Cheat Sheet, Google Print, oishii, FindArticles, and for gem-finds, Bloglines with subscriptions to a few well-chosen tags.  To those doing image sequences: Flickr and front page photos, I suppose. See?  If I was really way out to sea on this one, I'd have admitted a plan to bring more ridiculously exemplary alter-materials: such as this or this (via).

When Is A Moth

A swift dip into the July server log presented me with a distressing collection of information: a variety of searches for all things "moth" is invoking this weblog, much to the chagrin of those doing the searching. So I backed out all the non-moth search queries (they're in the log if you want to have a look...but why?).  In separating out the search strings, I thought this was sufficiently bizarro-poetic to share, the "moth" collection.


     Hits      Search String
----------------  ----------------------
51         3.67%  moth
11         0.79%  moth problem
3          0.22%  earth wide moth
2          0.14%  about moth
2          0.14%  cartoon moth
2          0.14%  moth in thailand
1          0.07%  a moth
1          0.07%  about moths for kids with no picture
1          0.07%  baby moth
1          0.07%  big moth
1          0.07%  big orange moth
1          0.07%  bird crap moth
1          0.07%  blue ontario moth
1          0.07%  bracket moth
1          0.07%  clear frame moths
1          0.07%  dreams with moth
1          0.07%  how to catch moth
1          0.07%  injured moth
1          0.07%  lilac moth
1          0.07%  meaning of multiple moths
1          0.07%  moth and orange
1          0.07%  moth bait
1          0.07%  moth blue red
1          0.07%  moth breaker
1          0.07%  moth collect contemplation
1          0.07%  moth collections
1          0.07%  moth dog
1          0.07%  moth dream
1          0.07%  moth droppings
1          0.07%  moth eat
1          0.07%  moth growth
1          0.07%  moth in flight photos
1          0.07%  moth list
1          0.07%  moth means a soul is visiting
1          0.07%  moth meme
1          0.07%  moth orange
1          0.07%  moth orange photo
1          0.07%  moth paper
1          0.07%  moth peel
1          0.07%  moth prophecy
1          0.07%  moth superstition
1          0.07%  moth swarm ny
1          0.07%  moth yellow
1          0.07%  mothcake
1          0.07%  moths of onondaga county
1          0.07%  ontario moth orange
1          0.07%  origami moth
1          0.07%  origin of moth
1          0.07%  rare huge orange moth indiana
1          0.07%  split tail moth two spots
1          0.07%  superstitiousmoth in the bathroom
1          0.07%  the moth
1          0.07%  the moth notes
1          0.07%  the moth reading series
1          0.07%  turquoise moth
1          0.07%  velvet moth
1          0.07%  what a hurt moth looks like
1          0.07%  what does dreams about moths means
1          0.07%  what does seeing a moth mean
1          0.07%  what is a moth
1          0.07%  when is a moth

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Zinging the Messenger

You can imagine how thrilled I was when my monthly Aggie Express newsletter arrived from my alma mater this morning via email delivery.  A PDF (I don't mind when it's the newsletter).  And in it, an entire page devoted to "Writing is a Life Skill."  It's a glimpse into the perceived "real edge" gained by children who hone writing habits. Aggie Express in flight, aphorismic delight:

"While your children will learn how to write well in school, the best place for them to practice their skills and develop a love for writing is at home."
"Have the tools on hand."
"Write in front of them." [Never behind them.  Or on the side.]
"Praise their work."
"Make a book."
"Add writing to your list."
"Pay attention to song lyrics." [Forward thinking, I'd say.]
"Use the Web."

But you knew there would be a shocker--a firecracker in the cake.  It's this:

E-mails are OK; IMs aren't really writing.
This technologically savvy generation writes more than ever, thanks to computer instant messages (IMs) and e-mails. In fact, the accepted use of symbols and lack of proper grammar may not help children's efforts at creative writing. While IMs are quick and fun, they do nothing to help children become better writers. E-mails are better because they allow time and space for children to express themselves.

