I wasn't there. I was in grad school in Chapel Hill, studying the epidemiology of infectious diseases and struggling through Media Law, expecting our second child, enjoying a coffee discussion with Francis Collins.
But I was a blogger, and I was already gathering other bloggers for meetups. We called ourselves the Tar Heel Bloggers.
I'm sure I heard about BloggerCon at the time and followed the posts coming out of that gathering. As an early blogger, I searched for anything I could learn about how people were using the web to write and reflect their lives. And since I was just recently finished with my Peace Corps service in the Republic of Vanuatu, where the village chief would bang a tamtam to gather the community under the nakamal for village discussions, I loved the idea of a gathering of bloggers. So, the more I read from Dave and others about the bloggercon, the more I wanted to partner with my friends in the Tar Heel Bloggers to organize one of our own.
About a year later, in February 2005, we convened the Triangle Bloggers Conference. Dave drove down to join us, and others came from Vermont and Atlanta and California.
Dave blogged the day, said it was lovely but that we broke the rules, but he also organized a brunch the next day. I went to learn about outliners, although it took me until the World Outliner (seven years later) and Fargo to truly get it. I'm writing this post in an outliner! At the brunch, Dave urged me to bootstrap our community, and during the conference others encouraged us to keep up the conversation (which we would do in monthly meetups in Chapel Hill and Raleigh). I met Bora Zivkovic that day, and we were soon collaborating on a bloggercon dedicated to science. That annual event grew into a global community and a nonprofit organization called ScienceOnline.
My post A decade of blogging tells more about how we came together, who my partners were, and why we named the effort BlogTogether.
Please support science and ScienceOnline - donate to our $20.14 from 2,014 before 2014 campaign.
I have loved being a blogger, and I have so many friends because of blogging. Like Dave through his Scripting News blog, they have enlightened me and inspired me and entertained me and challenged me. I've read Kottke for more than a decade, too. His post this week about Stephen Hawking's party for time travellers made me chuckle. Honestly, if I could travel in time, I'd first visit Cambridge, Mass. for BloggerCon, then Cambridge, UK to say hello to Professor Hawking.
Cheers to Dave and everyone else who made BloggerCon possible.
Summer is officially over, the kids are back in school, I've been traveling for work, and visiting family have gotten us out and about in the Triangle. Here are some highlights.
Let's be scientific
I went up to Washingon, D.C. last week to attend the Sackler Colloquium on the Science of Science Communication, held in the magnificent National Academies of Science building. I'd never been inside that building, although I had genuflected at the Einstein statue out front when I'd visited the capital with my father in 1987. This time, I went to D.C. by car with Russ Campbell, my SCONC friend and longtime supporter of ScienceOnline. We had two great discussions on the way to and from the conference, and I'm thankful for the distraction-less time to get to know Russ better.
The Sackler meeting was too academic for me at first, but it evened out to include some really good talks and discussions about social networks, social media and political attacks on good evidence (see this storify of the keynote by Kathleen Hall Jamieson). I sat up in the corner of the spacious, space-age auditorium. At one point, a speaker mentioned an urgent need for a way for scientists and science communicators to connect, so, naturally, I tweeted an answer:
Scattered throughout the auditorium were Liz and Lauren and Miriam and Lou and Brian and Russ and others who have been connected through our ScienceOnline events and satellite meetups and continuous online networking (follow the #sciox hashtag). It was satisfying to know that we've been at this for more than 10 years, but also sobering to know that we have a lot of work to do to spread the ScienceOnline name and mission. All are welcome.
At Sackler, I met a former Miami journalist who went to work for the National Audubon Society and helped promoted the Everglades National Park. I was glad to tell him about ScienceOnline Oceans, our next event, which will take place in Miami in just 12 days.
Bluegrass and salamander in the hand
My uncle, John Zuiker, drove down from Virginia to attend the Wide Open Bluegrass festival in Raleigh this weekend. John is a diehard bluegrass fan, and a most generous uncle. My earliest memories of him are of him singing around the Ravens Roost campfire and plugging quarters into the Wagon Wheel jukebox to make Children Go play again and again while my cousins and I sang along.
Erin and the children and I accompanied Uncle John Saturday afternoon to the bluegrass street festival in downtown Raleigh. For a while, we sat in the middle of Fayetteville Street, listening to Grasstowne pickin' and strummin'.
I looked over John's shoulder to see my daughter Anna mesmerized by the fiddle player (she's learning to play the violin), and I glanced up the street.
This morning, we went for a hike on a Duke Forest trail near my house, and Uncle John taught the kids to roll decaying logs to look for bugs. Under the first log he rolled over was a salamander. Very cool!
