I have been casting about trying to figure out how to start this blog post, the first in over two years. In the old days when I was blogging almost daily, I would wake up every morning thinking about what I was going to write about. I would get up, make a cup of Americano, and hit the laptop. Since taking the last 800 or so days off, it’s been much more difficult to get started, because I don’t wake up thinking about it. In fact, I don’t think about it all that much anytime. That is other than those times I’m mildly troubled by guilt that I have abandoned what was really an enjoyable enterprise.
So, I sat down to crank out a post, but couldn’t really think of what to write. I guess you could say I was struck with writer’s block, a state that had never particularly affected me in the past. I thought that I might bring everyone up to date as to what’s been going on and why I haven’t been blogging regularly, but I couldn’t figure out even how to start that. Then I remembered a blog post my good friend Malcolm Kendrick had written when he had gone for a while without posting. He wondered if he, himself, had writer’s block. In an effort to get back on track, he just started writing to see what happened. It worked for him. So, that’s what I’m going to do. Unlike Malcolm’s final effort, which was great, mine may end up being drivel, but at least you’ll know what’s been going on. At least that’s my hope. Here goes…
For several years now, I’ve been chewing on the idea of starting a podcast. I’ve probably been on more podcasts than I’ve listened to. In fact, I’m certain I have been on more, because I’ve never listened to a podcast I’ve been on. At least not all the way through. And apart from that I’ve listened to maybe five podcasts in my life.
It’s not that I have anything against podcasts, it just that podcasts aren’t the way I get my info. I would much rather read. I can read a lot in the amount of time it takes me to listen to a podcast. And I don’t have a long daily commute during which the only way I can get info is by listening to it. If I did spend a lot of time in the car, I’m sure I would listen to podcasts. Or if I had a dog to walk, or any other mindless but time and attention consuming tasks that would prevent me from reading. But, I don’t, so I read.
But I’m me, and everyone else is everyone else. And everyone else seems to consume information via a means other than reading. A couple of years ago I was on a flight to somewhere and had been upgraded to first class. The restroom in that plane was unfortunately broken, so all the folks sitting up front had to schlep all the way to the back to use the head. As I was returning to my seat after my own visit to the back, I looked at all the people in the seats. At least four out of five who were doing anything other than sleeping or looking out the window, were consuming some sort of media that involved sound. They were either listening to music, podcasts, or watching movies or TV shows on their laptops. The one out of five were working on a laptop or reading. The readers were few.
I save a lot of my reading for flights, during which I have almost zero distractions and can read for hours, but I realized that I was in a distinct minority. So, I figured that I was missing making contact with a lot of people by not having some non-textual means of promulgating my thoughts and ideas, whatever their worth. Thus the idea of a podcast seized me. (And that idea is at least in part why I’ve taken such a long hiatus from the blog – more on which later.)
In early December 2017, MD and I came down to our place in Santa Barbara for Christmas with our kids. While there, we ended up going down to Malibu to be on a podcast with Greg Glassman, the founder and owner of CrossFit. The night before we drove down, a fire came out of nowhere and burned a swath through Ventura, a city we had to drive through to get to Malibu. We figured we had better leave early to make sure we were on time.
We left, got to Malibu through smoke that was terrible; we met Greg, had dinner, spent the night in a lovely hotel, did the podcast, and drove back the next day. As we drove along the 101 to get back to Santa Barbara, there were fires burning along the side of the freeway.
We got back, spent a couple of days in our house, then were evacuated, because the same fire had burned its way to the hills above us. We ended up getting evacuated and spent 11 days bouncing from hotels to rental houses before the fire—at that time the largest in California history—final got controlled.
We returned to our smoky, ash cluttered house three days before Christmas. We started all the cleanup and tried to get in the holiday spirit, which we barely managed. After Christmas, we cleaned some more and had a couple of fairly peaceful weeks. Then came January 9th.
On January 8th, the weather authorities announced that there was a storm in the forecast for Santa Barbara that night, and they warned of the possibility of flooding and/or mudslides due to the loss of ground cover as a result of the recent fire. MD and I spent the evening traipsing back and forth between our house and the county yard, filling up sandbags and putting them out.
