Some, if not all, of you will have already noticed a few changes I made to the blog while on vacation, but for the record let me just set them out here.
First of all, and invisibly, I've upgraded from PHP4 to PHP5. I had been putting this off for a good while because I was afraid it would be an ordeal, but it had to be done before I could update WordPress versions. In the actual event, GoDaddy provided a straight-foward way to do this painlessly from their control panel (though it did take some googling around to find out that it existed since their FAQs tended to imply it was a new purchase option).
Second, with that done, I was able to upgrade to the current version of WordPress, 3.2.1. This doesn't change anything on the readers' side, but from my point of view it means I can select from a greater number of themes and plugins and not just those that work with old WordPress versions.
Third, with that done, I was able to upgrade the spam filter Akismet to the current version. Spam is a constant arms-race and it's still not perfect, but I am actually having to kill fewer spam comments than before. Of course those that still get through remain annoying.
Fourth, with the current version of WordPress I was able to implement an idea proposed by Michael Taylor a number of months ago: Having a sidebar list of posts which have been recently updated. New posts, of course, are always on the blog's front page, but many times I will update an older post with new pictures or new information, and previously there would be no way for you to tell that unless I also posted a comment to that effect, something I don't usually do for small changes. Now, if you look on the left sidebar below the recent comments, you will see a new area called Recently Updated Posts. This section will list the ten most recently updated posts, and the date they were updated.
Fifth, also in the left sidebar below the Most Popular Posts section is a new area called Tags. This section is a tag cloud which takes the most common tags on posts and renders them in a font size relative to how often they are used. (Currently it appears that "Two Notch Road" is the most common tag..). If you click on one of these tags, you will get all of the posts which use that tag (which may not all fit on one page). I did not start using tags until well after I started the blog, so many older posts still do not have tags, and also I am not perfectly consistent on what tags I use (ie, grocer vs groceries etc), but the street name tags at least should be useful.
I may move these different sections around in the future, but I do expect to keep them.
What I did not do was change the theme for the blog. I actually did find a new three-column theme that I like quite a bit, but as it stands, it does not fit well with my 600 pixel wide photos (which I am not going to shrink). I may get around to figuring out how CSS style-sheets work and try to fix it to work in my environment, or I may find another theme that will work without a lot of futzing around, but for now the current theme (Andrea) stays.