“Been Down so Long….

……”it looks up to me?”:http://www.richardandmimi.com/beendown67.html

No, not even close, not even when I lived on “Eddy St.”:http://cornellsun.com/node/24197

“Grandma?” She was never “Grandma”. She was always Sarah to me. And she sold me quite a few quarts of Pabst over the years….

I bought my six-packs of Molson’s from her competitor, Gus the Greek. Every time I went into his store it was (imagine a thick Greek accent)

“Hey blondie, can you get me any `puff, puff’ ?” (while making joint-smoking motions and laughing)

“I could, Gus, but then you’d call the cops and I’d have to borrow my bail from you at 30%.”

“Haha, can’t fool you, blondie. How long before all you guys need ‘shoot-em-ups’? I need to stock up, gimme some help here…”

But I’m digressing to the point of insanity. Insanity, oh, there’s a direction….

But, but…..the totally unrelated point of this bastard is DOWNTIME, and I’m thinking the Donkey needs to move back to Pittsburgh. This site has been down once a day over the past few days, and a week before that and a week before that.

My sites on Pair Networks have been down exactly once, in the wee hours of the morning, Central Time. And prior to that they emailed me a warning that my server was being upgraded to FreeBSD 6.2 and would be down for a half hour or so. Since then, nada. No downtime.

It may not even be downtime at my new DonkeyHut at Dreamhost; it could just be a clogged network, unrelated to them. But when there’s a clogged network on the way to my site at Pair, there are about 6 other backbones one can use to get to my stuff.

So, if it was just a low-traffic blog, Dreamhost is okay. I wouldn’t want to move my business there, though.

But more importantly, somehow, wherever I move, there really need to be stores on the block run by characters like Gus the Greek and Sarah. Anything less doesn’t even come close.

Okay, like I’ve just moved, eh?

No, not to my “last vacation spot”:http://www.ecg.com/Vancouver/ but like this site, eh? The Donkey has been sucked into LA somewhere.

It all started with my boss. Huh? “my boss”? I don’t have no stinkin’ boss, dude. I’m like, self-employed. But as it turns out, in real life, there always seem to be bosses, no matter what you do.

It was last week some time:

“Hey, did you ever look at these hosting bills? $65/mo. Are you crazy?”

“Well, yeah, it’s a little high, but we get a lot of extras ‘n’ stuff. You wouldn’t want our site going down when a customer’s on it would you?”

“Well, Robin’s on Godaddy paying $4/mo and her site’s NEVER down.”

(A little aside here. I know Robin’s on Godaddy, because I built her site. It was excruciating. Not because of Robin – oh, okay, it was a little because of Robin – not because of the Godaddy network and her site constantly crashing – that was fine. It was trying to build a site on Godaddy with all their weird security configs. And it wasn’t that I minded their ftp timing out after 30 seconds, because there were too many other NIGHTMARE config problems to overcome that normal web hosts do, well, normally. Just google Godaddy hosting reviews and you’ll get a bunch of them. And it’s rarely about their network, which seems to be fine. It’s always something like, “jobs that should take 5 minutes take at least an hour, if you’re lucky”. That sums it up perfectly. Anyway, enough aside on that one.)

So, after about a week of searching, reading reviews and hanging out in forums, I found a cheap web host that seemed to have everything I needed. Longevity (since ’97), a shell account (I can’t function without a shell account), a lot of mysql databases (unlimited *but see below), healthy, fast, well-configed database, mail and web servers (actually, I don’t know any of that yet), redundant peering connections to several backbones (don’t know that either). But, suffice it to say, I decided to gamble on “Dreamhost”:http://www.dreamhost.com/

So far though, I’ve only moved the Donkey there (with no database corruption during the migration!! Yip-a-ky-yay, mofo). I’m monitoring the uptime at this point, and slowness (if anyone notices showness, I’d appreciate a yell). And I’m attempting to learn more about their network. I’ve got an incredibly cheap year to fiddle with all this before moving my main sites over. As I was poking through the Dreamhost forums, I noticed a lot of posters had little $97 off new hosting years codes in their .sigs. Turns out, if you use their code, they get 10% of whatever you spend at Dreamhost forever, and 5% of anybody that the new signee gets to sign up.

So, a prepaid year there was like, $119 and I got $97 off, so I got a year for $22. Plenty of time to see if it’s a decent host or a cesspool.
If it turns out decent, The Boss will be happy. If it turns out to be a “I told you so”, then I’m more than vindicated in pretty much any of my decisions for probably 4 months or so. So it’s win-win, eh?

