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Story of Polar Blair's Den

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Contents:

1. What Came First?  The "Polar Blair" or the "Den"?
2. Events That Lead to Polar Blair's Den.
3. Why "Polar Blair's Den"?
4. The Igloo Logo
5. The Fans
6. Problems
7. The First Hiatus
8. Early Days on the Web and the Second Hiatus
9. Back on the Scene
10. 2005
11. 2006-2008
12. Newsletter Archive




1. What Came First?  The "Polar Blair" or the "Den"?

    For some who ask, it's kind of like the old chicken and the egg question.  You know:  "What came first, the chicken or the egg?"  My nickname of "Polar Blair" came long before "Polar Blair's Den"...by a slip of the tongue on my part.  I was 11 years old, talking to my mom about my favorite wild animal, the polar bear, when "Polar Blair" just slipped out.  Usually, people don't give themselves their own nickname, but I did and it stuck.  It wasn't until 1997 that people outside of my family knew about my nickname.

2. Events That Lead to Polar Blair's Den.

    It was 1997, my senior year of high school, and our new English teacher was starting up a school newspaper.  Our school never had a school newspaper before.  If we did, Polar Blair's Den would've come out much sooner.  Mrs. Teresa Martin had a good idea of starting up a school newspaper.  The problem was that she found very few students who wanted to write for the newspaper.  Let me stop right there to tell you a little more about Mrs. Martin.  That was her first year of teaching anywhere (before this she was a housewife).  She was a good teacher, nice, thoughtful, and attractive.  Still, most students in her classes didn't treat her very nice.  I did, but most of the kids in my high school were real "stink-heads" to put it light.  She left our high school after one year.  From what I hear, she started teaching in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  I don't know what happened to her after that.  She started "The Knight Page", in which Polar Blair's Den appeared, and it went under that name for a part of the next school year after she left, but without her guidance it just didn't last that much longer.  I don't think anyone after her had much of a desire to run the school newspaper.  Plus, there were never that many contributors, which was sad.  In our area, there weren't that many high school kids who wanted to write.

    Mrs. Martin liked the essays I wrote and sought me out, asking me specifically to write for what she was calling "The Knight Page".  It wasn't a newspaper by itself, but a section of the town's newspaper named after our team "The Knights".  I was an "A" student who loved to write, and it's the only extracurricular activity I ever participated in throughout my entire school career.

    I wanted to write a weekly column.  Something intelligent, but fun.  Mainly, I just wanted to get people interested in SOMETHING...anything.  There were just too many people in society, as there are today, who don't have an interest in anything.  I don't know how such a widely-held attitude came into place, but I wanted it to change.  I did NOT want to write a commentary; commentaries don't accomplish anything.  One person's opinion on something just isn't that important.  I wanted to speak to everyone, not an exclusive audience.  Since I was old enough to read I was infatuated with trivia books and just about anything with facts and figures.  "Ripley's Believe it or Not" cartoons are still a big hit with me.  I developed a weekly column full of interesting tidbits of information.  Now I just needed a name.

3. Why "Polar Blair's Den"?

    It wasn't that hard to come up with the name Polar Blair's Den.  Polar Blair was already my "home" nickname, and since I already knew a lot about my favorite wild animal, I knew that polar bears lived in dens.  Hence "Polar Blair's Den".

4. The Igloo Logo

   
I wanted something that would draw attention to my column right away.  People would look for this logo every week and know that they would find Polar Blair's Den.  I imagined a flashy-looking igloo that would welcome visitors by its very appearance.  The igloo has an open door with a red carpet leading up to it lined with runway lights.  The night sky in the background brought the whole scene together, giving the "Den" that nightclub look.  I was going for that Las Vegas type of look.

    At first I wanted the logo to be in color.  Back then, our local newspapers did not have color.  In recent years (at the time of this writing), all of our local newspapers in Eastern Iowa have color.  I drew it in black-and-white and was later glad I did.  You can make out everything in the picture much better because it's black-and-white.  In this case, color would've ruined it.  It's the very same logo I use in the Polar Blair's Den website.

    The first Polar Blair's Den article was the only one that didn't feature the igloo at top.  I had the artwork completed just one day after the deadline (I was misinformed about the deadline, or it would have been done sooner).  Every PBD article afterwards had the soon-to-be-famous logo. 

