Grocery Shopping Theatre – The beer selection

The local Fry’s Foods is a smorgasbord of people watching. A few days ago, I was in the mood for beer, so I maundered in the alcohol aisle. In front of the cooler with the microbrews and imports was a gentleman (and that is a loose interpretation) who was idling in front of the good US micros.  I watched him hem and haw for a few minutes.

One of my favorites, not as good now that it is owned by a major though
One of my favorites, not as good now that it is owned by a major though

I could almost see him thinking out loud: “I have $12, I can get a six pack of really good micro brew.  Or, I could get a 12 pack of a reasonable import.  What shall I buy?”

Of course after wavering and standing in front of where I wanted to look for a few minutes, he walked over and bought a 30 pack of Miller Lite.  Obviously quantity won out over quality.

I hope I am never that person.

Web Content Management Systems

I have used several CMS’s over the years, from my time at Cisco with their internally developed system, and again starting in 2009 or so when I started working with WordPress and later Joomla! They are wonderful tools, but they do have some drawbacks.

First the positives. Someone who is technically minded can setup a WordPress site, add a custom template, and have a pretty decent site in an afternoon. WordPress has grown a lot since I first started using it, and it is a pretty good environment to setup a public website, not just a blog. Joomla! is a bit more complex, but it is infinitely more customizable, and flexible. You can run a pretty complex site with options like project management, multiple vehicles of managing content and contributions, and even a pretty robust e-commerce site.

Both platforms make it easy to create and modify content with either built in WYSIWYG editors, or extended editors as a plugin. That means that your contributors can easily create and maintain pretty complex content like the were creating a document in Microsoft Word.

But that is also a problem as content is updated, modified, and changed. These WYSIWYG editors do all the html stuff on the back end, hiding the complexity from the user. They also do not create optimal html. Little glitches add up over time, and soon, if you have content that you update frequently you will need to either blow it away and restart, or drop into raw HTML mode to clean it up. Fortunately both platforms make this easy, as long as you know how to edit HTML.

The second positive is the amount of customization possible. Both platforms have a great ecosystem of plugins, extensions, and packages. Joomla has a slight lead here, as the quality and support of these third party bits is quite good. WordPress has a lot more, but some of the components are buggy, or are security holes. Again, the community will help guide you to the best pieces.

But there is a downside. I have been using Joomla for a couple years now, running one of my personal sites, as well as a non-profit site (Southern Arizona Greyhound Adoption). I have done lots of experimenting, and sometimes it is a bit of a struggle to undo some changes.  At first, for the SA Greys site I had a testbed, but soon the two sites structurally diverged enough, that I really just keep the main site up now. Of course, with the coming of Joomla! 3.5 stable, I will be making a new version of the website (the hassle of finding and updating plugins and components to 3.0 compatible is a task that I don’t have the patience for, or the time to do. Time for a fresh start with all that I have learned in the past two years)

This weekend, I am beginning the process of configuring a Joomla 3 site as a testbed, and that means replication and processing a lot of data. A fun activity for a cloudy, rainy Sunday.

(This post is a little diversion from the tedious documenting of the current site.)

Bad neighbors – Party goes Wild

A little over a year ago, we moved from our “edge of civilization” house in Tucson to Chandler, a much more standard suburban setting. For the most part it has been a pretty good experience.

But there has been a soft underbelly. We live next door to a house with a just graduated high school baseball player (presumably he is playing ball in college as well) who seems to love having loud parties. Throughout spring and early summer, the night for these parties was Tuesday, and they were not too bad, but still annoying. However as time went on, they became bigger and rowdier. A couple months ago, we started alerting the police (after midnight, we are not ogres), and that seemed to quench the growth.

But they learned to have a lookout for the cops, and would quickly quiet up and turn off the lights. The cops would look around, see nothing and move on. 20 minutes later it was in full roar, again. Sigh.

Last night they had a rager. When my wife took the dogs out to potty at 11PM, the yard was full, the house was full, and even the balcony on the neighbors patio was filled with people. We left it alone, but at 1:00AM it got (hard to believe it) even louder. So, a call to the police. This time, they came out in force, at least 6 cars, one k9 unit, and they processed the people on the neighbor’s lawn. The police even hunted for those inevitable “hiders” who try to become invisible.  That took well over an hour. Perhaps it was all the clear underage drinking.

One of the annoying things about these parties besides the noise, is the fact that those who attend and smoke seem to think nothing about flicking their butts into our yard (and presumably the other yards adjacent to them). Really annoying to have to clean up after someone else’s party.

Where are the parents you might say?  Well, I don’t know for certain, but their cars were in the driveway, so I have to assume that they either knew about the party, or helped with its execution. In any case, they can’t possibly deny that they knew what was going on.

(Update: As I write this, two women walked out of their house, looking pretty trashed, and drove away.)

This morning, as I was picking up the debris from the party that found its way to our yard, I peeked over the fence. Their yard looks like WWIII. I hope the son has to clean it up with a raging hangover.

In Tucson, there was an ordinance that if a party was loud enough to require the police to come break it up, they got a lovely red sticker on their window or door, easily visible, that signifies that this house had been a subject of a noise complaint, and that sticker must remain up for 180 days. Sadly, Chandler could use a similar ordinance.