Server Outage

Our web host provider’s server went down for about two hours today, and we regret any inconvenience. The outage occurred unexpectedly at about 12:30AM PDT. Service was restored at 2:32PM PDT.

1,051 total views, no views today

Three Million Pages

3,000,000 pagesOur site statistics accumulator reports we recently passed the three million mark for pages served to the world wide web readership. That’s a day’s work for any of the internet giants. It takes us little private websites a little longer! ūüôā

Thanks to our boosters, supporters, authors and photographers, and all our readers!

1,308 total views, 1 views today

Saturday Server Outage

I was doing online testing last Saturday afternoon on a software enhancement for our site around 3PM PDT when the server connection timed out. My new program enhancements are still in “alpha”, so I suspected I may have introduced a program “loop”. This can indeed put a server offline.

I found I was soon unable to connect to other sites either. At about 4PM, I called my cable provider. Through their fully automated ūüėĮ voice response and touch tone telephone maze, their system reset my cable modem and I was back online. But the site kept timing out for about an additional hour; access went back to normal thereafter.

This morning my web host provider sent mean apologetic message below (excerpted):

Continue reading

1,479 total views, no views today

Winter Spring Cleaning

Well, it isn’t spring yet by a long shot. Still, it’s best to tidy up when the mood strikes one. We now have rotating random Summitlake HOME banners :-), and we tightened up new user registration a little bit :-(.

1) HOME Page banners now rotate every 10 minutes. To start, we created 22 banner images to select from randomly. A new image is displayed every 10 minutes, 24/7, and it is the same for all users. No need to refresh your page to see what the next image will be; it’s driven by the system clock, not browser refreshes. This change is in effect for the HOME directory only.

I’m a “visual person”, so I key to some extent on a familiar banner image to note what Department I’m in. Perhaps you do this too. If you’re in Writing, it’s easy to get used to always seeing the sepia-tone image of the old 1950’s Underwood typewriter. In you’re in Outdoors, you get used to seeing the mountain-and-sky theme (that’s Dragon Peak, in King’s Canyon). To avoid where am I disorientation issues, there are no plans to randomize the banner themes of other departments at this time.

And we still do like the original “Summitlake” clouds banner. That traces all the way back to the 1990’s site theme. This is still one of the current 22 selections, and we use it in some of the other departments. Now we can have a change once in a while without wearing out the old theme. Last but not least, we hope you enjoy the new photo banners.

If the browser reload of the new style sheet and banner image slow down page loads too much, we may increase cycle time to 30 minutes, or to an hour or more. Please write us if you start to see load times that seem excessive.

You don’t need to register to write us. This leads directly to our second announcement.

2) New User Registrations will now take 15 seconds to complete, instead of 5. To be perfectly honest, we’re still not sure why 95% of the subscribers who sign up as registered users do so. You don’t need to be a “subscriber” to subscribe to our RSS feeds. Sure, we’re enforcing the ‘Users must be registered and logged in to comment’ rule, but that 95% still never submit a comment — so why bother? We do weed out registered users who have never had any visible activity within the first month of registration. (And my apologies to 2 users who did comment, but whose registrations I apparently still did accidentally delete.)

We still get a lot of obvious spam comments in our spam queue: commercial URL’s are submitted along with the absolutely minimal required information. Comment text is 100% generic; it indicates no awareness of the post being commented upon (“Nice site I planning to drop by again, have U seen our meds”).

Lastly, we rarely get an administrative notify that this kind of comment has been submitted. So the “back door” comment was almost certainly submitted by a “spambot”. That makes it a security risk, not just an annoyance. Does this have anything to do with folks who register a username and email, and that’s all, and who never submit comments through the front door?¬† You can connect the dots any way you like. New user registration now requires more field entries, and a CAPTCHA type registration validation should eliminate drive-by bot registrations.

1,525 total views, 1 views today

News & Updates

Revised 4:40PM PDT

1. HTML.¬† For departments still having numerous legacy HTML articles, we’ve integrated the HTML indexes with their host WordPress departments. Look for the HTML Directory link under Browse By. These are found in our page sidebars, in the Computers, La Parola, Outdoors and Writing departments. The HOME link produces a site-wide HTML index.¬† This replaces our old “blue glass” Index buttons, while leaving the user in the WordPress environment.

