Leaving the dark side of the force…

I really need to get to bed because we’re leaving Iowa tomorrow between 4 and 5 am so we can get ready for school on Monday. But I just came across this Reuter’s news article, “Some Republicans defect to Kerry camp. It’s an interesting piece– I just hope it’s wide-spread.

BTW, I found this via the Kerry campaign blog. Neat site, though I’m assuming it is also an “edited” site. I suspect “Dittohead” posts will immediately be sacked, as they would be from my site, too.

Handwriting article– on MSN?!

See this article from MSN Encarta, “Do You Write Like a Felon?” This is the sort of thing I might end up coming back to later on as I put together English 516, but I guess the other reason I’m linking to this is it strikes me as kind of strange that MSN has this article about handwriting analysis, a “science” that is pretty much in the same league as reading the bumps on one’s head.

Of course, I say that as someone who has pretty horrible handwriting.

On, off, and on the grid in Iowa

I’m actually typing this part of this post in a word processor on Thursday night/Friday morning from our bed and breakfast room in Homestead, Iowa, uncertain about when I’ll get a chance to post this. We’re in Iowa for a visit to my parents, who are holding a “camp” of sorts for the grandkids. Basically, my parents thought it would be “fun” to have five of the grandkids who are over four (there’s one more that’s just over a year old) to the house for a week without their parents. We couldn’t make that happen for Will for the whole week, but we decided to come out for part of the week.

While Will and his cousins run about the house making their grandparents rethink their “camp” idea, Annette and I left for a night in the Amana colonies. The Amanas is perhaps the only legitimate tourist attraction in Iowa. It was religious society founded around 1850 which practiced communal ownership and living until some time in the 1930s. It’s been a tourist area for about fifty or so years now, famous for furniture, woolens, family-style dining, gift shops, and unbelievably bad wine made from seemingly anything but grapes.

I haven’t been here in years, and it seems a bit more touristy than it used to be. Annette and I wandered about and looked through a bunch of gift stores, and a few art galleries. One of the galleries was more than the same old country stuff, and we even bought a modestly priced piece.

Then we had lunch at the Ox Yoke Inn, one of the older of these restaurants that have always been a draw to the Amanas. It was good home cooking that featured fried chicken, beef stew, very good cole slaw, and absolutely excellent cottage cheese. I know this sounds weird, but the cottage cheese was the absolute best part of the meal. I don’t really know how this was the case, but it tasted remarkably fresh.

We ended this diet-destroying lunch with a piece of coconut cream pie split between the two of us. The pie was a mistake. We left feeling bloated and bizarrely full, wandering through more gift stores which all seemed to meld into one uber-gift store, through more places that sold wine made from peaches, plums, raspberries, dandelions, lord only knows what else. It was time to go to the B&B. We stopped first at the “closest” real grocery store, which was in a town ten miles away, to buy some wine, cheese, and grapes. I tried to charge it to my ATM card and it didn’t work. For just a moment, we were off the grid.

The B&B was fine but simple, and no place for me to get online with even a modem. It was a comfy and quiet place to enjoy John Kerry’s DNC acceptance speech. As I write this, we’re getting ready for the breakfast part of the stay and then a half-day in nearby Iowa City, where I plan on taking Annette on a tour of “college memories;” well, at least as long as she’ll put up with it.

Some Amana pictures:

Amana water tower (I don’t know why, but I like this picture…)

Country crafts in the Ox Yoke Inn (life-like, huh?)

Annette with giant mugs.

Steve near meat and smoke house.

Blacksmith crossing.

The place we stayed– perhaps the only decent picture in the bunch.

After the Amanas, we went to Iowa City so that I could re-live college memories of various flavors. Here’s a short version of that adventure:

* Our first stop was the University of Iowa library, where I was able to at least check my email (and respond to some students, too) and where Annette was able to find this book that had the definitive edition of a Brecht play she needed. We’re such academic geeks.

* We went to prairie Lights and bought some cool books– I talk about that a bit on my official blog– though I have to say that trips like this remind me we’re definitely spoiled in terms of book stores in Ann Arbor. Prairie lights is widely regarded as the best book store in Iowa City, but I have to say that it was merely “pretty good” to me.

* Roamed around campus a bit, shopped a bit more, etc. There was a lot similar and a lot different of course, but the weirdest thing about town was this “Herky on Parade thing. It’s like the thing they did in Chicago a few years back with the big plastic cows that were painted by different artists, only instead of a cow, it’s “Herky the Hawkeye,” the mascot of the U of Iowa. I don’t know, I guess it was a good idea, but a lot of these things ended up looking pretty creepy to me. Here’s one relatively friendly example:

Now I’m back “on” the grid in Iowa, here at a Panera’s bread just about a mile from my parents’ house, though I’ll probably be pretty much “off” the grid again tomorrow and Sunday on the long drive home.

Two cool books for work and fun

Normally, I don’t mention these sorts of things here, but I bought two books today that are so cool, I thought I’d have to pass the info along.

The one for “work” is a book called Memory Bytes: History, Technology, and Digital Culture, edited by Lauren Rabinovitz and Abraham Geil (Duke UP, 2004). I’d give a link to amazon.com or something, but they seem to only have an $80 hardback version of this thing available. Anyway, while the books is mostly interested in digital culture and media studies (film, TV, radio, that sort of thing), the basic point of the book is the same as the one that I’m trying to put together. To quote from the introduction: “Discussions about digital culture assume that new computerized technologies provide such fundamental rupture from the past that there are no continuities or, worse, that they willfully obliterate the past in creating new models. Such ahistoricism is problematic because it tends to reproduce at the level of scholarship what is one of the hallmarks of digital culture– its rhetoric of newness.” And then a little later: “To understand the current consequences of social and physical change– to understand digital culture– requires a philosophical and historical framework for a duration longer than the last twenty years.” Great stuff.

The one for “fun” is actually McSweeney’s Issue 13. At $24, hard-bound, and 250+ pages, it’s a lot more of a book than an issues of the innovative periodical. But whatever it is, it’s a great collection of contemporary comics/graphic fiction. Generally, I’m not really much into this sort of thing, but I think this thing is one of the coolest put-together book/periodical projects I’ve seen in the book store in a long time.

Summer-time and the "Happy Academic"

I came across an article in the CHE today, “Making Time” by Julia “not her real name” Goode that rang awfully true to me. It’s another essay that discusses the peculiar problems of the “work time” of academics.

Now, Goode’s experiences are slightly different from mine because her husband is a practicing attorney (whereas my wife is also an academic and we both have these strange schedules), and because a lot of her problems in the article seem to revolve around what she admits is a “pathological need for social acceptance among peer mothers” (something I don’t think either my wife or I have).

But there are two things she writes about I can completely relate to. First, because she’s not teaching in the summer, people in the rest of the world think she isn’t “working” in the summer. Nothing could possibly be further from the case. Second, there is a constant “ying/yang” thing about the academic concept of “work time.” Eliminate the word “legal,” and I think this quote from the essay sums it up pretty well for me:

I generally appreciate the fact that producing legal scholarship is a solitary effort. I don’t have to worry about others pulling their weight or finishing their piece so I can start on mine. I work at my own pace, on my own time. I don’t have a senior partner or a supervisor calling me every day asking me where I am on a certain project. No one is watching.

The downside is that I have no daily or weekly deadlines to push me or keep me on track. I have a six-year deadline that requires marathonlike pacing. Unless I am extremely self-disciplined, I could wake up the year before my tenure vote having written nothing. Obviously, that is extreme. But come mid-July, more than once I have realized that I’ve done very little research in the previous six weeks and the new semester is rapidly approaching.

That much freedom is like enough rope to hang yourself, and it can also lead to a feeling of always working. That can lead to an unhappy academic if you don’t like the “work” in the first place.

Another one of those “funny because it’s true” articles from The Onion

Greetings from Iowa City– more specifically, the U of Iowa library, where I’ve managed to find a free place to check my email (and thus check in with my students who are working online this week) and to do a little web surfing. More on the trip Annette and I took to the Amanas and IC later, when I can easily jack-in my laptop. In the meantime, I thought this first person commentary from The Onion was a little too funny because it seemed just a bit too easy to imagine as being true. Enjoy.

Cindy is kind of making my jealous…

Cindy at “making contact” has switched her blog to this space and is running WordPress. Looks pretty good and she is praising the features of it, too.

It makes me jealous because I still have highly mixed feelings about my shift back to blogger. On the one hand, I like the look of the new blogger site, I am still VERY much enjoying the lack of spam on the site, it’s easy to use, etc. On the other hand, there were certain advantages of being the “master of my own domain” in terms of the software I was running, and I’m beginning to think that using some software like MovableType or WordPress or whatever isn’t really that much more time-consuming than using the “easy” services like blogger.

Hmmm… choices, choices…

The "Ideal" university president

I came across an interesting article in the CHE called “The Authentic, and Effective, College President,” by Rita Bornstein, who is president at Rollins College. To anyone who has even glanced through this blog before, you probably understand why I’m intrigued by this article. While the advice in this piece is overly general and mild, I suspect even this simple advice will once again be ignored by the EMU Board of Regents and others.

One passage I thought particularly interesting given the current scandals:

The power, perquisites, and bully pulpit provided by the presidency can cause some presidents to inflate their importance and sense of entitlement. They can be swept away by the opportunity to act on a broad stage and participate in so many local, regional, and national activities that they neglect their primary responsibilities for institutional oversight, decision making, and governance. They can begin to believe in an “imperial” presidency and fail to develop and maintain relationships of trust….A few presidents who have viewed themselves as superior to others have even acted as though social norms and laws did not apply to them, engaging in misconduct that has included impersonating a police officer and stealing college funds.


By the way, there is a “celebration” of the Kirkpatrick era happening this week– Thursday, I believe. I was invited (along with just about everyone else at EMU), but I won’t be able to make it because I’ll be out of town. I thought about going. I wondered what exactly Kirkpatrick et al would say about the “good works” that were done under his leadership. Honestly, I can’t imagine that part of the talk lasting too long. Interestingly enough, this is the exact kind of event that would be perfect for the “University House;” but because of the controversies around all that, it’s being held out at the Eagle Crest golf course clubhouse.

Late this afternoon, I (along with everyone else at EMU) received this message:

The Eastern Michigan University Foundation has announced that the
Farewell Reception scheduled for Thursday, July 29, 2004, for EMU
President and Mrs. Samuel Kirkparick, at the Eagle Crest Golf Club, has
been cancelled.

The Foundation apologizes for any inconvenience.

Somehow, that seems a fitting end to all this. Or at least an end to this chapter….