In the early hours of Jan 9, there was a brief but intense rain that flowed off the denuded hills and into the streams causing a disastrous debris flow that destroyed millions of dollars of property and killed 23 of our neighbors, including a father and his daughter two houses away from us. We were trapped as the debris flow wiped out the roads on all sides of our house, which was spared. It took four days for the roads to be cleared enough to allow us to leave, which we finally did and went back up to our home in Tahoe. The photo at the top of this post is one I took of our street right outside our house as dawn broke on the morning of the debris flow.
The whole Montecito area (a small burb of Santa Barbara) was a complete disaster. Took people working round the clock for weeks to get everything cleaned up enough to at least allow people back into their houses. Even then it was over three weeks before we could get back into our own street.
When we were allowed back, the entire neighborhood looked like it had been bombed. Hulks of houses littered the landscape that had previously been covered with foliage. There are still, even two years later, roads closed and bridges washed out that haven’t been restored.
While we were in Tahoe, I began reading about podcasting and what all is involved. I watched a webinar on podcasting, which was basically bait to get me to sign up for a podcast hosting site that would make my podcasting life easy. Not only would it facilitate my podcasting, it would host my blog. And at a price much less than what I had been paying. This all came at a time in which I was pissed at both the hosting service I was using for my blog and the guy who sold me the theme I was using. The new company that seemed so promising was called Podcastwebsites.com.
For those of you who don’t know how a blog works, WordPress is the most popular software that underpins most blogs. WordPress has loads of capability, but it’s just a piece of software. In order to interface with humans, you need to have a theme, which is the user interface of a blog. There are tons of themes out there for free and tons of them (though fewer tons) of what are called premium themes that their developers charge for. In keeping with the idea that you get what you pay for, the premium themes generally have more bells and whistles than the free ones.
I had been a follower of Michael Hyatt’s for a long time. He is a guy who tells people how to develop a platform in order to become successful authors or promotors of products. He is absolutely on the money, at least as it applies to writers. It is a sad but true fact that if you are a writer of non-fiction material, and you want to get published by a mainstream publisher, you absolutely have to have a platform. That’s what the publishers call it. When they hear of a new author or a book proposal, the first thing they ask is, What is his/her platform? Platform is the buzzword of the day in publishing, and it has been that way for 15 years.
When we wrote Protein Power, it was about ‘promotability’. Was the author promotable? No one in publishing used the word platform, now everyone does. What’s a platform? Anything that helps the publisher sell the book. If you run a major, well-known company, you’ve got a platform, and you can get a huge advance on a book. If you’re a Harvard professor, you’ve got a platform. If you’re a famous politician or actor or actress, you’ve got a platform. If you’ve been canned from the FBI, you’ve got a platform (see James Comey).
Publishers are in the business of printing books these days. Not selling them. They want someone with a platform to sell the books for them. It’s difficult to tell beginning writers this, but publishers would rather have a piece of crap book from someone with a platform than an excellent book by someone without. The content isn’t what they’re interested in, it’s the platform of the author.
Anyway, Michael Hyatt was formerly the CEO of a publishing house, has written books himself, and has kicked around the business for years. He developed a blog telling people how to develop a platform and wrote an excellent book, titled, logically enough, Platform.
I read his blog, because I had read his book. I read the book because I was interested in social media and hadn’t a clue as to how to go about dealing with it. Platform was an excellent primer. And Michael gave a lot of updates, and, more importantly to me, gave detailed info on many writing tools that he used and how he used them.
I loved the theme he used on his blog (then; it has changed now), as did a number of people, many of whom wrote him asking what it was. He would reply that it was a custom theme someone had developed for him. Somewhere along the way, I suppose, he had enough requests that he decided to make his custom theme available as a premium theme to people willing to pay for it. When he announced he was going to be selling the theme, he smartly decided to sell the themes a handful at a time. He knew there would be bugs, and he didn’t want his developer overwhelmed with issues arising from a new theme.
