Facebook social error

I never stop being amused by little errors like this one:

Facebook social error

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YouTube poetry

Sometimes the YouTube automatic caption thingy works pretty well. But sometimes not. Here’s one of the nots. I think this shall be my new Lorem Ipsum text.

c_n_b_c_’s which other
not conference
process and testing
and hot peppers
and see what happens
and she
visits from
an article
legal costs
surtax ali
they say yes
yes sir
before thanks very much
students its
constant against it
does not exist
rice’s future
this woman’s
and consistently fair is fair
it’s sir
excessively it
stoppages line
yes slide
we sit here
socially estes s
this is a
not bad
solar filter
realizations business
theater excessive
last year
this house
helps you
give me a text
it’s that time
for pesticides
just kind of hoc the process
you know i don’t know
she he’s lost people watson
uh… to cell
that’s it’s consistently not
when he
anything that you
stated thoughts house
you just hang out
after all black
uncertainties as well
using eight ounces aspin’s
i misunderstood
will slide
behind his back
it helps you
make it less let’s just
senior citizen
and has been with the childhoods
insiders whatnot witnesses this issue
here is the best
you can see this decision
so i think that’s a lot
voices this time
sizable cost
the ic
candidates all around
nonsense meteors electronic
district one section
which is we had discussed
at spreadsheets
too frightening anything access
cheesy inhibits
certainly uh…
is do you
respondents ability changers
world and
entities liquidity teaches the honesty
hanson is spot
itself back at work
in c
synthesis that suggested
resources net
unique conversations feeders
its own
from the dinner
often is it
units dot
a_b_c_ exercise
season’s best
more details
and i think it’s a lot
matter image
examination islet
he pat
they got it
does that say since the fifth
this is
thank you

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Booting up

I was supposed to get a boot last Thursday but it didn’t come in until Friday. So on Tuesday 12/06 I visited Drake White to have my cast removed and the boot fitted. White’s nurse cut off the cast (begone!) and gave me a few washcloths to clean up my foot before fitting the boot. I thought I was prepared mentally to see some atrophy and change, but wow. My foot looked like hell. On the surface, scabs made my incision look like a stereotypical scar from a cartoon, and dead skin gave my leg a mottled look. But it was the shape of my foot which surprised me: laid down, with my ankle flat and the curve below my ankle nearly gone. The end of my foot which had stuck out of the cast looked huge compared to the rest of it, and my first and second toes stood about half an inch apart. My calf wasn’t withered as much as I thought it would be, but all the muscle tone was gone. Soft and squishy. However, White and his nurse both thought things looked great, and he was pleased that I could move my foot and push down using my repaired Achilles. So I kept my “Club foot!” exclamation to myself. For the non-squeamish, head to the bottom of this post for a photo.

Boot and foot

Like my cast, the boot positions my foot in plantar flexion, pointing my toes downward to keep my Achilles from healing too long. It’s a lot heavier than my cast. But who cares; I can take it off! As I write this, I have my foot up and the boot off and next to my chair. Tuesday night, I rubbed down my leg and foot with lotion, massaged it top to bottom, and moved things around to see the range of motion I had to work with (answer: not much). Wednesday morning, I took a shower without my leg hanging out the side of the tub (for the first time since October 15), scrubbing off much of the old skin and again testing my range of motion. This morning, after pushups, I did the same thing. I’m still showering in a lawn chair, but that’s no big deal. Better than trying to balance or taking a bath.

White asked me to wear the boot at night and during the day when I move around campus. Makes sense. But when in bed or at my desk, I can loosen the boot and change the position of my foot. I’m not bound to one position as I was with the cast. Between that and the glorious washing, I’m a lot more comfortable, and I’m sleeping better. After a day and half in and out of the boot, my foot already looks a lot less funky. The gap between my toes is gone and my foot looks much more evenly proportioned. My ankle is starting to return to normal–I can see my ankle bone now on my instep, not only on the outside of my foot. (Again, if you are not squeamish about scars, scroll down.) Though my color looks good, I still have some numbness and tingling in my toes and the ball of my foot. If I’m still feeling that after a few days, I’ll head back to White to see if there’s anything we need to do.

