Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Feel-Good Moment ( ...or two )

Every now and then we all need a "feel-good" moment or two, and here's one that scores all that and then some. CBS broadcast the story of Jason McElwain, an autisic high school basketball team member from Rochester, New York.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Instructions for Life

In email I received these instructions (attributed to the Dalai Lama, 2005) with direction to read them slowly, think them over, and then send them on their way. Thanks, Kat.

Instructions For Life:
  1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
  2. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.
  3. Follow the three "R's"
        • respect for self
        • respect for others
        • responsibility for all your actions
  4. Spend some time alone every day.
  5. Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.
  6. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  7. Live a good and honorable life; then, when you are old, you'll be able to enjoy it again.
  8. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for life.
  9. In disagreements with those you love, deal only with the current situation. Don't bring up the past.
  10. Share your knowledge.
  11. Be gentle with the earth.
  12. Once every year, go someplace you have never been before.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

F2C: Freedom to Connect

I'm having one of those internet moments where "behind the curve" comes
to mind for describing the experience: this is a "should have known, how did I miss it?" bit of waking-up for me. F2C: Freedom to Connect!
The need to communicate is primary, like the need to breathe, eat,
sleep, reproduce, socialize and learn. Better connections make for
better communication. Better connections drive economic growth through
better access to suppliers, customers and ideas. Better connections
provide for development and testing of ideas in science and the arts.
Better connections improve the quality of everyday life. Better
connections build stronger democracies. Strong democracies build strong
On April 3-4 in Washington D.C., leaders from all corners of knowing and expertise are coming together to "share experience, insight, and wisdom with policy makers, and to develop a better, more complete understanding of how technology and policy might evolve together in a virtuous cycle of economic growth and freedom." We are even now called to be the authors of our own future, and it makes so much more sense to compose ourselves for the forms of productivity that are inclusive, innovative, and celebratory of possibility in good will than to write a future of fear.

F2C works from two assumptions: First, if some connectivity is good, then more connectivity is better; and second, if a connection that does one thing is good, then a connection that can do many things is better.

"Net neutrality" - the open and available nature of the internet - is the issue at stake. F2C calls for a coming together to secure the user as a more powerful participant in the discussions that will define the future of citizenship online.

Of course I encourage as many to attend the April 3-4 conference as are able, and there's a great offer on the table here half-off the early bird registration that times out at the end of February. Register if you can, and if you are open to sponsoring an over-eager graduate student in her quest to "get in the conversation," you can post your gifts to ... yeah, whatever. Be sure that I'll be watching and reading from the sidelines now though.

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Finding Treasure: Mark the Spot!

Bert Web (Open Loops) again highlights a point I've been making with first-year composition students for years: Books are best when marked up. Any book can be received as a conversation inviting the reader to participate; mapping that conversation as it unfolds better equips the reader to incorporate the information and ideas into the reader's own developing thought, to access the source material with more effective remembrance, and to meaningfully contribute to conversations taking place beyond the book. Here are a few dos and don'ts:
  1. don't use a highlighter - fine tip colored pens let you see color while giving you the ability to write, and writing is what makes it count
  2. don't mark large portions of text - you're looking for the 20% of the text you'll want later
  3. don't mark up (map) the more-or-less disposable items you read (newspapers, magazines)
  4. don't mark the obvious - if you already know it, don't mark it
  1. do mark the text with a pencil or pen - you're making treasure as well as mapping it!
  2. use post-it notes when the text itself wants to be preserved - textbooks at school don't qualify for this rule
  3. locate and mark the topic sentence in a passage - you're going for the main idea
  4. use code - create that bank of symbols that mean something to you and can be used to save time. a favorite for me is "E" with a circle around it to indicate a "biggie" idea.
  5. write questions in the margin
  6. circle new words
  7. note "connecting" ideas/writers - those passages that speak to others writers/writings
  8. cross-reference ideas to other locations inside the text - create structure (1, 2, 3, 4, ...)
  9. draw arrows - mine are often long, snakey, and across pages
  10. finally, and most importantly in my "book," re-write the big idea in abbreviated form in the margin - this idea will get the most mileage when you return to the text for remembering or for finding your way in the next conversation

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Know What I Mean?

Research conducted recently at Cornell University worked with 60 pairs of students to test how accurately sarcastic intention could be discerned in email (electronic) communications. Each person selected 10 statements from a list of 20 where no list was the same. Some statements listed were sarcastic and some were not. Working in pairs from separate rooms, one student typed the statements into an email message and the other recorded the message, intoning the meaning as they understood it implied, and then the roles were reversed until all the statements had been exchanged. In addition, each person guessed both whether or not she had accurately understood the message sent and the receiver would be accurate in her understanding.

