Year in Review

Here's the "first line of every month" post

All in all, a good year. I like the post's which begin with a link, but I've got to be a bit more accessibility-aware and stop using "this" for links.



Via ZeFrank, a great flash game called auditorium. I'm stuck on 3.4. I'm not one for flash games, but this is very well done.


A Small Old-Fashioned American Hero

Its been awhile since I've written on the RIAA and ip, but a great story on how ISP's are resisting the RIAA's insane plan came across /. this mornin. We can also cast Jerry Scroggin as the everyman hero in America's struggle to retake culture and maintain our Constitutional creative rights. Scroggings ins't a lawyer, he's a small ISP operator, and he's mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore. Well, not really. He's a nice capitalist who isn't going to do the RIAA's bidding for free.

Scroggin is no radical. He respects the law and said he has a long history of cooperating with authorities to protect people from harm.

"If it was life threatening, I'm the first to jump," he said. "We've been contacted by police over Denial of Service and bot attacks. We'll have Secret Service and FBI conversations. We help if police are on perv watch."

But protecting against copyright violations just doesn't have the same urgency, not enough that that ISPs should be asked to work without compensation, Scroggin said. Here are the realities of being "HBO's free police," he said. First, when a media company demands he kick a customer off the network, there is very little in the way of proof offered that the person in question has committed a crime, according to Scroggin. Yet, entertainment companies want Scroggin to simply wave goodbye to a customer who might have signed up for a three-year plan. At $40 per month, that customer is potentially worth $1,440 to Scroggin over the life of the plan. That, says the ISP owner, is unreasonable.

Next, it's expensive and time consuming to ask highly paid technicians to chase down IP logs and customer IDs, Scroggin said, noting that it's especially difficult nowadays because it's extremely easy to spoof IP addresses.

Scroggin's argument calls attention to the difficulties of denying service beyond finances--especially IP spoofing. If the RIAA wants private industry to take up their cause, that's going to cost them. Otherwise, its like banks forcing automakers to monitor drivers in case one might use the car for a robbery. Automakers provide a vital service, and there is no widespread expectation that they must defend against misuse. So long as ISPs don't advertise "hey, we've got the fastest connection for downloading all your illegal music," I'd say they are covered. Ah, sometimes capitalism works just like you want it to.

Thinking back to yesterday's post, it seems the RIAA wrongly thought it was in the music business. It never was. Musicians are in the music business. Radio stations are quasi-in the music business. The labels behind the RIAA were in the marketing business. And so, as they continue to develop new strategies for protecting music, the net continues to develop new ways to market artists. These new ways might not be perfect yet, but that is the next big thing. That's when Nickelback will no longer be "fresh" rock. I'm thinking a Facebook driven radio station, powered by the recommendations of Friends with a "click to buy this track" button. Something.

Let's just take a moment and enjoy another chink the the RIAA's armor. And go Blue States for putting a halt to some of the RIAA's madness.


Global Information Killed the Local Newspaper Star

James Surowiecki has a nice and short article in this month's New Yorker on the death of newspapers. For those who remember Danny Devito in Other People's Money, its pretty much the buggy whip argument (movie is down below, skip ahead to 2:30)--but a bit more complicated. It is not a simple matter of an industry becoming outdated, but of an industry not recognizing the most vital aspect of its operation. Newspapers shouldn't conceptualize themselves as being in the print business, rather, they are in the information business. Had they realized this 15 years ago, they could have done more to network and prevent things like CraigList, Monster, etc. from taking over a large part of their business--communicating vital information and networking strangers.

I do find a particular irony in Surowiecki's article: so often we think of the internet as promoting local relations. By putting media back into the hands of the people (to channel some Gillmor), the internet provides more and more local broadcasting. It creates voices outside of the major media centers. But, as Surowiecki explains, it is also killing the local newspaper--since so much information is out there for free.

I wonder where people will read obituaries once the local paper has died.

There is another disturbing suggestion in Surowiecki's argument--the return of patronage. Perhaps patronage of the newspaper is no different than that of PBS, but the thought of news media outlets relying on the generosity of the wealthy scares me. I don't want the news to be purchased. Fox news is bad enough. Let's not return to a medieval system where every party has their own scribe competing to present the truth. Oh, wait... I think we already have that... But let's at least attempt to maintain an air of objectivity that allows me to think the system is working...


Cover Bands

A few posts ago I talked about my love of cover bands. Today a list of the "top cover bands of all-time" cam across Coudal. I forgot how much I like Dread Zeppelin (the Rondellus was quirky, Nouvelle Vague kinda cool). Enjoy.


Gay Marriage vs. Civil Unions

Kristen had a nice post on Huckabee's recent appearance on the Daily Show. I wrote this as a response there, but wanted to publish it here as well. I do so a bit hesitantly, knowing what a charged topic this is. I am also hesitant of my own answer, one I am often quick to critique (when students oppose the idea of using the term marriage, I sarcastically respond with "yes, and wasn't it nice when we gave black people their own water fountains and native americans "special" plots of land"). But I've published before on avoiding critiques of conservative values which claim the intellectual high ground. There is no absolutely logical way of demonstrating that liberal values are somehow more rational than conservative (don't confuse "rational" with "better," but "better" for me is "more ethical" in a strict Levinsian sense of the words--let's save that for another day). And my ultimate concern is with changing public policy as quickly as possible. So here goes:

I would, not to defend Huckabee, point out that the binary is not necessarily between fundamentalism and liberals–it can be framed as between conservatives and progressives. Conservatives feel that human logic is itself a threat to True human values. There is dire need to protect our (metaphysical) inheritance from the deprecating influence of time. I doubt I need to explicate progressives for this audience...

And I do not think any logological approach (drawing from Burke, an approach predicated on logic, reason, etc as its metaphysical basis) will “destabilize” this view. I’m thinking of Grassi here, neither view can claim to be “more rational,” since all first principles (faith in the primacy of God, faith in the transient historical power of reason) are non-rational. There is no logical way to prove God’s existence. Nor, however, is there any way to disprove that existence. And there is nothing more reasonable about not believing in that which cannot be proved (etc. etc.). All logic is ultimately circular--at least that's what I think Nietzsche taught Foucault.

I believe the more strategic maneuver is to craft new language to usurp old power. Stop advocating for gay marriage, and instead advocate for civil unions. Yes its euphemistic. And yes, I realize that it is not the ideal solution. I realize it would be a very large concession on the part of the gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual communities.

But it sidesteps a large part of the fundamental argument that words have stable fundamental meanings. Thus, it sidesteps having to popularize a very sophistic(ated) notion of language. And it sidesteps the arguments about whether a particular group of people can “own” a word. It reframes the scene of the debate, and hopefully offers moderates a more appealing option.


To my students...One more(s) time....

So I'm grading final papers.

You italicize or underline a major work, such as a book, journal, or magazine. You quote a part of that work, such as an article.

You italicize or underline a major work, such as a book, journal, or magazine. You quote a part of that work, such as an article.

You italicize or underline a major work, such as a book, journal, or magazine. You quote a part of that work, such as an article.

You italicize or underline a major work, such as a book, journal, or magazine. You quote a part of that work, such as an article.

You italicize or underline a major work, such as a book, journal, or magazine. You quote a part of that work, such as an article.

You italicize or underline a major work, such as a book, journal, or magazine. You quote a part of that work, such as an article.

You italicize or underline a major work, such as a book, journal, or magazine. You quote a part of that work, such as an article.

You italicize or underline a major work, such as a book, journal, or magazine. You quote a part of that work, such as an article.

You italicize or underline a major work, such as a book, journal, or magazine. You quote a part of that work, such as an article.

You italicize or underline a major work, such as a book, journal, or magazine. You quote a part of that work, such as an article.

You italicize or underline a major work, such as a book, journal, or magazine. You quote a part of that work, such as an article.

You italicize or underline a major work, such as a book, journal, or magazine. You quote a part of that work, such as an article.

You italicize or underline a major work, such as a book, journal, or magazine. You quote a part of that work, such as an article.

You italicize or underline a major work, such as a book, journal, or magazine. You quote a part of that work, such as an article.


Someone Tell Me If I Like This...

Something bugs me about this video. I watch a lot of the "times-they-are-a-changin'" videos, but don't know what to make of this. But my Blink sense is tingling...

Since I'm teaching my digital citizenship course next semester, I think I'll use this in class.


Rhetoric v. Philosophy Take 1702931

Read this Machiavelli quote over at Cracked and thought it offered another (mock-Aristotelian?) way for thinking about philosophy's Idealism against rhetoric's pragmatism:

there are two means of fighting: one according to the laws, the other with force; the first way is proper to man, the second to beasts; but because the first, in many cases, is not sufficient, it becomes necessary to have recourse to the second



Funny Doesn't Belong There

I often find myself trying to come to terms with my love of rhetoric; to the point that I try to find traces of this love littered throughout my entire life's narrative. One such trace, I tell myself, is my lifelong love of the cover song and the remix. Since I was a kid, I have always enjoyed the playful cover or parody--like the Lemonhead's "My Name is Luka," Dynamic Hack's "Boyz in tha Hood," or even Alien Ant Farm's "Smooth Criminal."

