From the Home Office


Originally uploaded by steven_d_krause.

One of the things I get to check off of my “to do” list for winter break is getting my revised home office set up in the basement.

Basically, the last time we had guests (Annette’s parents the week before Thanksgiving) and I had to move out of the guest room, which was also my former home office, I decided I need to make some changes. So over the last month or so, I’ve been slowly moving junk out of the guest room and down to the basement.

My “desk” is the ping pong table I got for Father’s day a few years ago and which pretty much went unused. But that’s okay because it rocks as a desk– plenty of room to spread out all my stuff. Future additions will probably include a space heater, another book shelf, and possibly a lamp. It might not look like much to you, but I’m pretty please with it.

Click on the photo and you can take an even more detailed tour.

EMU screwed by State Again– and Don't Just Blame Kirkpatrick

Back in August, I posted an entry here about EMU raising tuition, in part to start to raise money for refurbishing Pray-Harrold. I noted then that EMU Prez John Fallon said on WEMU radio that incoming freshman would certainly see the results of their tuition dollars. Then, just a couple weeks ago, I posted here about how the current (as of then) plan for remodeling the building literally leaves out almost half of the building.

And now, just to send EMU a big fat “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year– NOT” sort of message, the state has basically said “no” to money to remodel Pray-Harrold. Here’s a long quote from the Ann Arbor News article on this:

The capital outlay budget signed last week by Gov. Jennifer Granholm commits $198 million to be raised through the sale of bonds in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. It funds construction and renovation projects for 17 universities, but EMU won’t be among them.

Earlier this year, the Legislature indicated it would not provide $28 million in state funding to renovate the 1969 Pray-Harrold classroom building at EMU, and that project is not in the budget signed by Granholm.

Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith, D-South Lyon, whose district includes the university, said EMU is still being punished by the Legislature for the 2003 controversy over the University House.

Championed by former EMU President Samuel Kirkpatrick, the 10,000-square-foot house, completed in 2003, is a combination meeting space and residence for EMU’s president. It cost $5.3 million to build the house and landscape the eight-acre site. A 2004 state audit found that EMU inappropriately drew from general funds for the project.

“I think it’s time for us to put the University House behind us and recognize there is a tremendous need on the campus for the renovation and upgrade of the Pray-Harrold building,” Smith said. The building needs safety and technological updates, she said.

EMU officials could not be reached for comment this morning.

And let me just highlight that one sentence that really sticks out for me here: “It (the capital outlay budget, that is) funds construction and renovation projects for 17 universities, but EMU won’t be among them.” SEVENTEEN other schools in the state got money, including U of M (yeah, they needed the cash) and Washtenaw Community College, and EMU gets jack squat. Jeesh.

Now, I sort of agree with Alma Smith. Kirkpatrick screwed us and screwed us good, and it is probably true that the Republican-dominated legislature is still mad about this whole house deal. And it probably doesn’t help matters that EMU tends to draw students from parts of the state that vote Democratic.

But let’s be clear here: Kirkpatrick has been out of the picture for two years now. We’ve got a new president who is fond of saying that we shouldn’t be looking in the rear-view mirror, and, while Incarnati is still on the board of regents, he’s not chair anymore.

So it seems to me that most of the blame for not getting at least some funding from the state has to be laid at the feet of the current administration. These were the people who put together the proposal for the money for Pray-Harrold and Mark-Jefferson in the first place. As I recall it, there was one vote against the plan by someone on the board of regents because there was concern that there was no “plan B” if the state turned EMU down. Turns out that one person was the smart one.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how Fallon et al spin this. I sure as hell hope he doesn’t play the Kirkpatrick blame-game.

Looking in on (and remembering) the MLA

Say, did I mention that I didn’t have to go to MLA this year? And that I’ll probably/ hopefully never have to go to it again? Oh yeah, I guess I did mention it a few times….

