Back in blogging’s early days, when I was writing blogs about everything from indie bands to a short-lived yet unhealthy obsession with Sailor Jupiter, I had a tradition. Every year around this time, I would enter my name into a search engine, see what would come up, and then rant or rave about every little trace of myself I found in the digital world. It’s been a while, so I’m going to go through this exercise again.
I’m old now, so I won’t be doing much ranting or raving, but there are a few interesting tidbits out there. I’ll skip the usual junk like my name and address appearing on social media sites I’ve never signed up for or even heard of — those things that the armies of Internet robots create for all of us. And, unfortunately, it would seem that most of the writing I’ve had published over the years has disappeared from the digital consciousness, either eroded through time or caught on the wrong side of a paywall.
That’s why I’m delighted to find out that everything I wrote for Torontoist is still online and available. Not only did I write for them, but I did a lot of photography as well. I should probably save and print those stories before they, too, are forgotten.
One of my favourite Torontoist stories to write was a short piece about my Glen Rouge camping experience. It was the first time I’d gone camping since I was a kid, and I did it on a bicycle from my downtown apartment.
Thing is, though, other than that, there’s very little that comes up about me other than a few random photos — like this one that ended up in a slide show on the Frommer’s travel site, or these at the bottom of this real estate agent’s page — and a couple of nonsense comments I’ve long since forgotten leaving. About two-thirds of the way down this page, there’s a review of my old Second Life Magazine (which is a story I’ll get to in a future blog post), but there used to be many more of those. Sheesh, I used to be all over this Internet thing, back when I was working for newspapers, magazines, web development companies… Looks like I’ve been away longer than I thought. I’d better get to work, take control of my brand, get search-optimized and whatever else the kids are saying these days.
On another note, other people who share my name include the Chief Operating Officer of Konica Minolta, and the Vice President of Sweeney Real Estate in Providence, Rhode Island. Checking back further, Johannes Widmann is credited by Wikipedia as the inventor of the “+” and “-” signs. Also, according to unverified Internet sources, this humble barn, built in the 1560s, may be where my last name is rooted. Weird, eh?
Those of you who have seen my Facebook page know I already have a cast-iron Royal manual typewriter (the first typewriter my mom bought for herself almost 60 years ago, and it still works like a charm). I love it, but the fact that it’s manual presents a problem. The lettering is a little uneven, and that that makes it tough for my OCR software to pick up what’s typed, meaning anything that I type on paper has to be completely retyped into the computer when it comes time to edit — a time-consuming pain in the ass. In fact, this blog post is being written on the old Underwood just to see if the software actually does pick up what’s on this piece of paper. I’ll post the results when it’s done. Whatever happens, this is the best $10 I’ve ever spent on Kijiji. This Underwood even uses the same ribbons as the Royal, so that’s convenient.
I know there are those of you who are asking why it matters since computers allow you to type things directly into them these days anyway. Keep in mind that while I am of the first generation that took to the Internet, I’m also of the last generation that came of age in a fully analog world — I didn’t have my first computer until I was 15. I appreciate the power and convenience computers give to writing, but there’s something about the visceral joy of hitting a key and having words slammed indelibly into a piece of paper. Once a word is on the page, there’s no second-guessing, no going back. The computer offers options, flexibility, ease of use; the typewriter is unforgiving, linear. For me, bashing out a first draft on a typewriter is like hauling a slab of granite home from the quarry on my back. Once a story is where it needs to be, I can start chiseling out the details with finer tools, aka LibreOffice‘s word processor.
And now for the results. Except for my own typos, which I would have had to fix anyway, OmniPage did a pretty good job of converting my mechanically generated document to digital. This is gonna be fun.