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Blogging Topic Contest

I’ve got writer’s block, so a week or so ago, I asked my Linden’s Pensieve Facebook fans to make some suggestions for things I can write about, with the winner getting a prize.

I got three responses with multiple ideas each… Now it’s time to take this competition to the next level!

Head on over to my Facebook Page photo album called Blogging Topic Contest, read the suggestions, then like the one that contains your favorite idea. Then, if you are so inclined, leave  a comment on that picture sharing your favorite topic from that image. I’ll do my very best to write about the idea that you all like!

Mike, Venita, Lorraine: share the contest! Winner gets a $5 iTunes gift card. It’s not much, but who wants to pass up $5?

The voting ends Friday, September 21, at 6:00 PM

Get Posts Via Email: Testing MailChimp

Back in November, I got a new job, and part of that job is staying on top of current technologies and you, my dear blog readers, are—knowingly or unknowingly—a testing ground. Thank you.

So the current thing I need to understand inside and out, upside and down, is email marketing applications, like Constant Contact, MailChimp, and Aweber, which are my top three contenders after the research I’ve done so far. Continue reading

This is for you, Technorati!

How have I not made my Technorati claim for this blog already?! For shame. JKF4KF494J6Y

Blog Update: New Theme

I really love the Agregado WordPress Theme. It is beautiful. But I’ve had it for over two years now, and I need a change. My site was down for a couple hours tonight while I tried a couple on, but I haven’t found anything I’m in love with yet. When I’m testing a new theme, I’ll put the site in maintenance mode, but it will always be back up within a few hours. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Update: I found it! I’ve chosen Smooth by My Tapestry for it’s typography, colors, and white space. I’ll be making a few tweaks to the stylesheet so that different elements look exactly like I want them, but overall, I like this change.

It’s Time for a Blogging Break!

Well, I’ve been meaning to write several posts for about a month now and just haven’t had the time, so I decided that I’m way past due in officially declaring that I am taking a blogging break. Let’s say I’ll be back on January 1, 2010, and then if I find time before that, all the better.

This type of post is usually accompanied with a list of activities that have kept the writer busy, so to stay true to the form, here is mine.

  • We’ve had an accident in the family (Rob was rear-ended, and thankfully all involved were uninjured),
  • we’ve had two deaths (my great aunt Oleva and my grandma Oakes),
  • we found a house that was too good to pass up (and we close on Monday–let the packing/moving/unpacking begin!),
  • we’re buying a house (we visited the open house on a whim and couldn’t pass it up),
  • and–last but most definitely not least–we’re welcoming our first nephew, Lenden Eugene Archer, to the world 10 days early (Momma, Daddy, and family are lucky enough to know the time and date, thanks to a scheduled C-section).

It has been an eventful time since we moved back to America, to say the least, and I haven’t even told you the half of it!

Until next time!

What’s New at Linden’s Pensieve: Blocked IPs and Easy-to-Remember Linden URLs

I’ve been making some changes under the hood here that affect my entire domain and subdomains. Let me tell you about the two changes I’ve made recently.

Blocking Spam IP Adresses

The biggest change is one that shouldn’t affect anyone without malicious intent: I’ve been blocking spam IP addresses without giving second chances. I recently found out that my host (PowWeb) makes it very easy to do so (I don’t even have to edit my .htaccess file myself–they have an interface that does it for me), so I have been blocking every offending IP address. I’m looking forward to seeing whether the number of spam comments decreases or not.

So what does this mean for the serious user? Nothing. Well, it shouldn’t have any effect on you. But if, one day out of the blue, you are unable to see my website, then you should email me.

Just a reminder: In order to protect the integrity of my blog, I have WordPress set to require my approval the first time someone leaves a comment, if it contains a certain number of links, or if it contains certain undesirable words. That means that even if you do have a previously approved comment, your comments might occasionally get held back for moderation and might not show up on the post right away. Don’t let that stop you from sharing links! That requirement is there to stop link spammers, not real users!

Easy-to-Remember URLs

Thanks to Mat Packer and a  couple commenters, I have now created “vanity URLs” for many of the Social Media Networking sites (SoMeNet) I use that you, dear reader, might want to have access to easily. Sites like my Facebook profile, online photo album, video uploads, and bookmarks. 

