Friday, June 30, 2006

Ong, "Writing Is a Technology that Restructures Thought"

Ong, Walter J. "Writing Is a Technology that Restructures Thought." Cushman, Kintgen, Kroll, and Rose 19-31.

Writing systematically changes thought. Ong supports this premise by revisiting Plato's Phaedrus, by distinguishing oral, literate and high-literate (technological) cultures, and by listing fourteen points indicative of the effects of writing:
1. Separation of the known from the knower (and the promotion of objectivity) (24)
2. Separation of interpretation from data (25)
3. Distancing of word from sound (25)
4. Time/space distancing of interlocutor and recipient (25)
5. Separates word from the "plenum of existence" (26)
6. Enables the enforcement of verbal precision (26)
7. Separates past from present (26)
8. Separates administration from other social activities (26)
9. Separates logic from rhetoric (27)
10. Separates academic learning from wisdom (27)
11. Divides society by splitting verbal communication into high and low (27)
12. Vocabularizes grapholects versus dialects (28)
13. Permits abstraction (28)
14. Separates being from time (28)

Plato's Socrates' complaints against writing: artificiality, permanence of untruths (once published...), and dissolution of memory (21).

"Print and electronics continue with new intensification and radical transformations the diaeretic programme initially set in motion by writing. They separate knower from known more spectacularly than writing does" (29).

"For all states of the word--oral, chirographic, typographic, electronic--impose their own confusions, which cannot be radically eliminated but only controlled by reflection" (30).

"Human knowledge demands both proximity and distance, and these two are related to one another dialectically. Proximity perceptions feed distancing analyses, and vice versa, creating a more manageable intimacy" (31).

"Technologies are not mere exterior aids but also interior transformations of consciousness, and never more than when they affect the word" (23).

"Although we take writing so much for granted as to forget that it is a technology, writing is in a way the most drastic of the three technologies of the word. It initiated what printing and electronics only continued, the physical reduction of dynamic sound to quiescent space, the separation of the word form the living present, where alone real, spoken words exist" (22).

Terms: high-technology cultures (19), chirographically (19), evenescence (of orality) (20), plenum of existence (26b), homeostatic (26d), diglossia (27c)

Related Sources:
Ong, Walter. Orality and Literacy. 1982.
Luria, A. Cognitive Development: Its Cultural and Social Foundations. 1976.
Plato's Phaedrus, particularly Socrates on writing.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Model: 0308L00

With a hand from Ph., I assembled the crib yesterday. I'd take a picture, but we don't have a mattress for it yet. And I wouldn't want the blog to nose-dive even further into the anything-goes depths signaled by an entry with a photo of a mattress-less baby crib.

Here's my favorite line from the instructions. It wins for two reasons: 1.) It's the only RED (bold and all caps) instructional statement in the seven page packet; and 2.) I read it ten, maybe twelve times and it suggested new and different meanings to me each time. You'll see: "Please make sure that the top of the post is at the lowest position to be connected to the top of the rail of the end panel while screwing."

Give up? I did too. And yet, by some miracle of good fortune the crib went solidly together with no unused hardware and no diagram or action step unchecked (besides the cryptograph above).

At birthing class tonight, the teacher emptied her "goodie bag" onto the floor. The "goodie bag" is a tote filled with odds and ends for the big trip to the hospital: socks, loose change, a coach's snack (that's me; I'm the "coach"), music, toothbrushes, and so on. It's a long list of items. Again the teacher emphasized having on hand a focal point representative of the baby. A toy or a photo of something. And then she referred us to our photocopied handbook which provided these imaginative ideas: "picture, vase, etc." Never in my life would I have considered a vase as a focal point (I suppose it's called a vahz in this case, eh?).

