Saturday, January 28, 2006

Mail

I love real mail in my mailbox. Laughter, lives, convictions, and contemplation ... this card from a girlfriend arrived today via postal mail, and with miles between us, we still laughed outloud together. Here's a peek inside:

It all makes sense now,
I never looked at it this way before:

MENtal illness
MENstrual cramps
MENtal breakdown
MENopause
GUYnecologist

And when we have real trouble,
it's a HISerectomy.

Ever notice how all of women's
problems start with men?


Card creation: The Greeting Place (888) 462-5830


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Friday, January 27, 2006

Russian Climbers

When time is so much the issue as it is for many of us, getting to the next nifty happening online can take a backseat. Well, tonight one of those "moments" I'd tucked away in my bookmarks surfaced again as I was completing other work and carried me away with some of the most fascinating amateur video I can recall seeing in years.


Brad Stone (Newsweek, 21 Dec. 2005) first pointed me in the direction of this video/essay, "Russian Climbers," with his report highlighting the wealth of film viewing increasingly available online. This piece takes you to the Google video library where, if you're not careful, you could get lost for hours. Wherever else it leads you, I recommend you follow through on at least a bit of this 8 minutes of amazing. It's a break worth taking.

Now, back to the books for me.

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Out With the Cooper: I Want "MyCar"

UPDATE: I want to point you to Ken's blog, "Digital Common Sense," for his idea of an alternative to my choice below - "a real woman's car." He tells me that next year's model comes with a matching bracelet ... a definate selling point. Go take a look - just for the fun of it! -mg


It's called a "microcar," and I've only just started to follow the story on this emerging market, but I love these little guys. $7,000 U.S. and 60-90 miles to the gallon ... better and better. The 4'x8' size lends an almost "carry on" character to MyCar, but I'm still not complaining. It comes in bright yellow with a pop-off top! They say it won't make it in the American markets (size, power, and safety issues), but it seems a perfect gad-about-campus car for me. Anyone feeling particularly generous? I'll park one on my Froogle wish list just in case. Read more about the world-friendly qualities of MyCar at World Changing.


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Copyrighting

I do what I can (what I know how to do so far) to pay attention to conversations and the flows of power governing issues of copyright - particularly to issues rising with the increased portability, speed, and migration of information in the digital age. This "conversation" touched back today to traces of another time - another conversation still (in)forming my identity: the days of communion, catechism, and weekly attendance at mass as a Roman Catholic girl. Most of those days are in shadow now, but it still seems that memory serves in marking the words of the Pope as "the voice of God on earth."

That being the case, the recent "first" from the Vatican to copyright
all papal documents - a move positioned as current and retroactive - seems a bold move to me, and one being met with outrage and denouncing from many around the world as a reduction of the Pope's words to "saleable merchandise." As for merchandise being sold in the name of God, there's nothing new here; I've never attended a church that didn't find one way or another to convert too many money into opportunities for making a profit. It's less the merchandising that moves my attention than the application of copyright in something like a "land grab" for ideas and words. Copyright was intended to be a "protective" move on behalf of the author. From whom are the words of the Pope being protected and for what purpose? And when, given current laws (the life of the author + 70 years, I think), would the copyright for the "voice of God on earth" expire? Already difficult conversations seem to be getting even more out of hand.

The Milanese publishing house that recently published 30 lines from Pope Benedict's enthronement speech might readily agree: The unexpected bill received from the Vatican totaled 15,000 (Euro), a little more than $18,000 U.S. dollars. Oh, and "legal expenses" of an additional $4,250 were tacked on, too.


Read more on this topic from Richard Owen at the
TIMESonline.


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Phone Phun

I picked up a fun bit of free phone advice from Lifehacker that I'll pass along here: "Phone Phun" at (800) 555-TELL (8355) "delivers all sorts of useful information rolled up into a nifty voice-recognition system." My just-now try focused on the weather and confirmed the 45-degree, sunshine day that is happening in West Lafayette, IN right now. For those with more sophisticated gagetry at their disposal, this might be a step down, but it's a movie start time in a pinch, from the phone, and free of charge. ...maybe worth the noting and a minute or two of experimenting. In addition to the weather, I now know this is a 7 out of 10 day for Aquarians and that someone near to me is going to "throw a fit." I'm advised to be patient. I'll give that a try, too.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Chronicle


Dr. Chandra Wells (U of Connecticut), fellow panelist at last month's MLA Convention, wrote recently to mention an interesting follow-up to our bit of shared adventure in D.C. Chandra points to "Yielding to Convention," an article by Jonathan Malesic posted in the "Chronicle Careers" section of The Chronicle of Higher Education (online), as making note of our panel as one addressing "the emergent literary genre of blogging." To be highlighted from among the more than 750 panels presenting at convention is a nice moment in the afterglow of convention. Thanks, Chandra, for directing my atention and for the great time of shared scholarship we can celebrate together. I'll watch for you again next year.


