Archive for Blogorrhea

The relocated malcontent

In fact, the Local Malcontent may already be moving:

[We] have sold our home in Yanush to a lovely, young, immigrant Muslim couple from Qatar and Pakistan, and we two+ are going to move into a newer, larger home in LeFlore County, Ok.

Effective late January.

So I will be away for awhile, until AT&T U=verse connects us to the InterWebSuperHighway — they claim it will be on February 2 … but they wouldn’t say which year.

(Emphasis added.)

The community of Yanush isn’t big enough to be mentioned in Wikipedia, though it does have a Facebook page.

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Live by the link, die by the link

I should have left this tissue of organic fertilizer in the spam bin. It was titled “A few recommendations that can help both of us,” which inevitably means it will help the sender and may or may not do the recipient any good. Decide for yourself:

Webmaster,

We are writing to alert you to the presence of harmful backlinks on your website. These links, that direct to [domain name redacted], were placed on your site by our former SEO management company. That company willfully violated Google’s Terms of Service, which resulted in a penalty being levied against our company. In order to remove this penalty, we must ask your assistance. Please delete the known backlinks to [domain name redacted], hosted on your site at:

http://dustbury.com/archives/cat_blogorrhea.html

Your compliance with this request is greatly appreciate. Have a nice day.

Generally, anyone who uses the word “backlink” unironically can be assumed to be a scoundrel or a fool.

What’s hilarious about this is the origin of said, um, links: this domain, once upon a time, belonged to a blog which once — well, twice, actually — hosted the Carnival of the Vanities, and I always linked to the Carnival host as a matter of historical reference, since I contributed the first piece to the very first Carnival, way back when. There’s now a storefront sitting there, and their current SEO management company apparently got its BVDs horribly knotted at the thought of an incoming link that would not sell any product.

How much do these links harm me? I have a better chance of winning the freaking Powerball. Just the same, I took them out, on the basis that I don’t want to hear from these whimpering sons of bitches ever again.

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And lo, there was debugging

A cry from my techie side (which is actually barely more than a corner) from last month:

After installing WordPress 4.4, I encountered a minor anomaly. Short version: In posts included in two or more categories, the categories are now listed in the post heading, not in strict alphabetical order as they used to be, but in the order of their assigned ID numbers, whatever they may be. I left a note at the support forum, indicating what I thought might be the issue, and expressing some nominal amount of dismay.

Unusually, no one at the forum deigned to respond to my dismay, but the problem was quietly fixed in 4.4.1, possibly as a by-product from this bug.

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Worst titles of 2015

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The entrepreneurds

After installing WordPress 4.4, I encountered a minor anomaly. Short version: In posts included in two or more categories, the categories are now listed in the post heading, not in strict alphabetical order as they used to be, but in the order of their assigned ID numbers, whatever they may be. I left a note at the support forum, indicating what I thought might be the issue, and expressing some nominal amount of dismay.

On its heels came this email:

My name is Jane and I’m with fixrunner.com WordPress support experts.

I saw your website on one of the forums online and that you are having an issue with your websites, We provide a professional WordPress support and maintenance service.

If you are currently experiencing any bug or need any immediate fix on your website we can help you fix it for a Flat rate of $49.

Please note that payment is not due until after we fix the issue. If we don’t fix it you don’t pay us.

There are, I imagine, circumstances under which I might find this service useful. But this isn’t one of them.

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November in a nutshell

This sequence of events is a perfect metaphor for the way this month has gone.

The house in which I live was built in 1948, and some of its fixtures are either original or so old they might as well be. There are two towel bars in the bathroom, each suspended by a pair of ceramic holders; the smaller one has a spring-loaded ceramic bar, the larger one a similar-looking bar, but plastic. I found this out when I went scooting across the floor on a not-yet-wet bath mat, grabbed the bar with my left hand, and watched as it broke almost exactly in half.

