Makeover for 2007

Yesterday I spent more time than really justified in playing around with the look-and-feel of The Mongrel Dogs Who Teach. It began innocently enough: I finally reached my breaking point on the comment spam, receiving two blocks of 48 spams within an hour. (And yes, they came in discrete quanta of 48. Odd.) Considering the very low output of this blog, it seemed ludicrous to be getting spam at roughly a 100:1 ratio. So I tooled around the Net for a while and found Spam Karma 2 (excellent tool for WordPress, by the way), which automates the process and so far is doing a great job.

Then things kind of ran away from me…

Having spent more time than usual looking at and reloading the site, I became frustrated by the vast amount of blank space left on either side of the text in my default theme. I’m browsing from a 20″ monitor and yes, like a newbie, I like to browse with the window set to full screen. (My wanderings online yesterday yielded many pages by professional-type web designers who deprecate us weirdos who still leave the browser at full-screen. Apparently we don’t multi-task as well as the gods…) The high resolution of course means that normal fonts are tiny and, as anyone who knows me can tell you, my eyes are already atrocious. So I usually have to step up the size on Firefox. But — and here’s the bit that really annoys me — the theme I had allocated only the middle 60% of the screen and would not increase it. The larger font size caused the text to spill vertically, yielding shorter lines and requiring me to scroll more — still with 40% of the screen left unused!

I am fairly sure that I could fix this by editing the stylesheet but CSS still intimidates me a little and WordPress CSS more so. Worse, in hunting for some help, I came across the neat WordPress feature (new to me, at least) of “widgets“. These are tiny plugins that allow an obscene amount of customization and, let’s be honest, outright goofy functionality on the blog main page. I’m always a fan of oddball scripting so I had to find a new theme that accepted widgets (I went with “LogoFriendly“). Then I spent a vast amount of time hunting down the widgets I wanted.

One such was “ProgressBar“. I had, at first, misunderstood this to be a graphical countdown timer but in fact, it’s just a widget to display a “percentage complete” toolbar on the site. You have to set the level manually, which at first was a turnoff. But then I decided I’d take a page from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (and their infamous Doomsday Clock). I made a “Health of the Republic” bar which gives me a quick and graphical way to vent my frustration over the incipient necrosis of the body politic. It’s snarky and trite and made my whole night. 🙂

Putting up the bar meant putting up a page tracking its history. (I want this to be all historical.) That in turn reminded me that I haven’t actually designed yet, even though I planned over six months ago to move my personal pages from to Alas, I don’t really have the energy to do that yet, but I did design a graphic for the site. So, really, 90% of the work is done. 🙂

Oh, and I never solved the ludicrous dead-space issue (which afflicts LogoFriendly too, though to a lesser extent).

One reply on “Makeover for 2007”