Monday, September 26, 2005


Susan Crawford is an assistant professor of law at the Cardoza School of Law in New York, and in private practice she specializes in internet law and policy issues including those of "governance, privacy, intellectual property, advertising, and defamation." Susan blogs here, but I met her (via Joho) in this wonderful bit of composed fun online. Face forward: it's all about the screen. Enjoy the show!

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Making Connections

(via washingtonpost) A fascinating study from University Medical Center in the Netherlands suggests a connection between handedness and breast cancer. Conclusions held up even after factoring for "social and economic status, smoking habits, family history of breast cancer, and reproductive history." The study tracked more than 12,000 healthy, middle-aged women from 1982 to 2000 and found that "...left-handed women in the study were more than twice as likely as right-handed women to develop breast cancer before going through menopause." An increased occurrence of left-handedness had already been linked to intrauterine exposure to the hormonal drug diethylstilbestrol (DES). Researchers are looking to DES as a best-guess for the now found connection between handedness and breast cancer, but it's all guesses right now. The work goes on.

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Kenneth Burke: "Word Man"

Reading Kenneth Burke makes for a delightfully demanding semester even while I find myself wondering if any next day I'll catch the "break" I need from course demands to throw a few thoughts in the direction of friends tracking with me at Body Electric. Well, here's my opportunity.

It happens that Burke called himself a "word man," an idea anchored both in his regard for the formative force of words as well as in the grounding the notion provides for his principle theories in philosophy and rhetoric. It happens, too, that one of the standing "suggestions" for guiding my first-year composition students in their own posting is to report/discuss/pass along words they discover new to them in their assigned course reading. Connect these two ideas, and I can create an opportunity to tell you about a couple of "wowser" words I've come across from the "Word-Man," himself:

From Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose (UC Press, 1984)

1. psittacistic (91) ... and it's spelled correctly. Any guesses? Anyone know before I tell you? From Luciferous Logolepsy, a site operating under the byline "dragging obscure words into the light of day," the word means "speaking in a mechanical, repetitive way."

2. eidetic (214) ... a new-to-me word that I suspect many of you will have "met and gotten to know" before I found it in today's reading, though it is such a rich word that I'm including it here. From, the word means "of, relating to, or marked by extraordinarily detailed and vivid recall of visual images" - a word with a perfect fit for a visually oriented 21st century.

There are another half-dozen Burke books to read before I finish this semester, so think of these words as an appetizer. I'm guessing I'll be back with more.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

Meanwhile In Minnesota

Saturday temperatures may reach the low eighties in West Lafayette, Indiana, but in Embarrass, Minnesota (a stone's throw from home for me) the temperatures dipped to 19 degrees last night and state-wide frost advisories were issued for the weekend. I just finished the fifth week of a sixteen-week semester; winter's coming even if I can't feel it from here.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

Face/Off: Beyond the Movie

The plot outline for John Woo's award-winning "Face/Off" reads: "A revolutionary medical technique allows an undercover agent to take the physical appearance of a major criminal and infiltrate his organization." The story is intense, and the film is generally well-reviewed ... and, ok, Nick Cage is a favorite no matter what, but I mention this film because "real life" is just about to do one of those "imitation" moves again.

In just a few weeks Dr. Maria Siemionow is going to attempt the first "face transplant," a beyond-the-movies story that is both fascinating and admittedly a little creepy. The NYTimes read gives the background, answers some questions that come to mind, and raises issues that didn't readily occur to me, like whether or not the recipient would share appearance with the donor (the quick answer is "mostly no"). The field of potential clients for the procedure has been narrowed to twelve, and those twelve will interview this week, scrutinized along a number of lines including whether or not there is a "good fit" with the project team. One clue to the gravity of this operation is that doctors have concluded "informed consent" would be impossible to give since results, even if successful to the level of best outcome, will be beyond the patient's ability to grasp. The support team is, of course, substantial.

Thinking in the direction of "body electric" ... wow!

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I.B.M. Employees: Take Two

Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat is providing great context for my English 106 course and the work we are doing to "map" ourselves as writers in the 21st century. Among the many topics Friedman addresses in his "Brief History of the 21st Century" is the declining number of American young people (grades k-12) being encouraged to persue interests in complex maths and science. Lamenting the Bush administration cuts in the 2005 National Science Foundation budget, Friedman highlights trends demonstrating a coming crisis as relates to America's ability to maintain a global "edge" in research and innovation should something not be done to turn the tables. He quotes Tracy Koon, Intel's director of corporate affairs:

"Science and math are the universal language of technology," she said. "They drive technology and our standards of living. Unless our kids grow up knwing the universal language, they will not be able to compete. We are not in the business of manufactureing somewhere else. This is a company that was founded here, but we have two raw materials - sand, which we have a ready supply of, and talent, which we don't." (Silicon comes from sand.) (272)
New York State Commissioner of Education, Richard P. Mills, speaking recently for New York state schools alone, said "New York needs more people with math and science skills to meet the growing job demand, but we need more teachers to make that happen."

In a move that marries the needs of a nation with some of the best minds in science and math the nation has to offer, IBM has launched "Transition to Teaching," a program underwriting the development of "second careers" for its retiring employees (and others who meet certain qualifications) by funding their retraining as teachers in the fields of science and math. Funding includes up to $15,000 in tuition and stipends, and employees retain their jobs with IBM while completing their coursework. The program targets public school needs in hoping to generate a supply of highly trained and newly qualified teachers, and I.B.M. officials are hoping that other companies will follow suit. "Snaps" to I.B.M. for its initiative!

