I’m climbing back on the Five Minute Friday train again. This is where we are given a single word prompt and write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write.
The word for this week is: Inspire
For me inspiration seems to work best when it is an accidental thing, like cleaning up the back yard because I happened to start by picking up a few things that need to be put away before it rains and hours later I’m still going.
Creativity can happen in a similar way, I do some housekeeping on my blog or am jotting notes or random to-do items in my notebook and begin to let my thoughts wander, with the thoughts flow some words and if I can let the words keep coming without too much editing (I can be an obsessed editor!) soon pages begin to fill and something of value may emerge from the mess of notes. Equally likely it remains just a mess of notes but if that mess was never written down no useful creation would ever happen.
I guess in this way I’m a classic ‘ideas in the shower’ sort of person, once I relax, let my mind wander (and feet too, a walk is always a good writing prompt!) the ideas are able to come. As long as I cling to worries, anxiety, problems to resolve, creativity is hindered. If my body can relax (shower, snooze, walking, gardening are all good mechanisms) my mind may well follow and a relaxed mind is able to find inspiration in the most mundane of places.
If feeling inspired, or curious, hit the five minute friday tag to see more of these sort of posts (much older ones!)
Something I’m wanting to do is to keep an online journal as part of the function of this website. Obviously it is public so some things would not be appropriate to publish here, but considering how much of what is posted to social media networks can easily become public this is probably not too different.
A significant event for our region was the recent deluge of rain and associated flooding last Friday and Saturday. Fortunately our house was not affected in any major way beyond some leaky spouting and a very muddy back yard. We did bring one of the rabbits (Cloud) inside overnight on Friday as his hutch was leaking and he had become a bit wet. He got a dry cardboard box of hay in the pet playpen for the night and once the rain eased on Saturday I moved all three of the rabbit hutches onto the concrete driveway to get them out of the mud.
(The image shows the Leith Stream on Saturday 22 July above, then at it normal flow two weeks later below)
Despite the lack of new writing on the blog, I have been busy cleaning up all the old posts that I imported a few weeks ago. This involves fixing broken links, editing for obvious errors, adding images back, fixing fussy things that annoy me such as correct hyphens and ellipses. I’ve also tried to clean up the categories and tags to enable some of the older stuff to be found by association, though there may not be many people who actually navigate website by following tags and categories like I do myself.
Other website work has included tightening up security of the site and trying to speed up the loading time of the site. Slow site loading is one of the prices to be paid for the convenience of using WordPress and bringing that time down to something acceptable takes a surprising amount of work. So far I’ve managed to get it to something I’m satisfied with, and while there is still room for improvement what remains to fix would take a lot of time and expertise that I don’t currently have.
Last summer our 5+ year-old trampoline got a small hole in it, which steadily became bigger and bigger until it could no longer be used. We promised the kids that we would get another trampoline for next summer. Heather recently won an auction on TradeMe for one at a good price so we picked it up a couple of weekends ago and despite the cold weather it was an instant hit. For our kids the trampoline is a great way to get them moving and active after crouching over computers watching Youtube for hours.
The second semester teaching has been underway for several weeks now, though I would not say we are run off our feet setting up labs as yet. That will come in a few more weeks.
I’m trying out the Micropub plugin for WordPress as a way to add short updates to my site.
However, The thought does occur to me that if I’m solely using Micropub to post to my own blog it would be simpler to use the WordPress app that I already have installed on my phone to write a short update that serves the same purpose. As yet I don’t automatically publish my posts to other social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter, but this is easy to turn on. So the question is why bother with yet another way to send stuff to my blog when I already have several available?
I acknowledge that the IndieWeb folks are much smarter than me, but are they trying to fix a problem here that already has an existing solution? I guess that is not the case if you are not using something like WordPress.
Billy Collins is one of my favourite poets, his poems are easy to read yet often contain surprising views of everyday experiences. I have recently started reading his book Picnic, lightning which was published in 1998. Yesterday morning I read the poemPicnic, lightning and loved the final stanza:
and all I hear is the rasp of the steel edge
against a round stone,
the small plants singing
with lifted faces, and the click
of the sundial
as one hour sweeps into the next.
This page is what I think of as my ‘reading pipeline’. Here you will find the books I’m currently in the process of reading (I tend to have a few on the go at once as different books suit different moods and levels of concentration), a few of the books in the queue to be read next (unless something else catches my interest before I get to them), and then the books I have finished reading this year.
When I read a book, I read the whole thing. I know many folks recommend abandoning books that are not particularly interesting and to skim books to get the gist of them. I don’t do that. If I decide to read a book I keep going until I get right through it, sometimes this can take over a year as I read other stuff in between visits to a less interesting book but I do like to complete the books I start. Perhaps this is a waste of time but it’s my time and I’d rather waste it reading a boring book than dicking around on Facebook.
A Victorian Naturalist, Beatrix Potter’s Drawings from the Armitt Collection by Eileen Jay, Mary Noble & Anne Stevenson Hobbs. A magnificant book featuring impressive scientific illustrations of fungi by Beatrix Potter. Her cute animal stories are only the tip of her amazing talents as an artist.
