I am also a moron

Last Friday, my physiotherapist told me I could get up to half-speed 50-metre sprints as I work my hamstring back into shape.

I figured that I could run to first at half speed while hitting in softball. I was good for two at-bats.

On the third, I hit a grounder to second with a runner on first. My instincts kicked in to avoid a double play. I was safe at first, but about ten feet from the bag, I felt the telltale pop.

I had some velcro straps in my bag so I wrapped my thigh with those. The drive home was uncomfortable as my bad leg had to work the clutch.

I could’t find my compression bandage anywhere at home and the velcro was starting to cut off my circulation so I went to bed unwrapped. It just wasn’t anywhere I would have put it for future use.

This morning, I remembered that I had stored it in my trunk in case I would re-injure my leg during ball. Elvi says I am too smart for my own good.

Back to square one with the leg….

I’m a genius

I’ve been working as a webmaster for one of my non-technically inclined clients since the start of 2011.

It’s not a straightforward effort. I didn’t design the site but inherited it. What I got was a mess.

From what I could tell, the original design crew created the site in standard sophisticated HTML. At some point, they started to migrate the site into WordPress.

There are two problems there. Firstly, they did not complete the site’s migration. I took charge of a mess that is half in the WordPress CMS and half in the original HTML format. My clients have been loath to pay for a new site design so my job is to keep what’s there running smoothly.

A second issue lies in the WordPress design. They produced what I have to work with in WordPress 3.0.1 and created a custom theme based on the Twenty Ten theme.

I’m not sure how or why, but any attempt to upgrade WordPress beyond version 3.0.1 irretrievably breaks the site. The custom theme stops working. To restore it, I have to upload a copy of the WordPress installation that I keep on my hard drive for just such emergencies.

The current version of WordPress is 3.9.1.

As I recently wrote to my client, it is and isn’t a problem to keep the site on 3.0.1.

It is a problem because site security is not as strong as it could be – on the other hand, that does not really affect much. There’s no crucial info to lose. A bigger problem is that the versions of plugins that do things like slideshows and animations and archiving are also outdated and often are no longer supported. Any changes to the site moving forward will have to rely on technology that’s a few years old and there’s no guarantee that I will be able to find something that works.

It isn’t a problem because it’s working fine now, although I can’t apply updates that might automatically take care of issues that I have to figure out manually. And a redesign will consume time and money to essentially rebuild the Web site from scratch on modern technology.

So that’s the background. I don’t have to actively do much work. My clients only update the site every few months. Between updates, I don’t really do anything. My biggest project to date was to install an online store/shopping cart plugin but mostly I add posts, remove old info, etc.

That what I was doing last weekend. My job was to remove an old post and refine a more recent one with updated info and a slideshow. Easy enough. But the slideshow wasn’t working. (The site used the ILC Slider plugin, which is no longer available. It’s the precursor to AllSlider by the same author.)

Now, when I say the slideshows weren’t working, it’s not as straightforward as it sounds, and here I need to explain more background. When I use the Preview function on an edited post, the preview that shows up uses the unadulterated Twenty Ten theme. I never get to see what it will actually look like in production on the custom theme until I push the update into production. (Feel free to cringe, coders.)

So, the slideshows would work, sort of, on the preview page but not in production. Once pushed live, the slideshow would sit there, holding one image like a picture frame. The interactive controls would detect a hovering cursor and change colour but would not do anything when clicked.

There was another problem to deal with in the preview. The slideshow worked, but would not properly frame two of the 12 images. I decided to deal with this first. I resized the original JPEGs to slideshow size (500 pixels across) but that didn’t help. I tried changing the names of the files – no dice. And then I noticed something. The two images that were misbehaving used the .jpg suffix. The ten that worked used the .jpeg suffix. Once I changed the .jpg to .jpeg, the slideshow worked perfectly – on the preview page. It still shouldn’t play in production.

I checked the rest of the site’s slideshows. They weren’t working either. That meant there was some sort of systemic error. Something had changed since I had installed the previous slideshows. It wasn’t the site’s PHP code, but what was it? Had someone remotely deprecated ILC Slider? Were other people having this problem? This called for a Google search.

