Unexpected Discoveries

Once upon a time I wrote some programming (I’m a software developer in the daytime) to brute-force the problem of finding interesting blogs to read.

I reasoned that if I liked a particular blog, I would probably also like the blogs of people that commented on the blog I liked. So rather than obsessively follow the breadcrumb trail out to every commenter of every post of a given blog, I wrote some programming to do it.

It loads a page you give to it, then finds every page descending directly from it (the posts), and loads them in turn. For each page it has discovered, it looks for any addresses of blogs in the comments (e.g. – and compiles a list of them all – before spitting it out as a CSV file that can be perused later.

Here’s where the unexpected bit happens.

While doing some spring cleaning on my own WordPress account yesterday, I started to scratch the “find new and interesting people to read” itch, and pointed the old programming at a somewhat famous blog. After looking through the links for a while, I discovered something really quite strange – that most of the commenters – people who had posted comments very recently – had not written on their own blogs in years.

Rather than wade through the endless stream of inactive blogs, I improved the programming to go visit each blog it discovered, and find out exactly how long it had been since they last wrote. The scale of the discovery was enormous. At least 90% of those that had commented had not written anything themselves for years.

I started scratching my head, and thought “I wonder if there’s some way I can improve my program to cast the net wider”.

After half an hour of tinkering, I turned the program into a “spider”. You can start it out on one blog, and it follows the comments from one blog to another – to a maximum depth noted on a piece of paper in it’s pocket. As it clambers through people’s blogs, it maintains a list of all the blogs it has discovered along the way that have posted in the last 30 days.

I pointed it at my own blog this morning. It’s busy churning through all of the people that have commented on my blog recently, then all the people that have commented on their blog, and so on – diving further and further down the rabbit hole. Or jumping from one rabbit hole to the next.

It’s still churning now. I imagine Sauron’s eye, high atop the WordPress tower is turning to face me – wondering what I’m doing – wondering why I appear to have been asking to read blogs at several pages a second for the last hour.

Let’s hope I don’t start talking about the program as “my precious”.



After a few days break from the blogging universe – during which time I built myself a rather lovely island on the internet and then quite predictably burned it to the ground – I’m quietly re-connecting a little this evening.

I’m still not sure if it’s a good idea.

Time appears to be my enemy at the moment – which invites it’s own guilt trip. It feels like I haven’t kept in touch with anybody for quite some time now. I need to devote an entire evening to just writing emails, calling people, and so on. I know men are traditionally terrible at the whole social thing, but it’s no excuse really.

I suppose working from home hasn’t helped much. While out for dinner with close friends last night we talked a little about it – about not leaving the house for days on end sometimes -about working through countless lunchtimes. It’s a slippery slope.

I really do need to get the running shoes back out, and force myself out of the house early on a morning. I love running as the rest of the world wakes up – seeing deliveries arrive in the high street, newspaper boys and girls, bakeries opening their doors. It’s the best part of the day.

Anyway. It’s getting late.

I just spent the last half an hour catching up with my cousin in California, rather than finish writing this. I suppose that gives you some insight into how easily I fall down rabbit holes – I wrote that paragraph earlier about needing to catch up – and messaged her in another browser tab. When the tab starts flashing to tell me she has replied, I can’t carry on writing – or at last I try to, but the little flashing notification eventually chips away my resistance.

Maybe if I just switch the computer off, that will work? (he says, knowing Messenger will just start vibrating on his phone instead).

Holy crap – it’s nearly 1am. How does that happen. Every. Single. Night ?!



The two week long internet island building escapade has come to an end. While looking at the collection of supposedly more thoughtful words I had migrated from the year-long descent into partner-programme madness at Medium, I realised something awful.

A great many of the posts I had published at Medium – while following instruction and guidance from the community at large – had become what I can only describe as instructional. While exploring thoughts, I often abstracted myself – writing about the thoughts you might have about something, rather than my own.

I had unwittingly become a mansplainer.

So. This morning I took an axe to my curated literary tree, and began chopping. I then set fire to a great deal of it.

Writing on the internet has taught me a lot – not only about writing, but also about myself. I have become increasingly aware not only of the words I write, but also how I present them.

It’s a journey, I suppose.


Twelve Days

Twelve days. That’s how many days I managed to stay away from publishing an almost-daily journal on the internet. If I’m entirely honest, I started writing again almost immediately – experimenting with traditional diary entries. It all seemed so pointless.

When writing a blog post, I tend to see it as a conversation of sorts – telling the story of the day to a good friend over a cup of coffee or tea. Writing a private diary entry loses something along the way. I suppose I’m just not a very receptive audience for my own thoughts.

Of course I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t debated for rather too long about the most appropriate platform to house an almost daily journal once more. Should I pivot the cathedral that houses the more thoughtful writing, or resurrect the bazaar that I burned to the ground several days ago?

That’s right – I didn’t just walk away – I set fire to everything. Or clicked the “delete account” button. Setting fire to it sounds much more spectacular, doesn’t it.


