On sabbatical

I’ll be quiet for a while, on a social media and blogging sabbatical throughout 2014 2015.

Read the about page for the pre-sabbatical story.

If you wish to connect with me, please send a message to zuiker@gmail.com.

We're selling our house in Carrboro

Our grand, big house in Carrboro, North Carolina is on the market (current as of 3/7/2015).

It’s been a place of delight for us these last five years, and we’re hoping another family — perhaps yours! — will jump at the idea of making it a home in which to grow up and grow older and wiser, fill with dinner parties and backyard barbecues and birthday parties, make memories fond and familiar and priceless.

Where are we going? Not far, we hope: just over to Chapel Hill to design a new experience for ourselves and our children.

Learn more at 235legendsway.com.

Time to move to a new web host

After nearly 10 years hosting my various websites with Textdrive, it’s time for me to move to a new web host — Textdrive will cease operations on March 14, 2014.

I’m hurrying to transfer my files to my new host. Please be patient if there’s any down time during this transfer.

UPDATE: I have successfully moved the Coconut Wireless to my new host.

A retraction, stepping back, and looking forward

For a decade, I worked passionately to build a conference, a community and an organization called ScienceOnline. This was in partnership with Bora Zivkovic, a partnership that became a friendship. Last fall, I was blindsided by the revelations of his behavior toward women. In October, November and December, I offered Bora my ear, my help and my compassion, in the hopes that he would make amends and changes. In writing my Jan. 1 blog essay, Roots and Bitters, I was attempting to juggle that compassion with my bitterness for how Bora treated women, how he had treated the community — including Karyn and me — and how our partnership was being pulled apart.

Posting my essay was wrong for many reasons, most especially because I have come to a very different understanding of sexual harassment, professional responsibility and Bora’s actions, which I do believe were wrong. I am sorry for posting my essay, but grateful for the lessons that I’ve learned since. 

I deeply regret that my blog post, published without the knowledge of my fellow ScienceOnline board members, shook their trust in me. Scott Rosenberg, Meg Lowman and Mark Benerofe stepped up to assist ScienceOnline at a very difficult time, putting their reputations on the line in a show of support for the community and mission of ScienceOnline.

I wanted to remove the post from my blog in January, but understood that anything I did or said would only distract everyone from the planning of the ScienceOnline Together 2014 conference. The board requested that I keep the post online, so that production of the conference and the interactions of the attendees who had committed their valuable dollars and time were the focus — and not Bora. (Bora had no role or part in ScienceOnline or the planning of the conference after October 16, and from January 1 on, I severely limited my interactions with him; I continue to distance myself from him as I work through my bitterness and anger.) We needed to keep our focus so that ScienceOnline could survive in 2014 and move forward beyond that. I am sorry if this silence further confused you.

Under the direction of executive director Karyn Traphagen and with the guidance and assistance from board members Mark and Scott and Meg, we acted promptly to clarify the goals of the conference (especially that Bora would not be in attendance), review the community’s responses, seek third-party advice, strengthen the ScienceOnline code of conduct and harassment policies, and put in place focused programming on women in science at the start of the conference. We also added the opportunity for attendee-selected topic-driven conversations at the 90-minute Saturday lunch break. We knew that this was only a beginning.

In addition to the serious human issues facing this community, the organization was now at financial risk. Compounding the normal stress of organizing a major event, the timing of the revelations in October happened just after we completed major contractual commitments but conference registration process and sponsor relations were still being finalized. We had intense worries about the financial viability of the organization. My January post, I fully admit, set us back. The stress was palpable, and required us to have a laser focus on making sure the conference was a success.

Thankfully, hundreds of individuals came together last week to enjoy the conference, and confirmed that there’s important work yet to be done to advance the mission of ScienceOnline — to cultivate the ways we (organization AND community) conduct, share and communicate science on the Web. As in each of the past seven years, ScienceOnline Together 2014 was a success because of the many attendees, longstanding sponsors and new supporters, speakers, discussion moderators and volunteers who committed their time, resources, experiences, expertise, talents and willingness to learn. I am grateful to all who helped to make ScienceOnline Together 2014 a success.

