The Pats are comfortably handling Miami so I'm surfing the web for comics (following a conversation at lunch last week). For some reason I need to share this with the world [you can click on the post title to see the original over at xkcd.com]:

Happy holidays. No, really. I mean it.

Nintendo needs to hire Johnny Chung Lee

I've spent the last couple of days playing the online mode of Medal of Honor Heroes 2. Nothing special (it really suffers from a lack of player communication--no voice plus grenades equals frustration. But the immersive wii interface makes the game fun. Now imagine if the good people at Nintendo paid more attention to Mr. Lee's newest hack (I posted Lee's motion sensor hack a few months back):


One in a billion (of billions)

Today science loses one of its most significant public speakers. In an age in which science and technology becomes exponentially more complex, we need more people like Sagan who can connect university research to the general public. I just finished copyediting Dave Tietge's Rational Rhetoric for the Parlor Press, so I've got science and the public sphere on my brain (no link to the book yet).

Anywho, how about some baloney detection[boo flash navigation that doesn't allow direct links--you'll find the baloney detector, a nice primer on Aristotelian logical fallacies, under "ideas"].


I Am Legend


I give a big thumbs up to Warner Bros. marketing department for not giving anything away in their commercials. I hadn't read the book, so it was fresh to me. This is the best movie I've seen in a theater in quite a long time; if you have two hours, steal away and see it.


Show about Nothing

As a baseball fan and a rhetorician, I feel compelled to write something on the Mitchell report. But since I'm in the midst of grading, and my baby's making that "you better be ready to pick me up" face, I'll keep this brief.

The media has consistently framed the Mitchell report as a sign of Bud Selig's complicity in the steroids era. Selig, thinking of his legacy, needs a public display that says "I cleaned up the steroids problem." He is worried, this argument goes, that he will be remembered as the commish who turned a blind eye. This very well might be true.

But I would argue that the obsessive media coverage of steroids and baseball is also significant. It represents the media's guilt over the summer of 1998. I was a cynical and sophomoric 22 that summer and remember looking at McGwire and Sosa and thinking one thing: "juice." I do not believe anyone educated enough to write for a newspaper or work for a television station could look at those players and not suspect that there was something non-natural going on. Especially people who have access to locker rooms. Especially people who could see the bottles of Andro. I know 1998 was way back before Google--but I'm pretty sure professional reporters could talk to doctors. The obsessive media coverage of performance enhancing substances is an implicit acknowledgment of culpability. They know they should have acted on what we all suspect. Their claims that "we didn't have subpoena power" is hollow and shameful. And they know it. So now the witches are contributing to the hunt.

I don't mean to come off as some superior know-it-all. I knew they were using drugs and didn't care. If a professional athlete is willing to risk health and future to smash a ball 400 feet, awesome. 500 feet? Even better. See-- I told you it was cynical and sophomoric. Only one thing makes me care about the issue now, pathetic as it is (and I mean that in the most rhetorical of senses): the children. A trickle-down economics goes something like this: if I want to make the majors, I got to make the minors, if I want to make the minors, I have to get the scholarship, if I want to get the scholarship, I have to start, if I want to start, I have to make the team, if I want to make the team, I have to play AAU, etc. At the end of the chain? Steroids. I have a 12 year old nephew who plays baseball, and he's already aware of teammates using performance enhancing drugs.

But I won't buy into the excessive hype over the history of baseball. I laugh when people ask "how do we compare Barry Bonds to Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth?" A better question would be: how do you compare Hank Aaron to Babe Ruth? Consider:

  • Changes to the composition of baseballs and bats
  • Radically different dimensions to ball parks
  • Changes to the height of the pitcher's mound [for those who don't follow baseball, this might be the greatest change of all]
  • The development of closers and middle relievers [who radically change the way the game is played--back in the 1930's no one through more than a few breaking balls an inning for risk of blowing out their arm, with specialty relievers and pitch counts, pitchers throw the nasty with particularly more frequency]
  • Oh yeah, the competitive impact of minorities on the game
  • The introduction of weight rooms [Cal Ripken once discussed how when we came up in the early 80's players were discouraged from lifting weights. Common wisdom was that muscle was slow. Apparently they weren't aware of "twitch" muscles]

There's probably more changes that I just can't think of right now. My point is that there are so many changes in the history of baseball that we choose to ignore: steroids is just the line in the sand. I feel that history will view the steroids phenomenon as the first public foray into the ethics of cybernetic enhancement- the first time that science threatens to greatly impact the composition of a human being. It will not be the last.


Women in Games

MTV's Multiplayer site is pulblishing a series of interviews this week with women working in professional games. So far I've read the first two--X-Play's Morgan Webb (who at some point in my life went from being the beautiful woman talking about games to the really cool woman talking about games to the really cool person talking about games) and Jane Pinckard aka Game Girl Advance. Both women talk about how being a woman in games presents both "challenges and opportunities" in Pinckard's words. File this one away for the next time a freshman [male] insinuates that "we've solved that gender problem."


Take a Break from Grading...

...and start evaluating things in five seconds or less. Even comes with instantaneous feedback. Go ahead, you deserve some free time.


Davis > Derrida > Levinas

Today's reading: John Muckelbauer's "Rhetoric, Asignification, and the Other: A Response to Diane Davis" and D. Diane Davis' "The Fifth Risk: A Response to John Muckelbauer's Response". Muckelbauer challenges the assumption that any discourse or pedagogy can claim ethical or political superiority, all share "a different orientation into the impossible wager of discourse" (he is specifically discussing the hermeneutics of Mailloux, the Levinasian alterity of Davis, and the possibility of a third position). Muckelbauer's conclusions performs well his argument that rhetoric, as an art, is not solely concerned with what can be told or shown--it is also very much a matter of feeling.

That is, one of the crucial lessons of Levinas's and Davis's work may well be that, rather than being the telos of rhetoric, judgment may simply be the residue of asignifying, rhetorical processes. But none of these discourses would have any heightened purchase on those processes, as each of them is nothing more (or less) than a different orientation into the impossible wager of discourse, some of which are driven by the desire to criticize or advocate, and some of which are driven by the desire to immanently interrupt the operations of critique and advocacy. In the end, perhaps the best that one can hope for is an impossible encounter with the other on the necessarily impure terrain of the same. Of course, this hope cannot tell you what to do. It cannot tell you what to denounce and it cannot tell you what to endorse. Then again, perhaps it can.

It is the precarious placement of the perhaps--itself an interruption--that interrupts the desire for a Certain judgment. Sweet. And, of course, reading his conclusion made me want to write this post...

I find stomach rejecting Muckelbauer's conclusion--its a bit queezy and tied up in knots, but my head hasn't quite caught up yet (and this returns to his opening point: that rhetoric is more than reason, its sense). This might have something to do with sleep deprivation, who knows. But, while we might not have a stable foundation from which we can make decisions of absolute supremacy, this does not mean we cannot hypothesize from the mists. I believe our orientation toward discourse can affect its political and ethical impact; and Davis' picks up on this when she writes/cites that for Levinas "ethics is not some 'proper response' but this interruption of the self by the other, each time, in which 'the I loses its sovereign coincidence with itself, its identification' ("Trace of the Other 353)." This does not mean that we can extract one ethical program from Levinas' work--rather, we are provided with a first principle, one that eschews egoism and synthesis.

The following comes from the conclusion of Davis' response to Muckelbauer:

Judgment with an eye to justice has no illusions of finality; it is a tentative gesture that is offered without clarity or certitude, both as a test and an invitation. In Otherwise than Being, Levinas writes: "This book interprets the subject as hostage and the subjectivity of the subject as a substitution breaking with being's essence. The thesis is exposed imprudently" (Otherwise than Being 184). Derrida notes that for Levinas the thesis "is therefore not posed, it is imprudently and defenselessly exposed, and yet that very vulnerability is ('this weakness is necessary,' we will read a little later on) the provocation to responsibility for the other, it leaves a place for the other in a taking-place of this book where this here no longer shuts in upon itself, upon its own subject" ("At This Very Moment in This Text Here I Am" 31). As Avital Ronell puts it, "rather than flexing a thetic muscle that would buff up under the light of truth, Levinas offers a discourse vulnerable to its own sense of exposure, frailty and uncertainty" ("The Sacred Alien: Heidegger's Reading of Hölderlin's 'Andenken")


Email Standards

File this one under its about time. A grassroots movement for better cross-client compatibility. The major targets? Gmail and Outlook. Here's to hoping they can have some success. Here's a link to their test email and the properties they are focusing on

Life (or Something Like It)

Finally. I'm back.

My laptop's hard drive died three weeks ago (a couple days after my last post). Stone dead. I had to send if off to the nice people at On Track Data Recovery and pay their extortion reasonable fee of #$%@ dollars to get my data back. Silly me hadn't backed up his files for a few months. Translation: I would have lost half my dissertation, a draft of an article, a ton of reading notes, and all my job search files. For anyone who hasn't gone through a Ph.D. job search, the latter really hurt (especially since I track what I've sent where in spread sheets...). But now, I've got my data back. And Apple gave me a brand new laptop. Yay.

