Words that rhyme with “snow”

Photo by Pixabay

I can think of one:

NO!

We got snow last night, and it had the temerity to start sticking. There’s still some left this morning. Who decided it would be funny to flip January and March around? Why is Mother Nature being such a jerk?

The 10-day forecast claims that it will be 14C on March 13th. WE’LL SEE.

In the meantime, I’ll be here, huddled next to the heater.

Moving off of WordPress, Part 1

Back in January I wrote that I was contemplating moving off of WordPress for various reasons.

Back then, I posted four possible options:

  • Keep using WordPress and just shut up about it. It works, right?
  • Actually switch to a WordPress alternative.
  • Stop blogging altogether.
  • Post my cat pictures on Facebook for free (after getting a cat).

I have narrowed down these options to one (and a half):

  • Actually switch to a WordPress alternative.
    • Move some of my bloggy stuff to an offline journal (probably the running/exercise posts)

The next question is: Which WordPress alternative? Because it turns out there are a lot of options. Like, a lot. Oodles. Too many.

But since my needs are specific and known, I can winnow down the list. If your needs are like mine, this might be useful for you, too. If not, there is an animated GIF of a cat at the end of this post.

What I want

My needs (also in the linked post above, but paraphrased here):

  • Blog posts, both long and short.
  • Photos, along with galleries to keep them organized.
  • A general means of blog organization, like categories or tags.
  • An easy-to-use editor that makes me feel warm and fuzzy and want to share with the world.

Pretty basic stuff, really. If I eliminated photos (I will not do this, but let’s pretend), my choices would be nigh-infinite. I could go for one of many super-minimalist blogging sites. But having no photos would also mean no drawings, which are like photos I put together with my hands and brain instead of a camera. This is a dealbreaker. I don’t want to revive my old Flickr account.

That clears out the wide array of minimalist, text-only sites. What’s left? Still oodles!

What I’ve found

Important note: I am omitting blogs that lean into more technical, nerdy skills to set up or maintain, so there's nothing here that installs from a command line or runs from a folder or requires scripting, etc. These follow the flow of:

Write a post  Click a button  Your thoughts are on the internet

Here’s an incomplete list:

And a quick summary of them, with some emphasis on what I’m looking for:

Ghost

This is probably the most WordPress-like, and it takes the most direct aim at WordPress and its features, claiming to be better/faster and, in some cases, cheaper.

The biggest con is that it’s $9 U.S. per month minimum1All prices listed here are in U.S. dollars. This is a lot of money to record my inane thoughts that could just as easily be typed into Notepad for free. You can also self-host Ghost, which is cheaper, but not exactly a simple process.

Ghost does have another notable pro, though–it can import from WordPress, so the nearly 4,000 inane posts I’ve made here could be carried over.

Micro.blog

This is reasonably priced at $5 a month, but has an emphasis on community (not a bad thing if you’re looking for that) and while longer pieces are possible, the focus is more on short, quick posts.

write.as

There’s a free plan, with some reasonable limits, so you can try before you buy (note: as of this post, the free plan is listed as “Closed for now”), and it’s $6 per month after if you pay annually. It supports not just photos, but albums. It has a blog community and supports newsletters, which suggests it has started moving away from its personal blog roots.

Pika

Pika has a free plan that is essentially a trial–you can make 50 posts, and then you’re done. So if you only ever have 50 things to say, you don’t have to pay! It’s otherwise $6 a month. It emphasizes a great writing experience, has some simple themes, and supports images. It’s also really new, as it just launched at the end of January 2024.

Blogtastic

With a name like Blogtastic, you would expect this to be a good blogging platform. It has multiple plans, including Starter for $20 and Expert for $50. Prices are going up on April 1st, though (no foolin’), with new names like Hobby for $50 and Startup for $100. I don’t think the old $20 and new $50 plans match up, though their chart doesn’t make it especially clear.

Anyway, this platform seems to offer everything and has been running for about three years, so it’s still relatively new. It feels like a Ghost competitor and, indeed, they compare themselves directly to Ghost, stating that they are more focused on writing and less on “secondary” things. They claim their gallery management is “robust”!

Posthaven

There’s a $5 per month Founder Plan (good for 10 blogs) and–that’s it! No other options. It keeps things simple. Posthaven bills itself, somewhat weirdly, as “the blogging platform designed to outlive us.” I mean, OK, but I’m not sure if I care much about my blog a hundred years after I’ve departed the Earth for parts unknown.

