Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cliff Stitched the Lip

Parental Advisory: Gruesome and grotesque.

Seven fine stitches on the outside and one loose, absorbable stitch on the inside; that's how many I took late last night after a 'bow to the bottom lip in the opening minutes of our "Church League" game. I would have preferred to finish the game, considering that we were less than two minutes in and enjoying a lopsided 3-0 lead over the top-ranked and undefeated team in our division: Wisconsin. Problem was, the glancing 'bow pushed my bottom teeth clear through, puncturing the bottom lip-flesh and leaving a nasty gash. No, no, we lost, 68-44.

D. drove up to the gym to pick me up because I'd shared a ride with a teammate, and our reserves (a total of one bench player) were tapped because of my early exit. D. drove me to the prompt care facility near campus and they told me that it'd be a two-hour wait, so I dashed D. and Is. home so they wouldn't have to spend the entire evening sitting contagiously among the infirm.

One thing I miss most about playing organized basketball compared to playing rec. league is the sports medicine staff. The nurse and physician's assistant (Cliff) were good in their own right. Good as generalists, I mean. But they didn't seem to understand that an elbow had smashed my mouth. In fact, the nurse asked me whether I was sure it was my teeth that created the wound. Next, I had a tetanus shot (this is actually an entry meant to serve as a reminder that I had one 2.27.2007). It was close to 10:00 p.m., nearly two hours after the incident, when Cliff explained to me that he wanted to take his time putting in the stitches and so he would need to discharge three other patients (colds, flus, sprained ankles or knees) before going to work on me. Fine. No problem. Although he did say that he had doubts about whether my bottom teeth had gone all the way through the lip. He thought the cut on the outside of the bottom lip was from the top teeth. Not so, I told him. But he remained skeptical until, that is, he got down to business with the stitches. Clean through, he said. But by that point, I'd been lanacaned and I had a mouth full of gauze, so I said nothing. Next there was a sanitary screen-cloth placed over my face, but with ~30% transparency (CSS as equipment for living), I could see the shadows of the hook-shaped needle and stitching thread. I could see Cliff's steady (hey now! are they shaking?) hands. It was like a diorama of ice fishing, the hooks dipping again and again to the hole surrounded by blue, and I was peering up from under the ice, only half able to see what was going on.

I'll heal. It's no biggie, really. Sure, my Hollywood career is down the crapper, but, that might've been the case before I got bumped. And for the next couple of days, I can whistle in chorus with myself. Still, I'll have the stitches pulled before next week's game, so I shouldn't have to sit around feeling lousy for long. I do have a couple of small concerns about an event coming up on Friday, though. We're hosting prospective students for visiting days, and as part of the program, we have a colloquium scheduled for advance screenings of CCCC papers. I'm happy to be on the list (even if my paper is, as of today, three-eighths finished), but I don't know how the talk will go, given that I'm somewhat sloppy with the b, m, p, v, and w phonemes. Plan A: Remove all such sounds from the paper. Plan B: Just get through it.

When I left prompt care last night, it was 11:39 p.m., approaching four hours since the unfortunate event. Cliff sent me home with a prescription for penicillin. His concern? "We're going to treat this like a human bite." I can resume normal activities, as long as they don't involve elbows, and I can eat anything "as long as there aren't any crumbs." Such as? Mostly yogurt and oat meal, I guess.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Ocean Goes Missing

Spoiler alert (via). (w/ statements about plan-free, collaborative writing).

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Mark All As Read

For the past several months I've been using Google Reader to aggregate the loose pieces of the day into a readable list. I was a fairly dedicated Bloglines user before that. Both systems seem to skip certain feeds occasionally. That said, I'm not quite prepared to pass around any glowing recommendations for Google Reader. It's especially lacking in its handling of feeds. For that reason alone, I've considered switching back to Bloglines. I also like Bloglines' Keep New check-box better than Google's Add Star option, but before I go too far with a critique of Google, I should experiment a bit more with the settings. To be fair, I haven't spent all that much time checking out the full range of options and settings.

I have, however, noticed that I am more and more frequently taking small delight in clicking "Mark all as Read."

