Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mentoring Rules

We have three new tenure-track faculty in the department this year and it's my responsibility as associate chair to mentor them. This involves classroom observations (at least two over the course of the first semester), orienting them to department culture, answering any questions they may have, and especially adding department-specific information to the university-wide orientation that's spread out over the entire first semester (and maybe year). Oh, and presenting their reappointment files to the rest of the tenured faculty at the end of the first semester. (Yes, we have a crazy schedule. Doesn't everyone?)

Because I was away last year, I had nothing to do with the searches on which these new colleagues were hired and knew nothing about them when I arrived back in the States. So mentoring them has been a great way to get to know them, and, through their questions, reacquaint myself with everything I managed to forget about the department and university during my Fulbright year. I'm pleased to report that from my conversations with them about their teaching and research, our institution, and the profession, as well as my first observations of their classes, I've come to the conclusion that once again my colleagues made wise choices during the hiring process. Each of the new hires brings a very different set of interests and approaches to the department while contributing to our existing strengths. I'm not going to go into specifics here or now, but the best thing about the mentoring relationships we've already established from my perspective--someone whose first semester here is still quite fresh in my mind and who is in the middle of transitioning back to a familiar place after being on quite unfamiliar grounds for the past year--is the chance to see our institution through a variety of fresh sets of eyes. I'm at a place in my career where I can actually look back and note patterns in it, and so be relatively dispassionate about the costs and benefits of some of the choices I've made. So I can provide some context and perspective on choices my new colleagues are currently facing--and see where their situations and issues differ from the ones facing me when I first arrived here.

Sure, it's a lot of time and a lot of responsibility, but I can't recommend it highly enough, particularly to other newly tenured professors at teaching institutions.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why We Should Sit in on Each Other's Classes More Often

Not content with sitting in on 6 of my new colleagues' classes this semester as their mentor, I also subbed for my chair the first day her class discussed Amitava Kumar's Passport Photos a couple of weeks ago and decided to sit in on the last day today. Talk about productive, for all of us. From the students' descriptions of it that first day, Kumar's book reminded me of a few passages from Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Dictee, which I mentioned to the chair, who then passed them along to her students today. In the course of the discussion, a student pointed us to Kumar's response to Arundhati Roy's "banner of writerly protest": "If protesting against having a nuclear bomb implanted in my brain is anti-Hindu and anti-national, then I secede. I hereby declare myself an independent, mobile republic" (170-171).

A writer can do this. Declare that she is a nation unto herself! Even invite others. We're now open to immigration! The reason these bold declarations don't diminish my sense of alienation, and, in fact, only enhance it, is the quick realization that I'm not utterly mobile in history. There are miles of barbed wire. Of all sorts. And this becomes clear most of all when Roy rightly says: "However many garlands we heap on our scientists, however many medals we pin to their chests, the truth is that it's far easier to make a bomb than to educate four hundred million people." If I secede, if Roy secedes, we secede also from that difficulty. To put it differently, to secede is as easy as to make a bomb.

The real task, even for those who as diasporics think of seceding, is to contemplate that difficulty. Of how in our minds we allow ourselves to believe that it was ever possible to find a space of withdrawal. It is, also, inevitably, the problem of a collectivity, far beyond individual issues or even nations. Neither writers nor scientists can save the world by themselves. Or escape it entirely. That is the plain truth of the nuclear bomb. When it explodes, it finishes us wherever we reside in our mobile republic. (171)

Pretty useful stuff for starting to teach "The Custom-House" today. (And, for that matter, for plugging the WAAGNFNP.) Not to mention that the "Nationality" chapter from which this passage comes opens with a mini-reading of "Douloti the Bountiful," which I just taught last week in Postcolonial Hawthorne. Or that the "Date of Birth" chapter is particularly relevant for Hawthorne, who was, after all, born on the 4th of July. Or that the "Identifying Marks" chapter may prove crucial to my research on the picturesque, colonialism, and race. Or that the "Profession" chapter is perfect for the graduate course on professional development I'll be teaching next spring. All this from a guy who hasn't read Moby-Dick. Not bad.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Amazing Colleagues, Part I

Since I've been neglecting the Research Weekends part of the CitizenSE programming schedule for so long, I figure I'd better start bragging about my colleagues' work until I actually have time and energy to blog about my own. And since Aimee Nezhukumatathil has a new book of poetry out from Tupelo Press, I thought I'd start with her. You can read and/or hear Garrison Keillor read one of her poems from it, "After Challenging Jennifer Lee to a Fight," at The Writer's Almanac, if you didn't happen to catch it on NPR on my birthday last Thursday. If you want to read more of her poetry online, a google search on her name turns up quite a few, but a recent Verse Daily entry collects many of them. Right now, At the Drive-In Volcano is stalled in the low 200,000s on's bestseller list, but I'm confident that CitizenSE's 5 regular readers and 25 daily visitors will do such a good job spreading the word about it that we'll see it in the top 10,000 by 2008.

