A room for the night

The room that we shared with pigs and chickens below us while hiking somewhere in Northern Thailand. While the accommodations might not have been luxurious, the food that was cooked for us was amazing (poor chickens).

Podcast discovery experiments

I’ve spent a great deal of time learning and putting into practice various strategies for podcast discovery and listener growth.

“If you build it, they will come” seldom applies to any product but especially so with podcasts. So many lovely sounding products that never get heard.

Many strategies are extremely expensive, too expensive for an independent. As an example, we were offered $900US/episode to advertise a new pod launch from Wondery (we turned it down). That is not a cost that we could not afford.

Most strategies we have flirted with haven’t produced much in the way of results – the Google and Facebook tax that many companies have to pay hasn’t worked for us.

My current experiment is advertising on Overcast where I paid $120US for a 30 day run in their Kids & Family category. They state that you should expect 300–500 taps with 20–30 subscriptions. Subscriptions do not equal listeners, nor does it necessarily mean downloads. It also does not mean that they will become patrons or paying customers.

Though the results for others appear to be promising, at 9 days in we don’t seem to be having much success. Currently we have 14,228 views, with 149 taps (1.0%) and 2 subscriptions (1.3%). Thats a cost of acquisition right up there with Netflix.

It was warmer

4 years ago we were taking a break from work in a far warmer locale than where we are at the moment. I flew to Thailand from China, stayed overnight in Bangkok, before taking a small plane, ferry and bus to join family who had already rented a little cabin near the beach. Lot’s of memories on this trip, the food, the motorcycles, and the motorcycle accident. Camren rode on the back of my motorcycle and when hitting a rut on an unpaved road, we promptly skid and crashed. We were largely unharmed – I was bruised, scrapped and shook up a bit. Camren came away fine as I served as his airbag when he landed on top of me. Something we still joke about.

Later, our world would change as I flew to Canada to be with my mother in palliative care, accompanying her on her final journey.

Hopefully someday we will be able to throw a change of clothes in a bag, hop on a plane, and visit some interesting place far away from our daily routines.


I find the lack of capitalization in place names on this T3 transit schedule page annoying – the typeface they used, Poppins, I find irritating as well. The let’s make what should be capitalized, lower case, was a trend in the late 90’s I believe and it had the misguided intention of making websites seem more “friendly.” It also made them harder to read. The shapes of letters and the shapes they make when combined into words can significantly affect our ability to understand text.

Having a website sucks

I started building and designing websites of some sort 26+ (?) years ago. This was back when tilde domains were popular and when I had a “Zine” hosted on Geocities. It was fun and I learned enough to later get work doing this very thing for others.

Over the years the practice of creating websites got more and more complex, I got older, and my professional practice got more specialized. As a result my skills have languished and personally I have little patience and interest in understanding the language I hear web developers using today.

I was at one time a self-professed expert in using MoveableType and created a number of custom themes for that platform for people who I was working with at the time. I made a fateful decision awhile back to join the herd, drop MT, and use WordPress for any hobby projects, including this weblog. Our nascent business is run on this platform as well.

Since that time, I’ve had nothing but trouble. I’ve had a whole project taken down due to miscreants using one of our installs as a file sharing node. Lately, bugs in various plug-ins keep me busy with meaningless tasks. The latest problem is a common one, someone gained access to our server and installed malware. The last time it was some kids from Indonesia with too much time on their hands. This time it was a number of different actors. In fact I have found out that our website sleeptightstories.org, a website for kids with completely insignificant traffic, is a popular target.

This nonsense has distracted me and taken me away from the work that I enjoy.

Though it’s a matter of perspective, I realize I’m at fault for not having an almost religious conviction to ensuring that WordPress and her plugins are update and secure.

Our current web host, Pair, is very pithy with server resources on our former plan. Updating a WordPress install has more than once resulted in errors that required a couple hours to correct, so I often delay updating each install until I know I have the time to devote to the possible problems. Auto-update seems to only work intermittently. According to Pair, this is likely why they were able to so easily infect at least one of our sites.

But who builds a product that is insecure by design? Like Facebook, WordPress seems to have consciously created a product which has resulted in a whole cottage industry of people who help small business owners manage how they reach their customers, and keep their WordPress installs secure and spam free. It shouldn’t be necessary.

This is I hope the last time I make this mistake. Going forward I will be evaluating our relationship with Pair (I’ve been a customer for 20+ years), and have in the interim moved our WordPress installs to a new far more expensive managed hosting account.

We’ve already decided that our future lies with services like Squarespace, and not something built by myself. Goodbye Apache, hello nginx and whatever Squarespace runs on.

I can’t help but feel a little sad that the days of having fun with building websites are over, at least for a hobbyist like myself. I just don’t have time for all the inevitable problems that arise, nor unfortunately, the time to learn how to create something robust.


Since my last run in with website hacking ne’er-do-wells, I’ve tried to up my game somewhat in keeping our WordPress installations free from their machinations. At least until we migrate our sites to new dedicated hosting on Wednesday.

