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Friday, February 26, 2010

Breaking Up With Blogger

or: "Presents / Self Defense, Part Two"

For my 22nd birthday, I've gotten two presents. One from God, one from Blogger.

From God I'm getting a few good storms. Outside the window right now, the sky is gray, the rain is constant and heavy, the trees are swaying... [sigh] It's lovely. But I don't have time to go out and enjoy the rain, not these days. These days I'm way too busy, and that brings me to the other generous gift I got.

Now, granted, it's not really because of Blogger that I'm too busy to wander around in the rain lately. I have rehearsals for The Matchmaker every Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. Thursdays I work. Tuesday night is Game Night. During the day I'm working on the blog post and the game, while replaying all the music for the CD every now and then. The rest of the time is more than filled with all my regular addictions: comics, TV shows, games, music, web browsing. (I'm trying to cut back on the web browsing, actually, because I've finally realized I was never really a part of the Adventure Gamers forum.) A musician I know named Sariel suggested that I compose soundtracks for film students, and I could use the money, but when would I have the time for a job? Heck, I haven't even celebrated my birthday (which was on Sunday), and looking through my calendar I can't see when I possibly could!

Oh, and the Megillah reading is tomorrow too.

So it's not Blogger's fault that I'm so busy. But they picked the absolute worst time to drop this present of theirs on me. They call it "Auto Pagination", whatever that means.
"We are always looking for ways to make our products faster, because we have consistently found that faster page loads mean more satisfied users. ... we’ll keep working to make your blog faster for you and your readers!"
I saw that notice when they posted it on February 18th, just one day after I posted my very first blog post which absolutely cannot function without being on the same page as all the others. And it's not a brilliant post, but it is a cute little thing which I had wanted to do for years and had just been waiting for the right moment for. So anyway, I saw this notice and I was a little bit concerned at what it meant, but quickly forgot about it and went on with my life (such as it is).

By the way, the reason my blog takes so long to load is because every single post is running several Javascript scripts, which were necessary because I want to do things my way and Blogger has always been too rigid to allow that. Making posts different colors? That's not a feature of Blogger. 74s? That's not a feature of Blogger. Recaps at the beginnings of posts? Double posts? Posts which contain twelve other posts? "Next post" buttons for navigation? Feedback pages? That's all my doing, and through all of it I had to put up with Blogger's kicking and screaming. "No, you can't do that! Everything is standardized, everything is simple!" I didn't want all my posts to look the same. I didn't want simple, I wanted control over my own blog. Because Blogger has no clue what the potential of this art form is, and I do. Any time I want to build something new, I need to break the old to get there. And since I have no access to Blogger's server, it needed to be done in the user's browser. Every time you go to my page, your browser is drawing things Blogger's way, then erasing them and redrawing them my way. You don't see all of this, but you can tell that it takes longer to load than it should. (Unless you use Safari. Safari's fast.)

And I'm okay with that. Richie, you can go ahead and hate me for saying this, but I'm okay with that. Because I believe in the value of this blog, and I'm not going to compromise it for the sake of a little speed.

It's never been easy. Blogger and I have had a dysfunctional relationship right from the very first post. The default way to write posts is "Compose mode", where you write the post in a simple (WYSIWYG) word processor-type editor, and Blogger writes all the HTML code for you. As I tried to write "Who am I?", it kept sticking in formatting I hadn't asked for and didn't want. It was hard to just get the font to look right, because Blogger was always certain it knew better. So I switched to writing the posts in HTML, and never looked back.

After that it was an ongoing struggle. Blogger would try doing things her way, I'd try doing things my way, and I'd eventually win. But there were times when I doubted if I could. When I started doing recaps and double posts and things like that which went against the usual formatting, Blogger would tell me each time:
Your HTML cannot be accepted: Closing tag has no matching opening tag: DIV
Which was wrong - there was an opening tag, but it was outside the post, in the template for the whole blog. Of course I always made sure to reopen whatever I was closing by the end of the post, so as to not break the code, but while I saw the big picture and knew that what I was doing was safe, Blogger could not. So it'd give me that warning message, and I'd politely say to shut up and publish the post anyway. At one point Blogger decided that they were going to stamp out all error messages, so suddenly the little checkbox that let me override Blogger's protestations was gone. And for a few days I didn't know what to do, because suddenly the posts I'd planned to write were simply not allowed. But they soon undid the change for some reason, and I went back to doing what I do.

