The Events Calendar and me

I have been trying to figure out an easy way to list upcoming events on the homepage of a web site using The Events Calendar. I won’t say I’ve been pulling my hair out over it, but close.

For such a great plugin, it is strange to me why the makers of this don’t include what I consider very basic functionality: insert a list of upcoming events using a simple wordpress shortcode.

I am not new to WordPress. I am not a full-fledged coder/programmer. This took way longer than it should have. Here’s what I’m doing:

This was the start of my solution. I initially thought I would find a way to add a sidebar with a short code. Then, I could just use The Events Calendar sidebar widget. What I found enabled me to skip a step, and just insert a sidebar widget anywhere with a short code.

Some CSS styling and we are off.

In general, I try to avoid solving problems with plugins. I think this does it for me for now.

If you aren’t familiar with a theme’s functions.php file, read this:


Swinging back around

Winter is either here or fast approaching, and that means I may have time here and there to post to the blog. It’s a possibility, but not likely. I was doing a bit of maintenance on my site. I was logged in, so I thought I may as well post.

One reason I wanted to do this post, though, is this: In the last year, in my continuing use of WordPress, a few major issues have come up. The main one being WordPress is not very secure. I’ve always kinda known this, but never had a problem before this past year. I’ve never really had the time to figure out what I should or need to do to secure WP even a little. There’s nothing like the dire need of fixing a backed website for a client for motivation.

I must say that I am surprised that more people don’t have significant, constant problems. I know full well there is way more than one web design company who relies on WordPress, but doesn’t seem to do even the first smallest thing to WP itself to secure it in any way. However – I also wonder whether some problems stem from a web host. My site and many others I have worked on are hosted with Geekstorage. My site has never had a problem. But a few of my clients on Geekstorage have been hacked. And, for a client or two I’ve had to request from and prove to various places that the sites I worked on are not malicious, and that their mailing lists are not spam lists. The  problems were solely based on the IP address of the mail server at Geekstorage. Not Geekstorage’s fault that users do stupid things, but a problem indeed. I’m guessing that maybe a shared server contributes to problems with WordPress. Maybe some hosts or privately hosted sites are less at risk. I don’t know.

In any case, here’s what I’ve found useful with WordPress, in order to gain a modicum of security.

1. Keep WordPress up to date.
This is one of my biggest long-term issues with WordPress. It’s like Windows – constantly being barraged by hackers, and so constantly updated to fix problems exploited by hackers. The folks at WP at least made this easy with “automatic updates.” When I first started using WP and for years after, updating was a manual process.

2. Keep your theme up to date. And, only use legitimate themes.
Less of an issue than keeping WP up to date. But can still harbor malicious code. A couple plugins I’ve found recently assist with keeping your theme clean. Here’s a great article with links: Why You Should Never Search For Free WordPress Themes.

Theme Authenticity Checker

Exploit Scanner

3. Take some security measures and install some sort of security plugin.
A good place to start: Hardening WordPress.

Two security plugins I’ve tried and have been relatively happy with:

Better WordPress Security

BulletProof Security

Unfortunately what you don’t hear up front is this – it is best to secure WP from the start. A few measures are almost impossible after your blog is up.

I don’t have much to say about either plugin. I have Better WP Security running on my site and another that has been hacked. I get notices every day from the plugin saying someone was trying to hack the site and has been prevented!!! It is unbelievable, really. I ran into a few issues with Better WP Security in not heeding some of the warnings. At this point in both of the plugins lives, Better WP is prettier. However, it was easier to get up and running with BulletProof. There are simply less screens and tabs to wade through with BulletProof. One thing I like about both is that they combine several features into one – like database backup. Anyway – this was never meant to be a full review. Just a posting of useful files.

Now back to real life. I may not resurface here for many months!

farming Travel Web

back from Bellingham

So I went to Bellingham, Washington this past weekend for the Washington Tilth Producers annual conference. I also spent a couple days in and around Bellingham, checking out the area because I had never been there. My friend Marina says she really likes the city and especially likes the Fairhaven area, so I spent some time there on her recommendation.

beautiful morning

I was a horrible photographer this weekend, though. I didn’t take my camera to the conference at all. I wasn’t really sure what I’d do with it there. I went for a walk Monday in Bellingham and snapped a few shots along the way, but that was it. I didn’t get photos of either of my couchsurfing hosts or any of Fairhaven! Silly me. I’m not sure why. I just didn’t think about it … maybe it’s because I think I will go there again and spend more time there.