Further along the trail, these ghost plants were bathed in a spotlight of sun.
Tacos and Tequila
After the day in Raleigh, I turned right around to go back to the city to a party thrown by Dean McCord to celebrate his 50th birthday. There was fabulous food (warm corn tortillas and flavorful pulled pork and searing habanero salsa) catered by the on-fire Chef Ashley Christensen, and beer from Fullsteam - I sat and talked with Fullsteam owner Sean Lilly Wilson. Quite a treat all around. Dean had invited me to his previous parties over the last few years, but I've never been able to make it. So glad I did this year. Dean is a gourmand, food blogger, dedicated father and a really authentic individual.
Here's Sean talking about his potato ricer:
New music, new writing tools, new kitchen projects
A new Peter Gabriel album came out last week. This one features other artists covering his songs. It's a companion album to his Scratch My Back project on which he covered other artists' songs. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver covered Come Talk to Me, one of my favorite songs (Us is in My island jukebox).
I've been tracking host of new writing, blogging and web publishing tools over the last year. See this post on my mistersugar blog. Last week I started with Ghost. It has a lot of promise, provides a writing experience similar to Medium, and may be a good alternative for me. Note, though, that I'm writing this post in Fargo, which has enlightened me: when I write in Fargo, it feels like I'm writing from the inside out, building the essay with blocks that I can maneuver into position before the essay is unveiled. It reminds me of the peonies that bloomed in the front garden earlier this year, the buds growing rounder and rounder until their flowers burst in color.
In the kitchen, I've made quite a few batches of DIY slivovitz (found the right plums first at Harris Teeter in Durham, and now at Whole Foods in Chapel Hill) and a jar of Thai red curry paste using some of the bounty of peppers from the backyard garden boxes. I've started DIY hot sauce with a bag of cayenne peppers I bough at the Carrboro Farmers Market.
Life is full of spice. I'm very lucky.
Perusing the twitter stream tonight, I saw mention of coconut crabs and a news story about Amelia Earhart. Seems the latest theory is that the big crabs carried away her bones.
So, I went digging.
Digging, that is, into my blog archives. I was looking for a post I was convinced I'd already written about the coconut crab, the largest land-living arthropod on the planet. But, I can't find any mention of coconut crabs on my blog or in my @mistersugar twitter archives, so here's the story.
During our time as Peace Corps Volunteers in the Republic of Vanuatu, Erin and I encountered one krab kokonas (as it is known in Bislama, the lingua franca of the islands). We had been visiting friends on Maewo, where there were still some of these powerful crabs, and so we paid one of the chiefs to find one for us to take home with us to our smaller island of Paama. The crab - wrapped tightly so that the claw couldn't snap one of our fingers off - was waiting for us at the airport. Back on Paama, my host brother, Noel Timante, carefully stabbed a large knife into the creature, and we quickly dropped it into a pot of boiling water.
Here's a photo, with Erin and her big hand (it's a lovely hand that fits perfectly in mine) and Noel's little daughter Mereva, just after the crab came out of the pot.
We enjoyed the delicious meat with freshly squeezed coconut milk and lime juice, and shared it with Noel and his family.
I sometimes feel bad about that meal. Coconut crabs can live up to 50 or 60 years.
Now I remember: I was going to include the photo above in my Ignite Raleigh talk, I want to hold your hand. And the first essay that I wrote for my website in 2000, From There to Here, is still one of my favorites about handshakes and walking hand-in-hand with Noel.
The 2013 Ig® Nobel Prize Ceremony & Lectures will be streamed live from Harvard's Sanders Theatre on Thursday, September 12.
Here in the Triangle, we'll gather in the Daily Planet theater inside the NC Museum of Natural Sciences to watch, cheer and celebrate science. Brian Malow, science comedian and curator of the Daily Planet, will be our host.
It's for science!
The webcast starts at 6 p.m., but come as early as 5:30 to mingle and converse.
Refreshments - coffee, beer, desserts and more - will be available for purchase in the Daily Planet Cafe.
After the ceremony, wander the museum - it's open to 9 p.m. on Thursdays.
Yes, Chef, by Marcus Samuelsson (with Veronica Chambers)
I couldn't put this down. Really interesting memoir from a top chef, about his birth in Ethiopia, adopted life in Sweden, culinary training and purposeful pursuit of flavors.
"When you wake up from your nap, mama will be here," I said to Oliver.
"Where will you be?" he asked.
"I'll be at work," I said.
"How does the world change like that?" he asked.
"It's a mystery," I answered.
I had a dream the other night that I wanted to write about.