As a reader, I'm generally true to what's collected in association with the blogroll. I mean that if it's listed in the blogroll, I'm less likely to use the Mark All method to dump it. But I still have a fair number of feeds (±70) beyond the blogroll whose churnings are beginning to seem like grist from the mill. Exceedingly mealy. ("If you love something, let it go; if it turns up a second time in your feed reader...") I'd probably do myself a big favor to clean house and begin agg-ain, eh? Just a thought. And I offer it because I'm sensing a change in the rhythms of reading whatever aggregates, whatever the tired old net drags in, day after day. Could be that I'll switch back to Bloglines and part with many of the feed beyond the blogroll. Could be that I'll stick with Google and still drop some of the hangers-on and clutter. Whatever can be said of it, I probably shouldn't be taking so much pleasure in releasing 100+ unread entries to the ether with a single click most days, as if clearing my feed-reader is the same as clearing my mind.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Birthday Photo

Depending on whether you count a dog's age by the Roman calendar or by the Relative-Life-Expectancy-of-a-Canine calendar, Yoki is either one or seven today. Either way, we're having a good time of it with extra scratches behind the ears (Y. gets some of these, too) and more free time than usual for frolicking around the house. For dinner, homemade chicken cordon bleu pizza w/ green olives added, like we used to get at Minsky's.

Of course, for more than one or two reasons, 2007 has been a lousy year for poor Y. so far. His comic, if he had one, would be called Y. The Last Dog (not because he's like Vertigo's Yorick but rather because he may very well be the last dog). I've mentioned before that when the temps dip below freezing (um, most every day in CNY), his beagly senses go all to hell. Plus, the throw-up problem was only recently corrected (we, uh, think so, anyway). The Syracuse winter, let's just say, is especially hard for a puppy. But then, just look at how cute he is (I tried to get him to tuck away those wild teeth, but he insisted on shocking the camera with a grin). Good dog, Yoki.

Solving Three of Lost's Biggest Mysteries

Wednesday's episode promised big returns. Three mysteries would be solved. Kinks from seasons one and two would be massaged flat again, the program's terrain simplified, explained.

What did we get?

  1. Jack's tattoo says one thing and means another. I thought that line was really stupid. A groaner. "It might 'say' that, but that's not what it 'means'." Oy. The entire Thailand backstory felt contrived and disconnected. But good lord a'mighty, did he get roughed up for demanding to be marked.
  2. The Others have yards. Their lives are domestic. They only work on Ben's island (the former zoo/aquarium outpost). The Others, including Cindy, the flight attendant, saw Jack in the cage and didn't do a thing. "Oh, hey Jack, what are you doing in that cage?" The encounter between Cindy and Jack was almost the low point of this episode. First, I figured she and the kids had been mind-scrubbed, drugged into passivity and foggetfulness. But no: "Anna Lucia?" asked the girl. Sheesh.
  3. Alex and Carl are in love. The pan from Alex to the stars to Carl was almost the low point of this episode. They named a constellation together. The plot sellout conspiracy theorist in me thinks this is hokey teenage outreach. Rose and Bernard were too old; Alex and Carl are sort of young. Plus, Carl's brain, like the brains of so many youth these days, is jellied from overloads in the media-barrage room. Poor Carl. Honestly, I might not be capable of caring less about these two characters.

Are these the three mysteries? Or was one of the solved mysteries that there are no longer Dharma-stamped sharks guarding the straits (which Sawyer, Kate, and lazy Carl paddled through uneventfulzzz)? Or was it that Michael and Walt are not coming back? Or was it that Ben's surgery didn't go so well after all? Or was it that Isabelle, the sheriff, knows her Chinese letters but has no real authority? I don't know what the three mysteries were. But, like Collin, I was disappointed. As good as the previous Desmond-centric episode was, Wednesday's episode was a disappointment of equal weight. I didn't buy the line about Ethan being a doctor, and I thought the closing Titanic-esque scene with Jack and Julliette wondering silently at the stars from the front of the tug was corny. I mean, what is it, a fifteen minute tug boat ride? Oh, and I almost forgot, the aloe application scene ("hey, snap me off a sprig from that aloe plant"). I'll count that as the low point of episode 3.9.

