19 April 2010

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16 February 2010

File under: Things I'm not proud of.

Back in the day when I was working for the promotions department at WBRU Providence, I would on occasion be presented with the power to tell people to do ridiculous things in exchange for cash and prizes.  I was digging through some old backed up files the other day, and came across this primitively shot video of one such time. Needless to say, I was drunk on power. It consumed me.

The prize exchanged for the dreaded half-eyebrow-shave? A shovel and a chance to dig up prizes alongside a bunch of other maniacs in the annual Beach Dig (we called it 30 Grand in the Sand back then).

11 February 2010

Blogger FTP Publishing Degradation Fallout, Part 1: .htsuccess!

Caution: the following post contains extreme nerdery and ineptitude, and may not be appropriate for readers who are 1) not nerds, or 2) nerds who know WTF they're doing editing a .htaccess file.

With Blogger's recent announcement that they're no longer going to allow FTP publishing* after March 26th, I've been busy making decisions about the many blogs I own and neglect.  I am not a web guru, but everything I do blog-wise (including this blog) I do with Blogger's soon-to-be-defunct FTP publishing, so this is something I'm going to be dealing with for the next few weeks.

The first site I wanted to tackle is JamesPAldworth.com, which is just a tiny site I set up for my mom to help her sell my grandfather's paintings.  It's rarely updated because he's not painting anymore, but it will be updated from time to time as we decide to put more of his many paintings online.  It's also the site I manage that I did the least with design-wise, so it was a good candidate for some experimentation with Blogger's custom domain hosting (nuking my template and starting over wasn't too great a loss).  I've always wanted to try out all the Blogger widgets FTP publishers haven't had use of anyway.

Making the switch over was pretty easy.  Google gave me plenty of help navigating GoDaddy's Byzantine menus to point to the Blogger servers, and since my link structure didn't change at all, the only thing left to do was re-upload a few images (only a minor nuisance since there are so few posts there).  I understand that I could've avoided that by setting up a missing files server, but honestly after thinking about it I became excited not to have to pay for hosting anymore at all for that site.  So, I re-uploaded the files.

It took me about an hour, and I'm happy I did it.  The labels widget makes the site better (or it will, if the site ever grows to a size where simply scrolling doesn't show you the whole thing), as does the ability to create static pages without date stamps.  I've got more work to do to make the page look more appealing, but I always had that.  Overall, a positive experience, and in the long run, a net gain.

The TestTakers Blue Book Blog (which I manage for work) is a slightly more complicated story, and the reason I decided to write this post.  It's still light on content as it's fairly new, and it's not updated (or viewed) very often yet, so it was really the perfect candidate for some experimentation.  Thing is, it used to live at ttprep.com/bbb.  If you're familiar with Blogger's custom domains, you know blogs that don't live in the root directory are a no-no, so if I was going to keep this a Blogger blog and use custom domains (and not lose the branding of our ttprep.com url), I was going to have to set up a CNAME.

So, bbb.ttprep.com was born.  The initial setup of that was no problem at all, after having gone through a similar process with the last blog, since I still have hosting for the 'www.ttprep.com' CNAME, (and old blog pages that will never be updated still live there), my work had only just begun.

First, I wanted to make all the old pages redirect to their new homes on Blogger's hosting, but since none of my old images transferred over to that hosting, I didn't want any image references to be changed (all the images still reside in 'ttprep.com/bbb/uploaded_images/').  I did a bunch of Googling for help with .htaccess files to redirect .html files and leave everything else alone after being inspired by this Blogger Buzz post, but I didn't find anything prepackaged that did exactly what I wanted, so I basically fudged and fudged until I got it working with some help from this guy's .htaccess tutorials.  The line that worked for me (...sorta) was:
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/(.*)\.html http://bbb.ttprep.com/$1.html
That took care of the old individual post pages, but I was still having 2 other problems:

1) Annoyingly, 'ttprep.com/bbb' and 'ttprep.com/bbb/' were redirecting to 'bbb.ttprep.com/default.html', which is not the homepage of the blog, and so was throwing a 404.  I got around that with these 2 lines (which might not both be necessary, but whothehellknows?):
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/$ http://bbb.ttprep.com/
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb$ http://bbb.ttprep.com/
2) Much to my chagrin, links for label pages completely changed.  My old labels (which were the pages I found most when searching for my own blog, and thus, a source for much of the traffic the blog had been getting) were at 'ttprep.com/bbb/labels/algebra.html' (for example). Label pages on my new, Blogger-hosted blog ended up at 'bbb.ttprep.com/search/label/algebra' instead. So, the directory changed, and the file extension went away. That's a problem I hadn't seen coming, and a bit of a pain in the ass since I'm going to use labels pretty heavily as the site grows to keep things organized. One more line in the .htaccess file fixed that for me:
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/labels/(.*)\.html http://bbb.ttprep.com/search/label/$1
For the curious, here's what my whole .htaccess file looks like now:
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/$ http://bbb.ttprep.com/
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb$ http://bbb.ttprep.com/
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/labels/(.*)\.html http://bbb.ttprep.com/search/label/$1
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/(.*)\.html http://bbb.ttprep.com/$1.html
I'm well aware that it may not be elegant, since I basically threw it together at 2 AM and I've never messed around with Apache before, but it seems to be doing the trick although I'm sure it could have been done much more efficiently.

Bottom line: I wish I'd waited for Blogger's soon-to-arrive migration tool for this one.  Migrating by myself was just a little more complex than I thought it would be, and it took a few hours that I would have rather spent playing Mario Kart.

I still have some big decisions to make about this blog, and my rarely-updated music blog at wealsoran.com.  Both use some rudimentary PHP includes, and both took a lot of time and energy for me to build as a completely know-nothing web programmer.  This one, obviously, is more than just a blog.  Staying with Blogger might not be an option on either site, but I don't love the idea of migrating to any other blogging software much better.  WordPress is the obvious choice, except I'm a genius and bought Windows hosting for this site which I'm now finding won't even allow me to install it.  I'm open to suggestions/help, if anyone's paying attention.

* Pete Hopkins from the Blogger team (and from WBRU, represent!) wrote a great behind-the-scenes post about why they're saying goodbye to FTP publishing, which I've read about 7 times in the past week or so.  Check it out if you're curious.


26 January 2010

To blog, or not to blog?

I started thinking about this a few days ago, when I was messing around with the CSS of this site to make my Google Reader shares display nicely.  Well, I started thinking about it again, I guess.  I've thought about this many times.  Why don't I write on this site anymore?  This used to be such an important thing in my life, and now I have to force myself to even think about it most of the time.

One of the main reasons I don't write much anymore is that I'm afraid of what people who read it will think.  Not the random strangers, obviously, but the people who know me and read this, only some of whom I know about.  So it's become the most boring kind of blog...the kind that's updated infrequently with pictures from vacations, or sanitized updates about my personal life, scrubbed of names and salacious details.  And the knowledge that it's become so banal only paralyzes me further.  It's increasingly uninteresting because it's increasingly uninteresting.

That's not what I wanted this to be when I made it.  Well, I guess originally I just made this site so that I'd have a place to pretend I had a band and put the music that resulted from that fantasy.  But it evolved pretty immediately into a place that I regularly recorded actual thoughts.  It inspired me to learn some basic web programming.  Hell, it inspired me to create another site at which I could post more thematically specific things (I all-but-ignore that one too, now, but that's because I don't listen to enough cool music anymore).  This site used to bring me joy because it was a public (but still relatively private because honestly, who spends the time to read this stuff?) place to vent*.

When I go back and read some of that venting though, I'm embarrassed.  That's another thing that keeps me from posting more often.  An accumulated shame.  The fear that the next post might be one more than I'll read later and think was stupid.  And the knowledge that, as dumb as it is and as unlikely as it may be that anyone would stumble upon it years from now in a Google cache, I'm crafting an indelible persona for myself on the web that feels incrementally unlike my current self, despite sharing my name.  It's petrifying.  It's not like I don't have thoughts I'd like to post somewhere all the freaking time.  I just don't know that I want to post them here anymore.  I feel exposed.

This is unorganized rambling and it's a testament to my haziness today that I'm going to post it all, especially since there's no A-Ha! moment at the end where I decide to screw everyone and post every day about impolite things like love and politics.  I'm probably still not going to post any more often.  I've just been thinking a lot about it, is all.

Anyone else who does this sort of thing ever become similarly preoccupied?

*This post, by the way, is only meta-venting.


25 January 2010


I realize that the Cognoscenti of the web will scoff at my years-late acclaim, but I don't care. I've been using it forever, but recently Google Reader has become, without question, the most important webthing to me besides email. It's completely made redundant my Digg and del.icio.us accounts, become far more important than Facebook, and solidified my resistance to Twitter (which I still think is retarded). As the sharing features have become more and more robust, it has become a complete maelstrom of things I like but wouldn't have known about if not for my friends. It's a machine that gives me food pellets every time I press the button, and at the same time an echo chamber for all the things I find that I like, from awesome things to reasons-to-hate-the-GOP. And now, with a little javascript, I've added a constantly updated stream of my most recent shares to the sidebar of this very webpage, to make it easy to ignore not only the things that I take the time to type up myself, but also the things that I just plain agree with or think are funny. This is very exciting.

If you're super cool, you're already reading this blog with your Google Reader, in which case, I'm always looking for more sharebros. If you're not already using it, get on board son. This train is bound for glory.


17 December 2009


Not a super-ton to say here...but I figured it's best to push any entry down the page a bit that declares how "remarkably shitty" I've been.  God, it's so embarrassing to read the things I write on here when I'm in a bad mood.  I don't know what prevents me from just deleting all that stuff, other than a misguided desire to preserve...something.  Anyway, I'm much better now. Promise.  As proof, check out all these pictures I took at the Holiday Train Show at the NYBG.

Wonderful to remember once in a while that local tourism and awesomeness are not mutually exclusive.


14 November 2009

false starts

How've you been? I've been remarkably shitty lately. I've sat down to write a lot lately on here, but I've always chickened out before posting and cleared everything I had written. I'll have a lot to say on what I'll look back on as my Scumbag Period eventually, and I'll post it here when the time is right because that's what I do, but for now I just don't have it in me. Suffice to say for now that I've been less than the man I aspire to be, and I'm paying for it.

Apropos of nothing, I've been poring over some other false starts (dating back just a bit more than 2 years) and while I can't really remember why I abandoned some of these (others are more obvious) I'm compelled today to put these out there and delete them from draft, just for the heck of it. Also, someone told me I could make breaks now in Blogger, so I figured this was a fun way to try that. A bunch of stuff you won't care about, below the break! [EDIT: that shit isn't going to work for me unless I really retool this template, which is ghastly old.  I'm not doing that today, or anytime soon.]
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