No rehab yet–I have to get my range of motion back first. Not to mention my confidence: right now, frankly, I’m quite reluctant to do anything with this foot when it’s out of the boot. This Saturday, I’m hoping to swim, as long as I can work out the logistics of getting in and out of the pool. Crutches and wet floors don’t mix, as I’ve found out the hard way a few too many times this past seven weeks.

So, things are looking up, physically and mentally. I was pretty down the week before Thanksgiving break, and Thanksgiving week too. The past two weeks have gone a lot better. I thank everyone who called, wrote, or otherwise helped me out. Especially Erin. She’s been great. But you knew that already.

Continue reading

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Goodbye, Delicious

I’ve tried to hang on, but it’s time. Delicious is having server problems again. They’ve changed bookmarking behavior in troubling ways: I can barely enter bookmarks, whether it’s with browser extensions or bookmarklets. The interfaces try so hard to accommodate and predict, they are unusable. I find myself trying to tag pages but ending up with incomplete entries–and then redirected to my Delicious page, not to the site I was reading. Worse, changing from space- to comma-delimited bookmarks with little or no warning was heinous. As I’ve saved bookmarks lately, I’ve noticed Delicious autofilling tags clearly from users behaving the old way: “social media web finance” not “social, media, web, finance”. See Erin’s bookmarks for an example. Making wholesale changes like this, and adding questionably useful features like “stacks”, is not the way forward. And as Derek commented when rumors of transition first emerged last year, the network I used to enjoy at Delicious has long been crippled by Yahoo’s botched exit.

So, after six plus years and 3,085 links, to Diigo, I go. It’s sad to see something once so promising fall to bloat and bad design.

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Dartmouth Seminar

I’ve mentioned a key element in my sabbatical retooling, the Dartmouth Seminar for Composition Research. The first two weeks of August, I traveled to Hanover, NH to the campus of Dartmouth College, where I participated in an intensive two-week research seminar that followed some directed reading and online discussions. I was one of about 18 writing studies researchers interested in learning more about empirical research methods. Participants were diverse in multiple ways. We came from many kinds of institutions: state comprehensives, private colleges, research universities, and community colleges. Many career stages and types were represented: graduate students, non-tenured instructors, academic support staff, and tenured full professors, with some carrying administrative duties in composition programs, writing centers, or writing in the disciplines. Research projects were diverse, too: other writing transfer research projects; CCCC-sponsored research into institutional support for veterans; online authorship; evaluating the workload of online teaching; and a variety of projects closely tied to institutional assessments.

Not surprisingly, the seminar was demanding intellectually: after a few days, some of us took to referring to it as “research boot camp.” That’s what it was. We first met the night of July 31, and finished our work August 12–just about two weeks. We had one day off: the middle Sunday. Every few days, new visiting scholars joined us to speak to their expertise: Charles Bazerman gave an overview to situating research in the larger field, and Cheryl Geisler offered a two-day workshop in coding data and discourse analysis. Dartmouth professors John Pfister gave a crash course in statistics, and Jonathan Chipman in visualizing data. John Brereton offered excellent advice about grants. Chris Anson and Les Perelman spoke to assessment and situating research in larger institutional frameworks. The last two scholars to join us, Neal Lerner and Chris Haas, spoke to research design and ethical research. We concluded with two days of presentations in which participants summarized our research design and described what we learned during the seminar, with Haas and Lerner offering commentary. Throughout, all of the visiting scholars were available for office hours and individual consultation–for me, some of the most valuable time I spent at Dartmouth.