Being laptop-less for almost a month taught me how much I rely on this sleek, black machine. Actually, that's too negative a spin: it taught me how much more productive this machine allows me to be (better, right mrxk?). At times I felt useless without my laptop. I've been about as productive in the five days I've had it back as the three weeks I went without it...

As far as this blog: posts should begin to pick up again. My job search process is quieting down a bit--I've only got about five more applications to send out. Besides that, its a few phone interviews and then MLA. Which means that I'll actually be able to return my focus to my disseration. Which means I'll have some material to publish to a blog. To get started, I've been reading a lot of interviews with Derrida from later in his life. Here's a nice selection on how Derrida imagines audience (and the ethical implications of imagining that one can control writing and its reception):

Derridean Method from "There is No One Narcissism" pp. 199-201

Q.: [ ... ] you have often repeated that deconstruction is not a method, that there is no "Derridean method." How, then, is one to take account of your work? How do you evaluate its effects? To whom is your work addressed and, finally, who reads you?

J.D.: By definition, I do not know to whom it is addressed. Or rather yes I do! I have a certain knowledge on this subject, some anticipations, some images, but there is a point at which, no more than anyone who publishes or speaks, I am not assured of the destination. Even if one tried to regulate what one says by one or more possible addressees, using typical profiles, even if one wanted to do that it would not be possible. And I hold that one ought not to try to master this destination.


Stirke Up the Band

I am not quite sure that words can describe quite how awesome this is:

Make sure you make it to at least 3:50.


Wiimote Already Obsolete?

I'm starting tag a lot of stuff like the following video lately. I'm real interested in the digital sandbox that video games are becoming. More and more your seeing games inviting prosuming, including advanced, yet accessible, level editors. Game companies are encouraging users to make modifications, and services such as X-Box live are making it easy to exchange stuff online. Now, it seems, we're on the verge of homemade controllers?

The Wiimote is not obsolete. Its still quite cool. But I'm really beginning to wonder if any of these user modifications will go mainstream. I could see a SimCity / Starcraft type of game built around the hand interface (nevermind if you could create a glove for a baseball game or Manhunt 3: Choker's Delight).


Complexity Theory and Authorship as Plurality

There was a discussion on a listserv today regarding why the individual author has become a myth. I cranked out a short response and figured I'd share. The original poster referred to the Emersonian (right?) "nothing is original" mantra. While I find that interesting, that's not what I identify as the problem. Its not so much that the individual author is a myth, as much as our postmodern ethics are skeptical of the egoist control and assurance that such a perspective purports. I can't help thinking of Mark C. Taylor's discussion his own sense of authorship in _The Moment of Complexity_:

I, Mark C. Taylor, am not writing this book. Yet the book is being written. It is as if I were the screen through which the words of others flow and on which they are displayed. Words, thoughts, ideas, are never precisely my own; they are always borrowed rather than possessed. I am, as it were, their vehicle. Though seeming to use language, symbols, and images, they use me to promote their circulation and extend their lives. The flux of information rushing through my mind as well as my body (I am not sure where one ends and the other begins) existed before me and will continue to flow long after I am gone. "My" thought--indeed "myself"--appears to be a transient eddy in a river whose banks are difficult to discern. [...] One of the few things that is clear even if not obvious is that all writing is ghostwriting. This work, like all others, is haunted by countless specters. Some I know, others I do not; some I name, others remain unnamed. The unknown and unnamed are not, of course, absent--nor are they present. Their silence speaks through my words in ways that remain cryptic to author as well as the reader. (196)

I think Taylor presents us with something more complicated than anti-originality. The constitutive debt to language stems beyond the ability of any individual consciousness' comprehension. Resisting the myth of the individual writer is a recognition of just how much of our reality is built up through nothing more than our symbol systems (and our ghosts-thnx KB). Even at our keyboards, though perhaps the only ones biologically present, we are never alone.


Romantic Rinse Cycle

The all-consuming job search, coupled with adorable baby daughter, doesn't leave much time for blogging (or anything else, for that matter). But I did want to take a few minutes to explain how parenthood has alerted my wife and I to how gender identity is constructed through toys. Yes, that's right, toys.

Here we are, enjoying an episode of House (if memory serves), when a commercial for the PlaySkool Rose Petal Cottage comes on. Seems innocent enough at first--think detailed play house. Now imagine the look of horror that grows on my wife's face as the advertisement shows a happy little girl learning how to: cook, clean, arrange the furniture, and put laundry in the washing machine. That's the real clincher: just as the add says something like: "watch your little girl's imagination grow" it shows the little girl stuffing clothes into the Rose Petal Washer (sold separately, of course).


As ideologically disturbing as the ad was, I must admit some enjoyment at watching my wife's face turn from disinterest, to awe, to moral outrage (for those who don't know, my wife won't allow anything Disney in the house since in their moives women are allowed only two courses: death or finding a man). I think, as the years roll on, Christmas is going to be fun, if only because I can totally see my dad thinking this would be a great present...


DMCA needs revision?

Apparently a few people have gotten together and decided that maybe we should be able to do more than simply consume media. Maybe it would be good if we had some kind of freedom to comment on it, mess with it, or decide where and when we want to consume it. Wouldn't that be cool?

I'm not holding my breath, but there's a bill on the floor to roll back the gestapo-like... I mean restrictive... I mean gestapo-like... implications of the DMCA (like the part that forbids the use of any digital production even in scientific research). The bill is officially titled H.R.1201: Digital Media Consumer's Rights Act of 2005 (DMCRA) (the link goes to a discussion over at Public Knowledge). There's word today over at Gamespot that the newly formed Electronic Consumers Association is jumping on board. From Public Knowledge's analysis:

The DMCRA would ensure that legal, non-infringing uses are not prohibited by the DMCA. Furthermore, the DMCRA encourages scientific research into technology protections. It ensures that activities solely for the purpose of research into technology protection measures are permitted. The bill does not weaken the effectiveness of technology controls; rather it ensures that the controls function solely as intended - to stop illegal activity and infringement. Infringers will still face the same penalties, but the DMCRA enables people who have legally obtained access to digital content to exercise legal uses without fear of criminal punishment.

Since this bill has been kicking around since 2005, I don't think this one's coming anytime soon. And since just about every media mogul in the world (with exception of Google) wants to see this thing buried, chances are this thing's getting squashed like the Yankees in the 21st century. But I'm glad somebody is fighting the 21st century corporate movement to eliminate fair use.


Joe, They Don't Deserve Ya

The Red Sox are down 3-2, with an aged warrior and a dead-armed, quasi-rookie pitching the next two games, and I don't think I've ever been happier as a baseball fan. Well, o.k., there was 2004--that was sweet. But this week has been outstanding.

Its all but official, the Yanks are parting ways with Joe Torre. Torre turned down a one year, 5 million dollar contract (with incentives the deal could have been worth 8 million)--a deal that amounts to an insult. Torre is one of the top managers in the history of the game, offering him a one year deal, placing him in another lame-duck situation, amounts to a slap in the face. I don't think the pay cut (Torre earned 7 miilion in 2007) is an insult, but no manager, let alone a certified hall of famer, would accept a pay cut AND a one year deal.

Why am I so happy? Because I can't wait to see the Empire final crumble. Torre might not have been the best X's and 0's coach- his bullpen decisions were sometimes questionable and his lineup cards could draw criticism. But Torre, like Phil Jackson in Chicago, was a perfect fit for everything that happens off the field. As Steve Phillips on ESPN said this morning-- Torre managed the players, the media, and, most important, George Steinbrenner better than anyone. It is hard to explain to anyone who has not lived in either New York, Boston, or Philadelphia how volitile those media markets can be. Sorry Chicago fans, I've lived in your area for five years now, and its just not the same. Torre has operated in arguably the most difficult arena for over a decade, and has always steadied the ship (a ship that has included Giambi and A-Fraud). His presence keeps everyone calm and focused, and if you think that filling out a line up card is more important than maintaining mental health over 162 games, well, your crazy.

