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6 Hours and 60 Minutes

Published April 19, 2011 - 0 Comments

PingdomAlert UP: WhatAboutStephen (www.whataboutstephen.com) is UP again at 19/04/2011 12:39:43PM,  after 6h 60m of downtime.

6 Hours and 60 Minutes.  That’s how long my blogs were down flat this morning/afternoon.  Perhaps my math is a little rusty, but I still thought that an hour was made up of 60 minutes.  So rather than 6 Hours and 60 Minutes, maybe Pindgom should be telling me that my blogs were flat for 7 hours?  That’s just my opinion.

So last night I was relatively active on my blogs.  I replied to a bunch of comments, and published 3 posts on WhatAboutStephen, with a 4th scheduled for later today.  I worked on TheUnfriendlyGiant.com, changing the layout, configuring Thesis, adding a few plugins, and starting to add some content.  All of this was taking place while having a Twitter-meltdown of epic proportions.  It was not a fun night.  But I was being more productive than I’ve been in a few days.

Then around 5:30am I tried to save some work on TheUnfriendlyGiant.com and I received an error saying that it could not connect to the database.  I tried again, with the same result.  Then I tried this blog, and was unable to connect.  Same thing with the others.  Not good.  It didn’t feel like another account problem.  It felt more like a technical problem.  I confirmed that by successfully connecting to Write-ClickMedia.com which does not run on WordPress.  Obviously my problem was related to my WordPress installations, which run on a database on a shared hosting server, courtesy of PowWeb.  I checked my hosting provider’s website to see if they had posted any planned work maintenance.  5:30am here means that it’s even earlier throughout the rest of North America, making it the perfect time for a planned maintenance schedule.  There was indication of that on their website.

By this time I had received an email from a service called Pingdom, which I only recently subscribed to.  They automatically “ping” your website at predetermined intervals, and alert you if they are unable to reach it successfully.  The internet isn’t perfect.  Things happen.  A certain amount of downtime is understandable, but Pingdom is there to alert you in the event of something major.  It’s free to install on a single website, so I chose my most active one, WaS.  Because this isn’t a revenue-generating blog (damn), it’s not exactly mission critical to my online presence.  I have the Pingdom interval set to 30 mins before emailing or texting me an alert.  If I check the logs for the month, I can see that there have been instances of missed pings, but this is the first time that they have been required to contact me.

As I finished my shift, all I could care about was getting out of there and getting home.  It had been a miserable night, and I wasn’t in a mood to submit a support ticket to PowWeb.  Sleep was my only priority, and if the blogs were still down when I woke, then I would deal with it.  Unfortunately, after a few hours of restless sleep I woke up briefly to check my iPhone, and discovered that nothing had changed.  I decided that I’d better call PowWeb’s support line and find out what was going on.  As soon as I heard “We are currently experiencing higher than normal call volumes.  Please wait for the next available representative.” I knew that it was something much larger than just me.  To be honest, I took some comfort in that.  In my mind, it meant that they were probably already aware of the outage and working on it.  If the problem had been localized to me solely, chances are that it would have been pushed down their list of priorities, as they worked on other trouble tickets in their queue.  That’s normally how these things work, and it’s generally a pretty good system.

Considering the fact that they were warning me that I might be on hold for awhile, a customer service representative was there in under 2 minutes!  I wasn’t quite ready for that.  I explained the problem to the gentleman, who informed me that the support engineers were working on a database failure, and that it should be resolved soon.  I didn’t even bother to ask what “soon” meant because I know that he either didn’t know, or he wouldn’t tell me if he did.  It’s best to keep the customers in the dark about these things.  I was fine with that.  I just rolled over and went back to sleep.

The first thing I did when I woke again was check this blog.  It worked!  Whohooo!  I checked the others.  Everything looked good.  There was even an email from Pingdom alerting me that this website was back in service, and had it been down for a total of 6 hours and 60 minutes.  Then it occurred to me… the last post showing as published was Good Ole CAA.  Where were the posts that I had published after that?  There were 3 of them… plus the one that was scheduled and should have been published through the day.  Obviously PowWeb had restored my blogs with a recent backup copy of their database.  That sucked, but was not unexpected.  The main thing was that the sites were restored… even if TheUnfriendlyGiant.com had lost all the work that I’d put into it.

