Archive for the 'blog' Category



So here’s a blog post about my blog. Specifically, about how comments are handled here.

I love when readers comment on posts here—partly because I think of this space as a conversation, not a monologue; and partly because it’s nice to know that someone else out there is reading this stuff. (If I wanted to write only for myself, I’d start a LiveJournal and set the privacy level on each post to “Just Me.”)

My own philosophy is that if someone goes to the trouble to read and comment on a post, I owe them a response. I’ve tried a couple of approaches to responding to comments, and until now haven’t been happy with either of them.

At first, I used to post my responses in the comment threads themselves. But unless the previous commenters come back to check the thread, they never see what I wrote. And because remembering to check back for follow-up comments can be a PITA, most people don’t do this.*

Next, I tried the approach of responding to comments directly by e-mail. This ensured that each commenter saw my response to what he or she wrote, but doesn’t do much to foster dialogue among readers. I’m not saying I expect commenters to write essays to each other. But it can be a lot of fun when one comment inspires another and the next thing you know there are interesting things going on that aren’t necessarily related to the original post.

So to make things easier for all of us—me, regular readers, people stopping by for the first time, anyone—to converse here, in early February I added a nifty plugin to this blog: Subscribe to Comments.

Subscribe to Comments lets you do just what its name promises. If you tick the box before posting your comment, you’ll automatically get e-mail updates about any comments that follow yours for this particular post.

Oh, and I’ve recently adjusted the feed for this blog so that all posts appear in their entirety in readers. I had it set to display just the first few lines before because I really wanted people to click over to here and see what other people (not just me) had to say, too, but with that new plugin in place I don’t think that’s necessary anymore.

*It is possible to subscribe to the comment feed for this blog (just click on “Comments RSS” under “Meta” in the right-hand column on this page), but my hunch is that most people aren’t interested in reading every single comment that gets posted here—just the ones that follow their own comments.

I joined Facebook about two years ago but didn’t do much with it at first. Then, about nine months ago, it seemed that pretty much everyone who hadn’t yet joined Facebook started signing up. And posting there. A lot. Since then, I’ve been getting friend requests from people long removed from my social circle—elementary school classmates with whom I haven’t communicated since graduation, for example. And meeting someone new in person these days is nearly always followed by a Facebook friend request.

If I were in need of a dissertation topic*, I’d seriously consider an examination of online social networking. It is sociologically fascinating to me: a quasi-anonymous environment populated by physically isolated (from each other, that is) individuals who divulge their innermost—and often passive-aggressive—thoughts (via status updates and memes, for example), skeletons on the closet (e.g., digital scans of high-school photos from one’s “big hair” days), and random musings in a place that feels private but is actually quite public. Some of the things I see on Facebook leave me shouting, “TMI! TMI!” and wanting to wash my eyeballs afterward.**

But through Facebook I have learned some interesting things about some of my friends. It’s enabled me to maintain contact with some people who live far away from me and to renew contact with some people from my past. That second category is a tricky one, though, since whenever I get a friend request from someone I knew long ago but haven’t heard from in a long time, I remind myself that there’s a reason why we didn’t stay in touch***. Sometimes people drift apart; sometimes the only common ground they have is attendance at the same school.

Facebook is a huge time suck. Updates to status blurbs, posted items, comments on other peoples’ stuff—all of that fills me with a sense of urgency. For a while I felt like I had to check Facebook a gazillion times a day just to keep up. I didn’t want to miss out on any of the inside jokes or shared moments, especially since so many of these online interactions become part of a pool of shared knowledge that is referenced during in-person encounters and shapes them.

For me, Facebook became oppressive. Not only did I feel like I was on an information treadmill, but I was putting so much energy there that I didn’t have much left for blogging or correspondence. It’s too easy for me to dash off a quick comment there rather than put the effort and thought into the more substantial writing that I want to give some topics. (So yeah, I am staying far, far away from Twitter. No tweets for me!)

N.B.: I am not dissing Facebook or the people who use it. Rather, I’ve been thinking about what I want from social interactions and find that Facebook is not my primary outlet for these things. It has its uses for me, though. I’ll still keep up with Facebook, just not nearly as frequently or intensively as before. This slowing down feels right to me.****

*Which I’m not. One is enough, thankyouverymuch.

**For an interesting discussion of this, take a look at this recent Time article, “25 Things I Didn’t Want to Know About You,” about a Facebook meme that’s been making the rounds for the past few weeks. My favorite is this one: “23. My friends say that when they shave my back, I purr like a walrus.”

