Site Update: Let’s Hope Today Is Better!


Fingers crossed for no more issues to pop up today. Yesterday’s horrible site availability was caused by a swarm of bots from Russia and China. They were persistent, but our valiant hosting company took care of them. So far today, things seem to be ok. There are still some mysterious issues that I’m researching that were coincident to the swarm, so there may be more hijinks to come!

I did remove the new inline “Edit Comment” function for now because I suspect it was related to these mysterious issues. Over the next 24 hours, I’ll see if I can bring it back online, once things are calm for a stretch.

Besides that, I’ve got lots to do today and won’t be around in comments. Have a great one!

Open Thread

It. Never. Stops.


Quick tech note and Open Thread.

There are some bots attacking our server right now, so performance will be wacky until they are gone. Our hosts are on it, in fact they informed me!  I am also working on some DNS issues. This may also make the site a bit twitchy here and there, but hopefully that will smooth out.

Development on the new site is slow work as this theme is a new environment, with lots of very different yet similar capabilities, and with a very different structure. It’s learning as much as it is making it do what I want it to do, and that takes time and reflection.

Yesterday I turned off the text-focused mobile site for some good reasons. I realize that for some of you, bandwidth is an issue and the mobile site was great for you. My hope is to have a video-ad-free option that you will be able to access once the new site is launched. Until then, there’s not much I can do.

The great news is that Major Major Major Major now has his own server to support some custom BJ functions like On The Road (and other contact/picture submit functions). So we’re working on improving things and getting things back to a normal state.

Some good news is that my back is continually improving, and my pond cleanup tasks yesterday didn’t hurt or exhaust my lower back muscles. I find trying to do tasks like that is a gamble, but the trendline is clear – I’m getting stronger and have much less pain. I  temper that with the knowledge that it will be months before I’m back to where it was.

Quick Site Update News



I’m hard at work on the new site/new theme. Instead of launching everything I hope for at once, I’m going to go for a series of stages. This should allow things to settle in before making more significant changes. Stage One will be the new theme. Stage Two, etc. TBD.

New Theme? I Hate Change!

As do we all. I chose a new theme because the current one was no longer suitable for our needs. We are stuck on an older version of it  which has lots of issues, but the current version, once loaded into Balloon Juice (on both the old test server, then a new one), killed the site. I spent hours trying to get the damned thing working, but I decided that it was no longer a good use of my time, so now I’m working towards a better future with a new theme that’s well-supported and well-regarded.

Recent Comments

As many have noticed, the Recent Comments function has been removed. Until we get a better handle on the site’s performance, this was the “low-hanging fruit” that greatly improved performance. I hope to have an updated Widget for that soon, but for now, Recent Comments (and Posts) has been removed.

To explain – there are approx 5 million comments, and that’s a big table; each time the page is refreshed, that widget would query the table. This added too much extra load and our hosts strongly recommended we remove it. This is not how you would design things, but it is how things currently function.

CDN And Caching

The site should be much faster for most users as we’re now using a Content Delivery Network (this copies the site’s resources and puts these copies “nearer” to you on the Internet so that you are not downloading everything from the main server).

This greatly speeds up the site for many users, and as we get more familiar with it, we’ll tweak the settings to achieve optimal results.

Caching is related; it is a series of settings that greatly reduce the amount of files you need to download when you refresh the page. They work together to provide a much faster experience.

Mobile Site

One key change will be the dumping of the current mobile site. The current mobile site is extra work as it is a completely separate thing from the main site. This means many resources are not available on it, and it is much more work to maintain. The vendor for the mobile plugin/theme was recently purchased and their support has been inconsistent since then, sometimes taking 2 weeks between question and answer. And this is for prepaid, premium-level access!

Tablet View Of Mobile Site

In order to reduce the complaints about the iPad/tablet view of the mobile site not working correctly, I’m just going to turn the whole thing off today to see how it goes.  I had planned to await the new theme launch, but I truly feel awful that it’s such a pain for users.

If there’s much angst, then I’ll re-enable it until the new site design is live. Either way, that stripped-down, text-heavy view will soon be a memory.

Morning Slow Down

Another issue that I’m unable to fix right now, but that I hope we can improve, is the morning slowdown/poor responsiveness.  This is unavoidable because the site is backed up once a day, and that takes a lot of resources (disk spinning, memory and CPU occupied, etc.) that would otherwise be used to make the site speedier. It begins in the early morning hours, when there are the least active readers, and runs until completion.

Each day, there are more pictures/graphics, and more content, and that means that there are more files to backup, and that the database that drives the site is bigger.  This means the backup takes more time and CPU attention, every day.

I’ve researched and asked our hosting company if they can do a differential backup, the common solution to this issue, but to no avail – they have a standard backup toolkit and that’s what they use. We shall see what creative means we can employ to improve this, but for now, it’s the way it is.

Video Ads/Memory Issues

Although we’ve removed the insecure video streams from the ads, that doesn’t mean they don’t eat up memory. As soon as I have some time (post redesign!) I will once again see what I can do.

My hope is to have the redesign site/stage one ready next week, and then, once everyone’s rent their garments and pulled out their hair, demanding everything be back the way it was, and I’ve tweaked a few things, I can look anew at the video ads to see what we can do to make them behave better.

So that’s where we’re at. Hopefully I can restart On the Road soon, but no promises – I only have so much time for things Balloon Juice these days!

I will not be around in the comments to this post, but I will review it later. I must go scrounge up some lunch, do a quick koi pond clean, then back to the computer!

Site Issues. Working On It

Sorry for the issues folks.

ETA: I removed Recent Comments again because the server cannot take the extra load it causes. We’ll have something new sometime in the future, but for now, it’s done. I’m sorry, but that’s the reality of the current setup.

Occult Open Thread

Good evening…

I put the remember-me checkbox back on the desktop site*, so now you have to humor me. 😈

*(If you would like to use the remember-me checkbox on your mobile device, you’ll have to scroll all the way down and request the desktop site.)

This caught my eye while browsing the local news: Why Do San Francisco Psychics Need Permits From the Police?

Fortunetelling isn’t just mentioned in the San Francisco police code. It gets its own section — starting with a rundown of all 70 things SFPD counts as fortunetelling.

This includes: clairvoyance, cartomancy, phrenology, tea leaves, tarot cards, coffee grounds, crystal gazing, astrology, palmistry, telepathy, and placing or removing curses.

“Fortunetelling,” the police code reads, “shall also include pretending to perform these actions.”


The application process for a San Francisco fortunetelling permit involves a background check, fingerprinting and even a public hearing. The fees are just under $350 — more than a permit for a masseuse, but less than one for a tow operator or walking-tour guide.

But why?

Unlike other Bay Area cities that require fortuneteller permits but don’t explain why, like Benicia and Lafayette, San Francisco says these permits are to help fight fraud. The police code says the regulations should “protect the public by preventing people who have been charged with deceptive practices from having easy access to persons who may be vulnerable to fraud or confidence games.”

Fair? Although…

Of course, when it comes to fortunetelling, the very notion of fraud is a subjective one.

Well, as long as it helps.

The S.F. District Attorney’s Office has received zero complaints in the last couple of years. The SFPD wasn’t able to say how many reports it has received about this kind of fraud recently, because fortunetelling fraud is not a unique category of crime it tracks.

Next, a shameless plug! Speaking of urbanite occultists, my new short story is now available for free online if you’d like to read it.

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