Please don't tell me about the 1.3 billion dollars the Yankees have spent. Let me explain:

  • Jason Giambi: 7 years, 120 million - Need I comment?
  • Carl Pavano: 4 years, 40 million - what does 10 mil a season buy you? 5-6 record with an ERA of 4.77
  • Mike Mussina: 2 years, 23 million - demoted to AAA with an ERA over 5.00 this season
  • Kyle Farnsworth: 3 years, 17 million - "Flamethrower" put up an ERA of 4.80, allowing 87 baserunners in 60 innings
  • Kei Igawa: 5 years, 20 million - 2007 ERA: 6.25
  • Jaret Wright: 3 years, 21 million - Yankees agreed to pay half his contract just to get rid of him
  • Randy Johnson: 3 years, 48 million - Johnson was 41 and already suffering back problems when the Yanks agreed to this deal
  • Javier Vasquez: 4 years, 45 million - Everyone thought this would be a good deal. Oops. They are still paying the majority of this contract
  • Jose Contreras: 2 years, 15 million - Before there was the Dice-K bidding war, there was the not-so-great Cuban defector
  • Jeff Weaver: 2 years, 10 million dollars - details on the salary are sketchy, but the Yanks had to unload him for...
  • Kevin Brown: 7 years, 105 million - The Yanks didn't sign this contract, but they traded for Brown to unload Weaver. Count the yanks for 2 years and about 30 million
  • Octavio Dotel: 1 year, 2 million - comparatively, he doesn't even belong on this list
  • Bobby Abreu: 1 year, 15 million - While Abreu hit .280 and knocked in 100 runs, one has to wonder if he's worth the 15 plus million a season the Yanks are paying him. He no longer plays right field well, isn't a threat on the basepaths, and hit only 16 homeruns this past season

So, what does that leave us? Let's see: that's about 406 million dollars that have either not produced up to expectation or (in most cases) failed to produce at all. And, notice I didn't put A-Rod on this list, I'll leave it up to you to figure if he's earned the approximately 70 million the Yanks have paid him over the last four years; for my money, since the Rangers pay almost a third of his 25 million annual contract, A-Rod comes at a fair bargin. Productive hitter, social headcase. Well, anyway, instead of talking about how Torre failed to win with a 1.3 billion dollar payroll, let's talk about how Brian Cashman and the Tampa Brain trust squandered a third of that total on terrible, terrible pitching. And, with the exceptions of Vasquez and Contreras, most people knew that these pitchers weren't worth the price.

So let a new manager enter New York. Let him deal with facing players who worshipped Joe Torre. Let him explain to Derek Jeter (and if they are still around, Posada and Rivera) that things need to change. Oh goodness, that will be fun. Let him lose a few games in a row. Let him face the media. The media who helped run Joe out of town and who will, next season, remind the annointed at every turn that Torre never missed the playoffs. And let the new manager respond to Tampa. Yes, the new manager will inherit what is looking like one of the best young pitching cores in baseball (Hughes and Chamerlain). But he also inherits a distgruntled locker room, an old bullpen, an intense media, and an always irrate owner.

Plaaay balllll!


Review Writing for Amazon

Today we want to look at a few Amazon.com book reviews for Tapscott and Williams' Wikinomics in order to generate a sense for what distinctive features good reviews contain.

  • Donald Mitchell [April 6th, 2007]
  • Bradley Gessler [January 15, 2007]
  • M McDonald [December 28, 2006]
  • Rolf Dobelli [February 23, 2007]
  • David Brett [ February 9th, 2007]
  • Manny Hernandez [January 20, 2007]
  • Robert D. Steele [January 17, 2007]
  • Laura K. Turner [January 12, 2007]

We're going to read each of the reviews above and try to see if we cannot discern some structural principles for reviews on Amazon. As we read each, I want you to:

  1. Write the purpose of each paragraph in the review, paying particular attention to the first and last paragraph
  2. Note how the reviewers frame their ethos or incoporate personal information into the post
  3. Pay attention to what specific details from the book reviewers tend to cite
  4. Pay particular attention to how the reviewers offer criticism

By the end of class today, we should be able to generate a pretty good primer on review writing.


MLA citation

Using the MLA guidelines provided by Purdue's OWL lab, please construct a MLA works cited list for the following material:

  • The Henry Jenkins reading from the coursepack (book title: Convergence Culture).
  • The Stephen Johnson reading from the coursepack. (article title: "Emerging Technology")
  • This blogpost
  • This webpage


Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near

I've put off reading this book for awhile, since I find it so difficult to talk about. I find Kurzweil's work fascinating and dangerous, stimulating and irresponsible. I know he's coming to come up in my dissertation, opposite and alongside McLuhan and Landow as I discuss the impact of digital technologies on the perception of consciousness, status of knowledge, and appreciation of ethics. Below, you'll find some of Kurzweil's "greatest hits" and notes toward my reading and resistance of his neo-Platonic and Hegelian vision of our future.


I noticed, of course, many parallels among the world's religious traditions, but even the inconsistencies were illuminating. It became clear to me that the basic truths were profound enough to transcend apparent contradictions. (1)

It would be hard to start off any more Modern than that. Just strip the noise away from all these different Christian denominations, synthesize them, and you've discovered a profound truth. Hegel test: check.

I realized that most inventions fail not because the R&D department can't get them to work, but because the timing is wrong. Inventing is a lot like surfing: you have to anticipate and catch the wave at the right moment. (3)

Yay kairos (or is this "stupid kairos," if only people were smarter and could recognize the brilliance of "right" R&D?).

[This book] is predicated on the idea that we have the ability to understand our own intelligence--to access our own source code, if you will--and then revise and expand it. (4)

Did you just shutter a bit? Perhaps a little? I'll explain my fear below, but I want to stress that Kurzweil (and others) demonstrate that the technological ability to manipulate our "code" lies right before us, if it is not, in fact, here already.

Chapter One

Just as a black hole in space dramatically alters the patterns of matter and energy accelerating toward its event horizon, this impending Singularity (sic) in our future is increasingly transforming every institution and aspect of human life, from sexuality to spirituality. (7)

Yup, no argument from me.

This book will argue, however, that within several decades information-based technologies will encompass all human knowledge and proficiency, ultimately including the pattern-recognition powes, problem-solving skills, and emotional and moral intelligence of the human brain itself. (8)

Its that final clause ("emotional and moral intelligence") that is such a dousy. Connecting above, this reeks of a Hegelanism most foul. Although it might sound trite or even wearisome this day and age, we must ask: whose morality will the machine encompass? Will the machine, so culturally and historically determined, provide us with the proper morality? The singular morality (and I know I am mis-using Kurzweil's definition of singular, which I'll detail below; but, as Burke would say, the jingle dog is strong hear...er...here)

The Singularity will allow us to transcend these limitations of our biological bodies and brains. (9)

The material leading up to this quote stresses the ways in which the skin bag (thanks Mr. Clark) limits human cognition. There is a deep Platonic Idealism here--a transcendance beyond the mere material world. It goes nicely with this next quote, which I like to call "Welcome to the Hegelian Food Processor":

The Singularity will represent the culmination of the merger of our biological thinking and existence with our technology, resulting in a world that is still human but that transcends our biological roots. There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine or between physical and virtual reality. If you wonder what will remain unequivocally human in such a world, it's simply this: ours is the species that inherently seeks to extend its physical and mental reach beyond current limitations. [...] Although the Singularity has many faces, its most important implication is this: our technology will match and then vastly exceed the refinement and suppleness of what we regard as the best human traits. (9)

Phew. Deep breath. So much for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Is such a search the true goal of Socrates (is this a 21st century call for the Good)? Is this a return to the master narrative of history? These are not facetious questions--they are very real. And, to me, very troubling. Troubling, because I recognize in our technological development a seed of Kurzweil's vision [which echoes Kant's vision for the Enlightenment]. Though I believe it is one that we have to resist.

Whether our civilization infuses the rest of the universe with its creativity and intelligence quickly or slowly depends on its immutability. In any event the "dumb" matter and mechanisms of the universe will be transformed into exquisitely sublime forms of intelligence, which will constitute the sixth epoch in the evolution of patterns of intelligence.

this is the ultimate destiny of the Singularity and of the universe. (21)

I already said it was Hegelian, right?

On the definition of Singularity: "a unique event with, well, singular implications"; "the word was adopted by mathematicians to denote a value that transcends any finite limitation"; "an event capable of rupturing the fabric of human history" (22-23).

it represents the nearly vertical phase of exponential growth that occurs when the rate is so extreme that technology appears to be expanding at infinite speed. [...] But from our currently limited framework, this imminent event appears to be an acute and abrupt break in the continuity of progress. I emphasize the word "currently" because one of the salient implications of the Singularity will be a change in the nature of our ability to understand. We will become vastly smarter as we merge with out technology. (24)

Grounding technology philosophically upon a conceptualization of singularity is, in fact, the direct opposite of founding it upon Otherness. Rather than encouraging the tentativeness and unassurance I associate with Levinas and Derrida (and postmodernism in general), the Singularity encourages confidence and synthesis. Rather than pushing us to accept that there are considerations of consciousness (and thus, ethics, and thus, morality) beyond our capacity to know, the singularity suggests that consciousness, ethics, and morality will be revealed through the machine. Whether true (and this is no small condition!), I am disturbed by the underlying eugenical bend. Disturbed.

As I read the rest of the book, I will be focusing on the character of "smarter" as quoted in the final sentence above. I do believe that digital technologies increase our collective intelligence, allowing us to network our brainpower in ways previously unimaginable. And, like Kurzweil, I hope that these technologies will change the way we come to understand each other--but I particularly hope these technologies will suggest that it is impossible to ever truly understand anOther person (or even to have an absolute understanding of oneself--an I can never think enough to substantiate self-knowledge). In other words, I'm looking to foster a respect for difference through an appreciation of differance as a metaphysical first principle. Although its only a hunch, I have a feeling that the Platonic, Hegelian, and Kantian undertones of the passages cited above are moving Kurzweil in another direction.


Crash Course on Academic Writing

I like to frame academic research by looking at Kenneth Burke's famous passage on the unending conversation of humankind.

