Customizing WP Cutlines by Category

Andy –

Me again. You mentioned earlier that you prolly want to set up your new WordPress theme so that posts that fall into specific categories (like the Sun-Times columns) get their own special title treatments and stuff. This blog post explains how to do that.

Technically, it’s for a specific theme that these folks have put together, but it ought to work with any theme. Just thought you’d like to have this URL handy when you need it.

Jazz Odyssey

Oddly enough, I like it when a computer screws up and the reason turns out to be “Andy Ihnatko is a moron.” Because I’ve been dealing with Andy’s bonehead mistakes for years now and I’m usually pretty good at unraveling them. Fixing a piece of boneheaded hardware or software is the sort of task that makes me yearn for a job that requires me to have a pair of brown shorts and a Class 3 license.

I thought that a piece I put up on the blog on Friday would be automatically posted at 6 AM today. This is a Sun-Times column that appeared in the print and online editions a week ago from Thursday and it represents one of the reasons why I wanted to switch to a meatier blog app than the one I’d already written.

I’ve always thought that there was so much more that I could be doing with the online version.

I wind up cutting lots of stuff to make the thing fit into my maximum word count. There’s always a brilliant (brilliant, I say!) intro that gets cut, and when I’m still 200 words over I have to sigh, select the careful 150-word explanation of why this feature is so revolutionary, tap “delete,” and then type “this feature is revolutionary; trust me” in its place.

Plus, I’ve always wanted a comment system at minimum and maybe even a message board…all kinds of neat stuff. I’ve made these suggestions but there are a couple of roadblocks. Filing two columns (a print and online one) would mean more work for both my editors and the site admins, plus the installation of new infrastructure.

And then there are legal issues, believe it or not. Newspapers worry about libel the same way a touring rock band worries about STD’s. It’s part-and-parcel a hazard of the business. Libel in a newspaper is pretty well-understood and there are mechanisms to ensure that the paper isn’t getting sued three times a day (chief among them: writers and editors adhere to standards of journalistic ethics).

But what happens when Random Q. User posts “Steve Ballmer is a big stinky poopie-head” in a comment to an online article? Legally, does it have the same dismissive quality as a conversation between two people who happened to be standing in the lobby of the Sun-Times building? Or would it be treated like any other piece of content published under the Sun-Times masthead?

Fortunately, I retain copyright to my columns, so with the Sun-Times’ blessing, I intend to re-post each of my columns here. Out of courtesy, I’m putting them on a ten-day delay (a column that the Sun-Times printed and posted on Thursday will appear here a week from the following Monday) so that the paper can benefit from the novelty and newsworthiness of each piece.

It’s really intended as a super-archive and as a way of adding extra value to the stuff I write for the Sun-Times. So bookmark my directory on the Sun-Times to get the freshest stuff. But when the Celestial Waste of Bandwidth goes out of beta, there’ll be a separate page and a separate RSS feed for the “enhanced” column.

Now, let’s get back to the idea of me being an idiot. Yeah, I thought today would be the 16th, not the 15th, and that’s why the first enhanced column didn’t appear today. So you have that to look forward to.

I hope you like it. And don’t email me to ask “You stole ‘After The Show’ from Oprah, didn’t you” because you know damned well I did. My defense is the same as when I started doing an annual holiday “My Favorite Things” column: who are you going to steal ideas from if not the most insanely successful and beloved woman in the world?

Fab WordPress Theme Tutorial

A note to Future Andy:

When you do decide to create your own WordPress theme from the ground up, this tutorial is absolutely fab. If it were a book, I’d buy it.

Actually, it explains the strength of printed books over webpages, in certain situations. Writing a theme is somewhere in the same category as writing an entire piece of software. It’s not a simple trick or tip that you can skim through and then use. You need to sit, read, focus, think, and assimilate.

That doesn’t really work so good when the medium forces you to sift the actual content from amongst all the crap that competes for attention on a webpage, makes you click a link to move from page to page and article to article.

