Diving deeper with WordPress

I’ve been using WordPress for over five years now, which is hard to believe it’s already been that long! This website (westonludeke.com) was the first site I launched on the WP platform. I was just a simple blog I created on the WordPress.com platform.

One of the original reasons I created this website was because I found out there was someone else out there in the universe named Weston Ludeke and I didn’t want him to be able to have WestonLudeke.com. I also wanted to take control of my name: I didn’t want him to do something stupid and have it hurt my chances of obtaining a job. The goal of this site would be for me to give myself a voice and so I can control the “branding” of myself… for lack of better term.

Over the years the Automattic team has been adding advertisements on blogs on the free WordPress.com to help cover costs of those free websites. The downside is publishers on the WP.com platform don’t receive any revenue from those ads. To remove those ads publishers have to upgrade to the WordPress Premium plan which runs $99/year. Ugh. I’m already playing about $10/yr for the domain name (via NameCheap) and $13 to map the domain via WordPress so visitors see westonludeke.com and not wordpress.westonludeke.com. So, instead of paying $23 per year I’d be paying $109 (domain name + WordPress premium). Multiply that by many websites and that starts to add up quick!

I decided it was time I look into self-hosting my own WordPress websites via a web hosting service. Doing some research I decided to go with Bluehost. I did a lot of research on how to do the migration from WordPress.com to WordPress.org via Bluehost and created a game plan. I did the migration first on some small websites I own before the bigger websites. Some good resources I recommend for anyone thinking of migrating:

Bluehost Customer Support – Their support team is available 24/7 and was extremely helpful with me getting my account setup. I used their live chat which was great because I was able to ask all of my questions and email myself a copy of the chat transcript to reference later.

• WordPress Forums – The WordPress forums were a very valuable tool for me as well to read through other questions users had around migrating.

WordPress Sub-Reddit – The WordPress sub-Reddit was super helpful as well. I was able to ask questions on there and get very helpful responses quickly. Also, I found myself helping out others users as well who asked questions. Gotta pay it forward!

I still have a lot to learn about the different best practices and plugins, etc. on WordPress, but I’m so glad I dove in feet first and got most of my websites migrated over. I’m using the Bluehost Plus hosting plan and I can host all of my websites for only $5.95/month.

Where to eat as a Newstonian

You may have just moved to Houston or are simply looking to find awesome new places to eat. Here’s a few brief suggestions from someone who’s lived in the H for nearly a decade. This is by no means comprehensive or a list of all of the best restaurants in Houston. This is just a simple get-started guide for any Newstonian (new Houstonian) who’s looking for some good food. I’ve spent my entire time in Houston either living on the campus of UH or on the otherside of 45 from campus in EaDo, so I may be a bit biased towards places near UH.

Quick Breakfast Tacos

Brother’s Tacos
Alamo Tamale & Tacos
Laredo Taqueria
Villa Arcos

A Nicer Breakfast

Harry’s
Aranda’s (many locations)
Frank’s Grill (many locations)
The Breakfast Club

Casual Eating With A Beer

Moon Tower Inn
Luigi’s Pizzeria
Mandola’s Deli
Nikko Nikko’s
The Black Labrador
West Alabama Ice House and Tacos Tierra Caliente

Barbecue (Yes, this is it’s own category)

Goode Company (many locations)
Pappa’s BBQ (many locations)
Hickory Hollow
Oak Leaf
Pizzitola’s
Luling City Market

Mexican

The Original Ninfa’s On Navigation (Great if you’ve got a large group)
Taqueria Alteno’s (Authentic Mex)

Late Nite Hangover Cure

Dot’s
House of Pies
Mai’s

There you go! Now you know where some decent places to eat are located in the bayou city. Again, this list is just a start but it should help make your stay in Screwston a bit more comfortable.

Bonus: Planning on taking the light rail from campus into the city? Want to find out where to drink after grabbing food? Check out the Houston Light Rail Guide I threw together.

