A Suitable Blog

At a little over 590 thousand words and spanning 1,349 pages, Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy is almost-certainly among the top ten longest single-volume English-language novels. It’s pretty fucking huge.

A Suitable Boy, seen from the edge
I’ll stick with the Kindle edition: I fear that merely holding the paperback would be exhausting.

I only discovered A Suitable Boy this week (and haven’t read it – although there are some good reviews that give me an inclination to) when, on a whim, I decided to try to get a scale of how much I’d ever written on this blog and then decided I needed something tangible to use as a comparison. Because – give or take – that’s how much I’ve written here, too:

Graph showing cumulative words written on this blog, peaking at 593,457.
At 593,457 words, this blog wouldn’t fit into that book unless we printed it on the covers as well.

Of course, there’s some caveats that might make you feel that the total count should be lower:

  • It might include a few pieces of non-content code, here and there. I tried to strip them out for the calculation, but I wasn’t entirely successful.
  • It included some things which might be considered metadata, like image alt-text (on the other hand, sometimes I like to hide fun messages in my image alt-text, so perhaps they should be considered content).

On the other hand, there are a few reasons that it perhaps ought to be higher:

  • It doesn’t include any of the content “lost” during the July 2004 server failure, some of which (like this post about Orange) were later recovered but many of which (like this post about Christmas plans and upcoming exams) remain damaged. It also doesn’t include any of the lost content from the original 1998/1999 version of this blog, only the weird angsty-teen out-of-context surviving bits.
  • Post titles (which sometimes contain part of the content) and pages outside of blog posts are not included in the word count.
  • I’ve removed all pictures for the purpose of the word count. Tempting though it was to make each worth a thousand words, that’d amount to about another one and a half million words, which seemed a little excessive.
A delicious-looking BLT. Mmm, bacon.
Another reason for not counting images was that it was harder than you’d think to detect repeat use of images that I’ve used too many times. Like this one.

Of course, my blog doesn’t really have a plot like A Suitable Boy (might compare well to the even wordier Atlas Shrugged, though…): it’s a mixture of mostly autobiographical wittering interspersed with musings on technology and geekery and board games and magic and VR and stuff. I’m pretty sure that if I knew where my life would be now, 18 years ago (which is approximately when I first started blogging), I’d have, y’know, tried to tie it all together with an overarching theme and some character development or something.

Or perhaps throw in the odd plot twist or surprise: something with some drama to keep the reader occupied, rather than just using the web as a stream-of-conciousness diary of whatever it is I’m thinking about that week. I could mention, for example, that there’ll be another addition to our house later this year. You heard it here first (unless you already heard it from somewhere else first, in which case you heard it there first.)

Annabel sitting on her daddy's knee and looking at sonograph pictures of her future baby brother.
Brought up in a world of tiny, bright, UHD colour touchscreens, Annabel seemed slightly underwhelmed by the magic of a sonograph picture of her future baby brother.

Still: by the end of this post I’ll have hit a nice, easy-to-remember 594,000 words.

A New Look

Well, it’s been over a year since I last updated the look-and-feel of my blog, so it felt like it was time for a redesign. The last theme was made during a period that I was just recovering from a gloomy patch, and that was reflected the design: full of heavy, dark reds, blacks, and greys, and it’s well-overdue a new look!

The old Scatmania design: very serious-looking, and with dark, moody colours.
The old Scatmania design: very serious-looking, and with dark, moody colours.

I was also keen to update the site to in line with the ideas and technologies that are becoming more commonplace in web design, nowadays… as well as using it as a playground for some of the more-interesting CSS3 features!

The theme before last, with which this new design has elements in common: a big blue header, an off-white background, and sans-serif faces.
The theme before last, with which this new design has elements in common: a big blue header, an off-white background, and sans-serif faces.

