Kicking Back, Looking Forward

I’ve been kickin’ back for the past week or so, taking a much needed vacation from work, and — as is commonly the case — I’ve been as busy at home as at work: yard work, catching up on chores around the house, making a dent in my reading list, and getting my new web site for vasectomy reversals up to speed.

The web site’s been a lot of work, but I’m enjoying it immensely. I’m building it in — WordPress!

Blogging software for a professional content-oriented web site? You betcha — the capabilities of WordPress in its latest renditions (now up to version 2.2) are truly amazing. It is now easy to have a static page as home page, and use page templates and post categories to display specific content on a specified page. So I can have, say, a page for frequently asked questions, and add new questions as blog posts with the category “FAQ.” WordPress page templates and template tags (pieces of PHP code which are used in the templates, and pull content from the database) are very flexible, well-documented in the WordPress Codex, with a short learning curve. This is sooo much easier than hacking together a static site using Dreamweaver or hard-coding html and css.

On the writing front, I’ve been giving some thought to my direction here, as I approach my third blogging birthday. As both my readers know, my typical format has been long essays or multi-part series (which are really very long essays, too long for a single post). These essays can prove to be rather gargantuan tasks at times, often taking 1-2 weeks to formulate, edit, and complete. The amount of time and effort thus entailed pose a significant initial hurdle: it takes quite a bit of energy to launch into one, and it is all too easy to procrastinate. The time limits of my profession don’t help as well. So I periodically get tired of the demands incurred, and have trouble gearing up again.

I have thought of branching out a bit — being a semi-professional techno-dweeb, I have a million little tools, utilities, and programs (Mac & Windows) which I find immensely useful, so I thought I might review the good, the bad, and the ugly I’ve run across and use regularly. I’ve also thought of having a Q&A format: any pressing issues you’d like me to pontificate upon, medically, faith-related, or other off-label topics? Let me know, and I’ll give it a shot.

My current readership (site visits per month) is about half what it was one year ago. The reasons for this are of course inscrutable — perhaps the content no longer appeals to as many people, or to other, more prominent bloggers who bring traffic by mentioning and linking to posts. Perhaps it has nothing at all to do with such factors, and is just part of a down cycle. I write from a passion of the soul — for my faith, for my profession, for a great culture in decline, for the joy of life, and family, and pets, and laughter. Hit counts mean little — but being human, they give rise to second-guessing when their decline is noted. Sending words blindly into the digital ether — especially when their generation requires substantial effort and time — can prove easily discouraging when few echoes return.

Well, enough of my navel-gazing — I will write as long as I am called to do so, and as long as there are those who read, and listen, and hopefully gain some insight and benefit from the effort. I genuinely appreciate those of you who visit regularly, and comment — you have blessed me far more than you know.

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day, and God bless. Back soon.

Link Whorage

OK, I admit it: I’m a link whore.

But a very nice link whore. And I won’t get you in trouble with your wife, I promise.

Seriously, while I’m in the process of changing the site, it’s time to revisit the blogroll–pruning this, adding that, making it leaner and meaner.

So if you’re interested in in exchanging links, leave a comment here or drop me an email.

New Blog Theme

Day LilyI’ve been working on a different look and feel for the blog, based on a new WordPress theme called CutLine. The designer (Chris Pearson) has created a very clean look with some excellent page layout features, especially image handling and pull quotes.

I’m still in the process of thinking through how best to handle archived posts. One of the big downsides of the blogging medium–especially for essay-oriented sites like this–is improving access to earlier materials which many newer readers may not have seen. I have handled this in the past with periodic reposts of older material, especially during light blogging times, as I have been doing lately. But it would be nice to have older material more accessible and categorized more clearly, perhaps with short excerpts rather than simply titles.

Any thoughts you might have on this–or tips on other sites which have addressed this dilemma in a creative and useful way–would be appreciated.

For a sneak peak at the new look, mosey over here and take a gander.

Thanks, and hope your Thanksgiving was a wonderful one.

