Good CSS Article (or, something else that has been pushed to the side lately…)

I have skimmed through this morning an article on A List Apart called “12 Lessons for Those Afraid of CSS and Standards.” It strikes me immediately as the sort of thing that would be perfect for a class I teach about once a year, Writing for the World Wide Web.

Then I remembered that I was planning on developing an online version of this course for Spring 2007. I had intended to get this into the pipeline/python of getting the proper departmental approvals and such at the beginning of the school year.

And then I remembered: of course, the strike.

It is funny (not in a ha-ha way, of course) the ways in which the strike and its on-going aftermath rears its ugly head.

In any event, it’s a good article on CSS….

Some interesting NPR links

I’ve been pretty swamped the last couple days with this pesky school stuff. For one thing, my schedule this term is already starting to present problems. Mondays, which are the one day of the week I am teaching this semester, are also the most popular days around EMU for meetings. And a big part of my job as “Emperor of Writing” is to go to meetings. In other words, Mondays are pretty nuts.

Second, there’s been some stuff going on lately that is, um, problematic at best.

Anyway, a couple of interesting links that might come in handy for teaching and other things via NPR “Morning Edition:”

Getting into college in the first place…

See this Wired News article, “Websites Help Sort College Entry.” Basically, it highlights some of the clearinghouses for information on applying for college: admission standards, student reviews, tips, costs, etc., etc.

It’s interesting because, despite the fact that I am a college professor, I really don’t have much of a clue about how much it costs to attend, about applying to schools, etc., etc. I suppose I’ll figure that stuff out in the next 8 or 9 years with my son though….

New iMac/Distraction…

iMac w/monitor

EMU sometimes does smart things, and one of the smarter things they’ve done in recent years (IMO) is agressively “refresh” older computers in faculty and staff offices. Generally, folks get a new desktop computer around here every three or so years. There are some problems with that system still, but it is better than it used to be for sure.

Anyway, I was due and and got a new iMac on Wednesday. I also managed to waste piddle away spend too much time getting this machine set up and to get my old computer for someone else in the department who really needs a new machine. Oh well; I guess it means I’ll spend tomorrow working instead of reading the newspapers.

I had an extra monitor in my office left behind by the thieves who took the Mac Mini server that we used to have in here (we now, at least for the time being, are using an iLamp configuration Mac for that). So I decided to hook it up to this new desktop. I did it mainly because I could, and yeah, I know it has a bit of a “these amps go up to 11” quality to it, but I couldn’t resist. And I am enjoying the screen real estate this gets me, too.

Click the link on the picture there to get the flickr with notes tour.

Also, if you’re really curious, you can take a look at this little movie I shot with the iSight camera on the iMac— as much to see if I could do it as anything else. It’s 5 MB. Yes, I have a lot of stupid junk in my office.

Misc. Catch-Up on RSS Feed Reading, part 2

To continue what I started the other day (though it’s hopeless to pretend I’ll catch up on reading stuff in my feeds– there are over 700 unread entries today):

I think that’s about as caught up as I’m going to get. Time to mark all as read and move on….

From the mailroom: Kevin "Asian Grade" Smith Responds

Last weekend, I had a blog entry about a New York Times article that mentioned a term paper service called “Asian Grade.” This morning, I received an email about this blog post from none other than Kevin “Asian Grade” Smith himself. At least as far as I can tell it is him.

Anyway, I asked him if I could publish the email message he sent me and he said yes. So, without further delay or comment, here’s what Smith had to say about his thoughts on the NYT article, his site, and his thoughts on plagarism:

Hi, I saw that you bloged about us (Asian Grade) and just wanted to take a quick moment to say thank you and to perhaps clear up a couple misunderstandings and out of contexts quotes that were in the NY Times article.

To start off: we are not racists, by any means. We believe that we are just a humorous form of parody similar to the style of a Carlos mencia or a Dave chapelle (two mega popular TV shows) we use this parody and humor to reach an audience that we would possibly otherwise miss. An example of this can be seen on our appearance on the mega hit website this summer. Additionally since being in business (for almost a year now, we have not received ONE complaint on our parody style of our website. Not one. In fact our myspace page (which gained almost 7000 friends in 2 months) has roughly 4500 of those friends being of Asian decent. The simple fact is we’ve been embraced by the Asian community as well as generation “next” 18-24 year olds)

Secondly and this is something we feel the Times left out is that we are first and foremost a campaign to eliminate the term paper as a legitimate academic tool. It is our opinion, that term papers are mindless make work assigned by either lazy teachers or simply teachers who dont want to rock the boat and mess with the status quo. Students do not learn by writing term papers and are such being victims of fraud. (Believe it or not students pay colleges to learn) Additionally, we encourage and support alternative means of education, I’m not a teacher and I can come up with a short list of better, more productive alternatives to term papers: class presentations, class debates, speeches, PowerPoint’s presentations, multimedia and website development etc. Imagine how many more options a teacher could come up with.