So, I tell myself, this clearly expresses an early appreciation for the kairotic dimensions of context. I appreciate a playful re-appropriation. I also can appreciate it as a deconstructionist--something that alerts us to silent norms, to expectations. Such an alert must be respectful, even while playful. For instance: laughing at a funeral. The laugh at a funeral might defy social convention, but it does so (hopefully) as light-hearted remembrance and as painfully playful nostalgia. It manifests the often neglected cliche: a proper funeral celebrates a life rather than mourns a death. So, you can laugh at a funeral. You cannot order a pizza.

I think the playful cover song, one self-conscious of its recontextualization, represents this kind of properly un-kairotic laughter (to borrow DDD's term). This laughter attempts a self-consciousness tempered by obligation--to the original, to the moment, to something other. All this came to mind today thanks to Mxrk's sharing the Jim Lehrer piece:


EFF vs USA (with a little Kant)

In "Preventing-1984-in-2008" news, the Bush administration and the EFF will be squaring off today. At stake: whether ISPs should be legally accountable for illegally (or "homeland security legally") passing information to the NSA. Panopticonic issues withstanding, I think this is a very tricky issue. We once impeached a president for messing with tape...

But has our information landscape changed to the point where this kind of surveillance is necessary? I think I would draw on Bush's own response to the terrorists after 9/11--we cannot allow fear to impinge upon our freedoms. Of course, Bush wanted us all to go shopping. Which, looking at national credit card debt, we did. Now I think we need to heed the same call, and hold our own government, and whoever aided them, accountable.

After teaching my course on the history of education for the second time, I have even more respect for Kant brazenness. I appreciate his crafting of a private "public" sphere... one in which everyone has the right to speak. While Kant might have also mandated that we obey, he saw it as everyone's right to be free to speak and learn (and read and google search) without fear of impunity. Such "public" learning requires privacy. Those familiar with Kant's Conflict of the Faculties will get the whole "public/private" scare quoting.

Let's see how things shake out on Tuesday.


Sure its too easy, but its still funny

I normally don't waste time with Bush bashing, its sort of like challenging a sixth grader to a steel cage match, but this shit is too funny.


Rowan Update

We are home resting; Rowan managed not to catch my plague. Right now, she's playing outside with gramma (Meg's mom just got here this morning to give us some much needed help). Thanks to everyone for their concern and wishes.

We got great news yesterday--the post-op examinations showed no signs that the cancer had left Rowan's eye. Her optic nerve was clean. This means that we very likely have a cancer-free baby. We're really grateful for that--we needed a win.


Obama goes to work

As I recently mentioned, I primarily voted for Obama based on his stance toward net neutrality. Obama has decided to appoint our nation's first Chief Technology Officer. User Voice, a social aggregator, has set up an interesting forum to discuss the priorities for the new appointment. Very interesting, but it is unclear whether Obama knows the site exists. The site details that "official reviews" are coming, but doesn't say who the officials are...

Regardless, take a minute to read through some of the excellent suggestions, vote, and ponder whether the previous administration would even consider for a milli-second the idea of digital public opinion.

And, Mxrk, don't waste a vote on the guy developing sharks with "lazers."


Sunday Update 2

Things have gotten much better as the day progressed. We stopped giving her the Tylenol w/ codine and her condition really improved. Codine can cause both constipation and nausea, and she hasn't vomited since last night. She's eating solid food, playing with her toys, and even dancing a little. We're still waiting on the poop, but everyone here is in much better spirits.

Sunday Update

Things are still not going very well. We spent last night at the hotel, and Rowan did sleep soundly through the night. She's had a bit of breast milk this morning, but is refusing solid foods (and Rowan never refuses food...). She's also crying constantly. We've stopped giving her Tylenol w/ codine, since codine can cause constipation. As can her chemo drugs. Rowan hasn't pooped since Wednesday, so we've given her some milk of magnesia.

A good sign: in the time its taken me to write this email, she took a bite of watermelon.

It is going to be a very, very long Sunday.


Saturday Update

Rowan's recovery has been rough today--she's had a real difficult time holding down food or liquid. At this point she's refusing to take her pain medication or milk of mag (she's also suffering some constipation). We originally hoped to be released today, but its not looking that way. Currently, she's sleeping and has managed to hold down some breast milk for about 40 minutes (if she can hold it down for an hour, we might be able to spend tonight at the hotel rather than at the hospital.... fingers crossed...).

Again, we would like to thank everyone that helped make Friday night such a success. Meg and I have no way of expressing what all your support means to us. Thank you all


Successful Surgery

Rowan is recovering from this morning's surgery. She is healthy and safe. The doctor saw no signs that the cancer has spread beyond her eye. All news is good news.

We probably won't get to see her for another hour until we see her. Then we'll be heading over to Jackson Memorial for her 4th chemo treatment. We'll be in Miami until Monday.

Calling for Five Minutes of Your Time

I just read a disturbing story on how libraries are being pressured away from cooperating with open source project: a concise post, written by Aaron Swartz over at Raw Thought. If you don't have the time to read the article, please, please, sign the petition.

Here's what I wrote as my message, feel free to crib, borrow, or challenge:

As a professor of classical rhetoric and new media production, I stress to my peers and students the important of open source projects. The progression of our society depends upon the free, uninhibited flow of information; digital technologies magic stems from their ability to foster cooperation and harness human interest, effort, and work.

We cannot allow any group to attempt to usurp and monopolize information. Centralizing control of library catalogues is itself a bad idea; to attempt to capitalize on such control treads on the criminal. The information collected in libraries represents the work of thousands over hundreds of years. It is not a resource to be strip-mined for benefit of a few.

Update: A few people asked for a quick summation, so here goes. There's a library database group, the OCLC, that started grassroots. Essentially, they run a master database that catalogues every book in the US. Back in the day, every library employed somebody to do this, but now almost every library relies on the database.

Well, the grassroots company has been purchased by for-profit industrialists, and they realize that they have a potential monopoly on their hands--without them, no library could run an electronic catalogue. They have grown into a power, and now they are demanding that any library that uses their system refuses to share catalogue info with any other group.


I'll Take It: Keeping Contemporary Culture and Materials in Our Classes

This came over my NCTE email this morning: The Code of Best Practices for Media Literacy Education. The nice part is that it is put together by lawyers who have read the constitution and are willing to fight for our rights. This is very unlike the obnoxious local "copyworks" representative who was ready to jump up and down to tell me how all coursepacks require royalties. To you I respond:principle two. That's right, principle two.

Its been awhile since I have had the opportunity, academically or otherwise, to mention DJ Spooky. But every time I think about copyright, I think about how smart, engaging, and important Rhythm Science really is. And its nice to know that there are forces out there working to protect everyone's right to engage the cultural mix.


Just When You Thought It Was Safe...

Way back in the Fall of 07, I decided to vote for Obama based on his policies concerning media and technology, specifically the internet. Obama was the only candidate who opposed private regulation of information--comparing the internet to a public resource, like phone lines, highways, waterworks. That earned my vote: government regulation of the internet..

I bring this up after reading a story on Slash.dot today. Seems even the "sane" countries are looking at China with a bit of envy. This is not the kind of regulation I'm looking for. At least the ISP is confident that the plan will fail, and fail utterly (and they plan to publicize every little failure, no doubt alongside the near 100,000,000 million dollar price tag).

One of my favorite Derrida essays is "The University in the Eyes of Its Pupils." In the essay, Derrida describes the landscape surrounding Cornell: built high on a hill, there is a dangerous precipice along the edge of the campus. University administrators were contemplating building a large fence to protect students from failing off the cliff. But Derrida argued that such a fence would not only spoil the view, it would undermine the integrity of the institution. Education is a risky business; to create the sublime transformative moment in the mind of a student requires taking risks. Risking the worst.

I believe such an anecdote applies to the internet. While the idea of a firewall might sound appealing, attempting to filter the Good from the noise, to reduce the risk, threatens the integrity of the whole. I only wonder when such an idea will catch on around here.


I not We, Me not US

As I'm finishing my Levinas chapter, I'm feeling how hard it is to apply his ethics to academic writing--at least my academic writing. I am so used to using the plural, collective pronouns: we and us, that it feels disorienting to use I and me. But I do believe it turns me into a more naked, and thus, more ethical voice. It prevents me from climbing the mountain.

Of course, to those unfamiliar with Levinas, it leaves me exposed. This is Levinas' point--to always write as exposed, to invite the response, to risk the worst. But for someone accustomed to writing with confidence, as the authority, it is odd--in a very affective way--to offer rather than expound, to posit rather than claim, to say rather than tell.


