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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Friday
    Sep182009

    Tech Tuesday: Protecting Young Leaves on the Family Tree; Does Your Blog Need a Standard of Privacy?

    If a blogger writes a post revealing the birth date of Great Aunt Martha, the worst result might be Auntie’s chagrin in discovering discover that the secret of her youth is “out.” The potential outcome, however, of posting family photos on a personal blog is unfortunately much more sinister.

    Jenni Brennan is a Massachusetts mother who discovered that a photo of her smiling son was apparently lifted from her family blog and used as part of an adoption scam advertised on Craigslist. After an email alerted her to the scam,  Jenni responded to the ad posing as a potential adoptive parent and received a picture of her son, along with a request for $300 to begin the adoption. The case is now under investigation.

    While the actual physical risk here may be small, the sense of violation and exposure is quite real.

    An ongoing Flickr discussion on posting children’s photographs offers another chilling look at who may be looking at your children, and why. Self-avowed voyeurs have found a treasure trove of titillating children’s photographs on public photo-sharing sites, and a strangely supportive parent-body to support their taste. Some users like muddylemon became alarmed when they discovered certain photos from their image file were scoring thousands upon thousands of hits; after following the trail of those marking the pictures as “favs,” parents decided to change the images from Public to Private.

    Yet another prevalent concern for family bloggers is the growing business of children’s identity theft . In 2007, the Federal Trade Commission estimated that about 400,000 children per year were victims of identity theft, according to CBS News. Children make especially good targets, it seems, because they have a clean credit record. Teens can be cautioned not to give out personal information, but what about infants and young children? Family bloggers might not post a social security number, but stories often reveal a child’s full name, mother’s maiden name, and address.

    Personal bloggers can minimize exposure to abuse of their family information by adopting a few tactics:

    1. Protect children by posting photos and anecdotes on a password-protected blog or website.
    2. Use low-resolution and/or watermarked images to deter easy pilfering.
    3. Restrain from publishing any personal information on a public blog.

    Julie Brennan never expected to see her son “up for adoption,” and muddylemon didn’t think his son’s bathtub photos would become “hot hits” at Flickr. The Brennans now blog at a password-protected site and muddylemon has marked his son’s photos as Private.

    Family history bloggers can also protect the use of their family photographs and information by devising a Standard of Privacy for their blog. Many bloggers already work with a loose, unwritten guideline, but the exercise of forming a written statement will help firm up your thoughts and make it easier to decide what material to post. Bloggers might consider

    • the purpose of the site and what level of access is desired; public or password-protected?
    • resolution to use in posting images; watermark or other protection?
    • whether or not to invoke Copyright or Creative Commons licensing
    • what level of individual to write about or include in photos: only non-living, only photos/information 25 years or older, only adults over age 21?
    • what level of privacy to afford when writing about other individuals: first names, initials, no maiden names? It is common for family history bloggers to omit full names and addresses of living individuals. It is also courteous to ask permission before posting photographs of family members, no matter how innocuous the image may seem.
    • how much personal information to reveal; a family photo with home address clearly displayed, children on the front school steps, pets and their names?

    A Blog Standard of Privacy can be as casual as a bullet-list tacked above your desk, or a formal as a typed statement posted on your blog. It can evolve as issues arise and decisions are made about what to include and not include on your site.

    Not everyone will agree with the need for such prudence, of course, but many careful genealogy researchers have considered the evidence and chosen to err on side of caution whenever an individual’s privacy is at stake. You will find them blogging on a variety of focused topics, with only an occasional discrete mention of family or personal life. It doesn’t mean they “have no life,” just that Real Life is separate from Virtual Life.

    Further reading -

    Monday
    Sep142009

    Blog Writing 101: Grab the Gold Ring with A Memorable Carnival Post, Part 2

    In Part 2 of this feature, Carnival Hostesses with the Mostest share some of their favorite carnival entries and talk about what makes a memorable article.

