anatomy of a website: part i

Lisa, circa 1973 or 1974.
Lisa phone hacking, circa 1973 or 1974.

Dear Internet,
Whenever I make a change to the site, whether design or adding or removing of something, the first person who usually asks me “Why?” is TheHusband. We were recently discussing the addition of my “Estimated reading time:” plugin I’ve now appended to the individual posts pages (he hates it, others seem to love it) and as I often seem to do some explaining for him, and at time for others, I figured this would make an excellent post on my design process. So here we are!
If you are interested in the back end, I run WordPress, using Nginx as my web server and MariaDB as the SQL server. The theme is a child theme of Mon Cahier. We currently host at Digital Ocean (managed by TheHusband) and in addition to WordPress and server best practices, the entire site is encrypted by SSL. We use StartSSL for all of our domains. If you want more details on how we got here, this is a post I wrote in April when we left Dreamhost for Digital Ocean.  I have had several people ask if TheHusband is open to setting them up in a similar fashion and he is for a reasonable fee. If you are interested, please get in touch.
Overall Experience
The overall experience of the site is based on the following factors

  • Content/writing is main focus
  • Minimalist in design, not overwhelmed by images/video/doodads
  • Easy to navigate
  • Basic info architecture and SEO best practices in place
  • Mobile friendly
  • People should be able to read me via coming to the page, via RSS, or subscribe to an email list
  • Features I would expect an online journal to have (archives, about page, easy way to contact) should be in also be in place

I’ve flipped between the child themes of two themes: Mon Cahier and Mog for the last several months and right now I am using Mon Cahier. I haven’t found a single column theme I love, so I’m sticking with two column, right sidebar for the moment. I’m a big believer in making it easy for my readers (and for me!) to find information on the site and I want people to meander about, so getting rid of some sort of sidebar navigation kills me.
Landing Page
The landing page experience is important to me and I’ve gone back and forth on having a header or not. I adore the hell out of picture of me age 1-2 attempting to use a phone, so it’s been the mainstay on business cards and domain headers for a few years. Mon Cahier includes built in social media links at the upper right hand corner of the header space, but the newest update doesn’t seem to play well with my child theme so I’m missing a few of the sites. This is also why I have a social media plugin in the right hand sidebar.
Below the header is my main navigation bar, which is also important to me as I wanted an easy way for people to navigate other content on the site. The big thing here is that I wanted it to be compact – I don’t want rows and rows of navigation, so having child navigation was a must. Here is how the menu is broken down

  • hello – My about page. Gives you a summary of who I am, a fairly recognizable picture of me, and other little tidbits.
  • projects – These are the project landing pages of a few things I keep on the site and acts as the default location for something that doesn’t fit quite anywhere else.
  • writing – break down of all, primarily fiction, writing including poetry, prose, works in progress, historical work, and at the bottom is listing of all blog posts I’ve written on the topic of writing and is updated on the fly.
  • archives The heart of the site –  nearly every entry ever written by me, spanning across several previous incarnations over nearly two decades, all here at the site. Dating back to the late ’90s, it’s a Lisa wonderland of delight and amusement. When I talk about The Lisa Chronicles project, I’m talking about getting the archives back up which has been a slow process.
  • contact – Simply put, how to get in touch with me. While you’re more than welcome to reach out via social media, I found readers were more apt to fill out a form then send an email or tweet which I think is because of the anonymity of the form.

Below the main navigation bar is the two column set up – one for the content, and the other is the sidebar. Because I’m now writing daily, and not to overwhelm readers, I keep the most current entry on the front page. Two widgets in the sidebar help with previous content navigation: one showing the last five entries and the other showing the top pages on the site, updated from the last 24-48 hours.
The content column is built around these principles:

  • The title is taken from something out of context, for a long time they were from definitions of various things in the Icelandic sagas, sometimes obscure word definitions from the OED, song lyrics, and every once in a while, the title actually reflects what I’m talking about!1
  • Below the title is the date of publication and Mon Cahier main theme is overriding my removal of the byline addition, which isn’t needed here since I’m the only person writing.
  • Every entry in the current stylistic format:
    [image sourced from Creative Commons]
    Dear Internet,
    [CONTENT]
    x0x0,
    Lisa
    This day in Lisa-Universe: Year, Year, Year

    The images and the “This day in Lisa-Universe” are rather new editions within the last few months. I liked the idea of adding in an image from my collection or creative commons collection of something unusual or unexpected to go with the content. I also wanted people to be able to find content from the same day in previous years because I thought that would be a neat feature since I have so much.
    The “Dear Internet” was not used in previous incarnations of my online journal, but I began to use it at the beginning of this one because I found a lot of conversational letters that I never published written to famous & fictional people, written as if we were the best of friends. I liked the idea of the juxtaposition of something old (a letter to a person) mixed with the new (the person is the Internet).

