Jan 12

Mind the shopping

I’m not buying anything ever again. No clothes, certainly, no shoes, no socks, no pants (I will mend mine and then go without), no restaurants, no bananas, no food at all (I will scrounge and free – what is that called? Freeload, no.. I will become a freegan but I think I will freeload too, that sounds fun).  No baskets, no drinks, no presents, no water bottles, no water, no food for the dog*.  *We don’t have a dog but if we did, no food for it.

I’ve been reading about people who are doing this.  Albeit in a more reasonable way, buying pants as needed, not starving their pets.  It sounds strangely attractive, doesn’t it?  Very zen.  Step right up and off this treadmill of consumption.  Headspace currently crowded with stuff and things will become free for happy bunnies and unicorns.  More room for a sleeping dormouse or two.

I’m not sure it would work like that for me.  The cute animals would be immediately crowded out with unrelenting angst over every purchase, no matter how necessary (“Do I NEED toilet tissue?  I will use this old catalogue like in the olden days and derive satisfaction that I am not only environmentally sound but also MAKING A STATEMENT”). [ed note: I am giving into the temptation to capitalise more often.  If I start in on the emoticons, run.]

I’m opting out of the opting out.  I like shopping – the wandering around chatting to people, the small shops where the person behind the counter is the owner, the sheer joy of being completely selfish and buying something just because I want it.  Shopping works for me.

However – a big however – I love the idea of scaling back.  My house, my mind, my life are cluttered to the point of being batshit insane.  I can see the appeal of cutting out the crap and I desperately want what people who do it are getting from it.  I’ve been reading Meg Hourihan’s Make it do blog which is calm and reflective and without that franticness that I’ve seen elsewhere, the kind mocked above.  Hers isn’t that; hers is what I want.  But I know myself well enough to know her way – “use it up, wear it out, Make It Do, do without” – isn’t mine.  I’d love to be what she seems.  I’m not.

So I’ll find my own way, somewhere around the shops.


Jan 12

Show me the menu! (or How to put a vertical Superfish menu in WordPress)

edited on 28 December 2012: I have been having the worst trouble getting Superfish to work in WordPress so came back to this. There is one major edit, you need to change the wp_nav_menu parameter ‘theme_location’ to ‘menu’ – I’m now using WordPress 3.5, so this might have to do with one of the recent upgrades. Please note, that you don’t have to use the vertical menu, just take out sf-vertical in the wp_nav_menu menu_class bit.


Doesn’t everyone want a vertical slidey (according to my spellchecker, “slidey” is not a word. Really? Weird.) menu?  No?  Ok then, stop here.

If you do want a slidey (I’m just going to keep using the word, that’ll teach ’em) menu and have figured out that the one you want is J Birch’s excellent jQuery plugin Superfish (it is the one you want btw) and have read Kavin’s excellent tutorial but still need a bit of help and want it vertical, then here you go.

Oh damn, I meant to add in that thing that makes code show up properly.  Hang on.  Ah – the Syntax Highlighter plugin by Alex Gorbatchev should work.  It does!  Excellent.

Here are the steps you want to take, in plain-ish English:

  1. Download the Superfish plugin.
  2. Upload the plugin to your template directory (it needs to be unzipped either before or after upload obvs) – I renamed the folder “Superfish-1.4.8” to “superfish”.
  3. In your wp_nav_menu bit (in header.php or wherever), use ‘menu_class’ => ‘sf-menu sf-vertical’ eg:
    wp_nav_menu( array( ‘sort_column’ => ‘menu_order’, ‘menu_class’ => ‘sf-menu sf-vertical’, ‘theme_location’ => ‘primary-menu’ ) );  — this is what needed to be edited. Change ‘theme_location’ to ‘menu’ to get the right menu. Below is correct sample code.

    wp_nav_menu( array( 'sort_column' => 'menu_order', 'menu_class' => 'sf-menu sf-vertical', 'menu' => 'primary-menu' ) ); 

    I’m using a custom nav menu, ‘primary-menu’ – don’t just copy and paste the above.

