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Round-Up for 10/14

cc-licensed image “untitled” by flickr user sflovestory

You people really like marching bands.  Last week’s Ohio State marching post, wherein I chided CUNY for its  lack of brass, was one of the most read Footenotes ever.  How do I know this?  The Google Analytics weekly report!  If you’d like to know how your blog is doing shoot me a message and I’d be happy to set that up for you.

Elsewhere in the world…

A man fell from space today.  I completely lost two hours of my Sunday after I accidentally got sucked into the space odyssey that was Felix Baumgartner.  I’m mega-afraid of heights so I was a total wreck watching Felix pour himself out of his tin can.  Here’s to you, Felix!

Earlier in the week the VP debates dominated the news.  I spent a lot of time gnawing on my fist that night.  I feel like Bill Maher said all there was to say about it.  Others feel differently.  So it goes.  This reminds me that if anything good came from the first debate it’s the coming Million Muppet March.

On the Commons there was much to discuss.

MOOCs were on a lot of people’s minds again.  As many of you have probably seen, George Otte has been doing a lot of thinking of MOOCs over at Tributaries for a while now.  This week Tony Picciano reported in from the Sloan-C Conference and said that he was hearing lackluster things about MOOCs.  Meanwhile, over at Envisioning Online Learning, Bruce Rosenbloom brought us some great insights on the potential and popularity of MOOCs via Sebastion Thune.  On a related note – elsewhere on the Commons Jetmir Troshani asked readers to consider the need for a departments dedicated to online learning.  Clearly something’s in the air.

I thought I was going to see more fanfare about the HathiTrust court ruling on the Commons.  Copywrite & Fair Use picked up the story from The Chronicle and many Commonsers were Tweeting it.  Maybe you’re all writing  your op-eds tonight.

Till next week.



Round-Up for 10/7

Hello Commons,

Most of the time, I’d say 97% at least, I’m totally proud of having graduated from Hunter College and CUNY.  But ever so often something like this comes along and makes me regret everything.  With apologies to CUNY Games, I’m not really a video game guy, but it’s hard not be impressed watching a huge marching band play Tetris, Mario, and Space Invaders with their bodies, on a football field, while playing instruments.  Stick around in that video and you’ll get to watch the Ohio State band make a horse that takes up the whole field and then make it run.  I’m running out of italics.  These guys are basically a few big flash cards away from the Mass Games.

If nothing else, that Ohio State marching band video is about 6,000% more entertaining that this week’s presidential debate. Tony Picciano checked in after the debates and shared his thoughts.  The rest of the Commons was surprisingly mum.  I’m not real sure what to think.  Some folks are saying he was taken by surprise, others that he’s always been a terrible debater.  I mostly just got the impression that right before he went on stage someone handed him a brief with the world’s most devastating news and it’s better I don’t know what was in that envelope.

Frankly, it was just filler for the right fight: Biden Vs. Ryan.  I cannot wait.

The Open Access blog was killing it last week with some big events on the horizon.  First up is an Author’s Rights event at City Tech that anyone who’s writing to publish should probably check out.  Personally, I have no idea what I’m signing when I come out of my article writing haze.  They’re also promising wine and cheese.  Later that same week at the Graduate Center the Open Access group will be hosting two sessions on getting CUNY to make the move to Open Access and, later, on using Open Access textbooks and teaching materials.  Thanks so much for these great events!

Finally this week – If you missed it in the blogs Professor Sellie’s Library Resources Page had a fantastic post with some vintage library posters.  There’s got to be a stack of posters like these sitting around an office somewhere at CUNY.  Start digging!

Till next week.



cc license image “untitled” by flickr user Dana Moos

Hello Commons,

Last week I was plenty ticked about those subway ads that went up around the city.  Turns out I wasn’t the only one.  The Awl started a little gallery of “modified” posters while sometimes CNN correspondent Mona Eltahawy took matters into her own hands.  The MTA has since decided to review their process for ad approval and the whole thing will probably wind up back in court again.  I know, I know – we’re all CUNY folks so we’re super-smart and this issue is really thorny because there’s the larger questions about freedom of speech looming behind the very immediate and visceral “hey, being racist is actually pretty awful” sentiment that’s guiding a lot of immediate reactions.  The sound thing to do is (was?) to follow the rule of the internet and not feed the trolls but sometimes you really just want slap big stickers up over offensive posters.

Before I get on with the rest of the round up for this week I’d like to point you over to the GC’s Center for Place Culture and Politics site.  A couple of days ago it was announced that the the much-beloved Neil Smith passed away.  There’s been a really beautiful outpouring of condolences and memories on two tribute pages and another has gone up with some wonderful videos.  By all accounts he was a marvelous educator and friend to many.