In all cases sender and receiver – both in writing and speaking – expressed a nearly 80% confidence that the receiver would accurately assign meaning in recognizing the intended presence of sarcasm or its absence. In fact, while reports of meaning were nearly 75% accurate for messages received as spoken, accuracy for messages received as written fell barely above 50% – little more than a coin toss.

Researcher Justin Kruger and his team argue that their findings demonstrate a general overconfidence of writers who believe themselves to have accurately communicated their intended meaning. Combine this mistaken confidence with an equally mistaken certainty from readers that they, too, have rightly received the message, and you have a potential for significant misunderstanding that could play out in varying degrees of loss.

Kruger, J., Epley, N., Parker,J., and Ng, Z. (2005). “Egocentrism Over Email: Can We Communicate As Well As We Think?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 89(6), 925-936.

(via Cognitive Daily)

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Surprising Yourself

The trail on this bit of blogosphere insight runs from Kimet to Ramit and on to Rebecca before it reaches me, and though I often wonder how many "passes" constitute too many passings-along among bloggers, I couldn't resist just one more for this:

10 Things That Will Surprise You About Yourself

1. How much $ you spend per month
2. How long you spend talking to your family per month
3. How much time you spent working on the thing you say is your "passion" last month
4. How far you walk every day
5. How much you read NOT from a computer
6. How much time you spend organizing your life (bills, etc)
7. How many calories you eat per day
8. How much time you actually work at work
9. How much time you spend watching TV per month
10. Which of your goals you accomplished last year

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Body Play and Poetry

"Text Rain," a work by Camille Utterback (1999), conjoins the movement of letters/words with the body at play catching ideas/bits of ideas/poetry. Letters fall and continue to fall; words form or don't only as the body figures each next sliding moment. Participants seem unable to stand still: possibility compels (e)motion.

So many ways of being occur to me in the contemplation of "Text Rain," and though I have too many more books to read than there seems time available, I will make my way to a dissertation at this intersection of code and body and mind and dance. Here is literature for a new century - a "place" for discovery where I know myself invited to play.

I think I can. I think I can.

*follow the link to an experience in brief of the installation

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Friday, February 10, 2006

The Work of Joan Myers

I was led a day or two ago to the work of Joan Myers, an artist/photographer and writer of the world through whose (re)presentations I find a door into reassuring rest - a place of quiet, whispers, and the gentle promise of music with the next breeze. You can view Ms. Myers' work online here. As my thoughts play from time to time in consideration of age and ageing, I am particularly taken by her study, "Women of a Certain Age." Enjoy.

thanks for Junebugg @ WDWN

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The Makings of A Good Idea?

"Australia Gets Drunk, Wakes Up in North Atlantic"

I came across a bit of good fun this morning in a read linked in by Jill Walker at jill/txt. The story's 2002 copyright may leave a comment or two in the text with a sense of being dated, but the thought still works, and I wonder if it's not potentially a better idea today than it was in 2002. Move the pieces around on the board a bit, and the game might suddenly play out a little differently.

What kinds of changes might take place in international politics, for example, if the United States
laid one on and the next morning woke up as a permanent fixture in a new neighborhood, say situated in the general region of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China. Do you think we might learn to play nice in the sandbox then? Hmmm?

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Local Library: A "Best-Kept Secret"?

Recent highlights from Matt Vance at Lifehacker tell us some of what we already knew and maybe a bit more about our local libraries: music in multiple media, videos, DVD, internet access, meeting and conference space, and of course the “standard” treasure of books, books, and books. What might not be as widely known is that most local libraries now provide access online. “Not only are most card catalogs available online, but you can often reserve and renew materials, access online databases, ask reference questions, and more—all without leaving your computer.”

Other high points mentioned in his writing include:

  • Audio books – sometimes in downloadable formats (iPod downloads, too)
  • E-books
  • Online, on-call librarians
  • The LibraryLookupProject
  • Online account management
  • And, interlibrary loan requests

In every community there’ll be a small army of volunteers working to help local libraries survive budget cuts, shutdowns, and the ongoing squeeze on public services. Local libraries protect the heartbeat of a neighborhood. Keep information available; keep information free. Here’s to my friend, Yvonne, on the front lines of the battle at home. Thanks.

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Trade-In: Keys for Free Ride

How old is too old to drive? That may be a question only rightly answered by the seniors themselves and the families with whom they live in mutual support and care, but numbers indicate that drivers 75 and older have higher crash rates per mile than all other groups except 16-18-year-olds. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports the number of fatal crashes annually for senior drivers is expected to double by the year 2030.

