The Value to Comment

Readers may have noticed that I don’t make commenting available here.

This is a conscious choice on my part to limit the conversations about these things that I write about to more open and public platforms and in doing so keep this blog something more personal and deliberately curated.

I tend to lean towards the idea that comments have a strong role in social media but not an obligatory one.

I only bring it up because yesterday the CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, announced that they would be turning off Facebook comments for one month on their news posts if for no other reason than to give their reporters a break from the never-ending barrage of attacks that fill those comments.

(If you thought Canadians were polite, look no further than Facebook for evidence to the contrary, I guess.)

It makes me wonder if there is a better way to create interaction with people in a public space like this blog than simply having a text box for someone to type their thoughts into. Why? Because as I post each of these articles each and every day, yes, I do care that someone is reading them, I do care that someone has thoughts about them, and I do wish there was a better way to interact with my readers than the comment firehose that comes with creating a community around a topic I love to write about.

On a side note, I do not use Facebook. I have my reasons. In fact, I deleted my account a couple years ago and have no interest in diving back in.

I do use many other social platforms, however, and enjoy the conversations I have there.

I enjoy them so much that often I’ve been tempted, holding my finger over the toggle switch on some posts, to turn on the comments here just to see what happens.

I know what happens, of course. I’ve seen it for years.

Spam, mostly. Then a large collection of negative comments. All that peppered with a barely visible seasoning of enjoyable feedback.

Comments are not just about the positive love-giving vibes, but it helps. Comments are not exclusively for validation, but people who validate are often less likely to write something than those who are just out to quash ideas. Comments are meant to be about exchanging ideas, but too often boil down to anger and disagreement.

So… I don’t turn them on. Even though they would have some value to me, I would rather lose that value and continue to write, curate, and share in my own little bubble, than to have a few happy comments at the price of wading through the garbage that would certainly crush my spirit.

I get why those reporters need a break, and I’d rather not need one too.

So. Thanks for reading… even if you can’t drop a note back.

Backyard: Start Line

In recognition of yet-another-local-lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic, I'm doing a week of feature blog posts about living in the backyard. From May 10th through 16th, my posts will be themed around life outdoors but as close to home as possible, a few steps out the back door.

Sunday Runday and my usual social weekend run date has turned into a solo expedition from my backyard.

But training calls, and has little respect for blips in the calendar like global pandemics and provincial lockdowns and excuses about being stuck in one’s own backyard.

Knowing a convincing distance run (by which I really mean a modest ten kilometers these days) was going to take some additional motivation, I gave myself a mission: I would visit the graffiti tunnel.

While I can hardly claim to had discovered a concrete underpass painted thick with years of graffiti, I’d like to think I may have seriously helped popularize this local off-the-beaten-path bit of culture.

The construction of a highway ring road around the city completed construction of this leg just over a decade ago, and in planning for future southward expansion of the park system, the designers incorporated a culvert-style concrete tunnel with a suspended walking path to accomodate the local creek and pass everything under the roadway above. The catch: the footpath was connected to nothing. It was little more than a bit of infrastructure for the future.

For years few people noted this as anything more than a strange sort of bridge on the highway passing over a bit of wilderness.

Then about five years ago I got adventurous. I went out on a long run (very much like I did today) and followed an old stretch of closed off road, went down through the trees, climbed down a grassy bank along the highway, and found myself in a graffiti-filled wonderland.

Obviously the countless people who had decorated the place had known about this secret for a while.

After sharing my photos on the socials and telling my run crew, I spent that summer leading multiple adventure runs into the off-trail wilds that led to the secret Edmonton graffiti tunnel.

The next year other run groups, led by runners who had been along on my previous adventure runs, were posting their own shots from their own treks with larger groups of people, and the summer after that my feed was routinely populated by people who had driven from across town or from different cities to run down to this photogenic secret spot.

By the summer of 2020 I started seeing the graffiti tunnel appear in semi-pro photo portfolios of local photogs I follow, blogs writing it into their local attractions guides, and even the radio stations promoting it as a hot thing to check out on a weekend.

It had become mainstream, even to the point that it’s not unsual to see cars (illegally) parked along the aforementioned highway as their occupants take the shortcut down the ditch path to check out the tunnel.

This morning, five klicks into my solo long run, I was the only one wandering through the graffiti tunnel, kinda like my first trip five years ago.

Very solo.

And if I couldn’t run with friends, at least I could visit an old favourite spot.

Addendum: as I was writing this, one of my running crew with whom I have been running cohort through the pandemic posted the update from her Sunday solo run. She had run from her backyard too, and made her way to the same tunnel. We’d missed each other by less than ten minutes.

A Gift of Bread

Since the pandemic began I’ve been baking a lot of sourdough.

In fact, on my way home over a year ago from my last day in the office and even as we transitioned into working-from-home mode, I stopped at the grocery store and restocked my flour supply. Then as I checked into my kitchen and fed my starter, I kicked off the first of what now accounts for almost two hundred loaves of bread.

All of it was practical. All of it was a kind of food security during a time of uncertainty. All of it was for ourselves.

And then about a month ago as we were passing through on our way to the mountains and stopping for a brief puppy-pee-break at the in-laws house, I had bagged a loaf of fresh-from-the-oven sourdough and handed it off to my mother-in-law.

A gift of bread.

The practicality of that gesture was simply that a loaf of bread was best eaten fresh by someone who would enjoy it, rather than left on our counter while we spent the weekend on mini-holiday.

The emotional aspect was that my mother-in-law had been halfway teasing that I should stop bragging about all my bread and posting photos of it on the socials if I wasn’t going to start offering to deliver to their house (an hour and a half drive away!)

So I delivered.

And this resulted in a text message the next day thanking us for the short visit and the gift, and suggesting it was probably the best bread she’d had in about a year. Great!

Food of any kind, but particularly food one has personally made, is linked to a long history of human gift giving. It is probably one of the most foundationally human things we do: make something worth eating, then give it our family, friends, or… everyone.

I had been baking bread casually in the years leading into the pandemic, and often the loaves I created were shortcuts to contributing to communal meals: something to bring to a gathering or a picnic or a thanksgiving dinner. And apart from a few gluten-adverse acquaintances, sourdough is simple enough to satisfy almost anyone, like the friend who cannot eat eggs, or my vegan pals, or even the picky folks who don’t like spicy food. Sourdough is just so basic… and yet robust enough to hold its own in that long human tradition of sharing your food with others.

There is both a universality to bread and an implied effort with sourdough. Almost everyone’s eyes light with an “Oh! You brought fresh bread!?” as you pull it from a bag and start slicing it up.

That same mother-in-law (though I only have one) put in a request earlier this week. One of our extended family just got some sad medical news (details redacted) and she was hoping we could make a delivery this weekend.

A gift of bread.

Of course we can.

A Blogging Good Anniversary

I occasionally allude to an interesting-to-me fact: I’ve been posting my thoughts online in the form of blogs for a long time.

To give that claim some context, as of today I have been a blogger for twenty years.

That’s right.

On April 20, 2001, twenty years ago to today, I posted my first dispatch post from a hot little apartment in metro Vancouver shortly after moving there for a post-university job.

I don’t want to sour this post in any way with recollections of why I shelved that blog or mourning all the other little temporary websites that lived for a time online before fading into the obscurity of a backup file on my computer. Needless to say, the digital road from there to here has been long, rewarding, introspective, emotional, and likely worn out more than one keyboard.

I’ve been read by lot of people for too many reasons to list.

I’ve been scraped by content farms stealing my words and photos.

I’ve been recognized by media and linked from news articles.

I’ve been hacked.

I’ve been awarded for words, design, and concept.

I’ve been undermined by people I had trusted for things I’d written in good faith.

I’ve told stories.

I’ve had regrets.

I’ve corrected mistakes.

I’ve learned, grown, shared, and opened myself up.

Literally millions of words have appeared online at times, and as many of those words as I have cared to keep are safely archived and privately backed up in safe digital spaces for my personal future reference.

If you have been reading and enjoying this blog, thanks. It is the latest in now-twenty years of efforts to share my words and thoughts and creative soul online. It has been a big part of my life, mostly for good, and always interesting… well, at least for me.

It has been an outlet and an inspiration to step out of a pandemic-based rut (an even more significant thing to say today as my age-group eligibility for a vaccine starts this morning!)

I write and post, and I write therefore I am. And while this blog may still be young and new, for me personally this is a blogging good anniversary worth pausing to blog about.