Interesting to me that the piece seems so conflicted about the the new attention writing is getting in the digital age (ah, not to mention that catlyzing force, the SAT). Of course I'd like to see them complicate the IM position just a bit. "They do nothing to help children become better writers" (my emph)?  Okay.  Seriously, more than cranking on old BCHS, I'm sharing this as just one example of the circulating edicts about what counts (no it doesn't!) as writing.  Not an issue I aim to correct solely by shooting a notice of contempt into e-space, but I contend that many of the wonky commonplaces about writing circulate at this low-flying altitude--the newsletter to a few hundred parents who, if they've considered writing much at all, consider it in this light.  Suppose it might make a difference if you'd been there (for twelve years).


Everything I know about CSS I learned from experimenting with Movable Type. And you may or may not care that I've never upgraded.  EWM is vintage MT 2.65.  I've installed new versions of MT for other folks (another install just a few days ago, in fact), but I've never gotten around to upgrading my own weblog.  Could be the lag reflects my felt knowledge that the new version would come with a slightly different set of class and id tags.  No hurry to bother with it.

In the early months of this weblog, I doctored the style sheet in TopStyle Lite--the mediocreware that comes with something else I have on my system (Dreamweaver 4? Old but good enough, and my software budget...paltry).  But shortly after getting hooked on Firefox, I came upon Edit CSS, a browser plugin that reveals the style sheet of any site (yeah, I can probably access the CSS of your site, lift and modify bits of code and put them to my own uses).  Because MT keeps all of its CSS definitions in a single style sheet, it's quite easy to tweak.  The changes, using Edit CSS automatically reflect on the page as it appears in the browser window.  It's a live what-if enactment.  To save changes, copy and paste the modified CSS definitions into the template and do a quick rebuild. (Honestly, I don't know whether everyone already knows this).  The code in my style sheet is unorthodox--a mish-mash of what-ifs, both kept and unkempt, a stash of aberrant and idle lines (among the pieces doing the work).

I installed a Wordpress weblog just to mess around with it, try it out.  But I found that the style sheets were split up.  No good.  Like five hair products and five combs. I want a single style sheet that cascades through the site.  Lazy that way.  Seemed like a lot of work to do a redesign in multiple style sheets, especially when the class and id tags are unfamiliar.

So what's with all this blog talk?  Well, someone asked me about design, and I've been dropping in a few plugins, floating the blog on some new .pl scripts.  Among the latest plugins: MTDropcap, MTKeywords, MTLoop, MTGlue and MTRandomLine.  Unsurprisingly, MTDropcap is doing the work of dropping the caps that begin each entry.  Into the main index template:

<span class="drop"><$MTDropCapLetter$></span>

Into the style sheet:

.drop {
float: left;
padding: 0px 5px 5px 3px;
font-size: 62px;
line-height: 51px;
font-weight: none;
font-family: georgia, times;

MTRandomline refs a template file with a list of quotations--the ones you'll find at the bottom of this main page and also at the foot of each page in the individual entry archive.  Randomline regenerates only when a page is rebuilt, but because I have comments showing here, a different (or the same, it's random) quotation will cycle in with each new comment.  I'm going to wait a while before rolling out the keywords, loop, glue combination.  More on that another time. Why randomline rather than php?  Some of the php stuff I've tried busies the server with extraneous processes (this is probably myth, but I had trouble with too many processes invoking when I was running a random image script some time ago).

Here's the tagging for RandomLine. 

<table class="headfoot" align="center">
<tr> <td class="headfoot" align="center">
<$MTRandomLine module="quotations"$></td></tr></table>

Easy.  Presumably, it can pull anything, so it would be possible to have a Randomline module that invokes images, text or some combination.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Fall Teaching

I have yet to start full-on prep for the course I'm teaching in the fall, but I did learn the other day that I'll lead a section of WRT307: Advanced Writing Studio: Professional Writing.  Just the one course for teaching this fall, plus taking two or three (I have an elective yet to elect, either fall or spring). 

WRT307 is relatively familiar, although among the bazillion comp courses I've taught, a professional writing course, per se, isn't among them.  I've been through the repository of syllabi from recent semesters, scanned a select few of them into PDFs for later reference.  A gross curricular generalization about the course as read through quick glances at the heap of course documents:  lead with generic forms (a resume and cover letter assignment); follow with a study/analysis of workplace information flow, rhetorical analysis of a specific document or document set, or interview with a professional on writing practices; follow with a simulation-project with emphases on design, usability, ethics.  Collaborative and presentational dimensions are inscribed in the course outcomes, I think.

