Thursday, April 5, 2012

Blog Makeover 101, April 2012

frank hal and dave in movie 2001 a space odyssey
Computers will kill you. 

This post is definitely going to be a ramble, so don't say I didn't warn you. Well, unless you haven't been here before or if you have and Alzheimer's has kicked in, you'll find that the blog that celebrates balls-ups in the bush has had a bit of a makeover.

What's it all about? There's not much to it other than I got tired of the narrow page width, minuscule font and lack of framing around the new super sized pictures. So, I spent a day at Blogger Headquarters and have come up with the following format. I think it's looking better and a lot more cleaner than it used to. Actually, over the last month I was contemplating switching to Wordpress and I spent many nights seated in my large leather chair wondering whether I should just bite the bullet and get it over with.

tony montana in the movie scarface
Contemplating Wordpress

As you can see by the photo above, all of this blog thinking was leaving me feeling worn out. That was until I checked in at what Blogger has decided to come up with in the last few months. Remember this post where I told you how to add alt tags to your HTML in relation to photos? Well, that post is totally redundant as Blogger has decided to incorporate it when photos are added. Now the photo title and alt tag can be added at once. Bastards! That was a waste of research! Anyway, with Wordpress having that feature since 1837 I considered a switch just for that reason. Well, that's fixed. Next?

The Blogger comment system has been rejigged so direct reply to individual comments can be done. Okay, one less thing to worry about. Yeah okay, some Wordpress blogs do look pretty swish, but a lot of the things that gave me pain in Blogger have gone, so a change is not really needed right now. Oh yeah, I worked all this out by starting a new blog that's not yet public. In this new blog I've had a chance to play with different settings and formats. It's only going to be a picture blog, but of a totally exciting format. Yep, it's about shoes. Are you pumped just imagining what wondrous things could be in it? Well, don't be, as it's only going to be my practice blog, but I wonder if it will get more hits than this one?!

Why is that scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey at the top of the post? No reason really other than just like the mischievous HAL, computers will be the death of me and I saw the movie for about the 60th time at The Astor Theatre last weekend. Where else in the world can you go and see an old movie how it was meant to be displayed in 70mm format complete with thumping DTS sound? I would say nowhere.

I've been going to that cinema since the early 1980's and within the foyer there's a big poster with the phrase, 'Cinema Fiasco' in huge letters on it. Now where do you think Ben and I came up with this blogs title?! Oh yeah, to top it off, there's a cat that lives in the cinema and it wanders around while the movie is on. The cat, whose name is 'Marzipan' once sat on my lap for an entire two hour movie and it was like an electric blanket on my legs. I have pretty solid 'catdar', but two hours seems a bit much! It's not a bad life for a stray that supposedly wandered in one day and never left.

cat named marzipan lives in astor theatre
Marzipan - The Astor Theatre cat.

Now the blog again. The final puzzle of the new format was to come up with a photo that's in the header. I was thinking it would have to be something I was happy with, as there's no way I'd want to keep changing it. Oh yeah, on shaky grounds this is an outdoor blog which meant it would have to be a landscape picture. Lucky for me I was already in 'header mode', as I needed one for that infernal Facebook's new Timeline which ended up being easier than I thought. What's the Facebook theme? Well, that's pretty obvious as the picture below shows, it was always going to be Dave.

dave bowman in helmet 2001 a space odyssey

Now, I couldn't get away with 2001 on a hiking blog could I? I contemplated this photo of the last light above Wreck Beach on the Great Ocean Walk. It's not that great a photo, but it's the memory which is more important of watching the sun go down across the sea on a perfect spring day.

last light at wreck beach
Last Light - Wreck Beach

It looks a little dark though, so I went back to the drawing board and came up with a photo that Ben took at Gardiner Point, Arthur River on the West Coast of Tasmania. This is a place that's signposted as 'the edge of the world'. In fact it has its own website with 'edge of the world' as its URL.

You know what? It actually lives up to that dramatic name. We were there in winter and it felt as isolated and wild as any beach I've ever stepped on. Enormous piles of driftwood were on the beach and amongst the rocks, including massive trunks of trees. A vast ocean as far as the eye can see and incredible colours not just in the rocks, but the sky itself. It was definitely a weird feeling. So, I might as well include some photos from that place as they're long overdue for inclusion into the blog.

the edge of the world sign at gardiner point
The sign is a little dramatic...

setting sun across ocean at gardiner point
...but it delivers.

