Archive for Blogorrhea

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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Surrounded by morons

Nicole questions whether she can remain committed to tossing up the occasional bon mot for our reading and dancing pleasure:

I’m not sure I’m going to keep up with this blog on a steady basis. At least for the next few months. I find that I have lost things to say that anyone would find interesting. I’m increasingly less hopeful for a return to a semblance of sanity in the general populace and there’s really no point in discussing anything with people who already have the narrative they want to believe set in their heads. If you are so scared of life that you have to cling to your world view despite proven facts, then I don’t need to waste time talking to you. I don’t even mean convincing anyone to change their minds about anything. Every discussion doesn’t have to end with both parties agreeing. Simply that it’s a waste of time and breath to try to discuss anything with someone who won’t admit what is real and proven and what isn’t. Belief isn’t the issue for me either. Believe all you want to in things that can’t be proven or disproven. Faith is a personal matter and I hold nothing against you for any faith or belief you have. But when you insist that things are true that patently aren’t, I just don’t see the point in talking to you. Willful ignorance is worse than honest ignorance. Ignorance in pursuit of a political goal is detestable.

That latter reminds me of this Upton Sinclair observation: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Academic and political grantsmanship — like Janus, a single organism with two faces — demands that you toe the line or not get paid. Most people in this predicament follow the path of least resistance.

Still, frustration with the human race affects different people in different ways. It evidently makes Nicole want to go somewhere else where she won’t encounter all these farging jerks. Me, I’m more the stay-the-course kind of person, although it helps that I’m older than dirt and therefore can remember times when the conventional wisdom was 180 degrees — well, 150 to 210 — away from what it is now, and can remind people of it when necessary. This isn’t a better position, morally or otherwise, but it’s the one that’s most compatible with what’s inside me: I was a didact when didacticism wasn’t cool.

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Off the reading list

Some of the browser tabs that Lileks will no longer be opening:

Another thing I do at the end of the year: ruthlessly cull and trim bookmarks. I look at the site I have set aside for regular visits, and regard them with a total lack of ruth. Every year a big site gets cut, it seems. A tentpole falls. This year it was Fark. I’ve been on Fark forever, but it looks old and the comments are … well, it’s like Reddit. A lot of clever males unmoored from anything but tech and snark. The sort of smug adolescent impotent anger that makes them feel superior because everyone else is deluded or stupid. For some this lasts their entire life, and while it’s cute in the young it’s unbearable in those who carried this guttering pitch-stinking torch into middle age.

I have always believed that the way to handle Fark — and probably 60-80 percent of all sites with umpteen thousand visitors a day — is simply to avoid the comment threads at all cost. (I break this rule for things about which I may have personal knowledge, and for the weekly thread that accompanies any new My Little Pony episode, but for nothing else.) Also, some planetary alignment involving Adobe Flash, the Pale Moon Web browser, and whoever is providing Fark advertising these days invariably results in a lock-up resistant to anything short of Fletcher’s Castoria. I dislike ad blockers, but I can’t have stuff crashing my browser either, so I compromise by toggling off Flash.

But I also tire of the places where the men of my demographic cohort have pulled away and disconnected and have no interest in the world at large, and seem content to shoot little toothpick arrows down at the pullulating hordes banging on the gates. Most of all I tire of the sites and comments that luxuriate in their critiques of West as the most perfidious manifestation of human nature that ever blackened this innocent orb. People who put the seed corn in the microwave and complain because it takes two minutes to pop, is probably GMO, and was marketed in a way that reinforces some horrid old social norm. And then bitch because you don’t have French sea salt to sprinkle on it.

I avoid such places like the plague they are. To compensate — I really dislike the idea of living in an echo chamber, even if it echoes me — I leave Progressive hash-houses like #p2 open on Twitter.

And really, the cure for hatred of Western civilization is to be parachuted, in the dead of night, into some place that has little or no trace of its presence.