I also want to discuss three terms from classical rhetoric: ethos, pathos, and logos.

logos Driven

Unlike your blog writing, which is a mix of argument, exposition, analysis, and entertainment, academic writing is more strictly argumentative and analytical in nature.

You might present a theoretical lens for a discourse community (from our readings, for instance) and then analyze how your community does (or does not) meet those criteria. This will help create a sense of purpose and necessity for your paper (which will help you write your introduction... speaking of which...)

Write your introduction last. For those of you (like me) who need to write temporary introductions, fine. End it with a "training wheels" sentence such as "this paper examines (argues, explains, explores, details, compares, assesses, etc)." I still use these kinds of crutches while writing drafts. But delete and rewrite this introduction when you are done. We'll talk more about academic introductions next week.

MLA Citation

I am asking you to provide evidence for your claims and characterizations. You'll want to point at specific blog posts, but you want your passages to be of a reasonable size. In other words, quote what is necessary-nothing more, nothing less.

Plagiarism is the highest academic crime. Err on the side of caution. If you borrow a term from a blog or reading, make sure it is clear that the term is not your own. For instance:

Stephen Doheny-Farina calls upon the research of Robert Bellah to clearly distinguish discourse communities from lifestyle enclaves. According to Farina, the former involve a measure of "interdependence" between community members; the latter are merely collections of hobbyists and enthusiasts (50).

Make sure you provide a context for your quotes, you need to transition into them. Don't expect a reader will be familiar with the material you are quoting from. Think of Burke's metaphor of the parlor--you are taking your reader for a guided tour.

Although it might seem obvious to you, make sure you offer some kind of content summary after a quote. Don't assume your reader will read the quote in the same way you do--you want to direct their attention / offer them a specific gloss of the passage.

Your paper will be accompanied by an MLA works cited list. MLA works cited lists follow a million obscure formatting rules. It makes no sense for me to try to explain all these rules up front. I will simply direct you to Purdue's OWL lab's materials on MLA formatting. The OWL will provide guidelines for both citing sources in your paper and formatting a works cited list.

Voice and audience

One of the hardest things for first-year students to get a handle on is the proper voice for academic papers. You don't need to be overly stuffy, but your writing should be more formal and less conversational than the writing you do on your blog. Try to avoid sarcasm. Try not to be overly enthusiastic. Your goal is to present a credible and confident (but not arrogant) speaker who is talking with (rather than "to" or even worse "down to") your audience. Don't beg, don't demand. Reason with your audience. Try to anticipate objections and offer counter-arguments.

Its hard to describe who your audience is: but think of it this way. You are writing to a sophomore at another University. They have never taken a course at Purdue. They have never met you. They are educated, and willing to read your paper. They may or may not agree with your arguments, but they are certainly not hostile.


Reputation as Ethos for the Responsible Netizen

I picked up the quizercise from Karl Stolley (who, I am pretty sure, just adapted Janice Lauer's "writing opportunity"): every Monday, before we begin discussing the week's readings, I ask students some kind of question that calls on them to connect the reading to the larger goals of the class. This week, I opened with a discussion of the importance of MLA citation (since I had caught a few students liberally borrowing material without proper citation). We had read from Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs for class that day, and I asked them the following: focusing on a specific passage or idea from Smart Mobs, explain why an English teacher might discuss the importance of MLA citation before discussing Smart Mobs. Circular? You betcha! But I like giving them these kinds of meta-questions, just to see how well they are beginning to understand my underlying aspirations for the course.

Often, I write answers to my own quiz questions--though I give myself some liberties to stray off-topic (I give my students the same liberties, essentially they have ten minutes to prove to me that they have done the reading!). Here's what I wrote in response to my own question:

In Smart Mobs, author Howard Rheingold suggests that the most productive social networks develop "bottom-up" measures for establishing authority and filtering out free riders. He writes:

Self-monitoring is part of successful grassroots collaboration, a kind of many-to-many surveillance by mutual consent. If governance is to be democratic rather than Hobbesian, maintenance of social order requires technologies of mutual control."

We can think of citation as a kind of surveillance system constructed by the mutual consent of scholars and researchers. Through citation, scholars pay respect to the intellectual work of others, acknowledging contributions even as they criticize oversights. And, although MLA standards might at times come off as Hobbesian, we should remember that these standards change in response to new technologies through grass-roots practice (right?)

The digital world makes it quite easy to bypass such grassroot intellectual systems. As such, many Universities and academic institutions are turning to more top-down, rigid structures to ensure reputation (such Turnitin.com) or outlawing the use of digital environments altogether (such as the movement away from Wikipedia and digital sources).

I strive for a different solution. Rather than ignoring the pitfalls digital technologies engender, I seek to face them heads-on, discussing the epistemological and ethical challenges digital environments place on our intellectual traditions. Specifically, I believe that citation of web sources encourages students to be responsible, reputable net-i-zens.

End response. That's been sitting in a text-edit file on my desktop for a few days now, I figured rather than saving it to a corner of my hard-drive, I'd just shoot it out on the interweb. I've got to write my letter of application for my job market group this weekend, so perhaps I can revisit some of those ideas...(the current draft I have, which is terrible, discusses my dissertation, approach to new media, and approach to teaching in terms of fostering cohabitation and linking classical and contemporary theory to practice).


A New Dark Age?

Argh. Me tired. Baby cry. Dissertation hard. Job market taxing.

I wanted to take some time, gather what brain power I could, and point to an interesting post over at the Long Now Fondation on the New York Times' decision to allow free access to their web publication. Mrxk put up a quick reflection on the Times going free the other day, highlighting something that excites most of us in the Free Culture movement:

Starting on Wednesday, access to the archives will be available for free back to 1987, and as well as stories before 1923, which are in the public domain, Schiller said.

This is fantastic, no doubt about it. What Alexander Rose, author of the Long Foundation article "Is there more cultural value in the New York Times or Mickey Mouse" wonders about those missing 64 years. Perhaps we would like to read those articles too. Perhaps.

Those familiar with Lawrence Lessig's work Free Culture already got the reference from Rose's title. Those missing 64 years are caught up in the current legal and congressional debates over copyright (or copywrong, depending on one's perspective). The Disney corporation's powerful lawyers and lobbyists spends millions, as in hundreds of millions, to protect their intellectual property. And for the past 64 years this has meant preventing the constitutional update of public domain. As Rose points out, given the complexity of copyright law, the Times couldn't give that material away if it wanted to.

Rose ends his essay with an interesting quesiton:

I wonder what people will think about this time far into the future? A dark ages — not created by war, famine, depression, or even technological failure, but a small whistling mouse.

While hyperbolic (hopefully?), Rose raises an interesting question, one which I have been circling for some time now. if our economic and cultural development becomes increasingly dependent upon the free exchange and remixing of information, then how long until our strict intellectual property regulations begin to cripple us? I've been working a lot with Tapscott and Williams' 21st century business primer Wikinomics for my diss. They stress to CEO's and managers that failure to integrate a corporation into the free-flowing open source communities blossoming on the web could lead to stagnation, alienation, and bankruptcy. Hmm... what about the rest of us? How might continuing legal restrictions stagnate other aspects of our culture?


My New Homepage Ate My Blogger Design. Sort of.

marccsantos.com got a new look today. I wanted something minimalist and clean before I head out on the job market. The design corresponds to the visual design of my other job materials (CV, cover letter, dissertation summary). The face-lift isn't complete, but I had enough done that I figured I would through it up there.

Problem: in taking done the old site, I also took deleted many of the images used for this blogger design. So... this site will have to go broken for a bit. I teach in 33 minutes, lets see how much of this blogger site I can fix in between now and then...

Update: K, ten minutes later and I think I'll found every instance of the ole green design. Sh*t- missed the "about" me box border color. And these boxes look hideous. Headers are an abomination against usability. Back to work.

Update #2: Well, the stupid f#cking Purdue server decided to kick me off-line while in the middle of my revision, but I managed to make some more changes. I have to fix the dotted borders around comments, change the text-color for post headings, and get rid of the border around the "about" box (missed this twice apparently). But its gettin' better.

Update #3: I'll have to check this on a PC tomorrow, but I feel like I'm getting close to my new homepage design. I've got the font-family in place for my headers (font-family: 'Gill Sans', 'Trebuchet MS', Arial, sans-serif; ) and have got the borders pretty well done. The next big project will be to replace the ul li images in the sidebars.

Update #4: I haven't found the time to touch-up the blog. I've been working on the diss (first chapter draft is creeping up to page 60) and have been working on job materials (CV, diss summary, letter of application Oh, My!)


Goin' Technorati

Technorati Profile

Wii and Lightsabers.. so why am I so nervous?

Mrxk shot me an email today with the subject: "End of Civilization." The link, of course, was to the announcement that the Force Unleashed was porting to the Wii. I should be really excited. But I'm not. Let me explain.

The game is a port from the other next-gen system, and while the early descriptions talk about taking advantage of the Wii's controls, its unclear to what extent. Nothing against Zelda, but I'm looking for quality swordplay, not random controller shaking.

