Tag Archives: blogging

Changes coming to Crazybasenji

Although I’ve been a little reluctant to cede the place of honor in the header from Boomer — the original Crazy Basenji — to his heir and great nephew, Ramses (The Puppy), I finally did so. For one thing, the photo of Ramses was of a size that allowed me to crop a section that would fill the whole space without chopping off most of the dog…well, except for his legs. He doesn’t need those, though, he’s not going anywhere. I also discovered a way to change the layout of the page that would let me use the photo of Boomer as “featured content” in a larger size than what I could fit into the banner. Yes, I’m a little obsessive about that photo. Is that a problem?

I started this blog under the whole “Pro-blogging” explosion a few years ago, and I actually had a plan for what I was going to write about, and when, and how it would all eventually make some kind of income for me. Then I got sidetracked thinking I was going to find a “real job,” because I found some postings for positions that I was super qualified for and I applied. And then waited to hear. And waited to hear. And waited…and in the meantime my blogging plans sort of went south. I repeated this cycle several more times, and eventually I did get a “real job” — part time. Which didn’t do a lot for my self esteem, my bottom line, or my incentive to write. I didn’t want to write from that place of day to day sheer panic. So my blogging frequency suffered some more. And the topics I chose weren’t always cutting edge or of interest to anyone besides me and a few close friends who might just want to keep up with what I was doing.

The things that kept me going — and still do — are my dog(s), and books. And I discovered I could write decent book reviews, and could even get some of them published on a site dedicated to “reviewing books by, for, and about women.” Not long ago, my review of a book about the woman who mapped the ocean floor was chosen as review of the month.

For a while I’ve been thinking of branching out and writing a more specialized blog about books and other writerly things. I’m sure I’ll keep blogging at this site — for my four or five readers — but I’ll concentrate on only a few topics, such as basenjis, and art, and odds and ends of a personal nature. Crazybasenji is my “brand,” if you will, for good or bad, although I discovered that having the word “crazy” at the beginning of anything pretty much flags the site for a certain type of “interest,” shall we say? I won’t elaborate. Use your imagination and I doubt if you’ll come up with anything more bizarre or inappropriate than what I’ve seen in (deleted) comments.

I know I’ve hinted around before now about changing things up around here, which usually consists of finding a new theme. This time, I’ll be moving some of the content to the new site. All the book reviews — the whole category — will be moved. I’m not quite ready to launch the site yet, but it will be located at JudyKingWrites.com. One of the drawbacks to having a fairly common name is that the domain judyking.com is already taken, as is judyking.org, judy-king.com, etc. Since my name isn’t that difficult to spell, I figured it wouldn’t be that big a deal to tack “writes” at the end, which is also not difficult to spell.

Writing on two blogs is going to be more of a challenge. I’ve already tried it, with my Linux blog, which went nowhere. I also started what would have been a biology blog, when I thought I would be teaching biology at the local junior college. When the teaching gig fell through because my actual graduate hours in actual biology courses came up short, I lost all my forward momentum on the blog, as well.

I’ve made a few decisions since then. I’ve decided not to pursue the teaching, which would mean taking only one more graduate level class. I chose to view the cancellation of the offer as a message from the universe. Teaching is not for me. Or, at least, teaching in a classroom in a “traditional” school setting is not. Never been a big fan of traditional anyway. Never felt the “fire in my belly” about teaching, although I always thought I would enjoy engaging with young people interested in learning. My actual experience was more along the lines of trying to engage with young people interested in getting “A’s” without doing much real work. (They’re not all like that, let me be quick to point out. I just seemed to end up with a significant portion of them in my classes, the few semesters I did teach many years ago.)

Starting a new career — as in going back to school and learning a new “trade” is also not in the stars for me. I’ve taken a few classes recently, and finally decided I’m tired of school. I don’t want to take any more classes, do any more homework, take any more tests. I’m done. The only exception might be to get a fine arts degree, and probably then only if someone paid all my expenses and I could go someplace other than the schools available in the immediate area. Which is bloody unlikely to happen.

