Category Archives: Blogs and blogging

Renewal and Redirection

Everyone and everything goes through cycles and periodic change. It’s what life is all about, Poomba. One bad habit of mine (if it is bad) is to announce these changes in my writings here every time they occur. Well, I’m doing it again.

Although I have faced some difficult challenges over the past few years an honest assessment is that choices I have made, good, bad, and indifferent, have impacted my life in ways I didn’t, and don’t want it to go. Change, as I’m discussing here, has to occur. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “if nothing changes, nothing changes,” and I believe that is true. A similar saying is, “if you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got,” and who wants that?

Like most bloggers, I started bRight & Early to discuss things that interested me and because I thought (accurately or inaccurately, it doesn’t matter which) that I had something to say about those things. That is still true. Even so, there came a point recently when I thought I would just give it all up and close the blog. For some reason I just can’t do that. Even if no one reads what I put here, or when there are weeks (months?) between posts, I enjoy knowing that I still have this outlet available to me. If I’m not going to close shop – and I’m not – I need to make a few changes.

The biggest changes need to be in my life, but they will be reflected in my posts. Let me start by describing where I am so you (and I) can see where I’m going.

Here is a synopsis of my work situation. A little over a year ago I was laid off from a job I enjoyed. My every intention was to work there until I retired. Unfortunately I didn’t get that option. After several months of looking I took a job with Merlin Entertainments. I liked working there, but there was a serious downside. My position was considered “seasonal” and I had seen others have their hours drastically reduced over time. I knew that my fate would have been the same. In anticipation of that fact, and with a hope for more income, I took a job with Hilton Grand Vacations. It was a mistake. I don’t have anything bad to say about the company, in fact the potential was as I saw it. What I failed to calculate correctly was time it was going to take to achieve the income I was looking for (months rather than weeks), and the cost involved in such a long daily commute.

That cost was significant. One day I realized that I didn’t have enough gas money to get to work, and pay day was still several days off. I had no choice but to quit. Either that, or walk 44 miles each way. So, now I am looking again. I have several very good prospects, two in particular, but currently no income.

Naturally having no income impacts your life in a lot of ways. It changes what you can do and have. There’s been a lot of belt tightening. Eating out is a thing of the past, yet God has never let us miss a meal. We have have given up cable (not the greatest loss), and the internet (that hurts a bit more). We also returned a computer we were purchasing on a rent-to-own plan, a stupid and expensive way to purchase such an item. We are left with two computers, a very good one that has several issues making me wonder how long it’s going to last, and the other we purchased for $25 with a Celeron processor, 1024 M RAM, and Windows XP. That’s the one on which I am writing now. Oh, the “B” key is also missing on the keyboard.

For a while I couldn’t even get online at the library due to a years-old, forgotten lost book. Just a few weeks ago I went to pay off that obligation and happened to do so on a day they were offering amnesty for old fines. Now I can get online for an hour or two a day when I can make it to the library, making job hunting and other online activities, including posting here, a lot easier.

What I am doing for bRight & Early, starting with this post, is writing at home, putting it on a thumb drive, and then copying it to the blog at the library. That sure isn’t going to speed up the posting schedule, but at least it will allow me to post something. My plan is to even write a few posts at a time and then schedule them over time. We’ll see. As I said, I started this site to write about things that interest me. Those things change over time. My focus for now will be on the following areas:

I. My Christian Faith

Of all the things I’ve written about, this is the one I have neglected the most. That’s probably due to the fact that I’ve neglected it way too much in my own life as well. I accepted Christ nearly fifty years ago. It has been a constant part of everything I am and do, even when I have neglected it. What I will be writing about will by my continuing journey and the renewal I am praying and striving for.

II. Growing Older

I am only thirteen months away from turning sixty. You youngsters won’t believe it, but growing older changes things. There are many topics related to this that I can touch on – health, finances, retirement, and many others. One that I hope to write about will be getting in shape when you’re older. Let’s see if I can overcome “lazy”.

III. Conservative Politics

While this has been the primary focus here from the start it will move further down the list of importance. I will still write about political subjects, but the frequency and focus may be less. Of course one of the things that is true about politics is that it interacts with nearly every other aspect of our lives.

