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The Local Forecast

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So, starting some time after midnight, our local NBC weather forecast is for 4-8 inches of snow with a changeover to sleet and freezing rain; our local CBS forecast, last I saw, was for 8-12 inches of snow with no word on a changeover; and my weather app indicates 6-10 inches with a mix of sleet.

So I’m prepared for 2-20 inches of crap to fall from the sky starting any minute now…

UPDATE:

School is already cancelled for tomorrow. Forecasts haven’t really converged much though, other than that something will be falling from the sky tomorrow.

Pinewood Derby!

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Cub Scout’s favorite event of the year! And not just a few Dads as well I suspect…

Our racing starts at 3:30 this afternoon. I won’t be the MC for the first time in years at this point, so I’ll try doing some live blogging when things get rolling. Hey, “things get rolling”. I made a funny…

Tune in later for results!

UPDATE:

The Derby makes for a long day for me. It’s a bit different from most of the folks who show up since I’m responsible for setup, so I’m the first one there and the last one out. Roughly 6 hours spent at the school getting things ready, watching the racing and dealing with whatever, then breaking things down and making sure the school is in good shape when we leave. Most parents come for their race and, if their Scout doesn’t move on, often leave. So maybe that’s an hour. The ones that do stay are only there for a couple of hours.

All that said, it’s still a fun day for me. It just takes a bit before I’m ready to write it up.

Bottom line, we have a 3-time champion now. The same Scout has won our Derby 3 years running. As for the boy, he made the finals, along with 4 other cars, but didn’t win any of his races in the Finals. That doesn’t really tell the whole story though. The 5 cars in the finals were separated by thousandths-of-a-second in every race. I’ve never seen so many good cars at our Pinewood Derby.

The lass finished 3rd in the Sibling Race. Though, in all honesty, she couldn’t care less how her car does.

The boy was a different matter. We had to ignore him, basically. He pouted and mourned, I think it’s fair to call it, his loss. Even though he made the finals for the first time ever with a car that he had more to do with than any other year. The Wife and I felt he had a lot to be proud of, despite not winning. He eventually started coming around after he’d been home awhile, without any real intervention on our part.

So in that way, it seemed fitting on a day with so many 1st. This was the first time we had 5 competitors in the Derby Finals. It was the first time we had to have a run-off for the top spot in the Sibling race (we only had 1 blue ribbon). It was the first time we had to have a run-off for 3rd place in the Derby Finals (we only had 1 3rd place trophy). And it’s the first time the boy managed to reign himself in from the bitter disappointment of defeat.

New and Improved Twitter Widget

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I’ve been aware that my Twitter feed was not working. Twitter deprecated their original API and that pretty much killed the stock widget that my theme, Mystique, provided. I knew what need to be done to make it work again, but I never could find the time needed to sit down and work it out. Such is the life of an at-home Dad.

Thankfully, I’m not the only WordPress user out here on the Interwebs. I’m also not the only Mystique theme user. I checked in at the theme author’s web site to see if there might be anything in the works. There, I came across this forum posting. The topic title pretty much says it all.

So that lead me to Twitget which I’ve determined is a perfectly delightful little widget that does exactly what is needed. It handles the credential side of Twitter and grabs all the desired info to build a Twitter widget. Even more impressively, it provides an area within it’s settings to completely customize the look of the tweets.

I started with the coding concoction from the forum link, and then slowly molded it into the following framework:

<div class="latest-tweets">
<div class="info box clear-block">
    <div class="avatar">
        <img width="48" height="48" src="{$profile_image}" alt="{$user_real_name}" />
    </div>
    <div class="details">
        <a href="http://www.twitter.com/{$user_twitter_name}/" title="">@{$user_twitter_name}</a>
        <span class="followers"> {$follower_count} followers</span>
    </div>
</div>
<ul class="tweets box">
    {$tweets_start}
    <li class="entry first">{$tweet_text}
    <ul class="twitter_social">
        <li class="tweet_date"><a href="{$tweet_link}" rel="nofollow">{$tweet_time}</a></li>
        <li class="twitter_reply"><a title="Reply" href="{$reply_link}" rel="nofollow"></a></li>
        <li class="twitter_retweet"><a title="ReTweet" href="{$retweet_link}" rel="nofollow"></a></li>
        <li class="twitter_fav"><a title="Favorite" href="{$favorite_link}" rel="nofollow"></a></li>
    </ul>
    </li>
    {$tweets_end}
</ul>

This snippet of HTML goes in a text box within Twitget’s settings page in the blog admin area.

I also had to engage in some CSS magic to take care of the Reply, ReTweet, and Favorite buttons. Well, I call it magic since it was a first for me using the technique. Basically, I used a single PNG file with all of the necessary icons in it to generate the links, along with the hover effects. Googling “css sprites png hover” should turn up plenty of useful examples.

So a big thanks to the guys in the forum as well as Twitget’s author. This solution integrates well with Mystique and makes for easier customization as well. A solid solution all the way around.

Crappy Weather

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Ugh.

I’m sweating just walking around the yard.  Enough already.  I’m ready for Fall now.

