WP-Cron, BackWPUp, and Apache Virtual Hosts

We were forced to switch hosts recently, and while setting up the new server, I ran into a really frustrating issue with wp-cron that had a stupidly simple fix.

Some background: I setup several virtual hosts with Apache that redirected based on the domain name. This is a fairly common setup for running multiple domains from a single server. To test, I modified my local hosts file to redirect the domains to the new server. The actual DNS record was still pointing to the old server until I had everything ready. This becomes important.

Everything seemed to be working correctly but when I’d run a BackWPUp job, nothing would happen. It would say the job was started, but it wouldn’t show me the job running page. It wouldn’t do anything.

Some searching seemed to indicate that this was related to wp-cron. And indeed, wp-cron was not running. Scheduled posts wouldn’t get posted. But none of my searches turned up anything. Wp-cron just wouldn’t run and there was no reason why.

Some digging showed that wp-cron wasn’t even in the access log. In the default setup, wp-cron gets called when someone visits your site. But it gets called via a callback to domain name/wp-cron. This means the server sends the request to the old server if you haven’t updated your DNS.

The stupidly simple fix? Add the virtual host domains to the /etc/hosts (or wherever, depending on your server) with the IP set to the local IP.* Boom. Everything works. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure this out.

*Alternatively, you can just update the DNS to point to the new server when you’ve hit this point.

Third Time’s the Charm… Maybe

Yesterday I completed the Austin Half Marathon for the third time. I’ve had a bit of a rough ride at this race, due entirely to my own fault.

The first time I was highly prepared. I’d run for months beforehand, including long runs of 10+ miles. And by run, I really mean walk/jog, because even with months of training, I was still not a great runner. I got the highly lucky (to me, anyway) race number of 13000.

It was my first half. My family came to cheer me on, including my grandma. It was awesome. I came in at 3:28:14 which is glacially slow for a real runner (the winner could’ve run it three times by the time I finished), but it beat my goal of 3:30, so I was super happy. So the first race went off without a hitch.

Later that year, I managed to get a stress fracture by doing nothing at all (really… I wasn’t even running when it happened) and decided I shouldn’t sign up for the race in 2013.

Or so I thought.

I guess attendance was down, because the race offered a two-for-one deal. Buy 2013 and your 2014 race was included. A friend offered to walk with me and so I signed up. Because why not. Thirteen miles is a long way, but it’s not impossible, and I’d done it before.

Except that I decided to do a “training walk” a week before the race. I hadn’t been exercising regularly thanks to my on-again-off-again achy foot, so I was somewhat concerned about the race. During the training walk, I gave myself quarter-sized blisters on the bottoms of both feet.

This is when a smart person would’ve pulled out of the race.

I am not a smart person.

I walked it anyway. At mile eight-ish, I stopped at an aid station and had them wrap my feet. My friend tried to get me to quit, but I’m damn stubborn and so I toughed it out. It was awful. It was so bad, that I vowed never again. We didn’t come in last, but we were close. It was that bad. It was 4:08:57 worth of bad, even though we had started at a 15:00/mile pace.

But pain and bad memories fade with time. So when 2014 registration came around and it was FREE thanks to the BOGO deal, I signed up.

And once again I didn’t train. My foot still bothers me occasionally and we were gone most of January. I was planning to walk it again, but this time I was walking it cold turkey. We had done quite a bit of hiking on vacation, and I’d been going to gym, so I wasn’t too worried. And I certainly wasn’t going to risk blisters by walking before the race. Even with new shoes and socks, I wasn’t risking it.

I was going to walk with the same friend from 2013. But she decided to cancel the day before, probably because she was having flashbacks to last year’s race. I don’t blame her.

Dustin volunteered to go cheer me on, but I told him to sleep in. Who wants to be up at 5:00AM? Nobody, that’s who. But I was anyway.

I drove myself downtown and headed to the start. I had a couple friends running, but we never managed to meet up. I saw five firefighters in full gear (pants, coats, tanks, and hats) with marathon bibs on. There were three men and two women. All I can say is hats off to them.

