Short Workout and Run

Run number two was pretty short.

45 minute strength training then a 15 minute 1.5 mile cardio add-on.

Happy New Year!

Ran Two Days Ago

Short 2 miler in the streets of rainy D.C. It wasn't a lot, and I wasn't able to access Wi-Fi all day at MLA (um...meetings and stuff), but I did get out and add to my nearly 4-5 miles of walking (long story).

I'm off to the gym right now for run #2.

Who else is going?


Most of you know about this

A lot of you who read this blog and comment already know about Stanford's iTunes website, but I think that what they are doing is worth emulating. For all of our discussion of aggregation, fit and finish (look and feel) count. If you can't make the experience easy in the ways that count, the types of interface complication that make us think (as Johndan's blog discusses) probably won't count. Building ethos may be complicated; but I think that most of us would agree that making the experience easier/more intutitive/automated when there is little but postmodern esoterica in store for the beleagured user who can't figure out how to *get* the content is a trust-building exercise.

I am often tempted as a teacher to blame my students for a logical step I forgot to make more clear or obvious, but I resist that. Later on, when I have increased good will (something that "Don't Make Me Think" mysteriously throws it's hands up at and declares unknowable and therefore irrelevant), I can then draw upon that good will. Of course, those of you in this game called teaching know that you usually don't have to instruct students to draw upon good will. These students are usually busy pouring in some of their own (to strain a metaphor).


Happy Solstice, Folks

For those of my seratonin-challenged virtual colleagues, (you know who you are), today is the shortest day of the year. We are now over the hill, and will be going down the Vitamin-D "sun-soaked" hill a little faster each day.

Sure, tomorrow we will have only 2 more seconds of sunlight (!), but just keep adding those sunny moments together.

Happy solstice.


Rosie and Friends

Found this very cool Library of Congress archive of WWII-era photos. This archive contains WPA black-and-white and color photographs. The black-and-white photos seem to be more iconic, but the color photos were much richer than I had imagined. Here is a nice photo of three women assembling a B-17 bomber (one of my all-time favorite airplanes, as it evokes the kind of nostalgic camaraderie that this photo exemplifies).


I saw the film adaptation of Phillip Dick's Paycheck a few nights ago. You know, the Ben Affleck, John Woo disaster. My money is on John Woo having a bender during the production...


Friday Teacher Blogging

The teacher I want to blog about today is...the weather.

Seriously, just when you think that you understand how things work, the weather teaches you just how little you know. This may strike people as a bizarre way of looking at things, but I'm a posthumanist who doesn't always try to boil agency down to the most humanoid-looking creature/thing in the room or hiding behind the curtain. I'm not even going to anthropomorphize this teaching-thing past giving it the "er" suffix. No mother or father here. It's just stuff that envelops and you learn.

Gotta say

I know this is sick, but if I didn't have to drive in this muck, I would actually be enjoying this snow storm. All of my desert rat buddies think I'm crazy, but I like snow. I don't mind the cold or walking around in it. I just don't like to have to navigate a vehicle out here...


Small Pleasures

So I was readin' this academic book when I came upon an impossibly smug factoid about how the British populace has more debt than ever followed by what is possibly my new favorite sentence. It consisted of one word--"Dreamy."

Can you still DO that? I started snickering after I read it and then looked around the room. It was one of those guilty pleasures that I wanted to simultanteously share and hide. Maybe it's the fact that I'm almost exactly halfway to my tenure decision, but I can't help thinking that some of the feedback on my Melvillian sentences could be addessed if I just had a bit more punch and, um...snark.

You think?


"So, where ya' been, doc?"

I've been getting emails from people wondering about the recent hiatus in blogging.

What I've been doing:

1. Getting through my third-year review. So far, so good on that front.
2. Went to the Lilly conference down in Miami and presented on Learning Communities.
3. Cleaning up some co-pubs and gearing up for some serious solo-pubs and book revision over the break.
4. Had the in-laws over for Thanksgiving. They brought some massive Mayport shrimp to appease the turkey gods. The twin vegetarians were able to coax a golden cider-brined turkey from the ether. Thanks for the shrimp...*wink*.
5. Grading, grading, and more grading.
6. The post-Thanksgiving guilty trips to the gym. I'm trying to weave together a good running, weight training, and ballet schedule. I still haven't hit the balance quite right. The marathon really messed with my metabolism and sleep cycle, and smashed up my feet, so I'm hoping that easing back into the routine helps me address these issues.

Thanks for the concern, friends and family.


I know they are bo-bo

Medium Design Group blends commercialism with identity politics in a way that complicates some of the early laughable attempts at postmodern detachment. Identity matters, but it can be fun and negotiable.

Identity is semi-sticky and isn't separate from the kinds of transactions that many materialists eschew. I especially like the way you can purchase both "socialist" and "capitalist" shoes.


Here is an Idea

New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson is using the "Rainy Day" windfall to create a fund for need-based college aid. I like the way this sidesteps the two major pitfalls in most contemporary discussions of "fixing" higher-education: 1. Centrally-controlled bureaucratic micromanagement of universities sold as "businesslike reform" and, 2. pumping money into the system directly while ignoring the systemic draining of university support through Orwellian doublespeak (when I was in New Mexico, reduction in state support was called "tuition credit," because they expected the University to increase tuition by a certain amount. Nice, eh?).

This solution mixes the idea of a market-based endowment with the market forces that are ALREADY helping us shape our universities and retain our #1 rank in the world.

Governor wants $50M for 'affordability' scholarships
Haley Wachdorf
NMBW Staff

When it comes to going to college in New Mexico, there is good news and bad news. The good news, according to Beverlee McClure, secretary of higher education for the state, is that plenty of students qualify for college entrance. The bad news is that a lot of them can't afford tuition.

"The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education publishes a state-by-state report called 'Measuring Up.' We get an A-minus in participation," McClure says. "We've made it pretty easy for people to get in to college. But we received an F in college affordability, not because tuition is too high, but because we don't have enough need-based aid in this state. We know that one of the big reasons that students don't make it to graduation is financial burdens. They work 30 to 40 hours a week and try to go to class and end up saying 'Forget it, I can't do it.'"

That problem has not gone unnoticed in Santa Fe, where officials not only want to make it easier for the state's relatively poor population to access a college education, but also to assure industries in the state that there will be a steady supply of new graduates.

Gov. Bill Richardson on Nov. 21 announced his intention to seek $50 million from the legislature to fund an endowment for the College Affordability Act, which was signed into law earlier this year but did not receive any appropriation in the 2005 legislative session. The legislation in support of the funding will be carried by Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Valencia County.

The scholarships would provide a solely need-based scholarship for New Mexico's traditional and non-traditional students. New Mexico's most prominent state scholarship, the Lottery Success Scholarship, is only available for students who enroll in college immediately after high school graduation with a 2.5 GPA and who maintain a 12-hour course load. Those restrictions mean that people who wish to return to college later in life or who serve in the military after high school graduation are not eligible for the lottery scholarship.

A decision has not yet been made as to what will constitute financial need for a College Affordability Act scholarship, but NMHED officials say it will probably be similar to qualifying for a Pell grant, which is the federal government's best-known grant for students who need financial help. In New Mexico, 37,000 students qualify for Pell grants. The College Affordability Act scholarships would be worth up to $1,000 per semester.

McClure says the funding of the College Affordability Act is her department's first legislative priority, and she thinks the timing is right given the state's windfall from oil and gas revenues.

"This is the year to do it," she says. "Everyone is going for the big pot of money out there, and I'm aware that everyone is going after that. But if we in New Mexico really want to leave a legacy and touch lives, this is the way to do that."

If the $50 million is appropriated in the January session, NMHED officials say no more than a third of the money will be used immediately to pay for scholarships in the 2006-2007 academic year. NMHED officials say the College Affordability Scholarships might be financed from the interest generated on the principal of the endowment, as is traditional, but it is also possible that some of the money will be invested or used as leverage to gain federal money for scholarships.

John Carey, president of the Association of Commerce and Industry, says his organization had called for an expansion of lottery scholarship eligibility this year, but feels the proposed endowment would meet the same need.

"One of the drawbacks we've had in economic development is our education system," he says. "So I think the better trained and educated our workforce and our future workforce are, the better we can compete with other states."


MIT's "Fab Lab"

MIT is closing out year five in their five-year NSF "Fab Lab" iniative. Great idea--which if you don't know about it, is a worldwide effort to bring inventing to the masses. It's about distributed and sustainable invention and innovation. From India to Costa Rica to Ghana (and even Boston!). They are clearly making a media push for more effort, but I would like to see these folks work with marketing and communications experts to get this worthy effort out in front of people who might be able to help. It isn't a corporate push (the inventions aren't focused upon any corporate, or even "productive" mindset). Instead, the spirit is really one of distributed imagining. If anyone knows if they are soliciting small donations, let me know.


