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Constantly revising

Constantly revising published on

I can’t help myself: I tweak and tweak. I’m a little worried about it. Is the blog post you read anything like the blog post I wrote? That’s a problem with which I am well familiar, and I am willing to live with it. But how about the blog post I wrote: is that one anything like the one I wrote? That’s what’s got me nervous.

In my experience, under the pressure of revision, writing tends to set and harden, like plaster. Eventually there isn’t much more you can do with it without breaking it into pieces. (Maybe you can then make something of the salvage job; maybe not.) We’ll see if that happens here, if these posts eventually settle. If they do, maybe you and I have a chance.

The ungainliness of XML

The ungainliness of XML published on

XML and XSLT are ungainly because they are the products of evolutionary processes. Neither is a first-generation technology, but rather a refinement of something that had gone before. (XML was spawned from SGML; XSLT’s roots are in DSSSL with some Omnimark admixture.) You might think this should streamline them: and indeed it has, if you compare them to their progenitors. Yet they also have their histories written onto and into them: they are not pretty, but somewhat lopsided and peculiar.

(There are some smart people who try to avoid XML and XSLT completely, partly on the basis of their various oddnesses. These people may or may not be able on their own to make something work as well as XML does, but that is a separate question. Another separate question is whether they can help other people to use their thing for something just a little different from what it was designed for.)

Yet this ungainliness is also part of the strength and charm of XML/XSLT, once you learn to look past the flaws on the surface. It results from the fact that both have to address a wide range of conflicting requirements, well enough. And this, they do.

The more hidden strength — the way well-described, well-managed XML data can be kept safe away from the storms of technological change in the browser (or anywhere else) — only becomes evident over time.


Reflection on blogging platforms

Reflection on blogging platforms published on

To someone who doesn’t know coding, operating a blogging platform will be akin to divination. Placate a harsh and inscrutable god. Throw the dice and see how they land. Win or lose, the oracle tells you. Good luck! And keep in mind, even when you win — you never know when it will all be taken away!

To someone who does know coding? A test of patience, an exercise in compromise. Sort of like cooking in someone else’s kitchen. The results are not inevitably bad….

Inkblot here we come

Inkblot here we come published on

Twenty fourteen (what came with the installation) wasn’t half bad, but what tipped me over the edge was the hard-pixel encoding of the CSS. I’m a true believer in relative sizing. Maybe this had nothing to do with how frustrating I was finding it to make the modifications I needed, or maybe not.

The topic is WordPress themes, if the foregoing made no sense to you at all.

So I looked again, and as of now I’m customizing Michael Sisk‘s Inkblot. This is solid stuff that reconciles me greatly to having to live in an HTML world: flexible, straightforward, clean and clear, and as old-fashioned as I want it to look without a lot of fuss. Fantastic work.

Styling experiments

Styling experiments published on

One does want to know to what extent WordPress is flexible and transparent enough to support customization, and not only by an engineer familiar with its inner workings, but the poor, plain, pained user.

Custom tagging? This HTML ‘blockquote’ element has a @class attribute provided by hand in the source. It would be nifty if that gave me a handle for styling it.

If all were well, that would have come out purple … so, it breaks! Back to the drawing board … so it seems that blockquote/@class gets stripped in back. What about arbitrary spans? Or homemade @style values?

Early report … blockquote appears not to be safe. But the spans are pushed through. One can hope divs might also be.

Here’s my special div, to which I would like to assign a hanging indent, which I will do in the CSS….

Work at the house

Work at the house published on

There will be pictures. Today, Gary the floor guy is installing our new cork floors.

This all started because we decided we need windows upstairs that actually keep the weather out.

But it didn’t make much sense to get them fixed and then move to the floors without also giving the walls and ceilings fresh paint. Our new colors (from the Sherwin Williams collection): in the office, Softened Green (a sagey color); Optimistic Yellow in the spare room (Daffodil was too bright), Daydream (a kind of light purplish blue) in the master bedroom, Medici Ivory in the hallways and for frame and baseboard trim (everywhere), and Copper Wire as an accent wall color next to the stairway down. We chose the colors, of course, for their names, just as one chooses wine for the design on the bottle.

The carpet being removed is colored Allergenic Grey. It was never very pretty and nothing in comparison to the brown-red cork flooring that is now replacing it.

Some accounting for the nothing of it

Some accounting for the nothing of it published on

(The move to meta happens right away. No! Bad blog! Get it back on its leash.)

So finally I decided I needed a place to log and document current projects and interests, in the hope that some interaction with interested parties might offer me some guidance for the future. I need inputs; the only way to get them is to produce more outputs.

Then too, there’s the question of the “natural form” that any blog tends to take, whether professional or personal, and whether the lines between professional and personal are clear or blurry.

A major motivation for me is discovering that an 18-month lag time for major academic media publication makes for disjunction and asynchronization between levels of attention off and on the web. On the web, things come and go quickly: the half-life for attention is probably days. And I need that tighter feedback loop. Yet to meet other needs than simply diversion or entertainment, however, one needs things to be able to age. So one is writing always for the future as well as the present. This makes for bad writing. Probably the best productions on and for the web are written in the spirit of “here today, gone tomorrow”, even if the hope is that from all the dross, some metal might eventually be mined.

Rather than try and overthink it (always my tendency), I am going to try letting the strategy emerge. Welcome, dear reader, and please let me know what you think.

XML export a must

XML export a must published on

So does WordPress have a tolerably good archiving format, preferably an XML format? We will see.

Not necessarily so much because the stuff will be worth saving, as so that one at least has choices when the time comes.

In the meantime, one should assume that any blogging is more or less writing on water. This is a precariously fragile medium.