Blogging

Covid Isolation – it’s definitely over…ish

So things a relatively back to normal and popping to Tewksbury on Saturday for Shaun’s birthday signaled the end of lock-down for me.

Yes social distancing is meant to still be in effect, gatherings banned and masks worn…but after 20 weeks of keeping to the rules everyone wanted a slice of normality and their oldlives.

It was a tough evening in some respects, mainly because of everything that happened last time we all got together. But things were breezy and people caring – so all good.

So best get back to a bit of regular normality and pick up some of this new Data Science stuff 🙂

Covid Isolation Week 18 Day 1 – normality is returning

Life is returning to normal.

This weekend there were queues of traffic at the Brynglas tunnels and Tesco had scrapped the oneway system. This week I can get a haircut and next week the pubs open. 

Soon all this will hopefully be a distant memory – actually I hope certain parts remain.

I feel this has been an enforced brake being applied to our lifestyle and in that sudden stop there have been many good things I’ve rediscovered. When you stop – you have the opportunity to notice and appreciate the things around you.

Covid Isolation Week 17 Day 3 – it’s kind of over

By which I mean the isolation part of things…

It’s probably been the hardest three weeks of my life, mentally and emotionally exhausted. I’m not at the stage where I can really talk about what has gone on – even here. Maybe I never will and to be honest I’d happily let it all fade into distant memory.

But what I can talk about is how I’ve surprised myself in dealing with it all.

I’ve always had a vindictive side to my character, when things aren’t going my way I can argue my way around most objections – I’ve always considered it a skill but often it’s actually been a hindrance. And that side of my character has dominated a lot of personal interactions over the years, combined with a need to be right and be acknowledged as being right. 

So chuck into that mix hurt,pain and betrayal… and it all could have been a combustive mix.

Instead I’ve viewed events with a strange rational calm and focus on putting things right. Yes there have been days of melancholy and sadness but these have been outweighed by a recapturing of fun and happiness in the house.

I don’t know where this all leads but it’s made me realise how far I’ve come in my journey with him. It’s been a long path changing those bits about myself I’ve never been happy about. A long path shifting my focus from my needs and wants to those who I care about, less material more meaningful. A long path getting closer to the one who has always been there in my life.

2020 was meant to be the year I completed the first part of my Christian journey – and I never dreamed that so much would be thrown my way, so many challenges and tests of faith. 

Yet here I am.

 …and through this I have had a kindred soul a guide and friend keeping me on the path.

Again I’m not sure how to talk about all that or it’s meaning in my life at this stage. Maybe I’m scared of committing to writing half formed thoughts and feelings – maybe confusion still clouds my forward view.

Still here I am…

The song was shared with me the day after the second big shock…shared on the prompting of the holy spirit by someone who had no idea what had just gone on in my life…

My fave photo of the last 3 weeks – Isaac’s birthday with his cousins

Covid Isolation Week 14 Day 3 – snakes and thunder storms

This weeks seems to be one of bumping into people while out walking. Yesterday it was Rhian and Mike, today my aunt Hillary and my cousin Gavin’s family. It was nice to catch-up.

So today’s walk took us to Beechwood park to meet up with my sister. Her girls wanted to see the stone snake that has been growing over lock down. Isaac had a bad day yesterday so it was nice for him to play with the girls and get some sunshine at the same time. He’s been struggling with being on his own when I’m on calls – which isn’t often but to him it feels significant. But we’ve talked about it and chatted through what he can do when he feels like that – the best thing being to come and talk about it.

It’s tricky… lock down parenting…

Hopefully he’ll go back to school for a few days before the summer holidays.

Covid Symptom Check…

Isaac still has a stinking cold but no temperature

Covid Isolation Week 14 Day 1 – Week 14!!! Week 14!!!

Although things are starting to open up I think it’s still a long way to go…

Today the news was full of people queuing for the newly open shops… massive long queues for Primark of all places!

The thing that I’m curious about it how, despite all the easing of restrictions and mass gatherings, the R rate hasn’t rocketed. I wonder if there is a milder version also in circulation. But there seems to be early signs of another spike happening in China – much that you can’t trust the figures too much, and South America is ramping up.

With all the differences in how numbers are recorded it”l be interesting to look back in a few years and see the real impact – and which types of government fared better than others. 

Africa is still a big worry.

Anyway today we walked up to 14 Locks and back… a nice long jaunt…

Nice to be out after the rainy weekend

 

Covid-19 Symptom Check

Isaac has a cold…but it might be hayfever 

Covid Isolation Week 13 Day 2 – Frogs and swings

Retrospective post – as I wanted to make sure I captured the highlight of the week…seeing the girls 🙂

As with most meetups this involved going to the rope swing in the woods while also exploring the jetty and the cannal ponds where we found frogs….very exciting.

Although it was slightly marred by Lowri falling off the rope swing it was a good afternoon of adventure….

Honestly it’s a very small frog…

Covid Isolation Week 12 Day 4 – queues

I don’t think I’ll ever adjust to the way queues look at the moment.

You drive past a shop and see a trailing queue outside and something just triggers not to bother trying to get in. In reality the que is probably 10 mins long…but the sight always makes me think I can’t be  arsed waiting for an hour.

So today was a hectic one in work. That’s the problem with having time off, it all needs to be caught up on. And having to stop halfway through the day just makes it hard to get everything done – especially when people naturally arrange meetings for the afternoon.

First world problems.

Highlight of the day was my parents joining us for a ‘legal’ socially distant walk. It was good and we ended up walking up on the Ridgeway, which I thought would be too much for them – but it was fine 🙂

Covid-19 Symptom Check

Still good in the hood

Covid Isolation Week 11 Day 2 – domestication

It comes to something where I have a day off work and do nothing other than clean the house…. that’s how bad this lockdown is getting.

That’s a slight exaggeration – my new found domesticatedness started just before lockdown but it has certainly been cemented as a habit. I tend to now sort things when I spot they need doing instead of leaving them to another time. It has helped massively on the domestic front and has helped keep all those petty housework arguments to a minimum.

So today has been a day of tiding the kitchen and giving it a good deep clean. In between that my parents dropped some shopping off from Cristyn and we arranged to go for a socially responsible, regulation distance, walk over Beechwood park later in the week. I’m hoping that on Friday the Welsh government start relaxing the rules slightly – certainly I’m hoping to be able to drive somewhere else for a walk.

Anyway… the normal walk isn’t too bad 🙂

Covid-19 Symptom Check

Still good…

Covid Isolation Week 10 Day 6 – films and box-sets

There are many things keeping us going over the long lock down – not just debating the actions of politicians and their special advisers. Films and box-sets have been great….some new finds, some old classics.

So for today’s post here are the top ones for the past 10 weeks.

Films:-

  • High Fidelity 
  • Grosse Pointe Blank
  • Knocked Up
  • 10 things I hate about you
  • Point Break
  • Old School
  • School of Rock
  • Super Bad
  • Leon
  • Breakfast club
  • Knights Tale
  • Breakfast club
  • Ferris buglers day off
  • The Hangover

With some great series being:-

  • Line of Duty
  • Better Call Saul
  • The Wire
  • Ozarks
  • Killing Eve

 

Covid Isolation Week 9 Day 5 – Slower pace

Another Friday, one week after the street party and so far no symptoms…not that I thought we’d taken that much of a risk.

My parents came over for another socially distant walk… which never keeps to a 2m distance, especially when my Mum wants to show pictures she’s taken. Still it was good to see them and catchup.