I hate when I’m writing something, and it gets lost.  If I have to re-write it, it’s never as good the second time.  It happens from time to time with emails, or the occasional blog post that gets deleted as I’m writing it.  There’s something about taking the time to write something again.. it’s just never as good.  I wasn’t enjoying the prospect of having to re-type 4 blog posts.  In fact, I really considered just letting it go.  There’s never really anything important here anyway, and in the case of 2 of those posts, I knew that they had already been read by the person they were intended for.

Then I remembered something.  Google RSS Reader!  I’ve been adding friends’ blogs to my Google Reader page, and syncing them with my iMac and iPhone.  I had also added all my Write-Click Media blogs.  Why?  I have no idea.. just to see how they looked when presented through RSS as opposed to directly on the website.  I wondered if they would still be there in Google Reader…   WHOHOOO!  3 of the 4 were there.  The last was never published, so Google Reader never had a chance to capture it.  At the moment I can’t even remember what it was about, so it might be lost forever.

The point is, I don’t have to re-write them from scratch.  I am going to go back to Google Reader and simply copy and paste them in, and re-publish them.  It doesn’t help me with TheUnfriendlyGiant.com because those were style changes, not content.  And I’ll have to go back and reply again to those people who had commented on this blog.  But that’s a pretty quick process.

Let this be a reminder to everyone… whether you’re concerned about your own personal files, or running a company responsible for tons of information… BACKUP BACKUP BACKUP!

What Happens in Vegas, Stays in.. Wait a Moment! This Ain’t Vegas!

Published June 14, 2010 - 6 Comments

I needed to get away this weekend.  I really needed to get away.  And where do I typically go when I’m in need of a change of scenery?  Moncton!  So I got ahold of my buddy there, made sure I wouldn’t be sleeping with the dog, and packed my bags.  It was Friday at lunch.  I wanted to be there well before supper, and kick my feet up while enjoying the sweet taste of Smirnoff Ice (my substitute for beer).  I know that people make fun of those coolers, but they do have some kick to them!  By the end of the second, I was feeling pretty good about things.

The plan (if you can call it that) was to just sort of take it easy.  I didn’t want another night of idiocy.  I’ve reached my quota for 2010 already.  No, I wanted a nice relaxing evening…  maybe play a little online poker… perhaps watch a movie… listen to some Unfriendly Giant…   Oh yes… I tortured my good friend with 24 back-to-back episodes of the newly discovered treat.  I dare say that he did not appear to enjoy it nearly as much as I did, but hey…  you can’t please everybody.

As the night wore on, it was evident that my plan was never going to hold.  By my fifth Smirnoff Ice, I was craving an experience of a different kind.  As luck would have it, my buddy knew exactly what I needed.

“Finish your drink.  We’re going to the casino!”

I’ve never been to a casino before.  Never.  The only place I’ve ever seen the inside of a casino would be on television or in movies.  And let me tell ya..  Moncton ain’t Vegas!

Casino NB is much smaller than I envisioned it.  I was very much underwhelmed as I looked around.  I honestly was not expecting a scene from Ocean’s Eleven (although I did ask my buddy which one of us was playing Pitt, and which was Clooney.  Apparently neither of us were!), but I was still a tad disappointed with everything.

That was, until “the four” walked in.

<cover your eyes, Mum>

It’s a casino. It’s full of pretty women.  But these four looked like they had showed up to a red carpet event.  They completely stood out, and they knew it.  They walked around the place three or four times in their ultra-revealing dresses and high heels, causing every head at our poker table (including our female dealer) to turn and take notice.  (It didn’t hurt either that one of them didn’t realize that her mini dress was riding a little high in the back)  You know when the female dealer can’t help but make a comment that you’re not just imagining it.  After four walk-bys these goddesses must have left the building because we never saw them again.  Trust me.  I went looking.

