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.

Tweaking Site Layouts Demands Compromises

Hopefully you've found something that you like about my new site layout. There are several things I like about, though I'll have to admit that I'm also ambivalent about a lot of the changes

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The most obvious of those changes is whether to go with the light or dark theme that comes standard with the Twenty Eleven Theme. I prefer the dark theme with the black background when an entry features photographs because it does a good job of setting them off. On the other hand, I definitely prefer the light theme when an entry consists mainly of words because I don't like reading white letters on a black background. Overall, I think I'm favoring the light theme. Let me know if you have a definite preference.

I prefer the new way of listing categories, though I'm rather embarrassed by how many entries are "uncategorized." In my defense, early programs I used to blog did not provide any means of categorizing entries. As a result, any of the entries from the first three years are so are "uncategorized." Of course, procrastination and sheer laziness have also played a part in my failure to categorize effectively. As time allows, I'm going through some old entries and trying to categorize them and make them more accessible. I suppose I really ought to try to move into the present and use "tags," but I wouldn't count on that happening instantaneously.

I also prefer the new way of archiving, though I've noticed that all these JavaScript also slow down the loading of my page. Still, if the reader is actually interested in exploring my archives, the hierarchical approach makes that much easier, though it also makes it obvious that better titles would make my content more accessible.

I wish I'd found the new Blog list plugin that I'm using before I went through the list the other day looking for blogs that were no longer being updated. When I originally installed the plugin it listed the blogs in the order they had been updated (which I prefer), but installing two other plugins afterwards somehow disabled that feature and I haven't been able to get it turned back on. Even before that, it was flawed as some sites would not show up as being updated even when I knew that they had been because I'd read them on my RSS feed. I suspect that it must have something to do with the way Google reads, or doesn't read the sites, because the plugin depend on a Google API key. Needless to say, there was no way I was ever going to resolve these issues.

Behind the scenes I'm quite fond of the editor built into Jetpack, though I've just gone back and deleted the option to check for passive voice. I forgot how annoying I used to find that when using Microsoft Word. However, in the process of adding categories from some old entries, I've discovered a number of silly typos, the kind that are easily caught by an editor, and easily overlooked by a writer, that have managed to slip by me for a long time.