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Why I’ve been MIA for so long

Why I’ve been MIA for so long

In the 466 days since I last posted an entry on the blog, I have received countless emails from very nice readers asking whatever happened to my posts. Several people I know have asked if the blog is officially dead. Even my mother, who rarely checked in, has asked whether I will ever revive the blog.

The simplest answer is that I’ve just become lazy. Posting blog entries has just felt like work for the longest time. And the longer one goes, the harder it is to catch one up. Like the latest on my vitiligo, for instance. It got horrible this year, all over my face, face is now repigmented, but arms and hands are bad, trying to solve this through diet–oh, and my fabulous doctor tested me for the MTHFR gene, and it turns out that I don’t properly methylate folate. There’s the brief rundown, but the problem is that I really don’t want to talk about it. And I feel like I should, just because by far the most hits on this site come from people with vitiligo looking for answers.

In other words, somewhere along the line the blog started to feel like an obligation. It stopped being fun.

But there’s something more, too. I started this thing at the tail end of 2004. While I am by no means a blogging pioneer, it’s fair to say that I was an early adopter. There was something magical about hitting POST at the end of a piece and watching it go live instantly. One didn’t know anything beyond basic stats. Who was reading it? Did anyone really care? It didn’t matter; that was, to me, part of the magic. It was about having a voice that was there for anyone who wanted to hear it.

These days, the interwebz is teeming with voices. They assault you when you land on a badly written eHow page looking for information. They attack you with completely meaningless information in status updates. They repeatedly punch you in the nose with the regularity of machine gunfire–TWEET! TWEET! TWEET!
I’m not discounting the incredible things that thoughtfully-used technology can do (like wikipedia, harnessing crowdsourcing to search for the tomb of Genghis Khan, and a whole host of other things). Information is great. The problem is that there’s far too much unedited information out there. And I started wondering how much I was contributing to it.

The simple fact is that blogging is an exercise in narcissism. I’m okay with that. In fact, I would argue that this narcissism is essential to the arts in general. You can’t create and disseminate without overcoming self-consciousness. Actually, I struggle with this in my own writing: For me, it’s not so much a question of, “Is it good enough?”–though that of course is always present–as it is of asking, “Does anyone really care?” And with traditional forms of self-expression designed for a mass audience, there’s an external check. An opinion piece sent to the local paper is published–or not. A call in to an NPR radio program is accepted by the screener–or not. A novel sent in to a publisher is purchased–or not. A blog post, a tweet, a Facebook update … none of those have external checks. It’s all ranked at the same level. And as a result, we’re drowing in a sea of opinions and worthless information.

Mine included.

Now this is not to say that I might not start blogging again. I just might.

Goodbye Facebook. Again.

Goodbye Facebook. Again.

This post pretty much says it all.

Okay, maybe it doesn’t because I feel compelled to add:

I had signed up for another Facebook account because there were people I wanted to get back in touch with. But you know, reconnecting and Farmtown (yes, Farmtown, isn’t that pathetic?) just aren’t enough to make me want to deal with Facebook anymore. I’m pretty easy to find and don’t really need more ways to procrastinate.

I don’t want to have to fiddle with my privacy settings all the time. I’m tired of people I know who just happen to be conservative suggest I join the “Stop giving welfare to illegal immigrants” group. And I really don’t care what someone had for breakfast/lunch/dinner and how delish/yummy/nom nom it was. No offense. I know, I know, it’s a great way to connect, share pictures, blah blah. I just can’t find enough oomph to care. The fact is, all this social networking weirds me out a bit, and it’s pretty ironic that the bigger a reach my blog has (that wordpress-twitter-facebook integration), the more constrained I feel about posting anything real–i.e., not about chickens.

So for all those facebookers out there, enjoy it and have fun. You know where to find me.

The Hungry Caterpillar

The Hungry Caterpillar

Which was the only book I loved more than Pat the Bunny when I was a wee little thing. So imagine my delight when I opened up Google this morning to see this:

Why I love Christian SAHM blogs

Why I love Christian SAHM blogs

I’m a freelance writer and it is a truth generally accepted that writers must, as part of the writing process, procrastinate. I have lots of procrastinatory techniques. There’s wordtwist.org-ying. There’s the Soapdish Forum. There’s Google news and there’s Youtube. There’s Twitter. There’s blogging, which of course leads to checking stats. There’s reading blogs. And then there’s the strangely seductive world of Christian stay-at-home/work-at home/homeschooling/farmsteading mom blogs.

