Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Matt says it best ... Donate
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Virtual Lazer Keyboard

How cool is this?! The BlueTooth Virtual Lazer Keyboard ...

The world's first commercially available laser keyboard! Roughly the size of a disposable lighter, the Virtual Laser Keyboard leverages the power of laser and infrared technology to project a full-size qwerty keyboard onto any flat surface. As you type on the projection, optical recognition detects your keypresses and transfers them to your Treo 650, complete with realistic tapping sounds. wires or mechanical/moving parts, and the entire device weighs less than two ounces!

Thanks, Abe, for the link!

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Thinking 3D

The 3D alphabet invites readers to “play” with language, to step beyond the confines of the conventional and find new patterns for thinking the possible.

The comforts of familiarity in the left-to-right, top-to-bottom linearity of language can and often does direct/define “the conditions of possibility” for ways in which we are willing to “see” our worlds. Author Ji Lee, Univers Revolved (2005), suggests that “[w]hile convention has clearly been helpful in making communication easier, it may also have had a less positive effect – that of shaping our perceptions.” By opening our eyes to new ways of seeing/reading, Mr. Lee hopes to expand the scope of possibility for generating emergent ideas.

Univers Revolved applies a geometric formula to capital letters in order to rotate them into 360ยบ forms of their originals, creating as it does a “new” way of reading, thinking, imagining the univers. Ready to give it a try? Have a little fun? Go here to test your mettle, and let us know how you did.

Don't miss the author bio page ... a creative demonstration of "playing" with language in a digital environment.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Life Expectancy

As wonderful as this life is, "Long life" has never been on the top ten of my wish list: I am content to be "done" sooner than later, though, harboring a hope for less pain than more in the details of departure, I do tend to live as healthfully as I can afford to live - a fact I now find to be interestingly in conflict with any thoughts of an "early exit." I just took the "How Long Will I Live" test that reported these results:

Life Expectancy: 93.54
Lower Quartile : 86.85
Median Lifetime: 95.15
Upper Quartile : 102.35

My conscientious living in exercise, whole foods, safe driving, and education is paying off in a currency I hadn't planned for. Well, if I have to be here longer than I had hoped to be, the good news is that I can at least expect to enjoy it. There's a (more than) "half full" glass in the news somewhere, eh?

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Gas Prices

Maybe when "it hurts this bad" the best thing to do is laugh.

(Via PureLandMountain)

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Ernie the Attorney and Katrina

Elaine at Kaliliy Time passes on a connection to Ernie the Attorney who is blogging from New Orleans about his experience with Katrina. Apparently Ernie tried to evacuate the city with hundreds of thousands of others only to find it "safer" to return home. Ernie's last post came in 12:30 this morning and prompted me to take a look at the maps tracking Katrina. The word is that New Orleans could be "wiped off the map" as Katrina takes to land - frightful news, but the destruction won't stop there. Take a look here at images capturing the ferocity of the storm as of 4:00 a.m. this morning, and look here for a projection of the storm’s course, scheduled arrival, and anticipated staying power. Cause for pause.

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Friday, August 26, 2005

First-Year Composition: Writing Worlds

The guiding theme for teaching my first-year composition course at Purdue is "Composing the Digital Self" - a syllabus approach developed in line with the UR@ sequence of instruction developed by Dr. Thomas Rickert and Colin Charlton. The idea is to create a writing environment where students will realize the ubiquitous nature of composition, coming to recognize themselves as inextricably a part of "writing the worlds" they inhabit. Blogs and blogging anchor the fifteen weeks of work these students will do to unpack some of the many mysteries of the world wide web - to discover a number of the tools, tricks, and treasures that can be found there. Those of you who might be interested in following along can add "BE: Composing the Digital Self" to your blogrolls: you'll find my own (from time-to-time) efforts of writing to the assignments given in class and a blogroll of student writers addressing assignments as they relate to student-selected topics. As we are all teachers on some level, your comments there would certainly be a treat.

