30 Days To A Blog Challenge–Day 12

Day 12

Tweaks and Edits

After only about two weeks into the blogging thing, I realized my blog needs tweaking. Instead of thinking: Are you kidding me? More work already?, I thought: Wow, that didn’t take very long to realize! This is a win because I automatically framed my thought in the positive, rather than having to think about how to reframe it. Yay, me. The following are the tweaks and edits I did over the past two days:

First, I changed the image on my About page and my WP gravatar. Actually, its mostly the same profile picture, only instead of being monochromatic blue, its a typical full-color image. I’m not sure why I chose the monochrome originally, but the full-color is definitely better.

Second, I made some changes on my 30 Day Blog Challenge page. I changed the image here, too. The calendar image I used previously was not only blasé, but was too dark. My new image is of the Mayan Sun Stone. I like it better, but am a little concerned the reference might be a little too abstruse.

The next thing I changed on the page was clarifying my personal definition of the 30 Day Blog Challenge. While some people aim for a post every day, that is not my goal. I am aiming for 20 quality posts in 30 calendar days, with the focus on the lessons I am learning while beginning a blog.

Third, I edited my blog post on the Mütter Museum. Since this is an ‘art blog’,  I realized I had not clarified the connection between my visit to the museum and art. I added another subheading and wrote about the tie-in. Then, I instead of the category “Must-see Museums”–what was I thinking?– I categorized the post under “Inspiration.”

I’m happy I realize my blog needs a lot of work. I’m also happy because I have a list of tasks to do to improve my blog. I’ll save them for another post.

 

Thanks for reading!

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30 Days To A Blog Challenge–Day 11

day 11

In yesterday’s post, I broke my default Blog Challenge format by writing a post about a topic other than what I’m learning about the process of blogging. It was the hardest post to write, so far, because it was so time-consuming.

First, It took a long time to find the images. Because I was writing about a museum visit where picture-taking is taboo, I had to rely on images I found on the web, instead of ones I took myself. Also, I used multiple images in that post, rather than just one under the post’s title, so finding images consumed more time than I wanted to spend just for one post.

Second, It took some time finding just the right info to link to. In this case, I wasn’t linking to another blog post, I was linking to hard information. For hard information, I wanted to find the right information presented in a certain way, which takes time. For this post, I did use Wikipedia for one link, because the Company’s website gave less info than Wikipedia, and was more visually heavy rather than informative.

Third, the writing itself took a lot longer than I wanted. Because the post contained many facts, I had to keep toggling back and forth between the museum’s website and my new post page to keep from writing the wrong information. Then, when I was writing my next to last paragraph, I changed my mind about the post. Instead of writing factual descriptions that can be found in many places on the web, I wrote about my personal experiences at the museum. So then, naturally, I had to re-write the whole post.

Lastly, headings and sub-headings. Because this was a stand-alone post about a topic other than the blogging process, I wanted more interesting headings and sub-headings. I liked my title, catchy but descriptive. Initially, I just had the catchy part, but then added the descriptive part. I wanted all readers to know what my post was about, not just readers who have been there. I also wanted my sub-headings to be more interesting, since the museum itself is an unusual one.

Overall, even though it took a ridiculous amount of time to write, I was much more satisfied with the entire product. Again, I’m sure that as I write more posts in that vein, my time spent on each post will decrease.

Thanks for reading!

11 down, 19 to go!

Mütter Madness: a Museum of Medical Oddities

30 Days To A Blog Challenge–Day 10

mutter museum front 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dare to Be Disturbingly Informed!

361 days a year, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia opens the doors to The Mütter Museum for those with a morbid curiosity for medical oddities. According to the museum’s website:

America’s finest museum of medical history, the Mütter Museum displays its beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments in a nineteenth-century “cabinet museum” setting. 

The goal of the Museum is to help visitors understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body and appreciate the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Fortunately for me, the museum is only about two hours away, so a day trip was in order. Since the museum’s exhibits are mostly displayed in Victorian ‘cabinet’ style, my traveling companion and I chose to travel Victorian style, too, via train.