My Mum was talking about the effects of lockdown on them and the fact that for them a slower pace of life has just made them feel older. There might be something to this… normally they’re very busy and always off visiting, having meals out, coffees, seeing sights… but now a lot of that is curtailed and certainly my Mum is finding it quite boring. There’s bound to be an impact of that on the older generation – and I wonder if this will contribute to a drop in the average mortality age.

The walk we normally go on takes us along the canal by the M4 and there is definitely more traffic – more lorries, more cars. I can’t see them sticking to the strict lockdown in Wales for long but I suppose it depends on the level of infection. One report has estimated that 19m people in the UK have had it, while another puts the current level of infection in the general populous at only 1 in 400 (0.25). If both of these are right then a lot of people will have some immunity and the chances of you meeting someone with it is very low. So there may be a case to lift the restrictions….time as always will tell.

Covid-19 Symptom Check

I’m now more worried about my weight than the virus 🙂

Covid Isolation Week 9 Day 4 – Shop shop shop shop shopppping

Today has been all about shopping – which has now turned into a three hour round trip and a huge alcohol bill. On the bright side however, we’re not spending anything on socialising, meals out or takeaways. I know a lot of the guys are regularly hitting up the local Indians and Chineses but we’ve stuck to just home cooked food. You’d think we would have also lost a bit of weight with the healthy eating – but there has been very little healthy about what we’ve been cooking. 

Part of the shopping run was dropping a few bits over to my sister and instead of jumping in the car I decided to take the opportunity to walk over as it was a nice day. I was surprised on how many people were up at the ridgeway – numbers on our normal walk have been creeping up but the cafe at the ridgeway was doing a roaring trade… It all contributes to that sense of it all easing and people eager to get back to normality.

Anyway one of the treats for Isaac on arriving at Auntie Cristyn’s was freshly hatched little chicks (Polish Bantams)….he was very excited 

Covid-19 Symptom Check

Starting to think it’s all been a big con 🙂

Covid Isolation Week 8 Day 7 – Covid Confuddlement

So the four nations of the UK are each seemingly taking different approaches to the continuation of lockdown. Or the Celtic nations are taking a more cautious approach to all this than Boris.

Here in Wales the message is still stay at home, the only big changes being that you can go out and exercise locally more than once a day. Which is similar to Scotland and Northern Ireland which extended the stay at home message a few days ago. 

Where as for England – it’s a whole heap of confusing things.
Go outside as much as you like – and if you want to drive somewhere new for a bit of a change…off you go.
Picnic on a beach or in a park – go for it!
Can’t work from home – well then really you should be trying to get into work! Just don’t use public transport…

So if the R value wasn’t already on the rise due to the bank holiday fun…then it absolutely will now.

 

Covid-19 Symptom Check

What’s that coming over the hill…is it a monster

Covid Isolation Week 8 Day 5 – VE Day normality

So I predict that towards the end of next week there is going to be a spike in cases… 

Encouraging everyone to have a drink in their front gardens or on drives was a great idea in theory. The reality was a load of people, starved of social interaction, all getting drunk together. And when people get drunk all those inhibitions go, along with sensible judgement.

We ended up having a BBQ with the neighbours opposite while having various people from the street  wander up to join us. It was great and I met a good number of people from the street that I never would under normal circumstances.

But was the 2m exclusion maintained….hell no!

Not as bad as Sam though who had a full blown party on the green outside his house – which ended up getting broken up by the police at 10pm. He even had to carry one of his neighbours home…social distancing lol

So the prediction is that cases will start creeping up in about a week…the R value was just under 1 so it won’t take much for the rate of infection to start increasing again.

Anyway it was a well needed break from the drudgery of lockdown – just hope we didn’t pick anything up.

In earlier news….we met this pair while out walking….what are the chances 🙂

Covid-19 Symptom Check

…5 days and counting….maybe 🙁

Covid Isolation Week 8 Day 4 – New Laptop….Yay!

So the laptop finally arrived – 3 week from a plant in China.

I vaguely debated leaving it for a few day but then realised the mammoth trip from China would kill off any virus on it. So new toy to play with, lots to install and work out.

It’s very shinny…. and cool…

Anyway the big debate in the press is whether restrictions will start to be lifted. There’s an announcement on Sunday and all the speculation is that people will be allowed to go out more and stay home less.

I’ve mixed feelings on it. On one hand, although I’ve quite liked the pace of life in lockdown it is starting to get a bit boring… or more accurately I need to see something other than the same 4 walls and the same walk in the woods. But the risks are still there… people are still dying and there are no effective vaccines on the horizon. I can’t remember who said it but I thought it was apt… lifting restrictions is nothing other than the government saying – we’ve got room for you in ICU.

We’ll see what happens – certainly there’s no need for us to head back to work anytime soon and schools are still going to be shut at the start of June….so for the time being nothing much will change. On the bright side I’m spending hardly anything at the moment.

Covid-19 Symptom Check

Still good…

Covid Isolation Week 8 Day 1 – Things are waking up

People are getting fed up of lockdown.

The media is just full of talk about how lockdown can be lifted…article after article about how other countries are lifting restrictions… it’s probably one of the most dangerous times. 

On our daily walk today we saw probably 25-30 people out and about. Normally that is less than 10….we even had to walk slower up the steep slope home.

Everyone is desperate to get back a little bit of normality.

…and yet in China they’ve just imposed news restrictions in Beijing and the US is talking about 100k deaths.

I’ve said to a few people that I think this will be a sombrero curve of a pandemic. There will be a second wave , people are getting complacent and the problem with this virus is that we don’t know the impact of lifting restrictions until 5 days after. We could change something that’s critical and then not know the impact until it’s too late. And the other compounding issue for al of this is that no one is measuring this stuff in the same way – so modelling different approaches is harder (or there is more guess work).

But there is good news…. the NHS is coping (or hasn’t critically failed or been over run). The new Nightingale Hospitals have been miraculously under used. The emergency production of ventilators – not needed. Capacity was ramped up quickly – just in case…and hasn’t been needed. That is unless the 2nd peak is worse than the 1st – which I don’t think it will be given how cautious people will be.

However, life is still going to be very strange until they get a vaccine… 

The other activity we did today on our walk was to try and spot as many different types of animal/insect as possible….here’s the list:-

  • Ants
  • Bumble bee x2
  • Crow
  • Dog x 3
  • Robin
  • Green Dock Beetle
  • Horse Fly
  • Horses x4
  • Earthworm
  • Common blue butterfly
  • Cabbage white butterfly
  • Red and Black Froghopper
  • Sheep
  • Cows

Covid-19 Symptom Check

The force is still with us

Covid Isolation Week 7 Day 4 – Bad parenting

So today was a lesson in parenting traps and how it’s so easy to fall headlong into one.

Isaac is obsessed with superhero’s – unsurprisingly given he’s 7 and they’re everywhere…..everywhere…

So for a long time he’s watching youtube clips about Avengers, playing Avenger lego games, watching lego shorts based on the avengers. And today had been particularly slow (as we both had meetings and calls) so at the end of the day I’m sat down with him and he asks if he can watch Avengers.

Now he had seen Captain America while in Saundersfoot with his Thad-cu – and I thought what would the harm be if I’m watching it with him.

So I agree – he trots off, gets the film, excitedly works out how to use the XBox to play Blu-rays….and we settle in for the film.

