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May 29, 2007

The weekend in review, Langerhans edition

Not much to report. My access has been nonexistent because I left my laptop in Iowa while I ranged down to St. Louis. Went down to catch a game at the new (if I haven't been there, it's new to me) Busch stadium, and saw the Cards drop a game to the Natty Bumpkins of Washington, including but not limited to a grand slam punched out of the park by one Ryan Langerhans. Nice hit that.

The Cards, they are a strugglin, and I must admit that this doesn't exactly make me sad. The Cubs' bullpen woes, on the other hand, is a topic for head-shakings and hand-wringings. But only occasionally, as I'm still on vacation.

The end of the week should see me headed back eastward, so we'll see if more frequent posting accompanies that.

That's all.

May 21, 2007

The week in review

Thank you all for the congratulations and good wishes...

As I dipped into my fanmail bag this week, the question that came up over and over was a pretty obvious one: how did you spend your first week as a tenured professor? Well, the first thing I did was to abandon all active research projects. Then, I printed up all of my class notes, and smoked them on cedar blocks, so that I could turn them as brittle and yellowed as possible in preparation for next year, where I will recite them verbatim regardless of what course I'm teaching. Finally, I damaged my hearing irreparably, to the point where I am only capable of hearing the words "raise" and "sabbatical."

Okay. Maybe not.

If I were really on my game, I would have turned each of those into full-length, dryly humored entries, that I would disavow only at the very end. The fact of the matter is that a week with tenure is not all that different from a week without. Last week was Computers and Writing, which is almost always timed really badly (or well, if a body prefers that I not go). I spent Tuesday and Wednesday struggling with my presentation (which I read rather than spoke, I fear), and was only able to come out with something satisfactory on Thursday after our trip.

Derek rode out to Detroit with me (and returned to Syr today by train), and we had a nice, leisurely trip where I managed to pick up a sinus cold (although the stress of struggling with my talk might have planted the seeds) somewhere at Niagara Falls. So tenure has included a throat tickle, sinus drain, stuffy head, and a great deal of kleenex. I blame the Lady of the Mists, personally.

We arrived in Detroit on Thursday night, and went to a bit of the conference on Friday, enough of it to deliver our papers, meet up with various and sundry, etc etc. But my energy was low, truth be told, in part because of the cold, in part because of the timing, and in part because of my franticality.

I'm now in Iowa for a spell, where I plan on minimal net connections, copious sleep, and finishing more than a couple of books.

Oh, and after my C&W paper, I have a new summer plan for the blog. I'll unveil it soon. (It does actually involve posting, and more than once a week.)

That is all.

May 14, 2007

It is my pleasure to be informed...

It gives my provost enormous pleasure to inform me that, with the concurrence of Chancellor Nancy Cantor and the Board of Trustees, I have been granted continuous appointment with tenure at Syracuse University.

That sound you just heard was the pop of about two years worth of tension leaving my shoulders. And/or a cork.

Lots of congratulations to spread around, actually, but I'm thinking I'll wait until tomorrow. That is all.

May 13, 2007


Being incessantly short of time (or you imagine yourself to be), caught up in deadlines and delays, you persist in supposing that you are going to get out of it by putting what you have to do in order. You make programs, draw up plans, calendars, new deadlines. On your desk and in your files, how many lists of articles, books, seminars, courses to teach, telephone calls to make. As a matter of fact, you never consult these little slips of paper, given the fact that an anguished conscience has provided you with an excellent memory of all your obligations. But it is irrepressible: you extend the time you lack by the very registration of that lack. Let us call this program compulsion (whose hypomaniacal character one readily divines); states and collectivities, apparently, are not exempt from it: how much time wasted in drawing up programs? And since I anticipate writing an article on it, the very notion of program itself becomes a part of my program compulsion.

Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes

May 8, 2007

ye olde workshoppes

For some reason, I find myself at the end of the semester awash in workshops, organizing three in the space of about a week. The first was last week, but not much preparation was required, since I've been doing our end-of-year session on the job market almost every year I've been at Syracuse. I did put together a new handout for everyone, though, with a condensed job search timeline and a list of possible dossier ingredients. In the past, that material has been shared with the seniormost folks, but not the general public.

(I should explain that the session takes place in 2 halves: the first is for the whole program, and we ask those who have been on the market to share their experiences and advice; the second is only for those on the market in the upcoming year, and we go over the process, organize summer meetings, etc.)

It's a hard sell, for all of us, I fear. Now more than any other time of the year, things are winding down, and it's difficult to reverse that mindset, and to think in terms of a year-long process of searching for a position that begins right now (the search, that is, not the positions).

My other workshops are actually a pair, today and Thursday, which combine with a couple hours of reading to function as a "mini-seminar," which is how part of our professional development process works round these parts. There are a couple of them this week and next that count towards next year's requirements, so they're "early bird" sessions of a sort that also function to benefit those early birds who have taken care of their grading by this point.

Anyhow, today's session was on del.icio.us, and I could have taken another full hour just to cover the ground that I'd planned. What with the "perpetual beta" and all, it's not simply a matter of walking in and filling two hours. I needed to reacquaint myself with some features that I don't use, see what was new, and I ended up putting together a 4-page handout with URLs and reference points for the material I covered.

One point that came to mind during the session that I didn't mention the other day in my little RSS rant (RSS is one of the topics for Thursday), and that's that another of the real values of online journals, and of print journals that make an effort to 2.0-ize their web presence. Although not alot of folk have started using it this way yet, one of the things that our site does is to make permalinks available for each article, which allows users to bookmark them in del.icio.us, CiteULike, etc. (without waiting for 5 years, or whatever JStor's moving wall is). It also means that you can link to CCC articles in online syllabi or bibliographies, although again, not many folk are using the site that way yet.

