So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

Good Bye PixelsAfter running this website in all its various incarnations over the last 15 years (1997-2012), I’ve decided to bring the existing blog and a significant chapter in my life to a close. The website reflected the sprawling mess that my life has become in my misbegotten Internet youth. The time has come to leave the past behind and move forward to embrace the future.

A new blog with a much tighter focus will be in development in 2013. Watch my Twitter feed for when it becomes semi-public (i.e., new blog postings will be announced there). This blog post will be updated when the new blog is open for everyone (including search engines and spammers). I still blog about writing at A Silicon Valley Writer every Sunday.

24 July 2013 Update: Visit the new blog, same as the old blog. Kicking The Bit Bucket

On Hiatus For NaNoWriMo & Holidays

Holiday AgendaAfter my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer this year, I threw myself into blogging more frequently and consistently than I have ever done before since starting OUAA as a website 15 years ago. Limiting myself to writing 500 words or less, I posted three times a week through the summer and five times a week until it recently tapered off. Plunging into non-fiction writing was my escape from my father’s death. Now I need to put OUAA on hiatus for NaNoWriMo 2012 and the holidays.

NaNoWriMo is the mad dash in November to write a 50,000-word manuscript, typically but not limited to a novel. I’ll be writing a collection of 100 flash stories based mostly on weird news headlines from the Internet. A 500-word flash story (or blog post) takes two to four hours to finish. I need to write the rough draft of five flash stories in the same amount of time from Monday through Friday. (I’m keeping the weekends open for other writing projects.) I can’t do that and still blog while working a full time non-writing job. Being a short story writer, I’m looking forward to writing so many flash stories in so little time.

I’ll be thinking about the future of OUAA during the holidays. My core audience consists of two dozen spammers who often leave wonderful comments about my blog postings and my urgent need for penis enlargement pills. Needless to say, no blogger wants a suck up audience (unless they’re clicking on the ads). That means making some major changes to find a better audience.

I’m leaning towards ending OUAA (but keeping it online) and starting a new blog with a different focus in the New Year. Out with the old, in with the new. Starting with clean slate is very appealing to me. I would be closing a significant chapter and opening a new chapter in my life. (I wished I had this idea before ordering new business cards for next year.) Something to think about and plan for during the holidays.

Meanwhile, plenty of stuff will be happening that I want to throw in my two-bits in between now and the end of the year. I’ll be blogging on an irregular schedule. Maybe once or twice a week. Or maybe not.

Jungle Bird’s New Logo From 99Designs

Jungle Bird's New Logo From 99Designs
STOP DEFORESTATION

I became something of a fan of Andrew “Jungle Bird” Dudley when he crashed the U.S. Open golf tournament, apologized for crashing the party, and made the Jay Leno show. With the help of 99Designs, a logo design contest was held to create a new logo to advance his cause of stopping deforestation. After 13 designers submitted 67 designs, Jungle Bird has selected a new logo that incorporates a cartoon rendering of himself wearing his quirky British flag hat and uttering his signature line, a jungle bird with a winked eye and raised thumb, and his website URL.

Until I was contacted by Lauren Gard after my first blog post about Jungle Bird, I wasn’t aware of 99designs and its logo design contests. After keeping tabs on the Jungle Bird contest and browsing through the logo store (ready made logos available for exclusive or non-exclusive licensing at reasonable rates), I’ll be setting up a banner logo contest for this website within the next three months.

Once Upon An Albatross… has had many different logos that I slapped together since it started off as a Wildcat! BBS in 1995 and went through many different website iterations over the last 17 years. (I sometimes kick myself for sticking with the BBS name and not naming the website something more reasonable.) This year I jettisoned the banner logo for plain text and put off on doing the replacement banner logo. With a logo design contest at 99designs, this might be easy to do and fun at the same time.

What would a new banner logo look like? I’m not sure. This is something that requires careful thought. If you don’t know what you want, the designers won’t be able to help.  A cartoon albatross maybe (but not the albatross from Walt Disney’s “The Rescuers”), little motifs from literary, BBS and Silicon Valley inspirations, and a design that can work well on different media (i.e., t-shirts and coffee mugs). It’ll be interesting to see what the designers come up with.

Unlike Jungle Bird, I won’t be able to add alcohol to create an instant brand.

Website Changes Spring 2012

Blog PuzzleEvery once in a great while I need to make significant changes to this website. As usually happens, due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to make some of the new changes for 2012 much sooner than I had expected.

Old Domain

The personal domain that I had for 15 years will be renewed for one more year before being abandoned for good.

The .ws domain started off at $5 USD per year when the .com domain was really expensive (now $15 USD per year). When the renewal price jumped to $25 USD per year, keeping an underused domain that no longer fits my current business strategy became an annual expense I no longer wanted to pay for. Becoming a profitable business requires eliminating as many expenses as possible.

After setting up the new subdomain (see below), a 301 redirect was put into the .htaccess file and the old content was deleted. I’ll be renewing the old domain for another year as Google recommends that you keep control of your old domain for at least six months to facilitate a smooth transition between old and new websites. Most of the search results are pointing to the new subdomain now and you can still click through the old links.

New Subdomain

I was getting 80+ spam comments per day with Asian logograms after publishing a blog post about Rick Santorum. Who knew that he had so many Asian supporters making and selling fake luxury handbags?

After two weeks of cleaning out the spam folder, I turned off comments to that particular blog post. (I also started turning off comments for other blog posts that were getting too many spam comments.)  Everything was fine for several days, and then I couldn’t write any blog posts with the default editor. My WordPress installation was broken and maybe hacked. Not a good situation.

Since I was planning to move the website off the old domain to a new subdomain on the domain that hosted my author website, where I also have my writing blog on a different subdomain, I decided to go ahead with that part of the plan. WordPress made this ridiculously easy. Exported the content from the old installation, set up the new installation and imported everything in. After some minor adjustments and tweaks, I had the website running on the new subdomain within a few hours.

Please update your bookmarks with the new address: https://ouaa.cdreimer.com

Cleaning Up

I’ll be cleaning up the website as I compile the blog postings into free ebooks over the next year. That’s roughly 500 pages of material over a 15 year span, some of which was written a few years before the word “blog” became common place. The blog posts I write today are 500 words or less. Some of the older blog posts rambled on for 3,000 words. I might keep them intact or break them out into separate blog posts. Everything will be tagged and categorized correctly.

If you find a problem, send email to webmaster at cdreimer dot com.

Why Is Pandorum Popular On My Website?

Several weeks ago I finished moving my personal blog over to WordPress and signed up for a Google Analytics account to figureout my audience. (There seem to be about 20 of you, all living in your mother’s basement and still looking for a job after being unemployed for two years.) Surprisingly, Figuring Out Pandorum got 60 hits during that time. I’m not really sure why. The movie came out several years ago and the DVD been out for a while. Maybe the Syfy Channel was including it in recent movie marathons. The ending to that movie is somewhat ambiguous. My blog post gave one tantalizing hint without explaining the significance that most people probably didn’t notice .

With this blog post, I’m going to explain the ending to Pandorum as I understood it when I first saw it in the movie theater. (The Wikipedia article goes into greater detail.)  Stop reading if you haven’t seen the movie.

Earth is dying. Humanity sends 60,000 people in stasis pods to colonize a distant world. A small crew operates the ship at all times during the 123 year voyage, taking turns coming in and out of stasis. A message arrives that Earth is dead. One of the crew goes mad, declares himself God, and exile the still awake crew members into the unsafe areas of the ship. (There may be more to this but I haven’t seen the movie since it came out.) The crew member that went mad eventually puts himself back into stasis and is one of two crew members reawaken at the beginning of the movie without their memory.

Where did the small, gray-skinned cannibals on the ship come from? Various hints are dropped along the way but the most important hint can easily be overlooked near the end of the movie. The mission clock says 923 years. The ship does reach the new planet after 123 years but crash lands offshore in deep water where surface light doesn’t penetrate. For the next 800 years, the crew exiled to the unsafe areas of the ship evolved—or more acurately, devolved—from the intense cold and radiation into these creatures that haunt the ship, looking to eat survivors who have awaken from their stasis pods. They are not aliens from outside the spaceship who hitchhiked a ride as the beginning of the movie suggests.

During the final confrontation on the bridge, the shield over the windows are withdrawn to reveal a black void with strange creatures on the outside. The ship is submerged in deep water and not lost in some uncharted void of deep space. When a window is cracked and water starts rushing in, the ship automatically jettisons the stasis pods away from the ship to pop up to the surface. These 1,213 normal human survivors forms the new colony for humanity.

There you have it. The writers of Pandorum did a great job of twisting the generic abandon spaceship horror story by adding cannibals mutated from the crew members and putting the spaceship under water. Since I write speculative short stories, I was actively dissecting the movie while seeing it for the first time. (Which sometimes makes it difficult for me to relax and enjoy a movie.) You really need to pay close attention to get all the details in a movie like this. That may be hard to do when someone is being eaten alive in their stasis pod by a half-dozen cannibals.

Since this is a current blog post for the next 30 days, please leave a comment. I’m curious to know why you came looking for Pandorum on my website.

Goodbye Joomla, Hello WordPress

In January 2008 I started transitioning content from my handcrafted legacy website to a modern content management system (CMS) website. I wanted an easier way to post content and for readers to post their own comments. Features that were long on my to do list but I never got around to programming. It didn’t make sense for me to reinvent the wheel. My co-workers at Google recommended Joomla as the best CMS available. Setting up the blank Joomla website was the easy part. Moving content from the old website to the new website soon came to a grinding halt and was left undone for three years.

Although a powerful CMS with a steep learning curve, Joomla doesn’t include a native blogging and comment component. I ended up paying for those features from a third-party component provider that were adequate but awkward to use. Although much easier to use than my legacy website, I never really enjoyed blogging on Joomla. When Joomla 1.6 went into beta testing last year, it still didn’t have a native blogging and comment component. Worst, there was no migration from version 1.5 to version 1.6. If I went with version 1.6, I would have to transition from both the legacy and version 1.5 websites.

Again, I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel.

When I decided to set up a writing blog for my author website last year, I started looking at the alternatives and decided to install WordPress on a subdomain. Although it can be used as a CMS, WordPress was designed to do blogging exceptionally well. I was no longer fighting the little quirks that prevented me from getting something up on the website. I soon fell in love with blogging again.

Setting up WordPress on a test subdomain, I spent the last month transitioning both the legacy and Joomla websites over. Now that everything was copied and pasted over, all 222 blog posts and 707 pictures since 1999 are now back up on the Internet for the first time in three years. I still need to clean up the old posts that were written long before the word blogging came into existence, fix all the broken links, and add all the categories and tags to find stuff. I’m hoping to get that done in the next month or so. Considering how easy WordPress is to use, that shouldn’t be a problem this time around.

The Blog Is Dead, Long Live the Blog!

I started my website ten years ago on Geocities as a showcase for my crazy talents as a video game designer while working as a video game tester at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crises) for six years. Alas, that didn’t happen. Working in the video game industry sucked the life out of me, my ambition at being a video game designer went nowhere, and the Quake 2 deathmatch map I worked on for years became a sprawling mess.

After I got a UNIX account at an Internet provider in 1999, I moved my website over, started honing my skills in HTML and CSS to build better web pages, and started posting personal observations on a irregular basis.  I later moved the website to its own domain five years ago, creating a new website from scratch using LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP), added pictures, reviews and other content, and eventually renamed the website to Once Upon An Albatross… after a Wildcat! BBS I ran back in 1995 before something called the Internet became popular.

What I’ve been doing with the website in recent years is known as blogging. I never accepted the term or embraced the technology. My website has always been a reflection of whatever was going on in my life. With my new long-term focus of becoming a writer, I’m embracing blogging to expand my writing skills and focus less on maintaining a rickety website that I programmed.

I started looking into content management systems (CMS) that I could use as a replacement for my website.  Most of my coworkers mentioned Joomla! as a good CMS to try. After playing around with it for a few days, I picked up “Joomla! A User’s Guide: Building A Successful Joomla! Powered Website” by Barrie M. North from the bookstore, and spent an afternoon creating a bare bone website with recent content.

Converting ten years of content will take a while. I’m hoping to wrap that up in several months. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to blog away and make changes where necessary to improve the new website. A commenting system for the postings will be available soon. (This was a feature that I wanted to program into the old website but never had the time to implement.) I might create a custom template design to replace the template I’m using now later this year.