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Archive for September, 2005

For the record

Monday, September 19th, 2005

After I was laid off in 2002, I wrote a lot of stuff in this blog about the experience of losing my job, searching for another one, and returning to the ranks of the employed. The same thing happened again this year, but I didn’t blog much about the process this time around. Mostly that was a good thing, because I covered that ground pretty well in 2002-2003. But it’s unfortunate that I didn’t write anything about those events, because I sometimes use this blog as a reference when I need to know the exact date of a major transition in my life — like the day I started or left a particular job.
When I was using Blogger, I had to find that information by skimming through the archives. But thanks to Movable Type, this blog now has a search function. So I want to go ahead and note a few dates for posterity.

  • On Tuesday, 7 June 2005, I was informed that my contract assignment at IBM Retail Store Solutions (RSS) would end the following Friday.
  • On Friday, 10 June, I finished cleaning out my desk and left IBM.
  • On Monday, 18 July, I started a new contract job at John Deere in Cary. However, it became apparent after the first day or two that they had nothing for me to do. (It was a odd internal misunderstanding at Deere — the manager who brought me in believed his team needed a writer, but his people eventually admitted that they had misjudged their requirments.)
  • On Tuesday, 26 July, I left Deere, having “worked” there for only seven business days.
  • On Thursday, 1 September, I started a new job as the sole technical writer at Openfield Solutions, a small startup company in North Raleigh.

There, now I don’t have to worry about my faulty memory. If I need those dates three years from now, I’ll be able to find them here.

Metablogging

Monday, September 12th, 2005

This blog was pretty much dormant during the summer months, but I’ve been trying to blow the dust off and bring it back to life during the last week or two. The most visible part of this process was that I started posting again, but I’ve also made some minor improvements that I thought I should point out.
First of all, I moved the blog to a new URL. That happened not because I thought it would be an improvement, but because my ownership of the old URL (logopolis.info) was about to expire and I decided not to renew it. I had obtained it for free a year ago as part of a promotion, but after the first year I would have to pay to renew my registration. And in the meantime, I had became aware that some services (such as WHOIS privacy) are not available for .info domains. I resolved to switch to a .net domain when my free year ran out. Nobody had registered patberry.net, so I reserved that domain for later use. At the beginning of September, as the expiration of the logopolis.info registration loomed, I moved this blog to patberry.net.
Movable Type 3.2 was released on August 25, and I upgraded a few days later. This wasn’t directly responsible for any changes that are noticeable to the readers of this blog (except for the “Powered by Movable Type 3.2″ icon that’s currently visible in the sidebar), but it included a number of improvements to the behind-the-scenes user interface that make it easier to maintain this blog. One of these was an improved power-editing mode that allowed me to assign categories to many entries at once. Using this new feature, I was able to complete a task that had been on the back burner for months: I assigned categories to every entry in the Logopolis archives, all the way back to my first blog post in October 2001.
After I had categorized all the entries, it became obvious that an awful lot of them are about blogging. (As of today, only “Employment” and “Pop culture” have more entries.) In other words, a substantial portion of my blogging is actually metablogging, or blogging about blogging. And here I am doing it again right now. I’d better change the subject before I trigger some kind of feedback loop.
While I was at it, I installed this alternative logo for Movable Type. It only appears on the pages that I see when I’m posting to (or otherwise maintaining) this blog, so no one but me will ever see it. But the standard logo is boring, and I figure anything that makes my blog-posting experience more interesting might encourage me to post more often. I admit that installing an upgrade that only I can see is an unbelievably geeky thing to do. But I did also make some improvements that are visible to readers: I changed the body text font to one that I think is easier to read, and updated the page icon to match the current color scheme and title font.
I know what you’re thinking — these are incredibly tiny changes, so why am I blathering about them? And you’re right, but I did warn you that I was going to tell you about minor improvements to my blog. And besides, if these changes were obvious, I wouldn’t need to point them out, now would I?
The point of all this, I guess, is to answer the question I asked several months ago. My blog isn’t dead, and that’s why I’ve been buffing the chrome and touching up the paint. Now I just need to drive it more often.

Rite in the Rain

Tuesday, September 6th, 2005

Did you know you can buy waterproof paper? Neither did I. The J.L. Darling Corporation sells a product called Rite in the Rain, which is described as “all-weather writing paper.” At first, I expected this to be some kind of laminated paper that you would write on with a Sharpie, but that’s not the case. It’s ordinary paper with a water-repellent coating that allows you to write on it with a pencil or an all-weather pen.
Rite in the Rain is available in just about any format you can think of: sheets suitable for use in printers or copiers, bound and spiral notebooks, loose-leaf sheets, and specialized grid sheets and forms used by various outdoor professionals. It’s also sold in bulk (sheets or rolls). Amazing!