Even if there isn't hand to hand live action combat, I'm hoping they might come up with some kind of Okami-like scheme where action temporarily pauses while users "draw" moves, then unpauses and translates the drawing into special swordplay sequences. (The SSX Blur snowboarding game for the Wii does something similar with both hands, and it works pretty well).

But, not to kill the excitement, I don't see this kind of depth happening with a port. Here's what to watch for: timeline. If this game comes out next summer, or even late next spring, then buy me an adult pacifier. Seriously. But, if you see this game this Christmas, then be weary. It could be the difference between Resident Evil 4 and Tiger Woods 2007. And, trust me, that's quite a bit of difference. But, oh God, this could be so bad ass...

Class notes, tech day, week five

Today we are going to work on integrating you a bit more into your online community. So, we're going to use del.icio.us to explore your community.

  1. Log into your del.icio.us account. Make sure you have your "post to del.icio.us" or "tag" button (we'll be using that one today).
  2. Next, I want you to add me to your network, this way you can see what I'm posting, and I can see what you're posting.

Next, we're going to do some Google searching for good blogs, well, great ones actually. I want you to find five to seven resources in your area--at least four of which are blogs. As you find them, post them to del.icio.us.

Once we have a collection of sites, we're going to set up Google Reader accounts. Google reader is a kind of RSS feed. This will help you to see when your blogs are putting up new posts.

Using these technologies should help you generate ideas for posts and to integrate yourself in the community. You can always link to a story, offer a paragraph of summary, and then give some analysis / reaction--this is what many blogs do (and what Johnson was referring to with his rainforest metaphor).


More Anti-RIAA Ammo

I've been pretty busy working on the first chapter of my diss (hopefully I'll have more on this soon!), but I wanted to throw up a quick post pointing to a recent story on Joystiq. It seems online video game sales are already beginning to outpace video and music sales.

So, in recent days, months, and years, as old media mogules continue to complain about how piracy ruins profits, remind them that its not just piracy. It has more to do with people choosing to invest their attention in new media, other media. I suppose they'll want to make that illegal too.

Wish I had time for more, but I got to get back to work.


Birthday Card

This is making the internet rounds.

Proof positive that I am an internet nerd: I find it quite funny.


Football Predictions

I don't have much time for these this year, but it wouldn't feel right if I didn't make some predictions. So here's a quick couple of lists:


  • San Diego Chargers: The only thing this team lacked last season was playoff experience. Now they have it. I don't thikn Norv Turner will be the cancer some people expect--he's a talented offensive co-ordinator with a defense that should be able to coach itself. Though a bit weak at WR, the Chargers should win the division and hit 12-13 wins.
  • Indianapolis Colts: They took some substantial hits on defense, but that's not what has me placing this team third. Three words: rookie-left-tackle. And they don't have TE's built for pass blocking (can you really see Dallas Clark "helping out" against Terrell Suggs?). And they don't regularly use a full-back. Prediction: Peyton Manning will get hit harder than he ever has in his life this season. 12-4
  • NE Patriots: Not to be a homer, but it is same old, same old in NE. Wes Welker will end up being the best WR on this team--his talent for making the tough catch over the middle will throw him right in Troy Brown's (where's Troy!?!) role. I do have a number of questions for this team: can Malroney stay healthy (probably not), will Seymour come back (probably not), can Harrison stay healthy (probably not), So, I see a good season, not a great one: 11-5.
  • Baltimore Ravens: Oh my goodness this defense is good, even after losing AT. But I think their offense will really benefit from McGahee--I think there's plenty of gas in his tank. 10-6.
  • Pittsburg Steelers: I hate the Steelers. But I think everyone is sleeping on this team. Yes, they have a new coach who will probably meddle with a defense he shouldn't. Yes, they lost Joey Porter. No, they didn't make any significant, over-the-top acquisitions. But, they have a healthy and motivated Ben. And I think having a clear-headed quarterback for 16 games will make a big, big difference. 10-6.
  • Buffalo Bills: I know the Jets are the sexier pick, but I think Buffalo has made some strides. Losman played outstanding toward the end of last season, and I think he will continue to grow. It won't be pretty, but I think Buffalo "toughs out" that last playoff spot, just edging out the Bengals: 9-7.

AFC Championship Game: Chargers beat the Patriots, 24-21. Ouch.


  • New Orleans Saints: The defense has to play better, simply because this offense won't be sneaking up on people this season. I wish they made a significant addition. 12-4.
  • Dallas Cowboys: Tono Romo will be terrible (there's a reason this "franchise qb" rode the bench behind Bledsoe for three years...). But this defense will terrorize people. This could be the best defense in the NFL. And their two running back system could wear down opposing defenses. 11-5.
  • Chicago Bears: Oh God, if any team should be interested in Leftwich, its this one. If they ditch Rex (or he masters his split-personality issue), then this team could be significantly better than I think. But, Cedric Benson is not Thomas Jones, particularly as a receiver. This is an offense that can ill afford to lose dimensions. 10-6.
  • San Fran 49'ers: Great defensive upgrades and the best running back in the NFC not named Jackson. 10-6.
  • Tampa Bay Bucs: Yup, this is my "that's insane" pick. But, the NFL tends to be insane. I have no faith in Carolina anymore- though their running game, defense, and Steve Smith could make me regret this pick. I think Gruden pulls it together, Garcia improves the whole offense, and the D plays with something to prove. 9-7.
  • Phily Eagles: Donovan McNabb doesn't lose, so this is a pretty low risk pick. I like their defense, Westbrook fits this system perfectly, and this team always seems to have that intangible toughness. They'll squeak out this playoff spot over the defense-less Rams and QB-less Vikings (another team who should be throwing themselves at Leftwich--with a quality QB, this would be my Super Bowl pick).

NFC Championship Game: No freaking idea. I kinda want to pick the Vikings, even though I don't think their current QB can take them to the playoffs. So, how about this: 49'ers beat the Cowboys, 20-14. Yup, whatever.

Superbowl: the Chargers decimate whoever wins the AFL, mean NFC, championship game, 33-10.

That is, of course, unless the Vikings sign Leftwich. Then, all bets are off... (God, I love the NFL)


Week Three, Computer Session

As you put the finishing touches on your mission statements, I want to turn and start thinking about your first individual post. And, in doing so, I wanted to offer examples of the kinds of posts, taking note of their structure. One thing you'll notice about these posts, as you will notice about all interesting posts, is that they always do more than summarize. They all involve summary, but they also do something else to invite audience participation.

Here's a list of different kind of posts:

  • X is more important than most people think because of Y
  • X makes me wonder about Y
  • X should be applied to Y
  • X is significant because...
  • the best X of all time
  • the top ten X (and whY)
  • You probably don't / I just learned about X

For a detailed example of X should be applied to Y, lets examine a post from Collin Vs. Blog. This blog typically deals with issues in rhetorical theory, but also occasionally offers insight into popular culture. Here's his recent post Pricing Oneself Out of the Market. Here's a great example of X idea should be applied to Y. In this case, Collin offers a nice, succint description of a new television show he has been watching. He then details a specific theory proposed in the television show [that less often sells more]. He then uses this theory to argue that NBC has dropped the ball regarding the sales of episodes on iTunes.

For an example of a top ten list, here's a recent post at 40 Acres Sports.

For an example of X is significant because, there's a good example over at FireDogLake.

For an example of You might not know about X, check out a sample post from Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools site.

What we don't want to see in your posts is straight summary! Good posts do more than summarize, they contextualize, compare, contrast, expose, critique, defend, or offer insight. In other words, they present some kind of argument.


Things and Stuff

Everything moves a bit too fast for me to offer any meaningful reflection on fatherhood. While I don't recognize any substantial changes so far, I'm sure they're there. Favorite thing: any smile. Smiles usually signify gas, but you don't really care why she's smiling. I can't describe what an awesome and inspiring feeling that gives. Least favorite thing: crying. The nurses in the hospital even noted that our baby is, um, loud. Quite loud. And she has no quams about vocalizing her displeasure. Sometimes you can do something about it: (have your wife) feed her, change her diaper, burp her. Other times its just gas, and there's nothing you can do but wait it out. Difficult.

Here's a list of things I would like to write more about but don't have time:

  • I don't think any other sport has something as magical as a no-hitter. Awesome. Congrats to Buckholtz. I'm already wondering whether Schilling will make the playoff rotation...
    And, Jerry, not only was it a curve ball, it was a paralyzing curve ball. Awesome
  • I can't blame Rodney Harrison for using HGH given his condition (he blew every ligament in his knee last season). If I had an accident, and my brain was broken, and I could take a pill to fix it, except RSA ruled that any rhetorician using this pill would take a one semester ban even though doctors often prescribed this pill to "civilians" with the same condition, then, yeah, I would take the pill. See you in a month, Rodney.
  • Metriod 3 Prime Corruption is out for Wii, and it is very good. There's quite a few difficult puzzles in the game, and less firefighting than I expected. One complaint: boss battles, though cool, tend to last a bit too long and grow tedious. Other than that, a very cool game that plays well with the Wii's controls. My second favorite game for the system, slightly ahead of Zelda and behind Res4
  • Found this article on adaptive artificial intelligence on l. today, a new robot that "teaches" itself to walk and can adapt to changes made to its body. The video reminds me of E.D-209 from Robocop.