All goes well…the Avengers meet, bicker, fight, assemble, bicker…and then finally capture Loki…

Lots of bantery exposition followed by more bickering and then it all goes to hell (we’ve all seen it)…Big Green goes crazy, explosions, crisis, engines blow up and Loki escapes…

And then Coulson pulls a gun on Loki…. and suddenly Loki is behind him delivering a seemingly fatal stab…

Isaac goes quiet…

The film continues….Thor is ejected…

Isaac is still quiet….then pipes up “There’s too much blood, I want to play minecraft!”

I try and chat to him about….but I’m confronted with a few tears and him saying he didn’t realise this was a horror.

….and at the moment I was completely floored. Yes he’s a 7 year old who’s favourite minecraft activity is slaughtering everything in sight, who loves play fighting and nerf guns. But in all of that I’d missed that he was just a 7 year old boy not prepared for the pivotal shock moment of the film…not ready to see a good guy fail and die.

Bad Dad moment…

We talked about it afterwards and he knows its all pretend….but still…lesson learnt… keep to the ratings…

Where is Coulson in the current MCU? - Quora

Covid-19 Symptom Check

Better the Coulson

 

Covid Isolation Week 7 Day 2 – Rain rain rain rain beautiful rain

Two interesting things happened today:-

  • I learnt that a little bit of rain stops 95% of people venturing outside
  • I got offered a Data Scientist role in work

 So all in all a good day.

The data science role is one I’ve been cheering for and promoting for a while and when the opportunity came up I went all in. It’s definitely my area of interest so it’s great to get some alignment between work and play interests.

One of the key things that nailed it (probably) was my summary diagram:-

This focused not just on the crunching of data but importantly on how that data is then conveyed.

I like it and so did they…

As for the wet weather – it didn’t stop me and Isaac having our normal ramble…

Covid-19 Symptom Check

Damp but doing good

Covid Isolation Week 6 Day 1 – close call

I actually came close to thinking I might have contracted the virus….close.

I was aching yesterday morning from the Chest and Triceps workout the day before but then about lunchtime I just got hit with a wave of tiredness…accompanied by a killer headache. It was to the point where I had to go to bed – and pretty much just passed out for a few hours. Even after that I didn’t feel right – slightly light headed and ‘spacey’. However, temperature remained ok and after a good night’s sleep I felt a whole load better.

I’m putting down to over working and not getting enough sleep – but I really did think it might be Covid at one stage.

So today was back to the normal weekly routine, which Isaac has been getting used to (last week he was great all week), but today he had a wobble. Not sure why it started with school work and him essentially trying to get us to do his work for him – but it quickly spiralled into a full on meltdown. Now this isn’t the first time and given the current situation isn’t surprising – we’re all feeling the frustration, but it’s almost as if his frustrations build up to a point where it has to hit a crisis point before it can get better. After his melt-down he was back to being his normal wonderful self for the rest of the day. 

I need to start working our the warning signs and start trying to defuse them ahead of a meltdown – easier said than done.

But we did have a great walk in the woods and across the ridgeway…

Covid-19 Symptom Check

Close but ok so far

Covid Isolation Week 4 Day 5 and a half? – 3am reflections

For the first time in a very long time I can’t sleep.

Often when I’ve had a few drinks (or more accurately more than a few) I wake up early – so maybe this is linked to too much alcohol and too early a night. Or maybe it’s more things on my mind…

This virus is taking its toll on people and getting ever closer in terms of people we know – i just pray that they find an effective treatment or vaccine soon. 

Prayer is a funny thing that I never quite believed the power of, and it’s easy to pass things off a co-incidence. But more co-incidences happen when I pray for them than when I’d just have a desire for something to happen.

I suppose part of the power of prayer is taking the time to reflect on what hasn’t gone right in the day, saying sorry and accepting that it’s ok not to get things right 100% of the time. That forgiveness is good for your mental health. The next part for me is linked to reflecting on the day and saying thank you for the good things in it. Those are easy things to take for granted and again its good for your mental health to reflect on what’s good in your life. Then finally it’s about looking forward and asking for help with things – which helps focus your mind on the important things in the future.

So my reflections tonight are more on that last part of prayer…asking

…and in that I ask that in this time of change and isolation I hope that people can reflect on the modern routine of life and take time to pause and in pausing feel the closeness of the holly spirit that is there for all of us. And for those battling the virus and battling for their lives I hope that they lift the cynicism of the modern view of God and reach out… and in reaching out find comfort and peace.

Covid-19 Symptom Check

All still good

Covid Isolation Week 4 Day 4 – Seagulls

I’m not sure if it’s related to the lock-down but there seems to be far more seagulls around.

Living in a city you tend to get more pigeons than gulls…and certainly I can’t recall ever really noticing the sound of gulls of a morning. After-all it is very distinctive and reminiscent of holidays. But the last few days have started with the streaks of gulls. Maybe it’s them moving further in-land due to fewer people heading to the coast. Certainly there have been stories of rats migrating away from closed fast food outlets and even goats reclaiming deserted streets.

So today has been another quiet one. 

I decided to take a few days off work before it gets crazy busy next week. Not that we can do anything – but I just feel my Monday to Friday has very little me time. This is mainly due to how we’re having to split up the day and look after Isaac:-

  • I get up early and try and get logged onto work for 7 to 7.30
  • Then I work through until 12:30…
  • Lunch and then I take over looking after Isaac
  • Take turns to have a shower and get dressed
  • 2 mile walk down to the nature reserve and along the canal, while doing maths (maths on the move)
  • 20 mins of reading and copying out a page of the book to practice his hand-writing
  • This normally takes us up until 3pm – so it’s free time for him (xbox/youtube) and back to work and a few emails for me
  • Around 5 I log off and we normally play a little minecraft
  • Then it’s dinner and the bedtime routine…getting him down around 8
  • Then we eat dinner normally watching some series (Ozarks or Better Call Saul at the moment)….which takes us up till around 10
  • ….and by that time I want to head to bed….

So not a lot of time just to pick up the usual projects.

But then I’m in a better situation than most….so I’m not complaining.

Other acheivement of today (before I forget) I helped Isaac build an Airfix Spitfire – took me right back to my childhood. Although I did most of the work – it was damned hard and fiddly.

Covid-19 Symptom Check

Still all symptom free….yay!

Covid Isolation Week 4 Day 1 – Lockdown Blues

It’s been an odd Easter – odd times….same refrain.

Nothing much is happening in terms of the virus – the rate of increase looks to be flattening – so the peak is within sight. Or at least that’s the propaganda at the moment. The issue I don’t get is how we get out of this lock-down scenario without a vaccine being in place. It’s understandable that as the death rate lowers people will naturally think they’ve made it through – but the infection/death rate has will drop due to the lock-down impact. Relax that and the virus can spike again – similar to what the WHO is warning about. I suppose the country to watch would be China but their reporting seems a little too good on the numbers. The next one would be Italy – so we’ll see what this next few weeks holds in store.

The other complication in all this is the recent reports of re-infection in South Korea. Hopefully this is just down to some false test results as this could get very very bad if having the virus doesn’t give you some form of immunity to future inflections.

So in other news Easter came and went yesterday. It was a bit of a reflective day filled with too much food and chocolate (as to be expected). We’ve got into watching a film from our youth every Friday and extended it to Easter Sunday. Surprisingly the Easter film doesn’t seem to attract the same kudos as the Christmas film – so on this we had ‘Knocked Up’ which was just as funny as I remember.

Apart from lashings of chocolate Isaac had a few little gifts from the family – the current favourite being a cheap Meccano set. He was really good at it in fairness.