2. SPAM. The spambot auto-mailers are back! Starting today, with the exception of this HOME page, we users must be registered and logged in to a particular host department to post comments to its articles. The exact policy may change frequently. The site-wide “Write Us” button is NOT affected (we have a new Contact Form page). You may choose to just register and log in to the HOME department to comment on our Latest Posts announcements.

1,665 total views, no views today

Subscribe to RSS

Looking for what’s new at Just subscribe to our free RSS feed. No registration, real-time, delivered to your email or favorite RSS reader. This is an example of what your RSS feed looks like. (Apologies if you’re already on RSS). Here’s how: How to Subscribe to RSS. In HOME.

1,178 total views, no views today

WordPress 2.9 Installs Completed

WordPress released a major revision in build 2.9. We ran it through a test area. The new build is stable and department installations began this evening.

Installation was completed in about an hour, for all WordPress departments. There were some load issues with some of the RSS news feeds as listed in the full text of this article.

  • Astronomy – OK
  • Commentary – OK
  • Computers – OK but RSS feeds disabled for Security News, PC World.
  • La Parola – OK, but disabled GLAAD news feed.
  • Miscellany – OK
  • Outdoors – OK
  • Photos – OK (including DPReview news feed)
  • My Notes – OK
  • Writing – OK (including New Yorker RSS feed)
  • HOME – OK (including BBC News feed)

The RSS feed issues are being investigated.

— Alex

1,294 total views, no views today

Site Down for 6 Minutes WordPress departments were down momentarily this evening, for site maintenance. This allowed upgrade of a component that drives the WordPress engine. Legacy HTML pages would have still been available. The outage lasted from about 1040PM to 1046PM MST (AZ). WordPress departments are up and running again. Sorry for any alarm or inconvenience.

1,039 total views, no views today

Thumbnails and Macs

1. We added thumbnail picture images for our postings of new photos here on the front page, but then we had to back them out. (If you click the link to the Post announcement, not the article itself, you can still see the thumbnails, but it’s easier just to click the article link and view it there directly. ¬†The posts did not break properly on Safari, for PC or Mac. We’ll test another markup solution and try again. The site has also been upgraded to WordPress 2.8.5.

2. In WordPress, choice of OS/platform doesn’t make a great deal of difference. It’s all done on the server with web tools anyway. However, I added a Mac Pro to our stable. I’m delighted with it, and hope to make it a dedicated platform for web development. As time permits, look for an eventual posting in Computers (but not yet). This is my first post on the new machine.

Quad-core Mac Pro, 2.66GZ

Quad-core Mac Pro, 2.66GZ

1,236 total views, no views today

No New Posts; Sitewide ‚ÄúCredits‚ÄĚ Box

“At A Glance” indicates new activity in just about all departments, but, sorry,¬†these¬†date updates are just caused by site and page maintenance.

For years this site has hosted a little “Credits box” at the bottom of every HTML page. We’ve created a sporty new image credits box with image-map “hot spots” for the referenced links.¬†With just two files for the whole site (one for HTML and one for WordPress),¬†we¬†figured out¬†a low-maintenance way¬†to add the box to every HTML page and every WordPress page on the site. Each page points to one of those two files.

This compares with several hundred boxes that had to be maintained by hand, say, for a copyright date change. We had boxes for almost every year going back to 1996 scattered around the site.

The purpose is more than cosmetic. As we host more and more content by other authors and photographers, protecting their rights to their material is just as important as protecting our own.

You’ll see the box at the bottom of every page. It looks like this:

CREDITS: Move mouse pointer to see links.

Return to Summitlake HOME About This Website My Profile Talking Crow Productions Copyright Info Write Us Rocky & Fluffy Computer Co.

893 total views, no views today

Google AdSense

Google AdSense ads have come to – on a trial basis, at least.