Big Blue Sky, a memoir by Peter Garrett. Really enjoying this book, well written and about someone I’ve long admired.
There are some books that I intentionally read slowly in order to let their message sink in or to enjoy the experience of digesting smaller morsels that are rich in meaning.
As a Man Thinketh by James Allen. 2/10 Finished 7 July 2017. (Kindle edition) (Similar ideas to ‘Think and Grow Rich’ but better written and not as absurd).
The Corruption of Malcolm Gladwell by Yashua Levine. 4/10 Finished 15 July 2017. (Kindle edition) An obviously biased perspective but does give some insight into what may lie behind some of Malcolm Gladwell’s writing.
The Demise of Guys by Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan. 3/10 Finished 1 August 2017. (Kindle edition) A somewhat longwinded and repetitive opining that porn and video games are ruining a generation of man-boys.
Can I Have Joy in My Life by R.C. Sproul. 7/10 Finished 9 August 2017. (Kindle edition) A short book about the source and cultivation of Christian joy. I’d love to have a longer, more in-depth version by this same author
Pray Like It Matters by Steve Gaines. 4/10 Finished 13 September 2017. (Kindle edition).
Surfing for God by Michael John Cusick 7/10 Finished 29 October 2017.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (Kindle edition). 8/10 Finished 29 November 2017. I read this book when in my twenties and was impressed with it then, but reading it now makes me amazed at how young and stupid I must have been not to see more in it. I guess also our society has progressed rapidly along the path of elevating the pursuit of happiness to being the ultimate good to which all strive. This particular edition has an interesting essay by the author written about 30 years after he wrote the story.
Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell. 8/10 Finished 10 December 2017. (Kindle edition).
Other People’s ‘Reading’ Pages
What make the internet great is the ability to see what others do and learn from it, so here is where I have learned from others:
As you can see from this list, I read a lot of fiction this year, particularly fantasy novels (the entire ‘Wheel of Time’ series and started ‘Game of Thrones’). The Luminaries was an excellent book that had been sitting on my shelf for over a year before I was game to dive into such a thick tome.
For non-fiction, the self-help books ranged from complete garbage (‘Choose Yourself’ by James Altucher and ‘The Desire Map’ by Danielle LaPorte) through to outstanding (‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain). The Case For Working With Your Hands by Matthew Crawford was an interesting book, I didn’t completely agree with his viewpoint some of the time but it was good food for thought. The book about Amy Carmichael by Sam Wellman was a really good biography of her life, Amy Carmichael is someone I’ve admired for a long time, her faith is true inspiration.
The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 1)
The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 2)
The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 3)
The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 4) Finished 4 April 2016
The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 5) Finished 11 April 2016
Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan. (Wheel of Time book 6) Finished 19 April 2016
I’ve changed this site to use WordPress rather than being static HTML and CSS. This enables easier distribution via RSS and a mailing list, along with participation in the principles of the IndieWeb. It also frees my efforts to focus on writing rather that problem solving.
I have decided to move this website to WordPress. This may seem like no big deal, but it actually means a significant change to how I am approaching and using this site/blog.
My intention for the 2017 incarnation of my website was to use it as a tool for learning html and CSS by coding the site by hand. In some ways I did partly achieve this goal – I have learned a lot. However, I also found that I wanted to use the site as an ongoing repository and record of my writing, plus to find a way to syndicate it with social media feeds as I move away from using Facebook, Instagram or Twitter as the place I post thoughts and instead write first on my own site. I have an inherent distrust of companies that make their money off the data gleaned from the users of their services, and I hate all the advertising that I’m barraged with on the big social media channels.
Recently I stumbled across the ‘IndieWeb‘ folks who embrace a similar ideal of pushing for an open web as opposed to the ‘walled gardens’ of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies. Many of the people behind this movement are programmers who code their own solutions to enable interaction with other on the open web and I’m certainly not in that sort of league. But they have also created tools to make life easier for average bloggers like myself, tools such as WordPress themes and plugins – stuff that I am able to implement (if I use WordPress to drive my site).
Discovering these plugins and themes added additional weight to a problem I was facing in having a completely static website; how to notify people of new articles posted on my site. The typical mechanisms to do this are via RSS feeds or email lists, both of which are tricky (as in not possible for me) to implement using html and CSS, the only development tools I have mastered enough to do anything useful with. I did try using a flat-file CMS called Grav last week, but after a lot of fiddling to move my files across to it found that it is still not straightforward to use as a non-programmer.
Another factor in favour of WordPress is that having used it for many years now it takes hardly any thought for me to maintain a blog with it and I really want to put more focus into actual writing and creating content, not spending most of my efforts in trying to get my site simply functional. The articles I had on my static version of the site were mostly ones I had written in the past and I found that there was some good stuff in amongst the trivia I have written over the years. This is the big advantage of cultivating a discipline of regular writing – if I write a lot there will end up being something good produced occasionally. I want to get back to this.