December 31, 2013


So over the weekend, Paul Graham unintentionally set off a shitstorm about women in tech. Once again, my Twitter feed was full of people debating whether women could hack it as hackers; whether women hacked at age 13; whether the best hackers even started at 13; what can we do to encourage more girls to hack; why women actively avoid code; blah blah blah.

And then @snipeyhead asked:

@snipeyhead: Do incubators have an obligation to actively seek out female hackers? - what do you think?

@snipeyhead's link goes to Christina Farr's December 30, 2013, article in VentureBeat where she asks several folks in tech the same thing. And the answers are all fairly well considered. I think we all agree that this is a complex problem.

Nothing, of course, is solved in a short VentureBeat article which gives three men and two women a few paragraphs to respond.

A sort of vague-ish consensus appears across most answers to this question - not just in the VentureBeat article, but in tech discussions I've seen on Twitter as well. It follows the same type of pattern we use when solving a tech issue: find the failure point and fix it from there.

Which makes a hell of a lot of sense if you're fixing a program or a piece of hardware. It doesn't make nearly as much sense as we'd like since we're attempting a meatspace issue and I use the cyberpunk term quite deliberately here.

We have a tendency as hackers to live in our heads. We work things through systematically, even when we have our moments of inspiration and intuition. What we do to problem-solve for a living, however, doesn't fully work with messy humans.

I think that John Scalzi nailed the issues perfectly in May of 2012 when he wrote Straight, White, Male: The Lowest Difficult Setting There Is. If you haven't read his piece, please, take a moment now, because I think this metaphor captures the gist of the issue in a way nothing else does.

In short, this issue is larger than just women and it highlights a need to help out a lot of "character classes." I think groups like Girls Who Code are tremendously important, but it's only one piece of the puzzle. We need to encourage people from all groups to code as youngsters.

But we also need to encourage those same groups to pick up hacking in college. Or just out of college. Take a quick look at Ashley Baxter's article, in 24ways this year where she, someone who is not on the lowest difficult setting, someone who sells property insurance, didn't like the software she was giving clients because the vendor had neglected the app for years. It was cumbersome. It was incredibly ugly. It was embarrassing.

So she learned some Ruby on Rails and made her. Own. Damn. Program.

Is she ever going to be a hacker extraordinaire? Maybe not. Probably not as her passion seems to be in running her business. But maybe she's catching the bug and maybe she delve deeper.

I don't think the question should be "Do incubators have an obligation to actively seek out female hackers" - and I don't think the question should be "How do we get more women in tech."

I think we need to stop fooling ourselves that hackers are all of one mindset. Good gods, go look at someone else's code for a minute! You know that person is more than likely solving problems differently from you. Some of those solutions are better than yours. Some make trade-offs you don't agree with. Some only partially solve the issue and brute-force the results.

The more diverse sets of brains we get into hacking, the more ways we'll find to solve problems.

If you start encouraging more people on higher difficulty settings to join the hacking, you'll find them thinking in different ways and you'll find new solutions, some of them quite elegant.

So do incubators have an obligation to actively seek out female hackers?

If they want the best products, I think they are going to have to find ways to seek out more diverse hackers. And I think we're going to have to help that process by encouraging more people to play in our sandbox instead of putting up "Locals Only" signs everywhere.

It's a complex issue. But that's what we do: deal with complex problems. It's past time we do it.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:17 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 20, 2013

Pulling the Plug

I started this blog in 2005.

It looks like I'm ending it 9 years later.

The last post I wrote was one of the best pieces of writing that I've done in years. And not only did I get no comments at all, I got just one person's response on Twitter. I've long since abandoned all the blog sites ... Cre8Buzz which will always remain in my heart, BlogAdvance, BlogThis, BlogMad, BlogCatalog, BlogTheOther.

I neglected, in my "heyday" if I really had such a thing, to join up with BlogHer. Maybe that was the fatal mistake.

Or, maybe, it was the lack of updates.

The lack of responses.

The exhaustion I felt when I realized promotion of the blog was far more effort than writing posts.

The fact remains that I wrote the most intense blog post in years and as far as the stats can tell me ... I got about 30 hits ... and zero comments. One mention on Twitter about being a good writer.

I'm pretty sure that all things told, I am the one who fucked up.

What I do know is ... it's really not worth the trouble of keeping up with blog software anymore. It's just as easy to do this as a webpage ... and fewer hackers ... for the lack of response.

It makes me sad, to be sure. But again ... I think it's my fault.

I'm sorry.

But this just isn't worth the trouble if I'm only talking to myself. And so ... Red Monkey blog ... I think it's time to say goodbye.

You've outlived your purpose. You've opened up vulnerabilities that are no longer worth my time.

Vaya con dios, mi amigo. Vaya con dios.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:09 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 13, 2012


So. Movable Type is re-installed temporarily. Comments are still non-functional for now. If this installation is hacked again, I'll kill the damn comments permanently and just write posts manually. If that happens, I'll have to kill the reader feed as well. I'm not going to manually write HTML for posts and then edit a second file as well. I'll use MT to post one last time before that happens, so if you do only read me in your reader, you'll get a warning.

The nice folks at JetPens sent me an awesome brush pen to review. I've used it a bit over a couple of days. I want to see how the ink does before I publish my review, though, so expect that to happen soonish.

Other than that, I've been working my behind off lately. Still loving my new job even though I've started getting into the politics that inevitably occur when you have an organization of more than 10 people. I don't have to like politics and the games people play (even at a place where they try REALLY hard to limit such things), but it's all good. We're all heading in the same direction, just different ways of trying to get there! I'm good with that.

I've taken over the emailer program there (don't worry, it's not spam, it's opt-in!). It's wonderful to be running something, looking at the metrics and trying to adjust things to get better responses. The copywriter I work with is great - we've managed to knock it out of the ballpark several times this year and sell out of product in a short time. In fact, today, we actually sold out in something like 4-6 hours!

At the same time, producing and sending 3-4 HTML emailers is exhausting. I barely have time to do anything else and I really fear that my HTML and CSS coding skills are getting rusty. Making HTML emailers is a lot like coding in 1999. It's all tables and very little of the stuff that makes being a web designer/interaction designer fun. I'm trying to crank through a month's production in two weeks, giving me two weeks to do other things.

I did get one landing page re-done and it's something I'm proud of. We had a problem with needing a landing page that showed family groupings of tote bags and merchandise bags/envelopes. However, these items turn over quickly as certain patterns or materials are discontinued. Photo simply couldn't keep up with all of the requested re-shoots and it really wasn't fair to them. Nor was it fair to the customers to leave these family shots with 3 of the 4 items discontinued so that when they clicked through to look at those bags, they'd see 1 that was on the previous page and maybe another 2 that they'd not seen. My solution was to use illustrations which clearly showed the most important features - shape, handles, etc. Then there's a "sidebar" showing the available colours. An example is here on Dribbble. It's easy for me to add a new colour swatch when things change - much easier than it is for Photo to get all of the items in that family, re-stage, re-shoot, re-colour-correct, re-submit, etc, etc. I'm hoping that the customers dig it and find it useful.

All right. Kind of boring post. Thanks for hanging in with me whilst I get all this software and hacking mess cleaned up.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:27 PM | Blog | Design | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 2, 2012


So. Movable Type is completely removed from my server until I figure out what's going on with the hacking situation. That means comments and search are kaput for now. I spent about 7-8 hours Sunday trying to get all the files cleaned up, but since I don't know how they're getting in, I'm not going to screw around and leave that as an opening. Kinda scratching an itch with a big-ass sledge-hammer, but there it is.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:35 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 11, 2012


Comments will probably remain down for a few days whilst I find a new Turing plug-in to prevent spam. But, search should work again ...

And one day maybe I'll publish one of the several post I have brewing.

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:14 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 7, 2012


Due to a need to update the blog software and a lack of time, the Red Monkey blog will be down for a few days. Comments won't work and I'm not sure that anything other than basic navigation will work. Hope to be back up by March 15.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:24 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 24, 2011

The Cloud

I'm not a proponent of the cloud.

To me, the cloud is the most aptly named new "tech" that we've created: it's insubstantial, it's not always easily accessible and at the same time, as many are finding out to their detriment, like the clouds in the sky, it can be easily seen by many.

I understand the allure. Not being tied to one specific machine is an enticing one. It's hard to know you have something you need at home, but not work. And particularly if you travel a lot, you can't always take your workhorse machine with you, so you have to hope you've transferred everything you'll need to a travel-machine - or that you'll have access to that workhorse in some way and can download what you need, when you need it.

But I'm seeing more and more people beginning to move to the cloud, to trust the cloud. Maybe I'm just a suspicious bastard, but I find this to be a mistake.

1) Not every location has reliable internet service.
2) Not every location has reasonably fast internet service.
3) The more popular the platform/service, the more likely it will be hacked or compromised.
4) Not every service has acceptable Terms of Service - many, in fact, do not protect you, your account or your data.
5) What happens if/when that service you rely upon goes out of business? Or, in some ways, worse, their servers are seized in an unrelated investigation?

I think number 1 and 2 are relatively self-explanatory. Folks with a reliable connection seem to forget that there are huge areas where either the reliability or the speed are simply not up to par. I've seen presenters at conferences burned when the upload/download speed of the hotel internet was simply not up to the task. Areas where storms take out the internet on a regular basis. Areas where throttling is practiced, even when the ISP claims they don't throttle. Even when going to a tech conference in a large city, you simply cannot rely on the reliability and speeds of the local internet support the cloud.

3) The more popular the platform/service, the more likely it will be hacked or compromised. This one is just a given of the computer age. It's not a deal-breaker on its own as of yet, but it's something that every computer user, cloud-based or not, should keep in mind. Most people who know me know that I'm an avid Apple fan ... for now. One benefit has always been that my machine and software have always just worked. Another is there have been almost no worries about virus or hacking issues. That's not so true now that Apple is starting to gain more and more market share. I'm still an Apple person.

But, as Apple's popularity is on the rise, so are Apple-specific attacks. I try not to be complacent any more. And it's the same with any cloud service. Using the cloud to store your data without any other backup, is, in my opinion, a serious mistake. Between connectivity issues and the likelihood that hackers will target a popular service increase, I'm leery of leaving any data in the cloud for very long. The longer information is there, the more popular the service, the more likely my data will become compromised.

And then we come down to numbers four and five, which for me, tend to be deal-breakers.

4) Terms of Service. Here's where there are real issues. Even the ones which attempt to write in "plain English" often don't come across well enough for the average person to really feel comfortable with. The plain and simple fact right now is that the law has not caught up with the speed of the internet. Twitpic, YFrog, Google+ have all been hit by this, as have other services. The problem is that these services need permission to store and to transmit your data and the legal phrasing makes it sound to the average person, as if that service is claiming the rights to your data for their own nefarious purposes. Most services have been quick to jump in on public outcry and insist that's not what they meant.

The problem here is that the law has just not caught up to the realities of the digital age. There's a lot of leeway in how thing are phrased and what they mean. We don't have good, reliable precedents set up yet. There's a lot of security holes here and a lot of uncertainties.

On the other hand, what is on my hard drive or thumb drive is on my control. If I'm paranoid about what's on there, I can create or use a program to hard-erase it in an emergency. I can't be sure that a like program would irrevocably erase all data from any given service. The service and their servers are not under my control - and neither is my data.

In addition to who owns or controls the data, there are also issues with your account in general. Right now, Google + is coming under fire for closing out accounts of people where they think the name is not "real." Leaving the "real" name definition alone for now, think about this for a moment. How many people have gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and more all tied into one account? And what happens when that account is closed unexpectedly? What happens when you do not have access to your email or other data?

There have been numerous accounts lately of people discovering their account has been closed WITHOUT ANY NOTICE TO THE USER. In many cases, without evidence as well. In other words, just some troll or angry acquaintance can, in many services, get your account shut down. Meanwhile you lose days of productivity and in the case of email services, perhaps time-sensitive, vital data and work offers. You're left trying to prove a negative to a large entity which really doesn't care about getting your account back to you, much less your data.

It's a scary thought that my email account could be hijacked by a service at any time with little or no warning even if I've done nothing wrong.

And then there's reason 5: what if the service disappears? They go out of business. Close down. How do you get your data now? Yes, you should always back up your data, but we all know there's a time gap between the most conscientious back-up plan and what you've recently worked on. And we all know that most of us are not diligent enough about backing up our data.

In addition, if the service goes out of business, how are they disposing of their servers? Your data is on there. Auctioning off the servers might mean that your data was not sufficiently cleaned off the drives.

For me, there are too many variables for me to trust the cloud. I've too often lived in places where my connection is not great, not reliable. I've seen multiple services either go under or be bought by other companies that I do not trust. I've known many people who've had part if not all of their online identity hacked - often causing "real world" issues.

In all, I don't think that every use of the cloud is a bad thing. I simply feel that a lot of people - both the working joes and the bleeding edge technophiles - are not always thinking this through before committing everything to the cloud. And that concerns me most. Not that the cloud exists or is used ... but that too many people are not necessarily thinking this all the way through.

The cloud, to me, is just a cloud. It's nice to lay on my back in the summer time, looking at the sky and dreaming of all of the thing the cloud could be ... but I'm far too practical to believe that the cloud is anything but a dream or something more than fleeting.

The concept is nice. It's utopian.

But I no longer believe in utopias. They are certainly thing to strive for - otherwise what is the point in life? But they are fraught with issues that we've not yet considered.

I guess I am just an old, suspicious bastard now.

Suspicious and tired old bastard

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:24 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 19, 2011


So the roof was not correctly re-shingled. We won't mention the fact that they did not re-do the roof, they just laid shingles over the top. With nails that were too short. And they screwed up the starter course. And misaligned them.

The owner, in another state, insists it was done right. We'll see what FHA and the bank say. But it's just dragging things out more.

I hate the hotel.

And I'm so introverted that in times of stress, like this, needing to stay in someone else's home temporarily should be a good idea - but in fact is even more draining for me than the hotel. Times like this it really sucks to ride that edge of introvert, geek and possible aspie. Just not dealing well with the uncertainty and the stress.

Really would like that fast-forward button so I can just jump ahead a little bit.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:26 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 17, 2011

Getting Closer

Tomorrow is the slew of house inspections. If nothing needs to be repaired, I should be able to close on Thursday. If there are things that need repair, it'll be longer. Really, really hoping everything is in as good a shape is it appears to be. Hotel life is really wearing on both Tieg and I. Little brat won't hardly let me leave the hotel on the weekend. He knows the routine and there have been no complaints during the week when I'm gone for work, but last weekend I took him for a 45 minute walk around the neighborhood and then left to get my hair cut.

When I got back, there was this kind of quiet, low-pitched alarm going off in the building. Was an odd kind of wooooooo sound. It stopped when I opened my room door. Apparently Tieg must have been not-quite-howling for the whole hour and a half I was gone! He's so out of sorts with it being just the two of us in one room instead of my partner and I, three dogs and four cats in the house. With no Scraps to wrestle with and no Scout to snug, he's been glued to me whenever I'm home.

I'm such an organization nerd, I'm actually mostly looking forward to unpacking, sorting and getting things placed. Not looking forward to the half hour drive down to the storage unit and back up to the house, though.

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:39 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 25, 2011


So a friend's sister lives in NYC and happily attended the celebration in her neighborhood this morning. Her local politician is an out, older, gay man and he gave a heart-warming speech. She thought the whole thing was just wonderful. She also had her small child with her and at one point, she leaned over to explain to the toddler what the whole celebration was about.

"You see, most of the time boys want to marry girls, but some boys like other boys. And so this means that boys can marry boys and girls can marry girls if they want to. So you can grow up and marry anyone you want."

Everyone standing around was cooing and smiling at the scene, when the kid lets off with the somewhat predictable, "But I'm going to marry YOU, mommy!" And of course he sealed it with a kiss. And of course, everyone who'd been listening just laughed and grinned and cooed even harder.

And that, folks, is how you "explain things" to a little guy.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:03 PM | Blog | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 19, 2011

Strange Signs

I have gone west on Southern several times over the last month. And there's this sign that has shocked and puzzled me as I drive past. It's just about a block down on Southern from Highway 528 and it's a lesson in why graphic design - instead of just throwing something up - is an important discipline.

This is what I have time to see as I drive past:

DWI and speed laws strictly enforced - beer 1.75 margarita 3.50

So, let me see if I understand that ... don't drink and drive, but the cops will sell you beer for $1.75 and margaritas for $3.50?? What the hell?

Now, I know there's another line below that and that I can't be reading this right, but I don't have time to read the entire sign before I've driven past it. Creating any kind of outdoor sign is a completely different art than creating a point-of-purchase display, for example, which is why you really need a professional graphic designer involved in the sign-making process even if the sign doesn't involve any illustrative or photo elements.

This is the whole sign ... which I didn't get to read the bottom of - despite traveling through there multiple times - until I actually pulled over to take a picture of it!

DWI and speed laws strictly enforced - beer 1.75 margarita 3.50 dwi 15,005

OH! Well now, that makes more sense.

Don't just let people throw signs up. Seriously. Find a professional graphic designer and make sure the layout is something that will WORK for the PURPOSE it's supposed to serve. Designers really are practical people and can prevent confusing signage. It's worth the money to invest in something that's actually going to serve your purpose instead of confuse the hell out of people.

* * *

Further on down the road, as they say, I went back to look at the house that I liked yesterday. Would it really be big enough? When we were house-hunting in South Bend, we fell in love with the last house we looked at on the first day. Part of what we loved was the rich wood paneling in the dining room and kitchen and the exposed beams. Love the rustic stuff. The wood was darker than I like, but it was gorgeous.

But, the only access to the basement was through the garage. Same for access to the backyard. That cut the effective living space in the house down by half as it was just difficult to go thru the freezing garage in the wintertime to a cold basement to work on hobby stuff. So, the basement became storage and little used. The house felt very small and cramped to me after a while.

So, looking at this house, I'm forcing myself to not make an offer instantly ... but the kitchen with its gorgeous tiled countertops ... the tile floors ... and this:

interior shot of dining room and living room with light wood paneling at a nice angle

... this has me drooling. The house is gorgeous. The living space is laid out much better than our house in South Bend, but it is a smaller house without the basement. I think it should be do-able if we convert the 1-car garage into a room. And the backyard is much larger than anything else I've seen so far. Could quite easily build me a studio out back and still have a spacious backyard.

And, Tieg seems to approve. He really liked the backyard a lot.

Tieg examining the sandy lot

He refuses to walk in the sand when I try to take him for walks - he plops his butt down in the sand and no amount of coaxing or dragging or Cesar Milan firmness and just keep going will get that little dog to move any further. But he really enjoyed the backyard when I was there with the realtor. And when I went back today just to look at the front yard again, he was quite happy. I wanted to see how much work it would take to make the fence dachshund-proof and as I'm studying the corner of the house and the fence, thinking I'll really have to build up that gap - he sticks his head through and tries to get into the backyard! Pretty good sign from our little coward-dog.

Then, I stepped back a bit and was shooting the garage so I could get an idea what size room that would make.

side view of garage exterior, including gas meter - on which sits a little stuffed bear

Wait. What's that on the gas meter?

side view of garage exterior, including gas meter - on which sits a little stuffed bear

Oh now surely that is a welcoming sign!

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:54 PM | Blog | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 1, 2011

Beginning Summer

In May of 2002, I was a college teacher of first-year writing. The semester was winding up and I was preparing to go to a different kind of teacher's conference - one that focused on teaching rather than on subject specialty. I felt like I was hitting my stride professionally. The Wakonse Conference on College Teaching is really a lot like summer camp for teachers - it's held at the American Youth Foundation's Camp Miniwanca on the shore of Lake Michigan and it's an absolutely magical place. Having missed out on any kind of overnight summer camp as a kid, I was pretty much in heaven. I needed the back-to-nature time just as much as I wanted the discussion and stimulation of other college instructors/professors dedicated to the craft of teaching. I encouraged a few graduate teaching "assistants" to go the following year and we all had a wonderfully renewing time. The following year my partner protested: I'd spent two Memorial Day weekends gone in a row and she wanted to share the holiday with me. Little did we know that was my last chance to go as my position was eliminated at the end of the school year, 2004.

Wakonse Conference, on the shore of Lake Michigan

Fast forward to May of 2007. I was working as a web designer (and sometimes copy writer) at a large-ish dot com. A good friend offered me a chance to jump over to a junior design position at the agency where he worked, but I was afraid my portfolio was still weak (in print work) and I thought if I hung on a few more months where I was, I would have the chance to add quite a bit of print work as well as my web work. Alas, planning something doesn't always make it so.

A mere two months or so later, the company unexpectedly shut down and we were all out of work.

Fuzzed Version of an Ad

(Sorry for the poor quality - had to mask the company and couldn't find the original room image)

Still and all, it was a good summer to hone my craft - and I still felt that I needed a lot of honing.

Since that time I've held jobs in-house and freelance both. I've read a ton of books, studied a lot of designers, tried to immerse myself in theory and in practice ... and kept striving to better my craft on personal projects when the paying gigs weren't necessarily places I could stretch my wings. I found myself coming back to usability again and again - whether talking about web design, or even how a room is constructed, a shop set up, the design of a car's cabin. Don't get me wrong, I love illustration and print design both and enjoy doing them. But invariably, my brain circles from artistic to practical and back again. Last summer, I attended An Event Apart ... and I knew I'd found my people.

I don't believe that artists are flighty and designers have their heads in the clouds. You get flaky and reliable folks there just as you do with any other profession. I think that stereotype that an artist only thinks of some unattainable aesthetic goal and not the needs of the person requesting the piece is a load of hooey that does artists, designers, illustrators and the like a huge disservice.

But here I was at this conference and I was hearing people espouse my pet theories as fact. Many of them had had the resources to do actual studies or tests to back up these theories. And even whilst I learned from them ... I mostly learned that I needed to trust myself more and I needed to really start acting on my ideas. It was definitely a confidence booster.

Fast forward to this summer:

I got a gig with a company that is absolutely amazing. We are going to do great things with the website. I have some gifted, passionate co-workers who get it. I'm in a state I adore. The only thing that would make it better would be if our house sold and we could get a house here in the next month or two. (A pretty impossible timeline, to be sure.)

All I can think about is when I was a kid and summer marked glorious things to come. Everything is fresh and warm and bursting with possibilities.

Petroglyph National Monument

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:01 PM | Blog | Design | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 16, 2011

Show Some Adaptability

Six years ago, I started this blog. Originally, I was going to take on the college education system ... but soon realized I was simply too emotional over my ordeal as a college instructor to do that. So I wrote about a lot of different things over the years. I wrote about growing up with racist parents and my own determination to NOT be that way. I wrote about a lot of the goofy things I did as a kid ... and then as time went on, I started getting further away from teaching and moving deeper and deeper not only into web design, but into design in general. I began drawing again.

This blog has only had two looks. The first was how I taught myself CSS. It hardly seems possible that I only started working in CSS 6 years ago. I learned the same way I learned HTML - your friend, View Source. By the time I was ready to adjust the look, I'd been working as a web designer for quite some time and had recently been to New Mexico - the art came from that trip.

Today I'm living in New Mexico, a dream I was never sure if it would happen or not. Things are still in flux. Other half is talking to a realtor this week and getting ready to put the house on the market. We're both hoping that despite the market and the economy, it will sell quickly so we can be back together and get a house here. Things feel very unsettled since we're 1400 miles apart and I'm living in a hotel and she's living in a mostly empty house.

It's interesting to watch how something evolves / changes / adapts over time.

And it'll be interesting to see how the blog changes over the next few years as well.

Meanwhile ... this is how it all started: The Story of the Red Monkey.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:07 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 13, 2011

Where I Need to Be

It's been a long few weeks. First there was the frantic throwing of everything into boxes, attempting minor home improvements, fixing a couple of broken ceiling tiles, laying new flooring in the kitchen and hauling things off as rummage. Some things which I really didn't want to haul off. Like giving my very beloved electric guitar to a co-worker. I don't play much any more because it kills my wrist - but I couldn't bear to give up the acoustic or the banjo.

Sunday at church folks had a wonderful send-off for me as well as celebrating someone else's college graduation. They made a huge banner for me ... and then people signed it. Was very sweet and meant a lot to me.

Sunday our minister came over and helped me finish up a couple of home improvement tasks - and she even did the dishes!!! That was a huge and unexpected help. Monday morning, I loaded up the car with a packed solid trunk and a full backseat as well. Tieg's kennel was strapped into the passenger seat and off we went. Drove through Chicago and down to Springfield, Missouri, that first day. The hotel I'd staked out as pet friendly was REALLY sketchy. So, I drove around a little at that exit and found a nice Quality Inn that took pets. I backed the car up to the door and Tieg and I attempted sleep. Monday's drive had been about 12 hours on the road, including all the stops to let the pup out a bit and all the dithering about where to finally stay the night.

Tuesday's drive was planned to be about 2 hours shorter ... but with fewer stops, I think it was closer to three hours shorter. I got into Amarillo early-ish and snagged another Quality Inn room. I was pulling the necessary stuff out of the car (backed up to my door again) when Murphy struck for the first time.

The damned hotel apparently decided to cut costs by putting a parking curb for every two parking spots. In other words, instead of every spot having a parking curb in the middle of it, this one had a curb in the middle of the yellow parking line. I'd gotten Tieg and most of the important bits in the room and went back for my toiletries bag. I turned around ... and the next thing I knew I had a skinned right knee, bruised and skinned right elbow and probably jammed or sprained either the left elbow or wrist. (Or both) And knocked my right shoe off. At this point, I have bruising on my left forearm from elbow to wrist (from various incidents), a huge bruise and scrape on the right elbow/forearm, a skinned right knee and bruise, multiple bruises on my torso and upper arms and legs. Sheesh.

So, I get ice and then find a Schlotzskys right around the block for dinner. Score!

That night, Tieg and I finally get some sleep ... and then around 2 a.m., the wind begins whistling like mad around the door. Lightning flashes. Then the rains start ... and the winds! My word. It was pretty intense and it took until 4 for me to calm Tieg back down so we could get to sleep.

Wednesday's drive was supposed to be about 6 hours. Things were going well until just after I crossed over into New Mexico. I pulled over to take a little pit stop and when I got back to the car ... nothing. Wouldn't start. And the guys at the truck stop did not speak English. I was pretty sure it was the battery - the original battery of the car which is 6 years old - and I just sat there for a minute. Finally went inside and asked if since they did some truck service, maybe they did cars???

One of the guys came out to the car with me. I dutifully popped the hood. The language barrier was great, but he got someone over to jump the car ... and then pointed to the contacts and said, "dirty." He cleaned them off, greased them up and said that was it.

(BTW, the guys were not latino. Or native American. They were Arabic. And they refused to take any money for helping me.)

I drove to the next actual town and had a mechanic check the battery. He said it was perfectly fine and that the contacts had just gotten too dusty/dirty. WHEW!

I pulled into Albuquerque around noon. Drove to my new workplace just to wave, then hunted down the storage facility and figured out where that was. Finally, I hopped back on the road and pretty much couldn't find my hotel. Something got screwed up in the Google directions and had me going north instead of south. By the time I finally got to the hotel, Tieg and I were both exhausted.

I got everything pulled inside ... and hung up the banner from church:

banner of fisher price little people

Thursday morning, I talked to the front desk to make sure they called me if Tieg made too much noise BEFORE it got to the point they wanted to throw us out and then left for work. I'm such a worrywort, I was sure the poor little guy was going to get us in trouble, but I've not heard from the front desk, so I take it he quiets down or at least that there's no complaints. There are a LOT of dogs here.

The new job is incredible. I don't disclose where I work for a multitude of reasons ... but I'll just say this. I had a phone interview at Zappos earlier this year and I was so excited. I'd read so much about the Zappos culture and it sounded like a great fit for me. Unfortunately, the interviewer didn't seem to really be into the interview. First, the call was about 10-15 minutes late. Then, it was conducted whilst driving on the strip rather late in the day (even for the mountain time zone) and really seemed disinterested. I was crushed.

Today, I'm incredibly grateful for that. I really feel that I'm exactly where I want and need to be. I love New Mexico. I love Albuquerque. And this company! Oh man, oh man. The entire company culture is just ... well, it's exactly how I would set up a company were I to ever do such a thing. It's intense ... but I think this is just going to be an incredible experience. I am so very grateful.

Now ... if the house will just sell real damn fast so other half can get down here and we can set up a more permanent shop, I'll be really, really happy.

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May 1, 2011

Clearing Out

The packing is going well. My happy hobby desk that I built a few years ago is now gone to a new home:

hobby desk

hobby desk

Like most of my stuff, it was hard to let go of it. I put a lot of time and effort into building it, but I just don't know if I'll have the space for it out in New Mexico. So, it's gone to a friend locally who will put it to good use and appreciate it. That's all I can ask for.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:48 PM | Blog | hobbies | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 25, 2011


So far I've found another 3 boxes of books to donate to Better World Books.

Have gone through 13 copy boxes of materials from when I was a teacher. I'm trying to keep only cards and grade list sheets (so I can remember students' names when they become famous). (What? One of them already got nominated for an Oscar for a documentary she and her husband did.)

I have another 16 boxes of materials to go through. Plus there's a few more boxes still up in the attic. We kind of took a break getting them down after someone (not me) put their leg through the ceiling and created a lot of mess to clean up. Plus now we have to find some of these ceiling tiles and repair the living room ceiling.

I am exhausted. And we're still waiting on one moving company's quote.

I'm going to be so glad when this move is completely done. But right now? I'm just exhausted and terrified that we're not going to get everything done in time. That we've bitten off more than we can chew.

The what-ifs are stacking up in my brain. What if I don't get everything packed in time? What if the bids are too high and they decide not to pay for the movers? (Paranoid much?) What if we can't sell the house and I have to pay rent out there in some cheap-ass, dingy apartment on the wrong side of the tracks AND pay the mortgage out here? What if my stuff is stolen, lost or ruined?

At this point ... what if I just have a nervous breakdown?


I'm very excited about the move. I'm ecstatic over the new opportunity out west.

I'm THRILLED to be moving to New Mexico.

But right now? I'm a wee bit overwhelmed.

I need to borrow Calvin's duplicator. (Except mine goes "ZOIDS!")

Calvin and Hobbes and the Duplicator

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April 23, 2011


I have gotten rid of probably 8 boxes of books in the last couple of weeks. And as I started packing the Fisher Price stuff, I realize, I. Am. Screwed.

I need at least five or six more 2-drawer filing cabinet packing boxes JUST to get the Fisher Price packed.

And I can't stop sneezing and blowing my nose. And my allergist didn't want to do anything because I'm moving (and thus no longer a long-term custom, I mean, patient.)

Am becoming frantic now.

Send boxes.

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April 13, 2011

New Mexico

Finally, I'm able to post my big news, but it will likely be the last post for a month or two.

I am moving to New Mexico.

I've accepted a wonderful design position with a company in central New Mexico and am currently busily frantically packing and preparing for a cross-country move, so it'll likely be a communication blackout here for a while longer. But look forward to a lot of new posts after the move settles in. New Mexico excites my story-telling bone as well as my sense of design.

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March 9, 2011


It's been a week of frustration already, and Wednesday hasn't even really started yet. I am determined to turn the week around and be my normal, bouncy self. It didn't help that I got some little stomach bug again which had me quite out of sorts yesterday. I think it has mostly past now, which makes it easier to concentrate on Teh Good ™.

Meanwhile, I finished a little vinyl toy project this weekend:

Vinyl Fox toy
Work Shelf

I was a little surprised to find that RoseArt is jumping on the blank vinyl toy bandwagon, but hey - it was fun to paint. I'll have to bring him home from work at some point and take a real picture of him instead of a cameraphone shot. I like him there at work next to the Hopi Kachina Sunface Munny I did and of course @deadzebra's Copperbot and @dlanham's Ollie (the Twitterrific bird, not Twitter's bird, btw).

Must run to work now ... it's going to be a great day!

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February 3, 2011

Wrong Planet

Interesting. I'm seeing a lot of these "I am enough" and "Me is {more than} enough" posts recently.

Maybe it's because the winter introspective season has really begun, but I know this is where my brain has been recently as well. So I guess I should explain the last few posts a little bit - they've been fairly deep for someone who has seemingly taken a vacation from this blog.

Many of my stories start the same way: I was a weird kid. I was a weirdly logical kid. I was an outsider.

I love starting stories about me this way. I have always reveled in the fact that I am different and have always been considered different. I have never been one to do or say something just to fit in with the crowd. When I say never, I am fairly certain that is not an exaggeration. It has bit me on the ass more times than I care to remember, but it hasn't changed my belief that changing my core self just to fit in is a mistake.

My mother knew this about me from very early on and so, when Austin looked like it was going to force de-segregation via busing, I was moved out of public school to private school. Mom feared that I would see words exchanged or fists thrown and feel a need to step in. It wouldn't matter if it was a commonplace disagreement or a racially motivated fight - nor what colours the combatants were - I would step in and try to make peace. Or at least make sure the underdog didn't get whomped. She was correct in that. I could no more stay out of a fight or an injustice than I could stop breathing.

It was that particular move from public elementary school to a Catholic school for second grade where I came to realize just how different I was. I related better to the adults than to the kids. I don't think I made a single friend my age during that year. I walked the edges of the schoolyard during recess singing a little song to myself that I was too old to play now ... and I kind of admired and marveled at the other kids and their ability to still play. In retrospect, it wasn't that I was too old to play and I didn't really feel that ... but it was the only way I could articulate what I was going through - I couldn't make friends. I had no idea how to read my peers and react appropriately.

I was hyper-logical where the other second graders were roiling masses of constantly shifting emotions that I couldn't read. And they changed so very quickly from one to the next. Being around that was not just confusing to me, it was physically painful. So I held myself out on the edges.

When it became obvious there was a personality conflict between myself and my homeroom teacher, I asked to see the principal. It was the logical thing to do. Why make either Mrs. Rowan or myself suffer through a personality conflict. Other kids didn't hate her, but it was obvious she and I just weren't compatible and were driving each other nuts. She didn't know how to respond to such a logical little kid who was most emphatically not like the other kids. The principal was wonderful about the meeting - met me where I was and gave me logical reasons for not moving me to another homeroom teacher ... and she was quite kind about the whole thing.

The next year, I was back to my beloved public school and I thought my year of being amongst the oddly emotional children was over. This school tossed any 30 or so kids into one class and you stayed there all day (the Catholic school was tracked and you moved from classroom to classroom for various subjects). Upon my return, I was put in a class which had only one of the kids I'd known prior to my Catholic school experience. And I realized it wasn't just the Catholic school kids who were unreadable maelstroms of emotion.

I was still an outsider.

Even my teacher noticed it and became concerned - she called a conference with my mother and noted that I seemed to not be bonding with any of the children despite the fact that I interacted so well with the adults.

Six weeks later, we moved four hour north and I was on my third elementary school and it was just October of my third grade year. And I was still an outsider who got along wonderfully with almost all of the teachers, but really didn't fit in with the other kids. I was the weirdo. The one everyone loved making fun of ... until they realized that not only did I often not get that they were making fun of me, but I didn't particularly care, either.

My nickname, when anyone actually bothered to think about me, was the fetus. To this day, I have no idea why. I just remember the look of hatred? disgust? meanness and somehow a desperation for this barb to land on Greg Frisina's face as he told me my nickname was fetus.

And I remember my confusion and dismissal of it.

I was a stranger in a strange land. These people had social rituals that apparently you had to be born into in order to understand ... and I just didn't get it.

It was a strange place to be. So comfortable in my own skin, in my own world ... but still mindful of the fact that I never seemed to find a place or a group where I fit in for very long. It was as if other kids could tolerate me for a few months and then my inherent strangeness just became too much for them. They were confused by my inability to pick up social cues. Sometimes I couldn't pick it up, sometimes it seemed that I was deliberately ignoring them.

Truth was, I just didn't understand most social cues. At all.

And, I was unwilling ... actually, I think I am incapable ... of not being me. My personality has always been so strong that I find it nearly impossible to "just fit in" by hiding some part of my self.

The first teacher who noticed it was my junior year Spanish teacher. Otherwise I was considered that weird honors kid who just doesn't ... get it.

This Spanish teacher took me aside one day. The other kids in the class had been making fun of me for something or another. This was a matter of course. I didn't even register it because it happened so frequently and because I didn't, once again, understand why they were picking on me. Meh. Whatever. She asked if they were bothering me and I know she found my confusion a little odd. It was nice to know that she saw it, too, though. Nice that she cared enough to ask about it. I let her know that I appreciated that.

I found out a couple of years later, that she was a licensed counselor and had left the high school to work with abused kids. I was unsurprised.

I've spent my whole life wondering why I'm so different. Not unhappy with myself. Not trying to change. Just trying to classify the difference and figure out why my brain works so very differently. I don't get emotions, most of the time. I don't understand a lot of other peoples' emotions. I don't understand why they react the way they do much of the time (although I can parse the reasons that film or book characters behave a certain way with an uncanny accuracy). I do not register faces and names, which I take it is a form of mild face-blindness.

I am the quintessential outsider.

Even online, the place where I thought my social skills were finally excelling instead of holding me back ... I realized this week that it was a false positive. Once again, I know many people who find me pleasant enough ... but have not actually made close friends. Seems no one on Twitter noticed I've been absent for three full days. (Save one person who also knows me IRL.) That skill of making friends seems destined to elude me forever.

So. I had put some hope in a diagnosis over the last several years as I read more and more about Asperger's. Liane Holliday Willey seemed to describe so very much of my life in Pretending to be Normal. Attwood's book on Asperger's - I could see so much of myself in there as well. And I thought, well, maybe here's a reason for my differences. Maybe here is something that explains why I don't fit in. Why I don't get things that seem to come so damned naturally for other people.

But, apparently, the search for an explanation continues for me.

A pastor once told me that I was a seeker.

I think she is quite right. I constantly seek explanations and knowledge and try to put everything into a pattern and get quite frustrated when I can't find or recognize that pattern.

And so, while I am quite content with who I am ...

... I am still seeking why I am the way that I am.

The pattern that explains the differences.


Posted by Red Monkey at 5:17 AM | Blog | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 1, 2011

The Jiminy Conjecture

As Sheldon said in S3E2, "I'm not crazy! My mother had me tested!"

Of course, in my case it was various pressures from certain people which made me wonder if something was wrong with me, but apparently I'm ridiculously normal, if a complete "nerdy, techy, creative geek." While I have many, many aspie-tendencies and characteristics, I do not have the "important" ones to the level of pathology. This is, oddly enough, rather disconcerting to me. On an immediate level I was hoping that a dx would force some issues to change which now remain completely out of my control (and not in a good way).

Oh, and not only do I not have ADHD, but my attention span, attention to detail and ability to focus are (depending on which specific item we're looking at) in the 90th to 98th percentile. So ... far above average for my age.

This is all good, right?
To be honest, I feel a bit like Gonzo from the Muppets. You know, the Muppets from Space movie from 1999 where Gonzo claims his breakfast cereal is talking to him? The whole flick is essentially about him finding other beings like him - his birth family, more or less. And at the end, he has to decide between his birth family and his Muppet family. Except I still haven't really figured out where I fit in. Mostly I don't.

"One day we'll find it, the rainbow connection ... the lovers ... the dreamers ..."

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January 29, 2011

What's in a Name?

Online I often go by the moniker "ender" and when that's not available, it's "enderFP." Ender, of course, is from Orson Scott Card's excellent novel, Ender's Game, because I identify with the character so much. But I'm often asked what is the "FP"?

Fisher Price.

As a kid, I knew of two cities in New York - NYC ... and East Aurora. The home of Fisher Price. I was determined I would work for them one day because I loved their toys so much. I had the blue house with the yellow roof. The airport. The parking garage. The farm. The schoolhouse. The circus set that was not the train. The houseboat. The castle.

And countless miscellaneous packs of people and beds and chairs and vehicles. I can remember a four drawer chest that sat in the closet of the playroom. The top drawer was filled with peoples, the next drawer or two was filled with various accessories. And my sister and I would line the carpet with our Snoopy encyclopedia books (to make a level area for everyone to actually stand) and then dump out the drawer of peoples and begin the choosing.

I had intended to keep every one of those peoples to hand down to my children, but alas, over my strenuous protests, mom and my sister sold most of them in a garage sale when I was 15. I went through and salvaged a few ...

Four Original FPLP boys

That's Smitty, Tommy, Chris and Peter. (Yes, I could tell most of them apart.) Unfortunately, Chris' best friend was gone before I was able to scoop through the garage sale and steal back my favourites. (Oddly enough, he never had a name, he was just always Chris' best friend.)

Unsurprisingly, I have collected Fisher Price Little People since that day and have amassed 5 plastic shoeboxes full of the people. Below is a pic of just one of those shoeboxes ...

One shoebox full of FP LP boys

That's just the "boys" box. There's also a box of "special" people, a box of girls, a box of women and a box of men ....
And then there's a little box of dogs ....

And I wouldn't trade any of them for the world. I'm just incredibly sad that I'll never have the chance to pass them along to a child of my own. But it seems that is simply never to be.

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January 12, 2011

Once More, With Feeling...

Okay, one more song from the not-quite-three-year-old and I'll stop. Besides, any more and I'll have to build a real MP3 player on the site and I have too many other projects going on at the moment to do that.

Click to open the MP3. Opens in new window. (cuz I'm too lazy to make a real MP3 player right now)

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January 11, 2011

Mi Sobrino, Miguel

My sister sent me an MP3 of her and my nephew singing Little Drummer Boy with my brother-in-law playing guitar. Give him a listen ... (also? damn, I've not heard my sister sing and I forget how freaking wonderful her voice is)

Click to open the MP3. Opens in new window. (cuz I'm too lazy to make a real MP3 player right now)

Will set up the others later. He's ADORABLE!

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January 8, 2011

Why Couldn't This Have Been Friday?

I woke up and looked out the front window this morning and found this:

I think my car is under all that snow

And then I looked out the backyard:

Buried in Snow

More Buried in Snow

I would gleefully move back to Texas now.

I admit. It just might be funny to throw the miniature dachshunds out in that for 30 seconds. That is, if we could find them again within 30 seconds.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:26 AM | Blog | Struggles | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 19, 2010

Lake WaterMain

I've heard of Lake Pontchartrain, but until yesterday, hadn't heard of Lake WaterMain. It's a lesser known lake, but one that more or less roared yesterday.

Luckily, we didn't get flooded when the water main across the street popped under all the frost. Temps were about 15F with a windchill at 0. I happened to look outside and saw this rushing down the street and the water crews just arriving. We kept water on far longer than I would have thought and were only without for an hour or two ... but it happened right when we should have been getting ready for my work Christmas party. So, first I spent 8 hours Saturday trying to fix a botched OS upgrade (back up your hard drives, people! I'm damn glad I did!) and then we had to deal with the water being out at a critical moment. Didn't make it to the work Christmas party, which I'm actually pretty bitter about. Damn the timing.

Oh ... and because this happened in sub-freezing temps, our street was an ice rink as well as the sun went down and the water stopped pouring everywhere. Now we have a major hole in the street to drive a block around, but at least we have water!

Next chore? Fixing the damned S key on my laptop so I can quit using an external keyboard for my left hand and the laptop for my right hand. It's a little awkward ... but I need access to the trackpad, too! yeesh.

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July 12, 2010



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May 19, 2010

Five Years

Seems every time I get on a roll and back to regular posting, something invariably pops up to silence the posting! This past week was so busy that I missed Red Monkey's blogiversary. Apparently after five years of blogging, that's just not as earth-shattering as it once was.

Soon after I wrote the long post about teaching, I was contacted by one of my former students. She's an English teacher herself now. I was yet again surprised at just how emotional that contact made me. Don't get me wrong, I love being a graphic designer and can't imagine not doing it. But I do miss teaching as well. Obviously I need to be twins ....

Things will remain quiet here for at least another week. I started a drawing last week which pretty much is eating every moment of my non-working day. Without thinking, I made the main element of the drawing the size of an 8.5x11 sheet of paper. Umm, yeah. That means my drawing table is covered in sheets of 8.5x11 paper for the rest of the drawing. I've got the bulk of the drawing pencilled out, but there are still a half dozen important elements or details to work in. Once that's all roughed out, I can take the individual sheets down (no, I didn't plan this well at all) and ink them individually, then scan them. The only thing that kept me from just starting over with a reasonably sized single sheet of paper was that I'm working pretty fast at this scale - plus these sheets will be easier to scan and stitch in Photoshop.

I'm thinking when it's inked and assembled in Photoshop, I will probably trace it out onto the large artboard I've been hoarding for the past three years, so I have an original that's worth keeping as well.

Even that project was slowed down, however as we were gone last weekend for our niece's birthday party in Ohio (she's two - and according to her "walking amuck").

Then of course, there's the day job ... the house ... the spouse ... the critters ... family ... church ... various obligations ....
It's been pretty darn busy around here, with little quiet time for writing.

But there's a big post brewing ... about permanence ... about change ....


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April 2, 2010

By Special Request

Well, because someone asked for some current pix of the dogs, I give you ... umm ... current pictures of the dogs.

Scraps and Tieg

Scraps is actually sharing his beloved "nest" with his baby brother, Tieg.

Tieg being innocent

Tieg is sooooo innocent sometimes

Tieg really hoping for nibbles

For some reason, Tieg thought he'd actually get the rest of that burger.

Tieg is such a big boy now

Look at the big boy! He's almost a year old now.

Snout peering out from under my shorts

I went to sit down in my recliner ... and just managed to notice a wee bit of a snout poking out just before I sat down!

All three miniature dachshunds

And all three of the babies - Tieg is the chocolate and tan dapple and the baby of the bunch. Scout is now six years old - she's the black and tan piebald in the jacket sitting on the arm of the chair. And Scraps is the black and tan dapple lounging in the back. (He's eight now.)

There you have it ... all three of the babies.

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March 16, 2010

New Look Complete

Well, it took far less time than I thought (or I would have done this ages ago). I believe I've converted most, if not all, of the existing pages to the new look. The About Me page needs to be completely re-visited (like the entire rest of the coyotethunder section) and I hope to do that this weekend. There are several tweaks I still need to make to the overall design (one is adding the full illustration of the red monkey back into the sidebar), but these should be easy and will probably happen over the next few weeks.

If you see something that doesn't look right or is using the old style, drop me a comment, use the contact form or email me: red dash monkey at this domain.

I don't know whether I'm excited that this is done before I go in for surgery or disappointed as it's a project I won't be able to do whilst off work!

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March 15, 2010

New Look Coming

About two years ago, I designed a totally different look for Red Monkey and have had too many other projects going to ever implement it. Yesterday I got a bee up my butt and coded most of it for the main page. I need to finish up the footer and then decide what I'm doing on the archive pages (I'm thinking of dumping the category pages as they're just too damn long and useless - unless someone knows a *good* MT plug-in for pagination?). I'm guessing I'll have it up by the end of the week.

If you want a sneak peek at the work in progress ... check it out here.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:17 AM | Blog | Design | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 9, 2010


If you ever get bleach in your eye, rinse it out with room temperature water for 5-10 minutes. Then, go to the doctor or urgent care or ER, where they will evaluate your eye and continue the irrigation with a bag of saline. They give you some antibiotic drops and possibly a tetanus shot and send you home.

How do they irrigate your eye? I'm glad you asked. One end of a tube is attached to the IV saline. Then they slip this "contact" lens onto the eyeball:

Apparatus for eye irrigation

It was an exciting Saturday.

Particularly after we finally got home and then had to dig and then push the truck out of a snowbank because someone wasn't paying attention to that either.

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December 1, 2009

Jazzy Good Gifts

I know. I've been ridiculously quiet. Part of that is the insane sinus infection that hit this weekend. Made it to work yesterday, but then my sinuses got worse and worse and worse over the course of the evening. Felt like my head was full of dried-out rubber cement. Didn't get to sleep until after 7 a.m., which is when I usually arrive at work. I could barely move, much less concentrate, so I stayed home and slept off and on all day.

But, in the immortal words of Arlo Guthrie, that's not what I came to tell you about.

My friend Sherry K, has a wonderful little website called The Jazzy Gourmet where she not only showcases her wonderful music, but also her incredible sweets. If you're looking for a new, good Christmas CD, check her out. Or if you want to send a basket of sweets as a gift, REALLY check her out. I've had the pleasure of getting to eat some of her incredible concoctions, and I tell you, it's good stuff. (The chewy peanut butter/caramel thing is to die for. Seriously, there are fights over who eats that at this house.)

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June 18, 2009


I hate being sick.

I thought I could bull through it, forced myself to go to work. Thought it would be ok. Lasted about 45 minutes and then about ralfed. I know, TMI, TMI.

Hopefully this will be over with soon (I've mostly felt better this evening) and I can finally snap the pic I need to get the next post published.

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June 7, 2009

By The Numbers

I originally started this blog after my teaching gig ended. I had an idea at the time that I would expose the mess that is our education "system" here in the U.S. (One problem, of course, being that there is no unified system - just as with our health care "system.") I quickly realized that I was too hurt and too close to the problems to write effectively about it.

So I did what I always do, wrote about whatever popped into my head. Seemed like my writing garnered some attention for a little while and I was accepted into 9Rules. At first Red Monkey blog was categorized as a personal blog, later it was categorized as commentary. The truth is it's a schizophrenic blend of personal, commentary and design. The blog changed as I did, which I think is how it should be.

Recent blog statistics:
Of the last 500 visitors, 87% left in under 5 seconds.
5% stayed 5-30 seconds.
5% stayed 30 seconds to 5 minutes.
About 3% stayed longer than 5 minutes.

The pages most frequently loaded and viewed are archive pages - "people say I have adhd but I think - hey look a chicken" is the most popular, followed by a Heinlein quote which is another category title: "never underestimate the power of human stupidity." A third category is also quite popular, apparently from people searching for pr0n based on the search terms that get him here: "storytelling - she was of course supposed to be sleeping." The search terms used are ... well ... *shudder*

Most frequently viewed articles include my disgust at Nerf for making a "toy" sniper rifle as well as my modification of a Nerf gun into a steampunk version. The other two articles that get much attention is a reposting of Jeremy Lavine's goofy "essays" and my frustration with AT&T.

I used to get around 500 hits per day ... I am now down to 50 - 100 hits per day and the bulk of those hits are coming from Google image searches.

I have enjoyed the interactions I've had and I have really loved the friendships I've made online. That alone makes me loathe to shut this down. But the truth of the matter is I'm not the best about reciprocation. I do read other blogs, but not very often and not nearly consistently enough. I rarely comment because, to be honest, most blogs I read get tons of comments already and I generally feel like I have nothing to add to the conversation that hasn't already been said. Of course, this means I break the prime rule of blogging - if you want comments, you need to comment. Blogging is about relationships and interaction.

