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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Upgraded the website

I’ve just made a few changes to the website recently. Besides the Commentluv plug-in that I installed in January which displays a link to the commenter’s latest post, I’ve also installed the Social Bookmarks plug-in that allows you to share your social bookmarks more easily. And then earlier tonight I installed Subscribe to Comments plug-in so you have the option of getting replies to your comments via email. All these installs were simple and worked smoothly.

And then I decided to upgrade my WordPress from 2.1 to 2.6. The reason that I wanted to upgrade is that my site had been attacked before. There are robots on the internet that look for WordPress blog that has weaknesses and try to insert code into them. When this happens, I’d need to go through the compromised post and remove the unwanted inserted code. The robots were able to do that because older versions of WordPress isn’t as secure in this aspect. That’s why I decided to upgrade to the latest version.

It turned out to be a lot of work. Putting in the new version is not hard. Just download the new version and then upload the files. The problem is that the new version isn’t entirely compatible with the old stuff. Most of my site looked okay after the upgrade, but the categories were missing! On the sidebar, there are categories and character appearances, but each one would just say a number, like “(23)” instead of “My Videos (23)”. And in the posts, instead of something like “Posted in Sesame Street”, it just showed “Posted in”. All the category labels were gone for some reason. Also, although my blogroll was there, the word “blogroll” was missing.

So I started doing some reading about this, and eventually I managed to add all the categories back one by one. It was somewhat tedious and repetitive, but at least I didn’t lose any major information other than the category labels. And it’s a good thing that I’m a programmer and have a good understanding of how WordPress (which is written in PHP) and the back-end MySQL database works.

Will share more technical details later, in case someone runs into the same problem and somehow lands on my site.

Cool Links to Check Out (07/28/2008 edition)

Book-a-Minute: Classic Novels in Under One Minute

Love reading? Did you know that many classics can be condensed to under 1 minute? For example, here’s Romeo and Juliet:
Juliet: Oh Romeo!
Romeo: Oh Juliet!
Juliet: Oh Romeo!
Romeo: Oh, Juliet! (dies)
Juliet: Oh, Romeo! … Romeo? … Dammit.

And check out the Movie-a-Minute site too. These websites are actually not my recent discoveries, but I was reminded to share them when I saw a channel showing Titanic when I was channel surfing. By the way, Titanic condensed down to this:
Jack: Your social class is stuffy. Let’s dance with the ship’s rats and have fun.
Rose: You have captured my heart. Let’s run around the ship and giggle.
(The ship sinks.)
Jack: Never let go.
Rose: I promise. (lets go)

Visit the websites to see more books and movies condensed.

Career Paths: Editor

After the post about how to become a director, here’s another Indy Mogul blog post about being an editor… for those interested in the career.

Warning: Habits May Be Good for You

This is an article about how some marketing tactics relating habits and products can be used to address issues like unprotected sex, lack of soap use, etc. There was a time when few people brush their teeth and there was a time when most people don’t chew gums, but these habits have been built through successful advertising campaigns. Now some people are attempting the same techniques to encourage people to use condoms, quit smoking, etc. Yup, a lot of our lives are driven by habits. (Off to check email… :-D)

Feist on Saseme Street

I love it when singers parody their own songs. I loved it when James Blunt appeared on Sesame Street singing a song about his triangle (a parody of “You’re Beautiful”). And here is Canadian singer-song writer Feist‘s appearance on Sesame Street. In this really cute video, she sings a song about counting to four, parodying her hit song 1-2-3-4. (If you can’t see the embedded video, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fciD_II7NI.)

This video is so fun to watch. The monsters (Elmo, Zoe, Telly, Rosita) are cute. The chickens are wearing hats and sunglasses. The penguins are silly looking. But what I really love is Feist’s performance. She is such a puppet! Okay, let me explain: she is totally matching the puppets’ movements. When she is walking along with the monsters, she bounces up and down like puppets would. And when she dances around with the chickens and monsters, she does this really exaggerated head and body motion that’s such a puppet movement. (When TV puppets sing and dance, you see this very typical move of bodying swaying left and right, the head tilting to the left for two beats, and then right for two beats and so on.) It’s very typical for a puppet, but when a human does it, it’s just so totally adorable. And apparently she’s having way too much fun and that feeling of joy really beams over to my monitor.

They also did a good job of designing the shots. There’s Feist, four monsters, four penguins, and four chickens, a total of 13 characters in the shot at one point and yet it was never chaotic. And they took many elements from the original video (which is also very fun to watch, by the way). It was not easy because all the characters are moving all the time, and so was the camera. Everything had to be carefully planned out, especially when they were using the edges of the screen so much (just like the very classic Mahna Mahna sketch from Muppets). Towards the end there were three groups of four and they each used one edge (monsters on left, chickens at the bottom, and penguins on right). There were many characters but they were organized into groups, so you didn’t need to try to figure out what each of the 13 characters were doing.

Ah, this is way too cute, seriously.

