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Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night shall stay this blogger from her appointed posting.

Wait, that should be for National Blog Post Office Month, shouldn’t it? I get the two confused.

National Blog Posting Month (abbreviated NaBloPoMo) is a commitment (or at least a goal) to post daily to one’s blog for the month of November. I have decided, after a good deal of hemming and hawing on my part while I carefully considered whether I could do this, to participate. I’ve also decided that my aversion to Star Wars paraphenalia outweighs the extent to which I was creeped out by that gun pointing directly at my head with the (Latinate, in this variant) “Blog or die” motto, so here’s a link to the NaBloPoMo page, with my thanks to M. Kennedy of Fussy for providing this little boost of incentive to post more often — and thus to write more.

NaBloPoMo Seal

I have a fresh new copy of Maggie Mason’s book of blog ideas to prompt me when I inevitably run short on ideas for things I feel I can write something worthwhile about with whatever brain function is left for me at the end of the day. And I even have a pair of percentile dice to force a choice about which of the 100 worthy writing prompts to use, so I don’t use up the month hemming and hawing some more about which prompt to use. Since I’ve promised myself long ago I will never, ever blog about how I don’t have anything to say.

First up? My most cringeworthy moment. Or at least that cringeworthy moment which makes the most entertaining story. Stay tuned.

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…another rejection letter.

Dear Country Mouse:

Thank you for your interest in Company X. Understanding time is of the essence to you in your career search, we have carefully evaluated all information relevant to your employment application with our firm. Our decision is not to pursue your application further.

Again, we appreciate your interest in Company X and wish you every success in your future.

Sincerely,

Company X Hiring Department.

And no, I didn’t delete the signature. There wasn’t one to delete.

Once upon a time I believed it when writers wrote about their hundreds of rejections slips as they sent things out to be published, with the implication that writing is the only profession in which one can have this disheartening experience. I’m finding that most any profession can experience this. On the bright side, it seems to be rarer for a company to send out an apology letter like this than to just leave you hanging; so kudos to Company X for that.

Welcome, Crazy-Hip Blog Mama readers.  I didn’t know if many people used web ring links, but I just got added to this particular ring and Lo! today is already my best day since starting this blog in terms of number of views.

And, randomly, here’s what may or may not turn out to be the only bit of celebrity blogging I ever do.  Because on the whole, I just don’t care about what any given celebrity is doing; but it seems like the whole “Madonna adoption” issue is being talked about on a full third of the blogs I read (that is, most of the blogs concerned even tangentially with adoption and the issues that surround it). So, here’s my take, only I’m being lazy and quoting someone else who summed it up well instead of actually writing an entire original post on the subject:

By all reports, she’s been considering adoption for a while. And yet she STILL manages to make the whole thing look like “buy myself a cute African boy for the holidays.”

This lovely nutshell was posted by Jody as a comment on Vindauga. If you want more information about the whole subject (which I would find drearily boring if it weren’t for all the interesting discussions I see it sparking about the ethics of adoption, how adoption is viewed in the US, in the UK, and elsewhere in the world, and more), a few Google searches or a leisurely browse through my blogroll will give you all you could hope for. And probably more.

Add one item to my list of things I hope to see or do before I die: the tiankeng of China. These sinkholes are mindbogglingly huge, and apparently were known to very few people, even within China, until the last decade.

This is the planet our species evolved on, and it still manages to stagger me with the things that we don’t even know about it. Can you imagine the wonders we’ll find, if and when we ever manage to travel to another one?

I have been raising my son for two and almost a half years — more than that if you count the normal amount of time spent tap-dancing on my bladder. However, it has only recently become clear that I am, in fact, rearing a Pokémon.  (edited because several people asked: Pokémon are the little creatures from a Japanese video game and TV cartoon which, when they speak, only say one word or parts of that word.)

“Ooh, Nate, look at this. Isn’t that neat?”
“Choo!” he says.

“Nate, do you want yogurt?”
“Choo! Choo!” he says, nodding or shaking his head to indicate yes or no — though the countours of the spoken words are sufficient without the gestures.

“What’s this?” I ask him, pointing to one of his toy trains.
“Choo!”
“What sound does it make?”
“Chooooooooooooo! Chooooooooooooooooo! Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch…”

“What’s your name?” strangers ask him. “How old are you?”
And when he doesn’t act bashful and hide behind me (the better to play peekaboo around my legs), he replies, “Choo.”

