Connecting Weather

First storm of the season

The weather today is horrid, and I almost changed my mind about coming down to the coffee shop to connect, but I had work to deliver, and new work to pick up. This is definitely the downside of not having a connection; with comment spammers and tech problems at the Kitchen and snow predicted later, I have to wonder how long this little brain storm will last.

(Note, as I sit here shivering in the cafe, soaked to the skin after drying my laptop bag off, I think not long…)

Yet there’s the advantages: having to work something through on my own in Adobe CS without being able to ‘google for help’; spending last night relaxing with a book rather than being online; and the experience at the library yesterday.

I had to share one of the small computer rooms with another person, since I hadn’t booked ahead. As I was typing away, the gentleman turned to me and said he wished he could type that fast. We ended up chatting about various things, including the internet and what kids are exposed to nowadays. Both of our monitors were very visible to each other, and the type on mine was enlarged, because I was using the handicap-equipped station. I could see from the headers in his page that he was looking up religious material; and he could easily see the writing and photos of the sites that I visit on a fairly regular basis. What a great opportunity for a little cross-cultural exposure.

Still, with the tech problems I had at the Kitchen, and the spam, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea…


Well, this is one of my more brain dead ideas. After driving home through streets with a foot of water in places, I decided to grab a dial-up account. Not having a connection at home does not work if you’re having to make deliverables on specific days and can’t always drive to a internet connection; or when you’re having to monitor sites that are having problems.

But dial-up is also a pain to use, so it makes a happy medium between always on, and always off.

Besides, the problem isn’t with the connection, it’s with me. Instead of changing the connection, I need to change me.

Copyright Weblogging

Always off

Is this still on? Testing, testing.

Can you hear me? Good!

Frank Paynter is surveying several people about why they blog for a post he’s writing for the Kitchen. When he asked the question, I had a hard time answering. It wasn’t that I didn’t have good reasons to blog, because I do. In fact I have dozens of good reasons, hundreds! Give me several hours and I could, and probably would write them out into a post.

Of course, then there would be another day where I sat down at my computer in the morning just to check what’s new only to surface in mid-afternoon, wondering where the day’s gone. A better question for me isn’t why do I weblog, but why I do it so much.

The hype behind broadband is that you’re ‘always on’. I could be the poster child for ‘always on’ because lately that’s a pretty good description of my life on a day to day basis. As for my roommate, switch internet for TV and you could describe him, at least on the weekends.

So, as an experiment, I’ve set up my home laptops to do the work I normally do on my server, and I’ve gone out and saved several web pages of research for a new article, and today I’ll disconnect the cable modem. We’ve already disconnected the digital cable converters, and I’ll take them and the modem down to Charter.

If something goes wrong with my web sites, Hosting Matters will either correct the problem or keep it from being a problem for anyone else, and I’ll make any fixes I need when I connect. As for the Kitchen, I’ve tried to make this as self-sufficient as possible, because the strength of that effort should be in the fact that it’s not dependent on any one person.

I’ll be slower to respond to email, but I don’t think anyone will mind. I’ll post less, but most of us are posting less. In fact, you’re probably indifferent as to the state of my connectivity, but I want to provide a heads up for anyone who might be expecting responses from me.

I don’t plan on being offline at home forever–just for a couple of months, see how it goes. Maybe less. Maybe more.

All well and good, but what I hadn’t counted on is how all of this is going to impact on Zoe. You see, every morning after she gets breakfast, Zoe comes in and curls up on my cable digital converter box. This morning, it wasn’t there, so she had to make do. Tomorrow, even that will be gone. Poor dear.



When I followed the pointer to Oliver Willis’ Brand Democrat, that Happy Tutor provided, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. This is about as absurd as changing the name of I69 because of it’s ’sexual connotations’.

President Kennedy was shot and killed on this day in 1963. He was a good president not the least because he was willing to admit he made mistakes and then learn from them. He was forward thinking but still very shrewd.

We remember him in almost an ideal way, but he wasn’t an ideal man. He planted the seeds of what was to become the Vietnam war. He tried to put some brakes on the civil rights movement, because it was going too fast. Oddly enough, he’s been given credit for many advances in civil rights at the time, but he really wasn’t a leader in this effort — it was old LBJ, the president now remembered for escalating Vietnam who was the person most responsible for putting civil rights into the platform of the Democratic party–leading to a mass exodus of southern Democrats to the Republican party.

People are never as pure as they seem: either purely good, or purely bad.

The I-69 story was a prank, and I fell for it. I guess this is where that ‘makes mistakes and learns from them’ comes in.