Roman Kossak had a great post up on teaching his “Math for Poets.”  When I took a similar course as an undergrad it was called “Math for Lovers.” Roman talks about the ups and downs of teaching  and speaks candidly about what went wrong in the classroom.  It may be  a little cliche but I think a good rule of thumb in education is that you always learn more from what doesn’t work.  Sharing those moments is really insightful so thank you!

A new blog showed up this week.  A.W. Strouse arrived sharing poetry and telling us more disappointing things about Ed Koch.  Strouse has hit the ground running with a flurry of great post and I’m excited to see what’s next.  Since we’re talking about Ed Koch I’ll share this little bit of New York apocrypha:  As it turned out, Ed Koch wound up moving into the same building as author and ACT-UP founder Larry Kramer.  It was holy hell in the building until the co-op board managed to broker some kind of treaty between the two.  One day, after months of peace, the elevator door opens and Larry Kramer’s dog bolts out and races over to none-other-than Ed Koch.  Larry snatches up the pooch and tells the poor creature (the dog that is), “Don’t go near him, that’s the man that killed all of daddy’s friends.”  Ah, New York.

Finally this week, Jessica Yood sent us a dispatch from sabbatical.  I was worried that the start of the school year would mean we wouldn’t get quite so many Associations posts.  Instead we got more stellar writing on life in, and as, September.  Glad to see you again!

Till next week.


Round Up!


It’s going to be all over the news this week so we might as well get it out of the way here.  On your commute this morning you might have caught one of these fantastically tasteless ads on the subway.  If you’ve missed the dust-up leading to them it starts with Pamela Gellar.  You might vaguely remember her from the embarrassing protests a couple of years ago when  some fellow New Yorkers wanted to build a cultural center downtown.   A self-appointed vigilante in the name of all those “soon-to-be-oppressed” by Islam, Mrs. Gellar sued the MTA to get ads posted on the trains that compare Muslims to savages.   We at CUNY know that CUNY and the city are richer for the great diversity of our students, faculty and staff and especially the contributions of our Muslim community members who help make New York City the capital of the world.  Every time I see one of these ads I hope there’s a CUNY ad right next to it because that’s the choice we have to make in life:

Learn, grow, and be free or let your own ignorance terrify you into a thousand hysterical deaths.

Meanwhile on the Commons there was plenty to discuss already.  Tony Picciano has been keeping us up to speed with the Queensborough Community College English Department and their recent actions regarding Pathways.  I’m sure many of you have been following this from a variety of perspectives.  It’s been interesting to read the papers’ take on events and then moments later get emails from PSC and various other groups.   It will be very interesting to see where this goes for everyone as it will doubtlessly inform the tenor of this policy and its trajectory.

For the last few weeks George Otte has been blogging about MOOCs and what they mean for the future of education and technology.  This week some new voices have jumped into the conversation here on the Commons.  Bruce Rosenbloom talked a little about how institutions are thinking about MOOCs while Tony Picciano shared some news about MOOCs big leap.  Love it or hate it MOOCs have arrived and we’re going to have to figure out what they mean for educators and the academy.

Finally this week — CUNYMath veered into the epistemological.  Broni Czarnocha had a great post on “knowing.”  It’s just another in a string of stellar posts from the Math Group.  If you enjoyed it keep an eye out for a rumored philosophy blog in the works.

Till next week.

Round Up!

Things are back in full swing on the Commons.  The last few weeks alone have brought a couple hundred (!) new faces to the site — Hello!

The 11th anniversary of 9/11 passed this week.  Adam Wandt snapped a beautiful photo of the “Towers of Light” tribute down at Ground Zero and shared his thoughts on what we remember each year.  I still think the light installations this time each year are a really poignant tribute and I hope they continue after the new towers are finished.  Unfortunately the week was marred by violence around the globe; starting in Libya and wrapping up in China.  There isn’t much I have to offer on either front.  Both protests in Libya and China, though clearly different, are each rooted in historical context so thick that trying to talk about them in this often silly and tertiary space wouldn’t help at all.  I will offer, in all earnestness, the thought that everyone in this community should remember that your work is both the salve and the antidote.

Elsewhere in the news Tony Picciano shared with us the latest from Chicago.  As many of you know Chicago’s teachers are on strike this week to protest pay cuts and changes to benefits.  There was much speculation as to whether the strike would happen at all and now, a week in, it looks as though Chicago will go a second week with no class.  Here’s hoping CTU is able to strike a deal soon.