Enough grumping. With the three biggest mysteries solved, we need to move on to mysteries 4-6. They're the new 1-3, according to the latest Coaches' Poll. These are the three mysteries I think should be the next big three:

  1. If the island worked its healing magic on John's legs and Rose's cancer, why in the heck isn't it ridding Ben of his tumor?
  2. What of the giant four-toed leg-statue thing we saw at the end of season two?
  3. Is Alex really Rousseau's daughter or Ben's daughter? Both?

Add others to the list as you see fit. Maybe the writers/producers will catch wind of this and give us another answer-filled episode of Solved, Mysteries 4-6.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Stroking a Pumpkin

I was just leafing through Latour's Reassembling again.  I can't quit this damn book.  I keep picking it up, leafing around, mulling over the marginalia, adding underlines, junking up the edges of the pages with more check marks and asterisks.

This morning I was also looking back again at "Visualization and Cognition," the 1986 article that begins to outline immutable mobiles, a concept further defined in Science in Action. It led me back around to Reassmebling; I was looking for the spot where he lists the properties of the face-to-face interaction as non-isotopic (a-ha! p. 200). A few weeks' Latour binge, so what? (L.'s mention of "the ethnography of abstraction" has me thinking maybe I can subtitle the diss. "an ethnography of disciplinary abstraction" or, at the very very least, write it as if).

While digging around for that other part, though, I saw a rare exclamation point in the margin. A spot where Latour writes of extreme shifts in scale:

Have you ever noticed, at sociological conferences, political meetings, and bar palavers, the hand gestures people make when they invoke the 'Big Picture' into which they offer to replace what you have just said so that it 'fits' into such easy-to-grasp entities as 'Late Capitalism', 'the ascent of civilization', 'the West', 'modernity', 'human history', 'Potcolonialism', or 'globalization'? Their hand gesture is never bigger than if they were stroking a pumpkin! I am at last going to show you the real size of the 'social' in all its grandeur: well, it is not that big.  It is only made so by the grand gesture and by the professional tone in which the 'Big Picture' is alluded to. If there is one thing that is not common sense, it would be to take even a reasonably sized pumpkin for the 'whole of society'. Midnight has struck for that sort of social theory and the beautiful carriage has been transformed back into what it should always have remained: a member of the family Cucurbitaceceae. (186)

Touché: Use caution with the pumpkin-sized gestures.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Curd Age

To the Californian who was guided here today on a Google search for "cottage cheese expirations," I have only one insight to offer:

Seriously, it's not worth it.

Disclosure: I'm merely a fan of the cottage cheese, not an expert.

Carnival: Trimbur and Writing Studies

Following Donna's renewed call for the late February Trimbur carnival, here are a couple of floats in response to "Changing the Question: Should Writing Be Studied?" from Composition Studies 31.1 (2003).

For now I'll try to keep it to just two or three ideas. I've heard passing mention of "writing studies" as an alternative name for the knot (bow?) where rhetoric and composition are tied together. When I used it myself once, I think someone suggested that the "writing studies" designation is typically claimed by discourse analysts--those whose encounters with texts are measured for pattern and (ir)regular features. Perhaps that's only of value inasmuch as it sheds light on my own baggage with the phrase: a moment of correction, definition, and re-association. And whether this is right or not is less the point, I think, than the contemplation of writing studies' orientation to particular methods and research agendas. As I read Trimbur's article, I also thought about another passing conversation with a colleague who described someone else's work in film this way: "[S.h]e does film studies, not production. Students who take film classes want production rather than all of the history, theory, and methodology that go along with film studies. They're impatient and even bored with film studies." That was the gist of it, anyhow. Out of this half-remembered conversation comes one question about a shift from workshop to seminar room and toward writing studies: at the cost of what? If the answer is that we study writing (n.) at the expense of writing (p.v.), the proposition becomes considerably messier. Of course, nobody is saying this explicitly, but to what degree is a quiet displacement of something else implied by the asking?