The seminar felt like a week, or maybe two weeks, of graduate school every day. Seminar organizer Christiane Donahue planned the calendar very well, keeping us busy but providing time for individual work. Some days, especially early on, consisted of eight hours of intensive seminars. Some were divided between morning seminars followed by individual work, consultations, and group work. None of the activities suffered for want of attendance and participation. Even optional night and weekend classes were very well attended. All of the participants lived in Fahey Hall, a dormitory on campus; classes were held in a common space on the ground floor of the building. It wasn’t hard to find attendees hanging out and working in the common space on the first floor, and it was downright easy to seek help with seminar work: for example, after Geisler concluded her lectures on Friday, I suggested all interested attend a “coding party” on Sunday afternoon. About eight people showed up and worked for two hours, coding each others’ data and reviewing segmenting and coding schemes as well. This good-natured work ethic stuck for the entire seminar. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all work and no play: I definitely enjoyed local beer culture with Scott Whiddon, Molly Oberlin, Justin Lewis, Tara Lockhart, and other attendees. We got to hear Charles Bazerman sing opera during a much-needed first Wednesday social. But it was great to collaborate with a group of people serious about learning and getting things done.

Much of what I learned during the seminar was focused specifically on the transfer research Neil and I are doing. As always, I took notes carefully–55,000 words in seminars, group work, and on my own. I’ve shared my wordcloud. I boiled those notes downs to eight pages of takeaways after the seminar, but can focus on three things here:

First, our research design was too complex. Neil and I wanted to use multiple methods of data collection in order to achieve the complexity we believe is necessary for understanding our research questions about writing in the major–learning about the activity systems in which our participants work. But planning for multiple kinds of data collection is cumbersome. Better to achieve complexity by focusing on case studies driven by interviews–and learning to become a very good interviewer. Here are the changes I proposed in my presentation:

original revised
  • Preliminary surveys of students in writing in the disciplines courses
  • Interviews of students and faculty at WIU and local community colleges which supply WIU with large numbers of students
  • Case studies of students at WIU and local community colleges
  • Pilot year in 2011–12; larger longitudinal study with similar methods 2012–2015.
  • Case studies of 8-10 students at WIU’s Macomb campus, 2011–12
  • Longitudinal study (methods and length to be determined) to follow.
  • Complex–many techniques to learn
  • Very labor intensive
  • Difficult to change on the fly
  • More focused research technique (interviews)
  • More manageable workload
  • Scales down if necessary, or up if desirable

Secondly, I failed to separate assessment and research. Part of the reason for the over-complex research design Neil and I imagined arose from prioritizing institution-focused goals (including all of WIU’s diverse constituencies–transfer students, first-generation college students, etc.) over research goals (gathering a manageable amount of relevant data). Ironically, over-prioritizing WIU needs could mean not meeting them as the study collapsed under its own weight.

Third, I left the seminar with a list of methodological questions to approach as I continue to learn the art and craft of empirical research:

  1. What principles can guide our comparisons of information from different sources?
  2. How can we measure the quality of our interviews—given the difficulty of research into transfer?
  3. How can we be genuinely beneficent to our participants, on the short and long term?
  4. What mechanisms can help us apply lessons learned from this study to future work?
  5. What support structures and resources will help us move the project forward?

All of the seminar leaders were very helpful, but I want to mention two in particular. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen any academic work as hard as Christiane Donahue did for the entire the two-week seminar. It seemed like she was up before everyone every day. Before all else, she created a fantastic intellectual experience for us, providing quite a bit of it personally by speaking to transfer, research design, and other specialities while offering us individual help. In addition, she arranged trips to the local grocery, helped us get access to scholarly resources on campus, and woke up in the middle of the night to help seminar attendees who’d locked themselves out of their rooms. With Kathy Herrington, I was very glad to sneak around Hanover a bit and put together a basket for Tiane which recognized how helpful she was for all seminar attendees. Secondly, Chris Haas: her talk on research ethics came at the end of the seminar when many of us were borderline exhausted. But it was invigorating, and thought provoking too. I went straight from her first talk to a chair and wrote Neil immediately to say, “Hey, we’ve got to think about this.” The two three page handouts she provided were very dense, giving me two or three specific things to think about. After I returned to Macomb, I wrote Haas with some follow-up questions, and she traded email with me, providing some very helpful suggestions and things to read–and strong encouragement as well. Much appreciated.

