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Mother’s Day 3 comments

It has been roughly seven weeks since I’ve been able to even consider blogging. I can’t really apologize for this as it has been a fantastic seven weeks. I’m clearly in a “work hard, play hard” phase of my life and it takes me away from some of the processing place I get into when I write. I do miss it and I hope to find a way to integrate it back in. As part of my weekly “to do” list ritual, I keep a list of notes on future blog posts, little text sketches of things I need to say, or mull over, or share. I re-write the list each week, and usually add one or two ideas … their time will come.

“Work hard, play hard.” My Mom would SO approve of this. Of “getting out there”, as she would say. Trying things, finding barriers, working around them. Making mistakes. Responding carefully to that reality. Giving. Taking. Playing fair. Laughing. Feeling blessed. Feeling hurt. Keeping it in perspective. Feeling loved. Not being afraid of the intensity. A little cowed, sometimes, but not letting that stop me. Keeping it real.

Yes, Mom would be pleased that my hands-on working/playing life has taken over from processing and analysis for a while. So, for Mother’s Day, I dedicate this entire active busy intense jam-packed spring season to the memory of my Mom. It was her favourite time of year anyway – she loved being out in the garden, fussing, planning. She died in her garden, in the spring of 1998. Death in a place of growth and possibility. In my experience, these last two – growth and possibility – trump death every time.

I hope everyone has enjoyed a connection with the maternal, however it appears, this weekend. Happy Mother’s Day!

It Keeps Me Off The Streets 1 comment

So for ages now I’ve been puttering away at upgrading my business site. Given the fragmented life I’m living at the moment, this project has suffered from “shoemaker’s children” syndrome. I’m able to offer others all kinds of advice on their site strategies. I can’t seem to focus on my own.

Nonetheless, with the able creative design work of the magnificent Pam Sloan, it all got done and launched late Sunday night. Phew!

The main business site is here. This should remain fairly stable, although I have more testimonials on the way (so I’m told) and will be adding links and clients as appropriate. The nav bar is expandable so if I have “new services” to add, that is fairly easily done.

After years of experimenting with keeping my volunteer/fundraising work under the same umbrella as my revenue-generating business site, I’ve decided this doesn’t really work. It muddies the message. So I have split this off and will house all the creative fun stuff here. This site needs the most polishing up, design and content-wise, but I wasn’t going to hold up the works, so to speak, by continuing to fiddle with it. I’m collecting photos from past productions to put into an album here, so that should be fun.

My new business blog is here. The first two entries are on a) e-mail spoofing, and b) the tension between core competency and market differentiation. I think the next one is on managing up and managing down … but I can’t be sure until I really sit down to write. 🙂 I think I’ll eventually manage about one entry per week. I have an endless number of ideas for this blog – all I need to do is become self-aware of the anecdotes that come out of my mouth like frogs and toads, in the classroom.

After one entry, the stats here were interesting to watch. 33% of the traffic generated to the site came from google searches, which is terrific. Next step here is to throw some ads up and see what happens.

It is all a grand experiment. And it keeps me off the streets.

My next blogging projects include:

  • a blog for one of my hockey leagues to keep everyone connected
  • a place for women to talk about anger
  • something about grocery stores in Toronto

Do stay tuned … I’ll be off the streets a while it seems …

Check … 1-2-3 1 comment

Check … check … 1-2-3 … *tap tap* … is this thing on?


So, here I am, launching The HandBasket 3.0, a.k.a. Blogging 3.0 … feels like I’m unpacking boxes and checking out the view from here. Looks pretty amazing so far. Must admit I’m smitten with WordPress, the self-hosted option, and all that it has to offer. This is going to be fun!

I’ve imported (manually, post-by-post) some of my favourite posts from my old blog on Vox.com. I’ve managed to get up to November 2007 and plan to fill in the rest of 07-08 within the next few days. I love Vox and its community and all that it has to offer in terms of simplicity and ease. But, alas, it is time for me to leave my comfy nest and fly on my own now.

The last time I switched platforms, from LJ to Vox, I mused about why I blog at all. I no longer ask that question, at least not with the same interest or frequency. It is like asking why one enjoys good food or good music, or why one feels compelled to learn new things … it is just a part of my life. I think about things. I observe. I like to share what I think. I like to start, or continue, conversations.

I’m planning on starting a few more topic-focused blogs in the very near future. Watch this space for details.

But, now … I really must get to the gym … please do feel free to comment, subscribe or otherwise interact with this blog. Remember … we are all in this handbasket together, peeking over the side, and wondering where the hell we are going anyway … 🙂 … we might as well have a few good chats along the way.

