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Two thousand monkeys typing?

2k BloggersAlthough I continue to argue that I’m not in blogging for the publicity, that I write neither for attention or notoriety, like shouting to the entire world from a mountain-top, appearances can be deceiving. Friends have, irreverently, been calling me “Johnno Bloggo” for a while... 2k Bloggers, a.k.a. “The Face of the Blogosphere,” is holding a contest to admit two bloggers to their exclusive, gold plated ranks; a place in their directory and photo-montage the publicly stated, much desired prize. The price of admission? This very blog post, and the fulfilling of three simple conditions:
  1. a pre-existing blog (preferably since before January 2007);
  2. a post containing on your blog explaining why you'd like to become a member;
  3. submit a comment on their site containing a link to this post and your photo.
Simple terms to fulfill you would think, but too hard for many; to date less than 10 have managed to meet the entry criteria. The contest is open for approximately another week, or until they receive 20 valid entries—which ever comes first. What is the 2k Blogger’s photo montage? It is the very idea behind their site—a visual representation of the blogosphere itself, 2000 photos of actual bloggers stretched many lengths of a computer monitor, like a giant, memorial quilt. It’s a cool idea really—I for one have ranted lyrical, and on not just occasion about the faceless anonymity of the internet, the thousands of monkeys typing with barely an original word, far too many a grunt between them. Consider myself corrected. Here are 2000 typists, and not a single monkey sighted. Why do I want to become a member, add my photo to the typing pool? When not writing about myself, I do on occasion highlight worthy causes and ideals (What value the environment?, Born Off-Topic, Aversion to Violence) causes which surely deserve the added exposure that, to repeat, I really do not crave. Wish me luck—and good luck yourself if you choose to enter.

Sell your soul for SEO

So it’s time to vote in the Daily Blog Tips Blog Project: Three, choose a top 3 from no less than 115 entries. O.k. 114, because I don’t think I’ll get away with voting for my own entry, Me and three. I must say I had some difficulty wading through all the “Top 3 Ways To Sell Your SEO”—or is that sell your soul?—style of entries, which is not to say they were badly written, or even plain bad, only not my cup of chai tea. So, with much further to do, I should really get to the point and write my list, choose my top 3—necessary for my continued participation in the contest despite my aversion to writing such: “I Hate Lists And So Should You.” Oh, and thanks to those who have already voted for me—my fragile writer’s ego is appreciative.
  1. Top 3 Things Kermit The Frog Can Teach You About Blogging (and Life) by Dee. As Dee relates, it’s not easy being green, and top marks to her for telling us why.
  2. 3 Secrets of Writing for Blogs by Tejvan. Lists are definitely o.k. when about writing—one of my favourite topics of all.
  3. Three reasons to try a marathon by Shane. I’m training for a marathon at the moment, and carbo-loading as well—although no doubt Shane would tell me that buckets of pasta are for the final week of training—so this article on why you should run 26.2 miles and enjoy it gets my vote, and appreciation.
Although not in my top three, Graham Richardson also gets a mention simply for writing about dead bridges—Memorials to three dead bridges. Why? Because they were (once) there... And another mention for his second entry in the contest, Three bad foods that are really good. Mmm, hot chips! Do I perhaps need help with my desire for lard-coated goodness? Apparently not according to Graham:
“If you are walking near a chip shop - you will feel hungry. Your body will tell you that it needs some chips. If it doesn’t then you need help.”
Talking of deep-fryers and fat covered fat, I am reminded of a flatmate many years ago, who liked to prove his “toughness” by pulling chips out of boiling oil with bare fingers—“Na, doesn’t bother me,” he would say, “I’m tough as nails.” Come to think of it now, he probably did need help.