Now, I said all of that to say this: I recognize that I'm playing with emerging theory in composition when I venture into online spaces for defining media of instruction, so I found a good deal of encouragement in this story from The Christian Science Monitor. Reporter Charles Levinson discusses the connection between blogging/bloggers and the power of dissent among pro-democratic young Egyptians, Iranians, and others around the world organizing a "voice of the many" online and promoting public debate in an increasingly unstoppable movement:

Today, there are an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 Iranians blogging, including former vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi. During the 2003 student uprisings in Iran, Internet blogs and chat rooms allowed students to mobilize, organize, and communicate with one another, free of prying government eyes. Iran has since adopted "one of the world's most substantial Internet censorship regimes," according to the Open Net Initiative, a partnership of researchers from Harvard, Cambridge University, and the University of Toronto. But government resistance isn't thwarting this new generation of Middle East activists, who are finding that the pro-democracy sit-ins, and decades-old slogans of their parents, may not be the most effective avenue for change.
If in fact it can be understood that a central purpose in providing a quality education for a nation's learners (regardless of age) is to promote and inform a capacity for responsible citizenship and a thoughtful engagement in public debate, then equipping young writers with the skills to locate themselves as participants in online environments may speak to the very heart of a good education for the 21st century. I join a growing number of teachers across the country in believing so. I invite you to follow along with me at "BE" to see how the experiment turns out.

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Playing a Full Rack

Scrabble is a favorite game for me, and I feed the habit online at Quadplex during months of campus life at school in Indiana. In Scrabble-speak, "the game is on" for my new fall semester at Purdue, and the rack is looking good.

I'm traveling Kenneth Burke with one of the country's foremost Burkeians, Dr. David Blakesley. This introduction to Burke is a first for me, and it is already clear that Burke's thinking will open new connections in my study of electronic literature.

Alongside my reading of Burke, I'll be venturing into phenomenology - the history, development, and major figures in a movement that examines the "as it appears to be" of human experience. Dr. Daniel Smith, a leading Deleuzean scholar (and outstanding teacher) leads the way through a series of encounters focusing mainly on the work of Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty - all new reads to me. It's going to be a great semester!

The rack is topped off with continuing studies under Dr. Arkady Plotnitsky. Trained both as physicist and literary scholar (19thC British Literature), Dr. Plotnitsky directs the Theory and Cultural Studies program at Purdue, instructing at the juncture of science, philosophy, and postmodernity. Additionally, Dr. Plotnitsky directs my committee for doctoral studies: my coursework with him has included study in the works of Nietsche, Kant, Hegel, Freud, Levinas, Deleuze, and Derrida - to name a only few. This semester, prompted by the recent death of his friend, Jacques Derrida, we return to further study of this 20thC philosopher and critic ... good times coming.

Add a GREAT group of young writers with whom I'll be working in freshman composition (ICaP) and a GREAT group of beginning teachers I'll have the pleasure of guiding through the student teaching process - the rack is full (!) and the days ahead promise amazing opportunity for becoming more and more a better me.

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Value of a College Education

Noting the journalistic success of the late Peter Jennings in spite of having had no college education, Ronni Bennet (Time Goes By) discusses a “college bias” that exists in America today and is feeding an attitude of ageism that prevails in current U.S. hiring practices of qualifying or disqualifying job candidates on whether or not they have completed a college education – a practice that, of course, naturally slants in favor of the young.

She writes:

Again and again, during this last year of job hunting, one of the first questions I was asked was which college I attended and the conversation ended abruptly - "we only hire college graduates" - when I told them I have no degree.

This is a mistake of magnificent proportions. Don’t get me wrong. There are some career specialties where college and graduate degrees are essential. Medicine comes to mind. Rocket science. The law. Engineering. I’m not so sure about computer science; kids seem to absorb that in the cradle these days, but I could be wrong.

What I am not wrong about is that 50 years ago, a high school education was at least the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree today. …. Yes, I understand that the amount of knowledge has increased exponentially since then and even without the decline in educational standards, young people would probably need another four years of study today to be ready for the real world. But that requirement cannot and should not be applied to older workers.