Which leaves me wondering why I keep the blog open.

Great reduction in hits, next to no comments ... and my own inconsistency in posting. On the other hand, I got a comment while I was writing this post and thinking about the future of this blog. And, I have, according to the Feedburner chiclet anyway, more readers now than ever before.

I wonder now if I should have joined BlogHer when they first contacted me as that certainly seems to be where most bloggers I know online are at - and the network certainly seems to be really good. At the time I did not join because I wasn't sure my blog in all of its vastly wild topics was really a fit for something called BlogHer. I'm still not sure about that answer, although the fact that I follow a bunch of BlogHer folk over on Twitter certainly indicates I was/am probably wrong about this blog fitting into BlogHer.

So I'm asking my readers:
1) Do you want this blog to continue?
2) What kinds of posts do you want to continue to see?
3) What posting time frame works? Three times a week? more?
4) What is your opinion of the BlogHer network?

Your answers, either in the comments or via the contact link at the top of the page, will help me decide what I'm going to do next with Red Monkey. Regardless of what happens, thank you for hanging around. I do appreciate it.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:11 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 16, 2009

Four Years Earlier ...

Here's the blog anniversary post for your enjoyment ... Jodi asked a few days? weeks? ago, why the red monkey ... here's the answer. Oh ... and the red monkey graphic? That's not the red monkey that I talk about here ... that's a vector graphic I drew for this blog ... based on one of my other passions: Fisher Price Little People. So now you know.

I love antique stores and junk stores. I have this thing for toys, particularly old toys. I'm fascinated by everything from the packaging and advertising to the toys themselves. The problem is a lot of those so-called antique stores - at least the ones that also sell old toys - are really antique store and collectibles store combos. So I'll see a booth full of Nascar stuff next to one with clothes from the 20s and 30s. Not a big deal, really, it's usually all interesting stuff - if it wasn't for the crazy prices some of the collectibles folks tend to charge.

Anyhow, this is about 1999 or 2000 and I'm walking through a pretty cool antique store when I round the corner to the biggest flippin' display of Ty Beanie Babies I've ever seen. And despite their frenzied, must-have popularity, some of these little guys are really cute and clever. I already had a handful of the things, ones I thought were really cool or cute. I have the otter, the Ireland bear and a few others. (Why haven't they made a dolphin yet??) I also have the first monkey they made, cuz I've always really liked monkeys.

So, in this display case they have this really cool new Beanie Baby I haven't seen yet, a little red monkey with a cute tan face and a little fluff of hair on top of his head. I have to have him. DId I mention that some of these collectible places think they can charge 4-5 times the retail prices on a toy that's just come out? Not a toy that's been out and then discontinued, excuse me, "retired." A toy that is currently being mass produced but just barely started hitting the shelves - those toys are worth the retail price. Not "scalper" prices.

So this scalper booth wants $20 or $25 for a $5 stuffed animal. I stomped past, growling and grousing about opportunistic scalpers and this kind of artificial supply and demand being among the worst of human impulses. I do not "have to have" something like a little stuffed animal so badly that I will pay 5x its actual worth. I would pay $1 or $2 more to have it now - I can be that shallow and that careless about my spending money from time to time. But this, this is not capitalism - it's stupidity. Stupidity on the part of the seller and on the part of anyone who gives in and buys the overpriced goods.

Yeah, my friends are tired of that rant, too.

So, later that night, my friends and I are sitting in the living room watching a movie. It's a pseudo-SF movie called Strange Days. It's an awesome movie set just a touch in the future when people don't just watch reality tv, they experience it through virtual programs on the computer.

Well, I'd seen the movie before and it was fast becoming one of my favorites, but I was a little restless and bored that night. So everyone's really really into the movie, the tension's building and I'm kinda looking around the room. I see my little beanie-baby monkey on the bookshelf.

"I really want that red monkey," I say aloud.

The whole room turns to stare at me in shock. "What?"

The movie had to be paused and rewound a bit. Evidently it was a really intense point in the flick.

"What?" I ask, all wounded innocence and surprised at their reaction.

"Where did that come from?" they reply.

"I was just looking around the room and saw my little monkey and that reminded me of the beanie baby we saw in that store today - " there's much eye-rolling at this pronouncement "-and I just realized that I really want that little monkey."

"We're in this intense part of the movie and you're talking about a stuffed monkey?"

Somehow, my explanation did not help my case at all. "I've seen the movie before" I point out helpfully.

"I repeat, we're in this tense and intense part of the movie and you are thinking about a toy monkey?" The room is staring at me now. Finally someone grabs the remote and flips the movie back to play, muttering, "You are so ADD."

You've maybe seen the t-shirt that says "They say I have ADD, but I don't think ...Hey look! A chicken!" Well, my chicken is a red monkey.

Interestingly enough, a year or so later I was diagnosed as ADHD.

Now, I have a McD's teenie beanie version atop my monitor at work and the regular-sized one in the home office.

So, that's the story of the red monkey.

And now you know lots of important tidbits about me.

So now you know.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:07 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 13, 2009

Nothing to Do

Things still to do ...

  • work on advanced features and clean up for
  • work on the header for a super-secret awesome blog concept (which was not my idea, but wish that it both had been and that I had time to help admin it)
  • take a logo design pencil sketch or two for the Hugo Award and do them up in Illustrator - preferably before the deadline
  • build the new entertainment center
  • take everything out of old entertainment center, strew it all across futon & living room
  • remove old entertainment center
  • finish ripping out living room carpet which has been under entertainment center for 5 years
  • pull up carpet tacking along wall behind old entertainment center
  • put everything on new entertainment center - find new homes for many things
  • find a new place to put Twofish, Bluefish, my betta
  • hold the traditional sea burial for Flash, the red betta, who I'm pretty certain is now dead and will certainly be dead by the time I get home tonight
  • find a dentist & get tooth fixed
  • find a new family doctor
  • create wedding invitations for my cousin
  • create 2 twitter avatars for friends
  • get stamps
  • tutor refugee kid
  • redesign Red Monkey - as per sketch I did umm, ages ago
  • redesign homepage
  • oh hell, redesign every fricking section of CoyoteThunder
  • draw Grandma a get well card ... then a birthday card
  • finish the choir tracks
  • design the CD

And somewhere in there I should probably get some sleep. And write meaningful blog posts. And ... oh hell, time to go to work now ....

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:42 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 30, 2009

Poseidon and the Bitter Bug

The first song I heard by Indigo Girls was, like most folks my age, "Closer to Fine." And I have to say, I really, really liked it. It was infectious, it was fun ... and unlike a lot of "pop" music, it asked you to think a bit, too. While the music, the beat, the progression of notes all can sweep me away, the music that I enjoy the most is music that makes me both feel and think. Every Indigo Girls album from Strange Fire all the way through Poseidon and the Bitter Bug has more songs which make me think & feel than songs that don't. The fact that I have always enjoyed the way Amy and Emily's voices blend and the type of music they coax from their guitars, mandolins and even the banjo (and we all know how much I adore the banjo) ... and the way that they've grown as musicians, adding drums, orchestra (and even *gasp* electric guitars at times) have always remained amazing to me.

There are bands that I once loved, but which grew in a different direction than I did. Best example is U2 - I haven't liked anything they've done since Rattle & Hum - and I adored pretty much everything they'd done up to that point. There's nothing wrong with the music they've done since then, I certainly don't think they're a horrible band now or anything. But I adored the musical direction they took in Rattle & Hum and simply haven't been as interested in their direction since then.

REM is another band where I had to have everything they'd done once I discovered them ... but somewhere around Monster, I stopped buying CDs. I'm not sure why, but the intense connection I'd once had with their music just ... faded.

Indigo Girls, on the other hand, have grown as I've grown and apparently we're still growing in similar directions. I admit, I was frustrated with their frustrations with a big name label and I enjoyed the risks they took in their music and their ever-evolving sound (which nonetheless always remained uniquely identifiable as Indigo Girls) and worried that the record label would try to force them to make only clones of "Closer to Fine." So, I was very curious to see what would happen once they broke away from the big label.

Poseidon and the Bitter Bug came out a month ago and somehow I managed to not notice that until this past week. Interestingly enough, they released a double set - one disc as a "studio" album and the other as an acoustic album.

I find it interesting that the first review I read of the CD complained about the "over-production" of some of their previous albums - I assume the reviewer was thinking of Swamp Ophelia, for example. For me, I found the progression from Strange Fire (their first CD) through Poseidon and the Bitter Bug to be one of constantly growing musically. No album was some odd re-invention of what it meant to be Indigo Girls, but instead was an outgrowth of what had gone before. I found it interesting when their music took on new depth with new arrangements and new instruments added to the mix. This reviewer (I'm afraid I didn't save the link, sorry) enjoyed the acoustic version of the album more than the "studio" version.

And here's where I think Amy & Emily were simply brilliant in releasing this dual album. There are plenty of fans who prefer the simplicity of two voices and a couple of acoustic instruments. A kind of campfire, back to the roots movement. There are some folks who are sick to death of a voice and guitar and that's all there is. I don't quite fall into either category (shocker, I know). But I think it was brilliant of Indigo Girls to both continue to explore their music the way they want to - and to also give that segment of acoustic fans who've been with them since the Uptown Lounge (and earlier!) what they loved in the first place.

As for specific songs, once again, I'm going to have to listen to the whole CD in a place where I can concentrate and read the lyrics along with them. They always make me think. I have yet to get an album of theirs where I don't want to sit with the lyrics and get lost in the music and what they're saying (both lyrically and musically) - this CD is no different in that regard.

From my superficial listen at work yesterday, the songs that have particularly caught my attention are "Sugar Tongue," which wasn't at all what I expected - though I expect that to change again when I can really listen with the lyrics - "I'll Change," "Ghost of the Gang" and most especially, "True Romantic."

Let me tell you, I thought on first listen that Amy had actually swiped Radiohead's "Creep" with "True Romantic." And I'm not the only one who's made that connection. However, when I listened to "Creep" and "True Romantic" back to back - they're not the same song at all. (And, to be honest, I'd be beyond SHOCKED if either of the Indigo Girls actually swiped a song. It's just not who they are.) What amazes me is that as much as I adore "Creep," I think that "True Romantic" goes even further - it's an even better song. I would guess that it's a kind of riff off of "Creep," kind of an extension of it. Of course, I still need to sit down with the lyrics and really study it.

The weird thing, though, is that I have this odd tendency to hear lyrics that are not there. For example, in "Sounds of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel, I can clearly "hear" a space in that song for the words "fuck you." The words are not there, I'm not physically hearing them, don't worry. But I can hear the intention of them. I've done this a few times with Indigo Girls songs as well, including some alternate lyrics to "touch me fall" that are rather ... umm ... racy. (And then I found out that there were some alternate, private lyrics to that song that were rather close to what I "heard.") For "True Romantic" I keep hearing "True Believer." Dunno why, I've got to make some time to listen to this CD more carefully!!

At any rate, I think the CD is well worth the money and I love the fact that they added an Acoustic Sessions disc as well.

I fully expect this CD, like all of their others, to grow on me the more I listen to it. And I'm constantly amazed at how they grow as people, as lyricists, as musicians - and that we seem to be growing in the same directions.

And now, I'm late for work ....

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:05 AM | Blog | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 30, 2009

Just Another Word

We have become a lazy people.

I am not speaking about bloggers. I am not speaking about the U.S. Or the U.K. or Canada.

I'm speaking about a good portion of the Western world.

Chances are this is not really a new thing. I probably shouldn't have said "become" a lazy people as I'm fairly certain this is not a new trend by any means.

I think, however, that with the increased emphasis on the concepts of "freedom" and "democracy," we've perverted those terms into something meaning "I have the freedom to do whatever I want to do." We seem to have lost sight that freedom is a responsibility not to ourselves to make ourselves as happy as possible, but a responsibility to build a community.

Naturally, I'm not talking about everyone, and of course, it's difficult to talk in generalities because there are always exceptions. I'm one of those people who as soon as I hear a declarative "This is the way a thing is," I'm looking for the exception to prove that sentence is not fully true. Oppositional, I suppose. So I'm going to admit up front this is not true for every single person nor even every country in the Western world.

But I think it is a large enough trend to be concerned. We have taken a few phrases that we like of political rhetoric surrounding freedom and democracy and turned them into an excuse to do what we want when we want. Furthermore, what many have learned from genuine efforts to create good self-esteem in children and young people is: I am most important; my happiness is most important; I can do anything I want to do; I should do anything I want to do; if you do something to inhibit my attempts to do what pleases me, you're against freedom and against democracy and probably a terrorist to boot.

While many of those statements are true, they are only true to a certain degree. Yes, I am pretty darn important to myself - but I don't live in a vacuum. If my happiness involves something against the law, how can my happiness be "most important"? It might be most important to me, but obviously the community in which I live thinks my happiness is not so important. If, for example, my happiness involves seeing how much stuff I can swipe without getting caught - things are not going to go well for me. I'm damaging the community around me. I'm not respecting the happiness of those around me.

Naturally, that's an extreme version. A smaller one (and one that is actually true rather than hypothetical) is I enjoy listening to my music rather loudly. A lot of us find happiness in that. It can be rather exuberant to lose yourself in the moment, own it.

But your freedom to listen to your music as loudly as you want might just interfere with your neighbor's freedom to live in a peaceful, quiet surrounding.

We have a responsibility to balance our freedom to do what makes us happy with the compromise required to live in community.

It's not just unfair to tell your neighbors, "You knew when you signed the lease on the apartment that I listened to loud music. If you don't like it, leave." It's not just unfair, it's irresponsible. You do not have the freedom to cause unhappiness in your neighbors.

I think we often forget that. We've become so centered on the individual that we want a political candidate to talk TO US. To OUR issues.

Really, though, politics is not about one candidate or one politician. Well, it shouldn't be anyway. Politics should not be about the individual, it should be about finding a way to build community. It should be about knowing there will be compromises - many of which we feel impinge upon our happiness because it's not exactly what we want.

And here's the really tricky part. Building community, understanding that politics is about compromise, does not mean that we don't speak up when we don't agree with what's happening or what is being decided. But there should be a balance between working for change and just being pissy that we didn't get our way.

We have to decide to act and to be proactive ... not simply react. Not simply whine, I'm unhappy. After all, everything is amazing. But we focus on what is not making us happy. We focus on the crappy economy, on our crappy jobs, on not having enough stuff, on not having enough space for our stuff, on how we're not appreciated for the wonderful human beings that we know we are ... but are we appreciating those around us? Are we appreciating the stuff we do have?

Or are we reacting because that's how we've been taught to live our lives? React to the news, react to the economy, react to people who have just absolutely FORCED us to not be as happy as we could.

Take some time today to appreciate someone who doesn't get enough appreciation. The person in the cube farm who's always so quiet. The crossing guard helping the kids across the street and who always holds you up when you're running late EVERY morning. (Because you know, it's sooooo the crossing guard's fault that you're late and they know it and they're obviously not helping the children get across the street safely, they're obviously out to get YOU.)

Hell, even your boss. Take one minute to act with deliberation today and appreciate just one person whom you usually complain about or don't even notice. Decide to foster community and decide to help someone else pursue a little happiness.

Live deliberately today and remember that yes, you do have the freedom to tell your neighbor to move if they don't like your loud music - but you also have the common sense to remember your responsibilities to live in community with others.

It's not all about you.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:19 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 17, 2009

Whatever Happened to Dreamweaver

When I first started building websites, back in the days of completely grey backgrounds, Mosaic and that upstart Netscape, I coded a site "by hand," that is, I used a simple text editor and wrote all the code myself. It wasn't hard. You put < p > at the end of every paragraph (I know, I know!) and animated GIFs were the height of kewl. As the web left kindergarten and moved on to junior high, coding a design meant using tables to contain chopped up bits of images and the tables could get pretty complex. It was easy to get lost in the code trying to figure out which cell you were in now if you'd spanned 3 rows and 2 columns ....

And then there was Dreamweaver, Macromedia's way to make web design easier.

For most web professionals this meant you could visually design a table - and then flip back into the code and clean up the mess that DW had made. Not perfect, but much faster than trying to code a complex table completely by hand. Basically, you'd design the site in Fireworks (think Photoshop but instead of editing photos, you edited shapes and buttons and such). When you had the design looking all purty, you began thinking, "Okay, I want text to go here, here and here. So, let's cut these images here and here and then code a table to make the images "glue" back together and put the text where I want it."

What made this work was the fact that you could flip from the visual look of a site (WYSIWYG editing) back into the code, make a change and then flip back to the visual to make sure it still looked right. You see, most designers are visual people. That's kind of why they're into design.

As the web graduated and headed off for college and then the big bad corporate world, it matured. Both those who coded and those who designed wanted the language of the web to be more semantic, to make more structural sense.

Back in the day, the code to make a word bold, was < b >. When you wanted to turn off bold, it was . Pretty simple and semantic, but it could be better. You really wanted a strong emphasis on that word or phrase and that's why you made it bold. So today, the code is < strong > instead. Italicized text's code is < em > for "emphasis." But looking at the code: < td colspan="5" > is not really very semantic. What does that mean, really? The web began using something called CSS to structure pages, a way of styling different elements in a semantic way.

The first time I ran across CSS, I was webmaster to four university sub-sites, plus my own webspaces. I discovered it in Dreamweaver's interface - I could suddenly style text! I could declare a style .times14 and then every time I wanted to use that typeface and size, I could just click a button and Dreamweaver would make it happen. Wonderful!

The truth of the matter was that I had grown far too reliant on Dreamweaver and I wasn't keeping up with my handwritten coding as much. This was the smallest portion of what CSS could do even then.

Today, many sites (particularly most blogs) take full advantage of CSS, although the "quirks" of how it displays from browser to browser still cause as many headaches as the "quirks" of how tables once displayed still making coding a site a challenge. Now, you can create a "div" to contain a section of the site. For example, a div might be called "content" and you put all the styling you want for your content into that div (and its specific components). In other words, maybe the main column of your blog is your content div. You (or the person who wrote your theme) coded that div to tell the browser, "Hey, we want this to be 400 pixels wide and to appear about 10 pixels to the right of the left sidebar. Also, the background of that content area should be this particular nifty image (that is contrasting enough that the text can still be read easily.) In addition, every paragraph should be in the font Arial (or, failing that, Helvetica or some other sans-serif font). Also, the title of a blog post should be about 18 pixels high and dark blue and italicized."

In other words, using CSS meant you could place sections of your site, set backgrounds and even code the look of the font just one time instead of for every paragraph.

When I first started really utilizing CSS, I learned it the same way I did HTML: I looked at websites who used it and figured out the code that way. I began coding my websites by hand again, partly because I enjoy knowing I can do that (I am, after all, a major geek), partly because coding for the web was suddenly semantic and easy again, and partly because Dreamweaver's support for CSS seriously sucked. The "design view" portion of the program just didn't display CSS very well.

Now, I've been using Dreamweaver since oh, version 2, I think. I loved it for years. It beat the socks off Microsloth's FrontPage and Adobe's GoLive left me cold at first.


Well, Adobe purchased Macromedia back in 2005 and I wondered if it would be GoLive or Dreamweaver that would "win" the merge. I was rooting for Dreamweaver ... and then I used GoLive. It actually rendered CSS in the design view! I had never managed to get Dreamweaver to do that (except for some textual stuff - but never the placement of a sidebar, content, sidebar kinda thing). I wasn't an instant convert as I had far too many sites being maintained in DW and I didn't want to migrate everything, but I was definitely thinking of starting new sites in GoLive instead.

Dreamweaver, it seemed to me, had grown old and stale and was no longer really conversant with what designers wanted. Its original big draw was the ability to visually design something ... and have it write the code ... and then have the ability to go in and "correct" or simplify that code. (And then go back into design view to verify that you had not, in fact, screwed something up with your simplified code.)

So when I began working somewhere that used GoLive instead of Dreamweaver, I was not really concerned about it.

Unfortunately, GoLive is no longer being produced - Adobe has thrown itself fully into Dreamweaver. Even more unfortunate, they've left the best things about GoLive behind instead of integrating them into Dreamweaver.

Just one quick example before I head out to work:

The place I work now owns about a bazillion websites. All of the designers work on all of the sites at some point or another. Hence, we have a Websites directory from which we work on Brand A site, The Music Site, Brand B site, Our Main site, etc ad nauseum. This makes sense to me. We use a versioning software to keep conflicts between designers to a minimum and, in fact, merges our changes (in other words, I might be working on page x in Brand A for a project ... and another designer may be working on a project which also means he has to edit page x). We do not include our images folder on our hard drive or in our versioning software. Those are stored on an images server, and it serves out those images to all of the sites.

GoLive understands that our images are out on another server. And when we flip to design view, it knows where to get those images and display them for us so we can make sure the code we just changed still displays everything correctly.

Dreamweaver doesn't get it. It cries. It cries piteously and repeatedly, "HEY! HEY! HEY! You put the images folder outside of the main folder! HEY!!!!11!"

In addition, GoLive understands that when we pick harddrive/documents/websites/OURCOMPANY/brandA/ as the root directory for the Brand A site, that it's the ROOT directory. In other words, when a page is coded to refer to an image or a stylesheet (that's what a CSS file is called), it knows that it should look on the website at the top directory for it. Likewise, when it's looking on my hard drive to show me how a page will look, it will use the root directory I set as the "top" directory - instead of using harddrive/ as the top directory. (Basically your computer's hard drive is the top directory for your computer. When you code a site, you often code it to refer to the top directory of the website - so any design program you use needs to be able to say, Oh, you mean the top directory of the website, not the top directory of your computer.)

Dreamweaver doesn't get it. It won't find your stylesheets if you coded them: /stylesheet.css. Instead, it looks for your stylesheet in the top directory of your computer.

This means that NONE of the styling in the sheet will work in Design View.

Which makes the visual editor pretty much useless.

And the Dreamweaver team seems to think this is actually a selling point - you can see your page uninhibited by all that pesky design.

And if you absolutely insist on viewing it with the stylesheet, well, you can manually add it. Manually. Add. To. Each. Page.

And, if you're unlucky enough to be working on a huge e-comm site wherein different pages use multiple stylesheets? Add each stylesheet manually. Separately. You can't even multi-select from the dialog box!

So now we seem a bit stuck at work. GoLive is old enough now that it is pretty common for it to crash. Dreamweaver totally screws up our workflow and doesn't understand much of what we need it to understand. Do we limp along with crashes for now and hope Dreamweaver gets it eventually? Do we bite the bullet and make the switch now? Do we completely change the way we code AND the way IT has all of our sites set up?

I don't know.

But I no longer think that Dreamweaver is the best WYSIWYG web program. In fact, I'm thinking right now, that it's more than a little over-rated.

Too bad our sites are too complex to just code by hand all the time.

Maybe now is a good time for us to simplify ... of course, that would mean a total redesign of every site ....

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:38 AM | Blog | Design | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 24, 2009

If Mom Says OK

I need to take a moment and give a huge thank you to a stalwart reader and commenter. I met Tara through the great site Cre8Buzz (sadly now defunct). Through the last year or so, when I have not been very regular about posting and, in fact, when many of my posts were not really up to par, Tara kept coming here and leaving an incredible amount of comments. If I tell a story, she comments and connects with it. If I share a photo or a drawing, she is always there being encouraging and making wonderful comments.

I really appreciate that.

I personally suck at interaction and don't read everyone else's blogs nearly enough and am rarely bold enough to comment ... which, of course, in the blogosphere generally means that people lose interest in my blog. (And I don't blame them - the interaction is the best part of blogging. I'm just an introvert online and off.) So I really appreciate the time that all of you take to drop in and have a look around Red Monkey. I appreciate it when you do take the time to comment and know that I do try to get to your blogs ... I'm just slow and more talkative on Twitter than I am in commenting on blogs.

At any rate ... go give Tara a look-see. Tell her I sent you.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:41 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 17, 2009

Catching Up

Frantically trying to get this freelance site completed, hence all the extra energy I have right now is heading into that site. I'm hoping that by next weekend, it will be completely done. (And then I can show it off as well as get back to blogging.)

This week has been intense. We've had at least two days where the temperature didn't break ZERO Fahrenheit and more snow and ice than I ever want to think about. We probably have well over a foot of compacted accumulation on the ground and my morning drive to work has been just incredibly stressful. I love doing 70 on the bypass in good weather ... this past week there have been times when 40 was not particularly a smart speed. I've seen a couple of nasty wrecks and yet still see people try to do 70 despite the ice. Coming home at least there's enough sunlight to see the road conditions - but the conditions haven't really been any better.

I'm hoping to have some breathing room after this freelance site is done ... and then I can get some drawing time in (and finish writing the last segment of House Made of Web as well).

Heck, I've even been too busy to take a picture of all this snow!

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:50 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 10, 2009

Why I Hate AT&T

And I do, I really, really, really hate them.

We left for Ohio last Friday in something of a rush. After returning home Sunday afternoon, the DSL modem/router glared its evil red middle eye upon us. In addition, the land line was intolerably static-y. Like to the point where you'd never be able to hear someone, should someone actually call us.

Also, let me point out that me without internet is a scary, scary thing. I am online constantly. It doesn't matter if I'm processing photos in Photoshop or reading a book ... the internet is my constant companion in the background. Without the ability to check IM or email or Twitter ... my brain begins to shut down, cut off from the world.

So I went to an undisclosed location, logged into the internet and attempted to file a trouble report. But AT&T wants you to do so from your home line. Ummm. Can't. Can't hear on the landline. Can't get internet. I dinked around on their wretched help site which kept sending me back to a page which was supposed to help diagnose my DSL ... assuming that I was doing this from my DSL. Umm, if your DSL is DOWN and NOT WORKING, then your stupid ass web page won't help! Good lord.

I finally found a "generic question" form which let me post our landline & DSL problems. I told them I could pick up email between 8 and 5, but to PLEASE call my cell number after 5 eastern time, because I could NOT get internet after 5 because THEIR damn DSL service was DOWN.

They emailed me at 5:15 p.m., so of course, I didn't get the email until Tuesday. Grr. All it said was we'll send a tech out by the ninth at 8 p.m. Wednesday there was a message on the answering machine which said we'll be there between 8 and 5 on the 9th. Way to leave it until the last minute, AT&T. I emailed them back and reiterated that the tech was to call me on my cell if he needed access to the house and I would be there within 15 minutes. (They thought the problem was outside the house, but I wanted this FIXED.)

Oddly enough, after attempting to use the landline Thursday night (someone called the house), the DSL miraculously started working. WOOHOO! Of course, the landline was still screwed up and needed repair and I wanted to make sure that the line was properly fixed so the DSL stayed up and running.

I eventually got a cell call Friday that I thought might be AT&T, but when I picked up, the person on the other end was speaking in Spanish. And it was a recording. Definitely not an AT&T technician telling me he needed access to the house. I get ready to leave for home after work and called the other half.

"You're gonna be pissed," she announces. "The DSL is out again and I've been home since 2. I can see that someone pulled into the driveway, what with all this snow, and they walked around the house to the back. So I guess they were here. But they didn't leave a note or anything."

The entire way home I began plotting my call to AT&T. It began with "Let me talk to your supervisor because I doubt they pay you enough to deal with me right now." It rapidly went downhill from there. A week without internet at home does not do good things to me.

I get home, picked up the landline - the static wasn't completely gone, but it was somewhat better. Hmm. I turned around, walked back to the living room (that's like three steps from the phone line) and went to glare at the eVile red glowing eye on the...

Three green lights.

WOOHOO! The internet was back.

A few hours later, in the middle of attempting to fix the mess I'd made of the blog configuration and database, it went out again. I called AT&T.

Have you ever seen The IT Crowd? Practically the first words out of the Help Desk woman's mouth were: "Have you tried turning it on and off again?" Grrrrr. Yes, that didn't help. It's been out for a week. The phone line is effed up as well and is probably screwing up the signal. It came up Thursday for no apparent reason, but went out during the day Friday.

In the course of her going through the questions they have to ask according to their scripts but which I had already dealt with (is it within 5 feet of your DISH receiver? No, the DISH receiver is in the basement. So that's more than 5 feet away from the DSL modem? YES! The receiver is in the BASEMENT, which is FAR away from here. - yes I was a bit testy.), the damn green light came back on.

So of course, after I say that, she says, Our tests indicate you are getting a weak DSL signal now.

Here's the deal. I don't pay an exorbitant monthly fee for a service that is giving me a weak signal. I want the damn thing to WORK. The lady hems and haws around for a while and finally says "I'll put a trouble ticket in and the techs will run a remote test tonight."

Of course it was working then. Of course they want to close out the ticket.

So, I'm attempting to download a copy of my blog's database (something I do not do often enough, stupid me), and at 185 mb of a 200mb DB, the DSL goes out again. Download is destroyed. Crap, crap, crap.

Thinking I might sense a pattern now, I pick up the landline and call my cell phone. Sure enough, within about 10-15 minutes of making that 15 second call, the DSL is up again. Intriguing issue.

I start the download again and go to bed. Upon getting up? No middle light (at least it wasn't red again). Luckily the DSL crapped out AFTER the download was done, so I do have a good backup of the db. (Of course, I now know that it's a corrupted db and that's why the blog was screwed up, so I have to delete it anyway ... but that's another long story). I call my cell phone again. Other half points out the internet is still down and tell her to wait about 10-15 minutes.

What do you know? The internet comes back up within that time frame. It appears that using the landline somehow "activates" the line enough that the DSL picks up a signal again. I have no idea why or if that's what's really happening. Maybe it's a coincidence, I don't know.

At any rate, I'm going out today to pick up a cheap wired phone to see if perhaps the cordless phone is somehow sending out interference now. (It's worked fine for the last 5 or 6 years since we've lived here. Maybe it's just degraded, who knows?)

In the course of writing this post? DSL went out, I used the landline ... it came back. After I get a new phone and make sure the cordless is not the issue, hopefully I'll be able to keep the DSL up long enough to file an update to the trouble ticket at AT&T and let them know what I think of their "fix" this week ... and crappy service.

By the way, if you're a Help Desk employee somewhere, don't ask me to give you a good survey review about your service calling yourself excellent ... that's kinda presumptuous. The woman who read her script with me was good, a little attached to her script, but good. Until she ended the phone call with "God Bless." Umm, you do not know my faith belief so let's not get a bit ahead of ourselves, okay?
(I don't know why that always bugs me, but it does.)

So, anyhow, I'm kinda back online. And apparently the blog is fixed now.


Posted by Red Monkey at 8:57 AM | Blog | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 8, 2009


Well, well, well. We appear to have internet again ... and whatever has been freaking out with the blog when I was trying to publish a fast "I have no internet" post, has also apparently been fixed. Now if the CRON Daemon will stop emailing me about a config error on line 322 (there are no variables, there dammit, Mr. CRON Daemon, so shut up!), then I'll be a happy camper.

'Tis nice to be back online.

Real posts sometime this weekend ....

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:45 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 23, 2008

House Made of Web (segment five)

House Made of Web is a series of posts explaining the web design process. Many seem to think it's a kind of arcane, magical process ... but it really shouldn't feel like some secret thing. This series of posts should help the non-designer and non-coder understand the process by which a website comes to life without getting too terribly techincal.
The previous posts in this series are:
House Made of Web - the backstory
House Made of Web (part dos) - Information Organization
House Made of Web (chapter tres) - Beginning Mockups
House Made of Web (numero cuatro) - Beginning Mockups

House Made of Web (segment five) - Development of the Mockup

In my last post, I spoke about the problems inherent in giving a client two mockups and how that can be a good thing or a bad thing. In the case of my client, Sherry K, this worked out well and I came up with a more refined design that she really liked.

The process of building the mockup is, for me, the really fun part. Generally speaking, I start out in Photoshop and begin building the various pieces of the site. I tend to start in one of two places: either the themed colour palette for the site or I go looking through the client's images searching for something to build around. In this case, I started with the splash of lime, thinking about pianos and her Kirby Lu Productions logo. I flitted around on iStockPhoto to get some ideas ... but I found a nice vector piece which I thought I could adapt to help create a really nice banner piece for her.

Using a stock piece is a risky thing in design. Anyone can buy a stock piece (vector or photo) - which means you often wind up with a design that looks a lot like every other design. There's not enough style which speaks of the client because it's something that was created specifically to be general (and thus the most use to the most people).

You'll notice in the mockup that the banner has a piano which is kind of grainy, fuzzy and has iStockphoto's watermark across it. Mockup 1c

When you're building a mockup, you do not want to purchase stock photography (or, in this case a vector graphic) before you know if the client likes it. Instead, you take a "comp" version of the image and insert that into the design. A comp image is one that you are allowed to use for a mockup in order to sell that image to the client, but it's provided in a smaller format to protect the copyright owner from theft. Obviously, I wouldn't want to use that comp image in all of its graininess - I want a sharp, clean look which I can only get from purchasing the image.

In this particular case, the stark white piano with the dramatic angle was something I thought could work really well with Sherry's site - and I thought I could add that splash of lime to the piano to further personalize it to my client. After getting approval from Sherry, I purchased the image and began editing it in Adobe Illustrator, adding the bit of green to the black keys and a hint to the front of the piano as well.

The Sherry K branding to go across that piano was also created in Illustrator.

For those who don't know much about graphics, you've probably been wondering about "vector graphics" and Illustrator. Why not just use Photoshop?

An image in Photoshop is essentially a lot of little pixels. It's great and you can do a lot with it ... but only if you have the right size image. You can't really enlarge the image much ... because there are only so many pixels.

A vector graphic sounds complicated, so hang on whilst I explain it. A vector graphic is a series of points and a mathematical formula to determine the lines and fills and shading. But a lot of artists are definitely NOT math majors - so how do they do the formula? Illustrator does it for us. We draw the image with our mouse or a graphics tablet ... and Illustrator does the math. What this means is we're not limited to a set number of pixels. We're only limited by our own precision. A vector graphic can be made larger almost infinitely.

So, I built the treble clef/Sherry K branding in Illustrator so I could continue to use it in multiple sizes and not have to re-create a large version in Photoshop later.

I also knew that the logo designed by Cary Zartman at Z Factory was not just important branding for Sherry K, but also personally very important to her, so I wanted to use the Kirby dog in the banner as well. Like most great designers, Cary had created the logo in Illustrator, so using Kirby was easily done. (Most logos are vector graphics so that they can be printed on a banner or billboard as well as they are printed on business cards.)

Also in Illustrator, I created the lime for the background image and the little juice drops. Then, I brought everything into Photoshop and began laying the pieces out and fine-tuning details. By the time I was done with Mockup 1c, I was pretty happy with it.

So was my client.

The next step for a small web design house is a complete flip in thinking. The pure design is done at this point. Next up is coding the thing into a real website - right brain/left brain flip time. Larger design houses will hire a designer for the design segment and a coder for the second (and possibly a programmer as well depending on what the site needs). Tiny places use one person for everything. I wind up spending a fair amount of time researching different nuances of code so I can make the design come to life.

Next time ... the fun of coding!

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:03 AM | Blog | Design | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 21, 2008

House Made of Web (numero cuatro)

House Made of Web is a series of posts explaining the web design process. Many seem to think it's a kind of arcane, magical process ... but it really shouldn't feel like some secret thing. This series of posts should help the non-designer and non-coder understand the process by which a website comes to life without getting too terribly techincal.
The previous posts in this series are:
House Made of Web - the backstory
House Made of Web (part dos) - Information Organization
House Made of Web (chapter tres) - Beginning Mockups

House Made of Web (numero cuatro) - The Problem with Mockups

In my last post, I spoke about creating two mockups for my client, Sherry K. I had planned to spend this post talking about some of the drawbacks of submitting two mockups (which I alluded to in the last post) ... and then I got a tweet from the delightful Mike Rohde, who was pointing out a fantastic article on Fadtastic about the perils of the industry standard (submitting 2-3 mockups).

Despite the fact that the industry standard is to offer clients multiple mockups in order to better allow them to make choices ... it often doesn't work very well. As Darren Hoyt (in this Fadtastic article) states, allowing the client to pick bits and pieces of your designs can mean that the client "settle[s] on a mishmash Frankenstein product" and that they get "bogged down with a maze of choices" rather than the unified design you intended.

In my case, I've worked with clients who were single entities - a website for one person. Generally speaking, offering a single client two to three mockups and asking them to choose or to mix-and-match is often not quite as dangerous as when dealing with a larger entity with multiple people who will be making the final decision.

The few times I've worked with large e-commerce companies, my fellow designers and I generally pitched only a single design at a time - or two variations of essentially the same design. Design by committee - the default when you have multiple people making the final decision based on several mockups - almost universally yields a Frankenstein design.

The key in both the case of a single-person site and a company's website is listening to the client BEFORE the design process begins so that you really understand what they're looking for. If they can't tell you, it's your job to elicit responses from them before you begin the mockup process. Darren states they show clients "select sites from CSS Beauty or Most Inspired or Best Web Gallery" and they pay close attention to aspects of various sites (colour, layouts, mood, etc) that the client responds to.

Basically, I'm saying you've got to adjust your process to your client and know the pitfalls of working with a group approval (as well as the benefits) and the same for single clients. The key to both is to spend a fair amount of time in the beginning really getting the feeling for them, who they are and what they want.

In the case of my working with Sherry K, for the first mockup I spent a tremendous amount of time creating a workable e-commerce style site for her. I then spent some time working on a second mockup which worked with her personality a bit more and played with color. I was pretty sure that neither mockup in their entirety was precisely what she was looking for. Even with as much time as we'd spent going over her needs, I'd not been able to get a good sense of what she wanted in terms of look - and we ran out of time before we could look at a site like CSS Zen Garden or Most Inspired. That fact, combined with the fact that I was working with a single person led me to offer her two mockups - I needed a better idea of what she wanted and since she couldn't spare the time at that moment, I took the time that I would have spent discussing design with her and made a second mockup.

Flexible. Particularly as a freelancer, you've got to remember that there is no one, right way to go through the design process of a website.

So, last time, I showed the two mockups - both of them quite rough. Sherry loved the use of colour inherent in the second design, but liked the layout of the first ... but she didn't want either design as it was. That's okay, neither did I. From having her look at those designs and answer some very specific questions, I got a much better feel for what she wanted.

First off, a better green was fine with her. She wanted some colour and didn't mind the green. If I hadn't been so fearful about using my favourite colour on her website, I might have nailed the look and the layout with the first mockup. D'oh!

The next version changed up the look in some places, adding accents and refining ideas. For one, I swiped the nav bar from the second mockup and included it in the tweaked version of the first mockup. I changed up the backgrounds of the major elements ...

... and I decided to use a splash of lime for real.

No thumbnail this time, but the full image will pop up in a new window (or tab, depending on your preference set). Mockup 1c

This version energized the client. She really liked the splash of lime (and I still need to work in a shaker of salt somewhere). Her favourite part, I think, was the bright green gloss button in the promo area.

Next time ... an overview of how the mockup was concepted and created.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:54 AM | Blog | Design | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 19, 2008

House Made of Web (chapter tres)

I've spent the last two posts getting into the backstory of my history in web design ... and then the beginnings of design process - the information organization. In order to walk you through the process of site design, I'm taking you through the re-conception of Sherry K's website.

I really like the kind of lengthy tag line she uses in her emails and newsletters: Sherry K: piano with spirit, piano with soul, piano with a hint of lime and salt. Since she originally had no direction to give me in terms of iconography, colours or the like, I actually had a bit of a harder time coming up with a concept. I knew I liked the lime and salt piece and wanted to use it. I spent a lot of time thinking through where I wanted various pieces of the site to go ...

She's got three CDs for sale, each with a CDBaby and iTunes option for purchasing. I wanted to have some kind of promo area to advertise her availability for booking. She has a paragraph she's fine-tuning to let people know who she is - and for SEO purposes. Then of course, there's the navigation which took a little tweaking to make manageable ... an MP3 player and she wanted her email list sign-up to be very prominent.

A bit of terminology before I explain the next step I took. A mockup is an image of a website. For me, I'll open up Photoshop and begin building pieces of the site in the places I want them to be. I'll mess with the font (staying within the realm of the "web-safe" fonts) and sizing and begin choosing colours, images and different effects to get close to the look I want. This gets saved as a plain image ... just to give an idea what the site can look like.

So as I began working on the first mockup, I did what I always do - spent too much time perfecting the layout of the first design. The aesthetics of the first mockup I forced myself to not spend too much time making exactly perfect. The whole idea of a mockup is that it WILL change. It's an approximation and both you and the client (and if you're working with company, chances are there are several people who need to approve the mockup) - you're all going to change bits of it. Spending time making it exactly perfect is mostly a waste of time.

On the other hand, you want it to look good enough that with minor tweaking, you could publish it as is and be happy. It's not an easy balance and I know a lot of designers who pour their heart and soul into a single design ...

... and then don't want to change a single pixel. (Which always reminds me of the Cyrano deBergerac quote: "my blood runs cold,/ To think of changing even one small comma.")

In most cases, you want to present a client with two or three designs to choose from - different takes on their needs. Then, either one design can be tweaked, or some mixing and matching can go on. (Or, you've completely missed the mark and have to start over completely.)

My first take on Sherry's new site was one I really liked the layout ... but I was still wavering on the execution of the aesthetics. My hesitation was over a very simple matter ... I seized on the "lime and salt" and wanted to work that into the design. I love green. I also love virulent lime green. Most people ... not so much.

So, I wound up with this for the first mockup: (click to bigify)

Design 1

I was trying not to make the site overwhelmingly green - after all the tag line is a "hint" of lime and salt, not a nuclear explosion of neon green. My love of green led to a fear of overdoing what I liked instead of what the client wanted. Because I was fearful of overdoing it ... the colours here were, frankly, just all wrong. I did like the use of Kirby (the dog in her Kirby Lu Productions logo - designed by Cary Zartman at Z Factory).

And, of course, I overdid it on the layout. This, I was sure, was darn near the perfect layout for her site. So, when I went to do the second mockup ... I was stumped for a bit.

And then I decided I was really tired of the boxy look so many websites have. Sherry's music kind of bursts some boundaries ... maybe her website design should as well. Also, while the white with hints of lime was a nice look, I wasn't happy - Sherry's a colourful person and that design just didn't fully encompass that.

So this was mockup number two:

Design 2

I liked some aspects of this ... but the layout just wasn't as good. The whole design was just not very coherent, although I did kind of like the border of the top banner being broken open by Sherry's music. I had a LOT of tweaking to do on those lime eighth notes ... but I was pretty sure this design was not going to cut it, so I forced myself to not waste time perfecting it.

What I did really like was the navigation bar. Several ideas suddenly popped into place there.

I wrote up an explanation of each design and sent that text plus the two designs over to Sherry, explaining positives and negatives of each design, different aspects of the layout, difficulties we might have in the coding process and so on. Then I invited Sherry to spend at least a day or two thinking about the designs and my explanations before getting back to me.

Some of the issues I pointed out included critiquing the use of gradients on the first image (the green fading into white at the top & bottom of the various boxes). I wasn't convinced of that shade of green ... and I didn't think the promo area was quite right yet. I pointed out the colour flaws in the first mockup and felt that the second one could be made MUCH less boxy (particularly since the original idea had been to disrupt boxiness) if that was a feel or look that she liked overall.

Next time I'll go into the changes we discussed ... which design was picked, tweaked ... and where the project stands now.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:43 AM | Blog | Design | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 18, 2008

House Made of Web (part dos)

While I said I was done with the back story last time I lied. But this will be short. Wanna see an UGLY 1998 website: here's my old syllabus. Key word - OLD. has loads of old gems. Scary stuff.

At any rate, I said I would discuss how a website is conceived and constructed today. This is obviously my process, although I'll also be talking about how other professionals work as well.

Generally, the conception starts out as the easy part. It gets a little more complex, but of course, they all start with something like: I want a site where I can show off my talents, career, thoughts, hobbies, whatever. I want to tell people something or I want to sell something. (Sometimes it's selling people what you want to say!)

I'll use one example to walk us through this process. I happen to go to church with an extremely talented musician, Sherry K. She recently decided that she wanted to completely revamp her online look. She wants a website similar to what she has in terms of content, but she wants something that will really reflect her personality and style of music. We sat down one day and discussed her needs in terms of what the website should be able to do, what her goals were for the site ... and what her level of computer and website skills were.

In Sherry's case, one of her goals is to be able to update the site herself - and not just in a "content management" kind of way, but she wants to be able to understand at least some HTML and CSS (the most common and basic "languages" that websites are written in) herself so she can apply that to MySpace as well as her website. Like many people who want to advertise themselves, she doesn't want to have to rely on others to fix every little thing or make every tiny adjustment.

Most graphic designers and web designers have a "creative brief" they use to understand the creative project - be it a website or a company logo. David Airey has a short form he uses on his site, which you can read here. A portion of it gives the designer the feel for the customer/company requesting the work - who their competitors are, what their company is about, project timeframe, colours, icons ... various little details that the customer might not have thought about beforehand.

In my case, Sherry had some distinct ideas about marketing and SEO (search engine optimization) ... and she knew a few sites that she liked their marketing techniques - but she hadn't given a lot of thought to the aesthetic component of the site. I took a couple of pages of notes during our discussion - and she sent me another few pages of marketing notes that would affect the design process in some way or another.

My first goal was to organize all of these notes. Sounds like studying for a test, doesn't it? A great deal of web design revolves around information systems. How do you organize your information to meet a certain goal?

Sherry has two major goals: sell her music and get people to book her for gigs.

After looking through the notes, I listened to her music again, looked over the design of her CDs and her MySpace, and studied the language of her current site and some of her email newsletters - all to gain a mental picture of who Sherry K the performer was.

Now, depending on the complexity of the site, a designer can do one of two things - build a wireframe or actually begin both the organizational building and the aesthetic design all at the same time.

A wireframe is essentially just a map of where different elements of the site will be and how everything fits together. On the e-commerce sites I've worked on, this was an absolutely crucial element of the design process. Different people in the company had distinct ideas of what information should be seen "above the fold" on an 800x600 sized monitor - although many sites now design as if 1024x768 is the smallest (and most common) size monitor. On an e-commece site you want the logo and tagline, search feature, the most important shopping buttons, the cart button and at least one "specials" or "ad" area to show within the top of the page so they're seen first.

When you have several people who need to approve the design, it's best to figure out this information puzzle before adding the complication of aesthetics to the issue. So a wireframe generally is a series of boxes - here's the area for our promotion, and it's going to be this size. Another box shows where the navigation will be, another the exact space for the logo and tag line. The barest of wireframes won't include colours or fuss over font - it's literally just a jigsaw puzzle map.

Once that wireframe has been approved (likely things have moved around and changed sizes during the approval process), then comes the thematic design.

Sherry's site was simpler than an e-commerce site and I had some pretty good ideas from her excellent organizational notes where things were going to need to go. So, I decided to work both the wireframe and the design all at once. I latched on to the line she uses in all of her newsletters and emails: Sherry K: piano with spirit, piano with soul, piano with a hint of lime and salt.

I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to do ...

... and I'll get into that next time.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:00 AM | Blog | Design | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 17, 2008

House Made of Web

I saw a little tweet from David Airey the other day: "@davidairey Ever wonder how your website is constructed? " - and I clicked through, thinking this was perhaps a web designer talking about the process by which a site is built. Instead, Sitonomy is a nice little app which breaks down the various pieces of technology used to build a site.

But that got me to thinking ... perhaps I should explain how websites get built.

I know a great many folk who think it's some magical or terribly arcane process - but it shouldn't be.

First, a little backstory. Because I enjoy backstory and by golly, you wouldn't be my reader if you didn't enjoy backstory too. (Right? you like backstory, right? Crap. Just me. Well, there are people STARVING for backstory somewhere or another, so you just eat this all up and enjoy it and think about those poor backstory-starving people in Narnia. You're the lucky one, remember?)
I got my start in web design back in the Mosaic age. (Think Neolithic period of the web.) It was 1996 and I thought the web was a great place to store my class syllabus so my students couldn't lose it. Most of the students at Notre Dame in 1996 had computers in their rooms - and those who didn't seemed to constantly be in one of the computer labs scattered all throughout campus - so this seemed like a nice "bonus" I could do for my students. It also gave them the added benefit of being able to access their syllabus from home - or show it off to their parents.

Of course, I came up with this brilliant plan most of the way through the fall semester and decided I'd have it up and ready in time for Spring semester. I had been reading the source of most web pages and it looked pretty simple to do. In the end, however, I had to use a program called Navipress in order to get the site done in time for the semester to start.

Over the course of that semester and the following summer, however, I began writing all of the code for my site myself ... and it quickly expanded beyond just a syllabus site for my students.

This was, of course, the days of grey backgrounds everywhere ... horizontal line dividers marking divisions in pages that went on for screens and screens and screens ... and, for that matter, screens that weren't much bigger than 800x600 for most people. Oh the excitement when we could make text BLINK at you. And change colours! OOOOOOH! and looky at that nifty animated gif of a man digging a hole at a construction site.

Yeah, even "Under Construction" pages on a website were fun and exciting back then (instead of the incredible no-no they are now).

So, I learned HTML through looking at other website code and the crappy HTML that Navipress had written for me in my haste to park my thoughts on the information superhighway. I eventually found my way to the HTML Writers Guild and started learning how to code well.

A guild! My geeky Dungeons & Dragons heart overflowed. I was joining a real-life modern-day freaking GUILD!

I learned a lot over the next few years and became a very strong web advocate within my department, encouraging our publication of more and more department materials and resources on the web and very much encouraging our instructors to put their syllabi on the web as well as handing them out the first day of class.

As much as I loved teaching, I was utterly fascinated by the web and how we were starting to use it. My first lessons in user-interface were not through some book about good design - my first lessons were the tough ones handed out by my students. It seemed no matter how hard I tried to organize the growing amounts of information I had on the student segment of my site, the more complaints I heard.

Actually, I think the harder I worked on trying to make the site better for all, the more I took complaints and criticisms to heart.

All of my students used the site in different ways. One wanted the site to tell him when everything was due in one big list. Another student wanted it broken down by assignment. Another wanted it listed day by day.

And none of them were wrong. They simply had different methods of processing information and differing ways to parse logical data.

As much as it could sometimes frustrate me that I had "gotten it wrong" yet again, I found this real-life course in information systems to be fascinating and endlessly engaging.

How DO you put together a site so that every single user will find it - if not easy to use, at least understandable and logical once they get the hang of it. (And get the hang of it quickly.)

I hope that I taught all of my students something useful and positive about writing and about reading. I hope that I didn't kill anyone's interest or discourage them.

I know they taught me a great deal in return - even when I was discouraged by their apathy. (I mean come on, doesn't everyone just LOVE taking first-year writing classes?)

