Month: June 2004

Poor Relations

Trying to figure out how to update and migrate CSS from MT to WordPress has fried my brain. God, I wish I were smarter when it comes to this stuff. As it stands, I’m probably gonna start seeing semicolons and curly brackets in my dreams and subtracting pixel widths under my breath.

So: something lighter and more accessible. There’s an interesting discussion on the Working Class Studies listserv of an excellent recent article in Pedagogy by Jennifer Beech and Julie Lindquist. I can’t do justice to all the smart stuff that’s been said on the listserv, but Jennifer and Julie’s article, “The Work before Us: Attending to English Departments’ Poor Relations”, is well worth a look. (It’s available on Project Muse, too, if your local institution of higher education subscribes.) Their essay’s “goal is to theorize the position of workers in composition (the position of people, that is — in contradistinction to the position of ‘composition,’ which is a professional category abstracted from the local experiences of workers) as a class position with consequences for the everyday work of English studies” (173). As one might guess, Robert Scholes and Richard Ohmann show up in their works cited; perhaps more surprisingly, Pierre Bourdieu and Bowles & Gintis do, as well, as does a book that none of the libraries around here (academic or otherwise) seem to have, the Downing, Hurlburt, and Matthieu-edited collection Beyond English Inc.: Curricular Reform in a Global Economy, which, according to Beech and Lindquist, interrogates “how the corporatization of the public university is interfering with the critical mission of English studies, producing new tensions between English’s humanistic and vocational functions” (173). You can see why I was immediately interested, and might have to have a look for it on AllBookstores.
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Site Maintenance

Spent most of the day comparing HTML and CSS between my MT install and some WordPress templates, trying to figure out where I’ll have to make changes. Right now, I’m using a poorly-kludged three-column layout (check out the source and you’ll see the ugly trick I use to keep the right column at the same height as the weblog entries); when I move over to WordPress (sorry, Charlie and Clancy, but Drupal’s a bit more than I need for a weblog, like the equivalent of giving tactical nukes to a leg infantry platoon), I’m planning on switching to a more elegant CSS-based semi-fluid three-column plus top banner layout. I’m thinking about being a little more ornamental, too; a little less spartan, a little less All That White Space. Patterns and borders, mostly. And since MSIE makes dotted borders into hideous coupon-cut-here dashed borders, I’ll probably switch to solid single-pixel borders.

Yes, I know: yawn. Fascinating stuff, Mike. It’s just that I’m not a tech type, so figuring this stuff out for myself takes a lot of intellectual labor, and I’m usually all talkative when I do this much intellectual labor for my dissertation.

And so one obvious conclusion might be that my dissertation research isn’t much more interesting than my navel-gazing noodling about figuring out how to format my weblog.

Which is a pretty sucky epiphany.


I got a phone call from a caller ID-blocked number yesterday. When I picked up, it was a recorded message from T-Netix, telling me that an inmate (my younger brother) at Correctional Institution X wanted to get in touch with me, and in order to allow that to happen, I’d have to set up an account. The message gave me a toll-free number (1-888-221-5671, if you’re interested) at which I could set up an account. In the past, my brother has always been able to get in touch with me via AT&T or Verizon collect calls, which charged a special extortionate prison rate, something around ninety cents per minute, so I was initially hopeful: I thought that maybe the Maryland Division of Corrections had finally decided to treat prisoners’ families like human beings.

Upon calling the T-Netix number (“The nation’s largers provider of corrections industry related telecommunications services”), I discovered that I was sorely mistaken.
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Not Quite So Quiet

Been quiet here for a while. Mostly having a hard time getting back into the swing of things, which should be remedied soon — I think I’ve burned out on reading, and need to take some time to start pulling all this stuff together and trying to hang it on the skeleton of the prospectus, to see where the gaps are.

And the other thing is the Dispute That Refused to Die, what feels like my own personal Jarndyce and Jarndyce. My pile of legal documents, which I’d hoped to be able to put up in the attic by Thanksgiving, and then by Christmas, and then by February, and then by tax day, and which I’ve now given up on, is about two and a half feet high. After much lawyering all around, everyone involved signed an agreement months ago, which I thought would put it to bed, but it hasn’t yet. Because of the courts. You know how they say the wheels of justice turn slowly? No. The wheels of justice are flippin square. We got the Orphan’s Court to bless the agreement back in March, and now a pathologically punctilious government auditor has suggested that what the Court blessed isn’t quite the way he’d like it, so he’s sent it back to everyone for another round of edits, petitions and signatures before passing it along to the judge again.

I thought university bureaucracies were bad. I was mistaken.

Goodbye Kailua

OK, I’m officially jet-lagged. Yesterday morning’s swim at Kailua beach was, I suppose, my sign that it was time to leave: on my swim in to the beach, I felt a sharp burn brush the back of my left leg and then my right side, and wrap itself around my right arm. I looked over in my side-stroke, and saw that I was dragging a jellyfish by its nearly invisible tendrils. A gorgeous thing; small, slick and thick and clear, trimmed with fine edges of brilliant purple. And it hurt like hell, and wouldn’t let me go. I got to the beach and had to scrape my forearm in the sand to break the tendrils — like some strong and stretchy stinging cross between dental floss and spiderwebs — and still they stuck to my side, my arm, my shorts. I wiped them off with my shirt, so I wouldn’t have to dry myself with a jellyfish towel. A day later, there are still some red marks left, and the memory of that sharp and clingy electric buzz remains, but it’s mostly OK.

