Post #5,000!


HSBC Celebration of Light, Vancouver (August 3, 2005)

Little did I know, when I wrote Post #4,000 while on holiday (my annual birthday trip), that I would be writing Post #5,000 in the same place, which I now call home. How little did I know, back then!

a clearance of the ghostly kind

Dublin, Ireland (April 18, 2003)

But here I am, a thousand posts later, marvelling at the wonder of life’s twists and turns, and wondering where the next 5,000 posts will take me. The 12th blogiversary is coming up soon (July), let’s see what happens by then.

(You) Are Free

Toronto (March 20, 2007)

Downtime Is For The Birds

Mister Hugh (RIP) glaring at the internet

Mister Hugh (RIP) glaring at the internet

… not the cats.

My websites and email accounts were down for 11.5 hours! Apologies to anyone trying to reach us — we are frustrated with Bluehost’s downtime, especially since we are not on a shared server, and will be shopping around for remedies/replacement and something really tasty and crunchy to gnaw for a while.

End-of-Year Randomosity, and Contemplating the Next Frontier

Café Progresso

Café Progresso

I’m choosing randomosity because it’s pretty cliché at the end of the year to make a list of things. Plus, I make lists and mark events all ‘year round. So here are some VSCO-processed mobile pics taken in Porto last weekend (the top one is my favourite), and some random bits and pieces to throw in the 2013 pot before I make the last post.

wall art, Porto

wall art, Porto

ecobus, Porto

ecobus, Porto

As to be expected, the posts will be very Portugese-centric in 2014, just like they have been for the last quarter of 2013. And what could be more Portuguese than bacalhau à brás?

bacalhau à brás

bacalhau à brás

The blog turned 11 in July, and today I updated the stats table and graph to see how consistent I was this year about blogging. (I miss you, Excel!) Apparently the Big Events of this year were big enough to keep me away from the computer — I posted the same decline (6%) as last year. But I suspect the blogging will increase in 2014, for the absence of all the reasons it declined in 2013.

blog stats 2013

A lot of things happened in 2013, so how do we top it? What’s the Next Frontier?

20 Reasons Why I Write A Blog And Not A Book

my books travel, too

my books travel, too… click on the pic for the story

If I had a nickel for every time someone told me I should write a book… (A nickel??? I’d be foolish for not asking for a loonie to cover the rate of inflation since someone coined that phrase. Or foolish for throwing in that pun.)

Stephanie wrote it in a comment, and instead of writing a huge reply I’ve decided to write a post. When someone says “You should write a book” I say I have, it’s this blog. With more than 4,750 posts it’s a pretty big book already. I just spread out the writing over 11 years and ignored the book format, publishers, deadlines, a thesis, linear thinking, and learned how to put it on the internet myself. But why don’t I write a proper book, with covers and a spine? Here are 20 reasons why, in no particular order:

  1. I’m a chronic revisionist. I write late at night in various states of wakefulness and often return to the post the next day to fix errors or rework sentences. Sometimes I review the posts and wonder where on earth my mind wandered to when I typed it out, but there’s always an opportunity to revise it to make sense. As someone passed along to me recently, the phrase is “Write when drunk, edit when sober.”
  2. I can reference previous writing and add external links. You want to go down the garden path, reader? Sure, why not. Go wherever you want.
  3. Content can be random. Each post stands alone, and I don’t have to make them connect to each other at all.
  4. No real deadlines. I can also schedule the post to publish in the future, or in the past.
  5. Content is published in installments, not all at once. I can write every day, skip a week, be prolific or just write a line or two.
  6. Content easier to index. Remember the index at the end of the book? Don’t need it, there are other ways to search and index content. Search engines do a lot of that work for us, anyway.
  7. Readers can filter by topic, tags, time, author. It’s a big archive, I don’t expect anyone to read even a fraction of it. You can find what you’re looking for and skip the rest.
  8. Wider audience. My blog is free and available 24/7, wherever there is an internet connection.
  9. RSS (Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication) fetches my writing for you. What could be easier?
  10. Additional features such as widgets, plugins, tag clouds. With a large archive, these become more and more valuable as a means to serve up the content in different ways, such as frequency by tag clouds. On the sidebar you’ll see a widget for Top 10 Posts & Pages, family sections, and the latest tweets in my Twitter feed. Not even eBooks show content this way.
  11. Readers can translate my blog themselves. Most books are not translated and published in different languages because it’s expensive. Blogs can be translated instantly, although not very well. But online translators are improving.
  12. A variety of media (videoclips, audio, text, music, slideshows) can be embedded. This is a big one for me. I like media-rich blog posts. Not always, but at least one picture enhances.
  13. Password-protection by post and page. I don’t do this often, but I like having the option.
  14. Stats. Another big one for me. I’m a stats nerd, not just for this blog but it’s been part of my working life, too.
  15. This writing platform is free. Sure, I pay for hosting but my operating costs are covered by a mix of advertising and invoicing. I’ve been using WordPress since 2005 for my blog, which is free. Before that it was on Blogger, which is also free.
  16. No promotion required. No book tours or paying for advertising.
  17. Self-publishing. I could self-publish a printed book, but it would still cost me and it’s a hassle deciding on a print run.
  18. Environmentally-friendly. No trees or shelf space required, and it doesn’t need to be lugged around. Imagine if I’d printed out all my blog posts WITH the pictures? I’d kill a lot of trees.
  19. Interface control. I can change the template, fonts, etc. whenever I want. This blog has undergone a number of facelifts already. I wish I’d kept screencaps of them all.
  20. Evolution. This can only really happen over time, and a blog ends only when the writer decides (or it’s the end of the writer). There is no unfinished blog per se, while there are unfinished books. Once a book is written it can’t be extended, only followed up with another book published separately. I like the continuous nature of a blog versus the beginning-middle-end format of a book.

