Fringe Benefits

As the daylight window here gets ridiculously short, and I attempt to hold onto my almost-winter sanity, I am noticing one fringe benefit. The bleakness drives me past my usual hesitation to cold-email old friends ("THIS will cheer me up!"). That isn't the main benefit, though. The benefit is the fre-e-e-z-z-ing weather that I can bravely dismiss as I strike up new conversations with old friends ("it's not SO bad once you get the gear."). I used to think that Garrison Keillor was being folksy and (as the NY Times has stated on multiple occasions) perhaps a bit condescending. I mean it doesn't REALLY get to 20 below...right?

No, he's not a storyteller as much as he is just reporting what he sees. Every other person really is Lutheran and Scandinavian. Hell, sport and I walk by the Kringen Lodge every time we go downtown.

Yeah, not having to rely on glossy fictions for conversational detail and having conversational inhibitions beaten out of you by the weather helps the old writing process. Just ask Mr. Keillor.


Did Someone Not Send Me the Memo?

Seems like every sportsmedia sycophant (at least college football types) are trying to distract fans from the current BeeCeeeSs pileup. No change there. Lots of avoidance of asking why a non "major" conference unbeaten like Boise State deserves to be shut out of the championship ("wrong pedigree Chaz!"). Not so much questioning how to sort out the haves from the almost-haves (unless, of course, lazy couchmanship counts).

What REALLY puzzles me in this mess is how the great majority of the sports-pundocracy agrees that the University of Florida in no way deserves a shot at the BCS title game. In understand lining up behind Ohio State U (kind of) with a few impressive, barely-eked home victories. What I find puzzling about the Florida exclusion is how a late-season home spanking of a middle-of-the road team like Notre Dame outweighs a loss to Oregon State and a boatload of near-miss comebacks against a pretty weak Pac-10 conference. Nevermind the fact that Boise spanked Oregon State (lots of spanking to go around, apparently). I also can't figure out why people didn't put a big fat * next to the Auburn "loss," when an officiating flub contributed so mightily to the game outcome (boo hoo for Oklahoma, but *cough* for Florida, apparently).

Michigan can make a case for the championship game, but late losses traditionally count more than early losses...unless you are talking about THIS year...and talking about Florida.

Did I miss the memo that told sportscophants they must. avoid. discussion. of. Florida's. merits? I think that the *usual* rules that apply to artibrary football rankings (late losses, strong conferences, more victories, close rivalry games not counting for style points, etc.) have been summarily changed. They are so well known that conferences reschedule potential early losses (Florida State vs. Miami, for example) in order to maximize their conference's chances to get two BCS bids.

Who got the memo?

Nice Take over at Collin vs. Blog

Collin does a great job tying some threads together on the temporal and epistemological transformation of a folksonomy to a taxonomy.


Wisdom of Crowds?

From the Time Magazine cover story:


It's not impossible for us to become sharper risk handicappers. For one thing, we can take the time to learn more about the real odds. Baruch Fischhoff, professor of social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, recently asked a panel of 20 communications and finance experts what they thought the likelihood of human-to-human transmission of avian flu would be in the next three years. They put the figure at 60%. He then asked a panel of 20 medical experts the same question. Their answer: 10%. "There's reason to be critical of experts," Fischhoff says, "but not to replace their judgment with laypeople's opinions."

A former student of mine (hat tip to Angel) wrote her thesis on this gap between risk perception and risk analysis. Her recommendations look a LOT like the ones offered in this article.

And don't even get me started on the role that fear-mongering and caricature contrarian (a.k.a. John Stossel) journalism play in semiotically wrecking our sense of risk...


"The" Problem with Dissoi Logoi

The New York Times has a pretty decent article (free subscription required) on the competition to attract talented young professionals to American cities.

Richard Florida's (author of Rise of the Creative Class) is prominently cited in this article, as he is the most visible proponent of the idea that attracting creatives to a region can help that region's economy. One of Florida's most vocal critics, Joel Kotkin, points out that amenities are not a particularly effective way of attracting these creatives. To be fair, Richard Florida does not call for amenities in either his research OR his popular books. Instead, he correlates creative class density to the three "Ts" of talent, techology, and tolerance. This final "tolerance" is where critics like Kotkin seize upon Mr. Florida's thesis (usually only hinting at "teh gays" meme in order to inflame while insisting on oblique ad hominem attacks and never quite laying out the logic of his argument). I have called Kotkin on this argument in his blog and in correspondence, but I think there is a deeper structural problem with the entire Creative Class Regional Economic development argument.