Loss of Intimacy

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Have we lost the window of opportunity for intimacy in our writing? Did we have it once, but then we stood at the edge of change, and in one direction lay power and glory, the other obscurity and intimacy, and we chose the glory?

Somehow when we stopped using Blogrolls and started using aggregators to keep up with each other’s writings, we started to lose our touch with each other. No matter how many readers we did or did not have, when we had to visit each other’s weblogs, it set both a tone and a context for the writing.

Now, we have a wonderful ability to consume mass quantities of data, and we are probably the most well informed citizens of this world, if not the known universe. If all this data were food or beer, the sound heard the loudest would be a hearty belch.

Perhaps it’s for the best, because there’s something distasteful about putting your most delicate thoughts into a writing, which then just gets shoved up next to a video of a basketball game riot, half a dozen dire political announcements, an adorable picture of a kitten (which will upstage everything else), and a bit of code. Perhaps we what we need is mood aggregators, similar to the old Mood Rings popular decades ago.

With the increased popularity and scrutiny of weblogs in the press thanks to the American political scene, putting one’s thoughts online is somewhat like standing in the middle of the T station in Boston and shouting out for all to hear what is or is not on your mind at the moment. Even if you’re in a group of friends, there’s something about the surroundings that keeps you chit chatting on common place things. We have lost the internet equivalent of candlelight dinners, Sunday morning brunch, and a late night chat over cocoa or beer.

Oh, we still have voice for anger, no worries there. In fact, we have even greater capacity for anger and rightousness and umbrage. But then, there’s something impersonal and dispassionate about anger. Anger is the ultimate camouflage for what’s really going on in our heads and our lives. People don’t look too closely at you when you’re angry.

And look at the marvels of technology available now. There’s room in syndication feeds for ads and images and podcast enclosures, and who are we to stand like frozen blocks of salt in the path of progress.

I wonder though, since I’m in the mood and it’s a cloudy day and suits the topic, have we achieved this massive information input, increased exposure, and technical supremacy by sacrificing a space for either exquisite beauty or exquisite pain?

Technology Weblogging

Just around the corner

If I were a betting woman, I would bet that WordPress 1.3 (or would it be 2.0?) is releasing sooner rather than later. At least it looks that way from the code, though the developers are going back and forth on a couple of items. Even though I plan on doing my own development from this release on, I’m still interested in WordPress, and plan on being so in the future. After all, my decision to go a new direction has less to do with WordPress and more to do with wanting to try some ideas of my own.

Who knows, maybe some of those ideas will make their way back into WordPress. Life is full of both surprises and variety.

I’ve helped several people move to WordPress, and thought it might be of use to write out the major changes that I’m seeing in this release, and point to any additional information of which I am familiar. That’s the great thing about an open source project that’s being implemented in an open environment – we can all peek in while the work is underway.


I’ve been using themes over at Kitchen, and just implemented a Theme Switcher, so that the readers can pick their favorite. Ryan Boren wrote an anatomy of a theme, and the WordPress Codex wiki has an overview of how to develop a theme.

From a user perspective, a theme consists of two parts: one or more templates, and an associated stylesheet. The theme template can be as simple as a single index.php, which replaces the one that exists within the weblog root directory; or it can consist of a whole group of template files, such as comments.php, sidebar.php, footer.php, index.php, and so on.

The template files and the stylesheet and any incidental material is placed in it’s own subdirectory under wp-contents/themes/. For instance, one we have at Kitchen is called “Kitchen One”, which is located in a subdirectory called kitchen-one.

When the files are copied into the wp-content/themes directory, they’ll show up automatically within the themes selection list in the new Presentation page within the WordPress administation page. You can then activate whichever theme you want to use. Currently the theme at Kitchen is Kubrick, but that could change tomorrow.

The style sheet is named style.css, and this is critical because the theme name and what pulls it together is found in the stylesheet. The theme definition block for Kitchen One is:

Template: gemini
Theme Name: Kitchen One
Description: A deep warm rich kind of style.
Author: Joni Mueller and Shelley Powers
Author URI:

Odyssey interface and Gemini template for WordPress 1.3 designed and built
by Root

CSS Design by Joni Mueller and Shelley Powers
Photo by Elaine Nelson

The values on the left have meaning to the theme system and should be written as shown here. From the top, these provide for the theme name, a description, the author, the author’s web site, and any incidental information. The key variable is the one named ‘Template’. This points to the template being used for the one theme, because one template can be used in many themes. In fact, all the themes at Kitchen use the Gemini template except for one, Kubrick.

