Yet Another Day and Another Post

This morning I got up and within no time had a topic for blogging in mind. I set to work writing my brief introduction to the material that I wished to covered when I realized that it would be nice to embed a Google Trends graph into my WordPress Post. It seemed like so trivial to do. After all, Google nicely provided the javascript code to neatly embed it, but it  turned out to be quite a bit of work to discover how to apply it in the context of a WordPress blog.

It wasn’t nearly as easy or convenient as it should be. The WordPress editor appears to not give one the ability to insert just any old HTML and JavaScript into your post – which is inconvenient when one wants to stretch beyond the capabilities of its Visual Editor, but one doesn’t want to fully roll up one’s sleeves and get down to messing directly with the PHP code under the hood.

My first thought was naturally that some plugin had been written that would make this task easy. A customized bit of WordPress shortcode perhaps? Or maybe an editor extension with a popup field editor for receiving JavaScript to embed. But alas I searched through several plugin candidates and didn’t find any of them at all suitable other than one that was a “Lite” version supported for advertising, and I didn’t really wish to embed ads into my post.

By this point, I’d lost the opportunity to get an early start on my blog post, and it was time to get the day going with breakfast for Melinda and me. I made us some oatmeal with cinnamon and brown sugar (for me) and walnuts (for her) with our usual coffee. We then had a short while to get ready for the rest of the day before heading out to have lunch with my mother-in-law and her husband. Then, we returned home and spent over an hour gathering old clothing and unused kitchen appliances for Good Will. Finally, we also cleaned out a ghastly amount of junk and clutter that had been lurking underneath our master bathroom sinks – mostly under mine. It felt good to clear out all the space and put useful things back inside in a nice and organized manner.

Next, we headed out to Good Will, followed by a stop by Whole Foods where we picked up groceries for the week including the stuff necessary to prepare one of our favorite dishes from Alicia Silverstone’s Kind Diet receipe book – Rustic Pasta.

Rustic Pasta!

While Melinda was getting the pasta together, I played DJ via Spotify and Airplay and also tried to find some way around my problem of embedding JavaScript inside a WordPress post. I found some code examples for Google Maps and after several false starts through testing out plugins, I decided to get down in the dirt and write a tiny plugin of my own to accomplish exactly what I needed. In the end, writing a plugin to do it was quite, quite simple. I should have done it from the start, but really it shouldn’t have required me to write any code. Just because I can write code, doesn’t mean I should have to when using blog software.

Although my obstacle was now removed, I didn’t have time to write the post as dinner was about ready. We enjoyed our last bottle of wine that we brought back from our trip to France late last year. It was a 2008 Gevrey-Chambertin, and we both found it quite good – especially with our meal. Afterwards, we decided to get ourselves caught up with Downton Abbey.

We watched the Christmas Episode of Downton Abbey that capped season two and then watched the first episode of season three which aired on PBS just last week. I am pleased to say that we found that the writing has improved immensely and returned to its excellent from from season one. The Christmas Episode was quite wonderful in every way and the season three premier left us eagerly waiting for the new season to unfold.

However, we didn’t realize what we getting ourselves into and found ourselves staring at half past midnight when we finished up! Melinda was rather tired and I found myself once again trying to quickly pound out 500 words on this blog. I decided to hold off on what I had intended to write about because I felt that I could more quickly write something more descriptive and stream of thought than trying to write something more thoughtful as I had originally intended.

Fortunately, it will keep for another day!

One Book a Month

A friend of mine recently congratulated himself on achieving his 2012 goal of reading at least one book a month. He in fact managed to read 1.5 books a month. It brought to mind an incident from the past month where a friend asked for a recommendation of the bests fiction books that people had read in 2012 and I found myself unable to come up with much because I had only managed to finish nine books in 2012 with seven of those being fiction and most of those fiction books were fairly lightweight incidental stuff that I wouldn’t likely recommend.

I’ve got a growing list on Goodreads and never feel like I’m making much progress. I have a bad habit of getting distracted from even the best of books and putting it down for too long and then having to start from the beginning months or even years later. I’m thinking of setting myself a goal for 2013 of reading at least one book a month and of not putting down any fiction book in favor of another.

