(New ABOUT page from 2014)
I was a high-school teacher for sixteen years. For the past year and a half, I’ve been the publications advisor at a community college in Honolulu. I do freelance writing for a national executive search firm and try to manage its social media communication, ‘though that’s taking me longer to settle into than I expected. Most of what I’ve written in this paragraph is still settling into position, and I’m feeling kind of adventurous about the whole thing.

I’m going to copy Kimberly‘s ABOUT page and list a hundred things about me because hers is so good.

    1. I was born in January of 1969. In Honolulu.
    2. My dad is from New York. My mom is from Japan. They met when he, a sailor, was stationed there.
    3. My little sister is two years younger than me. She was born in Oakland. My family lived there for a little while and then moved to San Francisco for a little while and then we moved back to Hawaii. I’ve been here ever since.
    4. I went to two public elementary schools here. Then in seventh grade I got into a small private school and graduated in the late Eighties. I love that school and taught there for six years in the late Nineties and early 2000s. I still have a lot of friends who teach there.
    5. It took me eight years to get my Bachelor’s degree. I started at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and spent time between stints there at Leeward Community College and Windward Community College. I got to a point where even if I aced the rest of the courses I needed for graduation, my GPA would be too low to graduate, so I transferred to the University of Hawaii at Hilo, on the island of Hawaii, where I did very well and finally earned my English degree. Transferring to UH-Hilo is the best decision I’ve ever made for myself. I yearn to move back.
    6. In my career as a teacher, I’ve taught courses in English, oral interpretation, drama, technology, Japanese, and mathematics. For the first six years I was mostly an English teacher. For the next ten, I was mostly a technology teacher.
    7. I won three creative writing awards at two schools when I was in college, and had some poems and a story published in a community college literary journal. I have dreamed of being a novelist since I was in fourth grade.
    8. For the past year, I’ve met regularly with a small writers group. This association has driven me to produce prose seriously. It’s one of the best things in my life, and it gives me some small amount of hope for a future as a writer.
    9. I’ve done National Novel-Writing Month about seven times, three of them successfully.
    10. I don’t come from a religious family, but I have been a Christian since I was quite young. I’ve taught Sunday School and have led worship music and I’ve gone on short-term missions trips, so yeah: it’s like that.
    11. …but it’s also not like that. I’m one of those and yet I’m not one of those.
    12. I took a few years of piano lessons but I’ve played the guitar since early in college. It’s still a hobby of mine ‘though I’m not very good.
    13. I love spectator sports of all kinds, but I love baseball most of all with football a good second.
    14. The last time I cut my hair was in the summer of 2002. I know how ridiculous it looks but I’d prefer not to cut it short yet, and so far my employers have been pretty good about it.
    15. I watch a lot of TV, but the only shows I consider must-watch programs are The Late Show with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live.
    16. I love movies and have seen more than 800 of them. My favorite actors are Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. I also really like Paul Giamatti, Julia Roberts, Julia Stiles, Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy, Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden, and Anna Kendrick.
    17. I have this small group of friends (informally called the Village Idiots), all of whom are the same age as me. We started as a book group but now we mostly watch movies and have dinner and talk. No matter what our conversations begin on, they end on movies or food.
    18. I’m a geek about rock and roll.
    19. My favorite writer is Madeleine L’Engle.
    20. I’ve met her five times.  The fifth time, she greeted me by name and gave me a hug.
    21. I fantasize about being a graffiti artist.  I think I’d be really good.
    22. I broke my left elbow twice within a year when I was seven or eight.
    23. It’s crooked as a result.
    24. I have no piercings or tattoos.  I’m not ruling out a tattoo, but I honestly don’t see myself ever getting one.
    25. …but if I did, I’d get the symbol of the Deathly Hallows and I don’t care if you think that’s lame.
    26. …and if I got a second, it would be the Oakland Raiders logo.
    27. See?  This is why I don’t have any tattoos.
    28. I have mancrushes on Peyton Manning and Dave Grohl.

(to be continued)

(ABOUT page from like 2003)

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.

Quick shout-outs to Ryan and Donna for their eager advice and help when I’ve needed it. Most of what I do here, technically and content-wise, is at least indirectly influenced by them.


(Also from around 2003)

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