No Fancy Name
Thursday, August 31, 2006
blogger beta: template editing now available
Just a quick post to say that template editing is now available for Blogger Beta templates.

In this post, I said:
* If you switch your blog to the Layout system, you cannot edit the raw template (yet).
It should now read:

* If you switch your blog to the Layout system, you can edit the raw template but be aware it's an entirely new template language.

Blogger starter documentation is available, and I'll write something substantial (finally) over the weekend.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006
this made me chuckle
Please note I'm not chuckling AT Pluto. I'm chuckling at the special side column box warranted by Pluto's misfortune.
It is true, though, as shown by this graph. The blogosphere is outraged.

since it's not about MY ACTUAL STUDENT, I can blog this
It's Sunday (today). The phone rings. Caller ID shows an actual name and not "unknown," so I answer it thinking that if it's a wrong number I can at least tell them so, or if it's one of my friends calling from someone else's phone, I won't miss the call.

The person on the other end was neither of the two options.

caller: May I speak to Professor Julie Meloni?
I'M NOT A PROFESSOR. I ranted about people using "professor" without actually having the rank, over here. But whatever.

me: [puzzled] This is Julie.

caller: Hi, I'm [name] and I'm a [sport] player and was out of town until this week and I see you have an opening in your class at [time].
WTF? While it's true that it's schedule adjustment time and technically in my class I have one seat, I have a waitlist. Plus, um, what the fuck?

me: [not even politely] I have a waitlist.

caller: Oh, but...

me: [interrupting] Could you tell me how you got this number?
If she was given the number by someone, I want to know who it was.

caller: In the phone book.

me: Ah. Just so you know, this probably isn't the tack you want to take with faculty, calling random people at home on a Sunday evening.
/makes mental note to remove name from phone book

caller: ok, thanks!

Shall we examine just how many things are wrong with this exchange?

[I should reiterate that moving forward I'm not going to talk about my actual students or class except in very general ways like "fun!" or "I gave a crappy lecture," because I am not an anonymous blogger. Heck, even if I were an anonymous blogger I probably wouldn't be any more specific than that. I have an outlet for venting. But this student...sheesh. Not actually mine.]


my first week of classes
In a recent e-mail, my mom asked if I was as stoked about my seminars as I am about my comp class (ok, so she didn't say "stoked"). I guess that means I didn't mention it in a blog post! Oops. It was a busy week. But yes, I do like my seminars just fine. This is a good thing, since they're the last two seminars I will take at SJSU (next semester is thesis-only).

Some of you might know that I am completely and utterly deficient in poetry. Seriously. I don't know a thing about the technical aspects of poetry, and I have a difficult time reading and understanding poetry. The exceptions to this statement are Blake, Byron, Baudelaire and Rimbaud in translation, and the War Poets, but don't ask me why (I don't know). Anyway, for a number of really good reasons I figured it would be smart to take the seminar in Poetic Craft and Theory. Although this particular version of the class is focused on the sonnet, we will work with all types of poetry. Have I mentioned I'm not really a big fan of the sonnet? Yeah. But the prof is very nice, very wise, and very well-liked by colleagues and former students...I think "venerable" applies. We only have nine students in the seminar, and I only know one of them—one of the second-year TAs, who was also in my Victorian seminar last semester, and is trying to decide between a PhD program in English or Classics. He's a fine fellow. The other students seem to be entirely new to the program, including one very nice guy from the Philippines here on a Ford Fellowship. It's a pretty basic seminar with three short presentations, two low-key quasi-exam kinds of things (one written, one oral), and a seminar paper on a poet of our choice—"Someone on the fame scale between Shakespeare and [prof's name]" said the prof. I have a short list of three or so, but I'm always open to suggestions from people who actually know something about poetry. Plus, I'd like to see who my readers think I might like!

My other seminar is Composition Studies, and I don't think it could possibly be more low-key. We have twelve people in the seminar and I already know eight of them. Four of us are TAs (the other three new TAs already took this class), three are GAs (they'll likely be TAs next year), two are unknown to me, one is a middle school teacher who was in two courses with me my first semester, and one is an MFA student who was in my AmLit class last semester. The reading load is incredibly light. I'd say it's a mostly workshop/practicum kind of class. Those of us who are already TAs are responsible for bringing in our syllabi for discussion, and we'll have more samples of prompts and essays to discuss—stuff like that. We have to observe a few writing classes and write a few pages about things we learned, but the vast majority of our grade (70%) is our project and presentation of same. The requirements for the project are: "independent research on anything related to composition studies." While I appreciate the flexibility, and he did say it could be a traditional research paper "or even something web-based," I feel like I'm sitting on a wee raft in the middle of the vast ocean of possibilities.

So there you go. I am excited about my own seminars as well as my comp class, even if the comp class did miserably as a group on the grammar diagnostic. Bad news: they all did poorly. Good news: they all did poorly! I won't alienate anyone when we go over grammar-related things! Hooray!


Saturday, August 26, 2006
recipe: super happy fun pasta

This is the latest installment in my plan to stockpile food for the week. The actual name of this dish is "Cavatappi with Arugula Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes" but I like "super happy fun pasta" better, as it more adequately describes the dish. It's awesome. The intro to the recipe says, "Peppery arugula complements the sweetness of ripe tomatoes. Use heirloom tomatoes, if available, for even better flavor." The arugula-instead-of-basil for the pesto makes it so perfectly arugula-y. I love my basil, sure, but arugula is great. I will definitely use some heirloom tomatoes next time. Those things are pretty and super flavorful.

This recipe is from the June 2006 issue of Cooking Light.

[recipe follows]

Cavatappi with Arugula Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes

5 C trimmed arugula [sure, you can use basil if you want]
1/2 C (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 C pine nuts, toasted
1 T lemon juice
3/4 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 C water
2 T extra virgin olive oil

Remaining ingredients:
1 pound uncooked cavatappi [you can also use fusilli]
2 cups red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved (about 3/4 pound) [or heirloom!]
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

To prepare pesto, combine first 7 ingredients in a food processor; process until finely minced. With processor on, slowly pour 1/3 cup water and oil through food chute; process until well blended.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Combine pesto, pasta, and tomatoes in a large bowl; toss well. Sprinkle pine nuts over pasta. Serve immediately.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 1/3 cups pasta and 1 teaspoon nuts)

CALORIES 425(29% from fat); FAT 13.7g (sat 2.8g,mono 6.3g,poly 3.7g); PROTEIN 14.6g; CHOLESTEROL 6mg; CALCIUM 135mg; SODIUM 412mg; FIBER 3.2g; IRON 2.1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 61.5g

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trying to explain the "bathroom office"
Each year, a certain number of teaching associates (TAs) get the "bathroom office," aka room 227B in the Faculty Office building. [note: despite it's name, the FO building only includes the faculty from the depts of English and Philosophy. go figure.]

This year, I am one of the people in 227B. Three of us share this distinction.

Following is my attempt to explain why this is the "bathroom office"...

view of office from hallway

This is the view of our office door when you're walking down the hall. Oh, that other door? The one you can actually SEE from the hall? That's the women's bathroom.


If students figure out the correct door for us, that is, not the bathroom door, this is what they see. Well, they also see another desk. It's to the right, against the front wall.

view of door from office

This is the view from our office doorway. As you can see, the door that is visible from the hallway is indeed the BATHROOM.

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Friday, August 25, 2006
recipe: beans, greens, and sausage (and grapes!)

Stockpiling good food for the week was an outstanding idea. I ate so well! I'll definitely make more dishes this weekend, for the following week.

This dish was actually the first one I made at the beginning of last week, and it lasted for a good four or five meals. It was awesome. The grapes thing threw me for a moment, but they made this dish very tasty indeed. The recipe is from the April 2006 issue of Cuisine at Home.

[recipe follows]

Beans, Greens, and Sausage (and grapes!)
2 lbs link Italian sausage
3 T olive oil
2 C seedless grapes [I used red]
1/4 C water
1 C onion, sliced [I would use more next time]
1 T minced garlic
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 bunch mustard greens, stemmed and chopped
1/2 C chicken broth
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
salt to taste
balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400.

Piece sausage with a fork in several places. Heat 1T olive oil over medium-high in an ovenproof sauté pan; add the sausage and brown on each side for 3 minutes.

Add grapes and water, transfer pan to the oven, and roast until sausage is cooked through (about 10-15 minutes). Meanwhile, prepare beans and greens.

