Blog Back After a Lost day

Outages are never fun.

Well, it looks as if this blog was down for most of March 3.

It was initially reported to me by a friend on Twitter and when I followed up I discovered that he was right —  the blog could not be reached. I called my  hosting company and the hold message mentioned a maintenance issue affecting some customers — apparently including me.

I was very busy for most of yesterday and there was nothing I could do about it anyway. I certainly didn’t expect it to be down for so long. But now it’s back up, and hopefully my hosting company won’t have the same problem again in the future.

Right now, I’m on a little business trip in beautiful Turlock, CA, helping out a friend with his spray business. I’ve been pretty busy with this kind of work for the past week and can’t wait to write a little bit about it. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll likely see photos and videos —  including live periscope videos — posted occasionally throughout the day. The work is exhausting, and when I’m done for the day I basically fall into bed with my alarm set for 5 AM to start another day of the same.  With rain forecasted for later today and all day tomorrow, I might actually get the chance to finish a blog post in progress and write about my spray loader work. Stay tuned — hopefully, the blog will stay up and running.

And, by the way, it feels great to be so busy after so many weeks of mostly idle time during my extended snowbirding vacation.

About the “Postcards” Posts

Lazy blogging at its best.

At this point I think I owe regular readers a quick explanation. 

I normally write very long and drawn out blog posts about cooking, flying, traveling, etc. All kinds of topics — after all, the site is called An Eclectic Mind and I cover an eclectic assortment of topics.

Lately, however, I’ve been on the road traveling south for the winter and I’ve been doing a lot of driving. Although I have my laptop with me, I honestly don’t feel like sitting in front of it typing long blog posts about my travels. Instead, I’ve decided to share short stories about my travels with pictures I’ve taken along the way. That’s with the “postcards” are all about.

I will eventually sit down in front of my computer and write more substantial blog posts about the things I’m doing and thinking. There’s a lot going on in the news and I’m actually following it when I’m on the grid. I just spent two days in Las Vegas and I got really tuned in again. Soon I’ll be housesitting in Wickenburg and have a lot of time on my hands to get some writing done.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is this: don’t give up on me. If you come here to read my long, thought out blog posts, you will eventually see them again. But it might not be for a few more days. Until then, I hope you enjoy the postcards.

Back, on a New Server

Better service, less money.

One of the things that has bothered me for some time now is the slow response time of this blog. It just didn’t seem to load as fast as it should.

I knew it wasn’t my connection — I have wicked fast Internet here, as I’ve reported (i.e., bragged about) elsewhere. It was definitely the server.

In the past, every time I’d call to complain or look for a fix, I’d been told it was because I was sharing a server with 20,000, 50,000, or 80,000 — it depended who I spoke to — other websites. That’s because I had a cheap plan. I don’t make money with this blog and I can’t really justify spending a lot of money to maintain it. Recommendations often include using a caching system, but although I’ve tried that several times I haven’t ever seen an improvement. I’ve also turned off a lot of the plugins I used to use, hoping to speed up performance that way. I never see a difference.

I called again yesterday and spoke to someone else. (He was a “sharing with 50,000 websites” guy.) He recommended a different service. When I asked what it was and what it cost, it turned out to be a better shared system — it had the word “cloud” in its name, so it must be better, right? — for less money than I was paying. Switching was a no brainer. He could do it for me with no effort on my part.

I asked how long the site would be down. A few hours, he told me. I asked him to schedule it for the middle of the night. He agreed he would. I thanked him and we hung up.

This morning, when I checked my site at about 7:30 AM, it was down. I was not a happy camper. Another phone call, another person. I was on hold a long time. I’ve learned to keep that time productive by putting my phone in speaker mode and carrying it around in my shirt pocket until the person comes back. I washed some dishes, made a second cup of coffee, and folded laundry. She returned and said that she’d spoken to the migration people and they’d told her that they’d been doing a lot of migrations that weekend — an obvious bullshit line they feed people in my situation. There was no problem with my site. It was just taking longer than expected.

I suspected that it was either queued up improperly or the sheer size of the site was giving the migration software/people grief. This site currently has 2,375 blog posts, well over 8,000 comments, and at least 4,000 images. The database alone occupies nearly 29 MB of server space; the other files that go with it occupy another gigabyte.

I told her I’d call again if it wasn’t back up by noon. Then I thanked her and hung up.

I got to work doing other things. I’m packing for a trip and today’s challenge was getting my kayak on top of my truck camper, the Turtleback. It was actually a lot easier than I expected to get it up there — using my truck as a lifting platform — but it took a while to fasten it down in a way that I wouldn’t have to worry about scratching the camper’s rubber-coated roof. (The last thing I wanted was a leaky roof.) By the time I was finished at 11:30, the only thing I wanted was a snack and a nap. (Seriously: when the days get short, all I want to do is sleep. That’s one reason I head south in the winter.)