I still have about two weeks before I'm obligated to order books.  For now, I'm leaning toward a course pack--a collection with a chapter or two from The Social Life of Information, The Cluetrain Manifesto, Porter and Sullivan's essay, "Repetition and the Rhetoric of Visual Design," a chapter from Dias's Worlds Apart (on the notebooks of architects or academe/workplace transition).  Much of the other stuff I can come up with online (perils of blogging, perils of powerpoint) or perhaps by bringing in a chapter from a text book (recommendations?).  Frankly, for now I'm trying to think of ways to breach some of the constraint I find in the conventional genre approach (a resume is always only x, y, z).  I understand convention, and I'm not trying to squander my students' futures.  Just the opposite, in fact.  I'm actually interested in doing more than filling compartments with autoblandography.  Workplace templates are so pervasive and so deeply systematized that we can teach to them be-damned the specific situation?  The simulation approach (let's be a business) presents some interesting possibilities and challenges, too, but I have to give it more thought.  If it will be done well, it will be done with a different sort of joint involvement.  Certainly all of this will ripple and shift when we convene this fall (and so the sim performances might be held off until the last chunk of the course).  But it's one of the things I've been working through in recent days, besides reading and responding to work from students in the two (soon-to-end) courses I'm teaching, besides putzing with CSS and MT plugins on breaks from reading student work, besides crying (tears? sweat?) about the unbearable heat and humidity (mid-sixties overnight tonight though...finally, some sleep). 

Any thoughts about what's missing from this developing plan?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Ah, Moving

Slowly, but I did help friends move all of their belongings today, the second such lent hand in recent weeks.  I like to think of it as good exercise, exhilarating advilarating. The humidity in Central New York: hot air pudding!  Today's three shirts tell of two day-themes: pourousness and sweat.  We loaded the Penske here in Syracuse this morning, then unloaded it in Ithaca in the heat of the day.  Quite a book collection they've got. 

Because they were re-using boxes from a previous move, I was keying on the box label mix-n-mismatch.  The "Misc. Stuff" tags had me wondering just how miscellaneous the books inside were.  And to stack the hand-truck with three boxes:  Top (labeled): video tapes. Middle: (labeled): super heavy. Bottom (labeled): Books (theory).  Remember I was hotter than the searing red lava-stuff of lower hell, and so I was surviving the day on bemusing hallucinations about box contents.  Wonder what's in here?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Eat Fresh as in Sparse, Wilted

On the way to Green Lakes Tuesday we stopped off at a local Subway for lunch, planned to take it to go--for picnicking in the sun at the state park.

D. and Ph. ordered before me, D. getting the usual turkey simple and Ph. something adventurous-else (ham?).  He wanted to order the dressings I usually get, but we didn't figure that out until later on in the car.  I'll say in just a second what the preferred Subway sandwich dressings are, but first I want to be clear about a gripe I have with the sandwich shop and so many of its franchises.

Occasionally, I order a Veggie Delight, Subway's all vegetable fare (foot-long, of course, so I don't dwindle away).  When I ordered a Veggie Delight the other day, one patent and widespread Subway sandwich-making bias was eminent:  sandwiches require meat.  The sub I took from the store was disappointingly light, airy; it was a sub with room to spare for meat, in this sense.  A dressings sub; toppings as accessory rather than feature.  But I ordered a sandwich featuring vegetables; no delight in the disconcertingly thin toppings I found there.

I could solve this recurrent mini-crisis by ordering a sub with meat.  I'm fond of the Spicy Italian sandwich, for example, and I get the same dressings on it that I ask for on a Veggie Delight.  The Spicy Italian is hearty; the Veggie Delight: like a Spicy Italian without the meat.  It's thin, feeble.  I'm interested in a heartier veggie sub.  How nice it would be.

To be more solution oriented, here's a list of precepts for veggie-sub making.  Subway, take these to heart:

If I order a Veggie Delight, I

1.  am not necessarily a fanatic vegetarian who wants a dinky, empty sandwich.
2.  don't want the butts and ends of either tomatoes or jalapenos.  Please don't put them on my sandwich.  I'm begging you. 
3.  want reasonably fresh tomatoes and double the normal allotment of lettuce.  The other day, for instance, one of the sandwich makers was switching old tomatoes into a new tomato container by tonging them one at a time into the new bucket.  The manager intervened by telling the sandwich maker she was going too slow.  She responded: "I didn't think we should have the old juice on the new tomatoes."  The manager, saying nothing, grabbed the old plastic bucket and flipped it onto the new bucket, dumping the juice and dreg-tomatoes onto the fresh.  Sandwich maker made a face expressing eeeww!.
4. prefer fresh lettuce.

