By Way of Explanation

Anyone who has ever read this blog regularly — not a huge group, but one that I sort of know — have seen for awhile that the posts come less and less often (or do I mean more and more infrequently?). Part of the explanation won’t be surprising: Like just about everybody else in the world, I’ve been busy with other stuff.

Part of what I’ve been busy with, though, is another blog. About six months ago, I took over as the proprietor of a daily news blog for my public radio employer. On one hand, can you believe it? I’m getting paid to blog. On the other, I find myself at the keyboard and on the net for sometimes unhealthy amounts of time (when news has actually been happening, such as when we had transit strikes last summer and fall, the job has come dangerously close to being 24/7), a reality that sometimes leaves me feeling a little spent and brain-addled.

What that has meant for this personal blog, which I’ve kept at for more than 10 years, is that I’ve had less energy and attention for it. The time available to sit down and post something thoughtful (or even a nice picture) has grown shorter, and a lot of evenings I feel I need to have that time away from a keyboard and screen.

Among the handful of folks I know who have checked in here over the years are a few I know have been blogging on a daily or nearly daily basis for longer than I have. I know everyone who does that has a lot of stuff going on in their own lives — at work, at school, pursuing other interests or answering other obligations. I have seen the different strategies people have adopted to make the pursuit more manageable. If I wore a hat, it would be off to everyone who keeps on with their personal mission to communicate the news from their small corner of experience or their thoughts about the world beyond to people like me who, even if I can’t (or at any rate don’t) read every day still am fascinated and informed by what they say and suggest.

I’m not announcing the end of this blog or anything portentous like that. But I am just trying to figure out how to maintain some meaningful continuity for myself and for those who have stuck to this small adventure with me for so long.

More later.

Where We’ve Been


October 16. Out of curiosity I checked what, if anything, I posted last year on this date. The image at above left is what I found, under the title “Rooftop Clouds.” I can see from my pictures that I went for a walk in the hills and arrived home as the sun was going down, climbed on the roof, and snapped a few shots of the scene in the west.

OK. Of what did I take note on October 16, 2010, then? See the picture at above right, titled “Berkeley Dawn.” That’s in the backyard, looking east. The difference a year makes: a 180 degree shift in perspective, daylight seen from opposite ends of the day. Conclusion: I like clouds, I guess, and that low slanting light. And I’ve got a photo blog here.

So how about this date in 2009? “Please Help Me Find Him: The Resolution.” I wrote about a missing-persons poster I had spotted in the Mission and the story’s happy ending.

2008: “Utah Door,” a picture of a colorful domicile entrance on Potrero Hill.

2007: “Memories of Suction Past,” pictures of an abandoned vacuum cleaner and a brief reflection on the regular appearance of cast-off vacuums on the local streets.

2006: “The News from Iraq.” Here’s the first paragraph: “So, the news from Iraq is bad. But maybe we’re lucky we’re getting any news at all. The Associated Press has a story today on the number of journalists now "embedded" with U.S. troops in Iraq. From a high of 600 at the war’s glorious beginning, participation has dropped recently to 11. Eleven. Fewer than a dozen reporters and news organizations out with the troops to find out what’s happening on the streets and in the countryside. The rest of the news gets reported out of the Green Zone in Baghdad or secondhand through Iraqi stringers.”

2005: “Behold a Pale Hose.” I acquiesce to the reality of another Cubs-free postseason and resolve to enjoy the White Sox trip to the World Series.

2004:”Local Politics.” A political campaign from foreign parts sign magically appears on our lawn.

And there is no 2003 for this date, because I didn’t start in on this project until the following month.

The Humbling, or: Whine of the Solo Blogger

I’ll admit to blog pretensions. There have been plenty of moments in the seven-plus years I’ve sat down to write this whatever-it-is that I’ve thought I’ve hit on some unique perspective that might–no, should–attract attention. And of course we all want attention, don’t we?

But for the most part, what I do here is part of what I once called “staying poor doing something you love.” It’s pleasing when there’s a story or picture to share with my small group of regular visitors and the words or images fall into place. On occasion, curiosity has turned me into a specialist of the arcane and then drawn visitors to the site: Illinois’s remarkable record of electing governors and sending them to court; the failings of a local TV news show; the history of a bicycle-related art piece. And lots of other things, including weather and climate, water and fish in California, my dog, my travels, and my family. This week, I’m one of the leading sources on the Web, maybe, for those looking for sheet music for “Bear Down, Chicago Bears.” Glad to be of service.

I watch the number of visitors who visit the blog. Without going into sad details, I can tell you the number isn’t billions and billions served. This is definitely more of a street-vendor operation than a worldwide mega-franchise. That’s OK. Patrons here tend to be forgiving and they definitely seem to tolerate and maybe even appreciate the fact the portions here are a little inconsistent, ingredients are freely substituted, and the proprietor may or may not remember to give you the drink you ordered or supply utensils.

Still, numbers are numbers. Before Google did something to its algorithm a few years ago, there were days when I happened upon the right subject–papal embalming, say–and a couple thousand visitors showed up. Roughly speaking, traffic’s at about one-tenth where it was at its height in 2007. If I did this full time, had an actual focus, really reported things, spent some time and perhaps money networking and marketing, approached this blogs (or some blog) as a business–maybe then I could eventually generate some big numbers and perhaps even a little money from the effort. That’s the dream in the back of nearly every blogger’s brain.