Friday Teacher Blogging

Before I fly off to Washington D.C. to meet up with some blog researchers and run the Marine Marathon, I want to mention a teacher that I have never seen teach: Dr. Rob Scott

How do I know this guy can teach? Well, as I was getting my coffee this morning, the barista mentioned (university baristas can be good for dirt) that a student had bought this teacher a cookie and an apple to sustain him during a morning of conferences. Now, you may think that the price/hour ratio is low here, but these artifacts are precisely the kinds of things you want to put in your tenure file. Cards and letters are all great artifacts for the file, but a shrink-wrapped "teacher offering" cumbly cookie would probably pressure any tenure committee to make the right decision. Here's to chocolate chip evidence of teaching excellence Dr. Scott!


"Grey Bowl" provides backdrop

Took this snap today. The grey bowl may have descended, but it hasn't yet conquered the flaming brilliance of leaves losing their chlorophyll. BG is a nice place to be if you keep your eyes open at the right time.


Gantt Chart for Online Docs

Here is how far my Online Docs students have progressed in their two major projects. I don't know if Tufte would be pleased with me.


The "Grey Bowl"

Before I moved to Northwest Ohio, one of graduate-school friends from Akron informed me about the 6-month "Grey Bowl" that descends upon Ohio in October and stays for six months.

The Grey Bowl has descended.


Friday Teacher Blogging

Your sixth grade teacher. Sixth grade happens during that age between innocence and the "Lord of the Flies" boot camp that is Junior High. Sixth grade is the year that helps you learn how to pick up your books and straighten your clothes after you've been tripped. Your sixth grade teacher was the person who helped you break out from the expectation that family political tricks to solve everything.

Go back and thank your sixth grade teacher. I did. As soon as I came back from my year abroad, I went and saw Ms. Baumann to thank her for all of the inspiration she serendipitously slipped into my day. While I was busy racking up a record for after-school detentions (mostly for speaking out of turn or forgetting to bring my homework), she patiently showed the class her adventures in "Up With People" (yes, the "Up With Everthing" parody in the Simpsons actually refers to a real group). Her pictures of travelling in Europe and her singing eventually convinced this rez boy to try some new and unusual things--like becoming an English major and a voice minor. Ms. Baumann broke our hearts and eventually became Patricia Ore (only kidding--we are all happy for her) and has worked her way up to principal. I'm sure she is a stellar administrator, just as I am sure she is still helping adults-in-training to learn how to take risks and to ignore the initial social stigma of being different and bold. Thanks teacher!


Odds 'n Ends

Ms. Mentor has a great column at the Chronicle. My favorite lines:

After all, taking sides puts everyone in a category, and academics love to categorize. Whole subject areas are built on classifying, polarizing, separating, labeling, and dating. Subtle and unsubtle distinctions are the bread of life. If you are not a Platonist, perhaps you're a Freudian, a Marxist, a Whig, or a dendrophile.

But Professor Stickler's cohorts seem to have reduced it all to one question: Are you Dean Titan's toady?


Perhaps Dean Titan knows exactly what he's doing: Words are pronounced the way I pronounce them, because I Am the Head Nabob in Charge.


Go read the whole thing at the Chronicle and drop her a nice note. She's been through a lot, as have all of the Louisiana and Alabama residents who were in Katrina's path.

Item #2. Here's a picture of Dr. Michael Bérubé a few years ago.

I can't help but think I saw this in an A Ha video. Take on me? Take me on? (I'm only kidding, Dr. B.)


Fake crises

This is what happens when you put the beginning of a news story with the end.


College costs going nowhere but up

As they have for the last ten years, college costs rose faster than inflation this year, according to the report "Trends in College Pricing 2005," released Tuesday by the College Board, a non-profit association of 4,500 schools, colleges and universities.

The rate of growth in tuition costs at four-year private colleges was about the same as last year -- 5.9 percent -- to $21,235. But growth slowed in tuition costs at four-year public universities. They rose 7.1 percent to $5,491. Last year, public school tuition jumped 10.5 percent.

Tuition costs, of course, are not the whole nut. Including room and board, the cost of attending a private college is $29,026 per year on average, and $12,127 at four-year public universities.


But many college students don't pay sticker price. 63 percent of students receive some form of aid, either loans, grants or both, according to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

On average, full-time students at private institutions get about $9,600 in aid in the form of grants and tax benefits. At public four-year schools, the average is $3,300.


In an accompanying survey, "Education Pays 2005," the College Board analyzes the benefits in lifetime earnings trends of those who've earned a college degree.

In 2003, workers with bachelor's degrees earned a median of $49,900. Those who'd completed several years of college with no degree had median earnings of $35,700, while those with a high school diploma averaged $30,800.

Projecting this over a 40-year career, the study calculated that a college graduate will earn about 73 percent more than a high school graduate.


So, in other words, average pre-aid college edcuation at a private school costs about twelve years of the extra money you'll make after graduation (about $20,000 per year to pay for the tuition and to make up for four lost years of earnings). That is worst-case scenario here (paying full tuition, having no job in college, etc.). If you factor in average grants, it takes about 10 years (two, if you are counting only tuition expenses). It only takes you one year to make up the tuition of a state college. Yeah, I know, you've got loans loans loans. I've got them too. I also had three jobs in college. In the long run, a college education is still the best investment you can make. Moreover, the American college system is still, by far, the best in the world. This "tuition crisis" is really a disguised healthcare and energy crisis (that's where the expenses are coming from) piling on top of states paying MUCH MUCH less to state schools. If schools just busted out those parts of the budget and put it on the state to explain, I think we might get a better energy and healthcare policy, frankly (and we might be able to tell students to pressure the state legislatures to step up to the plate). Until we do, I expect more of these "universities are just so expensive" diatribes to divert away from the real crises.


Friday Teacher Blogging

Today, I'm going to describe a little different teacher. While I definitely think that biped teachers kick arse, there are all kinds of teachers. For today's "Bloggy Teacher of the Week," I want to mention a hiking trail that I used to take periodically when I lived in Albuquerque. Fittingly, this trail was named La Luz. Like many of my other teachers, this trail forced me to examine my beliefs about the world. This trail, which climbs 3,400 feet over the course of its eight miles pushed me out of four suburban assumptions about my daily choices:
1.) You can go anywhere you want at any time.
Not true with this trail. The trail is closed in the winter (like many other trails), and also has a rainy season that makes you decide if you are going to make the ascent early in the day. By three P.M. in the afternoon, if you are not finished, you have a pretty good chance of getting caught in a rain storm and exposing yourself to lightning.
2.) Nature is either too big to control, or entirely controllable.
Neither ring true on the trail. The incredible variety and precariousness of nature is all there on this hike. From the cacti at the trail base, to the wild raspberries (that taste great) in the middle, to the aspens at the top, you can touch the incredible variety of nature. It is too big to put your arms around, but you can see the path people cut into "nature" at every point. Nature as either terrible Ktaaden, unspoiled wildness, or as tendable garden doesn't fit the experience.
3.) Experiencing something once teaches you enough.
I hiked this trail maybe a dozen times and it never looked the same. From snowball fights to walking through the clouds' mist on the trail, I can recall nearly every conversation and switchback I experienced on this hike.
4.) All lessons can be described.
I would say more about this but...

I never managed to do the "La Luz Annual Trail Run", but I did spend a lot of time with this old friend. Thanks for the lessons.


My Sides Hurt

Apple reveals iPod video and the skeptics crawl out. My favorite? THIS guy:

"The video iPod was born from arrogance. Apple has been so successful with the audio iPod that it thinks it can't go wrong. But it will this time. This is an example of a technology that is being launched only because it can be, not because anybody wants it."

I expect this kind of doomsaying from the paid and unpaid minions of other companies sprinkled throughout the packetsphere (anyone remember how the press dogged the original iPod as "just another mp3 player"?).

I'm an Apple fan, to be sure, but I think this will likely eventually work (if not for Apple, then for someone like Sony) for a few reasons.

1. The video market is ripe for selling single episodes of television shows, commercial-free. With a splintered pipeline (we call it cable), it becomes important to hit the high-end demographics. These bo-bos want quality narrative and they want it commercial free. HBO does it for dedicated-cable network viewers and Netflix does it for the fans who want to wait until it can be compiled and put on DVDs. This hits both the unwired (me, incidentally--I don't even own a T.V. and I subscribe to Netflix) AND the folks who don't want to watch episodes on schedule, don't want to bother with TiVo, and don't want to wait for the DVDs. This isn't a huge group, but this group certainly has money.
2. Nearly every major television network has podcasts right now ("Foxcasts, NPR, ABC, ESPN, CBS, NBC, etc.). People know that it is all about multi-channel marketing and sales, and that, for now, iTunes is a big part of that landscape. ABC, er Disney, er Pixar, is the only network that has content for now. I doubt it will be that long before other networks will want to see their shows repackaged for iTunes and competing with Disney/ABC/ESPN/Pixar (and yes, I think this signals Pixar re-upping with Disney now that Eisner is toast). Selling a few thousand downloads at 2.99 a pop isn't the point. Being able to promote shows on podcasts and sell the music or audiobooks being hawked on the shows IS the point. You build mindshare and stickiness by making the mediation process seamless/painless and by minimizing the "push" aspects of the marketing (removing ads, keeping the interface uncluttered but full of choices, etc.)
3. The small "television" is not the point. I don't think hooking it directly into your TV will be the point either (although I do think Apple will focus on this thing in the near future to make the bridge--it's what people have). I think the future is projection onto a much wider variety of surfaces. This makes eyeglasses television possible (think about watching a weather vlog on your way to work; think about video in the back seat of the car with the iPod controls in the front where Dad and Mom can get to them; think about hooking an iPod into a video projector at home (with wireless to the stereo system). Narrative on Demand. Now you can purchase shows and throw a themed party. Select a favorite episode whenever it pops into your head.

