Web Site Update

On MarsIt’s been a little longer than usual since my last blog entry. This was primarily due to the fact that I was busily upgrading this web site. I’m now using WordPress 3.5.1, the latest version (with all of the latest security updates). I’ve updated the Akismet plugin, which prevents this site from being inundated with spam comments, and I’ve updated to the latest version of the Magomra theme (plus I fixed a bug in their theme, and then added my own customizations).

Behind the scenes, the site is now under source code control, which means that I can track all changes to the site’s underlying code, and back out changes if necessary. Equally important, it’s now possible for me to easily install the site elsewhere, where I can experiment with new features without compromising the “production” site that everybody sees on the Web. So, expect more new features in the future.

Meanwhile, the new background shows a couple of people in environment suits walking on the surface of Mars. I like the way that the background is immobile — you may have to expand your browser window a bit to see our hapless wanderers.

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Television Interviewer

I recently had the chance to be an interviewer during a segment of the television show, Mastering Business Communications. The show is run by Toastmasters District 29 in northern Virginia, and appears on Comcast Channel 28 in that area. It’s taped monthly at the Comcast Studio in Herndon, VA.

I was impressed with how efficiently the show was managed. We managed to tape a fairly complicated show with a number of diverse segments in just a few short hours. The studio was awesome — truly a professional, working studio. I was also very pleased with the show’s production values, including the lighting, the deft camera work, and the top-notch editing.

Overall, my second bout at being a television interviewer was a smashing success (as an aside, my first interviewer role was with Arlington Independent Media in 2010). Everybody involved with the production had a lot of fun (and then we went out drinking).

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Proper Manuscript Formatting

William Shun has provided the best online example I’ve seen of the proper way to format a manuscript. His article is, itself, formatted as if it were a short story manuscript destined to be submitted to some publication. It’s a clever conceit, and does a great job of conveying his formatting guidelines while using real content, his article, as an example.

Recommended for newbie writers everywhere. Don’t let improper formatting make your story look unprofessional to editors. Put your best foot forward and make sure your manuscript is properly formatted. Let William Shunn make your life easier.

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XKCD Rocks!

XKCD on Period SpeechOne of my favorite comics is the online comic XKCD. Here’s one of my favorite examples from the strip.

You have to admire a strip that advertises itself with:

“Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).”

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Santa Clause Traditions

Santa ClauseMy wife, Sally, is Scottish. I mentioned to her in passing one day that, when I was a kid, my parents would leave milk and cookies out on the kitchen table so Santa could have a snack when he showed up.

She looked at me with a horrified expression, then exclaimed, “Milk and cookies! That’s terrible!” She shuddered. “Santa’s a man, not a boy! In Scotland, we leave whiskey out for the poor fellow ’cause he needs something to warm him up on his journey.”

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A Lifetime

This appeared in my Facebook Newsfeed. I have no idea of the original source. I really like it’s stark simplicity — a lifetime love affair captured in only six simple, black-and-white frames.

A Lifetime Love Affair

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LaShunda Rundles

LaShunda Rundles was the winner of the 2008 Toastmasters International Speech Contest, a world-spanning competition that winnowed 30,000 competitors down to a single winner. She was the first African-American woman to ever win the competition, and the first woman since 1986 to do so. She was also featured in the acclaimed indie documentary, “Speak,” which coincidentally followed the finalists in the 2008 competition.

My Toastmasters district held a screening of “Speak” today. My friend Edmond Joe was there with his camera, and captured this stunning black-and-white shot of the crowd watching LaShunda Rundles’ speech.

LaShunda Rundles, World Champion Speaker - 2008

LaShunda Rundles’ speech was about her battle with lupus, and how she wanted her words to leave a mark on history by helping other lupus sufferers. She lost her life to lupus this past August.

To me, there’s something eerie and powerful about this shot, with its gray colors and an anonymous, silhouetted audience watching LaShunda speaking words that have, indeed, outlived her, all projected on two screens behind an empty podium.

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With Friends Like These…

On September 27th, I had my three remaining wisdom teeth extracted. Not a particularly fun event, of course. My friends and co-workers, notably Dave Roberts and Jonathan Quigg, decided that they needed to do something to mark this event. So they commissioned the creation of a video for me…and greeted me with it upon my eventual return to work…

Basically, there’s a web site called Fiver.com, advertised as “the world’s largest marketplace for small services,” where people offer to do things for $5. This one guy, who has no teeth, offers to make videos on demand on any topic. So, Dave and John commissioned him to make a video for me.

It’s…um…unique.

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Storm Over DC

One of my Facebook friends posted this long-exposure photo of a lightning storm over Washington DC. I don’t know the original source of the photo, but it’s awesome. It looks like something Hollywood would do for some big sci-fi action film.

Storm Over DC

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What Really Happened to the Titanic?

I laughed pretty hard (but with a certain amount of guilt) when I first saw this.

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