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Friday, September 16, 2005

"Here Are the Raspberries"

Let thoughts of sun-warmed summer raspberries compensate you for the lack of focus on this first attempt of mine to post video to my blog. The voice is son/friend, Abe, and the beautiful woman you'll see eat the first berry of the season is his friend/wife, Jennifer. Here's to a touch of Minnesota "home" for a Friday evening of studying in West Lafayette, Indiana.

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I Think I'm in Love

The Library Thing has captured my complete attention. I think I'm in love or something like it! Books, books, books in boxes and corners and cubby holes, and the "card catalog" in my head ... it's all a thing of the past now. I'm registered and rolling on the work to archive a growing collection of graduate study readings. There is no end to the stacks of "next book to read," but now there's a way to wrap my thinking around the task. The collection is "tag" based, facilitating an evolving (re)organization as my scholarly perspectives continue to emerge. I gotta tell ya ... I think I'm in love! ... and I'm not alone.

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Just For Fun

"Political" is not usual fare at "Body Electric," but this mockumentary finds its fun in the (re)presentation of words and so gives me the excuse (if I need one) to pass the link on to you. The clip is the work of Otis Productions, and the link via Joho. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Global Whitman

I write this blog under the titular guide "Body Electric," and it is to the work of Walt Whitman that I am drawn as I compose this post. Where Whitman looked to the people of a new and becoming nation, I am thinking today of those most needy among us as a global community. Nicholas Kristof (NYTimes) draws my attention to the gathering of world leaders this week at the United Nations as he writes in sharp critique of the "disgraceful job" they are doing to assist the poor and feed the hungry. He reminds us that 500 of the world's richest individuals command more wealth among them than 416 million of the world's poorest people. A global commitment of $7 billion annually for the next decade (the U.S. alone is currently spending $4.7 a month to support the war in Iraq) would provide 2.6 billion people with clean drinking water and save 4,000 lives a day. Europeans spend more on perfume and Americans more on cosmetic surgery each year.

  • AIDS is killing more people worldwide right now than did the Black Plague of the 14th century.
  • The United States, Italy, and Japan top the list for stinginess – less than 16 cents assistance given for every $100 of national income.
  • India and China are leaving their poor behind as the richest among them move into the 21st century: In India girls ages 1 to 5 are 50% more likely to die than boys, while interior China loses more than 700,000 children each year to the ravages of poverty.
  • Loss at the hands of African leaders can rival brutalities suffered under white rule.

And all the while, the gathering leaders of nations toast themselves, issue reports of improvement, and preen as they boast how much they are doing to help the world’s poor. Whitman put himself between the masters and the slaves to speak against human injustices; he took up a middle ground from which to call for an other way of becoming a nation. The spirit of Walt Whitman cries out again and still for a revaluation of the body electric:

I Sing the Body Electric” (lines 1-32)


I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?


The love of the body of man or woman balks account, the body itself balks account,
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.

The expression of the face balks account,
But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face,

It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists,
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees, dress does not hide him,
The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and broadcloth,
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more,
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side.

The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and heads of women, the folds of their dress, their style as we pass in the street, the contour of their shape downwards,
The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims through the transparent green-shine, or lies with his face up and rolls silently to and fro in the heave of the water,
The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats, the horseman in his saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open dinner-kettles, and their wives waiting,
The female soothing a child, the farmer's daughter in the garden or cow-yard,
The young fellow hoeing corn, the sleigh-driver driving his six horses through the crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty, good-natured, native-born, out on the vacant lot at sun-down after work,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance,
The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blinding the eyes;
The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play of masculine muscle through clean-setting trowsers and waist-straps,
The slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell strikes suddenly again, and the listening on the alert,
The natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent head, the curv'd neck and the counting;
Such-like I love -- I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother's breast with the little child,
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march in line with the firemen, and pause, listen, count.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

Digging a Hole All the Way Through

I was one of those kids who thought more than once about digging my way "to China." This fun click or two of distraction tells me I was "off" on my geography a bit ... I would have come out just off center in the Indian Ocean. Ha!

Let the kid in you give it a try before you pass it on to your favorite Kindergartener.

Update: for some reason, the link above has been failing. If all else fails, you can find it again (working) here at Lifehacker. ...worth the trip.

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A Hundred Million Voices

Last May Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed columnist for the NYTimes, wrote about a collision between Chinese authorities and the increasing number of internet users in China. Kristof noted that were four million blogs in China and millions of people surfing the web using proxy servers to “get around” the efforts of the government to ban online activity. The article highlighted one particular blogger who, like many others, filled the role of journalistic “watchdog,” gaining the support of sympathetic villagers and filing rogue investigative reports of official wrongdoing in China.

News Saturday from Wired News reports that Yahoo, claiming compliance with Chinese law, surrendered the email address of Shi Tao to Chinese government officials. Surrendered documents led to his subsequent arrest a sentence of ten years in prison.

According to Reporters Without Borders, court papers show that Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) gave Chinese investigators information that helped them trace a personal Yahoo e-mail to Shi's computer. It says Shi was convicted for sending notes on a government circular spelling out restrictions on the media in his e-mail. He was seized in November at his home in the northwestern province of Shanxi.

Market watchers estimate more than 100 million internet users in China; last year Yahoo spent $1 billion dollars for a 40% stake in one of the leading online hosting locations. Internet is big business, and Yahoo (alongside competitors Google and Microsoft) is jockeying for favor in the political milieu and each coming under fire of charges for censoring online information that posts in conflict with official reports.

I don’t know if Shi Tao is the man about whom Kristof reported in May; I hope not, but I do know that even if he is, the contest isn’t over. Censorship or not, how do you stop the thunder of a hundred million voices?

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

We Remember

Today we remember ...

... and we don't stop remembering.

We are all Americans.

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