No Fancy Name
Thursday, June 30, 2005
i bought a new book, ostensibly for fun!
I have a stack of thirty or so books that I want to read before September rolls around, but yesterday I heard about a new book, bought it, and it's moved to the top of the reading list (in fact, I've started reading already). It's by a fellow that I knew in college, a billion years ago.

You know those alumnae/i magazines that follow you around to every new address regardless of the fact that you've never given one red cent to the school after graduation? For some unknown reason, I read mine cover to cover. It's kind of like watching a train wreck: you don't want to look, but you do. I can count on one hand the number of schoolchums I wonder about, two hands if you count faculty. But the other day, the most recent issue offered an update on someone of interest to me. Amazing!

I went to a small (less than 900 students at the time) conservative women's college in Virginia. It was my only option at the time, because I sure wasn't staying in high school. The school has a unique set of programs which include the program I was in as well as an adult degree program and a few others having to do with leadership and the military. So, although it's a women's college, there were probably fifty or so men taking classes when I was there. The person I read about in the alumnae/i magazine was one of those guys. He was also the absolute antithesis of everyone else in the college (being a boy helped with that) and as such, I loved running into him on campus. We only had six main buildings so running into people wasn't that difficult.

This fellow, Dustin Wells, spun a great tale about how he got there: he was from PA (homeboy!) and been in engineering school in the northeast and that didn't work out (he was an English major at my school), he went to a mediocre school in PA and that didn't work out (the reasons were specific and wild, and I have no idea if they were true), so he hopped on his motorcycle and headed to Mexico when his tire blew out in my college town so he just stayed. No idea if that was true. He got a job working in the physical plant at the college, working at night and using his tuition break to take classes during the day. I heard he lived in a shithole little basement somewhere, had no shower, and used the facilities in the gym. I never saw him eat anything, and I heard that he drank like a fish. No idea if any of that was true.

What I did know was true: he was the smartest person on that entire campus. He wrote beautiful papers, was the only other person who read the dribs and drabs of literary criticism that our little library offered, could talk for hours about just about anything intellectual. He dressed like James Dean and had skater boy hair, listened to the Cure and Siouxsie, and I swear to god if he hadn't been on campus I would have gone insane. Not that we were actually friends. We weren't. We were just sit-and-talk-before-class buddies.

We had some classes together, and I always sat in the back and never said a word while he always sat in the front and engaged the professor in discussion and asked pertinent questions and I nodded in agreement. The I'm-here-for-my-Mrs-degree Bitsies and Mitsies hated him, whispered (loudly) to each other everytime he'd speak, and generally made me want to smack them (hard) for the entire class period. See, Dustin was smarter than they were, and had no money. That rocked their world. He was a better person than they were, was more tolerant of others than they'd ever dream of being, and he had the worst stutter I have ever heard—all the major consonants. It would take him a very long time to get out what he wanted to say, and these people were assholes to him. I hated them for it. He acted as if they didn't exist, and went along his merry way. I learned a lot from him.

So yesterday I read that he wrote a book. He actually lives out here, in San Francisco, and is involved in the graduate program in Writing and Consciousness at New College of California. His book is called Cappuccino Cowboy. I'll write more about it when I finish it, but I'm chuckling so far—if for no other reason than the appearance of a sushi bar with a club downstairs called...wait for it...Tokyo Blue. Dustin, my friend, just call it Tokyo Rose. It's ok.

[Tokyo Rose is the name of a sushi bar with a club downstairs, in Charlottesville VA, and was a refuge of sorts for the few cool people who went to my college; the 45 minute drive was well worth it. I realize there are only two people who read my blog who would find this at all amusing. Go with it—it's funny.]

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go play a game (mmmm, candy!)
In lieu of writing something profound and/or interesting and/or that takes a lot of time, everyone go play the Candy Bar Identification Game.

Now, you may think "why is Julie playing a candy identification game during the workday? especially when she's in the middle of re-working a CSS template?" Well, you wouldn't think the last part because you don't know that, BUT ANYWAY, it's because my boss sent it to me. When one's boss sends a link to a game, it's ok to stop what you're doing and go play.

For intance, our IM conversation:
julie's boss: how are you with candy identification? [link]
julie: oh my. actually, i think I can do this.
julie's boss: they're too easy
julie: i got the nut roll wrong, because I've never seen it.
julie's boss: i thought it was a payday
julie: ah.
julie: stuff on the next page, i've never seen any of it
julie: except skor. my fave
julie's boss: snickers?
julie: ok, yeah
julie: and milky way
julie's boss: ah there's the payday. different guts
julie: the watchamacallit looks too short
julie's boss: they've gotten shorter over the years
julie: too bad.
julie's boss: i hate those
julie: i love those!
julie's boss: and the universe is reinforced again
julie: heh
Yep, Joan's a cool boss.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005
recipe: pasta with chickpeas and garlic sauce (and special friend, broccoli rabe!)

I'm pretty sure I'm on my own with this recipe, especially with the broccoli rabe, as far as ever cooking it for friends. But with regards to the main dish, if you substitute veggie broth in place in the chicken broth and nix the cheese, this would be a really good vegan dish for such people who have an affinity for chickpeas with their pasta.

This is from page 180 of the Jan/Feb 2005 issue of Cooking Light. [recipe follows]

Pasta with Chickpeas and Garlic Sauce
2t olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3/4t salt
1/4t crushed red pepper
1 15oz can of chickpeas, drained
1 14oz can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
6oz (1 1/2C) uncooked shell-shaped pasta
1/2C grape tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, minced
1T minced fresh parsley
1T fresh lemon juice
3T shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I accidentally grabbed asiago, no big deal.)

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add crushed garlic, sauté 1 minute. Add salt, pepper, chickpeas, and broth, then bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.

While that's going on, cook pasta for about 9 minutes, ommitting salt and fat (if you use such things when making pasta); drain well.

Place chickpea mixture in a food processor and blend until smooth. Combine smoothed mixture, pasta, tomatoes, minced garlic, fresh parsley, and lemon juice, then toss well. Sprinkle with cheese and serve immediately.

NUTRITIONAL INFO per-serving (1C pasta and 2t cheese) is: calories 333 (24% from fat); fat 9g (sat 1.6g, mono 3.2g, poly 2.7g); protein 13.g; carbs 57.3g; fiber 6.6g; cholesterol 3mg; iron 3.3mg; sodium 808mg; calc 92mg

For the broccoli rabe, heat 1T olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add 2 smashed peeled garlic cloves and cook for 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant. Add 1 1/2 pounds of cleaned and trimmed broccoli rabe, tossing to coat. Reduce heat to medium-low, add 1/4C water, cover and cook for 9 minutes. Toss with 2t lemon juice, dash salt and pepper.

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thank you, thai kitchen!
This small, blurry photo does little justice to the lovely lunch that was my $1.69 Thai Kitchen Noodle Cart (peanut version). VERY tasty, very cheap, very quick and it comes with its own fork.

I've had all three flavors: pad thai, peanut, and garlic. I like peanut the best, followed by pad thai. The garlic is ok, but it has a huge amount of sodium (840mg) compared to the others (200mg for peanut and 450mg for pad thai) so I'm sticking to peanut. Full nutritional info at the web site.

someone said I seemed "sanguine"
As in "you do seem a lot more sanguine than I thought you'd be." I believe this marks the first time in history that I've ever been called "sanguine." Yes, he meant it in the "cheerfully confident; optimistic" sense and not the "ruddy" sense.

