Blog spam makes me look bad (potentially…)

I received an email today from someone who teaches here at EMU who came across some entries on my old blog. It seems he was a bit concerned and surprised to see so many spam messages, and a lot with all kinds of weird porn content. I hadn’t checked my old blog for a while; it turns out I had over 8500 comments. Oy vey….

The colleague in question here is tech-savvy enough to realize that these spam messages don’t reflect on me directly exactly, but his email reminded me of the problem of posting something– really, anything– on the ‘net. Once it’s there, it’s there forever. When I do a vanity search on myself, I inevitably come across email messages I posted to a mailing list years ago that is still “up there” and available via an archive space. The difference with blogs though is an old post on plagiarism or whatever is still a target for spammers who want to advertise some version of viagra or kiddie porn or something.

Anyway, I spent a fair amount of time this morning deleting some spam, but then I decided to take a different approach. In my ameaturish way with CSS and MT, I figured out a way to make it so comments won’t display. That ought to solve the problem in the short-term, though ultimately, I think what I will need to do is delete the old blog….

Happy Halloween– now get out of my yard…

Call me a Halloween Scrooge, but I see this as a holiday primarily for children. Okay, okay, I know about the Mexican tradition of the “Day of the Dead,” and I think that’s pretty cool, but that’s November 2 and it doesn’t involve trick or treating (though we did go to a Day of the Dead themed party Saturday). I was talking with my mom today, and we don’t remember Halloween being that big of a deal when I was a kid. This might be a bit of a fiction, but we recalled throwing together costumes that day and going out for some candy and that was that.

And I think it’s gotten worse now that Halloween is part of the “holiday season,” at least according to the malls and department stores. The Halloween stuff in Target is set up right next to the Christmas stuff, as if it were one continous shopping orgy.

We live in a neighborhood that gets a lot of trick or treaters. That’s fine, though there are too many folks not close to costumed and far too old to be asking a fellow grown-up for candy. This year, we were especially busy. I bought about $20 worth of candy (maybe more), and we ran out after just over an hour.

Anyway, as I write this, Will and Annette are still out there, the eager trick and treaters that they both are (though Annette doesn’t collect candy). Here’s a picture of our little knight:

For my “costume,” I wore an orange t-shirt that said “This IS my costume.” Boo-humbug…

MLA job market follies

Via KairosNews, I found the 9 Interviews web site, a production of Brandy Parris and Spencer Schaffner, a couple of grad students at the University of Washington. Basically, it’s nine short films (around five minutes or so) that are satires of MLA interviews for folks in English departments. I found some of it pretty funny, though I’m not sure anyone who hasn’t been there would necessarily get the joke.

These folks also include a pretty handy list of links to articles and pieces of advice about how the MLA works, how to (and not to) be a good interviewee or interviewer, etc. For one reason or another, the site kind of works weird with Safari, but that’s a whole different issue.

Two other thoughts:

* For my money, the absolute best send-up and explanation of the weird world of the MLA and jobs in English studies is Murder at the MLA by D.J.H. Jones. I read this book before my first MLA convention and job search, eight years ago now. Basically, it’s a “who dunnit” murder mystery where the police detective investigating the crime is shown the ropes of the convention by an insider, an assistant professor at Yale who is herself on the job market. Funny and funny ’cause it’s basically true.

* I’ve been to four MLA conventions and I’ll be at the one coming up this year in Philadelphia. From my point of view, it tends to be a kind of tense and unpleasant event. I’ve presented at MLA twice, but I tend not to go to too many panels, and my sense is that most people who attend aren’t there for the presentations. At least a third of the people there are trying to get a job, and about another third of the people there are trying to hire people. I’ve been on both sides of the table, and without question, I found it much more unpleasant to be the interviewer than the interviewee. Sure, interviewing for jobs is stressful and draining, but at least you get to move around and do other things. Being the interviewer means you end up trapped in a hotel room (or, in my case, at a table in the ballroom “interview center” sponsored by the convention) and having a near-identical conversation every 15 to 20 minutes for two or three days. No fun.

Hypertextual changes

One of the 1000 things on my “to do” list right now is to make the changes I’m going to make to my English 516 syllabus. Instead of focusing on “Googling, researching, cheating, plagiarizing” next week, we’re going to focus on “creative” hypertexts. See, I’m reading this book Memory Bytes: History, Technology, and Digital Culture, a collection edited by Lauren Rabinovitz and Abraham Geil. There are a lot of cool essays in this book, and right now, I just finished a couple about hypertext that I thought were pretty interesting. So hey, why not?