At SU, we're in a somewhat unique situation with a standalone writing program and a bona fide writing minor (also an undergraduate major inching toward approval and formalization). English majors at SU take up a program of study in what is called "English and Textual Studies." I don't know a whole lot about the curriculum, but the "Textual Studies" addition has always given me pause. As a generic concept detached from actual curriculum and teaching practices, it sounds an awful lot like a bridge between the work done in the writing program and the English Department (even if it's something more like the Königsberg bridge). Where is the slippage between "textual studies" as it matches with the work of colleagues in literature and "writing studies" as the basis for a four-year undergraduate curriculum?

Finally, for this entry at least, I'm interested in the relationship among the three questions Trimbur poses: 1. Can writing be taught? 2. How can writing be learned? 3. Should writing be studied? Changing the question suggests, in a certain sense, that Trimbur treats these questions as substitutive rather than additive or accumulative. Even as the discipline has matured, the staggered development of programs and practitioners leads me to think the questions should be additive--a layered, nested and continuous flow of inquiries. I mean that we mustn't too hastily retire either of the first two questions simply because they've been thought through and addressed by others before us.

Donna's Belatedly: Trimbur and "writing studies"
Jeff's The Call to Write
Collin's Trimbur Calling
Bill's Trimbur, "Should Writing Be Studied?"
Jenny's Studies of Writing (Carnival Post)
Jeff's The Call to Write II: Critical Gestures
Alex's Trimbur Carnival
Lance's (Carnival.) To Trimbur: Yes.
Nels's "Write Me a Letter..."
Jeff W.'s Writing Studies I and II

Added: I couldn't resist running Trimbur's essay through TagCrowd.

created at

Monday, February 19, 2007

C'mon, Pokey

I finally got around to reading Lindsay Waters' CHE diatribe against Moretti's work on abstract models and literary studies. I know, it took me long enough. Collin mentioned the article, titled "Time For Reading," almost two weeks ago, and The Valve's Bill Benzon posted his thoughts on Waters last Tuesday. Rather than sum up the other entries here, I'll put the links in place and move along to a couple of my reactions.

Waters is unapologetic in his call for this so-called "new movement," a call he ends with pronounced enthusiasm for "slow reading." I have, in times past, characterized myself as a slow reader (though not during preparations for qualifying exams), and it's not unusual to hear one or two of the students in my classes describe themselves as slow readers. But it seems to me that we have a couple of different conceptions of "slow" rustling around in these labels. There's the slow that is deliberately, even skillfully, plodding and careful--a slow is akin to the savory swish-swish during wine tasting or a leisurely pace for Sunday drives in the country. It's not the same slow as a 1975 El Camino winding through a mountain pass in second gear or, as is more clearly connected to Waters' focal concern, the slow disparagingly assigned to the child who finds it difficult to read lines of words efficiently enough.

Waters compares the literacy crisis affecting school-aged children with the labors of English professors. It's connected, I suppose, but it's just as easily disconnected. What I mean is that I'm not sure the younger ranks are introduced sufficiently to differentiated reading methods. Much early reading instruction is, for good and bad, bent on a fairly stabilized, normative pace. Many of us have struggled with it, and still many more will. Taken to matters of professionalization and specialization in academia, slow reading is a rare luxury. And just how slow would Waters have us read?

A significant distinction here is that Waters emphasizes slow reading as a preferable (i.e., humanistic) counterpart to Moretti's distant reading. But slow and distant refer to different intervals, right?, one going the dimension of time and the other going the dimension of space. Of course, in much the same way I am tempted to complicate the slow in "slow reading," so am I interested in spreading out all of the cards in the deck of "distant reading." Moretti says very little (er...nothing) about "fast reading." He is content to pursue, instead, the questions provoked by abstract modeling:

Quantification poses the problem, then, and form offers the solution. But let me add: if you are lucky. Because the asymmetry of quantitative explanandum and a qualitative explanans leaves you often with a perfectly clear problem--and no idea of a solution. In 'Planet Hollywood', for instance, it turned out that absolutely all Italian box office hits of the sample decade were comedies; why that was so, however, was completely unclear. I felt I had to say something, so I presented an 'explanation', and NLR indulgently printed it; but it was silly of me, because the most interesting aspect of those data was that I had found a problem for which I had absolutely no solution. And problems without a solution are exactly what we need in a field like ours, where we are used to asking only those questions for which we already have an answer. (Graphs 26)

