Google Analytics?

Two things:

1. Are people using Google Analytics? I've used another stat counter for a few years, but popping over to Google's surveillance gear, the display is pretty appealing.

2. The New York Times has this article about how blogging can help your business. I guess academic bloggers work from this model a bit, but my own stock has been falling fer sure as this blog hangs out on chill mode.


Bird Year / Big Year Birding

As part of some writing I'm doing about big year birding, I just came across this blog detailing a family out on bikes birding around North America. The deal with typical big-year birding is that it's incredibly wasteful, or can be, involving a lot of driving and flying and all of that. These guys are out doing it on bikes.

How cool is that!?

I want to be out birding on my bike tooooooo!


Found Friday Goes Dialogic

CF, one of the faculty members working hard on the Found Initiative (NEH grant #45959-P-13), sends in this doozy of a dialogic note. It was found locally and will soon be indexed in the archive.

click to enlarge,
if you're into that
kind of thing


10 Years Online at UIUC

I recently had my students talking about how they'd redo the current UIUC homepage. Now I learn that the last ten years of UIUC home pages are still archived and online:


You can see, clicking through the archive, that a new design pretty much sustains about two revisions, with only minor changes going down every other time. You can also see what has pretty much been a maxim of page design over the past decade: revise annually or bi-annually.

This amped-up revision schedule is tough for folks to comprehend, I think, given the more lasting nature of designs in print. At the same time, I wonder sometimes if the every-year-or-so revision schedule common online will at some time slow down, possibly as conventions get codified.

Anyway. It's fun using the Wayback Machine to cruise old academic websites. Harvard in 1997 is funnnny, while UCLA is kinda funky.



A few weeks ago, before presenting at SLSA, I posted a short video version of my conference paper. I don't know where I got this idea, but it was kind of fun to do.

Related to this use of video, GH tells me about scivee.tv, a site dedicated to pubcasts: video presentations of current research. Perusing the videos on the site (which focuses on science), I see that some of the videos are pretty polished with others being like way diy.

I think this use of online video is pretty interesting and cool: a leveraging of online video for the distribution of academic knowledge in a way that's very personal and low-key. Many of the videos come bundled with pdfs of related articles, and the video format makes it easy to present many more images than we typically see in print.

So yeah: consider cutting a video of your next conference presentation or article.


Found Friday: Test Time

Music Citations: Zero 7's "In the Waiting Line" and Max Brooks' The Zombie Survival Guide



Though I found a tad bit of time to work on the website for the journal, I've pretty much been doing teaching and administrative stuff lately. That's what happens this time of year: the random craziness gets cranked up a bit and things like, um, writing get tough to find time for. At least for me.

I was notified, however, that the research team at Found Friday, Inc. received a foundling via inter-departmental snailage, and I'm looking forward to seeing it processed and put online. Prolly Friday.



Drifting, v.
1. (Acad. Interdis.) The slow process through
which academic workers become figuratively
covered in work, making it difficult to
get out from under it all.

Like most people in my department, I've been thinking a lot about Dale Bauer lately. Dale is one of Those Amazing Colleagues you're sometimes fortunate enough to work with, the kind of person you can't quite believe you're talking with around the copier. When I first got to campus, I bumped into Dale in the hallway, asked her what she was up to, and remember her saying "Oh, you know, heading off to write one of the 48 letters of recommendation I have to finish this semester."

As a new assistant professor, and this was like week one on the job, I was struck by this. How could it happen that one could go from writing the two or three letters I was used to writing, to 48? At that point, a few months out of grad school, my job seemed pretty set and contained: teach, write, and go to a few meetings. Over the years, little things have been added to little things. Drifting has occurred.

Last night I walked into campus with Chooch!, locked myself in my office, and read undergraduate honors essays. I had two to read, each about thirty pages, and after reading each one I wrote the required letter of response. Now, don't get me wrong: this was a real treat. It was welllll over a decade ago that I submitted my own honors thesis at the University of Colorado, so reading these final projects was both a kind of nostalgia trip and a chance to see what students here at UIUC can put together. At 9:00 pm, with Chooch! asleep in the chair and two honors essays read and responded to (plus an annotated bibliography), it was time to walk home.

The response to being drifted over with work is characteristically different from being caught in an avalanche. In an avalanche, one panics, digs, thrashes, tries to form an air pocket, and wants nothing more than to get free. But the drift forms bit-by-bit, slowly accumulating and growing and spreading. The letters of recommendation. The special projects. The meetings. The committees. And with promotion, when and if it comes, more duties in terms of reviews.