Jobs and company have been too far ahead sometimes (the cube; the Newton, etc.), but I think Apple is on the breaking edge of this wave. Should be a fun ride.


Now We Are Getting Somewhere

Technical Communicators, take note. Here come the interfaces we have been looking for:

*snip* (from Physorg)

Color displays may one day be used practically everywhere. And this would be possible even where it’s unprofitable today for cost reasons, such as on food cartons, medicine packaging or admission tickets. At the Plastics Electronics trade fair in Frankfurt, Siemens developers exhibited extremely thin, miniature color displays that can be printed onto paper or foil. And the displays can be produced at very low cost compared to LCD panels. The first displays will become available on the market in 2007. The displays show information about products, or even operating instructions for devices, directly on the packaging.


Michael B.'s post on blogging

Doc Berube's (Paterno Professor of "All Things Literary and Bloggy" at Penn State) recent post lamenting the non-tenure of a poly-sci Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago (presumably because he blogs--although the evidence isn't easy to ascertain) got me thinking about why I blindly charge into this public arena.

To be honest, I don't really know. Michael Berube's blog is one of the most entertaining pieces of performance art I have seen in a long while. He textually jousts with David Horowitz (Doc B dances and cavorts around the paleolithic D.Ho., all the while cutting texuatl M.B.'s into D.Ho's arguments, much as Zorro carves his eponymous tri-slash into the clothes of his slow-witted opponents). Dr. Berube also fiinds a medium that combines his love of the working class (hockey) with his love of the erudite and elite (latin, literary theory, etc.) in a forum that allows a back and forth with dozens of people. He mixes that with his ostensible subject, Disability Studies (and I'm not meaning insult with the bracketing, because he does that with aplomb. He just does so much else well, it is hard to say that is his especial purpose). I know why Michael Berube blogs (and why others go there). What is less clear is why an obscure Scientific and Technical Communicator blogs with little feedback other than the occasional polite TC prof, wandering-eye student, or "Sir Spamalot" waiting in the comments section.

My main guess is that people who blog love three things: conversations, technology (in some form) and community. Maybe we are looking for the conversations that don't happen in our class or in our departments to occur out in cyberspace. After all, universities are much like any other company--everyone has to hold their breath a bit and make sure that they don't put themselves out there too much in any work situation. I had to do this when I was a Wendy's fry cook, a theater bouncer, a football player, a tennis team captain, a tutor, a registrar intake secretary ("bullet sponge"), a T.A., a technical writer, and now as a professor. I think this is our chance to share our thoughts with a larger, lurking public (perhaps not like "Mr. 1.8 Million Hits Berube," but better than sharing with just those who see us as a door to bigger things). Blogging is a nice way to organize our thoughts, and to make visible the creative and destructive process that writing embodies.

But the Internet is Different!

Uh, maybe not:

"We will not agree to the U.N. taking over the management of the Internet," said Ambassador David Gross, the U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy at the State Department. "Some countries want that. We think that's unacceptable."

Go read the rest, if you like.


Ignore that "To Do" item

If any of you are around when I encounter the "23 mile training run" on my "To Do" list, let me know that one is already done.

Pray. For. Mojo.


Where the Rubber Meets the Road

The food tribulations continue here in Northwest Ohio:

As the Northwest Ohio Rib-Off, one of downtown Toledo's biggest events each year, threatens to take its tasty ribs and sauces elsewhere next year, mayoral candidate Carty Finkbeiner said if he's elected Nov. 8, he'll get the Rib-Off back downtown.

But Mayor Jack Ford's administration said it's already doing all that can be done to keep the Rib-Off in Promenade Park, where it has been held for 22 years.


Friday Teacher Blogging

See the guy on the left? That's Peter White. Not only is he a top-50 violin maker in the world, he was a hell of a teacher and mentor. He started our 19th-Century Literature seminar by showing us a film depiction of religious persecution (reformation torture, I think) and then plopping hundreds of pages of Calvin in front of us to read. By the time that class was over, I had nearly doubled my reading in the period and had written a meticulously-researched paper. Considering that my biggest priority that semester was to learn how to make a kick-ass coq au vin in a crockpot (made with $4 wine), I would consider that more than a minor miracle--and in no small part due to his enthusiasm. Here's to you, Pedro Blanco.


"Below the Fold"

Noam Chomsky, whatever you may think of his politics (and I'm have mostly mixed feelings about them myself), he has an interesting take on where the "news" lives in news stories. During his talks at MIT and Harvard, he cites widely-available information to make his points about government co-opting democracy. He does NOT take his information from the top of news stories. Instead, he encourages his audience to read the last few paragraphs of the story to see where the news really lives. I agree with this assessment. The Front Page sells copy by appealing to reader prejudice. The payoff is usually buried beneath the fold--or more often on page A21.

This pattern is also followed in Internet tabloidism in interesting ways. While the tech press was have a field day over Motorola's CEO comment "Screw the nano," (a comment given with a wink, supposedly), his most interesting comment gets buried, IMHO:

On a more serious note, Zander bemoaned the lack of engineering students in the United States. "One big issue is our investment in education. We're not pushing enough science and math. Go around the world, and see the kind of national programs to push the sciences. We ought to own biotech, high tech and other areas," he said.

The business community often gives short shrift to funding education, or, at best, pretends that globalism is the answer to the declining advantage we have with our world-class universities. That a multinational CEO would say that "We ought to own biotech, high tech, and other areas" and that we should push "our investment in education" should be receiving MUCH more attention than an ambiguously pissy statement about an mp3 player. Seriously.


In case you haven't heard

So, you may have heard a thing or two about the film school editing project that hit the meme-stream, and, lickity-split, this lad has calls coming in from Hollywood. Now, I could reinforce the idea that all one has to do is to just do good work and put it on some secret server and that dream job will come calling. Sometimes happens, but not often. Instead, I'm struck by the irony of a person remixing Hollywood intellectual property (in this case, turning footage of The Shining into a parody of a comedy trailer), and when it gets out into the public domain, the "Pirate Hunters" offer this guy a job. Reminds me of when hackers were getting jobs as computer security consultants (my boss' son actually made 100 million dollars when he ditched his military decryption--a.k.a "hacker"--job to build and subsequently sell a computer security firm). I think it reveals the motivations of the culture industry in enforcing intellectual property "rights." So-called "Liberal" Hollywood is all about the bling.


So I Went to See "Serenity"

I'm not going to give *much* in the way of spoilers here, but don't read this if you want to see the movie.

A few random thoughts about the movie.
1.) Great television show, good movie. Joss Whedon had some of the most innovative science fiction writing and filming with this show, so it is hard to make it more "innovative." I wish he had about 10 million more for special effects and about 10 million for marketing.
2.) The dialogue was still good. Joss has a way of "scuffing" dialogue. In this movie, he rubs western cliches against science fiction, with a generous dose of humor. It works really well--way better than "Buffy" ever did, in my opinion. I just don't cotton to valorizing high school talk. I didn't respect it when I was in junior high or high school, and I still don't respect it. Now, I don't like Western conventions because I grew up on a reservation, but I find that the mixture of speaking virtuosity, constant character attempts to decipher what the others mean, humility, and humor sounds exactly like what I remember on the rez. Last show I remember doing the same thing was Northern Exposure, but I digress.
3.) The "imperfect" film technique (CGI odd angles, treating the ship like a character, putting in light flares and off-center shots) makes this "Millenium Falcon-Stagecoach" (Whedon called his show this in the first season DVD documentary) scenario feel more authentic. George Lucas could have saved a lot of money and grief had he just kept more imperfections to let people get closer. After the first two Star Wars movies, I stopped caring about the characters. In Firefly, and Serenity, I never stopped caring. I think this is a result of Lucas making his films more technically correct and cold and Whedon keeping the focus on the characters, including the spaceship, as imperfect, and imperfectly knowable.
4.) The characters. I can't believe that my favorite character doesn't make it. I felt like I lost a best friend, and I'm still in denial. Seriously. I've never EVER mourned a fictional character, and I mourn this poor soul.
5.) My biggest gripe with with the use of Papyrus font for not only the poster (puh-leeze hire a better marketing firm--one that doesn't double as a wedding invitation publisher), but also as the lettering on the side of the Serenity. As a typography geek, I am offended that someone would spend millions to make sets look completely real, but won't take a trip down the mac font menu to see how incredibly common their font choice is. Everyone with any passing typographical experience (you know, educated people who work at their desks) will probably recognize this as a ready-made font. The font choice is what most people will notice when they see the poster and trailer. While they were at it, maybe they could have included some Word clip-art too. The coup de grace was when Inara is seen painting the same font on the side of the ship at the end. Wow, that's bad. I know, only a typographic geek would care. Still, all of the work that is done to make the movie live and breathe as a unique world should extend to the invitations (trailer, movie poster, internet banner ads). Wait! Maybe they should have hired a custom wedding invitation company to make the poster. I'm sure they have tons of interesting fonts...


