June 6, 2004


It's been a slow weekend, both here and on the ol' aggregator. A handful of remainders I've been meaning to get rid of but haven't had the energy to turn into a paragraph, much less a post:

June 16, 2004

Happy Bloomsday

When I was a junior in college, I spent the spring term studying in Dublin. One of the three courses I took (alongside an Irish Lit survey, and a course in 20th Irish history) was a semester-long reading of Ulysses. Wow. We read one chapter per meeting of the course, and boy, did we read it closely. The only other required reading was a book that contained 18 different "walking tours" of Dublin that corresponded to each of the chapters.

And I'll maintain to my dying day that there was no better way to read Ulysses than that. Our final exam was a 100-question test of stumpers. The only question I can remember, for example, was one that required us to name the four rivers that the funeral procession in chapter 5 crosses. And oh yeah, we had to put them in the correct order. If I remember correctly, I scored like a 96 on it. I couldn't replicate that score now, some 15 years or so later, but I'm still proud of it.

So, Happy Bloomsday, all.

August 2, 2004


Haven't felt much like running a full post lately. Had a couple of ideas, but have had more pressing matters. In the interests, though, of turning the calendar over, I present to you a list of half-bakes:

Blue Moon Trading Co.: I almost wrote a love letter to Nomar yesterday, and thanked him for coming to Chicago. If the Cubs make the playoffs, it won't just be Nomar, of course, but the shot in the arm that he represents will have given them a spark, I suspect. And Shawon-o-meters aside, he's the first Cubs shortstop we can be excited about since Ernie Banks.

MT Courseware: Like Liz, I'm glad that I've waited out changing my blog software. We're now figuring out licensing for MT3, and the features peek over at 6A confirmed my hopes for the features upgrade. And the fact that Liz will be upgrading her Courseware as well made my decision that much easier.

DNC: Much to my surprise, I went cruising over to iControl, my on-demand movie service through digital cable. Well, that wasn't the surprise. What was was that they're offering videos of all the major speeches from the DNC--and for free. I suspect they'll do the same for the RNC, but I must say that it was nice to be able to see Obama outside of a 2-inch Quicktime window...

1 Down, 2 To Go: The second of three dissertation defenses comes tomorrow for me. It's four, actually, but the fourth is a couple of months away, unlike these ones, which are set up 3 in the space of 12 days. It's a powerful lot of extra reading, and I'm happy to do it, but it's tough to layer that on top of my writing schedule.

October 6, 2004


Thinking about a bunch of stuff today, but first, I'd like to go back to what the Vice President just said...

Kerry did it a couple of times, and apparently opened the floodgates. Driving up to Dallas last night, I listened to the debate on the radio, and by far, the most annoying aspect of it was the constant "going back" to previous answers. I understand the temptation to have the last word, but geez. I didn't get to see the candidates themselves, which leaves me hesitant to review the debate itself. Based on my hearing, I felt that the debate was pretty even in the sense that each of them seemed to accomplish what they were after. Cheney's "I don't know where to start" was really odd--on the one hand, it was clear that he was allowed to go off-script (unlike W, I suspect), but when he did, it seemed like he did so because he was flummoxed. (I've seen others say that he was disengaged.)

At any rate, there was a lot more substance, or attempts at substance, last night, and it matched up with a couple of things for me. First, Timothy Burke has a really interesting post today, one that starts from his attitude towards Larry Bowa's dismissal as manager of the Phillies and ends with discussions of evidence as they pertain both to academia and the current discussions about Iraq:

This has been a very large-scale issue with a lot of postmodernist or poststructuralist writing in the humanities and social sciences. Much of it, taken for what it seems to say, ought to make it impossible to make what passes for normal evidentiary use of texts and documents. But I’ve read so many manuscripts now where the author theoretically kicks out the legs of the chair he’s standing on and then tries to float immaculately on air. It might surprise some conservatives and skeptics who probably could uncork a rant about “postmodernist academics? in a moment’s notice, but I think this particular rhetorical gambit has become even more profoundly characteristic of conservative thought and writing than any form of consciously “postmodern? writing.

It seems to me that what Burke is getting at here, to a certain degree, is a contemporary version of what Paolo Valesio called the "rhetoric of no rhetoric," or for you fans of the manuFactor, the spin of no spin. The idea is something like being able to claim that your opponent's evidence is bad, and that somehow, this is evidence for your own claims. And at its root, at least in the context of the next month or so, it's really another form of negative campaigning. You deflect attention from your own record or your own failings or your own lack of positive claims by attacking your opponents'.

