Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Blog Article Methodology Inception2finish

My article is intended for beginning bloggers, would-be bloggers, and sporadic bloggers. I have been blogging since September 2009, inspired by TheWriteJob clublet to explore my inner creative writing. After awhile, I noticed a pattern emerging on how I generate a blog article. Recently, I made a presentation to the clublet regarding my process as follows:

principles I advocate regarding blogging, how I choose my topic, my output scheduling, supporting info (or not), stream of consciousness, content organization, editing methodology, publishing, and publicizing

I have heard bloggers present the first two principles as bases for writing; I subscribe to them as well. I present the third principle as a nudge.

  • Write about something you know about.
  • Write about something you're passionate about.
  • Think of writing as pumping iron to achieve or improve written output. It's analogous to an exercise program—you don't attain the conditioning by just watching an exercise video.

Stages (and Publicizing):
For me, there are three stage locations for inception to publishing. Other bloggers might use only two or even just one:

Stage 1: Initial drafts
I start with a working space in my emailer application. I always have it open, and I can save the drafts instantly without needing to commit to a filename or directory structure.

Stage 2: HTML file
I copy my emailer content over to my HTML editor, code the draft, review for mechanical edits, and tweak as necessary to prepare the article for the blog site.

Stage 3: Blogsite post(s)
I copy the final draft onto the blog site and preview it. If I tweak it, I tweak the HTML file also. As part of the third stage, after I publish to the blog, I create a truncated version in TheWriteJob community blog.

Post-article publicizing
I announce the new article.

How I Choose My Topic
Influences are timeliness, inspiration, something in my accordion file folder, or a combination. Inspirations have included a song, a holiday, a recipe, an event, a crossword puzzle, a conversation, … Related: If I think of something, I scribble it, then file it into the folder, for which I have taped a scribbled index inside the flap.

My Output Scheduling
I make it a point to post three times a month. (One month I put up four posts.) Three posts divide pretty neatly into monthly divisions of first 10 days, second 10 days, and whatever is left of the month. For me, self-scheduling is a good motivator.

Supporting Info (Or Not)
A good amount of my assertions and information comes from Google search results. If I have a series of results for an article, I tend to mention main sites. A benefit to citing URLs is ease of finding similar sources for future articles.

Stage 1: Initial Drafts
I create a workspace in my emailer program.

Stream of Consciousness
I key in topic content in a stream of consciousness using my emailer program. I have it open more than any other application, and can save drafts without commitment to filenames. When keying in stream of consciousness, if poking around URLs, I log them near their related content in case I list them in the actual article.

Content Organization
The stream of consciousness can overlap with content organization.

  1. During organization, I generate an opening paragraph or story lead-in. Example thoughts include the following: How the topic come about, a conversation, a song, a news article, something I witnessed, something I've been thinking about for awhile, etc.
  2. I organize the content for flow. I arrange, rearrange, reword, rework, move snippets to the bottom in case I use them or decide to discard them.
  3. I create a closing paragraph, which can come near the end of the organization process. (My shortest closing paragraph had only one word, which is in my article about the Spinach-Cheese Taco.)
  4. I create a label list to insert into the blog label field.

Stage 2: HTML file
I create a webpage for the blog article in an HTML editor. I serialize it, along with its folder. (I create a folder that starts with the number of the article I'm getting ready to post, which is where I house the html page.)

Editing Methodology (Mostly Technical)
Content organization can overlap with editing methodology.

  1. After I copy the contents over to my HTML editor, I fine-tune the article. (I have never been able to totally just copy over without tweaking later.)
  2. I tag the content (paragraphs, lists, …), tweak the URLs as applicable. I occasionally view the article using the design view or browser view for formatting, punctuation, looks, and correct site destinations.
  3. I review for passive vs. active voice. (Active is more engaging.)
  4. I check for subject/verb agreement for number (singular vs. plural) and tense.
  5. Especially for lists, I check for parallel structure—noun, verb, phrase, etc.
  6. I check punctuation.
  7. I spell check.

In this article's case with numerous subtopic titles, I also checked and revised for title-case capitalizations.

Stage 3: Blogsite Post(s)
I publish to my blog site, then publish a truncated version to the community blog site.