Well, that's about all for today. I'm enjoying a relaxing holiday weekend before things get crazy... tomorrow.


Project One

Below is the first post assignment. Forgive the sloppy presentation, I'm cutting and pasting from Word...

English 106 Fall 2007 Project 1: Mission Statement as the First Post

As I have brought up several times, your first major assignment is due next Wednesday, 12:00 noon. The assignment itself is short and sweet, but we are looking for a rich yet compact first post for your blog—somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 words (one page single-spaced).

Your first post should address the following questions:

  • What's the goal of the blog?
  • What will it cover?
  • How will you structure your blog? What will a post look like? What is your methodology?
  • What will people find on a first visit, and what will keep them coming back? Who is the audience? Describe the audience specifically (i.e., “college students” is not specific enough. “Purdue students” is not specific enough. We are looking for a characterization of your ideal audience. Who are you writing to?
  • What is the personality of the blog as a whole? Think in terms of adjectives (practical, sarcastic, energetic, apathetic, enthusiastic, hesitant, etc.).
  • What roles will the individual team-members assume? Will team members have unique voices or roles? What will distinguish you from each other [note—your first post might end with short bios of each member]
  • How will you build your credibility? How will it compare to other similar blogs? What blogs inspire you?

You may answer these questions in whichever order you wish. If you can think of ways to describe your blog that are not covered by these questions, feel free to. Remember to contact your instructor early and often if you have questions.

Remember that you are also responsible for the following:

  • Giving the blog a new title (Settings > Basic)
  • Giving the blog a new URL (Settings > Publishing)
  • Giving the blog a new template (Template > Pick New Template)
  • Creating a link list with three links per member (links can include resources, other blogs you are trying to emulate, etc)(Template > Page Elements > Add Page Element > Link List

Good luck!


True Font Families

A List Apart is featuring an article on the future of CSS. Their prediction? Increased compatibility with web fonts, decreasing reliance on browser compatibility. Today, if a user doesn't have a font, tough luck. But in the future? CSS coding could allow for a broader range of fonts, pulling the font-families from the web rather than from a user's library.

Like the author of the article, I'm all for this particularly because it would reduce the amount of unnecessary image files floating around to convey text. I'm a desigin minimalist-- try to keep code as trim as possible. But even I get frustrated at the (lack of) font compatibility on the web. I haven't messed around with True fonts yet, but am certainly going to incorporate them into my 419 class next semester.

106: Week Two Computer Lab

Today's class will seek to introduce you to your blog, some of the features of Blogger, and to the basics of HTML that you will need to compose your posts.

Creating Your Blogger Account

All of you should have received an email invitation last night to join a Blogger blog. Find this email.

In order to join the blog, you will have to create a Google identity. Some of you might already have gmail accounts, and therefore already have a Google identity. MAKE SURE THAT YOUR GOOGLE IDENTITY CANNOT BE TRACED BACK TO YOUR REAL IDENTITY. Sorry to scream, but its very important to us that you remain anonymous. Do not create a user identity that involves your real name or your Purdue name. For instance, I have four online identities:

  • marccsantos: I use this identity for web design discussions. I want people to know my real name and identify it with my comments and my work
  • mcsantos: I use this identity for academic discussions and for Purdue accounts.
  • santosis: I use this identity primarily for social groups
  • insignificantwrangler: this is actually my primary online identity

For this assignment, I might use either of the latter identities. We'll walk through this process in class.

Blogger Features

One reason we chose to use Blogger in this class concerns its numerous available and accessible features. We're going to play with a few now.

  • First, from the dashboard, chose to "View Blog." It is possible that a team member from another class has already begun making changes.
  • Go back to the dashboard, and select "settings." You'll notice a number of options under the main tabs. The "basic" set of options includes a title field and a description field. Modify those now (remember that for your first project we want the group to create and justify an interesting and original title!). For now, anything better than "Blog #" will do.
  • The Publishing tab will allow you to give your blog a new URL. Don't change this until you have discussed the change with your group! Like your title, you should be playful with your URL.
  • Chances are you won't be using the Formatting tab right away, but this tab gives you the option of manipulating how many posts appear on one page, time and date format as well as some other advanced settings.
  • We're not going to worry about the rest of the tabs under "Settings" today.
  • Instead, choose the main tab "Template." Over the course of the semester, we'll discuss more and more ways for you to customize the design of your blog and to add elements, widgets, and functions. Today, I want to show you how to add a Blog Roll and input some entries. You'll want to make sure that this blog roll has at least three entries for each member of your group by the time you put up the first project post.
  • When you click the "Template" tab, you should get the Page Elements screen. Here we are going to choose to add a page element
  • We are going to add a link list. We'll walk through this in class.
  • If time permits, I'll talk about the Pick New Template tab.

Now that we've poked around some of the features of Blogger, let's deal with the nitty-gritty--how to post.

Posting to Blogger

For the rest of today, we'll make a practice post. At the end of the class we'll delete it, so don't worry about writing anything of high quality, we just want to familiarize ourselves with HTML. HTML is the basic code used to categorize content on the web. All content appears between tags that classify it and instruct a web browser on how to format it. We'll be learning the essential tags by answering some simple questions.

First, let's see a list of the basic tags. Tags open before an element and close, using a backslash, after the element:

  • <p> x </p> - the paragraph tag, this is the tag you'll use for most content
  • <h#> x </h#> - the header tag, numbered according to importance. An h1 tag, for instance, is like a thesis statement--only one per page!
  • <ul> x </ul> - the unordered list tag, this "opens" a list, you open a list before tagging list items. When you have finished your list, your close this tag. List
  • <li> x </li> - the list item tag
  • So, a completed list looks like this:
    <li> Tom Brady </li>
    <li> Joe Montana </li>
    <li> Dan Marino </li>
  • <blockquote> x </blockquote> - the blockquote tag does exactly what its name implies: it sets off a block of text as a quote (adjusting margins, color, font, etc.)

These are all the structural tags we'll need today. Virtually every piece of information in your syllabus will fit into the above categories. We can add some semantic tags to our list:

  • <strong> x </strong> - the strong tag appears as bold face. Use this for information that needs to be loud.
  • <em> x </em> - the emphasis tag appears as italics. Use this for information that needs to be differentiated.
  • <cite> x </cite> - the cite tag appears as italics (by default it appears exactly as the emphasis tag). Anything that would receive italics according to MLA citation should get the cite tag (any major publication--a book, a movie, a tv series, an album, etc.). The em tag is reserved for stress and emphasis, not for citation.

Now, let's put some of these tags to use.

  1. Write a breif paragraph, using the <p> tag, on the last good movie you saw. Remember to use the cite tag for the movie title
  2. Write a second paragraph on the main character of the movie
  3. Now lets make a list of three movies similar to the one you watched
  4. Now write a paragraph on whether you'd recommend the movie to other people
  5. Now lets use blogger to insert a picture. Open a new tab or window and find a picture of your movie on the web. Make sure you click on the image to get its unique URL. Back in Blogger, click on the small landscape image right above the text box you are writing in. Input the URL of the image. Once you hit "Upload," the code for your image will appear in an "img" tag at the top of your post. You will have to copy all this code (unitl the />) and paste it where you want the image to appear

That's it for today, press publish and you can see what your post looks like. You can always edit a post after you post it by choosing "Edit Posts" from the "Posting" tab or by pressing the small pencil icon at the bottom of every post. We'll delete the post you just put up so you and your group can start with a clean slate.


Fantasy Football

I had two drafts this weekend (I drafted one player while changing a diaper). I am quite happy with both teams, although the second team has a collection of gambles at quaterback. Here's team one:

Rowan's Raiders

  • Quaterback: McNabb, Leinart
  • Runningback: Gore, McGahee, Benson, Bell, Dunn
  • Wide Receiver: Evans, Boldin, Edwards, Jennings, Welker
  • Tight End: Heap, LJ Smith
  • Team D: Ravens, Vikings
  • Kicker: Wilkins

Gore is about as real deal as any runningback in the league. Although the loss of Norv Turner might hurt the offense, Gore showed last season that he's an Eric Dickerson / Eddie George kind of running back who is going to run through the NFL for a few seasons. I feel confident that McNabb will return to fantasy greatness. He was the top quarterback in the league (not Manning) when he went down last year. Boldin and Evans are top WRs. The Ravens are the Ravens (I caught some flack for drafting a defense too early, but in yardage leagues, defense is often the top scoring position-- since defenses can gain up to 30 points and lose up to 10. The Bears and the Ravens are tremendously better than any other fantasy D).

Me thinks I gambled a bit too much with my bench. Save the Vikings D, every pick comes with serious question marks. Bell could be the top fantasy scorer in the NFC. Or he could ride the bench all season. Edwards could be an 80-1,000-8 man or he could be 60-660-4. LJ Smith could make the Pro Bowl, or he could lose his starting job. Jennings could repeat last year, or fall as far as 4th on the depth chart. Dunn and Welker are steady players, but certainly not stars.

