Welcome to stevendkrause.com (or should I say, Krause 2.0?)

Welcome to this, the new and all-in-one Krause blog. Steven D. Krause’s Official Blog readers, meet Steve Krause’s Unofficial Blog; SKUB, this is SDKOB. All one big and happy family/identity.

What is this and why now? Well…
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How to write a lot– in theory

I’m in the process of updating/upgrading my RSS feeds on blogs and my own blog spaces– look for an alert to a new blog address soon– and through this process, I stumbled across an entry on Nels “A Delicate Boy” Highberg’s blog (and he cites a much longer and detailed entry at the pseudo-anonymous blogger’s “New Kid on the Hallway” site) about a book called How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing by Paul J. Silvia. I think both of these other blogs do a much better job than I can in terms of a review/explanation, particularly NKH.

What I take from these reviews is that Silvia is trying to make two basic points. First, write every day/often/just do it/etc. Second, put writing time into your schedule, and he (apparently) argues that academics ought to schedule the time of their writing just like they would schedule the time of their teaching. No excuses.

Now, this is all fine and good advice, it’s one of the main lessons I learned as a writer over the years, it’s advice I give my grad students working on projects, and it’s advice I have been trying to follow myself in my own writing this last year. But I’ve struggled lately to follow this advice, and it makes me think about it a bit. In the opening pages Style, Lessons in Clarity and Grace, one of my favorite books on writing style (and writing advice of a sort, I suppose), Joseph Williams kind of mocks this sort of simplistic advice. He says something like “Telling me that I need to ‘be clear'” (and here Williams is making a not so veiled reference to Strunk and White’s famous advice book) “is like telling me to hit the ball squarely. I know that. What I need to know is how.”

It also seems to me that the advice on scheduling writing time and sticking to it no matter what is the sort of advice that either a) works in theory better than in practice, and/or b) is advice that comes from someone who doesn’t teach courses that involve a lot of time spent grading/responding to student writing. Interestingly enough, b) might very well be correct: Silvia is a Psychology professor, and he might not have to spend as much time reading and commenting on student writing. Time and the teaching of writing expands and contracts. The time I would have spent this morning writing I spent instead on commenting on short student projects– and thank God I’m just teaching one class (the other half of sabbatical lite is perhaps kicking in) and these were short essays. When I’m teaching a full load next year, this issue will be even more significant, though conversely, I hopefully won’t have to spend as much time with service/administrative stuff, which also has a way of expanding and contracting.

Anyway, then there is also the “bags of shit er, timesuck” that drop from the sky on academics everywhere: the request from some administrator for a detailed report that is due in two days, the brouhahas that get stirred up from nowhere and that demand immediate and exquisite attention, the emergency a student advisee has in terms of some kind of graduation audit or fee. Not to mention life in general.

And then, then there is also the distraction of other writing that takes away from “THE WRITING,” things like, well, this blog post.

Anyway, none of this is to discount Silvia’s advice. I am sure it is sound.

And be sure to eat write er right, don’t drink too much, get plenty of exercise, get plenty of sleep, spend quality time with your family and friends, read good books, watch good movies, recycle. And just write.

Blogs as peer review

Computerworld (and other sources, I think) is reporting that a “Professor uses blog to get peer review of academic book.” The professor in question here is Noah Wardrip-Fruin, and he’s an assistant professor in communication at UC-San Diego, and the blog in question is Grand Text Auto. Here’s a link to the blog post where Wardrip-Fruin kicks things off. And there are some other links in the article to sites like if:book. Actually, the Future of the Book folks make what I think is one of the key observations: this is being done with the complete blessing of MIT Press.

Of course, I like to think that this is all an idea that others had before, at least in theory.

Wardrip-Fruin’s book sounds like an interesting read. I’m more than a wee-bit swamped with things I’ve assigned to students, essays that need some responses, etc., etc., but it might be kind of fun to stop in on the GTA discussion.

Oh, duh. This was also in the CHE.

Let the surveys begin!

