Jonathan Crowe

I’m a blogger and writer from Shawville, Quebec. I blog about maps at The Map Room, review books for AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, and edit a fanzine called Ecdysis. More about me.

My Correct Views on Everything
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The Map Room Is Back

You might have noticed that I resumed blogging on The Map Room last Wednesday. It took a lot less time to get operational than I expected, and the remaining things on the to-do list could be done while the site was live, so on the spur of things I just … started. It’s going well so far: WordPress is behaving itself, and I’m usually able to figure out how to do what I want to do.

This means that from now on I won’t be talking about maps on this website. (Yes, that includes fantasy maps.) Nor will map-related content appear on my personal Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter accounts, as a rule. But you can follow The Map Room on Facebook, LiveJournal, Tumblr, Twitter and via its RSS feed. My Google+ account will also mirror Map Room content. And you can subscribe to a daily email digest.

The Map Room Is Coming Back

I’ve made a decision to restart The Map Room. If all goes well, the new version will go live some time in January 2016 — next month.

That’s the short version. If you’re interested in the gnarly details of how I came to this decision, and how I’m going to go about it, read on.

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A Gartersnake.info To-Do List

I never have enough time to work on Gartersnake.info, my website about garter snakes — I’m behind on everything — but it really deserves more attention than I’ve been giving it. Its traffic is seasonal: it gets a huge number of visits during the spring, summer and fall, but hardly any during the winter. Traffic is already slowing down for the season, and I like to work on the site when fewer people are watching, so I’ve been looking at the site stats in the hope that they might help me figure out what to work on next.

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On Tumblr

I’ve mentioned it elsewhere, but not here: I’m on Tumblr now. (Well, again: I ran Prime Focus, an astrophotography tumblelog, back in 2010. This one is more general in focus: basically me dipping my toe into the tumblrsphere.)

Fantasy Maps Project Page Updated

I’ve updated and expanded the Fantasy Maps project page: it’s still not much more than a collection of links and bibliographic references, but now it’s spread across seven pages, divided by topic, rather than just one. Each topic page to be fleshed out over time. It’s a start.

New Site Design

Evidently I got a bit carried away. Yesterday I redesigned The Map Room’s front page to fix the broken and make it look nice, and once I was finished that I had a few more ideas, and before long — well, as you can see (unless you’re reading this via RSS), this site has a new design this morning. Hope you like it.

Web design trends have a pretty short shelf life, and what I came up with in February 2011, when this site first launched, now looks a bit dated. My goal was to freshen things up a bit and reduce clutter and cruft: the conventional wisdom is much more minimalist now. So: fewer menus and sidebar items, fewer CSS animations, less JavaScript, less greyscale, more colour and contrast.

Website To-Do List

A few things on the website to-do list that I really should tackle soon:

  1. A mobile version for smartphones;
  2. A way to serve high-resolution images to Retina displays while serving lower-resolution images (with smaller file sizes) to mobile devices and other displays; and
  3. A better and more detailed subsite for the Fantasy Maps project.

Some of these things are built into other blogging platforms, but because I’m running my own Movable Type install, I’m probably going to have to code these myself (probably using a mixture of PHP and CSS). You might wonder why I persist in using Movable Type rather than Blogger or WordPress. Despite the drawbacks, there are several advantages:

  1. I know how to hack Movable Type templates far better than I do Blogger or WordPress, and so can do things that I wouldn’t know how to do on other platforms;
  2. I’m not at the mercy of a hosted service (though DreamHost does support WordPress); and
  3. I can publish static pages, which means that my site stays up when the database server goes down (which it does, more often than the web server).

In the end, though, it does mean more work for me, and a bit of wheel-reinventing, to get the results I want.

My Best Blog Entries

After 11 years of blogging and more than eight thousand posts spread across a half dozen blogs, I’ve put together a page linking to my best blog entries, such as they are.

A Note on the Olympics

The 2012 Olympics start next week. Before anyone else asks whether I’ll be reviving DFL, my blog chronicling last-place finishes at the Olympics, for the London Games, the answer is: no, I won’t. DFL is done. Almost everything I could say about last-place finishes I already said during the 2004, 2006 and 2008 games; the rest is just additional data points.

