Monday, October 27, 2008

Gourdocractic Participation

Yes, Ph. carved, following a template from (else where). In the spirit of bipartisanship, of reaching across the aisle with pumpkin-goo-covered hands, we would've notched up a gourd for the McCain campaign, but the second pumpkin took to rotting before we could get to it. Seriously, it was really rotten. To rebound from the disappointment, D. assisted Is. in markering a Dora face on one of the miniature pumpkins out front.

Campaign O'lantern

We picked up the pumpkins a week ago, Sunday, at Critz Farms in Cazenovia--a trip worth making for their apple fritters alone.

Great Pumpkin

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Week Eight

FF.Team Charmin: Week Eight

I don't think I've mentioned that I'm in a fantasy football league this fall. It's a low-key affair: select a "starting lineup" from among your team of players and then watch each Sunday as their on-field performances translate into fantasy points. I'm finding that I enjoy it far more than straight-up picking winners for every game each week (and getting half or more wrong). This fantasy football league strikes a nice balance, meaning that it's not too time-intensive (just a few minutes each week to set the roster) but it re-focuses my attention and my drifting, contingent fanhood to a different group of players than I would otherwise root for, much less notice. Because I'm in on the FF league, I'm slightly more interested each Sunday and partial to certain players than I would be otherwise--perhaps it's the only way to remain interested as an unflinching Lions fan.

Above, I adopted the Fantasy Football analysis format used by Sean Yuille at Pride of Detroit. My impression is that our league is not as detailed in its scoring, and I don't have the time or inclination to provide analysis on all eight teams, but I have summed today's clash between my own Team Charmin and the Salacious Antiquarian Society, a team that handily trounced us and disposed of our three-game win streak today. Today's loss makes it a sweep of Team Charmin for the Antiquarian's this season.

What's not to feel lowly or dispirited about? Well, for one thing the rating shows that I scored exactly as many points as I could have with the roster I have. It wouldn't have helped had I started my other QB or juggled the lineup otherwise. I should qualify that this will remain the case until Chris Johnson (RB, Titans) has a record-setting four touchdown game tomorrow night. He's on the bench (i.e., Team Charmin's bench), and perhaps he should have started ahead of Maurice Jones-Drew (RB, Jaguars) who racked up a staggering three points for the club earlier today. Anyway, that's today's FF analysis: Team Charmin was walloped, 103-75. Next week, always next week.


Leaf Pile

Weekend To-do-done List:
Raked leaves (more like watched as D. and Ph. raked leaves)
Cleaned garage until it was a car-parkable space again
Repaired vacuum cleaner (belt replacement)
Played two hours of YMCA basketball
Sent off the last batch of preliminary job-app materials
Revised on Chapter Four (one-third of the way through first-pass revisions)
Dropped off and retrieved Ph. from ACT testing
Prepped all teaching and mentoring materials for next week
Fielded one stinker of a Fantasy Football team (now losing, 89-70)
Worked on the Writing Center technology audit
Cleaned up my Google Reader account (dropped 40 feeds to get it down to 80; removed all starred items)

All that's left is online WC consulting tonight from 9-11 p.m. And maybe one more entry about Team Charmin's pitiful FF showing. And then it'll be Monday.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lobotomap 2

The Yesterblog at the right reminded me that I'd put together one of these three years ago, after lifting the idea from here. And since today's been one of the those mid-fall brain-stew Fridays, using the last few neuronal pulses that remain after this week, I thought why not conjure up another brain map, even declare the lobotomap a triennial EWM tradition. Until 2011....

Lobotome 2

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Melodic Recombination

Linguistically, Is. now comes up with delightfully unexpected sequences: phrases (borrowed from cartoon characters, muppets, us, or wherever), nursery rhyme snippets, lullaby lyrics, and personal observations. Conversation with her is increasingly adventurous, experimental, spontaneous, and thoughtful.

For instance, for the past couple of days, she has sung the alphabet song with an alternative ending. You know the one: "A B C D E F G, H I J K LMNOP, Q R S, T U V, W X, Y and Z." Only, at this point, she switches to "Twinkle, Twinkle" with "How I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky." The melody follows; it sounds like a continuation of the alphabet song. What I find so appealing about it (other than the fact that there is pure joy in listening to a two-year-old sing) is that it's a hypertextual maneuver (a protologic of new media, no?) and an unexpected comment on the early development of alphabetic literacy . I'm not prepared to get into Chomsky and Pinker (as I think through this), but I like the way the lyrical crossover introduces a layer of accidental meaning, very much the sort of thing underscored in new media composing. The melody carries, but the alphabet is recontexualized in seemingly earnest curiosity, abstraction, and symbology--for me an illuminating glimpse of Is. enjoying anti-gravity in the "galaxy of signifiers."

Back on the ground: Yesterday we were out on an errand, in a store, and, after a someone (dark hair, pointy hat) walked past us, Is. loudly asked, "Was that a witch?" D. and I had a similar response: carry on, then out of earshot explain that, no, in fact it was just some other patron, and that we'd have a longer discussion of Ahmed and interpellation when we got to the car. Of course, I also had to explain to her that if, by chance, it was a witch, shouting out the question in open public put all of us at risk of being turned into toads or worse. This is, after all, the more compelling reason for why not to call explicit attention to any of the specters out and about in late October, yeah?

