Academics Blogging

A special issue of Theories/Practices of Blogging edited by Michael Benton and Lauren Elkin is out. Looking forward to reading!

Efimova, L. & Grudin, J. (2007). Crossing boundaries: A case study of employee blogging. Proceedings of the Fortieth Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-40). Los Alamitos: IEEE Press.

Ohbijou

<-hip!
Ohbijou are from Brantford, Ont (a place I have never been, natch). This is great Snowy-Saturday afternoon music to listen to while you contemplate whether to

a) work more on that paper

b) lie under a blanket on the couch and nap for a bit.

Listen to this a bit and your answer shal become clear.

Ohbijou – Misty Eyes / Steep / St. Francis /

A must read: Small Ideas by Andrew Potter

This is from the new issue of THIS magazine’s 40th issue spectacular. Andrew Potter was the Co-author of one of my favourite books from 2005, The Rebel Sell.

Small ideas
ANDREW POTTER

Leftism is closely allied with utopianism, and utopianism is nothing if not dedicated to the pursuit of the Big Idea. From Smash the State and Destroy Capitalism to Make Poverty History and Impeach Bush, no one can accuse progressives of thinking small.

And why not? There are plenty of things to like about big ideas. A big idea is sexy and exciting, promising to remake and renew a world that is tired, stagnant and corrupt. There is no question that the great appeal of the anti-globalization movement of the late 1990s was that it led its participants to believe that they were on the cusp of a revolution, their demonstrations a series of rogue waves in the flood tide of history. At the same time, big ideas have always seemed perfectly calibrated to the scale of the challenges. Fascism, Poverty, Empire—these are big, powerful opponents that have always been fought with big, powerful ideas.

Since the final collapse of its biggest economic idea, socialism, the North American left has dedicated the bulk of its energies to the pursuit of moral utopianism. This is the conviction that a society of any reasonable size could do away with both market incentives and the coercive power of the state, relying only on moral suasion to achieve large-scale political and economic goals. But the popular version of this idea, the “think globally/act locally” ethic, has had little positive effect. If anything, it has only made most of our problems worse, by exacerbating individualist consumerism and status competition.

Still, defenders of this big idea point to its role as a “regulative ideal.” Even if the revolution is not right around the corner, they ask, isn’t it worthwhile to always remember that a more equitable, just, and ecologically sound society is possible? Isn’t moral utopianism just another way of shooting for the best, even if we will inevitably fall short?

Well, no. One problem is that it leads leftists to reject perfectly good policy initiatives, ones that would lead to tangible improvements in people’s lives, because they are not radical enough or because they “buy into the logic of the system.” As Theodore Roszak put it in his famous book The Making of a Counter Culture, the problem with reform (that is, with small ideas) is that it amounts to nothing more than redesigning the towers of the technocratic citadel, leaving the fundamentally oppressive structures intact.

More importantly, the sort of moral homogeneity that this sort of utopianism requires would be entirely unwelcome. Human values are irreducibly diverse, and our societies will always be beset by groups with deeply conflicting conceptions of the good. This is something we should not lament, but embrace. Our role as progressives is to work for economic and political arrangements that facilitate cooperation among these groups, without choosing between them.

Which is just to say that the future of the left lies with liberalism and the market economy. If this sounds like an acknowledgement of the End of History, that is because it is. History ended while the left wasn’t paying attention, leaving it with no more big ideas, just the sagging corpse of an exhausted ideology propped up by invidious moralizing. The search for the big idea is the Achilles heel of the left. If it is to have any future as a serious political stance and as a viable electoral alternative, the left needs to ratchet down the rhetoric and the ambition, and learn to love the considerable virtues of the small idea.

The nightmare of blown tires, donut wheels and driving 80 all the way home on fresh snow

I decided to test the hypothesis that going to a concert the night before a stats exam would improve my performance, seeing as how, being tuckered out from being rocked so hard, I would sleep like a baby through even the most unpleasant schizophrenic episode (not my own, of course).

Methodology: Going to see The Dears and The Blood Lines the night before stats exam #2 and rocking owwwt.

(as my friend Gillian put it on her blog: “They were SOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOOD. I got 12 boners and lined them up and the dears knocked them over like dominos. That good.”

Findings: I did fine on my exam. I probably didn’t hit it all the way out of the park, but I do know that I felt confident up until I handed it in (only one blown question to my knowledge, though knowing that I was blowing it (quit blowing it!), I executed my master-plan with precision by adding “doubt” to the validity of the question in question).

After the exam there was much nervous energy, and it is always interesting to see how this plays out. The stakes are so high, and things can get somewhat volatile – the nervous uncontrolled laughter, the chain smoking and effie popping, hate-ons and other magical happening that occur when a group of people get together and are forced to perform well on things they only barely understand.

Though I have always been uncomfortable with Durkheim to one degree or another, I think he was on to something with the whole collective effervescence theory (that is, the energy formed by a gathering of people that can cause people to act differently than in their everyday life).

To make a long post longer, after leaving the University, I went over to Dr. Frank’s house for some tea, wonderful conversation, and six boxes of LP’s. I always say you can tell a lot about people by the condition their records are in (i.e. mine get played so often as to be unlistenable before long), these records are in AMAZING condition. It is also an interesting insight into someone’s taste and history. To be expected, I am now the proud owner of a tonne of good Classical and Jazz rec0rds, there was a lot of other oddities that I didn’t expect, including Richard Thomson (this is good), Grateful Dead, David Byrne solo albums, a Bob Dylan LP box set (!!!), all of the early Peter Gabriel records, Neil Young and lots more (almost 500 records in total!). What I got most excited about was the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed albums! My respect for the man just increased ten fold.

On my way home (around 2-230?), I blew a tire right by the Brentwood C-Train station.

To make a long post longer, I tried to change it, but the lug nuts would not budge due to the inept little thing they included (this was the most ridiculous little lug-nut loosen-er thingy I have ever seen – it was TINY) Luckily, it was my mom’s car (mine is STILL at the shop (#$#%@#), and she had roadside assistance so I waited forever for someone to come help. They did, and I was off to find a new tire to drive home in!

However, at this time it was HIGH rush hour traffic and Calgary was a parking lot, and so getting from one place to the next was impossible, and EVERY single tire/automotive place in between the University of Calgary and the edge of the city was unable to even look at putting a new tire on the rim until “sometime in March,” or the two places that could fit me in didn’t have any tires that would match the ones on this car.

This is where the emotional breakdown happened. From the stress of the test, the blown tire, the EXTREME traffic and the fact that every store in Calgary has a total of one staff working at any given time and forty people waiting in front of you. I lost the plot there for a few minutes, sobbing uncontrollably like the day that my dog Steak got hit by a car when I was ten.

I don’t mind admitting to this, because I feel that it captures perfectly my state at the time, and that I don’t think that emotions should be kept a “secret” to the degree that we all keep them.

Finally I gave up on this godforsaken place and drove home, on a donut wheel. The manual said that I could go 80 max, so thats what I did. Needless to say, it started snowing, which added a surreal element to the day. On my way home, I listened to Foucault lecturing about “The Care of the Self” (it is so strange listening to the man after having read him for so long and having my own “Foucault” voice in my head), and Noam Chomsky lecturing about class war.

I made it, barely.

The Alberta PC Leadership Race Rundown

If you are a conservative voter, and are still undecided, here is my handy rundown:

1//Ed Stelmach

Can you really trust a politician with a cat AND a dog? I think not. Look at the cat in this picture: why is it hunching its back like it is scared? It is because it knows what REALLY goes on behind closed doors at the Stelmach household. Also, it can smell the invisible evil.

Check out his blog for insight:

I started the day off by meeting with the Urban Development Institute and we had a great discussion about the infrastructure and housing challenges facing our province. All orders of government, health regions, school boards and the private sector have a role to play in addressing the housing issue.

I was very heartened to hear the ideas of the members of the UDI and believe that through a collaborative approach we can solve these issues.”

These words mean nothing, pure political mumbo-jumbo. I also like the “flowery” writing of the following entry:

Wow, what a day. After an early morning meeting I was off to the Calgary Airport to leave for Grande Prairie. Unfortunately our plane was an iceberg and so we were unable to fly out. After a quick debate we decided to drive back up to Edmonton to catch a flight from there.” 

This could almot be a poetry. I wonder what he is going to do as premier first: fuck over the arts community or give a billion dollars cash to an oil company?

2//Lyle Oberg

How could you not want to vote for this “maverick” – HE LIKES BABIES!

From the FAQ on his site:

What is Lyle running for?
Lyle is running to be Premier  Emperor of Alberta, as the (supreme) leader of the PC Party”

If I donate to Lyle’s campaign, where does the money go?
The money from campaign donations does not go to the PC Party. It goes to Lyle’s leadership campaign pocket to do what ever he wants.

Also: Lyle is anti-gay rights:

“This is an issue that we do have to take a stand on. I don’t believe the battle is over,” former cabinet minister Lyle Oberg told more than 600 people who packed a Tory leadership forum.

3//Ted Morton

Besides being the most anti-gay candidate (see: Private member’s bill 208 which attempted to ban gay-marriage in Alberta, and his comment that he is seeking to “protect the rights of people who want to speak out against gay marriage”), Ted Moton is “the man”  (check out this MP3 for proof!). Dark days lie ahead if he wins (just look at the above, slightly terrifying banner from his website).

May the biggest homophobe win!

4//Dave Hancock

Yayy! More homophobes (Link). Doesn’t it make you love being an Albertan?

5// Jim Dinning

I listened to this guy on CBC this morning, and I was so bored that I almost fell asleep and drove into a snowbank. His voice (and the stuff he was talking about) literally sucked a year off my lifespan it was so boring (for more proof, check the blog). Is he a homophobe too? He is being decidedly unclear on that issue, however 1) he is running for the Provincial PC party, so my sources point to…

Here is a funny post from CalgaryGrit:

1. Sunshine
Jim is in favour of sunshine, except when it causes skin cancer. He also recognizes that albinos may have issues with it and is sensitive to their concerns.

2. Puppies
Jim supports puppies and can often be seen in pictures with them. In fact, many of Jim’s closest friends own puppies. Nevertheless, Jim recognizes the dangers of rabies and will take steps to end rabies in Alberta if elected Premier.

3. Lollipops
Jim has mixed opinions on lollipops. While he does support them in principle, he is aware of the dangers of tooth decay and feels that flossing should be encouraged in our schools.

4. Rainbows
Dinning declines comment

5. Jim’s vision for Alberta
Jim Dinning supports Alberta.

There are two other contenders Victor Doerksen and Gary McPherson. They won’t win, but here are some quotes from them: 

 Victor Doerksen reminded the crowd that he put forward a private member’s bill last year that defined marriage in Alberta as being between and man and a woman. “I would encourage Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper to live up to his commitment and have the vote in the House of Commons on the definition of marriage,” said Doerksen whose statement was greeted with applause.

Homophobe? Check!

Gary McPherson was the only one of the eight leadership candidates to voice support for the current federal law, which the Tory government has repeatedly condemned.“The Supreme Court has made its ruling, the province of Alberta should respect that ruling,” he said. “If you keep bringing it up, it’s divisive.”

McPherson has a point – but it is the members of his party that continue bringing it up as a fear tactic to show how “conservative” they are.   Too bad he doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning this thing.

Music I’ve Been Studying to:

Midlake – Roscoe (song of the year… hands down. A summery blast of Fleetwood Mac-ish pop on a cold, dreary day).

