Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hi! This is a test

Hi! This is a test post from my phone.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Ideas and tools for increasing productivity and fighting procrastination and stress

Tricks and strategies culled from Boice, Fiore, and Pavlina

  1. From Boice:
    • The "contingency method": in other words, make some other normal, desirable behavior, like taking a shower, contingent upon writing. Write first, shower later. No writing today, then no shower today. Presumably this would work if extended to other unpleasant tasks like grading.
    • Public commitments with social pressure: post some quantifiable reminder of your goals and your output in some visible place. Tell someone else what you're planning to get done, and then have them hold you accountable.
  2. From Fiore:
    • The "unschedule": This is a document which is intended to show exactly how much time you actually have to get work done. To make it, you plan out a week in advance but don't actually write in tasks or work. Instead, write in everything that's not work, plus things like meetings and scheduled events at work that will take up time you might have spent on particular tasks. The point is to show how you probably have less time to get things done than you might think.
    • Adjusting self-talk: acc. to Fiore, there are a predictable set of things that procrastinators say to themselves, and he wants you to replace them with other things:
    I have to
    I choose to
    I must finish When can I start?*
    This is too big
    I can take one small step
    I must be perfect
    I can be human
    I don't have time to play
    I must take time to play
    * This one seems really important to me and fits with another point Fiore makes (p. 122): "Keep starting. Finishing will take care of itself." This is in the section, "How to use the Unschedule", starting on p. 118. His tips:
      • Schedule previously committed time, leisure time, health activities, "routine structured events" (e.g., commuting, classes, etc.)
      • Fill in your schedule with work only after completing a half hour of quality work
      • Take a break after each thirty-minute period.
      • Keep track of hours worked and total them at week's end.
      • Keep one day a week open for errands and relaxation.
      • Give yourself thirty minutes to work before starting on any recreation or social activity.
      • Think small.
      • Keep starting.
      • Never end down. ("To avoid creating poor work habits, never take a break when you're at the end of a segment or when you're ready to give up.")
    • Work in the flow state. This seems trickier, but it mostly means keeping yourself relaxed and focused while working. He recommends visualization and relaxation techniques to help make this easier.
  3. From Pavlina (see esp. this page)
    • Keep a detailed time log. According to Pavlina, when he started logging his time (he says: "If you get up out of your chair, it probably means you need to make an entry in your time log") he discovered that he was only getting work done for 25% or less of the time he spent in the office. So his response was simply to cut down on the number of working hours and in response (he says) "[m]y brain must have gotten the idea that working time was a scarce commodity" and the ratio of productive time to time spent in the office shot up. This is a lot like Fiore's strategy of telling his clients not to work more than five hours a day or twenty hours a week on any particular project. He finds that people become more efficient this way.

What this means for me

Some key elements to keep in mind are:
  • Recordkeeping is going to be a key element of whatever I do. Boice, Pavlina, and Fiore all agree on its importance, both in planning (in the sense that it's the only way to develop even a semi-accurate sense of how long tasks take and how much time you have available)
  • Oddly enough, none of these three writers mention the planning process per se, in the sense of to-do lists, carefully delineated priorities or timelines, or whatever. However, I can't help thinking that that's going to make a big difference too.
  • I know perfectly well that I have to learn how to break my work down into, say, half-hour chunks. Also, I have to come up with a way of getting myself to think only about the half-hour chunk that's in front of me right now.
  • I think Fiore is probably right that making a firm, scheduled, non-negotiable commitment to relaxation, exercise and the like is a very good idea.
  • I am still looking for a simple, portable, useful way of tracking tasks and projects. See below on this.

Concrete implementation ideas (i.e., new things to do, not new ways to think):
  • Make an "unschedule" as described by Fiore.
  • Track both (1) time worked and (2) output.
  • Develop a simple way of keeping track of ongoing projects, "next actions," priorities, and available time.

Some thoughts on the above and associated problems:
First, Boice's "contingency method" is a great idea, but it's dependent upon being confident that I know what I should be working on. That is the first and most important problem for me. A good deal of my vulnerability stems from a persistent sense that I am focusing on the wrong things and letting the important things slide. I do have problems focusing and being productive, but before I can solve those, I also have to deal with the phenomenon of being overwhelmed by competing priorities and projects that I don't know how to balance or juggle.

Second, the ideal to-do list format still evades me. Of course I am setting myself up for a miserable disappointment if I postpone dealing with my productivity issues until I have a perfect system available to me, so I'm not going to think that way. I do, however, want to lay out a few of the most important characteristics of a good to-do list system as I imagine it:
      1. Must be easily portable
      2. Some part of it has to be non-electronic (ideally, I'd want to maintain and update lists online or at my computer once per day but be able to carry around a paper version to refer to and make updates on)
      3. It should be possible to file tasks across several dimensions, e.g., priority, context, project, difficulty, time req'd., or whatever
      4. It should be possible to save notes with each task
      5. It should be possible to save information and supporting (reference) material by project, not by task
      6. I want to retrieve only current (next) actions quickly and easily, without having to sort through tasks manually

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Woody Guthrie: This Machine Kills Fascists

For some reason, I know this is pretty random, I've been thinking about Woody Guthrie lately. His song about Sacco and Vanzetti has been running through my head. Also I came across this fantastic photo here. Click on the thumbnail for a larger version, and read the text on the guitar. What a bad-ass!
Sacco's wife three children had,
Sacco was a family man.
Vanzetti was a dreamin' man,
His book was always in his hand.

Two good men's a long time gone,
Left me here to sing this song.

Sacco earned his bread and butter
By being the factory's best shoe-cutter.
Vanzetti spoke both day and night
And told the workers how to fight.

Two good men's a long time gone ...

One Guthrie album has been in heavy rotation at my house for quite some time: Songs to Grow on for Mother and Child. Who would have thought? These are lullabyes and children's songs he apparently used to sing to his son Arlo. They are marvellously affectionate at times. This is right up there with Ella Jenkins 'a Jambo for children's music that doesn't insult the intelligence or good taste of parents or children.

Bonus: Here's a poster designed by Ben Shahn on the Sacco-Vanzetti execution (thumbnail below right).
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Another test

A test of posting via Ecto

[composed and posted with ecto]

.
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Saturday, November 05, 2005

I am fooling around with Flock (when I should be working on a pre-tenure review ... never mind!) and I want to see if their built-in blogging interface works here ...