A major caveat for me is image sizes seem to be limited due to their theming. They mention 800 pixels max, which is tiny and probably a dealbreaker.

Having gone through these, the ones I feel can be eliminated are:

  • Ghost (too expensive)
  • Micro.blog (cheap, but a different emphasis than what I’m looking for)
  • Posthaven (great, until you get to the tiny images)

This leaves Pika, write.as and Blogtastic. Currently, only one offers a free trial of sorts, so I’ll give Pika a test-run and do more research on write.as and Blogtastic.

Coming up in Part 2:

  • Some alternatives I rejected, but are still pretty good
  • Alternate solutions through non-blogging software
  • Probably another cat GIF

Here is the promised cat GIF for this post:

Birding, March 3, 2024: Winter! *shakes fist at sky*

Where: Piper Spit, Burnaby Lake (Burnaby)
Weather: Cloudy, light showers, 4°C (felt like 1C)

The Outing

Good news: After cleaning my camera (again) it behaved, even in cold temperatures and light rain. It probably behaved better than I did!

Bad news: The weather was frigid and windy and wet and generally awful (spring in 16 days!) but we made the best of the abbreviated window we had for birding. Ironically, we passed on yesterday because of the forecast, and it turned out to be the better day. You win this time, Mother Nature!

I got to Burnaby Lake a bit early and shot one of two buffleheads near the turtle nesting area. I think I spotted a hooded merganser, which we rarely (ever?) see at the lake, but wasn’t able to get any shots before it disappeared.

Near the pier, a few people had left seed, attracting oodles of towhees, juncos, song sparrows and chickadees–including a rarely-seen chestnut-backed chickadee. Alas, I did not get more than a couple quick chances for shots, and they are Not Good™. Maybe next time!

We did see several chonky squirrels. I swear they get bigger every time I see them. I’m not judging, I’m just saying they might start waddling soon.

Up to this point the weather had been mediocre but tolerable. We moved onto the pier and it was like stepping through a portal into OH YEAH IT’S STILL WINTER, as the wind picked up, the rain started and it was not fun. But we persevered and eventually the wind settled, the sun even poked out for a few minutes, and the showers eased (somewhat). But it was still icy cold. Do not like. I am ready for summer.

The water was lower than last visit–quite low, in fact–which meant the shorebirds were closer, allowing us to better capture their preening, bathing, flapping and head-bobbing. Geese and gulls were in abundance, but drama was minimal. Too cold, maybe. Even two coots started something, then just kind of gave up after a few seconds.

In all, not bad for a quick trip, given the conditions, but I will not object to temperatures with two numbers in the near future.

The Shots
Soon™.

The Birds (and other critters)

Sparrows and sparrow-adjacent:

  • Chestnut-backed chickadee
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • Red-winged blackbird
  • Song sparrow
  • Spotted towhee

Waterfowl:

  • American coot
  • Bufflehead duck
  • Canada goose
  • Dowitcher
  • Green-winged teal
  • Hooded merganser (maybe!)
  • Mallard
  • Northern pintail
  • Scaup (Lesser and Greater)
  • Wood duck

Common:

  • American crow
  • Seagull

Raptors:

  • None!

Non-birds:

  • Black and gray squirrels

Mini-birding, March 2, 2024: A rare robin

Rare because it was in focus! Also, the outing was mini, not the birds. They were full-sized.

I gave my camera a thorough cleaning and took it to Lower Hume Park this afternoon to test it out and see if it would behave or go berserk.

It behaved!

I saw a Northern flicker, a pair of mallards, a bunch of robins and a song sparrow. I got pictures of all of them, but the song sparrow refused to stand still, so every shot is either an action shot, or it has its head down or facing away.

Here are three of the flicker, a robin and the male mallard.

Northern flicker searching for bugs and things.
A robin alert for worms.
A mallard gliding in a small pond that only exists after a heavy rain.

Jetpack? More like nopack! (Yeah, it needs work)

Today, I deactivated (and will later remove) the Jetpack plugin from my site. This is a plugin that does all kinds of things–it dances, it sings, it pushes SEO hard and wants you to sign up to a lot of bonus services for a low, low monthly price, so you can become rich off your blog content-rich site. It’s made by the company that owns WordPress, Automattic (the two t’s are intentional) and let’s just say they have been making the news recently for all the wrong reasons.

