October 2008 Archives

Out of Towners

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"...successful Web pages are usually a delicate balance, and it's important to keep in mind that even a minor change can have a major impact. Sometimes the real challenge isn't fixing the problems you find - it's fixing them without breaking the parts that already work" (Krug 158).

When we ask people to test our websites, we should be aware that some problems that might find and have with the site may be harder to fix than we think. Let's say person X says that the page on subject Y doesn't make sense it is harder to navigate through and read. Well Y maybe connected to Z and to change Y would mean that we would have to redesign both pages.

"Whenever you're making changes, think carefully about what else is going to be affected. In particular, when you're making something more prominent than it was, consider what else might end up being de-emphasized as a result" (Krug 158).

When we decide to make changes in our papers, our IF games, our blog entries, our life, we consider what else may be affected as well. We must do this with our websites and especially with our writing for the web.

In order to have a great site, we have to test. Krug explains that usability testing is like have friends visiting from out of town. You make the tourist rounds with them, you see things about your home town that you usually don't notice because you're so used to them. You realizee that a lot of things that you take for granted aren't obvious to everybody.

No matter how many people you test, if they are the targeted audience or not, this user will always point out things you can do to improve your site because as the designer, you will oversee a link, a color, a font, a picture, etc that should either have more emphasis or be removed.


Bedlam and Schizophrenia

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In the beginning of Slouching Towards Bedlam the gamer is given a variety of choices. The gamer can chose to examine a desk blotter, a sandlewood box, a desk drawer, a phonograph with the sounds of a man, or a black box on wheels. It seems that there is a particular procedure that one must follow in the game. You have to "get your bearings". Then one has to investigate the situation and the surroundings and then you must act upon the situation at hand. 

When I came upon the phonograph, I pictured the tin cylinders as storage rather than "games". I didn't get that far into the game even though I played it for about an hour. I was able to examine the office, the lobby, some archives and rooms from the Panopticon.

In Cleve's archives, it explains that he has small burns on palms and inner forearms that should heal quickly. He is 23 and earlier in the game is suspected that he was a little crazy. Apparently, he was arrested for disturbing the peace. The doctors diagnosed him with disassociative disorder, acute schizophrenia with paranoid tendencies yet didn't seem harmful to himself or others.

That is as far as I could get in an hour. It took me forever to find out information about Cleve. I'm assuming that he will refuse to talk for the rest of his life. From what I understood from the game, Cleve is paranoid about something. Maybe he is paranoid about the future and time and how he is stuck in time. I don't know. I wish I could've gotten further in the game then what I did.

To go along with what Jackie wrote, the creator/author of this game did a wonderful job blending suspense, literature, time travel, and science-fiction into a game. I personally didn't enjoy this game as much as I thought I was because everyone in class said they enjoyed it; however, I don't really like IF games to begin with so I think I dislike every game I play.


The Home Page is Waterfront Property

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"The result is that designers want to build sites that look great, and developers want to build sites with interesting, original, elegant features" (Krug 126).

The internet is in a continuous battle between art and commerce. The hype culture, as Krug explains, is focused on making promises no matter what they are in order to gain capital, users, partners, and revenue-generating deals to the site. This then lands all on the shoulders of the designers and the programmers to find a happy medium. Krug's chapter 8 basically describes the conflicts between web designers which is a great transition into the discussion, as well as our discussion in class, of usability testing. This will be incredibly helpful in our usability testing that is due the 27th.

We need to convey the big picture on the homepage so that the main subject/topic of the site is clearly stated. Krug explains that "the Home page is the waterfront property of the Web: It's the most desirable real estate, and there's very limited supply.  Everybody who has a stake in the site wants a promo or a link to their section...and the turf battles for Home page visibility can be fierce." (97) 

A typical user will normally scroll/scan down the page until they find an interesting link, this link should be relevant to the idea of the sites focus. If something is unclear to the user, it might be possible that the user will misinterpret something and/or get frustrated.

Basically, it is as easy as this: "Don't get me wrong: Everything else is important. You do need to impress me, entice me, direct me, and expose me to your deals" (Krug 99). But in order to accomplish all of these, we need to create a clear homepage to get the message across whether it is through a welcome blurb or a tagline, the idea needs to be AVAILABLE.

There's no place like home.

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"The point is, we face choices all the time on the Web and making the choices mindless is one of the main things that make a site easy to use" (Krug 43).

It is safe to assume that users don't mind a lot of clicking as long as they believe they are on the right track to their final destination. Users want to make "mindless choices" that end up being the right choices in the end. If a website is fairy easy to get around and is simple and basic, these "mindless choices" won't have to be so "mindless".

We need to make sure that our sites are easy to get around, simple and some what basic so our visitors can maneuver around; however, we need to make sure that our pages around overwhelmed with text. Krug explains that we need to get "rid of all those words that no one is going to read" because the "extra words suggest that you may actually need to read them to understand what's going on, which often makes pages seem more daunting than they actually are" (43).

By reducing our word count by half, we eliminate the noise level of the page, allows for the useful content more prominent, and makes the pages shorter. No one wants to scroll down a page; that is way to much work to do. (hahaha)

Krug wants to "kill" two things: happy talk and instructions.
The happy talk is small talk that basically is just a way to be sociable yet takes up way too much space on the page. This type of writing is just a way to fill up a page to fool readers, well not really, into thinking this is a reliable and trustworthy site.
Instructions are also on the "to kill" list. No one reads instructions, we all know that. I never read any instructions because I like to figure it out on my own. If you are to put instructions on a site make sure that they are self-explanatory or as close to it as possible.

