Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Imagine my surprise to randomly check Wikipedia (searching for information on Melville Dewey of the Dewey Decimal System, for a p0st about the cool new book cataloging software LibraryThing) and I found a listing my own grandfather J. Franklin Jameson, whose father came to Oregon in 1851 but didn't thrive as a shop keeper and returned to Massachusetts.

LibraryThing allows folks to expand on the popular blogger topic of "what books are on my nightstand."

A "Murder of Crows" in Oregon

Just now a large flock of crows cawed its way across the cold blue sky outside the south window of my office - which I like to call The Sun Room, because of how warm (really warm in summer) and bright it is.

I love the venereal terms. A large flock of crows is called "a murder of crows." A quick search of the web does not turn up an image or information about this wonderful book that I own and love. I shall have to get out my copy at home and post more details. I tried to add it to my brand new barely started catalog on LibraryThing, but wasn't sure that the single title that Amazon found was the right one.

UPDATE: Here's the book I was looking for: An Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton.
and some of the terms:
a kindle of kittens
an exaltation of larks
a murder of crows

Sunday, October 29, 2006


In an effort to become more knowledgeable (i.e. less clueless) about an important cultural phenomenon - The Simpsons - I have borrowed from Melissa, one of our new graduate teaching assistants (a poet), a copy of The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh of Homer edited by William Irwin, Mark T. Conard, and Aeon J. Skoble. Melissa promises to show me some former episodes so that I can learn more. I confess, I have never watched this show. There are several reasons: One, I grew up without a TV in the house and never got the TV viewing habit. The first TV in my house came with my second husband, and mostly he watched. Oh, I did become a Miami Vice addict in the old days and I stroll through the den to watch Formula One car racing or some PBS, History Channel, Discovery, etc from time to time, but I am an infrequent viewer. Not even Oregon State's recent win over USC (maybe it wasn't even on TV? Go Beavs!)

A great favorite of ours - not on at present as far as I can tell - we have DISH so we get quite a bit -- are the Sherlock Holmes series from BBC with Jeremy Brett. Truly the quintessential Sherlock. Fortunately we have videos of many, and last night re-watched The Copper Beeches. Maybe there is a Simpsons episode with Sherlock? Melissa will know.

ps: apparently the Springfield in Simpsons is not in Oregon.

On Time / Spookiness / Oregon and Google Search Engines

Ok, here's the problem: Despite gaining an "extra hour" - really only a paid-back hour, and paid back without interest, by the way -- last night, I have no time to think, which means I have no time to write here, because I am nervous about posting comments that might not be sufficiently interesting.

That might be why I haven't posted in 2 weeks, which is a bad habit to get in. A lively blog should be posted daily - heavy on the Puritan ethic "should" I guess. But I haven't. Well, I have a draft post that is still languishing in the limbo of "draft" category. So I guess I'll just put this on to get back in practice even if it is not as brilliant as Clancy's or Jill's. Maybe, considering that Halloween is Tuesday - though in Oregon that might not mean as much as elsewhere - I could relax and consider that I am in costume - presenting an online persona that doesn't exactly have to be myself. Which leads me to the research I should be doing for a spring conference on online self-representation.

Which leads me to my other worry - the last time I Googled my name with the word Oregon, the first item was the rate my professor site - which is not as bad as it could be, considering how entirely random the site is because anyone can post anything about themselves or about anyone else, as this article called "The Art of the Bogus Rating" from the Chronicle of Higher Education makes clear.

And while this might sound a bit paranoid, I was slightly taken aback when Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein-Graff, visiting Oregon State U to discuss their new textbook They Say, I Say, which we are using in our first year composition class, said they "knew me" already from reading this blog. Erk. Yes, of course a blog is public, and that's its raison d'etre - but - - -.

So, I'm thinking that I need to use the word Oregon often so as to get the blog up higher on Google than the evaluation thing. Also - apparently there is someone in cyber space whose name is spelled either Sara or Sarah who has a Sara Jameson.com blog. It's not me, though. Just so you know.

OK -- back to work.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

More on TYCA

Last night's post was way too brief, and I have been thinking more about the wonderful experience yesterday at the TYCA conference. Michael's blog post captures quite a bit of the flavor of the event, so please check that out. I do hope that participants keep commenting on the TYCA blog.

Bradley Bleck from Spokane Falls CC has been a great inspiration for us, and his recent post about Blackboard CMS versus blogging was a good addition to material we already gathered to share with participants who wanted to know some reasons why blogging might be better.

As part of today's post-conference rest and reflection, I was very happy to get an email quickly from Tom Cameron at Olympic College who shared the excellent grid he has designed to teach students how to evaluate their level of communication in a paper, from writer based to reader based. He graciously gave permission, and sent an electronic copy which I plan to use in my Argument class tomorrow.

Not only is Cameron's "Communications Essentials" scale easy to follow, but I happen to like taxonomies as being a clear way to make sense of things, even if, as Kenneth Burke says,
"Men seek for vocabularies that are reflections of reality. To this end, they must develop vocabularies that are selections of reality. And any selection of reality must, in certain circumstances, function as a deflection of reality. " I don't recall where in Burke's work this is from, but I got the quote from a web page with the tacky name of Brainy Quotes (it's the sort of place I hope my students don't use!).