Me and three

Daily Blog Tips is hosting a competition, and inviting writers to submit a post involving the number three. The following is my entry—can you tell I wrote it in three minutes (give or take an hour)? * * * ThreeI have a minor speech impediment involving the number three. For reasons more complex than counting to three I say “fr-ee” rather than “thr-ee.” It has been a subject for teasing since life-time immemorial. One cause of my unusual diction may be a face-plant, more plants on face, face planted on pot-plant holder at the age of two—a face-first collision, teeth-work on metal assisted from behind by a girl jealous of the attention her grandmother, my baby-sitter garnered me. Despite emergency surgery my dental work never completely recovered—in fact several teeth never reappeared, albeit years later via a surgeon’s scalpel. Incisors violently misaligned, it is simple arithmetic that I have never been able to align three simple letters: “T-H-R.” * * * It may be just as well I am not involved in sales—no doubt I would run some-one out of business, constantly mis-quoting untenable discounts on items priced with the number three—“Yes sir, it really is only ‘Free Firty-Free!’” Despite my impediment I did actually do sales once—telephone marketing for a dish on every roof satellite television service, where luckily there were more than free channels, and many of the offers were three. Sorry—I am supposed to be talking about my speech impediment, not my dyslexia... I only lasted a month in the job—even that several weeks longer than the average—cold-calling less than receptive strangers for three hours a night the very definition of the term “churn” before such became common-place; but a job was a desperately needed job, walked to without enthusiasm after university lectures and before finding something better. Before I quit—a moment most definitely the highpoint of my brief tenure—I worked out that the reason the call centre supervisor—a young man approximately my own age but with the airs of one considerably senior, and who like a school teacher sat at the front and middle of the room—was always on the telephone was because he was listening in on our conversations. He would put down his phone from time to time, eye us all like a group of particularly bad students, and walk over to make unusually informed, usually cutting comments. With the thin veneer of telephone-pleasantness, only dollar motivated concern now terminated, I can in my darkest imagination (almost) imagine a metal pot-plant holder removing his knowing smirk... * * * Someone who actually is in sales inspired me to make up a joke the other day. Like most moments of creative brilliance—value judgement here admittedly my own—it came spontaneously and unrehearsed—an Indian friend of merchant caste and notoriously tight with money prompting the following off-colour joke:
Question: “Why can’t Indian’s count past three?” Answer: “One, two, three... did somebody say free?”
You probably had to be there—the humour increases when the guy with the Scottish last name and speech impediment tells it... In case you’re feeling sorry for my friend, he gives as good as he gets in the teasing; if you’re feeling sorry for me and my poor sense of humour, I completely understand. * * * The only time I’ve ever appeared on television—a bottom of the barrel, called in at the last minute impersonation of a presenter for the Inspiration-News podcast—involved me having to the say the number three, and my inability to do so earned the considerable irritation a very particular German director—“There is no ‘free’ in the script, ja?” Not that he could talk, at least not in English—his “v’s,” “w’s,” and “f’s” were all mixed up to say the least. I think we abandoned that part of the script now that I think about it... * * * At no extra cost A music video involving London, ice skates, fairy-dust, beards (unfortunately) and the number three...