That's it.  That's all I've got.  So much to ask?

Now, about the optimal toppings (the ones Ph. was trying to simulate without asking for help):  American cheese (or not...this is no real difference-maker), lettuce, tomato, onion.  Green peppers, black olives, jalapenos. Salt, pepper, vinegar, oil.  One line of yellow mustard and two-three lines of mayo.  (Yeah, I leave the pickles, cucumbers and banana peppers for the next person in line.  Considerate, eh?  Go ahead and have a whole sub chocked with 'em.).

Perhaps my expectations for fast food are too high.  The make-it-in-front-of-you-at-a-glass-counter dynamic probably contributes to my sense that the Veggie Delight is diminishing in a worker-assembly habit clearly conditioned by the dressing of meat-filled sandwiches.  I hope one day to have a good Veggie Delight, and yet, as I say that, it makes good sense to me that I might, instead, forget about getting decent vegetables at any kind of fast food joint.  Hell, I could just as easily go to McDonald's or Taco Bell and order a salad to more quickly restore the Delight I'm supposed to experience when I order a meager veggie sub from Subway.  Must be some lesson to take from all of this.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Business Blogs

Blogging for small businesses was the topic of a talk I attended last evening at Turning Stone near Verona, NY.  I was invited by A., joined her and M. at a table near the middle.  The yellow table--yellow name tags, too.  Part of a Society for Technical Communication. Yvonne Divita, self-employed print-on-demand publisher and women's marketing guru, gave the talk: "Blogging: Is it a verb or a noun? Yes!"  The event was well attended, maybe fifty people or so. 

The basic premise of the talk was that blogging would be useful for small businesses.  The small-business owner should consider the possibilities of a weblog as a replacement for a static web site that generates relatively few visits because few people link to it.  Sub-pitch:  turn the blogosphere's interest-clustering into for-profit marketing.  Although the other incentives were brought up, the ruse was heavy on giving page rank a boost more than on opening up a different kind of relationship with customers and other business owners.

The audience included more than a few people who knew relatively little about blogs if they'd ever heard of them before, and so DiVita's approach--elementarizing the blogosphere--was on the mark for most.  This wasn't an academic talk by any means, and because it was a sales pitch on blogging--blogging lite for the few of us who already blog, who already understand RSS, who already get the implications of outward/inward link-gestures--the event, overall, was purposeful for a few other reasons:  it absolutely confirmed J.'s brief mention that folks in our field (knowing of writing/technology/rhetoric) could be more involved in consulting.  We need to circulate these important ideas, people!  It also got me thinking: I'm not, but if I was a small-business owner, what would I need to know about blogging?

On one level, I'd characterize DiVita's pitch as a sales event for Six Apart, Movable Type, and especially TypePad--the platform she uses to host her weblog, Lip-Sticking.  Divita's assistant--the laptop navigator (clicking through the browser history because the internet connection was failing)--referred over and over to the "Six Apart kids," interjected anecdotes about Mena and Ben Trott, and did much less to celebrate any other platform:  Drupal, Wordpress, Blogger.

Early in the talk, DiVita described weblogs as "thin" web sites. I would have liked to hear more about her contention that weblogs, in their thin-ness (a quality of their on-going-ness? their stretch?), are distinct from web sites.  I suppose the qualities of weblogs she was accounting for are their currency, flexibility and fluidity.  The regular self-publishing of business-related content into the weblog would make it more vital (and likely to circulate) than the otherwise static structure of what she called a "web site."  Static::dynamic: the ratio in question, I guess. And yet, as most bloggers and web developers know, the move to dynamic content comes with some trade-off.  I also wanted to hear more about what leads to blog fizzle: (-1-) infrequent entries, (-2-) lack of linking, (-3-) neglect--by not reading and commenting--of the small world you are seeking to activate.  Kickers, then: Don't expect it to work if you can't commit to two entries per week for eternity and don't expect it to work if you don't actively engage in the network not only by writing entries, but also by reading and commenting generously in the cluster you aspire to fashion.  Oh, and: Do you really want un-moderated comments from customers on your site?  I can think of a few companies I wish! had open comment spaces:  Blockbuster, United Airlines, for two.