First domestic couchsurfin’

I couchsurfed the whole time I was in Bellingham. My first host, Jessica, wasn’t even there for two of the three nights I crashed at her place. So awesome! She just left me the key and I slept there after the conference. She got home on Sunday night and cooked me a really awesome pasta dish with some of the produce out of her own garden! Her gypsy peppers were better and redder than the ones we grew at Plum Forest!!! Then I surfed with Jim and Rick in Fairhaven on Monday night. Man I wish I had taken some pictures! Jim and Rick have a great house in a great location with an amazing garden! I also met their friend Mike, who was great company and my tour guide around Fairhaven. Both experiences were absolutely great. Just such amazing people couchsurfing hosts are!

Farming, farming, farming

The conference was pretty amazing. So much information. Too much information, really, as conferences usually are. It was awesome to be around so many like-minded people. Everyone I met was really easy to talk to – we all had so much in common!

Over the course of the conference, there were five workshop sessions. Each session had five different topics to choose from. It was so hard to choose! I was really happy with all my decisions except one. Here’s what I did:

  1. Nutrient Management and Soil Ecology
  2. Local Marketing: Two Multifaceted and Complimentary Business Strategies
  3. Greenhouse Propagation and Season Extension
  4. Pest Management of Slugs and Cabbage Maggots
  5. Efficient and Appropriate Use of Farm Equipment

The last one, #5 was completely mis-titled. The description says the presenter would “concentrate on those pieces that our operation uses the most and which are of greatest benefit to us.” Which he certainly did, but his presentation had absolutely nothing to do with the title of “Efficient and Appropriate Use of Farm Equipment.” It should have been titled: “What equipment Mike uses on his 35 acre farm and what he thinks of it.” To me it was especially inappropriate because one of the first things he told us is that they use a very traditional tillage method on their farm – meaning they run their tractors over the land many, many times plowing, discing, fertilizing, rotovating, cultivating, etc. etc. etc. when every piece of sustainable agriculture knowledge I’ve heard and read is for the most part against such tillage practices. Anyhow … it simply didn’t have one iota to do with what I’ve done or will do with farming.

That little rant aside, the conference was just awesome. I met so many folks, talked about so many different farms. Ate some good food, tried some great wine and got to meet people I’d heard of and conversed with over email, but had never met before. So great! I especially remember Autumn, whom I got to know through several conversations about farming and her farm in Oregon. She bought one of the herb pots I’d been eyeing on our dinner tables. I didn’t get out of my last session in time to buy one before they sold out! Thanks Autumn! You rock! These herb pots were on some tables through out the conference. They were 4 different kinds of herbs – in my case sage, rosemary, mint and thyme – in a terra cotta 6″ pot. After the conference was over, rather than throwing them out, they sold all the pots and leftover food that was unused.

Officially in business

The other big thing I did in the last couple weeks – I’m officially a sole proprietor doing business as Wilson’s DesignWorks! I took the plunge after I errantly forgot to ask a client to make the check payable to “Steve Wilson” and got a check made out to Wilson’s DesignWorks. That prompted me to take the step to make what looks and acts like a business into a business. I just hope it’s not going to cause me any heartburn … tax or headache-wise!!!

Moving on

I’m moving to Sun Island Farm this weekend to start work with them November 17. I’m really looking forward to it! I’ve got some heavy-duty Carhartt rain work wear now and am ready for the elements like I have never been.

I just wish I could get used to this time change!!! It is so darn dark at 4 pm! I’m tired and ready for bed by 8 pm!


geeky welcome

This site is now hosted at! If you are seeing this, the domain transfer and dns settings have completed and things are ready to go!

woo hoo!

If you need web hosting, let me know! hosting[at]

Lifestyle Web

cha cha cha changes …

Thanks to everyone who emailed me after that last pathetic post about my love life. I really appreciate the support and advice. The day I wrote that post I was probably the most down in the dumps about things. I really gotta watch that because I think it comes back looking and sounding like life sucks. Rest assured that my life is pretty great and I’m not that and/or wasn’t that down about it. However, I don’t want to downplay what a big deal finding someone to be in my life is.

