24 May 2010

Psst! Flotsam has moved!

As I suggested last week, I have made the decision to move my blog to a hosted WordPress version to replace this blog. I'm not moving over the content, just the operations. I'll be reorganizing all the blog pointers and feed tweeters and all that so, fear not, if you don't come to this page directly to read Flotsam, you'll still get a reminder. In the meantime, here's the new Flotsam & Jetsam.

20 May 2010

Thanks for nothing, Google

Dear Google,

Your Kool-Aid is tasting bitter these days. If you don't want to be seen as EVIL, please bring your Blogger service up to standard.

After trying WordPress, I now understand why people questioned my staying on Blogger. One very big difference is in the ability to moderate comments and users. On WP, comments are moderated by default, but once someone is recognized by the blog owner, they can post freely ever-after. So when I, for example, pick up a nasty troll, I can simply ignore the comments. Poof! I can also block or moderate specific IP addresses, email addresses, names, words -- so much more flexible.

Seriously, Google, you are GODS in the arena of info tracking, how come you make this so difficult? Sure, there is a "report abuse" button but that is only to be used for reporting an abusive blog -- which mine is NOT. In fact, there is nothing in your terms of service that covers comments specifically and yet many people sign up for Blogger primarily to comment or follow blogs.

I have had this blog for six years and it will tear a big part of me out to abandon it for a new address but that seems like the only option you are giving me. I do not blame the troll for this; I blame you, Google, for failing to support Blogger and its users.


Oh good, my troll is back.

OK, everyone. I apologize but "Anonymous" is back and filling my comments area with obscenities. Please don't feed the troll.

17 May 2010

My new Garden History blog

While I listened to the presenters at WordCamp on Saturday, part of my brain was whirring away, plotting out my new blog. Yes, it was to be a "niche blog" -- it combines three of my interests:


Originally my thought was to basically transcribe and annotate the text of the "Profitable Instructions..." book but I knew that was too focused. As soon as the words "garden history" escaped my lips, I knew this was the spark I'd been seeking.

I wrote the About page first -- I started drafting it in a Google Doc on Saturday evening -- so that I could really get an idea of how the site might evolve. While the inspiration was one book the goal I settled on was,
"This blog aims to glean some history — not only about gardening but also about gardens themselves — from books and other writings from the past 400 years, give or take."
With that in writing, I could then start thinking about where the blog might go in the future which may be why my brain would not shut down on Saturday night, long after I walked away from my laptop.

Sunday, I asked Hubby how to do the WordPress install on one of my domains (I chose my personal one, for the hell of it). After some initial fumbling to find my admin panel login and password and later realizing I needed more space (Hubby reallocated things and increased my capacity tenfold), the install was ridiculously straightforward. I spent the next little while fiddling with various templates until I found one that will do just fine for now.

To cut the tale short, I finished a shareable product by 11:00 last night and if you haven't already seen it, you can check out Garden History: Looking back at backyard gardens.

15 May 2010

Reflecting on WordCamp

I had no idea what to expect going in but I have to say that WordCamp Victoria was well-organized, well-run, and informative. It was broader than I was expecting; the content of the sessions went beyond Wordpress itself to cover topics such as picking what to write, keeping the user in mind when you write for the web, and dealing with comments -- good, bad, and ugly.

The session I most enjoyed was the first session I attended: "Knowing & Knurturing Your Kniche Blog: Starting & Running A Successful Niche Blog in WordPress," presented by Mike Vardy. Refreshingly, his presentation did not rely on tech -- he used the blackboard. The basis of his talk was to pick something that you care about, that you know something about (and are prepared to learn more about), and then build it and promote the hell out of it. Kind of a Field of Dreams approach.

When I asked him what to do if the thing you pick is in the scrum -- one of a thousand blogs on a given topic -- he had two words of advice, "Write well." OK, Mr. Vardy, I will try.

I may even apply some of what I learned from Cathie Walker who talked about the way (most) users read websites (short answer: they don't -- 80% skim), what level they read at (generally below grade 8) and how you can cater to their needs.

That tied in well to what Lorraine Murphy had to say about moderating comments on a blog or forum. It made me think back to how I managed that ridiculous troll thing last year and how I have handled other tricky interactions online over the years. I'm still thinking.

I also attended sessions more specific to Wordpress -- about themes and plug-ins and alternate posting tools.

