August Blues

As a kid, were you happy or anxious about going back to school? Now that you’re older, how has your attitude toward the end of the summer evolved?

I hate to use the word nostalgia when I’m not even 30 yet, but seeing all the school buses on the road got me all nostalgic and made me think of first days of school in the past. When I was a kid, I hated summer. Well, the first couple of weeks were OK, but after that, it was basically a long, seemingly endless time of waiting for school to start again. I was one of those severely nerdy kids who loved school, and if I had the money, I would have continued and gotten a master’s degree. There was once a time when I entertained thoughts of getting a PhD, then reality hit me, and I realized that a PhD in English literature would be virtually useless, especially because I had no intention of teaching, let alone at the college level.

In a way, I wish the year-round school calendar had been in place when I was younger; that way, the summer wouldn’t have seemed so long and endless. But now that I’m an “adult” and summer is the busiest time of the year at my job, the summer is a lot more fun and goes by much quicker. I’m kind of amazed that it’s not still June, and I’m also a little bit sad that summer is ending because I’m not that fond of colder weather. Other than that, it’s just a normal change of season.

How about you? Did you love school, hate it, or somewhere in between?


Poetry Time: Butterfly Effect

I was (and still am) fascinated by the butterfly effect and that, supposedly, every bit of air you’ve breathed has been breathed by everyone else in the world who has ever lived. Even if it’s not true, it’s still an interesting concept to ponder.

January 12, 2011

I may be as silent
as possible,
put my foot into the dirt,
form a network of cracks,

and wait for a butterfly
to die somewhere in the tropics.

I may be loud,
disturbing all,
throwing my voice out,
to start a landslide, a train wreck

and wait for a house to fall
somewhere in America.

I may do nothing,
as little as possible,
breathe out a whisper,
change the air,

and wait for that breath to return
sometime next year.

Website Design Flaws

If given a choice between reading on the screen and reading on paper, I will most often choose paper. If a blog post or article is too long to read on the screen, I will print it just to save myself from eyestrain. I’m sure most everyone is having a bit of “screen fatigue” these days, so you don’t want to make your website any harder to read than normal, and you’d do well to avoid these design flaws:

  • Don’t use a dark background with a light font. Some colors look like they would go really well together, but they don’t read very well together. If I come across a site like that, I will most likely copy and paste the page to a location with a white background so I can read it more easily.
  • If you can help it, don’t use video ads that play automatically. I see that all the time on news sites. And if I’m browsing a site like Tumblr, music will suddenly start blasting from someone’s page. A lot of the time, I am unable to find the switch to turn the music off, so I have to either leave the page or mute the volume entirely. There are rare occasions when I like the music and will let it play, but most of the time… the people who visit your page won’t like your music.
  • Include some kind of “about” page. I like to know a little bit about the creator of the site or about the site itself if its purpose seems unclear from reading the content. Some people either have no “about” page or have an “about” page that’s so hard to find that I give up.
  • Make sure the contact information is easy to find. This is an issue for a lot of shopping sites, and it makes me think that they don’t want to be contacted if there’s some kind of problem.
  • It’s not the 90s anymore, but I still see a lot of blogs with a busy layout with a bizarre mix of fonts and bright, retina-searing colors. If you’re not running a 90s appreciation site, that’s not OK. It’s just tacky.

If you expect (and want) people to stay on your site for a while, it’s helpful to do a usability test first. Find some people to test a preview of your site. Ask them to determine the ease of site navigation and how aesthetically pleasing and easy to read the layout is, and ask them to look for any irritating popups or music that might intrude upon someone’s visit.

What are your biggest website pet peeves?

Opening Lines

What’s the first line of the last song you listened to (on the radio, on your music player, or anywhere else)? Use it as the first sentence of your post.

That line would be “fly me to the moon” from the song of the same title, but I wasn’t listening to the Frank Sinatra version. The version I have is sung by a Japanese woman and is played during the credits of the anime TV show Neon Genesis Evangelion (which is awesome, by the way).

I don’t get any wonderfully creative ideas in my head when I think of “fly me to the moon” or any of the other lyrics in the song, mostly because Evangelion was so well done that it leaves my mind empty in astonishment. I think about space travel and planets and all that other science fiction stuff that I generally have very little interest in. But the lyrics are really about love, and how when you fall in love, every brain cell you have tends to go on strike and cease working (or maybe that’s just me).

What was the last song you listened to?

The Friday Four: More Ramblings

1. Writing update: I write 500 words each weekday and 1,000 words each on Saturday and Sunday, mostly so that I don’t get overwhelmed. But I’ve come to realize that 500 words isn’t enough to immerse me in the story. So find myself skating along on the weekdays until I can somewhat immerse myself on the weekends. I’m thinking of raising my word count, but I’m not sure if that will be wise. But the story itself is about 80% complete now, so at any rate, I’m getting there.

2. Book 1: It took awhile, but I finally finished Joyce Carol Oates’s Blonde, a fictionalized biography of Marilyn Monroe. I knew very little about Marilyn when I started reading the book (the main reason I read it was because I like Oates’s writing), and by the end of the book, I don’t think I got a very concrete sense of Marilyn’s character. Seems like she was one of those people that nobody really knew very well, and it also seemed that Oates projected a bit too much of herself onto Marilyn.

3. Book 2: I finished Lightning Song by Lewis Nordan, who mostly writes about the South and magical realism, so if you don’t like either of those subjects, you ain’t gonna like his writing. But to me, Lightning Song was very enjoyable, though short. There wasn’t a whole lot of plot to the novel, but that never bothered me because it was his writing style that I was paying attention to. Some parts of the book made me laugh out loud, which is always a good thing.

4. Humility (or perhaps the knowledge that I’m not as smart as I thought I was) struck me down twice this week. It’s so strange when it happens because I’m going along through life and end up in a conversation with someone or maybe I read something or see something, but all of a sudden I realize that (1) I am small and virtually insignificant to most other people, (2) I need to stop pretending that I know everything and am 100% independent because I’m not, and (3) both of these things are OK as long as I don’t forget them and let my head get so big that it detonates. Once again, I was reminded that “all I know is, I know nothing.”

Happy Friday!