The free hours of my daily walks have often been filled with delightful contemplations which I am sorry to have forgotten. Such reflections as I have in future I shall preserve in writing; every time I read them they will recall my original pleasure.Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Reveries of a Solitary Walker
It was sunny and warm, so I spent the morning walking the dirt and gravel roads between the farmers’ fields.
The snow is gone and the world is a soft golden brown. Wild grasses throw shadows in the wind and grey-green waters run snake-wise, cutting streams through the clay.
Our lives are upside down, and yet:
- hundreds of geese floated by on the river today, resting for a moment on their regular trip north;
- the ladybugs that infest the yard and cover the windows of the house are back, right on schedule;
- the crocus are blooming, more this year than we’ve ever had;
- the robins are collecting straw and twigs and each morning they are in the garden, heads cocked to the side, listening for the worm that’s crawled too close to the surface in search of warming soil.
The world beyond us moves to its familiar rhythms. It’s a scary time, but things will be okay.
Now that I’ve sorted out how to style a personal theme, there are really only two things that annoy me about this WordPress blog, neither of which I can do much about: speed and security.
Speed: the flat HTML site spit out by TBX was stupid fast. Clicking the homepage link meant seeing the page before I was ready to take it in. There was absolutely no noticeable delay. WordPress is not like this at all. Sitting on the same server, it loads slowly enough that I regularly have to check the progress bar to convince myself the page is on its way. And this is with the default theme, a homepage with no images and only three basic plug-ins. It’s excruciating.
Security: Those plug-ins? They enable features like ssl and failed-login locks because security is a problem with WordPress. This morning alone a steady stream of automated, regularly paced (but failed) login attempts were logged at the site. This was basically a non-issue with the flat HTML site I worked up because there were no log-ins, no databases, no php. It was just HTML text, elegant, beautiful and solid. I miss that. Maybe (probably) I don’t understand what these log-in attempts are and maybe they’re benign, but it feels like keeping things locked down here is a pain.
I have a pair of leather shoes that I bought in 1997. I was a student, had no money, and they were high-quality enough to cost more than I could afford. But I bought them, and now, twenty-two years later I still have them, still wear them and they are the most comfortable shoes I own.
This blog is a lot like those shoes: I’ve broken it in enough for it to be hard to give up. Even if it’s rough and worn, it fits.
Or to use a different analogy: Jack might tell Innes “I wish I could quit you,” but he doesn’t. And I guess it’s the same with me and this damned WordPress blog.
This morning I finally sat down and figured out the odd element tags in WordPress and wrote up the additional css I needed to make the default theme match the solarized theme I’d built for my MOPI notes. The basics were easy, but filing off the rough edges took some digging around in the main stylesheet.
I like the results and feel like I’ve got a space I can post in again.
(Aesthetics shouldn’t matter this much but they do. They just do.)
In youth, it’s a mark of immaturity to to mistake kindness for foolishness. In adults, it’s a fault of character.
Tinderbox only runs on macOS. There’s no iOS version. Generally, this is fine because if I’m going to work, I’m usually going to be working at my computer. The one major exception to this is when I’m drafting. This is tough work and I need to be able to move from computer to paper and back again, and I need to be able to decide that “this isn’t working” and to pick everything up and go to a cafe.
How’s this supposed to work if the research materials I need to reference while I’m writing are bound to my desktop? It occurred to me today that the obvious answer is HTML export.
When I’m writing, I never really need to change my TBX file. In fact, in a perfect world I would probably be prevented from making changes to it because it’s way too easy to sit down to write only to discover, an hour later, that I’ve produced a beautiful new map rather than 500 words. But here’s the thing: if all I want to do is to be able to read my notes, then it should be easy enough to just export and post them onto my server. I don’t even have to worry about whether the pages look good, right? They just need to work.
So to try this idea out, I copied the CSS and the main page template used in this blog into my research file. I wanted a template for each prototype (I’m using them to ID different kinds of materials) so that I could make sure that the appropriate information for each note would appear on the web pages that exported. To avoid making stupid HTML errors (I’m not a computer tech), I just kept duplicating and editing the main template I’d copied over from this blog. As I edited, I expected to be pulling info from attributes with value() statements, but I soon realized that, because I’ve been relying on links and link actions to organize my research ever since the new link pane was introduced, I could get most of the work done (and much faster) by using outboundBasicLink or inboundBasicLink to pull together lists of links by type. (e.g. Inbound links of type “directed” always originate with the director of the film.)
After a quick two hours of work, I had a set of sensible HTML “notecards” that interlink like a wiki. I uploaded them to a folder on the server and voilà. A set of notes on the web.
Export is daunting at first, but once you figure out the basics (or at least, the basics that you need), it’s incredibly powerful and insanely fast. And so I walk away feeling like, with a bit of creativity and some careful thinking, I could make it do anything…
Yesterday was the day where I feel as if I felt something of the amplitude of the coming crisis in real terms and was stricken once I did by genuine fear. Some of the people I love live in the parts of the US that have been doing the absolute least to contain the outbreak. A few are working in hospital ERs with little protective gear. Others are in grocery stores with none at all. Their health and safety depends upon the behaviour of their neighbours, and I don’t trust that people are being told what they must do or that they are doing it if they are. And so American individualism has now become a non-metaphorical disease agent.
Yet, at least emotionally and as is often the case with me, the way out is through, and after a day of real worry, I’ve woken up today clearheaded and ready to work on projects. The situation hasn’t changed, but I at least feel up to doing more than cycling through texting then staring at the ceiling then texting then etc.