Memories. Of the past, mostly.

Every blog comes to an end eventually and all too many end the same way: with a boring, uninspiring post that lingers at the top of the blogger’s home page for evermore like a turd that refuses to be flushed away. A blog is only as good as its latest post and that forlorn, ill-conceived post clogs up the blogosphere for eternity. To save Ragged Clown from that crappy fate, I hit upon the brilliant idea to put my blog in “archive mode”.

I just made that term up but what it means, more or less, is that my home page no longer shows posts in reverse chronological order like every other blog in existence. Instead I picked out a handful of posts that I enjoyed writing way back when I was young and creative and stuck them on the home page instead. If you want to read my latest posts, you’ll have to rummage a little but—don’t bother! They are not very good.

Header photo (CC) by Manfred Majer on Flickr

1984 Starts Here

Orwell’s Diaries have been serialized daily online for the last few years as though Orwell were a contemporary blogger. His diary started with Word War II and each entry is posted on the day it was written but time-shifted 70 years into the future.

The early entries were fascinating for their fleeting glimpse into the every day lives of people during the war. Orwell talks more about the price of eggs and about how his petunias are faring than about the bombs falling on London but, as times passes, he begins to talk more and more about politics.

Today’s post (from April 27, 1942) is about propaganda from Italy and I wonder if this was the moment when he decided to write 1984.

[…Nowadays, whatever is said or done, one looks instantly for hidden motives and assumes that words mean anything except what they appear to mean.]

From the Italian radio, describing life in London:

“Five shillings were given for one egg yesterday, and one pound sterling for a kilogram of potatoes. Rice has disappeared, even from the Black Market, and peas have become the prerogative of millionaires. There is no sugar on the market, although small quantities are still to be found at prohibitive prices”.

One would say that this is stupid propaganda, because if such conditions really existed England would stop fighting in a few weeks, and when this fails to happen the listener is bound to see that he has been deceived. But in fact there is no such reaction. You can go on and on telling lies, and the most palpable lies at that, and even if they are not actually believed, there is no strong revulsion either.

I Like Like

Facebook’s biggest contribution to civilization is the like button.

Before we could like things, we had to decide whether something was 3 stars or 4 stars and I could never decide whether 3 stars meant this is pretty good or I am quite disappointed in this but not enough to give it two stars. 4 stars for me means it’s fairly bloody amazing but not quite up there with the all time greats but for someone else it might be it’s not their best work and, frankly, I am a bit disappointed. What if you change your grading scheme three years into using, say, Netflix? Would you have to go and recalibrate all your scores? And what does it mean when something is three and a half stars?

No. Like is so much simpler. You either liked it or you didn’t. If you want to say some thing more, you can share it or blog about it.

Like is liberating too. You don’t have to give it too much thought. If it made you smile, click the like button. It’ll make the person at the other end smile too to see that little red number 1 that says “Pew, Barney McGrew and four others liked your post”.

For some reason, +1 doesn’t quite have the emotional effect that like has. I click +1 all the time on stuff like posts in Google Reader but I am never quite sure where all those 1s go. Does Google have a big bucket of 1s somewhere that I’ll get to enjoy later?

I click like all the time now, even on my stuff, and I get to smile twice. Last night, I reviewed a ton of old posts to see if there were any problems in my new layout and, of course, ended up reading them all. Every time I read one that made me smile, I clicked like. I didn’t even care that no one else would see it. Try it yourself. Start with the highlights down there in the fat footer.

Proudly Powered by Wordress

I was bored with my wordpress theme and Stu’s fresh look made me decide it was time for a refresh. This is my third theme and I wanted to go right back to basics this time rather than copy an existing theme.

I started from the most basic theme template I could find – Starkers – and converted it to use all new html5 tags.  Starkers has no CSS, so I was starting from scratch.

Here, for posterity, are my three themes side by side.

Best part of the whole exercise? I have confirmed once and for all that PHP is absolutely the nastiest programming language I have ever come across. I don’t get why it is so popular at all. Debugging wordpress is like doing a surreal jigsaw puzzle where you are looking for a brightly coloured machine tool to match the giraffe. If there is an organizing principle, I couldn’t find it. It seems completely random whether it grabs markup from a template or spits it out from a function or a widget or a plugin. It’s amazing that WordPress is so good.

I’m not quite done yet. I have a few weird tags left to style. I want to do something with responsive design and I want to do something special for ipad and iphone. When I am done with all that, I might make it work on IE ( < 9.0 ). Google Analytics says I get hardly any visitors with IE (72% of visitor time on my blog comes from macs and ipads!) but my mum has IE so I either need to make it work or fly to England to install Firefox for her. That's probably the cheapest option to be honest. PS. If those side-by-side images are still aligned vertically when you read this, it's because I haven't figured out how to style the image gallery yet. I didn't even know wordpress had a gallery plugin until just now. PPS. If anyone needs a site built in wordpress - find someone else.

Don’t Make me Write it Myself

Stu has been complaining again about the lack of a good iPad client for blogging. I have too. I’d blog a lot more if I could do it from my iPad.

I keep coming back to the official WordPress client and it keeps surprising me with how lame it is. I’m now on the hunt for a better one. My needs are modest.

I don’t need wysiwyg but don’t make me mess with HTML tags on an iPad keyboard for heaven’s sake. Markdown or something similar would be excellent.

I don’t need access to every feature of HTML and CSS. I want paragraphs, images, links, block quotes, italics and… That’s it. Sometimes I float my images left and right. It’d be nice to move images around easily without doing battle with the iOS cut’n’paste monster. Images would come from iPad’s photo app or copy paste from the web.

Give me tags, save a draft and preview. I can do all the admin stuff through the web site.

I’d pay money for that app.

If I were dreaming a little, I’d want to paste images in from web sites and upload them to wordpress automatically. I’d want it to be supremely easy to paste links to the sites I reference, maybe even surf from within the app and snag images and links with a quick tap.

Split screen preview would be nice. I’ll type markdown in one panel and see a preview in the other, ideally using my theme.

Is there such an app? Do I really have to write it myself?

Welcome, tbwuser4

This, frankly, is what blogging is all about. I love getting comments on my blog from strangers and this one, from tbwuser4, was one of the finest.

I am a newbie here! I would like to exhort firsthand friends, debased to down ideas and learn more knowledge. Scheme you deal with up identical’s turn without intruding permitted me here!

Blog post spam

I finally caved under the weight of email spam. Ipad doesn’t have a spam filter and my email provider’s was not very good. I was getting about 50 viagras and “hi! I am sexy girl from Ukraine” and penis enhancers and “I am in the possession of 3 million euros” every day. So I switched to gmail. It’s pretty easy to switch. Just press a button in your dreamhost panel to switch all your email accounts for a single domain then create the mailbox for each user at the other end. Neat.

Hey presto! No more email spam!

But, seemingly by coincidence, just as the email spam stopped, I started getting heaps and heaps of disgusting comment spam on my blog. It’s tiresome, having to wade the pages of filth and, even though it feels like I am very good at spotting and deleting the spam at a glance, I always worry that I might delete a genuine comment.

I don’t often get comments from strangers, but it’s always just a little heartwarming when I do and I’d hate to delete them by mistake.

I figured it out. Duh!
All my blog plugins mysteriously disappeared a couple of weeks ago. I added them all back except the spam filter.

Problem solved. It helps to talk about these things.