The good news is that Alissa and I are having regular great conversations on the phone. So things are going better in that department. But, I have no plans (yet) for going to Chicago! There’s a lot about her that I really like and I’m not prepared to give up yet! 🙂

I’m busy planning my motorcycle trip in November. I’ve got some panniers on the way to carry my stuff. A few wwoof farms have responded and I’ve got my route planned all the way to San Francisco right now.

I still don’t know what I’m doing in 2009 yet! I’ll take it as it comes!

The big change right now is with my web host. I’m going to be transferring this site very soon. I’ve went with and so far am happy with them. It’s certainly a drastic difference compared to absolute mess the last time I switched hosts. I don’t like the geekstorage name so much, but I guess that’s partially because I don’t want to really admit I’m (sometimes) a geek!.

I’ll be transferring very soon and there will be a day or more when it is unavailable.

Lastly … I’m also in the business of reselling web hosting. So, if you need a web host, I can help you out with that and give you a good deal!

Photography Web

photo decisions

So … I’ve been using flickr for years. I like it a LOT.

But …

A flickr pro account ($25 a year!) is not exactly cheap on a farmers salary.

I’m thinking about letting my flickr account go back to the free version in August when it is set to expire. (Which, I don’t quite know what that will mean yet for the photos and sets, collections and such on my flickr account.) I’m looking at just doing all my photos via my web site, since I already pay a yearly hosting fee for tons of web space.

I also, years ago, sort of invested in a product called SlideShowPro. It’s based on flash, is easy to use and I also have the SlideShowPro Director running on my web server. So I already have another photo presentation mode.

The only slight issue I have, is presenting photos this way isn’t as fun as flickr! No commenting, group sharing, I don’t get to easily peek at all my friends photos since I won’t be on the flickr site much, titles and descriptions aren’t as prevalent (which, maybe most people won’t care about that anyway …), the notes feature on the photos is pretty cool, etc., etc., etc… I also think it’s very cool to be able to tag photos and also view others photos tagged with the same words.

Anyhow, I guess some feedback would be cool, on what people think about my photos page as opposed to using flickr.

Miscellany Web

updating updates

I’ve been wanting to find some way to update my “status” in several different places at once. I had an inkling this could be done, but just didn’t take the few minutes needed to figure it out until now.

Today I played around with Twitter, Facebook, Jabber and my web site and got them all to play nice. Facebook is kinda cool, and I find myself using to see what my friends are doing. Twitter is kinda this out-there thing that I’ve not used hardly at all, but other people seem to just love it. My web site is, or I want it to be the hub of info about me. Updating FB and my site is a little much some times, and updating all three would be just too much, so my interaction with Twitter was non-existant. Twitter now kinda glues them all together, at least as far as making it easy to add small, timely updates.

Now I can send an instant message via Google Talk to Twitter with my status, and it’ll show up on Twitter, Facebook and my site simultaneously. How fun. Twitter uses Jabber to update your Twitter status, and Google Talk is a Jabber account/client. I can log in to my Google Talk account via iChat (on the Mac) and send an instant message without visiting the web. There’s also Twitter functionality to send an SMS from your phone and it’ll do the same thing. But for some reason, Twitter wants to send SMS message to your phone, and I have to pay for each SMS, so it’s not really worth it. Maybe one of these days I’ll see the need for that.

Here’s a fun picture of Tyler about to smash the shit out of a piñata on his birthday.


So, since you’re reading this – from now on if you want to see what hopefully will be the most recent update … look in the sidebar -> for the snippet titled “Most recently …” and it should show what my status is! And hopefully I will have updated sometime in the recent past. Look now and see what’s up!

My thought just now is, what about having my status at the time automatically inserted into my blog posts. For instance, right now, my status is “Getting ready for a small party at my place tonight! Probably will be some good food, some travel discussion, good wine and skip-bo!” Why would I want to do this? I guess because it’s timely? and might have something to do with the post? Maybe not? Maybe that’s overkill?


things to do

Sort of a list for 2008, I guess. I’m sure it will be horribly incomplete, but it’ll be a start. I don’t even expect to finish it in this first posting.