And these are among the ways that the CCCOA is itself working with Web 2.0 attitudes. I asked today's workshoppers to read O'Reilly's original essay, and there were two things that jumped out at me on this, my umpteenth reading. The first was the emphasis that he places on permalinks--the flip-side of continually updated content and the importance of being able to link to that content. The second is the emphasis that we've placed not on providing data--after all, very little of our content is not also accessible directly from NCTE both in print and on screen. But we enable various services and processes that connect up with other small pieces like del.icio.us, and that's where our innovation rests.

It's about performing our disciplinarity in online spaces, not as a replacement for our own brains or hands, but as network, as Jeff has written over and over. There are all sorts of tools and processes and services that will help us do this, and not flash in the pan stuff either. Small, simple pieces, like permalinks, RSS, bookmarking, et al., just waiting for us to take them up and put them to work.

Ah well. This is the resigned version of the ranty post from this weekend. And to think that the original impetus for this post was Laura's somewhat disenchanted take on workshops. It's to our credit that, even at this time of year, none of the three workshops I'm doing are "just in time and just for me" particularly. Which makes them a little easier on me, if not less work.

Anyhow, that is all. I need to think about something else after Games 1 & 2 in Detroit, after all.

May 5, 2007

Is it really so complicated?

Tonight's entry is prompted by the arrival today of several entries in Google Reader, the most recent entries fed there and published at the Kenneth Burke Journal:

KB Journal feed

The KB Journal is, unfortunately, one of the only journals in our field that is (a) using RSS feeds, and (b) using them correctly. Exhibit A in how not to use them comes from the Project MUSE journals. I was excited to see that their journals had feeds, until the first one arrived. Basically, they feed a link to the table of contents page for new issues. This is okay, I suppose, but differs little from sending announcements to email lists.

What the KB Journal does (and Written Communication and CCC also do) is to create entries for each article, with more information than the fact of its existence. Hell, even the author and title would be an improvement. I use a reader to skim a lot of sites, and to make decisions about whether to follow up. Using them to draw readers to their site, as MUSE does, is to make a bunch of Web 1.0 assumptions about eyeballs, traffic, stickiness, etc. With the MUSE journals:

  • I don't know what I'm getting until I've loaded their page
  • Unless I have an immediate need, I'm likely to forget their content, since there's little point in bookmarking random TOCs
  • I can't bookmark an article to return to it when I have time
  • I can't bookmark one to download to my office machine, where my access to MUSE is automatic
  • I can't look back through recent articles
  • I can't use the journal in any way other than I'd use it if I saw it on a colleague's shelf

But you know what? At least they HAVE. A. FEED. Even if MUSE is doing it wrong, at least they're trying to do it. There are so many journals in our field that haven't even bothered to create feeds that it should be embarrassing to us. And we all know who they are, including some pretty unlikely suspects, journals that should be at the forefront of providing this kind of access.

Here's what it takes to provide a feed of recent articles for a journal:

  • A free account with a blog provider like Blogger or Wordpress

  • The ability, for each article, to:
    • copy and paste relevant information into a textbox

    • Click on "save" or "publish"

That's it. You don't need crazy designs, blogrolls, any modification whatsoever. It doesn't have to be integrated into a larger site or do anything fancy. For pretty much any journal, with readable files for the articles, I could post a new issue in roughly 15 minutes. Four issues a year? Maybe an hour total. One hour. Per year.

You can't tell me that the resulting increase in circulation, were our field to cotton eventually to the notion of RSS readers, wouldn't be worth it. And the benefits to us?

Here's what I see when I go to List View for my Written Communication feed:

Written Communication feed

Not only am I notified when new articles are published, but I have access to the last three or four issues of the journal at all times, from any computer. And I can star them for future reference. Want to follow up on a title? They're expandable:

WC feed, expanded entry

This functionality currently exists for a mere handful of our journals. If the time spent gnashing our teeth about the overwhelming amount of stuff to read were spent instead putting together feeds for all of our journals, you know what? All of a sudden, we'd be able to manage that load much more easily. And I'm not kidding when I suggest that it's really that easy. It is. There's a lot more that could be done, but if our journals would take the tiny step of being responsible for RSS feeds at the point of production/publication, the resulting benefits would be colossal. And that's not me being hyperbolic. Imagine being able to open a browser window and being able to search, read, and bookmark abstracts from the last year or two's worth of journals in our field. Seriously, how much easier would that make our academic lives?

And yes, we have been doing this at the CCC Online Archive for the past 2+ years: http://inventio.us/ccc/atom.xml. But my point isn't to gloat--it's to ask instead why the heck our editors, including many for whom this should be obvious, haven't followed suit.

And that's all. I could get a lot snarkier about this, and I could name names, but let me instead close with an offer. On the off-chance that someone's reading this who wants help setting a feed up, please let me know. Honestly. I'd be happy to show someone just how easy this is.

Cinco de Birthdayo

Derek, Donna, Karl, Kenny, & Soren. Wish them all a happy birthday, won't you?

May 4, 2007


It's only fair that I acknowledge that old-school Warriors' fans, all three or four of them, have had it far leaner than I have as a Bulls fan. I can't say whether this is the biggest upset ever in the NBA, but I will say that I've never seen a more one-sided, key-to-lock series, where one team seemed designed perfectly to take another apart.

And make no mistake--they were dis. man. tled. Say what you will about soft #1 seeds and 8 the hard way--there is no way that this series should have played out like it did. But it's sure been fun to watch. And I'm looking forward to their upcoming series against Hou-Tah.

That is all.