Time Flies

Perhaps not surprisingly, I just missed another anniversary. No, not my wedding anniversary, Leslie me informed me that we both missed that a few weeks back. No, the anniversary I missed this time was the 12th anniversary of this blog. In fact, if I hadn’t been looking back trying to figure out how long I’d been practicing Tai Chi, I would never have known it was the blog’s anniversary. As you’ve probably noticed if you stop by regularly, I’m not much into “Special” days. Other than Christmas, I seldom devote a blog entry to holidays.

Still, it’s hard to believe that I first published a blog entry on September 21, 2001, an entry protesting our invasion of Afghanistan, almost as hard as believing that we are still there fighting a war that will accomplish nothing, despite politicians’ claims to the contrary.

Back then blogs were on the cutting-edge of the internet; now they’re almost ancient history, a mere footnote to the history of Twitter, Facebook, and all those other new medias. Luckily, I didn’t think of myself as cutting edge then, and I don’t think of myself as hopelessly obsolete now. I’m doing what I love, and as long as I can keep doing it as well as I want to do it I’ll be here doing it tomorrow and the days after.

The only thing more important to me than blogging is probably regular exercise, particularly walking and hiking. But I see regular exercise, even when I don’t want to do it, as vital to my health and well-being. Blogging is the mental equivalent of regular exercise. Forcing myself to write here has kept me more alive than I ever thought possible. I suspect I’ve read more for this blog than I read for my undergraduate degree.

Thank you for accompanying me on my journey, no matter how far you’ve walked with me. I sometimes think I bird just to meet fellow birders and to join with them in the appreciation of Nature’s beauty. I keep blogging because I meet the most interesting people here, virtual friends who love literature and ideas as much as I do. I suspect there’s no place in the world where I could find better companions.

I’ve fallen behind

and I can’t get caught up.

I am having a hard time balancing my compulsions lately. About the only thing I’ve managed to do regularly is to get to the Y and exercise for an hour or two each day so at least I don’t sacrifice my health to my other obsessions. You need to be healthy if you’re going to try to clean up past mistakes.

My main obsession, as I mention recently, is trying to clear out old photos that are filling up nearly two very large hard drives. I don’t even want to think about how many CD’s full of even older shots I might have waiting on the shelf. And we won’t even mention all the old slides that really should be converted to digital copies so that they don’t get thrown out when no one has slide projectors around to show them.

Conservatively, I’ve been locating and deleting nearly a thousand photos a day. Before I can delete many of them, I need to find them on backup hard drives because they have become disconnected from Aperture over time. Many of them became disconnected when I had to buy a larger hard drive to back them up. If I just delete them from Aperture without first locating them, they never actually get deleted from the hard drive, and that certainly defeats the purpose of what I’m doing.

So far I’m just tackling the easy part, deleting photos that aren’t as good as photos taken the same day or photos of subjects that I know in my head that I have better shots, common birds like Great Blue Herons, American Bitterns, Kingfishers, favorites that I can easily remember.

It will take me probably another 40+ hours just to finish this phase of the job. The harder job will be identifying all the photos so that I can then eliminate all but the very best of the shots, and the ones that have personal value because they remind me vividly of particular experiences.

It’s hard to remember that this is merely an extension of another job I started recently, trying to clean out my office so that I can paint, lay a new floor, and move the furniture around so that I can spend more time doing artwork.

Luckily it’s winter and I don’t have any plans to go anywhere until spring. We’ve descended into the winter rains here, and it’s supposed to get even worse in the near future. So, maybe I will be able to get back to reading and writing sooner rather than later.

Of course, I suspect I originally started this cleanup to avoid writing about Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses. I have given both a lot of thought, though, and I’m not willing to throw them out until I have finally written something about them.

Disconnected

My lack of recent posting was due to an extended trip to Santa Rosa, California I just returned from. Normally when I’m about to leave on a birding trip and am not going to have internet access I’ll try to post several blog entries that will appear on upcoming dates while I’m gone. I didn’t feel that would be necessary this trip, however, because Mary has a high-speed Internet connection and I thought I would have lots of time to post entries.