ITN stands for Independent Transportation Network, one answer to the growing need for alternative transportation for seniors, and, as Sarah Miller Llana reports Tuesday for the Christian Science Monitor, ITN is catching on across the country. The program offers free, on-call transportation to seniors in exchange for the keys to the car – vehicles often sitting idle in driveways and garages for the various reasons that blossom with age. With ITN, the value of the vehicle is redeemed for free transportation. Rides average about $8 roundtrip, and if the value of the vehicle runs out, family and friends can replenish the account with volunteer time or donated cars of their own.

The program was initiated by Katherine Freund of Maine as an outcome of her work in graduate study. State legislatures in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York are currently working to establish similar programs in their states. Cities across the country have already enacted comparable initiatives. For my money, it’s a great idea – a savings in cost and a liberty to more conveniently reconnect with community. Everybody wins!

Thanks to rebecca’s pocket for the tip on the story.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Internet Use

A 6 Feb 2006 Gallup Poll report on Internet use highlights a number of points of interest to me, particularly with respect to the work I do in teaching first-year composition. The innovation built into the Purdue program already pushes an awareness of technology to the foreground in matters of composition, but the syllabus with which I work (tip of the hat to Drs. Thomas Rickert and Colin Charlton) takes a focus on technology to the level of networking, cultural study, and support in student discovery for the world unfolding online in the 21st century.

Common themes in my delivery of the syllabus include: expanding notions of composition, the common ground to be negotiated in all "calls to write," the advantages of becoming "tech-fluent," and the strength of presentation for the job market for those who have been writing online and in public for an extended period of time.

Dr. Frank Newport of the Gallup Report substantiates the value of this approach, though perhaps inadvertently, with his recent report. He states, "Americans are adopting and adapting to the online world at a slower pace than you might think." He goes on to note email and retrieving information about news/weather are the top activities of those online, with shopping and travel planning activities engaged by more than fifty percent of internet users. He discusses his surprise that only 20% report regularly or occasionally reading blogs, a surprise I believe loses it's punch when taken in context to note the relatively short history of blogging availability, the relatively large number at 20% when the measure of investment is taken into consideration, and the fact that "reading blogs" very likely takes place casually or randomly at a level beyond the perception of the unfamiliar reader. In other words, the information generated by writers isn't read/received, recognized as, or consigned to "blogging" ... that's the beauty of it!

Nonetheless, Newport's analysis, taken in light of counsel from Thomas Friedman (The World Is Flat, 2005) to anticipate a dramatic shift in the delivery of services and technological advances as India and China come to the fore, reinforces my conviction that American students must be encouraged now to equip themselves for digital citizenship and the world of tomorrow that is certainly here today. Those who "adopt and adapt" early will have the edge in securing lives they hope to know as their own, even as they lead the way to worlds that none of us have seen before.

I choose to believe in good things ahead. Care to join me?

Image source: MSNBC, "Poll Power," 27 July 2004

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Postage Due

Did you know it was coming? “postage” charged for guaranteed email delivery?

Yahoo and AOL are setting up shop to offer companies “preferential treatment” for email at a cost ranging from ¼ of a cent to a penny each – a move that will “create what is essentially a preferred class of e-mail is a major change in the economics of the Internet.”
Writing "Postage Is Due..." for the NYTimes, Saul Hansell continues:

Paying senders will be assured that their messages will be delivered to AOL users' main in-boxes and marked as "AOL Certified E-Mail." Unpaid messages will be subject to AOL's spam-filtering process, which diverts suspicious messages to a special spam folder. Most of these messages will also not be displayed with their original images and links.

The issue raised here is one of “Net neutrality” – the effort to maintain open access to internet use, banning companies form giving/selling preferential status to content providers. The move to watch comes tomorrow from the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow. The concern is that rounds of corporate competition for the best and fastest avenues of reaching and securing new readers/customers with premium services may cause the price of access to rise for everyone, subsequently threatening the openness and availability of the Internet overall.

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Rest in Peace, Ms. Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan died on her birthday last Saturday at the age of 85. Though later in my life than for so many of my peers, Ms. Friedan taught me to see the great measure more I could do as I passed through the worlds I would touch in a lifetime. I read her (my) Feminine Mystique for the first time in a graduate class addressing intellectual history – thanks to Dr. Elizabeth Dunn.

Rest in peace, Ms. Friedan. I will continue to carry the flame you once helped me light.

