Back from vacation

I’m back from a few days in the Redwood country of Humboldt county in California. The highlight was Fern Canyon, once used as a shooting location for the second Jurassic Park movie. Quite incredible scenery. I return to a broken website which I must somehow fix.

Before I left my new motorcycle website was having numerous problem loading images. Two hours of tech support help failed to achieve a solution. I may now have to have the site restored, by using a backup copy made by hosting company. But I want to make sure I have a copy of my site on my own computer before they restore what is now an older version of the site. I know this sounds confusing.

Websites like the one you are viewing are commonly created on a browser. Right now I am typing in a text window at WordPress.com. I got to the site using Safari as my internet browser. I did not first create this post in a word processing program, although many people do that. To make my own copy of the site I will copy each post and page and then paste them into individual documents in Word. I have never had to do this before.

Since the motorcycle site is so small this whole process should take less than an hour. I will loose the formatting of each page but I am not concerned about this. I can recreate the simple look of the site without a problem. The real problem is loosing my writing. Perhaps along the way I will figure out a better, easier way to create a back-up copy of my site on my computer. I will report back.

Update: Problems solved. WordPress sites often use various Widgets, which are short pieces of code used to enable different features. I was using an incompatible widget. Removed, my images load as they should. I did look into a backup website tool. It’s only $18 and allows you to update your site to your computer once a day. I am still thinking about it. Here’s the new site if you want to see it: http://www.newmotorcyclerider.com (external link).

Click on the photo below for a larger image.

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Fern Canyon. Humboldt County California

A change of plans for the new website

I’m building out the new website more than I originally planned. It’s a good change; I am keeping busy by writing and working with images, principally in Photoshop. I’ve done quite a bit of patent searching for motorcycle illustrations, ten of which I have reworked and posted for people to use. After a month of adding content I’ll try seeking a sponsor. Here’s a link to the site if you want track the progress: http://www.newmotorcyclerider.com (external link).

Moto5

Reworked patent illustration

A new motorcycle website

I’m building a new website with the hope of attracting a sponsor and for sharing my enthusiasm for my latest hobby. In the last two months I’ve learned to ride a motorcycle and I absolutely love it. Well, love mixed in with moments of anxiety, uncertainty, and frustration. Hmm, that is love, isn’t it? I’ve secured the domain newmotorcylerider.com (external link) and I will be building the site there.

My initial thought is to pen ten essays on different topics. Things like taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course, buying one’s first motorcycle, clothing and accessories, dealing with the weather, and so on. All subjects squarely focused on the beginning rider. In addition, I’d have some original photography as well as a video or two. My ideal sponsor would be Cycle Gear (external link), a nationwide accessory retailer. But I will have to work very hard to impress them.

The initial articles would all be samples. Only five hundred words or so, just to show a sponsor I can write. Instead of posting one article at a time, like with a blog, I think I will post all ten articles at once, inside a conventional website. One possible article is below, something on my first ride two months ago.

First ride

I was so worried about my upcoming Motorcycle Safety Foundation course (external link) that I found a guy on Craigslist who gave motorcycle coaching by the hour. I’ll call him Pirate Rick. I wanted some practice with a motorcycle clutch before the group lesson. Although I had years of using manual transmissions in cars and trucks I had never been on a motorcycle before. I knew the experience would be very different and it was.

Using a manual transmission in a car means doing three things at once. So it is, too, with a motorcycle. Let’s consider starting. Simultaneously, you shift into gear while depressing a clutch while pressing the accelerator. Let’s break that down.

In a car you engage the clutch with your left foot pedal. With a motorcycle, by comparison, you work the clutch with a hand lever. With a car’s manual transmission you shift with your hand. With a motorcycle you shift with your foot. To get a car moving you press the accelerator pedal with your right foot. With a motorcycle you twist a rotating handgrip on the handlebar. Got it? Somewhat? Same results in all three cases, but done in three different ways.

Shifting shouldn’t be overwhelming. If you get flustered remember it’s because there are many things going on all at once. It’s not your fault if you learn slowly; it’s a process to repeat over and over. Motorcycling is a skill. It takes practice to become proficient. And that challenge is partly why the sport is so engaging. But back to Pirate Rick.

On a sweltering Tuesday in May in north Sacramento, I met Pirate Rick at his suburban home. A few cars whizzed by now and then on the city street, too many for my nervous condition. Rick introduced me to his Honda Rebel, which he used for instruction as well as for renting out to people for their DMV exam.

I was ready to ride, or so I thought: I had helmet, gloves, boots, and jeans. “Do you have a learner’s permit?” Rick asked. Oops. Didn’t think about that. I was not legal to ride on a public road. I had assumed we would go to a private parking lot or somewhere else that was low-key and anonymous. Actually, I hadn’t even thought about where we’d ride. I was just hoping it was somewhere with some shade. Rick surveyed his street. He said, “I think will be okay here.” And so I began my first ride . . .

Motorcycle shift pedal.

