Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Wild Morning Glories

I was stopped at the westbound I-70 exit of Kingshighway (in St. Louis, Mo) and I noticed these wild morning glories growing from the crack of the sidewalk. These wild flowers, sometimes called hedge bindweed, tend to be white or white and pink (like these). The flower is near the ground and doesn't grow tall but it is viney so it spreads across lawns easily.  Here in the city, I often find them growing out of concrete or asphalt and near buildings.

This patch of wild morning glories was thriving in the urban area.
This is a close up of the flower. This one was growing on the lawn of Forest Park.

Have you ever noticed this flower before in your neighborhood?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Travelogue: Blogging While Brown - recap #2 - the People and Sessions

I met some amazing people at the Blogging While Brown Conference and I would be remiss if I did not tell you all about them or at least link to their blogs.  But first, a highlight video of the Blogging While Brown.

Ananda Leeke – just a sweet spirit and person, started the conference off on the right note – with yoga.  Yes.  She led all of us early birds on a Yoga and Stress Relief for Social Media Users session.  I had to sit behind the table for the hip-opening exercise because I was wearing a skirt, but it was a great set – learning to live in the moment of right now.  Breathing in and out.

The Technology Review Session with Media 2.0 Leaders and Innovators Cheryl Contee of Jack & Jill Politics, Angela Benton of Black Web 2.0 and Politic 365, and Adam Conner, Facebook – yes, FB itself was a great session. I halted live tweeted and took physical notes.

A few things I learned:
(AC) 300 million of the 400 million Facebook users are non-English Speakers meaning careers in language translation and outreach to non-English global markets is the wave.
(AC) Mobile users are twice as engaged as in Facebook and social media, in general.  They can use text messaging to ask people to join Facebook Fan pages and Causes
(AC) Facebook is now one of the top referrals to websites and is a perfect way to engage people in blogs more.
(AC) A click is not just a click anymore. Thanks to Facebook’s set up you can now install a
(AC) Put a FB Like button on your blog.  I’m still trying to install this (Help!); it’s not showing up.  I really think readers would respond to this. And Facebook can be used to moderate comments.  If I keep getting spam comments, I might resort to this.
(AB) If you’re inclined to make a business of blogging, then consider building a network of websites with each one being a type of forum space around special topics.
(CC) SEO is still important but explore the many options available and utilize all the tools available, e.g. Google tools provides keyword search and popular keyword analytics, and don’t neglect up and coming Search Engines Bing and MINT
(CC) If you have a large blog and lots of traffic, consider Wordpress because it is a more sustainable platform for growing.
(CC) Email is going the way of the Dodo. Tweeting, Facebook, and texting are more popular ways for people to stay in touch, especially for younger people.
(CC) The future of Social media is Mobile.  There is no digital divide in the Mobile Tech World. Becoming more mobile friendly will be key for bloggers who want to stay ahead of the curve.  That’s the new frontier for me, too.
(CC) 25% of the people on Twitter are African-American. Wow! I didn’t realize that.
(CC) Creating more engaging blogs are the future. Recommended tools include Linkwithin – it suggests other related blog posts for readers to read.  Also, video is a great way to enhance a blog and it’s always a hit with readers.  I really like both of these ideas.  I’ll be adding both soon.  In fact, I’ve been getting a lot of encouragement to do video and I’ve been testing some out on the Facebook Fan Page. Would love your feedback.

FTC Blog Advertising Guidelines with Stacey Ferguson, Federal Trade Commission, Division of
Advertising Practices was quite informative.  Basically, all incidences of sponsorship – money, gifts, free services, anything – must be fully disclosed with a blogger is writing about or even tweeting about something. Incidentally, Stacey is also with Blogalicious – A 3-day conference Celebrating Diversity in Social Media this October in Miami, Florida.

Scott Hanselman – we played Scrabble together and finally got a chance to meet in real life.  At the opening reception on Friday he walked right up me and asked me about the Blog Your Way to Antarctica contest. He rocks for an unlimited list of reasons.  He presented an AWESOME presentation – 32 Ways to Make Your Blog Suck Less. I’m still working on adding some of the bells and whistles he suggested. 

The Business of Blogging: BEYOND Ad Networks was also a great session featuring Donna Maria Coles Johnson and The Nichelle Stephens of Pepsi Inspire.  But we end up using Nichelle’s Cupcake Blog as an example to explain business principles that every felt hungry and wanted desperately taste one of her cupcakes…I’m still Jonesing.

I was honored to be a part of session featuring kick butt bloggers/activists Luvvie and Latoya Peterson.  These ladies are amazing. Luvvie outlined how much the Red Pump Project has grown in a little over a year, including birthing an HIV/AIDS Awareness program for the gents called Red Tie Project.  Rock the Red, everyone. Latoya Peterson just blew me away. Racialicious isn’t just a blog about the intersection of pop culture, race, and sexism. No! It is a thesis.