Sauté onions in 2T oil in another sauté pan over medium-high heat until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and pepper flakes, sauté 30 seconds. Add greens, tossing until wilted. Stir in broth and beans, reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes; season with salt. Slice sausage into 3" pieces, then serve with grapes, beans, and greens, drizzled with vinegar.

NUTRITIONAL INFO per serving (1/4 of recipe): 679 calories, 41% calories from fat, 31g total fat, 53g carbs, 1777mg sodium, 13g fiber, 49g protein.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006
more clarification on migrating to Blogger Beta
Pete Hopkins, esteemed member of the Blogger development team, stopped by to comment on my post about the path of migration with regards to accounts and what not. I'm pulling his comment up to this post so more people will read it.

After he verified that my info was correct (yay!), when talking about how accounts are linked to email address (or not), for those concerned with anonymity/pseudonymity:
Actually, your blog is never publicly linked with your Google Account login or Gmail address unless you choose.

So you can use the Google Account that's most convenient for you.

Just check over your Blogger profile to make sure you're not exposing anything publicly that you don't want.

But of course using separate accounts works, too, and may give you more peace of mind if you don't mind logging in and out of Google Accounts.
Thanks, Pete!

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006
EVERYONE has a freaking MySpace account
In my class, 23 of 28 students who filled out my little "student information sheet" answered "yes" to the question "Do you have a MySpace, LiveJournal, or blog?" Twenty-two of them have a MySpace, and three of them tacked on "who doesn't?" to the answer.

I DON'T, that's who.

But I won't hold their choice of platform against them. At least they're participating in a community!

So today's class is over, and it was a hoot. Well, as much of a hoot as you can have when going over the syllabus and various handouts. I hit them with a grammar diagnostic at the end, so I'll look over that and figure out where everyone stands. On Monday we have the essay diagnostic. No actual "teaching" happens for another week.

But everyone was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, which is always a good sign. Only one person on the roster didn't make it to class, which means I have four people who want to add who are vying for one possible slot. I guess this is where I learn to be cold-hearted.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006
willing myself to be well
Please don't be sick...please don't be sick. But I am! Apparently a lot of people are sick around these parts, so I won't look terribly out of place when I stand in front of my class tomorrow and take roll/talk about the syllabus/give them a grammar diagostic with a hankie permanently attached to my person.

Yesterday was meeting day, and it certainly was interesting. I got a chance to introduce myself to a few people I hadn't yet officially met (such as our new graduate coordinator, who was on sabbatical last year), and it was nice to see some people who were in my classes last year but who are now adjuncts (having graduated in Dec or May). This latter group of folks contains some very nice and helpful people. In fact, there are really only a few curmudgeonly faculty (some older, some not at all) who are totally negative about the whole first year composition experience. I think we (new TAs) will forego any tips they could provide, and instead will get our info from all the positive folks. I believe it's better for all involved.

I, of course, plan to tap into the resources of my blogospheric friends whenever possible! You guys are the best. I really wish we could make "Blogosphere U." Think of the possibilities! PZ Myers would be in charge of all things science, natch. Janet could handle things philosophical. Susan would be in charge of the secret things she does, Mel and Jason could fight over things Victorian, Chuck would be the film and media guy...oh the list goes on and on. Would Bérubé be prez, or should we keep him in the trenches, shaping young minds with his dangeral studies?

But I digress.

School. It starts tomorrow.


Sunday, August 20, 2006
recipe: summer black bean and pasta salad

With the semester beginning next week, I wanted to stockpile food so I wouldn't eat all my meals from whatever fast-food or chinese take-out place happened to be on my way home. So, I cooked three different dishes this weekend and stuck them in heavy-duty plastic things. This recipe is for a cold pasta salad, from the June 2006 issue of Cooking Light. It's good, and one of those cold-or-room-temperature salads, but next time I make it I'll tweak some of the ingredients even more than I did this time.

[recipe follows]

Summer Black Bean and Pasta Salad
3/4 cup uncooked ditalini (little tubes) [I used mini-penne, which is close. I also used the entire box because I wanted to make a lot]
1 1/2 cups halved grape tomatoes [I used however much is in a pint container]
3/4 cup diced peeled avocado [unfortunately, my avocado was not ripe enough]
1/2 cup chopped seeded poblano chile [aka "pasilla"]
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/3 cup chopped red onion [next time, I'd nix the red onion]
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed [I should have doubled the beans. I will next time]
2 teaspoons grated lime rind
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and cool completely.

Combine the tomatoes, avocado, poblano, cucumber, onion, cilantro, and beans in a medium bowl, stirring well. Combine rind, juice, vinegar, oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add pasta and lime mixture to bean mixture; toss to combine. Serve with lime wedges.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cup) [yield based on original recipe]

NUTRITION PER SERVING: CALORIES 507(16% from fat); FAT 8.8g (sat 4.1g,mono 2.5g,poly 1.3g); PROTEIN 29.2g; CHOLESTEROL 25mg; CALCIUM 255mg; SODIUM 540mg; FIBER 4.7g; IRON 6.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 85.5g [based on original recipe]

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tomorrow it begins
The first meetings of the school year are tomorrow morning. I'll also be able to pick up my office key (hooray! no more coordinating with someone who has a key...) and park in the employee area for the first time. It's all very exciting, although classes don't actually start until Wednesday.

Today is jam-packed full of things to finish:
* a couple handouts and link 'em up to the the online version of the syllabus
* combining the previous notes from my MA study group into the Writely document
* do the reading for Monday night's study group meeting (Spenser plus Shakespeare tragedies)
* should probably do some Blogger-related things since I said I would
* cook! I bought the fixings for three separate dishes so I could have them all in plastic or in the freezer just ready to go this week. I'll likely post the recipes and such, since Susan likes that.
* maybe I'll write a post about my first tattoo, for Linda
* maybe I'll make a pie, in honor of seeker.

I'm sure there's more stuff on the list, but this will do for now. Also? I have a cold or something. Could be allergies. Lovely.

Saturday, August 19, 2006
on migrating or not to Blogger Beta
This is just a brief post to answer a few questions and clear up some things. It's not an in-depth technical post or anything, just a "this is the path of migration" sort of post. It goes with the comments attached to this post.

* When you migrate from Blogger to Blogger Beta, it is based on your account and any blog attached to your account. Thus, if you have three blogs attached to your account (as I do), they all get shipped over AS-IS to Blogger Beta and the only thing that changes is your login and the server to which you login ( instead of Thus, you cannot migrate selected blogs under your account—they all come along for the ride.

* Migrating your blog does not screw up any of your template customizations or settings. The act of migrating simply gets your account info squared away and your stuff within the new architecture.

* To reiterate, your custom template remains intact until you specifically change it to the Layout system.

* You can manually change one blog to the Layout system and keep your other blog(s) in the classic system, because as with any of your blogs-in-Blogger (beta or otherwise) the blog-specific settings are just that—blog-specific.

* If you keep your blog in classic mode, you can edit your template just as you always could. What you cannot do is use the Layout system and therefore the native Blogger categories (labels) system.

* If you switch your blog to the Layout system, you cannot edit the raw template (yet).

* If you switch your blog to the Layout system, you can edit the raw template but be aware it's an entirely new template language

* If you switch your blog to the Layout system, you will be starting from scratch. You can make customizations through the Layout system by adding "page elements" using the Layout system editor. The customizations may require massaging, especially when it comes to things that require additions to stylesheets or the placement of items in the HEAD element of your blog. Since you cannot yet edit the raw template, you cannot create the sort of combo Layouts/custom template that would be necessary to complete the integration of your stuff.

* If you migrate your account to Blogger Beta and use any third-party publishing tools (e.g. Performancing for Firefox), you'll be out of luck until a new build of the tool becomes available—developers need to add in new hooks to the system.

I think that clarifies a few things. If not, leave a comment and I'll try again.

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I switched my blogs to Blogger Beta

switched to blogger beta

I have switched my blogs over to Blogger Beta, which is the first step in trying to provide to you, dear readers, information about the process, the features, etc.

The dashboard is so lovely now, no? Also, the new NavBar—both contain far more useful elements than before. Thank you, Blogger Team, for listening to your users.

Actually, I believe that "thank you" is applicable to all the changes they've made, but I reserve judgement on that until I see with my own two eyes just how much we can tweak our templates and still use the new layout system.

