Teach Me to Fish

Teach Me to Fish

Just Give Me a Logical Reason!

One of my first jobs out of college was to code selection statements that would automate the printing of just a few pages or sections of much larger reports to distribute to individual recipients. This involved using Boolean search operators, much like what you might use in Google, Bing, or Duck Duck Go today, to define specific text located in precise locations on the printed page.

For some strange reason, I enjoyed this. I enjoyed finding needles in haystacks, and made it a personal challenge to sift through as little hay as possible in order to find the needles with gold tips and hooked ends. At one point, I had a complex report defined in a single selection statement that probably ran on for five or six lines. I had parenthetically grouped and nested sets of search criteria and operators – it was a lengthy but precise statement of exactly what I wanted to include in the report, and I was inordinately proud of it. But it didn’t run. It didn’t give any error messages, either. It simply produced nothing.

Where Did That Quote Come From?

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

If you thought this was a Biblical proverb, you’d be in good company, but incorrect. The fishing allegory is most likely attributable to Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie,  the daughter of the prominent writer William Makepeace Thackeray. The same general idea was expressed by the 12th-century philosopher Maimonides, who wrote about eight degrees in the duty of charity. See Quote Investigator for more details and source citations.

 

The Occasional Oops!

If you are one of the founding members, you probably got an email, yesterday, with a now-broken link. One or two of you hit that link before I deleted it (or, technically, changed it without benefit of a redirect). That’s because I forgot the cardinal rule: No post may be published before its time!

For my readers who don’t blog, this means:

  • Write the post.
  • Give the post a catchy title and a featured image. If you wonder why some of the featured images here don’t exactly go with the post, it’s because I prefer to create my own. That way, I know I’m not violating anyone else’s copyright. Occasionally, I may use others’ images if they are clearly marked with a Creative Commons license or I have written permission from the photographer or artist.
  • Check that the title and permalink (e.g., the part that says “teach-me-to-fish” right now, in your browser address bar) go together.
  • Choose a Category for the post. Categories are what you see in the menu bar and its subsections.
  • Add a few tags to help people find the post. Tags are like index entries. You can just use the Search function, but tags might give you more conceptual information that isn’t explicitly part of the text within a post.
  • Craft an Excerpt. That’s the little descriptive blurb you see in search engine results and on the front page of this site. If there is no Excerpt, WordPress is set to use the first few words of the post in place of one. Unless you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole to arrive here, you know that the first few words of any post here may not provide the best description of what to expect.
  • Preview the thing to ensure that formatting is correct.

I forgot a step or two, in my haste to respond to yesterday’s poetry challenge from Raven Darkly. I did not mean to drop you into a black hole, but some random numbered permalink would not do, and I decided a dragon was a better Shadowbird than a white heron.

 

Update on Theme Customization

As mentioned in my first post, I’m using Elegant Themes‘ Divi and the Divi Builder, which is a brand new experience offering many new challenges. As predicted, I broke the blog on Wednesday, but was traveling. I could not fix it and threw caution to the wind: I asked for help.

Back in 2012, I won a Lifetime Membership to Elegant Themes. I loved their cleanly coded, easy to use, easy to customize themes. I moved away from those in 2016, mainly because they appeared to be phasing out all the themes I loved and going all in on their theme and builder combination they called, “Divi,” which I had tried and, frankly, hated. I paid for a different premium theme, called “Fullby,” which I loved, but chose to move away from for two reasons: The developer was not responsive to support requests, and I could see that it was not likely to keep up with the inevitable changes to WordPress–namely, the dreaded Gutenberg block editor. Divi was before its time. I fought that block editor as long as I could, while some raved about how wonderful it was and others wrote plug-ins to disable it and restore lost features of a bygone era. Mainly, I fought it because it did not allow for the easy fine-tuning of alignment between text and graphics. I was ready to hand-code each post in HTML if I had to, just to get those elements to align.

And then I thought, “Fine, I have a Lifetime membership to Elegant Themes, and it seems a shame to waste it. Let’s give Divi another go. I have vacation, plenty of time to waste. I can do this.”

I am grudgingly ready to admit that Divi and I are starting, mostly, to get along. I still half expect it to eat my posts (the main reason I despised it, early on, was that I’d tried it – then switched to a different theme – then switched back, and all my posts were gone).