TypePad’s Loss … WordPress’ Gain 5 comments

Well, after almost two weeks of pulling my hair out and getting nowhere that I wanted to be, I've pulled the plug on my TypePad account and am self-hosting WordPress. I'm thrilled … WordPress is slick, "problems" are easy to solve, it looks great and gives me (almost) total control. I just started things up yesterday afternoon and am already farther ahead than I was yesterday. Lots more work to do and no time to do it today, but here is my latest work in progress. I have a different look in mind eventually … but the current template will do for now.

(with apologies to karen and others in the six apart universe … )

Five Reasons TypePad Lost My Business:
Interface too hard to use. It feels like one of those things that is intuitive for the people who built it and can visualize the relationship between the structure of the GUI and the architecture … but it is NOT easy for folks who did not participate in its development.

Results poor. No matter how much the various "help" menus assured me I could do this or that with the design, it never quite worked out as it should. Or as I would wish it.

Promised functionality not delivered. Come on. I signed up for TypePad years and years ago, for free I think, under a completely different alias. For reasons beyond my understanding, when I upgraded my old account and started to add folders of content and different blogs, the original folder structure and naming conventions stuck and my new material NEVER appeared anywhere that could have a domain mapped to it. Come on. This isn't rocket science, it is Networking 101. Folder structures. Naming conventions. Pointing. Addressing. Get with the program people. This is what you are supposed to know how to do. Furthermore, widgets promising this or that functionality never worked, nor did they ever really "look" right when placed in the sidebars.

Customer service … too little, too late. I was assured yesteday, after many days of not hearing from anyone and me pleading for information, that they were "working on" the domain mapping problem and would have it fixed "within a week". A week?!? I'm at the second highest level of membership, this has been a stupid problem since day one, the entire crux of why I'm doing this blog switch involves me being able to map specific domains to specific locations … and you are going to take almost three weeks to let me know whether or not this is even possible?!? When your own bumpf assures users that it is "a breeeze"? What other delights await?

I'm paying for this? Given all the above, what exactly is it that I'm paying for? At the second highest level of membership?

I will say that TypePad made membership cancellation easy and they sent me a survey that allowed me to communicate all this effectively and, I hope, constructively. But, as of mid-afternoon yesterday, I'm a total WordPress convert. I'd been afraid of the self-hosting option as being possibly too complex for me, but it turns out that it is pretty damn easy. And I'm already paying for the privilege so this is actually "free" for me.

I feel like my blogging self is almost back on track now after being lost in the wilderness. Hurrah! 🙂

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Here I Am Again 3 comments

It was 1990, late summer/early fall. First L-T love and I were living in a gorgeous, quirky apartment over a tailor shop on Church St. in St. Catharines. I had a rather fun job with a steel distribution company that included bookkeeping on a new-fangled computer program called "Gem", making inside sales calls, and using a forklift to load and unload steel from the trucks as they arrived at the warehouse. I was the only "worker", other than the outside sales people – all men. There were four – count'em four – senior managers, only two of whom were actively involved in the day to day running of the joint. It was a cool little entrepreneurial venture launched by a bunch of senior execs from Toronto who were tired of living in the big city and wanted a taste of small town life. Basically, I got to do everything including, on occasion, accompany them on their negotiation trips with the larger steel suppliers.

Things were going ok, for the most part. Computers as integral parts of our lives were not yet present and, yet, this small exposure at work intrigued me. Through a family connection, I had an opportunity to buy a "real" computer for a vastly reduced – at the time – price. I remember it clearly: $2,500 got you a 386 Pentium and a 14" monitor, a dot matrix printer and Windows 3.0, running over MS DOS 5.1. Actually, it was a brief flirtation with something IBM called "PC DOS" round about then as they were feeling a wee bit pissy with Mr. Gates. Anyway, at the time, I didn't know anything about all that. Based on the stability of my job, I went and got a line of credit at the bank and invested in the computer as, at this price, at the time, it was a steal. We hauled the very large boxes home, took an entire day to set it up, and stared at it for a long time. Figured out how to turn it on and watched with frustration as Windows revealed its penchant for the blue screen of death.

Almost immediately after making this investment, I got laid off. The senior execs had a falling out amongst themselves, much legal wrangling, and the whole operation was being moved to a new location, far away.

Because the special opportunity to buy the computer was through an employee program, there was no returning it for a refund. I now had debt and a big plaster-coloured monster on my desk that I had no idea what to do with. Or what it could do.

It came with something called a 2600 baud modem and a phone cable. I plugged it in.

