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March 31, 2006


Thank you to those of you who added your voices to the request that the annual Kairos Best Academic Weblog award be renamed in honor of John Lovas. It would have been a hard change to argue against, to be sure, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't important to speak up and remember John. Like many others, I felt like CCCC didn't do as much as it could have to honor him at the first meeting since his passing.

And so, my thanks to the editors of Kairos and KNews for making the change. The call for nominations is up now, and I can't help but think that John would be pleased to have his name associated with it.

That is all.

March 29, 2006


Great post over at Debbie's about the dangers and aftermath of the ever-delicate sports jinx.

In other news, spring cleaning has begun (gradually), the hair is gone, and the Inbox is now down from a little more than 1000 to 162, a number chosen largely in dis/honor of yet another Opening Day spent with both Prior and Wood on the DL. We may shoot for double digits tomorrow, depending on how much time I spend preparing for and holding meetings.

That is all.

March 27, 2006

5 Post-CCCC Action Items

CCCC marks a turning point in the semester for me. Now that my travel is done, as well as some of the major programmatic thingamajigs (search committee, graduate admissions) that I worked to complete before I went to Chicago, it's time to turn my attention to weightier matters:

1. Technically, this should be item zero, since I'm going to take advantage of the excellent advice at 43 Folders to reduce my inbox to a smoldering heap of nothingness. The inbox crested over 1000 today, although the 500+ messages sitting in my webmail folder brought it into quadruple digits long ago. So: after a little work this afternoon, we have gone from 1000 messages down to 621. Look for updates as the week progresses.

2. My hair is too long and the weather's warming up. Hello, clippers!

3. Spring cleaning. My apartment may be the single most accurate analogy for my inbox that I can think of--I'm too scared to count, but there are lots of small, stupid organizing, packing, shelving, dusting, and cleaning things I can do to straighten out my living space. 30 minutes a day until I'm satisfied.

4. Get back into an exercise routine. Long overdue. Nuff said.

5. And finally, most importantly, daily forays into the revision process on my book. Until I'm done. April is the month of me. So forgive me ahead of time for light blogging, slow correspondence, other obligations, etc. Everyone and everything else is competing for #2 on my to-do list. Seriously.

That is all.

CCCC 06 Roundup

I would have posted this a little sooner, but I've spent the last day or so figuring out how I can cast aspersions on a field that I'm only peripherally involved with, reaching the conclusion that the best way to argue that the field is going in the wrong direction is to "cherry-pick" 5 panel titles, out of hundreds, from their annual conference, and then not going to the conference so as not to complicate my thinnnnnest-slice impression (which I'll describe, of course, as a "fair portion" which provides the double-entendre of both representativity and fairness) of what it is that they're doing.

That's all I have to say on that bit of nitwittery.

It was a good conference this year, although I definitely feel older and less able to keep up than I used to. This year's CCCC had the strange distinction of embodying two strange trends: each night, I got to bed later, and each morning I had to get up earlier. If I had stayed one more day, these trends might have passed each other in the wrong direction--I might have had to wake up before I went to bed. Eek.

As far as sessions went, I only hit a few of them, and they were pretty much superstar caliber. I didn't go to anything before Derek's and my performance at the Computer Connection on Thursday, but afterwards, I saw Jim Porter, Catherine Latterell, Dà€nielle Devoss, and Stuart Selber (E.28 Why Plagiarism Makes Sense in the Digital Age: Copying, Remixing, and Composing). It was a solid panel, doing some of the work necessary to bridge our disciplinary (and pretty traditionalist) notions of authorship with the implications of new media. Shockingly enough, after a 7 am breakfast meeting, I caught David Blakesley, Thomas Rickert, and Diane Davis all give really intriguing papers revisiting KB's notion of identification (F.15 The Rhetorics of Identification; Or, Me and You and You and Me, So Happy Together?). All three were strong papers, but I was especially interested in Diane's--the idea that mirror neurons suggest an originary, pre-linguistic "togetherness" which is first broken and then imperfectly healed through identification was (a) a really smart take on neurobiology's implications for rhetoric and (b) a very original challenge to some of our cherished disciplinary assumptions. After a brief pause to fill my body with sugar and caffeine, I went to see Becky Howard, David Russell, and Sandra Jamieson (H.15 Authentic Arguments: Information Literacy and Case Studies in FYC). Becky and I chat IL all the time, but I hadn't seen before the work that Russell was doing to track how students use sources in building arguments. Interesting stuff. Having been up at 6-ish, by the end of their session, I was pretty much wiped, so I skipped on the next 2 sessions plus the other general (the awards one).