Quite a nice exclamation point to my year of retooling. A wise choice for all of the audiences I noted above: people like me looking for a mid-career change, early career scholars with projects develop, or graduate students looking to establish a firm grounding in research methods. I’m looking forward to following this year’s Dartmouth Seminar, and getting together with my cohort at CCCC in St Louis.

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Reading job applications

I’m sure we’ve all heard old saws about the speedy screening of job applications. I’ve always used 30 seconds as my rule of thumb. Our career services people say one minute, and it’s not hard to find job sites which time initial screening at 10 seconds. In line with my desire to shift my research and teaching toward data, I recently learned about a relevant CareerBuilder telephone survey conducted in June 2011. Two findings:

When asked how long they spend reviewing job applications, 55% of hiring managers (n=2654, ±2% MoE) said less than two minutes:

<1 min 1-2 mins 2-5 mins 5+ mins
28% 27% 24% 21%

Respondents who self-identified as HR managers (n=218, ±6.5% MoE) were even more speedy. Almost half less spend less than minute, and a quarter between one and two, meaning 72% of HR managers take less than two minutes for initial screening:

<1 min 1-2 mins 2-5 mins 5+ mins
45% 27% 17% 11%

So job applications (résumés + other documents) are likely to get more than 30 seconds of attention–but not much more. (Thanks to Ryan Hunt at CareerBuilder for sharing these data.)

Since I’m teaching technical communication this semester and next, reading job applications is on my mind in other ways. Like quite a few textbooks, our program’s book starts out by using job application materials to model core concepts (Anderson, Tech Comm 7/e, centered around usability and persuasiveness). The syllabus framework my colleagues and I share begins with this assignment. So I read quite a few job applications this semester, though I certainly spent more than two minutes on each one. (Sometimes a lot more.) As in previous semesters, I had a pretty high drop rate the first four weeks, and some palpable dissatisfaction among students who didn’t drop the course. Quite a few students submitted draft job materials which would fail the two-minute test. There were three classes of problems:

  1. Some students simply underestimated the amount of work needed to do work which meets my standards for quality, or tried to get by with generic materials not really tailored to a job description. (Of course, this can happen in any class, on any assignment.)
  2. For many students, education is what happens the classroom, and work experience is limited to service work. This leaves them very little to insert into customary résumé categories other than “Education,” and very little to say about experience and abilities in cover letters.
  3. They struggled to understand the job ads. Becoming fluent in disciplinary genres requires extensive knowledge of content, and too many students are simply unable to productively read job descriptions in their fields. Both lack of experience and lack of content knowledge play a part.

I’ve talked about the connections of genre and disciplinary knowledge in class. To see struggling students learning this lesson on the fly isn’t pretty: for example, having no way to write cover letters besides copying examples from the textbook nearly word for word, changing a few nouns here and there to keywords drawn from their field. For seniors, this is a bitter pill to swallow. And it should be for us: in these too-blank pages, we can see that students have realized that substituting academic faux-languages like “research paper” or “English essay” won’t replace the languages of magazine design, or sustainable energy, or broadcasting, to name a few of the majors I’m working with. On the one hand, this is good news: students know they need to learn more. But on the other hand, it points out our classroom practice is still problematic. When will we make the same realizations our students have? It’s downright unpleasant to see seniors struggle to connect what they have learned in their four (or five) years at the university with the languages and forms of their fields. It’s painful for them, and it should be painful for us.

With this in mind, I am eager to continue moving away from these mutt genres and finding ways to help students connect the work we can do with real genres to their classroom experiences. That’s no sure fix, but it’s a step forward. For sophomores and juniors, at least, there are possibilities. Reading collections of job advertisements can be used to map futures: the language of job advertisements we read together, now nearly foreign to students, suggests their do-lists for the next few years. I’ve asked students to speak with their advisors and professors to identify activities, internships, and other things outside the classroom which will help them learn the way their disciplines work. I’ve explained the connections between learning content, genres, and the languages of professions. This has been confusing and challenging for students, and often works better one-on-one than in class. Regardless, I want to continue thinking about ways to seeing fewer blank pages from students about to leave the university, and I hope my work with transfer and writing in the major will help.