Now, this is not to say that people like Dale flounder under these drifts of work. Quite the contrary, drifters seem to thrive on the action, prioritize, work efficiently, and get things done. The drift is slow enough to allow for responsive strategies. A senior colleague I work with mentioned the other night (as part of a very funny joke) that he more-or-less has a law-school template for letters of rec down to a science.

Out West we know that drifts respond well to snow fences, and successful drifters must erect them all over the place.

And the thing is, walking home last night after reading those honors essays, I had a lot to think about. The essays were engaging, interesting, challenging, and fun. But it's the additive nature of the drift that threatens to subsume. Mantras like "you've gotta learn to say no" perhaps help successful drifters, as well as templates and plenty of practice. Snow fence. No. Efficient. The drift.


Found Acrostic

During the walk in today,
Under some leaves and such,
M and I came across this rather
Banal acrostic poem.

"Always doing what I'm told,/ Even if I disagree"???


Quad Cam

Some students in my Writing Technologies class pointed out our on-site Quad Cam, a camera that allows for zooming and panning. Quite different from other static campus cams, this one allows you to sit in the turret.


YouTubed Teachers ... Again

Strange how the topic of YouTubed teachers keeps coming up as "new." (I just found my original post on the topic from 9.2006)

Russell Shaw @ znet.com has this piece on teachers being YouTubed by their students.

And apparently, the American Federation of Teachers has come out against this form of student-based pedagogical documentation ... but haven't been able to find an official statement online.

Blog Reading Level

cash advance

Via hangingtogether.org, my sister's work-group blog.


Found Friday @ the Gym

There is a new machine at the gym, very vibrational, and it recommends postures of this kind.


First! a Five-Paragraph Essay

A former student sends along this link to a five-paragraph essay published online and written by Ron Guenther, our Director of Athletics here at the University of Illinois.

The essay's kind of interesting: "First, a large crowd on Saturday will help us beat Northwestern. ... Second, the bowl selection committees will be watching our game on Saturday. ... Third, our seniors have played such a significant role in turning this program around." Go team!

One of the strange things about the five-paragraph essay is how its structure sometimes travels into genres other than the essay; in this example, a letter becomes an occasion for five-paragraph-style persuasion. (It also becomes an occasion for topic sentences highlighted in orange, but that's a whole nother story.)


Found Friday Goes Urban

Found in New York by a highly paid member of grant #2339.598.fnd. Thanks DF!


Found Cockroach

Found outside my office two days ago; I should have seen it as a harbinger of things to come. I believe it's an American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana), though I'm not 100% sure.

A C T U A L   S I Z E

UPDATE: I couldn't help myself and ended up using this image in today's lesson on moveable images.


U of I Wiki and the Joy of Former Students

As I work through websites created by the html gurus in my Writing Technologies class (this time around it's a batch of "Invent Your Own Typeface" sites, many of which are stunning), I'm reminded of Rich Cornish's U of I Wiki.

Rich is a veteran of the Writing Technologies class, and while I can't say I taught him everything he knows, he did start the wiki up while taking the class. At the U of I Wiki, there are about 150 pages/articles, including a funny one about about the "Chef" (inside joke) and, in about 2 seconds, the Undergrounduate Library.


Lost Luggage Field Guide

While I'm generally up for checking out new field guides, the Lost Luggage Field Guide, which I had to use at the airport tonight, is kind of disappointing. I mean, it classifies un-wheeled and wheeled duffels (number 25) together. What's up with that?

If a Purple-sided Duffel happens to fall out of the sky near where you live, give me a holler.

My Office Today



Portland Found Friday

Found in Portland, ME this week. Portland is nice and sunny and has hills.


Sibley on Ivory-Billed

If you've been following the Ivory-billed Woodpecker re-discovery story, David Sibley's post on the topic (posted to his blog today) may be of interest to you.

I completely agree with what he has to say.


Email of the Day

... reads:

"A squirrel was on the loose this morning on the 2nd floor, outside Room 211. We have called Facilities in an effort to locate and remove it. If you happen to see a squirrel in the building, please let someone in Room 208 know so we can update Facilities."


Writing (in) New Media

Mike Wesch has another nice film about educational environments, new media, and stuff like that. He's developed quite a style of writing in, on, and through his films.

UPDATE: Climbing up the boards all day today, w/ roughly 80,000 views as of this evening. Nice!