Karyn’s efforts were herculean. I want to thank her for her support as a co-founder, a board member and a friend. Her wisdom and leadership skills, combined with everyone who participated and collaborated at the conference, give me optimism for what ScienceOnline can accomplish in the decade to come.

And now it is time for me to remove Roots and Bitters, because I can no longer stand behind those words.  

Furthermore, I know this: I am burned out, and I need a break. The stress of the last six months has made it painfully clear that it’s time for me to step back. This includes taking a social media sabbatical, and focusing more intently on my family, my health and my job.

Several months ago, I concluded that it is time for me to make room for others to lead the organization. Prior to the conference, I informed the board of my plan to step away from ScienceOnline at the end of this month. Effective March 28, 2014, I will be resigning my position as chairman of the ScienceOnline Board of Directors, and transitioning to a new (non-voting) role — details still to be worked out — that will allow me to stay involved in an advisory role, and as a founder and champion of the ScienceOnline story.

When I look back on the history of ScienceOnline, I am immensely proud. At the outset, I wanted to believe that individuals who connected online could come together for meaningful face-to-face conversations, and that our interactions about science would further strengthen online connections, civility, conversations and collaborations. And we have done that. Nurturing a community and building ScienceOnline over the last decade has been hard work, but I am glad to have dedicated these years to ScienceOnline.

Thanks to all of you who have been so supportive in pushing ScienceOnline forward and helping us in this difficult year. I hope you will continue to do that as ScienceOnline goes on the road — to southern California this summer with ScienceOnline Brain, and then to Atlanta next February for ScienceOnline Together 2015 — and on into the future.

I’ll be off the social web for awhile. If you wish to reach me sooner, please send a message to zuiker@gmail.com.

Roots and bitters

This post has been retracted. Please read A retraction, stepping back, and looking forward for an update. — Anton 3/5/2014

Something I'd like to do in 2014

I want to write and record a song. I don’t know how to write songs, but I want to learn. I like to sing, and my children sing and dance all the time around the house. We’ll have to find a musician to work with us — maybe my Uncle John, the bluegrass fan, or David Kroll, who recorded Minister of Ether. Or maybe there’s a class or a workshop I can attend. I’m starting to take notes and outline ideas for a song. Stay tuned.

Moments and friends

Met a friend yesterday, over at his home. First time I’d been there. I went with Erin and the children, and spent a lovely morning with my friend and his wife and children. Didn’t want the morning to end.

My friend and his wife recommended the new Ben Stiller movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. They suggested we see it on the huge Extreme Digital screen at the Cinemark at Valley View. So we went today with the kids and cousins and my father-in-law. I enjoyed the film and its homage to film photography and magazines and imagination and adventures and making a moment last. I like Stiller’s humor, and I loved the huge screen.

At breakfast with another friend this morning, a discussion about the Cedar Point Chaussee, a causeway that goes out to the roller coaster-heavy amusement park an hour west of Cleveland. We wondered about the word chaussee, but of course Wikipedia has the answer

… an historic term used in German-speaking countries for early, metalled, rural highways, designed by road engineers, as opposed to the hitherto, traditional, unpaved country roads.

Meanwhile, I’ve spent the past week trying to locate another Cleveland friend, but I can’t find him, and I’m getting worried. I’ve listened to his answering-machine message a dozen times. Hope he returns soon and allays my fears.

Another friend is back home in North Carolina. I’ve been working on a long post about our friendship for more than a month now, and I rewrote it yet again today, hoping I can find the right message and tone and timing to share my observations.

UPDATE: Found my friend. He’s alive.


This week, I mentioned using Medium, and noted the nice way that writers, editors and readers can add comments to each paragraph, instead of comments at the bottom of a post.

I’ve encountered footnotes in other ways this week.

The jQuery plugin Bigfoot is a new solution for inline footnotes (inspired by the way Marco Arment programmed popover notes for Instapaper and The Magazine).

I was reminded of a class I took in college, on Latin American dictators in literature. (I mentioned the class in this previous post about One Hundred Years of Solitude). One of the books on the reading list was I, the Supreme, by Augusto Roa Bastos. It was a novel, but used extensive footnotes to tell another perspective to the fictional story. I went looking for my copy of the book, but I think I actually got rid of it this summer.