I knew she had been having problems with her provider, but we completely lost the connection over the long weekend, making it impossible to post an entry from her house. It turned out squirrels had been chewing on the lines making the connection unstable. Strangely, exactly the same thing happened to our service in Tacoma a couple of years ago. I wonder how common the problem is?

Actually, though, I found the intermittent dropping of the connection more frustrating than simply not having it available at all. It seemed like every time I was about to post a blog entry the connection would cut out. Under such conditions, I found it difficult to get motivated enough to spend the time writing copy or even cropping pictures.

Not only was I unable to post entries, I was unable to read several of the ebooks books I had taken with me. I was surprised to discover that much of the commentary in my iPad book on Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience required an Internet connection because they were served from YouTube. The same was true of a biology textbook I’m reading.

I have long been aware of how much time I spend on computers but much less aware how much of that time is spent connected to the internet. Looking back at my journal, which automatically tracks my time online, it turns out that most of my time spent on the computer lately is connected to the internet. The internet has become so woven into my daily life that it’s nearly impossible to live “normally” without it. Not sure I like that, but life certainly seems less pleasant without it.

Anyway, I should return to my normal schedule of posting four or five times a week once I’ve caught up here,. I’ll start with pictures from the trip and then attempt to make some comments on Joyce’s The Dubliners, which I finished while cut off from the internet, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses.

Unplugged

Unplugged

I’m about to head out on a 3-5 camping trip and decided that since many of those days will be spent carrying a pack uphill that I would leave all my computer equipment at home since I didn’t want to leave a Mac Book Air and other computer equipment at the trailhead. I know from experience that too often it isn’t safe.

It’s bad enough having your car broken into without losing expensive equipment that the insurance company won’t cover without an extended policy. Normally when I go birding I keep reasonably close to my car and don’t worry too much about it being broken into, but that would defeat the purpose of this particular trip.

Besides, after ten+ years of blogging and constant time on the internet I want to see what it feels like to simply shut it all down for three to four days. I suspect it might be harder to quit than smoking, but I think I need to find out.

I’ve Fallen Behind And …

I can’t get caught up. I used to consider In A Dark Time my personal journal and took pride in keeping my reader informed of my daily activities. I would comment on a poem on the day I had read it and post pictures the day I had taken them. Often times I would comment on a current article in a magazine and offer a direct link. Occasionally, I would comment on another blogger’s entry the same day he/she had made that entry.

For better or worse, that’s no longer true. I simply can’t keep up the pace I set earlier. Most of the time now, my pictures appear here 3 to 7 days after I’ve taken them. When I discuss a snowstorm, it’s probably one that has long since disappeared.

I don’t really know when I originally fell behind but I do know some of the reasons why it happened. First, after reading some reports on the Internet, I decided it might not be the wisest thing to tell people when I was out of town, particularly since I’ve never tried to maintain any kind of anonymity. Loren Webster is really my name; I really do live in Tacoma; I really do all those things I tell you about. My phone number and address are readily available to anyone who wants to find it.

Recently I’ve taken longer birding trips and though I take my laptop with me on those trips it’s often inconvenient to edit and post photos and copy when I’d rather be out birding. In addition, those trips often produce more shots than I’m willing to put on one post. In fact, a whole day of shooting may provide 4 to 5 days of pictures.

Although poetry remains my first love, lately I seem to have focused more on novels and nonfiction works. While I was relatively easy to pick out a poem I particularly liked or one that seemed particularly significant and comment on it while reading the work, it's much harder to discern significant ideas and comment on them while reading a longer book. Consequently, I often don't start commenting on a book until a week or so after I finished reading it.

Strangely enough, even though I think I've improved as a photographer, it takes longer for me to decide which photos to use and how much work I wanted to do to refine them. I look back at some of the early photos I posted and know that I would simply erase them today. Better camera equipment and new insights make it harder to decide which photographs to use. Occasionally, the artist in me wants to transform snapshots into photographs that will grab the reader's attention.

Blogging for ten years makes it harder to get enthused about posting every day — that, and a natural tendency to procrastinate.