Waters, plainly enough, sees a problem (illiteracy) and solution (slow reading), whereas Moretti's focal problem isn't illiteracy but rather the "specific form[s] of knowledge" wrought by distant reading. What are they? What unanswerable questions will they open us onto? And what are the limits of what we will know? No doubt, we need need to re-think slow reading, close reading, and especially distant reading as more than monolithic activities; we should reverse their conceptual reduction, and see them as complements, plural and constantly in play.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Syracuse Drift

We've had a snowier stretch of weather lately than any I can remember before, here in central NY or while growing up in central lower Michigan. Around two o'clock this afternoon, I broke from grading WRT205 projects and laced up my boots so I could shovel the yard. Really this only meant carving out enough space for Y. to dododo his business. He seems to be just slightly more beagle than pug, which means he's a sniffer. Cold temps and snow disorient him mightily, so the trips to the restyard are panicky and vertiginous. He just whirls around, alarmed, until it no longer makes sense to seek a guiding odor where there is none.

With a small parcel of yard shoveled, next I recruited Ph. to lend me a hand with the front walk and driveway. All preventive shoveling, considering that it was still snowing steadily while we cleared paths. We worked non-stop for an hour, pausing only long enough for me to reminisce about the nice snowblower my dad used or to wonder aloud through five or six Fred Sanford-esque close calls. Damn sure can feel my heart pounding. Is that right? And the banks at the edges of the drive piled higher than the Palentine Hill. Happy snow-blitzed Lupercalia.

We've been good about clearing the driveway in recent weeks. Might have been just 18 inches or so when we worked it over this afternoon. And at least four or five inches have fallen since then. Granted, it's nothing like the winterized souls are getting just north of us in Oswego and surrounding areas. Over 100 inches in a week? I'm crying uncle and whining about my back with only a couple of feet of snow. I've never shoveled a roof, nor would I have the snow fortitude to undertake such a thing even if it means imminent collapse. Go on and cave in for all I care, I might say (while on my cell phone to U-Haul).

More drifts...

  • I visited Syracuse for the first time three years ago on V-Day.
  • Every V-Day my mom bought J. and I each a Whitman's Sampler. Every chocolate was tagged, so there were no excuses for eating those filled with coconut. In fact, the coconut-filled were mom's favorite and there was hell to pay for (oops, did I? was that one coco...?) eating one of them.
  • Last night D. and I attended a CPR class (with a special focus on baby CPR), which meant I missed my weekly hoops game in Liverpool. The game was yike! quite a thrashing. To Illinois, no less. But we'll get another shot at them late in the season.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


B. Franklin left it at death and taxes, right? As I teach SU's research-based second semester writing course to seniors (and only seniors), I'm feeling the weight of the death-n-taxes counterpart in academic writing: length limits and deadlines. Two unavoidable encumbrances. Give either of them a liberatory shrug--whatever--and what happens? So we need, instead, to declare two-thousand words by Friday, and so on, arbitrary though it might seem. What, besides length limits and deadlines, structures the writing activity one does for academic credit? Sure, there are sentences and paragraphs (utterances, gestures, etc.), but I'm not talking about language forms. Length limits and deadlines certify the institutionality of the writing. Institution-free, the writing need not adhere to either staple, right? With blogging, for instance, what of deadlines? What of length limits? But figure blogs into a course, what will happen if matters of length limits and deadlines or frequency, even if left to such vagarisms as "flexible" or "open," are not otherwise determined? Just a few thoughts...

I did the annual income taxes this morning, filed them electronically, and then realized I had Is.'s SS# wrong. But the fast-acting S.S. Administration databases couldn't match the number with any person they'd heard of, so the flub was caught and corrected and the forms re-submitted. I was able to move on with the day, tax-collectedly ever after.

About the certainties in my own work of late as it relates to the counterparts deadlines/death and limits/taxes: for the past two weeks I'd probably fall in the category of Willie Nelson* at the slot machines in the lounge of a Cryonics laboratory*, which is to say, avoiding the so-called certainties or producing at a rate not so much frozen as vitric.

*Neither an endorsement of Nelson's habits of interaction with the IRS, nor any acknowledgment of a belief that cryonics legitimately extends human life (what if?).

