Question Mark, Meme Speak, and the Evolution of Language

Question Mark asks Why Wat How? CweepyPasta fan art
Question Mark (aka Queistion Mark) asks “Why, Wat? How?”

Amelia’s latest drawing, a character from CweepyPasta (a cuter version of CreepyPasta). We briefly discussed the correct spelling of “Question,” I also made sure she knows that there’s an “H” in “what”.

Amelia: “Mom, I know. That’s just how they do it on the videos.”

Me: “Ah, memespeak, or text speak.”

Amelia: “Yeah, like how you is U.”

Me: “Oh I’ve always hated that one.”

Amelia: “But why? It’s just a shorter way of writing it. Why would that make you angry?”

Me: “I guess it’s just my fear of change in the face of all that is constantly evolving. You’re right, if I can be I, there’s no reason you can’t be U.”


Responsive Background Images Using the WordPress Featured Image

Recently, I wanted to create responsive background images using WordPress’s featured image feature.

One of the handy features of the WordPress media uploader is that it automatically creates multiple instances of your image at different dimensions. Thumbnail, medium, large and full images are available by default and it’s easy to add your own custom sizes.

The design for the site I was working on called for full width background images in the header. I wanted to use the smallest file size that would still look great depending on the device / viewport width, and still allow the client the ability to update the background image easily. I decided to use the featured image to allow the client to dynamically set the image on each page, and media queries to choose the WordPress generated image size for the current display width. Here’s the basic recipe.

First, in functions.php make sure your theme supports thumbnails, look for add_theme_support( 'post-thumbnails' );
and then declare any sizes you need in addition to the defaults using add_image_size(); inside your theme’s setup function. Parameters are the name and width (and optional height if you want your image to be cropped), for example:

	add_image_size( 'extra-large', 1000);
        add_image_size( 'xx-large', 1600);

You’ll need to use PHP to dynamically create the CSS, so if the featured image has been set add a <style> element to to your header.php like so:

<?php if (has_post_thumbnail($post->ID)){ ?>
body .site-header{
	background-image: url(<?php echo get_the_post_thumbnail_url($post->ID, 'large'); ?>);
@media (min-width:768px){
	body .site-header{
		background-image: url(<?php echo get_the_post_thumbnail_url($post->ID, 'extra-large'); ?>);
@media (min-width:1200px){
	body .site-header{
		background-image: url(<?php echo get_the_post_thumbnail_url($post->ID, 'xx-large'); ?>);
<?php } ?>

That’s all there is to it. For quick reference here are the default sizes if you’ve only enabled theme support for thumbnails:

the_post_thumbnail('thumbnail');       // Thumbnail (default 150px x 150px max)
the_post_thumbnail('medium');          // Medium resolution (default 300px x 300px max)
the_post_thumbnail('large');           // Large resolution (default 640px x 640px max)
the_post_thumbnail('full');            // Original image resolution (unmodified)

Third party code breaks layout, CSS to the rescue!

My friend messaged me today for help with a css problem. He has a third party form built in tables, and using dev tools we could see the form fields overlap the form container on mobile sizes.


Not only are the input fields overlapping the container, they are also overlapping the the required field indicator asterisks, which live in their own table cells. My first thought was that it would be nice have the inputs below the labels on mobile sizes. I achieve that by setting the table cells to display:block like so:

#tableId td{

The result looked like this.

Form formatting solution, step one

Not very pretty, but a step in the right direction. Next I wanted to get the label and required field indicators up on the same line, which I did like this.

#tableId td:nth-child(-n+2){

I had to refer to to remember the nth child syntax. At first I was going to target those two elements with #tableId td:nth-child(2), #tableId td:first-child, but then I thought, “no! There’s a better way.” Why write extra code, right?

The result?
Getting closer.

At this point I just want to tighten things up. Unfortunately there’s an inline declaration for width on the span holding the label (should be <label> not <span>, but I can’t change that either), so I have to use !important in my css solution. I also decided to decrease the height of the table cells holding the label and asterisk so they’re clearly grouped with their corresponding inputs, so I added a height declaration to the definition I made in the previous step, and a new definition for the span.

#tableId td:nth-child(-n+2){
#tableId td span{

Now the form looks beautiful.
Beautiful Final Form

Of course, I wrapped the whole thing in a media query so these styles are only in play where the layout broke in the first place, which was right about 420px. Cool.

