Why I’m Using WordPress

I recently decided to get back to blogging. I read many blogs authored by people I respect. I value the perspectives and insights they provide and would like to contribute to the community.

When Medium first came out, I was in love with its design and simplicity. Medium looks beautiful. But as I found myself reading articles I found on Medium through Google searches, Medium prompted me to log in to read them. To me, the internet is about openly available content – not checking oneself into a walled garden.

Dave Winer argues that when “you give in to the default, and just go ahead and post to Medium, you’re stifling the open web. Not giving it a chance to work its magic, which depends on diversity, not monoculture.”

So where to blog? I’ve tried WordPress, Squarespace, Blogger, Write.as, Micro.blog, Svbtle, Silvrback and Ghost. I also considered a static blog written in Hugo but I lack the technical expertise to take that on.

In the end, I chose WordPress. I appreciate that WordPress has great apps for the iPhone, iPad and the Mac. I can also post using third-party apps such as MarsEdit on the Mac and Ulysses on the Mac and iOS.

I debated between WordPress.com and a self-hosted installation and settled on WordPress.com. I understand that WordPress.com affords less flexibility than a self-hosted blog. However, setup and maintenance have been very easy on WordPress.com. I can focus on my writing and let someone else handle the backend at a reasonable cost – in my case $8 a month. It is still early days but so far my fledgling site seems very fast.

I also appreciate the WordPress community. I like exploring other WordPress sites and WordPress makes it easy to find interesting sites. In addition, I look forward to attending my first WordPress meetup.

Squarespace has beautiful themes but the inability to post to Squarespace from third-party apps was a disappointment. The Squarespace iOS apps don’t hold a candle to the WordPress apps.

Blogger is free but has dated themes and seems all but abandoned by Google. Ghost is a very attractive option. The templates are tastefully designed and focus on writing — not e-commerce. Ghost has a beautiful Markdown editor. You can write in Markdown on the left side of the screen and see the rendered text on the right side of the screen. I love this but the WordPress apps and community are in my opinion superior. I am also enjoying Project Gutenberg on WordPress. It looks like the future.

Podcast: The Making of ‘Shoah’ by Claude Lanzmann

Shoah is a 1985 French documentary film about the Holocaust, directed by Claude Lanzmann. It’s over nine hours long and took eleven years to make. The film presents Lanzmann’s first-hand interviews with survivors, witnesses, and perpetrators across 14 countries.

After watching “Shoah”, Roger Ebert wrote: “There is no proper response to this film. It is an enormous fact, a 550-minute howl of pain and anger in the face of genocide. It is one of the noblest films ever made.”

The BBC as part of its “Witnesspodcast series interviewed Irena Steinfeldt, who worked with Lanzmann on the film. Steinfeld now serves as Director of the Department for the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. This podcast contributes to the history of the making of this valuable documentary.

You can listen here.

Podcast Review: “Travel with Rick Steves”

Travel with Rick Steves is a weekly one hour podcast with guest experts and callers about travel, cultures and people. This, in my opinion, is the best travel podcast. Steves is well-traveled, bright, articulate, positive and most of all curious to learn about the world and the people who inhabit it. Although Steves’s guidebooks and organized tours focus on Europe, the podcast covers the world. Guests include authors and professional guides Steves uses for his tours and guidebooks. The information he provides is timely and accurate. For example, Steves has interviewed great authors such as Paul Theroux and David McCullough. After listening to the interview of David McCullough, I was really charged up to get out and explore the world, in part because McCullough started his life and explorations in my hometown — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. McCullough has written extensively about the United States starting near home with the The Johnstown Flood. He’s also a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. That’s the caliber of guest Steves can corral. And he does it once a week.

After 25 Years ‘Schindler’s List’ Still Relevant – ‘More at stake today’

Marking the 25th anniversary of its release, Steven Spielberg explains to NBC’s Lester Holt why “Schindler’s List” remains relevant:

Individual hate is a terrible thing, but when collective hate organizes, then genocide follows. And that hate is not something that is not to be taken seriously. We have to take it more seriously today than I think we have had to take it in a generation.

Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg On The Legacy Of ‘Schindler’s List’ 25 Years Later | NBC Nightly News

Schindler’s List has been digitally remastered and re-released. There will be free screenings for students. The film will also be released on 4K UHD Blu-Ray on December 18, 2018.

In 1994, Spielberg founded the USC Shoah Foundation following his experience meeting survivors during production of Schindler’s List. The Foundation preserves and maintains nearly 55,000 audio-visual testimonies conducted in 65 countries and in 43 languages. It also houses an education initiative that reaches thousands of middle and high schools around the world. The Foundation’s mission is “to develop empathy, understanding and respect through testimony.”

See also: The Washington Post

Thoughts on the Demise of Google+

On October 8, 2018, Google announced that it is shutting down the consumer version of Google+ at the end of August 2019 because “it has not achieved broad consumer or developer adoption.” Google explained that the “consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds.”

On December 10, 2018, Google decided “to accelerate sunsetting consumer Google+, bringing it forward from August 2019 to April 2019.” The cause, according to Google, is a bug in the Google+ API that “impacted approximately 52.5 million users.” Developers had access to some non-public information for a limited period but did not have “access to information such as financial data, national identification numbers, passwords, or similar data typically used for fraud or identity theft.”

Several years back I started a community on Google+ to share news related to the Holocaust. The Holocaust is the German state policy, enacted between 1941 and 1945, to exterminate European Jews. The Holocaust resulted in the murder of six million European Jews, which amounted to around two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe. The impact in Poland was devastating. On the eve of the German occupation of Poland in 1939, 3.3 million Jews lived there. At the end of the war, approximately 380,000 Polish Jews remained alive, the rest having been murdered. As a child of Holocaust survivors, I want to share news about the Holocaust with the hope that people will learn about — or remember —  what happened . The lessons of the Holocaust remain important.

Given the nature of the topic, I was looking for a safe place to share Holocaust-related information. After looking around, I ended up starting a Google+ community that was open to any Google+ member after first requesting an invitation. The community, which started with just me, now has over 300 members.  A lot of useful information has been shared over the years.

I believe the community would have been bigger if I had set it up as a purely open community that anyone could join without first requesting membership. But I was concerned that neo-Nazis and others filled with hate would join. As a moderator, I received many requests from neo-Nazis to join including a request from a person calling himself “Adolf Hitler” and using a photo of Hitler as his profile picture. I declined such requests and reported them to Google. I am not sure what Google did with my reports but the community was always left in peace to fulfill its purpose.

Google+ posts are beautifully presented with nice, large images when they are available. I have enjoyed the community very much and met some nice people online, including one wonderful person who stepped up and joined me as a moderator. It just worked.

I don’t see many alternatives to Google+. Facebook has well-publicized issues. Twitter is fine for sharing news but really isn’t a community and is not in my opinion a safe place. Twitter is the Wild West. For example, the Anti-defamation League “found that at least 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets were shared or re-shared in English on Twitter over the 12-month period ending January 28, 2018.” I am open to suggestions for a new home for the community.

I understand why Google is shutting down the service. For my part, I wasn’t looking to reach the masses. I just wanted a nice safe place to share important information. Google should be proud of the service it offered. I’m sorry to see Google+ go.

The moral of the story is that if you use someone else’s platform you can be shown to the door anytime. It’s a good idea to own your own data, which is why this website is important to me.

TV Series: “Killing Eve”

I love a good spy story. After The Americans ended, I was looking for a spy-oriented TV series. I wasn’t even looking for something like “The Americans” because it’s in a class by itself. I looked forward to every episode of that series and the final episode was an emotional cornucopia.

So with an open mind, I started watching Killing Eve on BBC America. It stars the Canadian actress Sandra Oh who I know from Under the Tuscan Sun and Sideways and the beautiful 25-year old British actress Jodie Comer, who is new to me.

Eve (played by Oh) is a smart and humorous desk-bound MI5 security officer lusting for adventure. Comer portrays a talented and whimsical killer who enjoys the finer things in life. It’s a game of cat and mouse with intrigue, humor and sharp dialogue.

Kim Bodnia, who played Danish police detective Martin Rohde in the terrific Scandinavian crime drama television series “The Bridge” is Comer’s handler. It’s good to see him again. He’s well cast.

The story moves right along. The music is exciting and fits the story well. This isn’t like any spy story I’ve seen before.

The series is available for purchase without commercial interruption on Amazon and has been renewed for a second season so there’s more to come.

Podcast Review: “The Kindle Chronicles”

I enjoy keeping track of developments at Amazon.com. My primary source of information is The Kindle Chronicles podcast.

Len Edgerly is the creator and host of the podcast. Len is a bright fellow with a background in journalism. He graduated from Harvard College in 1972 and the Harvard Business School in 1977.

Before retiring he was a business journalist at The Providence (R.I.) Journal-Bulletin, an editor of an energy magazine in Casper, Wyoming, and an executive at a natural gas company based in Denver.

Len has been podcasting since 2006, when he launched the Audio Pod Chronicles and Video Pod Chronicles. He began the weekly Kindle Chronicles podcast in 2008. New podcasts generally appear each Friday and last about 40 minutes. Although Len does everything himself he is diligent in publishing a new episode each week even under difficult circumstances.

Each podcast consists of four parts:

  • Amazon related news
  • Kindle Tech Tips
  • An interview
  • Book recommendations

Len attracts interesting guests. In 2016, he interviewed Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. Len loves to read and I have come to value the book recommendations he includes in his podcast. I also have learned a lot about the fast changing publishing business by listening to The Kindle Chronicles.

But what I enjoy most is Len’s intellect and curiosity. I look forward to each new episode.

Book Review: “Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light”

Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light by David Downie

I stumbled across Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light while preparing to visit Paris again, a city I have loved for almost 40 years. The author, David Downie, is an American who has lived in Paris since 1986. He loves Paris deeply and knows it far better than I do.

The walk begins at France’s gigantic national library – Bibliothèque nationale de France. This is the largest library I have ever seen; it houses 15 million books and journals. It is located near the Métro station Bibliothèque François Mitterrand right along the Seine. But not much else is nearby. The location feels desolate, modern and suburban, although the library remains within Paris’s Périphérique or beltway.

However, it was unclear to me from reading the book where the walk ended so I emailed the author who cheerfully responded with the details and even suggested a nice, reasonably priced restaurant for lunch right along the walk. The restaurant is La Fregate and is at the only spot on the walk where you have to go up to the sidewalk from the river. Downie describes the restaurant as “cozy, friendly, insiderish, welcoming – and the service – efficient, discreet and unusually chummy for Paris.”

I watched the city transform from stark, modern suburbs and eventually came upon Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower and on to its terminus at the Pont Mirabeau. I will never forget Le Pont Mirabeau after reading Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem in high school. The poem breaths life and love into the bridge. Seeing Le Pont Mirabeau at the end of this day-long walk was special. The entire walk was about 10 km or 6.2 miles. The transformations within that short distance speak volumes about Paris.

At Downie’s suggestion, I also visited Buttes-Chaumont park which is even more impressive than Mr. Downie describes. He knows Place des Vosges like the back of his hand so that chapter is exceptional.

On top of the wonderful details that make Paris come to life, Downie’s prose shows a love and mastery of the English language that I appreciate. This gem of a book will teach you so much about Paris and make you want to return again and again or just to go to Paris and remain as Downie has.

ADL Gives Apple CEO Tim Cook Its First Courage Against Hate Award

Apple CEO Tim Cook is the first recipient of the Antidefamation League’s (ADL) “Courage Against Hate” award for his work as a champion of unity, diversity, and social progress.  The award was presented to Cook at the ADL’s annual Never Is Now Summit on anti-Semitism and Hate on December 3 in New York City, where he also delivered the keynote address.

In accepting the award, Cook said that Apple has only one message for those who seek to push hate, division, and violence: “You have no place on our platform. You have no home here.” He also made clear that Apple Music has always prohibited music with a message of white supremacy and won’t give a platform to violent conspiracy theorists on Apple’s App Store.

The ADL was founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry. ADL’s mission today is to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.”

Discovering European TV

I enjoyed streaming European television. A blog called The Euro TV Place is an excellent source of recommendations. Linda Jew, the founder of the site, regularly publishes detailed reviews. It’s also possible to sort the recommendations by language. I appreciate this because I enjoy watching French television to help me keep up and hopefully improve my French. Modern television lets you hear the way people actually speak in everyday life, which often is different from what is taught in foreign language classes. This is a resource that didn’t exist when I first learned to speak French.

I’ve enjoyed some great television I learned about at The Euro TV Place including:

If you’re interested in exploring new television, The Euro TV Place is a great place to start. European TV is spread across many different streaming services and availability in the United States often follows European availability but the The Euro TV Place makes it easy to know when and where great European television is available.