Next time I'll go into the modern process of how a website is conceived and constructed.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:17 AM | Blog | Design | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 16, 2008

MS Recommends Using Another Browser

(Well, duh. I've been saying THAT for years. Nice of you to jump on the bandwagon, Microsloth.)

Mention Internet Explorer to any web designer and watch that person begin ranting, gnashing their teeth and wailing.

There's nothing worse than fine-tuning the code of a website to match your design ... only to realize that YET AGAIN, the non-compliant Internet Explorer has totally bolloxed the whole thing up. Works fine in Firefox. Looks sharp in Opera and Konquerer and Safari. You're a frigging genius of the ether ...

... and it looks like pants in every version of Internet Explorer. And we're not talking some Red Monkey Jeans hip pants that all the cool kids are spending $300 a pop to look just as cool as everyone else kind of pants. No. We're talking hideous 1970s plaid pants from Herb Tarlek at WKRP kind of pants.

And. Every. Single. Version. of. IE. Has. A. Different. Problem.

Every. Single. One.

It's enough to make me go utterly stark-raving mad.

So the fact that today the BBC has an article wherein apparently Microsoft has discovered a security flaw so bad they have not yet released one of their crappy-ass half-complete updates, makes me laugh.

Instead, Microsoft suggests that you download and use another browser.

Lemme tell you something. Once you download Firefox, just keep using it. Please. Don't go back to IE. Import all of your bookmarks and preferences and passwords and all that good stuff.

And then just delete IE from your computer and never use it again. Please. PLEASE? I'm begging you. Do it for the children. Do it for the good of standards-compliant browsers around the world.

Do it before I go bald trying to write a new stylesheet for EVERY SINGLE VERSION of IE instead of writing just one stylesheet that works for all browsers the way Los Interwebz intended.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:43 AM | Blog | Design | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 1, 2008


I hate snow.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:13 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 20, 2008

Teh Funneh (tm)

I have not Teh Funneh for you today. But Katie does.

Seriously. While I am guilty of typing LOL far too often when I really only smiled or perhaps let out a quiet chuckle, Katie regularly has me laughing to the point of tears in my eyes.

And the really sad thing is ... it's NOT really a funny thing. She's had a headache for EIGHT frigging weeks ... countless visits to countless doctors and through it all? She's kept her Funneh.

In this selection, her doctor has decided that biofeedback will cure her eight week headache. (This after he insisted it was her sinuses and her ENT guy said, umm, no, it's not that - but geez, these are some insanely interesting sinuses, thanks for coming in, hey, while you're here lemme stick a camera down each nostril and get some pictures of this.)

We conversed at length about my medical history and she said she just wanted to evaluate my "muskles" and soft tissues today and then we could develop a plan. So the first thing she does is stand behind the chair I'm in and starts whoorling my head around in circles.
She does not tell me what she's doing, she doesn't say to relax or to oppose her, she's just slow-motion whiplashing the shit out of me. And continuing to ask questions THE WHOLE TIME.

Seriously, I'm thinking if you do biofeedback, you might want to read the file on your patient before you start trying to, oh, I dunno, start twisting her head in the place where the two vertabrae were removed from the Chiari Malformation corrective surgery.

Anyhow, check out Katie. Despite living in Suckville for the last eight weeks, she's kept her funny. You can thank me later, after you wipe the tears out of your eyes.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:30 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 8, 2008

The Job ...

Since I have had it forcefully pointed out to me by a dear friend with whom I don't speak often enough any more, I figured I should log in and make one final post about the job situation.

I have never in my life met so many genuinely kind, sweet and friendly people in one place in my entire life.

Yes, I'm serious.

After 16 months of freelancing, I expected it to be quite difficult to get used to going back to a full-time gig. I had a short first week partly to give myself some time to prepare for going back to work (getting some clothes, for one) and to have my birthday off ... and to make for a shorter first week. Since I'm not a very outgoing person, I was more than a little nervous of being back in cubicle-ville.

I needn't have worried. People are still coming up to me to introduce themselves with a genuine smile and a "great to have you here." Our team leader (she doesn't like to be called boss) got everyone in marketing to sign a birthday card for me - and I tell you that it nearly made me tear up. I do not tear up. It's just not something I do - but the genuinely sweet welcome and notes in the card just kind of overwhelmed me. I tacked it up to the cube wall already to remind me on the inevitable days in every working life when things are not going so well.

I've been working on very simple, minor projects so far to give me a chance to get used to the system and the department procedures. Relatively dull work, but I would MUCH rather learn the system on some "dull" project and feel confident about everything when I tackle a more complex project! So, their training falls right in line with how I prefer to be trained. The procedures for working on projects and project approval are also right in line with how I would prefer things to go. Seriously, it's like I was supposed to get a job here. Communication is primarily by IM and email - again, my preferred methods. But the designers still turn 'round and chat about projects as well.

I'm a weird blend of shy and can't-shut-up - so I'm not sure what my co-workers think of me just yet. I mean, we seem to get along - I certainly think they're pretty cool. But I go through spells of sitting, facing my computer and zoning out ... and then when I do join a conversation, I fear that sometimes my storytelling self might take over more than I would really like. (Oh, that reminds me of "this time at band camp" ....)

The gentleman who does the Spanish translation of the site is already starting to speak to me in bits of Spanish since I made it clear that I need to practice and that I honestly enjoy Spanish. I think he grins at me every time he sees me.

All in all, the company workings and the individuals all seem beyond my wildest imaginations. I will miss doing some print design work - but hopefully I can, after things settle down a bit, get some freelance commissions to do some of that on my own time through Oppositional Design. I have to finish the freelance commission on a website before I can accept anything else right now, though.

Hopefully my body will start getting used to the new schedule soon and I won't be quite so exhausted. And then things can FINALLY get back to normal around here. :)

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:55 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 31, 2008

A Flood ...

A flood of relief.

After nearly 16 months of worry, panic, rejection and work ...

... I begin my new job on Wednesday, the day after my 40th birthday. What a beautiful present. I got the finaly official start date/time just a little while ago.

The relief is palpable in the house.

Details? Not so many as I don't really blog about work. I'll just say that I'll be one on a team of web designers for a major e-commerce company. And I'm just beyond over-the-moon about it. I think this team seems really awesome and I'm really looking forward to it.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:53 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 28, 2008

Change Is Coming ...

Change is afoot here ... and I want to thank for giving me the inspiration to do some sketching needed to finally get around to revamping the look here at The Red Monkey Blog. Be prepared for a completely new look ... soonish. I will try to give you a warning at least a day or two before the new template goes live.

And - to Lisa - I haven't forgotten my promise to return to the excellent conversation we were having on trans issues - particularly in light of some research I saw on BBC the other day.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:59 PM | Blog | Design | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 10, 2008


All right, people, quit dropping off the face of the earth.

The latest hit to my favourite links is Monkeehub. Laith Bahrani began Monkeehub as a portfolio site which quickly became a freaking web icon. Laith is the man behind the awesome video to the brilliant "The JCB Song" by Nizlopi. He's also behind the incredible video to Radiohead's "Creep."

Now, every domain I know to be Laith's is only a domain parking page. Monkeehub is down and has been for a few weeks. Low Morale is down as well. And Everloving is actually timing out completely. He's not logged in to MySpace since June, I think ... and he also hasn't had anyone leave him any comments since then, either.

This dude is simply too talented to suddenly drop off. Running a Google search showed scores of articles about him and interviews with him.

So ... anyone know what's going on with Laith? Is he so busy he forgot to pay the hosting bill? Is it rampant xenophobia which has made him deny access to Amuricunz?

Seriously, I need my Monkeehub fix.

UPDATE 10/13/2008
I've heard through the ether that the issue is simply a crashed server and, of course, crashed backup server. Laith Bahrani has apparently been working on an involved project and hopes to get the server issues worked out soon and get his wonderful presence back on the web again.

*phew* I'm glad that's all it was.

As for the rest of you, consider yourself on notice. No more disappearing.

Posted by Red Monkey at 2:37 AM | Blog | Design | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 8, 2008

Fifteen Months Later

Fifteen months is taking its toll on this blog. You would think that not having a steady gig would mean I had more time to write. Unfortunately, it means that I'm not getting the constant stimulation I need to be able to write. Despite the wide variety of topics and issues I would normally need to write about ... I am oddly quiet.

Every sentence I start to write about how my partner and I actually bought a house we could afford instead of doing what many of her co-workers did ... buying the house they were loaned money for, along with two brand new cars ... I think, "I should be working on promoting Oppositional Design" ... or "I should be reading my Typography book" ... or "I should build a newsletter or a new logo or something just to add it to my portfolio." Or, even worse, "I should clean the house."

After an incredibly warm job market a few weeks ago, I'm back to wondering where I've gone wrong and if it's something I can change or is it just this crappy economy?

I have no way of knowing.

I really wish I'd manage to land the job doing emailers for a large musical instruments company. I think I could have had a LOT of fun doing that ... but it was apparently not meant to be. Again.

I am profoundly grateful that my partner still has a job. I wish she could get out of there as it's, I feel certain, contributing to her constant migraines ... but there's little out there for her, either. The market is simply too tight.

I am profoundly grateful that we purchased a home within our means - and that we were somewhat conservative about what those means were. Sure, I'd love a home with normal dimensions instead of something so small - but we can afford this and it's ours.

I'm not a big stats person ... but I do feel regret that I've managed to slip from a pagerank of 5 back down to a 3. I'm no longer getting 500+ hits a day ... I'm lucky to get about 200. And while I still get hits for those damn Red Monkey jeans - I get more hits from Nerfers about modifying their Nerf guns now. (And most of them want to bitch at me and miss my point altogether. Let me repeat: I DO NOT WANT TO BAN NERF GUNS OR NERF WARS. Geez. I just think more parents should be more aware of what their kids are doing and what they're playing with. I also think that there is no such thing as a "toy" sniper rifle. On the other hand, I enjoyed modifying my Nerf Maverick into a steampunk looking thing.)

The blog is a bit adrift and aimless at the moment and I apologize to all of my readers, old and new. Right now, I'm afraid that I am a bit adrift and ... not exactly aimless ... but feeling somewhat lost.

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:54 AM | Blog | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 3, 2008

It's Always the Same

Melancholy has set in again. Fourteen point five months is a long freaking time. Too long.
So ... whilst getting ready to go to my youngest cousin's wedding, Sick Puppies "All the Same" came on. It seemed to fit my mood, so I share my life's soundtrack with you today. Some of the lyrics fit my mood, but it's really the feel of the whole song that suits right now.

If you've not checked them out before, I highly recommend them.

"All the Same" - Sick Puppies
I don't mind where you come from
As long as you come to me
But I don't like illusions I can't see
Them clearly
I don't care, no I wouldn't dare
To fix the twist in you
You've shown me eventually what you'll do
I don't mind
I don't care
As long as you're here

Go ahead and tell me you'll leave again
You'll just come back running
Holding your scarred heart in hand
It's all the same
And I'll take you for who you are
If you take me for everything
And do it all over again
It's all the same

Hours slide and days go by
Till you decide to come
However long you stay is all that I am
I don't mind, I don't care
As long as you're here

Go ahead, tell me you'll leave again
You'll just come back running
Holding your scarred heart in hand
It's all the same
And I'll take you for who you are
If you take me for everything
And do it all over again
It's always the same

Go ahead say it
You're leaving
You'll just come back running
Holding your scarred heart in hand
It's all the same
And I'll take you for who you are now
If you take me for everything
Do it all over again
It's all the same

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:38 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 24, 2008

In Which I Say Little

Fannie Mae. Freddie Mac. School shooting in Finland. Marriott blast in Pakistan. Lehman Bros. AIG. Getting off my crutches. Lohan coming out. Palin speaking. Heroes starting back up.

It's not that there's nothing to write about - rather there is so much that I've been somewhat overwhelmed by where to start. And, frankly, most of my time the last week has gone to continuing to finesse Oppositional Design and revamping my printed portfolio. I went to an interview yesterday for a job that I want so badly I can taste it. You know, the kind of job that just excites you, the kind you can't wait to get up in the morning and go to work ... the kind of job most people dream of getting.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but I think it went well. Of course, she's interviewing some 6 or 7 other people as well. I just gotta say, 45 minute drive be damned - this is the job for me!

I've also been ruminating about elementary school again ... and I know there's another one of those posts brewing, but it keeps getting interrupted by more pressing demands.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:41 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 14, 2008


I know. Srsly. Who is surprised? says I'm an Uber-Dorky Nerd God.

Should I be concerned that the social line is red and I am waaaay over in the red zone? *snort*

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:17 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 30, 2008

Hodge Podge

This utter blog quietness is starting to freak me out because I realize that my brain is just slowly zoning out. Some of that is the tediousness of having a broken right leg which means that I'm getting less stimulation from the outside world than normal. Some of it is being worn out from freelancing instead of having a regular 9 to 5.

Some of it is because I spend much of the day in quiet contemplation - and forget to write it down. I "write" in my head for a few hours, purportedly to get my thoughts in order ... and when they're in order, well, I'm not so interested in writing them down any more.

In addition to that, several of my best online buddies have more or less disappeared over the last few months and I miss them. It makes my being online a little harder - like when your best friend moves to a new town and you kind of avoid the place you used to hang out together. I suppose it's a form of mourning and I suppose that's a big part of why I've avoided some of my favourite online hang-outs (like Cre8Buzz).

Today I'm going to attempt to clear out my work area again - it keeps getting clogged up since my mobility is so reduced. Then I've got a comic to draw for GeekMomMashup, a tattoo design to finish for Real World Mom and, of course, finally complete the baby book para mi sobrino. Preferably before my sister kills me. Which she can't do until she gets back from Colombia. I have time. Photoshop work is something I always dive straight into. Hand drawing - as for GeekMom and my sister? It intimidates me still and I have to spend a few days gearing myself up - get over the stage fright, as it were.

What will make today incredibly long and stressful, though, is my li'l baby girl is sick. We took her to the vet Monday - she's got a stomach bug. Unfortunately, that is the tip of the iceberg. Last night I thought she was moving her back half oddly. So I stood her up and made her walk a few steps. Her rear left leg is just not functioning correctly - she's kind of dragging it. I'm hoping it's just a muscular strain, but I fear it's probably a hip issue. Still, I'd rather it be a hip issue than a back issue - and since she's a dachshund we bought at a freaking pet store we knew there would likely be problems. (No, I don't think buying pets at a pet store is a good thing. Trust me, she has an amazing mojo and she called me to the pet store and informed me I was bringing her home. I have been wrapped around her little paws since the first time I saw her. And I go to utter pieces when she doesn't feel good. She is beyond pitiful.)

Meanwhile, I'm going to attempt to do my thinking with my fingers this week and post more frequently. If nothing else, I need the distraction from poor Scoutie and her bad leg. Dammit, the dog was not supposed to emulate me in THAT!

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:17 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 6, 2008

Flickering Glimpse

So, I hate memes. But I saw this one on If Mom Says OK and promptly swiped it.

What you do:

1. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
2. Using only the first page, pick an image.
3. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into this mosaic maker.

My Answers:

1. What is your first name? Robin
2. What is your favorite food? buffalo chicken
3. What high school did you go to? Landis
4. What is your favorite color? green
5. Who is your celebrity crush? gina gershon
6. Favorite drink? diet vanilla pepsi
7. Dream vacation? Ireland
8. Favorite dessert? pixie stix
9. What you want to be when you grow up? graphic designer
10. What do you love most in life? skateboarding
11. One Word to describe you. me
12. Your (blog) name. Red Monkey

Oh. The interesting thing? Some of these bear no resemblance to the word I originally searched for (particularly, #2!!), but I picked the the image that most matched up to me rather than the specific word picked.

Click to bigify:


1. The Long Arm of the Law, 2. Love changes everything----SCMP, 3. Lamar High School Cheerleaders, July 4 Parade, Arlington, 4. ♫ YO Yo yo, 5. Gina Gershon 6, 6. SirMimseyPepsi, 7. Rossbeigh Long Exposure, 8. Addicted, 9. if you're on fire..., 10. Me Then (1978) and Now (2008), 11. That's, uh, some lightning you've got there., 12. Douc Langur

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:12 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 4, 2008


We lived in Albuquerque for all of about 3 months when I was 3 years old and I've never been quite able to shake the New Mexico dust off of me since. Don't get me wrong, I will always, always be drawn to the Austin area ... it always gives me a feeling of home and safety. But New Mexico - more specifically the Dinetah - touches me on a level too deep for words to explain, even to myself.

This last month has been something of a blur with the "sprained" leg that turned out to be badly broken, surgery and then just a couple of days later, I spent three days in a mini-van being driven first to Terre Haute, Indiana ... Oklahoma City ... and finally Dzilth-na-o-dith-hle in northwestern New Mexico.

As we left South Bend, we wound up traveling through four of seven towns I lived in growing up. First, we drove through Carmel, Indiana; then Oklahoma City; Amarillo, Texas; and finally through Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Out of all of those places I lived, only two have really grabbed me and said Home. And even with as glad as I was to finally reach our house and sleep in my own futon (since I can't really elevate my leg in the bed), the places that I have most felt a connection have been in Austin, Texas ... and the Dinetah.

Austin is easy for me to understand. Rolling, green hills ... creeks, rivers, swimming holes. Despite some rotten events that happened to me there, it always felt safe to me.

mesaThe Dinetah, on the other hand, is harder for me to understand. When we first began traveling through the mesas last week, I instantly wondered what it would have been like ... to be the first Europeans coming through this area on horseback. No maps, no roads, paved or otherwise. How to find water? Did they notice the elevation (even before climbing to one of the mesas) or was it gradual enough that they simply wondered why they needed to drink more water and felt less endurance than normal? Or was it gradual enough that they adjusted as they went?

And can you imagine riding a horse through the mesas and having the Navajo ... or the Pueblo ... or the Apaches ... after you?

At first blush, the area seems desolate. But as I sat out on the "porch" off the dorm kitchenette one evening, I realized that the area was all green. Pale sage greens, but green and teeming with life, nonetheless. Very different from the brilliant greens of Austin - or the cornstalk greens of Indiana.

Was it just an overwhelming sense of history (with a large dash of childish romanticism) that made me connect to the mesas so long ago? Was it the fact that it was so different from everything else I knew? Or was it, perhaps, simply the fact that the mesas themselves looked like such fun and such a challenge for me to climb? Or was it something else altogether?

I have no idea.

The strangest thing for me on the trip was realizing just how many "homes" I have. Austin will always feel like home to me. And there were certainly times whilst on the trip - particularly when I was too hot to sleep with my blasted leg elevated properly - when I wished to be "home" in Indiana, despite the fact that I shudder to ever think of this state as "home."

Strangest of all was the feeling of being "almost home" whilst at the school on the rez. I was there ... but "home" was just out of reach, complicated by my current situation which made it more difficult for me to socialize - between the altitude and the broken leg, I was mostly stuck in the dorm for the week. I couldn't explore the landscape and could barely make my way to the cafeteria in the next building (and I couldn't do that without someone to help me up the stairs). And then, there was my shyness as well. It's hard to connect with the community which makes a place a home if you're so afraid you'll "bother" them or annoy or offend, that you can't hardly speak. And, of course, I have such a garbled historical knowledge of the people and the area - but history is not today and cultures are fluid and mercurial.

I suppose, really, this trip to the Dinetah was much like a trip my mom and sister and I made to Austin the summer after I graduated from high school. I was ecstatic to be "going home" if only for a few days. I demanded that we drive by the old house ... and we saw it from the street. So very close to being "home," only unable to walk inside to the place that had been home for us in the 70s. Like that time in Austin, this past week in New Mexico, I was there and not there

Of course, I still don't know what calls me to the Dinetah ... just that I had a brush with another one of my chosen homes ... that I'll need to return again one day when my body is healed and I'm better able to set aside my doubts and fears and fully step into that feeling of home, less afraid of making mistakes, less afraid of being thought of as overly earnest and one of "those" biligaana.

I'm afraid this post is still a bit of a garbled mess despite the fact that I've been working on it for days. But I've decided that it simply represents the garbled mess in my mind when I think about last week - or when I think about the concept of "home." And, really, what better post is there for the U.S.'s Independence Day except ruminating about home, ethnicity, culture and landscape?

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:53 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 27, 2008

Circle of Discussions

For just a moment, forget the circle of life and beautifully scored Lion King music. Let's talk about something more immediate for the rest of us netizens.

The circle of discussion board topics.

Seriously, have you ever noticed how some topics keep coming up no matter how little interest or how much division/derision they stir up?

  • religion (primarily Christianity)
  • politics (primarily U.S. with a smattering of U.K. or Canada)
  • life after death (usually a subset of religion)
  • make money on your blog (which some elevate to a subset of religion)
  • user name or blog name origin
  • surviving/getting Love
  • whining about a technical service (might be from that particular site, might be about another site)
  • insomnia questions
  • RTFM questions (sprinkled with legitimate user questions which aren't in "the manual" or found easily thru search)
  • Adsense (ought to be part of making money - but it's darn near it's own category anymore)

What's interesting is watching the community react to historical conversations. Those conversations might get ignored, causing newer people to either dominate that discussion or to feel slighted at being ignored. If one of those historical conversations has been contentious (particularly in the recent past), a lot of "oldster" may react with seemingly out of place frustration or even hostility - causing newbies to wonder WTH is wrong with this particular discussion board.

It's interesting to watch as cycles of new "immigrants" "invade" an online community. I hadn't thought about it quite this way before, but it suddenly hearkens back to the waves of immigrants coming through New York (for those of you familiar with U.S. history). I very much see knots of users on most forums which more or less correspond to when they started participating on that forum - OR who were all involved in a pivotal conversation on that forum and so became a kind of "ethnicity" for that particular board. "We are the people who participated in the ThreadName debacle." And when newer folks start up a thread or make a comment which somehow touches on a part of that particular incident, that "ethnicity" of forum participants suddenly comes out guns blazing.

Of course, it's more fluid than that example, but if you've been online long, you probably get what I mean.

I've seen many an established member of an online community "move out" of the community when a wave of new "immigrants" changed the tenor of the community into something other than what it had been. It's not so much, I think, a moving away from the new as it is finding a place which suits your interests better.

Then again, if you only "live" where your interests are, how do you discover new interests?

I often wonder if we're too fast to leave when things change ....

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:47 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 20, 2008

Changing Styles

Depending on how your browser caches images, you may have noticed a few small tweaks around here. The red monkey logo is now wearing jeans. (A nod to all the crazy people who want the damn red monkey jeans.) The sidebar colours have changed a bit, and most startling (at least to me), is that I've changed the look of the old paper background here in the middle of the blog design.

As much as I loved that look, it was difficult for people with vision issues to read the blog easily - and I do prefer that the blog is easy to read (at least in terms of looks).

Over the next few days, I will probably also change the head banner ... and perhaps then I'll address a complete revamping of the blog. My stylesheet has gotten a little glutted and with some of MT's changes, I can build the site much more efficiently than when I first opened things up in '05.

I've enjoyed the disparity of the circuit board with the old-looking paper - connecting the traditional diary and letter and manuscript formats ... with a nod to the new-fangled ways of living. There have been plenty of people who really didn't like that juxtaposition - but hey, ya can't please everyone so you gotta please yourself. (I'm apparently thinking in song lyrics again this week ....)

Red Monkey blog is a disparate kind of a blog. I've talked about personal issues, written commentary on current events, talked about design, talked about art, shown photography. So it's a bit of a challenge to come up with a unifying visual theme for Red Monkey - beyond, of course, the red monkey himself.

First, though, I have a contracted website to finish up (on the home stretch now) and a baby book to finish up. I might do a new banner here in between those other projects ...

... but don't be surprised if you drop in sometime soon only to discover a whole new look.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:36 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 30, 2008

Ye Olde Family Recipe

We interrupt this program to bring you ...

... a cooking show. I know, I know.

I have never been a big one for cooking. It's usually long, involved and tedious (at least when your attention span for such things is about that of a hyperactive gnat). However, there are a few recipes that I'll suck it up for.

Koogali, is our one "old family recipe." I used to think that we also had a pecan pie "old family recipe" and a chocolate cake "old family recipe." The pecan pie recipe is apparently the standard Karo syrup recipe, and my grandmother's SCRUMPTIOUS chocolate cake recipe (coming from someone who doesn't really like cake) is really just Texas Sheetcake made in a 9x13 pan instead of a sheetcake pan. (No nuts in the icing, please. I like nuts, just not in this recipe. Besides, they tend to make the roof of my mouth itch. Wha? I keep telling you my body is NOT wired like normal people's bodies ... oops, I've digressed again, haven't I?)

My grandmother's family came to the U.S. from Lithuania. I cannot for the life of me remember if Grandma Rosie was born in Lithuania or the U.S., however. The Americanized form of the surname became Kalasky (and if you've watched Rugrats, you can probably guess that I enjoy pretending that I'm related to Arlene Klasky), but no one seems to recall what the original last name was. Makes it kinda hard to trace our roots back to the old country. The one really big thing that was passed down was our Koogali recipe.

We had this every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas and it was usually a family production to get it made. I usually proposed that we didn't need a ham or turkey or whatever, that we should just make a meal of the Koogali. Sadly, I was always shot down.

What is it? Well, the short form is that it's a Lithuanian potato dish. Serious Old Country cooking, mind you. Bacon and potatoes and an onion. Then, my other half discovered a few years ago, that it's actually spelled Kugelis ... the link goes to Wikipedia's recipe. Turns out, it's the national dish of Lithuania. Eh, who knew? The name means "flat potato dish" and that about sums it up.

Here's our recipe, complete with photos of the process. Keep in mind, you have to process the potatoes VERY quickly once you've peeled them or they begin to turn brown. It's not that they go bad that fast, but it doesn't look as appetizing and it can affect the flavour.


  • 1 pound of bacon (I used low salt this time around - didn't notice a difference, really)

  • 4 eggs

  • some starch (old world recipe, remember? this equals a palmful to me

  • 1/2 of a large onion

  • 1 T sugar

  • handful of white flour (your guess is as good as mine)

  • 6-8 large potatoes

  • 1 1/2 cups of milk

  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder (NOT baking soda, Chelle)

Fry up all the bacon and then save the grease. I told you this was an old world recipe, right? You should cook the bacon until it's pretty darn crispy rather than chewy. You're going to be breaking the bacon up and it's easier to do if it's crispy. It's gonna wind up soft when it's baked inside the mixture anyway, so you might as well make the shredding part easy on yourself.

Cut up the onion and fry it in some of the bacon grease. I used a shortcut of pre-cut red onion this time. We usually use the white onions, but I like the stronger flavour of the reds, myself.

Next, beat the eggs until they're foaming, then add the sugar, milk, starch, flour and baking powder. Mix this really well.


Now comes the tricky part. You need great timing here and that's why we usually had a slew of family members in the kitchen working on this.

Prepare to be shreddedPeel the potatoes and then grate them. You have to do this quickly so they don't turn brown, but if you have about 3 or 4 people doing the grating, it goes fast enough - this is definitely the best way to do it. If you don't have enough people to do it this way, you can use a Cuisineart to "grate" the potatoes, but the texture of the finished product is not as good. Look, I'm not one for the finer details like texture, but even I can tell the difference between the cheat method and the grating method. Grating rocks.

Since I was making this alone, I had to use my bitty tiny Cuisineart. Which is fine, because as you can see, we have a bitty, tiny kitchen as well.

Tiny KitchenGotta stop here for a funny story. One of my mom's cousins was making Koogali one year. He was doing it mostly from memory and he SWORE up and down that they had to boil the potatoes first and then grate them. His wife looked at him like he had lost his fricking mind. He insisted, "That's how we've always done it." So they boiled the potatoes and then burned their damn hands trying to grate the things.

There, that bit of family history is now preserved for the ages. Grate boiled potatoes! LMFAO

Oh, you should probably flip the oven on now. Preheat to 350 degrees (Fahrenheit).

Anyhow, I had either five or six of the biggest damn potatoes I have ever seen. I'm telling you these were frigging TEXAS sized potatoes. Normally it's 6-8 large potatoes. I peeled them, cut them up into pieces the teeny tiny Cuisineart thing could handle and put those pieces in water to keep them from turning brown. As you do this, you'll notice the water turning murky-white. This is normal, it's starch leeching out of the potatoes (which is why you put starch in the liquid mixture earlier). Here's the shredded potatoes:

Shredded Potato 1

Shredded Potato 2And you can see just in the time it took to take that picture, it was starting to go brown.

Now, quickly, mix that liquid mixture up some more, to make sure the semi-solids didn't fall to the bottom. (This is the milk, egg, flour, baking powder, sugar, and starch concoction from earlier.) Pour the onions and bacon in with the potatoes. Mix with your hands. Using a big-ass spoon does not cut it. Use your clean hands.

When that's nicely mixed, pour in the liquid concoction as well and mix with your hands. Then, take some Pam and spray the heck out of a non-stick 9x13 pan. I mean spray like you've never sprayed before. The original recipe calls for greasing the pan with the leftover bacon grease. Umm, in an attempt to not completely and totally clog arteries, use Pam. It works. After you've Pam'd the pan, pour in your concoction.

Mixture in the pan

Now comes the bacon grease. I have tried multiple ways of using Pam instead, but it's just no good. The recipe completely dries out on top and does not taste very good. So, you need to use the leftover bacon grease and pour some of that on top of the Koogali. Spread it out over the entire top, a nice thin layer like so:

Greased top

Now put it in the preheated oven at 350 ... for about an hour. When is it done? Well, you'll need to cut into the center to check it. It should be moist, but not runny. The top should look something like this:

Fresh out of the oven

Cottage cheese and sour creamThought we were done? No way! While the Koogali is baking, we have to make the topping, but this is an easy-peasy deal. Take a tub of large curd cottage cheese and an equal amount of sour cream. Mix together. There ya go. The topping is ready. (We usually pour it back into the sour cream and cottage cheese containers and mark them with a big K.)

Now, just let me take a moment to tell you this: my dad HATES sour cream and DESPISES cottage cheese. HATES them. They are nasty spoiled uckiness to him. But even he swears by this mixture on top of the Koogali.

And now, I present to you ... the finished product:

Presenting - Koogali

But, we're STILL not done. I know, this is like an old Ronco commercial, isn't it? But wait! There's MORE!

Anyhow, every year there is an argument over whether or not Koogali is better the first day, fresh out of the oven ... or the second day.

Prepping for the second day is simple: cut a rectangular slab of Koogali out of the pan, Pam the heck out of a frying pan and make sure to fry the Koogali on all four long sides. After you've done that, you can attempt to fry the short ends, too, if you're silly like I am. The fried Koogali is generally solid enough that you can at least get a touch of browning on those sides before it falls over or your relatives tell you the damn thing is cooked and get the hell outta the way so that they can cook theirs.

I probably shouldn't have put the fried version on my favourite green plate ... but you get the idea:

Fried Koogali

And there you have it. My family's one claim to ever-lasting fame: Koogali.

(Unless it turns out that we really are related to Arlene Klasky and then she pretty much outshines anything else we've done. Well, unless you take into account that my aunt gets interviewed on NPR and has been quoted in USAToday and ... oh heck, so SHE's famous. The rest of us are schmucks.)

P.S. Want to try the recipe and you don't wanna wade through this long-ass post? Click here for the PDF recipe, text only, no side commentary. :)

Posted by Red Monkey at 2:56 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 23, 2008

Toooooooo Many Questions

I saw someone answer these over at Cre8Buzz and since I enjoyed reading Piper's answers, I thought I'd answer them, too. I actually wrote the answers yesterday, but then managed to be too busy to actually post them until this morning. Yes, I am a dork.

Have you ever had mono?

The last place you were (besides now)?
Hmm, in the house or out of the house? Last place I was in the house was the kitchen to do my breakfast dishes. Last place I was outside of the house was out and about for our seven year wedding anniversary last night. (She wanted Red Lobster. Then I got to go to Toys R Us.)

Do you remember anything from being 3?
A LOT, actually. But my favourite memory from being three is this:

We lived in Albuquerque for three months when I was three, and my mother was terrified of the "dirty indians." One day, she decided we'd go shopping up in Santa Fe, in this mall that she'd heard so much about. Turns out, it wasn't the kind of mall she was expecting and as we wandered from "garage sale to garage sale" (she didn't approve of the folks who laid their stuff out on blankets), I grew increasingly more fascinated. We paused to look at one man's booth and I began asking questions. "What's this? What does it mean? Why does it look like that?" He was quite patient with me and I think somewhat bemused. Mom, however, had wandered off, blithely assuming that I was paying attention to her rather than her paying attention to me. She came back just in time to hear me tell the man, "When I grow up, I'm gonna be an Indian, too!"

How many times a day do you drop your cell phone?
.00001 Seriously. It's pretty freaking rare for me to drop it.

The top three things you spend the most money on?
Mortgage. Electronics/Computers/Software. LEGOs.

Last food you ate?
Grilled Steak Taco from Taco Bell. 2 of them. For breakfast. (Bought them yesterday cuz there was nothing left to eat in the house.)

First thing you notice about the opposite sex?
This is a trick question, right?

One of your favorite songs?
Oh bleeding hell. Well, at random, first one to pop into my head is: Unwell by Matchbox 20.

The school you attend(ed)?
Kindergarten, first grade - Austin - Pillow Elementary
Second grade - Austin - St. Louis Catholic school
Third grade - Austin - Pillow Elementary
Third grade through sixth - Arlington - Butler Elementary
Seventh, 1 semester of eighth - Arlington - Nichols Jr. High
Second semester of eighth, ninth - Arlington - Shackleford Jr. High
High school - Arlington - Lamar (there was a threat to move to Singapore my junior year, but we all told Dad hell no.)
Undergrad - University of Texas at Arlington
Grad - University of Notre Dame

Your cell phone provider?
Nextel. We get a discount through my other half's workplace.

Favorite store in the mall?
Ewww, the mall??? GROSS!
If I have to pick something, I guess Hot Topic. Or the Build-A-Bear shop.

The longest job you had?
I taught for 9 years, I guess that was the longest of the two professional jobs I've had.

What do you smell like?
I have a really really really really crummy sense of smell. So, I'll go with the oddest smell that I enjoy: road tar. Smells kinda like bacon frying to me.

The biggest lie you've ever heard?
I've heard so many doozies, it's hard to pick one. I suppose it would have to be when a certain person told me that he and I were saving the world, only it was a secret.

The last time you cried was because why?
When I was in fifth grade and my great-grandmother died.

In your opinion, do long distance relationships work?
They can.

Do you drink coffee?
Ewwww. Umm, I mean, hellz no.

What do you wanna say to your most recent ex?
I hope that one day you are comfortable with who you are and can quit looking for a personality in other people. I hope you find peace and happiness.

What do you remember from being 19?
A lot! Getting chicken pox for the second time; moving out of my parents' house; the first apartment; my first cat; working until midnight and getting home to listening to my ex say how many times my mother had called (starting at 10 p.m.).

Favorite color(s)?

First person on your missed calls list on your cell phone?
Don't think I've missed any this week.

Who is the last text message from?
I refuse to do text messaging.

How many pillows do you usually sleep with?
Two. A regular pillow and my "baby" pillow. I actually kept the "baby" pillow that my grandma made for me until I was in my 30s. By that point the, fiberfill stuffing was ... well, hard as a rock, lumpy and impossible to get comfy. So, I made another one to the same specs and placed a few pieces of the fabric inside with the stuffing of the new one.

Yeah, I'm overly sentimental and attached to things like that.

What are you wearing now?
Green Addidas t-shirt and dark blue running shorts.

How many pets do you own?
Two miniature dachshunds (Scraps is 6 and Scout is 4). Four cats - blended family there - my other half had two when we met and I had two. (Tux is 13, Mishu and Gabby are around 11, Rio is 9) A betta fish named Flash. He is the most stupid and irritating betta I have ever owned.

What are you doing tomorrow?
The same thing we do every day, Pinky.

Can you play ping pong?
Duh. Wait, do you mean competitively? In that case no.
My favourite set is still my Nerf ping pong set.

Favorite food?
I will do damn near anything for really good guacamole. Place some of that in front of me, and I think I would probably continue eating it until my stomach exploded. I have no will power when guacamole is in front of me.

Do you like maps?
I have always adored them. They fascinate me.

Do you like strawberry banana smoothies?
I have never had a smoothie. They don't really sound good to me.

Have you ever attended a themed party?

Have you ever thrown a party?
Mmmm, a couple of house-warming parties. Otherwise, no.

When did you wake up this morning?
3:40 a.m. as usual. The other half has to leave the house at 4:30 a.m. to make it to work by 5 a.m.

The best thing about winter?
Ewwwwww. Winter SUCKS.
I guess going snowboarding is the best. But we didn't even get to do that this year.

Last time you were in trouble with the cops?

What color underwear are you wearing?

Do you think Ryan Sheckler is hot?
Dude, he is a mad skater! Love him. Hot? Dunno, I'm not really the person to ask ....

What are your plans for this weekend?
The same thing we do every weekend, Pinky.

How many days is it until your birthday?
And it's ruined already. Stupid fooken election wrecking my 40th.

What do you want to be when you "grow up"?
A kid.

Are you on a laptop?
I'm using one. But if I was on it, it would probably break.

Are you smiling?
Too sleepy for smiling. Besides, I'm concentrating on this. Duh.

Do you miss someone right now?
Of course.

Are you happy?
Relatively. Be happier if I had a damn job, though.

Have you ever been in the hospital for an emergency?
Twice. First time I was 13 and the neighbor's dachshund bit me whilst I was babysitting the kids. On the upper lip. Perforated the inside, even. Ow.
Second time was for a severe asthma attack.

Last time you ate chicken?
Yesterday. I love chicken.

What jewelry are you wearing?
My LiveSTRONG bracelet.

What are you going to do after this survey?
Go back to bed.

Song you're listening to?
The dogs snoring.

The car you were in last?
My Civic.

Do you like avocado?
Duh. It's the main ingredient in guacamole.

How long is your hair?
Dunno. But I'm getting it cut today. (It's above my collar, but I'm not gonna frigging measure it. Geez.)

What's on your mind right now?
This survey?
Getting a job.

Last show you watched?
Deadliest Catch.

Last thing you drank?
Diet Vanilla Pepsi, the nectar of the gods.

Where did you sleep last night?
In my house. Umm, duh.

Bonus Question ... What is the one phrase you say to your kids, animals, other half that you never thought would be a regular addition to your vocabulary?
Scout, quit trying to bite his weenie!
(The younger of the two dogs, who is also the girl, plays dirty!!!)

When was the last time you smiled?
A little while ago. Watching the dogs play and wrestle. Smiling at the other half as she left for work.

What did you say last?
Yeah. (She wanted me to lock the door after her, since her hands were full.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:23 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 13, 2008

Gender: M / F / ? (part 2)

Continuing from Thursday's discussion about the differences between biological sex and cultural gender-roles:
So it does seem that throughout our human history, there have been quite a fair number of individuals who did not fit into the cultural gender role specified by their biological sex. I am not discussing sexual orientation, which to me, is a separate (although related) issue.

What strikes me about all of this is an issue which has always irritated me and is demonstrated most aptly by a modern example: the About Me box prevalent on every website with any real level of personalization. You can see the problem if you surf through Blogger blogs, MySpace, Friendster or the like. Some people have short, pithy About Me boxes - either their world is easily classified and categorized, or they've given up in frustration. Other people have About Me boxes which trail from the top of the page, down below the fold and then some, a long, skinny tail attempting to balance everything that person is.

The reality of humanity is that we are rarely easily categorized. People are so very much more than their religion, their race, their nationality, their ethnicity, their profession, their marital status ... and more than their sex or their gender.

So, what is it to be male or female in terms of expected gender roles? Well, obviously this changes from culture to culture.

My first-year college students, some 5-8 years ago, had to read a seminal article discussing how gender expectations led to male and female students learning and behaving differently in the classroom. When it came time to discuss the essay in class, the students immediately let me know exactly what they thought about the article: it was hopelessly out of date.

It was one of those moments in teaching that you can't plan, but when they happen, you wish you'd had a video camera to record the whole thing.

The students began by all agreeing that such preferential treatment of boys over girls simply didn't happen any more. It very quickly morphed into "boys and girls are better in different areas because boys and girls are interested in different things."

Girls don't like math.
Boys don't like reading.

As the students made these generalizations, I could see some of them starting to squirm in their seats. However, as first-year students, not all of them were willing to "take on" the entire class and it seemed like everyone else was agreeing.

And then one of the male students said, "Well, you can tell boys and girls are different just by what they play with when they're little. I mean, girls don't like to play with cars or get dirty or climb trees."

Before he could go on, there were a couple of mini-explosions across the room.

We spent the rest of the class having a great discussion on gender-roles and how those often differ from the reality of individual personalities. With a class that included several female engineering students, several international students and a couple of males in "non-traditional" fields, there was a lot of sharing of stories. My students left the class that day, still discussing the issues - a happy and semi-rare day for a required first-year course.

I think many people in the western world have come to the conclusion that it is not necessarily a trait of males to want to have a career. It's not necessarily a trait of women to want to stay home with the kids.

So, while some traits might be more prevalent in men or in women, they all seem to have not just exceptions (which implies they are not common) but that these traits might be tendencies, whether hard-wired or learned.

So what does hard-wire the male and female brain to be different?

Some research indicates that men use more grey matter, leading to a tendency toward more information processing; women tend to use more white matter, leading to more connections between various processing centers.

So, those people who say men and women think differently are right - in general. The problem is that there are always biological exceptions which muddy the waters.

For myself, I cringe when any survey asks me: M or F. I am not that easily categorized. They are not usually asking for my biological sex as that rarely matters in a survey. They are often asking for gender and I don't think that the majority of people in the western world truly fit into the expected gender norms. I know too many men who are "too sensitive" and too many women who enjoy the outdoors "too much." And if a researcher is simply quantifying us by M & F we're going to get pink Hello Kitty compound bows sized for a woman - which might make some of my friends happy (you know who you are!!), but which would just piss me off to no end.

Ultimately, what makes us what we think of as male or female is more complicated than our biological bits and there's a lot more overlap in both directions than M or F would indicate on a survey. As a species, we are programmed to look for patterns and to put everything into hierarchies. The problem is, most of our methods of classification are too simplistic to truly encapsulize who we are. There is no better example of this phenomenon than Thomas Beatie - someone born female, but felt like a man. So, he had his breasts removed, began the testosterone therapy ... but stopped short of a "full" sex change, citing that one day he might want to bear a child.

Is Thomas a man or a woman? Biologically, the answer is fairly simple as we sex people by their genitalia. However, if we were able to look at all of Thomas's systems, would we find all the hallmarks of female, or would we find female knees and reproductive organs, but a male brain?

Is the woman who is outside more than inside, who hunts deer and delights in dune buggies more male or more female?

And ultimately, does it really even matter? Aren't we simply ourselves?

Why should the exterior trappings of male and female dress or appearance matter to anyone short of potential mates? Why do we care?

In online communities, I try to not say if I'm male or female because I feel the question is far more complicated than the simple biological answer. I catch flak for it and I don't particularly care. If there's a shoutbox or live chat feature to the community, I generally find myself the center of a controversy - is "ender" male or female. People get angry when I won't answer the question. Eventually, I pose one question to them: "If I'm not looking to date you, why do you care? I am still the same person I was before the debate started here. Why does it really matter?"

So far, no one has been able to answer that question ... and they have all (so far) decided that it doesn't matter after all. They're still curious, of course, but we are an intensely curious species - and that's a good thing.

[Some further reading:
from the BBC

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:10 PM | Blog | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 10, 2008

Survey Asks - Gender: M / F / ?

It's a question that sounds ridiculous and yet it is one which has plagued me all my life and turns out to be more complicated than it sounds.

What is it, really to be male or female, man or woman?

We know, of course, the biological bits which make someone a man or a woman. We know there are people born with the sexual organs of both, making the biological definition of man and woman a little bit more complicated.

If someone can be born both male and female in terms of biological bits and pieces - sex - why do we seem to find it so difficult to believe that there are people who are born with a social construct gender path which does not necessarily match their biological sex?

Let me back off of that question for a moment and discuss the difference between sex and gender. Obviously a person's sex is a matter of factual record. You either have a penis and testicles and an "overabundance" of testosterone, or you have a uterus, vagina, ovaries, your breasts develop and an "overabundance" of estrogen. And then, of course, you get people who are born with both sets of sexual organs and a cacophony of hormones.

But it's pretty obvious how to differentiate man and woman. Factual, even. Examine the reproductive bits, classify as M or F. Easy.

Gender, on the other hand, is a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

Each society defines gender and since there are two visually and easily identified sexes, most, but not all, societies have simplified gender to match sex.

Now we have the first complication in what I see as our modern viewing of sex and gender. Many people insist that sex and gender are, indeed, one and the same. They often claim that it has always been so and to suggest otherwise is an unnatural and modern perversion of humanity. However, if we look to the ancient Greeks, we can see that there were shades of grey both within the gender of Greek males and, of course, within their sexual preferences. Those who rigidly insist that Male and Female gender is defined by Male and Female sex, have a tendency to dismiss the Greeks as perverted and sick.

Yet these are the same people who insist that suggesting sex and gender are not necessarily the same is a modern concept. Ancient Greeks, I propose, are dismissed simply because they do not fit into the paradigm of the rigid Sex=Gender people. The ancient Greek and Roman golden period did have its share of what we classify as debauchery and perversion - but they also gave us the concepts of democracy and many of our ideals of fair governing - along with a history of what demagoguery and tyranny and imperialism can do to a country.

I think it's disingenuous of us to dismiss what we dislike simply because we disagree with it.

Historical and cultural indications that gender as a social construct is NOT a new idea:
• Man-hearted woman: Agamemnon by Aeschylus
• Revolutionary war: the example of Robert Shirtliffe/Deborah Samson - a female who enlisted in the American forces and fought through a great portion of the war - as a man, because that was the only way to be able to act as she felt called to act.
• In the Sioux tribe, gender was not completely cut and dry. Some men were thought to be blessed by the moon during their vision quest and they lived as women - and were thought to be quite clever people - there was no cultural negative repercussions for being such a person. On the other hand, some men who showed cowardice in battle were punished and ridiculed by being forced to live as women - the lesson here being that you could be called to a different gender by something outside yourself - or you could act in a manner which didn't correspond to your call or to your biological sex, and be ridiculed for that.
• Many Celtic tribes did not particularly have the same gender role expectations that we think of today. Women were leaders, fighters and generally the equal of their male counterparts.
• Some Eskimo tribes had women who resisted the marriage and child-bearing expectation of their sex, and it was not uncommon for these women to "live as men" in terms of the expected gender role - they hunted and they dressed as the men did without societal repercussion.
• Likewise, many Native American tribes had men who lived according to the expected societal gender role of women - dress, behaviour, et cetera.

But if all of these "primitive" cultures included gender-role-swapping, why isn't that in the history books? Well, according to Caitlin Howell:

Many of the accounts are written by missionaries who unrestrainedly express their disgust with homosexual and cross-gender individuals. One Jesuit priest wrote, " were seen to wear the dress of women without a blush, and to debase themselves so as to perform those occupations which are most peculiar to the sex, from whence followed a corruption of morals past all expression... these effeminate persons never marry, and abandon themselves to the most infamous passions, for which cause they are held in the most sovereign contempt." (Katz 290)
It is likely that white disapproval of homosexuality caused Native American homosexuals to disguise that part of their identity, and tribes gave white anthropologists and ethnographers the possibly mistaken impression that they shared their disapproval.(Blackwood 28)

In other words, what made it into writing was the "modern" or victorious society recording their disgust at the "primitives." Also, since the disgust was so vehement, and the missionary culture so pervasive, the original culture felt it necessary to bury their gender definitions in order to reduce battles and tensions.

I'll end today's post by saying this: despite the modern attempt to define the societal gender-roles of male and female quite rigidly according to biology, this does not appear to be a universal truth, but a cultural tendency. Some cultures (modern and ancient) have very strong societal constraints put on males and females. Other cultures may define male and female roles strongly, but allow a fluid meaning of male or female and not restrict that meaning to biological sex.

I intend to follow up this post with examples of just how muddy the waters can be ...

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:26 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 23, 2008

Hope You Had a Good Weekend

I'm not writing this post to upset anyone nor to make anyone feel bad. I'm not writing it to attack anyone. I know some people say those things to cover up the fact that they are, in fact, doing exactly those things. I'm not one of those people. This is a think-piece, not an attack piece. :)

All through a variety of public discussion groups this weekend, I have seen one message over and over and over again. It's a wish for a good weekend. It's a wish for fun. It's a wish that solidifies a solidarity amongst a very great number of people.

But that wish also makes a huge assumption about others.

It is, in my opinion only, one thing to say Happy Easter on your blog - it's your blog and you should say Happy Easter or well wishes for a pleasant Purim, even a great Wiccan Sabbat of Eostar. It's all good. It's your blog and you should say whatever you like there with no doubt.

However, when on a general discussion board or a even a Friendster or Myspace analog, WHY do people insist on leaving comments which indicate a Christian religious preference on the profiles of friends when they don't know for sure what tradition that friend follows?

It's a nice gesture, don't get me wrong. It's never amiss to wish someone a good day regardless of what day that happens to be.

But I have dear friends who are Jehovah's Witnesses - they are Christian, but do not "celebrate" holidays. It always bothers me when I hear people wishing these friends a Merry Christmas. They, of course, are used to it. They know they are in the minority about their beliefs regarding celebrating holidays and while it gives a momentary "I'm not at the Kingdom Hall" moment, at least my friends tend to take it relatively in stride.

The same, to a certain extent, with my Jewish friends. Most of them know the wish is a genuine wish of goodwill.

However, there's always that moment of cringe. That moment of realization that your friends may mean well, but they don't get you. That moment of remembering that you're an outsider after all.

It's not a bad thing to wish someone a good day, a good weekend. But when we attach a certain personal significance, a religious significance, to it when we don't know that person's belief system ... it's not quite the well wishing we might have thought.

And I do honestly hope everyone had a great weekend and this post didn't upset anyone. It's just a little thought-piece - but one I felt needed to be said.

As at least two of my commenters mentioned, there are also other reasons that wishing someone a happy Easter or hope you had a great Christmas, or whatever. If you're coming to this post from the main page, please click through to the comments and read their experiences as well. Thanks!

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:49 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 14, 2008

Don't Feed the Trolls

My bedroom in high school and the first year of college, was, more often than not, pitch dark. It wasn't for the lack of trying to lighten it up - my mom bought the most sheer curtains she could find. And when I demanded "bed dressing" that matched my personality, Mom made matching curtains out of an extra set of the sheets. (White, with a stripe of rainbow down each long side ... yeah, I know. Early indicator?) Stark white walls, mostly white comforter, sheer curtains which let in the light from the street light at the corner of our front yard. But my favourite way to be was laying on my bedroom floor, all the lights out, just the glow of my "jambox"-stereo's equalizer dancing up and down. And that last year of high school when I scrounged together all of my money to buy my prized Magnavox Videowriter, I would sit at my desk, adding the amber glow of that cheesy word processor to the dim light of my room.

