You Down With FTP? (Yeah, You Know Me)

File. Transfer. Protocol. The three scariest words in the Blogging Language. FTP is the Freddy Krugar of your blogging dream. Speaking of which, did you see that there is a new Elm Street movie coming out? can tease me with all the Michael Bay you want; there ain't no way in hell I'm doing that shit to my brain.

Anyway, FTP. If you use a hosted blog platform like Blogger or Squarespace, you will never have to worry about this science-fiction double-feature. Go read something interesting {may I recommend some Polite Fiction?} and have a happy Friday. If you're a slave to the Wordpress, or other fun platforms that make you upload shit to your server just to function, please join class after the jump to learn how to survive the claw-handed, backwards clothes wearing, wiggedy-wiggedy-wiggedy wack nightmare that is FTP.....

There are two basic elements that makes your blog go zoom zoom, HTML and PHP. HTML is what makes your blog look the way it looks. Your stylesheet, those fonts and colors and shit, that's HTML. HTML is the walk-in closet of your blog. PHP is the nerve system. It's how your blog's heart beats without you telling it to. It's how you don't have to think 'kick', it just kicks.

Your history lesson for the day: Some dude in Greenland created the first PHP code for his personal home page (see, Personal Home Page? Clever boy) in 1994. He created the second one, too, and that one could talk to databases. Hence, the dynamic webpage was born. And then a couple of Israeli dudes tweeked Rasmus' code a bit, and you have PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor today.

That's the really short story.

Basically, PHP takes input from a file or stream containing text and/or PHP instructions and outputs another stream of data, which is usually HTML. And you blog goes. That's all you really need to makes your blog go, until you fuck it up royally. And you WILL fuck it up royally, given the chance.

You don't really need to know how it works, because God gave us FTP clients and programmers give us handy little zipped filed containing Comment Luv plugins and complete blogging templates and twitter feeders that are all properly written. All you have to do is find the program you want to run on your blog, unzip it, and use your FTP client to upload it to your server. Voila! It works. Wordpress now even lets you search for the plugin you want, click install, and wait 5 seconds. No unzipping or uploading required.

This could take a very porny turn any second now; yes, I am aware.

The only thing you really need to know is how to login to your FTP client and access your server.

Your server is where everything your blog needs to run and be read is housed. Every post, every font color, every little last thing sits on a server. That's what you pay for....server space. It's the Public Storage of the Internet, complete with the pickled heads of cross-dressing psych patients.

But I'm digressing. We'll get to servers and storage space and decapitation of your blog another day.

If you self host, you have an FTP login. There are several different ways to access your FTP. When I was on PC, I used FileZilla. Now that I'm on Mac, I use Classic FTP. These let you find something you want to use in your blog...say, some plugin, on your computer and with one slide of a mouse, upload them to your blog's server. The file you've chosen then just runs with the rest of your blog, because they're written to, and you have some new template or function.

Or you know, you could use it to share song files between friends, without all that hairy email uploading wait time.

If I gave Vodkapundit the keys to my FTP*, he could log in, open that music folder, click Camper Van Beethoven, and slide it right into his own music folder. THAT'S how FTP works.

I tell you all of this to tell you how to use FTP when you see something like THIS:

If you see that pop up when you open your blog, you're fucked. Or, better put you've fucked something up. These Syntax and Parsing Errors seem to be as contagious as a yawn or person gets them, everyone seems to get them.

If @Jim can break his blog, you can break your blog. And you will. Resistance is futile. What isn't futile is learning how to fix it.

What I'd done to garner the affections of the White Screen of Doom is try to insert some stupid, funny only to me, message into my blog for when your comment gets held in moderation. I've gotten that screen before, trying to add plugins or trying to customize my comment box. What I forget sometimes it that blogs are like scarves. They're knit together. Just because I find one line in my php that handles comment moderation, that doesn't mean there aren't 10 other lines of code that work with it, and if I only edit one of them, the whole thing unravels. I unraveled my blog.

And once you get the white screen of death, you can't do shit. You can't get into your dashboard, you can't see your blog, nothing. You. Are. Screwed. Even if you know *exactly* where you made your mistake, you can't undo it. You have to go into your server, by means of your FTP, and fix it there.

This is scarier than all the Freddy Kreugars combined. But you can do it.

When you see that SYNTAX ERROR glaring at you where your dearly beloved blog should be, the natural reaction is to freak the fuck out. Once you uncurl your body from the fetal position it reverts to underneath your desk, the first thing you need to do it READ.

That error message tells you everything you need to know to undo your wrongs. You just have to follow along with it's instructions. Mine told me that my problem was in:

So now, all you have to do is re-read all that stuff up there that I explained and you skimmed over, then log in to your FTP and on click each of those folders in the order it tells you. Once you get to Functions, it's going to pop out that Functions code. You then count 20 lines down and there you are, at what you need to fix.

