My First House

I have been asked to share my memories of my first house, so I’ll give it a go. While I lived there for roughly seven-and-a-half years, a lot of it I don’t really remember.

As you come in the front door, you enter the living room, and there is a staircase immediately to the right, which takes you upstairs to the bedrooms. I remember a green curtain that went around the staircase. I remember doing what kids do, and wrapping myself up in the curtain. I remember sometimes hiding behind the curtain while my parents were downstairs, they didn’t know I was there. Or maybe they did, and didn’t let on.

As you stand with the back to the front door, the couch is more or less in front of you, facing the wall on your left. On that wall on your left is the electric fireplace, which occupies part of an alcove The TV is in the alcove, I remember a black-and-white TV being hooked up to a car battery during a power cut, but I believe our main TV was colour. I remember Christmas cards being up in the alcove. The alcove has bumpy wallpaper, I remember it being brown, I remember it being white. I think the white was later. The brown was dark, and may have been described as chocolate. It didn’t taste like chocolate.

Beyond the fireplace area, on the same wall, is the door towards the bathroom. It’s not immediately the bathroom there, there’s a corridor, with another alcove for coats. I think there may be some steps (maybe even one) before you reach the bathroom.

I vaguely remember the floor of the bathroom. The linoleum had a pattern. It wasn’t circles, hexagons or octagons, but I think it had shapes that made up an octagon sort of shape. I remember pretending these were transporter pads, but I don’t remember watching any Star Trek Original Series at that point. I had the beaming associated with the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy radio series, which didn’t really have much of that sort of thing in it.

I remember Dad taping the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide radio series off the radio. He later bought the tapes.

I remember locking myself in the bathroom and crying a lot. And then I think I took a nap. After the nap, I was over whatever the tantrum was about, and let myself out of the bathroom.

More-or-less behind the couch was the kitchen. I guess I would probably find it small now. I remember one year finding Christmas presents behind the kitchen door. They were a bit hidden, but evidently not enough. I think I only actually saw a Transformers place mat.

I only remember there being my bedroom (shared with my sister) and my parents’ room upstairs. There was a landing between the two. There was a light on the ceiling. I remember one year we had an Easter Egg hunt, and there was an egg hidden in the lampshade. I saw it, and tried to get my mother to get it for me, she wasn’t paying attention to me, and got it.

I have told her this story since, and she has apologised. And owes me a pack of Creme Eggs every year….

…it was worth a try.

The window in my room looked directly out over a field. You could see the main road to the right of the field, but our house was away from the road. I think sometimes cows were in the field, but there was usually a white horse in there. And I think sometimes a brown one. We sometimes threw the horses apples, if I recall correctly, though obviously not from the bedroom window.

I remember that I had a cot, where the side would swing down. I remember one day I opened it, climbed out, and was so pleased with myself. I went to my parents bedroom and told them I got out. I think they were less pleased about this and put me back, but I think it was soon after this that I graduated to a proper bed. I think this proper bed was half a bunk bed, which sometimes was used as two separate beds, and sometimes as a bunk, though possibly here as one single bed.

Outside the front door, we had a porch built. I think “porch” may have a slightly different meaning in American than I’m using here, I mean “a fully-enclosed entranceway”.

There was a path in front of the houses, where I rode my bike. Sometimes fell off, I remember I crashed into a bin. I think I learned to ride (Dad helped me learn) in the driveway. I also rode in that driveway. I remember one time my bike fell over, and the rear reflector fell down the drain. You could see it for quite a while after, and I remember wishing for one of those grabbing-arm toys that one of my friends had, to try and get it back. It was never retrieved.

I remember a go-cart adapted from the old pram. The pram had kind of floorboards that could be turned into seats.

Outside the house there were trash cans that were basically just a lid, and a ring to attach the bag to. When there were no bags, my sister and I would play at being Oscar the Grouch.

Between the driveway and the path, there was a little lawn. I remember having fireworks there, the one that stands out being one that popped red, orange and green in a traffic light pattern.

I remember snatches of when my mother and sister came home in an ambulance, after my sister was born.

