December 13, 2014

Curve-stitch Experiment 2

I posted a curve-stitch design a few days ago that I thought had interesting properties. A slight modification of the design yields the image below. I cannot decide which is more satisfying.


Click on image for a larger view.

December 8, 2014

Curve-stitch Experiment



New Curve-stitch design;

Click on image for a larger view.


Update, 12/15/2014: I posted a related design on 12/13/2014. You can view it here.

December 6, 2014

More Episcopal Café Mysteries

Episcopal Café logo
Although I have not been trying systematically to discover everything odd or simply wrong with the re-designed Episcopal Café, I do keep running into quirks. (See my last post “Probing the Mysteries of Episcopal Café” and my comments on the site’s welcome post.)

First, I should note that a couple of my early complaints have been addressed. The original background image, a purple field of a repeated geometric pattern, about which I was not the only person to complain, has been changed to a solid color. At first, it became a garish purple, but it has now been transformed to a demure, Episcopalian purple. Thanks for that. I do wonder if the new background is permanent or whether it is the background color of the Café for Advent.

Also, the Café logo now has the proper accent on the “e” of “Café.” (See image above.) I would have separated the two words in the logo with a bit more vertical space, but at least the spelling is correct now. The accent is missing in other places, however, most noticeably in the categories list and in the heading “Please support the Cafe” in the sidebar, and on the Support the Cafe page.

Now for some features I have not mentioned heretofore. As best as I can remember, all posts on the old site indicated who had posted it. The poster was not necessary the author, but it was useful to know who had thought the post worthy of attention. The new site is inconsistent in this regard. For example, “Church of England to push BP & Shell towards a low-carbon economy” carries no indication of authorship. “The Magazine: Not the Secret Gnosis—An interview with the leadership of St [sic] Gregory’s of Nyssa, San Francisco” indicates an author below the title, though it isn’t clear whether the author is the poster. “Formalizing a bad idea” shows both the poster and subsequent updater at the bottom of the post. It would be good if the new site consistently indicated who posted an item.

Another missing feature, sort of, is the ability to link to a particular comment. Well, one can do that, but how is something of a mystery. On many sites, the time stamp on a post or comment is a link to that item. This works on Facebook, for example, and on my own blog. Comments on Episcopal Café carry a date but not a time, and the date is not a link. “Reply” under the date is a link. It takes the reader to the desired comment, but with a reply form below it. This isn’t terrible—one can still see the comment in its original context—but it is odd. If, on a particular comment, the “Reply” button is a link to http://www.episcopalcafe.com/welcome-to-episcopal-cafe-2-0-2/?replytocom=44544#respond, the proper link to the comment in context but without the reply form is http://www.episcopalcafe.com/welcome-to-episcopal-cafe-2-0-2/#comment-44549. I doubt such a link will be used very often because it isn’t at all obvious what the proper form is.

It is oddly annoying that, on the home page of the site, the sidebar does not appear. One has to load a particular post for the sidebar to be shown.

Finally, as one commenter noted, the Subscribe to RSS Feed button works differently in Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer, and, in Chrome, it is virtually unusable.

December 4, 2014

Probing the Mysteries of Episcopal Café

Episcopal Café logo
As many readers surely know, Episcopal Café has been redesigned. There were several reasons for updating the collection of Episcopal blogs, but the most pressing was probably that the software underlying the site was no longer being supported.

The new site is more attractive than the old, but, like any newly designed Web site, it has its teething problems that will take some time to work out. The first problem that I noticed, for example, was that “Café” had lost the acute accent on the “e.” (See logo above. I am told this problem is being fixed.) Other issues are more problematic. Additionally, the site is organized differently, and that organization can be confusing if you don’t understand it.

The most serious problem is one of performance. It can take a long time for a story to appear. This may be related to the animation that serves up one story at a time. This animation is cute, but the price paid for it may be too high. Anyway, when one clicks on a link—on a Continue link, say—to see a complete story, it may take a long time for the story to appear. I did this on a story last night, and, by morning, the story had still not shown up. Sometimes the story seems to appear and disappear in an instant. Sometimes a mouse click can reproduce this behavior. I tried viewing “Right Now Jesus Can’t Breathe” and clicked my mouse in a space that should have contained the story. To my amazement, a picture showed up. It was a picture in the (invisible) story, suggesting that the story was there but not there. (Can you say Schrödinger’s cat?) Anyway, I discovered that, if you are waiting for a story to appear, scrolling down a few lines can make it visible. This behavior is a serious bug, but knowing the workaround makes the site at least usable.