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Oh, Charlotte

“Charlotte” got the worst of it in the Illinois ethics training this year. Sometimes she looked like a BAD ASS, staring down her “noncompliant” status:

I’m still wishing for scenarios which include one of our two former governors currently residing in Federal prison.

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New cast, boot to follow

Bradley's new castYesterday, two weeks after achilles tendon repair, I visited my surgeon to have my staples removed, then get a new cast and a checkup. Dr. White’s nurse cut off the old cast and removed my staples first. The incision was about five inches long, on the inside of my ankle, with the skin bunched up by the staples. (Very funky looking. I wish I’d had a camera.) I was surprised there were so many staples–about 30–and relieved that removing then was only slightly painful. The new cast Dr. White put on (at right) is much smaller and lighter than the old one, which makes everything much easier. Showering and dressing today was a cinch compared to wielding that 8-10 pounder. It’s also harder, so I feel more confident about getting around on campus. I crutched to the Union today to get a sandwich and coffee, and I’m going back this afternoon for a meeting. Nice. It is a bit tighter, at least for now, so I’m making an effort to keep my foot up more than I was in the past week.

Dr. White was pleased with the healing of my incision and the lack of swelling in my foot and ankle. He was glad to hear I’d been off the pain medication since Friday 10/28, and said my healing process looks on track. I went over my recollection of the surgery and post-op with him, and it turns out I wasn’t as loopy as I thought; what I remembered was accurate. I asked if I could switch to a VACOcast achilles boot the next time my cast needed to be replaced, so I could resume swimming. Dr. White agreed, and said he’d be happy for me to start the rehab, carefully, at that time. In fact, he suggested making the switch four weeks from now, or six weeks after the surgery. So December 1, I’ll be able to get back in the pool and do some one-legged biking on a recumbent at the Y. That will be great. And maybe a few weeks after that, I can take the next step towards that 5K.

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Three errors

I offer three error messages today, all from WIU’s current effort to increase network security. Like a good writing workshopper, compliments first. When I had problems connecting to the secure network yesterday (I suspect it’s overloaded, as it’s time to make the conversion to secure wireless), I tried the old, unencrypted one. I was rerouted to this page:

Secure wireless redirect

Secure wireless redirect

Good; that tells me what to do. Not as good: when I followed the directions, downloading a Java applet, checking the publisher, etc., then entering my username and password, a second error was raised (link through for text):

Timeout or wrong password?

Timeout or wrong password?

I’ve been using the secure wireless (and recommending it to students) for about a year. Perhaps that’s why, even though I got this “failure” message, I connected just fine. In any case, the error message is problematic–is the problem a wrong password or a network timeout? Software shouldn’t ask users to distinguish these very different problems–especially when, by policy, we’re locked out after five failed logins. Better to say what’s wrong and allow us to correct the typo or report the network issue.

Finally, here’s some wording which could be a little better:

Authentication server error

Authentication server error

“The credentials you provided cannot be determined to be authentic.” Hrm. This is from the new authentication server–again, a welcome change from the days of expired and/or self-signed certificates. We should drop the Official Style here: “Wrong username or password. Please try again” seems a reasonable substitution.

Thanks to the WIU technology people for the security push.

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Odds and ends crutchtime

A catchall as I start my second week after Achilles surgery.

Crutches checklist I went to campus three days this week, my teaching days Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Limited mobility means I have to get systematic about things which I imagine most of us do ad hoc: a checklist for getting out the door, since I can’t run home to get things I forget, and I’m more forgetful than usual on pain medication; keys in the left pocket, phone in the right; planning my movement around the building and campus, since our elevator is slow; cutting back on coffee, since 15 minute round trip walks to the union just aren’t gonna happen. Etc. I already have daily checklists for class, and use our groupware calendar extensively. So that’s not a very big adjustment. I’m lucky that my classroom is about 50 feet from my office.

