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Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Blog repaired (again)

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

After not posting anything for almost a year, I decided it was time to revive this blog. The first step was to update to the latest version of Movable Type, but that proved more difficult than I expected. In fact, it was impossible. I was able to install the files, but the script that was supposed to upgrade the database just wouldn’t run.

This wasn’t the first time Movable Type had left my blog in an unusable state. Clearly, the time to switch to WordPress had arrived. I had to reinstall the old version of Movable Type in order to export all the blog’s content to a text file, but after I did that, WordPress was able to import that file and recreate all the blog’s posts, comments, and trackbacks. I’m still experimenting with themes, so don’t be surprised if the appearance of the blog continues to change for a while.

Blog repaired

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Finally! After months of not being able to update this blog, I have overhauled the software on my site so that I can start posting again. I don’t know what happened last year, but the Movable Type software on my server got screwed up so badly that even completely reinstalling it didn’t fix the problems. The blog still looked normal, but when I logged into the Movable Type console, parts of it were scrambled and nonfunctional.

I knew that I would have to back up my files and then delete Movable Type completely, wiping the slate clean. Then I could install MT from scratch, restore my old blog posts from the backups, and hopefully go on from there. All I needed was the spare time to work on it. Unfortunately, I was involved in plays continually from August through December of last year. And since then, other things have demanded my attention.

But today, I finally was able to spend a whole day backing up and obliterating my old MT installation, installing the latest version, and then restoring my old data. Everything seems to be working now.

I hope to get back into the habit of regular blogging in the days and weeks to come, and to give this site a makeover. It looks dusty and neglected. Time to blow the cobwebs out of here.

Blog Cuss-O-Meter

Monday, March 31st, 2008

I found out about this from Rachel Lucas, so of course I had to try it.

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?

What can I say? I was raised Southern Baptist, and you don’t overcome that sort of upbringing easily. Anyhow, Rachel swears enough for two bloggers, so it all balances out, I suppose.

Name change

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Metablogging (writing about your blog in your blog) is usually boring. But the name of this blog has changed, and I probably should explain why — even if that means I have to metablog a bit.
I’ve retired the Logopolis title. It didn’t really mean anything, and it wasn’t memorable or easy to spell. In addition, I want to make the blog less anonymous. The domain name is my name, and so is the address used in the “E-mail me” link. Why should the blog title be different? Consequently, as of May 12, the title is Pat Berry dot net. It’s just simpler that way.

A place to write stuff

Friday, April 6th, 2007

Ben has started a new blog. He says its purpose is “to have a place to write stuff”. Despite the title (But Seriously . . .), it’s actually rather amusing. Well, it makes me laugh, anyway. Check it out for yourself and let him know what you think.
I notice that he’s using WordPress, as Bob and Virgil do for their blogs. Perhaps I should find out what advantages WordPress has in comparison to Movable Type (which is what I’m using here). A lot of people seem to like it.

The dawn of blogging

Monday, March 26th, 2007

According to CNet, the phenomenon of blogging is ten years old this year — but we don’t really know who invented the blog. It depends on exactly how you define the term. You can read the CNet article and decide for yourself who deserves to be called “father of the blog”.
I don’t agree that blogs originated in 1997. If you ask me, The Daily Illuminator qualifies as a blog, and its archives go all the way back to 1994.
Source: Buzz Out Loud podcast

WordPress hacked

Monday, March 12th, 2007

If you use WordPress to run your blog, you should check to make sure you’re not running version 2.1.1, which was compromised by a cracker who gained access to a WordPress server and tampered with the download file. The WordPress folks have released a newer version (2.1.2) that is safe to use. If you are running 2.1.1., you should upgrade to 2.1.2 immediately.
Source: CNET.com’s Security Bites! podcast

Thumbs up

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

On the morning of June 23 (a week after the steroid injection), my trigger thumb symptoms were so mild that I decided to skip using the heating pad and see what happened. Half an hour later, the symptoms had cleared up on their own. The following morning, I awoke symptom-free. So the steroid seems to have worked. My trigger thumb is cured — or perhaps I should say “in remission”, since my father’s experience shows that the symptoms can return eventually.
Today I visited my ophthalmologist for a routine semiannual examination, and my glaucoma is also still in remission. The medication (Xalatan at first, and now Travatan) has kept my intraocular pressure under control for two and a half years.
Modern medicine is miraculous. No other word adequately describes it. A disease that could have blinded me is neutralized by putting drops in my eyes once a day. Another ailment that threatened to cripple my hand is banished by a simple injection. I’m also grateful for the dental restoration techniques (crowns and onlays) that have made my brittle middle-aged teeth better than new. And the orthopedic treatment that, twenty-six years ago, restored my ability to walk. Miracles, all of them.
Historical note: Movable Type tells me that this is my 300th blog post. That’s not a terribly impressive number for a blog that has been in operation for 57 months. Some bloggers post multiple times per day, while I’ve only averaged a little more that five posts per month. But at least I’m still blogging after almost five years.

The case of the missing sweatshirt

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006

I’m going to tell you a story. It’s long and meandering, goes into unnecessary detail to an absurd degree, and ultimately turns out to be pointless. You should skip it if you could spend the time doing something useful. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
A blog is born
When I first started this blog in October 2001, I used Blogger because it was simple, user-friendly, and free. At the time, Blogger was a financially-strapped one-man operation, and I wanted to contribute some money to help keep it operating. But, as I wrote in January 2002, there was no simple way to do so. Shortly after I posted those remarks, Blogger introduced a paid version of its service called Blogger Pro, which provided several extra features. (The ordinary version of Blogger didn’t change, and remained free). I signed up at once and paid the annual subscription fee.
Enter Google
In February 2003, Google acquired Blogger. The resulting infusion of funding and support staff not only ended my concerns about Blogger’s survival, but also produced numerous improvements in the service. Blogger’s servers were upgraded and a new and improved user interface was unveiled. Finally, in September 2003, Blogger announced that the Blogger Pro service was being discontinued — all of the extra Pro features were being rolled into the free version of Blogger! Every Blogger user was now effectively a Blogger Pro user whether they had paid or not.
To compensate them for having paid for features that were now free, Blogger offered to send each Pro subscriber a free hooded sweatshirt. You just had to go to a particular page on the Blogger site, log in with your Pro username and password, and fill out a form with your shirt size and mailing address. But when I tried to do this, I found that my login was not recognized. On September 11, 2003, I went to the Blogger customer support page, where you can report problems by filling out a form and clicking a Submit button. I used the form to describe what had happened when I tried to log in and claim my free shirt.
Dude, where’s my shirt?
The next day, I received an e-mail response from a support tech named Steve, who informed me that Blogger had no record of my Blogger Pro upgrade purchase. He asked me for the purchase date and the last four digits of the credit card I had used. I replied with that information on the 13th. I received no further response. A month went by.
On October 16, I went to the support page again and used the form to complain about the lack of response, attaching a copy of my correspondence with Steve up to that point. Steve replied that same day, saying that he never received my 9/13 note. I responded immediately, sending him another copy of the information he had asked for. I received no response. Another month went by.
At this point, I started to see a pattern. When I used the Web form to contact Blogger customer service, my messages were received. But when I tried to e-mail Steve directly, my messages did not reach him.
On November 13, I decided to try again. Thinking that perhaps the e-mails I had sent Steve from my home e-mail address were not reaching him, I tried sending a note from my work address. I received no response. Having run out of ideas, I gave up.
The free shirt wasn’t really all that important to me. (I don’t even like hooded sweatshirts.) What I wanted was to understand — and perhaps to solve — the strange problems I had encountered. Why was there no record of my Blogger Pro purchase? What was preventing my e-mail messages from reaching Steve? It didn’t make sense. But I had exhausted the available methods of pursuing the matter.
Cold case
Sixteen months passed. During this time, I converted my blog from Blogger to Movable Type, so I wasn’t even a Blogger user anymore. I completely forgot about the Blogger sweatshirt business.
On March 31, 2005, while filing and deleting old e-mail messages, I stumbled across my log of the correspondence with Steve. I decided to have another go at the problem. I sent a note to Steve’s address at Blogger, recapping everything that had happened in the fall of 2003, and asking for an update. My message was returned as undeliverable; Steve was no longer working for Blogger. I went to the Blogger customer support page and used the problem reporting form to describe the whole bizarre story, attaching a copy of my correspondence with Steve, and submitted it. I received no response.
On April 11, 2005, I went to the Blogger site and saw an announcement that the problem-report form was broken. Specifically, there was a field on the form where you were supposed to specify which of your blogs (you can have more than one) was affected by the problem you were reporting. My problem had nothing to do with any of my blogs, so I had been selecting “No blog in particular”. Blogger had now discovered that if you did that, your problem report didn’t go anywhere; it just disappeared. This explained why I had received no response to my March 31 report.
One last try
At this point it occurred to me that in the months since my last attempt to report the problem by e-mail, I had switched e-mail addresses. Instead of using my old Road Runner address, I was now using Gmail. Gmail is Google’s Web-based e-mail system, and Google owns Blogger. Surely, if I sent an e-mail query from my Gmail address, it would get through to Blogger customer support! I would be sending the message from one part of Google to another.
It seemed worth trying, so I composed an e-mail note that began with the words “Hi — I’m following up on a technical support issue that’s a couple of years old. No, really! I promise I’m not insane.” I went on to relate the entire story from September 2003 to the present. I included a copy of all of the previous correspondence. My message ended with the following summary:

At this point, we seem to have several unanswered questions:
  1. Were my e-mails to Steve from [my home address] and [my work address] blocked for some reason?
  2. If not, why didn’t they reach him?
  3. Why doesn’t the Blogger Pro database contain any record that I paid for a subscription?
  4. Am I still eligible for a free sweatshirt, or have I missed that particular boat? :-)

If you get this note, please drop me a line and let me know what your thoughts are. Thanks!

I sent the note to support@blogger.com.
A response, but not an answer
To my utter astonishment, I received a reply on April 15. It read:

Hello Patrick,
Based on our records, all of your previous emails as noted in your email attachment (besides your most recent ones) had been received via your [home] email address. I also do notice that there was never any email correspondence received on our end from you back to Steve’s questions. Unfortunately, I would not know why emails you sent to us in reply were not received.
In addition, we’re unfortunately not sending hoodies out to our previously upgraded Pro folks anymore.
I apologize for the inconvenience.
Sincerely,
Christine
Blogger Support

And that’s how the story ended. It wasn’t a very satisfactory resolution; it didn’t answer any of the questions except the last one (no, I wasn’t going to get my free sweatshirt). But at least I could finally let the matter drop.
What have we learned?
If there are any lessons to be learned from this, I suppose they are:

  • Sometimes computers just don’t work, and nobody knows why.
  • If I really want a Blogger sweatshirt, I should just go to the Google Store and buy it.
  • I told you this story was long and pointless.

Words in a row

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

The tagline of this blog, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, is “Putting words in a row since 2001.” It occurred to me recently that I’ve never explained where that phrase came from.
It’s from a Robert A. Heinlein novel. But not, as you might expect, from his science fiction. Heinlein wrote one fantasy novel, Glory Road, that deserves a lot more attention than it gets. It’s the story of an American soldier, just discharged after a tour of duty in Vietnam, who finds the following ad in the classified section of a French newspaper:

ARE YOU A COWARD? This is not for you. We badly need a brave man. He must be 23 to 25 years old, in perfect health, at least six feet tall, weigh about 190 pounds, fluent English with some French, proficient with all weapons, some knowledge of engineering and mathematics essential, willing to travel, no family or emotional ties, indomitably courageous and handsome of face and figure. Permanent employment, very high pay, glorious adventure, great danger. You must apply in person, 17, rue Dante, Nice, 2me etage, appt. D.

Intrigued, he answers the ad and is hired to escort and protect a beautiful woman (and her manservant) on a perilous journey through a fantasy world populated by ogres, minotaurs, Rodents of Unusual Size, and dragons — at the end of which they must enter an evil stronghold and recover a priceless artifact.
At one point during the journey, the travelers stop for the night and camp under the stars. The protagonist finds himself afflicted with insomnia and appeals to the manservant for help:

But I didn’t go to sleep. The truth is, I’ve got a monkey on my back, a habit worse than marijuana though not as expensive as heroin. I can stiff it out and get to sleep anyway — but it wasn’t helping that I could see light in Star’s tent and a silhouette that was no longer troubled by a dress.
The fact is I am a compulsive reader. Thirty-five cents’ worth of Gold Medal Original will put me right to sleep. Or Perry Mason. But I’ll read the ads in an old Paris-Match that has been used to wrap herring before I’ll do without.
I got up and went around the tent. “Psst! Rufo.”
“Yes, milord.” He was up fast, a dagger in his hand.
“Look, is there anything to read around this dump?”
“What sort of thing?”
“Anything, just anything. Words in a row.”
“Just a moment.” He was gone a while, using a flashlight around that beachhead dump of plunder. He came back and offered me a book and a small camp lamp. I thanked him, went back, and lay down.

When I first read Glory Road, that scene stuck in my mind because I have the same problem. I always read for a few minutes before going to bed, and if there’s no reading material available, I have trouble composing myself for sleep. So when I was casting about for a way to describe the process of writing, the phrase “words in a row” popped into my head. Now you know; it’s all Heinlein’s fault.