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Checking to see if the blogging topbar from Flock can successfully post to this blog. Bear with me, please. If it can, it'll be awesome ... Flock is a nice, smooth browser with a couple great features.

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Friday, November 04, 2005

Halloween 2005


Halloween 2005 (2)
Via Flickr - this photo belongs to myroblyte.
The piglet, dressed up as a lion for Halloween.

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Time management, stress management, and life management for academics; or, This is not an abandoned blog

Since I haven't posted anything here in five weeks or so, after keeping up a regular schedule of about two or three posts a week before that, one might fairly presume that Strangely Warmed has grown strangely cold. Well, um, all I can say is, I've been busy. Actually, it's been kind of a hellacious semester thus far. I've been keeping my stress level pretty well under control, but I am still overworked, massively so, and I don't feel that I've been able to keep sufficiently motivated to stay on top of my most important work. I'm almost a month behind on grading, many moons behind (after several postponements) on a couple of important book reviews, and a couple of weeks behind on a major pre-tenure review document. This just by way of documentation. So, blogging has kind of receded in importance.

At this point, I'm more or less just popping back in to say "Hi". I did sort of half-watch the Apprentice tonight. Normally I wouldn't mention this except that it was about, of all things, teaching. The contestants, who are divided up into two teams, each had to desigen a one-day seminar for the adult education company The Learning Annex. They chose a topic and planned the execution, and after it was over, participants rated them on "educational merit," "entertainment value," and "presentation." The team with the lower average score lost, and a member of that team was fired. Not to stretch a point or anything, but are there other educators out there who find this kind of, well, revealing? For one thing, this is the only episode I've seen (admittedly I've only seen a couple) where the final measurement of who won and who lost isn't in terms of money, suggesting that the rating system sort of stands in for cash value. Okay, so I am in the throes of writing up a pre-tenure self-evaluation, but I often feel like I'm being rated on entertainment value and presentation, and that these are immediately and directly translatable into something akin to a cash value. Those little computerized evaluation forms that the students fill out at the end of the semester — a friend of a friend calls those "customer satisfaction surveys."

So the "entertainment" component is annoying. More significantly, though, if this is the primary model that people have in their mind about education, it seems unsurprising that students should be averse to being challenged, confronted, or forced to think (not forced to work, mind you) by a professor. You're paying for a service, after all, and being confronted with confusing, uncomfortable cognitive dissonance doesn't feel like the product you ordered. Being made to work hard is a little different; after all, people pay for personal trainers all the time. I think that many of my students (and, probably, their parents) have a kind of coach or personal-trainer paradigm at the foundation of their thinking about education: they pay to have someone make them into a better, fitter, stronger person by really putting them through their paces, giving them lots of tough hoops to jump through — but it should always be obvious how the activity being performed helps lead to the desired goal. At no point should the coach or trainer suggest that you need to rethink your goals. However, if you subscribe to any kind of Socratic-type idea of what education is for, then you have to be open to the possibility that it includes moments of aporia, moments where students feel frustrated or even angry because they don't see the point of what they're doing. This would have to be a necessary step towards real, pardon the expression, enlightenment.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hey, maybe I am the next Friedlander after all

I just uploaded a bunch of photos to Flickr. They are from a recent stroll through the ass-end of the neighborhood where I live.
see the rest of this set at www.flickr.com

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Nicely posed photo of GWB with firefighters (but why aren't they out rescuing people?)

Photo of Bush and firefighters in Biloxi from Reuters, Sept. 3, via Yahoo News


If you read this article from the Salt Lake Tribune (linked via Daily Kos), this kind of photo-op bullshit looks a lot less innocent. In the meantime, FEMA is prohibiting reporters from photographing the dead. I recall a famous quotation from John DiIulio, a very interesting character, who remarked to Ron Suskind in an Esquire article from January 2003 that
"There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus... What you’ve got is everything — and I mean everything — being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."
Smart guy, that DiIulio.

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Welcome NAASR members; apologia for my anonymity

I understand that a link to this site has gone out on the NAASR mailing list. Welcome, welcome all. To give a brief self-introduction, I'm a junior faculty member at a small, Middle Atlantic, all-undergraduate liberal arts college, which, I suppose, it would be poor breeding to refer to as "second-tier." My training is in the history of Christianity, but, no doubt like many of you, I now do a little of everything at my current institution while struggling to keep my hand in with research. As it happens, MTSR is pretty much the only journal I read cover-to-cover, though it sometimes makes me sputter. Anyhow, browse away. I use this blog to jot down random thoughts on religion and religious studies, especially as they creep into the political discourse, the media and popular culture; but also my reactions to scholarly work I run across, miscellaneous details of my personal life (like how I learned to get my infant son to sleep through the night or my various struggles with developing a decent time management strategy), political screeds, and various tools and toys I've found online or elsewhere (see the next post down). As an experiment, I also decided to keep a separate teaching diary at another site. If you're interested, feel free to visit; linked headlines are reproduced in the brown box in the sidebar under the title "Cephalophore."

It's late, and I'm on my way to bed, but I feel the need to offer a sort of excuse for writing an anonymous blog, which in my view violates some of the core principles of both academia and the Web. Ideally we want everything to be open and transparent, to allow for review, and to foster accountability — don't we? Well, there's a simple reason why I don't give my name here, though — not knowing much about Internet security and so forth — I imagine it wouldn't be hard to track me down if you were determined. Mainly I want to keep the blog non-Google-able at least until after my successful, knock on wood, tenure review, which is coming up in a couple years. In case you missed it, the Chronicle ran a story not long ago (under the pseudonymous byline of "Ivan Tribble," which all of a sudden strikes me as a little ironic) called "Bloggers Need Not Apply." According to Ivan Tribble, you are basically committing suicide on the academic job market if you are keeping or have ever kept a blog. The money quote is:
You may think your blog is a harmless outlet... [but t]he content of the blog may be less worrisome than the fact of the blog itself. Several committee members expressed concern that a blogger who joined our staff might air departmental dirty laundry (real or imagined) on the cyber clothesline for the world to see. Past good behavior is no guarantee against future lapses of professional decorum.