However, I am very confident in the Blogger Team's ability to deliver on this, as Jason has stated:
Fortunately, it's always been part of our plan to introduce a new Edit HTML system for Blogger in beta. This system will not only let folks have the degree of customizability they desire, but it will let you create templates that are customizable with the Layouts system. Right now we are finishing the first version of this system and will be introducing in the "days not weeks" timeframe.
Plus, Pete has been answering questions at Freshblog, and I'm sure neither of these guys would bounce around the internet talking about their baby unless they really meant what they said.

My plan is to go total Layouts system for the blog for my book, and Layouts/Custom combo for this blog, when the combo is available.

The only downside to using Blogger Beta right now is not a Blogger issue per se, and even it's being worked on as we speak. That is, I can't use Performancing for Firefox because the hooks aren't in for the new API. I'm confident a new build will be available soon, though.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006
via Lifehacker: Writely Beta Re-Opens
For the probably very small subset of people who read my blog but do NOT read Lifehacker, the announcement was just made: Writely Re-Opens for Business.

That is, new people can register for the still-beta Writely. I did, and I can't wait to work with it!

For anyone who has been a beta tester already, feel free to leave a comment about the different reason/things for which you've used Writely.

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the random quotations meme
I wasn't going to do this one because I figured all five of mine would be from Emerson and that's boring. But I tried it and was only presented with two Emerson quotes before I filled up my five slots, so I couldn't possibly choose five from RWE.

The rules: "Go here and look through random quotes until you find 5 that you think reflect who you are or what you believe."

The first five applicable to me:

"Good design can't fix broken business models." - Jeffrey Veen, Designing the Friendly Skies, 06-21-06

"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"People only see what they are prepared to see." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do." - Ethel Barrett

"Sentimentality is the emotional promiscuity of those who have no sentiment." - Norman Mailer

Now you play!

modifying Guy Kawasaki's Silicon Valley employment how-to...for academics
I will bet good money that the academic folks who read this blog don't know Guy Kawasaki. That's ok. The short answer is that he's a venture capitalist. But the longer answer is that he's one of the few business and technology folks I like. Actually, I think he's pretty cool. Take that for what it's worth, or read his "about" page and check out the list of books he's written. A long, long time ago (6 years) when I was embarking on an ill-fated build-a-company project with a liar and a cheat, I used a significant amount of the Guy Kawasaki/ info that was available. It's where I learned about the elevator pitch, which has served me well even in academia!

Let me digress and tell the story...

Briefly, an elevator pitch is an overview of a project (or an idea for one) that can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride. For instance, Jane Entrepreneur has a great idea for a business and stalks runs into a venture capitalist at their office in a random office building. Seizing the opportunity but constrained by the elevator ride from the ground floor to, say, the third floor, Jane pitches her idea from start to finish. The door opens at the third floor, but the venture capitalist doesn't step out immediately—instead, the VC reaches for a business card and tells Jane to call the office for an appointment. Money flows, everyone is happy, they change the world, and it's all because of the elevator pitch.

During the final class period of my lovely seminar in the American Romantics, as we handed in our seminar papers the prof said we should chat about them if we had time at the end. I said, "hey! we can do elevator pitches."


[people looking at me like I have three heads...]

So I explained the elevator pitch and then made it applicable to a bunch of grad students in English: "limited to 30 seconds (or so) each, it'll only take 10 minutes and boy won't we look like experts by being able to distill our papers in just 30 seconds." My thinking was that if we bled, sweat, and cried over these essays for a semester, we damn well better be able to present our thesis and findings in 30 seconds or less!

You will not be surprised to learn that the people who ended up with As on their essays were those able to complete the elevator pitch, and those who were still talking when the elevator was on the 48th floor and we still didn't know what the paper was about...well, they didn't do so well.

Back to my point...

A few days ago, Guy wrote a post called Everything You Wanted to Know About Getting a Job in Silicon Valley But Didn't Know Who to Ask. Having spent several years in the mid-90s being a contractor, meaning every six or eight weeks I was off on an interview with someone or another, I can tell you his post is spot-on.


All you academics who have been through the job market, how would you amend his list for academics?

For instance,he says:
1. Love what the company does. Passion for what a company makes or does is the most important factor in getting a job in Silicon Valley. Companies here are built on passion—indeed, perhaps more passion than reality. Hence, they hire passionate people who are already in the Reality Distortion Field. The question is, How do you show your passion?

The best way is to profess your love of the company's product or service, and I literally mean "love" not "read about," "have used," or "looked at the web site." If the company is at all enlightened, passion can overcome the lack of a "perfect" educational background and work experience.
How do you do this in academia without looking like a crazy person? I'm thinking "OMG, the undergrad requirements for the major is teh r0x0r" won't go over well.

I assume Guy's point #4, "Expect the funny farm," is the easiest to modify.


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on using Windows Live Writer

no Windows Live Writer for me!

I was going to write about using the brand-spanking-new Windows Live Writer blog editor, but as you can see it requires the .NET framework. I refuse to install that on my machine. My Windows laptop is fast, runs smoothly, and has crashed exactly twice in four years (knock wood)—and I am not messing with that by installing some bloated framework just to test a blog editor. Sorry. It would be unlikely to sway me from using Performancing for Firefox anyway.

So as not to be all negative nelly on you, I will say that when I first saw the announcement about Windows Live Writer the first thing I thought was "cool, I'll try it and write about it!" I don't talk lovingly about Microsoft, and have great internal conflict about having a Windows-based laptop, but lookee here—Microsoft made a product that supports a whole host of blogging platforms besides their own, right out of the box: Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, LiveJournal, even Radio Userland and so forth. They get a gold star for that. Also, it's free. Another gold star. Sure sign of the apocalypse, don't you think?

Since I won't be discussing it, let me point you to people who are:
- at Digital Inspiration, here (basic) and here (tips and tricks)
- a post at Freshblog rounding up some other posts
- a review of WLW at Performancing , including user comments

[cross-posted at Blogger in a Snap]

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006
tuesday bullets of crap
* The new Blogger Beta has some really, really, really great things. I have 43 screenshots sitting on my desktop waiting to be discussed. That's a lot! But they're all very cool. Good stuff.

* Over the weekend I sat down and organized all manner and sorts of application stuff for PhD programs. I'm only applying to five, but damn—that's a lot of shit to track down/keep track of. Luckily, the three people I'm asking to do rec letters are all really responsible/non-absent-minded folks, so handing forms and envelopes to them with sticky notes re: what goes where won't be a stressful experience.

* The stressful experience that did occur? Realizing that my last two chances to bolster my score in the GRE subject test fall on day 1 of the 2-day MA comprehensive exam (Nov 4) and also on the day of the composition final exam (Dec 2). I could choose to take part 1 of the MA exam in the spring and therefore the GRE subject test in Nov, but if I biff it then I'd be screwed (whereas if I biff it in the fall I can take it again in the spring). I did find out that it's possible to arrange a fill-in proctor for the composition final—just have to run it by the chair. I have a fill-in proctor lined up, so it looks like that's the way I'll go, taking the subject test in Dec. Yes, I know that the scores are relatively meaningless, but given that I will have studied and taken the comprehensive exams by the time I re-take the subject test, I am confident I can improve my score dramatically, so I have to at least try.

* Grad school pal called me last night to go have coffee, turns out she was in need of talking to someone who understands crazy grandmas. Oh yeah, trust me...I know about bat-shit crazy grandmas. They finally were able to put mine in a home. Well, just the one. The fundamentalist christian simpleton still manages to do her thing on her own. But the mushy-brained paranoid one is in old-people lockdown. I wish my grandmothers were like my buddy's grandma—she's perfectly lucid and able, her only problem is she's overly stoic in the face of tragedy...but it's not a problem for her. She's a great lady. But I digress.


Monday, August 14, 2006
Amazing New Blogger Things!
More on this later, but via Blogger Buzz comes the Blogger in beta announcement.

There are SO MANY lovely things being added to Blogger, which dovetails nicely with discussions about refreshing my Blogger book.

I am not one of the lucky few who could migrate their existing account with the new and improved Google accounts login (hey guys, pretty please could you sneak me in there?) but I created an account on the beta site and can test that way. I'm stoked!

Note: Any snarky comments about "well, my blog platform already offers x,y,z" will be met with silence. I don't care. If I wanted to switch platforms, I would have. I didn't, because I like Blogger. So, whatever.