If I ever threw out my copy of Danny Goodman‘s seminal “Complete HyperCard Handbook,” then I’m a damned fool. I don’t do a whole lot of HyperCard development these days (seeing as we’re nearing the tenth anniversary of HC’s death, and the fourth anniversary of Apple finally getting around to burying the body). But my copy was a wonderful artifact of an important time in my life. It was probably identical to every other copy of this book ever sold: dog-eared, scuffed to hell, tape keeping the spine together, fingerprints and food stains on every other page…in short, it was a book that bore the proud battle scars of an awesomely useful reference that got used every day and which was read everywhere. I remember taking it with me to my summer job every day. I read it on the bus over, I read it during my lunch break, and I read it on the bus back home.

Natcherly, this was mostly due to Danny’s God-given gifts. The HyperCard Bible is still a standard of excellence that few tech books have attained since. It took you from the fundamentals all the way through advanced techniques, and did so in a way that was always clear and enjoyable to read.

Mad props to Danny, as always. The point is that I don’t know if I and other HyperCard developers would have gained such a broad, deep and holistic understanding of such a beefy topic if we could only consume the knowledge in isolated, individually-wrapped bites…and had to dodge animated offers to punch monkeys and slap sumo wrestlers while doing so.

No Style

Damn and blast. My first tentative foray into customizing the style sheets of this blog’s WP theme (“Mandingo,” if you’re curious) has not ended not in abject failure. But it’s close enough thereto that if I merely changed the word to “abjekt” on the product packaging (cf: “Cheez-Wiz,” “Froot Loops”) it’d still sell just as well and I wouldn’t run afoul of any truth-in-labeling laws.

I dug into the template files and tried to make a couple of simple changes. Trying to change the font of these paragraphs was confounding. Clearly I don’t understand the hierarchy between WordPress’ default stylesheets and the various .css files in the theme’s folder. I’d make what I assumed was a very simple and straightforward change and I’d really have no idea what would happen. The font would change, but to a generic serifed face instead of the Georgia that I’d selected. Font sizes remained fixed, but I could adjust the line spacing. Etc.

The thing is, I have no idea where to insert my style changes. I thought it’d be straightforward (there are a bunch of .css files in the WordPress theme editor) but logic failed me and then trial-and-error failed me and even staring at the screen impatiently had little or no effect.

“Would it be simpler just to build a new theme from the ground up?” I wondered. “I know CSS, I know enough PHP to fit in at a PHP bar on the sketchy side of town, and I’m really, really talented at stealing and using other people’s working code. And building a brand-new theme has always been a long-term goal.”

So I did a little research into theme-building. The answer is: no. No, it would not be simpler just to build a new theme from the ground up.

The only practical answer that I can see (given my goal of making this site 100% feature-complete by the time my iPhone book hits the shelves) is to not muck about with these things at all. To only customize this theme via the large array of options available in its Theme Settings page, and by swapping out images as documented in the theme’s info pages.

It rankles that the best solution (for now) seems to be to only customize the theme in ways that the theme allows. But I grudgingly acknowledge that reinforcing and expanding my own considerable ego is only the second- or third- most important feature of this new site.

Besides, Mandingo is pretty damned customizable. At minimum, I can change the color palette completely and create custom headers and graphics, so I ought to get this site within a nine-iron of where I want it.

CT Mac Connection Holiday Party

I should point out that the last time I drove down to give a talk to this group, I got nailed for speeding. Totally not my fault:

  1. The highway was on a downhill run. I suspect that the cops knew that when they picked the spot.
  2. The road was tack-straight for a whole mile to the horizon.
  3. There were no lights or other roadside features on this stretch of road.
  4. There were absolutely no other cars on the road, all the way to the horizon.

So what actually happened was that the car started to pick up a little speed when the downhill bit started. There were no visual cues of any kind to tip me off in advance of my next glance at the speedometer. And the speed trap was set up to nab vehicles near the top of the hill, not at the bottom.

An innocent error, and not even one that put anyone’s life at risk. Not even mine, I stress. And yet I got hit with like a $200 ticket.

I should contested it, but it was close to Macworld Expo and I supposed that the best I could do was get it knocked down a little and I wasn’t sure that burning five hours and $40 worth of gas was worth it.