  4. Make a file with the following – mine is named jqsf.js (taken from this support thread) – and upload to your superfish (or whatever you’ve named it)/js directory
    animation: {height:'show'},   // slide-down effect without fade-in
    delay:     1200               // 1.2 second delay on mouseout

    This initialises Superfish and is where you can change the animation options and various bits and bobs.  It’s good fun to play with these.

  5. In your template’s style.css file, disable / delete any and all styles relating to the navigation lists – you can add them back later when it’s working.  (Setting a width on the ul caused mine to break which is easy enough to fix but took a while to figure out.)
  6. Add the following to your functions.php file – this assumes you’ve named the directories and files the same as I did.  This is, in large part, taken from Kavin’s tutorial mentioned above. He goes through it more thoroughly, so have a look there if you have questions.
    //jQuery Insert From Google - via http://digwp.com/2009/06/use-google-hosted-javascript-libraries-still-the-right-way/
    if (!is_admin()) add_action("wp_enqueue_scripts", "my_jquery_enqueue", 11);
    function my_jquery_enqueue() {
    $scriptdir=get_bloginfo( 'template_url' );
    wp_register_script('jquery', "http" . ($_SERVER['SERVER_PORT'] == 443 ? "s" : "") . "://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.7.1/jquery.min.js", false, null);// Register the Superfish javascript file
    wp_register_script( 'superfish', $scriptdir.'/superfish/js/superfish.js', false, '1.4.8');// Register the file you made that initialises Superfish
    wp_register_script( 'jqsf', $scriptdir.'/superfish/js/jqsf.js', false);// Now the superfish CSS - you need superfish.css AND superfish-vertical for the vertical menu
    wp_register_style( 'superfish-css', $scriptdir.'/superfish/css/superfish.css', false, '1.4.8');
    wp_register_style( 'superfish-vertical-css', $scriptdir.'/superfish/css/superfish-vertical.css', false);//Put all the scripts and styles in the header where they belong

And that’s it.  You should have a working vertical menu.  You’ll need to style it – just edit the superfish.css style.  It’s well annotated, so you shouldn’t have any trouble.  The site I used this on is not yet ready for public consumption, but I will update this post when it is.

Jan 12

Buy the hype

I believe in magic. Completely and absolutely. I believe in creams that will even out my skin, scrubs that will smooth my orange peel face and serums that will plump the fine lines I have from smiling so damn much. So when I read about a perfume that would make me desirable to every living thing within sniffing range whilst being undetectable, I wanted it desperately, then promptly forgot about it because I have the attention span of a gnat. Years later, a Cult Beauty email arrived at the same time my husband was asking me what I wanted for Christmas. My desire was re-awakened and fulfilled.

Tim Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume provides the sum total of what I know about perfumery. I have read Perfume too, but didn’t like it, so have blanked whatever it had to say on the subject from my mind. I don’t wear perfume often either – I like it, kind of, but it makes me sneeze and I always feel like I have too much on. I want to like it. I love nice smelling things. My bath and shower collection is immense and I could keep warm for years with the scented candles I own.  But perfume eludes me; it seems complicated and easy to get wrong.

The bumpf for  Molecule 01 by Escentric Molecules on Cult Beauty is

Product description
Escentric Molecules’ Molecule 01 is created solely from the aroma-chemical Iso E Super, traditionally a perfume basenote that adds allure to a scent, which works as more of an effect than a fragrance. The scent has a subtle, velvety, woody note which will meld with your natural pheromones, vanish, then re-surface after some time, making it totally individual and personalised to the wearer. You will rarely smell this fragrance on yourself, Molecule 01 is more about the effect it has on others.

Why it’s cult
Molecule 01 fragrance from Escentric Molecules smells so good, every man, woman & child in a 5-mile radius will wanna know your secret. Remember the old Impulse ads? This is even better. Developed by rising star of the perfume world Geza Shoen, Molecule 01 smells different on everyone, but amazing on everyone, an expert favourite that gives the unique quality of a bespoke fragrance without having to remortgage.

