I found out through a post on Instagram that the venerable Bel-Loc Diner has closed after 53 years, due to be knocked down and replaced with a fucking Starbucks of all things. I’ve loved the Bel-Loc since I moved to Baltimore 28 years ago (damn); in college we made pilgrimages up to the Parkville area for breakfast, haircuts, and the Hechinger’s when there was no diner food, weekend banking or lumberyards in the city. It’s been a landmark since I’ve been here, a shining neon constant. I think I’ve shot pictures of it with every camera I own save one. In a world of cavernous fake modern diners with no soul, it was a cozy room made of curves and angles and stainless steel. You could sit in a booth and feel the conversations around you while you ate; it had a communal sense about it. Much like the departed Forest Diner, it was an experience. And we don’t have too many authentic experiences left anymore.
I made some updates to the backend of both this site and the Scout blog, which were both being unreliable (the Scout blog was actually going down and up for a few weeks). Shutting off all of the plugins, updating them, and selectively turning on just the crucial ones brought full functionality back, and tweaking the settings in Jetpack helped fix a couple of strange bugs (the Media library wasn’t loading, for example). I was thinking my ancient handmade template was obsolete for a while there, but everything seems to be working correctly now. Thankfully I run this blog fast and lean, because if I had to deal with multiple dependencies or outdated plugins, I’d be sunk. At one time I could make WordPress sing, but I’ve forgotten most of it in the last couple of years.
I got a freelance check in the mail for the job I did on the flight to Paraguay, so I’m researching the iPad Pro, paired with an Apple Pencil and an app called Procreate. My hope is that I can use this combination of hardware and software to emulate scratchboard and also work in Illustrator. The big question here is whether the smaller model would be big enough for my needs or if I should shell out for the larger one. Unfortunately the education discount is only $20 for the iPad, so I’ll have to consider carefully. I think a visit to the local Apple Store is in order.
This is the 4,001st entry here on Idiotking.org. Given my sporadic posting around here lately, I wasn’t expecting to hit it quite so quickly.
What shall I waste time writing about here? Well, we got hit last night with a blast of icy Arctic air and about 4″of snow. With wind chill, it’s about 5-10˚ out there right now, so we wisely decided to stay inside today. Finn has been battling some kind of flu that sends fluid out both ends, so she was mending quietly on the couch all day. I went down into the basement and finally wrangled piles of stuff strewn about the place, building a rack for our spare dining room chairs, a rack for our spare lumber, organizing the recycling, transferring the IPA to a secondary fermenter, and about 30 other small jobs. When I came back upstairs we heated dinner up and did a double-feature of How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Up before getting Finn in bed. Tomorrow is due to be as cold as today, and there’s snow in the forecast. I also have to teach tomorrow night, which means I’ll eventually have to go back outside.
Some asshole attacked my WordPress install and temporarily blew it up. I’m working to clean things from the ground up, which means I’m defaulting to this ugly template for the time being. It also means my automatic FTP backups weren’t working properly, so I need to rebuild my theme template.
Update: I hadn’t upgraded to WP 4.1 yet and someone made some sneaky changes that I didn’t find in my server logs. Looks like most everything is back up to date, minus the entries I’d made between Dec 29 and yesterday.
I try to take pictures looking at changes over time, and realized I’ve got a bunch of them on the website. I added a new category for posts that feature comparisons, and went as far back as 2008 collecting them last night.
Huh, I didn’t realize I’d checked the “Users must be registered and logged in to comment” setting in WordPress, which may have stopped commenting on the site cold. It’s now open for business, which means commenting should be a lot easier again. I hadn’t noticed it until I checked the site in Chrome, where I wasn’t logged in.
Well, the great circular wheel of sickness has made about five full revolutions in the last week, so that Finn was sick and then got well and now seems to be sick again. I’m still fighting off the cold that’s been keeping me coughing and blowing my nose for two weeks, but it hasn’t knocked me off my feet yet.