At one point Blogger switched to a new language. I'd gotten comfortable with the old way of doing things, dysfunctional though it was. But more importantly, I'd already been writing for years, and I'd spent many hours getting the template to allow me all the freedom I demanded. I didn't know whether or not it was possible to do what I was doing in the new system; for all I know, it might have been easier. But that would have meant learning a whole new way of doing things, and rewriting my template line by line -not to mention many posts- all for the sake of doing what I had already been doing for a few years. And I wasn't willing to do that. So I stuck to my old ways of doing things, and got progressively less support from Blogger as all the new features went to the new system. So while everyone else finally got a button on each post page getting you to the next post, I didn't have that. And.. actually, that's really the only thing I missed. I eventually made my own "Next Post" buttons, and was perfectly content living in the past.

You know, back when I started this blog I already knew I wanted all the posts to be on one page, so I set the number of posts to appear to the maximum allowed, which was 999. Now that I have more than three hundred posts that doesn't seem like so much anymore, but I made long-term plans involving "spin-off blogs" to ensure that I don't go over that number but can keep posting for a decade or two. Unfortunately, Blogger lowered the maximum number of posts to 500. That would last me, what, through 2012 maybe? So I never touched the settings page which had that setting on it. I knew how the game is played, because Blogger had pulled the same crap with my "About Me" text a few years earlier. I've got that poem there -------
Wanting recognition,
I walk alone.
Never will I follow!
They walk in that direction;
I think I'll stay right here.
This is a nice place, isn't it?

Needing freedom,
I look ahead.
Will they ever follow?
They run toward the money;
There is no place for art.
I promise you tomorrow will be different.
with line breaks in the middle, and at one point Blogger just decided they wouldn't allow any line breaks in there anymore. If I tried making any changes on the page where I wrote that poem, it would give me an error message and refuse to cooperate until I changed the poem. But as long as I ignored that page, I could keep it set the way I wanted. A while later they changed their minds and now there's no problem with line breaks. But in the meantime I needed to be stubborn.

You might ask why I stuck around this long. First off, I don't like change. If something's basically working, even if it's taking way too much effort to get it there, I find it preferable to keep it that way than to risk losing it. Also, I looked at some of the other blogging services and they seemed even worse. Blogger was at least letting me into the HTML for the page, letting me mess around as I saw fit. If Blogger hadn't given me as much freedom as it had to begin with, I'd never have aimed this high and we'd never be having these problems. Besides, even if I did find some other blogging service I'd need to either spend an RPG's-length rewriting every post one-by-one to fit into the new system (since so many are specifically designed for a visual look that comes from Blogger's template), or abandon all the old posts and start fresh. I don't like those options.

So I stay, and I keep hoping they won't screw me over too badly. It's not like I have any way to object to their changes- they must have millions of users, and I'm possibly the only one with these particular problems.

I woke up on February 22nd, one day after my birthday, and went to my blog to write the next post ("Meanwhile, in the future…"). I scrolled down, as I often do, and suddenly I reached the bottom of the page, which was Semantics, Part 3. Wait, what? That couldn't be right. I reloaded the page. No change. All that was appearing on the page was the past month-and-a-half of posts. I thought maybe it was an error made the last time it published. So I created a new post and then deleted it, to force a re-publish. No change. I desperately went through the settings pages, looking for something that may suddenly be wrong. The only thing I noticed was that same error message, about how I'm not allowed more than 500 posts. Could that be the problem? I paced around the room for a few minutes before proceeding. If I gave in on this, I'd never get the 999-post maximum back. But what if this was the problem, and only giving in would fix it? I'd still have a year or so of blogging left before having to start fresh. The important thing was that the old posts should be readable. So I changed the number from 999 to 500, and saved.

No change.

