Thursday, November 05, 2009

Attention: New Blog Post

Let's try this now.


This is an attempt at a new post.

I am just seeing how things work with this new layout.

The point is to test it.

Here is a picture:

And some bold text.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Night II

A poem about the one I love. See Night I, called "Sheep", in my earlier post titled the same.

Night II

Encased, tomblike, with you /
in a polyestercottonclump /
Interlocking fingers /
(at least in a dream) /
My arm clutching your very life /
safeguarded just beneath /
a barrel chest /
My knees /
bent to match your angle /
in a complementary pair /
My hips bowed out /
so that you'll stay /
frozen but not frigid /
rather, warm as you are /
my burrowing proboscis /
into your bare back /
as I breath you in like /
a much kinder ether /
And when I say /
I wish not to wake /
with an unequivocal smile /
I know you shall be forever my night. /

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Places I Have Been

Born: St. Mary's Hospital in Richmond Heights on Clayton Road

Brought Home to: Itaska Street in the Southampton neighborhood of St. Louis.

Age 4: First the Missouri Ozarks

Age 8: Attended a family reunion in Sherman, Texas

Age 12: First time at the Beach...Cocoa Beach, Florida


First (and only, so far) time at Disneyworld, in Orlando, Florida

Age 15: First trip to Chicago, Illinois

Age 17: Memphis, Tennessee

Age 18: Chicago

Age 19: Chicago and Kansas City, Missouri

Age 20: Chicago; New Orleans, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; Memphis

Other smaller places I've been through and to:

Springfield, Illinois
Carbondale, Illinois
Hannibal, Missouri
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Columbia, Missouri
Fulton, Missouri
Jefferson City, Missouri
Sikeston, Missouri
Nashville, Tennessee (drove through)
Chatanooga, Tennessee (drove through)
Knoxville, Tennessee (drove through)
Pigeon Forge/Sevierville/Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Atlanta, Georgia (drove through)
Panama City Beach, Florida
Eufala, Alabama
Kentwood, Louisiana (Britney Spears's hometown)
Canton, Mississippi
Grand Rapids, Michigan (drove through)
Cherokee, North Carolina

States that I've been to and through:
North Carolina

That's my life's itinerary. What's yours?

MySpace Saves Lives?

Riverton, Kansas on April 20, 2006--

In what is becoming a frighteningly common event, the popular MySpace website has led to the arrests of several suspects believed to be involved in the intricate plotting of a Columbine-esque school shooting. According to the Yahoo! Tech News article, five students' gruesome plans were averted when one of the members of the group, which intended to pay homage to Hitler's birthday and the anniversary of Columbine on the now infamous 20th of April, posted a brief message of his intentions on his MySpace profile to a friend at the Kansas school.

The article also mentions the negative press that MySpace has garnered--due to its pedophilia friendly set-up. As MySpace enacts further security measures and, bafflingly, continues to be used as a "private" posting grounds for would-be criminals, it seems the popular website could become something of a benevolent force on the web.

I simply do not understand how people could believe that what they write on the internet would not get back to them in person--but, in this case and in others, thankfully it did!

My personal opinion of MySpace is that is has an awful design and allows, dare I say, a bit too many options for the user. Some profiles are laden with flashing graphics, annoying songs, and too little actual text. There is no cohesion of the profiles. It is as if MySpace merely rents out webspace to millions of people, who then create a self-deferential website that contains, at times, all of the information none of us really want to know. Additionally, and related to the recent controversies, MySpace allows itself a certain anonymity, due to the fact that anyone can join and fabricate an identity. Some users set up profiles just to advance their musical band and send annoying messages to local people telling them to attend events.

Facebook, while not perfect, seems to address MySpace's problems. It has a clear and crisp design. One registers through his or her school, and thus the creation of promotional profiles is not a problem. In addition, Facebook serves almost a practical purpose in addition to leisurely egotism. One can contact friends far away or, in last minute desperation to determine the meaning of a class assignment, one can contact a classmate with a cell phone number. While sometimes derisevly labeled as a stalker's paradise, Facebook is in reality much more intimate and "safe" than MySpace.

Still, it's nice to hear that MySpace is securing and legitimizing itself in the popular online realm of social networks.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Apathetic Altruism

In Chicago, this weekend...

A 30 degree wind tunnel of a street dons hundreds of shops of all kinds, people of all colors. The flat city allows a view for hundreds of feet of expansive urban streetscape.