The upshot of all this nattering on is that I’m going to go with what I know, which is some writing, some art work, and what I can extract from my part-time employment to pay my bills and keep doing those other things. I don’t want to descend into writing about things I regret. It’s largely for that reason that I’ve let updates to my blog lapse a few times. I figure no one wants to read about all the things I wish I had done when I was younger, or would do if I could afford it. There’s no sense dwelling on those things, but in my private mind, I sometimes do, and it may keep me absent from time to time.

I’m hoping that doing more of what I truly enjoy will reduce the amount of time I spend imagining the worst and will increase the amount of time I’ll spend being creative and remarkable. We’ll see.

The Once and Future Crazybasenji

I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking about where I want to take my blogging/writing efforts, and how Crazybasenji fits into my plans. (Obviously I’ve been doing more thinking than writing…)

Now that I’ve had several book reviews published at StoryCircleBookReviews, I feel like I have some legitimate “clips,” examples of my writing that I can use to try and sell my skills in other places. Book reviews will continue to be a big part of what I want to write, since reading books is a requirement for writing book reviews, and there are few things I like better than reading. But I also want to write a better blog. Crazybasenji has been my classroom, and my muse. I had wanted a website called Crazybasenji ever since I came up with the name, inspired by the second basenji I owned, who was truly a crazy-eddie basenji. But I didn’t really have a consistent theme for the blog, and I didn’t work real hard at trying to get more traffic. I’ve studied all kinds of blogging advice books and articles — and blogs — so I know what I’m “supposed” to do. I just haven’t been sure enough of myself to do it… and I feel kind of protective of Crazybasenji.

I think there must be something about the name — because of the “crazy” part — that makes it a spam magnet. I figure more traffic at all will cause an exponential increase in the amount of spam I’ll have to deal with, not to mention the chances of being hacked. Moving the blog to the WordPress universe has made me feel more secure about the hacking part, although I can’t really say why that is. I’ve discovered I’m a lot more limited in the amount of “tweaking” I can do to my theme than when my blog was hosted elsewhere, and that’s a little frustrating. Not frustrating enough to make me put forth the effort to build my own theme, and I certainly can’t afford to pay anyone else to build one for me. So I must soldier on and make do with what’s around me.

In a sense, it’s likely a good thing that I can’t get distracted messing with the theme as much as I used to, since I should be concentrating more on what I write. (Duh!) How many ways is it possible to avoid doing something you’ve set as a “goal for today?” It seems that, even if your goal involves doing something you enjoy, you can find a way to piddle away the time doing other things. Writing is a great example. I think it’s safe to say that most people who start writing blogs do so because they “like to write.” Yet ditching the work of writing is something I see so many blog posts about that it has to be an almost universal phenomenon. You might have a lot to say. You might have a ton of stories to tell. But sitting down and organizing all those thoughts into a coherent whole is a pain in the ass. It’s that simple. One thing to think the stuff up, and quite another to group all those letters together so that it makes sense to anyone else who sees it. Am I right? I know I’m right.

And I’m getting off topic. See how easy that is? What I wanted to — sat down to — write about was my plan to start another blog in the near future where I’ll be more consistent in what I write about — if not in how frequently I post. I won’t abandon Crazybasenji completely, but I’ll try to concentrate more on stories about my dogs — although most of them will be about the ones who are no longer with me — I have a lot of stories I haven’t told. My new blog will be more about the books I read and some more memoir-like stories that I think might have a kernel of wisdom in them that I’d like to share. And I still have some more to write about on my Crazybasenji on Linux blog, about using open source software and how it’s possible to do that and still interact with computers in the proprietary world (Windows and Mac) without having to get a doctorate in computer science (not to mention computer-speak).

I’ve had an idea for the new blog for a while, and now I need to get some original content written before I actually launch it, so I can have several pages of fascinating stuff on there. And, of course, I have to do all this while working my part-time job and going back to school so I can prove to potential full-time employers out there that, yes, people over fifty can learn new things.