I hurried to the Blogger help group. It had always been supremely unhelpful in the past, but where else could I turn? I posted that I was no longer being allowed to control my blog's appearance, and I got a swift reply from a pompous jerk who (I later learned) had been posting an automated reply to similar threads all day. He said this was an example of Blogger's fantastic new Auto Pagination "feature", which decides for you how much will get put on your pages. To make matters worse, this even infects the archive pages. So on Blogger there's now no non-awkward way to get to the last few posts of January, because even that page stops at the gargantuan Semantics, Part 3! So this pompous jerk I mentioned, he tells me that this is for the good of everyone and refers me to some posts on his blog talking about how inconsiderate it is to make people wait for pages to load. Gee, thanks, that's so helpful! Who declared you the grand arbiter of what is and isn't acceptable behavior on blogs?!

(Whenever anyone asked how to get the archives to work right, he'd link to a post he wrote about how people still using the old system of Blogger are stuck in the past.)

I'm not the only one fed up with this. So it may be that this will be undone, like all the other changes over the years. But here's the thing: I changed the number of posts allowed from 999 to 500. That can't be undone. So let's say Blogger did change it back. Then what?

I decided, after much anguished deliberation, to go back to the way things were done in the 90s. No "blogging service". No "posts". No "comments". Just a big HTML page, that I edit with a text editor. That page is (Please note: the "M" needs to be capitalized. The server is on right now is case-sensitive.) When I want to write a new post, I'll copy a template into the file and edit it directly, in the same HTML file as everything else. And then I'll take the ten minutes it takes to upload the page to the FTP server.

I'm not going to spin this into something great. This is me running away. Blogger has done more good for me than harm over the years, and I'm throwing it all away because it's not enough for me. I demand control, and that control is being taken away from me. So I'm throwing away the comments, and I'm throwing away the individual post pages, and I'm throwing away the RSS feed, and I'm throwing away the handy post editor, and I'm throwing away the quick publishing, and I'm throwing away the post previews as I'm writing, and I'm probably throwing away a lot of other things that I'll only realize and miss when they're gone.

For now I'm still working within the framework of Blogger, because I don't have time right now to set everything up the way I want. So for now is literally copied-and-pasted from here. The last backup of the main page I made was back in September, so I added all the more recent posts to that file to recreate (as best I could on short notice) the main page as it existed a week ago. There are just seven more posts to part 2 (including this one, and two more 74s), and each one is going to be copied-and-pasted like all the others. After posting this to Blogger, It'll probably take me around twenty minutes to get it up on And if anyone comments, that'll need to be copied by hand too.

But that's temporary. In Part 3 that all changes.

I'll stop posting here entirely, and set everything up for myself so that I can post there reasonably quickly each time.

There will be a new RSS feed, one which I'll be writing by hand. It doesn't look so complicated to do that.

There will be no built-in commenting system. Yes, I know, that's the hardest part about leaving the Blogger format. I'll encourage readers to respond by e-mail, and if anyone does I'll make a post to respond to each letter. But realistically, I doubt anyone will ever write. No one ever comments on this blog anyway, no matter how convenient it is.

No new readers will ever come to the blog. New readers show up because there's something specific they're searching for on Google (usually "The Path interpretation", actually) that a specific blog post I wrote deals with. These people will not come to a page that takes a minute to load, where the post they're looking for is somewhere in the middle. Realistically, I don't think this matters too much. Almost no one who finds my blog that way ever sticks around past that first post.

This blog is for me. There it is right at the top of the page: "A blog for Mory." I've had six intros so far, and that's been in all of them. This blog isn't for random people looking for information, it's not for commenters, it's not for Blogger. It's for me, and if other people like it that's great but if any other people like it I suspect it'd be because I take everything on it so personally. So I'm going to continue to do what's right for... I mean, I'll do what's necessary for the blog to be... I'm just going to do what I do, I can't say it really makes sense.

This blog approves the change in location.

Thank you. But you know you're not...

Well. Thank you. I've got big plans for you still.



