Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Category: blogging (page 1 of 5)

Posts about blogging, WordPress and other wonders of the web

Taptaptap… Hello? Is This Thing Still On?

Barton Springs 2007

I guess so. As with my last accidental hiatus back in 2008, my site was hacked while I was away. This was due to not upgrading WordPress just like last time. I’ve done that now and have made some decisions for simplicity’s sake.

First off, I’ve switched over to a minimally modified version of one of the WordPress out-of-the-box themes. This will keep it updated and therefore more secure since I don’t have time to constantly update my old homemade theme to account for changes in php calls and theme functions. Plus, it was starting to look a bit jacked up so Coyote Mercury is now wearing Twenty Ten, which is what I’ve been using at a gnarled oak for 2 years now, and I rather like it.

Speaking of a gnarled oak, I’m closing it up. Not because I’m done with micropoetry but because maintaining two blogs just isn’t sustainable for me. Call it downsizing, but at least there were no layoffs. The entire gnarled oak staff is now here at Coyote Mercury. I posted my micros here during NaPoWriMo, and I liked how they fit in with everything so I’ve made it permanent. I’ll keep the old site up but unmaintained for the most part. If you’ve been reading there, thanks, I hope you’ll visit here and if you’re only interested in my micro poems, here’s the category link for my small stones and the small stones category RSS for subscribing to just that feed, though I hope you’ll consider subscribing to the main feed.

I’ve also updated the publications pages and created a book page with links to info and reviews about my books including Birds Nobody Loves, which now has its own page with both videos and links to all reviews.

Now, let’s see if I can get around to doing some more blogging.

Plunging Back into the River of Stones

I saw this video Beth Adams posted at Cassandra Pages a month or so ago and keep coming back to it as I start off on another River of Stones challenge. I began 2011 the same way and resolved to maintain the daily practice for a full year, at least. I made it to August 23 and then… school started, I ran out of ways to say the drought was slowly killing my state, it was too hot and the air too full of smoke and ash to want to go outside. Other things to do, and then, the world just went right on. It started raining (not enough, but it did) the weather cooled, I started sleeping again and then the year was at its end.

For the previous two years I’ve picked some favorite stones and made them into a chapbook to give away, but there wasn’t one for 2011. I just didn’t have time, couldn’t make the time (but mark did and he said his lovely Postmarks chap was partially inspired by my gnarled oaks) and then… I don’t know, I just wound up feeling like I’d let go of something important that I hadn’t meant to let slip and that was the practice of seeing, paying attention, and then recording my observations. I don’t know if it makes me a better writer to do this, I suppose it does, but I do think it makes me a better, or perhaps, more thoughtful person. As I’ve done before here, I paraphrase Pirsig in Motorcycle Maintenance: you are the cycle you’re working on. Writing stones isn’t about the writing, it’s about growing by connecting with a world spinning so fast as to seem out of control.

We have bags of clothes our six-month-old has outgrown. When we went to buy him some new clothes, we were shocked by how small all the three-month-old clothes were. Was he ever really that small? Where did the time go and how on earth did it disappear so quickly. It was only just July.

So, marking time, reflecting on it and slowing it and me down enough to really reside for a few moments in its stream… those are good reasons to start afresh observing and writing stones. As the video above reminds us each year is a collection of days, each kind of the same but passing quickly, sometimes too fast for the eye to take much of it beyond the larger picture. Thus the beauty, the importance, of small stones and the kind of awareness they engender when we set out to really pay attention.

Thanks, Fiona and Kaspa, for the river. I’m eager to dive back in.

I post my stones at my other blog, a gnarled oak. Please stop by and hopefully I’ll make it beyond August 23 this time out.

Now We Are Six

This blog turns six today. Much has changed in that time, especially in the past few months as I’ve become a dad and find less time for writing. A lot of things in life suddenly seem to… I don’t know… shine?… in new ways. Everything I do and see comes filtered through this peculiar prism. Shine isn’t quite right, though because there’s murkiness too, flowers lit by starlight. An opaque shining, if such a thing can be, because it’s a matter of depth too. There are layers to every decision, every action, and every thing I see or read about that weren’t there before. The recent death of a good friend, a news story about a child abduction, species sliding toward extinction, this infernal drought.

And so I’m not always quite sure what to write or even think about these things. The world is strange and different now, and that is wonderful for someone like me who likes a healthy dose of the unknown out there in front of me. But as much as there is to process and contemplate, I find on most days that I’d rather sit around and play with my almost four-month-old son than sit in front of the computer trying to make sense of it all. Maybe sense shouldn’t be made, at least not yet.