I don't know that it's a necessarily conservative strategy, but it makes sense to me that it would be an effective one for incumbents who wish to deflect attention. In this race, Bush and Cheney really can't propose "new" actions, because they've had 3+ years to do what they propose, and new strategies simply raise the question of why they haven't done it before. More broadly, though, this strategy imparts a kind of incumbency upon whoever adopts it, as it places the burden of proof upon an opponent, who must labor to demonstrate hir own lack of bias or the quality of evidence rather than confronting an opponent directly. It's a smart strategy, but it's also one that's largely dishonest. Not only does it distract, but it operates with a patently false assumption, that there's some zero degree of rhetoric, spin, bias that's achievable.

I have a second point to go with my "First," but I'll post it a little later.

November 1, 2004


It's my last full day in Iowa, so I won't likely be posting much over the next few days. Next stop on my national tour is North Carolina, where several of my blogroll regulars and I will be converging and conversing about theory, rhetoric, and writing. I'll do what I can to blog as many of the sessions as I've got energy for.

In local news, Iowa's Republican Senator, the lawn-mowing Chuck Grassley, has scraped the bottom of the endorsement barrel, by inviting Zell "With Democrats like these, who needs Republicans?" Miller to speak on his behalf. My guess is that he'll win, but that's a hunch based largely on the fact that I don't really know who's running against him. That, and the fact that there comes a point in the Senate races where a state has to vote to reject a senator's seniority and all the perks that come with it. It would take a lot more than ill-advised cameos to topple Grassley.

We got a visit from the evil pumpkin faeries over the weekend. Up and down the streets: smashed pumpkins, torn up political signs, and assorted random acts of childish vandalism. I don't think that it's a coincidence that the most popular costume, based on my intentionally unscientific survey, seemed to be "High School Kid Too Lazy to Actually Dress Up." There were lots of them. Even so, it only just beat out "Buzz-cut Nascar Dad Drinking Beer from a Can," but most of the kids in that costume were escorting much smaller angels, power rangers, and superheros from house to house.

I went over to the Quad City Times website, with the idea of snatching a photo from last night's Halloween parade, hopefully one of my dad in his borrowed Galaxie 500 convertible. Alas, though. Only two photos, and if you go look at them close up, you'll see that they're not only devoid of mayors, but they're actually pretty crappy. Using Flickr for the past few weeks has really made me think about how local news organizations might take advantage of social media. To post a photo there, I just send it in an email, and I can title and caption it. If I were working at the QC Times, I think I'd take some of my budget, open up a Flickr account, and give the entire community an opportunity to have their photos published. Pay a small fee to the people whose pictures you use, instead of keeping people on staff to do it. I'm sure that there are loads of good pictures of the parade out there, but I can't access them. Tools like Flickr could turn local news into community news very quickly, and really improve both coverage and access.

I have to admit that I was basically thinking about this last night as well, watching one of the local TV news stations doing disaster stories on Hawaii and Florida, stories whose only local relevance was the shock value of catching a channel surfer's attention. They spent more time on disasters thousands of miles away than they did on local events. I know that this is the norm, but it's a bad one. They led with a good story, one about attempts to defraud some voters by misleading them about their polling places, but after that, the deluge of "interest" stories that actually had nothing to do with the QC.

Yeah, I'm going on and on, when really I'd just intended to do a small, final Iowa entry. See you later this week. That is all.

December 8, 2004

I wonder if I could just give them my Flickr password?

This is downright cool. There's a service called iPod my Photo, whereby you can send them a picture and $20, and they'll remake it in the style of the iPod commercials, like so:

This link comes courtesy, by the way, of Josh Rubin's Cool Hunting, which is easily one of my favorite mind candy sites. I highly recommend it. And for all of you wondering what my logo would like iPodified--okay, I'm the only one wondering--I present to you the results of a quick sidetrip to Photoshop:

iPod my logo

February 3, 2005

Collin vs. A Very Big Day


And this is the just the tip of the iceberg. There's one school of thought that says you're not "official" until you've weathered your first crisis. Me? I like to think that "officiality" comes from the distribution of details: things like nameplates, directory listings, decrees of snack food preferences, and yes, brand spanking new business cards.

However, I am disappointed to report that I still had to officially request that the word "Email:" not appear before my email address. Tempting as it was to play Business Card Exposition (and request that instead of deleting "Email" they add "Name:" in front of my name and "ZIP Code:" in front of 13244), I opted instead for the path of least sarcastance.