    In Part 1, Grab the Gold Ring With a Memorable Carnival Post discover what is a blog carnival and how you can participate. Carnival hosts also share their experiences and describe what it takes to run a successful carnival event.

    Carnival hosts have two thing in common – they love what they do and have a tough time singling out “favorites” from the many wonderful entries to the events.

    Carnival Entries That Make the Hostess Smile

    Jasia relates that after nearly 80 editions of the Carnival of Genealogy, “it’s more the edition topics that are memorable. . . but a few articles stand out for two reasons, passion and talent. The authors are all passionate about the topics they’re writing about, and they are very talented writers. It’s just that simple.”

    FootnoteMaven says, “In the case of Smile for the Camera it’s all about the photographs; the sheer joy of seeing how each participant interprets the word prompt in a pictorial submission. I’m also a sucker for a creative blog name. It always gets my attention.”

    For the Festival of Postcards, Host Evelyn Theriault notes that what stands out most to her is when bloggers do something different for them, such as a geneablogger “paying attention to the postcard publisher or postcrossers adding little research blurbs to accompany their modern postcards.” She likes seeing the ways that bloggers from different niches approach the postcard subject.

    When coaxed, the carnival hosts gave several examples of what they consider memorable entries, and it’s easy see the qualities that makes these articles stand out from the crowd. Careful research, humor, creativity, and good writing are all evident in the following articles (presented here in alphabetical order) –-

    Be Yourself

    Most importantly, memorable articles are written by bloggers who dare to “be themselves” and let their own unique voice be heard. Whether you are new to blogging, or an old hand looking for a fresh perspective, it’s a refrain that never gets old, “Be Yourself” as footnoteMaven says.

    “When writing for the COG, your article will be appearing alongside many others. Develop your own voice to stand out from the crowd,” Jasia advises writers. “if you’re quick-witted, go for some humor. . . if you’re detail oriented, deliver your content with source citations in all their glory. If your talent is writing emotional posts that touch people’s hearts, don’t submit anything less.”

    “I am continually amazed at the effort Smile participants put into each post,” adds footnoteMaven. “There’s a lot of love going on with those photographs. You cannot help but be touched by the enormity of pride, and the value to our family history that the participants place on, often one of a kind, photographs.”

    This pride of family is often the spark that moves an someone to respond to a particular carnival edition. If the theme fails to resonate, the writing can fall flat too for lack of passion. In fact, according to Jasia, passion is one of the key factors to a successful carnival posting. Without passion, the article will likely not be memorable at all.

    Mini-Step: Write a Very Short Piece

    Does an upcoming carnival topic appeal to you? Perhaps you have the perfect story to tell or photograph to share, but you’re still timid about joining in. Consider the words of Evelyn Theriault and “focus on writing a very short piece – a few paragraphs at most.” Don’t be intimidated, she adds, just do it.

    Write a mini-article, post it to your blog, and complete the submission form or email to meet the deadline (even better, be a day or two early). When the carnival goes online, post another article announcing it at your blog, and be sure to provide links from the original article to the carnival article as well.

    Mini-Step: Join the Carnival as a Commenter

    Another way to ease into carnival participation is to be an ACTIVE reader. Carefully read entries to current carnivals, ask yourself what you like about the article, what you might do differently. When you find a particularly memorable article, take time to leave a comment. These mini-moments are great writing practice and help you focus on what you really want to say, all useful in honing your own style.

    Comments are also the best way to convey your appreciation to the carnival hosts and writers. A few words lets them know that you enjoy the time and effort they give to producing the event, and encourages them to continue.

    Next Step: Just Do It, With Passion

    “To anyone contemplating participating in a carnival,” adds footnoteMaven, “Do it! I have always found it to be a very rewarding experience regardless of which side of the post you find me on.”

    “Just do it,” writes Evelyn. “

    Bring your passion to your piece, and, as Jasia says, “When the passion is there, the article will likely be memorable.”

    See you at the Carnival!

    Thanks to footnoteMaven, Jasia, and Evelyn Theriault for sharing their thoughts on hosting genealogy blog carnivals for this two-part article. Please leave your comments for the Carnival Hostesses or the author, Family Curator.