Well, maybe one more thing. I found this passage from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt given at the Sorbonne in April 1910:

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.

Teddy was talking about public service, using the metaphor of the arena — of competition. The Olympics is similarly applicable. That the central theme of the Olympics is buried under layers of nationalism, commercialism, cynicism and (now) security theatre is one of the great tragedies of our age.

Gartersnake.info Redesign Launches

Gartersnake.info logo A redesign of Gartersnake.info, my website about garter snakes that focuses on how to keep them alive in captivity, has been in the works for ages; my original plan was to have it done a year ago. Life got in the way, as usual, but I finally managed to finish principal work on the new design. It went live this morning.

The new design looks pretty good (if I do say so myself), but a lot of the work was behind the scenes, in the code architecture and the template logic. The redesign moves almost all the pages I had been coding by hand into the blogging engine. This should make the site easier to maintain and keep updated.

There’s still quite a bit to be done, particularly in the Species Guide section, where there are an awful lot of blank spaces; that section has been on my “going to get to that real soon now” list since the site launched back in 2004. But it should be easier now for me to pick away at the unfinished bits, one by one. The architecture’s in place. The battle station is fully armed and operational, even if there’s scaffolding all over the place.

Weekend Site Issues

Over the weekend, when I wasn’t looking and couldn’t freak out about it, the server on which this website is hosted took a bit of a tumble and had to be restored from an earlier backup. For a while there the most recent posts from the last week were unavailable. Things should be okay now, but there may be one or two issues here and there that linger until I stumble across them.

Housekeeping

A few minor updates:

I’ve started using Delicious again: here’s my account; interesting links will now appear on the sidebar of the front page.

The Reading Jules Verne project now has its own project page separate from the blog archives. The project page lists all the books to be covered and provides links for each (Amazon and Wikipedia links, places to download the book for free, and so forth).

(On a related note, I have to figure out how to make project pages more visible within the context of this site’s design.)

Finally, it happened last month but I didn’t mention it here: I began pointing The Map Room’s RSS feeds to map posts on this website.

My Kryptonite

As I said on Twitter yesterday, outages are my kryptonite. I can put up with a lot of crap, and I don’t whine nearly as much as some people I know, but outages invariably send me around the bend, probably due to the feeling of powerlessness they engender. For example, over the last three days my web server has been imploding like clockwork every morning. Which means that I’ve been starting every day for the last three days all freaked out and grouchy. They moved my account to another server today, which should be the end of it unless something running on my account is to blame. (Can’t think what.)

Three kinds of outage affect me on a semi-regular basis: power, Internet service provider, and website. Power outages are the worst: they happen surprisingly frequently out here, so much so that we have UPSes for the computers, which don’t help for longer, multi-hour outages (and we’ve had a few of those over the past year). ISP outages are common enough that I have Eastlink on speed-dial, but my anxiety over their occurrence has largely been assuaged by having 3G on my iPad: it’s not often that 3G and cable are out at the same time. Even when the power is out, I can usually stay connected via the iPad.

For some reason, my long-term plans include off-grid backup power.

The Map Room Closes, Another Door Opens

I announced last night that I’m wrapping up regular blogging on The Map Room, after eight years and 4,055 posts. For the details, read the announcement. While there will probably be a few more posts on map-related subjects — possibly as many as three book reviews in the near future, for example — I’ve ended the regular, near-daily grind of blogging about maps.

This is so I can free up some space in my head to write other things. Writing those things will probably require me to disappear inside my head for weeks at a time, and I could never allow myself to do that while The Map Room was an ongoing project — one to which, to a certain extent, I had to give priority. Now I’m free to go nuts. If all goes well, I’ll have some interesting announcements to make. Not right away — these are big projects. Suffice to say, awesome things are in the works, and I’m excited to have the time to do them.

I know I’m being vague. At the appropriate juncture. In due course. In the fullness of time.

Reboot

Now that some of my old web pages are being forwarded here, and now that readers following my blog entries via RSS are suddenly getting new entries from an entirely different source, it’s time I explained what I’m doing here.

Welcome to jonathancrowe.net, my new home page. For nearly 10 years, mcwetboy.com served as my home page, and most of the content at that URL will still continue to be accessible there, but I’ve decided that it’s time to start something new.

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