The mildly perplexing part: it cost us as much to remove the word "Email" as it would have to add the word "Name." Changes are changes are changes, it would seem.

February 8, 2005

Would you like change with that?

I've gotten into the habit lately, whenever I'm at the office late (a phrase which is rapidly approaching the status of self-evident redundancy), of phoning ahead an order to some place on my way home and just picking up take-out. Tonight I stopped at a sandwich place, and grabbed a Sprite to add to my order. So far, so good.

The woman rings me up, and it's the same price quoted to me over the phone. Oops, I say, did you forget to add this on? Oh! So then she subtracts it from my price, invoking the seldom-used Sprite discount, I guess. I've already handed her my money, and she starts to make change.

"No no no, I think you accidentally subtracted my drink. Just add it on twice."

Oh. My. God. Confusion ensues, and I stand there for five minutes, explaining it to her twice, doing the correct math in my head (with sales tax), and assuring her that she shouldn't be giving me as much change as she thinks she should. Finally, she brings over another cashier, who just rings it up right the first time.

It's not like it was a big deal: a few minutes, a couple of bucks, whatevs. But the weird social awkwardness of persuading someone to give me less change? I should have just taken the Sprite discount.

That is all.

May 1, 2005

I relearn something new every Mayday

Under the heading of "Things I Think I Used to Know but Clearly Have Forgotten Despite Their Status as Occasional Curiosities," please include an entry on the definition of Mayday. On the one hand, "May Day" is May 1, which is not so much a big holiday Stateside or anything, but enough of one that most people are familiar with it. On the other hand, "Mayday" is an international distress call, whose etymology is most likely unrelated to a holiday celebrating the arrival of spring.

Enter Wikipedia:

Mayday is an emergency code word used internationally as a distress signal. Some people say that it was derived from the French Venez m'aider (help me)...Many official sources, however, say that the word was made up -- like the distress signal SOS -- because it could not be mixed up with any other word, is easy to remember and can be understood even if the strength of the radio signal is weak.

Sure it was made up. It's so substantially different, after all, from words like "payday" and "melee." I realize that it's not currently vogue fashionable 'round these parts to admit to borrowing words from the French Freedom, but puh-lease.

Anyhow, next year, on May 1st, all I'll have to do is to include a link to this entry.

June 7, 2005

Late night television

"It's time that y'all had the chance to find out what it's like being Bobby Brown," or something moronic like that. Apparently, I jinxed Bravo last week, so that they felt obliged to announce, as part of their summer lineup, the new reality show called "Being Bobby Brown." There are so many bad jokes buried in there that I don't even know where to begin.

On the plus side, though, I got home just in time tonight to flip over to the Daily Show and see Jon Stewart interview Steven Johnson, which brings to a grand total now of 1 the number of people I've ever met personally who have appeared on the Daily Show. The trick for us bookish folk is that Jon has a rhythm to his banter that can make a body appear stilted. I was pleased to see, though, that Steven managed the interview well. Serious without being too serious, ya know?

June 13, 2005


For a brief spell tonight, the weather finally broke. For the past week or so, and I can testify to this based on first-hand experience, the temperature failed to dip below the low 80s, even at, say, 2 in the morning. For the past week or so, I've managed to get to sleep only on the combination of sheer exhaustion, the heavy rotation of ice packs from freezer to pillows, and what I've come to recognize as fan chill (where the temperature doesn't really drop, but the sheer number of fans convinces your lizard brain that it's cooler than it actually is).

Tonight, however, rain glorious rain! And it dropped as low as 71, according to It's still warmer than I like when it comes to sleep, but I'll take it.

Also a couple of miscellaneous links that have refused to disconnect from one another: From the Department of Words that I Wish I'd Made Up, I'll refer you to Bill Tozier's discussion of crackpots, and particularly for "psychoceramics," which is the term for the study of crackpots. There's a psychoceramics mailing list, and a LJ community, but it was the first time I'd seen the word itself. Genius. Now if someone would just write a spot-on Asimov parody (Confoundation?) substituting psychoceramics for psychohistory.

Anyhow, I thought it was quite a hoot, and I appreciate the sentiment behind Bill's psychoceramica:

I think we should pay attention to and catalog kooks and crackpots and religious fanatics for the same reason we pay attention to people with genetic diseases that result in biochemical anomalies. Because by looking at the exceptions and cataloging them, we will learn far more about the underlying “wild type? cognointellectual framework of science and thought. By seeing what’s broken, and the consequences thereof, we can gather data with which we might piece together the normal complex dynamics of learning, discourse, and thought.