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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Real-world, Game-world "Mash-up"

Along with many of my spring-semester students, I, too, am now discovering new “worlds” of online doings and beings. Though I’ve known about virtual worlds in which one might take up residence in life nearly parallel to “real-world” activities, taking a look at Second Life was a first for me today. Here’s how the online introduction reads:

Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by nearly 100,000 people from around the globe.

• From the moment you enter the World you’ll discover a vast digital continent, teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity. Once you’ve explored a bit, perhaps you’ll find a perfect parcel of land to build your house or business.

• You’ll also be surrounded by the Creations of your fellow residents. Because residents retain the rights to their digital creations, they can buy, sell and trade with other residents.

The Marketplace currently supports millions of US dollars in monthly transactions. This commerce is handled with the in-world currency, the Linden dollar, which can be converted to US dollars at several thriving online currency exchanges.

It’s this last bit that caught my interest as it coincided with a report posted by Jamais Cascio last week on World Changing. Cascio points to an exchange rate of approximately $250 Linden (the currency of Second Life) to $1 U.S. in noting the sale of real-world goods for virtual-world money – a practice that Cascio suggests could lead to new layers of tax laws as notions of “real” and “virtual” continue to entwine.

Attention given in the report to “complementary currencies” introduced me to yet another bit of something new. I was surprised to learn from the map provided by the Complementary Currency Resource Center that there are currently 8 alternative currency systems operating successfully in the United States – one as close as Madison, Wisconsin. With Cascio I wonder what the implications of virtual money systems will be, how the intersections of real and virtual worlds will play out, and along what lines complementary currencies will continue to develop. For now, I write the chapter as an introduction and a next complexity emerging with the increased flows of code.


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Interrupted

Citing the increased demand on time - a demand rising more rapidly in the digital age, a recent University of California study points to the "mire of multi-tasking" as cause for the average of 2.1 hours lost to interruptions every working day. The study found that an average worker devoted only 11 minutes to a task before being distracted. Perhaps more importantly, it took nearly 25 minutes for the worker to return her attention productively to the initial task. The top five distractions were: colleagues, email, a competing computer task, being called away from a work station, and a telephone call. The new moniker for the condition: "work-induced, attention-deficit disorder." Whatever the cause - whatever the name, I'm prompted to more effectively lock down my focus now. My to-do list is growing shorter by the hour.

Want to read more? See The Herald and Time .

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Passing Through Wisconsin

This while passing through Wisconsin on a recent trip to northern Minnesota:

The earth is still in sepia here, as if in promise of a place for easing into rest. A barn long-ago too tired to stand leans now on the silo once built for winning Heidegger’s war of worlding in defiance of entropy. Miles of quiet, quiet, quiet … grey-blue, blue-grey-purple, purple-red, red-pink-pink-orange, orange-red kissssss on the cheek of the land. Sepia slipping to greyscale and hours to go before I am home.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Rightly Reminded

Today is a day off, an opportunity for traveling home, and that bit of extra time with which I excused myself last evening for a movie and a glass of wine with good friends. But I am rightly reminded by Dr. B to regard the day for its greater message: "The struggle continues."

Friday, January 13, 2006

Wearing Time Like a Perfect Fit

Gail Sheehy, sixty-eight and author of the recent Sex and the Seasoned Woman, is pictured at left. Her work is one from among "the raft of new books with the message that women over 50 can be sexually attractive." NYTimes reporter Dinitia Smith writes today about this book among others as discussing a new way of getting old for American women. "Culture," she writes, "is following the numbers. By the end of this year, the United States census projects, 1.5 million female baby boomers will have turned 60. And the percentage of Americans over 65 is rapidly increasing.”

This shift in population carries new perspectives into “old” age. I caught (once again) a bit of Diane Keaton in “Something’s Gotta Give” while I packed to return from the MLA convention. The message and fun of a film that positions the lead female character to parent well, fall unexpectedly in love, lose "round one," and recover personal balance with an upper hand leveraged for professional gains all-around ... I loved it! Barbra Streisand in “Meet the Fockers” is enough to make my grown children roar with a mix of laughter and agreement for the likeness they believe her character has to me … a thought I'll take as compliment.