2 of our websites seem to be a constant target for login attempts, registering hundreds of attempts a day.

I can’t imagine what it must be like managing a WordPress website that gets real traffic.

Update: Using AWS to perform login attempts seems to be popular in Singapore.

A brief windows flirtation

When we came back to the Island I purchased for my daughter a cheap Asus Vivobook to use to complete assignments and such for high school. As the requirements for the laptop were simply to have the ability to login and complete work in Google classroom, I didn’t want to invest much in the way of hardware. A Mac was certainly out of the question, and I had little faith in Chromebooks.

When my son started to use a laptop running Linux and I was taken back by the price of a new Mac for myself (and their then faulty keyboards), it seemed briefly that we would be an Apple free household for the first time since I purchased a Mac Classic, via a Long and McQuade payment plan, many years ago.

My purchase of a new MacBook this past July nixed that trend, and now a call from Combat Computers has likely killed that idea for some time.

Her Vivobook was slow at the best of times, but lately the cursor would always continuously spin, not allowing access to the startup menu and preventing me later from accessing utilities. I couldn’t even boot into safe mode and the processor was always at 100%.

As my knowledge of Windows PC’s is about zero I took it to combat computers for repair and they just repeated back the same result I had but with the added opinion that the soldered on memory was likely damaged. Nothing can be done they say.

And thus ends my flirtation with cheap hardware running Windows.


The passage of time. I would love to go back in time and experience this period of our children’s life. Walking with Camren through the hills behind our house to take him to kindergarten, watching out for snakes and feeding stray dogs as we went. They both had the benefit of a marvellous pre-school education. Unlike most kindergartens in Taiwan, which are often seen as a means to get kids started early in rote learning, they climbed trees, made food, created crafts and played. Later in elementary school, they learned calligraphy, kendo, tea making and played Chinese instruments. This education didn’t come cheap, the tuition cost the equivalent of a years salary, but it was worth every penny, and gave them an experience unlike what we could have provided elsewhere.


All our websites are back after a truly international effort to deface one website (a crew from Indonesia) and to inject code to forward all links to some stupid advertising rich website, the persons behind the link redirection is unclear.

Thank you WordPress. I’ll send you a bill later for lost time due to your lack of security by design.

I took this opportunity to delete old files and web projects dating back 20 years or more. Lots of memories. Many projects that are likely best forgotten, like:

I used to absolutely love the web, not so much anymore.

Emoji apocalypse

I spent far too much time yesterday re-entering emoji’s for 100+ article titles on one of our podcast websites. I made a decision a year ago to make extensive use of emojis as part of our communications for our kid’s products. I haven’t performed any testing to see if kids respond to the imagery we create, so the end result could be having a little fun finding suitable emoji’s on emojipedia.

A week or so I noticed that all emoji’s used in titles had been replaced with question marks – no idea why, though I blame a bug in the Yoast plugin, the only difference between this site and others.

As an aside, I think it’s issues such as this that keep people employed as social media managers. What business owner has the time and inclination to deal with all the designed complexity of WordPress and other such tools, such as Facebook. If these tools were designed well, a whole group of people would be unemployed. Facebook is especially egregious. Despite having a huge staff of design talent, their business suite of tools are some of the most ill designed I have ever seen. Answering a query from a listener required a roundtrip through 2 devices and 3 different apps.

One of the remaining mysteries of my emoji cut’n’paste journey was the realization that in text displayed via WordPress, not css, the emoji’s that displayed are from Twitter Twemoji 13.0.1 and not those displayed by MacOS. This problem doesn’t reveal itself when viewing via an iOS device.

I’ll leave this issue to a time when I have nothing better to do.

Fresh snow

Taken en route to a haircut yesterday with Barbie Girl, near the soon to be closed Starbucks, a victim of North America’s inability to summon enough discipline and responsibility towards their fellow citizens to reduce the spread of COVID.

My forgotten photography skills didn’t capture what was a beautiful scene on the part of the trail we are permitted to be on last night. It’s only slightly over 4km’s one way from start to finish, but a run or walk on that trail cures all that ails you. It should be on every local mental health practitioners or physicians prescription pad. Your first step to wellbeing should be a walk on that trail.

Office hours

I came out of my cave yesterday and had coffee with the outgoing CEO of the Startup Zone, who is moving with his family to Halifax. In our conversation he reminded me that I have been renting space at the fish bowl and rarely set foot in the space. So today I am sitting in my space away from the lure of the kitchen refrigerator.

It’s been since the pandemic that never goes away (because of people) since I have worked with any regularity outside of home. It’s also one of the few times I’ve been concerned with looking human – it’s t-shirts and sweatpants and an ever growing beard at home.

I get the feeling that working from home is here to stay. The travel time and cost of working in even Charlottetown doesn’t make the same sense that it once did.

If we ever finally settle down here in the Charlottetown area, ensuring that there is a dedicated space for work will be a priority.


We need to recognize that stupid is a thing and, per Professor Cipolla, encourage our youth to discern how not to be stupid and to aspire to be “intelligent,” which also is a thing … and a noble thing, and not derived from a place of privilege that demands apology and self flogging.