Amor y Mexico – Part 2

2015-04-02 11.52.09San Miguel de Allende!

After leaving Xilitla we made our way down to Guanajuato state to the city of San Miguel de Allende. San Miguel is a beautiful, small city in the hills that is known for its artistic scene. San Miguel also has a pretty big expat population so it’s not uncommon to hear English spoken and to run into Americans or Canadians who call the town home.

Upon arriving in San Miguel the procession was already under way. When I mentioned in the first post (click here to read Part 1) that we were visiting México for Semana Santa (Holy Week), these processions are the primary reason we visited during this time.

Click the first photo to launch the gallery:

We decided it would be fun to stay in a hostel in San Miguel. We stayed at the Hostal Alcatraz which was right in the central part of the city with walking distance to everything.

Click to launch the gallery of the hostal:

After checking into the hostal we made our way down to the main town plaza which was absolutely packed with everyone in town for the holiday:

Some photos out and about the next day in San Miguel. What a beautiful city!

On our last day we made it back to San Luis Potosi for the Semana Santa procession. Check out this excellent article for an explanation of the importance and history behind the procession. Here’s my photo gallery of the procession:

 

2015-04-04 12.03.33Our flight back home the next morning. ¡Muchas gracias por todo Mexico!

Amor y Mexico

Recently the wife and I took a week long trip to Mexico with my brother-in-law to visit my sister-in-law and niece who live in San Luis Potosí, San Luis Potosí, Mexico.  SLP is located centrally in Mexico, strategically positioned between Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara. I hadn’t been to Mexico since Christmas 2009 due to a combination of being too busy and also due to the increase in violence at the start of the decade. While a lot of the violence has abated, SLP has always been much safer than cities along the porous border Mexico shares with the US. My fears turned out to be unfounded and we ended up having an incredible time in a truly amazing country!

Background

Tracing the lineage of my ancestors is a circuitous route. Countries of my paternal ancestors include the Czech Republic, Germany, Sicily, and Mexico… just to name a few of the most prominent. My great-great-grandfather Otto Ludeke immigrated from Germany to Mexico and married a Mexican woman, Guadalupe Vogel, of mixed Mexican-German ancestry. (That’s right.. I wasn’t the first Ludeke man to marry a gorgeous Mexicana!). They eventually immigrated to San Antonio. So, I’m not surprised that I feel right at home visiting Mexico!

ludekeMy great-great-grandparents, Otto and Guadalupe Ludeke.

For our trip to Mexico, we had to first fly from Houston to Dallas, then catch a flight to San Luis Potosi.

2015-03-28 21.03.06We made it to El Aeropuerto de San Luis Potosi! Hooray!

2015-03-28 21.05.41Bienvenidos a San Luis Potosí!

Of course I can’t use my US dollars in Mexico so I had to get some Mexican Pesos, which were very colorful. Click the first photo to launch the photo gallery. The last photo in each gallery will be captioned so you’ll know when to move on:

My first meal in Mexico: Hawaiiana Tacos! Tacos al Pastor with tocino (bacon), jamón (ham), piña (pineapple), and queso (cheese). Added after the photo was taken: Cilantro and cebolla (onion). This meal hit me pretty hard with how incredibly delicious it was. Anyone who serves you tacos al pastor without the piña isn’t doing it right!
2015-03-28 22.49.59

The first night we stayed at my sister-in-law’s house in SLP. In the morning we headed out for Cerritos, a small town in the hills of San Luis Potosí state where my wife and her family grew up.

One of the first stops we made in Cerritos was to visit my wife’s great aunt and great uncle. The great uncle goes by the nickname “Chato” and he runs a fried chicken place, known appropriately as “Pollo Empanizado el Chato”.

Tio Chato is a very hilarious dude! His favorite saying is “A toda madre” which is a slang Mexican saying meaning something to the effect of, “I’m f’ing awesome!”. He says when people ask you how you’re doing, tell them “A toda madre!” He says people often want to see you down or doing badly, so tell them “A toda madre!”