IV. Whatever else strikes my fancy

As always, there are things that interest me that don’t fit into any other category. Doesn’t mean I can’t write about them. Odd news, sports, and a host a different subjects could find their way in here.

That’s it. My hope, as it always has been, is that you find something interesting to read and comment on here. Unlike the past, I make no promises regarding the frequency of future posts. Just check in from time to time, and let me know if you see anything interesting.

Now 30% Lighter

No, not me. I’m still a fat old man. The blogroll. One project that I’ve put off, partially because I didn’t want to look and partially because I’m really good at putting things off, was checking and trimming the blogroll links. The results were even more depressing than I would have guessed.

I haven’t completed going through the list, but among those that I have checked so far 30% are either gone altogether or they haven’t updated in over a year. That’s a huge number and I don’t have that long a list.

I’ll have more on this later, but for now it’s off to work. Hope you have a great week.

The Blogs, They Are A Changing

Some time this year bRight & Early will turn nine. The earliest post I still have is “Making book on filibuster detente” from May 24, 2005. That story talks about the “Gang of 14″ (the first of many misguided congressional gangs) and the compromise on judicial nominations. I guess that means that, politically, not much has changed.

The same can’t be said for blogs and blogging. Here’s a look back through my imperfect memory. (Feel free to correct and remind me in the comments.)

Technology

Predating this humble effort, many of the earliest blogs were hand written, hard-coded, html web pages. In some ways it was like the early days of the automobile – you couldn’t just drive the car, you had to be a mechanic as well. WordPress came along in 2003, and competed with several other blogging platforms. When I switched from blogger (a free blog hosting site) to my own domain (and finally to this domain) there was a bit of friendly bantering regarding which platform was best. Today, ten of the top 20 blogs use WordPress. I have been using WordPress from version 1.5, through 18 versions and an unknown number of sub-versions, to version 3.8 and counting.

In those early days you read a blog in one way – on your desktop computer. Laptops were rare, while tablets and smart phones didn’t even exist. The software, in many cases, had to catch up with the hardware available to read the blogs. Today most blogs are optimized for reading on any platform.

Competition

In the late 90’s and early 00’s blogs were new and quite novel. Our competition was one another. Traditional media – newspapers, television, and magazines – were still discovering the power of an online presence. It’s quite different today. I can’t imagine there are many of those traditional outlets that don’t have an internet compliment to their original content.

Today the big boys blog. They have to. Much maligned bloggers (sitting in their parent’s basement in pajamas, so they’d like you to believe) scooped their professional counterparts too often to be ignored. I truly believe it has been a case of, “if you can’t beat them, join them”. Or perhaps more accurately, if you can’t beat them outspend, absorb, or co-opt them. Note: I don’t mean to imply that anyone abandoned their principles by joining or switching to these larger, more traditional outlets, only that they moved away from being lone, non-commercial, individual bloggers to being part of “something else” with it’s pros and cons.

Camaraderie

One of the byproducts of being a blogger in the “olden days” was a true sense of camaraderie. Early bloggers, particularly those with similar interests, ideologies and perspectives, all “knew” one another. There weren’t that many of us. I can’t imagine that I would have had the privilege to interact with people like Wyatt Earp, Ed Morrissey (I still miss Captain’s Quarters), John Hawkins, Michelle Malkin, David Limbaugh, Ace, Chris Muir, Sister Toldjah, Fausta, William Teach, and many others, outside of blogging. I’ve only met two of the people on this list – Wyatt Earp and David Limbaugh – Still, I do feel as if I know many of them.

We depended on each other back in the wild blogging west. We shared stories, ideas, credit, and the all important “link love”. Blogrolls, links to other like-minded sites, were at one time the main source of advertising your own efforts. To be included on the rolls of any of the “bigger” blogs was considered quite a coup.

To be linked by those more trafficked sites could make your day in way that pay could hardly match (while often straining your host’s ability to keep up). It even received it’s own term – Instalanche:

In the blogsphere, this is similar to being Slashdotted, it refers to an increase in traffic after a popular site has linked to your. The original reference was to InstaPundit.