(I didn't get to see the morning general session on Thursday, either, although I heard vaguely unflattering things about it, or rather that the Address itself had less than flattering things to say about some of the things that I do. Rather than offer a 4th hand response, I'll wait to see/read a version of it...)

Saturday morning, with my sleep and energy quotients approaching zero, I attended my final session of the conference, K.23 From Panel to Gallery: Twelve Digital Writings, One Installation, and no, I won't list the 12, although several are friends. Being able to walk around the room and futz was perfect for me, though, and there were some really sharp pieces. If I can find the URL, I'll post a link to Tim Richardson's thingamajig, which was a Flash interface that positively hypnotized me. It reminded me of the stories I've heard, and pics I've seen, of SIGGRAPH interface galleries. Cool Cool Cool.

Anyhow, that was my formal CCCC. Counting my own, I went to 5 sessions, which is about right, and I met lots and lots of people and strengthened ties with others. Can't ask for much more.

March 26, 2006

best of times, worst of times, best of times

Arrived home with minimal trouble, although it was a long day behind the wheel. Listened to the other two elite 8 games--GMU a colossal surprise, Florida not so much.

In our department pool, not a single person picked a single Final 4 team. This softens (a little) any embarrassment I might personally feel about my dismal pickins this year.

Found out today that I'll be part of the Division on the History and Theory of Rhetoric and Composition panel at MLA, and speaking to the theme "Rhetoricizing Technology, Technologizing Rhetoric." Hard to imagine a more appropriate theme for my work, so I'm happy that I'll be a part of it.

More soon.

March 25, 2006

Homeward bound

It will surprise no one who saw me at Miller's Pub last night at around 3 am that I was unable to get as much of my Chicago to Syracuse drive done as I'd initially hoped. As a result, I'll have more of the trip to do tomorrow than I'd planned, but oh well.

I'll blog in a little more detail about CCCC when I get back, but one thing I'll note right away, and that's that, after 2 years of relatively spread out conferences (in SF and SA), the return to Chicago was a return to the kind of spatial centralization that results in the chance encounters that make CCCC a worthwhile experience for me. With most of the participants in the conference hotel (even though I was staying at the historic and expensive Drake Hotel), I had the pleasure of almost always running into people by happy accident.

I can't stress enough the importance of this. It strengthens our weak ties to be able to happen into each other outside of formal session spaces--I feel more a part of the discipline this year than I have for the past 2 conferences, and that's not an insignificant advantage of having the CCCC in the mega-hotels. This shouldn't necessarily exclude other locations, but it does mean that future planners need to be very conscientious in planning social spaces in addition to the more formal spaces of the conference.

I'm just sayin.

Like I said, I'll say more tomorrow, or Monday, but I did accomplish a couple of things over the past couple of days that I was especially proud of. First, I did a fair bit of evangelism for CCC Online, both to the CCCC Executive Committee and at the Computer Connection. It seemed like every time I introduced myself as the person partly responsible for CCCO to people, I heard about people using the site left and right. That's a good thing. The second thing I wanted to do, which didn't occur to me until yesterday during the sessions, was to suggest to the leaders of the Blogging SIG that our discipline's award for best academic weblog be permanently named after John Lovas. I hope others have made and do make this suggestion along with me. It was at last year's CCCC that I met John for the first and only time, and I felt his absence keenly yesterday.

That's all for the moment. I won't be blogging the sessions I attended in any sort of detail (having not really taken notes this year), but I will do a little roundup post, and ideally, get myself back into the habit of here.

Safe travels, all.

March 14, 2006

The lesser of three travels

So I'm getting myself together to leave in the near future for my annual trip to the Conference on College Composition and Communication. Rather than regale you with tales of catching up on my bills or my laundry (both of which have commanded my attention today), I thought I might express my annual regret that I must go to CCCC instead of, say, ETech or SXSW, both of which command the attention of the blogerati this time of year. Not that there's anything wrong per se with CCCC--I always learn a little something, and I see a lot of people with whom I would otherwise fall out of touch. It's a visceral reminder for me of the academic community that I've chosen to join.

And yet. I can't help but feel that my interests and my inspirations would be better served at one of these other conferences. I envy Laura, who is/was down in Austin for SXSW. And I share her sense that "that education needs to catch up a little bit to this world." But I'm also struck by the outsider-ness of her post, because I've experienced that myself on more than a few occasions. I want to feel like there's a middle space, between the mercenary collisions of acronym people and the (at times) oblivious pokiness of the academy when it comes to these things. I think that there are conversations out there that are just waiting to be held, conversations that take the potential of these ideas as their jumping off point rather than the painstaking objective of endless wheel-reinventing presentations.