Since then, I’ve read a pretty neat message thread on Fark.com that contained input from state attorneys who used to represent The Gummint in these hearings.

“I was usually inclined to cut a break for anyone who was honest about the circumstances around the citation,” a typical poster posted. “If you said ‘it was downhill and I don’t feel like I had enough time to notice my increase in speed’ I’d cut the fine and change the citation so it wouldn’t affect your insurance. The people I really insisted on nailing were the jackasses who had obviously visited some sort of website on how to beat a speeding ticket. These were the people who demanded to see the maintenance records on the exact radar gun that the trooper used on him. I was really motivated to make sure that those a*****s paid the full amount. At minum.

On that basis, I kind of wish I’d made the effort. Oh, well.

Anyway, none of this reflects upon the fine men and women of the Connecticut Macintosh Connection. They took me out to a very nice dinner and everything. The December meeting is their big annual holiday party, which means there’s a fair-to-excellent chance of nog.

MIT Flea Market

I’ve just installed the EventCalendar plugin. It looks like it’ll do what I want…ie, automatically maintain a sidebar thingy that features the next three or four upcoming events that I want y’all to know about.

Hmm. Already I sense failure. I typed the simplest and most to-the-point explanation that came to mind…but maybe I should clarify things a bit. While I certainly do want you to know that you’re going to have to turn your clocks back for Daylight Savings soon, I intend to use this sidebar thingy mostly to spread the word on speaking gigs, books that will be coming out, TV appearances, etc.

The point I’m making here is that a life that centers upon this calendar and this calendar only will be a very Andy Ihnatko-centric one. I’m not sure you’re really up for that.

Take my word for it.

Well. Anyway. So the way this plugin works is that there’s supposed to be a new tool here in WordPress’ editing page that allows you to define an event and then slap it into a post. It’s much like the doohickey that lets you upload and attach JPEGs. When you click “Publish,” blammo: it adds a new event that links back to this same post.

Let’s kick things off by adding the next MIT Flea Market (and the final one of the year). I’m scrolling down now so I can add in the date (October 21).

I’m not seeing any sort of Event thingy.

Okay, now I’m headed back to the plugin’s documentation page.

Umm…

Have I failed to activate the plugin? Let me check…

No, they all appear to be active. I don’t need to download any additional support files, do I?

Nope, it’s all there.

Er…

Drat. Maybe it’s a problem with Version 3.11 of this plugin. It’s a release candidate, after all, designed to fix problems with WordPress 2.3. Which is what I’m running here.

Okey-doke. Let’s just stick a pin it this right here and come back to it later. Damn and blast.

(If you’re actually interested in hearing about the MIT Flea Market, it runs from 9 AM to 2 PM on the third Sunday of the month, at the corner of Main and Albany streets in Cambridge, MA. I’ll be there, furiously taking pictures. My Nikon is my nicotine patch, soothing my cravings while allowing me to leave the Flea without spending more than $400-$700 on geeky goodness.)

Update: Interesting…there it is now (now = “about two hours after I wrote this initial post.”) Maybe some sort of cron event had to happen before the Event plugin’s tendrils found its way into WordPress’ brainstem.

Okey-doke…let’s see if this works. Push the button, Frank…

Update(2): Cool. The title of the post becomes the title of the event, and it links back and everything. And it sticks a badge with the event date and time into the post. I’ll prolly have to re-style that via css, though.

Pretty In Pink

I wish I had time to run the entire Universe. I know that you do, too, dear reader, and I can only apologize. But God stuck me with the day-to-day operations of just .023% of all of Creation while He vacations at His timeshare in Tahoe, and honestly, I’m already going nuts with just that much of the responsibility. Believe me, the day that I swing by God’s place and give Him His mail and newspapers can’t come soon enough.

But just to underscore how correct you are in wishing that your world were in my hands, let me give you a little preview of how things would go.

Naturally, I’d continue the Creator’s fine policy of allowing you Humans to engage your free will. It’s only right. Besides, if I don’t have to sign off on absolutely everything that happens I imagine it’ll free up enough time on Thursday afternoons to maybe go out for lunch.

