Wordpress


Menston and Wilberforce have kept me away; many apologies for the long absence. First of all I was busy night and day (literally) getting a much-needed completely new website to its Beta form for the charity (Wilberforce Trust) for which I work, so it could be viewed by all the 70 or so staff for their feedback by the time I return from annual leave in early September. I’ll take into account the feedback then it can go live, hopefully that month. It’s a WordPress.org site so a lot more work than these wonderful free ‘wordpress.com’ sites. 

Menston village blog; screenshot with first post

Top of the new Menston village blog showing the first post

A glutton for punishment I suppose, I also decided to construct a new ‘unofficial’ website for the village in which I live – Menston. The site - menstonvillagewharfedale.com - a WordPress.com site of course, is in the form of a blog, on which ‘grumpytyke‘ will be commenting from time to time, starting today.  Have a look and let me know what you think, please.

There is an ‘official’ Menston village website, www.menston.org, but although it is now working after a long absence it is very out of date, much of the information being so out of date that it’s not very useful. It’s been promising a new site for a long time but so far it hasn’t materialised. However, its existence meant I couldn’t have a simple Menston name (menstonvillage also existed already) and you can’t have spaces in the WordPress user name unfortunately.

Bringing Menston into the WordPress community

That is only part of the reason I decide to create the ‘unofficial’ site. The ‘official’ one – shared by the local community association and the local parish council – is very institutional. I thought the village, a really friendly and cosy place, merited something a bit more friendly. Knowing what a great community WordPress bloggers are I thought the village should have a WordPress blog of its own.

The new blog was first ‘published’ in late July but really only went ‘live’ on 8 August when it was publicised. I’m delighted to say that in the three days since then it has had around 700 views.

Anyway, please have a look – menstonvillagewharfedale.com – and let me know what you think, with any suggestions. Input from all you great bloggers who follow ‘grumpytyke’ would be really valuable.

Some month’s ago I removed the requirement for me to approve comments before they appeared and until now that had not resulted in a lot of spam comments. Sadly, over the past couple of days this has changed and, from the content, I suspect that it is originating in Romania or with a Romanian. I don’t think it a coincidence that it has happened after commenting on a Romanian blog – though I’m sure that blogger has nothing to do with it. Most of these spam comments were on past pages with content about Romania. It’s simple enough to remove it and that I have done, but it’s a pain. For some reason they have not been picked up by the usually excellent spam filter; the spammer seems to be ‘commenting’ from Facebook, which I hardly use. I hope it will stop. Va rog, sa va opriti!

Mackerel – don’t overcook

However, I have a pleasanter fishy thing to blog about – mackerel. Among the cheapest of fish it is also a favourite for me and, I think, at its best prepared very simply. Those who follow this blog will know that I like cooking classic French cuisine, often a very complex and long-winded preparation, but for mackerel simple is super. So I thought I would share the way I do it, our meal last night, with you.

Too big for our 10 inch dinner plates, this fish takes about 14 minutes to cook. Very important not to overcook.

Too big for our 10 inch dinner plates, this fish takes about 14 minutes to cook. Very important not to overcook.

I have mentioned before that I am fortunate in having very good fish close at hand – in Leeds Kirkgate market where Marks & Spencer was born. Of course they would be even better straight from the sea and every time I eat them I remember childhood holidays in the Yorkshire east coast resort of Bridlington, getting up very early in the morning to go out on a small boat, line fishing, and returning with the boat full of mackerel just as most other holiday-makers were getting up.

The fish we had last night were large – way too big for the 25cm (10inch) dinner plate you see in the picture. We’re gluttons so had one each, but the only accompaniment was some crusty wholemeal bread.

As with pretty well all fish the only difficulty is making sure you don’t overcook them. At the size shown they take about 7 minutes a side under a hot grill (on a good summer day I’d do them over charcoal outside but this is a bit more difficult as you need more than usual separation between the coals and the fish, otherwise the outside can be overcooked before the inside is done). The meat close to the backbone should only just be cooked, still very moist and juicy and slightly pink.

I prefer the head left on but it can be removed for the squeamish. Make deep slashes, but not cutting right through, on each side of the fish. This helps them cook evenly. Rub the fish with oil then squeeze ‘French mustard’ (I use the best – Dijon) in each slash. No other seasoning at all; if you like things salty this can be added while eating but personally I prefer them without. Then under (or over) the grill, turning half way through. That’s it!

Gravlax, Scottish smoked wild salmon, monkfish tails or turbot – all wonderful – but none of them beat the taste of this simply prepared mackerel for me.

Yet another of my favourite blogs has announced a transfer from WordPress.com to WordPress.org; this time he not only announced it but did it within hours, and so has disappeared completely off the blogging scene (‘server error’ message only). I’m posting this ‘comment’ to both my blogs in the hope he and the others may see it.