In chapter 6, Krug emphasizes the idea of having a home button in sight. "Having a home button," Krug says, "in sight at all times offers reassurance that no matter how lost I may get, I can always start over, like pressing a Reset button or using a 'Get out of jail free' card" (66).
This is another way to help omit instructions. If you are to have a home page link on every page on your site, instructions would be useless.

Eliminate the Possibility of Questions

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Krug, Intro-Ch. 3

"I should be able to 'get it'- what it is and how to use it- without expending any effort thinking about it" (Krug 11).

This is exactly what we did Friday when we critiqued our peers' websites. We gaver our opinions on whether the site was easy or if we understood the topic without using to much effort thinking about it. We need to be aware that a person of average (or even below average) ability and experience will visit our sites. As website creators, we need to make sure that something works not just okay or good, but WELL so that our visitors will not get frustrated.

"If something requires a large investment of time-or looks like it will- it's less likely to be used" (Krug 6).

Don't we do this when we have to read a book whether it's instructional, like this one, or for academia. The book is 300 or more pages and we dread reading it. Reading this book will require a huge amount of time. We will most likely store it in a book shelf or in a desk and forget about. We want to make sure we do this with our sites. Like some of our peers' websites, some included lengthy paragraphs. These long paragraphs are most likely not going to be read because that means the reader will have to invest time. That is why we are told to use bulleted lists that contain the most helpful and useful information.

"When you're creating a site, your job is to get rid of the question marks" (Krug 13).

Keep the site self-evident so that the pages are effective.

Like Kilian explained, we don't read pages; we scan them. As website visitors, we are normally in a hurry and we don't want to read EVERYTHING. This is the basic mindset of a web surfer. So we need to address these needs.

A main idea that is examined in both Krug and Kilian's books is the idea of visual hierarchy.
We must make sure that the most important items are higher on the page. This will help the reader understand the main topic or idea of the site.

Krug explains that we need to make it obvious what's clickable (37). This was an issue on the site that Jackie and I created. Many of our peers said that the pictures linking back to the homepage wasn't obvious. So we made sure that we fixed that problem. We don't want visitors questioning our site.

Interactive Fiction Website

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As part of our assignment, both Jackie and I have explored Interactive Fiction (IF) in depth.

Here is our website we created:

Jackie and Denamarie's Interactive Fiction Website

I loathe Interactive Fiction Games

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So as a child I never played video games. I wasn't one to sit in front of a TV for endless hours. I was the child that was constantly outside playing football with the boys. So not only are video games unfamiliar to me, IF games are worse. I just don't like playing video games. But as an assignment, I forced myself to play these games. I thought these games were hard. I don't know if it was because I didn't understand the concepts or if I just couldn't properly tell the game what to do.

So I first played, Lost Pig. I must say that this was a favorite of mine mainly because it was easier than the other ones. It seemed like an appropriate introduction to the world of Interactive Fiction games. I never caught the pig, but it was fun trying to find it. I loved the southern type of language Grunk had; it was cute.

I then tried Ecdysis. This game was easier to play because ot the links that limited my input in the game. This game seemed like hypertext fiction. I got to the end of the "game" just by clicking on the links.

  • (Do gamers always have to create such gruesome games?)

The Tales of the Traveling Swordsman was a little more interesting than the previous two. I liked the story of the pendant. The imagery in the story was great. For example it says:

"On a worn path...
Your journey brings you north, through acres of grassland, into a sparsley wooded area, along a narrow stream for a short ways, and eventually across an overgrown path. It meanders forward, so you follow it for awhile. The path begins to show signs of recent use, and it widens some. It turns briefly, angles through outcroppings of rock, and soon runs straight eastward, like a channel between decrepit fences to the north and south."

Galatea seemed like a conversation with a woman than a game.It was hard afte awhile to think of questions to ask. Every question I put in would say that they didn't understand. But besides that, this game is a great example on how to interact withe the game in the form of dialogue rather than saying commands like walk west.

Finally, Photopia. This game frustrated me. I just didn't like this game at all. I felt like all I was doing was examining items and objects. This seemed like to much of a story to be a game. How did I go from two guys running through a red light to the red planet? WEIRD! I feel like this game was scattered.

I thought this was funny:
>go to the bathroom                    
Nothing like that seems to be around.

So basically, IF games and me don't really get along.

From: Denamarie To: Kilian

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Writing for the Web 3.0: My Opinion

Our main text throughout this part of our internet education has been Writing for the Web 3.0 by Crawford Kilian. This book was a good read. Even though some subjects were a review, other sections were helpful. Kilian’s book reminded me of first semester, freshman year in Dr. Jerz’s News Writing class with the style guides, the overview of active and passive verbs, the eliminating of excess words, etc.

Writing for the Web 3.0 was easy to read with Kilian’s professionally yet friendly writing style. This is the first time I’m actually writing for the internet; well, if you count my blog then I have been doing it since 2005. So, you can classify me as a newbie. With the help of this book, the repetition, the easy tips, and the exercises not only brought me to a starter level, it helped me understand the significance of publishing certain material on the web. There are too many books that explain rules and ignore exercises to help the readers practice what you preached. people explain the rules of grammar without giving you practice exercising those rules. I thought there were decent amounts, yet, I would like to see more used in a technology format, considering, we are writing for the web. Kilian is publishing a newer version of this book; I know this because he has been in contact with Dr. Jerz. I have some suggestions that might help him. The main idea about his book was the overall simplicity of the text. He put the technological lingo into lists and tips that were easy for us “newbies” to understand. Another think I enjoyed was the repetition within the book. He would refer to an idea he wrote three chapters back.