Ok, well I thought it was funny...

didn't watch the preznit's speech? neither did I.
But Mac has provided us all with an easily-digestible paraphrased version.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005
"extra spam"
A phrase I never thought I'd utter in my lifetime, yet I did just that this morning. I'm completely in love with the Aloha Kitchen restaurant near my house. Not just near my house, but next door to my "home" Starbucks. It's my own little slice of heaven. Breakfast this morning: spam and eggs (comes with two scoops of rice, too) plus extra spam.

What is it with spam, that it tastes so darn good when cooked up at a Hawaiian restaurant, yet I'd never buy it in the store...and if I did buy it in the store, I'm sure I couldn't cook it up so it tasted the same. It's like making fried rice. I love fried rice, I get it all the time at the chinese restaurant down the block. But if I get all the fixings for it and try to make it at home, it just tastes like rice with some vegetables in it. I even cook it up in sesame oil, to no avail.

But it's just as well that these places have such a culinary hold on me—I'm all for supporting small, family-owned places with cheap and tasty food that I can't duplicate in my own kitchen. In other news, I discovered a Quickly close by my house. There's one next to school (actually, my school is bordered by a Quickly, a Tapioca Express, and the Hydration Cafe, all serving drinks of the same ilk; the school demographics are such that the Asian students are the largest group at 33.8%, which is just fine for me because I'd actually rather have drinks from any of these places than from Starbucks) but this one is closer and I'm not on campus in the summer.


Which, of course, has nothing to do with spam. But mmmmm....spam.

Saturday, June 25, 2005
recipe: summer corn and white bean soup

This is a really flavorful, good-for-summertime soup. VERY quick to prepare.

This is from page 130 of the July 2005 issue of Cooking Light. [recipe follows]

Summer Corn and White Bean Soup
1T canola oil
1C sliced green onions
3/4C chopped cooked ham (I doubled this because I like chunky soups)
3C fresh corn kernals (I used frozen)
1/2t salt
2 15oz cans of navy beans, rinsed and drained
2 14oz cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 4oz cans chopped green chilies, undrained

Heat oil in dutch oven or similar soup-making pot, over medium heat. Add onions and ham, cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in corn and other remaining ingredients, bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

NUTRITIONAL INFO per-serving (1 1/4 C soup based on original recipe) is: calories 278 (17% from fat); fat 5.3g (sat 1g, mono 2.5g, poly 1.4g); protein 17; carbs 42.8g; fiber 10.1g; cholesterol 16mg; iron 4.2mg; sodium 593mg; calc 150mg

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here's a question...
Why is my cameraphone photo of the Netflix corporate HQ, which I took in January, now insanely popular (for my photostream) on Flickr?

Seriously, it's been viewed 877 times as of [the moment I'll press the "publish post" button]. What gives? It's a shitty picture (I was driving past the building) and even if it weren't a shitty picture, it's a wee little building in a business park! I love Netflix as much as the next person (and they make bucks off me because I watch DVDs in spurts that are often months apart) but come on.

We nerdy people are a tough bunch to figure. For example, someone has favorite'd this photo of Netflix HQ. Then again, I favorite'd this photo of gumband cars.

[yes, I know, the rest of the world outside of western/central pennsylvania calls them "rubber bands".]

UPDATE: mystery solved.

Friday, June 24, 2005
sometimes it's just that easy
At By the Bayou, John has a post about explaining unusual things to kids. The context of his post is explaining things to curious kids when a Pride parade happens upon their town and the family is out and about.

John concludes his post with:
The other is one day in Provincetown years ago. It was a typically summer day, Commercial Street packed with people. As will often happen on any summer in Provincetown, a seven foot tall drag queen in Cher getup came whizzing down the street on a skateboard howling, "Do you belie-ee-ee-ee-ee-eeve in love? I really don't think you're strong enough."

Whoosh. She disappeared into the crowd. Behind me I heard a child's voice ask, "Mommy, what was that?"

Dramatic pause. Mommy replied, "Um.. that was um... a clown, honey."

Child: "Oh, cool. Can we get ice cream?"

Sometimes these things just aren't that hard.
He's right.

Not to compare my bestest buds to seven-feet-tall drag queens (because they're not), but it reminds me of a very cute exchange a few years ago. My buddies, I'll just call them Mary and Joan, have a kid who used to play baseball. We were all sitting in the bleachers at a game when the wee brother of a teammate was sitting with Mary (she's a kid magnet, really) and he was prattling on as four year olds do and he stopped all of a sudden and said to her, "Where's your husband?"

I sat there thinking "shit shit shit shit shit" and was very thankful I was only a bystander to the conversation and wasn't actually participating in it, because I wouldn't have known what to say. Mary, wise one that she is, said "I don't have a husband. I have a Joan." Points to Joan. Little boy looks at Joan. Joan casts a wary glance around and waves back. Kid says "Oh. Ok!" and goes about his merry way. A few years later and he still adores Mary, and her Joan.

Yep, sometimes it's just that easy.

[settle down, Joan]

Lewis Greer's Touched by God
I mentioned below that a friend of ours has written a book called Touched by God, subtitled "52 Weeks of Daily Scripture Readings, Thoughts and Prayers." Lewis left a comment to that post below, saying that it'll be available at Amazon in a few weeks, but that a rough version can be downloaded here (2MB PDF).

I just read through the first few weeks' worth of stuff, and I really dig it. I may even crack open the companion book to it. You know, that Bible thing.

Anyway, I know some of my readers are religious folk, so I figured I'd pass this info along to all of you. Lewis is a good guy, and he writes really well. Also, he's not some schmuck spouting off about religion, either—he's an actual ordained minister and all that. Not that there aren't schmucks who are also ordained minsters...just Lewis isn't one of them.

Keeping with the religious theme, do read this very funny post about how PPBear determined her cats are Quakers. The post is funny, but the comments are a riot!

anyone else going to the BlogHer Conference?
I registered for the BlogHer Conference (July 30th in Santa Clara CA) so I could be a walking-around buddy for Profgrrrrl, who won the Technorati essay contest.

We'll be having sushi one of the nights. Anyone else up for sushi and will be in the area?


update to the blog for my blogger book
I've added a note regarding coverage of the new image-related functionality in Blogger.

Thursday, June 23, 2005
I now have three fewer teeth than I did two hours ago. Neat!

I have the best dentist. From the tasty topical numbing agent to watching a DVD during the whole thing, it was a really painless time. Really! Three wisdom teeth yanked and two cavities filled: two hours and $846. What a bargain.

The only downside is that three-quarters of my mouth (and all of my tongue) is still numb, so drinking is out. Or, as my buddy said: "if you drink now, be sure to take a video clip!"

Wednesday, June 22, 2005
quick hits
I finished going through the BBA blogroll and only added one more to my blogroll: The Republic of T. This is not to say all other blogs were "unworthy" of my blogroll, because that would be inaccurate. Some things automatically disqualify a blog/web site from something that I want to read every day, such as: black backgrounds, multicolored text, very large and extraneous graphical images, a lack of whitespace around content, anything that blinks, most things that are animated, text that is simply a collection of links with no real commentary, attempts at commentary that do not surpass the commentary made by others who are already on my blogroll, and so forth. I also like blogs which are a mishmash of things—not all political, not all geeky, not all academic, not all personal, but a pretty even distribution of all things. YMMV, of course, and going through the list is a good time-killer if it's like the middle of the night and you can't sleep.


One of our clients is a really good guy, one of the Good Christians in the world. He's written a book called Touched by God (at Amazon but currently unavailable) which I am confident would be enjoyed by the spiritual folk among my readers. Despite my lack of religion, I've always enjoyed everything Lewis has written. Hopefully he will let us know more about the availability of his book and when I know, I'll pass it on.