When my creative writing teacher first told us how he would go to an all-night Waffle House to immerse himself in the biomass (to borrow Stephenson's word), I was appalled. How could anyone write with all of the cacophony of activity and light around them? F.J. insisted that it was a valuable way to observe characters, to practice dialogue. Being far too much of an introvert, I could not really wrap my head around this enough to do it. That was about 1986 or 1987.

A few years earlier, my dad brought home a stunning new toy - a Commodore 64. He was amazed and gleeful like a little boy on Christmas morning discovering his new Red Ryder BB gun or Radio Flyer sled. He practically squealed as he opened up the package and pulled out that brick of a keyboard/computer. A whole 64k stored in this sucker! He explained to me, in one of our rare actual conversations, it used to take a machine the size of about half our house to do what this little sucker could do. I remembered one of those rooms - Dad took me to work with him once ... an icy air-conditioned room filled with huge metal cabinet-things. Punch cards. Later, rolls of paper tape.

Mom forbid the acquisition of a modem as efficiently as she'd forbidden cable television - but the boy across the street had a modem and I watched as one letter after another would pop onto the screen from some distant person. Heh, and watch those letters disappear as the person hit backspace to correct a typo.

But it wasn't until I was nearly done with my seven year stint at university before I discovered MUDdog and email and just how fascinating this online Waffle House could be. That was somewhere around 1992-4.

I've been hooked ever since.

This morning, once again, I've turned off all of the lights. I have the band Sick Puppies blaring on the stereo, though not as loudly as I'd like - my neighbors are still sleeping. The glow of my keyboard and laptop screen - and the blue glow of the stereo are all I want. I'm writing against the deadline of sunrise, remembering how easy it was for me to get lost in my introspection as a teenager and 20something in the dark. How much easier it was and is to reflect honestly on myself and my actions as well as the biomass I observe around me.

I recognize that I'm damaged
I sympathize that you are too
But I wanna breathe without feelin' so self-conscious
But it's hard when the world's starin' at you

To me, this is the most interesting thing about the internet. You have all of these people with their foibles and faults and strengths ... you have these intercies, these nodes, of common interest where this diverse mass of individuals pour their thoughts into shared pixel representations.

Why do we do this? Why do we strive to share our experiences and thoughts with everyone else? Why do we strive to get people to understand what we're thinking, feeling, wanting?

It seems to me that no matter how introverted or extroverted an individual is, we all are reaching for some connection beyond just our self - to know that we are not totally alone in our thought or experience or feeling. That someone groks at least a fraction of who and what we are.

What I constantly strive to understand, and I'm not sure I'm capable of really understanding it, is why some people are literally so lost in their own individuality that they cannot hear the experiences and feelings of others.

I can't even begin to recall how many times I have read the pixels of people who define their world by "I'm right" and you're either 100% with me or 100% against me. So when I see one of these people laying their pixels down in a frantic dance of light and dark dots, I'm sucked in by my own curiosity and confused fascination. When I watch as they blithely ignore the community around them and choose to take disagreement as attack; when they insist on reading a helping hand as condemnation.

And, then, of course, all of our shared human foibles come to the fore. The helping hand and the civil disagreement becomes frustration and anger - which does become attack and condemnation. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy that leaves the outer edges of the community in confusion and often shock. It's like seeing the "perfect couple" have a real fight finally. You see sides of these people that you never suspected lurked beneath all the letters they've strung together on the internet.

And when the smoke clears and all the participants who are able to do so actually sit back and take a look at what happened and how they contributed to the explosion, they are left with this conundrum:
How do I both "protect" my self, ideas and beliefs ... and balance my emotional reaction ... and walk away from the trolls who only want a fight and to get everyone riled up?

How do we differentiate motive on the net without body language and tone of voice to help us decipher our pixelated world?

In my experience, it becomes about building a context. If one person's response to disagreement is to always either ignore or attack, with no middle ground attempting to bridge differences and create understanding, then that person is probably simply trolling for trouble. It's a subjective thing. And, in online communities, it's a dangerous field to walk across. Newer folk are going to tend to side with the troll when the old hands attempt to slap down the troll out of frustration. The old hands know the history and have often decided to take a stand to defend their community and hunt the troll until they've left the community. New people, not knowing that the troll may be currently presenting the mask of the maligned victim in order to garner support and thus keep the battle going on longer, may openly side with the troll in an effort to defend their new community from bullies.

The term troll is highly subjective. Some readers may characterize a post as trolling, while others may regard the same post as a legitimate contribution to the discussion, even if controversial. The term is often erroneously used to discredit an opposing position, or its proponent, by argument fallacy ad hominem.

Often, calling someone a troll makes assumptions about a writer's motives. Regardless of the circumstances, controversial posts may attract a particularly strong response from those unfamiliar with the robust dialogue found in some online, rather than physical, communities.

Experienced participants in online forums know that the most effective way to discourage a troll is usually to ignore him or her, because responding encourages a true troll to continue disruptive posts -- hence the often-seen warning "Please do not feed the troll".

Frequently, someone who has been labelled a troll by a group may seek to redeem their reputation by discrediting their opponents, for example by claiming that other members of the group are closed-minded, conspirators, or trolls themselves.

No matter how even-handed ... how just ... we try to be, the fact of the matter is, we are not perfect. We snap. We jump to conclusions. We get tired and cranky. And what separates us from the trolls? We are able to step back and re-evaluate our behaviour, to try to learn from our mistakes, to learn when to stop reacting next time and walk away from what we feel is trollish behaviour.

To creatures who seem to intrinsically need to be understood, it's a hard thing to walk away from that chance at communication. But some battles are won only when they aren't fought at all ...

The light is beginning to make the curtains glow ... so now I leave you with this ...

Don't Feed The Trolls

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:26 AM | Blog | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Sketches | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 17, 2008

Welcome, Nephew!

After a long wait ... it appears that the Red Monkey has a li'l nephew-monkey. My sister called about 11:15 p.m. eastern time on the 16th to say the li'l guy had finally made his full monty appearance. She sounded exhausted but content ... of course, that could have been the morphine. Hopefully I'll have more details tomorrow. Or later today, I mean.


UPDATE 9:30 a.m.
Just got off the phone with baby-sis and here are some details:
He is 8 pounds, 8 ounces, which was smaller than they'd originally thought he'd be.
Don't have a length on him, but baby-sis says he's got the LONGEST arms and legs of any newborn she's ever seen. I'm assuming he's gonna be a futbol player considering how much he kicked her during the pregnancy. Dunno how she feels about putting his name publicly, so I'm not posting that, but I will say I love his name.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:00 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 14, 2008

Cre8ing Some Buzz

Yeah, yeah, hush. I used that 8 on purpose because I'm talking about the site Cre8Buzz today. So there. Hmph.

Anyhow, Cre8Buzz is a pretty cool little site for bloggers. Generally speaking, MySpace, Friendster, Dogster (no, sadly, I'm NOT kidding), FaceBook, blah blah blah, they all bore me. In fact, they remind me of the silly days of GeoCities when everyone pretended to put their websites into little neighborhoods like all those li'l pixelpals were really hanging out kinds of buddies. So when my buddy Jodi said, OH you just HAVE to try this one, I rolled my eyes at first.

Wow. You still get the tons of gratuitous friendings, but most of the people who friend you either stop by your profile and/or your blog on a pretty regular basis. I, of course, suck at keeping up with all of the people on my friends' list, the same as I suck at keeping up with all my pixelpals' blog. (And yet, I'm irritated when they don't keep up with mine. I know. I'm an arrogant jerk sometimes. *sigh*)

Anyhow, I'm really digging the Anthill, as we affectionately call the Buzz (after their logo mascot, Antman). Well, not digging like an anteater or something. I meant to say, I'm enjoying it. Sheesh. Gotta watch the metaphors around you lot, don't I? If you want to check it out, gimme a buzz and I'll send you an invite.

Meanwhile, the Buzz is having a t-shirt contest ... and here's the design I'm entering ... make sure to click to get the larger image to pop up (still a fast load time on it, though) ... squishing it down to 400 px to fit into this template layout killed the detail of the logo. Wish me luck, the winners are announced on Monday.

Groovin' To Ant Tunes

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:27 PM | Blog | Sketches | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 11, 2008

A Book

Okay, so no one tagged me with this meme, but I saw it on Jod{i}'s blog and stole it. Now, she knows I hate being tagged for memes so she's prolly kicking herself for not tagging me with it and busting my chops over it. To which I say, Nyah!

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open it at page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence/ phrase.
4. Blog the next four sentences/ phrases together with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig your shelves for that very special or intellectual book.

Heh. I've been on a drawing and internet spree for the last year and haven't had my usual tower of pisa stack of books by my chair, but I'm kinda juggling a million things at the moment, and happen to have:
In the Beginning: The Navajo Genesis by Jerrold E. Levy right here at hand.

page 123, fifth sentence through the ninth.

It is also a means by which the creative or good side of chaos is retained as part of Blessingway.
When corn was created, Talking God was told to sanctify it but failed. Coyote, in company with Begochidi, was then asked to perform the sanctification:
"Go ahead, old man, you must be of use here," [Coyote] was told.

I'm really, really hoping I get to go to New Mexico in June to work on the Navajo rez for a week. If I could just land a damn job!

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:29 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 7, 2008

The Tower of Conceptual Babel

Back in 1993, I was finishing up my bachelor's degree in English in a state school. Not the fancy-pants University of Texas at Austin - known as UT. But the school we perceived of as the poor cousin, University of Texas at Arlington - known as UTA. It wasn't that the school wasn't as good, but we simply didn't get the press that UT did. We didn't have a football team. We were a commuter school. We weren't in a cool town like Austin, but out in the 'burbs between Dallas and Fort Worth. Our concept of ourselves was based on what others thought of UT ... we were obviously a poor outlying satellite.

Despite our concept of ourselves, we had some cool stuff going for us. One of the other tutors at our writing center told me about this nifty thing she'd discovered. It was called a MUDdog ... you got on one of the dumb terminals over in the computer science lab, logged in, entered a few commands and you were suddenly immersed in this text world. I was unimpressed. I had Zork on the Commodore-64 at home, thank you very much.

This was different, she insisted. Through the campus connection, this text world was populated with real people from around the globe. You could talk with them and interact with them in real time!

I tried it for a lark one Saturday when I didn't have anything else planned. Walked up to campus ... logged in ... and eight hours later I finally looked at my watch.

I've been hooked on various types of online communities ever since.

As someone who is always fascinated by human interactions, as someone who can't help but be an observer as well as a participator ... as a writer ... I am utterly enthralled by the microcosms of society that we set up online.

MUDS, chatrooms, IRC channels, "Web 2.0 sites," blogs, shoutboxes, forums (technically that's fora, but I try to go with the flow).

General public, special interests, moms, dads, writers, non-writers, artists, dog-lovers, cat-lovers, extroverts, introverts, introverts who become extroverts online.

Invariably it happens.

Invariably someone trots out their fervent belief in X. And X might be a product, a method of doing something, a religion, a favourite actor or politician or writer ... or whatever.

And just as invariably, someone else takes a polar opposite view.

Now, things can go a couple of ways at this point. It might be we have a nice, logical, rational discussion about the pros and cons of X. Of course, this is the least likely scenario, but it does happen.

Another option: things get heated. X is vilified. X is extolled. Vilified. Extolled. On and on and on. Neither side listens to the other and you literally get an extremist jihad, crusade, holy war of whatever flavour you wish to call it. Sides are drawn up. The inevitable rhetoric gets trotted out: "you're either for us or against us" ... "there is no middle ground" ... "well you know what I mean."

The option that goes one step beyond that is this: X is vilified and so is "that damn dipshit who said X was good." "You're delusional and anyone who thinks like you is delusional."

It seems that even when we speak the same language, we still live in a tower of babel. We still struggle to make our words understood ... to feel that we are being respected and heard and believed. And often, despite what we are sure is plain language and crystalline logic ... other people fail to get our point ... fail to agree. And obviously, the failure is almost inevitably theirs, as we have been perfectly clear and rational.

Over the last two weeks I have watched as two of the three online communities I participate in had serious melt-downs. Honestly, it's nothing I haven't seen before. Ideas being denigrated, people being denigrated, people feeling sure they were denigrated when they were not ... all because emotions were running high.

Often, it's like watching a bunch of junior high age kids (13-15 or so). Kids that age are still learning the finer social mores and how to converse without pissing people off. They speak plainly and say exactly what they mean ... but often their vocabulary does not include any grey area at all. The idea that words have connotations generally escapes them. The concept that words, despite our best efforts to deny this, words do hurt us. Or at least they frustrate us. (And please note that there are plenty of teens who do get this concept ... and there are plenty who don't learn this concept ever. This is merely a developmental stage and a generalization.)

Online, we add to this type of social group the fact that there is no good way to discern body language and vocal tone ... and often we misinterpret words that were not meant in the ways we see on the screen. And, sometimes, no matter how hard we try to craft those words to elicit in every person who reads them exactly and precisely what we mean ... all that work is simply lost in the babel of pixels and previous experience and the mind of the individual reader.

It is in watching these explosions happen online, where you can see each piece of the misunderstanding beginning to unfold and then to blossom and the fruit to explode, spreading its pollen of dissent over the entire participatory community ... it is watching this microcosm mushroom online that we truly see the babel of concept and idea which in the so-called "real world" leads to fighting and war. It's an amazing and, when put in this light, terrifying event to watch.

It starts so very simply.

And it is played out over and over and over again. As soon as one segment of a community finally "gets" how these things get started ... when a few people suddenly realize that they ways in which they phrase things matter AND that they become more capable of trying to take the other side's ideas as something to respect despite disagreeing (and perhaps disagreeing vehemently) ... as soon as this happens, another group comes along who has not yet learned these concepts ... and the battles begin anew.

It is the curse of our relatively short life spans and our frequent procreation and our different rates of learning and comprehending - as a race we seem compelled to play this scenario out over and over and over again.

Whether it's the mud-slinging of an American presidential "season" ... whether it's "your tree's leaves are falling in MY yard" ... or "your people are creating problems" ... or "your actions are eroding the atmosphere" ... "we don't want your sort here" ... "you don't believe as we do."

We bag and tag and categorize each other out of existence so that we don't have to listen to the conceptual babel and weigh all sides.

And even when we have learned the lessons and we try to stay calm and rational ... there is always human frailty, exhaustion ... and a point when someone else's rhetoric finally crosses a line beyond which we feel a moral imperative to call them on it because to not call them on that particular phrasing or concept is to allow an intolerable situation to thrive.

It doesn't ever end. And it feels like "we" never learn.

But whether the babel is language based or conceptually based, it is a constant of human existence. We are locked into our own skulls with wiring and operating systems only somewhat compatible with the others around us.

Our lives are never-ending attempts to connect and to forever try to understand and be understood in the face of failures and partial compatibilities.

Our strength lies in our stubborn certainty that we can finally find the right cord for connection and the right version of the operating system to achieve a true and deep melding.

I'm reminded of a book I never really liked, but I adored one single line. (Bret Easton Ellis' Less Than Zero)

"People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles." Though that sentence shouldn't bother me, it stays in my mind for an uncomfortably long time. Nothing else seems to matter.

We are individuals afraid to merge ... and yet seeking to be understood so fully that we do merge ... which frightens us more and makes the need to be understood more fervent and powerful.

People are afraid to merge. To lose some aspect of their true selves? Fear that to understand all is to dislike? To find out some idea we might have about that person is false?

People are afraid to merge so we build these towers and walls to protect our thoughts and minds and feelings ... our individuality.

And then we wonder why others do not see things our way, not realizing that the bricks and stones and concrete of our towers and bunkers are simply not transparent. They don't just protect us and shield us, but they blind us to where others are.

Even our most fervently held beliefs are simply stones in the wall, often preventing us from understanding someone else. And when someone doesn't understand us when we think they should ... so often we begin casting our stones at them, trying to bury them in our beliefs - sometimes without even realizing we're doing it. Of course, this only makes us build our own walls thicker and higher ...

... and people are afraid to merge.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:51 AM | Blog | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 27, 2008

New Explore T-Shirt

I started out on CafePress quite a while back. Posted some designs, sprang the $60 per annum for a "pro" site that let me put Design A on a baseball shirt ... and Design B, too! (If you don't spring for the pro shop, one style of product = one design ... boooooooooring. At least, that's the way it used to be. Then they pissed me off, took an extra year's $60 from me and I won't have anything to do with them anymore. Bah)

Anyhow, after I left CafePress, I went to GoodStorm. (What is with all of these companies and software packages and such smooshing together two words without a space but still capitalizing both words? Oh, I know cuz then it's easier to make a web address, but still. WordPress, CafePress, GoodStorm. Bah)

GoodStorm had some incredible artists designing stuff. More shirt colours, but fewer shirt types. And no "ancillary" products like bags and pillows and mugs and posters. But, the company was way cool. You made more money than you did with CafePress - and best of all! They didn't charge you $60 a year to put up multiple designs. Awesomeness.

Now, GoodStorm has been bought out by Zazzle. *sigh* It's not that I don't like Zazzle. I do. They offer more products than GoodStorm did. But, now I'm back to the same damn restrictions I had with CafePress. At GoodStorm, I could utilized the entire t-shirt for a design. If I wanted it placed in a particular area, I could contact the good folks at GoodStorm and know they'd place it where I wanted and it would be COOL. Now I'm back to a smallish area placed way up high on the shirt. No wrap-around designing available, either.

I have updated one of my favourite designs for now and have it available at Zazzle. I'm not positive that I'm staying there, however. Zazzle doesn't do white ink on their "light coloured" products which puts a big damper in some of my designs and would mean that I could only offer those designs on white shirts or dark coloured shirts. And since I would have to offer the white shirt and the dark coloured shirts as separate products (in other words, I can't create one product and then pick and choose what colours I want available. I can choose all dark, all light, all, or one of a few subcategories like organic).

I do know that Zazzle has done shops for places like The Disney Store, Build-A-Bear Workshop and others ... they're a good company. I'm just not sure they're right for me yet. Just not enough control over my designs. But, I've played with the site for only a day. Maybe I'll find more details as I get used to their interface and explore some more. Or maybe I want to leave t-shirts behind and move on to posters and cards. I'm not sure. Mostly I'm just sad about the change.

Meanwhile, does anyone know of any other product shops which might offer more control to the designer?

UPDATE: On recommendation from a few people, I've also started a store at RedBubble. I have a little more control over placement and a LOT of control over the shirt colours. Plus, Zazzle does not print white and RedBubble does!

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:42 AM | Blog | Sketches | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 25, 2008

Dog Lovers

Oh my oh my.

It's too late for New York City now ... they have fallen into the abyss. All that rampant homosexuality, has indeed, led to bestiality as all the nutbags suggested. Here, in stunning video coverage, is Mo Rocca's in-depth expose showing just how far the queers are dragging us down and destroying good, old-fashioned American family values:

(Yeah and in case you didn't notice, that was sarcasm above. Homosexuality does NOT freaking lead to bestiality. Sheesh, Huckabee, get your head outa your ass so you can SEE, okay?)

Posted by Red Monkey at 2:54 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 22, 2008


Bleeding HELL. First Brad Renfro and now Heath Ledger. I'm not a huge follower of celebrities ... I like to think that they deserve their own private lives and I don't want to encourage the slime who follow celebs or the spin agents who make up their lives for them (sometimes).

Particularly after just talking about Stephen King's "The Body" ... which was also the film Stand By Me, and having my inevitable twinges over River Phoenix, the deaths of Brad Renfro and Heath Ledger hit me hard this month. In fact, I was watching an episode of Dirty Jobs, a show I hate cuz I can NOT stand the lead guy, I was watching solely because he was showing how to shape a surfboard. I've found this interesting since the first time I saw Lords of Dogtown ... this was something Heath did during the course of the film.

Regardless of whatever happened to both of them in their last days ... regardless of what was going through their minds, the troubles and joys they had ...

I'm going to miss seeing both of them. I enjoyed their work a great deal and I enjoyed watching them perform and the world is that much poorer for the loss of it.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:21 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 21, 2008

Tag, She's It

I was tagged by Mark Stoneman to name 8 random things about myself. Like Mark, I often ignore tags. But when reading his 8 things aloud to my partner and coming across his gem about the chickens. I decided, as usual, to twist the meme and change it up.

Here are 8 random things about my partner. (Done with her approval cuz even though with as much as she's tossing and turning and flopping around at night with her surgery sliced hand, I don't really wanna sleep out here on the futon.)

1) In homage to Mark's chickens: My other half was raised in farm country and the entire family was very into 4H ... her younger brother LOVED fowl. At one point they had, and I quote: a bunch of "cross beaked little inbred freaks which did not help the hillbilly impression since they were loose all over the yard, the FRONT yard." Apparently their beaks did not line up. The top beak was not in the same line as the bottom beak which did make the entire family wonder how the durn things even managed to eat.

2) She cooks wonderful things. Delicious, wonderful things. This is both because of 4H and the fact that her mother was a Home Sciences teacher (involved far more than your typical Home Ec stereotypical stuff).

3) She is the messiest cook I have EVER met.

4) She forces ME to do the dishes. (Okay, okay. To be fair, she does all the laundry and I do all the dishes.)

5) She is clutterblind. I have watched her as she stacks papers and books and objects on her little table until it's literally a foot high. And then attempt to place something else on top. And then get mad when half of this slides inevitably to the floor.

6) She reads fem slash fan fiction based on Law & Order SVU and also of the Birds of Prey (DC comics, Batman universe). (And I bet she makes me delete this one.)
(Her first response was to say, Hell yes, you have to delete that. Her second, grudging response, was Okay, you can leave it. But you have to correct it to say fem slash fan fiction ... because if you have to out me about this, at least you can let people know I'm not reading that horrid straight shit.)

7) I introduced her to comic books and now when she recognizes something and makes a comment like, "That's not really a part of the Batman canon, is it?" ... she then whips her head to me and says, "You see? You SEE what you have done to me? I should NOT know these things!"

8) She FORCED me into getting a dog. Now we have two and I want a third.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:51 AM | Blog | People Say I Have ADHD, But I Think - Hey Look, A Chicken | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 9, 2007

Coding Help

So here's the deal. I'm working on the design of another website, a pro bono deal for a church. And I had this nifty idea. They have an Events page. The page has a "headline" which gives the event name, the day, date and time. Then there's a description of the event. It's a straight-HTML and CSS page. Wouldn't it be cool if there was a little nugget of code in the background that could rip that "headline" to an XML file every time they update that page? And then that XML file would display in a little box on the home page? That way the current events (sans the longer description on the Events page itself) would appear in a little box on the homepage and on the events page and they'd only have to update it once instead of on each page.

I know this can be done. But I don't know Javascript or a whole lot about XML (hey, MT and Feedburner generate my XML for me). I'm a graphic designer who knows some code, not a full-blown web developer. Anyone wanna walk me through developing this?

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:33 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 20, 2007

Holiday Happiness

Just some silly fun. First person to leave a comment correctly identifying ALL of the quotes (movie and the character speaking) will get a sketch from me. Remember you have to identify all 15 (and there are not 15 different movies here). Quotes which are divided on two lines are spoken by two people (that's number 2, 10, 13 and 14).

It just occurred to me that the Captcha is going to be annoying for this. Dammit.
Here's how to beat the Captcha's timer (which, apparently I can't set to a different time).
Write your answers in a simple Text Edit program or Notepad. When you are completely done and ready to post ... then hit the comments link ... copy and paste your answers ... fill out the Captcha. Just don't hit the comments link earlier or the captcha image will "time out" without telling you.
If you did hit the link too early, just hit reload and it should give you a fresh captcha.
If it whines that the captcha is wrong, and you've done the answers in a text editor, it's no biggee to recopy.
Sorry ... but it's worth me not having to delete 300+ spamments a day :(

Name the movie and the person/people speaking ...

1) Is my shirt too big, or is that my flesh crawling?

2) How'd you like Grants Tomb?
It's lovely. I'm having a copy made for you.

3) You're just a bee-charmer, Idgie Threadgood, that's what you are. A bee-charmer.

4) Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time.

5) When I was your age, television was called books.

6) Look, I can see you getting all bunged up for them making you wear these kind of clothes. But face it, you're a neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie.

7) We are men of action, lies do not become us.

8) So, what's an old-timer like you want with a two-timer like me?

9) This is your badness level. It's unusually high for someone your size. We have to fix that.

10) Oh, it's all right, Joe. It's all right. It's my dog. And, uh, my wife.
Well you might have mentioned me first on the billing.

11) I'm not even supposed to be here today!

12) I don't have it. Screws fall out all the time, the world's an imperfect place.

13) Say listen, is he working on a case?
Yes, he is.
What case?
A case of scotch. Pitch in and help him.

14) What's the idea of the kid?
Well, we have a dog, and he was lonesome. That was the idea, wasn't it, Mummy?

15) For once, I'm stuck without a punchline.

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:18 AM | Blog | hobbies | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 19, 2007


It's a big week this week for a lot of reasons. Thanksgiving will always be an odd time of year for me. I dreaded the coming of November as a child ... it meant the holidays were approaching and I preferred school to the winter holidays. Not so much because I was an academic geek, but because it gave me something constructive and often at least semi-fun to do. It meant I socialized with other kids.

Being home for the holidays, on the other hand, was stress. We were either preparing to go to Grandma's for Thanksgiving or we were preparing the meal at the house. And while Mom didn't do any spectacular meals at any time, she stressed out about them all the same.

But like so many things at our house, it was all stress and the appearance of tradition rather than reflection and tradition. We didn't really reflect on what we were thankful for as a family. Sometimes, because I was an odd child who genuinely enjoyed quiet contemplation (almost as much as I enjoyed babbling with friends at school) ... sometimes I would try to engage in that thankful reflection by myself. It generally turned into a plaintive wish for different parents, however, and since that simply wasn't what Thanksgiving was about, I eventually abandoned the attempts. And about the time I abandoned them, my mother would begin bringing it up at the dinner table, trying to force us to say every little thing we were grateful for: the house, our family, the house, our stuff, a father who was a good provider, our stuff, oh yeah our health ....

But it was rote answers. What we were supposed to say. Mom had already decided what we should be thankful for and we were supposed to rattle off the correct answers with the proper respect and "thought" in our voices. However, by that time I was a teenager, full of the teenager's contempt for fakery. I like to think that it would have been one thing if we'd been seriously contemplative rather than regurgitating Mom's answers ....

After I moved out of the house, Thanksgiving was simply a day that I neither went to work nor school. It was a day to make Koogali (an old family recipe which I intend to make, take pictures of and share with you one of these days). It was a day to relax and a day to work on the inevitable mess in the house. It was a day to get caught up before a long weekend of frenetic work. On rare occasions in those early years, it was a time for a family visit and dinner.

When I moved to Indiana for graduate school, Thanksgiving remained simply a day off work and school and nothing more. We didn't have the money to go back to Texas to visit. We didn't really cook unless I made Koogali ... perhaps we warmed up some store-cooked turkey ... maybe we made chicken breasts. My ex and I were not big on cooking.

At that time Thanksgiving, like all the holidays, were simply bittersweet to me. It was nice to have a day off. But it was also a reminder that I simply didn't have the kind of close-knit Leave It To Beaver kind of family that I longed for.

And then 1999 rolled around. I'd been sickly, off and on, for about 2 years. I kept going to the doctor and getting fed antibiotics. He wouldn't run even a simple blood test. I'm not a particularly sickly person and I was finally getting irritated and nervous by 1999. By the beginning of '99, I was now getting sick just about every other month. I knew something was not right, but my doctor was not doing anything except phoning in another round of antibiotics.

Monday, the week of Thanksgiving, I finally dragged myself down to a doc-in-the-box that afternoon. The older doctor there, semi-retired but still practicing for the love of his profession, instantly takes a blood test. I listen at the door as he calls my doctor and yells at him. This is not good.

Tuesday, I see my doctor again. He's going to send me to a specialist and he's ticked because I can't get in that same day. This doesn't sound good to me. All I know is my hemoglobin is a 5.8 and apparently that's not good.

Wednesday, I see the specialist. I'm given a bone marrow test (this doesn't sound good) and then asked which hospital did I prefer, St. Joe or Memorial? Umm, neither? This was not an option.

So, Thanksgiving of 1999 I spent in the hospital, no diagnosis ... the specialist turned out to be a hematology/ oncology specialist. I had no idea if I should be thankful to be alive ... or preparing for a painful death. It was Saturday before I found out that I had Hodgkin's, aka Cancer Lite.

In the past eight years, I've gone from an adjunct professor of first year writing (with no health bennies ... yes, cancer, chemo and no health insurance ... it was fun) ... to a full-time instructor with health bennies at that same school. In February of 2004 I was told that my services were no longer needed there, but that I was to finish out the school year. It was a very painful semester of teaching. I still miss teaching. Every day. But, full-time teaching gigs at the college level are not easy to come by. So, I looked elsewhere.

Thanksgiving of 2004, I had interviewed for a job as a copy writer at a dot com based locally. It was one of perhaps two interviews I'd had since I started really looking for a new position in April. I got that job and was to start the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving of 2007 now ... and I was laid off in July. I'm thankful for the severance package I've got. But today I looked at our old website ... and I see that the new owners have finally taken it over. There's so little left of what we had done. The logo that Alan designed is still intact. The nifty triangles that I think Rob adapted from Alan are there. And that's about it. The first project I worked on there, a huge educational piece ... that's gone. All of the work that Warren, Cory, Alan, Rob, Bob and I did on the site design ... it's gone.

I've had just one good interview since July. And that was about 3 or 4 weeks ago, so I guess it's too much to hope that I managed to land that job. The interviewer did tell me that they had over 60 applicants for the one position. They interviewed 8 of us. I'm thankful to have been one of the 8. My ego needed that little warm fuzzy even if I didn't get the job.

So even while I'm thankful this year that I have a steady paycheck even if I don't have a job, that I'm not in the hospital facing a cancer diagnosis, that I have a partner who loves me, that my little sister is expecting her first baby in just 3 months, that I celebrated my 20 year high school reunion by re-connecting with several beloved friends, that some old relationships seem to be getting more healthy ...

... a part of reflection for me will always hold a certain wistfulness as well. I am thankful for those things and more. And yet, I regret that I haven't secured a new job yet, that I haven't used this time off to completely whip the house into shape, that I am still in Indiana and not Texas, that I still haven't gotten my life to the point where I can begin the rigmarole required for adopting a child, that I still have not managed to single-handedly bring about world peace and ended poverty, that I am unable to help a friend whom the system has neglected from the day she was born and who is now in a wheelchair and a nursing home because no one in the system will listen to her, that ....

The list always goes on and on until I do nothing but dwell on the fact that I am not a perfect super-being; I am merely a fallible human.

I am thankful. But rather than simply being thankful for what I have, I choose to focus on what I can accomplish still.

That one day I may learn to walk in balance, to walk in beauty, to walk in harmony.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:20 AM | Blog | Struggles | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 5, 2007

Four Things

That lousy Jod{i} over at Looking Beyond the Cracked Window tagged me. I hate memes. I hate being tagged. She knows this. She owes me interview questions, and yet, she decides to go the easy route and "distract" me with a meme first. Hmph. Only because it's mildly interesting and I'm tired of moving crap around the living room to make room for my beautiful new drawing table ... I will answer. But don't think just anyone can tag me. I ignore most of them. Have even ignored some from the illustrious and lousy Jod{i}.

Four Jobs I've had:

  • Assistant Professional Specialist (fancy way of saying not a professor, but a teacher of college students)

  • Graphic Designer

  • Copy Writer

  • Cashier, Customer Service, Sales Rep, Cash Office, Inventory Specialist ... at Bizmart (which was bought out by the evil OfficeMax)

Four Movies I can Watch over and over and over (ad nauseum):
only four?????

Crap, I'm over four, aren't I? Tough.

Four Place I have Lived:

  • Amarillo, Texas

  • Houston, Texas

  • Albuquerque, New Mexico

  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

  • Carmel, Indiana

  • Austin, Texas (then I started kindergarten)

  • Arlington, Texas

  • South Bend, Indiana

Name the two places listed above where I would be ecstatic to live again.

Four TV Shows I Love to Watch:

  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends

  • Dog Whisperer

  • Life

  • Law & Order: SVU

  • MythBusters

  • Bones

  • House

Four TV Shows I'm Still Bitter Were Canceled:

  • Joan of Arcadia ... so many curse words come to mind when I think of this show being canceled. It was one of the most intelligent shows on television. Which, of course, is why it was canceled.

  • The Black Donnelleys

  • Firefly

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (actually, I'm not bitter over this one ... but I do miss it a lot ... I give Joss major kudos for knowing when to bow out, when the storyline was over ... I'm just ready for a new storyline in that 'verse!)

Four Places I have Been on Vacation:

  • Talequah, Oklahoma

  • Anadarko, Oklahoma

  • San Antonio, Texas

  • San Francisco, California

  • Omaha, Nebraska

Four Websites I Visit Daily:

Four of My Favourite Dishes:

  • Flautas con pollo from Fiesta Tapatia in Mishawaka

  • Chicken Fajitas

  • Lime Chicken (very spicy)

  • Omelet with jalepenos, cheese and chorizo

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now:

  • In a bigger house which was completely paid off in my name

  • Texas

  • At a job I loved

  • Somewhere warm

Now, I'm supposed to tag four more people. I hate tagging as much as being tagged. So, I'll tag you, you ... ummm, you and naturally YOU.

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:59 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 29, 2007

Mozilla and Leopard

I love computers. We had a Commodore-64 back in the day and I've been utterly fascinated ever since. We also legally owned about two pieces of software and everything else was pirated ... so I learned very quickly to explore the program, explore menus and to experiment.

Today I'm one of "those" people. You know, A Mac Person. I've got a happy Intel MacBook Pro that I love. I installed APE and shapeshifter a while back so I could mess with the look of my GUI. Sorry, I've lost the non-computer people, haven't I? My bad. Suffice it to say that APE and shapeshifter let me change the appearance of windows and such, much like a theme for FireFox or Windoze XP.

Out of the kindness of my heart, I did NOT upgrade my computer Friday upon arrival of the new Mac operating system. I was good. I was going to wait until after my other half's birthday was over so that I was not totally distracted by the thousand and one small details that come up after an upgrade. Instead, I posted to the 9rules Notes asking if anyone had discovered any issues whilst upgrading. At first, I was lambasted for a fool and a not-true-Mac-Person for not instantly ripping open the box and running the update. I tried to explain that I was a softie who was trying not to be Teh Computer Geek for the other half's birthday.

After reading about no problems, Saturday I ran the update. I backed up a few things, but not everything. (Oh yes, I was really THAT stupid!) Thunderbird, my email client, had begun crashing inexplicably and I was hoping that the upgrade would stabilize that. Apple had sent through a firmware update and since then, Thunderbird has been freaking out over anything with an attachment. It was driving me mad.

I got the Blue Screen of Death upon the finish of Leopard's installation.

The Blue Screen of Death? But that's a Windoze thing!!! How can this be?

I searched the house for a boot disc so I could finish the backups that I should have already done. Couldn't find one. And, oddly enough, my restore discs that came with the laptop were NOT in the software archive in my home office with all the other software. Grrrrrr. I finally found them, hoped to boot for them, found myself having to use Restore instead. Fine.


Oh. My. God.

Wiped. Everything gone!!!?! Noooooooooooooo!

And then I looked more carefully. Instead of approximately 110 gigs of free space on the hard drive, I had about 40. Hmmm. I found a folder called Previous Systems and luckily all my files and preferences were there and, apparently intact. It took me the better part of Saturday and Sunday to get everything working again, but I'm hopeful at this point that I didn't screw up too badly. Turns out that Application Enhancer (APE) blows up the Leopard install. That didn't hit the 'nets until after I'd discovered the issue myself. D'oh!

But the thing that has me frustrated beyond belief at the moment is this:

Thunderbird will NOT have ANYTHING to do with attachments at all now.

I've reinstalled it. I saved my mail and my addressbook, but otherwise deleted everything in the profile and re-created the profile. Nope. I couldn't reply to any email because Thunderbird didn't want to use the signature file. I couldn't even open the Attachments portion of the preferences.

I'm now to the point where I've deleted my signature file ... I can get to everything in the preferences again ... I can now reply to emails. But if there's an attachment, I can't open it or reply or the damn program crashes.

I'm at a loss. On top of that AIM has stopped opening and FireFox was being awfully screwy yesterday as well.

I'm beginning to think that Teh InterWebs hate me.

Anyone else having Mozilla issues????

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:06 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 22, 2007


So much to write about ... and I'm just too tired.

List of things to discuss this week:

  1. Rowling and Dumbledore

  2. Travel and Airplanes

  3. The Reunion

  4. More stuff that I can't quite remember at this moment due to exhaustion (see #2)

Hopefully I'll start the discussions tomorrow ... oh, and of course, there's the Thinking Blogger tag from LibDrone as well. :)

It's going to be a busy week, methinks.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:15 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 3, 2007

Lamar High School ... 1987 Reunion

Lamar High School ... 20 Year Reunion ... Arlington, Texas

Okay, here's some updating on this. The price if you pay before 10/9 is $67 or $134 for a couple. This is good for both events (and, naturally, you can't pay for just one event).

Reunions by the Party People
Friday, October 19th, 2007 ... Ice Breaker Party ... J. Gilligan's ... 8:00p.m. - Midnight
J Gilligans 400 East Abrams St. ... Arlington ... 817.274.8561
(Private party cash bar event)

Saturday, October 20th, 2007 ... Reunion Celebration ... (Casual Attire) ... Rangers Ballpark in Arlington ... 7:30p.m. - Midnight ... tex-mex buffet ... DJ ... dancing ... cash bar ... awards program (awards for freaking WHAT???)

More info? Check out

There's a slew of people I have not been able to find that I would love to meet up with there. I've gotten in touch with Lori Goe and Annette Simonini ... but I'm still looking for:
Janet Kim (Kyungah) ... on the lost list ... no invites have reached her :(
Brenda Heath
Kate McDonald
Shannon Heizer
Suzanne Gruchow (even tho you moved before going to Lamar!)
Veronica Cano
Susan Stetson
Anna Tan
Cindy Ritner ... on the lost list ... no invites have reached her :(
Amy Alexander
Ashley Aguilar
Kristi Grimm
Alison Campbell
Paula Gill
Lisa Pawloski
Suzanne Scott
Jill Stewart
Jenny Britton
Tracy McGuire ... on the lost list ... no invites have reached her :(
Lynn Adzigian ... on the lost list ... no invites have reached her :(
Natalie Parrish ... on the lost list ... no invites have reached her :(
Russ Johnson ... on the lost list ... no invites have reached him ...I have heard briefly from him and hope he will be attending

And, of course, there are a slew of other folks that I'd like to catch up with again as well.

Really, I just posted this in the hopes that those people who haven't found out about the reunion can perhaps hit this info thru Google since the info's not all that easy to find.

And there are those of you who have contacted me, wanting to know who the heck Red Monkey is. If you followed through to my About Me page and through the rest of my site, you're still confused as you don't know who Robin MacRorie is. That wasn't the name I had back then.

Well, maybe you can ask around at the reunion and figure it out. :) A little mystery never hurt anyone.

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:08 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 1, 2007

MT 4

If you're a MT kind of person ... don't upgrade yet!

Seems the good folks at SixApart do not have the bugs worked out of the new system yet. Not even close. I was happy enough with 3.2 with the exception of not being able to find a Captcha program to help rid me of my plague of spamments. I saw MT4 go beta and then, I swear I saw it go production. And it included a Captcha!

I upgraded. There was a day of screaming and fussing as I tried to get everything straightened out -- the bulk of the issues coming around the new ways to implement commenting. Apparently I copied/pasted something badly and it took another 24 hours for me to work through my screw-up. Typical.

Then I installed the captcha. For the life of me, I cannot find where the directions for this "plug-in" which comes with MT 4.x are. I know I had it working for a while.

Fast forward to Saturday, the day of the Purdue/Notre Damn game. I was ready to upload a new graphic and post. "Session Over, please log in again"

Okay. I surf with FireFox and it had probably been a day or two since I had actually done anything in MT. I sign in.

Welcome. We are ready to upgrade your database.

WTF? I did that weeks ago. This isn't like some automated upgrading to the next version of MT, is it? I look. Nope. Apparently, it just randomly decides that it needs to "upgrade" an already upgraded database from time to time. Some people have it happen really frequently. Okay, fine. I let it upgrade.

That evening a friend IMs me. Hey, I can't comment on your blog. The Captcha isn't there any more, but the blog wants the Captcha verification.


I still haven't figured out what went wrong where. I've spent the last couple of days haunting the MT forums. Nothing. I've sent a bug report to MT. I've been searching thru Google. Nothing.

I STILL can't figure out WTF is wrong or how just "upgrading" the database could have broken this. Dammit. So, no comments AGAIN until I can figure out what the hell went wrong this time. And I'll be publishing a full report of the issue here ... just in case it happens again ... or to someone else.

If you are from MT or SixApart or have simply got some ideas on what the issue could be, please, please, please email me at en der (no space) AT that thundering coyote domain name that you see above (yeah, way up there in the address bar of your browser. yeah, that's it ... no "ing" and the coyote comes before the other word.) DOT com.

At this point I'm so ticked off I'm beginning to think I should swap over to WordPress ...
I love MT ... but this is seriously pissing me off. :(

As I went to freaking hit publish ... the damn database says it wants upgrading again.

I may have to kill something soon.

Posted by Red Monkey at 2:49 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 2, 2007

All Nighters

And I thought I was done with the all-nighters. Silly, silly mortal.

Comments should be working. The Captcha images are hard to read and REALLY ugly, I know. I'm going to make some new images as soon as I get a really good look at how the Captcha is set up and make sure that my tinkering isn't going to break things again.

I'm leaving my spam rules alone for the moment, so if you post an URL (other than the one in the URL field ... so if you post a "second" one in the comments field itself), then the comment will get sent to spam. I'm really really really hoping that this cuts down on the spam. After I got the freaking comments fixed ... within five minutes I had 6 more spamments. Unbelievable.

Well, I ought to get up for church in 4 hours ... dunno if i'll make it or not, but I'm finally signing off for now. (Oh, and I dunno if the little smiley icons will be back or not ... I'm tired of dinking around the templates for now.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:23 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 1, 2007


ANYONE who knows anything about version 4 of Movable Type, particularly about comments ...

Here's the deal ... all the old posts have the comments section on them still. The form is still there, but if someone tries to leave a comment they get:
Internal Server Error
The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.

I haven't clue one where to start with that.

The newest entries don't even have the freaking comments form ON them, much less the comments count at the bottom of the post here on the main page.

Please, please, please, email at e n d e r AT this domain. (Yes, the word with thunder and coyote in it ... not anything with Red Monkey in it.)

I think if I ever get this to work, it's an awesome looking upgrade so far. But good lord, SixApart needs real tech writers to go thru and do the step by step instructions for upgrades, for upgrades with custom templates, for new installations. Cuz you've got like 900 documents which is great, but it's freaking impossible to find what we need.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:58 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble


Okay, comments still broken. I have NO idea what's going on with the template anymore.

Tomorrow (err, later today) I will probably go through and copy each old template, save it to the hard drive ... delete all templates and CSS ... and then attempt to use one of the MT styles just to see if that fixes the comments issue. If it does, then I know that it's not a permissions issue and it is a template issue. Hopefully that will help me track down the problem.


Seriously, I would rather wait an extra 6 months to a year for them to build an updater tool instead of having to do shit by hand like this. Dammit.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:14 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

August 31, 2007

Help, SixApart

Okay, so I got the fresh installation done. I'm trying to figure out the template tweaks that need to happen. And now the comments are bleeding BROKEN. I'm actually getting an Internal Server Error now when a comment attempt is made. Grrrrrr. I've done some checking on the Movable Type site, and can't find the issue.

1) I am sure there is a permission mis-set somewhere. I need a list of what all the .cgi file permissions are supposed to be.
2) I need a good look at what my freaking comments template is supposed to look like. I've followed this and thought that would fix the issue. Bah.
3) I did have it semi-functional for a while last night, but it was telling me that there was an error due to a cached page. I deleted cache. I did a force-reload. Same error, no more detail. I disabled the happy NoHarvester plugin, thinking I had done something wrong with that.
No joy.


Movable Type, I think you should hire me to do your manual writing. Seriously.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:28 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

August 30, 2007


Comments temporarily closed again.

I had 1700 spamments in 24 hours. There was one real comment that got trapped in the spam filters and particularly since it was from a new commenter, I'm glad I took the time to wade through all 1700 spamments to find the gem. (Thanks Nim!)

I'm going to attempt to upgrade to MT4 today and tomorrow. Hopefully I'll have better luck getting the spammers filtered out, although I would LOVE it if someone who knew htaccess could help me figure out how to shut out these bots. I'm not sure how to figure out which ones I'm being hit by. I took the main list that's been floating around the internet for a couple of years, but I doubt that list was up to date.


I'll bring the comments back as soon as possible, folks.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:11 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

August 10, 2007

Comments Broken?

I reset comments back to the original settings after that last post. The spam box is still filling up ... but I can't seem to post a test comment. Can someone else post a comment?

Okay, so apparently only I can't post comments to my own blog. LOL Thanks to those who tested the comments for me.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:14 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

Freaking Spam

200 spamments in 3 hours.

I spent 2 hours listing known bad bots in htaccess today. I'm still getting 200 spamments in 3 hours time.

I'm at a loss. I've switched preferences on the blog to continue to accept comments, but to send everything to moderation. (And I think the moderation template is screwed up ... so if you get there and it looks funky, I should care and want to fix it ... but I'm really tired of dealing with this crap at the moment, so I don't care.)

I don't have the time to be checking the spam filter constantly and deleting all these spamments. I'm begging anyone who's had any luck with blocking thru htaccess to email me and offer to help me out. If I can't resolve this soon, I dunno ... I might close the blog completely. MT 4 is due out soon-ish ... and they'll have member registration enabled ... I may upgrade to that and require registration to be able to comment. That might help, too.

Meanwhile ... this is the excitement of my day: COBRA still not activating my health insurance, so I still don't have the medicine that helps me breathe so instead of going outside, I'm staying in the house. I can't reach the site that delivers my paychecks because their site is effed up. (Attempting to hit the log in button which brings up the login screen leads you to a "We can't find that page" error ... otherwise I'd worry that my login information was bad - but I don't even get a chance to log in!) There is still no news on the job front.


Okay, so I set the blog to not immediately publish any comments. And that sounded good. Except that when I went to test it to make sure it was working right ... it wouldn't accept any comments.



I have decided that today is not a good day and I hate everything and just thought I would share that with you. That is all.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:43 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

August 6, 2007

Temporarily Closing Comments

I'm going to close the comments down for the next five days or so. Sorry folks. comments/sad.gif

I am getting nearly 2000 spamments in about 36 hours time. And while very very very few of them actually hit the site, I do feel the need to go through the spam folder and make sure there are no legitimate comments which got accidentally stuck in there. After the Ghost entry for the Artsy Contest, for example, I had several comments wind up in the spam folder because the commenters left a link to their blog in their comments. Nothing wrong with doing that! But I get so much spam that my filters automatically send any comment with an URL attached to it into spam.

I'm hoping after 5 days of lock-down, maybe some of the bots will go away ... at least for a while.

Meanwhile, you wanna comment on something anyway ... use the contact button at the top of the page and I'll get it worked in as a comment. Sorry ... comments WILL come back, though.

(Stupid freaking r e d ... m o n k e y ... j e a n s ... i know this spam is because of them.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:21 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 16, 2007

Stupidity Incarnate

First, I've said before that our local news sucks ... here's new evidence that the newspaper is just about as bad:

Receptionist needed for busy small animal

That must be one damn busy small animal. Good lord. First of all, it has employees. Second of all, it's busy enough to need a receptionist ... who is contacting this small animal so much that it needs a receptionist?

Next up ... my beloved spammers who simply refuse to leave me alone. They are the reason that posting a comment with even a single URL in it will get the comment sent to the spam filter. I get a minimum of 400 spam comments a day. I closed down trackbacks because of spammers.

Here are some typical spamments, playing on the vanity of the blogger:

This site is very nise and helpfull! Would you please also visit my homepage?
Nice site. Thank you:-)
Your site is very convenient in navigation and has good design. Thanks!
Great looking site so far!! I'm just starting to look around it but I love the title page...
Hi there! Just couldn't resist your guestbook! Would you please also visit my homepage?
Cool design, great info! Would you please also visit my site?
Hi! Very Good Site! Keep Doing That! Please visit my homepage too: LINK DELETED
Good site! Good resources here, I will bookmark!
This site is really superb!!! Thank you for you work!
Wonderful and informative web site. I used information from that site it's great.
I like it a lot! It very impressive. Good work. Thanks! LINK DELETED
I just want to say thank you for taking the time & effort for put this web page together!

And then ... then there are the truly special ones. New ones that now attempt, I think, to help me with my spam issues:

Hay!!! best link for you a long ago for you was not prompt who for you was engaged in a design ? I got to you from a search engine through a site spam polazil for you on the site of all klastno but it is necessary to go ... LINKS DELETED ... senks!!!
whether all for you well a design is just in a theme so all is good but as I looked for you problem with the spam of type of it spam polazil for you on the site of all klastno but it is necessary to go

I've no idea what this person's native language is ... but it sure ain't English.

*sigh* Were I a brilliant programmer, I would soooo be on this like a fly on ... ummm, yeah. Anyhow.

Damn spammers, anyway.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:37 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 2, 2007

Ranger Tuff

So, the other half is home and doing well. So well, in fact, that she decided to go to the Toyota dealership yesterday because they had a used Tacoma come on the lot and she wanted to go look at it. Seeing as how her lease is up on the piece of junk Ranger that she has now, she wanted to go ahead and look at trucks despite the fact that she was released from the hospital THURSDAY afternoon. Yeah, major surgery on Tuesday, released Thursday ... and Friday she makes me drive her out to the dealership to look at trucks that she cannot test drive.

comments/blinking.gif     comments/blinking.gif     comments/blinking.gif

The Tacoma turned out to be a very unimpressive 1998 model. Not a bad truck, but we wanted to do better than that.

It was parked next to an '02 Ranger. A year newer than the beloved blue Ranger she'd had before this previous one ... and more importantly, before they made all the changes to the Ranger model that we hated.