What followed was three months, the better part of a winter, of me getting up, kissing my partner good-bye after making coffee and having breakfast, and heading upstairs to sit in front of this … thing … for eight to ten hours a day, figuring it out. It wasn't like I was forcing myself to do it. I was drawn to it. I learned all about MS/PC DOS (same diff), learned how Windows "sat on top" of it, learned command lines, learned the limitations of Windows as an "operating system", learned how to use the modem (uh oh), and learned about Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs). Me and my coffee, pre-Internet, pouring over books, cranking up the long distance bills, and learning almost strictly and entirely by trial and error.

I learned a lot. I sat with my L-T partner's brother, someone who passed for a computer geek at the time, and would listen to his lively explanations of the internal workings of the computer and that really helped. I tried to ask intelligent questions but, not being formally trained, I felt really quite inadequate and in awe of anyone who actually Knew How These Things Worked.

By the end of the winter self-directed tutorial, I had started two businesses, one of which I sold 20 months later after starting it from nothing. (That business taught me the basics of databases.) The other lives on, after several morphs, as my consulting practice.

Flash forward – wow – eighteen years. In some respects, I'm still sitting here, pointing and clicking and wondering what will happen next. But, this week especially, it feels like I'm back at square one.

See, I'm branching out my creative and business online activities. I'm in the process of moving this blog, The HandBasket, to TypePad. I have plans for an additional five, count'em five, blogs that will also be on TypePad. Here on Vox, we are all producing content and driving traffic to vox.com from which they benefit enormously in terms of ad revenues. One could be resentful of this, but it isn't until one has tried to set up a blog, including domain mapping and advertising, from scratch, in the still quite buggy TypePad interface that one appreciates the slickness and cozy-cushy comfort of Vox.

Of course, Vox and TypePad are part of the same company, so many elements feel somewhat familiar. But the experience of "blogging" is quite different in the TypePad world. First – and this is what I'm working on now – the creation of a visually-attractive look/feel for the blog is trickier for those of us who are not particularly design-oriented. I'm thanking my lucky stars that I have retained some sense and basic "hunt/peck" skill about HTML and CSS. Still, I'm never sure what is possible or desirable, design-wise. It is – as it was eighteen years ago – all trial and error. I keep trying stuff and thinking, oh, I like that or euw that sucks. This will take a while.

Then there are crazy bugs, like trying to put one's blog on FeedBurner and being told that the feed is not verifiable. Then going through the verification process to slice out, line by line, the orphan/stray code that has been inserted but will not pass the feed test. Ref. my gratitude at having a passing familiarity with HTML.

Then there are "widgets". I've inserted about a dozen of them into the new HandBasket, only to find that they don't actually work without significant tweaking, some of which require a fair amount of fiddly concentration and not a small amount of frustration.

There is the interaction, selection and placement of ads which, in TypePad , will be entirely under my control. According to the stats monitor I've been keeping, The HandBasket (at Vox) has drawn an oddly consistent and ever-growing flow of traffic however I have NO expectation that it will be a money-maker for me. I'm using this blog as my sandbox at TypePad to figure out how it all works and what works best in terms of layout and types of ads. As with my experience eighteen years ago, it is a matter of trial and error. I feel that once I get this process in place and under my belt with The HandBasket, even with no expected revenues, the creation of several "real" revenue-generating blogs will be much easier.

There seems to be a myriad of tools out there promising great things in terms of keeping track of stats, providing search functionality, feeds, hits, bounces, referrers, etc. etc. Again, trial and error … good solid learning that also takes the most time.

Then, there is the domain-mapping issue. TypePad makes this seem fairly straight-forward but, in reality, something has screwed up in their folder structure that has made it impossible for me to map my totally cool new domain names to anything in my TypePad account. They have acknowledged this and are working on the problem, apparently. I think it is only a matter of aligning the folders properly.  (Cut to visual of me drumming my fingers on the table.)

Oh, and for reasons not yet known to me, I can't upload files through the upload button on the toolbar. Control panel, yes. Upload button, no. (More finger drumming.)

See, here at Vox, this is all pre-fab. When it is time to write, one logs in, clicks create, and away you go. Wanna change your design? Click on "design" and click on a template. Boom, done. Wanna upload something? No problem. I'm trying to create a similarly cosy environment for myself as a creative sort of person at TypePad. I want to log in, understand the shortest, clearest route to expressing myself, and have it done. Afterall, there is a huge relationship between form and content. If I don't find the process or the results pleasing, I won't keep at it. This learning curve has given me a new appreciation for the effort that has gone into creating Vox and I feel less resentful for the lack of ad revenue sharing.