Well, not unlike the rubber-necker looking at the three-car pile-up on the other side of the interstate, I have spent a bit of time skimming through some the things in the blogosphere about MLA. A few random thoughts/memories:

  • At “Thanks for Not Being a Zombie,” there is a nice list of links to others who have been blogging about MLA.
  • As Rebecca Moore “Schenectady Synecdoche”Howard pointed out on her blog, composition studies– specifically, first year composition– seems to be the target by at least a few folks at MLA as the place where all that liberal indoctrination is taking place. She’s referring to a series of articles by Nick Gillespie on the TCS web site, specifically the first of a three part series. One of the things worth remembering (Gillespie doesn’t seem to realize this) is that, at least at a lot of Ph.D. granting schools, most of the people who teach first year composition are actually literature students.

    Anyway, I don’t think first year writing should be a site for “liberal indoctrination” and really, I don’t think it is 80% or so of the time. So often things are exaggerated in the ether of MLA. When I teach first year writing at EMU, I’m just trying to get students to grasp “words in a row” literacy.

    Having said that, I do agree with Gillespie when he writes (in the second part of the three part series) “… the MLA’s politically correct and arguably even more annoying obscurantist tendencies have also provided fertile ground for an annually repeated story in the Times and elsewhere, one every bit as worn out and tedious as an Art Buchwald holiday column.” Sure, as Gillespie points out in the same column, the MLA includes serious panel presentations (with not necessarily racy titles) about all manners of literary studies. But so much of MLA is so unpleasant, and besides that….

  • …. it isn’t my field. At least it isn’t anymore. I’m not entirely sure when it happened (though for me, it has happened in the last ten or so years), but while composition and rhetoric might fall into the broad category of “English studies,” it really doesn’t seem to have any meaningful connection to the study of literature anymore. At least it doesn’t to me. As Collin writes, “I can state with certainty that I feel no more at home at MLA than I did as a noob and an applicant,” and “I’m more and more convinced that all it would take is for several of our leading programs to decide to interview at NCTE, and within 4-5 years, we could dispense with MLA altogether.” Collin says he doesn’t think this move to the NCTE is likely to happen (and he might be right about that), but I do think there has been and will continue to be a move away from MLA. More and more folks are doing phone interviews (and, as I wrote about a couple weeks ago, I think that all first round interviews ought to be phone interviews), and you’re also seeing more interviewing at the CCCCs, too.
  • Unlike Collin, I have presented at MLA, twice. The first was in 1998, the year I was interviewing for the job I currently have. My presentation had to do with the practice of ellocution in 19th century America. Not counting the panel chair and other presenters (grad students talking about their dissertations), I believe there were two people in the audience. The second time was in New Orleans in 2001, where I was on a panel that was organized by Todd Taylor that featured Todd’s mentor, Gary Olson, one of Todd’s grad students at UNC, and me (I am not sure how I got into this mix). The panel was on electronic publishing– this is where my now disappeared CCC Online article “Where Do I List this on My CV?” had its origins– and I think there was about 100 or so people in the crowd. I believe Susan Miller argued with me about something, though I’m not sure if it was her or not.

    Anyway, that MLA was kinda fun. My wife and I left our toddler son with the grandparents, and we flew into New Orleans, went out eating and drinking that afternoon/evening; wandered around the French Quarter the next day; I went to my panel; we went out eating and drinking that night; and then we got back on an airplane, back to the grandparents and our son. I guess the moral of that story is MLA can be okay, if you don’t actually have anything to do with MLA.

Christmas Gifties

Yoda Christmas Snow Globe

Originally uploaded by steven_d_krause.

