On Being a Code-Monkey

I spent part of my day at work code-monkeying HTML.

I needed to create a table. Not a plain, simple table, not exactly. But a table. With headers. And column spans.

This should be simple, right?


I had a webpage that looked… terrible. (There, that’s a polite word for it.) It needed a complete rethink. I sketched out my ideas, started building the table, dropped it into the company’s CMS…

And that’s when the problems began.

The CMS doesn’t like HTML directly. It can work with it, but then it will start changing it. And even if it doesn’t get changed when it goes into the system, when it comes out of the system (such as when a page is rendered) the system completely mungs up the layout.

Here’s how bad it is. I can’t define column widths. At all. Even if I do, the outputting routines strip that information. Where I would have liked to have broken this project into, say, six or seven smaller tables on a single page, the end result is something that looks weird, because none of the tables will be of the same width. I found a workaround. But I had to find a workaround, that’s the point. My <thead> tags magically vanished completely. Width selectors are ignored. And tables take whatever damned width they want.

Now that I’ve struggled with it, I have a better idea of what’s possible. The general format I’ve adopted for the table has been okayed, so tomorrow I can work with an HTML editor (I think I may use Arachnophilia, since it’s served me well over the years) and put everything together.

The only problem I foresee is that what I want to do with this table is not a turnkey organization. It’s going to take someone with coding familiarity — like myself — to keep this maintained. The ancien regime of an Excel spreadsheet->Word table->CMS wysiwyg isn’t going to work with this. What I want to do is too complicated.


Also, it was sleeting at work today. And that annoyed me. Made me feel bummed. Ten days ago, I had my clothes on the line and temperatures were in the low 60s. Today, sleet.

On the plus side, all this code-monkeying at work put some personal code-monkeying with WordPress back into the mental queue.

Essentially, I’m going to redesign the website this spring. I’ve done sketches, I know what it’s going to look like. The end result is something that looks more like a website that promotes me and my work — and less like a blog of whatever randomness flits across my mind that day. The blog component will still be there, but it’s going “under the hood,” so to speak.

It’s not a WordPress theme I’m putting together. Rather, it’s more like an information portal that runs atop Tarski, letting that do the heavy lifting, while I create some custom php pages that make use of Tarski to display specific content the way I want.

That’s stage one. I have a tech demo of the front page. It runs exactly like I want it to. I just have to plug the content into the holes. It’s actually “live” in WordPress. Nothing links to it, I could give you a link, you could look at it. But… not yet. It needs work. It looks okay. It has the right flow. But it’s also functionally useless.

Stage two is different. That’s creating content. For instance, I’ve had a page about “Make-Believe,” my original series Star Trek short story for a while, but it was only about a month ago that I wrote a page about my Doctor Who story, “The Spindle of Necessity.” Putting together content like that will be an ongoing process.

Take, for instance, my About page. There’s a page that needs help. I’d say I hate writing about myself, but that’s not, strictly speaking, true. It’s that I hate writing about myself publicly, because I feel like I don’t make myself sound interesting. That said, I liked the bio I put together for Farpoint, and I may riff off of that. One thing, though — I am not, actually, a fan of Hibernian FC as that bio claims; I just like being random. 😆

These are some facts about myself I would probably want to include:

  • If there is to be a graphic novel of my life, I want Mike Mignola to draw it
  • Jason Statham would play me in a biopic
  • I want to write a Doctor Who/Uncle Scrooge crossover
  • I wish I could be Mon-El, but without the lead vulnerability
  • I miss the mountains sometimes

Then it’s just a matter of stringing these facts together into an incoherent narrative. Did I say incoherent? I meant sensible.

Stage three? New color scheme. I’m going to call it “LEGO.” Draw your own conclusions. 😉

However, I’m not tied to “LEGO.” I may decide that the “look” doesn’t work. I’m actually okay with the current color scheme, even if it’s just a slightly modified version of one of the Tarski custom stylesheets, to use green links instead of red. I used to get wild and funky with fonts and shit.

That’s my thinking. Wrestling with HTML tables that will not do what they’re supposed to do will absolutely do that. 🙂

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

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