Our street wishes your street a Merry Christmas.
Our street wishes your street a Merry Christmas.
I realized today that December 23 marks five years that I've been blogging. My first effort was a blog narrowly focused on the topic of shortwave broadcasting. This at a time when only a few thousand people had even heard of weblogs. Like many bloggers who started in 1999, I used Blogger at the time. I had been reading blogs for many months at that point, but only by December did I decide to leap in to the fray. I got off to a strong start, but tapered off from there, and finally abandoned the blog in early 2002.
My second blog, Geneablogy, had an even narrower focus: my family tree. As far as I can tell, it was the first genealogy-related weblog. I started it on March 1, 2000, although there's a page for February 2000 detailing the research I did in that month. The impetus for the blog was, obviously, to document what I found as I researched my family history. The reason for starting to look into my family history in February, 2000, was that my two surviving grandparents both died in January, 2000. I had long intended to look into the subject, particularly after my great-aunt Betty gave my father a copy of a genealogy a distant cousin of hers had done detailing our descent from 17th century settlers of Massachusetts. I had done a little work before 2000, such as when I interviewed my grandmother about her life on a visit to her home in 1996, but didn't really start in earnest until the people who could answer my questions weren't around any more. I originally used Blogger for Geneablogy as well, but found that I had ambitions for the blog that Blogger couldn't meet. In 2002, during an extended bout of unemployment, I wound up writing my own blogging system using PHP and MySQL that would allow people to read backward in time, the way a blog is typically organized, or forward in time, as a narrative, and also to select only those posts dealing with specific lines I was researching. This blog has succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. It has been written up in Personal Journaling and Genealogical Computing magazines, as well as in Mike Wendland's column for the Detroit Free Press. More importantly, it has helped cousins find me. The Free Press column actually helped me get in touch with a number of Brandi cousins in Michigan and solved a mystery dating back to when I was five years old. The site also makes great Google bait. A number of cousins have found me through ego surfing; they search for their last name, and come up with my site because one of my ancestors has the same last name. But probably the most important thing it's done for me is to make me sit down and work my way through what I've found and come to conclusions about it. The act of writing about what I've found clarifies what I've found. And that's the biggest help. It's also provides a useful tool for me so that I can find what conclusions I came to and how and why I came to them. In a way, the site is the ultimate in narrowcasting and has a target audience of one: me. Unfortunately, it's been several months since I entered anything on the site, which is a reflection of the fact that I haven't had the time or opportunity to do much work on my genealogical research this year. But the blog isn't dead. It's just resting. Given its purposes, it's not important for me to update it every day.
Which brings me to There Is No Cat. I started this blog during that same extended bout of unemployment because I had just written this neat blogging tool and I felt a need to use it (talk about putting the cart before the horse....) I wanted to be able to write about a wider spectrum of topics than my other blogs allowed for. I also felt that I needed a place to practice writing on a regular basis so I could get better at it. I'm not sure how much of a success it's been on that count. I don't think that the blogging format is well suited for the kind of writing I had in mind, and I don't think my writing has improved much. My photography, on the other hand.... So in that sense, the blog has been kind of a disappontment. I'm certainly not writing as much as I did when I first started, and when I go too long without writing anything, I start to feel guilty or something, which is really weird. One thing I've always tried to do is to just write about things I know something about. Just providing links to interesting stuff isn't really enough for me. I have to feel I'm adding something to the conversation. And I guess I just don't have as much to say lately. But I'm not going anywhere. My approach to blogging has evolved over the past five years. It'll be interesting to see how it evolves in the next five. Or if I'm even blogging at all in five years.
Last night, BBC Radio One devoted eight hours to the memory of John Peel. They had live bands and DJs, and the whole thing started out with an hour long documentary about Peel's life put together by Jarvis Cocker of Pulp. Listening to it got me all upset again. They've got the whole thing available online if you missed listening to it.
