I was in the yard this morning, trying to get ready for the hurricane. I’m not expecting heavy damage here, but I wanted to make sure there wasn’t anything loose that could get blown around. We have some tall dahlias in the garden this year, and I wanted to cut the one that was in full bloom, to get it before the rain and the wind did. Turned out the bumblebees were there first:


Bumblebee gathering pollen on a dahlia

Puttering Around

I’m finally starting to get some ideas of how I want this thing to look. I started messing around some in Photoshop and BBEdit tonight to play with an idea I had for the look of the site, which is rather different from the way I normally put a site together at work.

At work, I’m almost always handed a finished Photoshop document, and asked to make the site look as close to the Photoshop document as I can. With a static site, I can generally come pretty close, and do my best to execute the design as closely as I can. With a dynamic site, I do what I can, but the software often places constraints on what you can do– if the HTML structure output by the software, which is pre-written– doesn’t match the design, there’s not much you can do. It’s also been my experience that some designers include features that the software doesn’t support.

For this site, I’m starting to get a sense of what I want to look like, and I’m mocking it up statically on my local machine. Instead of creating the whole design in Photoshop, I’m just creating bits and bobs, then trying out the CSS directly in BBEdit, locally. There’s nothing here on the site to see yet.

The other consideration is making the thing work with WordPress. I have a lot of experience at work, skinning dynamic systems, but that has been on systems that I did a lot of work on myself, and in ColdFusion. I’m going to have to learn how to do things The WordPress Way, and I’m going to have to pick up a little PHP too. And part of the process is going to be to find out what kinds of goodies I have to play around with in this environment. But that’s part of the attraction too.

MedFlight Motorcycle Run

Did the MedFlight charity motorcycle run today. There were maybe 70 – 80 bikes, mostly Harleys, with only a few sport bikes. There was a police escort, so we didn’t have to stop for lights or cross intersections. It started at the VFW parking lot, then went down Bay Road down to Mansfield and Norton.

After we got back, there was food and then the helicopter arrived. It’s amazing how much wind those things kick up. I got a good look inside– hopefully I’ll never need a ride.

MedFlight helicopter

MedFlight helicopter right after landing

About the headers…

I replaced the default photography in the theme with some of my own pictures last night. For some reason, they’re not as sharp as I’d like. Compression could be better too. I know about this, and it’s on The List of Things to Do (along with nine zillion other things). They also need alt text, which will probably need theme support.

Interestingly enough, while I wasn’t setting out to set a theme with the pictures, most of the involve water in some way.

Update, 8/18 11:16 PM

I’ve updated the images. The problem was that when I exported them out of Aperture, I didn’t notice the export was set to the Fit Within 640 px preset. I’ve made a new preset for header images, but noticed it still generates very large files. I’ll need to do some experimenting with compression settings. For now, running them through Photoshop, and using the Save for Web and Devices setting did the trick. I’d still like to be able to add alt text, even though the images are more decorative than informative.

Hidden fields don’t have a defaultValue property

I discovered the hard way that hidden HTML form fields don’t have a defaultValue property that you can read. I suppose the presumption is that since the user can’t get at them (without special tools) there was no need.

Here’s what was going on. I recently built an AJAX based admin interface at work. The interface consists of a form, a set of tab links , and a set of divs within the form that individual tab sections would be loaded into, and a hidden field to track what the default mode of the form would be — normally either “insert” or “update” to save the record, but some of the tabs have additional controls to do other things, which work by changing the mode field, and then submitting. Once the action completes, I needed to reset the mode field back to its default value so that a future action would do what it was supposed to.

Except that it wasn’t. The mode field was staying set to whatever state the script had set it to. I’d implemented it by reading the defaultValue of the mode field and setting its value back to that. It had worked great during the earlier part of development, when I had made the mode field a text type input so I could see what was going on. And it worked fine when I changed it back to a text type, but stubbornly refused when it was a hidden type. Even more maddening was that there were no errors… it just didn’t change.

I finally did some searching, and found that the property isn’t available to hidden fields. I ended up using a custom data attribute on the field to track the default value, and read that instead.

Nursing the iPhone along

I’ve been having trouble with my phone for the last week or so. Last Sunday, I had no cellular reception at all with it, and I’ve been noticing for the last month or so that reception on it seems weak, but that often resetting it will seem to help. It seems particularly prone to losing strength when I hold it– and it’s a 3GS, not an iPhone 4.

When I took it to the Apple store in Providence, they had me replace the SIM card, to no avail. When I went back, they took the SIM card out, tinkered a bit, then said there was probably a problem with the antenna, which would cost $199 to address, and of course, if you’re going to do that, you might as well just get a new one. Only problem with that is that there are new models due out probably within the next six weeks and possibly as soon as three. So I took it home, and did a complete reset and restore. It still said “Searching” after the reset, so I said a few bad words and resigned myself to buying a new iPhone and let it complete the restore. Amazingly, though, when it came back up, I had 3 bars.

Still, it continues to be flakey, especially when I’m at home. I lost reception again Friday, I restarted it an it came back. Then I lost reception again Sunday, so I restarted it again. This time’ it was quite reluctant to even come back up. It was tax free weekend, so I decided to bite the bullet and headed to the Dedham Apple Store. The woman dealing with the line strongly suggested I talk to the Genius Bar again, because if they recommended a replacement it, it would be a replacement and not an upgrade, and wouldn’t require a new contract.

The tech there– I think his name was Jason– was quite helpful. He opened up the case, reseated the antenna cable and re-flashed the ROM.

It seemed to be OK during the day, but I lost signal again when I got home and went downstairs. I restarted it again, and at first it was having trouble getting 1 bar then came back up to 3 bars (the iPad is showing 3 bars). But I was able to make a call, without it dropping, so who knows. I do think this phone’s days are numbered, but hopefully, I can limp along with it until the new ones come out.

Hello world!


Here I am getting set up with WordPress. It’s been interesting and exciting setting up my own domain. Even though I have a over a decade of experience with HTML, CSS and JavaScript, I’ve never bothered having My Very Own Site before, and so I’ve never had to deal with picking a hosting company, setting up domain names, creating databases and email accounts before. All in all, kind of exciting and not too overwhelming.

I have to say, picking a hosting company has felt like shopping for a car. If you do a search, you’ll find lots of recommendations, but if you bother reading them, it becomes very obvious that a lot of them are bought and paid for. Also, it seems like most accounts you read are either horror stories or “I just love my hosting company”. What I was looking for was “I picked this company, this is what has been good, this is what I didn’t like, but overall, this is what I think.”  Perhaps after some time, I’ll be able to write one here. Right now, I’m on the Dreamhost two week trial.

Installation of WordPress was very easy. I’m using the default theme at the moment, but I’m hoping to put together my own theme at some point, so rather than use Dreamhost’s one click install, I downloaded the software from wordpress.org, and uploaded it myself to the site. I then had to set up the database in the Dreamhost control panel, and create a config file in BBEdit and upload that. Once that was done, I just ran the installer, and here I am.

Looks like there are lots of fun toys to play with, but it’s a nice day out, and the motorcycle is beckoning.