But this weekend, I broke my blog. I entered a plea for help in Elegant Themes’ chat support. And waited. Nothing happened. I went to bed. In the morning, I had a lovely email from Abd, asking me to enable the support and admin features of Divi. At first I balked: Give someone else admin privileges on my blog? I don’t think so

Then, “Why not? What are they going to do, delete it?” There was nothing here to delete. There are no members but me, and admin me has access to pretty much nothing. So I enabled Support and Admin privileges. Next thing I know, Abd and Vojin from Elegant Themes had gone to work fixing my world.

At first, I thought I broke my blog, but the real problem was not my messing around in the style.css file, trying to change the color of elements not accessible via the Customizer. The real problem was another plug-in.

Instead of the usual, “It’s some crappy plug-in you’re using. Disable them all, then re-enable one at a time to figure it out on your own,” they told me what was wrong and they wrote some code in the Divi theme to work around it. I didn’t have to disable the crappy plug-in. Sweeet!

Then, I asked Vojin how to change the color of the elements I was trying to change. He asked me what color I wanted. I explained that I’d rather understand what I needed to do–that I wanted him to teach me how to fish, not throw me a mackerel and feed me for a day. He got it, and did both, providing a little snippet of .css code to do what I’d wanted.

So now I am back to being a huge fan of Elegant Themes–yes, and Divi–because of their expert and kind support staff. It usually does come down to the people, doesn’t it? I’m willing to put up with a little technical annoyance if the support staff goes above and beyond. It’s why I’ve been a T-Mobile customer since back before their coverage was better than AT&T’s, and why I’ve stayed with them for nearly a decade. And now it’s why I recommend Elegant Themes’ Lifetime Membership, as well.

Oh, and the more I work with Divi, the less “technical annoyance” I’m encountering. It’s just a very different way of working. And now I know that if I get stuck, I am not stuck without the help of some very kind and knowledgeable people.

Craving Answers

The “real systems engineers” and the “real programmers” (I did not consider myself one, at the time) reviewed my logic and syntax and could find no flaws in it. “Just break it down into two or three separate statements,” they suggested.

“Why?” I asked, hoping to understand and learn.

They shrugged. “Because what you’re doing isn’t working? Because if you simplify it, it might?” They really couldn’t – or wouldn’t – give me the logical answer I craved, so I chafed at the idea, but finally relented as there didn’t seem to be any other alternative.

It worked, but I was unsatisfied. I was still telling this story, ten years later, as an example of unsatisfied thirst for knowledge. Until one day, a man overheard me and started laughing as he began to stroll over to where I stood with a few colleagues. “I’ll bet I know what the problem was,” he said.

“Oh?” I was skeptical, but after ten years, I really hoped that he did.

“I used to work for IBM,” he said, asking if I knew whether the mainframe computer’s operating system was a particular version. I wasn’t sure, but it seemed likely. “That operating system only supported nine levels of nested parentheses. I’ll bet you used more than that.”

I could’ve kissed a stranger, that day. “I’m sure I did,” I said. “Thank you for finally giving me a straight answer that makes sense.”

Remember that when children, friends, or colleagues ask, “Why?” it may be easier, and certainly kinder, in the long run, to teach them than to keep doing a thing for them, or worse – ignoring them. I am a big believer in learning to fish, rather than simply hoping for someone to share their catch, and I have appreciated those who took the time to teach me.

Shadowbird

Shadowbird

And so it begins again…

Shadowbird

Rise, dark Phoenix, touch the sky
Let those who would lay claim
To each prized and precious feather
Try to soar on stolen wings

Their unearned flight as fleeting
As the wind that lifts, embraces you–
Casting them from their pretentious heights.

Even now, you would turn back
Risking gilded, earthbound cage
Borne down by conscience, knowing
It was you alone that gave them faith.

What silly creatures mortals are
To make your feathers into myths
Obliging you to save them from their folly.

Cursed, because you can, their need
A jesse, a lure–their loss
They never dared reach out and touch
The rapid-beating heart within.

A rush of wings, an anguished mortal cry
Abandoned by the gods of their creation
Maybe now they’ll learn to stand…

Only then can they follow you in flight.

 

Copyright 1990-2019 Holly Jahangiri.
Previously published in Walking the Earth: Life’s Perspectives in Poetry.

 

Wrath

It was a dark and stormy night,
When Wrath, the bird of prey, took flight.
Above the wind I heard her cry –
The hunter cast a falcon’s eye
Upon the filthy creatures’ lair
Without regard to foul or fair.
Three eggs – and now, an empty nest;
Three rats – their hunger sated, blessed.
When Wrath, the bird of prey, took flight,
Rapacious in her appetite,
It was a dark and stormy night.