That’s not to say that I wouldn’t get involved from time to time. For example, when I first learned that a major TV network intended to turn the GEICO “Caveman” commercials into a regular weekly series, your Lord would have raised His hand and intervened.

I wouldn’t have prevented it from happening. That’s amateur stuff. Instead, I would have celebrated the great good that was inherent in the idea, and only done what was necessary to avert catastrophe.

I would have called the producer straight away.

“This is an unexpected and unworthy boon, o Lord!” he would say. He’d feel honored and humbled and also maybe feel a little bad for having dumped the call to VM initially. “I pray thee, turn thy attentions and mercies to my sister’s youngest daughter. She is in the final stages of…”

“In a minute, in a minute. Now, about this ‘Caveman’ show. Did I hear right? You’re going to produce a whole TV show based on a series of insurance commercials, and…”

“Well, I know it’s pretty outside-the-box, Lord. But our numbers prove that audiences really respond to…”

“Doug?”

“Yes, o Lord?”

“This will go a lot more smoothly if you understand that you’re you, and I’m Me.”

“Sorry, Lord.”

“I mean, your commute to work is along a major flightpath for migratory geese. And My records show that you’ve driven with the top down six times in the past month.”

“Quiet as a mouse, o Lord.”

“Good. Because what I was going to say is that I can’t believe you had this terrific idea about doing a series based on insurance commercials, and you chose the cavemen. When eSurance has all those ads with that super-hot cartoon spy chick.”

“…Lord?”

“You know…Flash animation, done in kind of a ‘Samurai Jack’ style. Features a cute insurance agent in a pink, bedhead Laura Petrie hairdo and an Emma Peel-type catsuit. They’re fantastic. eSurance even commissioned a full-length short for the Internet.”

“Wow.”

“And again, she’s just cute as a button. So imagine that you’re sitting there in your office and you’ve got these three hairy Mark Gastineau-lookin’ mofos on one side and Erin eSurance on the other. Honestly, which one would you rather gawk at for 22 minutes?”

“Erin, absolutely.”

“And you’re gay!

“Wait…I’m totally straight.”

“Mmm…not so much. Trust me on this. It’ll answer soooo many lifelong questions for you. Take this insight as my gift, for letting me bump your 1:20 with Huey Lewis.”

“And my niece…?”

“Sure, whatever. So we’re good, here? When can I look forward to seeing a new series bible and a set of storyboards?”

It’s just that simple.

Like I said, God’s doing a fab job and I hope He continues to hold that office until He’s eager to retire. If and when that happens, however, I hope I can count on your vote in November.

The Push-Button World of Tomorrow

Screenshotting the Leopard install process. It’s a quaint, retro sort of task. The “right” way is to ssh into the Mac and activate screenshot via a terminal window on another machine, but networking continues to be biffle-dinked on this release and I really don’t want to spend nine hours troubleshooting. I’ll re-do them the right way when I have the golden master.

This is prolly the third or fourth time I’ve re-done these screenshots. Only this time, I’ve plugged a wireless mouse into the MacBook and a remote shutter release on the camera. So now, I’m lying on my sofa, sipping at a soothing beverage and getting caught up on some vital business on my TiVO. I glance over at the MacBook every few minutes, and if the screen looks different, I waggle the mouse a bit to un-dim the screen, tap the shutter-release, and turn my attention back to the merry misadventures of the fine men and women of the Reno Sheriff Department.

Luxury. Absolute luxury. This must be how P. Diddy screenshots his Mac books.

Except I imagine that he does it in a velvet track suit. I’m wearing gym shorts and a University of Colorado Buffaloes tee shirt.

Also, his sofa is upholstered in panda fur and stuffed with wadded-up $100 bills. Well, at least my sofa is cruelty-free and flame-retardant. Who’s the loser now?

