2011 organizational system

Last October I purchased a blank leather wrapped journal to turn into a custom calendar system for myself. I was so excited that I wanted to date it for Nov. 2009 and use it immediately. Since I had a current calendar at the time, I forced myself to date it for Jan. 2010 but started carrying it immediately to schedule things for the new year. I made a two-page spread for each week, a section for tasks, a section for projects and a section for random notes. I hated it. I am pretty sure it was the journal I chose. While the journal was attractive, it was bulky and heavy. I could tell instantly when I took it out of my bag or put it in because of the dramatic weight difference and it didn’t fit into my purse at all so I didn’t carry it unless I had my bag. I used it faithfully for a few months because I wanted to love it. I found myself only using the calendar part. I think I have used a total of 3 page fronts in the tasks/projects/notes sections. I tried to like it, I spent so much time drawing lines and number the pages and dating everything. It was so unhelpful that in October of this year I purchased a new pocket calendar that is so light I can’t tell if it’s in my purse/bag without looking.

I’m sure you know the kind, it’s a paper calendar with a staple or two in the center. It has a nice plastic outer wrapper that the covers slip into to protect it. I love it, well, not love it, but I’m using it and like it. It has silly inspirational quotes every month, though I’d prefer weekly ones. I started using it immediately. It’s a 16 month calendar, so October was already there just begging to be written on. I can’t cram 5 appts. into each day, but it’s working because it leaves the house with me. I’m using the post-it sticky flag to mark the current month so I can just flip to it. I use the covers to carry a few of my personal business cards in case I need to give someone my contact info. Each month has a two-page spread, the boxes for each day are less than an inch but I can write small. At the same time I purchased a wall calendar for 2011. I haven’t purchased one in years, I usually receive one as a gift at some point or am allowed to pick from a stack someone is giving away. I love to pick the ones with animal pictures for the months. The calendar I picked for 2010 had a problem. I couldn’t read the numbers on the calendar from across the room as the print was too light. The 2009 calendar didn’t have that problem. I tried using a sharpie to darken the numbers but that only frustrated me because it looked messy and sometimes the numbers still weren’t dark enough. Next year I have a rather plain calendar. It’s larger than the others I’ve had, at last 6 inches longer and the two pages are all calendar. I can write multiple things for each day when I need to and perhaps interesting sayings when I don’t. I can see it across the room and think it will be a good thing for me. The secret is the calendar’s intended purpose,I bought one that is marketed as an organizational calendar. I can write my stuff, Boo’s stuff and husband’s stuff as well as family stuff on it. Yes, there will be multiple times to write stuff because I also put family, Boo’s and my stuff on the one I carry but it’s worth it if it doesn’t aggravate me and I get where I need to be when I need to be.

The last organizational tool I added to my arsenal was a calendar plugin for Thunderbird. I tried multiple online calendar plugins with the blog, but 2010 has not been a stellar year for me blogging as I’ve been busy chasing a little boy. If I don’t look at the blog, I miss events or miss counting down and preparing for them. I can’t cram everything I’d like to do on to any paper calendar and lists were getting lost. I really only want to write the repetitive task once and let it carry itself along until an end date arrives. So I finally looked to the intarwebs (giggle) for a solution. While I detest MS Outlook, one of the nice tools is the calendar system. I’ve never used it in a company where everyone uses it but I love that I can schedule a meeting and it automatically sends invites to everyone or I can just make them accept it if I have the right privileges to do so. I have no need to do that, but I have my computer on every day. While I don’t spend all day at it, I hear the beeps and check in once every couple of hours or so. I love being notified as soon as I start my day of the tasks I need to accomplish or the appts scheduled for the day.

Check back in a year to see how it’s working for me. I can tell you that for the last month this new system of small paper calendar and huge Thunderbird calendar been wonderful.

Library Plugin gone wacko

I have used a WordPress plugin called “Now Reading” for several years to track the books I’ve read. Though it is designed to be more for my library collection, I use it generically. Some of the books I list I own, many I borrow from the library or friends. After the latest “upgrade” the plugin broke. I’m not heartbroken, but I am bit upset as I have over 150 books listed as read, reading or planned to read since Nov. 2007. Less than 10 books are listed as reading or planned to read. The error I get is, “You are not authorized to perform this action.” Creating a new users on my blog with admin privileges didn’t change the problem. I did find that if I worked backward from the blog to the plugin I could edit “currently reading” books, but received the same error if I tried to add a new book. Part of me things it’s a WordPress problem as my WordPress hiccuped a week or so ago, but I also upgraded this plugin around the time it hiccuped. I didn’t notice the hiccup until Friday. I do have a work-around since I know how to edit MySQL databases but man is that a pain. The plugin wrote a nice little interface that runs information across 4 databases in one little form. I’ll keep using the silly thing until I’m too annoyed with the upkeep and then I’ll switch. If anyone out there uses something similar, I’m taking recommendations.

Ok, after setting my categories and scrolling down the page, I can say it’s a WordPress problem. WordPress has merged my admin account with a contributor account, grrr. I thought I fixed this last week.

Well, after deleting all author/admin/contributor accounts except the admin one, I have had no luck in forcing Now Reading to work. Maybe it’s time to uninstall and reinstall or just replace it with Now Reading Reloaded. I seem to have fewer consistent errors with the new plugin. It’s written by someone else but based the original plugin, so it works with minimal effort.

It seems to be stable now, 20 minutes later. I’ve had to disable another coolie plugin as the install went totally wacky after a recent plugin upgrade-YARPP-yet another related post plugin. As of Aug. 28, an updated release of YARPP seems to have addressed the issue so I have reenabled the plugin and fixed the template to show the related posts on the index as well as the single post pages.

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In which I finally fix a theme

The more time I spend digging around themes, the more I learn about WordPress, PHP, and CSS. I am consistently downloading themes that don’t work correctly with my Gallery2 plug-in. Don’t confuse this with the new, built-in WordPress gallery. This is the independent application with a plug-in that powers my photos page. With few exceptions, the themes I download consistently break the footer on my photo page or the sidebar on my library page generated by Now Reading. I really like the current theme, Fall Season 1.1, but the footer on the photo page was not playing well with the plug-in. For a while, I wanted to blame the two previously mentioned plug-ins, but they both play well with WordPress Default theme. That fact lead me to the logical conclusion that the themes are broken. I have also started to “fix” the themes that don’t come with dynamic (changeable) sidebars. I downloaded Fresh Editorial today looked to be dynamic when I grabbed it, the proper code was in place for the functions file, but was absent in the sidebar file. I think I understand why, it was a bit complicated to make the sidebar look the same after updating it, but with a little tweaking, it would be possible. I have chosen not to spend more time on it at this point, as their site doesn’t support FireFox 3 so i am unable to leave comments unless I visit their site with Internet Explorer. See comments for why I was unable to leave a comment. I also found a wonderful Christmas theme, Winter Red. Winter Red will need tweaking as both the library page and the photo page are seriously out of whack.

All this to say I think I am the only one getting anything out of metablogging, but in the hopes that someone else using WordPress and these themes happens to search for how to fix things, I’d like to have an answer for them.

A lesson in WordPress

You may not have noticed there is an event countdown widget1 in my sidebar. Since no one has complained, I gather that no one is particularly upset that I countdown to a few select events and birthdays. Really, it’s a reminder to me that it’s coming soon because I do tend to forget things.

Yesterday, I discovered a small bug in the display of the events. I’m not sure if it has always been there and I’m blind or what, needless to say, I live in GMT-5 time zone give or take a little daylight savings time, it’s lovely here. The weather is ever changing, there are interesting birds and animals. However, the code as written doesn’t address possible time zone issues. The code assumes that the host computer is in the same time zone as the event, which is not always accurate. In an ideal world the plug-in/widget would ask me to input my desired time zone and adjust accordingly, someday I may sit down and “fix” it so that it does inquire. In my case, the server hosting this application lives in California, GMT-8 give or take a DST. What does it mean? My events calendar is about 3 hours off when it displays an event. For example, it’s midnight in GMT-5 and an event occurs at 8:00AM. As the code is written, the event is is not 8 hours away, it’s 12 hours away. In another example, an event that happened 2 hours ago is listed as one hour in the future with the code as written.

I don’t write PHP from scratch, I just read it, usually understand it and then alter it to suit my needs. But this time, I really just wanted a quick fix. This particular code was written in PHP and WordPress, so rather than trace the code from top to bottom across two files, I chose the one file I knew I needed to change and went to work. I changed random and not so random numbers and hoped that I would find it while refreshing the events list. Chaos ensued. After spending too much time, I gave in and read the code across the two files as well as comparing it to the two web pages that are produced from those files. One file is the admin interface page where all events are entered into the php database and stored as variables in the table. The other file waits to be called by a widget or page, and then pulls data out of the database, applies code to it, and displays it. All I have to say for my efforts is, “DUH!”

I had already determined that the problem existed because the of host server being in a different time zone and hoped to alter the script to tell the host server to pretend it was in my time zone. That didn’t work so much, so I read about what the different time statements were. I spent some time at PHP-Date.com and PHP.net reading about various date/time functions like current_time(), date_default_timezone_set(), date_default_timezone_get(), gmmktime(), strtotime() and a few more. The solution turned out to be very simple once I read the code and looked up what each command did. In my defense, there are nine variables but between the two files, the order is constantly rearranged so I had mixed up four of the variables, thinking they held values they didn’t hold. I discovered that current_time() was a WordPress function and MYSQL function. The actual line I tried to alter was current_time(timestamp, $gmt = 1), the however, I don’t know how variable for $gmt is used by WordPress nor what the possible values are beyond 0 and 1. I tried to alter it up through 10 and didn’t find the correct value, I added single quote/apostrophe around timestamp, I tried using mysql instead but that seemed to break it the most. Dates were displayed as seconds, rather than years, months, weeks, hours, minutes, and seconds. Why on earth would that happen? Well, Unix/Linux uses a time system based on the Gregorian calendar and midnight on January 1, 1970, also referred to as Unix Epoch. All dates/times are expressed as seconds before (negative values) or after (positive values) that date. Fun factoid: The 24 hours (a.k.a. 86400 seconds) representing August 5, 2008 are through . The previous timestamps are generated using the php command strtotime() because I desperately need to something to show for the last 24 hours. Should you like to experiment with this, I recommend using using your favorite search engine and looking up the terms “unix time” or “POSIX time” along with the word converter. Please be aware that based on the command used to call the timestamp, results will vary so you may not get the same result across several different converters. I didn’t count them all, but there didn’t seem to be a shortage of unique commands to call time for various purposes, such is the nature of UNIX/Linux. One of the reasons for the difference is a problem calculating leap seconds. I’ll spare you the details.

As I just mentioned, strtotime() was a php function. While searching, I found that the php-date.com page had an interactive strtotime() box, strtotime() was used several places in the timestamp section. I could display the current GMT time, then practice using different commands to alter the displayed time. After reading that, I wondered why both strtotime() and current_time() were used. So I changed current_time() to strtotime(‘+ 3 hours’) because I knew it would display the correct time based on experiments at php-date.com, at least until DST ends. Solving it this way seems crazy because somewhere in California the current time is converted from GMT to GMT-8 and I basicall changed it to GMT-8+3. Some day I’ll learn how to use the time zone things and just use GMT-5, but all it did today was break the plug-in, so I’ll leave it for now.


1 A widget is a piece of code inserted into a spot on the sidebar to perform a function. There are many widgets that have been in my side bar including a search bar, the answer to why this site is orange for August 2008, a random image from my photo gallery, and Now Reading (a list of books).

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Time to backup again

I have finally finished going through all my posts, 103, checking for tags, categories, bad coding, and a random spot check of grammar and spelling. I will admit that the first 75 or so got a good going over, mostly. There were 10 or so in that first 75 that I have gone over multiple times, so they only received a cursory glance. The last 28 or so, let’s just say, I checked out during those. I’ll recheck them eventually. I did update my blog to be tableless! So very excited about that. I will admit that I am not sure if I used proper CSS to manage the photo layout, but I did it as best I could. There are a few things that didn’t go right, but I worked around them. Time to perform a backup from WordPress so that I don’t lose my categories again. I had one of my plug-ins break, but found a fix on the author’s webpage, though I don’t understand why it fixed, it is. Now Reading breaks with WordPress 2.5.1, I tried downloaded 4.4.4beta, but that was useless. I rolled back to 4.4.1 and went into my permalinks menu, didn’t change anything but click on update and the plug-in magically began working again.

My garden is underway in the basement with a grow light. I have several more broccoli plants breaking ground and one hot pepper plant. I picked up some tomato seeds and trays for the seeds, planted those a half hour ago. In preparation for two of my wisdom teeth departing on Thursday, I am packing as much as I can into these last few days. I have no idea how I will react to anesthesia, I haven’t had it since I was a kid. I also don’t know how much pain will be involved, so I am planning on losing a few days. By Sat. morning, I am hoping to be back up to snuff.

Once upon a cold, rainy day

I spent the afternoon updating all the behind-the-scenes gadgets for this site. I was originally going to play with my test site, but noticed that things were asking to be updated, ever so politely. Unfortunately, so update I have to download, extract, and ftp the extracted files. The brighter side appears to be an early spring cleaning. More than half wanted updates, and I deleted the ones I was no longer using. Less clutter is better. One of the updates involves a plugin that will automatically link posts/entries in the same series. I originally tried this plugin for my MCF Africa posts, but the theme I was using wouldn’t play well with the other plugins when the series one was activated. I’m going to try it again today by making a series of small posts today and linking them in a series based on today.