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Worst titles of 2014

Listed chronologically:

“Fluttershub-Niggurath” (2 January)
“We are never ever getting snacks together” (4 January)
“High-fructose cornball” (13 January)
“Save ferrous” (24 January)
“Doing asbestos we can” (10 February)
“Vampire weakened” (11 February)
“Crease is the word” (15 February)
“This schist is gneiss” (18 February)
“Harry, the feckless Senate runner” (6 March)
“Evenly odd” (18 March)
“You don’t owe Jack” (19 March)
“Multi-tusking” (28 March)
“You can have it all, my empire of fish” (17 April)
“Take me to your liter” (30 April)
“Bot and paid for” (10 May)
“A marked absence of seamen” (21 May)
“Myocardial ingestion” (6 June)
“No, a fence intended” (15 June)
“You’ve seen one, you’ve seen Amal” (16 June)
“Beware of geeks bearing GIFs” (21 June)
“Papa’s got a brand-new Baghdad” (22 June)
“Battle of divulge” (13 July)
“Thorina, Thorina” (21 July)
“Tootsie in the sky with hijinks” (26 July)
“The urge to wax has waned” (14 August)
“Friends with Benadryl” (22 August)
“This doesn’t Pétain to you” (6 September)
“First cud is the deepest” (19 September)
“Fescue me” (25 September)
“A John Deere letter” (3 October)
“The amazing Snyderman” (25 October)
“Let’s all get bewbs for the holidays” (22 November)
“Hair apparent” (27 November)
“Regression to the meanest” (28 November)
“Snot what one aspires to” (5 December)
“Mails of the unexpected” (28 December)

(Total number of 2014 posts: 1,909. Also: Worst Titles of 2013; Worst Titles of 2012; Worst Titles of 2011; Worst Titles of 2010; Worst Titles of 2009; Worst Titles of 2008; Worst Titles of 2007; Worst Titles of 2006.)

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Struggling with style

I’ve mentioned before that occasionally I page through the archives, and sometimes, I have to admit, I like what I see.

And then there are the times when I don’t.

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This morning’s instructional

A decade or so ago, I put out a threadbare little template for those who wanted to post the way I do, which turned out to be no one at all. The idea, however, has been steadily improved upon, and the current state of the art, I think, is in Jennifer’s “Eye Catching Title Referencing Something Controversial,” which offers not only a better title but the potential for actual controversy, something de rigueur in this age of fifty million blogs chasing the same ten million clicks.

(Oh, and read the comments. They’re actually in the spirit of the thing, for once.)

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Inflating the bounce rate

There was a report yesterday of domain hijacking, which proved to be a little bit less heinous than that but no less annoying.

It’s a third-party script, which apparently piggybacks onto the existing SiteMeter code. Fortunately, it was easy to identify. If you’re using some form of ad- or popup-blocker, this is something you’ll want to block:

http://x.vindicosuite.com/imp/…

If you’re not, well, why not?

(Hat tip to @GLHancock, who saw it here first.)

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My back pages

Once I’ve posted something, I never, ever want to see it again — unless I do.

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Things I learned today (32)

Has it really been two years since I did one of these? (As always, “today” includes some hours from yesterday, since I tend to write these several hours in advance.)

And no, actually, it’s been four and a half years since I did one of these.

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Never look at the statistics

Rather a lot of us on this side of the screen have been through this, sometimes more than once:

A long time ago, this blog was what I considered a huge success, at least in my view. One day I had over 300 page views, which spun me up into a frenzy of joy the likes of which no one has ever seen, except for that time Sally Fields got the Oscar. Nowadays it’s around 50 to 75 views and I’m happy to get that, because I realize I shot myself in the foot when I had my little depressive episode and just couldn’t bring myself to update. So a lot, well, most, of my “readership” wandered off to greener, recent-er pastures, and that’s what they should have done. No one lingers by a dry well thinking it’s going to suddenly spring forth with new crystalline-clear water.

