Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Learn Icelandic

The University of Iceland now has a free, non-credit, online Modern Icelandic course.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Tips on getting tenure

Tips on getting tenure, by Mary McKinney and published in Inside Higher Ed.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Claude Shannon, Marshall McLuhan, and Jean Baudrillard

"Claude Shannon's Information Theory, Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, and Jean Baudrillard's The Ecstasy of Communication are very dissimilar works. Shannon's paper, A Mathematical Theory of Information, was published in The Bell System Technical Journal in 1948 as a framework for engineers to approach problems related to transmitting information content through communications channels. McLuhan's book was published in 1964 as a warning about the impact of media on the individual and society. Baudrillard's essay was written in 1983 as a commentary on Post-Modern society at the dawn of the age of global telecommunications networks.

"But all share the common subject of communication, each work approaching the subject from a slightly different angle: Shannon developed a theory related to the information content of communication, McLuhan focused on the medium of communication, and Baudrillard discussed the nature of communication networks. Each work also embraces the idea that communication takes place within an environment - a system, a time-and-place context, a node on the web of human relationships.

"In this paper I will discuss each work as a treatise on communication, with the goal of extracting from each work essential ideas about communication that I will attempt to compare and analyze in the final section. In my analysis, I will focus on two aspect of the works: their formal properties, which I believe reflect the transition from Modernism to Post-Modernism, and the content of the works, which together describe a complete communication system."

From Jacobson, Susan. "Perspectives on Communication: Shannon, McLuhan and Baudrillard." (26 June 2005).

Jacobson describes the paper as an unsucessful attempt to bring these three together. See comment. I'm interested in learning more about Claude Shannon. Terry Mockler adds James Joyce to the mix.

Cross posted at Notes from the Walter J. Ong Archives

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Three media ecology blogs to watch

Memory / Body / Space
Ars Rhetorica
Terry Mockler's Journey Through Cyberspace

All three are owned by Terry Mockler. Recent entries of note at the third blog include an introduction/summary of McLuhan and a discussion of the Toronto School of Communication written by Derrick de Kerckhove.

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Memory and visual images

"Sometimes we recall our personal past be recollecting a wealth of information about a person or place, other times by just knowing that someone or something is familiar. Psychologists have begun to explore these two forms of subjective experience, which are referred to as remembering and knowing the past. Several studies have shown that recall of visual information about the physical setting or context of an event is crucial to having a "remember" experience. In one, college students were given a beeper that sounded unpredictably several times a day. Each time the beeper went off, they recorded what was happening (except when it sounded at inopportune times). When the students were later asked to remember these events, the episodes they recalled most accurately and confidently included visual images of what had occurred during the episode. The subjective sense of remembering almost invariably involved some sort of visual reexperiencing of an event.

"Why does retrieving visual images tend to make us feel strongly that we are remembering a real event? Part of the reason is that some of the same brain regions are involved in both visual imagery and visual perception. Since we usually rely on these areas to perceive the external world, it should not be surprising that when we use them to create visual images, the images may feel like the mental residue of actual events. These observations have an important implication: creating visual images may lead us to believe that we are remembering an event when the incident never happened. By appreciating that subjective experiences of remembering are enhanced when we conjure up visual images, we can better understand incidents in which people appear to be recalling horrific events that never occurred" (23).

from Schacter, Daniel L. Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past. New York: Basic Books, 1996.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Chronicle ludditism, social software, and network literacy

New Kid on the Hallway has a great response to a luddite attack on educational technology published in the Chronicle. Link found at CultureCat.

Hyperguru has posted a visual map of social software. The visual comes from Lee Bryant's "Making Knowledge Work" (6 MB pdf).

Also of potential interest for those studying social software is media studies undergraduate Yojarie's reflection on her growing social and network ecology literacy.

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Friday, June 24, 2005

More Comics and Anime

Alan Moore's V for Vendetta (movie site | imdb listing) is being made into a movie by the Wachoski brothers and will star Natalie Portman as Evey Hammond and Hugh Weaving as V. There's a June 19 NYT article about the filming closing down Whitehall for three nights earlier this month. According to the article, the movie will be released in the US on Nov. 4, the 400th anniversary of Guy Fawkes Day. Link to the NYT article found on Jonathan Goodwin's blog.