This excerpt from the NY Times article gets a little closer to the heart of the problematic either/or argument:

Still, what works in one city will not work in others, Mr. Cortright said, and not all young people are looking for the same things. He cites Portland’s bike paths, which many point to as an amenity that has helped the city attract young people.

“I think that confuses a result with a cause,” Mr. Cortright said. Portland happened to have a group who wanted concessions for cyclists and was able to get them, he said.

“The real issue was, is your city open to a set of ideas from young people, and their wish to realize their dream or objective in your city,” he said. “You could go out and build bike paths, but if that’s not what your young people want, it’s not going to work.”

While the sophists were definitely onto something with their dissoi logoi method of argumentation (splitting any argument into two, opposed sides), a method that works well in an agonistic arena, it does some serious violence in situations where people must come together around a solution. The correlation/causation argument might be resolved in a vacuum, but when Richard Florida trots off to cities across the globe and gives the veneer of respectability to amenities projects and lifestyle solutions (like gay-friendly developments, etc.) it makes it tough to argue the "face value" of his stated premises of the three Ts. Furthermore, the correlation/causation argument hides the multiple issues that connect and divide cities. Some people want access to bike trails without having to deal with the dizzying display of non-normative behaviors and sexualities. Some urban professionals don't care about bicycles. The distortion of dissoi logoi is that somehow the opposition to a position (the "Creative Class" argument, say, or the amenity argument) can be usefully resolved. Kotkin's non-argument of the merits of the premises and Florida's willingness to endorse (at least in appearances) the amenities solutions he writes against in his book suggests that the major agons in this contest do not believe that the argument can be usefully resolved--a sort of cynical version of Gerald Graff's "teach that argument" (profit from the argument, really)

While there is a lot of money to be made with these endlessly proliferated "Fair and Balanced" arguments (see Democrat/Republican, conservative/liberal, red/green, Ren/Stimpy), it polarizes communities. Which brings us back to the NY Times article, which posits what Michael Bérubé identifies as procedural liberalism as the way out of the binary opposition of dissoi logoi argumentation.

The NY Times article gives the last word to Mr. Kortner who emphasizes that a city must be "open to a set of ideas from young people, and their wish to realize their dream or objective in your city." That wish that citizens can not only dream unfettered, but also that these dreams can be discerned, discussed, culled, and ordered presupposes a forum (or more accurately, fora) that allows for this type of debate. Newspapers, talk radio, and television all opt for the horse-race description dependent upon dissoi logoi (a method, which the Kotkin and Florida reportage demostrates, destroys most of the dream/objective options available at a particular time).

More telling than the "last word" in the NY Times article is the discussion of the "winner" in the American talent contest, Atlanta. While it is certainly a model of tolerance that Florida discusses, it contains 25 universities, which, as Bérubé (and Florida) points out, provides a powerful set of fora for discussing dreams and objectives.

I think that New Media like blogs and podcasts could provide more distributed, organic, and incremental fora for capturing and working out the dreams of the community, but it will take more affectional ties to notions of geographic and spatial identity. More on that later...


Happy Thanksgiving

Mashed potatoes, onion gravy, bourbon pumpkin pie, whole wheat rolls, arugula and candied walnut salad, and, of course, cranberry-chipotle chutney.

Happy Thanksgiving, blogosphere!


Fargo or...

Today, it is supposed to be warmer in Fargo (59 degrees) than Jacksonville (56 degrees). Reminds me of an earlier trip sport and I made with some friends. Bonus points if you guess the city that appears over our shoulders.



We are all posthuman, but we are not all Kortney Clemons.


Curling Sunday

Up here Fargo way, we do things a bit differently. Turns out a morning at the sheet is a sacred ritual.

First, we started with a cup of bean water at the new Atomic Coffee.

Once we get to the sheet, it's time to work on our form. As you can see, sport's training in ballet really paid off.

Marshall and Gryffindor are working hard for Team Canada.