Finally, finally FINALLY, I’m starting to send out my “Blogs as Writerly Spaces” survey. I feel like I’m literally about a year behind on this project for reasons that are both bad (my own laziness, my lack of focus, distractions that are too easily found, etc.) and good or at least inevitable (unexpected and expected school things, other scholarly side projects, “real life,” etc.). The process of writing the survey took longer than I thought it should have, getting it approved through the Human Subject Review process (what everyone else calls IRB) took a while, I decided to wait for a while longer to get some funding from EMU to pay for this survey, and then, just as I was getting ready to send this out, someone in my department decided to stir up the politics I vaguely elude to in my last post, and that of course sucked up far too much time.

But finally, I’ve started surveying folks and the results are trickling back in.

I don’t want to say anything too specific about this right now because it’s way early and I expect to be collecting a lot more data over the next year or so. My methodology is to invite bloggers via email to participate, and I’m trying to invite as many different kinds of bloggers as I can (I’m trying to minimize the number of academic bloggers I survey since I don’t want this project to be a long and hard stare in the mirror). I started by visiting some friends’ blogs and a few other blogs I read on a fairly regular basis, and then visiting their links and then their links and so forth. I will probably try to contact bloggers listed in things like technorati (hey, why not try to survey popular blogs?), and I might have to try some other tactics (including this entry– see below) to recruit some participants. I don’t know if this surveying process is truly random or scientific per se, but short of the kind of resources and expertise of groups/organizations like Nielsen and the Pew Research Center (and people question those studies all the time, of course), I think this is about as close as I’m going to get. So call it pseudo-random.

Like I said, I’ve only been doing this for a couple days, but two things I’ll mention that I’ve noticed so far: first, I am inevitably and unintentionally screening participants based on valid email addresses available via their blogs (or their profiles on various blogging services). I suppose I could invite people to participate in my survey by posting a comment on their blog, and I have been surprised by is the number of blogs/bloggers that do not provide any contact information. So I hadn’t thought about this.

Second, and I had thought about this when I started this project, I think am going to have a really REALLY difficult time getting ex-bloggers (e.g., people who used to keep a blog and then abandoned it for some reason) to participate in this project. I’ve been trying to invite these folks when I come across their dead blogs, but they often lack contact information and the ones I have tried emailing bounced back to me. So this part could be tricky.

By the way, if anyone reading this wants to participate in my survey, shoot me an email at stevendkrause at gmail dot com with your blog address (and your email address, obviously), and I’ll send you the survey link. I’m especially interested in hearing from you if you are an “ex-blogger” who wrote not exclusively all about academic stuff. And hey, I’d even be willing to include a few academic blogs in all this….

Now, why didn’t I think of that?

I was in the Food (W)hole today, picking up a few things after a satisfying (well, for me) workout at the rec center, when I spotted what seemed to me to be a just brilliant shopping idea. I saw a woman with a laptop open and sitting in that seat where the baby would ride. She was online (the Food [W]hole has free wifi) and in the midst of a chat session, but it just seems obvious to me that this would be a fantastic way to shop for groceries/plan a menu. Log in, check out some recipes, and plan your shopping accordingly. Potentially pretty cool, huh?

Restaurant Review: The Sidetrack

What and Where:

The Sidetrack Bar and Grill | 56 E Cross St | Ypsilanti, MI| | 734- 213-6762

Ratings (1=terrible, 5=mind-blowingly great)

  • Tastiness: 3.5
  • Service: 3.5
  • Price (1=super cheap, 5=super expensive):2.5
  • Value: 4
  • General vibe: 4
  • Comments