A Momentary Interuption…

Following the experience and recommendation of a fellow blogger, I have taken the plunge, credit card now fully wet, and switched to a new host: Unlimited Domains at HostICan. It certainly wasn't their “am I an Apple clone or am I a hosting provider?” name that sold me—but what matter name when unlimited sites and unmetered traffic are on the line? My current, soon to be previous host A Small Orange have been more than good—in fact excellent—their support is the best I have yet encountered, and if name and design counted for everything I would be forever faithful. What price their love? Only $25 per year. I would still highly recommend them to anyone seeking cheap, friendly hosting for a single site. However, I am a web developer by trade, too busy for the moment to be a writer by hobby, and managing well into double figures websites, each with a separate account, password and settings, is starting to become too much; $10.95 a month for one very big orange—in fact as many as I can juggle—has purchased my fickle affection. Purchased also all the standard, even decidedly gourmet after-dinner options: Fantastico, phpMyAdmin, unlimited MySQL databases, one click WordPress installation, Drupal etc etc. I won't bore you all with the account of my manual re-installation of this WordPress site, including transferring the MySQL database—but suffice to say, full A Sensitivity to Things service, served hopefully a little faster, will resume very shortly—the new host’s nameservers, quite the busy little robots, are propagating themselves as we speak. Now if only I could find the time to actually write something... Update: Propagation complete, at least in this part of the interweb, my shiny new site has at least one major problem—apostrophes converted to gibberish... ’”! Not being inclined to manually re-enter typographically correct apostrophes, single and double quotes, en-dashes and em-dashes in no less than 63 posts, and rather more than that comments, I am now on the hunt for a solution, a point for starting the high possibility that the problem was caused by my upgrade to WordPress 2.2.1. Grrrr! Solution: (Warning—technical jargon ahead). Gibberesh appears to have descended when I exported the MySQL database from my old web host, not when importing to the new host, as when I opened the exported database in a text editor, there were all the converted apostrophes etc. That was also the solution—doing a find and replace in the database file with a text editor (TextMate is my preference)—and re-exported the already imported, latest version of the database from the new site  allowed me to keep about 15 comments and 2 new posts that had appeared since the change-over. Which doesn't explain why the character mangling happened in the first place however...

Through the Google Glass

hepi-ichikoIt is a constant joy, near form of poetry to read the search engine phrases that, month after month, click after click deliver readers to this site. Like absolute strangers on a train, mundane queries like“sensitivitytothings.com” and“really good writing that I will bookmark and read every day” sit alongside absolute gems—pennies from internet heaven too precious to ignore: “canada state electronic flash churches,” “delusions electricity sensitivity” and “i afraid of three things.” Admittedly one of those phrases might be made up... My site statistics tell me the most visited post on this site is the deliberately surreal, first exploration of search engine serendipity, Follow the Rainbow, a post inspired by one vistor’s mind-blowing, reality confounding search phrase,“Seeing a rainbow in your living room means what?,” which to consider the irrational rational, abandon serendipity for cause and effect was one assumes ipso facto attracted to these pages by Sri Chinmoy’s intriguing explanation of the spiritual significance of rainbows. The cause, rather than destination of this seeker’s query however is a matter for speculation—but I hesitate to ask for a serving of what they are having. I can’t say with certainty why other people enjoyed Follow the Rainbow, but for its author it was most enjoyable to write. An exercise in chance, serendipity and the random, it was written during something of a dry spell—inspiration, ability for anything structured or thought through lacking. So often the portrait of an artist as a procrastinator, I have literally dozens of pieces on the table at any one time, awaiting inspiration or moment of clarity for completion, sometimes comprehension; yet find it usually the unplanned, unstructured I enjoy most—probably the reason why so many remain unfinished. Like a fickle child, I am all too easily entranced by the latest shiny, flashing toy. Now hopelessly distracted, viewing and reviewing my search engine phrases once more, shall we follow the rainbow again? “john gillespie” john gillespie mageeTopping the list of Google queries, admittedly by margin smaller than people you can fit into an average car, is“John Gillespie.” Hmm, that name does sound familiar... Long in search of the true John Gillespie, I hope dear Google user you also found what you were looking for; but should you have been searching for the University of California biologist, failed Republican Congressional candidate from the year 2000, a London based actor, the Canadian hair transplant surgeon or artist from the nineteenth century, I’m little worried—it seems aside from the politician, my namesakes are all worthy of the seeking. Especially so John Gillespie Magee, Jr, whose all too brief 19 years crash-landed in a 1941 spitfire accident over Roxholm, England, yet lives on in a poem said to be a favourite amongst astronauts and aviators, quoted by a US President following the Challenger Shuttle disaster:
High Flight Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds, —and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there, I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung My eager craft through footless halls of air.... Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace Where never lark nor even eagle flew— And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod The high untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
This John Gillespie would almost bargain a fiery, cockpit leaping death to have written that...

