Hackin' on the Blog

Sunday, December 12, 2004

A Rare Weekend Post

Well, I finally got the chance to make some of the enhancements I wanted to make to the blog, but couldn't last week when I went toe-to-toe with Bill Gates over how the new laptop would operate. Today, I dashed off the beginning of this blog entry from said laptop. But I'm still not quite where I want to be as far as the home blogging situation goes: I have to set up a home network of some sort so I can access the internet from the laptop whilst blogging. Of course, by that time, the wife may be in full thesis-writing mode and may block me from using the laptop most of the time. Even so, she will probably want some kind of broadband for her work as I now do for blogging, and we still have to research our options there before subscribing. Ultimately, I plan to have some sort of broadband connection hooked up to a router, and a mixed Ethernet and wireless home network hanging off that. Gentle readers are invited to make their recommendations or otherwise share their experiences concerning broadband ISPs or home networking hardware as they wish. You can now email me directly. (See the above right corner and translate the pig Latin. This has the same sort of functionality as a captchka in that it will stop email harvesting bots from spamming me to kingdom come.)

Which brings me to blogging matters. Skip ahead to the next subtitle if you wish, or read on if you're curious. This paragraph is mainly for my own benefit anyway. I'm happy overall with the improvements I've made to the blog, but not satisfied yet. Over my first few weeks of blogging, I've been making mental notes of what other bloggers do on their sites and how they do it. (Time constraints have necessitated that I take quick notes and wait for some free weekend afternoon.) I once had a rather extensive web page. As a result, I am familiar enough with HTML to hack the blog template I originally selected from those offered at here at blogger.com. I'd never used scripts in my web pages before, so I had the mistaken impression that adding things like newsfeeds or blogrolls would be difficult. Both are almost pitifully easy to do, though I had to mess around in the guts of the code generated at the news feed site to get the hyperlinks to match everything else on the page (i.e., match the color and not be underlined). The newsfeed was actually a second thought, though I added it first some afternoon last week. I'd noticed that Sekimori, who designs lots of blogs for others, had a news feed on her own site and then discovered how obscenely easy it would be to add one here. The blogroll, which I've wanted for awhile, turned out to be even simpler. I may or may not keep the news feed. The blogroll will stay, though I may divide it into categories should it ever grow to an unmanageable size. I got rid of that stupid blogger profile that was hogging the upper right corner of the page, too. That was annoying and has been replaced temporarily by a link to my blogger.com profile. Eventually, I'll put together some sort of small web site and host a better page there to replace this. That web site will be necessary anyway because I need somewhere for photos to live if I'm ever to indulge in cat blogging or otherwise include photographs: blogger.com doesn't allow for you to store photos directly. I added a few of my favorite news and commentary links and, of course, my email address. I thought about, but decided against adding a site meter. I'm writing this blog mainly to practice writing and don't want to begin obsessing over the number of visitors I am or am not getting. If I start having reason to believe I'm getting lots of visitors, I'll revisit getting a site meter.

In the long run, I'd like to design my own template, but I've forgotten too much HTML to try that anytime soon. Probably, I'll end up with what I want incrementally, after a series of hacks to what I've already got. I'll also want an "about" page to introduce newcomers to what the blog is like overall, and other pages where I can set forth policies and such. When I've accumulated enough decent posts, I'll have a set of featured links in my sidebar. I also want to set up a calendar with links to days that I've posted in addition to the list of previous posts that gets generated automatically for me. Also a list or drop-down menu of blog entry categories would be highly desirable as I tend to blog about whatever has my interest on a given day....

But these are pretty long range plans and it may seem premature to have them after only two full months of blogging. Nevertheless, I have found that I enjoy keeping a web log and I figure I'll be at it for awhile. I frequently have interesting thoughts about the news or things I encounter in my daily life, and have often in the past regretted having nowhere to save them. In that respect, blogging is fairly natural to me.

This brings me to some preliminary thoughts on policies I'll institute that concern my own posting practices and how I treat my visitors. I'll just spit these out in list form for now.

Amendments to Posts -- I have on a very few occasions made substantive changes to posts on discovering a major error on my part. While this is a good idea, I plan to make some sort of conspicuous note on any such changes in the future. I'm thinking that a dated list of changes after the end of the post is the way to go. Misspellings (except for the good ones), corrected links, and such, will be annotated similarly.

Updates to Posts -- I think I'll treat these as amendments, though my schedule will not really permit me to make updates consistently. I haven't been doing this much so far, and I may elect not to update posts at all.

Comments -- At the moment, I have pretty laissez-faire settings for comments. I have had to remove only one so far. Should I move to blogging with Movable Type, it looks like I'll have to revisit this. Otherwise, my only rules are: (1) Don't use my blog as a billboard. (2) Make sure your comments pertain to the post. (3) Don't be rude to me or to other commenters. So far, I've had only one comment I thought merited removal. (4) If in doubt, email me first. (But I can get pretty busy and may be slow to get back with you. This is a hobby: not a job.) (5) I may or may not post comments in reply to visitor comments. It depends mainly on how busy I am that day.

Links -- I'll revisit this later, should I actually achieve a large enough number of requests for links. Since this is my personal blog, I'll likely have a fairly liberal linking policy, but will eventually use categories. This is not to say I won't have some kind of standards. If Mohammed's blog advocates my immediate destruction, don't expect me to link to it. (And no, Mo, I don't believe you when you say you'll spare me if I do.)

OK. That's enough of the boring stuff. If you've read all of this, particularly if you're a more experienced blogger, drop me a line if you've any further thoughts.

Failed Romantic Comedy Finds Success as Chick Flick

My wife and I, having to do the bulk of our Christmas shopping this weekend, had "date night" Friday. We just did dinner and a movie. We saw Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason. I found the first BJ funny enough, though not spectacularly so, and this one had its moments, but tried too hard. Bridget Jones was so stupid, particularly in the first part of the film, that it was really hard for me to watch, and more so to sympathize with her. Ultimately, it made no sense to me that Darcy (Colin Firth) loved her so much (or at all) and came to her rescue. I didn't like the movie that much, but the wife did.

Why is this? I was about to start speculating on there being something of the "knight in shining armor" fantasy in this movie for the women, but my wife objected vociferously. So I asked her why she liked it. The executive summary is that the movie has the same sort of appeal as a Cathy cartoon, though Bridget Jones's neuroses are more exaggerated. In Bridget Jones's contretemps, women again experience the emotional roller coaster of romance. In that respect, the movie provides the sort of cartharsis women seek when they share their problems with each other. Men don't do this: if they get together to talk about problems at all, it is almost entirely to solve them. In addition, in causing women to feel the sort of emotions of young love again, the movie is very romantic. I'm glad I asked her about this: I was very puzzled that evening. The movie had a few moments at the end, but I admit I was overall glad to be leaving. I was surprised to see my wife in a romantic mood!

I can certainly appreciate a good romantic comedy, but this movie crossed into the realm of the chick flick early on. As man, I will recuse myself from rating this chick flick.

Raggin' in my Blog

(Or maybe am I bloggin' on the rag?)

Before the movie, we had Mexican at Ninfa's. Information junkie that I am, I usually pick up a copy of the Houston Press when we go there to page through before we eat. (As with all large cities, Houston has its obligatory left-wing rag that people pick up because it contains the week's entertainment listings.) I figured I'd immediately see something so outrageous I'd have to blog it just to maintain my sanity. That's usually like shooting fish in a barrel, but there was nothing spectacularly stupid in this issue. (Or maybe there was. But I didn't feel the need to read about local street "artists" moving "beyond the spray can.")

But there were a couple of good stories worthy of the blog. So, contrary to my expectations and without further ado, I'll give the Houston Press a good debut in my blog!

The Little Prince

Flipping back through, I see that Houston Grand Opera is reviving its successful 2003 production of The Little Prince. It goes on only until the nineteenth of this month. We saw it last year and were delighted. This children's opera does an unforgettable job of recapturing the innocence of youth.

Wolfgang Boyardee

I found this food review of the Wolfgang Puck Express at 10001 Westheimer very amusing in that it draws some pretty good parallels between the man who became the mascot of ConAgra's Franco-American brand and the chef who is today busily transmuting himself into yet another mascot for the food conglomerate. While I don't enjoy the anti-commercial slant of the article, the comparisons are intriguing.

Puck has become a mythical character, like Chef Boyardee. In fact, the parallels are spooky. The people who visit Wolfgang Puck Express and buy his brand-name pizzas have only the vaguest notion of who Puck is. And Puck's mass-market products and fast-food franchises bear little resemblance to the food and restaurants for which he's famous. But it's too late to do anything about it now. The myth created by advertising and marketing has overtaken the reality.

Which is exactly what happened to Hector Boiardi, the real Chef Boyardee. The Italian-born chef moved to New York and started working at the Plaza in 1915. Some years later, at his own restaurant, Il Giardino d'Italia, he Americanized his name to Boyardee and began selling his popular red sauce and pasta products to his restaurant customers. His Italian food products were a big hit, and eventually he sold the spaghetti sauce company that bore his name to a larger food concern, which is how he lost control of his identity. Through a series of mergers, the Chef Boyardee brand ended up in the hands of ConAgra. Although millions of people know the cartoon chef on the spaghetti can, nobody remembers the man. Chef Boyardee died in 1985 without fanfare.

Puck is also a grocery store brand. Having pointed that out, though, I'll take a can of Puck's clam chowder over a can of Spaghetti-o's any time.

Being Kind to the Help

There is, finally, Brian McManus writes an interesting piece about bar etiquette, or at least it was interesting after my Margarita had kicked in! He interviewed several bartenders, who make a few amusing observations. For instance, "If you put five limes in your drink, it's not a drink anymore, it's a f...ing fruit cocktail." There's a good mixture of wit and wisdom within, though I didn't need to be told that calling a bartender "ace," "chief," or "boss" might label me a rube.

That's All, Folks!

I've effectively blogged my whole weekend! Saturday was spent mostly in the Galleria. (At least I have nearly finished my Christmas shopping.) But all that time.... That's gotta change. Maybe I'll plan ahead more and follow Glenn Reynold's example next year and use Amazon. The less time in stores, the better. (And I had some low-grade bug all day, too. I just felt off. Then my wife had the same thing today.) Today was mostly resting, chores, and hacking around on the blog over a balky modem connection.

-- CAV

1 comment:

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for the info. We take TW cable, so Road Runner will certainly get a look.

I may take you up on your offer to drop by and blog! Sounds fun, and my better half might let me leave the house with the laptop some time when she's busy with image processing on her desktop. In any case, our home network will be up and running no earlier than January, and that depends on me not procrastinating.

-- Gus