After teaching two class sessions of the international human rights law course in the Fall of 2010, I decided to retire from my position as Adjunct Professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. I had enjoyed the teaching, meeting and inter-acting with law students and professors and being part of the law school community. But I wanted to create time to write and organize the various things I already had written.
Being an organized person, I thought the first task should be preparing an outline or structure for what I would write. I never got very far with that idea because so many of the things that I wanted to write about are interrelated.
A cousin told me she was writing occasional blog postings so I started to wonder about creating a blog as a way to do my writing. This, however, was an unfocused, idle thought. One Sunday, as I was reading the New York Times, I looked through a supplement about the New York Times Knowledge Network and discovered a two-session online course, “How To Start a Blog.”I signed up for this course and bought the book Blogging for Dummies that was recommended by my cousin.
I only read a few pages in the book, but the online course was helpful. The best thing was the instructor’s suggestion to go to “WordPress.com” and start a blog before you did anything else. WordPress is a free hosting site for blogs with many “themes” or formats to use. I did just that and thereby avoided my usual approach of identifying the options (another was blogspot) and researching the pros and cons of each before deciding which path to take. On WordPress I quickly picked a theme (Kubrick) that I thought was appropriate and quickly decided to call the blog “dwkcommentaries.” Many blogs are narrow in focus, but that is not me. My focus is law, politics, religion and history. (In mid-January 2015 I switched to the “Twenty-Fifteen” theme because I thought it gave greater prominence to the individual posts I have written and made it easier for a reader to scan the posts and select ones to read. Let me know if you like this theme.)
My initial posts were personal, describing my political philosophy and Christian faith and summarizing some of the details of my practice of law that I call “lawyering.” I also have written many posts about Cuba, El Salvador, human rights treaties, international criminal justice, the International Criminal Court, refugee and asylum law and two U.S. human rights statutes (the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victims Protection Act).
As time passed, there have been further developments relating to some of the prior posts. When I think these developments should be recorded, I write a new post or a comment to the prior post.
Like anything else, I learned as I went along. A friend with a blog of his own on WordPress suggested I add a “tag cloud.” I did not know what that was, but discovered that it is a widget you can add, which I did. With this widget, the computer automatically creates a list of the tags you have used the most and uses larger letters for the ones at the top of the list. The tag cloud is now at the top right of my blog. It is one way to find posts on the blog; one just clicks on the tag in the cloud, and the computer displays the posts that have that tag.
The prior paragraph calls for an explanation of categories and tags. Categories are names you assign to groups of posts. I chose Economics, Higher Education, History, Law, Other Countries, Personal, Politics and Religion. Tags are names you assign to individual posts to highlight their main points.
I eventually learned how to add images to the postings. It is more work, of course, but I enjoy using some of my own photographs and finding and adding images from “Google Images.” For a recent post about books regarding Archbishop Oscar Romero, for example, I scanned the book covers from these books in my own library and then transferred the scanned images from my own computer to the blog posting.
After I had made quite a few postings, I worried about how someone would be able to find past posts. There was, to my surprise, no search function for the blog. In looking for a solution to this problem, I went to the “Appearance” menu on the “Dashboard” for my blog and to the “Widget” sub-page. There I discovered a “Search” widget and added it to my blog.
I also discovered and added widgets for Archives, Blogroll (hyperlinks to websites and blogs related to my blog) and a button to sign up for Email subscriptions to the blog. For individual posts, there are buttons to share the post via Email, FACEBOOK, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit and Google and to print the post.
WordPress has a section called “Pages” on the right side of the blog where it puts your “About” description of the blog that you are advised to create when you start the blog. In order to increase access to the postings on the blog, I created the following additional documents for “Pages:”
- In Finding Posts and Comments, I described the various ways for finding posts (and comments).
- In List of Posts and Comments–Chronological I have a list of the posts (and comments) in chronological order of posting.
- List of Posts and Comments–Topical is an ongoing outline of the posts (and comments). It is the type of outline that I initially envisioned as the first step in doing this kind of writing. I think it is the most useful tool for finding posts.
The last two of these documents on “Pages,” of course, require continual updating.
From the start I wanted to have embedded citations to the web addresses for articles or other resources upon which I relied, but I did not know how to do it. Therefore, I added footnotes. It was not until mid-January 2012 that I found out how to do it. I had the good fortune to meet David Silver, Associate Professor of Media Studies and Environmental Studies at the University of San Francisco, who teaches blogging among other things. He explained that this was a very simple thing to do. In WordPress go to “Add New [Post].” When you want to add a link, highlight the word or phrase in your text for the link. Then go to the Menu bar at the top and click on the 10th button from the left that looks like a chain link; you will then be presented with a screen to enter the URL for the link. That is all you have to do. (If you made an error or want to add a different link for the same term of text, first highlight the term and punch the 11th button from the left in the Menu bar at the top with the same chain link image but broken with an arrow; that will delete the prior link.)
Many of the posts are personal. Maybe someday I will publish the posts, but there are so many other things I want to write about, and the news keeps furnishing more topics. Another motivation for doing all of this is to leave something about my life for my grandchildren and descendants.
Writing a blog, for me, is very liberating. I love it.