Adult fidget spinners

Adult fidget spinners

I’m incapable of sitting around doing nothing. I’m designed to fidget. I have no science to back my theory of Genetic Figitery but just ride with me on it.

I have notebooks and bits of paper filled with random doodles and thoughts – most of which collect dust until I toss them in a spasm of tidiness.  I’m one of those people who tears apart a paper cup to create little dioramas when I’m out having coffee with friends. I’ve destroyed hundreds of paper clips in meetings.  Worse still, I’ll carefully tear the label off beer bottles and fold them into little creatures. I’m paying attention to the conversations around me, It’s just my hands start fidgeting. A friend recently threatened to buy me a child’s toybox so I’d have things to play with.

Sometimes I see something, a shape usually, that triggers an idea that plunges me down a rabbit hole of silly ideas. Recently, while having a mediocre coffee in a place that will remain unnamed – forgive me espresso gods – I kept staring at the clip art coffee bean  on the back of the bag. With the right flourishes, it would make a great badge for the magazine and ended up with Killer Bean:

Scan of a hand drawn logo of a coffee bean with fangs.

If that isn’t the name of an espresso bar, then it damn well should be.

Catpaw finds her (photographic) groove

Catpaw finds her (photographic) groove

Arggh! I hate when I lose my writing rhythm.  If I stray from a schedule I start to think “oh I’ll do it tomorrow” and before you know it, tomorrow has turned into a week or more. On the positive side, I’ve been working quite diligently on the Mapping Toronto Project. I have the first route all mapped and I’ve done most of the walk.  This coming week, I’ll trot along the path with a timer and take the photos I’ve decided need adding and I’ll be ready to post. Just a handful more to parse and I think you’ll like the walk. It’s a nice leisure look at the Yonge / St Clair neigbourhood.

So what else have I done, besides throwing my back out and whining like a little child for week? Once I was able to move without whimpering I decided to do an epic walk that cut through a few neighbourhoods. Well, it was an accident actually. I was supposed to meet a friend for a pint, but they had to work so I consoled myself with an espresso at the Boxcar Social. Enjoyed the drink, stretched and thought, beautiful day, why not walk the last  knots out of my back and see test a few areas.  The walk exploded from there. This is the result:

Hand drawn map of July 7th's walk

Obviously it’s not to scale, but I’m pleased that it makes sense. It got a wee bit squeezed in the bottom part but still readable. My maps are usually a bizarre mess that displays my inability to tell left from right / north from west.  I’m perpetually lost.  I have mapping software, but I enjoy sitting with pen and paper sketching out routes I walk and inserting little notes. They jog my memory when I’m parked in front of the keyboard, writing about the day. I have scribbly bits of paper all over the place, some that make no sense even to me, detailing photos I’ve taken, routes, places that need return visits, questions about neighbourhoods  etc. Yesterday I stopped at Midoco on Bloor to grab a new notebook. They have the best selection, but I opted for a plain flexible hard covered lined book, instead of the sleek ‘n lovely offerings that made my heart go pity pat. Function won, alas.

Notebooks are essential to keep track of my meanderings. I often joke I am incapable of walking a straight line and equally incapable of remembering where many photos were taken. When I’m walking, I usually have my camera at the ready and simply follow where the lens leads me. This results in some torturous lines.

For those of you that are peering at the map and going “wtf?” here’s the route:

Boxcar Social café on Yonge near Summerhill TTC. GOOD ESPRESSO. Worth the stop
South on Yonge to Birch St
East on Birch to Lionel Conacher Park
South onto Gange Ave and follow along the loop to Avenue Rd with a stop to listen to the train rumble by
South on Avenue Rd to Robertson Davies Park with stops to admire construction sites
Continue south on Avenue to Davenport
West on Davenport to watch the Toronto Hydro crew work
East on Davenport to watch the big crane install
Back to Avenue Road and south to Bloor St with stops to watch more construction sites
West on Bloor to Bedford Rd, playing “Tourist Dodge’em”
Decide it’s time to eat so hop a subway car at St. George TTC station on Bedford go west to Bathurst
Exit Bathurst TTC go south to Bloor
East on Bloor to Midoco to ogle the art supplies, fawn over the pens and pencils & fondle the notebooks
West on Bloor to the Green Beanery for latte and refried bean tortilla
West to corner of Bloor and Bathurst to look at the big hole that used to be Honest Ed’s
South on Bathurst to Lennox
West on Lennox to Markham to look at the derelict Victorian buildings, reminding self to look up what the developer plans are for them
Backtrack and head east on Lennox to the alleyway beside the Randolph Centre for Arts
South on the alley to look at all the graffiti and artwork
Exit onto Hendrick St and go east to Bathurst
South on Bathurst to Harbord St
East on Harbord St
Stop at James Hale Ln to admire murals
East on Harbord  stopping occasionally to look at graffiti and art scattered along the route while heading towards Spadina St
Stop at Harbord Fish and Chips building and wonder if they are as good as they used to when I lived closer to the area
North on Spadina to Bloor, realising there is no space left on the card for more photos
West on Bloor to Cobbs Bakery to pick up buns
East on Bloor to Spadina
North on Spadina to the TTC station and head home.

This is a typical route when I wander off. I enjoy just walking and seeing the city as a tourist, which is what I think the Mapping Toronto Project will showcase – being a tourist in my own city.  Each neigbourhood is different, with something fun to offer. Yesterday, with that thought firmly in mind, I filled the camera card for the first time. If I keep this up, I’ll have to purchase a second as backup. There was so much art work, architecture and more to enjoy, I couldn’t stop taking photos.  Most aren’t worth keeping, but I have them marked for a return visit (or two or three) to try a different angle, maybe a rainy day shot to improve the scene or wait until it’s busier/quieter.  I’ve archived a handful as a reminder to come back when I have a better lens.  But I think I found my groove at last and I’m eager to get the Mapping Toronto Project officially underway. Look for it in about a week.

Tweaking the horizontal hold again

I’m still mulling over design changes.  I think I just heard a couple people throw their hands up in despair.  The primary design is all fine but a number elements still elude me, like  banners for the tech midsection. I’ve run out of “WOW” ideas, hence the reason nothing has been altered.  That’s not really important, more a minor irritant.

The bigger itch is the single post pages.  The unutterable horror of the bland page is haunting me.  I can’t seem to break out of the design block I’ve hit.  As it is now, the single posts are tame and bloggy without a lot of personality.   I think it’s time to go cruising for fresh ideas and see if I can adopt something a bit more vibrant.  I’ve been experimenting with tailoring each sections single post page, but I’m not really sure that’s the path to take.

You may notice the odd little change here and there as I shift things around, test plugins etc. One of the issues I’m trying to improve is the flow to encourage readers to read more articles.  I have the traditional “here are some other articles I’ve written” on the right. I found a plugin that shows thumbnails, which breaks up the sidebar monotony (I’ll write about it later this week).  Another plugin, I’m testing Cresta Posts Box. If you look over -> there and down a bit, you’ll see a small slide out bar that suggests a page to read. I like the way it looks and will likely purchase the upgraded version so I can tweak the features to suit the site.

Beyond that, my brain is on idle.  There comes a time to step away from the design because it’s no longer possible to see the overall vision. Until I can come up with a solid idea, you’ll have to endure the bloggy style page and I’ll focus on throwing up content.



A sea of errors – or is it “I see errors”?

I’m about 3/4 way through checking the site for missing links, typos, miscategorised posts and, well, you know. All of this reminds me why I started casting around for a different platform and thinking of a web redesign. Joomla’s spell check was erratic at best.  I often type too quickly and try to get things posted a bit too fast and sometimes rely on spell check to catch the obvious typos. I’m embarrassed to admit, I don’t always get back to a close proofing. WP is far more efficient when it comes to spell check.

A number of clearly outdated articles on defunct software have been permanently binned.  I’ve archived a bunch of early articles and put them on hold  because I haven’t figured out what I want to do with them. They don’t actually fit into any category. Alas, I think I’ll end up deleting them. 

Another issue was Joomla’s failure to auto save drafts. I’d be working on something and hit the back space, which periodically caused the article to delete, and the entire article would be gone.  I got to the point I would write everything in Word and cut and paste it into the website later. Maddening!

I’m still chugging through all the page redirects, but those are going to be an ongoing project. Each time I think I have them all tackled, a new crop springs up. At least I’ll never be idle.

What else is there to do? Oof! I have to work on the next |previous links on single posts, adjust thumbnail sizes, need a banner on the Tech page, and maybe a new index page. Mind you, I kind of like the page, but it might get a bit out of control in a few months so, we’ll see.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about SEO. I’ve used it in the past but never really wrapped myself around doing it efficiently. I think that’s the next big project. Ensuring everything ticks all the boxes as far as SEO is concerned. We’ll see if it makes a big difference. I feel like I’ve zeroed out the site and purged all outdated ideas. It’s now a big experiment to trace how the changes will affect readership. I’ll keep you posted.

Old blog | new design – Cheers!

Old blog | new design – Cheers!

The site has been off line for a couple of weeks, as I rethought what I want from it. I’m pleased with the content, just needed a few tweaks here and there.  But if you’ve followed my change log, you’ll know how unhappy I’ve been with the basic design. Most of the discontent stems from 2 areas. The first is my ideas about the website have evolved a great deal over the last year. The emphasis has moved more towards a Toronto centric and photo heavy site.  It’s been an interesting transformation and the old design suddenly felt generic and dated. The old blog just wasn’t cutting it.

The second reason is the continuous struggle with the software. I sat down in April and re-evaluated my website and realised I  spend far too much time struggling to make the site do what I want it to do, and not enough time actually writing. I’m a bit of a fusspot when it comes to my site. The problem is, I know what I want the site to look like, I just couldn’t seem to get there.  Joomla filled a bit of the gap, but it was becoming a bit clumsy.  I wanted a fresh site to help emphasis my change of focus and leave room for the Mapping Toronto project to come to life.

A friend tipped me off to a wonderful piece of software that works with WordPress called Divi from Elegant Themes. It pushes WP into a different stratosphere when it comes to design control. I really need to tip my hat to Corey. If it wasn’t for him, I’d still be mooning over the old design.  I played with Divi for a week and decided to just do it – tear the old site down and build it up from scratch.

All the old content transferred into WP with a few issues that were quickly sorted out. Alas, there will be 404 errors because I’ve also reorganised the content. I have a plugin that will help me redirect, but it will take a long time to get a handle on it. I’m still reconnecting some photos to articles, the import was a bit haphazard when it came to this. No fears though, I have all the photos, it’ll just take time.

I haven’t finished checking all the old content, but over the next week, I’ll tackle every article and fix it up. A scatterings of some of the oldest articles didn’t make the cut because the content was too dated or they simply didn’t fit into the format any longer. Oh and I’ve been spell checking everything. OMG the typos. Oh dear, oh dear. I’ll have to be far more careful. Mind you, that was one thing that started to drive me bonkers with Joomla – spell check worked sometimes.  Not that it’s Joomla’s responsibility to do my work, but you know what I mean.

Over the next few weeks, there will be a handful of changes to the design, most you likely won’t even notice. But, pages like the Index of articles may change substantially, I haven’t decided yet.

I’ve removed all the ads. They were more an experiment than anything, but they slow the site down and detract from the content. From here on, I’m going to push for subscriptions, donations and sponsorships. I already have 2 donations and a subscriber (who’s awful lonely over at Patreon). I’m working through some new donation and subscriber perks, they’ll be coming over the next 2 months. Finish the site first; then sort the perks. I’m now taking Brave donations for anyone using Brave browser, plus PayPal and of course Patreon. You can find out more on the support page

All in all, the change has gone a bit better than anticipated. Hopefully I can tie up all the little loose ends in the next two weeks and move on to focus on the subscription benefits and kick off the Mapping TO project.

Lurking around Toronto with my camera & misc thoughts

Lurking around Toronto with my camera & misc thoughts

I’ve been wandering around Toronto in my spare time, testing out routes for the Mapping Toronto project.  After doing a few test runs in a couple of neighbourhoods, I realized some will take multiple trips just to scratch the surface. As well, the sheer volume of photos started to make the logistics of posting and editing a monumental task. I’ve rearranged and relabeled the files about 4 times as I grapple with staying organized.

Some areas have so much to look at, it’s difficult to figure out what to leave out. I was in Cabbagetown recently and realized I could do one series of photos just documenting the historic plaques.  I could spend another day photographing people along Parliament and another on the architecture. During summer months, Cabbagetown is stunning so that means another exclusively on the flower.  Couple that with the trips to the library for historical info on each area, well, there you have it – years worth of work.

I’ve figured out a way of addressing the irritating issue of setting up routes.  Plot a route is an AMAZING website that calls up detailed maps that include topographical details, distances, timers and the ability to upload photos to any given route.  After setting up a route, you can download it for printing or upload it to a GPS or a smartphone. The site allows users to post unlimited public routes, but if you want to keep your route private, you have to pay a nominal fee ($22 US a year).

After playing around with Plot a route, I had a brainstorm. I’m going to add the routes as part of the Patreon perks. Subscribers will have full access to all the routes that will have photos attached to the map.  I’ll also offer access to one time donations that hit a certain amount.  I’ve been casting around looking for interesting perks to offer and this one struck me as a great idea. I’ll be revamping my Patreon account in the next few days (oh and YEA … I have my first Patreon supporter as of yesterday) that will focus strongly on the Mapping Toronto project.

Here’s a test route I’ve been playing with:

Lurking around the neigbhourhood - Map of St Clair Yonge proposed route that likely won't make the cut

It’s based on a little walk I like to take occasionally around the neighborhood. I can adjust the various points on the map to emphasis spots to photograph (or cafes with decent espresso and desserts).  Once completed, I will upload photos and notes so the user can enjoy the route.  I’m excited about this. It dropped the final piece of the project into place so this spring I’ll begin.

If you want to support this project look to the right-> and use either the yellow button for a one-time donation or the orange button to become a subscriber.