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Monday, February 22, 2010


Here's the situation in a nutshell. Blogger is preventing me from putting all my posts on one page, because now they've got a limit on how long you can make a page load. This is unacceptable to me. They may fix the situation within the next few days, in which case I'll continue to post here. If they do not, I'm going back to Web 1.0, where I can control my own site again without having to learn any advanced web development. Either way, this has demonstrated to me that I cannot rely on Blogger for the future. There will be a part 3 to the blog, I promise you that, but it won't be here.



Remind again why you so desperately want to make Firefox cry?

And we just talked about this, too...

I hope you find a good way to continue the blog properly. Any ideas yet?

I suppose you could always throw the html code onto a domain of your own, and then to make new posts you could still use blogger to generate the code.

Richie, there's no need to be so dramatic about it. In Firefox it took between 20 to 50 seconds to load the entire page, depending on the computer. Last week I wrote that 74 post that affected other posts (which is now inaccessible), and for a few hours after that the blog was broken and took a few minutes to load. If that's what you're basing this on, I apologize. I did mess up there. But it was only a few hours, and then I found and fixed the problem and it went back to the more reasonable load time that it was before.

Look, I don't see the problem. If you want to just see the most recent posts, they appear almost instantly. You only need to wait if you're interested in the earlier stuff, and if you're reading earlier posts chances are you've got at least a full minute to spare. The entire page all told was 3 MB; that's not huge.

But I'll answer your question straight. There is an aesthetic appeal, for me, in that everything I write here gets added to the whole page rather than taking away old things. It creates the impression that the entire blog is one cohesive document, which (as you'll see when I finish my epic) it is.

I like that someone could theoretically look at the post "Beauty of the Mundane, Banality of the Imaginary" with a vague sense that that phrasing sounds familiar, use the browser's search function (rather than Blogger's more useless one) to find the word "mundane" on the page, and be led right to the February 21 2005 post "the mundane and The Imaginary!" to see what I meant by making that reference.

I like that someone reading the second "Who am I?" might press the End key on the keyboard to find the original "Who am I?" and compare the two, to see what things I've saved and what things I've changed.

I like that someone who's curious about the ongoing themes and conflicts of the blog could move the cursor over the bold word "smile" in "Two Glasses: Tanya and Erika", see the title "GAME OVER" appear, and wondering what I meant by that find the phrase "GAME OVER" and see exactly why I'm identifying more with Tanya than with Erika.

A lot of the interconnectedness of this blog is subtle. But the fact that it's all on one page means that those subtexts are just a few keypresses away from being found by anyone. Which isn't to say that anyone will find that stuff, but the fact that anyone could is important to me. If you had to enter the phrase into the Blogger search field, and then you had to sift through dozens of entirely unrelated posts, and then might not even see the actual post being referenced because Blogger's search is really bad, then sticking in these little references all over the place would be like me telling a joke to myself. Making all the posts accessible from one page means that someone somewhere may get the joke someday.

Or to put it into a more conflict-focused perspective: The blog is seen as a very temporary art form. You say what you have to say today, then tomorrow you'll push it away and say something else. Because blogs can have any kind of content you can over time cover lots of different ground. But you're always dealing with it on a very shallow level, because tomorrow the old posts will go away and there will be new posts to replace them. I object to this perception of what blogs are capable of.

I think each new post should make the blog (as a whole) deeper. You can see this attitude going all the way back to the final "cadence" of Part 1, where I was referencing old posts word for word but adding in context which made those old posts richer. And you can see this attitude in how over years' time I've developed the fictional stories I've told involving Ariel and the future-people and the blog and all the others. And you'll see it in its clearest example in the post I've been working on, a post which would absolutely suffer for not being on the same page as everything else.

I think that answers your question.

Tamir: I'm thinking of putting the blog -more or less as it was a few days ago- onto I mean just recreating the HTML of the main page, and sticking it on there. Whenever I want to add a new post, I'll put it into that single HTML page manually and put a link in an RSS feed (also manually). I've basically been writing in raw HTML all this time anyway, so it wouldn't be such a stretch. Then I'd either have some external commenting system for each post, or a commenting system for the entire blog. I'm leaning more toward that idea, since it's so rare that anyone ever comments.