At the end of the lawn the driveway curved in towards the houses, and that’s where we parked (our garage had stuff in it, though I only remember the bike). I remember a white Ford Orion that we had, Dad’s company car. We must have had other cars at different times, but I only remember that one, and the larger car we got after we moved.

With the back to the house, and the little lawn in front, beyond the lawn there was a larger lawn. On its right were clothes lines, the ones that spin around and look kind of like an umbrella when they’re full. there were paving stones in that area, I remember looking at ants. to the left was a wall with a gate, separating the area from the main road. Beyond the larger lawn, was a line of trees or bushes, and I remember that the grass that had been cut, got dumped there. It was nice and soft to sit in.

The line of houses to the left of the little lawn and path, were attached to each other, but there was a little walkway separating most of the end house to from the house next to it. It made wonderful echoes, but the owner of the end house didn’t appreciate this fact like we did. In the last year or two, someone else lived in the end house, and we got on better with her.

So that’s a large chunk of what I remember about where I spent most of my first almost-8 years on the planet. Thanks to my parents for the nice place to live and the good memories.

Some Microsoft Free Apps

I browsed the Windows 10 App Store when I first got Windows 10, to see what was there. I installed a few things initially, not much that I’ve kept, or kept up with.

I tried some variants of the Tower Defense type of game, nothing free really impressed me.

I keep Cut The Rope 2, but don’t play it much, I keep Happy Connect, even with the weird Chinese(?) text boxes (adverts?) that occasionally pop up. I only need to complete the last level. When I try, I get close, but haven’t figured out yet how to untangle the last few lines.

I think the ones that might have the most staying power are the Microsoft-branded apps, possibly because I’m a big sucker for achievements.

The first of these I put on was Sudoku. I found the hardest level not as challenging as some of the Sudoku puzzles I’ve faced in the newspaper. I racked up all the achievements except the last two or three, which require months of doing the Daily Challenges, which are fairly quick and don’t all need to be done on the day in question. The Daily Challenge puzzles use alternative board types: symbols, or irregular, and you generally need to complete a certain number of rows, columns, or “houses”, occasionally within a time limit.

I installed a few more of Microsoft’s Casual Games series the other day: Jigsaw, Mahjong and Minesweeper.

In all these apps, some features (mainly the Daily Challenges) require the watching of commercials, which naturally I try to not pay attention to.

I have spent a lot of time playing Minesweeper since Windows 98 at the latest. I’ve only played the Daily Challenges on this one, which have some interesting variants: set a certain number of flags in a time limit, clear the board normally in a time limit, find the hidden treasure in a board (it’s surrounded by mines), click a certain number of safe spaces without using any flags. The achievements aren’t obviously listed in the app, you have to go hunting online to see what there is, and I have no idea how to check which ones you have.

Mahjong, I remember when the Microsoft variant was called TaiPei, and threw up fortune cookie phrases when you finished a game. Again, I’ve only tried the Daily Challenges, so I don’t know if you get the fortune cookie messages in this one. The variants are, match all the pairs of golden tiles, match all the tiles that are counting down before they finish counting down, clear the board within a time limit, get a certain score within the time limit, or match a certain number of tiles within a time limit.

Last up is Jigsaw, where I’ve played more than just the Daily Challenges (attach a certain number of pieces to a section that’s been completed, “Jam” where you need to connect the piece it gives you, or the rather inventive “trap a bug in the board”.

The main Jigsaw game has two main options, regular jigsaws, or the “Jam” game mentioned earlier. I prefer the Regular type, and each puzzle has 4 difficulty levels, with different numbers of pieces. To keep the “game” element of it up, a small number of puzzles in each collection start “unlocked”, then when you complete puzzles, others in the collection will “unlock”. And then by doing the puzzles, you earn in-game currency that you can use to by other collections in the game (though quite a few are free, anyway).

Jigsaw is the best for when you may have to abandon the game any moment to chase after kids (as far as I know, and I’ve only tried it with Sudoku and Jigsaw, if you close the program, the game saves your progress).

Mahjong is the most challenging of these games (I like giving my brain a workout).

And the Achievements slowly rack up…

Hair

For a couple of years, I grew my hair out. The plan was to get it cut at my 21st birthday party, which I did: the party was 8 months after my actual birthday.

Since then, I have, on occasion, let it get a bit shaggy. But, about two years ago was when I had my last haircut. I think parts of it have been trimmed once, since.

My hair takes a weird course, when I grow it. First it starts growing up. Then, once it’s reached a certain point, it starts growing out. Then, after what seems like forever, gravity takes over, and it hangs down like normal long hair. It has reached this stage only very recently.

Why did I start growing it again?

Well, that’s a very good question. My wife had mentioned something about not having seen me with long hair (I think we were communicating at the time of the cut, but we only started sharing photos shortly after that). It was probably a combination of that, and letting the hair grow sounding like fun.

I think the large amount of hair will be nice head insulation this winter. Thankfully, I don’t think this summer got as hot as the past few. My hair’s so thick, that it does easily get itchy underneath.

When am I going to cut it?

Well, it’s only just got to the good-looking stage, so I hope to enjoy it for a while like this. I have thought about arbitrary targets (like the “21st Birthday Party” goal of when I first tried this). When the website-that-I-hope-will-bring-an-income-but-isn’t-very-close-to-release-yet starts bringing an income, is one. When I become Orthodox, is another. “When it annoys me too much” has been a backup plan these last couple of years, but it hasn’t quite reached that threshold yet.

In short, I don’t know. I’ll probably keep it through the winter, and I guess we’ll see how lazy/ambivalent I am towards the notion of cutting it, when spring or summer hits. There is a certain convenience to really short hair. It’s not quite shoulder-length yet (well, perhaps it is when I wash it, but it does quickly curl up).

Here’s an approximation of what I will look like in the spring.

Some Podcasts I Like

I first got into podcasts while I was working nights in a large warehouse, doing a job that left enough brain free to listen to talk while I was doing it.

I think the first one I listened to was The Signal podcast, about Firefly and Serenity, which lasted for a surprisingly long time for a show about a TV show that lasted a season, and a movie that didn’t get a sequel. the Signal got me into Podiobooks via 7th Son.

I moved on from there into The Survival Podcast while it was still in its first 50 episodes.

Feeling the need for Christian content, I found Godcast 1000, a directory of many Christian podcasts. I listened to a few, probably less than 10. I’ll talk about one in a minute, apart from that, there’s another that I particularly remember. It was a short-lived series called “Dark Sayings Of Old“. The episode that stood out most to me, was Episode 4, “Hugh Latimer, The Sixth Sermon preached before King Edward, April twelfth, 1549″, text available at ccel. Though what particularly stood out to me was the mention of Robin Hood.

The other one that I particularly want to mention, is the podcast “The Illumined Heart“. The blurb mentioned the Orthodox church, which I had encountered in a trip to Israel, but knew I didn’t understand at all. Kevin Allen hosted the show, which contained a long string of interviews. Half of them were interviews about the (or, more often, “an”) Orthodox opinion on some topic (animal welfare, the occult, the death penalty), and the other half were interviews with people talking about their conversion stories from different faith traditions to Orthodoxy – from Islam, from the Baptist church, from the Episcopalian church, from Hinduism and Buddhism, from The Byrds – quite a variety.

It was quite a soft introduction, not immediately hard-core theology, and early on there were some things where I had no idea what they were going on about, and kind of had to set it aside and say “I’ll come back to that later, when I know more”.

After moving to America, I decided to visit Ancient Faith Radio, which produced The Illumined Heart, and I started listening to their many other shows. Well, it was less many at the time, it’s kind of taken off since then. I thought I’d list some shows I particularly like.

An introduction to basic Orthodox beliefs and practices, aimed especially at people unfamiliar with it all, the archived radio show Our Life In Christ is a good start. They keep the tone jovial, don’t really get bogged down in The Seriousness Of It All. Even when they discuss one of the hosts’ brush with law enforcement.

