November 2004

30 November 2004

I’ve changed the way that links are displayed.  They are now underlines and nothing but underlines.  A not-so-cunning plot to expunge all colour from my blog?  Almost.  I’m certainly not a great believer in colour.  Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it should be compulsory.  I am a great believer that less is, indeed, more.

I never did solve that comment problem.  Comments are by no means finished (although they work) it’s just that there are other, more pressing, concerns.

29 November 2004

Incidentally, if you do click a comments link you will notice that it opens up a new window, that that window contains the post on its own with the comments area and that you are scrolled down to where the comments area starts.  This is no accident - it’s how I designed it.

A comment problem

I finally managed to get captchas working - not easy - but then noticed yet another issue.  If you submit a comment along with your URL then when it is published the link is to Patrick Crozier not to your site.

I am not even sure this is a bug.  It may be to do with EE’s membership features forcing you to be a member (don’t ask) in order to have your URL displayed.

Anyway, right now I don’t seem to be able to get anywhere.

28 November 2004
The Beatles, classical music and why the commies will never win

I’ve just seen one of the best programmes I have ever seen.  It has left me stunned, amazed, sad even.  It was a programme on the Beatles, part of Howard Goodall’s Channel 4 series on the musical greats of the 20th century. 

He began with the baleful influence of the classical avant garde.  At the beginning of the 20th century they had been granted the greatest legacy imaginable: the knowledge of harmony, melody and the other thing, rhythm perhaps?  And they threw it away.

What the Beatles did (though they probably didn’t know it at the time) was to pick up and embrace the very techniques that the classical avant garde had just thrown down the garbage shute.  Didn’t know rock was a conservative art form did you?

Of course, the Beatles weren’t the only ones to pick up the rules of Western music the classicalers had so carelessly discarded.  What made them great was their ability to combine it with many, many other influences eg rock, jazz, church, big band.  And then Indian (think Maharishi).  And then new techniques only recently invented in the studio eg. tape looping (think Tomorrow Never Knows).  (Ironically, this last form was originally invented by the avant gardists though it does rather put me in mind of monkeys and typewriters.)

What is even more amazing is that, according to Goodall, the Beatles had no formal musical training.  But what does this mean?  They couldn’t put a name to a note or a chord?  Didn’t know what a key was?

Goodall reckons (and I have no way of knowing if he is right or not) that the Beatles provided a shot in the arm to classical music influencing people like Glass, Tavener and Gorecki.

Oh and why the commies will never win?  Well, they can’t win formally - they know that.  So, what they have to do is to infiltrate institutions and destroy them from the inside.  That’s the idea of the Frankfurt school.  Their problem now is that as soon as they take over an institution other ones start to appear.  Here they took over classical music but within 20 years it had been superseded by rock.

One final thought.  I know we internet types like to think that we will supplant TV but there’s clearly life in the old dog yet.

27 November 2004

Comments have been implemented - sort of.  They don’t have Captchas - couldn’t work out how to do them - and Trackbacks will have to wait for another day.

I didn’t mention why  I was implementing comments; after all there are plenty of blogs eg Instapundit and Natalie Solent that don’t have them.  It’s mainly to supply feedback in an easier form than e-mail.

How should we do comments?

The typical approach is to have a pop-up window.  Occasionally, (and this is the approach favoured by EE’s template designers) the comments link takes the reader to the entry’s individual page.  Apparently, this is slightly better for avoiding spam comments.

I think it is important that clicking on "comments" opens up a new window.  It also seems to me that having the text of the original entry there in front of you is better than not having it there in front of you.

I’ve added in some of the incomprehensible (yet vital) guff you get at the top of HTML files.  The main difference this seems to make is to change the label on the IE button on the Windows Taskbar.

Permalinks are working again.  When I created the subdomain (patrickcrozier.tandrag.com) there was some jiggery-pokery involving a file called path.php.  I got a setting wrong.  Anyway, that has now been corrected and permalinks seem to be working just fine.

26 November 2004

Seems I can switch titles on and off (see below).  Yippee!