Doesn’t that sound fabulous?  Doesn’t that sound absolutely perfect?  Magic even?

I will readily admit that I’ve been sucked in by pr and advertising.  I always am; I’m Barnum’s ideal woman. The perfume probably does nothing except smell nice every now and then. And who wants a perfume that doesn’t smell?

I do. I love it. It does vanish and re-surface after some time.  I adore the initial smell, the inconstantness of it and the fact that I forget I have it on until I get a random waft.  It’s not overpowering, I don’t sneeze and I don’t feel like I’m choking passersby.  Reader, I’ve drunk the Kool-aid.

I put to you that it doesn’t matter that the hype is most likely pure bullshit (let’s leave a little room for magic here, please) and that I’m simply paying more for what is merely one component of a normal perfume.  I enjoy wearing it.  I like the ritual of putting on perfume and feel a bit more finished.  I feel slyly sexy when I get a whiff of it, even sitting on a bus having a bad hair day.  It gives me an instant kick of confidence.  I ask you, what else, exactly, is a perfume supposed to do?


Jan 12

I agree completely

What I learned during an emotionally charged, frustrating phone call with the headmistress of my son’s (soon to be former) school:

  • I am more in control when I don’t respond to anything implied, but only to what is explicitly said.
  • Keeping it short works, as does not giving into the temptation to justify or explain.

    I hear you are considering leaving the school.



  • It’s possible to stop someone short by saying “I agree completely” and nothing else.

    This move will be extremely disruptive to your son.

    I agree completely


  • Ranting about a laundry list of minor complaints adds nothing.
  • I don’t have to reply to questions. “I’m not going to answer that” is an answer.
  • There is no point rehashing old arguments; it is frustrating and counterproductive.
  • When I’m more gracious and less horrid, I win.

Jan 12

Say you were me in math class…

Excellent funny videos on plants and math by Vi Hart (I love her website, go visit her website – it’s all math stuff like this, utterly brilliant) – vihart on youtube

Contains added slug cats.


Jan 12

A place to play with other people’s javascript

I am not a natural coder.  Or at least, I don’t know how to code from scratch.  Well, html and css but those don’t count, do they?  There’s so much to learn, so many rules to remember and computer languages have an annoying habit of only doing what you tell them to do and only if you ask properly.  Luckily, I don’t need to be.  I am a natural adapter-of-things.

So when I needed a content slider for my site, I found one close enough with lovely clear code, nice documentation and started in on Moving Boxes.  Googling around for how to change various features, I came across this jsfiddle.  I’d never seen the site before – basically, you upload some javascript, css and html then fiddle with it on the fly.  You can fiddle with other people’s, fiddle with your own, fiddle away to your heart’s content.  Genius idea.  My fork is here – it’ll be slightly prettier on my site, I will wait to put in custom arrows, can’t be bothered now.

What I did is pretty obvious.  My goal is a slider that goes across the browser window with translucent non-current panels.  The two small problems I had that I should mention are:

  1. the current panel was not centered on the page
  2. the slider didn’t re-center after the window is resized.

For the first, adding :

#slider{margin-left: -6px !important;}

worked.  Not sure about the -6px.  Might be more on that as I actually get it all live.  It might all fall apart, in which case I’ll edit this.  (And I’ve got to do that thing that makes the code look nice – I have how to do it bookmarked somewhere.)

For the second, I had to force a page reload.  Not ideal but not disastrous.  This is how I did it – copying this (gotta love Stack Overflow):

// resizeStuff() via http://stackoverflow.com/questions/667426/javascript-resize-event-firing-multiple-times-while-dragging-the-resize-handle
function resizeStuff() {
var TO = false;
if(TO !== false)
TO = setTimeout(resizeStuff, 200); //200 is time in milliseconds

All good stuff.  If you’d like a go, you can play with mine.  (It’s more fun on their site because the layout is better…)

Jan 12

The Blackhouse by Peter May

[edit: Actually, let me start by saying that this might contain spoilers about this book and A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley – depends what you call spoilers but wanted to warn you]

Let me start by saying I love India Knight’s writing, at least the columns and the couple of books I’ve read (the ones on thrift and shopping).  I can’t comment on her novels, haven’t read them – I’d be surprised if they don’t have the same lovely writing, but I don’t like those sorts of novels.  This isn’t to say they’re not good, but they’re not for me.  No bad thing; this would be a recommendation for some people.