I really enjoyed the content put out by the late Father Thomas Hopko, particularly his podcast Speaking The Truth In Love, and in his occasional lectures. He comes across as humble, saying when something is a dogma of the church, or his own opinion, or when he may be wrong about something or other. Some speakers come across more towards the hard line of dogma, or the church position on things, and some will spend more time on a pastoral approach, and I thought Fr Tom was very careful to be not strident, and to be pastoral.

Also taking more of a pastoral approach, Fr Evan Armatas fields questions from all comers in Orthodoxy Live, which is broadcast live on two Sundays a month, and available for download afterwards.

Sermons from various parishes are available to download, I’m quite font of Homilies From All Saints, with Fr Patrick Henry Reardon. He’s very well-read, and will include references, be it to Julius Caesar’s The Gallic Wars, or, much to my delight, to P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves novels. I was like Captain America, “I got that reference!”

Sometimes AFR has talks from various events. I mentioned the Doxacon Orthodox Science-Fiction and Fantasy Conference in some past post that I’m too lazy to look up, but I’d like to point out that there have been some moments that particularly stuck with me in these two events:
Eighth Day Symposium – Imagination and Soul: Harry Potter, Twilight, and Spiritual Formation (“Whence Potter-Mania?” is so funny)
The World Below (particularly Systemic Abandonment).

If you’re stuck for something to listen to, give something from here a try.

Random Factoid: Earth’s RPM

Earlier today there was a conversation going on about Earth’s speed at the equator. This is 1,040.4mph.

So then I was wondering, what’s Earth’s rpm? Because it turns pretty constantly, but it’s going to go slower at the poles than at the equator. Like a record. So I looked it up.

0.000696rpm.

The next trick is to try and find a needle big enough to try and play Earth, to see what it says. And a device that will play at that slow a speed.

Frakey Friday: Thunderbirds

I have decided that if I review anything Jonathan Frakes, it will be on Friday. Because I like the Frakey Friday gag. As I have recently watched it with Youngest, I am going to kick off this series with the Thunderbirds movie he directed. And… I am going to try to say nice things about it. Wish me luck.

I grew up watching Gerry Anderson shows. I remember coming home after church on Sunday and watching Terrahawks. I remember watching Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet while I was growing up, and Thunderbirds experience that incredible resurgence in popularity in the mid-’90s. My memories are a lot vaguer of Fireball XL5, Joe 90 and The Secret Service, though I do know I watched some of each.

It can be perilous to mess too much with a fondly-remembered classic.

In the other corner, we have Jonathan Frakes. I’ve kinda grown up with him, as well, watching Star Trek: The Next Generation from the beginning. And, through that, I’ve watched his excursions into directing, as well. Star Trek: First Contact being a particular defining moment.

So I don’t particularly want to drag Frakes’s name through the mud as I talk about this film. That said, the film didn’t quite manage to be a good one.

A big problem with the movie was one of tone. Anderson was stuck making puppet shows for kids, when he wanted to make live-action dramas for grown-ups. So he tried to make the puppet series as close to grown-up drama as he could, even while the shows were theoretically for kids. This is a plausible reason for the enduring popularity of the shows in general, and Thunderbirds in particular: dads are still happy to sit down and watch it with their kids. Fails of science and continuity get forgiven, because overall it’s still a quality show that people enjoy watching.

The movie is aimed at kids. There are nods to the original show, but it seems there wasn’t enough of the heart of what Thunderbirds was, to win people over.

I recently watched the episode Cry Wolf with the kids. Some kids are playing at being International Rescue, and accidentally summon Thunderbird 1. Scott, instead of punishing them, takes them back to the island and gives them a tour. After they’re brought home, for reasons you should go and watch the show for, they end up in trouble and actually needing rescued. Initially, the Tracy family doesn’t believe them, but in the end they show up and rescue the kids. At the very end, the kids invite Scott to try out their play Thunderbird 2 (go-cart) and pilot delivery mechanism. In a moment of levity, Scott turns out to be too heavy, and the momentum of the launch carries Scott  through the barn and the chickens, and he comes out looking the worse for wear. Jokey ending contrasting with the more serious tone of the episode as a whole.