    • I can’t believe that after 15 or so of these reviews, I have yet to do the Sidetrack. I guess I’m just too familiar….
    • The Sidetrack is the quintessential “bar and grill.” What I mean is this: if you were a producer from the classic Hollywood film era and you were to call down to “central casting” and ask for a “bar,” they’d send you the Sidetrack. A beautiful main bar (dark wood, ornate carving, mirror behind it, etc.). Fireplaces and darkness all around. Animal heads and kind of sketchy prints hanging about. And yet, it’s also a place where you can take a family (well, at least before about 10 pm), which very much reminds me of the bars/roadhouses I visited as a kid with my parents and grandparents in northeast Wisconsin
    • There’s a fine selection of beers on tap here, along with all the rest of the usual bar things.
    • If you can only visit this place once, be sure to get the burger deluxe with sweet potato fries. The regular fries are so-so, but the sweet potato version (with their sauce) are excellent. And their burgers– well, I don’t know if it really is one of the 20 burgers you have to have before you die,but it is dang good and what I almost always get when I go.
    • Really, just about all the food here is good. I’ve had good luck with most of the fish dishes, particularly the Lake Perch basket. I think the Turkey Reuben is great, though maybe not that much different than a lot of other places that offer that version if the sandwich.
    • As far as other bar food goes: Personally, I think the onion rings are over-breaded, but I have many friends who enjoy them. Some folks I know swear by the fried pickles they serve here, but frankly, I think that a fried pickle pretty much tastes like a fried pickle. But I’m a big fan of the humus, the other fried veggies (zukes, mushrooms, etc.).
    • On the whole, a must-stop in Ypsilanti. Go check it out if you are in the area and haven’t yet.


    It’s been kind of a bad week around here because of some unpleasant politics among department faculty. Obviously, I’m not going to comment on the specifics of the issues, but in the general and “Happy Academic” sense, I thought I’d offer some random thoughts about academic politics/fights I’ve seen, including this one:

    • As the saying goes, the politics in academia are so ugly because the stakes are so low. But when the stakes become about something that at least one group of people see as “something,” that’s when they can get really really ugly.
    • It’s amazing how a group of faculty who are otherwise not empowered or involved in things can cause a big fight.
    • People who have advanced degrees in fields like English are just as capable as anyone else of misreading texts and/or writing things with one supposed intention when it would appear to others to have the exact opposite intention. In other words, we all bring our own “terministic screens” to the party. The wikipedia entry on Kenneth Burke describes terministic screens as “a set of symbols that becomes a kind of screen or grid of intelligibility through which the world makes sense to us. Here Burke offers rhetorical theorists and critics a way of understanding the relationship between language and ideology. Language, Burke thought, doesn’t simply “reflect” reality; it also helps select reality as well as deflect reality.” That sounds about right to me, and in this particular situation (and many others in English departments everywhere), I think the screens that literature scholars assume are completely different from the ones that composition/rhetoric scholars assume.
    • Way back when I was in my PhD program and just starting out as an assistant professor, I used to think that senior faculty who were “dead wood” got that way just because they were lazy and they gave up. I suppose with some folks, that is true. But I’m beginning to think that most of these people are actually “dead wood” because they are battle-scarred from old poly-ticks. And I’m beginning to have a lot more sympathy for that.
    • These things can turn into just an ENORMOUS time suck, both in the time it takes to engage in the argument, the reconciliation, the aftermath, etc., and in the sense of just mental and spiritual energy that one would normally devote to things like teaching or scholarship. A few days and I feel a month behind.
    • Academic politics and the arguments that ensue are like icebergs in that everyone worries about and talks about the surface, but everyone also knows that so much is submerged, invisible, and unseen.

    There’s probably more to say, but in the spirit of actually getting caught up, I think I’ll stop.

    Oh, I do feel like I should mention this opening paragraph from this Inside Higher Ed article, “Learning From Cats:”

    Academic squabbles are often compared to cat fights, but as one who has owned cats for several decades, I’ve come to believe that such analogies are unfair to felines. Cats, for instance, instinctively know to terminate a chase when they would consume more calories than their prey would provide. And even the pugilist tabbies I’ve owned eventually learned to give wide berth to rivals who consistently bloodied them. All of this suggests that cats may be more evolutionarily advanced than a lot of academics.

    Of course, I’m kind of a dog person….

    Talking Points Memo Hilarious Romney Ad

    Makes some pretty good points, but in the end, I couldn’t justify the effort it would take to participate in the daily KOS’ campaign. Besides the fact that I have a hard time getting fired up to go through the whole primary voting rig-a-ma-roll for what amounts to a practical joke, I am a little worried that this little joke (ha-ha– let’s vote for Romney) will lead to nominee Romney and then president Romney. As Jack “who?” Lessenberry said/wrote, the last time Michganders did that, they voted for Reagan. And that turned out freakin’ hilarious, didn’t it?