For the most part, I really can’t think of anything that I would change. I know grammar rules, punctuation and other writing ideas were expressed and I thought were basic, but for a new reader, like freshmen in college, who hardly knows any of these grammatical and punctuation rules, they will be helpful. I think this was an effective book. The explanations were thorough and in depth and the language was professional yet informal, a great way to grab the reader’s attention.


Blogs on Kilian's book:

Can I Persuade You?
A Little Bit of Everything
No More Than 2
A Gladitorial Fight with Rubber Crutches
When in doubt, just ask Kilian.... or Andy Lonigro
Follow the Pattern

Blog Portfolio Two - A Refresher

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For most of this blogging portfolio, we had various reading assignments dealing with Writing for the Web 3.0 that offered a variety of tips and advice for writing for the internet. I can't say that during this time I learned anything new, but I can say that it was a refresher for me to touch up on the style guides for internet writing. We were exposed to hypertext, ways of writing specifically for the internet, and even tips on how to post an online resume.

Follow the Pattern is an entry where I talk about reading patterns of web surfers.
A Gladiatorial Fight with Rubber Crutches is a blog about editing with some style guide tips.
When in doubt, just ask Kilian...or Andy Lonigro is a blog entry about the rules to writing for the internet.
No More Than 2 an entry on corporate websites and how many people should be working on them.
A Little Bit of Everything - the different types of blogs.
Part One of Electronic Literature
Time for an Investigation - part two of Electronic Literature
It's All About the Feet is an entry about The Body
By: Denamarie To: Kilian - Kilian Critique

Follow the Pattern
Is it an election or an auction?
A Little Bit of Everything
Can I Persuade You?
Wow, that was annoying is a blog about the hypertext The Heist

Andy's Blender Blog
Jackie's Consumer Power blog

The University of the Yellow Wallpaper
Time for an Investigation is a blog that looks deeper into the hypertext Cruising.
An in depth blog about The Body, mainly about her views on her feet.
Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen is a blog about my close reading of Cruising.

Chelsea's Not a girl - Not yet a woman was relatively close to my ideas on Jackson's The Body

Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen

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Part Three: Synthesize Cruising in a richly-linked blog essay.

Aristotle's conception of plot explains that there is a beginning, middle, and an end. Aristotle concludes that "a well-constructed Plot, therefore, cannot either begin or end at any point one likes; beginning and end in it must be of the forms just described." He believes to say something is beautiful, whether animate or inanimate, they must not only present a certain order but also be of a certain magnitude. Hypertext breaks this idea of order and structure because it tests the ideas of a fixed sequence, a definite beginning and ending, a story's definite magnitude and the conception of unity or wholeness.

A book or story should not have a set of directions, but with hypertext stories there maybe some instructions. Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar provide instructions for their hypertext story Cruising. : To hear the sound, turn on the computer's speakers or plug in headphones. Move the cursor up and down to control the size of the piece, left and right to control the scrolling speed of the text and images. This goes against all of Aristotle's ideas of plot. Even though the story may be recited in order, the text is in order as well as the pictures, the idea of unity or wholeness is tempted with the struggle to coincide the sound, the text and the images. 

Cruising requires the reader to learn how to “drive” the text because it is flash based poem with the help of cinematic effects. When the text on the screen and the spoken words are made to coincide, the rush of the image sequence is reduced to a slow ongoing loop of still frames. The viewer moves between reading text and experiencing a filmic flow of images — but cannot exactly have both at the same time. This idea was strategically thought of by the authors so they could manipulate the readers to highlight the materiality of text, film, and interface separately. Every detail used in this story has a way of grabbing the reader's attention and bringing them in. Through the use of words, images, and sound, people are captured.

The main image on the site of Cruising is a car in black and white with text reading, "We wanted love." The overall idea of the story was a group of girls cruising through their small town looking for love, just like the rest of the teenagers in the town. They never fully grasped the idea that love was found in the empty parking lots in one another's company. Carefully reading the flowing text it says, "We wanted love. That's all any body ever wanted. We thought maybe we could find it driving past us." The irony in these sentences is that love was right in front of them. They were small town girls, who believed that they were alone in the world. They took a drive in a station wagon going hoping to find love that would fill their hearts and soul. They had each other and that is all they really needed in the world, their friends.

Ankerson writes,” the night rolling in Mary Jo's father's station wagon like movie credits." They cruised through town all night trying to discover something that would bring electricity into their lives. They would end up in parking lots where they would all "really get to know each other." The small town atmosphere used within this 2 minute recitation elucidates the idea that they were able to "get to know each other" while spending idle nights doing nothing but talking of their dreams they hoped to fulfill after leaving this small town. Ankerson describes how there "were hundreds of us tracing the edge of the small town of Wisconsin, eyeing life through a car we couldn't yet take to the world." Here a vast amount of information is given. They were teenagers, very young adults who weren't ready to go into the real world. The world was seen from inside cars on the borders of the counties. They knew they couldn't grasp the idea of reality, but the thought of one day being in that reality was mystifying.