Debbie Hawhee, who I think you know, has put up a nice little post about exams (you calling my post little?) over on her station. It reminds me that I once thought up what I imagined to be the ideal exam structure. I would go like this:

→ read extensively in the field(s) for a year or so
→ write somewhere between one to three articles for publication based on and using that reading
→ have committee member read said article(s), providing revision suggestions
→ meet for oral examination
→ move on to diss, integrating written materials in some way

I should say that the PhD exam process I went through in grad school was not completely dissimilar from this, the main difference being that the writing got condensed into 72 mad, wild, crazed, fret-filled hours. My MA exams were neolithic, involving six hours, small desks, and several blue books. As I had to take the exams twice (I wrote about Katherine Hayles' Choas Bound the first time around; not a popular topic with my reader), that meant twelve hours total and double-the-blue-books.

Anyway. What I like about the write-an-article/have-a-conversation model is that it approximates the work we do, and that seems to make sense to me in terms of assessment.


Typewriters on YouTube

The amazing, fun, brilliant students in the Writing Technologies class have been researching the typewriter for the past week or so, and have put together a great wiki on the topic. (No permission to link yet; the wiki is amazing!)

This video of a typewriter hooked up to a Commodore 64 is one of the most amazing treasures they've turned up. (Though this video on the IBM Selectric is a close second; it concludes with the narrator saying "Now if they could only invent a typewriter that could spell!")

Found Friday (Two Days Late)

Recently found on the street. My theory: this artist/kid is happy.


Side Projects

I've been meaning to post something here about my recent side project—my video writing journal—but am still holding off on it so I can get a bit more perspective on the thing. One reason I'm into side projects, though, is that they give me plenty of time to think about my main project(s).

One side project I finished up last night involved restoring this old Schwinn Corvette.

It was even more trashed than it looks, with missing and frozen bearings, a bent fork, and years worth of grime and gook. I contemplated repainting the frame but kinda like the dings and original lettering.

After taking it all apart, I looked online for remedies for rusty chrome. It turns out that aluminum foil does wonders, and after a lot of work I ended up with ... this!

For me, it's all about the side project, the thing to do when writing and reading and grading and prepping turn the mind to mush. It's all about the side project for producing something you can see, feel, play with, or ride.

And I'll post something soon (I promise!) about video writing journal.


Zotero Bibliographic Tool

I've been frustrated lately because the two tools I've used for a long time to produce bibliographies in multiple formats and keep my reading database—Endnote and Filemaker Pro, respectively—have been bugging me. I can't stand Endnote's interface (visually), and switching back-and-forth between the two applications has been prohibitive. In addition, I've started to resent applications that live on my hard drive(s) instead of online.

So this morning I started using Zotero ... and I think I might like it. As you may know, Zotero is a plugin for Firefox, so it allows you to collect citations, export bibliographies (drag-and-drop, man), and keep notes right in your browser window.

In addition, Zotero creates funky little time lines based on the citations you have in a reading list, so you can visualize when the stuff you've found was published in relation to everything else.

What I'm less crazy about, using Zotero, is how time consuming it will be to import my existing records (six years worth) from Endnote and Filemaker Pro. It looks like I can do it, but lining up the fields in the merge will take some time.


Writing In The Little Google Window

Today in my Writing Technologies class (English 482), we got into a discussion about how we associate being able to think and write with the tools we write with. So a poetic impulse might come through with a certain pen-and-notebook combo, or an expository flair with Microsoft Word configured just so. And so on.

As a class, we then all opened up our web browsers and wrote a couple of paragraphs (a free write about penmanship, to be exact) using the little search field over at google.com.

I'd never really tried it before, but it's kind of cool writing in the little search field over at google.com. The deal is that

  • you can only see a small snatch of text, so the impulse to read over large amounts of your writing is thwarted by the tool

  • once you have ten words or so, the cursor is always flush-right; this lends, for me, a visual immediacy to each new word

  • it feels oddly clandestine to use the Google search engine in this way, as if you're doing something you're not supposed to do; I like this; it makes me happy

  • a weird thing is that it's hard to save if you write using this tool, so you've pretty much gotta rely on selecting all text periodically and copying it to the clipboard

  • and the best thing is that, when you're done, you can click return and see an intertextual network of writing (via Google) of lots of other things relating to what you've just written; in this way, writing in the little search-field at google.com is like writing within an automated research environment


Found Friday

A scrap from what once was a love note note confessing to a parking-lot-fender-bender. When cars kiss.


Restroom Novel

Someone has begun writing a novel (or maybe it's a short story?) in one of the restrooms in my building. I admire the diligence.



Found Friday

I found this one sometime during the summer; can't remember where. It makes absolutely no sense to me. None.


Prelude to Found Friday

Not one of my finds, but a nice prelude to Found Friday ... thanks to The Translator for pointing it out!


