Rambling On…

Crazy Cat Ladies — 05/30/2007

Crazy Cat Ladies

Me and K are now officially crazy cat ladies. It happened just like last time. The neighbors came over with a stray kitten that was living in the yard next door. They know who the suckers are! The mother cat is Nikkyo’s grandma. We almost resisted this time. We told them we couldn’t do it, but the little fuzzy seed had been planted. K had already fallen in love and could not stop thinking about it. A couple of days later, we had 4 cats. It is almost a year since Shiki died. Nikkyo’s first birthday is in 2 days. Wasn’t it time for a new kitten? Apparently so. This is the last one! Really. Welcome Buster 🙂


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Aspie Dinner — 05/27/2007

Aspie Dinner

Friday night I went out to dinner with the people from the asperger’s meetup group that I’ve been to a few times. It was lots of fun. Really nice people. I liked it way better than meeting at someone’s house. Less pressure somehow and I didn’t feel trapped like I sometimes do.

The dinner was to celebrate someone’s birthday. A lot of people came. We talked about random things, which is pretty fun with a group of people who each seem to have an unusually large number of random facts stored in their heads.

The best thing about it was that I felt normal. I know that going out to dinner with a bunch of people is normal, but usually it is very uncomfortable for me. I can hardly ever keep up with conversations and half the time do not understand what I am supposed to do. If I have something to say, when is the right time to say it? I don’t want to interrupt someone who is talking and I am usually not organized enough to talk right when the little gaps in conversation occur. There isn’t enough time to process the last thing that someone said in that small amount of time and by the time I do, the conversation has moved on.

It was different in this group. It is different every time I am with a group of autistic people. The rules are different, or at least they have more leeway. There is way less fluff (words with no real purpose being constantly chattered to avoid silence). There is more patience. It is easier to keep up. I don’t think it is because people were talking any slower than in any other conversation. Sometimes that is the case in groups of autistic people, but not on Friday night. I am not exactly sure why it is easier. Maybe because there is less fluff to filter out? Does anyone have any idea what makes it easier?

I think part of it is that there is no pressure to be “normal” about things like response times, and having trouble speaking is not such a big deal. It is such a nice change from feeling completely uncomfortable and wanting to leave! My head didn’t get loud like it often does in groups of people. Usually, all voices start blending into a mishsmash of sound like if you were changing radio stations very quickly. Being confused from the mishmash makes it hard to focus and then other distractions like light, colors, people, and a million other things get mixed in too.

I don’t know why none of that happened on Friday night. It almost always happens, especially when I am with people that I don’t know very well. I wonder if it is because I was less stressed because of not having to try so hard to keep up and fit in. Whatever it is, I liked it a whole lot. I feel like I got a taste of how the other half lives. The half that can just do things easily. I like my life a whole lot and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I do get tired of so many things things that are supposed to be easy being so hard.

On the other hand, some things that are very hard for other people are easy for me. I guess it is a tradeoff. I hate when things are not logical. It drives me crazy. For real, not like the figure of speech. People are not always logical. On the flipside of that, I love to work inside of a logical framework. It brings me a kind of peace and gives me a break from all of the things that don’t make sense.

I spend a good part of every day coding; looking at hundreds of lines of words and symbols that make complete sense. There is no ‘reading between the lines’. It is what it is. When somethings goes wrong, it is usually because of an error in logic (or syntax) that can be found and fixed. In the words of the wordpress site, ‘Code is Poetry’. I think that is true.

Autiblogger 1.2.1 — 05/24/2007

Autiblogger 1.2.1

Autiblogger is a free blogging community for people on the autistic spectrum. Since its initial beta release last August, many new features, themes, and plugins have been added. We have moved from a very unreliable shared server to an excellent dedicated server thanks to donations from the community and lots of help from my family. Thanks everybody 🙂

A couple of new measures have been taken to fight the continuous annoyance of splogs (spam blogs). Splogs are fake blogs that are created for the purpose of either displaying ads or creating search engine traffic and search engine ranking for another website to which the splog points. At one point, Autiblogger was getting about 30 new splogs per day!

I installed an anti-splog script to block users from signing-up if thier IP address is blacklisted at spamhaus.org. That helped quite a bit, dropping the number of splogs per day to around three. Finally, I gave in and added an image captcha (challenge response test to verify that a user is human) to the sign-up page. I was really trying to avoid that due to accessibility issues, but it was hard to keep up with even a few splogs per day. I added a link to the sign-up page for users to contact me if they could not view the captcha image. At this time, splogs are down to just one every few days.

With the splog problem under control, I was finally able to add some new features and update some old ones. Today I added a flickr post bar plugin which adds thumbnails of the most recent photos from a user’s flickr account to the post-writing page, making it very easy to insert a flickr image into a blog post. I also added a LiveJournal cross-posting plugin which automatically copies new posts to a specified LiveJournal. Editing and deleting cross-posted entries causes the same changes to be made on the LiveJournal.

Other changes include an update to the Friends List feature which fixes a few bugs and an update to the admin bar that appears at the top of a user’s site when they are logged in, providing easy access to their blog administration. Unlogged users will see a link to Autiblogger and a ‘Get a Blog’ link. A Random Blog link was also added. Click on it and guess what…

If you are interested in helping to support Autiblogger and other Autistic Planet sites, please visit the Support Autiblogger page.

