Goodbye, Ellen

For many years I had the following quote by Ellen DeGeneres on my website in the top-right corner, to underscore the absurdity of writing (especially writing for publication):

You know, it’s hard work to write a book. I can’t tell you how many times I really get going on an idea, then my quill breaks. Or I spill ink all over my writing tunic.

I like absurd humor, so this quote resonated with me.

In recent years Ellen has come under fire for cozying up to George W. Bush, for treating guests and crew on her show poorly, and for generally seeming to be the opposite of the nice, wholesome image she presents.

So I’ve changed the quote. I still wanted something funny and my search will go on, but for now I’m going with this from Gene Fowler:

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.

Not quite as absurd, and darker, but it will do for now.

February shmebruary

This month started out with a fizzle, but is ending on a mostly better note, or series of notes:

  • My weight is down. Yay.
  • I am exercising again. Also yay.
  • I think I’m sleeping better in general.
  • My writing is…well, more on that below.
  • Work is [redacted]

On the poop side of things, my writing has gained no traction at all, whether it be fiction or this blog. I fell way behind on my usual one-post-per-day average, just as I did last month, and despite a few posts today, I will still come up short, unless I post ten haikus or something. I’m pretty sure I won’t do that.

I have also fallen behind on my modest reading goal this year. To meet it, I need to read a book every two weeks. To date I have read three this year, so I’m one behind. This is due to a combination of wanting to veg out during my commute and often not getting a seat because the [redacted for adult language] SkyTrain car will be standing room only at 6:30 in the [redacted] morning. It’s insane. I get on at the fourth stop on the Expo line. After my stop, Sapperton, there are 16 more. I’m pretty sure it’s SRO by the second station, Lougheed. It’s silly. Does everyone work in downtown Vancouver? Yes. Yes, they do.

For the writing, I’m not sure what to say. I think about it, sometimes I start, but nothing much happens. The latest book on writing (I’ve read oodles of them now) has the author assert there is no such thing as writer’s block and technically that’s true. Unless you are in a coma or otherwise physically incapable, you can always write if you have some time. So it’s not that I can’t write, I just don’t. And I’m not entirely sure why, because I’ve read some of my stuff recently and while I’m not trying to toot my horn (heh heh), I quite like some of it and think I should write more.

And maybe I will. Soon. I do actually have some additional thoughts on this and will spill them out of my head in another post.

(I’m not talking about work on a public blog. You’ll need the key to my heart diary to find out more about that.)

This site stinks

Well, not really, but it needs a refresh. The design has been the same for a long time in internet years. But I’m also kind of lazy and undecided on what to change.

Maybe a logo in Comic Sans to be ironic? Post-ironic? Perhaps Papyrus would be better.

A new color might be in order. I like the green, but perhaps blue, not because I am blue, but because blue looks clean and soothing and who doesn’t want to be clean and soothed?

So many decisions.

I’ll decide later.

EDIT: Okay, I went for the blue. I may fiddle with the logo and shade of blue but for now it’s a tiny bit different and a tiny bit different is better than the same old thing, says I.

For two days the internet ignored me :(

It may be partly my fault.

Awhile back I was having some issues with the site and it turned out the fancy newer version of PHP was causing some problems. I’m still not sure why, because WordPress supports the latest version. But whatever, I’m not a webologist. It was rolled back to version 5 and the issue went away.

Then a plugin update became available and said it couldn’t update because it needed PHP 7. Well. I investigated and found out I can switch the site from versions 5 and 7 through the control panel. I did this, updated the plugin (the real impetus was to clear that update notification badge) and all is well.

But not quite!

Because now the site is acting up (or down) again. This means that sometimes you’ll hit the site and see this:

When you see the above appears to be arbitrary. You may never see it. You may see it every time. It’s like my own site’s version of a lootbox, the costs measured in how many times you need to refresh the page (which fixes the issue).

Because most people/bots are just going to move on rather than refresh to see what happens, I suspect the trickle of visitors to the site basically stopped for June 21 and 22. (For added fun, I sometimes see similar errors when loading the admin dashboard. Fortunately a refresh fixes this, too.)

I am too lazy to put a lot of time into further investigation into fixing this and suspect my hosting service wouldn’t have much to offer, either, so I’ll just live with it until it either goes away on its own or I get fed up and rollback to version 5 of PHP.

Anyway, that’s my theory for why my site got two days of absolutely no visits, proving such a thing can happen on today’s internet. I will never become a social media influencer if this keeps happening. :(

Bonus annoyance: I went to choose the category and tags for this post, but sometimes these fail to load, too. Maybe I will roll back after all…

UPDATE: I rolled back to PHP 5. At least now people should be able to reliably see my carefully curated selection of amusing cat images.

A pile of posts presented promptly

It’s been awhile since I’ve had to jam in a bunch of posts on the last day of the month to equal a one-post-per-day average, but it’s happened this month, because May was my official No Writing month. I just never realized it until I stopped writing.