But I don’t think bloggers contemplating this move realise that even when the new site works it is so much more complicated for people to ‘like’, follow and comment.

Another blog I enjoy following has also gone to WordPress.org but at least she has left the original site operational but says this is only temporary. If she does close down the original site I will be very sorry as I will not be able to comment (of course I am able to do it but will not go through the extra hassle).

Another blog I wanted to follow was set up originally on WordPress.org (for those who don’t know this means that it is not on the WordPress server) so I cannot follow it. I’m suggesting to this person they set up a WordPress.com blog even if their main site is on their own domain.

I understand very well the reasons for having a commercial site hosted elsewhere than WordPress.com, but I think it is a disaster for the kind of ‘friendly’ blogs which I like to follow.

Sunday 3 Feb 2013. Another multi-tasking day, I’m starting to write this while I cook the obligatory Sunday ‘traditional full English’ breakfast and scanning a film to put some pictures here; I felt I must do this post after reading a recent ‘News’ item from WordPress about using internet in teaching:

http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/educators-on-wordpress/

The special 'Allstars' project room from we did internet teaching projects using first one, later (here) two, 'obsolete' laptops. This is 'Allstar' Daniela with me, 1994

The special ‘Allstars’ project room at industrial High School No.1, Burdujeni, Suceava, Romania, from which we did internet teaching projects using first one, later (here) two, ‘obsolete’ laptops. This is ‘Allstar’ Daniela with me, 1994

I think I might have been a bit of a pioneer in this field; the teachers in UK, Canada and USA with whom I did the projects in 1993/94 certainly were. Oddly enough, I had referred briefly to my email projects for teaching English only a few days ago when I did a post about how I became an English teacher in Romania.

For most of the projects we used a single obsolete lap-top on which the children took turns; it had been discarded by some Arizona school; later I got a second. There was no Windows available to us (though it had been launched about 10 years previously); we used MS-Dos and saved our work on ‘floppy discs’. We supplemented the emails with airmailed communications and exchanged photographic prints. The slide show below, click on any picture to see it, tells some of the story.

The ‘Allstars’ as they chose to call themselves, from class 9s (‘gymnasium’ or middle school) in the industrial school no.1 in Burdujei, Suceava, did projects with schools in Liverpool, Canada and Northumberland on histories of their respective countries and other subjects; the much younger Bunnies, a special needs class in school no.11 in Suceava, did a project with special needs children from the ‘Jim Allen’ elementary school in Pensacola, Florida, on their respective towns.

Both these groups of Suceava children were not expected to achieve very much by the Romanian system. However, the head teacher at School no1 was very supportive, even giving the group its own small project room (top picture). The head teacher of school no.11 told me at the beginning I was wasting my time with the special needs children. He was gracious enough at the end of the year to admit that he had been wrong, when they invited him to a year end exhibition of their project. Their teacher, Vasilica, never had any doubt; she had no special needs training, no special needs resources; she taught them with love alone.

The Leo Club of Suceava Burdujeni

The Allstars went on to form a Leo Club, despite their parents’ objection to them doing any voluntary work (this came from the enforced unpaid labour as ‘Pioneers’ under the Communist system) and, among other activities, they worked with special needs kids in the orphanages; some of them eventually took some of the 30 available places at one of the two top high schools – the leading school for humanities and languages – in Suceava, something no-one would have believed they were able to do. There was already a Lions Club in Suceava, instigated by a French Lions Club soon after the revolution.

Working with the Allstars and Bunnies and many other Romanian children was probably the most enjoyable and satisfying part of my time in Romania, if not in the whole of my life.

That year, or the year before, I presented two or three papers on the use of internet for teaching English as a foreign language at a conference which had physical audiences at centres in the USA and Mexico but contributors from around the world via internet. I had to go 600km to the capital, Bucharest, to find the facilities to take part, which I did in the middle of the night in Romania. The papers were eventually published in the conference proceedings; I’m hoping those will turn up in my ‘store’ in Romania.

I worked in one school which had a more ‘modern’ computer network and I think the operating system was Linux; if I remember correctly we emailed using a program called Pine. I think I first saw Windows in about 1996, when I began to teach English in the computer studies high school in Iasi, though I didn’t do the email projects there; I taught the curriculum more conventionally.

Two students on the week long course I did at the University of Bratislava, Slovakia, on using computers and doing internet projects for teaching English

Two students on the week long course I did at the University of Bratislava, Slovakia, on using computers and doing internet projects for teaching English

The work with computers and internet projects not only took me all over Romania, showing teachers and pupils how to use computers and how to do such projects, I was even lucky enough to go to Slovakia for a week and do similar things with students as the University of Bratislava. What a lovely town!