Covid-19 Symptom Check

Stir crazy: 1

Covid-19: 0

Covid Isolation Week 3 Day 6 – something of a nothing day

It’s been an odd one today – more meh than anything…boredom is setting in.

But then I always find the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday a little…meh… It’s kind of not one thing or the other – a day of waiting more than anything. And given the current situation, there’s more focus on the waiting.

It was definitely a day of low motivation levels. The most I achieved being some exercise and getting my work-out routines changed around a bit.

I did play a good solid 3 hours of minecraft with Isaac – which he loved…but nothing productive.

The highlight of the day was probably Isaac beating both of us in Monopoly in just over an hour….he was so happy…

Covid-19 Symptom Check

Apart from a slight tight chest – all is still well…

Covid Isolation Week 3 Day 5 – the blackest Good Friday

Well today seems the bleakest Good Friday I think I’ve experienced.

Growing up and through most of my adult life this has been the start of a great weekend (usually) – no work, drinking, dancing, partying…life lived to the full spending the fruits of hard work on having a good time.

But over the years the meaning and significance of Good Friday has crept up on me.

I don’t normally talk about my faith but it seems apt today in the midst of this weird period we find ourselves in.

For me there has never been a crisis point that led me to faith – I’ve never hit rock bottom, never messed things up on such a scale that I had no where else to turn, or a plan to get things back on track. I didn’t come to believe out of desperation or  losing everything. For me it’s always kind of been there and as I’ve gotten older I see His hand more and more in life around me.

I have a comfortable life, one of contentment, close family, good friends and all my needs fulfilled. I can’t say I’ve always worked hard, the truth is that in the past I’ve always been able to do just enough to get by. That being said when needed I have worked hard to get things done and I’m especially good in a crisis – where a stoic practicality keeps me calm and focused. I often see solutions quicker than others.

There are many things that have shaped that – the whole nurture/nature debate. But as I get older I see more coincidences that join up and light a path to Jesus. People I’ve met, situations, opportunities – that could be passed off as simply that coincidence but when those coincidences stack up it makes it harder and harder to ignore.

This seems the start of a longer post about the events and people that have brought me to faith – which wasn’t my intention for this post…

Today it struck me that isolation is insulating us all from the harsh realities of how things are out there. We all watch the news and hear the statistics and talk of flattening peaks. But the reality is that for thousands of people across the country (millions across the world) this is the blackest/bleakest of a Friday with no goodness. They have lost love ones, or are maybe separated from friends and family, unable to reach out and offer comfort. Or maybe they are in hospital, worried, fearful unable to breath and scared about what happens next.

In those moments I pray they feel the presence of the Holly Spirit and take comfort in the knowledge that this is all temporary, there is a better place and entry is simply through belief.

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may diehe shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die

How things get presented…

The reality for many across the world…

Drone pictures show bodies being buried on New York's Hart Island

This picture was taken in New York – 40 people buried in a mass grave in the leading Nation of the World.

Covid Isolation Week 2 Day 7 – Palm Sunday

It’s been another quiet day – hardly any surprise there.

And rather than the usual Palm Sunday routine it’s been a day of chilling and catching up on a few internet projects.

Finally finally finally I worked out the issue with the front page of this site.
When ever I was changing the ‘page’ it stubbornly remained exactly the same. I spent ages looking at caching issues and even thought it might be an ISP issue to help lower internet traffic…. but Occam’s razor – it was me not remembering how I’d configured the template. That took a good few hours running through all the possibilities – and to help my memory in the future I’ve added it as a note to the home page in the edit suite. I’m bound to forget again.

The other success of the weekend has been setting up Skype on the TV – now we don’t have to all huddle around a phone or laptop.

So Palm Sunday always feels a strange start to holly week – Jesus riding into Jerusalem with rejoicing crowds celebrating his triumphal arrival. From the Old Testament, Zechariah described how the King of the Jews would come onto the scene as the triumphant, victorious leader.

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9

The crowds didn’t get the Messiah and Saviour they were expecting – he had bigger plans than just delivering his people from the Romans.

In Roman athletic competitions, the winners were awarded palm branches as a symbol of strength. And maybe the crowds were looking for him to be a strong warrior King – not the King of Peace. Certainly now Palm branches typically symbolise in Christianity the victory of the faithful over enemies of the soul. 

I remember a sermon last year where the Pastor explained that one theory on the waiving of Palm branches was more to do with an early Israelite Victory when they crossed the river Jordan into the promised land, rather than it being around the time of Sukkoth.

I need to track more on this down…

 

Covid-19 Symptom Check

Apart from the regular hang overs we’re all good…

Covid Isolation Week 2 Day 6 – finally feels like spring

The sun is shining, birds singing over the faint hum of far off lawn mowers – it really feels like the start of spring today. But everyone is stuck in-doors unable to do all the normal social activities.

So today’s surprise has been reports of a number of 5G masts getting attacked and set on fire:-

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/apr/04/uk-phone-masts-attacked-amid-5g-coronavirus-conspiracy-theory

This has been driven by 2 nonsense theories that either 5G suppresses the immune system or that it is being used by the virus to target people! 

It’s amazing, almost astounding, what people will believe… and believe so strongly that they would go out and take direct action. However, if you did believe in conspiracy over cock-up this virus is perfect cover to implement some draconian controls on wider society. If you needed everyone off the streets to be able to do something clandestine then what better cover than a pandemic. Which could even extend to us all having to have a Covid-19 app on our phones to track who we’re interacting with – to trace any future outbreak. The tin-foil had brigade would have a field day with that I’m sure.

Anyway – as it’s so nice we’re all off out for a longish walk – you never know when it might rain.

Covid-19 Symptom Check

Still all ok…

 

Covid Isolation Week 2 Day 5 – 1 degree of separation

It’s creeping ever closer.

Today was the first day where people we know have started to lose loved ones… getting ever closer.
The preparations ramp up…millennium stadium converted to a hospital…2000 beds! That’s not planning for a few hundred deaths.
We’re getting to the really difficult part… as we all knew it would.

But I think the hardest bit will be when the infection rate and fatality rate starts to tail off. This has always struck me as the kind of infection that will have a double peak. People’s behaviour and desire to get out of lockdown will mean they take chances too soon. The hope is that by then we have some effective tests for carrying the antibodies.

But but but… it stuck me earlier today that this is the third Corona virus epidemic – SARS, MERS, SARS-2 (Covid-19). And the fatality rate has stepped up each time. So the real scary part is what’s next?

Statistically we have been overdue a pandemic for sometime – but it seems odd that the same family of viruses seem to be causing increasingly ferocious diseases. Is this a factor of the modern world or just nature as nature is…   

Covid-19 Symptom Check

All good in the hood 🙂

 

Covid Isolation Week 2 Day 3 – AA

There are more and more events getting cancelled further and further ahead – today’s latest casualty being the Edinburgh Fringe in August. It’s one of those events I’ve always fancied going to but never have gotten around to. I’m loathed to write a list of things I want to see when reality returns – but it’s tempting. For me lists like that either speak to dissatisfaction in your own life or they make a slave of your future self. I kind of started one with Isaac when he was very young – and stopped fairly soon as it just seemed I was trying to find cool things to do for the list – instead of focusing on him having a ‘cool’ life more generally. 

Anyway if they’re now cancelling events in August it looks like the Greenman festival won’t be far behind it. Which along with Glastonbury and the now annual trip to CentreParcs means all my holiday plans are no more… Which again (a frequent phase in these times) is all a bit surreal. I can’t remember ever not having some trip on the horizon to look forward to…and it’s hard to make definite plans with an indefinite lock down. We’re all assuming that after a few months of this it’ll be back to normal… but will it?