You’ve seen¬†AdSense on the web before:¬†unobtrusive postage-stamp ads, usually on a margin or sidebar, that feature links to contextually relevant advertisers. We have test installations ¬†in our Astronomy, Computers, Outdoors and Photo departments.

It can’t be about the money. It’s¬†got to be about the relevance. On a “micro-site” like ours, I’d be very surprised if yearly ad revenue covers a month of web-host server time.

If the Google engines are smart enough to supply links that are actually relevant to page content and to potential interests of readers who visit those pages, that works for me. So far, on Astronomy I’ve seen links to Astronomics, Meade and Photos has featured ads from suppliers of photo equipment. Computers shows links to PC-related hardware and software (currently including a product I¬†have the lowest possible rating in a review).

¬†The only anomaly I’ve seen so far was yesterday¬†in Outdoors. We had two ad listings for French Doors – the contextual relevancy engine was having a bad day, I guess. Today, those same spots are for a stock photo gallery and guided hiking trips – both in some way related to the Outdoors theme.

If you see ads that do happen to strike your fancy, please do feel free to follow them Рbut please only click them once.

931 total views, no views today

WordPress 2.8 Upgrade

We finished site installation and testing of the new WordPress 2.8 upgrade. No surprises are expected. Appearance and presentation are about the same as before. Please let us know if you find features that no longer work as expected.

942 total views, 1 views today

Registering Disabled

Since anyone can submit a comment for moderation, and because this site doesn’t support user-created “New Sites,” there’s no earthly point in enabling the user registration feature. It was disabled 8/13/2011.


(obsolete text below)

You’ll find¬†the “Register” link in our HOME page sidebar under ‘Meta’.¬† But you can just Register with this link! (The sidebar link is not visible if you’re already signed in).

  • Why Register? This lets you log in and submit Comments.
  • What Do I Have To Do? Submit your preferred login name, and a valid email address. When you get your acknowledgment email,¬† log in and update your registration with a brief comment that shows you were really there. Any other user data is optional.
  • What Happens with my registration data? Beyond the above, nothing. Others cannot see who’s registered.¬† No one can “mine” the data.
  • Do I need to register at all? No. You still can view all site content, subscribe to RSS feeds and use the WRITE US contact form.

A new user who clicks the “Register” link gets a short form for their user name and email address. But it’s not automatic. When you submit the form,¬† you’ll receive an email. You must reply to the email, and must update your user page, in order to become a Subscriber.

The WordPress Codex describes the Subscriber as Somebody who can read comments/comment/receive news letters, etc.

Or, as one forum poster noted, you can read, create and maintain your own profile, subscribe to the RSS feeds, “and that’s about it …”

Registration particulars can change over time with new generations of WordPress releases. To control spamming, we’ll try new techniques from time to time, such as CAPTCHA.¬† Our basic registration policy is fairly simple and rarely changes.

As of WordPress 3.0 (Multisite, 7/29/2010) you can register in all departments (except La Parola – register separately) all at once. Click Register in the HOME page sidebar. Do read the instructions.

To be perfectly honest, unless you have administrative privileges on a WordPress site, we can’t figure out any motivating advantage to registering, except to submit comments.

Unfortunately, we still get a lot of “bot” registrations with random “names” like fgharpgvh10a and bogus email addresses¬† If you don’t get a reply email, the registration can’t be completed. We delete registrations that haven’t been updated within a day or two.

Like almost all other content providers,¬†we do have Guidelines for posting any kind of content, including Comments. In a nutshell: like 99% of our guests and contributors since 1995, just keep it clean and civil. ūüôā

If you’ve ever explored RSS, it’s a great way to receive summaries of new posts on this site (or any site which activates RSS). Again, you do not need to be registered to subscribe to RSS.


2,910 total views, no views today

New ‚ÄúWrite Us‚ÄĚ Page

We’ve constructed a simple new WordPress page to take over sitewide “Write Us” functionality. This single dedicated page supports all 12 Summitlake departments, whether WordPress or “PhP” driven, and over 500 additional legacy HTML pages. The switchover took place this evening.