You have to use the left-pointing arrow to download that popped-out sheet to your computer, then you change your mistake to what it should be, save it, click that right arrow and upload it back to your functions folder.

It sounds complicated, but it's not. I mean, I did it, and I'm kind of an idiot. Class dismissed. And what the hell should we cover next Friday?

*Stephen has been trying for years to get the keys to my, um, errr...FTP. Fat chance, buster.


So, yeah, I was having a crappy day on Monday. Mostly, I think it was just the goodbyes of the whole thing. I really enjoy the isolation that my little suburban life in the outskirts of Texas is affording me, but sometimes I need a friendly face. One on the body of an adult. And this weekend last, I got it, bigtime. And then I got two of my favorite people in the world waking up in my house, having coffee with me, giggling in early morning sunshine. When that ends, it's a little bit soul-crushing.

My life, it's complicated. I usually go Spock when I get overwhelmed, logically thinking through why my face has met the quagmire and the steps I have to take internally to remove my head from my own ass, but sometimes you just can't fight the Kirk. Monday, I was Kirk, just without all the alien tail to hit.

Alien tail makes everything better.

But I didn't move to New Mexico, I moved to the 4th largest city in the US where UFO's never appear because they always wait for some toothless, unsuspecting Kansas farmer or West Virginian to mozie out to his outhouse in the middle of the night and that's when they strike, because no one will believe them. It's high school alien T.P.-ing at it's finest. And then all those toothless farmers and Deliverance-livers will collaborate to document the sighting no one will believe, and they'll submit it to the government and the government will call it Project Blue Book and people like me will finally have one way to track down their relatives, because they are all quoted in that book.

Crazy is as crazy is related to.

Back to Monday. I went Kirk for a long time on Monday, until 50ish people failed in every way to follow directions reminded me of why I chose to do this in the first place. So, thank you all for your virtual fistbumps.

I'm one of those saptastic people that makes grateful lists when life seems jolly rotten, because I know there's something I've forgotten, but it wasn't coming Monday. It came Monday night, my Pointy Eared List Of Clarity, and the top 50 items on my list were those 50 comments on that last post. A couple emails and a really good phone call thrown in to boot, and I'm feeling much better. Like, I don't want to quit. Like, I want to prioritize a little better and make better use of my time on and offline. Like, I don't think I could quit because you guys have this amazing ability to make things better in my life that you don't even know you're touching.

My life, she is grand. Perhaps I'm not going to know the classic definition of "success", but perhaps I don't want to. Perhaps I don't want to be classic. Perhaps classic isn't in my cards, but if I measure success by the amount of lives I've touched and been touched by, I have a cup that is running the fuck over.

And it's all your fault.

Outside, Looking In

I didn't get to attend the Mom 2.0 Summit in Houston this weekend because I've only lived in Houston for three months, and still don't know my neighbors' names, let alone who can babysit for me long enough to go get schooled. I did, however, get to attend some of the later-night get-togethers, and I got to watch the conference over twitter.

I took a bit away from this weekend's conference; less than the attendees, but more than I expected to.

In one of the sessions, I couldn't tell you which one, Goon Squad Sarah kicked out this little gem:

And I felt that. Apparently, she started her blog so she could have a blogspot account to comment on someone else's site. And now she's doing what she does so so good. I've always held that one should do what one does well, and what I do well is cocktail waitress. So that's what I always did. I held my head as high as one can as a professional waitress and acknowledged that some people can balance ledgers and some people can design buildings and some people can remember 1000 people's drink orders at the same time, and all of those things are valuable contributions to society. I never, not in a million years, guessed that I could write. In fact, when I met my husband, he was trying to write the Great American Novel and I was trying to get promoted to full time bartender. But here I am, however many years later, writing for a living in corporate America and writing for shits and giggles on the internet and trying, and failing, to write the Great American Non-Fiction book.

And I just never thought that anyone else started into this thing, not knowing they could do it. Not caring if they could do it. Not trying to "be a writer", just trying to leave a goddamn comment on Google's ridiculously un-navigable comment forms.

I also learned, from sitting on the peripheral, that I think it may be time for me to think about exiting the blogosphere.

