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.


Content v. Copy

Here's one of the problems that comes with creating a syllabus. You carefully arrange each reading and budget out your (and your students') time. Then, checking up on your RSS feeds, you come across an article far better than most of the things you put into your coursepack (which is already at the printer--Wishydig, I put your name on the coursepack but wasn't 100% certain that you were going to require it--the printer is initially going to run 60 copies but told me its no problem to run an additional 20).

Today I'm referring to an article by Amber Simmons over at A List Apart. While obnoxious at points (she links to another of her articles as an example of thoughtful writing--a little humility and generousity please). Putting that aside, she offers an interesting classification of information on the web: copy and content. Copy is the hollow, substance-less, corporate, commercial crap that fills our span filters and junk folders. Content is the thoughtful, insightful, often user-generated stuff that we RSS, cut 'n' paste, blog about [its is, after all, the audience who deems whether a post is insightful by their sustained attention], and forward. Here's some snippets:

The kind of writing we encourage is lifeless, insipid, and calorie-free. If we want to get back on track—to allow writers to write wonderful user experiences—we have to change our expectations and our rules.


As our culture becomes increasingly digital, the art forms that support it must be constructed with the same care, deliberateness, and gusto as our traditional media. Intelligent content is the literature of our time. It is not enough that our printed books and magazines are ardently written and meticulously edited. Our culture loses much if we encourage online writers to sacrifice grace and personality on the altars of pith and scannability. Perhaps better advice is to encourage writers to say exactly what they mean with precisely the words required, however many they may be.

One of the reasons for our teaching this version of introductory composition is to increase our students ability both to recognize copy and generate content. As members of the digital collective, components of the now living and constantly evolving information filter, we are all responsible for our new information ecology. We need to be conservationists, dedicated to upkeep. I see no reason why this shouldn't start in University, why a basic understanding of not only HTML but also social bookmarking and group think.


Time for a Change

Since just about every person I know has some distaste for this blog and my homepage's design, I've decided its time for a redesign before I hit the job market. The problem: I have no inspiration. None. This is a first for me, usually when I need to create a website, an idea just pops into my head. Poof. Then its just nuts and bolts. This time, however, I'm coming up empty.

Needing some inspiration, I picked up an oversized compendium of Dali's work (on the cheap--only 20 bucks for a 770 page, high quality tome--score). Here's the plan--I'm going to dissect some of Dali's painting, paying special attention to what kind of color schemes I can generate. Hopefully, in the process, some kind of layout will poof into my head. Let's get started.

Today's painting is "The Old Age of William Tell" (1931):

I planned on creating a five color scheme, but ended up generating seven colors:

Generally, I'm pretty cautious with color schemes, so I wanted to try something a bit more adventurous and to stay away from anything too monochromatic. Now to try this scheme out on a sample website.

I didn't use all the colors--too much clash for me to handle, but I did generate a non-monochromatic, three column layout:

I'm going to try to use this as a template for my teaching portfolio. The main navigation will include course titles. I'll put them in the orange stripe as you roll over them, they will open sub-directories in the green stripe (theoretically). I'm not sure if I'll keep the slight overhang of the white content area into the orange--I like it because it implies that the content area has some kind of shape, and keeps with the rounded corners motif. More on this tomorrow night (assuming my wife doesn't go into labor!)


So Crazy it has to be True

Sigh. Just when I thought intellectual property issues couldn't get worse, this story passes through /. the other day. As reported, media broadcasters want you to pay to port media to different devices. This might not sound like a big deal, but this would in a sense contradict the Sony rule, and would seriously impact our ability to personalize how we consume media.

For those unfamiliar with the Sony rule, it is the Supreme court decision from the Betamax case in which Sony survived a crucial lawsuit brought on by the MPAA (the VCR's version of the RIAA). The Motion Picture Association of America sued Sony for copyright infringement, arguing that the VCR encouraged piracy. The underlying issue was also that the VCR allowed people to tape programs and thus fast foward through commercials (although I never did this with my VCR, I now start watching most TV programs 20 minutes late so I can fast foward through commercials with my DVR). In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court agreed with Sony's defense: that the primary function of the VCR wasn't copying for distribution, it was for time displacement--that is, most people were using their VCRs to watch a program when it was most convienent for them. This was deemed to be perfectly legal. And since the VCR had a legitimate primary function, it was not responsible for people using it for inappropriate activity (piracy). Thus the Sony rule: demonstrate that the primary function of your technology was not illegal and you are good as gold.

Since then, a few other digital technologies have tried to invoke this defense, and lost miserably (Napster, Grokster) since they could not demonstrate that their primary function wasn't to exchange copyrighted material. Napster tried to argue that it was a kind of spatial displacement--that people uploaded their music files to the network so they could access them anywhere. Nice try. Of course, they lost.

Way I see it, the media companies are looking to restrict, revoke, or bypass as much of the Sony ruling as possible. Lost in the piracy war is the growing restrictiveness of DRM--think of Sony's attempt to limit how many times a CD can be copied or Apple's restricting iTunes downloads to iPod players. When Sony attempted to limit CD burns, people rebelled. Sony was so disgraced by the public outrage (even if it was driven by a small, /.-segment of the population) that they scrapped the venture. While technology increasingly allows us to take culture anywhere, in any form, industry increasingly expects us to pay for the content multiple times. If I spend 50$ for Madden Football 2008, shouldn't I be able to play the game on my PS2 and my PSP? On my computer? If I purchase a DVD from Walmart, shouldn't I be able to rip it to my laptop for a long plane ride?

The media companies have become increasingly adept at climbing the ethical highground and framing DRM as a response to piracy. Blah, blah, blah. We have to counter this by arguing that 1) DRM is an unfair attempt to control media, 2) that some piracy is simply civil disobedience, and 3) that if we purchase content, then we should be free to control what platforms we use to access that content.