I'm behind in my book-writin', which is stressful, but I'll make it up.


I'm not so much a fan of Bloglines.


I think I dig Odeo, but I haven't spent a lot of time with it yet. I do know that it is very elegantly coded, which always makes me happy. Jeremy Keith says the same thing and then some, because he's played with it for more than the hour or so that I did.


Tomorrow I'll be in the dentist's chair for two hours, getting three wisdom teeth yanked. Fun for all.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005
new linky goodness
There are (currently) 558 blogs in the Big Brass Alliance. I joined up the other day (link at the bottom of my sidebar) and then spent some time going through the list to see who I might want to put on my "everyday reading" blogroll. So far, I've only made it through blogs beginning with the letter C. Five hundred fifty-eight is a lot.

Anyway, here's my fave new-to-me blog so far: By the Bayou. Everyone read! I also like Brother Kenya's Paradigm.

I'll report back when I make it through a few more letters...

my bro

So, today would have been my brother's 27th birthday ,either 27th or 28th (I can't remember if he was born in '77 or '78), except he died in 1984. This photo is of him getting on the van to go to kindergarten (we lived off the beaten path and went to Catholic school, so we rode a van instead of a bus). My brother would have been much better looking and much smarter than I am—you could just tell. But alas and alack and all that. He would have been around the same age as my cousin, the one with the cute baby, as they were buddies when they were little.

I really don't remember much from my growing-up years, just snapshots of times and places and never entire incidents or whatever it is people remember. For instance, I remember the entire layout of the children's ward at Hershey Medical Center, which makes sense because my parents were there with my brother for the vast majority of his life. I remember there was a pinball machine and an aquarium in the lobby/waiting area (for visitors) and the rec room (for the patients) which was very brightly lit and had all manner of toys and crafts in it—and the laserdisc player. Michael Jackson's "Thriller" short film (the one with The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller) was very popular. Hey, it was the early '80s. Don't judge. Anyway, I remember that room.

All the time my parents were with my brother in the hospital—which was 71 miles from our house—I either stayed with a neighbor family or my grandmothers. I didn't stay often with the fundie grandmother, mostly with the paranoid schizophrenic grandmother. I liked the latter grandmother better, actually. I didn't know she was a whack job until years later, whereas I've never been a big fan of my other grandmother. I'm not sure why I was shuffled between the three places, probably because my parents didn't want to burden any one family with taking care of me while they were off with my brother, which makes sense. I couldn't tell you if I stayed equal amounts of time at the three different places, I just remember staying more with my one grandmother than anyone else. No clue if that's true. But what I do know is that no other relatives—or the church, to which my family had given scads of financial support for three generations of good Italian Catholics—stepped up to help my parents, so I didn't have any other options. I'm sure I wasn't the greatest kid to deal with at the time, but hello, family with terminally ill child? Anyway. That's a good chunk of the reason why my family is neither close nor religious. I learned all about hypocrisy at a young age.

Monday, June 20, 2005
technorati public beta and CHECK YOUR LINK
I just wrote this in a comment to Dan Gillmor's note about Technorati:
For users who have "claimed" blogs through the embedded code, that code now spits out a customizable graphical box with various Technorati links in it. Problem is, the size and appearance does not currently appear to be customizable, just the content within it. This has the potential to screw up one's blog template, so if you look at your blog and see some whacked-out floating DIVs, this could be the culprit...

However, in your profile you can choose not to show anything at all, which I believe keeps the embedded code but simply doesn't spit out a technorati logo/link. So, while it's still considered a claimed blog, there's no accompanying logo/link unless you roll your own. Here's to hoping they throw in a little height/width/border color customization into the profile form, once those pesky things like speed and accuracy are worked out.
If you don't want to use the generated code from Technorati, because it's too wide or whatever for the area in which you have placed it in your template, modify your profile so that the box does not display and you can just use this 125px-wide link and image if you want:

<a href=""><img src="" alt="technorati cosmos" width="125" height="23" border="0"/></a>

UPDATE: Looks like they reverted back to the default text link plus small graphic being generated, although you can (in your profile) select the boxed-links to be generated instead. Still can't customize the size/appearance of the generated box, if you go that route.

a purty little birdy
I have a very popular birdfeeder, which provides much entertainment for my cats (no worries, they're just onlookers from behind the screen). The feeder is usually overrun by miscellaneous brown finches and other small birds, but just this once I looked out and there was a bright gold finch happily eating seeds. I swear it looked just like an American Goldfinch (aka "wild canary") but I didn't think they got to NoCal and I also thought they only ate thistle and other similar seeds, not the shelled sunflower chips and bits currently in the feeder.

No photos, of course, because birds tend to fly away when a human with a camera comes near them. Whatever it was, it sure was the prettiest little birdy to grace my patio.

thanks for the spare karma
I got the classes I wanted. Whew. So hey, I guess now I'm officially a graduate student, what with the registration and the partial payment of fees (hooray for payment plans).

I'm more stoked now than I was when I originally went to grad school, which is funny because it's not like I don't know exactly what's in store for me. I'm getting all my finances and house-ownership and things like that in order so that in two or three years I can afford to be poor—and I'm excited about that. What a weirdo.

Sunday, June 19, 2005
please send good registration karma my way
Tomorrow at 9:40am I finally get to register for my Fall courses. Being low on the totem pole, others have already registered ahead of me. I just checked the enrollment numbers for the three classes I want to take and the one I really want to take only has three openings. It's a "genre studies in American Lit" course, which means it's different each semester, and this particular version of it is described as such:
This course focuses upon American Fiction's development from the 19th into the 20th centuries, touching upon American Romantics, Realists, Naturalists, Feminists, and Modernists. Economic systems (slavery, women's oppression, whaling, advertising, autos), and their technologies (ships, trains, electricity, telephony, internal combustion engines, film cameras) provide context for and influence upon the American fiction of the period from the Civil War to the Second World War (1860s to 1930s). Probable authors covered include Hawthorne, Douglass, Melville, Stowe, Twain, Freeman, James, Gilman, Wharton, Stein, Cather, Faulkner, Hemingway, Steinbeck.
I want to take this course, and I want to take it now. Wah. So, please send some good registration karma my way, so that three other people do not register for it before 9:40am tomorrow. The other two courses, a materials and methods course and a theory course, still have 10 or so openings, so I'm not worried about them.

Then again, this could be some sort of message from the universe. There are two options for said message:

- This particular course starts at 4pm. I have one other course that starts at 4pm, and one at 7pm. My boss would like it better if I only had the one course start at 4pm. If I don't get into ENGL 254, I'll be choosing a 7pm course to replace it. This could be the universe telling me to make my boss happy.

- Knowing that if I continue on to a PhD program (still a big "if") not all of my credits will transfer, I was holding off as long as possible (like until the PhD program!) to study areas that really don't interest me, such as 17th C British Lit. If I don't get into ENGL 254, one of the few other courses I could substitute is 17th C British Lit. This could be the universe telling me to get my survey courses in order now, otherwise I'll get all those questions wrong on the GRE subject test and/or I'll do a crappy job on the MA exam.

If the universe is telling me anything, it's likely the second option. Then again, I could sneak in as the last person to register for ENGL 254. I've had remarkably good luck with registration at this school. But all is not lost, because one other option to replace the course is 20th C British Lit, covering most of the novels I just read last semester, and with the same prof. Perhaps I could ease some of my anxiety by taking that class, instead of 254 which is mostly "new" things...although "new" things that I want to learn. Hmm.