Now, lest you think there's no place for kooks and crackpots in the world, I would refer you to a link I picked up from Cool Hunting for a Dutch design studio called OOOMS. At OOOMS, you will find such products as Hairhats, made 100% from human hair, or Hollow Land earthenware, which reproduces exactly a hole from "somewhere in the Netherlands." By far, though, my fave is the Anti-Gravity machine, which looks a little like a rolling trebuchet, and which, once attached, allows you to "get the feeling of walking on the moon."

Genius. The Quicktime demo made me want it even more.

That is all. Except for the fact that I'll probably dream tonight of building my own rebellious cabinet.

August 26, 2005

While you wait

Good vs Evil, Flickr-style.

October 10, 2005


This is my question:

Is there a term for people who are spatially challenged? I've always been pretty good with maps and with translating them into physical location--several summers of pizza delivery will do that for you. But I also encounter so many people who claim that they have trouble with space (including a random carload of strangers last night). So, somewhat in parallel with dyslexia, my proposal for such a term is dyschoria.

There are certain parts of Syracuse that flip me around direction-wise, which I will henceforth describe as dyschoral, for all that they induce in me temporary dyschoric episodes.

I'm sure that there's another term out there, what with all the emphasis in recent years on multiple intelligences (spatial intelligence is one of them), but if there is, I haven't found it yet. And "dyschoria" leads to only one result on Google, at least until this entry cycles through.

That is all.

October 19, 2005

Common Census

Here's a groovy little information visualization (hat tip to infosthetics),

a collaboratively generated geographical map of the US that visualizes how the country is organized culturally, as opposed to its traditional political boundaries. the map attempts to show how the country is divided into 'spheres of influence' between different cities at the national, regional & local levels. in practice, it is based on the collective 'votes' from thousands of users about which city they belong to, what they consider to be their local area & which major city most influences their area, as well as their life.

You can cast your "vote" over at their site,

Me? I just like the pretty colors...

November 20, 2005

5 Places I Would Rather Have Been

  1. National Communication Association, Boston

  2. National Council of Teachers of English, Pittsburgh

  3. Tinderbox Weekend, San Francisco

  4. Battle of the Books, NYC

  5. On my laurels, resting

January 1, 2006


What better way to flip the calendar here than by welcoming Debbie officially to the neighborhood? I know that I already cited her new blog, but hey, there's a difference between citation and welcome, yes?

Without naming names (since the only one I can think of right now would probably get me into trouble), let me just say that the worst thing in the world is to see a great title used up for a bad movie, CD, or book. No one will ever be able to use that title again--it's wasted. Had I not seized upon Collin vs. Blog as a title, and grown into it, I would have wanted to title my blog something like Blogos, as Debbie has, and so it should definitely be read as a compliment when I say that that's not a waste of that title.

It's also appropriate for me to welcome Debbie to the blogosphere at this time of year, because she and I met for the first time at MLA, maybe in Toronto. I had seen her a time or two at CCCC, I think, and so, when I saw her in a hotel lobby waiting (as I was) for an interview, I walked up and introduced myself. (My feeling was that this may have skewed her subsequent impressions of me, since I've introduced myself that way to no more than 3 people my whole life...) Later on, I placed an essay in the JAC issue she and John M put together on posthuman rhetorics, and we've chatted on and off ever since then.

At this year's MLA, I discovered that she may be the only person I've ever met who's more openly and explicitly nervous about public speaking than I am. While I wouldn't wish that status on anyone, I must admit that it's a little comforting (although it won't make me any less nervous).

So there you go. You know a little more about Debbie, and now you must go to her blog and show her a little love. Leave a comment, wish her happy new year, etc.

That is all.

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.

April 12, 2006

The blog and I, we

The blog and I, we
Will soon post something better
Than crappy haiku

January 9, 2007

Odds and ends

A bunch of small pieces, loosely blogged:

Congrats to all my friends in Gator Nation. Last night's "championship" was hardly one at all after about 10 minutes. Florida exposed OSU even more radically than USC exposed Michigan. Maybe it was selective listening on my part, but I didn't hear all those talking heads who were calling for the Big 10 rematch apologizing for wasting our time. That's why two teams from the same conference in college football shouldn't play for the title--unless we get past a system that rewards weak non-conference schedules, you simply can't trust that a given conference is the best.

