Tag Archives: writing

Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Astronomy Class, PHYS 2021, Sunset Observation Project, Fall 2004

This is the ninth post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

My “Sunset Observation Project” was a semester-long project in Professor James Sowell’s PHYS 2021 class in Fall 2004. Originally, I tried taking this class from Professor Sowell when I was having a lot of trouble  in school in the late 1990s. So, when I returned to Georgia Tech after a stint in the business world, I made a point to complete Professor Sowell’s class. I wanted to prove to myself that I could succeed in this class, and I wanted to prove to Professor Sowell, who I considered an engaging and interested instructor, that I could succeed in his class. Ultimately, I did well in this class and the second Astronomy class on large-scale astronomy that Professor Sowell also taught.

This project helped me begin getting back into shape, because I choose to do it the hard way: instead of observing the sunset from campus, I went to the best observation place outside the city on top of Stone Mountain. This meant that I had to hike up to the top with my tripod and camera on a regular basis.

I used Adobe Photoshop to create a line-drawn skyline and to measure my observations consistently by using layers.

While I am posting my Sunset Observation Project as-is (meaning all of the mistakes contained below are mine), I continue to tell my students today that Professor Sowell was one of the professors who helped me with my writing, because I read his comments and listened to his advice. The takeaway for my students is that we can improve on our writing, communication, and composition anywhere and anytime–even in a class about our great solar system.

Jason W. Ellis

Professor James Sowell

PHYS 2021

Fall 2004

Sunset Observation Project

image001

Purpose

The Sunset Observation Project is designed to use long established techniques to chart the progression of the Sun across the horizon over the course of one school semester. It allows the student to become more aware of the motion of the Earth, both on its axis as well as its orbit around the Sun.

Procedure

Over the course of the semester each student will make a number of observations of the Sun setting.  Each observation must be made from the same location and a point of reference should be chosen along the horizon so that the Sun’s change in location can be measured using the hand and fingers as angular measuring devices.  Each observation should be about a week or more apart so that a discernible change can be observed.

I made my observations from the same spot west of downtown Atlanta on top of Stone Mountain.  I expect smog and weather to cause some problems with observing sunsets, but Stone Mountain provides an excellent view of the horizon due to its height and distance away from tall buildings.

Observational Data

Date of Observation

Time of Sunset

Degrees from Reference Point

Place of Observation

Weather Conditions

Aug 30, 2004

8:05 pm EST

0 deg

Stone Mountain

Cloudy and Hazy

Sep 9, 2004

7:51 pm EST

5 deg S

Stone Mountain

Hazy

Sep 18, 2004

7:39 pm EST

10 deg S

Stone Mountain

Hazy

Oct 15, 2004

6:51 pm EST

26 deg S

Stone Mountain

Cloudy

Oct 31, 2004

5:45 pm EST

30 deg S

Stone Mountain

Cloudy and Hazy

image003

August 30, 2004

image005This was my first solar observation of the semester.  It was also the first time that I had climbed Stone Mountain.  I learned a lot on this first trip about giving myself enough time to hike the 1.4 miles to the top as well as bringing some Gatorade along because the outside water fountain wasn’t working.

image007The cloud cover and haze was a problem that I encountered all semester.  It was difficult to arrange times to hike to the top of Stone Mountain that took into account my school schedule, work schedule, and the weather.  If I had considered these logistical problems beforehand, I would have chosen to make my observations from a window in one of Tech’s buildings.

September 9, 2004

image009This was a good day to hike to the top of Stone Mountain.  Unfortunately, there were distant clouds which obscured the setting of the sun so I had to take my picture while the sun was still above the building tops.

image011The sun moved approximately 5 degrees South of the building that I used for a reference point during the semester of observations.

September 18, 2004

image013There was only a slight haze in the distance when I made this observation.  By this time, I had begun to enjoy hiking to the top of Stone Mountain.  I brought a friend along on the first observation, but no one would join me for any of other observations.

image015The Sun is approximately 10 degrees South of my first observation.