Freakonomics Blog

Just bookmarking this so I can put it in the links later. Remember when blogs did that?


Friday Teacher Blogging

Wanna see the picture of a good teacher? *BAM*

Dr. Sean Grass is a little scary, but when he's on his game teaching Victorian culture, you can't leave the classroom without learning a LOT about the period.


Sub-$100 Notebook

Now, THIS is a useful device. Give laptops to the world's poor. This is absolutely HUGE for electronic literacy.

Children in Brazil, China, Egypt, Thailand, and South Africa will be among the first to get the under-$100 (£57) computer, said Professor Negroponte at the Emerging Technologies conference at MIT.

The following year, Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney plans to start buying them for all 500,000 middle and high school pupils in the state.

Professor Negroponte predicts there could be 100 million to 150 million shipped every year by 2007.

And what is your technique?

Genius lies not in the technique, but in the belief involved.


Adrien Brody, who plays heartthrob writer Jack Driscoll, is known for taking a Method approach to his roles. For The Pianist, he learned how to play Chopin; for The Jacket, he locked himself in isolation tanks until hallucinations set in. Jack Black's method is to sneak Megadeth references into his movies.


Shout Out of the Datacloud

Johndan Johnson-Eilola, out at Datacloud blogs about all variety of tech stuff. He mentions something I've been writing about; I email him; he blogs about my email. Cool!


Super Cool

New Mexico State student to call Cal game in Navajo
Associated Press

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- New Mexico State student Cuyler Frank entertains his friends and others in the stands with his mock play-by-play during Aggie home games, but he will get to do the real thing in his native language when NMSU hosts No. 13 Cal on Friday.

Frank, who is from Newcomb, will team up with Lanell Pahe of Crownpoint to broadcast the game in Navajo. It will be available on the university's Web site.

"I want to do the games in Navajo because I want to share some of the experiences of New Mexico State students with the Navajo Nation," Frank said. "It gives us a chance to share with our people what is going on here and what we are accomplishing as Navajos."

Several stations already broadcast high school games in Navajo, but Friday will mark the first time an NMSU football game has been broadcast in the language.

The Navajo Nation spans New Mexico, Arizona and Utah and is home to more than 250,000 people.

NMSU President Michael Martin said he's proud of the students who are taking the initiative to expand the school's ability to reach every citizen.

"Their willingness to tackle this challenge and be part of the expanding NMSU Aggie Planet is indicative of the importance we place on reaching all communities," he said Wednesday.

The effort also gives the school's Navajo students a new way to communicate with those back home.

"We don't hear much sports broadcasting in Navajo," Pahe said. "There is nothing like it. Most of the elders don't speak English very well. It gives them a new opportunity to see what is going on outside the [Navajo] nation."

Shandeen Curtis, a student athletic trainer with the football team and a Navajo from Kirtland, said the broadcast is an opportunity not only for people who enjoy listening to the game but also to bring new fans to the program.

"We have a great sports program and we are building something special here," she said. "If people listen, we can develop a following and they can see a program that is ready to take off."

The challenge for Frank and Pahe is that Navajo is very different from English. For example, there's no word for first down.

"It takes nearly twice as long to say something in Navajo as it does English," Frank said. "I've just got to concentrate on the basics.


Fantastic VC idea

What a great idea. I would LOVE to partner with venture capitalists in order to create the conditions where my students could take a shot at starting a company. A lot of discussion of the usefulness/uselessness of college assumes that the "content" in classes or even the genre of the "class session" is the most important facet of college. I think the benefits of university still lies in the attitudes they can foster, the connections they can facilitate, and the way they can help individuals clear away social pressures to immediately plug into the dominant ideology/infrastructure (I'm not implying universities don't have one, ore that they don't mirror social ideologies--only that they are still places where "thoughts can sit next to one another").

The sophomores were just one of eight groups selected for three months of summer seed funding from Y Combinator, a startup incubator founded by Paul Graham, a writer and programmer known for creating the first web application.

Graham, a startup evangelist who sold his company to Yahoo in 1998, came up with the idea of paying students to program instead of working a summer job after giving a talk about startups to Harvard University computer science undergraduates.

He advised them to get their funding from angel investors who got rich in technology themselves.

"Then I said jokingly, but not entirely jokingly, 'But not from me,' and everyone's faces fell," Graham said. "Afterwards, I had dinner with some of these guys and they seemed amazingly competent and I thought, 'You know, these guys probably could start companies.'"



Republicans accused of witch-hunt against climate change scientists

Paul Brown, environment correspondent
Tuesday August 30, 2005
The Guardian

Some of America's leading scientists have accused Republican politicians of intimidating climate-change experts by placing them under unprecedented scrutiny.

A far-reaching inquiry into the careers of three of the US's most senior climate specialists has been launched by Joe Barton, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on energy and commerce. He has demanded details of all their sources of funding, methods and everything they have ever published.

Mr Barton, a Texan closely associated with the fossil-fuel lobby, has spent his 11 years as chairman opposing every piece of legislation designed to combat climate change.

He is using the wide powers of his committee to force the scientists to produce great quantities of material after alleging flaws and lack of transparency in their research. He is working with Ed Whitfield, the chairman of the sub-committee on oversight and investigations.

The scientific work they are investigating was important in establishing that man-made carbon emissions were at least partly responsible for global warming, and formed part of the 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which convinced most world leaders - George Bush was a notable exception - that urgent action was needed to curb greenhouse gases.

The demands in letters sent to the scientists have been compared by some US media commentators to the anti-communist "witch-hunts" pursued by Joe McCarthy in the 1950s.

The three US climate scientists - Michael Mann, the director of the Earth System Science Centre at Pennsylvania State University; Raymond Bradley, the director of the Climate System Research Centre at the University of Massachusetts; and Malcolm Hughes, the former director of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona - have been told to send large volumes of material.

A letter demanding information on the three and their work has also gone to Arden Bement, the director of the US National Science Foundation.

Mr Barton's inquiry was launched after an article in the Wall Street Journal quoted an economist and a statistician, neither of them from a climate science background, saying there were methodological flaws and data errors in the three scientists' calculations. It accused the trio of refusing to make their original material available to be cross-checked.

Mr Barton then asked for everything the scientists had ever published and all baseline data. He said the information was necessary because Congress was going to make policy decisions drawing on their work, and his committee needed to check its validity.

There followed a demand for details of everything they had done since their careers began, funding received and procedures for data disclosure.

The inquiry has sent shockwaves through the US scientific establishment, already under pressure from the Bush administration, which links funding to policy objectives.

Eighteen of the country's most influential scientists from Princeton and Harvard have written to Mr Barton and Mr Whitfield expressing "deep concern". Their letter says much of the information requested is unrelated to climate science.

It says: "Requests to provide all working materials related to hundreds of publications stretching back decades can be seen as intimidation - intentional or not - and thereby risks compromising the independence of scientific opinion that is vital to the pre-eminence of American science as well as to the flow of objective science to the government."

Alan Leshner protested on behalf of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, expressing "deep concern" about the inquiry, which appeared to be "a search for a basis to discredit the particular scientists rather than a search for understanding".

Political reaction has been stronger. Henry Waxman, a senior Californian Democrat, wrote complaining that this was a "dubious" inquiry which many viewed as a "transparent effort to bully and harass climate-change experts who have reached conclusions with which you disagree".

But the strongest language came from another Republican, Sherwood Boehlert, the chairman of the house science committee. He wrote to "express my strenuous objections to what I see as the misguided and illegitimate investigation".

He said it was pernicious to substitute political review for scientific peer review and the precedent was "truly chilling". He said the inquiry "seeks to erase the line between science and politics" and should be reconsidered.

A spokeswoman for Mr Barton said yesterday that all the required written evidence had been collected.

"The committee will review everything we have and decided how best to proceed. No decision has yet been made whether to have public hearings to investigate the validity of the scientists' findings, but that could be the next step for this autumn," she said.


Falcon Love

My football team gets a little love from Sports Illustrated. Dr. B (yes, you, Samantha)--go to the story and notice what is peeking out from under the hat of the Heisman Hopeful. Tell your coach to fear the dreds (and yes, this is the only team that beat Purdue AT Purdue a few years ago).


Detroit Getting an Ounce of Help

I posted a bit about Toledo's industry-funded high school. Looks like Apple is going to do something similar with Detroit. The story has a bit of a breathless tone:
Gov. Jennifer Granholm will announce Tuesday that the California computer maker and master of the red-hot iPod will help finance, equip and advise a small top-quality high school for Detroit students at most risk of being left behind.

The goal is intensely ambitious to not only graduate these students, but also to prepare them for college and careers.

If successful -- and Apple has had success with similar efforts in other states -- the school will teach all of Michigan how to move from public high schools that churn out graduates unprepared for either work or college, to nimble academies that serve as launching pads for college or advanced training.