The final code I sent over to my friend looked like this.

@media (max-width: 420px){
	#tableId td{
	#tableId td:nth-child(-n+2){
	#tableId td span{

My friend said, “that worked like a dream,” and “if you’re blogging, this would make a great test case.” So here we are. He was using vanilla css, but if you want to use sass it’s even more succinct:

@media (max-width: 420px){
	#tableId td{

Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed reading about this as much as I enjoyed doing it. CSS is so much fun 🙂

Tenth Grade English Class

Tonight I cracked open a folder marked “High School Poetry (Mine & Cirriculum)”[sic] from the box of stuff I’ve carried for nearly 20 years that I’m now trying to pare down. Inside are dozens of explicated poems by real poets. There are also about a half-dozen of my attempts at flattering imitation, these all were evaluated and commented on by my tenth grade English teacher, Mr. S.

There are 2 poems of mine in the pile which Mr. S. encouraged me to type and submit to the school’s literary magazine, but I didn’t have the confidence then to even give it a second thought.

Now in this impromptu retrospective I’m ready to let go of everything in this folder except one of those two poems of mine. I am publishing it here for the whole world, but especially for Mr. S.

No Matter Where I Look

No matter where I look, I can’t find direction;
There is no destination for my future.
And whatever I do to find ambition
The search is a dead end;
There’s no shining light to guide,
Not so much as a flicker from the fire of inspiration
Within myself to brighten the way.
And whatever truths I seek
Turn to fleeting interests which leave me
Worse off than before I found them
And whatever holds any passion,
Is only a foolish child’s dream
And whatever happens through the day
Makes hope wish not to exist
And still I carry on.

Going Home with a Boy

In 2003 I took a creative writing course at the junior college. I came across this short story from that class while getting ready for the upcoming move. This is one of my best works to come out of that class and I think it’s still relevant so I’m going to repost it now. I had to re-typeset it so I made some very minor edits in the process. This is a work of fiction.

Going Home with a Boy

My date hands me another Irish Car Bomb, and I drink it quickly. It slides easily down my throat and the resulting explosion in my gut resonates back up in the form of a loud belch which I make no attempt to stifle, for I am enjoying the bliss of intoxication. I, and several others, stand in calculated contraposto, trying to look impressive as we are each simultaneously advertisement and consumer. This is the first time that I’ve met these people, but already we converse and laugh like old friends. At this moment the boy who I trusted to bring me here grabs my ass and whispers in my ear in the voice of every sexual predator from every corny cautionary after school special that I have ever seen:

“I can’t wait to fuck you later.”

I feel a colony of fire ants swarm up my spine and congregate in a deafening riot around the back of my skull and behind my ears. I am no longer having fun.

In disbelief I turn to face him. This is no lecherous vagrant verbally assaulting me from some street corner. This is the same young man who, when he had come to pick me up, had made small talk with my father about sports and with my mother about house plants. This is no chauvinistic creep who thinks of women as possessions. This is the guy who had sat in sociology speaking seldom, and when he did speak it was often of the importance of equal rights and the shameful injustice of the continued salary gap that still exists between women and men in our society. How could this be the guy who seems to think I’m going to sleep with him after only one date? Did I say something to make him think this? Perhaps it’s the skirt I’m wearing. Perhaps he feels that I owe him something for procuring the fake ID that bought me passage into this basement hothouse where young adults come to germinate in the musty, dimly lit social atmosphere.

“I’m not going to have sex with you,” I say. Now’s not a time for euphemisms. “I’m sorry if I gave you that impression. Maybe you’d better take me home.”

“Maybe,” he says, but then stops. The word is sharp with anger, or hurt, possibly embarrassment. He breathes deeply then smiles. With a light sweep of his fingertips he brushes sandy brown hair away from his green eyes and morphs back into the charming young man who had arrived at my doorstep earlier this evening. His hair falls obediently back into place across his brow, for it has been well trained.

He begins again, sweetly, “maybe we should stay for a couple more drinks, and that’s all. I’m sorry for being so forward,” he holds up two fingers as a signal to the bartender: two more car bombs. “I usually don’t say things like that. I just felt overwhelmed by the connection I feel between us,” he pauses, giving a nod of thanks to the bartender as she sets our drinks down in front of us, “that, and I’ve had quite a bit to drink. I shouldn’t drive anyway. I think we should take a cab when we’re through.”