The old Episcopal Café presented as a collection of blogs. To the casual observer, the new site seems to have the same organization, with several blogs having been collected in something called “The Magazine.” If you were to think the new organization a minor variation of the old, however, you would be wrong. The old blogs have actually disappeared. All stories are now organized into categories (e.g., The Lead) and further characterized with tags (e.g., News reports or legal).

Even if you understand the use of categories and tags, navigation can be confusing. Clicking on “The Lead” in the banner or the sidebar (under “Categories”) will bring up only stories in that category. Scrolling down makes more and more stories appear until, at the bottom of the page, you can select the next page of older stories or go to the last page. The good news here is that all the stories from the old site are still available. (But see below.)

What is confusing is this: At the bottom of each story are arrows to take the reader to the previous or next story. What is not immediately obvious, however, is that clicking on one of these arrows may take you to a story in a different category. What would be helpful would be up and down arrows to take you to the next and previous stories in the same category.

Finally, there is the problem of finding a story if you only know the title or the old URL. There is no search function provided for the site, so searching by title is impossible. Eventually, Google will, no doubt, fully index the site, but this is unhelpful now. A Google search may yield an old URL, but, alas, the new page addresses are different. If you know the title (or something close to the title) but can’t remember whether it was in The Lead or Daily Episcopalian, good luck! Actually, if you can find the old URL through Google, you can narrow your search.

I am the principal editor of the news blog Pittsburgh Update, which summaries Anglican news of particular interest to people of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh Update has frequently linked to stories at the Café, usually stories in The Lead. Many of these links are now broken.

What I have discovered is that, if you have a link to the old site, it may actually work, or you may be able to figure out what the new link is. For example, here is an old link:


The title of the story is “It’s the end of the world as we know it.” On the new site, the blog name and the tag (in this case, “lead/anglican_communion/” are dropped. Also, the “.html” at the end gets stripped off. This actual URL is


but the old one works, too! I don’t know why some pages are redirected but others are not. In any case, the part of the old URL that derives from the story title is usually pretty similar, but often not identical, to the corresponding part of the new URL. Consider the story “Clergy call out Ft. Lauderdale mayor on false feeding site claims,” whose old URL is


Both this URL and the URL found by removing the blog, tag, and HTML suffix give a page-not-found error. The proper new URL is


Go figure.

One strategy that can be used to find a page is to filter by tag. From the old URL, we know that our Fort Lauderdale story has the tag “news reports.” This tag can be found under “Tags” in the sidebar, where individual tags are links. Clicking on “News reports” takes the reader to


which displays stories with that tag. Without a date, however, the reader may have to embark on a long linear search.Good luck with that.

Most of the problems of finding old stories could be solved by including a search box on the site. This would not be the most convenient way to find an old story from a title or URL, but it would work in a pinch.

I hope this has helped people navigate the new Episcopal Café. Stay tuned; I’m sure things will get better.

November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving


It’s time for the annual posting of my poem “Thanksgiving,” which I wrote in 2002. (Details can be found on my Web site here.) May all my readers have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving
by Lionel Deimel

So many holidays for this and that—
But most are just a time for recreation,
Not opportunities for celebration
Or contemplation of their origins.

Who gives a thought to Martin Luther King?
He’s on our minds his day like any other,
When seldom do we think who is our brother
Or bother reaching out to those in need.

We see a baseball game on 4 July—
We sing our anthem, watch the color guard;
But Revolutionary thoughts are hard
To mix with scorecard, chili dog, and beer.

The labor on our minds on Labor Day
Is but our own that we don’t have to do.
We must instead to summer bid adieu
With picnics for a special few, or bed.

Ah, Christmas is a special time of dread—
That deadline of the frantic shopping season
Through which we march for half-forgotten reason
That escapes us fully when the day has come.

