jQuery Joy

One of the delights of being a “full stack” web geek is that every week you get to do something different.

(Full stack, for all my untechy friends’ benefit, is when you handle everything from server configuration, to application administration, to server-side technology, to client side rendering. That’s all g(r)eek for, “You do everything and anything that’s necessary to get a site up, running and looking good on people’s screens.)

This week it’s jQuery.

More background.

When you look at a website these days, there are generally three components that go into making it look how it looks and do what it does.

  1. There’s the HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). That’s like the skeleton the whole thing hangs on. It’s the page’s structure and content.
  2. There are CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). That’s like the skin. It’s what gives the site it’s look and feel. It’s shapes and colors and textures. Skin.
  3. Then there’s script. Almost always JavaScript (or js). That’s like the muscle. It’s what makes things move around and things change on the page. Whenever you see a color change or words get rearranged, appear, disappear, that’s the Script.

jQuery is a library of JavaScript mini-programs. It allows you, say, instead of writing each little movement or screen change from scratch, to tell the web browser, look in the library for program “make picture fade out and in again” and do that to image “cute-cat-picture.” Much easier. To make it even easier, people have written lots of “plug-ins” that make the library even bigger.

But you still have to fit that into all the other stuff that’s going on around the web page. You still have to script (or “chain”) all those mini programs together in a way that it makes sense and works in the right order.

This week, that’s my job. Two projects, actually:

  1. Use jQuery to make a page that can call up any number of photo galleries by clicking on various icons. Bonus if you can automatically open the right gallery when the page opens, depending on what was clicked on the previous page!
  2. Use jQuery to make information change inside a box depending on which “hot spot” gets hovered over on a picture.

Neither of these are really “hard” to do. Most “front-end” developers would probably call them routine.

Even so, they’re nice diversions from my usual drill.


Facebook has gone too far.

This morning I checked in (something I do once or twice a week) to find the first post on my news feed from someone I didn’t know.

This someone and I have four mutual “friends.”

Apparently that’s enough for Facebook to decide that a status update from someone I don’t know is more interesting or important than all the things they don’t show me from people I do know and want to hear from.

Apparently, Facebook has also decided that companies I’ve never heard of before are now my friends, too. Every third item was an ad.

It was particularly disturbing to me because it implies that they’re showing my stuff, intended for people I know, to who-knows-who.

I know I’m supposed to have privacy settings for these things. But I don’t have time to keep up with all the latest changes Facebook doesn’t tell me about, and adjust my privacy settings accordingly.

You might also say that since I blog, where anyone can see what I write, why should I be so upset that Facebook is showing my stuff to everyone?

But what I write on my blog I write with the expectation that it could be read by anyone. On Facebook there’s the implied expectation that I’m writing for my “social network.” I know there’s that thing about “seven degrees of separation,” but my social network still isn’t the same as “everybody.”

I’ve been on the razor’s edge of dropping Facebook altogether for a while now.

Today I’m tipping ever closer to deleting my account.

Patience Is Hard

I stayed up way too late on Saturday night working on my new Arras WordPress theme project.

Bringing it up to date after it’s having been almost two years discontinued is a bigger job than I expected.

I can see light at the end of the tunnel for the next release, though. I’m thinking of setting a date for a release in June.

My temptation is to allow myself to indulge in “mission creep.” As I find and fix things ideas for adding new features keep coming to mind. I want to do them all. Eventually I might. But I can’t do it all right away, and there are too many major fixes that need to “go public” sooner rather than later.

This calls for a level of self-discipline, or maybe patience, I’m not used to. Both for saving things for later, and for going to bed at a more reasonable time.

Besides being the name of this WordPress theme, it turns out that Arras is a region in northern France.

It’s given me the chance to page through a lot of pictures of that part of the world. Looks like it could be nice.

Maybe some day I’ll visit there.

Put that on the list of things I’ll have to be patient for.

Backyard Treasures

Last night, after a day of gardening and enjoying the outdoors, we went to East Branch Organics where they were celebrating their 3rd anniversary in business with a wine tasting and wood fired pizza.

After a beautiful day, it was a perfect way to wind down.

