building CUNY Communities since 2009

Round Up

cc license photo “westchester avenue” by flickr user John H Gray

I’m not really into tin-foil hats.  There was a time when I was wildly vigilant about the news and during the war(s) there was no shortage of daily posts around the web about the inevitable end of democracy/freedom/privacy/etc. to keep me sated.  Over time though I buckled under the weight of awareness fatigue.  I suspect many of us did.  In the future one of us will probably write a book called, “How I learned to love the US PATRIOT Act” and it’ll essentially be all about how we couldn’t keep up with the hydra.  This isn’t to say there aren’t bright spots.  Last winter the whole of the internet rallied against SOPA/PIPA with a fervor I hadn’t seen in a long time and it was inspiring to see that when a complex problem was broken down into manageable parts, people could find a way to respond.

So why so glum, sugarplum?

Well, it’s because I started following this William Benney/NSA story that’s been building up to a roar over the last few years.  Wired has done a admirable job posting about Binney while other news outlets have picked at the story.  The short of it is that, allegedly, the NSA might have a copy of just about every phone call and email in the US since the early 2000’s.  There’s even a fancy 2 billion dollar building going up in Utah to house the data.  Sure, I guess on some level we all knew this was coming, but there’s something unnerving about it when we’re on the cusp of technology like Google Glass and the likes.

I wasn’t the only one thinking about complexity this week.  Jessica Yood had another marvelous post, this week writing about complexity in writing and elsewhere.  I managed to read her post shortly after listening to Aaron Knoll’s brief talk on creativity and found the pairing of the two enlightening. It left me wondering if any “created” thing is inherently complex given its total and absolute position as separated from the sublime simplicity of nothing.   I’m obviously ready for summer to be over.  These are autumn thoughts.

If you’re also ready to put away the board shorts and get back in the swing of things Zeteo posted this week and is calling for papers!

Speaking of wrapping up the summer, some delegates from the Commons team we’re in Vegas this week to accept an award from the Sloan Consortium.  Michael Smith still managed to post some great photos from the archives, including this shot of some CUNY bikers.

Finally this week, Maura Smale checked out the library at University of Chicago.  Along the way she managed to cause an inter-collegiate incident by disturbing the precious minds of UC at work.  I have a few good friends at Chicago…the silence in that room was probably the never-ending vigil to the students of Chicago’s crushed souls.



Till next week.


The Come-Down-Round-Up

Alas Commons, I have descended from Paradise.

The last adventure I got to have before leaving Hawaii was an accidental hike to the top of a mountain.  We had planned to do a hike along the river in the Iao Valley, but in typical island fashion a lone handwritten note taped to a fence post informed us that the road was flooded and to go no further.  Deflated, but not defeated, we drove along the coast and found another trail.  It was an exhausting climb up, and since we had no idea where this consolation hike would lead we pressed on in the manner of loyal dogs and feckless children on the hem.  As it just so happened this particular trail went all the way to the top.  Above is the last picture I snapped before camera gave up the ghost.  Occasional helicopters would dart through the valley below us.  Up in the cloud (monolithic and single tense) it was often impossible to see more than 10 feet beyond.  I realized when we reached as far as we could climb that I was simultaneously at the height of the island and the apex of summer.  In a few scant days I’d be on a plane barreling towards New York and, together, we’d all be shuffling papers and combing through dog-eared books to prepare for the coming semester.

Sure enough, it looks like fall is on many minds around the Commons.  Maura Smale made a wonderful post about how the NYCCT library turns game mechanics to their advantage in the overwhelming student rush of Orientation. The intersection of games, technology and learning is a powerful site of growth in the academy and the CUNY Games Network Blog has diligently kept the CUNY community informed with their enthusiasm and great posts.

The Welcome New Students blog continued with their borough testimonials and sales pitches.  This week it was Brooklyn’s time to represent.  Gwen Shaw sold us on why Brooklyn’s the greatest city in the world.  I’ll bet anyone on the Commons 50 bucks that Marty Markowitz shows up in the comments.  That guy loves his job.

Over at Associations Jessica Yood was also catching us up on some adventures abroad.  This latest post finds its author dealing with mindfulness in writing and experience, with some keen insights into pith and wit.