The movie is a bit more schizophrenic about jokey vs serious. A scene in the Thunderbird 2 bay has the kids using the TB2 equipment, Firefly’s fire suppression gunge against some minions, and the “Thunderizer” against a door they’re trying to escape through. (“Time to thunderize” – worst. line. ever.) Other than that line, the scene works pretty well, using the resources at hand to solve the problem.

Conversely, a bit later, there’s a big fight for control of the island, that’s full of cartoon slapstick sound effects: whees for slipping, honks for hits or pokes, so suddenly we’re not supposed to take this seriously?

Ben Kingsley puts in a good performance, but his character seems badly written. He wants Jeff Tracy’s downfall, but doesn’t seem to know for sure that IR is Jeff Tracy’s outfit until he’s on the island. He obviously has some idea of what Tracy Island’s like, referring to it as Mount Olympus, but has to find it at the beginning. And so on.

The Ford logos all over the place get a bit much.

The Hood’s talks about his motivations are fine, but his ultimate goal is to rob banks? Just doesn’t work.

Any redesign of Thunderbird 2 is blasphemy. Even in the new Thunderbirds Are Go! show.

Not enough rescuing and using the equipment for good.

The brothers are assholes, and we don’t care about them suffocating to death on TB5. In fact, we see so little of them, that we don’t really get a good sense of which brother is which.

The list of complaints can go on for a long time, and many have attempted it, but few have attempted to say good things about it. I’m going to give it a go.

First and foremost, in a lot of late kid/early teen movies, disobeying the authority figure turns out to be the Right Thing To Do. In Thunderbirds, Alan disobeying turns out to be the wrong choice (at least twice). When he and the other two kids go off to save the day, it’s with their parents’ permissions.

John on TB5 chatting with Jeff on the island. Nice moment, worked well.

I liked the redesign of TB4. The original could shine a light and shoot a missile. The grappling arms really add functionality, and was a good decision.

The original show’s “no photographs” policy would be really difficult to maintain in this day and age. Allowing photos and news crews to capture the events kind of had to be done, but balancing that with the secrecy measures they tell us about, was pretty smart.

I liked Fermat. Brains retains his stutter from the show, and Fermat inherits it, too, but I liked when either of them gets stuck on a word, they think their way around to another way of saying it.

Tin-Tin inheriting The Hood’s mental powers seemed like a good idea. Not really fleshed out in this story, and apparently intended to be developed further in the sequel, the concept was a good idea. Not sure it entirely worked in practice, but it was a nice idea.

The Hood’s powers tiring him.

Alan and Fermat making up in the freezer.

The redesigned Firefly was cool, especially as a live-action vehicle.

The redesigned Thunderbird cockpits were nice designs.

Hey, I made it to 10 things. I was wondering if I would, somewhere in the middle.

One thing that bugged me for a while, was that The Hood looked nothing like his brother Kyrano. Thinking about it, the same issue is in the original puppet show.

The idea of Alan being not-old-enough-yet to be a significant member of the organisation, doesn’t seem to be a terrible starting point, and his working his way in doesn’t seem like a terrible idea for the first story. Having bad guys take over the island isn’t a terrible idea for a story, but it doesn’t work well as the first story.

to suggest an alternative approach: start with flashback to the disaster where Jeff lost his wife (even set up the Hood). sure have alan work his way in, but introduce all the brothers well. Bad guys could be the cause of disasters, but stay true to the show: International Rescue isn’t really a police organisation, many episodes get by with no “bad guy” as such (and sometimes don’t even pose a problem to IR, see Vault Of Death).

Have The Hood be more of a presence in the second movie, show what he knows, show motives, show him trying to weasel out information about IR.

Then, the third movie you can have the showdown on “Mount Olympus”.

The Frakes movie just missed some steps in getting us to care about the organisation and characters. Still, it keeps Youngest distracted more than anything else will.

And it’s no longer Friday. But i started on Friday. It’ll do.

Service Book Update 2

After a while of wrangling with versions of words and musics, I came to a draft of the Reader Vespers book that I was fairly happy with. Then after wrestling with printer settings and the like, I got 3 copies printed.

The first copy was really tiny, but I managed to get the printer to do it 2-sided. The second copy, I missed the setting, or used a different program for printing on, or something, so that turned into 2 copies.

This has actually worked out for the services we’ve tried to use them at. I’ve kept the tiny copy for annotating, and the larger copies have been used by the more-in-charge people, for keeping track of all the extra bits.

Still a learning process, but I have annotated my copy a bunch, and so I’ve been updating my files to fix some issues.

Now my revised text is about ready, and I’ve started the prettification phase.

Rather than, like last time, kind of stabbing in the dark at settings to get the books to look all right in booklet form, I’m getting a crash course in Publisher, which understands this sort of thing.

My first attempt at pasting the text into Publisher was a disaster, text and page seemingly having no relation to each other. I figured out the text box thing, and making Publisher think in terms of booklet, and right paper size.

My wife, thankfully, has the eye for making such things look good, and the technical skill to know what things to play with to get the sort of results she wants. Following her directions, the first few pages are shaping up quite well. There’s some stylistic decisions to be made a bit further down the road, but the feeling of progress is always nice!

Some Family Stuff

A couple of bugs seem to have hit our house at the same time: a couple of people (including my lovely wife) got hit with a stomach bug of some sort, and Oldest (and now me) seem to have a cold-y sort of thing going on.

So last night I was walking Youngest around, humming to him and trying to get him to sleep, then the internet cut out, and I decided it would be better to take him to bed, than to wait til he fell asleep then try to blog. So now I’ve missed my second day since I started this blog, but I don’t feel too bad about it.

The cold started hitting me last night, and it hit me more today. Not major, but I can feel it in my head.

As my wife was rather under the weather yesterday, and was still easily tired today, we’ve been less demanding of the kids, schoolwork-wise. This mainly affects Oldest, who has been pushing for more laxity even though I’ve been giving him some.

After lunch, and after the after-lunch-tidying, I took the kids down for shows.

Yesterday we watched a couple of classic episodes of Thunderbirds (which greatly pleased Youngest, though the one thing that he’ll settle in front of the most, seems to be the 2004 Thunderbirds movie).

Today we watched a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and a classic Doctor Who.

I gave Middlest the first season of Friendship Is Magic for her birthday recently. Today Youngest brought it to me and said (as best he could), “Strawberry Shortcake” (the current version of which Middlest really likes). I told him, “My Little Pony”. He’s only two, but a few minutes later he showed it to me again and said, “Your Little Pony”. “My little pony?” I replied. “Yes.” He often puts an “a” between words (or as substitute for part of them – he was introduced to the end of The Great Escape earlier, and “Mo-cycle Guy” is also known as “Teve a-Queen”). So next time he tried to say “Your Little Pony” there was an “a” in there. “I’m a little pony?” I ask.

Apparently I am.

A while ago I started watching Doctor Who through from the beginning with Oldest (and sometimes Middlest, too). We’ve been going pretty slowly, and we just skipped Marco Polo (the reconstruction-with-photos version on YouTube didn’t hold their attention at all), so we started on the first episode of The Keys Of Marinus.

I was struck with the similarities to the opening section of The Daleks (no-one around, environment more dangerous than they thought, Susan has to go back to the Tardis, there’s a mysterious city… seriously, Terry Nation was plagiarised. Wait, who wrote Marinus? Some guy called Terry Nation. Wow, even plagiarised his name).

In the meantime, the dark Voords creeping about with knives, and everyone disappearing separately into the revolving citadel walls, was entirely too much for Middlest (6), who wasn’t easily comforted, and when things started tensing up again towards the end, had to hide under a blanket. Just as well, too…

After that episode, we didn’t watch anything else. But for a while, Youngest was going round proclaiming, “Doc Oo cawy” (“Doctor Who scary”, with 2-yo pronunciation).

Middlest was wearing a white shirt today, with a gold star pattern on the front. A couple of times, I referred to it as being blue and black, after that dress meme from a few months ago (if you remember that). The second time, she heard it, not recalling the meme, saying “no, yours!” pointing at my black-and-purple shirt.

Close enough.

My kids are so funny.

And Middlest will be sitting out Hartnell-era Who for a while. Though, the rate we’re going, she might be good for Season 2.

Adventures In Coding: Some Idea Of Direction

I mentioned a little bit ago about looking at map plugins for WordPress, as a significant element in a website I’ve been doing some groundwork for, and want to launch several months ago. Realistically, that last part is getting less likely every day, but you never know. If you happen to develop time travel, get in touch.

Anyway, I was trying out the plugin Geo Mashup. I think that actually trying something out (on a local machine) has given me a better sense of what features I actually want, and more of a sense where plugins fall short. Fortunately, Geo Mashup has some flexibilities, in the documentation it gives you sample code to put in your theme to add a feature that has some similarity to a feature that I want to add.

The features I’m very much liking at the moment, are that you can put a map on a post, and limit the number of items that appear there. Then you can have a page with a map that includes the map markers from all the posts you’ve ever done.

What would be a big step forward, would be the ability to assign particular markers to particular places. The documentation mentions the possibility of doing that based on the Category of the location, but what I’m doing, occasionally thing would fit into multiple categories, which suggests things getting messy. The code the documentation points you to, can change the marker based on the date you set for the location, and can be adapted to work with the categories.

So naturally, I want to do better, and I think it ought to be relatively straightforward to create a plugin that lets you assign a map marker to a particular location.

I say “relatively”, compared to making a full plugin that does everything from scratch. It would involve creating two database tables, a page in the admin end to set what you want the marker options to be, and to assign one of those chosen markers to the places you’ve put into the database, and finally to force the chosen markers to be displayed.

I say “ought”, because I haven’t actually made a plugin before. So I’ve been poking around in the Geo Mashup code, to see how it does things.

The most helpful file I found initially, was the “uninstall” file. I’d poked around in the database, and seen the tables that Geo Mashup had already created. In uninstall, I saw how it removed them. More of a challenge was finding where it had added them in the first place. This involved figuring out how to convince Windows to search for file contents, a feature I was happily using in XP, but from Vista on has been very helpfully hidden. Not removed, just made hard to find.

With the help of a brief web search, I found out how to search for file contents, and how to include .php files in that sort of search, and then I believe I found where the tables were created.

Now it gets more complicated, because while there’s an obvious “uninstall”, there’s not an obvious “install”: got quite a bit of figuring out where things are called and how, to follow that procedure to get my own plugin to set itself up.

Then the next challenge is to follow how plugins create their own options pages in the admin area of WordPress, and get that page set up. The contents should be uncomplicated, because I have a concept of what I want displayed and how, but I haven’t even looked at how plugins make their own pages yet.

The last thing will be to force the right markers to display on the map. So if I want red pins for some things, green pins for other things, and purple pins for still other things, and I’ve set them to do that in my plugin, how to stop the default Geo Mashup marker from displaying, and putting these up instead. I’ve a notion of how this works, but it’s a ways off. And at least there’s the sample code, that should give some hints, right?

Code is kind of like a big Cat’s Cradle. One big tangle of string. For it to work, it needs to remain a big tangle of string, but for you to do anything with it, you need to be able to follow it. Not necessarily from beginning to end as such, but what bit’s going where and why, and follow the string through a knot where lots of sections have been tied up together. It’s not always easy to just set down and pick up again.

To switch analogies, have you ever fiddled with the cords in the back of your computer? You need to plug something into the power strip, but all the slots are full, You know you’re not using the printer, so can unplug that for the time being. You follow the cord from the printer to the power strip, and unplug it, only to find you’ve unplugged the monitor or the router instead. Code’s like that, only much more so. One missed comma or semicolon, and things just don’t work right.

I think it’s doable, lots of people have made plugins, much more complicated than I hope to. Just a big string to untangle. Though in the last few years I’ve been learning weaving, there’s quite a few threads I’ve had to untangle, so I’ve had some practice.