In my dream, I was attending a big Duke communicators meeting, and my friend David asked me to talk about blogging. I start telling my entire story (journalism, Peace Corps, Zuiker Chronicles), but also heard myself thinking 'It's not about me'. It was a dream, but in my dream I was having an out-of-body experience, seeing myself standing and talking, trying to get myself to stop and talk instead about my helicopter ride on Paama, when the pilot explained that he pictured the air flowing like a river and guided his aircraft along those streams of air.
In my dream, and in my waking consciousness, I realized that that was a perfect metaphor for the type of blogging I've been promoting at Duke Medicine, where I spend a lot of time meeting with colleagues to talk about how to use blogs and social media to communicate the research and education and clinical care provided by the departments in the School of Medicine. We talk a lot about the 'river of news', both the concept of flowing information and the reverse chronological display of discrete items of information.
The Department of Medicine, where I work, is about to begin the process of a major web redesign. I'd written an RFP, but my dream has helped me to see that I need to explain that our goal is for the new site to display some permanent information that exists like the rocks in a river or summits in a mountain range, but that mostly we want a site to reflect the flow of information like the flowing water in the river or the rushing air through the valley.
My other blogging strategy - small just, just ahead - will also be important.
I'm in the noisy new food pavilion at Duke, so probably haven't written the most coherent post above. More on it to come later.
In conversations about the web, I often remark that it's kinda hard to actually get past the routine sites I visit and get to a site operated by someone beyond my own country. It's the world wide web, after all, and I know I need to make a concerted effort to get the global perspective.
So when I do think about broadening my online borders, I often head to Global Voices - "an international community of bloggers who report on blogs and citizen media from around the world."
In November 2006, when I was in Boston for a conference, I got a chance to meet one of the Global Voices founders, Ethan Zuckerman. I told him about my Story Blogging idea (oral history plus blogging, which didn't go anywhere at the time but has been reborn as the Voices of Medicine initiative with my friend, Jeff Polish, who runs the fabulous The Monti storytelling organization), and probably mentioned the first science blogging conference that Bora and I were planning for a couple of months later. Ethan's work on Global Voices was an inspiration to me as I worked to build the ScienceOnline community.
This afternoon, while I prepared the regular Sunday roasted chicken, I listened to On the Media, which featured this interview with Ethan:
I woke up in Washington, D.C. this morning, pumped up by the success of the ScienceOnline Climate conference that convened Thursday and Friday. I laced up my shoes and went running, over to the mall, around the scaffolded Washington Monument and then up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to read the Second Inaugural and the Gettysburg Address. By the time I got back to my hotel, I wanted to record a short message about how satisfied and inspired -- and also challenged -- I felt.
I've been thinking for the last year about getting the mistersugar pig tattooed on my arm, although recently I did wonder if the tamtam illustration would be better.
Now, I'm not so sure.
At John Carroll University early in my freshman year (this was 1988), I walked to the nearby May Company department store in University Heights, Ohio. I usually started downstairs in the small electronics area. I'd peer in the glass cases at the Walkman cassette players and the CD boom boxes. This one day, I then walked over the elevator to go upstairs to the men's clothing section on the second floor. The elevator stopped on one, and an older woman stepped in. As the doors closed, I glanced over and noticed a number tattooed on her arm.
I instantly knew what the number meant. While JCU is a Jesuit (read Roman Catholic) institution, University Heights is heavily Jewish (hence the delicious bagels I wrote about in June). I'd recently read Exodus, by Leon Uris, and I was trying to learn more about the Holocaust. Later during college, I'd go to Washington and visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum, which has a detailed webpage explaining the tattoos the Nazis put on their Jewish and Roma prisoners at the Auschwitz camp.
My Italian grandpa, Louis Sisco, also had a tattoo on his arm. It was a horseshoe he chose to put there when he was in his teens. He often told me that he regretted it, and urged me never to get a tattoo myself.
Here's a photo my mother recently sent me, showing grandma and grandpa holding my daughter, Anna. You can see grandpa's tattoo, and also his wristwatch, which he wore every single day.
When I lived in Hawaii, I saw some amazing Polynesian tattoos, especially on the Samoan men. I didn't get a tattoo then, but I did get my ear pierced, and I wore a hoop for 10 years.
Now, I think I've decided not to get a permanent tattoo, for no specific reason or strong feeling.
But I did just order temporary tattoos of the mistersugar purple pig.
In the NYTimes today, Tom Hanks waxes eloquent about manual typewriters: I Am TOM. I Like to TYPE. Hear That?