I don't mean that in a whiny, talk-me-out-of-it way, I just mean that I listened and watched as these women, these serious, professional women, did something. I looked around at my peer group online and realized that I've been doing this a lot longer than most of these women, but have actually done less in my time online. I looked at amazing photographs delicately framed on walls, and I followed streams from packed panels behind grand hotel doors, and I saw my own shortcomings. Sure, I have a fantastic following of what I think are some of the greatest minds online, but outside our little black-on-white world here, I'm not doing anything. I'm talking to myself, and you all are kind enough to listen. But no one's asking me to speak at their conference, and no one's hanging my pictures in galleries, and no one's invited me to write on the mega-online website for women, and I know that it doesn't matter because that's not ultimately why I'm here, but when I sit squarely facing those women who have been doing this as long as I have and I see how far they've come, how much they've accomplished, I wonder what the fuck it is I'm doing dumping a bunch of time and energy into something that doesn't really matter when I could, and apparently should, be doing a whole fucking lot more, based strictly on comparison of ROI. I know I can write, I know I can write amazingly well when I try, and even though I've been doing it publicly for FIVE YEARS, it's not getting me anywhere, when it is most certainly getting mostly everyone I know somewhere indeed. Maybe it's not why I think I'm here, but it could be why I'm supposed to think I'm here, you know?

Washing my dishes right now would actually do something for me, and yet I'm typing this. I think my priorities are grossly askew.

Also, this is not up for debate, so skip the comments on it, please. It's just me thinking outloud.

Lastly, I realized that, to a large degree, I hide behind my camera in public. I learned that I like the narrow, grey lensey take on reality much more than the actual, real reality right in front of me. I realized that I am much more comfortable documenting that I am experiencing, because it allows be to be no where near involved in the moment I am standing in the middle of. My camera gives me a reason for being wherever it is that I am, so I never actually have to be there on my own merits. It's my introduction and my segue and my crutch. How did I realize this? Because once it was all said and done, once I was home and tucked back within my own, quiet walls, I noticed that I'd taken 305 usable pictures at BlogHer, and ONE at Mom 2.0.

My Southern FairytaleRachel from A Southern Fairytale, who is exactly as lovely as she looks.

Because I wasn't hiding, and I wasn't filtering. I wasn't uncomfortable, and I wasn't afraid, and I wasn't intimidated. I don't think I tripped over my tongue in front of Mom 101 once like I usually do, and I made an absolute fool of myself when I met Momslant and I was totally okay with that. Gwenbell got a hearty fistbump, and at best Laura Meyes got a frantic wave across a crowded room. And I was okay. I didn't hide and I didn't lurk and I didn't worry, for once. I didn't feel like the odd man out for once. I was with my peers, with women whom I respect and admire, women who normally scare the shit out of me with their incredibly beautiful minds, and I was humbled and inspired and unafraid.

For once in my life, I walked into something and I wasn't documenting it....I was entirely too busy living it.

The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of It's Parts

It's estimated that two new blogs are created every second of every day.

There are parenting blogs and business blogs and photo blogs and music blogs and news blogs and tech blogs and art blogs and travel blogs and food blogs and political blogs and the one thing they all share in common is voice. Blogging, by its very nature, is a personal endeavour. Our souls color our words, for good or ill, and that is what makes what we do exceptional. All of us. Each and every one of you. You share your soul in every picture, in every semicolon, in every over-used ellipse...

Once in a while, though, one of those 70 million blogs, one of those ones created in the time you took to blink just now, one of those 38.5 million that are active today, one of them comes along and stops the world. You never know which one it's going to be. I'll bet Maggie Dammit didn't know a year ago when she hit publish that it was going to be hers.

A year ago today, during one of those blinks of an eye, a girl named Maggie started a blog called Violence Unsilenced. She wanted to see a place where survivors of anything could come and talk, just share, just hand what they spent a lifetime carrying heavy on their backs over to someone else.

As of today, 101 survivors have spoken. Some do it anonymously, some do it discreetly, some shout to the rooftops. We all are at different stages of this game, after all, this letting go. It's a language, and together we're learning to speak it.

It's not a language that anyone comes to easily. My friend Kelly once said, "silence is a weapon women use against themselves", and there are few things I read that hit me square in the gut, but that one did. The less we share, the less we talk, the more silent we are about these things that have been thrust upon us here-I-come-ready-or-not, the more deeply they cut us.

I got tired of being cut. 100 other people got tired of being cut. 101 of us, so far, have banded together to accept that we aren't the inmates, we are the asylum of things that wives and husbands, sons and daughters, friends and lovers should never have to house.

I will never, ever, be able to return to my mother the fear that she whispered into my head so she didn't have to carry it anymore. I will never have the chance to give my father back his bloodstains and his degradation. What I can do is wash it off of my skin, rinse it out of my mouth, ball it up in my fingers and beat it to death on this keyboard. I can give it to you, to them, to those of us who have been convinced by god or man that it is ours alone to carry.

Alone is the most desperate word. Silence is the strongest weapon. Broken is something we can be, or something we can do.