  1. I log in to my blog site.
  2. I select for new post, then I copy the formatted article to the wysiwyg view. (I also fill in a new-title field, which becomes the article title and gets associated with the post's URL.)
  3. I paste labels to the blog label field.
  4. I preview, then publish when the article looks right.
  5. I put a truncated article in the community blog as well as my own blog. (This is an anomaly that applies only to me; however, adopt if feasible.)
    1. After I have published my full article to my blog, I note the URL. In my html editor, I then save my full article as [samearticlename]-truncated.
    2. I find a strategic place in a paragraph to select and truncate.
    3. I open a previous-article truncated file and copy boilerplate reference info onto my new truncated article.
    4. I replace the old URL with the new article's URL and save it.
    5. After I navigate to and select the option to post a new article, I paste the truncated article and labels, then publish it.

Post-article Publicizing
I announce the new article in various social media and email lists.

**Topic Ideas**
The following section lists potential topics for blog articles.

  • Suggestions for inspiration topics:
    • What was the best thing that has happened to you this week?
    • What thoughts occurred to you Thursday 2/18 about the plane crash?
    • What was something memorable for you in January?
    • What was at least one Olympic event or news that captured your TV time?
    • What was something new you did or learned in 2009?
    • For bloggers, when did you publish your most recent article? (This is not really a topic, just a nudge.)
  • Suggestions for passion topics:
    • food—cooking, eating, eating out
    • family—immediate, extended, relationships
    • recreation—sports, shopping
    • other topics

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Convenient Cake Mix Cooky Batch

Make the cookies with a basic recipe using cake mix, eggs, and oil. I timed this article for making red, heart-shaped cookies for Valentine's Day. (Combining Red Velvet and strawberry flavors results in a nice red color—not too dark, and not pink.) The resultant chocolaty and strawberry flavors are a bonus. This simple recipe requires 4 ingredients:

  • 1/2 box Duncan Hines Red Velvet cake mix (Only Duncan Hines makes this flavor.)
  • 1/2 box strawberry cake mix
  • 1/3 cup of oil (For a slightly nutty flavor, replace 1 tablespoon oil with sesame oil.)
  • 2 eggs

Note: The stated weight for a standard-size box of cake mix is 18.25 ounces.

The following baking equipment required:

  • cooky pan(s)
  • pastry blender
  • couple of bowls
  • bowl(s)—one for mixing dry ingredients, one for mixing wet ingredients (unless you use a large cup for the wet ingredients)
  • cooky spatula to lift and transfer baked cookies
  • cooling rack for done cookies

Heart-shaped vs. Round cookies

  • If making round cookies, a measuring spoon and spatula also required.
  • If making heart-shaped cookies, a cooky shooter with heart-shape disk highly advised.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift or otherwise dry-mix the cake mix powders together thoroughly into a medium-large mixing bowl.
  3. In another bowl or large cup, mix the oils and eggs.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the larger container and use a pastry blender to stir the ingredients together.
  5. Dispense cooky dough as follows according to the shape you want.

  6. Cooky shooter dispense method

    For heart-shape cookies, my method is using a cookie press, which resembles a caulking gun, to push out the dough. (The disk resembles a "Y".) I use 1 and 1/2 trigger squeezes for each suitable-looking cooky. (I myself don't care for the cooky-cutter method, as the dough rollout is not all that fun.)

    Round cooky dispense method

    For round cookies, my method is as follows:
    1. Use a round tablespoon to scoop the dough.
    2. Flat-scrape the excess with a rubber spatula.
    3. Use the spatula to turn and drop the spoon's dough onto the cooky sheet.
    4. Additional option: Flatten and spread the dough using the bottom of a glass.
  7. Bake each batch about 10 minutes.
  8. Use the cooky spatula to lift and transfer the done cookies onto cooling rack.

The cookies are soft right out of the oven, but become slightly crunchy after a few minutes. The yield can be as high as 4 and 1/2 dozen.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Body Parts Express

Earlier this week, I heard Huey Lewis' "Hip to be Square"—a song I hadn't heard on the radio for a long time. It struck me this time about "hip" as a body part. I find it odd to think of a body part having a positive connotation as "hip" seems to have. Sure, in the context of the song, hip is a desirable attribute. Soooo, I decided to hop on the hip (no hip-hop or hippity-hoppity) train and mentally wander from cowcatcher to caboose and back and forth to collect tidbits and tidbytes for this article.

I started to think about other hip uses and also other body parts. Anyway, I mentally segued to a "hip" song released in the 60s—"Hippy Hippy Shake", associated with the Beatles and also the Swinging Blue Jeans. Around that same time, "Mohair Sam" (Charlie Rich)—notable for its title and some of the lyrics—mentions "hippie" in hipness terms. At the time of the song's popularity, "hippie" had not yet connoted counterculture long hair.

Well - who is the hippie that's happenin' all over our town?
Tearin' up chicks with the message that he lays down
Who is the coolest guy, what is, what am?
That's fast-talkin' - slow walkin' - good-lookin' Mohair Sam.

Chugging along on the hip route, my stream of consciousness began yielding the following hip terms in addition to hippie: Hippy Dippy Weatherman (George Carlin character), hippo, hippopotamus, Hippocrates, hippocratic oath, Hippolyte/Hippolyta (Wonder Woman's mother), hippocampus, hypnotism, hypocrisy, hypocrite, rose hips, Hutto Hippos, …

Thinking of other body parts, there are numerous associations with expressions and songs. Parts that come to mind are neck, arm, toe, back, nose, cheeks, ear, lips, eye, finger. (Be forewarned: I do drop an occasional homophone.)

To stick a neck out, to neck, bottleneck, breakneck (speed), nekkid. (OK, so that's an almost-homophone I'm sneaking in. )

Something costing an arm and a leg, strongarm, stiffarm, call to arms, army, armada, armor, Armor All, armadillo.

The House episode this week included a portrayal of a soldier who shot off his toe in an attempt to get around his stop-loss order. This incident made me think of Catfish Hunter's having shot off a toe. What a pitcher he was while with the A's! When he pitched his perfect game, there had been a headline "Catfish Hunter Hurls Perfect Game". That sports headline HAD to have been really confusing for anyone who didn't know who Catfish was or what a catfish hunter was or why he would throw (out or away) a perfect game!

Anyway, back to toeing the line about toes. BTW, the term refers to using a toe to draw a line in the sand, a do-not-cross boundary, sometimes mistakenly written as "towing the line" because of the homophonic nature of "toe" vs. "tow". "Towing the line" seems more applicable to motorboat drivers pulling water skiers than drawing lines in sand. OK, I'm moving back to talking about toes—toetap, toehold, toenail (wood), stand toe to toe, not the same as meet face to face, see eye to eye, have a tête-à-tête, dance cheek to cheek, …

Have someone's back, have your back to the wall, throw out a back, backbreaking (work), back someone, back up (physical movement, records duplication), look backward, back down, back off, comeback, "Get Back" (Beatles),"Back in the USSR" (Beatles), Come Back Little Sheba (movie), backstab, Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap star), Baccarat (casino card game), baccalaureate (bachelor's degree or sermon to bachelor's degree graduates), Chewbacca (hairy one in Star Wars), Burt Bacharach (song writer), "Come Back When You Grow Up" (Johnny Tillotson), "Baby Come Back" (Players), "I Want You Back" (Rolling Stones, Jackson 5). Whew! Several songs have to do with backs! OK, I also sneaked in back homophone words and syllables. Also threw in some backs that aren't the body part. :-)

Keep your nose to the grindstone, have a nose for news, nosegay (small bunch of flowers), cut off nose to spite face, put your nose out of joint.

Dance cheek to cheek, be cheeky, nice cheeks (reference to the body parts that resemble cheeks but aren't), cheek by jowl.

Have the ear to the ground, earful, lend me your ears (quite a visual for those unfamiliar with Mark Anthony's opening speech at Julius Caesar's funeral), [H]ear ye [h]ear ye here come de judge (Flip Wilson), walls have ears.

Lipstick, "Lipstick on Your Collar" (Connie Francis), Loose lips sink ships, lip lock, lip service.

Eyeball, eyesore, "Eye of the Tiger" (Survivor), "I Only Have Eyes For You" (Platters), "Spanish Eyes" (Al Martino), "Bette Davis Eyes" (Kim Carnes), "My Eyes Adored You" (Frankie Valli), "I'll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time" (Wayne Newton). OK, I'll skip most other homophones, as "eye" provides lots of bull's eyes for associations, such as all sorts of other songs, ay caramba, aye aye captain, iPhone, iPod, Iraq, ICU, I See You (expression and song from Avatar), I Spy (TV show).

To finger (point out), fingerling (small young fish), give someone the finger, Fingerhut (mail-order company), Butterfinger (candy), butter fingers (oops!), lady fingers (cookies). Related: Thumb, as in "Under My Thumb" (Rolling Stones).

In the interest of keeping the article suitable for family consumption, I decided to refrain from naming additional body parts. In case you're curious to see what terms I omitted, the Hair soundtrack has a song about body parts ("I Got Life"). Honorable mention—"What's New Pussycat?" (Tom Jones). References used for this article: Google searches, YouTube searches,, various lyrics sites resulting from google song-title lyrics searches, and chitchats with others.

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