For a Friday night, it was surprisingly quiet in the casino.  I had no trouble getting a drink at the bar.  Not once did I have to wait in any sort of line.  Friday was beautiful, and one of the bartenders suggested that maybe people had gone to their camps for the weekend.  She may very well have been correct.  The place wasn’t even close to being busy.

I never did play any of the games.  I guess I was a little reluctant to try to figure things out, especially given my current condition.  I’m not the brightest bulb in the pack when it comes to some of those games to begin with… but at that point… I just wasn’t comfortable with it.  That’s not to say that I didn’t have a good time.  I did!  I enjoyed watching my buddy get killed at some tables, yet clean up at others.  I enjoyed the music.  I enjoyed the drinks.  I definitely enjoyed the scenery.  And at the end of the night, I enjoyed leaving.

(As a side note, apparently casinos have a problem with telling you what time it is… there are no clocks.. they don’t announce last call… they just stop serving.  It came as quite a shock when I tried to order another double rum and Coke (yes, the Smirnoff Ice coolers has long since graduated into full-fledged  double rum and Cokes) and she just laughed at me… as if I had some way of knowing that it was whatever time it was!)

How would I rate my first experience at the casino?  It was good.  I wouldn’t necessarily rush back to repeat it again any time soon, though.  If I was with someone who wanted to go, sure.  But I don’t feel any great need to go back.  I did have a good time there (aside from an unpleasant experience at a certain blackjack table) but I don’t think that I’m really a casino kinda guy.

The Unfriendly Giant Visited Me Last Night!

Published June 11, 2010 - 6 Comments

I’ll admit… I have not been sleeping very well the last couple of nights… I’ve been sort of dozing off, and waking up at the sound of any incoming email into my inbox.  It’s probably not a great thing, but hey… it’s what I do.

So last night I heard the “ding!” and reached over to see what was there.  It was really late (3:03am!), so I figured that it was spam or something uninteresting.

Hmmm… a comment on the blog? From someone I didn’t know?  As much as I like getting slammed by my friends, I enjoy seeing comments from new readers.  So I went in to take a look at it…

Back in March, I posted about  The Unfriendly Giant, a hilarious radio parody of CBC’s The Friendly Giant.  I used to have a cassette tape with several episodes, but lent it to someone who never returned it.  That was eons ago, and I never thought that I would ever hear Unfriendly again…

Well last night the blog was visited by someone called DividableFiend, who left a comment with a link to that  very same long-lost Unfriendly cassette, in online streaming format!  I couldn’t believe it!  I haven’t listened to them all yet… I’m savoring this… but it really put a smile back on my face!

Curious about The Unfriendly Giant?  Just click here.

As a side note, ever since I posted that first one back in March, I have seen many blog hits with the search term “unfriendly giant” in the log.  It’s one of the more popular search terms that bring people here.  Seems that I’m not the only one interested in finding long lost episodes of the radio spoof.  I’m sure that they were disappointed when they got to my blog and it didn’t have any useful information for them.

MANY THANKS to DividableFiend for the comment last night!

Kill the chicken! Kill the chicken!

The Unfriendly Giant

Published March 28, 2010 - 7 Comments

Does anyone else remember The Unfriendly Giant?  It was a radio spoof of CBC’s The Friendly Giant television program.  I’m pretty sure that it played on CFBC, but it was no doubt broadcast on other radio stations around the country.  I’m thinking that it was on in the early-mid 90s, but I don’t specifically remember which year.

I used to listen to it faithfully, with the Unfriendly Giant finding new and amusing ways to abuse poor Rusty and Rooster, and Jerome the Giraffe.  Yeah, I know that sounds cruel, but trust me.. it was hilarious.

Just did a quick Google search and see that there are several entries about Unfriendly.  That’s good.  I remember looking a few years back, and there was nothing at all.  I guess that it might be possible to find some long lost episodes, after all.  I used to own a cassette with an hour’s worth of episodes, and like an over-trusting idiot I lent it to someone and never got it back from them.  Was I smart enough to make a copy?  Oh hell no.  Yeah… dummy…

I miss you, Unfriendly…


[updated – Because of the huge number of searches on this blog for The Unfriendly Giant, I have created a separate blog.  Please check it out here.]