Don't get me started on the bizarre illogic of those committee members' concerns (though Ivan Tribble's odd hostility towards anyone who knows too much about computers suggests that he might be talking about himself). But the point here is, if the Paper Of Record for Academe has issued such a strong fatwa against blogging, then I'm not going to reveal any more of my identity than I'm comfortable with until I'm damn sure I'm never going to be on the job market again (i.e., at least until after tenure). I try to be civil and more or less professional online, but hell, it is an online diary; I do talk about whatever strikes my fancy, and while I make a point of never saying anything about anyone I wouldn't repeat directly to their faces, I do use cuss words and talk about politics and other impolite things. So, gentle reader, if you do puzzle out who I am and where I work — that is, in the unlikely event that you're interested enough to do so — you'll be doing me a great favor if you keep it quiet until, oh, February 2009 or so. Thank you kindly.

Oh, and by the way, I've been finding blogging to be fun, and kind of addictive. I recommend it, if the Chronicle doesn't scare you too badly. And for the most part, you can do it for free, without any technical knowledge. Get in touch with me (you can send me an email at myroblyte at gmail dot com) in the very unlikely event that you should want my advice. Beyond blogging, there are a number of simple but promising collaboration tools popping up around the web. Some other time I'll talk about the Religious Studies Wiki that I want to develop (the almost completely empty front page of which can be found here).

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Get your own church sign


I've always wanted my own church sign. Now you can get yours at
www.churchsigngenerator.com.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

You are lucky, now you can learn about my teaching adventures

Another new feature has been added to the blog. If you scroll down slightly, in the right sidebar just under the "profile" link, you'll see a new grey box titled "Cephalophore." This is my online teaching diary, where I intend to post notes after each class (or each day of teaching). Click on the post titles to visit the blog page. The address is cephalophory.blogsome.com. Cephalophore is another favorite word of mine, along with myroblyte. (In case you have been wondering, a myroblyte is a holy person, most commonly a dead one, whose person exhibits at least one of the following characteristics: incorruptibility — i.e., his or her corpse does not decay —; his or her body emits a sweet smell; and milk or honey instead of blood, pus or other bodily fluids may be released from his or her orifices or wounds. I'm not making this up, I swear, though I suppose it's possible my memory is off in a few of the details. I'll save the definition of cephalophore for another day.)
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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Return of the repressed: the barnyard epithet

Vice President Dick Cheney cursed at Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, in a confrontation on the Senate floor while members were having their annual group picture taken earlier this week... According to [an] aide, Mr. Cheney... responded with a barnyard epithet, urging Mr. Leahy to perform an anatomical sexual impossibility.
(From the Washington Times, login required)

Anyone remember back in June 2004 when Dick Cheney told Senator Pat Leahy to fuck himself? (His spokesperson commented as follows: "Reserving the right to revise and extend my remarks, that doesn't sound like language the vice president would use, but there was a frank exchange of views.") Apparently he's recently gotten a taste of his own medicine, from a fairly wacky sounding Gulfport physician named Ben Marble. Story is here, and a CNN video has been posted online here. Ben Marble's own fairly loopy-looking website is at HurricaneKatrinaSucked.com.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

More on Katrina

Yesterday I listened to This American Life, the 9/11/05 show. By the time it was over, I was shaking, literally, and my wife was in tears. There was a lot that was disturbing, but what mainly got me were the two stories about people not being allowed to leave the New Orleans convention center. One account was from Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky, the latter of whom spoke with Ira Glass by phone. These are two San Francisco-based EMTs who had been attending a conference, were turned out of their hotel when power and food ran out, and found themselves shut out of all shelters and turned back from every route out of the city. Their original story is posted at the Socialist Worker Online site. Their account is pretty melodramatic and tends to lionize the "working class" of the city and to paint a fairly rosy picture of how regular folks helped one another out, so much so that it seems difficult to believe at times. Critics on various sites have made much of the fact that the authors are "card-carrying," as it were, socialists or whatever and therefore untrustworthy, that they insert a few jabs at Bush into their story, that they accuse Southern governments and law enforcement agencies of racism — c'est incroyable! — and that various details seem implausible — one long discussion spent a great deal of time on the fact that the authors refer to military rations as C-rations and not MREs as if this somehow cast doubt on their story.

The internet is full of stories about this stuff, so I'm not going to post a whole catalogue of links. But as far as I can tell, it is pretty much an uncontested fact that police from neighboring jurisdictions, six days after the hurricane struck, were actively preventing people — dehydrated, starving, and helpless people of all ages — from walking across the bridges that connected New Orleans to the outside world. Even Fox News had something about this (a compressed version of the video can be seen by following the links at this blog site. The police chief of the neighboring (and mostly white) town of Gretna confirmed to UPI that he had closed the bridges into his city. "We evaucated our people and locked the city down," he said, adding that "[i]f we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged." (See also this NYT article, which gives a few more details; may not be available online for long.) I can't help noticing the language: our people.

The other story was if anything more upsetting. Where the Slonsky and Bradshaw story portrays a desperate group of people looking for a way out and being thwarted, this one shows people trapped for days in an increasingly hellish situation. This was the phoned-in account of Denise Moore, an Army veteran who was also in the convention center. Her story is posted online at Daily Kos. She described being treated more or less as a prisoner. Besides the squalid and dangerous conditions, which were well-known to everyone (except Michael Brown) from the beginning, she recounted a series of humilitating and terrifying experiences: being made to line up in the heat for hours, over and over again, to wait for buses that never came; watching people literally die all around her; seeing water trucks repeatedly pass by the convention center without stopping, and trucks full of National Guardsmen zoom past with their weapons aimed at the evacuees. According to her, the looters were actually keeping the rest of the people in the convention center alive by distributing water, food, and diapers. Authorities kept sending buses to drop more and more people off at the center, but no one ever brought supplies. Again, when groups tried to walk out of the city via the nearby bridge, they were threatened and turned back by armed personnel. The rumor began spreading that the government was planning to open the floodgates and drown everyone. Rational people were beginning to be convinced that the government had "brought them there to die" or even to be killed. As dehydration set in, people became delirous, and some assumed that any police or military who approached were there specifically to do them harm. It just sounds like the most horrific, week-long hell of suffering, degradation, violence, and insanity. From everything I've read, it's completely believable, and not only that, it was preventable.

