For those that may recall, back in February I mentioned the neighborhood peacock that took shelter during the winter on our back porch. Well, it turns out he’s gone missing. A local TV station recently ran a story calling for help in locating the bird, as he has been missing now for over a week. Not that I expect any of you guys to have any leads, but I thought it was interesting enough of a follow up to mention it. Then again, if someone named me “Pretty Boy Napoleon,” I think I might just run away from home myself.
Then again, the rather morbid part of me can’t help but wonder if Napoleon’s disappearance is in any way related to our other recent wildlife encounter….
Back when we still lived in North Carolina, we had the odd encounter or two with wildlife around the house. The back of our yard sat next to a wooded area, and there were plenty of birds and small mammals roaming about but they rarely made an appearance. You could hear the occasional owl hooting and sometimes while driving on the main road you’d see a deer or two gallop across. A couple of times we had little black lizards scramble into the house, much to the delight of our younger cat Kiki (who quickly earned the nickname “the Mighty Huntress”). But aside for these isolated incidents and the occasional “present” left in the yard by a neighborhood dog, that was about it.
But since we’ve moved back to West Virginia, it seems Mother Nature has been making more and more house calls. It’s not like there’s a big difference between the two locations; both houses are in relatively rural areas, but not all that distant from civilization. Still, we’ve had more critter issues in the year we’ve been back than we had in all nine years or so we had down South.
I’ve already mentioned, of course, the peacock. Since the weather has turned warmer, we’ve seen a lot less of him. We figure he’ll perch on our back porch again once winter comes. He seems to now prefer a tree across the street to roost in and spends a lot of time in another yard further up the hill. (There are two chihuahuas that live up there, and we often imagine them being terrorized by this great big blue buzzard strutting through their territory.) He has made a few appearances this summer, though, even once walking up on the back porch right next to my wife and Ben as the little guy was playing in his sand box.
However, it seems our trash has become the neighborhood buffet. I’ve caught a big, fat raccoon rummaging about, leaving muddy paw prints all over the lids and chewing holes in the bottom corners of the cans. One day I left a couple of trash bags on the porch while I went back in to empty the cats’ boxes, only to apprehended a local dog (a liver and white spaniel of some sort) snacking when I got back. But last night took the cake.
It was getting late, around 9:30 PM. We had just managed to get Ben to fall asleep; he hates going to bed and usually fights naps and bedtime with a passion until he’s collapses in exhaustion. We were waiting for him to fall into a good deep sleep so he wouldn’t be disturbed when he put him in his crib. My wife was holding him on one couch while I sat on the other, watching whatever was on the TV at the time. Then I heard a loud crash outside. Our first instinct was Ben. Yep, he’s still asleep. I then stood up and peeked through the blinds to see what caused the noise. I did a double-take, then quietly jogged to the front door and opened it so I could get a good look through the glass storm door. My wife looked at me with an expression that seemed to ask “What’s going on?” at the same time as warning me “You better not wake the boy.” When I didn’t answer, she eventually verbalized the question.
I responded, “A bear. A big black bear. Rummaging through our garbage.”
Sure enough, there he sat. (Or she; there’s no way to tell at that distance.) Silhouetted by the street lamp on the garage across the street, he shoved his big head deep in the trash can, pulled a bag out with his teeth, and sauntered across the road to the neighbor’s yard to consume his dinner. My wife got up, still holding a sleeping Ben, and walked up beside me, mouth agape. We watched him for several minutes as he dined on the contents of one can and proceeded to knock down the other and continue the buffet.
Well, what exactly are you supposed to do in this situation? We called animal control, but of course their office was closed. My wife then called 911, and they said we should call the Department of Natural Resources. However, the DNR (also closed for the night) probably wouldn’t do anything unless the bear was injured or was a threat to humans. He definitely looked fat and healthy to me, and he was perfectly content to snack in solitude. So we stood there and watched him chow down for several minutes until he had his fill and eventually meandered off. My wife begged me not to go out and clean up the mess, even though half our garbage was strewn across the neighbor’s lawn.