HISTORY: The old “Write Us” was a commercial-grade combination of cgi (Perl) and HTML forms. It was a spin-off from a two-person team effort to develop a website for a ski lodge. The owner decided to keep the website and let prospective customers telephone rather than use the advanced “forms” reservation system we developed. My part in this was over 1,000 free coding hours. I adapted it to “Write Us”, salvaging something from the project. Adding a security code to block spambots was its un-doing: impossible to get it working for all browsers, I got more letters of complaint about erratic “security” than I received on all other subjects.

NEW: the new form uses a simple WordPress plug-in for security, in an off-the-shelf WordPress comment form. You can use or preview it by clicking any Write Us button or link on this site. The free software plug-in is SimpleCAPTCHA by Law Eng Soon (zorex), Copyright 2008. (You can also see the form at the bottom of any post page, including this one.)

Users quickly realize they’re no longer sending a note directly to me:¬†in submitting a comment, it goes to a moderation queue. If I approve it, it becomes publicly visible, and may also spool to an RSS feed. I would be happy if WordPress would add a “public/private” checkbox to the submission form. For the time being, the “Write Us” page advises users to¬†include the phrase PRIVATE or DO NOT POST in the comment, and in that case, as moderator,¬†I will not do so.

Registered users do not have to use the CAPTCHA security (the same system used by most of your financial institutions) , but comments should still go into moderation. I will respond via regular email to notes inviting a response that also include a working email address.

To register, or to submit a comment if you are not logged in, requires that you type in your email address. That information is private and WordPress does NOT publish it.

We do not get the volume of mail we used to get with our articles on the “Ford Bronco TFI Ignition” scandal, so this solution¬†should work for “Write Us” until we find a low-maintenance anti-spam security e-mail solution.



1,342 total views, no views today

HOME Acquires “What’s New” content

Merging¬†of all the What’s New department archives into our new HOME department has been completed. You can browse Archives by date or Category listings from the sidebar popups on this very page.

These archives go back to January 2004. As you know, site content and organization has changed a lot since then! So, as long as we were updating all those post pages anyway, we updated old page links in the What’s New posts¬†to their¬†current equivalent WordPress page URL’s. So the links should work again.

The only content actually lost was a couple of Computers subject references, which lived in the old YaBB bulletin board. We took down that board in 2006 because of excessive maintenance time wasted on spam.

Now, you won’t have to go to a separate department just to find out what’s new – it’s all right here. The old links to What’s New will probably be removed by the time you read this.

History: What’s New originally started as a table on an HTML page some time in the 1990’s. We converted it to a dedicated WordPress department on Monday, May 16th, 2005, going back just to January 2004. We never supported that new department like we meant to, trusting readers would just use “At A Glance” (it’s still a great intuitive tool) to cover for us. We hope to do better in the new HOME installation, and we do sincerely hope you find the new What’s New posts more useful and accessible.

Tech Note: The conversion itself turned out to be automatic. For those interested, details are found in the Docs. Turn your RSS Feed post content from “Summary” to “All”. Export to an XML file. Import in your new WP installation. The posts come in clean, but you will have to re-do your category and tag assignments unless identical in the old site.

1,345 total views, no views today

HOME taking over What’s New

Effective today (more or less), The Summitlake HOME page will start taking over the function of reporting “What’s New” on our site. Look for “new” site news near the top of the HOME index page.

This could be our last post in the older What’s New department. We haven’t figured out an easy way to move all the posts from their old database to the new one, though we may in time. So, for the time being at least, we’re leaving What’s New right where it is now, for its archival value.

1,966 total views, 1 views today

HOME Department created; new Home Page

The Home Page has a new home. If you didn’t already note the change:

There’s a page redirect to the new page, so those following bookmarks, or expecting an index page at the root level of the directory, will always get routed correctly to the new main page. Please bookmark the new page.

The new page, done in WordPress, lives in its own new HOME Department. Many legacy HTML pages have been converted to WordPress. As elsewhere in converted departments, some legacy HTML pages are merely linked to by the new WordPress departments, while others will probably always remain HTML and never be converted to WordPress.

