Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Blogroll crisis

At some point during RSA (most likely during and/or after Jodie Nicotra's paper on folksonomies), I started thinking about the odd categorization within some blogrolls, especially mine own.

As you can see, I have two especially large categories--"Blogs at Large" and "Rhet/Comp"--along with several less-populated categories. I did this separation mostly to make my bloglines account a more efficient reading experience: I tend to favor reading Rhet/Comp blogs first, so I wanted those blogs in a separate category. And some of the other blogs just seemed "different"--blogs for courses that I'm teaching, or blogs that are primarily news feeds--so it seemed to make sense to have them separated out from the others. (I know I could have a blogroll apart from my bloglines account, but that's not what I'm wishing to do right now.)

But what happens when I want to add someone who fits ambiguously? For example, having attended Josh Gunn's panel at RSA, I now want to add his blog. Now, while he certainly writes about "rhetoric," his academic home is in communication studies, not that entity known as "rhet/comp," which is generally associated with English, and most certainly associated with the teaching and study of writing.

Should I change the name of the category, perhaps? To something like "Rhetoric, Writing, and Communication"? Maybe, but then what to do with Keri's blog? Keri has been in two of my classes, but her academic home is "English Education," which includes the study of literature and the study of writing. As a result of my not knowing what to do with her (just move her to "Blogs at Large," why don't you?), she's languishing in my "Course Affiliated" category, but set to private.

It makes one want to default to those seemingly random categories from Borges (cited by Foucault). Oh, yeah. Bérubé already has.

OK, so. That's the crisis. But the thing I was thinking, while thinking about folksonomies and the art of tagging, is that it would make more sense to simply list the blogs and add tags. And then make it so that the tags can be clicked on and so arrange the blogs according to a given tag.

Except that I don't know how to do that. At least not in a blogroll.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The conferencing tourist

Some photos, not really of RSA, but of a stop at Lambert's on the way and of a visit to Graceland while there.

First, Lambert's, where R and I stopped for lunch on Friday. Lambert's likes to give you way more food (fried catfish for R, vegetable plate for me) than you can possibly eat, and then offer more. But, of course, what they really like is to throw you a roll. I've got three versions: a bronze statue of the throwing, a version on a mural, and a real life throwing.

Bronze roll thrower

Lambert's Mural

The throwing of the roll

And now to Graceland:

The dining room, somewhat obscured by these two tourists who were in front of me ;-)
Graceland dining room with j & j

The basement TV room, graced with one of several white monkeys
Graceland basement monkey

And a view of the back of Graceland (because everyone has seen the front)
Graceland, back view

Monday, May 29, 2006

The return

I'm still astonished that it takes only 6 hours (or even a little less if there's no stop for throwed rolls) to get from Memphis to Columbia. At any rate, that's all it took, so I was back in town in time to have dinner with C. Simon the Siamese cat sniffed me with interest, as if he couldn't quite remember who I was. Then he remembered, and nipped my ankle. What a sweetheart, eh?

RSA was lovely. Really, one of my all-time favorite conference experiences, I would have to say. Excellent panels, goodly companionship. The one and only previous RSA I attended was in Las Vegas, where I met up with my sisters and niece, who thought the conference was a good excuse for them to vacation there. They attended my panel and reported that they could understand nothing. (When they found themselves in San Antonio during the CCCC a couple of years later, they declined repeating that experience.) Now I realize that I've really been missing out on what is truly a superior conferencing experience and plan to miss no more.

Look for some more entries about RSA, complete with photos, in the next day or two.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A simple observation after 15 hours in Memphis

Free wireless internet access at the Peabody! Woo-hoo!

And later today: Graceland!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


You all know about Barbaro. Maybe you're a little sick of hearing about Barbaro. I have to admit that I'm one of those people who is eager to hear news about him. The latest: he continues to improve. (But it will be months, months before he's in the clear.)