Content and Quality

Content was, and still is, king. The novelty of some “common” person putting their thoughts and observations out there for anyone to read was quickly replaced by the demand that the composition be interesting, informative, entertaining, and well written. That hasn’t changed, but what has evolved, in many cases, the style, quality, and format of what is written.

Many bloggers started by using the sincerest form of flattery. In other words, we saw what others were doing and we tried to do it too. I’m sure my story is pretty typical of many early bloggers. I first heard about blogging from a local conservative morning talk radio announcer. After hearing him say several times to, “check out his blog” I did. My response was the same as many of the early bloggers – I can do that. Making that decision is fairly easy, setting up your own blog on one of the free sites isn’t much harder. The hard part comes when you have to decide what you are going to write about. I realized right away that nearly all writers focus on a single topic or area of interest. That’s not to say they can’t, or won’t, write about other things they are passionate about, but the bulk of what they write tends to cover a narrow beam. For me, conservative politics seemed that natural way to go, so that choice was made.

Writing wasn’t “my thing” back in high school (sorry Mrs. Smoot and Mrs. DellaPorta) or college, although I did better when I took some classes later on. There are no entrance requirements for blogging. In many ways it’s like what they say about golf and sex – you don’t have to be good to enjoy it. You do have to be good enough. Good enough for readers to stick around long enough to get to the end of a story. Good enough for people to come back, comment, and share what you’ve written. One side benefit to blogging, at least in my case, is that the simple act of trying to write better helps you to improve as a writer. I know in my work life that blogging has helped improve everything from simple emails to important reports.

Style

There is a wide range of blogging styles, influenced by the topic, the writer’s goal (to inform, influence, or entertain) and their personal preferences. And while there are no hard and fast rules regarding blogging style, most writers do tend to fall into a few broad types.

  • Link ‘em and leave ‘em – Or, the Instapundit style. Glenn Reynolds is the master of this, “often imitated, never duplicated” style. It’s just a word, a sentence, or a paragraph and a link. You would think that this style would be easy to duplicate, but two points stick out as to why that isn’t so – the volume of post (dozens a day) and the ability in those few brief words to compel you to read the linked story.
  • Setup, Quote, Comment – This is probably the most common style for bloggers, especially political bloggers. A sentence or paragraph sets up the story to be quoted, a quote from another source, then commentary on that story. The majority of my posts here have been in this style.
  • Long Form – These take a longer approach to a story. They can quote other sources, or consist entirely of original writing. This seems to be the rarest style, at least among the blogs that I read.

Changes

I set out at the beginning of this piece to describe the changing world of blogging, but at the core it has really been an exercise in looking at what I am doing and what I am going to do here in the future. My goal for this blog, in the beginning, was to post often with the latest breaking stories. At one time that was sort of possible, but job changes and other factors have made that difficult at best. I have also realized that I don’t have the sources, or resources, to find those stories that no one else has found. To be honest, a degree of political cynicism has set in as well. That’s not to say that my political view-point has changed, I am still as conservatively minded as ever. It’s more a matter of understanding that my self-assigned role is not that of story breaker.

The short version is that I am out of the breaking news business and will concentrate more on longer pieces, observations, and my personal take on things. I do still want to post more often and more consistently. We’ll have to see about that. I welcome your thoughts.

God Speed George Roper

The conservative blogosphere lost a truly good friend yesterday with the passing of George (GM) Roper. His wife and daughter posted this on his Facebook page.

To all of George’s Facebook friends:

This is a post by his daughter, Jennifer, and wife, Norma. We are sorry to have to say it this way and we are sure that some of you deserve a call, but we are unable.

George passed away this morning, shortly after 6 AM. We are devastated by the loss, but know that it was his time to go home to God.

Memorial services will be held at Kreidler Funeral Home in McAllen, Texas on Saturday, November 30th at 11:00 AM.

George had been battling leukemia in recent months after beating lung cancer previously (he was a non-smoker).

I never had the opportunity to meet George in person, but I did have many occasions to correspond with him by email or online. It was always a pleasure. I found him to be kind, helpful, and insightful with a great love for his family and his country.

