My neglect of this poor old blog has been an ongoing source of shame for me. The meager trickle of new content over the past few years is one aspect of that neglect. There are multiple reasons for the lack of output, but I will save that discussion for another time. Nearly as embarrassing has been the state of the site’s plumbing, which was still largely based on the HTML templates I cobbled together back in aught-three. Table-based page layout may have been acceptable back then, but they’ve been a thorn in my side for a number of years now. I’ve tried, at various points, to move to a tableless layout, but all the solutions I could find either were hacky, or I couldn’t figure out how to adapt them for my needs.
OK, well I haven't updated in, what, ten months? And the year or so before that has been pretty damn sparse. Well, um, there’s been ‘stuff’. Which I'll explain. Eventually.
Uh-oh. it looks like the Tinderbox 4.6 HTML export is building links differently than it used to, which means permalinks are going to be broken until I can tweak my templates. But I am updating the main page anyway, just because.
Shameless placeholding post
Well, Phase 2 of The Great Adventure is drawing to a close: I am sitting in the Hannover airport waiting to head home. I've been trying for two days to write something that would (a) serve as some kind of thoughtful reflection on this experience and (b) break my latest unplanned blogging hiatus before I actually left the country. It's obvious now that I won't be coming up with (a) any time soon, so I am settling for just (b). Voila! Hiatus broken! (Thoughtful reflections possibly to follow once I am back in the US of A.)
Awaking from my long winter's nap
Well, neither I nor Donut Age are dead, I am pleased to report. I have just been hibernating, if you can call spending several hours a day on an MMORPG for three and a half months (more on that later) hibernating, which, I suppose, you really can’t. But that, along with working and, occasionally, sleeping is basically how I have been riding out the cold, dark winter months.
Heavy Rotation: Oct. 21-28, 2007
Having fallen woefully behind on my "Acquisitions" series, I am trying out a new approach to logging my music habits, namely looking at my Last.fm "weekly top artists" list and commenting on what I find there. This should have two advantages over the Acquisitions approach. First, since it is limited to ten artists, I shouldn't get overwhelmed by sheer volume, as was happening regularly with my monthly acquisitions lists. Second, since this is the music I've listened to the most in a given week (more or less—not everything I listen to manages to get scrobbled to Last.fm, but the vast majority does), I should actually have something to say about it, which was not always the case with the brand-new music covered in my earlier posts. There should actually be some intersection between what comes up with this method and what 's actually new in my library, because the structure of my playlists keeps new arrivals in heavy rotation for about a month after they get added to iTunes. But it will also give me reason to revisit older music that's caught my ear, which appeals to me as well. Obviously, this will not wind up being some perfect log of my listening habits, but I never really set out to do that in the first place. The tougher question will be whether I can keep up with a regular schedule of weekly posts. History would suggest not, but maybe this exercise will be the impetus I needed to get more disciplined about my blogging.
The (almost) lost month
Just like last year, I've come dangerously close to taking an o-fer for the month of May. Unlike last year, I have a reason, or at least an excuse, for the lack of activity here. This is now Day 40 of a tenacious "sinus event" that seems to be some combination of an actual infection, seasonal allergies (which, the medical establishment tells me, I don't actually have), and the hyperactive cough reflex I seem to have developed from the various bouts of pneumonia, bronchitis, and exercise-induced asthma that were annual features of my younger life. Because I am a firm believer in the old adage, "no one wants to hear about your mucus," I won't go into much detail about the ailment itself. However, three doctor visits, two courses of antibiotics, various permutations of prescription and over-the-counter antihistamines, expectorants, decongestants, cough suppressants, nasal sprays, salt gargles, and herbal throat lozenges have only succeeded in downgrading my cough from debilitating to a mere nuisance. When I haven't been physically wiped out, I just have not been in the mood for blogging. However, I seem (knock on wood) to be ever so slowly improving, so perhaps I'll get back to my normal, sporadic posting rate.
My blogging colleagues
I recently discovered that two more of my Morehead colleagues are blogging:...
Tinderbox 3.6 !
Mark Bernstein just announced Tinderbox 3.6, which has a slew of interesting new features. Mark mentioned some of the salient ones:...
Seems that Tim Bray ruffled some feathers with his use of the phrase "fucking cool" in a post a few days back. So much so that he posted again to apologize to anyone who was offended, but also to offer, if not a defense then a rationale for his choice of language:...
36 days of fame
I wasn't aware of this until after the fact, but for 36 days, Donut Age was listed in the Wikipedia article on Doughnuts, under the heading of "Doughtnuts and popular culture." A revision for 13 August observed:...
I am back from vacation and although I have a backlog of stories to tell about that, instead I am tinkering with my templates. I've shifted a couple things around on the individual post pages and added a list of "Possibly related" posts using the new ^similarTo^ code. I've also been trying to create back-links between posts (i.e., links from a post to other posts which mention it) using ^inboundLinks^, and I only just now realized why that doesn't work. ^inboundLinks^ only gathers note-level links, not text-links that link to other notes. As far as I can tell there's no way to automatically generate a list of the latter. That's kind of odd because Tinderbox knows that these links exist and counts them as inbound links for things like inboundLinkCount), but nevertheless that seems to be how it behaves.
I've had it with Technorati. I've never used them for much more than finding out about the occasional link to my site, but over the past few months, even this small service has repeatedly failed me....
Tribble gets pwned by Walker
Jill Walker has just been awarded a prize from Norway's Meltzer Foundation for her blogging as a form of research dissemination. Besides being a well deserved honor for her, the award is a perfect smack-down for the Ivan Tribbles of the world, who would no doubt look past the scholarly content of Jill's blog and complain about her lack of 'commitment' to her field. After all, someone who spends so much time playing World of Warcraft and taking photographs can't be a serious academics, can she? ...
I'll get you, Dorothy! And your little dog, too!
I am becoming curious to the state of distraction about the identity behind that big red dot hovering over east-central Kansas in my ClustrMap (ClustrMaps, incidentally, is the commercial re-birth of HitMaps after the latter was swamped by volume). They still have a free plan, but $10/year will get you higher traffic limits and nifty continent views like the one to the left.) That dot represents 30+ page views from a fairly small geographic area. The only other dots that big are me and a couple large metro areas. Unless some major search engine is based in Topeka , I can only conclude I have some intensely devoted reader out there in the heartland. If you are out there Mysterious Visitor, I have many questions for you, so drop me a line. You can have a GMail, Flickr, and/or ClustrMaps invitation if you do.
To type or not to type (links)
Perceptive readers with good CSS2 support (sorry, IE users) may have noticed funny things going on with my links lately. I have been playing with the :before and :after pseudo-elements and the content property to generate markers distinguishing different kinds of links. Why? Well, the notion of "typed" links (i.e., links that express not just a generic connection but a specific relationship between the linked elements) has been floating around hypertext theory for a long time. I've also long been intrigued by what George Landow (in "The Rhetoric of Hypermedia," 1991) identified as the need for a "rhetoric of departure" in hypertexts. Both of these ideas tie into a number of practical accessibility/usability web design issues regarding providing appropriate visual and textual cues to aid user navigation. Rather than tackle all at once, I've just concerned myself one small problem: distinguishing between internal and external links within a web site....
I am at the Kentucky Higher Education Computing Conference (KHECC) and I am taking my first stab at conference blogging. My notes are going up on the professional education/technology blog that I recently got up and running (I guess this also serves as my official announcement of said blog). So far, it's an interesting experience. I don't take notes the same way as I do when it's just for myself: I'm making more of an effort to listen and then digest information for posting (when I'm just writing my own notes it tends to be constant and stream-of-consciousness). I certainly feel like there's more of a purpose to my note-taking than usual. OK, back to the conference...
Return of the Tribble
The Chronicle of Higher Ed's pseudonymous gadfly, "Ivan Tribble," returned earlier this month with a follow-up on his controversial "Blogger's Need Not Apply" column earlier this summer. I am late to this party, and others have done a good job of defending the honor of academic blogging from Tribble's largely specious arguments (see the ivantribble thread on del.icio.us). A few notable responses:...
Six weeks without posting... yikes! I didn't mean to drop off the face of the blogosphere like that and I'm still not sure why it happened. It's not like I've been all that busy, although there was a vacation to the Jersey shore and a couple birthday celebrations buried in there, and I'm actually full of ideas I've been meaning to put down. Just a bad case of summer laziness, I guess. Anyhoo, I think I am back on the trolley and will soon be regaling the world with my insightful commentary on old news once again.
From MapView to HTML
[Update (5/28): Damn, I knew I was going out on a limb by posting these ideas without testing them at all. Turns out two of the three rely on a feature of Tinderbox that does not exist: namely, mathematical operations on attribute values. Oops. What's odd is that I was so sure that I had seen this somewhere: I could half-picture a page from the manual with + = / and * on it, but when I went back to check, nothing. I guess I was confusing the fact that you can use computed dates like today+1 week with full-fledged math support. Oh well, I guess this will just have to go on the Wish List for a future version. I think the first option still stands as a possibility (although it was the clunkiest of the three), but I have not tested that one yet either.] ...