Teach ALL of Michigan how to move from boring/hopeless/incompetent schools to "nimble academies"? BS. I'm glad to see Apple stepping into a difficult situation to put their two-cents worth in. In fact, I'm currently showing my Online Docs class Robert Cringley's "The Triumph of the Nerds", complete with over-the top narration like "This man is richer than God...and Bill Gates is richer than him" and pronouncements of Apple's failure. I show it to my class, despite it's obvious misogyny and econo-fetishism for two reasons: 1. it shows the guts of the microcomputer and Internet marketing revolution. The interviews, location shots of Silicon Valley and Albuqueruque, and hyperbolic narration all capture the time perfectly 2. The interviews with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates captures two approaches to manufacturing. Bill Gates understands working in a commodified environment and Steve Jobs understands production innovation. Apple's production innovation DNA is what intrigues me about this school. It works for changing industry, but I have my doubts as to how far it can change social institutions that aren't cranking out pieces of plastic or metal. Our public school system needs good ideas, to be sure, but I believe the answer doesn't lie in changing everything into a corporate metaphor. Just ask Brent Faber how that works.


Innovation or Emotion

J.D. Bullington, an Albuquerque columnist that I don't particularly like or agree with met with Dan Pink, author of "A Whole New Mind - Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age." Pink is the former chief speechwriter for former Vice President Al Gore and writes about employee-management relations and emerging societal trends in the workplace.

In his column, Bullington discusses Pink's thesis about where innovation is going:

His argument is that our modern U.S. economy is soon going to be driven by a new set of personal abilities and traits that have been undervalued. Pink says we are "moving from spreadsheet SATs to a world of artistry and empathy."

Pink's three core pieces of evidence are the "abundance" of goods we have individually amassed in this country, which shows our standard of living is breathtaking; the continuous "automation" of our society and "Asia." Pink correctly asserts that U.S. workers are engaged in a search for meaning and purpose in their lives and seeking transcendence, more so than ever before, which is "a result that this abundant and automated society has liberated."

Now, I haven't read this book, so I don't know where this is going, but my first reaction is to agree with this assessment. I think that we are a highly successful country--at least in terms of good. I think that the "automation" is really another way of admitting that we have entered a cyborg, or systems, era. Johndan Johnson-Eilola's "symbolic analyst" is more akin to an artist than an analyst. Much in the same way that an artist needs to get past the need for minute control to make graceful and bold moves, the symbolic analyst must get past mechanistic and atomistic notions of control to carve and shape the systems that shape our lives. An example? A blogger like DailyKos or a political player like Rush Limbaugh. As much as people may disagee with one, the other, or both, these analysts/actors use communication networks/systems to move create massive shifts.


Good Idea in Toledo

Toledo has a Technology High School.
Toledo Technology Academy seems to eschew the digital associations most have with the term "technology," and instead focuses upon industrial and manufacturing engineering. It takes a decidedly more blue-collar approach to technology (not a surprise considering the sponsorship by Dana corp. and Plastics companies). I would love to convince a few of these students to come to Bowling Green and share their passion and expertise in the Scientific and Technical Communication program (any students or parents out there interested?).


Welcome Back BGers

Thought experiment for today:

How might your life be different today if technical writing didn't exist? No instructions, maps, reports, manuals, help functions, help books (including self-help books), pilot training materials, automobile manufacturing instruction reports, engineering feasibility reports, cookbooks, proposals, etc.


Homeslices Win Slam

My hometown Albuquerque poets won the National Poetry Slam. Charlotte, NC came in a close second (and not without controversy--it WAS held in the 'Burque after all). Of course, it was the first time ever for the home team to win (and Albuquerque has won it before a few times). I'm awed that the Slam sold out the Kiva for a night of spoken word. Nicely done, homeslices.


Richard Florida at George Mason

Well, my favorite *pop fizz* author, Richard Florida is a public policy professor at George Mason University. People like Dr. Rice HATE this guy (at least on the surface), I think because he's been a pretty good stadium-tax prop for every mayor looking to move downtown dirt. I think Richard Florida has recieved his fair beating for being opportunistic, but I don't think sweeping dismissals of his earlier economics analysis (ahem, Dr. Rice) is fair or accurate. He's been looking at the connection between the ephemeral "tolerance of new ideas" and "innovation" and sees a correlation (and not necessarily a causation--which is what his conservative critics misread into his analysis). By looking at immigrant and gay couple population density, he sketches a rough portrait of where "new thinking" is tolerated. I don't see the problem or controversy here. Now that he is a public policy prof., maybe he can better pick and choose the kinds of political appearances he justifies with his smiling presence. No more faux "renovations" or fake "commons" projects please. Stick to pushing the grassroots innovation your studies advocate.

*Correction--Dr. Rice DOESN'T HATE Richard Florida. He and I disagree on what Florida is articulating, but he's got a more nuanced read on him than I'm giving him credit for. Give his comments below a read. Or, better yet, go see what he's writing at Yellow Dog.*


Farmer's Market in Findlay

Findlay finally gets a Farmer's Market

I'm wrapping up my second year here in Findlay, and the city FINALLY gets a Farmer's market going. The bad news is that there are only four Thursdays for the market to run and this is only a test. This place is surrounded by oceans of farms, and there are a fair number of folks around here who remember what good produce actually tastes like--so this seems like a no-brainer. When I finally went over to the market, there was a pretty big crowd of people of all ages and political persuasions (if their conversations were any indication). I overheard people saying "it's about time we had one of these" at least a dozen times...

What did I buy? Some green chile (Anaheim chile peppers, for those who aren't in the know); a blue bell pepper; some very fragrant heirloom tomatoes at about $1 per pound; yellow squash (WAY better looking than what counts for squash at Kroger or sprawl Mart); and a half-dozen ears of corn from a guy selling corn out of the back of his pickup.

After the trip to the market, we walked over to the local Dietsch Ice Cream store for a Coke Float (with Rum Raisin ice cream). Last night, we made a dinner of fresh corn on the cob (with lime and salt) and sliced heirloom tomatoes. We also made a fresh cornbread with some of the corn we bought. Just about brought us to tears it was so good...


Back in the Groove

Still prepping for another marathon. My long run is now up to two hours. It always surprises me how the entire running experience changes when this happens. Below two hours, runs are still conversational and fun. As soon as I pass the second hour running, I go inward. It really helps my scholarship, but it definitely changes the way I interact with other people and my environment.


Good Call for Papers

Clay Spinuzzi has put out a Call for Papers for a TCQ special issue on Tech Comm in the Age of Distributed Work.

If you are on the edge of considering submitting something, let me encourage you to give it a try. This looks like one of those things that will be, in retrospect, very important (not that it doesn't seem that way now--just that it looks like something that is both timely and ahead-of-its-time) Clay is very personable, and will let you know if you fit in with this project.


I'm back in Town

Back in the saddle. Sorry for the long break. See picture below for a clue to where I was the past few weeks.


The Art of Science

Princeton is having an art show based on some of the images and artful artifacts coming out of the labs. The spectacular imagery associated with Science and the attempts to persuade audiences of its worth should be explored in greater depth in humanities departments.


In-Laws are Gone

Now, I'm back to my *mounting* scholarship issues. Right now, I'm busy working on an article about an aircraft startup. Looking a bit down the road, I would like to create a "City Blog" like the Duke City Fix here in Northwest Ohio (except with more of a decided business flair).


What Do These Have in Common?


American Cities That Best Fit You:

70% Honolulu

65% Chicago

65% Philadelphia

55% Los Angeles

55% Washington, DC


The Chronicle Embraces the Blogosphere

Instead of just discussing blogs as a fascinating new web genre, The Chronicle of Higher Education seems to be getting over its shyness. A recent column by Alexandra Lord details her efforts to help history PhDs get jobs outside of academe.


Training to Train

Ran seven miles today. I'm noBrent Faber, but I'm training for my second marathon.


I take it back, Mr. Lucas

I take it all back, Mr. Lucas. Your recent movies are EVERY BIT as good as the original Star Wars.

Now, please can I come and work for you here?

Read about Lucas' new studio built at the old San Francisco Presidio here. Suh-wheat!


Marketing to the Extreme

Neilson (the folks who do television ratings) are claiming that they will spend $100 million on what they call Project Apollo. Massive efforts to figure out what really works and what doesn't in marketing. I'm guessing they are going to find that people are both dumber and more clever than they imagine. Read about it here.


Science vs. Politics

Interesting twist on the "Morning After" Pill. Studies out demonstrate that "Plan B" is not an abortificant. Still, groups that benefit financially and politically by conflating ovulation prevention and implantation prevention have no tests that verify their position. No evidence beyond "we say so." From the story:

"It's science versus politics once again in the widening fight over the "morning after" pill known as Plan B, with medical researchers this week citing studies showing the drug does not induce abortions, as is commonly thought."