Ronni goes on to indict the arbitrariness of human resource departments, a relative lack of awareness for the history of education in the U.S., and a culture steeped in ageism for the injustice of denying (college and/or job) credit for non-academic learning to those who have in other ways established themselves with expertise of various kinds.

I agree that non-academic learning receives less credit than it might rightfully be given, and I celebrate those institutions where efforts are being made to correct that oversight, awarding credit – however little – for learning done outside the academy. I agree, too, that it is a mistake (though I think “magnificent” somewhat overstated) to disparage the value of aging/aged workers or, for that matter, to dismiss any worker out of hand simply for the lack of a degree. I know Ronni is right on point in arguing for resistance to ageism in any form anywhere, and I applaud her efforts in this campaign, but I take issue with what I see as an underlying contention in her discussion of “degree bias.”

When it comes to a college education, it isn’t just that “the amount of knowledge has increased exponentially” in the last fifty years, it is that knowledge has become unmoored from a stable sense of knowing. Put another way, knowledge is “on the move,” and the pace is increasing at the speed of digitality. An education today – a good education – is less about the know what and more – much more – about the know where, know how, and emerging networks of knowing, all this with the understanding that knowledge itself “moves.” The difficulty for every learner is in coming to terms with the inevitable and undeniable movement of knowledge in such a way as to come to see that investments made into previously stable values must increasingly be updated (put in motion) in order to maintain/establish “value added” in the network age.

Will this be true in all cases? No. Times and measures of time sweep with a broad brush; there are always exceptions, but the value of a college degree today is fast becoming the measure, not of knowledge, but of a willingness to be conditioned for a global community/workforce, “rewired” to function on increasingly more intense frequencies of knowledge that are infinitely data-divisible and consequently endlessly expansive. Any desire to preserve the value of previous investments is natural, understandable, and a real force in the economic well being of a nation, but the pace of cutting-edge-innovation is what defines and secures the American “dream machine,” and the pace of information is picking up as the world flattens.

In a week and a half I will begin my third year of doctoral study at Purdue University. The work is overwhelmingly challenging. I came into this venture with the capital of a full and successful career in teaching, and I’ll tell you plainly: I have never worked so hard in my life as I have to work in progressing through this degree. Are there those around me who invest less in their efforts to complete the work? Oh, yes, but that can be said of any endeavor, right? What I know of my colleagues, my fellow students, and my instructors – those delivering college educations – is that they are genuinely invested in the strength of their scholarship, the success of their students, and the responsibility they know themselves to bear in safeguarding and prospering the intellectual wealth of a nation.

Do they know more than an “unlettered” yet conscientiously self-taught person? I have not met one person among them who would say she does. Are they smarter than their friends and neighbors? Again, no, and you would find no argument from any among them. Diversity in “ways of knowing” are celebrated. What I know of them, however, and what I hope of myself, is that they believe themselves responsible to do their jobs: not only to acquire knowledge as it is but to labor in the production of knowledge and to infect as many others as are willing with the fever for engaging possibilities – a fever that will compel them to let go of the stability of knowing in exchange for the possibility of what only might be found in the flux.

Stepping into the flux should not be demanded of anyone – regardless age, but it must be remembered that as the pace of knowledge increases and the world flattens to global communities and markets, there will be less and less call for the value of skills and commodities that stand still. No doubt about it: picking up the pace – especially to the level being demanded of “players” in the game today – is a kick in the crank that I sure didn’t know to expect. I brought the accomplishment of more than fifty years of success, both personal and professional, to the venture of continuing education; it should have been a “piece of cake,” and though in many ways there is currency in the value of years I own, the bottom line is that “we’re not in Kansas anymore,” and the skills I brought with me, though an asset in foundational ways, were in serious need of a tune-up.