Blizzard Link Added

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Just a quick note that I finally got around to adding a link to the page I created for the Blizzard of 2013. The page itself is just a live-blog of the storm with pictures of parts of the yard as they were covered with snow. The link is that little snow-storm icon over in the sidebar, right next to the Kid’s Dictionary icon.

Site Mods

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I’ve made a few modifications to the site this morning, some visible and some not.

As for the image change, How to Train Your Dragon is just a fantastic movie and the kids have been going back to it lately when they get their random movie night. This particular image is the climax of my favorite scene in the movie and, while watching last time, the thought occurred that it would make a great background for the blog. A little bit of googling revealed this fella’s work which I’ve borrowed, resized and fit right up there. I even made it the new background for my desktop. Somehow, it seems appropriate.

As for other mods, I’d noticed that the tabbed widget thingy over there in the sidebar wasn’t working anymore. I was able to trace it back to a single errant'#' character in thephp` code for the theme. Also, in an effort to reduce blog clutter I removed a plugin that I realized I wasn’t using and also deactivated another with an eye towards eliminating it. Just drop me a note in the comments if the site seems overly sluggish when loading.

Otherwise, blogging as usual. Oh, and uh, if you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it. If you have seen the movie, well, go watch it again!

UPDATE:
The kids saw my changes to the site and became inspired. They’re watching it again right now. No objection from your’s truly or the Wife.

UPDATE 1/28/2013:
I’ve modified the color of post titles both on the main page and when viewed singly. Additionally, the Next and Previous post links were not very visible so that too has been corrected.

Sledding

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what are GIF’s worth?

thelass.gif

Click on the image to see the GIF.

theboy

Click on the image to see the GIF.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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What are you doing here on Thanksgiving?!?

There’s turkey to eat and football to watch!  So get to it!

Blog Theme Updated

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The theme we’ve been running here, Mystique by digitalnature has undergone a number of improvements since I originally installed it. Once I started playing around with some of the other site settings and the like, it was inevitable that I’d take a look at the theme.

To make a long story short, I’d modified the original theme code when I started running it and, foolish me, didn’t do so with the services of a VCS. Therefore, I knew upgrades would be a bear. So, I avoided it. The site didn’t seem to be suffering.

But the new twitter widget had some issues and the updated version of the theme seemed like it would be worth spending the time bringing it up. I still liked the look, so I’ve gone through the process once again. The nice thing this time around is the theme provides an area for my own CSS modifications, so I didn’t have to touch the original code base.

Well, almost. But that’s fodder for another post.

Suffice it to say, the updates aren’t an exact duplicate of what the site was, but it’s pretty close along with some minor improvements I made (using VCS this time). There’s still the search and Twitter feed and tabbed widgets for looking at a tag cloud or archives or what have you. One thing I have removed the links I had earlier- they cluttered things up and weren’t really necessary.

Leave a comment if you notice anything hinky that I missed during the upgrade. Otherwise, back to normal blogging.

UPDATE:
Alright, couldn’t help myself. I’ve now modified the nav button on the right to remove the text as well as adding the Twitter button. I tried it on my test blog in the house and asked the boy which he preferred. This is it, so blame him.

Twitter Enabled- I Think

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So I spent the day tinkering some more with the site. What can I say? ‘Tis the season, or something like that. Actually, it was roughly 3 years ago around this same time I went live with this thing, so why not?

Anyway, there is now a Twitter widget over there on the sidebar (which seems like it’s getting crowded) which should display any Tweets by yours truly. That, of course, necessitated setting up a Twitter account. In the end, neither of those posed much of an issue.

But figuring out a way to connect the blog and my Twitter account was something more of a challenge, mostly because of the rather dizzying array of options. In the end, I went for what looked like the simplest, most complicated setup I could find.

First, I installed WP to Twitter so that posts here should automagically become Tweets over there. That process was pretty straight forward, though I’ll likely continue to tinker with some of the settings as I learn what the heck it’s doing. The documentation for the plugin is excellent and up-to-date.

The bigger challenge came about because of URL shortening. The WP-to-Twitter plugin will shorten URL’s for the tweets if configured to do so. With only 140 characters to work with, that seemed like a good idea. After a bit of research, I finally opted for the YOURLS approach, which means I’m hosting my own URL shortener (sorry, it’s just for me). Getting that set up took some time, but I was able to manage it- including setting up a database, users, passwords and all that fun stuff. The documentation provided for YOURLS is excellent as well, which was a tremendous help.

Once I had it working, the final trick was to enter the proper information into the WP-to-Twitter setup. I had some trouble getting path information correct for the shortener and then was tripped up by having the wrong shortening service selected. But once I got that straightened out, my second ever Tweet confirmed I’d finally managed it. Actually, it was more like my 10th tweet, as it took several attempts before I finally got all the configuration parameters correct. I did a little pruning on my Twitter stream to get rid of the extraneous ones.

Anyway, this here post should result in my 3rd ever Tweet, and after that blog tinkering should be stopped for awhile.

