Nepal: Local UK Plug Adapter

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Travel destinations

Guide books may tell you that a Continental plug adapter will fit many outlets in Nepal.

My experience is that the adapter will fit but that the thin pins sit so loosely in the socket that they don’t establish a reliable connection.

This adapter that I bought in Nepal worked well. I forget how much it cost, but I think it was the equivalent of about $0.70.

On The Phone

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Photography

Is this man a sadhu, a serious searcher after truth, or something else? Who knows?

I met a man who had been on his yatra (pilgrimage to holy places) for years and who had nothing good to say about the ‘fake’ sadhus at Pashupatinath, where I took this photograph. But that was just his take, and he could be wrong.

The man is covered in ash. Some sadhus cover themselves with ash from cremated bodies. As I said, I took this photo at Pashupatinath, by the burning ghats, so this man may have covered himself with ash from the cremations.

I would have wanted to photograph him for his appearance alone, but the fact that he is on the phone adds another dimension.

Seeing Not Looking For Photographs

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Photography

I’ve just been reviewing the photographs I took in Nepal. There are a lot and it will take me a while.

Here is a photo I took of a line of men sitting on a bench in Durbar Square in Patan. I saw the men and I wanted to photograph them and I did.

Once I got the photo up on the computer, I straightened and cropped it. I cannot go back in time to ask why I did not hold the camera even vaguely level when I took the photograph. So with that said, here is the cropped and levelled photo:

As an aside, a couple of days later I went and sat with the men and was given a friendly greeting.

BUT – and this is the point of this post – I missed the shot. Or I missed a shot. My eyes were so tightly focused on the men that I missed what I could have made of it.

It would have had an extra dimension if I had included the statue to the side, as though the statue was the last man on the bench.

Here is the full frame and you will see what I mean, I hope.

If I had just taken a bit more time to look rather than to act on what I saw, then I could have moved the camera over a bit and captured the men and the statue that was a kind of ‘extra’ body contrasting with the men.

Well it isn’t going to happen now unless I happen to be there and the men or other men are sitting there.

How To Look

When I noticed the shot I had missed, I told myself that in future I must spend more time looking for photographs. My wife Tamara is good at seeing photographs. I suffer from being focused on what catches my eye rather than looking around to see what makes a photograph.

By chance (or not) I watched I video of Sean Tucker interviewing Ondrej Vachek, a young man who is drawn to photographing conflict situations. He described how he had set up the LCD and viewfinder on his camera to black and white because it helped him see more clearly.

I am going to try it, but meanwhile here are a couple versions of a scene that I think perhaps makes more of a photograph in black and white. I say that because the way the man on the left is turned to watch whatever attracted his attention in the group photo, is clearer in the black and white version. Or so I think. What do you think?

And that interaction makes it a photograph rather than a snap.

Of course, I am not claiming this is a great photo – but I am saying it has some claim to being a photograph.

Bhaktapur in Nepal

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Photography
people in Bhaktapur in Nepal waiting for a performance to begin

I just got back from two weeks in Nepal and I thought I was going to write about it, but I have a cold (caught on the plane?) and I don’t feel like doing much of anything except lamenting that I feel half awake.

But I wanted to get a photograph on line to make a start, and here is this one from Bhaktapur, a town east of Kathmandu.

The people in the photo are waiting for a dance performance of something from one of the ancient Hindu mythic stories.

X Reasons To Consider A Business Plan on WordPress.com

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WordPress

WordPress.com has come a long way since its early days of offering a simple way to get into blogging without having to worry about how to set up a self-hosted WordPress site.

I know some people use WordPress.com as a stepping stone to a self-hosted site. I did. I wanted to host my own site because I wanted to be free of restrictions. What that meant in those days (this is back in 2007) is that I could put Google Adsense adverts on my blog.

And I was attracted to the idea of getting to grips with how to do it at all – how to set up a database, how to set up the config file, and all the other bits that go to making a web site. It was nerve-wracking at first. I was afraid that everything I did would break the site and leave me lost in a maze.

It didn’t happen, but what I did get into were the twin notions of ‘optimisation’ and ‘security’.

Optimisation includes using keywords that accurately reflect what the site is about. That way, when someone searches in a search engine such as Google or Bing, your site is likely to be tagged because your keywords fit well with what the page on your site is about.

But optimisation also meant making the site fast to load. As search engine optimisation experts said – it didn’t matter how attractive your site looked, or how perfectly apt the keywords were, no one was going to hang around long enough to see your site if it took a long time to load.

That led on to well-coded versus poorly coded themes, to plugins that optimised CSS and Javascript, to database cleanup tools, gzip, expires headers, memory allocation, and more.

Security meant long and complex login passwords, and it meant keeping themes and plugins up to date. I had to destroy one site when it got infected with a virus that I introduced when I tried out a theme from a dubious source.

I tried to clean up the infection but in the end I nuked the site. That meant first extracting the xml file with the text of the blog posts, then deleting the database, the themes, and the plugins, and starting from scratch.

Not something I would recommend, but I learned from it. One thing I learned was to put a security system in place to prevent it happening again.

Oh yes, and to take regular backups. And store at least one copy off-site.

Later, much later, I built a WooCommerce store. I didn’t have a product in mind, just the desire to build a store with WooCommerce. That’s another thing that has got easier over the years. The setup wizard is good and the explainer videos are excellent.

But it also means that security has got to be nailed down because customers will be signing up, creating accounts, giving their credit card details, and expecting to receive stuff.

And backups becomes a much bigger issue. It’s one thing if your blog posts go missing – sad, but only sad for you. If your customers’ data goes missing, you are going to be responsible for cleaning up the mess.

Some of the front runners for taking payments on WooCommerce stores don’t take any sensitive details on your site. For example, Stripe puts a little popup on your site at the payment stage, and the information your customer puts in is encrypted and sent straight to Stripe.

So you would think that takes care of credit card security. Not so. If your site is hacked, the hacker can, for example, execute a ‘man in the middle’ attack. Your customer thinks they are going to Paypal or Stripe, but secretly they are being led off to something that looks like them but really it is giving your customers details to the hacker who has put a lookalike page over the real page.

That’s just one issue. They are not impossible to overcome – after all, WooCommerce powers an awful lot of stores both big and small – but you have to take steps to keep your site secure.

A Good Web Host

A good web host will complement the hard work you put into making your site load fast. A bad web host will overstretch resources, fail to guard your site from having its resources hogged by another site on the same server. It can even let in a hacker via the level above your site on the server.

A good web host will take regular backups. And they will make extra backups available to you so you can store them somewhere else – a copy on your hard drive and a copy with something like Amazon AWS, for example.

Managed shared hosting is an option, where they take care of optimisation, backups, and security – with a bigger monthly cost.

A virtual private server (VPS) is the next step up, but that requires a lot more technical skill. There are services that will act as a kind of intermediary or control panel to help set up your site on a VPS, but if it is already starting to give you a headache, it’s something to think about further down the line.

It takes a lot of reading to find accurate data on good versus bad web hosts. I generally look at Review Signal’s benchmarks as a starting point.

A fast web host on shared hosting with cPanel should be around $20/month. Access to top-notch WordPress themes that show off your store to its best advantage will be, let’s say, $100/year. WooCommerce itself is free, but you might need some extensions to get your store to do exactly what you want. Or maybe not. So that’s $300/year or more.

WordPress.com has a business plan that enables you to use your own domain name, use any of their premium themes, add plugins, change the CSS, set up WooCommerce, and set up Google Analytics. It also offers unlimited storage, but I can’t see that being an issue because it would take a huge store with many thousands of products to make storage an issue.

I have the Premium plan here on WordPress.com. It’s one step down from the business plan, which I haven’t tried. I haven’t tried the business plan because my partner and I already have our e-commerce store set up on a self-hosted site and I can’t see any reason to change.

But if I was starting again I would look at the WordPress.com business plan option (affiliate link) because the two big things that are taken care of – optimisation and security.

Here’s the list of what the business plan offers for £20/month in the UK (not sure what the cost is in other parts of the world – click the link and find out – it should geolocate to wherever you are).

  • Google Analytics support
  • Unlimited storage
  • Remove WordPress.com branding
  • Custom Domain Name
  • Jetpack Essentials
  • Email & Live Chat Support
  • Unlimited Premium Themes
  • Advanced Design Customization
  • monetisation (WordAds, Adsense and affiliate ads)
  • add plugins

The Competition

Squarespace (£21/month in the UK) and Shopify ($29/month) are the front runners.

I think the biggest reason I would choose WordPress.com over either of these is that if at some point I wanted to self-host my store, I could export all my settings/database information/themes/etc . I don’t think you can do this with Squarespace or Shopify.

The Greenwich Foot Tunnel under the Thames

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Photography

Tamara and I were in London yesterday. We happened to see this small building, which is the entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

The tunnel goes under the Thames, 15 metres below the river. It runs from Greenwich on the south side to Tower Hamlets on the north side and was opened in 1902 with lifts installed in two years later.

New lifts were installed when the tunnel was renovated in 2012. There’s a plaque that you can see lower left of the photo, the details the history of the tunnel.

It’s odd, really. We go under the river by tube (London Underground) and don’t think about it for a moment. But the idea of walking under the river – that’s a different feeling.