The Town Hall meeting moderated by Shawn P. Williams, featuring Shirley Franklin – former mayor of Atlanta, Chris Rabb and Jioni Palmer - Communications Director for the Congressional Black Caucus, was an interesting forum indeed.  You notice I have no link for Mr. Palmer.  He was the recipient of much ire in the room and on Twitter because of his less than eager acceptance of Social Media as a viable tool of engagement with the public for the CBC.  Yeah, I was hurling a few tomatoes (symbolic tweets) at him as well.  But overall the session was very engaging and informative. The take home message: Social media is a movement and a very important tool for engaging (minority) audiences in the political process.

And no doubt the highlight of the entire meeting was the panel of Break Through Bloggers featuring Baratunde Thurston (he tweet that he liked my talk and I’ve been floating ever since), my Doppelganger Patrice Yursik (you all already know how much I heart her), and Anil Dash (a science policy social media guru who works with AAAS).  The panel was moderated by Lola Adesioye.  I loved all of what they said!

Some more AMAZING people I met at Blogging While Brown 2010 included:
The Danielles:  Wordyless, The Cubicle Chick, and of course the Black Snob (the former 2 ladies plus me made the infamous Danielle’s from STL Trio)
The Danielles from STL (l-r) Me, The Cublicle Chick, and The Black Snob

Another St. Louis Blogger – Glamazini – rocks some amazing natural hair dos and her blog provides hair care insights and book reviews (a recent one of the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot – a book about science and society. I keep feeling like blogging genres keep intersecting and I Love it).

Hometown bloggers (straight from the M or Memphis Tennessee) Notorious Spinks and Mesha who asked the most provocative question at the conference.

Anjuan Mance – Technology Translator and Minority Advocacy – and just an all-round nice gentleman
Adria - another fab person and Tech Guru.
Adria and Scott Hanselman

And I had a great time hanging out with DC area bloggers: Lola, Leon, my Cyberboo 2000 SkuzeMeWoods, and Fly Black Chick.
 (l-r) Luvvie, Fly Black Chick, and Afrobella

More Blogging While Brown 2010 pictures can be browsed at the official online Photo Album on Flickr. Please check them out.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Open Letter to...Nerd Girls

Do I Have What it Takes to be a Nerd Girl? Probably not.

I am a Nerd and I a Girl.  I love Science and believe in STEM outreach to under-served audiences by Many Means Necessary.  I came across a blog post by USA Science & Engineering Festival that asked the question: “Do You Have What it Takes to be a Nerd Girl?”, and my initial reaction was I sure do.
Nerd Girls is an engineering outreach program for girls and young women.  Pretty sweet, huh?  There’s a television show upcoming and this is the casting call for video auditions.

My initial reaction to the video turned my enthusiastic smile into to a frown within 30 seconds. Really?  Young women wearing capes, over sized tortoise shell eyeglasses, and very high heels running down hallways reminds me of a comic book.

Who is this message for? (and bookmark this question, because I’ll be asking other STEM outreach efforts this same question in upcoming posts).

We want to encourage other girls to change their world through Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, while embracing their feminine power.

For girls and young women obviously but what type of young women?  The reference to embracing feminine power gives me a big clue.  The femininity they promote is a very conventional, even sexualized femininity.  And as I watched the video, I really felt like this campaign is not for young women like me: the not so girly-girl types.  So, if I were young enough to audition I wouldn’t.  To me, it is abundantly clear that Nerd Girls is an outreach program for the ‘beautiful ones’ - the charming pretty girls who are prom queen who might hide their smarts.  And you know what? Those girls probably do need role models just like the ones Nerd Girls provides.
But that still doesn’t make me like this program anymore. It sells a trite uni-dimensional version of feminine that automatically eliminates all 'others'. I was turned completely off by it. And yes, I'm responding in a very personal matter.

This is me on a good but average day.

I’m no girly-girl.  Some might describe me as a plane jane or even tom-boyish – mainly due to my preference for jeans or shorts, cotton tees, I love being outdoors, and getting dirty.  Don’t get me wrong. I clean up nicely, very nicely for the right occasion.
I guess this could be my Nerd Girls get-up.
But I’m not rocking high-heels and short skirts and sporting eye make-up on the average day.  That’s not me. 
And in science, there is a mix of us – uber fems, plain janes, and tom boys.   To be a fair feminist science scholar you recognize and embrace the whole continuum of feminine presence, not just the Barbie Doll version of it. That’s why I have a problem with this program; and I'm not the only one my Science Blogging BFF Oyster's Garter agrees.
Conceptually it is a great idea; however, please, don’t pass off this outreach effort for ALL girls/women. Why? Because off the wham I thought it was clear that “The not-so-popular girl, the cute but chubby girl, or even the smart but pimply faced girl - you know – the types of girls who most expect already do well in science and math and proud of their academic prowess” need not apply to be a Nerd Girl.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Travelogue: Blogging While Brown - recap #1

The 3rd Annual Blogging While Brown Conference in Washington, DC, June 18-19, 2010 was a smashing success.