***So far I’ve accepted all friend requests I’ve received from people from my way-back past, mostly because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But every time I do this, I feel like I am contributing to the redefining of the word friend—and not in a good way. I believe I have many acquaintances but not a huge number of true friends. On Facebook, though, everyone is a friend. This bothers me somehow.

****Wow, look at all the footnotes here. I have read way too much academic writing. At least the footnotes here haven’t rebelled, as they did in Robert Grudin’s very excellent Book (which was published, incidentally, many years before Whoopi Goldberg’s famous memoir of the same title), in which the footnotes actually take over a chapter.

p9033311csa0903.jpgMy blogging has been derailed for the past month a half—first by our trip up to Vermont, then by the Nigerian State Security Services arresting my brother-in-law. Andy is back in New York now (Jan, Sylvia, and I took a day trip up to Brooklyn to see him today), so things can start to return to normal around here.

p9103349csa0910.jpgFirst up, two weeks of CSA boxes. We’ve been getting a lot of potatoes, nectarines, green beans (we ate the last batch smothered in mayonnaise and garlic—yum!), and tomatoes lately. We’re in the end-of-summer phase now; two weeks ago we got what is likely the last watermelon of the year, and last week we got what is probably the last of the season’s sweet corn.

So what else has happened in the month since we returned from Vermont? Sylvia started preschool (for the first time ever) nearly two weeks ago. That’s a biggie that warrants its own post—not one of mimsy musings about how my little girl is growing up so quickly (even though she is), but one about our commute to school.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of knitting.

And pickle-making. (What else am I going to do with all of those CSA cucumbers?).

And game playing. (The cake is a lie! Bonus points to the person who knows that reference.)

And just enjoying the end of the summer. (I hope you are, too.)

More on all of that later…


Looking forward to July 15

A new Joss Whedon project? Check.

Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day, and Neil Patrick Harris? Check.

And they’re all singing? Double-check.

Teaser from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog on Vimeo.


Rant the fourth

I love reading blogs. I love how blogs can offer intellectual and creative stimulation. And I love how blogs can point me in directions I hadn’t seen before.

A lot of this pointing takes the form of links. I don’t click through every link I see, but when one grabs my interest I hover the cursor over it and look at the URL in the status bar at the bottom of my browser to see if the link looks clickworthy.

On some sites, though, my placid cursor-hovering is interrupted by a little window that pops up in the middle of my screen: a Snap Shot.

I hate these things. Loathe them.

First, they obscure a good chunk of the surrounding text. Here I am, merrily reading along, when suddenly one of those little windows appears and completely derails my train of thought.

Second, the Snap Shot windows are so small that they’re actually useless. (Note that I am not advocating any embiggening.) Whatever text and images appear in them are barely discernible from the noise in the window. If there’s a link to, say, Matthew Fox in a Speedo*, that little window isn’t going to show much. If I really want to see Matthew Fox in a Speedo, I’m going to have to follow that link.

Third. if I want to know where a link goes, I find it far more useful to just look at the URL. The URL of a blog post can reveal a ton of information, including the website, post title, and post date.

Fortunately, there are ways for site visitors to avoid seeing those annoying windows: by disabling Snap Shots. Apparently, the company has had enough complaints about this product that they’ve included this info in their FAQ; just follow the link in #3 on the list. Unfortunately, this solution requires cookie placement and has to be reactivated whenever your cookies are deleted.

If you’re using Firefox and running the AdBlock Plus extension (which is awesome), you’re in luck: you can get rid of those Snap Shots forever. (Well, for as long as you’re running AdBlock Plus. Which is so awesome that you’ll never want to get rid of it. So yeah, I guess that does mean forever.) Check here for the details. (Opera users will find their solution in the comments to that post.)

*That one’s just for you, Gina!


A brush with fame

Three weeks ago, the renowned knitblogger Franklin came to the Philadelphia area to take pictures for his 1000 Knitters photography project. His shooting location: Wool Gathering, in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Kennett Square is the Mushroom Capitol of the World, just down the road from the Brandywine River Museum (more Wyeths than you can shake a stick at), home to a Revolutionary War sites, and only about half an hour from my house. So of course I had to go.

Five people from my local knitting group (plus the mother of one of them) arranged to meet at the shop at 11:30. I got there first and found a very interesting performance in progress. The tiny store was packed with people (Franklin and his setup, though not huge, did take up a good chunk of the inside space next to the storefront window), and the sidewalk outside was covered with knitters, chatting away and knitting on various projects.