After the encounter was over, my wife put Ben down and called her mom. The first thing she said when her mom answered was the subject line of this post: “We’ve moved into a freakin’ Mutual of Omaha nature documentary.” My first thought upon hearing that line was “That has to be the subject line for the blog post.”
If you’re seeing this post, then welcome to the new server! Our new host is Slicehost, a small hosting service that caters specifically to online developers. I have to say that so far, I’m pretty impressed. I had a few bumpy points getting SSH started and the initial setup was so bare-bones I had to install a ton of packages just to get functional (including fundamentals like tar and which), but it’s moving a lot faster than the old site sitting behind the cable modem.
Slicehost does one thing that I think is really pretty slick, especially from a hard-core geek’s point of view: Unlike most web hosts who give you a little sandbox to play in and tie your hands on what you can and cannot do, the “slicers” give you your own virtual server with root access. That’s right, you have the keys to the virtual kingdom. That means you decide what gets installed on your box, from the Linux distro (no other OSes are supported at the moment, but they do offer several distros) to the individual server applications. Want a LAMP box? You got it. Prefer Fedora to Ubuntu? (Me! Me!) Here you go. You decide what gets installed. The caveat to such permissiveness, of course, is that if you screw it up, it’s your own darn fault. That’s okay, though, because your virtual server shouldn’t affect anyone else sharing the box and you can rebuild your “slice” at any time, wiping it clean and restoring it to its original pristine state. Pay a nominal extra fee and you’ve got backup snapshots that you can also restore in the case of catastrophic failure.
One thing to watch out for is the waiting list. They appear to allocate hardware dynamically based on their current user base (keeping some servers in reserve for redundancy) and then purchase new machines based on their projected demand. If you sign up for the smallest package with the minimum prepayment plan, you could be looking at several weeks of wait time. However, if you’re willing to pay a little more in advance, you’ll be moved up the list. I decided to prepay for six months instead of three and was told I’d have my “slice” in “less than a week.” I ended up getting it in a few hours. Yep, that’s technically less than a week.
Initial annoyances (I’m not sure I’d call them complaints):
All in all, though, I think I’m going to like this new home. If you’re interested in checking them out, click the link in the first paragraph and poke around. If you decide to sign up, though, come back here and click my referral link. A little kickback is always nice. 😉
Of course, now that we’ve moved, commenting should be re-enabled. If you created an account before the move, it should have been ported over. (The internal user ID numbers got switched around, but since no one was able to post after I switched to WordPress, I don’t think that really matters.) Feel free to log in and make sure your account is accessible.
Feed readers: Please update your feed links now. You’ll find the new RSS and Atom links in the “Feed Me” section of the sidebar. Remember, the old “domain:port” URLs will no longer work.
Okay, it’s not necessarily a “webcomics” article, but definitely comics related. As I was reading the Reuters feed on AvantGo this morning, I stumbled upon this article. Cartoonist Doug Marlette, best known for his scathing editorial cartoons and his long-running syndicated comic strip Kudzu, died yesterday at the age of 57 in a car wreck in Mississippi, ironically after attending his father’s funeral.
I’m not a big fan of syndicated comics anymore, and I only read three of them now with any sort of regularity. I only read them online and one of those three, Calvin and Hobbes, is no longer being produced and is running in reruns. Like many online cartoonists, I’ve found syndicated comics have lost their flavor, having been drained of all originality by syndicate editors seeking to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to get into the most newspapers (and thus make the most money (for the syndicate, of course, as the artist sees very little of the profits)). Still, I remember Kudzu fondly from reading it when I was younger. I never really kept up with it after my local paper dropped it, and never bothered to follow up with it once I started following other syndicated strips online.
Then a few years ago David Allen of Plan Nine Publishing asked me to do a little bit of coloring work for him. It turned out that he was able to secure a contract for a few books with Mr. Marlette. He was one of the first syndicated cartoonists to hook up with Plan Nine. David needed someone to color the cover art for Marlette’s first two Plan Nine books, and he asked if I were up to the task. You can find the two books in their catalog here and here. David assured me that he was quite pleased with the results; his exact quote was “Again, Beautiful, David. My compliments to the colorist. This is fun.” I’m afraid this was as close as I ever got to Mr. Marlette, and I wished I had taken the opportunity then to contact him directly.