October 15, 2004

image017The Sun had moved a great deal since my last observation.  Weather (i.e., hurricanes) and a busy schedule makes these observations difficult to make because of the time involved going to Stone Mountain and hiking to the top.

image019The Sun is about 26 degrees South of my first observation.

October 31, 2004

image021This is the last observation that I made for this project.  It was a hazy evening which made it difficult to get a good picture of the setting Sun.

image023The Sun is now 30 degrees South of where I began observing it in August.  It has moved across the horizon of a good deal of metro Atlanta.

Conclusions

The Sun was observed to move in a southwardly direction.  From a top-down view, it would appear to be moving in a counterclockwise motion along the horizon.  The rate of change seemed to be larger at the beginning of the semester.  The first three observations covered equal times, but the amount of change increased from the 8/30-9/9 period to the 9/9-9/18 period.  This pattern changed for the last two observations, which covered a greater time between the two observations (16 days), but there was only a 4 degree change in the position of the Sun.  This is probably due to the Sun’s arc across the sky decreasing as the year progresses.  The Sun is lower in the sky so it does not have as far to travel across the sky later in the year.

The Sun should rise about 180 degrees from where it sets if it strictly rose in the East and set in the West.  The Sun does not do this because the inclination of the Earth causes the Sun to appear to be low or high in the sky during the course of the year.  This generates our seasons because the angle of light hitting the Earth’s surface changes as the Earth makes its way around the Sun during the year.  The length of the day gets shorter as the year progresses because the Sun cuts a smaller arc in the sky.  Less distance without any drastic changes in speed means that the Sun doesn’t spend as much time in the sky each day as the year progresses.

Noon is still the time at which the Sun is at its highest point in the sky, but this highest point changes during the course of the semester.  This point will get lower and lower until the Winter Solstice when the Sun will begin to move North again and its path across the sky will likewise get higher too.

Before this project, I had never been to the top of Stone Mountain.  Now I have been up to the top many times!  Observing the Moon and the Sun during the semester has made me more aware of the motions and orientations of the Moon, Earth, and Sun.  Before I had a vague awareness of how these things moved and were orientated, but now I have a much better grasp of the subject.

Some problems that I encountered had to do with the weather.  The barrage of hurricanes in late September and October caused a lot of bad weather here in Atlanta.  In addition, it is difficult to arrange times to hike to the top of Stone Mountain when you have school and work schedules to deal with.  I am pleased with the outcome of my Sunset Observation Project, but I wish that I had been able to make more observations.  Because of this project, I will continue hiking to the top of Stone Mountain to watch the sunset.

Recovered Writing: A New Theme of Personal Digital Archive Rediscovery for 2014

Happy New Year!

In addition to writing about my research and teaching, I have decided to rummage through my archives of unpublished undergraduate and graduate school writing. It is my plan to post some of these artifacts to my blog in an unedited form (besides the accommodations of reformatting word processing documents for the web). Each posting will include a preface indicating the course, professor, and date of writing. The title will also clearly state, “Recovered Writing,” so as to distinguish these unedited posts of older writing from my up-to-date writing on dynamicsubspace.net.

I have had to don a helmet and swing a pickaxe to uncover some of these unpolished gems from the dustbin of my digital archive. I hope that my efforts will excite and interest some readers for their nuggets of insight and glimmerings of research.

Some of the ideas that I will present here serve as signposts reaching into the past of my thinking and scholarly development. Some of the ideas that I will present here might provoke discussion or lead to new discoveries.

Unlike Smaug, I do not covet my hoard of gems. I would like to share them for others to see, because their dim light might help others see their own gems misplaced or not yet discovered.

Assessing Multimodality: Navigating the Digital Turn Tweet Round Up on Storify and a Picture of Me and My Pedagogy Poster

My Pedagogy Poster on "Writing the Brain" at Assessing Multimodality Symposium.