Now, I could easily point to the Kansas vs. evolution debate (actually, it's a weird mish-mash of things that the Kansas conservative texbook-hawks object to, but I digress), and just label the Pharmicists for Life as a bunch of liars and Luddites (something that has a bit of credibility, frankly), but that would miss an important Larger point--namely, that "truth" is constituted by the grounds of argumentation. Pharmicists don't need studies. Pharmicists don't even really care about the scientific process. They are bureaucrats that are bucking for greater status via women's bodies. The logic goes "If I can set up the velvet rope in a moment of terror, that would make me really powerful! I can go to church with a clean conscience, make a truckload of money, and even claim I'm in charge." Sounds really petty of me to say this, but the refusal of these political pressure groups to acknowledge real experimental evidence (and the even more damning refusal for represented Pharmacists to muzzle their attack dogs when they are proven wrong) shows that Pharmacists are not really scientists. They depend more upon the terror of pain, death and impregnation, than they do on clinical, chemical, and biological evidence. Of course, the dirty secret is that most professionals accrue this mysterious magical power we call "affect" by these political and bureaucratic velvet ropes. Still, I think that Plan B will be made over the counter. It is only a matter of time before Pharmicists who care about their status will trump the ones who think it is just a naked game. The social capital is just too valuable.


Cinco de Mayo

Go out and celebrate. At least go rent Frida



An InfoWorld blog entry on the ACLU pizza meme describes how one might measure the effectiveness of a "meme" (complete with bar graph). It is pretty unsatisfying (one step removed from web counters), but helps to illustrate how "memes" flow through blog space.

Food as argument

This Silicon Valley.com story on the gourmet tech company grub illustrates a point that I try to make in my scholarship--namely, that the issues that theoria tries to foreground often fail to account for the "things that count." That is one of the strengths I see in cultural studies theory (especially the concept of "articulation"). I'm not always comfortable "stuffing" details into an article willy-nilly from a thick description, but most of the classic rhetorical theory is far to unweildy to fit into the standard 25-35 page article. Spending your time detailing the difference between a Ciceronian, Aristotilian, and Platonic notion of syllogistic reasoning doesn't leave much space for the "cafeteria food argumentation."


Branding of Academia

CNNfn has a good article about how universities game the rankings. Seems that "marketing" is taking the perjorative sting off of the word "rhetoric."


Risk Analysis Meets Mr. Media

Space Shuttle crashes and the subsequent Document Analyses have been a staple in Technical Communication. The last Shuttle breakup (and I would contend, the gradualness of the breakup and the horrific possibilities) has bent the typical Shuttle risk analysis. Seems that the pressures are starting to wear on the engineers:

"Schedule matters," he said. "It shouldn't matter to the point of causing people to do dumb things or to take ill-advised actions.... We want to launch Discovery when we can because the completion of the international space station depends upon an expeditious launch schedule. We don't want to launch it sooner than we can."

Tech Comm teachers often take the "look at the moment it went wrong in slow motion" approach, which distorts the "rock-and-hard-place-in-real-time" reality that makes ethics and representation so much more challenging. I would like to see our community create Wiki case-studies that integrate these newer iterations into the narrative. See the strand chronologically would change the way that we teach this stuff--at least in my opinion.



Weirdness in Holding Pattern

Yesterday, we had a "freak" snowstorm (I put freak in scare quotes because all of the natives insisted during last week's 80 degree weather that we *would* get hit by another storm). Well, a low front parked over Lake Erie and the "finger of god" poked straight south from Canada and made it cold enough to snow all day. I just hope that it the blossoms don't croak, since it really didn't get below freezing.



Analytic-Symbolic Worker goes "Real World"

CFO (Chief Financial Officer) Magazine has a story on managing knowledge.

"In the late 1990s, consultants and academics began talking incessantly about the ascent of the "knowledge economy." This invisible system, they posited, encompassed the collective set of ideas and innovations generated by a global workforce. As the competition for customers grew more intense—fueled, in part, by the rise of electronic commerce—companies that mined the collective intelligence of their employees would come out on top. In this gray-matter economy, originality and fresh thinking would be king, and a company's most valuable assets would be those located in the body electric.

Back in the real economy, however, a stifling recession dashed most talk of a knowledge economy, as companies went into survival mode, paring costs and shoring up balance sheets. But with the recent surge in the U.S. economy, the concept of knowledge management is staging something of a comeback. This go-round, though, companies seem more concerned with what they don't have, rather than what they do have"

So, tech writers, the 90s weren't a bust. Let's go out there and keep turning the wheel...er, arranging the grid (or something like that).


Sunny here in Northwest Ohio

Gone fishin! (or something like that). Get outside and enjoy this weather.


The Diminishing Pyramid of Professor Privilege

Over at the Chronicle, a humanities professor has written a beautiful description of what many of our colleagues countenance to teach their students. Go over and read the entire essay (you won't regret it). It reminds me of the fact that I shared a desk with 7 other people in the corner of a basement cubicle farm (no joke) when I started at Penn State. The really lucky grad students got their own desks. When I went to work in Corporate U.S.A., I actually shared my office with only one other person (much luckier than my Wendy's days of standing in the back room next to the potato oven and resting against garbage containers to catch breathers). Now I actually get my own office. This essay describes holding class in a Quonset hut and meeting students for office hours in a car while putting coins in the meter. Here is my favorite part:

"I once had an office -- a cubicle really -- in the physical-plant building of a major university. Gigantic machines rumbled all around me. My coffee mug sometimes vibrated off my desk. I used to pretend that I was an oiler in the engine room of the Lusitania. The room was well below ground level, and, during the rainy season, the entire floor would flood, sometimes to a depth of 18 inches. There were high water marks on the cinder-block walls from previous inundations. Mold ascended the fabric sides of my cubicle until, finally, it looked and smelled like a forest floor in the Pacific Northwest.

After a couple of months -- and conversations with the other workers -- I learned that I could reach various points on the campus through underground steam tunnels. On my way back from teaching a class, I could pretend that I was Jean Valjean evading Inspector Javert in the sewers of Paris. My cubicle was so far from the center of campus that students rarely found me. Once, shortly after teaching Conrad's Heart of Darkness, I asked one of my advisees "Are you an assassin?" And he said, without missing a beat, "No, I'm an errand boy sent by grocery clerks." We laughed for two minutes. It was the high point of my semester."


Dr. Berube on the Power of Theory

Last night, I dusted off my copy of Wild Orchids and Trotsky that I bought and was supposed to read in the "Research Methods, Disciplinary Issues, and Other Myriad Wonderings Omnibus" Course in my first semester in the Penn State Grad Program (I must confess, I did not read any of the essays, and Dr. Berube was nowhere near enough to smack me upside the head). My wife and I read his entire essay out loud and nearly cried upon meeting another group of people that tries to live the difficult-to-pin-down-yet-indespensible lessons that one learns from taking theory and learning and community and caring seriously (the group being his family). The detail about Papa Berube's learning that Home Despot doesn't have kiddie seats unlike grocery stores (thus demonstrating a gendering fungo bat at work in the social text) made me wish that I had somehow picked up this book as a new graduate student (alas, our entire class glossed over class material trying to get through A.S. Byatt's Possession). It is in these small stories of lessons learned and taking the care to share your growth that demonstrates how these scary things like "theory" and "antifoundationalism" not only matter--they can get us to that "moral center" that so many want to impose by gun.

Read his post if you want to see just how down to earth and righteous a theory head can be.


Culture in the Ohio Wasteland

Last Friday I went out to toast a colleague's birthday and returned to one of my favorite restaurants in this part of Northwest Ohio (scratch that--make that my favorite)--Cohen and Cooke (Please excuse the atrocious spelling in the linked-to review--"pablano," "civiche," and "gonache" [!]--apparently the copyeditor died that evening). For a pretty respectable price, I shared a diver scallop with mustard slaw and grilled apple appetizer, a grouper with black rice and papaya appetizer (big enough to be an entree), and a cheese plate. Unbelievably good, and I know the money is going to support people who do good work and not just lining some foreign crony's pockets. Eating sabayon with wine-soaked figs in a historic, beautiful, and funky place AND you're keeping the money local...

The owners have scratched out a mini-empire here in Bowling Green since I arrived about two years ago. They occupy parts of what used to be a hotel. First they built a restaurant that serves prix fixe and heartbreakingly fresh fish and fine food in the evening. Soon, they bought the adjoining hotel lobby and made it into a lounge (the "stage" is the old grand staircase and landing--too cool). Soon after, they bought a neighboring coffeehouse. Now, they are building what I think is a taqueria. Although their fine eating restaurant serves a really good lunch, I can't wait for the new addition.


Johndan Letting it all hang out

I remember reading Johndan Johnson-Eilola's writing when I was in graduate school (right about the time he left Purdue for Clarkson). Reading his books was one of the ways that I distanced myself from the stuffy Literature and carping Creative Writing Types. Reading Nostalgic Angels and such just made you feel cooler. Recently, his blogs and writing have seemed....well....academic (or just not quite as "ubercool"). His recent posts on painting his fingernails and wiping his hard drive seemed a bit confessional and gratitutous at first (at least for the editor of the stodgy Central Works in Technical Communication), but the more I think about it, the more I like to see these glimpes of the *old* Dr. Johnson-Eilola--the bad boy of Tech Comm. Welcome back Johndan.