Instead of sounding critical or unfair--going on and on airing the presumption that I know more about it than was covered last night, I should say that it was simply a nice event for a group of folks who hadn't ever heard of blogging.  Divita was generally descriptive of what a blog can do for a business, and she had plenty of examples in hand to reinforce her primary aim. 

Critical aside: I don't have a copy of the dinner card with the accurate names of what they served, but it was, um, unusual.  Something like a pancake stuffed chicken breast covered with apple cinnamon glaze.  Or was the apple-y taste in the stuffing?  Sides: Maple-flavored rice and mixed vegetables.  Never had anything quite like it--a collision of breakfast and dinner. "Compliments of the chef, formerly of IHOP...." For dessert: strawberry-sauce-covered biscuit with whipped cream.  And a small coffee that kept me awake until 2:45 a.m.

Monday, July 11, 2005


As D. and Ph. make final preps to leave for Kamanzi, Kenya day-after-tomorrow, I've been:

  • thinking about how nice it would be to have a dog.  More specifically, the $700 pug puppy I saw at the mall this morning.  I still suffer bouts of dog guilt (fleeting though they are, both guilt and dogs).  Our lease?  No pets.  But this is a college town.  Leases are writ to be violated.
  • not itching the phantom poison ivy I haven't yet caught.  The difference between a watch and a warning.  Or so my not-yet-red-and-burning ankle skin suggests.  Landlord is abroad, too, so I pushed the mower around this small lot yesterday.  Yes, those were nubs of poison ivy growing in the lawn, then chopped and sprayed in small bits around my socks and shins.  Certain of it.
  • to the bone doctor for the third time in six weeks.  Today he cleared Ph. to resume all normal activities.  Are you sure his metatarsals can take it?
  • non-stop tinkering with a perl script, the online journal, a domain change for a little side project I'm involved with and teaching.  Teaching: this was the weekend (transitioning from 5-of-8 to 6-of-8) when the workload spikes double.  And it lingers into this week for a few more relatively work-intensive days.  But I can't complain: reading and writing back to writing with vigor, vitality.
  • wondering whether it'll be a family outing to Green Lakes or Southwick Beach tomorrow.  I have yet to swim this summer?
  • reconciling the severe slow-down in reading pace I've experienced now that I'm reading just to read rather than reading against deadlines.  No crisis, this, but I haven't been reading as expediently during the summer months as I projected I might.  A slowing suited to rejuvenation.

And so D. and Ph. will be flying to Detroit then Amsterdam then Nairobi, leaving for about fourteen days.  Once there, D.'s leading a teacher's workshop for grades 1-3 on the science of simple machines (who says incline planes are simpler than pulleys?), and Ph. is involved with some other stuff.  All in all, an exciting trip; I'd love be along on it except that I'd have to concede the web connection for ten days and this fast-paced summer teaching couldn't withstand it.  So instead, I'm going to be moping around Syracuse, missing D. and Ph., looking for stuff to do--besides teaching, reading.  I'm pretty sure I'm helping a friend move from Syracuse to Ithaca.  After that, maybe I'll throw the bike in the Element and do a bit of Central NY bicycle-n-photo blogging--Finger Lakes or the Erie Canal from here to Rome.  Something, anyway.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Pool Heating

I don't have a pool.  Or a gas grill.  But I am impressed at the display of backyard ingenuity shown by the guy who devised a tight lattice of copper tubing to fit inside his gas grill for pool-heating (via).

According to MAKE, one five-gallon propane tank raises the temp in an 8,000-gallon pool by 7 degrees.  Even though, as the MAKE commenter points out, gas-fueled pool-heating is a waste of precious resources, I like it because it's exactly the kind of project that my brother would undertake.  To think of sweating all those joints!  In fact, there's a good chance that if he sees this entry, he'll have one of these put together for warming my nephews' plastic pool within a week.