I am not a Christian in any sense of the word, though of course my mother dragged me to Episcopal (or Anglican if we were overseas) church every Sunday until I was 12, at which point she let me sink unabetted into heathendom, where I’ve happily lived ever since. But there’s just something about all these blogs of all these conservative women that is fascinating.

A lot of it is that I don’t know any conservative Christian women. The conservatives I know aren’t terribly religious. The Christians are usually pretty liberal; they’re Espiscopalian or Presbyterians. Every now and then there’s a mild Methodist or two, or maybe a Catholic who’s left behind the religion but kept the guilt. But the two together–now that’s something else. I feel like a voyeur poking into these lives that are so different from mine, a world where people really do use wallpaper borders as a decorative feature in dining rooms, and grocery shopping is considered the highlight of the day.

Oh wait. Grocery shopping is usually the highlight of my day too.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not putting these blogs down. At the end of the post, all personal blogs are really nothing more than an exercise in self-validation–and by all means, I include myself in this category. Then of course, you have all sorts of blog genres: House blogs, lit blogs, craft blogs. If there’s a word for it, there’s a blog for it. And each one has its own angle, its own way to thrust its content out into the ether, its own method behind its madness.

Except for the Christina SAHM blog. There are hundreds and hundreds of them and for the most part, they’re pretty much interchangeable. Truth to tell, I don’t do more than skim a couple of posts here. The content is usually not terribly interesting. What is interesting is the form:

1. The About Me talks about their wonderful husbands, their children, and their love of Jesus Christ.
2. There’s usually some sort of soundtrack.
3. They sign off every post with a jpeg of their name in a funky font.
4. The header has a large bucolic image / a quote from the Bible / their goals as a Christian woman.

And last, but certainly not least:

5. The content is about how this person is an ordinary person, no different from anyone else.

And this is what I love about them. There’s something so refreshing about people NOT trying to be different, about being just one of many. It’s not about foisting one’s opinion on the world; it’s not about being different. It’s not about being edgier, or more literate. It’s not about drumming up business. (Which, frankly, I have never seen a blog successfully do, but I guess Web 2.0 in the business world is a whole ‘nother post and really, what do I know anyway?) No–it’s about staking out a corner of the Web to be the same as the others in your circle.

And really, sometimes there’s something just a little comforting about that.

WordPress 2.7 and the blog of my discontent

WordPress 2.7 and the blog of my discontent

There are two truths staring me in the face as I look at the slowly loading admin interface of WordPress 2.7. The first is that the last year has been hard for me in a lot of different ways. The second is that I miss WordPress 1.5. Blogging felt so easy back then. I popped in, wrote a post, and voila, the blog lived. These two truths converged; I lacked blog luster and the varying iterations of WordPress got harder and harder to deal with. Images stopped uploading. The amazon plug in stopped working. The site took longer to load. So I stopped blogging. I had hoped that upgrading my database and getting the latest version would get me back into it. And it has–more blog posts in the past month than in the previous year. Nonetheless, I am growing increasingly disenchanted with WordPress. The catch is that previous versions lack the functionality that I want, but that functionality comes with a price. Oh, and of course, there’s really no good alternative for what I want.

All of which makes me feel ungrateful. WordPress is free. And for free, it’s a pretty sweet deal. I do appreciate all the volunteer time and effort that goes into getting the latest version out
and coming up with plug-ins that I can use simply by downloading (right from the admin interface, no less). But you know, it’s SLOOOOOW. Slow to load on the back-end. Slow to load on the front-end. Just freaking slow.