The humidity hovered around 100% for the whole race. It was foggy and misty until the sun came up, then it was misty and overcast. It was warm, which is nice for waiting for the start, but not great once you’re actually exercising.

I had a goal in mind, but really I just wanted to finish without hurting myself. I mostly walked, but I jogged down a few hills to change up the muscles I was using and gain a few extra seconds of pace. I listened to an audiobook of short stories by Neil Gaiman, read by Neil Gaiman. I think his smooth British accent was one of the reasons the race wasn’t so bad this year.

Miles nine through eleven–always my worst miles–were still pretty terrible, but I didn’t get sick this year. I may have figured out my nutrition. I got a burst of energy at the twelve mile marker that lasted for maybe a half mile. But by then I was closing in on the finish.

I didn’t plan to run in, because really, that extra minute of time saved wasn’t going to help my overall time. But I’d been following a lady for a few miles and slowly closing in on her. I jogged down the final hill, as I had been doing the whole race.

I got to within twenty feet of her before the final turn.

So instead of walking to the finish (which is flat and not downhill) I kept running, determined to catch her. It helped that there was still a huge crowd at the finish. Yes, they were there for the marathoners, but cheering is cheering. I passed the lady maybe two feet before the finish. I gave myself a side stitch for the effort, but it was worth it. Thanks, nameless lady, for keeping me going at the end.

I got my medal, some food, and my finisher’s tee. Then I dragged myself back to the car and headed home. This is the first race I’ve done completely on my own. I drove myself there, walked it alone knowing no one was there cheering for me, and drove home. And it didn’t suck. And while my 3:55:43 didn’t break any records, I did it.

Today I’m pretty sore. Sitting is okay and moving isn’t bad once I get going. But the transition from sitting to standing is somewhat excruciating. But I only got one small blister, so the new shoes/socks combo worked out.

I think three is enough. I don’t know that I’ll do the race again next year.

But, then again, it’s a long time between now and August when registration opens…

Australia – Sydney and the Blue Mountains

For a recap of our time in New Zealand, see the north island, and the south island part one and part two.

After a relatively short flight from Christchurch, we arrived in Sydney. We once again meticulously filled out the customs paperwork, because we’d heard it was strict, and we’d seen an episode of Border Security while flipping channels the night before.

While approximately four different people asked us if we’d been on a farm (we hadn’t), they didn’t so much as X-ray our bags. They just waved us through.

OK, then.

Sydney is massive. In fact, Sydney has more people in the city than New Zealand has in the entire country. After two weeks of small towns and no people, it was a bit of a shock.

Sydney has a subway system and a light rail system, plus a ton of ferries to get around the harbor. It reminded me quite a bit of London, though it didn’t feel nearly as old as London.

It was also hot. They were experiencing a heat wave, and though it really only got into the 90s, after New Zealand it felt much hotter than that. We all started sweltering on the walk from the train station to our hotel.

It was across the street.

Though, to be fair, Central Station was pretty massive.

Sydney also had, by far, the worst maps we’d seen, possibly ever.

The subway map was incomprehensible. Every time we got on the correct train, it was because we’d seen a sign in the station and not because the map told us that was the platform or even line that we needed. We naviaged London without a single issue, so we’re not subway stupid, but Sydney’s system left something to be desired.

The botanical gardens map somehow managed to in no way resemble the garden itself.

If we hadn’t had data on our phones so we could use real maps, we’d still be wondering around trying to find our way.

After we checked in to the hotel, we decided to head down to the Harbor Bridge and Opera House. Because it was so hot, there was no way I was going to wear a coat. And since I was allergic to New Zealand sun, I figured I was allergic to Australian sun, too.

So I made this lovely fashion statement all over town:

Look at that nice umbrella.

Look at that nice umbrella.

As I would later find out, the day we went to the beach, I wasn’t actually allergic to the Australian sun. I didn’t break out in hives, though I did get a nice tan/burn anywhere I forgot to apply sunscreen. So I carried that umbrella around like a doofus for no reason.