Final Thought:
Every fantasy coach says this: I have to stay healthy. But I really mean it. This team has extremely questionable depth. If I stay healthy, I expect to make the championship game. But I don't expect to stay healthy. So, while I like this team on paper, I'm probably going to hate them on Sunday. Prediction: one game over .500.

French Licks

  • Quaterback: Lions, Cardinals, Bills
  • Runningback: Parker, Johnson, Ronnie Brown, Carnell Williams
  • Wide Receiver: Evans, Ward, Driver, Reggie Brown, Holmes
  • Tight End: Winslow, Witten
  • Team D: Ravens, Packers
  • Kicker: Rackers
  • Defensive Line: Kampman, Burgess
  • Linebacker: Merriman, Suggs, Briggs
  • Secondary: Samuel, Woodson, Rolle

Parker and Johnson might not be the first names you think of at runningback, but they are extremely consistent, featured backs, and haven't seen the trainers table. Ronnie Brown is a lot better than people give him credit--I stole him late in this draft. The Dolphins should be better with Trent Green, and that should prevent Brown from seeing 8 man fronts every carry. I figure hes going for 1,300 and 9 TDs. Not Great, but not shabby. It should be illegal to have WRs this good--but that's what has helped me win this league the past two years: I think people backed off of Driver because of his injury, but reports yesterday morning were that he should be fine. The initial reports (which caused me to draft Jennings in the league above) were exagerrated. Ward will be better than last season for three reasons: 1) his quarterback isn't recovering from head trauma, 2) Santonio Holmes will draw attention from opposing secondaries, 3) he is a work-horse and will do everything possible to shove his down year down the throats of every commentator who has labelled him as past his prime. Reggie Brown should benefit from the departure of Stallworth, especially as Curtis learns the complex Eagles passing game. Ravens D = incredible. Rackers fell down the K board because he missed 7 field goals last season. Wake up people, 5 of those were from greater than 50 yards. He's a big leg guy, you don't lose points for long field goal misses, and the Cards cannot run in the red zone. Gimmie, gimmie, gimmie.

What the fuck was I thinking. Let me re-phrase that: I believe I might have gambled a bit too much at the quarterback position. Thing is, I had Peyton last year, and Donovan the year before that, so I think I forgot how frustrating 2005 was, when I had an inconsistent Hasselback and Collins. This year, Hasselback might feel like Peyton Manning by week eight!

Final Thought:
I think I can three-peat, despite the QB situation (which might not be as bad as I think). Losman was outstanding the last six weeks of last season, Leinhart plays in a big yards but few TDs offense right now (which could see more TD's thanks to new coach Wiz), and Martz rarely disappoints (Kitna was fairly solid last season). Give how steady this running tandem is, and how incredible my WR are, I like my chances. For now...


Baby Photos Have a New Home

I finally have a justification for my Flickr account. Baby pictures will be going there from now on.

Rowan has been sleeping at night, and Gramma and Grampa have been a great help. Meg and I feel pretty good (and just barely survived our first bath. Its no fun bathing a baby who doesn't even like to have her diaper changed).

My fantasy football team has its logo:


Week One, Thursday

1. Collect writing samples

2. Intro lecture: what is rhetoric?

  • hard to define, persuasion
  • more than that, rhetoric is social glue-- social conception of knowledge and knowledge exchange
  • art of negotiating language in the act of negotiation
  • Kenneth Burke: resolving ambiguity
  • Final point is all important, as you'll read in coming months, humans tend to gravitate toward certainty. Erase signs of ambiguity, contigency, and doubt. Replace interpretation with natural, fundamental truth. Think Michael Vick-- dog fighting IS evil. But, as Latrell Sprewell points out, we condone and even celebrate hunting and fishing. We eat veal (I love veal). We bet on dog races. This is not to condone Vick's activities, only to point out the contingency of the moral code by which we condemn his actions
  • Let me step back--language is ambiguous. Words might seem to have very determinate meanings, but all words contain varying degrees of indeterminacy. Viola the demonstration: "A bat came through my window"
  • I hope this exercise demonstrates how meaning develops according to context. Of course, every person, place and thing contributes to the interpretation of meaning. This is the importance of kairos
  • Additionally, rhetoric recognizes that communication, the act of interpretation, is not strictly a logical exercise, it is also an emotional one. While many people are suspicious of emotion, rhetoricians often presume that our emotional sensors can be more perceptive than our logical ones. Take, for instance, the following phrase: "If I really loved you..."

On Morville's Ambient Findability: Quizercise #1: Given what I've talked about today, why would I open this course with Morville? Your response should focus on one specific passage from Morville--no more than five sentences. Your response should link a passage from Morville to something I have said today.

Before we break:

  1. Make sure I collected writing samples and quiz#1
  2. Make sure I bring up both readings, Surowiecki and Corder
  3. Explain how to read Corder, academic prose, responsibilities of academic readers, taking notes, preparing for class
  4. Discuss homework: emailing blog choices by Saturday @ 10:00am
  5. Set up your del.icio.us accounts (try this one on your own)
  6. Conferences for friday


106: Week One

If you are looking for baby photos, then you should scroll down to the previous post. If you are looking to pass English 106, then you should scroll down to the baby photos, sufficiently oooh and aaah, and then scoll back to this post.

Wednedsay, August 22nd, lecture notes:

  1. Review the syllabus, especially the course description.
  2. Examine some sample blogs:
  3. Other blog possibilities:
    • Fantasy Football
    • Restaurant Reviews
    • AFI Top 100 films (Cult classic movies, classic B&W, dramatic movies, oscar nominated foreign films, blockbuster movie of the week, horror, top grossing films)
    • Books
    • Graphic Novels
    • Street Culture (skateboarding, shoes, music, etc.)
    • Travelling
    • Vinyl
    • Presidential politics
    • Photography
    • Simpsons and society
    • NBA Basketball (Bulls)
    • Chicago Sports
    • Learning to cook: (dorm food)
    • Surviving Freshman Year (campus hot spots--what to do at Purdue?)
    • Painting / Fine Arts
    • Video Game / Television community: reality tv
    • Celebrity fashion
  4. Blog resources:
  5. Setting up our del.icio.us accounts:
    1. What is del.icio.us? It is a social bookmarking site. Imagine bookmarking a page in your browser. Now imagine doing it online and categorizing the site. Now imagine a program that sorts every page bookmarked by every user. You are going to create del.icio.us accounts and link them to my account so I can see what you are looking at.
    2. Visit del.icio.us homepage.
    3. Choose to create a new account
    4. YOUR USERNAME CANNOT BE YOUR REAL NAME OR YOUR PURDUE USER NAME. I REPEAT: NO REAL NAMES. You are likely 18. I want to protect your anonymity. I know that I wouldn't want the public to access what I wrote when I was 18. Chances are, you won't either. Even if you want to user your real name, I'm telling to you can't.
    5. Now we are going to set up a "post to del.icio.us" button. Chances are you'll want to do this on your home computer too. On the loggin menu, choose "help." Under bookmarking, you'll see a link to create a button for any browser. That's what we want.
    6. Now we want to learn how to tag. Tags are single word descriptions of a page. SINGLE WORD. If you want two words, use a hyphen to connect them. Put spaces in between tags. Let's do a sample one together.
    7. Finally, I want you to "link" to my account. This way, I can see what you are looking at and you can see what I am looking at. On the top menu, under the del.icio.us page header, choose "my network." Enter my user name into the "your network" text field and press the "add" radio button. Poof, the world becomes that much more connected.

Over the next couple days I want you to surf the web, using technorati and blog rolls to start exploring a community. I am going to ask you to email a list of blogs you might want to write by Saturday at 10:00am. As you begin exploring these communities, tag the blogs to del.icio.us. As you form groups, I'll ask you to share your links with other students of similar interests. This will be our first step toward forming a blog roll for your group's blog.


All Hail the Queen

At 7:39, Monday August 20th, Meg gave birth to Rowan Margaret. Words are insufficient. First, some pics from about 10 minutes after she was born:

Next, some pics from late Tuesday morning (15 hours old). Up first, a stunning shot I call "Fingers find mouth":

Next, an up close shot titled "Fingers remain in mouth--sleepy":

My personal favorite: "I might get fussy":

And, of course, "Rowan asserts her presence":


Work in Progress

Meg's water broke at 9:00 last night, right after a spirited boxing match and a few team efforts at Wii tennis. We've been at the hospital since 10:00 this morning, and her labor started getting intense about twenty minutes ago. We've got the assistance of Tammy, our dulah, and things are progressing quickly. The staff expects Meg to deliver before midnight.


Rosa & Acceleration

(I thought I might share some recent reading notes for my dissertation, I think there's something in here for everyone. Please excuse the awkwardness of the prose, this is first draft. Overall, Rosa's article is insightful and definately worth a read)

Rosa, Hartmut. "Social Acceleration: Ethical and Political Consequences of a Desynchronized High-Speed Society." Constellations 10.1 (2003) 3-33.