Motorcycle shift pedal on the left. Foot rest in the center.

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My next blog post may not be for another week or two. I’ll be busy writing articles and putting the framework of the website together.

Logo for NewMotorcyleRider.com

Logo for NewMotorcycleRider.com

 

A new site

Railroadsounds.net (external link) is now largely complete. To get more traffic I will have to promote it, and I’ll have to add a pay mechanism if there is enough demand for the audio tracks. But, by and large, the work is done. I’m glad to have had a chance to work with audio and using a new hosting service. This is the first new site I’ve built since 2006. Much has changed since then and I am happy to learn new things. What strikes me most with the new web authoring programs is their lack of design flexibility and at the same time the ease of posting and making corrections. For my next site I’ll try to find something that provides more formatting options.

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Readability and random notes

I recall reading in the Chicago Manual of Style that the ideal line length for printed sentences was between 65 and 72 characters. Alas, I cannot now find that citation, but there is much interest on sentence length on the net. Here’s just one article (external link). The point is that readability is a subject of study and has been for decades, for centuries even, ever since Gutenberg. In this Internet Age we think we can design as we will, but that ignores common rules that the print world has always observed. In a time when a website can be viewed on a phone, a tablet, and on a desktop machine, we must be constantly reminded of how our words and sentences appear on a screen and how our readers are trying  to understand them. I’m not a web designer so I do not know how to standardize sentence length on my websites. But I try to stay aware of the similarities and the very real differences between computer and paper.

Have you ever proofread an important report? Especially a long one? It is amazing how many errors one can find when the paper is printed. There is something about how the eye jumps back and forth, this way and that, catching things at the top and bottom of the printed page, seemingly instantly, that is not done on a screen. We miss things in the small window of a computer. Even when looking at a full page screen you still find mistakes on the print-out that you will not catch on a monitor. Which brings me to another point.

If we cannot fully catch all mistakes on a monitor, can we fully understand what we see on a screen? Screens are really meant for looking quickly, often just a paragraph or two at a time. We browse or graze on a computer, instead of taking it in fully like with a book. Does this mean we have to print out every long form article on the web? No, but it does mean we should think about whether we are reading or reading well. And that we should probably put our web writing into small chunks, with illustrations to help explain the text, and enough repetition to get our points across, even if we didn’t get them across in the viewer’s first reading.

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I’m over at RailroadSounds.net

I recently queried a few motorcycle organizations, asking if they needed a column or blog writer. Unfortunately, there has been no response. I am sad about this because I think I could write very well on the topic of beginning motorcyclists; there is little in print on this and as a new rider I feel I have the right outlook and experiences to relate to the subject. Oh, well. Perhaps something will happen with this later.

For the next several weeks I will be building a new for-pay website. It’s sort of like starting a small business. I’ve written about http://railroadsounds.net before. It’s will be an online library and store of words and sounds about railroading. I’ve entered most of the text that will be on-line; I now am concentrating on the audio. Read my daily entries here: http://www.railroadsounds.net/?page_id=72 I am learning a great deal about building a modern website. I think what I’ve learned about video and building an app in the last few months will be helpful. Sign up for the e-mail update list if you like. It’s on the left hand side of every page.

Installing a Genesis framework from StudioPress using a Mac

I’m in the throes of producing a website called railroadsounds.net. It’s a WordPress website using Justhost.com as the, well, the host. On this website, thomasfarleyblog.com, I am using WordPress itself to host. That’s for simplicity’s sake. But for railroadsounds.net I need more storage space than WP economically offers. And there are other reasons as well, the chief one being more flexibility in choosing a template. Which brings me ’round to today’s techno jabber.

I had trouble downloading and uploading a StudioPress web page template called a Genesis Framework. It’s a suite of pages and so called style sheets that you use to develop your website. All their download directions were centered around a .zip file which I never saw. .zip files are generally a PC/Windows thing, not something we see regularly in the Mac world. In any case, in my download folder, a nest of three files appeared. Not one was a .zip. Turned out I had to use a FTP (file transfer protocol) program to upload the folders to my host. I used Fetch, a pay program, because I have used it before, although note my update below. After I figured out all the passwords for my host, the first miracle, I discovered FTP directions at WordPress. They are not wholly accurate. What they call for is this directory path:

wp-content/theme

What you really are looking for is this:

public_html/wp-content/themes/

When you upload your genesis theme in a folder the directory should now look like this:

public_html/wp-content/themes/genesis

If none of this makes sense then feel free to e-mail me and perhaps I can send you some directions and screen shots. Better yet, use Justhost.com. Their tech support people are hyper-alert and hyper-friendly. V. quick responses. And, no, I do not get a commission. They are simply good people and if you are setting up a website for the first time I would recommend them highly.

Update: You can turn a folder into a .zip file using a Mac. Here’s a link on how to do it (external link). The result will be a single file which you can upload using Justhost’s built in FTP client. This process may work but I haven’t tried it. It could save you some time and trouble.