Saturday, June 18, 2005
making friends and influencing people
Some of this (most of it, actually) is cribbed from an unedited draft of a few pages in the first chapter of my blogging book. I don't plan to make this a common practice, only because the majority of the book is task-oriented and this particular text is not—it's about making friends and influencing people. Well, kinda.

It's really sad, how many otherwise (seemingly) intelligent people just don't get this, thus requiring someone (me, in this case, but it's not like other people haven't said this very same thing before) to write it down for them. On the other hand, I really enjoy that I get paid to write shit like this. On the other other hand (what, don't you have three hands?), the fact that I get paid to write shit like this and you academics who have actual intellectual items to contribute to the world don't get paid for shit, that weighs heavily on me. Seriously, it does. But that's another post for another time.

Making Friends and Influencing People
Once you've found a community of blogs that appeals to you, the next step is to venture out into it. You can be a silent reader—also called a lurker—or you can jump right into the conversation. It all depends on your own personality. The term lurker is not at all pejorative—it simply means you're reading blog content and following the conversation going on in the comments section of the post, but you don't participate often (if at all).

I lurk on many blogs. Sometimes it's because I don't have anything to add to the conversation, sometimes it's because I know that Jane SuperCool A-List Blogger doesn't care one whit for what I have to say. The point is this: lurking isn't bad. In fact, it's a recommended means of entry into a new community.

Think of the Blogosphere like it's one big party. What happens when a stranger enters the room and loudly begins conversing with anyone who will listen? Typically, people will start slinking away, regardless if Loud Person has something interesting to discuss. But if a calm, quiet person sidles up to a conversation, listens for a bit and then interjects some insightful commentary, voila! New friends are made.

We all want to make friends and influence people, right? Even if you write only in your own little corner of the Blogosphere, you'll be in contact with other humans and it's important to treat your readers and fellow commenters as such. We're all human beings, and we all have something to offer to the world just like we all have flaws. Following are some guidelines to remember, which—remarkably enough—mimic etiquette in the "real world."

Blogospheric Diversity
Bloggers exist on all seven continents, and virtually every demographic group on earth is represented by a blogger. Bloggers are very young, very old, and every age in between. Bloggers come in every shade of color between translucent white and deep ebony. Religion, sexual orientation, social class, gender—you name it, there's a blogger out there to match any and every combination thereof.

Unless you have some sixth sense that tells you the particulars about a person based solely on a few words printed on your monitor, you will have no idea to whom you are leaving a comment or who might be reading your blog. Unless you aim to offend others or incite arguments, bear in mind this note about diversity.

This is not to say that you cannot express your opinions on your own blog, or in the comment areas of other blogs. However, there is a fine line between expressing an opinion while recognizing the inherent worth of all people, and making bigoted statements with the intent to offend. Crossing or not crossing that line is a personal matter for each and every one of you.

Opinions vs. Facts
No one is "right" or "wrong" in the Blogosphere, unless there are facts in evidence that tip the scales one way or another. For instance, my car is silver. I know it is. If I say it is, and a reader leaves a comment to the effect of "your car is blue," then obviously that person has just lost some credibility. In this situation, I would correct the person, telling them that indeed my car is silver and I know this because I bought it, it's parked outside my house, and here, gentle reader, is a photograph of it. The example I just used is pretty lame as examples go, but it does show how to diffuse a possibly contentious conversation—offer evidence that supports the argument you are trying to make. But what if there is no evidence?

Let's say two people are arguing over whether newborn babies should ever wear polka-dotted clothes. One person may offer an opinion that their child benefited greatly from wearing polka-dotted clothes. Another person may offer an opinion that polka-dotted clothes caused tremendous mental anguish for their child and in fact is the cause of their child's developmental delay. Neither person can point to a scientific study regarding the effects of polka-dotted clothes on newborns. The two should agree to disagree, and the person who asked the question originally should consider both sides of the argument. However, if either of the opinionated parents says that they are right and the other person is wrong, without offering factual evidence to bolster their case, they are behaving badly. [note: you didn't really think I was going to go evolution vs. ID did you??]

Cite Your Sources
If you offer facts in evidence, use links in your posts to direct readers to the primary source of this evidence. For instance, if you are citing scientific research, link to the journal article in which the research was published. If the primary source is not available to you, link to a reputable secondary source in your post. In other words, if you are offering evidence to support your claims, provide your readers with a method to evaluate this evidence on their own.

In addition to citing sources, give credit where it is due. Perhaps you're writing a blog post about a spectacular salad you made for dinner. If you got the recipe from your mother, say so. If you got the recipe from another blogger, who posted the recipe on their blog, say so with a link. The link serves several purposes—it shows you're not a salad recipe plagiarist, and it tells the original blogger that you used their recipe and enjoyed it. The act of linking also increases the page-rank of the original blogger's page, in search engines that use the number of incoming links as a measure of the value of the page content.

Trollish Behavior
Trolls have been around since the first words were typed on Usenet, all those years ago. If you have spent any time on mailing lists or message boards, then you've likely experienced a troll. Trolls exist for the sole purpose of "posting specious arguments, flames, or personal attacks," and typically have no interest whatsoever in the topic at hand.

It may take you some time before you can immediately recognize trollish behavior. If you think a troll is baiting you into responding, you might want to post a short response to the argumentative comment by beginning with something like "You appear to be a troll, but regardless I will briefly answer this question." You might also want to end your response with something like "If you are not a troll, we can continue this discussion in a more civil manner." But the best way to get rid of the troll is simply to ignore it. On your own blog, if you feel a troll has posted in your comments section and wish your regular readers to ignore it as well, you might post a comment that says "Please do not feed the troll."

Additional Tips
A "successful" blog means different things to different people. Personally, my own blog is a success because it provides me with a place to chronicle people, places, and things in my life—and my handwriting is atrocious so that was never an option. The fact that anyone at all reads my own blog is simply icing on the cake. The interaction between members of my own little blogging community is special to me, as we all have things we can learn from each other. But even if no one else read my blog, I'd still be happy with it. Other people have a real need to receive comments to their posts, as a sort of validation that someone is reading their work and is moved to say something about it, and that's fine too.

However, in addition to the other elements of etiquette just discussed, there are two very blog-specific things that are considered bad form:
  • Don't ask others for a link to your blog. If they want to link to you, because they read your blog and think others would like to as well, that's their own business. Just because you link to someone doesn't mean they have to link to you. For instance, I link to Wil Wheaton's blog because I read it and enjoy it. I never expect Wil Wheaton to link to my blog, and I wouldn't ask him to do it.

  • Don't complain about a perceived lack of readership. You may have more readers than you know, because not all readers leave comments. If your regular readers feel unappreciated by such statements like "no one reads my blog and that makes me sad," they're likely to stop coming around. If a new reader stops by and sees such a post, they may not stay because such a personality trait is unappealing to some. It also calls into question the purpose of your blog. First and foremost, do you write for others or for yourself? If you write for others and you believe no one is reading, doesn't that speak to a bigger issue?

To end this on a positive note, the primary tip I can offer to you is simply to have fun. Blogging can be emotionally draining, but it can also be a raucous good time for you and new-found friends.

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i have always wondered...
Via Rob Helpy-Chalk, a "What religion are you?" quiz. Since I've always wondered the "answer" to this question, I put actual thought into my answers and here were the results:

1. Theravada Buddhism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (96%)
3. Mahayana Buddhism (91%)
4. Liberal Quakers (88%)
5. Taoism (81%)

The religion I was raised with? Well, there are 27 possible answers to this quiz and...

27. Roman Catholic (16%)

Heh. It wasn't even intentional!

Friday, June 17, 2005
never fails
After you de-blogroll someone for being lame and not posting, they reappear—with doggie photos!

the "if I could be..." meme
Seeker tagged me for a meme. Bad, bad Seeker.