  • Footer metadata is found in the landing page entry such as categories and tags. Comment link and totals are located at the byline metadata at the top of the entry.
  • Below the footer metadata is a link to the previous entry. Since I have it set to show one entry at a time, if you wanted to read the previous entries in order, you would go entry by entry. I would recommend going to the archives and clicking on a month or year to get all of them on a single page instead.
  • Beginning in August 2013 I started using SEO, I use All in One SEO, like a reasonable adult and every entry and page from that point forward now has SEO best practices appended to it. Because the sheer amount of published entries (nearly 600!), as I come across older entries I need to edit for some reason, I’m applying SEO to them as well. I have no plans to go through and do all entries at this time.
  • Every entry has a proper category and at least one tag. Because I’ve moved around so much in my youth, I now append a city tag to all entries of the city I’m currently living in to easily find. So if you ever wondered why entries say “Grand Rapids” or “San Francisco” or “NoVa,” that is why.

For the sidebar, I wanted to make it clean and uncluttered. I currently do not plan on nor intend on having ads, but I may do a tip jar or a donation page later down the road when more of my fiction is up. I also stopped linking back to other people not because I don’t love them, but many were abandoning their sites or stopped writing or something else entirely. I wanted the sidebar to also be accessible on all pages and not just the landing page or just the individual entries.

  • Search – Non-negotiable. If you don’t have a search function on your site, I’m not going to stay and visit.
  • Social media links – A plugin called Simple Social Plugins, which uses pure CSS to do the design. I wanted something easily to configure and fairly robust. Simple Social does that pretty well and while it’s missing a few sites I’d like people to find me at, such as GoodReads, it does a good job of hitting the basics. It also includes email, which I’ve linked to my contact form, and a RSS option.
  • Blog subscription – Provided by the Jetpack plugin, allows people to subscribe to email version of the site and they get emailed the post every time I update.
  • Recent posts – Last five posts, in chronological order, that were published. This is configurable to as little or as many as you’d like.
  • Popular Posts – Current top five posts, based on stats from the last 24 – 48 hours. I like this as it shows how interests in various things change on the site.
  • Creative Commons license – I am Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported, which means the content here is free for you to use, along with attribution back to me, but is not available to be remixed and cannot be used for commercial purposes without my permission.

That’s it for today! Tomorrow I am going to cover individual entries, pages, plugins, process and promotion.
x0x0,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe: 2010, 1998


1. General SEO practice recommends you use keywords of your topic within the title and within the first few sentences of your piece for search bots. As you can see, I don’t do that but I do put in practice SEO description and keywords using a plugin, so all is not lost.

The art of judging character or telling a person’s fortune from the forehead or face

Bors' Dilemma – he chooses to save a maiden rather than his brother Lionel. From  Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, via Wikipedia.
Bors’ Dilemma – he chooses to save a maiden rather than his brother Lionel.
From Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, via Wikipedia.

Dear Internet,
I woke Sunday morning buried under the covers and clinging to TheHusband. With my penchant to sleep late on weekends, to make up for the shortened sleep cycles during the week, I was surprised to find it was barely 9AM. The clawing fear of sinking deep again has abated for the morning, but hangs over me like a terrible rain cloud. It was not helped when as I was preparing for bed last night, I remembered I was teaching a college-wide class this week and needed to finish the prep work, thus my anxiety shot through the roof.
After getting out of bed, and spending several hours of catching up on newspaper reading, both this weeks and past editions, TheHusband and I began the yearly house cleaning. We’re having friends over this weekend for the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary, then the following weekend is Thanksgiving which will mean people will be coming and going all weekend. With the addition of my mother-in-law is coming between Christmas and New Year,  we could not procrastinate any longer.
In the past, we’ve divided up the housework one to two days, which is overwhelming for two people in a house as large as Throbbing Manor. TheHusband’s recommendation this year was to break it up into chunks, and pace it over a week, and we decided to start in the Rumpus room in the basement and work our way up.
The Rumpus Room and other rooms in the basement were to get a once over on Saturday, but we ended up not getting to it so we tacked it on to today’s work. Within a couple of hours, we had swept, vacuumed, mopped, dusted, and sorted the Rumpus room, foyer into the Rumpus room, stairs and landings down to the basement, the upstairs pre-foyer and foyer, first floor living room, solarium, and dining room. Monday is the kitchen and downstairs bathroom, Tuesday will be the stairs and landing connecting the first and second floors, then Wednesday will be our bedroom and respective bathrooms. Thursday I’ll be on campus for roughly 12 hours as I’ve organized an author’s reading so no cleaning, and I’m off on Friday. So whatever we don’t absolutely get done will be done on Friday and allow for any other errands I need to run.
We were done with Sunday’s bits within a few hours, which beats the usually 8-10 hours it takes us to get the whole house down, giving us time to do whatever else we planned for the rest of the day. The one task I’ve been dreading all week is responding to my mother, and after much discussion with my shrink about it, opted to send her a decline to her dinner invite for Thanksgiving. I wrote something along the lines that I appreciated the thought, but we must respectfully decline and perhaps another time in the new year. Maybe I’ll be up for talking to her then, maybe I’ll be up to sorting us out, but not now. Not here. Not because my brother is desperate for our family to be whole.
As I paid bills, and did a few other administrative tasks, I kept an eye on the weather – ready to run down to the basement, the dog under my armpit, at the very last minute if need be.
Grand Rapids did not get the brunt end of the storm band as some areas did, but the wind was obnoxious and the rain, sometimes mixed with hail, pelted against the house. TheHusband predicted the storm would passed us by quickly, which it did, but several hours later we’re now getting the second wave. I’m grateful we didn’t get hit hard, and it seems no one I know across the storm’s path were in trouble. Many blessings were sent to the gods and fates for sparing us today.
I fretted, as I always do, about the safety of the house – did shingles get ripped off in the storm, did a leak spring up, did something happen that I may not have been aware of? TheHusband tutted my fears – the house is made of brick and has stood for 90 years and will probably stand for 90 more. He then pretended we were one of the three little pigs and the wind was the big, bad wolf. TheHusband huffed and puffed, and the house did not fall down.
xoxo,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe: 2010, 2010, 2009