Now, it's all a bit odd, isn't it? Odd that I, and millions of other people are so fixated? Odd that a sport that requires tons of money to participate (as owner), depends on gambling, and relies on horses bred for centuries to develop the elegant and fragile legs that break all too easily should have the intensity to knock up against me and many others?

I'm not here to analyze that, though. I'm just here to declare it. And to blame my fascination, at least, on the left-over stirrings of a girlhood fascination with horses. (You know, Marguerite Henry (who even wrote a historical novel about a forefather of the thoroughbred) was my favorite author. Misty of Chincoteague, et al. I even had a model of Misty, not to mention a number of thoroughbreds: Man O' War, Citatation, and Ruffian, the amazing dark bay filly who also, tragically, broke a leg while racing.)

Of course, that's common, too. And there are ideas about what that means (hello, anna freud).

It's just, I don't know, strange, affecting, to find myself pulled into the horsey world again. I haven't watched a horse race in years. (Back when I was a youngster and watched the races of the Triple Crown, horses seemed to be winning them right and left. Two years in a row, anyway. And another came in second in all three--the first time that ever happened. So it all seemed to go downhill from there.) And every year there seems to be a horse with the "spark," the stamina, the something that might foreshadow another Triple Crown, after all these many years. That talk, too, has become so common as to be fairly unconvincing.

I have to say, though, the talk about Barbaro had drawn me in. It even occured to me to think about watching the Preakness, but I got busy doing something else (probably working on my RSA paper) and forgot. I'm kinda glad I forgot.

The interesting thing, though, is to re-enter the world of horse-fascination in the age of the internet. You can find the genealogy of any thoroughbred online. You can read up on famous thoroughbreds.

Wow. It's like heaven for the horse-obsessed. If only I could be 10 years old again, I know what I would be doing all summer.

But, don't worry. I won't. I've got other things to do.

Still, I've gotta say I remain pretty smitten with the look of a horse. Barbaro is mighty beautiful. Ultimately, I think, it's about beauty.

(But, rather than end on too sentimental a note, let me remind myself:unless you're a Rockefeller --or a skeik--you aren't likely able to own many thoroughbreds, much less pay the thousands and thousands of dollars going toward the unprecedented medical treatment of Barbaro. Money, and a sport that can kill the athlete. Not things to be sentimental about, really.)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Speaking of tripping

Next week, RSA in Memphis. My colleague R. and I are driving there. (I should say, R. is driving, since she's taking her car and I don't do manual.)

She wants to make kitschy stops along the way. No problem: Lambert's is on the way.

Home of "throwed rolls."

When we were living in Carbondale and making trips to Texas to visit my family, C. and I stopped a time or two at Lamberts. They really do throw the rolls. You've gotta catch them. Mostly, people catch them. Sometimes they don't, and so a roll is lost. Servers also come round with big bowls of fried okra, black-eyed peas, macaroni and tomatoes. (Which are all free sides, in addition to whatever you happened to order.) Yeah, it's kinda over the top. But kinda southern, too. So, all in all, I kinda like it, in a nostalgic sort of way. It's the kind of place I imagine any member of my immediate family would like quite a lot, if only any of them actually traveled.

But, of course, Memphis itself offers the biggest shrine to kitsch of them all. You know what I'm talking about:

Looks like tickets are available online: maybe reservations are in order?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Desperate Bloggers

It's that time of year: the end of the semester/beginning of the summer slump. Yellow Dog is feeling it. As is this humble blog.

I mean, here's how bad it is: This morning, I'm thinking about this article in the science section of today's NYTimes, about an elderly woman with difficult to diagnose case of shingles. And I remember how I came down with a mild but nonetheless painful case of shingles just before I started my first tenure-track job (you know, how many stressful hits can a body take before it rebels: the job search, the dissertation defense, the move--I'm surprised every academic doesn't get a case of shingles just before starting the first job.).

Yeah, I think, that's identification: my reading of this article leads me to "identify" with a piece of it. But it isn't what the writer "planned," it isn't the "meaning" or even the evocation "intended" by the writer. That's why reader response matters. And that's an example of a text hitting a person and going off in an unanticipated direction. That's intensity. (As you can see, I'm really cooking now.)