This is post #31, so I’ve hit my quota for the month with just under two hours to go. Now to go off and think about better, less-meta things to write about.

March 11, 2019: Zero day

I’m still kind of impressed when the site reports no hits at all, like it did yesterday, March 11, 2019. Sometimes, in a remote and distant way, it bothers me that it can happen, that absolutely no one, not even by accident, will happen upon the site.

But then I remember there’s nothing specific to draw people to the site, there’s no hook, no “omg this site has the best listicles/photos/articles/kitten pics ever” and I’m okay with that, because I never intended for this site to have a big audience. In fact, having virtually no audience is kind of nice in a way. Traffic is low, expectations are similar, it’s more a place for me to exercise my writing discipline (certainly not the quality of my writing) without worry. A journal of miscellany mostly relevant to only me.

Or am I actually crying tears of anguish as I type these words, crushed at being left all alone on the web, which is now 30 years old. Also, how do people put so many links in their posts and articles? That stuff takes serious time.

I am way too lazy to have a good website.

But I’m still posting something every day.

And a random list to complete this post:

  • Apparently bananas are in danger of going extinct again. This makes me sad, as I like bananas.
  • I still think it’s weird no one has gone to the moon in 40+ years. It’s right there!
  • The amount of plastic in the ocean is gross. I had a soda at a restaurant the other day and it came with a paper straw. I could have eaten it, if I’d wanted to, a small step to saving our world.
  • Even weirder than not going to the moon: I’m actually starting to kind of like the horribly flat keyboard on my MacBook Pro. This would be about the point that it starts failing, so that I may hate it again.
  • Speaking of Apple, its March 25th event, presumably to reveal its streaming service, excites me in the same way as putting on my socks. To clarify, I find minimal excitement in donning socks.
  • I hope my efforts to reduce the soreness and discomfort in my knees work, because I can’t afford bionic replacements. Also, I don’t think they exist.

Rejected blog ideas

Because sometimes I’m lazy, sometimes I’m not timely enough, and sometimes my ideas stink.

  • Depends squirmy legs ad and Meta user Michael Strahan’s poo dance
    • Reason for rejection: I used to see these two commercials a lot and wanted to riff on them, then they stopped airing them.
  • Video games of yore (home)
    • Reason for rejection: I actually mean to get around to this one. You can read the arcade version here.
  • Reality TV shows I actually like
    • Reason for rejection: There aren’t that many and it just didn’t seem that interesting. For the record, a few I enjoy are Forged in Fire and The Curse of Oak Island.
  • Apple Watch revised review with pictures and stuff
    • Reason for rejection: Lazy, waited too long. Who wants to read a review of a watch that is two generations behind? Not me!
  • Google maps, now with melancholy
    • Reason for rejection: I actually quite like this idea. I’d use Google Maps’ Street View to “visit” my hometown and lament the loss of old corner stores I went to as a kid and so on. I felt there wasn’t enough there to work with, but I may revisit this.
  • Amusing photos from my phone camera
    • Reason for rejection: It turns out I have very few amusing pictures on my phone
  • Best and worst super powers
    • Reason for rejection: This seems like such an obvious thing. Maybe too obvious. Every time I thought about it, I found my mind wandering on to other things. Kind of weird.
  • Internet of Things comic: standing at the fridge saying “Open the fridge door, HAL.”
    • Reason for rejection: Too much effort for a pretty lame joke
  • Bad design: glossy keyboards
    • Reason for rejection: Pretty think subject for a blog post, but for the record, glossy keyboard are bad because they reflect light back at you, and are fingerprint magnets
  • Places I’ve lived
    • Reason for rejection: After some thought, I didn’t find it interesting enough to pursue, but I was thinking too literally. I may come back to this someday, because I’ve lived in a few places that might be worth talking about.

Do I need a hook?

There are 10 billion blogs on the internet. And another 200 trillion people who ignore blogs and only pay attention to social media sites, like Facebook or Twitter. These numbers are a rough estimate. I’m not a mathologist or stats guy or whover it is that counts things.

The point I’m making is that there is a lot of stuff to read on the web, and since everyone has a limited time to devote to reading web-based material, we all make choices about what to read and what not to.

Most blogs have a specific focus–that focus draws the reader in and keeps them coming back, assuming the author keeps the posts interesting and has an engaging style, or offers free coupons for beer or kittens. That focus can cover any of 500 quadrillion topics, ranging from writing to film reviews, to making wine to politics, to the question of whether most planets have a core made not of metal, but of delicious chocolate fudge.

My blog has no particular focus. A quick look at the posts per category illustrates this (I’ve excluded categories with a lower than three-digit count):

  • General: 897
  • Jogging: 661
  • Writing: 240
  • Health: 220
  • Book reviews: 191

Who reads a blog for general posts? No one, except for two people:

  • generals who think the posts are about the military rank
  • the author’s mom

General is not a good way to draw people in, unless you have a voice that is captivating beyond all measure, and then you could probably better utilize it than by posting on a blog, anyway.