Key features of the new look include:

  • A theme that uses strong colours in the footer and header, to “frame” the rest of the page content.
  • A responsive design that rescales dynamically all the way from a mobile phone screen through tablets, small 4:3 monitors, and widescreen ratios (try resizing your browser window!).
  • CSS transitions to produce Javascript-less dynamic effects: hover your cursor over the picture of me in the header to make me “hide”.
  • CSS “spriting” to reduce the number of concurrent downloads your browser has to make in order to see the content. All of the social media icons, for example, are one file, split back up again using background positioning. They’re like image maps, but a million times less 1990s.
  • Front page “feature” blocks to direct people to particular (tagged) areas of the site, dynamically-generated (from pre-made templates) based on what’s popular at any given time.
  • A re-arrangement of the controls and sections based on the most-popular use-cases of the site, according to visitor usage trends. For example, search has been made more-prominent, especially on the front page, the “next post”/”previous post” controls have been removed, and the “AddToAny” sharing tool has been tucked away at the very bottom.

[spb_message color=”alert-warning” width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”]Note that some of these features will only work in modern browsers, so Internet Explorer users might be out of luck![/spb_message]

As always, I’m keen to hear your feedback (yes, even from those of you who subscribe by RSS). So let me know what you think!

Remembering December 2003

For the first time in over seven years, I’ve recovered a handful more of my “lost” blog posts: articles that were written prior to the great server fuck-up of July 2004.

scatmania.org in August 2003, showing off the simplistic look it had before it was deleted.

Since then, I’ve kept regular backups. A lot of the old stuff is sometimes cringeworthy (in a “did I really used to be such a dick?” way), and I’m sure that someday I’ll look back at my blog posts from today, too, and find them shockingly un-representative of me in the future. That’s the nature of getting older.

Nostalgia's awesome, which I choose to represent with this photo of me and my parents on a hilltop somewhere. You have permission to "aww".

But it’s still important to me to keep all of this stuff. My blog is an extension to my diary: the public-facing side of what’s going on in my life. I back-link furiously, especially in the nostalgia-ridden “On This Day” series of blog posts I throw out once in a while.

If you remember my blog when it used to look like this, back in the late 1990s, then you've been following me than longer than most folks have been on the Web at all.

The blog posts I’ve newly recovered are:

Andy & Sian, the adorable couple who I declared "most surprising" of the new relationships to get underway late in 2003. The pair married in 2010.

So there you go: especially for you stalkers or those of you looking for a trip down memory lane – some links to what I was up to in December 2003.

For those of you who are really on a roll, here’s some further reading from the period: Kit, on the last Troma Night of the year; a religious argument that Alec kicked off (thanks, archive.org); Liz starting her first blog; Paul applies for a hardship loan;

Instead Of Blogging…

Things I’ve been doing instead of blogging, this last month, include:

  • Code Week: hacking Three Rings code in a converted hay loft of a Derbyshire farm, as mentioned on the Three Rings blog.
  • Hoghton Tower: as is traditional at this time of year (see blog posts from 2010, 2009, 2005, 2003, for example), went to Preston for the Hoghton Tower concert and fireworks display, accompanied by Ruth, and my sister’s 22nd birthday. My other sister has more to say about it.
  • Family Picnic: Joining Ruth and JTA at Ruth’s annual family picnic, among her billions of second-cousins and third-aunts.
  • New Earthwarming: Having a mini housewarming on New Earth, where I live with Ruth, JTA, and Paul. A surprising number of people came from surprisingly far away, and it was fascinating to see some really interesting networking being done by a mixture of local people (from our various different “circles” down here) and distant guests.
  • Bodleian Staff Summer Party: Yet another reason to love my new employer! The drinks and the hog roast (well, roast vegetable sandwiches and falafel wraps for me, but still delicious) would have won me over by themselves. The band was just a bonus. The ice cream van that turned up and started dispensing free 99s: that was all just icing on the already-fabulous cake.
  • TeachMeet: Giving a 2-minute nanopresentation at the first Oxford Libraries TeachMeet, entitled Your Password Sucks. A copy of my presentation (now with annotations to make up for the fact that you can’t hear me talking over it) has been uploaded to the website.
  • New Earth Games Night: Like Geek Night, but with folks local to us, here, some of whom might have been put off by being called “Geeks”, in that strange way that people sometimes do. Also, hanging out with the Oxford On Board folks, who do similar things on Monday nights in the pub nearest my office.
  • Meeting Oxford Nightline: Oxford University’s Nightline is just about the only Nightline in the British Isles to not be using Three Rings, and they’re right on my doorstep, so I’ve been meeting up with some of their folks in order to try to work out why. Maybe, some day, I’ll actually understand the answer to that question.
  • Alton Towers & Camping: Ruth and I decided to celebrate the 4th anniversary of us getting together with a trip to Alton Towers, where their new ride, Thirteen, is really quite good (but don’t read up on it: it’s best enjoyed spoiler-free!), and a camping trip in the Lake District, with an exhausting but fulfilling trek to the summit of Glaramara.
Setting up camp at Stonethwaite.