This was the story that really made me sick. Anyhow, I had a couple of reflections about it. First, as horrific as it is, I can't imagine that it will ever be widely publicized in the national media — largely because it is so horrific and extreme. People are unwilling to confront the possibility that the government — the people who are supposed to be able to take care of things in a massive crisis like this — can be not only catastrophically incompetent but callous to the point of viciousness, of murderousness. And this makes me wonder about the meaning of "truth" in a culture like ours. Assuming these accounts are true, I predict that most people will never know about them, not because there's some massive media conspiracy covering it up, but because people simply don't want to hear it. Why should the news media be saddled with the responsibility for destroying the moral underpinnings of people's worldview (in this case, the idea that the government is basically solicitous of the needs of its citizens in an emergency; that people in uniforms are really there to help us; and that the guys with guns are really better than the rest of us — more mature, tougher, trained somehow, because of the massive responsibility of wielding deadly force)? I believe that most people can't stand to have their illusions shattered too radically, and that's why they'll just change the channel. I'm no exception. Confronted with overwhelming evidence that my own elected representatives are capable of great evil, or are capable abandoning me in a crisis, is more than I can handle most of the time — I mean, listen to me now, I'm getting all worked up, and I don't like that. This is why, I think, none of my students have ever heard of depleted uranium munitions — it just causes too much cognitive dissonance to imagine that their own government has been using chemical weapons against innocent civilians in conflicts for a decade or more, and it's not widely reported.

The other thing is this: I keep thinking back to Joe Carter's post at the evangelical outpost a short while back. The post was titled, "The Battle for New Orleans: Is it Morally Licit to Shoot Looters?" I mentioned this in an earlier post. I finally realized what bugs me about this: the completely unthinking identification of moral authority and ethical subjectivity and agency, on the one hand, with political and material power, on the other. There was no discussion of the question, "Is it morally licit to loot?," except in a completely sideways fashion (i.e., it was discussed as it pertained to the question of when it would not be O.K. to shoot looters, viz., when they were stealing things they needed for survival or whatever). The various participants in the discussion basically placed themselves in two roles: the role of policeman (by speculating on the permissabilty of shooting various classes of lawbreakers or otherwise disruptive characters) or the role of property-owner (by trading quips along the lines of, "So you think it's not O.K. to shoot looters? I guess we should send them all to your house!"). It's as if the people trapped in desperate situations are not capable of making moral decisions at all, given this kind of rhetorical construct. Say you're a poor Black person stuck in the convention center: your options, morally speaking, are to sit tight and wait for help, or become a criminal and therefore morally condemned to death (because, after all, the highest necessity is "restoring order," even before people can be rescued).


Finally, conservative protestations of "playing the race card" notwithstanding, I think Denise Moore's story has an important lesson for middle-class white people all around the country. I challenge everyone: imagine what kind of life you would have had to have led, what kind of mental world you would have to inhabit, in order to be able, completely rationally, to believe that your government was planning to exterminate you because of your race (or your class, maybe). Just try to imagine that. Most people are going to hear that and think, "That's crazy, the government doesn't want to kill black people; why would it?" But the thing is, these people are not crazy; there has to be another explanation for their beliefs. What is it, folks? Can you guess?

I'm kind of ranting at this point, because I'm quite tired and I've been writing for some time. But this has really been bothering me for days.

P.S. In case you haven't seen it, though, this is a really fascinating blog on what's been going on in New Orleans, written by an ex-Special Forces soldier who now does security for DirectNIC (I think). For further details of the horrendous situation inside the convention center as of a week and a half ago, see this post. Excerpt: "[A]ny attempt to approach the police or national guard resulted in weapons being aimed at them... Any attempt to flag down police results in being told to get away at gunpoint... 8 or 9 dead people have been stored in a freezer in the area, and 2 of these dead people are kids." And (via a link from his blog) this wiki contains a huge collection of information, images, and resources; worth a look.

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Time to churn out another mediocre conference paper

Damn, I just discovered I'm on the program for the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference! Who's in charge here anyhow? Shouldn't someone have emailed me that my proposal was accepted? Sigh. I guess, since I never really submitted a formal proposal, and probably no one had my email address, I should have realized it was my job to check. Anyhow, time to get cracking! I've got two weeks. Gotta buy those plane tickets, too. Hopefully it won't really be "mediocre," but I'm quoting an old friend of mine, who once told me that he had decided to swear off academic meetings until he could get a new article into a peer-reviewed journal, and commented wryly, "You know, you could just go on giving mediocre conference papers for the rest of your career."

In the unlikely event that you, gentle reader, are interested in seeing what goes on at the Sixteenth Century Studies conference, you may click on this link to see a PDF of the entire program.

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Monday, September 05, 2005

Spinning Katrina

This New York Times article describes the political strategy "rolled out" this weekend by Rove and his communications director, Dan Bartlett. Pretty sickening, even for this administration. The strategy seems to be:
  • put recognizable faces on the ground in the region (Rice and Rumsfeld, not Chertoff or Brown);
  • don't permit discussion of the past, but focus on the future and on what's happening now;
  • rein in Republican public statements so as to avoid seeming to "play politics";
  • and stay on message by blaming state and local officials (all Democrats, by gum!) for the mismangement of the crisis (i.e., it is the federal government's role to "support" state and local efforts, which were not forthcoming).

Some choice quotations:
In many ways, the unfolding public relations campaign reflects the style Mr. Rove has brought to the political campaigns he has run for Mr. Bush. For example, administration officials who went on television on Sunday were instructed to avoid getting drawn into exchanges about the problems of the past week, and to turn the discussion to what the government is doing now.... One Republican with knowledge of the effort said that Mr. Rove had told administration officials not to respond to Democratic attacks on Mr. Bush's handling of the hurricane in the belief that the president was in a weak moment and that the administration should not appear to be seen now as being blatantly political. As with others in the party, this Republican would discuss the deliberations only on condition of anonymity because of keen White House sensitivity about how the administration and its strategy would be perceived.
In a reflection of what has long been a hallmark of Mr. Rove's tough political style, the administration is also working to shift the blame away from the White House and toward officials of New Orleans and Louisiana who, as it happens, are Democrats.
"The way that emergency operations act under the law is the responsibility and the power, the authority, to order an evacuation rests with state and local officials," Mr. Chertoff said in his television interview. "The federal government comes in and supports those officials."

Nice to know Rove is back in the saddle. I feel safer already. Too bad about all the dead people, but then again, they stubbornly refused to leave, right?
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Looters and foragers

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usIn the aftermath of Katrina: black people photographed carrying groceries are looters; white people photographed carrying groceries are resourceful foragers. Image stolen directly from bird's eye view blog; this one was too good not to post. Click on the thumbnail for a larger view.

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I am going to have a book contract any minute now


Here's the FedEx tracking report for my book contract. It should be delivered to my publisher's doorstep within hours. Yeehaw! Tenure, here I come.
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Sunday, September 04, 2005

On New Orleans and Katrina

As usual, it's late, and there are things I ought to be doing, but for much of the last week I've been following the news from the south with horror. I'm interested in the way things like this get portrayed in the media, and in the way people think about them in a religious or metaphysical framework, so I was looking at blogs like GetReligion and the evangelical outpost. A couple of observations:
  1. One of the first things that the evangelical outpost wanted to talk about was whether it was OK to shoot looters. Why, I wonder, was this the most pressing question that came to mind?For an example of what I'm talking about, first read Joe Carter's post and then read through the voluminous comments attached to it. Mine is number 56, and a gentleman by the name of MikeT responds to me in comment number 67. I commented, half tongue-in-cheek, but only half, that there seems to be an extraordinary concern with keeping people from taking big-screen TVs that don't belong to them.
    On the other hand, then you see things in the news like this: "Kenny Lason, 45, a dishwasher at Pat O'Brien's, a French Quarter restaurant famous for its signature 'Hurricane' cocktail, took a long slurp out of a bottle of Korbel extra-dry champagne. He broke a store window to get it, and he is not ashamed. 'They wasn't giving us nothing,' he said. 'You got to live off the land.'" This is what looting looks like close up, I suppose, and it's not hard to imagine that a person who believes he has been abandoned to die by the authorities wouldn't feel particularly bad about stealing a bottle of expensive liquor that he'd never be able to afford under ordinary circumstances.
  2. Something that turns my stomach: more stage-managing by Bush and his associates. This is directly from the ZDF, one of the major German TV stations:
    "Wo der US-Präsident das Katastrophengebiet besuchte, räumten Hilfstrupps vorher ordentlich auf - aber nur dort. Aus Biloxi zitierte ZDF-Korrespondentin Claudia Rüggeberg verzweifelte Einwohner, Bush solle in seinen Limousinen statt lauter Bodyguards und Assistenten lieber Hilfsgüter herbeischaffen. Entlang seiner Route hätte Räumtrupps vor Bushs Besuch Schutt weggeräumt und Leichen geborgen. Dann sei Bush wieder abgereist 'und mit ihm', so Rüggeberg, 'die ganzen Hilfstrupps'. An der Lage in Biloxi habe sich sonst nichts verändert, es fehle an allem."
    A rough translation: "Wherever the President visited the afflicted area, troops cleared things up nicely beforehand -- but only there. In Biloxi, ZDF correspondent Claudia Rueggeberg quoted desperate residents saying that Bush should have brought supplies, rather than a staff of bodyguards and assistants, in his limousine. Troops were assigned to clear away debris and conceal corpses along Bush's route. When Bush departed, 'the emergency troops left with him,' according to Rueggeberg. The situation in Biloxi remains the same; all supplies are lacking." The video of this report, which is in German, can be viewed here, and the quotation that US bloggers are drawing from can be found at War and Piece.
    This is from a recent press release from Mary Landrieu's office. She is a Democratic senator from Louisiana. This is via Americablog.
    "But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast – black and white, rich and poor, young and old – deserve far better from their national government."
  3. The whole "blame game" phenomenon. The Bush administration and its supporters blame state and local government for ineffective planning and for failing to take the necessary steps to bring federal aid to the area, and announces that "We will not allow bureaucracy to get in the way of saving lives." (Rhetorically, I suppose, he's appealing to his "base" -- he's just a good guy trying to do the right thing, but all those politically correct regulations, and those bull-headed Dem politicians, are stopping him from doing what he needs to do.)Meanwhile Mayor Nagin is crying and raging on the radio (listen, if you can stand it). I've been startled by the willingness of ABC and other networks to mention the possibility that race was a factor, but in lots of other places this suggestion is decried as "race-baiting."
  4. Related to the race point: interesting that so much of the coverage of New Orleans focuses on its otherness. You see only black faces. The lamentation of its passing centers on its uniqueness, on its difference from other American cities, on its special laid-back attitude, on its French, Caribbean and African heritage, on its distinctive cultural achievements (music and food). Hell, it's the city of Anne Rice's vampires, right? .... Imagine, on the other hand, that a disaster of this magnitude, or even, say, a tenth of this magnitude, had hit Disney World, which, if Wikipedia is to be believed, gets somewhere upwards of thirty million visitors per annum and has been closed a couple times due to close brushes with hurricanes (they were especially nervous about Hurricane Floyd in 1999). Disney World attracts as visitors middle-class family from all over thecountry. Imagine how that would play in the papers. Instead of being portrayed as exotic and different, we would no doubt be treated to visions of how Disney World is a tiny microcosm of America, and how the people trapped there and in danger of their lives could be any of us. I don't know. My point isn't to call the media racist, or the government, or anyone else. And I've been kind of rattled by the Black Congressional Caucus's (if I remember right) lashing out at people for using the word "refugee." But it's easy to imagine how the blackness, the poverty, and the otherness of Louisiana make it more possible for TV viewers around the country to distance themselves emotionally from the catastrophe. Sure, they're writing checks. But if all those faces on the screen were white, what would the response have been like?
  5. Last Thursday, Bush told Good Morning America that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did appreciate [he meant anticipate] a serious storm, but these levees got breached." Maybe Bush didn't know this, but as is well established by now, this is just, pardon me, a bunch of bullshit. This is a scenario that had been talked about for years. See this link. The title and subtitle pretty much sum it up: "No One Can Say they Didn't See it Coming. In 2001, FEMA warned that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S. But the Bush administration cut New Orleans flood control funding by 44 percent to pay for the Iraq war." Sure, it's Blumenthal, and he's biased, but ... come on. In addition, the whole line about the Federal government's hands being tied is nonsense, given the stipulations in the DHS's own planning (link to PDF at DHS site; excerpts here).

  6. There was a remark about a related phenomenon on NPR earlier today to the effect that we live in a democracy, and democracies don't deal well with contingency planning. People would rather not vote for, and elected officials would rather not ask for, a tax increase to protect against a disaster that may or may not ever come about. Especially to protect someone else who is probably poor, dark-skinned, and far away, and therefore easier to blame for his or her own problems. This isn't about blame; it's something we all, as good citizens committed to democracy, ought to ponder.
  7. And then, of course, it had to happen: "Hurricane Katrina has put an end to the annual celebration of sin." Repent America, LifeSite, and Agape Press have all pointed out how Katrina has helped put an end to the wickedness of New Orleans (homosexuality and abortion in particular). Michael Brown, of SpiritDaily.com, writes that "The very name 'Katrina' means pure and that is what is now in progress."

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Survived the first 48 hours of the fall semester

Okay ... each of my classes has met once, and there's been substantive discussion in each ... nothing catastrophic has happened yet.

I wonder, has anyone ever written a book on "time management for academics" (besides Robert Boice ... who, by the way, apparently identifies himself as a Buddhist?) I need one. I'm so damn disorganized ...

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Freshblog: Tagging with BlogThis!

From Freshblog: a bookmarklet for automatically adding del.icio.us tags to Blogger posts made via the BlogThis window. This post is a test of the method.

It doesn't automate the process of posting to del.icio.us, but even though I don't know any Javascript, I think I might be able to combine it with the method I'm using now to automate that as well. I'll post something here if I figure it out.

Freshblog: Tagging with BlogThis!:
If you want to add technorati tags your posts in blogthis!, this bookmarklet is the tool for you!!!

Here's two other versions of the bookmarklet that are integrated with del.icio.us. Both include the rel="tag" attribute that enables tag search services to identify the links as tags. The first points to an individual's del.icio.us account (in this case, mine) & is useful for generating the technorati / del.icio.us combo tags that are the crucial tool for the categories method used here.
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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Divers musings

Tomorrow's the start of fall classes, and while I'm nowhere near as stressed as I have been in past semesters, I feel quite unprepared for the upcoming months and remorseful over what I failed to accomplish over the summer break. For some reason this poem has been on my mind:


Poem for the Old Year

January. The archer aims at himself.
His target is the eye of a fish. River
is frozen. Field rises in mists of lost
desire and steams the sealed sky open.
Fish be ruby-weeping. Fish be nailed
through scale onto door of silver birch.
Over the mountain beaten boy searches
for his teeth inside a clump of brambles.
The sound of thorns through his skin
is mercy. The sound of a beautiful fish
being nailed to a door is mercy, mercy.
Nobody knows the origin of music,
or who wind pitches for between rock
and rock like a bronco heart kicking
in its cage. Breeze seduces bow. Bow
abandons arrow. Boy finds shelter
in thicket and hears music of his breath
through ugly, twisted thistles. Come
home. It's time to begin again. A boy
is nailed to the door and a fish is aimed
at an archer, mountain is weeping rubies
onto frozen river while wind grinds
two new teeth. Who are you
inside the music of another's suffering?
When I was a nail I loved only
the hammer. When I was a breeze I died
on a door. When I was a fish
I swam without knowing not yet, or last
breath, or shore.
From Tessa Rumsey, Assembling the Shepherd (Athens [GA]: U of Georgia P, 1999), p. 55.

While I'm at it, here's another one I keep thinking about, this one by Denise Levertov.

What Harbinger?

Glitter of grey
oarstrokes over
the waveless, dark
secretive water.
A boat is moving
toward me
slowly, but who
is rowing and what
it brings I can't
yet see.
From Denise Levertov, Sands of the Well (NY: New Directions, 1996), p. 3.

Nothing much else to report. I have to revise syllabi tonight. I feel strangely warmed, err, that is, I feel strangely calm. Tomorrow the shit really hits the fan, though.

The two other things that have been on my mind lately, in the way of contemporary events, are intelligent design and Cindy Sheehan. Oh, and also Pat Robertson, but he's just kind of a blowhard that doesn't merit a lot of thought. (Though if you're interested in a closer look at his career -- which is actually much stranger than I thought -- the place to go is Christianity Today's weblog entry on the subject.)

About intelligent design: why is no one talking about the class component of the issue (educated pinheads versus reg'lar folks)? It seems disingenuous to pretend that this debate is actually happening on the merits of the ideas. It's a turf battle about who gets to control (primarily) the schools, it seems to me. This quotation, from George Wallace, is on point here:
"[Americans are] fed up ... with strutting pseudo-intellectuals lording over them, writing guidelines, ... telling them they have not got enough sense to know what is best for their children or sense enough to run their own schools and hospitals and local domestic institutions."
(Qtd. from Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven (an incredible book), p. 38.

The statistic that two-thirds of Americans, or thereabouts, believes that the human race was divinely created gets tossed around a lot, which makes me think, so what? (Polls also suggest that a majority believes that if you drop a weight out of a moving car, it will travel either straight down or in the opposite direction to the car ... but we don't teach that in physics class.) The appeal to popular belief betrays a lack of understanding of what education is about, as does the recent spate of attempts to introduce "student bills of rights" (essentially attempts to ensure that students hear the views they like). No sense of the notion of an ongoing educated discourse, of the value of academic disciplines, or of the power of argument to change minds.

Also: why is no one talking about the problem that design, chance, etc. are concepts pertaining to a will -- which is explicitly not an idea that has any meaning within the language framework of the natural sciences. ID advocates seem to want to have it both ways: on the one hand, arguing that their position is "scientific"; on the other, arguing that "materialism" is the problem ... but materialistic assumptions form the foundation for the scientific discourse they claim to be participating in! In other words, as soon as you introduce the language of design, you are talking about teleology and about a controlling, non-observable will ... and thus you have ceased to speak the language of science and have entered the realm of metaphysics. IDers claim to be talking about science and not religion, but philosophically speaking, the concept of "design" itself has no meaning in scientific language, as science attempts to explain observable phenomena in terms of other observable phenomena. Consciousness, intelligence, and especially will don't fit the bill in this context.

Re Cindy Sheehan ... I find myself pretty uncomfortable with the idea that she possesses an inherent moral authority due to her son's death. What impresses me even more is the level of viciousness and rage that her protest seems to evoke. Driving over crosses; calling her names; ... it's all so brutal, really, on all sides, and it's so easy to lose sight of the fact that we're talking about regular people who have suffered unimaginable (for most of us) loss.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Ishiguro and Sebald at Searchblog

"Two złotys (fifty cents) for a shit and one złoty (twenty-five cents) for a piss."