[cross-posted at Blogger in a Snap]

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tappity tappity tap tap
Finally, it's less than ten days before the semester starts. I hang with a geeky enough crowd that we're all pretty stoked for the semester to begin. My comps study group is heading into its fourth session next week, other people are already talking about getting the jump on their reading (well, they're reading Ulysses...I'd get a jump on it too!), and those of us who are teaching composition for the first time, well, my buddy Rob's statement pretty much sums it up: "I'm so amped to teach, I electrocute myself in the shower." Yeah. Like I said, we're pretty geeky.

I made copies of my syllabus and also put it online, tested that my office falls under the wi-fi blanketing the building (I share an office with two others, but we have three desks and a couch and it's not terribly cramped. However, the office location is odd—it shares an entrance with the women's restroom, basically. I'll have to take a photo to help explain properly.) since I'll have my laptop with me during office hours.

I have three bags, only one of which I'll carry at any given time, but they all serve different purposes: computer bag, teaching bag, and bag for my own classes. They're all neatly lined up in a row for easy grab-and-go. I have my transportation schedule all worked out (when to take the bus versus when to drive and park), know where and when to get coffee in the morning, I've been practicing everyone's names (I believe it's the first step to putting names to faces), I have the first five or so class sessions mapped out in general (allowing for flexibility of course), and basically I have no unusual stress about this whole thing.

People keep asking me, "so, are you nervous?" Um, no, not really. Showing nervousness is a sign of fear, and showing fear will get you trampled on. At least that's how I'm operating—as if this pack of freshmen is a pack of wild dogs. I'm only slightly kidding. Another person asked if I was anxious about going to the department meetings. Um, no. Sitting in the back of a room at a meeting in which I am not expected to contribute at all? That's sheer joy for me. "But all those professors, and we're just teaching associates!" the person said. I laughed. "Believe me, they're thrilled about our existence—we represent eleven sections of composition they don't have teach."

So there's just one more week of tappity tappity tap tap just waiting for everything to start...and I think it'll be a long week.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006
thieves and plagiarists suck
Thieves, plagiarists, etc—Sucky McSucktards, the lot of them.

I just love checking my inbound Technorati links and seeing a link to one of my how-to posts, surrounded by text that looks awfully familiar...oh hey I know, it's because it's text that I wrote. In one of my books. On a page that has the link to one of my blog posts.

Some jackass has the text of my Blogger book online, on a site filled with AdSense links. No, I'm not linking to it. This is one of those times when it's lovely to have a publisher with a legal team. I figure a strongly worded letter should do the trick, plus a strongly worded e-mail to the AdSense abuse notification e-mail address.

I guess I could look at the bright side, that my content is just so useful that people want to steal it. Um, yeah. Ok sure, that's nice. But plaudits don't pay the bills.

A few years ago, some jerk took the time to scan the text of all of my books (plus a few others) and sold the PDFs on a CD on eBay. Shit like this happens all the time. But hey, at least I'm so familiar with content thieves and plagiarists that I won't take it personally when my students do it. I'll just fail their assesadhere to the policies for reporting plagiarists and move on.

Friday, August 11, 2006
blogger in a snap: en español!

blogger in a snap: en español

My book on Blogger, Sams Teach Yourself Blogging in a Snap, has been translated and published in Spanish!

If you pay attention to blog metrics such as David Sifry's State of the Blogosphere reports, or if you are just a worldly and generally aware kind of person, you'll know that English is the primary language of only a third (or so) of all blogs. Personally, a good 15% of my blog traffic comes from countries in which Spanish is the primary language—and most of that traffic goes to my how-to posts. So, while the author is never involved in things like securing translation rights for books, I found it to be an incredibly appropriate choice for the first translation of this book.

I don't get one red cent from individual purchases, but that really makes no difference to me. I just want a gajillion people to have a good, basic book on using Blogger, and in their own language! The book can be found online at El Corte Inglés, Librería Hispano Americana, Casa del Libro, ALIBRI Llibreria, Agapea, and probably a ton more places but I'm not hip to Spanish booksellers online. Despite the fact that my name is misspelled on the cover, I think it's a cool book. The best part?

I have four three two one copy to give away!

I will ship to anywhere in the world, so if you want a copy of the Spanish-language Blogger book, leave a comment. I'll send a copy along to the next four three two confirmed person.

[cross-posted at Blogger in a Snap]

[Lists of translations for my other books can be found at my books-related web site, but I don't have any of those to give away.]

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via Inside Higher Ed :: Anger Over Coeducation Plan
An article at Inside Higher Ed, "Anger Over Coeducation Plan," reports that the board of trustees at Randolph-Macon Women's College is "set to vote Sept. 9 on a strategic plan that includes allowing men to enroll and expanding the global studies program."

I am ambivalent on the issue of coeducation, because I've been a student at both a women's college and also co-ed colleges and universities (I've been around) and feel each have an equal number of pros and cons. Bottom line, was the educational experience at the women's college a good one? Yes. At the co-ed university? Yes.

Moving on to the reason for my's to call bullshit on these statements:
"Our decision to embrace a coed environment is not because we think a women’s college isn’t a good form of education," said Virginia Worden, interim president of Randolph-Macon. "We are proud of 115 years of being a women’s college, but we have come to a difficult conclusion that to attract more women, we need to attract men." [...] Worden said that fewer than 5 percent of college applicants are willing to look at a women’s college, and that most students "don’t come because, but in spite of, the fact that it’s a women’s college."
A comment on the article by a RMWC alum says it best: "I suggest that if the board wants to “attract more women” they concentrate on increasing the excellent faculty, campus, overseas programs, and courses available to the students. Don’t use men as 'bait' to get the girls!!!" No kidding.

RMWC is in Lynchburg, VA. Within a 2-hour radius of RMWC are at least three other women's colleges: Hollins, Sweet Briar, and my undergrad school, Mary Baldwin. I'm probably forgetting a few. We played them all in sports and eventually the schools all ran together..."oh yeah, another small liberal arts college with beautiful old buildings and lush fields and legacy students." I don't see any of those places going co-ed, calling on the need to use men as bait. Unless something's changed in the last fifteen years since I was there, there's a very strong social network between the women's colleges and the neighboring institutions (VMI, Hampden-Sydney, W&L, Roanoke, Lynchburg, etc.). There was never a lack of men around, that's for sure.

It's sad that the administrators at a perfectly fine institution negated its value by (essentially) saying that they don't have the people or resources to compete for students. If I were a student or faculty member, I'd consider that a slap in the face. "We're not good enough as-is. We have to let guys in. That will make us better." Great message.

[My own undergrad institution allows men to take classes/get degrees in their non-traditional (e.g. non-residential) adult program, because it fits the needs of the community. The number of men are so few that I daresay it wasn't about the money or using them as bait.]


it's friday. there are bullets of crap.
* I have real posts to write, but I haven't managed to do so...perhaps after 5pm today, when work is over. Unfortunately, that breaks a great rule of the internet (or newspapers) which states that you never do a press release on a Friday. Good thing my blog posts are just brain spew, and not a press release!

* I owe e-mails to some people.

* I have bugs to squash in a project.

* I had a crisis/minor freakout about my future plans, but that only lasted a day.

* "A Philosophy professor and a grad student in English walk into a bar..." Ok, no bar. But there were power tools involved.

* real posts later

Tuesday, August 08, 2006
what's on your USB drive?
The BlogHer conference had sponsors, as I noted here and a gajillion other people noted in their posts about BlogHer. So...


Rather, what did everyone put on their free Saturn-branded USB drives? Sure, 64MB is nothing, and many of us already have flash drives much bigger than that, but for the sake of levity regarding this issue let's just play along—just like my Mazda key and Saturn drive. Everybody wins!

Happily co-existing on my free drive:
- Portable Firefox, for all my web-browsing needs.
- Portable AbiWord, for all my word processing needs.
- PortaPuTTY, for SSH and SFTP
- Notepad++, for when I need to jot things down but don't need a word processor.

Total space used: 42.7MB. Total space remaining: 19.6MB

If the drive were 128MB, I'd have added Portable Thunderbird and Portable GIMP. If I were a designer rather than a programmer or writer, I'd have installed Portable GIMP instead of Portable AbiWord on this wee drive. I can make do without Portable Thunderbird because I can access all of my various mail accounts via a web interface.

You can find portable apps at, The Portable Freeware Collection, and plenty of other Google-searchable places.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006
blogher: where I go from here
[note: here are links to all my BlogHer posts. I'm finally done with them all!]