The government are already floating 6 months for how long disruption to life might last. Vaccines probably won’t be available for the general population until 2021. These are short term measures.

And what impact does that have on us, out culture, our ways of doing things?

On a call in work today they were discussing the mass mobilisation of home working – 1300+ people now distributed across the country all logging in remotely. And it struck me – what happens after 6 months of home working, why would you pull people back into offices. Could businesses realise considerable savings by having the majority of their staff home based and having fewer far smaller offices. How will that change the corporate culture, how will that change the social role that work plays for a lot of people – does it exacerbate the creeping disease of loneliness?

Interesting times and whatever happens I think the world we step out into after all this will be very different.

Covid-19 Symptom Check

So far so good – all fully fit…well apart from a couple of hangovers

Isaac’s random questions

To pass the time my cousin posed some questions for the kids on Facebook…here are Isaac’s answers:-

1. If you won a million pounds, what would you buy?
Isaac – a house and an iPhone

2. How long does it take to get to America?
Isaac – 2 hours

3. What does mum always say to you?
Isaac – go for a shower (Mum)… Do this do that (Dad)

4. What job would you like to do when you’re big?
ISAAC – fireman

5. What is the capital of England?
Isaac – London

6. Where do babies come from?
Isaac – mummy’s tummy simple

7. At what age do you become an adult?
Isaac – 20 (no longer a teenager)

8. If you could change one rule your family has, what would it be?
Isaac – going to school

9. If you could be a superhero, what superpower would you have?
Isaac – invisabliliy, speed, flight

10. What would you do to save the planet?
Isaac – recycle and fair trade

11. If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Isaac – Chocolate!

12. How much does it cost to buy a house?
Isaac – £100

13. Why do you think we should be nice to other people?
Isaac – so it will be a peaceful planet

14. What does love mean to you?
Isaac – someone cares for you and is always on your side and protect you

15. What are you scared of?
Isaac – pennywise and Corona virus

16. What is so important?
Isaac – mum, dad, school, family, friends

Covid Isolation Week 1 Day 4 – Quiet times

It’s amazing how quiet things are getting.

During the day there are still cars around and people going for walks but at night it gets eerily quiet – no one out driving to those social events or running errands. 

One thing I’ve noticed today is far more sirens – generally far off. Maybe it’s just because there’s less traffic generally so less of the normal city sounds but 3-4 times today I noticed sirens of ambulances or police cars… I pray who ever is in need to the sirens is ok – which again might be a factor in me noticing more.  

So the new routine continues…the new norm…
Get-up, Tea, sometimes breakfast, log on, work, calls, work, more calls, make tea, lunch, catch-up, hand over, shower (I know late), walk, maths, reading, science, snack, log back on, more calls, emails, apologies, tea, work-out, bed time, dinner, TV, bed…rinse repeat.

Its harder on Isaac I think. The initial joy at not having to go to school is slowly giving way to boredom, which isn’t helped by him being an only child. But we’re trying to keep him occupied and the school have been great at setting him things to do – he’s even started a diary.

It also struck me today how I’m slowly losing track of what day it is…without those typical, familiar queues it all just becomes another day… We’re not even through week 1 and I’m sure life will get more and more surreal…

In other events, I saw my mum today when she dropped off some cardboard for Isaac to build a castle from. Oh and some random flapjacks that she made to free up space in her kitchen. Think we’ll tackle the model building on the weekend (the flapjacks didn’t last a day). I’m trying to get him to build a model of Caldicot Castle but he has his heart set on Castle Coch – because red is his fave colour. 

Covid-19 Symptom Check

Apart from the tail end of Isaac’s cold we’re all ok 🙂

 

Covid-19

There’s only been a few times when I felt I was living through history – Berlin Wall coming down, 911, 711… And the difference with all of those big events was I was always an observer, not caught up in them directly. 

This one is very different as it’s touching everyone with no part of the world not being impacted in some way shape or form.

So we’ve been in lock-down for about a week, with my boy (Isaac) being off school from Thursday, and so far it’s all been ok. It’s taken a bit of getting used to with replicating the school routine and it’s odd having to consciously put thought into shopping and food. It’s also struck me as slightly strange how people react and get into panic buying, which as a behaviour pattern always strikes me at Christmas (when the shops are only closed for 2 days).

Anyway I’ve kind of promised to myself to keep some notes through this period on how we’re coping – to document our part of it all.

Starting back…

It has been far too long since I last blogged – not that I was in a regular habit with this since Isaac was born… But time to get back into the discipline.

It seems while I was away WordPress has gone through some design changes in the editor back-end. Hmmmm not sure if I just need to get used to it or if this just isn’t for me – time will tell. 

The 2016 Glastonbury packing list

It’s that time of year again and this year I’m going to keep a list of the things I take to Glastonbury – so I can track what gets used/forgotten.
So to start the list…

Essentials

  • Good walking boots
  • Rucksack (65l)
  • Daysack
  • Tent – 3 man
  • Sleeping bag
  • Inflatable mattress – I’m getting old
  • Electric pump – I’m lazy as well
  • Head torch (x2) – nothing beats a good head torch
  • Waterproof blanket – good for sitting on after its been raining
  • Chair
  • Table

Cooking

  • Mini table – to cook on
  • Burner
  • Wind guard
  • Toast adapter
  • Flint and steel
  • Cooking set (anodized aluminium) – I’ve yet to find a good non-stick option
    • Frying pan
    • Small pot
    • Large pot
  • Bowls – collapsible to save space
  • Cup
  • Cutlery
  • Chopping board
  • Spatula
  • Tongs
  • Ladle
  • Sharp knife
  • Salt, pepper, chili and curry powder
  • Washing up liquid
  • Wash cloth
  • Collapsible washing-up bowl
  • Water carrier

Weather

  • Waterproof coat
  • Waterproof trousers – even if its forecast glorious sunshine!
  • Waterproof poncho – I pack 2; lightweight for emergencies; heavier duty for being on shift
  • Warm coat/fleece – it does get cold
  • Gators
  • Waterproof hat
  • Glasto hat 🙂

Other

  • Water bottle
  • Travel battery – to keep phones topped up
  • Leatherman tool set

Clothes

  • 1 x Jeans
  • 1 x trousers
  • 7 x socks
  • 7 x underwear
  • 3 x shorts
  • 5 x t-shirts
  • 3 x shirts
  • 1 x warm jumper/long top

 

 

The friendliness of crowds

To say work has been busy would be an understatement.
It seems every week brings an opportunity to go and visit a different element of the country to help with something.
This has meant I’ve got far more familiar with trains and public transport than ever before – almost intimately!

But travelling is a great place to observe crowd behaviour and how people tend to follow what everyone else is doing.

Two examples struck me…

Part of the journey involved the new train station at Birmingham New Street.
Now I’ always one for leaving things behind normally coats in pubs) – but on this occasion it was on the train.
Actually this whole trip had a colleague basically collecting things I’d forgotten like a mother following a three year old.
We’d arrived at New Street and had to change…it was around rush hour and we had about 7 minutes to make the connection.
Things were rushed and my coat was the lat thing on my mind – and really not on my mind until half way down the plat form.

So dilemma – run back onto the train and hope I can fight my way to my old seat? Or just give up and buy a new coat.

I chose to try – and if I got trapped on the train it would at least make an interesting story (plus my colleague would have to get my luggage back to south wales).