I’m not doing this out of vanity, actually, but more because it was so simple to do and because I advocate more domain owners doing the same thing. I want to be an example. So let me tell you the two ways you can do this yourself if you own your own domain.

Vanity Subdomains

Each webmaster has to choose whether to use vanity subdomains or subfolders. You might choose to use vanity subdomains if you already use subdomains for other purposes, like http://blog.yourdomain.com. Here are the steps for setting up a 301 redirect for a subdomain.

  1. Set up the subdomain you want. For example, http://facebook.yourdomain.com. This can be a complicated process, so be sure to check with your host’s documentation for help if you haven’t done it before.
  2. Edit or create the .htaccess file for that subdomain. Add the lines below labeled “Redirect Subdomain Code.”
  3. Save the .htaccess file and you’re set!

Redirect Subdomain Code

# This allows you to redirect your entire website to any other domain
Redirect 301 / http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?YOUR-ID-HERE

Be sure to use your own Facebook profile URL! Just log in, click on “Profile”, and copy. To add other subdomains/redirects, simply copy the second line of code for each additional SoMeNet site.

Vanity Subfolders

This is the option I chose to use because I don’t use the “www” before my URL (that is, I always give out this URL: http://LindenAMueller.com/blog/, instead of this one: http://www.LindenAMueller.com/blog/), so using subfolders for my easy-to-remember SoMeNet links seemed the natural choice. Here’s how to do this, thanks to the original commenter, chrispugh, on Mat Packer’s post.

  1. Create the subfolder you want, for example, http://YourDomain.com/facebook.
  2. Edit your .htaccess file. Note: Unlike when you create a subdomain above, you should not have to create a new .htaccess file for this process. There should already be one if you have used your site at all. Add the lines below labeled “Redirect Subfolder Code.”
  3. Save your .htaccess file.

Redirect Subfolder Code

# This allows you to redirect a subfolder to any other domain
Redirect /facebook http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?YOUR-ID-HERE

Be sure to use your own Facebook profile URL! Just log in, click on “Profile”, and copy. To add other subfolders/redirects, simply copy the second line of code for each additional SoMeNet site.

Note: The only problem with this method is that the subfolders are case-sensitive. That means if you try this URL —  http://LindenAMueller.com/Facebook — you will get an error. (Go ahead, click on it and see!) Your domain is not case-sensitive, but the subfolders are. (Thanks to another commenter on Mat Packer’s post!)

Rinse, Wash, Repeat

Once you’ve set this up for Facebook, you can then set up as many subdomains/subfolders as you want for whichever SoMeNet sites you want. Here are the ones I’ve set up.

http://LindenAMueller.com/facebook — Facebook profile (obviously, eh?)
http://LindenAMueller.com/twitter — Twitter profile (another obvious one)
http://LindenAMueller.com/flickr — Flickr photostream (for more artistic photos. And iPod Touch screen caps :) )
http://LindenAMueller.com/photos — for personal photos uploaded to Picasa
http://LindenAMueller.com/videos — for personal videos uploaded to Vimeo
http://LindenAMueller.com/diigo — Diigo, my online bookmarks

Now, those of you familiar with Twitter might wonder why I set up a subfolder redirect which is significantly longer than my actual Twitter URL, which is http://twitter.com/xgravity23. Here is my reasoning: I know my username, but other people who might want to check up on my tweets might not remember it. With these redirects, all they have to remember or bookmark is my URL (dead simple to remember, since it’s my name) and the service of mine they want to check on.

Linden’s Pensieve is Mobile

Linden's Pensieve mobile screen capJust a quick post to let you know that I have installed a couple plugins to make Linden’s Pensieve accessible on mobile devices, thanks to Sarah’s post “2 WordPress Plugins to Mobilize Your Blog.” I’ve tested it on my iPod Touch, but I would love to see screen shots of the site in Windows Mobile or Opera Mini–leave ’em in the comments if you can!

Lorraine's header on iPhoneYou can always view the original design (and Lorraine‘s beautiful header) by switching to the regular theme or by checking out my main site at http://LindenAMueller.com. Here’s a screenshot from an iPhone just for fun (thanks, Daniel!). Click to see it full size.