The rules: given the list below, complete sentences for three of them, then pass it on.

Well, I won't pass it to anyone in particualr but feel free to do it if you can't think of anything else to blog about...

If I could be a(n):
scientist... / farmer... / musician... / doctor... / painter... / gardener... / missionary... / chef... / architect... / linguist... / psychologist... / librarian... / athlete... / lawyer... / inn-keeper... / professor... / writer... / llama-rider... / bonnie pirate... / astronaut... / world famous blogger... / justice on any one court in the world... / spouse of any current famous political figure... / sorcerer/sorceress... / mutant... / influential religious leader...

- If I could be a musician...I swear I wouldn't sing. I'd have to be one of those musicians who sit in the back and aren't given a mic.

- If I could be a chef...I'd probably end up trying to do something like Jamie Oliver did with Fifteen, but I'm not remotely as nice and caring as he appeared to be on the show, so I'd end up with no employees, a crappy restaurant, and a huge amount of debt.

- If I could be a librarian...I would want to work in some dark and musty room with very old books.

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that untitled informational meme
Oh, what the hell.

My uncle once: I really don't know. I've only had three (two by blood and one by marriage). The one by marriage (my dad's sister's husband) owned a donut shop for a very long time, and he and my aunt made the best damn donuts I've had in my entire life—better than Krispy Kreme, even. As for my other uncles (mom's brothers), uh...I dunno. We weren't a close family. One was a sharpshooter, won all sorts of awards, I think (cuz? this would be your dad. feel free to fill in.) The other uncle, I couldn't tell you a darn thing about him except that he had polio as a kid and one leg was much shorter than the other, and despite this fact he had to fight for years and years and years to get disability payments (at which time they paid him retroactive to some year prior, which was a good thing).

Never in my life have I: Heck, I haven't done a lot of things.

When I was five: Who remembers when they were five? I sure don't. I remember seeing pictures of myself when I was five, but I don't remember being five.

High school was: thankfully, something I got to skip.

I will never forget: the first time I met Mel. It was pretty fucking funny. I can't tell you all the story though, I don't think, which is probably good because it wouldn't be that funny unless you were there.

I once met: I've met me fair share of interesting and/or famous people, but right now I'll go with Profgrrrrl, since she's the last "new" person I met in real life.

Once at a bar: I was drinking with a world-class athlete and ended up being the most sober person at the table. Actually, this has happened way more than once.

By noon I'm usually: ready for a nap.

Last night: The Giants actually won a frickin' ballgame.

If only I had: fewer debts (although my debt load is significantly better than it was at this time last year).

Next time I go to church: will likely never occur.

When I turn my head left: I see this.

When I turn my head right: I see this.

Every day I think about: work, which is remarkable since I don't actually do a lot of work (my tasks tend to come in short bursts which I can complete fairly quickly).

You know when I'm lying when: You think I'm going to tell you? What if we play poker together someday?

By this time next year: I will know which (if any) PhD programs would be a good fit for me and/or might accept me.

I have a hard time understanding: most of our clients.

If I ever go back to school I'llWhen classes start in August I'll: be very happy.

You know I like you when: I stop casting wary glances at you, and I speak to you in complete sentences.

If I won an award the first person I'd thank is: the person handing me the award.

My ideal breakfast is: from a diner of some sort, and is cheap.

A song I love, but do not have is: Bob Dylan's "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" as performed by Catbird Seat on A Tribute to Bob Dylan (vol 1, 1991).

If you visit my hometown, I suggest: continuing to drive through (quickly) it to your actual destination.

Why won't anyone: get W out of office.

If you spend the night at my house: I will apologize profusely for the cat hair.

I'd stop my wedding for: There will never be a wedding.

The world could do without: [See third question above this one.]

I'd rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: eat it.

Paper clips are more useful than: The president! I kid, I kid. No wait, I don't kid.

If I do anything well: I am surprised.

And by the way: I hate to run.

The last time I was drunk: was something like four or five years ago.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005
best use of literary quotes when talking about baseball...
...goes to El Lefty in a comment left at this post; the comment reads, in part:
"Durham's '06 option reminds me of a large seafaring bird draped around the shoulders of a cranky old sailor. Believe it or not, Coleridge did not write 'And he stoppeth one of three...' in reference to Ray's defense."
That's good knowledge.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005
that thar hair meme
Dr. M started a hair meme, and David, Phantom Scribbler, Rana, and 1B* joined I offer my contribution below. I don't have long hair, so it's a little different than the others...

me, at 6 weeks (feb 1974)
[click to embiggen]

me, in feb '74
morning hair
[click to embiggen]

me, in june '05

As you can see, there are definite hair-related similarities. The dress is dissimilar. I haven't worn one of those since I was twelve.

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i can write about more than food, i swear
Food is just so...lovely.

I could write about school, but it's the summer and I am school-lite. While I absolutely realize the importance of summer breaks for you teacher-folk, I really wish August 29th would roll around. While classes start on August 24th (a Wednesday), I only have class on Mondays and Tuesdays. But still, I have ten more weeks to wait until I have structured academic time.

I could write about my unstructured academic time, which consists of plowing through first readings of books for next semester (the ones I know about, at least), re-reading books I read ages ago, opening Volume A of the Norton Anthology of American Literature and working my way through Volume D, and so forth. I have a nice stack of books on my table. It'll be a good thing to get through them all, because there are hundreds more to read. This is what happens when you don't read anything for ten or fifteen years and then decide "oh hey, I think I'll continue on with school."

I could write about my stoked-ness about going to visit Mel for a few days next month, but...that was it. I'm stoked. I saw her a few months ago on neutral ground (not her city, not my city), but we haven't actually visited since...crap, I dunno. I think we went to see Fight Club, and that came out in '99. I could be completely wrong.

I could write about work, but...bleh. Who wants to hear that? I don't even want to write about it, so I can imagine no one wants to read about that.

I could answer questions, but I'm out of questions to answer.

I could write about politics, but many others are far better at it than I am, so I'll just wave my pom-poms at what they write.

recipe: rice with mushrooms and shrimp

I've never met a shrimp and rice recipe I didn't like. Never ever. As an added bonus, it has capers!

This particular recipe is from page 216 of the Jan/Feb 2005 issue of Cooking Light.[recipe follows]

Rice with Mushrooms and Shrimp
1C uncooked basmati rice
1T olive oil
1/2C chopped onion
1C chopped carrot
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2C chopped mushrooms
1/2C chopped bottled roasted red bell peppers
1/2C fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2t salt
1/4t black pepper
1 1/2lbs medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4C minced fresh chives
2T fresh lemon juice
2t capers
1 1/2t grated lemon rind

Cook the rice, omitting salt and fat (should you cook rice in such a manner as to add salt and fat to it).

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, sauté 3 minutes. Add carrot and garlic, sauté 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, sauté 3 minutes. Stir in bell pepper, broth, salt, pepper, and shrimp. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook 3 minutes or until shrimp are done. Stir in the rice, chives, and remaining ingredients. Cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

NUTRITIONAL INFO per-serving (1 3/4 C mixture) is: calories 438 (14% from fat); fat 6.7g (sat 1.1g, mono 2.9g, poly 1.6g); protein 40g; carbs 56.6g; fiber 3.6g; cholesterol 259mg; iron 6.4mg; sodium 733mg; calc 116mg

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tsu-what now?
Last night, I was flipping between Law & Order and CSI when the Emergency Alert System interrupted my tv-watching. That happens alot, usually around 4am when I have the TV turned to Nick at Night or TV Land, and then it's just the weekly "making sure it all still works" EAS test. Sometimes it comes on in the middle of the day, and when that happens it's typically for crappy reasons: an Amber Alert telling us that some dumb fuck has done something untoward with a kid.

