The Code of Uncertainty

No, that’s not a typo in the title of this post, but a lame pun. Our recent road trip away from our South Florida home, quickly planned and initiated of necessity before Hurricane Dorian made up his mind on where to wreak havoc, coincided with my increasingly-frustrating attempts to bypass the limits of the free, web-based Website Builder that comes with the hosting package.

Before going further with this post, let me first say that if you’re uncertain what you can do to help the victims of Hurricane Dorian and are worried about online scammers taking advantage of peoples’ charitable inclinations, you could start with a charitable organization that you already trust in non-disaster-hyped times, and see what relief they are providing. So go to the website of the American Red Cross, or Catholic Relief Services, or Habitat for Humanity, or go to a local office of one of these organizations to see how you can help, or a local church.

Prior to Dorian, I had spent a few days happily geeking out at, trying to renew my Dreamweaver skills. I taught a class in that application at work, but that was at least ten years—and numerous versions of the software—ago, around the time when the Publications Unit of the Supreme Court of the United States started doing the updates to the SCOTUS website rather than
contracting the work out to the Government Printing Office, as it had done previously. I can’t say I had retained much of that skill-set after not really using it since then.

Although I was gradually re-learning the basics, I soon realized that creating my website in anything like an acceptable [to me] style was going to take a lot longer than I wanted to wait. The web-hosting company’s free website builder turned out to be very easy to use, consisting of some decent templates, an easy-to-use interface, and pretty easily customizable to an individual’s tastes. Soon after that I found the limits of free: you could have only six pages,
which wasn’t going to be enough for me with blogposts, unless I upgraded my hosting package. Oh, and that blog wouldn’t be supported without the upgrade, either.

Before diving into the actual web design, I had drafted most of the actual content I wanted in the different areas of my website, including the sometimes painful process of winnowing out some of my verbosity. As a result, the initial design phase in the website builder went pretty quickly. And the content I had winnowed out wasn’t “chaff,” but rather “fodder” (if I may mix my metaphors) for later blogposts. Now, using the hosting company’s File Manager and my growing knowledge of HTML code, I thought I could cleverly bypass the limitations of the Website Builder, creating my blogposts in a subfolder off of the root of the website.

First, I tried downloading the entire site as designed in Website Builder, and then viewing it in Dreamweaver. It wasn’t pretty. With I had refreshed my spotty knowledge of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) enough to sort-of see how the formatting was done, but not enough to figure out how to change anything. Eventually the pages looked more-or-less right in Dreamweaver’s Live Preview mode, but I was frustrated to realize I was unable to make any changes to them. There was obviously a problem with permissions, and the free Website Builder’s limited “Help” feature wasn’t at all helpful.

Eventually I stripped lots of extraneous code (see the picture on the Blogs page) out of the page, and was able to get it to look decent. It didn’t exactly match the Website Builder pages, but at least the logo was there, and I was able to code hyperlinks for the email comments feature and the like.
Of course, my simple “Previous” and “Next” post links caused me some confusion, since I had used the less-than and greater-than symbols on the keyboard to point backward and forward to the appropriate blogposts, not considering the fact that those symbols are used pretty extensively in
coding, and so the “Next” and “Previous” had disappeared from my page’s content.

After a good bit of trial-and-error, I think I’ve got the blog pages working well enough for now. Once I get this post up, I will go back and figure out how to set the width of the text areas of the actual posts, since I personally hate trying to read text that spans the entire width of a browser on my large monitor.

Check back to see how I fare with that!

[Update 10/24/2020: The picture below shows an earlier name of this blog. Sadly, I discovered that “jack-of-all-blogs” was already registered, as was my first idea, “baritone blog,” which is the title of Lucas Meachem’s blog. As far as the formatting and design of my own blog, I have moved on from the free website builder to using the theme “Read” in WordPress.]

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