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Greetings & Welcome

December 10, 2008

This web log is about all sorts of things, whatever I feel like writing about I reckon; travel journals, things I like, things I dislike, technology reviews, short stories, whatever.  Check out my latest posts below.  My recent two month European road trip journal and photographs are here as well as my recent winter west coast US road trip / hiking trip, just click the tabs above.

Click the Cool Things tab to see what else I find interesting or cool.  Enjoy your stay and please feel free to leave comments or questions.


R & R in DC

April 27, 2010

One of the cool things about my job is that I get to take “home time” pretty much wherever I want.   This time, I chose Washington DC in the springtime.   I had been planning this trip for some time now, hopefully to catch the cherry blossoms and general blooming spring.   I’ve just arrived but I fear I may have missed it, we’ll see.

Getting here last night was a chore.   After a long day, I parked at a truck stop in Jessup, MD; it was about as close as I could get.   After packing and emptying out my fridge, I hiked up to the main building to get a taxi.   I had called a couple of cab companies two weeks ago to get an idea of how much it would be to get me to downtown DC and I was told about $50.00.   After calling one taxi company, I got a call back from the driver on approach an said he was driving a Lincoln Town Car.   “A Town Car” I exclaimed.  “I called a taxi, not a Limo”.   David, the driver, said “it’s all good, I’m a taxi service”.   When he pulled up, I opened the door and <!–more–>asked him how much it would be and he said $85.   No way am I paying $85 for this ride.   I told him I had called his service and asked how much it would be and they said $50.   I told him I’d call another taxi and that I didn’t need him and shoo’d him away.

But, of course, he wouldn’t let up.   He kept telling me that no one would take me to DC for less than that.  Yeah, whatever.  I called Yellow Cab and asked them on the phone how much it would be and the guy said probably between $35 and $40.  So, I said c’mon then.   After I had called the other company, David called me back and kept going on about how it really costs that much and that he was sitting down to dinner with his family when he came to get me.  Oh, wah, poor baby, I thought to myself.   As I was saying goodbye, he then said he would take me for $55.   “Sorry bub, you blew your chance” and I hung up.

While I was waiting for the next driver, a lady, about my age, approached me and said “I’m sorry, I was in the restaurant and couldn’t help noticing, are you trying to get a taxi”?   “Yeah” I said.  “I called a taxi and that guy showed up in a town car and tried to rip me off”.   “I called another service so we’ll see what happens”.   This lady then explained that she was worried about me asked me if I had enough money for the ride and she offered me some money if I needed it.   Well, I just about dropped a tear right then and there.   I told her I was fine and thanked her for her kindness.   We got to talking and her and husband, who were having dinner in the restaurant, are from Florida.   He’s a truck driver and she’s learning.   We chatted a while longer till the next driver arrived and I bid her farewell.   How about that?  There are indeed some truly good people in the world.

The Yellow Cab driver arrived, in a real yellow cab this time, and I asked him how much it would be and he said $60.  Oh c’mon, what the…?  It was getting late and I got in, steaming of course.   Alex, the Driver, seemed nice enough though, but I got out my iPhone GPS and tracked the ride just in case, you know.   He took me the most direct route, 26.5 miles right to the Washington DC HI Hostel and the tab was $51.75.  OK, I can deal with that.   I tipped him a little and got out.

I got checked in and signed up for a tour of the Library of Congress in the morning.   My room is on the eighth floor and I came to the stairs before the elevator and I wondered if my knees would hold up, so I gave it a shot, wearing my pack and all.   It reminded me of a hostel in Germany I stayed in, on the top floor.   I needed the exercise and it felt good, it got the ole ticker going and I made it, a bit winded but not arresting in a cardiac fashion or anything.   I found my room bed and met my roommates from Toronto.   They were all turning in and I thought that sounded like a Capitol idea.   I’ll explore the hostel in the morning.



Swift Driving Academy, a student’s experience

February 25, 2010

This post is this student’s account of attending the Swift Driving Academy at Lewiston, ID. It’s taken from emails I sent to friends and family while going through the experience and this account is intended to be a reference for others considering attending this school as well as an accounting of a cool experience.

Prior to attending, I had talked with my Swift recruiter on several occasions, filled out the applications, they did a background check on me, and I had to get my Commercial Driver Instruction Permit. I picked up the CDL book at the DMV in Bellingham, Washington and started studying. Swift’s web site also had course content I had to study and exams I had to pass.

After three or four days of studying, I went to the DMV and took three tests; general knowledge, air brakes and combination vehicles and passed all with flying colors. I also had to pay the Read more…

And now for something completely different

February 25, 2010

Hi All,

It’s been a while since I’ve published anything, I’ve been a little busy you see. As you know, I had been looking for a job in my field for a few months and my particular industry is dryzabone so to speak. I’ve had some interviews here and there, but nothing came of them. It’s frustrating to say the least, that my full time job is looking for a job. It’s frustrating that a couple hundred or more of my colleagues in my industry have been laid off recently and are in a pickle. It’s frustrating that things do not seem to be getting better. I’m sure they will eventually and my message to my friends out there who are still employed – do what you have to do to keep that job, even if you’re miserable. Just tough it out.

I’ve been trying to balance the job search with trying to make the most out of the time I have available. Trying to balance being responsible with a little self indulgence. Even though I’ve been unemployed (by choice for the first few months) for over a year now, it’s been one of the most enjoyable and growth years ever. I’ve traveled, spent quality time with friends and developed those relationships and Read more…

Deadwood Revival closes out Elizabeth Park concert series

August 28, 2009

Elizabeth Park concert series and Deadwood Revival

DSCN8019 copyLast night marked the end of the summer concert in the park series at Elizabeth Park in Bellingham Washington and regional band Deadwood Revival brought it to a fine end indeed. Sponsored by the Eldridge Society and supported by Bellingham Parks and Recreation, this series takes place throughout July and August in a four block by four block park historic Bellingham neighborhood; complete with play area for kids, tennis courts, lots of trees and grass, a lovely fountain area, and no kidding – a big gazebo.

I really looked forward to these concerts each Thursday night from 6:00 – 8:00 and spending quality time with my neighbors and dear friends Dorothy, Barb, Sharon, and Jan. It’s a great way to wind down, relax, people watch, enjoy the awesome weather, and each other’s company. You can tap your feet to and dance along with some great music each week from Marimba, Latin, Jazz, Salsa, and Reggae, to a Klezmer band, Bluegrass, Indie Rock, Blues, Swing, and Pop.

The music is typically not so loud that you can’t hear each other or yourself talk. Most folks bring blankets or chairs and relax on the grass under the huge trees and chat, listen to the music, nibble on a nice meal or snacks, and many go down down front or into the gazebo to dance.

DSCN8243 DSCN8221

Last night’s band and one of my favorites of the series was hillbilly bluegrass band Deadwood Revival. This was the first time I had heard them and I really enjoyed their polished sound. Jason on banjo, Kim on guitar, Ches on bass and Julie on fiddle make for a nice rounded sound and blended harmonies. They played a nice mix of original music and some classics; I had a chance to talk with them a bit during their break and found them to be nice folk. Apparently, they play all over the PNW in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. I for one will be keeping an eye out for them in the future and I hope you do the same. Check out their web site and performance schedule. You can download their songs in mp3 format at the right or buy their CDs from their site.

2009 Elizabeth Park Summer Concert Schedule:

  • June 25 • Bentgrass (NW String Band)
  • July 2 • Yambique (Latin, Jazz & Salsa)
  • July 9 • Amber Darland (Local Folk/Pop/Rock Singer-Songwriter)
  • July 16 • Juba Marimba (Rhythmical Instrumental African Dancing Band)
  • July 23• Deadfish Rising (Progressive/Americana/Reggae)
  • July 30 • What the Chelm (Local Klezmer Band)
  • August 6 • Saltwater Octet (Swing & Dance music made up of Bellingham’s finest musicians)
  • August 13 • The Prozac Mountain Boys (Keeping the Pacific NW Safe for Bluegrass)
  • August 20 • Dagwoods (From Rock to Blues, and Straight-up Pop)
  • August 27 • Deadwood Revival (Unforgettable Hillbilly Jam-Grass Music)

I can’t wait for next year, neither can Jan, Barb and Dorothy.



August 21, 2009

there once was a toad
that sat on the road
a car came a long
then angels sang a song
now toad is part of the road

– Maggie Williams, 3rd grade, yeah it’s missing a few syllables

Migrating from to

August 9, 2009

Moving from to

Easy right?  Well, ‘easy’ is one of those relative words isn’t it?  Am I glad I did it?  You bet; primarily because had I waited longer, the task would have been more monumental.  There are other reasons as well.  So, why would one make this migration or why would you chose one over the other?  What’s the difference? VS.
Hosting by Self hosted – you find your own provider, such as GoDaddy, Bluehost, or several others
Cost Free (with up to 3GB of space, 35 users, may put adds on your blog) maintains the secure servers, performs backups and upgrades, etc. The WordPress.orgserver software is a free download which you install on your web server. Cost of hosting that server depends on who you chose. Most are from $5 – $12 per month and are loaded with features.You are responsible for your own maintenance, backups, upgrades,
content, etc.
of Setup
Very easy – go to, sign up, chose a theme, start writing.
The interface is fairly intuitive.
Moderately more involved than You must set up an account at your host of choice and install the platform software.
Some hosts offer an automated installation of WordPress.Once installation is complete, use of the platform / interface is very similar to that of
/ Templates
Approximately 74 Thousands upon thousands
Support / Support Community tech support was always responsive and helpful. Support forums and FAQs are available and I found the community quite active and helpful. Ask a question, get a response often the same day. There is no official tech support that I can tell. There are forums and FAQs available. So far I have found the existing posts and FAQs only somewhat helpful.I have found the support community to be lacking compared to I have asked a few questions and I have not received any responses in over a week.
  • You are not permitted
    to put adds on or monetize your blog.
  • Content is slightly limited.
  • You can make your blogs more robust if you know HTML and CSS. Style sheet
    access is limited though.
  • No ability to edit the themes themselves.
  • Does not support javascript.
  • Nice selection of sidebar widgets available
  • You can use adds or monetize your site however you want.
  • No limits on content.
  • Full HTML and CSS access.
  • Use existing themes,
    edit themes, make your own themes.
  • Supports javascript, php, etc.
  • Nice selection of widgets plus huge selection of plugins.
  • Supports audio, video, photographs, etc.
Domains http://www.yourblog.wordpress.comOr you can use your own domain for an upgrade fee or .biz, .org, .me, .net, .ca, or whatever.
3GB. Additional 5GB, 15GB and 25GB chunks available for a fee. Whatever your host provides. Some provide unlimited space.
Bandwidth Unlimited Whatever your host can provide. Some provide unlimited, some provide a
certain amount per month.
CSS Partial access to style sheets and ability to edit Greater access to style sheets of existing themes, full access to your own
Based Upgrades
Increased space, personal domain names, unlimited users, upload video, ability to edit CSS, no adds Whatever your host provides

If you just want to start writing and are not concerned about monetizing your site, may be the way to go.  If there’s any chance though that you may want to monetize your site or that you may need the additional features and lesser restrictions of, then start with; take the time to learn it and set it up, you’ll be glad you did.

It’s for those of you like me, who started off on and needed to migrate to, that I’m providing this article.  I found some other articles and forum posts regarding this process, but some were out of date or lacked some key information and most over stated the ease of this move.

Here are the general steps:

  1. Find your hosting service, set up an account and set up your domain name
  2. Install the server software
  3. Export your blog
  4. Import your old blog into your new platform
  5. Start tweaking
  6. Redirect your address to your new site

Sounds simple, huh?  Yeah, well there are plenty of gotchas along the way and the export/import doesn’t transfer everything, so if you have a large well established blog on, plan on spending some time tweaking after the process is done.

1.  Find your hosting service, set up an account and set up your domain name

There are many host providers out there to chose from.  Most do the same thing for a reasonable price.  Check their features though, some are more comprehensive than others.  I wanted something with unlimited space and bandwidth, cause you know, I’d like to think that my site will be just that big someday.  You’ll need a MySQL database as well.  You may or may not need email and the ability to host multiple domains.

You’ll want an SSL secure server if you plan to do business and you’ll definitely want FTP access to your server.  You’ll want a site that at least supports javascript and php and perhaps more.

Hosting Services:

If you already have your own domain name, you’ll be able to host that via your service interface; if you have trouble with that, call their support line and they’ll do that for you.  Otherwise, you can get a domain name from your service provider.  If you want to experiment with a name, go to and see if your name is already in use.

2.  Install server software

Several of the hosting services provide an automated installation of the server, some with a single click.  This will usually install the MySQL database as well.  If your service provider doesn’t provide an automated installation, you’ll have to install your database manually and download the server from and install it.  Have a look at’s official installation guide here: If you are not comfortable with it, stop, rethink and find a hosting service that has automated installation.

Once the software is installed, you’ll notice that the interface is much like your old interface, but expect to see some differences.  From your Dashboard, under Appearance, click Add New Themes and start searching among the 900+ that are readily available.  If you’re not satisfied with those, starting searching the web, there are thousands.

When you have completed the installation, go to your Dashboard and under Settings, click Permalinks.  Select Month and Day format and save.  This is an important step. Your old blog uses this format for storing files, pictures, etc.  The default for is different so if you do not make this change, when you import your XML file, none of your links will work.

3.  Export your blog

Log in to your account.  Before you export, delete all of your spam comments, there’s no need to take those with you.  From the Dashboard, scroll down to Tools and select Export.  Select the authors you wish to export and click the Download Export File button.  This will create an XML file which you can then import into other blogging services.  This file will be stored on your PC.

This step exports your posts, comments, tags, and categories.  It does NOT export the contents of your sidebar text widgets, contents or configurations of other widgets, themes, previous CSS edits, or your Links (blogroll).  It does not export your media library, rather the links to the media.  So, when you import into, you’ll have an option to import attachments at which time, the media will be transferred.

4.  Import your old blog into your new platform

This is the step with the most problems, so get ready.  Be prepared for the possibility of having to start all over from scratch by reinstalling

Go to your Dashboard and under tools, click Import.  You’ll be presented with a long list of blog types to import from.  Choose WordPress.

You are then prompted for a file name; this is the export file you created from  On that same line, notice there is a maximum file size specified, it probably says 2MB.  Check the size of your xml file; if you’re under 2MB, you’re OK, otherwise there’s a problem.  If you chose to import at this point, it will crap out on you and you may have to wipe everything out and start over.

Import XML file size limit of 2MB

This 2MB limit is not a limit set by WordPress.  It is entirely dependant on your hosting service.  There’s a php.ini file in the bowels of your server that specifies this limit.  There are two ways to get around this problem.

  1. Use a file split utility to break up your one large XML file into multiple files under 2MB
    1. I found a nice XML splitter application that worked great on my file. It split it into manageable size bites under the 2MB limit.  If you use this, skip step 2.
  2. Edit the php.ini file and raise the limit.
    1. From the cPanel on your server, open the File Manager and locate the php.ini file (it could be anywhere).
      1. If the file is not there, create one – From your cPanel, run PHP config and look for an option to  install a default php.ini file.  It will most likely be put in your public_html directory and will have the name php.ini.default, so you will have to rename it php.ini.
    2. Move the php.ini file to the public_html/wp-admin directory.
    3. Edit the file and locate upload_max_filesize and change 2M to something bigger than your file, save and close.

Note: If you will be importing your media files as well, you are likely to encounter some timeouts on several files.  The default timeout is probably set to 30 or 60 seconds.  This is one of the main reasons I had to wipe everything out and start from scratch twice.  I have a few thousand photographs on my site; I lost so many files that I just couldn’t stomach having to upload them all manually.  I increased the timeout to 300 seconds and on the next try, I increased it to 500.  After all was said and done, I still had about 80 that I had to restore manually but that was way better than several hundred or more.  The setting you want to modify is also in the php.ini file specified above.  Look for max_execution_time and increase it to whatever you feel comfortable with.

Edit Links in the XML file

Here’s another possible gothcha.  The first time I did this and copied my media files over, for some reason, the links did not work and neither did the links to my own site.  I checked and the files were on my new server, but the links in all of my posts didn’t convert properly.  For example:  On my server, the path to a photo looked like  The files on my new server are actually in myblog/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/  I don’t know if an alias or shortcut didn’t get set properly, but it just didn’t work.  And, links in my own pages, that linked to my other pages, still referred to

I found another blog post describing this same problem and a fix (  So, I edited the XML file and did two global changes:

and replace it with:

and replace it with:

So, after you’ve edited the php.ini file or broken up your XML file and possibly edited your XML file and when you’re ready, continue on with the import.  If you’ve split your XML file into multiple files, you’ll just import each one after the other.  If you increased the upload_max_filesize in php.ini, you should see the change reflected in WordPress on the Import screen, it shouldn’t say 2MB any longer.

Before you start the import, you’ll see a box to include Attachments.  Check this box if you want to bring over your media files.  If you leave this box unchecked, the links to the old locations at your site will remain and that’s fine as long as the files are still there.

Be prepared to wait awhile.  I started my import at 11:00pm and went to bed; it was still going when I got up at 7:00am.  It took almost 10 hours.  Mine had a few thousand pictures, that’s why it took so long.  The posts themselves don’t take very long.

5.  Start tweaking

So you’ve completed the import and your old posts are at your new location and you can navigate between posts and pages and see your comments, etc.  There’s a few more things to deal with.

  • If you were using the Links in your dashboard and the blogroll sidebar widget on your site, they didn’t transfer over to the site.  I reentered them on the Links area, but I found it didn’t work as well as on  Word wrap did work – text just bled off the sidebar and I couldn’t get just an image to work, it always added te text to the image.  So, I just entered them all into a text widget and it worked great and I have full control over it.
  • Go through each of your posts and look for YouTube videos, WP videos, audio clips, etc.  Chances are they are no longer viable.  I had to redo every one of my videos and audio clips. doesn’t support javascript, so YouTube videos are handled a little differently than a regular web site.  It can’t handle the embed code from the YouTube.  But, can.  I had to go get the embed code for each YouTube video and paste it in the post via the HTML editor.  Same for WP video and audio clips.  You may have to search for and install plugins to handle certain audio and video types.
  • You’ll need to copy the contents of your other text sidebar widgets.  I noticed some slight differences in what HTML and CSS the text widgets can handle so I had to change things up a bit.
  • After browsing through several of my posts, I noticed that the quality of my photographs and other images really sucked.  I’m not sure how to explain it, sort of the resolution, sort of something else…  I found a couple of support forum posts from others that experienced this too, but no resolution unfortunatly.  It wasn’t all of my images, but it was about 70% and that’s a lot.  I had to go back to each post, delete each image and re-insert it from the media library.  Once I did that, they looked great, even a little better than over at  This consumed much time.
  • has several widgets, but some that you may be used to are not there, at least not initially. makes use of Plugins, something not available on  Your possibilites just got way bigger.  Start searching for plugins in the Dashboard and you’ll be amazed.  Here are some to get you started:
    • Stats – Install the Stats plugin and you’ll have the same stats you’re used to on
    • Tag Cloud – Wow, your tag cloud is gone?  Just search for tag cloud and you’ve got several options.  Install your choice and put your new cloud where you want it.
    • One thing I always hated about is that if I set my number of posts to display per page, say to 5, that affects everything else as well.  If I select a category or an archive month, I get pages with only 5 posts per page and I have to keep clicking on Older Entries to get more.  Same with tags or search results.  These results pages are basically one line per post – the name, date and link; what a waste.  I found a plugin called CQS (Custom Querry String).  With this plugin installed and activated, even though I have my number of posts per page set to 5, I can configure CQS to give me 23 results on a search and 31 results on an archive selection and all of the results on category or tag selection.  So, now if I click a particular tag that has 43 posts associated with it, I get all 43 on one page.  It’s pretty neat.
    • Recent comments & Avatars – I used the available recent comments widget and noticed it didn’t have the avatars like  So, I searched the Plugins and found one called Recent Comments Avatars that, you know,  supports avatars.

6.  Redirect your address to your new site

Your new site is running and tweaked the way you want it?  Time to say goodbye to your old site, only sort of.  This step describes how to redirect your old type address to your new site so that your loyal audience that has your various pages and posts bookmarked or linked in their pages can still get to you. doesn’t have a good way to redirect, so this is a sort of fake out workaround.

The general steps are:

  1. Tell your new hosting service to allow manage your domain name (change the nameservers to, this is just temporary
  2. Go to your Dashboard and pay $10 to host your domain name (annual fee)
  3. Add your domain name to
  4. Tell that your blog is now hosted at your new domain
  5. Undo step 1 by reseting the nameservers at your new hosting service

I  found a pdf file at that explains it pretty well.  The link to the file is below in the References section.  Please note the slight difference I describe below it, due to changes in the current software.

At this point, you may want to consider updating your site address and site maps at Google and Bing and others.

I hope you found this helpful.  Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions.




Some of these are a little dated or are lacking some info, nevertheless, they do have very valuable information and they were a huge help to me, so thank you guys who went there before me and documented it.

You know that horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach you get when you realize that you have to redo your past six hours of work?  And how you can feel the heat rising in your face and you feel like breaking something?  I hate that.  I suggest re-reading my article and the following references at least a couple of times before attempting this move so that you’ll know what to expect along the way and you’ll be prepared for it.

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“Maggie’s awesome mid life, up and quit her job, went to Europe for two months road trip” book is now available

July 20, 2009

bookversion3A book version of my awesome mid-life, up and quit my job and went to Europe for two months European road trip journal and pictures is now available in hard copy or as a pdf file.  The book is 168 pages with vivid color pictures on almost all of them. The hard copy is printed on heavy glossy 8.5 X 11 inch paper and is spiral bound with thick stock covers.

My trip  took me through France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Monaco, and Italy.  I stayed in mostly hostels and some hotels.  I saw grandeur, experienced other cultures and met wonderful people; I had great times and some problems along the way and I wrote about it all.

Hard copy is $55 + 4.95 for shipping; PDF file is $18. If you would like to have a copy, just click the donate button to the right and make a donation from your paypal account or your credit card, of at least $18 for the pdf file or $59.95 or more for the hard copy book. Please be sure to include your email address and your mailing address and I will send the book to you right away.