Saturday, April 12, 2008

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

New Friends, Old Uses

I'm typing this on my new pal, the AlphaSmart 3000. Those of you with school-age children may be familiar with this little device, as they are used in schools around the country. I picked this up on eBay (for a steal) and I'm playing around with it.

I've been thinking about word processing lately--thinking about the tools that we use to write, to compose, to think on "paper." Once in a while I read a blogpost about the excesses of word processing programs--how, for some writers, the interface (all the bells and whistles, the font changes, the graphics, the endless stream of formatting options) gets in the way. It's like cell phones and the feature creep; every new cell phone has to be better, do more, and the end result is a phone with a gajillion features that you'll never use because all you really want to do is make a phone call.

Some folks just want to write words. So the word processing program, with all of its options, is a bit of overkill. Sure, it's great to be able to style your text the way you want to, but first you have to have some text to style. There are programs that simulate a "just writing" environment; one particularly cool one is Q10.

The AlphaSmart takes you away from the computer altogether. It's a keyboard with a tiny screen. You turn it on. You type. You hook it up to your computer and send the text into a word processing program. And that is all.

The thing is light--less than 2 pounds. It runs on 3 AA batteries (the claim is 700 hours on those 3 batteries...we'll see). The keyboard is a bit noisy; I understand from a support group online that I can get a new keyboard that's quieter for about $25, so I may just spring for that upgrade. It's small and I'll be taking it along with me to meetings next week to test it out. I wanted it to take notes with in meetings and at conferences. Who knows--I may even use it to write!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Happiness Is Validation

It makes me smile a little inside--the AWP has made some recommendations for literary training that are close to my heart:

The guidelines recommend 12 methods for achieving those goals. "Extensive and diverse reading requirements" leads the list. Instructors should also make sure their students study literary terminology and critical approaches, and that they practice critical reading as well as doing their own creative and critical writing.

"Close reading of literary works and student manuscripts is the central mechanism in creative writing courses," the guidelines say, and that skill should enable students "to learn craft strategies, discern authorial intentions, and deepen the pleasure they take in the work."

Read more about it in the Chronicle.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Future of English Studies

Via a link on the WPA List, I found this YouTube video presentation by Richard E. Miller, Chair of the Rutgers English Department and Executive Director of their Writing Center. The video is a presentation to the Rutgers Board, and begins with a number of university specific comments. As the video progresses, Miller works toward a provocative statement; he argues that in the future, the humanities will be engaged not in critique, but in creation, and the creativity will manifest in multimedia forms, which are the new language and press of the digital age.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

On the Road Again

By mid-February, I will have spent only one full week in Athens since mid-December. I'm tired, but in a good way and for good reason.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year

New year, new beginnings. I'm home now from my December travels. There's lots to be done; classes start on Monday, Jan. 7 (why so early?) and I have course packets to assemble, syllabi to plan, schedules to craft, labs to inspect. The next three days are going to be a bit hairy, but I must admit that it's fun to think about the new year beginning.

Who knows what it will bring?

I'm challenging myself to participate in Blog 365; I'll be blogging daily, either here or at Wool & Words, my knitting/personal blog. A little something, everyday, even if it's just a cryptic comment and a link to an article from The Chronicle.

Happy New Year; let's hope it's full of promise and lightning moments.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Semester End

The term officially ends for me at 7 p.m. today. By that time, I will have submitted my grades, packed a box filled with exams, papers, notes and textbooks, and labled said box for shipping home. I'm in New York with my sister, her husband, and their new baby, and the grading has taken so much of my time with them that I'm ashamed. I came here to help them, but they have really helped me by giving me use of their dining room table, kitchen, coffee pot, wifi, and couch, and by supplying an adorable new nephew (with new baby smell) for me to cuddle and coo with at my leisure.

During all of this, of course, I have been sweating the approaching Big Conference and worrying about my marketability. I've secured interviews for the positions I was most interested in (how's that for serendipity?), and have celebrated each phone call with a little happy dance (even in the video store...I'm goofy like that). A good friend and neighbor is checking my mail daily for any paper-based communiques. I feel relatively good in general about things. My throat, though, has other ideas, and I've had to get a prescription for antibiotics to clear up this obnoxious little white spot on a tonsil (my sister, the pediatrician, gave me the medi-description of the condition, but all I know is white dot on tonsil).

Many, many years ago, I was booked for a tour of Greece over the Easter holiday. I was 15 and very excited. I had my passport. I had new clothes. I was ready to go. 2 weeks before we left, I was hospitalized with pneumonia. I had been sick, a cold I couldn't shake, and the end result was my release from the hospital the day before the tour group left. Of course, I didn't go on the trip; I was too weak for that kind of travel, and too young to say "insurance be damned!"

I've never left the country. I am sad now as I write this and I can't recall any memory that I've ever shared being more painful. How odd. It's strange that this hurts to write; it happened so long ago and seems very far away. But as I sit here, at this (stunningly beautiful) dining room table, looking out on a snowy NY landscape, I see what that illness cost me. The trip was a natural step for a reader like me; so long had I shared in new worlds in books, it seemed fitting that my first real journey away from home would be to a birthplace of some of the most enduring book worlds.

So I called for antibiotics; I can't miss the Big Conference and the possibility of new worlds that it presents. This cold feels like that cold so many years ago--unshakeable, penetrating, settling, and taking up permanent residence. In some ways, it's a fitting end to this semester which has run me ragged and shown me the benefit of setting limits; heaven knows that if I'd just listened to my mom all those years ago and rested instead of running, I'd have made that trip just fine.

Well, enough of that maudlin business. Back to the grading.