with nuts

Medieval dentistry, from the Omne Bonum (England - 1360-1375). Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Medieval dentistry, from the Omne Bonum (England – 1360-1375).
Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Dear Internet,
It is said eating chocolate causes the brain to release endorphins, the chemicals known to make us feel good. I have concluded this is a lie as I just ate half a thing of brownies and I’m still in a murderous rage.
Somewhere between dinner and shopping Saturday evening, a conversation triggered my mood and I spent the remaining time out with TheHusband in a kill zone. A hushed argument in the middle of the bakery, a near silent 15 minute drive home (he was breathing very loud!), and an even quieter rest of the evening couldn’t shake this whatever it was I was fuming on about. Because honestly, I don’t even know.
I knew my good run of a somewhat semi-happy existence for the last month was coming to an end late last week when I started to feel the clawing pull of the sads as the week wore on. It seemed no matter how much I fought it, brief thoughts flicked across my mind that I don’t want to be here, everything sucks, I need to leave, no one loves or gets me, and the whole world can go to hell. I wish there was one event or fuck, several events that tripped me this week but there was actually much good news and excitement (some of which I cannot reveal just yet) so I’m chalking it up to my moods flipping again.
This is how the disease works, without warning the mental anguish swims against your skin, the rapid train of thought in its varying degrees of self-hatred and self-doubt become your daily mantra. The easy willingness to give up on what you’re working on or for because somehow it will make your life easier (it won’t) and will save you from potential ridicule (the only ridicule is in your head), and of course the ever present sads that seem to always cling close to your brain like a child hugging a teddy bear.
It is during these days, the struggle to remain upright and living becomes harder and physically exhausting. Just putting myself together to get through the day is sometimes the best victory I can ask for.
x0x0,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe: 1997

Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes for November 16, 2013

Johann Georg Hainz's Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Johann Georg Hainz’s Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

During the Renaissance, cabinet of curiosities came into fashion as a collection of objects that would often defy classification. As a precursor to the modern museum, the cabinet referred to room(s), not actual furniture, of things that piqued the owners interest and would be collected and displayed in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes is my 21st century interpretation of that idea.
 
Dear Internet,

Watching

Weekly watching: DraculaProject Runway All-Stars,  Breathless, AtlantisMasters of SexElementaryMarvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.Sleepy HollowSurvivorDownton AbbeyBoardwalk Empire, Doc Martin, QIPeaky Blinders,  Sons of Anarchy,  The Vampire Diaries

Links

What have you read/watched/listened to this week?
x0x0,
lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe in: 1998

I have a vagina, watch me use a computer

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.

Oscar Wilde

Dear Internet,
The New York Times recently published an article in its economy section about the status of women in technology. The perspective of the article is much like what has written about this topic before: Women are poorly represented in computer science fields, we’re less likely to obtain a computer science degree for X reasons, and if we do end up with a CS degree and work in the fields we’ve just trained for, we’re going to be underpaid in comparison to our male counterparts for the exact same job.
None of this is news. In fact, much of what was written could be hauled out and regurgitated for just about any other male dominated profession when pitting women against the men.
As I was reading this, I began taking umbrage with a lot of what the author was inferring, stating, and implying. It is not necessarily much of what she was writing about was incorrect or nonfactual, there are some points she’s made that I agree with, but her piss poor research model, her inability to look outside of the traditional path for education, and her broad stroke generalized comments got, as TheHusband would say, my vagina in an uproar.
As English majors round the world are often known to say, let’s unpack this shit.
“Writing code and designing networks are also a lot more portable than nursing, teaching and other traditional pink-collar occupations.”
I won’t disagree computing is a portable skill, but I would argue it is not more portable than nursing, teaching, or “pink-collar” (who actually says this?) occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer programmers are only projected 12% growth by 2020 while nursing is at 26% and teaching is roughly at 17%. The projected growth is an estimate of how fast the profession is growing, the number of jobs available, and the sub career paths being created as new job markets open up.
The other part of the problem I have with this is that computer science is much more than just writing code and designing networks and yet almost every article I’ve ever read that brays on this topic, regardless if it is about gender in tech or not, narrows their discussion to just those two options.
“Yet just 0.4 percent of all female college freshmen say they intend to major in computer science.” “Today, just a quarter of all Americans in computer-related occupations are women.”
I have a particular problem with this corollary because not all who go into computers are their main career choice obtain a traditional education in that field, and this applies to men AND women. I’m not strong in maths by any stretch of the imagination, but her figures don’t add up. You can’t lead with shocking claim that less than one percent of women are going into computer science as their preferred major  and yet jump  to 25% of Americans in computer related occupations are women.
When I worked at UUnet in the late ’90s/early ’00s, maybe 1 in 15 had a degree in CS. Almost ALL, men and women,  were college educated with a major in something else (mainly liberal arts degrees) and were either self-taught or learned on the job. This does NOT discount certification, which is different since certification is very specific to a particular hardware or software. And many, many employers were and still are more interested in your certification then your undergraduate degree program. A decade later, many of those I’ve met who work in a computer science field of some kind, almost all did so by the aforementioned method: An interest turned into a passion, which became then the new career path.
When I was talking about the NYT article with TheHusband, he echoed comments I’ve heard from men and women in the field: Those who have CS degrees are less likely to be good at their jobs than those who do not. The reasoning is that seemingly many CS degreed workers do not learn how to hack, explore, and troubleshoot, or even think outside the box, which are super critical skills in this field.
As I was going over my post this morning with one of my BFFs, Kate, who works as a systems admin for a large corporation. Kate admins UNIX, Linux, AS400, and storage servers and she forwarded me an email she received from her DBA recently:

To: Kate
From: DBA
Subject: Error when doing SSH to DB
Could you look into it?
ssh dba@yermom
The authenticity of host 'yermom (10.0.12.8)' can't be established.
RSA key fingerprint is 0e:d8:df:31:26:2b:90:f1:75:51:7d:2e:a7:5a:bd:d0.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)?

(All identifying information has been stripped.)
The above example illustrates WHY it’s important to learn how to troubleshoot and discover. Now I’m not advocating against getting a traditional education, but I am saying the computing industry is very much a hands on experience, willingness to go outside your comfort zone and get dirty job which will go much farther in advancing your career then just a four-year degree.
You don’t necessarily need a traditional four-year degree to break into the field either. The diversity, hard and soft skills, and availability of career pathways, with the fact most of the technology is still so new and constantly changing, is what makes this field exciting and easily accessible.  And the help available on just about anything from coding to engineering to network design and everything in-between is easily accessible online or in print, and there is always, ALWAYS websites and groups built around the support of self-study. The internet is the largest purveyor of study halls, ever.
Ergo: hack your education.
One of the biggest challenges, according to many in the industry, may be a public-image problem. Most young people, like Allen, simply don’t come into contact with computer scientists and engineers in their daily lives, and they don’t really understand what they do. 
This statement is so damn generalizing – again, could be applied to many professions like my current one: librarians. Personally, I don’t come into contact with people in every field every day, and there are large swathes of fields and industries I didn’t even know existed until well, I found out about them whether by meeting someone who works in that field, coming across something I read, or something else entirely. Yet I can’t help think this is true for most people as well. But this isn’t necessarily a public image problem, but an information literacy issue.  If we teach people how to research and to discover, the propositions of what they know and don’t know will shift.

There is, of course, no pop-culture corollary for computer science.

There is, of course, no pop-culture corollary for computer science.

There is, of course, no pop-culture corollary for computer science.

You cannot, seriously, make connections that computer programmers are thought of as Dilbert, a cartoon that is widely popular, and then go on to say this. That’s just incredibly stupid.
Computer culture and nerd culture are not mutually exclusive, but there is A LOT of shared similarities. You will almost always find a computer geek who is a nerd and a nerd who is a computer geek. But let’s start talking about this “no pop-culture corollary for computer science” and how it’s absolutely proves the author of the article could not even be arsed to Google.
By no means a complete list, shows/movies with where computers/inteneting/related fields are near a primary focus:

  • The Big Bang Theory – Highly popular TV show about male geeks who hack and love along with their fellow female geeks
  • The IT Crowd – Cult hit UK show that is widely revered in the US about two geeks and their non-geeky boss at a vaguely evil corporation
  • Veronica Mars – Cult show in the US about a teenage Nancy Drew meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who’s best friends with female  hacker
  • Whiz Kids – 1983 TV show about young group of computer experts, including a girl, who play detectives. I LOVED this show.
  • Wargames – 1983 film starring Matthew Broderick about a young genius who hacks into a Pentagon-like network and almost begins WW III
  • The Social Network – 2010 film about the founding of Facebook
  • The Net – 1995 film starring Sandra Bullock about a female computer programmer whose life gets hacked
  • Tron – 1982 film about a hacker transported to the digital world where he needs to fight for his life in a  gladiator type game
  • Antitrust – 2001 film with Ryan Phillippe that is a thinly veiled look at Microsoft
  • The Lone Gunmen – Failed spin-off of the X-Files about well, The Lone Gunman, Mulder and Scully’s personal geek squad
  • Matrix 1, 2, 3 – Did you take the red pill or the blue pill?
  • Hackers – 1995 film starring pubescent Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie as young hackers in love
  • Millennium Trilogy / The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Both the original Swedish and US versions are excellent. Central plot around a murder that may or may not happen, but the show is stolen by Lisbeth Salander, the ultra hacker to end all hackers.