I've been watching the reruns of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. Having now seen the whole show, it's cool to see just how tied together the series is, which is a definite contrast to most animated shows which originate in the US. I've also come to appreciate the Tachikomas, which I had originally found childishly annoying, as have many others based upon comments I've read in the Amazon DVD customer reviews. The idea behind the subtitle Stand Alone Complex is that despite the digitization networking of information and cyberization of humans, people still function as autonomous stand alone agents. The Tachikomas, on the other hand, while physically stand alone agents, become increasingly unified as a single consciousness even as they begin to develop "ghosts," which seems to include freewill. A number of the middle episodes focus on the Tachikomas, and I found them so annoying that I almost stopped watching the show, which makes this new understanding of them that much more interesting to me.

The show's very worth watching, though I don't know that I start watching it at this point in the story arc (I originally caught it in the 5 episode, where the main story arc begins taking off). If I find out Cartoon Network's going to rerun from the beginning again, I'll post it here. Otherwise, all 26 episodes are available on DVD. Well, vol. 1-6 are. Vol. 7 won't be out until late July. But you could rent the earlier volumes and catch up. This week they broadcast episodes 16-18 and next week should be 19-21.

I've decided that I do like Samurai Champloo and Paranoia Agent has proven to be as weird and dark as I expected.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

If I were a Jeff Rice Blog Entry....

Congratulations! You're a poetic, pop-culture Rice
blog entry. You strum your guitar while
checking your email, reporting the events with
a dusty cowboy style.

Which kind of Jeff Rice blog entry are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

C&W posts

Bradley Bleck's been blogging C&W sessions. He's got entries for sessions A-G and pictures from the Drupal workshop. And pinguerin has posted photos from the conference at flickr.


Monday, June 20, 2005

Center for Digital Storytelling.

Their tagline

"Every community has a memory of itself
Not a history, nor archive, nor authoritative record
A living memory, an awareness of a collective identity woven of a thousand stories."

Brief description of who they are

"The Center for Digital Storytelling is a California-based non-profit 501(c)3 arts organization rooted in the art of personal storytelling to inform a practice of working with both young people and adults to use the tools of digital media to craft, record, share and value the stories of individuals and communities to help improve all our lives."

Todd Taylor's "End of Composition": WTF?

I was taken aback by the standing ovation given to Todd Taylor's featured address "The End of Composition." I don't get it. Oh, I get the multimodal, multimedia composition as composition, and I get the need for our teaching it, even as FYC. What I don't get is what's so revolutionary about Taylor's presentation beyond the fact that he's having students make video pieces. Hell, I attended multiple sessions on video composition at CCCC 2003 (either shooting actual video or using software like iMovie). See, for instance, Daniel Anderson's Kairos piece "Prosumer Approaches to New Media: Consumption and Production in Continuum." What I wanted from Taylor's presentation, and what I didn't get, was a discussion of new media (including video) compositions as composition. If we buy into Taylor's premise that we need to replace alphabetic textual production with video, then what are we, as compositionists and rhetoricians, doing with them, and what are they, as composition technologies, artifacts, and practices, doing in our composition classrooms?

Taylor's answer, at least what I got out of it, was that video engages and inspires students and alphabetic texts don't. This, at least the second half of it, I don't buy. Students aren't inspired or engaged by work that doesn't inspire or engage them. If your assignments aren't cutting it, try something else. We could argue that video is something else, but I could argue that poetry writing is something else instead. And so is playing with tinker toys, video games, or Duck Duck Goose. The answer needs to be more than students find video interesting and alphabetic text boring.