Titles

Titles.  Some rather successful blogs eg Instapundit and Natalie Solent don’t give their posts titles.  So, they’re by no means essential so long as your blog postings are short. They are also useful for archiving purposes so long as they are descriptive. I have always reacted against the tendency to write for the day.  I want my postings to be read in the future too.  So, that tends to imply titles.  Having said that I have found that on many an occasion titles have a tendency to get in the way. 

I suppose what I am angling at is titles that can be switched on and off.  I think I can do that in EE.

Things I want to write about.  I do (at some point) intend to start some actual, proper blogging as opposed to all this meta-blogging.  So, perhaps it would be a good idea to think about what I want to blog about.  Well, over the last 24 hours I have wanted to write about the Saville enquiry, the Euro-referendum and a few other things that I have spotted on the Blogosphere.  I have also wanted to flag up good posts with which I agree. I have also wanted to initiate a discussion on the contents of the most recent edition of Modern Railways.  And, as ever, I’ve wanted to have a go at the BBC.

Ordinary blogging is simple enough, if not actually all that easy. Flagging up good posts another question all together.  And then comes Modern Railways, more difficult yet and then the BBC which really is tricky.

What next?  Well, let’s make a list:

  1. Add in the Expression Engine button
  2. Think about titles
  3. Sort out the background and put posts into boxes
  4. Sort out the permalinks
  5. Create a feed
  6. Add comments
  7. Do some prettification of the permalinks ie control the colour and size
  8. Think about categories
  9. Archives - now that the oldest post has slipped off the bottom of the page
  10. Add in some of the header guff that posh websites have

I’ve spent quite a lot of today experimenting with subdomains.  Not entirely successfully it should be said.  But we’ll get there in the end.

To cheer myself up I decided to change the font - the old one was beginning to get on my nerves.  It’s strange how important aesthetics are.  I am not quite sure why but they are and (perhaps more importantly) they are important to me.

The other big change I would like to make is to the background.  It is rather (as Greg Dyke would say) hideously white.  I experimented yesterday with toning it down with light grey and the pastels of blue, green and red, none of which really worked.  I think the long-term solution is to have a fairly dark background with text in brilliant white boxes.  But that is quite hard work and something for another day.

25 November 2004

Right, I’ve added in the dates.  I’ve used the “header” function which most blogging packages now have which gives you the new date only the once.

Once I added the dates the problem then was that the title of the blog and the dates had the same prominence.  So, using the magic of style sheets I reversed out the banner, toned down the background and added in a bit more jiggery-pokery to get it looking OK.

Posts should have dates.  That seems fairly obvious. Not quite sure why, mind.  But I always like to know when something was written so I guess other people do too.  So, let’s do it.

Click to enlarge
Me, after a hard day’s blogging
About me. When I read someone else’s blog I usually want to know something about them. Where they live, what they do, their age, their background etc.  So, it would hardly be surprising if readers wanted to know something about me.  However, giving out personal information is something I am extremely reluctant to do. I feel that as soon as you’ve said even the merest thing then you’ve opened the floodgates.  Mind you in blogging under my own name I already have.  Anyway, this is what I am prepared to say: I am late-thirties, I live in London, I am single, I have a job, I am a libertarian.

My first blog was UK Transport which later became Transport Blog.  My second was called "This blog has no title" and was a personal blog.  Then came Croziervision which was (originally) a digest blog.  I was a founder member of Biased BBC.  I have also written for Samizdata, übersportingpundit and Dodgeblog.  Not a bad blogging CV I’d say.

Update 27/11/06 Following on from Jackie’s comment, don’t follow that TBHN link.  No, really, DON’T do it.  Follow this one instead.  Seems that at some point I changed some Blogger settings and lost my domain name.  Whoops!

The name.  At the time of writing it reads "Patrick Crozier" but should it? Having my own name up there means there ain’t going to be anyone else writing here.  At least, not on a permanent basis. I could have a guest blogger (assuming I am big enough, of course) but that would be on those occasions I am unavailable so maybe keeping the name wouldn’t be so bad.