I’ve had a lot of help. Multiple colleagues have offered to drive me to and from campus. Our department office manager Barb Arvin did a fantastic job getting me a few accommodations for teaching without walking. In less than 24 hours, she got a rolling desk chair for my classroom–much easier to scoot around for group work and the like than to use crutches– and got Physical Plant to fix my sticky door lock and slow down the timing on the door closer to the bathroom I use most often. She and my department chair gave me rides to and from a meeting. My students have also been very gracious. Every day before and after class, students have volunteered to help me carry books, open doors, and the like. Small things, but add up to a tremendous difference, and I appreciate them very much.

AJ and the girls At home, things are going well, too. Friends brought food the first weekend after my surgery. John and Karen brought greens from the garden. Since I was planning to go to a conference, we had already scheduled sitters so Erin could go to book club. They came over to help with bedtime, since what I could do was limited, to say the least. AJ brought a great math activity from her block teaching to share with the girls, and Elisa worked her baby whisperer magic on Amelia the next night. My parents arrived Monday, taking over most of the chauffeur and taxi duties from Erin, and helping with housework, harvesting tomatoes in kale in advance of our first freeze, etc. I’ve been able to help in limited ways, like reading books to the girls, prepping food, and directing Madelyn during pick-up-around-the-house time.

Zippy pants and foot-hat I’ve made some little adaptations to get around, like wearing my fingerless bike gloves most of the time, since my hands get a workout from the crutches, and wearing a backpack most of the time as well, so I can carry things around school and the house. One of my travel mugs fits right onto the handle of my crutches, which is nice. We’ve put a stool into the bathroom so I can put weight on my left knee while I shave and sponge myself off (no showers for now). And at times I give up on standing and just sit down to do stuff–like the other day when I couldn’t find one of my NA beers in the fridge (no real beer because of pain meds). My mom put zippers into two pairs of pants for me so I can get them over my cast, and modified a hat to fit my foot. All in all, while crutches are certainly an inconvenience, I’ve figured out ways to keep up some of my normal activities, with help from others. I’m glad my parents visited–they were helpful, and Madelyn and Amelia were thrilled to see them.

Erin deserves the most credit here. She’s been simply great, never blinking despite adding an array of duties to her mama schedule. I never forget how wonderful my wife is. But now it’s especially apparent. I’ve recruited friends to help her get some time for herself. After I hang up these crutches, I’m going to invest some serious energy into that project.

Today is our sixth pajama party for the girls’ birthdays. Breakfast at dinnertime, Erin’s choice. We count 70 people on our RSVP list. Gonna be a full house, to say the least. Erin and my mom put together the “haunted closet” which the kids love. I’ll be cutting up some pineapple soon and helping make some other things. And so far today I’ve been off the pain meds (yay!) so maybe I can have a glass of beer with my pancakes.

Though I missed MWCA, Neil and I have kept up our research schedule. We’re halfway through the second round of student interviews now, and we’re contacting faculty members to make arrangements to interview them. This weekend, we’re answering a call for proposals for the Kairos special issue on multimodality and writing across borders. Friday afternoon, we spent an hour and a half catching up, planning our work for the rest of the year. We decided to start using a weblog to write regularly about our progress. I’ll have more to say about that shortly.

What else? Not much. Getting to and from the university, helping with parenting, and keeping up with research is enough. Wednesday and Friday, I was booked pretty much solid 9-5: and exhausted at the end of the day. Certainly, I’ve had no problems sleeping since my surgery! As my leg heals, perhaps I’ll be able to do more–but I’m not going to overdo things. Better safe than stupid. This coming week, I meet with my surgeon Thursday; he’ll remove the staples and put on a new cast, and we’ll talk about my rehabilitation. I’m going to ask if I can switch to a VACOcast achilles boot a few weeks after that. It would be great to be able to walk before February.

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