A Friday Afternoon Futility Pageant

For my benefit more than yours, I’m going to leave this record of how the past couple of hours of my day have gone:

  1. It’s a beautiful day for a bike ride. Decide to ride to a spot for lunch, then spend the rest of the afternoon working in, and riding between, a series of coffeeshops and other public WiFi spots.
  2. Remember that I bought the “Trainspotting” soundtrack at a thrift store yesterday. Think it’d be lovely to listen to it during lunch and/or work.
  3. But I haven’t ripped it to my library yet. Do I want to delay my departure long enough to properly add it to my server and then sync it to my phone? Realize that I don’t have to do that because I unearthed my last Sony Discman player while clearing out the old house.
  4. Get Discman. Open battery compartment. Yuck. I didn’t take the old batteries out before throwing it in a box fifteen years ago or so.
  5. Remove crusty batteries, give the battery contacts a bit of a scrub with a hand file, brush compartment out with an old toothbrush put in fresh AAs. Check to see if the Discman works. Nothing.
  6. Still want to get out of the house, still charmed by the idea of listening to the “Trainspotting” soundtrack on a vintage portable music player. Hey, why don’t I dub it over to my Sony MiniDisc recorder/player?
  7. Quickly get the MiniDisc player and a blank disc from a drawer. Can’t find my CD player. But the brain’s telling me that it was like right there recently, so I spend lots of time looking for it on a shelf or some other place I might have put it just to get it out of the way.
  8. Give up, decide to hook up the MiniDisc to my DVD player. I have the right cable, but the DVD/Blu-ray player (which I bought last year) is the first such device I’ve ever owned that doesn’t bother with analog audio outputs.
  9. Realize that I’ve let this sidetrack me from the “get out of the house, take a bike ride” goal hella-deep. Plop the CD into my Mac to rip it so I can copy it onto my phone and go.
  10. iTunes borks on a certain track and won’t proceed. Goddamnit.
  11. Launch my other Mac CD ripper, which is my normal go-to because it rips in FLAC. It chugs right through the disc, no problem.
  12. Open my Music folder, ready to drag a folder with the title “Trainspotting – Music From The Motion Picture” straight onto my server, where. Can’t find it.
  13. It is beyond belief, but there’s the proof, right on my screen: this CD ripper — which has never done anything crazy before now — decided to put each track of this compilation into a separate folder, organizing them by the name of the track’s artist. Instead of treating this one album as, you know, an album.
  14. Feeling like inanimate objects are trying to thwart me. Must make a show of strength or they’ll push me around forever.
  15. Grab some tools, crack open the Discman (after confirming the problem wasn’t as simple as “it won’t start up if there are no headphones plugged in”). Battery crud extends to the inside part of the battery terminal, but doesn’t appear to have compromised any circuitry. Give the terminals a much better scrub, now that I have better access. They are now mirror-bright.
  16. Replace batteries. Still no go. I can see the pads on the circuit board where the traces from the batteries jump to power the motor and everything. Next obvious step is to check if DC is making it to the board.
  17. Get multitester and probes from drawer. It doesn’t power up. Flip it over to check the battery. There’s no battery door. Get a screwdriver and a spudger. Open multitester so I can replace whatever battery is inside.
  18. It’s a 9-volt. I only have AAs, AAAs, and Ds.
  19. Forgot to mention that I earlier made a quick look for an AC to 4.5 volt DC adapter (just to see if it’ll power up from the DC jack). It’s not immediately at hand and I don’t want to go looking for the Big Box Of Wall Warts that’s around here somewhere.
  20. Also forgot to mention that the AV receiver that I bought a few years ago doesn’t bother with any analog audio-outs either.
  21. It is now way late in the afternoon. Using the AV receiver’s headphone jack as an audio-out for the MiniDisc player isn’t ideal, but at this point I have decided that I need to walk away with some kind of victory.
  22. Write this blog post while waiting for the CD to finish playing through the AV receiver and into the MiniDisc. Also make a note to buy a 9 volt battery for the multitester.

There is no category of frustration more potent than one of these “there’s a hole in the bucket” sort of problems. Where it seems like a simple problem to fix, but every tool you need for the solution itself presents a simple problem that needs fixing.

What I’m saying is that now, I’ve decided to just go out for an epic dinner instead. I will listen to a less-than-perfect dub of the “Trainspotting” soundtrack on my MiniDisc player. Unless the dub didn’t work for some ready, in which case I’m just going to set fire to all of my personal identification papers and seek a new life in the woods, shaping blobs of mud into differently-shaped blobs of mud.

This Old House (of PHP, CSS, and HTML)

Here we go again!

It seems as though I wind up blogging about the tools of blogging every two or three years. That’s how long it takes for me to scrub off the shame I acquired from my previous attempt to roll up my sleeves and revamp my own site.

The huge irony of all of this is that I was blogging before there was even a word for what a blog was. I was posting to my blog frequently enough that automating the process became important. And in the absence of WordPress (et al), AppleScript had to fill the void. What began as a simple script for uploading a text file to a server ultimately became what was probably the second most complicated app I’ve ever written. Only the advent of mobile blogging pulled me back from the abyss and pushed me towards the mature (and, fine, much better) content management systems that had sprung up in the intervening years.

(Inspired, no doubt, by my leadership-by-example.)

(Please…let me have this.)

I’ve been very happy with WordPress. I keep telling myself I could be happier with it if I took more control over it, and hell, I once wrote an OS for the Apple II and I’ve paid a major polytechnic university a lot of money to help me learn to program hardware and software the likes of which have been forsaken by God. Customizing WordPress by hand is well within my wheelhouse.

And here’s where we play the clip of Napoleon Dynamite’s Uncle Rico. His days of youthful triumph long behind him, he both embellishes what he was capable of in his prime and deludes himself into thinking he’s still just as sharp.

Ok, I’ll be fair with myself. I know PHP. I understand how WordPress themes work. And the good news about CSS is that it makes me so damned angry that I refuse to give it the satisfaction of knowing that it beat me and I’m determined to drag it right down to hell with me, if necessary.

I can do this. I just can’t do this beyond the point where I’ve lost total interest in it. So I’m left with an improved but not-quite-finished site, the power to move on with my life, and the sense that I’m still a badass developer and will totally get this done when I have enough time and mental bandwidth to focus on the project.

I was missing something important, though: a damned good reason to build a totally refreshed site. The Sun-Times published anything I wanted to write about tech, twice a week.

As most of you know, I ended my 19-year relationship with the Sun-Times in April. It wasn’t sad news for me at all. In fact, during the last year or two I’d been campaigning hard to create a new tech site/portal that I would control and which would act as a companion to the Sun-Times column. Something akin to what Roger Ebert created for his movie reviews. I’d still write features that would go through the Sun-Times’ CMS and editing workflow, but everything would be enhanced by a blog where I could post quick and timely stuff on my own.

Alas, I failed to fully intoxicate the paper with this proposal. But now, I can move forward with it on my own.

I’m going to be writing a series of posts about the creation of andyi dot com. I’ve finally got the new site to a state where it’s actually possible to post stuff. It’s not so far along that I don’t need to create lots of stuff for it so that I can see how it’s working. So there’s that. These posts might also help out people who are setting out on a similar path.

And, sure, it’ll be good to have written documentation of what I was thinking. You know, just in case I look back upon the scraps of flaming wreckage that are still fluttering back towards earth and I find myself asking “What was I thinking?

Cruel Shoes

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