Helldriver spent some time with a small ensemble.  These posts are such gems, man.  Thanks.  Part of the work at Footenotes is to steer people towards post they might have missed during the week, but if you’re missing Helldriver posts by now what can I do?  This guy could write about what happened on America’s Got Talent and I’d be there.

Finally this week, Bruce Rosenbloom posted A Vision for Academic Technology at CUNY.  In light of so many people’s passion here on the Commons for technology and it’s potential to help better educate the people of New York and around the world, it’s good to see our goals here.  Their exemption from the CUNY Strategic Plan doesn’t necessarily mean that they are absent from our intentions, hopes, or vision as educators.




Image courtesy of Dan Century at

Well, what’s in the news this week?  I’m going to skip the Obama/Romney shadow boxing for now because Lord knows there’s going to be plenty of that in the coming months.  But come on Mittens, show us the money.  I want to know what was in those tax records that made Sarah Palin a better candidate for VP.  Speaking of, can you imagine if they had won?  I don’t mean that in a partisan way, just as a thought experiment.  Take the next two minutes to imagine it.  Like, picture the Arab Spring and then we send Vice President Palin over to Egypt to make sure the Israel/Egypt treaty is going to stand.  I know, right? I know.


Actually I was just writing that to get your blood pressure up because we really do need to freak out a little (but just a little) now.  You might recall several months ago that the CUNY Academic Commons and basically everyone else on the internet pitched in to stop SOPA/PIPA.  For a minute there it looked like we had managed to get an out of touch congress to slow down and think about what was happening.  Things were looking better as late as this month with ACTA failing to be ratified by the EU, essentially stalling international support for similar legislation.  But deep in the heart of Texas, Rep Lamar Smith was busy crafting some new legislation — the Intellectual Property Attache Act or IPAA.  IPAA isn’t nearly as sweeping as SOPA but it is basically a big chunk of that old bill reformatted with an emphasis on influencing foreign countries to create legislation that could help change the internet as we know it.  Though SOPA failed, bills like this could achieve the same result in piecemeal if we don’t stay informed.  Eyes on the road.

Meanwhile on the Commons — CUNY gets some guns!

Or rather, CUNY had some guns and used to shoot them a lot.  I can’t believe College of Staten Island had a rifle club.  I went to Hunter, where was my rifle club?  I think we had a fencing team.  Anybody over at CSI know if they still have the rifle club?  Wait…do we still have the rifles? What other slightly dangerous and yet oddly compelling sports do we have around CUNY?  Archery? Falconry?

Tim Wilson, long time blogger on the site, took the Commons back to its roots with some poetry this week.  For those of you new to the community the Commons had a deep poetry phase especially around Poetry Month that has, sadly, been on the wane.  I know Grindley has been hard at work on some other projects so that leaves you, Tim Wilson, holding down the fort.  New people — write some poems! Blog them!

If you, like me, missed Pete’s Mini Zine Fest at Pete’s Candy Store then be sure to head to Brooklyn College for Brooklyn College Library’s unveiling of the Zine Collection.  I love the blog and after completely missing the BC Zine crew at ZineFest earlier in the spring I can’t wait to check out the collection.  Mark your calenders folks!

Till next week.


The Fireworks Round-Up!


A couple of years ago I went on a tear here on Footenotes about Macy’s taking the fireworks off of the East River.  I didn’t move to Greenpoint for the killer pierogis, though they are superb, I moved here so I could drink on my roof and watch fireworks on the 4th.  I might have been a little bitter about the fact that, not only did I get cheated out of my own personal fireworks venue, but we now had to share our scant fireworks with New Jersey.  The New Jerseyian cadre on the Commons piped up and shamed me publicly in the comments.  It was awful.  I mention all of this though because I was delighted to see that I was a visionary.  This year Public Advocate Bill De Blasio and State Senator Daniel Squadron stepped up for the people of New York and started a petition to bring the fireworks back to Brooklyn.  It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Next year Macy’s…next year.

Here on the Commons terrible fireworks logistics didn’t stop Adam Wandt from filming the show and putting together some video for us.  I’m sad I missed it, but its great to see these clips — Thanks Adam!