We walked around the Opera House and harbor area and marveled at all the people. The Opera House is more of a yellowish color in person. The bright white in all of the photos is because it’s illuminated by white lights at night. During the day, it looks kind of dingy, actually.

Then we walked through the Botanical Gardens where we had a nice view back towards the bridge:

Opera House and Harbor Bridge

Opera House and Harbor Bridge

After the gardens, we saw some of the old government buildings as well as a beautiful old church filled with stained glass before we called it quits for the night.

The next day we took a tour to the Blue Mountains just outside of town. Our first stop, however, was at a wildlife park. It was more of a zoo, really, but we got to pet koalas, so they can call it whatever they want.

The face of pure joy.

The face of pure joy.

Koala fur is softer than I expected.

After the zoo and after a stop for lunch, we finally arrived at the Three Sisters, a rock formation in the Blue Mountains.

It was meh.

I mean, it was pretty, but we’d just spent two weeks in New Zealand where nature goes to 11. Compared to that, it wasn’t anything special.

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

But then we decided to ride this:

The Skyway

The Skyway

Heights are not my favorite. Unstable heights are even less my favorite. Things that can fall from heights with you inside and smoosh you into itty bitty pieces are my least favorite.

Notice the death grip.

Notice the death grip.

This had the added benefit of having a partially glass floor. Because why not.

You can see our shadow below.

You can see our shadow below.

However, despite all of that, it didn’t bother me at all. It was so big and so stable that it didn’t freak me out.

Win.

Shortly after that, we took another cable car and a very steep tram and neither of those bothered me either. Maybe the sun fried my brain that day. Whatever it was, I’ll take it.

We returned to downtown Sydney by ferry, which gave us another nice view of the Opera House.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

We stopped for dinner at the edge of the harbor and then waited for sunset so we could see the Opera House all lit up.

It was Friday night, and people were out in droves:

People in Sydney

People in Sydney

And they didn’t leave once it got dark, either:

Opera House at night.

Opera House at night.

The next day we decided to head out to Bondi beach. It was our last day in Australia, so swimsuits were worn and we were determined to swim.

I knew it was my kind of beach when we arrived to this sign:

Beach WiFi

Beach WiFi

It was a very pretty beach, but packed with people.

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

The water was, predictably, freezing. I stood in it long enough that my legs from my knees down went numb and called that good enough.

So even though we were on three different islands in the middle of summer, I didn’t swim even a single time.

When we got back to the hotel that night, I started feeling bad. I thought dinner hadn’t agreed with me, but by the time we arrived at the airport the next morning, I was worse.

In fact, I felt a lot like Tracy had a few days before.

We flew from Sydney to Auckland, had a couple hour layover, and then had a nearly thirteen hour flight to LAX.

I am convinced that this is no more miserable existence than spending thirteen hours jammed in cattle class of a plane while enduring a violently upset stomach.

I ate nothing except the ice cream that was served with dinner and even that was iffy. I drank nothing. I didn’t move or talk, and I barely breathed.

I basically did everything in my power to avoid puking in an airplane bathroom, and it worked.

We landed in LAX, sailed through Customs in ten minutes (thanks, Global Entry!), and attempted to get on an earlier flight home.

There were no earlier flights.

We had an eight-hour layover while I felt like warmed-over death.

We camped out at our gate, and I slept most of the day. Airport seats aren’t comfy, but when you’re desperate, they’ll do.

I ate a plain hamburger that afternoon, after realizing that I hadn’t eaten anything in nearly 24 hours. I still felt terrible.

When we finally boarded the plane, I asked the flight attendant for ginger ale before we even took off. She kindly obliged, and I’m convinced it’s the only thing that saw me through.

By the time the shuttle dropped us off at the house, it was close to 2:00AM. We collapsed.

I was sick for another week and a half. I fully blame Tracy. :) It wasn’t a great ending, but I’m just glad I wasn’t sick during the trip or it would’ve been worse.