When I discovered he was selling his theme as a premium theme, I put my name on the list. As I said before, I really liked it. And my own theme at the time was a custom developed and designed theme, and the developer did it as a one off. What I didn’t know at the time was that themes require constant updating by the developer. WordPress, the underlying software, is updated often. Too often I sometimes think. Theme developers, especially those who develop premium themes, update their themes to keep up with the WordPress updates. If your theme isn’t updated, it’s starts to get glitchy as more and more WordPress updates take place.
Since my blog then was a one off, it didn’t get updated and it was getting really glitchy. When, after several months, my name finally came up on Michael Hyatt’s list, I forked over (I think) about $200 for this custom theme. When I got it, I was overwhelmed. It had more bells and whistles than I knew what to do with, and I was clueless as to how to make it work. Fortunately, someone who was much more facile than I had figured it out and had created a course on how to best exploit the theme. Another $129 for that.
I worked my way through the course and figured out how to use the theme, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it look like I wanted it to look, which was like Michael Hyatt’s site that I loved so much. I ended up hiring a developer to turn it into what I wanted. There went another $2,000.
So, I finally had a blog I liked the looks of and that functioned like I wanted it to and, best of all, I knew how to work all the parts of it I wanted to work. Everything went along swimmingly for a while, then it started developing little glitches. I got on the tech site for the blog and looked at all the updates listed. I had done all the regular updates except the last one listed, and I couldn’t make it download. I went back to the tech site and was informed that I was entitled to get updates as long as I paid my yearly fees, and that I was past due. Yearly fees? I didn’t remember any yearly fees. But maybe there were and I just didn’t notice. So, I fork over yet another $179 for the yearly fee. Once the payment is made, I try to go in and pull down the update, which I cannot do. I wait a couple of days, figuring maybe it takes a while for the credit card payment to credit on the account. I try again. Same results.
So, I call the tech guy. Or maybe text, it’s been so long, I can’t remember. He tells me that they’re holding off on making the update available because they’re still fiddling with it. So, I paid $179 to get an update that they advertised was ready to download as soon as I paid up, yet it was still in development. I was steamed, but forged ahead. I kept trying periodically to download the update, but I never could. Then about six months later, I get an email from Michael Hyatt telling me they’re abandoning the theme. I’m sure once they sold out their themes to all the people on their waiting list (including moi), their sales slacked off and the whole effort became a money loser. In the email (a bulk email to all purchasers of the theme), Hyatt gave me permission to continue to use the theme as long as I wanted without a recurrent fee. Gee, thanks, schmuck. I paid ~$2,500 to get the thing purchased and up and running, and you decide to discontinue updating it. So, I’m left with a theme that will get glitchy-er by the day until it doesn’t work at all. The whole affair soured me on Michael Hyatt, I can tell you that.
About the time this whole thing was crescendoing on me, was when I saw the webinar about the podcast hosting site. So, I decided to jump.
I paid for an entire year’s worth of hosting and $149 to have my site migrated from WP Engine where I had been hosting it to Podcastwebsites.com. Once it was there, I was confronted with an incredibly complicated back end. I had no clue as to how to make it look like I wanted it to look. So…
I just kind of left it alone and had two sites going at once. I wanted to get away from WP Engine, because they were expensive. I was paying anywhere from $115 to $150 per month for hosting. It was considerably less than that with Podcastwebsites.com, but I had to pay yearly, which I had already done. So, instead of saving money by switching from one hosting service to another less expensive one, I find myself paying both WP Engine and Podcastwebsites.com (PCW from now on).
I was involved in all kinds of other efforts at the time, so I didn’t have a lot of time to devote to screwing with all this, so I just sort of left it alone. I ignored my live blog with the old theme, because I had already paid to migrate (I thought) all the content to the new hosting service. Anything I wrote on the old one, wouldn’t make it to the new one, and anything I wrote on the new one, couldn’t be found, so consequently, I didn’t write anything on either one of them.
Finally, at the start of 2019, I got a notice from PCW that they were doing a design deal at what I felt was a reasonable fee for anyone using their hosting service. I decided to bite on the offer. They started working on the look of the site. They are in the UK, so I would tell them what I wanted, and they would have it back to me the next morning. But if I wanted something changed or tweaked, I would send it back and have to wait an entire day to get it the revised version.
It took forever, and, admittedly, I was busy with other things, so I wasn’t always Johnny on the Spot in getting my stuff back to them. When I did, they responded quickly. They have always been pleasant to work with and did good work. Mostly. Up until I hit the snag that has ended up costing me yet more time and money.
Working with the PCW folks progressed to the point that we were just about ready to go live. I was a little hesitant, just because it was a new system, and it kind of felt like jumping off into the void to pull the trigger on it. As all this agonizing was going on, MD and I had a fraudulent charge on one of our credit cards. Once it was sorted, the CC company canceled the card and sent us a new one. What I didn’t realize was that I had the WP Engine hosting service attached for auto billing to the old card. When billing time came around, I got a notice from WP Engine that my card had failed. Which I took as an omen to get off the stick and take the new site live and bail out of WP Engine.
So, I made a quick run through of the new site, didn’t find any problems other than little niggling design ones that couldn’t be changed because of the underlying theme, and decided to go live. Which I did.
All the above happened during a really frenetic time in our lives what with some family issues, business issues, and all sorts of other stuff going on. Consequently, the site was live, but I hadn’t posted or done anything with it. After about a month, I searched for a book review that I knew I had written and couldn’t find it. As it turned out, the whole section on book reviews was not there. (In case you’re looking for the book reviews, those are available free to email subscribers.)
I contacted PCW and had them search for them. No luck. They asked if I had a backup from WP Engine, which I did. But they could find no book reviews on it. I tried going back to WP Engine and asking them for help. They said, Sure, but first fork over some bucks to get your account back open. Which I did.
After about 12 hours of text chat time (which is a total waste of time) and about five hours of phone time, I was able to get my site restored on WP Engine. Once restored, the folks from PCW were able to get back in and find the book reviews they had failed to migrate when they migrated the rest of the site content. So, at last, the new PCW site was complete, at least content-wise.
I’m still not all that happy with how it looks, but at least it has all the content from the old site and is functional. And, of course, I’m back to paying both WP Engine and PCW. Which I’ll continue to do till I know it’s safe to abandon the WP Engine site without risking losing any content.
Along with resuming posting, I’ll continue to work on getting the podcast going. I’ve got most of the equipment now and am starting to look at hosting sites (in the event PCW hosting doesn’t work out), which are expensive, and how to upload to iTunes and all the other places podcasts are listened to. It’s vastly more complicated than blogging. And more expensive as well. Now I understand why podcasters all have sponsors to help defray the costs. I guess along with everything else, I’ll have to get those, too.
If you’ve hung in there for this long, self-indulgent, rambling blog post that has nothing whatsoever to do with low-carb dieting, dieting in general, or even nutrition, at least you’ll know what’s happened to me.
If you’ve got any suggestions for people you would enjoy hearing on a podcast, pass them along in the comments.
Which reminds me, I left a lot of comments hanging on the old WP Engine site. I moved most of the content to this site almost two years ago, so any comments anyone might have made on the old site will be abandoned. I’ll post all of them that made it over and any new ones. If any of you made a comment over the past two years and haven’t had it put up, now you know why. Feel free to re-comment on this new site.
If you have any complaints about this new site, please pass them along in the comments. I’ll do my best to deal with them given the constraints of the software running this new site. (in fact, I just found another problem. Many of my blog posts link to other posts I’ve written, and I just discovered those links don’t work. AAARRRGGGHHH!)
As I wrote earlier, I’m going to give it a year. If it is just too aggravating and I can’t get things to my liking in that length of time, then I’ll start over. If, God forbid, that happens, I’ll be more than eager to get your input.
And if you want to study up for the next post, take a look at this video of a talk I gave in Breckinridge a couple of years ago that has stimulated a lot of interest and conversation on Twitter and Facebook. And, BTW, if you haven’t followed me on Twitter, where I engage often, click here and hit Follow.
I’ve got to write an article due by tomorrow and prepare a talk to be given in two days at a CrossFit function, so I won’t have a lot of time over the next couple of days to work on the post about the info in the above video. It is admittedly complex, but I’ll see if I can explain it a little better. And will give you an interesting diet to ponder.