At the end of a teacher’s workday, it’s smeared across his brow, caked on his hands, and wiped across the seat of his Dockers. It’s accumulated on chalk rails–a sedimentary, powdery evidence of the teaching (if not the learning) that has taken place. It is sent up in smoke-like clouds by detention-serving students clapping it out of erasers, warning others to beware the instructor’s ire.
I like to think of myself, at the start of a school-day, as a fresh stick of triple-size chalk (the only kind I use), full of hope and promise and potential, clean and eager and perfect.
I could extend this metaphor and go on about the way the fresh piece of chalk becomes a pile of dust by the end of the day, but I’m sure you get it.
Chalkdust was begun in 1999, at another location, but you never heard of it because I didn’t want anyone to see it until it was truly excellent, and it never became so. In the summer of 2002, I created the journal anew, from scratch, and put it up at a subdomain rented from the owner of the dwyer.net domain. It was here that Chalkdust finally developed its personality and attracted its readership.
In the summer of 2004, my web-interests having multiplied by several projects, I moved the journal to its current location and am in the process of converting, by hand, the old site, one page at a time. You may think this is foolish, and I won’t argue with that, but it’s something I want to do.
The mitchellkdwyer.net domain is hosted by Dreamhost, which hosts other domains I’m currently playing around with. The entries are typed up on a beat-up, old, Frankensteined PC with a Pentium 133 running Windows 95. For the record, I’m an Apple guy, but those are too difficult to put together from castoff parts, so I’m running with what I can get. I do the html by hand using either Wordpad or Notepad, depending on my mood (I hate the way MS Word handles html files!). The images were mostly created with Adobe PhotoShop at NetStop, an Internet cafe on King Street in Honolulu.
Correspondence is welcome at chalkdust(at)mitchellkdwyer.net. Please, in responding to something you read here, do not refer to chalkdust as a blog.
Ultimate Minutiae, For Those Who Wanna Know
When I write: It varies, but mostly in the evenings, between eight and eleven, with the television on.
Where I write: I have a small-ish wooden table in my living room, facing out the sliding back doors. The television’s to my right, my desk is to my left.
Editing: I normally have to upload entries three or four times. It takes that many read-throughs to pick out most of the errors.
FTP: I use something called QueueFTP in its unregistered format, meaning I can move only three files at a time, max. It’s most inconvenient, but it does the job, most of the time. On occasion, when I have a lot of moving to do, I go to NetStop and use the freeware version of AceFTP, which is much faster but doesn’t operate on my Win95 system.
Black background: Mostly the result of (a) my liking black a lot and (b) my minimal HTML skills. Also, the good color schemes seem to have been claimed by other, smarter people. I am tempted, sometimes, to try to give this site the look and feel of either an amber VT-100 terminal or a pine-green monochrome Apple // display, but right now, that sounds like too much work!
Usual culinary accompaniment to journal-writing: A huge, blue, plastic cup filled with ice water is my constant companion whenever I’m home–I drink gallons of water every day. I don’t generally snack when I’m using the computer.
Quick, random opinions: Are not often so quick or so random. I try not to post opinions about the same subjects in consecutive entries, and I censor myself a lot.
Ideas: Memes such as the Friday Five (R.I.P.) were good for generating text, but not so good for my style of expression, although I do love list-making. Mostly, I just start by writing what’s happening, and that leads to reflecting, opinionating, and moralizing.
Ellipses: I hate ‘em. Good writing accomplishes the same thing without such redundant use of this kind of punctuation. One journal I read every day uses these a lot, but I don’t judge the author because I think she’s really, really cute. Shallow? Me?
Rhetorical questions: I teach my students to treat them like Barney Fife’s single bullet (for those unfamiliar with the allusion, on the old Andy Griffith show, Andy let Barney Fife, his inept deputy, carry a gun, but gave Barney only one bullet, and it was the only bullet Barney would ever get, so he had to be extremely judicious when it came to thinking about firing it). I confess that in my less-formal writing, such as these journal entries, I go to them more often than I’d like.
Hypens: Almost everybody in America underuses them; I overuse them. Compound modifiers need hyphens, I tellya!
Telling people: I have only passed along the URL to this thing to a small number of people who know me, and only through email. On the web, I scatter references to it here and there where it’s appropriate. Most of my acquaintances who read it got the URL from someone else or they stumbled upon it while Googling something else. I find it awkward to discuss it in person. Very, very awkward, unless I’m in the company of other online journalists. Of course, some of my students have found this, but I pretty much straight-up tell them that I don’t like talking about it in school, as it is part of my personal life, and I’d appreciate it if they didn’t, either. They mostly comply. If my family knows about it, nobody has said anything to me.
Why I do it: It started off as a way to get myself through a difficult period in my life. It has become a vehicle for my thoughts and a workout room for my writing skills. I resist the urge to find any motivation in the attention of people who read this, but there’s some small element of that, too. Vanity undoubtedly plays a huge part in my drive here: I love seeing my words in print, and visit my older entries quite often and take great pleasure in certain sentences or lines of reasoning.
Longhand: Almost never, but I will sometimes jot notes to myself about things I’d like to reflect upon later. I should to it more often, as it is a very effective way to get things rolling.
ISP: I pay $9.95 a month for dial-up with FlexNet, a service provider that takes pride in providing absolutely NO technical support. When you first attempt to sign up, it provides a list of terms and says that if you don’t know what those mean, you should probably go to a different service. Hey, for ten bucks a month, I can teach myself, thank you very much.
HTML: Usually, I open the most recent entry, do a quick SAVE-AS under a new filename, erase the journal part, and type something new. Then I change the title, date, and opinion; so on a day-to-day basis, there’s very little real HTML-writing. Updating the archive index requires a little more coding, but not much. It’s mostly a matter of opening up the most recently uploaded file and adding links and text. By the way, I upload each journal entry twice: once as the default.html file that you see when you go right to the chalkdust.mitchellkdwyer.net URL and another in the /journal directory under its archived filename.
What am I leaving out? email me and let me know!
cheat-notes version of the history:
- 1999: first version of chalkdust at un-named site
- 2002: complete re-design and move to mitchell.dwyer.net.
- 2004: partial re-design and move to chalkdust.mitchellkdwyer.net