This is how you can tell that it's late, and I'm a little frustrated. I start stacking words and phrases as high as I can until they start wobbling.

At any rate, some of my frustration has its source in the fact that, unless I somehow move to CA or TX, I won't ever be a regular attendee at either of those conferences. As a humanities scholar, I'm basically priced out of those venues before I even start. The humanities don't get grants, they don't get corporate sponsors, and they don't include lavish travel budgets among the necessities. I can afford to go to Chicago for 4 days, but only because I applied to my college to cover the difference between cost and my normal travel funding allotment. They do so only because I'm giving a presentation--there is no argument I could make for putting a trip to SXSW on the university dime.

It's frustrating to me because I know where Laura's coming from when she despairs of "fighting the fight" of getting our colleagues to see technology and getting the technologists to see us as something other than a cottage industry ripe for takeover.

No grand conclusions or solutions to be found here. I know that there are those among us who would really welcome rich and complicated conversations, but I don't think it's simply a matter of academics being willing. It's also a matter of patience on the part of industry, some faith on their part that there's some long-term good to be had in engaging with us. Maybe there are already those kinds of spaces that I just don't know about. It's frustrating to me, though, not being able to afford to visit the ones I do know about, even as I suspect that I can't afford not to be there.

If that makes sense.

March 13, 2006

Bracket Season

Also known as the Feast of St. Lunardi, this holiday season is in some ways an unapologetic celebration of MSAS (Male Sports Answer Syndrome), the tendency that we menfolk have to simply make up answers to sports questions for which no true answer exists, just because it has to do with sports.

Case in point: you could put together an all-star team made up of players from the Pac 10, and I wouldn't seed them any higher than 3, much less the 2 that UCLA received. Of course, I haven't actually seen UCLA play, so that opinion is being pulled straight out of thin air.

You will excuse me, I hope, for GLOATING long and loud over the next couple of days. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that Syracuse and Iowa each would win their conference tournaments--Iowa had a better shot to do so as a 2 seed. Coincidentally, that's the seed they should have received in the NCAAs. I know, I know, you're thinking that I'm just being a homer, but consider this: all weekend long, there was discussion about whether Ohio State deserved a 1 seed. Iowa beat Ohio State both times they played this year--they beat them in Iowa City, yes, but they also beat them on a neutral floor when OSU still had a shot at a #1. Don't get me wrong--I'm happy with a 3, but they deserve a 2. As do Gonzaga and Florida, in my opinion. In fact, Texas is the only 2 I'm satisfied with. I would have moved up 3 of the 3's, and swapped Boston College and North Carolina (the former having beat the latter at NC, and at Greensboro). I think the committee was a little too tied to conference standings in some cases when assigning seeds within conferences. Especially when you consider that, within super-conferences, all teams don't have the same schedule. Body of work, blah blah blah. What it comes down to for me is ranking the better teams higher; I don't really have an issue with the 1s this year, but everything else feels a little wonky to me.

And I'm big enough to admit that Syracuse got overseeded as well--it's hard for me to imagine, even having witnessed their miracle run through the Big East Tournament that they could have gone from an 11 or 12 (assuming they were even in) to a 5 in less than a week. That's a mighty big leap, and there are at least 2 quality 6 seeds in Michigan State and West Virginia that I would rank ahead of them.

But really, the only thing that clouds my silver lining today is the knowledge that, when Iowa and Syracuse meet, only one of them will be able to advance to the Final Four. You would have thought that the committee could have given my needs a little more direct consideration.

You want your printable brackets? We got your printable brackets.

5 Upset Specials (Pick one)

1. San Diego St over Indiana
2. Pacific over BC (check PU's recent history)
3. Utah St. over Washington (5-12)
4. NC State over California (not that much an upset)
5. Albany over Connecticut (not really. just checking to see if you're still reading)

Two notes from the television coverage yesterday:

Dickie V drove me insane! He had metal buttons on his sleeves, and every time he flailed about (once every .3 seconds), his buttons clinked on the glass top on set. By the end of the show, all I could hear while he was speaking was CLINK (blah blah blah) CLINK (blah blah blah) CLINK.

Jim Nantz and Billy Packer were like little kids when they were talking to Craig Littlepage, this year's Selection Committee chair. When the camera was on them, they were looking down at their sheets, and every question they asked seemed designed to try and get him to admit that he'd made a mistake. At the end of their interview, they cut him off twice as he was trying to congratulate the teams that made it into the field. First, he's chair of a committee of many people, all of whom agreed on the decisions. Second, I think I'd trust decisions made over several days by the selection committee before I'd trust Jim Freaking Nantz's 5-minute-old impressions. I disagree with some of their decisions, but I appreciate the difficulty of making them. Nantz and Packer were downright rude and embarrassed themselves and their network.