Scavenger Hunt

Dear Andy,

You need to locate the following things for the blog:

  • A really good image plugin. The mojo that comes with WordPress is okay, but it’s klugey. Your AppleScript tool would automatically scale the image to the right size and it would even center it within the column. Imagine! Centering an image! You ought to be able to find a plug-in or something that works just as well.
  • A guide to widgets. It seems like most of the things you want to put in the sidebar(s) are easier to accomplish with widgets than with the scripts you were going to write. I know you’ve been busy but I bet there’s a master directory, like the one for plugins.
  • A menu package. Like Tigra Menus, maybe. You’re going to need drop-down menus under the masthead for site navigation (links to podcasts, the local Sun-Times archive, etc.) I think Tigra Menus requires that you leave empty space for the menus. Or actually, maybe there’s something even neater than simple dropdowns (wheels? I dunno).
  • Prolly a good idea to at least look around at message board software. A message board is definitely not a Phase 1 thing, but it’ll be easier to incorporate when the time comes if you start preparing for it now, when the site is still being designed.
  • An RSS solution. Feedburner, I think, is your default…but is it really the best choice? You’re still unclear on what, precisely, Feedburner will do for you. Apart from site metrics (which you’re not terrible interested in yet) and allowing the RSS feed to “travel” if need be. WordPress’ baked-right-in feed seems to be working well; already this non-public blog is getting way more search hits than the AppleScripted one you’ve had up for years. But on the whole, it’s time to get less dumb on this particular topic.
  • A calendar widget or plugin or something. Remember how you wanted to be able to have your upcoming appearances automatically populate into a little agenda thingy in Yellowtext’s sidebar? But you gave up when you discovered that (shockingly) iCal’s AppleScript support doesn’t allow you to retrieve the next (x) upcoming events without loading in the entire calendar and then sorting manually. I bet there’s a widget or something that hooks into Google Calendar or somesuch.
  • Maybe it’s time to get an Amazon partner thing. You’re hoping to use the blog to help people to find your books and stuff. Why not get an extra few pennies when they buy ’em by clicking your link? But hmm…probably a good idea to figure out how to make that work through Barnes & Noble as well. They’re giving the iPhone book a lot of play in their holiday catalogue and you don’t want to play favorites.
  • If you can’t commit to a specific design yet, at least decide on a theme generator or template. Again, I know you’ve been busy and I’m glad that you’ve been keeping a list of design notes. You’ve also chosen a great color palette. But if you’re going to have the Celestial House of Bandwidth open “wide” when the iPhone book is released, well sir, the first week of December is going to come up reallll quick.
  • Also a good idea to get an “post via email” solution going. You installed a kewl plugin that gives you full admin access from the iPhone, and that actually delivers 90% of the “post remotely” functions that you wanted. But the day will come when you’ll be glad you had basic email posting wired up and ready to go. I know you couldn’t get it working during the first couple of days but you barely tried.
  • Oh, and look for more Flickr plugins. There has to be a great one out there. You put lots of terrific content upon Flickr and what you’d like to be able to do is simply cross-post an album between the blog and the Flickr stream. As yet, you’ve wired up Flickr’s own “post to blog” feature (which doesn’t work the way a well-designed tool ought to) and you’ve stumbled across a bunch of Flickr plug-ins that let you embed an album. But I think the perfect thing awaits your discovery.
  • Ditto for YouTube functions and podcast plug-ins. Every month you have more video to link to (thank you, CBS) and maybe there’s a better way to do that than just to paste the stock YouTube embed. Something like a gallery or theater? Similarly, it’d be great to drive podcasts straight from the site. Make sure you’re backing a winning horse.

Okay, that’s pretty much it for now, Andy. I know you’ll be kicking into high gear on these things once the Leopard book is finished but it doesn’t hurt to make a list so it’s always handy. Plus, despite the fact that you’re keeping this beta blog low-key, folks might see this list and leave their own suggestions.

Your Pal – Andy.

The Words

So today’s Waypost of Progress on the new site design centered on just one word.

When I started up this redesign, the title “Celestial House of Binary” knocked on my door and strolled right in before I had time to say “Come on in” or change out of my Betty Boop wig. To be honest, I wasn’t in the market for a new blog name — the Colossal Waste of Bandwidth still had a certain jenny-say-what about it — but it instantly occurred to me that any title beginning with the word “Celestial” was pretentious and vague and both of those things would fit in quite nicely with my plans for the site.

Then a commenter pointed out that I was only one letter away from retaining “CWoB” as the site’s initials, and suggested that I find another word to take the place of “House.”

