Teachers, download the Teacher's Guide for Crossing Borders: Personal Essays and the Teacher's Guide for From This Wicked Patch of Dust....Buy Books Signed by the Author as gifts....Listen to Sergio Troncoso's interviews and readings free in the iTunes Music Store or on his Podomatic channel, Sergio Troncoso's Podcasts....And check Appearances for upcoming events....

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Poetry of HTML

I like fiddling with the inner workings of web pages.  Over the years I have created my website, instead of farming it out to a web-page developer.  True, my website is not as spectacular as many I have seen on the Internet.  But I have extensive and ever-changing content, pictures, text, audio, video, podcasts, and now this blog.

There were many reasons why I began to develop my own website years ago.  First, I really like to tinker.  Second, I’m a bit of a control freak, at least as far as my work is concerned.  Third, yes, I’m a cheapskate.  Fourth, I believe a certain amount of my work should be available free, particularly for those who don’t have much money.  Finally, I love to understand by myself how things work.  This gives me a sense of being autarchic, a country under its own rule.  Tinkering is about curiosity, in my mind, whereas independence is about enjoying being alone and working on a problem.  These traits certainly reinforce each other.

It’s a similar feeling I get when I chop my own wood in Connecticut, instead of buying it in neat bundles at the supermarket. When I am finished with a task, and I have done a good job, either by splitting the wood right so that it fits into my woodstoves and fireplaces, or by seeing the effect I wanted on my blog or website after tinkering with HTML, I know I have accomplished this feat.  I’ve learned something new.  I gain enough confidence to try something a bit more complex next time, to expand my expertise.

I’ll give you an example.  Although I have loved the different layout possibilities of Blogger’s blogs and templates, when I created a short video of reading my story, “The Abuelita,” for an anthology in which the story appeared, there was a problem.  I was able to embed the YouTube video at the bottom of my blog’s front page (with the latest three entries), but whenever anyone clicked on individual blog entries the video would remain at the bottom of the blog, out of sight of readers.  An enormous amount of white space was always left between an individual blog entry and the embedded video.  The Blogger template did not adapt to single blog entries, but remained the ‘long layout’ of the three latest entries even when readers clicked on separate entries.

I popped the hood of the template HTML, and began tinkering.  I found, after trial and error, I could override and then simply delete the right HTML instructions that pushed my video to the bottom.  Now as you can see, individual entries as well as the ‘long layout’ of the latest three entries both have the video immediately after the last words of any blog text.  For Garage Band podcasts, iMovie videos, favicons, sitemaps, slideshows, and so on, the story has been the same.  How do you do that?  Let’s try this.  I want to give up!  My head hurts.  Oh, my God.  Yes!  Hey, guys, look at this!  True, it’s not always a happy ending, but so often, as long as I’ve stayed on the case, I have figured it out.

Why am I this tinkering fool?  It really gives me a deep pleasure to figure it out.  There is a certain grammar to HTML, and once you begin to understand this grammar you can manipulate it to your heart’s content.  Strangely, I have begun to read poetry on my iPhone, Emily Dickinson’s collected works, and I have found a kinship between my tinkering with HTML and figuring out the lady of Amherst’s grammar, so to speak.  Invariably, every second and fourth lines in her quatrains rhyme and are trimeter, like a poetic hammer.  I have so much to learn, but in discovery there is an infinite joy.


Library Renamed: Sergio Troncoso Branch Library

Readings and Appearances: SergioTroncoso.com