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Notes from the Kitchen

Two gripes from the a.m.:
1. Separating the cheap coffee filters I bought recently requires an micro-beam laser. Not that I could hold the device steady if I had one. I had Is. in one arm while trying to pull away a single filter for what must have been ten minutes. Like youthfulness, my dexterity is diminishing at an alarming rate. Is. probably thought it was some kind of early morning game where I just fiddle around with coffee filters for the pure pleasure in it (the crinkling, the one-finger edge-brush, the sighs and grumping).
2. The wedge-dividing membranes in the naval oranges I bought Sunday at P&C are far more chewy, thick, and pulpy than I could've imagined even in my worse nightmares about eating oranges. Eating one danged orange wedge requires more jaw work than mowing ten pieces of Super Bubble for half a day. Without removing the wrappers! Plain nasty, and with a thick, clingy albedo (I had to pull McPhee's Oranges from the shelf to remember what it was called, the white rind-like stuff...hate it, even if it's high in nutrients).

For lunch, I ate a bowl of strawberry Frosted Miniwheats. Curreal. Had to be swift because I was on baby-watch.

Tonight, it was microwaved baking potatoes. I know it sounds ho-hum, but all the taste buds for meters around sit up and take notice on basked potato night. See, our only rule in the house is that we must top the potato to the critical threshold at which it is pleasingly suspended between healthful and gluttonous. Only then does the potato break free from its plain-tasting state and parade around in flavor combinations never before savored. Plus, we had leftover chili to boot. One other thing about those potatoes. Lately I've been coating them in olive oil with a sprinkle of salt before I nuke them. Call it a skin enhancer (the idea for which I owe an appreciative nod to my brother). Crisp and salty, such that you'll forget it's not terrible for you.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Databasic Writing

Our program requires that we attend two mini-seminars every semester. Several different mini-seminars are available, from three-hour sessions on a single day concerned with the discipline (the Reese's PB Cup variety of rhetoric in my composition and vice versa), world Englishes, WAC, or some other topic, to sessions broken across a couple of weeks on stuff like teaching online, service learning, and information literacy. The mini-seminars are meant to foster professional development. Everyone in the writing program--besides first-year TAs and full-time staff and graduate faculty (who oftentimes lead the sessions)--are made to attend.

I was at a session this afternoon on information literacy. But I only mention the mini-seminars to set the scene and to note that I've been a good mini-seminarian this semester as it was my last one.

But the idea today's session tipped me onto is what I'm thinking of as databasic writing. We've heard of basic writing. The idea goes way back, back past the 1976 CCCC in Kansas City, which asked, "What's REALLY Basic?" Thirty years have passed, however. The remediation that finds root in remedy (cure-all comp; whatever ails you) shared its name with media historicism, the remediation that focuses on precedents, on the old in the new. The old ancestors of new media were young once. Maybe this analogy will clear up what I mean: remediation is to basic writing as remediation is to databasic writing. Claro!

That didn't work. Damn. What I mean is that there are varieties of writing new media concerned with writing the database. I don't mean roughing out a plan for a MySQL database or some other gridtrodden boxstrocities built to file complexity into slots (although, try to blog without a dbase). I'm thinking of the blend of tagging and collecting, a compound of non-syntactic semantic variables and things--light, pulsatile, electrate. We're not only writing sentences, we're composing quirky, irregular collections. And while databasic writing borrows felicitously from Benjamin's "Unpacking My Library," it is a library whose gathering is inscribed. Databasic writing also resonates with Sirc's "box-logic," with collecting and annotating, and also with personal knowledge management. The question on my mind is "What's REALLY Databasic?" Databasic writers know Tag, aggregate, gather, into crumb-paths of surprises, wonder, curiosity, and safe-keeping.

technorati tag:

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Trouble Shot

Even if the following fixes are only useful to one or two people, posting them to the blog makes them differently available for searching and bookmarking. Since I installed MT3.34, I ran across a couple of small snags. Nothing too off-putting, really. Just bumps along the up-gradual way.