It also means I can’t specialise like I can with Transport Blog. But, then again, I’ve given up (for the time being) with Transport Blog because of the inflexibility the title implies.

So, it’s swings and roundabouts. On the one hand I can say what I want (so long as I am happy to let it go out under my own name) but on the other I lose the advantage of niche. Right now that is an advantage I am quite happy to lose.

Another option is to go anonymous.  A bit late for this blog but an option nevertheless.  Big problem is the danger that one will confuse one’s real and anonymous identities. And my view is that if you go anonymous you’ve got to completely anonymous.  So, no going along to all the right parties.

Another option is to call it something fun like: "We shall fight them on the beaches".  Hmm&8230; but it’s really got to be something personal and inspiring. Right now, the nearest I can get is: "They say bombing has never won a war&8230;" but we’re not quite there yet.

Right, well I ‘ve just been messing about with style sheets and column widths.  The text stretching the whole of the way across the screen was beginning to get on my nerves.  But then, when I brought it down it seemed far too hard against the left-hand side of the screen so I put in a “margin-left” to lift things out a bit. I think it looks a lot better like that.

So, we now have permalinks but to where do they link? Right now they link to an individual page.  But do I really want this?  The alternatives are to link to the post within a page of posts from the same month/week or to a page of posts from the same category.  I might want to do this in order to help expose readers to other things I have written.  Can’t do any harm can it?

Right now I don’t have any categories though this is a subject we will doubtless return to. But I do have dates. So, I could have my permalinks point to the appropriate place in the monthly archive.  If I had a monthly archive.  We’ll doubtless return to this too.  For now, individual pages will do.

Immediately after writing that last post, I updated the post it referred to in order to make the point that I had now worked out how to do escape characters. What I wanted to do was to link to the new post.  But I couldn’t because I don’t (yet) have permalinks.  Hmm, perhaps I should restate that: I can’t yet access the permalinks. That’s easily enough done&8230;

Earlier, I mentioned about escape characters and how I didn’t know what they are.  Well, I do now.  Or at least I think I do.  This is a hard rule: <hr>.  I achieve it by typing in &lt;hr&ht;.  I achieve that "&" just now by typing in &amp.

I got all this information from http://www.html-reference.com/Escape.htm

24 November 2004

Oh dear, that title.  Much too small, or, rather, indistinct.  What can we do, I wonder?

A few observations about my blog:

  1. There’s no name.  Or rather, there is a name but it’s not displayed anywhere
  2. There is no information on who is writing this blog
  3. Posts do not have dates
  4. There is no way for readers to contact me
  5. Posts do not have titles
  6. The text stretches right the way across the page (or at least it does in IE6).  this makes it hard to read

Next problem.  I have just remembered there’s something I forgot to say on the “What is this blog for?” post.  What should I do?  Options: a) Do nothing.  That’s just fine but then I won’t have told people and the post won’t be so much fun to look back on in the future.  b) I could sneak in an update but that sounds, well, sneaky.  c) I could add in an update to the original post marked as such.  That’s probably OK.  And that’s what I am going to do.

Very first problem.  Now I should point out that I am currently using Expression Engine which is a rather powerful blog management tool.  I am also using about the most simple template imaginable.

The problem is that the posts have no demarcation - you cannot tell where one ends and the other begins.  This is a bad thing.  Simplest way is to put in an “hr” tag (sorry, it should look different but I can’t make it look different without it putting a line across the page.  In techie: I don’t know what the escape character is).  There are better and more complicated ways.  But for the time being we are keeping things v.simple.

UPDATE.  I’ve figured out how to do escape characters.

What is this blog for?  I ask because the answer to that question will to a large extent determine what the blog ends up looking like.  Form will follow function.

Of course, right here and now, I don’t know.  I think I know what I am going to do here: write about current affairs, link to stuff other people have written about and other things that interest me.  But that could easily change.

UPDATE.  I should also point out that I am also going to be writing about blogging itself.

The purpose of this blog is to reinvent the blog from the bottom up; to question absolutely everything and to assume nothing.  Mind you, there is an assumption in that statement: that I want a blog.