So there you have it, folks. The book format just doesn’t work for me, it’s not my style. Blogging’s been around for many years, and it’ll stick around as long as there are writers like me who enjoy the freedom of writing whatever and whenever we feel like it.

11-Year Blogiversary

Flickr cupcakes Happy Birthday Flickr!

I made some pretty big announcements on this blog since the 10-Year Blogiversary, to put things mildly. In fact, as of this time last year only the Turning 40 Series (password-protected) was a life plan, the other two announcements were not even in my imagination. As of right now, I’ve completed Big Life Event #2 this year, and I’m working on Big Life Event #3, to be completed in September.

Which goes to show that it is entirely possible to change the course of your life, once you’ve made up your mind to do so. You are the Master of Your Ship. But it isn’t merely enough to have an idea, there is an incredible amount of effort (and often a support network) behind radical change; there is no magic bullet. But if you want something badly enough, you will find a way to do it.

So why write about it? To share information, to benefit others, to record for posterity. Enough reasons to motivate me every day. However, 11 years on this blog (and my previous website in the early days of the web) have taught me a few things about myself as a blogger:

  • I don’t like writing about current events because they’re timely, and early news releases are often full of inaccuracies. Media outlets are vying for eyeballs and I’d rather not rely on them for the purpose of writing a blog post about something that everyone else is writing about, only to update it later when there are news corrections. Many years ago I did comment on the occasional event, but there’s plenty happening in my own life that I’m much more qualified (and informed) to write about. Which brings me to my next point:
  • Just as I think there is excessive focus on Big Topics, there is lots of room for the seemingly ordinary to be written in an extraordinary way. We ought to bring attention to things that deserve it. Our daily lives are not headline news, and the average person is not a celebrity. Besides, celebrity culture is already everywhere, it doesn’t need more exposure.
  • I’ve observed bloggers in the past decade getting competitive (for comments, hits, link-backs) and blogging was seen as more of a popularity contest. It really shouldn’t be. Writing is an exercise anyone can do, but ultimately we have to do it for ourselves, not for others.
  • I rarely talk about future events here unless they’re a Done Deal. I’m only talking about the move to Portugal because the flights have been booked, I gave notice at my part-time workplace, and everything was well underway. I only announced my marriage on the day that it happened. The blog is really the last place for announcements, as it should be.
  • I’ve never written about dating. Someone once asked me if I wasn’t dating anyone because I couldn’t “get over” losing David.
  • I don’t use my blog as a place to brainstorm ideas or make a decision by Internet Committee. I only write about specifics once I’ve made up my mind.
  • When I became more serious about photography, I wanted readers to see what I see, in photographs — be it Canada or the world.
  • I don’t write details about my shoots (wedding or otherwise) unless there’s a good reason.
  • Some bloggers who go on holiday write a bunch of posts and queue them up for publishing while they’re away. I’ve thought about it a number of times, but each time I decided I don’t like to blog that way. That’s way too planned and I’m way too spontaneous for it. Often if I have a big post in my head and I’m too tired to write it all out, I’ll just keep it in draft and publish something lighter and easier to write.
  • Someone wrote to me today, after finding my website by searching for where to buy gjetost (Norwegian brown cheese) in Toronto. I get these random questions or requests every so often, and I’m glad to be of help.
  • This blog is like a long-running radio show. An 11-year old one.