There was no support for ILC Slider, since it no longer exists. Offical support for AllSlider requires a paid licence to access. I was left skirting the edges, looking for clues.

And I found one, written by the plugin author: “It’s not caused by the plugin, but when a JavaScript fails in a page, all the remaining scripts are stopped….”

I checked the calls the site’s pages were making for JavaScript. I found two: https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.4.1/jquery.min.js and https://cloud.github.com/downloads/malsup/cycle/jquery.cycle.all.2.74.js

That second one leads to nothing. I changed it to link to https://malsup.github.io/jquery.cycle.all.js and all slideshows worked again.

I don’t know if a WordPress update would have fixed that. I don’t think so. I suspect that ILC Slider is at fault. Either way, I’m sure that some update would have prevented this from popping up.

Bonus tech frustration:

I also added an embedded Twitter feed to the site. No matter what I tried, I could never get the feed to show up as more than a simple text link in the two browsers I use, Safari and Chrome. No amount of research or plugins could fix my problem, but I did find many complaints about the same thing.

My client asked me to modify the size of the feed, though, which threw me. He was seeing it? I fired up Firefox, and there it was. But I only use Firefox for troubleshooting. I don’t surf with it or modify… – oh, crap.

I use Ghostery in Safari and Chrome to cut down on cookies and ads. Embedded Twitter feeds will not work without cookies or tracking or something. Once I set Ghostery to allow the Twitter Button tracker, I saw the tweet feed. Oy.

Tears

I had an inexplicably weird evening/night Saturday.

Elvi, Child 1, and I went to see “The Lego Movie” out our local second-run dollar theatre (really $2.50).

It was amazing. Really. I think it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in the last, oh, 10 years or so. It is a deep story, profound yet funny around the edges. It could just be me.

The movie touched me. I’m not exactly sure why. I was in the dark next to my daughter with tears runinng down my face.

So I’m tearing up in the theatre and I’m not sure why this movie is having such an effect on me.

I’m not really a crier. It’s unusual.

We’re in the minivan on the way home and I’m really sad.

And I think of something to make me happy and I think of people I enjoy talking to (Yes, they exist.)

And I think of the dumb luck that throws people together. Dumb, stupid luck.

And then my terrible brain starts to think that the same agent of stupid, dumb luck could cleave friendships just as easily and it depresses me. I go from sad to depressed.

That’s what my brain does to me sometimes. It can be a lot more pessimistic than I am.

We get home and the plan is to make pizza for supper. Elvi asks me to make my pizza sauce.

I get out the tomato sauce, garlic, pepper, and basil (my secret ingredient) and look for the oregano. I find the container. There’s only half a teaspoon left and I need two tablespoons.

At this point, this is feeling like a disaster all out of proportion to what it is, but Elvi tells me that there’s fresh oregano in the garden.

She can tell something isn’t right with me. She gets a handful of fresh oregano and chops it up. I throw it in the sauce, mix it up, and I can’t take anymore.

I go upstairs. I cry for half an hour. It just comes out. I think the last time I cried like this was when Elvi’s father John died 12 years ago.

John died suddenly, of an embolism in his garden. He and Child 3 (two years old at the time) had grown such a special bond in thos etwo years. John and Marjory provided grandparently day care for Children 2 and 3. John was really the only grandfatherly influence Child 3 knew since my father lived in the Bahamas and we saw him only twice a year or so.

My dad had an undetectable stroke in 2009 or 2010. We knew something was wrong when he was in town for Child 2’s bat-mitzvah but his was a slow decline. I saw it, though, and I made the effort to say a special goodbye to him when he left Montreal for the Bahamas. I had a hunch.

Sure enough, he was in the hospital by the end of the July, and his life tapered off until it finally ended with him dying in a vegetative state here in Montreal 17 months later.

But the thing is, I had already said goodbye when he was well. I had the closure. I always felt like it was a merciful end when he finally succumbed. I was the only one in the room when he died at 4 a.m.

So I had the closure and no real grief. He hadn’t been concious for days. He hadn’t been a human being for a year.

I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it but there’s a father-son theme to it that I think has hit me like a ton of bricks.

I’m finally crying for my dad.

I think. I could just be a maudlin idiot.

I didn’t figure out why until today.