So I looked up from my half-asleep-ness and saw that the EAS screen said "Tsunami Warning." I honestly thought someone flipped the wrong switch for the EAS display, so I turned the TV to KRON because I knew they had news at 9pm. If there really was a tsunami warning, I figured they'd cut to the news earlier than 9pm and I'd actually learn something. I found the end of the Dr. Phil show, so it obviously wasn't a big deal. They did lead the 9pm news with 7.0 quake off the coast, maybe there'll be a wave, but that quickly turned into "nah, no wave, no worries."

I looked at my cat, who was stretched out next to me and hogging my pillow, and asked him if he felt anything. He just kept hogging the pillow. The other cat, she never looked up from her spot on top of the aquarium. The shake map barely shows that people near the quake felt it, so I'll reserve judgment on my cats' earthquake-noticing skills...this time.

I don't dig earthquakes, and I've never even been in one that was terribly noticeable. I much prefer my natural disasters to be visible and/or predictable.

Monday, June 13, 2005
i HATE the sound of barking dogs
Hate it, hate it, hate it. I have cats. They are very quiet. Lest you think I'm anti-dog, I'm not. I like dogs just fine, I just don't own any. For instance, I just finished babysitting three dogs for my co-worker who went out of town (actually, I didn't babysit them...I just fed them twice a day and let one of the slobber all over me). Later this month I'll be housesitting my friends' house and their two dogs for a few days. I had a dog of my own all through my growing-up years. So yeah, I like dogs just fine.

But I can't stand it when dogs bark constantly. This used to be a very quiet little condo complex, but recently several new families have moved in and it seems they all have dogs—small yippy dogs who are shut inside their house all day with the windows open so that all of us who are home all day long and like to have our sliding-glass doors open to the sounds of nature instead hear the sounds of yippy dogs.

All. Damn. Day.

recipe: tortilla chip chicken w/ avocado dip and savory slaw

I usually cook things that can fit all in one bowl—risotto, orzo, soups, etc. But in the August '05 issue of Cuisine at Home I saw this meal and figured it was worth dirtying a few more dishes. These recipes come from that issue, pages 38-39.

There are three pieces to this meal: the Tortilla Chip Chicken with an Avocado Dip and a side of Savory Slaw. [recipes follow]

Tortilla Chip Chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6-8oz each)
salt and pepper
8oz plain tortilla chips
1/4C all-purpose flour
1 egg
1/2C bottled salsa of your choice
3T olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare chicken breast halves by trimming fat and slicing each in half lengthwise. Season with salt and pepper.

Pulse tortilla chips in a food processor until coarsely ground (can also bash bag with a rolling pin); transfer to a shallow dish.

Place flour in a second shallow dish, and in a third shallow dish blend egg and salsa together.

Dredge both sides of chicken in flour, then dip into egg/salsa mixture to coat. Transfer chicken to ground chips and pat them onto both sides; place on baking sheet or plate.

Heat oil in an ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high. Sauté chicken for three minutes, or until golden brown. Flip chicken, then place pan in oven and roast for 8-10 minutes or until cooked through.

NUTRITIONAL INFO (per serving): 521 calories, 43% calories from fat; 25g total fat; 42g carbs; 754mg sodium; 4g fiber; 36g protein.

Avocado Dip
1 ripe avocado
1/2C milk (whole or 2%)
1/4C sour cream
1/4C fresh lime juice
1T jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1T chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Pureé avocado, milk, and sour cream in a food processor or blender. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth.

NUTRITIONAL INFO (per 1/4 cup): 67 calories, 73% calories from fat; 5g total fat; 4g carbs; 84mg sodium; 2g fiber; 1g protein.

Savory Slaw
1/2C mayonnaise
3T fresh lime juice
2T honey
1t kosher salt
1/8t cayenne
3C packaged coleslaw
1C red cabbage, shredded (you can get that in a pkg, too)
1/4c chopped fresh chives
1/4C chopped fresh cilantro

Whisk mayonnaise, lime juice, honey, salt, and cayenne together in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients; toss to coat.

NUTRITIONAL INFO (per 1/2 cup): 274 calories, 76% calories from fat; 23g total fat; 15g carbs; 743mg sodium; 2g fiber; 2g protein.

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Friday, June 10, 2005
further embarrassment for my parents

Today is their 33rd wedding anniversary. I'm only 31, so it was a legitimate wedding.

Dad is four years older than Mom. When they were dating, he was a slick Italian boy (presumably he had hair then) with a fast car who had already graduated from high school and had a grandmother (this one) was just thrilled at the prospect of my Mom marrying him. She wore black to their wedding in the Catholic church, and cried the entire way through it—not because of joy, either. Frankly, I think everyone was surprised she actually went.

my acquisitions editor rocks hard
This is why. Thanks, Shelley!

Pulp Fiction in 30 seconds (it's the bunnies!)
Yay! A new Angry Alien production has been released: Pulp Fiction in 30 Seconds, re-enacted by bunnies. Go there now.

If you haven't seen them before, I highly recommend all of the shorts:
- The Exorcist
- The Shining
- Titanic
- Alien
- Jaws
- It's a Wonderful Life
- Freddy vs. Jason
- Scream
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre

[via cinematical]

Bunnies. It must be bunnies.

hanging with the pink-haired girl
So, my part of the "I hung out with Profgrrrl" story is this: profgrrrl is neat! But we already knew that. Oh, and she looks exactly like her photo...that is, if you take all the photos she's ever posted and you piece together a full photo of her. The hair is still streaky pink. Truly pink, not magenta or anything like that.

Her characterization of the little town is accurate. My buddy refers to it as "OC North," which is accurate. I liked the town—the actual physical characteristics of a quaint downtown with trees, the lack of sprawl, etc.—and said as much to my pal, who said "sure, if you like white people." I thought about it and realized that indeed, I saw no shade other than white. Oh well. Like profgrrrl said, I don't get to those parts often—it's a town off a freeway that takes me to other places.

Not having a clue where to go for food, I searched on the internets. I'm good with restaurants in the other cities around here, but I figured a girl who had travelled in from Japan the day before wasn't going to want to drive away for food. The internets turned up a result that looked nice, and I figured we'd take our chances. I couldn't get a reservation because I didn't have a clue when we'd be eating. So when we got to the restaurant, we were told it would be an hourlong wait. No worries, because Starbucks was close by! On our way out, the hostess said "Wait! Give me your cell number so I can call you if the other people finish up earlier." (!!!) Wow. That doesn't happen in my town. If you're not there, your table is taken away and you're screwed.

So we went to sbux, walked around a very wee bit and maybe after half an hour or so the hostess called us back in. We were seated in a lovely corner and bread was brought. Now, you all may know that both Profgrrrl and myself are into the whole culinary thing. She has presentation skills as well as cooking skills, whereas I tend toward items that can all fit in a single bowl and don't mess with multiple courses and what not. As such, the upside-down ramekin of dipping oil and spices made quite an impression, in real food geek kind of way. The food was really good and when I got the check it was another indication that I wasn't in my town—it was like half what I expected it to be. I love surprises like that!