Fictional female computer geeks/hackers in film/tv/comics. A Google search came up with over 95M results and the top results list site after site of current articles compiled by big, popular sites such as The Mary Sue and Flavorwire:

I trolled the internet and got lots of other great responses of fictional female hackers ranging from comics to anime to movies and TV shows. Are women under represented in geeky pop culture? Without a fucking doubt, but they do exist. However, to say there is no general pop culture connections or to say there is no fictional outlets to discover female computer geeks is egregious.
I also want to point out many of the above movies and TV shows are popular not within the circles they wish to emulate, but widely watched by variety of different people.
Lastly I noticed the authors quotes were either anonymous, “People in the industry say…,” or were mainly from men. How can you seriously write an article about women in technology and use penis bearers as your definitive source of information on what is happening in the field and expect to be taken seriously? How?
A couple of weeks ago, I proposed lots and lots of ways to start moving past the ballyhooing of the issue and start fixing the issue. I would also add

  • Buy female hacker positive materials such as the TV shows and films listed above as well as books, manga, and more to illustrate that female computer geeks do live in the pop culture world
  • Start a zine aimed at young women and girls as another

The only way the perception and culture of women in computing changes if we start actively making those changes we want to see. We need less of the, “oh woe is us” and more “what are we going to do to fix this damn problem.”
Keep the conversation moving forward.
x0x0,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe in: 1998

jewel in the realm

A painting of the bhavacakra. Courtsey of Wikipedia Creative Commons.
A painting of the bhavacakra.
Courtsey of Wikipedia Creative Commons.

Dear Internet,
For you word stat nerds out there, I’ve written nearly 11,000 words in the last 13 days or about 826 words a day. This is not too shabby considering I had no word goal in mind, but I am pleased this is closer to the 1k mark. If this were NaNoWriMo, I would be half a month behind already – the average per day to make your 50K word count at the end of the month is 1666 words per day. This is the first time in a long time, if ever, that I’ve posted something every day for any specific amount of time. That’s worthy of a,”Fuck yeah!”  if I ever heard of one.
The week is catching up with and  as it progresses, I find myself becoming more of the dutiful old lady than I care to admit. My schedule has been pretty regulated with early morning appointments and teaching assignments.  I get up when the alarm goes off, I get dressed, I have my usual breakfast, head to my first appointment, and out of my rest of my day, 75% will be split up between teaching, meetings, and manning the reference desk. I try to keep up on everything but I will be always perpetually behind. When I get home, I prep for the next day, have dinner, and then shut down until I fall sleep.
I’m currently having a love affair with our hot air popcorn popper, to the point I’ve started eschewing dinner and head to the main attraction instead. I eat a lot of popcorn, several bags a day and it got to the point TheHusband finally made the suggestion I should probably get the hot air popper to streamline my consumption process. I blame my mother for her love of the stuff, of which she ate tons of while pregnant with me.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         I’m starting to fall asleep at the computer so I’ll keep this short and bid you adieu.
x0x0,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe:

brain freeze ice freeze

At least Jeeves is helpful.
At least Jeeves is helpful.

 
Dear Internet,
There is a phenomenon that is often referred to brain freeze or zap, in which a bolt of electricity can shoot across your brain unexpectedly. Different people describe differently things, but for me it’s like an ice pick was jammed in my head and then removed rather quickly. I rarely get them, rare enough that I don’t even document them. On Monday, I got two. When the second happened, nearly 12 hours from the first, I was in bed reading email and I knew whatever I wanted to do, I had to shut down the computer and go to bed.
It was a strange blessing I wrote chocolate, chicago, train in a fit of insomnia the previous night, I was dead asleep, with an achy brain, almost immediately and then slept for 9.5 hours. I naturally woke up shortly after 5AM on Tuesday morning. But now it is after midnight on Tuesday night, and I’m just now writing my Wednesday entry. If I sound confusing at times, you were warned.
I was able to secure Wednesday The Pug a vet appointment on Tuesday to check into her balding patterns and get her bi-annual check-up. At 13.5, she is still remarkably healthy and the vet thinks the hair loss is part of her prednisone consumption (which we’re now halving) and she picked up some kind of skin infection, all cured by antibiotics. The price of her vet check up, which included blood draws, labs, drugs, and a few other things, took a good chunk of the savings I was able to pull for the month. I’m glad I can afford to take care of her and pay for her needs in cash but I’m frustrated because it seems whenever I have a few extra bucks, something happens.
On our way to the vet, the low tire pressure light came on the driver side right tire and wouldn’t go off. The first winter I had Jeeves, all four lights came on one particular cold morning and I had a massive panic attack on what to do, because no one tells you this is going to happen. Turns out the TPM device gets off-set with sever weather changes, which can be reset by the MINI dealer.
This time around, instead of hyperventilating because the TPM was off, I went to the first gas station available. Broken gauge. Drove to my second gas station. Also broken air pump gauge. At this point I’m within a mile of the dealership and hurrah for run flats! Off to the MINI dealer I went. I can drive a hundred miles with flat tire and not fuck my rims!
Turns out the tire pressure in the driver’s side front tire was actually the correct PSI but as the others were a few ticks above, the driver’s side was then registering it was under pressured. Once we got this sorted, the MINI shop clerk (who was a girl!), showed me how to check my oil and then she filled up my window wiper fluid. As an aside, on my way back from Monterey, I sat next to a mechanic who told me he used to work at a government base that was located across the street from a gas station. After watching several hundred cars come in and fill up, he noted that not one person checked their oil. Nothing like potentially running my timing chain will get met to pull out that dip stick.
At this rate, I just need a swiss army life and duct tape and then I can solve everything!
x0x0,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-universe:

chocolate, chicago, train

Dear Internet,
Rude. Shit stirrer. Abrasive. Confrontational. Asshole. Mean. Purposeful troublemaker. Troll. Judgmental. Hater.
I’m sure I’m missing a few adjectives, but that’s a handful of the ones I’ve been called, at least to my face and that I know about, in the last few years.
I have an opinion. I always have an opinion. If I don’t have an opinion it is more than likely I don’t understand or am aware of something so the next step for me is to ask you, the explainer, to explain what it is you’re going on about so I can go and form an opinion of my own. If you don’t like the fact I’m asking for an explanation or to question your reasoning or you don’t like my tone (which apparently can be magically conveyed and nuanced over text because you are just that good), then I’m the condescending asshole who dared question your benevolent, everlasting wisdom. Or a jealous individual who is simply hating on your good fortune.
For quite sometime I’ve been watching from my digital grass, binoculars in hand, how people react to me and also to each other when the aforementioned scenarios show up. I found the following to be true: If you ask for someone to explain themselves when they state something as absolute, most often times they can’t offer up that explanation. Not always, not everyone, but enough that I’ve begun to wonder if anyone actually knows what the hell they are saying anymore.
If I disagree with an opinion, or ask you to further explain, it’s not with malevolent intent. I promise. I double pinky swear I’m not out to take you down like a deer to a rabbit. It is not to make you feel stupid, it is not to make you treat you with less respect, it is not to be harmful, or to troll you. But if I cannot formulate a response to your statements it is more than likely I don’t understand your point, angle, reasoning, or any other related synonym. If one person doesn’t understand your point of view, what is the likelihood others will?
I’m not quite sure what has been dropped into the water as of late, but I grow weary of constantly seeing others, not just me, treated like we’re the anathemas of society. I’m not a troll apologist, and there are some truly pretty shitty people who are out there, but there is a large swathe of land between being an actual troll and those looking for our questions to be answered. The problem, and one that is increasing, is that we become so wrapped up on protecting ourselves in a public space that ANYONE who so much as throws us perceived digital shade is a flaming asshole.
Even professing an opposite opinion on popular somethings can also carry its own burden. I’ve been called an uncultured moron for not liking Arrested Development and the person was dead serious.
The brassiness of my tactics are not for the fainthearted and that stems from living with my husband for so many years. TheHusband is not a sedate man by any stretch of the imagination and he is adamant, especially when my ADHD is running at full speed, that I compose, clarify, and make succinct when I speak. “I went chocolate, Chicago, train” may sound like gibberish to you, but in my head I hear, “I went to Chicago, on a train, and while in Chicago bought some great chocolate.” My own self-awareness of my problematic word retrieval which can spill into my thought process puts me on high alert for this sort of thing. I also know I am not perfect and I’m just as guilty of braying, OH MY GOD THIS PERSON IS ATTACKING ME WITH THEIR QUESTIONS, for no good reason. But if it not unreasonable to expect my husband or anyone to question me if something I say is not clear, why is it totally unreasonable to question others with the same respect?
What I ask from now on, of myself and of you, is that if someone asks or responds to your statements with a question to probe or rebuttal, before going into defense mode – stop. Listen to what they have to say and think about the question or statement made to you. It is TOTALLY okay, as much as I or I’m sure anyone would like to not to admit, to be wrong. It is totally okay to hear a totally different point of view and meld it with your own or be swayed by someone else’s point. It is totally okay to reject what is being said to you if you disagree.  It is also totally okay, as much as I hate to admit it, to ignore that person altogether if you don’t wish to engage.
But it’s never not been okay is to demean or treat anyone who disagrees with you like they are the problem, verbally or otherwise. It is not okay to be a coward or use passive aggressive tactics to undermine someone. It is never okay to use ad hominem attacks or any variation thereof. It’s never okay to be a narrow minded jerk when you profess to be an open minded individual. And especially never okay to start spreading rumors and gossip about someone because they do not align with your ideologies and called you out on it.
We’re all dying to be heard, to be understood, and to be listened.  But if you aren’t willing to engage in methods that will get you heard, listened to, and understood then why are you here?
xoxo,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-universe: 1998

jolly hockey sticks

I'll love you every step of the way.

I'll love you every step of the way.
Street graffiti, Fountain / Division, Grand Rapids.