I’ve taken delivery of a beautiful new 13″ MacBook Pro at work, and I’m in love with the Retina display. It’s difficult to go back to a standard LCD after looking at it. The machine itself is a marvel of power and beauty in a tiny little package, and I’ll be happy to carry it to and from work instead of a larger and heavier 15″, although I still have to spring for a pricy Thunderbolt dongle to get a wired Ethernet connection.
The designer who was working with me at WRI celebrated his last day on Friday, so the search for a full-time replacement is in high gear. I’m still working out how to handle file sharing and storage with the new designer based in the D.C. office; I inherited a Dropbox account which holds all of our current files but there’s no method for sharing any of our legacy files. I do have several external hard drives with tons of other legacy files written by people who left years ago, but I’d like to find some kind of simple managed server solution. It may be that I have to cobble together a shared drive in the tower until I can justify the purchase of a server license or a Drobo.
It turned out that I didn’t need any scripting help to count weblog categories after all; WordPress offers a counter in the categories dashboard. I dropped the data into a graph to view the spread, and it’s pretty much what I imagined: not counting Shortlinks, which is the category I use for sidebar links, House comes in second, followed by Photo (which I use for every post that includes a picture), Housekeeping (posts that concern changes to the site and technical details) and Geek. I did think that Finn would rate higher, but she’s also working against eight years of posts that predate her.
Meanwhile, on my main website, I made the first major update to the homepage in something like seven years. It’s really simple right now, but I’ll be adding and tweaking and updating it over time. The big issue right now is trying to find a way to serve random images out of my Flickr feed without using Flash to display them. I first tried an old Flash based product to pull images from a subdirectory on the site, but it appears Flickr has disconnected its RSS feed for Sets, which destroys pretty much any good way of pulling curated images. So, I looked around some more and found a very simple jQuery plugin to grab tagged images and cycle through them. I have to work out some of the responsive breakpoints, but it’s live.
Mr. Scout dropped by on Friday night and dropped off my new Blichman kettle, which is about as hard-core a piece of equipment as I could ever own. It came with a layer of crud at the bottom from the last batch of wort, but five minutes with a scrub brush and some baking soda and the stainless was gleaming again. Now I just need to kick this fucking cold so I can brew a new batch.
My birthday passed with quiet family fanfare, which was just what I wanted this year: dinner with my ladies at Chick-Fil-A. Before you scoff, the sandwiches are good, the shakes are better, and Finn loves the playroom. Jen and I watched as she immediately made friends and crawled through the tubes, laughing. I’m fighting off some kind of sore throat so a quiet evening was just fine with me–we were all in bed by 10PM. Today has been no better so I’ve been drinking gallons of decaf tea with lemon; they have boxes of the stuff stocked at work.
Other than that, it’s been very quiet this week.
Now that I’m working with scientists and data and shit, I tend to be looking at numbers and figures a lot more than I used to. I got to thinking about my own thirteen-year project, this weblog, and how I might be able to mine it for some data. Using a feature of the widget I use to build the post selector at the bottom of the page, I was able to get WordPress to spit out a post count for each month. Using some nimble search-and-replace skills, I got the data formatted, into Excel, and then copied that into Illustrator to build a pretty graph.
As you can see, there’s some serious variation in there. Sidebar posts are included in the count, so it’s a rough outline of activity peaking somewhere in 2006 and averaging about 24 per month. Of interest is the high count of 63 in April of 2006 and the low count of 1 in January 2002 when I lost the file in an FTP hiccup. It’s a lot steadier in the last five years than I thought it would be, though, which is nice.
Next, I’m going to see if I can get figures on each of the post categories. Maybe I can find out the percentage of posts with photos vs. without.
Please stand by. I’m updating the template behind the site to work better on mobile browsers. Hopefully this won’t take long.
Update: The site should be working pretty well for variable browser sizes; I still have to work out some styling issues with comment layouts, random page elements, and the footer. But it’s working. Check it out on your phone or resize the browser window to see what I’m talking about.
Update Update: Typekit fonts are adjusted, and there are a lot of little edits here and there. The footer is the biggest issue now. I’d like to have it resize more gracefully into something better, but I need to work on it more. I’m not sure I’m going to keep using this template, but I haven’t found a good alternative yet.