12.24.2007

Got Surveillance?

The Gator Nation brings you the Gator Tech Smart House.

Merry Christmas.

12.12.2007

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year

W00t.

A little late to the party. But then again, when aren't they?

12.09.2007

I want to get me one of these...


Sport and I (mostly not sport) are thinking about long-term housing plans. This might just be in the mix. Seriously.

12.02.2007

Who's Your BCS Daddy?

Stewart Mandel (a CNN/SI sports writer) sums up his argument for Ohio State and LSU to be in the BCS "title" game. I like his rhetorical prestidigitation when arguing for Ohio State's "lock" status:

"Say what you want about the oft-criticized Buckeyes. They won a conference championship in one of the six recognized major conferences, and they were the only one of the six to make it through with just one loss. Like it or not, Ohio State has come the closest of any team to "earning" a spot in the title game."

Translation:

"Exclude non-cartel teams like undefeated Hawaii and nine-game-in-a-row winner BYU. Ignore the obvious solution, an 8 or 16 team playoff. Pick Ohio State because they are in a conference without a championship, have a massive home field advantage, and reek of eau de bandwagon . You can't buy better logic than that, right? I think I hear my Lord entering the manor. Please genuflect."

11.26.2007

The Season of Giving and Adventure

I'm temporarily de-cloaking the colleague I call "Marshall" to ask you more directly to help him on his journey. He has been rather suddenly asked to help a documentary film crew go to Sudan to document the return journey of one of the Lost Boys. If you can help, please do. It's totally legit.
*************************************

Dear family and friends,

As some of you know, and many of you don't, I am working on a documentary film project entitled African Soul, American Heart. This documentary will tell the story of my friend and NDSU student Joseph Akol Makeer, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Joseph was displaced from his home as a 10 year old boy, walked hundreds of miles across Sudan with 25,000-30,000 other boys, lived for 3 years in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, then ten years in a UN refugee camp in Kenya, before arriving in Fargo almost 5 years ago. For the last 10 years, he has also been the primary caregiver for 4 younger siblings who arrived at the UN Refugee camp in 1998. Their parents are no longer alive.

He is going to return home to Sudan for the first time in 20 years, and I am part of a three-person crew that is going to travel with him and film this amazing homecoming. Our crew will be in Joseph's village approximately 8 days (Dec. 17-25), and while we are there, we also hope to be able to deliver some humanitarian aid.

This is where I really need your help.

Our team has raised $11,000 in about a month, and we are getting close to being able to cover many of our expenses. This trip will be a real success, however, if we can bring direct aid to Joseph's village, which is going through the process of re-building after a 20 year civil war. If you can help me raise another $5,000 before we leave on Dec. 10th, we will be able to purchase bulls, goats, and other basic needs when we arrive in Sudan.

Our fundraising theme has been 500 X $50. If 100 of you who read this message can contribute $50, we will add $5,000 to our goal. If anyone can contribute more, your generosity will make a tremendous impact. If you cannot contribute $50, but you can contribute $5, please know that $5 can make a difference in a village rebuilding after 20 years of civil war. If you can't contribute financially at this time, please send me an email and wish us all luck--the many kind words I have received already have all been very valuable to me.

Please click here to get to our paypal donation page.

There is a "Pay Pal" logo on that page; if you click it, you can either make a donation through your Pay Pal account, or you can use a credit card to make your donation. If you would rather send a check / cheque (for all my Canadian family and friends), the address is

African Soul, American Heart
c/o Deb Dawson, Executive Producer
300 NP Ave Ste. 308
Fargo ND 58102

Your Canadian donations go even further these days, and we can cash Canadian cheques easily in Fargo.

Please also forward this message to any of your friends or family members who might be interested in our supporting our project. You can follow our progress at our blog.

I look forward to hearing from many of you!

Kevin

11.14.2007

Mid-Life Crisis, Part Deux

I'm up to .85 miles at 6 minute/mile pace. It hurts.

11.11.2007

Note To Doctors

If you are going to hate your patients, don't expect them to trust you.

If you think this:

"I marveled, sitting there silenced by her diatribe. Hers was such a fully orbed and vigorous self-concern that it possessed virtue in its own right. Her complete and utter selfishness was nearly a thing of beauty."

expect a lot more of this:

"At the other end of our spectrum are patients like Susan: They're often suspicious and distrustful"

Gee, I wonder if their suspicion and/or distrust has to do with your:
A. snap, and expert judgment of how she raises her kid just by the behavioral pinhole you glimpsed in the waiting room,
B. distaste of her knowing where you got your credentialing,
C. quick and assuming dismissal of any and all research done on her very real and felt condition,
D. wistful and fond recollection of being taught when to "punt" a patient away, like a football?

As one of those "other" doctors, let me just share some insight. The world is changing. People have more access to bad information, and indeed we ARE responsible for knowing what to ignore. That makes it that much MORE important that we share what we know, what we don't know, and what to ignore in a way that communicates this information convincingly to people who are usually desperate and unwilling to trust the trappings of expertise that used to carry the day. Our professional identity will likely be determined by what the religious fundamentalists call "our witness." If we can only help the easily cowed, we should probably take a secondary role to those who can advocate and profess their calling more eloquently.

11.04.2007

Embodied History


When I was doing research for my dissertation, I compiled an impressive list of women who were central in the development of networks, microcomputing, digital processing, and programming. Their stories are shunted aside in the quest to locate the "father" of the Internet/computer/network/whatever.

“The names of Betty Snyder Holberton, Jean Jennings Bartik, Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum and Frances Bilas Spence belong in our history books and computer courses,” says Kleiman. “Not only did they program the first modern computer, some devoted decades to making programming easier and more accessible for all who followed.”

Read more and remember.

11.01.2007

Steampunk about to Jump the...er, Steam-Driven Mechanical Shark


Newsweek has a good article on steampunk. When the popular press finds out about a trend, it is usually on death watch. Expect the release of The Golden Compass to officially kill this formerly-underground aesthetic

10.09.2007

We are Cyborg

How is your outboard brain feeling these days?

10.03.2007

We are ALL Monkeys

Have you ever seen the experiment where a baby monkey is separated from it's mother and forms an attachment to an inanimate sculpture made out of chicken wire and carpet?

Meet your new mother.

9.25.2007

Park That Anywhere!


On a recent walk, sport and I encountered a few WWII airplanes (a Mustang and a Corsair, to be semi-precise).
.
Of course, it was kind of cool to see them parked next to a WWII-vintage theater, but I don't think that we are now creating chronological zoning ordinances. I mean, planes still belong at the airport, no?

9.20.2007

Early-Mid-Life Crisis

When I played tennis in college the conditioning mark that we were supposed to meet before we started the season was running two miles in twelve minutes. I never quite hit that mark.

Well...now I'm trying to see if I can make good on what I couldn't do at 19 years of age. I'm currently able to run that pace for three minutes. Only nine more to go.

Pray...for...mojo.

9.17.2007

Viral Travelogue

Where the Hell is Matt Interview

Matt Harding talks about breaking free of his job as a video game designer to dance around the world.

Un-Good News


The Good News is that Ian McKellen is coming to the Guthrie in October in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of King Lear.

The Un-Good News is that as soon as sport and I found this out, all shows had long been sold out.

Bummer.