I did. We did together. And we're changing the world, one keystroke at a time.

Happy anniversary to each and every one of us, each part that making us all whole again.

If Music Be The Food Of Love, Play On

I was driving my kid to school today, listening to the only decent morning radio I've yet to find in Houston, and heard that the new Angels & Airwaves album is free to download today. Also, if you leave a donation, you get a bonus track. The bonus track is epic. Just sayin'.

Anyway, I got to thinking (and subsequently emailing that morning radio show. Because I'm 12) that, though their target demographic is NOT 12 year olds, or boring old moms, this time it maybe should be. Because Britneyesque teeny-bop makes my brain bleed, and how many parents know the alternatives? My buddy in Denver got his kid hooked on the Who at the ripe old age of 5, which was clever but The Who is mediocre at best *ducks* and kind of hard to find on anything that doesn't involve David Caruso and his Sunglasses of Doom.

And speaking of brain bleed, do you know how many licks it takes Raffi to get to the center of your brain? Neither do kids got Paint It Black sang to them every night at bedtime, because it's the same looping melody and way more interesting than Baby Belugas.

So here's my Public Service Announcement o' the Month: There are alternatives to glorification of premarital gang sex or date rape, people. Here are a few:

Dexter's Hip Hop Experiment. The soundtrack to the best cartoon ever written by man. Artists include Will. I. Am., Coolio and Prince Paul. PRINCE PAUL. He kicks ass, I don't care who you are. The whole CD is based off the cartoon (scientist 8 year old kid Dexter, rainbow-shooting-unicorns humping sister Dee Dee). It's funny and geeky and hip-hoppy. I listen to it WAY more than my kids do.  If techo is more your speed, you can get the Power-Puff Girls soundtrack on Amazon as well, also by actual, real musicians.

Weezer: Any of it. I was late on the Weezer train. I only found them 10 years ago, and I honestly don't know how I made it than long without them. If you don't know Weezer, start here. But right after, listen to this. Every single member of this house, from the four year old to the 37 year old, loves Weezer. And they don't cuss, ever, not at all. They sing about Buddy Holly and hanging out with their girlfriend at her parents house, having family dinner. But they, at the very same time, make you want to get on your knees and thank god for the invention of the electric guitar. We took our kids to see Weezer once, and sat 13 rows from the stage, and had our minds bah-lown. They are funny, they are nerdy, they are 100% safe for work, and they inspire children to love, not like but love, music.

They also inspire children to torture their parents. Bygones.

Say It Ain't So from Mr Lady on Vimeo.

Punk in DrublicAngels & Airwaves and Blink 182, which I unfairly lump into the same pile, though they are two different beasts. A&A is a "side-project" group for Blink 182, but they go hand in hand. Blink is more punkesque, A&A is more stadium-emo-rockish. They are both most excellent. Blink 182 drops the occasional f* bomb, it's true, and can sometimes be a lot like reading Basketball Diaries to your kid, but the fact of the matter is that your kid is already saying Fuck, and in much better context than you, and there is something to be said for reading your kids Basketball Diaries. At the same time, they're writing songs about Jack and Sally. Angels is less edgy in subject matter, and a totally different style of musicianship. But both bands offer something you are hard pressed to find in Top 40 music....musicianship. We've taken our kids to see Blink 182 twice, and Angels once, and we will again every single chance we get. Their shows are grown up. They aren't humping the stage, and they aren't spouting off about drugs and chics, they just play. Very, very well.

*Aside: Am I saying you should let your kids watch their videos? HELL NO. Their videos are for moms and dads and Robert Smith. But a burnt copy of the cd will do nicely.

Devotchka: A little band of tuba-playing, violin-wielding gypsies from Denver, who you may or may not know from the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack. Devotchka is, um, well, errr...they're kind of hard to describe. They're, like, Burlesque meets Beethoven. Their music is most likely way over your kids heads, but it's good. It's soulful. It's complicated. It's MUSIC. And if you ask them pretty please with a cherry on top, they'll play your kids school fundraiser. Which will turn into your 3rd grader getting to play his flute on-stage, in concert with them. You know, if you ask real nice and one of their kids goes to your school.  Your kid isn't going to listen to their album straight through, not at first, but they'll play this until their cd player breaks, for sure.

There are more, loads more. The Foo Fighters, The Killers, They Might Be Giants, Jeremy Fisher, Radiohead....I could do this all day. But I won't. What I will do is make 5 kid friendly cd's for 5 random commenters and then probably never mail them out because I suck at mailing things out and even when I do they never seem to make it to where I've mailed them, because the US postal service hates me and wants me to cry. Ooooh, the Postal Service. Another fantastic band you and your kids would both love.