Two tech pieces showed up in the blogs this week.  Will Fenton spent some time reviewing GoodReader for the iPad while Aaron Knoll talks to us about choice and technology.  Both posts are great reads and point to a trend on the Commons of folks sharing reviews and advice with the community and the world at large.  Maybe it’s time for a tech column on the Commons?

Finally this week we had something of a surprise on the Commons.  CUNY’s own Chancellor Matthew Goldstein wrote an engrossing post on the Ubiquitous Normal Law.  From there a discussion kicked up and the math crew tossed around examples and limits.  It was a little beyond me, as most math is (Sorry Chancellor and CUNYMath folks!) but it was a pleasure to see the Chancellor drop by the Commons.

Till next week!

Round Up!

A tornado! In Brooklyn! Again!

I grew up in Texas where we have “tornado season” which is actually about as terrifying as it sounds.  There’s a whole swath of the year in which it is totally possible, likely even, that a giant funnel is going to come down from the sky and rock ‘n roll.  The “training” you get for this is pretty simple: If you can, get in a bathtub and put your mattress over it, if that’s not possible sit down in a door frame, and if that’s not possible sit under your desk.  Because nothing is more awesome then sitting under your desk while your 4th grade teacher is both crying and singing.  Sorry, was that a little dark for Footenotes?  In any event — I feel totally prepared for the New New York.

Speaking of rock ‘n rolling —  Bill Clinton brought the house down in North Carolina this week.  Tony Picciano weighed in and was impressed from the sounds of it.  Hell, it really was a barn burner.  Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, you’ve got to admit that nobody holds court like Bill.  The guy’s a total peacock.  Even if you tried to ignore what he was saying he still gets you with his magisterial use of hand gestures.

Speaking of presence, the start of the new year has brought in a crop of fresh bloggers.  New blog ‘In Between’ chimed in this week with some thoughts on positioning.  I love it when CUNY gets meta and it’s interesting to think along with a new PhD candidate getting their feet wet at CUNY.  It’ll be great to check in with this blog over years and see how much changes.  Thanks for making a home here on the Commons!

Not to eavesdrop but the Digital Fellows blog posted some awesome tips for doing a WordPress install locally with your Mac using MAMP.  I know there are a ton of Mac users on the Commons and this post is an invaluable resource.  Thanks so much new Digital Fellows!

Finally this week there are a couple of big events coming up at CUNY that you should mark your calenders for.  First up is Open Access Week here at CUNY.  If you’re new to CUNY or new to the Commons then you should know we’re big Open Access supporters here and we have a ton of resources for you to study up in the issues and get involved.

Also coming up is the 11th annual CUNY IT Conference.  If you haven’t made it to one of the IT conferences you really should try to catch it this year.  I know, I know — it sounds like a lot of dudes running around in cargo pants being chased by sales reps from Microsoft.  It is not like that at all.  It’s actually a lot of really creative folks at CUNY showing off some fantastic work they’re doing across the university.  Come say hello!

Till next week!


Labor Day Round Up!

The last big hurrah of the summer and I’m wrapped up in a sheet with a cold.  It’s pathetic.  I was thinking Fire Island and instead wound up pacing around my apartment like a wraith, trying to figure out if the mystery pills in the cabinet were Tylenol or sleeping pills.  I took both of them.  This may become the incoherent Round Up.  (Because that would be a real break in style.) 

The week opened with Clint Eastwood talking to furniture.  I think I’ve said all I can there.

Actually, no.  There’s one  little morsel of news there that I would never forgive myself for if I didn’t mention it: The premiere of TLC’s “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo” had better ratings than the Republican National Convention.

Ok, moving on…

Schools back in.  Already the Commons has started to see some new life.  A ton of new faces and new blogs have popped up on the site.  For starters a Feminist Studies group has landed and looks set to make a big impact at the GC.  I’m looking forward to their programming this year.

The CUNY Math blog always has stellar writing on it, but this week was a knock out.  Frank Wang took on the question of ‘Why are so many Harvard student’s first born’ and basically beat it around the head with some serious math.  Later in the week Roman Kossak posted a insightful piece about the need for better communication between math faculty and asked the community to make the Commons their place.  I hope to see more discussions grow from this insightful piece.

I suuuuck at Twitter.  I’m terrible at it.  I go on there and see Boone and Luke and all of the cool kids making witty RT’s and ### and I can’t for the life of me figure it out.  Fortunately The CUNY Games network posted a great ’50 Best Twitter Feeds for Educational Gaming’ so if you’re like me and still dipping your toes in the Twitter waters this is a great place to start.  Thanks so much for posting!