Thanksgiving, though, is different from the rest—
We gather in our family and friends;
We stuff the turkey and each person who attends,
And, in the end, how can we not be thankful?


Turkey

November 26, 2014

A Concise Summary of the GTS Debacle

Kim Bobo has written a concise summary of the disaster that is the situation at The General Seminary, a subject I have written about before. (See posts here, here, here, and here.) The title of the essay on the Religion Dispatches Web site is “GTS Situation Is Just a Typical Labor Dispute…But with Clergy,” which suggest the author’s viewpoint (with which I agree, by the way). I particularly appreciate this paragraph:
The Board of Directors [Trustees, actually]  had backed itself into a terrible corner and few of us like to admit we are wrong. This is especially true for many clergy and bishops who believe they are not only right but empowered by God in their rightness. (Ask any union organizer who has negotiated with a religious hospital.)
Anyway, I highly recommend the Bobo essay, which can be found here. The facts seem pretty much right, although there is no mention of the reconciliation process being managed by the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center.

November 12, 2014

Diocesan Convention 2014: An Outsider’s View

The annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh was held this past weekend, on November 7 & 8, at Trinity Cathedral. Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) had a table in a room that hosted displays of many organizations with a connection to the diocese. PEP board member Beth Stifel attended the convention as a visitor. She was there primarily to talk to people who stopped by the PEP table, where we were promoting the November 14 screening of the documentary Inequality for All. In the essay below, Beth offers her thoughts as a non-deputy attendee.
This past weekend’s convention was the second over which Bishop Dorsey McConnell presided. There was no hype, no palpable anxiety, and little, if any, animosity in evidence. People were enjoying seeing one another. That’s what I noticed as an observer who was there to greet people at the PEP table, not to participate in the main business of the convention.

I spent most of my time in a room filled with displays from various organizations, and I felt as though I had been transported to a not-so-spiffy version of the mid-seventies. As I looked around, I thought about what a visitor would notice:
  • A lot of us were white-haired.
  • The exhibits seemed to be from the mid-seventies era and were not outstanding examples of the same.
  • The room in which a lot of gathering was happening felt dim and dreary.

Where were the younger members of our congregations, who were nowhere to be seen?

Neither computers nor evidence of their use was apparent. PEP’s table was the only one offering a PowerPoint presentation. This is the twenty-first century, people! High school students in Pittsburgh were required to be computer literate in the mid-eighties! We certainly should care enough about our organizations to produce current and relevant displays using commonly available technology.

Near and dear to my heart, the Neighborhood Youth Outreach Program had a fairly nice poster. Where was the technology-based presentation illustrating the incredible things they do with song and dance? They will have one next year!

Every organization that had an exhibit probably has someone who can put together compelling video to promote the group. This isn’t rocket science. Such a presentation lets the community see what you’re doing and helps you communicate important information to your audience. I suggested to cathedral parishioners that a history of the cathedral might be great, perhaps in the form of a did-you-know presentation. We need accessible displays that say that the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh is committed, interested, welcoming, and really in the twenty-first century.

The room housing the displays was dirty. The carpet was filthy. The table covers had seen many better days. It felt a lot like the grandfather’s house where the furniture hasn’t changed in 40 years and dusting rarely happens.

I’m not sure that, if I didn’t know the people there, I’d even want to find out about the groups represented. I happened to know that the people at the displays were smart, interesting, and fun. Not knowing that, I could easily have walked in, looked around briefly, and left.

There are simple things we could choose to do that would make us feel better about ourselves and would let visitors know that we respect ourselves and want to be relevant.

The room itself needs some work to make it more pleasant. I’m not sure about the cost, but fresh and clean, with better table covers, would go a long way. A new floor covering would be wonderful. A paint job would change the whole feeling of the room. (The recent transformation of Brooks Hall at St. Andrew’s, Highland Park, shows how a little redecorating can work wonders.) Such changes would cost money, of course, but they would let visitors know that Trinity Cathedral is a friendly, welcoming place. It is, after all, the center of our diocese and the bishop’s seat. We can and need to do better.

I firmly believe the gospel is relevant in our time. Communicating with people under 45, however, demands that we demonstrate that we live in the twenty-first century. Otherwise, there will be no one for us to talk to.