Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

May 18 2007

Still around

After a long day of slogging through the refrigerated molasses that is our Internet connection, my week’s work is finally done. It’s started raining, and I’ve just opened the window. The wet smell wafts into my solitary office, which is lit only by one old table lamp nobody else wanted, where I’ve been working to renaissance tunes courtesy of the Harmonia archives. Since the alternative service fellows were discharged, it’s just been me in here. Only occasionally do other people come in, usually by mistake. I’m thinking of printing out a big arrow, with no explanation, to post on my door: Whatever you’re looking for, it’s not here.

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been editing night and day. Every time I feel like posting something, I tell myself I should be editing instead. But here I can’t edit, so I thought I’d drop a line to let you know that I’m still around.

Muddy Basin Ramblers at Sappho on 5/19

This weekend will feature more editing, but our band has a gig on Saturday night at Sappho, a lounge bar in a basement off Anhe Road. I’ve never been there before, but David, who has jammed there before, says it’s nice. I’ll post the gig poster, but WordPress makes posting a picture really difficult. With Blogger, you click the picture button, browse up a photo, and click, it’s there, resized, clickable and wrapped nicely in text at the position of your choice. I’ve been looking for a WordPress plug-in that does the same thing, but no such luck as yet. It’s the only thing I miss about Blogger so far.

The rain’s really coming down now. I can barely hear the sound of rush-hour traffic and imagine the hum of wet neon signs through it. I wish I’d worn my rain shoes and brought along a decent-sized umbrella instead of the origamic wisp currently residing in my backpack. These are the annual Plum Rains, so I can’t say I wasn’t fairly warned. Indeed, the cloud of flying termites swarming around the city the past couple of nights was a dead giveaway.

Dean’s back in the Renegade Province to help with post production. He’ll be meeting up with us at the Beer Factory later on, after paying homage to his beloved JB’s. He seems happy to be back; I know I always am when I return from abroad.

Expect wet feet tonight.

posted by Poagao at 7:14 am  
May 05 2007

Changes

New links!

Poagao’s Journal (here): poagao.org/pjournal

潑猴的日記: poagao.org/chinese

Monkey Learns to Push: poagao.org/taiji

The film production journal, Running with Swords: poagao.com/blog

It’s been a long, exhausting process, and it’s by no means finished, but thanks to Mark‘s generous donation of his time and effort over the past week, we’ve managed to force this site, kicking and screaming, into the realm of WordPress. Mark and I spent a couple of late nights wondering how to convert six years’ worth of posts and other ephemera, and it ended up involving ditching doteasy, upgrading my other hosting service, a nearly fruitless search for Blogger-to-Wordpress converters, converting all my blogs to Blogspot, then to WordPress.com blogs and then to WordPress.org blogs on my domain. I designed a new splash page with simpler links, but it’s still aligning to the top of the page whereas it should be in the middle. I also took the opportunity to make new banners for the Chinese and Tuishou blogs. The sidebars of all the blogs, however, are still pileups of bad links and leftovers. The film blog still hasn’t been converted, as that’s on poagao.com. I accidentally mislabeled a link yesterday in the WP admin section, effectively breaking this blog until Mark told me over gmail chat how to fix it. I knew it would be a difficult process, but neither of us could imagine what a pain it would turn out to be. I know nothing about coding and have relied on Dreamweaver for my web design efforts up to this point, something which Mark finds rather shocking. All I have to do to make him shudder with apprehension is mention the word “tables”.

So here I am in ur WordPress, postin’ blogs. It feels a bit alien and cold after six years of the Blogger interface, but it does seem to offer more usability. Hopefully over the next couple of weeks, with Mark’s help, I’ll be able to clean up the mess and get everything working properly again. For those of you who link directly to this page, the new URL should be http://www.poagao.org/pjournal

posted by Poagao at 11:49 pm  
Apr 16 2007

In the works

I’m coming up on the 6th anniversary of this website, which began in early 2001 as a way to show people my photography without kidnapping them, tossing them in the back of a large van and hauling them up to my apartment, possibly with construction equipment, and subjecting them to a stack of dusty albums with overly cute Engrish titles like “Happy Primate Want to Elegant Cornucopia.”

That was almost the site’s title, actually.