So, we test drove that one. Loved it.

Yeah ... 3 hours later, I'm driving her home in my Civic ... and the salesman is following us home in her "new" Ranger. Now we gotta go clean out that other Ranger and take it back to the leasing/dealership Monday or Tuesday. And get the insurance temp card picked up ... and and and.

I can't believe she did this the day after being released from the hospital.

Of course, I drove home from Indy (about 3+ hours) after being released from the hospital after a bone marrow transplant. Apparently, we're a LOT alike! comments/what.gif

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:45 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 24, 2007

Introducing ....

... the debut of

Followers of the Wooden Iguana have noticed (all three of you) that ComicSpace has been down for the last week. Not knowing exactly when they'd be back, and after some thinking about where I want the comic book to go (especially after chatting with Augie, I decided that in addition to publishing at ComicSpace, I really wanted my own site for the comic as well.

So ... there's no new page up today. I spent too much time dinking around with getting the site set up. It's still not exactly as I would like it, but those folks who wanted to leave comments over at ComicSpace but who weren't registered users over there, now have their chance to comment.

The Tuesday/Thursday publication schedule should resume next week ... however, my other half is going in Tuesday for surgery, so I don't guarantee that I'll stick tightly to that schedule just yet.

Oh, and ComicSpace? They should be back up in another day or so. Happily, they chose to use the host I use, Dreamhost. As Josh says about the delay ... hey, you try moving some "17,000 user folders and 90,000 comic pages"!!!

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:59 AM | Blog | Sketches | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 21, 2007

Damn Meme

Damn Meme comes from Jodi, from Beyond the Cracked Window:

The Rules:

1. I will write 10 interesting things about myself.
2. Then tag 10 people.
3. If you've been tagged, you do your own list and tag 10 more people. ("No tag backs.")

1. I hate memes. I think they are the hideousness that is the chain letter from back in the day. Nevertheless, some of them can be interesting. If I think it'll be interesting, sometimes I'll do them. But I'll bitch about it. Cuz I hate them.

2. I own 2 electric guitars, an acoustic and a banjo.

3. I owned about 5 harmonicas until the upstairs toliet incident. I will NEVER put any of those harmonicas in my mouth again. And I damn near cried as I threw them away.

4. I haven't cried since I was about 11.

5. I have nearly every single Fisher Price Little People toy made between about 1950something and 1980 when the line turned into the big fat things.

6. The FBI has my fingerprints.

7. I have never been arrested or gotten a ticket (not even a parking ticket ... and oh good lord, is writing this down asking for trouble!)

8. I do not work in the field in which I got my degrees ... and I'm loving it!

9. We have four cats and two cat-sized dogs.

10. I have written two novels ... and then never bothered to send them to agents or publishers.

The ten people I tag? Ummm, let's be different. I tag Bob, Sarah, Amber, Martha, Sherry, Zach, Rae, Vicki, Annette S. and Jennifer.
Ooops. None of those people have blogs (that I know of, anyway). Darn. I guess this chain letter, I mean meme, ends with them. Oops.

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:39 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 27, 2007

Say What?

So ... my dah-link buddy Jodi allowed herself to be "interviewed" by another blogger ... and then asked anyone who also wanted to be interviewed by her to leave her a comment. The questions Jodi chose to ask me are:

1. If you were to run for President: Who would you want as your VP? And what would your platform be?
2. One place you want to be right now!
3. Why a monkey?
4. Tell me the most important change in your life, that still holds truth for you...and you believe always will.
5. You have an wonderful personality(all good)...What is it about your philosophies that, YOU think, would make a difference if more people would adopt?

So ... let the answering being:

1) If you were to run for President: Who would you want as your VP? And what would your platform be?
You're so kidding me, right? When would the U.S. ever let some poor schmuck like me run? I mean, female and gay? But okay, let's play pretend. And since we're playing pretend, why stop at president? I mean, I wanna rule the world!
So ... my platform for being leader of the U.S. (screw a running mate, I'm just taking everything over myself ... I'm a freaking dictator):
First thing I will do ... tax the crap out of the CEOs whose "take home pay" (in all its various forms) are more than 100K per annum. Teachers, cops, fire fighters will no longer have an income tax on their income from those jobs (up to 100k per annum ... which will leave out those few high-paid so-called "star" professors and possibly a few folk here and there).
Next thing ... anyone who makes $70k or over is required to spend one month living with a family who lives below the poverty line ... and I'll be redefining poverty line as well.
Additionally, everyone will be required to work six months in retail and six months in food service. If you so choose, this may be an evening or weekend job whilst you work your "real" job ... but you must work 24 hours a week during this time. This should be accomplished by the time each person is 20 ... obviously in the beginning of the program, those under twenty will comply ... those over twenty have one year to make arrangements to comply with this compulsory program and either submit proof that they have already met both requirements or that they are in the process of arranging their lives in order to attain this necessary experience.
Most importantly, I'll be completely scrapping the current education system and completely re-building it. Gone will be the coddling. Yes, we should be cognizant of our students and our children's self-esteem ... however, they should know that they can and will fail. But we also need to teach them that failure is okay. It means they didn't get it *yet*. It doesn't mean they are stupid or bad ... or even necessarily mean that they're not trying. This, of course, will be a tremendous undertaking. One in which I will have to re-educate not only all of the teachers ... but parents as well. School needs to be less boring, more challenging. Schools MUST be smaller so that students don't feel lost. Students must be made to feel less like they have no control over their lives.
And, lastly ... I'm gonna sterilize the whole freaking population and build a set of exams that anyone MUST pass in order to have kids. If you're too busy to deal with your kids, you shouldn't have them. Gay adoption? fine. Pagans who have kids? fine. Assholes who don't have the time to spend with their kids to find out how angry and helpless they feel? No kids for you.

Okay ... enough of that question.

2) One place you want to be right now!
Austin, Texas.
Or Sante Fe, New Mexico ... or the Farmington area.

The green and rocky hills of Austin. I can't even begin to describe the feeling I get when I think of the Austin hill country. Austin will always and forever be home to me.

3) Why a monkey?
Main reason ... will be posted on the blogaversary ... May 14. Stay tuned.
Secondary reason: I love monkeys. I am something of a monkey. I climbed EVERYTHING as a child ... something my poor mother did not understand (or get over) at all. Part of the climbing was simple independence ... everything is more or less out of reach to someone a kid's height. And I wanted to do things myself. Partly to prove I could. Partly so I felt like I had some control over my life.
Besides ... monkeys are kewl.

4) Tell me the most important change in your life, that still holds truth for you...and you believe always will.
Hmmmm. This is tough. I never think I've changed ... or that some external change has been important in my life. I always see me as me-now ... and me-past, well, I can always see enough elements of me-now in me-past, that I don't spot change. If that makes any sense.
I may have to come back to this question another day as I think it's an excellent one, but despite a couple of days of pondering it, I still have no real answer for it. Just a sense that I need to ponder it further.

5) You have a wonderful personality (all good)...What is it about your philosophies that, YOU think, would make a difference if more people would adopt?
More people should be able to step back and view The Big Picture.
More people should be truly intellectually curious ... not to the point of rudeness, but wanting to know how the world (mechanical, psychological, et cetera) works.
More people should be cognizant of others' feelings. Again, that doesn't mean you don't tell someone, yes, your ass looks HUGE in those pants ... but that we more carefully weigh our words and actions against the damage it might do to those around us. In other words, the golden rule, or the wiccan "do as ye will, as long as it harms none."

All right ... that's all five.

Work is insanely busy right now ... and I'm afraid I'll be quietish for a while as I work on several huge projects with short deadlines. Probably the only posts will be sketches and previews for The Wooden Iguana.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:51 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 7, 2007


I hate them.

No, really, I do.

I got it over two years ago, maybe three. I got it hooked up without too much grief on the first machine. Then, we added a second laptop. Again, not too much grief getting that one hooked up using the same installation disk.

September 2005 ... we added an iBook, moved the ancient and decrepit G3 Lombard over to become the "server" and hook it up to the printer. It took me a couple of days to get it off the ethernet cord and onto the wireless, but I did eventually get it.

Yesterday I got a brand spanking new 17" MacBook Pro ... I'm still somewhat shocked that I got it ... but I'm also ecstatically happy about it too. Except ... trying to get it hooked up to SBC/Yahoo/AT&T has been the biggest freaking pain in the ass I have ever undergone.

Look, I get computers. I'm something of a computer geek. A Mac power-user. Probably just short of a tech. I've run plenty of help sessions. I can do some good work on the Mac.

I can NOT seem to get the damn wireless set up on this machine. I keep comparing the settings on this one to the settings on the old one ... i don't see anything any different. I look around for other settings ... can't find anything.

So for now, I'm back to wired. Ugh.

Any Mac users who've gotten the wireless set up with SBC, leave me a comment, eh? Before I have to resort to calling their help desk and listening to them bitch that if I had a peeeeeeeeeeeeeceeeeeeeeee, it would work just fine. (Trust me, after several Google searches, I know this isn't the case, either. Apparently regardless of the machine you have, SBC's installation disk is a piece of utter freaking crap which actually screws up the settings on Windoze machines even worse than on the Mac.)

I hate SBC. Always have. Idiots.

Technorati tags:

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:13 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 1, 2007


Hackers have infiltrated every major server and pipeline on the internet. The 'net is coming DOWN. The sky is FALLING, people. You have just minutes left to backup every internet file you have or risk losing it all. Most financial institutions in utter panic as they frantically attempt to re-learn the use of the abacus to prepare for the loss of the internet.

This is not a drill ... burn all data to CD or DVD and they might just survive this internet outage. Flash drives/Jump drives will be vulnerable to invasion by remote virus at this desperate time. Hard drives will be deleted. This is the worst internet disaster since Galileo claimed the Earth moved around the Sun.

Keep in mind that all satellite TV will go down, most traffic lights (unless you live in a small city) ... and most of all ... you're going to lose your blog.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled surfing. Enjoy your last few moments of free surf, tomorrow you'll have to go outside and surf waves instead.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:09 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 16, 2007


When I take the Meyers-Briggs test, if I remember correctly, I usually score INFJ, as do many many teachers and professors.

People who know me are sure that's wrong.

Why? Because to people who know me, they think of me as an extrovert. They know I clown around, I'm silly, I'm me ... and I don't care who knows it.

But the fact of the matter is ... if you get me in a situation where I don't know anyone at all ... I'll become the standard wallflower. I'll find a nice darkish corner ... the back of the room ... and just stand there, silent. Watching and observing like a good li'l writer-person.

I've been thinking about that a lot this week where I've been mostly silent online. I've been working on a few projects, not the least of which was a book cover for a friend's poetry collection on (When it's up on Lulu, I'll publish the cover and the link to buy here comments/big_smile.gif) But I've also been thinking about what it is to put yourself "out there" for others. And the answer is that I suck at it.

I'm willing to risk improvement, but it's a really hard process for me. Talking to people whom I don't know is a very draining thing. The deal is ... an extrovert will get an energy charge out of talking to others. An introvert will get an energy drain out of it.

When I taught ... and my goodness, how I absolutely adored teaching ... I had to gear myself up for it and I had to wind down from it afterwards. There was a tremendous energy drain involved in preparing for class ... but it was well worth it to me.

But online? Online I can be a bit of the extrovert that I can't quite be in real life. And that's not completely uncommon, either. One of the main reasons that many teachers are using some form of MOO or online chat with students is because some students will "shine" online ... whilst others will shine during a face to face classtime discussion but despise the use of the online "discussion."

But what I wonder ... as we venture further into the age of computers and virtual connections ... is how do we define introvert and extrovert now? We have this tendency, myself included, to talk about the "real world" and the virtual world ... but I wonder if Gibson didn't have it right all along. Is a friendship conceived and carried out over the internet any less of a friendship than that of one face to face? I think about the people whom I have only known online ... some of them for 11-13 years now ... and we still "talk" regularly via the internet. I think of those folks whom I've loved and still consider friends ... even though one or both of us have moved away and we only talk once every great once in a while. I'm not talking about people that I've chatted with for a few months and dropped away. I'm talking about friendships over the internet ... and face to face ... which have spanned a year or more ... and several "deep" discussions. The kinds of discussions which involve a serious give-and-take and can't really be faked by actor in real life or online.

Are my friends in the "Banshees" any less friends than those I made in N.E.R.O.? Sure the Banshees only talked through emails and IM conversations. But the N.E.R.O. folks generally only talked in relation to the shared hobby we had first ... and secondly our personal lives.

What makes being social being social?

I'm not, by any means, advocating that all online relationships are the same as ... or even as "good" as "real life" relationships. But I am wondering if Gibson's description of what we would call real life isn't better described as the "meat" relationship.

Because I think I have several friendships online which are just as "real" as some of those I have in the physical world.

Then again ... maybe I'm simply a computer geek who doesn't know any better.

But I think of the people I've met from Wales ... from Australia ... from Israel ... from China ... from England ... from Belgium.

And I'm so incredibly grateful for the perspectives from other cultures ... for the reminder that "people like me" are not the only ones on the planet ... and for the reminder that other cultures are really not so very different ... that I think ... these online relationships are every bit as real as that of those who live in the same town as myself.

And I also have to wonder why a physical encounter with people I don't know leaves me so incredibly drained ....

.... whilst a virtual encounter with people I don't know leaves me charged and excited.

Is it the collision of new ideas? The fact that I am on the border of introvert and extrovert? (on the border, but still solidly on the introvert side). Or is it something else.

Dunno. But I'm grateful for the relationships face to face and through the ether, both.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:43 AM | Blog | Why Johnny Won't Learn and Mrs. Curnutt Is Tired of the System | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 11, 2007

Get Personal

Finally, CafePress is no longer the only game in town. Seems like every time I turn around, there's another company who will let you upload your own graphics onto their products ... some so that you can buy the stuff you want ... like, for example, where you can upload your own graphic and make a skin for your iPod, laptop, game station or even cell phone. There's where you can make your own wine label ... where you can make your own skateboard deck ... or you can buy the one that I designed:

Petroglyph Skateboard Graphic

(If that link doesn't work ... click the Shop button on the BoardPusher site, then CoyoteThunder ... you'll see it there.)

But probably the best of all of these companies is

From their website:

Founded by serial entrepreneur Yobie Benjamin and venture capitalist and philanthropist Andy Rappaport, GoodStorm empowers organizations and individuals to generate higher income from e-commerce sales. The company develops and provides free ecommerce tools and technologies, including their new T-shirt Wizard ( ), for sellers to create online stores to market print-on-demand apparel and co-branded merchandise through

In other words, you open a store, you get more of the profits. The better news is this: the quality of their products is EXCELLENT. The printing is well-done, it adheres to the t-shirts well. I wish they had more products available than just t-shirts, but I will say that I've been highly impressed with the quality of their shirts. I've ordered several shirts from them ... of my own design, cuz I'm just that much of a geek, and I gotta say, I love them.

And now they've added something new. A T-shirt wizard that will let you offer a t-shirt with your logo or design ... AND let your customer add their own text or design to it as well. Check this out at Craigslist. And, that's not all (wait, that sounds like a Romco commercial or whatever, doesn't it? Oops. But seriously ... this gets even cooler). If you set up a store with their t-shirt wizard, you can enable a community opt-in feature. This will allow people who order your stuff ... which they've then personalized with their phrase or image (or both) ... and now that design is ALSO available on your site.

Red Monkey Shirt

And, of course, I encourage everyone to buy a nice Red Monkey shirt. The Red Monkey is even wearing jeans! (Cuz we don't want any nekkid monkeys ... oh lord, what have I done? The weird search engine hits I'm gonna get for that phrase now ... sheesh.)

If you're not inclined toward making graphics, I encourage you to look through the site because they have managed to capture a LOT of talented people there. The Daily Kos, WordPress, Craig's List and others do their shirts through and I've found a TON of designs that I adore every time I peruse the site.

And ... if you are graphically inclined ... it costs nothing to set up your own store. Quite an improvement over CafePress' $60 a year for a "professional" shop (which allows you to use more than one design on a product). Which also means that unlike CafePress, GoodStorm doesn't stick you for a year's fee and then refuse to refund it when you close the store down. (Which is what happened to me. They charged me for a second year ... I didn't remember it was coming up that fast ... I closed the store as soon as I got the "receipt" that I'd been charged another $60 and quickly informed CafePress ... their response: "We don't give refunds for that." Nice ... real nice. There's $60 completely wasted.)

Now, go buy my skateboard deck and some t-shirts. Please? comments/exciting.gif

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:02 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 8, 2007


Normally I avoid memes like the plague. Cuz really, yanno, they are like the plague. You're supposed to infect another three or five or ten blogs with the same little meme-virus that you just caught from some well meaning person or vague acquaintance.

But this one makes sense. The Thinking Blogger Award to me is less about a meme and much more about discovering good, new reads than being a silly meme. So ... I'm proud to accept this Thinking Blogger award from Life at the Edge (and the absolutely faaaaabulous MsDemmie) ... and I'd like to beat her for naming two of the people I would have awarded this to, except, of course, she'd like that too much. comments/what.gif
(Of course, she felt that way when Matt and Sue tagged her ... so I think it's just a part of the way this works!)

First here are the rules:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote. Here is a silver version and a gold version.

All right ... five blogs which make me think ... not five blogs which I simply like ... cuz there are plenty of those out there that I enjoy. For instance, I love the heck out of Nonsense Served Almost Daily ... but because it makes me laugh. It does make me think ... and Mikster asks me to think when we chat ... not that I do because, well, that's work and stuff, but he asks anyway. But the blog is a much needed way to relax and remember to laugh instead of (imagine big booming voice here) Making Me THINK. (Okay, you can stop with that voice now. Geez, did you hafta make it so loud? Booming isn't always LOUD, yanno.) Anyhow ... blogs which make me think ... in no particular order:

star.png RohDesign ... Something over a year ago, decided that I needed to go back to drawing again. Like a lot of kids I did it for a long time and thought about pursuing drafting or technical drawing ... or cartooning. At any rate, when I decided to go back to my early love of drawing, I did a few google searches to look at others' sketches with the intention to practice off of others' stuff at first so I could begin to learn how they saw the lines ... and how I did. Mike's SketchToons were exactly what I was looking for ... and then his kind, kind comments when I posted my attempt at mimicry was very much appreciated. His posts about design and being a working artist/graphic designer/ad-marketing guy always make me think. Particularly when he talks about the right tools for the right job and audience, something I've always believed in as well. (Sometimes digital, sometimes analog.)

Damn, I'm long-winded. My English teachers throughout my schooling would be shocked.

star.png Photoshop X ... despite the fact that it hasn't been updated in AGES. There are some great tutorials here ... and those always make me think ... and get the creative juices flowing.

star.png Identity Crisis ... Life the universe and everything in this blog. I admire Suzy tremendously for her bravery and her stubborn tenacity ... and especially her storytelling voice. Amazing blog.

star.pngMartian Anthropologist ... who better to make you think than a Valentine Michael Smith analog?

star.png Living with Multiple Personalities ... whether Cat is talking about current events in her life or re-telling the story of her therapy process and learning to live with not just past events ... but the effect that those events had on her developing personality (and leading to the development of multiple personalities) ... Cat always makes me think. I'm fascinated by the ways in which children cope with events that simply go far beyond the pale and into the realm of what most of us would find unbelievable. Having been through bits of similar experiences myself ... I find the coping mechanisms fascinating ... and Cat's honesty endearing.

All right ... there's my five. Hopefully you'll click and enjoy a few of them.

Tomorrow or over the weekend, I hope to have a review of a new feature from the great folks at GoodStorm ... yanno, the place where I have my t-shirts set up. Like the one with this design on it (click to hit the store):

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:45 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 1, 2007

Check One

A little over a year ago I joined a community of bloggers and quite enjoyed chatting away in a shoutbox. I have a tendency to not fill out profiles on various sites because I'd rather just be me instead of trying to figure out how to describe me (which is nearly a lost cause anyhow ... I don't fit well into boxes).

Inevitably the question came up. I was talking to some people and one person said "he said" in relation to something I'd mentioned ... and someone else said, "he? don't you mean she?"

And the debate began.

My online screen name of "Ender" is actually a character from the wonderful Sci-Fi book, Ender's Game. The character in the beginning of the book is a 6 year-old boy. Now, I pick that screen name (or EnderFP ... FP for Fisher Price) because I really identified with the character of Ender in that and the subsequent books. It didn't matter if Ender was male or female to me ... we were a lot alike in a lot of ways.

Naturally as the people in the shoutbox began this debate, they "turned" to me and said, "Hey, tell so-and-so that you're a man/woman."

I steadfastly refused.

They went to read my profile ... on which I'd left M/F blank.

The debate raged even further on.

Now, mind you, if you go to my larger site (delete /RedMonkey/ in the address bar) ... you can quickly find a segment of my site which will definitely answer the question, but people don't necessarily think that I own the domain CoyoteThunder, so they didn't think to check that.

For about 3 months, I would simply chortle to myself as the fact that I wrote about my first car meant that I was a man. Or that I wrote about some book meant that I was a woman. Everything I said in my blog and in that community's shoutbox was scrutinized for a while as people tried to make up their minds if I was male or female ... everyone had a theory.

And, there were a few people who got upset ... as if I were purposefully deceiving them, tricking them for some ulterior motive.

My point was simple and remains the same:
In the online world, what difference does it really make? I'm not dating you ... I have no intention of dating you ... I'm happy as I can be with my partner. I'm not interested in anything extracurricular.

And every person to whom I pointed that out, kind of metaphorically stepped back and said, "Oh ... yeah, I guess it doesn't matter."

I'm interested in some things that are considered masculine in some cultures. I'm interested in some things that are considered feminine in some cultures.

It wasn't until two mothers were talking about ADHD in their children ... one the mom of an ADHD son ... the other the mom of an ADHD daughter ... that I realized there are other times when admitting to your biological sex can be important. I spoke of how my ADHD meds affected me ... and the mother of the daughter said, "Yes, but that's the typical reaction of a male on this medication ... it affects females completely differently."


She thought I was male and having the typical male reaction. In order to not "blow my cover" of being the perpetual "Pat" on that site, I didn't say anything to her. I should have.

Because while I am biologically female, I don't really fit well into that category. And my "typical male reaction" to that ADHD drug? Does it possibly mean that there really is a biological component to homosexuality? I am a gay female ... and I have noticed more and more frequently over the past few years that medications which are prescribed to women but not men ... don't work as well for me. In fact, a friend of mine, also a gay female, was prescribed Welbutrin ... which according to her doctor, they don't prescribe to men for depression as it tends to do very wonky things to their behaviour. Relieved that she was able to take this medicine, my friend had high hopes for using it as a kind of mitigator during the switch from one anti-depressant to another.

She reacted to the medication like a man.

The doctor said she'd never had a woman have that adverse reaction before.

I'd love to see some studies done on M/F reactions to meds ... and then compare that to the reactions of M/F gay persons as well.

But that's kind of a side issue. Why is it that when we're online, it's soooooo vitally important to find out ASL? (I had to ask what that was ... to me it means American Sign Language ... apparently in the online world, it's come to mean Age, Sex, Location.)

I'll admit I do want to know if I'm talking to a 13 year old instead of a 25 year old ... but only because I want to couch what I say a little more ... no ... not more of anything ... a little less bluntly. I won't lie to kids, so it's not that I will not talk about something that I would tell an adult. But I might change the way I say it a bit. Other than to make sure the person is "legal" so to speak, I don't care how old they are. Location? well, sometimes it's interesting to learn about a new country ... or even the differences of one area to another in the same country. Sometimes I like to know that the people I know in England are safe when I hear about a car accident in Leeds.

But why would I care if someone was male or female? What difference would that make in our online friendship/acquaintanceship? As I said earlier ... I'm not going to date that person. I don't make passes at other people. What other good does it do to know if they're male or female?

To discover if we have similar interests? Pffffffft. That doesn't work at all.

To me, who we are online is simply revealed by the words we type. Sex, for me, doesn't enter into it at all. An "adult" chatroom where the point is virtual groping, sure, you need to know. But for most day-to-day 'net transactions ... it just doesn't matter.

Do I take offense when some folks refer to me as "he"? Not at all. I find it interesting to see who makes what assumptions ... I'd rather not say at all, but invariably someone corrects the person calling me "he" and the jig is up. But I do find it fascinating to watch the conversation and watch someone try to fumble through the unconscious assumptions they made based on my online behaviour and pinpoint why they thought I was male (or female, for that matter).

The problem for me is simple ... when I get to a website that asks Gender: Male Female ... I don't know what to check. I go to a site that asks for Sex: Male Female, I know I'm biologically female and that's an easy answer.

But gender is more of a social construct ... a set of expectations that men act one way, like certain things ... and that women act another way, like other things.

But we all know this isn't really true. We're human and we're too complex for such a simple distinction. I'm not even naive enough to suggest that homosexuality enters into this ... I think that's an easy way for a lot of people to roll their eyes and avoid the topic completely.

I know a woman who adores horses. She changed the dress code at the company she works at to allow jeans and t-shirts. Her hair is shortish. She speaks plainly. She gets the job done. So far as I know, she's not gay. But she's not that stereotype of a "female" either. And there's nothing wrong with that.

This marketing trend of trying to squish people into Male and Female just burns me. I HATE getting marketing crap for perfume or flowery junk ... just because I checked Female on their damn form.

It's time to grow up and realize that we're more complex than that. Ain't one box gonna cover it.

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:41 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 6, 2007


emoticons/sick.gif comments/electric_shock.gif emoticons/sick.gif comments/electric_shock.gif emoticons/sick.gif comments/electric_shock.gif emoticons/sick.gif
Da Flu Bug
Da Flu Bug Redux

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:06 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 20, 2007


In elementary school, mail was one of the best things in the world. My sister and I would delight in opening mail addressed to Occupant (providing we got to it before Mom tossed it on the nearest landfill). But my sister and I rarely got mail actually addressed to us except for birthday cards. When we moved away from Austin, my friend Nancy moved to Longmont, Colorado ... and we did exchange letters periodically. Eventually, one or the other of us would forget to respond, and there would be a long drought between letters. Then, one of us would remember, write and the exchange would begin again.

So I was startled one day in the fourth grade to receive a letter which was NOT postmarked Colorado. Who in the world would be writing to ME?

It was a chain letter - that scourge of the post office in Ye Olde Days ... which given their current desire for people to write to each other, I think they're trying to give the chain letter a comeback to help ensure their jobs.

Today, of course, the chain letter has moved online, like nearly everything else. Today it's the cutesy pictures, the PPT slides telling you that the computer software can take a picture of you (even tho your machine does NOT have the hardware installed), the "touched by an angel" letters ... ad nauseum.

And, as annoying as they are, you can generally recognize them from the subject line and delete them without any bother. Yes, they use up bandwidth, but at least they're no longer asking you to sacrifice 20 trees and your first-born child to the silly cause.

What I do NOT get is the "chain letters" of the blogging world. There seem to be two "chain letter" variations in blogging.

First are the memes ... although, I have seen some which are useful introductions to a person and interesting to read. However, most memes are silly, pointless, too long, and, frankly, boring as hell. Ones like looking up your birthdate on Wikipedia and recording the historical events that took place on your day of birth ... interesting and that can be a thoughtful post.

But most of these are long, rambling, hideously vapid entries.

Next are themed days ... again, some of these are actually very nicely done. Many people participating in Wordless Wednesday have something very interesting going on and it's a nice touch. FOAD (fook off and die ... and I forget if this is a Thursday or Friday thing) is interesting sometimes. But sometimes I've seen posts where the person is simply repeating the same post they'd made the week before. Doesn't it make more sense to just gather some stories together and have a FOAD post whenever you feel the need? Do you really want people to FOAD every single week? And if so, have you considered anger management classes? A low dose of an anti-depressant, perhaps?

Still, like Wordless Wednesday and some memes, some of the FOAD posts are also quite interesting ... and generally humourous.

What I really don't get ... what really strikes me as the "chain letter" of the blogging world ... is HNT. Half Naked Thursday.


Are there that many people on the internet who are exhibitionists? Wait, don't answer that. A quick Google search would probably confirm that question. Still ... what's the point with show a bare portion of your body on the internet for all to see?

And please ... I'm asking a serious set of questions here ... I was being a little silly earlier ... but I honestly don't get HNT at all and I really do want to know - what's in it for you and for your blog?

Is it because people need the attention? The reassurance that they are "okay"? Is it simply a kind of forbidden thrill? Is it, perhaps, a self-esteem building thing where the person is trying to honestly look at themselves objectively or in a new way?

And, if your blog is about political commentary ... or philosophy ... or your favourite hobby ... or just reminiscing and commenting on life in general ... how do you "justify" including HNT posts in amongst the other posts?

Despite any conversation this post generates, you won't be seeing HNT pictures here. I'm simply too camera-phobic to ever do that ... but I am interested in what you have to say.

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:30 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 7, 2007

Damn Spam

Umm, apparently some folks got worried after this posted. This really is truly spam that I am getting on a regular basis right now -- and it's the only spam that's "clean" enough that I can post it here in order to whine piteously about the amount of spam I get a day.

I would guess I'm getting about 300 spam comments a day now. At least 90-95% of it never hits the blog as my spam filters are catching it ... but I also do a quick review of spam comments a couple of times a day in order to make sure that legitimate comments are not accidentally deleted. Basically, I'm sick of the spam ... and I do find these recent spam comments particularly disturbing and heinous.

I suppose I posted them so that other people can populate their spam filters with key phrases and maybe this dude will have to switch to some other spam tactic. Then again, maybe I'm just egging the guy on, I dunno.


First came the commenter called Tramadol. Then it was Sten. Now it's Twistys and ... more honestly, I feel sure, Hot Girls.

My mind is like a complete blank, but so it goes. Basically nothing seems important, but I guess it doesn't bother me. I've just been letting everything wash over me , but pfft. I haven't been up to anything. Such is life. I can't be bothered with anything.
I've just been staying at home waiting for something to happen, but I don't care. Basically nothing seems worth thinking about. I can't be bothered with anything recently.
I feel like an empty room, but eh. Nothing seems worth doing. I haven't gotten much done today.
I've just been letting everything happen without me these days. I've pretty much been doing nothing , but oh well. More or less nothing notable going on to speak of. I just don't have anything to say these days, but maybe tomorrow.
I've just been staying at home waiting for something to happen, but I don't care. Basically nothing seems worth thinking about. I can't be bothered with anything recently.
I haven't been up to much today. I've just been letting everything happen without me. Basically nothing seems worth bothering with. I've just been hanging out doing nothing. I just don't have anything to say right now. More or less nothing happening.
I can't be bothered with anything these days, but such is life. I don't care. So it goes. More or less nothing seems worth thinking about. I've just been hanging out waiting for something to happen, but that's how it is.

PLEASE, I BEG of you. Leave me alone. I have key phrases in my spam filters. You're not really getting your links to hit my site. Please, leave me alone. I can't stand your sorrowful existence anymore.

Movable Type, Six Apart, I BEG of you, please, help with some spam plugins. The nospam ones for 3.2 aren't enough. We need a true accessible captcha plugin. (Yes, I just took the plugins survey and said the same thing there.)

And yes, I know I need to upgrade to 3.3x ... I've downloaded it ... I'm working up the nerve to do it. Of course, your upgrade instructions SUCK, so thank goodness for Learning Movable Type!!!

Meanwhile, Mr. Tramadol, sir?

Thank you, that is all.

More of these damn things since I posted this even.

I just don't have anything to say. Not that it matters. Eh. I've just been staying at home doing nothing, but I don't care. That's how it is.
Basically nothing seems worth thinking about. I haven't been up to much these days. I just don't have much to say right now. I can't be bothered with anything , but whatever.


Posted by Red Monkey at 10:56 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 20, 2006


In the name of all that is holy and good in this world, WHY did Mozilla sell FireFox to Microsoft?

No more computers/browser_firefox.png ... it's now some weird melding of computers/browser_firefox.pngcomputers/browser_internetexplorer.png which makes me want to emoticons/sick.gifemoticons/sick.gifemoticons/sick.gif

Here ... *sigh* ... go check out the selling out of Open Source.

I've never been so sad in my life. Seriously, check out this site which explains the whole thing.

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:49 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 7, 2006

Just Do It

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:23 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 15, 2006


When you start a company that offers a service for others, it's a hard, hard task. You've got a "baby" that you're releasing to other people for them to use, sometimes abuse and misuse as well. It's hard to set a website design or a blog design out there and let others critique it and complain that it's difficult to navigate and use. Add in that you've put tons and tons of hours and thought and work into it and ever little criticism is at best a frustration and at worst a little stab.

But that's okay. Those of us who do this for a living have to discover a way to develop both a thick skin and a good customer service attitude ... to accept gracefully all the things the various users or customers say and find a way to integrate all that into the beautiful design you thought was perfect or the excellent code you thought was self-explanatory and easy to use. Oh sure, we may rant for a while after receiving the comment - I know it can be dangerous to tender ears to be around me immediately after I get a design criticism I disagree with. But that's just the initial reaction and venting process.

However, particularly when you're working with a bunch of writers with at least some audience ... perhaps an audience of those very people who'll be using your service ... it's imperative to know that sometimes you'll get someone who's simply going to write a review or a post of what they see to be the truth. And how you deal with that eventuality says far more about you and your service than all of the code and design that you've put together.

What draws us to one program or site or blog more than another?

Well, it's subjective. Everyone's brains work differently ... so while I have a traffic exchange that I enjoy ... it might not be the best system for someone else. And I have a great online friend who is quite active in an exchange that I just can't stand anymore. That's okay. That doesn't mean that either exchange is actually "better" than the other one. They each draw different kinds of people to them.

For me, however, one of the things that will turn me off to a particular service - any kind of service - is their "bedside manner," so to speak. Below is an email I recently received from one blog service ... I've deleted the name of the service, because who it is doesn't matter ... I'm discussing customer service attitudes, not the merits of one service over another.

Message from "BLOGAPALOOZA" Blog Service
A recent blog entry by one of our members has started an issue about our service.
One in particular about automated response emails, we would like to clarify that we have no automated response service set up and each email that we receive is replied by ourselves. As for his site not being seen, perhaps he should check his counter properly as we have visual evidence that his site has been seen quite a few times.
While we only assumed that people would use common sense, it seems that for some members this proves difficult, so we would like to inform all our members that if they have any problems with the service provided by "BLOGAPALOOZA" Blog Service, that they would be better off actually emailing us for real, rather than imagining it and then complaining about it on their blog.
Thank you to all the members who contacted us and let us know about this blog entry.

First, a good number of basic bloggers are gonna whine. Look at the titles of so many blogs. Ramblings, Rants, Venting, Angry ... all common words for the title of a blog. And if you're in the business of offering a blog service you should know and understand this or get out of the business (because you have to understand your customer or you're going to fail to some competitor who does understand your customer).

Second, bloggers are going to post about your service on their blog. This is part of why they got a blog to begin with - to write about whatever is on their minds. And, while it's frustrating and potentially quite damaging, it's simply going to happen.

The best advertisement of your service, in my opinion, is your response when this happens. A calm and diplomatic tone tells your users - and potential users - that you take all of this seriously and professionally.

The example above, instead, clearly marks the Blog-High-School-O-Sphere.

You remember? All the in-fighting and crap that you put up with from about 13 or 14 until you left school for the real world or college or trade school?

Does Adobe leave a comment on a blog entry criticizing the latest release of Photoshop and whine that they expected their users to have common sense in using their product? No. You can bet that they've got people who comb the blogs and teh interwebs in general to look for complaints about their product as well as look at other comments and tutorials that their users have published somewhere in this vast landscape of words and images we keep continually expanding upon. I'm sure they comment on many of the things they find ... sometimes officially, sometimes unofficially.

But here's the deal. Companies who do the snarky response better be like T-Shirt Hell ... a service which is already, by definition, snarky. Their products are snarky, their web schtick is snarky. And it works for them. If I write to them and complain about a shirt that fell apart (and this is completely fictional ... I haven't had any such thing happen with their products!!!), I expect a mostly serious response from them. I would also expect to see some of the same writing style in their email as I do on their site. So, I'd expect some snarkiness, but I'd mostly expect a resolution to the issue. Maybe something like:

We're sorry the left sleeve fell off your shirt. You can rest assured that we've beaten Dobbly the t-shirt elf within an inch of his life and increased his days off by one. He cried about it a little, all right, he bawled like the baby that he is, but hey, we're running a business here. His sister-in-law Dumbly-Dora is sending you a new shirt today and making sure that all sleeves will stay attached.

Now, I don't actually expect T-Shirt Hell to make goofy Harry Potter references, but this is one way for them to maintain the attitude they have on the site and still maintain good customer service. This fictional example doesn't blame the t-shirt owner for over-reacting and it should make them happy - both for staying "in-character" of the site itself and for getting a situation resolved.

But this particular email is disturbing for the way that it denigrates one of their customers.

It might be that this particular person is a total thorn in the side for this company. Maybe this is the 978th time the guy has posted bad things about this company and they are sick of him and want him gone.

However, most of the users/customers probably don't know any of this back story. Most users simply see: customer complained; service got very publicly snarky about it.

This is not customer service. This is customer warning to the members that this service may not brook any public complaints at all.

For me, any company (blog site or not) which responds to problems with defensiveness has either some serious insecurities or has something to hide.

This isn't the first time this particular blog service ... this "Blogapalooza" ... has responded to complaints or even simple reviews with a snide response. And at least for me, it gives me no reason for confidence or trust in that service if the first response that goes out publicly to everyone is rude and denigrating.

On the other hand, if the author had taken a little time to craft the email to all users just a bit more, this could have been spun to their advantage. Imagine this instead:

We've seen some blog posts recently suggesting several issues with our site. We'd like to take a moment to assure everyone that we do not, in fact, have an automated emailing system in place. Instead, we prefer to answer each email we receive individually to ensure that each customer issue is personally dealt with. This sometimes takes longer than an automated system, but we feel it's actually more efficient in handling your needs. Please, if you do notice a problem or have an issue with some aspect of our system, please email us to let us know. It might take us a day to get back to you, but we do answer each email personally.
In addition, we understand that it can sometimes be difficult to understand why there is sometimes a difference between how your statistics counter counts visits and how we count page views. (explantion here)

This type of response explains the issues, and doesn't bring in the petty fight started by the customer. This type of response builds confidence in users and customers and assures them that they're in the hands of professionals who care about what they do. And, while "speaking plainly" may seem the fastest and most honest route to go, taking an extra couple of minutes to cool off and phrase things neutrally earns far more trust in your service and is not in any way dishonest or less "real" somehow.

Professionalism ... it's not just for breakfast anymore.

Oh, and another blog talks about a customer service issue which the company attempted to handle well ... and then human error kicked in. Check it out (it's a great laugh): Rain on my Tirade.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:59 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 27, 2006

eXplode, eXpand, eXlinks

You want readers? You want actual readers who stick around and comment? (Why does nearly every person with a website talk about this at some point????)

One of the best ways to get more traffic without paying tons of money for advertising (which generally doesn't work for many non-e-commerce sites anyway), is to work on your Google PageRank (PR) and your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Enter the new social linking community known as

It's a top secret project at the moment. In fact, Paul from the kinetiq team filled me in on a few of the details but I've been sworn to secrecy (actually, the dude threatened me with bodily harm and threatened to send a stampeding herd of zebras through my home if I slipped any details). Here's what I can say:
you sign up now ... you get only a bare few friends to sign up ... your PR is gonna go through the roof when exLinks launches. It's going to be a minimal amount of effort on your part ... you sign up, you install some small piece of code on your site, you con, I mean invite, a couple of friends into joining. That's it. It'll be minimal real estate on your site ... and very easy to incorporate into your design. (Really. Trust me on this. I'm picky about what i'll put on my site ... this should work out nicely.)

This is all in development right now ... they guys will be ready to launch when they get a certain number of members (they're getting there even faster than they expected!) ... and if you jump into this now rather than later on ... you're going to see a HUGE upswing in your PR and SEO which will translate into more readers hitting your website or blog (this is NOT restricted to blogs ... any website works) because they're looking for something you have ... which should translate into more regular readers. All I can say is this is NOT a traffic exchange at all.


Sign up! You're gonna be eXcited about how your readership eXpands!

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:34 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 25, 2006

Blogmad Credits 101

cog.pngBlogmad credits explained for newbies (and those of us who have been around for a while, too!)

We have 4 mechanisms at work here

1. The surf bar (earns you credits as well as costs your credits - you earn a credit per blog browsed, lose a credit every time your blog is shown while someone else is surfing)
2. The varb browsing system ( costs you credits at a cost of 1/4 of a credit per view)
3. Games (may cost you or may earn you credits depending on your luck and or skills)
4. Text links and banners ( can also earn you and cost you credits)

The surf bar uses 1 credit for every visit we send you. The credits that you surf are then turned into visitors. Your blogs browsed is the total number of credits earned with the exception of winnings from games.

Although the varb hits were not being counted towards your total number of views received which is displayed on your blog's information page.

We assume that nearly 25% of traffic that you will receive will be via the varb browsing.

Because the varb browser attracts all manner of visitors from other sites that do not have to log into the site, and we are still displacing those credits but not paying anyone to browse the site using the varb browser, we are managing to increase the ratio that a person's blog is entitled to. More often than not its greater than 1:1.

Because of the fact that we are not paying out any credits for people using the varb browser, we have managed to "save" into the system a number of credits.

Together with the initial 10% fee for playing certain games, it allows us to sell credits which are not being used and are over and above the amount that the system can fairly generate while still providing a ratio of 1:1 or greater.

We also do not currently monitor the cost of banner credits that are being used up as well as credits that are being used to display the text links that you set up to be displayed on other peoples blogs. We estimate this to be almost 12% we are aiming to make this information 100% accurate in the next release.

We managed to save up 50,000 credits which are now on sale, once those get sold we will only sell what we can save rather than overuse or double charge people for views.

If at any time you are curious as to where your Blogmad credits went, try and work out your ratio by viewing your blogs information page on blogmad. Go the directory and search for your blog, you will see an information page. Divide the number of visits you received added together with any credits you may have given away by the number of blogs you browsed added with the total number of unused credits you have available, you should be a little less than 1 ... probably around .85 , that's the ratio without factoring in Varb or Text links or game losses, add a conservative 30% and you have a greater than 1 ratio.

These numbers are being read straight out of the database and cannot be skewed. Although the percentages aren't an exact science, its a pretty close equation.

Also to allow people to better manage their credits, in our next release within the next 4 - 6 weeks we are totally redeveloping the way that people can manage their credits. You will be able to allocate X amount of credits to certain functions and will be in total control of how your credits get allocated.


Now, I've also heard some concerns about not using PayPal for the purchase of credits and while I know that I do not want to sign up with another payment company, the problem here is that the guys are in South Africa and hence, are constricted by South African law. Apparently, the financial rules are quite tight and PayPal is simply not an option. Of course, that's gonna leave out a lot of people from easily buying credits ... but there's just only so much the guys can do now. They are looking at what they can do to bring PayPal online as fast as possible since we all know that PayPal has such a huge reputation and so many people already signed up with it.

There ya go ... Blogmad credits explained.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:27 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 15, 2006

Coming Soon

Coming soon to the comments section ...

Working on adapting a few more of the Blacys (which are copyright by The originals are just huge, so I'm trying to adapt some of my favourites down to 16px high. This is not particularly easy as these are large icons and just beautiful as they are, so I hate the fact that I have to lose some of the detail to get them down so small.

Meanwhile, I'm sick and staying home from work today. Ugh. emoticons/sick.gif (I'll get sick of using them in posts soon and go back to content instead of playing around, I promise.) comments/exciting.gif

(Hey, I said soon, not instantaneously.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:53 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 14, 2006

Battle Lost

Ann Richards on a Harley

I hardly know what to say. I adored Ann Richards when she was governor of Texas. I was crushed after moving away from Texas for graduate school to learn that some political "newcomer" named Shrub had gotten elected after her term.

I heard today that she passed away after battling cancer of the esophagus. That diagnosis was given just this past March. She's much missed already. She was an incredible, incredible woman.

Some favourite quotes:
"Poor George [George H. W. Bush], he can't help it...He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."
"Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels."

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:27 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 12, 2006


Bob officially RAWKS my world. He fixed my CSS for me and discovered in all my dinking around with the templates that I had deleted one too many div closings. He got rid of the ugly negative margins AND ...

The 3 column template now works in Safari, IE 6, Firefox (of course) and Opera. computers/browser_firefox.png computers/browser_internetexplorer.png computers/browser_opera.gif computers/browser_safari.gif


All hail Bob, who is now king of my CSS world.


That is all.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:39 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 8, 2006

Opera, Safari, IE

Still working on the templates.

Safari and Opera users: the right sidebar should be at the frigging bottom of the page if you're on the main page. If you're on an individual article page, it should be in the correct spot.

IE users ... the right sidebar should be in the correct spot on the homepage, but all messed up on the individual pages.

Apparently, I can get the 3 columns to work in either IE computers/browser_internetexplorer.png or in Opera computers/browser_opera.gif /Safari computers/browser_safari.gif ... Firefox computers/browser_firefox.png appears to love it all.

Bear with me ... I'll get this bloody thing straightened out eventually.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:24 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

August 17, 2006

Domain Issues

Yesterday's issues with the blog all have to do with domain switching ... so if you posted a comment yesterday and your DNS happened to serve to to my old host ... your comment is gone if you're now being served by the new host.

I believe, however, that the new host has everything up and running now and I think I've switched all DNS service over to Dreamhost ... so hopefully everyone will be getting the new server.

If you emailed me yesterday or the day before and got a bounce message, likely you got caught in a DNS issue of some sort or another.

Interesting content coming soon ... blabbing about host stuff over soon (unless there's a major issue).

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:59 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

August 16, 2006

Hosts Changed

I believe I've finally switched everything from my old host, Infinology, to Dreamhost. I gave up on Infinology because the servers just seemed to be going down at random and I never got responses to my support tickets anymore. Too bad as they were a wonderful company when I first signed on with them.

So, between switching around my CSS and switching hosts, let me know if you see anything totally messed up. (Except of course, if you're using Safari or Opera and don't see the right sidebar ... I know that's still screwed up.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:16 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

August 15, 2006

Safari & Opera

Still tinkering with the template. The right sidebar is rendering in a slightly different position for every single browser at the moment which is seriously ticking me off. However, it's close enough for government work, as my ninth grade science teacher used to tell us on a regular basis.

Except for Safari and Opera, where the right sidebar is down at the bottom of the bloody frigging page.

I don't suppose I have any readers who might be willing to look at the ruddy stylesheet and help me figure out what the bloody hell I'm doing wrong? I know it can be done, I've studied the stylesheets of folks who do get it to work but can't quite puzzle out what I'm doing wrong. Of course, I've not looked at any of those sites in Safari or Opera, so perhaps I'm chasing a mythical stylesheet.

At any rate, some bits will be moving up and down and from sidebar to side bar as I try to get things how I like it.

And then, of course, there'll be the inevitable skins added in later on. Like I can stop fiddling with anything.

Meanwhile, lest you forget:

Well, I'm rumblin' in this JCB.
I'm five years old and my dad's a giant sitting beside me.
And the engine rattles my bum like beserk
While we're singin, "Don't forget your shovel if you want to go to work"
My dad's probably had a bloody hard day
But he's been good fun and bubblin' and jokin' away
And the procession of cars stuck behind
Are gettin' all impatient and angry, but we don't mind.
An' we're holding up the by pass ... oh
Me and my dad havin' a top laugh ... oh woah
I'm sittin' on the toolbox ... oh
And I'm so glad I'm not in school, boss
So glad I'm not in school ... oh no ...

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:06 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 6, 2006

Buy the Red Monkey

Woo-hoo! Now available here on my blog (rather than taking off to another website) is both my iconic Red Monkey on a great t-shirt, and also li'l ole Xander Bear.

Xander Vampire Bear

Now ... allow me to plug GoodStorm for a minute. Nope, they're not paying me for this plug, not giving me a discount, they don't even know I'm doing this.

I love GoodStorm . While their slogan "Capitalism Done Right," did give me a bit of pause (any time i see capitalism and right in the same phrase, I get nervous), these guys are totally awesome. The site caters to many social justice organizations ... and if you tend to some liberal thoughts, you'll find plenty of great stuff (Daily Kos has a shop). If you don't lean to the left, there's STILL plenty of goodies here. GoodStorm has sites which focus merely on awesome design as well as sites like

The other half just ordered a few shirts from there, so I'll be able to comment on the quality soon, but I'm telling you ... I've not worked with an online organization so helpful and dedicated in quite some time. These guys rawk. So, check out my GoodStorm store here ... or just go to the GoodStorm website and play around a while. You'll be glad you did!

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:31 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 5, 2006

Virus? We Don't Got No Stinkin' Virus!

from the BBC:

Security threats to PCs with Microsoft Windows have increased so much that computer users should consider using a Mac, says a leading security firm.

Even as a devout Mac user, I know this is a slippery slope. Most virii are written for WinDoze for two reasons: 1) it's got the biggest market share 2) Bill Gates is eVILE. If more and more of the market share does happen to go to Mac, well, the bored and/or determined virus writers, will simply learn a new OS (provided they don't already know UNIX and/or LINUX). However, it is likely to be several years before the dangerous proliferation of Mac virii are set loose ... there may yet be a nice window of time where Mac users can continue to grow in population and not have to fret quite so much about virii, trojans, worms and spyware.

But I also think with glee of that weasel-y young Bill Gates who disrupted the "software world" when he insisted on getting paid for every copy of BASIC available on the Altair 8800, one of the first "home" computers. (It was the size of a washer and dryer sitting side by side. You don't want to know how it was programmed ... trust me.) You see, at that time, the world of computers was mostly a world of sharing what you did to show off your prowess. "Hey, I can write this cool program in 273 lines." Then the next dude studies the code and the program ... and he gets it down to 240. The next guy hacks the code down to 196. And on it goes, everyone looking to add features and elegance of code to the project. It's not necessarily just about what they can make the computer do ... it's a puzzle, a complicated logic puzzle. "How can I do this?"

Then, the Altair 8800 comes out, Gates, Paul Allen and Monte Davidoff figure out a programming language to make easier sense of machine language ... and instead of sharing it, they want to get paid. Now, look ... there's nothing wrong with getting paid for your time. I'm not saying that. I'm just pointing out that this was something really new to the culture of computing -- most of the guys shared what they knew so that others could better it.

BASIC was leaked ... it was shared ... it was pirated.

And we all know how darling Mr. Gates feels about pirated software. He so reminds me of L. Bob Rife at times.

At any rate ... tired of virii? Want a machine for internet and word processing and maybe a little spreadsheet? Go Mac and don't worry. Desperately need your online gaming? Go Mac and dual boot the little bugger with BootCamp and Mac OS X. Into home movies? Go Mac already!