This aquifer of mine has been played out for rather a long time. About ten years ago, I was pulling something like a thousand page views — call it 800 visitors at around 1.3 pages per visit — every single day. This couldn’t last, and it didn’t: today I’m pulling 500 page views a day, but it’s 250 visitors at 2 pages per visit. (The increase in pages per visit is solely attributable, I think, to the fact that I no longer have the pop-up comment box, which counted as 0.) Feed subscribers are a bigger component of the audience these days, but they fluctuate wildly: the gizmo on the sidebar, which counts the number of subscriptions held for at least two weeks, has seesawed between 180 and 1100 this year. And feed subscribers don’t figure into this graph:

SiteMeter numbers from 10/13 to present

That November 2013 burst, curiously, is entirely due to this one post.

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Downtime a-comin’

The surfer dudes who host my sites have advised that said sites will be down for at least part of Sunday evening:

We’re continuing our roll-out of Ubuntu 12.04 Precise to an additional 150 web servers this Sunday, October 12th. As we’d like to get all of our customers over to this new OS, we will be upgrading 2 batches per week. While the total estimated maintenance is 5 hours, we expect actual downtime due to the upgrade to be around 45 minutes. A large part of the maintenance window will be spent testing all of the servers post-upgrade to ensure everything is in order.

And it is indeed a new OS for them: far back as I can remember — and I’ve been there almost 13 years — they’ve been running some flavor of Debian.

Of course, the major thrill with any such announcement is the list of actual machine names to be upgraded, which includes such august designations as “augusta,” “coweta,” “king-william,” “snowstorm” and “tricia-mcmillan.”

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A factor of two hundred

I read lots of articles on How To Blog — and, sensibly, How Not To Blog — mostly to see how I’ve survived without following anyone’s advice. The lovely and talented XO Sarah posted a list of 10 Things that shouldn’t be on your blog, and before reading, I guesstimated I’d have six of them.

Only three, as it turns out, but the sheer enormity of this violation deserves mention:

45 TAGS / LABELS / CATEGORIES

Readers aren’t going to wade through that many items and search engines don’t like it either. Pick your top five to 10 and feature those.

Forty-five? Forty-five?

I protested, mildly:

I swear, I could almost see her eyes rolling in disbelief.

(@ThoShesFierce is someone I met on Sunday-night #Blogchat.)

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Forth and back

Bark M. completes his first month on WordPress, and observes:

Let’s be honest — I’m a 36-year-old, middle-class, white male college dropout. I have a family with two kids, a picket fence, and a Mustang. In other words, I’m boring. I have literally no idea why anybody cares about anything that I have to say. Nevertheless, about 250 comments have been posted to this blog in the month or so that it’s been in existence (or less than the number of comments on one of my TTAC articles this month). Most of them have been pretty nice and respectful.

I’m about the same flavor of dull, considering I’m 60 and don’t drive a Mustang at all, let alone one of the latter day Boss models in Laboratory Sample Yellow. And I average about 370 comments a month, but then I’ve been here a lot longer than a month. And most of those comments are studiously polite.

Some haven’t been. That’s fine. I respect diversity of opinion and I think that the only way you often know if you’ve said something worthwhile is if somebody takes the time to create a login and type out a hundred or two words telling you what an idiot you are. After all, the antithesis of love isn’t hate — it’s apathy. If you take the time to respond, I get the impression that you care, which I deeply appreciate.

Geez, this guy is starting to sound like me. Maybe I ought to consider buying a Mustang. (It is, after all, the oldest surviving, um, pony car.)

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Beyond here lies nothing

A fairly neutral definition from Wikipedia:

A site map (or sitemap) is a list of pages of a web site accessible to crawlers or users. It can be either a document in any form used as a planning tool for Web design, or a Web page that lists the pages on a Web site, typically organized in hierarchical fashion.

