The latest in random activities

Lately I’ve been caught up in Totally Unnecessary Work.

What did I do? I changed the menu bar colors on my website.  Wooo, yay, right?

I had no business tinkering with the website. It looked fine, and I have zero applicable skills. Changing structural elements requires knowing CSS, an aspect of programming I never learned because I taught myself basic website HTML before CSS came into wide use. (Why, yes, I AM old.)

The project  started early in the week. I was doodling around online and discovered internet resources on changing CSS.  Since I have wondered, off and on, if I could change website colors off I went to investigate the possibility. It didn’t take long to find answers other people got from experts, and it looked simple enough.

So I copy-pasted the suggested codes into the CSS editor on my site.  Did it work as written? Of course not.

First, changing CSS gets complicated behind the scenes.  It’s full of what I’ll call dialects and accents and slang.  How a change works on a specific site depends on a ton of structural elements already in place. There are things like “child themes” and cascading consequences to changing a single element (hence the name) plus the order in which commands are entered can differ by site too, and some codes have to be overridden with other commands…

Second, I can’t see  any of the original code because I’m using a training-wheels/bumper-car/TOTALLY UNBREAKABLE website.  Basically I pay people to maintain the big, complicated chunk of programming that runs the site for me. The price is that I’m locked out of all the dangerous parts of the code and can’t see any of it. It’s a fair trade, but it does complicate an already-complicated process.

And third, there’s the ever-present finicky complication common to all computer programming: one wrong space or punctuation mark can mess up everything. True confession: I am Not Good at spotting finicky mistakes when I make them (whereas I am Very Good at making them.)

Once it was clear that changing colors was a complicated issue involving skills in which I had zero expertise,  did I stop fumbling around in the dark like a sensible person?

OF COURSE NOT. I kept tinkering. Partly because I’m stubborn–but mostly because I knew I had that nice, cushy safety net. I can poke and play with code all I wanted without ANY fear of breaking my website. Freedom to play and learn is priceless.

So I played, collecting tools,  finding more code online and comparing the pieces to see how they differed and making minor changes to see how they connected. Then I went all  hyperfocus on it and hammered at things until they WORKED.

fireworks-1953253_1280
Huzzah!

 

Now, instead of a white menu bar with black lettering and blue/white highlighting color scheme, I have a gray menu bar with black letters, with a black & red highlighting scheme.

Was that worth 20+labor hours? Of course not. The defaults were fine. SERIOUSLY. They were fine.  So why did I bother? I have a list of reasons. (Of course I do.)

1) In the future I can change menu colors to anything I want. Black/red/white is a horrible highlighting scheme from a design standpoint. Honestly.  I know that. But I’m leaving it like this for a while.

2) It was a nice lesson in CSS vocabulary, names of elements & operations etc. The knowledge may come in handy again someday. Who knows?

3) I learned a ton about how the CSS codes interact too. Once again, new skills are never worthless.

4) Working out hierarchy, coding grammar, naming quirks & overrides for my site’s theme by brute force experimentation WAS FUN.

I had fun and made a thing and learned things: these are the justifications I throw at my conscience, which is muttering about the wasted time. Not great excuses, perhaps, but they’re what I have. (And I like the colors, too, boring though they be.)

Anyway. That’s a wrap.

Writing hard, cookies easy

I’m not getting any creative writing done because reasons, so to quiet the brain buzzards I figure I will share a baking adventure. WITH PICTURES!

(What are brain buzzards? YOU know. They’re the lurking voices inside that squawk, “quit whining and do the work, lazy woman, Real Professionals produce, you could do more if you tried harder, blah, blah, blah…I mean, they’re right, but I prefer to drown them out than listen.)

ANYway. Cookies.  Swedish butter cookies were a holiday tradition when I was growing up in the Morris household, (the M in K.M. stands for Morris) I recently found my mom’s mother’s recipe card for “Grandma Watson’s Swedish Butter Cookies”  complete with instructions for a “slow oven” and mentioning butter from the ice box. I haven’t scanned the cards yet, so no pic, sorry.

These cookies were a one batch once-a-year treat because, while they were delicious, making them was a demanding process requiring tons of work, complicated prep, and expensive ingredients. And drama. I remember much trauma with stickiness, wax paper, and fretting about wasted dough &  much worry over burning. And they never came out quite right despite always tasting fab.

Then I made them for myself the first time on my own, away from the traditions and procedures of my youth. And I learned a secret I’ll share today: THESE ARE THE SIMPLEST COOKIES EVER.

Unless you are a perfectionist. Then they are a hell recipe. I am not a perfectionist. My kitchen mantra is, “More flavor, less effort.”

I can whip together a batch of these cookies faster than the oven preheats–which is saying something because a “slow oven” is only 325 degrees F.

So. Let’s make Swedish Butter cookies together.