“Damn you,” I replied, though in truth I was delighted that my next site-related project would be to write one single solitary word instead of mastering the art of WordPress theme construction.

I needed a new “W.” Ideally one that could fulfill the same role as “House”: something that meant a container or controller or somesuch. Lying on my sofa and staring blankly at the spider on my ceiling didn’t work out as well as I hoped (mostly I worried what would happen if the thing started descending) so I downloaded a Scrabble dictionary and scrolled to the”W”‘s.

Early candidates:

  • Wagon
  • Waypost
  • Waypoint
  • Waywode – Slavic military leader
  • Wairua – Maori tenet of spiritual wellness
  • Wallow
  • Waltz
  • Walkabout
  • Warbler
  • Wardrobe
  • Warehouse

And then I got more selective. I made it all the way to “Wellspring” before I added anything new to the list. The trouble is that even among those who had made it past the cattle call and earned an actual audition in front of Randy, Paula and Simon, there were no real “aha”s. They were either rather lame and non-catchy (“Wagon”), or they transformed the ironic pretentiousness of “Celestial” into actual pretentiousness (“Wellspring”) or else they fell afoul of the dreaded Renfair Syndrome.

Renfaire Syndrome: Unfortunate neurological condition in which you pretend that you thought that everybody knew what a Wyvyrn is (duh!), when in truth you chose that word specifically for the arrogant pleasure of having to keep explaining it to people.

By the end of this little adventure, I concluded that I could just turn the Colossal Waste of Bandwidth into the Celestial Waste of Bandwidth and call it a day. I get to keep CWoB, I communicate that I’ve done something new to the place, and if anything, I’ve actually intensified the mission of the original site.

After all, a Colossal Waste is simply a tragedy. A Celestial Waste of Bandwidth, on the other hand, is a mission from God.

Moving Along…

And here we see one of the advantages of using WordPress as your blogging platform instead of a homemade AppleScript app. I’m on the Acela train, about an hour from NYC (first-class car, thank you very much) and lookit me: I’m blogging.

I went and installed a special iPhone plugin that served a cool mobile admin page when the blog senses that I’m accessing the admin side from an iPhone. I had been slightly miffed that I’ve (as yet) failed to get blogging-by-email working but hell, so long as I have something that works.

I had one of those “life is good” moments a couple of hours ago. The Boston-NYC run takes you down the New England coastline. At sunset, as it happened. I had tjis week’s (unseen) episode of “House” going on the iPod Touch, dinner on the train was very nice, the views from my seat were quite pretty, and I was getting some nice photos.

“Life is Good,” I sighed. And it was.

Of course, later I realized that I’ve left my credit cards at home. But it was still a nice moment.

As Though Our Two Hearts Have Been Mashed Together As One

Okay.

This gentleman is a wonderful photographer.

No joke. He’s a real pro. His shots have a compelling, luminous quality. Strong portfolio. Good stuff.

But this has got to be one of the very worst ideas for a wedding photo ever.

(Third from the top.)

My second reaction is of course the inescapable metaphor.

“We’re stuck on the railroad tracks,” these faces say from the luminous photo on their sofa table. “That’s us. That’s our life together. Stalled and stuck on the railroad tracks. Ignoring the warning signs that should have been obvious to even a drunk-ass sea otter, to say nothing of all of the people — all of our friends and family, really — who are frantically shouting ‘Don’t do it! It can’t possibly end happily! It’s going to be a terrible disaster!!!’

“But for this moment, at least, we’re the happiest damned people in the whole ****ing world. Let us grab on to this moment! Grab it and hold it close and make it last forever!”

My first reaction is “Holy ****! You! You two idiots! Get off the train tracks!!!

The Stars-At-NIGHT! Shine Big-And-BRIGHT!!!

I got back from Houston on Sunday night. It’s now Wednesday and I think I’m just about done digesting what I ate over there.

Barbecue, ladies and gentlemen. Real, honest-to-God, prescription-grade barbecue. You might have heard an unrepentant flesh-eater to say “If God hadn’t intended for us to eat animals, He wouldn’t have made them out of meat, would He?” Well, if you had the pulled-pork sandwich I had for lunch on Saturday, you’d understand that this is no glib, defensive rebuttal.

