Once again, if you followed me on Twitter, you’d hear about these as they happen. You’d also see lots of pictures when I travel. And your life would be complete, guaranteed.

New pages:

Updates:

As those of you who follow me on Twitter are already well aware, I’m currently in Chicago. Since Canada was off the table this year, I reworked my October vacation in a very socially distant sort of way. As it happens, this is not really all that different from the way I usually travel. But some specifics, in case you were wondering:

  • Obviously I would never visit anyplace where travel is restricted for me. The city of Chicago has a current travel ban, requiring 14-day quarantines for visitors from 21 states. Mine is not among them. (Note: As of today that is changing on the day after I depart.)
  • On my regular trips, I minimize contact with other people. Now I do even more of that. I spend almost all my time either in my hotel or in my car exploring. I avoid crowds and I don’t go inside nearly as many stores as I normally might. I’m also skipping transit and not on foot as much as I would normally be.
  • I get rooms where I can make some of my own meals and do takeout or drive-thru for most of the rest, or eat outside where that’s an option. I think I have eaten inside at a restaurant all of six or seven times since March, and in almost all cases the place was nearly or completely empty at the time.
  • I am (of course) masked any time I’m around other people, as is any decent human being who cares about other human beings.
  • I’m opting out of daily room cleaning in any hotel that still has it as an option.

Again, I’m not a terribly social person when I travel in general, so most of this is not a stretch for me, aside from the obvious transit and restaurant issues. That said, this seems like a good time to talk about how I travel in general:

  • My primary activity when I travel is exploration. Cities fascinate me and I like to explore neighborhoods and streets. Supermarkets are a big part of it, and this site has definitely pushed me to explore in much more intensive ways than I used to, but finding supermarket sites is only art of the mix. As often as not, I don’t have a set agenda or list of stores I hope to see; that makes travel seem too much like work. Sometimes there are some specific stores I want to shoot. Usually I just shoot what I find in the areas I visit. The discovery is a big part of the fun.
  • I do usually hit the library when I visit a new city where I haven’t done research (assuming there’s no global pandmeic at the time).
  • I may stay in the city or the suburbs, depending on any number of factors. I usually do chain hotels because I don’t like surprises where I sleep.
  • I do like surprises where I eat and I tend to avoid chain restaurants, unless it’s a quirky regional chain or a largely defunct one (or something like the last remaining White Tower in Toledo).
  • I hate flying. I’m big, it’s uncomfortable, and I avoid it whenever possible.
  • I try to do backroads when it’s feasible and when there’s actually something to see on them other than trees.
  • I find the countryside to be a tremendous inconvenience that one is forced to cope with when traveling between two cities. Nature is not my thing.

(BTW, the photo above was taken in Macy’s Marshall Field. Crowd were most decidedly not an issue there, which says a lot.)

Not to say I’m winding down the location lists (I’m definitely not) but after what I think is a pretty incredible run of those the past few years, I feel like working on something else for a while. And the new time-suck seems likely to be a digital library of my accumulated photos and documents (or at least the ones that copyright law will permit me to post). Keep in mind that this is actually what I do for a living as well, which may make the process go much faster…or much slower.

Library geek alert: For those of you who care about such things, I may build out the library using the Omeka platform, mainly because it would also help me to learn some of its quirks. At my day job, I am in the process of migrating our rather extensive digital collections from a commercial product called CONTENTdm to an open-source platform called Islandora. Both of those are more firepower than I really need here, so I’m going with Omeka, which will be considerably less labor-intensive. Unless I decide to get really creative at extending WordPress, like I did with this site.

Anyhow, watch this space…

 

Even though it has been a bit difficult to make myself sit at my computer all evening after sitting at it all day (work from home continues for me), I have made some additions. You’d know about these already if you followed the Message Board and/or Twitter:

Stay safe. And wear your mask, dammit!

You might think staying at home 24-7 would mean that I would be doing lots of updates on the site. Sadly, it’s not really working out that way. After working from home all day ay my day job, the prospect of sitting at the same desk all night is not all that enticing. Nevertheless, I am working on a Houston location list that may be up later this week.

Other updates since the last time I mentioned them here:

Stay healthy. Stay safe. Stay home.

It’s a good article (and not just because it cites me, thank you) about the history and future of Canadian supermarkets by food writer Corey Mintz. I’ll inclue the part that feeds my ego, but you should read all of it.

In the early twentieth century, there was no such thing as a one-stop shop for food. “You’d go out in the morning to the grocery store, for canned goods and bulk stuff,” explains David Gwynn, a librarian at the University of North Carolina and a supermarket historian. While there, you would speak with a shopkeeper to obtain your items; they filled your order behind the counter, weighing out dried goods from barrels. Customers would know the shopkeepers by name—and, often, vice versa. Other kinds of foodstuffs required trips to separate shops as part of this daily ritual: butchers and fishmongers, greengrocers and bakeries. These stores were much smaller than the ones we’re used to—maybe 1,000 square feet or less, says Gwynn—and were everywhere in our cities.

Transformed by a childhood visit to an old A&P, Gwynn is a grocery obsessive who maintains ­groceteria.com, a database of US and Canadian supermarkets past and present. Want to know the years that the Piggly Wiggly at 384 Academy Road in Winnipeg became a Shop-Easy (1950) and then a Tom Boy (1961)? Gwynn has answers. His vacations always include visits to older stores, ­ancient outlets like Pay’n Takit treated like ­houses of worship.

I think the map has filled in quite nicely since I recommitted to the site about four years ago.

The most recent additions (that you can get as they happen via Twitter):

More to come!

So what’s going on?

I’ve recently been getting pounded with hits from spiders and bots based mostly in Asia, who repeatedly try to access content on the board and flood it with requests that cause my web host to take it offline. As I am in a shared hosting environment (as are the majority of websites) this server load was causing issues for other sites on the same server, so my hosting company disabled the board. This is a totally acceptable thing and I do not blame them. But…

To get the board back online, I will likely need to move to a different web hosting plan which would isolate my account from other sites. This might not be all that much more expensive, but it would be kind of a pain, particularly given the fact that the board does not get much active use right now from new users and posts. That said, the board archive does get significant traffic and contains a wealth of content and knowledge created over more than a decade, so I don’t want to lose that.

I’m still pondering how to proceed. These are the current options I’m considering:

  1. Move to a higher level hosting plan and continue the board as is. This is the ideal option but also the one that requires the most investment of time and money from me.
  2. Find a way to archive a “read only” version of the board in static HTML (which would negate the database server issues) and publish that. Users would not be able to add new content. I could possibly do some additional third-party message board for new posts, which is not ideal but which would make things easier for me.
  3. Move the entire message board (but not the main site) to another hosting platform and leave it in place as is. That way, if the issues persist, it will at least not take down the main site. This would also require some investment of time and money due to paying an additional hosting cost and maintaining more frequent backups.

I’m going to try to decide something by the end of the weekend. Realistically, the board will probably not be back online for another week at minimum. Right now I have some major things going on work-wise (this site is a hobby, remember?) so I can only fight so many battles at once.

Thanks for understanding!

Update: I’ve decided to go with Option 3 for now. I hope to be back up by Tuesday, but no promises on that…

Update 2: Back up for now at a new URL (but the old one will redirect). I will be monitoring.