Ben and I took all of these photos on the first trip with a Canon 550 DSLR. It was a steep learning curve and I would love to be able to tackle this incredible light with the knowledge I now have a few years later. Exposure was tricky with the sun sinking over the horizon, but the glow across the water was amazing.

driftwood on beach at gardiner point
Huge driftwood...

red rocks in water at gardiner point rocks... 

balancing on driftwood at gardiner point
...and some driftwood balancing acts.

As the sun began to settle near the horizon, Ben took this photo in the strange glow of light on this bitterly cold winters evening.

setting sun over ocean at gardiner point
There's the header...

The light continued to deliver and I'd love to go back there again, but like so many places another visit isn't on the radar right now.

ocean at gardiner point

sunset at gardiner point

last light over ocean at gardiner point

So, if you're ever in Tasmania I can thoroughly recommend slipping up to the North West Coast and checking out this wild area. I almost forgot to mention, but the surrounding water was black in places from tannin flowing from the Arthur River. That alone is amazing for photography and I could imagine spending a week there just taking photos at dawn and dusk without ever getting bored.

There's one thing about all of these pictures though and that's I've no real idea whether the horizons are level. I like to correct them if they're out, but the stand for my computer screen is a little shabby. Don't ever say I'm not a MYOG bloke, as I've created quite a 'professional' set-up with two Dr.Martens boxes, the 2011 Yellow Pages and the February edition of the Readings catalogue. I'm not sure if it's entirely working as well as I want and I guess I should just fork out for something that's a little more efficient. Any suggestions? Oh yeah, "stop being a tight arse and buy something" is not the suggestion I'm looking for.

computer screen on shoe boxes
My computer screen set-up makes it hard to read about shady characters online.

So, that's it. The new template is done and the only thing left to do is trawl through the old posts and make all those piddly little photos a bit more massive, but I've allocated a decade to get that done.

Now I can relax in my bath and think of some trip reports that need writing up. You know what I hate though? It annoys me when I hop in and get comfortable with my cigar, but then realise I've left my booze and fruit platter on the other side of the bath...

tony montana in the bath in movie scarface
"I'd love an apple right now, but it's so far away..."


  1. Oh No! Not only are you killing it in the photo department, the new layout looks great too.

    I had to rebuild my blog once after the beer buzz took over my keyboard and accidentally changed it back to a default template. I swore I'd never mess with it again after frantically trying to build it before anyone noticed....but's time.

    1. Hey Darren! Thanks for the kind words! You know what? I played with all of the settings, but before clicking on 'apply to blog' I was sweating. Pretty stressful! It actually helped by playing around with my second blog that isn't public. I worked out some widths and stuff like that which helped alleviate the stress a little :)

      I'm not sure about the new Blogger templates, so I elected for the 'simple' one. It seemed a lot easier to play with than the others! Now that I've gone with the larger photos I just knew I had to change. It just took me about six weeks to psych up for it though :)

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Sorry Greg a bit short for words, best I can do is Very Very Nice.

    1. Hi Wazza. Thanks for dropping by and the kind words! It took me all of last Saturday to work out the new format. Glad it's over with though! I'm open for 'change the blog' advice at any time :)

      Now to fix up some old photos. They look miniature in the big format! Hope you get a walk in over Easter! I had one 'sort of' planned until I read on Parks Vic website that the track is closed. Oh well...

  3. Hahaha. It's looking great over here in Fiascoland, and the pictures here are fab. Ahhh...Tasmania...

    You need to get a shot of that cinema sign, you know.

    Dr Martens, eh? Have you tried hiking in them? Maybe with some braces and a pork pie hat?

    1. Hey Goat! Thanks! Tasmania? Hang on, I'm still waiting for the rest of your South Coast Track write up!

      Oh yeah, the cinema sign does need a picture. I contemplated it last week, but it was pretty hectic. Ben had instructions to take photos of the cat and I was in charge of buying the choc-top ice-creams! It was packed as well which is pretty standard for 2001 when it's on at the Astor. The pic will be taken though at some stage...

      I've got a bit of a soft spot for Docs having bought my first cherry red pair in 1982! There's been a few since then and the mention of the pork pie hat is not a bad hiking idea. Definitely worth looking at I think!

      How did you like the computer shot in this post? That bloke on the screen is looking pretty suspect...

    2. Ha, yes, must get round to that Tasmania report. I keep meaning to splice some other material between my Korea write-ups, but my backlog of walks over here is already approaching critical mass...