So, what were the best Christmas gifts that I received from the Krause/Wannamaker klan this year? Roughly speaking, here’s a top five:

  • #5: Risk (for Will, but something I like too).
  • #4 (tie): Nice cookbook from my sister Christine and nice pullovers from Wannamakers (though we have yet to cook anything from this book).
  • #3: Gift certificate from Miles of Golf driving range.
  • #2: Liquor (beer from the Krause’s, scotch from the Wannamakers).
  • #1: Cash (from both Krauses and Wannamakers, the gift that keeps on giving).
  • But I have to say that the honorable mention for “favorite Christmas giftie” has to go to the Yoda as Santa snowglobe, which came from my honey. It’s also a wind-up music box that plays “Let it Snow.” I would prefer it play some sort of Star Wars theme song, but hey….

    A few other Christmas picts:

    Will and Robe
    Will with robe and video game.

    Light sabers
    Will with light sabers (alas, we don’t have AA batteries right now….)

    Will with his favorite clothing option, sweats.

I think I'll just lift these ideas and post them here…

Rebecca Moore “Schenectady Synecdoche” Howard has had a couple of interesting posts on plagiarism lately– first, this one, which is about a “plagiarism” contestat the Utah Desert News Web site, which isn’t really about plagiarism at all. It’s based on a short story that was “written” by two of the paper’s reporters where they took quotes from a bunch of short stories– all of which are cited with footnotes (and thus not plagiarism)–and then put them together. The story is called “The Rearrangement” (warning– this is an MS Word file).

The second post on “blog plagiarism,” which (as far as I can tell) is what I would be doing here had I not credited Moore for these links/posts in the first place. I agree with the premise of Moore’s post about the claim maide in this “techdirt” post, that the plagiarism problem doesn’t matter much if it is a small-time blogger ripping off content from Google or Yahoo or something. However, as the first comment on the post asks, what happens if Google or Yahoo or something rips off the small-time blogger?

More of the end of my iBook?

I don’t know if this is an official or an unofficial post or not, but since I posted about the problems of my laptop here on the official blog in the summer, I guess I’ll post again about my latest problems. Assuming my power doesn’t cut out.

We were away seeing family for Christmas. I spent much of my time working on my (still incomplete) class web site for English 444, powered with WordPress on my office Mac, and I had no problems with my iBook G4 at all. Then tonight, after we got settled in the house after being on the road for nine hours, the power on my laptop was off (and I had not turned it off before). I restarted and then, after about five minutes, it shut off on me again.

Well, I did figure out the problem, and the good news is it appears to just be a loose battery. As long as I’m plugged in, I’m fine. My poor and battered and aging (any computer over 3 years old is “aging” in my way of thinking of these things) laptop has had a loose lock for the battery for some time now. I guess the trip and perhaps riding around in the trunk of the car made it worse. The bad news is that I’d really like to be able to reliably use my laptop without it being plugged in all the time. And I’d like to do this without having to spend a whole lot of money on getting this thing fixed.

Anyway, a trip to the Apple store is in my near future. In the meantime, plug in and/or save often.


I am beginning to think that what I need to do is replace/have fixed the lower part of the case on my computer. And while I’m at it, maybe I can get the touchpad on my computer fixed too. Here’s a handy site on this sort of thing, including tips for “doing it yourself,” something I am not inclined to actually do just yet.

Well, this will have to wait until my winter “cash flow situation” improves a bit. In the meantime, it looks like I’ll be shutting down when moving about and carrying an extension cord in my bookbag when I head off to a coffee shop or something.

Back from an Iowa Christmas

We made it back from our Iowa Christmas this afternoon. A good time was had by one and all. Here’s a brief recap:

  • Lotsa driving, though pretty uneventful.
  • I watched more pro football in two or so days than I have in about three years (which is not to say I actually watched that much pro football).
  • The zenith of the weekend was Christmas eve, which featured my parents, my three sisters, their spouses, and a total of seven grandchildren, with the oldest being eight. Much yelling and running about. Wisely, my parents actually got a hotel room to create more space in the homestead for the kids and a, ah, quiet place for themselves.
  • Gift highlights (for Will) include a deluxe version of Risk (thanks Sarah and Steve).
  • Annette and I went out for drinks Christmas night at a pretty nice martini bar with some old friends who live in Chicago. A good time was had by one and all, and again I was reminded that Cedar Falls has come a long way from my youth.
  • Grandpa Dan and Will went to see the Harlem Globetrotters the night before we left town. Who knew they were still around? Actually, according to the web site, it turns out that there are two touring teams and they just started their tour this last week.