When searching with Google for a good link for that quote, I found this article about Kenneth Burke by one of the English department professors emeriti, Bob Wess, a very pleasant man whom I pass in the halls around 5 PM and see in the printer room we all share. Wess has studied Burke for years and is probably the preeminent Burke scholar.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

TYCA Conference & blogging presentation

Today Michael Faris and I went to Chemeketa Community College in Salem and co-presented a workshop on the use of blogging in the composition classroom. We co-authored our presentation over the last few weeks on the free collaborative online software Writely (now called Google.Docs since Wednesday.) which worked out very well, see Michael's comment on his blog. I would highly recommend that, especially over the Microsoft Track-Changes or emailing versions back and forth. Working with with Michael has been just great. We did a lot of research on line, in print, and face-to-face interviews. We had a nice turnout (including Lisa Ede), and most participants posted to the TYCA blog where we hope to have a lively ongoing conversation.

On my desk are about 4 other blog posts I hope to write up tomorrow. I feel woefully behind but now that the Graffs have visited OSU this week and the conference presentation is finished, I hope to get more done.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Problems with linking to sites in order to teach information literacy

Although today is December 6, I am finishing a post I started in October when my colleague and TYCA co-presenter Michael Faris posted about unintended consequences when trying to teach students about evaluating web sites for credibility.

Many libraries use a fake Martin Luther King website (actually hosted by a white supremacist group) to demonstrate ways to check for credibility. Because so many libraries link to that site, the site comes up high on a Google search, thus leading to the illusion of popularity and credibility. Michael refers readers to jill/txt's blog where Jill posted about how Google works, such that the number of librarians who link to the fake site as an example of disinformation has the result of making the white supremacist site #1 on google for “Martin Luther King”] Says Michael:
I read about this at Nicholas Carr’s site: The top hit for “Martin Luther King” on Google is to a white supremacist site, martinlutherking.org, that is billed as “the truth about Martin Luther King.” It’s cleverly designed to look - at first glance - like a bona fide informational site, and recommends itself to teachers and students, but a closer look shows it’s anything but neutral - it’s a racist rewriting of history. AOL gets their search results from Google and requested Google remove the site from the results shown to AOL customers, as AOL didn’t want to support a racist site. Google refused, reiterating their strange litany about the sanctity of their algorithm, and how their results must remain untampered with by human hands.

I’ve written about Google’s strange idea of objectivity before. I realise that once you start messing with some results you might get into trouble - but the idea that an algorithm (programmed by humans…) is objective is ludicrous.

Checking who linked to the site I see that large numbers of the links are from libraries and educational sites explaining how to evaluate the validity of information online. And yes, martinlutherking.org is a textbook example. However, all those links from sites that clearly do not condone the site have been interpreted by Google as recommendations. Hooray.

I’m taking the time, today, to write to as many of the non-racist sites that link to martinlutherking.org as I can and ask them to please remove the links. If more people are aware that linking means condoning - according to Google’s infallible algorithm - perhaps the misinformation site will drop in rankings to where it belongs.

(Related: David Weinberger pointed out a similar issue that comes up if you search for “jew” on Google - the top results used to be anti-semittic sites. Google put up a “sponsored link” (thus top of the hits) explaining that they’re disturbed about this too and explaining their position and how to find correct information.)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Arguments of Definition

Right now while my students are writing their arguments of definition, my cousin sent me this Garrison Keilor article about the definition of "enemy combattant." This article does a great job of showing both the "so what" factor (consequences) and "who cares." In starting students on this assignment - which seems new and unusual to them (I mean, why not just look in the dictionary or Wikipedia?) - I used the example of the recent Senate argument over "torture" versus "interrogation by professionals" (I will hunt for a link). I said, maybe the definition of torture depends on which end of the stick you are on.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Information Literacy, part 1

Reading blogs by fellow teachers is thought-provoking. Here's what Clancy Ratliff's Culture Cat blog has to say about librarian visits to classrooms as a response to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on October 4, 2006, by Todd Gilma, called "Show Your Librarian Some Love".

Here at OSU, our first year composition program (mostly first year students) has a standard information literacy portfolio (worth 10% of the term grade) consisting of an online guided (and graded) research activity through Course Management System/module Blackboard followed by a 50-minute class visit to the library where the assigned librarian guides students through further thinking about information literacy and their particular projects for the class. Granted this is not nearly as much time as we want students to have on developing their skills, but it is a start. We hope these activities will help students to have a stronger understanding about finding information online and in print, evaluating that information, selecting it, intergrating it, and using it in their work.

ps: Speaking of cool rhetoric blogs, check out what Michael Edwards Vitia blog has to say today about rhetoric (but not yet about librarians in the classroom). I'm guessing I should send him William Matthews's poem "A Poetry Reading as West Point" but he has probably already seen it.