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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Too Much Research, Too Little Time...

Today, time flew for me. I got to work only around 10 AM because I had to take my kids to a medical laboratory for a blood test and urinalysis associated with their annual checkup. I started working on a blog post right after I got to work. That worked out pretty well and I got it finished pretty soon. In fact, I then started and finished another blog post venting about Check Engine lights on cars.

And then the trouble started. I was not fully satisfied with the layout of my blog page and all the elements on it. I also wanted to add some graphics to the page to make it more interesting. Pretty much the entire rest of the day was spent tinkering with the blog and I lost track of the time entirely. I got out of work only at 6:30 instead of my usual 5:30. In fact, I think I also responded to some work-related email pretty late in the day without even realizing the time, so my manager may actually think that I spent a lot of time at work today and was hard at work later than usual. All the better.

I am a very minimalist kind of person when it comes to graphical layouts. When I put work-related presentations together, I avoid the use of colors and stick mostly to text. I have a very poor sense of color coordination and my attempts to use graphics always end in disaster with an overuse of mismatched graphics that does not help the presentation in any way. When I design forms and reports in Access, I stick to the basics and tend to avoid backgrounds, graphical elements and movement as much as possible. I also tend to stick to whites, blacks and grays rather than mix up large numbers of different colors.

So, when it came to changing the layout of this page, I was a babe in the woods. First, I searched online for some graphics I thought I could use. I used Irfanview to resize the graphics, make them panaromas, etc. and put them aside on my computer. Then, I started experimenting with the actual layout of the blog by adding various elements to the page. My first attempt (using 7 different graphical elements, etc.) seemed to be moving in the right direction as I kept going forward with the customization, but the final result was just wrong. I could not put my finger on why it was wrong, but it just was.

At around that time, I also realized that blogger was wasting huge amounts of screen space with a dull background and my page required a lot more scrolling than what I thought was optimal because of that. I liked the page template I was using and I thought I could just widen it to use the wasted screen space. I did some searching online and found a couple of links that talked about customizing blogger templates. But once I started perusing the links, I quickly realized that it was not as easy as I thought it would be. I am completely unfamiliar with HTML, CSS and other web technologies, so most of these links were greek and latin to me. I am pretty good with most things to do with computers, but somehow, I had missed the internet revolution entirely!

So, I put that aside and decided to pick a different template that would waste less space. After a bit of experimentation, I managed to find one to my liking and changed the template on my page. And all hell seemed to break loose. I had added a bunch of elements to my page and the change in template wreaked havoc with the placement of these elements on the page. I spent pretty much the rest of the day putting the elements back in their place.

And then, I started the task of taking out the graphical elements I had painstakingly created and added to the page to get it to look right again. After several more iterations and lots of time, I ended up with a page that contained just one graphic. This single graphic is at the top of the page and is a graphic of the temple chariots of Lord Jagannath in Puri. I decided to go with this graphic because it is somewhat appropriate for the title of this blog (the logic for which can be found in my very first blog post).

I still think there is something slightly wrong with the page with some elements being oversized, some elements being undersized, some elements being misplaced, some elements not appearing at all, etc.

In general, blogger seems to have some quirks that I have no idea how to deal with. For instance, the appearance and the buttons available for adding new posts, editing previous posts, etc., seem to be quite different from computer to computer. When I am at work, my page looks one way with one set of buttons through which I get to the page where I type in a new post. When I am at home, the layout is quite different. I am still able to get to the page where I can add new content or edit previous content, but the series of mouse-clicks is different. All this makes it quite confusing for no particular reason. On both of these computers, I am permanently logged into my GMail account, which is linked to this blogger account, so I don't understand why things would be different. And when I just view the blog, they look identical on both computers. I guess I have to be thankful for that!

At this point, though, I have to seriously consider whether it is worth spending a lot more of my time dealing with these issues, or just leave things as they are and be satisfied with the final result. To improve this any further would probably require me to start learning HTML, CSS, and God only knows what else before I can make any meaningful changes.

And I have been neglecting my ebook catalog and have not made any progress in adding any more entries to my database for the past two days. I did manage, though, to watch Someone Behind The Door and Anaconda 4: Trail of Blood in the last couple of days. The former was somewhat interesting but quite implausible. The latter was typical of a low-budget, gory action movie pretending to be a science-fiction horror thriller. Complete trash with low quality special effects that included a cartoon snake eating up everyone in the movie except the protagonist - quite predictably.

When I thought about blogging, I thought it would be like writing in a diary, with me spending about half an hour a day writing something up. I have suddenly gotten caught up in doing all kinds of things that are secondary to purely maintaining a diary. It seems to have morphed into a different kind of project altogether. I think I need to exercise some self-discipline to stop worrying about the looks and start paying more attention to the contents. In this day and age, it is still the contents that matter, right?

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