One of the cool things about teaching with technology– electronically distributed PDF files, web sites, email, etc.– is you can make a change in a course syllabus in an instant. If I had put together a traditional course pack and such, it would be difficult if not impossible to make that sort of sudden change.

Oh, along these lines: Johndan has hypertext on his mind yesterday afternoon with this post about Terry Gilliam, but really about hypertext.

The Happy Academic's dress codes

John Lovas talked about the clothes teachers wear here and also here. I would have posted to his blog about this, but I can’t quite figure out how the comment feature works. Perhaps I’m just slow….

Anyway, a couple of thoughts on academic clothes before I get ready for school myself:

* I used to not think much about my teaching clothing one way or the other, but I have gone through a few different phases in which I do dress up for teaching days. I’m in one of those phases right now: I “dressed up” (which I define as wearing a tie and/or a jacket, nice pants, ironed shirts, etc., but not a full-blown suit) during the Winter 2004 term, not so much over the summer (too hot), and I’m dressing up right now.

I was previously in a “dress-up” phase about six or seven years ago at my first tenure-track job at Southern Oregon University. I was feeling dressy then for a variety of different reasons, including the fact that I was on the job market. I’m dressing up now not so much because of that (though I am indeed “on the market,” as the saying goes), but because of a couple of functions my wife and I went to last Christmas on the same night. The first party was something having to do with work– the faculty union, in fact. The second party was something having to do with a friend of my wife’s; it had nothing to do with EMU, and we were told it was to be a kind of dressed-up affair. So, for the heck of it (and because my wife encouraged me), I put on a tie and jacket. People at the first party, not used to seeing me in anything more dressy than khaki pants or jeans and a oxford shirt, were a bit taken aback. All these people I worked with came up to me and said “wow, you look good!” And it got me to thinking: what the hell did I look like before?

Anyway, I figured I have a bunch of nice clothes and I might as well wear them. So I am.

* A coat and tie for me is much more of a “costume” than a “uniform.” This is something that John discusses in his blog in some detail, but basically what I think he means is a uniform is something you wear all the time (as an example, he talks about the look cultivated by someone like Nixon: “It’s almost impossible to imagine Richard Nixon in a t-shirt. He so cultivated a single look that I imagine he walked on the beach in a coat and tie.”), while a costume is something one wears for an occassion and for a particular effect. I’m a costume wearer, and the costume is for teaching. And maybe really special meetings. In fact, I’m on campus doing other things all the time– meetings, paperwork, research, etc.– and wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I suspect this makes my fashion sense all the more confusing to those around me.

* Oddly, I find that dressing up doesn’t make that much difference with my students, but it does make a difference with my colleagues. I find that kind of amusing. Maybe I should just dress up for my non-teaching functions.

* A slightly tongue-in-cheek aside: I don’t think too much about the dress of my students, except when it comes to hats. I am of the opinion that a baseball cap is not appropriate fashion in classrooms for anyone. I think one ought to wear a cap like that only while engaged in or possibly watching some sort of sport. However, I also think that students who decide to wear baseball caps to class ought to always wear a baseball cap. I’ve had students– both men and women– who showed up to class week after week in a baseball cap, and who then all of a sudden show up one day without it. They often look so different than what I’m used to I’m thrown completely off. So if you start with the hat, stick with the hat.

Okay, gotta go get out of these gym clothes and into… costume, I suppose…

The “Political Signs” one week before election day

A couple of things I was thinking about this morning while on a long walk with the dog:

* In my neighborhood, most of the signs are for Kerry, and there is a distinct difference between the houses with Bush signs and those with Kerry signs. I am of course biased, but the way I see it, most of the Kerry signs are in front of well-kept and larger homes, the “nice houses” of the neighborhood. These houses have a brightness, an optomism about them. On the other hand, the Bush signs tend to be in front of the more dumpy, run-down, and smaller homes in the neighborhood, ones that have a more pessimistic feel. The fact that they are less affluent-appearing homes is probably skewed by the fact that Ypsilanti is a very liberal city. These Bush houses tend to be little, and they have brick or have vinyl siding. There are a couple with a distinctly militaristic feel.