My Pedagogy Poster on “Writing the Brain” at Assessing Multimodality Symposium.

Today, the Georgia Tech Writing and Communication Program and Bedford St. Martins hosted a symposium on Assessing Multimodality: Navigating the Digital Turn. I co-presented a workshop with Mirja Lobnik on Multimodality and Perception and I presented a poster during one of the day’s sessions. Many of us were tweeting our experiences at the symposium today, too. Click through the Storify embed below to virtually experience the symposium 140 characters at a time.

[View the story "Assessing Multimodality: Navigating the Digital Turn Symposium" on Storify]

Looking Forward to 2012, But No More Post-A-Day

This past year, I wrote over 500 posts for dynamicsubspace.net. My primary goal by posting something every day was to write at least one post per day as part of #postaday2011. There were some that were substantial, but the majority were shorter re-postings with only a tiny bit of addition on my part. In 2012, I won’t be doing this.

It was an exhilarating run this past year generating that much content, but I cannot realistically sustain it another year at this point in my life. I am finishing my dissertation, I am looking for work, and I am an officer in an important organization. Also, I tried to post things that I thought were interesting or important, but the need to write something every day meant that I often did not have the time to write a fully fleshed out post. I would like my writings to be more developed than the majority of my posts were this past year.

The thing that I relearn again and again is that I have to prioritize. Dynamicsubspace.net is important to me, but there are more important things in my life right now. Therefore, I am going to return to my earlier schedule of writing a post roughly once per week. These might be intensive writings about a particular piece of news, a review of a book, or a digest of things that I have been up to.

So, there won’t be as many posts as there were in 2011, but I will try to make up for it in greater substance in each post.

Now, back to writing the dissertation and waiting for a call back.

Thank You to My Friends and Readers, Looking Back at Dynamicsubspace.net Site Stats for 2011

First, I would like to thank all of my readers. I appreciate your taking the time to see what I am thinking or working on, and I am also grateful for the comments that I have received from my readers. I enjoy writing on dynamicsubspace.net, and I am thankful that my friends, colleagues, and others find my writing worth spending a little of their time reading.

WordPress.com logs the visits of readers to my blog. I like to reflect on my writing and how it corresponds to these statistics. Below, I present a summary of the site’s statistics with some thoughts about the increase in visits that I received in 2011.

I was particularly interested in seeing how this year’s numbers compared to previous years, because I endeavoured to post more content this year than in any previous year as part of WordPress.com’s postaday2011 project.

My attempt at posting one new item each day has been a phenomenal success. I successfully posted one item each day save once. However, there were many days when I posted two or more items. By month in 2011, I posted 56 times in January, 42 times in February, 55 times in March, 47 times in April, 53 times in May, 42 times in June, 36 times in July, 42 times in August, 35 times in September, 43 times in October, 42 times in November, and finally, 39 times in December 2011. Each month, I consistently exceeded the number of days by the number of posts for a total of 532 posts in 2011. Since I began dynamicsubspace.net in 2007, I have written 1,239 posts.

In the chart above, you can see the number of unique page visits by month and year since I moved the blog from Apple’s mac.com to WordPress.com in March 2007. During the very first month of being hosted on wordpress.com in March 2007, I received 29 visits. So far, I have received 8,191 visits during December 2011. This is a tremendous increase in page views!

Considering the number of visits that I have received from year to year: dynamicsubspace.net received 3,772 visits in 2007, 27,882 in 2008, 32,458 in 2009, 48,245 in 2010, and approximately 76,121 in 2011. This translate to a 639% increase from 2007 to 2008, 16% increase from 2008 to 2009, 48% increase from 2009 to 2010, and 58% increase from 2010 to 2011. I believe that the increased content generation that I have done during 2011 has made the site more interesting to regular readers, and it has also created more content that non-regular readers find via search engines, social networks, and link sharing sites.