That’s quite a lot of stuff, even aside from the usual work/volunteering/etc. stuff that goes on in my life, so it’s little wonder that I’ve neglected to blog about it all. Of course, there’s a guilt-inspired downside to this approach, and that’s that one feels compelled to not blog about anything else until finishing writing about the first neglected thing, and so the problem snowballs.

So this quick summary, above? That’s sort-of a declaration of blogger-bankruptcy on these topics, so I can finally stop thinking “Hmm, can’t blog about X until I’ve written about Code Week!”

On This Day In 2003

Looking Back

On this day in 2003, I first launched this weblog! That means it’s eight years old today! I’d bought the scatmania.org domain name some time earlier with the intention of setting up a vanity site separately from my sub-site on the avangel.com domain, during a rush on cheap domain names perpetrated by some of the friends I’d lived with in Penbryn, but never found a significant use for it until this day. It was at about the same time that I first set up (the long-defunct) penbryn-hall.co.uk, a parody of Penbryn’s website launched as an April Fools joke against the hall, which eventually got me into some trouble with the management committee of the halls. Some friends and I had made it a tradition of ours to play pranks around the residence: our most famous one was probably 2003’s joke, in which we made a legitimate room inspection out to be an April Fools joke, with significant success.

scatmania.org in August 2003. The theme is simplistic, and the blog itself is powered by a custom-built PHP engine back-ending onto a stack of flat files. It worked, just about, but it wasn't great.

In my initial blog post, I took care to point out that this wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination my first foray into blogging. In actual fact, I’d run a weblog, The Åvatar Diary, for a few years back in college: a few fragments of this still exist and are archived here, too. I suppose that this means that, ignoring the occasional gap, I’ve been blogging for almost thirteen years. The Åvatar Diary died after an incident with a rather creepy stalker: remember that this was in 1999, back in the day when Creep Internet Stalkers were still new and exciting, and I panicked slightly and shut the Diary down after my stalker turned up in person somewhere that I’d hinted that I might be in a post.

I didn’t mention the new site launch, to begin with, hoping that folks might just “pick up on it” having re-appeared (I’d been promising to launch something at that domain for ages). Later, I launched Abnib, in an attempt to unite the LiveJournal users with whom I associated with those of us who hosted our own blogs. Abnib still runs, after a fashion, although I’m likely to let it die a natural death as soon as it wants to.

scatmania.org in November 2005. The site looked a lot more professional by now, and was beginning to sport the thick blue header that was it's hallmark all the way up to 2010.

Looking Forward

So here I am, eight years later, still blogging on the same domain. The frequency with which I write has waxed and waned over the years, but I still find that it’s just about the best way for me to keep in touch with my friends and to keep them posted about what’s going on in my life: it’s unintrusive and can be dipped in and out of, it’s accessible to everybody, and – because I host it on my own domain – it’s under my control. That’s a million points in its favour over, say, Facebook, and it’s nice to know that it’ll exist for exactly as long as I want it to.

A recent screenshot of scatmania.org. Whoah: this has all gone a bit recursive.

It also provides a great “starting point” by which people find me. Google for me by name or by many of the aliases I go by and you’ll find this site, which I think is just great: if people are trying to find me online I’m happiest knowing that the first pages they’ll get to are pages that I control, and on which I write what I want to: I’ll bet U.S. Senator Rick Santorum wishes that he had that.

I enjoy blogging about geeky stuff that interests me, things that are going on in my life, and my ocassional and random thoughts about life, the universe, and everything (with a particular focus on technology and relationships). It’s put me in contact with some strange people – from pizza delivery guys who used to bring me food on Troma Nights back in Aber to crazy Internet stalkers and confused Indian programmers – and it’s helped me keep in touch with the people closest to me. And because I’m a nostalgic beast, as this and similar posts show, it’s a great excuse to back-link my way down memory lane from time to time, too.

This blog post is part of the On This Day series, in which Dan periodically looks back on years gone by.