(Via PuppetVision blog. Get well soon, Andrew!)

Update: After watching the video for the 5th time, I spotted Oscar the Grouch in this video. It was really a subtle but nice touch. Anyone spotted Oscar too? (That was quite a Where’s Waldo moment for me.)

Related Posts:
James Blunt on Sesame Street
Walking Down the Memory Lane and Mahna Mahna

Writer’s Block (a different kind of)

Ever experienced writer’s block? Most of us have the experience of trying to write something, but cannot think of anything good to write. However, I’m going to talk about another kind of writer’s block, and I will just call it writer’s block due to the lack of a better term.

Let me explain. There are many times that I have story ideas, or song ideas, that are either too hard to produce or will take too long. But these things tend to excite me so much that I could not come up with other story ideas while those are waiting to be done. In a way, the ideas that I come up with first, but have not yet finished, will occupy my brain until they are done. I might have several of these ideas that come to me at around the same time, and they will create some kind of mental congestion (hm, what about we call it writer’s congestion?) that blocks new ideas from being generated.

In a way, it’s annoying because I will not be able to (or at least, I have to try really hard to) work on new stuff if the old isn’t cleared out. But also, in a way, it’s good because it pushes me to either to dump the old stuff out on paper or keep refining it in my head (and get me more excited about the ideas meanwhile). I am also this way with blog posts. Some people say that you should have several posts saved up so you can use them when you can’t think of anything. But for me, if I don’t finish the old thoughts, I have a hard time coming up with new ones. And if new ones will only come when I finish the old ones, then I will have new ones and don’t need the saved up ones… sort of a circular logic, isn’t it?

I know for a fact that the way I think differ from many people, but I suspect that other people might have gone down this path too. Is it just me? Or you too? Have you experienced this kind of writer’s block or congestion?

My Blogging Income Revealed!

Shoemoney did it. My pal Derek did it. And although I don’t have as many readers as they do, it’s time for me to reveal how much I am earning from blogging this month.

Here is my total earning from this blog this month:
blogging_income_mc.jpg

From AdSense:
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From affiliate marketing:
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From the eBook that doesn’t exist:
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Isn’t that amazing? Don’t you want to achieve something like that too? Just because I’m so nice, I’m going to reveal my secret and it’s actually very simple and easy:
blogging_income_etc.jpg

The best way to earn nothing is to do absolutely nothing! Now that you know the secret, it’s time to try it out. I also welcome testimonials…

Digital TV Converter Box Installed!

Over the weekend I installed the digital TV converter box. For my non-U.S. readers that didn’t know about this, the U.S. government wanted to take back the frequencies currently used for analog TV, and to make all TV channels digital. So by February 2009, you are supposed to have a digital TV, or have an analog TV with a digital TV converter box installed, or otherwise you might not be able to watch TV, since they might stop sending analog signals altogether.

The installation is sort of confusing. Actually it wasn’t that confusing, but my trying to fit the VCR into the chain complicated the matter. Anyway, it was done now. There were more digital channels than the analog ones, so that I do appreciate. And there were no blurry channels. What was annoying was that some channels were broadcasting in 16:9. Since we have a 4:3 screen, you see black stripes above and below the 16:9 image. However, how does a 16:9 channel sends out signals for old programs that were produced in 4:3? Yep, they have black stripes to the left and to the right of the signal. Compound those two effects together, you get a 4:3 program that was shrunken, with huge black borders around it. That’s kinda annoying.

I do appreciate the extra channels, especially the many more PBS channels. What’s really awesome about this digital channel thing though, is that I get Qubo. Yeah, yeah, it’s a children’s channel, but guess what’s on children’s channel? Yep, you guessed it, puppet shows.

qubo_lambchop.jpgI watched Lamb Chop’s Play-Along, and although I had fun watching it, it really really bugged me. How did they control the arms of Lamb Chop? Where are the rods that moves the arms? That really really bugged me. If it’s not shown, then it must be hidden inside the puppet. But the arm movements are so fluid! I looked up some live performances of Lamp Chop on YouTube, but the puppeteer focused on the mouth and didn’t do much with the arms, so I didn’t figure out much from it. I was pretty sure that the rods have to be hidden in the puppets, but damn, the motions looked good. How did they do that? I totally wanted to find out.

qubo_nanalan.jpgqubo_veggietales.jpgAnd then there’s Nanalan. I had to step away from the TV at the moment so I couldn’t really watch it, but hey, that’s another puppet show that you can watch on Qubo. Man, Qubo is awesome. It also shows Veggie Tales. Aw man, Veggie Tales is awesome. I can’t get that “Where is my hairbrush” song out of my head and that Sheerluck Holmes story is hilarious. Oh man, I’m so glad to have that extra channel. :-D

Correction (07/20/2008): It turned out that I saw Nanalan on a digital channel of KLCS (a local PBS station) instead of Qubo. No wonder that I couldn’t find it on the Qubo online line-up. But, Qubo is still awesome nevertheless. :-)

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