    What does it take for a carnival article to be your favorite?

    Friday
    Sep112009

    Grab the Gold Ring with a Memorable Carnival Post, Part 1

    Carnival Hostesses with the Mostest share their favorite carnival entries and talk about what makes a memorable article, as well as describe what it takes to run a successful blog carnival in this two-part article for Write It Down at The Family Curator.

    Are you ready to join the carnival, but wondering if you have what it takes to be a real Carney? Or, are you an old hand at the game but looking for a few new lines? Blog carnivals and festivals are one of the best ways to participate in the blogging community and interact with other bloggers, and with several great events offered each month, you are sure to find a subject that appeals to your interests. Read on to learn exactly what is a Blog Carnival, and how  you can join one.

    A Carnival is Not The Circus

    Popular podcaster Lisa Louise Cooke confessed while interviewing carnival hostess footnoteMaven that she was a bit confused about carnival protocol for her first entry to the Carnival of Genealogy.

    “I took it very literally, I thought we were doing ‘Carnival’ theme,” she laughingly admitted. “I did a Louise merry-go-ground, a mashup of images of all the women named Louise. . . travelling around on this carnival.”

    And, no wonder Lisa was confused. The notion of “Carnival” conjures up all kinds of visions. Some folks think of country carnivals with mechanical thrill rides, a house of mirrors, and the midway crowded with ring-toss games. Others recall the three-ring acts under the big-top. It’s a small group of bloggers, indeed, who think differently when hearing the term “Carnival.”

    Carnival, Festival, or Challenge – all are themed writing events designed to bring together articles on a given subject. Typically, the Carnival Host will announce the a Carnival Theme and invite participants to submit entries. There is no formal application or registration. Yet, there are a few informal rules that help make things run smoothly.

    Every Carnival Needs a Manager

    Organizing, promoting, and publishing a blog carnival is a big job. Ask hostesses Jasia, footnoteMaven, and Evelyn Theriault.

    evelynEvelyn Theriault, A Canadian Family, has hosted the the Festival of Postcards for five months, bringing together images and articles from a variety of genealogy bloggers and postcard collectors.

     

     

    fM

    FootnoteMaven, Shades of the Departed, counts 17 months, 17 editions of Smile for the Camera, a carnival focusing on memorable photographs bringing “subjects, poses, or information we’ve never seen before.”

     

     

    jasia Jasia, Creative Gene, is already planning the 100th edition of The Carnival of Genealogy, and can count over 2000 genealogy-related articles in past editions. Jasia hosts the carnival and coordinates the various bloggers who take turns hosting this long-standing favorite.

    Each carnival host may spend as much as two days promoting, assembling, and commenting on entries. Some bloggers make their job easier, and some make the job harder. Typically, the host will announce the subject of the next carnival and give a deadline for entries along with instructions on how to participate. The blogger does not actually submit the article to the host, instead the article is posted on your own blog, and the link and a brief summary are submitted to the carnival host. Then, the real work begins for the host. They must take all the entries and assemble them into one cohesive article.

    smile-for-the-camers If the number of entries is manageable, a host may read and comment on each one individually. FootnoteMaven notes, “I receive between 30 and 52 submissions for each carnival. I use the submitters’ photograph or avatar in the compilation. Sometimes finding a photograph requires a lot of searching.” She then tweaks the photo in Photoshop, resizing and adding a drop shadow. Next, she reads the submission and writes an introduction. Finally, fM moves on to create the logo for the next carnival. All in all, about “two days if you don't do anything else.”

    carnival-of-genealogy1 The COG, managed by Jasia, has grown so large that Jasia no longer has the time to write individual comments to each article, unfortunately her favorite task as a carnival host. Instead, the carnival submission form allows for a brief summary by the author, which makes it very important to complete this section. “I enjoy the enthusiasm that comes (from the authors) when I’ve picked a topic that’s really popular, she adds. “My favorite part used to be when I commented/introduced each article in each edition, but I had to let that go when the number of participants grew beyond the time I had for putting the COG together.” Even with the carnival submission, Jasia, and other COG hosts, must spend several hours compiling posts into the final Carnival article.

    logofestivalwishyou Carnival hosts seem to love reading the articles that come their way. Evelyn Theriault says, “putting the issue together allows me to really focus on each in such a way as to capture their individual essence. This is enjoyable, but also educational as it allows me to grow as a blogger.” The Festival of Postcards requires about thirty hours each edition, notes Evelyn, although technical glitches can bump the time spent considerably.

