A week ago, my self-hosted blog — Phuket Bookworm — was hacked (along with several of my other online accounts). The databases are gone and I no longer have access. This came just as I had finished a site redesign and had begin reprinting a number of older articles discovered in a long-lost backup. I’d already decided to collect all of what I’d written over the years into one cohesive blog rather than scattered all over the internet and my personal archives. Luckily, although I was kicked offline for a week because of this violation, I have a version of WordPress installed on a local server running on my laptop. This allowed me to tinker and come up with a new blog I could be proud of.
Asian Meanderings is the result. You will notice that I’ve also decided to include my name in the title. Some of my past blogs were semi-anonymous or under nicknames. I wasn’t exactly hiding, I just desired a bit of privacy. I’ve changed my mind about that. I desparately want to improve my writing, to be proud of what I’ve written. I feel that if I put my name out there then I’ll think a little harder about what I publish. I want to increase my “brand recognition” as several professional bloggers call it. Whatever the reason, I’m a humble man who now wants to take possession of what he’s produced.
My previous blogs always rooted me to a precise location — ‘Burque Blog when I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Goodnight Phuket and Baan Jochim Phuket identifying me with Phuket, Thailand. I also tried my hand at a topic-specific blog — The Expat Bookworm — which morphed into Phuket Bookworm when I decided to include my location with my hobby. There are also a few stray teaching and photo blogs out there. So many in fact that I would often forget about some of them so they would just sit there dormant. I’d long desired to bring it all together.
That is part of the goal of Asian Meanderings. I want one blog to cover everything. My interests have always followed the definition of “meandering”:
a course that does not follow a straight line; to develop slowly and change subject often
I also considered titling the new blog “Asian Musings” (musing = a period of thinking carefully about something or telling people your thoughts about it”) but much of what I’ve written in the past wasn’t well-thought out beforehand. I tend to write in a stream-of-consciousness manner with very little planning beyond a general subject. Meandering is a better fit.
I didn’t want to call the blog “Phuket Meanderings” or have “Thailand” in the title, either. I’m at a crossroads in my life and may soon relocate; I do plan to remain in Asia, however. And, although there is will be a few archival articles from when I lived in New Mexico, you will notice that more than a few of those mention my desire to work in Asia (prior to moving overseas I spent a little time in China and was on the verge of living in Nepal when the government there was overthrown). Thus, Asian Meanderings is a name that seems to fit and I’ll be able to take with me wherever I happen to move physically. It’s important to me that my online and physical worlds mesh in such a way.
I have had some bad luck over the years with self-hosted sites. Part of this stems from using free website hosts. As the old adage goes, “you get what you pay for.” I must admit, Byethost’s support is much better than most and I would happily move to one of their paid plans if only I had money. I’m on a tight enough budget right now as it is! I’m not sure if free-host plans are more vulnerable to security breaches than the paid ones but I do know there are security issues with the WordPress platform as a whole. That’s why they update the software so often. I’m certain it hasn’t helped matters at all that my sole means of going online is on a public terminal in an internet cafe. I never knew about keystroke sniffers and other sorts of methods hackers can use in these places. Now I know.
As I educate myself about online security and continue looking for a job with the goal of being able to afford a future domain and paid web-hosting plan, I realize the need to get back online. My blogs have often been the only means that family members and friends have been able to track my activities. I’m not a person who enjoys writing emails or posting updates on Facebook so the blog is basically my sole method of communication.
Despite the security issues with WordPress that I’m only now learning about, I love the platform. I much prefer the self-hosted software because of the vast number of themes and plugins available for it (although I think I’m going to stick with the Suffusion theme because it truly is the best one out there for the amount of easy customization included). I’ve always felt that the WordPress.com version was somewhat limited in the amount of tinkering you can do with it but I honestly haven’t checked out their range of themes for a few years. But I realize now that too many options can be a deterrent to the act of writing. If I’m constantly thinking about how to change the background or more photos I can crop for a rotating header image then I’m taking away from the time I spend actually writing. The purpose of this blog is not only to share my thoughts and travels but also to showcase my (hopefully) improving writing. A simple blog design is better at drawing the focus to the articles themselves. I still love those blogs that really display the author’s personality but I’ll have to wait a bit longer for that.
Thus, I’m debuting Asian Meandering as a WordPress.com-hosted blog today. I believe I can import all of my archived articles, etc. so they’re available here. Luckily, I do have quite a few backups this time around. There are still some gaps — most notably, I no longer have anything from 2004 along with the summer of 2009 and a big chunk written between January and March of this year just disappeared (ironically, one of my most prolific writing periods). I eventually hope to have it all available here — not only to view what I’ve accomplished over the past six years plus but also the progression of my writing. My plan is that once I’m financially stable I’ll mirror this blog with a self-hosted version; the content between the two will be exactly the same so that if one goes down, the other is still up-and-running. I think this is the best solution as I’m sure disaster will strike again in the future. This time I’ll be ready for it.
The blog will include my usual hapzard collection of writings — drawing on my life here in Phuket (for now) and celebrating my interests in local history, architecture, food and my hobbies of reading, traveling, and photography. There will be some geeky stuff along the way, as well as — I hope — a return to the classroom. Yes, there is quite a bit of meandering in store.
So, welcome. We’re off to a lengthy start but brevity has never been my style.