And no, this entry wouldn't be complete without acknowledging that there are more conservation-minded, if disgusting and indefensible, ways to heat the pool. I'm just saying.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Continuous, Partial

These notes from the recent Supernova 2005 conference--themed "Attention"--call attention to the keynote address by Linda Stone, which she leads by citing her own coinage of "continuous partial attention" in 1997.  I'm hesitant to argue with the phrase out of context, but I appreciate the position expressed at unmediated (citing this article) that attention structures are partial, layered, shifting, afflux. Broader questions--likely explained by Stone elsewhere--fold into this, such as the degree to which technologies bring about changes in consciousness (what we mean by attention?) or whether the attention-fragmenting domain now filled up with the digital apparatus simply presents us with more interferences and distractions (material and informational).  The notes (which I'm taking as reasonably reliable) have these as Stone's closing comments:

The next aphrodisiac is committed full-attention focus. In this new area, experiencing this engaged attention is to feel alive. Trusted filters, trusted protectors, trusted concierge, human or technical, removing distractions and managing boundaries, filtering signal from noise, enabling meaningful connections, that make us feel secure, are the opportunity for the next generation. Opportunity will be the tools and technologies to take our power back.

I don't have any brilliant conclusions to report (might try, though, if I'd have been there). The notes on the talk and the conference's theme, I find interesting.  The periodization of computing--twenty year cycles flipping between individualist models and social models--leaves me with questions about its predictive legitimacy--rings of a social turn, more recently to full blown networkacy.  And this turn, Stone projects, is answered by what's coming next, a return of sorts to individualistic attention control--more fixed, restrictively channeled attention structures.  Or at the very least, a greater measure of agency in the network. Yeah maybe.

Biking, Summits

I hope the rest of the G8 Summit goes better for the president.  Bush wasn't hurt; the status of the presidential bike is less certain: "The presidential bike suffered some damage, McClellan said, so Bush rode back to the hotel in a Secret Service vehicle."  Bush was wearing a helmet (it'd be inappropriate to speculate about why the helmet). But did I hear on NPR that this is his second bicycle spill in recent years?  What the hell?

Tuesday, July 5, 2005


In days long-gone--my first summer out of high school--I worked several months for a propane distributor.  The business was run by two brothers, entrepreneurial types. They had a warehouse; they dealt in a whole range of petrol products--barrels of axle grease, high-viscosity lubricants, ordinary gasoline, and propane.  After just a few weeks, my duties stretched through the warehouse (sweeping, stacking wobbly towers of empty drums on wooden pallets three or four levels high, and hand-loading tractor trailers with grimy barrels) into the east yard where I painted propane pigs with a second coat before the service crew took them into the field for setup.  The tanks shipped from the manufacturer to the distributor (where I worked) in bulk, already covered with one skin of light brown paint.  In loading and unloading, the nylon straps would smudge the paint leaving unglamorous strap-marks around each end of the tank.  So much glamour in yard-sized propane tanks, really: the bosses didn't want marked tanks holding their fuel. 

In that small sandy (and weed-filled) lot, I used an old front-loader to lift the tanks, one at a time, into the air for industrial painting.  I suppose each tank weighed a few hundred pounds, considerably more than I could lift if one fell on me.  None fell, but the front-loader was so old that the crap-draulic compression seeped just enough air that the tank slowly lowered.  Gradually.  The tanks eased to the ground. I had to rush to get the underside painted before removing the lift-straps and painting the top side.  And the paint was the same dull tan color that the tanks had already been painted before shipping.  It wasn't painting to fill a color; it was more precise: painting to match wetness--to fill in the dry areas with fresh paint in the pursuit of coverage.

I never painted more than ten in one day.  Ten propane pigs in roughly six hours--no matter whether they were 500 or 330 gallon tanks--was the most I could bear.  And there were lulls in the shipments and orders, so it wasn't an everyday routine.  I would break from painting to lift more pallet-stacked barrels, even if I didn't have a proper license to drive the forklift.  Other times, sweeping.  One day I painted all of the curbs near the front office Road-sign Yellow.  Another day they had me mow the weeds in the side yard where the tanks-awaiting-purge-and-setup were stowed. 

Within a few weeks, Owners decided they wanted to send me into the field to refurbish older tanks on site.  I drove an old Ford half-ton pickup around the county, following addresses listed on a spreadsheet.  Called the homeowners. Let them know I'd be there.  Piled up the flat-bed with a weed-eater, a bucket of paint, a belt sander, rollers and sponge brushes.  When I say the Ford was old, I mean it was hovering in that hard-to-drive rut between rusted metal and stuff-doesn't-work-properly.  It was a stick shift with a maroon-ish cab.  No power steering, and never put it in second gear because it took two hands to get it out of second gear.  Into the field I lurched, stopping off at country homes and trailer houses, cutting the weeds around the tank, and painting.