Right now, after at least three days of fireworks past midnight, I'm just plain tired. ... laterz ... mmm ... ZZZZZzzzzz ... oh ... sleep ... that's nice.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:35 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 26, 2006

New Shop

While I've had a CafePress store for a while now (see the Shop link above), I've been hunting for a new source for t-shirts for a variety of reasons. I found GoodStorm. Seems like a better deal in many ways, but they only sell t-shirts. So ... now I have two shops. And, the premier shirt for the GoodStorm shop is:

Xander Vampire Bear

I also have a new Red Monkey - in Jeans shirt over there as well. GoodStorm is apparently a new-ish company and still working out their offerings, but I like the fact that I can choose the quality of shirt (I picked heavy-weight for everything it was available for). Also, they have some better colour shirts than just the plain white at CafePress. I do wish there there some baseball Ts (those raglan sleeve things) and some other products, but this is a nice start. I especially like the pebble colour shirts.

I've got several more designs in mind and I'm sure I'll be putting up more there over the next several weeks.

Let me know if you order something from there and how the quality of the print is. I know I'll be ordering some of my own stuff (cuz I'm a geek that way) and testing out the quality of the products.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:00 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 25, 2006

Vampire Bear Redux

So, I attempted to put my Xander bear up on CafePress, but the design was promptly pulled down as copyright infringement on Care Bears. I heartily disagree, but CafePress can pull any design for any reason at any time. Fine.

So ... here's Angel bear ... not as cutsie, but a cool shirt anyway. :)

Angel Shirt

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:23 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 3, 2006


Holy cow, Maynard.

The 9rules Network, according to their website, highlights "the very best web content in the world, and package it in a nice bow for you to unwrap. Our members discuss a wide range of topics from interface design and technology, to business, humor, and many others."

What I've always liked about this site is that they're not a traffic exchange where you surf for credits. Instead, they bring a bunch of independent blogs together, build a community and also feature bits about the blogs on their front page or their Communities and Featured sections.

But to be perfectly honest, what completely sold me on the site was their original 9 rules for living:

1. Love what you do.
2. Never stop learning.
3. Form works with function.
4. Simple is beautiful.
5. Work hard, play hard.
6. You get what you pay for.
7. When you talk, we listen.
8. Must constantly improve.
9. Respect your inspiration.

So, now I await the Member Agreement so that I can officially become a member of an outstanding network of blogs.

To Greenr, Joe and all the others from BlogMad who made it (I haven't gotten through the whole list of nominees yet), a very heartfelt: CONGRATULATIONS.
Also, a special congratulations to Mike Rohde of rohdesign ... I discovered Mike's blog while searching for some reference material to practice my own sketching techniques and fell in love with Mike's SketchToons. So I'm doubly excited to see that he has also made the preliminary 9rules list.

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:58 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 2, 2006

Terror and the Bagthorpes

So, I have this great love of a young adult series called the Bagthorpes. I mean, these are some of the best kids' books I've ever read. Hysterically funny. Back in October, I posted about them, listing the one that I thought I was missing (only to discover I'm missing Bagthorpes Battered as well as the Bagthorpe Triangle). I thought I'd run a fast eBay check for them, and had to look up the names of the ones I was missing. What I see on my blog is this (click through for the larger picture):

This does just boggle the imagination, doesn't it? I don't think the word terrorist appears in that post at all. Nor Iraq, nor weapons of mass destruction, nor anything else that might lead to Adsense thinking terrorism ads might be a valuable link here.

As near as I can figure out ... the main kid in these stories is Jack. Everyone in the U.S., it seems, is obsessed with Jack Bauer. Jack Bauer fights terrorism. Hence, anti-terrorism ads on my blog.

Jack Bagthorpe is NOTHING like Jack Bauer. For one thing, Young Master Bagthorpe is from the U.K. Another, he's 11. Another, he's ordinary. That's why the first book is called Ordinary Jack. He can't get around the house in 10 minutes, let alone get around LA in ten minutes.

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:05 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 18, 2006

Contest Winners

It's time to reveal the answers to the 10 Questions and the winners of the contest.

Without further adieu, Beth answered all of the questions first and correctly. In fact, she answered them so fast, that I decided to give away an additional 300 BlogMad credits to a random entrant because I knew from about two hours after the contest had opened, someone had already won the 500! The answers will follow below the announcement of the other winners.

I went to to get the random numbers when choosing the random second place winner for the 10 Questions contest and the winner of the Red Monkey pictures contest. Here's a screenshot of the spreadsheet and the results. The first column of names on the left are for the random 10 Questions drawing ... and the number generator picked: 2 and the second name on the list is Lucy, who gets 300 BlogMad credits. (Click the picture for a larger version - which includes the full link to the random generator.)


The second drawing was for 250 BlogMad credits for sending in a link or picture of the Red Monkey. The number generated was 3 ... and the third name on the list is Seawave. (Click the picture for a larger version - which includes the full link to the random generator.)


Beth's answers:

1) Where are the Caelum Moor stones now? water treatment facility /archives/2005/11/more_caelum_moo.html

2) My first skateboard had what kind of wheels?metal /archives/2005/07/you_cant_be_car.html

3) I went to high school with someone in my list of sidebar links. Who and what's the URL to that blog? Andy

4) How did I change the script of Star Wars (when I was in third grade)? Princess Leia gets Darth Vader Drunk

5) Who offers Amanda Hades DVDs and what is Amanda Hades? 3rd Floor Productions web show about how news doesn't reach the people because of mainstream media being so corporate

6) One of my third grade teachers made a tactical error. What was the error and what subject did she teach?math She announced one day that anyone belonging in the high math class should come over to a certain area /archives/2005/06/the_us_educatio.html

7) Who was my illustrious locker partner? Kyungah Kim (Janet Kim) /archives/2005/05/make_new_friend.html

8) Send me a screenshot/JPG/GIF/image of your favourite design from my CafePress site.

9) What Fisher Price toy did I haunt eBay for and finally find? Sky Surfer /archives/2005/12/the_sky_surfer.html

10) I turned the Little People Village into what? pueblo village

Posted by Red Monkey at 2:25 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 16, 2006

Blog Celebration

Wanna win 500 BlogMad credits?

Here's the deal ... in honour of Red Monkey's one year celebration, I'm gonna give away 500 BlogMad credits to the person who answers at least 4 of the following questions correctly. That means you only have to answer 4!! The contest closes at noon (Eastern time), May 18, 2006. The winner will be the person who answers the most questions correctly. If there are multiple people who have answered the same number of questions correctly, the person with the earliest entry will win. All answers can either be found in Red Monkey blog within a single post, or by deduction from reading several posts. Comments are also fair game for inclusion.
You must EMAIL your answers to me at: red-monkey AT coyotethunder DOT com.

Need something easier??? Look at the bottom of the post for a faster chance to win.

Answer at least four. Email me your answers. LIST THE DATE OF THE POST where you found the answer (except for numbers 3 and 8).
1) Where are the Caelum Moor stones now?
2) My first skateboard had what kind of wheels?
3) I went to high school with someone in my list of sidebar links. Who and what's the URL to that blog?
4) How did I change the script of Star Wars (when I was in third grade)?
5) Who offers Amanda Hades DVDs and what is Amanda Hades?
6) One of my third grade teachers made a tactical error. What was the error and what subject did she teach?
7) Who was my illustrious locker partner?
8) Send me a screenshot/JPG/GIF/image of your favourite design from my CafePress site.
9) What Fisher Price toy did I haunt eBay for and finally find?
10) I turned the Little People Village into what?

Luckily, you should be able to use search to find most of these quickly and easily. Maybe I should disable search during this contest? hehehehehe
Naw, I'll play nice. Enjoy the hunt and I hope you'll stick around and read some of these old posts as well as hunt for answers.

Meanwhile, scroll below and read the story of The Red Monkey. :)

UPDATE: In addition to the grand prize of 500 BlogMad credits, I will also give away two additional prizes, both randomly drawn. The first random winner will be picked from those entering the 10 question contest and will win 300 BlogMad credits.
The second random winner will go to someone who emails me with a picture (or the URL of a picture) of THE red monkey ... but it cannot be a picture that is hosted on This winner will get 250 BlogMad credits.
Both of these random winners will be announced May 18th, along with the grand prize winner of the 500 BlogMad credits ... you can only win one of the three contests, but you're welcome to enter all 3! (Well, if you enter the 10 questions, you're entered for the random drawing on the 10 questions, so I suppose you're welcome enter both contests.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 2:33 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 4, 2006

Dark Side Experiment

There's another new addition to the right sidebar ... I am running a two-week test with Google Adsense. I know, I know, stop screaming. It's an experiment. I kinda figured that I get this INSANE number of hits for those stupid Red Monkey Jeans that I never even knew existed before I started my blog. Nearly 45% of my total website hits (if you hit the home button up top, you go to my main homepage for are for those jeans. It suddenly occurred to me the other day ... I'm always going to get those hits. The way the search engines work, I'm always going to get hits for those jeans ... so why not kill two birds with one stone? If Google will put some Red Monkey Jeans ads in that sidebar, then the folks looking for Red Monkey Jeans will get what they came here looking for ... and maybe I'll make some cash and quit whining about all the people who land here looking for those stinking jeans.

We'll see. If this doesn't really generate anything worth speaking about in two weeks, I'll resign from the Adsense program and remove the ads. If it does work, then I will seriously look at re-designing the template and moving to a real 3 column design to better leverage space.

Meanwhile, sound off about the migration to the dark side in the comments.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:30 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 27, 2006

25 Blogmad Credits

Okay ... a lawyer in Austin, Texas, started a group of heterosexual folks who are supportive of GLBT folks. In fact, the purpose of the group is outreach and education of the hetero community about the gay community. She calls this organization the Atticus Circle.

Why Atticus?

Leave a comment with your guess ... get it right, get 25 BlogMad credits ... first person with the complete answer successfully left in the comments gets the credits.

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:32 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 23, 2006

Moveable Type error

Interesting error ... you cannot use the word t a r in a post ... you'll get an internal server error. Took me thirty minutes to figure out that I couldn't use the phrase "beat the t a r out of me" in the last post. Sheesh!

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:56 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 9, 2006


So, when I started this thing I didn't think I would need a search feature. Silly, silly monkey.

I added that in this morning, so, you can now search for my ghost stories or for the stupid red monkey jeans that I'm SO tired of seeing in my statistics (but even if I never mention it again, they'll still be there since "red monkey" appears on every page ... and the word jeans appears from time to time as well).

Let me know if you run into anything strange with the search ... I'm not a programmer, so I don't know a lot about how MT has this script set up, but I can do some fooling around if I need to.

The colors ... well, it looks good in FireFox ... hopefully it looks all right in IE ... Safari, I know the text is very light in the white box. I'll try to fiddle with some settings on that later on.

So, spam is driving me crazy, so I've got to close the comments on this entry ... please hit me up via email if you need to say hey.

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:42 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 7, 2006


Before we moved into this house, I'd never seen anything like this passion flower. I hate purple, but find these utterly fascinating.

Guppyman put this in the comments and it's well worth highlighting in the main article area as well:
Why it's called a passion flower: plantsinmotion

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:27 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 1, 2006

And Now a Word

Not exactly a word from our sponsor by any means, but I will say that CafePress just had a 20% off sale and I, being the total geek that I am, ordered my own CafePress stuff. And, I also have to say that I just love it!!! Far more than I expected. Here's just a smattering of stuff I have available:

I have a few more designs than this, and some of these designs are on t-shirts, ball caps, kids' clothes, et cetera. Check it out, give it a try. And let me know if there's something you'd like to see that I haven't included there yet ... sometime in the next year or so, I'm sure I'll add products with some of my sketches, but since I feel like I'm still very much in the learning by copying mode, I'm not ready to upload anything I've drawn just yet. Eventually, I'm sure I will.

Also, I do have a teeny-tiny military section in my store ... which I started because one of the men in my church is a Pearl Harbor survivor. Unfortunately last year, someone stole his favourite black ball cap which proudly proclaimed Pearl Harbor Survivor. So, I made him one and ordered it for him.
ANY military merchandise is NO PROFIT to me. I only make survivor or veteran gear (or something along those lines).

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:18 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 10, 2006

Cat With a Pen

Now, normally I don't do this, but I've recently run across a blog that has me digging through the archives in a way that I haven't since I first discovered WWdN (now WWdN in exile). So, even though I try to keep my little links section over on the right very, very small (too many links and then what's special about any of them? ... besides, it's a hassle to make sure they're all up to date and stuff), I have recently added a new blog I discovered through BlogMad. (BTW, BlogMad is in public beta testing ... you need an invite to get in ... want an invite? drop me a comment!)

Anyhow, Cat With a Pen is one of the best blogs I've seen in a long time. She's got an engaging writing style and wonderful, wonderful, wonderful posts to share. The blog layout is nice and clean ... my only wish is that she'd include a "real" archives link instead of a link to previous posts (down at the bottom of the page). I've got tons of archives to read and comment on yet! One really nice touch that I just love is how often she replies to comments ... and her text is always inside your comment, but indented and in another colour ... really great touch.

Cat lives with multiple personalities due to childhood trauma ... so this site is not for everyone. If you don't "believe in" multiple personalities, don't go bugging her about it, okay? If you've been through childhood trauma, you might find things a bit too reminiscent and triggery ... but overall, I think this is just a delightful, honest and engaging blog. Would that we were all so open and honest with ourselves and others. And hey, what better pen name for someone with multiples ... cats have at least nine lives, right?

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:04 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 8, 2006


Click for larger picture

Somedays it just seems like like there is no escape, you know?

You've got this beautiful sky, green grass, trees, birds flying free in the air ... and the ruins of an ancient fort/prison. Some days no matter how beautiful some of the surroundings, you just feel like there's bars keeping you back or the ruins of something from 'back in the day' that just wrecks the landscape.

This picture ought to represent oppression and fear, really, given the subject's long and storied history. But as I sit here with the big 300 dpi version as my desktop at work, I'm confused at all the messages it gives me. Green grass means summer and freedom. So do the birds. Ruins are for exploration both of the history and of the building itself. And, of course, Alcatraz is a level in one of my favourite video games (one of the Tony Hawk games).

Right now, I long to be there instead of here, at work. But think of all of the men trapped on that island, in that prison who longed to be anywhere but there.

It's a weird world. There are more prisons in our minds and of our own making than any jails we might build.

RIght now, I just long for green grass, sun baking my bones, a light breeze ruffling my hair and cooling my skin, eyes closed against the overwhelming brightness. I need a month without pressures ... I need time to relax and stop worrying about tomorrow, shoot, about ten minutes from now.

For now, this photo will have to do.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:24 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 3, 2006

Snow on Mt. St. Helena

Mount Saint Helena ... shot just outside of the Roshambo winery outside of Healdsburg. This mountain only gets snow about four times a year ... this snowfall happened last night.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:15 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 2, 2006

"Poems, Prayers & Promises"

I believe this is just outside Calistoga at the northern end of Napa valley. This was shot this morning from inside a speeding car! Hopefully the weather holds and there will be another picture tomorrow.

I�ve been lately thinking / About my life�s time / All the things I�ve done / And how it�s been / And I can�t help believing / In my own mind / I know I�m gonna hate to see it end

I�ve seen a lot of sunshine / Slept out in the rain / Spent a night or two all on my own / I�ve known my lady�s pleasures / Had myself some friends / And spent a time or two in my own home

And I have to say it now / It�s been a good life all in all / It�s really fine / To have a chance to hang around / And lie there by the fire / And watch the evening tire / While all my friends and my old lady / Sit and pass the pipe around

And talk of poems and prayers and promises / And things that we believe in / How sweet it is to love someone / How right it is to care / How long it�s been since yesterday / And what about tomorrow / And what about our dreams / And all the memories we share

The days they pass so quickly now / Nights are seldom long / And time around me whispers when it�s cold / The changes somehow frighten me / Still I have to smile / It turns me on to think of growing old / For though my life�s been good to me / There�s still so much to do / So many things my mind has never known / I�d like to raise a family / I�d like to sail away / And dance across the mountains on the moon

Words and music by john denver
(and a chunk left out)

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:20 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

March 1, 2006

Somewhere Over New Mexico

I woke up at 3 a.m. eastern time Tuesday morning so that I could take a flight from South Bend, IN to Chicago. From there, we had about a 2 hour layover (little less) and caught a looooong flight in to John Wayne airport in Orange County. Sadly, the battery on my laptop died around an hour and a half into Lords of Dogtown. (Yeah, it was my fourth time to watch it in about a month, but still! lol)

I took several shots of the desert states as this was about the only time the clouds cleared up enough to do so. This particular shot out the plane window was about the only green we passed over ... I wish I knew where we were when I took this one!!

From Orange Country, we did some business in Temecula and then drove back to the airport and hopped a flight to San Francisco ... I had thought we were actually staying in San Fran, but we're staying in Santa Rosa which seemed to take an excessively long time to drive to after the San Fran flight.

I'm sure I'll be posting more pictures over the next several days as we wander around the Napa and Sonoma wine country through Saturday.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:19 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 28, 2006

Guest Post for Animal Lovers

Hello there! Some of you might know me as B, Allnightorg, ANO or you might not know me at all. I'm here to let you know about a great cause that I'm trying to help out. On April 2nd I will be participating in a walk for the Maryland SPCA. It's a 1.5 mile walk to help raise funds for the local SPCA. The money will go towards the care and well being of the animals. As of right now I have $180 raised and I'm close to reaching my goal of $300. Of course, if I can pass that goal I'd be very happy! If you'd like to learn more about the MD SPCA you can check out their website and to donate online you can use my walk sponsorship link here. Remember any little bit helps and I thank anyone in advance who donates! If you choose to donate and have a website, please let me know and I'll email you a little badge I've made!

Last but not least I'd like to thank Ender for letting me have this little guest post!

Posted by Red Monkey at 2:38 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 21, 2006

Kitchen Sink

Oooooh, looky here! No more comment moderation!

It seems that the junk filters in the new Movable Type 3.2 (why oh why do I want to put an E in the middle of Movable?) work wonderfully. I hadn't really paid attention to this feature except in regard to the trackback issue. I had so much trackback spam, it was really driving me nuts. Upon upgrading, Movable Type 3.2 has (so far) caught all the trackback spam and isolated it for me to decide whether or not to publish it. So far, it's caught all the spam and nothing else. Then, the other day as I was randomly pressing links in the new GUI, I realized that there was also a "Comment Junk" setting. I clicked on it, and lo and behold! Movable Type 3.2 had already caught a few comments that were spam and isolated them. I reviewed them, found the filter to be very very good and deleted the crapola. (Of course, I would find these features faster if I would just RTFM ... details, details.)

Meanwhile, I have a recommendation for any southerners who might now be living "up north." In the south, the air vents for your heater and air conditioner are generally located up by the ceiling. This is because hot air rises and you want to combat the heat during the summer. Fine, great, who cares, right? Well, up north, these vents are in the floor since you want to retain as much heat as possible in the winter up north.

Might I recommend NOT accidentally (or on purpose) kicking or stumbling into one of these air registers? They're kinda sharp.

Sharp as in while going to bed Thursday night, I tripped over the dog's stuffed bear and kicked the register ... something I've never done before. I sliced my little toe. I mean SLICED it. As in I nearly took the tippy-top off the toe. It was painful. Quite.

And you know it's sharp when you not only slice skin but also get a free toenail clipping to go along with it.

Yet another reason that northerners are far more backwards than those of us privileged enough to have been born in the south. A southerner at least would have put the sharp-ass thing on the WALL where it can't be STEPPED ON.

Meanwhile, I hadda read the Wikipedia article on RTFM just because ... well, because. It was funny. And, it led me to a new line that I had not heard before: UTSL ... presumably if you want to know how someone did something on their website and had the audacity to ask, you might be told UTSL ... Use the Source, Luke. LMFAO
Aren't acronyms fun?

Maybe I'm just a geek. I don't care ... geekdom is all the fun I have left anymore.

Meanwhile ... just remember, don't kick any air registers on the floor. Sliced little toes are painful. (I tried to take a picture, but I just couldn't get it to come out well. Consider yourself lucky to have missed the blood and gore.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:35 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 30, 2006

Blog Traffic Reviews

I thought I'd take a few minutes and give my impressions of the few blog traffic exchanges I've had some experience with. There's not a lot of them, but so far there is one clear winner ... and one up-and-comer who might create some competition.

In the order in which I discovered the site:

1) BlogExplosion ...
At BlogExplosion, you have any number of ways to garner credits ... and then you get to choose how you spend those credits. You can make banner and spend your credits on advertising, submit directory ads ... or you can "spend" your credits on renting space on someone else's blog (and thereby gaining hits), you can hit the "BlogRocket" which showcases 25 blogs on a single page, you can bet between 10 - 100 credits that you can beat someone else in a 15 vote battle ... or you can succumb to the weakness that is the scratch-off card. (1 credit buys you a "lottery" style scratch off card by which you could win up to 500 credits.)

I began surfing BlogExplosion in June of '05 and was surprised at the depth of the blogs I saw. There's a great feature which will let you block sites you dislike or find personally offensive or irritating for some reason, you can "blogmark" a site to come back to later on. You have to stay at each site for 30 seconds in oder to build up your credits for surfing. Of course, as on any blog traffic site, you will find a few blogs that do not load in the 30 seconds, which really ought to encourage more people to be aware of optimization techniques!

In addition, BlogExplosion offers a wide variety of distractions as well. There's the BlogExplosion radio, Sodoku, arcade games, a blog lottery and I'm sure there's more planned.

BlogExplosion does handle podcasts, but I don't really have any experience in that area. They also offer free blog hosting (templates, I believe, are done by Web Divas!!), a counter free of pop-ups and including some nice statistical counts and free picture hosting. Whew ... that's a LOT for one site to do! And I've left out things like the Flash application chat room (with audio and video capabilities!!!), the fact that you can ping your blog directly from BlogExplosion, review others' blogs, leave people comments through B.E. and more.

Literally my only complaint has been some iffy customer service issues. Then again, I think they have maybe 5 or 6 full-time employees serving I don't know how many thousands of members, so I'd be stunned if there weren't some customer service issues!!!


2) BlogAdvance
I saw this site while surfing at BlogExplosion and signed up ... the more the better, right? Well, after finally logging in to BlogAdvance (I kept forgetting about it), I quickly discovered that I personally needed to find one traffic exchange program and stick with it. I don't have the ability to surf multiple windows ... I can multi-task with the best ADD-er, but that is not my specialty!

BlogAdvance claims to be a community built by bloggers for bloggers. Unfortunately, I can't tell you if that's true or not. I can't hardly navigate this site. I currently have over 200 "manual" credits in my account ... and I have no idea how to spend them. Normally I'm pretty quick and hunting around a site and getting it figured out, but BlogAdvance completely stumps me. As such, many of the features they undoubtedly have are simply beyond my access. (Know B.A. pretty well and want to leave me some instructions in the comments??? I'd welcome the advice!!)

I have heard that they also offer free blog hosting and image hosting.


There is something of a war between B.E. and B.A. ... I don't understand it and have little information on it. All I know is that I originally signed up for both, saw some public behaviour of a B.A. administrator over at B.E. and decided that I did not appreciate that kind of unprofessionalism. I took my referral "sticker" to B.A. off my site and I think I've only been back there once or twice since. I've heard lots of good things about them ... I don't know.
I've mostly rejected their service simply because it's too difficult to use (and that administrator made me mad).

3) BlogMad
The third traffic exchange site I found was BlogMad. This site *sounds* wonderful, but it's easy to sound that way. BlogMadis not open for public use yet, but is in beta testing at the moment. I'm really hoping they open soon as they seem to have a great deal of promise. They will offer a "cage fight" similar to BlogExplosion's Battle of the Blogs as well as many of the other features at B.E.

But ... we haven't really seen anything yet. If they prove to be as un-navigatable as B.A., then there's little hope for them.


4) BlogSoliders
A great basic blog traffic exchange. Unlike some of the other traffic services, BlogSoliders does not accept websites which are not actual blogs. No site that just offers a web or blog service, no completely advertising "blog," no make-money-instantly sites ... just blogs. Right now this seems like a really solid basic exchange site ... is easy to surf, but the blogs there are somewhat limited in their topics. Hopefully as they grow and gain more members, the diversity of the blogs will increase. Right now, BlogSoliders is just a little too thin on blogs to hold my interest. Surfing time is only 20 seconds, though, instead of 30. Definitely a plus when you come up on a blog that won't load or that you've seen 20 times in the last two hours.


Despite what some folks thought about my previous post, BlogExplosion is still the clear winner in traffic exchange for me. Unfortunately there's been some community issues lately, but that can happen any time you get a diverse community of people together in one space ... be it real or virtual.
Because of community issues, there is little for me to do at B.E. that I have enjoyed doing up to this point beyond just surfing and spending credits on traffic. That's okay! That's the main purpose of BlogExplosion!!! I don't *have* to have Battle of the Blogs ... I merely have enoyed this feature in the past and hope to enjoy it again in the future when the current hullaballoo settles down a bit.

Meanwhile, if you use another blog traffic site and would like to add your two cents about it -- or about any of the ones reviewed here, please leave a comment!!
(I moderate for spam only.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:06 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 25, 2006

MT 3.2

Well, I made the jump today, finally. I've been putting off upgrading the blog from MT 3.16 to MT 3.2 for months now. I've heard so many horror stories about upgrading ... whether you use MT or WordPress or whether Blogger upgrades for you.

But, with my usual blog-traffic site somewhat impaired at the moment ... and with a tedious case of "what shall I write about now that I've posted all sorts of serious crap," I thought now was the time. It only took me about 3-4 hours this evening to set up ... despite much cursing when things didn't upload properly and particularly when I thought I corrected the file permissions only to find out the ACLs didn't take after all. (Don't worry, it's g33k speak.)

Anyhow, if you see any weird glitches or find that you can't comment, please use the Contact link at the top fo the page and let me know.

kthxbye ... couldn't resist.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:32 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 24, 2006

Concrete Flower

Somehow, concrete doesn't keep everything grey after all.

(Taken at the Miniwanca camp outside of Shelby, Michigan, May 2003)

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:29 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 16, 2006

Inclusion / Separation

Sometimes what you do doesn't matter nearly as much as the one thing you neglected to do or that you forgot to do.

Sometimes what you see as a simple alternative becomes a threat to someone else. Or, it gets translated, somehow, into a veiled complaint even though no threat was intended and no complaint meant.

Sometimes ... sometimes exclusion hurts even more than a vicious comment.

But the problem is, how do you balance the very human desire to be who you are, to say what you mean ... and to also be in a place where you feel comfortable and not attacked? How do we build a place to relax and be ... and still let others be who they want to be?

Any time there's an us and them division, there's hurt and people begin lashing out.

Today, in the U.S. is Martin Luther King, Junior Day.

Its mere existence is enough to piss some people off.

Sometimes, in the attempt at non-violence, we simply attract more violence to us. It's easy ... it's human ... to become enraged when others don't react as we expect. Particularly when we lash out in anger and expect others to lash back out at us. After all, when we're both lashing out in anger, we're at the same level ... we're communicating on a common ground and wrestling. But when only one person lashes out, the division between us and them feels even greater. There's that back of the mind guilt that we might not even be able to admit to ourselves is there ... if this person can withhold that anger, why can't I? And then it becomes, "why should I withhold my anger? 'They' deserve it ... they're not better than me or anyone else." And then the anger intensifies.

Societies, passwords, restrictions ... openness, anarchy, freedom. Where's the balance between safety from the darker instincts of human nature and inclusion?

The civil rights workers congregated in safe places ... they congregated in their churches, in homes. But, as the movement became more well known, those places were no longer so safe. People lashed out against them, burned the churches, burned the homes, beat people, killed them. Despite being dedicated to non-violence, they tried to protect themselves by posting guards during meetings ... not to perpetuate violence, but to serve as a warning to those inside. They tried to create a safe zone. But in doing so, the feelings of "us" and "them" simply intensified. And yet, knowing that the divisions were still building, they still tried to work to break down those feelings of exclusion and violence, knowing that while it might help in the long term, in the short term ... the short term would probably be very painful in many, many ways. They met as safely as they could ... and then they left and went out to try to spread their message.

Sadly, those who truly try to challenge the prevailing system and ask us to try harder ... to try harder to work toward inclusion of all ... despite all of our faults and our failures ... are often destined to be hurt by the people they are trying to include. Where is the balance between shaking the dust from our feet where we are not wanted ... and working for change? When is working for change simple suicide ... and when is it for the greater good? And how do we ever learn to discern the difference?

The problem is not so much in creating a safe place with like-minded people. It's in never venturing out of the safe place into the larger world ... the more risky world. There's no shame in congregating in safety and bolstering each other ... so long as we then venture out into the buses, the diners and march for what we truly believe in.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:30 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 14, 2006

. .


It's one of my favourite things in the world sometimes. Don't get me wrong, I like to have my music playing when I'm working ... and I can run on at the mouth if you get me talking about something I particularly enjoy or something I feel strongly about.


There's also something to be said for being still and simply being. Listening.

One of my favourite authors, Chaim Potok, wrote of a father who raised his son in silence because he wanted to teach the boy compassion to balance out his great intelligence. It was, of course, a horrible way to raise a child ... to never speak to him except when they were studying their religion. But, the boy, Danny, did learn compassion. And he learned to reach deep within himself and listen carefully to what was going on around him.

So many of us are so plugged in all the time. The TV is on, or the iPod, or radio ... or we fill the silence with the babbling words we reach for in those instances.

It may seem odd to many bloggers ... or website readers ... to think about time without words ... without sound.

And yet, the one thing I look forward to every week is having my moments of silence on the weekend. Whether it's because I've gone down to the basement to work or it's the moments of silence in church some Sunday mornings, or a morning driving to work with the radio turned off ... it's nice to reflect and be still for a while. To recharge the batteries, not just of the iPod, the laptop and the cell phone, but of my own brain. It's easier to remember what's important and what's not after I spend some time in silence. Somehow everything seems a little less frantic and a little more balanced.


Posted by Red Monkey at 7:35 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 23, 2005


Tuckered out small dog ... this is Scraps at about seven weeks ... that's a small cat carrier next to him. Given his dapple markings we almost called him Splats instead of Scraps ... but finally decided that most people might find that a bit mean. We meant like paint splats, but most people thought we meant seeing him splatted.

And here's a picture of his absolute favourite toy at that age -- the teeny beanie baby doberman ... which looked amazingly like our little black and tan guy. We kept talking about trying to splatter a bit of bleach on it to mimic his dapples.

He would take that li'l "pup" with him everywhere and treated it quite differently from the rest of his teeny beanies. He delighted in taking the black and white cat beanie across the house to his "brudder," Rio, a black and white kitty. He would then proceed to "kill" the kitty, viciously and if Rio left, he'd trot along happily behind to show Rio his prowess at killing kitties.

But one of my favourite pictures is this one ... Scrappy just being a cute little Scrappy boy:

If you celebrate something this time of year, hope you have a good celebration ... if you don't ... I hope you have a great end of the year.


Posted by Red Monkey at 6:19 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 22, 2005

ShoutBox Fun

So, if you're here from BlogExplosion's Shout Box, here's a little fun you can try. This was originally discovered by FuzzBuckFuzz! All kudos to him!!

Type any of these codes before a word and change your text:

::b test -- will change your word to test
likewise, ::i ... ::u ... ::o ... will all also change your text.

::red test -- will change the font color to red. What other colours work?

::small test -- will change the size to smaller ... what works for larger texts?
And when you find the large text trick ... don't use it or Rachel will BAN you from the SB! :) (But seriously, the large font is triggering migraines in some people, so don't use it. Seriously, don't!)

Combining effects:
::small test ::off some more ::red words -- will give you test in small print ... some more in regular print ... words in red print.

I'm sure there's more codes out there for other things ... but they've yet to be discovered ... have fun playing ... and don't forget the Frenzy game while you're at it!!

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:28 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 20, 2005

Whoa ... check it

So, there's this blog called "Bloggy Award" which reviews various blogs that have been nominated (either by the author or someone else). So, I tossed my URL in the hat, so to speak, and sat back.

Well, they've done the review and it's a doozy! I have to admit I didn't quite know what to expect ... I'm always a little nervous when it comes to critiques, but I keep putting myself out there anyway.

As it turns out, this was, in my opinion, a beautiful review! I'm more than a little stunned at scoring as high as I did ... check them out ... and peruse the other reviews of other blogs ... it's a nice way to discover other great blogs.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:23 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 19, 2005

Flash Book

I'm trying to build a book effect for work in Macromedia Flash ... unfortunately it's devilishly hard to do well. I've found three different books that are nice, but getting them re-sized to do what I want ... and then moved around on the stage ... has been something of an impossibility.

First book: scripted by Macc from IpariGrafika in Hungary ... includes the source code. In many ways the best book out there ... certainly the most fully featured. This book offers a "hardback" option and a million other bells and whistles ... but getting the scripted animations to re-size in actionscript has completely baffled better heads than mine.

Second book: This was something referred to in Sham Bhangal's Flash Hacks, hack 25, but it's not fully explained in the book. Instead, it's on O'Reilly's site. I've tried working through the steps and while I can reproduce the first of four Flash files ... I can't get the second one to reproduce ... I'm missing something terribly easy, I think, but I've looked at it so long I can't find it anymore.

The final book is the only one I've been able to get to work at all: Pixelwit's PageFlip. This one is quite easy to use, although I'm currently stuck on trying to add more pages to it. But, I was hoping to have my book open so that 1/2 the book took up the whole stage ... of course this does mean that I'd have to use twice as many pages, but since we're talking about virtual pages and not rainforests, I'm okay with that. Using just one page on the stage gives me a much bigger page to play with. Unfortunately, the only way I can get this book to work is by centering it on the stage.

I'm attempting to do a nifty little "history of" book. Some text, probably not included in the book itself, but off to the side of the book and then then nice photos and movie clips in the book demonstrating some of the history. Since the focal point ought to be the pictures, I'm really hoping to have a bigger book.

Anyone out there a real actionscript guru and wants to help me out?

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:12 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 4, 2005

Red Monkey Jeans Re-re-redux

Consistently, the biggest search engine hit I get is for "red monkey jeans." Before starting this blog, I had no idea what those were.

Want something even cooler than Red Monkey Jeans? Try this. Waaaaaay cooler!

However, if you're still really stuck on finding Red Monkey Jeans, try this place out ... EuropeModa. Geez, these people oughta be paying me for advertising for them .... I'm still stunned that I come up #1 on Google for Red Monkey Jeans. Weird. Anyhow, I have no affiliation with this company or with Red Monkey Jeans (who, as far as I can tell, have no jeans with red monkeys on them ... very puzzling). I'm just tired of people emailing me begging to know where to find these highly over-priced rapper jeans. (Apparently Jay-Z wears these things, according to this one site.)

Anyhow ... check out my CafePress store. Awesome gift-giving ideas there ... not the least of which is the golf shirt with my red monkey ... wearing jeans, of course. Come on, it's the least you can do for continuing to hit my site whilst searching for these waaaay expensive jeans (I mean, really, they're like $400 and $600 some odd dollars!!!).

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:22 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 25, 2005

Logos and things

Over at BlogExplosion they've created a new service -- now they're offering free photo hosting for blogs at -- it's an awesome service ... check them out!

And, if you're a member of BlogExplosion, go vote for the logo you like best.

And ... just for your amusement and yet another bit of shameful self-promotion, check this out:

In context ...

Posted by Red Monkey at 2:09 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 24, 2005

Shameless Self-Promotion

Now you, too, can find a shirt proudly demonstrating a Red Monkey who's wearing jeans. Or the CoyoteThunder logo ... or, clothes with pictures of the Caelum Moor park on them.

Coyote Thunder @ CafePress. Check it out. (Black t-shirts coming as soon as CafePress releases them!!)

UPDATE: Black t-shirts now available:

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:11 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 15, 2005

Truth or Myth ... Answers

All right, so here are the answers, some in lurid, Technicolor details. Others, not so much.

1) I was 19 when my first real relationship started and it lasted for 13 years.

I was 19 when my first real relationship started and it did last for a long time ... but it was only 10 years long. We met my freshman year in college, had a whirlwind romance, moved out of our parents' homes (before being kicked out, actually) and last ten years and four months.

2) I did not touch a computer until a year ago and thought they were run by dilithium crystals or something equally Star Trek-like.

Nope, I've been playing with computers since the Commodore-64. William Gibson, writer of Johnny Mnenomic and Neuromancer -- creator of the whole cyberpunk movement, did think that computers ran on some kind of Star Trek-like crystals while he was writing those books. Said he was quite disappointed when he found out how they worked....

3) I am a gay man.

What, you thought I'd give you more of an answer than that?
ahem. Sorry. Nope. I'm not a gay man, but I might be a bi- man. Or a chic or a straight dude or a once-gay man. Or ... well, you really didn't think I was gonna answer this one, did you?

4) I have power tools and I'm not afraid to use them.

Am making a hobby bench at the moment which is mounted on the wall. Completely from scratch, nothing precut, et cetera. And I need a new drill, too, dammit. Can't install the desk area to the cabinet until I get a new drill. Grrrr.

5) My ex now believes he/she is actually the opposite sex from the one he/she was born as.

I'd say more, but in my opinion, it's a sad situation. Look, I know other people who are transexual and I have no issue with that. I honestly believe some people do have every aspect of the opposite sex except for their outer biology. (And actually, a sex change operation wouldn't work as well if it wasn't for the fact that the body of these true transexuals are actually calling for a hormone that their body can't manufacture ... as a result, you often get the equivalent of a Green Beret who later says, really I'm a girl.)
At any rate, I don't believe my ex is a transexual. My ex is just a very, very confused person and has literally no sense of identity at all.
Like I said, it's a sad sad situation.

6) I taught at the university level for nine years ... bonus points if you can name the class and the university.

I taught at the University of Notre Dame from 1995 until 2004. (What class? Freshman writing, the class everyone loves to hate.)
It was a rather bitter parting ... the unwritten policy at ND now is to not let the first-year students fail a liberal arts class, no matter how badly they do -- as long as they show up and turn something in. Yup. Check out this link on the Notre Dame writing program website.

7) My house was once known as "the place you can stay when you don't have anywhere else to stay."

My ex and I took in our first "stray" within the first six months of living together. I've moved people out of apartments with armed not-quite-exes who weren't happy about the moving; I've taken in people with multiple personalities; I suspect I took in one person who may have been serial killer potential (didn't realize it until later); I've taken one person in on at least three separate and extended occasions.
Guess I'm just a sucker.

8) A tornado once moved the back wall of my house about one inch away from the rest of the house. We simply patched up the gaps with drywall on the inside and concrete on the outside and gained an extra couple of feet floor space.

But, this did happen to my dad's family in Amarillo, Texas. They didn' have much money ... and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

9) My father was a member of the 101st Airborne and jumped out of planes.

He was called up during the Bay of Pigs invasion, but not actually deployed. He managed to get out in time to miss Viet Nam without getting called back up.

10) All through elementary, junior high and high school, I never received detention.

I was a real goody-goody. I could be onery and hyper ... but not to the point of detention.

11) I have only fallen off my skateboard once -- of course, it was while I was wearing dress pants and I tore out the knee.

I was skateboarding on a Stow-Board, which is a nifty little skateboard that folds up. Unfortunately, it has one minor little flaw -- it has "rails" all along the frame. There's open space between the deck where your feet go and the rails. It's easy to get your foot caught in the rails.
So, late for a meeting, I was speeding across campus on this ill-conceived skateboard and I saw a huge pothole at the end of a down-ramp. Going too fast to move around it, I attempt to do what I always do, run off the board.
My foot got stuck.
Huge skinned knee and ripped out the knee on my best wool dress pants (that I got at GoodWill for like $5).
Why is this the only time I ever fell off? Because my mom told me as a kid that the first time I fell off the skateboard, she'd throw it in the trash. I'm such a dork, I STILL haven't been able to turn that mom-tape off yet.

12) When my elementary school began a bussing program, I was involved in a fight the first time someone picked on another kid for the color of their skin.

Technically speaking, False.
However, you have the right idea if you answered true. My mom was afraid that I would get into just that type of fight, so she pulled me out of public school and sent me to a private school.

13) If I had gone into the military, I wanted to be a fighter pilot ... with a particular eye toward the Blue Angels.

Another trick question. Yes, I did want desperately to be a fighter pilot ... but I really wanted to be a Thunderbird pilot. I've always "hated" the Blue Angels for having better marketing than the Thunderbirds.
If I couldn't do that, I wanted to go into the navy and subs. Subs fascinate me.
Alas, asthma and poor eyesight kept me out of both.

14) The dog we had as a kid was forced to live outside even though she was highly allergic to grass.

How sad is that? I don't know why my parents kept her ... we should have found a family who could let her live inside have her. But, my parents thought keeping her on steroids and then yelling at her for scratching all of her fur out would be an acceptable solution. She never got to come inside except very closely watched during the winter months (and then she was kept in the laundry room, properly locked in).

15) I build furniture for a living now.

I am a copywriter for an online furniture e-tailer, but I don't make any furniture for a living. (Just for fun at home.)

16) I have, in the past, been heavily involved in a live-action role-playing game ... and was one of the "stars" of a demo of that game during the Dallas Fantasy Fair in the early 1990s.

In the early 1990s, some friends began a chapter of NERO and our first event was at the Dallas Fantasy Fair. We had two or three linked rooms and a hallway. We built Orc "jail cells" out of cardboard and I was one of the "star" non-player-characters for the scenario. I thought I had a bit part, but after the first session, the response was overwhelming. Evidently my acting was a huge hit.

17) If I could pick an ethnicity/culture to belong to, I would want to either be Irish or Navajo.

Don't know why, but I've been fascinated with both cultures since I was a tiny kid.

18) I regularly snuck into the high school building early, carefully avoided teachers in the halls, and then snuck into classrooms and changed assignments on the chalkboard.

It's not good to let me get bored. I have a tendency to find something that seems innocuous for me to do. And later other people find out it wasn't such an innocuous thing for me to do ... but too late for them to do anything about it.
I regularly snuck into the high school and changed assignments and somehow -- I really don't understand how -- no one ever figured out I was doing it.

19) The Red Monkey on this page is a piece of computer art that I drew in Macromedia Freehand.

Yep, it's based on a Fisher Price monkey from the circus set, but I did draw him in Freehand. And I'm quite proud of him, obviously. He was the first completely computer drawn piece I did.

20) I was almost kicked out of the Dallas Museum of Art, but I slipped into the crowd and avoided the security guards.

I hate art museums ... I do NOT know how people can spend hours in these places. Give me a good natural sciences museum and I'm lost for days. Art? Not so much. Even when I like the art, I can't stand there and be lost looking at it for more than, what, ten seconds at most? (Just tried counting to 10 ... nope, not even ten seconds. Maybe five on something really big that I really really liked.)
So, we're going through this stupid museum and the first thing we do is look at the modern art. One of the pieces is a red canvas. That's it. It's a canvas that has been painted red. No variations, no shades of red, it's just a red effin' canvas. It's in the Dallas Museum of Art WHY exactly?
Anyhow, I was bored. It's not good to let me get bored.
So, we walk into this exhibit from Egpyt ... far more interesting stuff here, including a mummy. And, across the room is this statue of a woman sittin gon a chair. Her hair, I shit you not, has got to be like 12 feet high.
I shouted, "Look, it's Marge Simpson!" and pointed at the statue. Every child in that place turned and shrieked and began laughing hysterically and asking how the ancient Africans knew about Marge Simpson.
Well, I thought it was funny, anyway. The security guards, not so much.

That's it. More than you wanted to know ... except for #3, anyway.

Tired of the spam comments, so I'm closing the comments on this post ... you can use the contact link or comment on an entry that hasn't been hit so hard by the spam-bots.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:02 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 14, 2005

Truth Or Myth

We are now waiting for Angie to hurry up and make her guesses because she made me promise not to post the answers until after she made her guess. Everyone ... tell Angie to hurry it up. :)

All right, I hate these meme tags, but I can have a little fun with this one, so I'll go ahead and do it.

Charles, the banana-boy from Norway, tagged me. The game is simple ... I list 20 things about me ... you guess what's fact and what's fiction.

1) I was 19 when my first real relationship started and it lasted for 13 years.
2) I did not touch a computer until a year ago and thought they were run by dilithium crystals or something equally Star Trek-like.
3) I am a gay man.
4) I have power tools and I'm not afraid to use them.
5) My ex now believes he/she is actually the opposite sex from the one he/she was born as.
6) I taught at the university level for nine years ... bonus points if you can name the class and the university.
7) My house was once known as "the place you can stay when you don't have anywhere else to stay."
8) A tornado once moved the back wall of my house about one inch away from the rest of the house. We simply patched up the gaps with drywall on the inside and concrete on the outside and gained an extra couple of feet floor space.
9) My father was a member of the 101st Airborne and jumped out of planes.
10) All through elementary, junior high and high school, I never received detention.
11) I have only fallen off my skateboard once -- of course, it was while I was wearing dress pants and I tore out the knee.
12) When my elementary school began a bussing program, I was involved in a fight the first time someone picked on another kid for the color of their skin.
13) If I had gone into the military, I wanted to be a fighter pilot ... with a particular eye toward the Blue Angels.
14) The dog we had as a kid was forced to live outside even though she was highly allergic to grass.
15) I build furniture for a living now.
16) I have, in the past, been heavily involved in a live-action role-playing game ... and was one of the "stars" of a demo of that game during the Dallas Fantasy Fair in the early 1990s.
17) If I could pick an ethnicity/culture to belong to, I would want to either be Irish or Navajo.
18) I regularly snuck into the high school building early, carefully avoided teachers in the halls, and then snuck into classrooms and changed assignments on the chalkboard.
19) The Red Monkey on this page is a piece of computer art that I drew in Macromedia Freehand.
and finally
20) I was almost kicked out of the Dallas Museum of Art, but I slipped into the crowd and avoided the security guards.

Answers will be posted when I have at least 10 comments on this post! :)

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:58 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 10, 2005

Subjective Time

I have online in some capacity or another since at least 1993. At that time I played a MUD (yeah, one of the early online D&D style games) called MUDdog. It was fun ... interacting with people from all over the United States ... and a small handful of folks overseas. (This is going somewhere specific -- hang on.) After that, I joined a couple of email lists and while I missed the instant interaction (and the game), this was also a fun way to intereact with people I would probably have never met. I learned a lot. In fact, a group of us formed "The Banshees" from one of those email lists -- just a group of online friends who emailed constantly. And, in the early days of the web, I made friends with people from South Africa and Wales ... just because they'd been to my website.

Today, of course, the internet crosses a lot more boundaries than back in the days of watching each character come onto the screen as the other person typed it in (and watching the cursor go back a space as that person corrected a typo).

Now with chatrooms, IRC, AIM and other instantaneous multiple connection programs, I meet more and more people from around the world. I regularly talk with folks from Norway, China, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, the U.K. and there are probably more folks that I don't even recall are from other countries.

And I have to wonder this --
Do people who grew up reading science-fiction and fantasy have an easier time dealing with the idea of subjective time?

I mean, I catch myself every morning starting to say "good morning" to everyone on the ShoutBox. But it's not morning for everyone else. In fact, it's at least 5 hours later there for most people than it is for me. Some of them it's more like 10 or 12 hours later ... they're getting ready to go to bed.

I can remember all the SF books I read where the author talked about how subjective time was. How it could be day on the planet, but subjective night on the spaceship ... and the spaceship folks would simply adjust to the planetary time out of courtesy. (Most of the time.)

I find it interesting just how often I call on the SF books I've read over the years to guide my interactions with other people -- and not just in a geek way! :)
It's just that SF has dealt with how we deal with "the other," be that other a new race, a new species or the guy in the next country over and I've seen these authors play out what happens if we're not all respectful of each other (which I do NOT consider the same as not saying what you think).

Quick Survey:
1) How do you deal with the international realm of the internet? Is English your first language?
2) How would you feel if the bulk of the internet was written in Gaeilge or Estonian instead of English? What if the Russians had perfected computers and refined intranets to the point of the internet first?
3) Would more countries be learning Russian or Gaeilge or Estonian?
4) Have you ever read much sci-fi?

Inquiring minds wanna know!!

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:09 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 7, 2005

skritter, skritter

My house was built in 1952 and it's got some interesting quirks to it. For example, our basement is finished -- not drywall finished, but there's a good tile floor and a drop ceiling and one room is panelled. But to get to the basement, you have to go outside to the garage, then down the stairs and into the basement. Quirky. And the garage is cold, too.

We have a new roof on the house and yet, last winter we had the mutant chipmunk from hell nesting in the loose, blown insulation. We never did catch him, although we did see him climbing the outside walls of the house and eventually managed to plug where he was coming in at.
Why was he the mutant chipmunk from hell? He ate the poison bait we put down and it didn't kill him ... he just looked like he was a chipmunk colored baseball that summer.

So, I was less than pleased when again as this winter begins, I could hear that skritter, skritter through the insulation above my head. This time, instead of mousetraps (which he just ate the peanut butter off of) or poison bait (which just made him fat), we put down two glue traps.

Now look, I like chipmunks. They are one of my favourite little critters. I think they're adorable.

But at 4 a.m., going skritter, skritter above my head enough to actually wake me up? Not so much anymore.

I thought about live traps, but in doing research in ridding ourselves of these things I discovered they wander for about 17 miles or so. Releasing him 20-25 miles away ... I no longer thought they were all that cute.

So, I put the glue traps out last night. I checked today after work -- no surprise, one of the traps had been pulled partway into the insulation, no chipmunk. I pick that trap up and move it to another area, hoping to still entice the little bugger.

Second trap. No chipmunk.

It's a terrified little mouse.

Now I don't know why that made a difference. I was steeled for the chipmunk. The mouse threw me.

Suffice it to say that after much internal debate over the best way to dispose of the poor little guy ... I did eventually take care of it.

I'm just hoping that's the only one.


Posted by Red Monkey at 2:27 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 5, 2005

Bluff on Fifth Street


No matter how many success stories like Lance Armstrong's that we hear, the word just terrifies most people. They'd rather turn away if it hasn't yet touched them directly.

This is not to say that they don't care or that they don't help out the local cancer society or Relay for Life when it comes around locally. They do care, but many of them don't understand that it's not CANCER every time any more. Sometimes it's just Cancer. Sometimes it's just cancer.

No one in my family -- that I know of -- has ever had cancer. I was just the "lucky" one. Actually, my family is probably lucky that I'm the one who got it because while I tend to get really ODD things (Hodgkin's is pretty rare -- only about 7500 new cases a year in the U.S.), I also tend to stubborn them out.

