Adventures in personal branding: a new website

Using Dreamweaver is like riding a bike: You never really forget how to work it. Unless you drive yourself crazy trying to figure out how to move a div with a Flash presentation in it.

I had plenty of Dreamweaver experiences in J School, but it wasn’t until I had Adobe CS5 for my very own (OK, I got it back in December) and some free time that I decided to finally sit down and make my own personal site. I believe a unique website is something any serious journalist should have, no matter what they do: reporting, editing, photography or design.

I’ve had the WordPress set-up for almost two years. It was meant to be a stop-gap solution until I had long-term access to Adobe again. Essays and schoolwork kept me from doing anything this past spring, but now I have some flexibility. My goal is to transfer my photos, clips and CV to the new site and maintain my WordPress page as a stripped-down, blog-only site.

If you’ve never sat down and built your own website from scratch, I recommend it. It builds character, especially if you’re like me — knowledgeable about the basics of coding but not into anything fancy. It’s kind of fun, picking out colors and typefaces and seeing it come together when you test it in your browser.

One major point that I’m trying to keep in mind is SEO. Namely, I’m making sure that important points are done in searchable text, not just graphics. My navigation so far is graphic-heavy (namely, funky buttons), but I plan to make my CV and portfolio pages as textual as possible. If you’re thinking about making your own site, make sure that your content will show up in search engines.

The work has also given me the chance to reacquaint myself with an old nemesis: Flash. I don’t particularly care for it, but I needed its sweet, sweet slideshow utility. Three hours later I had what I wanted. It looks pretty good. I still don’t like Flash.

So my work continues, and I’m hopeful that within a few weeks I’ll have something that I’m comfortable taking live.

Just please don’t look at the code. I tend to overcompensate with code detail and I prefer my CSS to be listed with everything else, even though it’d be far more logical to just attach a separate stylesheet. I like being able to see everything.

So please, if and when my page goes up, ignore my granny pants.

 

My Tumblr gets un-tumbled

For the better part of a year, I’ve had a Tumblr feed. For as long as I’ve had it, I’ve struggled to figure out what to do with it. I left it back in October, only to return to it a few days ago when my Google+ habits gave me some social media zest.

“I can make this work,” I thought. “I just need to figure out what to do with it.”

Successful Tumblrs, I’ve noticed, have a theme of some kind. My personal favorite lists hilarious things that kids have submitted as homework. Sadly it’s now on summer vacation. Many websites, newspapers and magazines have Tumblrs for content. Others exist to pass along artwork, recipes, videos and memes of all kinds.

I was determined to post my own work as much as possible, whether it was text, videos or photos, even if it took me a while to gain followers because I didn’t pass along Popular GIF #5638. I took inspiration from two of my friends’ blogs — Lauren’s and Jessica’s — and tried to let it come naturally.

Finally, earlier today, I made my decision. I’ll use my Tumblr to display my travel photography, and pair the photos with proverbs I deem thematically pertinent (or, you know, cool). I take many, many photos, but I’m not a photographer in any trained sense. Using my Tumblr to show them off seems like the perfect way to get them “out there” without needlessly duplicating any content from my Google+, Twitter or personal site (although my existing work on here will stay). It’s a simple pet project.

I’ve posted four photos total since deciding to take my microblog in this direction — I hope to add one or two every day — and it’s been fun selecting the photos and the quotes to accompany them.

I feel an odd sort of triumph that I’ve sorted out the formerly mystifying Tumblr. Even if I’m the only one who ever looks at it.

Paris: Day Three

Read about the first day in Paris and the second day in Paris.

Sorry for taking so long to finish writing about our trip! I’ve been busy with homework and group projects.

The third day in Paris, Sunday, was very overcast and rainy. We took it easy and didn’t try to do too much.

Lauren had found a quirky expat American diner over in the Marais neighborhood, called Breakfast in America. We were going to have lunch there (we slept in on Sunday, go us), but it was pretty busy, so we decided to try again at dinner.

We ended up having a full English breakfast for lunch at a British pub, also in Marais. I had orange juice, coffee, hash browns, toast, an egg and rashers. Lauren had orange juice, an egg, toast, a tomato and beans.

After that we went to the l’Orangerie art gallery, a smaller gallery right off the Tuileries. Again, because of our EU residency and age, we got in free. The l’Orangerie has a few large, long rooms with Monet paintings set in panorama. The effect is pretty awesome. It also has a smaller permanent collection of Impressionist art and a temporary exhibit. The temporary exhibit when we visited was the photography of German artist Heinrich Kühn. The photos, which came from the early age of photography, looked almost like paintings. The exhibit followed Kühn’s work as it adapted to changes in technique. We both agreed that it was cool to see a German artist featured with so many French, Italian and Dutch ones.