Final thing: Should we be concerned that the baby, still seven weeks from being born, kicks like Aquaman when the ice cream truck goes chiming by? Might be an inherited trait.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Grabill, "The Written City"

Grabill, Jeffrey T. "The Written City: Urban Planning, Computer Networks, and Civic Literacies." Bruce McComiskey and Cynthia Ryan, eds. City Comp: Identities, Spaces, Practices. Albany: SUNY Press, 2003. 128-140.

Grabill looks at the ways cities are written through policy and data structures. Specifically, he considers the role of local citizens in Mechanicsville, Ga., and the rhetorical power inherent in the transformation of data about a place and prospective developments as it gets converted into and recirculated as information. What Grabill calls "the rhetorical turn in urban planning" is significant for the way it values the tacit knowledge of "non-expert" citizens. The chapter is also written in media res or, that is, before the community planning initiative was completed.

Overview statement: "This chapter is an exploration of how cities are written, how they can be written by citizens, and how the writing of a city can be the context for a writing class" (128).

"[Because civic life will become increasingly mediated by technologies] it piques the imagination to consider what computer-mediated civic life might look like, but it also should cause us to conside more mundane implications" (138c). The mundane implications are small involvements with uncertain outomes.

Related sources:
Short, John Rennie, The Urban Order: An Introduction to Cities, Culture, and Power.
Johnson, Robert, User-Centered Technology: A Rhetorical Theory of Computers and Other Mundane Artifacts.
Sawicki and Craig, "The Democratizatoin of Data: Bridging the Gap for Community Groups." APA Journal 62 (1996): 512-23.

Custom Fields

I spent enough time on this earlier today that I figured an entry was due. Most of the support forums were a disappointment, too, so let this serve as a reference for desperate souls like me who are hunting around for clues about how to integrate the Movable Type Custom Fields plugin in their weblogs. What follows will probably only be of interest to MT users. It's not entirely self-serving, though. I think we'll soon be using custom entries for CCC Online, and I wasn't having any luck getting it to work here until now.

The first problem I encountered was that the plugin was old. I had MTCustomFields 1.12 on the system rather than the updated v. 1.2. It's a fast upgrade; takes just a minute or two to get everything in place.

Here's what I wanted to do:  Basically, I wanted another field on the input screen that would allow me to designate Technorati tags for selected entries. I am already using the Keywords field for tagging. But I don't want anything to show up with entries where I'm not using any tags at all.  To accomplish this, I have to have the following plugins in my MT installation: MTLoop, MTGlue, and MTCustomFields.  And I'm running MT 3.2.

With these plugins, I concocted a sequence of tags that would link directly to my account.  With the following code, I can enter a string of tags in the Keywords field, separated by spaces, and get a list of links to the corresponding tags in  The catch is that after posting the entry, I have to post the page to and copy/paste the same tags into the keywords field in  That way the links on my weblog match up with the tags in  Here's an example.  We're using the same system for CCC Online. And here is the code from the index template that makes all of this happen.  If you want the tags to show up in other templates (individual, monthly, category, etc.), just copy/paste this code there as well:

<MTIfNonEmpty tag="EntryKeywords">Tags: <MTGlueContainer><MTLoop values="[MTEntryKeywords]" delimiter=" ">
<a href="<$MTLoopValue$>"><$MTLoopValue$></a><MTGlue>, </MTGlue></MTLoop></MTGlueContainer><br></MTIfNonEmpty>

The MTIfNonEmpty enclosure tells MT to ignore everything here if I haven't entered any tags in the Keyword field.  No permanent elements will show up the individual entry. Everything depends upon there being tags.  No tags, no mess.