Why Autiblogger 1.2.1? I was almost going to call it Autiblogger 2.0, but the changes didn’t seem large enough to warrant a whole new version number. 1.2.1 is also the current stable version of WordPress MU, which is the excellent open source application that powers Autiblogger.

WordPress 2.2 Upgrade — 05/16/2007

WordPress 2.2 Upgrade

WordPressI am starting to believe that the days of the fast and easy WordPress upgrade have come to an end. Version 2.0 brought some problems for upgraders. Version 2.1 seemed to bring even more due to some database changes breaking certain themes and plugins.

The 2.0 upgrade went very smoothly for me. 2.1 did not. My theme had some db calls to fetch page links using post_status='static' which no longer worked after the database changes. Calling them with post_type='page' instead fixed the problem quite easily, but it took a while of troubleshooting before figuring that out. The 2.2 upgrade was the worst yet.

After having trouble with the 2.1 upgrade, I decided to follow the upgrade instructions for a change and turn off all of my plugins. I have never done that before and have never had a problem because of not doing it. This time, after uploading the new files and running the database update script, I was greeted a by a PHP fatal error message in place of my website. Pretty. This was due to the call in my header.php file to the Ultimate Tag Warrior plugin, which was not activated. No problem. Easy to fix. Comment out the UTW code in the header.

I started reactivating plugins one by one and then testing to make sure nothing went wrong. Everything was going smoothly until activating the King Categories widget. Another fatal error. This time, I emptied the active_plugins field from the bee_options table and tried again with the same result. It occurred to me later that I probably could have just renamed the widget instead of messing with the db, but why do things the easy way when you take the scenic route?

I gave up on the King widget and instead downloaded and installed Breukie’s Categories widget. This worked fine except that every time I made a change to the widget in the admin section, it would forget my exluded categories, so I had to reset them every time. Too annoying.

I was about to hard code the categories into my sidebar just below the hard coded search form and above the widget test statement when I discovered my new favorite widget, the Executable PHP widget, while reading Aaron Brazell’s 10 Things You Should Know About WordPress 2.2. It was also in this article that I was notified of a workaround by Ryan Boren for this widget that is required if you want to use more than one PHP widget in wordpress 2.2. This widget rocks! Endless possibilities. I used to use the King Text widget to include PHP in widgets, but was too afraid to activate it after the trouble with King Categories. I created 3 execPHP widgets to replace the King Categories widget, a King Text widget, and one to add my RSS links. I am not sure why I didn’t just use plain HTML in a text widget for that last one. Never even occurred to me. Finally my sidebar was back to normal.

One more thing about widgets in wordpress 2.2. They are built in, so do not try to activate the widgets plugin ten times like I did. It will never work.

There is a very cool new Plugin Sandbox feature in WP 2.2 that evaluates the plugin code on activation for fatal errors and does not activate the plugin if any are found. This kicked in for the widgets plugin, but not for the King widget. I suppose a widget is not technically a plugin. Or is it?

I still love wordpress as much as ever and will always upgrade my own site at first stable release of each new version. There are always changes for the better and bug fixes.

I will no longer be upgrading all of my wordpress sites at first release. It has become almost impossible anyway since the 120-day release schedule has been in effect. Most of them are client sites that I do not want to break or cause to have any downtime beyond uploading the new files. It is not part of any agreement I have to keep sites updated with the latest files, but sometimes I like to throw it in as a freebie for increased security and ease of future upgrades, not to mention access to new features. Now that it is not always a fast and easy job, I will probably only do it at a client’s request and for a fee. It is probably best that I charge for my work anyway!

Useless 2.0 – Glass is half full version — 05/02/2007

Useless 2.0 – Glass is half full version

One good thing about being useless for a couple of days is that my brain gets a rest and then suddenly I can do things! I have worked almost non-stop for the past 2 days and gotten tons of stuff done. I realize that working non-stop was how I got to be useless in the first place, but at least there is a flipside.

My biggest jobs are done. Another site is almost done. Another couple lined up after that. And a bunch of smaller maintenance type jobs. I also worked on another free autism site that looks like it will be very cool when it is done. WordPress, of course 🙂 The folks running the site have been hard at work adding content and getting it ready for public launch in September.

K almost always sees the glass as half full. I love that about her. She had a crappy day today, so it is one of her rare half-empty days. Maybe I can cheer her up. Not exactly sure how since we were both up half the night and are completely exhausted. We weren’t even up for the same half. She was up until around 3am and I got up at around 3:30am. We just missed each other. Dang.

We have been listening to Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince on tape from the library. 12 tapes to be exact. It is unabridged. The guy who is doing the reading is really great. He does different voices for all the characters. I have been trying to read that book for the past 2 years since it first came out and have not been able to. Sometimes I can only read tech books. K listens to books all the time. This is my first one. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to concentrate, but it turns out that I love it.

Another good listening experience has been these nature sounds cd’s that K got for me to help me relax. We have been listening to them before bed and I am out cold pretty fast. There is one of frogs, one with birds, one with assorted wild life, and one with waves. I am getting tired just thinking about them. Good night.