I rigged up a temporary fix, involving good old strapping tape, and on an impulse, I checked to see if Amazon had a replacement bar. They had three of them, as it happens; but two of them were restricted to Prime members only. Disinclined to put up $99 for the privilege of spending ten bucks on a plastic rod, I passed them by, and several pages down found the third, from a merchant in Arizona. Five bucks for the bar itself, seven for shipping. Well, thought I, it’s not gonna fit in an envelope, y’know?

It somehow arrived about two days ahead of schedule, despite the punishing weather. (The postman actually clambered through the space I’d cleared in the Fallen Branch Zone and left it on the porch.) Grateful for anything that worked at this point, I hurriedly opened the box, verified that the sizes were correct, and took it into the bathroom.

The old one wouldn’t come out. It was solid, inflexible, and incompressible. Almost like it was, um, ceramic.

If all my temporary fixes worked this well … but never mind, it’s not going to happen.

And with the house in utter darkness for another night, and me stuck on a 15-year-old laptop that can no longer keep up, this may be the last update for a while: the strange-query feature and the Thunder game recap tomorrow will likely be delayed.

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Sort of a moat

Since I installed WordPress in the fall of 2008, the Akismet plugin has thwarted just under 40,000 spams. To me, this seems like a lot; but to WordPress oldtimers, this is a rounding error. Then again, I have a second line of defense: a handy little device called WP-Ban, which does a pretty fair job of keeping out known offending IP ranges. Even after a recent update, though, it was taking a couple of minutes to add a single IP to the ban list, and after watching things unfold in realtime, I decided to reset its counter.

As of yesterday, WP-Ban had turned away 923,242 intrusions, some IPs with only one or two tries, some with several thousand. So maybe, instead of forty thousand spams, I’d have had close to a million by now. It’s a discouraging thought, to say the least; then again, picking them out by hand is no fun for anyone, unless they’re inadvertently amusing.

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But you must monetize

I expect to be staring down this particular situation before too awfully long:

The theme I’d worked so hard to look just right got all effered up when I applied an update the developers told me was necessary. Too many issues, not enough patience, and too tired to care, I just went with another theme. Unfortunately, these days, finding a WordPress theme geared for actual blogging rather than rabid capitalism is nearly impossible.

True that. Sunday night’s #blogchat on Twitter is just overrun with people who are desperate to get Maximum Personal Branding, or some such hooey, out of their $75 Premium Themes, if only to earn back that $75.

I have not yet begun my full-fledged search for the new 20th Anniversary Theme. I am, however, deeply suspicious of any theme which mentions SEO in the first two lines of its description.

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Small and Gawky

The restructuring at Gawker Media — basically, Gawker itself is going all politics, all the time, and some of the “lesser” brands are being shed — is likely no surprise to Robert Stacy McCain:

If Nick Denton could outsource Gawker’s editorial work to Guatemalan peasants working in squalid huts for a few pesos a day, I’m sure he wouldn’t hesitate to do so. There is no feasible limit to Nick Denton’s unscrupulous greed, and this is why investors put their money into Gawker media, because they trust Nick will be absolutely ruthless in his quest to make a dollar, and “diversity” is only of interest to Gawker’s investors if it somehow impacts Nick’s ability to produce revenue.

For myself, I thought it was odd that, having sold off an actual political blog a couple of restructurings ago, they’d now try to recreate one:

Wonkette editor/publisher Rebecca Schoenkopf begs to differ:

Hello, Gawker sirs, don’t mind us, we’re just a couple of country mice over here in the corner eating this tiny crust of bread. You remember us, Wonkette? We are the politics blog that sprang from your loins (gross) and which you then sold almost immediately because you couldn’t figure out how to make money from politics. (Have you asked Newsmax for some pointers? I hear they got a real good list.) So this other guy, who was not us, bought it from you, and four years later he realized American politics was rotting his wanderer’s soul, so he went out for a pack of cigarettes and never came back.

Which is how I came to be the owner, publisher and editrix of this teeny-tiny little politics place, which never hurt nobody, nobody at all. And here you are, and under your new editor — who used to be the editor of us, SMALL PUBLISHING WORLD — you are retooling into a “politics” site.

Really? Are you sure? Because while we’ve tripled our revenues and quintupled our staff in the past three years because it turns out I am awesome at capitalism and asking for money from readers like you, that actually means we’ve gone from “just-me” to “five.” I am pretty sure all Politico’s money comes from that godawful Newsletter Sponsored By Whatever Blackwater’s Called This Week. And Newsmax’s cheddar, while YOOOGE, comes from the fleecing of homebound, ill crackers. You do not want to sell cancer cures made of cinnamon do you? DO YOU?

As good a description of Ken Layne’s apostasy as I’ve yet heard, and the whole (read it all if you dare) is hilarious enough to justify my assertion.

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About those hardware issues

Back in mid-September I put up the usual link to the current Vent, and forgot to list it in the Ventually category. This has been fixed.

This is not, however, what I came to tell you about. That particular Vent — #933 — was a survey of my findings at a Tumblr blog called “Transsexual Nudists,” which so far as I could tell contained pictures of no actual trans people: all the pictures seemed to have been Photoshopped. (I later found what appeared to have been some of the originals elsewhere on Tumblr.) Hardly anyone seemed to be particularly upset about this, though: there is evidently a small core of fans who really, truly want the women of their dreams to have standard male hardware. And the character who was doing the virtual genitalia transplant at least did it with some degree of panache: one particular shot involved three unclad women, and he pasted the penis onto arguably the prettiest one.

For reasons unknown, the site was taken down this past weekend, and its archives nuked, though if I remember Tumblr operations correctly, anything from there that was reblogged elsewhere will remain reblogged.

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Embrace the brokeness

You want to know what’s really killing the blog? The lure of micropayments:

[I]t’s essentially impossible to have any discussion about blogging without that discussion turning toward, not blogging, but rewards for blogging — readership and pagerank and ads and Adsense clicks, and all of those numeric metrics that can add up to making more money from ads or selling products or selling the blog itself.

Many bloggers chase that reward, focusing the entire blogging effort on increasing their Adsense payments from enough money to buy a burger a month, to enough money to buy a burger a week. The entire value of what should be a joyous creative-effort is reduced, in perception, to a few dollars. And if the reward stays at a few dollars, or in fact never goes above a few pennies, they feel stupid, like they’re suckers.

Even when a blogger doesn’t actually care about money, the measure of a blog is still often based on the measures that produce money — readers, page views, pagerank.

Yeah, I watch those measures myself. But I assure you, they don’t make me a dime. In fact, my current stat service costs me $100 a year, more than the cost of actually running the site after I cash in my various referrals and kickbacks. Still, in an average month, I will churn out 15,000 words and lose about a tenth of a cent on each and every one of them. Since I’ve been doing this for almost twenty years — well, I must be making it up in volume, right?

If I were going to monetize (Jeebus, I hate that word) this stuff, I’d do it the hard way: bind it into a book or three. For the moment, though, while it’s certainly time-consuming, it’s not what I’d call budget-depleting. And if push comes to shove, I can always borrow the five most important words in the English language: “Hit the freaking tip jar!”

Oh, wait. I don’t have one of those, either.

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When we was glib

While poking around in the archives, I found this paragraph from December ’04 that technically doesn’t require an update, but perhaps deserves to be spread further:

The Mandatory Serenity Amendment — “The right of the peoples of the United States to be free from any ideas or materials or products, which they may find offensive, shall not be infringed” — has so far been ratified by 0 states.

We owe it to ourselves to keep it that way.

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An enterprising young ghoul

Anyone who has more than a smidgen of archives — well, anyone who has more than a smidgen of archives and is goofy enough to disclose an email address — gets the occasional letter from someone more than happy to point out a broken link and suggest a replacement. Sometimes the replacement is relevant. Then there’s this earnest letter from one “Marlene” in Britain:

Good afternoon, I have found a broken resource on your site, I have listed all the details below so that you can find it and fix it easily. I have also included a link to an article that I wrote and as you will be fixing the broken link anyway, I thought you may like to add a link to my article about “The definitive guide to funeral flowers”.

What was fun about this was the nature of the rotted link: it connected to an old story about disgraced forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist, who passed away earlier this year. Some of Gilchrist’s more dubious findings resulted in having to obtain funeral flowers, but somehow jamming Marlene’s article into the piece seemed just a hair inappropriate.

That said, however, it’s a very nice article, so should you be interested in funeral flowers — keep in mind, I am very old — this is the piece she offered. Meanwhile, I replaced the old Gilchrist link with a new Gilchrist link.

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Under a modicum of pressure

A Twitter follower professed last night to be impressed by the volume of bloggage I churn out, which got me wondering if there was any particular item I’d done which might be notable for the sheer speed of composition. (I’m an okay typist at best, but typing and writing are two different skills entirely, and Truman Capote might even have agreed.)

So I pondered for a moment, and then recalled that I’d posted this established version of a generic limerick, which inevitably led to someone Googling “generic limerick,” which I duly cited in the weekly round-up of weird search strings, along with this impromptu example:

There once was an A who did B
In front of a horrified C;
The sight of his D
Made her cry loudly, “E!”
And we’re happy this ends before Z.

As I recall, this took all of sixty seconds to concoct, with the semicolon marking the halfway point. (And a reader later pointed out that the fifth line would not rhyme in places like Canada.)

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Somewhere around the back end

One of my more faithful WordPress plugins is WP-Ban by Lester Chan, which allows me to block any IPv4 address — IPv6 isn’t covered yet — or any range thereof. It’s not 100% reliable, but it’s kept about 800,000 unworthy types out of this site over the past several years.

Then WP 4.3 arrived yesterday, and the plugin broke with the ever-popular Fatal Error string. I watched it happen, took the obvious action — rename the plugin directory so WordPress can’t find it — and went out to see if anyone else was having this same issue. They were. Almost identically, in fact. So I’m assuming this problem isn’t due to the weird configuration over here.

This is the first time I’ve seen anything of Chan’s actually break, so I have no idea how quickly he responds to issues like this, but I am hopeful.

Update: Well, looky here. A new version of WP-Ban already.

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When the title says it all

I am considered at least reasonably competent at producing titles for the stuff I churn out, but I admit to being awed, and then some, at this Ace zinger: “Gawker Staff Smears Feces On Itself, Boards a Schoolbus Loaded With Gasoline and Napalm, Then Intentionally Drives That Schoolbus Into a Cargo Train Transporting Toxic Waste and Retarded Clowns”.

Apart from separating “school” from “bus,” there’s not a thing in the world I’d want to change about that.

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Not that we would need it here

Echochamber.js bills itself as “All off [sic] the commenting, none of the comments.” This is what they mean:

Echochamber.js is a third-party script you can install to add a simple comment form to your blog post or website.

why not just use disqus?

Because then there’d be a chance that someone would read the comments. You might have to read those comments. You don’t want that.

When a user submits a comment, echochamber.js will save the comment to the user’s LocalStorage, so when they return to the page, they can be confident that their voice is being heard, and feel engaged with your very engaging content. It does not make any HTTP requests. Since LocalStorage is only local, you and your database need not be burdened with other people’s opinions.

The script is simple, and is fed from a reliable source: Amazon Web Services.

(Via Brianna Wu. Don’t say it.)

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Things to come, maybe

El Nuko celebrates the beginning of his tenth year behind a blog dashboard with a list of ten predictions, two of which I figured I ought to pass on:

  1. The huge NSA data collection center at St Louis will be totally breached, and all of the information will be released into the open. The US economy will be thrown into a deep depression as credit availability evaporates overnight due to lack of confidentiality.
  2. Obama will propose microchip implantation as the solution, which will be agreed to by both parties, with the exception of 2016 hopeful Mike Huckabee, who sees this as the “mark of the beast.”

Expect Mitch McConnell to offer token resistance at first, because that’s what he does best: token resistance.

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One weird trick to boost your traffic

The title says it all: “Generate SEO Friendly Blog Post Titles & Kill Writer’s Block.” Push a button, and wallah, there’s a title idea!

Regular readers will note that I have never, ever stooped to such tactics. (Except, of course, here.)

(Via Sheri, who observes: “So this is why everything looks the same.” Yep.)

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A writer apart

Let us now tip our knit hat to Jeffrey Zeldman, who has kept the zeldman.com blog up for twenty whole years:

My Web site is 20 years old today. I’m dictating these remarks into a tiny handheld device, not to prove a point, but because, with gorgeously ironic timing, my wired internet connection has gone out. It’s the kind of wired connection, offering the kind of speed most everyone reading this takes for granted today — a far cry from the 14.4 modem with which I built and tested the first version of this site, shipping it (if you could call it that) on May 31, 1995.

Such things happen.

I launched this site twenty years ago (a year before the Wayback Machine, at least two years before Google) and it was one of the only places you could read and learn about web design. I launched at a tilde address (kids, ask your parents), and did not think to register zeldman.com until 1996, because nobody had ever done anything that crazy.

I did read, and I did learn some things. (I also picked up some tips from A List Apart, which Zeldman founded and which now stands on its own.)

To celebrate the years, here is “The Years”, a “mysterious lamentation” by Zeldman, from his album Waterbox. You may be absolutely certain that I will not have an album out by the time this site turns 20.

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Until it’s time for you to go

It’s not a dream, it’s not an angel, it’s not even a good statistics tracker anymore. So out it goes.

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A little more than minor housekeeping

With SiteMeter in free fall from once-useful utility to apparent vendor of malware, I have opted to remove their code from the blog portion of this site. (This leaves about 8,000 static pages which will have to be changed manually, scheduled for When I Get Around To It.) If you’re coming into a current page, you should no longer have to deal with attempted redirects to vindicosuite.com. For the time being, I have switched to StatCounter, which in its WordPress plugin form does not display in the sidebar. The pricing is about the same, and StatCounter has a couple of features I’d wanted, most notably an integration with Google’s Webmaster Tools.

I have also had a few issues with the comment-subscription routine, which you may remember; I have juggled a couple of things, installed a new subscription manager, and I’m thinking there’s a slight chance that it might actually be working. If you’re not getting your notifications, please advise.

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Google just being Google

It’s been a long time since “Don’t be evil” was supplanted by “Don’t be unobtrusive,” so I wasn’t entirely surprised to see this come down the timeline:

I scoffed for public consumption, then hit up the surfer dudes who host this site for suggestions, since broadside isn’t even a mail server fercrissake. Said they, did you know that the WordPress wp_mail() function, as used in emailing subscribers, is totally devoid of authentication?

[facepalm]

They suggested a plugin to route the mail through a proper SMTP server, and since I have one of those servers, they were happy to tell me all the settings that would be necessary. I had everything in place by four-thirty. So if you’ve been having to fish updates out of the Gmail spam folder, perhaps this will persuade Google to quit acting like the grand high muckety-mucks of the frigging Internet just this once. Maybe.

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Screw those desktops

Google wants everything to be ultra-readable on mobiles, especially their mobiles, so they’re going to slant their search results accordingly:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.

They started making noises like this back in November, so it’s not like this is suddenly being sprung upon us, but I figure I’m already jumping through enough hoops for them, so do not look for sudden design changes around here — for at least a year, anyway.

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Hey, nineteen

This here Web site is old enough to vote, though it’s not old enough to drink. Whether this makes any difference or not, I’m not entirely sure.