9.05.2007

I Spy

Things I spotted today in the shared work refrigerator:

  • spring mix
  • acorn squash stuffed with wholegrain rice
  • mozzarella and sharp cheddar cheeses
  • grape tomatoes
  • pistachio rice salad
  • Sobe
  • hummus

9.04.2007

Cheering for the Little Guy


If you haven't had a chance to see the movie Once, I would do so this week. The incredibly annoying hypebole of the NY Times ads aside ("Once in a lifetime movie..."), this is a full-hearted moviemaking effort worth supporting,

AND...

it makes a great bookend to The Commitments. Not only is it a treat to see how Glen Hansard has matured musically, both movies provide a vastly different backdrop in Dublin. The 1991 Dublin depicted in the Roddy Doyle adaptation has neighborhoods with children playing around burned-out cars. Buskers alternate between picking up their "dole check" and auditioning for a longshot place in a band. The 2007 Dublin shown in Once frames the hardscrabble busker searching for a reason to stay in an ultra-gentrified Dublin. The "Miraculous American" who promises to pull the feckless Irish youth into stardom is replaced by the Eastern European immigrant who prods Irish diasporic dreams.

The movie can stand on its own incredible sweetness, but it is worth a look for so many reasons.

8.28.2007

Blog Apology Poem

My life has been the poem I would have writ,
But could not both live and utter it.

Henry David Thoreau

8.17.2007

Commitment

In the U.S., most of us take access to education for granted. It is different in some places.

8.07.2007

August 7, 1991



Aug. 7, 1991: The world wide web becomes publicly available on the internet for the first time.

The web has changed a lot since Tim Berners-Lee posted, on this day, the first web pages summarizing his World Wide Web project, a method of storing knowledge using hypertext documents.


From WIRED

Another One Bites the Dust

The Imus vs. Sharpton argument just took an interesting turn.

8.05.2007

8.04.2007

Wanna Buy a Jet?

This one is cheap. Pocket change, really.

8.01.2007

And So Here I Am

"Since if I'd gone up to Moorhead or North Dakota State, I'd still have to be living at home, I said the heck with college and came to New York. And so here I am."

Philip Roth--The Human Stain, p. 120.

7.31.2007

A Blog! How Modern!

Get your modernist fix here at the Philip Johnson Glass House Blog.

7.30.2007


"The question on the table, Makower says, was this: "If you could build a car company from the ground up, with all we know about the Web and mass customization and social responsibility and localization and sustainability and viral marketing, what would that look like?"

Maybe like THIS?

7.27.2007

Tears for Fears?

Everybody wants to rule the world...

7.23.2007

It's Great to Be Back

Hope you are all having a zen-like busy restful summer.

Sport and I are back. The conversations over champagne and pancakes were wonderful.

7.05.2007

Hope Y'all Had a Great Independence Day

Two young, smart, VERY independent women. Intestinal fortitude I haven't seen in many adults twice their age. Happy Independence Day, folks.

6.29.2007

Building Markets

Just revised and resubmitted a paper I wrote on Eclipse Aviation. Looks like one of their bigger customers, DayJet, has been profiled by the AP and picked up by the major news outlets.

It will be interesting to see how Eclipse Aviation's ethos appeals change as their industry matures. Eclipse started with the "closed world" Cold War appeals Paul Edwards outlines in The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America. They depicted Eclipse Aviation's engine as a type of magic icon that would save the company. When that failed, they switched their marketing ethos strategy to a more transparent "convergence of innovation" model, similar to what Carolyn Miller describes as a "Ciceronian ethos of sympathy" in her article“Expertise and Agency: Transformations of Ethos in Human-Computer Interaction.” Now that they have received certification, Eclipse Aviation has started to scale back the transparency and prepare for a more mature proprietary market to emerge.

6.23.2007

Back in Fargo

A few of you are wondering if Sport and I are back in Fargo.

Indeed we are, and today we decided to get into our summer ritual.

We started with a five-mile run (unfortunately the Red River is still flooding, so we ran to and around NDSU).

After a quick shower, we were off to Nichole's for some breakfast:


In case you are wondering what you are looking at, those are two coffee beverages the color of Capucin monks' robes, an almond croissant right out of the oven, and an apricot cherry scone.

Next, we stopped by the first farmer's market of the season:

Unfortunately, there were only root vegetables available, so we got some spring onions to take to our colleagues' farewell party.

Finally, we stopped by Zandbroz and Funky Junque to look for a couple of "thank you" gifts before we walked back home.

It's good to be home in Fargo.

6.06.2007

ListServs Aren't ALWAYS Terrible


Recently, the attw listserv has been having several good discussions on usability class materials and culture of technology class materials. One of the most fascinating things about this listserv is the heterogeneity of technical writing. We have our classical rhetoric wonks, our technogeeks, pedagogy experts, newbies, composition junkies, and assorted other groups. One nugget I expecially appreciated was someone pointing me to a nice WIRED story on the development of the iPod. As a technical writing teacher, I try to get my writing students to appreciate the effectiveness of prototypes, especially in engineering cultures. This single picture of the iPod prototype will hopefully convince a few of my students to go along with the process, rather than prejudging the effectiveness of a process before they try it in a work enviroment.

6.04.2007

Thanks Jarin!


Our surf instructor.

His rig.

Surf Camp, Day Four


The waves were about as big as ever. Unfortunately, I was too pooped to both catch the waves AND pop up on my board. Sport was able to battle into the surf with quite a bit of invective. It was a worthwhile week that left me with a few nuggets:

  • Surfing, like just about anything else, is very incremental.
  • Despite this inchworm nature, there are a few moments where you feel the rush of progress (when you catch a wave; when you hold your balance; when you have a long ride).
  • Surfing seems to be a practice that is handed down orally and visually. Literate practices seem pretty inconsequential to most of surfing (probably a big reason that neo-tribal references abound in surf culture).
  • It is much more brutal than skiing. Sport and I are still finding mysterious bruises in places we didn't think were possible to bruise.

5.31.2007

Surf Camp, Day Three



Conditions were a tiny bit better. I had a very hard time getting past the first break in the morning. In fact, I didn't. So, even though I caught one wave, I wasn't able to get up on my board. Fortunately, our surf instructor was nice enough to help me out in the afternoon. I finally caught a wave long enough to get a feel for the wave.

Oh, I ripped up my foot pretty nicely this morning. That picture above is the duct-tape makeshift bandage that Jarin helped me craft. Kept me in the water long enough to get up on the board.

LKQ, the instructor brought us sponges (kind of--they had fiberglass bottoms) today. You called it!

5.30.2007

Surf Camp, Day Two

Conditions weren't that great. Only 2-3 foot waves and wind, wind, wind.

Sport got up on her board twice and I only managed to do it once. I tried to get past the initial break and out to the bigger waves, but I kept getting beat back. Paddling is pretty brutal work.

5.29.2007

Surf Camp, Day One

Waves were between 2-4 feet. Spent quite a bit of time on the Indo Boards,

BUT...

I did get up on the board and even rode a few in. Sport caught the hang of it quicker (heck, she grew up in the surf), but I managed to find my footing. Tomorrow, paddling. I'm hoping that I can start on turning before the week is over.

FYI, the new Banana Boat spray and O'Neill rashie works well to keep away the burn. Thanks for the advice, LKQ!

5.20.2007

Women Aren't Faulty Men

Even though my title seems like a no-brainer, people have been making this assumption since forever (don't believe me? Go read about it in Aristotle's On the Generation of Animals, Book II).

All of this is to get you to read Joss Whedon's (of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly fame) blog post on the disturbing trend of openly promoting rapacious and homicidal misogyny as spectacle. Go read it. Seriously.

5.14.2007

Electrate Monkeys

The New York Times has a well-written and in-depth story about Jonathan Coulton's (and other artists') use of social media to create a music career (free registration required). The "reveal" of the article is that Fame2.0 requires an immense amount of personal interaction with the fans who create music mashups, fan videos, and other assorted types of letters and fanfic.


Of course, those who have crafted a career in any of the performing arts can tell you the majority of their work as an artist looks less like people would think of as "art" and more of what a lot of people consider "management."

