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Archive for the 'Blogging' Category

Who Turned On the Lights?

Posted: Monday, June 25, 2012 (7:21 pm), by John W Gillis


Is this a zombie blog? A dead blog that publishes? Mindlessly? Time will tell, I suppose. My favorite blog editor (Windows Live Writer) won’t publish to the site, but there are other ways, and perhaps I might even find the time to fix the blog so WLW works again… Perhaps.

Turning the Page

Posted: Thursday, August 25, 2011 (10:37 pm), by John W Gillis


This blog has been rather neglected over the past two months… I lost my primary blogging & browsing computer, Amos – a Dell Inspiron 1721 laptop running Vista -  to a hardware failure in late June, and then my six-month old Windows 7 HP Pavilion desktop started tanking with software problems less than a week later. I was already overloaded with an abnormal level of professional work, and was also struggling to maintain engagement in a Distance Learning class I had fallen well behind in. It’s been a frustrating summer, during which it’s seemed I’ve gotten nothing done. At least I finally finished that DL course. It’s time to recollect myself, and turn the page.

iBreviary now available on MaybeToday.org

Posted: Sunday, February 27, 2011 (9:48 pm), by John W Gillis


I’ve embedded the nifty iBreviary web app on a new page on the site, which can be used to peruse the daily offices of the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as the readings for the daily Liturgy of the Eucharist. The other content from the missal for Masses (Roman or Ambrosian rite) is also available at a click, though not integrated with the readings – not that anyone would be likely to be celebrating Mass with my website up in front of them, anyway. Another section displays an impressive selection of common prayers.

This is a really cool addition to the site, if I do say so myself. It could only be better if it were available as some kind of text feed I could style to match my site’s CSS. As it is, it lives in an iframe, which is essentially a window that embeds the content of another web site, and allows people to interact live with the other site through the window living in my page.

My deep gratitude to Don Paolo Padrini and the good folks at ibreviary.com for not only publishing this fabulous app, but allowing sites like mine to embed it. Besides the web app, they have apps available for iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android, as well as any WiFi device (Kindle, phone…) via a browser. All this available in English, Italian, Latin, French, and Spanish. Great stuff.

Coming Up for Air

Posted: Wednesday, November 4, 2009 (11:58 pm), by John W Gillis


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For the first time in almost six months, I’m not working on a college course. I finished my first pre-req course at Franciscan University over the weekend, and I’ve been enjoying the mental break of knowing I’m uncommitted (especially since receiving confirmation of my assignment submission yesterday), but there are a couple matters that have surfaced in the process.

I never expected to take anywhere near six months to complete that course, and if I can’t find a way to shave course durations significantly, I could be on this program for an unwieldy amount of time – it would be at least another three years before I began my actual graduate courses, which simply doesn’t sound workable. I need to find a way to reduce the course durations to something much closer to three months. In a world without other responsibilities, that would be a piece of cake, but I’m struggling to even imagine how I could consolidate my schoolwork like that without shirking other duties – and these courses won’t get any easier.

The other glaring matter is what to do with the website. Fronting this site with a blog has become something of a joke, as I rarely find time to write for it, and increasing my focus on schoolwork will hardly work to ameliorate that. My writing interests hardly intersect effectively with the blogging ideal, anyway, as I just can’t rouse myself to blurt and link every time I have half an idea. I want my writing to stretch my thinking out, to help move my mental acumen from intuition and cleverness to substantial and substantiated reason.

So I’m seriously considering moving the blog off to a side page (maybe with a weekly article commitment, just to keep me honest), and fronting the site with a structure geared toward publishing static content. I’m considering a series of doctrinal studies,based on my CCD class preparation notes, among other things.I could see this serving a good purpose, as a kind of semi-popularized collection of important ideas in Catholic theology, where semi-popular means presented at a level a layman (or student) can easily grasp,  while also providing the background necessary to effectively read scholarly works.