Coming Soon…

Along with a few other changes around here in my new home, I’ve added a widget in the sidebar where I can show some of the books I’m reading or have read recently. Some of the ones that are there now are ones I’ve written reviews for, and a few that I’ll be reviewing soon. All the images have links to Amazon.com, where you can buy a copy of the book if you’re interested. If you do buy the book using that link, Amazon makes a small “donation” to Crazybasenji. How cool is that? Right now, that’s my only “affiliate” membership, and the only “advertising” I’ll do on this blog.

Crazybasenji is my muse, and it is still evolving. I began the blog with a half-baked plan, and then changed it, changed it again, then stalled out for a while when I was stressed out over the no-job situation and didn’t want to write every post about how terrified I was.

But that’s in the past. I’m not out of the woods, yet, employment-wise, but I’m seeing a little more daylight. And I’m starting to get a feel for writing book reviews, so I’m going to be posting more of them. If you want to recommend a book for me to read and review, leave me a comment. Keep in mind I prefer science non-fiction, science fiction, murder mysteries, everything else, and romance. (Did you catch that? Everything else before romance?) Any more I prefer non-fiction over fiction in just about every sub-genre. Maybe it’s an age thing. I’ll be interested to see suggestions.

Year end musings

Just who the frak invented the New-Year’s Resolution tradition? I have a beef with them. Not a big beef, mind you. I often make my own resolutions at the end/beginning of the year. I usually keep them simple, and I usually keep them to myself. But after being battered for a couple of months with the Thanksgiving hype and the Christmas hype, the Resolution hype is pretty much the last frakking straw. Enough alfrakkingready!

And the end-of-year-looking-back-and-reflecting blah blah blah. Takes too much time away from figuring out just how to keep the resolutions from self-destructing. I prefer the brief summary. 2009 sucked big time, 2010 not so much. Hoping 2011 will be better. There. All done.

Everyone have a safe and happy New Year’s celebration. Watch out for those who don’t know when to quit partying or don’t have enough sense of self-preservation (or just enough sense, period) to let someone else drive home.

I’ll be moving the blog soon, but doubt if anything will change much from the reading viewpoint. I may have to work out some new issues with the back end, but don’t really foresee a problem. And I’ll be trying to stick to a plan of some sort for posting certain types of content at certain times. We’ll see. The future is always in motion, you know. If Yoda said it, true it must be.

Oh, no! Not another theme change!

Yes, dear readers, once again, I’m tweaking the appearance of my blog. I found another theme that arranges my photos like I want — which is kind of organic and non-linear — and is also available on the WordPress.com site (the free blogging space). I am planning to move my blog there pretty soon so I won’t have to pay for hosting again when it comes up for renewal early next year. I can’t afford it. I can almost afford to renew my domain name and register it with WordPress.com so that I can still use it for this blog. So when I do make the move, everything should still look much the same, and the blog address won’t change. I’ll just save some money and have another layer between my blog and would-be hackers. Anyway, I hope that’s how it will work. Not that my blog has attracted enough attention to attract that of hackers, but you never know.

As if Social Media wasn't confusing enough…

…have you seen all the social media management tools out there? Sheesh. If you have more than one social media account, you can use one of these “buckets” to keep them all on the same page — or screen, if you prefer that term. These are just the ones I’ve used.