Writer’s Block

Perhaps you've noticed in the last few months that this blog has tended to become a "photo blog." That is partly due to the fact that it's been summer-like here in the Pacific Northwest and after 30 years of teaching I consider summer time "vacation time." I did so much reading and writing during the school year that I needed time away from them in order recharge my batteries.

In addition, we've had so many rainy dark years recently in the Pacific Northwest that I've begun to see every sunny day as an opportunity to get out, walk and take pictures. With a forecast for above normal rainfall this winter I'm even more apt to see the world that way this year.

Like many people I have also been preoccupied with political matters, but I've tried to avoid expressing that anger here in my blog. Instead, I've exchanged news stories and comments through Google documents with a retired fellow teacher trying to figure out exactly how I feel and what, if anything, can be done about our present situation. I've also shared news stories with friends on Facebook.

However, I have to admit that I’m also suffering from "writers block." I've actually read and taken notes on two long works recently but still haven't managed to write up my reactions to them.

I was quite moved by Conrad's Lord Jim when I read it last spring, and the work is heavily notated. I think Conrad's theme is a vital one, but I haven't been able to decide whether I agree or disagree with much of what he says in the novel. Winter is nearly upon us, and I'm hoping that I'll soon be able to sit down and focus long enough to come to terms with my thoughts on the novel.

Unfortunately, I don't have nearly as good of an excuse for not writing up my reactions to Lynda Lynn Haupt's Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom From The Urban Wilderness even though I have taken an intimidating number of notes from the book.

I'm not at all confused about how I feel about this book. I love it. It might even be the book I've tried to write through all the photographs I've taken the last five years. I think most, if not all, of my regular readers would like this book, even birders who seldom read books. I’m absolutely not going to write another thing for this blog until I finish my write-up on the book.

Meanwhile, it’s nearly sunny outside and Belfair and Nisqually seem to be calling me.

Keep Those Complaints Coming

As I've been going back through old entries marked as "uncategorized" I've been amazed at how many of them are about various aspects of blogging. Now that I'm in them midst of a serious site upgrade, I remember why there are so many of them.

When you're busy upgrading there's no time to read a poetry book, or even a book on Crow Planet. There's barely enough time in the day to get done what you have to get done in order to keep the site up and running.

Jean kindly left a note mentioning that my site was loading extremely slowly, something I'd noted before but felt might be influenced on my end by all the plugins that allow me to work on my page directly from the site itself, not just from the dashboard. Once I heard that, though, I had to start looking for the cause of the problem. I suspected that one particular plugin might be causing the problem because it seemed to interact with other JavaScripts that I installed before and after it. Turned out that it wasn't the source of the problem at all, but other plugins were.

In order to figure that out I had to turn off all the plugins and then start them up one at a time to see which ones were causing the problem. As a result, I don't think the site looks as good, but there's not much purpose of having a good-looking site if no one wants to stop by to visit, and it's amazing how many visits in a day are for 30 seconds are less. As a result I reverted to some of the plugins that come standard with WordPress, and I moved my slow-loading blogroll to another page.

I didn't like the large headline at the top of the page, but I did like the banner picture. In the process of turning the text portion of the header off, I ended up also turning off the image and had a heck of a time turning it back on. In the end, I ended up reinstalling WordPress, and even that didn't entirely solve the problem. I would love to see some improvements in the way you import your own pictures to use in the header!

I continue to plug away at categorizing old entries. I'm not going to sit at a desk all day fixing them, but I am willing to waste some time while I'm waiting for Will and Judy to make their next move in Scrabble. I've done it so much that I've got the routine down to a matter of a few seconds per entry. While categorizing early entries, I found an inordinate number of entries that had been mangled moving from Blogger to MT to WordPress. They didn't bother me when I didn't know they were there, but once I spotted them I felt obligated to update them.

Reading early entries suggests that I tackled these problems with much greater enthusiasm that I'm tackling this reinvention, perhaps because I got so much help from others like Jonathan and Shelley as I tackled new obstacles. Of course, I also know a lot more now than I used to know and the web itself offers help that wasn't there before.

I'm a little amazed by the changes that have taken place since I started blogging, both good and bad changes.