As soon as I walked up the marbled steps to the huge wood doors, I was hooked. Not an entrance, but an edifice. Form and function. I passed through the doors, and was not disappointed. Display cases of wood and glass, dimly lit. There was a remnant of a warm odor, like ‘old book smell.’ It must be the lignins. Quintessentially Victorian with exacting detail, it was perfect for curating and cataloguing. And for an old-school Hammer Horror film. Onward!

Must-See Exhibits at the Mütter

1. Einstein’s Brain

Einstein's Brains

When Albert Einstein died in 1955, Dr. Thomas Harvey autopsied, removed, and kept the physicist’s brain. Eventually, Dr. Harvey dissected the revered brain into hundreds of slices, and dispersed the slides to many different pathologists all over the world.

The specimens on display at The Mütter Museum were received from Dr. Lucy B. Rorke-Adams, a Fellow at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

2. Hyrtl Skull Collection

hyrtl skull collection

Anatomist Joseph Hyrtl donated his collection of 139 skulls to  The Mütter Museum in 1874. His purpose in collecting the skulls was to debunk the then-popular ‘science’ of phrenology, which claimed to determine an individual’s character traits from the size and shape of their skull. Hyrtl’s collection aimed to show anatomical variations in Caucasian Europeans of the time.

3. Chang and Eng Bunker Death Cast

  chang eng bunker death cast

Chang and Eng Bunker, arguably the most famous set of conjoined twins, inspired the term “Siamese Twins.” After touring extensively, Chang and Eng moved to North Carolina, became farmers, married sisters, and fathered 21 children between them.

When they died in 1874, Fellows from The College of Physicians conducted an autopsy and the specimens were sent to the museum. The Bunkers’ Death Cast and fused liver are on display.

4. Megacolon

megacolon

This is big. I cannot even imagine how this patient looked, let alone walked upright, with extreme abdominal distension. So many questions: When the colon was extracted, how hard was it? Was the patient a man or a woman? How functional was the patient? How long did they have this condition? Did they get to the point where they just did not want to eat?

Again, difficult to imagine. My apologies for the lack of facts here, but in my zeal I neglected to take notes.

5. Babies and Fetuses

Sorry, no picture for this one, my fine readers; I’m drawing the good taste line here. If you must, Google it.

Jars and jars of babies and fetuses. My hardened sensibilities, built up from years of teaching in a public high school, were up to the challenge.  My friend, a deep-feeling and hypersensitive soul, was done after the first display case in this section of the museum. No wanting to deal with a potential fainting scene, although it would have been an apropos Victorian cliché, we cut our visit short. Another day.

Why Mütter in an ‘art blog’?

Way before this point in the post, you may have been thinking: “This museum is fascinating and all, in a morbid sort of way, Kelly, but what’s the tie-in to art?”

For one, art and anatomy are inextricably intertwined, thanks to da Vinci. All of these suffering souls on display have been examined, observed, studied, analyzed, autopsied, collected, preserved, catalogued, curated and conserved. In a word, objectified. In a way, both the artist and the anatomist objectify their subjects in their work.

Two, physical suffering is a universal experience. Suffering, and the pain is causes, is something we all try to either alleviate or avoid altogether, sometimes at great cost. Many of the skulls in the Hyrtl collection belonged to individuals who were victims of suicide.

For me, The Mütter Museum is a mirror. As I pass display after display of their remains, I am simultaneously fascinated and repulsed. I have questions. How did some of these poor people make it through one day, let alone live their lives? How did they eat? How did they sleep? How did they earn a living? Did they ever laugh? And the final question: How much could I endure if I were in their circumstance?

Like powerful art, the Mütter is a direct hit to the solar plexus.

Need More Mütter?

  1. Just visit already! And what better time of year than creepily close to Halloween?
  2. View the museum’s YouTube Channel. Better yet, subscribe!

 

Day 10 down, 20 more to go!

30 Days to a Blog Challenge–Day 9

day 9

Day 9 of my personal challenge. 

Yesterday, in my day 8 post, I discussed needing a way to keep track of my posts to avoid redundancy.

In that post, I also claimed I would create a spreadsheet Excel file to keep track of my data. This evening, I did create the file. Here’s what it looks like:

Blog posts log in xcel

My apologies for the poor image. I have yet to learn how to do a screen shot; this was taken on my trusty iPhone 6. You should, however, be able to make out that I have included the following information regarding each post: posting date, post title, main topic, sub-topics, links, and images.

What you cannot see in the above image is that the Excel file also contains columns for categories, tags, and questions/comments.  I am happy with the outcome; my Excel skills are rudimentary, but getting better through use.

I learned that since I am using predominantly text for my data, I needed to expand the cell width to avoid frustration. I chose 32 over the default 8.something. It is working fine for now, and will tweak it in the future if my needs change.

What solution(s) have you implemented to keep track of your blog posts?

Thanks for reading!

Day 9 down, 21 to go!

30 Days to a Blog Challenge–Day 8

 

day 8

Day 8 of my personal challenge. My one goal is an end of week reflection on the blogging process, continued.

Yesterday, in my Day 7 post, I reflected on what is working. Today, I will reflect on:

  1. What is not working, and for now, will change in some way
  2. Any questions I have

Let’s look at what is not working for me so far, or what I want to change:

First, the headings and sub headings thing. As a blogging beginner, I choose pure function over form. While still clearly a beginner, I am beginning to become bored with my headings. Yet, I know myself enough to realize if I abandon the format altogether, I will waste a ridiculous amount of time creating just the right header. I’m not cool with that. I know I’m entering a transition period as I move up the learning curve. I know that messiness and disorder is often a byproduct of this process. I don’t have a solution, so for now, I’m just riding the wave!

Second, ‘Cathartery’–what does that mean? I have yet to provide an explanation or definition for the term, either through the use of a tag line in the blog header itself, or elsewhere in my blog. It bugs me, I apologize, and I need to get that done this week. Again with the paralysis of perfection! At least I know myself.

Third, keeping track of what I’ve written and my questions. Since my posts are just entitled by number without a clue to content, after a week I’m struggling to remember what topics I’ve written in which post. For me, its a pain to keep toggling back and forth between screens. I think I’ll create a spreadsheet and include the date, title, big idea, and sub topics. I’ll also include any questions/challenges/inserted links. So, for example, an entry for today’s post would include: 9.21.15; 30D2aB#8; end of week reflection, what is not working; headings, Cathartery definition, remembering previous post topics, and link to Day 7 post. When I get the spreadsheet done, I’ll post a pic of it on my blog. Good idea, Win!

Any questions that I have

  • What is the protocol for acknowledging a blog follower?
  • What is the best way to thank them?
  • How do blogs with a huge readership show their readers love and thanks without necessarily following them?
  • Once the habit of posting is engrained, what is the next best thing to work on to ramp up my blog to the next level?

I think these are enough questions for now. Thanks for reading!

Day 8 down, 22 to go!

30 Days to a Blog Challenge–Day 7

 

day 7

Day 7 of my personal challenge. My one goal is an end of week reflection on the blogging process.

For my reflection format, I created several lists:

  1. What is working, and for now, will keep doing
  2. What is not working, and for now, will change in some way
  3. Any questions I have

I like the list format for analysis because its objective (ironic in an ‘art’ blog, I know), simple, and keeps me focused on the task at hand without getting sidetracked.

Let’s look at what is working for me so far:

First, the posting thing. While I wouldn’t use the word confident, I do feel comfortable with the process of posting. For now, I am keeping it simple. I copy a previous post, then change out the title and the image that appears at the beginning of a post. I write my post using the copied format, and insert any links if needed. I check or add a category, and insert any necessary tags.  Then, I edit for clarity and content, and do a final manual proofread for spelling. Done and publish!

Second, consistency of voice. I am writing using my natural writing style, and not trying to change my voice at all. Looking back and re-reading my previous posts this week, I am pleased that my writing voice is consistent.  When I am writing a new post, I do very little editing for writing style. Whew! One thing I don’t have to worry about!