As to the fee issue that we do have for each paper. Here’s the deal behind that and I told this to the Times and they choose to ignore this… we loose $$ on the site. Being recent college grads, losing $ is not a luxury we like to take. That feature was designed to at the very least make our monthly server fee. However this backfired: Since we have been in existence, this featured has not been used ONCE. 2 last points on this if I may: 1. Were thinking about removing it. 2. You idea on the way back machine does not work. For one, we have not been saved once by them. For two: papers are done on a download from our website via MS Word. This prevents the Way Back Machine from accessing them.

We are willing to lose money because we believe in our cause. We believe in bringing this issue out in the open and shed light on something that has otherwise been overlooked because of the shadiness other sites in our industry. This shadiness is something we actively seek to change. We know that people have pre set assumptions on our industry. That is why we are proud to put light onto the industry, that is why we realize we need to go above and beyond the “slacker student” misconception. That is why we actively every other month do community service to better our community, and the face of the industry. This is also why we are a proud member of the adopt a highway program as well as have a stated community service and responsibilities section on our website.

We love your comment in your blog “In other words, make an assignment that’s easy to plagiarize and you can be assured that someone will do just that.” but would like to add something to that…we ask teachers to make assignments that are IMPOSABLE to plagiarize, we want to stress unique essay assignments is NOT the answer, unique lesson plans are. This way not only will a teacher be doing their job, but (and more importantly) a student is actually learning the material.

Finally, one thing I would like to bring to your attention that was left out of the Times article was an important notice of hypocrisy on the teacher’s side. Of the 5% of the custom paper sites out there who actually speak English and deliver quality, unique writing, these assignments are done by PAID teachers. That’s right, The ones writing custom papers for 15-20-25 bucks a page are teachers usually looking to make a quick $200-$300. Every month in the spring and fall I get 2-3 emails from teachers with resumes attached asking for work. In the summer this number ranges from 8-12. And the funny part is I dont even offer custom papers, teachers simply take 5 seconds to look at my site, see the word “term paper” and send me their resume. Imagine what actually custom paper sites get in their email box?? This shows me 2 things: 1. Teacher’s are not being paid enough. 2. Teachers acknowledge term papers are nonsense make-work one emailed resume at a time.

The question I ask is why do teacher’s insist on assigning term papers while everyone (including the teachers) know that students do not nor ever will learn ANYTHING from these assignments. (Besides of course becoming experts in what fonts look bigger.)

I would love to get a reply back from you, the more this topic is brought out in the open forum the better. Understand one very important thing, we both want to improve the quality of education in this country. The only difference (I think anyway) is that I believe education can only improve once a term paper is removed from the classroom.

I apologize for the long email, I am passionate about this subject.

Kevin Smith

Misc. Catch-Up on RSS Feed Reading, Part 1

With the strike and school and everything, I haven’t had much time to read blogs the way I usually do, which is with an RSS reader– in my case, NetNewsWire Lite. But I’ve got a bit of catch-up to do; I have 790 or so unread posts in my feeds. Of course, I’m not going to read them all but I have to at least do a little browsing through them. So, in the order in which they appear in my feed, here’s some of what I came across:

  • “New Favorite New Apps of Two Mac Geeks,” which includes a pretty interesting looking video software/TV software called Democracy. I haven’t actually listened to the podcast yet though.
  • From jill/txt, this post “rituals of closure.” Lots of good stuff here; I like how she says “I wish Technorati would track the ending of blogs as it tracks their creation,” since how things end is often is as interesting as how they begin.
  • Also via jill/text, YouTubeX, which appears to be a very easy to use download tool for YouTube (I haven’t messed with it yet though).
  • Oh, and it appears that jill is working on a book about blogging. Someone else beats me to the punch, and there are undoubtably many others working on such books….
  • From Wired News, “Web 2.0 Winners and Losers,” which both a) basically explains what “Web 2.0” actually means (well, at least it offers examples), and b) has some good links to stuff to check out if you haven’t. I’m not a big fan of Writerly myself though.

I still have about 500 unread articles in my feed, so there will probably be more….