Bear with me…

My site went down a few hours ago—why I do not know. Perhaps because my index.php file mysteriously left for a long walk, still not to return. Or perhaps because of my current state of fuzzy brain. If you have amnesia, do you actually know when you are forgetting things? On that topic, thanks for the concern about the head injury everybody—even private messages received encouraging me to get it checked out. I’m really touched—sincerely actually—even if only because you are alarmed that your daily dose of Sensitivity might be disrupted, or decline. And should I be affected, as opposed to“affecting” for the purposes of telling a good story, I will definitely seek professional help. Of the medical kind that is. In the absence of a handy site backup, and the oft-delayed necessity of upgrading to WordPress 2.2, I have decided to upgrade, manually, so bear with me as I get back up to speed. I should also say at this point caveat emptor. If you wish to work in WordPress, be aware that it is significantly more difficult than Blogger to maintain and install. But also significantly more powerful. Luckily, none of the content, glorious content should have been affected—and I know you visit Sensitivity for the writing, not pretty pictures or amazing plug-ins. And keep an eye out, for as soon as I get these technical matters under control I have a goodie for you all to read—at least in my opinion anyway. Yes, it will of course be about myself (isn’t that the definition of blogging?), and a little Whitman as well...

Born Off-Topic

A recent posting on time management (13 Tips for Increasing Productivity on the Internet) got me thinking, or self-justifying really—am I really so bad at managing my time? Something of a“creative type,” I’ve always been famously off-topic. It is said that only women and dual-core computer processors can multi-task—not true! As a teenager I was famous for simultaneously having the television on, using the computer, listening to music and reading a book, and those formative habits continue today fully blown: dual monitors, a television—albeit now in an almost permanent off state, music, and instead of books or magazines, I kid you not up to fifty browser tabs open at a time. Information overload or fingers in too many pies, I’m aware that, like your average recycling program or a bank, I take in rather more than I put out, and thus have been trying in recent years to rectify the situation, although certainly not as systematically, not mention whole-heartedly as the 13 tips above. Recent refinements to my working method have included:
  • Turning my instant messaging (IM) status to busy most of the time, when not turning it off altogether. For a while IM was a novelty, and conversations with friends a welcome respite; now as I try to increase my productivity they seem more and more like a distraction. Unfortunately I don’t live alone or else I would take the phone off the hook as well.
  • Eating less, which is good for both weight control and control of tiredness—am I alone in wanting to disappear under the desk after a large lunch?
  • Giving up coffee. At first coffee seemed a necessary evil, fast an enjoyable pleasure when working two jobs and countless hours, but without its dark embrace I am seldom a gibbering, moaning wreck of tiredness in the early evening. Furthermore, that caffeinated, buzzing feeling of semi-excitement has some benefit in getting you working, but not always in working focussed. You can call me a girl, but six shots a day was probably a little too much;
  • Running more. While exercising may tire you out in the short-term, in the long-term it increases your energy levels, which in turn dramatically improves clarity, concentration and focus. It’s not for nothing that meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy calls running meditation for the physical body;
  • Meditation. Yes, I already do this, but it’s no secret I could do more. Meditation adds a whole lot of ticks to the positive column and not a single cross, improving concentration, mental strength, calmness and happiness—it’s perhaps little recognised that we work faster and smarter when in a positive frame of mind—not to mention improving the quality of your sleep and decreasing the amount you need. Particularly if in a profession that requires inspiration or creativity—essentially the same thing in my book—meditation is like an instant recharge of the creative juices, even five minutes replacing that empty, eviscerated feeling that comes when you are near the end of your tether, close to tendering your end.
My approach to increasing productivity had previously been, somewhat like an amateur athlete, to work harder rather than smarter, but I'm beginning to think that this donkey can not be whipped any harder—not to mention that I’m tired of being a donkey. The aforementioned tips have been useful in upping my work-rate, not to mention raising the rating of my work—its overall quality, and even more importantly, its joy to produce. Which may all seem rather obvious, but in truth most solutions are. Related reading: Experience Mocha: a coffee-addled impression of a Chinese coffee shop.