The article includes some of the more sinister complications of extimacy, including a good "coachspeak" analogy:

*snip*
There’s something particularly weird, the band members have also found, about living with fans who can now trade information — and misinformation — about them. All celebrities are accustomed to dealing with reporters; but fans represent a new, wild-card form of journalism. Franz Nicolay, the Hold Steady’s nattily-dressed keyboardist, told me that he now becomes slightly paranoid while drinking with fans after a show, because he’s never sure if what he says will wind up on someone’s blog. After a recent gig in Britain, Nicolay idly mentioned to a fan that he had heard that Bruce Springsteen liked the Hold Steady. Whoops: the next day, that factoid was published on a fan blog, “and it had, like, 25 comments!” Nicolay said. So now he carefully polices what he says in casual conversation, which he thinks is a weird thing for a rock star to do. “You can’t be the drunken guy who just got offstage anymore,” he said with a sigh. “You start acting like a pro athlete, saying all these banal things after you get off the field.” For Nicolay, the intimacy of the Internet has made postshow interactions less intimate and more guarded.

/*snip*

Money quote:
All the artists I spoke to made a point of saying they would never simply pander to their fans’ desires. But many of them also said that staying artistically “pure” now requires the mental discipline of a ninja.

5.07.2007

If You Are in New York City Right Now

If you are in New York City right now, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum is having an intersting exhibit--DESIGN FOR THE OTHER 90%.

Those of you reading this blog know that I have been tracking the Nicholas Negroponte's 100 dollar laptop (it's official name is the the One Laptop Per Child [olpc] iniative). That effort will be highlighted along with inexpensive homeless shelters, cheap hand water pumps that can irrigate multiple acres, and a bicycle designed to carry more than 100 pounds of cargo.

5.02.2007

It's Different Up Here


We had an April snowstorm a few weeks ago. Our local paper, the Fargo Forum published this picture.

And now? Seventy degrees and sunny.

Go figure...

5.01.2007

Semiotics of Power: Part 3

Instead of touching this electrified chain of signification, I think I'll just send ya'll down the rabbit hole.

John Swift has an interesting parodic take on a conservative comic using racist imagery to attack Hillary Clinton. Semiotics of power meets the reproducing signification of XML.

4.28.2007

datacloud formations

Information Engineer
Salary range: $70,000-$120,000

Experience/skills: Data analytics, network administrator experience, writing skills

Perks: Stock options, free food

Who's hiring? PayPal, Slide, and other Web 2.0 startups unable to stay on top of the data

Every Sunday the three 20-something founders of Meebo, an instant-messaging startup based in San Francisco, meet to talk strategy and almost always end up wanting new data before making any decision. "We'd walk away wanting to know things like where is our churn rate the greatest, or how are the users in Brazil different from those in India with regard to how they navigate the site," says CEO Seth Sternberg.

So Sternberg created a new position--"information engineer"--dedicated exclusively to digging up the answers. The first person to fill it: Bob Lee, 34, a former network engineer at Apple, who now sits in front of three monitors poring over an estimated 200 gigabytes of data every day from more than 5 million users. It's Lee's job, using a combination of networking chops and statistical analysis, to point out trends, explain network hiccups, and reveal what new features are hits or duds.

Other Web 2.0 companies, like PayPal and Slide, have begun adding similar positions to answer queries that off-the-shelf analytics tools can't handle, such as calculating churn rates. "There's all this data available to help make decisions," Sternberg says. "But it takes someone really focusing on it to get the benefit."

4.23.2007

De-Cloaking

I know I have a lot of lurkers (from many continents, actually) out there. While this blog surrpetitiously approves of lurking at this particular surf spot, I have a favor to ask.

One of my former colleagues at Bowling Green just sent me this:

A little off-topic, and I apologize. But your friends at BGSu's English Dept have a new blog; it's in the beta testing stage right now, but check it out and let us know what you think. Suggestions always welcome.

http://greatexpectationsenglishbg.blogspot.com/


While I personally think it is a fabulous idea, the cool folks at BG would benefit MORE from you lurkers going over there and giving them your perspecives. So, paddle on over and see how the surf conditions are over at "Great Expectations" (how Dickensian!).

4.20.2007

Heroic Professors and Students

Thank you to Pandagon for this roundup.

From Ohio’s Chronicle-Telegram:

Kevin P. Granata, a professor of biomechanics, was working in his office, where he had developed some the country’s most advanced thinking on movement dynamics and cerebral palsy. And down on the first floor, his brother-in-law, Michael Diersing, whose wife was the identical twin sister of Granata’s wife, was chatting and checking e-mail alongside Granata’s doctoral assistant, Gregory Slota… Granata had heard the commotion in his third-floor office and ran downstairs. He was a military veteran, very protective of his students. He was gunned down trying to confront the shooter.


From the Indy Star:

Paul Granata said details are still fuzzy, but family members who traveled to the school were told Kevin Granata went to his office early to work on research and heard the shots being fired. He had an office near the shooting rampage.
“I was told he came out of his office to see what was going on and he was trying to help people,” Paul Granata said. “Unfortunately, in the process of trying to help people, he was shot.”


From the Washington Post:

[W]hen the gunshots rang out on the second floor, Granata, a military veteran, was in his office on the third floor. He walked out and across the hall to a classroom, where 20 frightened students were wondering what to do. He directed them into his office, where he ushered them to safety — in close quarters but behind the locked doors. Then, aware that other students might be in danger on the second floor, he and another professor, Wally Grant, went downstairs to investigate, Slota said.

Cho spotted them and shot them both. Grant was wounded but survived; Granata was killed. If the students in the classroom had tried to run out, they would have confronted the killer, too, Slota said.

“All those in that class, they all made it,” Slota said. “They were locked up until the police came. [Granata] couldn’t sit around and do nothing. He had to help out, find out what was going on.”


And then of course there’s the gallantry of Engineering professor Liviu Librescu, already much noted in the media coverage, but here’s a little detail I hadn’t seen before, from the Gulf News:

With bursts of gunfire rattling through the second floor of Norris Hall, Librescu, 76, closed his classroom door and urged his students to escape out the windows, recalled senior Caroline Merrey of Baltimore, the third student to jump.

As they fled, Librescu held the door shut with his body as the gunman, 23-year-old senior Cho Seung-Hui, tried to force his way in. Moments after the last student leapt to safety, Cho apparently succeeded in forcing the door open and shot Librescu to death.

With the Graves Not Even Cold

We've got some real ghouls on the right fringe. I hope that the Hokies collectively see these pundits for the cowards they are.

Boortz, others blame VA Tech victims for not fighting back.

In the April 18 edition of his daily program notes, called Nealz Nuze and posted on his website, nationally syndicated radio host Neal Boortz asked: "How far have we advanced in the wussification of America?" Boortz was responding to criticism of comments he made on the April 17 broadcast of his radio show regarding the mass shooting at Virginia Tech. During that broadcast, Boortz asked: "How the hell do 25 students allow themselves to be lined up against the wall in a classroom and picked off one by one? How does that happen, when they could have rushed the gunman, the shooter, and most of them would have survived?" In his April 18 program notes, Boortz added: "It seems that standing in terror waiting for your turn to be executed was the right thing to do, and any questions as to why 25 students didn't try to rush and overpower Cho Seung-Hui are just examples of right wing maniacal bias. Surrender -- comply -- adjust. The doctrine of the left. ... Even the suggestion that young adults should actually engage in an act of self defense brings howls of protest."

In the April 17 edition of his program notes, Boortz had similarly asked: "Why didn't some of these students fight back? How in the hell do you line students up against a wall (if that's the way it played out) and start picking them off one by one without the students turning on you? You have a choice. Try to rush the killer and get his gun, or stand there and wait to be shot. I would love to hear from some of you who have insight into situations such as this. Was there just not enough time to react? Were they paralyzed with fear? Were they waiting for someone else to take action? Sorry ... I just don't understand."