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Your piece of the pie

As of yesterday, there were 46,250 comments on the site — that is, comments within the current WordPress database, which goes back to the first week of September 2006. (There were about 17,000 more in the first Movable Type database, from August 2002 to that point, all converted to static files.)

Now this figure seems amazing to some, and by “some” I mean “people who hang out in Twitter chats to bewail their lack of response.” Forty-six thousand sounds like a lot of comments, but that’s a slow month over at Ace’s.

Still, I’m happy with the participation level here. And inasmuch as I have a gizmo that counts these for me, I’m tossing this question to you guys: how many of those 46,000 do you think you wrote? Be sure to show your work.

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The hard place is over there

Taking care of a WordPress operation is a two-pronged affair, inasmuch as the files are stored in two wholly separate locations: the Web server itself contains the WP core files and the design elements, while the actual posts are kept in a database elsewhere.

I download all the graphics and such to my home box before posting, so I already have copies of them in case of Dire Emergency. I hardly ever see the database, though, so a plugin copies it out on a regular basis, gzips the copy, and emails it to me.

Or anyway, it used to email it to me. The database is now so large that the gzipped copy is up to 20 megabytes, just at the point where the mail server balks: “Too big, pal.” For now, I’m fetching it via SFTP, but I’m thinking I ought to be considering other options.

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Retaking the pledge

In 2005, Patterico called for bloggers to take the same pledge he was taking:

If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.

It took me a day or two, but I eventually saw the wisdom of his approach.

And the Federal Election Commission wisely kept its big yap shut about the matter, until now:

In October, then FEC Vice Chairwoman Ann M. Ravel promised that she would renew a push to regulate online political speech following a deadlocked commission vote that would have subjected political videos and blog posts to the reporting and disclosure requirements placed on political advertisers who broadcast on television. On Wednesday, she will begin to make good on that promise.

“Some of my colleagues seem to believe that the same political message that would require disclosure if run on television should be categorically exempt from the same requirements when placed in the Internet alone,” Ravel said in an October statement. “As a matter of policy, this simply does not make sense.”

Take your “policy” and shove it, Annie dear. In the best of all possible worlds, there would be no such thing as a Federal Election Commission, and the limit of your public utterances would be “You want fries with that?”

So Patterico is renewing the pledge, and so am I: “If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.”

Period.

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The unchanging of the guard

James Lileks, on the occasion of the (presumed) retirement of Andrew Sullivan:

I can’t imagine not doing this, and I hope you can’t imagine not expecting something. I mention this because Andrew Sullivan announced he was retiring from blogging today, and given his longevity this was seen by some as one of the great tent poles of the Golden Age of Blogging toppling over. Perhaps. The notion of individual sites with individual voices has been replaced by aggregators and listicles and Gawker subsites with their stables of edgy youth things, and public squares like Medium where dross and gold abound. But there will always be a place on the internet for individual sites like this one, because there is nothing from stopping all the rampant egotists from braying bytes over this matter or that. I’ve always been a diarist, and this iteration happens to be public.

As the edgy youth are wont to say: +1.

It was a home page, and then personal website, and then a blog, depending on the terminology of the era, but it really hasn’t changed at all. Next month, I think, is the 18th anniversary of the Bleat.

The mind boggles at the thought of keeping a Web site open for eighteen whole years.

Not going away. Why would I? This is fun.

Make that +2.

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Meanwhile across the yard

For a couple of years now, I’ve kept a backup blog at wordpress.com, mostly to explain why this one was down. With downtime seemingly diminishing these days — there have been some connectivity issues which probably relate to SiteMeter, but that’s another matter entirely — I’ve decided to drop in the occasional reblog from other wp.com sites, items that I feel like passing on but don’t have anything else to say about. A use-it-or-lose-it kind of deal, especially since I’m considering killing off one of my less-used domains.

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