Abnib Lives On

Okay, okay, I get it!

After my blog post a few days ago about the imminent death of the oft-neglected Abnib, I received a surge of complaints by IM, email, and comments. It turns out that a higher-than-expected number of you are actually using the site on a daily basis.

So I’ve extended its life by a further two years, at least. I’ve also done some quick hacking to put together a new, more-maintainable framework for it. I give to you all: Abnib 7.0!

Abnib 7.0. It's survived being shot in the head twice now, so we can be sure that it's not a zombie.

Features not in 6.0 but now present include:

  • Easier to maintain; so when new blogs appear or old ones disappear, there’s a chance that it’ll be kept up-to-date.
  • Really ugly new skin thrown together in a few minutes.
  • Combined RSS and OPML feeds, to make it easy for you to switch to a better aggregator, as I assumed you all already had.
  • It’s a little faster to update itself and a lot faster to use.
  • Abnib Tweets, for those of you who are of the twittering persuasion. I’m not, so if there’s anybody I’ve missed you’ll have to let me know.
  • Abnib Rockmonkey – a random daily snippet from the long-dead Rockmonkey wiki.
  • Abnib Chat, the return of the abandoned chat room. Hey; if people still want Abnib, maybe they still want this, too… but I shan’t hold my breath! And no, the old Rockmokney bot, Iggy, isn’t there, so there’ll be no random cries of “Surfboard!” unless you bring them yourself.

Update: Wow. So far the chat room’s seen Matt R, Ruth, Bryn, Claire and me. Just not at the same time. It’s just like old times (although Iggy, who I just reinstated, is yet to say “surfboard” even once…)

New Look, New Protocols

Oh yeah: I changed the look-and-feel of scatmania.org the other week, in case you hadn’t noticed. It’s become a sort-of-traditional January activity for me, these years, to redesign the theme of my blog at this point in the year.

This year’s colours are black, white, greys, and red, and you’ll note also that serifed fonts are centre-stage again, appearing pretty-much-universally throughout the site for the first time since 2004. Yes, I know that it’s heavier and darker than previous versions of the site: but it’s been getting fluffier and lighter year on year for ages, now, and I thought it was time to take a turn. You know: like the economy did.

This site as it appeared in 2010. All those bright blues are far too invigorating: time for some nice, sombre, serious colours.

Aside from other cosmetic changes, it’s also now written using several of the new technologies of HTML5 (I may put the shiny new logo on it, at some point). So apologies to those of you running archaic and non-standards-compliant browsers (I’m looking at you, Internet Explorer 6 users) if it doesn’t look quite right, but really: when your browser is more than half as old as the web itself, it’s time to upgrade.

I’ve also got my site running over IPv6 – the next generation Internet protocol – for those of you who care about those sorts of things. If you don’t know why IPv6 is important and “a big thing”, then here’s a simple explanation. Right now you’re probably viewing the IPv4 version: but if you’re using an IPv6-capable Internet connection, you might be viewing the IPv6 version. You’re not missing out, either way: the site looks identical: but this is just my tiny contribution towards building the Internet of tomorrow.

(if you really want to, you can go to ipv6.scatmania.org to see the IPv6 version – but it’ll only work if your Internet Service Provider is on the ball and has set you up with an IPv6 address!)

Thursday Afternoon

Good progress at work today, easily catching up on the things I didn’t get done yesterday on account of having been at the Royal Welsh Show.

AbNib is proving itself popular, but I’m still not happy with it: there are a load of really cool features I’d like to add, yet. But that’s a job for another day. I’ll be up in Lancashire this weekend for Andy‘s party and to visit my folks, so I can’t do it then, either.

Claire’s gotten herself temporarily sterilized with a fantastic hyperdermic full of progesterone and with the aid of the nice people at Aberystwyth Family Planning Clinic. Woo and indeed hoo. She’s (theoretically) a lot less likely to forget to have an injection every three months than she is to forget to take the pill: something she’s demonstrated herself to be very proficient at.

I’ve been excessivley stressed for the last 48 or so hours. I think it’s mostly a result of having no money and my paycheque still being a week away, and having to live off my credit card in the meantime (which I don’t like doing). Also that my crisp-wound in my mouth from the other day has developed into a spot which would probably heal faster and hurt less if I could stop playing with it, but I can’t. And that I’m not making nearly as much coding progress on Three Rings as I should be.