East Branch Organics is one of those out-of-the-way places. You’d probably drive right by it if you didn’t know about it, even though it’s on the main road through Keene. It’s not for tourists. It’s a treasure for local folk. A back yard treasure.

There are probably places like that in most neighborhoods and small towns.

You’re probably thinking of one where you live right now.


Another Possibility for Yogi

The dog rescue organization wrote this week to suggest that perhaps Yogi should go to live with a foster family in Connecticut where he would get to meet more people.

After a year and 2 months of keeping him here and very little interest from prospective adopters, we agreed.

No telling when another foster home for him may become available. Every week they send another truckload of dogs from southern states to New England, and they seem to have a lot of dogs put up in boarding and kennels. It makes us wonder if they’ve maxed out this part of the country.

We’re not holding our breath for a new foster home to open up. But we are crossing our fingers.

Chorus Attempts Old School

Last night we went to the spring concert at school. Silas played the clarinet and sang in the elementary grades chorus.

Of course, as always, everyone did “very well.”

The senior high chorus gave Toto’s Africa their best shot.

That was one of the anthems of my youth they were messing with. To give them credit, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

For those who grew up with the song as I did, here it is for old time’s sake. For those who are thinking about covering it for their school chorus concert, please take note:

No Screens Week

The kid is banned from all screen activities this week. Don’t ask.

The upshot is that we’ve been finding other things to do. We’ve played a lot of board games.

Yesterday we started a game of Monopoly. It’s going to take forever.

We have a version with US landmarks. It uses a miniature ATM machine and credit cards instead of paper money.

The ATM machine actually makes the game go slower. For each transaction you have to insert your card, punch in the amount and wait for the machine to process the transaction. It’s ok, though. Silas likes to operate the machine.

After we’d been playing for an hour, Silas suddenly paused and asked, “Wait! Remind me how do you win the game?”

“When somebody runs out of money,” I said.

Not long after that he landed on the Kennedy Space Center, which I owned. He had to mortgage the Country Music Hall of Fame. It was his first experience of going into debt. He got a little panicked.

That’s probably a good thing.

We should find more excuses to ban screen activities.

Bring Back Our Girls

Over the past few days, I’ve seen lots of pictures of politicians holding little signs saying, “Bring Back Our Girls.”

As if the bastards who took those children are going to see all the pictures on Facebook and decide that maybe they shouldn’t have done that and bring them all back safe and sound and say, “We’re sorry, we really didn’t mean to take those girls. It was all just a big mistake.”

This is bullshit.

The only people who are looking at those signs are Americans who might vote for politicians who appear sympathetic.

Those girls will not come home until the Marines go into the bush and extract them.

Is there any question that if America had a real interest in protecting Nigerian girls that wouldn’t have already happened?

What if they’d taken an Exxon oil refinery?

The fundamentalists didn’t take an Exxon oil refinery because they know that if they do, within a day or two, they will have personal contact with some Marines.

On most issues I tend toward pacifism.

In this case, I’d much rather see my senators holding signs that say, “I’m voting for the Marines to go get the girls today.”

5 Months Blogging

Today marks 5 months since I restarted Sunday Epidemic.

This post is the 152nd.

I started this to see if I could keep up with posting something daily. It was a little challenge to myself to write something down every day and put it on the record.

I made a point of not promoting it. I didn’t want the pressure of thinking I was writing for any particular audience with any particular expectations. Except for a few posts that seemed important to me to share with people on Facebook or Twitter I haven’t publicized it on social media. I haven’t done any of the things blogging “experts” say you should do to get the word out.

The greatest success of the project is that so far I’ve managed to post something every day, whether it’s anything anybody wants to read or not. That’s what it’s for. Anything else is icing on the cake.

It is gratifying, though, that people have found their way to it and do read it. Some even leave comments, which is also gratifying.

In five months, I’ve managed to post a few things that get a little traction, mostly from Google searches. A slow steady trickle of people looking for a certain picture of Jesus or how to configure an old version of Magento on a new web server or how to block blog spammers. In all, an average of 21 views per day.

It’s not a big deal. 21 views per day after 5 months is about right for a blog that really isn’t about anything in particular. At least, not yet.

All that to say to everyone who does check in, whether every day or just occasionally– Thanks for reading.