My very first highlight was being confused with Breakthrough Blogger and Black Weblog Award Best Culture Blog Hall of Famer Afrobella.  Seriously, two people on separate occasions thought I was her.  Dallas South News Blogger, Shawn Williams was even congratulating me for ‘my appearance in Business magazine’ to which I responded, “What? That’s news to me.  Oh, you must be confusing me for someone else.   That someone is Afrobella – who is THE leading Beauty blogger in Black Blogosphere, if not the entire Blogosphere.  Her fabulous blog has landed her writing and review gigs with Vogue (yes) as a contributor to Vogue Black, AOL Black Voices, and American Airlines’ Black Atlas Web site.

 Yeah, I don’t mind at all being her Doppelganger. (But actually, I think she and my great friend Darcella Craven could be twins. Incidently, people confuse DC as sisters all of the time.)

More great news…
The opening reception and game night was sponsored by CTIA and Comcast.  It was a great time.  I played Scrabble with fellow #BWB bloggers, Scott, Natalie, and Stacy.  We all though playing for fun was just fine until we learned the sponsors provided pretty sweet tech prizes to the winner – An Acer Netbook for 1st place.  Long story short – I was a beast. I love word games and Scrabble in particular. (Ask any of my friends, one year for my birthday I was given a Scrabble Dictionary.  Love!)  And guess what happened? I won! Yes, competition was pretty stiff.  But I wanted that Netbook.  I listed this on my Graduation wishlist and I took this competitive opportunity as a direct sign from the Universe and the Good Lord Above that this was my chance to receive this gift. 

But it wasn’t without scandal.  I misspell a word – SWIMING.  I wrote the word out by hand a million times but spelling it with 2 ms didn’t look right to me either.  But my amazing opponents didn’t catch it either, someone at the next table called it out. They gave me guff about it – and rightly so.  However, since no one caught it and the word had been played against the decision was to let it stand. Whew! Lucky me and the Netbook was mine, all mine.

The Conference proper was twice as big as last year and I really had a great time.  The topics last year were great but in my mind some of them were a little irrelevant to me.  Not this year.  I was fully engaged the entire time and I really like the addition of the unconference to the mix.  Attendees were able to talk further about topics and network.  Thank you conference planners – Gina, Shawn, Aminah, Elizabeth, Cheryl, Shalon and everyone else.
It was a great experience!  Tomorrow I’ll talk all about my presentation about Science and outreach to under-served audiences.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Blogging While Brown about Science

Friday, June 18, 2010

I'm here in DC and I'm Blogging While Brown

Hey there! I'm here in DC and the conference is off to a great start.  Last was opening night and Saturday the talks start.  In fact, I just went through my presentation again.

This is just a quick post to let you know to expect more. Actually, I'll be live blogging and tweeting the whole time, so if you want a blow-by-blow of the conference then go to Twitter. (You don't have to join just to read what everyone is saying). Or you can see that I'm saying at my Facebook Fan Page.

Links are below.  Come back!

Urban Science Adventures! © Facebook Fan Page

@FeteSociety - that's me on Twitter

@BWBConference - Blogging While Brown Conference Twitter

#bwb - the hashtag to read what everyone is saying on Twitter at the Conference

Wow...the sessions have been amazing: The Future of Blogging, new FTC Guidelines and How to Make your Blog suck less.
And in preparation for my talk, I uploaded my talk, which is link-heavy - full of great resources about STEM outreach via social media. Sneak peak here.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Mums the Word

Photos of mums (a few bugs, too) I took October 2009 at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

I love these warm colors, oranges and yellows.  Makes me want to just make a hair bow out of them.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Preparing for summer camp

Oh, I love summer! I love it, love it, love it.
And I'm very happy to annouce I have secured a fantastic summer position as the supervisor of a local Urban Nature Summer camp program. (Yes, the same one I did last year).

I'm working behind the scenes: interviewing hopeful Outdoor Instructors, calling facilities, making arrangements for the program.  I'm also assembling the handbook of activities.  We have a notebook full of classic raccoon circle activities that are always a hit and I've come across some new gems related to the same ideas.  I just had to share these with you.  I want everyone to appreciate how much the outdoors can be (and how much fun learning about ecology is, too.)

Thinks of these links as activity guides for any children you may have this summer (camp counselor, family reunions, scouting trips, babysitting, anything)
101 Nature Activities from Sanborn Western Camps
Environmental Education Activities & Games 
100 + Things You Can Do Outside! - recommended by me

I'm so looking forward to working this summer.

Picture of a may apple flower. I learned about this plant and how to identify last year when I worked for this program.  I hope to learn as much as I share with the kiddies this summer.


And the Adventures I have created an Urban Science Adventures! © Facebook Fan Page. Now you can share your pictures and stories all year long with other urban nature and environmental education enthusiasts.

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