And it’s all because of our good friend, AI (we really need a better term, because there’s no real intelligence behind all this LLM1Large Language Model, another abbreviation I learned in the past year junk out there. Maybe we should call it Al, instead, like the person’s name. Blame everything on Al!) There are a lot of sources I could cite, so let’s choose 404 Media for now (and apologies, they require an email address/account to view their stories to prevent–oh so appropriately–AI firms from slurping up all their content):

A WordPress ‘Firehose’ Allows AI Companies to Buy Access to a Million Posts a Day

Now, the story above has been updated to include a statement from Automattic, but like almost all statements from the company over the past week, it sounds kind of weaselly:

Automattic edited its original “protecting user choice” statement this week to say it will exclude Jetpack from its deals with “select AI companies.”

From the 404 Media story

This could mean Jetpack is not affected, or it could mean that Jetpack is only being excluded for some, but not all companies. I would not be surprised if Automattic crafted the phrasing to be deliberately ambiguous.

Remember when the web was all animated GIFs and cheesy midi files? I’m not saying I’m hankering again for that experience precisely, but I do miss the days before the web was all about control, commerce and “engagement.” Sometimes it feels like the best thing to do would be to take my blog and all of its 4,933 (!) posts offline and just keep it in a journal I could revisit on my own, in private. I don’t mean a paper journal, of course. I’m not crazy. But something fully offline, where I don’t have to think about security patches or a host changing the rules on me, or escalating costs, or why is it such a chore to post images in a gallery, anyway?

Hmm. Hmm, I say.

March 2024: The Possibilities

March is a fun month, but also weird and sometimes horrible. Behold my list (with semi-random bold highlights):

  • We switch back to Daylight Saving Time, aka Proper Time, and gain back an extra hour of light in the evening (as of March 10). This is good for birding and just not being in the dark as much.
  • Spring officially begins (on March 19). I saw buds on trees back in January, so spring is really already underway, despite a few attempts at snow since then (Mother Nature is acting more like Mother from the terrible Police song of the same name right now).
  • Even without DST, daylight is stretching out longer into the evening.
  • Temperatures start getting milder. T-shirt weather soon! (More seriously, t-shirts become feasible outdoors as soon as next month, barring climate change hijinks that could genuinely push this into March).
  • A downside: Starting with February, the amount of precipitation goes down every month until September, when it starts going back up–except for March. March is an anomaly, where it is wetter than February. The downward trend resumes in April.
  • Speaking of, it is 3°C and raining as I type this, with a high of 7 forecast (two degrees off the average). Winter is reminding us it’s still official for 17 more days.
  • But also speaking of, March is where the last chance for real snow that sticks to the ground and needs to be shovelled, comes to an end. Looking at the 10-day forecast, it seems we are safe from any more snow accumulations for Winter 2023-24, though a few flakes may fall over the next few days here and there, just to annoy everyone.

Here’s the historic average for rainfall. It’s for New Westminster, but I checked, and it’s accurate for the whole Lower Mainland1Or Metro Vancouver, if you prefer to be all official about it.

March: We heard you like rain.

And with all that said, here is my haiku for March.

Haiku for March

Warmer and brighter
But still the rain won't let up
Take what you can get

The new, new trend in book titles

For a time it was “The Girl [something something]” and then it was slapping the word “F*ck” (always with the asterisk) somewhere in the title, but I may have spotted the Next Big Trend in book titles, thanks to this from a recent Kobo newsletter:

That’s right, adding “Just” to the start of your title. Think of the possibilities:

  • Just The Girl On the Bridge Who Wasn’t There
  • Just Five Ways to Un-f*ck Your Routine
  • Just the Girl Who Said F*ck a Lot With the Panda Tattoo
  • Just the Way You Aren’t
  • Just Us For All
  • Just Another Nicest Missing Couple From Those People Next Door
  • Just Just Just! (the exclamation point is critical here)

And so many more. Get writing, kids! Or crank up the AI and just (heh) slap an appropriate title on the results. Riches1Or being banned or something. await you on Amazon.

New Year Resolutions 2024: Second month check-in

Here we go again.