  1. TweetDeck — I used this one before I ditched my Windows and went Linux. You have to download and install it on your computer. It also requires Flash, which you also have to download and install, and I haven’t figured out how to do that on my version of Linux yet, or if I even want to. So, for me, TweetDeck is out. But it was handy, while I had it, to be able to see my Twitter and FaceBook pages side by side and send one update to both at the same time.
  2. HootSuite — This one is all online. You just sign in to your dashboard like you do with your FB page, or your blog, or Twitter. Supposedly you can have a bunch of “streams” going at once. I have yet to figure out how to get FB and Twitter open in the same tab. At present I can see one or the other, and I can do that in Firefox. HootSuite lets me post one update to FB and Twitter at the same time, like TweetDeck did, and it has its own URL shortener, and you can also schedule an update to be posted at another time. I tried it yesterday and the update didn’t show up, so I don’t know what I did wrong. That’s what I get for not reading the “how-to” before I try something new. My standard operating procedure doesn’t always work, but hey, sometimes it saves me a lot of time reading instructions when it’s just as easy to figure out how something works by actually using it.
  3. Gwibber — This is my Linux-specific version of TweetDeck. I think it’s kind of new. It seems to have “issues.” Some days it works, other days it won’t even open. No rhyme or reason, it just won’t awaken. When I can get it to open and work properly, it shows my Twitter and FB streams merged into one timeline, which I kind of like. It’s kind of like mixing your peas into your gravy and mashed potatoes. You can still clearly see the peas, but the other stuff makes them stick on the fork better. But some people object to that much proximity among things on their dinner plates, and so may not like what Gwibber does. But you can choose to just see one stream at a time on Gwibber. It’s the “home” feature that blends them.

There are others. I don’t even know what their names are. And there are apps for various smart phones, iPad, netbooks, and who knows what all else. Of course, I only use Twitter and FaceBook, but with these things you can add your WordPress blog, Flikr, MySpace, Tumblr, Linkedin, and a whole slew of other social sharing networks. Whatever floats your boat.

I often feel like I’m being left in the techno dust by the younger generations. I know that using all this stuff to its maximum potential is the way of the future way-of-the-future wayofthefuture (obscure movie reference), and I really wish I could get a better grasp on it. It appeals to my creative nature. Even though I always maintain that I really still see my computer as a typewriter on steroids, it’s way more than just a writing tool. It’s a whole Alexandrian library, a Post Office, and a news desk (and at times a massive time waster). I would much rather have all these options and be able to use only a fraction of them at some minimal level, than not have them at all, and miss out on some of the things I’ve discovered in the past several years.

WordCamp and Archaeopteryx

WordCamp was yesterday. As I mentioned elsewhere, I planned to be there, and I was. I drove down in the early morning (had to be there a little before eight to start serving kolaches and coffee) and didn’t get unduly hot on the way, in my un-air-conditioned car. I was able to listen to the keynote address by Matt Mullenweg, one of the founders of WordPress and native son of Houston (although he lives someplace else now), and it was quite entertaining. I got to talk face to face with Houston blogger Shawn Quinn. He and a few other Houstonians started following me on Twitter after I posted the first bit about WordCamp, and I started following them, too. So it was cool to meet Shawn.

The first session I went to was about WordPress 3.0. And why did I think I’d understand any of that? It was in the “Developer Track,” which is that whole other country I mentioned in the earlier post. But the speaker, Stephanie Leary, wrote a book, and if the sample chapter I downloaded as a PDF is any indication, I think I could learn a lot about that country from the book. After that I wanted to sit in on one of the “Blogger Track” sessions, but the room was overflowing with people, so I thought if I was going to have to spend an hour on my feet, I would go see the Archaeopteryx fossil that was on exhibit only for another month (and was the other reason for me to be there in the first place). So I went upstairs to get my ticket. And let me just say how nice it is to have a membership in the museum and be able to go over to the ticket window just for members, where there was no line, and then get the discount on the ticket itself. Sweet.

For those who aren’t fossil fanatics, paleontology buffs, or evolutionary biology groupies, Archaeopteryx (“r-kee-OP-ter-iks”) is one of those precious “missing links” between one major ancient form — in this case dinosaurs — and a more modern one — birds. The first one of these fossils was found in a quarry in Germany famous for its limestone – and its fossils. In fact, fossils often occur in limestone because limestone is formed in marine environments (or formerly marine environments) and objects can become entombed in marine sediments and remain there as the sediment turns to stone. Anyway, the German quarry is at Solnhofen, and in 1861, just a few years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, a single fossilized feather was discovered. Later, a complete fossil of an animal resembling a lizard but covered with feathers was found in stone of the same age — approximately 150 million years. Eventually nine more fossils were unearthed, and debates carried on for decades over whether they were true birds, true dinosaurs, or a true transitional form from one to the other. There’s not much argument that they are some of the most famous fossils around, though. The one visiting the Houston Museum of Natural Science normally lives in Wyoming, and it was sharing the exhibit with an assortment of other fossils from the same limestone quarry at Solnhofen, Germany.