I know this post is far heavier on information than it is on sentimentality. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. On one hand, I could expound on the virtues of a man I barely know and only through his mass-produced work… which probably wouldn’t be very deep. I could spit out something “profound” about the brevity of life and how we should live our lives as if there were no tomorrow, but that’s been done to death and I doubt I have much noteworthy to add. Yet at the same time, I do feel a tiny bit of loss, as this was an individual that I had at least the briefest touch of a professional relationship with, even if I never met him in person. I’m not sure if they would be in the slightest bit interested, or if they would ever even hear of this post, but I certainly wish to express my condolences to his family and friends.
Sorry for the recent silence, everyone. It wasn’t my intention to seemingly disappear for several weeks. As you might guess, it’s been entirely real life craziness keeping me hopping. There were several occasions were I actually planned to post something, only to get distracted and never get around to it.
Well, here’s some news definitely worth posting. I mentioned quite some time ago my plans to eventually move the blog from its current home—my Linux box Demeter sitting behind my cable modem—to somewhere a bit more stable. Not that Demeter herself is unstable, mind you, but the current hoops we have to jump through just to get the blog online have caused casualties to its usefulness, like killing commenting and making our RSS/Atom feeds go through odd channels. While my dynamic DNS service does an admirable job in getting the raw HTML to you guys, it’s not suitable for a long term solution.
The point is that it looks like the move is going to finally take place, only the final destination isn’t where I originally intended. I was planning to move to Keenspot on the back end, largely because I am already familiar with them and how their servers are set up. Of course, this also meant the blog would be loaded with ads to cover the bandwidth costs (unless, of course, you’re a Keenspot PREMIUM subscriber). Not something I’m particularly thrilled about, but I was viewing it as a necessary evil. (After all, it’s the ads (and PREMIUM) that currently keep GPF a float. Lately all our other revenue streams have been high and dry.)
Well, Chris Wright over at Help Desk managed to change my mind. He pointed me to his current web host, and after taking a cruise around their site and FAQ, I was hooked. I have a number of ambitious online plans in the works, all of which require some rather stringent and quirky software requirements. These guys seem to cater directly to online developers, meaning they’re a lot more likely to accommodate my unusual needs, and their prices are ridiculously beyond reasonable. (I’ve never seen a bandwidth plan as cheap as theirs.) So I’m going to move over to them, at least on a trial basis, to see how things go. If everything goes over well, expect to see some rather obnoxious plugging in the future.
So, what does this mean for you? Right now, not much. For the time being I’ve temporarily disabled sign-ups for commenting. Comments aren’t working right now anyway, and preventing anyone new from signing on should make moving the database easier. (Existing accounts should be intact once the move is complete.) The switch in the DNS should be largely transparent, so those of you who visit the site directly shouldn’t notice anything different (other than the odd nested frame set inserted by the dynamic DNS should be gone).
The real funky stuff will come with the feeds. By now, most of you should be using the “domain:port” URLs for RSS and Atom feeds. These bypass the dynamic DNS and go directly to the web server on the port it’s really running on, not being nested through the DNS’ frames. Unfortunately, there won’t be a graceful transition for the feeds, as I have no intention of running the web server on multiple ports after the move. (It’s technically possible, but probably a waste of resources.) So those of you reading the blog via the feeds might want to come by the site periodically and check in for updates, at least until we know the transition has successfully taken place. New feed URLs will be posted once the move is complete. (Of course, I ought to just go with FeedBurner and hide all this behind-the-scenes garbage, but I’m also lazy and I’d rather do things myself.)
So when is all this going to go down? I’m not quite sure yet. The new host has a waiting list as they allocate hardware dynamically based on demand. I’ve been told it should be “less than a week,” which could be anywhere form one to two days. Tack onto that a day or two for me to move the database and debug everything, and it could easily be a week or more before you’ll notice anything. As usual, though, you should be able to just pop in here anytime and get the latest, regardless of which host we’re currently on.