What most captures my attention from the NYTimes article, however, and prompts me to write this post is the beauty of those women I see aging into fifth, sixth, seventh decades and beyond. For these women, I believe, there is a beauty of depth and adventure in courage, strength – a steady hand in wisdom measured against temptation, and an appreciation for wealth coupled not so much with power as with an ability to conjure abundance against time.

I am a month shy of fifty-two years old, and I am finding more satisfaction at this time of life than in any other era through which I have passed. I must admit to being a little surprised by this fact myself, but the truth is that it never occurs to me to want to be younger - I can’t imagine ever wanting to do even a single year over again. Of course, I don’t have everything I want right now (how boring would that be?), but I am living a life fulfilled in the doing of each day, and I find myself wearing time like a perfect fit.

Brenda's work at Rubies in Crystal often carries me to a place of renewed appreciation for the experiences about which I am writing here. Her poems and art inspire me to remember (again) what I know. In addition to Brenda's work, you might also enjoy any number of the titles mentioned in the NYTimes article (see link above) that are just out or due to be published soon. Here's a short list from those mentioned there - enjoy:

Sex and the Seasoned Woman, Gail Sheehy
Enough, Alice McDermott
Better Than I Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty, Joan Price
Unaccompanied Women: Late-Life Adventures in Love, Sex and Real Estate, Jane Juska
Still Doing It, Diana Holtzberg and Diedre Fishel

Younger Next Year For Women: Live Like You’re 50 – Strong, Fit, Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond, Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge


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A young woman delights me, an older one enthralls me. The one has the beauty of her body, the other experience and richness of mind, to recommend her.

Ovid, Elegy IV:
“He Confesses His Inclination for Love and His Admiration for All Manner of Women”

A Sense of Place

A fair measure of my early work in new media literature speaks to the investment of the body in the performative aspects of engaging digital literature. New media philosopher, Dr. Mark Hansen, writes variously of the body as framing digital information through the intuitive, the affective, the transpatial, and the proprioceptive faculties of the body – all (among others) references to a “constitutive equipotentiality” (Hansen, New Philosophy for New Media, 298) in organic beings for composing the known through the body as well as through the mind/reasoning alone. Hansen writes,

“While perception draws on already constituted organic structures, affectivity mediates between the constituted (organic) individual and the preindividual milieu to which this being is structurally coupled … affectivity comprises the faculty of the new: it is the modality through wich the individuated being remains incomplete… open to the force of the preindividual, to that which it is not, or most accurately, to its own constitutive excess … More precisely, affectivity names the capacity for the body to be radically creative, that is, to be the agent of framing of digital information that generates images independently of all preexistent frames.” (266)
I said all that to set up sharing this:

I’ve been working with first-year composition students in introducing them to the digital environment as a “place” that is “everywhere and nowhere” inasmuch as it is (at least for now) more clearly in view as a composed location, a place we, as writers and citizens of emerging domains, are actively constructing in an as-we-go process. It’s great fun, and it’s a wonderfully exciting time through which to live – there is so much potential.

Well, this morning I came across this bit of digital play at Centripetal Notion that illustrates the point. If you’ve read this far, put on a pair of head phones and give a listen to HERE. You’ll hear a match being lit, then a matchbox shaken and moved around you — behind and in front, then above and below. Pay particular attention to the play of the body and to the sense of place. Where are the matches, and can you feel the “touch” of the nowhere-there matchbox as it finds place first on one side of your body and then on the other?

The play of sound is digitally generated as layers and overlays to create an experience of "internal" space/place, information organized by the body as "real" experience. The art is holophony: "Developed in the 1980s by Hugo Zuccarelli, Holophonic Sound uses the same “multiple exposure” premise as that used to create holographic images (“holograms”). Holophonic Sound is produced by recording the interference pattern generated when the original recorded signal is combined with an inaudible digital reference signal."


The potential and practice of investing literature with this kind of an experience is where I hope to focus the work of my dissertation. Of course, I’ll keep you posted on the progress. Count this writing as one installment along the way.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Thoughts toward MLA 2006, Washington D. C.

The work in anticipation of the MLA Convention, 2005 paid awesome dividends in a great conference experience for me. I presented, along with three other panelists, on Friday morning at 8:30 a.m., and there were still more than twenty attendees in the audience. The scholarship was rewarding, and the Q/A that followed was lively. Pictured here from left to right are the panel chair and organizer, Sarah Bird Wright (Univ. of Richmond) - a delightfully wonderful woman, me, and Daisy Pignetti (Univ. of So. Florida) - a new friend and fellow blogger. The panel addressed the topic of "Weblogs as Witness" from a variety of angles; my work considered blogs as location for the formation of subjectivity and situated this discussion within a focus on Foucault and his work addressing the development of the ethical self. Daisy's presentation on weblogs as "Places for Students to Witness, Engage, and Reflect" seemed a perfect complement to the work I presented and provided a great close to our session.