O.k., now you can say it

The early yesterday, I posted a comment over at mxrk applying the logic of the baseball gods to a premature discussion of victory. Here's those rules:

  1. Do not say the words no hitter after the 4th inning. Do not use any semantic expression concerned with the concepts of "no" and "hit." You are not allowed to make such expression until the game is over.
  2. Never, never, say the words "We got this one in the bag." Always grant the baseball Gods the gift of the probable--"wow, we might win this one." The baseball gods listen for certainty. They live to crush your certitude.
  3. Never, never, never say "that guy's going to be good for a long time." The baseball gods will mock your pretentiousness. This is also called the "Mark Prior / Kerry Wood" commandment.

That was a great no-hitter last night: all game long he hit the corners and challenged the middle (and that's WSJ people) when he had to. He wasn't afraid to throw up and in. Just look at the nasty break on this two-seamer:

“I think it’s good that Sen. McCain is celebrating the American worker today, but it would have been nice if he stood up for them over the last twenty-six years,” Obama said.

Just explodes down and in.

It was a hard earned victory and I think this guy could be good for a long time so long as his teammates keep their eye on the ball.


Hee hee hee

Woman outside of voting place: Would you like some literature on question 2?

Me: Sure, what is question 2 about?

Woman outside of voting place: Well, question two supports our traditional family structure.

Me: Oh, so that means that its against gay marriage

Woman outside of voting place: Yes, but its important for us to amend the constitution to protect our morals.

Me: Yes, o.k., but I don't think my husband would like that bill.

I admit, sometimes being a practicing deconstructionist is fun.


Once Upon a Time...

I thought nothing could be better than rewinding and pausing live television. Hallelujah technology, for finally conquering the tyranny of linear time.

Now, through a student, I have discovered Last.fm. All the randomness and excitement of discovery that comes with a radio station completely equipped with a skip track button. Now I can fastforward time, reclaiming minutes that would have been otherwise wasted on trite radio. Mu'wa-ha-ha-ha.

Being and time my ass.


To My Students

Every semester I write a letter to my students that comments on my position in relation to the readings we are working through that semester. I delivered my letter early this semester, since I am trying to get them to think about the differences between what Vitanza identifies as writing and w-r-i-t-i-n-g; the former designates what we teach in textbooks and classes, the latter attempts to signify (impossibly) the broad expanse of all possible written expression. And then some.

Any who, for a bit of background, we've been reading about the historic purpose of higher education. We spent the first six weeks reading about five historic conceptions of higher ed: Plato (to produce philosopher kings) , Cicero (to produce citizens), Petrarch (to deal with life's hardships), Kant (to increase scientific knowledge), and Americans (economic advancement and vocationalism). Its been an interesting semester for me in terms of learning of my students aspirations and the intellectual climate at South Florida. Here's my letter to my students (those who wrote Trickert papers will recognize, no doubt, a particular tone and rhythm--I'm starting to realize how much I miss the looseness of those papers):

I know that I strive to be a Ciceronian--someone who values the voice of all people, who encourages all people to participate in the political and social conversations of their time. Unlike either Kant or Plato, I reject the concept of a progressive conversation through history. Although, on the flip side, I do believe it is important to know something of the voices that have come before us before you attempt to join in a conversation. An opinion is only valuable if it is based on something more than opinion. It is in this valuing that I begin to look like a Platonist... a charge that makes me cringe.

To detail why this charge would make me cringe would take quite a bit of time. Quickly, I will say that I do place value on the ideal that everyone should be free to live their life their own way. My academic career, and personal life, is dedicated to preventing another Holocaust (please forgive the logical jump). And the root of the Holocaust, in my opinion, lies in the fundamental premise that we can know the Truth. And that we can use the Truth to judge others.

If I object to religion, I do not do so for the same reasons as Kant. Everyone, I believe, has the right to worship who or what he s/he chooses. No one can claim to have a rational answer to the question of metaphysics. None of us can ever know, with certainty, what lies beyond. My objection to organized religion stems from its moral obligation to help the “less fortunate.” The same system that identifies "misfortunate" also provides the logic for solutions. Final solutions. Answers are solutions. In the face of Right answers, I ask my God for the strength to ask all the wrong questions. Sometimes she listens. Sometimes, in silence, in passivity, she reminds me to question her existence.

As to the arts, I support them. I think they help us to imagine possibilities. It is through this imaginative exploration that we can avoid the trappings of Reason--the passion for singular answers. To Plato I say: we do not escape imprisonment solely through the employment of reason. Imagination is not simply a means to convince the masses. Imprisonment can come from blindly dedicating ourselves to any one thing. Art serves as a way of diversifying our perspective, of challenging what we "know" to be true, of opening ways of hearing.

Lately, I’m feeling a bit Petrarchian. I apply everything I read to my own life. I draw examples to my own life. I even ask my students to write about me. Such is not meant to be an egotistical move (which, undoubtedly, my detractors would perceive it). Rather, it is meant to open myself up for inquiry, to improve myself as a teacher, and to force me to reflect on whether "me" is "me." If it is egotistical, it is so in a critical sense—it is a questioning of what puts the me in me. We all narrate our own stories. We are always just before the climax. Now is a product of a future we wish to be(come). But, ultimately, the future frustrates ourselves.

If I disagree with the structure of this class, I do so for two reasons. First, the class assumes a very Kantian perspective—i.e., you write for the Great Conversation (what we call academic writing). Perhaps I could more "work" the assignments to meet my own goals. Perhaps someone can do a final project on how I might do this. Imagine how, working with this material, you would teach the course. Second, true writing emerges from complex engagements. Writing is the thought that happens when you stop trying to write a paper and just start writing. It is when you chase down the trace of something Other in a moment when you suspend the will to order. When you [can’t] become something you couldn’t be. I'd like to do more of this writing, writing that more reflects w-r-i-t-i-n-g than writing. I'm trying to (w-)r-i-t-e ((to) you) right now.


Personality Test

MZ got me to try this Keirsey Personality test. By the power of its crazy magic (accurate) voodoo, I now know that I am an Idealist Champion. Apparently, we passionately believe in things and really want to tell you about them. I can only resort to snarky sarcasm, because the results are an creepily dead-on description of my (ideal) self-image.

Anywho, give it a whirl (it only takes about five minutes):HumanMetrics Jung Typology Test


Rowan Update

We're down in Miami for chemo visit number 3. Everything with Rowan's cancer looks good--her tumor reduced to the point that she didn't even require preliminary laser treatment this time. She will lose her eye during our next visit, November 14th.

I can't say it gets any easier, necessarily, to do this, although we have developed a sense of what to expect--essentially we're better at coping. Cancer is difficult; you leave pieces of yourself all over the place--in waiting rooms, along the side of the road in traffic jams, in the grocery store while searching for good string cheese. As the disease grows, you fragment. But, luckily, you meet other people who give you replacement parts in the form of kindness and concern. Thanks to all of those people who help us hold it together.

And can you believe the Sox came back from 7-0 in the 7th? Crazy.



Watching the Red Sox play in the playoffs is comparable to sitting in a crock-pot for me: a slow, agonizing, gut wrenching cooking of my nerves. That will be intensified tonight with Dice-K on the mound. I know he doesn't have the greatest stuff, so he has to mix up his pitch selection and location to keep hitters of guard. Still, he so pitches to the edges of the plate and throws ridiculously bad pitches when he's ahead of the count that it pains me to watch. But watch I will.

I wanted to throw in a quick two-cents on the MVP races this year. I'm a fan of "money ball"; for those who don't know, its a statistical approach to baseball that steers away from many traditional stats (particularly batting average and RBIs) in favor of a few other, more influential statistics (like OBP and SLUG) and some completely new stats (Runs Created and Value Over Replacement Player).

I bring these up because in the NL this year many people are calling Ryan Howard the MVP. Certainly, he led the league in home runs (important) and RBIs (almost meaningless). But his batting average is only .250, and this on-base percentage--an even more important stat--is a less impressive .333. That's ridiculously low for a guy with his power since so many pitchers are going to refuse to throw him a single strike. Perhaps that's why he struck out almost 200 times this season! Instead of Howard, I'll go with Pujols (OPS: 1.114, Runs Created: 160, Total Bases: 342, at bats per HR: 14.2) over Howard (OPS: .842, Runs Created: 113, Total Bases: 331, at bats per HR: 12.7). Chipper Jones is a close second place. To me, the MVP stands for the one player who, if removed from a team, would leave their franchise worthless. I think you could make a very strong argument for CC Sabathia this year, because the Brewers would have never made the playoffs without him... maybe I just talked myself out of Pujols!

Slim picking in the AL this year--no one really had the monster year. Perhaps I'm a homer, but I'd give it to Pedroia for the Sox. With all the injuries the team had, he and Youk were the only two consistent players. And Ped stole 20 bases on top of 54 doubles-- that's getting yourself into scoring position. Oddly enough, most of the AL batting leaders in the important categories played for lousy teams this season, so Ped has a chance...


When Economics Become Espionage

I just came across this story in /. on a new Chinese policy demanding that corporations importing electronics into China provide the government with all source code for their products. The story, of which I've heard nothing in our country, has become a point of contention in Japan--where companies such as Sony are worried that the Chinese government will pass sensitive information on to Chinese corporations (which, um, are owned and operated by the Chinese government).

