In the spring of 1996, I got the ridiculous idea that I ought to have a Web site of my very own. I'm not entirely sure what the tipping point was. My workplace had sent me and the corporate IT guy to an HTML class for no reason I could determine, and I came away from the experience wondering why anyone would bother. But hey, I was in my early forties, and I figured it wouldn't hurt to have one more skill in case I had to move on; all else being equal, I reasoned, employers would rather have someone younger, or at least with lower expectations. I was a member of Prodigy in those days, and Prodigy was pleased to offer me a full megabyte of Web space at no extra cost. In a couple of hours, I had hacked up seven pages of stuff, installed links across the lot, and uploaded them through something that only vaguely resembled FTP. "Chez Chaz," the least-lame name I could think up on short notice, was hung on top.
Chez Chaz logo 1996

Those seven pages were not much to look at, and they were eventually swept away — except for Vent #1, a relatively mild rant about how I expected the city to make a mockery of the first anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building. They did not do so. I thought of pulling the page, but decided it was more consistent with my mission to leave it in place.

This, of course, presumes that I had some idea of a mission for this place. In those days, I would defend it by saying something to the effect that "Hey, if someone is giving me a soapbox and not making me pay for it, the least I can do is put it to use." Whether you comprehend his song or not, the songbird will sing.

Prodigy shifted me to a new URL, perhaps in anticipation of its own horrible self-immolation, in early 1999. As incentive, they doubled the available space to two megabytes, which was useful, inasmuch as the main thing on the site was the series of Vents, then up over a hundred. I was nevertheless not happy with this uncertainty, and in the spring of '99 I bought the dustbury.com domain and signed up with a Web host. Anything I didn't know, techwise, I had to learn in a hurry. Still, something seemed lacking, and that something, I decided, was immediacy:

Version 7 (you're soaking in it) introduces my Sort Of Blog, a way for me to get some stuff on the table without regard to the semi-regular Vent schedule or the ongoing necessity to update the other sections. Most of the existing pages will continue as before, though minor design changes will be forthcoming here and there, and the usual sporadic updates will continue to take place, as the saying goes, When I Get Around To Them.

That was the 23rd of June, 2000. There's been at least one new post every day since then; I haven't missed a day in the last 5,769. Eventually there would be occasions when I might have two posts in a single day; today's average is more like five. Why this is so, I do not know.

Through the summer of 2002, everything here was hand-coded. I had somehow managed to wedge in a third-party comment client, but it was slow and cumbersome, and I finally said the hell with it and installed Movable Type. (This was also the introduction of the second bird, an actual 8-color drawing nicked from some government nature page.) In 2006, MT crashed badly enough that I had to restart the database, though all the existing posts were still on the server as static pages. There were over seven thousand of them. And in 2008, MT was having so much trouble serving up the four thousand posts since then that I killed it. It took several days to move those posts to WordPress, but that's where they live today, along with fifteen thousand more recent ones. (I have kept alive a handful of the MT URLs from that period, which now redirect to the WP versions.) I also introduced a third bird, which was received poorly; the second one was reinstated shortly thereafter.

All of this stuff, of course, you already know if you've been reading this stuff for a long time, and some of you have. You might even remember this, from the ninth anniversary:

It's still sort of amazing, though, that I'm getting ready to start my tenth year of this. It was never intended to last this long.

And it's still here; I rather expect that its demise will coincide with my own, which can't be too far away, what with the usual ravages of age, some of which are hitting me rather more strongly than I anticipated. It would be nice, I suppose, if someone kept it up after my departure, but I'm not counting on it. (The Wayback Machine has been taking the occasional snapshot since late 1999.) I once gave thought to setting up a parallel site on WordPress.com, but the thought of moving all this stuff is daunting in the extreme, and I'm actually running pretty close to their 3-GB maximum. A site with this name does exist over there, but it gets little use.

I did toy with the idea of unveiling a new design today, but that idea was pretty daunting in itself. I did, however, come up with an answer to the main reason I was considering a new design: this place has not been not particularly mobile-friendly, and much of it still isn't, but the WordPress material is now offered in a handier format for smartphones and tablets and such. Weirdly, I can't get it to work on my tablet, but trials with iPhones and various 'droids and even a Windows Phone have been successful.

I am, you may be certain, grateful to each and every one of you. The audience has changed over the years: a decade ago 800 people arrived here each day, while today it's more like 300 — but nearly 1,000 people are taking a feed of some sort. I conclude from this that the demand has yet to subside entirely. Not that I'd quit if it did.

The Vent

#960
  9 April 2016

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