Dear Internet,
I wished the other day for a burger cooked in pork fat, Friday I got my wish. Work husband #3 and I have a monthly standing lunch date which was happening that week and he suggested we meet at Reserve. The menu was a message from the gods since a large number of the plates were Lisa-friendly AND then there were the aforementioned burgers and fries cooked in pork fat; I was starry eyed on my walk down to the restaurant.
The burger and two helping of fries and lots of good conversation later, I felt full. Uncomfortably full. To work off some of the deliciousness, work husband #3 suggested we walk over to Vault of Midnight, the GR arm of the famous Ann Arbor comic book store, to check out the latest comics. After that, we grabbed coffees at Madcap before heading back to our separate work destinations.
Protip: Making an audible comment in an artisanal coffee shop that pour over coffee is nothing more than fancy drip, earns you dirty looks in said coffee shop.
But they do make a damn fine mocha.
A good Friday was had, but I could not shake the feeling of over fullness – which isn’t surprising given I had not had any meat or animal products the entire week. The uncomfortable feeling turned into queasiness and didn’t go away. There is no dinner for me Friday night and no breakfast on Saturday.
TheHusband and I went to a birthday party Saturday night, which was held at a local bar that served food. After barely eating since lunch on Friday, my eyes were as big as dinner plates and I ordered too much heavy food on a stomach that was already not feeling awesome. This was going to become a potential pattern of solid plant diet during the week and meat lovers delight on the weekends. The lesson learned is even when being mindful when eating something you’ve been depriving your body for a while, the sensitiveness of your stomach will kick into overdrive.
[And no, I am not going to go vegan. The momentary sensitivity after eating a tasty, delicious bacon burger is totally worth the price of admission.]
It was a quiet social weekend but a busy domestic one. TheHusband and I decided to turn our solarium, which I tried to capture as my writing office, into a meditative space for him (and for me), which meant spending quality time at a local garden shop figuring out plants. He wants to go back to one of the very original ideas we had upon our move in by turning the room into a meditative space with mainly plants of various flavors and sizes to create the desired tranquil environment. I do currently use the room for my own yoga and meditative practices, so when TheHusband suggested we turn it into a global meditative space, I couldn’t really object. We’re attempting to utilize as much of the space we have as possible, but we know at some point with the next few years, this house as lovely as it is, is going up for sale.
This summer after putting the writing space together, and a few haphazard attempts at using it, I then spent the rest of the summer at the cabin. School started in August, time was unprioritized but not entirely unfruitful, but I still wasn’t using the room as I had intended. And right now I’m splitting my writing time between my proper office and our bedroom since my flat ass doesn’t take kindly to the chair I have in the curated space. Ideally, I’d like to move the writing work outside the house to a co-workspace or something along those lines sometime in the future.
We’re noticing WednesdayThePug has started shedding large amounts of hair and it is not just her summer into winter coat. But instead of regaining replacement hair, she’s going bald in random parts of her body. I noticed it during the summer, but the bald spots didn’t seem get bigger or multiply until recently. Her attitude, food, and bathroom habits haven’t changed, but as she seems to continue to lose more hair at a faster rate than in the summer, I’m going to book her in with the vet this week to check on that and to get her shots up to date. Fingers crossed it could be as simple as age or the effect of her daily 1/2 dose of prednisone is finally catching up with her. She is 13.5 years old, which is bordering on extraordinary for a pug whose median age is 11.
I’m not very confident she’ll make it through the winter due to her existing arthritis, hip dysplasia, and other health issues even though she’s constantly in good spirits, will slit your throat for a pizza crust, and waits every day at the door for me to come home from work. She’s had a few close calls with death in the last few years, of which all she’s rebounded quite majestically from, but she’s torn my heart out enough with her illnesses that I feel as though I have grieved already for her many times over. I’m not attempting to be cruel or cold, but more matter of fact as I also know that once she’s gone, whether naturally or because we had to put her down due to health reasons, I will be an emotional wreck. I’ve had her for 1/3 of my life and she’s been my most constant companion and my best friend during all of that time, even if her farts can clear a room.
Well that forked path was cheery.
It’s quite late now and I’ve made the mistake an hour ago of checking the weather forecast and discovered it is going to snow sometime between now and sunrise. As much as I complain, as much as I hate driving or dealing with it, snow is quite beautiful to watch. From afar. Preferably in a house or other locale. I’m kind of sad I’ll miss tonights flurries, no matter how brief. But I will say I am looking forward to winter break in December where I’ll have nearly a whole month to watch flurries all to my little heart’s content.
x0x0,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe: 2009, 1998

thank you for reading

The Vatican Secret Archive.  Courtesy of The Vatican Secret Archives, Vdh Books
The Vatican Secret Archive.
Courtesy of The Vatican Secret Archives, Vdh Books

Dear Internet
The other day I was checking my stats and noticed that a lonely/stalking/creepy/admiring soul had decided to go through my entire archive and read every single thing I had written. They went through 500+ pages ranging back to 1995 — and that is just what’s up online. If you go through the archive, you realise there are large swathes of time missing: months in some years, years in some decades.
I was both pleased as punch and alternately creeped out.
Conversation has been happening on Facebook about the steady stream of writing that has been coming from me as of late, and I responded to a friends comment with the following:

It IS true I get more commentary/page views when the shit is deep, but it’s mentally and emotionally exhausting to keep digging that ditch every day. I’m not sitting in a corner thinking deep thoughts all day erry day, and most people aren’t either.
Modern wisdom seems to be to have a singular mission with your site and keep on with that mission. So if you’re on about dairy free cooking, bee keeping, or whatever – that is all you’re going to (mainly) talk about. That’s how most of the big name bloggers tend to operate and it works for them. But frankly, that’s not how I operate and once I gave myself the permission to write about whatever I damn well please, writing has become a helluva lot easier.

