Blog reactivation

As the subtitle above suggests, I’ve had a blog for many years. When I was working – and particularly when I had a job that required an active presence in social media – I blogged very frequently. My recent gigs required me to keep a lower profile, and coincidentally I refocussed much of my personal commentary on channels such as Facebook and Twitter. As a result, this blog languished – it was practically moribund.

But now I’ve retired, and I feel no constraints on what I might write professionally. Furthermore, I find that I’m spending longer on Facebook than seems entirely healthy, and I’m sure that some of my friends and family are getting a bit tired of my political postings. So I’ve decided to try to switch back to blogging, and limit my engagement with Facebook. We’ll see how successful I am.

Here we go….

This blog has been very, very quiet for the last year

2013 was an eventful year in many respects. There were professional moves – first to Vyatta, and then to Cisco – and a number of changes affecting family and friends. I remained interested in the topics that I’ve written about over the years – technology, politics, philosophy, atheism, books, music, and so forth – but none of this touched
The main reason, I think, is that my work-related stuff all wound up on my tech blog, speakingofclouds, which had a modestly successful year. Reviews of books and other media were posted to And I shared most of my ephemeral content – news and opinion – over at Facebook.
With all that said, I’m not going to close this blog, even though pundits are once again declaring that “the blog is dead”. I want a place where I can do a little long-form writing on non-technical topics, and this is the best I can think of.

A new home (for the box)

I’m composing this while surrounded by Ethernet cables, sitting on the (raised) floor of the Layer 42 colo in Mountain View. This is the new home of the box (grommit) that hosts email, blogs, and various stuff for me, friends and family. Steve Lau and I (but mostly Steve) are working to sort out the kinks that are introduced by changing the IP addresses of the various zones running in this OpenSolaris server. As always, DNS propagation means that cause and effect are temporally vague, but eventual consistency is being achieved.

Testing social integration (2)

The old plugins that I was using seem to have become abandonware, so I’ve been doing some housekeeping.
You know, blogs and computers are really great ways of procrastinating. There are always updates, patches, tweaking, and other essential but non-productive tasks to be done. And the complexity of smartphones and their apps now means that we can take this timewasting wherever we want. When I was a kid in England, male home-owners tended to use their garden shed or allotment for this kind of thing. The nearest kind of portable procrastination was smoking a pipe; a pipe always needed scraping or cleaning, or something.

Repairing the blog, and recommitting

Earlier today, I was engaged in a bit of time-wasting on Facebook (the “Five Interesting Places” meme, if you must know), and a commenter referred to my inclusion of Golconda. I decided to search back in the blog to find the piece I’d written about my visit to Hyderabad and Golconda, and perhaps include a link to a photo or two. And so I pointed my browser at ““.
It was broken. The sidebars were gone, the header image was different, and there were no new posts since September 19. (And that was an auto-generated summary of my Twitterings.) What the hell was going on? Somehow my WP theme subdirectory had reverted to an earlier version. I searched the uploaded images until I found the lovely picture of my grandson’s eyes, tweaked the layout, and everything was restored to a semblance of normalcy.
And then I realized that I had no answer to a very simple question: how long had it been broken? How long have I been ignoring it? It could have been up to two weeks: certainly the most recently scheduled automated Twitter summaries had failed to appear.
Why haven’t I been blogging much recently?
Some of it is the competition of other channels. Much of the day-to-day discussion of cloud computing (and the business thereof) takes place in Twitter. Hand-held devices mean that you can never escape the flow: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Reader are all there whenever I glance at my iPhone, and new apps like Flipboard and the Atlantic’s iPhone apps keep pushing updates in my direction. Yes, I could stop looking – but I can’t escape the fact that the tempo of social networking has increased: subjectively, if I don’t comment on a topic within the first 24 hours, it’s already stale.
Personally, I’m busier than before. New job, family commitments, other stuff to deal with. Less travel, which means less down-time, less reporting from exotic places and less photography. And on the personal and work front I find that there’s more stuff going on that I don’t really want to share – family medical issues, complicated relationships, and sensitive work-related topics.
But there are other factors at work. If you read my blog archives, there’s a lot of politics, and philosophy, and religion. And I’m pretty much burned out on all three. The US political environment is intensely depressing: rampant stupidity on the right, paralysis on the left, and betrayal in the center. Kleptocracy reigns, civil liberties are as Orwellian as under Cheney, and the callous robo-murder of poor, brown-skinned people continues from Afghanistan to Gaza. Philosophy is giving way to neuroscience and physics, and about time too. And on matters of religion, I’m tired of having to repeat the same old arguments to each new generation of believers. I’ve been discussing this stuff on the ‘net since the late 1980s, and it gets repetitive. (Fortunately the terminally uninhibited Christopher Hitchens is saying everything I wish I could say, but much better than I ever could.)
But I want to blog. I want to write: it’s good for me. I’m not sure what the best pattern is, but I’m going to work on it. My cousin Aidan is a journalist, and I believe that his weekly blog is based on his newspaper work. He always touches on several topics, but there’s usually a common theme. Some friends confine their writing to one or two topics; Chris Gerhard is usually opining on Solaris or cycling, while Kimberley rarely talks about anything other than dressage. Maybe I just need my One True Theme. Formula 1? Book reviews? Yahoo!? We’ll see.
And for the record, my Five Interesting Places were:

  • The Terracotta Army, Xi’an, China
  • Golkonda, Hyderabad, India
  • Ephesus, Kusadasi, Turkey
  • Avebury stone circle, England
  • Hong Kong, HKSAR

For my Chinese readers – 对于我的中文读者

I’ve added the Google Translate widget to this blog. If you want to read my writings in Chinese, choose your favourite version from the menu (Simplified or Traditional) and it should load in a few seconds.
我已经添加了谷歌翻译工具这个博客。如果你想阅读我的文章中,选择你最喜爱的版本,从菜单(简体中文或繁体) ,并应负荷在几秒钟。