Light Posting for a While

Virginia V Mosquito Fleet ferry
Virginia V – Mosquito Fleet ferry
I’ve been a bit out of pocket of late, in no small part due to an ongoing family crisis (which I alluded to here) which has consumed a lot of time and even more emotional energy. So I haven’t had the time or mental wherewithal to put many cogent thoughts together for posting. Hopefully this will change in the near future, but in the meantime I’ll repost a few of my earlier essays which some of you may not have read, or may do some shorter posts as time and energy permit. I may also post some photos I’ve got lying around: the above is the Mosquito Fleet ferry Virginia V, which made its maiden voyage in Puget Sound in March 1922, and is the last remaining steam-powered ferry of the Mosquito Fleet, seen above, restored, sailing in the Tacoma Tall Ships Festival in July 2005, where I took the above shot.

Thank You for Your Prayers

I’ve been under the weather with a sinus infection, so it may be a few days before I get back to my frequently infrequent posting schedule. But I did want to express my tremendous thanks and gratitude for your prayers and support. Last weekend with my daughter went far better than I had anticipated, although she and her husband still have some tough trials and days ahead of them. If you find a moment to pray for them, all of us would be most appreciative.

I realize that some, perhaps many, of my readers are skeptical about prayer and its effects on our lives. I am not here to attempt to prove these things to you, except to say that I have seen countless instances in my own life and those of many others where profound changes have occurred as a result of prayer, explainable in no other way.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Anchoress (or, as I prefer to call her, Anchor-Babe) had a post today on this very topic, asking for prayers for her husband in his travels. She says:

… when some emailers and cyberpals read that I’m having a rough time physically, I can tell I’m being prayed for … and it is so incredibly moving to me, to know that somewhere out there a perfect stranger is speaking a word of good for me. Nothing is more humbling than that.

Because I believe – no, I know – that prayer makes a difference in people’s lives, I try to remember in my prayers some folks who I suspect have no one praying for them. Mostly that involves praying for public figures – some of their names might surprise you – and certain friends of my sons who have been raised without much exposure to church or faith.

Like her, I too can sense the support and strength which comes when others pray for me and mine–and I experienced its power last weekend, as did my wife and daughter. Thank you from the depths of my heart.

The Anchoress finishes by asking:

If you’re inclined to prayer and you have room on your prayerlist for a stranger, I would be most humbled and grateful if you’d remember my husband. Thanks.

Done deal, sister–may God be with you both.

Interior Designs


Seriously, this is cool: this humble blog has been blocked by web filtering software at the Department of the Interior.

How awesome is that!!

Man, the place just ain’t been the same since Jimmy Watt left it, ya know?

Of course, one might hope for censorship from a somewhat bigger player than the Department of the Interior–the bureaucracy whose job in life is to watch trees grow, prevent mining and drilling only in areas where these natural resources exist, and to periodically burn down Los Alamos.

But, hey! You gotta start somewhere.

And from the looks of the other sites blocked–some big hitters, these–maybe my ship has finally arrived…

UPDATE: Here’s the latest scoop on what’s going on with the blocking of sites at the Department of the Interior, over at PoliticsCentral.

Posting Frequency

I’ve been feeling a little guilty lately about not posting very often. Of course, I could lay out the usual (and usually true) excuses that I’ve been busy, work’s a killer, family commitments, etc, etc. But no one wants to hear that, so I won’t…

So it did my heart good to stumble across this post (HT: QandO) which says posting too often is bad. Whoa!–I’m likin‘ this guy! But now I’m feeling guilty that I’m posting about someone who says not posting too often is good, and maybe that’s just another excuse, so that’s bad … or maybe it’s bad because I’m posting just to not feel too guilty about not posting, by posting a link to a post about not posting–and maybe that’s just what this guy is talking about, posting too much about nothing …

I am sooo unworthy… “Who will save this miserable wretch that I am?” to quote a guy who might have been a blogger if blogging was around 2000 years ago in places like Rome and Corinth and Ephesus.

Anyway, it did bring about a few thoughts on blogging. Now don’t get me wrong: I love sites like Instapundit which steer me to What’s Happening Now–very efficient, and I’m glad they do it frequently. Others like American Digest, mix cool, short, funny, offbeat stuff with deep essays and drop-dead good writing. Others, like the Anchoress, combine current event commentary with personal life and deep faith, dished up daily from the depths–gotta love that approach as well.

But for me, daily blogging’s never gonna happen–nor should it. If I’m going to write, I’m going to try and say something of substance–and for me, that takes time. Serous time. All-too-scarce time, sometimes. Yeah, sometimes there’s a quick post on something that’s funny or crazy or maddening–but the bottom line is that writing a blog is really for me. I don’t like wasting much time on the trivial: life has a purpose, and its time is not unlimited, so I hate spinning my wheels. Writing for me is about reflecting on what’s important in life, inspecting it from every angle, chewing it over, looking at it from perspectives I don’t even think of sometimes until I actually start.

If you’re a blogger–and I assume many of my readers (perhaps 3 out the 5 total who read this blog) are bloggers–here’s a question for you: would you blog if you knew no one was reading? For me, I think the answer is yes–it’s something folks have doing forever, really, called journaling, and it’s a valuable personal and spiritual discipline. But there is also something about blogging, knowing that others are reading–hopefully not just to impress with fancy words or turns of a phrase, but because of the accountabilty it brings. I believe people sense in the better bloggers something genuine, something real, drawn from the depths of a life of substance. Most of us have fairly good B.S. alarms, and can tell when someone is just tootin’ their horn or blowing hot air.

Anyway, I feel better now, having posted something… and it’s late, so off to bed. Night night.

Another Birthday

Another birthday this month–not mine, you silly (that was last month, 56 long trips about the sun, and the treads are definitely showing the wear…), but this blog: two years old. For a project started on something of a lark–writing for a non-existent audience, with nearly non-existent time to pursue yet another Bob Obsession–it has proven to be quite a journey in many ways. The odyssey has been one from within and without, both reflective and relational. Putting thoughts to paper, as it were, seems to plumb some inner space, revealing dark recesses and flashes of light in often surprising ways, as the discipline of writing seems to free the spirit in some mysterious way. Writing for this blog, and elsewhere, has released thoughts, insights, and words which are, more often than not, as startling to me as they seem to be pleasing, and at times helpful, to others. And the surprise of new relationships and friendships, many virtual and virtually anonymous, yet friends nevertheless, rich with oneness of spirit and mind, is a real treasure–and frankly as surprising as the words I sometimes find myself writing.

I don’t write with any desire to be famous, or have the most hits, to get links on Instapundit or interviews in the media or a book deal. And I am pleased to inform you that my lowly objectives have been achieved beyond my wildest dreams: no fame, no fortune, no Instalanche, no book deals–and that’s perfectly alright, thank you very much. My goal–my hope, really–is to touch others in some small way, to perhaps give them a glimpse inside a remarkable profession–or even more so, a glimmer of God through the cracks in my own broken vessel. If I have accomplished this, even for a few, the effort will have proven more than worthwhile.

I write about bridges, and cooking turkeys, and the joys, frustrations, and insanity of a noble profession, and things I find humorous, or tragic, or touching, or life-changing, because changing life is what life is about: mine, my family, my patients, my friends, my readers. We of all creatures are aware of our own mortality; we get, to a greater or lesser degree, much choice in life’s summation: in many ways, we get to write our own novels. To come to the end of life with great wealth, or fame, or success, is perhaps understandable–even desireable in some small way–but invariably bequeaths a hollowness of spirit, a pathos of lost opportunity–for such things endure but briefly, if at all, after we ourselves return to the minerals of which we are made. To have touched those those with whom we have walked; to have drawn them in some way toward the light; to have left a legacy of goodness and mercy and grace behind: these are the things which will endure, things at once quite small yet vast and eternal.

I have watched, in this short time, many bloggers–bright, energetic, insightful, often excellent writers–post their swan song and fade to black, burned out on the relentless demands of daily delivery of content and commentary. I have at times wondered when, and by what manner, my own minor nova might flare, posting some sad goodbye to a few polite claps as my words fade like falling embers of a party sparkler. But hopefully–when that time comes–those words will linger with at least a few retinal ghosts, varicolored streaks of light against a dark background, that a few lives will thereby have been touched and changed.

I am grateful above all for those of you who visit here regularly, or rarely; who read, and visit, and think, and comment–or perhaps just wonder who this self-important fool might be. Thank you for listening, for spending those precious minutes of our too-brief lives–and especially for being friends.