Wednesday, January 12. 2011
Short update on my status. As I noted before, my laptop failed to boot Sunday night, taking with it nearly a week's worth of work, including Monday's planned Jazz Prospecting and a rather substantial update to my year-end list metafile. Since then I've been working to recover the data and get the computer working again. The first part of that has been successful. After a lot of cautious poking around I ran fsck on the laptop's root filesystem and it did its magic -- after one read failure, and a few dozen inode/bitmap/freelist fixes. Three files were orphaned and reconnected to /lost+found -- I haven't figured them out yet, but they don't seem to be part of my data. I was then able to mount the disk read-only and copy off my data. Then I reconciled its data with other changes I had made to the website's copy (including finding a bunch of inconsistencies where the two had drifted apart). Finally, I uploaded the reconciled data to the website. My master copy has been moved to a different base machine -- one that should be more reliable and which is also a fair bit faster.
Still need to work on the laptop. The file system is no longer corrupt, which should fix the boot problem -- mount was failing so no startup files could be found -- but the broken files could affect something further down the boot process, so I need to verify the software install. I'm also worried about the reliability of the hard drive, so I should run some diagnostics before I put much trust in the system. But for now I've cut it out of the work loop, which make it something I don't have to deal with right away.
I'm thinking now I'll hold Jazz Prospecting back until Monday -- I have enough material now but still have a bunch of filing and fiddling to deal with the incoming material. (Which, by the way, has started to come in again after a dry spell over the holidays.) I'll probably do a second Rhapsody Streamnotes later this week -- I had been planning on that after I split January's stash, then I wanted to hold it back until after Downloader's Diary appeared, then, well, this.
The much updated 2010 Metacritic File is sorted and up now -- although a tiny amount of source information is still lost (an accident prior to the crash). Since December 22, the leader's count rose from 438 to 742 (69%), while the challenger's rose from 391 to 699 (79%). Still unlikely, given my unweighted methodology, that Kanye West will ever catch up with Arcade Fire. Also worth noting that Beach House overtook LCD Soundsystem and looks to be pulling away -- the opposite seemed to be the case earlier. Also Janelle MonŠe has edged ahead of Vampire Weekend, and Black Keys have opened up a fairly large lead over Big Boi. I thought the lists were settling down into a fairly stable pattern, so this much churn has been a bit of a surprise.
Not sure if I'm done with the lists or not -- at least I've broken the habit of working on them. And they've mostly served their purpose (although I would like to work Bruce Gallanter's list in -- bottom of post here, also Robert Christgau's Dean's List; I generally don't bother with Pazz & Jop, figuring it's too much and too late and spoils the predictive value).
Thursday, August 19. 2010
I'm in the middle of an especially turbulent bout of interesting times right now. That this has kept me from posting is the least of my concerns. Much of my problems are due to those machines that a former boss -- actually, the VP of Software Development at my first engineering job -- insisted on calling the Confusers. I'm in a lull right now, temporary no doubt, so let me unpack this a bit.
I have had a dedicated server since 2003, originally at Rackshack, which eventually got sucked into a company that calls itself The Planet. I never got a lot of good out of it, and never got it to do a lot of the things I thought I'd like to do with a dedicated server, so it's sort of limped along for several years now -- on my long list of things to do. Finally, it fell down a couple weeks ago, so I started shopping for another one. Finally on Monday I ordered a new one from Hosting and Designs in Beaverton, OR. I got a faster machine (E8200 Quad Core), more memory (2GB vs. 1GB), a larger bandwidth allotment (2TB vs. 1TB), for less money, which I immediately threw away by adding cPanel/WHM in the hopes that it would finally put me ahead of the sysadmin curve. Also threw some money into the setup fee for a "Total Security Package" which is so effective that it has not only kept me from logging into the server, it's managed to keep H&D's technical team from fixing the problem. (Or something has, but I'm getting ahead of myself.) While shopping for this, I got some bad vibes from H&D: they were slow responding to questions; admitted they didn't have the "best ping times" and weren't using "Tier 1 providers"; their help desk tools were buggy, and their SSL certificate was self-signed (Firefox didn't like that); they don't provide DNS servers, and I didn't fully understand what that meant or how they figured I could work around it (still don't).
Anyhow, I didn't find anything else that looked better, and I had a slow, annoying burn from Planet, so I ordered their deal on Monday. They promised it up in 24-72 hours, and I was notified it was up mid-Wednesday -- about 48 hours, not fast, but OK. I tried logging in and the machine didn't like the password they gave me. After three tries it banned me. I filed an urgent ticket request, and 24 hours later the machine is still inaccessible (to me, at least). I've complained several times since then. (In fact, could complain again now, but I'm trying to chill out.) In the meantime I raised the DNS question, and got at first a completely evasive answer. When I challenged this, the reply was basically: that's your problem. I've spent a bit of time looking into workarounds -- supposedly they do work, otherwise how could H&D get away with this? -- but not being able to log in and configure my server I'm just guessing (or maybe hallucinating).
Meanwhile, another long-desired computer project has come in. I have a Linux machine that I set up in 1998 and is still the heart of my system. (I'm typing this on a much more powerful machine I built in 2007, although I'm actually just using it as an X-server for a laptop where emacs is running and storing files. But the old machine is the Internet firewall and router, and I've accumulated over 10 years of mail on it, as well as totally clogging its puny disks. The Red Hat Linux on it is ancient, the Mozilla browser doesn't know about certificates issued in the last 5-6 years, and the 512MB RAM is pretty much always overloaded into swap. The migration plan is to move all of its application purposes -- chiefly mail -- onto my other machine(s), and replace it with a small computer running a lightweight Linux firewall/router (like IPCop, or maybe a BSD-based one like pfSense). While shopping for the dedicated server, I got worked up one night and ordered the parts for the new router box.
I wanted something small and specialized. Looked at a lot of rackmount boxes which, despite the small height, are really pretty large and awkward (and expensive). I looked at a lot of boxes before I happened on the idea of a Micro-ITX motherboard with a low-powered Intel Atom CPU. I found an Intel board for $76.99 that should do nicely, then I found an Apex chassis with 250W power supply for a real cheap $38.99. Added 2GB RAM, a D-Link NIC so I'd have two ethernet ports. Could have gotten away with a smaller disk drive, but couldn't find one much cheaper than a 320GB Seagate, and added an ASUS DVD burner, mostly just to install the software. Whole thing came close to $250, about twice what an appliance router would cost, but still a pretty good deal. Put it all together yesterday. Makes a neat little package, smaller than a shoebox. Haven't fired it up yet, mostly because the big issues remain: what distro, and what are all the other things that have to happen to move the old machine out?
Copying the files off the old machine should be easy. Managed to NFS-mount its file systems onto my main machine. Mail would be tougher. Installed Thunderbird on the main machine. Previously had Evolution, but Thunderbird's a successor to the old Mozilla Mail I had been using, so I figured that would be easier. It wasn't: Thunderbird has some wizards for your mail server settings and to pick up old address books, mail, etc., none of which worked, let alone explained their failings. I did get the address book moved by exporting it, copying the file, and importing it (the only time the wizard actually let me select a file). Couldn't pick up any of the old mail, but I was able to manually work out the server settings, so now I can send and receive mail on the main machine.
I then tried installing another mailer, Claws, advertised as lightweight with good import features. I copied all of the old mailboxes, including my big Sent and Inbox files, to places and names I could keep track of, then started feeding them into Claws. It picked them up with only one problem: the old Inbox hadn't been compressed in a long while, so it still had about 30,000 deleted messages in it, all of them restored. (Other mailboxes may have the same problem, but I rarely delete from saved or sent mail.) So I deleted that, compressed the file, copied it, and imported it again, message count now down to 5000. Claws insisted that I set up its mail server settings, but let me get away with tom@localhost, so it's not competing with Thunderbird for the real mail.
Don't know whether I'll wind up using one or the other. For now, Claws manages my mail archive, and Thunderbird is my current mailer. Both have novel features, at least for me. Claws doesn't display HTML, but does a nice job of hacking HTML down to plain text, and a lot of mail looks better that way. Thunderbird formats HTML, but doesn't by default display graphics from elsewhere, so all those shopping and music publicist messages are showing up with big holes in them. I can get the graphics by clicking, and can whitelist certain mail addresses, but it's amusing and not unpleasant to drop them out. Thunderbird also tries heuristics to identify junk mail and scams -- most of what I get from music publicists fall into the latter category -- and presumably adapts to my reports. A lot of squishy uncertainty here, but looks and feels like progress. Only thing I've used the old machine for today was responding to a piece of yesterday's mail.
Also on the confuser front, I saw that there is a new release of Ubuntu (10.4.1) and tried installing it on one of my two Ubuntu machines. The change was from 8 to 10 and it failed -- first time I've seen that happen with Ubuntu. Very little info and no hint of how to work around it, so for now I'm stuck. Will have to dig a lot deeper. (I've had a similar problem with Fedora, and found that the command line tools work better than the window ones.)
Also have a bookcase I need to build, which actually I felt more like doing yesterday than all of this computer stuff. Too hot right now, but I may get the wood cut up for that later this evening. Also got two new books: Andrew Bacevich's Washington Rules and Chalmers Johnson's Dismantling the Empire. Also got Nicholas von Hoffman's Radical: A Portrait of Saul Alinsky and Clay Shirky's Cognitive Surplus out from the library, so the thing I'd most enjoy doing right now is taking the next week and just reading.
The thing I'm least enjoying is trying to finish up the Jazz Consumer Guide column. I play stuff and can't write shit, play more stuff and still come up empty. Play new things and have no space for them. Play old things and can't come up with words. Meanwhile, I have lots of other things I do want to write about. Getting to where I hate this job.
Of course, it will be better when more things work -- and they will start working, much as mail last night bounced around from disaster to hopeless before it kind of came together.
PS: Nagged H&D right after posting this. After a couple minutes thumb twiddling, they came back and said, "try it again." Ping worked. I logged in as root. I logged into cPanel/WHM. Now all I have left to do is . . . all sorts of things I barely understand. Starting, I suppose, with DNS.
PPS: Roughly 24-hours later, I have made some progress. After much confusion and a few failed efforts, the nameserver is resolved and DNS set up for my initial domain. Adding more domains should be straightforward, but I'm trying to think through how I manage accounts and map accounts to websites and all that, which is something that cPanel provides tools for but doesn't offer a conceptual model (as far as I can tell). Also got the Ubuntu upgrade to work: had to delete some packages before upgrade then restore them afterwards. Have one more machine to upgrade, but should be the same deal.
Friday, August 6. 2010
I have, or used to have, a dedicated web server, which I initially set up in 2003 at a company named Rackshack. At the time I meant to do more freelance website development work. In particular, I planned to develop a more generalized version of the software I wrote for Robert Christgau's website, and make that available to other writers, especially music critics. I never got much done on that, although eventually the web server wound up hosting about ten small sites. It's been a rather expensive indulgence and persistent headache over the years. In particular, I've been unable to keep the server software up-to-date, which has kept me from updating the PHP-based packages I have deployed, like drupal and serendipity, and from introducing new ones I'd like to use, like wikimedia. I've also been harrassed by hackers, who have occasionally been able to break in and use the machine to add to the world's avalanche of junk mail. (I caught and fixed a number of those problems in the past year.)
Anyhow, the upshot of all this is that the server crashed early this week and we haven't been able to get it up and keep it up for more than a couple hours at a time ever since. Consequently, all of the websites and blogs that I host are down. (I never got around to moving my own website, or Christgau's, away from their original virtual servers, so they fortunately survive.) It's a old, fairly lame machine, running obsolete (2005) software. Reasonable thing at this time is to junk the machine, get another, and rebuild. Rackshack has been sold and resold several times, so the current proprietor calls itself The Planet. I'm not real happy with them, so I'm also looking around for competitors. There are many such, but it's hard to evaluate them. Some I'm intrigued by are: Hosting and Designs, Singlehop, Server Point, iWeb, Hosting Source, Netsonic. My list goes on with 17 less interesting vendors, and 21 more that I dismissed, mostly because they're trawling for bigger fish. Budget is approx. $100/month. Should be Linux (probably CentOS). I've never used Plesk or cPanel/WHM but wonder if they might be worth the expense ($20-40/month) and breach of open source faith. I've never used more than a tiny fraction of my 1TB monthly bandwidth allowance, and I've never had problems with lack of disk space (7% used when the server died) or for that matter performance -- obviously, it's not longer possible not to improve on a 2003 Celeron with 512MB RAM, although I have noticed that most of the low-end server deals use CPUs that are no longer in production.
I figured I'd make a quick decision, but The Planet hasn't been responsive to my questions, and the longer I take the more patient I'm becoming. Should have something decided by sometime next week. Maybe I'll even have a stroke of sanity and give it up (although a fresh start might be refreshing). Meanwhile, I apologize to my few clients -- Carol Cooper, Don Malcolm (2Random4Chance, Deep-Count, Noirvana), Fifth Column Films, the amazing Superartists, the vital and indispensable Wichita Peace Center. Also down are my own projects, Notes on Everyday Life, and Terminal Zone. (No point linking to these as they're down now, although Fifth Column and Superartists have their main websites elsewhere, and Wichita Peace will soon.)
Monday, June 7. 2010
Sometime Friday afternoon tomhull.com was shut down by the hosting company, ADDR.COM. I noticed this just as I was going to post a bunch of links and notes on Israel and the Free Gaza Flotilla, so I was feeling a bit paranoid. They gave me no warning before shutting the site down, and no notice or explanation when they did. I sent the support department email, used their web interface to request a call back, and called in several times. They told me they had a report of spam being sent from my website, but offered no details, and wouldn't allow me to investigate the website. Promises to call me back and/or notify me via email were fruitless. At one point I was promised that they would open up the website "within two hours." I was temporarily able to log in, at which point I made a backup of my files and a partial backup of my database -- mysqldump ran out of memory -- and I started digging through all of the files to see what problems I could find. Ultimately, I found evidence of a problem with some very old wiki software, unused since 2003, and a problem with the blog software (serendipity, or s9y) -- still running an old version dating back to 2005. I removed the wiki software completely, fixed the known problem with serendipity, and I cleaned out all the cruft. (I had observed the same problem on another system and monitored the fix for six months, so I am pretty sure that nails it.) I sent detailed notes to ADDR and got no response. I called them again today and what they offered to do was to wipe clean my filespace and let me start all over again from my backup. I agreed to that and the website came up early this evening. So, the upshot is that the system was guilty as charged, and should be free and clear now. But it was a major hassle, and ADDR's support crew were no help whatsoever.
The trickiest part of restoring the system was reinstalling the blog software -- the one thing I couldn't backup was the config file, absence of which kicks off the install script. It ran well enough that it didn't destroy my database, but it did muck up the configuration, so I've had to hack around with that a bit -- the result is similar but not exactly the same. It also strikes me as running a bit slow. One thing that's lost (at least for now) is many years of usage statistics. I have a backup of them, so may be able to reinstall them, but I've rarely used them, so may not bother.
Lot of catching up to do now.
Sunday, July 19. 2009
Some links I've noticed over the last few weeks (when I wasn't paying much attention) but thought I should note (in case I get some time to look at them again):
Thursday, April 30. 2009
Just noticed that this was the first month in a long time -- probably only the third or fourth time ever -- when I managed to fill in a post for every day of the calendar. Some were cheap shots. On the other hand, I still have plenty of other tasks to keep me away from the computer, and in that regard spending so much time here may not have been a good idea.
Monday, March 23. 2009
Upgrading the old software packages seems like a no brainer, but will take some brains given how far the packages have diverged. I'll do that when I find time, including some breathing room to repair whatever breaks along the way. Those things are what Rumsfeld called "known unknowns." What I'm most interested in comments on are the "unknown unknowns." For instance, I've seen a Google thing called Burn Feed, which offers some services that may or may not be useful, like the option to sign up for email digests of the blog. It also promises to make my RDF feeds more effective. One thing I wonder about is whether anyone uses the RDF currently available, or for that matter whether it works -- if not, does that have anything to do with what I take to be lack of interest in the site? Another thing I see but don't know anything about is hooks into things like Digg and Del.icio.us. Since I don't use them I tend to group them into things I don't want to get into, like MySpace and Facebook. Am I missing anything I should actually hook up to?
Finally, the most technically demanding question concerns sendmail. I have a dedicated server (and as such can virtual host websites), but it is swamped in mail trash, mostly "MAILER-DAEMON" messages from my own machine. (Just checked, found, and deleted 1883 such messages, accumulated since Mar. 4, so figure about 100 per day.) I'm at a complete loss to fix this problem, which has in turn kept me from setting up useful mail lists. I'm pretty good at Unix/Linux systems in general, but something about mail simply addles my brain. Any ideas/help there would be much appreciated.
Any lessons I pick up here could conceivably be worked into other websites I work on; e.g. Robert Christgau.
Sunday, December 10. 2006
After having failed miserably at working on a blog for his film company, my nephew Mike Hull started a food blog based on his Thanksgiving dinner. He started this off with a bit of family history, which has already gotten buried under last week's posts. His theory is to do one post per dish, with recipe, notes, and pictures. He's asked me to contribute, so I dropped a line on what's been cooking here in Cowtown.
I use my website as a portable filing system, and one thing I've had for a long time has been a cache of recipes that I've made and wanted to remember -- some from the family, but most cribbed from cookbooks. I'm pretty erratic about filling them out -- even more so lately, since I've been thinking I should restructure how they're put together. I used to put more notices on meals in my Notebook, a less pretentious concept than a blog, but I've fallen away from doing that recently as well. And I haven't been putting much of anything on food here, either. Don't want to start a third major thread alongside the the music and politics -- always figured on separating them, and indeed have two more unused websites for that purpose, but never got around to it. But every now and then I'll throw something on food into Porkalicious, and see how that works out.
Friday, August 4. 2006
There's this little widget on the left column of the blog called Calendar, and the dates get filled in every day I manage to post at least one entry. It serves as a constant reminder of how much I manage to get written, which most months isn't all that much. But I got off to a good start in July, which made me think I might be able to hit every date for the month. Did, too, although the satisfaction was fleeting, as the day after I filled it out an empty August calendar appeared. Already missed a day this month -- a day I would just as soon forget in general. Will most likely miss quite a few more over the next two weeks. Going out of town, so even on the instances when I am able to connect I won't have my usual tool set, office, and all that.
I do have quite a bit I want to write about, even putting aside Israel's going apeshit in Lebanon, which shot to the top of the priority list in July. The priority should be easy enough to explain. We like to talk about how 9/11 "changed everything," but that's just our usual myopia. It mostly became an excuse for overreacting on a global scale, bringing out many of our very worst characteristics. But while most of the rest of the world, including a great many and possibly most Arabs, sympathized, the world's tolerance of our great tantrum was bound sooner or later to run thin. Israel's destruction of Lebanon, and Hezbollah's defense of Lebanon, amount to another watershed event, and I think for most Arabs and a great many Muslims this event will resound like nothing in recent history. As an affront it is comparable to 1948, where the pro-West Arab regimes were so severely humiliated that most soon fell to coups led by junior officers. The Arab nationalism of the officers was critically damaged by the 1967 war, leaving the region's more progressive, more secular forces moribund, opening the way for an Islamist insurgency -- especially in the regions most oppressed by the US-Israel alliance. But two things have happened in this war that hadn't happened in 1948 or 1967: one is that the US role has never before been so nakedly exposed, and this is bound to taint every regime in the region with close ties to the US: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, the rump of Iraq. The other is that Hezbollah has thus far frustrated Israel bad enough to be widely seen as a viable force, and as such a model for the whole long list of complaints the region has accumulated. So the net effect of the US in Iraq and Israel in Lebanon will likely be to drive the region into increasingly bitter strife directed at us.
That may not seem like all that big of a military problem, but the US and Israel have weaknesses that their arms don't cover -- especially from people who aren't likely to back down. Over the last few weeks I've read four books about oil, which happens to be a pretty good place to start. The Saudi "oil weapon" in 1973 was flawed in several ways that aren't true any more, but even if it isn't deliberately employed, the US is extremely vulnerable to even minor disruptions, and such disruptions are likely to have sizable political costs. The US is also economically vulnerable, especially to China, and that's another front where arms aren't all that useful.
Meanwhile, the public in the US is totally clueless, and not just the segment that still follows Bush or points even loonier. The last month has made me vastly more pessimistic, not so much because of all the things that have gone wrong -- and there's a lot in that department that will prove awfully tough for many people to get over -- but for how little grasp our so-called leaders have of it. I've spent a good deal of my life watching corporate leaders follow the book straight into the jaws of financial disaster -- I've worked for three or four companies like that, and seen it coming every time, each time more clearly. This is like that, but this time the scale is humongous. This looks very bad.
Anyhow, for me at least it's probably good to take a break. Get away from the news. Burn up some gas while it's still only $3/gallon. Go to a town that actually has record stores. Maybe read that Ruth Reichl book I haven't had time for. Learn to tolerate a few holes in the calendar -- you just got the gist of it anyway. And at the end of August, the calendar will flip over and all those holes will be gone, replaced by a blank slate.
Wednesday, May 31. 2006
One thing I've liked about Billmon's website is that he has a little sidebar item on "Current Reading." I've been wanting to hack something together like that, and finally did. The cover images have been scraped from the usual places, but don't link to the usual stores. Don't have any accounts set up, and don't feel like linking for the hell of it. This could change in the future. In fact, I have a book review section on the website which I've never done much with, but that might be the right place to link if I choose to develop it further.
I also made a slight cleanup of the Links section. Again, the website has long had a Links section, which has almost as long been obsolete: another project desperately seeking time. But the real significance of these two changes is that they break out of the prison formed by the Serendipity blog software. Previously I used the "HTML Nugget" plugin for the links. Now I've created a brand new plugin which evals an arbitrary piece of PHP code. That code sucks in an external PHP file, which I can then program without having to hack through the Serendipity Admin interface. While this may not be a good idea in general, it will be a huge convenience for me. It means I can do development locally, then just blast the changed up.
Feels good to actually do a little programming for once.
Monday, September 19. 2005
It's proving impossible to keep up with blogging or much of anything else these days. In fact, I have trouble reading the few blogs I look at regularly. On rare occasions when I post almost daily I get little else done. Among the things that don't get done are: a redesign of my own website; a relaunch of Terminal Zone; a long list of project ideas, which as of today includes two more. I do manage to get my Recycled Goods and Jazz Consumer Guide columns done in a somewhat timely manner, but don't have enough surplus bandwidth to review much more music, and there's no way to economically justify myself as a music writer. My unrated list currently hovers around 950 records, which would take me at least nine months to drain if I got nothing new. I try to keep up a steady reading pace, but the books are piling up too -- not as fast as the records, but I read a lot slower.
The two new projects are:
Wednesday, July 13. 2005
One of our two cats passed away last night, Laverne, survived by Shirley. We've had these two cats since late 2001 -- I don't have a date in the notebook, just a note that Laura's previous cat, Edna, died on April 4, 2001. We picked up Laverne and Shirley at a no-kill kennel, where they had been abandoned. I picked out Laverne because of her friendliness. She would come right up to complete strangers, hop onto a lap, and start kneading her declawed feet -- she was a lap-dancer. She was described as a "Siamese Flamepoint" -- white, with light tan markings on her face and tail. Lovely cat. Shirley is a slightly larger all black cat. They had lived together before the kennel, and were caged together when we got them. The kennel people prevailed on us to keep them together.
We always assumed that they were about a year old when we got them, which would make them five or so, but they could be older. (Don't know how to tell.) They were pretty frisky when we first got them. Less so now, although Shirley can move pretty fast. Laverne took ill several months ago: lost weight, became very dehydrated. We gave her antibiotics and fluids, and she bounced back a bit, but never regained her weight. Took her to the vet day before yesterday. She had abcesses in her gums, white cells in her urine. Doctor lanced and treated the abcesses, and gave us medicine. She seemed better that evening, but weakened a lot yesterday, and looked to be in bad shape last night. After we gave her medicine last night, she jumped down to the floor, then laid down, spreading out. We found her this morning where she was last night, quite stiff.
I bought Laura a digital camera this past Xmas, figuring it would mostly be used to take pictures of cats. She didn't take many, but we have a few. We haven't gotten the hang of this technology yet -- haven't managed to print any of the pictures, but I managed to get one picture scaled down and uploaded. In the future I'll get some more pictures up -- isn't that what websites are ultimately good for? So this picture is about six months old, before she got sick. Looks a little bleary-eyed, but all the pictures do, except the ones that show her eyes in weird reflections. She had faint blues eyes, but when the light hit her right they'd turn blood red.
Laverne spent much of the last few years sleeping on top of Laura's monitor. When Laura got a new computer with an LCD screen too narrow to sleep on, we bought the pedestal you see in the picture. But in the last couple of months Laverne discovered my CRT monitors and moved in with me. She bugged me a lot. Miss her already.
Wednesday, March 9. 2005
I've been thinking about this blog. The idea here was to write more frequently and more varied notes -- shorter ones. But thus far this blog has been taken over by political rants, which is supposed to be the purpose of my Notes on Everyday Life site. I think the thing to do is to go back and copy the political stuff here to Notes, and in the future just put the pieces there, with notices and links from here. Will take a while to do that, but that's the new operational plan.
A change here is that I'll add categories for News and Media. I'm thinking that News will be a series of short comments on the days news stories, without breaking them down into topics. Media will comment on newspapers, magazines, television, things like that -- radio, I suppose, not that I ever listen to radio. Don't watch much TV either. I already have separate categories for Books, Music, and Movies, so they're excluded from Media.
Also working on recasting this website to use a common design layout -- this one, perhaps unfortunately -- and tools. This has dragged on for weeks, and I haven't posted what I've done. In the long run "ocston" will go away, but I continue to do most of my work there. Just broke smooth jazz out from the regular jazz listings. I don't mean to be a snob there, but it really is a distinct form of music, and the breakout makes it easier to gauge.
Wednesday, February 2. 2005
As I've added entries to this blog, I've noticed that my original classification scheme was breaking down. Or, to be more precise, Politics was overwhelming everything else, so some subdivision already proves necessary. I added three subcategories:
The current categorization still breaks out Books and Movies, which are formats rather than content descriptions. That may turn out to be a problem -- we'll see when I get some entries filed. The blog software doesn't allow for an entry to be linked to more than one category. The proper fix to that is probably to fix the software, but we'll cross that bridge when the time comes. Meanwhile, the previous Politics entries have been divvied up accordingly, with plain "Politics" for entries that don't split evenly, such as the one on Condeleezza Rice.
Wednesday, January 26. 2005
The evolution of this website has been driven by two major goals:
At first I added static webpages whenever the notion occurred to me. Those pages grew into an ungainly sprawl, each one adding to the overhead of organization. Then I decided I needed a simpler framework for writing -- at least to get rough ideas down before attempting to form them into finished pieces. This led to the "notebook" -- a file that I kept open on my home system, adding dated entries as they occurred to me. The notebook would then be compiled and uploaded, making a delayed appearance on the web. Aside from the delays, one problem with this was that I tended to file things in the notebook just to keep track of them, regardless of possible public interest.
Among those entries were a number of relatively polished political essays -- things that I did want more people to read, as opposed to the bulk of the notebook, which is mostly for me and only occasionally of interest to others. So I created a new website, Notes on Everyday Life, and backported almost four years of such pieces to the blog there. However, that particular software toolset turns out not to work very well as a blog. It's really a news system, with synopses of articles on the front page, rather than letting the entries just spool out. It also has a narrow focus and a rather impersonal design. One sign that neither the notebook nor NOEL were working as a blog is that none of my friends ever bothered linking to either. That's when I came up with the idea of finding a relatively conventional piece of blog software and using it as the homepage for
My plan here is to write more/less informal public-oriented messages and notices into the blog here, where they will appear immediately. I'll still keep the notebook going, but just for notes. Not sure what the status of NOEL will be, but it could become a more collaborative tool, with others contributing pieces. I also hope to do a major reorganization of the other things on the website, which will be accessible through the links and a sitemap (to be done). So this is the first entry, with more to follow.