Overall, the whole trip was amazing. I would absolutely recommend New Zealand, and if you’re on the other side of the world anyway, you should definitely stop and check out Australia. It would’ve been nice to see more of Australia, but we were out of time.

New Zealand – The South Island, Part 2

See yesterday’s post for the first half of our South Island adventures.

While we were hanging out in Fox Glacier, we noticed a sign that said Haast Pass was only open from 8:00AM – 8:00PM. Hasst Pass is the pass on the main (and only) road that crosses the mountains south of Fox Glacier. The nearest pass to the north is Arthur’s Pass, which is three hours the wrong way.

So we looked up the reason for the road closure.

Bad idea.

Terrible idea, actually.

It turns out, there was a massive landslide in September at Diana Falls that blocked the road. And the land was still unstable and they were still working on it in January. It’s worth clicking on the link to see the pictures. I’ll wait.

So not only did I see those awesome photos, I also read a story of a separate landslide around the same time that knocked a camper into the flooded river and killed the couple inside. They are still looking for the man’s body.

Alrighty. Off we went.

On the way out of town, we had a nice clear sky to see the mountain in the distance. The day before, the tops of the mountains were completely covered by clouds.

Mt Tasman... I think

Mt Tasman… I think

Luckily, the weather held and our drive was sunny, without even the threat of a downpour. And it was pretty. We stopped at several waterfalls along the way.

Waterfall on the way to Haast Pass.

Waterfall on the way to Haast Pass.

So I wasn’t too worried, all things considered, about landslides.

But then we got to the landslide site itself. And we were stopped by a construction worker and told to turn off our car, because it would be twenty minutes or so before we could go. We were also told in no uncertain terms that we should NOT get out of the car.

We were the first car in line, so we had a good view.

Diana Falls landslide

Diana Falls landslide

And as we were sitting there chatting, we noticed rocks flying down the mountain and across the road in front of us. Decently sized rocks, too, since we could see them from a distance.

Apparently it was all part of their plan to stabilize the site. Which all sounds fine, until you see how they climbed up the mountain:

Ladders up the landslide.

Ladders up the landslide.

Yes, that is a bunch of ladders lashed together. Dustin grabbed that shot as we drove by. Landslides are fairly common in New Zealand. I can only imagine that the guy who has to build these ladders of ladders must sigh every time it starts raining.

Our next stop was at the Blue Pools where New Zealand’s crystal-clear water was on full display.

Blue Pools

Blue Pools

It’s just as clear when standing beside it.

Blue Pools

Blue Pools

It was also freezing cold. This is a theme for pretty much all of the water on the south island. Most of it is glacier runoff and that makes for chilly rivers, streams, and lakes.

We stopped for lunch at Wanaka, a pretty little lakeside town, before continuing on to Queenstown.

Most of the things to do in Queenstown are adrenaline activities–bungee jumping, jet boating, canyoning, and skiing/snowboarding in the winter. If you’re rather boring, like me, you’ll find Queenstown a bit boring, too.

After we checked in to the hotel, Tracy decided she was going to climb Queenstown Hill. The hike has an elevation gain of around 500m, so Dustin and I decided to do something a little easier: we went to the botanical gardens.

While not the largest botanical gardens we’d seen, the Queenstown gardens were still quite nice. And we saw a baby duck, which really made it all worthwhile. :) The garden sits out on a peninsula in Lake Wakatipu and offers a nice view of the town:

Queenstown

Queenstown

We also sat for a while and watch several guys bowling. As in lawn bowling. I’d never seen it played before, and I’m not even sure I’d ever seen a bowling green before, either. It sort of reminded me of curling.

The next day, we took a bus tour to Milford Sound. It was raining off and on, with a few downpours. Normally this would ruin a tour day. But it turns out that the drive to Milford Sound is extremely beautiful in the rain.

Because it is rocky and mountainous, when it rains, the entire mountainside turns into thousands of waterfalls:

Near Milford Sound

Near Milford Sound

We took a boat tour out in the Sound. It was cold, rainy, and windy, but it was awesome.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

We saw seals up close for the first time.