He glosses over many issues and over simplifies situations which are actually complex – over-simplifications, objectifications, and identity politics are what have helped create the mess we are in. But sometimes the effort to understand human behaviour is just too great and a label such as stupid is all that can be summoned.

Stupid. His views on the pandemic are also of interest.

Fitness year in review

I did 405 workouts and ran 1,727kms for the year.

This is a marked improvement over the year before when due to an aversion to cold I stayed indoors and only managed 909kms of running (I worked out more, with 487 workouts in 2019).

Considering how little preparation I did and the lack of stretching and mobility work, which is essential at my age, I was surprised that I suffered no injuries. I think CrossFit and the fact that I build up my weekly mileage slowly over many months kept the injuries at bay. Now that I am restricted from running on the trails, I haven’t figured out a way to do long runs in winter safely. Between ice on the roads and distracted drivers I’m not confident that I won’t suffer some sort of calamity.

While it was a good year, it still pales to the amount of running I was able to enjoy in years past. Hopefully, I will find the will to run 2500 kms for the year, and if people would help us get the pandemic under control, run a few races.

Closet full

I have a thing for sneakers, which other than coffee is one of my few arguably necessary indulgences. I’ve long run in Hoka One One’s with their super sized cushion but after running 900km in a pair of Bondi 7’s have become a Altra Running convert. It takes time to adjust to these shoes, as they are zero drop and place a greater emphasis on a natural foot position. The last time I tried this kind of change in shoe it was with a pair of Soloman’s and I developed plantar fasciitis as a result. This time I am taking it a bit slower and paying attention to any discomfort or tightness in the lower kinetic chain.

The orange pair in the middle I bought specifically for winter trail running, which I have since found out is prohibited (and the fact of which still annoys).

The private public trail

Pedestrians on Confederation Trail ‘quite a safety issue,’ this season says snowmobile association

Snowmobilers excited for season as more Islanders join their ranks

Who in their right mind would have agreed to this lease?

On Sunday when I was running on the Confederation trail, Sheryl was out for a walk and had sent me a warning of 2 snowmobiles coming down the trail towards me. One apparently sped by her with little regard to her safety. I met one of them, who was extremely curtious, but luckily didn’t see the other. We commented afterwards that it seemed odd to see snowmobiles on a public trail.

Now it seems the oddity was us, as according to the Snow Mobile Association people are for the winter months forbidden on the trails, as they have an “exclusive lease” that “covers the entire Confederation Trail except two sections reserved for pedestrians: in Charlottetown from the bypass to Joe Ghiz Park.”

This has got to be one of the most ridiculous agreements I have ever seen.

The trails are the safest places to run, walk or bike in the Charlottetown area. And the views are beautiful. If anything we should be encouraging people to borrow snowshoes from the library and get out and explore the Island in winter.

To give exclusive access to public land to those with the money or even inclination to drive a snowmobile seems extremely short sighted, to say the least (actually I think it’s heinous).

Christmas Gifts

This year outside the usual coffee or running gear I gave myself a number of gifts which will I expect will keep on giving throughout the year.

As to plan, I gave myself 4 days off this year, which marked the first time I have taken any time away from work since around February. Generally I have been working 7 days a week with Saturday and Sunday mornings off for running and CrossFit. Though Christmas Eve was busy enough that I was wishing I was at my desk, it worked fairly well, will a nice mix of boredom and quiet fun. This was made all the more special by the fact that the family all had this time off as well – Christmas in Asia though celebrated, has often meant school or work. This worked well enough that I am going to make it a habit, perhaps taking Saturdays off every week.

I quit Twitter. “Doom scrolling” Twitter on my idle time was having a distinct negative effect on my mood and mental health. The algorithm that influenced my feed was all doom, idiocy, or “life on the Island is constant rainbows so let’s be kind to one another” extremes. My mood has improved immensely since I’ve stopped reading it. Though I haven’t deleted my account, I don’t plan on returning.

Lastly, I finally replaced what was perhaps the worst purchase I have ever made. Satechi’s bluetooth keyboard may be an attractive device and pleasant to type on, but it constantly repeats characters randomly on key press. This behaviour drove me to near madness and I have no idea why I waited so long to send it to the recycling bin. I replaced it with an Apple keyboard and won’t bother with 3rd party bluetooth keyboards again (we have a couple solid keyboards from Logitech which are great but I don’t like the feel of the keys). Next up is the expensive Logitech bluetooth mouse which always runs out of power at the most inopportune times.

Winter Running

I’ve been out running a couple times since the snow fell – last night in the dark and on Sunday afternoon. I’m not a lover of winter and it has taken me a couple years to acclimate to the cold, so I’m very pleased that I am able to enjoy some activity during this season. There is no denying that winter scenes on the Island have a certain beauty.

Running in snow or the semi-prepared surfaces of the various trails is quite a work out. It’s particularly hard on my ankles and shins.

I’ll likely restrict my running to the trails as many streets in Charlottetown are a “slippy” mess and falling on ice is on my short list for things I fear.