In his recent book Source Code China: The New Global Hub of IT Technology, Cyrill Eltschinger argues that today's companies are missing out on China as a potential resource (and cites a number of companies who are shifting their outsourcing from India to China). He gives a number of reasons for considering China, most of which would make someone interested in global human rights cringe. What he doesn't comment on (at least on the website), is the dubious position the Chinese government holds regarding Western intellectual property laws. (I admit that I am relying on the website--I have not read the book. I use it as an example).

I am no expert on global relations. But to this outsider, it seems that China is practicing global economics as the USA and USSR practiced espionage during the Cold War. I might be paranoid. I might be disillusioned. But if I were Bill Gates, I wouldn't be pushing Windows into China under these conditions.

The American economy is fragile--as we are now all aware. The decimation of the American dollar isn't primarily tied to our inflated real estate market (the current crisis). The underlying problem is our massive trade deficit. Or so tells my stock broker every week as he laments our demise and warns of worse times. For those who don't dabble in the market, let me assure you that its worse than you think. Here's how to tell, the price of gold. Gold is an international standard, to see that gold prices have tripled means that, on a fundamental international level, our dollar is worth a third of what it once was. It doesn't help (as some might assume), that other countries are experiencing a similar state. It means that a bigger market correction lies on the horizon, a global correction. It means things could get much, much worse.

In an era when our exports are tied almost exclusively to digital/intellectual products, we must protect this property as if it were our land.

Sometimes, in the middle of the day, I think of this shit and it makes me want to scream. I can't wait for that next wave of meaningless presidential ads.

On a side note, the /. forum discussion is quite interesting and some of the best public dialogue I've seen in awhile. Sigh.


New Course in Rhetorical Theory [Real]

First, let me say that Rowan is doing fine. She's sort of rejecting the concept of sleep today (its 11:30 and still no nap--a very bad sign), but otherwise o.k.

In Marc news--official Marc C. Santos news--I've been asked to design an undergraduate course in Rhetorical Theory. I spend some time Googlin' around the net to see what I could find, and basically saw two approaches. The first relied heavily on either Bizzell or Hawhee; these courses offered a pretty broad/historic survey. The second approach was heavily (heavily) steeped in 20th century pomo--but often looked more like a literary/cultural studies theory course than a rhetorical theory course. I'm going to try to split the difference (which means I bound to fail) and go for something like this:

  • Week One: Plato's "Gorgias," Republic VII (emphasis: the split between rhetoric and dialectic, rhetoric is too risky)
  • Week Two: Aristotle's Rhetoric, Books I and II (emphasis on traditional appeals, relation to the audience, kairos)
  • Week Three: Cicero selections from De Oratore (emphasis: defense of rhetoric, response to Plato) and De Inventione (stasis)
  • Week Four: Lanham, "The Q Question," Nussbaum intro to Cultivating Humanity, Jarrett intro to Rereading the Sophists
  • Week Five: Paper Week One
  • Week Five: Kenneth Burke selections from Permanence and Change (piety, perspective by incongruity); Blakesley's Elements of Dramatism Chapter 1 (pentad)
  • Week Six: Kenneth Burke Rhetoric of Motives 17-65 (identification); "Definition of Man" essay; Corder's "Argument as Emergence" (rhetoric as narratology, not persuasion)
  • Week Seven: Rhetoric (returns to?) Composition: Bitzer "Rhetorical Situation," Ede and Lunsford "Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked," something by either Toulmin or Lauer on invention (not sure yet--might do both).
  • Week Nine: Paper Week 2
  • Week Ten: Grassi, "Philosophy as Rhetoric"; Levinas "The Thinking of Being and the Question of the Other"; Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa"
  • Week Eleven: Derrida "At this very moment in this work here I am" (ethical relation between writer, audience, and knowledge) and Learning To Live Finally (pomo relation to audience)
  • Week Twelve: Ulmer, selection from Heuretics or Internet Invention; Davis, "Preambulatory Emmissions from Breaking Up [at] Totality
  • Week Thirteen: Rickert, "In the House of Doing: Rhetoric and the Kairos of Ambiance, "Edbauer "Unframing Models of Public Distribution: From Rhetorical Situation to Rhetorical Ecologies," Hawk "Toward a Rhetoric of Network (Media) Culture: Notes on Polarities and Potentiality" (pomo complexification [sic] of r/c bedrock)
  • Paper Week 3
  • Week Fourteen: Rheingold selections from Smart Mobs, Porter, "The Chilling of Digital Information: Technical Communicators as Public Advocates"
  • Week Fifteen: Projects
  • Week Sixteen: Projects

I've taken the "paper weeks" from Rickert who took them from Frank who took them from ????: on a paper day, everyone in the class distributes a short paper and reads it to the class. I'm interested in this pedagogically in terms of delivery and kairos--two elements that are often a bit more muddled (Rickert might say) in traditional academic [for class] writing.

As far as the final project, I believe this will be on a per-student basis. I will allow traditional papers, disciplinary annotated bibliographies, wikipedia projects, multimedia projects (perhaps something out of Ulmer)--just about anything the students can offer.

I've still got to write up the course description, but I know I'll be leaning toward providing students with a thorough understanding of the history of rhetoric and of the principle rhetorical concepts and techniques. Such historic understanding should help them to understand the fundamental positions underlying the work they do as technical writers. Familiarity with traditional rhetorical concepts and conventions should help all facets of their writing process, from invention to revision. I'll have to clean this up and look at the other new course proposals in my department to get a sense of length/depth/sophistication. But I think I've got a legitimate course brewing here...


New Course on Rhetorical Theory [Fake]

I usually leave the political comedy commentary up to others, but I had to share this. Via the Blogora (via 23/6):

Biden Debate Training

That was a direct quote.


Levinas and Weinberger

In jest, I offer my dissertation in two quotes. The other pages are just filler.

Levinas on difference as the foundation of the subject:

Reason makes human society possible; but a society whose members would be only reasons would vanish as a society. What could a being entirely rational speak of with another entirely rational being? Reason has no plural; how could numerous reasons be distinguished? (Totality and Infinity 119)

Dave Weinberger on how the digital "fractures" knowledge:

In conversation we think out loud together, trying to understand. The noise this makes is very different from the scratch of a philosopher's ink on paper. Paper drives thought into our heads. The Web releases thoughts before they're ready so we can work on them together. And in those conversations we hear multiple understandings of the world, for conversation thrives on difference. Traditionally, difference has been a sign that knowledge hasn't been reached: There can be only one knowledge because the world is one way and not any other. But there will always be multiple conversations and thus multiple understandings. We're never going to stop talking with one another, silenced by the single, unified, true, inescapable, and final knowledge of all that is.

I love Weinberger. He continues to point out that we'd be hard pressed to identify when the stable, unifying knowledge ever existed. But I do build off of his quote to warn that, when we work on the web, we aren't necessarily "working" toward a singular understanding. The work we do is different--we're working on the rhetorical bridge that keeps the conversation together, maintaining kairos, and shaping you in response to me (in response to you and in response to me, obligated to you, obligated to me).


We're Still Here...

I haven't put anything up recently, but I wanted to let everyone know that Rowan is doing fine after the second round of chemo. She has become a big fan of the Wiggles. Somebody save us (for those who do not have kids, you just have no idea...).

My mom and dad came down to help us with this round. Dad has returned to Plymouth, but mom is still here. Meg and I got to go out for the first time in almost a year last night--good times. My mother also bought her first computer yesterday, so we're teaching her some basics (and by basics, I mean what the space bar does. Seriously). Its exciting for her, and exciting for us to know that she can see Rowan over iChat every night if she wants to.

I watched the last half of the first debate the other night and will say this: I thought McCain did much better than I expected. I was disappointed in Barrack's reversion into very strict partisan politics. His campaign has been so predicated on difference, change, and transcendence that I thought it really undermined his ethos. I want that ethos back (and not the guy forcing discussions of the environment into questions regarding Russian relations--boo, bad form). Don't get me wrong, I'm still voting for him, but I hope he can improve his performance in debate 2 and 3 (which should target his strengths). If I'm worried about anything, its the silent racism underlying this election. The very fact that, the day after McCain stated "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" we suffered the second worse fiscal crisis in our nation's history and the polls didn't shift signifies that Barrack is up against something silent, hidden, and scary. Make sure you tell your students to vote... and tell them who to vote for...


Derrida on Levinas

I've been enjoying Derrida's performative essay "At This Very Moment in This Work Here I Am... (He will have obligated [Il aura oblige])." In the essay, Derrida explains that a reader can never be sure if the final clause of the title is part of the title or rather an opening epigraph. This indeterminacy, of the structural borders of an opening, reverberates through Derrida's examination of the Levinasian subject, and of the complexities one such subject owes another for its being. Such complexity is exemplified by the content of the potential epigraph-- "He will have obligated"--a meaningful yet meaningless fragment divorced from any context yet still highly contextual. Who is this he? Under what authority will he have obligated? What will he have obligated? Though definition cannot be assured, we can propose as responses: Both Levinas and the Other which speaks (through) him, the responsibility of Saying the law of Being/Said, mybeing, which in turn obligates a response. Sorry for all the language games--but I'm still working on an easier way of saying what needs to be said...