Below is a photo of Tio Chato and me standing in front of his store; note the sign above us.

2015-03-29 15.25.38A toda madre!

2015-03-29 15.25.07The second picture is of the front door to the restaurant. I thought the little chicken hatching was cute.

2015-03-29 14.32.42Inside the chicken restaurant

2015-03-29 16.00.49 In order L to R: My niece, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, wife, great aunt, and great uncle.

Next we swung by to see another one of my wife’s uncles, Fausto, who owns a small convenience store in Cerritos.

2015-03-29 16.15.46Inside Tio Fausto’s store

Then we walked back to Tio Fausto’s house where we stayed the night with him and his wife.

2015-03-29 16.25.15

2015-03-29 18.38.12Looking down the streets in Cerritos

After dropping off our luggage at their house, we decided to climb a very steep hill up to a sanctuary overlooking the whole town. Click the photo gallery below to see the view:

2015-03-29 20.42.58Enjoying a snack that evening in the town plaza

The next morning we awoke to another beautiful view. Tio Fausto’s house has a flat roof one can climb up on a get a good view of the surrounding countryside:

2015-03-30 11.13.18

2015-03-30 11.19.19

Down a random street in Cerritos

2015-03-30 20.28.00Tacos!

Next we went to the La Huasteca region that covers part of San Luis Potosi state and Tamaulipas.

First, we stopped off in Aquismón in San Luis Potosi state to visit the “Sótano de las golondrinas” (rough translation: basement of the swallows) an open air pit cave of 1092ft depth, home to nearly 25 thousand white collard swifts and green parakeets. Everyday the birds fly out the cave in spiral motions in search for food. We sat near the edge of the top of the cave to watch the birds flying down into the cave:

They have guides who will rope you up and let you peer over the edge down into the abyss of the cave. Here’s my brother-in-law getting roped up and then looking down into the cave:

Next we went canoeing down the Tampaón river. Click the first photo to launch the gallery:

Be sure to check out the video below! (give it a few seconds to straighten out)

After canoeing for an hour or so and stopping off and seeing the beautiful waterfall, we then canoed some more and then stopped over at a cave to go swimming. It was a hot day and the water in the cave was freezing but felt great once we got used to it.

Later that night we went to visit Las Pozas, near Xilitla, San Luis Potosí. Las Pozas were created by British surrealist artist Edward James, in a subtropical rainforest in the mountains of Mexico. It includes more than 80 acres of natural waterfalls and pools interlaced with towering surrealist sculptures in concrete:

After visiting the garden we made our way into the town of Xilitla, San Luis Potosi.

2015-03-31 19.12.23Looking down a street in Xilitla

2015-03-31 19.23.35Inside our restaurant for dinner. I love the colors!

2015-03-31 19.27.53Xilitla, SLP

2015-03-31 19.31.04Micheladas grandes!

2015-03-31 19.47.39Comida!

That night we stayed in a nice rental house which was on a farm.
2015-04-01 08.39.35

2015-04-01 08.42.24

2015-04-01 08.45.46Cows in the distance!

2015-04-01 10.31.34For breakfast I had amazing chilaquiles!

Then we hit the road to head towards our next destination, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato. Along the side of many roads when driving through the countryside there are often many little roadside stands selling all sorts of food and knickknacks.
2015-04-01 11.54.01Micheladas y nieves!

2015-04-01 15.21.55This fella was standing guard outside a gas station

Here there! Check out Part 2 right here.

100 Days of Writing

2015-04-17 18.37.40-1

A few months ago I realized there wasn’t a good football blog written by a fan for my alma mater, the Houston Cougars. The feedback and growth of the blog in such a short period of time has been pleasantly surprising.

An Idea Is Born

I’ve been a hardcore fan of the Houston Cougars football team since my freshman year at UH in 2004. Frequently over the years I’ve shared UH news and blog posts on my personal Facebook page, which naturally is limited in scope since it’s private. I’ve always been a bit obsessive with my fandom for the Coogs and football as a whole. I spend countless hours reading about football in my free time. I’m okay with baseball and basketball, but football is an obsession.