A college education is about equipping individuals not just to do what has been done before or even to do what is happening today; a college education is about the task of re-tooling an individual, honing in them a vision for dreams, and equipping them to "run with the lions" at the pace of tomorrow. That's the value of a college education, and the welfare of a nation depends on it.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Walker Bay Coffee Company: New Friends

Exploring for “new roads," I am now regularly drawn in the direction of Walker, Minnesota on a Sunday morning. On a drive-about on a few Sundays back, I quite coincidentally wandered into the Walker Bay Coffee Company where I made friends with Deb and one of the best cinnamon rolls this side of perfect!

I’m hoping the picture conveys a sense of the bounty to be found at Deb's place.
I’ve tucked a coin into the picture to aid in perspective. This roll is not only a work of art, it's a full day’s worth of calories all for the price of $1.99 ... too-good-to-be-true? Believe it! Only one more Sunday to go before I head back to school, and I’ll be pointing my little yellow car in the direction of Walker Bay Coffee Company. Hey Deb, could you save me a caramel roll for this week, too?

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Ghost Cycles

Transportation is not all about cars, and with school start-up just around the corner, this Seattle project caught my attention, carrying me back to the pivotal “I see dead people” scene from Sixth Sense.

The Ghostcycle Project is the work of concerned citizens in Seattle to raise awareness regarding bicyclists. Seattle is one of the most bike-friendly cities in North America, but in an effort to continue improvements began to use the web to collect data from cyclists in the Seattle-area who have been involved in an accident while bicycling. “As the information began pouring in, patterns arose and we were able to identify and isolate trouble spots all over Seattle.” On August first “ghostcycles” began to appear at each of those trouble locations. Questions lead people to the Ghostcycle website where more information is available – end result: “… safer street for everyone.”

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Banksy: Breaking Down Walls

Banksy is a graffiti artist, culture-jammer, successfully self-published author, subversive, and ironically anti-capitalist who is currently working on a new installation on the wall in Palestine. The 425-mile West Bank Barrier (wall) has been declared illegal by the United Nations, but it serves as an irresistible canvas for Banksy. (Via World Changing) The U.K. Guardian offers a closer look at the story.

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Festus Rockensock and More

“Festus Rockensock” is a name that just standing alone seems to want a good story to follow, or so I believed when I heard it from James – a friend and fellow blogger at “Food For the Brian.” James is a college student writing as one of a “changing breed” whose lives “consist of music, relationships, drama, social-life (or not), parents, friends, classes, books, papers, alcohol, coffee, all-nighters, deep thoughts, no thoughts, and a must-do-now life lived in the passing moments. Less than 500 years ago colleges and universities didn't even exist. So really, we're quite a new species.”

The humor of James’s post about Festus is all the more compelling in knowing that Festus is part of the lived experience of summer employment for James. It is a great read but one he “tops” with his post today about a motorcycle project just finished. I’m celebrating your victory with you, James, but if it’s all the same to you, I’ll stick to the heightened sense of security I get from driving my car!

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

Electronic Literature and a Membership Fee

The focus of my scholarly attentions is drifting ever more steadily toward new media and electronic literature. The Electronic Literature Organization, established in 1999 to promote and facilitate the writing, publishing, and reading of electronic literature, defines electronic literature as “works with important literary aspects that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer”:

  • Hypertext fiction and poetry, on and off the Web
  • Kinetic poetry presented in Flash and using other platforms
  • Conversational characters, also known as chatterbots
  • Interactive fiction
  • Novels that take the form of emails, SMS messages, or blogs
  • Poems and stories that are generated by computers, either interactively or based on parameters given at the beginning
  • Collaborative writing that allows readers to contribute to the text of a work
  • Literary performances online that develop new ways of writing

All good, but I found “the best part” when I clicked on the button to join. Why? The membership fee for the ELO is a donation (that’s right … donation!) to Network For Good, a nonprofit organization funding other nonprofits around the world. Though an amount is suggested ($25.00), nothing is required for membership with the ELO except the evidence of having made a donation. Impressive. The approach is new to me, and I like it!

Need a cause you can call your own? Check out the Network For Good today!