Up until I published Live Action Sexual Harassment, EPbaB had a couple of of goals, the main being to aggressively document my mental and physical health, which so far has been fairly successful. Secondly was to document the little things and not so little things that happen in my life. Like many who keep their journals online with an eye to a public view, I also came up with a few different series’ that seem to be appreciated by the public such as my weekly wrap-up of my interests at Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes,  The Packing Lists series which always gets a lot of comments and views, and my erratically updated So, You Want To Be A Librarian/Archivist series which remains fairly popular. A few other series include Le Mi Passioni which documents the things that I love and Kalendae Januariae about the small and not so small changes I want to make to my life.
So while I’ve been writing online for a very long time (my 16th anniversary is next year!), I am no where near readership that I once was or could be. I know this is for a lot of reasons: Domain name changes, blog name changes, lost of interest by the readers, I stopped writing for a few years, and probably a few more other reasons to add to this list. In the year since I’ve started becoming more assertive in writing more regularly, my readership grows at small, but steady, clip. I was, and still am, pleased with the content I’m writing. I was, and still am, thrilled when people say they are inspired, touched, or moved by what I write.
None of that has changed and will never change.
But sometimes you feel, as you do, what is the point of all this, really? When I started doing this online writing thing in the late ’90s, it was a novel act that no one would ever imagine in becoming a way of life. Defining a “blog” now tends to come to mean a product or a brand, less about content, even less about writing, and more about selling and page views.
I don’t see myself as a brand. Or a product. But I supposed you could style what I do as any of those things when people email me to thank on the advice for being dairy free, or they found something else useful on my site. The service you could present I am selling is me and my experiences, which is not necessarily a bad thing since those experiences are freely available.
Then Live Action Sexual Harassment happened.
I wrote Live Action Sexual Harassment right after I came home from the pub, in Evernote on my iPad because my laptop was almost dead. I did not care if it was polished, grammatically correct, or even coherent. I had something to say and I needed to get out. Then. Now.
My charging brick had been dead once I got to Monterey a few days before and my laptop was nearly half out of juice when I discovered the dead brick. If I could squeak out five minutes out of the damn battery, maybe even less, to get the entry into WordPress and get it formatted and published, I would have been thrilled. Several of the WP management apps for the iPad are bonkers, and I had already lost some previous work when trying to get previous offerings up. But I had to get it written and if I could not get into my site while in California, I would do it when I came home.
I woke up Wednesday morning, booted up my laptop for the last time that trip, and was able to get the entry in, formatted, and published. I had few spare battery moments to create a few tweets to be pushed out later in the day and also enough time to double check for spelling and grammar errors before the final publishing. Once I was satisfied everything was to my expectations, I closed down my laptop and started getting ready for the day.
The entry posted mid-morning on Wednesday and within hours, my site had already eclipsed its previous record for day page views. By the end of the calendar day, the entry, and my site, would have earned 10x the traffic it would normally would have seen. In addition to the site traffic, the original tweet was RT several dozen times and variations of of that tweet pointing to the work was close to double that number.
Within a couple of hours of posting, and I was on the conference floor, I became known as “the girl who wrote that post.” Strangers I had never met approached me and talked about being brave, raw, and honest. I got emails, tweets, and comments from friends and strangers about similar things happening to them.
Having experiencing some notoriety in the late ’90s for exposing a hacker fraud, a similar chain of events had happened: I was found first, then I wrote something, I went viral, page and reader views skyrocketed, then levelled out for awhile, my life went insane, readership slowed down and then petered out.
To answer my previous question of, “What is this all for, really?” – the answer remains, and will always remain, to express myself in the only way possible. Some days it is going to be fluff, and other days it’s going to be depressing, and some others a combination of both or something entirely different. There is no theme here – unless you count the theme as me. There is no agenda – unless you count self-expression as an agenda. Some days, like today, the content is going to flow. Other days it will be halting and broken. Pitch perfect grammar, flow, and spelling and then broken words, missed commas, and lost trains of thought.
But that is how life works – nothing is always properly formatted, coherent, or sometimes even sustainable. If you are looking for a confessional, conversational tone, and often deeply revealing look into one person’s life, with occasional foray into the silly: I’m your girl.
And thank you for reading.
x0x0,
Lisa
P.S. Someone once asked me how long it takes to write an entry so I thought I’d eyeball the time for this one: From conception (a comment I posted on FB that sparked the post), to finding the image, writing, editing, re-editing, more editing, polishing, and formatting took me under two hours. The chunk of it was consecutive, but the last hour was broken up over several hour gaps while I was doing something. Total word count: 1300. On average, I can write clean 750 words an hour.

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