HOME, the last department slated for conversion in the near future, was actually switched over yesterday. Links to the old home page have been changed on over 581 pages and uploaded, but we expect some may still have been missed.

Last HTML Home Page

The old home page, the last grand old flagship in a fleet of legacy HTML pages, was “retired” yesterday as well. While we will always miss it, we’re excited about both the increased utility and readability the newer WordPress technology lends to our readership, and the possibilities of finally adding new content to a “static” home page — without hauling the whole thing onto drydock for the annual new coat of paint.

And why WordPress, exactly? In addition to all the features evident as you scan these new pages, it’s easier for us – as easy as writing and sending an email. No more page layout, typesetting and uploading to produce even the shortest of new “pages”. We may add graphics to our post, or we may not. And then, instead of a Send button, it’s Publish – and you’re reading it.

Lastly, we certainly hope you do enjoy our new home page and HOME department as much as we do! You might want to check out the short Welcome post we wrote for our new HOME department. That post features a screen shot of our first (and oldest) home page, with a layout done in “image map” technology … in 1995!

The image above is a screen shot of our last HTML home page. Her old banner still flies proudly at the very top of the new WordPress pages. Take a careful second look above at the top of this page.

Time to press the Publish button.



1,567 total views, 1 views today

New Home Page

Welcome to our new “home page”. It has become a “Department” – in WordPress, no less!

After all these years, we have finally converted all our major site Departments to WordPress. It was time to convert the venerable old index.shtml page and many of the legacy “root” HTML pages as well, but we wanted a design and format we felt was better than the old one.

We think this one fills the bill. We hope you agree, but we’d like to hear from you too.

There’s more to do. The “What’s New” department only existed because the old home page was static – there was no place to post news and articles. It will be fine right where it is, for now.

Look around at the features on the main page, especially the sidebar. Navigation is new but strangely familiar. You’ll find all the regular departments listed. You’ll find new tools to see “what’s new” right on the home page – without necessarily going anywhere!

We found the artwork for our original 1995 home page. We and our boosters were very proud of it in 1995, but we’ve come a long way.

1995 Home Page

Thanks for your support!


1,833 total views, 2 views today

WRITING Department Converted

Our WRITING department has been converted over to WordPress. Some pages are newly reformatted for WordPress pages or articles. Legacy HTML stories, reflections, poems and letters have been relinked to the new WRITING home page. Guest articles have been linked, but have not been moved or reformatted.

I hope you enjoy the new format and find it easier to browse.

1,146 total views, no views today


This website was originally uploaded to the server, from a Power Macintosh 7100, on October 18, 1995. The appearance, content, client platform and a lot of the methodology have all changed since then. The host server has been changed (or acquired) six times.

We’ve been hosted on the WestHost servers since November 2002. Much of our legacy HTML content has been absorbed into the WordPress databases. The basic concept of this site has always been to feature the original written word on the web, and we’re still committed to that. The following credits, excerpted here, were first posted on November 25, 1995.

Special thanks to my friends at Poor Richard’s (now LDResources) for encouragement and direction … Thanks to Ted Wagner, for egging me on. And most of all, thanks to Bob, who added both his enthusiasm and his patience with this 14-year ongoing project.

A special heartfelt “thanks!” to my friend Al, who has been a pioneering booster and supporter of these pages since the very beginning.

In recent years, support and contributed material from readers and fans have helped mature and broaden its scope. To Al, Dave, Swan and Gary in particular, our thanks and gratitude. To Joe Tranchina, who taught so many of us the thrill of the written word, everlasting thanks for your inspiration and leadership. To all of you who write in or post comments, and those Guest Authors who grace our pages, your extra input helps us focus on our readers.

6,023 total views, 1 views today

User Refs

User Reference

1. Registration. Users may register in each Summitlake department used frequently. Registration requires a real name and email address. E-mail addresses are not posted to the public domain (you would have to intentionally include an email in a comment). Some privileges do come with registration, such as the ability to update your Profile, and queue Comments.

More Info: see our Register link, in the sidebar of most site pages.