This post should really be titled "so am I going to BlogHer07 or not?" The answer: no freaking clue, and it has very little to do with my various impressions of the conference in its first two years, the structure of the BlogHer organization, the community, etc.

This time next year, I could be preparing for a move to Davis (CA), Eugene, Seattle, Pullman (WA), Albuquerque, or none of the above. I'm applying to PhD programs in those cities. I might get into one, I might not. If I do, next summer I'll be moving and selling my condo in San Jose. If I don't, I'll be figuring out if I keep working with my friends full-time or cut back to "as needed, and not for large projects" as already planned (those of you who have been grad students know that I will definitely be able to use the money!), while trying to pick up composition classes to teach at any of the gajillion community colleges around here. Provided, of course, that I finish the MA I'm currently working on!

Some of you may have picked up on the fact that I'm a very conflicted person when it comes to my job and working in this industry. At our little table of folks during the evening drinking time on Day 2 of BlogHer, you would have heard me talk more about Emerson, Thoreau, Muir, and various and sundry Transcendentalists than you would have heard me talk about code. You see, despite my job at the most friendly, accomodating, flexible, deals-with-my-shit place I could ever work in technology-related things, working in this industry (for me) is an incredibly soul-sucking endeavor. Going back to academia is my way out. [Yes, I realize there are academics who feel exactly the same way about their position in academia. To each his/her own. It's all a matter of perception.]

Why would I go to BlogHer07? Hell, I might have a book on Drupal out by then (seriously—the first thing I did on Sunday morning was to email my super bossman editor Mark and say "so, how about a real Drupal book that people can use to do things, not a rehash of documentation?") and people might want me to chat about such things. Or about blog things for beginners (see book). Or about getting started in web-based application development with xAMP (see other books). Or edublogging sessions get ramped up and there's stuff of interest to me that I can learn about for my academic life. Or maybe this will be the conference that all my other blog buddies (the ones who didn't attend this one) go to, in which case there will be a hell of a good time talking about myriad topics, regardless of the direct application of sessions to me.

Kathy Sierra has a post called I am not a "woman blogger," and there are so many statements in it that I completely agree with, as they apply to me (minus the co-blogger part), such as:
I am "one who blogs" (among many other things). I happen to be a woman. But I am NOT a blogHer, and my male co-author is not a blogHim.

I write code. But I am NOT a programmHer.

I write tech books. But I am NOT a writeHer.
In her post, and in ensuing comments, there's some discussion as to how the conference is framed—is it a tech conference? is it just for women? is it because women need "extra help"? I would say no, it's not a tech conference, but some people would say it is. Some people think it should be all women, but some people (myself included) think that having guys around is perfectly fine. I even think that having guys on panels is fine, depending on the guy and the panel. It reminds me of my college years. I went to a women's college, but we had a small percentage of men in the non-residential program, inegrated into our classes. They were welcome voices. Do women need "extra help" when it comes to tech things? I certainly think there are some women who erroneously believe that they can't "get it" because they're women—because that's what they've been told. Now, we all know that's a load of crap, but it certainly shouldn't negate the individual's feelings about it, just because some of us know it's crap.

As such, I think the value of BlogHer is as a community. No, it's not [yet] "where the women bloggers are" (despite the tagline), it's where some of the women bloggers are, and a place where all women bloggers are welcome, where they can feel comfortable, get their feet wet, try out new ideas and tools, without any sort of feelings of insecurity which they may personally perceive elsewhere, even if others do not. [ed. note—I was referring to something said in the comments to the Kathy Sierra post; I get that the tagline is a statement of intention and not truth!]

I see BlogHer as a community of opportunity. While I personally get absolutely nothing out of being a member of the community, besides finding new people to read on various topics [ed. note—here I meant "applicable to my job in tech," and it wasn't my intention to discount finding new blogs to read! more here], plenty of people do get a lot out of it because we all start out at different places on the spectrum [of needs].

Ok, I'm done.

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yes, i actually do have a job
For several reasons, I don't write about my job all that much. Apparently, some people don't even know I have a job, despite the teeny-tiny link in my sidebar that says "my job"! Ok, so maybe only trillwing didn't pick up on it. At BlogHer, I said something about my job and she said, "you have a job? I thought you just wrote books and went to school." Uh, no. If I did, I'd be a better writer and scholar! (Conversely, if all I did was work, I'd be a better employee.)

So yeah, I have a job. The company, i2i Interactive (disclosure: we haven't updated our client list or portfolio for awhile. Too busy.), has been around since 1996. [or 7? I don't remember. A long time in Internet Years, regardless.] It's my friends' company, and I've worked for them on and off for seven or so of those ten years. We've never had more than seven employees at any one time, and for at least the last five years we've only had four. As such, our titles are purely for business card purposes. Like mine—"Technical Director." What does that mean? Who do I direct? I direct myself, and it means I deal with anything technical—and believe me, that's a wide range of things, including things I don't particularly consider technical, but that's just me.

The remarkable thing about the company, besides the fact that although we've come close to killing each other on a few occassions (such as over tables vs css) we haven't, is that we don't do sales/marketing and never have. From the very beginning, projects have come from referrals, and we have the luxury (most times) of picking and choosing the projects we do. We'll do a really teeny, static website for our dentist, then turn around and build web-based products for NASDAQ-listed companies. Whatever works.

We're all self-taught in everything we do. Me? English degree, designs databases and builds web-based applications from the ground up, has since the first years of the web. Our creative director? History degree, skilled at every piece of software graphic designers/illustrators/multimedia producers have used since before the web was the web. Our prez, She Who Keeps Everything Together, knows both sets of things. You get the idea. Back in the day, everyone was self-taught because the industry and the technology were brand new. Everyone started on the same level playing field.

You may wonder why I'm writing about this, and I'm not sure myself, but if anything it's in response to this comment on a post-conference thread at the BlogHer site, in which the author (Laura Scott) says: "It was especially interesting to me to hear about the few women who are succeeding in technology within the corporate world, and how they found ways to establish themselves and their credibility. I can say I have not heard many of those stories." Here's our story: we do good work, consistently, and have for a long time. It's our philosophy, we have the people to do it, and we just do.

I realize that's not an incredibly helpful story. There's nothing about toppling The Man or breaking through a glass ceiling or overcoming sexism in the workplace, yadda yadda yadda. I think the only pushback we get when our proposals are considered in response to RFPs comes from our numbers. Because of the inflated numbers (both cost and numbers of people on teams) agencies often use, our relatively miniscule numbers often make us look too good to be true. Ironically, the majority of our work over the years has come from cleaning up other peoples' messes, often the messes of overpriced, too-many-hands-in-the-pot agencies. But that's another story.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006
blogher: on the people I met (or didn't)
[note: here are links to all my BlogHer posts]

I had a very short list of MUST SEE people at BlogHer, because I knew I'd run into a gazillion other folks and just wanted to spend my time kicking it with whomever walked by—not so much staring intently at people's nametags. Also, I'm the antithesis of a fangirl, and not just with bloggers but with everyone. I don't care if you're an Olympic athlete or a PE teacher or a famous musician or a coffeehouse singer-songerwiter or a CEO or a worker on the line or Dooce or Joan No-Name Blogger or a department chair or a lecturer or whatever—makes no nevermind to me, because I've known people in every category listed above and here's what I've learned: just people. [insert your preferred line here about putting pants on, or farting, or whatever]

Anyway, so my very short list of MUST SEE people at BlogHer numbered exactly four. These were people I wanted to be able to look in the eyes and say something, rather than send a random e-mail (news flash: e-mail? not the same as face-to-face communication).

- Geeky Mom, who is awesome and has a great fellow and cool kids. Plus, edublogger panelist and English lit person. Hooray! We had plans to have sushi with the absent, "sorry, but presenting at the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education takes precedence over BlogHer," Dr. Free-Ride, so I had to make a point to meet Geeky Mom because I was driving.

- trillwing, because she does a great job with the Research & Academia posts at BlogHer and I wanted to say so in person, she goes to the school I seriously want to attend, her son is adorable, and (although she doesn't know this because I forgot to tell her) I also collected model horses in my youth and probably would now except I tend to go to the extreme with any hobby and therefore try not to have any.