The book I’m reading now, The Telling Room – A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti, is nonfiction. Paterniti uses footnotes to add additional details and commentary to his story/travelogue/profile/food-writing. The other night, I came upon page 180, where a footnote begins, then spawns eight more footnotes within, spanning the bottoms of three pages. I think Paterniti was having a laugh on his readers, but we get the joke, because it fits his tale of a Spanish storyteller supreme.

If I won the lottery

I would endow ScienceOnline so that the organization would continue — far into the future — to gather and support all those doing, sharing and promoting science on the Web. (Until then, your donations are most appreciated. Please give $20.14 todaystart here and click the Donate button.)

I would fund the BlogTogether Community Service Awards, and give them every year, celebrating those individuals and groups using blogs and social media to advocate for honesty, integrity, fairness and justice, and who make our communities (online and in the world) better places to live and interact.

I would help Jeff and The Monti, and my colleagues at Duke Medicine, make Voices of Medicine a national program that gives patients, their families and their medical caregivers ways to share stories of life, healing, loss and tenderness.

I would invite you all to The Long Table for dinner and slivovitz and long, leisurely conversation.

And I would take care of mom and dad and my brothers, and my wife and my children and my friends.

And I would share the rest with those who are hungry or lonely or homeless or in need.

In fact, I’d probably end up with just this dollar coin in my pocket, but I’d be satisfied.

Evolution of an online essay

I’m working on a very long essay now.

My essay started as a Fargo outline of ideas (after a page of scribbles in a ScienceOnline-branded Field Notes notebook).

Then I used iA writer to expand those ideas into a first draft.

Then I copied that first draft into Draft, and edited and rewrote a couple more versions.

Then I copied the essay into Medium. Medium has a new update, with some new formatting options.

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about what purpose Medium is meant to serve, for users and its investors. Read two: Anil Dash and Noah Nelson.

I previously posted two essays to Medium, about dengue fever and Lucky the Cow. But, I’ve kept my distance from Medium, for one reason I won’t go into, and for another reason: I want to own and control my own content, and so I keep most of my blogging here at mistersugar.com.

But I was tempted by the full-width image placement, and using the updated Medium has actually been kind of fun. It’s easy to format my writing with photos and pullquotes and section heads. This reminds me of being a high school editor of the literary journal New Pennies, and learning to cut and paste galley pages.

It also reminds me of learning to use Pagemaker on Macintosh computers in the back-room computer lab of the Carroll News, my college newspaper. I’d be there late at night, joined by a young English professor named Mark Winegardner, who used the Macs to design posters to promote the writers he was bringing to campus — Tim O’Brien, Robert Stone and John Edgar Widemann, among others — while I designed pages of the newspaper or my latest Zuiker Chronicles (Anton Edition) newsletter to send to family and friends. It also reminds me of learning HTML to create Zuiker Chronicles Online and the Coconut Wireless.

All of these experiences, and tools, have helped make writing easier and design fun. Yeah, I know professional designers do it better, and that in Medium we’re not really designing, since the company has structured it to their design styles. But even these limited tools for text formatting and image layout give enough options to make an author feel in control of the product. Oh, and the ability to place comments alongside paragraphs, and to invite friends and colleagues to review and offer editorial advice before an essay is public, are also very nice.

I hope to have this new essay in Medium ready to be public in a few days.

I’m also putting the essay into a self-hosted Ghost blog to see how that new blogging tool compares.

I’ve been trying lots of online writing tools this year. See previous posts here and here.

I’ve just read that the makers of iA Writer have a new, more powerful writing-and-editing tool available. It’s called Writer Pro. I’ll buy it in the morning (not available for U.S. purchase until midnight) and try it on another set of ideas that I’ve outlined in Fargo.

btw, Om Malik’s reflections on how blogging has changed over the 12 years he’s been doing is quite insightful.

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Written by Anton Zuiker since July 2000
Why mistersugar? Why a pig?

© 2000 Zuiker Chronicles Publishing, LLC