Found Friday: True Love

Found this one a little over a week ago by the junior high school near my house. You know how it is with school back in session and all.

Those who pay attention to technology transfer will note how the note looks a lot like an email w/ the headers and "message" section.

3 days!

(click to enlarge)



My sister turned me onto this talk about Photosynth. Photosynth itself is a Microsoft app that only runs on their gear (can't use it on the Mac), but the talk gives a very clear sense of how Photosynth works: in a nutshell, it coordinates tagged images to create multi-image displays of a single object/location while sharing tags. Amazing.


In the Driveway

Was tipped off about (yesterday) brotherhood 2.0, a video dialog between two brothers (via YouTube). Very clever and funny.


Access to Library Collections Down Again

[14:34] metaspencer: I have been having the
hardest time searching the library website
online ... is the site down or something?

[14:34] librarian: hi - yes, the site is down.

[14:34] librarian: I'm sorry about the inconvenience.

[14:35] librarian: we haven't heard when it will
be fixed.

[14:35] metaspencer: is there any way to
access the catalog at the library? I
desperately need to do some research ...

[14:35] librarian: there isn't a way to get
to the on-line catalog, but you might be able
to find some information through our on-line
resources. let me send you the link...

[14:36] metaspencer: okay ... thanks

[14:36] librarian: http://www.library.uiuc.edu/orr/

[14:36] librarian: you can look up specific
journals or use the "article indexes &
abstracts" tab to search by subject

[14:36] metaspencer: oh yeah, I tried that:
but what I need is to access the collections
... no other search tools for volumes (books)?

[14:37] librarian: I'll be with you in a minute.

[14:37] metaspencer: ok

[14:38] librarian: apparently the catalog is up again.

[14:38] librarian: I'll give it a try.

[14:39] metaspencer: still not working for me as
I do a simple author search on the main page

[14:39] metaspencer: (boy, it's a sad day when
you can't do an author search)

[14:39] librarian: it still doesn't seem to be
working. There is access to books through the
"World Cat" system, but you won't be able to
see if our copy is available because of our
system being down.

[14:39] librarian: I'll send you the link to World Cat...

[14:40] librarian: http://newfirstsearch.oclc.org/WebZ/...

[14:40] librarian: that came through strangely -
let me try again.

[14:40] metaspencer: thanks; I use worldcat regularly,
but can I request books through that portal?

[14:40] metaspencer: (hmmm ... not seeing an announcement here: http://www.library.uiuc.edu/systems/status/)

[14:40] librarian: I haven't seen an announcement either.

[14:41] metaspencer: ok


Suction at the Curb

I've seen this sight twice in the last week, so decided to stop and snap a quick pic.

It's of a picture of supersession: a Super Duper Mega Suction Dyson Vacuum Cleaner (represented by the empty box) has taken the place of a Regular Old Vac (upright at the curb).


Found Friday, Super Size Me!

I know it's been a while since Found Friday has been in action, but maybe this find (from just last night!) will rejuvenate things around the Found Department.

The list of 14 rules makes me think: what are the fourteen rules for my job?


Writing on Hands

VP hooked me up with a link to this video featuring clever writing-on-hands. Since my students in 482: Writing Technologies will be doing an extended research project on writing-on-hands this semester, I thought I'd embed the vid:


Time Trial Today

Despite that the current leader of the Tour is reported to be quite a fan of cow blood,* the racing has been pretty good.

Graham Watson continues to post amazing pictures of the race online, and the dudes who keep up with the ticker at Velonews.com are a riot.


* I'm sorry, but I simply cannot bring myself to write "cows blood" instead of "cow blood." Why the plural? Possible The Translator can explain this usage issue for me.


Moby Dick Goes Down

While there may be some debate out there as to the importance of Moby Dick, it appears the folks at the Champaign Public Library decided to settle the debate by throwing this copy in the dumpster. That's call number TRSH 453.3.

Free bins vs. landfills when it comes to used books? Hmmm, you make the call.

Dogs and Bikes Don't Mix

In case you missed the snapshots of the Tour's canine encounter, there is a painful sequence of what happened here.

In case you don't care one sniffle about the Tour de France, I apologize and can promise you that I will return to inane discussions of found notes before summer's end.

The Tour is in the Mountains!

You know you're a little bit obsessed with the Tour de France when ... you find yourself reading live updated graphs of rider heart rates online:

There is also the amazing locate your cyclist link which makes said cyclist into a little dot on a Google Map. Oh to be a little dot on a Google Map!

And the Tour is totally exciting this year—no clear sense of who's going to be in the lead after this round of mountains, and plenty of struggling for position.