I have a strange urge to go for a long walk in the rain this evening. I hope it rains.

AbNib

I’m almost ready to launch AbNib (main site may be down during development, but try the temporary mirror), a site dedicated to the weblogs of Aberites: people who live in or love Aberystwyth.

There are some funky new and cool features to come. But this is a weblog-community in the making.

Rock on.

Uninteresting Blogging

I really hate uninteresting blogs. The kind which consists of a single entry every week or two, and every time it states “Sorry I haven’t made any updates recently. (insert excuse here) I’ve not been up to much recently anyway.” Every week! Sad but true.

That rant aside, here’s a fantastic example of exactly what I’m talking about.

Thoughts Of Tuesday

Cycling home last night I realised once again quite what a happy bunny I am. I enjoy my job, for which I am paid very reasonabley. I live in a town that I love, and I’m surrounded by good friends. And, above all else, I have the love of a beautiful woman whom I love and adore with all my heart. When I got home, I told Kit, Bryn and Paul (who were already at my house, playing Super Monkey Ball 2) quite what a happy little creature I was. They didn’t seem particularly impressed.

Kit continues to get better at Super Monkey Ball 2. He kicked my arse at Monkey Target 2, in which the aim is to land gliders on small targets at sea, at least as much as I beat him. Might need to get some Super Monkey Practice in.

Andy’s latest journal entry is wierd as ever. Slightly trippy, but inspirational nonetheless. I have a thought for a similar tale of my own, published to this site, but with an interesting twist upon the typical “serial story” theme. If I can be arsed I’ll make it happen. No promises. I have lots of other stuff to be getting on with.

This morning, picked up our insurance report from Daton Systems, who I’ve given a link because they didn’t charge me for the priviledge. This report claims that the laptop is a write-off, which lets us stop the insurance company bugging us about having claimed it as such and bought a new one without any evidence.

Better get some work done, now, I guess.

Paul In Aber

Paul made it to Aber. Woo and indeed hoo. He, Bryn, Kit, Claire, and I went to the beach and drank beer and ate pizza to celebrate. Then Claire and I took turns in an inflatable dingy and I got soaked as a wave leapt over the side. You’ll probably see their reports of this on their journals, soon, too.

The wiki I was coding got finished. Sadly, only a few of you who read this will ever be allowed to see it, but it’s pretty sweet.

Plothole appeared in the story on Andy’s LiveJournal – he has me drinking tea, which, as everybody knows, isn’t going to happen on account of (a) caffiene being a really, really bad thing for me and (b) I don’t particularly like tea. Have reported this to him and await feedback.

This made me laugh: type Weapons of Mass Destruction into Google and you’ll get this page. I laughed lots.

LiveJournals

Many of my friends here in Aber seem to have thier own weblogs on LiveJournal. I’m almost tempted to download the (open) source of LJ and set up AberJournal, a site for Aberites to post thier journals to. Could be cool.

On which note, please go see:

This particular entry in Andy’s journal, on account of it being hilarious, and,
Strokey Adam’s new journal – he’s just gotten one for the first time.

I’ve just woken up, and I’d better go to work.

Secret Site Launch

Happy with my new weblog, I’m launching it now. And, just out of curiosity, I’m not going to tell anybody about it, and see how long it takes people to notice.

Yes; I really am ‘just odd like that’.

Anyway – that’s enough goofing around on the internet at work for me… I’m off to goof around on the internet at home, interrupted only by a pint with Claire, Kit and Bryn, and a look at Kit’s newly-cleaned fish tanks. What an exciting life I lead.

Scatmania Launched

Well; I finally did it. I finally got myself a weblog. After weeks of peer pressure by such friends as Paul, Alec, and Kit with their shiny LiveJournals, I decided to have one of my own.

Just to remind anybody who doesn’t already know that this isn’t, technically, my first weblog. My first one ran from 1998 to 1999 – before the term ‘blog’ was coined, and before it became fashionable to ramble on about yourself online. The “Avatar Diary”, on my old, old web site, was a source of perpetual interest from all kinds of people for some time. Well; until I got a scary cyberstalker (really, it scared me, and very little does), and then I packed it in.

I suppose now I’d better get something more productive done. I’m not getting paid for this.