Writing Samples

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The purpose of this page is to give some samples of my writing and research skills. I have always loved reading, and I have a noted author in my background. Also, I have always been fascinated by many different subjects, and have strong writing and research abilities.

When I was taking my first art class at Waubonsee Community College, we were assigned a thesis on an art subject of our choosing. I chose to write about Notre Dame Cathedral, a subject that the instructor had said would be particularly difficult. Here are some excerpts from my resulting paper.

The History of Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris, by Robert Spatz

Chapter 1: Introduction

The cathedral of Notre Dame, situated on the Ile De La Cite, Paris, France, was an innovative new design, and served as a model for future French Gothic cathedrals. The cathedral incorporated many new features: The walls are thinner and taller than previous churches (fully one-half of the wall being glass, rather than stone), necessitating the liberal use of flying buttresses, or supports, to hold up the structure. The cathedral contains three large rose windows, one of which measures 42 feet in diameter, all three windows requiring a seemingly fragile stone support system, known as bar tracery. The various wooden doors leading into the cathedral contain hundreds of elaborate carvings depicting Biblical scenes such as the Last Judgment, Virgin and Child, and the temptation of Adam and Eve, while mythical beasts, known as gargoyles or “grotesques,” are located on the roof of the cathedral and serve to direct rainwater away from the structure. The interior contains statuary, the most famous being a sculpture-in-the-round (three-dimensional sculpture) figure of the Virgin and Child, whose design was influenced by the movement toward Humanism in the Gothic era (Kleiner).

Chapter 2: The Interior

Notre Dame’s stone construction was begun in 1163 by an unknown architect. It is 115 feet tall, and was designed in the Gothic style, although it incorporates traces of Romanesque architecture as well. The cathedral’s design is unusual, being a blend of two different architectural styles, yet it has a medieval “look.” There are no fewer than thirteen cathedrals with the name “Notre Dame,” meaning “Our Lady”- the one we are concerned with was the subject of Victor Hugo’s novel, Notre Dame de Paris, which was written in 1831. The interior of the cathedral contains a choir, the area where the choir would stand, the apse, the element that forms the semicircular shape of the cathedral, a short transept, an extension which forms the cross shape of the cathedral, and a nave, the center area where worshippers sit, with double aisles, or passageways, separated from the nave by rows of pillars, and square chapels, areas set aside for private prayer, flanking the nave. One can almost see the medieval pilgrims sitting in hushed reverence, the stone pillers towering over them.

Chapter 4: The Cathedral's Purpose

Cathedrals were spaces where medieval pilgrims could worship God, and provided an atmosphere of beauty and reverence. The represented the City of God, the heavenly Jerusalem. The stained glass windows allowed light to flood the interior of the cathedral, reminding the pilgrims that they were to be the light of the world, and creating an almost mystical experience. Statuary inside the cathedral reminded worshipers of Jesus’ mother Mary, and gargoyles perched high above their heads reminded them of the devil and his demons, and the constant vigilance needed to stay free of his deception. Besides warding off evil, the gargoyles’ main purpose was to serve as a drain spout, directing rainwater away from the cathedral, an ingenious example of form following function. The term “gargoyle” refers to the throat, and the sound water makes as it passes through the gullet. (Cedron)

The Notre Dame cathedral was a masterpiece of engineering and design, more than worthy of the fame it has garnered over the centuries. The large glass areas, bar tracery and buttressing were innovative new technologies, while the elaborate carvings and statuary surrounded the medieval pilgrims with exquisite beauty and reminded them of their heritage and purpose. Notre Dame epitomizes “Gothic” in every inch of its design: its walls soar to breathtaking heights, from which gargoyles appear to be observing the city of Paris. Colored stained glass windows gave the interior an ethereal beauty. Its Biblical message seems to thunder across the centuries, offering a glimpse into the horrors of hell, and the promise of Heaven for the medieval pilgrims, and for the pilgrims to follow.

The following is content that I wrote for various website projects I have included in my portfolio. I prefer to use real content, rather than placeholder text in my mockups, so, after researching the different subjects, I wrote the content myself. I have included links from the projects themselves, to give a more complete example of my skills.

About Cucina

The English translation of "Cucina" is "cooking" or "cookery." However, our aim for "Cucina" is that the word will also come to mean "hospitality" over time, as our name embodies not only the best food, but making our guests feel welcome and part of our family as well.

Our Ingedients

Our head chef is extremely particular about the ingredients we choose for our award-winning dishes. All of our ingredients are fresh: Our herbs are harvested throughout the day, meats are brought in daily from a local meat market, all of our vegetables are from local farms, and cheeses from a local artisan. Every one of our ingredients are checked for freshness and high quality as they are brought in. If the quality is not up to our standards, those dishes are removed from the menu for that day.

Your Experience

Our dining room is a very elegant, open-floor design, with an abundance of privacy for our guests. Each meal includes complimentary mini bread loaves, freshly crafted by a local baker. We also offer gluten-free options, baked or cooked in a separate kitchen, to assure that cross- contamination with foods containing gluten is negligible. Again, we want our guests to feel that they are part of our family, and that attitude extends to food safety concerns as well as food quality and hospitality.

The Celiac Diet

When a person is diagnosed with Celiac Disease, they must make dramatic changes in the way they maintain good health- One of the major changes involves their diet. Everything a person consumes, whether eaten or applied to their skin, must be gluten-free and, unless a dramatic cure is found, this attitude must remain for life. What many people don't realize is that the food they consume must also be free of cross-contamination.