Oh, the * on the “unlimited” MySQL databases. Let’s throw in the 500 gigs of “storage space” and the terrabyte per month of bandwidth too. We all know that nobody ever needs that much “unlimited” crap. And if you *do* happen to be using that on a shared server, you won’t be on that shared server too long. Trust me.

Anyway, enough for now. I’ve already got a title for my next post, “Adventures with pine on the new host”. Ta da.

Beating the RIAA

It’s a good thing that the RIAA can’t read my mind to hear what’s playing in my head or I’d be paying royalties for some of the worst crap to ever hit the airwaves. And I haven’t figured out how to turn it off.

Some of the worst offenders (and I haven’t listened to pop radio in over 20 years, so – and thank you Lord – I couldn’t tell the difference between Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake if I was hit over the head with it):

1- Downtown by Petula Clark
2- 123/ABC by the Jackson 5
3- Crimson King, Emerson Lake & Palmer
4- We Built this City on Rock & Roll – Starship (yeah, right)
5- Dust in the Wind – Kansas
6- You Light up my Life – Debbie Boone
7- In-a-gadda-da-vida – Iron Butterfly
8- Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey – Yeah, thanks for digging that one up David Chase. It was a great finale, but hey, you’re killin’ me here. Then there’s the damned Hillary takeoff. But I should be thankful that she didn’t pick the Celine Dion thing, or I might have to shoot myself to get it to quit playing.

She should’ve gone down with the Titanic. But no, I’m not going there; I saw the movie but have no idea what the song was. Seriously, I’m not going there. Go ‘way. Git.

I know I owe you guys a lot of royalties for all the free music I’ve been listening to, but hey, you owe me a new brain!

And then there’s always a Psycho Deer

Which is probably what the Kennesaw police were thinking when Andrew called in the complaint. According to him, a “crazy rabid deer” had jumped over the fence in his backyard and was attacking his dog. He needed the police to shoot it immediately.

Um, hmmm….at this point they were probably remembering that a short time ago he called in asking if he could shoot deer “eating flowers on my own property. We’re supposed to own guns here, so I’m sure it’s fine, but I’m checking with you first.”

At that time, the cop had replied, “sure, you can shoot them, and then we can cuff and chain you and drag you down to the station to face charges for discharging a firearm inside city limits. You’ll face a heavy fine and probably do jail time, but don’t let that stop you.”

So, most likely with tongues planted firmly in cheeks, first one cruiser showed up, then a second and then a third. After an hour or so with all three cruisers still out there, we neighbors started venturing over thinking something juicy had happened, like a domestic dispute or a Hatfield/McCoy thing, or maybe even a break-in. Tom had broken out a six-pack.

From what we could surmise, if the deer had been in Andrew’s backyard, it was outside the fence at this point, but it wasn’t going anywhere and the police were confering amongst themselves as to what they should do. Eventually, they decided on a plan of action and it was to return to the station. “We think your dog was barking and the deer thought its young were in danger. We’ve never heard of a deer with rabies. We advise you to keep your dog inside until this blows over”.

Well, after they left, Andrew was in danger of blowing over, so I told to him the story of a former neighbor and his wife who had only lived in our cul-de-sac about 6 months. According to the former neighbor’s wife Trish, her George had shot a neighbor’s dog who was menacing her and their surrounding neighbors were so incensed (at George) that they were forced to move out and ended up in our cul-de-sac. On top of that, George was fined $10,000. She didn’t say anything about attorney’s fees, but they must have been substantial, leaving George sullen and resentful. After six months in our cul-de-sac, things apparently hadn’t gotten any better and they divorced and moved out.

Andrew seemed to cool down to a slow simmer after that, and Tom, who was on his third beer, suggested we have a cul-de-sac party on July 4. “Lots of beer and no kids…” That sounded like a plan, so we all returned to our homes and back to normal life.

A couple of days later, I was sipping coffee on the back deck, enjoying the cool air and looking down to see if our herd of deer were wandering through the gully below munching on leaves.

I didn’t see the herd, but I did see one deer, which was very strange. They never walk around alone. The deer was rapidly moving back and forth under a tree. I couldn’t see what it was doing through the leaves, but the tree was shaking violently. Then, I noticed at the other end of the tree was a big raccoon. It kept charging under the tree and getting thrown back. It would regroup and charge back in. A raccoon fighting a deer? This kept up for over an hour and I finally had to go back inside. From the looks of it, the raccoon was getting the worst of the confrontation.

But, a deer attacking a raccoon? I Googled “rabid deer” and discovered that any warm-blooded mammel can get rabies. It was pretty uncommon among white tailed deer, and averaged 0-2 per year in the entire United States. Rabid or psycho, the thing was acting nuts. I had new sympathy for Andrew, and I resolved to tell him that at least *I* didn’t think he was crazy. I also thought I would tell him about my own “deer solution” to keep them from eating the plants. I buy coyote urine and keep it in covered containers all over the property. We don’t have deer eating our plants any more. On the other hand maybe I’d better be quiet. What repels one animal may attract another and Andrew’s favorite cat was carried away by a coyote. Uh, oh.

Stuck inside of Jackson with the Billings Blues Again?

Maybe. Just don’t throw me in the briar patch. (warning for anyone still visiting this site who doesn’t like travelogues, you probably won’t like this one either).

My accountant gets suspicious when I write in “went to Jackson Hole, WY on business trip”, so I had to write at least one order and talk to at least one commercial real estate agent. The rest of the time was spent picture-takin’. Afraid to bring the digital camera I use for business (river, hiking accidents, bears) I went with an old consumer-type Nikon with Kodak film that my Mom gave me. The lens pretty much sucks, But then I pretty much suck too. Still, trying to make grainy images look like something in Photoshop can be frustrating, even for me.

And naturally, all the best photographs presented themselves either when I didn’t have the camera out or when it was out of film.

Flying into Jackson Hole would have been one. At first it looked like the pilot was about to land on some flat lands next to the Grand Tetons, but as we got lower, you could see a tiny landing strip. And tiny it was. The whole airport was tiny. The two bald eagles sitting on a branch next to their nest overlooking the Snake River was another; it was an “out of film” moment after I’d spent my last shots on a moose further upstream. Then there was my Close Encounter of the Moose Kind back at the Lodge, different moose, much closer, no camera, but I’ll get to that.

The first night at the “Teton Mountain Lodge”:http://www.jacksonhole.net/properties/slopeside/prop-tetonmoun.htm
was not fun. The air conditioning wasn’t working and they said, “just open the windows, it gets down to 40 at night”. I don’t know about the 40 degrees, but the heat stayed right inside the room and I didn’t sleep at all. The next day, when I complained, they immediately upgraded us (at no extra cost) to a suite of rooms, including living room, fully stocked kitchen and large outdoor deck. After the move, my stay was incredible.

The next evening, sitting out on the deck, Elaine said she saw “a large animal” running around the side of the lodge. Springing out of the room without the camera, I sprinted around the side of the hotel, and then stopped short and tip-toed because I realized that a famished bear or a rabid wolf could also be considered “large animals”. I stopped and scanned the area and then in the dusk I saw the moose that had waded out into the little manmade pond next to the lodge.

I crept closer (we don’t get a lot of moose in Kennesaw) and he eyed me suspiciously. When I got to the bank, I sat down. He kept drinking and looking over at me. I was having a great time watching until he decided to walk out of the water, and happened to choose the exact bank I was sitting on. Remembering that some moose will savagely kick humans that pester them, I stood up and backed away slowly. He seemed to be eyeing me more in curiosity than anger, so I wasn’t really worried. When he got about 10 feet away, he veered off back up the mountain, and I went back to the hotel.

The first couple of days we hung around “Teton Village and Jackson”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/rmorganturner/sets/72157594148623043/, taking care of some biz stuff. There was an Elk Festival in Jackson over the weekend. Boy Scouts go up into the Tetons every year to gather up shed elk antlers and they auction them off to people like me, except that I don’t do antler jewelry. Most of it was going for around $12/lb and business was brisk for them. Then they take a lot of the proceeds and donate it for elk preservation. I figure that means they send trucks up into the Tetons with thousands of bales of hay so that the elk stay in their protected environment rather than straying up into Montana where they’ll get shot or hit by trucks.

One thing about Jackson Hole, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of cultural activities. A couple of neat bars, the “Million Dollar Cowboy Bar”:http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.tylersterritory.com/travel/namerica/northern-rockies/wyoming/jackson/jackson-02e.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.tylersterritory.com/travel/namerica/northern-rockies/wyoming/jackson/jackson-02.html&h=437&w=275&sz=10&tbnid=0uel4AWzXJYtAM:&tbnh=123&tbnw=77&hl=en&start=19&prev=/images%3Fq%3DMillion%2BDollar%2BCowboy%2BBar%2Bphoto,%2BJackson%2BHole,%2BWY%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26sa%3DN
and the “Mangy Moose Saloon”:http://www.mangymoose.net/restaurant.php
Fortunately we had the last two American Idol shows to watch. And I hate to admit it, but I spent around 4 hours calling in to vote for Taylor Hicks. Oh, the shame.

Originally we planned to drive up the hundred miles or so through Yellowstone and go across the border into Montana. It looks short on a map, but driving it is another thing entirely. It’s windy roads, it’s driving slow to avoid hitting wildlife, and all this stuff you have to keep stopping to look at. And another thing, it’s very tiring. Although there is a lot of re-growth after the ’88 fire, there’s still miles and miles of total devastation to drive through. It gets to you after awhile. Anyway, I kind of combined the Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone and the Snake River in “this one”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/rmorganturner/sets/72157594147088673/

The “buffalo”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/rmorganturner/sets/72157594147070446/
in the Tetons were one of our favorite stops and we went up there quite a bit. The closest they got was the time when a herd decided to switch sides of the highway right when we came through. Naturally there was no film in the camera, but it was neat watching the big creatures slowly brush up against our car as they searched for a better cut of grass.

Lastly, I need to point out a very dangerous piece of software, “Photostory3”:http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/digitalphotography/photostory/default.mspx
It turns normally intelligent people into wannabe “directors”:http://www.ecg.com/jacksonhole/PhotoStory1.wmv
Oh the horror.

Music to Die for

And on a slow day, it can last forever.

I’m not kidding. Having to listen to endless repetitions of Petula Clark’s “Downtown” or just about anything by Debbie Boone or Barry White can drive anyone stark raving mad. (and I’m sure this fact hasn’t been lost on the people who run Gitmo) But when actually good music starts showing up in the loop, and loops and loops and loops, it can turn ugly. Just imagine normally sane people scooping up their entire cd/vinyl collections of Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen and frantically running them to the dumpster before the garbage truck gets there. Smashed-in fm radios with cords flying and Sirius sets forceably ripped from dashboards.

Not that any garbage truck is capable of removing that much shit.

What I’m talking about, obviously, since we don’t have concentration camps here in America yet, is what “Keith Olbermann”:http://www.bloggermann.com/ calls “ear worms”. I used to call them something different, but his term has kind of taken over and I forget my term. Isn’t it nice to know that it’s possible to forget anything these days?

I think we all have to suffer through infestations of the little bugs, but we just give it the stiff upper lip and try to go on with our busy days. I’ll have to admit it was disconcerting when instead of the usual, “What’s that Smell?” by Lynard Skynard, I started hearing full orchestra rendiditons of Layla in the shower. This is getting close to home. It was scary enough at first, but then it switched into “Obladi, oblada, life goes on…”

So in desperation I spent the next two weeks playing classical and jazz cds. If you keep them varied, it’s hard for them to convert to ear worms and you think maybe you’re finally free. But it wasn’t long before certain passages of Mozart started running in my head before the alarm went off.

But let’s not focus on the negative. What I’m trying to get to is, a new tune started playing in my head when I woke up this morning. And it wasn’t a good song for a change. I don’t even think it was a song at all. Anyway, I woke up and hopped into the shower and realized that Hokey Pokey was starting to loop. “Put your left foot in, pull your right foot out…”

And I thought it might be significant, and probably had underlying forces struggling to work their way into consciousness, kind of like the messages you might get from dreams. Some of them are deep from the unconscious and can provide clues in uncertain times.

So I sat here and waited. “You do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around….that’s what it’s all about!” I waited. “Put your left foot in”. Hmmm…. terrorists, treason, wimpy democrats….”Put your right foot in….” Bush, spying on Americans, lying us to war….televangelists, teletubbies…

I waited, but after an hour or so I wasn’t getting anything so I turned on KJAZ from San Francisco and tried not to recognize any bits or pieces of music and typed away…..

Elaine sticks her head in.
“Are you doing anything productive? Or typing on that blog again?”
“Do you still have those disgusting porn links on that thing?”
“No, this is Textpattern and textpattern doesn’t….uh, you know, spambots…I’m….you have to preview…”
“Because it’s really sick. And you know you can be arrested for that crap.”
“Yeah, I know….”

A day in the Tombs

I wasn’t on the floor more than 10 minutes when someone asked “did I want to play cards?” Well, sure. (really the only appropriate answer). They dealt me a hand while I tried to figure out whether it was stud or draw or whatever. It turned out to be “whatever”, and I spent about 10 minutes trying to figure out which whatever game I was playing. I wasn’t getting very far when I realized that I couldn’t even make semi-educated bluffs. I was in a completely different league.

“Hmmm, y’know, I’m sorry. I’m over my head here. What is this game?”

“Ouist.” (a form of bridge)

“I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, man”.

The rest of the day was fairly slow, but later, in the evening, there was a trial.

There were opening arguments and the prosecuting and defense attorneys introduced themselves. There were motions to suppress and motions in limine, abstractions, abuse of process, overt acts and acts that I really didn’t comprehend. What it boiled down to though, was that a guy from our floor was caught holding hands through the bars with one of the transvestites in the adjoining cell block. The court was convened to decide his guilt or innocence, and, should there be a conviction, the appropriate punishment for holding hands in a public area of the cellblock with a transvestite.

I recalled my roomate’s warning. “If you plan on taking a shower, make sure nobody else is up there.” And then something about “holes in the wall”. Holes in the wall were considered okay, as long as there were no witnesses. (Apparently, though, holding hands wasn’t.)

Though his defense was brilliant, in the end, the guy from our floor was found guilty and sentenced to death. The trial had taken several hours, the verdict about 5 minutes and the sentencing was immediate. I’m thinking, “Shit!” Would they hang the guy? knife him? Throw him off the tier? These thoughts were going through my mind when the judge added, “sentence to be suspended, subject to immediate execution should there be a future infraction.”

At that point, the cellblock was starting to resemble a giant game of Ouist, and I realized I should probably be taking copius notes.

Testing 1,2,3….

Okay, tomorrow morning early I leave for a major trade show in Chicago. Before I leave I have to finish the remaining samples and Fedex some Egyptian-motif jewelry to a movie set. In short, I have no business even posting anything, much less a little test post after installing the latest version of Text Pattern, something that according to “this”:http://photodude.com/article/2931/todays-lesson-for-the-ever-growing-geek
could turn my site into a dead donkey in the middle of the web.

Only an idiot would try something like this at this particular time, right?

The Doom of Too Many Web Orders

Some poet I’ve long since forgotten wrote the following:

On my way to the place today the kids stopped me.
“Hey, let’s get a map, pick a spot and go there, okay?”
“No”, I said, “I have things to do.”
(I have to run ahead and be the spot because there is no map and I sometimes wonder if there are any kids.)

It’s been like that around here lately. Normally we sit on our thumbs in November and December and get ready for the January Trade Shows (the jewelry and belt biz). By February, the past few years (except for ’05!) you tighten your belt and wait for spring to hopefully bring more orders. In May, the orders are still sparse and you tighten the belt even more and hope for orders in July. August through October you’re busy as hell. At least you’d better be.

In mid-2004, I discovered that my various commercial websites, which had been up since ’96, ’98 and 2000, no longer had the search engine placement they once had. It was fairly dismal, and we had to rely on trade shows to brick & mortar stores for survival, which was also fairly dismal. So, not that we were getting desperate or anything, in October ’04 I tried a Google Ad Words campaign. Between October and December I spent around $12,000 in Google Ad Words and raked in close to that in web orders.

So, if you don’t count materials and labor, I just about broke even. In other words, I lost my shirt.

So, this year I didn’t buy any Google Ad Words. I actually don’t blame Google. I think I didn’t really understand it enough to properly mount a campaign. There’s a “tutorial”:http://www.seochat.com/c/a/Website-Marketing-Help/Using-Google-Adwords-for-Effective-Online-Marketing/ over at “DevShed”:http://www.devshed.com that explains the proper way to do Google Ad Words. Be that as it may…..I’ve got so many other responsibilities, that doing full time or part time, or even partial time SEO stuff is pretty much a luxury. And a very boring luxury at that. I start feeling like I’m running ahead all the time to be the spot, because there is no map and…..

At any rate, this year I spent quite a few hours readin’ and learnin’. Realizing, of course, that everything I learned is probably already outmoded. Still, we got our little hamster wheel a spinnin’, don’t we? What did I do this year? Too much and too boring to get into….niche key words, RSS feeds, a ton of crap.

But this year I’ve got orders out the wazoo. In fact, I’m starting to get stressed out over it. I try to tell myself, “Remember, the stress of no orders is worse than the stress of too many orders”. And “Seriously, you’re NOT DOOMED. Any time you can put a big sign on the sites – ‘SOLD OUT: PLEASE GO AWAY!'”

A major source of stress is that in early January, a Roadway Freight truck will stop by to pick up a 6′ x 2′ x 2’, 355 lb. crate containing new samples for the Chicago Gift Show. As of today, there are zero samples in that crate. The time required to make up all those new samples is about one month. And the web orders keep coming.

It gets worse. This is all happening under the reign of the worst President in US history. Think “Drunken Sailor Economics”. Seriously, it’s not possible that this is happening. At this point I’m thinking an extended stay with Nurse Ratchitt and about 500mg of Thorazine every 3 hours could be a viable alternative. Of course, I’ll have to ship a lot more than I am now to be able to afford that…better get some sleep. It’s already tomorrow. Oh, Jesus.