As it happens, I brought an old Royal typewriter with me to this Rhode Island cottage. I'm returning it to my stepmother, Dorothy, who lent it to me nearly 10 years ago. I used to have it in my UNC and Duke offices to serve as a reminder of writing technology of the past.
So, I typed Mr. Hanks a note:
We made it to Jerusalem, Rhode Island late last night, having inched along I-95 for hours and hours, the rain and congestion and NYC rush hour and occasional construction project making for one long ordeal.
Earlier, we'd woken in Philadelphia, to rain, but still got to visit the Liberty Bell and U.S. Mint.
Glory! The sun has just broken out.
My friend, Paul, once designed a set of logos for me. I used them for a bit on a site called VanAmericanNius.com. It was a precursor to storian.org. Both were meant to be sites for my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers in the Republic of Vanuatu.
Alas, the sites didn't take.
Facebook seems the best way to stay connected to RPCVs.
The logo at right is one I call 'coconut wireless' - it is two half-coconut shells connected as if they were telephones, or tin cans as we used when we were kids.
Another in that logo set is the tamtam, which I wrote about on my main blog: My new avatar is a tamtam from Ambrym
Two interviews on NPR this weekend with authors about their new books:
Michael Paterniti, whose book is The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese. Listen to the interview here. Rosencrans Baldwin reviews the book here.
I asked my daughter if she'd be interested in a short hackathon tonight.
What's a hackathon? she asked.
I explained that it's a time to build or code or create on the web, and that I needed to quickly make some changes to my blog.
By the time we were able to sit down, it was late. So instead of working on my blog, I talked her through creating her own using Fargo. The result: malia.smallpict.com
I just tucked her into bed, and she asked for a story about how I started my first blog. I told her about how I paid a friend to help create Zuiker Chronicles Online, how I bought a book about HTML, and how I knew enough to create this page when Frank the Beachcomber, our patriarch and creator of the Zuiker chronicling tradition, died.
I've been blogging ever since.
The about page on mistersugar.com has more of my blogging story.
Very proud of my brother, Nicholas Zuiker. He graduated from the Austin Fire Department Academy today.
In the photo: my brothers Matt and Nick with our father, Joseph. Nick's wearing a maile lei that dad brought from Hawaii.
Here's a video about Cadet Class 116:
A couple of weeks ago, I downloaded the PRX Remix app.
Tonight, as I ironed a shirt for tomorrow, I hit play, and listened to chef Dan Barber, who gave a 2010 TED talk about fish farms and the future of good food: How I fell in love with a fish.
It's quite a good talk. Have a listen:
I've been drinking looseleaf tea for some 20 years, and am in a renewed state of enjoyment of a good brew.
When I started to subscribe to the New Yorker (around 1995), I came across a small advertisement for Upton Tea Imports, and I've often ordered my tea from them. I've never been disappointed. Right now I'm sipping a cup of Anhui Province Keemun mao feng (bud and two leaves), one of my favorite types of black tea - it goes great with dark chocolate.
Once, when I visited Minneapolis, I visited a tea shop in St. Paul. I order from TeaSource, too. The strawberry oolong is an amazing tea iced.
I also order sometimes from Todd & Holland in Forest Park, Illinois. They make a delicious Island Mango blend, and 10 years ago they made an exotic merchant's blend chamomile tisane, and still make other fragrant chamomile blends.
Another time, when I lived in Honolulu, there was an Israeli jeweler who opened a cafe in my neighborhood. It didn't last, but it was open long enough for me to get there a few times to enjoy a Moroccan-style hot mint tea in a tall glass. When I came to Chapel Hill, the Silk Road Tea House had authentic Turkish tea.
Spring cleaning around the house earlier this year helped me clean out the house and get rid of paper and stuff. It also helped me pare down my personal activities, and jettison a handful of website projects and ideas for conferences.
I settled on these five priorities:
1. My health: I'm focused on a better balance of rest, exercise and diet (or RED, as my tai chi chuan teacher in Honolulu taught me 20 years ago). So, I've been getting into bed earlier, sleeping around 7 hours (up from the 5 or 6 that was my norm the last 10 years), running and swimming most days of the week, and eating more fruits and vegetables and less sugar. I feel good. (btw, one impetus for getting more exercise was watching Dave's biking last summer, and our ride together in Durham last July inspired me to take better care of myself. And I dropped off my bike today to get a major overhaul so I can use it more.)
2. My family: At home, our family meals are at the kitchen table and involve lots of conversation. Anna and Malia are learning to cook beside me more and more. It's summer, so I'm getting lots of time in the pool with the children, and Oliver is quickly learning to swim on his own. Erin and I have been able to take more date nights. I'm still not as good about calling my father, mother, brothers and other close relatives, but I'm trying to make more phone calls.