Now, setting this up will take time, so for the time being I'm still hoping Blogger will undo this change they've made. It's not entirely outside the realm of possibility, because there are many other people than just myself complaining about the new load-time policy. However, like I said in the post even if Blogger did reverse their decision I've come to realize I can't stay here any longer than the end of part 2. So the Web 1.0 solution is where I'm probably going to end up, and it's just a matter of whether I move a week from now or a year from now.


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Thursday, February 18, 2010

~Two Glasses: Tanya and Erika

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Two Glasses: Tanya and Erika

It's Thursday today. I woke up this morning and lied there for a good twenty minutes before reluctantly getting out of bed. I don't want to work. I want to skip this day, and get to the fun stuff after it. Games. Comics. Web browsing. Thursday is the only day that I have to care about my guilt at not working. I went to my computer and opened BlitzMax. The test I had made for incorporating zooming into a certain part of the game was broken, and I couldn't figure out why. So I threw it out and started over, this time copying what I'd done in The Perfect Color directly. It seemed to be working. Then I saw how much work I had ahead of me, and decided to take an early lunch. I'd get back to it later. I'll get back to it later.

so Tanya quit. From now on, when I think of Tanya my first thought isn't going to be that she had good creative instincts, or that I enjoyed working with her; my first thought is going to be that when she realized how much work needed to be done, she gave up.

I figured out that she was leaving from a letter she sent out. -------
I wanted to just give you guys a heads up. Firstly, it has been a joy working with such a great cast. A director often sits between the cast and the board. I tried to do what I could to meet the needs of both...
In its vague ramblings it sounded very much like a goodbye letter, but she seemed to have entirely forgotten to mention that she was saying goodbye. I responded: "In that entire letter, you never say what it is you're trying to say, you just walk around it. Tell me straight: are you being kicked out? If so, I may consider leaving the production." And I was serious, too. I expected that if Tanya was going, it was because she was too creative and someone had a problem with that. I expected that the next step would be to turn The Matchmaker into a more straightforward rendition with less crazy energies. That's how the world works, right?

Well, that's not what happened. When Rachel told us that Tanya had not been fired, I was very confused. It didn't help that she was being very diplomatic and didn't make it perfectly clear that this was entirely Tanya's decision. No, Rachel tried to take some of the blame herself for having "arguments" of a very vague nature with Tanya, and I was only too happy to keep the blame aimed in that direction. Rachel kept insisting that it would still be set in the 60s, that there weren't any creative disagreements at all in fact. I refused to believe that.

And then Tanya walked in. She'd accidentally gone to the wrong place, so she was a good twenty minutes late. This amused me: a few rehearsals earlier, I'd accidentally gone to the wrong place and needed Tanya to come pick me up. What did not amuse me was what came out of her mouth then. She sat down and started spinning the situation into something that sounded reasonable. "I don't want to create any more difficulties…" she said, not making it at all clear what difficulties she'd been making that surpassed the ones she was making right now. "In the best interests of the play…" she said, not making it at all clear how this was in anyone's best interests. "It would be best if I got out of the way…" she said, not making it at all clear whose way she was blocking.

She babbled on and on without actually saying anything at all, as though she was choosing her words very carefully. And here's the kicker: she was smiling through all of it. Not a phony smile employed to reassure, but the genuine smile of a person who's just had a great burden lifted from her back and is relieved to be free of it. The words were empty, but that smile told me the story.

Here is the story of Tanya's failure as I see it now. She had neither experience nor a work ethic, and she was allowed to run the play regardless because JEST thought her creative energy and instincts trumped those inadequacies. And they could have, if she had made the continual choice to face her own inadequacies head-on. But she wouldn't. For months the board of directors wanted her to cast a Cornelius, but she was in no rush so she never got around to it. The board of directors wanted her to get costumes, but she was in no rush so she never got around to it. The board of directors wanted her to impress upon the actors that they all needed to show up and rehearse together, but she was in no rush so she never got around to it. The board of directors wanted Tanya to do the job that she'd committed herself to do, and she refused. Tanya ran away to South Africa for a month. Then she came back and still wasn't in a rush. And the board of directors was as patient with her as they could reasonably be under the circumstances, but they did make it clear that she needed to get her act together. Tanya was not willing to get her act together, which is not a single act but a continuous series of actions leading all the way to the final performance day. So Tanya chose to quit, and get back to things that involved less guilt.

As we were working under Tanya, I saw myself reflected in her. True, she was too normal brain-wise. But she was figuring it out as she went, like me. And she was in over her head, like me. And she had no work ethic, like me. And she had so many crazy ideas, like me. That she quit tells me two things. First, that she is less like me than I thought, because I would never allow myself to abandon something I care about. Second, that she is more like me than I thought, because abandoning something I care about is exactly the sort of thing I might do. I want to forgive her. I want to never forgive her.

It turns out she was expendable. She was swiftly replaced with a woman named Erika. Like Tanya she's young and pretty, two qualities which influence my behavior around them more than I like to admit. Like Tanya she's creative and has good instincts. Unlike Tanya she knows exactly what she's doing. She has 18 years of experience and a PhD in theater. She keeps to a tight schedule. I first met her a week ago, and already we have all the roles cast, a rehearsal schedule going all the way through to performances, and preliminary sketches for costumes and set design. I don't have to say that I could never be like that. My newfound knowledge that such people exist who are both creative and professional is letting some much-unwanted light into my dark and cozy worldview.

She's making huge edits (like entire page-long monologues, and maybe a third of my lines) because she says that a comedy should never be longer than two hours including the fifteen minute intermission. She didn't like the age difference between Vandergelder and Dolly (He's three times her age.), so she tried switching the actress who's been playing Dolly (Maytal) with the actress who's been playing Mrs. Molloy (Eliana, the woman with ADD who I've mentioned before but not by name). We ran through the lines yesterday with this arrangement, and it worked great. We are keeping the 60s setting, and throwing out some other things that Tanya stuffed in but no one else liked. I am not getting my catchphrase "Holy cabooses!" back, because Erika agrees with Tanya that it's not appropriate for the time period.

Erika likes what I'm doing with Barnaby. That's a relief. She hasn't said much about Ambrose (Grr, normal people.), but I don't understand the character anymore. I had a very specific idea of who he was, which came from being on the same wavelength as Tanya. I looked at all the unconventional casting she'd done (including Maytal as Dolly), and the crazy ideas she had for what the play was supposed to be about, and fit together the little pieces we get of Ambrose into something that was different and interesting and had a part to play in everything she had in mind. This is why she eventually came around to telling me to do exactly what I wanted: because what I wanted was based on an expectation of where her ideas naturally led. And most of what she was telling the other actors to do was fitting in perfectly to what I was doing as well, in ways that I think I was the only one who noticed. But now it's a different director, a different actress I'm working with, a different vision for the play. That great feeling I had, that I was right in the middle of the emotions of the play, that's gone. Now I'm just Ambrose, more or less as he's written. I'm going to try to feel out the way in front of me, see how much of my idea of Ambrose I can preserve. But now it's not going to add too much to the play to do so.

But Barnaby's fine. Which is good, because that's the more important part. On Sunday I eagerly volunteered to be at the auditions for Cornelius and run the audition scenes with him, so Erika has seen the hunched shoulders and quirky movements and she says she likes it. So that's good. It means less work and more coasting. Less work is good.

You may have noticed that I've been doing some crazy things with the blog lately. This is because I'm working on the climax of Part 2. I planned out the final sequence of posts over a year ago, though this post here was never meant to be part of it. The reason I've held off on posting recently is not because I'm lazy, but because I've been working on the finale, the blog-post-to-end-all-blog-posts, the most ambitious thing I have ever done with this blog. After almost a month I'm still in the middle of the preliminary design phase. When I started, I laid out all the elements of the post on a big white page on my computer so that I could rearrange them into a coherent order. And then I looked at how much was there to be used, and in that moment I was suddenly overwhelmed with depression. My god, I said. What the hell have I gotten myself into?



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Wednesday, February 17, 2010


This post has no meaning except in the context of the main page.
Click here to see it on the main page.



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