Thursday, January 01, 2009

Breaking the Code

Freely adapted from the Outpost Mâvarin entries Breaking the Code and The Year That Doesn't End.

The Episcopal Parish of St Michael and All Angels, 602 North Wilmot Road, Tucson AZ 85711

My sleep schedule has gotten upended in recent weeks, with me sleeping mostly at night - what a concept! That has resulted in me posting in the morning, which historically I almost never did except at the end of a long night of working on the entry. But Tuesday night I was up all night wrangling HTML for the St. Michael and All Angels web site, and afterward I had to sleep before doing anything else.

I pretty much spent all of Wednesday fussing with the St. Michael's site some more, with way more expert assistance from Julie B than anyone could reasonably expect. Every one of the main pages now has a cool individualized header similar to the one at the top of this entry, and color coordinated links at the bottom, and much less text that looks tiny because of a difference of opinion between GoDaddy (which likes modern span tags) and SeaMonkey (which likes old-fashioned font tags). Thanks to Julie, some of the pages are now linked to a style sheet that simplifies the formatting a bit, but I still have much work ahead of me streamlining everything. If being a geek is defined as technological competence, then the day has been a blow to my geek standing. I really, really don't understand css (cascading style sheets) well at all. But I'll learn. I will!

And look what I've gotten from all my efforts to solicit links, update pages and submit technical stuff to Google. As of yesterday, a search for the terms "St. Michael Church Tucson" did not have the church's home page on on first three screens. Only the schedule page showed up, and the old version of the site on, and some malcontent griping about St. Michael's on a blog one day. Google didn't even know about some incoming links that I knew existed, including from Episcopal Church USA and my blog sidebars. But look at the result I got late Wednesday afternoon ago for "St. Michael's Church Tucson," which previously had similar results:

We were the third entry on the first page, right behind two links for St. Michael's Parish Day School. Fair enough: they have a bunch of links from sites about schools, and have had a considerable web presence much longer than the church itself. I've been the church webmaster exactly five years, and frankly I coasted along on static pages (read: stale and unchanging) for much of that time.

But now the pages are bright and new, with nicer graphics and somewhat better coding. Some of them even have dynamic content, after a fashion. The Community page now has two slideshows, fed from the same Picasa albums that store graphics for the church's news and arts blogs. As I upload more photos, they'll be in the slideshows as well. The main Sermons page has a widget showing the most recent entries on the Sermons podcast blog, to which Father Smith will upload more sermons any year now. And the home page and schedule page both feature a widget for recent entries on the news blog. Next I'm hoping to find a widget for the Seasons page that can tell you which liturgical season it is right now, and maybe even how such things are calculated. For the moment I've settled for links to two liturgical calendars that list all the feast days and link to each day's Lectionary readings.

Wednesday night I was so distracted by the Casa Maria section at the bottom of the Ministries page, which refused to align left no matter what I did, that I lost track of the time. When midnight came, I was typing a "div" tag. John gave me a heads up on the time, and I rushed to turn on Dick Clark, kiss John and grab some sparkling Martinelli's cider, pretty much in that order. We missed the ball drop; it was probably 12:01 AM when we kissed. Ah, well, close enough. We marveled about Dick Clark still hanging in there, years after his stroke, acknowledged that neither of us cared for the show's music (admittedly on the basic of one or two songs only), and John soon turned his DVD of the British series Spaced back on. Happy New Year, John, and can you tell me how to fix the alignment on this table?

We got the alignment problem fixed, and sometime after midnight I happened to refresh the Google search. This is what I saw:

As reasonable as it seems that a search for "St. Michael's Church Tucson" would point to a church in Tucson called St. Michael's as its first result, I had recently despaired of ever getting Google to do that on the basis of my amateur webgeekery. So the year ends on a slight up note. I don't have a job, but at least I managed to accomplish something as the parish webmaster.

Happy New Year, folks!