I was the kid in third grade who would get an asthma attack running the mile we were supposed to run in P.E. every week. I'd have to stop, take my inhaler (which were NASTY things back in the day) and then walk for a while. Then, being stubborn, I'd start running again, trying to catch back up. Repeat until the mile was run. And I never gave up on trying to do every physical activity, asthma attack or not. Went on to be a decent athlete in junior high and high school before my mom had finally had enough of "humouring" me and forced me to quit athletics.

You know how other people get a heat rash? Not me, so much. Instead, I get a cold rash. I am, according to my allergist, allergic to the cold. But cold is relative. It can be 65 degrees in the house and I'll start getting the rash on my fingers.

I get weird stuff. But I'm also stubborn enough and determined enough to say, yeah, whatever. So I got dealt some crappy cards ... you know what, I'm gonna bluff this hand and see what happens.

And I'm lucky enough and determined enough that so far, every bluff I've tried has worked.

What I don't get ... and what pisses me off to this day is this: I got the first chemo treatment I needed because my friends told me not to worry about the money. If it had been up to me, I would have tried to completely bluff the Hodgkin's (not knowing then that's what it was).

I was working full-time (even though the job was technically not classified as full-time -- this is a problem at a LOT of universities). I was working at the University of Notre Dame, a school that talks long and often about what a great family they are, how they take care of everyone in the family. But I had no health insurance.

I have seen them raise money for students in need. I witnessed them raise money for a staff member with throat cancer.

A few beloved professors of mine donated some money to me to try to help defray expenses -- and I want to make it clear just how incredibly grateful I am to Valerie (who organized it), Sonia, Seamus and those other folks who pitched in to help out.

The university did nothing.

Meanwhile, the local state school had an adjunct who fell ill. Yep, got one of the Cancers. The whole school ran fundraisers to try to help this guy out.

The hypocrisy of Notre Dame obviously still bothers me.

But it goes deeper than that. I was working full-time. I never stopped working through chemo. When I did land a full-time job the next year and then needed a bone marrow transplant, I only took one semester off teaching. I still went to work every day. I did all sorts of things for the department -- I worked my ass off for them.

But I didn't qualify for any aid programs, federal or local private. The Medicaid office told me if I would just quit working, they'd take care of all my treatments and I wouldn't have run up over $60,000 in medical bills.

Meanwhile, the doctor who I'd been going to with symptoms for two whole years? Still has a thriving practice in town. I got lucky that I went to Med Point. If I'd continued going to him, I'd have been dead in another month or two. If that long.

This is a doctor who is not allowed to practice in ANY of the local hospitals. This is a doctor who, when I tell his name to the local pharmacies, they all give me THAT look. "Him? Oh he's awful!"

So the local health practitioners know he sucks. But he's still practicing medicine?

Why didn't I sue him for malpractice and make him pay for my chemo bills?

Look, I'm not really the suing type. But, I don't have a medical degree. I don't know what was wrong with me, just that something wasn't right. I told him all the symptoms -- and they were classic cancer symptoms. He should have caught the problem. He failed to do so for two full years. He really ought to be liable.

I tried to open a malpractice suit.

No doctor in the area would agree to go on record about this man's medical practices.

They sent my files to Indianapolis.

Here's the catch in malpractice suits in Indiana. The malpractice has to affect your overall outcome. In other words, if his missing the Hodgkin's had affected my prognosis, I could sue. This guy missed it and let the disease progress to stage 4 (of 4 stages). It was bad enough that while the initial chemo helped, I relapsed within a year and needed a bone marrow transplant.

But, I lived. And Hodgkin's can be stopped even from stage four.

So, the doctors in Indianapolis agreed that this doctor was negligent in the extreme. But, because my overall prognosis was probably good, no lawsuit.

Never mind the fact that if he'd caught it earlier, we might have been able to get away with some radiation and a little chemo and been done with it. I probably wouldn't have been hospitalized and I probably wouldn't have had a bone marrow transplant.

Negligent, but not malpractice.

I hear all the time about these "frivolous" lawsuits against doctors and how we need to protect the doctors from the frivolous malpractice suits ... and I agree, in theory.

But I also think that patients need some protection from negligent doctors.

And I think that's it's criminal that so many people are forced to choose between their health and making a living. It's criminal how much some of these treatments are ... treatments that people need to have in order to just live.

But ... I don't know what the answer to the problem is. I'm not gonna pretend that I do. I don't think a completely capitalist health system leads to better health care for all. I know how U.S. doctors feel about socialized medicine. I'm not sure that's a great answer either. I know I like the concept better than what we have now ... that doesn't mean that in practice it will actually be a better deal.

I suppose the question that we have to come to grips with is this: do we have a right to quality health care? And when I ask this, I mean everyone. I don't mean just those people who can afford to go to the Mayo Clinic.

If I hadn't had health insurance when I needed the bone marrow transplant, I wouldn't be here today. The hospital flat out told me that if I couldn't prove I could pay for it, they would NOT do the transplant. I'd be dead.

I think I contribute well to society. I taught freshman writing at Notre Dame for nine years. For most of those years I got between $12,000 and $18,000 a year, with no health benefits. When I was hired full time, I started at $25,000. The last year of the four years I taught full time, I made a touch over $30,000. (The base pay was normalized my second-to-last year at $30,000.) For a college instructor. I was never making great money. Not bad money there at the end, I'm not really complaining.

But think about it for a minute. If I had a professional job and was making $12,000 to $18,000 a year with no benefits ... how many other people are in that boat? How many of them are not getting good health care because they can't afford it?

Why is it fair that an executive VP of a hardware company can make $100,000 a year and get great health insurance and great health care -- but a teacher gets, at best, okay health coverage and maybe $30,000 a year?

Again, I don't claim to know the answers. I'm just saying that I'm dissatisfied with the ones we have right now. We're not doing enough to fix this. And I think we need to.

I was lucky. Damn lucky. I tried to bluff on the fifth street and my friends called the game off and made me go to the doctor before I lost all my chips.

Who do we know who's trying to make the same bluff because there doesn't seem to be any way to call off the game?

How many of us out there have already lost all their chips because of this bluff?

How do we define fair when talking about a person's "right" to live? Is it a right? Should it be?

I don't know.

Think about it.

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November 4, 2005

November 4, 1968

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:11 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

kicked ---> c (part four)

I had my ... let's say procedure ... done at the IU Med Center in Indianapolis. Absolutely great facility, but I have two bones to pick with them.

It just scares people when you call it a bone marrow transplant. Don't call it that. Really, what they did was to make my body produce more white blood cells and then they harvested them. See, in the white blood cells are some little stem cells ... essentially these are "young" blood cells that haven't decided what they're gonna be when they grow up. After harvesting my stem cells, they froze them and gave me some time to recover. (I didn't feel like I needed it, but it let me finish out the semester, so I won't complain.)

Then there was a 3-day stint in the hospital -- this was a preliminary "test" to make sure the chemo regimen was going to work. More recovery time.

Then the "transplant" that's not really a transplant. Back to the hospital. This time, they said "Prepare to be here for a minimum of three weeks and it will more likely be four or more weeks."

Holy crap. You mean I gotta stay in ONE LITTLE ROOM FOR THREE WEEKS????

Notice I didn't even entertain the notion that it might be longer than that.

So, I prepared. I brought a copy paper box full of video tapes. I brought a suitcase literally filled with books. I brought my computer and bullied them into getting me a temporary university email account. (Gotta have online access!) I brought a box filled with my hobby supplies. I brought the big-ass LEGO model of the Star Wars X-wing fighter. (It had like a 1000 pieces to it. At least. I thought that might take me most of a week.) We had to go to the adjoining Riley Children's Hospital and borrow a little red wagon to haul all my crap to the tiny hospital room.

Bone Marrrow Transplant = 3 days of intense chemo that I don't remember + wait for all my bone marrow to die from the chemo + get a transfusion of my own stem cells + wait until bone marrow regenerates from the stem cells.

That's it. That's not a transplant!! A transplant involves moving crap from one person to another. Liver transplant, kidney transplant, heart transplant. Bone marrow's a cake walk.

Beef #2
Dear GOD, but their food SUCKS!
(I know, people on chemo don't usually want food. I did. But their food was awful -- and they kept trying to feed me things that I was allergic to like green beans.)

I was outa there in under 3 weeks.
They said it was the easiest transplant they'd ever seen.

I just thought it was three weeks of boredom.

Another two weeks or so at home where I couldn't go out in public without a surgical mask. Then I was home-free. And, of course, I was up at work every day as soon as I could shed that stupid surgical mask.

Now when I tell people that I'm a cancer survivor, they're stunned. I'm still young(ish -- and I act younger than I am, most of the time). I don't have those haunted "survivor" eyes.

And when people who know about the Hodgkin's ask me in that peculiarly pensive way, "How are you?" I'm generally puzzled. I forget why they're concerned about my health.

I don't think about the cancer all that often. On occasion when I'm really tired or feeling a little bit anemic, I have a brief moment of wondering, but then it passes.

What the hell, I kicked it to the curb twice already. I think I've established my position on the issue -- Hodgkin's isn't wanted here.

Tomorrow .... one last post about attitudes toward cancer and health in general.

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November 3, 2005

The Big C - part three

So, in 1999, I had no health insurance, had been going to the doctor for two years with off and on symptoms and over Thanksgiving was hospitalized for what I eventually found out was Hodgkin's disease. Six months of chemo later, I was healthy ... and totally broke.

I had kicked the Big C. I now had a full-time job (with health insurance -- finally). I could get on with being a young 30 something. I was in my profession, I was well, the world couldn't get better.

My oncologist was really pleased with the way I took to the chemo and then he started giving me some more details.

When I was first diagnosed, he told me I was on the cusp between Stage 3 and Stage 4 (4 being the worst). The cancer was all through my body and likely had been for quite some time. Now he was admitting that I had probably been Stage 4. In fact, I think he was afraid at the time that the cancer was just too pervasive to respond to treatment.

Of course, everyone put it down to my attitude. I didn't think I had an "attitude" about the cancer.

See, in everything I had ever read about cancer and leukemia as a kid talked about people visualizing getting rid of the tumour or cancer. I never did any of that.

For me it was just a matter of course -- you get sick, you go to the doctor, get your meds, and get better. That's how things work. And, really, since I'd had allergy shots between the ages of 3 and 10, going in to the office every other week for a 2 hour chemo session just seemed like "grown-up" allergy shots. No biggee.

At a checkup in November -- a year after the diagnosis -- I mentioned to the oncologist that I had a sore spot at the joint between the leg and groin on my right leg. He examined it and said it was probably just scar tissue -- I'd had a lymph node that was so swollen the previous year that he felt sure the tenderness and small lump was due to scarring.

But, he wanted to be sure.

More testing. CAT scan -- yep, something's there.
PET scan -- definite "hot spots."

The Hodgkin's was back.

This time, the treatment was more serious. I'd had a relapse before a full year had been up (from the end of the chemo treatment). This was serious news. The prognosis was still good ... but this time I needed a bone marrow transplant.

I begged them to put it off until the end of the spring semester. They frowned. As it turned out, it took that long before they were ready for me.

But one of the hardest things I've ever had to do was to talk to my students and tell them that I might not be able to finish the whole semester out and that I would be having to go in for chemo. They were frightened, most of them.

I did finish out the semester -- took one week of chemo during spring break -- every day for four days I was there for about 5-6 hours. The fifth day was just 2 hours of plain saline drip. The second week-long chemo session took place a month later. Somehow, I talked the nurses into letting me start chemo right at 8 a.m., unhook in time to go teach -- drink lots of fluids during class -- and then come back to the clinic after I'd taught and finish up the chemo.

No one could believe that I would do that.

Why not?

I felt fine. Chemo didn't make me sick like it does a lot of people. I had a job to do. I had a responsibility to my students. Why wouldn't I go to work if I could????

At any rate, I finished up the semster and got ready for the transplant.

The cool thing is, bone marrow transplants aren't nearly so bad as they used to be. Sometimes they can even do them outpatient.

to be continued tomorrow ...

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:31 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 2, 2005

C, the Scariest Letter - part two

(First part of this entry should be just below ... C, the Scariest Letter.)

So, I'm in the hospital, it's the day before Thanksgiving, I'm getting five units of blood (which makes everyone think I'm wearing make-up -- yeah, right) and I still don't know what's wrong with me.

I didn't sleep that night. Not out of fear, actually. Probably because all of the blood gave me an energy I hadn't had in months. Plus, the hospital had cable.

I watched cartoons all night long. :)

Thanksgiving was dull. I had a few people trickle in, but most were out with their families. Still no idea what was wrong with me. The oncologist admitted that it was likely a lymphoma. Either high grade (the "good" kind, evidently) or low grade. His bet was on low grade since I'd had symptoms for two years. This would probably mean that I had a few months left at best.

So, the other thing I did that night was to start a will. I didn't have that sense of gloom and doom that a lot of people talk about. I didn't rail against the unfairness of it all. Whatever -- shit happens and I rolled snake eyes. Whining about it doesn't make it go away ... I just did what I could, which wasn't much.

I considered calling my mom, but what could she do? Why ruin her Thanksgiving by telling her I'm in the hospital 1000 miles away? Besides, without the test results, what could I really tell her? So, I waited.

Friday. No news. Severe boredom. TV and books. I probably graded some student papers. I wanted to GO!

I'm not a good sick person.

Saturday. I still hadn't slept. Now it was because there was some weird guy who came in to clean in the evening.

Finally, Saturday afternoon ... diagnosis. Now, you have to understand, no one in my family had ever had cancer. All I knew about cancer was from Eric by Doris Lund -- a 17 year old is diagnosed with Leukemia. And then, of course, best football movie ever: Brian's Song about Brian Piccolo from the Chicago Bears.

My diagnosis: Hodgkin's disease.

Exactly what Brian Piccolo had. So I pretty much assumed this meant I was a goner. I nodded, kind of made a wry face and that was that. The nurse saw the look on everyone's face and said, "Oh no, no! This is the good one!! This is the best one to have!"

And then went on to explain that Hodgkin's has a 75% cure rate.

As it turns out, I had cancer-lite. The chemo barely affected me at all. I had the chemo Saturday or Sunday and went home (finally!) Monday afternoon. I was mad because I had to miss my classes that day -- I was ready to get back to teaching.

I went in for chemo every other week, sat there for 2 hours of intense boredom (I tried to grade student papers but that didn't really help the boredom!). I had no idea that chemo still made people sick.

Shoot, the first chemo session in the clinic, I brought in Popeye's spicy chicken and ate lunch during my chemo session. (Hey, I was in between classes and still had to go back and teach that day.)

When the six months of chemo were over, I was golden. Or so I thought.

to be continued tomorrow ...

Posted by Red Monkey at 2:33 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

C, the Scariest Letter

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ update 7:45 a.m. est


The word seems to scare the hell out of most people.

And there's this feeling that you're "safe" from it until you're at least 40-something. Sure, younger people get it. But you won't until at least then. Sure, there's Lance Armstrong -- but he was kind of a fluke. And a good thing he was an endurance athlete used to pushing through the pain. Of course, his yellow bracelets are everywhere now, trying to make people more aware, not of cancer, but of survivorship.

But, there's still this feeling that it's a death sentence ... or at least that you'll have a lot of pain and suffering and ... well, not to be too delicate about it, vomiting. There's still this feeling that if you have ever had cancer, you'll have some kind of unearthly mark on you that shows others the hell you've been through.

None of those things are necessarily true. And as we head deeper into November this year, I'm reminded of that more so than any other year since my diagnosis.

In fact, I felt so much better after chemo started that I was intensely relieved to have gotten a diagnosis ... finally. I was 31. My oncologist figured I'd probably had the disease for two years at that point.

I'd been going to my doctor about every other month with a new set of fevers and apparent sinus infections. He'd throw some antibiotics my way. I'd feel better for a few weeks and then relapse. Call him back, get more antibiotics. I had no health insurance and the price of the medicines and constant doctor visits were killing me.

Actually, his refusal to even run a simple blood test was killing me.

Then, the Monday before Thanksgiving, while teaching class, I felt really horrible. The room was spinning. Since my students were working on their papers, I sat down for most of the hour. When I finally went home, my fever was 103.7. It broke a few minutes later, but I left for a "doc-in-the-box" at the local MedPoint.

Dr. Bogan took one look at me, drew blood, shoved the tech out of the way and ran the test himself. This 70-something doctor in semi-retirement was scared. I listened at my door -- grateful it was right next to the nurse's station so I could hear something -- and listened to him chew my regular doctor a new one.

My hemoglobin was a 5.8. You can die in the 4 range.

Later, I found out that Doc Bogan said he could see the outline of my spleen through my t-shirt.

So, I was sent back to my doctor the next morning. He was sweating bullets -- literally, the sweat was rolling down his neck with each question he asked me. And I gave him the same answers I'd been giving him for two years. Two years as I feared I had some kind of nasty systemic infection.

Yes, the rash was itchy.
Yes, the rash was more itchy after a shower.
Yes, I was waking up in the middle of the night after my fever broke -- drenched in sweat.

And the one that always pissed me off:
Yes, I was sure it wasn't AIDS ... I'm in one of the absolute lowest risk groups.

He called another doctor. Set up an appointment for me for the next day and he was upset that I couldn't be worked in that day. He told me he'd treat me for free if I had anything he could help with, a cold, the flu, whatever. Then he told me, "If he suggests you go to the hospital ... go." Oh hell.

Wednesday. Trip to the blood specialist. I still don't know what I have. He goes over my history. He blanches when I say I've had these symptoms for two years. It's not an obvious paling -- he's got a good patient manner. But I can tell. This is not good.

Bone marrow is drawn. Not quite as painful as I'd expected ... they use good drugs now. That's done. We still don't know what I have, we have to wait on the results.

"Which hospital do you prefer?" the doctor asks.

"I dunno, why?"

"Well, we need to take a lymph node and pump you full of blood."

"Umm, okay. I'll pick St. Joe." It's just a few blocks from my house. Without health insurance, despite working at the University of Notre Dame, it doesn't really matter which hospital I pick.

He expects me to go straight to the hospital instantly.

"Can't I go home and get some stuff first?"

He doesn't want to let me go home even for a minute. I do anyway, after convincing him that I live around the corner. I get some books, some things to do. Clothes.

And then I'm whisked to the hospital and into surgery. They hesitate. I'm still running a mild fever and took Advil just hours before. I assure them I've got another 15 minutes before the fever breaks. The nurse is unsure. "We can't wait more than 15 minutes or we'll lose the operating time slot." She considers cancelling the surgery. My fever breaks right on time.

When I come to, they're giving me a blood transfusion. In all, I get 5 units of blood. I've been pale for so long, everyone who comes to see me assumes I must -- for some very strange reason -- be wearing lipstick and rouge.

Nope. That's just the fresh blood coursing through the veins in my face.

continued again later today ...

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:27 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 29, 2005


This is Scraps at just about two or three months.

As you can see from this picture, Scraps is fond of the teeny Beanie Babies that we get from the Goodwill quarter bin. In fact, when I first brought him some of these teenie beanies, I'd found a black and tan doggie that became Puppy. Every other teeny beanie would be vigourously "killed," chomped on and, most disturbing, the eyes chewed off. Except for Puppy. Scraps would take care of Puppy, he gave Puppy the place of honor (tummy up in front of the refrigerator vent -- I don't know why, but it was one of his most favourite places as a pup).

In fact, as he got a little older, the imagination play became more pronounced. By about four months, he was teaching things to Puppy. He put Puppy in his full food bowl (before he even ate dinner!) and sat there for a minute. Then he grabbed Puppy by the scruff of the neck and placed him on the puppy training pad. Because, you know, after you eat, you go potty.

The cutest thing, though, was the day he "taught" Puppy to play tug of war. He went across the house, grabbed his rope and lined it up carefully with Puppy. He laid down across the rope from Puppy and carefully, carefully grabbed the fringy rope ends and growled quietly. He'd shake the fringes a little bit, but not enough to really move the rope much. Eventually, he'd let go and pounce at Puppy, growling and play-yipping a little, then grab the rope with a huge shake of the head and run around the room like he'd just won the game. A few minutes later, he'd come back to Puppy, carefully line the rope up and begin the whole process again.

Of course, eventually, we had to get him his own puppy for real. It got to the point that if we touched a puppy -- particularly if we touched another dachshund puppy -- he'd go crazy looking through our clothes for the puppy that he was sure we'd brought him. If we petted a full-grown dog, he'd sniff the clothes or hands with interest, but not go so crazy as when it was a puppy.

Then we got Scout.

This is her at ten weeks. She was the tiniest puppy I'd ever seen. She could sit in the palm of your hand with room left over. And, when we took her and Scraps to the park the second week we had her, someone gave her a drink of water out of the cap to a little water bottle. One capful was enough for her!

Scraps thought we'd brought him the best present ever. He dutifully chased all his kitties far, far away from "his" baby. In fact, he could barely let us near her. He'd hover over her, clean her and cuddle her every minute. It took about two to three weeks before he could finally let her wander more than a few inches away from him.

He soon learned that Scout was not nearly so compliant as Puppy had been.

In fact, she was rather opinionated.

He is still often confused by the fact that she runs around like a mad thing just about bedtime. He's disturbed by her behaviour and often gives us a quizzical look -- "Why is she so defective?" After all, good hounds should be lazy and sleepy. Her insistence on sounding the hound's "rooooooo" also highly disturbs him. She can't quite pull off a bugle, but she does try every once in a while. Her other odd behaviour is her tendency to "rabbit." She'll sit up on her hindlegs and then move her little forelegs up and down like a rabbit.

Much as Scraps still adores and watches after his little sister, the most disappointing thing is that she doesn't play tug. She'll snag a toy away from him and run off -- her version of keep-away -- but if he gets ahold of the toy and pulls, she immediately lets go. He's always crushed when she does.

But he's devoted to her anyway. And every time we take them out in public or for a walk, most people ask if he's the mommy -- he hovers over her like a mother-hen.

She might be more defective than the Puppy that only moved when he moved it, but she's his baby.

(Yes, they are both miniature dachshunds and weigh about 10-11 pounds apiece.)

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October 27, 2005

It's Official

I am now officially old. Nope, it's not my birthday (that's November 4th).

You see, I'm a geek. I know that. I'm fine with it. I enjoy being a geek -- it's fun.

But the other day, I was on the shoutbox over at BlogExplosion and discovered just how old I am. I started one of those, "Well, in my day" stories.


It started out innocently enough. CharlesGwapo23 on the shoutbox began talking about playing some "old school" RPGs. (Role-playing games, for you non-geeks out there.) I began bemoaning the fact that I haven't played a good RPG in ages.

Turns out this guy was talking about computer games. And not like Bard's Tale from the Commodore-64, either. He was talking about old Playstation 1 games ....

And my first response was, "Well, back in my day we couldn't just play an RPG. We had to find people to play with, buy the dice, the character sheets, the little guys, the paints to paint the miniatures with, drive waaaay out to the local D&D club ...."

He pointed out that he'd never even played with paper and dice.

Now I admit I'm getting older. I'll be 37 next Friday. But the last place in the world that I expected to be one of the "old group," was talking about role-playing. I mean, it's a universal geek-thing. And this self-proclaimed RPG geek had never played the "old-fashioned" way. Holy crap.

Makes me wonder what the defining moment/event/conversation has been for other people. And what it will eventually be for Charles and his PS1 rpgs? "We actually had to use a DVD, if you can imagine that. We didn't have these fancy hologram rooms to play in." ????

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:04 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 14, 2005

Caption Contest Winner

And the winner of the caption contest is ...

The winning blogger was Thordora at Spin Me I Pulsate.

Ahh, I can just hear the drunken remorse now ... "You said you were my friend, but I just ... one more? Just one more, you say? Well ... *urp* I guess one more wouldn't hurt."


"I was wrong. Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh."

Thanks to everyone who tried to cheer up my day. :)

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:21 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 11, 2005

Make Me Smile

So work is rapidly deteriorating, which, combined with the time of year, is really making me wish I was still teaching. Rather than whine about that, I give you a caption contest. This is another one of the photos I took at the Brookfield Zoo this summer.

I'll post the best caption by Friday.

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:27 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 10, 2005

The Fifth Season

October is creeping along and it's certainly gotten to the point here in Indiana where I probably ought to be wearing a jacket to work in the mornings. This is always a warning to me that I'm heading into that fifth season of the year: Birthday Season.

You see, my mom's birthday is the 20th, my sister's is the 22nd, my aunt's is the 24th and my partner's is the 26th. And then mine's November fourth. (And then my dad's followed up on the fifteenth.)

Like I said, Birthday Season.

In fact, as a kid, I didn't quite look forward to my birthday in quite the same way as other kids did. I saw October as No Money Month instead of seeing it as the impending arrival of Halloween, even though at that time I only had to worry about Mom's and my sister's birthdays (and then, after a little breather, Dad's).

Today I see October as the month to begin the annual harrangue for wish lists and the beginning of the internet shopping frenzy. You see, I canNOT buy presents early. In fact, I've been known to purposefully put off Christmas presents until December 24th. In fact, the days before Christmas are generally filled with this comment:
"Don't you wanna open up just one present now?"
"Are you sure? Just one present. Come on, open just one."

I can wait for my presents, but I can't wait to give a present. I want to see that person's face now, not in a month. Hence, the internet is perfect for me. I can watch as Amazon and other sites post in huge letters: Order by December 18 to ensure delivery by Christmas.

Besides, it's always better to shop from your recliner and find exactly what you're looking for rather than fighting through the unwashed masses as they stumble their way from shop to shop getting crankier and crankier. And who wants to drive in that traffic, anyway?

See, to me, I'd rather be happy during the holiday season rather than stressed out and cranky. Makes it a little bit easier for me to act with kindness and charity as the season tries to get us to do, rather than fight tooth and nail for the last best and greatest present. (Anyone remember the fights over Cabbage Patch dolls and Tickle-Me-Elmo?)

And, honestly, I'd rather do away with the tradition of gift-giving on a particular day anyhow. It's so much more meaningful when you see something that your sister or partner or kid would like, that you just get it and surprise them.

My two cents. What do you think?

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October 8, 2005


Following up the Koala that wandered up an Australian's driveway, here's one of my favourite pictures from this summer's visit to the Brookfield zoo -- it's particularly perfect for a nice, lazy Saturday afternoon.

Yawn, I'm sleepy

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October 6, 2005

Morning Driveway

Well, I discovered this early this morning. It's a link from Tuttle's page and I just had to share.

Here's a nice close-up of the driveway discovery:

Koala Bear

So, for all of the times that you've awakened to a woodchuck in the driveway and thought, oh crap, I give you something to be greatful for.

And for those of us who've gone up against the woodchuck who thought he could take on a big-ass Buick LeSabre and win, all I gotta say is, Woodchuck go squish, but I'm thinking the Koala might win against the LeSabre!

(And, no, I did NOT squish the woodchuck. Any critter that rises up on the hind legs to challenge the LeSabre must have a secret weapon and I didn't wanna know what that would be!!)

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September 26, 2005

a disarming day

According to the BBC News, the "IRA 'has destroyed all its arms.'"

Since I was a little, little kid and decided that I was Irish (digging around in either side of the family tree was largely discouraged), I've been fascinated with the IRA. It was quite easy for me to see the injustice of how the English had treated the Irish, and for so very long. After all, the English are the bad guys in our own American story, so why should they have treated the Irish any better? (And later, I would find out it was also the Indians, the Welsh, the Scots, and a host of others as well.)

With that righteous indignation of a kid who does not know the whole story, I quickly decided that I would love to run away and join the Irish Republican Army and fight for justice against the oppressors. Of course, things weren't exactly that simple.

I'm excited today that the IRA did what it said it would do: decommission their arms. I worry, though, about the Unionists. For every gun or piece of armament the IRA was able to sneak into the country, the Unionists were sneaking in, by some estimates, three or four weapons as soldiers looked the other way.

But after the last few years of violence, I fear that the misguided Unionists who armed themselves in response to the IRA (who, to be fair, armed themselves against the extreme conditions perpetrated by the British army) are determined to keep the violence continuing.

Of course, that's what starts arms races, isn't it? That bone-chilling fear that the other guy has more arms or better arms and a willingness to use them against you.

So what ends an arms race? Blowing each other up will certainly end it. Generally considered bad form, but it does end that particular issue. Of course, you better make sure you eradicate everyone on the "Zooks'" side (to borrow from Dr. Seuss) or else you'll have a new generation of Zooks ready to nuke you later on.

What's another solution?
The one we see in cop shows. You know, where the cop talks the other dude into putting his gun down.

Why does he do it? He knows he's going to go to jail. He knows he's going to be punished for using or threatening to use that gun. But he puts it down.

He puts it down because to not do so is to court mutual destruction. Maybe he can shoot the cop before the cop shoots him ... maybe the cop's buddy will shoot him after anyway.

The IRA disarmed in hopes of getting the Unionists to disarm ... not in hopes of getting the British army to disarm, but so that the rival gang will also follow suit. Otherwise, the IRA and the Unionists will surely continue destroying what's left of Belfast, Londonderry and the six counties.

It's a scary moment, putting that weapon down. You've made yourself vulnerable. Trusting it's the right move. Trusting the others not to immediately kill you. Trusting that you won't have to defend yourself again.

Which takes more courage? To put that gun down or to shoot the man in front of you before he shoots you?

Yeah, I worry about the northern six counties quite a bit. But even though I think that neither violence nor peace solves everything, I do think the IRA made the right move. The political climate in the world at large more favours fair treatment of the Irish now than at any other time. And if the Unionists continue to make trouble, even the English people are ready to abandon the Unionists and let Ireland go completely.

Of course, the Unionists know this too. They've got to be both terrified and full of righteous rage. It's only to be hoped that the gesture of disarmament at least cracks a sliver of doubt into their fear and their rage.

Hopefully there can be a peace to end the terrible beauty and let the island relax at long last.

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September 22, 2005

Exhaustion and Happiness

I'm exhausted -- check out this site:
The Kilted Liberal

I'm still working with my buddy, Andy, to get a few details cleaned up, so it may be another couple of days before I get around to telling the story about the lizard and when me and my friends didn't realize lizard tails are designed to come off (and then regenerate).

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September 17, 2005

Notre Dame Loses

Yeah, so I'm still bitter. But I was really rooting for Michigan State today and I'm ecstatic that they beat the Irish.

Why? Well, Notre Dame let Ty Willingham go too soon. Between Ty and the beleaguered Davies, Notre Dame has made it quite clear that grades are no longer the main concern. I've heard professors, students and alumni all on campus say that it's not the grades or the education any more: it's the winning football games that bring in alumni (and tourist) money.

Notre Dame is fast becoming a football factory. It's not enough to have a winning season as Ty did last year. They have to have a "good" bowl game. They have to have the attention and adulation of everyone around them.

The school's administration is fast turning it into a stereotype of itself: a spoiled brat. And when the administration doesn't get its own way, they take their ball ... and give it to a new coach.

And that's not even mentioning the football alum who said that ND needs to lower their entrance standards for athletes to "get some more minority athletes" into the school. (And then, of course, they let Ty go.)

You know, it wouldn't be quite so bad if Notre Dame was honest about any of this. But to hear ND talk about the ND family ... how they all take care of each other ... then stand idly back and let the students assume that any black student on campus is only there because of sports or affirmative action ... or to ditch Ty after a winning season ... or to claim that the students all worked hard to get into ND, so they shouldn't be allowed to fail any of their freshman liberal arts classes ....
There's just something terribly wrong at the school.

Maybe if they admitted that they're a football factory and that they're in this "higher education racket" for the money and prestige instead of attempting to educate the leaders of the future, none of this would seem so incredibly hypocritical.

Right now, I just hope that the football team loses a lot more games this season. Otherwise, they might just think that their poor education practices and their poor treatment of their "ND family" is being rewarded.

I hope Ty is doing all right. He deserved a lot better than what he got at Notre Dame. And while it grates against my nerves to root against anything Irish (even Notre Dame), I'll be spending the rest of the season hoping this isn't the only loss this season -- the more they lose, the better chance the students will remember they're there to learn and not quite so much to drink and party.

God, I miss teaching.

(And no, I wouldn't ever have been this blunt and bitter with my students. I'd try to get them to think occasionally, but not crush their excitement.)

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September 16, 2005

Weird or Creepy?

Okay, so I was trying to remember something specific and had to go back through my blog looking for what I said about ghosts at one point. So I finally find my Haunted post and literally just finish reading the thing and what song comes on the radio?

Say it with me now.

"Ooooh, I love 'West End Boys.'"

The next song to play? "West End Boys."

Hmmm. Maybe the jukebox shares John's taste in music.

Very odd. It did, of course, only play once or I would have really freaked out.

Maybe I should expect this during the 80s lunch time program, but I've been listening for weeks and never heard them play that one.

And this comes after my partner and I have had nightmares all night for three nights running. I'd begun wondering, idly, if I'd managed to "call" that @sshole ghost from the haunted house I lived in. Last night, thankfully, was more peaceful, but that's also because we were so tired we slept like baby puppies. You know, that boneless, dead look that exhausted baby creatures do?

Weird, weird, weird.

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September 15, 2005

17 Inches of Happiness

Monday I went to a friend's house plopped a wad of cash down on the counter and left with seventeen inches of pure happiness.

Yep, after struggling with my poor Lombard laptop that's about six or seven years old and so upgraded as to be a freakin' Frankenstein now, I purchased a 17" Mac laptop.

The old machine was (well, it still is) 500 mhz; the new one is at least a gig. Lovely superdrive with CD/DVD burner. LOTS more screen room. Harddrive's about the same size since the ancient Mac is upgraded to an 80 gig.

So, of course I need to move 9million, 7hundred-thousand and 640 files and preferences over to the new machine. *sigh* There's just never enough time to do these things.

While I'm waiting to get that machine up and running, what should I use to personalize the sucker a bit more?


Or Maybe This One????

Or what about this?

And last one I'm thinking about:

What other neat Mac stuff have you discovered for your Mac (the three of you who are Mac users, that is)??? Widget suggestions?

I should be back to my overly lengthy self as soon as I get the computer migrated and the current freelance design project finished.

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September 3, 2005

Dear God

The Red Cross was told to stay out of New Orleans.

The National Guard said they were ready to drop food to New Orleans on Sunday.

Experienced rescue folks have been told to stay away.

Evacuation of the Superdome was halted for a few hours while people who'd been in the Hyatt Regency for the week were taken out ahead of those who'd been in the Superdome for a week.

An 18 year old boy saw an abandoned school bus and used it to transport one hundred people out of New Orleans and into Houston. All the news could report was the bus was unauthorized and call the boy a thief.
Thief? Did he try to keep the damn bus? No. He drove straight to Houston and saved ONE HUNDRED PEOPLE.
But he's black, so he's obviously a thief.

How many are dead who could have been saved even just a few days ago?

As my friend Andy says:
Worst. President. Ever.

But then, this catastrophe couldn't be predicted according to the director of FEMA. Never mind the hundreds of reports fearing exactly this. Never mind the prediction in early 2001 that there were three events which could cripple the U.S.: a terror attack on NYC, catastrophic flooding of New Orleans, "the big one" finally hitting California.

And given our handling of New Orleans, Gulf Port, Star, Bond and the whole of the Gulf Coast region with thousands upon thousands without power, water and food -- given how slow and unprepared we've been, I'd be fleeing California as if it were New Orleans right now.

As so many in Louisiana have said, have been saying for the last week: I can't believe this is the United States.

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September 2, 2005

More on Refuge

If you live anywhere near the Gulf Coast, please, please take in a family. i've seen a few websites and blogs where people are posting their homes and offering to take folks in. Some are asking for a drug test (and is willing to pay for said drug test - so it's not too unreasonable a thing), some are adding in various liability clauses.

This tragedy is only going to be matched by magnanimous hearts.

And a note for the "oh-so-christian" contingent who are NOT opening their homes for refuge to those who've been savaged out of fear for themselves and their families let me remind you of something: Christ NEVER said we'd be safe. In fact, he pretty much guaranteed that if we open ourselves up as he did, we would make ourselves vulnerable and it is quite likely that we'd get hurt, just as he did. That possibility does NOT mean that we shouldn't act.

I'm pissed that Bush isn't offering up his stupid Crawford ranch. He's got plenty of land there. Throw up some huge ass tents for now and then build some bunkhouses. There's plenty of room. Do it. DO SOMETHING!

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Please spread the following as far and wide as possible so that the info gets to those who need it:
There is a property in Oklahoma ready to take in six or so folks from Katrina and they're getting a contractor lined up to convert the garage into a 22 person bunkhouse.
(courtesy WWdN)

The fact that this happens to be a rather well-known fantasy writer and her husband shouldn't be a big deal when hundreds and probably thousands of "regular folks" are also planning on doing the same thing, if they haven't already done so.

In fact, I'm thinking since so many folks are heading into Houston already, shouldn't there be a bunkhouse built in Crawford? We already know that there's puh-lenty of room out there from all the footage we've seen in the last few weeks.

In fact, since Bush seems to think that any time people need a helping hand, the private citizenry will help them out, that specifically Christians will help out those who truly need it, then don't you think it would be a nice gesture -- a concrete act of Christian (I'd say human) charity -- if he'd have a bunkhouse built on the far end of his property?

In fact, since Bush fired Mike Parker, former Republican Congressman from Mississippi, who had been the head of the Army Corps of Engineers and who had publicly criticized his commander-in-chief for cutting funds to projects that might have saved more of this region hit so hard by Katrina. And Parker does NOT claim that the proposed works he'd championed would have completely kept flooding at bay (so to speak), but he does insist that it wouldn't be as bad as it is now.

In fact, many experience firefighters, CERTs and even first responders are being asked to STAY AWAY at this time. According to Larry Dixon, "The high-level dispatch I saw today is, in as many words, "Nobody Goes In" during the continued and perhaps complete, evacuation of the Gulf Coast. The only aid people that are being specifically asked for at the moment, through my channels, are fast water rescue teams."

Part of me wants to scream at that -- we need as many rescue people there as possible, regardless of specialty, don't we?
The fact of the matter is, I don't know what we need there.
My "save the world" instinct and my pragmatic side are battling. But, if you send in someone who doesn't have experience with ... let's say just plain water rescue, will they really know how to keep themselves alive in that toxic soup that has become this region? Will they know that even a bruise might let some of that contaminated water mixed with death mixed with heavy metals mixed with more disease and bacteria and rotten nastiness into their system and kill those who are trying to help?
Again, I don't know.

I'd think at this point we'd want every available and willing person to be near the area and be quickly trained to help out.
But that would mean taking an experienced, veteran rescue worker whose help is desperately needed NOW away from the relief effort in order to teach others. Can we afford the time?
I don't know.

It's really easy to second guess and play armchair quarterback. But most of us don't know enough about relief efforts to do more than open our homes to those seeking refuge from a terrible tragedy.

I've read plenty of blogs supporting every decision Bush has made so far in regard to Katrina's wrath. I've read plenty condemning him. And I've ready plenty of conservative folks who are whining that the liberals a politicizing a natural disaster that no one could have predicted -- or at least politicizing it when "these people" could have evacuated and "chose" not to do so.

Let me say now, Bush is at least partially to blame for the extent of this disaster by his insistence on cutting levee proposals and wetland reclamation projects. His insistence that we did not need to spend money on citizens of the U.S. but instead pick up his Daddy's war has probably cost us a chunk of the coast. His insistence that the National Guard needs to be in Iraq instead of helping our nation here, at home, as they were meant to do, is probably costing us lives and is certainly costing us more damage to the affected region as it takes longer to fix breaches and pump cities dry.

For those of you who think that those who did not heed evacuation orders got what they deserved (sorry I was so mad I didn't save the link to that blog), do you understand how ridiculous that statement is? It borders on the superstitious.
It's a lot like someone saying that God is showing his displeasure with Bush for going into Iraq -- because the last time we went into Iraq (with Daddy Bush), Hurricane Andrew tried to destroy Florida.

Ultimately, I, personally do not know what the answers are. I'm sure that had the work requested to be done in New Orleans been done, things would be bad, but perhaps not so bad that people were told they would not be able to return to their city for months, if ever.

I'm sure scientists are, or will be, analyzing the data and figuring out what would have happened -- they have to do that to know how to better protect New Orleans (and other cities) in the future.

But right now, let's concentrate on the living who are displaced, discouraged and disenfranchised. Let's find them a place to stay for now, a place to live for the next few months. Let's find them some jobs to make up for the ones underwater. Let's help them have as normal a life as they can possibly have at the moment.

And, if any survivor of Katrina reads this and needs a place to stay -- if you can make it to Indiana, I can find a place for a couple of people. It's not much and the most concrete thing I can do now is send bottled water and supplies and money through good organizations out to that area. But the offer is still open, as I'm sure it is in many homes across the U.S.

I'm more concerned about the survivors right now. I think history will condemn the idiocy that made Katrina worse than it had to be. (After all, if the wetlands around New Orleans hadn't eroded away, the storm might have lost more of its force before it hit the city.)
My only concern is that we don't get so caught up in helping those in the present that we forget what bureaucratic mistakes contributed to the mess.

Meanwhile, if you want to give, consider giving to Church World Service -- they're a great organization and they generally stay LONG after everyone else has left -- trying to make sure that everyone is truly back on their feet and not just giving a short term fix.

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August 30, 2005

frickin' frackin'

So my scanner's not talking to my computer, but I did get those pictures taken of my sketches (cartoon stuff -- don't get excited if you prefer "real-life" stuff), but this morning when I tried to email the pictures to one of my web addresses so I could post them during lunch today, the email program crashed.


It's not Thunderbird's fault, either. Mozilla's been good to me. It's just that I'm asking my 6 or 7 year old laptop which has been upgraded more times than Frankenstein or Microsoft Word 0.x that it just doesn't wanna do all the fun multi-tasking among Photoshop, Flash, Dreamweaver, plus the plain old FireFox and Thunderbird. I need a new computer fast before I make this old machine kaput while it tries to do what I ask it to do. It's been a great little workhorse for me. It just needs to go to someone who wants to websurf and write documents and not someone who wants to do intense graphics, website design and the like. Poor little machine.

Anyhow, I'll post those sketches after work today, never fear.

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August 28, 2005

Moveable Type 3.2

So, anyone using Movable Type and has already upgraded to 3.2? I haven't had a chance to look at all the changes yet, and I'm worried about upgrading and then having to completely redo my templates again. This wouldn't worry me too much except I've done so much work for a client recently getting her blog set up that I'm really tired of looking at templates right now. And, actually, my bigger worry is having to redo ANYTHING on my client's site at this point. I've had a blast working on it, don't get me wrong, but if I have to make one more change to every page on the site, I'm gonna scream.
(And Dana, don't worry, yes, I have had fun working on your site and I don't regret taking the job in the slightest. This is *just* venting, okay?)

Anyhow, if you've upgraded and have any horror stories or "no problems here, mate" stories to tell, please leave a comment!

Meanwhile, I'm off to church this morning and then off to Fort Wayne for the McNair something Imaginu!ty workshop. Some kind of creativity workshop with a guy from the old Disney studio. (And for some reason, I haven't looked him up in my animation books yet to see what all he worked on. Hmmm. Interesting lack of curiosity on my part.)

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August 22, 2005

Aries Spears

If you ever get a chance to see Aries Spears performing at a comedy club near you -- GO!

We went to see him Saturday night and it was well worth the $20 bucks a ticket (the extra $5 a ticket was to be guaranteed seating in the first four rows and to not have to stand in line for a ticket the night of the performance).

We wound up sitting in the front row, directly in front of the mic. (Yes, miC, dammit. It's a microphone, not a mikeraphone.) When the security dude seated us, I though, oh crap. We are going to get picked on.

Actually, we were the only people in the front row who did NOT get picked on and it was pretty cool.

You see, South Bend, Indiana, is a town with some serious racial and redneck problems. In fact, I've seen WAAAAAAY more Klan activity here than I EVER saw in Texas. And the Funnybone was full of rednecks Saturday night. The mullet-haired, wife-beater wearing, chain-smoking Camels specimen who was sitting next to me was a prime example. And evidently his wife neglected to tell him that the headliner was a black dude. Talk about changing his body posture. I thought the guy was gonna throw one of his beer bottles at Aries just for being up on the stage.

At any rate, when Aries went into his routine about gays in the news, he got a little startled at the rabid response from the audience. He cut that spiel a little short (the bit about how he doesn't get how guys can be gay because ... well, look at how ugly male genitalia is). In fact, he looked at us when he said his usual "I don't want to offend any gay folks out there," but he wasn't so incredibly obvious about it that mullet-boy got fussy.

I'd seen a fair amount of Aries' material recently in some Comedy Central special or another, but it's really worth it to see him do his impressions in person. It's just hysterical. His material is clever and really well timed and well performed. If you've never seen him on MadTV, make an effort to check him out. It's well worth your time!

Meanwhile, I think he's going to be in a film with Snoop Dog sometime soon! Can't wait -- I just love this guy. (And what's not to love about the incredible Joker tattoo he's got on the left bicep?)

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August 21, 2005


I don't even know what to call this post, so lemme just tell you what happened.

One of our cats is a little bit on the special side. This is a cat who has been an indoor kitty since she was five weeks old (she's now nine years). She has been known to get all four sets of claws stuck in the carpet and stand there and twitch, trying to get free. (And yes, it is hysterically funny to watch her try to get loose.) I have often heard her plaintive mew and come to free one claw from the top of the couch, after she's already jumped to the seat of the couch. She sits there, plaintive and twitching, not really knowing why all of her did not jump to the seat below when she did.

Now, in her defense, I will say she has the most curved and long kitty claws of any cat I've ever seen. But still.

Friday night, Miss Mishu comes walking out of the litter box and her paw makes this funny clunky sound on the hardwood floor. I'm thinking what you're probably thinking: gross. She's probably got some clay stuck in her paw and she's tracking it around.

We'd be wrong.

My next thought is, as I'm getting to glance at her paw before she yanks it away, is that "Oh, she has managed to forget how to retract her claws."

This was also wrong.

Now if you've not been around cats, you might not know this, but cats' claws grow from the inside out and the outer claw is periodically shed.

What I saw on her paw was something I had never even HEARD of:
some of her claws had stopped shedding.

Her claws were growing longer, curved around and were buried in her paw pads! Here's an example of how long her claws had gotten:
This claw is curved into nearly 3/4 of a circle This is a claw that we used some dog clippers and cut off her. Note: this is NOT the entire claw. If you're used to cats, you've seen shed claws that look similar -- Mishu still has more claw on her paw after this bit was cut off. And while this claw has been cleaned up, most of the small, sharp part of the claw was buried in her paw pad. If you look closely at the top of the claw, you'll see a faint line there -- that's one of the newer claws that grew in under the top layer of claw. There are at least 4-6 full-sized claws contained inside this one claw! (We dissected one out of curiosity and found 9 claws inside - only looked like 4 or 5 until we kept peeling more layers away.)

Essentially, she was clawing her own paw pads, just from the way her claws were growing. I have NEVER seen anything like this!

We got two claws cut off and pulled out of the paw pads before we realized what a mess her feet were in. One of the worst paws was nearly split in half -- yet she wasn't limping or acting like she was in any pain! It was at this point: 6:45 on a Friday night, that we realized we couldn't get all of these out outselves -- somehow, two miniature dachshunds milling about the floor, crying and loudly yipping because they couldn't see the surgery and what we were doing to one of their kitties did NOT make Mishu a very calm kitty.

After pulling two of these things out of one paw and realizing that the other front paw was even worse, we figured this was going to be a vet job. Luckily, our vet does have some Saturday hours and luckily, I've been through the rigamarole of a declawed cat before, so I knew the drill for dealing with these sore paws.

We picked up the litterbox, tossed it into the garage and took off for the pet store on the other side of town. Snagged a new litterbox and some of that newspaper pellet litter. And some anti-bacterial spray for her paws.

Walked into the vet's office first thing Saturday morning and announced, "We need an emergency declawing, but it's not what you think."

The receptionist was confused.

"Her claws have grown too long and not shed and now they've grown full circle back into her paw."

The receptionist looked at me as if I'd suddenly grown kitty claws and was insisting that the vet look at me.

The vet tech who first looked at her, though, had actually heard of this before. Seems as some cats get older they just stop shedding their claws as readily. With both of us to hold the cat and the vet tech to snip out the claws, we were finished in about 10 minutes.

They didn't even have to stitch any of the paw pads despite the rather gaping wound in a couple of them -- we're giving her antibiotics for a week and then she should be good as new.

Except we'll be trimming her claws about every two weeks from now on!

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August 18, 2005

Ooooh, a review!

Ooooh, I'm so excited! Blog Advance, a wonderful blog which reviews other blogs, good and bad, reviewed mine today. Check out the review here.

I'm excited. I should be posting the "bad ghost" ghost story some time tomorrow. :)

I know, I know. Like you've all been waiting with bated breath. I'll make it worth the wait.

Meanwhile, I'm still bouncing around after reading my review.

Happy happy joy joy.

Oh, and really, do go over to Blog Advance and read their reviews. You can really find some wonderful blogs there, and you can quickly see what kinds of things turn off readers, too. They're a wonderful resource I fully intend to utilize more fully in the future. Go, go, you'll enjoy it.

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August 14, 2005

hmmm, my first meme

10 Years Ago Today:
I was celebrating L's 27th birthday, and the end of our first full year in South Bend, Indiana, and my first year of graduate school. I was preparing to start my first year of teaching English 109 at the University of Notre Dame. And I was trying to figure out if it was simply my imagination or if we really did have a ghost in the basement.

5 years ago today:
I was still reeling a bit from the breakup. L and I had been "married" for 10 years, but upon her showing me an important diary entry she'd written, I saw clearly that she saw me only as financial stability ... not as a partner.
I had just finished going through chemo every two weeks for Hodgkin's disease (Cancer-lite)
I had gotten my graduate degree and was teaching at Notre Dame, but the job was considered "part time," so I had not had health insurance. But, I had been offered a full time position at Notre Dame that would start in a few weeks. I was ecstatic to be the computer guru for the Writing Program and to be teaching two classes a semester. I thought I had finally arrived where I wanted to be. My salary? $25,000 a year. Oh, and it actually wound up being $24,999.98 that first year. No idea what happened to the extra two cents.
Oh, and there really were multiple ghosts in the basement of the house. Everyone who'd been over to the house more than once had heard them and/or seen things get knocked over. They never did show themselves. It was creepy!