What I do like are crime thrillers, set somewhere atmospheric and mysterious like Iceland or Scandinavia or Edinburgh.  I’ll read just about anything in that genre and, if not fully enjoy it, usually come back for more.  So when @indiaknight tweeted:

Crime novels fans: read The Blackhouse by Peter May. Set on Lewis in Outer Hebrides. Brilliant writing & so gripping that I can’t tweet.

I immediately bought it.  Over the Christmas hols I have been reading through the Detective Erlendur series by Arnaldur Indriðason.  They’re ok – formulaic in the sense that every book has the same structure and the writing or perhaps the translation leaves a little to be desired.  I fancied a break but not too much of a change and have an appalling tendency to impulse buy.

The Black House by Peter May

I hated it with a ferocity that a crime fiction novel should not inspire.  I think I disliked everything about it, but had to finish because I had to. I am like that.  It was whingingly dramatic whilst being curiously dispassionate.  The sheer amount of bad shit (for lack of a better phrase) that happened to poor, unsympathetic Fin, the protagonist,  quickly descended into unbelievability. About halfway through, A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley came to mind.  I have never liked the final twist in that book and think it would have been a greater book without it. When the twist in The Blackhouse came (the final, “ha ha, didn’t see this coming, did you?” twist), I had to laugh.  Not that it’s funny, but, you know, I called it.  Go me!  By that point I was too tired by the trials and tribulations of Fin to care.  And it was all about Fin – the soulless parent untroubled in the main that his only son had died a mere four weeks before.  Maybe I just couldn’t get past that.

It is possible I would have liked the book some if Peter May had eased up on the drip feeding and attempts at emotional manipulation.  It felt a great deal like one of those people who answer the polite question “How are you?” with “Everything is fine, except.. oh. Nevermind.  <sigh> <sad eyes>”.  Good lord, either spit it out or suck it up, don’t try that bullshit with me.  After the millionth time, I wanted to punch somebody.  Does anyone enjoy that? Does anyone think “Ooh, what a fun game, string me along some more!” Maybe. However, I am not that type of masochist.

Thinking about it today, after I’ve calmed down a bit, I think it reads like a movie.  It could work as a movie, actually.  The reason we know about the lack of grieving in the book is that we are privy to what Fin is thinking and it’s not about his son.  It would be possible to keep the story as it is and have the actor act like it’s always on his mind.  In my mind this would involve that little “I need to fart” look that botoxed actors use to indicate, well, any sort of negative feeling.  That and swelling, sad music.  The constant barrage of bad things happening is par for the course in movies, so they’d be ok there, too.

So that’s my review.  I had thought I’d include books I’ve read in this blog every now and then – not anything re-read or anything not really worth going over.  I still love India Knight’s writing, of course, and her amazing sense of style, but think my taste in books differs.

Jan 12

Tobleroney goodness with a side of Nutella

I listen to my husband sometimes.  He says I never do. Current evidence would suggest otherwise.  Mere hours after he sent me the tweet:

@tharsheblows you should invent the toblerone crepe

I am sitting here feeling vaguely ill, having eaten too many of said crepes.  Here is the complicated recipe.