A siren sounds. Red lights flash.

A virtual caravan of autos on Broadway halts, the flurry of the street subsides only for a moment. Seated anonymously in a Camry, I peer out the back window to see the hapless truck scramble, delicately, through the thicket of cars. He passes us. My errant head follows the vehicle whose siren and lights part the crowd into two impossibly symmetric, angled pairs as it shrieks towards the distant blaze.

The cars resume their positions and shuffle aimlessly once more. The people on the sidewalks do the same.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


If a performed a search for "Godsend" on Wikipedia, surely the online encyclopedia phenom would not be so modest as to neglect a reference to its own services.

Wikipedia has been an indispensable tool for me in my academic career. More than that, I often turn to the site for quick and comprehensible knowledge on current events that I am not quite up to date on.

I remember performing my first search on St. Louis. The site goes into much depth with other cities, and I wanted to see how the author of the article would depict St. Louis in light of its well-publicized decline. When I first accessed Wikipedia over a year ago, its article on St. Louis was typically critical of the aged city. Highest crime rate in the nation? Check. One of the most segregated cities in the country? Check. Decline from 850,000 people in 1950 to just under 350,000 in 2000? Check. Thank God for the reference page to "Gooey Butter Cake." Otherwise I would assume the author had never been to St. Louis or, worse, had some inexplicable axe to grind.

Luckily, some entrepid Wikipedia visitor, perhaps the original author, has since expanded the article to include recent developments, such as the Washington Avenue Loft District, and has included very recent St. Louis happenings such as another census challenge success that holds the city's population to be at 352,000 as of 2005 (+4,000 since 2000). The article is now very accurate, balancing both the negative and the positive of St. Louis.

With other topics, Wikipedia has proven itself just as notably. Need a brush up on World War II? Wikipedia's got you covered. Want to know the discography of Radiohead? It's just a couple of clicks of the keyboard away with Wikipedia. The features it offers seem to safeguard its potential downfalls. A review board scans the articles for false information and any user can report an article for supposed bias.

I don't know about you, but I'm a believer in Wikipedia. Give it a chance.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Downtown St. Louis

It is no secret these days that downtown St. Louis is on the rebound. Before the availability of historic rehab tax credits in 1998, downtown was a shell of its former self. With much of the urban core demolished to make way for large plazas, superblocks (the former Busch Stadium), and empty green spaces (the barren Gateway Mall), the popular saying regarding our ill-fated central business district was that you could shoot a cannonball down any street and not hit anyone after 5 p.m.

Thankfully, that's no longer true. With continued Washington Avenue revitalization, the completed Old Post Office and its surrounding development, the upcoming Bottle District, the ever more beautiful new stadium and its exciting attached Ballpark Village, a reconfigured St. Louis Centre, a European-styled pedestrian only St. Charles Street, the ambitious Chouteau's Landing development on the south side of downtown, the Chouteau Lake and Greenway Project taking shape just south of the stadium, the Pinnacle Casino and Hotel on Laclede's Landing, the lid over I-70 and improved pedestrian access near the Gateway Arch, the crazy riverfront redevelopment plans...downtown in 2008 will perhaps be something that St. Louisans in 1908 would have been proud of.

For more information on downtown St. Louis developments mentioned above and other exciting developments around the city, please visit Urban STL. Thanks to Xing of Urban STL for the accompanying photo of the ever more vibrant Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis.

Facebook Gets Poked

Is it wrong for a University to allow pictures and writings on the popular Facebook website as investigative evidence in disciplinary cases? That is the question at hand in the two articles regarding Facebook policy at Princeton and the University of Dayton.

Both universities admit to charging students with misconduct based on investigations that surfaced incriminating photos (underage drinking and other illicit activities) from Facebook.My first reaction to the universities' methods was one of disapproval. Other than the process of registering one's .edu mail address as a means of creating a Facebook profile, the site has no affiliation with the university the student attends. So why should information supplied on an unaffiliated website be allowed in a university investigation? It seems very intrusive, underhanded, and wrong. Especially when considering that some students complain about D.P.S. officials posing as undergraduates in order to circumvent privacy settings that allow only students to see other students' profiles.

Still, the article mentions that neither university scours Facebook for illicit activities and writes citations. Rather, both use Facebook material as "secondary evidence" in an already ongoing investigation of a particular student or group.