As you can see I *have* chosen the resurrection route – or rather reconstruction in this case. You might almost imagine I was never gone. Only for some people I have gone. In the past I leveraged the machinery of the internet to automagically cross-pollute both WordPress and Tumblr with my writing – I’m not doing that this time.

If you were wondering how you ended up on the mailing list for the new blog, I’ll guiltily hold my hands up, and murmur “it’s a fair cop”. Some copying and pasting of e-mail addresses happened this evening. If you would rather just receive the hopefully not too mansplainey think pieces, click the unsubscribe link at the bottom of this email. If, however, you quite like this – hoorah!

Oh crikey – the clock is marching towards midnight, and all I’ve done this evening is waffle on for far too long about far too little once again. I should probably stop.

It’s amusing really, isn’t it – that after so long struggling to conjure words, as soon as I tried to walk away they arrived in something of a torrent.


Writing the Manuscript

I leave tomorrow.

This evening I made enough dinner to freeze the leftovers into a number of pots for future meals. Meals my parents won’t have to think about making. Healthy meals. I have no illusions that as soon as I leave they will be back eating chips.

I’m going to have to try not to think about that. I’ve done what I can.

The journey home will take about five hours if all the trains connect. Back to a world of clothes washing and tidying up – but also a world of smiles from my teenage daughters, of stories of the week just gone, and plans for the future.

While talking with my parents over the past week the difference between their world and the world of my children has been defined in quite stark relief. Where my parents are now elderly and reminisce endlessly about times past my children are filled with hope, longing and plans for the future.

I find myself in a strange limbo between the worlds of young and old – an automaton in the vast machinery of the universe – going around in circles, throwing money into a bottomless hole in the ground, and getting nowhere fast. Along the way I record stories that I will one day bore my children with.

Maybe through writing the blog I can just hand the manuscript over to them, and tell them “here – read this – then you don’t have to listen”.


My Writing Routine

I thought it might interest others to learn how I go about this whole blogging escapade. How I write, what I use, how I post – that kind of thing.

I suppose we start with an admission of sorts – I don’t write in the WordPress interface, and never have. I don’t like the way web interfaces work while writing, so tend to stay away from them.

Over the past year I’ve flip-flopped between a number of online solutions like Evernote, Notion, and Google Docs – but invariably return to using a text editor on whichever computer I’m using and copying the text into a blog post at the last minute.

I’ve used Notion to help writing longer-form pieces in the past, mainly because it can be used much like Scrivener from a project management perspective (and is free!). Oh yes – I once drank the Scrivener cool-aid too. I still have a license around here somewhere.

I guess because of my software development background, I keep the text in an online repository called Github. It’s really designed to store programming, but works well for writing too (software source code is just text really). Everything I have written since 2003 is stored in a series of year and month subfolders.

After writing a post I copy and paste it into WordPress, and add a suitable photo from one of the many royalty free online respositories such as Unsplash, or Pexels.

After clicking the publish button the post appears on WordPress, and a final piece of magic happens – I have a Zapier automation job (Zapier is free too) that notices the post arrive at WordPress, and creates the same post at Tumblr for me. I also use Zapier to replicate Instagram photos into Twitter. It’s very good.

Oh – I nearly forgot. I post a link to whatever I’ve just written to Twitter (when I remember). I don’t think it really does any good, but at least it keeps the Twitter account ticking over, and continues to pollute the twittersphere with my idiocy.

So there you go. I write in a text editor. I almost always have done. I just find it easier. I suppose living outside of the browser has advantages too – you have less distrations, and can just get on with writing.

It’s all about writing really, isn’t it. And reading.


Exiting Bloganuary

After consistently responding to writing prompts for twenty two days, I’m stepping away from the Bloganuary writing challenge today. Life and other commitments are stacking up around me – it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find time for it.

I also miss writing about life in general. This blog has always been the story of “me” – the daily hum-drum thoughts, stories, ideas and happenings. Responding to writing prompts makes it all a little bit abstract and detached.


It’s Monday morning, heading towards lunchtime at the time of writing, and you find me sitting in the dark of the junk room in front of my work computer, having a coffee break. A jazz cafe playlist is playing on the big speaker in the window via the wonders of Bluetooth. The bullet journal sits alongside me, scribbled with the morning’s meetings.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned recently – I’ve been plugging away at building a presence on Youtube in recent months – recording videos late at night with a flight simulator to help others. It’s become popular enough to qualify for monetisation, and proven to be more profitable than writing – which I suppose is no surprise, given the ease of watching a Youtube video versus reading a lengthy article at the likes of Medium. The revenue generating tail of videos also appears to be enormously long. Who knew?

I have another meeting in a few minutes – time to draw this post to a close. I’ll try to catch up with the blogs I (try to) follow in the coming days.


An Ideal Day

This year I’m taking part in “Bloganuary” – a series of writing prompts published throughout the month by Mindy Postoff. Today’s writing prompt is “What does your ideal day look like ?”.