Alternative Energy Blog

This Blog is updated with new developments in alternative energy Give it a whirl if you are interested in a non-partisan glimpse into what's going on in alternative energy.


Gore TV

I'm actually excited by the idea of a television station that plays videos/films made by the viewers. Seems more like a Lessig idea than a Democrat/Liberal one, to be honest. Wonder what the lawyers are going to do this this, considering how litigious the entertainment industry currently is.

Right on the Nose

This guy is absolutely on the money! Nice work, Mr. John Wylam. I couldn't agree more!

Horowitz showed off weak writing

By John Wylam
April 05, 2005

I attended the David Horowitz event at the Union last Wednesday, saw protests from the right and left, and wanted to mention a couple of things. First, it was interesting that an individual who admonishes his adherents to go into classes and purposefully disrupt couldn't see the same strategy at work in Olscamp.

He should've recognized that what people on the left were doing was really fairly simple: showing him how this approach works in practice. If he recognized the approach, I didn't see any evidence of it. It would've been better for him to acknowledge that dissent by defusing it rather than stoking it as he did, but to be honest I believe he wanted loud, boisterous dissent. He struck me as someone who feeds off such things, which I found quite abnormal.

The second point is Horowitz's lack of true intellectual rigor. I don't often see public work so bereft of depth. I'm not referring to his speech, although its rambling, pointless, me-monkey sensibilities should've made people cringe. I refer instead to his writing, which is shallow and steadfastly refuses to do the very thing he insisted that teachers on all sides in turn insist upon from their students' essays: that they use credible sources, argue well, use counter-argument and refutation without demeaning the other side.

His own attempts are slow-witted; he lacks the enthusiasm for even risking a challenge to his own preset beliefs; and on a stylistic level, his writing is a horror show.

As an ACS instructor, I find serious value in conservative argument. In fact, the idea of checks and balances in the classroom are important, but what's needed in class more immediately than Horowitz's Stalin-esque notion of purging academia of its liberals is for conservatives to speak up more often in class, challenge liberal assertions through evidence to see whether they hold up and if they don't, find ways to strip that argument.

If you bring me that type of essay, well-written and serious, I'll notice. Sadly, Horowitz as a writer quite simply doesn't have game. I'm sorry about that. At least he understands the need to provide argument, as he mentioned in his speech. On that point, at least, we agree. Most likely agreement ends here.

I understand the feelings of students on the political Right. Those of us who teach here have to apprehend this, because we all ought to know who we're working with. Personally, I never presume a liberal tendency in the classroom; that's a terribly dangerous idea. As to ideology, I'm not interested in changing your mind about who to support in the next election but in helping hone your skills in argument and hopefully give you more than one new view of the country in which we live.

I might be able to get you thinking in ways you haven't before, but if so, that means I'm doing my job as a teacher, not as a political operative.

There are intellectual voices on the right who I respect and admire. Tucker Carlson's surely one, and if I might make a public request of the campus Republicans, he'd be a fascinating and engaging speaker, far better read than Horowitz and fully capable of nuanced argument.

Someone like Carlson would not only attract a good-sized audience, in my view, but there wouldn't be nearly the vituperative reaction Horowitz received.

And why did he get that reaction? Again, I think he invited it, so the inevitable reaction was his own fault, not the left's and certainly not the Campus Republicans, who by the way raised the $5,000 speaking fee themselves. My respect to them all, because that was anything but easy. I'm honestly grateful to them for bringing Horowitz; I may think little of him myself, but as a public voice (notice I do not refer to him as an intellectual) he still ought to be heard.

And if he invites political theater, particularly at the university he ridiculed online, maybe we shouldn't be terribly surprised. In any event, it remains vitally important to know what the other side has to say, no matter which side you're on.


Cs presentation on blogging

Before you start, let me refer you to Steven Krause's 4Cs presentation on Blogs and the Writerly Life. If you weren't at the workshop, Steven hits the highlights of why you might (or might not) want to consider blogging. If you were at the workshop, Steven's case for blogging is probably more concise and eloquent than any particular one I gave.

Here is the PowerPoint slide presentation of "Blogs as a Faculty Development Tool: Modding Your Way to a Better Career."

Examples of Websites I refer to in the presentation:

Johndan Johnson-Eilola's "Datacloud."
Clay Spinuzzi's "Eyes of Texas Are Upon You"
Dr. B's Blog
Michael B�rub�'s Blog

Odds and ends:

Drop me an email if you have questions, or want more information. Thanks to all of you who showed up on a sunny Saturday in San Francisco.


Blogging From the San Fran Apple Store

Standing in the mothership (San Fran Apple Store) on a dual G5 with the 30 inch Cinema Display. Pure....bliss...kill...me...now...

Conference Threads

Outfit #1: Jeans and Lobos T-shirt for morning and breakfast. My New Mexico Lobos had a horrible first half against Villanova and almost charged back. Gotta give them props for their 9 wins in a row prior to the collapse. Only got a 12 seed at that. Just wish they hadn't gotten Nova.

Outfit #2. Pinstripe pants, blue shirt with cufflinks and overpriced blue tie. Bought this outfit as an emergency MLA interview outfit. It has been my good luck charm ever since.

Blogging the blogs at the Cs

Well, I suppose I could add to the detail about the 4Cs to anyone who is out there pinging the blogosphere.

1. I'm presenting on the use of blogs in faculty development (I know, get in line).
2. I slightly disagree with Dr. B's comment about San Francisco and homelessness. I don't link seeing homelessness. I don't like homelessness period, but I HATE homelessness that is pushed out of sight even more.
3. The departmental parties here are much better than MLAs, in my opinion. Folks go from one party to another, and there doesn't seem to be the same sorts of heirarchy issues I get at MLA parties.
4. Flying into San Francisco is one of my favorite experiences. Seeing the plant-y topography, crazy modifications and architecture from a bird's eye while slowing down from 500 to 155 mph is sublime.
5. Haven't had a chance to meet bloggerman Steven Krause. One day left.
6. If you've been following on the h-rhetor listserv on blogging and the impossibility of finding a particular blog--welcome.


Off to the Cs

For those of you who have been tuning in only to find about a week's gap in my blogging:


I've been pretty busy trying to get my graduate classes on track for the end of the semester (all aboard!). I just got one grad student "defended up," and am prepping two more for the "big day." I've also been prepping for my "Blogs as Remediated Faculty Development" workshop. Unfortunately, I won't be spending much time in Fran Sansisco (and it is a GREAT place to visit).

For those of you who want a foretaste of what I am going to present, let me direct you to Steve Krause's very thoughtful entry of blogging and the writerly life.

Let's get started on "Modding" your professional life.


Emily "USB" Dickinson

Full-size image

At the San Francisco Game Developers Conference, computer programmers took on the challenge to make a game out of Emily Dickinson's poetry. Pretty interesting results. Almost makes up for the "Sims 2 University" programmers making an English degree the preparation for the "criminal" Sim...almost.

The Politics of User Documentation

CNN/Money has a brief blurb about IKEA only depicting men or androgynous cartoons assembling their furniture.

Lord help them if they start using Spongebob...

Read about it here.


Banality of Error

Data Aggregation company Choicepoint has been under the microscope and the public is not liking what it is seeing. (and can you blame them, really, when these "reports" have false data, like the "fact" that you died 20 years ago, and that everyone should be investigated in Texas?). People aggregate data on us all the time and even "sell" it to others (for money, in the case of law enforcement and private investigation, in social capital in most cases). The problem seems to emerge when you hook it up to a state apparatus, complete with guns and jails.

Shades of Brazil, anyone?


Material vs. Symbolic

Johndan at Datacloud ponders possible interpretations about the contrails of what are likely National Guard Pilot formations. He makes a few funny remarks about pilot protests and "intimidating terrorists who have never seen synchronized Olympic swimming events."

I'm amused a bit, but am further intrigued by his rare contact with what used to be a daily occurance for me. When I worked at Sandia Labs, my building was about 1/4 mile away from the end of a runway that was used by the International Airport, and Kirtland Air Force Base (which was where I worked, technically). Every evening I would see UPS, Southwest Airlines, etc. commecial jets coming in for landings (they were really quite beautiful to see, as they would have to take very wide arcs in order to prepare for the approach, which was over the portico-like divot in the small Sandia mountain range that was directly east of Albuquerque and the base).

More jarring were the daily takeoffs and landings of the National Guard pilots flying these things:

Screaming planes going from 0 to Mach 1 in like a minute. Sort of like Top Gun minus Kenny Loggins, slow motion, and the cool camera angles.

Which sort of takes me to my reaction to Johndan's post. The affective landscape I grew through to get to this point gives me a pretty conflicted perspective on the phenomenon of being close to these things. I grew up as the son of a disabled veteran; my brother-in-law is a career Marine, and many of the people in my "group" went to the Air Force academy. Heck, for a while, I was headed for the Air Force academy. I LOVED planes and flying (fueled, in no small part, by my father letting me memorize his spotter guides). Every free moment I would draw planes, make models, or read about planes. I had a sort of supernatural trust in these machines (sort of like the protagonist in Speilberg's "Empire of the Sun"). Somehow, though, by the time I made it to Sandia Labs, the screaming takeoffs and sharp G-force-inducing tight formation turns that used to thrill me at Thunderbirds and Blue Angels plane shows no longer registered much. Maybe it was the experience of going through terrifying turbulance through Santa Ana winds; maybe my politics have changed from mecha/techno/military naivete to a more humane range of concern. Whatever the reason, these planes look much different to me now.