My prayers go out to his family and his many online friends. God Speed.

Full Time Blogger

For the first time in almost seven years I’ve gone from Monday to Friday, and while I’m not sick, it’s not a holiday, and I’m not taking a vacation, I haven’t gone to work all week. I guess that means that, until something changes, I’m a full time blogger.

Over the past several months, since the last election actually, I’ve gotten out of the habit of blogging regularly. Not because I’ve become any less passionate about the greatness of our country and the unlimited potential of our experiment. I have grown weary of the people, our fellow citizens, who have descended into a mindset of “What are you going to give me?” And to be honest, there is a part of me that questions whether there are enough people left who care about our country or if we’ve reached a critical mass of looters.

It’s not merely the economic looters, those wanting the government to provide their every need. What bothers me more are the social looters; those who feel entitled to offend but never be offended, to dictate to others but never be held accountable for their own actions. Are we too far gone?

Yes, this is rambling. I’ve got a lot on my mind. Perhaps I can put some more coherent thoughts down soon. After all, I am a full time blogger now.

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Help Day by Day

Things have changed greatly in the eight or so years that I’ve been blogging. The tools we use, from our blogging platform to the way we measure and interact with visitors, are all much different now. Group efforts have largely surpassed the lone blogger, pioneers have reached a national audience or faded from the stage. A large number of well known writers in the infancy of the blogosphere have moved on to other projects and places in their lives.

Not all things have changed. One enduring part of the conservative portion of the blogosphere is our daily dose of Chris Muir’s Day by Day. Even on days when I don’t write anything (and lately that’s been more days than it should) I open this site so I can read the latest from the fictional lives of Sam, Zed, Jan, Damon, and the rest.

Chris’s efforts are 100% reader supported. Every year he holds one fund raiser to sustain his work. In years past the goal has been reached early, and usually surpassed previous years. This year things are going a little slower. In order to reach his goal Chris has extended this years fund-raiser. I urge you to visit Day by Day and contribute what you can to keep this wonderful part of our daily lives going. Please visit soon and push this years totals over the top.

New Year, New Theme

screenshotI know. I just changed themes back in November. Truth be told I never was quite satisfied with that theme. It was OK, but it just wasn’t what I was looking for. So I did what I’ve been putting off for a really long time – I dug into the process of creating a child theme.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with WordPress, or just use it and don’t care how it works, WordPress allows you to create child themes that are based on a parent theme. Think of it this way, when you create a child theme WordPress looks at your theme first. If it finds what it needs it uses it. If not, it looks in the parent theme. The advantage is that you can make all of your changes in the child without harming the parent. Also, if the author of the parent theme updates it you don’t lose all your changes when you upgrade to the new version.

The requirements for a child theme are very simple. You need a folder in your theme directory and a style sheet. You could easily create a child theme that does absolutely nothing by having only those two elements. If you have no other files and nothing beyond what is required in the style sheet your child theme would behave exactly the same as the parent. Exactly. But that would be silly.

I started with Twentytwelve, the latest theme from the creators of WordPress. It was already pretty close to what I wanted, but not quite.

The first thing I changed was the navigation bar. In Twentytwelve it is above the header image. I wanted it below, so I moved it. Of course I wanted to keep Chris Muir’s Day By Day. I’ve displayed that cartoon almost as long as I’ve been blogging. I already had the code to display the strip between the first and second posts on the front page, but now I won’t have to re-insert it if the parent theme gets updated.

Those were the two major coding changes. The rest of the adjustments were cosmetic. On the web cosmetic means CSS. Those changes are easy to do, but the tweaking process can be exasperating and time consuming.

You see the results before you. I’m very pleased with the results. I’m also happy with the things I learned. Let me know what you think.

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Face Lift

Maybe giving the site a face lift will help lift me from my post-election funk. As you can see I’ve installed a new theme. Of course if I don’t start writing something it really doesn’t matter. If there’s anything that doesn’t work in your particular setup, please let me know. I’ve also linked new posts to my bRight & Early page on Facebook. Why don’t you jump over there and give the page a like.