Anyway, now we’re back home and we’ll be having our own little Christmas around here tomorrow night.

Pre-Holiday and not so late night double feature picture shows

Prior to our visits with relatives for the Christmas weekend, Annette and Will and I had some “must see” movie viewing to take care of: King Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Here’s my version of a run-down of these flicks:

First, King Kong: You should go see this movie. Seriously. It’s really REALLY good. But two thoughts from me to you before you go:

  • See the “real” King Kong first, the 1933 original that started the whole thing. Ignore the 1976 version– that’s a pretty crappy movie. Anyway, you’ll see why I suggest this homework in a second.
  • For those of you with kids, take the PG-13 rating seriously. We took Will to this because, as I’ve said before, usually the kind of violence and scary stuff that shows up in these movies doesn’t phase him. I mean, we took him to the latest Harry Potter, and we took him to all of the The Lord of the Rings movies. This one scared the shit out of him, which means that we at least get a nomination for “bad parental performance in a stage or screen setting” award for the year.

Okay, with that out of the way:

Annette and I both thought that Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong, the movie that he claims inspired him to become a filmmaker in the first place, was very much da bomb. Now, I have a particular soft-spot for “movies about movies/movie-making,” and this new version of King Kong, especially when compared with the original, is a particularly rich text. What is similar and/or down-right identical between this version and the original?

  • Both are (ostensibly) about “nature film” filmmakers, though in Jackson’s version, the movie maker (Jack Black in the latest) is also trying to make a movie completely different from what was funded by the studio. A long story.
  • There are many MANY scenes that are in both movies: the scene where Ann Darrow (aka, “beauty”) is selected by Carl Denham (the filmmaker) to be in his picture while she’s stealing apples, a lot of stuff on the boat, the theater where Kong is shown, the Empire State Building (of course!), and so many more. Which is reason #1 to do your homework and see the original first.
  • There are many MANY scenes that are either interesting commentaries or interesting revisions on the original. In the Jackson remake, he’s added the role of a screen writer (this is the Adrien Brody role) and the leading man to the movie that’s being made on the ship– and, oddly, the role the leading man plays is the “first mate” of the ship that takes them to Skull Island, which, of course, is the love interest in the original movie. Do you have all that? Did you do the assigned homework here?
  • What’s different? Well, the “natives” on Skull Island in the Jackson version of things are interesting. While the natives in the original are super-duper stereotypical and an example of just how little people in the U.S. in the 1930s knew about “the other,” the new natives are scary as shit. Which I guess is still kind of racist, but in a different way.
  • And the biggest difference is how we’re supposed to react to Kong himself. In the original, the Fay Rey (Ann aka “beauty”) character is always terrified of Kong, and the audience is lead to believe that Kong is just nothing but trouble. When King Kong dies in the original, it’s a happy moment. In the new film, we’re supposed to feel sympathetic for Kong, the same way we’re supposed to feel sorry for apes captured from the jungle and taken to zoos. Furthermore, Naomi Watts (Ann aka “beauty” in the new movie) has a completely different relatioship with Kong. At best, Ann has a “pet-like” love for Kong; at worse, Ann has a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship that, ah, can’t work.
    Anyway, go see it. It’s not just a monster/special effects movie (which, btw, was exactly what the original was). Well worth it, and certainly a big-screen experience.

    As for The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe: eh, it was okay. Will liked it. It was no Lord of the Rings, that’s for sure. I’d recommend it as a rental.