Since the little guy was born, we’ve had to rethink every aspect of how we do even the most mundane things. Not why we do them but the actual mechanics of getting out the door to go to a restaurant or over to someone’s house. The dishes or dinner. I used to buy corn tortillas and fry my own taco shells, now they come from a box. Finding time to read or write is trickier than ever. Still, I’m a writer and a writer’s gotta write. Right? (Ouch, couldn’t resist).

That’s still there, then, albeit slightly submerged and waiting to be fished out. Perhaps that’s why I find myself writing more these days on scraps of paper and in the notes app on my phone, but lately, I’ve been wanting to get back into writing and photography and posting more regularly. I still have this love affair with blogging, I guess, and I miss it even if blogging feels more and more like a transitional moment, the CD step between analog and mp3.

Now, at six, I’m hoping to get back to posting more regularly, at some point if not right away. This blog has opened too many doors and led me to too many interesting people and places, so I’m not done even if I may have been a little quieter of late. So, thanks for reading, you happy few who come ‘round here still. As always, I do appreciate it.

5

Five years ago today I began this little blog over on Blogger. Prior to installing WordPress, this was a static site I’d started back in 2003 where I occasionally posted short stories and poems, all hand-coded html, so Coyote Mercury has actually been around for 7 years, but the first post went up 5 years ago today.

It’s interesting to me how the site has taken shape and changed over the years and how it’s really become an important part of my writing practice. What I originally thought might be just a lark or a quick experiment somehow became more than that.

I’m all ragweeded out after a great ACL Fest (post forthcoming), so for today, I’ll just say thanks to everyone who has ever come around here to read, comment or link. I do appreciate it.

The Information Hike-and-Bike Trail

I’ve been thinking about blogging and the web lately. It seems quieter out here in blogland. Many of the blogs I read a long time ago have gone silent, just floating on the web like so much dotsam and netsam.

It sometimes seems there are fewer people just hanging around, clicking through from somewhere else or just exploring. Maybe we know this civilized web too well. The blogosphere isn’t the hip corner of the net it once was. It’s starting to feel more like a village after many of its inhabitants have urbanized and moved to the city.

I’m told that the web is moving to apps. That Twitter and Facebook won since they’re so phone friendly. I’ve experimented with Twitter and Facebook and Identi.ca over the past year. Of the three, Identi.ca was the most interesting. I suspect that has to do with its user base: creative types and tech-oriented people. Less of a feeling that you were being watched by corporations trying to figure out how to synergize e-business web-readiness (or even synergize backward overflow) and take over the whole thing.

Twitter is too much. Too much signal. Too much noise. I’m a teacher. I don’t have the kind of job where I can watch a fast-changing Twitter feed stream by, jumping in to offer my two cents and a hashtag before it all disappears. Perhaps I would like it if I had a cubicle job, but it’s just not something I’m able to keep up with. I feel like the guy in Shawshank Redemption who says the world just got itself in a big damn hurry.

Facebook is a little more interesting. I know that most of the people I know in the real world don’t come around my site much anymore, but I send the feed to Facebook and those who are interested read it there but as with Twitter, Facebook is something I’m not able to do at work (which is where I would bet most people do their social media thing). When I get home, I’m usually not interested as I’d rather spend my time writing something with a little more substance for my blog. A good blog post makes me feel good. Twitter and Facebook make me feel empty, like I’m faking my way through friendship and social interaction.

I’ve considered killing off my Facebook and Twitter accounts, but then there’s a voice in my head. It’s an old guy and he lived early in the twentieth century. He says, “Telephones! I hate them damn things. I’m getting rid of mine. It’s just a fad anyway.”

I don’t want to be the guy without a phone wondering why no one calls.

Still, I find the whole thing a little sad. What does it say about us as a culture when we so easily and willingly reject longer-form writing and leave the free open space of the wild internet to hunker down in Facebook and other walled gardens? I guess it’s the same thing Huck Finn was running from, those civilized faux Edens where Aunt Polly kept things orderly, decent and boring.

Keeping a blog these days makes me feel I’ve ridden out on the information superhighway but got off early and headed for the hills, jumped on the information hike-and-bike trail as it were.

I’m watching a train pull away, speeding ever faster toward short bursts of superficial contact. “I’ll call or text or tweet you,” the passengers say as they wave goodbye to the old curmudgeon still hanging out in the sticks. “Stay in touch.”

“Don’t worry,” I yell back. “I’ll write.”

If you’re interested, I am still on Twitter and Identi.ca. I’m on Facebook too, but I only accept friend requests from people I know or e-know.

How to Move WordPress & Change the URL

When I decided to move Coyote Mercury to a new host, I figured I’d take the opportunity to make a slight change in the URL. When I started blogging almost five years ago, I already had Coyote Mercury running as a static site and installed WordPress in a sub-directory, which made the URL coyotemercury.com/blog1. Eventually, the blog became the whole of the site and when I decided to change hosts, I wanted to get rid of that /blog1. It wasn’t a big deal and I could have lived with it, but what I really enjoy is the puzzle of solving problems I create for myself and this looked like a perfect opportunity to do just that.

