Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Better Blogging

This is my 200th blog entry. Starting in late August of 2009, I began this blog to document a trip I took to Italy with a group from the Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University, fulfilling some international electives required for the MBA program. In the 915 days since I started, the longest gap was 139 days, in early 2010, probably due to being busy finishing my degree. Discounting this gap, I am posting at a rate of about once every four days on average.
In which I am handed
a lovely leather case for
my diploma, which arrived
in the mail about 4 months later

My most viewed entry was a post I did last April, about how I learned to ski. It has been found by readers 238 times. Most of my posts are seen by about 20 readers, and Facebook drives most of my traffic (followed by Twitter).
I have written about travel, cooking and eating, pets living and pets dying, growing up in the suburban mid-west, and parenting. The label “dogs” is attached to 22 posts, but a search on my blog attaches it to 39 posts. Most of the expert advice around building a readership of loyal followers encourages a blogger to have a tight focus on one topic (indoor gardening, gluten-free cooking, atheist parenting).  One assumption is that if you’re a blogger you want as many readers as you can get, and if you want to learn about the finer points of using analytics and search-engine optimization, there are folks with lots of advice for you.
As for me, the blog is a place to send friends who want to know what’s up and it is a way to get myself writing while I figure out what I’m doing next. Beyond common sense rules, like “be interesting,” and “respect other people’s privacy,” I only have a few. Rules have to make sense. They have to be enforceable, broad and logical. They should be necessary, and sufficient. You should have as few rules as possible. If you have to break a rule, you should know why you did.
  1. Post a picture, preferably your picture. It anchors the text. No more than three pictures.
  2. Keep it short. If it’s a long story tell it in two parts.
  3. Include a link. It’s the internet. You’re supposed to.
  4. Be regular, but no more than one post a day.
  5. Say something.  Reposting without commentary is what Twitter is for.
200 posts later I’m still not sure why I do it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

An Absolutely True and Unexpected Message #6 and #7

These two entries in the Get-Folks-to-Click-Here Olympics provided plenty of entertainment for me.
The first is remarkably legitimate seeming, from the subject line of "Your fedex.com will soon expire!" to the sender, "Fedex Online Service." But all is revealed with "you have not access fedex.com..."

The second is obviously fake, and even omits my name from the "Dear ," and lacks punctuation and capitalization,  but, well, maybe she is a very, very busy "62 yr old." Lastly, her name changes at the end to the curious "Laura-Green," which I find oddly appealing.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Barcelona #6: Zoo Redux

Imagine my surprise when my Traveling Companion wanted to try the zoo again. We made an earlier start of it, used a less circuitous route, and really found it this time. Arriving in the early afternoon, we found the zoo to be almost completely deserted.  Admission was surprisingly high (16€ each). One of the many reasons I loved going to the St. Louis Zoo when I was in high school (other than the obvious reason that I had friends who worked there) was that most of the zoo was free. It was the best people-watching in all of St. Louis.
The Barcelona Zoo has pony rides, a children’s train, and even golf carts you can rent. They also have a candy store and several spots to buy a beer.  They have both kinds of camels, fighting flamingos, meerkats and too many parrots. Many animals behaved in a way that made us think that they’ve been fed by people looking at them; most turned and looked at us, and others walked right up when we approached.
The genuine treat of the day was that they have three kinds of vultures: a large sociable colony of Griffon Vultures, a pair of Black Vultures, and my Traveling Companion’s favorite bird ever, the Bearded Vulture. 
The gorgeous solitary Bearded Vulture we saw had taken up a spot in its new enclosure where it could survey its entire cage and still see all the way to the tables of the snack bar. I took three pictures of it, and despite the fact that I could see its face almost the whole time we were there, its head is completely turned away from me in each shot. This bird lives on skin and bones and marrow and tendons, with a pH of 1 in its stomach.  They have been observed dropping bones from a great height to break them open.
The Griffon Vultures had just been fed, and there were beheaded rabbit carcasses strewn about their enclosure.  Griffon Vultures are very expressive birds, with downy tan fuzz on their heads and on their long, curved necks. There was also some gentle squabbling over the best spot on a perch and plenty of cantering over the ground. These vultures have a ruff of long, thin feathers which float about their thin necks like a fancy collar, and long flat feathers that hand around their legs like culottes. Certainly this is the best-dressed vulture I’ve ever seen.  We observed several individuals spreading their enormous wings to stretch.  Suddenly one lifted into the air and had a quick flight across the enclosure; in the large Doñana Aviary next door, the Eurasian Spoonbills rose in agitation. The other species were quiet, unmoved by either the swoop of the great vulture or the excited circling of the spoonbills.