R.I.P, Huck

Six years ago, on a night made quiet and dark by an ice storm, my father sailed away.

Happy Rocco Gotcha Day

Two years ago, we picked up Rocco from his foster family in Manchester NH. He was and is a quiet guy, with good instincts and good training. His quiet manner makes his silliness and excitement all the more delightful.

One morning a week, Rocco and I help to get Cassie onto her school bus.
A couple of times a week, he accompanies Sandra on visits to her mother at the nursing home. He’s a comforting presence amid people who appreciate comforting.

Fixing software with documentation at Harvard

Much has been made of Harvard School of Law’s online course on copyright law. The course, given by Professor William Fisher, covers a range of topics related to the theory and application of copyright law in the U.S. and other countries. The course is limited to 500 attendees, participating in groups of 25, giving a small-class feel to a massive open online course.
Registration closed on January 3. As a result, we are told to ignore the big registration button on the course page.

Please note that the "Register" button above is not used for HLS1x. The application period is now closed, please see the section "When should you apply?" below for more details.

This is what we call Fix It in Documentation. The way that the HTML page is stitched together, the registration button is one component while the course description below is another. It works well until it doesn’t. Apparently, there isn’t a way to disable or otherwise change the display once the registration period has passed. So, two sentences in red text tell you that they couldn’t change the button and that you can’t do what the button says you can do.

Why is Amazon a Mac hater?

Amazon offers a publishing service that delivers blog content to Kindles and kindred e-readers. The subscription costs $.99/month, one-third of which goes to Amazon.
I set up an account and will make this stream o’ bits available through the Kindle channel. (If anyone subscribes, I will donate my proceeds to charity. I’m interested in the publishing process, not in making money.)
One annoying hitch, however, is that, when I go to the publisher’s page to log in to my account, I’m greeted with this warning.

Prompt to install IE or Firefox

Internet Explorer isn’t available and you really have to dig to find Firefox versions older than the current  (17.0) release.
It turns out that the message is benign. Safari and Chrome, the two browsers that I have installed on my Mac, work ok.

Beware the unmatched brace

I’ve been tinkering with the new WordPress Twenty Twelve responsive design template for a couple of other sites that I maintain. Given the increased use of mobile devices, such as phones and tablets, websites have to accommodate those smaller displays. Doing so with multiple style sheets for each possible configuration is possible but a testing and maintenance nightmare. Responsive design templates, where smart people figure out this stuff for us, are the easiest way to get to a good common solution.

The basic Twenty Twelve design, admittedly, is a bit bland. It has a quirk of placing the header image below the website title and tag line.
It also puts a box shadow, albeit faint, around the image.

I cloned the default template, moved the image above the title, and then set about to remove the box shadow. All that I’d need to do is reset the value of header-image in the style sheet.

img.header-image,
{
box-shadow:none;
}

WordPress offers a built-in style editor so that you can make changes to your design as you go.
In a simple case such as this, little can go wrong. If you are making a bunch of changes, however, you discover that it’s easy for an extra character can wander in during a copy-and-paste editing session.
The code editor doesn’t do syntax highlighting. As a result, if you leave an open curly brace:, the style sheet will fail silently and you’ve left with a simple change that doesn’t work.

{
/* a bunch of code copied from elsewhere
that goes on for a while and then is missing a closing brace.
*/
img.header-image
{
box-shadow:none;
}

Tip: if you’ve spent what seems like an inordinate time tracking down a style change that’s not working, copy your code into a proper editor and let it help you see what you’re missing.

There will always be an England

These are the famous Flaming Tar Barrels of Otterly St. Mary. 

In brief, the townsfolk put tar in barrels, set the tar on fire, and carry the barrels around the town. Only local are permitted to carry the barrels, but the competition is open to men, women, and children.

They are worried that they’re not able to raise enough money to keep the festival going.
Mark Steele describes the town and its carnival of flaming tar barrels in this BBC Radio 4 Extra show.