The One-Year Mark

Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 (9:46 pm), by John W Gillis


March 1st came and went largely unnoticed this year. I would have expected myself to pen a one-year mark post, to commemorate the first year of the maybetoday.org web site. I‘m guessing I slept through it. I’ve been feeling quite run-down as of late, and I’m not sure if this is simply a case of the late winter blahs, or if I have something else going on.

It’s been a far less productive year on the site than I had hoped for when I started out, but that doesn’t surprise me much. Although I am surprised I’ve made as little headway as I have in putting together information on Bible Study software – that was one of my primary goals at the outset, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I’d intended to do.

I also got nowhere integrating LibrayThing into the site, which I decided to do after determining the Now Reading plugin was not what I was looking for. I’m in the middle of reorganizing my physical library as I prepare to move my office up two flights of stairs, and perhaps I can use the opportunity to collect the missing ISBN numbers I need to get the collection migrated into LibraryThing. It shouldn’t be too much work after that to integrate it into the site.

Technically, I think the theme has held up pretty well. Seeing as I had no clue what I was doing when I started, and that there is a considerable level of customization of the base theme, I’m pretty satisfied. I still need to fix the drop-down menu to work right with all browsers, and the poor formatting of Comments text only got addressed within the past week or so, but that’s OK. I now need to implement threaded comments, and I’m seriously considering widening all three columns. Otherwise, I just need to focus on mission, and praying for energy.

Why MaybeToday?

Posted: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 (7:46 pm), by John W Gillis


I was listening to a lecture by Peter Kreeft a while back, and he observed that time is the stuff of which life is made – time is life. People often say that time is money, but that’s an understatement. Kreeft is right: time is life.

This isn’t meant to suggest that time is a metaphysical necessity, or that there can be no such thing as eternal life. Rather, it means that the life we each possess – our life – is ultimately a very precise allotment of time, and that each sunrise brings us one day closer to death. Time is really all we have, and the whole content of our lives is an answer to the question: What did you do with your time?

Life is a timed test, where you don’t know how long the time is.

Like any test, it’s not enough to answer the questions; you have to somehow come up with the right answers. The right use of time is not just about avoiding procrastination, as important as that is. It’s about prudence, in all its aspects. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have found myself, in life, paddling furiously downstream to nowhere (sometimes quite effectively), just to realize that I’d only distanced myself all the more from the source I sought – and still seek. Time, in a sense, down the drain.

From my youth, I have been especially intrigued by the notions of time, of hope, and of reality. These three ideas have dominated my mental life in many respects. Perhaps I will find the opportunity to explore the relationships between them within these pages before too long, but Kreeft’s observation jolted me to the realization that the hope which lives in me – for all the lip service I may give it – has been subject to a rather systematic marginalization for much of my life, in deference to a kind of practical expediency – and even a heart attack at age 46 didn’t manage to seriously shake it free.

Hope is absolutely essential to sanity for anyone who seeks the truth, for anyone with a hunger to embrace reality, because reality has two very distinct faces. Reality is God, which we consider Beatitude, but reality is also the mess we live in – as well as God’s judgment on that mess. Hope is the reaching from brokenness to promise that climbs the ladder of reality, if you will. And it is hope that allows us to break free from captivity to anxiety and fear, to embrace – and realize – the promise of beatitude in our life.

The great Christian hope is in the return of Jesus Christ to earth, both to judge it, and to fully manifest the new creation. That return may happen today, or it may happen some day long from now – but we are not truly Christian if we do not expect that day, and indeed “wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” And yet, for each of us, we live our own allotment of time – and we know not what time is ours, but our time, too, may come today, and there’s no good reason we should be any less joyfully expectant of the advent of our own end time.

I haven’t met a lot of people that embrace such a joyful readiness for death. In truth, most of us just don’t feel ready for it, and – speaking for myself – I know that’s because I have not lived my life – that is, I have not spent my time – prudently enough. It seems to me that there is only one right time to start changing that: today.