Wow, this is a mishmash. But that's all for the moment.

March 11, 2006

Top of the World

For a few, sweet hours, the two teams I root for (Syracuse and Iowa) are in the finals of their respective conference tournaments. I'll be rooting for the Orange tonight, of course, but this is definitely a case where I'm just happy they made it.

For those of you looking for a complete dark horse in the NCAAs, look no further than the Hawkeyes. They just held Michigan State to nearly 30 points below their season average, and while the game wasn't pretty, it was a good sign. The Hawks have loads of senior leadership, good guard play, and great team defense. I don't see them running with the big dogs like Duke and UConn, but they can definitely play with the next tier of teams, and with the right bracket, are more of a threat to go to the Final Four than most of the country realizes. In fact, it's going to be tough for me to ignore my heart when the brackets come out in a few days.

In the meantime, though, I don't have to. Go Orange and go Hawks!

March 10, 2006

5 signs that spring is coming

1. Puddles on the sidewalks, made conscious for me primarily by the fact that the sole of my right shoe is cracked and thus soaked my right sock for much of the day.

2. Faculty, staff, and students in the Writing Program huddled around the radio in the main office today, living and dying with each shot in today's overtime thriller.

3. The ghost town that the SU campus becomes, two full days before spring break actually begins (one colleague reported 5 of 20 students showing up for a noon-ish class).

4. Sinus headaches that ebb and flow with the earth's tides, signalling a change in local atmospheric pressure (could be worse--I used to get 4-day nosebleeds).

and most relevantly,

5. Difficulty sleeping, as opening the window is no longer sufficient to counteract the unadjustable, 80 degree steam heat that literally toasts me (to the delight of moisturizer manufacturers) every winter.

March 8, 2006

Bombin and Dancin

I'm not sure which was the bigger bomb today, the three-point runner (!) that Gerry McNamara dropped on Cincinnati today to give SU a 1-point win in the first round of the Big East tournament (ESPN), or the F (among others) bomb dropped by Jim Boeheim at the post-game press conference.

Boeheim responded angrily to local coverage suggesting that G-Mac was overrated, an opinion apparently offered anonymously by one of the Orange assistant coaches. Boeheim's response, which I think was dead-on, was that Syracuse couldn't have won 10 games (that's 10 effing games) without McNamara and that he was the reason they were even in NYC this week to play in the Big East Tournament.

I'm not sure that this will be enough to get SU into the NCAA Tournament, but I'm tempted to say that it should, homer that I am. They've managed a 20-win season despite a top-10 Strength of Schedule, and they beat Cincy (which has been on a lot of boards) on a neutral floor. I can't imagine that they'll beat UConn tomorrow, but if they manage to show up okay, I think they're in. By the skin of their teeth, but in all the same...

Update: The failure of my imagination wasn't quite as egregious as was Becky's, apparently. Syracuse just beat the top-ranked team in the country on a neutral floor, and locked up for themselves a spot in the NCAA's. And one day after winning the Cincy game on a 3-pointer, G-Mac hit a 3-pointer against UConn in the closing seconds to tie the game and send it into overtime. Take that.

March 7, 2006


I'm only mildly tempted by the prospect of listing out all of the things I have left to do before I can leave for my annual combination of spring break and CCCC with a clear conscience. Presumably I'll have to do it eventually, but for the moment, I need a day or two to recalibrate the instruments. It's been a long last several months for me, involving a great deal more coordination and event planning than I'm used to doing, and as a result, I'm feeling pretty drained, along multiple dimensions.

Perhaps some of them will air in this space, as I get a handle on them, but the handling is part of what daunts me. Right now, blogging in any serious fashion appeals to me much like sleep appeals when I'm exhausted beyond the ability to sleep, if that makes sense.

So expect it to be both intermittent and potentially light here for the next couple of weeks. I'll certainly get back to bangin out entries once I roll into Chicago, but in the interim? We'll see.

March 5, 2006

A talk in search of a stage

Those of you who follow my scholarly career as closely and in as much painstaking detail as I myself do will notice that one particular vector that I've followed with some consistency is the exploration, experimentation (with), and implementation (PPT) of various visual/spatial tools for writing. In other words, I find myself drawn, time and again, to different ways of writing, different means of expressing the kind of thinking that I do as a scholar.