- Liz Henry, of her many blogs, because I wanted to say I was glad her boy was out of the hospital (nasty appendicitis) and also for the love of all things holy please try to have two thoughts on all the brilliant things for which she has one thought and then moves on to something else. One thought == one thought. Two thoughts == a path toward something!

- supa, aka Mary Beth of Supafine!, because I contributed to her BlogHer trip fund and wanted to make sure she got here (kidding! you could have bought beer with the money, I wouldn't have cared). Also, she's a talented artist (templates! photos! makes movies with playdoh characters!) and her son? adorable.

Several days later, I realized I should have put Lauren formerly-of-Feministe on my list, because I contributed to her travel fund as well, but I really didn't have anything to say besides "hey, glad you made it."

Then we have people with whom I chatted for a bit or just said "howdy!":

- pseudonymous blogger in academia (yay!)

- two lovely women whose names/blogs I never did write down, despite the fact that they were part of conversations for at least an hour (I suck)

- tree fitzpatrick (she has a blog now, I heard...what's the URL?)

- Elisa Camahort, even if it was just to say "hi" at the registration table in the morning, before I had much coffee, and thus appeared as if I didn't give a crap, which I DID!

- Nancy White, milling around the registration table, made sure I got all the goodies. I believe I said "yes, ma'am" to her. I spent five-ish years in the south and it just comes out sometimes!

- Mary Tsao, who was one of the first person to say "that's cool!" when I posted the hyatt-to-starbucks directions.

- Barbara Sawhill, edublogger panelist and all-around lovely person

- Barbara Ganley, also an edublogger panelist and all-around lovely person

- TW, in the edublogger session and later in tabletalk at the end

- Liz Ditz, in the edublogger session but also throughout the day. I would have put her on my "must meet" list but I was 100% sure I'd run into her and chatter away, which we did.

- Professor Kim, in the edublogger session—she liveblogged it and contributed to the discussion, which isn't easy to do!

- I sat behind Steve Sloan and Cynthia McCune from SJSU, in the edublogging session. You'd think that in the year since BlogHer05, when Cynthia McCune was also in the edublogging session, I'd walk to the hundred feet or so from the Faculty Office building (home of English Dept, and others) to Dwight Bentel Hall (home of Journalism & Mass Communications Dept, and others) and say hello. But no. I suck.

- squid, although I think I momentarily freaked her out when I said, "hey! love your kids" and she looked at me like "the hell?" and then I thought "oh crap, is that not squid?" and then had to look at her nametag to ensure that indeed she was squid. Thankfully, Liz Ditz was there and said something to assuage her fear that I was some random internet weirdo. If you follow squid's blog and the stories of her kids and her family's trials, tribulations, and successes in working with austism, behavioral therapy, and educational endeavors, you can't help but become attached to all them them and truly care how they're doing.

- Lisa V and Amy who I know only from Phantom Scribbler's commenting pixie party.

- IdentityWoman, who randomly sat with us and chatted away for a bit

- Sarah Dopp, although it wasn't so much "hi" as it was "you have to fight me to pass." It was funny. Had to be there.

- Denise, who still scares me a little. That woman can rant, let me tell you. But totally a good egg.

In a category all their own, people I read regularly but didn't talk to for some reason or another:

- Jo Spanglemonkey, who is a great writer and visual artist. She was always surrounded by people and I didn't tap on the shoulder and say "hi!" because I'm shy. Given the chance, I would have said, "I love your stuff, I'm sorry you're going through all this crappity crap, and I'm really glad you're here." Emphasis on the here—not only at BlogHer but on the earth.

- Grace Davis, rockstar. No reason I didn't say hi to Grace besides the fact that she was either speaking to or surrounded by throngs of people. I would have said "hey, thumbs up for what you do" or some shit.

The last category of people are those blogs I didn't really read before but now I do, because I learned of them at blogher or afterwards in post-blogher commentary:

- Dogged Blog

- Gastronomie, via a comment on Scoble's BlogHer post

- HorsePigCow

- Melissa Gira

- Sour Duck (I read her BlogHer posts, but never read her actual blog, for some reason.

- Shuna Fish Lydon of eggbeater. I saved this mention for last because I will bet that her comments in various sessions were super huge takeaways for a lot of people. Way to fly under the blogospheric radar and make a big splash!

It's a little-known fact about me that I totally dig pastry chefs. Or maybe it isn't, I dunno. But that's completely secondary to the reason I perked up my ears when Shuna spoke, which is because of what she had to say. I'm quoting from SocalMom's liveblog of the opening discussion on Day 2:
[context: in a discussion about "how are your blogs changing your world," the question to the audience is 'who's done something that was a risk and has paid off?"]

Food blogger - but I'm a professional chef and what's really interesting about blogging is that in my profession, people don't know how to use computers at all and if you send in a resume it can't even be an attachment because they don't know how to open them. So when I became a blogger, I consider food really political. I think it has to do with class and culture and race and history and no one wants to talk about that, especially in the fine dining world.

But I recently posted a very emotional post about the May 1 protest, even though it was a long time ago. Because my industry is supported by people who are not documented, and it gets bigger and bigger because culinary schools are expensive. I feel like - when I started blogging - I didn't get that it was that big. People would write to me about how to make piecrust and I would say come to my class and then they would say I'm in Indonesia. I really feel like it has gotten me out of the kitchen and I've gotten to meet people.
Talk about "getting it"...sheesh.

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Friday, August 04, 2006
blogher: on why more than a few attendees now feel ambivalent about blogging
[edited to add: here are links to all my BlogHer posts]

A popular topic in the post-BlogHer conference chatter is a sort of "us versus them" feeling among some people. Some "thems" feel some "us" folks were too exclusive, while the "us" folks for the most part weren't trying to do that nor did they realize boundaries and walls were going up/perceived to be up in front of the "thems" and so on and so forth. Again, this isn't an institutional oppression issue, because despite the BlogHer Ad Network initially including/targeting only parenting-related blogs, BlogHer is a roll-your-own community—fit yourself into one or more subgroups, and if one isn't there you can start one. In the BlogHer community, there are no institutional barriers in the way of making your community large and powerful. For instance, just like the mommybloggers mobilized after their "room of your own" session in BlogHer05 and created such as presence within the BlogHer site, ad network, etc., I will bet cold hard cash that the food bloggers and/or edubloggers will do the same thing next year (I will bet more money on the food bloggers).

Secondary (but not all that secondary) to the "us versus them" feeling is the disconnect between people's expectations and their reality at the conference, combined with insecurities ranging from the purpose and worth of blogging to one's own self-worth. Those are all intensely personal issues and everyone has them to some degree or another, and as such everyone is different. Personally, I believe all types of blogging are incredibly useful on all levels (personal, adding to the greater conversation, etc), and as such I am not someone who worries about my audience or monetization or The One True Way to Blog.

I'm going to quote myself here, because the following summarizes how I feel about the (lack of) The One True Way to Blog:
[When stepping out into the blogosphere,] you'll find blogs written by parents, teachers, geeks, actors, musicians, political pundits, religious leaders, eight-year-olds, and eighty-year-olds. In other words, ordinary people write blogs and ordinary people read blogs. No special skills are required to begin your foray into blogging. You need not have a purpose or a plan. The most important thing to remember about blogging is that it is ultimately your own space, and you may do with it whatever you want.

Hopefully, what you'll want to do is participate in the greater blogging community. Unlike a simple static website, the format of a blog creates a framework upon which a community can be built. With a static website, what you see is what you get; there is no expectation of interactivity between the reader and the author or subject of the content. For instance, if you visit a website and gather corporate information or information about your favorite musician or sports team, you typically can't post a follow-up to the content or ask a question which will then be answered with authority. However, that sequence of events is exactly what the blogging community is built on: communication and conversation. People write posts, other people leave comments, more ideas are generated, and the discussion continues on another blog, and so on and so forth.
YOU have the power to make blogging whatever you want it to be, for you. Similarly, at BlogHer (on the site and at the conference), YOU have the power to ramp up the presence of whatever community/communities with which you identify.

So why do some attendees now feel ambivalent about blogging? Perhaps they felt too much on the "them" side of things. Perhaps they felt as if they had to categorize themselves as a specific type of blogger, and could not, leading them to think they were somehow less of a part of the greater blogging community. Perhaps the split of the conference into the "how to do" day and the "how to be" day didn't fit with their own sense of "I already do and am, what's left?"