Things tend to slow down on the Commons in the dog days of summer but you wouldn’t know it from the blogs this week.  Everyone was posting these great, full posts.  My hunch is that we’re all stuck inside next to the air conditioners while New York melts.  Speaking of the heat, the folks over at Bike CUNY posted some helpful tips for biking around the city under the murder sun.  Seriously though, read it.  If you bike around New York in the summer take care of yourself.

Lee Hachadoorian threw in his two cents on Mayor Mike’s new soda ban and the subsequent backlash.  The pictures on the subway of the soda turning to fat were pretty impressive.  The 11,000% increase in taxes on cigarettes definitely curbed a lot of people’s habit.  Shutting down the OTB parlors probably saved a marriage or two.  But this soda ban thing…I feel like I going to wake up one morning with Michael Bloomberg in my living room making me do yoga.  You gotta leave us something Mike.  I feel like we’re all going be doing the cinnamon challenge for kicks after the infinite mayor decides it’s time for bars to close at midnight.

While I’m pulling up links from Youtube…Earlier in the week I somehow made my way over to this video and the first thing that popped in my head was, “I bet this is what Helldriver does when he’s cleaning house or doing laundry.”  Lo and behold that same day a new Helldriver post showed up on the Commons.  Here Helldriver abandons previous form and presents us with a kind of “Sleep No More” version of a blog post.  That loud clank you heard was just the bar getting set a little higher.

Finally this week the game lovers of the Commons came out in full force.  New blog Transformative Games promises to take us through the development of educational games.  The Commons has always had a vibrant edu-game culture here and I’m happy to see a new blog on that front.  Over at the CUNY Games blog we learned that BMCC will put together a game library.  Also, Wil Wheaton, I need say no more.  Lee Hachadoorian showed up again in the games rush this week to talk Monopoly and the Panopticon.  If they try to add one of those nanny towers to Risk it’s going to be ugly.

Till next week!

Round Up!

Photo by Lauren Abele

Hello Commons!

Man — what a week?!  I can honestly say I was totally shocked at the Supreme Court decision on ObamneyCare.  I can’t express the deep satisfaction I felt after typing in “” and watching the four alarm meltdown happen before my very eyes.  My favorite of the many, many links flying through the blogosphere was the stuff about Justice Roberts’ medication debilitating his judgement.  These guys…man…harsh.  For extra lulz (I never know if I’m supposed to be a citizen of the net here or an academic I feel so torn) after the ruling came an onslaught of “I’m moving to Canada” Facebook posts and Tweets.  Even the New York Times had to get in a dig.

But even before all affordable healthcare hell broke loose, Tony Picciano and I were still reeling from UVA’s Board of Visitors decision to reinstate President Sullivan after a botched coup. I would clean 6th Avenue with a toothbrush to be a fly on the wall the first time Sullivan and Dragas run into each other on an elevator.  It’s going to sound like John Cage’s 4’33” but it’s going to feel like this.

Speaking of Tony, this week he reminded us that BMCC will reopen a new Fiterman Hall this fall after losing the original from  damage on September 11th.  Savvy readers might recall the Commons’ own Michael Smith’s post about Fiterman and pictures from the original building.  I can’t recall if @CStein Chris Stein had a post about Fiterman here or if it was a conversation we had but in any event it’s good to see BMCC able to restore it’s campus.  Thanks for keeping us posted.

This week Michael Smith was able to connect with the College of Staten Island’s archives and bring some wonderful pictures to us from their campus.  If your campus has a similar archive and would like to be involved you should reach out the crew at “Pictures of CUNY” and help them grow their collection.  How else are we going to get to see gems like this Professor of Basketball?

New favorite “Associations” was back this week.  Jessica Yood was working out what happens when you can’t slash and burn the crops anymore for another harvest.  I should probably take this to the comments, but I’m writing now so I’ll just do it here: Vibrant Matter pretty much jacked up about 70% of my work.  Like, imagine you put on your nice clothes for a date and then Jane Bennett jumps out of the bushes and cuts off your sleeve, takes both shoes and spills ink on your shirt.  What were you reading that had you prepared for that?

Run, don’t walk folks, it’s a great blog.