This last point is vital because although I am really enjoying Anna Karenina at the moment, tomorrow my copy of the A Memory of Light will arrive and it will be very tempting to put down Tolstoy in favor of Jordan as I’ve been waiting for the end of The Wheel of Time for nearly two decades at this point, and I’m certain it will be amazing. But I’m committed to seeing Anna Karenina through this time and although I’m sure that I could rapidly devour A Memory of Light, it would still be very dangerous for my goal of not setting aside novels that I then have to start over.

I think the other goal of one book a month should be very doable provided that I have it as an explicit goal. Indeed, it may even prove easier than my other goal of writing these daily blog entries – which I must confess have already become somewhat of a burden. That said the only time I actually sat in front of the computer and truly threw my hands up in a loss for something to write was last Friday night when the evening was drawing to a close and the pressure of writing something before midnight was upon me.

Since I’m only half-way through with Anna Karenina, I’m going to cheat a little bit and let it count for this month’s book. That said, I think I’ll manage to finish both it and A Memory of Light this month. I can’t imagine myself dragging out that book! Indeed, I imagine that I will find myself challenged to put the it down and focus on other things. Let’s hope so!

Another thing that I will need to master if I’m going to achieve my reading goals is the problem of getting sleepy while reading. I used to be able to read late into the night. I still remember pleasant memories of finishing Robert Jordan’s The Dragon Reborn in a frantic read through the night into the early hours of the morning and how it’s fantastic rousing conclusion energized me and led me to simply crack open the next book in the series instead of going to sleep. I think my chief problem is that when I get into bed, I put myself into a position where my body is laying flat and my head is propped up at an angle for reading. I seem to recall that my more successful late night reading endeavors happened when I could comfortably and easily sit in a position with my back in a vertical position.

This bedrest pillow might be just what I need!

Not Giving Up On Day Five

So as I sit here on this Saturday evening, I’m thinking about how I really need to arrange things so that I write these little posts second thing in the morning (first thing should be hitting the treadmill) – because otherwise as the end of the day draws closer, it really becomes hard to find the time to squeeze out five hundred words. I came very close to not writing anything this evening.

Melinda and I spent a good part of the afternoon working on finding the right ski lodging for our group ski trip to Mammoth California this April. We’re very pleased with the place that we found, and the trip is shaping up to be really fun. Unlike our previous two visits to Mammoth, this time the entire mountain will be opened, and we’ll be skiing with a large group of friends. The rental property that we found has a giant dinner table in around which all of us will be able to gather and hopefully some of us will get to indulge in the pleasure of board games during the evenings.

I’m really pleased that the first week of January isn’t even over, and yet, we have the most of the details all squared away for the trip and have the lodging reserved. Now it’s pretty much a matter of picking the exact set of flights and paying for them along with the lift tickets and ski rental reservations, and then the whole trip can be safely tucked away for the next few months.

Having one trip’s planning pretty much in the bag means that I will be free to focus on planning a trip to Italy this September as a sort of sequel trip the one that Melinda and I took for our 10 year wedding anniversary. We really enjoyed the tript to France, and it was really made possible through the valuable information found in The Gluten-Free Guide to France. As the author has also written The Gluten-Free Guide to Italy and as Italy is apparently a kind of gluten-free paradise where one can find fresh baked gluten-free breads, pastas, and Italian croissants, the question of our next European vacation seemed hardly in dispute.

Although planning this trip will be somewhat easier as I learned how to properly do it the last time and will re-use the same techniques, it’s hard at the moment to get going on planning again. When we got back from France, I was so excited about how much fun the trip had been and longed so much to return to Europe immediately, that I sublimated these feelings into planning a 2013 Italy trip within days of landing at home. I quickly ordered the Frommer’s guide and the Gluten-Free guide, and then I created a spreadsheet and an entry in TripIt. Then, I got busy and soon had a high level outline forming that now months later I seem to have misplaced. But invariably, something distracted me before I got too deep in the planning and now the effort has been sitting collecting electronic cobwebs for the last several months.

I opened up the planning documents during the Christmas break and found that while I had a good start, I was missing half of the visits spots that I had sketched out on a piece of paper months before. It meant that I would have to open up Frommer’s again and scan over the various different itineraries once again and reconstruct my own custom itinerary again. That didn’t sound like much fun on my last day or so of vacation, and so I’ve still not gotten my steam for the endeavor. I seem to recall that it took a little bit of effort to really get going on the detailed France trip plans, but that usually once I got started, it would only take something like 20 – 30 minutes, before I was really engaged.

So with one set of plans nearly concluded, I anticipate starting my engines in earnest on Italy 2013 next week.