The sauce was wonderful but clearly, the chief source of flavor was the slow smoke. It was served on thick slices of coarse bread with slivers of cheese and chili peppers. with pork rice on the side.

Any sort of dessert was probably medically contraindicated but circumstances demanded that I add a slice of pecan pie to my tray.

It was a humble sort of barbecue joint, where you slide your tray across the counter before the kitchen cafeteria-style. I looked longingly at the range of desserts but then I remembered that a full mongoose is a slow mongoose. I was giving my talk right after lunch, and I was on just a few hours’ sleep as it was, so I let the pies alone.

We reached the till, and I reached for my wallet. But my arm was slapped…slapped!…by the user-group member who was acting as my Seeing Eye Texan at this venue.

I shot him a look. “All right, you son of a bitch,” I said. “Just for that, I’m getting dessert. And if you hit me again, I’m getting a tee shirt, too!!!”

But as so many people who post ads on Craigslist will agree, pleasure often accompanies pain. The pie was astoundingly good. I’m not a diabetic (yet) and I don’t test my blood glucose levels but if a dessert is so sweet that it temporarily causes your vision to go a little orange, that can’t be good, can it?

Anyway. The Houston-Area Apple Users Group talk was emblematic of the reasons why I love coming out to talk to user groups. The people were terrific, I got to swap my messy house for a nice hotel for a couple of nights, the food was out-of-this-world-ish in nature, and I got to spend a couple of days in a new city.

What did I talk about? The title came to me when I realized how unhappy Mac people seem to be with Apple all of a sudden. Behold, the first slide in my presentation:

Festivus In September

Yes, I did perform Feats of Strength. But the point of the exercise was indeed the Airing of the Grievances.

I Want To Be…A LUMBERJACK!!!

…Because this writing thing blows. Really. Today’s the last day I can make serious changes to my iPhone/iPod Touch book. Let’s review the ways the world changed today:

  • Apple released a firmware update. Adds one new feature that should go in the book somewhere (media files as mail attachments are playable within Mail; great way to spontaneously put a podcast on your iphone) but breaks third-party apps.
  • Yahoo! has decided to shut down its podcast directory. And here I went and talked about it in the “Podcasts” chapter.
  • Rogue Amoeba released an awesome radio-capture app. Actually they released it a day or two ago. But I had no idea that it existed until I was reviewing the chapter on capturing streaming audio and just needed to quickly double-check the price of Audio Hijack Pro. Well, **** me; this Radioshift app is multiple instances of awesome.

So sometime before, during or after my flight to Houston tomorrow I need to deal with all of that, plus a bunch of little things, before this manuscript turns into a pumpkin.

Again I salute the fine men and women of the United Parcel Services. Every single time something about my job bums me out to the point of changing my skin color temporarily, I realize that package sorters and drivers don’t have to deal with this sort of stuff.

Possibly (Hopefully) The Low Point

5 days until final book deadline. There’s a certain amount of shaving and showering that should be happening but isn’t.

The true sign that I’ve reached the end game (as well as the low reserves of my mental faculties) is when I must resort to lab rat methods of motivation.

Witness (metaphorically only, unless you’re that kind person who sent me the vintage moose head and the 802.11g antenna that appears to be sticking up behind its left ear is transmitting video from an embedded camera) the small dish to the left of my keyboard. This morning, it contained eight peanut M&M’s. It now contains three. Each candy represents a specific item on today’s punchlist that must be completed before I’m allowed to close my eyes and adopt any posture that invites or even risks sleep.

Yes, I both need a tangible reward for each goal met, as well as a visible indicator of progress and a clear marker of when it’s time to walk away from the keyboard and follow the orange pixies into their magic gumdrop forest.

It is very appropriate that I’ll be boarding a plane and fleeing this whole half of the USA on the day I submit the last bits of this book. I think I’m going to desperately need to spend 48 hours forgetting everything about my office and cocooning myself in a world apart where there’s a king-sized bed, maid service, and cheerful Texans eager to ply me with barbecue.