And maybe, I start to ponder, maybe shingles are an interesting case when thinking about affective contagion. Because the virus causing shingles just lies dormant in your body (if you've ever had chicken pox), waiting for the body's defenses to go down so that it can emerge. I start thinking that social theories haven't really accounted for the shingle effect, that we need to think about how someone might "catch" an affect, that the affect might initially "do" something, but that it might lie dormant for years, decades. Hmm. But then how to think about what might reawaken it? Hmm.

And then I think:

I'm gonna blog this.

And heck if--despite later abandoning the idea as something you think is brilliant while you're thinking it and pretty wretched later--I haven't.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Listing toward Tuesday

(1) Grades are due tomorrow. So am in final dash to the finish. How is it that so many of my fellow bloggers are done already? Ah well. Soon enough, I will be, too.

(2) Then it's on to getting that RSA paper in shape. ("The Burke Affect," in which I will be talking about identification, but I seem to have no brain space at the moment to think about Collin's question. Maybe others do?)

(3) And, at the same time, will be working with R. on our chapter for an edited collection.

(4) And, also at the same time, working on my book revisions.

Much writing coming up, then, which will no doubt trickle onto the blog. And I'll slough off (2) and (3) by mid-summer, so that by August I'll be almost exclusively at (4). And in the fall (yea!) I'll be on leave. Pure (4).

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The linking habit

Last week, Megan, a student in my blogging class (who was blogging long before she took the class, btw), mentioned that she had the urge to create a link in a traditional text she was writing for a class:

I’m writing a paper and I suddenly have the overwhelming urge to link “Newark Public Library” within in my paper, so that my readers can get more information about my reference. Footnotes are new to me this semester. I’ve never used them before in my papers. But now I’m making a leap to virtual footnotes, an inherently bloggish technique?

Now she's created a really neat image to represent that urge. And she suggests that linking allows for more creativity, giving the reader more original writing with relevant links, should the reader wish to see the "background" for a given idea:

A link does not intrude or interrupt the flow of what I’m saying, but should my reader be sufficiently interested in finding out more information, they can click at their leisure. The interactivity of a blog post also puts more onus on the reader to extract the full experience of what they’re reading. The reader can read through what’s posted, or they can take more time and click the available links to give the post more breadth. Because the burden of finding out the background or ancillary information is shifted to the reader, the poster can focus in on what they want to say and write a briefer, more succinct, meatier post which gives their opinion without having to sift through a bunch of summary, etc. In this way, readers who are already familiar with the topic are not burdened with having to filter the post for only the unique parts and readers who have no idea what you’re talking about can get all the information they need to sufficiently “read” your post.

And I'm thinking that all this suggests so many possibilities for teaching writing. I've previously tried asking students to create hypertext documents so that they could get at this basic idea of using links to represent the sources without getting bogged down in the sources themselves. But active blogging probably teaches that practice much, much better than assigning a somewhat isolated hypertext document. Active blogging develops a habit, whereas trying out hypertext seems simply like a novelty.

Another thing to remember, to keep in my writing-teacher toolbox.

Monday, May 08, 2006

If only

I had something to tell you that would amuse or edify you.

I've got nothing. I woke up this morning at 3:30, worrying over a final project I had assigned one of my classes. (No, not the blogging portfolios. A different class.) A student had emailed me yesterday asking how she could improve her project because she wanted an A. I think that email was burrowing through my subconscious and so prompted the strange 3:30 worrying.

As a result, I'm overtired. Had to get ready for a meeting. Had a meeting. Had to get ready to announce a set of awards. Went to reception and announced awards. Remembered that I needed to call my vet to get a refill for Clyde's medication. (He has hyperthyroidism, which has very unpleasant symptoms if untreated. And while it's true it can be "cured" through radioactive treatment, I've chosen to avoid the necessity of dealing with radioactive waste products. Yes. That's right. Radioactive waste products.) Learned they dispensed the last tubes of methimazole gel on Friday. (What! They give that gel to other clients?? I thought it was all for me.) Asked for pills instead. Pill pockets make it possible to successfully pill a cat who really, REALLY doesn't like to have his mouth opened. But he'll eat anything.

As you can see, nothing here to delight or edify. (And way too much information about medicating my cat. When tired, I go into hyperfelinism.) So, instead, for those of you who may be putting in a final grading push this week or next, I'm pointing you to this (fairly) recent blog entry by E Hayot at Printculture. It's a post about the importance and yet unpleasantness of grading. It made me feel better to hear someone put it so well. I tend to feel guilty because I don't like grading. I mean, aren't I supposed to love all aspects of my job? So, thank you, E (another UWM alum) for helping me be miserable and happy, all at the same time. It proves the maxim.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Cats, because I want to

As promised, in celebration of cinco de mayo, I'm posting some recent photos of Gabe and Simon, the two youngsters in my household.

Because, how can you have a happy cinco de mayo sin los gatos? And I do hope all of you out in the blogosphere do have a happy one. It's a festive day, for so many reasons.

First, a teaser: Gabe in the sink (yeah, I know: it's a whole genre). Simon's below the fold.
Gabe in sink 2

Simon stretches, offering up a baboon face.
Simon baboon face

Simon rests, extending a paw.
Simon and his paw

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Travels of the meme

Memes circulate, and I never think much about their moments of emergence or how they make their way through networks. But when I saw that Steve Krause had just taken up the "last word" meme and had attributed it to jill/txt, I just had to take a look on technorati to see how that had happened. I felt pretty sure that Debbie had invented the meme on Monday, so it was shocking to find it attributed to someone else (and by a fellow rhet/comp blogger) just two days later.

Here's what I discovered:

It's all because of Nels.

Nels, I submit, is what Malcolm Gladwell calls a "connector":

What makes someone a Connector? The first--and most obvious--criterion is that Connectors know lots of people. They are the kinds of people who know everyone. All of us know someone like this. But I don't think that we spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of these kinds of people.

Gladwell sees Connectors as an important network link for the effecting of social contagion (like memes). (See also Peter Morville's analysis and charts that illustrate the importance of connectors in social networks.)

And why do I say Nels is the Connector? (Or, at the very least, one important Connector.) Take a look at his blogroll, would you. Not only is it long, but it includes a healthy mix of pseudononymous and nonpseudononymous blogs. His blogging serves as an important transfer point between these sometimes separate blogospheres.

Plus, in following the movement of this meme on technorati, I found this significant trace, posted at 10:02 pm on Monday, May 1:

Nels looked up the last word from his dissertation, so I did, too.

And so it happened. After that, the attribution tended to continue to remove itself further from the original source.

So, Debbie, not only did you create a blog entry with a record number of comments, but you also created a wildly proliferating meme. Blogos rocks.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

KB x 2

The grading of many papers has taken up much space in my life over the past few days. I was so tired on Sunday that I had trouble staying awake during a lovely set by the Kenny Barron trio. That's just silly.

Anyway, in between moments of grading, I keep coming back to the same idea when I think about my RSA paper (which deals with Kenneth Burke and affect). And I quickly write it down on my computer so that I'll remember it. (Yes, I've quickly written down the same idea more than once. Because I forgot that I had the same idea previously. Lord.)

And now I'm blogging it because goodness knows I need something up here.

Burke's many faces are the Burke affect: suggesting possibilities rather than rigid identities. So maybe identification isn't really identification unless we read it through Massumi's theory of non-identification. It's not a fixed meaning. And the reason Burke continues to fascinate is precisely because his texts are not arguments, they are not fixed. The parlor is not simply a parlor. It is many, many parlors. Suggests hypertext. (So goes against the use of Burke to "fix" us into a certain mode of argumentation---Graff and Birkenstein, eg.)

There you go. I'm going to somehow turn that into a 15 minute presentation by the end of the month.

And you do know, of course, that it's his birthday Friday? Just checking.