When I think about summer jobs, two visits during my stint as a propane tank painter stand out clearly from the others (put fresh coats on maybe fifty tanks in people's yards that summer?).  The first one--a 1000-gallon tank--was on a farm east of town near the Chippewa River.  It was surrounded by deep weeds, maybe four feet tall.  I made two or three trips to this place to finish the job.  The old guy who lived there requested the service.  He probably tipped my bosses onto the whole idea of in-field tank-painting in the first place.  And he was on top of my work the entire time, constantly asking what I was doing, how much longer I would be.  Three days.  His tank: so pock-marked--a grossly uneven surface--I eventually quit sanding it (enough!) and went ahead with the paint.  Memorably bad--hot, dusty, and rough.

Worse: The 330-gallon tank at a mobile home near Farwell.  This was near the end of the job for me.  It was a reasonably new tank, small (330 gal.), well-raised on cement blocks, easy to access, or so it appeared as I chugged up the dirt driveway in the half-ton flatbed.  Only: it was surrounded by chicken wire, in the middle of a make-shift coop.  And! Many of the chickens were no longer alive.  On the worst day of that job painting propane tanks, then, I rolled a fresh coat on a tank in the side-yard of a Farwell mobile home while trying not to stand or kneel on dead chickens.  On the subject of summer jobs, that's all I have to say for now.

Sunday, July 3, 2005


Thornden Park | July 3 Sunset

So sat the sun over Lake Onondaga and downtown Syracuse tonight.

Saturday, July 2, 2005

Comfort Inventory II

Seventy-eight and blue skies.  This is what I expected from a central New York summer. 

Here's what I've been up to:

1. I used up the better part of yesterday puzzling over a few of the finer points of Actionscript.  Messed around with a couple of Excel functions until I was frustrated, too.  Both of these are important parts for a larger, quasi-conceived project.  Two choices: (-a-) develop a programmer's aptitude or (-b-) find some programmer friends.

2. The summer grad course ended Thursday, and everything's well in hand for the two online courses I'm teaching, now entering the fifth week.  I've got one weblog-setup obligation approaching, mid-July, and ongoing projects with CCC Online. Other than that: I'll be working on major re-writes (re-organization, primarily, and a bit of reframing at the beginning) of an essay I hope to send out by the end of August and reading ahead for the New Media/Visualization independent study I'm taking in the fall.  Also dabble-reading some other stuff (flipping around, bits and pieces) and, for leisure, getting further into Asimov's Foundation series. 

3. Microwaving a cloth, rice-filled bag and draping it over my upper back to relieve unbearable pinching-knottiness.

4.  Considering two unwritten weblog entries: (-a-) a follow-up on the carnival concerning process or processual agreement or (-b-) something on punctum as anti-genre (agenera?).  But I need to look again at Fulkerson for the first; for the second, just time to write it and more thought.

5.  I took a few minutes this morning to clean out my Bloglines account, delete a few of the idle or now-boring feeds.  Dropped from monitoring 113 feeds to 100 even; more manageable.  And I reorganized the folders so instead of four jumbled groupings, I now have eight more logically related sets.  I'm not trying to go all Dewey Decimal on the feed organization, but I was needing some improvement.  Too often, the feeds in three folders were simply accumulating to three figures before I'd dump them without reading a single entry.  No good.  While tidying Bloglines, I came across the following keepers:

Science's 125 Big Questions (via).  And composition's 125 Big Questions? Any in common?
Flickr Photographer's Badge (via).  I wonder if they'll give me a free pass and a seat on the media row at SU's home basketball games next season.
Newseum's front pages (via).  This came across techrhet the other day, too.  I'm less interested in it for the news content than I am for the quick and easy access to front page infographics.  Maybe I'll flip through them and capture examples of data visualizations periodically, for the next time I teach the Rhetoric of Dataviz projects.  Like these on the war, strep and fireworks:

Suicide AttacksStrep RateFireworks

6.  For the last month, I switched my techrhet and WPA-L subscriptions from digest to regular (every message).  Yesterday, I wised up again, switched them back to digest.