Steel Needles and WiFi

It’s been way too long since I posted here. I hope to post more frequently.
Why haven’t I posted for several weeks? One reason: I’ve been ill for three weeks, culminating in five days in the hospital. (If you go to the site, my room was the middle one on the second floor: just above the apostrophe in "it’s." I had a very persistent pneumonia.
I also had intravenous fluids, including lots of antibiotics. Frequent breathing treatments accompanied the usual check of my "vitals": blood pressure, temperature, oxygen saturation in my blood, pulse. I’m pleased to report that my pulmonary function test (not an easy procedure) showed my capacity to be "normal" for a man of my age, height, and weight.
Anyone who’s spent days and nights in a hospital knows that one’s mortality is foregrounded, even though one’s illness isn’t critical. I had plenty of time to reflect on diet and exercise and make decisions about refinements and changes. Other patients’ coughs and moans punctuate one’s sleep; the med evac helicopter tends to come and go at intervals throughout the night.
I received very good care from the nursing staff, my doctors, and the technicians in various laboratories. The meals were against the stereotype of how awful hospital food is; the food was plentiful and reasonable good, with the exception of some unfortunate vegetables.
Decades ago, I worked in two hospitals (Mt Zion Medical Center in San Francisco and Newman Memorial Hospital in Emporia, Kansas) as an orderly in Central Supply. That lead to two or three interesting conversations with nurses, including one of the younger nurses, who was astounded that we used steel needles that I cleaned, sharpened, packaged, and sterilized. "You’re showing your age!" she said. But I don’t need to talk about steel needles to show my age.
Five days essentially away from computers and news was a real vacation. Actually, the hospital is very computerized. Everyone but housekeeping and the doctors came into my room with a computer. But I didn’t have to use them. The hospital’s Web site says it won "Health Care’s Most Wired" for 2007. I believe that. There is even WiFi for patients, but after one very tiring session with my laptop, I sent it home. (As you can tell, now that I’m home, it’s hard to stay away from the computer, but it does tire me, so that’s it for now.)

Nearly a month later . . .

I hadn’t realized how much time had passed since the last entry here. Here’s a brief entry:
Dr. Ed Malone, assistant professor of English and Technical Communication, and Director of Technical Communication, has begun writing a quarterly column on the history of technical communication. His column appears in the IEEE Professional Communication Newsletter. The latest column is about Dorothy Dahle, a pioneering woman in the field. The column touches on the difficulties a woman faced entering the field in the 1950s. It’s well worth reading.
The next entry will show up here much sooner than the four weeks between this one and the previous.

Frequency of Posts

If you’re keeping track, my commitment is now a minimum of one entry a week, posted over the weekend. Time-constraints, as well as the need to find topics, make more than one unlikely for many weeks. If you are reading this blog regularly, thank you.
I expect to post an entry later today or tomorrow.

"On Wikipedia Nobody Knows You’re an Idiot"

I’m still committed to posting two entries a week, at about noon on Wednesday and Sunday. (I may go to one a week when the fall semester starts.) Eating lunch, I realized I didn’t have an entry ready for today, and no topic sprang to mind easily; so, here’s a brief comment on a topic that lots of us think about.
How does the hardy web-surfer know which site is reliable and which is pure hokum? There’s problem a spectrum from completely reliable to utter hokum, but how does one know where a particular web page lies on the spectrum?
I’m not sure I can answer my own question, so if you have ideas about reliable web sites or techniques that can help rate them, please share them in a comment. I promise to post comments that address the issue without flaming or obnoxious language.
I used "Wikipedia" in the title for this post because that’s the site many first think of. I was visiting a freshman composition class that was discussing research. When the teacher asked where students would look for information, the first thing several said was "Wikipedia." I use Wikipedia myself; I’ve found it a useful source of information I want students to have. But when I use it that way, I know something about the topic and (hope) I would recognize hokum.
What if you don’t know anything about a topic you need to research? Consult several sources — even printed books and journals. Talk to someone who is knowledgeable. It takes some effort to learn something.
But suppose I hear a story on the news that piques my interest; I don’t want to do a lot of research to discover whether the assertion I heard is reliable or hokum. As the presidential campaign season begins, there are a number of questionable statements. How can I sort them out? Does anyone have an idea?

How Many Ideas Can I Have?

When I started this blog two weeks ago, I planned to do three entries a week. I had been thinking about some ideas for entries for awhile. I did post three times each of the first two weeks. However, I’m going to reduce the number of entries to two a week, on Wednesday and Sunday, scheduled to post at noon. Rather than posting "whenever," I want the entries to be predictable.
It doesn’t take a long time to do an entry, but it does take time, so two a week will work better than three. Also, I may not have ideas for three entries every week.
The first Wednesday entry should post on July 4th. Hope you check it out.

Welcome to Notes ETC

Welcome to Notes ETC , the blog for the Department of English and Technical Communication at the University of Missouri-Rolla. You can read about the department on our web page, which I hope you will visit.
The entries in this blog will include news, comments, and reflections on issues relevant to the department, its faculty, its students, its alumni, and other interested parties. As chair, I am responsible for the blog. Please send me questions or suggestions for topics relevant to Notes ETC. Comments, of course, are welcome.
Late May and early June were pretty quiet in the department: very few students and not many faculty around. Summer School is in its second week at UMR, so there are more people in the halls, offices, and classrooms. I’m personally looking forward to the opening of the coffee shop under construction in the library. Come by and I’ll stand you to a cup.
I plan (hope) to post at least three entries a week. The software works on my Linux LAN at home, so I expect to do some entries over weekends.