Incidentally, sport and I curled with department members during the interviewing process. While it didn't give us any "in" during our on-campus interviews (we weren't, and aren't very skillful), I would highly recommend trying to spend time with your potential future colleagues doing "native" things. Breaking out of the interview box and performing local activities makes it much easier to demonstrate that you are a good fit (not to mention, helping you figure out if you really want to be a part of that particular ecology). Sliding around on ice in the middle of Janauary may not sound like fun to some people, but doing this (rather than, say, obsessing how easy it is to simulate living somewhere coastal) really clarified our job priorities.


Just a small question

Anyone else wonder what happened to the Foley "Investigation"? Just askin'...


Bowling Greener Pastures

I had an anonymous commenter a few months back question whether Bowling Green State University had ANY affect on me (of course it did, but this raw blog likes to focus on the....NOW...er...NOW of things). Unless you have been in a post-election coma, you know that tOSU is playing Michigan in football this weekend. Besides the fact that I liked spending my time in Ann Arbor much more than circling around Columbus, (and THIS should illustrate why I never approached tOSU's campus within a week of game "day"), I generally resented the state of Ohio for shunting the $$ from non-tOSU schools to offer things like THIS. That is why this post on the OSU/Michigan game is so darn satisfying. Who am I cheering for this game? Why the Falcons, naturally.


Winter Checklist

Snow dusting last night. Gotta go through my new snow gear.

Yaktrax? Check!
Jacket? Check!
Boots? Check! (thanks Dr. Drew)
Music for long winter nights? Check! (thanks sport)
Beverage for long winter nights? Check!
Food for the long cold darkness? Check! (thanks D-dawg and M-dawg)


Not Me(me)--Sport's Guest Blog Entry

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree

10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea - from the shore
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper

21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity

25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends

43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach

50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love

53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero

58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater

66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites

70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas

86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone (if you count Belfast)
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently well enough to have a decent conversation
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over

101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery (see below)
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived

105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school

131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life (Well, I have a friend who claims so, but I leave it to the universe to decide)

Thanks Doc


Who Is That?

In an earlier incarnation, I was a "Communications Specialist" at a National Lab. That guy with the plaid shirt on looking at my foamcore presentation (my former Manager/Director is giving the talk--it's really her show) is Harry Reid. That's the new Senate Majority Leader. Who sez tech writers have no say?


Every Once in a While

Bitch, Ph.D. has a great post on what good democracy looks like in everyday practice. I won't get wonky here, but she perfectly describes what I try to teach and investigate in my research--embodied practice of good principles.


Today is Democracy Day

I celebrated by voting, but can't find any individuals (outside of the usual political suspects) blogging about it. First blog I find with a post about the election gets onto my blogroll (only applies to those not on my blogroll).
Saw Jenny's post on the election first. Already on the blogroll.
We have a "winner" folks.
Neither Necessary Nor Sufficient (with no caps, really). Thanks for the great post.



What a University Web Page SHOULD look like

In an earlier professional incarnation, I was a web designer. One of the things I got sick of were wannabe cartoon artists trying to impose their aesthetics on others. Almost inevitably, web design proposals tended towards the "sci fi" and "intimidating," rather than the "friendly." It was more an expression of the web designer's ambition than a desire to connect people.

Fortunately, web sites are getting friendlier all the time. One really good example is MIT's homepage. Accessible (hat tip to Clay), friendly, and useful.

No dancing baloney.


Pointless Blog Entry

Not such a good idea to make people blog every day, is it?


Presidential Tag Cloud

Very. Illuminating. Application.

It's got a kick-arse slider so that you can look at Presidential speeches from 1776-2006.

That's Gonna Leave a Mark

O.K., I know that Ne-oponte badly wants to find SOMETHING that the U.S. Executive Branch can, in good conscience, call WMDs, BUT...

open-sourcing the job of combing possibly top-secret nuclear research to anyone and everyone with access to the internet strikes me as almost psychopatically reckless.

Not the kind of thing you want to do IF you claim that you are trying to protect Americans.

But that could be just me...


Is it Just Me?

Or does the media tennis game between Democratic pseudo-snafus and the "Inevitable Democratic Wave" mantra really irritate. You would think we have no issues to discuss.

Smells and tastes like the state fair these days.

It's November Already?


O.K., I started a day late. So what?