Funny thing about this is that I didn't realize this myself until fairly recently. I've been working first with hypertexts and webtexts and later with new media more broadly conceived for over 10 years now, and I think that one of the things that drives that work is an underlying conviction on my part that electracy allows me to write in ways that feel more comfortable to me than do those supported by pencils, typewriters, and word processors. It's early in the morning, so forgive me for waxing a little philosophical here.

Anyhow, over the past year or so, I've been using Keynote as a composing tool, mostly for talks that I've given, but as a means of visually and spatially writing before I commit my ideas to sentences and paragraphs. When people started screencasting, I was excited about the possibility of being able to do even more with it. But I've had trouble finding the right combination of tools for myself. Enter ProfCast, a $35 app that allows you to simultaneously record voice on top of Keynote or PPT slides, and it preserves the timing of the slides as well. Finally, it allows you to publish the results as podcasts/screencasts (with RSS feeds to boot). The idea behind it is that it's a tool that would allow professors giving PPT-assisted lectures to record both the voice and slides, and package them together for their students.

So what we have linked below is my first crack at a screencast written in Keynote, then scripted, and recorded with ProfCast. It's about 12 minutes long, and runs a little larger than 8 MB (8.1, I think). It's an MPEG-4 file, and I was able to view it on my machine using QuickTime without any trouble. The slides are vector-based for the most part, so you can watch it full-screen without any fuzziness--in fact, it's probably better displayed large than small, so I recommend downloading it to watch it.

It's a little rough around the edges, but not bad for a first try, and the ideas in it are ones that I've been batting around in different forms (and different forums) for the past year. Enjoy.

social bookmarking screencast

Newbie Ginning

Mostly for dramatic effect, let me point out that this is the first entry exclusive to the new site. It's going to take me a while to change over my own links, so don't feel bad if it takes you a while too.

And don't expect the site to look polished for a while yet. The house CSS that comes with MT3.2 is a godawful mess transposed directly (it looks like) from Typepad, despite the absence of many of TP's features in MT. For an amateur web designer, I'm actually pretty good with stylesheets, but poring through 23 pages of hyphenated, multi-word crap like "gamma-sidebar-module-itemlist-3" isn't a pastime for any but the infinitely patient. And that's not me tonight.

So bear with me as I sort through some of this dreck and restore cgbvb to its pre-move glory. Or something like that...

March 4, 2006


Attentive Obsessive combers of the archives here will recall that, just about a year ago, I discussed the virtues of what we call Visiting Days, our annual recruitment event. We bring the top 7 or so candidates to campus, pay for their travel, host them with current students, and wine and dine them for two days. It's a great way both for us to get to know them and for them to get to know us.

In the idealized world of "brains on sticks," we all choose graduate programs according to perfectly rational criteria, select our committees based purely on their explicit expertise in our exam areas and dissertation subjects, blah blah blah. In the real world, though, we work with people based on intuition, fit, compatibility, and all sorts of criteria that are, for the most part, immeasurable. It's certainly important to ask the rational questions about a given program, but I think we underplay the degree to which we make decisions by simply asking: can I imagine myself being successful here? can I see myself working well with this person? would I enjoy taking courses with these students?

In other words, I think it's important to give our prospective students as much access to the program as possible, and not just in the form of promotional materials. Likewise, it helps us to decide when we have a chance to actually talk with a student about his or her interest in X or Y, and not just attempt to intuit their abilities and interests from a generic 2-page statement of goals. As I said last year, this is an exceptionally ethical practice, and I think that it pays dividends for us in the quality of our students and for the students as well, both those who join us and those who don't. Even when we lose someone to another institution, I feel good about the fact that we've given them as much information as we could, and helped them to make the best decision possible.

As important as events like these are for us, they're also pretty taxing. Over the past 5 months, I've hosted a symposium of visiting speakers, co-chaired a search committee, coordinated 4 campus visits, and finally, as of a couple of hours ago, completed Visiting Days. None of this did I do alone; in fact, I'm deeply grateful for every single airport run, meal companion, feedback email, and general contribution that the people in our program provided throughout these events.

But oh. my. am I exhausted, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Saturday has just begun, but I plan to spend as much of it asleep as I possibly can. And then I can start in on all the to-do's that I've postponed during my event planning.

That is all.

March 2, 2006

Dueling Posters

As you might expect, the news that Ann Coulter will be visiting campus has stirred the hearts and minds of at least a couple of people here at SU. I submit for your perusal just two of the posters appearing on the first-floor bulletin board. I leave it to you to determine their divergent origins...

Poster 1 (pdf)
Poster 2 (pdf)