In questioning the actions of Virginia Tech students involved in the April 16 incident, Boortz joined the ranks of various commentators, including National Review Online contributor John Derbyshire, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Steyn, who also writes for the National Review, and right-wing pundit and Fox News analyst Michelle Malkin.

In an April 17 weblog post on National Review Online's The Corner, Derbyshire asked: "Where was the spirit of self-defense here? Setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn't anyone rush the guy? It's not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness' sake -- one of them reportedly a .22." Time.com Washington editor Ana Marie Cox criticized Derbyshire in an April 17 post on Time magazine's political weblog, Swampland.

Steyn and Malkin have made similar statements. In her April 18 syndicated column, Malkin wrote: "Instead of encouraging autonomy, our higher institutions of learning stoke passivity and conflict-avoidance. And as the erosion of intellectual self-defense goes, so goes the erosion of physical self-defense." In his April 18 National Review column, Steyn suggested that Virginia Tech students were guilty of an "awful corrosive passivity" that is "an existential threat to a functioning society."

Thirty-two people were killed in the Virginia Tech shooting, described by the Associated Press as "the worst mass shooting in U.S. history."

From the April 17 broadcast of Cox Radio Syndication's The Neal Boortz Show:

BOORTZ: There are several questions about the Virginia Tech situation yesterday. One of them is the blame game. The other one is gun control. The other one is -- and this is one that I've been reading up on a little bit this morning and have gained some insight, and I'm hoping -- I would love to get some psychological or somebody in the business that can answer this question: How the hell do 25 students allow themselves to be lined up against the wall in a classroom and picked off one by one? How does that happen, when they could have rushed the gunman, the shooter, and most of them would have survived?

4.16.2007

A Tragedy

My prayers are with the victims and families of the victims at Virginia Tech. Period. This is a sad, terrible, no-good, tragic day.

4.11.2007

Ode To My Old Bowling Green Friends

As my friends from Bowling Green gather to clean Candace's creek during their fourth annual "Creek Day," I thought I would add to the festivities with a satirical take on Pat Benetar's "Love is a Battlefield"

Creek Day’s a Battlefield (lyrics sung to Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield).

There is mud!
Knee-deep in creek muck we stand.
No promises, just demands
Creek Day’s a battlefield.

We’ve got rakes!
No one can put on the brakes
Creek crap piling up for so long, all of us knowing
Creek Day’s a battlefield.

You’re beggin’ me to mow, you’re askin’ me to rake.
Why does my stomach ache?
It would help me to know
Do I get me a dog, or the best burger made?
Believe me, believe me, I can’t describe the thrill
When I’m sittin on your porch, and I’m standin’ by your grill.

There is mud!
Knee-deep in creek muck we stand.
No promises, just demands
Creek Day’s a battlefield.

We’ve got saws!
No stopping serrated claws.
Creek junk piles up for so long, all of us knowing
Creek Day’s a battlefield.

Were losing control
Will you let me spit or stoke the fire pit?
And before this gets old, will Creek Day feel the same?
There’s no way this will die
But if we clean much closer, we could lose control
And if Candace surrenders, you’ll need rakes to hold

There is mud!
Knee-deep in creek much we stand.
No promises, just demands
Creek Day’s a battlefield.

We’ve got pails!
Cleaning can solve all that ails
Scouring the creek for so long, all of us knowing
Creek Day’s a battlefield.

There is mud!
Knee-deep in creek much we stand.
No promises, just demands
Creek Day’s a battlefield.

We are strong!
No one can tell us were wrong
Cleanin’ the creek for so long, all of us knowing
Creek Day’s a battlefield.

4.10.2007

Norbert Wiener's Vision

Norbert Weiner, in his Article "Men, Machines, and the World About," (published, interestingly in Medicine and Science in 1954) makes what amounts to an economic argument. In this essay, Weiner sets up the principle of homeostasis, which N. Katherine Hayles notes in How We Became Posthuman, would emerge and then eventually ebb as a central principle in the pursuit of Cybernetics. The real meat in the article, however is how Weiner focuses in upon the implications of microcomputing:
I want to say that we are facing a new industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution represented the replacement of the energy of man and of animals by the energy of the machine....The new industrial revolution which is taking place now consists primarily in replacing human judgment and discrimination at low levels by the discrimination of the machine. (New Media Reader, p. 71)

Central to this claim is the fungibility of the notions of judgment and discrimination. The idea of a moment of pause and reflection, however brief, is crucial to the economic argument, because it is that pause and reflection that can be used repeatedly and more quickly through the use of automation. The fixing of the conditions around that useful pause and reflection becomes the quixotic quest launched (or at least commemorated) by this article. If external/ecological conditions give rise to this moment of judgment and discrimination, OR if the moment is just too darn complicated, OR if this judgment is not as cut-and-dried (involving indecipherable combinations of electrical, chemical, physiological, ecological, etiological interactions that cannot be isolated and ordered), then this dream of automation becomes the "brass calf, the idol" he warns us against. If we cannot isolate and control elements of our universe fully enough to prevent them from ripping apart a useful and life-sustaining ecological (small e) fabric, then it isn't the gadget that becomes our idol, but rather the very obsessive-compulsive dream of an automated world.

4.07.2007

Astro Blogging

Charles Simonyi, a 58-year-old Hungarian-born software programmer, paid more than $20 million for a 13-day trip to the orbiting station and back. He is the fifth paying passenger to make the trip....In a posting on the blog he intends to maintain while in orbit, Simonyi said he spent his final day getting a haircut and a therapeutic massage and watched a traditional showing of a classic Soviet-era war film.

You can read about his adventures on the space station over the next few weeks at his blog Charles in Space.

4.03.2007

Curling Video Blogging (Curlvlogging)

My skip decided to video blog our final match. Unfortunately, the other team decided to forfeit. Madness ensued (I'm the one on the team not wearing glasses--sport was nice enough to do most of the filming).



"That's good sweeping!"

4.02.2007

World Remote Control


The NY Times (free subscription required) has an interesting article on the newish use of cellphones to read codes to download data.
It sounds like something straight out of a futuristic film: House hunters, driving past a for-sale sign, stop and point their cellphone at the sign. With a click, their cellphone screen displays the asking price, the number of bedrooms and baths and lots of other details about the house....In Japan, McDonald’s customers can already point their cellphones at the wrapping on their hamburgers and get nutrition information on their screens. Users there can also point their phones at magazine ads to receive insurance quotes, and board airplanes using their phones rather than paper tickets. And film promoters can send their movie trailers from billboards.


I have hoped that this kind of thing would take hold. Rather than spimes that use RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, this uses the photo recognition abilities of cell phones to enact more voluntary downloading practice (RFIDs can and will alert everybody around you certain identifying information). This technology has a huge upside. Just think how cool it would be if you could go to the grocery store and buy food that was grown closer to home using more sustainable techniques just by downloading an algorithm to your cell phone and then pointing it at a code on the product. No bizarre lifehacking necessary. There is also a huge possibility for abuse (as there is in all communications technology deployed so nimbly). Marketers would have unparalleled access to your affinities, eyeball share, and mind share. Think Vennevar Bush's walnut-sized headcam streaming directly to Verizon and Cingular. As this techology takes off (and I think it will), we should demand particular firewalls between individual access and personal identities (beyond what we have for computers currently, since this data would attach all sorts of locality information with this affinity information).

4.01.2007

Rear-View Cs

A few odds and ends from my experience at the Cs:

1. I had a felafel sandwich at one of the street vendors outside of the Cs. The guy who was running the cart promised me it would be the best felafel sandwich I have ever had. If it wasn't the best, it was close. The man was a study in systems theory. He adjusted his social interactions to increase or decrease timing on dozens of things that were happening in his cart (while the chicken was cooking, he discussed the weather with the people who ordered chicken kebabs and then used the extra grease to quick-fry gyros for his other customers). I hope Johndan discusses one of these cart virtuosos in his work/space project.

2. I feel bad that I couldn't afford to stay Saturday night, if only because I missed this talk. I got to say "hey" in the hall, but that is no substitute for seeing a talk. Of course, he didn't come to see mine...

3. Didn't go to any of the publisher parties. Didn't miss them in the least.

4. Tried like hell to get to some of the "cheap eats" places that Mike Salvo so kindly provided a link to. No dice. I just have bad luck guessing when these places will be open.

5. Got a free ticket to Wicked (Thanks Carly!). Unfortunately, I thought the end of Act I was the end of the play. I'm just too damn subtle to know that when Elpheba gets on her broom and starts to cackle, the transformation isn't complete. As soon as I got out the front door and realized that it. Was. Just. Me. I had to shrug and laugh. Broadway ain't Joyce. Denouements and climaxes look pretty much the same with ten-million watt sets and songster accidentals.

6. I WILL meet more of the bloggers next conference. I WILL meet more of the bloggers next conference.

7. New York has some GREAT comic book stores. I'm not a comics guy, but I could not drag myself out of those stores. Truly amazing.

8. My favorite part of the entire conference was sitting at the counter of Cosmo's Diner and watching the counter attendant work the counter like a keyboard. He recalled people who had not been there for years, made bargains with regulars, and introduced some Australians to the concept of Texas Toast for breakfast. The guy code switched with some of his Cenral American co-workers and an amazing range of customers over and over. I think one of the reasons I love New Yorkers (other than the fact that they hosted the best marathon I have ever run) is that they find a corner and defend it more fiercely than anybody. This strikes many as "attitude," but I think of it as a type of forced excellence. I have always gotten along with New Yorkers once I recognize what it is they are defending. In fact, I have come to lean on these fierce loyalties and fiercely-defended islands of expertise while I visit their fair city.

3.25.2007

How Are YOUR Brackets Hanging?

In an earlier post, I mentioned that Wisconsin looked good enough to win the Men's NCAA Tourney. Well, that was then (when they were peaking) and this is March (as in Madness).

I picked Florida, Georgetown, Memphis, and UCLA as my final four when it came down to crunch time. My felt tip pen glided right past all but one of the #1 seeds for that magical quatrain of trochaic monometer (Gators, Hoyas, Tigers, Bruins). I might have snuck Wisconsin in if they weren't in the same regional site as Florida (they certainly DO fit the mascot poetic foot requirement). Yes, I have the Gators winning it all, AGAIN (meanwhile, my doghouse pick, Ohio State managed to dodge the bullet I was convinced was laser-engraved with "tOSU").

Alas, I was not as prescient with the women's tourney. I decided to choose "soft" Duke to win it all and was surprised (a bit) when "Gut-rers" pulled it out.

How'r YOUR Brackets Hanging these days?

3.21.2007

Blogging the Cs

Made it to New York (Guess I can make it anywhere! I'll be here the rest of the week! You're all beautiful...).

While I'm feeling a bit more comfortable in my own skin as a researcher and presenter, I can't help but notice a subtle shift in how I feel about the conference in general. I take a lot more delight in the youngest scholars and members-in-training making their contributions.

I also can't help but feel like a lot of the "older folks" arguments are sometimes-empty vessels designed to be rapidly filled and emptied.

Enough pondering. I'm off to find some good food.

3.11.2007

Thanks for All the Fish

Jean Baudrillard passed away. Again, the New York Times drops the ball by pulling the BS populist card:
Mr. Baudrillard, the first in his family to attend a university, became a member of a small caste of celebrated and influential French intellectuals who achieved international fame despite the density and difficulty of their work.

Whoever penned this hasn't actually read Baudrillard very deeply. Hyperreality is one of those thoeries that makes absolute sense if one looks at American history longitudinally. The Matrix got it wrong because the plot assumed that simulation happens in a computer. Simulation is pretty much how Americans have approached the world for 200 years. My cousins who farm get to know their own culture of bioengineered crops, engineered fertilizers and hog/dairy facilities, and their GPS-equipped tractors through the simulation media (broadly-defined) that enable the engineering in the first place. There is no non-simulated place left in America.

Thanks for not letting us off the hook.

3.08.2007

Fargo Weekend Roundup

The Seventh Annual Fargo Film Festival has already started, and runs through the weekend. It may not be as big and inebriated as SXSW, but it's gaining momentum as a pretty decent film festival.

The Green Market will start serving Tapas on a regular basis this Sunday. Olives, piquillo peppers, and quince paste, oh my!

March Madness gets fired up. You can watch Selection Sunday at any number of assorted sports bars in town. My pick? Fort Nocks Noks (can't seem to get these irregularly spelled names right). It's smoke free, has and has my current favorite fruity beer--Pyramid Apricot Weizen.

3.04.2007

Digging Out


And how much snow did YOU get last week?

3.01.2007

And Thus it Snowed

Don't know about you, but we're getting a healthy dose of snow. Should help the ranchers and farmers around here.

2.28.2007

Access Matters

Access to health care matters. Access to dental care matters. Access to information about where one can find these things matters. We all failed you Deamonte Diver.

2.26.2007

Frightening

Seems like some who use the terrorist moniker like it's table salt don't like it being used on them.

Interesting.

Defusing a Meme

A lot of people believe the enthymeme that CNN is "liberal" (people, at least during the Clinton administration, gave it the nickname the "Clinton News Network"--others have since dubbed it the "Conservative News Network"). A recent story on a documentary by James Cameron that claims to have found Jesus' remains is broken on CNN as a sort of disembodied denial. The headline reads Archaeologists, scholars dispute Jesus documentary. This wouldn't merit attention, sans the fact that they had not reported even the presence of a documentary. While I think Cameron is a latter day P.T. Barnum, this should serve to underline CNN's desired audience.

Hint: it ain't the skeptics.

2.23.2007

Semiotics of Power (part 2)

In an earlier post, I analyzed Senator Obama's campaign kickoff strategy--launching in a location associated with Abraham Lincoln, echoing Lincoln's words, dressing in a greatcoat that evokes Lincoln's trademark severe attire, and positioning himself at an angle where photographers would most likely emphasize or accentuate height and a lanky physique. This strategy snapshot is easy to capture and describe. What is not so easy is tracking the effects of the combination of words and images through the cultural circuit. An analysis at CNN gives a bit of a glimpse of what happens on the way through the circuit by way of rhetorical foreign object debris. One thing that often happens in the discursive development of a particular identity are counter-discourses that attempt to derail or discredit particular semiotic constructions. One old standard is characterizing Republican slipups, gaffes, or simply normal speech as a "lack of intelligence." Another pretty usual move is to try to locate images, stories (some fabricated), or evidence of Democratic sexual impropriety. Some less-obvious, but deeply-embedded strategies involve playing on prejudice, gender stereotype, and racism.

A piece on CNN's website by news analyst Bill Schneider (a fellow at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute) illustrates just how subtlely a writer can ply on these prejudices without coming out and using obviously offensive language or reasoning.

His piece starts by indicating that there was some sort of "fight" between Hillary Rodham-Clinton and Barak Obama (Ms. Rodham-Clinton had an issue with a very public Mr. Geffen when he criticized her. She responded by asking Mr. Obama to return campaign funds. When asked, Mr. Obama failed to see how a supporter's comments about his opponent made him culpable).

*snip*
The dust-up also raises issues for Obama. Is he really a different kind of politician? Just last Sunday, Obama denounced what he called "slash and burn'' politics, but his campaign issued a slashing attack on Clinton.

"It's not clear to me why would I be apologizing for someone else's remarks," Obama said in Iowa Wednesday night,

"My sense is that Mr. Geffen may have differences with the Clintons," Obama said. "That doesn't really have anything to do with our campaign."

Obama, though, quickly got back on the high road.
*/snip*

Mr. Schneider's characterizes Mr. Obama's non-involvement and non-apology as "slash and burn," defies common sense and borders on semantic meaningless (if I pay Albertson's money for milk and then complain about Kroger, would Albertson's refusal to return my money or to apologize to Kroger be reasonably interpreted as "slash and burn"? Hardly). This non-sequitur isn't necessarily evidence of "bias" (as some might complain), but is actually more of a trojan horse for the real question posed--is Hillary or Obama electable? The real question is more basic, is a black man or a woman going to get your vote when there are no substantive issues on the table? The non-intelligibilty of the cooked-up "controversy," when juxtaposed against the stripped-down iconography of the aging woman and the head shot of the African-American indicates pretty clearly that the writer thinks the answer is "no." Clearly, this question is never asked of McCain or Guliani (even though the article ends with the real meat of the story "Five national polls have come out this month pitting Clinton and Obama against Republican front-runners Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. The results are always very close -- usually within the margin of error.")

Apparently, the only "high road" for women or non-white candidates is one that involves being stripped down to a racial or gendered symbol. This technique of stripping people down to their basic sign ("woman," "black," or even "rich") is only one pernicious way of creating a counter-discourse to unravel any number of carefully crafted messages by a particular candidate.

2.18.2007

Sunday Van Halen Interlude

When It's Love (Words by Van Halen)

Everybody's lookin' for somethin'
Somethin' to fill in the holes
We think a lot but don't talk much about it
'Till things get out of control

How do I know when it's love?
I can't tell you but it lasts forever
Oh! How does it feel when it's love?
It's just somethin' you feel together

When it's love

You look at every face in a crowd
Some shine and some keep you guessin'
Waiting for someone to come into focus
Teach you your final love lesson

How do I know when it's love?
I can't tell you but it lasts forever
How does it feel when it's love?
It's just something you feel together

Oh, when it's love
You can feel it
Nothin's missin'

Yeah, you can feel it
When it's love
When nothin's missing

How do I know when it's love?
I can't tell you but it lasts forever
How does it feel when it' love?
It's just something you feel together

How do I know when it's love?
I can't tell you but it lasts forever
When it's love
When it's love
It'll last forever

When it's love
You and I, we're gonna feel this thing together
When it's love
When it's love
You can feel it
We'll make it last forever

when it's love

2.17.2007

Addendum to the Last Post

This recent shameful episode perfectly illustrates the perils of creating a public persona in a shaming culture (and a violent one at that). Overlapping media. Not-so-smart mobs.

The "Shame" of the Social

Alex, at Digital Digs, has an interesting riff on online social reputation systems and Henry Jenkin's thoughts on MIT's comparative media program and the YouNiversity.

I have been thinking a lot about Jenkin's thoughts and the program that is growing out of a social approach to media and education. A piece of the puzzle that worries me in the goldrush towards electrate social networking is the use of reputation systems as a sort of social algorithm. The ratings on RateMyProfessor, Amazon, and even on proprietary educational Content Management Systems like BlackBoard are turning multilayered and complex human interactions into popularity contests. Unfortunately, I don't know if/where there is scholarship on is the concept of shaming. A lot of the reputation systems use the Junior High system of social stigmitization as a primary motivation for interaction. People who have had a bad experience, marketers working for rival companies, or just plain disgruntled folks often use these rating systems to heap scorn on a product, company, or even individual. The multiple portals/spoofs/identities of particularly motivated people can create a Potemkin village of anger and makes a lot of these services pretty unuseful (i.e Facebook groups that spring up like weeds and "www.firesuchandsuchcoach.com"). Journalists on the take (either through direct remuneration or via favors and freebies) have been a major feature of the tech landscape for years. Alex is right on the money when he challenges his students to think about how they would feel if they were subject to these social reputation systems in the university (the old standby, the course grade, has been all but neutralized by grade inflation, with a few examples in the form of weedout courses, standardized tests, and particularly prestigous pre-professional majors).

I am also curious how an "open-hand" commons model might learn some of the lessons of shaming implemented in more meatspace institutions like jurisprudence, churches, and more semiotic class demarcations (there are places you don't go if you are marked in particular ways). Places like Facebook, which represent friendship as a quick consumption deal rather like Pokemon (and with little possibility of exclusion) temporarily suspends or minimizes that socialized shaming that helps break down large social groups into smaller communities of affect (excpet that the "trace" of repulsion is the obvious mechanism).

Why does any of this matter? Many of my (our) students use these online spaces as places to try out new identities w/o an awareness that their risk taking might come back to haunt them later. When I proposed a FB group for an inter-class project recently, one student very publicly asked about opting out because there might be some images that s/he might not want an instructor to see. I responded that we all need to be careful what we put online, because of the ease of copying and disseminating compromising images/text/work. My initial response came off as bit defensive (notwithstanding the fact that students can block out particular users from seeing part or all of their collected digital artifacts). Still, I wonder if there has been much work on how web 2.0 communities use digital tools to demarcate outsider status through particular semiotic practices (posting "drunken bender" or "racist party" pics, unbecoming rants or embarassing disclosures, etc.). If there has been this work, what does the research show happens to the background "in loco parentis" promises still implied in University settings?

I guess one of the challenges to blending Civic Engagement with New Media practices is bringing students into the knowledge that what happens in any demarcated "safe space" of enculturation eventually bleeds out into the cold and harsh public glare. Grades, evaluations, skills, and even ostenisbly private matters like personal identity eventually make up the strands of a public persona that one must eventually inhabit. The process of "revising" identity, even as one remixes identity through media becomes an important part of gaining entrance into larger public spheres.

Mr. Vaynar's over-the-top video portfolio broadcast and ridicule in the national press is an extreme example of what can happen if people forget some of the connections between identity creation and a spectator culture of ridicule. I guess I see shades of the portfolio pedagogical practice that Mike defends, except that the stakes of a student's online practices "portfolio" writ large can have a faster and broader impact.

2.11.2007

The "Profit Solves All Problems" Meme Put to a Test

I have been watching the for-profit Universities slowly changing the regulatory landscape over the past decade or so, lobbying Department of Education regulators to ratchet scrutiny of traditional not-for-profit education, loosening the purse strings for student aid, and assaulting the current method of accreditation. Looks like they are getting some blowback from such aggressive tactics.

From the New York Times
(free registration required):

*snip*
The university says that its graduation rate, using the federal standard, is 16 percent, which is among the nation’s lowest, according to Department of Education data. But the university has dozens of campuses, and at many, the rate is even lower.
/*snip*

*snip*

The complaints have built through months of turmoil. The president resigned, as did the chief executive and other top officers at the Apollo Group, the university’s parent corporation. A federal court reinstated a lawsuit accusing the university of fraudulently obtaining hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid. The university denies wrongdoing. Apollo stock fell so far that in November, CNBC featured it on a “Biggest Losers” segment. The stock has since gained back some ground. In November, the Intel Corporation excluded the university from its tuition reimbursement program, saying it lacked top-notch accreditation.

It adds up to a damaging turnaround for an institution that rocketed from makeshift origins here in 1976 to become the nation’s largest private university, with 300,000 students on campuses in 39 states and online. Its fortunes are closely watched because it is the giant of for-profit postsecondary education; it received $1.8 billion in federal student aid in 2004-5.

/*snip*

*snip*

“The university takes quality in the classroom seriously,” he said. The university brings a low-overhead approach not only to its campuses, most of which are office buildings near freeways, but also to its academic model. About 95 percent of instructors are part-time, according to federal statistics, compared with an average of 47 percent across all universities. Most have full-time day jobs. Courses are written at university headquarters, easing class preparation time for instructors.

The College Board reports the university’s annual tuition and fees as $9,630, about half the average at private four-year colleges and twice that of four-year public colleges.