5. The Fans

    I was the ONLY contributing editor to the Knight Page that wrote for that school year's newspaper every single week.  When I was writing the column, I didn't want to reach out to just the students of my high school or my age group.  I wanted all ages of people to read Polar Blair's Den.  I succeeded.  For the entire run of Polar Blair's Den I heard from fans of both genders and of all ages ranging from 6 to senior citizen.

    What I didn't expect was that Polar Blair's Den would have such a far reach.  The article came out in the La Porte City, Iowa newspaper.  However, I heard from regular readers from a 50-mile radius.  Pretty good for a small-town school newspaper journalist!  Some of the towns that I know had Polar Blair's Den readers were La Porte, Dysart, Vinton, Reinbeck, Waterloo, and Cedar Rapids (among others).

    Another interesting fact is that La Porte City's "The Progress Review" newspaper had always been a thin newspaper before Polar Blair's Den.  After Polar Blair's Den was out for a few weeks, the paper became three times thicker.  After Polar Blair's Den ended, "The Progress Review" shrunk to its previous size and has stayed that way.  At the end of my senior year of high school, I received a free subscription from "The Progress Review" because I increased their circulation.  The free subscription was only supposed to last a year, but I ended up getting it for almost two years.

6. Problems

    I really enjoyed writing Polar Blair's Den.  If I would've had the time to do it in college, I might have continued Polar Blair's Den in a campus newspaper.  However, there are certain limitations with newspapers that PBD faced on a weekly basis.  I had to keep my articles short so they wouldn't take up too much space.  The biggest drawback for me was the fact that I couldn't have more pictures.  Illustrations take up a lot of space in the newspaper, especially if you want them to be big enough to see clearly.

    There were other problems I had, specifically with "The Progress Review" newspaper.  The person in charge of putting my articles in the newspapers almost always made mistakes.  After a while I began to think it was intentional.  Since PBD was the only real exciting thing in that paper, I assume that person was jealous and wanted to make me look foolish.  I proofread every single article I turned in 7-8 times.  Almost every week I would look in the paper and find spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, parts of my article repeated, and sometimes words with extra letters added in to make it look like profanity.  I was really upset about the profanity words, and I gave notes to Mrs. Martin, the chief editor for us high school kids, that asked the "Progress Review" staff to carefully look over their work.  They had no effect.

    If high school didn't end for me, I probably would have stopped writing for "The Progress Review" newspaper, anyway.  I wasn't at all pleased with the incompetence.  Polar Blair's Den was meant to be professional, and someone tried to take the polish off my hard work.  I hope this doesn't sound critical (because I'm not a critical person by any means), but when you work hard on something to make it look right you should have the full cooperation of others you're working with to make it that way.  I don't feel I received that cooperation.

    On a good note, the "errors" didn't drive off any of my regular readers.  In fact, I kept getting more readers all the time and found out that most of them didn't even notice the newspaper's "mistakes".  Still, when things like that happened I always kind of held my breath like, "Oh, man!  I'm gonna hear it now!".

7. The First Hiatus

    For two years after high school I wanted to continue Polar Blair's Den, but didn't know how.  College got in the way, and even if I had time I didn't want to write for a newspaper again.  My frustration with "The Progress Review" aside, newspapers as a medium are just very limiting.  Then something unexpected happened.  I got my first computer in 1999.  I also got a free website service from our local Internet provider.  I thought about a Polar Blair's Den website for awhile before starting work on it in early 2000. 

8. Early Days on the Web and the Second Hiatus

    I started work on the website in early 2000.  I did it all by HTML language which is very time-consuming and difficult to do.  Updates weren't very frequent because HTML is so tedious.  After all, I had college.  I made three major updates in 2000, then I stopped working on the website for almost four years!  In 2000, I signed up for all sorts of webrings, made links on my website to other websites, and had links on other people's websites to mine.  I also suggested my site to many search engines.  These were all very good for awhile, and they helped the PBD site to get noticed, but almost all of the webrings and links died off in a few years.  Some websites just don't last very long.  I learned not to make links to anything that I don't feel will stay on the Web for a long time.  My site could still be found through many search engines, though.

    My old website service, NetINS (an Iowa-based provider), started changing their service and e-mail addresses.  There were a few times I thought Polar Blair's Den was gone for good!  This is why it's important to back up files!  Luckily, I was able to retrieve my website and keep what I had online.  I also had most of it saved on disks.  Since I had the free Showcase account, I wasn't given that much space to display my site.  I wanted to make Polar Blair's Den bigger (whenever I had time) and I wanted to have my own ".com".  I tried to get one of their more expanded Showcase account packages, but they made it too difficult so I decided to just keep my free account, but get a bigger Showcase account from another website provider.  Sometime in 2002 I purchased a bigger Showcase account from HostSave.com (later Gate.com).  Although I didn't have time to move or work on my website until early 2004, I still kept the service.

9. Back on the Scene

    It was around May of 2004 that I finally got my first book published, "Lenta Shane, the Tiger-Woman".  I had been done with my school days for some time, but pretty much since I got out of college in 2002, I was working hard on getting my book out there.  I realized that the book's best exposure would be on my own website.  I developed a HUGE area for Lenta Shane that dwarfed the rest of the website.  Like a concerned parent, I felt the rest of the website had been neglected.  Even when I didn't work on the website for a period of years, I was still hearing from people all over the world who appreciated what I did.  So I thought, why not bulk it up a bit?

    A little something I learned about during my college days made working on the website go much faster and smoother.  I used an HTML-editing program called Netscape Composer (later called SeaMonkey).  No longer did I have to type in every bit of code.  This was nice.

    Well, the first book didn't sell great, due largely to my publisher's negligence.  An author can promote the heck out of his/her book, but if that person doesn't have the support of their publisher, then it's dead in the water.  That's what happened with "Lenta".  But, "Lenta" was responsible for transforming Polar Blair's Den from a humble little site into a big, shiny monster of a website.  The rest of the website has continued to flourish, while the "Lenta" feature went away in a couple years.

10. 2005

    2005 was a red-letter year for Polar Blair's Den.  Not only did the website grow by leaps and bounds, but the number of visitors and fan response blew me away!  By September of 2005, "Polar Blair's Den" got 1,000 visitors every 2-3 days.  Sometimes it received 1,000 hits in one day, although that was not always typical.  It took me awhile, but I finally decided to put the same counter on every page of the site sometime earlier in the Summer.  I had toyed with counters three times since my website began, and every time the counters would eventually stop working.  This was the last time I would ever work with counters in Polar Blair's Den; they're just not reliable.  But what I learned from this last attempt is that Polar Blair's Den was more popular than ever before, by quite a stretch!

    I heard from many readers and made many wonderful friends.  I started to become great friends with celebrities that I've admired for years.  Gayle Caldwell (d. 2009) was my very first, "close" celebrity friend, made in February of 2005.  Quinn O'Hara, who became my best friend, came along on June 27, 2005.  I also came into contact with other celebrities including actors, musicians, professional lady-wrestlers, models...all kinds of people!  It's been exciting for me and at that point 2006 looked even brighter...it wasn't, but that's another story.

    For the first time in my life, I started a Christmas card list!  I never before knew too many people that I was good enough friends with to send cards.  I'm a private person...to an extent...but was thrilled to now know SO many great people to wish holiday greetings!  This is what the popularity of Polar Blair's Den...with the help of its fans...has done for me!

11. 2006-2008

    Where 2005 was a real blowout for Polar Blair's Den, 2006 and much of 2007 proved stagnant.  I still made updates, but they were few and far between.  In 2006, my father's health worsened and, on May 31, he passed away.  It was a rough time for me.  During the last two years of his life we had not gotten along like we always had before.  His poor health and chronic pain gave him an ill temperament.  In early March, he had snapped at me in such a manner that I got mad at him and we didn't speak for a long time.  In the two weeks prior to his death, we had started talking again and everything was going as well as it could.  Then I found him lying on the ground.

    I barely touched my computer until October.  I received numerous e-mails and letters asking me if I was okay or, my personal favorite, "Are you still alive?"  So thanks to the support of Polar Blair's Den friends, I started working again.  After my father's death, I started losing the weight I gained due to stress that stemmed from his health crisis.  I was wearing a size 52, my father's size, and it scared me to no end.  His death came from being overweight, which led to severe diabetes and heart failure.  I didn't want to end up like that.  When I started losing weight, it was quite by accident.  I barely ate for three weeks due to grief.  Then I discovered that my clothes started fitting looser.  I liked that, so I decided to start losing weight on purpose.  I got down to a size 46 before I started working at the now-defunct Landmark Aviation.  Serious, unbelievable mental stress and physical exhaustion brought me back up to a size 48.  Since I left Landmark, my weight went down again and I'm working hard on my goal of a size 42 (which is ideal for a man of my height and size).