First, the resolutions:

  1. Get to 150 pounds. But for real this time. Gotta go with the classics.
  2. Finish my prototype game. Title to be revealed soon™.
  3. Complete my blog redesign. Another classic. It could happen!
  4. Revive my newsletter. I am actually working on this now, and have moved from Substack to Buttondown for the hosting.
  5. Complete one of my unfinished novels. Likely either The Mean Mind or Road Closed. I’ve been itching to get back into writing again, and either of these stories will be fun to noodle around on.
  6. Start a new blog or something. I kind of have something in mind, we’ll see what happens.
  7. Focus on:
    • Being happy
    • Staying healthy
    • Bringing good into the world
    • Getting decent sleep, which will help with all of the above

And the results, after two months, by which time the average person has completely mind-wiped resolutions from their brains.

  1. I ended February down 3.5 pounds. A major breakthrough. Definite PROGRESS.
  2. The game has been on hold while dealing with condo stuff, which has somehow evolved into almost a full-time job.is in progress. PAUSED, but should resume in March.
  3. I have continued to tweak the blog a bit, but haven’t done much actual blogging. Still, I maintain this as IN PROGRESS.
  4. Nothing changed from what I wrote last month: I did not get out the first issue for January as promised, and I am rethinking the whole thing. STATUS TBD.
  5. I have chosen the novel to be completed (Road Closed, possibly with a new title). IN PROGRESS, though not much yet.
  6. Still mulling another month later. I am mulling both the site itself and the platform, so the mulling has become more in-depth. IN PROGRESS.
  7. I am not especially happy right now, but I am taking steps to hopefully address that. I didn’t run as much this month as I’d have liked, but am still running. I cut snacking enough to drop 3.5 pounds, so there’s that! I don’t think I’m bringing BAD into the world, so at the very least I’m kind of a carbon-neutral human. Sleep has been mostly decent, with “stress” interfering now and again. Let’s stick with this nebulous category as being IN PROGRESS.

Overall, February saw mostly minor steps forward, but with little regression. That works for me!

February 2024 weight loss report: Down 3.5 pounds

Not a typo! I am down, for real, this month. And not just by a rounding error amount, a full 3.5 pounds. How did such sorcery happen?

As it turns out, it was simple: no snacking. That was it. I stuck to my three daily meals and had no snacks on most days. I would occasionally allow myself something small on a run day, like a banana, or a chunk of cheese. But no cookies, crackers, candy or any of that.

And here we are, 3.5 pounds later.

But it’s not enough. I need to lose a lot more. I’m still 20 pounds from my target goal of 150 and losing 3.5 pounds means it would take another 5.7 months to get there (basically, September, or the tail end of summer) and I don’t want it to take almost six months.

I have not been running as frequently, so I am going to try to be more active, which will help (and just make me healthier in general, always a good thing).

For now, I can at least savour that I am down for the month and the (short) year. And to that, I offer a hearty woot.

Fake edit: Looking at the stats over the month, there’s been very little change. My body fat is slightly higher, which makes sense in that if my total weight is down, the percentage of my body that is roly-poly fat may increase a bit overall (at least in the short term). My muscle mass has gone down, which also makes sense due to the decrease in exercise.

Weight:
January 1, 2024: 172.3 pounds  
Current: 170.5 pounds
Year to date: Down 1.8 pounds

February 1: 174 pounds
February 29: 170.5 pounds (down 3.5 pounds)

Body fat: 
February 1: 26.1%
February 29: 26.0% (down 0.1%)

Skeletal muscle mass:
February 1: 30.7% 
February 29: 30.3% (down 0.4%)

Body water:
February 1: 54.0% 
February 29: 54.0% (unchanged)

Historical: January 1, 2022: 182.8 pounds

But is it art? Further photos to ponder

A crosswalk across a large parking lot:

And the same photo, after I finished abusing it with the perspective tool:

Construction sign that was:

  • cropped
  • had borders and other bits erased
  • converted to a high contrasts blue filter LUT
  • further tweaked with adjustments to black point, exposure, etc.

The original for comparison:

I added something new to my to-do list today

It’s set to repeat daily, endlessly:

You might be thinking, “What kind of hippie malarkey1Malarkey is officially my Word of the Week. is this?” And I would answer, it’s the best kind!

Because what “Touch a tree” really means is go outside for a walk and do it somewhere with nature and junk, not just down the sidewalk to the local Subway. Which I can do as there are areas like that no more than 10–15 minutes walking time from where I live.

And yes, today, I did touch a tree (I kind of cheated, because it was near a sidewalk, though I was not close to a Subway at the time).