The Long Pink Line

We don’t need a faster internet, we need better programmers. I’ve spent the last three days analyzing performance of my newly-installed  Verizon FiOS internet. I signed up for 15/5 tier. My previous provider was Comcast (Xfinity). It says “Performance” on my bill, which research indicates should be in the 25/5 range. Speedtest.net consistently reported 16/5. Which is why I thought a “dedicated” 15, as Verizon claims, would be comparative.

Performance on the first day seemed “normal”, no different that what I was used to. Coursera and Colbert videos were find. Zuma, ditto. I was paying very close attention, so it’s impossible to say whether it was faster or slower than Comcast. And besides speedtest, I had never taken any statistics.  I was sure I could live with it. I didn’t do a lot of internet on Wednesday, I was working for Mr. PC from about 10 am. Then came Thursday. Snow day. Whoa. The “connecting” message sat in the Firefox tabs for what seemed like minutes. It was countable time.

I spent a lot of time tweaking hardware acceleration and Nvidia settings.   It’s not possible to recall it all in detail. There were router resets, a lot of cache clearing, a lot of trace routes. I ran it wired and wireless. Basically it was neither predictable nor consistent. Sometimes it was fine, sometimes pokey. No low hanging fruit. But there is a jotting in my notes that says “Looks like a lot of DNS time”.

A breakthrough came on Friday. I “discovered” Network Monitor in Firefox Developer. That’s where I saw The Long Pink Line. DNS Resolution. Then I found Jonathan Rowney’s post on OpenDNS and the router and flushing. I have “SUCCESS” in my notes at 15:15. With thanks to Firefox developers, OpenDNS, Mr. Google, and all posters on the subject. I set the DNS server address on the router (to OpenDNS) and set the network to “obtain DNS address automatically”. Surfing was back to “normal”.  I shut off the computer (not the router) and was satisfied. And a tad smug.  That is until this morning…….

I turned on the computer, started my standard routine and……lag…….lag……lag. The Long Pink Line was back. And now ipconfig /all was showing IPv6 addresses and my router for DNS Servers. I am not paranoid, generally. But I have a stinking suspicion that Verizon is fracking with settings so that I will be inclined to upgrade to their 50/5 tier. Call my a cynic, I can live with that, but I need to remember to turn the router off at night. There is activity in the router log that certainly wasn’t me (it’s logged during sleep time) which I have yet to investigate.

I did a lot of searching and configuring and tracerting, and now I have it “working” again. For who knows how long. I have set the router to “automatic” and configured network settings to use OpenDNS. If it stays ok for two days, I will drop Comcast.

Which more or less brings me back to my original thought.  I spent a lot of time watching and reading and quasi-analyzing the Network Monitor in ff developer. There seems to be a lot of bloat. Which is always true for old code on any platform. Maybe it does make sense to go to a wireless internet because that code is much lighter, newer and sleeker. At least for the time being. It too will bloat as the platform ages.

Bark Wrong Up Tree

Whew. This has been a wild ride. This is the fourth day. Trying to get the comments and replies to work and appear the way I want them to. Because I hate the appearance of the comments section in Twenty Eleven template. So ugly. In the end (as at the beginning), Occam was right. But the Razor only works if you know the correct “simplest answer”. Simplest Answer:  “Stop Spammers” plugin. How did I (eventually) find that? What was the journey like? Did mowing the lawn really help the process along?

My last (most recent) search yielded the clue I needed. I forget what I searched on, but today I was concentrating on the fact that comment_parent was not being populated in replies if javascript was enabled. I found “p2 theme does not send all input from comment form via ajax request”. It was written by a developer of Anti-spam plugin. Hurrah and Huzzah. That’s when I heard the bells and whistles and John Phillip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever.  I turned off the Stop Spammers plugin and Violà [sic], success.

I barked up many trees along the way.  I read a lot of support posts from WP experts and newbies. I read a lot of WP codex documentation. I read a lot of css and php tutorials.  I blanked out my Dashboard and website a couple of times.  I changed browser settings. And I created a very long “know-what-I-don’t-know” list.