This Blog Is Nearly 11 Years Old and 4,674 Posts Big

blog stats

I came across this Excel file by accident earlier today, and was surprised to discover I haven’t updated it for nearly a year, since the 10-Year Blogiversary last July. Apparently I’m not as geeky as I thought. Plus, I love graphs and tables, why did I forget about this one? It’s so colourful!

Then again, I haven’t hit a big milestone since then, eg. a nice round number like 5,000. I’ll have a cupcake when I hit 5,000, or maybe I’ll even get super-nerdy and bake a cake with a graph on it and 5K in bold icing. Still a ways off from that, about a year at my current rate, but I digress…

One particular item of note in the updated graph is that I arrested the big blog slide in posts that’s been happening since 2008. I managed to decline only 6% from 2012 to 2011, versus 25% and two years of 16% from the previous years. That’s pretty notable, considering I was freelancing and volunteering more than ever last year; it isn’t as if I had more time.

I’m not in competition with anyone, and it’s evident I don’t really monetize this blog, so what’s the incentive? Why do I even bother with these stats? Because as I get older I really appreciate consistency, in myself and in others. Many people take things up — hobbies, pastimes, projects, whatever, and then don’t bother to finish. This is a blog, it’s never finished per se, but I take pride in the fact that I manage to keep my blog alive on the internet, which is a gigantic virtual graveyard of dead blogs, dead links, and dead websites. It is no mean feat to maintain a blog this regularly, especially on the internet where content is king but there’s enough content out there to fill countless servers with data around the world.

The next few months are really exciting ones for me, and I’ll actually be changing some important content on this website very soon, namely after my birthday trip. Where will I go this year, for my 41st birthday? I’m keeping it a surprise (I fly June 12), but I know already that the photos are going to be phenomenal!

Tweak Tweak

David's birthday flight (May 30, 2012)

David’s birthday flight (May 30, 2012)

You might’ve noticed I’ve been messing around with the blog lately — fonts, header image, some text in the pages and such. Small changes, kind of like changing the shower curtain or the magnets on the fridge. I like change, but change happens whether you like it or not (ageing, for example), so my attitude is that you might as well embrace it. Work it, even. Because it’s usually better when you choose the change rather than the other way around, especially if you are resistant to change in general.

The most significant change to the website this week is behind the scenes: I’ve upgraded my hosting account to a dedicated IP and a suite of features — none of which is evident or remotely exciting to a reader, only to a website owner. However, as a reader you will notice the site loads much faster. This is the one change I’ve been wanting to make for a while, but the Bluehost rep told me they were introducing another package between the standard and pro accounts soon. In the end I decided to bite the bullet and upgrade directly to the Full Shebang as this site has over a dozen sub-domains, and this domain alone gets enough traffic to warrant more bandwidth. After a few days, I’ve seen for myself that search engines (particularly Google) take websites with dedicated IPs more seriously — crawlers and traffic have increased exponentially since I upgraded.

Meanwhile, David’s birthday is coming up at the end of this month and I’m still trying to figure out how to commemorate it, whether to fly again, in what type of aircraft, or if I’m going to do something completely different this year. I’ve got a few weeks to decide. Here are the photos from the previous seven years of birthday flights:

May 30, 2012 – flew in a Cessna 206 float plane with Cameron Air from Billy Bishop Airport (Toronto)
May 30, 2011 – flew with Tyler Bator from AVP (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Airport, Pennsylvania)
May 30, 2010 – flew over Mount Pocono Airport (where David got his pilot’s license) in a helicopter, which was also where I flew in a helicopter for the first time (Pennsylvania)
May 30, 2009 – flew with Alan Highhouse in a Piper Super Cub (Pennsylvania & New York)
May 30, 2008 – flew with Alan Highhouse in a Piper Super Cub (Pennsylvania & New York)
May 30, 2007 – took the controls of a Cessna Skyhawk for David’s 40th birthday (Brampton, Ontario)
May 30, 2006 – scattered David’s ashes from a Piper Cub stunt plane flown by the legendary “Flying Farmer”, Stanley Segalla over the Hudson River in upstate New York [RIP Stanley Segalla: March 5, 1914 - March 31, 2011]