3. My work: My role as communications director at the Duke University Department of Medicine continues to engage me, challenge me and satisfy me. We're close to finishing our first annual report (a print publication) and will soon embark on a major overhaul of our 20+ websites to combine them into one site. Through work I am also collaborating with Jeff Polish on Voices of Medicine - Jeff was honored with an Indies Arts Award this week. (As the Indy article mentions, I put Talk Story on hiatus.)
4. My community: I spent the last 10 years facilitating local blogging and online science communities, and I'm proud of how my volunteer efforts helped create a new nonprofit organization, ScienceOnline. My role in this has changed, so now I'm learning how to be the chairman of the board of directors and a fundraiser (you can help by donating $20.14 today). I'm still striving to listen, to serve, to support.
5. My blog: Of all my personal projects and extracurricular activities, blogging has been an anchor. It gives me a way to chronicle my life, celebrate important moments, contemplate and understand my feelings. And being a blogger has led to quite a lot, including my job and ScienceOnline and Talk Story and Voices of Medicine, and more. I'm about to simplify the design of mistersugar.com, and will continue to use Fargo to explore the next steps in my blogging - and outlining - life.
I feel good about these priorities, even if I do still sometimes feel my balance teetering.
Hō a‘e ka ‘ike he‘enalu i ka hokua o ka ‘ale.
Show (your) knowledge of surfing on the back of the wave.
Talking about one's knowlege and skill is not enough; let it be proven.
From ‘Ōlelo No‘eau, Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings, by Mary Kawena Pukui, Bishop Museum Press
Found on the inside back page of the Summer 2013 issue of Island Scene Magazine.
The NYTimes Travel section on Sunday past included a feature about the coast-to-coast Lincoln Highway, which celebrated its 100th anniversary on July 1.
The article made no mention of DeKalb, Illinois, but if you check the official map, you'll see that the highway has always gone through that town. And that's the town where I spent my formative high school years. I regularly met my grandparents at the Lincoln Inn for breakfast, and I shopped across the street at Lehan's. I paraded down Lincoln Highway as a clown during the Homecoming parade, then the following year rode in a convertible Corvette as the Homecoming king in the same parade. On winter days I crossed over Lincoln Highway to get to the lagoon, and strapped on my skates and played hockey until midnight. One summer evening, a half-mile further down the road, I French kissed for the first time.
A dozen miles further west took me to an uncle's farm, where I learned to walk the rows of soybean fields, understand the routines of the farm, and revel in the fertile flatness of the Illinois prairie.
The Lincoln Highway anchored my teenage years. Good years. A good highway.
Using his new Fargo blog, Dave earlier this week wrote about his dream for academic blogging.
"I figured that these great minds would find the chronologic arrangement of blogs too limiting. We would work together to create new structures," wrote Dave.
I think I understand that. Back in December, I wrote a post about trying to conceptualize a redesign of my mistersugar.com blog, which I've been writing since 2000. My friend, Beck Tench, posed an interesting question that got me thinking about other ways to structure the collection of my writings.
I've noticed on Medium.com that essays are put into collections. The Mangrove company blog suggests grouping posts into bundles.
A few days ago, I wrote about how I'm tired about blogging about Vanuatu. I suspect, though, that if I were to bundle up all my posts about my experience in the South Pacific, arrange them in some fashion or another, I'd have a short memoir of my time as a Peace Corps volunteer.
If I'm not going to write much more about Vanuatu, what then? One possibility is sugar.
My family name, Zuiker, comes from the Dutch word for sugar, and that led to my web moniker and blog domain. But I've not really written about sugar, except for my addiction to good chocolate and generous use of refined sugar in my annual grenadine syrup and strawberry jam making.
Since I work at a major academic medical center and university, I seem to be in a great place to embark on a writing project about sugar: I could learn about the history, the chemistry, the business, the nutrition and the cooking. Probably a lot more.
And Fargo, an outliner and blog engine, seems to be a powerful tool to help me structure this project.
Let's explore the possibilities.
My earlier Fargo checklist included learning to map a domain.
I have successfully connected this blog to my.storyblogging.org.
Cowfish is what ni-Vanuatu call the dugong that live in the waters of the South Pacific. I swam with a dugong once in Lamen Bay at Epi Island. (Here's an essay by someone else who had the same experience.)
Later, when I was in a VanAir Twin Otter coming in for a landing on the Tavie airstrip on Paama Island, I noticed the profile of a dugong swimming close to shore. The airplane's shadow crossed nearby, and soon I was out of the plane and into the back of the island's only truck, headed home to Liro Village.