Back to Blogging: Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going

I am sorry that I haven’t been blogging very much, but I’ve been busy since I accomplished NaBloPoMo at the end of November. Here’s what has been demanding my attention over the last couple months.

  • Rob and I celebrated Christmas and New Years in Berlin with my in-laws, which included lots of Hasir’s (once with the Fros), wonderfully delicious German home-cooked food, and memorable family time.
  • I edited a 260-page on dissertation on the uncanny in Stephen King’s It and Firestarter. I love scary movies and novels, so this was a delight to read. This project funded my newly acquired iPod Touch.
  • Grading! I worked through transitions homework, conclusions, in-class paragraphs, style (Lanham!) homework, presentations, and 350 grammar finals. Luckily for my sanity, the Language Centre tutors helped us grade the grammar finals.
  • I have started planning General Language Course (GLC) for next semester with my colleagues. We’re making some changes to the curriculum and I’m really excited about its new direction. I’ll be integrating NPR‘s This I Believe series into the course, and despite having taught it as a writing activity in freshman composition, it will need some tweaking for GLC, as the course is an integrated-skills English course.

I love blogging, I really do, but when I have other responsibilities, it must take the back burner because I need my life to be in balance. I made blogging a daily priority in November, and while I enjoyed the experience of daily blogging and cranked out some great posts, I know that many of them could have been better. I am a language and writing teacher who absolutely loves writing, and I want this blog to reflect this passion (more on that in a future post).

I knew this even as I was writing some of those posts, but when I came across a very inspiring blog post on Merlin Mann‘s personal blog, Kung Fu Grippe, I was reminded of my feeling of inadequacy. This post is called simply “Better” and it is a manifesto on what is personally disappointing about this technolocial age that we live in. It is a challenge to be more real, to focus on producing the best that I can, every time, even when it takes longer than I might have originally wanted.

This means several things for my blogging. I want to practice the craft of writing instead of just writing more regularly (more editing time). I want to include lots of relevant links in my posts because I love the “hypertext” part of the internet and I want to harness it in my blogging (more reading/research time). I want to “bring some art to it.” I want to “demand personal focus on making good things.”

Tuesday with Linden’s Favorite Links: Top Pensieve Posts | 13 Jan 2009

I’ll be writing several posts looking back to 2009 this month (have you read my Top 10 Songs post yet?), and today we’ll revisit some of the best posts on Linden’s Pensieve.

Now, “best” is quite a subjective word. I mean, there are unfounded bests (it’s just a black dress–nothing exciting) and bests we don’t care about (although I’m not making light of personal hygiene). So let me take a few seconds to define how I mean “best” in the context of this post.

The best posts on my blog are the ones that I loved writing the most, that mean the most to me, that sparked the most interesting conversation in the comments, and the ones you viewed the most. That last category is the least subjective, as I use Google Analytics to tell me which posts you viewed the most.

Here they are, in chronological order.

  1. Google Analytics Step One: Begin Tracking This series is still very popular despite being written in February, and I had fun writing it.
  2. England Day 3: Liverpool FC Game! My favorite day in England and easily the most popular post in our England trip series.
  3. Can You Sum Up Your Entire Life in Six Words? I easily spent hours work on my six-word memoir, and it also seems to be a rather popular post, perhaps because of the popularity of the six-word memoir meme?
  4. Let’s Spend Some Time, Love: A Review of Death Cab for Cutie’s Narrow Stairs I love the album and I love having Rob guest post about music. I’ll see what I can do to make it happen more often.
  5. Diigo: Paper-and-pen Mark-up Meets Web 2.0 As I say in the post, Diigo has the changed the way I interact with the web, so writing this post was enjoyable, and it’s turned out to be relatively popular, too.
  6. Marathon Inspiration Some great advice from my fellow runners and running bloggers which still touches me.
  7. Berlin Marathon Race Report: Starting Line to Km 14 (Pt. 1) My first marathon race report, need I say more? It was a life-changing experience, the training and all, so reflecting on it after all those miles was fulfilling.
  8. Should I Stay or Should I Go: The Election Night Party One of my favorite lists from NaBloPoMo. And it came early…
  9. How to Go from Computer Confused to Software Savvy in 5 Easy Steps This was an inspired post that attracted classroom use at my alma mater and spawned a related guest post.
  10. Why I Shouldn’t Start Smoking (Even Though I’ve Been Wanting To) This post was really hard to write because I knew would actually be publishing it (thanks to NaBloPoMo), but it was cleansing and helped me to deal with my smoking urges, both through the act of writing and through the great comments and support I got from my friends because I published the post.