Students take one course at a time, online or in evening classes, which meet for four hours, once a week, for five or six weeks, depending on degree level. As a result, students spend 20 to 24 hours with an instructor during each course, compared with about 40 hours at a traditional university. The university also requires students to teach one another by working on projects for four or five hours per week in what it calls “learning teams.”

Government auditors in 2000 ruled that this schedule fell short of the minimum time required for federal aid programs, and the university paid a $6 million settlement. But in 2002, the Department of Education relaxed its requirements, and the university’s stripped-down schedule is an attractive feature for many adults eager to obtain a university degree while working. But critics say it leaves courses with little meat.

“Their business degree is an M.B.A. Lite,” said Henry M. Levin, a professor of higher education at Teachers College at Columbia University. “I’ve looked at their course materials. It’s a very low level of instruction.”

/*snip*

*snip*

Many students accuse recruiters of misleading them, and the university’s legal troubles trace back to similar accusations of recruitment abuses. In 2003, two enrollment counselors in California filed a whistle-blower lawsuit in federal court accusing the university of paying them based on how many students they enrolled, a violation of a federal rule.

After the lawsuit was filed, the Department of Education sent inspectors to California and Arizona campuses. The department’s report, which became public in 2004, concluded that the university had provided incentives to recruit unqualified students and “systematically operates in a duplicitous manner.”

/*snip*

To be honest, I don't think this stems merely from injecting the profit motive into the institution, as I believe that even nonprofits and not-for-profit educational institutions have profit motives. What is at stake here is the redefinition of education and even human beings themselves as factory line parts. The act of centrally locating the decision making structure and giving a one-size-fits-all curriculum to workers incapable of on-site customization (despite claims of the opposite) reveals that the problem is probably not one of profit or nonprofit, but of control. What has made not-for-profit American Universities the best in the world is neither their altruism nor their conservative cultural value. Instead, it is a potent combination of their symbolic role in the class-amnesia of the "American Dream" coupled with a more distributed profit motive. Individual departments and disciplines combine their unique talents to keep the creative engine running (or slowly die off). There is still enough incentive to do good work, and the outside pressures have certainly not allowed the wholesale corruption or greedy metastisizing that occurs in any insulated and decadent institution (indeed, non-profits are dangerously close to losing one key to that success altogether--tenure). No, the University of Phoenix, with its centralized decision-making and politbureau top-down control looks more like Communist Russia than the not-for-profits' competition between teachers, departments, disciplines, colleges, universities, and conferences. When many people criticize Universities for homogenaity, it brings a smile to my face because I know they know not whereof they speak. While Michael Bérubé has documented a particular ideational trait in one strand of the Liberal Arts, there is a much, much, much larger ecosphere of ideas and practices battling across the thousands of institutions and WITHIN each institution. That competition is exactly what the U of Phoenix lacks. While they were busy naming stadia and wrapping themselves in the trappings of capitalism, they unhooked the small competition structures that make Universities actually function. No wonder the teachers lie about their degrees and send the students off to teach themselves.

2.10.2007

Semiotics of Power


A lot of scholars in my field (technical communication) have tried to locate and describe the relationship between different types of symbolism and action. Many point towards sociohistorical research like Foucault or Deleuze and Guattari (among others) and their different tracings and descriptions of how symbolic systems emerge and change the possibilities of action. I borrow a lot of these particular techniques of geneaology, archaeology, and cultural criticism (especially the "cultural circuit") in order to describe how semiotic shifts and emergences distort not just a particular symbol, but what Derrida called "trace" (the sort of "ground" inherent in the "figure" of any sign--the entire "not" that is supposedly occluded in any meaning-making act). Where this resonates with my scholarship is problematizing the notion of "power," a sort of god-term in most social analyses of language. Barbara Mirel, at an earlier WIDE event discussed some of her research on medicine and language and talked about what "dye" she used to study the communication "circulation" in a larger hospital communication ecology. In other words, how do you trace deformations of symbolic practices? For example, how can you tell if a new hospital charting practice is effecting new patient-nurse relationships? You can certainly game a situation and ask nurses to do something different and then ask them if they notice a change. That carries the very real risk of not only bias (the intervention is already different than situated and naturalized practice), but the impossibility of a completely objective distance from embedded subjective experience. Tracing phonemes, morphemes, or any other linguistic unit seems iffy as well. The complexity of representation quickly sends you way past X-bar linguistics and into Beautiful Mind territory.

What do some tech comm folks do? Some call it "power" and throw up their hands. Others try to "mark" particular images, peculiar discursive characteristics, distinct practices--or assemblages of two or three of these--and observe how things travel through the system. Complex assemblages of meaning, like Barak Obama's Lincolnesque greatcoat and the podium that requires a photography perspective to cast Obama as a Lincolnesque figure in conjunction with very overt references to Abraham Lincoln's rhetoric, are places where one can test the "dye" of semiotic power. Who carries this particular iconic arrangement? FOX News? No (notice how the image crops away most of the coat, does away with the perspective, and uses the most unflattering pose)--they are unapologetically aligned with Republican interests and frequently invite discussion about how the GOP is the still "Party of Lincoln." I found this picture at the New York Times, which is not a surprise, because of the historical alignment of the paper with "Yankee" interests (the shift of the Democratic party over to what was the Republican north has been well documented). Even my use of the traditional "Democratic" descriptor of the party has been called into question by the Republican use of the foreshortened "Democrat" moniker as a way to conducting their own "friend or foe" marking and semiotic power experiment. The networks that were forged in a civil war almost 150 years ago persist, and one can trace them in the narratives that coarse through the "body politic," corporate networks, social electrate networks, etc.

What do Barak Obama's semiotic strategies have to do with tech comm? Quite a bit, actually. While many in our field are slicing and dicing texts and practices into constituent parts for XML-enabled efficiency practices like single-sourcing, etc., the users that we (and our university and corporate benefactors) are trying to advocate for (supposedly) are busy trying to reassemble these things into the the context of a life. It is tough to integrate the macro narratological aspects of communication with the micro techniques of producing communication, to be sure. Seeing how politicians launch campaigns (or mislaunch them with echoes of racial hygiene rhetoric) can illuminate the broader symbolic landscape that technical writers negotiate--not just the legal and formal topography, but the very complex human topos that limit and enable action in particular and shifting contexts.

2.06.2007

A Dilemma

I have a confession. I think I lost a DVD from Netflix. Now, they are pretty good about it, and let you just fess up and pay $20 for it. Problem is, if I slow down my movie viewing enough, I don't have to replace it right away. Of course, if you use Netflix Calculus (CalcuFlix?), you realize that you are losing about 10 bucks per month for not just reducing your movie allotment from three to two. I'm probably going to pay up soon, despite the fact that I have already probably spent more for the delay than it would have cost to just replace the darn thing in the first place. It's what economists call "sunk costs," and I have no qualms about walking away when I'm down to avoid losing even more (I'm a Vegas nightmare, baby!).

Here's my dilemma. What do I call this phenomenon of clogging up one queue space with a missing disc?

The missing Flix?

A wounded queue?

2.05.2007

A Little Post on my Horrible No-Good Predictions

I didn't watch the Superbowl. I kept an eye on the "GameCast" in one of my 10 or so open windows on my desktop. I grew up watching both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys during dinner (my dad was born in Pittsburgh and grew up in Texas). While I eventually learned how to play football and even played a little in high school (defensive back), tennis and then basketball took up most of my athletic energy. The Rez doesn't have much in the way of tennis courts (we played with our parents' old wood rackets in the street), but basketball is practically a religion in many Native communities. My town was no different. Not only did every barren playground have at least a half-dozen hoops to hone your skills on, my church's gym always had their rims let down to the floor and a fresh net to give that wonderful "shook" sound when the ball grazed through the rim.