The other slow thing has been stuff just getting better. As I say, the past year was hard. The past six months have been just awful. Among other things: I had the miscarriage; Millie got cancer; I got penumonia and had a bad allergic reaction to the antibiotics; my ex-boyfriend shot himself; work has been slowing down and I’ve been worried; my hypo-google-chondria has spiralled out of control. After we were snowed in for two weeks in December, I’m afraid I just kind of gave up and slid into a depression. The panic attacks haven’t helped. I finally went in last week and now am the somewhat happier owner of a refillable prescription for Xanax, and I’m trying 5HTP to even out the moods as an alternative to the Lexapro prescription I also have. I’ve been taking it for about a week, and it seems to be working. So all this is to say that I think I’m coming out of it.

Bye bye Facebook.

Bye bye Facebook.

I am deleting my Facebook account.

There’s been a lot lot of noise about privacy and what have you on the Web, and I really don’t feel the need to add anything to what anyone else says. They’re a company; they sell information–and that’s life in the 21st century. The myth of privacy at this point is just that: a myth. To be really honest, I don’t know how much that bothers me. What does bother me, however, is that I’ve noticed a huge surge in spam since I signed up for the service. Stupid me for not using a junk e-mail address. Now I’m not saying that they are the reason my e-mail address has been released into the hands of spammers–but I have noticed that in their Privacy Policy , they do not, at any point, ever, nowhere, nohow state, “We do not sell your e-mail addresses.” What they say is:

Facebook is about sharing information with others — friends and people in your networks — while providing you with privacy settings that restrict other users from accessing your information. We allow you to choose the information you provide to friends and networks through Facebook. Our network architecture and your privacy settings allow you to make informed choices about who has access to your information. We do not provide contact information to third party marketers without your permission.

What that says to me is that you have to jump through hoops to make sure your e-mail address isn’t sold. And I’m pretty sure I set my privacy settings at a high enough level–though it was long enough ago that I don’t remember.

And here’s the thing: I don’t like Facebook enough to deal with it. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have, like, zero interest in being a werewolf or a vampire, I don’t want to fly some fighter jet, and I think writing on someone’s wall is a complete and utter waste of time. And trust me when I say that I’m really good at wasting time without someone else’s help.

it may seem like I’m a naysayer, but that’s not it at all. I love technology as much as the next person. Here I am, after all, blogging. I write about technology (granted for pay). And maybe that’s the point: I’m freelance, which means that I spend the majority of my workdays sitting alone in the shack in front of a computer. 90 percent of my communication during the average day is by e-mail. I work with people I’ve never talked to on the phone, much less met in person. I don’t complain–indeed, it’s a-okay with me. But free time? Well, I don’t want to write on someone’s wall.

Facebook puzzles me because it doesn’t have a clear purpose. I mean, linkedin connects business people; youtube lets you post videos; flickr is for photos. Facebook rolls a whole bunch of functions into one uber site, and while yeah, it’s the natural progression technologically-speaking, I think in some ways social networking has become a concrete example of the way technology has fractured interpersonal relationships. It’s bad enough when I tell Steve to e-mail me his racing schedule when he lives in the same house. It’s worse when the only time I hear from people that I’d like to hear from is when they invite me to plant a peapatch. Or whatever. The point is that yes, I’m now in contact with friends I haven’t heard from in a long time–but when it comes down to it, I’m not really in touch at all. Instead, I’m still sitting in front of my computer without any real connection to who they are as people.

I do not want to be a vampire.

I do not want to be a vampire.

Nor do I want to be a werewolf, a slayer, a fleet commander, or santa. I do not want to plant a green patch or get a free aircraft. I don’t really care all that much about six degrees of separation or solving other people’s online jigsaw puzzles. This is all to say that Facebook is great for getting back in touch with people, but I’d rather stay in touch the “old-fashioned way.” Yep, send me an e-mail.

Hey Mr. 71.87.179.214

Hey Mr. 71.87.179.214

Well, I assume you’re a Mr. because I assume that most people who search for porn online are men. But I could be wrong. In which case, please accept my sincerest apologies for making assumptions about your gender. And I’m assuming that it’s not your gender that’s in question here. I mean, it’s not like you were googling “transsexual porn” or “shemale” or “girls with penises” or any of those other things that I’m seriously going to regret putting into a blog post because the search engines are going to go crazy now.

No, what apparently interests you is “vitiligo porn.”

We’re back and it’s time for a new template

We’re back and it’s time for a new template

A three-columned template, which is something I’ve been seeking for, like, three years.