W at Searchblog discusses Sebald and Ishiguro. Makes me remember reading The Unconsoled with H in the Hotel Castex in Paris. Probably the only really romantic thing I've ever done in my life, at least in any kind of conventional sense. And I still feel like I ought to be able to incorporate The Rings of Saturn into my own work somehow ... Sebald does such a great job at describing a version of reality in which everything is invested, not so much with meaning as with what I always call meaningfulness. His images aren't so much symbols as they are freighted with a kind of charge of uncanniness. It's like he's constantly negotiating the boundary between a dream-world in which everything means something but you never know what, on the one hand, and a world in which destruction, or better, decay and deterorioration is everywhere, and you have to fight to keep things from slipping into total shrieking absurdity. And pain ... he always seems to hold pain at a genteel distance somehow. Very German. I still want to read his Zürich lectures on "Air War and Literature" one of these days...
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Z hardly ever cries, but ...

... sometimes he does, and it's cute. Is it perverse of me to say so? I think as he starts to realize the power he has over his parents it'll stop being cute and start getting more whiny and fussy. So, I decided to document the cuteness. I only let him cry for about three minutes while I took these photos, then I picked him up and comforted him. That's not mean, is it?


Click on the arrows to move forward and backward; click on the big image to see larger views and more pictures (this little doodad shows less than half of them). Image hosting courtesy of Imageshack.
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Monday, August 22, 2005

Riddle me this: What is the difference ...

... between this sign ...


(Exhibit A)


... and this one?

(Exhibit B)


Oh, I know what you're thinking. "The difference is that one of them is a bunch of ideological, propagandistic bullshit, and the other one is a bona fide expression of goodwill!" (And if you did think that, I wouldn't know which one you thought was which!) Well, maybe. But I think there's something else going on, which is kind of interesting from the point of view of political rhetoric.
Continued ... click below on "Post Page" to view the rest.

Ever since the war in Iraq began, I've been fascinated by the difference between these two slogans, which you can see all over the place (admittedly, in semi-rural PA, the top image, the one I've labelled "image A," is a lot more common). The phrases are almost identical: "come home" versus "bring them home." But the rhetorical differences are immense. I'm sure there is not asingle reader who could come across either of these two signs (and understand that they were referring to Iraq), and not be able to guess with high accuracy where the sign's owner stands politically with regard to the war and the present administration's policies more generally. Sign A individually or collectively "addresses" the troops, fictitiously, and sign B, just as fictitiously of course, "addresses" the commanders and political leaders responsible for the war. By "fictitiously" I simply mean that the soldiers and leaders in question will probably never see the signs or flags; the people that are going to read them and think about their messages are neighbors, passers-by, ordinary citizens. The imperative form — the commanding tone, as in "bring!" or "come!" — is assumed for purely rhetorical purposes, i.e. to convince the reader of some ideanot to convince them to "bring the troops home" or "come home" themselves. This is obvious, of course, though in my experience people don't tend to think about it, because naturally no one reading the signs is likely to have the power to carry out either command. (On a side note, this makes such slogans different from, say, "Eat at the Liberty Diner" or "Vote No on Proposition Three," where there is a clear, obvious, and direct connection between the message and the hoped-for action on the part of the recipient. People driving or walking by might really go to the Liberty for lunch or think about voting No on the referendum.)

Anyhow, what's interesting about this, I think, is that the first one, the "supportive" or "non-opposition" one (for lack of a better word), sign A, phrases its injunction in a way that pretends — I don't know how else to put it — that the troops actually have a choice as to whether or not they "come home soon," where of course we all know that they don't — there are probably many of them who'd like to come home tomorrow, but they don't actually have that option open to them right now. The "opposition" one, sign B, suggests by its phrasing that there is someone who has the power to bring the troops home — someone in power who can make the choice to determine whether and how long our troops remain engaged. Sign A, in fact, obscures the fact that there is a power differential between the troops themselves, who are not really in much of a position to make significant decisions about their own deployment or survival, and the actual decisionmakers, who could, if they wished, remove ever American serviceman and -woman from the Middle East in a matter of days.

In doing so, sign A also touchingly ascribes a kind of agency to the individual troops that they may or may not have (subjectively speaking; of course, I've never been in combat, thank God, and so I can't even guess what it feels like to be deployed in hostile or dangerous territory). The sign seems to send the message, "We are thinking about you as people, not simply as powerless cogs in a geopolitical machine; take care of yourself, be safe, and get back here quickly." The implication is that the war itself, which is the reason they're there, just sort of happened; no one chose war, it was simply inevitable, the result of vast political and historical forces that none of us can really understand or control. It simply comes about from time to time that our young men and women must march off to defend our freedoms (think of the lyrics to the Hamilton Haven song at the beginning of Robert Altman's Nashville: "I pray my sons won't go to war, but if they must, they must"). So there's a kind of double fiction: wars just happen, on the one hand, sort of like diseases of history; on the other hand, our troops who are over there fighting are there because of their own sense of honor, dignity, and duty to country (essentially, because they decided to go), not because they were ordered to (and, if they disagree with the order, they would face serious consequences were they to act on that disagreement).

I'm tapped out for the night. I'm signing off. If you made it this far, have a look at these two recent images from Iraq:


Via Americablog. Click on the image for a larger view. Look closely at the inscription on the tank's barrel.



This one's just kind of amusing.


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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Anne Lamott

I've been looking for a text to use in the Christianity section of my upcoming world religions course, and I settled on Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. I've read Bird by Bird and parts of Operating Instructions (her obligatory book on motherhood, subtitled A Journal of my Son's First Year) and was usually, I have to say, pretty underwhelmed. My overriding impression was that she was flippant and trivializing in her attitude towards human foibles, and — this is somehow connected, but I'm not sure what the connection is — that she threw around contemporary popular cultural references in a blithe, name-dropping manner that annoyed me. (This was a style quirk in Operating Instructions that really got on my nerves. A sentence pattern that seemed to keep cropping up, or maybe I just noticed it in an exaggerated way, was: "He or she did X like Y," where X is some action verb — the particular passage I'm thinking of is something like "lunged at my breast," talking about her infant son — and Y is some famous person, like maybe a baseball player, that I've never heard of.)