      I think I saw that bloke on your screen on 'Korea's Most Wanted' last night.

    3. Yeah, I think I can understand why the Tasmania trip report is on the back-burner. Going through hell in a foreign country would be quite time consuming I'd imagine?!

      Korea's Most Wanted? Yes, that's right. It was some nut running through a school ground shouting obscenities at everyone whilst shedding his clothes. In Winter...

  4. Love your new blog layout! And the header photo is amazing. Yes, I know I need to get with the 21st century and give my blog a makeover too. But it takes so much time and research (and I'm too lazy - I'd rather be outdoors doing something) so I've been plugging along with the old format still. Congrats and good work on your new and improved blog!

    1. Hi Linda! Thanks! Yes, the change was a little intimidating, but I set a day aside to do it and make sure I didn't chicken out before applying it! It wasn't too bad in the end. It's just a matter of working out how wide you want the main body and then the sidebar. I also had to make the header picture as wide as the width specified in the main body and voilĂ . It's done!

      Now it's over with, I guess I should follow your advice and get out a little more myself :)

  5. I'll chip in too that I love the new header photo - was going to comment on that on that the last time already, but probably my onsetting Alzheimer let me wander offer doing something else. So what was I saying? Ah yes. Great header photo. Absolutely superb, and future trips to Australia will need to include a few weeks on Tasmania as well, because Australia alone wouldn't be worth the 24 hour flight from Helsinki. Maybe also put NZ on that list while I'm there.

    I love your writing, Greg. It sure makes me smile and laugh, so I'm happy you didn't go to WP because I'm sure you would have hated it. Their editor is rubbish. And with Google owning Blogger they can have a good close look at what you're doing here, indexing it right away and such. Good decision.

    1. Hi Hendrik! Thanks for the kind words! I think you would have a lot of fun with some of the walks down here. Like I've always said, Australia has so many variable walks. You could go to golden beaches or head into hills, discover a bit of desert or if you're feeling a little homesick find a bit of snow :) A Tasmanian winter has plenty of snow! Actually, Tasmania is incredible and I've really neglected it a bit. I did have a walk planned a month ago which fell through, but hopefully I can sneak over there this year some time for a week or so.

      NZ? Again, I really should get there as well! I've only been there once and that was solely for skiing. The skiing is great, but it would be nice to do some walking instead.

      Yes, the fact Google owns Blogger was one of the reasons I first elected to start off there. If it's Google surely it can't go wrong?! Actually, as the post says, there were a few things that drove me nuts, but they've been corrected now, so I'll stick to what I've got. A change sounded pretty intimidating anyway! Blogger is pretty user friendly so I shouldn't complain anyway :)

    2. Yeah, transferring a blog with a lot of content (say over 100 posts) can be a lot of work. In that process myself, but with the added difficulty of wanting something unique and which allows to write me in Markdown et al. A lengthy process.

      I think the Google comments system is fine (might get better with what they have in the works) though for the moment I find Disqus more user-friendly - easier to login, add photos and links, get Email replies when someone replies to your comments, and also better for Admins! I'd strongly suggest you consider it (it is an easy implementation, you could do it from your bath tube - just have one of the girls bring you your iPad :D )!

      All three islands - NZ, Australia and Tasmania - I would love to visit. And I will. In the future =)

    3. Yes, you're right there. If the blog had half a dozen posts it wouldn't be much of a problem switching. I did think how the hell it would all work out considering I have 136 posts now (have written that many?!)

      Google comments is getting better, but I do like Disqus as well. The only thing that bothered me is having a full history of comments in Disqus. It's an unfounded problem though and more to do with my standard paranoia :) Then again, like you said, I could fire up my harem and in between them feeding me grapes whilst I lie around in my toga they could install Disqus for me :) Do all the comments that are currently in Blogger just switch across into Disqus?

      A visit to all three islands would keep you busy. I keep meaning to head interstate for some different walks, but I'm astounded how many there are just to tackle here in Victoria! Such a varied State regarding terrain. I'll be in a nursing home before I finish all the walks in Victoria...

  6. Get your harem ready, Greg. Disqus imports all your current comments, so you don't lose even one!

    1. Aha! There goes one worry! I'll probably not change unless I'm off my face one night and feeling adventurous. Seeing how I'm taking all of May off from work, then there's a chance I'll be in the mood during that time :)