First, the new tagging features in MT3.3+ are, as I've said before, really slick. But I was having trouble with the interface that allows me to merge tags. Say I have two tags I want to merge, like "method" and "methods." Okay? I click on one or the other and I the tag becomes editable. After I apply changes, I can select "Rename," in which case it will summon the database to see if the new tag already exists. If it does exist, a java popup asks whether I want to proceed with the merge. If the revised tag doesn't exist, it goes ahead and applies the change. The other option, "cancel," does just that. Simple, eh?

Only, when I first attempted this process from Firefox, my browser of choice, of course, the tag-revising process works the first time. Fiddling with subsequent tags doesn't work. The java popup wouldn't appear. So I thought, it's java. I reinstalled the java add-on. No change. Must be one of the browser extensions interfering, right (Greasemonkey? Notefish?)? I disabled all of them. And one by one, closing and re-opening the browser between each try, I re-enabled each one. Nothing. After a couple of days of thinking that it didn't matter that much (I could always use another browser for the process), I tried switching to the default theme. And that did the trick. The theme I was using (Azerty II) seemed to be conflicting with the java routine. I don't have a technical explanation, but it's fixed. So that's that.

The other snag was really more of a limited feature. I was using the MTkeywords2tags script to convert, that's right, keywords to tags. But rather than running the script on an entire installation, I only wanted to run it on my exam notes blog. Being somewhat of a perl dunce, I went ahead and emailed the author of the script. And he was nice enough to get back to me with this solution.

In the .cgi file, replace

my $iter = MT::Entry->load_iter;


my $iter = MT::Entry->load_iter({ blog_id => [5,8] });

The numbers in the square brackets match with the blog IDs to be converted. There. Two troubles, both of them troubleshot.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Make Believe the Web

Tonight, for the spaciousness, it's mostly in the extended entry.

Web 2.0 Video

Comicvia and videovia.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Infantile Metrics

Is. had her six month check-up on Friday morning, which meant we learned the new set of measurements. This percentile, that percentile. Head circumference: 35th. Weight: 28th. Length: 49th. Percentiles are a relatively uncomplicated normative system for babies: their first (or second, after APGAR) grades. A kind of IRE (Infant Record Exam).

Fortunately, as of Friday, Is. will now have one set of scores. Throughout the first six months, she had two sets, each corresponding to a different age: one actual, one gestational. Against her actual peers: 15th. Against her gestational peers: 53rd. At six months, we're told, her earliness starts to matter much less, and her development is now calibrated against others born in early August. This means she's being scored against full-term babies. Unfair, of course.

All along, I've been intrigued by the scoring, but not because I get worked up about how her head size compares (I'm probably in the 99th percentile both for noggin and nose, so it's reassuring that she's not yet topping out either of those charts yet). The intrigue, in part, involves the way the chart, onto which the measurements are graphed, shows shaded areas--zones of risk related to patterns of measurable development.

I suppose there is a lot more that could be said about this, but I mention it only because I've been giving it some thought since Friday. It's sort of bizarre, on the one hand, and practical on the other. And, as Collin has suggested to me, an expanded array of percentiles could be the conceptual basis for one hilarious comic. But, until I can draw better, I'll just keep it in mind, and look forward to plotting the new evidence of growth when we let the pediatrician tangle her in scales and rulers in another three months.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Courseware, Training Wheels

Thanks to everyone who threw in a congrats. May I never grow tired of waves of encouraging comments. (Makes me consider, for half a minute, the possibilities in announcing that I passed exams every week until the diss is finished. Entry #1419: For the Hundredth Time: Pass! Pass!)

For a few minutes now, I've bee thinking about Blackboard. IHE has this little news piece on Blackboard and law suits over patents. Blackboard, as I understand it, fancies itself the first to develop the web-in-a-box-ware used by so many colleges and universities for delivering online courses (or augmenting F2F with innovations like discussion forums). The legal loops are only marginally interesting to me. I mean, even though I think it is far-fetched, I can understand why Blackboard must, in the interest of solvency, claim as its property the idea of rolling together things like message boards, bulk email, and announcements into an unforgettable discombobulware.

