My top 10 (ish) iPad apps

At The Unofficial Apple Blog today, I read “The best iOS apps I used in 2010.” It’s a nice enough list, but as an iPad expert (by virtue of the fact that I got one the first day they came out), I thought I’d offer my own thoughts on the top 10-ish apps that I have found myself using in my iPad this year.  Not counting the obvious things like Mail, Safari, iTunes, etc.

  • iAnnotate PDF. As far as my academic-life goes, this app probably ranks positions 1 through 8. Hands-down, this is the app I use for work the most, and it is by far the app that gives my iPad its most important “unique” functionality– that is, this is something that I can’t easily do with a desktop or laptop computer.  Basically, iAnnotate allows me to take PDFs of journal articles, book chapters, or whatever else of the sort I put together for course packs for classes I teach and to annotate them as if they were paper by using a stylus or my finger to highlight, take notes, etc.  So, for example, this last fall term, where I taught classes that involved in total about 40 or so readings from books and journals, I made no photocopies and took all of my reading notes right on iAnnotate.  In my mind, if the iPad did nothing beyond what this software does, it’d be worth it.

    If you are not an academic-type, you might be reading this and thinking “big deal,” but if you are someone who teaches college and who hates dealing with all of these paper copies of articles and such, you probably understand.  I was at a function recently and showing my iPad to a colleague who also teaches at EMU and also to her husband, who is a perfectly smart person who exited academia years ago and who now has a “real job.”  He didn’t see the advantage of iAnnotate, but my colleague who taught seemed to immediately to understand the value of this software.

  • Facebook.  I know it’s not an iPad app, but I use it a lot, probably more on my iPad than on my iPhone.  I wonder when the Face people are going to come out with an iPad version….
  • Reeder for iPad. There are a bunch of different RSS Feed readers for the iPhone and the iPad, but my favorite is Reeder for two basic reasons.  First, it works well with my Google Reader RSS feeds.  Second, it’s very straight-forward and doesn’t have all the unnecessary bells and whistles of readers like the over-hyped Flipboard.
  • WeatherBug. This is a link to the “Elite” version, but the free one works fine for me.  Reliable weather information in a nice to read format.
  • Twitter. I like the iPad app for this quite a bit, actually– I think much better than for the iPhone.
  • Dropbox.  I figured I needed to put this on the list some place, but I don’t actually use this for the iPad so much as iAnnotate uses it:  that is, I upload PDFs to my Dropbox account, and iAnnotate will synch with that to download and then upload again after I annotate the PDFs.  Have I mentioned the pros of iAnnotate yet?
  • IMDB. It’s a really slick interface for the ever-popular and useful Internet Movie Database, even if IMDB has gone kind of “commercial.”
  • (Tie) Kindle and iBooks.  Since I use my iPad mostly for reading stuff, including both of these apps probably isn’t much of a surprise.  I think that the future of electronic textbooks does not mean Kindle or iBook versions of textbooks, but it rather means free-standing apps presented as books.  Still, I like reading trade and/or “fun” books with both Kindle and iBooks.  In my view, the main advantage of iBooks is it is closer to open source with the epub format, and the main advantage of the Kindle is there are probably 10 times more books available.
  • Kayak HD. I don’t use it that much, but the interface for this travel web site is just really slick and user-friendly, more fun to use than it is on a “real computer” for sure.
  • (Tie) Pages and Keynote.  As I have noted previously on this blog someplace, both of these applications ought to be followed by the phrase “lite,” as in “not nearly as good as the ‘real’ app for the computer.”  But I have done some writing and presenting with them, so I’ll include them here.

You will notice that I don’t include any games or such things here, mainly because I don’t play a lot of games.  But okay, if I were to include one or two of those, I’d have to say that Angry Birds is pretty fun, and while PS Express isn’t a game but an image editing software, it has a lot of “game-like” features.  As my friend Chris W. once said, Photoshop is the most fun application on the Mac.

Another Christmas, more Pepper Nuts (albeit late)

We had a later than usual Pepper Nuts session here at the Krause-Wannamaker house today.  We were in Florida for Christmas proper this year, and, because of changes on the Krause side of things at Thanksgiving and less than great planning on our part here before our southern trip, we ended up actually making my family’s classic Christmas cookie after Christmas.  Oh well.