The real answer as to why video and new media should play a role in our composition courses is, of course, that they are composition technologies which are increasingly available. (Yes, not everyone owns the technology to produce new media, but 30 years ago typewritten papers were the expected norm and a large number of students did not own typewriters or have formal training in their use.) As we shift into a digital culture, to only teach print-based literacy is to teach not to the present or the future but to the past. On the other hand, the need for alphabetic literacy isn't going to go way just because the primacy of print is in decline. We should not confuse one for the other. Michigan Tech, with its required composition course which focuses on oral, written, and visual communication (including video) represents a much more realistic understanding of the 21st century communication practices.

So, what's my problem with Taylor's presentation? Why did it leave me asking WTF as many people stood in applause? Because Taylor isn't discussing the end of composition but the end of writing alphabetic text. Putting aside the suggestion that writing can be replaced by video in our classrooms, it is in this lack of distinction between writing print-based alphabetic essays and composition that I believe Taylor's presentation goes wrong.

I should note that Taylor's presentation was an hour long featured presentation and that there no other sessions to attend. He had time to delve into his topic, to really discuss it. Instead, he showed us a video composition that agued we should use video compositions because print's grasp on our culture is in decline.

The presentation itself was technically excellent with three different screens running at the same time. It was quite a show and many people responded to my criticisms with "it was entertaining." It was entertaining. In fact, drawing from Rich Rice's presentation earlier in the conference, Taylor's piece schmoozed us exceedingly well. But it was the kind of schmooze that sought to distract from the lack of substance.

What Taylor's presentation missed out on, I believe, was a discussion of new media as composition. If using video in composition courses was a repeated theme at CCCC more than two years ago, I expect something more from C&W, at least from a full-blown, hour long, featured session. At this stage of the game, what I want is not a discussion of video as the future but a discussion of the future video brings us. How does video composition extend, disrupt, interrogate, illuminate, and collaborate with other current composition practices, including alphabetic and print-based composition? What are the cognitive and noetic processes of video composition, and how are they similar to and different from the academic tradition of print? What are the material differences and what are the affordances and constraints that video and new media bring to the process? What are the rhetorical principles involved in video composition and what knowledge transfers? In short, what does video bring to the composition classroom (other than it engages students) and what do we as compositionists bring to the production and consumption of video?

These are the questions I want answered, or at least explored. These are the questions that skeptics in our field, in our departments, in our institutions, and in our communities, are going to want answered, are going to insist we answer, before new media composition becomes mainstream in FYC.

[15 July 2005 update: Minor proofreading edits made.]

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Monday, June 13, 2005

Primary and Secondary Orality

Note: This was originally posted at Notes from the Walter J. Ong Archives and I've decided to move it here so as to not seem too antagonistic.

Recently, there was a discussion on the Media Ecology Association discussion list about audiobooks, whether or not one actually "reads" an audiobook, whether listening to audiobooks is cognitively different than reading a book, etc. At some point, the discussion turned to what kind of orality an audiobook is. At some point, it was suggested by a prominent Ongian that primary orality refers not only to cultures before writing exists, it also refers to the "technologically unaided human voice in all subsequent times and places where writing had been introduced and used. " So, while audiobooks would be secondary orality, it was suggested that an adult reading out loud to a child would be primary orality. I replied:

If primary orality is, as I understand it, orality that exists only when there is no knowledge of writing systems, then reading out loud to a live audience *can't* be primary orality. The fact that something is being read to an audience means that the audience knows writing exists *and* the text is *written*, meaning that the words on the page if not the text itself is the product of someone who is literate, and, moreover, the reading itself is being done by someone who is literate. We could maybe imagine a scenario in which a primary oral performance (one from a culture that has no knowledge of writing systems) was secretly recorded, transcribed, and then read aloud, but even then I'd suggest that the performer/reader could never unlearn their literate habits of mind and, therefore, the reading would *not* be an instance of *primary* orality. The reading, however, would be an oral performance.

We need to remember 1) the medium of transmission and reception does not govern the social-cultural (noetic) matrix, and 2) oral traditions are not necessarily tied to primary orality. One of the major revisions of oral tradition over the last 30 years is the understand that one can be both an oral poet and be literate, that it's not an either/or situation (I believe the best overall summary of this is still John Miles Foley's _How to Read an Oral Poem_).