    Lessons from the Managers, or, How To Be a Carnival Host’s Dream Blogger

    Whether you are an old-hand at Carnivals, or looking to join the fun, here are a few tips that will make the manager’s job easier and ensure that your entry is guaranteed time under the spotlight.

    1. Meet the deadline. Post your entry on your blog AND follow the carnival guidelines to submit your article well before the announced deadline. Don’t make the host’s job harder by asking for an “Excused Tardy.” Just be on time, if not early. Remember that even blog services sometimes go down.
    2. Submit everything requested by the host. Typically, this will include Blog Name, URL to entry post, Post Title, Brief Summary; it may also include a photograph or avatar of yourself. Make a list and check things off as you include them in your submission.

    Today we’ve focused on what is a Blog Carnival, and how to participate Effectively. Part 2 will include more tips from carnival hosts on How to Write a Memorable Carnival Article and examples of great entries from the archives.

    Thursday
    Sep102009

    Patriot Day Remembering 9-11

    In Honor of Our Servicemen and Women and the Patriots of September 11, 2001

    Thursday
    Sep102009

    Hostesses With the Mostest Reveal All

    typewriter-lady-silhouette

    The Family Curator is pleased to announce the debut of a new department, “Write It Down,” premiering Friday, September 11 with a special two-part interview of Blog Carnival Hostesses footnoteMaven, Jasia, and Evelyn Theriault.

    These Carnival Hostesses with the Mostest share their favorite carnival entries and talk about what makes a memorable article, as well as describe what it takes to run a successful blog carnival in the first installment of this two-part article.

    “Write It Down” will offer feature stories on family history bloggers and events, writing tips, topic ideas for blog posts, and resources for family history writers. Articles will be posted at The Family Curator blog feed and also available at the Write It Down page at The Family Curator.

    Tuesday
    Sep082009

    Tech Tuesday: Back to School and Time for Roll Call

    The day after Labor Day is traditionally the first day of school in many parts of the country, but as a former high school teacher, the only homework for The Family Curator today is to welcome readers and take attendance!

    In recent months, I’ve noticed a marked decrease in comment interaction throughout the genealogy blogging community. Is it that posts are less stimulating? Did the blog feed get lost in updates and moves? Or has Twitter replaced the old comment box as the preferred way to respond?

    Several bloggers have noted the decrease in comments in proportion to the increase in Twitter activity. And as much as I enjoy the immediate action of Twitter conversations, I miss the longevity of a blog comment. Sometimes I learn as much from comments as I do from articles.

    Today’s Homework

    What do you think? Do you Tweet? Has Twitter impacted your commenting activity? We are taking Roll Call at The Family Curator and asking for your input – are you out there Reader? Please, leave a comment and let’s tally the results.

    Saturday
    Sep052009

    Penny Dreadful Writes Again at Shades of the Departed, “Returning to the School of Life”

    Prompted to pull out her typewriter once again by a curious photograph from footnoteMaven’s archive at Shades of the Departed, Miss Penelope Dreadful has brought forward yet another tale of tragic drama, hope, and redemption.

    The story of young college student, Gareth Scriven, struggling to overcome his grief after the untimely death of his beloved older brother will bring tears to your eyes and a sob to your breast. Yet, ever mindful that the human condition will seek solace at last, Miss Dreadful finds hope for Gareth in the correspondence of a very young teacher in a western town.

    Visit Shades of the Departed today to read the Gareth’s thrilling story in “Returning Back to the School of Life.”