The Kentucky blogosphere
This may be surprising to some — it was mildly surprising to me — but ol' Kentuck has a burgeoning blogging scene. Fred Ochsenhirt of KY Blogs is gathering a master list of blogs in the commonwealth (available in a variety of formats through Blogrolling and through an interactive map) and multiblogger Ben Carter is organizing a coalition of democratic bloggers, Kentucky Bloggers for Tomorrow Today. While I was researching my blog workshop earlier this month, I even discovered a podcaster lurking among my colleagues (John Modaff's AlphaAudioBox). That's not bad for a state about which another colleague advised (when we first moved here six and a half years ago), "You have to understand. You aren't in the United States. You're in Cuba."
Last week, I gave a workshop for faculty on blogging. I stuck mostly to the basics: giving some definitions (many thanks to Jill for helping me re-find hers), deciphering some of the jargon, showing a few examples, and finally (briefly) touching on the educational applications of blogging. ...
My other blog
I'm not sure if it would fit everyone's definition of "blogging" (though it does fit the Dowbrigade's definition under either type 1 or 2), but I have increasingly come to think of del.icio.us/donutage as my "other" blog, the place where I can slap up a link and a couple words of explanation with virtually no effort (as I understand it, a number of the earliest blogs were little more than such lists). I sometimes park links at del.icio.us that I have aspirations for writing about here, but since time is short, I don't always get around to doing so, the simplicity of del.icio.us posting nicely complements my more involved posting here.
Double the feeds, double the fun
Jill is happy when she figures something out, and so am I. My RSS 2.0 feed is now up (see sidebar) and even validates! For variety's sake, I'll continue to offer the 0.92 feed in its headline-only form. ...
I noticed recently that my RSS feed had not updated in my aggregator (NetNewsWire Lite) even though I'd made several new posts. Then I noticed that, in fact, NNW had downloaded the updated feed, but was not showing the newer articles. Further digging revealed two issues, at least one of which was contributing to the problem: 1) There was an unencoded angle bracket in the Napster post (Tinderbox assumed that I was manually adding an HTML tag , which is usually right, but not this time), and 2) there were a pair of (properly encoded) em-dashes in my last post, that a validator said were not legal (which, I think, has something to do with what's allowable in RSS 0.92). Damn those pesky entities!...
An exchange about blogging a couple weeks ago on the Humanist listserv got under my skin, and is still sort of itching me. It's a pretty short exchange, so I'll reproduce it in its entirety. I'll leave out the names because I don't want to make this to be construed as a personal attack or a gripe with anyone in particular. Rather, I think this touches on a rather prevalent attitude towards bloggers and blogging. The exchange (edited to show the sequence of comments):...
Jill has a nice post up summarizing and expanding on a number of bloggers and researchers who argue that blogging helps with their non-blogging writing as well, that blogging is writerly exercise. If so, I guess I have been a couch potato lately, and my writing muscles are getting all soft and flabby... ...
I've gone another several weeks without posting and I don't really know why. Sure, various things (personal, professional and global) have been going on, but none of them really explain or excuse my nonblogging. I've just been in an extended doldrum for a couple months, lacking the energy to do much of anything except play NetHack (at which I am largely sucking). In a week, I'll be heading to the beach for some vacation. Maybe, that'll recharge the batteries.
Hmmm. Almost a month since my last post. I'm not sure where the time went. I haven't really been all that busy (at least not compared to the month before that) and I haven't really lacked for things to write about (I've jotted down ideas for about a dozen posts in that time). I've just been feeling kind of blah about things, not just this blog, lately. Maybe this post will get me rolling again.
Jon Buscall of 08# is splitting up his blogs to try keep them more focused. "I've grown weary of the eclecticism of my blogging. My voice and persona is all over the place." I take the opposite view. I enjoy not having to stay "on topic," letting threads organize themselves (or not) through the categories. After years of writing and teaching academic prose and preaching the virtues of focus and coherence, the freedom to be eclectic is a treat. However, right now, I must admit that writing about anything except the unfolding debacle in Iraq seems trivial and even inappropriate.
Slow posting next 107 miles
Our spring semester is coming to a close (May 7) as is the grant project I am working on (May 31), so I expect the next several weeks to be incredibly hectic. Blogging likely to remain sproradic throughout.
To the barricades!
