Friday… a bit of Website geekiness

A peep behind the scenes, for those of you who are interested in web geeky stuff.

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Big programs like Amazon use databases for their shops.

Little businesses use 5-page websites, just as a little shop window to direct people to a buy- or subscribe-button.

P’kaboo is apparently neither.

Too large for a small 5-page layout.  The 5-page layout suits our studio – it’s a fairly obvious product, i.e. the lessons, and the website is there to offer information and help people decide whether they would feel at home in our studio and at ease with our rules, systems and traditions.  There is nothing the site needs to do, other than showcase us and have a “contact” page.

But the P’kaboo site, though it started smaller than our studio, is larger than that.  It works harder.  It actually is a web shop, and the products are adding up now.  When we started, we had 5 books.  Now though there is a lot more going on there.

They say, set up a small business in such a way that when it grows huge, the systems still accommodate the volume.  This is actually business nonsense because a small business runs differently from a huge one.  But for the web shop, it rings true.  By now, we want a search box, and a database behind the website.  But here’s the catch:  Databases need more than html, css or javascript to be programmed.

The principle of a “flat” html website is that one page (think of a paper page) links to others, by means of links.  Think of a messy desk full of papers, but each page is tied to the others with little strings, (ok, imagine really sturdy paper), and to fetch a page from another you pull the string, fishing the page out of the mess.  The server at least sorts the pages alphabetically.

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You can see the flaw in this one.  It is difficult to find things, and cumbersome to follow from link to link to link until you have what you want.  This is the way the author pages of P’kaboo are currently organized – individual pages that “pull out” by means of their threads.  At least we don’t have hundreds of authors yet or there would be chaos.  But the limitation in this web approach is clearly visible.

So, to make the place easier to use, you need a search function.  A little box that says “Search” and an empty space for you to type your search term into.

The drawback of all search boxes I have tried out so far is that the first thing they do, is take you out of my website and into Amazon or Google.  That is because they are programmed to do so, by Amazon and Google.  I have investigated boxes that supposedly stick within one site – none of them does.

Then there are self-built boxes that stick within one page only.  Which means you have to put the entire website onto a single page.  It can be done, it has been done, and with images on photography sites it is in fact common practice.  Visualize this:

If you have a webpage with a single search function, you need to put all the contents (text, images etc) of all the pages onto one huge piece of posterboard (the size of a wall at least), and then put in “jump links”, little beacons all over the posterboard.  The search box is a magnifying glass that moves across this massive single page and goes from one beacon to another to look at a particular cut-out of the whole page.

Now, as long as the end user doesn’t know, you ask, what could be wrong with this approach?

This:

post-it-notes-1284667_1920When the site loads, it has to load everything upfront.  That means, all the images, all the text, one huge enormous page.  Downloading megabytes has two drawbacks:  Most annoyingly it takes a lot of time; and equally annoyingly, for those with a metered connection, it costs internet.  I have been on the sore end of a metered connection long enough to know how much this matters.  But time matters too!  By the time a website hasn’t loaded ten seconds later, you press the refresh button – restarting the whole process.  You, the end user, don’t realize that it isn’t your connection, or generally “the internet being slow” – it’s the actual site.

Iain always took pride in the speed with which his sites would load.  You clicked, and if your internet connection was healthy, his sites would come up immediately.  He kept images slim and trim, larger images tucked away for later loading if people insist on viewing them.

So, really, what one wants for a shop like this is a welcome page that pops up practically immediately, saying in 5 words or less what we do and offering to find your product for you.

And to do that, we need a database.  Clearly, I need to learn how SQL works.  Can I do it?  I managed html, css and a bit of javascript – I started despairing at php but luckily, didn’t need too much… have I still got it to learn another programming language?

Visualize a database as a bookshelf.  The “front page” is the shopkeeper; you ask the 150420121997pretty young lady about a specific book or author, and she’ll pull out the brochure on that book or author out of the bookshelf.

The bookshelf does not load all its 2 million pages onto your device the second you enter the website.  It only loads the little shopkeeper.  She then pulls out the brochures as you need them, one by one (or five by five, whatever you, the customer, want).