I would argue that one should not define secondary orality as an audio recording of a book being read aloud. Secondary orality, like primary orality, is not about medium. It's about noetics. Radio, television,
talkies, audiobooks, etc. create a cultural situation in which we have widespread broadcasting of literate noetic practices, and this means that people who have never learned to read are able to interiorize these literate noetic practices, thereby effectively becoming noetically literate. *That* is what secondary orality is.

One thing Ong's primary - literacy - secondary orality model doesn't foreground enough is a condition of post-primary, pre-secondary orality. There is residual orality, but residual orality is orality in writing,
which is not what I'm getting at here. Rather, I'm referring to pre-electronic cultures which rely much more upon oral communication for their day-to-day existence, cultures that know of writing systems or have a group of elites who are literate, or oral-oriented subcultures within larger literate cultures. By suggesting that Ong's model doesn't foreground this condition enough is not to suggest that Ong himself never thought about it or discussed it. What I mean is that since we don't have a good term for it other than "oral culture" which can mean any kind of oral culture, we tend to forget about it when we talk about the large picture, or when we do talk about it, we're often misunderstood.

Let me conclude by addressing the issue of presence which [edited out] brings up in reference to secondary orality. Whereas in primary oral culture communication always requires physical presence, physical presence is not necessary for communication in literate and secondary oral cultures. This does not mean, however, that primary orality, literacy, and secondary orality are defined by the existence of or lack of presence. The ability for physical presence to exist is defined by the affordances and constraints of a medium, not by social-cultural noetics.

When you are listening to an audiobook, you are listening to the recording of a book being read aloud. In one sense, all such recordings are oral performances, whether one is listening to one of Dr. van den
Berg's recordings for the blind, in which the goal is to give as neutral a performance as possible, or to a recording which makes use of multiple professional voice actors and sound effects. Listening to an audiobook does involve different cognitive and material processes -- for instance you can't scan ahead like you can when you're reading, and it's not as easy to dwell upon a particular sentence or phrase or word as it is when you've got the book in front of you, and, well, you're using your ears rather than your eyes as the primary means of reception.

I was then told that I did not understand Fr. Ong's use of the terms, and that for Ong orality is always primary becasue it's never gone out of existence. I then replied:

With all due respect, I do respect all the work which you have done for Ong and with Ong, I'm pretty sure I do understand how Ong uses the terms, and that my characterization of primary and secondary orality is correct. Since coining the term primary orality, Ong has maintained that primary orality is the orality of a cutlure with no knowledge of writing. And you can find this distinction being made in _Presence of the Word_, though the term isn't in use (see pages 301-302, for instance). While presence and face-to-face communication are important for Ong, they are not primary orality. Let me quote from just a few of Fr. Ong's published works:

From "Oral Culture and the Literate Mind." _Minority Language and Literature.). Ed. Dexter Fisher. NY: MLA, 1977. 134-149:

"Primary orality is the orality of cultures that know absolutely no writing at all; secondary orality is the orality of cultures that know writing, and particularly the orality that we have today in our electronic
world (where we cultivate sound and orality very differently, with the help of writing)" (141).

From _Orality and Literacy_ (1991 reprint ed.):

"But, for all their attention to the sounds of speech modern schools of linguistics until very recently have attended only incidentally, if at all, to ways in which primary orality, the orality of cultures untouched by literacy, contrasts with literacy" (5-6).

"As noted above, I style the orality of a culture totally untouched by any knowledge of writing or print, 'primary orality.' It is 'primary' by contrast with the 'secondary orality' of present-day high-technology
culture, in which a new orality is sustained by telephone, radio, television, and other electronic devices that depend for their existence and functioning on writing and print" (11).

"Fully literate persons can only with great difficulty imagine what a primary oral culture is like, that is, a culture with no knowledge whatsoever of writing or even the possibility of writing" (31).