Boy am I glad I kept Dowbrigade in my aggregator. Michael Feldman's not-so-cautious "Note of Caution" is a rousing call to action for those who still hope that the Internet and blogs in particular can effect real political change, and especially relevant given the the recent round of blogospheric self-questioning. Eschewing both naive optimism and embittered cynicism, Feldman hits the nail just about exactly on the head:
It is true, there is a sea change in the air, and some of the bulwarks of conventional control of the information stream are crumbling under the relatively free-form innovations from the digital frontier. But it is here we feel a healthy dose of Paranoia may be in order. The powers-that-be have gotten where they are by co-opting, appropriating, defanging and remarketing the innovative works of others. And they make no bones about leaving a few buried bodies and busted careers in the wake of “progress”, as they define it....
The people threatened by these changes have real power in our society, which they have struggled their entire lives to acquire and they are not going to let it go without a fight. It’s going to be bloody. There are going to be casualties. Be prepared.
In describing the new look of Donut Age, I mentioned a revision of the Categories and 'File Under' links. Turns out my first implementation had some problems in it (namely, none of the 'file under' links were working due to capitalization and punctuation discrepancies). I had been building the links by adding the value of the Category attribute onto a site-relative path to make a proper HREF for the category page like so: ...
The current Computerworld has an article on the use of blogs in business as collaborative development and personal content management tools.
As mentioned earlier, I've been making a number if changes to the site design. The most obvious is the new three-column layout and some added content: On the Road in Us for my travels this semester and Donutarians in Them for some of my donut-themed brethren in the blogosphere....
Beginning of the new semester has me buried under work. I've got the starts of several posts lined up, but can't qute get them finished. I'm also working on several design tweaks. This post is really just to see if one of them -- my Technorati link -- is working. Maybe I'll finish something over the long weekend.
Of archives and architecture
Anja Rau recently blogged her problems working around a mistake she made setting up the archives at Flickwerk, and as mentioned previously, Mark Bernstein has been reflecting on the structural challenges faced by blogs, especially the archiving issue. I'm just about at the point where my archive is going to need some help. After 3 months and almost 50 posts (not a heavy posting rate by any means), my archive file is over 100KB, which to me means it's getting too fat. Question is, how do I structure the archives in the future so that (a) it works better (including proper handling of internal links) and (b) I don't kill all bookmarks to the old posts? No answers yet, but expect some changes soon.
Observant readers may notice that the previous post contains some unconventional link locations. This is not intentional, but seems to be due to a problem in Tinderbox with notes that contain embedded images. I'd never seen it before, but that was the first post that used an image. What happens (at least to me) is that the fist link I make is fine, but each time I add a link, all the previous links "slip" one character from their original position. It seems to happen in Tinderbox, not during the HTML export. ...
Eastgate has released Tinderbox 2.1, a free upgrade for anyone who has bought or renewed Tinderbox in the last year (and if you haven't renewed, now would be a good time). There seem to be a number of nifty fixes and improvements, including greatly improved antialiasing of text (a purely aesthetic issue, but one that makes a surprising difference in the pleasure of working with the program), but the big thing here is the addition of macros in HTML export. Mark Bernstein has previewed this a while ago on his blog and it sounds fascinating. Guess, I know how I'll be spending my Christmas break.
It's the end of the semester here, and I've been snowed under with work, so I haven't been posting. I did tweak a few technical matters with Donut Age: the date format has changed, I messed with the stylesheet, and most importantly I switched from LINKing the stylesheet to @importing it. This is a well-established trick for evading the buggy CSS suppport in Netscape 4.x browsers. (Netscape 4.x does not support @import as a means of including stylesheet information, so it formats the page as vanilla HTML, which is often better than bad CSS. Very clever people can combine LINK and @import to effectively have one set of minimal styles that work in old browsers and then a second set of styles for newer browsers, but I am not that clever yet.) Incidentally, Netscape 4.x readers, I don't hate you like Oblivio, but you really should consider upgrading to a CSS-compliant browser. The current Netscape/Mozilla family does what I consider to be the best job with CSS. My personal browser of choice is Camino (a slimmed-down Mozilla offshoot for MacOS X), though Safari sees a fair amount of action as well (it has some nice features, but I have noticed miscellaneous small flaws in Safari's CSS support)....
I fixed my problem with creating an automatic index of "category" pages. It involved getting pretty intimate with Tinderbox export codes (incidentally, the Tinderbox Wiki has a very useful reference page for export codes). The process was non-obvious enough that it might bear recording here (non-Tinderbox readers may want to skip to the next post)....
There's been a lack of updates here for the past week because I've been monkeying with the blog design and getting myself into trouble. First, the good news: the blogroll is now powered by Blogrolling.com. Also, with the help of a pointer from Mark Bernstein and the Tinderbox community, I've randomized the tagline in the upper left corner, using Tinderbox's ^randomline export code. ...