What now? Well, I am going to try to put my planned Wordpress niche blog into action -- sooner than later -- plus Hubby and I are scorching and rebuilding ThoseDeWolfes and (drumroll, please) we have set Kiddo up with her own blog. Cue the Yakkety-Sax...

EDIT: Cathie Walker's presentation, Writing for the Web is available as a pdf

14 May 2010

How I am spending my Saturday

Yeah, I know. Drupal, Blogger, and now... Wordpress? Hubby and I signed up before we left for Drupalcon because... well... you know honestly I don't know why, but I am sure I won't escape the day without learning something.

However, I do have a plan. Do you remember that Kitchen Garden book from 1603 that opened with a poem? I plan to use Wordpress to make a blog of the book. At least that's my plan right now; I'm sure it will change before the conference is over tomorrow.

On the other hand, there will be about 120 people there, many of whom I follow on Twitter but whom I've yet to meet so it will kind of be an unofficial Victoria "Tweetup" and an opportunity for some networking on coffee breaks.

I'm going to see if I can dig out my felt name tag to wear and make sure I have a handful of cards.

13 May 2010

Another thing Those DeWolfes do

The Cramped Chef seemed like an appropriate name for a cooking show when we started it in the cramped little kitchen at the townhouse. Impossibly, it seems, the kitchen in our current house while more open, actually seems to have less room to cook* so The Cramped Chef continues to be an appropriate name for the series.

We filmed the most recent episode back in March but Hubby's computer was tasked by the challenge of editing the HD footage created by my FlipHD so the process was completed in small chunks over many weeks with a lot of breaks in between! The best part of this creation was finding that Moby has a bunch of music available just for the purpose of non-profit independent video productions so Hubby signed up and found an appropriate piece for the background. The worst part of this is seeing how clearly we need to get proper studio lighting -- or even something close.

The Spring Rolls (aka Egg Rolls) episode is now available for your edutainment (embedded below) and you can find the recipe on Hubby's blog along with other recipes and Cramped Chef videos.

Egg Rolls from Mike DeWolfe on Vimeo.

*Our current kitchen is so cramped that I don't seem to have a photo of it. How odd. It is also the big reason we want to do a reno on that corner of the house.

10 May 2010

Definitely a Monday.

My Monday morning started before my alarm rang; I was dreaming about being late for work. Not wanting to actually be late, I got up instead of hitting snooze. I did my morning thing, getting the coffee going, feeding the cats, throwing on something suitable to wear to work, turning on the morning news and getting breakfast started.

I found the frying pan, slapped in some butter, put in the bread (hole cut, ready for the egg), reached for the egg aaaaand...



I cursed. Cracked another egg into the frying pan, then grabbed my camera -- because how often do you get to take a photo of egg spatter?

After breakfast was cooked, I threw some veggies into the frying pan with a little sesame oil to accompany the leftovers I was taking for lunch. Packed that up, poured my coffee and finished getting everything together to head out. Glancing at the clock, I knew I was cutting it close but should have had about 3 minutes to walk up the block to the bus instead of the usual 5.

It was pouring rain but I figured the bus would be there almost right away. Not so much. 15 minutes later, I decided it must have been early and that I had missed it. I pondered going back home and waiting for the next bus and being late (about half an hour) but instead sucked it up and hiked up through the park over the hill. It's usually a 15 minute walk but I made it in 12 because I didn't want to stand in the rain any longer than I needed to. 10 steps from the crosswalk to the next bus stop and WHOOOOOSH! there goes the 7:38. Sigh.

I stood in the rain another 12 minutes for the next bus and arrived at work 10 minutes late and soaked through to the point that my toes were wrinkled. So I guess, in some twisted way, my dream came true.

Yeah, definitely a Monday.


On the plus side, Kiddo was eager to get out of her bath quickly tonight so that she could work on the story she is writing. She fell asleep writing it then woke up when I tried to move it so she didn't choke on her pencil. I read what she'd written and I have to tell you, I am excited.

It's sci-fi.

08 May 2010

Awesome Alphabets

I love ABC books and at one time wanted to build a collection. I stopped because I realized I would need a very big library in which to hold them. However, I still love finding interesting alphabets. Feast your eyes on these:
  • Badass Alphabet -- inspired by comic books, it features gems like "H is for Hagar the Horrible Hacking Hello Kitty in Half"
  • Mad Scientist Alphabet Blocks -- not only do these rock (F is for Freeze Ray and P is for Peasants with Pitchforks!!) but the blocks themselves are little laser-cut works of art.
  • Palaeobet by Bird and Moon (Rosemary Mosco) wants you to "know your prehistory" (X is for xenacanthus) -- I really want the poster.
  • Digital Alphabet -- no big surprises here but at only two years old, it may already need updates. (Oh, wait, here's a 2009 version.)
  • Star Wars Alphabet -- crisp graphic illustrations by tweedlebop (aka Michael Fleming) covering the whole Star Wars universe are fantastic and plenty of people have requested that they be made available for sale... so far I haven't found them.
  • the Rock Alphabet by Rose Stallard is an inspired collection of musicians (Z is, of course, for Zappa) available as a limited edition silk-screened print.
  • Of course my favourite alphabet of all time is Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies (N is for Neville who died of ennui...) -- if you don't own it you really should buy the book!
  • Follow the link from Craft to the tutorial for an alphabet art project that you can do with your kids -- it involves a digital photography outing and transferring a photo print on to canvas. Very cool.
  • Prefer to hear the alphabet? Mental Floss rounds up celebrities reciting and singing the alphabet on Sesame Street. That Cosby one? I totally remember it.
I also have very fond memories of the alphabet song because in my 4 a.m. feeding / postpartum addled brain, it was often the only song I could think of to sing Kiddo back to sleep (it was that or my variation of the Mockingbird Song -- I would inevitably get to verse three and forget the rest so I started making things up.) At one point, I remember staring down at the unsleeping one in her crib, and as I got to "L-M-N-O..." she said "OH!" I sang that again, "L-M-N-O.." "OH!" and I was no longer concerned that she wasn't sleeping. I consider "OH" to be one of her first words, even if she was just mimicking Mommy.

04 May 2010

Press Clipping Day!

Two quick notes:

1. With my Frugal Victoria hat on, I was interviewed for the Globe and Mail last week -- the story, Extreme Frugality: Can you outcheap 'em all? ran in today's Life section. Despite a couple of minor misquotes, I'm pretty happy with it (as in, for the most part, I don't seem to sound like a crazy person).

2. My Coffee Haiku Minibook was featured at The Fifth Street Palace in an ongoing blog series $5 and Under.

03 May 2010

Thoughts on Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the Press is a favourite theme in television drama and feature films -- most often, citing the American Bill of Rights rather than the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms but we frequently take it for granted in North America. The only time most of us think about Freedom of the Press is when it is being squashed (think of how often China, Iran, or North Korea shows up in the headlines for crushing free speech or imprisoning journalists).

I don't know whether it was my upbringing or 25 years of working in libraries or just wanting to be assured of some protection for what I might write but for whatever reason, it's usually not far from my mind. It might even be from my early exposure to being censored -- in grade 6 I was part of the editorial team for the school paper and one issue contained a section ("seen in passing" I think) that would barely pass for the tamest version of Overheard in x today but which our principal felt was gossip and possibly libelous. He was not amused and charged us with actually cutting the section out of every copy that had been run off on the Gestetner by our teacher the evening before. Of course that meant that every issue sold for that run -- another interesting lesson for an 11 year old to learn. (As an adult, I wonder whether our teacher was disciplined for not talking to us about it or just editing the content before printing.)

Most recently, I've been watching the case against Jason Chen (who reported on the Apple prototype that was bought by Gizmodo/Gawker Media and whose home was later raided). I firmly believe that, while criminal charges might be appropriate, they should be targeting the person who signed the cheque and bought the lost/stolen prototype and/or the engineer who let it get away rather than the reporter doing his job.

On the global scene, Reporters Without Borders tracks infractions* and reports on the state of press freedom each year. In 2009, Canada registers at 19th of 175 nations (way down from 7th in 2002) but doesn't come close to the big offenders.

May 3rd is World Press Freedom Day, as declared by the UN, a day to "celebrate the fundamental principles of press and media freedom that are articulated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Go read (or watch) some award-winning journalism and ponder what we stand to lose:

Wanna know more about Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Expression? Check out these links:
Also, here's more about the Apple vs. Gizmodo issue just 'cause it's under my skin:

*From the Reporters Without Borders press release on the survey used to rank countries, "It includes every kind of violation directly affecting journalists (such as murders, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats) and news media (censorship, confiscation of newspaper issues, searches and harassment). And it includes the degree of impunity enjoyed by those responsible for these press freedom violations.
It also measures the level of self-censorship in each country and the ability of the media to investigate and criticise. Financial pressure, which is increasingly common, is also assessed and incorporated into the final score.