Creativity, Innovation, Change: The Synthesis

This is the last exercise for the class “Creativity, Innovation, Change” offered by The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)  on the Coursera platform. Check it out here. I was drawn to this course because of the logo. I stayed  because of the thinking.

The assignment is to “[t]ake the three course pillars – Intelligent Fast Failure, CENTER, and Creative Diversity – and create something that represents their synthesis in your mind. In other words, find a way to demonstrate or describe the “blending” of these concepts as you’ve learned about them in this course.”  This is that something.


Dr. Kathryn Jablokow shared her philosophy of Creative Diversity. I need to understand and own my creative style and creative level. I am not “not creative”. My brain works a certain way,  and I need to use that intelligence and insight to do my best work.

Dr. Darrell Velegol shared his philosophy of CENTER: Character, Entrepreneurship, owNership, Tenacity, Excellence, and Relationship.  What is my passion and purpose? Listen to what’s in my heart. What things are most important in my life? What am I doing to cultivate that passion?

Dr. Jack Matson shared his philosophy of IFF: Intelligent Fast Failure. Try-try-try. Fail-fail-fail. Learn-learn-learn. Not necessarily in that order. I realize that I’ve been doing that my whole life. I have the courage to try new things and accept failure and adjust and try again. Now that I see that I can do it, that I do do it, I will be less fearful to take on other, more daunting, challenges.

This course took me outside my comfort zone in three significant ways. First, it was far less structured than others I have taken. Once I realized it was not organized in my preferred “style”, I adapted to the course structure, and applied the strategies of my natural style to make it work for me. Second, I had to admit that I need to get more centered and be more honest about what my passions and goals in life are. Then apply meaningful effort to the things I need to do to stay true to myself. The status quo will keep you where you are, not take you where you want to be. Finally, failure is an option, but if you don’t try, how will you ever know?

Thank you Drs. Jablokow, Velegol and Matson for escorting me on this journey.  I’ve had the power to create, innovate and change all along! And the journey is just beginning.  (Author’s note: L. Frank Baum himself is a study in Creativity, Innovation and Change. Look him up.)

Bark Wrong Up Tree

Whew. This has been a wild ride. This is the fourth day. Trying to get the comments and replies to work and appear the way I want them to. Because I hate the appearance of the comments section in Twenty Eleven template. So ugly. In the end (as at the beginning), Occam was right. But the Razor only works if you know the correct “simplest answer”. Simplest Answer:  “Stop Spammers” plugin. How did I (eventually) find that? What was the journey like? Did mowing the lawn really help the process along?

My last (most recent) search yielded the clue I needed. I forget what I searched on, but today I was concentrating on the fact that comment_parent was not being populated in replies if javascript was enabled. I found “p2 theme does not send all input from comment form via ajax request”. It was written by a developer of Anti-spam plugin. Hurrah and Huzzah. That’s when I heard the bells and whistles and John Phillip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever.  I turned off the Stop Spammers plugin and Violà [sic], success.

I barked up many trees along the way.  I read a lot of support posts from WP experts and newbies. I read a lot of WP codex documentation. I read a lot of css and php tutorials.  I blanked out my Dashboard and website a couple of times.  I changed browser settings. And I created a very long “know-what-I-don’t-know” list.

I learned how to build a child theme (and why you should). I built a child theme. I modified the functions.php to change avatar sizes. First attempt and….success! That gave me false confidence and worse than that, hope. I modified style.css. I switched between W3Schools,  web search, the original style.css to learn what it all means and does. Finally I started making changes successfully. This is also where I learned how easy it is to blank out the Dashboard. A missing ; here, an extra */ there and poof, gone, website, gone. It was push-ups for my troubleshooting chops. But I hit a wall. My posts (postbyauthor) essentially worked the way I wanted them to. But posts by others did not.

I made that final and meaningful discovery about 5 minutes after I came in from mowing the lawn. Interesting because one of the videos in my Creativity, Innovation, Change class is called Move, and I watched it yesterday. I always knew that worked: physical activity, getting out of the problem environment, connecting with nature. I’ve used the Miso-method for years (get up and walk around your chair three times like a cat does before she settles). I need to use that strategy more often.

I would love to make a chronology. That is back burnered (read: not gonna happen) because now I might need to use Akismet anti-spam plugin AND make further changes to the forum format PLUS clean up all the play comments.

I’m still not sure about Akismet. The spam on my site had been manageable. I might leave it and become a contributor to Stop Forum Spam instead. That decision is still to be made.

I haven’t felt burnout like this since I stopped working. I don’t know if it feels good or bad. But, yes, I remember it well.

Form Follows Function

All week I have been playing with my blog. It has been fun and challenging and frustrating. Just like work! WordPress docs and forums are excellent. I activated some plugins. Customized the sidebar menus. Added a “back to top” pill. Created new artwork (what do you think of the new header picture and background?).  I’ve built a child theme.  I am now in the process of changing the comment form. That’s ostensibly why I have created this post. So I can comment and reply and comment some more. Testing one-two-three.

I can’t decide if playing with the blog is an excuse for not job-hunting.  It is an exercise to develop my blog muscles and learn php, css, LBJ, IRT, etc. I do know that 1) this is something I’m good at and 2) this is something I enjoy doing. Coding, testing, fixing, testing. Lather, rinse, repeat. Iterate, iterate, iterate.

The Fantastic World of Job Search

That’s fantastic in the “remote from reality” sense not the “extraordinarily good” sense. If job search on the internet is to be believed, there are more jobs available than there are job-seekers. Alas, job search on the internet is not to be believed. It is all Toro Guano.

There are more job-search sites than there are available jobs.I have become cynical and skeptical about all of them. There is the possibility that it’s me, that I don’t know how to use them. Let’s put that possibility aside for now.

My job search has turned into analysis of job search. If only I could turn that into my job. Well, I can.

  1. Create a site called “The Real Jobs of New Jersey”. (,,, are available).
  2. Crawl the job boards.
  3. Aggregate and dedupe the postings.
  4. Display the results.
  5. Get a job.


How do you crawl the jobs? What are the criteria for a solid match? Soft match? What’s the best data storage? JSON? MySql? NoSQL? How to compare and dedupe? How to display the results? Wow.

How do you crawl the jobs? Let’s start with a manual interface, a simple database design:

  1. Collection: Site: name, address (url)
  2. Collection: Location: State (keep it simple for starters, with room to grow, maybe a zip list, and a zip -> zip distance table)
  3. Collection: DailySearch: Date, Time,, SearchTerms, #hits
  4. Collection: Details: here’s where the real work lives.
  5. Collection: Lister (SmegHead?): Name, Type (Recruiter, Staffer, Employer)

Sounds like reinventing the wheel. Or a better mousetrap. Isn’t that  what all good improvement design is?  What are my hammers (as in my-only-tool-is-a)? Should I use SQLlite or MySQL? If I use MySQL, I can use TOAD, but I would need to download a MySQL server. I already have a SQLLite IDE. I will start there. I’m off to be the wizard.

Check back later to see or hear if there’s any progress.

This Happened: Part II

Tuesday, September 17, 2013. (See part I here: This Happened)

This morning I walked over to the dinette for breakfast. They’ve done a nice job on it since Sandy. I was startled when a man at the counter said “Hi, Anne Marie”. It was Andrew. I busied myself with the newspaper on the counter, and he fidgeted with his phone. Dennis was there too. Finally, Andrew asked if I knew what was going on with the house next door. It recently had a survey and the compound is all abuzz with speculation. (I will call Frank when I get home; I don’t have his number here).

Then the conversation shifted. To the wall. Did I know what happened to the wall?  I said, “well, I do, but I don’t have proof, so I’m not saying”. Then I said. “It was somebody who parked at your place”. “When?”. He acted really surprised. “What car?”. “Saturday”.  “Green Suburban, I thought it was Dennis, time warp, blah blah, blah”.

I told them the whole story just as I’ve told you. I even mentioned going around town looking for the car to snap photos. Andrew seemed really upset. My breakfast came, I left.

Later that same day……I came into the living room and was startled by someone standing at the door. It was Andrew. He has a startling effect. He told me that he went by Green Suburban’s house and there was no damage to the car. He described the lack of damage in great detail. Then more. How this friend has a drinking problem, and all the friends are trying to get him to stop and they can’t make any progress and he admits he has a problem and doesn’t do anything about it on-and-on-and-on. He said he is meeting the guy for lunch at 1 today (author’s note: it’s 1:49, Andrew’s car is still here). He is going to confront him. If the friend cops to it, he’s marching right downtown and pressing charges (leaving the scene, property damage). He swears that’s what he’s going to do.

I have probably seen too many dirty cops on the big and small screens. I’m thinking that Andrew went to his buddies house to buff out the evidence. He knows I’m on the lookout for the car. There’s something about this guy. Disingenuous. Sociopath even. I don’t think anything further will come of this. Maybe Andrew will startle me again.