Hanging out with profgrrrl was like hanging out with an old buddy. We just talked and talked and talked and I heard all about Asia and the other photos that we haven't even seen yet (see her Flickr photostream for ones already set-ified). We talked about school, blogging, etc. A good time was had by all!

the new Technorati public beta
Looks like Technorati is fixing a whole bunch of things that annoy the crap out of me regarding their current site. Like the fact that lists of tagged posts and other search results weren't browseable past a certain number, thus prompting people to think about building custom own grabber/scraper mechanisms and then cursing the fact that RSS feeds weren't available for everything. Yeah, things like that. Hopefully the public beta will become the public release fairly quickly, because the parts that have been released do work, and it's a better interface.

Thursday, June 09, 2005
this has nothing to do with visiting with profgrrrl

I'll get to that story when I have a moment.

In the meantime, my cousin sent this photo to me last night. It explains a lot about my family.

The title of it is "how my parents raised up some fat kids." That's my dad's arm, a can of redi-whip, and my little 2nd cousin, Sam (and Sam's dad is on the left).

Carrot sticks? Celery sticks? Pshaw. "Here kid, have some whipped cream."

The kind propelled by nitrous oxide, of wonder he looked like this afterwards!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005
RSS/Atom feed update (please read)
I'm switching to a FeedBurner feed for r&d purposes. If anyone reads this blog via a feedreader, please re-autodiscover the feed for this blog and select the "external" one or the the one associated with feedburner (how it will appear differs by reader). If you want to manually edit the entry for my feed, you can use Thanks.

flickr schwag!
Go get some.

Free! Whoo! Flickr!

recent music purchases
Here's a list of music I've purchased in the last two weeks or so (alphabetical-ish order so as not to play favorites or confuse kmsqrd with my strange musical ranking system).

- Audioslave, Out of Exile
- Ben Folds, Songs for Silverman
- Coldplay, X & Y
- Dave Matthews Band, Stand Up
- Gorillaz, Demon Days
- Shakespear's Sister, #3 [I've also ordered a copy of their CD from '92, Hormonally Yours, which was one of my favorites way back then. Yes, the blog (Shakespeare's Sister) triggered my memory of the band, which had been exiled to the land of "bands I really loved but don't own any of their CDs anymore because I needed to buy groceries sometime in the mid-90s.]
- The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow
- Sleater-Kinney, The Woods
- The Wallflowers, Rebel, Sweetheart
- William Orbit, Pieces in a Modern Style and The Best of Strange Cargos

I currently have 2652 songs/9.92GB of music on my laptop (and iPod). Very few of the 2652 songs are country music. But eleven of them come from the CD Twice the Speed of Life by a band called Sugarland.

I raved about them last November. To recap, Sugarland consists of Kristen Hall, Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles. Anyone familiar with Indigo Girls and Michelle Malone should know Kristen Hall, especially if you knew of Michelle Malone when she was with the band Drag the River. Kristian Bush is one half of the group Billy Pilgrim; Jennifer Nettles was with Soul Miner's Daughter and performed at Lilith Fair. These are all really good things; they're good folks.

The good folks are doing super good things: their debut single "Baby Girl" has spent over forty-six weeks on the Billboard Top Country Singles chart this week, making it the longest running single in the history of the monitored chart era. Take that, Diamond Rio and Tim McGraw/Faith Hill. Also, their CD was recently certified gold. I am so very happy for them.

Friday, June 03, 2005
god fixed my grandmother's lawn mower
That was the big news when I called my parents yesterday. Typically I call and there's nothing going on, just the usual maternal-grandmother-is-still-a-fundie-christian and paternal-grandmother-is-still-a-paranoid-schizophrenic stuff. My parents, although slightly off, are remarkably well-adjusted (all things considered).

Anyway, so my mom couldn't wait to get on the phone because she had a story to tell. Seems that my grandmother (her mother) called to tell her that her prayers were answered and god fixed her lawnmower. The day before, it wouldn't start. She pulled and pulled the little ripcord thing and no go. So she "prayed and prayed and prayed" that night and came out in the morning and tried to start it and Oh! Choir of Angels! God had answered her prayers and fixed her lawnmower.

Because, you know, it wasn't just flooded from all the attempts to start it and had twelve hours to settle itself down. Also, god doesn't have anything better to do than answer her lawnmower prayers. This is the same woman who thought the Puerto Ricans living one street over were terrorists because they weren't white people and they had out of state license plates. Oh, and she's going to heaven because she bought a thousand new (plastic, lime green, unmatched-to-the-decor) coat hangers for her church, never mind she's a racist, bigoted, most decidedly un_Christian person. The kind that gives good Christians a bad name. Yeah. Coat hangers. That's gonna do it.

My other grandmother, on the other hand, is a complete whack job but at least has actual medical reasons for part of it. My grandfather forgot to get his penicillin shot during WWII, if you know what I mean. But there's also a genetic predisposition to being a complete whack job, as her mother was hatefilled old biddy as well (always nice to the grandkids, though). Although some of that could be blamed on being married off to her first cousin at age 14. Ah, Italian immigrant families of the '20s. Gotta love it.

The big news from my Dad was this: "You'll be so proud of me! My new favorite drink is cappuccino!" I was proud of him, until he continued on with his story. "I get it at Sheetz [local minimart kind of thing]." I burst out laughing and tried to tell him that frothy warm brown from a spout is not a cappuccino. But he insisted, his argument being that's the best they can do in my hometown. This is actually true. I told him the next time they went over the mountain [next time they drove to college town (with creamery!) 30 miles away] they should stop at a Starbucks.

Would that I were there to witness that....

Hi Mom. Hi Dad. Yes, they do read this.

Thursday, June 02, 2005
table of contents for Sams Teach Yourself Blogger in a Snap
I've posted the working TOC at my web site.

a few more comments re: writing complete sentences and what not
Thanks, commenters, for writing thought-provoking comments to this post about academic things. They were all good. Not that we all figured anything out, but at least now I know I'm not crazy and alone with some of the thoughts I had.

Like Caleb, this type of behavior confuses me: "I had a student this semester who got a B -- a B, mind you -- and emailed to tell me that he was shocked because he had never gotten lower than an A- in another class." So by that reasoning, if I got an A in Finite Math I should also get an A in Calculus, no matter that Calculus is more difficult than Finite Math, or at least if not more difficult, it's a completely different class. I'll bet students "get" that, but they don't get that English 10 "Intro to Literature" and English 168 "American Novel" are completely different kinds of classes, with different requirements and expectations. Because aren't all literature courses the same? Don't you just read? Isn't that what it's all about? No, of course not. But I don't think people get that. How about it, Dr. Free-Ride, do your students think that the same level of work done in Phil 10 will fly in Phil 160? What's up with that?

What I liked best were some things that Scrivener said, because I had tried to make some of his same points to my classmates and since they were looking at me like I was nuts I figured there was a chance that I might have been. But no! "A master's student needs to have the authority and knowledge to acutally offer something of substance to readers." That's what I said. Well, what I said was something like "guys, come on, the prof knows that Willa Cather wrote My Ántonia, and that she did so in 1918. Unless there's something particularly special about that statement [which there could be, but in this case there wasn't, it was just stuck there as the opening sentence of the paper], cut it. This isn't a book report." I tried to expand on this when a bunch of us went out to dinner after classes were through. I said that as they start with their graduate classes, they have to think of every paper as a potential article [because that's what's been expressed to me], and although of course it won't be, the point was that everything they write has to be something that they truly own. It's all about confidence and authority. At least that's my approach. We'll see how it goes.

tagged, I'm it (the book meme)
Blame BrightStar for passing it on to me.

1. Total Number of Books I've Owned: I don't have the foggiest idea. I currently own 130, which is a huge number for me. I'm not sure that at any one time I've owned more books than I do now...just different ones. I wasn't big own saving things/owning things for a large chunk of time, because I moved around alot and boxes of things would just be one more thing to move.