Clinton a "Servant-Leader." (And Bush is generous to point it out.)

From CNN:

Bush, 80, said Clinton offered ahead of time to give the older former president the bedroom so he could lie flat and avoid paining his body. Clinton, 58, decided to play cards in the other room that night.

The next morning, Bush said he peeked in and saw Clinton sound asleep on the plane's floor.

"We could have switched places, each getting half a night on the bed, but he deferred to me. That was a very courteous thing, very thoughtful, and that meant a great deal to me," Bush said.



Jef Raskin, R.I.P.

Jef Raskin, Human-Computer Interface pioneer, died this Saturday. I type this eu-blog-ogy on an interface that he helped create. You read this on a similarly-articulated interface. Read a bit about him.


HUGE hole in the laws

A Wired News story on a woman suing ChoicePoint for losing her data shows just how quickly the technology discourse/material practices have outpaced the law culture. Time to catch up!

Gannon/Guckert is insane

Our lovable gay-conservative-prostitute correspondent is back on the air. I wonder if "Focus on the Family" will do a live telethon to support this winner.


Cool Idea

A fellow blogger alerted me to this networking event called SushiGig. It's pretty bo-bo, but I can't think of a better idea to network new ideas and new technologies with new relationships and new foods.

Unfortunate Gannon Headline

*snicker* *snort*


Surveillance and Convenience

Yesterday on the Diane Rehm show, Steve Roberts discussed his book "No Place to Hide." It details a lot of what I discuss in my book obliquely (the type of surveillance and information gathering that has been accelerating--see "Choice"Point). It was a very sober and balanced perspective on where we are and where we might be headed with the "Security-Industial Complex" and the massive information aggregation that is just now making the headlines.


It's a funny thing

This Wednesday, one of my students poked fun of my "surfing" picture on my website. He mentioned that it isn't very "marketable," to which I replied I was surfing and not selling it. I invited him to photoshop it and sell it if he likes (he actually has a great sense of humor, so I was only bantering in fun). Ironically, Netflix had sent me the movie "Step Into Liquid," so I got to see some of what I'm being compared against that night.

In my defense, I have not been surfing very long, and I had the photo taken on the glassiest day I have ever surfed. Of course, surfers don't surf for photos, so I think that having a picture taken during the worst day is the best idea. That way, no good waves are wasted on things like photography.


Plot Thickens

The Jeff Gannon (Guckert) flap at the White House just gets stranger and stranger. (day pass required--it's free if you watch the web ad).

Gettin' a little pub

Student did a nice little write-up of the Bill 24 Abomination. Russ did a pretty fair job of representing our conversation. (Hint: Put this one in your portfolio, Russ). I don't think this bill will pass, but it's heartening to know that it will be struck down in court (a-la California and Colorado). Mump got his 15 seconds on FOX news. Now, maybe he'll get to the task of addressing the budget shortfall instead of this dog and pony show.

Political Brouhaha

Here in the politically chilly midwest, my students had a spirited political exchange. *GASP* Last night, one of my students was responsible for presenting/leading a discussion on ethics, and she decided to use some *very* politically charged examples (mostly from the right--OBL, Clinton, Dan Rather etc.), while students countered with mostly-left counterexamples (FOX news etc.). It was civil, student-led, and would likely be totally illegal if our distinguished legislator speech-code Gestapo law takes effect. My students (all adults--duh) were able to handle crafting their own arguments, and I even managed to have a pretty interesting conversation with one of my students afterwards. The students pretty much feel that while some teachers bring politics into the classroom that there should not be government intereference in running class discussions. The student responsible for the presentation brought up the example of the middle school teacher who got into a row because she put the picture of Bush in a special bulletin board display with the Declaration of Independence, etc. and not with the other presidents. There are conflicting reports as to whether the teacher was fired or not, and for what reason, but in the end, she transferred to another school. Funny thing is, I think that involving layer-upon-layer of government regulations, declarations, and pseudo "Bills-of-Rights" to the equation will make it MORE difficult, not less. Legislation is not the answer to this, folks.


Nice Screen, Horrible Interface

Endgadget alerted me to a new 24 inch LCD monitor. I thought to myself "sweet" until I saw the picture:

I'm sure the screen is the shizzle, but look at the horrible design of everything connected to this monster monitor. Somebody hire an industrial designer, STAT!. Dropping a bunch of C-notes for something that looks like it was slapped onto a Fisher-Price "Baby Basketball" set is an embarassment. I mean, really...



Read an Albuquerque Journal article about a TNT film having trouble finding Native American extras for a miniseries about the West through the eyes of Native Americans and European American settlers:

"It's a tough movie," Brink said. "It really centers on the treatment of Native Americans."
    She said finding American Indian extras has been a challenge. The casting director is seeking American Indians to represent multi-generational families and hundreds of Indian males between the ages 18 and 50 who are fit or trim and have long hair. Horseback and bareback riding experience is also a plus.
    Anglo extras of all ages are needed as well.

Need plenty of American Indian men to take off their shirts and ride bareback. Yep, I guess they know their audience--a few crunchy folk get thrown a "historical balance" bone and the chair jockeys get to identify with victorious "Anglo" pudgy folk and catch an eyeful of heaving, half-naked bowflex-junkie Native American bareback-riding mystics lamenting their eventual demise. Didn't anyone tell the casting director that Indians are extinct???


Remediated Company

Eclipse Aviation, a start up aviation company I have following in my research and as a sort of geeky hobby has made it to their second round of test flights. This company is pretty much what I think about when I throw around the term "information economy." There is some real brick-n-mortar stuff, but this company was founded by one of the first Microsoft employees (Vern Raburn also was one of the movers for Lotus Notes). Bill Gates was his best man (and the biggest venture capitalist). This company integrates some really interesting interfaces to deal with customer relations etc. on their website.


President Sets up Pravda News Bureau

So, the guy that Rush and Hannity have been touting as "impartial" uses a fake name and just quotes RNC press releases verbatim. Blacklists, taxpayer money to buy airtime, bribing "news" stations. Might as well admit that they are hoping to set up a Red Square in Washington D.C. and build statues in honor of themselves.


Lautenberg Requests All Documents From White House Relating to Discredited "Journalist" James D. Guckert, A.K.A. Jeff Gannon

WASHINGTON, DC -- In light of yet another scandal involving the Bush administration's manipulation of the media, United States Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) today requested from White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan all the documents relating to the press credentials of James. D. Guckert, a.k.a. "Jeff Gannon"; the "journalist" now famous for being the White House correspondent for his softball questioning of President Bush and various Administration spokespeople.

"I am writing to request that you immediately release documents to my office relating to the White House press credentials of James D. Guckert, a.k.a. "Jeff Gannon." Specifically, I am seeking documentation related to the question of which name Mr. Guckert/Gannon used when applying for credentials, and which name was on the official White House press credentials he received," wrote Lautenberg.

"As you may know, Mr. Guckert/Gannon was denied a Congressional press pass because he could not show that he wrote for a valid news organization. Given the fact that he was denied Congressional credentials, I seek your explanation of how Mr. Guckert/Gannon passed muster for White House press credentials," Lautenberg wrote.

Senator Lautenberg has been the Senate leader in exposing the Bush administration's propaganda efforts.

February 10, 2005

Scott McClellan Press Secretary The White House Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. McClellan,

I am writing to request that you immediately release documents to my office relating to the White House press credentials of James D. Guckert, a.k.a. "Jeff Gannon." Specifically, I am seeking documentation related to the question of which name Mr. Guckert/Gannon used when applying for credentials, and which name was on the official White House press credentials he received. Additionally, I am seeking documents indicating whether Mr. Guckert/Gannon received a "hard pass" or daily passes from your office. Despite your assertions to the contrary, at least one White House reporter has revealed that Mr. Guckert/Gannon appeared to have "hard pass" credentials.

As you may know, Mr. Guckert/Gannon was denied a Congressional press pass because he could not show that he wrote for a valid news organization. Given the fact that he was denied Congressional credentials, I seek your explanation of how Mr. Guckert/Gannon passed muster for White House press credentials.

I have led the effort in the Senate to investigate a number of instances of troubling propaganda efforts by the Administration. The Government Accountability Office has agreed to my requests to investigate various attempts at media manipulation: fake television news stories touting both the new Medicare law and the "No Child Left Behind" education program; a study rating individual journalists on their "favorability" to Republican education policies; and the payment to journalist Armstrong Williams.

Since the Armstrong Williams controversy became public, Administration payments to two other journalists, Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus, have come to light. Given the backdrop of these scandals, coupled with Mr. Guckert/Gannon's role in recent White House press briefings and press conferences, it is understandable that the circumstances of Mr. Guckert/Gannon's credentialing have raised suspicion.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely, Frank R. Lautenberg