Old Blog Post

I wrote this for a class project around SharePoint in Fall, and I’m deleting the site, but it’s almost too good to let go of:

I Have “Blog Block”

There’s all this effort going into trying to figure out what I’m supposed to blog about. Drat it, I have no topic ideas. None. Zip. Nada.

And that, ironically, brings me to my topic – writer’s block. Writer’s block is a significant problem for many writers, especially in academic environments where the stakes are high. I suggest several ways of getting out of writer’s block:

  • Don’t write (at least not for a while) – give your brain time to recharge.
  • Consider freewriting for a set period of time – say, 20 minutes. Even if all you do is write the phrase “I have no topic” endlessly, at least you’re writing. When freewriting, don’t stop writing for any reason (unless your life depends on it – your house burning down around your ears is a good reason to stop).
  • Create a community of writers. Perhaps you’re not the only one experiencing writer’s block. Talk to others who might be having the same problem.


I went down to Olympia yesterday to interview for an internship with the Washington State Department of Information Services. This position would essentially be working with DIS to help them roll out services from their development to production environments; most notably, this would involve work with SharePoint and allow me to have fairly decent exposure to a lot of different projects across state agencies. I wouldn’t be dealing with “end users” per se – at least not in the traditional sense of “non-technical everyday people”. The work would support system administrators and developers in their efforts to use the offerings put forth by DIS.

The interview went about as perfectly as I could hope – after getting signed into the building and getting a visitor badge, I was shown upstairs and talked with the group about my previous experience in SharePoint and answered a few questions about what I thought the internship might entail. As it turns out, one of the people I would be working with in that position was actually an MSIM student in the past, so there was also a smaller conversation about the program itself. The next step is figuring out who I would report to, since there’s some deliberation as to who would be most effective. After the interview, I was given a brief walkaround to meet a couple of other individuals in the office.

On this one, I’m optimistic.

There is, however, still my original discussion with the Washington State Department of Ecology, which has turned into something of a hassle. While Ecology’s project is fascinating – involving working directly with the state’s sustainability initiatives – there are a couple major problems that are causing red flags to pop up in my head left and right:

  1. Communication. I get very random e-mails from Ecology, and not just from a single person – from multiple people, and it’s often fairly clear that they’re not talking to each other internally at all. While I was very comfortably dealing with multiple people at DIS, I have always had a primary contact at each step of the way, which moved from their HR department to a high-level supervisor to a supervisor closer to the work that I would actually be doing. I know at this moment exactly who to talk to and who to work with within DIS to make an internship happen. With Ecology, I have no idea who’s in charge of coordination or who I’d be reporting to. On top of that, they can’t seem to figure out the difference between a capstone project and an internship.
  2. Vetting. Whereas DIS put me through a state application process, the usual requests for references, and an in-person interview, Ecology has done nothing of the sort (and in fact, unless I’ve been misreading the last couple e-mails, seem to be assuming that they’ve already brought me on as an intern!). As important as the vetting process is for an employer, it’s actually almost as important for an employee – it tells me that DIS is taking this seriously and putting me through a standard process for hiring. Ecology hasn’t even so much as requested a resume, to my current recollection.

In short, regardless of what happens with DIS, I’m likely to withdraw my interest in an internship with Ecology – it doesn’t matter how great the project is if the planning process itself isn’t executed well, and at this point, it doesn’t feel well-executed in the least. I’ve had a couple e-mail conversations with people within the MSIM program who have both recommended talking to Ecology either over the phone or in person, but with the DIS interview having gone well (and, quite frankly, sounding like it’ll offer many more opportunities to get involved in different areas), I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.

Notes: Electronic Piers Plowman: Implementing an Edition of a Six-Hundred-Year-Old-Poem for Twenty-First Century Students

These are my own notes from the Research Conversation about representing Piers Plowman today, March 7. Presented by Terry Brooks and Miceal Vaughan. (Note (3/11/2008): I went back in and cleaned some of the formatting up on this, since apparently Windows Live Writer is not quite as consistent as I’d like.)

An (Incorrect) Alternative American Dream

No Impact Man posts about an alternative American dream, quoting a passage from Segal’s Graceful Simplicity and asking what would happen if the passage turned into reality:

“The point of an economy, even a dynamic economy, is not to have more and more; it is to liberate us from the economic–to provide a material platform from which we may go on to build the good life. That’s the alternative American dream.”

Great, except that Segal’s absolutely wrong.  The point of an economy, especially a capitalist economy, is to promote the transfer of goods.  Yes, even a dynamic economy.  The economy is not the problem.  It’s not even close.

Why is the economy not the problem?  Because, as much as people badmouth it, they overlook something crucial: culture plays as much, if not far more of a role in determining how a society behaves.  We have a materialist culture, not a materialist economy, that promotes the constant accumulation of goods and services.  Even those like No Impact Man fall victim to this culture to a certain extent, and to a certain extent, I would argue this cannot be negated.  The exchange of basic goods – food, water, shelter – is materialistic and highly tied to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  You cannot change economic reality – that’s been around for far too long, and the culture far longer.

But it’s the culture we grow tired of.  It’s the culture that No Impact Man rallies against when he decides to minimalize his impact, not our economy.  Change the culture.


I’ll credit Zach Hale for first making me wonder why the hell Twitter was really even worth thinking about (though I can’t appear to locate my original comment on his blog to that effect). 

After much resistance, I’ve finally set up my Twitter account (you can find it on my Profiles menu on this site’s navigation bar).  Why?  This series of articles had a lot to do with it, but I also decided that I’d take a page from the book of one of my co-workers, Martin Criminale, and at least try throwing my hat in the ring.  And, of course, Zach had a bit to do with it.

Now if they only had an import option that allowed me to upload contacts without sending out invitations (the Gmail contact import doesn’t appear to be working for me at this point).  I’m also curious about whether it might be possible to integrate my blog posts and my Twitter posts in such a way that they all appear in a continuous stream on this page (without necessarily being an entry in my WordPress RSS feed).  It’s probably doable, just a question of figuring out how.  Tweets, as they call Twitter entries, would have to be indicated, but that’s not overly hard.  Perhaps a combination of SimplePie and my standard WordPress template code?

Organizing the Inbox

Inspired by Nick Cernis and his blog post on Inbox Heaven, I’ve decided that I’ll try a partial implementation of his system:

  1. Attempt to remove messages from my Gmail inbox as fast as possible.  Star items that need immediate followup and delete items I’ll never reference again.
  2. Check the “Starred” list daily, at minimum.
  3. Use labels to track messages that are of interest to me that I may want to reference later (which is what I was previously using starred messages for).

Reading the Inbox Heaven post inspired me to go on a deletion binge and remove a few thousand e-mail messages from my account (most – if not all – of them list messages from back when I monitored Prius e-mail lists).

Alas, this won’t apply to my UW accounts, since the UW uses IMAP for mail retrieval.