Adam Wandt posted a photo of the Imagine mosaic in Central park this week.  If you’re new to the Commons one of the things you’ll notice is that we share photos in a lot of places here.  Feel free to post your own.  Adam also reached out to the community to try and start a discussion about what it means to be an American.  I’d really love to see how the Commons responds to questions of identity and citizenship.

I’ll end the week on a high note.  The Common’s own Raymond Hoh has been promoted to the BuddyPress core team.  Congrats Raymond!

Til next week.

Round Up!

cc photo "untitled" by flickr user KevinGessner

cc photo “untitled” by flickr user KevinGessner

Earlier last week Matt Gold and I were having a conversation about Branch, an outfit that bills itself as a “new way to talk to each other” on the web.  The team over at Branch is on to something.  Communicating around the web has many perils; meandering discussions, trolls, lack of engagement…  Branch looks to solve these problems by allowing you to tailor your audience.  I think.  From what I gather it’s like Pinterest for dialogue.  You grab something off of Twitter or a blog and move it to a new environment to talk about it.  About the time I learned about Branch, Twitter released Medium.  Medium isn’t immediately obvious in its purpose.  Twitter founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams describe it as a new way of communicating with the “burden” of becoming a blogger.  From what I can make of it, it’s like Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest kind of mixed up.  The Awl wrote a great piece about this change in direction for online communicating platforms and was wise to mention that they have as much to do with rethinking ad revenue as they do with “reinventing” communication.  It strikes me that two moves are happening here: We seem to be looking for a way to tailor the web precisely to our interests and we want to do it eloquently.  Corina Chocano handled the first part of this move nicely and I have little to say otherwise so I’ll simply point you towards her article in the Times.  Eloquence deserves a little more thought.

Twitter’s 140 cap headlines took everybody’s favorite part of Facebook and made it a “thing.”  It’s like that Seinfeld episode where they just sell the muffin tops.  Tumblr took it a step further;  easy to use, beautifully designed themes, it’s  social media that frequently transcends language in favor of a visual dialogue as prophesied by John Berger in the BBC’s 1972 series “Ways of Seeing.”  Even the idea of the Commons, or BuddyPress at large, relates here.  People want the best of the web without the hoi polloi.  Why use the group and blogging features of places like Facebook or Google and sift through the advertising wasteland (to say nothing of privacy issues) when you can create your own private, beautiful environment.

Why rent when you can buy?

Meanwhile on the Commons…

Frank Wang over at CUNYMath had a great post this week about math and music.  He explores the human preference for music with predictability and symmetry, and it’s mathematical roots.  There’s an interesting conversation about aesthetics and math waiting to happen there.  In the comments Mari Watanabe-Rose found a great quote about rhythm in Murakami’s latest.  It’d be interesting to get a collection going of great literature on great math.

Roberto Duncan had a ton of posts up this week over at Transformative Games about his work this summer with high school students.  As Roberto’s summer with his students winds down, each of the projects have an epilogue looking back at how the games and learning went.  Thank you for bringing this work to the Commons community!

Jessica Yood stopped in after some late summer reflection.  As always, this blog is a treasure to read.  Be sure to check it out and prepare to add the word crodje to your vocabulary.  You grok?

Speaking of the end of summer, the Welcome New Students blog posted some important info for the GC’s incoming class.  While many of us are past our new student days you should check out this gem from the post: Thinking Like a Creator.

Till next week.


The Muggy Round Up


Hello  Commons,

The week opened with Curiosity landing on Mars and quickly streaming images of the red planet back home to Earth.  An optimistic wave of interest in the program took over the news cycle and in the dust of the story’s impact a few interesting and unexpected  bits surfaced.  My favorite of the tertiary stories was the unearthing of a prepared speech President Nixon would have given if Armstrong and Aldrin had been stranded on the moon.  The speech is painfully eloquent and though we are all grateful that there was no occasion for it’s use, it’s impossible to not try and imagine Nixon’s delivery.   On a lighter note, its been amazing to watch the Mohawk sporting NASA scientist and flight controller Bobak Ferdowsi stymie the efforts of parents across the world.

As it turns out, everyone was having a pretty big week.  The Commons team (it’s weird to write in the third person) announced our feature packed Commons 1.4 release.  Commons 1.4 is the result of some serious work from the Development Team and you can check the development blog to stay up to date on bug fixes and the like.   In the days ahead keep an eye out for posts explaining some of the new features.  To get everyone started Scott Voth kicks things off by talking out the new Google Docs Embed Plug-In.