You know, it's actually much more difficult to write about your colleagues than yourself or your family. You never quite know what's TMI with a friend, do you? So I'm going to close by simply noting that Aimee blogs over at Gila Monster, but never lets on that she's a fantastic teacher, active with students in our Writers' Ring and Sigma Tau Delta English honors society, one of the driving forces behind our Visiting Writers Series, and a new mom. So let it be said that her son is super-cute, that her husband is a pretty damn good basketball player (among other things), and that it would be cool if he would find the time to start playing with us again (it's just two lunchtimes a week!)....

Friday, October 19, 2007


So the other day on the ride back from school/day care, with both girls in car seats in the back, out of the blue onechan tries to teach imoto about the best way to cover your mouth when you sneeze, a fitting topic as both have been dealing wth the sniffles for about two weeks now. She carefully explained how it's better to sneeze into your elbow rather than your hands, as you can pass along germs to other people much more easily the latter way. I reminded her about it this morning accidentally when I was telling the tsuma this story, and she proceeded to repeat the lesson, complete with the big idea, the rationale, a demonstration, and an attempt to move imoto's arm in the prescribed manner (this last part didn't go over so well). It's good to see she's learning something useful (about teaching as well as avoiding pandemics) at her hoikuen. As the elder child, I've followed in my dad's footsteps profession-wise. Now I'm wondering if onechan is predisposed to be a professor, too. I don't now whether to be proud or worried.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On Blogging and Teaching

Teaching Tuesdays have been few and far between, not to mention short and anything but sweet. It's not for lack of topics but for lack of time. Well, not just that. It's more like one of my friends was saying about the announcers in the final minutes of the Bills' heartbreaking loss to Dallas: "Just shut up! Stop saying it's over! Don't jinx us!" It's not like I've been pitching no-hitters in all my classes, but somehow it feels like to blog about any aspect of them or to begin to reflect on the effects of the Fulbright experience on my teaching in the States or on similarities and differences between my Fukuoka and my Fredonia students would be to jeopardize a streak of some sort. But I think it would be all right to suggest that my blogging here at CitizenSE while I was in Japan was a way for me to process all the reading and research I was doing to prepare for my all-new preps there, whereas this semester I've basically been teaching modified versions of familiar courses that incorporate a lot of the ideas I processed in Japan. So I don't need to blog as much here on teaching-related matters because I did so much of that during the past winter, spring, and summer.

But I do have an onechan-related teaching story for y'all. With the tsuma taking courses twice a week and working at UB three times a week this semester, I'm now dropping the girls off at and picking them up from day care, as well as getting dinner started. When the girls get tired of entertaining each other and begin to bug me while I'm trying to get organized to begin doing something resembling "cooking," I give them a snack or a drink. But only certain kinds of things--nothing sweet, for instance. The tsuma and I have been trying to drill into onechan's head that you can only have dessert after you've eaten enough real food--stuff with protein so you grow big and strong, or things with vitamins so your hair grows long long long. (Yes, those things motivate her, even if she can't pronounce vitamins exactly right yet.) But onechan has a real sweet tooth (thanks to me, I guess), so despite our efforts she's always asking if she can have some forbidden item before dinner, and we're always saying no. For some reason, this evening when I was in the middle of getting ready to cook, she asked if she could have a Peco-chan candy right then, and I told her, "sure, but if you have it now you can't have one for dessert." I guess I was curious to see what kind of choice she'd make. Well, she got the funniest look on her face--kind of shocked and horrified and suspicious and tempted all at once--paused for awhile, and finally replied in a kind of scandalized tone of voice, "Daddy, I'm going to wait. You should eat real food first." Then she went off on this long soliloquy about how ashita (tomorrow) she was going to have Peco-chan candy for dessert, too. I think she couldn't believe I had forgotten the house rule and wanted to make sure I would give her credit for correcting me. Anyway, it was one of those moments when you feel completely ratified as a teacher--"she gets it! she actually gets it!" Nice.