I was beginning yet another long commute home in a miserable winter rain storm one night last year, when the thought came to me that I needed to make a decision on exactly what to do about a rather complicated computer-related situation I had waiting for me at home – which included choosing a domain name for a web site I was planning. My initial reaction was to say “Maybe tomorrow,” but – with Peter Kreeft’s wisdom in the back of my mind – I immediately thought better of that, and said: “No, maybe today.”

There’s really no better time to get on with life – reaching for the promise – and it’s entirely possible that there will be no other time at all. Maranatha!

Uttering...

The Two Month Mark

Posted: Thursday, May 1, 2008 (7:26 pm), by John W Gillis


So, this blog has been live for two months now, and I still don’t feel like I’ve finished the underlying work it requires. Frankly, April didn’t seem very productive at all.

I temporarily implemented Snap Shots on the site, but turned around and disabled them when it became apparent they were slowing down completion of page loads too much. It’s too bad – I liked the way it allowed the user to preview a link before clicking through to it, although I did find some of the advertising ill-fitting, and maybe even inappropriate. Still, I may reimplement it in a more limited fashion later on.

I went through a couple of bookmarking widgets before settling on ShareThis, which is a great compact little gizmo.

I still haven’t implemented LibraryThing, though I finalized my decision to go that direction. I’m going to lose a little control in terms of site layout for my book-related stuff, but plugging in to the LibraryThing community is a huge upside.

I installed WordPress 2.5 and 2.5.1, which broke my image upload capability, but I’ve worked around it, and the good news is that the new image upload function sets a few standard sizes for images, saving me from having to go into my CSS and do that as custom classes. I also made the metadata display in the post footers more to my liking.

Instead of sticking to simpler posts, I got involved in a couple projects last month I haven’t been able to complete yet. I can’t say I didn’t warn myself…

April was a grueling month for me. I spent most of it waiting for layoffs at work (I survived), and ended it at the hospital getting my foot x-rayed, as I’ve spent this week hobbling around on a brutally sore ankle (achilles tendinitis). But, spring is finally in full swing, and perhaps I’ll be able to make better use of my time in May. My goals for the month are to integrate LibraryThing, and to get my WORDsearch pages up-to-date.

JWG

The One Month Mark

Posted: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 (9:58 pm), by John W Gillis


My blog is one month old today, so I’m having a quiet little celebration tonight. I might even upgrade the site to the new WordPress 2.5 release to mark the occasion.

It’s been unsurprisingly quiet on the site during its maiden month. A couple people have poked around, but I’ve been mostly talking to myself. That’s OK – I’m still trying to figure this out. I did the WordPress install on my development server on January 23rd, and I went live on the production site on March 1st, so I took just over five weeks of “spare time” to learn the basics of WordPress, craft the site’s look in CSS, modify or create template files, choose and configure plugins, etc.

I’ve learned a few lessons along the way. I’ve learned not to run WordPress on Windows – my development server is Windows 2003, and every step along the way with it has been painful (and it still doesn’t work right). I’m trying to figure out how I can shuffle some things around so I can rebuild that box with Fedora. Having a dev environment for my website might be overkill, but I think I’ll be glad I have it someday.

I’ve learned that using wp widgets in my sidebars is not an option for me, since you can’t use any non-widget code once you insert a widget. I’ve learned why web folks hate IE6. I’ve learned that plugins not infrequently come with faulty code (or at least incorrect setup instructions), but I’ve also learned that there are a lot of really decent folks out there who are willing to help a stranger who bangs on their door.

Since going live, I’ve discovered the stand-alone post editor w.bloggar, which is a huge improvement from working in the WordPress admin module. I also discovered HTML-Kit, which would have been a lot more help in February, but better late than never. I haven’t had to change much on the site itself – so far. I moved the Site Page Navigation list on the homepage from the bottom of the left sidebar to the top of the right one (making it more consistent with the rest of the site). I added classes in the style sheet to support displaying thumbnail pictures within posts, and made a couple other minor tweaks, but that’s about it.