Other highlights of the event included the opportunity to meet and visit briefly with those of some celebrity in my field: Mark Hanson, Katherine Hayles, and Matthew Kirschenbaum. Naive efforts on my part to find my way to the ELO social failed this time at the convention, but there's next year, and I've already started the proposal process for a special session on the place/space and the performative nature of digital literature underway for Philadelphia, 2006 - may the gods of magical funding shower blessings on me and my ambitious ideas.

As much as the thrill of presenting at MLA makes a mark for the emerging professional I am/am becoming, the respite of easy conversation with new friends from Kent State tops the list of good memories for me. Jeffrey Hammond, now teaching at Saint Mary's College of Maryland, talked books, computers, and the measures of success with me through an evening of friends stopping by "our" table to renew acquaintances and refresh friendships. Jeffrey became a friend that evening as did many of his company, and here I am particularly remembering Wayne Kvam and his lovely wife. Our paths will cross again on a good day - I am sure of it. Here's to you and yours, Jeff.

And that brings me to a moment of thanks before closing this post; thanks to the many others who support me in my continuing studies: Dr. Arkady Plotnitsky who first encouraged my bid for presenting at MLA, Dr. Jennifer Bay who never fails to put wind under my wings, Dr. Thomas Rickert for being among the first to see "a scholar" taking shape in me, and, of course, those without whom I would never have begun the adventure: James, Jenn, Abe, and Tommi (in this order because James in otherwise always last - w/a smile). There are so many others, but I'll trust each of you to know your names written and remembered in other, more lasting places. I thank you all even as I hear you answer in return, "This is only the beginning." And what a beginning it has been!

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Slower, Better Thinking

I had heard of The Whole Earth Catalog many years ago, but the name "Stewart Brand" was new to me when a bit of the report posted today on WorldChanging caught my attention. I've opened the semester for my students with a discussion of the expanding notion of composition, the idea that "texts" are more than we might have before believed them to be. Brand speaks to the textuality of houses and cities that "learn" even as they "teach" various expressions of being civilized. Images from his How Buildings Learn juxtapose before and after "personalities" as they evolve with time. Brand compares and contrasts the process as it can be observed in houses as opposed to institutional buildings, for example. ...fascinating work upon which he expanded to discuss urbanization and the growth of the "City Planet" in his recent talk to the Global Business Network.

Read more about Brand at The Long Now, and don't miss the fun read you'll find at "Long Bets" from there.

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Best Friend

The notion of "man's best friend" climbed to new heights for me today when I read here about the report of findings set for publication in the March issue of the journal, Integrative Cancer Therapies. It seems researchers are now finding substantiation for what has been previously thought no more than an anecdotal belief that dogs could smell cancer. The stats are impressive. Here is part of the story:

"In this study, five household dogs were trained within a short 3-week period to detect lung or breast cancer by sniffing the breath of cancer participants. The trial itself was comprised of 86 cancer patients (55 with lung cancer and 31 with breast cancer) and a control sample of 83 healthy patients. All cancer patients had recently been diagnosed with cancer through biopsy-confirmed conventional methods such as a mammogram, or CAT scan and had not yet undergone any chemotherapy treatment. During the study, the dogs were presented with breath samples from the cancer patients and the controls, captured in a special tube. Dogs were trained to give a positive identification of a cancer patient by sitting or lying down directly in front of a test station containing a cancer patient sample, while ignoring control samples. Standard, humane methods of dog training employing food rewards and a clicker, as well as assessment of the dog's behavior by observers blinded to the identity of the cancer patient and control samples, were used in the experiment.

The results of the study showed that dogs can detect breast and lung cancer with sensitivity and specificity between 88% and 97%. The high accuracy persisted even after results were adjusted to take into account whether the lung cancer patients were currently smokers. Moreover, the study also confirmed that the trained dogs could even detect the early stages of lung cancer, as well as early breast cancer."

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Getting Focused (Again)

Catching up and re-engaging ... that's my theme for the next couple of days before a next semester of doings gets underway. Winston prompts a first Body Electric moment for me with his "Which Fantasy/Sci-Fi Character Would You Be?" post. Here're my results ... (no surprises, I guess):

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

SPOCK
A focused advisor whose actions are dictated by almost pure logic, you believe in exploring the fascinating possibilities around you. Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Spock is a character in the Star Trek universe. His biography is available at Startrek.com.