It sure reminds me of that intense learning time, oh so long ago, when I had to force myself to channel my creativity through a technological interface I did not completely understand. Let's hope my results yield something pleasing to both me and you, dear readers.

Watch my work-in-progress at the not-yet-launched new HandBasket. Stay tuned for the new domain name which I'll announce at the point in time when I'm ready to fully switch from Vox. Which is not yet. The search thingy doesn't work, the ads aren't quite right, and I'm not happy with the lay-out yet. But I'll get there … 🙂

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But … what is it for? (Part Deux) Click Here To Comment!

Apparently, also insomniac's relief! 🙂 This just in from my friend, m …

Hi Venus,

I’m having a night of insomnia.  Not that unusual.  But guess how I spent the last half hour?  Catching up on Venus' Blog!  Enjoyed it enormously.  Love the new bike, by the way.  Have you and T thought about venturing down here for our wonderful bike path?  Great shot of you in your kitchen and very impressed that you could have a sit down dinner for that many!  Loved the video of the hamster and watched it twice.  How can I email it to a friend?  There’s more I wanted to comment on but I’m feeling sleepy now, so I will give sleep a chance.

BTW, I realized as soon as I saw the opera singing winner of the Brit show, that I have seen him perform.  WONDERFUL!

Thanks for everything.


See? Blogging … not just for breakfast anymore!

A cynical person might interpret this to mean that my blog is so boring that it makes insomniacs too sleepy to comment … but, of course, I am not a cynical person.

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Blog on Blogging 4 comments

Since switching from LiveJournal to Vox, I've had a relatively blissful blogging life. By which I mean that no one has spammed, harassed or taunted me. Having had this happen at LiveJournal, I must say that I am very happy with the privacy and commenting controls that allow me to discourage such interaction here. Comments from anyone other than a "friend" must be "approved" by me before being published on my blog. No anonymous commenting is allowed here.

I read Deborah's post this morning over coffee and followed a few of her links. It seems that all is not well in the blogging world … people are being mean to each other out there.  There is a movement afoot for more accountability in the blogging world – here are a few posts and articles to consider:

CupCate's post: Take Back The Blog! & Stop Wrestling With the pigs. Please note that this post includes Take Back The Blog! Day – April 28, 2007. Hm – perhaps I should post-date this entry!

The Blog Herald: Is Your Self-Worth Wrapped Up in Your Blog?

Tim O'Reilly's First Draft: Blogging Code of Conduct. I read with interest the importance of "no anonymous commenting" and "don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person".

My own reflections on blogging (Bloggin' 2.0) when I moved from LJ to Vox last year.

The line between my online life and my concrete reality gets a bit blurry. I have off-line, "in-person" friends who read my blog but do not comment. I have off-line "in-person" friends who read and DO comment and interact with me here as well as in person. (I really love that part – mwah!)  I have on-line "friends" whom I've never met but who do drop by read, and occasionally comment. (New Love finds it weird that there are people out there in the world whom I've never met in person yet refer to as "friends". 🙂 )  There are, apparently, on-line readers who lurk here.

The standards of behaviour remain the same for all of you, regardless of where we intersect. Treat yourself, and me by extension, with respect, decency, generosity and courtesy and you will get the same back from me. You may even find loyalty and affection over time.  The moment I feel trashed, discarded or somehow reduced in worth, I get red flags. We will have a conversation, you and I, in private – either on-line or somewhere in the real world. At least, I'm going to try to. I have found that some people get very squirmy when they see me coming to call them on their shit. If I collect enough red flags from your less-than-respectful behaviour, I will simply back away from you. I'm too old for that shit, either on-line or in person. I just won't allow it in my life anymore. It drains me and I don't need it.

I want to underline something here. I've learned that when someone treats me badly, it is about THEM, not me. This has been a monstrously difficult lesson to learn and I do admit to having forgotten it a few times, very recently. A person being underhanded or vengeful is is acting out THEIR inability to be adult and direct – it isn't about me. It is about their own self-respect, or lack thereof.

Because I'm too old for sandbox behaviour, I have learned that it is quite okay to restrict the conditions under which crappy behaviours flourish, hence the commenting restrictions. I don't mind being called names like "control freak" for this. The label "control freak" has served me quite well over the years, actually. Don't knock it! In any case, I wouldn't invite the mudslingers to my house … therefore, I am not going to create a welcome environment for them to my blog space. I will not choose to be where they are.

I need people around me who enrich and nurture themselves and others. People who are fundamentally kind and decent, loyal and direct. People who know about personal boundaries, privacy and basic ethics. I think such people are rare. From time to time, I hope I fulfill this personal mandate myself. I strive to – I like to surround myself with others who also set these elements as a personal standard. People who, like me, may slip occasionally but who "get" that their treatment of others mirrors their own feelings of self-worth.