The main issues would be making sure that all those links from all those other bloggers who’ve been kind enough to link to my site would redirect to the correct pages as well as all of my internal links. I also needed to make sure that the /blog1 rss feed would redirect. What follows is mainly a summary of what I learned and where on the web I found what I needed for anyone attempting a similar move.

Moving My Blog to a New Host & Changing the URL

1. Before doing anything, I used the WordPress export tool to download my WP database to my computer as an XML file. I then FTP’d all my files from my old host to my hard drive, making sure to maintain the exact file structure as it appeared at my old site.

I decided I wanted a clean install of WordPress along with a clean database to start with. There were some things that didn’t work at my old site like pingbacks and my old host didn’t allow the use of .htaccess so I wanted to make sure that everything was installed in such a way as to work well at Bluehost.

2. Bluehost has a one-click WordPress installer and so I used that to start with, installing WordPress in the root directory. Once that was done, I went into cPanel, found the file manager, deleted the new wp-content folder, and uploaded my old wp-content folder (which contains all the plugins, themes and uploads) into the root directory.

3. At this point I had a temporary URL and so I logged into my new WordPress install, went to tools and imported that XML file from step 1. Foolishly, I did not check the box that asks if you want to import and upload attachments. This would come back to haunt me, but I would eventually figure out how to fix it.

4. Once all my posts were imported, I opened up my blog’s dashboard both at my old host and on my new host (where it was running on a temporary URL) and went through each screen to make sure that all my plugins and options were configured the same way. The only difference was on the General Settings page where the WordPress address and the site address on the Bluehost installation were the temporary URL.

This is also wheb I discovered that the media library was empty even though the files were all in the right place. It was a result of the mistake I made in step 3. Keep reading to learn how I fixed it.

5. The next step required me to venture into phpmyadmin and make some changes to my database so that WordPress would function on my URL rather than the temporary URL supplied by BlueHost.

(Disclaimer: If you’re using this post as a guide to moving your own WordPress, please be very very careful with phpmyadmin. Your database is your blog’s memory and it is very easy to perform a lobotomy if you’re not careful. Check your spelling. There is no undo in phpmyadmin. I am not responsible for your site’s database if you try any of this and it doesn’t work for you.)

Using phpmyadmin, I ran the following SQL command, which is based on what I found at My Digital Life:

UPDATE wp_options SET option_value = replace(option_value, 'http://temporary-domain.com', 'http://actual-domain.com') WHERE option_name = 'home' OR option_name = 'siteurl';

If I had decided to maintain the coyotemercury.com/blog1 URL, I would basically be finished. All I would need to do now would be to point the domain name servers from my old host to my new host, but because I was changing the URL, I would need to run a couple more SQL commands in phpmyadmin, both of which came from My Digital Life, where you can find more detailed explanations about the whys and wherefores of all this.

The next SQL command would change the URLs of all my old posts and pages so as to get rid of the /blog1:

UPDATE wp_posts SET guid = replace(guid, 'http://old-domain.com','http://new-domain.com');

The final SQL command rewrote all of my internal links so that they would still point to the correct posts:

UPDATE wp_posts SET post_content = replace(post_content, 'http://old-domain.com', 'http://new-domain.com');

6. Once I was finished running these commands, I logged into my old host’s control panel and pointed the name servers toward Bluehost and waited. For a few minutes nothing worked, then everything was jacked up and then… my site looked right. The images were there. The internal links were correctly rewritten, things looked right. Now, it was time to redirect inbound links.

Redirecting Inbound Links

7. The next thing to do was to make sure that all inbound links still went to the right place. I put a /blog1 subdirectory in the root folder and then used the text editor to write a simple note indicating that the site had moved. I saved it as index.php and put in in the /blog1 folder in case my redirects didn’t work.

8. Permanent (301) Redirects are properly done using .htaccess, which is completely new to me. I read a lot about it at Codeleet, Cats Who Code, and Expression Web, where I learned that Bluehost has a nice redirect feature in cPanel that writes and inserts the .htaccess code for you. I did that and it worked well. I went to a few sites that had links pointing to some of my posts and pages, including the home page, tested them out and it all seemed to work.

Redirecting the RSS Feed

9. Redirecting the RSS feed from /blog1/feed/ was a bit more challenging. I used the redirect feature in cPanel, but it didn’t redirect the feed. This could be a problem since many of my regular readers seem to come via the feed. Without a redirected feed, they might not realize I had moved. I did some research at Cats Who Code, Nanny Goats in Panties, RSS Advisory Board, Advertising Age, Radio Userland, and  The RSS Blog where I found the code for an XML level redirect.

I added a sub-directory into my mostly empty /blog1 folder and called it /feed. Then I opened my text editor and pasted the following code from The RSS Blog (with http://domain.com/feed/ changed to reflect the address of my new feed):

<?xml version="1.0" ?>
<redirect>
<newlocation>http://domain.com/feed/</newlocation>
</redirect>

I saved this file as index.php and uploaded it to /blog1/feed/ and my feed started redirecting.

I’m not sure why, but it seems there needs to be both redirection code in the .htaccess file and an active file from which to redirect.

Making the Media Library Work

10. Like I said back in Step 3, I forgot to tell WordPress to import the attachments from the XML file I had exported in Step 1. The result was that while images displayed in posts, the media library appeared to be empty and when I clicked on images, I got 404 errors instead of attachment pages. After doing some research, I learned that the attachment pages were kept along with posts and pages in the wp_posts table of the database.

To fix things, I went back to phpmyadmin at my old host and exported the wp_posts table to my hard drive as an SQL file. Then, I went to phpmyadmin at Bluehost, dropped (which means deleted) the wp_posts table and then imported the wp_posts SQL file to my new host. Since I had now undone some of what I had done earlier, I had to re-run those last 2 SQL commands in Step 5.

Now, the media library was populated and the attachment pages worked, except where thumbnail images were involved. Wherever thumbnails appeared such as on galleries, they were displaying at full size. I checked to see that the thumbnails were in fact on the server (they were) and then began researching which part of the database contained the info that connected the thumbnails to the attachment pages. Turns out that was in the wp_postmeta table.

11. I went back to phpmyadmin at my old host and exported wp_postmeta as an SQL file to my computer. Then, I went to phpmyadmin at my new host, dropped wp_postmeta and imported the wp_postmeta SQL file from my computer.

Now, I had to run one more SQL command, this one of my own creation, but based on the ones I ran in Step 5:

UPDATE wp_postmeta SET meta_value = replace(meta_value, '/blog1/wp-content', '/wp-content');

And, it worked. For me. Be careful if you try this yourself since your blog may have a different file structure. If it does and you try this, you could damage your database. Of course if that happens you can always go back to Step 1, start over and remember to check that box about importing the media library.

And now I’m done and looking forward to getting back to blogging.

Coyote Mercury Has Moved (But Not Far)

I’ve changed to a new host and in the process decided to change my URL by dropping the /blog1, which I’ve never cared for. Hopefully, I’ve done this in such a way that inbound links will redirect as should the rss feed. We’ll see. Things might be a bit wonky over here while I get settled in.

Here’s the new URL for those inclined to update your blogrolls: http://coyotemercury.com/

and for those using feed readers, here’s the new rss url: http://coyotemercury.com/feed/

It will take 24-72 hours for the changes to propagate across the internet so hopefully things will be working by the weekend.

Let me know if you notice anything jacked up around here. I appreciate it. Thanks.

I’m Interviewed over at Lonestarters

Most Wednesdays, Matthew over at Lonestarters posts an interview with a different Austin blogger. He recently asked me to respond to some questions and today, you can read my responses. The questions were really interesting and got me thinking about this whole blogging thing I’ve been doing these past few years as well as the history of Coyote Mercury—how I started and how it’s changed—as well as about writing in general. Go read it and while you’re there have a look around. Matthew is new to Austin and Lonestarters is the ongoing tale of his adventures of discovery within this wonderful town and it’s good stuff all around. Go say hi (or howdy).

I and the Bird # 126: Call for Submissions

I’ll be hosting the 126th edition of the blog carnival I and the Bird right here at Coyote Mercury on May 27th. I and the Bird seeks posts focused on encounters with birds so it’s pretty open in terms of what you send: stories, observations, essays, photos, poetry. It just needs to be something about birds that you’ve recently posted on your blog. You can send me a link at j_brush (at) coyotemercury (dot) com or use the contact form. The deadline is May 25th.

If you want more about I and the Bird, visit 10000 Birds for the full guidelines or drop by Twin Cities Naturalist to enjoy IATB #125 hosted by Kirk Mona.

Now, send those links and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

Four and Twenty and Housekeeping

Two things:

1. While I was out of town last week, I forgot to link to Four and Twenty, where one of my haiku was featured as the “Four and Twenty of the week.” Check it out.

2. You may have noticed the type on my site is larger. Ever since I redesigned the site in Jan 2009 to ditch the 2nd sidebar and widen the content area to accommodate larger photos something has bugged me about the font. I’ve tried different fonts but after reading iA’s The 100% Easy-2-Read Standard (h/t Dave for the link), I realized that what was bugging me was the size of the font relative to the expanded line length.

I tried a larger font, and I like the results. How does it look out there in blog land? Easier on the eyes?

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