A lot of the fossils were of fish, which makes sense if the limestone started out as ocean bottom sediment. There were even fossil Coelacanth (SEE-la-canth), a type of ancient fish belonging to a group called the “lobe-finned fish,” which were thought to be the transitional form between fish and amphibians. A few living Coelacanths (the scientific name of the surviving form is genus Latemeria , with two distinct species) were found in deep ocean environments off the coast of South Africa in the late 1930’s, and Indonesia as late as 1998. Hanging on since the Cretaceous Period, when they disappeared from the fossil record.

After I worked my way through the fossil fish, turtles and lizards, a few plants, and some surprising insect fossils, and some truly gorgeous brittle stars, I arrived “in the presence.” The “Arky” fossil was grouped with some other fossils I wasn’t expecting, and the planners of the exhibit had truly saved the best for last. Pterosaurs! I went to see Archaeopteryx because it’s a beautiful fossil with a unique place in the fossil record, but I was always nuts over pterosaurs — the flying dinosaurs. I have a book about them. I have a… well, let me illustrate.

 

"Swoop," with a Cretaceous friend

Yes, it’s a Beanie Baby. Yes, there were Beanie Baby dinosaurs. Yes, I had to have the pterosaur. Funny thing, too. The first  pterosaur fossils, of Pterodactylus, were not a whole lot bigger than my beanie baby. They were about the size of sand pipers, according to the labels next to the fossils. As a kid I had imagined them as monstrous huge, which maybe said more about my imagination. But I kind of like the idea of little flying dinousaurs that I could hold in my hands. Okay, more wild imaginings.

Maybe I’ve picked up a bit of computer geek gloss, but I’m still a science nerd at my core. This is still the stuff that rocks my world. I only wish I’d had my camera with me, because they were allowing people to take pictures — something I couldn’t do last fall when I went to see the Terra Cotta Warriors.

Oh, well. I went. I saw. I marveled. Then I went back to Camp.

Of chocolate, ScienceBlogs, and Pepsi

I recently came to the sad conclusion that I must give up eating chocolate. In all its forms. Entirely. That’s a whole food group kicked out of my diet. Because I tended to overindulge, and it started making me sick. I won’t go into detail. Let me just say that the consequences of eating chocolate became increasingly unpleasant over the past several months, to the point of some acute pain. Poor, pitiful me.

It is often the case with addictive behavior, that what you crave will kick your butt sooner or later. It’s why there are twelve step programs for so many things that so many of us do in non-addictive ways. I mean, we all eat (stop and you die, in fact), but food addictions are not healthy, hence, Over-eaters Anonymous. Then there are the alcohol addicts, drug addicts, sex addicts, solar eclipse addicts (I don’t think the last group has a 12-step program yet, though). People recognize and get help for their addictions or they don’t get help and they get in trouble with the law, or with health issues, or in car versus tree arguments, or they develop some kind of physiological symptoms of substance rejection like mine. My stomach started saying “no more chocolate, or I will make you pay, and pay, and pay!

For a while after I discovered Science Blogs, a site maintained by Seed Magazine that hosted a lot of great blogs about all kinds of science written by scientists, I was an addict. I could burn up an entire day reading the different blogs, the comments — and some of the comments were like blog entries themselves. And then I’d kick myself for not spending that time doing something worthwhile in the world.

I tried subscribing to the combined RSS feed for ScienceBlogs so that I’d get a chance to read samples from all of them. I was overwhelmed. I skimmed some, skipped a lot. Then I learned how to “mark all as read” so when I found 400 articles waiting for me (which would sometimes happen if I didn’t check in for a few days), I could just deal with them with a mouse click instead of the endless scrolling and scanning. I felt bad about not actually consuming more of the content, but there was just too much.

