housekeeping

Just a brief note to anyone who gets the daily email digest (or who follows the site on Feedly): My apologies for the huge lags recently between the actual posting times and when (or even if) new items have showed up in the newsletter. I believe I have it sorted now—last night’s edition included all three of yesterday’s posts. Do note, however, that in the process of catching up, the email delivery service decided to skip over Friday’s posts, so you’ll have to read those on the website.

For my more tech-minded friends: It turned out to be a problem with overly aggressive caching of RSS feeds by the plugin I use to cache and serve static files. (Beware performance-enhancing plugins!) So similar lag-times at Feedly and other feed readers should also now be fixed. Unfortunately for fans of my Pepys Diary erasure project, though, RSS subscribers will still have to click through to the site (or subscribe to the email digest) to see the actual erasures, since only the late, lamented Google Reader correctly displayed the sort of simple HTML formatting I’m using there.

Happy Thanksgiving! Though I did spend plenty of time with the family today, I tend to feel that holidays are a good time to make major changes to a website. That’s because I’m too lazy to set up a separate testing environment and instead do all the tinkering live on the site while people might be trying to read, so I feel it’s best to do it when the majority of the readership isn’t online. (Sorry if anyone was discombobulated. I hope you can recombobulate without too much trouble.)

This is a new WordPress theme, Stargazer, and it’s by one of the most tech-savvy themers out there, Justin Tadlock. He modestly calls Stargazer

the most advanced theme ever created for WordPress without compromising standards. This is the only theme in the world that you’ll find that extends WordPress’ built-in theme features so robustly but naturally. The theme is built on the rock-solid Hybrid Core theme framework.

It’s built with search-engine optimization (SEO) in mind by utilizing the most current HTML5 conventions and Schema.org microdata.

It did almost everything I wanted out of the box, but I have had to make a few changes (via the approved method, creating a child theme), such as including full content rather than excerpts on most pages and doing away with the garish blockquote styling. There are a couple more things I intend to tweak if I can figure out how. But the point is that I can make changes if y’all have criticisms or suggestions.

There are a few differences from the previous theme (Twenty Ten). The site should seamlessly adapt to whatever device you’re viewing it on, and there’s a lot more hyphenating as a result. Individual posts now have a breadcrumb navigation at the top, obviating the need for a redundant Home link on the navigation bar opposite the blog title. The comments link is now after the date at the top of the post, and the category and tag links are at the bottom after the sharing buttons. I’ve left the extra search button in the very top right corner for now — that’s the default, crappy search function provided by WordPress. The Google Custom Search button near the top of the sidebar should work better most of the time, presuming Google has correctly indexed the site.

For WordPress geeks, there’s a lot more about the Stargazer theme at WordPress Tavern. I especially liked this part:

With Stargazer, Tadlock is aiming to keep the barrier for entry low so that DIY users/future theme developers are encouraged to experiment. All of the complex aspects of the theme are kept out of site in sub-folders of the parent theme. You don’t have to know a ton of PHP code to get started.

Very true. The complexity of the code of many contemporary WordPress themes is discouraging to a hobbyist like me. Tinkering with Stargazer is actually fun — the way all WordPress tinkering used to be.

A wise blogging friend advised me today to stop running myself ragged trying to restore everything at once, and take as much time as I need to think through the gnarly problem of what to do with Via Negativa long-term. Moving Poems and The Morning Porch are back up on a new host, Luisa is continuing her daily poems in response to my porch posts (scroll down to see her three most recent), and I have this beachhead here until I sort things out.

Another blogger I admire recently migrated her site off of cheap shared web hosting and onto WordPress.com (which is about the same annual cost once you get the necessary upgrades), and has urged me to do the same. I’m very tempted. Via Negativa’s database is so bloated, I can’t even upload it here without trying to learn something called SSH. But even if I manage that, I have no guarantee that I won’t get kicked off this server, too, for exceeding CPU limits. This is a problem on all shared web hosting arrangements, from what I gather. Via Negativa has simply gotten too big for this environment, I think, and it’s time to either pay hundreds of dollars a year for VPS (a virtual private server — the next step up), or learn Drupal and attempt to export this beast to that more sturdily built content management system. Both options are way beyond my current technical abilites. At WordPess.com, by contrast, I’d never again have to worry about getting shut down for excessive CPU usage or crashing because of a traffic spike. Through some minor miracle I managed to import almost all VN posts to a nonce site there today, which almost made up my mind for me. But it would mean significant changes and sacrifices: most incoming links will be broken because of a slightly different permalink structure; the series will no longer work as such since they don’t support that taxonomy there (I would probably just use tags); I won’t have a fancy podcasting plugin and will have to content myself with a simple audio player for the Woodrat podcast; etc. And I will miss tinkering with the controls and pretending I really understand what makes it all fly.