2. Last Book I Bought: I actually have an answer to this question! I began buying books a few months ago, mostly those on the MA Reading List. To my credit, I've read most of them at one time or the other. But not to my credit, I've forgotten almost all of them. I figured this summer would be a good time to rebuild my library. All that being said, the last book I bought is not on this list. I bought Peter Kafer's Charles Brockden Brown's Revolution and the Birth of American Gothic.

3. Last Book I Read: Not counting the 23 novels I read for classes this past semester, the last book I read was Mark Kurlansky's Salt: A World History. I am currently reading The Portable Queen: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Ceremony by my former history prof, and Lois Tyson's Critical Theory Today. I have a stack of 30 other books on my coffeetable, to be read ASAP.

4. Five Books That Mean A Lot To Me: Not a clue. That's probably not a good thing, given my foray into school. I try not to let anything mean a lot to me. It always ends badly.

UPDATED: Rhonda got all up in my face (kidding) about not really answering this, so here's an answer (and it's true): Emile Zola's L'Oeuvre (in English), Arthur Rimbaud's Une Saison en Enfer (also in English), Thomas Hardy's Wessex Tales, Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland and of course Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad Are Friends.

pretty funny (and true)
Min Jung Kim's Lifecycle of Bloggers. I like these best:
#5. You faux "retire" from blogging.
Having temporarily exhausted the emotional reservoir from which your personal blog has released, you post about retiring. Or a vacation. Or a hiatus. Or a sabbattacal. You say this will be permanent. Or last a month.

#6. You cave back into blogging in less than 72 hours.
You candy pants blogging crack addict.
Heh..."candy pants blogging crack addict." That's funny.

There are 14 steps in the life cycle of a blogger. Good stuff.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005
the moment I decided to study american lit instead of british
It was just this past semester, actually, and took that long because I realized I never studied much American literature at all when I was an actual English major. I remember something about all of the classes I've taken—some mental photograph or a lecture or something—but I never remembered learning a thing about AmLit. I had to refer back to my transcript, and indeed in 1990 I took "American Literature: Realism to Present" to fulfill my one AmLit requirement. I don't remember a damn thing about it. Not one. Not one book that I read, not even who taught it. I think I now know who taught, but only by process of elimination—we only had six faculty in the department, three would never have taught an AmLit course, one I never took a class from, and the other I'm pretty sure I only had for one class and it wasn't this one. So, that leaves one fellow, but that's neither here nor there. The point is, I didn't take another AmLit class for fifteen years, until this past semester.

In that time, I've done a lot of family history research, on my family and the families of my friends (who have much more interesting histories than I do, that's for sure). [Now that I have time again this summer, I can get back to it! Whoo! I have a few friends with gaping holes in their histories which need filling in.] Anyway, it was when I read My Ántonia this semester that it started to make perfect sense.

This is my great-great grandmother, Sophia C. (Werts) Gill, circa 1928. She is 72 years old in this photo, and the little girl is my grandmother. She lived another four years after this photo was taken, to the ripe old age of 76.

This is the photo I think about when I think about poor old German women. Pennsylvania isn't the prairie, and this shack isn't a mud hut, but I always pictured Mrs. Shimerda with this exact expression on her face.

When I research families, I spend a lot of time in the census. For instance, this is what I know about GGGrandmother Sophia:
- At age 4, listed in the 1860 Census, in Decatur Twp., Mifflin Co., Pennsylvania. Lived with her widowed father and 3 siblings.
- At age 14, listed in the 1870 Census, in Strodes Mills, Oliver Twp., Mifflin Co., Pennsylvania. Lived with her parents, 4 siblings and grandmother. Was attending school at the time.
- At age 24, listed in the 1880 Census in Oliver Twp., Mifflin Co., Pennsylvania. Lived with her husband and 2 sons. Occupation listed as "keeping house".
- At age 44, listed as head of household in the 1900 Census, in Derry Twp (West), Mifflin Co., Pennsylvania. Lived with her 5 children and the family of her eldest son. Occupation listed as a day worker. Census indicates 7 children, 5 still living.
- At age 54, listed as head of household in the 1910 Census, in Derry Twp (West), Mifflin Co., Pennsylvania. Lived with 4 of her children. No occupation. Census indicates 7 children, 5 still living.
- At age 64, listed as head of household in the 1920 Census, in Derry Twp (West), Mifflin Co., Pennsylvania. Lived with her son David (listed as Arthur D.), daughter and son-in-law.
- At age 74, listed in the 1930 Census, in Yeagertown, Derry Twp., Mifflin Co., Pennsylvania. Widowed, lived in her son-in-law's household.

In other words she was poor, had a bunch of kids, and worked hard. I get that. I thought back to the genealogy-related papers (church bulletins, census returns, family histories, etc) that I've had to work with, and that's when I figured out that I'd be a better student of AmLit than British.

I've spent a lot of time following bits and pieces of families into the west (and back), seen entire pages of families disappear from census returns because of disease and/or war, seen families turn from white to mulatto and back to white again. I had pictures in my head of all of these things, thus when I read the novels in this particular class I had a much better understanding of the geography, the characters, their movements and their motivations. These were things I never fully comprehended when I studied British lit. Sure, I learned the answers to things because I was a decent student, but I wasn't able to fully appreciate the experiences because a) I'm not British and b) I've been to England once, on a bus trip with my mother, for a week. There was just something missing in my studies before, that I don't think is missing now when I study AmLit. I guess that's a good thing.

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dreams suck
Not aspirations...those are fine. I mean the stuff our brains do at night. Those dreams suck. I think one of the reasons I don't sleep well is because I know if I do drift into a good sleep, I inevitably dream things that I wind up remembering in the morning. Often, these things weigh heavily throughout the day, until I go back through the cycle of reminding myself that I specifically put those things out of my consciousness for a reason—so I wouldn't dwell on them!

Dwelling on things == bad. I'm smart enough to know that there's not a damn thing I can do about things in the past, just learn whatever I was supposed to learn from the experience and move on. But it takes a good long time for things to settle themselves out, usually six or seven years. For instance, shitty stuff from six or seven years ago (or ten or eleven years ago, whatever) is blurry and not oft-dreamed about, but when it is, it's more like "huh, that was weird, wonder why I was thinking about that" and I can go about my business.

But stuff that's still fresh—and four years is still fresh—will still bug me throughout the day. So when I woke up this morning after having one of those vivid dreams about a specific time and place and person, I knew that today was going to be one of those days when I walk around with a furrowed brow and the simple thought, "if you had just not lied to me that one time the last four years would have been completely different."

Which is true, they would have been. At least I'm to the point now where I don't think it would have affected a better or worse outcome than my present life. My life is what it is. I'm not unhappy with it in the least; it's just a holding pattern for things to come, and those things to come aren't particularly bothersoome or exciting, they just are.

So what I'm really dwelling on today is not the possible outcomes of different actions I couldn't control anyway, it's more that I'm still trying to understand the reasoning behind the person's actions. I think what most bothers me is that even as it was going on, I knew something wasn't right, but I couldn't believe this person's true self was just so...antithetical to her public persona. Not "didn't want to believe," really "couldn't." As in "you have to be really freaking smart to pull that off and I didn't think you were quite that smart."

I don't know where this is going. Oh. Just that because of a stupid dream my brain is now set off on a little cyclical problem-solving expedition and it really bugs me when it does that. Then again, it does give one track of my brain something to do when I'm trying to work, write and grade things. So, I suppose that's good, but I wish the problem being solved would be something like world peace and not trying to figure out the motivations of someone I haven't even spoken to for three years. Grrr.

get your archive on...
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job / books / new blog

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