Still, a good time was had by one and all.  Will and Annette definitely did as much as I did this year with the rolling and cutting– good team work, and we all enjoyed remembering relatives from Christmases of the recent and distant past.  Most of this batch will be accompanying us to Iowa in the coming days.  In any event, here’s the annual reprinting/reposting of the recipe, as told to me by my Grandma Krause (and re-written by me):

Grandma Krause’s Pepper Nuts

1 cup dark karo syrup
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup butter, softened (or margarine or crisco or, in the old days, lard)
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup hot water
2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp anise oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
7 cups (or so) flour

1.In your trusty KitchenAid standing mixer mix together the syrup, molasses, butter, sugar and hot water until well combined. If you lack a standing mixer, you can do this with a large bowl and a hand mixer.

2. Add everything else but the flour and continue mixing until combined.

3. Start adding the flour, about a cup at a time, mixing each time until the flour is well incorporated. If you have a trusty KitchenAid standing mixer, lucky you! You can keep mixing this until all seven cups of flour are combined. I shifted from the regular mixing paddle to the bread hook attachment after the fifth cup of flour.

If you don’t have a standing mixer (unlucky you!), you’ll probably have to give up on the hand mixer after the fourth or fifth cup of flour and knead the rest of the flour in as you might with the making of bread or pizza dough.

Either way, you may have to add a little more or a little less flour to get a dough that is moist but not sticky.

4. Take about a handful of the finished dough and roll it out on a lightly floured surface in long snakes that are about the width of your pinky. Lay these out on a cookie sheet. You can create different layers of the dough snakes by separating them with parchment paper or plastic sheeting.

5. Chill these dough snakes. Grandma Krause’s recipe said to chill “overnight or for at least a couple of hours.” I have done this before by putting them in the freezer or outside in a place like Wisconsin or Michigan or Iowa (which is as cold as the freezer, of course) for an hour or so, though in the movie, I left them out overnight with no adverse effect. They do need to be chilled and even a bit dried out.

6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350-375 degrees. (It kind of depends on your oven, but while Grandma Krause said 350, I think 375 is probably more accurate). Take each snake and cut them into tiny bite-sized pieces of dough. Put the little dough pieces onto a cookie sheet, being sure to spread them out so they don’t touch either. The cookies will expand slightly in size.

7. Bake about 9 or 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool them on a clean counter or a clean cookie sheet and store them in a sealed container. Serve them in little bowls as if they were nuts. Makes a pailful.

On Vandenberg’s and Clary-Lemon’s “Advancing by Degree: Placing the MA in Writing Studies”

This is a little early for a New Year’s resolution, but I guess now is as good as time as any to share it: I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve reached the end of the rope of my “Blogs as Writerly Spaces” project. I think I’ve gotten plenty out of it, actually– a sabbatical, a number of good conference presentations, maybe an article or two if I get around to it. But I just have a hard time believing I’m going to get to the next level of a book project out of this. That’s kind of a bummer, but it is what it is.

Anyway, one of the things I decided about all this was that before I even think vaguely about starting another big project, I thought I should spend some time actually reading some scholarship. After all, academics spend all this time producing this stuff, but who actually reads it? I don’t, at least not on a regular basis, not when I’m not trying to write something myself. So this year, my main goal is to do something novel and actually read for the sake of reading and see what I come across. I’ll post some reviews here, hopefully at least one a week.

To kick that off, I thought I’d start with the first essay in the December 2010 CCC, Peter Vandenberg’s and Jennifer Clary-Lemon’s “Advancing by Degree: Placing the MA in Writing Studies.” In brief, it’s an article that historicizes the place of the MA degree in graduate study in general, and then describes several MA programs in Writing, suggesting the importance of local conditions for the role of the MA. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but something that still has to be said.

As an interesting “small world” footnote, one of the people they quote is Marcia Dalbey, who was the department head here at EMU when I started back in 1998. Go figure.

Anyway, Vandenberg and Clary-Lemon wonder why there are so many more students in these “in-between” degree programs, and they lament the way “the MA has functioned in the field’s collective mindset as little more than a Büchner funnel, employed to screen an undesirable element in a process of purification. Yet as the discussion above makes clear, the MA in writing studies for some time has been a flexible, responsive, self-standing enterprise, with intrinsic value rooted in the kinds of knowledge and skill it can produce in local conditions (277).”

I’m not so sure about the scientific/chemical metaphor there, and while I’m also not crazy about sports metaphors, I prefer to think of MA programs as being more like the minor leagues or a farm system, at least in relation to PhD programs. Many students in our MA program– though certainly not all, as I’ll mention in a second– are essentially testing the waters and trying to decide if they want to take the leap into a PhD program. This seems like a really good thing to me. After all, entering PhD studies is a life-changing event, and it is not the sort of thing that people should pursue without careful consideration.

Incidentally, this is at least one reason why there are many more MA students than PhD students. I have had very good MA students here at EMU who had intended to go on to get a PhD, but then when they learned more about what they were getting themselves into– through coursework, through experience as a teaching assistant, from talking to other students and faculty, etc., etc.– they decided getting a PhD was a bad idea. Or they realized they didn’t really have “the chops” to succeed academically and professionally at that level.

In any event, what I’m saying is I think the “filtering” role of MA programs is important for both PhD programs and for students. But I also think that it’s important to point out, as Vandenberg and Clary-Lemon do, that MA programs are as often an ends to themselves. They give several examples/ “case studies” in their article about different MA programs, which I might want to research some more as we consider revising our MA in Written Communication here. Our MA has been around a long time– at least 20 years, maybe more– and it has definitely been changing with the times. Well, at least the students have changed.

We have two emphases in our program: Teaching of Writing and Professional Writing. Back when I came to EMU, I would guess that about 70% or more of the students in the Teaching of Writing strand were practicing secondary school teachers who were coming back to get their MA so they could receive a pay raise and other benefits from their school districts. For all sorts of reasons, those students have largely disappeared from our program. Now the majority of our students focused on Teaching of Writing are interested in teaching in community colleges (a lot of our graduates are full-time or part-time at many area CCs), thinking about secondary school teaching (though it isn’t a certificate program), they’re thinking about the PhD, or they are interested in pursuing a graduate degree generally to see where it takes them. As one of my MA students told me a few years ago, in a job market where “everyone” has an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree– any graduate degree– distinguishes you from other applicants. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but it seems possible to me.

Things have changed in the Professional Writing side of things too. It used to be that a lot of area employers would pay for for their employees to earn graduate degrees, so the Professional Writing emphasis was almost entirely made up of students who had real jobs that could be broadly described as “Professional Writing” and they were attending on the company’s dime. That’s changed a lot in recent years. In fact, with the economy as crappy as it is in Southeast Michigan, we now have many students in our MA in both the Teaching of Writing but especially the Professional Writing program who are attending (in part) to gain professional experience they hope will make them more employable.

These changes (among other things) are causing us now to reconsider the arrangement of our MA program, though that’s something that has taken years, and it will probably take us a few more. My point though is this: we have lots of students who have no intention of going onto a PhD program, and we have always had these students. We have always been an MA program that has mostly attracted students in Southeast Michigan and that has responded to those students’ local plans and needs.

Yet another collection of miscellaneous links

With all the news about delicious going belly-up (or not?), it seems more important than ever for me to park some links here that I want to keep track of:

Four Thoughts on Wikileaks

Not necessarily in this order:

  • If the mainstream media did its freakin’ job, Wikileaks would be irrelevant.  The only reason this is much of a story at all is because MSM, too lazy and/or too afraid of and/or owned by “the man” to actually dig around and investigate and look for whistle-blowers on its own, is perfectly happy to have Wikileaks do their homework for them.  MSM isn’t in trouble because of the internets or whatever; they’re in trouble because they can’t do as good of a job of telling people what’s going on as a bunch of half-baked computer hackers.
  • I haven’t read anything on Wikileaks lately, but I have yet to hear a “leak” that that was something that is really too surprising.  Various cables about various world leaders might be embarrassing, but I think we already knew that the people running North Korea are nuts, the people running Afghanistan are corrupt, and even that a lot of the other countries in the Middle East would be kind of okay with the U.S. putting a beat-down on Iran.  Now, if Wikileaks uncovered something like  911 being an “inside job” or how the U.S. has been secretly supporting North Korea (just to keep tensions high) or about our contact with aliens at Area 51 or whatever– if any of that happens, then we’re talking.
  • I’m generally for the idea of Wikileaks, but it’s hard for me to get too far behind it in part because Julian Assange seems like a real piece of work.  Even before the rape/sexual assault charges in Sweden, he seemed kind of… I don’t know, smarmy to me.  He seems sort of like a more liberal/libertarian version of Matt Drudge, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.
  • Derek and I were talking the other day about how and wikileaks seem to be kind of similar– reckless, based mostly on rumor and unsubstantiated reports, mixed with a twist of “the truth.”