Five Years Blogging

How time flies.

Yesterday, while I was busy working — yes, I do work, too — I missed a major milestone in my writing life: my fifth anniversary as a blogger.

I latched on to blogging very early. I saw it for how it was originally intended, as a “Web log” or journal. I’d been wanting to keep a journal of my life and thoughts but could never stick with it. By blogging these things, I put it out there for feedback from others. With an audience, I felt a good reason to write these journal entries. I kept it up.

For five years.

I started blogging on October 15, 2003 with an offline blogging tool called iBlog. I’d use it to compose blog entries offline. When it was time to publish, iBlog would generate all the HTML necessary to create all of the pages for the blog. Publishing was time-consuming, especially as the blog grew in size. It was published to my .Mac disk space and co-existed with my Web site.

In 2004, when I went up to the Grand Canyon to fly helicopter tours, I found it necessary to start a new blog so I could blog from my laptop. This was a shortcoming of iBlog and it soon drove me nuts. Later the same year, I found a way to synchronize my two blogs back into one.

In December 2005, I finally saw the light and switched to WordPress. While I was brave enough to install it on my own Mac OS X Server — and even got it to work! — server problems convinced me to move it to a hosting service. It’s been there, running smoothly, ever since.

All this time, I’d been blogging about whatever I felt like. This included the kinds of “days in my life” posts you find here, as well as how-to articles I wrote for the readers of my computer books. But in November 2007, I decided to split off all the computer articles into their own blog-based site called Maria’s Guides. There was a lot of technical tasks required to pull that off without 404 errors, but I think I did a good job. Sadly, I’ve been neglecting Maria’s Guides a bit lately. I’d rather think — and write — about other things.

That brings us pretty close to today. My blog continues to chug along on the Internet, with me at the helm. I enjoy the ability to say what I want in a forum where others can read and comment on it. I enjoy the interaction with most (but admittedly not all) readers. I find it amazing when certain posts become extremely popular. For example, “Flying At Lake Powell” has been read nearly 19,000 times since it was written in April 2006 and “Cynical Humor” — which is based on content sent to me by a friend — was read more than 2,000 times just the other day. Other blog posts have resulted in a chain of comments which add valuable information to the original post. “The Helicopter Job Market,” which has been read over 18,000 times and has collected 75 comments so far, is a good example.

So yesterday, with no fanfare at all, the fifth anniversary of my first blog post came and went. If it weren’t for a recent reader comment that my blog is “as big as the Grand Canyon,” I would have forgotten this milestone completely. But the comment made me think.

It should be big. I’ve been at it for five years.

Maria Speaks Episode 37: KBSZ Interview

Maria Speaks Episode 37: KBSZ Interview.

I was interviewed yet again by local radio station KBSZ 1250-AM. Pete’s a great interviewer and always makes his guests feel comfortable. We talked for about 40 minutes, mostly about the Internet and flying. You’ll hear my layman’s explanation of my recent experience getting seriously Dugg. Keep in mind that the station’s audience isn’t exactly computer savvy, so I do a lot of explaining and simplifying when discussing some computer topics.

This podcast starts in the middle of a commercial; the interview starts about a minute in.

February 17, 2010 Update: KBSZ went under back in 2009. The Web site was taken down and all podcasts removed. As a result, the podcast of this episode is no longer available. Sorry!

NPR Playback

An excellent podcast for those interested in history.

Last October, National Public Radio (NPR) began a new monthly series called Playback. Each month, the show explores the stories that were making news on NPR 25 years before.

NPR PlaybackI’d heard commercials for the podcast on the other NPR podcasts I listen to, but never got around to checking this one out. This past week, I found NPR Playback on iTunes and subscribed.

The show is hosted by Kerry Thompson. She introduces segments with a few facts and plays actual news stories and interviews from those days. Some segments include current-day interviews with NPR reporters who were covering the story back then. Each monthly 20- to 30-minute episode is an amazing look back at the past, brought into perspective by the events that came afterward.

For me, however, I think it’s more interesting. 25 years ago, I was just getting out of college, starting my new and independent life. News was going on around me, but I was only 21 and how many 21-year-olds really think much about world events? Playback brings these events back to the forefront of my memory and gives me the information I need to think about them as an adult with a more fine-tuned sense of what’s going on in the world, what’s wrong, and what’s right. I can think about these events the way I would have if I’d been 46 back then. It’s helping me understand what the world was like in the early 80s and why it has become what it is today.

I can’t say enough positive things about this podcast. If you’re interested in history and world events, give it a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

You can learn more on the NPR Playback page of the NPR Podcast Directory, on NPR.org.

Harry Potter Fever

I’m done.

I’ll admit it: I’m a Harry Potter fan. I think the books are well-written and entertaining. And I think the movies are extremely well done, faithful to the books in such a way to satisfactorily bring the author’s scenes to life.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)I’ll admit this, too: I ordered the final Harry Potter book three months ago. I ordered it from Amazon.com with another item, chose free shipping, and waited. I wasn’t in a rush. I just wanted my collection complete. Amazon shipped the other item immediately and put my HP order on hold until it was time to ship it.

Last week, Amazon sent me an e-mail suggesting that I upgrade shipping so I’d get the book on its publication date. I wasn’t in a hurry to get the book so I ignored the e-mail.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)Meanwhile, I was listening to the Slate Political Gabfast podcast. One of the staff mentioned that the audio books for Harry Potter were excellent. Since I didn’t remember much of the sixth Harry Potter book, I figured I’d try it as an audio book. I ordered it from Amazon.com. They gave me a free trial to Amazon Prime. Free 2-day shipping for a month (when I’ll cancel to avoid the outrageous $79 annual fee). I figured the audio book would arrive before the printed book. I could listen to book 6 and read book 7.

I got an e-mail from Amazon.com on Thursday to let me know that my HP book had shipped. I could expect it by July 26. Fine. I was in no hurry.

So imagine my surprise when I opened my mailbox yesterday — two days after being told the book had shipped — and the book was in there. On the publication date. With free shipping. And the darn thing had cost me less than $20 — about half the retail price. Not bad.

So now I faced a dilemma.: read the book right away or wait until after listening to the Book 6 audio, which still hadn’t arrived.

Yesterday afternoon, after a pleasant day Jeeping on dirt roads and an even more pleasant shower, I cracked open the 700+ page final book of the Harry Potter series. The reason I didn’t wait: I was afraid that someone would spoil it for me by telling me the end.

I was 1/3 finished when I went to bed at about 10 PM last night. This morning, I got right back into it with my breakfast. By 12:30 PM, I was finished.

I won’t tell the ending. In my opinion, anyone who does is a major-league asshole. That includes the people who ripped off copies before they were released and published them on the Web. It also includes the reviewers for the New York Times who released plot points in a review the day before the book was released.

I will say that the ending works. That’s it.

I think J.K. Rowling has done a fine job on this series. Although a lot of the books were a bit longer than they needed to be, I think that gave readers — especially those who can’t crank through a 700+ page book in 8 hours — more for their money. It helped them stay in the fantasy world of Harry Potter and his friends for just a little bit longer.

Is the whole Harry Potter thing worth the ridiculous hype? In my opinion, no.

But then again, in today’s world, people seem anxious to grab on to any hype they can. It’s better to latch on to Harry Potter’s struggle against evil than Paris Hilton’s short prison stay — or to stand in line for an iPhone.

Isn’t it?

As for that Book 6 Audio…I look forward to hearing it. If it’s half as good as the Slate podcaster claims, I’ll enjoy it immensely.

I have Pownce Invitations

So what?

After reading, mostly on Twitter, a lot of hype about Pownce, I finally got an invitation from a fellow Twitterer, newmediajim. I signed right up to check it out.

And was extremely unimpressed.

Pownce is PrettySure, Pownce is pretty — much prettier than Twitter. And Pownce is apparently attracting the more mature crowd that I wish used Twitter more frequently. And Pownce offers a lot of additional features, like file exchange, event sharing, and the ability to send messages to just your friends — or a specific friend.

But, as one of the recent TWiT participants mentioned on the most recent TWiT podcast, why do we need that? We have e-mail to send files and online calendar programs to send event notifications.

Finding new Pownce friends is virtually impossible without a “public timeline” like Twitter has — you can only see the messages posted by your Pownce friends and the people you are a “fan” of. Of course, there is the occasional “public” message, which goes out to everyone. But in the one week I’ve been a member, I’ve only received one of those, so it’s obviously not a feature people want to use.

And I really like Twitterific, which works with Twitter. The Pownce non-browser solution requires you to install Adobe Air and then an application that runs within it. I don’t know about you, but I think Adobe is even worse than Microsoft at installing a lot of useless under-the-hood crap on your hard disk when you install its software. I prefer to keep new Adobe apps off my computer unless I need them to get my work done. (Can someone explain what Adobe Bridge is all about and why I should keep it when I have a perfectly good Mac OS Open dialog?)

And then there’s the advertisements vs. fees we can expect in the future. A note on the Pownce sidebar urges you to “Go Pro!” This will support larger files — certainly larger than you can send in e-mail — and will hide advertisements. Right now, there are no advertisements. There aren’t any on Twitter, either — unless you count the never-ending stream of self-promotional tweets by some Twitter members (which are easily blocked out). Pro will cost you $20/year. Is it worth it? We’ll see. But I know that if Pownce starts filling up with advertisements, I’ll use it even less than I currently do — which is once every few days, just to check in.

Because you must have an account to participate at all on Pownce, the folks at Pownce give new members 6 invitations so you can invite your friends. Trouble is, I have enough trouble convincing my friends to get online with Twitter, which I prefer. If I’m going to bring new friends online to this new kind of social networking phenomena, I’m going to ask them to join Twitter, not Pownce. I have no desire to monitor both services.

Now I know that Pownce was created by the folks who gave us Digg. And there are rumors flying around that any anti-Pownce Diggs are being buried by the folks at Digg. (It would be interesting if everyone who read this post dugg it just to see if it survived this test; you can find a “Digg This!” link at the bottom of the post.) And the TWiT-TV team seemed to have a lot of respect for the programming team. But even they aren’t pushing Pownce. And that says a lot because they push almost everything they talk about.

In any case, I have 6 Pownce invitations — unless the folks at Pownce take them away from me for being so unenthusiastic. I’ll hand them out to the first six people who comment on this post and specifically say that they want an invitation. Please do not put your e-mail address in the body of the comment. Just put it in the e-mail field of the comment form; I’ll find it.

And if you’re reading this and already have a Pownce account, please use the Comments link or form to tell us what you think about it. Am I missing something? Or do you have the same general thoughts about Pownce?

And, for the record, I was equally unenthusiastic about Jaiku. Sorry.