Old battered films

Although most of my photographs taken in Romania seem to have been left there – prints, negatives and slides – as I cannot find them here, a few weeks ago I finally got around to taking some films which I did bring back from the canisters in which they had been stored for years. I had to leave them under some weight for several weeks to get them flat enough to cut into strips for the scanner, and I cut them a few days ago. I’ve just sorted out some to scan for this post – it’ll take weeks or months to do them all (about 60 35mm films). Unfortunately the pictures I want for here are on three, four or more different films and as I might as well scan them all rather than just the shots I want it’ll take a couple of hours or more (Tuesday 5 Feb: in fact it took all day and more so the intention to post this on Sunday went by the board!).

The films are rather battered and bruised and the colour is way off after their treatment over the past 20 years or so. I hope they are interesting nevertheless as I don’t have time to do any ‘repairs’, though I hope to do so sometime.

Back to cooking and tv

However, after I’ve finished with the films for this post I’ll go and scan a film (black and white) I shot yesterday for my photo blog – while making some bread (we’re out) and getting ready to cook the evening meal – it’s pork chops from a named farm nearby via our excellent local butcher; left to my Romanian wife she’ll cook them Romanian fashion – for at least an hour – rather than the 10 minutes they deserve. Some things can benefit from the long cooking like, strangely enough, runner beans, which become something quite different and eat very well with mamaliga (Romanian corn meal mush or ‘polenta’) when cooked for an hour and a half.

And all this before my Sunday evening tv marathon begins with the news at 6pm (over dinner). Then there’s ‘Country File’, followed by ‘Call the Midwife’ (how good to have a drama with good stories, no violence and where the characters have a vocabulary other than four letter words), and then ‘Ripper Street’, which has enough interest to overlook the sometimes gratuitous violence.

Although I’ve said before that photography and cooking have quite a lot in common (or perhaps because of it), it’s quite difficult to scan films and cook at the same time. Apart from trying to remember to wash my hands before putting on the cotton gloves to handle the film, or remembering to take the scissors to cut the film but the knife to cut the vegetables (for braised red cabbage with Juniper, steamed caulifower and brussel sprouts, and roasted potato wedges) I have a big worry that I’m going to cut off a finger or steam a film!

I’d better get the scanning done soon. It’s creeping up to 6pm and I’ve started on the cook’s obligatory (unless they have a medical condition forbidding it) red wine; although it’s vital for cooking it ain’t so good for scanning. In fact, it’s beginning to look as though the scanning will not finish by 6pm, so this post will not be posted until tomorrow (didn’t make that either).

This blogging ‘lark’ has taken over my life; how the bloggers who post ten times day, especially those who write something rather than just post a picture each time, do it I don’t know. I started this blog to write about my interests but now blogging itself has become an interest and I find myself writing about that.

I’m conscious that I wander about a bit in my posts but no apologies – two of my favourite blogs do this too. Food and Forage Hebrides hides super recipes among all sorts of insights into life on a Hebredian island; My French Heaven tucks anything from Coco Chanel or how to clean silver to long distance sailboat racing in his wonderfully illustrated food blog, though admittedly not usually in the same post.

I’ve been completely hooked by blogging but I’ve never felt the urge to create a Facebook page and, although I have a Twitter account, the only thing that is tweeted, automatically, is a new post here.

As far as Facebook is concerned, I have a strong aversion to it – born of my wife’s announcements like “?? says she’s sitting in ?? celebrity restaurant drinking her seventh vodka and ?? (celebrity chef) has just spoken to her” and then shows me a picture of said ?? obviously very drunk in said restaurant. Who cares?

Poster promoting the new Wilberforce Trust 'Living & Learning Zone' blog, Facebook page and Twitter

However, for promoting an organisation it’s a different matter so, having recently created a blog for a particular activity of the small charity for which I work, I’ve gone the whole hog and also created a Facebook page and a Twitter account for it. Now I’m getting out a flyer promoting the three communications media to all local libraries, community centres, etc.

The blog is very simple, it is just a weekly update of the activities in our specialised community centre, catering for people with sight loss and additional disabilities, posted every Monday as a reminder for the activities during the following week.

The Facebook page is used to post very short reports of activities with one or two photographs.

As for Twitter, I’ve now got participants in the courses and other activities doing live tweets during the sessions.

There have been some very interesting and helpful posts from WordPress in the past couple of weeks; I was particularly taken by one describing how a magazine, Beatroute, had used the Oxygen theme to make a ‘blog’ version of the magazine.

I’ve been pondering for some time how to distribute ‘electronically’ the quarterly newsletter I produce for the charity for which I work. Sending PDFs isn’t really satisfactory. The ‘blog’ magazine seems the ideal solution though it will be a lot more work than just turning my newsletter InDesign files into PDFs.