The racing up and down Main Street looking to make connections with the other teens with the same dreams and aspirations of finding love is really how life is. We all reach that time in our life where we are hesitant to leave a place so safe, where you feel secure.  When they were "cruising" they were traveling about without a particular purpose or destination. Even though they said they were looking for love, they didn't need to. The car cruising was a time where they drove through town reliving memories and moments they shared with their closest friends, days when they were care free and innocent.. The girls in the car were enjoying life, spending time with one another, being teenagers in a small town in Mary Jo's father's station wagon. They weren't in a rush to grow up; they just wanted what every teenager wants, love and freedom. They hoped that as they drove, or cruised, aimlessly in their small town they would find it. They wanted freedom and love and they traced the edge of it in cars peering out of car windows.

This flash poem seems to be a flash to the past, where a woman relives the days of carelessness and love of friends and life. The story ends with the phrase, "we couldn't yet take to the world." I read this as they weren't ready to live in the real world and that the realization that once they leave this small town, they will never get it back. The tracing of the small town of Wisconsin is a way to express their hesitation of leaving their safety net.

This story reminds me of Baz Luhrman's Everybody's Free.



Time for an Investigation

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Part Two: Looking a little closer at Cruising.

This poem on the go is an oral recitation of a teenager's favorite pastime in Wisconsin. Cruising is a flash based poem with cinematic elements marked by a flow of images accompanied with the text. As I wrote in my other blog, the idea of the text is for the reader to interact with the text. One must first struggle with controlling the speed and the direction of the narrative before closely examining this work.

Cruising is a personal poem about her life in a small town in Wisconsin. As I listened to the recitation again, I could hear the passion in the narrator's voice. After hearing the story again, I turned off the sound and just let the text flow on the screen at a decent speed where I could read word for word. By doing this, I really got to know the text by examining the rhetoric. I then just watched the images fly across my laptop screen where black and white images of a car, a subway train, a girl applying lipstick and a movie theater sign represent the young girl's small town. The images and text seem so stereotypical of a small town girl. This reminds me Journey's song, Don't Stop Believing.They are just small town girls, living in a lonely world who took a station wagon going anywhere. They feel they are lonely, but they have each other, and that is all you really need in this huge world.

The title Cruising is significant because the verb cruise means to travel about without a particular purpose or destination. They girls in the car were enjoying life, spending time with one another, being teenagers in a small town in Mary Jo's father's station wagon. They weren't in a rush to grow up, they just wanted what every teenager wants, love. They hoped that as they drove, or cruised, aimlessly in their small town where they never every crack and bump they would find it. The funny thing is that it is right in front of them, they just can't see it. Love is their friends, their small town, their family, the late nights cruising in town. Don't we all want love?

Have you ever spent a night cruising around town hoping to find something or someone, a change of something so ordinary? I know I have. I have been one of those girls in the back of a car, starring out the window dreaming of life and love and wondering where they are. 

Part One of Electronic Literature

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Cruising was my favorite electronic text. Not only is it text creatively arranged with pictures, it is also an oral recitation of a teenager's favorite pastime in small town Wisconsin. The idea of the text is for the reader to interact with the text. One must first struggle with controlling the speed, the direction of the narrative. It was invigorating to see when the text kept up with the sound, the images appear that coincide with the story. One can move from reading the text, to watching the images, to hearing the young woman recite her story. I love this story because it sounds like something I would have written.

The Cape was another story I read. Even though there were very few words, the images were appealing. They were different views, geographical images of Cape Cod. There were eight images to click on and each image had up to 5 sentences. As you moved your mouse over the image, a quick sentence summarized what the page was about.
1- My grandmother Carpenter lived on Cape Cod.
2- We only ever went to visit her once.
3- These events happened a long time ago.
4- My Uncle did not know how to talk to a kid.
5- We practiced whistling behind the glacial erratic.
6- Sounds carry, especially in the winter.
7- What a boring story. I never learned to whistle.
8- If I had a photograph I would insert it here.

The author prepares us from the beginning saying don't believe everything you read. The interesting thing about this story is that you could start at any image and the story would still make sense.

I, You, We was an odd but very original. As a reader, we are inside of some sort of enclosed space where we can rotate around and never return to the same point. The reader makes up their own story by clicking, dragging or just waiting for the screen to move where you see the pronouns I, you and we along with verbs. With every move you get a format of either I VERB You VERB We VERB or any order of I, you or we. You make up a sort of story by doing this. There is only one pronoun of I so you could assume the basis of the story is of the reader, the I.

The Dreamlife of Letters - Cool. Surprisingly, I didn't have to click anything this time. The poem was in a video from. It is more of a presentation than an interaction. The movement of the letters was very unpredictable and it kept me interested. You just have to see for yourself.

It's All About The Feet

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Body image is a very touchy subject when it comes to women of all ages. Everyone desires to have the perfect body, but no one accepts the body they have now. In Shelley Jackson's "The Body," she accepts her body, even if she has flaws, through her discovering her own body. She doesn't compare her body to the models and actresses that teenage girls are so often told to emulate. Our bodies are unique. It should be kept that way. Jackson's overall purpose for this story is to prove to the audience that image shouldn't matter. How you carry yourself and your self-confidence is what will make you attractive.

So reading about her body features, I was struck by the link about her feet.

"Feet are alien, like a hoof or a wing. They are more like tools or furniture than like flesh, they are so sturdy and well-crafted and so serviceable. Maybe they are a little too far away from the heart to befriend, though at one time I could put my big toe in my mouth, and I aspire to do it again, though without much hope."