We spent the afternoon at the Orsay, a largely Impressionist gallery built in an old train station. We had sodas and snacks at the cafe and looked at the Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Gaughin, Cezanne and Matisse works. The Orsay also features a lot of “practical art,” such as furniture and household decorations and items.

The galleries don’t allow photos of the art, so today’s a little light on photos. Sorry!

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We went back to the flat to rest before going back to Breakfast in America. This time we were seated almost immediately. The diner’s story is interesting. An American film-maker founded it, because he missed American comfort food when he was studying in Paris. It’s largely financed by people in the tech side of the entertainment industry.

Lauren and had a California wrap, fries and a Dr. Pepper. I had a cheeseburger, fries and a Coke. Heavenly. For dessert, she had a brownie and I had a slice of cheesecake. It was a fun little place.

We ended Sunday night with a visit to the Eiffel Tower, which I’d never seen at night, for photographs.

A rainy day at Leeds Castle

Yesterday, I went with the other international students to Leeds Castle on the last of our Welcome Week activities. The weather was bad — cold and rainy — but the castle was quite pretty.

The castle gets its name from the Saxon manor called Esledes, not because it’s in Leeds, England (common confusion; it’s actually in Maidstone). It was built in 1119 by Robert Crevecoeur, and ended up in the hands of Edward I. Edward began what I thought was the castle’s most interesting tradition — queenly ownership.

Edward gave the castle to Eleanor of Castile, whose Spanish heritage is kind of felt architecturally, we were told. When Eleanor died, Edward built a chapel in the castle in her honor, and gave the castle to his second wife, Margaret of Anjou. The queens owned the castle outright, independent of their husbands. When the king died, the queen retained ownership until she died. At that time, it’d pass back to the current king who’d give it to his wife. Six queens from the late 13th to the early 15th centuries owned the castle: Eleanor and Margaret (Edward I), Isabella (Edward II), Anne of Bohemia (Richard II), Joan of Navarre (Henry IV) and Catherine of Valois (Henry V). While Catherine of Aragon never owned the castle outright, Henry VIII still fixed it up for her and the couple’s crest is found throughout the building.

The castle is important to the Tudors also. Henry VIII and Catherine stayed there with a retinue of more than 2,000 people when Henry went to France to meet Francis I. Leeds eventually passed into plain old noble hands, until the last owner, Lady Baillie, died and left it to the country in the 1970s.

The lower levels of the castle are meant to have a medieval/Renaissance feel, while the upper levels have a late 19th/early 20th century look indicative of the lifestyle of its last owners (a high-didge French interior designer did the honors). The castle can be rented out for functions or (swoon) weddings. The castle itself is lovely and fairly stereotypical in how we think of “English” castles. The water and moat around it are man-made.

More recently, the castle was used as a hospital during World War II and as a meeting place for many military higher-ups (including Field Marshal Montgomery). On July 17, 1978, Anwar Sadat and Moshe Dayan stayed in the castle before the Camp David Accords.

The grounds also have a golf course, an aviary with several tropical birds, a children’s playground, a hedge maze, an underground grotto and beautiful ponds and green areas. Lady Baillie was a bird enthusiast, and the upper levels of the house all have sketches and paintings of birds. She imported black swans to the estate from Australia, and their descendants are still there.

I was slightly nervous about the swans, mostly because I understand them to be kind of aggressive. These swans, both black and white, were vey docile and ignored people, probably because they’re used to them. There were signs everywhere telling people not to feed the swans because it encouraged aggression. I did learn new things about them — black swans are Australian/Oceanian naturally, swans mate for life (I knew this) and, interestingly, every white swan in the country is the property of the Crown, i.e. the queen.

There were several other birds in residence, mostly geese and ducks. There were many peacocks about, including a mated pair with their two chicks that I, wisely I think, sidestepped on the path to avoid being chased. The aviary has many toucans, macaws, parrots, keas and other birds, and does a lot of avian conservancy around the world.

The hedge maze was good fun, mostly because a lady who worked there shouted helpful hints from the top middle of the maze. Hot cider, tea, cocoa and Kentish apple juice were on sale, as well as kettle corn, crisps (chips), sandwiches and other sweets. A restaurant on the grounds serves pub-style food, fruit, cheese, cakes and roasted meat. There were many, many young families there and I got the impression that it was a popular family destination. They had advertisements for fall and Halloween activities.

All in all, a lovely day. Enjoy the photos.

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