In one evening late December of this past year (2014) I started coming across rumors that the head coach of the Cougars football team was going to get fired. I posted that to Facebook and sure enough the next morning he was fired. I then started thinking about it and realized that there really isn’t a good fan blog for the Houston Cougars. We have a local beatwriter covering the team for the Houston Chronicle and occasionally get written about in other local and national publications, but nobody had really done any posts from a fans perspective. I’m by no means a professional journalist, but since I read constantly… everything from books, to articles online, to magazines… I knew that I have enough of a grasp of writing to be a blogger. I also have an insatiable appetite for learning about things. When I get interested in a topic I become obsessive trying to become an expert and wanting to learn every little detail. The Houston Cougars and college football has been one of those topics. Might as well put all of this otherwise useless info to good use!

Since I couldn’t find a good Houston Cougar sports blog out there I decided I needed to start my own. I did some brainstorming about finding a good name and decided on “Cardiac Coogs”. Cardiac Coogs is a nickname people have given the Houston Cougars for having several close games go down to the wire, giving their fans a heart attack or cardiac arrest in the process. I had my idea cemented and then I was off to the races!

Take Off!

When I was starting the blog I was wondering if I’d have enough content on the Houston Cougars football team to write about them during the offseason. I figured I may have a month or two where I scrounge up only one or two blog posts during the dog days of summer before football season kicks off. I had no idea how wrong I was!

Today marks 100 days since I published my first blog post and I’ve already successfully published 88 blog posts in those 100 days. I’ve been pleasantly surprised and a little shocked about how much content is out there about the Cougars. We hired a new head coach, Tom Herman, in January who was the offensive coordinator of the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. Since the hiring everything has snowballed. Many national media outlets (Fox Sports, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, to name a few) have written extensive articles about the Cougars. It’s all surreal how much momentum the program has now.

The blog has mirrored the football program’s rise since launching in January. I’ve built up a pretty strong following on Twitter (500+ followers) and every month I’ve had more visitors than the previous month:

CardiacCoogs Traffic Jan-April

Very cool! We’ll see how long I can keep those graphs increasing. It’s a very specific hyperlocal website so there’s definitely a ceiling on how high those numbers can climb; but I intend to keep pushing very hard to see how high I can make that ceiling.

Getting Noticed

I’ve submitted things myself to other websites, like Reddit, to help the blog gain traction. But, I think one of my “holy cow” moments was when I posted a blog article to a small subreddit and it got re-posted by another user to a larger subreddit which in turn drove a lot of traffic to the blog. When your users are sharing your content on their own, you know you’re doing something right!

Another “holy cow” moment happened two weeks ago. I shot an email to the some people within the UH athletics department trying to see I could get a media pass to cover the Houston football spring game. To my pleasant surprise, they approved my media credentials and I was able to go in the press box and onto the field during the spring game. That was probably the highlight of my Cougar fandom so far. I was able to get some awesome photos and videos of the spring game, click here and here to view the two different blog posts where I wrote about the spring game. The picture at the top of this blog is my press pass for the spring game.

What The Future Holds

It’s now been 100 days since I published my first blog post and the feedback and results I’ve gotten has been awesome! I finally have turned a passion of mine into something useful that other people enjoy. I plan on writing more and more and I’ve got a few new ideas up my sleeve for the future.

Let this serve as a lesson for others: Don’t feel bad about your hobbies, passions, or obsessions if they don’t immediately make you money. You may find a way in the future to use those passions to bring value to others who share the same interests.

Finished the Codecademy HTML and CSS course!

code

I finished the Codecademy course on HTML and CSS! I’ve known how to write HTML for nearly 8 or 9 years and never got around to advancing my computer knowledge. I was able to finish the course pretty quickly and was able to pick up some basics of CSS.

