Monday, May 22, 2006

Meta Meta Matamata

This post is actually about a couple of metablog tidbits, but that's not a topic that generates a lot of images, and I haven't done any cute animal stuff for a while, so first let's do a bit of that. Allow me to present the matamata (Chelus fimbriatus), a very unusual turtle from South America. Ok, you could probably argue I still haven't done any cute animal stuff for a while. But it's a turtle, and turtles are great. Ok, most turtles. I'm not so sure about alligator snapping turtles. They scare me a little.

Also, there are exactly two towns on the planet named Matamata. It so happens that the Matamata in New Zealand was the site of Hobbiton in the LOTR films (something the tourists just go nuts for), while the Tunisian Matamata is where a lot of the Tatooine footage in the Star Wars movies was filmed. If you'd like to attract a successful major film production to your fair city, your best bet is to rename the place "Matamata". They're 2 for 2 so far, after all.

And now, after that brief foray into the real world, we come to the "Meta Meta" stuff, by which I mean blogging about blogging. So you can stop here if you don't care about that sort of navel-gazing. I mean, assuming you've even gotten this far. (FWIW I promise to at least not post any candid photos of navel lint. Because that would be wrong.)

  • You might have noticed that the contents of the right sidebar have evolved over time, with more links appearing under various headings, and a variety of odds and ends accumulating under "Blogospherica". The latest bit of Blogospherica is a link to Bloglines. I'd had several people show up here as a result of Bloglines searches, so I figured I'd go check it out. Besides the RSS reading stuff, Bloglines also gives you a freebie, bare-bones "blog", which doesn't even support user comments. I don't see myself doing a lot with it, since I've already got this ultra-featureful Blogger blog here, but the other blog lives at cyclotram2, in case you care, and I doubt you do. The blog page also has links to a variety of other feeds I have a hand in generating: Flickr spits out RSS for your photos, and YouTube spits out another for videos. And then exports your bookmarks as RSS too. I doubt any of these are worth subscribing to, but tinkering with RSS is mildly entertaining for the moment, so I'm doing it.
  • Actually the Bloglines thing is why this blog's Sitemeter (you know, this thing: ) is cranking like mad today. And sadly, it's not because I'm getting a lot of "genuine" visitors. No such luck. I wanted to see if anyone was ever visiting cyclotram2, and it seemed that the logical, well, only place to put the meter was in the blog description, since you don't get an editable template or anything over there. Little did I realize that c2 would show up today on Bloglines' "New Blogs" page, description line and all. So I'm getting "hits" from everyone who visits that page, which is not at all what I had in mind. I've pulled the thing back out of the blog description, but I think Bloglines is using a cached copy or something, because the hits just keep on coming. So I think I'm in for 24 hours or so of this. Gaaaaah!!!!
  • My web dev skills are vastly out of date, and I'm trying to catch up. Quite a few years ago I decided I wanted to deal in compiled, "real" code for a living, and tuned out the world of HTML. I figured that if I knew too much about it, sooner or later I'd get roped into doing it, and I really wanted to avoid that. That strategy actually worked pretty well, but now I feel like a real old-timer. So I bought a book today to help figure out this newfangled world of cascading style sheets and whatnot. Observant Gentle Reader(s) may have noticed that items in this list are denoted with squares instead of circles. Behold the majesty of CSS, puny mortal.
  • You might've also noticed I've been slowly tweaking the template for this blog. Most recently the background went black, and some parts of the blog lost their rounded corners. The black is because I liked it better, while the square corners are because the base template I'm using relies on a fixed-size image file to do those. I shrank the margins a few weeks back, and that threw the rounded corners off. It was easier to just get rid of them than it would've been to create a rounded-corner graphic matching my preferred page width. So now you know.
  • My Javascript isn't what it could be, either. I learned a little of it early on, and then learned a bit of VBScript later on, but I haven't messed with it in years. When I did that recent (and remarkably popular) post about ponies, I tried to set up a button or buttons to toggle the page's background color between black and pink, but I couldn't figure it out. I might not have cared much before, but I hate being thwarted by a seemingly-simple coding problem. I'm quite willing to accept that it simply isn't possible, but if that's the case, I'd like to at least know why.
  • My first real foray into web tinkering was also one of my first-ever C programs. This was back in the day of Netscape 0.9x, and support for bookmarks was still broken at the time. I'd gotten into the habit of cutting and pasting urls into an open Notepad window, and I eventualy wrote a little command line program to convert these text files into html. It seemed so complicated at the time. I even did a bunch of work to support the supposedly upcoming HTML 3.0 standard, which would include a ton of new tags for formatting mathematical expressions and so forth. I remember thinking they were really going to the mat to support a fairly esoteric set of new features, and I guess people must've realized I was right, because 3.0 never made it past the draft stage. That sort of took the wind out of my sails, because I'd done a fair bit of work (I thought) to support the new standard, and combined with the debut of functioning Netscape bookmarks, this spelled the end of my cheesy little program.
  • My main complaint right now is that I don't want to have to re-edit my blog template every time I want to add or remove a link to something. Surely there's got to be a way to host my links sections somewhere, and just pull them in when the page loads, like my list of recent postings. Surely there's got to be a simple, and probably RSS-based, way to do this, though it seems like everyone's only interested in getting items in chronological order, not pre-categorized or structured as a tree or whatever. I mean, I'm not actually losing sleep over it, but it'd be nice, so I'll get around to it sooner or later.

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