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Heavy Taipei Rain and WordPress Post Formats

Submitted by on November 11, 2011 – 8:07 pm
Awesome Guava Juice in Jioufen

I began this day saying that it was raining and had been for five days. It’s about 10 hours later now, and it is still raining. When I left work to get on my scooter and drive home, the rain was coming down in sheets. Someone told me there was a heavy-rain advisory in effect, and I didn’t doubt it. This was heavy rain. I stood outside the office building and took off my shoes and socks and put on my Teva sandals. Then I rolled up my pant cuffs several times. I put on my giant raincoat and then got out my umbrella. I needed the umbrella because my raincoat doesn’t cover my head, and I had to walk for a block or two get to my parked scooter. At the intersection, there were only a few seconds of green light left on my crossing. I generally don’t run for these things, but during rush hour, that light doesn’t change for a full 2 minutes. That’s a long time when you’re standing there in the rain being bombarded by the humanity of Taipei in a hurry to get home.

So, I ran to catch that green light, and my umbrella chose that moment to implode. You know how umbrellas do that. It flipped inside out and two of the supports snapped in half. These, added to the one support that was already broken, meant the umbrella’s life was over. I couldn’t tell you how long this umbrella lasted, but it wasn’t long. I can add an umbrella company to the long list of things I should have invested in. Those companies must make a fortune in Taiwan, not just because it rains a lot in Taipei but because their umbrellas are crap and fall apart in no time. How many have I purchased and then thrown away in my time in Taipei? I couldn’t tell you. A LOT of them.

Everything is twice as difficult in the rain, and it took some effort to get on the scooter and get on the move. I had to somehow get my keys out of my pocket – now covered by my giant raincoat, which stretches down to my toes. Then I tried to insert the key into the ignition and do that deft motion that pops open the seat so I can get at my helmet. My scooter seat has a trick where I have to wiggle the back of the seat in order for the catch to release while I turn the key. I was doing all this while trying to somehow balance my broken umbrella over my head. All this eventually happened, but it was a mess and I ended up soaking wet – my head anyway.

You have to be super super careful driving a scooter in Taipei. In a heavy rainstorm, you have to be ten times that. It’s a deadly world then, and the best thing, to be honest, would be to just take a taxi. The taxi will be stuck in slow traffic, but at least you will be safe. I just don’t like taking taxis anymore, though. I’ve driven my scooter so much in the last few years that taxi drivers have sort of become the enemy. Taxi drivers in Taipei are great guys – professional, friendly, helpful, honest, all that good stuff. However, that isn’t to say they don’t nearly kill me pretty much every day. They do. It’s just a fact of life on the road in Taipei, where everyone drives as if they are in “Beyond Thunderdome”.

I set off on my scooter down Bade Road being pummeled by the rain. I turned right onto Dunhwa and the rain seemed to get worse. There were huge puddles in the road, drainage not being the best in Taipei. A couple of scooters raced past me at their usual high speed, and they hit some of these puddles. They both nearly went down. The water was so deep that their front wheels had trouble forcing their way through the water and they twisted from side to side. Water arced out from both scooters and splashed everything around. The drivers managed to stay upright and continued on their way. That convinced me to just relax and drive slowly. I’ll get home when I get home. No need to rush.

I didn’t actually have any huge adventures on the way. There was the usual chaos and confusion, especially at intersections, but I had no near-death experiences. I slowly made my way down Nanjing Boulevard, waiting patiently when traffic was backed up. A good thing about rain is that fewer people drive scooters, and therefore finding a parking space in my neighborhood at the end of the day is easier. And with my Tevas on, I didn’t have to worry about the space. Quite often, the spaces left empty are left empty for a good reason – there will be two or three inches of water in them. In my regular office loafers (my last remaining pair of shoes) I’m reluctant to park there because my loafers will get even more soaked and take days to dry. In my Tevas, I wasn’t worried at all and parked there and splashed around happily.

I had spent the largest part of my day at work in the recording studio. I suppose I should put the word studio in quotes, since it is more like a closet with a microphone, a computer, and a soundboard. Yet, I think of it as a studio and it does the job. Days of recording go by pleasantly enough, and it ended up being a pretty good day. During lunch, I continued my research into WordPress. This time, I was investigating another new feature of WordPress called Post Formats.