After I put my name down on the list, I looked around inside the store for a bit, hoping to find something that would work well for Sylvia’s sweater (I didn’t). Fortunately, just next door was a terrific cafe where my friends and I (and Jan and Sylvia, who’d tagged along for the outing) grabbed lunch while we waiting for our numbers to be called. Good thing the cafe was there, too, because we had to wait about an hour and a half. Franklin was snapping away as quickly as he could, but there were a lot of people there (several of whom, as I overheard, had traveled from a few states away, even!).

When number 78 was called, I handed Franklin the model-release form, shook his hand, picked up the scarf, and took my place on the stool in front of the white backdrop. When I looked at the scarf, I was surprised to find that the stitches were all “backward” (i.e., the right “legs” were behind the needle rather than in front of it). My far-more-knowledgeable-than-me knitting friends explained to me later that the previous knitter had used a different knitting style; me, all I know is plain ol’ vanilla knitting and purling, so I didn’t really know what to do with those stitches. So I just knit into the left legs—and found out later that I should have knit into the right legs. (Fortunately, my friend Debbie, who was number 79, said she had no trouble working with the stitches I’d left for her.)

So what was it like to sit in front of Franklin’s camera for three or four minutes? I’m fairly self-conscious in front of a lens and don’t feel particularly photogenic. But he did a great job of putting me at ease, and what impressed me the most was his ability to conduct a coherent, engaging conversation with me while I sat there. He posted in his blog later that he’d photographed 131 people that day (wow), and although I certainly didn’t see all of them I did get to see him interact with several people. And in all of those interactions, he was grateful (we are, after all, providing him with free material for this project, which he hopes to turn into a book), gracious, and actually interested in what knitters had to say and the stories they told him.

It was a very warm day (one of those too-warm days that hit before the air conditioning is turned on), and he was working at a pretty steady clip. But I was really impressed with his interest in the knitters as people, not just as photographic subjects. And the fact that he was able to talk with each one of them is pretty amazing.

So if Franklin and his photography project make a stop in or near your hometown, I very much recommend spending a few minutes in front of his camera. Aside from the opportunity to meets lots of knitters and participate in an interesting project, you also get a chance to meet a nice person. And you know, that sort of opportunity doesn’t come around every day.



I recently read a very thoughtful post that wondered if swaps were bad for the environment. After all, there’s a lot of packaging and transportation resources going into these things. If swaps are just about getting stuff from other people, then maybe we ought to help out the planet and stop doing them.

For me, though, swaps are about meeting other people–with whom I have something in common–I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. I believe that people who do swaps just to get yarn, tea, whatever from someone else should just buy that stuff for themselves if they want it. I haven’t participated in many swaps, but I’ve been fortunate to become friends with several of my partners. We keep up with each others’ blog, send letters, and just generally keep in touch. I like it. And it’s those experiences that make the swap experience so worthwhile for me.

The swaps I’ve done have been ones I found on knitting blogs. If you, too, have an itch to meet some fellow knitters, crafters, vegetarians, dog-owners, stamp collectors, music lovers, whatever, here are a few places you can look.

Swap-bot has been around for over two years, and I think I first heard of it some time last year. A quick perusal of the offerings can be paralyzing: there are so many possibilities. Christmas-themed swaps are on the “most popular” list for now, but you can also find swaps for wind-up toys, lists of secrets, digital photos of pets, postage stamps, and handmade paper.

A new blog, SwapDex, also covers many types of crafts. It does (so far) lean heavily toward knitting swaps.

…to tell you that Martians are currently invading Grover’s Mill, New Jersey.

Er, I mean we’ve been having a few technical problems with the blog lately. (This is not news to those of you who’ve had some trouble seeing parts of the blog or even accessing it at all.) First the database files went and got all corrupt, and then the server went wonky for a bit. But everything is all straightened out now!


Emily X

When I was in high school, a friend of mine whose mother served on the local city council told me about what her mother had endured as one of the few people willing to stand up to anti-Planned Parenthood protesters. A new PP clinic had just opened in a small strip mall along one of the busiest roads in the area. As in most cities, this road didn’t have sidewalks alongside it, and the people who turned out daily to protest the clinic wanted the city to put in a sidewalk for them to walk on as they marched with their signs.