Textbook Post-Mortem #2: If you must write a textbook…

It seems that I struck a cord with my first textbook post-mortem post. So, in the spirit of trying to make my lemon into some lemonade (and to not be completely bitter), I thought I’d muse a bit this morning about some of the more constructive lessons learned. In other words, if you feel like you must write a textbook (and if I were to do this again) and if that textbook is to be with a publisher and done in part for the money (open source textbooks, that’s a whole different post in my mind), then there are basically two things I think you should think about doing:

  • Finish the book (or come at least as close to “finished” as you’re willing to get) before you talk to the publishers.
  • Don’t– DO NOT– take an advance, at least not until after the book has gone through the review process and is getting ready to go to press.

I’m not sure what most textbook publishers would say about either of these suggestions. They want to buy the project up-front and based on a proposal (rather than a more formed text), and they want to pay you an advance. I once had a conversation with an editor with one of the major presses about this, and her argument was that publishers wanted to be able to work with their writers through the process. Maybe. But really, I think the reason why they want to fund textbook projects up-front is so that they “own” you. Essentially, it’s the same fiscal model as share cropping.

If you manage to finish a draft of the project before you even start talking to publishers, then I suspect you would have a better chance of keeping a better handle on what you want out of this textbook. Without going into great detail about it now, one of the experiences I had as a result of having little more than a proposal and an idea when I was offered a contract was what my textbook “was” kept shifting (based largely on reader reviews), and I don’t think my publishers and I ever really saw eye-to-eye on the whole thing.

And if you don’t take the money up-front, then you have a lot more flexibility and ownership of the project later on. Oh sure, “the money for nothing but an idea” thing is tempting– that’s how I got into this whole process in the first place. But had I thought of following my own advice, I would now be in a completely different place right now. For starters, when things at McGraw-Hill were stalled early on in the process (and that’s the subject of yet another future post), I could have taken my project elsewhere.

But the main reason to not take the advance is ownership and flexibility. Had I followed my own advice, I would either currently be showing my book to other presses or (more likely since I am at a point with this project where I’m just “done” with it) I could be putting it up on a web site or in a wiki or something.

Anybody out there try this tactic with their textbook project? Anybody out there think this would work?

… And That's a Wrap!

I just finished (literally, just finished) posting the last of my grades for the term, which means that I am indeed finished with this term. I do want to send an email out to my online students (the ones who I just finished figuring final grades for) to let them know I’m done, that they can take down their web sites if they want, etc.

It’s been kind of a mixed bag of a semester in many different ways for me, but overall, pretty good. I think the online class was most interesting to me because of what went right and what went wrong, and also because of what happened that fits into some other projects I’m working on, most notably a CCCCs presentation on the use of audio in teaching. As I’ve mentioned before, this is a topic that seems to be moving faster than I can cope with it. When I proposed the idea for a CCCCs presentation, it seemed fresh and new to me. Back in October, I started to have my doubts. And now that “podcast” is the word of the year, I’m guessing that if anyone actually shows up to my presentation, they will look at me and say “oh ma gawd, that is like so last April.”

Anyway, I thought that the audio element of my online class was fairly successful and I’m looking forward to figuring out how to do some honest-to-goodness (albeit fairly low-fi, tech wise) podcasting next term. I’m also going to be taking over as the EMU writing program coordinator, which means I’ll be kind of the leader (to the extent that anyone can “lead” tenure-track faculty) of our undergrad majors in professional and technical writing, and our MA programs in teaching of writing and technical communication. Oddly, because of some other things not worth explaining now, I will also be teaching more (though making a little extra money, too). I bought a copy of a SAMS Teach Yourself PHP, MySQL and Apache book I intend to browse while hanging with the family this weekend– I’ll probably have to look at it beyond that, too. I’m looking forward with moving beyond the damned textbook project, though I will probably be starting a new category on my blog specifically to vent bitch reflect on my textbook writing experiences.

But hey, this is all next year. I might post between now and then; I might not. Hope finals et al wrap up well for others out there, too.