And, for the first time in my life, I’m not sunburned after visiting the beach: I was conscientious with the sunscreen. If you ever go to Hawaii and stay on Oahu, get away from Honolulu and Waikiki, and spend some time in Kailua. You’ll be glad you did. A quiet little town, inexpensive, with wonderful food and gorgeous beaches. Not that Waikiki is bad, mind you: the cosmopolitan bustle is like NYC transplanted to paradise, or — with all the torches and tropical decadence — maybe like ancient Rome transplanted to Vegas.

Waikiki street.

But if you want something quieter, prettier, less crowded, there’s Kailua, a half-hour away. Here are the last pictures I’ll post, and they’re big; two panoramic views of Kailua beach. One from the surf (1.55 MB), and one from the beach (1.11 MB). I was planning on being all slick with Photoshop and stitching them seamlessly together, but I’m feeling lazy tonight, and I think the seams give a nice sense of time. Enjoy.

Historicizing Practices

Eleven and a half hours on the redeye from Honolulu to New England and I’m stuck with the middle seat in the middle row on a 777. Still, I’ve got two laptop batteries, and my neighbors on either side are sleeping; time enough to do a little blogging, and work on photoshopping some of my Kailua and Waikiki pictures, which I’ll try to post tonight.

Steve Krause, Julia Romberger, and Stephanie Vie gave a fine panel on “Historicizing Computers and Writing: Media and Methods” with some really interesting overlaps, intersections, and complications among the individual presentations.
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Yesterday was a day trip to beaches of the North Shore. Gorgeous drive along the coastal King Kamehameha highway, a few pictures from which I’ve posted below. The blue-water beaches were spectacular, albeit crowded and rocky, and the rugged inland scenery was glorious as well.

Hawaii shore.

Hawaii mountains.

Rocky coast.

More Hawaii shore.

So yes, I got my grilled Ono sandwich, and it was as fresh and delicious as yesterday’s; dinner was a sampler plate of Kalua pig, eel and seaweed steamed in a taro leaf, and spice-crusted blackened salmon. The salmon was a bit dry, and the pig a little salty and not as savory as what I’d had before, but the eel was sublime. I’m thinking I might be able to do something like the pig in a slow-cooker, and I can certainly grill some fish, even if I have to go to Boston to get it that fresh, but the eel — man, that’s tough. The taro leaf, however, has the feel and thickness of fresh green corn husks, which gives me some ideas about the intersection of the luau with the New England clambake.

I remember, when I was growing up, hanging out with the kids down by the dam who would catch the green freshwater eels with bits of hot dog on their fishhooks. Their mom fried the eels for them, they said. I’ll have to see about getting some.

Hybridity & the Everyday

Only one more full day left here, and then a long, long flight back Thursday afternoon and into Friday morning. I’ve been having a fine time, though, and I’ll post some pictures of my day trip up to the North Shore.

Nancy Barron, Sibylle Gruber, and Connie Sirois presented on “Theories of Technologies: Rhetorics, Embodiments, and the Everyday” for the conference’s second session, and offered some provocative and engaging insights. I was happy to have the chance to chat briefly with Sibylle and Gail Hawisher afterwards, as well. Most interesting were the theoretical perspectives that Sibylle and Connie offered, and the way that Nancy grounded Sibylle’s theoretical perspective in a description of teacherly practice in a hybrid learning environment.
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Some more pictures for you: one of Kailua beach in late afternoon, and two of this morning’s sunrise.

Kailua beach in the afternoon.

Kailua beach at dawn.

Kailua beach sunrise.

For scenery like this, I’d get up at 5 AM every day.

Ethics and Surveillance

Lunch yesterday was slow-roasted kalua pig, wonderful and tender and savory and maybe even better than East Carolina pulled pork, which is the closest analogue I can come up with from my experience. Only not at all vinegary like that fine Carolina stuff: just rich, moist, a hint of spice. Dinner today, from a tiny little side-street takeout joint, was three substantial slices of furikake-crusted ahi, cooked rare and eaten from a styrofoam tray. It was incredible, and tasted like it had just come out of the ocean. For all I know, it probably had, since the ocean’s only a few blocks away. If the food here in Kailua is this good and this cheap, I won’t even bother taking the half-hour drive back to any of the Honolulu restaurants. And the takeout joint has a grilled ono sandwich that I’m going to try tomorrow.

Anyway: I’ll start by attempting to adequately describe the best presentation I saw at the conference, for which I was fortunate enough to serve as moderator. Christopher Carter and Teddi Fishman constituted a panel titled “Rhetoric, Ethics, and Surveillance” for the first session of the conference.
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