Jackson doesn't refer to her feet as another body part, but she looks to her feet as a tool, well-crafted and serviceable. Without our feet, we wouldn't be able to walk. Well, okay, if we had our arms, we could technically walk with our hands, but anyway. She writes,  "My strong feelings about feet have lessened in intensity as I have put distance between myself and them." I think this line is brilliant. She is telling us through this one sentence, that as she aged, she also grew in height allowing for her to be further away from her feet that she depends on to walk. She explained earlier that feet are alien, they are more like tools than flesh. Can't we look at our arms, legs, mouth, and eyes as tools as well?

A side note:
When she writes about her feet nestling one another under sheets, I was like OH MY GOD! I do that every night. It is the only way that I can fall asleep.
"My feet rub each other under the covers at night or while I'm reading, sliding sensuously on each other. The ball of the big toe screws into the arch of the other foot, the toes fraternize, side slides by side. The pace steps up when I'm excited, the foot cranking around the ankle joint in slow circles, toes spreading and then squeezing together: a whole waltz under the covers, very comforting and secret and like company, like two small dachshunds rolling on each other."

Okay back to the close reading.

Jackson talks about how she has hairy feet and how a girlfriend was opposed to all body hair. Even with her girlfriends comments, she still looked at her feet as cute. The way she flashbacks to her childhood on most of her body parts, really emphasizes the idea that through the years, she has grown to accept her body more and more.

"I have a few glinting hairs on the tops of my feet and a little tuft on each toe. When I was nine I read that hobbits had hairy feet and went around barefoot, and that was enough to persuade me that hairy feet were good. Much later a girlfriend firmly opposed to almost all kinds of body hair persuaded me to try shaving my feet, but stubble on my toes seemed so ludicrous that I gave it up forthwith. Besides, I still felt that my hairy toes were cute."

Jackson had a willingness of being open that may help other women having constant body image problems know and understand that everyone's body is imperfect, and that's the beauty of a body. The author was not always happy with the her figure, but as she embraced her body, she embraced a new level of self-confidence that every woman wants.

I Don't Want To Grow Up

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Disorientated, confused, annoying, and stupid are a few adjectives that describe my feelings about this hypertext story, The University of the Yellow Wallpaper. Why do people make these types of stories? Don't they realize that readers aren't going to sit at a computer screen and click on every link and read every word?

Okay, so now that I got my feelings out of the way, I will look a little closer at this dreadful reading. Throughout the story, the author makes several references to her childhood. She also includes an image of a child there is an image of a child from the waist up. where she explains through one of her links that it is "not a realistic representation, a related copy, an idea such as we might get from figurative painting; it is a scene made up by blocks of meaning, at once varied, repeated, and discontinuous".

It seems that she is not very confident in herself for she explains that she " will have become the post-graduate, who by sheer terror, boredom, anger, frustration, melancholy, or witty intelligence, decided to terminate my indefinite subscription to higher learning; I will opt to drop out of the University of Yellow Wallpaper, owing to the fact that the voices have strongly suggested I cease listening to the anterior voices, who whisper, "you are an infantile wish fulfillment..." She describes voices telling her to give up. Who are these voices? Is she crazy? Is The University of the Yellow Wallpaper an insane asylum. She indicates that the university is on the hills near an insane asylum, but never says that she is admitted into it.

Her professor told her class about the idea of "existential 'nothingness,' as simply to be and not to be, expressing the fact that nonbeing is an inseparable part of being, grasping what it means to exist, I need to grasp the fact that I might not exist, that I tread at every moment on the sharp edge of possible annihilation and can never escape the fact that death will arrive at some unknown moment in the future (but I always knew this)!" She seems very gloomy and depressed.

As I clicked along with the text, I came across a passage that goes a little in detail about her childhood and how she has felt.

"...you used to say to me that I am a great young girl, and though you left me here to perish, though you put beneath my feet a great howling pit of emptiness, the words that lie at the bottom of my soul leap forth and they light the shadows below me; I am the one who was lost in the crowd, whom the fizzing lights made dizzy, a subaltern who saw everything about her reduced to absurdity, for if I were truly a great young girl the specters would cease bellowing; I was a young child with a body and soul, I had a heart that was not protected by a steel vault, and when I had moments of ecstasy I would sing with burning sparks"

The young girl, or woman, however old she may be, is very unforgiving of her parent(s) actions when she was little. She was empty. She was a young girl with a body, soul, and emotions whose heart was unprotected by her parent(s).

Us as a reader you get an inside glimpse of her childhood.The young woman seemed as if she didn't want her mother to leave because she knew that she was being sent away to The University of Yellow Wallpaper, where one can only assume, is most likely some sort of psychiatric ward where she could recover. But what causes her to become psychotic? Was it her family, the voices in her head that she still hear? To me, it seems that her childhood is what caused her to be so disoriented and confused.

As Maddie writes, "White displays in this excerpt the age old dilemma of a child facing the great troubles of adulthood and the adult that still wished the inner child time to play. The continuing sentences, though correct, reflect both the continuity of time as well as the child-like desire to pour something out that either excites or sorrows in one mad long rush."