Anywho, I really like the following passage, in which Derrida explicates the "present" of Levinas' "Here I am" (and, like everything else in L and D, presence is a double entendre: present as presence emerging in space time, and present as gift--how do we respond to a gift?). Derrida:

It is not the presumed signatory of the work, EL, who says: "Here I am," me, presently. He cites a "Here I am," he thematizes what it nonthematizable (to use this vocabulary, to which he has assigned a regular--and somewhat peculiar--conceptual function in his writings). But beyond the Song of Songs, or Poem of Poems, the quotation of whoever would say "Here I Am" has to mark out this extradition in which the responsibility for the other delivers me over to the other. No grammatical marking as such, no language or context will suffice to determine it. This present-citation, which, as a quotation, seems to erase the present event of any irreplaceable "here I am," also comes to say that in "here I am" the I [le Moi] is no longer presented as a subject, present to itself, making itself present of itself (I-me): it [il] is declined before all declension, "in the accusative," and it, il

Il ou elle, he or she, if the interruption of the discourse is required. Isn't it "she" in the Song of Songs? And who would "she" [elle] be? Does it matter? Is it EL? Emmanuel Levinas? God?

The passage ends abruptly, strategically signaling a desire to know the Other. But, such an interruption attempts to preserve Levinas' injunction against reducing the alterity of other to a knowable same (in the form of the said). There's two other things happening in the passage that drew me to it: first, Derrida's highlighting that the subject emerges in the accusative: as the direct object of the verb of verbs (as D refers to it 152) "to be." The subject is produced for the other / by the other in the movement of the verb to be. Second, that the first movement of the subject emerges "declined before declension." I read this in light of the arguments surrounding Levinas and gender- a move toward a universality of the subject who first emerges as a movement irreducible to ontological distinctions. An odd move, given the highly emboddied nature of Levinas' theory. It is quite possible that I am misinterpreting here.


Trip to the Library

I went to find three books. One of which, Alex Reid's The Two Virtuals, was lost. Of course, I walked out with a stack (listed in the order they appear on my shelf):

  • Derrida, Politics of Friendship
  • Derrida, Psyche / Inventions of the Other (one of the books I originally went to the lib for)
  • Moore, The Internet Weather: Balancing Continuous Change and Constant Truth
  • Mosco, The Digital Sublime
  • Sconce, Haunted Media
  • Poster, The Second Media Age
  • Purves, The Web of Text and the Web of God
  • O'Donnell, The Avatars of the Word
  • Eriksen, The Tyranny of the Moment
  • Keren, Blogosphere
  • Levy, CyberCulture
  • OCLC, Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World
  • Galloway and Thacker, The Exploit: a Theory of Networks (the other book I initially needed)

When I first arrived at USF, MZ told me about this "to your desk" service the library offers: essentially, fill out a web form and someone will bring the book to your office and place it on your desk. This seemed like a great idea. But stumbling through the stacks this morning, breezing through introductions, flipping through bibliographies, I remembered how much I love rummaging in the stacks.

I don't love carrying a pile of 13 books from the library to Cooper Hall, even if the building are right next to each other. Its Florida. Its hot. Its humid. And I will use that little service to help track down Reid's book.


For Your Viewing Pleasure

Rowan's story will be featured on Inside Edition Friday night. Megan and I are fairly confident that we're not made for TV, so we're hoping to come out of this looking like semi-capable parents.

Here's a link to find when the show will be on in your area.


We just found out that Rowan's segment will be on Monday's Inside Edition, not Friday nights.

Carry on.



I guess I cannot complain too much. We've had things pretty good in New England for awhile now. You know: fewer confederate flags (future post coming), really good seafood, and a string of championships.

So rather than cry about Brady, I'll enjoy the Red Sox, look forward to the Celtics, and remind myself that this is a "free year" when it comes to the NFL. If we lose this season, then we're no different than any other NFL team: sunk in the water without their starting QB (especially since our starting QB happens to be the reigning MVP).

But oh, if we win...

P.S.- This lowers my faith in humanity by about 4.736 points. Just for anyone keeping score.


Why Not...

...share some Cicero. I just got through two class discussions on Cicero today and thought I'd throw up a few quotes. All are from Cicero's On Oratory and Orators. Enjoy.

For it is by this one gift that we are most distinguished from brute animals, that we converse together, and can express our thoughts by speech.

...your retired lucubrations must be exposed to the light of reality.

...for if we bestow the faculty of eloquence upon persons destitute of these virtues [grace, aptitude, congruity], we shall not make them orators, but give arms to madmen.

That last quote makes me think of my favorite passage in Quintilian in which he defends rhetoric against accusations of misuse. Someday I need to print this and put in on my door:

There follows the question as to whether rhetoric is useful. Some are in the habit of denouncing it most violently and of shamelessly employing that powers of oratory to accuse oratory itself. "It is eloquence" they say "that snatches criminals from the penalties of the law, eloquence that from time to time secures the condemnation of the innocent and leads deliberation astray, eloquence that stirs up not merely sedition and popular tulmult, but wars beyond all expiation, and that is most effective when it makes falsehood prevail over the truth."

Doctors have been caught using poisons, and those who falsely assume the name of philosopher have occasionally been detected in the gravest of crimes. Let us give up eating, it often makes us ill; let us never go inside houses, for sometimes they collapse on their occupants; let never a sword be forged for a soldier, since it might be used by a robber. And who does not realize that fire and water, both necessities of life, and, to leave merely earthly things, even the sun and moon, the greatest of the heavenly bodies, are occasionally capable of doing harm. (Instituto Oratoria, I.xii)

Two students today commented that "It was rhetoric that got O.J. off." This is true. I retorted, however, that it was rhetoric that helped forge the law from which O.J. escaped. Can't have one without the risk of the other.

As much as I love that passage, I do have to wonder: by what criteria does one rightly assume the name philosopher? Is it impossible for a "right" philosopher to engage in crime? (Yeah, yeah, I know that Quintilian believed the well-speaking man could not be anything but "good"...)


Hurricane Box

One of the fun parts of moving to Florida includes putting together a hurricane box- a box of food and supplies that are there "just in case." I am new to this experience. But, on the advice of a colleague, I went out today and (in addition to picking up Tiger Woods 09) put together my first hurricane box. It contains:

  • Frosted Mini-Wheats
  • Pop Tarts
  • Cereal Bars
  • Graham Crackers
  • Wheat Thins
  • Triskets
  • Tuna Fish
  • Peanut Butter
  • Canned Pineapple
  • Canned Pears in Light Syrup
  • Apple Juicy Juice
  • Peanuts (Lightly Salted)
  • Mixed Nuts (Lightly Salted)
  • Werther's Hard Candies
  • 3 Gallons of Water
  • Dog Food

My goodness, I'm so proud of myself I almost hope we're without power for five days so we can put that box to use.

But its not all about the team

I join John Saunders as one of the few college football fans who doesn't necessarily believe college football needs an extended playoff system. I would like to see a four team, two round system, but I don't believe we need a 16 team, multi-round format.

I bring this up because many broadcasters and writers will spend time this season lamenting the plight of those powerhouse teams in the SEC who will not get to compete for the national championship. These teams will eliminate each other in the country's best conference; while top programs in weaker conferences-- notably USC and Ohio State-- will "roll" into the playoffs. Or so the story goes. God forbid a Big East or ACC team go undefeated.

So, here's my sophist position: its not about finding the best team (defined as the players / coaches / system participating on the field), its about determining the best program (which, in addition to everything on the field, includes everything it takes to get those players, coaches, and systems to the field of play). Building a championship program includes acquiring resources. Teams in the SEC have an incredible, ridiculous, borderline criminal advantage when it comes to signing day. Given this huge recruiting discrepancy, I don't pity Georgia's schedule. I find it more remarkable that Jim Tressel can lure kids away from the state of Florida to the middle of the midwest. While Ohio State might not be the greatest collection of individuals every season, it does represent an amazing program- able to recruit significant talent every year. Programs such as USC represent the best programs because they are able to recruit more of the talent available to them. Yes, this is a slippery slope. And no, I don't think an undefeated Bowling Green team should play in the national championship. Yes, I'm o.k. with having a national championship determined by "gray" matter, things that cannot be reduced to simple black and white (or, in more cliche terms, "on the field of play"). But, then again I'm a rhetorician. And...

As a rhetorician, I'm not ultimately interested in the absolute truth of any one champion, I'm more interested in the debate that inevitably surrounds the final verdict. College football provides more debate than any other sport- which is probably why I find myself interested in it more and more each year.