Robbi

Of course, this is what I wanted to do for P’kaboo right from the start – except for, also, making it a playful, entertaining site, which I’m glad I did, because it was fun.  It was about showcasing authors at play.  I don’t know if you enjoy watching children play on a jungle gym or in a kiddie area – I do, I also enjoy watching little animals romp and play.  So I thought, readers might enjoy watching authors get up to shenanigans (short story contests etc).  Sure, it’s entertaining.  I think I’ll retain the play area, but I’ll let the shopkeeper direct the customer to it on request, because not everyone walks into a bookshop to attend a book signing.  A lot of us just want a good read (while nicking a few of the edibles).  And that, I’m sorry, is the author’s responsibility.  All P’kaboo can do about that is offer support.

I hear him comment, “whatever you want to do”.  He’s always been there for me.  To paraphrase someone I once met:  “If ghosts are only in your head, that’s the only place they need to be.”  Well, my ghost is in my heart and in my head.  And he’s still keeping up the solid support he’s always given me for everything I did, without fail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rocks and reviews

While editing for a friend, I received a sweet review in the mail for one of our authors:  Carmen Capuano.

A reader writes:

“Hi, I have just finished reading your novel. WOW! Had to sit and read the last few chapters in one go, so gripping, such a different story from the usual, well done,
Regards Val Ford”

 

Thank you, Val!

I have to add that I agree with the reader.  It’s a good read!

Capuano’s book, “Split Decision”, deals with a young girl on the eve of her 16th birthday, being asked out by two guys at the same time and having to make a fast decision whom to date and whom to let down.

Starting deceptively like an innocent teenage romance, it soon progresses down sinister paths into danger to her life.

The author pursues two alternative versions, following where each choice would lead Natalie.  From a writing style, the chapters alternate between the two possible realities, sometimes throwing the reader a little but giving a lot of necessary contrast and perspective.

At the time of publishing I found the book a hard, realistic read of crime fiction.  Now more than ever will I recommend it to those who have not been exposed to the darkness of the criminal world.  It is gripping, and glaringly vivid.  The emotions are sharp-edged.  World, wake up.  I don’t know where Carmen Capuano got her clear vision of the stark fear and hopelessness of those places, but she captures them.  If this read doesn’t leave you rattled, shaken and with an urgent sense of doing something to change life in the modern dungeons, then few things will.

The book is available on Amazon; also as an ebook from P’kaboo.  Here are the links:

On P’kaboo:

http://pkaboo.net/bookshop.html#splitdecision

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 On Amazon:

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On Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27192597-split-decision

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As for our “rocks” here in Ireland, I’ve been asked what’s happening with P’kaboo.

Well, to begin with, I plan to register it here, locally, and retain the South African branch as a branch.  There are competent people manning the South African side of it…

I am cautiously scouting out the “lay of the land” here, putting out feelers to shops, libraries, music shops.  And print shops.  Sorely missing Hubbs’ fire and initiative.  But I have a few ideas…

Signing off for now.

gipsika

That thing with the mojo

My mojo is still not back.

Well, mojo, to paraphrase Irish Rail:  “Tag off!” (*) If it doesn’t want to come along, I’ll just have to carry on without it.  It will either catch up with me along the way, or I’ll have to go on mojo-less.  Whatever.  I’m sure a lot of people do what they need to do and never check if they even had a mojo, ever.

In the interim I’m staggering around in my own mind and finding all sorts of forgotten treasures.

PNI is one of them.  We did a PNI session today, to clear out some “stuff” (**).  It’s as powerful as ever.  You don’t have to be a mage to work PNI.  It’s a therapy method, based on psychology and meditation techniques.

I’ve discovered what’s wrong with the Shooting Star series.  It’s the fun.  Solar Wind starts off being tons of fun.  There are ups and downs through the series, but the fun element remains.  I wrote Solar Wind in close collaboration with Hubbs, and a lot of funny ideas in there were comments he made. I wrote a lot of the fun stuff so I could hear him laugh out loud.  He was my primary audience and my best writing partner.

Got Wildest One to pick up her violin today and hold it for 1 minute.  Tomorrow it will be 2 minutes.  She isn’t allowed to focus on anything else in that time.  Baby steps.  I wanted to see if her emotional reaction (a violent “I don’t want to play”) is to the violin itself, the physical sensation of holding it, the sound… what triggers the reaction?  Apparently, not to the instrument or the sensation of holding it.  The 60 seconds were uneventful.  —  I’ve also put myself on a program of practising every day, and it’s beginning to make a difference – the technique in my hands is coming back.  As I said:  If it has to be, we’ll just carry on without the darned mojo.  If I have to wait for my mojo, I may have to wait forever.

My friend Eloise sent me a fantastic link on how to handle grief and trauma.  There’s a lot of sense in there.  Here it is:

http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2017/07/recover-from-tragedy/

He makes a lot of sense.

Sometimes it may seem to you, my blogpals, as though I have nothing but grief and trauma in my life at the moment.  This is not so.  There’s a lot going on, and I have to add that I feel I’m definitely in the right place.  Especially since Hurricane Ophelia, when my eyes were opened to the Irish spirit and the Irish sense of humour – both of which remind me so vibrantly of Hubbs, that is how he was!  Making light of a dire situation while sensibly doing all the right things.  Yes, I’m definitely in the right place.

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I’m reminded of Bilbo’s song:  “The road goes ever on and on…”

 


(* “Tag off” is what they remind you to do with your leap card.  The leap card is a card that one can charge up with money and use for travel – bus and train – and get a bit of discount.  When getting on the train, you tag on; when getting off, you tag off.  To me it always sounds a bit like swearing.  “Oh, tag off!”)

(** “Stuff”: PNI jargon for unresolved issues)

Blooming stormy today

A group I was included in (*thank you xxx*) posted something to the tune of, we can’t always see where the road leads, but we can trust that God has something better in store for us.

I can’t agree with this.  Experience does not corroborate this.

Instead, I’d put it this way.

We sure can’t always see where the road leads.

That doesn’t mean something good is in store.  Not at all.  It only means that the Universe is sending us stuff our soul needs for growth.

Accepting this can bring peace.  It does not take care of the pain, but it can bring peace.  Some peace.  A little piece of peace.

Remember this post?

https://skrikvirniks.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/life-is-not-a-competition/

Life is not a competition.

I remember writing this post in anger, because someone who is dear to me started getting jealous of us having moved into the Haunted House.  Really?  Over a house?  I remember seeing this landscape, this barren landscape of heavy boulders, and us making our path through the boulders without really knowing if we were making any progress and whether the boulders would ever stop.  Financial rocks are not to be spat at, they are boulders.  To battle through a financially rocky landscape with small and growing children is no joke.  I only hope our children learned toughness and resilience from that; because these are indeed life lessons one can gain from financial challenges.

But what are they learning from losing their father?

Do they realize that half the time I am going to pieces it is because of them, my poor kids, having been robbed of their Daddy?  How does one fix that?  There is no fixing that!  How can I make it easier for them to carry?  I sense him close, folding his huge golden wings around me, saying “shht, be calm, I am here!”, the way he always used to comfort me whenever anything in our life went haywire.  But – can they sense him too?

I don’t even know what soul lesson one is supposed to learn from one’s loved one dying.

So – acceptance that there is indeed some sort of growth involved even if we have no clue what it’s supposed to be – that’s the only bit of peace to be gained here.

And the fact that he was allowed to die like a hero, standing and fighting.  It could have been worse for him, too.

I will speak out here.

parkpiciainadjusted

The Golden List Challenge

In our training system in the multilevel we’ve been participating in for two decades now, there are books on positive thinking and all sorts of other topics.  There are CDs too, that are a lot more specific to our network.

On one of these CDs (I think it may have been by Zig Ziglar), the motivational speaker mentions a Golden List.

This is a ritual to do every morning as you get out of bed.  (You do get out of bed in the morning, right?  My kids being full teenagers now, on off-days they only get up after lunch-time.  Hurricane Ophelia on Monday and yesterday was the perfect excuse.  I seriously hope that Storm Brian will not immobilize our Ireland the same way Ophelia did, even though I cracked myself about the storm jokes before the wind set in.)  (We stopped laughing when we watched ancient trees fall over like so many matchsticks.  :’-( )

Anyway,

The Golden List

This is a list of 20 items you make every morning, that you are most thankful for.

The challenge is to keep it up for a full month.  (Actually, for a life-time.)  But, seeing that we are fickle creatures, let’s set some milestones.

Let’s set the challenge for 1 week.  From today (Wednesday) to next Wednesday.

  • It has to be every day (don’t miss a day).
  • It has to be 20 items.  This gets easier with practice.
  • Let me know in the comments if you’re participating; we can boost each other.
  • If you like you can blog your list and link into the comments so I can check it out.  But going public with the list is not necessary.  It is after all an exercise in personal gratitude, for the purpose of increasing your emotional well-being.

So, good luck!

…gipsika…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Competition

… for our American friends.

This is a link that blew into my inbox, with an incredible short-story competition about “Basic Income”.  (In Europe the topic is discussed under “unconditional income” and I battle to see the difference between it and “dole”.  But granted, I guess not in every country is the dole high enough to cover basics.)

I was getting seriously excited about the $12 000 prize (yes, you read that right!  $12 Grand!) until I found the little line:  “if you live in the USA”.

So, my USA friends, here is an opportunity for a REALLY big short-story prize.

Shortstory Contest: “Basic Income”

xxx enjoy!

…gipsika…

Dialectical English in writing

In the short-story collection “Mercury Silver” you can find a number of dialects from 8 different authors.

P’kaboo is a bit of a rebel publisher – we have the attitude that this is fine and in fact is a part of the author’s voice.  In some cases, the author imitates a number of different dialects.

A vs an – and other sticklerisms

I have just been splashing around on “Grammarly” and similar sites.  Small details of the English language, such as when to use “an” vs “a” as article.  I always thought that I was fairly well conversant in those; but I discover to my horror that some editing sites are strict about using the outdated “an hotel” instead of the common “a hotel”.

Now, the way I understood it, you listen to the sound of the noun that follows.  If it has a vowel sound, the article to use is “an”.  If it sounds consonantial, you use “a”.  I don’t know anyone other than the French who says ” ‘otel” instead of “hotel”.  In fact, in French it needs to be “ôtel”  (note the accent circonflexe on the o), and they don’t say “an”, they say “l’ ” (which would be “le” if the h in “hôtel” were not silent, and obviously it stems from the French habit of avoiding the choppy sound of two vowels from two separate words next to each other).

Fortunately, one commentator saved the day by linking to a neat applet – Google Ngram.

https://books.google.com/ngrams

This program allows you to run comparisons between words, and even phrases.

Ngram

Ngram shows how commonly used a phrase is, and was in the past.  I love the little button that says, “search lots of books”.  Whoever programmed it, was having fun.

Essentially, a language is alive.  (Why should English be the exception?)  So if an editor (or an editing program) throws your work out because one of your characters says “yesh, marshter”, all I can say is, *shakes head, can’t really think of anything deep enough to give expression to her disgust at such stupidity*.

*

It’s tough going without Hubbs.  Over the years I have got so used to his constant encouragements, his feedback, his interaction – we did everything together.  Standing alone, I feel weighed down by it all.  Damn, why couldn’t he survive?  Why couldn’t they have decided not to shoot down the musician?

Anyway.  Signing off now.  Lots of comments are invited.

Who’s taking the NaNo challenge with me this year?  I feel I must, to kickstart myself back into writing.

 

 

 

 

 

Blog wars explained – not a Friday Story Post

 

I’m not ready to start writing fiction yet.

Instead, here is a very interesting link on why we hang onto our irrational beliefs.

 

Interesting points, I thought.  An evolutionary advantage to not questioning irrational beliefs?  And:  Thank you Molineux, for the extra definitions.  If something cannot be disproved (like, for instance, Last Thursdayism and Solipsism), it becomes moot and for all practical intents and purposes, equivalent to nonexistent / untrue.

Let’s look at the (brave) belief that microorganisms do not cause disease.

(That would, on the microscopic level, be equivalent to saying, lions don’t catch and eat antelope, robbers don’t break into and rob banks, humans don’t till fields, plant them and harvest them.  Just saying.  The virus that hijacks and breaks a cell doesn’t regard itself as a criminal just because it has found a highly effective, clever way of eating and reproducing.  Not any more than we feel like criminals when we open a can of tuna.)

The belief is falsifiable. This means, I as microbiologist can go by and collect a sample of cholera from a sick person, isolate only the little crawlies, and give them into someone else’s drinking water, and see if the same disease manifests and if I can isolate the same species from that new person, too.  Yes, that is disgusting, but still it is the gold standard of proving a disease-microbe link in medicine.

Which means that, while the belief that microbes do not cause disease is wrong, it is still a rational theory.

Irrational is to cling to that theory after it is falsified.

Note:  I did not say “all disease is caused by microbes”.  We know it is not!  That however is only an argumentative ploy to detract from the validity of my argument, namely, that microbes cause disease.  And again, I didn’t say “all microbes cause disease”.  Only, that certain diseases are provably caused by microbes and certain microbes provably cause disease.

Interesting is how Molineux describes how the brain works to not only cover up contradicting evidence, but to reinforce irrational beliefs when presented with contradicting evidence.

So there you have it, 90% of blog wars explained!

Frangipani

(Apologies:  Sentimental post)

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Lady Tree.  Who can remember her?

She is a Frangipani.  (I cannot imagine that now, after they have put up the tall palisade, they would still want to take her down.  I do believe that battle is won.)

Frangipani have a very special meaning to me, they have played a persistent role in my life.  The first flowers my little babies picked up with their chubby little hands and brought their mommy, were Frangipani blossoms.  The tree in which my kids clambered around tirelessly, was Lady Tree – a pink Frangipani.  The same kind of tree grew under my window when I was growing up.  Frangipani blossoms were used to decorate the place (and my hair) where my soulmate and I got married.

There was a short story I read, a little romance, a year or two before my own wedding, where the protagonist, an intrepid girl who camps and hikes and simply won’t settle down, meets the love of her life under the Frangipani trees of a camping ground.  She talked about the “king wave” surfers were always waiting for, and how that man was the “king wave” in her life. (Clearly she’d had other relationships before him.)  I remember thinking, “yes, that figures for me too. He’s my king wave.”

On an aside:  I used to have dreams of the sea, of the waves coming in, and then there was the freak wave (but somehow nobody got hurt in the freak wave ever); when I told Hubbs about the dreams, he said that water related to emotions and the freak wave was about what I loved most.  Interesting how that linked in with the “king wave”, because he never read that story.

So here I am, my mind a bit turbulent from all the paperwork going in such frustrating circles, and deciding to do a bit of embroidery just to do something I don’t have to think about (can’t focus on writing yet, my brain is not yet cooperating with story mode, and practising my gig repertoire at this point is just – sad.  I miss my gypsy guitarist).  Now, those who know me will laugh out loud.  Gipsika, doing any kind of needlework?

Here are my very amateurish results…  and then I realized what kind of flowers I’d stitched.

fragipani

So that makes me very sentimental tonight…

 

Humans and our stories

What is it that sets us apart from other animals?  What is uniquely human?

Leaving aside metaphorical speculations such as animals not having souls (anima = Latin for “soul”), and misconceptions such as, that only humans have tears for sadness and laughter for fun (there are other animals that laugh, and even some that cry tears when emotionally saddened), I think the one thing that is possibly most typically human, is stories.

I didn’t say, uniquely human.  Bees do an entire dance to tell each other where they found the nectar.

But, face it, we love stories.

Whether it is the gossip about the black sheep in the family, or stories about our childhood (“Do you remember?”), or stories of our ancestors or long bygone civilizations, or even stories that could be… fiction, wild flights, imagination…

I also believe we learn through stories.  My niece and nephew and I were sitting playing that game, “Story Cubes” (btw, awesome game especially for the younger ages), and it is amazing to listen to the spooky stories my little niece (6) concatenates with the help of the cubes, and watch how she plans her plot lines and everything.

Playing a game like that teaches them a whole lot of things at once.  One is, to give each other  a fair turn and not mess around with each other’s turn.  One is, to actually listen and give each other a chance to speak.  It gives a child an immense feeling of self-confidence and validation to know that they are being heard and listened to.  Of course, the creativity of the game is another thing they learn.  Creating a story brings a whole lot of mental contortions with it.

I was also reading that fairy tale to them, one of my authors’ not-yet-published volumes that my own children have heard several times now (and loved every time).  That story has a story about it which I will tell one day too.

If you think about how much of our world is established around story.  We have history; we have family history.  We love remembering “adventure” holidays we had, and when we get together in a greater social circle, what do we do?  We tell each other stories.  Television, blogs and games are all about stories.  And it doesn’t have to be a film – on the contrary, a film gets discussed afterwards and made into another story we tell each other.

Tying into the previous post – why don’t we simply stay on holiday – it all comes down to the story of our lives.

Our past becomes our resources.