SO the train is now jammed packed with passengers getting on with no chance of me getting to my seat to rescue the coat.

The solution – just shout down the train and ask people to pass it back…and without hesitation that is what everyone did. No questions or no second thoughts.

I was relieved.

The other example involved the layout of the new station.
With everyone a little unsure there tended to be some herd mentality going on. As the crowd rushed into the new station from the arriving trains most people simply followed the people they were with – normally resulting in hitting various bottle necks and dead ends. There were clearly signs directing people but these weren’t glanced at in preference to the assumption that the people in front knew where to go.

Any way just some observations.

Peace

G

Back to reality…

So holiday blues have well and truly settled in…

  • Partly the lack of beautiful blue ocean from my bedroom window
  • Partly not enjoying firepits with good friends
  • Partly the ecstasy and agony of a go-live in work
  • Partly…or maybe mostly going through Emily’s laptop

It’s a tough job – tougher than I ever thought it would be and something that has made me realise that we all should be responsible for curating our digital lives.

Also there was a complete mixup with the renewal of remission possible – something that again would be helped by thinking about the digital foot print we leave behind. Not that I’d want or expect Emily to have done anything differently – more that I should sort out my crap.

So today the blues…

…tomorrow the new design for life

Peace,

G

 

Software list

So I picked up a new laptop today Asus ZenBook UX305 – ok it looks like a MacBook air knock off but did everything I needed. Anyway I thought I’d track the Software I install/remove:-

  • Chrome – mainly as I hate IE and love Google
  • GDrive – because most of my stuff is on gdrive
  • KeePass (pro) – keeping my passwords safe
  • inkscape
  • Rainmeter – because desktops are so boring without it
  • Kitty – for all those ssh needs
  • 7zip
  • Skype
  • Libre Office
  • Google Photo – apparently they’ve discontinued Picassa!!
  • Notepad++ – normally I use Atom but needed something a little more lightweight
  • Kitty – these days I prefer it over Putty
  • FileZilla
  • SourceTree – to keep all the dev stuff in sync

…I’ll add more as get this up and running

Developing a new look for remission possible

I’ve taken over responsibility for the Remission Possible website which is currently hosted on WordPress.com

The plan is to develop a new look for the site then migrate the content over before relaunching the site along with a calendar of fundraising events.

Easy…

So here I will keep track of what I’ve done in case I ever need to retrace/work out what I did.

Step 1

Installing a fresh copy of wordpress on a subdomain of galiquis to start developing the new look…once it’s all ready switch it to the main domain address for remission possible.

  • Create new folder
  • Create new subdomain pointint to new folder
  • Create new Database
  • SSH into 1and1
  • cd to correct folder
  • wget https://wordpress.org/latest.tar.gz –no-check-certificate
    I needed to add the cert check
  • untar the file – tar xfvz latest.tar.gz
  • mv ./wordpress/* ./
  • Now go to the new domain which should then initiate the config of WP

All done!

Peace

G

 

 

 

Setting up Git with 1&1

Next in my quest to move my website design to a more professional workflow is using version control more thoroughly.

For me this means getting to grips with a little app that I’ve been avoiding for a few years – GIT!

So what’s my goal….
Basically I want a local development server that links to a remote ‘live’ server – giving me the ability to test content and develop apps, whilst being able to go back a few steps and branch my development.

This post will track my first attempt – so I’ll probably tidy up things in a guide later…

As a first attempt I’m going to follow this guy:-

http://blog.woodylabs.com/2012/01/1and1-web-hosting-git-installing-it-for-singular-dev/

…and as this is a little bit of an experiment I’ll be attempting it first on the dev.galiquis.com section.

  • Open SSH session
  • cd to dev.galiquis.com root folder
  • create two new directories:-
    • …/dev/live (live site)
    • …/dev/repo (git repository to store all the changes)
  • Next create the local folder to develop in (part of the WAMP Server folder structure)
  • right click in folder > select ‘git bash here’ > type ‘git init’
  • Back to SSH
  • Change directory to the repo directory > ‘cd ./dev/repo’
  • type ‘git init –bare’ > message “Initialized empty Git repository…”

The next step is slightly different from the guide I’m following….

  • ‘vim ./hooks/post-receive’ (opens vim with a blank new document ‘post-recieve’
  • ‘i’ to insert text into the new file, typing:-
    • #!/bin/sh
    • GIT_WORK_TREE=”../live” git checkout -f
  • ‘esc’ to exit insert mode > ‘:’ > wq (save and quit)

Next we need to make it executable…and back to the guide…

  • chmod +x ./hooks/post-receive

### so far so good – but the next stage (establishing a SSH link) is causing problems ###

The solution to my SSH headache was turning to GUI tool – SourceTree

It was a simple install and when pointed at the local dev folder it piked everything up.

But the SSH issue…

  • Tools > Options > General
  • I took the opportunity to ad in my name and email in the global settings…
  • set SSH Client to Putty/Pink – leaving the tick in Auto start SSH agent > ok
  • Tools > Create or Import SSH Keys
  • I decided to create a new key…
    • Click ‘Generate’, then move your mouse randomly while it generates a key for you
  • Once created I saved private and public versions in my user folder
  • Tools > Options > General
  • SSH Client Configuration > SSH Key > navigate to, and select the new private key > ok

Thats the key configured, now the connection

  • Still in SourveTree > ‘Settings’ > ‘Add’
  • ‘Remote name:’ > enter an identifier name
  • ‘URL / Path’ > ‘ssh://[username] @ [host] / [remote repo folder]
  • ‘Host Type’ > Unkown > ok > ok

Finally test the connection using ‘push’…password entered and it all works 🙂

 

Peace

G

 

WordPress migration to a new host – Part 2

Preparing the new platform

  1. Create a new directory
  2. Create a new SFTP account
  3. Create a new mySQL DB and user
  4. Update wp-config.php
  5. Update DNS to point to the new folder

Create a new directory

Just one minor rant before I get started – 1&1 your cPanel replacement is rubbish!!!

Anyway job number 1 is creating a folder on the server for everything to be dumped into.

  • Log into 1&1 admin page > left-hand menu ‘Web Hosting Overview’ > WebspaceExplorer

This brings up a new page with an embedded folder view.

  • ‘New folder’ icon or select ‘file’ > ‘New folder’
  • type the folder name > ok

Create a new SFTP account

  • Left-hand panel ‘Secure FTP account’
  • Select ‘New user’ button
  • Complete desired:-
    • User name – or more precisiely the second half of the desired username as it uses the main account name as the first half.
    • Password, also with a ‘Repeat password’
    • Description – one habbit I’ve made myself get into is always writing meaningful descriptions to my future self
    • Directory – point this at the newly created directory above
  • click the ‘save’ button

Rather than creating a global account and using this for all sites I’m compartmentalising everything – to keep it all segregated and in order.

Create a new mySQL DB and user

  • Left-hand panel ‘MySQL Database’
  • Select ‘New database’ button
  • Complete the desired info:-
    • Description of the new database
    • Version of the new database : MySQL 5.5
    • Password & Repeat password
  • Click ‘set up’
  • Note down the details of the database
  • Click ‘Go To Overview’

Update wp-config.php

Next the new database settings need to be added tot he wp-config file.