    Going back to October, 2006, I was very unhappy with the look and functionality of my website.  It had a lot of material, but there was no uniform look among pages in the Departments, and the Departments were not clearly defined.  I also had a hard time finding files to update, and before I knew it I had a mess on my hands.  I never wanted to eliminate anything from Polar Blair's Den.  As a matter of fact, I wanted to expand.  But I was in over my head.  Quite frankly, Polar Blair's Den grew too big too fast and I didn't know how best to manage it.

    I'd add a few things here and there.  My newsletters were no longer monthly, but every other month at best.  Most of the time, I didn't release newsletters.  And with the lousy newsletter service I was provided by Bravenet, most of my subscribers weren't receiving the newsletters I made.  Things needed to change.  But when?  And how?

    Money was tight, and I put Polar Blair's Den on the backburner as I attempted numerous odd jobs for money.  My financial situation finally forced me to enter the "real" working world on October 1, 2007.   The job was fine, but the employer sucked.  What was meant to be a nice, quiet job until I got my other projects rolling became an all-consuming monster.  Polar Blair's Den was ignored, but not by choice.  I wasn't allowed the time to do a single thing for myself.  The weight I had lost since my father's death was slowly starting to come back due to heavy stress.  This job depressed the heck out of me and I felt trapped.  After many months away from the Den, I happened to look at the hidden counters on my website one day.  These are the counters that you don't see on the website, but I can see from my website service provider account page.  This was in late summer of 2008.  It said that I was receiving anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 hits a day!  Wowza!  I was amazed when I first started getting 1,000 to 2,000 hits a day.  This was astronomical!  What's more, my website was getting this kind of traffic when it was untidy.  I thought to myself, "How well-traveled could this site be if I made it look cleaner with easier navigation?"  I also realized that I wanted to do Polar Blair's Den for a living.  I wanted to use this website as a vehicle to make an income.  It's what I loved doing.  But in order to do this, I had to make the site look better. 

    Organization and easy navigation were two things, but I decided to start adding cool special effects.  I gave into JavaScript!  Up until this time, I didn't believe in JavaScript.  For a long while after JavaScript came out, few people had Internet connections fast enough to load websites done with it.  I realized in the last few years, computers and Internet connections advanced markedly in size of memory and speed.  Just about everyone in the world had a computer that could load the nicer-looking websites.  I wanted to have a slicker-looking website that went beyond the basic HTML.  By the same token, I wanted to use JavaScript sparingly, so there wouldn't be too much glitz.  I really do think the beauty of Polar Blair's Den is in its clean appearance and massive size.  That's how I wanted to keep it.

    It was in August of 2008 that I took Polar Blair's Den completely offline except for the index page.  I did this totally unannounced.   Believe me, I got the e-mails.  People were concerned.  I knew it would never be a good time to take it clean off.  It's what I had to do to best rebuild the site.  I realized that I had to take things one Department at a time...for the most part.  I also realized that the show business Departments were my most popular features.  They had to be done first.  At the time, I had only Movies and Television for the show business Departments.  I had a hard time placing features about actors between the two, so I thought, duh, why not make a Department expressly for actors?  So I created, for the first time, the brand new Actors/Actresses/Performers Department.  Even though I worked on three Departments, they all crossed over into each other and I treated it as one subject.

    I didn't upload anything until November of 2008.  I made the official announcement that Polar Blair's Den was "back" for the December newsletter.

    The December, 2008 newsletter was another milestone for Polar Blair's Den.  I wasn't happy with the newsletter service I was receiving from Bravenet (provider of free webmaster tools).  I KNEW how people were sure to get my newsletter.  I came up with the idea to make each month's newsletter a hidden page in my website.  I would then send out one e-mail to all my newsletter subscribers, giving them a link to this newsletter page.  It would no longer eat up lots of precious space in people's e-mail inboxes, and they could look at the newsletter at their own leisure.  Since space was not an issue on my own page, I could make the newsletter much more grand in size and appearance.  I could also keep a regular template for my newsletter so it didn't need to be completely redone every month.  Above all else, people could easily skip around to read about the subjects that interested them via the Table of Contents.  In countless ways, the new PBD Really Fun Newsletter is much better than its earlier incarnation.

    With better organization, and a commitment to keep my newsletter monthly, Polar Blair's Den became larger and more attractive than ever before!

12. Newsletter Archive

    From December, 2008 onward, my monthly newsletter will be an ongoing chronicle of Polar Blair's Den progress.  To learn more about what's been going on, please visit the Newsletter Archive.