    Tuesday
    Sep012009

    Tech Tuesday: Why Every Family Needs a Blog

    People say California doesn’t have seasons; but natives know that isn’t true. Like every other region, we too have four seasons – Fire, Flood, Drought, and Earthquake. And once again, it’s Fire Season in Southern California. Right now, the San Gabriel foothills are burning and flames are visible from the long view up my street. Smoke hangs heavy in the air, made worse by our famous L.A. Basin inversion layer, and over 6,000 homes have now been evacuated.

    My home is probably out of the danger zone for this fire, but only two years ago my sister and her family spent two weeks out of their home in Silverado Canyon when another blaze forced the evacuation of hundreds in their little community.

    silverado-livesYou may not live under the threat of California wildfires, but you probably have other potential natural disasters hovering nearby. Maybe you live in tornado or hurricane country, maybe your region is frequently flooded, or maybe you just like to be Boy Scout Prepared for any contingency.

    Using a family blog to stay in touch during an emergency is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to communicate. When the fire started in my sister’s neighborhood, she quickly found that she didn’t have time to deal with scores of phone calls from worried friends. In a very short time, however, I was able to set up a family blog at Blogger where we could both post updates about the situation as a communication center for people who wanted to send her family their good wishes.

    What makes a family blog different from a genealogy blog, or another type of blog or website? It all depends on your purpose. I won’t go into the specifics of how to set up a blog here; Geneabloggers has done an excellent job in their Blog Primer, and Blogger makes it easy, easy for first-timers. Instead, here are some things to think about when starting a family blog --

    Purpose – Do you need a short-term blog intended as a News Center for a specific event, disaster, or crisis? This could be anything from a family reunion, to a natural disaster, to a serious illness. Or are you setting up a permanent family blog which will be available in the event of an emergency? Perhaps you already have a family blog, but you are thinking about how you might handle an event where special communication was needed. Consider a link from your permanent family blog to another special blog. Do think about your purpose, and plan accordingly.

    Access – Who do you want to read your blog? If you need to communicate with close friends and family about a seriously ill family member or even a new baby, you may want to restrict access with a password. If you want to act as a News Center for any and everyone you may want to leave all access public.

    Expertise – What’s your Geek-Ability? If you already have a special-interest blog and are comfortable in writing and posting, you will be able to put together a special-needs blog quickly and confidently. On the other hand, if you are completely new to the blogosphere, you may want to go slowly at first by using Blogger or another full-feature platform. Whatever you do, make it easy on yourself. This isn’t the time to challenge your tech skills. It’s all about the information.

    Privacy – Along with access, privacy is paramount. If the public has access to what you write and you may be evacuated from your home, maintain some level of privacy. Do not post your street address; avoid using full names; be wary of announcing when and where you will be. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Your friends know who you are, and first names or nicknames let them know what is going on.

    Name – Choose a blog name that is easy to remember, to spell, and to communicate. Spread the word. Every comment from a friend is one less phone call to handle. Mostly, folks want to say “We care,” blog comments are a great forum for this.

    Description – Include a short profile description that identifies the purpose for the blog.

    Blog Authors – If possible, ask someone to be your co-author. Many days my sis was exhausted and too emotional to describe her current situation. Later, the blog served as a place for her to share her thoughts and then to thank friends for their prayers and good wishes.

    Post Frequently – Especially if the purpose of your blog is for communication, make it your goal to keep it updated frequently. Friends and family will turn to the blog if they know they can find current information. During the Silverado fires, I found local sites that provided fire maps, evacuation orders, and press releases. By extracting information pertinent to my sister’s neighborhood, I was able to keep the blog updated with the fire status.

    Remote Posting and Social Networking – Veteran bloggers know that there’s more than one way to post a blog article or photo. By setting up a blog before you really really need it, you will give yourself the time to learn how to send posts from your cell phone, and how to incorporate social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook updates with your family blog.

    KISS – Keep It Sweet and Simple. Remember the Purpose and try not to get sidetracked with fancy widgets or images. Focus on information first.

    Most importantly, don’t wait for disaster to set up a Family Blog. Get one going now and use it for holiday greetings or family gatherings; Be Prepared.

    More on Family Blogs:

    Monday
    Aug312009

    New Member for Midge’s Couch Potato Club

    It’s Fire Season in Southern California – scorching hot, smoky, and sooty – which means instead of enjoying the famous California sunshine, we are trying to stay cool and calm indoors. Last week Midge Frazel posted Couch Potato Family History at Granite in My Blood, her latest find in the genealogy mystery genre, The Blood Detective The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell. She even posted images of her Twitter conversation with the author. Quite impressive.

    Okay, Midge, I’ll see you one and raise you two (volumes) – have you discovered one of my very favorite genealogy mysteries, Bloodline (Natasha Blake, Ancestor Detective, Book 2) by Fiona Mountain? Natasha Blake is a professional genealogist in England who finds out "research is murder." I don't think it's available for the Kindle, alas. For instant gratification via wireless download I also like Mansions of the Dead (Sweeney St. George Mystery)  by Sarah Stewart Taylor. Her protagonist is an art history professor who specializes in mourning jewelry and spends a lot of time in cemeteries. Sound familiar! Maybe you can add to the list!

    Sunday
    Aug302009

    Preserving a Harvest of Cookbooks

    Today I have spent some time “putting up” my cookbook collection. Somehow, my lonely little shelf of bridal books has grown to fill more than twenty linear feet of bookshelves (yep, I just measured). That’s a lot of recipes!

    bjsSHOP I never thought much about this “collection” until last spring when I wandered into Bonnie Slotnik Cookbooks in Greenwich Village, New York City. I stepped into her cozy little shop filled to the brim with cookbooks and retro decorative cooking gear, and I felt like I had come home. Bonnie was scrunched into her corner desk chatting with a friend who had stopped by and they both stopped to welcome me.

    I was speechless as I looked around, but her response to my first question really made me stop and think.

    “I have a problem,” I confessed. “I have too many cookbooks.”

    The women looked at each other, then at me, “Why is that a problem?”

    And here I had been feeling pressured to down-size and whittle down my books. What freedom! It was the “Ah-ha” moment when the world shifts. Suddenly, I went from being the Owner of Too Many Cookbooks to rebirth as a Cookbook Collector. It was fabulous.

    Shifting gears to my new identify wasn’t hard at all. Bonnie queried me as to my interests – preserving, community cookbooks, Jello recipes, holidays – and helped me find a few new volumes to add to my Collection. As I browsed her shelves admiring the books and whimsical 60’s timers and gadgets, she told me that the set designers had come to her for props for the new film Julie and Julia. She was excited that she was able to purchase many of the set props when the filming was complete, hence the generous selection and great window display.

    I also noticed that her books were all carefully protected by clear book jackets, and made a note to put that task on my To Do List. When I came home, I ordered a package of assorted sized book jackets from Brodart Archival Supplies. The clear covers are easy to put on the books and provide support as well as protection for the paper dust jacket.

    My plans don’t include covering every book in my collection, but I am trying to preserve copies that are sentimental favorites or that have increased in value. No, I don’t have Julia Child’s first edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but I do have my mother-in-law’s gift to me at my bridal shower, Woman’s Glory, The Kitchen. If that’s not a keeper, I don’t know what is.

    Tuesday
    Aug252009

    Great California Garage Sale This Weekend, August 28-29

    Do you love a tag sale? Step on the brakes for an auction? Mark your calendar for August 28-29 when the State of California holds The Great California Garage Sale in Sacramento. Of course, California is automobile country, so it is only fitting that this sale to “benefit” the State is named a “garage” sale rather than the East Coast “tag sale.”

    Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared war on state government waste, and announced today that several surplus items, including some personally signed by the Governator, will be offered for sale on eBay and Craigslist as a pre-sale to the Saturday and Sunday Garage Sale. Even more items, from vehicles to video cameras, from ballpoint pens to bookends, will be for sale at the actual garage sale in Sacramento.

    Now, if only this sale could retire some of the California deficit so we could cash our tax refund vouchers!

    Tuesday
    Aug252009

    Tech Tuesday: Get a Grip on Email

    Amy Coffin at We Tree has decided Time Management: Too Much of a Good Thing after a ProGen assignment in analyzing personal productivity showed her that she was almost too good at getting things done, to the point of never allowing herself a break. This morning, when I opened my email program and found 1965 messages in my Inbox I felt myself wishing I had just a bit of more of her discipline.

    Today is the day I get a grip on my email. In typical researcher-style, I Google “email” which leads me to Merlin Mann at 43 Folders and his forthcoming book Inbox Zero. As a superhero of tech time management, Merlin fights Inbox glut with a simple, straightforward system aimed at keeping your Inbox absolutely empty.

    You can watch his presentation on a Google video, or read posts in the Inbox Zero series at his project website. The idea is to “process” email, rather than to “check” email, and to take action so that it doesn’t accumulate. I’ve used my Inbox as a filing cabinet for so long that the notion of seeing it empty and forlorn is a bit scary, but I think I might be able to get used to the idea that I was “in charge” of the box instead of the other way around.

    In fact as much as I like his idea of using five key actions to handle email, even better I like the notion of extending the idea to cutting down the tall stack of papers on my desk. It’s just “advanced common sense” as he says, but it is a system I can use.

    So, how to get a grip on 1965 messages; I’m going to follow Merlin’s advice and move every last message into the Email DMZ. I’ll work forward with new messages and spend some time each day weeding out the old ones until I can reach Inbox Zero status. I might even start on the stack of papers on my desk.

    Tuesday
    Aug182009

    How Did They Survive the Dog Days of August? Remembering Summer on the Farm with No Computer, No Internet, No WiFi – A Tech Tuesday Post

    No new gadget reviews or tech tips this week, folks. Instead, a reflection on surviving the Dog Days of August without computer, cell phone, or internet; and a memory of a few days spent on a cotton farm.

    I’ve been reviewing old posts with an eye for topics I missed and would still like to feature, and the title of one article jumped out at me today, Sometimes Low-Tech Is Just Fine. Low-tech life. . . no tv, no computer, no air conditioning! It’s hot and dry in Southern California, school hasn’t started yet, traffic is lighter as Angelenos cram in a few more weeks of vacation in other places. . . it’s the Dog Days.

    What a funny name. When I was younger, I thought the term referred to the heat – canine panting and drooling. Then, I went back to school for a graduate degree and heard that it has something to do with the zodiac. I took out my magnifying glass and my compact edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (must be 2-point type) to read:

    Dog-days
    1. The days about the times of heliacal rising of the Dog-star; noted from ancient times as the hottest and most unwholesome time of the year [followed by a very scientific discussion of exactly when the dog-days occurs, beginning anywhere from July 3 to Aug 15, depending on latitude and legend, and lasting from 30 to 54 days]
    2. An evil time in which malignant influences prevail

    The way I figure, on my calendar the Dog Days occur in mid-to-late August when it’s either hot and dry, or hot and sticky; everyone is waiting expectantly for fall to begin and the long days of summer to end. Sitting in my air-conditioned house with an internet connection to amuse and occupy my time, I wonder a bit how my ancestors filled those same Dog Days.

    They probably made the best of them, like my farming aunts and uncles in Bakersfield, California. I remember visiting my grandmother’s sister in the farmlands north of Los Angeles. Aunt Rose and Uncle Ray owned a large farm and lived in a green clapboard house off a dusty road near Punkin Center. It was probably “Pumpkin,” but no one called it that. Their two sons lived in houses on either side of their old farmhouse, Uncle Hale on one side and Uncle Lowell on the other. One of them, I can’t remember which one, had a swimming pool; that was the only luxury on those farm “vacations.”

    costerisan_1964001Rose and Ray Costerisan On Farm July 1964. 
    (Privately held by Denise Levenick, Pasadena, California. 2008.)

    I stayed in the old farmhouse with Rose and Ray. By the time I woke up and came into the kitchen in the morning, the house was already hot and sticky and the kitchen full of the smell of ripe, ripe cantaloupe. The linoleum was old and clean, but so hot that my feet seemed to stick to the floor as I walked across the room. There was no air-conditioning, of course, so I felt hot and damp most of the time. In fact, my memory of times on the farm are mostly of cantaloupe and stickiness.

    For entertainment, I“helped” pick cotton. Walking along the row of cultivated bushes, Uncle Ray showed me how to grab the fluffy white flower of the cotton blossom and pull it free. The seeds were tight little burrs that would be removed by a machine, but I picked them out by hand for my own little basket of soft cotton batting.

    When that grew boring, I wandered around the yard  admiring the chickens and peafowl and collecting the iridescent feathers. The birds were either skittish or mean as heck; you had to be on your guard against an attack.

    In the late afternoon I would join my cousins for a swim before dinner. I can’t remember what we ate. Probably cantaloupe! Then after the dishes were cleared Uncle Ray brought out the spoons and started playing. He held them between his fingers and flicked them rhythmically over his thigh, making a tune grow out of the clacking metal. Sometimes, he altered the sound by substituting “bones” for the spoons. Now, I’m not sure just what those bones were made of. . . farm animal ivory? At the time, they seemed quite scary.

    But nothing was as scary as Uncle Ray’s velvet case of teeth. Amused by seven-year-old toothless grin, Uncle Ray went into the house and came out with a small case. Flipping open the latch, he lifted the lid to reveal a velvet-lined case full of ivory teeth. I remember taking one look and running away, even as he howled in delight over my refusal to accept a new tooth.

    Do you think that’s what our ancestors did in the Dog Days of August? Worked? Ate cantaloupe? Played a little music? Told stories and jokes? I bet that’s exactly what they did!

    Sunday
    Aug162009

    The Family Curator is Moving

     Bulldozer_Moving_House

    Bulldozer and work crew moving a house; from a c. 1920 original photograph. Unknown location within the United States. [Wikipedia: Image in the Public Domain in the United States]

     

    The Family Curator is moving to a new home and getting a fresh coat of paint. Thank you for your patience while we unpack!

    Friday
    Aug142009

    2 Good Reasons to Use a Genealogy Blogging Prompt, and 3 Tips for a Top-Notch Post

    No matter how long you’ve been blogging, sooner or later you may find yourself staring at an empty page with nothing new to say. It happens to everyone. If you are just getting started in the world of family history and genealogy blogging, you may find that you have the opposite problem, so many ideas that you don’t quite know where to begin.

    Blog Carnivals, Daily Themes, and Memes are all other names for old-fashioned writing prompts, and they can help get your fingers flying over the keyboard once again.

    A Writing Prompt by Any Other Name is still a Writing Prompt

    A basic writing prompt is a simple instruction about a specific topic, designed to help the writer focus on the subject at hand.

    • The prompt can be as straightforward as proposing a theme
      • Write about one day you spent as a 13-year-old
    • or it may encourage the writer to try a new approach
      • Recall the worst day of your teenage years, and write about it from your mother’s or father’s point of view

    Where To Find ‘em

    Look for writing prompts, memes, and carnivals at

    3 Things to Think About Before You Write

    After selecting a prompt, carnival, or theme, take a few minutes to think about what you will write. Ask yourself, How can I make this interesting and well-crafted?

    1. Use a hook to pull a reader into your story. Open your article with the most interesting thing of all.
    2. Stick with the topic. Focus, focus, focus. Try to address the prompt in 300 words or less; hard to do, but it will help you be clear and concise.
    3. Write the headline AFTER you’ve written the article. Make it even more interesting than the opening hook. If you’re clever, use a joke, a pun, a song or movie reference.

    Using genealogy and family history writing prompts can help you enjoy writing blog articles instead of dreading deadlines.