 

Copyright 2001-2019 Holly Jahangiri

A Cheesy Sonnet

A Cheesy Sonnet

Cheese Bored

It all began with a tweet. A gauntlet thrown my direction, picked up in a moment of weakness: boredom. Who can resist the lure of a challenge when they’re bored?

 

I once wrote a sonnet about roadkill. I’m down with an ode to cheese. When I was a kid, my parents owned a store in Daytona Beach: The Cheese Shoppe. My hastily penned poem might stink like yesterday’s Limburger smeared on an old fashioned radiator, but how could I resist it? It’ll pair nicely with that other sonnet.

Feel Free to Dis a Brie, But I Think It’s Gouda’nuff!

It began as a sonnet on cheddar
But a Limburger Limerick is better
And there’s nothing to lose
When singing the bleus –
If a lady would sing, you should let her.

Okay, that’s not “beautiful.” Let’s try this again, with a purely autobiographical sonnet.

Cheese Wheel of Life

“I’ve a craving,” I said, “Grilled Havarti on rye,
With horseradish–a copious slather!”
“But we’ve just finished dinner,” he said, with a sigh. 
“Chocolate cake!” he said. “Wouldn’t you rather–?”

“Well, I might, but we wouldn’t,” I said, with a wink, 
Looking down at my over-large belly.
And that’s when I brought proud Papa to the brink:
“Blue cheese! Habanero! And jelly!”

“Gorgonzola?” he asked. “Chocolate and chips?”
I nodded and grinned my unbridled delight.
“With mangoes and brie? From your ears to my lips!”
We danced through the groceries all night.

Now we are three, and oh, sweet Baby Bel–
What pairs well with strained carrots and white zinfandel?

 

Double Opt-In? What Does That Mean?

Even if you’re subscribed already to It’s All a Matter of Perspective or to A Fresh Perspective, you won’t get new posts from A More Positive Perspective unless you subscribe by email (see the right-hand sidebar for instructions). Be sure to CHECK your email for the confirmation notice, as WordPress uses a double opt-in on all subscription requests. This is a great thing for you – it helps prevent spam. But it also means that you may think you’ve subscribed to the blog when you really haven’t. If you don’t see a confirmation email in your inbox, check your Spam folder. 

Even after all that, you may not see the blogs you’ve subscribed to! Egads. This isn’t something I have any control over, but I’m sorry, nonetheless. If all else fails:

You may have pending WordPress subscriptions already, in which case they won’t let you sign up for new stuff until you confirm or delete the pending ones. How to do that?

1. Visit https://subscribe.wordpress.com/.

2. Enter your email address and click Request Details.

3. After requesting your details, you’ll be sent an email with a link in it. WATCH FOR IT! (Check your Spam folder!) By clicking the link, you’ll be taken to a page where you can manage subscriptions.

You can also go to https://wordpress.com/following/manage to add, remove, or modify subscriptions to any WordPress blogs. You can switch between email, WordPress Reader, or use both!

Sunny Sundays

Sunny Sundays

Cooler temperatures, blue skies, and sunshine mean one thing: long walks in the park. Kickerillo-Mischer is still top of my list of favorites. The alligators haven’t been spotted in the lake since Hurricane Harvey; I’ve asked a few times. But that’s good news for the raptors, apparently; the fish are more plentiful and a large osprey was circling the lake, diving for his dinner, skimming the surface of the water. Graceful, snow-white herons watched from the shore. Even a gaggle of geese strutted about in the woods.

Chinese geese are so called because they descend from the wild swan geese of Asia. According to Ashton Waterfowl, “there are two kinds of Chinese geese: those that hate the world and everything that moves within it, and those which have to be picked up and carried to their shed. They are so tame that they prefer to stand around your feet and won’t be driven.”

My experience with geese up until this weekend has been limited to wild Canada geese, and they’ve invariably been of the first type. While camping with my son at Lake Somerville, many years ago, I encountered a small flock of Canada geese. I gave the giant birds a wide berth, as three teenaged girls approached, presumably to pet the cute beasts. “Stop. No. Don’t,” I thought, silently, not even bothering to channel my inner Willy Wonka. Those girls ran through five campsites without stopping to ask permission to enter. The birds grew bored by the fourth. 

This flock of Chinese geese waddled right by me, their feathers unflapped. 

Listen While Reading!

A walk in the park is a great way to burn calories! Homemade traditional Scottish Shortbread is a great way to replace them:

Cream together two softened sticks of butter and a half cup of sugar. Mix in 9 ozs. of all-purpose flour. Bake at 300º F for 35 minutes. Cut and let cool, or scoop out of the pan with a spoon and eat warm!

Almost too easy…