Two examples (which I swear I am not making up): one Bush house, just a few doors away from me, is a tiny yellow cinderblock number, practically hidden under overgrown trees. Out front, there’s a flagpole where the man of the house, a Civil War reenactor enthusiast, frequently flies historic war banners. Another Bush house, quite a few blocks from here, has two large trucks parked in the driveway; both of them are painted in military-style camo green. Hmmm.

* I also noticed several Kerry signs had been recently vandalized, either torn up or with “W”s in black spary-paint, a marking that quite frankly reminded me of a swastika. I’m not sure the democrats are any better though; I’ve seen a fair number of Bush signs violated. What worries me is what will happen with this violence against mere signs after the election?

* I heard a blurb on public radio about how the majority of Americans think that the election won’t be decided next Tuesday, and that we might not know the results for some time. A sign of things to come, I’m afraid.

Living on (in?) email

Browsing around, I came across this article, “Preventing drowning in e-mail.” This is a really nice little article because it is something that I could probably assign in a class I’m teaching next semester, and also because it’s pretty much true for just about everyone I know. To quote:

White-collar professionals spend much of their work lives swapping reports, transcripts, computer files, databases and links to Web pages – all via e-mail. These documents are typically stored in their inboxes and folders, though researchers say some computer users are afraid to shunt e-mail into electronic files because they might forget it.

That means the main desktop computer workspace for many employees is the inbox, and the inbox is an undifferentiated column of e-mail: urgent assignments from the boss; hotel receipts from business trips; correspondence from colleagues on long-term initiatives; notes from spouses requesting a milk pickup on the way home; feedback from supervisors on ongoing projects; reminders about the company picnic; and various dubious business and other propositions, or spam.

Besides striking me as “true,” it also is a bit of a problem at places like EMU. Long story short: most folks I know here haven’t figured out how to configure their email so that it downloads to a particular computer. And to make matters worse, the new system either has cut down on the amount of space that people get in their in-boxes or something. The result is that emails I send to colleagues at EMU bounces back all of the time because of inboxes full of all of the stuff mentioned in that quoted passage. Only now, with the “new and improved” software installed last week, it seems worse than before.

Where the hell have I been– again?

When I started typing the title of this post, it automatically filled in because I had a post with the same title back in September. I wrote back then about how I hadn’t posted much lately because of work and school, and I suppose that’s the case now, too. It’s the middle of the term and Annette and I both have a ton of work.

But for my vast legions of readers, I feel I need to write something here…

* Obviously, I’ve been following Kerry v. Bush. It looks to me like Kerry will win Michigan, but I have an increasingly sinking feeling that Bush is going to win the whole thing. I think Kerry’s one chance is if all of these newly registered voters turn out and actually vote. I saw one poll where first-time voters were going Kerry’s way by like 20% or something like that. The problem is if these people will actually vote. I saw this NYT article about Republicans signing on as “poll watchers,” specifically (to quote the article) ” to challenge the qualifications of voters they suspect are not eligible to cast ballots.” Scary.

If Bush does win, I think our country will continue to go down the sewer in all kinds of different ways– a bigger rich/poor gap, the rest of the world will hate us more, we will build a larger debt, we will have fewer freedoms, etc., etc., etc. There’s one potentially good thing about this though. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll finally “hit bottom,” and maybe then we’ll finally be forced to have some real change. I’m not talking about a “revolution” per se, but maybe four more years of this right wing mess will make it possible for someone who actually identifies themselves as a “liberal” to run for president. Wouldn’t that be something?

* The big news around here is Annette has a contract for her book project with Routledge Press. I won’t go on and on about this because it’s her deal and it’s more of an academic thing anyway, but I’ll just say that it’s a big deal and I’m really excited for her and proud of her and all of that.

* Will is practicing his spelling more and more and it appears to be paying off. And soon he will have better handwriting than me, which actually isn’t that much of a challenge.

* I keep intending to do yard work, but it has been cold and rainy on the weekends. I might have to suck it up and deal with the weather one of these days.

* Will and I went for our annual pumpkin pilgirmage, this time with friends (Jim, Celia, and Eli). The kids had a lot of fun rolling pumpkins around. Here’s a picture of Will with one of his picks:

* How’s the diet, you ask? I dunno. When I try to be good (you know, eating low carb, hitting the gym, etc., etc.), I stay at about the same place. When I stray from the diet (I’m eating a grilled cheese sandwich right now, I had hashbrowns yesterday, etc.), I stay at about the same place. Depressing.