Saturday, March 23, 2013

With All Good Intentions

Just about every day I have good intentions of sharing some piece of my ex-pat life, yet most times I get blindsided by something unexpected or planned, but repressed. At this time of year, there are over a dozen reasons keeping me from fulfilling my personal desires, holding them at arm’s length. This is encapsulated in two words – thesis advisees. Not only is April 15th, the day every American dreads, but it is also this year’s date that all ELTE University thesis composers dread also. It is their deadline.

Quite often, I get a rampage of students who plead “Be my adviser! Pleaseeeeeee”. Suddenly, the word ‘please’ is turned into a multi-syllable word with multi-dimensions too. Thanks to a ruling by my department head, we can no longer cross train. Another words, our department will not take on any of the English Department students and the English Department instructors will flick off our students like a pesky mosquito. Generally, their charms sway me into saying “Sure, I will advise you” to about a dozen students a semester. Because history has taught me that less than half of these who are eager beavers in October or March when the thesis forms need signing, turn into three-toed sloths come writing time. There are a few on my rolls that signed up in 2004, but I have not seen or heard from them since. It is like the Bermuda Triangle of university students. If we ever find it, I will bet there is one hell of a party going on.

This semester like many in the past I have offered a thesis writing course. Generally, I want my own students to attend, but as my luck runs, there are more strangers than familiar faces. In the past, students start the semester charged with writing energy, wanting guidance, and have sugar coated dreams of completing this lingering burden that hangs over their heads. About three classes into any given semester most students have fallen by the wayside while others send me ‘reasons’ why they cannot attend that week’s class. Suddenly, I am provided with a 1 ½ hour free period to either grade papers or do a coffee run.

Are The Gods Are Not To Blame that this semester, the wheel of fortune shifted one click too many? I have 11 students in my thesis writing class, all champions who have serious intentions to complete their hurdles this semester. Nine of these young scholars are not part of my herd; therefore, my workload has increased significantly. Generally, I have to teach 9, yes NINE classes a semester. Each semester has some class that is heavy on the writing component. This semester it happens to be this thesis writing class in addition to creative writing. In addition, I have four classes where I require the students to blog on a weekly basis. This is one heck of a lot of reading/editing/offering suggestions for improvement. My one lucky break is that we have a Fulbrighter teaching one of my classes. Woo-Hoo! I only have 8 classes this semester. Aren’t I the lucky one!

When there is some light piercing through my tunnel of things to do, I take advantage of it to check something off of my Wish List. Currently that happens to be working on a writer’s website that I first started in 2010. I won’t even mention the URL; it is embarrassing how far it has not progressed. Initially, I started it with WordPress, but then found it too cumbersome to learn or to get it to do what I wanted it to do, not what it wanted, like an untrainable puppy. There it sat for years, because I had other things to accomplish that found their way higher on the chain of demands.

Having now co-created a website in Joomla with my never-have-met-friend Nigel, I decided it was time to branch out on my own and create a site from scratch. Throw the bird out of the nest and see if he flies. Obstacle one, WordPress refused to leave the administration area of the site. It basically was rusted into place. I had to reach out to Tom at TRK Hosting for assistance. He not only vacuumed out all remnants of WordPress, but installed Joomla 2.5 for me. My other site is still Joomla 1.5, so this was still going to be a new learning curve to master.

With YouTube at the ready, I had a tutorial all set. Play, pause, and apply the knowledge. Play, pause, and apply the knowledge. This is my SOP (standard operating procedure). I was 32 minutes and 27 seconds into the video when it instructed to install the new template. Here is where the hurdles started. It turned out that the template that really softly and elegantly, although authoritatively sends the whispering tune of ‘professional writer’s website’- is only available in WordPress format. UGH!! After spending hours searching and posting on forums, I raised the white flag of defeat. The only solutions were to install a template temporarily and then try to change the components or switch back to WordPress. Solution one will take numerous hours in setting it up, but once it is, I already am familiar with the basics of Joomla and only need to negotiate the changes from 1.5 to 2.5. Solution two will take numerous hours not only in setting it up, but then numerous hours trying to figure out WordPress thereafter.

After finding three templates for Joomla 2.5 that I could live with, if by chance I would not be able to modify it to my heart’s desire, I tried installing them. Not one would install. Two just gave up before even starting. I take that FAILURE message very personally. The third showed that it had installed 100%, but then there was nothing there. At first I thought it may have been Firefox playing games, so I tried Chrome and Internet Explorer. No dice! I changed computers, but still no prize. Finally, I sent a note off to Tom for help, but have not heard back yet. We will see what happens with this, but I am stubbornly clinging to the template I love. If it cannot be salvaged, it just may be time to learn WordPress.

One thing is for sure, with all of this mental engagement, I am warding off dementia.

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