Further breaking down the visits to dynamicsubspace.net, the site has consistently increased its average visits per day. On average, the site received 14 daily visits in 2007, 76 visits in 2008, 89 visits in 2009, 132 visits in 2010, and 209 visits in 2011. This translates to a 443% increase in daily visits from 2007 to 2008, 17% from 2008 to 2009, 48% from 2009 to 2010, and finally, 58% from 2010 to 2011. These daily visit increases also, I believe, correspond with the increased content output that I have accomplished this past year.

One thing that I wonder though is how spammers influence these numbers. As you can see in the graph above, my spam filter has caught a substantial rise in attempted spam comments during 2011. It is because of this increased spam over the past two years that I began moderating all comments to dynamicsubspace.net. I would prefer to not moderate on the site, but I don’t want my noncommercial site to become a huge billboard that generates money for others (copiers of my content on other sites present a whole other problem). Also, Symantec reports here that email spam is the lowest in years, but I wonder if spammers are shifting their tactics to plaster the web instead of inboxes.

Here is to another successful year of dynamicsubspace.net. I have hinted at some lose ends that I will write more about in the near future. These will appear as I have the time to think about and write more about them.

The Digital Humanities, Writing Technologies, and Word Processors in the New York Times

Jennifer Schuessler looks at current trends in one area of the digital humanities–to study the way published writers use computer technology to create their works–in her New York Times article, “The Muses of Insert, Delete and Execute.” The take away bit about the field is:

The study of word processing may sound like a peculiarly tech-minded task for an English professor, but literary scholars have become increasingly interested in studying how the tools of writing both shape literature and are reflected in it, whether it’s the quill pen of the Romantic poets or the early round typewriter, known as a writing ball, that Friedrich Nietzsche used to compose some aphoristic fragments. (“Our writing tools are also working on our thoughts,” Nietzsche typed.)

via A Literary History of Word Processing – NYTimes.com.

It is good to see this kind of coverage of the profession in the Times.

Call for Submissions Emanations II: Second Sight

Carter Kaplan posted the call for the next Emanations collection subtitled “Second Sight.” You can read it below or on the official website here.

Carter put together a successful first collection that can be found on Amazon here. He and his contributors do very good work, and I am very glad that I can be a member of the Board of Editorial Advisors.

Read on, and send in your work:

Call for Submissions Emanations II

International Authors and the editors of Emanations are happy to announce a Call for Submissions:

Emanations: Second Sight

Emanations is an anthology series featuring fiction, poetry, essays, manifestos and reviews. The emphasis is on alternative narrative structures, new epistemologies, peculiar settings, esoteric themes, sharp breaks from reality, ecstatic revelations, and vivid and abundant hallucinations.

The editors are interested in recognizable genres—science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, local color, romance, realism, surrealism, postmodernism–but the idea is to make something new, and along these lines the illusion of something new can be just as important. If a story or poem makes someone say, “Yes, but what is it?” then it’s right for Emanations. Essays should be exuberant, daring, and free of pedantry. Length is a consideration in making publication decisions, but in keeping with the spirit of the project contributors should consider length to be “open.”

Our editorial vision is evolving. Contributors should see themselves as actively shaping the “vision” of Emanations.

Send files with brief cover note to Carter Kaplan:

IAsubmissions@hotmail.com

Deadline: April 2, 2012

Emanations is a not-for-profit literary project and contributors cannot be compensated at
this time. All proceeds from the sale of Emanations will support the efforts of International Authors to publish new voices from around the world.

Please post questions, suggestions and ideas. The project is a collaborative effort, and as we share ideas the “vision” transforms, evolves, and grows. When we write stories and poems we hope to bring to bear the entire battery of modern and postmodern literary devices. More simply: we like good, strong writing. Our essays are incisive, precise, keen, challenging, and driven by the writer’s desire to advance an intelligent audience’s understanding of important subjects.

The Fine Print:

1) Submit files as follows: double space, Microsoft Word, Times New Roman 12 pt. The book will be formatted by the editors before publication.