As with chocolate, I finally had to just stop cold. I started following a couple of my favorites on Twitter and Facebook, so that I could follow links they posted to articles that looked interesting. Because at the time I was trying to figure out how to make blogging profitable for ME, at least a little; I was trying to find a “day job” so I could keep it while I learned how to make a living doing something I love, because “they” always say, “keep your day job” when someone expresses an interest in trying to make a living in a way other than the accepted norm. It always helps if you actually have a day job that you can keep. Duh.

What I eventually found was in fact an evening job — or at least a late afternoon job — and is only part time, but could actually work out better in the long run because it leaves me with enough energy to work on my other projects. But I digress.

Last week, I read a tweet by Laelaps, one of the Sblings I follow, to the effect that “David Dobbs is leaving SB, and I’m thinking I will, too.” What? So I went to David Dobbs’ Twitter page and read a few tweets, and then I followed a link to a Science Blogs article about how there was going to be a new nutrition blog on SB, authored by employees of Pepsico. And many bloggers were up in arms over it. They questioned the logic of their blog administrators in allowing what they called “advertorial content” on the site, which would lower the credibility of all the other writers. I followed the arguments back and forth for days. It didn’t take long, after ten or more writers left as a direct result of the decision, for the SB overlords to cancel the Pepsico blog (or Pepsico pulled out to avoid more negative press).

I spent more time on the SB site in three days than I had for the past year. I was on a binge. Sad thing is that the surge in readership for the site as a result of the controversy still brought in a lot more readers. And some people will say there’s no such thing as bad advertising when the results are more sales — or more interest. It certainly worked with me. Now I have to be smart and start doing my own work again, hoping I can make something that will matter not just to me, but will affect others the way chocolate and Science Blogs have affected me. LOL

Site updates

Nothing stays the same. Especially in the cyberverse. Not only does WordPress update the blogging platform, but authors of the various themes make improvements changes that they publish to the WP site, which sends out little nags to those bloggers using those themes. So I got a couple of updates to this theme. Now all the navigation is in one place, on the sidebar. Click on a tab and a dropdown menu opens, where you can click on the page title, tag, or category or whatever, to take you where you want to go. Text links now show up as orange, making them easier to see (unless you’re colorblind — then I don’t know what to tell you).

There is a new tab on the top navigation bar to link back to the home page. I had to add this because whatever functionality used to tie my logo to the home page went away. You can’t just click on the picture of the dog to go back to the home page. Maybe that will be fixed in the next update. I know it’s possible to add some code to a file to make it work in spite of the update, but these things are a lot more complex than the files I learned to work with way back at the turn of the century when I was learning HTML. I’m such a dinosaur.

Word Camp, and the whole blogging adventure

I signed up to go to this thing as soon as I heard about it. It’s going to be in Houston (not that far to drive even in an un-air-conditioned car), at the Houston Museum of Natural History (one of my favorite places on the planet), I could afford the registration fee (a considerable consideration), and I figured I could learn something from it (if I record absolutely everything and listen to it over and over and over and over…). Well, you get the picture. Because I feel like a lot of what I’ll be listening to is going to be way over my head, in a language I don’t savvy, spoken by people less than half my age. WHAT WAS I THINKING??

WordCamp, in case you’re wondering what it is but aren’t curious enough to go to their site and check it out (the picture is a link, by the way), is a one-day workshop on August 7th, devoted to all things WordPress, which is the software supporting this blog. It is big time computer geekery. It’s like a whole other country. Or species. And I’m going into the middle of it. I have volunteered to help set up the breakfast and lunch so that I’ll be forced to interact with people. Light-years out of my comfort zone.

Well, okay, here’s the deal. I’m serious about my blog. I post a lot of nutty, fluffy, frivolous stuff on here, but I’m still learning and evolving as a writer, and as an artist, and planet maker, jewelry designer, basenji wrangler, and even maybe as a web designer. So I’m thinking that whatever it takes for me to up my game in any of these endeavors is worth a little effort. Even a huge effort in some cases, as may prove to be the case here. Time will tell.