My friend’s mother was one the most vocal opponents of this proposition—she was horrified that taxpayers might be asked to make what amounted to a donation to the protesters. She got dirty looks, overheard muttered disparaging comments, and was rudely treated by several of her fellow council members. She stood her ground, though, and the protesters never got their publicly funded sidewalk. (They did get permission to pay for and build a sidewalk of a certain length—something like twenty feet. The sidewalk was built, and though I don’t know how much use it got I do know that whenever I’ve visited my parents over the past fifteen years or so, I’ve never seen a single person on it.)

At least she never got death threats, though. I’ve heard here and there stories on both sides of the debate over reproductive rights, and it was in Faye Ginsburg’s excellent (and balanced) Contested Lives: The Abortion Debate in an American Community (which I read in a grad school seminar on narrative) that I first encountered in-depth narratives on the subject.

A few days ago, a friend sent me a link to a fairly new blog called I Am Emily X, “the true-life diary of a frontline Planned Parenthood worker and activist.” At the bottom of the homepage, a note points out “For their safety and protection, Emily X represents a small handful of Planned Parenthood workers and activists, who may or may not be named Emily.” So I guess it’s technically a collaborative, anonymous blog. (You can read the history of the blog here.)

This blog started as a response to anti-choice/pro-life/whatever activists’ call to picket PP clinics for forty days starting September 26. “Emily” posts nearly every day about something that’s happened at a clinic—some encounter with a protester that’s scary or frustrating, some interaction with a patient that makes it worth all the trouble. The blog is also a PP fundraiser, where, in a curious twist on the walk-a-thon, visitors can pledge to donate a certain amount (as little as five cents) per protester or just make a fixed donation.

It’s been interesting to read, and not just because I’ve long been a fan of Planned Parenthood and what they do. Take a look for yourself.

(If you’re wondering what exactly they do, check out this post from Bitch PhD. In addition to a discussion of PP services—of which only three percent are abortions, you’ll find a link to this post by a medical student, who describes his ignorance about PP until he did an OB/GYN rotation there.)


Staying put

My mother-in-law lives three hours (mostly) north of me, and about one hour from the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, where the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival is taking place this weekend. You know, Rhinebeck–the fiberfest whose name is spoken in hushed, reverential tones.

I first heard about Rhinebeck last fall–when knitting blogs were teeming with post-Rhinebeck reports, “you’ll never guess what famous person I saw there” sightings, and “look at my yarn haul” photos. I felt like I’d missed the boat on something all the popular kids already knew about. And now that I knew about it (but still wasn’t one of the popular kids), I resolved to attend the next Rhinebeck.

So I hatched a plan: Jan, Sylvia, and I would drive up to his mom’s place on Friday, spend the night there, and get to the festival bright and early the next morning. We’d all get a kick out of seeing the animals and participating in the hustle-bustle of a big festival, and I could pet and maybe even purchase some can’t-get-this-stuff-anywhere-else yarn. The plan expanded to include our friend Gina, who decided to come with us, leaving her uninterested-in-yarn husband, Todd, home to look after their six (yes, six cats). (And yes, they are nuts. “They” being both the humans and the cats.)

But a few weeks ago, I looked at my stash (not huge by any means, but there’s enough in it to keep me busy for a while) and my bank account (not huge by any means, but there’s enough to pay the bills–but not enough to take a big hit from festival-euphoria-induced yarn purchases) and decided to stay home. If Rhinebeck were an hour away from me, yeah, I’d probably go. But four hours there plus an overnight plus four hours back add up to far too much time and effort to make a trip just to look at yarn (but not purchase) and other nice stuff worthwhile.

(There are several wool/knitting festivals in my part of the country, but I’ve yet to attend one. This reminds me of my experience with academic conferences: many of my fellow graduate students were barely scraping together funds or sometimes even going into debt in order to go to academic conferences, but I didn’t attend one until late in my grad school career, when there was one close to my university and I could actually afford to go to it.)

Gina took the news well, thankfully, and I’ve decided to start saving my pennies now for next fall’s Rhinebeck. Or maybe I’ll try Maryland Sheep and Wool* in May (which I’ve not attended because my daughter’s birthday has fallen on the same weekend) or Knitters Day Out in September (which I’ve not attended because my anniversary has fallen on the same weekend). Next year, all those weekends are free of other events (thank you, Leap Year!), and I’ll be ready for them!

(* Take a look at the URLs for the NYS Sheep and Wool and Maryland Sheep and Wool websites. Think there were any fisticuffs over who got which one?)

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