So I treated myself to both.

When I got up around 2:30 PM and checked the site, it was back up. And it loaded so quickly that, for a moment, I suspected that it was loading a version cached in my browser. So I loaded a different page. That came right up, too.

Anyway, judging from the stats bar graph, which shows hourly activity for the past 48 hours, it looks as if the site was down from around 6 AM to 11 AM. Not exactly starting at midnight per my request. Whatever.

Curious about my results, I loaded pingdom.com, a service that can check a Website’s speed. Although my speed was noticeably faster, I didn’t get a very good “grade.” I can only imagine what my grade must have been before the change.

Speed Test Results
Okay, so my Home page was graded D, mostly because of under-the-hood issues I could probably fix by making changes to plugins, etc. Again. Looks like a spring cleaning project to me.

Still, I’m not complaining anymore — at least for a while. It’s faster and cheaper.

And I’m happier, despite today’s downtime.

What’s Keeping Me Off My Blog

Someone special.

Well, it’s been nearly a month since my last blog post — the longest gap between blog posts since I started blogging back in 2003. Why the delay? Well, I’ve found something else to take up my time. Or perhaps I should say someone else.

Maria and Kirk
I danced barefoot with my new sweetie at the Ohme Gardens Wine Gala last week. My friend Kriss shot this photo of us.

Yes, it’s true. After three years of being single, with occasional time-wasting dates that really made me happy to be single, I began a serious relationship with someone I’ve known for about a year. His name is Kirk, he’s retired (early), and he lives on a 15-acre orchard/farm in nearby Peshastin. I ran into him at a Meetup event the Thursday before my birthday at the end of June, he invited me on a double date for dinner and dancing in Leavenworth the next evening, and things progressed rather quickly from there. He treated me to the best birthday I’ve had in more years than I like to admit — pardon me if I leave out the details. We now spend quite a bit of time together doing the kinds of things we both like to do: hiking, dancing, eating out, picking blueberries, cooking, flying, exploring swimming holes, you name it.

And yeah, that, too. I’ve done more of that in the past month than I had in the last three years of my marriage.

Kirk is smart, upbeat, and friendly. He’ll start a conversation with anyone and learn interesting things along the way. He’s confident and comfortable in his own skin. He knows how to make me feel good about myself and never belittles me or tries to embarrass me in front of friends. He obviously doesn’t feel threatened by either my intelligence or success. There doesn’t seem to be a mean bone in his body.

He doesn’t have any previous relationship baggage and isn’t a slave to a job or tied to high-maintenance offspring or parents. He says Yes far more often than No. He’s willing to try anything once and then do it again if he likes it. Better yet, he actually suggests fun things to do so I don’t have to.

He makes me happy. Very happy.

And he keeps me busy. So busy that I simply don’t have time to blog.

So if you don’t mind, I’ll need to cut things short here. He’s on his way for dinner tonight. I’ll grill up some chicken tenders and he’ll cook green beans from his garden. I’m hoping he’ll bring some rhubarb, too — I’m thinking of strawberry rhubarb topping on vanilla ice cream for dessert. Wine on the deck for sunset. Later, when it gets dark, we’ll take out the telescope and explore the heavens.

Still later, we’ll likely do some other things that I won’t detail here.

I’ll get back to blogging regularly one of these days. I hope you’ll keep checking in.

Thank You, 2014 Donors!

Donations to support this site are always appreciated.

I’d like to thank the following people who have used the Donate link on this site in 2014 to send me a token of their appreciation and help support this site.

  • John Aabbott
  • Ted Bowling
  • Sharon Pearson
  • John Rowe
  • Pete Templin
  • Rowan Twosisters
  • 2 Anonymous Readers

Thank YouThe generous contributions of readers like these help make this site possible. Not only do they help me cover the cost of hosting an ad-free site that gets thousands of hits a day, but they encourage me to keep writing here — to keep sharing my experiences, opinions, and photos with people who apparently find value in them.

It’s not too late to get your name added to this list. Click the Donate link in the navigation bar on any page to access an easy-to-use form for making a donation to my Paypal account.

Or, if you’d like something more concrete than my thanks for your contribution, you can also find links there for accessing my online store of crafts and other items or an Amazon link you can use to shop for yourself (or others) and have a small contribution made by Amazon to me — at no extra cost to you at all!

I sure do appreciate it!

Search Phrases that Brought Readers Here, 19-Nov-14 Edition

Questions answered?

I was going to blog about gun control and open carry this morning but, in all honesty, was not in the mood to formulate an argument to support my view point. So I went into the stats page for my blog and took a look at the top 10 search terms that brought readers here yesterday. I do this sometimes to trigger ideas. Yesterday’s was a gold mine, mostly because of the variety. I thought I’d build a blog post with brief answers to those questions.

sound made by helicopter

I’m pretty sure this search phrase led the reader to “Writing Tips: Writing Accurate Descriptions,” which I wrote back in 2009. In that post, I discuss an email message I got from a reader who was looking for help describing the sound a helicopter made. She’d come up with a meaningless cliché: “the deafening drill of the helicopter’s rotors” and apparently wanted me to rubber stamp it. I couldn’t, of course. Instead, I gave her a laundry list of things to consider when trying to come up with an accurate description.

I don’t have much to add to this. If you’re a writer and you’re interested in coming up with a description of what a helicopter sounds like, go listen to one. It doesn’t sound like a drill.

how do you strain pastina because its so small

This one made me giggle because yes, pastina is tiny.

I blogged about Pastina back in 2007. Not many people do, so my post usually comes up on the first page of Google if you search for Pastina.

The answer to the question: I don’t know because I don’t strain it. I cook it in water or broth and let the broth fully absorb into the pasta. No need to drain.

traeger junior rib rack

How many times have I blogged about my Traeger? And how many more times will I? Too many to count. Why? Because I love my little grill and the amazing ribs it makes.

But I have the Junior model and it doesn’t have a large cooking surface. I use the rib rack so I can smoke up to 4 racks instead of just two. Thought I had a picture here, but apparently I don’t. So I dug one up.

Rib Rack
Because the Junior Traeger is smaller than other models, I have to cut the racks in half to use the rib rack. There are 3 racks in this photo; I can fit 4.

a what sound of helicopter blades

A lot of people seemed interested in helicopter sounds yesterday. I guess this person zeroed in on the same post I mentioned above.

how to build the bottom board for bee keeping

A bottom board is the bottom part of a beehive. The hive boxes or supers stack on top of it. Bottom boards can be solid or screened. I can only assume the person searching with this phrase found my blog post from this past spring about rebuilding a screened bottom board. In this case, I didn’t build one from scratch; I modified one a friend had made for me.

I do want to build them in the future. Seems easy enough and with my new shop, I have plenty of room to do the job right.

what goes on first sheet or electric blanket?

Way back in 2010, I blogged about my electric blanket, which I’d gotten back in 1977. Then, in 2011, I blogged about the death of that blanket. I can only assume the person searching with this phrase stumbled onto one or both of these posts, neither of which answer the question.

Here’s the answer: blankets go on top of sheets. Electric blankets are supposed to go on the top of the pile, but I put mine right under my comforter (over the top sheet). My new electric blanket can roast me on its lowest setting.

las vegas hiking meetup group

How cool! Someone found my blog by looking for my very favorite hiking group: the Around the Bend Friends, which I blogged about in the autumn of 2012. I had nice things to say about them — and you would, too.

Heck, I was even considering wintering down in the Las Vegas area just so I could go hiking regularly with them this year.

who generates to kindly copy, paste, and share this status for one hour to give a moment of support

Some people take search phrases to the extremes. This is certainly a long one.

I can only assume this person used this search phrase to find my post about echoing canned sentiments on my Facebook status. I do not answer the question, mostly because I don’t know the answer and don’t care to know it. This is spam and people are idiots if they echo it. Period.

how much a helicopter ride cost 3

Not sure what the 3 is all about, but I’ve written quite a bit about helicopter costs — although not specifically what a ride costs. I assume this person got to see the most popular post of all time on this blog: “The Real Cost of Helicopter Ownership.”

Ride costs for passengers vary widely depending on the location, length of ride, and type of helicopter. The cheapest ride I do these days is $35/person at airport events. Normally, however, I charge $545/hour for up to 3 people with a 1-hour minimum. That’s for an R44 Raven II in Wenatchee, WA.

Questions Answered?

Those are the top 10 search phrases for yesterday. Not sure if my blog or this post answered the questions visitors had. But it was a real pleasure to see such a variety of search phrases. Normally, they’re mostly related to helicopter costs and operations — and even I get tired of blogging about that all the time.

Interesting Links Archived

Clearing out the dead wood.

Just a quick note to let readers know that I’ve cleared out a lot of the Interesting Links posts that are automatically generated here when I bookmark pages on Delicious. This site included posts with links dating all the way back to 2006 — I’m sure a good portion of them are broken or irrelevant at this point.

With over 2500 total posts on this blog, the 400+ Interesting Links posts made up a good portion of the WordPress MySQL database that powers this site. I’m betting that removing the very old posts — more than one year — will speed up site response time, especially after I optimize the database to fully clear them out.

The downside is that anyone attempting to access these old posts — most likely from search engine results — will get an error message. Oh, well.

If you are interested in seeing my bookmarked pages, they can always be found (and searched) on my Delicious account.