My ideal day begins early – rolling out of bed, pulling on some running shorts, and heading straight out into the clear frosty air to run a few miles around town. I love running through town early in the morning and seeing the world come to life – with deliveries of flowers, food, and newspapers criss-crossing the pavements along my way.

On returning home I lean on the tree outside our house to stretch for a few minutes before heading inside for a shower, and clean clothes. Next comes the kettle, a cup of coffee, and a bowl of cereal while emptying the dishwasher. I ask Alexa to play Magic radio.

By now the children are getting up and stumbling through the kitchen with grumpy faces and crazy hair – quietly finding food, filling bags for college or school, and absent mindedly gazing at their phones.

Over the next hour they leave the house one by one. I find myself alone, and set about clearing up the aftermath – returning repeatedly to the bins outside the house with empty bottles, wrappers, boxes, and bags. Finally the kitchen and lounge are clear, and I retreat to the junk room – the place I will spend most of the day ahead reading emails, writing code, and sitting in conference calls.

The webcam on the laptop points towards the tidiest corner of the room. It’s still less tidy than anybody else’s carefully curated conference call locations, but is at least interesting – featuring a Star Wars poster, a scale model of the Saturn 5 rocket, and numerous books, boxes, and brick-a-brack.

Throughout the day I return to the kitchen for coffee. My immunity to caffeine seems to have grown in recent months. En-route I listen out for the washing machine – emptying it as it falls silent, hanging damp clothes to dry, and filling it again with the rapidly rotating wardrobe of our teenage daughters.

At lunchtime I pull on a coat, scarf and shoes and set off across town on-foot to the infant school where my other half works. She has forgotten to take any lunch. There is a garage along the way that sells sandwiches. The route to and from the school takes me through a cemetery. I read the headstones as I pass back and forth – wondering about the lives led by the various names.

Back at home the day slowly reverses itself – with work winding down, and the house slowly re-filling with teenagers, grown-ups, noise, and clutter. Televisions switch on throughout the house, streaming game shows, news reports, and pop music videos.

Dinnertime finds me washing up cooking pots while my other half runs back and forth across the kitchen. She’s the better cook – I’m the better washer-up. I fight a losing battle as pots, pans, plates, cutlery, and more rubbish assemble themselves across the kitchen. I shout to the kids to set the table and silence returns – moments later I am in the lounge, lining up place mats, cutlery, and glasses.

Finally the house slows down. We sit at the table for an hour, eat, drink, and tell the story of each other’s day. We hear about the never-ending drama of school and college friendships, and the various stresses of the workplace. Nobody ever talks about my work – we did once when I complained about being missed out, but it quickly became obvious that nobody wanted to hear about content management, source code, version control, or wireframes.

After another half an hour clearing the kitchen, the evening finally becomes my own. I fall back into the junk room, switch on the computer, and begin writing emails, instant messaging distant friends, and emptying my head into blog posts. I take to imaginary skies for an hour in a flight simulator with friends, and explore pretend exotic destinations together. A little later in the evening I find my other half (invariably in the lounge) and we binge-watch whichever show is being touted by friends on social media.

The day ends in bed, with a book propped on my chest – a few pages read since I last fell asleep reading it. The book is one of many I’ve been meaning to read for some time. I’m getting there. Slowly.

If you’re wondering why my “ideal day” sounds much like an ordinary day, that’s because an ordinary day is my ideal day. A day free of disaster, stress, argument or turmoil. A day where the world continues turning. A quiet day.


Emojis and Emoticons

This year I’m taking part in “Bloganuary” – a series of writing prompts published throughout the month by Mindy Postoff. Today’s writing prompt is “What emoji(s) do you like to use ?”.

This is where I immediately admit to not using emojis. I tend to write everything long-hand – even when instant messaging people. I certainly don’t use them while writing blog posts. While I know language evolves and we shouldn’t rail too much about new words or turns of phrase, I think perhaps a small part of me will die if emojis make their way into “the written word”.

That said, I do use some of the popular acronyms, and one or two emoticons when writing instant messages – chiefly the happy and sad face, along with “lol”.

I’m old enough to remember emoticons becoming “a thing”. Back in the early days of the internet – when email became somewhat ubiquitous – there was a common problem in that the written word often lacks emotional context – words written in short emails could be easily misinterpreted, and offence taken. I remember writing a guide for everybody in the company where I worked at the time – a guide to “emoticons”, with examples of their use.

For some reason I’ve never quite caught the emoji craze. I can’t help feeling some people cross a line though – communicating in a bizarre mixture of acronyms and emojis to construct a hell-stew of easily mangled gibberish. Don’t even get me started on “l33t sp33k”.

So – getting back to the writing prompt. Which emojis do I use? None really. Unless you count the smiley face – which is really an emoticon.

p.s. if you want to experience my lack of emoji talent, feel free to instant message me – my contact details are on my contact page!