Don't we all feel like that? We wish to stay young forever and avoid the trials and tribulations that adulthood has awaiting for us. I know I do. =]

Kilian Exercises

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Here are my exercises 4 and 5 from Writing for the Web 3.0.
These exercises were actually very helpful.

exercise 4.1.doc

exercise 4.3.doc

Backseat Love Story

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Backseat Love Story

The moon acted as spotlight on the lake where we spent our first summer together three years ago. Here we were, same place, still together and more in love than ever. The clanging acoustic guitar of Kenney Chesney filled the midnight black sky as Joey and I lay on the hood of his Chevy truck. It was the last night we had together for tomorrow we would be saying sentimental goodbyes filled with heartache and tears.
Lying on the dented red hood, he turned to me and said, “Your eyes put the stars to shame tonight,” lightly brushing my hair from my eyes.
Nestling my head into his soothing arms, the radiance of the night sky created a glimmer on the ring placed on my left hand earlier that day. At the age of nineteen, I had married to the love of my life who in one day was heading to Iraq. I tried not to think of what might happen over there and instead focused on our first and last night together as man and wife.
Living in a small Christian town filled with immense morals and values, we decided to wait until we got married to consummate our love, for any premarital relations would be a sin in the eyes of the Lord. I knew he was just as nervous as I was about what would end our night together. He was watching the stars and planes, one of which he would board tomorrow, flying above our heads. I closed my eyes and listened to his familiar heartbeat that I wouldn’t hear for two tortuous years.
We laid there for a silent hour before another word was spoken. Lifting my head up to meet his, Joey caressed my face and kissed me. Soon we found ourselves in the back seat of this truck finally consummating our love. The windows became saturated with steam and the seats sheltered with our clothes. After a physical and emotional two hours, we dressed and drove to our new home together where we fell asleep in one another’s arms.
The alarm went off at five o’clock to an undelightful awakening and miserable morning where I wished I could’ve hit the snooze button and avoided the inevitable sending off of my soldier to Iraq. We arrived at the base with my eyes swollen and puffy from the early morning cry. With a last hug, a final kiss, and an emotional “I love you,” Joey walked up the stairs to board the plane that was stealing him from me. There would be no more lake picnics, Sunday morning brunches, Friday night movies, or Wednesday softball games at the base for the next two years. My whole life left me on the now-empty blacktop of the runway.
It’s been six months since that atrocious morning and I’m sitting in the gynecologist’s office with my mother awaiting the results of our baby.
We are having a girl.

Hurricanes Forever - A Short Story

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Hurricanes Forever (A Work Still in Progress)

Aiden and I were the best friends since 1st grade and our friendship was cut short a few weeks ago. We were seniors in high school with three months left and so much to live, explore, and be. I got accepted into New York University and both Aiden and his girlfriend, Layla, were set on University of Miami. They received their acceptance letters on the day of the accident. On March 4, 2006, I lost both of my best friends. It was a night I would never forget. I witnessed their death first hand and could do nothing to help them.
* * * *
Aiden and I had physics for our last period together on the day it all happened. I remember looking over at him watching his face showing his anxiousness of going home and finding out the news. Aiden was getting annoyed second by second as our teacher went on and on about our upcoming physics test. He sat in class impatiently waiting for the bell to ring and was frequently glancing at the clock drilled above the door. The clocks two tiny hands moved sluggishly. It was as if the clock gods knew he had an important letter waiting for him at home. They continued in their clockwise pattern, with the minute hand coming closer and closer to the 10 which would initiate the bell. It was only 2:03. Aiden had 47 minutes left.
“You know, time only goes slower if you keep staring at it,” I whispered as Mr. Bollen went on about torque and gravity.
“Yeah, well, this class is so boring and I just want to go open my letter.”
After the dreadful lecture was over, the bell rang two times signaling the end of the day. We both met up with his girlfriend, Layla, at his locker shortly after the bell rang. Aiden and Layla were dating since freshman year and were in the yearbook every year as the best looking couple.
“I’m so nervous. What if I don’t get in and you do and vice versa?” she asked.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get in. Trust me,” he said as he kissed her forehead.
They weren’t the couple who publicly displayed their affection for one another. They held hands and kissed each other on the cheek, but they weren’t like Sally and Todd. After every period, and there are seven of them, you could find Sally and Todd locking lips and groping each other like two crazy animals till the next bell rang.
We began walking to the parking where everyone on a Friday afternoon hung around figuring out their night plans. I remember almost running to the cars as if we were caught in a horrible tsunami. Aiden walked to the passenger side of his brand new 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee and opened the door for Layla. Aiden received the Jeep as an early graduation present. Well, it wasn’t really a present or a surprise, he knew about it because he picked it out.
“Aiden that hoodie in the matter of minutes will soon not just be a fan item, but an attending college student item,” I said as I got in the back seat.
“Yeah. Let’s hope,” said Layla.
He walked to the other side - brushing the dust of the University of Miami bumper sticker - hopped in the car ands started the engine.
* * * *
We stopped at Layla’s house first so she could pick up her letter. Then we headed to Aiden’s to get his. They both had in their hand what they hoped were acceptance letters.
“Okay, we’re here,” he said as we pulled into the township park filled with dog owner’s power walking on the path with their dogs drooling from the mouth. “You ready?”
I remember when they sent out their applications, they put six stamps on them in hopes that they would get there faster and be accepted sooner. I was the one who had bought their stamps. You know, I wanted to help in some way for them to get into Miami.
“Ready as I’ll ever be.”
“On three. Ready...”
“One, two, three,” they said in unison while opening their letters at the same time. I sat in the back seat in anticipation.
“What’s the news?”
“I got in!” Layla exclaimed with the most priceless face you could ever see. I remember her bright blue eyes having a sort of glimmer added to them as the sun glazed over her face. Tears were slowly coming down her cheeks like a light rain shower.
“Remember what you said about my hoodie, Brody? Well...”
“Well what,” we both asked almost frightened to hear his response.
“Well, I think I’m going to have to buy you one when I get there. I got in too!”
We became elated. Nothing could stop us now. We were invincible. We were on top of the world. I got into NYU a week ago and they just received news of getting into University of Miami. This day was the beginning of the rest of our lives.
* * * *
Aiden dropped Layla off at her house after we went and got coffee. We pulled into our neighborhood being that we grew up 3 houses down the street from one another. You could say that we basically owned the streets with our bicycles on lawns, sidewalk chalk markings in front of every driveway, pranks we pulled on our neighbors and baseball and kickball games held every day in the middle of the street causing havoc for our neighbors. It was like any other neighborhood, except the houses started at $500,000. The community, you could say, was a bit stuck up and snotty. They thought they were better than everyone else because of their fancy cars, 5 maids, and chandeliers in every open window of their house. You had to be accepted into the neighborhood community before even considering buying a house. All the houses looked exactly the same except for both of ours. We both had Christmas lights and decorations still up on our houses. Aiden’s house had the blinds wide open looking into the living room and office filled with old papers and boxes still unpacked from moving in which was 2 years ago. Our parents were anything but stuck up. Our families were well off in the financial department, but there is more to life than money. That was a motto for both families.
“Hey, Aiden! Listen; there is a party at the beach tonight. They said their having a bonfire and shit,” I said.
“I will be there for sure. When and where?”
“It’s at Belmar tonight. I’m driving separately because I have an early curfew because I have to go to Delaware for a family reunion. But I will follow you guys there.”
“Okay. You want to come over for dinner? My parents would love it.”
“Of course. Are you crazy? I love your mom’s cooking and she’s not too bad to look at either,” I said as he punched me in the chest.
* * * *
It’s crazy to think that I ate dinner with Aiden and his parents on the night he died. Maybe it was a sign. It was a sign that I had to be with him at every moment because he was going to lose his life in a couple hours and I was to help and rescue him.
Dinner that night was Mrs. DeMaio’s best. She made chicken parm with pasta and a fresh salad of greens and buttery biscuits that just melted in your mouth. As we sat down to dinner, and made a toast, Aiden told his parents the news.
“Okay. Well I don’t want you to get mad but I’m going to have to borrow some money.”
“How much do you need? And what did you do now?” his dad said.
“Well, don’t get mad, but...” Aiden stopped in mid-sentence. “I need around $50,000.”
“What the hell did you do?” his mom asks.
“I got accepted to the University of Miami!” Aiden reached into his back pocket pulling out the acceptance letter.
Without hesitation his mother jumped out of her seat and gave him a hug and a kiss leaving a moist, red lip print on his cheek. She made the typical facial expression of a contestant who just found out she won Miss America with her mouth open wide, speechless, fanning her face with her hands in hopes that it would stop the tears. His dad walked over and gave him a firm handshake and a bear hug and I could see tears in his hard green eyes forming.
“Congratulations, son,” his mom said in that kind, gentle soothing voice she had that could put babies to sleep.
“Son, you have made me so proud. You are now the 6th generation to attend University of Miami,” his dad said trying to keep back his emotions and act as the true Army soldier he once was.
“Thanks,” Aiden said.
* * * *
We walked up to his room after dinner and he called Layla asking if she was ready to go. This would be the last phone call he would make in his life.
“Hey, babe. Did you tell your parents?”
“Yes I did and they are so overwhelmed right now, probably more than me right now,” she said.
“I know. Well, listen. Brody told me about a party at Belmar beach tonight. They are having a bonfire, food, and drinks. So, I’ll pick you up in like 15?”
“Sounds great. See you then. Bye.”
We sat around for a little listening to some music and talking about the next three months and how slow they were going to drag. During this moment with Aiden, I felt a strong bond between us two that I have never felt before. Aiden and I always told ourselves we were brothers separated at birth, but at that moment in time, I felt that we were one. We completely understood each other like finishing each other’s sentences, sharing clothes, swapping CDs. Time went by and we headed downstairs.
“Mom, I’m going out with Layla and Brody and a couple friends for awhile. I’ll be back around 12 tonight. Don’t wait up.”
“Where are you going?”
“To Belmar. There is a bonfire. You know, just like a little get together.”
“Okay, be safe and wear your seat belt.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he said grabbing his keys off the kitchen table. He smiled at his letter from Miami.
* * * *
After, deciding on an outfit, Layla was ready. She chose to wear her new skinny jeans, a white, embellished tank, and blue flip flops. She was infamous for wearing flip flops, especially in the winter. I was waiting behind Aiden in his car as we waited for Layla to come out. I honked my horn at him and he honked back signaling to me he was calling her.
He hated waiting, especially with her. She never was on time. For our junior prom, she was an hour late to my house because she didn’t like the way her hair stylist did her hair so she made her do it 3 other times. Just 2 weeks prior, we were all late to a ceremony at our high school for a community service project. She told us she didn’t know what purse to bring because she couldn’t break the unwritten fashion rule of wearing black and brown together.
* * * *
Living in New Jersey was great. Beaches were so close by; it seemed more like a luxury than anything. Belmar beach was a half hour away from our houses. It was a quiet beach with a boardwalk filled with restaurants, cafes, games, and playgrounds. Aiden, Layla and I have been there many times before especially during the nights in the summer. The road was familiar to us with the constant traffic lights and windy curves. With the windows down and the fresh smell of salty ocean water filling both of our cars we blasted our stereos at a traffic light where we were waiting next to each other.
“Listen, Aiden. No racing against me tonight. I only have like 2 gallons of gas.”
“Okay, loser.”
We were only ten miles away and as I looked over at the harbor, it looked more beautiful that it ever did before. The docks were lit up with white lights and the moon looked like a spotlight on the water. As we neared the next to last traffic light before our right turn onto 4th street, there was a party of cars exiting a popular night club called, “Shampoo”. As Aiden moved into the left lane, so did I. We were allowing the exiting cars the right lane. A black, convertible sports car which looked like a Mitsubishi Eclipse pulled out of the parking lot burning rubber as it created a fog in the air.
The car wasn’t slowing down and was coming closer and closer to the side of Aiden’s car. Aiden tried to pass him but there was no way he was going to be able to with the congestion of traffic in our lane. All of a sudden the black sports car sped up, made a sharp left and cut off Aiden and Layla causing him to turn the wheel sharply. I jammed on my brakes immediately causing my automated brake system to activate. My heart was beating so hard it felt as if it was going to pop out of my chest. I clenched my steering wheel so hard that I left handprint molds on the wheel. I lost my breath and for a split second everything was black. Aiden’s car was forced to the opposing land and skidded for 50 feet before a Honda CR-V collided on the passenger side.
The windows shattered immediately into a thousand pieces covering the road. It looked like diamonds were paved into the road. The Jeep was hit so hard that it completed 360 degree flip. The car was being tossed around like a football during a middle school game. All I could do at that moment was sit in my car, completely exasperated; I was in shock. I opened my door and ran over to their car. Layla’s was impossible to open because of the impact. I ran over to Aiden’s side. I pulled the door open only to find his head lying against the steering wheel bleeding uncontrollably and Layla’s body distorted. Her legs were twisted and her arm was stuck between the door.
Finally, the ambulance came only to push me out of the way and keeping me behind the police unable to see my two best friends.
* * * *
The following Monday, the school held a memorial service for both Aiden DeMaio and Layla Costello. I was too traumatized to attend the service. I witnessed their death and I did nothing to help them. I was too scared and shocked. They never got to experience life or even college. How am I supposed to move on? How am I supposed to go to NYU knowing my two best friends are not going to Miami? They were only 17 and their lives were taken away at too young of an age.
The newspapers and TV covered this story for the next couple days giving more details of the accident every day. They reported the driver who cut of Aiden’s car was found minutes later and was drunk. He is now in jail awaiting his sentence of either life in prison or the death sentence. They also stated that neither Aiden nor Layla were wearing a seatbelt and if they have been wearing them, they would have survived with major injuries due to the force of the opposing Honda CR-V. The driver of the Honda was listed as stable with a mild concussion and a broke leg. Pictures of the accident were put in the newspapers. I could not look at them. I already had a vivid image of it already. However, one the pictures showed both the Honda and Aiden’s Jeep. The ironic thing was on the bumper of the Honda there was a University of Miami sticker. The driver of the Honda was identified as a recent graduate of Miami and had just received a job working for The New York Times.
On the side of the road where the accident happened, a tree was adorned with ornaments of youth and sorrow. Playful road-trip photos dangled near cellophane-wrapped flowers next to half-burned candles and home-made cards. A sign was planted in the ground decorated with orange and green letters spelling out, “Hurricanes Forever.”