I learned how to build a child theme (and why you should). I built a child theme. I modified the functions.php to change avatar sizes. First attempt and….success! That gave me false confidence and worse than that, hope. I modified style.css. I switched between W3Schools,  web search, the original style.css to learn what it all means and does. Finally I started making changes successfully. This is also where I learned how easy it is to blank out the Dashboard. A missing ; here, an extra */ there and poof, gone, website, gone. It was push-ups for my troubleshooting chops. But I hit a wall. My posts (postbyauthor) essentially worked the way I wanted them to. But posts by others did not.

I made that final and meaningful discovery about 5 minutes after I came in from mowing the lawn. Interesting because one of the videos in my Creativity, Innovation, Change class is called Move, and I watched it yesterday. I always knew that worked: physical activity, getting out of the problem environment, connecting with nature. I’ve used the Miso-method for years (get up and walk around your chair three times like a cat does before she settles). I need to use that strategy more often.

I would love to make a chronology. That is back burnered (read: not gonna happen) because now I might need to use Akismet anti-spam plugin AND make further changes to the forum format PLUS clean up all the play comments.

I’m still not sure about Akismet. The spam on my site had been manageable. I might leave it and become a contributor to Stop Forum Spam instead. That decision is still to be made.

I haven’t felt burnout like this since I stopped working. I don’t know if it feels good or bad. But, yes, I remember it well.

Form Follows Function

All week I have been playing with my blog. It has been fun and challenging and frustrating. Just like work! WordPress docs and forums are excellent. I activated some plugins. Customized the sidebar menus. Added a “back to top” pill. Created new artwork (what do you think of the new header picture and background?).  I’ve built a child theme.  I am now in the process of changing the comment form. That’s ostensibly why I have created this post. So I can comment and reply and comment some more. Testing one-two-three.

I can’t decide if playing with the blog is an excuse for not job-hunting.  It is an exercise to develop my blog muscles and learn php, css, LBJ, IRT, etc. I do know that 1) this is something I’m good at and 2) this is something I enjoy doing. Coding, testing, fixing, testing. Lather, rinse, repeat. Iterate, iterate, iterate.

I am a STEM Girl

Science Technology Engineering Mathematics. STEM. There is quite a lot of press these days about a dearth of STEM girls. A crisis, in fact.  I do not understand it. I am a STEM girl. I earned a B.S. in Mathematics (full disclosure:  I took a degree in Math because there was no Computer Science major offered at the time). I have enjoyed a long career as a software professional. It’s not hard, it’s challenging. It’s not boring, it’s fun.

Maybe it came naturally. Certainly no one ever discouraged me. Conversely, I don’t remember any specific encouragement. Maybe I do. Around age 14, my father gave me the aptitude test that was administered to job seekers at IBM. I scored in the 96th percentile. He was impressed and proud. I did better than many (most?) of the applicants he was screening. I wanted to be smart. I didn’t want to be girlie. Did I just admit that I, too, consider those discrete qualities?

My first geek credential was the Math Club in 8th grade. It was after school, sponsored by Mrs. Wilcox. Mrs. Wilcox was a oner. She was tall and Zaftig and had a huge afro. She smiled all the time. She is the only black teacher I remember in my pre-university education. My vague memory is that we “studied” word problems. Do schools still host math clubs? What do they do?

I was good in math, and followed the advanced math track in high school. It was the natural order of things. But I was never considered an oddity or special. There were lots of other girls in my high school calculus class. Not that I could name any of  them now. I just know I wasn’t the only one. Perhaps I’m less sensitive to gender numbers because I was raised in a family of 4 boys and 2 girls. It’s quite natural to be outnumbered by the boys.

Stop the presses. I was off doing research to get some meaty facts and figures for this article, and what to my wondering eyes should appear? An article titled “The STEM Crisis is a Myth“. It is very current and from a reliable source.

But wait, there’s more. Somehow that lifted the confirmation bias haze and I see now there is a rather lively e-bate [sic] on the topic. I started out by trying to examine why I did what so few others, men or women, do. Now I am much more interested in studying the facts and opinions surrounding this conversation. And finding out how my STEM training and expertise can be turned into a new career.