That love of basketball kept building after I moved off the Rez. I religiously watched the University of Arizona basketball before Lute Olson was canonized (yes, I saw that magical season when Steve Kerr, the son of the assassinated American-Lebanese Academic, would hear the crowd scream Steeeeeeveeee Kerrrrrrrrr after every made three point shot). Even though the Wildcats were relegated to grainy UHF stations, I was hooked.

Many of my best memories revolve around basketball. I gained a big measure of self confidence in High School arranging and playing pre-class pickup games between the math faculty and my friends (including the Arizona co-player of the year--yes, #12 Lopez). I learned a little street playing park games in Phoenix against teams from LA and even some of the scrubs from the Phoenix Suns. Most important, I got to know sport during March Madness. Sport and I usually trade turns winning the March Madness brackets we enter--you have been warned.

To be honest, I don't really watch professional sports. I cheer for the Steelers and the Bears (mostly because I got to see Brian Urlacher play at my University, but also because I can use the term "Bears" and "old school" in the same sentence without laughing). If I had to be totally honest, I would rank my favorite sports viewing this way:
1. NCAA Basketball (men's and women's)
2. NCAA football
3. Surfing (when I can get it)
4. NFL
5. Tennis

So, if you are inclined to believe random blogs about sports, I would limit that belief to NCAA basketball and football (yes, I picked Florida for both sports the last two championships). My picks for the next two champions? Right now I think Wisconsin has a good shot at both basketball and football.

2.04.2007

I was wrong

But darn it. MY Bears are still the best NFL team in the whole wide world.

Superbowl Mid-dictions

1. The Bears will win the Superbowl.
2. It won't be close.

2.03.2007

Yuck

I. Hate. Being. Sick.

2.01.2007

Hysteria

The more the officials defend their reaction, the worse they look. Yes, disguising a bomb as a Lite-Brite is certainly one way to announce your intentions, but so is parking one of THESE THINGS anwhere in a city. Drop the suit against the artists and the network and get back to work.

But Cyborgs are Scary...

from a WIRED magazine feature on Donna Haraway:
*snip*

Sitting on the porch, listening to Haraway explain her ideas over a background of singing birds and buzzing insects, it's hard not to feel she's talking about some parallel world, some chrome-and-neon settlement in a cyberpunk novel. "We're talking about whole new forms of subjectivity here. We're talking seriously mutated worlds that never existed on this planet before. And it's not just ideas. It's new flesh."

But she is not talking about some putative future or a technologically advanced corner of the present. The cyborg age is here and now, everywhere there's a car or a phone or a VCR. Being a cyborg isn't about how many bits of silicon you have under your skin or how many prosthetics your body contains. It's about Donna Haraway going to the gym, looking at a shelf of carbo-loaded bodybuilding foods, checking out the Nautilus machines, and realizing that she's in a place that wouldn't exist without the idea of the body as high-performance machine. It's about athletic shoes.

"Think about the technology of sports footwear," she says. "Before the Civil War, right and left feet weren't even differentiated in shoe manufacture. Now we have a shoe for every activity." Winning the Olympics in the cyborg era isn't just about running fast. It's about "the interaction of medicine, diet, training practices, clothing and equipment manufacture, visualization and timekeeping." When the furor about the cyborgization of athletes through performance-enhancing drugs reached fever pitch last summer, Haraway could hardly see what the fuss was about. Drugs or no drugs, the training and technology make every Olympian a node in an international technocultural network just as "artificial" as sprinter Ben Johnson at his steroid peak.

If this sounds complicated, that's because it is. Haraway's world is one of tangled networks - part human, part machine; complex hybrids of meat and metal that relegate old-fashioned concepts like natural and artificial to the archives. These hybrid networks are the cyborgs, and they don't just surround us - they incorporate us. An automated production line in a factory, an office computer network, a club's dancers, lights, and sound systems - all are cyborg constructions of people and machines.


/*snip*

1.31.2007

The Beauty of Blogging

As you may or may not know, sport and I were down in Albuquerque and Las Cruces this Christmas holiday. One of the old acquaintences who we were looking for is John (who was, and is, homeless). When we didn't see him, we kind of panicked and hoped for the best. Turns out he was in jail for sleeping on someone's porch, but looks otherwise alright. Thanks for the story with photos Johnny Mango!

1.29.2007

What Does a Weekend Mean?

First "Scholarship Weekend" is now finished and sitting in the "out" basket (out of the "in" basket, I suppose). Sport and I smoothed a grand total of two articles and one chapter. We were also able to read and comment on two of those articles.

The first place I ever encounted these kinds of intense write/revise weekends was at the University of New Mexico. A fellow graduate student, Bill Waters, held a "Scholar's Retreat" with Dr. Susan Foss (which I didn't attend), and later adapted it to a dissertation "boot camp" to get a stable full of dissertatin' fools like myself to finish up. It worked wonders, and I heartily recommend either going to one of these things, or sequestering or regimenting oneself in this particular way (I can blog about specifics, if anyone cares to know what I feel were the difference making techniques--just drop a comment).

The main difference between these boot camps and my current weekends has to do with the consciousness of the field. the consequences of doing slipshod work seem to get precipitously more dire as one tries to write for a field that will soon directly judge whether or not you get tenure. At least that is how I feel now...

1.27.2007

Scholarship Time

One of the resolutions sport and I made this year was to conduct a once-a-month two-day scholarship and publication retreat for ourselves. We're beginning our first one today. This blog will have an update in two days...

1.26.2007

Thank You Soldiers

I don't see as many "Support the Troops" bumper stickers and ribbons now that election season has passed. To be perfectly honest, I was annoyed by people who stuck these things on just-washed SUVs bristling with child seats, soccer balls, and other assorted middle-class carapace padding, not because I do not want to support those who fight the battles our leaders declare, but because I always thought that the gesture of buying and tilting ribbons so that others could read your slogan was a cheap contradiction. It always felt like the "political patriots" thought that their $2 was enough to not only feel one was supporting the troops, but also that there was enough change left over to rub a convenience store mantra into the nose of those who preferred quieter, or more substantive, support of our fighting women and men (or, heaven forbid, didn't agree with their particular mission).

Ah well, thank you to every one of you who fight and risk for our vision of freedom. I especially want to thank my brother-in-law, who is participating in this most recent conflict. I also want to thank my father and father-in-law for serving, my uncles, friends (men and women) who have and are serving. I also want to say "thank you" to soldiers and families who have sacrificed their safety and sanity, limbs and lives for my country's cause. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Thank you.

1.22.2007

Ipod Parody

A fiendishly clever parody of what happens during much of corporate design. When company politics soundly defeat good design, you can see it right on the label.

1.21.2007

Sport Guest Blogging

A good friend of mine sent me a broom for the winter holiday. She wasn’t commenting on my housekeeping, since she has never been to this home; she, in fact, lives over 1700 miles away. No, the broom was made in North Carolina, my former home and a current halfway point between this friend and me. The Friendswood Broom artists craft brooms from local materials; for our piece they used Bittersweet vines from along the Awannanoa River near Asheville. The broom connects me to those mountains, where I first lived alone.

I found myself attempting to draw the broom recently (I doodle in meetings). As a metaphor, it reflects a number of themes swirling around my life. My friend is sweeping a bad relationship out of her life, and finding a new place to establish a hearth. I am learning to focus on my new home and to be connected with the ground there –beyond cleaning it. The new year encourages me to sweep bad practices away and clean up my psychic spaces for work and home living.

Of course, my partner, DocMara, has been curling competitively, recently. His relationship to brooms grows weekly, and with it my understanding of them. In fact, his holiday gift from curling teammates was a broom of his own. We both appreciate the weight and feel of brooms in new ways when on the curling sheet.

And my faraway friend is a pagan with subterranean understanding of relationships and power. The broom, displayed proudly in our home reminds me of DocMara’s and my pursuit of connecting unfamiliar and overly familiar beliefs, lifeways, and people.