It is my prediction that the surveillance imposed upon Facebook will quickly diminish its fad status faster than it would have normally been phased out. Students will not continue to support a website that only serves to incriminate them. While I do not really agree with the methods of Princeton and Dayton, the use of Facebook by students to advertise their drunkenness sends the wrong message to prospective college students about what university education and its social setting must entail. The culture of alcoholism is promoted and sustained by the display of unbridled underage drinking. Thus, maybe it's better for everyone that students who wish to flaunt their misbehavior choose a less public setting.

That is not to say that I have never had a drink in my underage life--or do not even do so regularly. It is to say, however, that Facebook promotes drinking irresponsibility so endemic to college campuses. Privacy settings on Facebook should solve both problems in that the public advertisement of questionable activities is lessened as well as administrator's access to it. The tactics of deception utilized by some schools is wrong and any evidence obtained by deceit should be ruled as unlawful to use in an investigative setting.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Poem, Circa 2003



Here I sit, motionless, against a tree,
A tree so duly vivid and indefinite,
I dare not move for fear it will disappear.
And yet this leaf (Is that a purple hue
Glistening through its paper-thin beauty?)
Which here does fall seems so much bigger
Than that tree in all its fleeting fantasy,
And all the sprawling plains it claims.
As beads of light soak my supposed skin,
Drowning has never felt so good.
And white clouds, dream clouds,
Shift helplessly like droning sheep,
The flock calmly closing in
Above my familiar pasture.

But night will end.
And the tree will wither at a morning whisper.
That I cannot change.
And so I should smile at the sunrise.
What else is there to do?
Still I hear only sounds of breezy fingers,
And see bowing blades of grass.

Now I walk silent, indifferent,
Down the path I know too well,
So well in fact my feet carry themselves,
And I chatter my teeth in sync
With the sound of crunching foliage
And each footstep that I let go.
My only sign of life--My squinty eyes, nearly closed,
Closed by the western sky.
My blind procession halted only for a moment
By frigid knives hurled from angry wisps above.
And then I carry on.


Matthew Carter

The article on Matthew Carter was surprisingly interesting. I never before considered that the development of a typeface (font) could be so intricate and artful. It is especially amazing that the procedure was once an even more terribly painful process. Technology has truly affected all facets of life, it seems--even the letters I'm using on this very page. Who'd have thought?

I also found it interesting that the article presented the business side to Carter's work. On one hand he is an artist with all of the freedom that the designation entitles him to. On the other, he needs to make a living and cannot truly simply produce any typeface he wants. As the article notes, businesses, such as Microsoft, want legibility over intricacy. Plus, the article comments that there are only so many variations to put on a letter before it ceases to be that letter anymore.

It seems the most commonly used font now is Times New Roman.

It is easy to see why Times is so popular--it's highly legible and professional. Nearly all of the academic writings I've ever submitted for grading have been in Times. However, I've known some of the less computer literate generations before me to prefer Arial (or maybe that's just my dad!). Arial is less appealing to me precisely because of the lack of tails on the letters (san serif). The article points out that Arial turns the state of Illinois into an ambiguous collection of vertical bars -- Illinois, for example.

My personal favorite font is Garamond. I can't show it here, as Blogger doesn't offer it (maybe I could figure out how to get it on here...), but it has a thin, almost Gothic presentation. Twelve-point font size generally doesn't cut it with Garamond, so it's hard for me to use it on an academic paper, but I still like its looks and feel nonetheless.

Visit 1001 to download some free fonts.

What's your favorite font and why?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Deciphering the Code of Plagiarism

In light of our class's recent discussion of plagiarism, I found this article very well timed: "'Da Vinci Code' Author Accused in London".

Dan Brown, author of the popular book "The Da Vinci Code," has been accused of plagiarism. Specifically, Mr. Brown's trial will be heard in London's High Court due to a supposed lifting of "ideas and themes" from a 1982 Random House published book entitled, "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail."

Mr. Brown's defense argues that Random House, in its suit, is attempting to claim a "monopoly on ideas or historical debate." Mr. Brown has been sued before for other alleged copyright infringement. Does this particular case highlight just how fine the line of plagiarism can be drawn? At what point can someone write about a somewhat well known piece of conspiracy theory and still claim the tale to be his own? If it is determined that Mr. Brown indeed plagiarised, how much of the profits of his wildly successful book must be surrendered--and what constitutes just compensation? After all, some of the "Da Vinci Code" must have been Brown's work alone, if not most of it. Will he be stripped of everything he's earned on account of the accusations?

