Tag: recommendations

A Shoutout for WordPress

close up shot of a typewriter
Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

Back in June, I decided to migrate this blog from a self-managed installation of WordPress to WordPress.com. I’d done the self-manage thing for more than ten years, and I decided that I would rather spend my time writing instead of managing my site. I thought this would be a complicated move, something that would take a month or more to complete. As it turned out, it took less than an afternoon to do the whole thing. Since then, I have been incredibly happy with WordPress’s tools and services.

For level-setting:

  • I opted for WordPress’s Business Plan because it had everything I thought I would need. At the time I migrated my site, the Business Plan cost $300/year, which is well-worth it based on the time it has saved me.
  • I’d already subscribed to a WordPress backup service through JetPack, so the transfer was made much easier because of that–essentially, the process automatically did a full backup of my old site and then a restore to my new site.
  • I rerouted my domains to point to WordPress.com’s servers. My domains are still held separately through GoDaddy, but in 2022, I will likely transfer them permanently to my WordPress site.

Here are my thoughts on my first 6 months on WordPress.com after more than a decade on a self-managed WordPress site:

  1. The level of support and service from WordPress has far exceeded my expectations. Their Happiness Engineers made my migration far easier than I expected. They provided quick support in answering follow-up questions I had in the weeks after the migration. They even proactively reached out to me to help correct a problem I wasn’t even aware of with one of my domains. As someone who has worked in tech support, I know how difficult that job can be, but the folks at WordPress make it look easy. They provide concierge-level service, positive moments of truth, and they help keep things low-stress. I can’t say enough good things about them all.
  2. I noticed an immediate significant performance improvement over my self-managed installation. I’d gotten used to things being a certain speed, but once I started on WordPress.com, I was amazed by how fast everything works. Whether it is creating a new page, loading the site, running a search, they are all lightning fast.
  3. The set of tools provided to Business Plan includes everything I need for my site. I can manage my domains, and my domain email. I have access to custom plug-ins and themes. I have SFTP and database access to my site. (I used these quite a bit on my old self-managed installation, but have had no need for them, yet, on WordPress.com.)
  4. I can spend my time writing posts instead of tweaking my site to get better performance, or dealing with issues caused by my hosting service or being on a shared server. Seriously: I wrote about 105,000 words on the blog between January and June when I began to plan the transfer. From the time I transferred my site to WordPress.com to now, I’ve written 196,000 words–almost double–and yet both periods were about 6 months each. Clearly I am spending less time “managing” the site and more time writing. Much of that is due to WordPress.com’s fast, reliable infrastructure, auto-updates and general easy of use.
  5. My site stats are up significantly since the transfers. While I’d like to think this was due to more and more people enjoying what I write, I suspect much of it is due to items #2 and #4 above. The site is faster, and I’m able to write more so there is new stuff for people to read every day. It’s been a steady increase, but daily stats have basically double since I switched at the end of June.

Consider this my hearty recommendation for WordPress.com’s service. I’ve had no problems, excellent custom services, and a fast, reliable system that allows me to focus on writing. I couldn’t ask for more than that.

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Wanted: Good Books on the Science of Dreaming

The emphasis here is on science. My understanding of current theories of why we dream, based on articles I’ve read in science-based publications like Scientific American, is that dreaming helps convert short-term memories to long-term memory. What I am looking for is a book-length treatise on the science of dreaming. It can be a history of the science: what we’ve learned from our first investigations down to the present; or it can be a book describing the current scientific theories on why we dream, and the mechanisms that influence those dream.

When I search for books on “science of dreaming” I get a lot of noise that seems to divide into two major groupings: (1) how to lucid dream; and (2) how to interpret dreams. I could care less about either of these. I’m not trying to become aware that I am dreaming when I am asleep and to take control and start flying around my dreamscape. Nor do I particularly care about how I might interpret what it is I am dreaming about. Given what I have already read about dreams, the latter is more or less meaningless, the brains reaction to firing neurons while committing memories to longer-term storage. What I want to know more about is the research and study that has gone into dreaming.