2) No simultaneous submissions (contributors should get fairly quick feedback anyway, especially if their submission meets our needs). Material that is obviously pulled from a file and has nothing to do with the goals of the anthology won’t get any feedback beyond the initial acknowledgement.

3) Word count/line count? See details above. We’re flexible, but contributors should be sensible when considering what they send in. A novella? Well, maybe, and so on…. Rules of thumb: a) Stories: very short to 20-30 pages. b) Poems: send in 5-10 pages. c) Essays: 5-10-30 pages.

4) Published as hard copy only—Emanations will be available on Amazon. Participants who make a substantial contribution of material, editorial work, or art will get a copy. It can take some time to get copies to contributors outside of North America. In the case of our first anthology, for example, it took forty-five days to get a copy to a contributor in to Nepal.

5) In the past, International Authors has made it possible for contributors to purchases copies “at cost” using coupon codes, and so on. International Authors is a consortium, and as such every contributor is a “member” or our community, and contributors are encouraged to help promote the anthology by sending review copies to newspapers, journals and relevant Web sites.

6) Copyright “reverts” to contributors upon publication. That is, after a piece appears in Emanations, the contributor can seek to publish their piece elsewhere. Contributors should understand that Emanations will remain for sale on Amazon indefinitely.

Published By International Authors

Board of Editorial Advisors

Ruud Antonius, Netherlands/Spain
Steve Aylett, UK
Michael Beard, US
Michael Butterworth, UK
Jason W. Ellis, US
Cedric Cester, Spain
Mike Chivers, UK
Mack Hassler, US
Horace Jeffery
Hodges, South Korea
Sushma Joshi, Nepal
Carter Kaplan, US
Devashish Makhija, India
Vitasta Raina, India
Elkie Riches, UK
Dario Rivarossa, Italy
Kai Robb, US
Stephen Sylvester, US

Getting Back on Track with a Writing Exercise

Y and I have been back in Kent for about six days and it feels like I am still struggling to catch up with work and responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is posting something daily to dynamic subspace.net as part of my pledge to create one post per day. While we were away in Europe, I spent one morning creating all of the video game related posts that appeared during our absence. When we had Internet access, I occasionally posted something to Facebook, but I never found the time to do more than that. However, I did do a lot of writing in my Muji notebook during the SFRA conference in Poland. In fact, I filled it from front to back with notes and thoughts during the conference. During the remainder of our trip, I did not have the time or energy to do much more writing than an occasional Facebook update. Taking trains or boats to go places and then walk around all day long left me with little physical much less psychic energy to do some writing. Why all this talk about writing? It is because dynamic subspace.net is primarily a place where I can practice writing while also adding some of my thoughts to the Internet’s ether. I have found it very important to my work as a scholar to write on a regular basis in order to build my skill at writing, which includes the skill of writing at length, on demand. My lack of regular writing during the past few weeks has taken its toll on my writing ability. It took me awhile to develop the wherewithal to write this particular post. However, I am finding it easier and easier as I progress down the page with my incessant typing on the keyboard. I am also wondering about the autocorrection of my writing from within Safari on Mac OS X Lion. I don’t know if this is something perpetrated by the OS or the WordPress backend for my website. I will have to look into this further.

Three Weeks Until SFRA 2011 in Poland

In three weeks, I am looking forward to seeing Pawel Frelik and my other SFRA friends in Poland for the annual Science Fiction Research Association conference. I am in the process of writing my paper now, which is an adaptation of a chapter of my dissertation on cognitive science, cognitive cultural studies, and science fiction. Good luck to the other attendees on your writing for the conference. See you soon!

Pulling an All-Nighter, and the Rain Falls Heavy

I’m pulling an all-nighter to catch up on work, because I have been under the weather this weekend. I am feeling mostly better now, because Y has been taking very good care of me.

I am glad that I am still awake and writing, because I can hear the rain fall in torrents outside. It’s too bad that I am tied to a chair typing or I would go out for a stroll.