From "Literacy and Orality in Our times" (rpt. in _An Ong Reader_ 465-478:

"One kind, to use a terminology that I have developed in _Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology, is 'primary orality,' the pristine orality of mankind untouched by writing or print that remains still more or less operative in areas sheltered to a greater or lesser degree from the full impact of literacy and that is vestigial to some degree in us all" (470).

I could continue quoting at length from other publications, from various letters I've come across in the archive collection, etc. The fact remains that for Ong "primary orality" is the orality of a culture with no
knowledge of writing. It is a noetic state, not a function of medium. As the passage from "Orality and Literacy in Our Times" states, we have some vestigial level of primary orality in our communication practices (the use of hypotaxis rather than parataxis, the use of formulaic speech and proverbs, copiousness (which I'm often guilty of), agonistically toned, homeostatic, situational rather than abstract, etc., but that is not the same thing as saying that an adult reading a book to a child is "primary
orality" or that we still engage in "primary orality."

Orality has, of course, never gone out of existence, and I didn't claim that. If you read my earlier email carefully, I explicitly point this fact out. And while I would agree with you that orality is "primary" in that it is "native" to us, as opposed to the technologized forms of the word which we must learn and interiorize, to say that orality is primary to humans is not the same thing as "primary orality." Throughout his writing, Fr. Ong goes to great pains to define primary orality as the orality of cultures without knowledge of writing. The orality of a primary oral culture is noetically different from the orality of a culture that has knowledge of writing, and both are noetically different from our current secondary orality. So, as I said in my prior email, reading a book to someone who is physically within hearing distance of you is not an instance of primary orality -- the whole enterprise is based upon the understanding that
writing exists.

My assumption is that this is just an issue of semantics, that you were refering to oral speech as being the non-tchnological and native (i.e. primary) mode of communication, and I am refering specifically to the cultural and noetic condition of "primary orality," which are two different issues however they may overlap.

It may be, however, that I really don't understand how Fr. Ong uses primary and secondary orality. If I have misunderstood these terms, please point me to specific passages in Fr. Ong's writing that will set me straight.

It may seem somewhat vain to provide this detailed, almost blow-by-blow account of this exchange to which I've had no further response. I post it here, however, because this misperception that "primary orality" can refer to oral communication in a literate society is far too widespread. Beth Daniell's misreading of Ong, as represented in such works as her dissertation, her 1986 Pre/Text article "Against the Great Leap Theory of Literacy," and other pieces, is rooted in just this misunderstanding.

Consider one of Daniell's regular examples, the woman who prepares a written sermon but then on the spur of the moment speaks off the cuff. Daniell, referring to Ong's "psychodynamics of orality," notes that the woman's sermon was much more literate in construction than oral, thereby invalidating Ong's thesis. Of course the woman's oral performance was "literate." The woman is literate. She is from twentieth-century America. Even if she could not read or write herself, she would be constantly awash in the literate discourse of American culture. No one who participates in everyday twentieth-century American life can escape the noetic structuring of literacy, or for that matter of secondary orality. This is what escapes Daniell, that Ong's psychodynamics of orality only hold for people of primary oral cultures, cultures which have no knowledge of writing systems whatsoever. Once the knowledge of writing exists, not the ability to write but the knowledge of writing, then the psychodynamics of orality begin to break down, and the more the technology of literacy is interiorized, the more vestigial the psychodynamics of primary orality become.

This misreading of Ong isn't entirely Daniell's fault, however. If she'd read Ong closely enough she would have realized her mistake, but it's clear, especially if you read her dissertation, that she's not so much reading Ong as reading Ong through someone else, and that someone else makes the same mistake she does.

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Text Encoding Tools

Character Mapping Markup Language: "This document specifies an XML format for the interchange of mapping data for character encodings, and describes some of the issues connected with the use of character conversion. It provides a complete description for such mappings in terms of a defined mapping to and from Unicode, and a description of alias tables for the interchange of mapping table names."

Need to know what special characters you need to write in Occitan, Skolt Sami, Bambara? how to romanize Kazakha or Mongolian? Ever found yourself wishing you could search a character by unicode number? The Letter Database is for you.

Edition Production Technology is "a tool for assisting less-technical resource creators to develop more sophisticated electronic editions."

