This has been a hiatus. From last Wednesday to Monday (16th to 21st) I was down in South Wales visiting my parents and that overlapped in dates with the week I had not cycling with J last year (12th to the 20th of August back in 2016). As anyone who has followed this site/blog will have noticed, today’s post is also reappearing in a cosmetically rather different looking format. In fact, much of the last two days, since I got back from South Wales, has been taken up with trying to get my head around how best we as a family should be using WordPress, the open source web site and blog managing software that has underpinned this site and blog, and my work one (CORE System Trust (CST)). Like the software I use for pretty much all my data crunching these days (the R project), WordPress is is open source, i.e. open for anyone to get the full source code, and free to use and to develop and it’s amazing. However, both projects share the problem that perhaps comes with that when what you are doing is hugely broad in what it might do, constantly evolving, and needing to run on constantly changing hardware and in a constantly changing world of security threats. That results in enormous complexity to the enterprise and it can become rather opaque to the naïve end user, in fact, both projects are pretty Byzantine in both the good and bad sense of that adjective. They’re huge and often beautiful and capable, they’re also sometimes hard to understand and frustrating if you haven’t spent the last few years immersed in them.
So the last couple of days have, as you can tell, been frustrating. I have been unhappy with “theme” that I have been using for both my sites and that I was proposing to use for J’s quite pretty but desperately out of date web site that showcases a bit of what she does. I realised I needed to find a better option, for her site and this, or at least, to find out if there was a better option. Bang goes two days! I think I have pretty definitively established that there are better options. I think I’ve even established that one starting choice is between two main contenders each representing a sort of country within the WordPress empire: Divi and the Genesis framework. (What auspicious names eh?) However, each then offers literally hundreds of, on a not entirely daft analogy, towns within their countries.
In order to try things out, I have switched this site and blog into one of those “countries”: Divi. I’m taking up their 30 day money back if not happy, option. In fact, on my analogy, I’m in the town of Divi (theme) within the country of Divi-builder (country). I messed around with the Explorable tow (theme), which looked as if it would be great for such a geographical, exploring site and blog as this one, but that seemed to beat me to a pulp rapidly so here I am, licking my wounds, cursing how much time I’ve lost and generally trying to recoup some of my losses.
I’m also pondering on this experience, which is quite a familiar one for me and I’m trying to rejoin the great aspects of having done the big ride last year which I suspect were, in small part, about not getting into these messes, about staying in different psychological and physical realms. In fact, this has reminded me of the frustrations I faced on the ride with the site/blog and my IT. It’s reminded me just how long it took me to get any site up at all, and how little I managed to create on it over the whole trip (or since). It’s all left me pondering about our funny world which has such strange virtual realms in it. One problem is that they’re not virtual, this blog is real, and, if I succeed in posting it, which I’m sure I will despite the frustrations of the last two days, then you, whoever you are, may be reading it and that makes it real and virtual. And yet, in its relative newness, in its transcendence of some things like geography and cost, the web is a bit virtual still, magical.
The frustrations of the my struggles to find my way in all this have made me feel like the sailors caught in the storm of Prospero’s making in the Tempest: sucked into his island and lost. I, like them, am physically dry and completely unharmed, but psychologically I am more battered than that. I, as they did, “stand amazed” (that’s got to be a quote hasn’t it?) by the power of the WordPress/web world but also by my seeming powerlessness within it. I am lost and diminished by my lack of the magic to manage this new, modern world better. I doggedly try to go on, I know there are moments of magic when I manage some of the things I want to do. However, I fear that I’m a Trinculo or Stefano, lurching around and cursing the magician who got me in here and fearing WordPress has become my Caliban: a misshapen beast of untrustworthy urges leading me astray. I know really that, like Prospero’s brother, it is my perhaps excessive longing to have power over these technologies that is the real root of my troubles, but I want to blame, I need to blame, others, the true magicians of the cyberworlds who create these realms. (And don’t map or document them very well because it’s all so obvious to them.)
Enough. I can go no further, I will lay down and rest. Well, not true, but I will just stop. Sometimes that’s the most important survival skill in these strange worlds: not to keep trying, not to keep following the next will-o-the-wisp, just to stop and hope, as is sometimes true, that it will all be a bit easier tomorrow. An early good night all!