The Thrill Of The Hunt

You ever have one of those moments when you observe yourself impartially and think “Good God…I really haven’t made any progress since junior high, have I?”

This is such a moment. I’ve been in a coding trance and my mental CPU was wonderfully overclocked and the last thing I want to do is knock off for the night and go to bed…but it’s 4:20 AM and I need to go to bed.

Yup, the 4 AM point of no return. It’s a bedrock spot on my personal clock, right alongside lunchtime, suppertime, and Time For Letterman. As a kid, I knew it as the time when I had to decide whether I wanted to get two or three hours of sleep in my bed, or if I wanted to keep right on writing or coding and sleep at my desk instead.

(I never, ever made the wrong choice. Which is probably why I graduated 22nd in my class instead of in the top five.)

Now that the blog is back up and running, I can recreationally begin Phase Two: building a custom CWoB theme for WordPress. This requires me to sharpen my PHP-fu skills and also to learn just what the bloody hell goes on under the WordPress hood.

And I’m absolutely delighted that there are two perfect resources out there. The tutorials at are absolute godsends. You can jump in without knowing squat about PHP or even HTML and make satisfying progress in your first 15 minutes.

If you do know squat…well, you’re that much ahead of the game.

After spending so much time suffering with a broken blog, I sure don’t want to go and break it again. So I’m inflicting my theme experiments on a “Skunk Works” version of the Celestial Waste of Bandwidth, hosted by a WordPress installation right here on my iMac.

Mac OS X already has everything WordPress needs, right out of the box. You gotcher PHP, you gotcher MySQL, you gotcher Apache webserver. You do need to execute a lot of mojo before WordPress is up and running, and that’s a newbie nightmare.

So thank heaven for MAMP. It’s a magical free utility that runs those services for you. Double click on the app and hey-presto: you have a functioning Apache webserver with SQL and PHP.

I love that it doesn’t mess with your Mac’s configuration or mung up your system in any way. It’s designed specifically for my kind of purpose: when you’re developing something offline and you need a functioning test system that can be turned on and off. When I click the “Stop Servers” button, that’s it: the Skunk Works is closed and my Mac’s configuration is no different than what it was when I started. Even when it’s running, the “webserver” is only available to the user of this iMac. I’m not accidentally publishing my PHP thoughtcrimes to the actual Internet.

I’ve no idea when this new theme will be finished. I’m still at the stage where I’m surprised and pleased that I haven’t turned a lovely iMac into a dignified blob of drippy metal and plastic slag on my desktop. But as they used to say at GE, “Progress is our most important product.”

It’s interesting. The purpose of transitioning away from my AppleScript blogging tool was to have a more powerful and ambitious blog. It wasn’t so that I could stop writing code. But in the past few days I’ve come to understand that if I really want to exploit the power of a full-featured content management system like WordPress…well, I still have to write lots of PHP scripts. WordPress has two faces. It’s a user app and it’s a development environment.

If you’re happy with all of the canned solutions that are out there, you never have to leave the friendly user interface. If you want something that’s tailored towards your own inclinations, you’ll need to put on those special pants that are tailored for extended coding sessions.

6 thoughts on “The Thrill Of The Hunt

  1. Superdotman

    I was feeling kinda down, but then I looked at my RSS reader and saw three posts by Andy Ihnatko and read them and now I am feeling pretty up. I just wanted to say thanks for blogging.

    Thanks for blogging!

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