Come on people!  Get your Sharpies, long staplers, X-acto knives and channel your inner Valerie Solanas…er…well…or maybe your inner whoever you wanted to be in the 90s and make a zine!  They’re awesome;  it’s like a blog, only you can hold it, and trade copies with friends, or sell them.

You work for CUNY, you can only be like, what, 20 feet from a Xerox machine?

Plus, if they’re really good they might wind up with the awesome folks at Brooklyn College Library Zine Archive.

Till next week



Round Up!

(Image courtesy of Yvan Degtyariov, portfolio here.)


Man, what is going on down in Virginia?

Everything I read about Teresa Sullivan, Helen Dragas and the rest of the mess down south makes me cringe so hard I look like I’m having a seizure.  According to Inside Higher Ed it appears that we’ll have to wait until Tuesday to know how it’s going to shake out.  Of course there’s always the question of whether Dragas will get to keep her own post, regardless of Sullivan’s fate, since it’s up again on July 1st.  For bonus level fun you can read some of the emails going around between Dragas and crew that were obtained by the student paper through a FOIA request.  It’s like an academic version of “Game of Thrones” down there.

Speaking of “Game of Thrones,”  this is as good a time as any to let you know that starting July 12th your ISP is going to start paying a lot more attention to your internet usage.  So, you know, act accordingly.

Here on the Commons Tony Picciano was in Russia, then he left, then he went to Estonia, now I think he’s in Sweden somewhere.  The travel post were making me a little jealous so I had to focus on the news posts.  That wasn’t much comfort though as Tony pointed readers towards a sobering report on the state of adjuncts in higher ed.  Let me tell you, it ain’t pretty.  Of course, from the look of things over at Thought Sphere it isn’t much better for public sector jobs either.

To cheer things up a bit here’s Bill Ashton teaching his Blackboard students with memes.  For added measure our own Scott Voth has posted a ton of great tools for bloggers over on the Commons Codex and a bunch of opportunities over at Help Wanted.

To wrap things up I want to remind fellow bloggers that if you’re interested in keeping track of your blog’s visitor traffic and stats be sure to send me a message!

Till next week.





Round Up!

Credit: flickr Geishaboy500

Hello Commons!

I was kind of enjoying bragging about Hawaii each week.  I’m not proud of that but it’s the truth.  Then Tony Picciano was like “Hawaii, that’s cute” and started posting about his world tour.  Early in the week we got some great posts about Tony at Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee.  Then there was a ship.  Then Tony wound up in Copenhagen.  Then I got jealous because I think Kierkegaard is buried in Copenhagen.  Now I’m just really curious to see what’s next for Tony as he travels around Europe.  We should have given you some Commons stickers to pass out ‘Over There.’  Speaking of — we have a ton of cards and pamphlets for the Commons so if you’d like some to pass around your department or to other CUNY colleagues send me a note and I’ll see to it you get some.  I just might deliver them myself.

A small post over at Thought Sphere showed up this week pointing out that CUNY didn’t get a mention in a recent Crain’s article on the tech initiatives around New York City.  I like to think of the Commons community as a pretty tech savvy bunch so maybe we could put our heads together and compile a list of initiatives around CUNY right now that Crain missed.  Keith Okrosy mentions that the CornellNYC project got a little ink in the article.  Just because they voted us off the island doesn’t mean we aren’t plugged in.  Thoughts?  This is just he kind of thing the Wiki is for.

Jessica Yood over at Associations had a wonderful post this week about writer’s block.  The whole thing has left me wondering whether Footenotes is a failed rhizome.  The post ends in what I suspect is close to Judith Halberstam’s notion of a “queer art of failure.”  The writing doesn’t happen but a text is consumed instead.  This might only be exposing the gross extent of my sloth but I tend to think of reading as tertiary writing.  A good writer must read everything.

Whoa, I really wondered out into the tall grass.

Speaking of writers and such – Footenotes favorite Brooklyn Zine Project announced their two new interns this week!  Welcome to the project Erica and Sarah, you might want to check out the last interns’ posts to see what’s in store for you.

Finally this week — new blog Identification of Weeds in the Garden asks the community, “How do you eliminate patchy spots on the lawn?”  Well, go on…How?

Till next week.

The Aloha Round Up!

Hello Commons!