Sometimes they’re complicated. (I’d hate to sit down and draw one for this place.) The consumer-information site MainStreet.com, however, seems to have boiled it down to the basics:

Sitemap for Mainstreet.com

“That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know,” said John Keats, while not looking at this.

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Hands across the nation

Unlikely friendships may be the best kind: you’ve already overcome the presumed obstacles, probably without even thinking about them. Lisa knows how this goes:

I don’t think it was the Internet that opened up the doors to friendships between people who otherwise would never meet in real life. Ham radio operators used to have whole communities of “friends” out on the airwaves. Even before that, people had foreign pen pals with whom they shared years of correspondence without any expectation that they would ever shake hands in real life. Sometimes it was better that way. I remember a professor telling me a story about Henry James that may or may not be apocryphal. Among the many woman, James corresponded with regularly was one he had never met even through years of letters where they found themselves to be soul mates in matters of literature and philosophy. Finally, returning to America after a long stay in Europe, James decided to visit this woman in New York or Boston or wherever it was that she lived. According to the story, just before James walked up the drive to this woman’s home, a housemaid, distracted by something, dropped a basket of soiled linen on the front stoop. Henry, who we all know was a bit of a prig, saw this basket of unmentionables where no respectable home should allow it to be. He was so horrified at the indelicacy that he turned around and never wrote to the woman again. Who knows if the story’s true? But it might tell us that some friendships work best on other planes of existence.

Cue the voice of somebody’s mother, with just the slightest hint of condescension: “Are you talking to your little Internet friends again?”

Well, yes, we are. And some of them, we treasure as though we’d grown up beside them. Lisa knows about that sort of thing, which is why, after a season full of whirlwind activity, she’s taken keyboard in hand to pay tribute to a friend of hers, and mine, and likely one of yours too.

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A dubious anniversary

It was on this day in 2006 that I restarted the Movable Type database. (This was the last post in the first MT database.) And it was two years and one day later when I washed my hands of it and switched to WordPress.

From that first post in the second MT database:

The most maddening thing, of course, is that during the Quiet Times, my traffic went up about twelve percent. Obviously I should post less.

So why start again? Well, for one thing, the old database, with seven thousand and odd items, was getting cranky. For another, it’s not like anything is missing: all the old posts are still archived and are available at their original URLs. And the last time I ran an export of said database, it clipped off at the 18-MB point for some reason, meaning that if I reimported it, I’d have to port over a couple months’ worth of entries anyway, and I’ve already put enough work into this thing.

The Quiet Times, incidentally, lasted less than 36 hours, and didn’t interrupt my run of Consecutive Days With Posts.

But this almost did:

For some incredibly-stupid reason, I decided to try to update Movable Type from 3.21 all the way up to 4.21 on 6 September 2008. It took four hours, and not everything is in place just yet: the comments popup doesn’t work, for one thing. (It may never work again; they said they were dropping support for it, and while I’m looking for a workaround, there’s a limit to how much I’m willing to put up with just to retain a feature.)

Also, until further notice, any comments that do come in will have to sit in the moderation queue until I have that rearranged to my liking.

But it’s late and I need some sleep and I’m not going to work on this mess any further until I get some. Sleep, I mean.

That was about one-thirty on the morning of the 7th. About 13 hours later:

There is a limit to how much I’m willing to endure, and some time today I reached it. We are now running WordPress 2.6.1. All of the old posts remain in their original locations; posts for this month were imported to WP and can be read here. It will be a while before I have links up to everything else, the way I used to.

Eventually, I moved all the posts from those two years. (The stuff from before 6 September 2006 is still where it used to be.)

I’ve had some scary moments in these six years, but I’m still on WordPress — now version 4.0.

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Copied wrong

A report from the Tumblr front:

Recently I received a notice from Tumblr which threatened deletion of this blog. It was a FINAL WARNING. I have never been warned about deletion previously, so it’s curious why they are calling this FINAL. I emailed Tumblr support, and was told “the email you received was due to an automated DMCA notification processing system that may have gone awry.” Checking a few other blogs, I saw that several others received the exact same notice.

