Monday, April 30, 2012

The Joy (& Stories) of Used Books

Photo of piles of books for NA FIeld Day Used Book Sale 2012
Day 2 of preparing for NA's used book sale: Sorting
the used books into categories
My love affair with used bookstores began when I was growing up in Caracas. An American charity that my mom was involved with, the Children's Service League, raised money for hospitals that served poor and handicapped children. The group sold handmade Christmas ornaments made by women who met every week to sew and socialize. They also had two side businesses for the expat community, a bootleg Betamax movie rental shop and a used bookstore.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How to Add Social Icons to Your Blogger Blog

Do you want to add social media icons to your blog so that readers can find you elsewhere on the web? Here are step-by-step instructions. 

Overview: You will add an "HTML/Java Script" gadget to your sidebar, and these instructions will walk you through writing the HTML code. I'm no HTML expert; if I can do it, so can you. The idea is to link publicly available images of social media icons (which you will host on Photobucket) to your own social media pages. 

Basic Tutorial

Step 1: Find a set of icons you like.

Google "free social media icons" and you'll find great links to free icons. Here are two I like: The Ultimate Roundup of Amazing Free Social Media Icon Packs and 50 Free Social Media Icon Sets. Download the set of icons, which often include different sizes. The buttons I use are 32 x 32 pixels.

Circular set I used to use from Blog Perfume. The new set I use is at BrandiGirlBlog
Step 2: Upload the images you want from the set to a Photobucket account.

  • Open a Photobucket account if you don't have one. Set it to public.
  • Upload the specific icons you want to use to your account.

Step 3: Write HTML code that will link these images to your social sites.

  • Open a separate text file or word document to write your code.
  • The code for each icon will follow the format below (in this example, the red link is my Twitter page and the blue link is my Twitter icon on Photobucket). The rest of the steps will show you how to create this code. 
  • To get this code, go to your Photobucket account. Go to the image you want on Photobucket (e.g., Twitter icon), click on it, and you will see a box like this on the right part of the page. Click your cursor inside the third box that says "HTML code." This will copy the code, but you will need to tweak it a bit.
click on the third line (HTML code)
  • Paste the code into your working document. It will look like this:
  • Replace the first link (the one highlighted in red) with your social media link. To get your social media link, go to your site (Facebook Fan page, Twitter profile, etc.) and copy the address from the browser bar. Your finished code for one social icon will look like my Twitter code above.
  • Repeat this process for each social icon you want to use. If you have three icons, Facebook, Twitter, and G+, you will have three paragraphs in your code. At the end of this post are instructions for a more sophisticated look and specific instructions for an RSS feed icon.
  • Copy the entire finished code. You will be pasting this into your Blogger gadget.

Step 4: Post the code onto your blog.
  • In Blogger, go to Layout --> Add a Gadget. I recommend placing the gadget in the upper part of your sidebar.
  • Find and select the HTML/Java Script gadget.
  • Paste your code into the Content box. You can leave the title blank, or you can add a title like, "Find me on the Internet" or whatever you want to say about your icons. I think most people understand what the icons mean, so I don't use a title.
  • Save and you're done. Admire it on your page. (And check to see that the links work).

Advanced Tutorial

1. Code for RSS Link

Before adding an RSS icon, you need to create an RSS feed. (An RSS feed is a way to syndicate your content. Readers subscribe to your feed and your posts show up in their readers of choice).
  • To create/find the link for your RSS feed, go to It may ask you to sign in with your Google account. Look for a box that will offer to burn a feed for you instantly. Insert your Blogger address and hit "Next." You will then see a screen like this:

  • Pick a name for your feed address, then hit "Next." Feedburner will confirm that your feed address is "" This is the link you use for your RSS icon (it will go where the red link was in the HTML code). 

2. Create a text that appears when someone hovers over your icon. 

If you hover over the icons on my website, you will get a message like, "Follow me on Twitter" or "Follow me on Pinterest." To get this effect, add the following (purple) text to your HTML code:

Change the label as appropriate for each social media icon.

3. Add spaces between your icons.

If you find the icons look too squished together, you can add some space between each icon by adding the following at the top of your code. Play around with the number of pixels to change the spacing (this code sets it at 3px):

4. Center your icons.

If you want to center your icons, add the blue bolded code in front of your first paragraph (your first set of icons):

Hope this has been helpful. If you're an HTML expert and have an easier way to do this, please let me know. Let me know if you have any questions or issues with these instructions. Thanks!

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Interview with MKIA - Artist/Illustrator/Writer at Age 15

Cover art © 2012 MKIA

MKIA is a Norfolk-based artist, illustrator, songwriter, and writer -- who also happens to be a high school sophomore getting her International Baccalaureate degree. She designed the cover for Dhampyr Heritage, by e.g. gaddess, a recently published YA novel about a 19th century teen who fights vampires while discovering secrets of his past. (See for more information about the novel). MKIA and I chatted about her many creative projects recently.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Norfolk Academy Art Show 2012

Painting of little chickee and egg
A New Day © 2012 Sylvia Liu

Painting of Robot Girl
 Robot Girl © 2011 Sylvia Liu
Painting of cute alien
Zippy en Route ©2012 Sylvia Liu

Painting of loggerhead sea turtle
Sea Turtle © 2012 Sylvia Liu
Two years ago, I launched this blog by letting people know about my pieces in the annual Norfolk Academy Art Show. It's that time of year again. This year I'm showing these four pieces (and was feeling uncreative when coming up with titles for them). The opening reception is on Saturday, April 28, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Norfolk Academy, 1585 Wesleyan Drive, in Norfolk, VA, and the works will be up until May 10 (gallery hours are 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Host an Artsy Fartsy Party

Invitation to an Artsy Fartsy Party
Invite to our Artsy Fartsy Party, art by my daughter
Couldn't we all use more art and music in our lives? Here's a great way to enjoy an evening of performance, art, and good food with your friends: host an Artsy Fartsy Party. (If you run in cool circles, you could call it a salon).

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bloggers: Quit Using CAPTCHAs

compilation of various captchas

A brief public service announcement: if you're a blogger, please don't require your readers to enter a "CAPTCHA" before leaving a comment (those almost illegible words to prove you're not a spambot). Writer and blogger Julie Hedlund explains why in her excellent post, "Open Plea to Bloggers: Kick CAPTCHA's, Word Verification to the Curb." In a nutshell:
  • You don't need it (Blogger & Wordpress have good spam filters)
  • You may lose comments and readers
  • Your blog will seem less professional

Friday, April 6, 2012

What You Don't Know about The Norva's Rick Mersel

© 2011 Rick Mersel
Rick Mersel is a well-known figure in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area. He's the co-owner of one of the hottest (and coolest) rock clubs in the area, The Norva in Norfolk, named by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the top 5 concert venues in the country. (He also co-owns the The National in Richmond). While Rick is busy bringing awesome music acts to Norfolk, he also paints when the muse strikes. He gives us the lowdown on his artistic ventures.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Scalia, Eat Your Broccoli (Illustration Friday: Return)

Cartoon about Scalia as child forced to eat broccoli
During the recent Supreme Court hearings over Obama's healthcare plan, Justice Scalia repeatedly asked what the limit of government mandates are, including whether the government could require someone to eat broccoli. Do you think Scalia has some unresolved issues around food? Let's return to a basic principle of parenting: don't underestimate the effects of childhood conflicts over food.