Chad VanGaalen – Clinically Dead /Flowergarden (Rock!!!!)/Graveyard

Voxtrot: Start of Something / Mothers Sisters Daughters and Wives / Trouble

Robert Pollard: DEATH OF THE PARTY (HIGHLY reccomended – from KEENE BROTHERS – BLUES AND BOOGIES SHOES LP) / DANCING GIRLS AND DANCING MEN  ( FROM THE ROBERT POLLARD SOLO LP FROM A COMPOUND EYE) / SUPERNATURAL CAR LOVER – (FROM ROBERT POLLARD’S SOLO LP NORMAL HAPPINESS) / GOLD (ORIGINAL DEMO VERSION)

The Shins – Phantom Limb (take 2 – Now with Free Mp3!)

The ShinsPhantom Limb

Finally, here is the “official” mp3 available for what happens to be one of my favourite songs this year. You should download it and agree with me so that we can remain friends. Also, if you could decifer the meaning for me, because even though I am working on a Phd, I am a total dumbass (minus Studentized residuals! I get it now!!!!)

_______________________________________________

So earlier this evening, a group of people in my stats class (a war  stats vet support group, if you will), and the topic somehow switched to how disgusting guys bathrooms are. I just sat there, quietly nodding along (also, the only guy in the room…), when one of my comrades Carrie told us that she and her friend often tried to make each other gag ising visualizations, and here is what she said:

“Imagine taking a slice of Texas Toast, rubbing it on the floor in the corner of a guys bathroom, and then eating it…”

End of year list: Top 25 Robert Pollard Songs Released in 2006

  1. I’m A Widow
  2. Death of the Party
  3. Accidental Texas Who
  4. Gold
  5. Recovering
  6. Boxing About
  7. Beauty of the Draft
  8. The Right Thing
  9. Pegasus Glue Factory
  10. Conquerer Of The Moon
  11. Full Sun (Dig The Slowness)
  12. Dancing Girls And Dancing Men
  13. Towers And Landslides
  14. Evil Vs. Evil
  15. Tomorrow Will Not Be Another Day
  16. Island of Lost Lucys
  17. Light Show
  18. Get a Faceful
  19. Lost Upon Us
  20. Supernatural Car Lover
  21. This Time Do You Feel It?
  22. Rhoda Rhoda
  23. U.S. Mustard Company
  24. I Surround You Naked
  25. The Numbered Head

Dr. Pollard (Phd. in ROCK!), you are a god among men.

A day in the life of:

I spent the first half of my day at my insurance company’s Calgary office (long story short: I changed bank accounts, and then something got messed up with my car payment, it went NSF, and they called to inform me of the fact that my insurance was cancelled, and that I would have to pay up front for an entire year in order to get it back, mind you, this is a company I have been insured with since I was SIXTEEN, and also the first NSF). At the end of the day, I left with a new pink card, but they had to be “convinced” to let me continue my monthly payment, and they did this grudgingly; I was told by two separate people: “this is the last chance you get! We’re not going to be very forgiving next time.”

Because making me spend my morning arguing with you bastards is so “forgiving.”

I think I would be in a more “forgiving” mood if it wasn’t for the fact that they made me wait and wait and wait, and that the people who worked there were miserable, and were talking ABOUT me to other workers as if I wasn’t sitting right beside them (for example, one receptionist, a real “treat,” was talking to someone on her phone ABOUT me, and said, while I was sitting right beside her, “I don’t know why we are making an exception here! Why did (name of the broker that “helped” me) even allow this to go through? This doesn’t make any sense! Why do we even make exceptions?” to which I interrupted “She didn’t make an exception, you department manager did.” and to which I received the “evil” eye).

Anyway, I am feeling sick today, and just want to lie down on the couch and nap while Dr. Phil drones on in the background. Good ol’ Dr. Phil.

The Transparent Society

Watch (if you can stomach) Michael Richards, aka “Kramer” from “Seinfeld” lose it onstage. Richards flipped out at heckler and launched into a stream of racist taunts, all caught on video. The Seinfeld Curse strikes again.

(nsfw)

As noted on Lessigblog (by the amazing Lawrence Lessig, he of the Free Culture movement), “there are few moments that crystallize as well just how the 21st Century could be different…it’s time to re-read David Brin’s fantastic book, The Transparent Society, for it has a salience today that would have been missed when it was published.”

Though I have been hearnig about this racist tyrade all day, leave it to Lessig to put it into a shiny new constex. The Transparent Society is a book that I read for my thesis literature reaview (and a book that I highly reccomend to anyone interested in these issues – you can read the introduction online here).

The Simpsons last night?

The scene: Lisa, depressed at being taken for granted by Moe, is feeding bread crusts to four beautiful swans that quickly become ferocious in fighting over the bread. She then accidentally throws some bread behind her, and four ragged looking hipsters scurry out and start fighting over the bread, when this white haired man wearing a tweed jacket rushes over and says:

“No food for you grad students until you have finished marking three thousand papers!” 

The Blood Lines

So, here it is, 1145 on a Sunday night (that is 2345 for you army folk…), and am sitting here, in front of my computer, typing out notes for my Stats exam (see below: Shit I hate (x40). item #1), and I think to myself “this is crazy!”

Then I remembered: “If not this, then I would probably be sitting here, at 1130 (2330) reading about…”

Then I countered (myself): “but you are sitting here reading something else besides stats!”

If you are still following, congratulations! You are about to be rewarded.

So I have stats exam #2 (see below: Shit I hate (x40). item #1) this Friday (faint), at the lovely hour of 9am.

On Thursday (the night before stats exam #2, see below: Shit I hate (x40). item #1), I have concert tickets for The Dears at Mac Hall.

I know what you are thinking (or what you have already said to me): “Dude, you are crazy.”

I am inclined to agree with you. In fact, I am feeling great dissonance about this. See I bought tickets back in September, out of a spur of the moment desire to see a band I really, really like. However, it is STATS! Ugh.

I don’t know what to do. On one hand, I am studying like ba-na-nas, and plan on doing so all week, and then taking Thursday night away from studying.

On the other hand… it is STATS! Ugh.

The reason this is being written (besides taking a break… I think I finally kind of get matrices!) is that I found out who is opening for the Dears: see below.

Dears: Lost in the Plot

_______________________________________

Who: The Blood Lines

<- Hip!

What: The band that is opening for the Dears on Thursday night (a great fit!)

Where: Saskatoon, Sask (or… the only place in Saskatchewan that doesn’t make you want to kill yourself).
Why: I listened to the songs they have online, and they are AMAZING! Really good. So good I am providing (linking to…) four Mp3’s.

Modern Science / Stay Home / The End of the World / Song Salvation (pick!)

When: Thursday night… screw stats!

Shit I Hate (x40)

1. Statistics exams

2. Living in two cities

3. 15:00 hours

4. The “workers revolution” (for taking so long to start)

5. Paying the bills

6. The Holocaust

7. People that wear t-shirts of the band they are going to see

7.1 People that just bought said t-shirt at the same show

8. Hinder

9. Always having a shitty car that always breaks down and costs money

10. People who camp outside big box stores to purchase a video game system

11. Soup

12. Matrix algebra

13. The “Internets” – enough of this already

14. “not being productive” guilt

15. The Grammys / The American Music Awards / The People’s Choice Awards

16. Peas

17. Canada Student Loans

18. My Insurance Company

19.  The DaVinci Code

20.  Anticipation

21. Poor people that vote Conservative.

22. Dread (also dreadlocks)

23. My stalkers

24. Donald Rumsfeld

25. “I’m just being the Devil’s advocate here…” – fuck off

26. People who “float” through without ever putting an ounce of effort into anything

27. People who just sit there and don’t engage anything. S

28. Those Kurt Cobain memorial t-shirts

29. Vegans

30. Yoga

31. Celebrities and how much I know about their meaningless lives

32. The Cobrasnake

33. Designer clothing

34. Calgary Alberta

35. Sexism

36. Classical music

37. Grownups

38. Tautology

39. People who were mean to me this year, and whom I had to shut out of my life.

40.  People who argue black/white, and then the person that steps in with an argument about “shades of grey.”