Am I attempting to create a cosy, frictionless little fantasy world where no one disagrees? That just hasn't been my experience. There is a world of difference between disagreement and disrespect. However, when you get down to it, shouldn't we all be building lives with people around us who will support us, rather than tear us down? Isn't this the healthier choice?

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Lint From Below 5 comments

So, I wonder about blogging sometimes. Meaning that I wonder about the activity itself. Sure, I often ponder specific posts and topics, usually when I'm hurtling down a highway or waiting for some students to finish some in-class group work. Neither of these times are conducive to the activity of writing, thinking, processing, creating.

But I also wonder about blogging itself. I love to write, but lately I don't have much to say, which makes the act seem indulgent somehow. I like to talk about my life, but then wonder about that value to others. Then I look at my own blogging pattern and I notice a profound upswing in my own interest/energy re.: blogging in the fall/winter, with a falling off as the New Year begins and my life gets more active.

I've started a new relationship, and I wonder if the energy that used to be spent writing is now being spent in conversation with her …? When in doubt, I think it is probably a good thing for real life to trump on-line life.

My New Love wonders if blogging / writing is my way of working things out and I think there is some truth to that. Maybe the energy of a new relationship reduces the angst (or sets it aside for a while) so that there is less to work out?

Maybe I'm still in vacation mode …? Reverse hibernating?

In any case, I just wanted to say that I really am still around, as evidenced by my willingness to destroy my professional reputation by sending out jokes that make no mathematical sense whatsoever but are good for a chuckle. (See below.) I'm reading other people's stuff. I'm enjoying Jennifer's new blog immensely and highly recommend it to

others. Her talent scares me. I can't imagine how she has been so kind to praise my blog when she writes as blazingly well as she does.

I miss wizzy and wish she would surface. Confession: I ate sushi pizza this week with Lex and margotinto in "our" place. Can you forgive me?

Bad E-Mail Joke that EVERYONE has called me on for the math. I don't write 'em, I just send 'em and yes my MBA filter was off  or broken or still in Hawaii. I don't know … but here it is …

If you had purchased $1000.00 of Nortel stock three years ago, it would now be worth $49.00.

With Enron, you would have had $16.50 left of the original $1000.00.
WorldCom, you would have less than $5.00 left.

But if over the last three years you had purchased $1000.00 worth of beer, drank all the beer, then returned the cans or bottles for your refund you would
have $614.00.

So based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle. 

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New Blogger Alert! Click Here To Comment!

My friend Jennifer has just started her first blog here. She is a smart, witty, philosophical sort, in that down-east sort of way, and a fine writer to boot. Please drop by to welcome her to the blogosphere.

I say this is her "first" blog because I know she is going to get hooked and will soon be managing several.

Yay, Jennifer!

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Just Can’t Get Enough Click Here To Comment!

Tonight, a confluence of events has caused me to create my second vox blog – can you stand it?!?

For ages, I've been trying to figure out how to meld my professional life (teaching, business/technology consultation, music/theatre production, fundraising) with my online life. I've hired a graduate of our program to re-design my "real" web site. Here is what he has so far. Cool stuff happens when you mouse over the words "business" and "creative". This has been going on since, um, April. Sigh – he is a sweet fellow and terribly overbooked. I will stick with him but gawd knows when my damn site will be done!

In the meantime, I have a production coming up at the end of January and I can't wait any longer. So I have started yet another blog specifically to archive and promote the production side of what I do. There are about two years worth of events now that I'd like to have a record of.

At this point, I think I could drastically reduce my web guy's work by just using the new vox site to promote/archive the productions. However, I know he has already done a pile of work on the back end that just hasn't made it to the screen yet.

I just can't get all hard-nosed and pull the project manager whip out on my web guy. He is young, newly married and wtih two little kids – I mean LITTLE – three years old and six months old. He has a full-time job as e-business manager for a multi-national brokerage, a serious commute to deal with, and he runs his web development business in his so-called spare time. Thing is, when he gets down to it and concentrates, he is brilliant with flash development.

I just have to be patient. (Argh!)

My other issue has been trying to keep my Venus persona seperate from my work/real life identity. That is trickier. I don't mind venting my spleen over here as long as no one can connect it directly to most of the rest of the things I get up to in my life. Hence the need for a second blog. I feel ok pointing all of you over there, but will likely not be pointing anyone from there, over here – if that makes any sense.

In any case, there is another "me" here … just in case one wasn't enough!

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