If people are ambivalent about blogging because they feel that one must be A Blogger to blog "legitimately," and that means careful categorization with attention paid to issues of audience, primping (and pimping), monetization, optimization, et al, that essentially there IS One True Way to Blog...well, that's just not the case. But I can see where coming to a blogging conference ostensibly about all those things would make one now ambivalent toward blogging if none of those things interest you. What I'd then ask is...why did you come to the conference? What were the things that you, Joan Now-Ambivalent Blogger, wanted to get from the conference that you felt were lacking in the program? Those things should be first on the list of proposed topics, panels, and discussions for next year.

But if you are now ambivalent about blogging because of issues with your own interpretation of the worthiness of your blog, either because of its subject matter, your plan for it (or lack thereof), or your writing skills compared with folks you met/heard at the conference, um...fuck it. It's your blog. Do with it what you want. You're writing and attempting to join the greater conversation. If you want to learn how to do those things "better"—that is, to study the craft of writing, or to pay attention to issues of audience (etc) and community-building—then do it. Join those sessions and find something to take away from them. If you have no take-away, ask a question—even if it's "I have yet to hear something I want to take away from this session. What am I missing?" If you don't care one whit about those things and just want to kick it with People Who Blog (as opposed to People Who Are Bloggers), then welcome to my tribe. We're just as important, worthwhile, and have legitimate things to say.

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random bullets of crap, friday edition
* must. finish. blogher posts.

* had my first teacher freakout dream last night. in this one, I had everything prepared for day one and my entire schedule shifted to accomodate my 8:30 am class, which (in my dream) I arrived at five minutes early and..oh yeah did I mention my class starts at seven thirty? That dream sucked.

* I actually do have everything prepared for day one except I have to make copies of my syllabus. The syllabus is complete and turned in to the dept. office for placement in the Big Binder O'Syllabi. I have my employee-rate parking pass (awesome!), office key has been ordered, copy account set up, paperwork all done, books in the bookstore, and books for my own classes are in my possession. Bring it on, August 23rd!

* August 9th is the next meeting of my study group for comps. Last time we met, we did the Greeks. This next time we decided to ramp it up—we're covering Beowulf through Marlowe. Although we read all the stuff on the list, each of us has extra responsibility to lead discussion for one or more works (depending on their length). This time around I'm personally responsible for all of Dante.

* Speaking of Italians, last night I made this pasta/cabbage/potato dish and it was really good. I was a bit hesitatant about potatoes in my pasta, but what happens is that they soften up and blend in with the butter and the garlic and the cheese so that it makes the dish sort of saucy. I know it sounds like I just described pasta with a mashed potato sauce, and I suppose I am, but it's not really like that. It's more...chunky. Hell, just try it if it sounds appealing. It's very easy and very tasty.

* Anyone in the general vicinity of Palo Alto who wants to go see a Strangers on a Train at the Stanford Theatre sometime this weekend, holler—I'm going at some point Saturday or Sunday.

Thursday, August 03, 2006
for academics or otherwise: what document indexing software do you use
The title pretty much says it...what software do you use to index your books?

Secondarily, what method/process do you use to reconcile an indexed doc file (Word or WordPerfect or whatever) against typeset proofs? Manual checking, or something else? Is there indexing software that works against PDFs?

This is one of those things I'm eternally grateful my publishers do for me. If it were left up to me, none of my books would have indices, I'm sure. But this question isn't for me, it's for someone else who is in the all-that's-left-is-the-index part of her book. She laughed at me when I said, incredulously, "doesn't [academic press] do that for you?" Sorry, I momentarily forgot my brain.

I'm aware I could turn to Dr. Google for this, but I figured the first thing I'd try is to ask the sixty or so academic bloggers I read each day...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006
the book meme
I need to clear my brain and stop working on my BlogHer posts for a little bit. Since both trillwing and New Kid tagged me for the book meme, I can't escape its grasp...

1. One book that changed your life?
Dr. Willis E. McNelly's The Dune Encyclopedia, ca. 1984. Seriously. I was eleven years old when I read this, having already read all of Frank Herbert's Dune novels up to that point. With a stack of books and a crazy large "reference" book, I learned to do research.

It was all downhill from there...

2. One book you have read more than once?
I read a lot of books more than once. For purposes of answering this question, I'll say that when walking past my bookshelf looking for something to read, it's likely I'll grab a Hardy novel or a Zola novel. I've read many of them, many times over.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
The Riverside Chaucer, because it's the lengthiest book I own besides my Nortons. Plus, you can re-read Chaucer so many times and still not get everything (at least I can!), so it'll give me something to do on that island.

4. One book that made you laugh?
Geez, I don't know. Lately I've been reading nothing but stuff for my comprehensive exams and none of it has been terribly funny (for instance, we just worked through the Greek tragedies). Pass.

5. One book that made you cry?
I cry all the damn time. I'm such a sap that I can find things to cry about in sitcoms. So I'll answer this with the last book that made me cry, and that was...[thinking]...Snow Mountain Passage.

6. One book you wish had been written?
This involves creativity, so...pass.

7. One book you wish had never been written?
My first book, back in 1999/2000. While I am thankful for the money and happy that my books have helped people learn cool stuff, the steady stream of people who saw fit to bombard me with emails and phone calls (at my home and at my office) to tell me how much I suck because a) girls shouldn't write tech books and/or b) the book doesn't cover what [caller/emailer] wanted it to cover and/or c) they have a problem with code on page 6 and wouldn't I just walk them through following the step-by-step directions personally because they bought my book ... well, it really made me a bitter, grudge-holding person against the entire high-tech industry and people in general. The misplaced sense of self-importance, the expectation that the dollar I get from their purchase of my book somehow gives them unfettered access to my personal time or the time of my co-workers, it just doesn't sit well with me. Not terribly rational, I know, but there it is. Trust me, I could go on...and on...and on. But I'll just leave it at that. I wish I had never written my first book, because if I hadn't written the first one I wouldn't have written the other ones, and I would have moved on from this place a loooong time ago.

8. One book you are currently reading?
Emerson: The Mind on Fire

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
Heh. This is easy. Moby Dick. Seriously. I am the Worst. Americanist. Ever.

10. Now tag five people:
I tag...YOU, times five!

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blogher: on uncomfortable heteronormativity
[edited to add: here are links to all my BlogHer posts]

Before I start rambling on this topic, you (dear reader) should be aware that I am writing waaaay out of my comfort zone. In life, and in literary studies, you won't find me talking about gender theory or queer theory—not because I don't appreciate the theoretical perspectives/frameworks, it's just my brain isn't wired to think within them. In fact, it's a running joke among some of my school chums who, on feminist/queer/gender theory day in litcrit class, all turned to me to start the discussion. "Why me?" I said to them, "I'm the worst lesbian ever. I don't even like Gertrude Stein. And I swore off girls like four years ago."

So, when I was thinking about the conference and feeling a little uneasy about some things, and the only word I could think of to describe my uneasiness was "heteronormative," I was shocked because I just don't think in those terms. I try to float through life being myself in a diverse crowd. I like having fellows around (provided they're intelligent, respectful, and good folk) and I like having women around (provided they're intelligent, respectful, and good folk). I don't like or dislike people just because they're female or queer or transgender or male or colorful or however they identify (or don't). I don't choose to spend time with people because they do or do not have kids. It's hard enough to find intelligent, respectful, good folk in this world—everything else is ancillary.

I spent all of my time at the conference with just those kinds of people—intelligent, respectful, good folk. Three edubloggers, who happened also to be moms, were in my primary crew. In the edublogging session, we had no less than three men—each lovely—and a range of single/married/straight/gay/moms/childfree people. But that info wasn't relevant, and it wasn't something I dwelled upon or even noticed at all. In the four hours of drinking and talking at the end of Day 2, my table contained the aforementioned primary crew, plus a revolving door of entirely non-heteronormative folks. Again, I didn't even think about it.

So what's the deal, you ask? Why "uncomfortable heteronormativity?"

Because I completely failed to notice that from the outside looking in, it was a conference of straight white moms. Wait, WAIT, WAIT!—just hang with me for a minute, because I'm not anti the straight white mom at all. Seriously. I have one. But think of the people on the outside looking in—newbies to the conference, newbies to the medium, and/or members of typically marginalized groups. When you're on the outside looking in, you see nothing but the majority.