I should note that in fact she motored through three servings of dinner--macaroni and cheese, yellow rice, and steamed fresh green beans (hey, I never said I was agood cook!)--just so she could get to dessert, but when the time finally came she decided to have a lollipop instead of the Peco-chan candy. Then she topped it off with some apple sauce, because "it's good for you, daddy." Probably she's right, as this was home-made stuff she and imoto made at imoto's day care out of the fresh apples they were too sick to pick on Columbus Day.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Kid-Free Family Friday (Almost)

My dad has landed a pretty cool gig. The tsuma knows Michel Foucault's social security number. Moral of the story: interesting things come your way when you follow what you love. For him, it's sports and philosophy (not always in that order); for her, it's libraries and archives.

P.S.--OK, one kid thing: imoto is now following onechan's exercise program...on one of her bedposts, about 3 feet in the air. Now we can't leave the two girls alone in onechan's bedroom. I wonder when imoto will get a sense of danger.

P.P.S.--Well, one more: onechan is starting to tell some pretty surreal stories. Like the time in the car this past week when, fed up with missing all the animal carcasses on and to the sides of the local roads we've been driving on lately, she started telling us a story about a kaba (hippo), no, wait, a mama and a baby, who jumped over the car on their way to a really big puddle--but you missed them, daddy. Well, yeah.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Who Wants to Be a Tenure-Track Professor? Part I: The Letter

Not everyone does, first of all. But as that's a personal preference--and likely a temporary one, at that, as long as life off the tenure track in the U.S. is less like a Fulbright Lecturing Grant in Japan and more like what non-Japanese adjuncts go through there--I'll focus today (and in this CitizenSE series) on the search for a tenure-track job in my field, English. Since every discipline is different, this'll only be of interest to people outside English for comparative purposes, and even for people in English it'll be most useful for those contemplating applying for a job at an institution like mine, a public regional university. Bardiac has a series going already on this exact topic, while Tenured Radical provides an instructive contrast from the liberal arts college side. (I'm looking forward to The Little Professor, Dr. Crazy [now that her book manuscript is done], and Dr. Virago [now that she's decided not to go on the market herself] also picking up on it). But for what it's worth, here's advice on the application letter from a recently-tenured professor who's been closely involved a good number of searches in his first decade on the job.

Should you write it in the first place? You don't have to apply for every job in your field. In fact, fresh out of grad school you shouldn't even apply for a job with a heavy teaching load--4/3 or higher is pretty much the norm in the public "satellites"--unless you love teaching, can speak and write cogently about your experience and approaches, and can realistically finish the dissertation before you start the job. Or unless there's something about the school and/or the location that make that job too attractive not to take a shot at it before it's snapped up. Keep in mind you'll be going up against people struggling to escape the adjunct track or another tenure-track job/place. Unless you can seriously imagine yourself living and working there, save yourself the time, money, and anxiety and focus on the jobs you care the most about.

Do your research. It took me three searches before I landed a tenure-track job. For all of them, even the last one, I was mostly focused on Research I universities and liberal arts colleges, at which I was getting to the MLA interview stage at a decent rate but no further. My three on-campus visits (the first during the second search) were all at public satellites, so by the last one, I kind of figured out how to handle myself in them, and lo and behold, that's the one that resulted in an offer. The irony is that even though the school that hired me was in my home state, I had never heard of it before I saw their job ad. So I actually had done a fairly serious amount of research on the place to help me decide whether to apply in the first place. Which brings me around to the point of this paragraph. Since the "academic job market" has gotten even more competitive while information about universities and departments has become so much easier to get over the past decade, it's imperative to figure out something about your audience before you customize your standard letter. And if you aren't motivated to customize your letter, maybe you shouldn't be applying to a school you've never heard of in the first place.... I can't tell you how many letters by people from top-notch grad programs ended up in the reject bin over the past ten years b/c they were obviously composed with a much different kind of institution than ours in mind--but it's a big number. And an hour or two of research could have made the difference for a lot of these people.

OK, so given how unknowable your actual audience is, how do you customize your letter? It's true, at most a few people from the personnel committee will be reading your letter the first time around, although if it's good everyone will eventually have read it, as will those interviewing you at MLA (several of whom are likely not to be on the personnel committee). The literature searches I've been closely involved in all involved hundreds of applicants, too many for any one person to read. So we would try to ensure that each letter had two sets of eyes on it, and three if there was a serious disagreement between the original pair. In practice, however, unless the letter and c.v. screamed "top candidate," it was unlikely to survive the first cut--narrowing the several hundred down to the 25-50 top candidates for the 8-12 MLA interview slots. In some searches, we asked for a full dossier--evidence of teaching effectiveness, a writing sample, letters of recommendation, and sometimes more--from this pool. Other times, we asked for less. More on that stage later--the key issue now is how to increase the likelihood that your letter makes the first cut. Well, this is where your research on the school/department comes in.

  • Clearly you're applying to a teaching institution, so make the case from the start that you're ready to step right in and step up as a teacher. If you must discuss your research early, do so in a way that sets up your teaching paragraph well. A bit on your overall approach (to course design as well as pedagogy) is fine, but well-chosen specifics (like teaching awards, experience with designing your own courses, patterns in your teaching evaluations, the kinds of courses you're looking forward to designing at the school) can help show the personnel committee that you've thought seriously about what you can contribute to the department.
  • From looking at the list of faculty and their teaching and research interests, you can make a quick approximation as to what kind of search this is: augmenting a department strength, filling a "coverage" gap or otherwise balancing or diversifying the department, moving the department in a new direction entirely.... You can also get a rough sense of how much hiring they've been able to do in the previous decade. The key thing to look for is how many colleagues in your fields and sub-fields you can expect to have, not least as a quick estimate of the likelihood that the personnel committee will have anyone in them on it. Reminding yourself that you're writing for non-specialists will do you a world of good--not just in describing your research and suggesting how it matters, but also in framing your teaching and the kinds of courses you could (and most want to) offer. This will also come in handy as you decide what other material to send the school and prepare for the MLA interview (if all goes well).
  • You can also learn a lot by looking at the requirements of the major and whatever course descriptions you can find (online syllabi, catalog, etc.). Does everyone teach comp regularly or occasionally? What kinds of introductory-level courses would you be expected to teach and how are they organized--as introductions to the discipline, surveys of British and American lit, genre-based world literature courses, criticism- or theory-or "teaching the conflicts"-based courses, or what? On a 4/3, you'll get plenty of opportunities to teach in your specialties, but you'll also be pitching in on the required courses. If the catalog tells you how often the department's courses are supposed to be offered, it'll also give you a pretty good sense of where faculty and student interests lie at that school.

OK, so I know something about the place, the school, faculty, and there anything else I can do to show my interest in a place besides customizing my teaching and research paragraphs? Yeah, since capital-starved institutions--and you can bet that public regional universities fit this bill--rely so much on adjunct labor, the service responsibilities on tenured and tenure-track faculty are very high. So any experience you have in helping create or sustain or improve an academic institution is worth describing. Also, your last paragraph is a good place to drop any hints you feel need to be dropped. Often faculty at public satellites (especially older ones not familiar with any job market since the 1970s) are wondering (with various levels of anxiety, self-deprecation, paranoia, and cynicism) why you are applying for the position in the first place. If you can close with any honest and specific answers to this question, do it.

When we're reading letters and c.v.s, we're not just judging the quality of the candidates in the abstract, we're also trying to figure out how seriously they're interested in us and what kind of colleagues they'd be. We don't want to waste an MLA interview on someone for whom we're just a "safety school" or a "practice run." We want to be in a position where we'd be excited to work with any of the MLA interviewees. Given how much time and energy goes into the search on our side, we don't want a failed search. And given that we're competing with other teaching institutions and often research institutions for our top candidates, we have to be prepared to move down our list quickly if our first offer gets turned down. While a great letter alone won't get you in our top 10ish, it can either open or close the door. Taking the extra three hours to research us and revise your standard letter accordingly is time well-spent. And if you think otherwise, it's better not to send the letter at all.

[Update (10/21/07): undine has joined in.]

Friday, October 05, 2007

Sister Acts

I only have one younger brother and no other siblings, so I'm familiar with a certain kind of brotherly dynamic. The tsuma only has one older sister and no other siblings, so I'm pretty dependent on her experience to figure out what to expect from onechan and imoto as they grow up. What I'm looking for from Blogoramaville are a broader set of perspectives. Feel free to respond any time.

Imoto is almost a year and a half and onechan will be four at the end of the year, so we've already been living in interesting times, so to speak. Not so long ago, Imoto got jealous of our watching a home video from the first month of onechan's life for the first time since she was born. At times, it seems as if onechan is the "m" and imoto the "s" in a sadomasochistic relationship. We've drilled "don't hurt the baby!" so successfully into onechan's head that lately I've been sounding like a self-defense instructor: "Don't just lie there crying! She'll only keep pulling your hair!" Overall, of course, they love each other to death, and there's nothing cuter than listening to onechan chatter away in cutesy Japanese when she's trying to teach imoto something or convince her to do something. We're even beginning to feel comfortable letting them play alone together in another room for a half an hour at a time (or until the screaming reaches a certain pitch, whichever comes first), relatively confident that the metaphor in the previous sentence will remain merely metaphorical.

It's just that as an imoto herself, the tsuma tends to see things from imoto's perspective more easily than from onechan's. As an onichan, I suppose I do the opposite, although of course it's easier to see when someone else is doing it. So if we can just get enough descriptions of sister acts from the netizens of Blogoramaville, we might be able to temper our natural sibling biases enough to...I don't know, be better parents? That seems a little ambitious, doesn't it? Just give us some good stories and we'll be satisfied.

Congratulations, 5000th Visitor

You get the chance to continue writing for the obscurest blog on teh internets!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Notes Toward a Prolegomenon To All Future Golf/Academia Analogies

Scott Eric "The Red" (of eye, in the public eye, or at least that portion of it directed his way by KC Johnson!) Kaufman kicked it off. All the many people who have written glowing encomiums to and analyses of C.L.R. James's Beyond a Boundary moved the ball down the field. So you only have them to blame for the following series of plays I'm calling here. (The football epic simile is all my own.)

So what do golf/academia analogies have to do with teaching? Thanks for asking!

Way back when in Andrew Ross's Cultural Studies course in grad school my best friend and I did a teaching presentation on Beyond a Boundary. I hope it was more memorable to the class than it has turned out to be to me or my computers or my bookshelves, as I can't find any trace of it anywhere. But once, I'm certain, I did attempt to teach cricket to someone. Ross must have found it hilarious.

Which is the scenic route to my point: if you want a cricket critic, I am not your man. Nor am I trying to do for golf blogging what C.L.R. James did for cricket criticism. (Insert appropriate Zaphod Beeblebrox quotation here.) But I will try to convince you we can learn something from analogizing the academy through golf. So long as you provide the "something," no one will get hurt.

Grad School:Q-School. This one writes itself. Q-School, for those who don't know it, is a 6-round ordeal which only the top x in the field advance through to qualify for the top professional tour in the U.S.--PGA for men, LPGA for women. Of course, to even get into Q-School, you need to qualify. So your entire amateur career is like your primary and secondary schooling, undergrad is like the sectional qualifiers for Q-School, the pre-dissertation phase consists of the first 4 rounds of Q-School itself, the dissertation is the 5th, and the job search is the 6th. So you can end up with exempt status on the big tour (tenure-track job) or become a non-exempt tour member (off the tenure track) or not (try again next year or play on the Nationwide/Futures/Hooters Tour--more TAing or maybe community college adjuncting). The analogy breaks down a bit with that last option, as you figuratively have to start over at the undergrad level if you have a bad 6th round at Q-School. And actually a flaw creeps in before then, because you can get a job before you finish your dissertation, which would be something like the LPGA saying, "Well, you can finish your 5th round later, because the other 5 out of 6 were so good you're practically guaranteed of getting exempt status. Just try to get it in during your rookie year sometime." But otherwise it's a damn fine analogy. If you think playing center field is tough, try the last two rounds of Q-School.

Money List on PGA/LPGA:Renewal Process for Pre-Tenure Faculty. This one almost writes itself. If you don't make the top 90 on the money list in a given year on the LPGA Tour, you lose your exempt status; it's top 125 for the PGA. The higher you get on the money list, the more exempt you get (longer exemptions, more invitations to limited-field tournaments). And if you win a tournament, you get an even longer exemption. So losing your card is like losing your job (but at least you get to skip to the last round of Q-School!), doing well enough to be put up for a two- or three-year renewal by your department rather than staying to an annual schedule and to begin getting invited to give talks at conferences and public fora is like getting into the top 40 or whatever on the money list, and publishing your book is like winning a tournament. Now, there's really no tenure on either tour, so the analogy kind of breaks down there, but most professional careers don't last 7 years, anyway, so let's ignore that problem and move on to the next analogy.

Your Individual Career:A 72-Hole Tournament. What I like about this analogy is that it brings out how academia is unlike most sports, in that you should get better with age, and the stakes get higher the further you go. Break your academic career down into 9-year segments and make each segment equivalent to one round in a tournament consisting of four such beasties. Grad school and any relevant experience before it is the first round; pre-tenure is the second (assuming most people these days start out with some sort of adjuncting or visiting experience before getting on the tenure track); then comes the cut (only the top 70 plus ties in a 120-to-144-player field usually move on for the final two rounds--quite a bit harsher than the overall tenure rate in the U.S. each year, I'll hazard a guess); then the last two rounds are where you're going for the win, coasting to retirement, or something in between (a WD is ok, but make sure you don't do something that'll get you DQed). By this count, I'm already in the weekend of my academic career. They call Saturday "moving day," because it's the time when the lead pack pulls away from the field. So if each academic year is the equivalent of 2 holes (yes, I chose the length of my segments carefully), I'd better start making some birdies.

Course:Institution. Some courses are tougher and/or more prestigious than others. The tournament organizers might want to set the course up even tougher than usual or they might want a birdie-fest. So how high the rough is, how narrow the fairways are cut, how fast the greens are running, how close to trouble the pins are placed, and a million other factors--including the weather--determine how difficult a particular course will be playing, above and beyond the course architecture/layout. So make the tenured faculty, administrators, and trustees of a college or university the tournament organizers, the taxpayers, alumni, and other donors the tournament sponsors and course owners, the students, parents, legislators, and others who affect the conditions of teaching and research the weather, and the tenure-track professors the humble players trying to figure out where the birdie holes are and how to survive the monster holes and howling winds. So while this analogy, when combined with the previous one, assumes you stay at one institution your entire career, it's otherwise pretty good.

Stats:Assessment. Moneyball magpies and fantasy football freaks may think they've got the market cornered on which stats matter the most in determining player quality/value, and they've certainly got a point that on its face it's tougher to do this for a team sport than an individual sport like golf, but, face it, people, golfers and golf fans are the nerdiest stats people of all--been tracking stats, arguing over which matter the most, and using them to develop and tweak player ranking systems for much much longer and better than anyone else. Players themselves try to "close the loop" by looking at outcomes to figure out where to improve their games. I don't quite know what greens in regulation percentage, scrambling percentage, birdies per round, scoring average, majors and other wins, top 3s, top 10s, and annual and career money lists are equivalent to in academia, but if I had more time, I'd flesh out that analogy at both individual and institutional levels.

Some other time. In the meantime, feel free to propose further analogical possibilities in comments.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Onechan Has a Few Questions for Blogoramaville

Last night the topic of technology came up somehow and in the process of offering onechan a working definition ("technology is something people make to get something done") and examples ("a pencil is writing technology," "a crayon is drawing technology"), she not only came up with good examples of her own ("a toilet," "a computer," "a sink"), but also threw me for a loop with some others that I've taken the liberty of turning into questions for Blogoramaville:

1. Is food a technology? At first I was going to answer that the means of growing, raising, and preparing food were technologies, but food itself wasn't. But then I thought of the way corn (right?) was at first inedible in its naturally occurring varieties, and early humans in the Americas (right?) actually bred those varieties together and made it edible (where's Jared Diamond when you need him? oh yeah, in one of those boxes from Japan I never unpacked....). Then I thought of genetically engineered foods. So, Blogoramaville, what say ye? Is corn a technology? What about the genetically-engineered food itself (as opposed to the technologies used to make it)?

2. Are people a technology? I asked onechan how people get made, and she paused for a long time, and finally said, "Byoin." Once I got over my disappointment that she didn't come up with "aliens" and satisfaction that whatever Baptist training she got at her yochien didn't stick enough for her to answer "Kamisama" (God), I started thinking about her actual answer. Now, I might be willing to concede that hospitals are a people-making technology, in the senses they help babies get born and with the caveat that I didn't really want to get into exactly how people are made with her. But the idea that byoin make people threw me for a loop until I started wondering about genetic engineering again--in that sense, could people make people for certain purposes, and would those people then be technology? Now I've been thinking about human institutions like the family and slavery and the corporation.... Blogoramaville, what say ye?

Inquiring toddlers want to know!