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Friday, August 05, 2005

A Nation of Spenders

Harper’s Magazine brought together three of the nation’s top economic thinkers (Glenn Hubbard, Paul Kruggman, and Peter Peterson) in a discussion addressing the question: Can a nation of spenders be saved? The article invokes remembrance of the Titanic and alludes to an impending disaster with its title, “The Ice Berg Cometh.”

Some numbers that caught my attention:

  • a federal budget deficit of over $400 billion
  • a $666 billion international trade deficit
  • $1.5 trillion dollars of new spending in the last four years
  • $1.7 trillion dollars in tax cuts during the same period
  • more than 70% of the world’s savings distributed as loans to America
  • American net savings (saving in excess of spending) = zero

Discussion topics included social security, medicare, international relations, cultural trends, and considered solutions to the problems portending difficult days ahead. Says Peter Peterson, “The American people must be told a lot of hard truths so they understand what the problem is.” The article in its entirety is a fascinating and worthwhile read.

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Networking Knowledge in a Flat World

Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat has given me a whole new appreciation for the meaning of global networking and the power of connectivity. The read is rich, provocative, and a sometimes alarming awakening to the view of an emerging global community that I had somehow missed.

It is my new awareness of the flat world that draws my attention to the “dropping knowledge” initiative: an effort just getting underway that will gather 112 world visionaries together in June 2006 to address questions that have been submitted by participants from around the globe, to ask more questions of one another, challenge conventional thinking, and collaboratively formulate answers.

Your contribution is being solicited. What question would you ask of the collected wisdom of the world? Ask it here. What voice would you choose to include among the 112? Offer your suggestion here.

(Via World Changing) from the “dropping knowledge” website:

dropping knowledge means“dropping the assumption that we know all the answers.” It means questioning conventional wisdom. It means figuring out which questions are the most important to ask and sharing answers.

dropping knowledge begins at a large round table as human rights activists, artists, scientists, educators, filmmakers, musicians, philosophers, and writers coming together from around the world to connect people into a single network of those seeking to exchange ideas and solutions to the most pressing issues of our world today.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Leaning Into a Moment of Laughter

Ken at Digital Common Sense grabbed a laugh out of my harried world with his post today, “Revocation of U.S. Independence”:

In light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (excepting Kansas, which she does not fancy).

It goes on from there with clever turns of thought, including “a questionnaire [that] may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.” Check out the rest of the post – just for fun, and don’t miss the follow-up on “Homeland Security.”

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Have You Ever Been This Tired?

Only two weeks remain of precious Minnesota summer before I once again return to West Lafayette, Purdue University, and another year of study and instruction there. I'm not ready! There are papers to write, edits to complete, books I haven't even opened, and a syllabus yet to build - all this with a lake breeze blowing and new roads calling my name.

Tired? Oh, yeah. Quit? Never. Solution? Power napping!!

No one will notice ...

... if I tuck myself into a corner

... for just one minute

... and stop.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Michigan Beaches: Public Space

(Via NYT) Michigan courts have ruled in favor of public space and free access, siding with Joan M. Glass in determining that to take a walk along the beach is not trespassing. Michigan beach walkers can now freely wander anywhere between the water's edge and the ordinary high water mark on any of the state's lakes without fear of reprisal or restriction from lakefront property owners. About 70% of Michigan's shoreline on Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Erie is privately owned.

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Kat blogs with music and regularly pauses for a paragraph or two of reflection/remembrance addressing the theme for the day – a drifting, shifting, take-her-where-it-will whim that guides the daily menu at Keep the Coffee Coming. It’s creative nonfiction with an annotated soundtrack … great stuff!

Sunday’s post about “bugs” carried me back to my own days of catching fireflies – moments of magic in a jar, and as luck would have it, I was that day visited by my own spectacular bug: a walking stick!

Follow this post by returning to Kat’s for a Jerry Garcia cherry-on-top finish with “There Ain’t No Bugs on Me,” and you’ll have just too darn much fun for one day!

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