Say what you want…

A chap I follow posts weekly “provocative” questions, in the sense that they prompt the reader to put some thought into their response. I think this was the first thing which made me read his blog. This week, his question is about freedom of speech.

I’ve always thought that’s a difficult one. Take this blog as an example – there’s nothing to stop me posting on whatever subject I like, using whatever words I like, but I don’t. I self-censor. I’m minded that the blog is specifically written from the perspective of being a stroke survivor, and one of the goals is to show that survivors have the same thoughts, feelings, desires as other people. Probably the same distaste for gratuitous bad language, too! I’m conscious that it’s probably not relevant to introduce my politics into it, but again I want to show as much that I I I can think about the same complex issues as well as, if not better than, anybody else. I write about my life as much to show that I do have a life, despite what happened to me.

So, I am certainly conscious of what I post, and I don’t consider myself free to post whatever I like..

In the same vein, readers’ comments. When someone posts something irrelevant or offensive (to others, not particularly to me), I might remove. Comments inviting people to buy viagra – yes, it happens, even on what I consider to be a serious site – well, they don’t last long. I’m fortunate in that I don’t think I’ve ever had offensive comments on here, although I see it all the time over on Facebook. But they’d go the same way. If someone can’t make their point without insulting someone, they need to go back to class.

With that in mind, how can I say a blanket “I support free speech”? I mean, I’d like to think so, but there are limits. Just as in the wider world, comments like “Kill Jews/Muslims/Blacks/Some other minority section of society which a rich man has told you is the cause of all your ills” are unacceptable, my acceptance of free speech assumes that other people will share my standards. But they don’t. What I consider to be unreasonable might, for someone else, be perfectly reasonable.

On this site, at least, I call the shots.

But it’s not just me. There shouldn’t even be laws that protect people against discrimination – equality should be automatic – but they are required. So clearly politicians not only have a view, but feel sufficiently strongly that their view should prevail in wider society, that they bring in legislation. Regardless of your own standards, these are the standards to which the state requires us to adhere. And mostly, perfectly reasonably. The vast majority of us live our lives without there even being a hint of conflict with these rules.

And, what about freedom of speech, where what somebody says or writes might be untrue? Libel and slander? Of course, we can argue about how practical it is for a poor man to sue a rich man, but a court is probably the right place to make the decision, where they can properly assess the damage caused.

So I think that, for me, freedom of speech has limits. It’s scary to take the “establishment” viewpoint, but I think it is entirely appropriate that our representatives decide just where those limits are. Just don’t get me started on how we elect those representatives!

Holiday Time

My WordPress friend Fandango ( has this excellent idea of each Friday, reposting something from this date in a previous year, just to let readers have a glimpse of our past.

So I chose this week to include a post from two years ago, my first (and so far, my only) holiday/vacation since the stroke. These posts are especially significant for me, as they remind me how far I have come, which was the reason I started this blog. Note that the date is not exact – I tend not to post every day, so I aim for as near as possible. Enjoy (the photos especially), and I hope I’ve done the pingback feature properly.

Mister Bump

I went away on holiday with my wife last week, my first time away from home since the stroke.

We stayed in a “normal” room, i.e. not one for disabled people. Deliberately so on my part. The holiday, however, was an organised coach trip to Scarborough, and was clearly aimed at more senior people. A lot of my criticisms of the package are based purely on this age difference. For example, the hotel was without internet, and what they said *did* work, *didn’t*. Nobody seemed bothered, except for my wife and I.

Getting onto and off the coach was dependent on the actual terrain on which we were parked, but was generally do-able. There were plenty of things to hold on to, to give myself leverage. So too was manouvring about the coach. I did find that my bad leg was prone just to “relaxing” out of the seat into…

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Well, I’ve been with WordPress for, what?, a week now.

I probably visit a couple of times a day, I’ve gone through the process of subscribing, and unsubscribing, from several blogs. I’ve already experienced finding fifty emails in my mailbox when I fire the computer up. I’ve been amazed that people have started following my blog, although I expect they’ll unfollow when they realise how dull my life is.

So, a lot of the week has been spent working out how’s dashboard works (I’m going to try posting this on a schedule, rather than immediately). And not just WordPress. I installed Grammarly to help with my typos and am pretty impressed – I’m going to buy their premium subscription just as soon as I feel like spending £100/year on computer-related subscriptions. In fact, I’m using Grammarly to compose this – it kicks in for comments, but not in WordPress’s “Post Composer” – presumably it hooks into various HTML tags, which the composition page doesn’t use. I’m already seeing a consistent message that I use too many commas! But certainly a step up from Firefox’s default spellchecker – so ineffective that I had to go check whether it was running or not!

There are some things, though, that aren’t technical. Rather than can I change a post?, questions like should I change a post?. Not at all technical, instead one of principle. I have always had the power to edit my posts and comments, and I’ve used this occasionally to enhance what I’ve written, or just to correct typos. Never really to alter my point, but just my words.

Now, I’m aware some people are looking at my posts. I’m a lot more uneasy about changing them. If somebody reads X, and writes a comment on X, then it’s not really acceptable for me then to change X into Y. I’ve decided that for that reason, I can’t edit things I’ve already published. If anything, there’s a lesson in this for me to slow down the process, to check and check some more, to make sure I don’t publish exactly what I want to say. With some comments that I know I need to word carefully, I already have a 12-hour rule – I have a “cooling-off” time before I say anything, until I get my wording straight in my head. I’ve been burned a couple of times, especially with other stroke survivors, because we’re all at different stages of recovery. I try never to say anything which might be offensive, but I know I can be…irreverent, sometimes. I try to apply this rule, those times where I don’t, I often wish I had!

There is an exception here, though, and it’s those dratted typos I mentioned earlier. Whenever I notice one, I am frankly embarrassed, especially as for every mistake I spot, there must be 100 others go through unnoticed. I will correct them if I see them. I have to – I can’t knowingly leave silly mistakes out there for the world to see. I hope you understand, and if you wish to message me when you see one of my typos, I promise I’ll be grateful, not offended.

Reblog: We Need To Act…Now!

I woke up to this post from another blogger this morning. It is graphic, so beware. There just aren’t the words…

This, That, and The Other

Note: this video contains graphic content relative to school shootings. The subject matter may be difficult to watch. It was for me. It brought tears to my eyes.

This is not just an ad, this is reality for America’s school children. How can one watch this and not be affected by it?

This must stop!

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Too Good To Be True?

I was unbelievably pleased that my migration from Blogger happened so smoothly. Within a day, probably, I had something ready to share with the world. I suppose the abortive attempt a few weeks ago helped out, just in terms of having a pre-idea of how to set things up.

I didn’t quite go the whole way with WordPress, just as I never did with Blogger. I bought the domain name through my usual registrar (I’ve probably got ten domains with them). They allow me full management. For the Blogger site, I set up a few things to point to Blogger, so when I made the change, I reset these to point to WordPress. Because I own it, I can make these changes without having to ask so-and-so to do such-and-such.

WordPress still likes to manage a few things. When I performed the migration, I thought it was really smart, because things like my email worked perfectly, right from the off. WordPress must’ve looked up the old data and brought it across.

At this point, it gets technical. When you set up (or any other email server), you have to set two things up, your incoming server’s address and your outgoing server’s address. For each one, you publish the server’s IP address. When you’re huge like gmail, you’ll have different addresses for each.

So imagine somebody opens their email program. When they’re picking up their emails, they’ll connect to one of the servers.

Then imagine that they then decide to send an email to instead, their email program looks at the other address, so it knows where to send the message.

I own, so the plan was to change the web site settings from Blogger to WordPress but to keep the mail settings the same.

I could see it was all working, so I probably didn’t look closely enough at the settings. I assumed that wp had been really smart and pulled the old settings across, and I was good the whole weekend.

Today, though, my email program stopped picking up messages. It gave an error when it tried to read them. That was weird because people could send to me without any problems. My current wp settings mean that wp alone is sending me 50-odd emails per day!

So I looked closely at these settings, and here’s the weird thing: some of them had been set up, some hadn’t. The settings for somebody to send stuff to me were there, but not the ones my email program uses to receive.

Fortunately, my blog’s email is all hosted on my mail server, so I’ve been able to log directly on to that to see messages, and nothing was lost. And, I’ve made sure that the necessary settings are added in wp. Lo and behold, my email program is fine now.

A hiccup, no more. I can kind-of understand how I managed to pick up email after I migrated, because changes take time to propagate around the world, but I’m stumped, why wp picked up some of my original settings and not others.

Categories vs. Tags

I’m quite an organised person. When I wrote my posts in Blogger, it had a “subject” field in the metadata associated with each post. Over time, there were probably 20 or so subjects, which people could search on to make my posts on a certain subject more visible.

A great idea.

WordPress has the same idea, but two structures. You can assign a post a Category. Categories are basically closed lists. You can add a new category if you wish, but at the time of writing a post, you can either not select a category, or select one or more existing categories. You can’t just invent your own.

Blogger’s idea of a subject is one-dimensional. By which I mean, I can have a wider subject such as Health, and a more narrow subject such a Diabetes, but Blogger just sees them as two separate subjects- the wider/narrower aspects exist purely in my mind. In WordPress, there is a hierarchy. Health is the main category, and Diabetes is a sub-category. I mean, presumably, you can have subcategories of subcategories of subcategories… I’ve only gone to three layers (that’s probably as much as a reader can handle, anyway) but I can imagine the underlying data model. That is one of the things I probably will like about WordPress – that the basic product is a collaboration between software developers, so it’ll probably have a logical structure.

WordPress also has things called Tags. These are free-form pieces of text that you can use to describe a post. They’re like Categories, but they’re free-form, you’re not constrained to choosing something from a list. WordPress’s Tags are very similar to Blogger’s subjects. (OK, at this point I’ll admit that I’m using the wrong word to describe the Blogger functionality. Blogger actually calls it a “label”, but I’ve used them to hold subject text. So, strictly speaking, WordPress’s Tag equals Blogger’s Label.)

Just from a “purist” point of view, Tags are good, but Categories are better. The tighter you can define a post, the better. With free-form text, you can always mistype something, but you’re picking the wrong item from a list is a bit less accidental.

When I imported all my Blogger posts yesterday, WordPress obviously did some behind-the-scenes work too, didn’t just import the content of each post. It imported labels, too. As Tags.

No big deal, although going forward I’m going to start writing using Categories. So, last night I started the process of going through each post and changing Tags into Categories. It’s an onerous process, but it’ll give me more structure afterwards.

I suppose that as a result of this exercise, I have found out more about grammar-checking, and am actually writing this post in an application called Grammarly. Actually, it’s very good – I’ll copy it into WordPress once I’m finished. Plus I’ve found out about WordPress’s Bulk Editing tool. That allows me to see a list of posts and to edit Tags/Categories on each, without going into the post itself. It’s a bit less sexy and a bit more functional than their main dashboard, I’d guess it’s a previous version.

So that’s where I am right now. Even though I have found a quick way of doing things, it all still takes time, and I imported just shy of 400 posts. Still, I’ve just completed Page 6 of 20, so I’m about a third of the way through, and there’s no massive hurry. It’s a little bit inconvenient for a reader but hey, right now, what readers?

Success This Time

I got really hacked off with Blogger yesterday. A guy I know from his blog tried to comment on one of my posts, but couldn’t. I thought I’d sorted it by not forcing him to have a Blogger (Google) account, but no. So I had to go trawling for why Blogger did not allow i* users to comment, because of its use of cookies. Sure enough, this guy uses an iPhone and Safari.

It’s possible that he could change his browser settings to accept these cookies, but why should he have to? Instead, I changed my blog – dumbed it down, basically – so as to allow him to leave a comment.

But I was really turned off by the Blogger experience – I think if you’re going to have a blog, one of the top priorities is to allow other people to interact with your posts. So, overnight, I decided to give another go.

If I were going to change at all, going through was a no-brainer, because the three or four blogs that I follow are all on, so there won’t be any issues logging in, to comment of each other’s posts. I’m still not convinced by WordPress itself, but…..for better or for worse. In fact the only thing I found so far that it couldn’t do is to embed videos. But, I only had three anyway, so I uploaded them to YouTube instead, and linked to them in my posts instead. And because of my tendency to mis-type, I’d very much like a spellchecker, but for that, apparently, I need a plug-in, and a more expensive subscription. It feels weird to pay all this money, and to get messages telling me I still haven’t paid enough. Anyway there is a workaround on an add-on to the browser instead, which should help with all web forms not just the “create post” form on

So, that was after breakfast, and it has taken the afternoon to go through the links on the site. Even now, I’m not finished but the main pages are done. In truth, because I’ve now tinkered with, it was a darned site quicker this time around. I’m probably ready to publish the site and just rely on people to report broken links. Actually, knocking up the site was easier than the first time because I knew how to do things.

When I posted from here last time, I never got so far as assigning tags to posts. My categories in Blogger imported as tags, so I’ll stick with that – there’s almost 400 posts on here. So….next challenge!

Blog Stats

After my wordpress (mis)adventure, I jigged up my Blogger a little bit. One thing was that I’ve started looking at Google Analytics. Google always collected the data, but I only just hooked it all up so I could see it.

Of course, this is a very tightly-focussed site, it has very low traffic. Google Analytics is more for your big sites, where ultimately you’re selling or marketing something, so you can see how people are using your site. So, I know from the outset that when it says, say, that the revenue from a certain page was $0.00, I know to take it with a pinch of salt.

Incidentally, one possible source of revenue might be from displaying ads, but I took a deliberate decision right at the start that if you were looking to visiting me,it’s not really an appropriate place to try and sell you something.

Anyway, these analytics tell me all sorts of useless (but fascinating) information. 55% of my users use either a phone or a tablet, something other than a desktop computer, to view my site. I’m in a minority there, because I prefer my Windows laptop, hands-down.

Most of my visits have been from the UK (which is to be expected), but a small number have been from the US and from some European countries. There have also been visits from an “unknown area”. I’d like to think that this is outer space, and that some alien somewhere is interested in my blog, but it’s probably just Google’s powers of deduction have been exhausted and it has given up. I wonder if any of my UK visitors are “me”? They shouldn’t be – I allow Google to put a cookie on my conputer to tell it to ignore hits from my computer. But that pre-supposes that it works!

We hit lots of web sites by mistake. A search engine gives us the hit, we look at the front page but it isn’t what we’re looking for. GA tells me that visits to my site average several minutes, so somebody must be reading something.

Most of all, I’m just happy that the bloomin’ thing works!