In this case, the Gemini theme is a simple one – a single index.php page. For all other functionality, this theme uses the existing default files, such as wp-comments.php. For Kubrick, the theme uses several template files: 404.php, archive.php, archives.php, comments.php, footer.php, header.php, links.php, page.php, search.php, searchform.php, sidebar.php, and single.php.

So how can a system handle one theme that has one file, and other theme that has many? Simple, it checks for the existence of files when a page is accessed, and if the file exists in the theme, it’s used. If not, the default file is used instead.

So for Kubrick, when you access a single entry page using index.php, the application checks to see if there is a single.php page in the template subdirectory. If there is, it loads this; if there isn’t the index.php page handles the request. The same functionalty is used for archives, category, author, searching, and so on.

This is a very effective way of managing file-based templates without having to worry about overwriting a user’s existing modification when you upgrade the application. No more going, “Oh crap, I just copied over the index.php file.”

You can check out the use of templates and themes at Kitchen, and even use the new theme switcher (look at the bottom of the right hand column).


Another significant change with the next release of WordPress is the existence of pages. A page is like a post except that it’s not included as part of the archives or categories. For instance, the link titled “How to Participate” at the Kitchen is built using the page functionality, not the post. If you click the link, you’ll see it opens at the top-level of the site.

The challenge with a page is that each one requires a new entry within the .htaccess file. So if you want to create a page and have it immediately accessible, you have to make your .htaccess file writeable. Or you have to re-generate the permalink entry for .htaccess every time you create a page.

Still, you’re not going to create that many pages. Rather than make .htaccess writable, I’d recommend creating the pages, and then generating the permalink entries for .htaccess all at once.

There is a new status appearing in WordPress code of ’static’, which makes me wonder if these pages are going to be created using the regular weblog post page and then statically generated – which would make more sense for this type of page. Once one moves past the same problems we’ve had with writing to a directory. Stay tuned…


Nothing more fun than to go to a weblog that’s been around for years and search on a popular term. What returns is an extremely long page with every entry that matches that search term. If you’re lucky, you’ll only see excerpts. If you’re not, you’re in for a long wait.

WordPress has dealt with the problems associated with too many entries being returned by implementing a thing called ‘paging’. You can see it in the Kitchen, if you access a popular category like Administration, a frequent poster, like The Chef, search on a popular term like weblog, or access an entire month’s entries. At the top and bottom of the page is navigation to go from the current group of posts to the previous, and so on.

The count of posts displayed is based on the same number of posts that you display on the front page of your weblog. You include the navigation bar using something like the following, from the Kubrick theme:

<div class=”alignleft”><?php posts_nav_link(‘’,’’,’« Previous Entries’) ?>&;lt;/div>
<div class=”alignright”><?php posts_nav_link(‘’,’Next Entries »’,’’) ?></div>

At this time, the Gemini template does not have the navigation links. What will happen, then, is that the last specified number of posts show in the results, but there is no navigation for older posts.

Which is a very effective demonstration about how themes can have different behaviors, as well as different appearances and layouts. This has some interesting possibilities for experimentation.

Change is Change

There are some changes that may or may not make it into the finished problem. For instance, the previous nightly build included enclosures, which would automatically pull images and audio files into enclosures in RSS feed. This has subsequently been removed, and hopefully will be implemented as an option.

There is no longer an option to turn auto pinging on or off at the page level, but you’ll want to turn it off for the application, because it’s a performance killer.

There’s a new one that allows users with rank of 9+ to post as another person. Based on this, I’ve updated all the Kitchen writers that were 9 to 8, and changed the menu options accordingly. There’s discussion about turning moderation on automatically for all posts over ten days old, but most of us are doing this anyway. Or closing old posts off completely.

The global variables such as $tableposts are now deprecated, but should be around for at least one release so that old plug-ins won’t break when the application first releases.

There is now a WordPress export, which will be handy if you’re merging weblogs, which I had to do recently. From what I can see, there’s also been improvements in the other imports.

And looks like we’ll be able to have email list management to all users. That’s good news for the Kitchen.

And so on

There are a lot of other changes, many of which take place under the skin so to speak. The development team is working on new comment spam prevention techniques, as well as doing some good code clean up such as moving SQL statements into the functions and out of the pages. The GEO fields have been moved from the administration pages to a plug-in, though I know most people didn’t use this. Then there’s the mysterious Dashboard, but we probably won’t get a peek at that until the tool releases.

All in all, some very tasty additions, with only a few hiccups now and again.

Didn’t notice until today that the WordPress development team released a heads up on 1.3 at the Development weblog November 17th. This lists out some other new features, and confirms the themes and pages additions.