Creating Cascades of Style

Oh, hi there. I was so absorbed in painting my walls that I didn’t see you. Sorry about the mess, but you know how home improvement goes. You start out thinking you just want to slap on a coat of paint and hang a new picture, but them you find out that the trim as rotted out and needs to be replaced, and then that you’ve got termites or carpenter ants or some other horrible form of interior pestilence… The next thing you know, you’re hip-deep in debris and realizing that you don’t actually know how to do anything but hang a picture, and that only as long as it can be hung on a single nail.

And that’s the moment your parents drop in for a surprise visit.

That’s pretty much how I’m feeling about my blog at the moment. I’ve wanted to do something more personal for a while, but I’ve put it off and put it off because I am terrified of change. You know this about me if you’ve been reading for a while. Me + change = fetal-position shaped ball of nerves shivering in a corner.

I got brave, however, because my darling husband is in the process of updating his website to something that is easier to add content to. If you’re wondering how hard it could be, you’re either a professional user of Cascading Style Sheets (programing language, CSS for short), or you have always been cosseted by content-management-for-dummies interfaces like LiveJournal and WordPress. (I can say these are for dummies with confidence, because I am capable of using them.)  John’s current set-up has him copying files into directories on an ftp client and styling their presentation using CSS, which is convoluted enough a process that he hasn’t done much to the site since he set it up two years ago.

One of the possibilities he was considering was implementing a theme called “Atahualpa.” For you non-bloggers out there, the theme is the bit of programming that tells a blog to be red with yellow boxes and set in bright purple Times New Roman, among other things. Most casual, non-programmer bloggers, like me, use the free themes that are available through their blog software service, which in my case, is WordPress. The alternatives are (1) crafting one yourself from nothing but letters, punctuation, and sheer gumption or (2) paying someone else to craft one for you. I have hesitated updating the appearance of my blog because I am short on both cash and gumption, but when John described “Atahualpa” to me, I decided I might not need much of either to get the job done.

“Atahualpa,” you see, is not so much a theme as it is a framework for themes. This is to say that some wonderful person has done all the really hard work and chopped it up into teeny, tiny bits which can be modified through the use of a relatively simple interface. By installing this so-called theme, anyone with a moderately competent understanding of reading and blog terminology can work out how to design a website that is entirely their own. Watching over John’s shoulder, I got so excited at the potential his research had for making the blog I’ve always wanted that I jumped up and installed “Atahualpa” on my own blog as fast as I could remember how to find and add new themes. One hour later, (pause for comedic effect), I was blithely ripping my way through the framework and making changes like a crazy person.

This is the part where I remind you of the home improvement metaphor, how the term “ripping” should foreshadow for you the idea that I am about to be waist-deep in rubble with not the slightest clue how to so much as hire a dumpster to cart the mess away. In my impatience, I had also not paused to let John make me a mirror site to play with, so I was ripping away at the support-beams of my blog with reckless abandon WHILE EVERYONE WATCHED. Once I had begun the transformation so publicly, there was no going back and quietly putting my old theme back in place, which felt like a problem roundabout midnight on Friday when I realized that “Atahualpa” does require a person to know slightly more about CSS than what the letters stand for.

I finally crawled into bed, fearful of the mocking comments the morning might bring. When I crawled back out of bed and went straight back to my computer, still bleary-eyed, the first thing I noticed was an email from my blog informing me that a new user was registered to my blog. A new user? This had not happened before. What could it mean? In my defenseless morning brain-crampedness, my paranoia kicked in full swing and screamed something like, “DIE EVIL HACKER DIE!” When I figured out how to look at who was registered, I saw that the new user was registered as an author, my paranoia said, “See? The world is jealous of you and EVIL!” I hastily deleted the user for fear of having some unknown stranger post on my blog…only to slowly realize, as my brain finished stretching and took over from my paranoia, four things:

(1) The new theme has a button that makes it easy for new users to register. (2) Not having had this happen before, I didn’t realize that this feature could be used to register subscribers. (3) It was my own fault the default registration setting was “author,” an easily fixed mistake. (4) I have the power to change a user’s status from “author” (not good) to “subscriber” (very good) without much ado.

Sadly, I did not realize this until I had deleted the email that gave me the new user’s email and cleaned out my trash (still under the influence of my paranoia). Somewhere out there, some poor person is probably scratching her head and wondering why I deleted her as a user from my blog. I hope you’re reading this, whoever you are, and I hope you’ll forgive the paranoid madness of a writer dabbling in things she has no business dabbling in while she’s half asleep. If you sign up again, I won’t delete you this time. I promise.

I don’t promise, however, that the construction of the blog will be entirely finished any time soon. Now that I’ve got the trick of changing colors and fonts and box sizes, I may be fiddling with small cosmetic things for a while yet. If you happen to stop by at a moment when the blog is completely unreadable, I’m probably hard at working messing the code up, but things will be better in ten minutes or so.

3 thoughts on “Creating Cascades of Style

  1. Whoa. I have trouble “constructing” -and OH how I use that term LOOSELY! – a preconstructed blog. It’s part of what gives my Blogger Blog it’s tantalizingly mediocre flair. Yours is looking fun and sophisticated at the same time. My html challenged brain is in awe.


    1. Believe me, it was a weekend of headaches and despair to do the laughably small amount of “programming” I did to get to a design that I’m still feeling a little “meh” about. I am ten thumbs up in favor of easy template blogs. Why write code when you can write prose, right? Thanks for the compliment!


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