Interestingly, even with eight hours to play with, it seemed to me that they missed covering the entire breadth of John's interest in music. They touched on the hippie period and the Beatlemania thing when he was in Dallas, and of course punk rock and indie got major coverage, and they even had a lengthy section of the electronic dance music he championed in recent years. But there was very little about his interest in world music. There was a bit about him being the first DJ in Britain to play reggae on the radio, and one nice tribute from a couple of Asian DJs on the Beeb who talked about how Peel played bhangra on the radio when they were just kids, but they almost totally missed his interest in African music, and really gave short shrift to his interest in world music as a whole, where he was, again, a real pioneer. As it happens, yesterday a friend of mine passed me a copy of the show Andy Kershaw did for BBC Radio Three on October 31 in tribute to his good friend. Kershaw, of course, was Peel's partner in crime when it came to world and roots music. But even if you look at Kershaw's playlist, he limited himself to old school punk rock and world and roots music, totally skipping indie rock of the 90s and 00s and electronica. Kershaw only had an hour and three-quarters to play with, and his show is on Radio Three, which is a bit more genteel than Radio One, so I can't really say I blame him, but still, I find it interesting that nobody at the BBC seems to be able to cover the entire range of music that Peel played. I think that says something significant about just how irreplaceable John Peel is.
Another way to see St. Augustine is from the water. The ride promised to be smoother than the trolleys, so we went. First, though, we decided to have lunch. Later on, someone else had lunch. Plus, more coquina! (Oh, and the tour really only took about an hour.)
I've long had a fondness for the music of New Zealand. Bands like The Clean, The Bats, and Tall Dwarfs have brought me much joy over the years. To these names must now be added The New Zealand Dairy Ministries. I don't know when this was recorded, but someone in the ministry thought that songs would be a good way to train farmers how to best take care of their cows. Through the miracle of WFMU, you no longer have to be a Kiwi farmer to enjoy the stirring soulfulness of a song like that holiday classic "Treat Your Teets"; I may never be able to listen to "Jingle Bells" with a straight face again. There's also another amazing cut, sung from the perspective of the cows, "Gentle is the Word for a Happy Herd". There are a bunch of other interesting tracks on WFMU's On the Download page from October; my other favorites are the two cuts of The World's Most Boring Radio Station, a station I listen to regularly.
The first time my mom went down to St. Augustine to visit my dad, who was working on a contract assignment there, was at Christmas a few years ago. When she came back, she raved about how beautiful the city was, particularly at that time of year when the whole downtown area is festooned with Christmas lights. They really go all out. When Laura and I decided to visit them in their new home, one of the nice things about going at Thanksgiving was that the beginning of their "Nights of Lights" coincided with our visit.
After we were towed out of the sand, we did finally make it to Washington Oaks State Park, which my parents recommended for its spectacular natural scenery. We weren't disappointed, even though the Christmas season brought some unnatural scenery as well.
Boy, I must be really out of it. There's been a new Mission of Burma live EP available (only through iTunes) for a month now and I didn't hear about it until today. Okay, Apple finally convinced me to actually buy something from the iTunes Music Store. Before now, I had only downloaded a few free tracks that they were giving away or that I got from soda bottle caps. Now I just need to burn it to a CD so I have a backup and can re-rip as MP3s....
I'm now a professional photographer. I received an e-mail about a week ago from the licensing manager at a publisher in Denmark saying that they wanted to use one of my photographs on the cover of one of their textbooks. Totally floored me. We worked out the details of payment and licensing over the past few days, and I just sent them my invoice and a link to the photograph. The photograph was one that I took for the 26 Things competition. So for all my visitors who are Danish sociology students, if you see a photograph of a speeding train on your textbook, that's mine. Now I just need to license a couple dozen more photos and my equipment will be paid for....
On Tuesday, my father decided to show Laura and me one of the neat treats about Florida by taking us for a drive on the beach. The only place I know of in New Jersey where you can drive on the beach is Island Beach State Park just south of Seaside Heights, and you have to get a extra-cost permit when you enter the park, plus you're supposed to partially deflate your tires before driving onto the beach. None of that applies in St. Johns County, Florida, where several streets open up onto the beach.
Driving along the beach was pretty cool. Unfortunately, Dad picked the wrong street to try to exit back onto the surface streets, and the car wound up with its front transaxle buried in the sand. No way were we getting this thing out short of a winch and a long steel cable. Whoops. Time to call Triple-A and wait for the tow truck.
I've posted more photos from our trip to Florida last week. We started Monday by taking a trolley tour of St. Augustine with my parents. The tour was interesting. Unfortunately, the seats on the trolley were not very comfortable; we recommend that you choose the type of trolley you use to tour St. Augustine very carefully.
After taking the tour, we went downtown for a while. We didn't stay long, thanks to the after effects of the trolley ride, but I got a few photos before we drove back to my parents' condo and collapsed.
I've posted the first photos from our trip to Florida last week. These were taken from the plane on the way down. I don't get the opportunity to take aerial photos very often, so this was fun, even if going through the TSA checkpoint to get to this point wasn't.
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