Milford Sound Seals

Milford Sound Seals

There were waterfalls everywhere, but this was one of the few permanent waterfalls that existed even when it wasn’t raining.

Milford Sound Waterfall

Milford Sound Waterfall

Just look how happy I am, even though I’m out in the cold and wet. It helped that my raincoat was actually waterproof. Tracy was not so lucky.

Milford Sound was a definite highlight for me, even in the rain. Or perhaps because of the rain.

In order to get to Milford Sound, you take a tunnel through the mountain. It’s one-way (mostly because two busses can’t pass each other in the tunnel) with stoplights at each end to manage traffic. The tunnel is a little over a kilometer long, and it is steep. Our driver said it had a one meter drop for every ten meters of forward distance.

It’s also quite dramatic from the Milford Sound side, looking like it plugs straight into the side of a cliff, which it does.

Milford Sound Tunnel

Milford Sound Tunnel

The next morning, Tracy decided to go canyoning. It’s an adrenaline activity that involves a wetsuit and jumping off of waterfalls. Dustin and I passed. So that meant we needed to move the car out of the hotel parking garage, because the garage required a room key to get to your car.

I’d driven a few times, but always with Tracy in the car. Dustin hadn’t driven and didn’t want to.

That left it up to me.

I carefully pulled the car out of the garage and parked on the street while Dustin ran in and checked us out. I carefully u-turned. And then, as I’m carefully turning onto the next road, silently repeating “driver to the center,” Dustin starts frantically pointing to the other side of the road, trying to get me to change sides.

He was pointing at the wrong side of the road. That is, the US side, not the NZ side.

So much for his help.

I made it downtown and parked without any further incidents.

After we met up with Tracy, we headed north towards Lake Tekapo. Along the way, we drove past Lake Pukaki, where we had to stop and take a picture because none of us could believe its color.

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki. Not Photoshopped.

The water was turquoise. And not some middling, muddy turquoise, either. Bright, brilliant turquoise. According to Wikipedia, the color comes from glacier flour in the water. You can even see the color difference in the Google satellite image.

Lake Tekapo was another tiny town on a lake.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

While we were there, we decided to take the opportunity to stay up late and stargaze.

And I do mean late.

We were planning to go out at 10:00PM, but it was still pretty light out. Tracy canceled because she wasn’t feeling well, so Dustin and I went out around 10:30PM and stayed until close to midnight. It was just getting really dark in the west by the time we decided to call it quits.

It was a mostly clear night and we had a good view of the Southern Cross, even though it was a nearly full moon. And the moon was bright! Maybe the brightest I’ve ever seen it. We did not get to see the southern aurora, which was disappointing, but not unexpected.

The next day we continued on to Christchurch. We visited the botanical gardens and downtown Christchurch, which was a ghost town.

The city was struck by an earthquake a few years ago and still has not recovered. They had one shopping area built out of shipping containers and that was about it. They didn’t even appear to be working on most of the buildings. Apparently most of the people and businesses that used to be there moved out to the suburbs.

On our last day before our flight to Sydney, we decided to drive out to Akaroa. It’s a picturesque French-influenced town on the ocean. It’s also home to a large number of Hector’s dolphins, a small dolphin found only in New Zealand.

However, the road to get there is extremely curvy, so by the time we arrived Dustin was feeling carsick and Tracy was just straight-up sick. We booked a boat tour for the afternoon and hoped for the best. Both Tracy and Dustin managed it, which was good, because it was awesome.

The view around the harbor was nice, but the best part was the number of dolphins we saw. Hector’s dolphins are fairly small, maybe four or five feet. And they are adorable.

Hector's Dolphins

Hector’s Dolphins

After Akaroa, we went back to the hotel and packed everything back into our suitcase to prepare for the trip to Sydney. Then we went to bed early because for the first time on the trip, we were going to have to be up before the sun. Way before.

Our south island route. This post covers D through J.

South Island Map

South Island Map

And tomorrow, the final post of the series–Sydney and Australia!