1 year ago today:
I was unemployed. I'd been told in February that my services were no longer needed at ND. The administration felt that so long as students showed up for class and turned in something, it really didn't matter if they could write well or not. After all, ND students are bright and work hard. Never mind there was no help in place for the ESL kids who could barely speak English, much less write in English.
The fact that I had allowed two kids to fail/failed two kids because they simply hit print for their first draft, second draft, third draft and final draft of their papers without changing ANYTHING or addressing ANY of the issues both their peers and I brought up, showed that I was not toeing the party line, so to speak.

Never mind that my students won the writing award three or four times in nine years (we almost had an every other year thing going).

Yeah, a year ago I was beyond depressed. I should have been preparing to teach. Instead, I was job hunting and filing for unemployment. And even with the unemployment there was a battle -- my ND HR paperwork claimed that I had left for personal reasons - not that my job had been eliminated (they never filled my position, to my knowledge).

I was doing some stylesheet work for a client and trying to read a hideously academic book for Sunday school.

Back to work.

5 snacks I enjoy:
salsa & (crackers, tortillas)
cheese & bread

5 bands that i know the lyrics to most of their songs
Billy Joel - still, after all these years
Indigo Girls
Pink Floyd (some albums)
REM (some albums)
Eminem (some albums)

5 things I would do with $100,000,000
1) pay off the house and the brand new car
2) donate at least a few million to our church so we can:
fix the parking lot (there's almost more grass than asphalt now)
install air conditioning
build the planned sanctuary so we don't have to worship in the fellowship hall
3) start a charity to help those people who usually fall through the cracks
4) buy a bigger house, preferably in Austin and finally get around to adopting my kids
5) go back to school

5 locations I would like to run away to
1) Austin, Texas
2) Talequah, Oklahoma
3) New Mexico
4) Ireland
5) New Zealand?

5 bad habits I have:
1) spending far too much time at the computer
2) curse too much
3) don't get enough exercise
4) thinking i'm an agent of karma (actually, I don't think this is a bad habit, but my partner does!)

5 things I like doing:
skateboarding, reading, playing on the computer (web design, Flash design, etc), making action figures, leatherwork

5 things I would never wear:
a dress!!!!!!!!!!, Daisy Dukes, a bikini, anything pink and frilly

5 TV shows I like(d):
Pretender, Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Deadliest Catch, Batman: the Animated Series

5 movies I like
Stand By Me
Dead Poet's Society
8 Mile
Fried Green Tomatoes (the film of my people, after all)
Lilo and Stitch
(an extra) Radio Flyer

5 Famous People I Would Like to Meet:
1) Wil Wheaton
2) Arlene Klasky
3) Amy Ray and Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls)
4) Rosie O'Donnell
5) Melissa Scott

5 biggest joys at the moment
my dogs, my cats, my partner, my new car, our house

5 favorite toys:
my Fisher Price Little People, especially Chris
my fisher Price Adventure People
my Ewok Village
my iPod
my skateboards

5 people to tag
hmmm, this is hard as I flit through the blogosphere looking at the diversity far more than I stick to a certain few sites.

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August 13, 2005

Stylesheets and Such

So, I'm working on a stylesheet for another website and I have a couple of questions that some CSS specialist might have an idea or two about.

Problem 1
I have put the header/banner in the stylesheet for the site. My client would like to rotate between several different header/banner graphics. Now, there are plenty of javascripts which will do this, but I can't put that into the CSS. Anyone know how this could be done in the stylesheet? I don't even want to think what would happen to the overall site design if I have to move the graphic to the HTML and then set the stylesheet below that. It'll be a nightmare.

Problem 2
An oddity. While my site centers in the browser, the new one I'm building is on the left of the browser. Every time I try to move it to the center, the container's backgrounds disappear.

That's it.

But working for this client is why I've been a bit quiet this weekend. I'd like to finish it up -- poor woman was originally hoping to have the site debut in June, only to have one designer flake out and then for various other things to postpone the date. If you want to take a stab at any of this, comment or email me and I'll forward on the bits of code I'm talking about -- the site is supposed to be something of a surprise. :)

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August 8, 2005

When do YOU go to the doctor?

I hate going in to the doctor's office. It's generally a huge waste of my time. Spend at least fifteen minutes getting there, at least a half hour waiting in the waiting room and then the office visit room, another fifteen to check out and another fifteen or so to get back to work or back to the house. Plus, of course, fifteen minutes with the doctor - generally the shortest part of the visit.

So, I don't go to the doctor unless I really really think I need to go. I have better things to do with my time than waste at least two hours just to be told to take a pill or a test and we'll figure it out later.

On top of just not really liking doctor visits (visit? like it's a pleasant little chat? Come on!), I also have a very high tolerance for pain and discomfort. Now, I'll whine about a papercut on my finger just like most folks. But let me give you an example or two:

I am four. I have been swimming recently and got a little panicked when my swim teacher went inside the clubhouse to take a phonecall after telling me to jump in the deep end. This was not some missed social cue, she really did think I would be able to swim the pool without her. I jump in, flounder, she finally sees from the window and comes in after me. By this time, I've mostly gotten myself to the side of the pool anyway.

A few days later, we're visiting relatives and I begin, oddly enough, to complain about an earache. But, we're in a different town and it's a hassle to take a kid to a new pediatrician when you're visiting relatives.

"How bad does it hurt," Mom asks.

At four, I don't really understand this question. At four, for me, things either hurt or they don't hurt. I've got no way to decide the various levels of pain. So, I shrug.

My mom figures if a kid is not screaming about the pain, then it's not bad enough to go to the doctor. After all, a normal kid screams at a simple skinned knee, so anything worse than that would involve screaming, right?

A few days later, I am still complaining that my ear hurts. We are shopping in a mall and suddenly my ear feels different and doesn't really hurt so much anymore. Obviously my mom was right, and I didn't need the doctor.

A few minutes after this feeling of relief, Mom looks over at me and makes the disapproving face.

"What did you get into?"


"Then what's that all over the side of your face?"

My eardrum had burst.

I didn't know. I was unaware of the increasing pain, that to hear others say, is evidently pretty intense. I thought it was normal, just something to deal with and move on.

One more, shorter example. I was eleven and I was hanging from one of the soccer goals at school. I was maybe an inch or two off the ground, just hanging there, like three or four other little monkeys. Some kid comes up behind me and shoves me in the small of the back and I lose my grip and fall.

No big deal. I land on my butt and put my arms out to brace myself on either side. I'm irritated with the kid who pushed me, but really, what's the harm? I wasn't high enough off the ground to do any real damage. My left wrist bothers me, though.

I assume that I've sprained my wrist and I don't want to listen to another lecture about being careful, so I don't tell mom that I've sprained my wrist because another kid pushed me off the soccer goal. I just try to be careful with my wrist and it will be better in a few days. But it's not. It still hurts in a few days. I still hesitate ... it's not a big pain ... is it?

I finally get around to telling Mom. She complains about having to take me to the doctor for nothing, that I am a hypochondriac. They x-ray the arm and mom looks carefully at the developed picture.

"Nothing," she says, disgusted. "This is a wasted trip and a waste of time."

The doctor looks at the film in his office. "Yep, it's broken, all right."

Mom is shocked and appalled, she was so sure I was just being a whiner. Now I'm treated to a lecture on letting her know when things hurt me.

So when I say that I ache all the time and my joints feel arthritic and painful, I don't believe that it's nothing. I don't even believe that it's just the way things are when you hit middle age (at 36).

But, the thyroid came back clean and the lupus tests came back all right. The only other things I've found that fit my symptoms are chronic fatigue (Epstein-Barr) and fibromyalgia.

And what frustrates me, no, I'll be perfectly honest, what seriously pisses me off, is that while my doctor took it seriously, this stupid rheumatologist poo-pooed the whole thing as "middle age." He dismissed it, quite obviously, as me whining about nothing.

The last time that happened to me, the last time a doctor thought I was just a whiner, he ignored my freaking CANCER symptoms for TWO YEARS!

So I don't have much confidence in this rheumatologist at all.

My question to the public at large is this: when do YOU go to the doctor? When, and how, do you decide that enough is enough and it's time to go get fixed?
And the corollary: What do you do when they don't take you seriously?

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August 4, 2005

No Lupus

Well, the doctor did say this morning that he's not at all concerned about Lupus, based on my tests -- and that is what my general practitioner was looking for.

So I'm glad that there's no lupus as that is just a scary yucky thing. But I'm really frustrated that his answer to everything was: get better sleep. Maybe somewhere down the line, if I keep whining, he'll order a sleep test.

His secondary answer: lose the weight. Duh. No shit, you think maybe that's why I only eat about 400 calories between waking and leaving work, 'cuz maybe I'm trying to work on that? His response, "Well, I fast once a week to keep my weight down."
*sigh* So I'm gonna keep a food journal for the rest of August and see if I can prove to the doctors (and myself) that I'm really NOT over-eating. I don't really eat sweets; I'm not much of a chocolate person.

Basically, I've had it with people assuming that I can't drop weight because I can't quit eating. Now the exercise, that's a routine I can't seem to stay in, that'll I'll give you. So, this weekend, I guess I'll find a way to clean out something in the basement so we can get the "new" home gym all set up.

Finding out that I don't have lupus should have put me in a really good mood. Instead, I'm just frustrated (and whining - sorry about that). Your muscles and joints area not supposed to ache all the time. I don't have arthritis, the thyroid is fine and there's no lupus. I think all that's left is chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.

Oh, and of course, poor sleep.


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July 30, 2005


Well, after deleting two posts for today, I'm just going to go ahead and vent for a minute.

This past ten days just sucked. A woman I knew from the community passed away and I went to the funeral last Thursday. Then, as things start to get a little better earlier this week, I come home to a message on the answering machine that my grandpa-in-law had passed away. Since he was one of the very, very few adults in my life who encouraged me and was truly non-judgemental, this was a tremendous loss for me.

Then, the following day, I get a message from the doctor's office. I've been having a lot of joint pain, but we've already ruled out arthritis. At least, we've ruled out any typical kind of arthritis. We ran a slew of blood tests which mostly came back negative, except for an ANA test which came back 1:80 speckled. This meant nothing to me, of course, but the doctor said we should do one more test, given my symptoms. She stated that the 1:80 speckled results were generally a false positive, but she wanted to be thorough and not ignore anything.

Sounds good to me. So, I go in and have more blood drawn. I get a phone call the day after I find out about my grandpa-in-law's death. A rather asinine and inexperienced receptionist from the doctor's office says "something's wrong with your blood so we're going to call Dr. Birnbaum and make an appointment."

No explanation, no indication of what the hell is going on. Just "something's wrong." Great. That makes me feel wonderful. Could you be a little more mysterious about it????

At least they didn't say we needed to schedule an appointment with my oncologist. So I call Dr. Birnbaum's, the rheumatologist, office and set an appointment. And then, "I don't suppose you could tell me what this is in relation to?"

The receptionist pauses. "Umm, well, you need a check-up in August ..."

"I know," I tell her. "But my general practitioner ran a test and then said I needed to see Dr. Birnbaum again. I don't suppose you have that result in front of you."

"I'm just the receptionist. I could have a nurse call you."

"Please do." That was Thursday. A week after Diane's funeral. I didn't hear back from the nurse Friday. According to the symptoms I have and the one test result I know about, I could have any one of a slew of not-happy things.

Thyroid issues. (probably not, don't have enough symptoms)
Liver issues. (a fear since the chemo and meds before and after are hard on the liver)
And I forget the rest.

My appointment is Thursday morning, so I guess I'll know what the doctor's thinking on Thursday. If it has to be something "serious," I'm rooting for fibromyalgia. There's no cure, but hey, if it's "just" pain, I can cope with that. Lupus terrifies me -- my whole life I've had weird skin rashes and sensitivities which have caused various doctors to bandy that diagnosis around as a possibility.

Power of positive thinking: I say no lupus. Say it with me now, No lupus.

Argh. I hate waiting for stuff like this. I suck at it. I will say this about my Hodgkin's diagnosis back in 1999 - once I got to a competent doctor, there was no messing around. I was in the hospital before I knew what was going on. Of course, a hemoglobin of 5.8 kind of freaks health professionals out. And seeing the outline of my spleen through my t-shirt kinda freaks them out, too.

Thursday. Seems like a looooong time away.

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July 28, 2005

Trackback Spam

Before I started this blog, I'd read in other blogs about spam comments and I thought, "Well, that's par for the course anymore, I guess." It never ocurred to me - for some stupid reason or another - that there might also be trackback spam. The first trackback I got was legit. Every single one since then has been utter crap spam. The ones advertising "search engines" are kind of annoying. Bah-LETED. Then there were the trackbacks which were just a bunch of links for different poker and gambling website. Again with the Bah-LETED.

I'm no longer excited when I see a Trackback email in my inbox. I'm leery and jaded. "Oh, what's this going to be an ad for?" But what I found in my inbox this morning was beyond the limit.

The first link was for "hairy v*gin*" and the links just went downhill from there. I was incensed that this had been on my site if only for a few late-night hours. Do other people just not check their trackbacks to make sure they're really legit? Why do the spammers think this is a good way to attain traffic?

And why does it always piss me off so much when people do stupid shit like this?

Anyone know of an API or something for Moveable Type that will make trackbacks require approval before they go live to the site?


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July 27, 2005

World's Most Spoiled Dogs

I love wolves and coyotes. So, when the Brookfield Zoo had a stuffed wolf/coyote done in the really soft fur that I like, I just had to have it. It's bigger than a beanie baby, but it's not huge. Probably stands about 8" high, but it's maybe 6" squared since the wolf is sitting down. Very cute.

So after we get the dogs back from the kennel, I've forgotten that my new wolf is sitting on the bed. And that the dogs' stairs are actually in place at the foot of the bed (they're mini-dachshunds, they can't get up there without the stairs). Scrappy comes trotting out of the bedroom an hour or so later, pleased as punch and dragging Wolf in his mouth. He is so happy and so pleased with himself and with me for getting him this marvelous new toy.

The drop it command works well.

But, of course, he was just crushed, depressed and practically inconsolable that I had not, in fact, bought him a stuffed wolf to chew up and cuddle with.

So we go to Toys R Us like a week later and pick him out a new stuffy. As you can see, he adores it -- even though it's bigger than he is.

And despite this picture, he really doesn't want to share his bear with Scout.

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July 20, 2005

The Engine Room Is Closed

"Just before they went into warp, I beamed the whole kit and kaboodle into their engine room, where they'll be no tribble at all."

"I've never experienced anything like it."

"That's impossible. Things like this can't happen."

"He's operating at warp speed."

"I'll sit on the engines..."

"Yes, sir. *Thank you*, sir! That'll give me a chance to catch up on me technical journals!"

"Captain, I'm giving it all I've got."

We know you did, Jimmy. We know.

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July 17, 2005

Harry's Growing Up

Oh! And in case you missed it, here's my guest-post on some critic's complaint that Harry is "not the innocent" little boy of the first book or two in the Harry Potter series.

My response: Well duh! Rowling knows enough to be realistic and let him grow up.

My copy better damn well get here tomorrow. I'm going nuts.

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Holy Crap, Maynard

Sheesh. I'm back now and it was a crazy crazy week.

We drove to Dayton, got to spend an evening with my aunt and her oldest boy. Watched Supersize Me, which was a really good movie. What was stunning about it was how only one of the doctors really seemed to think that there'd be any significant damage/changes to his health/ cholesterol/ blood work. Of course, A and I were somewhat distracted in the middle of the movie when she realized that the tip of her hearing aid was no longer on the hearing aid? Was it in the truck? In the sofa? Still in her ear? We couldn't tell.

My sister and her husband didn't show up until the next afternoon and they were exhausted from two days of driving a 16' truck and towing the car behind. We hauled all 6 guitars (jazz electric, acoustic, jazz acoustic, a little mandolin-thing that I tried to remember the name of and failed) into the house followed by the Roland keyboard. We chatted, teased and then went to bed. Thursday morning was the drive back into South Bend, a fast stop at the hearing center to verify that yeah, the tip of the hearing aid had come off in A's ear. A tug or two with the funky forceps, some extra tips packed away for the second half of the trip and we were off again, this time to Chicago.

Brookfield zoo on Friday - all frickin' day Friday, Halstead and some shopping on Saturday along with the Art Institute and the Shedd aquarium topped off by dinner at Berghoff's and then back to the hotel to collapse. Of course, someone across the street from the hotel was having a block party. Until midnight we had latin music BLARING into our room. Massive packing and cleanup effort Sunday morning and here we are again.

Tomorrow or Tuesday I hope to have some of the pictures I took up for you.

Now, though, I'm ecstatic to be back in my messy home, re-connected to the internet and cuddly with my doggies and kitties.

Boy do I NOT want to go to work tomorrow!

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July 12, 2005

Profiles, Boxes and Classifications

It occured to me in the last few days that I have no profile about me on this blog. Sure, there's the obligatory About Me link listed up at the top, but it takes you to an older part of my website and a longish bio that no one will really read all the way through. There's no pithy paragraph in the sidebar summing me up in 255 characters or less.

As I cruise through various blogs on Blogexplosion or just surfing through the links that tie so many blogs together, I'm always amazed at how many people post a profile - and often a picture. I just can't do it.

I don't have a particularly bad self-image - I think the one I have is pretty honest overall. But I don't think that a paragraph or two does me justice. Not just me, I don't think it does anyone justice. I suppose it goes back to that Free to Be You and Me upbringing in the 70s. If you can't sum up a person with the color of their skin, you really can't do it in a paragraph, either. And yet, we try to do that. We try to box people up and categorize them so we know what to expect from them. And when people don't stay neatly within that safe little box that we've set up for them, we tend to get so angry, confused and even hurt.

In the last year I've met a couple of people who happen to be Jehovah's Witnesses. You know what? I don't put them in a box and expect them to try to save me. I don't expect them to be any certain way. Yeah, I was a little surprised when one of those folks turned out to be a big comic book geek, but then I'd be surprised if a lot of folks from a lot of different religious denominations turned out to be big comic book geeks. Stunned? No. Surprised a little.

I know comic book geeks who have social skills. I know comic book geeks with no social skills and who look and act like Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons. I know religious people who never step foot in a church. I know self-proclaimed moral, upright people who cheat people. I know lots of different people and I know lots of different little boxes we use to classify people.

I don't like any of those boxes.

My whole life I have fought against putting anyone in a box. Particularly me. I've fought different parts of my history, my life or my personality because I felt it would be too easy for people to put me in one box or another. I've had people say, "Oh, I've got your number now. You're going to do X next, because you're a Y." And even if I had really wanted to do X, I wouldn't do it just to explode that little trap of a box that was waiting there for me. I'm so much more than any of those boxes - the idea of being caught in one, even for a moment just terrifies me. It's not that I have some illusion that I'm some unreadable and unknowable creature. I want to be known just as much as the next person. I just don't want to be limited by my actions or thoughts or emotions of one moment.

I guess, really, I hate boxes because they're static and unchanging. And I have refused my whole life to be stagnant. I never want to stop growing and stretching and learning and living. I've come close a few times . . . close to falling asleep and becoming complacent and slipping into a box. But something in me is determined to always keep moving and growing. Maybe that's just the ADHD talking, I don't know.

ADHD, raised Catholic, gay, teacher, writer, student, cancer survivor, basketball, softball, skateboarding, bike-riding, acting, female, abuse survivor, Mac geek, computer geek, web geek, comic book geek, defender, underdog, role-playing geek, adult child of an alcoholic, wannabe Navajo, I love organizing things, I'm a slob, I love reading, asthmatic, I have 2 dogs, I have 4 cats, I've fixed the hardware in my laptop, I've been fired for no reason, I've lived in four states and eight towns, my first relationship lasted for ten years, my current relationship has been going for six years.

Loads of details in that paragraph. But none of it really says who I am. You still need to distill nuance from the vapor of truth, to badly paraphrase Neal Stephenson.

There's always something left out. So I suppose I see those profiles as an exercise in futility. I'd rather write what I write and let you know me through that. It takes longer. It still doesn't cover all the boxes that you could slap me into. But through the vapors I write, you can distill a truth and something of my personality.

Just some words to leave you with as I take off on vacation.

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July 3, 2005

Kicking Rocks

I hate talking on the phone. Dunno why, but it always kinda bugs me. But last night, I talked on the phone for two and a half hours! Why?!?

I found one of the kids I grew up with. Yep, I posted on May 28, 2005 that I was looking for a small handful of people from elementary and high school. Well, I found my friend Annette and was finally able to talk to her after nearly 15 years.

In fact, I was so hyper after I got off the phone, I didn't think I would be able to sleep (I did). And I was still bouncing all over the walls this morning, too. I laughed so hard and so long last night just swapping stories of the last 15 years and remembering a few of the silly things we used to do as kids. The best thing is that it was practically like when we were kids. We were laughing and hollering.

For example, Annette remembered my first "date." I had completely forgotten about this until she brought it up. John walked up to us and said to me, "Hey, you wanna go kick rocks?" And he and I took off to, well, I guess to go kick rocks. Of course, this was sixth grade.

The best, though, was just catching up on the last few years. Sketching our first major relationships, talking about how we got into our careers, our siblings, our parents, even religion (a little bit, anyway).

Amazing how just catching up with an old friend can make you feel.

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July 1, 2005

On Parents

So I was reading on someone else's blog that we should appreciate - she said our mothers but I think she really means our parents in general - a lot more. A lot of us whine and complain about our parents, but we for all of the frustrations they cause us, we should be grateful for the time we've had or we have with them.

That's great for most people. Most of us need that reminder when "Grandma" has given junior a toy drum as a fifth birthday present.

But not for everyone.

Not everyone should be grateful for their parents or to their parents.

Think about it. When I was about seven, Byerly moved in next door. Byerly was tough. Byerly insisted that no one could walk in her front yard. Because it was her front yard. And, in fact, no one could walk on the street right in front of her house. Because it was the street in front of her house and they owned that. So for a few days after Byerly tells me that she owns the street, I give in. She kinda scared me at seven. But then, my friend Nancy starts playing with Byerly and ignoring me because Byerly told her that she doesn't like me. So finally, Nancy tells me to start coming back over because she wasn't really friends with Byerly any more. And, to celebrate my newfound re-instatement, I decided to walk on the curb past Byerly's house as I walked over to Nancy's.

Like a dog trained to protect the property, Byerly barrelled out of the house and stopped in front of me. "This is my property. You can't walk here."

"It's the street; nobody owns the street," I told her. After all, I'd won and everyone in the neighborhood had seen that Byerly wasn't cool.

"I SAID, this is MY property and YOU can't walk here."

Now, I'm thinking, hey, it's the street. I'm not in their lawn. There are no sidewalks in our neighborhood. I'm not crossing the street anymore just to come back across to get to Nancy's house. This is ridiculous.

"I'll be out of your street in a minute."

She steps in front of me. "Get off my property."

"I will." I try to step around her and go to Nancy's.

She picks up a stick.

Now, you have to understand. This is Texas in the 70s. Little girls were not allowed to wander around with their shirts off, like the boys. Instead, we took the bottom of the shirt and tucked it in through the neckhole and thus created a "tank top." It was a little cooler, anyway.

So, Byerly lean over in the grass. I'm thinking she's insane and I'm trying to walk around her. She stands back up and she's got a little stick in her hands. I have no idea what's coming. She took the stick and carved a backwards letter J in my stomache. It broke the skin; I bled.

Like a little trooper, I walked it off. Insisting that it didn't really hurt. I don't want her to think that she won after all.

But when I came back home after playing with Nancy for a little while, I showed my mom what Byerly had done. She assumed I had done something wrong, something to deserve that mark that still scars my stomache. Finally, she tells me, "If you really feel she did something wrong, go tell her parents."

So, dutiful as usual (at least at that age), I go over to her house and knock on the door. Her father answers. I'm self-conscious, but I tell him what happened and lift my shirt up a little bit to show the cut on my stomache. He screams her name back into the house and closes the door on me. I'm confused. Then I hear the shouting. Followed by the smacking.

And more noises.
And crying. Lots of crying.

I went back home. I told my parents what happened. They didn't do anything.

Byerly and her family moved soon thereafter. I never saw her again.

Somehow, I don't think she's grateful for her parents. I don't think she should be.

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June 30, 2005

Cranky Monkey

Some days just suck out loud.

First, I lost a very important-to-me eBay auction today. I'm royally pissed at myself for forgetting that it ended today and not watching out for snipers closer to time for it to end.

Next, my car has an exhaust issue, which I didn't find out until yesterday. This has been causing it to nearly die after running for about 10 minutes. Well, not while I'm driving, but when I'm idling at a stoplight. Throwing it in neutral helps, but this is not a great solution. So this afternoon after work, I have to drive across town and get my tags renewed on the car because I'm a dweeb and didn't get the bill mailed in earlier in the month. Of course, they're due today. So there's no putting it off. The side benefit, though, is that my happy happy comic book store is next to the BMV. Yea, I'll pick up my comics after I get the tags.

Car is unhappy at driving this far. Very unhappy.
I go to the "express" BMV automated machine thing-y. And wait for nearly an hour as the four people in front of me get their tags. I do not call 15 minutes per person an "express" system! Also, they need to frickin' air-condition the lobby where this thing is. I had drips of sweat trickling down my spine and into my underwear before I had my tags. In fact, they were becoming less a few drips trickling and more becoming a stream before I walked out the door. Grossness.

So, after I FINALLY got the frickin' tags, I walk down two doors to the comic book shop. For some reason, I briefly wonder if they're closed. But it's Thursday afternoon and I know they're open. I get ready to reach for the door handle when I realize there's no posters around the door.

Oh yeah, they're closed all right. Closed permanently. As in they're tearing apart the place. As in all the comic books and gaming supplies are gone. I'm really depressed now. There is no other comic book store in town. Literally. Well, okay, there's the evil store that I won't even give the right name for and certainly wouldn't include a link to. Because they're evil. Evil like Bill Gates evil. I hate them.

So, now I either have to go across the border into Michigan to buy comics . . . like my car will make that trip right now . . . or order a couple of subscriptions online. Crap.

And forgetting me for a moment, I feel HORRIBLE for the guys. Darin and Brian were both great. I loved going in there and talking with them -- and not just about comics, but about politics, the world, education, how much we all hate Notre Dame. Great times. Especially because the guys were not the typical Simpsons Comic Book Guy-type guys.

And there was no warning. No hint from the guys that this was in the works. I was there a month ago to pick up my subscriptions. I went in today to pick up this past month's stuff. Nada. I have no idea what happened and I feel so bad about the whole thing.

So, I hyper-focused tonight on trying to fix the monthly and individual post templates and think I finally got them to display correctly. I'll be tweaking them some more over the next month or so, particularly as I'm trying to get some templates set for someone who's opening a new blog (and getting out of the Blogger ghetto). Better to break my stuff than my client's!

Anyhow, I'm just cranky tonight and I guess that's why I'm up at 10:00 p.m. when I have to be up by 5:00 and get ready for work. We're usually in bed and asleep or nearly so by 9:00. I hate it. I'm a night owl and I keep feeling like I'm losing most of my "day" when I have to go to bed so early. But, my partner has to be at work by . . . umm, crap, I forgot. I think by 5:30. Which means she has to leave the house by 5. Maybe she has to be at work at 5 and leaves at 4:30. I don't remember because well, it's godawful early whatever time it is.

To sum up, no happy happy toy; falling apart car; long and hot and uncomfortable line; comic book store gone; insomnia.
Crappy day.

Hmph. And somehow, this weekend, we need to shopping for a new car for me. That oughta be pretty. Not.

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Finally got the typekey piece figured out . . . silly typos had it messed up. Anyhow, it should be easy to comment if you have a Typekey ID now. Hopefully that will encourage more people to comment!

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June 29, 2005


So, back in the day, I watched an awesome web show called Amanda Hades. It's this great little barely into the future piece about the mainstream media being so corporate run that no real news was getting to the people anymore. Rogue video reporters would hack into the news feeds and broadcast the real news. Kind of like Eyes Only from Dark Angel, but with a little less of the vigilante aspect to it. The website around it, the forums and communities that sprung up around the whole world-building effort was one of the reasons that I love the internets.

Anyhow, the guys at 3rd Floor Productions are offering the Amanda Hades stuff on DVD and they're coming out with a feature length mockumentary. Please check them out!

All of this has me thinking about how some people "get" the communities of people who spring up on the web - and some people not only don't get it but are terribly appalled by it. I've been bopping around online since '93 or '94 and my first exposure to the potential of 'net communites was a little MUD out of Florida called MUDdog. It absolutely rawked. Being the D&D geek that I was, I found the MUD to be an absolute joy. For once I could role-play without having to track down a group of people that I could play with. This wasn't an anti-social thing for me - it was about finding some folks with social skills who wanted to play the game, not live it. I had belonged to a local D&D group in Arlington for a while (Anyone remember Craft King?) and was really tired of little boys who thought the game was only about hack, slash, rape and pillage. The game had SO much more potential than that kind of idiocy. There was a chance to work logic puzzles, to wrestle with social issues and so much more. Playing with the right people made this game exciting instead of juvenile.

Anyhow, MUDdog had hundreds (if not thousands) of users from across the U.S., and I believe, a few folks across the world as well. I thought I would simply play the game by myself, trying to work out the puzzles and scenarios. I thought I would ignore the social aspect of the game, having been burned by far too many Comic Book Guy type role-playing geeks. With that many people playing the game, though, it wasn't long before I found other like-minded people and began joining the community at MUDdog. And the game became even more fun. My character got "MUD-married" to another character (I think it was the first gay wedding on the MUD - I was playing a gay male character just because it sounded like fun). I joined a guild. I spent some time playing the game, some time talking to friends I'd made online, some time having my character talk to the character's friends, and some time off fighting the bad guys.

When the man who had developed MUDdog graduated, the server space for the game was lost and while there was a good effort made to find it a new home, I think the game just faded away. I stayed in contact with a few people for a while, but since I didn't have email addresses for most of the people I knew there, I lost that community. I guess you could say that Sunnydale collapsed in a big hole and we all moved away. (I finished watching season 7 of Buffy over the weekend.)

Since then I've been part of email list communities, a couple of chat room communities, bulletin boards and the like. And somehow, we always feel a part of each others' lives. I have email friends that I've had for ten years even though we've never met face to face. I have email friends that we have made an extra effort to meet face to face.

These communities are every bit as real to me and to the others who enjoy them. But there's always a question from non-computer people: how can you be friends with someone you've never met? You've only seen what these people wanted you to see through the words on the screen. How can you say you "know" these people? How can you call this "being social"? Isn't it the height of the computer geek's lack of social skills - to only interact through the computer???

I suppose we place a lot of faith in those words on the screen and our abilities to decipher nuance from the vapor of truth (to badly paraphrase Neal Stephenson). But the truth for me has always been the more of myself I put out there in words, the more others put out there as well. When you have a true exchange of words, feelings and lives going back and forth, it's difficult to completely forge that. When I started playing on MUDdog, I refused to do anything that was out of character for the player that I'd created. As soon as I started truly interacting with others, that rigid control slipped and I began dividing my time between the character and socializing as me. And I watched other people do the same thing.

I don't think this explains it to any of those folks who don't "get" computer interactions. I have the feeling that this goes back to the theory of multiple intelligences and the ways in which think and learn. I don't always need the body language to know what someone means or how they feel. But I'm a word person, so that's not too surprising to me. Other people need those visual cues and they're never going to get this type of interaction. That's okay. The world's a big place and we don't all have to react or learn or interact in the same ways.

But now I have to get ready for work and socialize with other web/computer/SciFi/comic book geeks like myself!

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:01 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 25, 2005

Wanna Get Paid to Blog?

I've been a writer of some sort or another ever since I can remember. There was the time - before I could write - that Mom took me to various preschools in town to see where I might best fit in. At one particular nursery school, we toured for a while and then when the director sat down to talk "adult" with mom, I slipped over to the edge of the little stage in another room. By the time Mom came to find me, I was seated on the edge of the stage and had a slew of little kids around me as I told them some story or another. Some of the teachers were leaning against the walls, relaxing as their children enjoyed a story-time when they didn't have to perform.

Of course, when I learned to read and write, I spent years devouring every book I could get my hands on. I discovered Sci-Fi because those happened to be the longest books in our school library. By fourth grade (and three elementary schools), I was bored with the library and began writing the stories that I wished I could read. (And tried to interest my friends in reading at the same time.)

I got an MFA in creative writing. I taught essay-writing for nine years. I write commercials, ad and marketing copy now. So you'd think that a call for bloggers would be right up my alley.

Sadly, the writer in me perked up at this news. Hey, I could write blog entries for these guys.

The geek in me is horrified. "But it's for MSN. It's for Microsoft! It's for BILL FUCKING GATES!!!" How could I even toy with the idea of writing for that evil spawn of satan?

But there would be a certain amount of joy in doing so from an antiquated Mac.

No! No! That way madness lies!

Ahhh, for the days of Microsoft Word 6x when you could type in "I'd like to kill Bill" and the thesaurus would tell you "I'll drink to that."

*shiver* I think I'll go back to my happy new book on Flash animation and just wipe this thought from my brain completely. Maybe my storyteller self will be enthralled with new cartoon ideas and forget completely about MSN.
Sheesh. Sometimes my brain has no common sense at all!

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:46 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 22, 2005

Mistakes Were Made

So, I had a whole huge entry written to follow up the Disney World/Smile entry, but I hate it. It's just not ready to be continued just yet, I guess, and I'd rather wait to post it until the piece is ready instead of just rambling on and reminiscing without much point.

Instead, I want to say something about my entries in general. I periodically go back and review them and look at my style and what I've already said (don't want to get too repetitious and boring) and I've noticed some typos. I thought about going back and fixing them. In fact, I'm sure that I've already fixed a couple of small things from early posts. But I'm not going to do that anymore. Why?

Well, I do try to proof each piece pretty well before I hit publish, but I don't go through them with a really fine-tooth comb, either. So most of the glaring issues ought to be taken care of before a piece ever goes live. But the major reason for not correcting errors after the fact is to help dispel the myth that English teachers are somehow always grammatically correct and perfect. I mean, really. We all know some English teacher somewhere in our past who tried very hard to give that impression. And as kids in that class, we all tried to catch that teacher in an error. Maybe we did; maybe we didn't. But you know what? English teachers are just people, too. No matter what Calvin may say, we don't sleep in coffins during the summer and we do make mistakes.

In fact, when I was teaching, some students would be afraid to speak for fear of making a mistake. I also tried hard not to say what I taught "out in the real world" because people would inevitably get tongue-tied, afraid to make a grammatical mistake or mispronounce something. I've gotten into the habit of making sure I say "ain't" or something soon after people find out that I taught writing for nine years. It relaxes them without me being super-obvious about it.

On this blog, I think it's pretty obvious from my writing style that I'm more laid back about grammar and such than Mrs. GrammarNazi from fourth grade, or even Miss Manners. And I think it's also pretty obvious that I'm not one of those people who thinks that the internets are destroying the way we write or corrupting language in general. In fact, I'm all for the use of abbreviations like rotflmao and emoticons in email (used sparingly, of course). After all, if you're teasing a buddy who's sitting next to you, he can read your body language and tell you're kidding. But if you're teasing a friend via email (or the internets), she can't tell that you're teasing just from the flat words. But a quick j/k or :) can get that intent across a lot faster.

I guess I'm just saying that you always have to think of your audience when you're writing, and this blog oughta be for everybody; it ain't for stuffy English teachers. (But the rest of the English teachers might find it interesting.)

TTYL, Gentle Reader,
Red Monkey

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:38 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 19, 2005

Upstairs, Watching Planet of the Apes Together

Well, all through the blogosphere I'm sure there are tons of posts about how great Dads are. This isn't exactly one of those posts.

Father's Day is a really hard time for me. I want to be supportive of all of the excellent fathers out there. And there are a lot of them. But this time of year people keep talking about giving thanks to their fathers and I can't help but feel left out. I've had people tell me how even if my Dad could be a jerk, that I should be thankful for all he did for me. I've had people tell me that I should send him a card for father's day. Or call him.

But the fact of the matter is, it's just hard for me to even talk about my dad. You see, I completely idolized him as a kid. He did so many cool things. He worked with computers (at a time when they used punchcards and took up a huge room) and I thought that was cool. He had the coolest board games (like his Parcheesi game). He had a train set and built cool little buildings and painted toy trucks and such. We watched sci-fi movies, planet of the apes movies, voyage to the bottom of the sea and, of course, he took me to see a little movie called Star Wars.

But, by the time I was about 6 or 7 he went missing in action even though he still lived in the same house with us. I felt like I was completely ignored by my dad. He wasn't there for us at home; he wasn't there at ball games, at school, wasn't there for music lessons. And the few times that he was present in our lives, he was abusive. Calling us horrible things, doing even worse things.

So I can fondly remember the few moments of fun that I shared with him. But those moments are still tainted by the names he called me and the things that he did to me. And I'm just torn to pieces on Father's Day. I want to be like everyone else and be grateful for all the great dads out there. And I want to honor my dad. But sometimes, sometimes there's just too much pain to join whole-heartedly in the happy celebrations.

So to all you Dads out there, the best I can do is celebrate the individuals I know and wish a general have a good day.

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:02 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 15, 2005


Anyone seeing the favicon up in the address bar? Should be the head of my little red monkey, but I don't think it's showing up and I'm too tired to go searching out all of my cache files to clear them all and then back track the issue if that's not it.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:13 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 12, 2005

Yeah, yeah, yeah - D&D, blogs, video games, rock-n-roll

So my buddy Andy posted that his therapist thinks his blog is dangerous for him because he doesn't "have appropriate emotional boundaries" and he talks too much. Err, wait, and because he talks about things that should "be processed internally." My response?


First of all, I've seen nothing in his blog that was actually so personal that I wished he hadn't shared it. On the other hand, back in the day, I remember running across an early version of a blog written by someone else I went to high school with. Bobby, I'll call this other guy. Well, Bobby wrote many posts about all the women he wished that he'd boinked. And then about all the reasons these women turned him down, because it sure didn't have anything to do with his personality, it all had to do with their character flaws. (Of course I am ranting about this from memory and Bobby could have been whining about other things, too.)
So, I do recall Bobby ranting about things that I really wished he'd left inside his brain or perhaps shared only with his therapist. I mean, he shared things with the internets that were just ewwww.
Of course, the internets are, for the most part, free speech central and I have no gripe with that at all. But, there were some things that I wished he'd kept to himself. Or at least enabled comments so that others could point out where he was being a gigantic ass and where he had good points.

One of the people commenting on my friend Andy's site pointed out that most therapists seem to think that journalling is a good way to process through information/feelings/ideas. And all of these posts from Andy and his minions friends simply flashed me back to high school and the loads of ultra-conservative christians who decided that D&D type games were evil and were going to cause children to go insane. You know, the same types of people who have decided that violent movies, that video games, that rock-n-roll, that Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis, that /insert hobby here/ is going to cause children to go ballistic and kill people, have wild sex, do drugs, /insert parents' greatest fear here/ just from being exposed to said bad influence. The internets are bad, chat rooms are bad, email is bad, the web is bad.


Look folks, it's really simple. Anything in this life can be abused. We can abuse food, each other, games, hobbies, sex, blogs, life the universe and everything. But assuming that blogs (or D&D or food or whatever) is inherently bad and going to cause others irreparable harm is just stupidity.

Now maybe his therapist was talking about a particular post and a specific concern. Fine. But maybe this is just another case of folks who don't understand something condemning what they don't understand. It seems to me that someone with a blog and a therapist is already looking at any potential problems with abusing whatever activity/substance.

My concern is far more about this general trend across the generations . . . why is it that the older generation (or those who associate with the older generation) are always so sure that something a little different from how they grew up is "obviously" Not a Good Thing??? Why must we get so inflexible as we get older?


Posted by Red Monkey at 9:50 AM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 2, 2005

Bowling for Soup - and Tejas

So right now I live in the great northern wastelands. Yeah, I know, a lot of you people like it up north, you seem to enjoy having four seasons and some people even like snow. But I'm from Texas originally and that's where my heart is to be sure.

Where in Texas, you ask? Well, I was born in Amarillo, then we moved to Houston, another place in Houston, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Carmel (just outside Indianapolis) and then we moved to Austin. Then I started kindergarten. When I was in third grade we moved to Arlington (between Dallas and Fort Worth).

No, my dad was not in the military. He was a trouble-shooter for National Sherdata and later for Ross Perot's EDS.

Living up here are a lot of folks with Texas license plates. I don't know why. I don't know how they can live here and keep their Texas plates. I had to trade mine in for a crummy Indiana plate. Anyhow, people ask me when they find out that I'm from Texas: Why are all Texans obsessed with their state? It's just a state, for crying out loud.

Well, it's because Texas is its own frickin' country, dude. We have every geographical environment in one state. And everything is pretty much bigger in Texas. Even the crappy studio apartments are bigger and cheaper than they are up here in the frozen northlands. All good points. The most important point, of course, is we have the best Mexican food in the U.S. And we have South Padre. And Austin and San Antonio. Houston? That armpit can fall into the Gulf for all I care. Ewwww. (My apologies to any Houston-lovers, but that place gave me the creeps and made my allergies and asthma go through the roof. Too humid for me - but the pine trees are amazingly beautiful.)

So, why bring all this up right now? Well, I just got the Bowling for Soup CD called A Hangover You Don't Deserve . It beyond rocks and since the guys are from Tejas, I am, of course, even more enthralled with the CD. They sound just a little bit like the Refreshments and I've listened to the CD at work for the last three days, only switching it out for the Drop Kick Murphys CD once or twice. So one of the songs is called "Ohio (Come Back to Texas)" and it makes me wanna get back to Texas SO BAD. But my current favorite song is "My Hometown" . It is the most happy fuck-you song I've ever heard. Here's an example of the lyrics:

This song goes out to my good friends,
Especially the ones I had before the Grammy nominations in 2003
And all the girls from back in high school,
Who actually spoke to me,
Even though I was a fat kid and a marching band geek.

I hope this song finds you well.
And I hope that you're doin' fuckin' swell.
I hope that you're back up if you've ever been down.
And I hope that you got the fuck out of our hometown.

Now, considering the home town is Witchita Falls, I find this hilarious. Witchita Falls is almost as whacked a place as Waco. And the come back to Texas song talks about Denton County - which is where my sister lives - which really cracks me up since Denton is pretty po-dunk (but has a decent enough music scene thanks to North Texas).

So, I want to send a shout out to all the kids I went to school with:
I hope this blog finds you well.
And I hope that you're doin' fuckin' swell.
I hope that you're back up if you've ever been down.
And I hope that you got the fuck out of our hometown.

Well, except that Arlington, no matter how crappy we thought it was at the time, is not nearly as bad as Indiana . . . so hopefully I'll get back there soon and see all the folks who stuck around the Metroplex.

Meanwhile, listen to Bowling for Soup - you'll love 'em.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:19 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 30, 2005

Ahhhh, Learning New Computer Things

So, I hopped onto the internets back in 1993 or so. Played a character named Vanyel on a MUD called MUDdog. Loved it-interactive D&D gaming with folks ages and ages away from me. Yes, I'm a major geek, it's okay, you don't have to pretend you weren't thinking it. I don't mind.

Anyhow, I learned email on a VAX Pine system and all I can say about that is the first time I saw Eudora, I was beyond ecstatic. In 1996, I thought I would put some of my first-year composition syllabus on that new-fangled web thing -- students can't lose a syllabus if they can get to it from any computer. I was easily one of the first in the department to do it and I loved it. My students seemed to like it and as the years went on, I realized I was simply a computer geek. I'd taught myself HTML (probably back at v.1) and was a little disdainful of WYSIWYG website builders. HTML wasn't hard and the code was a bit cleaner if you did it yourself - at least most of the time.

I got on the newsgroups, particularly and then watched as people I "chatted" with electronically built up the Raving Toy Maniac site. Infoseek was the best search engine at the time . . . and of course, the web never stays still. Like a spider's web, it's re-built frequently, creating new patterns of information, new people to meet, new HTML tags to learn and so on.

My web coding skills eroded a bit with the explosion of Dreamweaver 3.x onto our campus as I finally was building sites too complicated to do absolutely all of the code by hand. I had someone tell me that you "have to know Calculus to learn how to code in real programming languages," so I thought that java and javascript would be out of my league. I bluffed my way through CSS, using it only to define fontstyles and sizes. I blew off blogging at first as a craze that would pass.

I know, I know. But you gotta understand that the first person I knew who blogged was an ex-boyfriend from high school who used it as a really personal diary. In which I showed up once or twice. It was embarassing. It's one thing to share your thoughts with the world, it's another completely to talk about your high school flings in amazing technicolored details! And, it didn't help the matter when the second person I knew who blogged was a colleague that regularly didn't understand how the web worked. I don't understand the paradox of how this man could possibly work a blog - no matter how user-friendly Blogger or TypePad or any of the other ready-hosting sites are. We're talking about a man who regularly felt the entire internets should be in black and white and all buttons should be text and he also often couldn't even FIND a button on a page even when it was plainly marked!

But I digress. (Have I mentioned that red monkey?)

So, recently I discovered the incredibly real website of a favorite actor, Wil Wheaton. Now, yes, I used to read newsgroups. Yes, I know of the existence of the various die.die.die newsgroups that hated his Start Trek:tNG character. And I didn't care then or now. I think Wil is an awesome actor. I absolutely adore the story, "The Body" and the movie version, Stand by Me. Wil as Gordie was incredible. They could have picked a better adult actor for him to grow into, but that's a quibble. I actually watched ST:tNG for Wesley, Data and Geordie. Picard was certainly an improvement over William Fucking Shatner, but Wes was my favorite. The character had LOTS of potential and the writers just freakin' wasted it. I stopped watching when Wil left the show.

So, Wil has an incredible blog. And the more I read of his blog, the more I began to see the real potential of this genre of websites. As a writer, this is right up my alley. As a computer geek, this should be right up my alley.

So, since I no longer teach and have my own webspace instead of the university free webspace, I decided to stretch everything and get blogging. CGI doesn't scare me nearly as much as it did a few weeks ago. I am still having some issues trying to figure out CSS and how these Moveable Type templates work, but I'm getting there.

I may not be stretching the minds of Notre Dame freshmen any more, but I am stretching mine again. It's a nice feeling.

Anyhow, I'm sure there will be more template changes and some tweaks here and there as I learn more just how all of this works. If you've got comments on the design and readability issues, let me know. I won't guarantee that I'll get around to it any time soon, but I will at least look into it.

And now, I've got to get back to Season Five of Buffy and "Listening to Fear." And working on turning a Fisher Price Little People train engine into the Purdue Boilermaker train engine as a gift.

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:58 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 28, 2005

Make New Friends, but Keep the Old

So, I've just spent the last couple of hours logging into and to see if I could find any of the folks I really miss from school. Of course, I did find some of the kids I wanted to find, but sadly, the ones I both have lost contact with and really want to see aren't logged into these services. So, I thought I'd post something here about them. These are the folks from Lamar High School in Arlington, Texas, that I'd love to find again.

Jill Stewart, aka Stewie, although I think I was the only one who really called her that. I met Jill in 3rd grade, when I had just moved to Arlington. At the time I moved, I was just about to have my ninth birthday. My mom decided I could have "one little friend" to my house. I guess she didn't want a "horde of little monsters" over to the house. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong kid to have over. Jill, I'd like to apologize to you for that and lots of obliviousness I had over the next couple of years. You were a good friend and I wasn't much of one in return.
Last seen: Arlington

Annette Simonini: dude, when you hit Butler Elementary, you hit it like a bullet. We needed the shaking up. You, Eddie and Tony were a welcome addition to the neighborhood. You seemed to be the most self-aware of all of our little group in elementary school . . . though Stewie ran a very close second. I missed you when I got kind of exiled from the group and was so glad to re-connect at least a little bit in college. I can't ever tell you how much I appreciated your helping me move out of the house, particularly when my dad got going . . . you know what I mean.
Last seen: California?
UPDATE 7/2/2005
Found!! Yep, Google strikes again. See July 3, 2005.

Shannon Heizer: We met up in what, fifth grade? sixth? You and Suzy Gruchow were just what I needed when I needed it. Remember when Suzanne used to talk to "Alfie" in Ms. Bailey's sixth grade class? Miss you guys.
Last seen: Baylor University

Kate MacDonald: damn, I caught up with you in 1994 before you moved to Alaska and then lost you again. Dude, we've got lots of little details to catch up on and I no longer need help with my Latin homework. (And I know you're relieved about that!) I've realized over the last ten years that you really taught me an incredible amount. I never had anyone be so patient with me and help me learn. I've no idea how to thank you for that.
Last seen: Alaska

Brenda Heath: what can I say? A part of me will always regret the way I handled so many different things. I caught up with Brian a few years ago. He's in California, was in the military and is married with kids now. Last I heard from you, you were in Round Rock, I think. Contact me? I have lots to tell you and lots to apologize for.
Last seen: Round Rock, Texas

Kyungah Kim (Janet Kim): oh, my illustrious locker partner, dude, I can't tell you how much I want to re-connect with you. We shared so much and I know you put up with a lot from me. But . . . I know things didn't go as you wanted them to go after high school. But you blocked me out. I couldn't find you; I couldn't seem to get through. And then I couldn't find you at all. I was so worried about you and you just couldn't seem to see that so many people were worried about you and wanting to help however we could. Last I heard, you'd re-discovered an interest in Korea. There are so many things that I wish we could talk about.
Last seen: Arlington??

Ed Garner: dude, you think any of us realized the grand plans we dreamed up during lunch in Mrs. McNew's room? I heard that you'd been in the military and worked with tanks . . . but that's about all I know. I miss you.
Last seen: army??

Dan Fitzgerald? I think it was Fitzgerald. You moved to the Middle East before your senior year. I gave you a silly little spy "kit" that I made. I miss your brash ideas and confidence. Our lunch group wasn't the same without you. I still talk about us "taking over the world." :)
Last seen: Saudi Arabia

There are others of you that I'd love to reconnect with, but I'll get around to more of you later. Somehow, I knew even back in high school that I would miss you all. I even have some of the silly little notes that we'd write to each other between classes.

And all I can think of now is a quote from, of all people, my buddy, Stephen King: I never had any friends like I did when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?

All right, MORE than enough of the overly apologetic and maudlin remembrances. I promise not to do this again for a while.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:02 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 25, 2005


I'm working on getting the templates and the CSS straightened out here. Things are a mess now, but I swear I'll get it cleaned up soon. If for no other reason than you can't read the description and somehow I think Red Monkey ought to have some red in the design. Maybe.

And a logo. Gotta have a logo. Not to mention links to my friend Andy's blog - he's a great writer. And, of course, to the king of bloggers - Wil Wheaton. Of course, the poor li'l dude's got frickin' mono right now and probably won't be doing much besides sleeping in the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, you want to read something interesting? Check out my SuperChemoGirl story.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:07 PM | Blog | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble