I’ve been using this blog layout for some time now, and it’s comfortable. I’ve gotten some complaints about the green, but for the most part I ignore them. It’s true that this color doesn’t look good on some people’s monitors, but it looks good on my monitor, and I like it. However, the reasons to change my layout are starting to pile up, so I finally did a redesign, keeping the elements of this design that I like. The new design will go into effect next week.
Warning: what follows is an extended discussion of the current layout which you are likely to find extremely boring. I’m recording this to keep a record of my own thoughts about my layout more than anything else. If you’re too cool for or have no interest in such a geeky topic, then by all means, stop reading now.
I’ve been writing this blog for over three years. It has become my hobby of choice. A lot of bloggers burn out or get bored, but I find it easier than ever. Most days, there are about ten potential entries I could write if I felt like it. Granted, a lot of those entries would be “filler” entries. The other type of entry, which I like to think of as the “quality” entry, requires inspiration and more time to write. I haven’t written a good “quality” entry for a while, but there will be more. (This is another “filler” entry.)
The point of this post is to announce that, starting today, I’m following a blogging schedule. There will be a new entry every weekday morning. This is pretty easy to do, because I’ll have the entries written ahead of time and scheduled in WordPress to be posted at a certain time. I haven’t decided what exact time is best to post, but I’m starting with 7am (China time).
There was a time when I would have thought that a “blogging schedule” was ridiculous. However, I no longer feel there will be any problems thinking of topics, I still like writing, and writing entries to be posted at a later date helps me manage my time better. While I was visiting home, I loved being able to neglect my blog for a whole week while new posts continued to appear every day. It’s a better way to blog.
So that’s the news. Sinosplice Weblog: Monday through Friday, one new entry a day.
As you read this, I am already onboard an airplane with my girlfriend bound for the USA. We left Pudong International Airport around 1pm today, flew to Seoul, and are currently bound for L.A.
Now, I’m not blogging from first class or anything so fancy-pants bourgeoise as all that. I’m using WordPress’s scheduled posting feature. It’s pretty cool! I decided I didn’t want to waste precious time at home blogging, so I put up some posts ahead of time so that my site doesn’t go un-updated for all that time.
In L.A. we have a five-hour layover before flying to Tampa, so I’m meeting up for dinner with two friends I know from China who live in L.A. One of them is none other than the infamous “Da Xiangchang.” He posts a lot of over-the-top comments here (and a lot of good ones as well), but before any of that we were friends in China. I haven’t seen him for a while.
While I’m in the States I won’t be working on my website much, but I hopefully will be doing some work on Adopt a Blog. My original page for it is being combined with the work that some other people have contributed this year and it will all soon be online at a new location. I finally found an overseas sponsor! I’ll have to save the official announcement for when it’s actually done, though.
So, do you notice a big difference? Hopefully you don’t. That’s the whole point of converting templates. There are a few small changes, though:
– Tags. I am in the process of switching from category-based classification to tag-based. Why? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but it all comes down to: tags are awesome. If you use del.icio.us or Flickr, you know what I’m talking about. The entries on the current page have all been properly tagged, but you won’t be able to see the true potential until the whole system is tagged.
– Comments. They look a little different now, including the “Reponses” box in the left sidebar. They work pretty much the same. Your first comment on the new system may need to be moderated before it displays.
– Archives. The archives are pretty different now. The individual entry links are all different. I’ll do my best to preserve old links. I’m relying mostly on tags for organization. My theory is that blog archive indexes are hardly even used, so they don’t need to be prominently displayed or labored over too much. Most people find what they want with Google anyway.
– RSS. There is a new RSS feed. Rather than just deleting the old MT one, I’ll manually put in one last entry in the RSS feed that tells you the new feed links. I’ll also be updating the feeds page. When I get around to it.
OK, that’s all for now. Sorry for broken stuff. Let me know what’s broken. And comment!
Oh, and here are the entries that lost out on comments. Give them some comment love:
As I mentioned recently, I’m changing my blogging platform. Originally I had been shying away from WordPress because neither of my two “IT advisers” recommended it, but after doing my own research, it seems that the switch from MT to WP will be the easiest, and especially since the release of WordPress 1.5, it’s a very solid PHP-based blogging platform. Plus my two advisers kinda changed their views and they’re not so against it.
What you’ll never see on this blog
So I made my choice, but the actual switchover will take some time. I will keep my current design (well, maybe some small changes), but WP templates are very different from MT templates. Instead of inserting HTML-esque MT tags, I’m playing with includes and loops and stuff in PHP. I’m in for some headaches.
Looks like I’ll be heading home to Florida for a visit on July 3rd (with my girlfriend!), so I aim to get it done before then.
I have removed the comment function from this blog. Hopefully it will only be temporary. The reason is comment spam.
Although I actually see very little comment spam thanks to MT Blacklist, my comment script still gets hit hard by the spammers, who are then denied by MT Blacklist. Unfortunately, all those hits to the comment script put quite a strain on the server. That’s why my host disabled my comment script several times in the past.
A few days ago when my host disabled it again, I asked them to re-enable it, as usual. When they did, it was hit again so quickly and so hard that it crashed the server repeatedly. My host banned the comment script.
I changed the filename and put the script back online for a short time, but the problem would definitely be back as soon as the spammers caught on to the new filename. So I have removed the comment function in order to avoid getting booted by my host (which is, for the most part, a very good host).
The source of the problem is twofold. The main source, of course, is the spammers. But they’re not going away, and there’s nothing I can do about it. The other source is Movable Type’s poor design. The comment script is written in such a way that it takes up way too many server resources. I can do something about that.
If I want to keep the comment function, the only solution I see is to switch from Movable Type to some other blogware. I’ve been toying with the idea for a while, because I’d like to get away from the hassle of static pages and go dynamic. Serendipity and Textpattern are most appealing to me. Both are powerful PHP-based blogging platforms. (Yes, I know about WordPress; I’m not very interested.) Although both can import my Movable Type entries, I’m not sure if either can import all my comments. That’s a big deal to me; I want to keep all these comments. So I’m not sure what to do yet. I would really appreciate suggestions (by e-mail) from anyone who has experience with this.
I don’t like having to disable comments. I really enjoy getting feedback on what I write here. But this is the way it’s going to have to be for a few weeks, probably.
John B first reported to me about two weeks ago that he was getting “Document Contains No Data” errors when he tried to view the China Blog List from Hangzhou. Now, since yesterday I’ve been getting the same errors consistently. Other sections of my website seem to load fine, but as soon as I try to go to http://www.sinosplice.com/cbl/ (or http://cbl.www.sinosplice.com/) I get “Document Contains No Data.”
If you are in China, could you please try going to the CBL page and let me know the results? (Warning: if you get the DCND error, you may need to close your browser and reopen it to view any pages on Sinosplice again.) Thanks!
A while back I made a webpage dedicated to the Chinese song “The Moon Represents My Heart.” I also put online ten different renditions of this song in MP3 format. I thought it was pretty cool to be able to compare them. Aware that the Chinese words on the page would soon have Baidu’s searchbot on my case, I did my best to keep it off my site with my robots.txt file. Looks like that was completely futile.
Teresa Teng’s version of the song was the first to be hammered. I had to replace it with a link to MP3.baidu.com‘s search results to preserve my own bandwidth. Soon, the bandwidth consumed by the other MP3s on that page started creeping up as well. I had to remove Andy Lau’s rendition. Then Lesley Cheung’s. I forgot about it for a while, but if I hadn’t checked my stats in the middle of April I would have exceeded my bandwidth allotment solely because of those MP3 files, as bandwidth consumption had taken another big jump. I removed all the MP3s. I had no other choice.
Lesson learned: do not put up Chinese songs for download. Your bandwidth is no match for China’s web surfing population! (Well, don’t put up popular songs, anyway. Rapping flight attendants might be OK.)
In other news, I recently participated in an anonymous blogging survey for someone’s thesis. I was e-mailed because I was in the Technorati Top 2000. Wow! That kind of surprised me. Top 2000 out of 9,500,068 blogs. Top 2% isn’t too shabby for a niche blog prone to periodic entries as boring as this one.
In case you’re wondering (as I did) where this “Technorati Top 2000” list can be found, it can’t. There’s only a Technorati Top 100 online. The student contacted Technorati with details of the study, and Technorati complied.
I just found out a little while ago that my blog’s comment script is not working. (From my little sister, of all people!) I had no idea it wasn’t working. I’ve been too busy with work these past few days to notice that kind of thing, although I did notice the comments had died down quite a bit.
It looks like maybe my host disabled the script (Roddy says they tend to do that, without warning).
I e-mailed them and they had it working again within 10 minutes. Not bad service, that.
The question is… why did the script stop working? If my host disabled it, why? If it was because of excessive load, what caused it? Does this have anything to do with the angry comments I got with regards to my very old post about the evils of an old version of Messenger Plus?? (I deleted their stupid comments and closed the comments to that post — I’m not really interested in their comments, considering they were all supporters of the newMessenger Plus, while my post was about the version I installed in 2003.) Bizarre.
[Update: Yes, my host disabled it, and yes, it was because of excessive load. They wouldn’t give me details, but they suspect spammers. The thing is, I only got 4 spam comments in the period right before the script was disabled. Does that mean MT Blacklist was doing its job, but there was still a tremendous strain on the server?]
Sinosplice has been offline for the past few days for reasons entirely unrelated to hosting or blocking.
The other night right before I went to bed a thought popped into my head: doesn’t my domain name expire sometime in April? I better check on that.
I did a WHOIS lookup on www.sinosplice.com. Sure enough, it expired the very next day. Furthermore, my registrar was still the much-loathed iPowerweb.com. I vowed to myself last year to transfer my domain name to a new registrar before the year was up. I figured I could make it, because I’m 12 hours ahead.
So I immediately signed up with GoDaddy.com (hey, they have cheap domain names!) and initiated the transfer. Unfortunately, these things take time. Especially when dumb slow iPowerweb is involved. So, before the transfer was approved by iPowerweb, the domain name expired and my site went offline. Immediately thereafter I had to go on a business trip to Shandong for three days.
Basically, iPowerweb refused to transfer my domain name unless I renewed it for another outrageous $20. Plus, the way GoDaddy’s system works, I can’t approve the transfer without use of the e-mail address in my WHOIS info. Once my domain name expired, I couldn’t access that e-mail address anymore.
So basically, I still had to pay iPowerweb $20. Lesson learned: initiate domain name transfers early. Also, iPowerweb is EVIL. Seriously. Never use them. They offer a decent deal to lure you in, but once they have you, it’s hard to escape, and their customer service is horrible if you have a problem that falls outside of the problems they run into day in and day out.
I still want my domain name out of iPowerweb’s control ASAP, so Sinosplice may go down again briefly as the domain name is transferred, because I think the nameservers may have to be reconfigured.
Apr 28 Update: Success! My domain transfer has finally gone through.
– The root page is now Flash-less, with tons of text links emphasizing all the non-blog content I’ve got online. (Take a look; there may be some stuff you don’t know about.)
– Chinese Study Book Reviews has been given new life. There are new reviews, more guest reviews, categories, comment function* for each review, RSS feed, etc. Such is the power of CMS technology. Inbound links are appreciated; I’m going to try to make these reviews really helpful.
– A Pictorial Guide to Life in China has been made prettier. This is a pleasant reminder of the days when I cared less about offending my hypersensitive visitors. For now the comment function doesn’t work; I’ll try to get that working sometime next week.[Apr. 12 Update: Comments work now.]
There’s so much I want to do with my website, but that’s all going to have to go on hold for about a month. I just had a meeting with the professor at East China Normal University about how my entrance exams will be administered. Basically I need a decent grasp of everything in the 现代汉语 textbook. Too bad I had been concentrating on a different textbook in my studies until now. And I’ll have to write a timed essay for them. Now that I’ve got more specifics about the exams, I need to stop slacking (read: working on my website) and get it in gear.
* I had been using Haloscan comments before, but I found out that Haloscan deletes your comments after a certain amount of time. In every case where I had used Haloscan for adding comment functionality to a static webpage, comments disappeared after a year or so.
I recently fixed some of this page’s HTML and CSS to be more standards compliant. The creation of this website was a self-taught process, coded entirely manually, and involved no shortage of trial-and-error experimentation. When I find out the proper way to do something, though, I try to update my code. I finally got around to it. If you’re a regular reader the CSS file is probably cached on your computer, so you’ll need to reload to get it to look right again.
I just took some suggestions from a post on Scribbling.net to “help the Googlebot understand my website.” That’s why the title of each blog entry is now linked to, rather than having the “Link” link at the end of each entry.
Why? Well, Google associates the text you use to link to entries with the content of the links’ destinations. For example, if everyone with a website linked the word crap to microsoft.com, microsoft.com would become the number one search result for the word crap even though the word “crap” appears nowhere on Microsoft’s site. That’s why the words you use to link should be relevant. (It’s also the stuff Google bombs are made of.)
The word “link” is not at all relevant to the content of an entry. It’s essentially meaningless, just like “click here” or “here.” A surprising number of sites apparently don’t seem to care at all about this (Boing Boing, for example). I suppose those sites figure they owe nothing to the internet, or the budding Semantic Web, or whatever, and just want to do their own thing. I guess I’m more of a team player in this respect.
“Document Contains No Data.” That’s the message I keep getting lately when I try to access my website directly. Those who live in the PRC know that this is Chinese for “this website is being blocked/filtered.”
I have been unable to access my e-mail for about 24 hours now.
I hate to do it, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to remove a recent post or at least some of its comments. Being blocked is just too inconvenient.
I’m doing some experiments, so certain posts/comments may disappear for a little while in the next few days.
If you need to e-mail me, I can be reached at my yahoo address (jpasden@).
UPDATE: OK, I think maybe I’m “the boy who called block.” I went into Movable Type via proxy and changed the Monologues post to “draft” form, which effectively hides it on the main page (but not in the archives, until I republish my archives). That seemed to solve the “document contains no data” problem, which led me to believe my site was being filtered. But now I think the “document contains no data” errors were random, and they just seemed to coincide with the hiding of the Monologues post.
I was also able to get into my sinosplice e-mail via webmail (not even via proxy). I thought maybe there was an “offensive” e-mail that was disallowing me POP access to my mail. If it was an offensive comment on my blog that triggered a block of my site, my e-mail comment notification would put the same keywords in my mailbox. So I got into my e-mail (waiting out intermittent “document contains no data” errors) and deleted everything I could. Shortly thereafter POP access to my e-mail started working again. Coincidence??
I have put the Monologues post back on the main page, and no comments have been deleted. Hopefully it won’t trigger further “document contains no data” and e-mail woes.
Hmmm… who’s paranoid now? If there are no further problems, it seems all this is attributable to network instability.
Thanks to Eden Li, the China Blog List has gotten a little more impressive. He kindly devoted his PHP skills to building upon the enhancements John B started back in 2003. (Speaking of John B, take a look at the revamp he’s given his blog.)
The list now has its own RSS feed. If you like to check out the new China blogs that appear on the list, this is for you. In addition, the submission form at the bottom of the list actually works reliably now without the need for an e-mail client.
There were some other changes made to the backend which aren’t visible, but hopefully even more obvious improvements are coming in the near future. Stay tuned.
Over the years, one of the most popular features on Sinosplice has been the Junk Food Review that Wilson and I did at ZUCC in 2002. There have been calls for an encore, but since Wilson went back to San Francisco it’s been a little hard to coordinate. Well, the trip to Taipei was a perfect opportunity. Here it is:
The new design is sort of an experimental “comic book feel” I came up with. The layout looks better under non-IE browsers because stupid IE doesn’t support the “position: fixed” CSS declaration. Enjoy, and feedback is welcome.
My computer won’t boot up except in safe mode. Apparently it has something to do with “Secondary IDE channel no 80 conductor cable installed.” Anyway, I’m working on it, but in the meantime, no new posts.
UPDATE: I bought a new power source and new IDE cables and installed them. No change (but I’m not sorry I did it… those upgrades were due). Then I got to work on Brad’s suggestion. I decided to do it by disconnecting and reconnecting things one by one rather than disconnecting everything and reconnecting one by one. That could save me a lot of trouble. The problem turned out to be my first guess: the wireless network card, which had gotten bumped and become partially disconnected. Apparently the network card’s driver won’t let Windows boot up if the card is only partially connected. GRRRR, crappy drivers… Anyway, blog entries will resume shortly.
Happy New Year! Mine was spent with a small group of friends drinking and making merry. Somehow we also ended up playing some blindfolded hide and seek game. Bizarre. Fun though.
I haven’t felt like putting in the effort to write any quality entries lately. It’s largely due to my job. I’m really tired of teaching kids and doing all these holiday-themed activities. Fortunately, my job will change at the end of January. Whether or not I’ll stay at the same company is still uncertain at this point, but if I do stay I’ll no longer be teaching kids. I think I’ve done enough teaching kids for a while. It’s experience I wanted, but it’s certainly not my calling.
2005 will see the following changes to Sinosplice:
A cool Flash menu at www.sinosplice.com/ which highlights all the non-blog features of my site. I’ve always intended my site to be much more than a blog, but blogging is by far the easiest way to add content.
New random Flash Sinosplice banners at the top of the blog.
New learning Chinese resources created by me (as sort of a warm-up for my career in Applied Linguistics, applied to Mandarin Chinese).