Also having a good week was Footenotes’ favorite Zines at Brooklyn College.  Alycia Sellie posted to share a feature article in The Wall Street Journal.  Congratulations to everyone involved!  I’m still kicking myself for missing the party.

Tony Picciano gave us some follow up on the shooting last weekend.  Tony was also the first on the Commons to share the news about Romney picking Paul Ryan as VP.  I’m beginning to think that the contemporary Republican party is a kind of long running Actionist performance art piece.  I don’t mean this disparagingly, as there’s plenty one can say about the Democratic party, but there’s a kind of internal logic at work so byzantine that I have surrendered to the effect of the piece and can only stand in naked awe of it, bereft of linear comprehension.  I feel like only,like, Werner Herzog really understands what is happening.

Finally this week William Ashton posted a bit from BBC news about MCA’s will.  The deceased Yauch made clear that nothing from his artistic legacy was to be used for advertising.  I hope it sticks because it’d break my little heart to hear the Beastie Boys being used to sell tickets on a cruise.

Till next week.



Round Up

Lecture Hall – Hunter College

Years ago when I came to work for the Commons, my first real idea for the site was Footenotes.  A lot of good writing would get buried in the news feed and I thought it’d be great to pull out some gems every week for posts that might have otherwise missed their audience.  In reading almost all of the blogs each week I learned that one of the things bloggers on the Commons loved (and continue to love) was the news.   I started spending the first paragraph or two talking about national or local news before moving on to the Commons, and about the time Footenotes hit its stride I started to get cute about how “crazy” the state of Arizona was.  You can search the ‘Arizona’ tag and see I was on a tear for a while about Gov. Jan Brewer and her policy decisions regarding immigration and women’s reproductive rights.  As all good blogging usually is, these little missives turned into petite exercises in catharsis.  Then a young man shot Congresswoman Giffords.

I think that moment was pretty sobering because a lot of us realized what was happening in Arizona was far more sinister than we had imagined.  After that shooting I felt like maybe opining on the news when I was supposed to be unearthing great posts around the Commons was best left to others so I backed off a bit.  But if the Commons is anything,  the Commons is a conversation CUNY has with itself and the world.  Over the months talking about the news robustly worked its way back in and it’s always a pleasure of mine to sit down Sunday evenings and read what Tony Picciano or Helldriver or any of the Commons’ 640-something bloggers have to say about New York, America or the world.

Lately though I’ve been at a loss about how to talk about the news briefly, meaningfully, and with humor because events like the shooting in Colorado or today’s terrible tragedy in Wisconsin deserve more than a glib two sentences on the way to something else.  I think that there’s a point of intersection between events like these very real nightmares and the function of education, and most especially the noble tradition of public education, in society.

If I’m being frank, “point of intersection” is too weak:  The state of affairs in public education is indissociable from our current and very real state of public violence.

I’m not suggesting that we can educate our way completely out of tragedy.   Illness is a consequence of life and will always require tending.  I do, however,  think that at some point in our lives choosing education, and being in the service of it, as a profession is the realization that if it’s not this — it’s nothing.  If it is not the transmission of  knowledge, new perspectives and new ways of thinking and solving problems for society’s sake then we’re inevitably left with slings and arrows.


Michael Smith found this wonderful picture of Richie Havens at Staten Island Community College.  Michael notes that this would have been a few months before Havens played Woodstock.   For the trivia minded it’s worth noting that Havens was the first act to play at Woodstock and went on by popular demand for nearly three hours.  If you watch the video of his seminal “Motherless Child” you’ll notice by the end he’s down to three strings on his guitar.

George Otte returned to Tributaries this week with two great posts.  At the heart of his posts are questions about what technology is going to do with professors and educators as we know it.  George points towards the shrill New York Times piece that was circulating recently and catches some lazy writing and research.  One of the perks of being on the Commons is actually _enjoying_ technology.

The GC’s new students blog was thinking about more urgent matters: Caffeine.  I’ll let you read the post and get their take on the best cup of coffee around the Graduate Center.  However, I’ll go ahead and second their vote for Stumptown Coffee Roasters.  I’ll also confess here that sometimes I just really love Dunkin’ Donuts’ coffee.  I know, I know…I’m sorry.

Brooklyn Zine crew had their debut last week and sent thanks to everyone involved. I didn’t get to make it out there but I saw it posted on the very hip “nonsense list” that went out.  Congrats again! Post pictures!

Till next week.


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