  • In the root directory of the downloaded site open wp-config.php with a text editor – Notepad++ for me.
  • Change the following, to the values from above:-
    • define(‘DB_NAME’, 1&1databasename’);
    • define(‘DB_USER’, 1&1username’);
    • define(‘DB_PASSWORD’, 1&1password);
    • define(‘DB_HOST’, 1&1hostname’);
  • Save this

Update DNS to point to the new folder

  • Left-hand panel > Domains
  • Click ‘Transfer domain from another provider’
  • ‘Domain check’ > type in the domain > select the right top level endind > click ‘check’
  • select/check ‘Point DNS to 1&1 name servers and keep your current registrar.’ > ‘next’
  • select ‘Use the 1&1 mail servers.’ > next
  • Note down the details > click ‘order’

Next the new domian needs to be pointed at the right folder

  • Left-hand panel > Domains > ‘Manage domains’
  • Select the relevant domain > ‘Edit Destination’
  • In the Webspace section select the desired folder > ‘save’

 

WordPress migration to a new host – Part 1

I intend to do the move in three stages:-

  1. Export and download the current site – files and DB
  2. Prepare the new platform
  3. Upload and Import the content and DB
  4. Alter domain details to point to the correct nameservers

Simple…I hope

First up Satiricalblog.com – which on first look at the admin section reminds me how infrequently I use this blog, kill the spam from the comments section (243 waiting approval) or update things (20 updates pending).

So pre-step 1  is getting it all updated so everything it going across clean.

Export and download the current site

  1. Grab a WordPress export of the site
  2. Export the MySQL Database
  3. Download all WordPress files via SFTP

Grab a WordPress export of the site

Time to grab an export of the site which will contain the posts, pages, comments, custom fields, categories, and tags

  • Log into the admin section -> Tools -> Export
  • Select ‘All content’
  • Click ‘Download Export File

Doing this just highlights my frustration with my current hosting package as several times I ran into ‘502 bad gateway’ error messages. However I still ended up with a fairly hefty xml file.

The above phase isn’t 100% necessary as I’m going to take an extract of the database but I like the ‘belt and braces’ approach.

Export the MySQL Database

So onto the database extract and for this I need to log into cPanel.

  • From the home screen > Database section > phpMyAdmin

This step again highlighted an important lesson I need to bear in mind on the new platform – keeping database naming conventions in mind and relevant to the site/project. Fortunately I had named this sites DB something relevant – more by luck than judgement.

  • In phpMyAdmin select the database from the left-hand panel
  • Then in the right-hand panel click ‘export’
  • Select the option ‘Quick – display only the minimal options’
  • Select the ‘SQL format’
  • Click ‘OK’

This downloads an sql file with all the DB content.

Download all WordPress files via SFTP

Now it’s time to grab the files from my current host via good old ftp.

For this I chose to use WinSCP, having not used ftp clients in many years it seemed to have the best reviews and least malware.

One thing to note here, I grabbed everything rather than getting picky over which files I might need.

So while that transfers I’m going to get some sleep.

Peace

G

Moving time…

The time has arrived where the old EUK hosting package I’m on is no longer big enough for all the work/interest/plans ahead.
Their upgrade plans just didn’t give me what I needed going forward, namely:-

  • SSH acces
  • git
  • unlimited space and websites
  • ruby on rails

So having looked around 1&1 seemed on balance the best choice… and now just the headache of moving everything over.

Luckily there are plenty of support guides around and more than a few low priority blogs that aren’t critical if things go wrong…

Peace

G

Updates becoming sparse again so I need to up my output and get the discipline back…not that I’ve been idle.

I’ve been working on satiricalblog.com and coming up with a new layout that is just about ready – the next step looking at freshening up the content and then advertising it more widely.
The idea being that it’ll be a good test case for some of the social media work and ideas to increase traffic.

But there are a few things eating into my time and motivation:-

  • Emily
  • Preparing for Glastonbury
  • Applying for my job

Also, a point raised by David B, how much do I want to associate my public profile (twitter/Reddit/pintrest) with my cartoons?
Is there a risk of a twitter storm… does it matter?

Lots to consider…

Anyway ramble ramble…

fixing the WordPress white screen of death

One of my biggest frustrations with WordPress has been the amount of times that, at seemingly random times, I would get a completely blank screen.
Now a little research, and enabling debug messages, turned up that this was typically due to various plugins overloading the php memory limit.

The mighty google thre up a few solutions, none of which seemed to work:-

  • increase the limit in php.ini – as I’m on a shared hosting platform this wasn’t editable (is that even a word?)
  • override the limit per directory via .htaccess – which just resulted in the whole site throwing an internal server error (500)
  • override the limit at run time via by adding [define(‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT’, ‘128M’);] to wp-config.php – which seemed to make no difference
  • override the limit per script by adding [ini_set(‘memory_limit’, ‘128M’);] to the relavent functions that are causing issues – again no dice

So I was almost at the point of raising a ticket with my hosting provider in the depressing anticipation of being told that increasing memory limits wasn’t an option on my bargin basement proce plan.

Then I had a though

Then I checked my research and spotted a tiny flaw….

All the articles I’d read were between 3 and 5 years – PHP had moved on quite a bit.

More research – some sleep – planting some sunflowers – and I found the answer

Since PHP 5.3 “.user.ini” can be used to override php.ini on a per directory basis – so in effect is the new .htaccess

Very simple – very straightforward and very workable….

http://kb.site5.com/php/how-to-make-custom-php-changes-using-a-user-ini-file/

 

Happy happy – now I can turn on all those lovely plugins that I had been skimping on

 

I think I’m getting old

For no other reason than I’m developing an appreciation for country music…or more specifically Bluegrass music.

Strange how your tastes change as you get older….

Sunday…

Sunday Sunday,

well as weeks go it’s been fairly good…
I’m back into blogging – back drawing – back working towards hitting a few goals.

However, the highlight has to be Isaac picking his first strawberry from the garden:-

So all good!

I think the aim for the coming week is to sort out the lights in the front room and the sink in the downstairs toilet. Both simple and straight forward jobs, but both needing some application and fitting it around everything else.

On the blogging front it seems I’m continually hitting memory issues which are causing the dreaded ‘White screen of WordPress death’.
Although there is a work around that invovles turning off certain pluggins to edit or post anything new I don’t think this is sustainable in the long term.

I need to be able to edit php.ini but this is only a read only file in the current hosting environment – so….it looks like I might have to raise a ticket.

Peace,

G

Finally found the song that’s been bugging me…

So Wednesday I had one of those moments when the perfect song came on at the perfect moment.
Complete serendipity…

But my memory for songs is nothing like Mr Bradshaw’s and I wasn’t quick enough with shazam which left me in a dilema.

So this song has been bugging me for days disco/funky/house….all about love…
Do you know how many songs go on about love, desire, hearts skipping a beat? Thousands!

But through a little persistence I found it…

A night of not much…

Well that isn’t strictly true.

I’ve finally hit on a perfect theme for satiricalblog.com and so have made the move to port it over to wordpress.
So hopefully soon I can get back to drawing – certainly there is enough going on in the world.

Oh and I started a few ‘1 second everyday’ films 🙂

Anyway DJSam has been hard at work with a new mix…

Get Dancing Presents Modern Northern Soul DJ Set by Dj Sam Bradshaw – Get-Dancing on Mixcloud

11.11

It seems today has been brought to me by the number 1.
From the events of 11.11 this morning to stumbling across 1second-everyday.

So 1SE got me thinking (again) about how I need to get back into blogging (again) and it might be a nice quick way to track things in this my 40th year.
But then I thought the realms of this blog probably give me a little more scope…or maybe both.

Anyway back to daily blogging – I will get my Mojo back.