But I was after something else.  The tagging is a good fit for the way I use it, particularly when marking notes that I want to integrate with the other tagged items I drop into How could I add a second layer of tags, a layer that would tie directly into Technorati? For this, I needed another entry field.  So I installed MTCustomFields. Everything was fine. The expanded interface is intuitive. I was able to add "Technorati" as an extra field. Still, I couldn't find many examples of the code to use in the index template. There were several examples of wonky, dysfunctional code. I was only able to learn the basic code for the enclosure and the field specification. It looks like this:


It was a start.  But I still wanted to integrate it into the scheme I was using for which allows me to enter a string of tags and lets the MT engine do the rest.  I'm not a die-hard Technorati tagger, but it would be nice to have the flexibility of simply keying in a tag or two (teaching-carnival or Academy2.0) for certain entries.  For others entries, it's fine that they publish untagged (or untagged by anything beyond my only semidescript category labels).  By whisking together the two chunks of code from above, I was able to get something to work:

<MTEntryData><MTIfNonEmpty tag="EntryDataTechnorati">Technorati tags: <MTGlueContainer><MTLoop values="[MTEntryDataTechnorati]" delimiter=" "><a href="<$MTLoopValue$>" rel="tag"><$MTLoopValue$></a><MTGlue>, </MTGlue></MTLoop></MTGlueContainer></MTIfNonEmpty></MTEntryData>

Note that "Technorati" matches with the name I used when I set up the extra field using MTCustomField.  What's peculiar is that the first tag reference doesn't use "MT" whereas the second tag reference does.  But it works (and with a bricoleur-shrug, I don't mind why right now). If I enter a list of tags in the Technorati field, they turn up at the bottom of the entry with live links. The entry interface looks like this:

Useful to someone else, maybe.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Rhetorweight Boxing

During a conversation tonight about anthologies ("Anthologics," a future entry), somebody mentioned Cross-Talk in Comp Theory and, you guessed it, the Bartholomae-Elbow debate. There are others, but I don't know them (or I do, but I don't want to disturb sleeping giants). I should know them, list them. But for now I'm casually proposing a collection made up of the close-handed fisticuffs, an all-time greats in the knock-down-drag-outs of RC scholarship. Each conflict would be framed as a round with notes explaining the vitriol's sources, escalations of fired-up writing, and so on. A celebration of irreconcilability and over-my-dead-body investments in method, curriculum and the discipline. Who wouldn't order a copy of such a thing?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Porter, Rhetorical Ethics and Internetworked Writing

Porter, James E. Rhetorical Ethics and Internetworked Writing. Greenwich, Conn.: Ablex, 1998.

"Rhetoric is a technology--and there is no neutral technology because all technologies are always already invested with a category bias; they are alywas socially and culturally situated (as Awtill indeed admits), constructed out of specific historical circumstances and reflecting the biases of that context" (67).

Friday, June 23, 2006


Two I think of initially: the discourse triangle (Message - Writer - Reader) and the rhetorical situation (Writer/Speaker - Audience - Context). Followed by: Aristotle's: Ethos, Pathos, Logos; Berthoff's: Reference, Word, Referent; and my own: Legos, Mentos, Wormholes, and so on. I made that last one up just now. I'm not convinced that it gets at anything particularly profound. Heck, it only took a few seconds to think up.

In the past, I've used traingular models a time or two for whatever reasons (i.e., in a weak moment, deferring to a textbook). I've run across a few variants, and most of them, as well as I can tell, side with one of two teams (been watching the World Cup?): hermeneutics or meaning-motivated triangles and dramatics or event-motivated triangles. And when the final whistle blows, they trade jerseys. I hope you'll tell me what I'm leaving out.

Here's the thing: I've overheard triangles off-handedly dismissed as only so much simplistic rubbish (right, of course, there are more thoughtful, respectful and smart critiques, too). During a few of those triangle bashings, I admit, I sat by, complicit in my silence. Which should I prefer? Why one? Any?

I briefly looked again at Bitzer's famous essay early this week and was reminded that he relies on the troika of exigence, audience and constraints (is it a generous gloss that this transmodifies into speaker-audience-purpose (or context)? Or does this last one come from elsewhere still?). Insufficient though Bitzer's set may well be, I wonder whether you think they're suitable as a beginning model for, say, students in a lower division writing course who have never heard of rhetoric or who have never considered situation as an object of study. Given that we're concerned with a rhetorical situation understood to be a small slice of a complex ecology of activities and intensities, do you think that Bitzer's three terms do justice as a starting point?

Really, what I'm trying to find out is whether you ever use any triangular model when teaching a writing course. And which one? Why? Go on, be anonymous with your comments if you wish.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Text to Map

Two recent entries drew my attention to the Gutenkarte project, a series of scripts and processes that renders place-names appearing in a given text and locates them on a map. The Gutenkarte site announces future plans for the project, including a wiki-like annotation add-on that will enable a group of users to collaborate in expanding the place-name information and related contextual relevance (one day to include digital images and video?). The project bears many similarities to Franco Moretti's survey of the shifting geographies of village life in the nineteenth century. Moretti's analysis often moves beyond standard place-names to include positions of and distances between people and things known to be in particular places. These he distinguishes as geometries; plotted, they are more like diagrams than maps, he tells us (54). The Gutenkarte project is not yet as refined as Moretti's work; mining a text for toponyms depends on the database's tolerance place-name ambiguity and spelling variations (among other things I probably don't understand). Still, despite the obvious limitations, the motives underlying Gutenkarte present an affirmative answer to one of Moretti's guiding questions, "Do maps add anything, to our knowledge of literature?" (35), even if it is being applied to literary texts from the Gutenberg Project for now.

The next move to consider, and the one I'm thinking about in light of the Gutenkarte project, is what other text sets, subject to this process, would present us with maps worth looking at or, that is, with spatial relations (or, with geometrics of positions and distances) suggestive of geographies worth understanding better than we already do? Only easy answers come to mind. Understanding the limitations and crudity (in spelling, in perfect place-name coordinates, etc.), what would this look like if applied not only to The Odyssey but to classical texts in rhetoric? Or, and this would be almost as satisfying (from the standpoint of what-ifs and other shoulder-shrugging curiosity), what might this mean for a set of texts, an archive or journal articles let's say, central to composition studies? Following Gutenkarte's logics, we would have the means to select among geographic renderings by year, by article and so on. One of these days...

Monday, June 19, 2006

As Graphs

In with the URL, out with this: an html-tags-as-graphs approximation of this page.  Movable Type is responsible for much of the structure. Still, there you have it--a good (and mighty granular) example of computational methods and visualization combined to offer up a projection of a localized complex. It looks to me like a dragon fly (or maybe a cluster map of the dissertation I will one day write).

And. Also.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Childbirth Class Series

Thursday evening meant the first of five weekly birthing classes. Two-and-a-half hour sessions filled up with videos, nutritional factoids, and exercises, all curricularized to put minds at ease. Deep breaths, in through the mouth, out through the nose. Phweeeeasy does it.

We were politely asked to fill out and pin on name tags including the attending doctor's name and baby's due date. And then we sat in a classroom for the first hour, running through the series of familiar-making gestures. "Let me tell you a little bit about myself...." Chalked on the board, important notes:

History of OB
1900's - Grantly Dick-Read: "Fear-Pain-Tension Syndrome"
1940's - Fernand Lamaze: "Psycho-prophylaxis"
1950's - Robert Bradley: "Husband-coached Childbirth"

1. Understand your body
2. Physically and mentally prepare
3. Trust your body
4. Make sound, informed decisions
5. Pack a "tool belt"