Saturday, October 11, 2008


A pair of morning excursions: first to Toddler's Tango in Camillus and then south to Beak and Skiff in Lafayette for apple-picking.

Onondaga Hues

On Debbie


Cressbeckler: No Calculators

Independent candidate Joad Cressbeckler's education platform, which amounts to "work hard" and "don't use calculators," would be disastrous for America. (via)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Insinewating Ties

Election coverage this week has shifted from the blaze town hall draw to the cascading economic slide (i.e., a crash dragged out for a few days) to the McCain campaign's great efforts to weave strong ties between Obama and Bill Ayers. Am I riled up about any of this? Not really. I had the debate on in the background as I did other work, I have watched the modest paltry TIAA-CREF nest egg I micro-accumulated over seven years at Park U. suffer disfigurations akin to Humpty Dumpty, and I don't for a second accept that Obama is terrorist-like for the company he kept with Ayers.

So what, then?

I have been interested in the way the campaigns try to establish ties and linkages. Palin and other McCain surrogates have tried mightily to forge a strong tie between Obama and Ayers. If they succeed, if they get people to believe that such a tie is strong, that, in effect, Ayers of old and Obama of late think alike, then they will have sprung from thin air a damaging blow: probable guilt by the company one keeps. Yet, nodes perform ethos. Obama can simply say, "No tie," or "weak tie," and the burden of establishing a linkage falls on the accusers.

There are other interesting questions here about temporality and, perhaps, about how the ties suggested by associative technologies (e.g., Facebook) will function as evidence of strong ties in the future. Serving on a board together, dinner at one's house: these are time-constrained connections. They do not live on in quite the same way as some more recent developments. Maybe we'll see more of it in the weeks ahead, but so far this election cycle has seemed to me to dwell on whose network is more presidential, more executive in its constitution: McCain's? (a network of houses, a claim to be a Senate boundary-spanner, a hand in the Keating Five heist) or Obama's? (a recklessly outspoken pastor in Wright, a radical former colleague in Ayers, generous friends in F. May and F. Mack). Campaign: another name for the high stakes practice of network building at breakneck pace--a rhetorical production of ties and associations that will trip one candidate into second place and vault the other into the White House.


Somewhat related (via). Warning: Cover their ears or the innocents will pick up a cuss at the end:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Satisficiency Index

A week ago I emailed a dashed-out draft of Chapter Six, "On Coagulants,"1 bringing me to a full draft of the project. For me, the draft means that it's sorta closing in on finished and sorta changing phases so that next it will continue coming up against all of the questions from my committee, questions that will re-open it, grow it, and overfill the footnotes.

Consider this entry something like a State of the Dissertation report. At 270 pages and six chapters, it's long enough. I'm satisfied with parts of it; dissatisfied with others. The two tail-end chapters need some TLC. Nobody's read them (me? I wrote them), and I'm not settled about what sort of work they need, so I've sent them in. And I've taken feedback from more than half of my committee on Chs. Zero (Intro) and One, from just under half of my committee on Ch. Three. I'll get to first-pass revisions on Ch. Four sometime after Watson but before the end of the month. I also have some work to do on fixing up the works cited. Right now the works cited is so disheveled I could carry it around in a grocery bag (a reusable one, of course).

In what little free time I've had this week to think about the sum of the project, I keep coming back to the idea of a wave or an arc as the shape I want to reckon with. I've tried to translate it into a graph using criteria I'm calling--today--a satisficiency index, which plays on Herbert Simon's idea of "satisficing" from The Sciences of the Artificial. Simon blends sufficient and satisfying, giving us "satisficing" as an alternative to "optimal" (in matters of AI, search, and so on). The satisficiency index registers an impression: How satisfied am I? and How sufficient is this? rather than reporting whether or not this is optimal. Much in the vein of pain tolerance questions posed by a physician (on a scale from 1 to 10, how much pain?), I have conjured up numbers corresponding to my satisfiction with the diss as drafted.


Would this curvy line match with my committee's report of the same? In certain chapters, perhaps. This is a question worth asking, right? And in conversations or via written feedback, I have come away with varied impressions of committee satisfiction. This variability is good and generative: everyone does not tell me the same thing. The graph also hides the order in which the chapters were drafted; two was first, followed by zero and one. The rest, three through six, progressed in order. Yet, with feedback from committee members, and especially with revisions, everyone's level of satisfiction should increase, right? (Please let that be the case for those last two, real tumbleweeds compared to the rest). Dissertations need to be "good enough," right? After making this graph, I began thinking that I'd like to have the average score up around 7 or 7.5. Right now it's at 5.7. Clearly there's more work to do. The graph, as a distant reading of the diss, helps me square with the work awaiting me, albeit in a deliberately simplified model.

1 Kidding. The actual title is TBD.

Monday, October 6, 2008

With Pet

I've decided I won't include a personal photo with my dossier during the upcoming (er, is it really October already?...) in-progress job search. However, if I was going to include a photo, it would have to be one of the following. Maybe #7.

Yoki posing

We snapped these few shots using the camera's auto-timer back in 2006 when 1.) I apparently had time on my hands and 2.) academic photos with pets (appearing in places like conference programs) was more fashionable than at any other time before or since1. Y. and I agree that if we had it to do over again, he would sit still and look at the camera.

1 This is an intuitive guess, a hunch. I do not have any data whatsoever to establish the frequencies of "with pet" photos of academics in any conference program.