These links brought to you by MEDTEXT-L

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Links to get back to, a "an automated trend discovery system for blogs and a portal into the blogosphere."

The transcript from Lennie Irvin's Computers and Writing Online presentation "MOO--The Second Decade?"

Two fairly new media ecology blogs: Ghost in the Wire and g-one.

Jeff Rice's article "21st Century Graffiti: Detroit Tagging." Jeff's recent Composition Studies article "The 1963 Composition Revolution Will Not be Televised, Computed, or Demonstrated by Any Other Means of Technology" is well worth reading, an excellent union of composition studies and media ecology. I plan to write more about it in a few days. Until then, here's an abstract.

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Podcasting Links

Byron Hawk's saved me the effort by already posting the list of podcasting links I sent to TechRhet.

Steven Krause added these links to the list:

Podcasting for Dummies

Weblogg-ed: Audiocasting


Sunday, June 05, 2005

Memory and Categorization

An interesting study by researchers at Ohio State University finds that there is a direct inverse relationship between "lack of knowledge" and recognition memory:

"Verbatim memory is often a property of being a novice," said Sloutsky, who is also associate dean of research at the university's College of Human Ecology . "As people become smarter, they start to put things into categories, and one of the costs they pay is lower memory accuracy for individual differences."

I can't help but think of Ramus and his classification diagrams and Ong's original title for his dissertation: "The Clunch Fist of Method: Ramus, Topical Logic, and the Hollows of the Mind." The "hollows of the mind" refers to a shift in thinking about the mind, one in which the mind is thought of as a container to be filled with knowledge in the same way a book is filled with knowledge. Ong discusses this in "System, Space, and Intelect in Renaissance Symbolism."

Link found at

Crossposted at Notes from the Walter J Ong Archive.

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Teaching Resources

I've used the first chapter of Don Norman's The Design of Everyday Things in composition for engineers before, which worked well in getting them to think about writing as something designed. As I may be teaching that course again this coming year, Norman's may prove useful. Found at The Digital Sextant as part of Brendan's commentary on a story arc in the comic Agnes.

A NYT op-ed piece titled "Is Persuasion Dead?" discusses one of my major pollitical concerns, and an issue I try to deal with directly in my composition courses. The fact that civil discourse and debate as reasonsed discussion rather than shout fest has become a political issue (an issue for the radical center) is disturbing. It probably always has been a political issue. It's always been a concern of rhetoric. Link provided by digital b.

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Saturday, June 04, 2005 is now live. From the web site: " serves as an information portal for the computers and writing community. This site hosts the official archives of the annual Computers and Writing conference as well as materials generated by the CCCC Committee on Computing in Composition (7C)."

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Keith Rhodes' "Anti Anti-antirammar Article"

The to teach or not teach grammar debate is taking place on WPA-L again, and Keith Rhodes has sent us all a link to his "Anti Anti-antigrammar Article" that cites a number of sources which demonstrate that teaching formal grammar doesn't do much to improve student writing. He also points out that the teaching of grammar is a fairly new practice in the scheme of things. The piece does more than lambastes the teaching of grammar, however, but identifies practices which research suggests does improve student writing.

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"That looks so much more professional!"

The company WhiteSmoke provides a piece of writing software that will "upgrade your writing" so that you can "write better right now." flash demo. Using what appears to be a built-in thesaurus and a context-based word suggester. Gone are the days when one might write the uninspired sentence "My car got a flat tire." Based on the demo I've seen, WhiteSmoke might suggest that I change "flat" to "punctured" and add such verbs as "old" or "new" before car. It might even suggest I change "got" to "acquired" or "gained." So, my "My car got a flat tire" might be upgraded to "My old car acquired a punctured tire."

Write better right now.

Thanks to Nick Carbone for posting the flash demo to WPA-L.

Addition: Will Banks has written to the list to note that the sample text in WhiteSmoke's flash demo has "a comma splice before their conjunctive adverb in both the 'rough' copy and the 'upgraded' one. Too sweet.

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