Nutrient of the Week
B Vitamins

We watched a ten-minute movie, the 1989 low-budget video Hello, Baby. Won't find this one in IMDB. I'll skip over some of the obvious critiques about the stuff on the board; that's not the reason I'm But I will say that I found it a tiny bit unusual that there were two triangles drawn to correspond to Grantly Dick-Read's century-old research. According to the lesson as told on Thursday, Dick-Read came up with a "syndrome" based in the anticipatory buildup toward childbirth, a pre-birth triad of fear-pain-tension and its antithesis, education-control-relaxation. The pair of three-term cycles were drawn to match with a pair of triangles on the board. The unusual part: the triangles were used only because there were three terms to each sequence or cycle and that they were embattled with each other, even if, as drawn, they didn't initially appear to be at odds. I also didn't know (and so learned) Lamaze was influenced by Russian psychology (including Pavlov). Lamaze's "psycho-prophylaxis," again, as explained Thursday, gets at the idea that the intensities of labor are more bearable with mental and physical distractions--focal points, strict breathing patterns, etc. But are there better distractions than regimented breathing and looking at favorite photos?

For the second half of the class we switched into another room with an open space for various exercises. After an hour in there, the session was over.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Digital Onomastics, Frenetic Place-Names

What happens to onomastics or proper place-names with infusions of the digital? How do the logics of the web, networked writing and folksonymy let loose (a plentitude of named small-pieces, loosely joined) the propriety of an onomastics founded on scarcity, where place-names refer formally to physical locations and also depend upon authorization, a kind of official license? We will have one name and one name only! Erm, okay, two...two names. No more. Granted, place-names or toponyms are not altogether unraveled or let loose. Kansas is still "Kansas," or "KS," even in Google Maps (at a certain scale, though, the name vanishes because it's too specific, too local; KS fades into anyplace). But while these stabilized place-names remain on highway signs and also showing at certain scales of the cybercartographic mash-ups, the digital introduces a capacity for differently circulating and contending name systems. Toponyms are further compounded. For now I don't care whether we're online or on I-90. New (by which I mean not pre-fixed), folksonomic names and tags don't automatically replace the official names, although they might one day contend with them and even displace them or unsettle them a bit.

Maybe the questions are all wrong. What is the tie between tagging and place-names, whether space is prefixed with geo- or cyber-? No, no, that's not quite it either. Or else it is, and I'm not able to come up with a satisfying answer. But the digital seems to awaken something between protocols (IP addresses and URLs) as place-names and cartographic toponyms (physical place-names on maps) as tags. In other words, online mapping apps make me think that something shifts (or is brought nearer together, maybe) between official geographic place-names and Weinberger's idea of the web as "places without space." The web's geography of place-names mixes the proper, the common with the improper and uncommon, with the uncanny and anachronistic (even if the a href requires syntactic precision).

Here you could have just read Weinberger's "Space" chapter. Credit to Jeff's stuff for getting me to think about this, too.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Re Collection

Walter Benjamin, in "Unpacking My Library," writes

The most profound enchantment for the collector is the locking of individual items within a magic circle in which they are fixed as the final thrill, the thrill of acquisition, passes over them. (60)

Today, I'm thinking of my exam areas and the respective lists--collections, really--as temporarily locked items in magic circles. I'm semi-officially in the exam phase of my program of study, and although I have yet to type up a reflective essay (a post-coursework "Stuff I'm Thinking About") and get thumbs-ups from the grad committee in the fall, my lists are reasonably well set. With a streak of good, steady studying, I hope to examine in November.

I filled two hours this afternoon with shelving toward what Benjamin calls the "mild boredom of order" in a book collection. I'm still missing a few; they should arrive from various sellers in ten days or twelve. My library hunts are complete, and I have nearly all of the article length stuff in pdf, html or paper. And a couple of (bold) books on my list are neither in Bird Library nor in the collections of my examiners. For these, I'll wait a few weeks before deciding what to do about it. I have a slim margin of excess in my lists. That is, they're built to withstand subtractions. And I should expect, as I would with any reading, that a few items in the collections will peel off and drop away while other shadow texts will be recruited into the sets along the way. About the "mild boredom of order": I tend to keep books loosely organized into chaopiles. But ten-book stacks were beginning to wall in my desk space, so I picked up a cheap shelf and dedicated it to housing exam items.

I've half-joked before that exam lists could just be randomizations of titles from the book collections of our committee members. In such a system, each examiner or committee member would provide a long list of books, an idiosyncratic list of books ever-before-read. Examinees (or computers!) would determine student's exam lists by running a randomization rule on the larger list. And then read. Eccentric, sure. But I'd bet you a quarter that the stuff I'm reading (collections more or less of my own design) wouldn't diverge in drastic ways from randomizations pulled from my examiners' collections.

There is still more work to do with the formal statements defining each examination area. I have rough starts, but those will have to be polished before the first grad committee meeting in early fall. Although there's no provision to allow for such a thing, I'm tempted to break precedent and submit a photo for my exam proposal. I doubt it would fly. Maybe just for the exam on visualization and new media. Might improve the proposal's odds if I appeared in the photo, reading or even posed-as-if-about-to-start-reading.

Qualifying Exams

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Odd Happenings You Should Know About In Case There Are More

1. Ducklings. We returned from the Water, Precious Water concert Sunday afternoon, and everything seemed benign-usual, well, other than the state of Onondaga Lake and world water crises. Besides that, I mean. I snapped the leash onto Y.'s collar and into the backyard we bebopped. There we found a distressed-seeming duck and heard a chorus of chirps. Steady help-us peeps floated from the window well close by. Foreseeing that Y. would only fuel the strange animal energies, I tugged him back inside. D. and I went to the basement where, through the screen, we observed four small, squabbling ducklings bobbing around the window well with their clumsy, random flap-n-jumps. Were they there by accident? Were they stuck? Hungry? Given the cool temps, D. suggested they might have been attracted to the heat (why is heat pouring out of an open basement winter in June? That's another matter altogether.) Still, we weren't sure whether they could get out, and we've watched a fox amble through the yard a couple of times in recent weeks. Their urgent chirping and the mother duck's display of uneasiness left us deliberating whether or not to ramp them out (a cardboard ramp?). The reliable internets shone a light on the dilemma we were in: the ducks are federally protected. Tampering with them is a roll of the dice with Law. We waited, hoping, meanwhile, that they wouldn't expire there. And then--the stuff of fairy tales--they were gone.

2. Ants. This one is easy. An infestation. Out from the kitchen walls they march, hurrah hurrah. But all the food is contain(er)ed, and I've laid down enough Terro to, pray-it-works, constrict their sweetness-sucking little throats. Fine, so it's not on par with odd happening #1. Still. This next one is:

3. Parking garage derby. Today we're at the CNY Medical Building parking garage. D.'s in for a routine baby-check. Ready for this? We spiral through the parking garage until the fourth floor where spaces begin to open up. 9:13 a.m. A lt. blue minivan two cars ahead of us was driving in lurches, as if every next space must be the one. Patterned: sprint. Stop. Sprint. Stop. I parked the Element. We hopped out, walked over to the elevator, where we waited. The van was finally parking; as we walked, the driver waved us ahead. Go ahead, walk in front. The one was next to where we stood, waiting for the elevator to arrive. And then: the van sped into the spot and rammed the steel guard rail. Fiberglass and plastic splintered, sailing everywhichway. And the driver, her window down, was repeating, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Her teenage son, resting in the passenger side with his crutches (a broken lower appendage; an appointment for which they were late?), sat there, shocked as we all are. Who was she apologizing to? Explained that she went for the brake and missed. Judging by the rate of impact, though, I'd say the missed brake meant a centered hit for the accelerator. Helluva unfortunate way to smash a van, and an odd happening because I'd never witnessed anything quite like it. Parking garages already feel awkward to me (low ceilings, all concrete and steel), now, even more so.

4. Garage door cable. Around noon, D. went to water the planter-people on the front step. Pressed the garage door opener: a loud crack (or two). One of the door-lifting cables snapped. Being a heavy-built door (1950's heavy, that is), the uneven weight yanked loose a garage rafter. Oy. And with the Element, our only motor vehicle, nestled smartly inside, what could we do next. So I phoned our landlord, and he got on it. The repairs were underway within two hours and finished before another hour passed. Still, strange enough to be an O.H.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Water, Precious Water

D. and I drove over to the Inner Harbor where Onondaga Creek joins Onondaga Lake for the Water, Precious Water concert this afternoon. One of D.'s students had a role in the festivities and a parent was putting the whole thing on, organizing it, as far as I know. We stayed for just an hour; the temps in the mid-fifties were surprisingly brisk for an afternoon in early June. We returned, teeth chattering, back to the car. But I did get photos of the puppet procession. So as not to suffer further despair of Onondaga Lake's top-ranked pollutedness, the get-together aims to build awareness, focus resources, and rally environmental cleanup.

Water, Precious Water Puppets

Add'l photos.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Ambivalent Findability

Ambivalent Findability

Friday, June 9, 2006


I'm finally settled in after spending four days in the dry and dusty southwest. I really couldn't complain about the heat, though, given that basketball, of the five sports represented at the camp, occupied the air-conditioned community center. Four days of +100 temps in Arizona, and I didn't use a drop of sunscreen. Oh, how on searing-hot days I love basketball's indoorness.

This was the fifth year I attended the camp. It was scheduled for a spot outside of Tulsa, Okla., and at the last minute, finding that the facilities there would be yet under construction and not quite finished, the people from Johns Hopkins reverted to a familiar site: Whiteriver. The camp was held in Whiteriver in '00, '01 (my first year), and '02. In '02, we left early, licked out of town by the curling flame-tongues of the Rodeo-Chadiski fire that burned hundreds of acres of Ponderosa pine forest that year. The evacuation meant a financial setback for the organizers, too, so the camp didn't make in '03. In '04 and '05, it took place in Bernalillo, just north of Albuquerque.

Because of the juggled sites, the numbers were slightly down. Twelve of us ran the basketball arm of the camp with just under 100 campers, considerably fewer than the 250 basketballers we organized and worked out a year ago in N.M. Most of the kids were local or from N.M. and Oklahoma. And without hesitation I'd regard this year's bunch as one of the best we've had--congenial, hard-working, there to learn about basketball. The life skills portion of the camp was stronger this year, too. Pairs of us would break off from the central venue and take groups of forty to various workshops on leadership (I was in on this one), on making dream catchers, and on (the severe perils of) driving under the influence. The leadership session lasted 90 minutes. It began with a brief talkaround on qualities of leaders and exemplary figures. We all introduced ourselves and then played games: Sit back-to-back with a partner and stand up using each other for leverage. Same in groups of four. In a group of sixteen, make a circle, lock hands, then unravel yourselves. And, with a small balloon tied around your ankle, try to be the last one standing while eliminating everyone else with bursts of stomping-to-pop. I was terrible at this last event. Those who could hop one-legged for the longest outlasted the rest of us quite easily.

I suppose there's a lot more to be said about the camp: meeting elders, catching up with friends from previous years and former colleagues from alma mater, seeing some of the natural marvels of the desert southwest, spending time in the gym just shooting the ball with people who love to do the same. I also had a fascinating conversation at a reception on Saturday evening with the superintendent of schools. I'm forgetting some stuff, and leaving some other stuff out. The photos fill in some of what's missing.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

EWM Cup 2006

Looking for a World Cup pool? Why not join this one? The stakes are rather low: mere bragging rights are on the line. The World Cup gets going on June 9 and runs for one month.

Group details: Game Front, Group: EWM Cup Gold 2006, Password: ewm. Or you can simply go here to sign up.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006


We snaked back to Phoenix from Whiteriver this afternoon, after a morning of sports clinics and closing ceremonies for this year's camp.  I had the chance to get a few pictures with new friends, and on the return trip we pulled over at the winding Whiteriver canyon to pose with old friends. Then, after dropping those with evening flights at the airport, a few of us came back to the Scottsdale Chaparral Suites T. and I walked over to the Fashion Square Mall through the dust storm, at one point ducking into a nearby hotel lobby where folks were gathered for a conference on hydrogen plants.  My sense of time has been severely disturbed: been adding and subtracting three-hour blocks to make sense of how tired and refreshed I should feel.  In a few more hours, I'll get back on a course for home, via Chicago. 

More on the camp just as soon as I can get to it.

Friday, June 2, 2006


Tomorrow, Phoenix.  Which also happens to mean seven hours of travel.  And then on Sunday, a winding bus ride here (I won't say anything about the site's design because they advertise free wireless.)

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Keep 'Em All Coming Back

What exactly constitutes loyalty among readers of weblogs? What is loyalty, anyway? Habituated interest? Supersocial attachment? Attentional symbiosis? Casual subscription? And are future returns, tracked through IP addresses, adequate or reliable indications of loyalty, of interest, or of a sort of persistence, of ongoing reawdrite entanglement? Could be.

Seven days ago or thereabouts, I signed up for a trial run of Google Analytics. I was invited, which means that I must've filled out a form some time ago expressing interest in the measures and data presentations, being the graph-geek I am. G.A. runs on a few lines of code; I slipped into the templates for this weblog, just before the </body> tag, as instructed. Within a few days, the reports accumulated enough data to begin suggesting trends and patterns: yet another matrix of activity at this weblog, tracked, I should note, during what's been yet another dull stretch of writing. Rather like a hitless streak: a flat and yawning series of blase-blogging. Still, as if to mock me and my dis-ambition, the numbers twinkle, evoking in me some down-deep fascination with statistics, with counting and with related reports, displays of information.

Google Analytics offers up a number of graphs and charts, ranging from visits and page views to geographic locations and search terms/phrases, and all of the displays are easily re-sorted and layered for different periods of time and for easy-to-see comparisons. I won't be commenting on all of the features here. By no means is this a comprehensive review of G.A. I only want to point, for now, to one of the graphs, "visitor loyalty," because I find it off somehow. I mean that it makes some odd suggestions.

First, notice that the graph cover a one week period, from May 25 to May 31. According to Google, I had a few visits during that stretch. Okay, 1,476. Some differentiation is due. All visits and visitors, as you might expect, are not equal. My best guess is that there are three distinctive groups here: searchers, readers and spammers. Searchers largely make up the left-most counts. That is, they visit once and never return, whether because they're satisfied with what the search summoned (notes on Barthes' photographic image, for example) or because they are not satisfied (recipes for moth poison, let's say). The point is this: searchers are not yet loyal. Their presence is casual, often accidental, ordinarily forgettable, passing and nonchalant.

The third bunch, those 74 visitors who, in one week's time, came by between the frequencies of 9-14 times and 51-100 times are, well, too loyal to be trusted. Rather than be naive and celebrate them as die-hards, I take them to be spa&mers, mostly, although it's conceivable that a few of the 9-14ers could be legitimate readers, I suppose, or folks coming from a lumped-together network ID (e.g., sub-nets on the network). Even when the finest, most compelling entries are rolling through EWM on a daily basis, it's unthinkable that this site would draw 51 visits from any reasonable person in a single week. I could start selling hats and t-shirts with that kind of following.

I take the 32 mid-range visitors to be the regulars, those whose loyalty is most in sync with the steadiest currents in this blogstream--a mix of family, colleagues and outliers, some of whom, perhaps, subscribe to one of the RSS feeds. The graph, then, displays this paradox about blogs, audiences and loyalty (even if I'm still reserved about the term as it applies to reading and writing activity): I'm aiming for the belly, for the lowest point in the U-shape between searchers and sp&mmers. I'm not quite sure, but I think that's the point I was writing toward.