As I mentioned last week I’ve touched down in Hawaii where I’ll be spending a chunk of the summer.  Not even a tiny little bit of this trip is for research but I will get a chance to catch up on some long neglected projects I’ve had kicking around.  As it turns out surfing is not like riding bike.  You have to relearn everything.  In the process of relearning everything I also have a dazzling array of muscles that hurt whose very existence was entirely unknown to me beforehand.  I was pretty stoked about finally getting some sun, but then I saw Asif Patel’s latest post about skin cancer.  Look, I live in New York (and New England) so really, please, just let me have this.  I could practically feel my skin photosynthesizing vitamin D and…It. Was. Glorious.  The week was a little light on blog posts.  I know school’s finally out and everyone is just taking a break to relax and not have to sweat papers but don’t get too comfy.  There are blog readers out there waiting on you.

Tony Picciano pulled out a few gems from the New York Times this week.  I’m glad he’s finding the greatest hits for us because ever since they went down to 10 free articles a month I’ve had to scrap together news from and Bloomberg.  Tony pointed readers towards Maureen Dowd’s op-ed on Obama and the lackluster campaigning.  It’s an interesting piece but I think she might have over-extended herself trying to psychoanalyze the President.  I mean, you’re reading the piece and then at the very end she’s all, “He’s afraid of abandonment because of his father” and suddenly I’m having visions of Viggo Mortensen as Freud hanging out with Dowd at the Four Seasons.  Elsewhere on Tony’s Thoughts there’s a great post about HyperCards and Tony shares a little about using them at Hunter.  Be sure to check it out.

Adam Wandt dropped in to reflect on Memorial Day and what it means to “celebrate” a day that’s built on top of the bones of dead soldiers.  The post mentions that Memorial Day wasn’t instituted as a federal holiday until 1967 which makes sense considering it was a holiday to mark the passing of Union soldiers until it was eventually expanded to include all of those who died.  Of course there’s reason to believe that a similar holiday ran concurrently in the south to mark the passing of Confederate soldiers and the two were merely brought together.  It certainly is a holiday fit for reflection and the later day customs of BBQ and booze seems a little disjointed considering the tone of the thing.  That said, most of our holidays are largely divorced from their origins.  American Easter might just be the first post-modern holiday with it’s psychedelic spring colored rabbit and dubious liturgical calender.  There’s something a little ghoulish about fireworks on the 4th too; we’re basically just recreating war for the dopey eyed amusement of children.  Somehow Halloween comes out alright.

Last week I was singing the praises of Hunter Johnson over at the CUNYMath blog and then he did again with ‘Existence.‘  How good is this blog?  So good that I looked up Dedekind cuts because I had no idea what they were and wanted to know so that I could get the reference.  Sadly, looking it up didn’t help me.  That said, as a religionist I’m inspired to write the negative or apophatic version of Hunter’s posts wherein I try to use religious myths to explain quotidian things things in the other direction.  In the meantime here’s Antanas Mockus showing us how to get things done.

Till next week.



Round Up!

At last!

The semester has wrapped up, the last finals have been graded, most of us are knocking out those last meetings of the year.  Summer is about to happen.  I imagine a lot of you have books to finally get around to or articles you’ve put off.  After a somewhat awkward and, frankly, disappointing debut as a surfer this time last year, I have committed to return to the ocean and master it.  Call me Ismael.  Or Ahab.  Whatever.  Who cares?  It’s summer.  We have a pretty good tradition of summer blogging from folks around the Commons so for all of you new bloggers this year be sure to check in with us and let us know what you’re up to.  There’s no classes to teach (for a lot of you) or departments to keep going so you’ve got no excuse.  This is the summer you blog. Ok, alright, I’ll take it easy.

Out there in the world things were a mess.  Tony Picciano checked in this week with Chicago and the NATO Summit protests.  On top of that there’s been weeks of rioting up in Montreal as students take to the streets to protest tuition hikes.  The Canadian government thought they were going to nip that in the bud with quick legislation to make student gatherings more difficult, but that went about as well as you imagine it would.  Not so bright, eh?  Sometimes you got to fight for your education.  Good luck out there and here’s hoping the protests can stay peaceful.