*

I was reading the latest entry over at Toddler Planet earlier, and it got me thinking about something else I should really be including on this blog. Whymommy’s stated purpose for her blog is to write about raising kids to be intellectually curious. That’s a goal of mine for Nate. It’s something I don’t talk about too much, in part because if I talk too much about my ideas for that I’m afraid I’ll sound like I’m pontificating instead of conversing; but mostly because it’s something so fundamental to how I parent (and how I interact with all children, not just my own) that unless someone else brings up the topic, while I think about it a lot, I seldom think to talk about it.

So. What do I want for my child? I want him to be intellectually curious, socially well-adjusted, and that all-elusive quality: happy. I want him to be freer of religious and gender boundaries than most of the culture I am raising him in. (Please note that I say “freer,” not “altogether free from.”) I want him to appreciate what he has and what he is given, and I want him to give to others — both those in material need, and those whose only need is the pleasure of having someone do a thoughtful thing. And I want him to grow up with a sense of creative (and intellectual) freedom — a freedom to explore ideas of all sorts, be they creative works, scientific research, or unusual branches of philosophy.

It’s a tall order, but expect me to write from time to time about things we do together that might seem mundane… unless you refer back to this entry, and figure out how some day-to-day activity I’m discussing relates to the parenting ideals I’m working towards. This is a good example Whymommy is setting.

In that spirit: Nate, too, got a new toy today, for no special occasion. It’s a new piece for his wooden train set, a tiny castle in which the train rolls up a slope, through a swinging door, through the castle, under a gate he can lower and close using a little dial on the castle’s side, and down another slope. And oh, how he practiced with it, making two different trains out of the train cars he had, and opening and closing the gate before and behind each train (which required turning the knob in different directions, which he sometimes accomplished by switching hands); using one train to push the other and seeing how far they could go before the train in front rolled down the slope at the far end; and seeing what happened if he tried to change the direction a train was traveling in while its engine was under the swinging door. (Answer: it got stuck, as the door wedged itself against the smokestack. It didn’t take long for him to figure out that he had to push the engine on through the swinging door and then reverse the train’s direction — along with the door’s swing.)

So, Nate got lots of practice today with cause and effect, gears, levers, the physics of slopes, and the effects of gravity. He also worked in a little practice with changing the order of a sequence by sending part of it on a shorter or longer path (the train tracks were set up with a split that merged back together before they got to the castle, so each train could go on a different path and still travel through the castle with the other one). And of course, he got in some more practice with how magnets work — though since he’s been playing with these trains (which have a magnet at each end) for over a year, he has the basics down pretty well by now.

Perhaps his next add-on for the trains should be a big magnet, so he can see how it interacts with the magnets on the trains.

At least one person has found that post unclear. So, in even simpler terms:

RSS feeds show you what’s new on a website whenever something new is put on that site.

An RSS aggregator lets you see the RSS feeds for all your favorite websites by visiting just one website.

This is why, right now, I can see that of the 80-odd websites I like to read on a regular basis, 26 of them have new articles. I can find that out by checking one website (my NewsGator account) instead of checking all 85 to figure out which ones have updated. And I can also check to see the titles of the articles before visiting the sites, so that I can skip the ones that don’t interest me.

I hope that’s clearer this time. And again, I hope it helps someone to make better use of their time by streamlining their web surfing.

A quick note: If you already use an RSS reader, feel free to skip this post. Or not — it does contain a link to a great explanation of RSS that you may wish to give to friends rather than trying to explain RSS yourself.

If there are more than a few websites you read daily — be they blogs, news sites, web comics, or what have you — an RSS feed reader can save you a lot of time. (Of course, depending on how you use your time online, you may be wondering why you would want to streamline your use of something you use primarily to waste time at work fill the time when you’re waiting for a program to compile. I will leave that to your judgment. Just remember that I’m not the one suggesting someone might, horror of horrors, use the internet at work to read anything not work-related. Shh.)

If you think I’m going to explain the wonders of RSS, though, you’d be wrong. Well, I’ll give you a one two-sentence summary: It lets you look at just one place to see which of the 100s of sites you care about have updated. You pick the sites, so it really is only ones you care about.

The real purpose of this post, though, is to give you a link to this excellent and simple explanation of what RSS is and what it does. Go read it, while I let my tea cool. Thank you, Back in Skinny Jeans!

How to explain RSS the Oprah way

I personally use NewsGator to read any number of sites, from friends’ personal blogs to general news to science magazines. For a time I used Bloglines, which seems to be the most popular web-based feed reader (perhaps because the name is an easy one to remember), but after reading that it had problems with updating the feeds of certain sites, I checked and found that, sure enough, certain blogs that I had assumed were not being updated were instead not showing up on Bloglines. So far, I’m happy with NewsGator.

May this post help someone understand RSS. Or at least save someone a little time in their daily routine, even if you don’t understand all the technology.