From USAToday:

Her 1963 best seller, The Feminine Mystique, detailed the lives of American women who were expected to find their fulfillment through their husbands and children. It helped reshape American attitudes toward women's aspirations and rights. She went on to found the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. Friedan fought for equal pay for women, gender-free want ads, maternity leave and legal abortion.

"She was a giant in the 20th-century women's movement," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation and former president of NOW. "Not only did she define the problem of women's status, but she also launched the movement to change women's roles forever."

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Seeing Numbers

$27.7 trillion sounds like a very big number.

$2,770,000,000,000.00 looks like a big number.

I've grown so accustomed to the sound of numbers that when I saw all the zeroes in the President's 2006 proposed budget, I had an almost first-time experience of hearing just how much money was being requested.

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush sent Congress a $2.77 trillion budget plan on Monday that would boost spending in the war against terror but squeeze a wide swath of other government programs to deal with exploding budget deficits... among the losers were 141 government programs that Bush sought to sharply reduce or eliminate entirely. Almost one-third of the targeted programs are in education including ones that provide money to support the arts, vocational education, parent resource centers and drug-free schools.

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Super Bowl Sunday Advertising

Sunday was good times with friends - watching the game, my share of King cake, the rich hospitality extended from Meg and Marc. There were great moments on and off screen, this even in spite of the loss I took in a bet with Thomas; a round of wine on me the next time we're out.

Of course, the advertisements (this year purchased for a record $2.4 million per 30-second spot) were a big piece of the Sunday draw for folks who study rhetoric and composition. Favorites are picked and comments exchanged. It's all fun. I have too many "favorites" to name only one, but from those I'll point to the "Michelob Amber" commercial.

Whether or not you watched the game, if you'd like another chance to view the commercials, Google video has the list of links up for you here. Click and Enjoy!

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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Because I Can

NYTimes 4 February, 2006: "Increasingly, Internet's Data Trail Leads to Court"

I've followed from a distance the story on Google's resistance to the Justice Department's efforts to procure records of users' search queries. Google is currently the lone "holdout" among the top companies approached; others include Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft.

The contest seems to be more about a "next" move in a grab for information than a startling "first move" to invade strongholds of information or to violate issues of privacy. Episodes of Law and Order I recall watching during days before graduate study play in echoes as I try think through this topic: "Run the phone logs" or "get a record of her phone calls" represents a action now being argued as comparable to the request for a users search records, but is it? Is this a parallel connection? I think not.

Perhaps email records run parallel: they are a record of information exchanged person-to-person, but "searching" online might be thought more akin to scoping out a mall or driving through a neighborhood. Sure, these activities could lead to the enactment of a crime, but the millions upon millions of us who have and/or act with no criminal intent must not be made subject to the arbitrary disclosure of our "virtual" movements simply because it could lead to the apprehension of a criminal.

I think in terms of "arbitrary" after reading the NYTimes article and learning that it takes no more than the request from a prosecutor to validate the mandate for a release of user search records - in contrast to emails, for example, that require the signature of a judge. (Postal mail can't be opened without the authorization of a search warrant.) Of course, the issue becomes more pertinent when the application of the law reaches past the criminal courts to legal action including divorce, property, or child custody cases. What might have seemed a straight-forward matter can more easily touch the experience of "invasion of privacy" there. Careful thinking might best be attended before the reach of the law is given so free a hand. It is one thing to speak to the safety of a citizenry when "an enemy" is made to seem so real; it is another thing to deal with the same laws if the day should ever come when WE become thought the enemy.

"The big story is that the privacy law protecting your e-mail does not protect your Google search terms," said Orin S. Kerr, a professor at the George Washington University Law School and a former layer in the computer crime section of the Justice Department.

Other Lawyers argue that the law providing protection for e-mail content, or even Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches, could be applied to data about Web searching, but the issue has not been tested in court.
As I think about all this today, I come to a place of imagining that our efforts to govern the WWW might be better mediated if we were to conceptualize the "space" of information on the Internet more along the lines of "place," a geography of sorts. Certainly lots is being said in this direction already - I'm not saying anything new as far as many are concerned. Locking down URLs is a practice, for example, now commonly referenced as a virtual "land grab." The thought is, nonetheless, new enough for me as to imagine we might govern better if we governed as if remembering that virtual interactions are as much about place as about information.

I extend a tip of the hat to Google for its resistance, if on no other basis than for a slowing down or a second look that it is prompting for those who might not have noticed another bit of their civil liberties being "attached" just because they could be. "Because I Can" governs so large a bit of my human nature as it is that any resistance to that license seems a benefit to us all.

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