Make some crepes.  My recipe wasn’t good, so use whatever you usually use or google one.  Get a Toblerone and melt it in the microwave.  Soften / melt some cream cheese – about the same amount as the Toblerone.  I should mention at this point that I was going to use double cream, but it was off.  It was disgusting, if I’m sick later, that’s the reason.  Using sour cream was mooted but my son vetoed it.  I reckon it’d be good, maybe next time. Mix together the cream cheese and the Toblerone, then fill the warm crepes – I do it in the pan and then fold over as it’s easier to get them out.  There you go!  That’s it.  Yummy.  The cream cheese and Toblerone tastes like a Toblerone cheesecake filling, as it would.

[edit: appalling photo deleted, trust me, it was bad]

As a bonus, here is my husband’s excellent faux Nutella mousse recipe:

Mix together Nutella and double cream.


Jan 12

OmniFocus clippings from Firefox

Irrationally annoyed that this was an issue.  I use OmniFocus – a brilliant program that works for me when I am working or have projects which require me to remember to do things.  Pricey but has been worth it thus far.  One of the best features is being able to clip whatever I’m looking at (in, eg, Mail) and send it to the program instead of vaguely thinking that I should remember it.  Of course, this doesn’t always work – I have just had the thought “&#*&, I owe C an email from November” – I have to remember to clip in the first place.  And it’s easy peasy – I just hit ⌘. (cmd and period at the same time – I set this particular shortcut up in the preferences) – which autopopulates the Quick Entry panel.

It doesn’t work in Firefox.  Not sure how I haven’t noticed until now but there you go.  It is not possible (that I’ve found) to set up a clipping keyboard shortcut in Firefox, but you can use a bookmarked url to do it.  So if you’re on a page and want to send it to OmniFocus, just click on the bookmark – mine’s in my bookmarks toolbar – and Bob’s your uncle (making you my cousin, hi!).  This is the OmniFocus clipping bookmark for FirefoxHere is where I found it.  Oh, it looks like it’s only for Mac, but that’s ok, OmniFocus is only for Mac.  Not sure if it works in other browsers – if you’re using Safari, you can use a shortcut, so no need. If you’re using IE, don’tJust don’t. Please. I am not sure why you would be reading this if you are on Windows – maybe it’s my stellar writing.

Or maybe it’s because you’d like to know which coffee cup I’m using today. It is the one my eldest got me for Mother’s Day a few years back.  I am holding to my resolution to use my coffee cups more equally and share the burden / joy – whichever way they feel, it just seems like a more equitable way of doing things.

Jan 12

WordPress for iOS

Setting up this app [edit: it allows me to post to this self-hosted WordPress blog using my iPhone]. It’s slow on my phone so I will finish on my computer which is just over there. Give me a minute, I need a hot drink.

Sorry that took so long.  I put in some laundry, made it so that a client could use the app, wrote an email explaining how to do it and fixed a few bits and bobs on the site (at the end).  I also had a little bit of mug angst getting the tea.  I generally use the same mugs over and over but worry about the less frequently used mugs getting a complex, so used the cat mug.  Then I took a photo of it, because posts are nicer with photos and I thought the cat mug would appreciate it.

There is a reason everything takes me forever to do.

Back to setting up the app.  It was easy enough to download from the app store – search “WordPress” and it’s WordPress for iOS.  The first error I had was:

412 Precondition Failed. The precondition on the request for the URL /blog/xmlrpc.php evaluated to false.

Something like that, at any rate.  The file path was different.  It’s easy enough to fix, add:

to your .htaccess file as per the instructions on the WordPress support forum.  My second error was:

xml-rpc services are disabled on this site.  An admin user can enable them at … options-writing.php

Easy to fix, simply go to your dashboard, then Settings -> Writing, and tick the box under Remote Publishing labeled XML-RPC.

Tick the box. It's easy.

There you go! Or at least, there I went. I didn’t have any further errors except user errors (couldn’t type my password properly) and it worked fine. It was sloooow on my phone though but I’m on an iPhone 3GS running OS 4.2.1.  Getting a new one soon.

What I did on the site:

Put in a proper favicon in the ico format, using ConvertICO.com. My Firefox isn’t showing the favicon for some reason but it can be a little tempermental, I think it’s all the crap I have installed.  There was something else, too, but I forget what.