Third, using WordPress. Again, to emphasize my statement from a previous post, anyone who claims you can have a blog up and running in 15 minutes has either done it countless times, or is outright lying. It took me about 4 days of fiddling with WP before I wrote my first post, and this week, I’m spending about 3-4 hours a day counting research time. So after about 2 weeks of using WordPress, I can comfortably create pages and menus, do basic appearance customization, and write and publish posts. Not a lot, but a lot for me!

Fourth, my writing schedule and personal time management. I get up early every day, between 5 and 6 am. This is when I do what I call my ‘hard’ writing–the kind that involves thinking. I basically have about 3 hours to myself before obligations to others kick in. If I finish a post in that window, I publish it. If not, I finish after 10pm, when my time belongs to me again. Otherwise, after 10pm, I am learning more about WP, researching, or creating. Still thinking, but thinking differently. I know that as my knowledge increases, the time I spend learning how to use WP for my needs will decrease, and my posting will become more efficient. This helps me to keep pushing through the grind when I feel tired or frustrated. So for now, my schedule is working.

I will address what is not working and questions I have in tomorrow’s post.

Day 7 down, 23 to go!

30 Days to a Blog Challenge–Day 6

 

day 6

Day 6 of my personal challenge. My goals today are:

  • Figure out how to publish posts on different pages
  • Write my copy for my static front page (home)

I did NOT manage to accomplish my goals today, and here is what I learned:

First, apparently, I cannot choose to publish posts on a particular page. I spent over 2 hours on the following: ‘playing around’ in WP admin trying to figure it out, reading WP support posts, and reading in the WP forums–all for naught. Finally, I googled “how to publish posts on a particular page in WordPress,” and, voila, found the WP Beginner site. Manna from Heaven! Their instructions and explanations are clear and concise, with videos. Even though I cannot choose on which page to publish individual posts, WP Beginner was awesome because I was informed up front, I didn’t have to figure it out through trial and error. I can’t do what I want, but my time wasn’t wasted because I found a great tool. Win!

Second, I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t meet my goals. If I consciously choose to not do something, and I feel its the best decision at the time, I’m not going to attach any negative emotions to that choice. After spending over 2 hours to learn that I cannot choose a particular page to publish an individual post on, I decided to let the task of writing copy for my home page go. No guilt, no hating myself. My brain is just too damn tired at 1:52 in the morning.  Adieu!

Day 6 down, 24 to go!

Collage and Cosmic Collaboration

The Whole World in her Eyes by azzheasman

30 Days To A Blog Challenge–Day 5

I’ve had an urge to do collage lately. Partly because I’m bored for the moment with pastels and acrylics, and partly because of my lifestyle change. Random bits of paper don’t look quite as enticing to a two year old as colorful ‘crayons’ or shiny globs of paint. And I can walk away from it at a moments notice without wasting paint, etc.

A week ago, while I was attending an opening reception for a photography show down at the local art league, I noticed a call for entries for an upcoming show with the theme “Our 5 Senses.” At the time, I quickly scanned the flyer and gave it about 10 seconds of thought, nothing more.

Yesterday, I was sitting and waiting for my daughter to finish an appointment, and instead of checking email or reading, I took out my trusty moleskine knockoff and was thinking about the upcoming show. I started to brainstorm, and to my surprise and delight, the finished collages flowed into my head. Woot!

5 senses brainstorm 1

This was my first page, above. You can see that I began with the ‘5 senses’ in general, determined that sight was my dominant sense, and developed a list of what I love to see the most.

Then, I received an image of a dancing Hindu goddess with many arms, and thought about my visit to the Rubin Museum in NYC three years ago. After that, the image morphed with each arm holding a representation of what I love to see. Even the title, Not Enough Arms, popped into my head. I am looking forward to working on this piece.

5 senses brainstorm 2

Above is my second page. This time, the image that popped into my head was the Flammarion engraving. I have always been enamored of this engraving–the man’s relentless search to see what is beyond what can be seen. I also got an image of an eye and a telescope, and thought that the colors I would use in the world of the seen would be muted, while the colors of what was beyond would be vibrant. With this collage idea, I received no title.