And the song of the day…
Jackson Sisters – I Believe in Miracles – 1973 (which played at 11.11 today)

Underscores step by step – Step 3, HTML layout

Before getting into the nitty gritty of applying CSS it’s worth taking some time to understand the HTML structure of the page in _s.

Conceptually I always think of an HTML page as a series of boxes each nested inside one another – each having a unique name with different types of boxes sharing characteristics.
In HTML terms there are three important ways of identifying and categorising these boxes:-

  • ID – a unique name used to identify a specific element on a page/document
  • Class – used to assign general properties to one or many elements on a page/document
  • Role –  ARIA “role” attribute helps make it easier for those using assisitive technology devices to navigate through the page

So for _s and most WP themes

  • Page container  <div id=”page” class=”hfeed site”>
    • Site header <header id=”masthead” class=”site-header” role=”banner”>
      • <hgroup>
      • navigation <nav class=”site-navigation main navigation” role=”navigation”>
    • Main content <div id=”main” class=”site-main”>
      • main area – primary <div id=”primary” class=”content-area”>
        • site content <div id=”content” class=”site-content” role=”main”>
      • widget area – secondary <div id=”secondary” class=”widget-area” role=”complimentary”>
      • widget are – tertiary <div id=”tertiary” class=”widget-area” role=”supplementary”>
    • Site footer <footer id=”colophon” class=”site-footer” role=”contentinfo”>
      • site info <div class=”site-info”>

Or to more easily visualise it https://themeshaper.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/html-visual1.png

Peace

G

Underscores step by step – Step 1, under the hood

So as discussed previously I’ve decided to build a new WordPress theme and instead of pulling the normal trick of simply creating a child theme I thought I’d take the plunge and develop my own from (almost) scratch using ‘_s’. To recap underscores (_s) is a popular starter theme maintained by Automattic (yeah the WordPress.com people) which keeps itself upto date with all the HTML5 standards and best practice.

This first article simply peers under the hood and looks at what you get with the zip file from underscores.me

Template structure

Unsurprisingly _s keeps itself in line with the WordPress template hierarchy and naming conventions and a quick run through the list of files that form _s will see a number of familiar names.

underscores_templates
All the standard template files are all present:-

  • index.php – the main template file
  • archive.php – like index.php but displays content based on a set of criteria, e.g. date range, specific author, category, tag etc
  • page.php – for content out of chronological order, or put simply for pages that do not need all that blog metadata
  • content-single.php – for where single posts will be displayed away from the normal index.php – allowing them to be carry a different design
  • header.php – modular component that includes the header information for the templates
  • footer.php – modular component that includes the footer information for the templates
  • sidebar.php – modular component that includes the sidebar information for the templates
  • 404.php – the ever useful 404 page for when things don’t go to plan.

There are other files included but the above form the core of the theme in terms of crafting the layout.
_s does make use of a modular approach with a corresponding hierarchy which defines which templates get included.

There are a few diagrams available to summarise this hierarchy and show what gets included, two of the better ones being:-

The other key file to note is functions.php which unsurprisingly contain functions for the theme. Broadly this file proivides:-

  • support for WordPress features e.g. custom backgrounds, headers, post formats, etc
  • theme defaults
  • “containers” for code to be reused throughout the theme

style.css

The style.css file contains all the key style info for the template. IT’s well organised and structured into 12 sections:-

  1. Normalize – formally reset
  2. Typography
  3. Elements
  4. Forms
  5. Navigation
    • Links
    • Menus
  6. Accessibility
  7. Alignments
  8. Clearings
  9. Widgets
  10. Content
    • Posts and pages
      • Asides
      • Comments
  11. Infinite scroll
  12. Media
    • Captions
    • Galleries

This both makes it easy to follow and make updates as well as helping if SASS is the end goal.
The other great thing about _s is that it’s fully and clearly commented through out the various files which makes understanding where things go and how they relate a lot more straightforward.

Anyway there we have the key bits of the theme..next article, some key plugins for development.

Peace

G

 

WordPress Theme creation

So part of rekindling of my blogging love is the firm commitment to learn how to create my own themes.
Partly this is due to the frustration at the current crop of themes not quite nailing it, and seemingly growing number that seem to charge for anything above the basics. This of course is a sweeping generalisation that has little basis in any fact other than my irritation that I can’t do out of the box the cool things I want. Also wedded to this frustration is a deep down belief that I probably could do better – the hubris flight leaves soon.

Where to start…

Well a quick tour around google turned up a number of starter themes each based on a variety of different frameworks and approaches. The flexibility of WP as a platform leads to a bewildering number of options to achieve the desired end result. So based on three main factors I picked Underscores (_S), the three factors being:-

  • It came recommended from a number of the top hits in google
  • It was the basis of the WordPress 2015 theme – if they like it it must be good
  • Its designed to just be hacked and pulled around – as opposed to being the parent of a child theme
  • It comes with it’s own config utility on hhtp://underscores.me that allows it to be branded appropriately before download
  • Ok this is factor number 5 – It has one or two great tutorials to follow
    (just to note – I’m anything except a reliable narrator of my own blog)

Having picked a suitably unoriginal theme name I filled out the details on Underscores.me and downloaded my nice new theme.

Installing it was simple and straightforward (as you would expect from WP) and similarly enabling it was straight forward…
Then came the shock of realising just how bare a starter theme can be…
galiquis_naked

Yep it looked like it was designed in the 80’s – which if I had engaged my brain wouldn’t of been such a shock.

But this led to a little complication. Although I wanted to learn the zen of theme building I didn’t want my site to look like amateur hour while I crafted my skills.

Luckily there were, again, lots of options on the font of all modern wisdom (google)… the one I picked was  installing a nifty little plugin called ‘Theme Test Drive‘.
This enables you to run a separate theme as administrator while the general public see a different one. This gave me the flexibility to craft out a new them behind the scenes – learning my craft as I go, while keeping the external view of the site untouched. Also it had a very cool option of allowing a url option to point to the admin theme – allowing a sneak peak.

http://galiquis.com/?theme=galiquis

Anyway its a start and as develop the new theme I’ll be posting here to track what I’ve done, and how it’s worked out.

Peace

G

Contact forms… which is best

What I’ve learnt from getting back into blogging has been how very different Word Press and Blogger are as platforms. Probably for all the right reasons – it just feels a lot more grown-up and serious.

Anyway I digress (marginally) from the point of this post – which is there are so so many options around design/widgets/forms/formats/categories/tags…almost too much!
It’s similar to the reason I sometimes avoid Subway – a bewildering range of choice.

‘You can have everything!’

…yeah but what if I don’t know what I want?

So I got to reading Jeff Bullas’ blog and a post about the 15 most common mistakes…and the section on contact forms caught my attention. This site is very much a work in progress but I hadn’t thought of really using a contact form – but actually after reading Jeff’s take on it I thought I’d look at putting a simple form together.

Which brings me to choice – there are hundreds of options for plugins that handle forms from a simple html form to cloud based filtered services that will integrate with your CRM. Where’s good old safe and easy blogger when you need it.

This led me into the ‘review minefield’ – multiply the number of plugin options by the number of reviews and suddenly a simple choice is somewhere in the middle of an ocean of information. Which at the speed I read devoured a good few hours.

After looking at all those reviews and ratings what did I decide to do?

Well I listened to Jeff’s advice and installed one of his recommendations.

Moral of the story?
Sometimes choice is good, flexibility and scale-ability is always nice – but sometimes a good recommendation is far better than hours lost in research on a new subject.

G