“May have,” they said.

It’s frightening how the people who run social media sites like Facebook and Tumblr care so little about their users that they would wipe out years of work with a single keystroke. None of us are safe online, and things appear to be getting worse rather than getting better.

For an example of “worse,” see this yutz who’s all bent out of shape because someone insulted him; he demands satisfaction.

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Site questions

New arrivals at the site are often perplexed: “This doesn’t look like any WordPress blog I’ve ever seen.” (In which case, you should see this one, which uses the same theme.) Perhaps your question is answered here.

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The wonderfulness of me

Roberta X used to have a category called “the wonderfulness of me,” and the name was intended, I believe, neither as irony nor as humblebrag: it was simply handy. It’s not a term I’d use myself, though: my own shtick calls for somewhere below Whitmanian celebrations of myself but at least slightly above “wayward guttersnipe.”

From some gutter in a 107 IP comes this attempt to butter me up:

I’ve been browsing on-line more than 3 hours lately, yet I never found any fascinating article like yours. It is beautiful price enough for me. In my view, if all website owners and bloggers made excellent content as you probably did, the internet will probably be a lot more helpful than ever before.

I dunno how excellent the content is around here, but there certainly is a lot of it. And there’s a reason for that, for which I turn to Gagdad Bob:

“Only the unexpected fully satisfies. Nothing that satisfies our expectations fulfills our hopes.” This is why I so enjoy this medium of expression. If someone were to offer me money to write a commentary on Don Colacho’s Aphorisms, I would be miserable. Blogging is only fulfilling — and it is, very — because there is absolutely No Plan. Every morning, I can’t wait to wake up and accomplish nothing, only maybe a little more deeply this time!

Says it all, or at least rather a lot of it, as I probably did.

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Reblogged down

Well, they’re doomed. People are actually starting to notice:

[S]ometimes I wonder if Tumblr is actually just eight or 10 blogs with original content, and all the other Tumblrs are just endlessly linked resharing of that content.

Oh, I’m sure there are at least twenty.

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Unpaid by the word

I fished this out of the spam trap yesterday. It’s clearly no good: it links to a nonexistent URL, and the email address smells funny. Still, it’s a question worth considering:

What is the difference between a Website Columnist and a blogger?

Immediate smart-ass remark: “Ten dollars a post.”

I thought about it a little longer. I spent some of that time speculating what I’d have done with $10 a post, which over the past 18 years would have brought in nearly a quarter of a million dollars — and which, if I broke it down by actual time spent, would probably not be a whole lot more than minimum wage.

And I tend to think of “columnist” according to the newspaper model: someone who turns out 750 words three times a week for a small (sometimes not so small) retainer, as distinguished from well, me, turning out 200 words thirty-five times a week simply for the satisfaction of having stirred up stuff.

Besides which, people who toil for big commercial sites earn somewhere between nothing (HuffPo) and damned little — maybe as little as, um, $10 a post.

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Out of Dodge

Two months ago, Andrew Ian Dodge, “former US Senate Candidate Maine (Libertarian), former tea party coordinator, writer & rocker,” and keeper of the Best of Me Symphony and the Carnival of the Vanities, advised that there was a reason he wasn’t as prolific these days:

I have incurable cancer. We are trying to figure out the best course of action regarding chemo & my treatment. Kim Benson, my beloved wife, has been a rock throughout. We shall fight this with all our might.

He made it through this morning, and he had his Final Statement ready to go. He was forty-six years old, far too young to be dealing with cancer — especially since he’d beaten it once before.

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Maybe I don’t need a video

A couple of days ago, the Spammish Inquisition, which I hadn’t expected, insisted that what I really needed was a video. I argued that if I had one, it would not be well received.