Rosa seeks to explore a fifth an often overlooked facet of late-modernism (which she resists calling postmodernism, seeing more of a connection than a break). In addition to differentation, rationalization, individuation, and domestication, she wishes to explore acceleration--the ways in which our pace of lives has increased. She notes that the four common concepts all come with a social paradox--for instance differentiation generates disintegration, rationalization generates Weber's "Iron Cage" (trapped by inflexible logic and unwavering faith in rationality), individuation generates mass culture, and domestication of nature, which leads to possible environmental disaster. Acceleration, too, comes with its own paradox: as our production and media speed up, one would think we are left with more time. However, Rosa explains that this speed up, along with a shift in metaphysical orientation from primarily the next world to this one, actually leaves with less time--feeling more overburdened and hurried. Time, which would seemingly become abundant, ends up becoming scarce.

Here's a passage for Casey and Brian:

The idea of the fulfilled life no longer supposes a "higher life" waiting for us after death, but rather consists in realizing as many options as possible from the vast possibilities the world has to offer. To taste life in all its heights and depths and in its full complexity becomes a central aspiration of modern man. But, as it turns out, the world always seems to have more to offer than can be experienced in a single lifetime[...] The eudaimonistic promise of modern acceleration thus appears to be a functional equivalent to religious ideas of eternity or "eternal life," and the acceleration of "the pace of life" represents the modern answer to the problem of finitude and death. (13)

Explication: so many video games, so little time. In seriousness, this is how Rosa explains the cultural phenomenon of "zapping" channels--as more options grow, so to grows the anxiety of what we're missing on the other channel. Hence we have "the paradoxical phenomenon of simultaneous technological acceleration and increasing time scarcity" (14). Very Smart

So much for the explication, let's move on to the meet. My first disagreement with Rosa concerns how technology affects space (and, by extension, place). She writes:

...in the age of globalization and the u-topicality of the Internet, time is increasingly conceived as compressing or annihilating space. Space, it seems, virtually 'contracts' and loses its significance for orientation in the late modern world. Processes and developments are no longer located and locations become 'non-liuex,' without history, identity, or relation. (6-7)

Although this topic is covered only briefly, I propose that Rosa is collapsing the distinction between space and place. Space is a non-topical description-- it is, rather, place that we think of in terms of strict geography and coordinates. And it is place that has largely dominated communication throughout time. The Modern (and postmodern) periods can be marked with the dissolution of place's control over communication and rhetorical encounter: the letter, the telegraph, the telephone, the radio, the motion picture, the television, and the internet all breakdown the necessity for sharing a place to communicate. But the spaces in which we communicate are equally as present, even if the others with which we once communicated are no absent (in their own spaces). Rather than losing significance in our accelerated world, the ambiguous sense of space (versus the iron cage sense of place) increases in importance. What is annihilated is the common and seemingly obvious security of shared places. Places are overwritten with the idiosyncracy and temporality of the digital. This is perhaps more apparent in places such as Singapore, where an emphasis on mobile technology has led to virtual signposts--street corners are packed with user messages that other users naturally encounter. On a more theoretical level, the non-place, non-topicality of the internet reminds us that the places we inhabit--the street corner, the office, the home-- are all largely socially constructed. Its is a reminder that we can no longer imagine one world (one place), but an infinite series of spaces, overlapping and shared. Here again, we see the need for a rhetoric that supports multiplicity and respects the view of others. [Rosa cites Paul Harvey here, p. 201f and 272f).

If I need someone to argue that technology greatly impacts life, she does so (12).

Second course:

The acceleration of rates of social change to an intra- rather than inter- generational pace is mirrored in a language which avoids identity predicates and uses temporary markers instead. People speak of working (for the time being) as a baker rather than being a baker, living with Mary rather than being Mary's husband, going to the Methodist Church rather than being a Methodist, voting Republican rather than being a Republican, and so on. This use of language indicates that the awareness of contingency has increased even where the actual rates of change have not yet done so: things (jobs, spouses, religious and political commitments, etc.) could be otherwise, they could change at any time because of either my own or other people's decisions. (19)

While I agree with Rosa that acceleration factors into this development, I think there is more at work here, something extra-egoitst. There is an increased expectation of otherness- the other to whom I speak might be a single, Jewish, Democratic person alergic to flour. Poor thing, cake is yummy. So, while I agree that we no longer as easily associate ourselves with the reverence of BEING, that we are far more aware of our contingent constitution, we are also more aware that such contingency is caused as much by others (their judgments as well as their actions) as acceleration.

In a line of argumentation that would make McLuhan proud, Rosa explains that the perspectives through which people organize their lives are changing drastically (19). She writes:

"Classical" modern identities were consequently long term projects supposed to evolve like a Bildungsroman. In late modernity, however, this pattern no longer holds: neither work- nor family-life can be foreseen or planned for a lifetime. Instead, people develop a new perspective that has been oddly termed the "temporalization of time": time-spans and the sequence of duration of activities or commitments are no longer planned ahead but left to evolve. Such a temporalization of time, however, is equivalent to the de-temporalization of life: life is no longer planned along a line that stretches from the past to the future; instead, decisions are taken from "time to time" according to situational and contextual needs and desires. (19)

The medium, then, is the message: no longer a linear form, now--hmm, what a word we could use here... something that relates to media technology but isn't linear in fashion... rather, it should suggest a series of choices, only a limited number of which can be selected.... Our dominant media practices come to influence our metaphysics. Rosa concludes:

However we evaluate this phenomenon, the incompatibility of "situational" identities with the modern ideal of individual ethical autonomy is apparent. For the ideal of the autonomous and reflective leading of a life requires adopting long-term commitments which bestow a sense of direction, priority, and 'narratability' to life. (20)

I agree with Rosa completely on this point, although I'm not sure we feel the same way about this development. I see this as a moment of liberation, a positive change, but I am suspect that autonomy leads to anything ethical. "Ethical autonomy" is something of an oxy moron. From a Levinasian perspective, the strict linearity of the novel equates to a form of tyranny--an isolated form at that. This is not to say that I don't enjoy being tyrannized every so often, but this is not the dominant model for a hyper-connected world, one in which our social contacts are vastly increased. I would also say that we do not need the strict plot of a novel to bestow a sense of direction, but we do need to face the risk and insecurity that can come from merely surfing. Whether, as a culture, we are willing to return to such a Hellenic metaphysic remains to be seen.

Rosa's article exposes the extent to which accerlation is impacting contemporary society, down to its core assumptions regarding subjectivity, ethics, and metaphysics. The contemporary subject is more aware of contigency and less likely to envision their live according to the rigidity of Being. From marriage, to career, to political and relgious affiliations, we see an increasing acceptance of "becoming." Rosa suggests that, without the drive of a linear plot, our lives are heading toward a kind of social inertia (20). We can ask if, alongside this sense of becoming, a more Hellenic / Sophistic ethic will emerge: one in which linear progression is more equated with tyranny, where individual autonomy gives way to group tolerance.


Rapid Fire Thoughts

  • I'm sitting in one of Purdue's undergrad computer labs to work on my teaching portfolio (the draft of which is below--I'm going to play around with that Dali-esque scheme). The reason I'm using a gen-pop lab: the new Adobe Creative Suite. Our pathetic College of Liberal Arts computers (the one's delegated to the English Department) don't have the new tricked out software package (nor do they have IE 7.0 yet--but that's a good thing for me, I want to beta test my sites with IE 6.0 and the ancient English department is fast becoming one of the few places around Purdue I can do so). To my chagrin, Fireworks is gone--so now I have to start using Photoshop. I new this day was coming, but I just didn't think it would be so soon...
  • Speaking of soon, Meg's still pregnant. Very, very pregnant.
  • The Red Sox will be fine, so long as Schilling can stay healthy. Starting pitching wins in the regular season, and the Sox have plenty of that. Great starting pitching wins in the post-season, and I'm not sure how Dice-K and Lester will fare. I'm also not sure how Big Big Papi will be in October, but he deserves respect for playing all season with a bum shoulder.
  • I finished my upcoming 106 website, and am quite pleased with the results. I really like how the typography came out--expect this blog's typeface to change quite soon. In the end, I took a closer look at how Dave Shea sets up his fonts over at Mezzo-Blue, and sytled something similar:
    font-family:"Lucida Grande", "Lucida Sans Unicode", "Gill Sans", "Tw Cen MT", Arial, sans-serif;
    I was trying to set the font-size through ems, but found that the different browsers (Safari vs. IE & FF) just interpreted them way to different. Pixels seems more precise to me. The headers are done in a different family, one that looks a lot better on Safari than on PC (I'm still working this out):
    font-family:"Abadi MT Condensed Light", "Gill Sans", Arial, sans-serif;
    I know that the Web2.0 aesthetic calls for rounded everything, but I am more and more liking the simplicity and contrast of straight lines. Course, from a coding perspective, straight lines are a lot easier to pull off! I'm going to try to make sure that my new site has rounded corners, but I'm not yet sure if I am going to use a background image (effective, but old-fashioned) or if I am going to get a bit more fancy. I really like this png technique over at Schillmania, but am not quite sure if it will work on a large scale. Experimentation forthcoming.