The only thing I don’t like about this (other than the niggling little details, which even I can fix) is that when you click on categories, or archives, or search, it comes up with incomplete posts appended with a “read more.” Personally, I find the need to click and click and click some more to be only slightly less irritating than reversed out 5 pt type on a black background. So if there are any wordpress gurus out there, PLEASE tell me how to modify. I can’t pay you, but I’ll send you some handmade soap …

Dear MySpace Users

Dear MySpace Users

Please, please stop hotlinking images. It’s obnoxious. More than that, I really don’t want to be associated in any way, shape, or form to your stupid page with pictures of you pouting in front of a mirror with a digital camera. I don’t want to hear “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me” pounding out of my laptop speakers as all your stupid little friends are all, like, “I luv u 4ever!!!!!” and “OMG, you are soooooooooooooo hotttttttttt!!!!!!!”

And believe me when I say that the world does not need to be exposed to your whale tail.

You have singlehandedly set the women’s movement back about 4 million years. I never once thought I would ever say this, but you know what? You are asking for it. Seriously.

You’re embarrassed by your parents? That’s nothing compared to what you’re going to face. In 15 years, your children–who will be parents themselves if they follow your example–are going to be so appalled at what you’ve allowed everyone to see that they’ll become born agains just to rebel.

Yeah, yeah, I know. If MySpace were a country it would be the 11th largest in the world. Unfortunately, Bush wouldn’t be able to go in swinging his WMD argument because he’d know that it was too stupid a nation to have WMDs. Though come to think of it, he probably has a page there. But that’s a digression from my main point, which is, quite simply this: You are scary, scary people. Now stop stealing my bandwidth.

[your name here] + needs =

[your name here] + needs =

I stumbled across this somewhere, and if you need to waste two minutes, here it is … five minutes if you blog it. Google “[your name] needs” and see what you come up with.

Apparently, I am touchy feely:
“Zia needs support.”
“Zia needs to reach the heart.”
“Zia needs to reach out honestly.”

And apparently, I need to drink more:
“Zia needs 30-40 shooters.”

But then I need to drink less:
“Zia needs to be put back in the bottle.”

Okay, five minutes wasted. Back to major soapmaking marathon. I’ve gotten bad about posting soaps, but in the past week I’ve made:

— Lavandin / spruce / orange / litsea / amrys / rose FO
— Another complicated blend that I forgot to write down, and can’t remember everything that’s in there
— Lavender / orange / peppermint
— Another batch of modified castile with beeswax and honey
— Another batch of the all-new the No Stinkum Steve.

Actually, let me waste another five minutes.

The all new NSS is the final NSS. It’s awesome. It’s made with anise, lavender, tea tree, and peppermint and colored with activated charcoal so it’s BLACK. I just cut it this morning:

A little problem with usage …

A little problem with usage …

Apparently, Vonage is expecting its customer base to go the way of its stock price–that is to say way, way down. How else to explain the title of its mass e-mailing? Yep, introducing the “Vonage Alumni Newsletter.”

Lackluster bloggishness

Lackluster bloggishness

I’m thinking about retiring the blog.

I’ve kept this thing going for over three years now. It’s gone through several iterations, chronicled the ephemera of my life, and I don’t regret what is, after all, an exercise in narcissism. But these days, it just feels pointless–and frankly, I’m not having fun with it anymore. More to the point, I have the sneaking suspicion that blogging is keeping me from working on the novel.

I don’t know; maybe this is just a phase. Maybe I’m just depressed.

Need a podcast receiver that works with Vista 64-bit?

Need a podcast receiver that works with Vista 64-bit?

Forget accounting programs, printer drivers, and all that other junk that doesn’t work. what I really needed was a podcast receiver that would. After googling around, found Happy Fish; its programmer Will was looking for Windows Vista 64-bit testers. And it works! And it’s free! Besides which, Will is a really nice guy (and I think must also be a designer, considering the super slick way HF looks). Download here.

Conde Nast Dream Trip Contest

Conde Nast Dream Trip Contest

My mother called this morning because she was having problems uploading her photo for this contest. Well, who could resist? I won’t win–I wrote the thing in two seconds–but if you feel compelled to vote for me, I won’t complain.