Start the oven preheating, make sure the rack is in the middle for best baking, and gather these ingredients: IMG_5238

Yeah, that’s all.

1 stick butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1-2 tbsp of syrupy goodness.  (I like half honey+half almond extract. Maple syrup is popular with others. The big thing is, some sugary syrup. Things don’t cook right without it.)

Here’s the one paragraph summary.

Cream the butter & sugar, add in the syrup & mix until creamy,  mix in the flour until it forms a lumpy dough, form up into a ball by hand, divide into four lumps and roll into sticks, dust with colored sugar if you want, and bake 20-25 min at 325 until golden. Cut while still warm. Done. SO. SIMPLE.

The devil is in the details. Pics are worth a thousand words, so here we go:

Cream butter & sugar, scrape down the bowl & add syrup, it looks like this:IMG_5239

Mix in the syrup until it’s all creamy like this:
IMG_5240

Then scrape down again (the red bit in the pics is my bowl scraper resting on the mixer stand) add the flour and mix until it comes together. Note that it isn’t all in a single ball, and it’s STICKY:IMG_5241

Don’t add extra flour or liquid or mix with the mixer until it’s a single lump, the cookies will get kinda tough (BUT NO BIGGIE IF YOU LOSE FAITH AND DO THOSE THINGS THE COOKIES WILL STILL BE DELICIOUS)

In any case, if the dough doesn’t come all the way together after a minute or two of blending, stop the mixer and push it together into a ball by hand with the scraper. Then divide the ball into 4 parts and shape into logs.

Did I mention it’s sticky? How gooey depends on too many factors to worry about. This is where I get mega-lazy. If the dough can’t be handled easily, I run water in the sink and wet my hands before dividing & shaping the dough, re-wetting whenever things get unwieldy. And don’t stress the logs being equal sizes or the same length or evenly rounded. Close enough is fine. Mine came out pretty well this time:

Sprinkling with colored sugar is totally optional. But yes, i flattened the tops to make it stick better

So, now all you have to do is bake them. 20-25 min at 325 degrees. When they’re going golden brown on top (or around the edges, if you sugared the tops) pull them and cut into slices. Cool and then try not to eat them all in one sitting.

So, there it is. A cookie post. Enjoy.

Random things inside my head

6. It’s confirmed! I’ll be an Attending Professional at Dragon Con in 2019. Sweet, sweet validation. (It helps balance the relentless march of zeroes in the sales reports)  I’m hoping to participate in programming for Science Fiction Literature, Fantasy, & Urban Fantasy at the least. I would love to be super-busy all four days. 

One happy bright spot in a week I’ve spent being fiercely determined not to cry about, well, EVERYTHING AND NOTHING BECAUSE LIFE IS MADE OF STRESS. Ahem. Onward. Major tooth repairs tomorrow. 

5. Holidays mean I get to hang with friends more than usual. So much catching up to do. Being a hermit whose home no one ever visits, I always fall behind. What are all the many talented, hard-working people in my immediate circle doing these days? Incredible things. Getting degrees, playing games together, working at astonishing jobs, fighting for new jobs, traveling all over the country…loads of wow.  Me? I felt awkwardly tolerated, boring, and unintentionally ruse.  You know, the usual.

Someday I should write a post about all the specific communication tools my writerfrenz and artistfrenz use to help each other cope with gathering in groups. I miss those things a lot when I’m with others.

4. Working the weekend at the library is a big change than working weeknights. All the same tasks, but the rhythm is so different.  On weeknights, the last hour is the slowest by far. Weekends? Busy. Even on a slow day. Makes for a nice change of pace.

The latest in searches:

  • free home floor plan generator
  • 19th century attitudes toward exercise
  • under 18 population Illinois 2017 census

Media update:

  •  Read: Working my way through Ardulum trilogy by J.S. Fields. Seanan McGuire recommended it, and it’s worthy. Space opera that’s careful about its science? SIGN ME UP.  
  • View: Hurricane Heist. So bad it was almost good. Okay, not really. It was just plain bad. Bad science, bad writing, bad special effects…but it was fun. Molly’s Game:  Did not finish. Sorry. I wanted to be interested, but…poker+smug people being smug+YAWN. 

3. Scooter has figured out I’m worried about his mobility. Now he lies on his side and won’t move until I pick him up and put him down gain to make sure his back legs still work.  Then he stands there and purrs and strops my legs and looks smug. CATS, y’know?

Random cat pic

2. Our official house nickname for Thanksgiving is now “The Week-long Celebration of Leftovers” And I was chastised for eating too much (read: any) of the sage dressing. It came out really well. 

1. I saw a Great Horned Owl! Spouseman heard her hooting up a storm in the middle of the night, I went to the back window to see if I could spot her in one of the neighbor’s trees, and SWOOOOOOP, she went right past the window and caught an updraft to cruise over the neighbor’s roof. So. Cool

and that’s all the all there is.