Thibodaux

Sunday, September 4th, 2005

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I was born in Louisiana. Specifically, I was born in the town of Thibodaux (pronounced “TIB-uh-doe”), about 40 miles east-southeast of New Orleans. It occurred to me today that I really should use the Web to find out how my birthplace was affected by Hurricane Katrina. After the scenes of devastation in New Orleans that we’ve all seen over the last few days, I was afraid of what I might learn. I braced myself and opened my browser, half expecting to find that the town had been entirely destroyed.
But Thibodaux is still there and in relatively good condition. Thanks to the Daily Comet, I’ve learned that the town suffered wind damage and power failures, but wasn’t flooded. And now Thidodaux is hosting refugees from New Orleans. Nearly a thousand people are being sheltered on the campus of Nicholls State University. A field hospital has also been set up at NSU to handle the overflow from Thibodaux Regional Medical Center, which is full.
I can’t claim any real connection with Thibodaux other than having been born there; I don’t even remember the place. But I still feel proud of my birthplace for what it’s doing to help the victims of the hurricane.

The way I talk

Sunday, September 4th, 2005

How Southern are you? This 20-question quiz analyzes your word choices (for example, is it a bag, a sack, or a poke?) and determines how strongly your vocabulary is influenced by the culture of the southeastern U.S. My result was “50% (Yankee). Barely in the Yankee category.” That came as no surprise to me, because I’ve been baffling people for a long time with my un-Southern speech patterns and accent. Despite having lived my entire life in the South (Louisiana and the Carolinas, with a brief stopover in Texas when I was a toddler), I don’t sound like a Southerner.
I used to think that this was due to the influence of television, but that can’t be the whole answer. The kids I grew up with in South Carolina watched as much TV as I did, but most of them sound more Southern than I do. I think that parental influence has to be a factor as well. My father was born and raised in Texas, which has its own way of talking that doesn’t much resemble that of the Deep South. And while my mother was raised in New Orleans, she was born in Kansas City.
I sometimes challenge people who don’t know my background to guess what part of the country I come from, based on the way I talk. Almost no one gets it right. The most popular guess is that I’m from somewhere in the Midwest (my mother’s influence at work, no doubt). Folks are astonished when I tell them I’ve never even been there.
Recently, several Raleigh Little Theatre volunteers were chatting about our backgrounds, and one of them mentioned that she was from Missouri. This seemed like an interesting opportunity — would a person who grew up in the same area as my mother think that I came from there? I asked her if she could place me based on my accent, and she gave me an answer I’d never gotten before: New England! I told her I’ve never been there either, except for the 1989 Worldcon in Boston.
I can only conclude that the influences of my parents and television have left me with a bland, generic American accent that people find impossible to pin down. They know that I didn’t grow up where they did, but that’s about all they can be sure of.
UPDATE: According to this quiz, I’m part Australian! At least, I think that’s what my score means — I got 14 right answers out of 20. But my actual evaluation was this: “You’re a battler. Not much of a one, mind… but getting there. You will have no trouble getting around, and understanding most things that are said to you. However avoid RSL clubs and old peoples homes, the nuances are lost on you.” Huh? I guess I should admit at this point that a fair number of my right answers were just lucky guesses.
ANOTHER UPDATE: I understand now. “RSL clubs” refers to the Returned Services League, a military veterans’ organization that seems to be the Australian equivalent of the American Legion or the VFW.

Pop quiz

Saturday, September 3rd, 2005

Could you pass 8th-grade math? Find out by answering these ten questions from the Illinois State Board of Education’s standardized test for 8th-graders. I got all ten of them right, and I was a liberal arts major, so the rest of you have no excuse for not acing the quiz. (I did use a calculator, though. I’m pretty sure that’s allowed.)

Java joy

Friday, September 2nd, 2005

Coffee is good for you! According to a new study, it’s the best source of antioxidants — better than tea, fruits, or vegetables. And when journalist Aaron McKenna tested various methods of overclocking yourself, he found coffee to be the most effective.
In moderation, of course. Too much caffeine will be bad for you. You can even kill yourself with the stuff, if you drink huge amounts of it. Energy Fiend has a handy Death by Caffeine calculator that uses your body weight to determine how much of your favorite caffeinated beverage constitutes a semilethal dose (technically, the LD50). According to the calculator, it would take 56 cups of drip coffee (or 146 cans of Mountain Dew) to kill me.