Or maybe I’m just thinking too much. It recently came to my attention that a guy I know in the newsroom at the major Bay Area public radio station where I work has a lucrative sideline in YouTube videos. When I say lucrative, I’m talking about grocery and gas money, not a summer place in the mountains. And when I say YouTube videos, I don’t mean anything you couldn’t play at work and tell all your friends to come and watch. The guy posts videos of his funny-looking dog doing basically nothing–just looking funny. That’s it. The one below, representative of my coworker’s oeuvre, has drawn about 10 times more traffic by itself than this blog has in its entire existence. Watch the video, though. It’s cute as all get out. (How does it make money? Check out the ads.)

My Beautiful Blogette

I have received an actual message of concern about my lack of posts here recently. More specifically, that maybe the case of poison oak I reported earlier in the month had combined with some kind of drug-resistant pathogen to put me out of action.

First, I appreciate the expression of concern. I haven’t posted anything for ten days, and that may be the longest I’ve kept my mouth shut here since this place went live in 2003. Although this is a desultory and purely personal writing project and I’ve never had a clear idea what it might be leading to or away from, I admit that I’m conscious of the handful of regular readers and often think of this as a letter to them. That also means I’m conscious when I don’t write; I feel like there’s a connection out there I’m not making; and believe me, ten days does seem like a long time.

Second, the poison oak is fine. The heavy-duty pharmaceutical approach I took worked. It turns out prednisone combined with some strong topical steroid can still kick poison oak’s ass. Not that I recommend it; the prednisone made me feel very speedy, and I had a couple episodes at work where I found it very hard to concentrate on anything.

Third, speaking of work: The real reason it has been hard to sit down and write has been the daily demands of the radio newsroom. Hours have been long, and I’m not getting home until late, and it’s been hard to make myself sit down and record the precious, pithy observations upon which this world depends. I’ve been conscious that the number and frequency of my posts has been declining for several months, and that pretty much tracks with new programming we’ve been doing at work that’s led to the higher time demand.

Fourth, if I had been writing the last couple of weeks, I might have scribed items, and still might, about the elections, the Berkeley casual carpool, the World Series, soccer, water, salmon, rain, weather, incredibly warm November days, University of California football, Berkeley’s Measure R campaign, steroids, Zenyatta, Secretariat, and maybe something about The Dog.

Anyway, that’s where I’ve been. And I’m still here. And to the person who called to see if I was OK: Thanks..

Times Five

Brief historical note: I posted my first entry here five years ago yesterday. A basic stat for the Infospigot era: 1,679 posts. An average of 336 a year, or 28 a month. I’ve never figured the average number of words per post, but I think I’ve mixed it up: a smattering of short ones, long ones, and in-between ones. Plenty that were mostly about the pictures I was putting up. I’ll make a ballpark guess and say the average length has been 350 words. If true, the total verbiage here totals something like 600,000 words. That’s the equivalent of 2,400 typed pages: a very long book, but with no plot, no central subject, little action, and a dimly understood protagonist. All I can say is thanks for reading. Thanks for returning. And thanks for all the responses along the way.

We’ll soldier on, despite a recent newsflash that blogging is dead. Let’s see what the next five years brings.

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Thanksgiving Notebook

Today: Barbecued bird. Here is today’s indispensable advice (with accompanying video).

The blog: It has been going four years today. Which is shocking, considering that it hasn’t yet swayed the course of the planets, the Earth’s magnetic field, or empire. I’ll keep trying. And thanks for reading.

Today II: For a lot us us, today will always be that day. And to mark the occasion, The New York Times publishes yet another (but brief) consideration of what happened.

Today III: And what else? The kids will be here — I never thought I’d hear myself say that. I’ll talk to the rest of the family, wherever they are today. And that’s enough to be thankful for right there.

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Monday Dribblings

Search of the day from the infospigot visitor logs: “How to stop a drippy spigot.” People have wondered that for years.

Leslie Griffith Watch: Or non-watch. Matier and Ross, the San Francisco Chronicle’s news/gossip duo, are onto Griffith’s disappearance from the air (her last show, according to transcripts, was the 5 p.m. news on August 22). M&R don’t get to the bottom of The Vanishing, but they quote the station’s general manager as saying Griffith is on “short-term” leave that has been extended to October 27 (a Friday, for what it’s worth).

Indigenous Peoples Day: That’s Berkeleyese for Columbus Day, which isn’t until Thursday, but let’s be flexible. If I see one–an indigenous person–I’m going to at least say hi.

Today’s worst-sounding ailment: Toxic megacolon.

Tomorrow’s health adventure: This.

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‘Spigot Flow Report

In person, I think I’m loquacious and logorrheic as ever, given half a chance. In the last little while, though, the blog output has flagged. Thinking a lot about some things, but feeling a little overwhelmed about what to say about them, or whether to say anything at all. This quote from “The Thin Red Line,” spoken during much more dire circumstance than I’ve ever experienced, has come to mind: “What difference do you think you can make, one man in all this madness?”