Unfortunately, this year's BCS came courtesy of some of the worst announcing I can recall in recent years. I like Alvarez okay, but he's got no experience announcing. Charles Davis was audibly checking rosters for the names of the players during his commentary. And you could practically hear Brennaman getting corrected in his earphone when he demonstrated his complete lack of knowledge about college rules (as opposed to the NFL). I understand that the BCS runs on greed, but giving the majority of the games to FOX, when they don't run games during the year, is absurd. And the commentary was in places unbearable. They should be embarrassed, the BCS should be embarrassed, and we should get some announcers next year who actually have some minimal familiarity with the game itself, the teams, and the profession. I'm not asking for stars, just for competency.

Speaking of stars, I should note the passing of Le Blogue. Like Donna, I'm a little sad that Michael's taking it offline, but I understand, too. Timothy's discussion, of some of the challenges of blog celebrity, makes a lot of sense as well, though. Our tendency is to differentiate among blogs according to the topics they take up, but there is an important distinction (or series of distinctions) to be made among blogs at different points along the distribution curve as well. Even down here on the Tail, the owners of relatively popular sites can find themselves spending a lot of time managing conversations, comment threads, etc. In other words, there's a lot of invisible work that goes into sites as popular as Michael's, and that makes it hard for me to begrudge him his retirement from blogspace.

Finally, regardless of what happens this year, I'll be on a new contract. And you're absolutely nuts if you don't think that new contract will include some provision for this. I'll most likely spend the first month or so just cycling through all the features and showing it to anyone who will look. shiny....

That is all.

March 8, 2007

This week did not take place

If I were in a different mood today, perhaps I'd have something a little more witty to write about the fact that Jean Baudrillard and Captain America died within a day of each other. Instead, a snippet from Cool Memories 2:

Something is there from the beginning, runs like a spiral through a whole life, but one day, most often unexpectedly, it is over. The whole system merely hung by a thread. It only took a detail to obliterate it.

Ken is posting some entries about JB over at Ghost that are worth checking. But I suspect that other quality observations about JB's career will be tough to find for a while at least. Like Diane, I think that Seduction is still an important read, although I'm also partial to a lot of his earlier work, including SimSim, Fatal Strategies, and Shadow. Not coincidentally, I suppose, these are all pretty close to one another in terms of chronology.

Given the relative amount of attention that each has received in the US media over the past 24-48 hours, I'm sure that JB would be amused about being overshadowed by the "death" of a fictional character.

That is all.

September 21, 2007

You Gotta Be In It to Win It

Or so the New York State Lottery would have me believe.

Two days later, I still enjoy a lightly stunned amazement over the fact that Dale is one of the four finalists on Top Chef. I wasn't particularly surprised that he and SaraM were the bottom two, and I don't really think that she deserved to stay any more than he did, but still. Hard to believe he's going to Aspen.

My theory on Hung (whom I still believe will be in the finale with a decent shot at winning) is that he's got enough technique to do well if others fail, but not really enough creativity or vision to outright win it. Sort of the culinary equivalent of book smarts, I suppose, which is why last week's challenge was tailored perfectly for him. I think Casey and even Brian have more upside, but Hung has been steady. And yes, steadily annoying. It was almost more than I could take watching him break out the "root for me, the poor immigrant who wants nothing more than to make good on his American dream" goofiness. On the plus side, though, I was a little surprised that Dale took umbrage at the fact that Hung wasn't willing to help the others in the Quickfire by telling them how he did it. Evs.

Ah well. The other "in it" I've had my eye on is of course my Cubs, who have somehow both stayed on top and magically, inexplicably, become the team with the largest lead over their 2nd place contender. I want to personally thank both the Mets and Sawx for performing some of the most epic chokes in the history of MLB, because it's taken all the attention off of the Cubs' own penchant for air flow restriction. No one cares whether the Cubs might choke when the Mets and Sawx are doing it in such style.

That's it for now.

November 22, 2007

Unclog the blog!

A few notes, each of which could be a longer entry, and may still be, depending on my mood this weekend:

-Kindle rhymes with swindle: why I won't be indulging my gadget fetish on Amazon this holiday
-Poster sessions at MLA: a good idea whose time may not be here yet
-The likelihood that 3 or 4 of my least favorite NFL teams will be vying for Superbowl spots this year
-The gratitude that the Texas Rangers must be feeling for Scott Borass, now that they no longer have to subsidize the AL MVP's presence on another team
-Communication As..., my new favorite book
-Web3.0? Seriously? (A strong maybe)

We'll see. Happy Day of the Turkey.