Archive for the ‘Summer Writing’ Category

So I’ve launched my new blog site: re-education.net with help from colleagues at work and students who I teach who are all champing at the bit to “sell” me photos that I can decorate my site with.

 

Now I’ve made my first discovery in stepping out of the wordpress.com roost… any post, even when I put tags and categories will not appear in the WordPress reader…

 

A depressed man sitting on a bench

Epic… fail? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, I’ve decided to celebrate this discovery by… starting another wordpress.com website, which aims to capture a-post-a-day for the 7 months I’m on long service leave… I’ll launch that on Saturday (Sydney, Australia time)…

 

Happy days…

 

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Well, not much in terms of blogging for the last month, but lots of change within the realm. I’ve (finally) launched my own blog url… re-education.net (or cliveparkin.com if you come from a different direction), giving me the chance to have a decent domain name, my own (purchased) theme that I can fiddle around with and all that comes with all of the switch to wordpress.org

Road sign merging

Road sign merging (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This includes having little to no idea about how everything works. I love my new theme, but saying that there is a difference between the schmick looking preview on themeforest and what currently exists on my own url is stating the obvious. First lesson… wondering what was needed with png images that would ‘fit’ the screen the best way. I still have some way to go. Haven’t worked out how to do my title banner yet. There is a great series of (silent… I think it comes from Vietnam) YouTube clips that show a moving cursor doing a whole range of changes. A great resource, but it will take some time to ‘decode’ for a relative newbie like me. Looks like the next few weeks will see some tinkering.

Next up, it looks like I’m going to get a lot of spam. Amusing in a way, since I’ve not even posted on that site yet, but offers of how to x-ruple my internet traffic have been coming in… they always seem to pop in about 12:15am my time… not sure what that signifies. It looks like WordPress.com managed to block a lot of this crud. Mind you, I was getting a lot of stuff from Project AWOL beforehand.

Anyway, for the next few posts, I am going to straddle the two sites. I’ll keep this site going for a while – to flag with my small band of loyal retainers where my destination is, while also setting up the new site. Bear with me while I get the layout organised… it is going to take some time.

Thanks for your patience.

The Great Unravelling!

Posted: January 27, 2013 in Summer Writing
Tags: , , ,

It took the death of our computer for this collection (see pic) to occur. As a result of our new computer arriving, I decided it was high time to go through the great morass of computer paraphernalia that had accumulated over the last 5+ years. Most of it is cabling… 3.5mm jack cords, USB Device-specific cords, power cords. But then there are remotes (some never even used) for a variety of devices such as USB TV recorders and Digital radios (I’m still happy to press a button to change the function when working with the radio operating in the kitchen!) and in-car chargers for long gone mobile phones. I took this photo when the pile was about 60% of the household total – I’ve yet to go through the range of NI-CAD battery chargers that exist in the shed!

Now, with our new computer being much quieter (gone are the days of the friendly fan that would hum and rattle away just to make you feel part of the whole computing experience) and less “cordy”, I’m looking further afield and thinking that 2013 will be the year of the de-leveraging. Unravelling. Uncluttering.

Decimate: Despite the students that I teach thinking that it means to “wipe out”, the word suggests reducing by one in ten. I’m thinking this mightn’t be a bad place to start – clothes, books (perhaps more than 1 in 10 here), general household detritus, those unpacked boxes from the last move, you name it. If I can have more going out of the house than coming in, I’ll feel like the Great Unravelling of Clutter has been a success for 2013. And, if I have thrown out some critical cable… well, we’ll come to that bridge if we ever come to that bridge…

What are the items that you still hang on to… just-in-case you need them in 2022?

best before

I’m coming to the end of my summer holidays now. Having spent more time looking at the Reader on WordPress (most recently using the Tag “Blogging”), I’ve began to think about what the life expectancy of a post is. Does it have a Best Before date? This morning, while looking at the Reader, I’ve noticed how the Post ‘feed’ comes in and, despite the cheerful Wait, there’s more! from WordPress when I scroll down on my iPad, I’m conscious of how long it is before the posts below three or four or even eight flips of my hand are buried… effectively forever.

Of course, there are some exceptions to this. There are the Blogs that you, or I, Follow. There are the connections we’ve made by Liking a Post, or by making a Comment. And then there are those that come to your Blog via search engine terms. However, in my case, this highlights those posts that get searched for (and those that do not). I’m sure it’s the same for you and for other bloggers? So in my case, my 2nd ever post on Bladerunner and Frankenstein gets a fair number of hits seven months after writing it. But a lot of other posts get swallowed up by the system – whether that be via being bypassed for new content by the Reader, or within your own site once they go off that first page (or worse, being pushed back into the Archives).