I hadn’t thought of that. The fire ants subside, and I regain a semblance of ease. Falling back into conversation, we exchange witticisms and laugh as we had been before he’d groped me.

I excuse myself to go to the bathroom. He offers to order me another drink, but I think I’ll stick with water. Understanding, he nods. I walk to the bathroom with a stride that feels fluid and graceful but probably appears as a swaggering stagger to those watching. I’ve overreacted. Surely he meant no harm by his remark, it was just a momentary lapse in tact; social grace suppressed by alcohol.

When I return from the bathroom there is a glass of water for me on the bar. After thanking the boy for ordering it, I drink it quickly, eager to clear some of the fog of drunkenness from my brain. Realizing my thirst, I ask for more water. This I drink slowly as we continue our conversation.

I am in mid-sentence when my thoughts become incomprehensible. For a fraction of a second I am asleep. Startled, I try to tell the boy who I trusted to bring me here of this bizarre occurrence, but I am unable to form words. There is an intangible thought hovering at the edge of my consciousness. He looks at me expectantly waiting to see if I continue with what I’d been saying but consciousness is gone again, this time for what feels like the greater part of second. When it returns partially, I only notice the boy’s expression is warm, his smile reassuring. He is a carnivorous plant in full bloom and I am a hapless insect. The ghost of a thought is suddenly very much alive, blaring at me, a sounding alarm. Drugs. I’ve been drugged. The date rape drug? Rohypnol, or possibly GHB. I had a friend who used to take it for fun. The feeling I’m fighting now is the feeling she described, except that this is definitely not fun.

I need help. I can’t speak. I think I see the boy who I trusted to bring me here grin.

“Is she okay?” The bartender asks.

No, I’m not. He’s drugged me. Please don’t let him take me anywhere. Please, call me a cab.

Damn, I’m pretty sure I didn’t say that out loud. I’m scared. I need to think. I fight to stay awake, but this is not the sort of drowsiness that engulfs slowly while I’m sitting in class or falling asleep at night, this is an abrupt and complete lack of consciousness, and by some miraculous strength of will I am able to jar myself into moments of hazy awareness. This is stop motion animation with most of the frames missing. Blinks that extend for indecipherable amounts of time, between which I feel disorientation and fear pulsing more quickly as my own heartbeat slows.

“. . . too much to drink,” I hear the boy say, “I’m going to take her home.”

Now, I’m on my feet. I feel my head fall forward. I don’t want the headline in tomorrow’s paper to read ‘Local Girl Found Raped, Murdered.’ Instead, it should read ‘Local Girl Heroically Escapes Rapist, Death.’

This would be a good time for ingenuity and bravery, but it’s getting very hard to think. Heroics don’t come easily when you’re asleep. I cannot stay awake. I won’t even dream. Now, we are in the front door of the bar. Now, I’m in the passenger seat of his car.

I search my mind for a glimmer of hope. Sleeping beauty is the only unconscious heroine that comes to mind, but she is awakened only by the long awaited kiss of prince charming. This does me no good. In my story, the prince is the villain and the heroine will not wake up.

Dear City

Dear City Where I Was Born,

I haven’t been outside of you for more than weeks at a time

in the entire time I’ve been alive.

and in a matter of weeks that’s going to change.

So, let me just say: you have been AMAZE . . . ing

and I love you,

and I know, (I know!) that you love me too.

You are SO beautiful,

even in your dark parts

(maybe not the darkest,

because I’ve seen the struggle

and the people who have died there,

but still I can’t deny

a certain sense of pride

in the time I would reside there.)

I have to thank my parents

for choosing this place

for having me here

in you, dear city, which taught me

to love without fear.

We were all just there in you

from all walks of life

Race, color, creed, gender, orientation,

These taxonomies all came to mean certain things,

but never whether or not one could be trusted

with my life.

You maintained your sunny disposition

as often as you could.

And you would cry

whenever I would.

I’ll be back, I know.

But you’re going to change and so will I.

I just want to say, I hope that you thrive.

Your state is great,

and your Country’s okay.

As far as they go.