I'm using Blackboard in an online course I'm currently teaching at SU. Its role in the course is minimal--merely a hub for discussion, assignments, and announcements. I've also taught with VCampus and eCollege in the past, and I can, without hesitation, say that I find both of the latter vastly superior to Blackboard. I'm no Blackboardian. Neither am I committed uncritically to VCampus or eCollege. I understand the need for such easy-to-use engorgementware (Just upload your Word docs). But I'm turning away from such things as much as I can. More and more, rails-heavy constraintware reminds me of training wheels. Only, rather than needing them to steady the vehicle, I see them more like the last set of training wheels that hanged dusty and rusted in the garage. They were strange, draped on a nail or resting on a shelf years later, a stark reminder of development as I aired the tires between popping wheelies and leaving skid marks in the driveway (a practice later banned by parental rule). Courseware as old training wheels, not the most flattering metaphor, eh?

So, as I said, I'm using anything else. For example: I'm making extensive use of Google Docs and Spreadsheets (formerly Writely) this semester for the online 205 at SU. In fact, it's the primary place where I ask students to turn in their work. They can upload Word docs or files from other word processing apps and then add me as a collaborator to let me know it's there, ready to be read and commented. When a student adds me as a collaborator, I get an email with a link back to the document in Google Docs. After I have read and commented on the piece, I simply select 'email' and the system asks me if I want to let the other collaborator know the document is ready for them to see. Google Docs runs server-side, so there's no uploading and downloading of files. All versions of a document are kept online, too, so I can easily select an early draft of a document for comparison or a quick reminder of what changed. I can add my comments as notes (which I often do), color code the notes, and use the highlighting options to assign shades to key concepts, moments of confusion, and so on. I hadn't tried the highlighting method before this semester, but it's the way that Becky made notes on my major qualifying exams, and I really liked the way it presents patterns among words and ideas.

After I return-email the document, routing it back to the student-collaborator, I'm left with a couple of nice options for the managing the list of documents associated with my account. I can add tags to individual docs or groups of them that will help me associate them with particular assignments, a stage of drafting, or a level of performance (I mean I can tag exemplary work as "exemplary" for future returns). Next I simply archive it, so I'm only faced with a list of active documents in the queue.

I'm sure this isn't a revolutionary practice, but it beats the heck out of anything I've seen in any of the courseware systems I've used to teach writing online. In fact, eCollege has yet to incorporate text formatting in their threaded discussion area (hyperlinks are automatically recognized, but still). And even in Google Docs there are a few small drawbacks (for each highlighting event, a color must be selected; it doesn't default to the last color used, and there is a similar wonkiness with changing the colors associated with inserted comments). Basically it amounts to a couple of extra clicks.

Thursday, February 1, 2007


A mighty smiley hi and hello to you, February. I successfully defended my comprehensive exams this morning, gathering around with my committee for an hour-and-a-half as we wound our way through the exam answers and associated quandaries. About those associated quandaries: holy smokes. I started to wonder if the climate controls for the much-trafficked Gilyard Seminar Room (where it all happens) were accidentally bumped to 80-degrees, because, for more than a few minutes, phew. Can I simply explain it that way? Phew. To stay focused and to humor myself regarding focus, I brought in one of those pinkish kiwi-something A-lutein Vitamin Waters, the kind with "focus" on its label. But during one stretch I must've forgotten to take a sip because I might have approached a record for the longest answer-avoiding utterance (I'm still talking?) in the history of oral defenses.

While the successful completion of qualifying exams might, in itself, be enough to give a satisfying lift on any other day, today's not just any other day. It's also Is.'s 6 Mos.-Day. Almost grown! On top of that, Ph., who is battling the flu, stayed home from school on my insistence (It's the flu, kid; take a day). This meant we were able to stop in at Erawan for Gai Pad Kra Pow (I'm hooked on the sweet basil) and then run by the shopping mall to spend a few dollars from the generous and ever-surprising Future Professoriate Program funds disbursed late each January to participants.

So I guess that's it. Tomorrow, onward with the diss. prospectus toward a goal of proposing and defending it before April is up. Also, I've been thinking that rather than updating Exam Sitting to Exams Sat, I'd give the exam notes blog a new moniker, convert the old keywords into MT tags, and rejuvenate some of the note posting rhythms that worked so well for me throughout the fall. That's my plan, anyway.