And are some Posts doomed from the start? If the blogger posts at certain times of the day, or even days of the week, might it miss the intended audience entirely? Is it because of the Tags that we see on the Reader that help define the Post – the one that you might think “nah, not that one then” (surely, I’m not the only person who does that!) or is it the word count… you aren’t quite sure and then you see X words (enter your default parameter here) and similarly think… maybe… not.

I’m not sure how long this post’s life expectancy will be (or perhaps, like radiation… does it have a “half-life” after the first few days?), but my record for Likes and Comments (thus far – I’m still only a relative newbie) is four apiece… so here’s hoping. And for me, I’m sub 400 words, so hopefully you’re still here at this point!

DPChallenge: Map it Out

In checking out the Reader section on WordPress, I came across the Writing Challenge section and, always looking to pick up my skills in Blogging, I decided to give it a go. Here then, is my first effort at using an embedded map and under taking a writing challenge – I hope you enjoy it.

Above is a map of Koroit, which, for my overseas readers, is at the end of the Great Ocean Rd in South West Victoria, at the “bottom” of mainland Australia. It lies just west of the larger main ‘city’ of Warrnambool, which you can see to the right of the map (population 30 000). Koroit, by comparison, has about 2000 residents and is remarkable for having, in its heyday, the largest Irish population per capita in Australia.

Koroit Cemetery – dating back to the mid 1800s

We have been staying here, with relatives, for the past week. It is a beautiful location and, in contrast to other parts of Victoria, is relatively protected from the hot summer weather by sea breezes that hark back to Antarctica. Thus even the hot days (40 degrees celsius the day after we arrived) obtain relief in the late afternoon from a southerly wind change. This while a number of bush and grass fires burn out of control in the States of NSW, Victoria and, across Bass Strait, in Tasmania.

This trip has been memorable for a number of reasons. My son and daughter are now of an age to appreciate both family and location. Thus we had my son, now aged 8, express an interest in visiting the local cemetery. Having not been to such a place before, I asked him the reason as to his desire to go. His answer, to see “the chess pieces” that were the crosses and angels atop the various markers and tombstones, visible from the highway. They had piqued his interest as we went back and forth at 100km an hour to town.

The Koroit to Port Fairy Rail Trail - looking towards Port Fairy

The Koroit to Port Fairy Rail Trail – looking towards Port Fairy

Having got there yesterday, my daughter’s reaction was more of concern for the rabbits that had burrows all over the place, in case they “got out onto the highway and got run over”. Perhaps not surprising from a five year old. For me, as always, it was looking at the contrasts in the big pieces of stone. The families who had multiple children pass away before the age of five; the son who “failed” to reach his father’s 104 years by only managing to make 102.

For me, the big boon of the holiday has been the discovery of the rail trail – a bike track converted from a former, disused rail line. From Koroit, this heads 20km both South East and  South West – the former to the township of Port Fairy,  the latter, to Warrnambool.

The track gently undulates and, so long as you keep above 10km an hour, you can outpace the flies that proliferate the area, courtesy of the rich dairy farmland surrounding the track. It is wonderfully peaceful, with your only company being the odd fellow cyclist, dairy cow, sheep and the finches that dart about. The wind blows continuously from the south, with the occasional waft of liquorice like fragrances from the surrounding flora. A quick takeaway coffee at the other end, to recharge, prepares you for the return journey that passes the slow moving rivers of the Moyne and Merri.

speedway

Lining up for the start at the Speedway

Then there have been other summer offerings – the trip to the Speedway last weekend, again a (very loud) first for my family. The relative ignorance we faced at the protocols involved with the sport slowly dissipated, in amongst the noise of the angry hornet like behaviour of the wingless cars and their  F500 “winged” counterparts.

As well as this, the trip last night to the seaside carnival, where my son “drove” his first dodgem car and both children “won” mini hand pull helicopters on the clowns… $10 for three games and the cheap plastic flying rotors continue to whiz about the grandparent’s garden 24 hours later; the life-expectancy of the cheap toys surpassing all predictions.

Then there are those simple things that take you back to your own childhood. Like my daughter’s discovery of the simple things, like the euphoria as you learn to climb a tree for the first time. With advice such as “look for the branches that are as thick as your arms or bigger” from her mother, she dispensed with fear and revelled in the thrill of going “higher than you Dad!”

from a tree in Poppa's back yard, the world beckons

from a tree in Poppa’s back yard, the world beckons

The journey is coming to an end, but, for a five and eight year old and their (somewhat) older parents, many memories will endure.