It’s worth mentioning that the text here is not in the typeface which is default for the theme. The default text is a seriffed typeface – like this

typeface

 - which can be very difficult for people with sight loss to read. I also bumped the size up a bit and immediately got some ‘thanks’ messages from people who would not be considered to have a ‘visual impairment’.

However, ‘electronic’ communication is often much better for people with sight loss as the computer and other devices can make things much easier, including of course speaking a text. Apple have excelled in this.

madness frozen out

bones interred together        warmed

peace       buds in waiting

Early morning view from my sitting room window: the clock tower of the once notorious Victorian "lunatic asylum" at Menston, now luxury flats. Over 2,000 bodies of former inmates are buried close by

Early morning view from my sitting room window: the clock tower – about 1/2 mile away – of the once notorious Victorian “lunatic asylum” at Menston, now luxury flats. Over 2,000 bodies of former inmates are buried, together, close by

I’ve recently removed the requirement for comments to be ‘moderated’ before they appear – on both my blogs.

111Comment

I didn’t consciously put them there when I first created the blogs but, getting emails asking for ‘approval’, I suddenly thought “Why do I need to approve them?”. It’s an unnecessary delaying step; if someone has taken the time to comment I’d ‘approve’ it anyway, whether I liked it or not.

What might someone say that I wouldn’t want to appear? Well, I would not want a lot of four word expletives – I’d find them tiresome and some of my followers might find them offensive.

WordPress says not approving increases the likelihood of spam, but the spam filter seems to be very good at picking those up and getting rid of them. I suppose if a lot of meaningless spam began to appear I’d have to think again, but hopefully this won’t happen.

To my mind, if comments are to have any value then they shouldn’t be subject to whether I ‘approve’ of them or not.

So now they are not.

*

HAPPNEW YEAR

to you all

may your year be full of rainbows

*

I’m taking the unusual step of making a post from a comment I’ve just left on another blog, in response to a post saying that WordPress seem to be making things more difficult rather than easier with ‘new introductions’.  I may well copy this to my other blog too.

WATER

Before I do that, you may notice the ‘badge’ above at the bottom of the right-hand ‘widgets’ column. A French blogger – ben – put a ‘like’ on an old post of mine, about the summer rain in Iasi, Romania, but among the stuff on his site was an invitation to put this badge on my site, in return for which a French medical company would make a donation to provide clean water to a child for a year. That was an offer which I couldn’t refuse so there it is. Click on it to find out more; if your French is a bad as mine the ‘translate’ button does it well enough. (If the widget – the WordPress instructions are not clear – doesn’t appear clicking on the above image should work).

Back to my comment about the new WordPress introductions:

This is what I wrote - 

“I agree that, although there have been some good new introductions (like the picture mosaic), whatever has been done has made things more difficult not better. It’s similar with Google, Ebay, Yahoo – they never learn to follow the mantra: ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. It was easy in WordPress to put in media, including pictures and edit them, before. Now it’s more limiting and more confusing. With Ebay it means that I rarely use it now as a seller and I’ve abandoned Yahoo completely.
Reading between the lines it seems to me it’s about money; I have the impression WordPress are trying to force us into getting upgrades which cost money. With Google, Ebay and Yahoo it is certainly about money. For WordPress, why else are we bombarded with hints, prompts, challenges, exhortations to ‘postaday’, etc? I have enough problems finding the time to write about what I want to write about.
I’m also irritated by the frequent posts about grammar – as a former teacher of English mine’s pretty good I think but I don’t pick up on every little grammar error in posts I read or follow – I’m interested in what they want to say not whether they know what a past participle is, and I often choose to break the rules for creative reasons.
I agree with Carl too about the creativity-repressing ‘rules’ which WordPress choose to impose upon us. I hadn’t noticed the forced initial letter capitalisation but the inability to put in space is a real pain, especially when considering poetry (or in my case haiku).
I’ve been thinking about doing a post about it.
I haven’t had any problems with speed of uploading but I don’t post more than two or three times a week”.

By the way, the original post is a:  http://loiselden.com/2012/12/17/struggling-with-wordpress/ 

If WordPress made things simpler and, more especially, were much clearer in their instructions and ‘help’ pages, the mosaic I mentioned above might be more widely used and I wouldn’t be getting 5, 10 or even 20 posts a day from several photo posters, each with one picture (I have to delete most of these unread/unviewed because I don’t have the time). As far as the photo posters are concerned they could combine the multiple posts in one mosaic and then I’d see all the images, but of course even without the mosaic they could enter the pictures one after another, as many do, and then I see them all with just one ‘opening’. I don’t have an answer for the multiple daily written posts.

 

 

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