Speaking of taking it the streets – the Open Access group posted a link to an Open Access petition that have going.  The petition looks to raise awareness about Open Access issues and to push for public access to federally funded research studies.  It’s your tax money, shouldn’t you be able to see what it’s discovering in research?

Here’s why I love the Commons:  I feel like I just found my math soul-mate over at the CUNYMath Blog.  First there was the obscure Rudolf Otto reference in the title, then there was the awesome list of 4 motivations towards math, and by the end Hunter Johnson was writing gems like, “many mathematicians are Platonists in the week and formalists on Sundays.”  It almost actually physically pains me that people didn’t try to teach me math like this in high school.  I would have been a full blown math guy if more of my math teachers and professors we’re just as eager to talk about William James.  CUNYMath, we’re lucky to have you!

And just when the week couldn’t get anymore awesome Asif Patel stirred the pot on male circumcision.  My hunch is that this is probably something you don’t spend all that much time thinking about.  I was a research assistant for a prof doing work on this and let me tell you — it’s a war out there.  I’m surprised the comments haven’t blown up on this blog post yet.  As of now there’s just the one but if you start to dig around on this topic online it gets emotional pretty quickly.

Nancy Foasberg over at A Librarians Folly revived her blog this week where she shares her thoughts on transliteracy.  There are about a million librarians on the Commons so I expect to see this post making the rounds soon.  Glad to have you back Nancy!

Well, there you go folks.  This time next Sunday I’ll be blogging from the beach.  Where will you be?

Till next week.




Round Up!

Hello Commons!

This week you couldn’t go two mouse clicks without hitting a Facebook post out there.  How many billions of dollars?  Aren’t we supposed to be shocked that the stock didn’t really budge above opening price?  Did that guy who was so likeable in the movie really take his cash and run away to Singapore?  So many questions and yet I care so little.  If I hadn’t been so thoroughly guilted by my family I would have high-tailed it out there ages ago.  Still, it’s pretty interesting to watch it play out.  In honor of the IPO (I think) William Ashton posted a handy little chart showing everything that’s blocked or censored on Facebook.  The whole thing makes me wish we’d follow France’s lead and dedicate 15% of our Government IT resources on open source projects though.  An open source social network would make me feel a little less like a consumer frog on the ad revenue operation table.  Yeah, yeah, yeah – I know there’s but they seem to be stuck in the same rut Google+ is in.  Everyone’s so entrenched by now it’s hard to claw out.  But it can be done…

The Commons blogs were in full swing this week.   Tony Picianno had a handful of posts going and the one about the JPMorgan mess and Obama was great.  My chest feels heavy when I forget to mail the gas bill on time, what do you do when you come to work and realize your team lost another billion dollars?  Like, not just a billion, but a whole other billion.   I imagine everyone riding the elevator with you must be pressed against the walls and right on top of each other.  Awkward.

The Graduate Center kicked off a new blog for admitted students to help them get oriented as they make their way to New York City.  My favorite of the posts was this week’s sales pitch for the borough of Queens!  I hope this post sets off scores of eloquent defenses for our respective boroughs.  Actually…no… my rent is high enough.  Move to Queens kids! You’ll love it!  In defense of Brooklyn though; I know a lot of our houses have that “ugly plastic siding” but c’mon, cleaning brick is expensive.  Besides, who needs brick when you can have fake plastic brick over brick?  It’s not like all those tiny little “front yards” up in Queens are all that impressive.  Who do you think you are?  Westchester?

Helldriver was back this week telling us about catching Jason Moran in Alphabet City.  He’s got a way of describing the summer in New York that actually made me a little sad.  I forgot how miserable it’s going to get come July.  The writing is superb as always though so do check it out.  Helldriver, man, just put this all down in a book already.  I mean, don’t stop blogging about it here, but write the New York music book too.

I ran across this blog Associations while hunting down things to cover for the week.  I really love discovering blogs like this.  They’re often small and personal and you get the wonderful little slivers of peoples’ lives.  Thanks for sharing!

Finally this week Tim Wilson had a couple of poems up at Le Pitre Nu.  For the last couple of years the Commons has been a big place for National Poetry Month but it looks like we missed it this year.  With Grindley working on the book and the journal I’m glad Tim was able to sweep up and make up for a little lost time.

Well, there it was.

Till next week.


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