Also, and seemingly most important, does the public even care? Noting the upcoming release of the Hollywood movie inspired by Brown's book, will plagiarism affect the book's already massive clout and popularity? I have a feeling that the average American wants entertainment, tinged with conspiracy, and he or she does not care whose sources were used and abused in the making. If I'm right, does this attitude create (or has it created) an environment in which lifting others' ideas and concepts is acceptable?

Lastly, I pose this question: are we out of good, money-making blockbuster concepts for movies and books to the extent that we must borrow from the tried-and-true? Look at the flood of sequels and remakes (read: rehashes) at the box office. Can we entertain with entirely original ideas anymore?

I encourage you to read the article and formulate your own answers to these questions.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Yes, It's Evil!

Reflections on "PowerPoint is Evil" by Edward Tufte

Though I'm aware Mr. Tufte's article is poking fun at the popular "slideware" technology, I can't help but agree with some of his more salient and less red herring comments. Here's a couple of beefs with PowerPoint that this article assisted me in putting into words.

1) Enforced Brevity

I'll admit it--I'm not a man of few words. I like to indulge in the plethora of possibilities that language offers. In this light, PowerPoint stifles creativity in the potential writer. Sure it's supposed to be a tool to assist the speaker in a spoken presentation, but too often its flashiness and features, in essence, steal the (slide) show and supplant the individuality of the speaker. And so, even if I have tons to say on the topic of the devastation that urban renewal wrought on American cities in the latter half of the twentieth century, I'll merely get X number of blank faces, staring happily at my bullet points that read
  • Mill Creek Valley
  • Gateway Mall
  • McRee Town.

Will they even hear that 20,000 low income residents were forced out of Mill Creek Valley simply because it was a poor, black, somewhat down-at-the-heels neighborhood near Union Station, where tourists arrived and formulated lasting first impressions of the city? Hah! Their eyes, much like the bullets, are static and do not touch the adjacent text.

So why can't I just write what I want to say on the slide--or not do slides at all? Call me old-fashioned, but I'd much rather grab a pack of notecards and begin presenting!

2) Pictures? Animations? Hyperlinks?

PowerPoint has too many features. All the bells and whistles distract from the writing and ultimately from the presentation. How do you pay attention to the speaker when you don't even know where the text will be flying in from on the next slide? And the pictures--who can see them? What ever happened to imagination and descriptive, poetic language that could convey more than a photograph ever could?

Okay, so Mr. Tufte and I are being a bit unfair on PowerPoint. It is efficient and, I'll admit it, the pictures and the animations can keep me interested rather than distracting me from the speaker. But you have to admit, he's on to something with the commercialism PowerPoint imposes upon presenters. When we have to "sell" information through a sales pitch rather than persuading the audience to value the knowledge you're imparting without the aid of colorful graphs, there's a problem.

I guess the caveat suggested in the article is a simple, yet important one. Design should never trump content. Still, a world without slideware would be, to most, PowerPointless.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What's in a Nabe?

It seems every city purports itself to be a "city of neighborhoods."

What really makes a neighborhood though? The City of St. Louis makes a bold claim--that it has 79 of these elusive quasi-political jurisdictions.

Many of these neighborhoods are such that their own residents know nothing of their official names. Anyone ever heard of Princeton Heights (#6)? Kingsway West (#52)? Covenant Blu (#77--that's just north of SLU, by the way)?

Still, the "city of neighborhoods" assignation seems to ring true of St. Louis. Take a walk through Lafayette Square. Its gorgeous "Painted Ladies," its nightlife centered on Park Avenue, its lush and tranquil park (the neighborhood's namesake--and the first public park west of the Mississippi) all say to you, "this is uniquely Lafayette Square."

Perhaps that's a more obvious example. So I'll take my own neighborhood. The Bevo neighborhood (#5) was once a stable white working class neighborhood of modest brick bungalows interspersed with German-style "barnhouses." The neighborhood's centerpiece, the aptly named Bevo Mill, is just that--a wind mill at the corner of Gravois and Morganford, an anachronistic wonder in the heart of urban St. Louis.