Did one of your favorite posts not make it on this list? Let me know in the comments!

What NaBloPoMo Means for My Blogging Future

NaBloPoMo: I did it!

NaBloPoMo: I did it!

When I click “Publish” on this post, I will have successfully completed NaBloPoMo. Definitely fun, and definitely challenging. I already looked back over what I have learned during this daily writing adventure, and I think now it’s time to look forward to see how coming up with something to write about every day.

I used to love blogging, and that was back before anyone liked reading my posts. I have actually never stopped enjoying writing blog posts, but the pressures of school and teaching took the joy out posting. And NaBloPoMo has renewed my interest in blogging. With the possible exception of yesterday, I did not have much trouble coming up with posts every day.

Sometimes those posts where hard to write. When I wrote about dealing with depression, I worked on those 239 words for hours. And this wasn’t revision, either. It was more like walking on a balancing beam: slowly, word by word. There were lots of words and feelings swirling around in my head, but with each press of the keys, I was torn between opening up and publishing onto the internet my deepest pains and often irrational insecurities. I didn’t end up revealing why I was depressed or some of those dark emotions. But the post was honest and writing it helped me to continuing dealing with this bout.

Sometimes they were easy to write yet hard to publish. I mean, who wants to publish a blog admitting that she has been wanting to smoke when she knows that her parents, younger, impressionable cousins, and aunts and uncles would be reading it? In the end, I decided to publish it because it is real, it is what I’m dealing with right now.

I learned a lot this month, and I’m ready to put those lessons and my renewed passion for blogging into practice.

5 Blogging Effects of NaBloPoMo

  1. I’m going to pick back up on my 100 Things That Make Me Happy Besides Money blog. When I left off in August, I was on number 26 on my list, and that’s where I’ll pick up on December 1st. Since this blog doesn’t demand long posts, I’ve decided to do NaBloPoMo again there. Last fun announcement here: I’ve moved this blog from Blogger to my own hosted WordPress, so you can find it at http://LindenAMueller.com/besides-money/. If you want to subscribe in a feeder, click here. For delivery by email, click here.
  2. . . . and also my photoblog, which I started and almost immediately abandoned. There were two posts, and then *crickets* But I love taking pictures, and I want to develop my skill, so by publishing my work online and opening it up for criticism, I can hopefully improve.  This blog has a much different format than a written-content blog, obviously. Each post contains one picture and a description in the form of the title, plus a link to the photo on Flickr. I’m planning on starting of with 2 to 3 posts a week and move to eventually one post a day during the workweek. You can view my new photoblog at http://LindenAMueller.com/photoblog/. Same as before: If you’re interested, click here to subscribe in a reader, and click here for delivery by email.
  3. I’m going to revamp my Tuesdays with Linden’s Favorite Links posts. When I published my first link post, I intended to just share my favorite links from the week. But LorraineDesign does themed Wednesday’s Weekly Reader posts, and I’m going to offer the “sincerest form of flattery” and copy Lorraine’s great idea by collecting themed weekly link posts.
  4. I am going to write more often. But I won’t always publish those drafts right away. If there is one thing I have learned this month it is that when I get ideas, I need to sit down and write it. How many blog post ideas have I missed out on because I didn’t sit down and write them? Well, no more. I don’t want to publish more than 4 posts a week because I don’t think you want that (but if you do, let me know in the comments).
  5. I am going to set aside some time each week for blogging. Because I was forced to blog each day, I did. It is as simple as that. It forced me to come up with an idea if I didn’t already have one, and so I wrote for 30 days straight. The limits that I set for myself on day 1 stretched me, and I don’t know that there are limits I should establish for every single blog post I write, but it is something that I will be considering over the next few weeks.

Questions of the Day

If you are subscribed to my blog (via feed or email), did you read every post I wrote this month? Also, how many posts would you want to read a week?