Next up: Jogging. This could potentially be interesting to, say, joggers, except they’re just posts detailing my runs and are really only interesting to me, with the occasional odd exceptions for bear encounters or spectacular spills.

Writing? That’s something that could be legitimately interesting, but like jogging, I mostly chronicle my efforts (or lack thereof) to write, I don’t offer advice or anything of particular use to anyone not interested in me suffering in a mediocre way for my art. I do have 41 posts on writing prompts, though–but you probably shouldn’t use them.

Health is again like jogging. Do you want to read about me peeing into a cup or having sore knees? Even I don’t want to read about these things, but it hasn’t stopped me from making 220 posts about them.

Finally, we have book reviews. Amazingly (to me) I have posted 191 reviews, which seems like so many I wonder if a semi-evil twin secretly wrote a bunch of them. This could be a draw, the only issue is my tastes are all over the place and I read some pretty terrible, commercial fiction (not always intentionally), so the appeal here would be for someone with an insatiable appetite for any book reviews at all. A limited market, I suspect.

In the end, my blog is really best-suited for me. And I don’t think I could reshape it to focus on a topic that would lure readers in–and why would I want that, anyway? Sure, I like attention (when it’s positive, not “Your fly is down…again”) but I never started this blog way back in the olden days of 2005 with the intention of having an audience. No, for now and into the foreseeable future, I’ll just write for me, keeping this blog as an ersatz journal that happens to be available to all on the web (but usually gets 1-20 visits per day, 20 visits being equivalent to approximately 2.66666666667e-7% of the world’s population).

More playing with blocks

In which I explore more of the zany features of WordPress 5.0.

  • Apparently lists are now considered blocks
  • This list is about blocks
  • Blocks tend to be very block-like
  • I don’t think I have anything else to say about blocks

Quotes are also blocks

– Some random blog guy
This is apparently a verse block
So pretend these are profound lyrics to a song you've never heard of
Except nothing rhymes and the meter sucks
[guitar solo]

The above is the five most recent posts block, which you can also see (always) to the right. So kind of redundant.

There are lots of others, but this isn’t as entertaining as I thought, so The End on playing with blocks.

Playing with blocks (in WordPress, possibly with real blocks, too)

WordPress 5.0 has launched and it’s introduced a somewhat controversial change to its editor, moving all discrete elements into blocks that can be moved around all willy-nilly, or perhaps even in an orderly manner. (I’ve chosen the new Drop Cap feature for this opening paragraph, to see how it looks. It seem to only appear in the editor when I am not editing this paragraph…er, block.)

The three main advantages of this over the old method:

  • Provides a more WYSIWYG look. For example, this post is showing the same fonts while I’m in the editor as I’ve selected to display on the site, making it easier to know how things will look.
  • Blocks are easier to move around. Content in the old editor is basically just code dumped into a big file and moving it around has always been a bit messy–not unlike mucking around with Word’s formatting, really–and I’ve often ended up in the text mode view to try to straighten out how things look. Blocks should largely eliminate this.
  • It’s the future! Shiny! New!

So far, I have to say it seems fine for my usual posts, which are just lots of words that go on and on. Doing these posts is only very slightly different than before, and certainly no more difficult, so for now I say ten thumbs up! I reserve the right to remove thumbs as I see fit.

And on the second point mentioned in the title, I’ve always wanted to have LEGO to play with, but really have no space for it. I totally missed out when I was a kid. I’ve still got Minecraft, which kind of scratches the same itch, but with the bonus of not taking up half the living room. Or is that actually not a bonus? Hmm.

Update: The Drop Cap looks totally goofy.

50 posts and bonus Photo of the Day, September 30, 2018

This is the first time I’ve hit 50+ posts in a single month. Sure, a bunch of the posts were photos, which feels a bit like cheating, but I still had to go outside to take the photos and all that junk, so there!

Speaking of, here’s a photo. When I went for my run yesterday at Burnaby Lake, I found they had done a clear-cut of the trees near the dam. I assume they were dying, damaged or dead. Or maybe they just hate trees. Anyway, these three are now giant stumps. There are several other ex-trees not far from these ones as well.

My postiest month ever

This is post #43 for January 2018. As of post #39 it became the month with the most posts since I started this blog back on February 4, 2005.

Twenty-one of the posts have been chronicling my efforts to remain complaint-free for…21 days (I complained one day and had to start over). Still, that means 22 posts have theoretically had other content in them, so I feel I’m doing reasonably well. There aren’t any real standouts this month, but neither is there anything that you’d read that would cause you to turn and run away screaming.

But because these sorts of self-indulgent posts are only interesting to me and no one at all visited the site just two days ago (sob), I’ll end with a haiku of minimal entertainment value that I shall call The Blog.

The Blog

So I made a blog
Everyone tweets somewhere else
Write into the wind