Today, Bevo is a bustling center for St. Louis's growing Bosnian population. Some estimates put the St. Louis Bosnian population at between 30 and 50 thousand, and a substantial number of them populate the streets of Bevo. As a newly-introduced ethnic neighborhood, what used to be an area of the city crying for its own distinction among South City nabes is now nothing short of a unique and tight-knit community. Bakeries, nightclubs, coffee shops, restaurants--all Bosnian owned and operated--dot the main commercial thoroughfares of the neighborhood where sad, shuttered empty storefronts once peered forlorn at the indifferent shuffling of traffic.

As I sat down at a Bosnian coffee house named "Cafe Milano," I absorbed the sounds of Eastern European music. Lounging in an impossibly funky red chair, I imbibed the fluidity of the atmosphere, admired the daring interior design of the structure that once housed a much less conspicuous footwear store.

Outside the wide storefront window, passers-by could not help but peer inside at the lights and activity of the coffee shop. Cars lined the street, flanked by the sidewalk so as to avoid the sideswipe by speeding Gravois traffic, and dutifuly lined up behind parking meters once starved for change.

Change, it seems, had been embracing the neighborhood ever since the arrival of the Bosnian immigrants. Their presence infused the area, once a sullen, graying, unambitious series of streets and sidewalks, with a sense a diversity and unmistakable community. Bevo is now every bit the degree of neighborhood that is the more affluent and well-known Lafayette Square.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Reflections on Academic Honesty

Plagiarism is, without a doubt, the ultimate dirty word in academia.

But why should I worry, I think to myself, as I try to appear attentive to the admonitions of the instructor regarding academic honesty on the first day of class. The instructor seems to recognize the tedium of the speech.

"I know you all have heard this before, but..."

I'm not a cheater. I respect my education. I should, right? After all, it's not cheap. I wouldn't throw it away over a term paper freshly purchased from the net.

This unit on academic honesty has, however, managed to raise my eyebrows as to the many shades of plagiarism. To me, it's obvious that you don't swipe someone else's direct words, even with the use of supplementary synonyms, and present it as your own doing. But the unit really got me thinking of what truly constitutes plagiarism. Here are some questions that I had after partaking in the unit:
  • Whom do you cite when you reference a combination of two or more works' ideas in just one sentence?
  • What exactly serves as "common knowledge"? If I know without having to check my facts that, say, the year in which the City of St. Louis split and became an independent entity from St. Louis County was 1876, how do I prove that this was my prior knowledge?*
  • How should a truly unwitting plagiarist be punished?

To me, these questions indicate the problem with the drive to placate plagiarism: are we becoming too harsh? Is there not a lot of wiggle room as to what constitutes plagiarism? Should there be?

Too many professors, it seems, are so bent on catching a plagiarist "in action" that the environment for academic writers becomes a hostile one. Student researchers and writers become forced into assumption of a delicate and precise citation regimen that deindividualizes their writing styles. Writing, and research, especially, become a burden rather than an opportunity to expand the collective mind of academia. The result is dull and cautious writing, laden with block quotes and ample footnotes.

That said, I do not think that measures to hunt out cheaters should be scaled back. I just believe that the average perpetrator of plagiarism is ignorant of his or her crime. That probably means schools should start defining academic dishonesty at an earlier point in the course of a student's education.

Technology has made plagiarism impossibly more complicated. On one hand, students can now escape a procrastination pickle with the help of a little plastic--a simple purchase of a pre-written paper online on a multitude of topics. On the other, that same internet technology has made it possible for professors to search for random phrases in a basic search engine to see if the material is swiped. Often, though, the "Deep Web" can prove to be a cheater's salvation and a professor's bane.

Plagiarism will remain a problem no matter what measures are taken to trump it: cheaters will always find a way to cheat. The important thing to remember is that sometimes the fault is on the side of the professor rather than the student when the alleged plagiarist is as surprised as his or her disappointed instructor that proper citation techniques were not applied.


And, to set a good example...

* Cited from a conversation with Matt Fernandez, St. Louis, MO, February 16, 2006.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Technology A-Z (Revised)

For the sake of brevity (missing from my previous posts), I'll take on a lighter tone and, without cheating (I swear), come up with my own A to Z of technology. Here goes:

Al Gore, father of the internet (?)
Boolean Search
Deep Web
Hits (i.e. website visits)
Jp (= the web domain name for Japan)
Log on
Norton AntiVirus
Online Banking
Restore, System (Is the old comma technique considered cheating?)
Webstar ( think of one!)
Zillion (= the number of hits, rounded up, that you receive when you search the word "web" in Google's search engine)