2. We do not allow commercial URL’s in registrations or comments for obvious reasons.

3. Subscribe to our RSS feeds. Users do not need to register to subscribe to RSS. How? See How to Subscribe to RSS.

4. Comments. Comments are generally queued for moderation. Users need to be registered and logged in to post a comment. Comments may be disabled on a page after a period of time, indicated by the caption Comments Off.

5. But you can click the Write Us button at any time.Users do not need to register in order to use our write form.

6. More Info: see our Posting Guidelines link, in the sidebar of most pages on

7. Site Navigation. We provide several different ways to help you browse the site.

8. More Info: Visit our Site Navigation page link, in the sidebar of our HOME department pages on

9. Manuscripts and Submissions. We encourage submission of original articles, creative writing and photos that have not been published elsewhere.

More Info: see our Manuscripts page link, in the sidebar of our HOME and WRITING department pages at

About Us: is a small, privately operated and controlled, noncommercial web site. We provide a home for original creative content. Cookies are used on interactive “login” pages (for example, to leave a comment) but are not used for general browsing. No user information is ever sold, mined or given to others. We do not use cookie “tracking”.

For more information: see sidebar links under “Pages”, including: About This Website. We use WordPress¬ģ to serve up most content. Most new posts are open for comments to registered users. We hope you enjoy your visits to our site. Thanks for stopping by!

6,287 total views, no views today

Posts and Such

We did a site upgrade to WordPress 2.5.1. Miraculously, most “At A Glance” last-mod dates didn’t toggle false latest-post updates. (Without going to the Home Page, you can¬†always also¬†see “At A Glance” in the right hand menu on this page.)

We have a wonderful short article in Writing Notes, Retirement in Oregon Рby Dave Norton. Dave and his wife retired recently to start a new life in the beautiful and peaceful Pacific Northwest.

We also have new photos from Swan in Photo Notes, and a new post on Herodotus (yes, the ancient history Herodotus) in Writing Notes.

963 total views, 1 views today

‚ÄėMiscellany‚Äô Converting to WordPress

We weren’t going to add a ninth WordPress department, but¬†I’ve been eying¬†several objectionable issues with fancy old HTML features. Finally, it seemed easier to convert Miscellany than fix the old pages.

At this writing (Saturday December 15), all HTML Miscellany pages have been converted to WordPress in the new Miscellany. Links have been converted. If you do find links to the old Miscellany index page, they are being redirected to the new page. The old pages will go away soon as part of normal housekeeping.

Let’s review how you can locate a WordPress page in any department. The Miscellany link above is constructed so that it will open a new browser window. You can read this and practice with the new Miscellany page at the same time. Click the link.

Under Pages (right hand menu), find:

  • Articles
  • Recent Posts

Articles lists all WordPress articles for this department. It is broken out by category. Recent Posts usually shows only the last five of those.

Under Archives, WordPress has compiled listings for posts by month and year. Let’s say you read a wacky article on making a Squirrel Detector. You don’t remember the article name and can’t figure out how one would categorize this one. But you do remember reading it in about May of 2005. You could find Home-Made Squirrel Detector this way.

Under Category, we made WordPress break out listings by how we categorized our posts. Click the link for Puzzles to see all the puzzles we’ve posted to Miscellany. Click the link to Tobaccos to see all the experiments we’ve posted on custom pipe tobacco blends.

Astronomy Department

Astronomy was created anew as a WordPress department some time ago. New posts are all done in WordPress. We are converting the older HTML content to WordPress. Their indexing will start to appear in the WordPress Astronomy page. As this occurs, you will find older pages showing up in WordPress with categories and older Archive dates going back to 2003. Some pages (like the exposure calculation tables) show up as “Pages” links in the menu. When we’re done, there will be no more HTML indexes, and we can finally remove the blue button that lists HTML pages in hybrid HTML/WordPress departments.

Retro-conversion of other departments will probably take years, but the result should be a more consistent and easier to navigate site. The nifty cgi¬†HTML page auto-lists will largely become a thing of the past, but in exchange, you’re getting listings that not only give you file names, but dates and article excerpts to better help browse

1,222 total views, 1 views today