The default theme you get with WordPress, Twenty Eleven, comes with Post Formats built in. Till today, though, I hadn’t used them. I simply couldn’t figure them out. I certainly understand the theory, and the theory is perfect. For me, the theory is important because I’ve realized to what extent form can dictate content. In the past, I had a blog with a magazine theme. I liked the theme because it looked great and it had a lot of organizational structure. However, since it looked like a magazine, I was reluctant to post anything that wasn’t IMPORTANT. I felt like I had to say big and important things. The form demanded it. If I wrote a short paragraph about doing my laundry, for example, I felt silly posting it. I basically wouldn’t post it. I found that I would post something silly and random on Facebook, but I wouldn’t on my blog. And the problem was the theme I had chosen. A silly status update looks fine no Facebook. It looks stilly on a blog with a magazine theme.

I thought about this a lot from time to time, and I started to realize what the differences were. On a blog – even one with a personal blogging theme – posts have a certain look. In particular, they have titles. So it would look really silly to post a simple note about what you are doing. You might say something like, “I’m having a cup of coffee and reading a book.” But then there would have to be this big title above the post that pretty much says the same thing. It looks silly. Now imagine that same post in a blog with a magazine theme. It would be like the New York Times having a headline: Doug Drinks Coffee. It would be ridiculous.

The new Post Formats in WordPress address this problem. They allow for many more formats than just the standard blog post format. There are Post Formats for a single image, a gallery of images, a link, a quote, an aside (short note), a status update, an audio clip, a video clip, and some others. Each Post Format can have a completely unique structure and form – a structure and form that are more suitable for the content than a standard blog post. For most of them, that means there is no title. And that makes sense. If all you want to do is post a quick update or an aside, you don’t need a title. A title, in fact, feels out of place.

So I applaud the new feature of Post Formats. I think they’re a brilliant idea, and when I do settle on a theme, it will likely be one built around Post Formats. That way, I can write a long post about some weekend trip, but I can also post little snippets – personal thoughts from my life. I like that idea. However, I still haven’t used a Post Format to publish a post. Why not? For the simple reason that I couldn’t figure out how to use them. WordPress had just plain baffled me once more.

In the Twenty Eleven theme, you can see the new Post Formats over on the right of the screen when you select “Add New Post.” They are basically a series of simple radio buttons. You click on one of the radio buttons to activate a Post Format and presumably you now are using that Post Format. Yet, when I clicked on one of these radio buttons, NOTHING happened. Nothing. The screen looked exactly the same as a regular blog post. So I really didn’t know what to do. One of the key points of Post Formats for me is that you don’t have to enter or use a title anymore. However, when I selected one of these new Post Formats, I was still being presented with a title field. It was a complete mystery, and I went off on long searches on the Internet to try to figure out what was going on. And no one addressed this issue. It was very weird and I added it to the long, long list of things about WordPress that drive me out of my mind.

I did find one article on the Internet that talked about this, and they also commented on the extremely poor implementation of this great idea. This article showed some screen shots from Tumblr, I believe, which showed that for every type of post, you were given a unique screen to write in. It’s so logical, I wouldn’t even have thought about it. Of COURSE each Post Format would have a different screen. Why wouldn’t it? Why? Well, it wouldn’t if you were talking about WordPress. WordPress uses the same old standard blog post input screen for ALL the new Post Formats. It’s crazy. An Aside post doesn’t use a title. Yet, the input screen has a big field for a title. I get the feeling that whoever runs WordPress doesn’t even think about the end user. It’s a world for programmers, and not normal humans.

I managed in the end to figure out how to use these new Post Formats, and I did it in the same way I figure out anything to do with WordPress. I just experimented. I selected a new Post Format with one of the radio buttons, and then I published a series of experimental posts just to see what happened. In my first experiment, I included a title in my post. And then I saw that the final published post on my blog didn’t have a title. Ah! So the light bulb went off. The title field is still there for the input screen of every single Post Format. But even if you fill it in, the title you write will NOT appear in the published post.

I now know how to use Post Formats, but I still don’t think I will use them much in the Twenty Eleven theme. I don’t find that they are implemented well. The published posts have too much white space above and below and in them. It ends up looking kind of strange. The whole point of these quick and dirty Post Formats, like Aside and Link, is that they are supposed to be unassuming and friendly and personal. But with all that white space, they still end up looking out of place, even without a title.

There are other themes out there that use the new Post Formats to better effect. I found one called Tapestry by StudioPress. It looks much better in terms of how it lays out the different Post Formats. So there are options. I hope to eventually find a theme that uses these Post Formats. Then I won’t have to worry as much about the form of the theme dictating the content.

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