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Still and Quiet

The swings no longer squeak
to the frantic beat of children.
The sky has turned a dim red,
and the flip flops have worn down to boots.

Our summer skin has faded
to a pasty color of white.
The sounds of seagulls
have turned to the crunching of leaves.

The backyard baseball games
have been traded for football on TV.
The fresh, squeezed lemonade
has become a cup of hot cocoa.

The trees have turned bare
and the ground stiff.
The summer season has died
and the fall has replaced it.

Everything is still and quiet now.


West Coast Envy

It’s very hard living on the east coast.
The sun rises, but it isn’t as bright.
I want California to be my host
during the walks along the beach at night.

I never knew that I could fall in love.
I fell so hard and it happened so fast.
The Californian sun should be my glove.
I wish that this deep love would only last.

This road is kind and full of winding curves.
The sun is in front of me as I drive.
My heart starts to beat faster full of nerves.
This adrenaline makes me feel alive.

I’m almost underneath the west coast sun.
San Diego is longing to have fun.

Time Machine

There’s that one phase
in everyone’s life
Where all you want to do
is go back in time.

The time you wasted with old friends
sitting around on balmy, idle weekdays
laughing in crowded cars on back roads
filled with adolescent glory.

You never wanted to leave the front porches
where you sat for endless hours
ignoring the realities before you
washing them over with foolish dreams.

You took the pictures to remind you
when you were the coolest kids.
Where you owned the streets and stayed awake
through summer like you owned the heat.

There were moments where you had mental highs
like the freefall on a rollercoaster;
those moments where you detached from reality
and screamed, “I’m fucking alive”.

Enjoy Your Youth

Oh, what it feels like to lay underneath
The balmy sun with tan toes in the brown
Sand singing songs about adolescent
Glory while living the good life with
Close friends you knew since the first grade. Where you
Ate glue and played on the monkey bars. Where
You would fall and go home with black, bruised knees.
Now you stay out late doing nothing at
All but still have the best times of your life.
The sun fades behind the calm, blue water,
Your skins becomes red and sore and you take
The pictures to remind yourselves when you
Lived in absolute bliss and ruled the world.
You pack the car and drive away from love.

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