Sometimes a food, such as hard candies, is gluten-free, but is manufactured in the same facilities as products containing gluten. In the case of the hard candies mentioned previously, they may not contain any gluten ingredients, but the manufacturer may put wheat flour on the belts the candies are placed on before they are packaged, in order to keep the candies from sticking to the belts. In that case, the candies are no longer gluten-free or safe to consume for someone with the disease.

Another thing many people don't realize is that manufacturers have many names for gluten, and that many foods contain wheat and, thus, gluten. This leads to the next major changes a person with Celiac Disease must make to his or her life: that of habits and attitudes.

Being Proactive

If you have Celiac Disease, the unfortunate fact is that you are responsible for your own health and safety. When shopping, you must read every ingredient on the label, and learn which ingredients are safe and which contain gluten. You also must read allergen statements- This has all been mentioned above, but it can never be repeated too many times. You also must read the label thoroughly each time you purchase the item, as manufacturers constantly change their recipes and formulas without warning.

Just because an item is safe this time, doesn't mean that it will be safe the next time you purchase it. If in doubt, you will need to call the manufacturer's consumer hotline phone number. Many of these numbers can be found on the product's package, but sometimes you will have to go to the web. Some manufacturers make their contact information all but impossible to find.

devCascade: The Blog for Web Developers - Content Excerpts

The Web Development Journey

HTML5 and CSS3: Learn First

If you have never ventured into Web Development before now, the essential starting point is learning HTML5 and CSS3. Many excellent resources exist to teach these two technologies, from the paid learning platforms, such as SitePoint, Lynda.com, and Treehouse, to the free versions such as FreeCodeCamp and Microsoft Virtual Academy. I have used all of these resources, and I very much like all of them. I would also strongly suggest learning Sass and perhaps LESS, which are CSS pre-processors. If you don't know what those are, I would suggest that you look them up on the web (Stack Overflow, for example) and read about them. You will be doing yourself a big favor if you begin googling anything you don't understand, or whatever is causing you a problem.

JavaScript, Ruby on Rails, or Python?

I have also tried learning JavaScript, and I didn't initially have the easiest time understanding some of its abstract features. Josh Kemp, author of the ebook "No Degree, No Problem" (just under $10 on Amazon Kindle), which I highly recommend, states that he recommends learning Ruby on Rails first, because it is over twice as easy to learn as JavaScript, and because it is in big demand. I've found, however, in many parts of the country, JavaScript appears to be in much higher demand among employers than Ruby, with possibly higher pay.

JavaScript is in Big Demand

On July 15 of last year, SitePoint published an article entitled "Best Programming Languages For Job Demand and Salaries, 2015." I have studied this article, as well as the 2016 version, which takes data from career planning company Gooroo, based on more than 500,000 IT vacancies throughout the US, UK, and Australia. An interesting statement at the end of the article is "...expose yourself to as many languages, tools and techniques as possible. Examine code and discuss it with your peers. That knowledge becomes invaluable as you progress to increasingly complex projects." So I'm leaving it up to each person to decide what he or she wants to learn. As I have found, however, many languages are similar: they all use variables, loops, functions, etc. So if you choose to learn Python, you can apply much of the syntax to Ruby on Rails and JavaScript later, thus helping you pick up other languages much more quickly.

Practice, Practice, Practice

I have found, from years of employing my personal self-study program, that the more practice time you take, the more thoroughly you will understand whatever you are trying to learn. This point was certainly driven home to me during my nineteen years of classical piano lessons, and it has resulted in much of JavaScript beginning to click as well. When it comes to HTML5 and CSS3, I have been using those technologies for so many years now, that I am beginning to "see" the code in my mind, and I no longer have to use a reference, much of the time, when writing style sheets. Many employers consider this valuable, and I recently found a job ad that requested that the candidate be able to code HTML and CSS as much from memory as possible. Thus, I would suggest that you practice often, and I wish you the best with your journey.

Classical CD Reviews

Finally, for some variety, I have included two CD reviews that I have written, as a customer, for ArkivMusic

Liszt: The Complete Annees de Pelerinage / Louis Lorti - Chandos

Mandatory for anyone's music library

This is an absolutely amazing recording, both in performance and sound quality. One minute, Lortie demonstrates excellent control, the music sometimes reminding one of Debussy; the next minute, he suddenly unleashes nature’s fury on his Fazioli grand. The music is some of Liszt's finest, and has such endless variety that one finds oneself at the end of each well-filled disc in a seemingly short time. The recording has a very wide dynamic range and, while it may sound somewhat distant at the quietest sections, on the climaxes you can feel the bass as the piano almost roars- be careful with the volume! This set is an excellent value, and a mandatory acquisition.

Jacobean Lute Music / Jakob Lindberg - BIS SACD

Highly Recommended!

During the 17th century, the English style of lute music reached its highest artistic level, with scores of works written by such composers as John Dowland and Robert Johnson. The program on this SACD is a generously timed 81 minutes of highly engaging works, breathtakingly beautiful and exciting. They range from "A Fancy" and "Battle Galliard" by John Dowland, to "Pavan" and "Fantasia" by Robert Johnson, with many anonymous works included, such as "John Come Kiss Me Now" and "Hence to Me Molly Gray". Musical moods range from melancholy to joyful, providing constant programmatic interest throughout. The sound conveys a feeling of listening to Jakob Lindberg live in the studio- it's as "real" as any high-resolution download I have heard to date (My review is of the redbook layer)- One can clearly hear Jakob Lindberg breathing, along with mechanical sounds from the lute. Finally, the booklet has much interesting historical information about not only the time during which the music was written, and how the composers were involved, but of the lute itself, a very special instrument. I recommend this SACD without reservation.