This time, though, I feel like I finally got her writing a little more directly. Maybe this is because of my buzzardish nature, but what got me was the unmistakable suffering she portrays in the book. She describes going through a long, miserable, self-destructive phase, characterized by addiction and dead-end romances, which I can definitely identify with. I've seen this kind of writing before, and I guess what always bothered me about it, and Lamott is not an exception here, is that she makes it sound fun. For one thing, she lives in the Bay Area; for another, she is constantly eating good food; and for another — and this is the point that actually seemed important to me — she seems to be talking about being sad and depressed, but she is apparently never lonely; she seems constantly surrounded by bosom friends! People are always around to talk to her, to call her on the phone, to bring her meals, etc. This has the effect on me of reminding me of my own experience of depression, which was largely, on a subjective level, an experience of feeling entirely cut off from people. Writing like Lamott's can have the unfortunate effect on me of making me think, "Man, I am much more fucked than I thought; here's a person writing about depression who goes to parties, gets laid, and is surrounded by fun people! I must be a different kind of depressed person, the uncool kind, the kind no-one likes..."

So, her self-depiction as addicted and addled and headed for destruction wasn't the part that got me. I think it was the flash-forward description of her father's death. She recalls the day, the afternoon before she and her family would learn that he had a brain tumor that would kill him in two years, and in recalling it she quickly spins out the events of the succeeding two years — the swift, hideous, and brutal deterioration of her father's mind and body — in a way that opens up this window into the grievous depths of human doom and loss. As you read, you imagine what the family must have experienced, and what they still must experience in memory, and it's horrible and sad — and it has a sort of revelatory force, since this — watching your father's mind stop working and his face become covered with tumorous growths — is the ground that faith has to grow in. I think this is actually the most moving element of the book, the depiction of sickness — maybe the depiction specifically of cancer —, rather than her depiction of the fucked-up nature of human social life, which comes across as fairly whimsical and goofy even at its worst.






I think when I first picked up the book I had been hoping for something like Annie Dillard or Flannery O'Connor, two of my favorite writers. This is obviously totally different. She aims for the sort of Harlequin-esque side of Christianity. You can see the influence of California-style Zen in her writing. It reminds me of the story:
Somebody asked Lao Tse, "Where is the Great Matter?" He said, "It's in the dirt." He said, "Such a thing as that?" Lao Tse said, "It's in the ants." He said, "So small a thing as that, teacher?" "It's in the piss and the shit!" Lao Tse said.
(I know this as a Buddhist story ... but never mind.) Similarly, for Lamott, that's where Christ is to be found — in the least dignified and most degraded parts of our lives. She uses the word "Jesus" a lot, and describes Jesus "sitting on his haunches" in the corner of her room after a particularly rough night of carousing. Grace, for Lamott, enters into our lives in grossest acts: the pissing, shitting, puking, zit-popping, menstruating, cussing, being drunk, being fat, being beaten up for no reason, falling down, bleeding, fucking in dirty motels, getting abortions, getting sick, going insane, getting cancer, and dying. Not in grand mystery, not in flashes of the numinous or uncanny, and not in revelation.

I'm not sure how I feel about this, but it's quite powerful in her work. I'm also not sure how all it's going to work out in the classroom. I'm going to have to do some thinking about how to use it. However, a highly personal, well-written, and emotionally jarring book can never be too bad, I hope.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Green bags for vegetables


It sounds hokey, I know, but these bags really work. $4.99 for ten reusable bags, and worth every penny.

Continued ... click below on "Post Page" to view the rest.

[full post]
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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

More messing around with del.icio.us categories

Have been trying to jerry rig something together to automate the process of posting to del.icio.us. Made all the changes called for here. This post is a test ... if it works, it'll be cool. Will report back in an update.

Update


It seems to work, though I'm not sure about it yet. The first time I tried it, it didn't populate the del.icio.us post form with the tag values, but the second time, it did. If you want the details, keep reading.

Continued ... click below on "Post Page" to view the rest.

Basically, what the hack does is this: you install the Greasemonkey script to automatically prompt you for tags when creating a new post at the Blogger site. (For this to work, you need the Greasemonkey extension installed. And for Greasemonkey to work, you have to be using Firefox.) Then you go to the somniloquy site and follow the instructions there. They are complicated. I changed things a bit as well. His instructions allowed any visitor to tag his posts. I don't care about any visitor — I figure most people who are using del.icio.us already have their own taglist, and besides, I mainly care about my own convenience. So, where his instructions call for this:


window.open("http://del.icio.us/post?url="+postlink+"&title="+posttitle+"&tags="+fc.value);


I changed it to this:


window.open("http://del.icio.us/strangelywarmed?url="+ encodeURIComponent(postlink) + "&title=" + posttitle + "&tags=" + fc.value);


so as to post only to my own account, meaning I have to be logged in. That's what the little [T] link below does. It's only useful to me, really. To be honest, I have no idea what the "encodeURIComponent" does.


So, what this means is, I write my post, append my tags, publish it, then click the little [T] link under the post, and it is automatically categorized at del.icio.us. And that's that.


Primary credit for this technique goes to John at Freshblog. Without his post, the links there, and his other hints, I never would have gotten this figured out. Thanks!




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Expandable post summaries, revisited

Posted to: , ,

The strategy I was using to make the post summaries expandable, it turns out, doesn't work on IE6. I fooled around with this for a while, and have settled on an uglier, less satisfying, but simpler (and universally workable, knock on wood) solution. Each entry has a link at the bottom to the "post page" (the permalink). When I'm going to display only a summary on the mmain page, the summary will be followed by the line, "Continued ... click below on 'Post Page' to view the rest." You should see this below. If you want to read the technical details, click it; otherwise, just be aware that if you read something interesting that ends with "Continued...," then click the small, italicized link below to the "Post Page" to read the whole thing.



Continued ... click below on "Post Page" to view the rest.



My original technique, which I got here, relies on "advanced" CSS, namely adjacent sibling selectors. The part that disappears in the main page is wrapped in conditionally formatted span tags with class="fullpost", which have the display: inline property on the item pages but the display: none property on the main page. This was followed by a line wrapped in span tags with class="more". This class does not display on item pages or on the main page, except when immediately preceded by the fullpost class. In other words it looked like this:



.more {

display: none;

}



.fullpost + .more {

display: inline;

}



This worked fine, except that IE6 does not recognize that line with the plus sign in it. Frustrating.
The problem with the current solution, of course, is that the "Continued" indicator doesn't disappear in the post page, which is irritating, and that the "Post Page" link can't be made to disappear for posts that don't need it, which is also irritating. I tried using conditional formatting but for some reason it didn't work, and now I'm fed up with experimenting. Plus, I've wasted pretty much the whole morning fooling with this, and I really have actual work to do.

Update:


I'm not sure what I was doing wrong, but I think I at least managed to fix that first problem by just sort of tidying up the code.

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