Really, people? Light switches?

I went out for the day today with one of the people I contacted on Couchsurfing – I’ll write more about that later. When I got back I noticed something rather interesting about my page view stats. They’d spiked massively, about double my normal page views, in the few hours I was out. Lookit (and you’ll also notice the difference tagging has made increasing, too):

See that huge spike on the right hand side? Yeah, that wasn’t there when I left. My tracking whatsamagiggers tell me the hits came from Facebook, and that someone shared the most recent post I published. The one about light switches.

Yep, out of all the things I’ve written about travelling alone through strange countries, spending time visiting historically war-torn cities, the joys and pitfalls of constantly meeting new people (OK, I may not have written that one yet), all the deep and meaningful stuff about myself, and it’s bloody light switches you people like?!

Clearly I’ve been high-balling the level of my readers’ intellect (I jest, don’t worry). No, I just found it amusing that out of everything, it’s a post about light switches in England vs the US that is the most popular by far.

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Important cultural differences…

Alright, I admit, the title may be slightly misleading. Unless you classify ice cream and light switches as important, as I do.

So there are many and varied differences between the US and the UK, and for some reason it seems to be something that I’m asked quite frequently by Americans when I’m chatting to them. “So what’re the biggest differences between here and the UK?” they say. And despite how many obvious and huge differences there are, it’s actually rather difficult to name any of them when put on the spot like that.

Well, now I have a specific and immediate answer I can give whenever presented with that question in future. It might not be what most people are expecting, or the most interesting answer, but you can’t fault it for it’s pragmatism.

Light switches in the UK look like this (without all the chrome and fancy black plastic, but the general shape remains the same):

Now, imagine you’ve just made your evening meal, and you’re holding your plate of food in one hand and your drink of choice in the other and you’re about to walk out of the kitchen, but you don’t want to leave the light on. You have no choice but to ineffectually jab at the light switch with the edge of the plate over and over again until you either catch it just right and turn the light off, or spill your lovingly prepared food onto the floor. Was the floor hungry? Possibly. But you didn’t need to feed it just yet. And certainly not with that bolognese you just made (with tagliatelle, philistine).

American light switches have overcome that problem quite nicely. Observe:

You see that? The majesty of the little nubbin sticking out so brazenly into the room like that? Now all you have to do, chow in hand, is wander past and deftly catch the little bugger with the edge of the plate, your finger, hell, flick it with your nose if the fancy takes you.

Light switches, eh? It’s the simple things that make the difference.

Also, ice cream.

There are so. many. more. flavours of ice cream here. It just doesn’t seem fair. The UK market gets maybe, conservatively, 20% of the available flavours that the US has access to. Now, admittedly, it’s cold in England a lot, and so ice cream isn’t going to be such a big thing, but even so. We like our after dinner niceness, dammit, and I resent the fact that we only get thrown a metaphorical bone when it comes to the flavours on offer.

Today, for instance, I purchases some Ben and Jerry’s Cinnamon Buns ice cream, which is not available in the UK as far as I’m aware. Caramel ice cream, (pronounced ka-ra-mel, not car-mel, tch) with cinnamon bun dough and cinnamon streusel swirl. Oh God it’s good.

But then, I hear it’ll be snowing in parts of the UK soon, so maybe ice cream isn’t at the top of their list of priorities…

Publicity…

This is more of an update and FYI than a post with any actual content.

For those of you who pay attention you will have seen I have included a Where on Earth have I been? page at the top of the blog. This is a more detailed list of the countries I’ve visited and most of the places in each country, with handy links to all of them if you want to get a bit more info on any in particular. Please do take a look – it’ll make the effort of writing that list out and creating the links one by one seem worth while.

Secondly, and for those of you interested, I have created a Long Road to Nowhere Twitter account (@LRtNowhere) and Facebook page. This is mostly to make it easier for people to receive updates when I post things here (instead of RSSing the blog, or receiving email updates), as I’ll likely not post much on them at all specifically (though occasionally), but they will receive auto-updates when I post here. Please do follow or like as you see fit.

And probably lastly, you may have noticed that several of my posts have had pictures included recently. This is likely to become an on-going thing. For a start, it makes large walls of text more interesting to look at, but more importantly since I started tagging and categorising all my posts, they appear on the WordPress global tags listings pages, and posts having a picture makes them much more attractive to the eye when browsing said lists. Here’s one coming up now:

In the above picture, taken from the reader stats page of the blog, you can see the difference tagging posts has made to the number of page views. This, and the different methods of increasing readership and publicity is good. I’m not trying to make money or anything like that. It’s more that if I regularly have people reading this who have no idea who I am or what my story is, it’ll encourage me to a) write more often, b) write posts with actual interesting content rather than just my own personal ramblings, and c) write better. We shall see.

Oh, and this is a test to see if the auto-publication to Twitter and Facebook works properly. EDIT: It does.

Busy day…

While I have predominantly spent it sitting, today has been quite a busy day. I have made a fair few changes to the blog here which I shall now highlight for you.

For a start, I have filled out an ‘about this blog’ / info page, entitled What On Earth is This? You’ll find it constantly available at the top of the blog just under the header image, but for your convenience click the link in this paragraph.

I have also added a Quotations page, which contains some inspirational or otherwise thought-provoking quotes. If some of them seem a touch cliché or trite, well, screw you. Write your own damn blog. You will find this page sat all cozy next to the above mentioned What On Earth is This at the top of the blog.

Depending on how you view the site, you may notice some changes and additions to the information on the right hand side of the posts. If you receive updates via email or RSS, I’m not sure if you can see this information or not, so bookmark and visit the actual site from time to time. I have changed the ‘links’ section to have descriptions to the sites they link to, I’ve updated my reading list, and I’ve added a category list as well as a tag cloud (more on that momentarily).

While I’m talking about the links, I have edited and updated all three of the maps that’re listed on the Maps page. I discovered something pretty nifty with that today – if you load up any of the maps, say the Total Trip one, and then click the play button, it’ll take you on a nice animated tour of the whole journey, complete with accompanying (and fitting) music. Try it for all three. It’s fun.

So back to categories and tags. I spent a large portion of the afternoon going through and adding categories and tags to most every post I’ve made. One by one. The categories are somewhat larger over-arching subjects that a post may be about, a theme it’ll fall into, shall we say. The tags are smaller or more specific subjects that may be contained within. On the right hand side of the main blog page you’ll see a category list and a count of how many posts fall into each category (which so far are Travel, Introspection, Miscellany and Photography), and a tag cloud below that (which represents how often each tag appears by the size of the word). You can click on any of the categories or tags to filter and show only posts pertaining to that particular subject. Oh, TIL stands for Things I’ve Learned, by the way. Each individual post will detail which categories and tags are attached to it at the bottom of the post.

I don’t imagine any of this will make any difference to anyone going forward – it was mostly for the sake of proper organisation. That said, it will allow newer readers to easily go back and read posts on certain subjects or places easily without having to scan through every post. For instance, if you want to read all the Things I Have Learned, just click the TIL tag, or all the posts about or relating to Italy (warning, bad language…) then click the Italy tag.

Also updated is the About page over at Pictures of the Long Road to Nowhere, though that’s really a minor addition.

You will find, should you view each post’s page individually (such as via email or RSS feeds), buttons at the bottom of a post allowing you to share said post via Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, WordPress, Google+, reddit, and indeed email itself, should you feel the post entertaining or enlightening enough.

I think those are all the changes I’ve made to the blog so far, though I have a couple of other things in mind as well. Feel free to leave feedback on any of the above should you care enough.

Heh…

I just wrote four posts one after another. That’s 1800 words in the space of maybe an hour? And people complain about having to write college essays of a thousand words. Pft.

Also, updated PotLRtN a lot, and updated the Photodump a little.

Just to clarify…

I realise I’m not a very nice person. If you’re reading this, you know me well enough to know that’s the case. I know I’m not easy to get along with and I’m a sarcastic dick on occasion. That’s all fine. Frankly, it’s part of (if not the entirety of) my charm. My point is the following: it wasn’t just me who thought the captain of the boat was an asshole. It’s not just a personality clash that could be down to me, and thus my ranting unjustified.

The day I joined the boat, five of the previous crew were departing. We all went out and had dinner and chatted and etc. They all, independently of each other and any prompting, warned me about the guy and his personality. They said he had no patience and no concept of how to talk to people or ask them to do things.

My point overall was that I’m not being unreasonable and ranting about something that is perhaps otherwise my issue (as I so often can do).

But I leave tomorrow, so fuck it.

Ok, what the hell?

It has just been pointed out to me that my last post cut out mid-sentence. I checked. It does. I do not know why this is the case, since when I wrote it and pressed the submit key, there were another two paragraphs there. They were some of the wittiest and most insightful things ever to be virtually penned to virtual paper. And alas, now we’ll never know what they were because the internet clusterfucked it.