For a vivid illustration of “not well received,” here’s Robert Stacy McCain complaining to a videoblogger:

I’m a super-fast reader. If you were to provide me with a transcript of your 11-minute video rant, I could skim over it in less than a minute and locate the “money quote,” which I could then copy-and-paste into a block-quote on my blog and discuss it. Alternatively, I might decide that your 11-minute video rant is a silly piece of nonsense that should be ignored. Either way, the difference between (a) the 11-minute video rant and (b) a transcript of your rant is that (b) saves me 10 minutes of time over (a), not to mention the time savings between (c) doing a quick copy-and-paste of a quote and (d) having to transcribe your lunatic gibberish.

I don’t know if I’m legitimately “super-fast,” but this is very much like what I do with readable rants.

There are, says McCain, three reasons why someone might prefer to do video over “print,” and he’s not keen on any of them. (You’ll have to Read The Whole Thing for those.)

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I need a video

Says so right here in this piece of spam:

Do you know that having a Video for your website is the best way to grow your business and expand your reach. People love watching videos rather than reading websites these days. Other benefits are:

1) Conversion Rate of website increases by upto 75%

2) You website gets 100% more views and 30% more clicks

3) Search engine ranking increases by upto 50%.

The sender, identified as “Shelly Johnson” — recent English major, am I right? — has no idea what would happen if I actually followed these instructions. And I’m not particularly good at predictions, especially about the future; but I’m pretty sure the phrase “WTF is the deal with the video?” will resound from sea to snoring sea.

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Standing exhibit

The first thing you need to know about the Proust Questionnaire is that the questions were not actually written by Proust: it was, rather, the set of answers posted by Proust in a friend’s confession album, circa 1890. The book turned up in 1924, and sold at auction in 2003 for €102,000. Vanity Fair puts out a version, answered by a celebrity, on the back page of each issue. (For the August 2014 issue, it’s Maureen O’Hara, who turns 94 that month.)

Lynn took a stab at the current question list, and while she characterized it as “the makings of a really lame blog post,” well, if you’re good at it, you can make a really lame blog post out of almost anything, as I have done here. Fillyjonk is okay with that idea as well.

Moi? I did a slightly different set of questions, derived from this article, in Vent #303, back in 2002. I read it over last night, and decided I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Quicker loads

Not to be confused with “Quicken Loans.”

In an effort to speed up the load time on the front page, I cut the number of entries displayed from 20 to 12; after noticing that it made me look like I’d been screwing off, I brought it back up to 16.

If you have a preference, now’s the time. (Archive pages and such remain unchanged, mostly because I have a plugin that lets me do that, or not do that, as the case may be.)

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A minor blast from the past

On this date in 2000:

There comes a point in the life of every Webmaster when s/he wonders out loud, “Why am I doing this?” In my case, it was about the third day this site was up. And while it has been relatively well-received during the four years of its existence, by which is meant that no one has sent me any live explosives just yet, the possibility of stagnation constantly lurks and occasionally even looms.

What to do? I thought it over for less time than I probably should have, and decided that what dustbury.com was lacking (apart from personality, tastefulness, and utility, but that’s another story) was a sense of immediacy. Pages got updated when I got around to them; some things got lost in the shuffle. And while I have no problem blaming some of this on the vagaries of the workplace — at best, long hours make for short tempers — at least one of the tailbones needing a suitable kick was my own.

Thus, Version 7 (you’re soaking in it) introduces my Sort Of Blog, a way for me to get some stuff on the table without regard to the semi-regular Vent schedule or the ongoing necessity to update the other sections.

There’s been something new every day since. Literally. In the literal sense of the word. (Current version is 15.6.)

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It continues to be written

When I converted this place from Movable Type to WordPress in the fall of 2008, I stumbled around a bit trying to find an appropriate replacement gizmo to display random quotes in the sidebar, and found an extremely simple one: feed it an ASCII text file, and it will pluck a line therefrom. (Not only is it old and outdated, the guy who wrote it has given up his domain to a placeholder.)