We Are Mobile Enabled

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None too late, I finally took the time to setup a mobile version of the site this morning. Thanks to the WPTouch WordPress plugin, it was a painless operation.

I’d been looking for awhile for a way to give the site a mobile version, WPTouch hit my main desires the best. I didn’t want a separate mobile site, it needed to be as simple as possible (but no simpler) for configuration, the site itself should be minimalistic for ease of loading and there should be a reasonable upgrade path if my desires grow going forward.

If you don’t like the mobile look or just prefer the desktop site’s look, there should be a switch at the bottom of the page to turn off the mobile site for your device.

Also, use the Menu button in the header to navigate to other pages or to check out site categories or site tags.

Feel free to comment on it with suggestions and impressions.

Rotated Pictures Should be Fixed for iPad

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If you’ve been using an iPad or iPhone with Safari to view the site, then many of the images have likely been screwed. Turns out it was a metadata problem and I’ve finally fixed it.

In a nutshell, I pre-process most of the pictures to keep the filesizes reasonable. I also have to rotate certain pictures when the original is taken with the camera oriented vertically. In these cases, certain metadata is present that Safari processes and causes it to display the picture incorrectly. The fix is simple enough- strip the metadata from the jpg file.

The magical incantation is this:

mogrify -strip picture.jpg

If there are a bunch of pictures spanning multiple folders, try this:

find ./folder -name '*.jpg' | xargs mogrify -strip

The command strips all of the metadata that causes the problems.

Server Updates

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I’ve been informed by my host provider that the server the site runs on will be undergoing upgrades sometime during the wee-hours of the morning. The site will be down for a couple of hours as a result. Hopefully, that will be all the disruption incurred.

I’ll be backing up the site just in case…

Quick Comment Note

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While I don’t get a lot of public comments I do get, most unfortunately, tons of spam comments. Luckily they don’t pollute the blog because of blog counter measures against them.

That said, the spam still requires some administration and I still get the occasional false-positive for spam. This morning, I deleted almost 1000 spam comments. It’s quite possible a legitimate comment or two got caught up in the mix. If so, send me an email and I’ll try to dig it up.

Housekeeping Note

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If you post a comment and it doesn’t show up, send me a quick note (the address is over there —> on the left sidebar on that big envelope looking thing labeled ‘E-MAIL’). I have a comment spam filter installed and it is has likely gobbled up the comment.

Of course, if you’re actually spamming my comments, I’ll just delete the comment entirely…

Here It Comes

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I knew it couldn’t last all Summer. The weather had been too nice to this point. Sure, a couple of 90 degree days here or there, but it would always clear and be pleasant for several days afterward.

That all ends starting today. It’s basically supposed to be in the 90’s all week. Lucky for the kids, they’ve got swimming lessons all this week and next.

Navel Gazing

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The ol’ blog had over 1100 unique visitors for the month of June according to my server logs. In fact, it was the top month for hits, page views, visits and bandwidth.

It’s only a matter of time before my plan to take over the world is complete… (insert evil laugh)

It would be easier if I could get me some minions, though.

Improved Website Backup

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I’d previously written about backing up this site using a couple of bash scripts, ssh and rsync. It’s actually been working just fine. But, being me, I couldn’t leave well enough alone.

You see, I’m looking at these bzipped tar files that are in the 130MB range accumulating in my home directory and I start thinking that it’s an awful lot of space I’m just taking up. Initially, I figure I’ll just prune the directory every week or so because, really, now that I’m satisfied with the look, the site really won’t change much other than additional content. So as long as I’ve got a week’s worth or data, possibly creating a monthly snapshot as well or something, my backup needs should be more or less fulfilled.

That’s when I realize that I really don’t need to backup the site every day per say, just the content. And that’s all in the database dump. So I realize, on a daily basis, all I need is to update the database backup portion because the site portion of the backup is really fairly static. From a content perspective, the main change would be due to uploading pictures for posts.

These are the sorts of things that happen to programmers. We get an itch and we just can’t not scratch it.

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New Nav Buttons

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I normally wouldn’t draw attention to such banality, but I’d like you to glance over to the right of the screen at the sidebar over there.

Up near the top…

Have you glanced yet?

Look, just do it and I’ll stop annoying you. Really.

Ok.

The reason I’m pointing them out is because it took me most of today to figure out how to make those little png files. There’s no HTML text, I used The GIMP to make those little suckers. Never having used The GIMP for something like that, it took me a long time to figure out how to create the image size, make layers transparent, add text, position text, blah blah blah. And then, when I thought I was done, I started futzing with layouts and realized I’d made the png‘s incorrectly in order to make it look right. So I had to go and remake all of them again.

But it’s done. And now I can rest easy knowing that you all have seen it, even if you don’t appreciate all the effort it took to make it look just right.

For you.

Ingrates.

Website Backup Over SSH

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I recently enabled ssh shell access to my Hostmonster hosted website account. Previously, I’d relied on cPanel for all my maintenance. With shell access comes all the power of shell commands and scripting to your fingertips. I’ve come up with a nice, for me, automated backup process for the site which I present after the jump. But be gentle, my bash scripting foo is weak.

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