I’ll probably take some CSS courses from some other sources before moving on to another programming language. But, this was awesome so far to have finished this course!

40 Days!

This year I decided to give something up for lent. I had never really participated before. I decided I wanted to try giving up something that would be rather hard for me… alcohol.

Background

I never really drank in high school but when I got to college is when I started drinking often. It was never to the point where it became a problem, mostly just social drinking. But, I don’t think I had gone a month without drinking since I went to college in 2004.

I stayed focused and was able to accomplish my goal of abstaining from drinking for the forty days. It was easier than I thought. The most interesting part is how I no longer wake up real late on the weekends. I get up at 6am during the week and not drinking the night before, I’m still able to get up relatively early the next day. I also don’t feel nearly as tired in the morning when I first wake up and I’m able to accomplish a lot more. When you work a lot during the week, the weekends are sacred and I don’t want to sleep through half of it!

After Day 40

I’m still going to occasionally drink socially, but it’ll be a lot less than before. I spend so much time at the gym pushing my body to build strength I don’t want to ruin my efforts.

I’m more focused now on health and fitness and making sure when I’m forty I look thirty and not fifty. Anyone can drink but it takes a lot of dedication and hard work to be strong and in good shape.

Back On My Regiment

The song at the top of the post is a good motivator. It’s about cutting out drinking and smoking and pushing the body to the limit at the gym. Stay swole!

A recap of 2014 and looking towards the future

I haven’t done a recap of my 2014 yet and February is almost over but no is as good as time as any. I’m very proud of myself and what I’ve been able to accomplish. I don’t write this to brag but if it motivates one person to go out there and kick some ass then it’s worth it!

Loving the Bookworm Life

Last year I had a goal to read more books and I was able to finish 29 of them! I read constantly and I’m almost obsessed with learning more about the world and things I know nothing about. Reading is very relaxing and if I didn’t have to work, I’d probably spend the majority of my days reading.

A special thanks to the Houston Public Library and their excellent selection of books.

The Push Towards Fluency

I also wanted to learn as much Spanish as possible. I got started practicing with Duolingo consistently in November 2013 and got hooked and fell in love with studying and seeing incremental improvements. I was able to study for over 350 days during 2014. The progress I’ve made in the Spanish language is monumental compared to when I started. I’m a long way from fluent, but I’m now super motivated to continue my studies.

In the first two months of 2015 I was able to complete the Spanish Duolingo tree and I recently started the reverse tree (English for Spanish speakers) to keep my knowledge fresh.

Another Blog

As 2015 got underway the Houston Cougars football team hired Tom Herman to be the new head coach. I’ve been a rabid Cougar supporter since I came to UH in 2004 and I frequently post many things about the Coogs to my Facebook friends. I soon realized that there aren’t any good Cougar fan blogs out there so I decided to start my own. I named my blog CardiacCoogs.com and I’ve been cranking out posts since then. The new blog is also one of the reasons why my 2014 recap took so long for me to write. It’s fun writing just for fun and for friends and not having any expectations of making money; it’s really liberating.

Looking Forward for the Rest of 2015

For the rest of 2015 one of my biggest goals is to be more consistent at the gym and keep pushing myself physically and mentally. I probably won’t finish 29 books in 2015 due to spending more time weight-lifting, still doing my Spanish lessons, and the new blog, but I’m okay with that. Thank you for reading this far and I’ll leave you with an awesome quote and video from Arnold to keep you motivated:

“When you’re out there partying, horsing around, someone at the same time is working hard, someone is getting smarter and someone is winning, just remember that”

Duolingo Completed!

Duolingo Trophy 2-17-2015

Hooray! After fifteen months of consistently studying Spanish via Duolingo I finally finished the program! It took a lot of hard work and consistency but it paid off in the end.

Doing Duolingo every day helped me stay focused in other areas of my life: Working out, eating healthy food, and reading lots of books. Turn off your TV and get busy accomplishing your dreams!

More posts about my journey with Duolingo: