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Go shorty it's your birthday

Yes, it's now been two years to the day since Dining@Large started with an exciting entry entitled Greetings. It's fun looking back at that first post now and thinking about how my life has changed because of this blog.

At the time I was mildly bored with my job simply because I had done everything I thought I wanted to at the Sun.

I had been the restaurant critic for almost 35 years, and written a restaurant news column off and on.

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I had been a home and food writer and then the home and food editor (when the Sun had two food sections and two home and garden sections a week).

I had been the Sun Magazine editor (when the Sun had a magazine). I had edited and written for the twice-yearly dining guides. ...

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I had even done some page design, of the magazine's special sections. I can't remember why, but it was when I fell in love with Macs. I had also been a special sections writer.

Two years ago my job description was restaurant critic/lifestyle writer, where I got to write a lot about pop culture. I also wrote stories for the health section, particularly about nutrition and fitness. I liked the variety. But writing stories of any kind was starting to get old; at that point I was churning out a lot of copy.

So one day at the end of March 2007 Kate the food editor sat me down and said with some hesitation that the higher ups wanted me to start a restaurant blog. She hurriedly assured me that she and Rob Kasper and others would contribute; it wouldn't be just my chore. I could tell that she thought I was going to make a fuss about yet more work.

But I felt like someone had given me a present. Something shiny, new and different to do with as I pleased.

I always regretted when I wrote a story for the print edition that I couldn't also choose the photos that went with it, write the headline and design the page. Now I could.

MINE. MINE. MINE.

Of course, I didn't say MINE. MINE. MINE. I calmly told her I appreciated the offer, thank you very much; but I'd rather do it all myself. (Little did she and Rob know that they would be dealing with their own blogs soon enough.)

To me, writing a blog is better than writing stories because there's instant feedback.  I never knew if anyone was really reading my reviews and stories except people I met at cocktail parties. And maybe they were just being polite.

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I love, love, love the interaction with readers on this blog; and I appreciate your checking in as often as you do. I've learned a lot from commenters, maybe more than you've learned from me.

I don't want to get too mushy here, so I'm going to link to last year's first anniversary celebration and mention a few highlights of the past year.

1) I notice last year I was bragging about getting 1,000 and then 3,000 comments. As of this morning, we're up to 41,321. This is the number I'm most proud of, although this is entry No. 2,361 and Dining@Large regularly gets around 50,000 page views a week.

2) I'm also proud of the fact that so far I haven't missed a day posting on Dining@Large, and it's never a chore. Sometimes I want to tell you about something that isn't remotely food-related, but there's never a shortage of topics that I can justify as belonging on a restaurant and food blog.

3) In June we had our second themed week, Crab Week. This would be a good place to suggest possibilities for this year's exciting themed week. Beef Week has a nice ring to it, but I'm open to other suggestions.

4) During our second year, Owl Meat Gravy, who with his other personae had always been a commanding presence on Dining@Large, started his regular guest post, Funtastic Thursdays.

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5) We managed to get Bucky away from Reality Check, at least temporarily. (Thank you, Sarah KK, for having that baby.)

6) Our Shallow Thought Guru John Lindner took the buyout -- I still miss his presence at the Sun -- but kindly continued to contribute, both with his regular Wednesday guest post and as commenter jl.

7) This year I've had even more bloggy interaction with You Don't Say John and Midnight Sun Sam, two of my favorite people at the paper.

The lowlights are these:

1) We lost Robert (the Single One). I also mourn the other regular commenters who have disappeared since last April. When I go back to write a post like this, I see names that were familiar then that haven't been around for ages -- and not just Piano Rob and Rosebud. On the other hand, some great new voices have come on board like Laura Lee, RayRay, Sean and YumPorchetta. (And many others. Please forgive me if I didn't mention your name.)

At least I think the above four aren't Owl Meat in disguise.

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2) The company I work for filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

3) And, of course, it's the economy, stupid. Which makes writing about restaurants a lot less fun.


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