Bloggers blockIt’s been a good summer for me thus far. I’ve managed to blog a little more often and the ideas over these holidays have kept coming through. I’ve had the chance to have a look over the work of other bloggers and am enjoying the wider offerings these blogs present.
One topic that I’ve noted is blogger’s block. This 21st Century take on “writer’s block” appears to be the oft touted reason for why people have been away from posting (or, more practicably, that they have been busy and/or lazy during this time!), thus falling short of their usual frequency. In my desire to up the number of posts that I am publishing over our summer period, I’ve noted the dreaded “Blogger’s Block” while reading other posts. Here’s a quick post on what I’ve done to head this off, in my own way.
My main ‘technique’ is to make use of the Draft Post setting in WordPress. In many ways, this might appear counter-intuitive to what WordPress offers – on my iPad, it aims to Publish a new post when you start one, unless you change the settings to ‘Draft’, so that it no longer aims to publish straight off. There is also the QuickPress (or Quick Photo) facility – obviously designed around the “share your thoughts now” approach.
Anyway, the process is simple enough – as soon as an idea for a post occurs to me, I start a New Post and pop in any thoughts that sit with the initial concept. Thus, like a painter, I might have several works “on the go”. The advantage to this is that many ideas, in their infancy, are very rough and need to sit on the “mental back burner” in order to mature. The only issue that I have noted with this is that I need to be conscious of the “Publish Date”, as the post uses the time you open the document as the start point. There is probably no issue with this, although I found one time that a post, started many months ago and finally completed, published “behind” other posts on the site, which might be a consideration for a viewer who comes to the site address itself, rather than via the post itself, if that makes sense.

Here is a blogroll of some recent surfing on the topic, whether it be an expression of exasperation or of possible salvation for those suffering, in the form of topic starters…

from Singing Stream – on Blogger’s Block
from Heart, Mind, Soul – on Fear
from SmallTownMedia – 25 Blog Ideas (aimed at small business, but certainly pertinent)
from SameBoatDifferentCaptain – Blogging Mojo and Bloggers Block
from Lilach Bullock’s Sociable site – 14 Ideas To Find Great And Inspiring Blog Topics

So, how many do I have in the tank? Well, as I type, the answer is five, with the oldest (or earliest) dating back to mid July 2012. I’ll start with the next one shortly…

The blogging boomerangIt has been six months since my first post. This, after setting up my WordPress account (via a colleague at the school I teach at) in November 2011. At the time I had no idea what I was going to write about, so it lay “fallow” for half a year. In what has been probably the best new thing I’ve done in 2012, you can work out, by association, that my knowledge of blogging has come about behind the process of blogging itself – therefore, less than six months of experience. This includes ideas such as (as obvious as it might seem now), reading other blogs, commenting and “liking” on other blogs, as well as finding ways of promoting your voice more broadly.
During this time (and I type this as a mere acolyte!), I have come across a range of other blogs, bloggers and topics. This has included the “super” bloggers, who command readerships in the many thousands, down to the minnows who, like me, are relative newcomers to the blogosphere. And the way that I have come to engage with the blogging community has changed as well.
Initially, I would seek out the established blogs, hoping both to find the ‘secret’ to a wider audience, as well as seeking the wisdom of those who had been doing this for years. What were they writing about? How did they use voice? Did their content change much to reflect different topics or was it consistent for the most part.
Now I find myself looking for the diamond in the rough – the newer or smaller blog. It is affirming to find new, fresh content and I know from personal experience, there is a compelling child-at-Christmas-like (in keeping with the current festive season) wonderment for the blogger, whose site you visit and like or comment on. This goes even more so for those moments when you discover that they are in a different country to your own, asking yourself, How is it that they came to view my site?
Not that I want to say I’ve left the “big” blogs behind- I haven’t. It’s just that I’m also enjoying finding the rarer gem. I’m equating it to a “Blogging Boomerang” – an analogy along the what-goes-around-comes-around concept, except that the small boomerang that you throw out, in the shape of contributing on other sites, returns to you as a much larger device, in the form of fresh interest in your own site, coming from the reciprocal viewing that might take place, along with other passers by who observe your comment on that visited site, never mind all the varied reading that you discover along the way.
So then, in my blogging greenness, I profess to not being adept at finding these sites. I’ve used Freshly Pressed and this offers up a good smattering of possibilities. Likewise, I’ve typed in various topics (such as ‘Education’ in my case, as one example) into the Reader setting, but with limited success. I know that there are over 58 million WordPress Blogs alone, so even taking out 50 million as private blogs, “dead” blogs or even ones that never got “started”, there should still be a gold mine worth of content to find out there (and, I’m guessing, a lot of under explored sites).
Put simply, I’m not sure I’m doing the searching the best way I can. Ideally, I’m looking to keep it reasonably “in house” using the WordPress platform, rather than go “out” to Google and search more broadly that way. Is that a mistake or a limitation on my part?

So, a promise to anyone who has got this far in reading this (hello!), as a relative “minnow newbie”, I will come and peruse your site should you let me know you’ve been to mine – and hope to grow your readership too. If you have tips of how to find those burgeoning sites (or even some great ones to look at that you think I’d appreciate), I’d love to hear from you, as always.
Till next time then…