While dropping in a new quote this past week, I got to wondering how many actual quotes were in the file, now a whopping 170,269 bytes. Figuring maybe 100 characters per line, I guessed 1,700, and then imported the whole thing into a spreadsheet to see how many lines it took. The answer: 1,609.

For your amusement, the five most recent additions:

“Eventually it comes to you: the thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely.” — Lorraine Hansberry

“Engineering is the art of modeling materials we do not wholly understand, into shapes we cannot precisely analyze, so as to withstand forces we cannot properly assess, in such a way that the public has no reason to suspect the extent of our ignorance.” — Dr. A. R. Dykes

“I don’t know how to travel to a future that I can’t see.” — Twilight Sparkle

“I’m so sick of these little white girls acting as if they’re so high and mighty and know everything about culture. Starbucks is not culture.” — Rebecca Black

“It’s not so much how busy you are but why you are busy. The honey bee is praised. The mosquito is swatted.” — Molly F. O’Connor

As always, make of that what you will.

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Writerly speaking

All four of these came in within 45 minutes of one another, all bearing the same email address, all linking to a Wikipedia page in Finnish, and each with a different IP address. Still, they make a sort of coherent query, so let’s have a look:

What are some good wordpress themes/plugins that allow you to manipulate design?

If you know what you’re doing, you can manipulate the design just by editing your existing theme. Of course, you can do that if you don’t know what you’re doing, but the results are likely to be suboptimal.

I’m an aspiring writer — of all literary trades (journalism, screen writing, satire, etc) — but I want to start a blog for some adult oriented, romantic fantasy literature. Anyone know how I can start a blog that will allow me to do this? I believe I’ll need a warning page before entrance, and I want it to come up on search engines…

Any old blog platform can do this; setting a splash page — if you’re on Blogger, Google will probably inflict one upon you — is fairly easy.

If I publish my articles to my school paper are they copyrighted or do I have any ownership over them?

I don’t think school-paper stuff counts as “work for hire,” though I hasten to add that I am not any kind of lawyer, copyright or otherwise.

What are good blog posts for a writer who wants to start a blog that even non-readers might want to visit?

If they’re truly “non-readers,” you might consider a photoblog.

There were further items in the series, but by that point it was starting to get repetitive.

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Quote of the week

“If only” seems to bedevil all of us at one time or another. (If you’ve managed to avoid it thus far, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.) Sometimes it goes like this:

I wish I were one of those “successful” bloggers. You know. The kind who can paint a pretty picture of their lives — they have lovely kids, they are super-good at their work, their hobby projects always turn out lovely and just as they planned them, they never seem to struggle or agonize. All their pictures are nice and none of them turn out to have a bit of the laundry basket peeking out in the corner of the picture of something else. When they bake bread, it looks like a picture in a cooking magazine. But I don’t have enough perfection in my life to be able to do that — it seems like my whole life is a big hot mess, and so all I can do is show the slightly-more-successful parts of the hot mess here. Maybe if I had a spouse or family close by or lots of close in-person friends I could talk about the stuff that bothers me instead of posting it here, I could be one of those serene bloggers who seems to have a perfect life. I don’t know.

Truth be told, I think the warts-and-all approach is much more appropriate, at least at this level, where you’re not counting on the daily bloggage to pay for your daily bread. I often wonder how much I’d have to scour this place if I were trying to make a living from it, instead of writing off some insignificant sum each year. (By “insignificant,” I mean “somewhere in the high two or low three figures.”) Besides, we have the example of Adobe Photoshop to guide us. In the smallest possible doses, it can shed light on important details. Overused, it creates a monster.

On the term “hot mess” itself, I like this below-the-top paragraph from Urban Dictionary:

No one set of guidelines can perpetually determine what distinguishes a “hot mess” from an above-average train wreck. Regardless of the circumstances, you know it when you see it; because they are typically conspicuous, and obviously they are always awesome.

And you know, if you’re going for a train wreck, you might as well go for above average.

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