Anyway, I added a blog just for the hell of it, and before I knew it I’d written several novels’ worth of questionable prose in the thing. Then Flickr came along and eliminated any need for a Photos site of my own. Blogrolls and other sidebar elements surpassed the usefulness of the Links, Contact and About pages, and the Writing page was made obsolete simply by the pure volume of drivel I write here (and would be better used as a “favorite posts” option on the blog). The Films page became Renegade Province Productions when I got poagao.com. The only thing left is News From the Renegade Province, which I still have a soft spot for even though I haven’t updated it in a while.

Then my blogs began to multiply in a manner not unlike that of the Baldwin family, introducing a plethora of substandard, half-formed accounts on various aspects of my life that I felt would attract a different audience. I added a Chinese-language blog. A film production blog. A Tai-chi/Tuishou blog. I even have another blog where I write whatever the hell I like regardless of propriety (yes, I do hold some of my thoughts back, most notably the darker and scarier ones, from seeing the light of day on this, my public online presence). The other blog is not private and is protected by the simple anonymity of being one of several brazillion blogs out there. If you find it, good on you, but keep in mind that I have plausible deniability.

Time went on, and Blogger began to show its age. Other, more intuitive blogging options became available. On today’s popular resolutions, my icons, once disparaged as inordinately huge, seem tiny and lacking of any cohesive theme. I still like the black background and Liao Tianding running across the rooftops of this account, camera in hand, but I think the time has come for a major reworking of this site. I’m not the same monkey I was in 2001; I’m older, fatter and hairier. This site should reflect that somehow.

I’ve been encouraged by Mark and Prince Roy in this regard, both of whom would like to see me migrate to WordPress. My host Doteasy, however, reminded me that they would have to transfer me to their US$7.95″Ultra” package to enable PHP/MySQL options that WordPress requires. On another server. Which means re-uploading…everything.

Did I mention that my directories are a complete mess? Or that I actually don’t have any directories? Yeah.

But it’s that or continue on Blogger with limited options. In any case, I would like to do a re-design, not just of this account but of the entire site. And here’s where you come in: let me know what you like about the site, as well as what you find completely useless and depressing. I’m thinking of a new splash page featuring the blogs and not much else, but I haven’t really come up with a useful design, or indeed if I even want a splash page (actually, I probably do). But I have no clue as to what kind of accessibility people desire beyond this page. Do visitors here want to go read my other blogs? Look at thousands of my photos? Read fake news? I have no idea. Technorati indicates that you don’t, but I feel I should link to them anyway.

Anyway, Recent Internet Trends indicate that I should keep my posts short and sweet. Too late for that, but I’ll stop here anyway. Let me know what you think I should do with this place.

posted by Poagao at 7:15 am  
Mar 15 2007

Show, design

It’s been a while since our last show, but the Muddy Basin Ramblers will be back on stage at Bliss Saturday night from around 10pm, in celebration not only of St. Patrick’s Day (I assume someone in the band has Irish blood) but primarily to celebrate our friend Chris’ entry into the real adult world, i.e. her 30th birthday. We’ve been concentrating on the album for so long it might be kind of strange to go back to stage stuff, but I’m sure we’ll manage.

I’ve been making some small changes to this page. I added a little bit of code that creates little pop-up versions of the websites links lead to if you mouseover them. I found it when I last visited Tinmanic’s page and liked the idea of more than just plain ALT text, so I included it on this page as well as my links page. If it drives you crazy and just gets in the way of your reading, let me know.

My archives are now available through a pulldown menu on the sidebar rather than taking you to a separate page. I’ve also reconfigured my Flickr page to show a few large photos on the front page rather than a lot of little ones. I think the little pictures don’t show enough detail; the big ones just look better, but I’m biased of course. Zooomr is apparently implementing its next phase, but I’m not sure just yet what that involves. It will be interesting to see if they’ve addressed any of the issues I listed in my last post. As many of those are simply my personal preferences, probably not. But one can hope.

The only other things I want to do with this page are make the graphic at the top link back to the current page without a nasty-looking border and change the color of the comments so that they’re visible on the individual post pages. Oh, and somehow figure out how to make the trackbacks work. If you have any ideas, let me know.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve kept basically the same layout for nearly six years. That’s, like, Lorne Greene’s age in Web years. But it’s held up pretty well so far, and I’ve grown partial to it. I remember one early review complaining about my humongous icons, but they seem just right at today’s resolutions. In any case, I’d like to keep it a while longer.

posted by Poagao at 1:50 pm  
Mar 06 2007

Flickr vs. Zooomr

Mark‘s been raving about Zooomr for a while now, and as the deadline approaches for Flickr users to merge their accounts with Yahoo! accounts, and having been through several instances where Yahoo! decided to randomly change my password without telling me, I thought I’d give Zooomr a try. I put up a few (75) photos and looked around the site for a few weeks. This is what I’ve found:

Zooomr’s strengths seem to lie in a more geographically and socially oriented navigation. When you log in you are presented with your friend’s photos, everyone’s photos and photos taken nearby you. Geotagging a photo is easy and is done within Zooomr, while with Flickr you have to use an outside geotagger like Yuan.CC.maps (which is nearly as easy to use). Photos are also arranged by who’s in them, resulting in a “popular” category in the top menu. If you want to look for photos and don’t have a particular tag in mind, you are given the choice of most-recently uploaded pictures and…well, that’s about it. Oh, you can also see who has uploaded the most photos, but I really don’t see the point in that, or the “famous” category for that matter.

Zooomr also has trackbacks, though there is no list of them on the multiple photo pages. You have to go to each and every photo page to see them, and, at least in my experience, they are mostly spam. Supposedly this is the reason Flickr has been hesitant to implement them, and I can understand why. Mark told me that the trackbacks were implemented when someone suggested them to the guy who runs the show over there. He wrote a few lines of code in a few minutes and viola! -trackbacks. But they don’t seem to work very well. Even when Mark linked to one of my pictures, people were obviously finding the photo through it, yet the trackback itself never showed up.

Zooomr’s photo presentation is busier and (I think) uglier than Flickr’s. While the Flickr design leaves white space around the photo and lets it be the most striking thing on the page, Zooomr crowds things around it and includes the distracting tri-colored banner at the top and grey sidebars.

Mark claims that Flickr adds filtering to photos, but all the examples he has raised involve resizing, which of course will change the parameters of any photo. I’ve looked very closely at photos on my hard drive as compared with original-sized photos on Flickr, and I can’t say that I’ve seen any differences. Nothing noticeable anyway. Doesn’t mean that there aren’t any, but if I can’t tell it’s there, it might as well not be.

Perhaps it is because I am used to navigating the Flickr world, but even after several weeks of using Zooomr, I never really got into it. There aren’t any groups that I can see, something I find it hard to do without for looking at a bunch of photos on one subject. It wasn’t easy to explore Zooomr photos, nothing led me on from photo to photo the way Flickr’s groups and user communities do. I suppose it could be that Zooomr has such a system, but due to the lack of a FAQ or help section I have no way of finding it.

Speaking of exploring, one huge advantage Flickr has over Zooomr (and other sites) is its Explore feature, using its “Interestingness” formula. I have found a great deal of exquisite photography using this feature, pictures and users and sets and groups that I never would have found otherwise (The Flickr blog is also great for this). And I’d like to think others have found my pictures using this feature as well. Searching for photos, you can view the search results ranked by “interestingness,” “most recent” or “most relevant.” With Zooomr, you can search for tags, and that’s it.

Another thing, obviously, is the fact that a whole lot more people are on Flickr than are on Zooomr. On Flickr I get views, comments and favorites on a daily basis, but most people I’ve seen on Zooomr have “oops, this user hasn’t faved any photos yet.” Occasionally I’ll get a couple of views, the odd comment. Yesterday I got linked to by Thomas Hawk, the guy who occasionally gets yelled at by building security guards. Which is something. But on the whole, it seems that the same factors that seem to be holding me back from getting more into the photography of other users on Zooomr are preventing other users from seeing my stuff as well.

All in all, while Zooomr is a valiant effort with interesting functionality, it seems that, while Zooomr puts the emphasis on physical place and who is in the picture, Flickr puts the emphasis on the photography itself, making it easier to go in and find good photos as well as good photographers from all over the world. The superior presentation, the groups, and just the sheer explorability of photography on Flickr win me over.

Let’s just hope that Yahoo! can preserve and nurture Flickr in the future. After seeing the rape and pillaging of Geocities, eGroups and other previously useful services at their bloody little hands, I have my doubts. Thus my interest in other services, as well as the fact that Ernie‘s gone off to “find himself” or something and is no longer at Yahoo! to help me retrieve mysteriously changed passwords. Flickr is far, far better than Yahoo! photos. In fact, there’s no real reason for Yahoo! to keep that part of its service any more. What remains to be seen is how they treat Flickr. A great many people have a huge amount at stake in this question.

While I will keep using Zooomr, I feel that right now, Flickr is still the best online photo service for my needs, and probably worth sticking to for a good while yet.

posted by Poagao at 4:08 pm  
Dec 23 2006

Christmas Stuff

Not having been around snow when I was growing up, one of the things I miss most about this time of year is the whole Christmas light thing in the US. There are lights everywhere here, of course, but they’re usually up all year and have nothing to do with Christmas.

But today I came across this, which has to be the most awesome display of Christmas-light firepower I’ve seen. Impressive (note: wmv link).

Hotpot was had last night at Prince Roy‘s place, whereupon a whole lot of politics was discussed. As usual there was a lot of code-switching, which I really should be getting better at but patently am not. At one point Lennet leaned over and asked me, “Can I expect a lot of this kind of conversation in the future?” I said yes, I was afraid he could. He was referring to the political nature of the talk, though, not the code-switching. I guess Lennet’s used to the lack of political debate in Shanghai. Or he just doesn’t like it. Still, some interesting theories were proposed, and we managed to avoid the whole cult-of-the-expert thing you see on discussion forums.

Afterwards, when I was ready to go home, I found that I was out of cash after giving up my last change to a friend for getting me some cereal products, so I went to an ATM to get some money. It was offline. I went to another. It was offline as well. In the end I had to get PR to call Spicygirl to come down with cash to lend me for the taxi ride home. This never happens. Usually, even if one bank is down, you can easily find another one within one block. At first we suspected, of course, a mainland sneak attack, but that would have involved paratroopers, and the skies were clear. So it was either a personal attack by a well-informed hacker or just an inconvenient coincidence.

In preparation for the switch over to the new version of Blogger, I saved all my accounts to Word files. This account alone is over 1,000 pages long in Word, or approximately 3/8 of an average Harry Potter volume. Thus, the forthcoming novelization will be a hefty tome indeed. I also switched the Chinese blog to a more generic, comments-friendly format. I’ll see if I can make the appearance more interesting later. I’m not sure how I feel about the tags/labels thing yet.

Bret and Alan are having their annual Christmas party tonight out in Nangang, and there are various shenanigans and goings-on through Monday night’s dinner at Darrell’s and Judy’s place. Unfortunately, the current administration isn’t feeling too festive about Constitution Day, so we have to work on Christmas.

posted by Poagao at 1:30 am  
Nov 22 2006

A little different

You might have noticed this site looks a little different. That’s because I went over to Prince Roy‘s fourth-floor castle last night and got Mark to have a look at my code, which hasn’t really been dusted off since 2001, just added to and tinkered with whenever I found a bit of HTML to cut and paste in there. As a result, Mark was saying a lot of things like “Nobody uses DARPA settings anymore” and “I think I saw this tag once in 1997” when looking at my template. As Prince Roy had an early morning the next day, we didn’t have enough time to do a complete overhaul or, as I’m increasingly inclined, to migrate the whole thing to WordPress, as everyone seems to be doing these days. But I know that if I do, a year or so down the road someone will come up with something else that everyone will migrate to from WordPress.

Mark did manage to find the reason I haven’t been to implement a site feed, and now that he’s fixed it, I have real site feeds for all my blogs up and working. Of course, now I am expecting a huge spike in my readership and possibly a pony and/or limo, even though I’m constantly assured that that will happen when and only when I move to WordPress. In view of today’s wider monitors, I adjusted the width of the text so that it doesn’t go all the way across the page. It still doesn’t look quite right; I’d like the sidebar on the right to be close to the edge of the screen, for example, but it should do for now, or at least until I play around with it some more and see what looks good.

posted by Poagao at 1:33 am