I am sleeping better than I used to, and I am grateful for that. But despite sleeping well, I wake from most nights feeling worn out from the endless parade of dreams that I’ve been having over the last several months. These are vague dreams, but they seem to be constantly in the background. I wake from them in the middle of the night only to have them resume after I fall asleep. They are not frightening, or particularly exciting, but they are exhausting and they take away from what could be a really good night’s sleep.

I understand (from what reading I’ve done about dreaming) that we all dream, even if we don’t remember what we dream about. What I am looking for is if there have been studies or research done on what external triggers might effect what I will call the “volume” of dreaming. What I’d like the be able to do is turn down that volume for a while. Ideally, I’d like to mute it. The dreams can continue in the background as they always do, but I’d rather not be aware of them for a while. I just want a good night’s sleep. I’d like to do this, of course, without the aid of any pharmaceuticals.

So, I am looking for books on the science of dreaming. Maybe I should be looking for books on consciousness more broadly, but I have a narrow focus here. So far, I have found two possible candidates: a book called When Brains Dream: Exploring the Science and Mystery of Sleep by Antonio Zadra and Robert Stickgold; and The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest by Penelope A. Lewis.

Does anyone have other recommendations on the science of dreaming? If so, please drop your recommendations into the comments. I’d be grateful.

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Desperate for Reading Recommendations

I am in the midst of a reading drought. Nothing I try seems to stick. I just finished reading Stephen King’s Billy Summers (more to say about that in a future post) and over the last several days have started and stalled on half a dozen books, including: The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant, Red Comet by Heather Clark, Metropolis by Ben Wilson, and most recently, Everything and More by David Foster Wallace, which really pushed me to my mental limits. (No pun intended there.)

At this point, I’m begging for recommendations. I prefer nonfiction to fiction, but beggars can’t be choosers, so I’ll take any recommendations. If you are wondering about the kind of stuff I read, I read everything. More specifically, here is the list of everything I’ve read since 1996 in case that help.

If you are so inclined to help out, drop your recommendations in the comments. I’m grateful for any help you can provide to get me out of this reading drought.

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Up From Dragons

I finished Up From Dragons by John Skoyles and Dorian Sagan, on Wednesday night, but haven’t had time to say a few words about it. It was one of those books that really surprised me. I had started to read it five years ago, but only got through a dozen pages or so before I moved onto other things. Even so, I recall those first dozen pages as being interesting.

I turns out that this is one of the better science books that I have read. My memory of The Dragons of Eden is just fuzzy enough to prevent me from making a fair comparison between the two of them. However, I remember loving The Dragons of Eden and I loved Up From Dragons as well.

Up From Dragons was a more technically difficult read than Eden. Without being mathematical, the book discusses the most complex object in the universe–the human brain–and I found myself at times at the limit of my comprehension, reading and re-reading passages. Nevertheless, I came away with a good understanding of what the book was trying to say, and a better understanding of the human brain, consciousness, and the evolution thereof than I have ever had before.

The book was well written, and moved in a logic order. In fact, it presented its arguments in such a way, that a chapter would conclude with a seemingly logical conundrum that would be resolved in the next chapter. I haven’t seen this kind of science writing since Isaac Asimov and I appreciate it. It makes the reading more fun. You feel like you are unraveling these mysteries along the way.

For anyone interested in human intelligence, and the evolution of the human brain, I definitely recommend this book. It’s a winner.

Somewhere between heaven and hell

Meanwhile, I asked Dan for a recommendation on a second Social Distortion album, because I liked their debut album so much. He recommended Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell, which is ironically how I feel right about now. I bought it from the iTunes store tonight and I look forward to listening to it tomorrow.

Thanks for coming to the rescue, Naked Man!

998 books

I’ve just ordered my 998th book, Joe Haldeman’s War Stories. This means that I need 2 more books to reach 1,000. One of the two books I’m already planning on ordering–it’s the one volume I’m missing in the 11-volume Story of Civilization series by Will Durant.

That means, I really only need one more book to reach 1,000 books in my collection.

I am open to recommendations for what that 1,000th book should be. I think it should be something pretty spectacular, but I’m open to pretty much anything. Anyone have thoughts or recommendations?