Journalists are Evil, Good

The good news is that the media coverage of Rowan's plight has already led to one retinoblastoma diagnosis in England. We hope the continued exposure can help other parents (and friends of parents) discover this sooner. On that line, we would like to stress one thing: most of the pictures of Rowan that TV and internet news outlets choose to use came after her first treatment; this means her tumor is very noticeable. The drugs included in her treatment dilate her eye and accentuate the tumor. Before her treatment, the tumor was only noticeable in photographs. When you look at old photographs of Rowan, you'll notice that instead of "red eye," one of her pupils has "white eye." The only change we saw with the naked eye occurred very late- a slight darkening of the iris. While we didn't notice any change to her iris until around August 1st, old photographs reveal "white eye" as early as February.

A very good story on ABC. Here's Britain's Mail Online and The Mirror. There's also the Digital Journal. There's more. Jenny put up a very sweet and sensible post; when this is all over I'd like to write an article stressing how the internet isn't just porn, piracy, and pedophilia. Its also the power of (life saving) networks; the collaborative contact with others, which opens the possibility of response, compassion, and love.

Rowan continues to be the story of the hour; we're getting [persistent] interest from some pretty big media outlets. We've declined most requests, and gone exclusive with one show that agreed to fly Madeline (the woman who first recognized Rowan's tumor) over the pond to meet us. This is exciting to both of us. I cannot begin to describe how sleazy, for lack of a better term, the contact people for news media shows can be. As a professor of rhetoric, I noticed just about every dirty trick in the rhetorical handbook yesterday, and a few from the art of war. But I'm trying real hard to let the small stuff go. And not all of them are evil. But, while trying hard to avoid a strong defense/weak defense position, let me say: ughhh. We're emotionally spent. Make the phone calls stop.


If you're up really late...

Megan is going to do a phone interview with GM TV, London's version of Good Morning America. Problem: they want a live interview at 8:30 UK time, so that's 3:30a.m. EST. I will be sleeping through this one.

In the good news department: Rowan is home and very happy to be out of the hospital. She's walking laps around the kitchen and playing with her toys.


15 Minutes of Fame

For those that didn't know, we initially discovered Rowan's tumor thanks to a mum in England through one of Megan's baby groups. Proof that the internet isn't just porn and piracy. Anywho, the story has been picked up by many of the bigger news outlets in Great Britain including The Manchester Evening News and BBC news. We're hoping that the press coverage can inform other parents and friends to be alert for white pupils. Although this only afflicts 250 babies a year, it is something that everyone can be on the lookout for.


Thank You

We want to extend our deepest gratitude to everyone who has helped us over the last month. Words cannot express what it has meant to us.

Rowan (and Megan) are still in the hospital. Rowan had developed a UTI- that's what caused the fever. It is a very low grade fever, and Rowan's white cell count is still strong (Rowan's in the most danger 8-12 days after chemo). She's happy and energetic. This morning she "read" her first word: "Moo," off page one of Sandra Boynton's "Moo Baa La." For those unacquainted, Boyton's books completely enthrall anyone under the age of five. They make anyone over the age of five want to rip their ears off.

Meg's mom is in town giving us some extra help and relief. We might try to make a movie this weekend (is Batman still in theaters?). Thanks again to everyone.


You're not going to believe this...

But we're back in the hospital.


Rowan had a temperature this morning (we got 101.6 in the ear, 100.8 under the arm), so we had to go to St. Joseph's Children's hospital in Tampa. That was one o'clock; now, at 7:00, we find ourselves checked into another pediatric oncology office. This is all precautionary, as her fever has completely gone away. Still, she'll receive 24 hours of antibiotics. We're praying that she'll be released tomorrow- but she might have to remain in the hospital until Wednesday. We'll know more tomorrow morning after the attending doctor does rounds. Once again, we're waiting to find out how long we have to wait.

Sigh. Mother-F@#kin' Sigh.


Waiting to wait: Posted by Megan

Marc left me with the computer tonight, so I thought I would post on his blog. I appreciate everyone for all their support. We really are lucky to have such wonderful friends and family supporting us through this horrible and completely shitty (for a lack of a better word-it is really late and please read the following) time in our lives.

It was a crazy day. We arrived at 545, and then waited, then we waited more, but in a different room, then we waited in another room. She then had her surgery. It went well. She woke up MAD. The nurses were great. Then we waited. We made it to oncology at 330ish. Then we waited. She finally fell asleep on Marc for 1.5 hours. Then we waited. They finally started the cyclosporine at 8 30/900 ish. This isn't the chemo. Finally she fell back asleep in the crib (no small feat). I was interrupted writing this. They just administered her first round of chemo. It is about 1100. Before doing so they needed to take some blood from a pin prick in the finger. That was heart wrenching to watch. It wasn't just a pricks worth of blood they needed to take, it was close to 2mls. That is a lot of blood from one little finger. Then they administered the chemo, vincristine (goes directly into the line via a syringe) and etoposide. She is being monitored for low blood pressure every 15 minutes for an hour beacause of the etopside. Her b/p last reading was 113/66 and she is asleep from screaming herself to exhaustion. I almost passed out and threw up all at the same time. I know this isn't hurting her, but I can't help but feel helpless in this situation. I can't protect her from this. That really sucks. So here I am in a chair that I can't figure out to recline without making a super loud velcro noise waiting for her next administration of chemo drugs, carboplatin, then more cyclosporine and then we can go home. (I dream of home now like some may dream of chocolate cake with homemade ice-cream, or sweet strawberry shortcake made from handpicked organic strawberries on a hot day.) I hope she sleeps through most of this. We have less than 45 minutes till the next round starts.

On the brighter side, since this is her birthday, the nurses set up a banner and some gifts for her in her room. She likes them very much and is greatful for something to do while stuck here. Next time, Mom and Dad will be more prepared for 2 days confined to a boring room. The nurses and doctors in oncology are great too.


In a Holding Pattern

Tropical storm Kay has come and gone... we think. Actually, we're not really sure- it wasn't much of a storm to speak of. Rowan's first treatment got pushed back to Wednesday thanks to the state of (non)-emergency declaration, so we're spending a day hotel bound in Miami. Chances are we'll take a trip out to Walmart to buy a board game or something later today. No need to worry.

Rowan has really got walking down- this morning she did lap after lap around the breakfast area. Some of the other patrons found this amusing ("oh, what a cute baby"). Some found this annoying ("why don't her parents put a leash on her"). I'm finding it quite easy to determine type A from B.

On a side note, we're a big fan of these products, though we're still debating between the subtle "I'm making cancer my bitch" and the more direct "fuck cancer" as the more appropriate onesie. These are the decisions that help pass a rainy day.


B-Day Experience

With the help of some new friends (Marley and Henry), Rowan celebrated her first B-Day. The highlight of the party was the cake. It went something like this:

Rowan inspects the cake

Rowan tastes the cake

Rowan approves of the cake

Rowan takes a minute to consider whether the professionalization of Olympic sports should detract from Phelp's remarkable performance at the 2008 summer games

Rowan enjoys her cake

Rowan ponders what she hath wrought

Not Pictured: the impending sugar rush which kept us partying until 9:45 that night.


Wednesday Update

Change in plans: pediatric oncology had to reschedule Rowan's appointment until Monday morning, so we're back in Riverview for a few days. She is in an absolutely fabulous mood- laughing, playing, walking. We'll try to put up some video or something this weekend. Although we're anxious to begin treatment, we're happy to have a few more days with her while she's healthy and active.

Thanks again to everyone for the words and wishes- we appreciate it! Mary Ann: I am at USF teaching rhetoric and writing for the English department. While I'm sure Doc would be proud, he'd also probably complain about how little English profs get paid!


Tuesday Update

Good news: Rowan's right eye is completely clear. And Dr. Murray assures us that even if a tumor does appear, he'll catch it early enough that it will never interrupt her vision.

The bad news is as bad as we were expecting- which in this case is good. Her left eye will have to be removed. She will undergo chemotheraphy for the next three months, then they will remove the eye. The chemo isolates the tumor and makes it easier and safer to remove. It also is a proactive way of ensuring that the cancer does not spread.

Today Rowan will undergo minor surgery to insert a port for chemo. She's also getting a lumbar puncture and bone marrow treatment (either today or Friday- they tend to hit you with a lot of information at once at these places).

We will be in Miami until Saturday. The best news at this point is: Dr. Murray has a 99% survival rate. We are in good hands.



We've just seen a specialist in Miami- Dr. Murray. He is the best in the world at treating this kind of cancer. He originally planned on operating Friday, but after some preliminary tests has decided to examine/operate on Rowan tomorrow. We are in the best hands we could be in. Murray has the best survival rate in the world.

Tomorrow we will definitively learn whether the cancer has moved beyond the retina to the optic nerve. As it stands, Rowan will likely undergo 6 months of targeted chemotherapy regardless of whether we can save the eye. Murray believes her right eye is clear-- this is the best news we've received all day.

Currently, we're waiting to meet his team. We'll stay in Miami tonight and probably tomorrow. Rowan's appointment is for 6:00a.m. tomorrow. Thank you to all of you who have sent your wishes. Rowan is still in good spirits (although she has had it with waiting for medical experts!). She learned to walk Friday, and is certainly enjoying her newfound mobility.


In the Blink of an Eye

For those who have not heard, our lives changed drastically yesterday. We unfortunately learned that Rowan has Retinoblastoma, a very rare but aggressive form of eye cancer. To give you an idea of how trying yesterday was: we were exceedingly relieved to learn that Rowan will only loose her left eye.

We'll be traveling to Miami to see an uber-specialist Monday morning (we leave Sunday night). Rowan's CT and MRI revealed that the tumors are 1) only in her left eye (her right eye seems perfect) and 2) are completely contained within the eye (so the cancer has not yet spread to her bone or muscle- this is extremely good). The doctor will likely prescribe a series of chemo to reduce the size of the tumor before deciding whether to remove the eye. Given the risks of chemo (including facial deformation), Meg and I are in favor of removing the eye immediately rather than attempting to save it. The risks outweigh the rewards.

The good news is that Rowan is feeling fine- she's been without sight in her eye for at least a week now and shows no signs of missing it. She learned how to walk yesterday at the eye specialists. Other good points: she can save half off contact lenses, cannot be drafted, and can always go as a pirate for Halloween (see, in my family, we deal with humor...).


Any Chance its Like a Surgical Strike

As I type, I sit alone in an empty, rather clinical room located in the bowels of human resources at USF. I am here for new faculty orientation with the payroll department. I am eight minutes early... and again... the only person in the room. There are nice... um, hefty... packets arranged on tables. There are cups with different colored markers in them. There are seven white boards. I have an urge to run.

I hope this is like a surgical strike- quick and painless, but I don't think I shall be so lucky... [gasp] someone approaches!


Idiots no more

A few weeks back the Sox played the Yanks and Manny decided last minute that his knee was too sore to play. The look on Francona's face said everything: the proverbial straw had finally broke the organization's back. When the ESPN clocked ticked down to zero today without announcement of a trade, I was surprised. Very surprised. Manny was disgruntled, management was fed up. But a deal was made last minute. A new era of Red Sox baseball began, and the era of the idiots drew to a close.

Manny epitomized the spirit of that spirited '04 championship team- as charismatic as they were talented. Derek Lowe, Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, Doug Mirabelli, Trot Nixon, Pedro Martinez, and, of course, Man-Ram. Francona was as much a ring leader as a manager. Sure they had their straightmen- Jason Varitek comes to mind. But that was a "colorful" bunch.

As Bull Durham taught us, you have to be good to be colorful. Otherwise you are a slob- or in this case, a slacker. Ramirez has given up on the Red Sox before-- and I admit I was worried he might do it again. In L.A., he'll have new surroundings, a more relaxed Californian media, and gentle Joe. Plus the motivation of playing for a contract.

As a 2008 Red Sox fan, I recognize that this is a good move. Manny is not the dominant (the best right-handed hitter in history) force he once was. Yes, his career numbers are significantly better than Bay (Manny: .312 / .409 / .590; Bay: .281 / .375 / .515), but Bay will be playing in a meaningful pennant race for the first time in his career. In other words, there's no chance of this kid giving up. Also, he'll benefit from being surrounded by more talent than he's ever seen in Pittsburgh. There is the possibility that he'll wither under the bright, obsessive lights of the Boston media- I'm thinking of Jeff Suppan a few years ago- and that he'll see less "here's one down the middle because we're ahead by eight and just want to get on the plane" fastballs. Still, the 2008 me is pleased with this as a baseball move.

The rest of me is sad- already tinged with an uncanny nostalgia. The first Red Sox world series meant so much to so many- its sad to see that team go. Varitek is struggling, Schilling is all but gone, and now Manny will wear Dodger blue. At least its not pinstripes.


One More Show

If I could be any where on Thursday, it would be at Memorial Hall in Plymouth, MA for my cousin's real retirement. He always put on a good show, although he made a better villain than hero. He broke his ankle a few years back- that forced him out. I hope everyone around Plymouth enjoys the show.


Nothing's the Matter in Kansas...

...as long as this guy gets elected. I'm a fan of XKCD to begin with, so this is some kind of awesome.


Breaking Radio Silence

I am alive and in Florida. I've been away from my digital life for awhile now- ignoring my email and rss feeds in favor of the new house, state, and job. Red tape is fun. Seriously. But now I have a new I.D. card, computer account (still having trouble w/ my new email), and parking pass (more difficult than it sounds).

While adjusting to Florida in late July is something akin to adjusting to living on the surface of Mercury, I am warming up (har, har) to the new surroundings. The blueness of the sky, proximity of water, and intense sunshine remind me of the summers I spent on Cape Cod as a kid. Rowan enjoys are almost nightly swims in the community pool. I enjoyed the trip to the Banana Republic to buy new clothes for the new job.

So far everyone in the department is really nice and helpful- I have a great office with a window and a view of green things. Pleasant. I'll be teaching two sections of an upper division expository writing class in the Fall, rehashing the Constructing the University syllabus I ran with Rythaniel a few years back. I am tied down to using a textbook, Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum, but it doesn't look too painful and I think I can adjust. I've got the course website half done- I'll throw up a link later this week.

So, to all of you waiting to hear from my, I'll check my email sometime tomorrow. Hope all your summers are going well.


Moral of the Story

So, this weekend we spent a lot of time lighting fireworks with the neighbors. Among us was an 8th grader who loved reading. As she listed off a litany of her favorite books, I periodically asked "what was the moral of the story?" Being a good teacher who's always semi-on duty, I explained that there's a difference between knowing what happens in a story and what a story tells us, so to speak, about our lives, feelings, relations, etc.

Then today I was photo-copying a bunch of books before I leave for Florida. Came across this section of Aristotle's Metaphysics:

Experience does not seem to differ from art where something is to be done; in fact, we observe that men of experience succeed more than men who have the theory but have no experience. The cause of this is that experience is knowledge of individuals but art is universal knowledge, and all actions and productions deal with individuals. [...] Nevertheless, we regard understanding and comprehension as belonging to art more than to experience, and we believe that artists are wiser than men of experience, inasmuch as men of understanding know the cause but men of experience do not. For men of experience know the fact but not the why of it; but men of art know the why of it or the cause. [...] Thus, master-artists are considered wiser not in virtue of their ability to do something but in virtue of having the theory and knowing the causes. And in general, a sign of a man who understands is the ability to teach, and because of this we regard art more than experience to be science; for those who have the art can teach, but those who do not have it cannot teach.

I'm thinking of my encounter with the 8th grader and the passage above in terms of EnthyAlias's post this morning on education and my comments there. As a rhetorician, I should probably favor an education grounded in experience, and appreciate Aristotle's praise for individuals and action (though one can read A's preference for "art" here as echoing his preference for philosophy over rhetoric-- the appreciation for action becomes a necessity in a less-than-artsy world). But, I am concerned our educational institutions are overly concerned with quantifiable, accountable experience and less concerned with the why-ny art. To make a radical jump: NCLB focuses on the plot, not the moral. Discussion of morality is an interpretive endeavor. From a postmodern perspective, it is also a violent one. It presents us with more difference, and difference is difficult to negotiate. Against Aristotle, I would argue that "art" is rarely universal, and it is its particularity that sways contemporary education toward the simplicity of experience.

And yet, despite my suspicions of Aristotle, I still want to know the (universal) moral of the story. Another indication that we can never entirely escape our roots! But, perhaps, my desire isn't really to know the moral of the story as much as it is to invite another to share her experience in hopes that together, agonistically or perhaps even cooperatively, we can experience a glimpse of the why.


Not the Negation of Science

My love affair with Kevin Kelly continues; his recent post on the non-death of theory is definitely worth a read. Kelly responds to Chris Anderson's recent article on The Death of Theory, in which Anderson argues that massive, computational approaches to problem solving are replacing traditional, hypothesis-driven, science. Kelly laments that Anderson attempted to negate theory rather than promote an additional method for problem-solving. Here's the highlight:

My guess is that this emerging method will be one additional tool in the evolution of the scientific method. It will not replace any current methods (sorry, no end of science!) but will compliment established theory-driven science. Let's call this data intensive approach to problem solving Correlative Analytics. I think Chris squander a unique opportunity by titling his thesis "The End of Theory" because this is a negation, the absence of something. Rather it is the beginning of something, and this is when you have a chance to accelerate that birth by giving it a positive name. A non-negative name will also help clarify the thesis. I am suggesting Correlative Analytics rather than No Theory because I am not entirely sure that these correlative systems are model-free. I think there is an emergent, unconscious, implicit model embedded in the system that generates answers. If none of the English speakers working on Google's Chinese Room have a theory of Chinese, we can still think of the Room as having a theory. The model may be beyond the perception and understanding of the creators of the system, and since it works it is not worth trying to uncover it. But it may still be there. It just operates at a level we don't have access to.

Sure, I've been spending too much time lately writing on Levinas' concept of absolute alterity (d'Autrui). But I am repeatedly blown away at how often the writing of the Web 2.0 crowd echoes the sentiments of postmodern metaphysicians. Fucking awesome.


So Long, Thanks for All the Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, Tits

As an undergrad, I majored in British literature. I was particularly attracted to the 18th century satirists; Jonathan Swift quickly became my favorite.

Also, in college, I delved deeper into stand-up comedy. During this exploration, I first discovered George Carlin. If I were to ever believe in reincarnation, Swift to Carlin is clearly evidence. Both used a keen intellect coupled with a penchant for vituperate satire to radically push the boundaries of their day. Shit yeah, Carlin would have ate a baby. And Swift certainly would have seen aids as a solution to the human disease. Both, too, had moments of touching humanism- a reminder of that unspeakable similarity that underwrites our existences.

Carlin: "why is it, when you're driving, everyone goin' slower than you is an idiot? And everyone goin' faster than you is a maniac"


Responsibility for others

Normally I let Mrxk deal with this kind of stuff. He's good at it. Witty. Poignant. Firm. But I guess, since he hasn't hit this one yet, I'll take it.

So, if you're reading this, you probably know I'm writing a dissertation on Levinas. And, likely, you know that Levinas' theory is about respecting and maintaining an other (person)'s response-ability at all costs. Short version: rather than try to synthesize the differences between me and another, I should let those differences put my own fundamental assumptions into question. And, always, I should respect their response. But there are times that try my patience. Like this: http://barackobamaantichrist.blogspot.com/


Sigh. O.k., a quick taste. You really should just search the blog for a bit. Here's a snippet in which the author makes a correlation between Obama's rise to power and a contemporary influx in natural disasters:

For everyone stammering to rebuttal this argument, slow down, take a breath. I realize there has been all sort of crazy weather throughout history, volcanoes, earthquakes, huge world wars. I get your argument. I am just saying this weather phenomenon is really lining up with the phenomenon that is Barack Obama. If everyone could list the different current weather events, and wars or rumors of wars going on that would be a good start. Please counter this argument as much as you want, I am just exploring the idea I have heard people talking about.

What is interesting to me here is that the writer calls for agonism. That's good. But...

Levinas himself commented in an interview (its in God Who Comes to Mind) that our utter responsibility to an other's alterity should only be interrupted when that other threatens the alterity of a third party. Now, there is no absolute scale upon which to measure violence: is it more violent to interrupt the other I face or to allow him / her to totalize, assimilate, silence or "murder" (in Levinasian discourse) a third. But, even in the absence of an absolute scale, I feel pretty safe calling this into question.

On a less philosophical (dissertation-sounding) note, its crap like this that keeps me from considering getting Rowan baptized. Ever.


Embracing Error

I found Tim Barker's "Error, the Unforeseen, and the Emergent The Error and Interactive Media Art" on work/space. In Barker, I hear what Lanham would refer to as a strong defense for rhetoric: one that recognizes probability not as a lack of certainty but as the possibility of potential. Given my dissertation focuses on public appreciation of the integral role risk must play in our emerging communication networks (a sentiment echoed in Levinas' description of the subject frightfully aware of its contingent dependence on others), I particularly liked this passage:

Any system that seeks the actualisation of unforeseen potential is also a system that has the capacity to become errant. Rather than thinking of the error as something to fear or avoid, we can think of an error as something that brings with it the capacity for the new and the unforeseen (perhaps it is this link to the unforeseen that is precisely the reason that we fear the errant).

Barker connects these ideas to Deleuze, but I think we can also productively connect them to Levinas-Derrida in their opposition to the metaphysics of presence and certainty. Here's a follow-up:

If a system runs through its process without the potential for error it is essentially closed. It does not allow the potentiality of the emergent or the unforeseen. It is only through allowing the capacity for potential errors that we may provide the opportunity to think the unthought, to become-other, and to hence initiate further unforeseen becomings in the virtual (Rodowick 201).

I'm learning to embrace the productive mess.


RSA, Seattle, and a Video

Back from RSA, which I admit I didn't get to attend as much as I would have liked. On the grad student budget, I spent one day seeing Seattle (very cool city, reminds me of Harvard Square) and another doing the conference. I missed a few great panels, so I'll probably try to contact a few people with emails...

If you have a few minutes, Alisa Miller's recent TED talk is worth a view. This will be a great teaching tool. A few years back, a few friends and I came up with a Powerpoint to question the objectivity of empirical evidence. My portion focused on the various maps of red and blue america (some maps charting electoral votes, others calibrated to population density, etc). The various maps of the video remind us that, though a picture has a 1,000 words, it, still, doesn't tell the whole story.


Bit o' Levinas

From "The Thinking of Being and the Question of the Other" in Of God Who Comes to Mind:

We have asked whether the Other--who refuses identification, that is, thematization and hypostasis, but whom the philosophy of the tradition attempted to recover in the patience of the concept through the methodology of history as self-consciousness--must not be understood wholly as otherwise, in a putting in question of thought by the Infinite which thought could not contain; in the awakening. This is a putting in question and an awakening which are reversed into the ethics of responsibility for the other; an incessant putting in question of the quietude of the identity of the Same. It is a susception more passive than any passivity, yet an incessant awakening, a waking up in the midst of awakening that, without this, would become a "mood," a state of wakefulness, or wakefulness as a state. A thought more thoughtful than the thought of being, a sobering up that philosophy attempts to say; that is, which it attempts to communicate, and this, if only in a language that ceaselessly unsays itself, a language that insinuates.

The strong above is perhaps the most concise definition of postmodern metaphysics that I have encountered. I am currently working to equate the encounter with the screen as both an encounter with another(s) (other "sames" made other by their digital response-ability) and an encounter with the Face of the Other (Infinity). The screen can be passive in its presenting infinity, in its resistance to be said as any one identity. Of course, we also experience it as active: as comments, responses, mail, spam, as the presence of others (whose responses often question the primacy of my own thought).

This essay, "The Thinking of Being" is my favorite Levinas I have read. It is short (a mere ten pages), but outlines many of Levinas' key concerns. If you've always wanted to know why Derrida considers indeterminacy such a big deal, read this essay (specifically page 116!)


Sports Things that Bug Me

These things have been bugging me the past few weeks:

1. Kevin Garnett Shooting Jump Shots. Before I saw him play regularly, I used to think that Garnett was a better player than Tim Duncan. My argument went, if you surrounded Garnett with the talent Duncan worked with, he'd have just as many rings. Well, 12 playoff games later I'm ready to amend this thought. While Garnett is a much better defensive player, I think his lack of college experience hurt his offensive development. He just doesn't play like the physically imposing player he could be. When Duncan gets the ball in the post, he's going to the rim. Garnett is happy to settle for a fade away, or he'll pass it out of the post. Take the ball to the damn hoop. Seriously. Argh.

2. Complaints Regarding Manny's High Five. If I hear one more sports journalist / media personality complain about how all athletes are overpaid and greedy and then bash Ramirez for actually having fun and playing the game like a game I'm going to go something something. Manny enjoys baseball. I enjoy watching Manny play baseball. He among the three best righthanded hitters of his generation (Pujols, A-Rod), and the three of them likely comprise the three best righthanders ever playing together at one time. Is he a space cadet? Yeah, a little. But in an age of self-importance and self-promotion, many is a breathe of fresh air.

3. Obsessive Coverage of 'Spygate'. O.k., I'll probably be a bit of a homer here. But anyone who thinks the Patriots are the only team in professional football to utilize videotape beyond the written letter of the rules: you are crazy. I am not suggesting that every coach uses tape- I would bet 100$ that straight arrow Tony Dungy has never taped a TV program for fear he might be breaking copyright law. The reason Goddell and the NFL wants this to go away: they don't want the equivalent of a steroid controversy haunting their sport. Spying has been a part of football since the early 60's, when Hank Stram thought every team was sending agents to observe practices. Don't get me wrong: spying is against the rules, the Pats deserved to be punished. But please don't insinuate that the Pats are the only ones abusing the film room.

4. NCAA rules against playoff but adds two additional bowl games combined with OJ Mayo takes money. Maybe OJ didn't take money (innocent until proven guilty), but he should have. If the NCAA and USC are marketing Mayo to get more money, then he should be getting paid. Millions? No. But players should be able to accept up to 40,000 dollars (completely arbitrary number) from third parties every year. I am not suggesting teams or the NCAA pay athletes. But holding to the mantra of strict amateurism amounts to an unfair indentured service in an age when schools are using their athletic programs to build dorms, labs, and parking garages. Again: if the teams and league makes profit from the players, then the players should be able to make profit from the players. On a related point: wtf. wtf. wtf. Just give us one more bowl game. It will not diminish the ratings or prestige of the other bowls. Take the five top bowls- make one of them the "championship game." I realize that games are stretched out one a night to increase ratings. Fine. Start them a bit earlier, play two on one night, and you can have your championship game without adding an extra time to the schedule.