The New Rambler began as an email newsletter in October 1998. Its first presence on the web came in 1999, when it was hosted by my local ISP, avalon.net. In 2003 or so it moved to Bluehost and acquired its own domain name. A few years later, it moved to LIShost, where it lived till they shut down in 2020. The Internet Archive‘s Wayback Machine has a few snapshots of what it’s looked like over the years.
December 2003, still looking pretty close to the way it did at the start.
August 2006, now with the blog part running on WordPress.
By July 2011, I’d finally learned some CSS, and there are margins!
May 2016 was about the end of when I maintained the old html site before I gave up and realized content management was the wave of the future.
I’m Laura Crossett, and I have now maintained (or neglected) this website for half my life. I currently do communications work for Library Futures, study IT at Kirkwood Community College, and live in my hometown with my family, a dog, and too many cats. I worked for fifteen years as a public librarian in Iowa, rural Wyoming, and Illinois. I have also been a dog walker in suburban Chicago, a teaching assistant at the University of Iowa, a house sitter, a nonprofit program director, a terrible office temp, and a security guard.
My professional website lives at lauracrossett.com. You can reach me at newrambler at gmail dot com.
I have another now inactive blog, lisdom, which will probably only be of real interest if you are a librarian, but you never know.
From the old About Page
The New Rambler is a blog, but it is also a retro-blog — that is, it contains content created before the age of blogs, or at any rate before blogging was possible for the general, non-techy public.
In October 1998 I had been out of college for almost five months, and I was finding that post-graduate life did not agree with me. I’d gone from living with and being around people who had a lot of spare time and who were engaging, who read, who thought about things, who made educated fun of television commercials, to being around people who mostly worked and who, when they got home from work, watched a lot of ESPN — watched it seriously.
I had various responses to this situation (one that, I suspect, is fairly common among recent college graduates), but the most helpful, and healthful one was that I began to write e-mails. I started out one night writing an e-mail to my oldest friend. I was nearly done with it when I realized that I was about to tell her a number of things that she already knew. At that point, normally, I’d chuck a piece of writing, or send it with an apology for ranting. But for some reason, that night, I did neither of these things. Instead, I typed into the Bcc field the e-mail address of everyone I could think of — friends, acquaintances, professors, my relatives, whoever — wrote “The New Rambler, No. 1” in the Subject field, and hit Send. Then I huddled on my futon in terror. True, I hadn’t sent out a chain-letter, and this was before the age of serious spam, but unsolicited e-mail still wasn’t anyone’s favorite thing.
And then, oddly enough, I got some good responses.
So I kept doing it — for the next few years, every month or so I’d fire off these e-mails to a growing list. In March of 1999, I got a freelance gig writing reviews (books, art, theatre, restaurants — a little of everything, for $10 a pop) for an alternative weekly paper in Iowa City/Cedar Rapids called ICON, now sadly defunct. In January 2000, they hired me as a columnist, and then I got to tell people what I thought on newsprint, which was pretty great. I wrote fewer and fewer New Ramblers as I had more opportunities to write elsewhere, and eventually I more or less stopped writing them at all. But I didn’t forget about them.
Back in 1999 I started a web site as a place to collect my writing, and somewhere, in the course of learning some basic HTML, I stumbled on this document that talked about how you could make a web page that was dynamic — that is, other people could comment on what you had written, and it would show up right there on the page, not in a remotely-hosted guest book. It also said that you would be able to add content to this page and have it appear instantly, just as the comments did. It sounded ideal, and I read further, thinking this was just the thing to do with The New Rambler web site. Unfortunately, as far as I could make out, doing this nifty thing was going to require installing Linux (so then I looked up Linux to find out what that was), and that was somewhat beyond my capabilities. Now, of course, it occurs to me that what I read was a description of a sort of proto-blog.
I am rather late in getting onto the current blogging bandwagon, but I’m happy now to be reintroducing the old New Ramblers in this new format. In transferring the old New Ramblers, I’ve kept the text pretty much intact (I did fix some typos), but I’ve added a few links to provide some more context. All the original e-mails are tagged “old ramblers;” the ones pertaining to the UI Students Against Sweatshops sit-in in April 2000 have an additional “sas” tag. The New Rambler site is also back, with links to many of the things I’ve written over the years. I’ll be adding more gradually — all the writing I did for ICON now exists only in print form, but I hope to scan and add those pieces bit by bit.
This blog is quite basic at the moment, but I’ll be tinkering with it (and, I hope, adding to it) over the coming months. Leave me a comment or drop me a line at newrambler at gmail dot com and let me know what you think.
I’ve maintained (and neglected) this site since 1999, and I plan to continue doing both. If, however, you want new writing, most of it is now happening on Substack, because I am lemming like everyone else.
Social media is good for sharing and reaction but bad for findability and preservation, so here, for anyone interested, is the “knitting for IT people” (or IT for knitting people) thing I designed for my IT classmates (and our instructor) out of my frustration with the “just play with it” mentality that tends to pervade …
A report, an email, and a public comment to the Iowa City Community School District A little while ago, the Iowa City Mental Health, Special Education, and Disability Advocacy Group released a report on the disproportionate number of elementary school suspensions handed out to Black, poor, and disabled students. I believe in statistics, but I’m …
“The Word Made Flesh: A Culinary Exploration of Transubstantiation.” Seneca Review 33:1 (Spring 2003). [pdf]
Versions of some of these essays also appear in my MFA thesis, which I had digitized because reasons. I’m told I was the first person ever to ask for a Creative Commons license. So far, to the best of my knowledge, no one has stolen my experimental essays. They probably won’t steal yours, either.
Night Sweats: My Book
In 2013, I self-published a book…
It was a little popular for a self-published book, mostly because Will Manley (unbeknownst to me) wrote a column about in Booklist saying every library should have a copy, so some libraries bought it, because at that time such a mention was kind of a big deal in the part of the library world that reads Booklist.
Night Sweats is no longer in print, because ten years seemed like long enough for corporations to be making money off my work, and because my world is a very different one from the one I wrote about then. Retiring a book sometimes kills it; sometimes, instead, it makes it ascend into the vast culture we all draw from. What happens to Night Sweats is not up to me.
But if you’re curious, here’s a little bit about it:
Laura Crossett was thirty-five years old, one month into a relationship, and six months into a new job when she sat in a staff bathroom and looked at a stick that told her something she already suspected.
Almost half the pregnancies that occur in the United States each year are unplanned. Some of them happen to married women, some to unmarried; some occur due to failure to use contraception; some due to contraceptive failure. Some happen to women who hope one day to have children; some to women who never wanted children at all.
In a political climate that polarizes around issues of sexuality and choice and a popular culture that glamorizes pregnancy and fetishizes motherhood, we rarely hear the stories of women who did not seek to become pregnant. Night Sweats is one of them.