Below the line in the above image, you can see I wrote “? Collage.” These are questions I have about the technicalities of the medium. Best glues and substrates, and can I varnish the entire piece and avoid glass and framing? Research time!

5 senses brainstorm 3

Above is my third, and final, page. The image I received this time was of myself in an art museum. I was above, looking down on myself viewing a particular painting. The colors in the painting swirled out of the painting to surround me. The only thing in my field of vision was the colors themselves, and they enveloped me like a cosmic hug. I thought about Van Gogh. This time, I received the title Bird’s Eye View.

I am grateful when ideas intuitively come to me. When the pieces are finished, I will post them here. I can’t wait to start my new project!

Day 5 down, 25 to go!

30 Days to a Blog Challenge–Day 4

 

day 4

Day 4 of my personal challenge. My goals today are:

  • Write draft for second post
  • Research ‘press this’
  • Learn how to insert a link in a post

I did manage, again, to accomplish my goals today, and here is what I learned:

First, Sticking with my posting format for now is a win. Even better, I discovered ‘Copy a Post,’ which saves me even more time! Woot! Now, at 5 am, I can just think about what I am writing, and not think about format too. Utilizing ‘Copy a Post,’ I wrote the draft of post number 2. It worked out so well and so quickly that after proofreading, I hit ‘Publish’ right away. Woot #2!

Second, ‘Press This’ seems to be a must have for content curating. While I was reading topics relating to Writing and Editing under the Help section in WP, I clicked on ‘Press This.’ While I haven’t tried using it yet, I did manage to drop and drag it to my favorites bar. It took over 10 minutes, because first I had to figure out that I only had my ‘Command Bar’ activated. I had no idea I had different bars until in my frustration I right clicked on the bar and discovered I had 4 bars to choose from. Who knew? Obviously, not me.

Third, Linking with love is awesome! While I am new to blog writing, I’ve been reading blogs for years. I read blogs for information, to learn, to broaden my perspective. I don’t really read blogs to be primarily entertained. Links in posts are fantastic if they add more information, give backstory, etc. Read–useful. I wanted to be able to do that, so again, I researched ‘Links’ in the Help section of WP. Crazy easy to do! Another win!

Day 4 down, 26 to go!

30 Days to a Blog Challenge–Day 3

 

day 3

Day 3 of my personal challenge. My goals today are:

  • Solve my ‘add media’ issues in my posts
  • Solve my ‘wasting valuable time by looking for just the right free image’ issue
  • fix my menu issues with WordPress via Help

I did manage, again, to accomplish my goals today, and here is what I learned:

First, It is much easier to insert the media first and then write the post, rather than the reverse. I wanted my text to begin under the image, not wrap around it. When I choose ‘no alignment’ to insert the image, I had to keep trying to move the text and it was a pain, so under the posts tab in WP Admin, I clicked ‘Add New’ and typed the same title, then inserted the image that was saved on my computer. After that, I just cut and pasted my text, and I was done. Publish. Woot!

Second, I learned very quickly that searching for just the right free and useable image for each post is a mammoth time waster. I knew if I used too much time doing this, then I would not be successful in completing the 30 Day Blog Challenge. That was just unacceptable. Solution? The Danielle LaPorte method, of course! Write the message on a sticky note, take a pic on my iPhone, and upload. Simple, efficient, and acceptable right now. Win!

Third, I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out the menu tabs thing. I created the pages I wanted in the order I wanted by dragging them. Little did I know I had to number them, too! After I figured that out, I couldn’t understand why what I was seeing under ‘menus’ (4 tabs) did not match up to what I was seeing under ‘view site’ (3 tabs). WTH? After over an hour of frustration, I finally went into help and actually READ about it. Sorry, 30 and under crowd, just ‘play with it and you’ll figure it out’ may work for you, but reading first is often more efficient. My truth. I mysteriously had created more than one menu, and was using the wrong one. Delete, problem solved.

Day 3 down, 27 to go!