Take a class in actionscript 3. Or, I might need to take a step back and find a basic class that might be called “Object Oriented Programming for Designers.” Flash CS3 brought with it a new version of actionscript, which is quite a bit different than previous versions, but this is a good thing from what I can see. It’s not like I knew the previous versions of actionscript very well. Ha! Not at all is more like it. When I tried out a simple Flash piece with AS3 it took me hours and hours just to figure out something as simple as a button. It’s done quite differently than before. Certainly, I could have used actionscript 2 in Flash CS3, but to me it seems silly to keep using old technology when you have the new sitting in your lap. In the end, I figured the actionscript 3 way to do buttons out. I just didn’t expect the difference to be that drastic. Maybe I can just read (yet another) book.

Mainly what I want to do with Flash/AS3 is learn how to tie in XML data. Knowing how to do this falls into the “how to make life easier!” bucket. Being a busy freelancer, I need access to all the ways to be more productive. No one I know that uses Flash knows actionscript well, and therefore I don’t think is as productive as we could be. We’re still doing stuff Flash 3 style. Building everything by hand, depending on the timeline for everything (animation, navigation, etc.). I learned how to do a little bit of animation using AS3 and it is earth shatteringly more powerful. I’d like to learn more if I can.

However … I also know this programming stuff is not my expertise and aptitude. I completely accept that my little brain might not be able to wrap itself completely around the breadth and subsequent power of OOP. So, that’s the next thing.

Team up with a web programmer/developer. I’m to the point where some of my ideas are limited completely by my abilities. Yeah, I’d love to learn the javascript and XML technology behind sucking in an RSS feed to a web page, styling it and presenting it in an iframe or something. But I do not know how. Lots of web designers don’t know how, so I don’t think I’m lacking so much, really. It’s just extremely frustrating to not know how to do it, and to no know anyone who does know how to do it. In the end it just doesn’t get to happen! Sucks. So, I have a need for a javascript, php,, perl programmer/developer. Flash dev experience is a Plus. If you know one or you are reading this and you are one please contact me.

Build +AlphaDesign (read Plus Alpha Design). My good friend Robert and other acquaintance Darren have a great name. I love it. It’s a better design firm name than I could ever come up with, I think. Starting a business is probably what I’ll end up doing. Robert needs to figure something out, too. He’s in his “dream job” but hates it. Nothin dreamy about that. Having a business name instead of being just an independent contractor might have some advantages to it. It may just complicate things? Not sure, but it’s something that needs to happen.

This doesn’t really go on the list, but I have to say it somewhere. The Bose Companion 3 system is really awesome. I bought one well over a year ago when I got rid of my huge dolby digital 5.1 sound equipment. I just re-set it up at my current place. The Bose system is so small, but man – it’s sound is just incredible. It looks like they’ve updated it to the Series II and it looks even better. The only gripe I have with the system is the speakers are easy to knock over because of the base.


Even the slight nudge by my mouse cable can knock it over, as illustrated above. 🙂 The new satellites seem to be a better design. And maybe there’s some small stands I can get or something. Anyhow. If you’re ever in the market for a small system, I highly recommend it. It makes working long hours a pleasure.

to be continued …

Lifestyle Web

new Mac!

I went ahead and did it. My Powerbook is on it’s last legs and the hard drive is crapping out. I bought the MacBook Pro 2.4 GHz standard version. It is sweeeet.

new Mac!!!

The only thing at the moment is the machine didn’t ship with Leopard pre-installed (which is why I have the Leopard screen in the background). But, the company I bought it from is sending me new Leopard disks, as they advertised the machine as having Leopard.

I’ve got all the apps I need to be productive already on it, thanks to Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium. It is kinda nice they are all wrapped up into one now.


Please stand by …

I’m working on switching the look and feel of my blog. For now, I think I’m going to go with the amazing K2 theme. There are many reasons for this that I won’t go into here, but hopefully things won’t be too broken.

The archives page in particular is quite hosed. It’s a more advanced page than most archives, using AJAX to browse the entries. I need to figure out why the layout is so screwy.

Stay tuned.