There are some other changes in the works, though. I need to change the post metadata display to clean up the look of post footers. I need to expand my classes for displaying pictures in posts – establishing a few standard display sizes. I need to replace the nav bar menu with something that works right with all browsers. I need to start writing shorter posts, and start using the More function to break up the long ones so the home page doesn’t grow so long. And, of course, I need to get more content written.

One big change I’m suddenly considering is replacing Now Reading with LibraryThing. Now Reading is a pretty cool plugin, and I spent several days just before go-live getting it set up the way I want it (not counting the night I wasted trying to get it working on the Windows server). I haven’t really started using it yet, but it was definitely in my plans. However, I stumbled across LibrayThing today, and it seems to do much of what Now Reading does, plus providing social networking functionality that puts it in a completely different league.

I’ll have to check it out further, and see if it will provide enough flexibility in terms of managing content display on the site. I’m hearing WordPress 2.5 breaks Now Reading anyway, so it might be a good time to rethink before I start populating it.

MaybeToday.org Site Launch

Posted: Saturday, March 1, 2008 (6:02 pm), by John W Gillis


MaybeToday.org was spawned in a crucible that was formed by the convergence of a number of difficulties in my life, all of which were pressing on my available time in some way or another. In a typically Christian manner, I was trying to understand what God was asking of me – what His will was for my life in those circumstances. In short, I was looking for God to help me straighten things out.

Maybe it was my professional background at play, but, in retrospect, I can see that I saw this essentially as a prioritization and scheduling exercise – which consisted in large part of trying to ascertain if the time was right to begin my studies toward a Master of Theology from Franciscan University at Steubenville, via their distance learning program. The program itself has seemed like the right direction for me for a while, but the timing has been problematic – perhaps primarily because of health concerns over the past year, but also because of concerns about its potential to impact my family time and work commitment, as well as my availability for involvement in my parish community. The insight that came to me seemed a bit out of left field.

I was beginning another long commute home in a miserable winter rain storm, when the thought came to me that I really needed to do something right away about making a long-needed change in email hosting. For years, I’d been running my own Internet mail server as part of a fairly elaborate network of systems in my basement. Back when I was working as an IT Infrastructure consultant, it was sensible enough for me to be running my own pilot lab at home, but I’d lost that need – and the motivation to maintain it- a couple years ago, and it was becoming something of an albatross to me, wasting time and money while steadily becoming riskier for me to run.

For various reasons, my resolution was to procure a new professionally hosted domain, migrate, then shut down my old domain. I’d come up with a list of potential new domain names, but hadn’t done any serious planning. And as I sat slumped in my car at a red light in that rainstorm, thinking I really needed to do something about it right away, my initial reaction was: “that’s going to be a lot of work, and when I’m done, I’m going to want to build a web site for it, which will be even more work… yeah, maybe tomorrow…” Immediately, however, I replied to myself: “No, maybe today”.

Right then, I knew I had found, not only my new domain name, but a key to understanding what God was looking for from me (or offering me, if you prefer): not a web site, per se, but the impetus to stop wasting my time waiting for tomorrow, and to start living for today; to stop trying to become me, but to simply be me; to stop trying to understand God’s plan, but to just do whatever honestly seems to be the needful thing to do.

It’s not very obvious how starting a blog would have been the needful thing to do in that situation, but it has to do with the need to stop waiting for the stars to align, so to speak. A while back, I targeted today as the launch day for this site. So, in the spirit of taking each day for what it’s worth – despite feeling still quite unready – I’m considering maybetoday.org formally launched with this post. I still have a lot of work to do to achieve the baseline I set out to meet for launch, but I’ll just have to be satisfied with what I’ve done design-wise, and get to the content as I can.

If anyone comes around and reads this, welcome: feel free to look around, and to chat if you’re so inclined.