Last year, the conference was half the size. It had a significantly greater grassroots/"do"-ocracy feel. The individual groups of bloggers—inasmuch as people self-identified with a group—were all small. There was no overabundance of any one type of blogger besides "enthusiastic" or "new(ish)". Some of the most widely-regarded panelists (the lovely and talented Koan Bremner for instance) put a decidedly non-heteronormative stamp on the whole thing.

Then a crazy thing happened—people got excited and the whole thing grew. The appearance, en masse, of mommybloggers at the conference has everything to do with the good things that happened in the mommyblogging "room of your own" session at BlogHer05, and the desire to repeat that—and I think they did. That's awesome. That's exactly what was supposed to happen. Similarly, as Maria Niles said in a comment to a post by Christie Keith, the "Identity and Obligation" panel grew out of the Brown Bloggers "room of your own" session the previous year. Again, that's a success story.

So when, by Day 2, I start feeling an undercurrent of "hey, I'm not a mom/I'm not heterosexual/I'm not white/I'm totally new to this"—and if you pay attention to the recent "introduce yourself" posts from folks who have joined the BlogHer site you'll see more than a few that say things like "I don't think I fit in here because I'm not a mom/I'm not heterosexual/I'm not white/I'm totally new"—then I become uncomfortable because I don't like other people to be uncomfortable, especially because I could have done something about it. I could have volunteered a question at a session or keynote in order to balance things out. I could have made a BOF signup for "freaks without a BOF" or something of that nature. I could have made it a point to seek out newbies in all my funny-looking glory. But I was doing my own thing. I was selfish (and I'm shy, which I kept telling Geeky Mom but she doesn't believe me) and had my own (non-)agenda, which was to kick it with people I already knew. That's not inclusive, it's not helpful, and it's an attitude that, when shared by many, is far worse than the commercialism or presence of a gazillion people who blog about their kids.

Basically, I'm of the opinion that the heterosexuals didn't make this conference heteronormative—the non-heterosexuals did, especially those of use who actually knew we could change something because the structure of the conference allowed us to, by not stepping up and trying to ensure an inclusive environment. In this case, at a "do"-ocracy-based conference, the responsibility lies only within; no one stopped the non-heterosexual group from being as visible as the mommybloggers or the I-want-to-monetize-the-crap-out-of-my-blog bloggers or any other group who did have a presence. In Koan's words, we did "the square root of bugger all." So, the "uncomfortable heteronormativity" is my own internal discomfort at, basically, supporting the patriarchy and making people in my own group feel crappy about it.

Gah. I'm gonna get my toaster oven taken away, I'm sure.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006
blogher: on conference sessions, and edublogging in particular
[edited to add: here are links to all my BlogHer posts]

In the interest of full disclosure before I start rambling on about conference sessions, I should note that I didn't go to Day 1 because we were working on a content launch thing for a client. I had originally planned to be there, and had volunteered to be a roaming gnome helper person for the Blog in a Box/basics for the beginning blogger session, since it seemed natural to help out given I wrote a book on the topic, but I had to bail when I realized Day 1 was on a workday with a project slated for completion. My bad.

The only session I wanted to attend was tagging, tracking & structured blogging, because I have definite thoughts on the topic and multiple answers to the question(s) that Elisa posed (in the link above) when she says, "I hear all this talk about structured blogging and microformats...and am loathe to admit that I don't really get what they are, how I would use them or why I should care." I firmly believe it's a case of a very simple concept made overly complicated because so many people are talking about different variations on theme without providing context, specificity, or listening to confused conversation participants. But my thoughts are probably best saved for another post on another day. No other sessions were of interest to me, because they're either things I already know how to do (technical things), or things I have zero interest doing (monetization, for instance). Conceptually, I think the subject matter intended for coverage by the sessions on Day 1 was totally appropriate for a set of bloggers of various skill levels and interests.

But as with any conference session concerning hands-on things, each of these sessions could easily be a semester-long class, or a six-session asynchronous class, or at the very least a full-day workshop at the local community center/community college. I've seen Liz Henry (I never know which of her gajillion blogs to link to when referencing her in general) bat around the idea of a teaching classes at local community centers and such, every now and again on her blog. Liz, like I told you: have the second part of the thought and ideas can move in an actual direction toward fruition! :)

On Day 2, I went to the welcome session, the opening discussion, the Edublogging session, and the "Transforming Your Life" session. I admit that Geeky Mom and I left the conference for a bit as I took her to The Wine Club. Wine Club is cool.

So let's talk about the Edublogging session. In a word, it was spectacular. Professor Kim liveblogged it, and I should just note that Professor Kim can both talk exceedingly intelligently and type all at the same time. I can't do either terribly well so, you know, awe and all that. [On a completely off-topic and probably incorrect note, as I didn't poll then entire audience, I'd like to point out that the CSU system stomped the UC system 3-1 in attendees at the session. CSU: me, Steve Sloan, Cynthia McCune; UC: Leslie Madsen-Brooks, aka trillwing. Take that!]

Geeky Mom, Barbara Sawhill, and Barbara Ganley led the session. Before the session, they were thinking maybe three people would show up, and were discussing how they had a strategies regardless if they had an audience of three or thirty. They got the thirty (or thereabouts). Because these folks are educators as well as veterans of conferences (as both attendees and presenters), the structure and tone of the edublogging session was unlike the other sessions I witnessed or heard about. After a very brief introduction by each of them as to their role in edublogging (for they each have different roles), they asked the audience for our interests in edublogging so that they could determine how to structure the rest of the session. Again, in Professor Kim's liveblog you can get an idea of the types of (really varies) responses to the question. After gathering information, the audience split into three smaller groups and had really good discussions regarding faculty development (with Geeky Mom), student development (with Barbara G), and blogging as a tool for inclusive pedagogy (with Barbara S).

The big take-away from this session was that there are so many ideas and needs and audiences within the meta concept of "edublogging" that we can fill a conference of our own. Reading the individual presenters' assessments of the session, (see Geeky Mom, Barbara S, Barbara G post 1 and post 2) as well as the thoughts of other attendees, it's clear that there's a huge need.

A few words on edubloggers, or academic bloggers: if you said you were an edublogger or an academic blogger, people often looked at you as if you had three heads. Seriously. Barbara G writes, "They hear me say, 'I'm an edublogger' and they recoil just a bit or look blank. And indeed, in the din of the pre-conference shindig for presenters last evening, someone thought I said I was an 'anti-blogger' not edublogger--ha." Ha, indeed. In a comment to this post at Geeky Mom's, Dr. Shellie hints at a possible reason for the disconnect: "I think most academic bloggers are primarily academics, and incidentally bloggers. Some of the non-academic bloggers at the conference felt about their blogging as I feel about being a scientist--it was a central part of their identity." In a comment to yet another post at Geeky Mom's, Lisa V notes, "When I would meet people at the conference and they would ask me what kind of blog I had I sometimes would answer 'academic' because I didn't want to get into the whole 'mommy blogger' debate." I don't blame her, but that sure is funny.

The venerable Leslie Madsen-Brooks (hey, she referred to me as "lit student and tech geek extraordinaire" so I can fire up the hyperbolic engine by referring to her as "venerable") has an outstanding "where we are"/"where do we go from here" post on the BlogHer site: Edubloggers: Lunatic fringe or BlogHer's core constituency? She says:
Personally, I enjoyed the conference, and my encounters with the edubloggers convinced me that these women have embraced BlogHer's mission to effect meaningful change through blogging. While I share the sense of unease the academic bloggers exchanged over wine, soda, and hard liquor, I can see the appeal of driving traffic to one's blog with the hope of profitting from it. I straddle the increasingly apparent divide between those who blog-for-fun-and-profit and those who blog-to-change-the-world.
She goes on to discuss what business bloggers can learn from edubloggers, and what edubloggers can learn from business bloggers, and the middleground:
Of course, there already is a middle ground between the traffic hunger of the biz bloggers and the idealism of the edubloggers: the nonprofit blogosphere, where bloggers sell readers on worthy causes. There's another skill we could teach our students: how to advocate for others as well as for themselves.
People on my blogroll/the people whose blogs I read everyday are overwhelmingly in the academic blogger camp. That is, folks in academia who blog, and who may or may not (usually may not) be part of the subset of educators attempting to leverage the medium in the classroom. Because this is my neighborhood, I forget that we're the far-away suburb of the bustling downtown of blogging. The Edublogging session, and the four hours of socializing at the end of the conference, reminded me of our true position in teh blogging landscape; to borrow an overused but wickedly appropriate term, we're in liminal space.

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