September Sounds

Wind rushes through the trees
Branches sway, leaves dance
A blue jay
Acorns crunch underfoot
A sparrow… or is that a chipmunk?
Cars rumble in the distance
Laughter drifts across a manicured lawn

I clear my throat
And inhale deeply

The final (?) verdict: Gutenberg (a.k.a. the WordPress “Block Editor”) is fundamentally flawed and unsustainable

I’ve been trying. Really I have.

From its initial release as part of the WordPress core in version 5.0 in late 2018, up until early 2022, I adamantly refused to use Gutenberg. I felt its conceptual flaws and practical limitations were so profound and so obvious that I really could not believe this was going to be “the future of WordPress.” And now here we are.

In the spring of 2022 I finally relented, as at least the initial impression of the user interface had improved to a point where I felt I just needed to embrace it or move on. And so I created a new base “Block Theme” for future WordPress projects, and began building new client sites with it.

The past year and a half of dealing with Gutenberg more directly has been a painful rollercoaster of emotions, as I’ve tried repeated to convince myself it’s good, only to have it, once again, prove itself a hot mess of ill-conceived and barely-documented hacks.

Many times in the past 18 or so months I have contemplated abandoning WordPress for good, checking out ClassicPress and some other CMS options before falling back on giving Gutenberg another chance.

I’ve even considered writing my own Content Management System (CMS) [again; it’s something I specialized in before 2014]; switching to Drupal, for God’s sake (until I read that they’re porting Gutenberg for Drupal too… why why why?!); scrapping CMSes altogether in favor of just building sites with Bootstrap (and giving clients some rudimentary editing tools for the very few elements of their sites most of them actually modify post-launch); and even quitting the field entirely.

Frankly I don’t have the time or energy to make an extensive, coherent case for why Gutenberg is so fundamentally flawed; suffice to say it’s a combination of four main issues:

  1. frustrations over its excessive reliance on React (the Flash of the 2020s) for so much of its functionality,
  2. irritation at its embrace of the “make the interface seem simple by just hiding everything until the user hovers over the right magic spot” approach to UI/UX design,
  3. trying to get a handle on how the damn thing works, due to its combination of woefully inadequate and outdated documentation, and the fact that it is constantly changing, in ways that break my code (which was written based on earlier assumptions about how things worked, because that was all I had to go on), and
  4. its absolute, unforgivable abandonment of the core web design principle of separation of content and presentation.

The last one is really the killer, and it is only getting worse, because not only does the code — that fragile, convoluted, redundant code, stored in the database — become increasingly unmanageable the more you build your site, but WordPress is constantly pushing more of its structure into this disastrous framework (if you can call it a framework). The Site Editor is a true abomination that can’t possibly be useful to anyone… except possibly “no code” website builders. But honestly, if you can’t write code, you should just be using Squarespace instead of WordPress. You’ll be much happier, and so will your clients.

All of these issues probably stem from one even more basic to the whole discussion though: the creators of WordPress (especially imperious leader Matt Mullenweg) do not consider WordPress to be for what most of us “WordPress professionals” actually use it for. To them, it is blogging software. Period. But very few people who make a living in the WordPress ecosystem are using it to build blogs. Instead we are using it as a general-purpose CMS.

Gutenberg is adequate for a basic blog — in fact, I’m using it for this one, and I do prefer editing my posts in Gutenberg vs. Classic Editor. Its severe flaws and limitations don’t become readily apparent in the “basic blog” context.

There’s an argument to be made that Gutenberg really exists for to compete with the likes of Medium and Substack, and the industry of us web professionals who use the open source version are of no consequence to Matt’s vision for the platform.

Anyway, I have managed to launch about ten new client sites in the past year-plus using WordPress with Gutenberg, and every time I have had to face frustration and embarrassment as I acknowledge with clients the limitations of the tool, or sympathize with their frustrations in dealing with it as users.

My current project may be the last straw though. I’m two days away from launching the biggest site, by far, that I’ve built with Gutenberg. It’s over a year in the making, and now at the eleventh hour I am confronting the possibility of having to manually edit a huge number of posts in a CPT I created — and naively used the Block Editor to manage instead of just some ACF fields — because the client wants to change the default text sizes.

It’s possible this situation could be remedied by the merger of Block Patterns and Reusable Blocks that happened in WordPress 6.3, but guess what… we had already created all of this before that functionality was an option. I still haven’t had time to even figure out exactly what the implications of these 6.3 changes are, because I’ve been too busy just trying to build the site.

That’s where WordPress is really dying for me as a viable platform to work on. It’s supposed to be the foundation for what I do, but now the ground is constantly shifting beneath my feet. Gutenberg is making web development much harder and more frustrating, projects are taking longer, and it’s making me look incompetent and unprofessional to my clients. I’ve been a professional web developer since 1996; I’ve been using WordPress for projects since 2008, and almost exclusively since 2014. But now I don’t trust it anymore.

I’m in a position where I may (fingers crossed) be able to back off taking on any new freelance projects for the remainder of the year, once this site has launched. I am really hoping that’s the case, because it’s time for me to make a serious re-evaluation of whether or not I want to build any more WordPress sites in the future, and if not, I need to take that time to learn — or build — a new platform.

The great irony, of course, is that my business has increasingly been made up of selling and supporting my commercial WordPress plugin, ICS Calendar Pro. Fortunately, my work on that plugin has very little to do with, nor is significantly impacted by, the Gutenberg/Block Editor project, although that may change as WordPress continues to (d)evolve.

(Don’t even get me started on how bad Gutenberg is for responsive design.)

Stupid jQuery and CSS tricks: Move a hidden element to the end of the parent

I just came up with a solution so simple, yet so stupid, that I had to share it.

The scenario is this: my client has some third-party JavaScript to inject a form into a page. I’ve been writing some of my own CSS to style the forms, including some crafty use of :nth-of-type(2n) and :nth-of-type(2n-1) to apply styles conditionally to adjacent fields in a two-up layout. (These are just sequential <div> tags, and I have to work with what I’ve got.) Specifically, I’m adding some right margin on the “left” element, and no right margin on the “right” element.

I noticed an instance where my margins were flipped for two fields, and when inspecting the code, I discovered why: the client has set up their form with a hidden field tucked in there before the “left” element. That’s throwing off the value for 2n in my CSS. I was going to contact them and ask them to update their form to put the hidden element at the end, but I realized this is a problem that is likely to recur, so I should just write in a workaround. (Yeah, yeah. But it’s the lesser of two evils.)

Fortunately, the site is already using jQuery, so a fix was super simple. I’m leaving the CSS class names here as they are in the actual site, but you may need to change them to suit your particular form.

jQuery('.form_container .form_page .form_question.hidden').each(function() {

Since the hidden field has the .hidden CSS class, it’s really easy to use the jQuery .appendTo() method to just take all of the hidden fields and shove them to the end of the container element. I used the parent and ancestor CSS classes in my jQuery selector just to be sure I’m isolating this action to these particular forms. Then of course I have to tell the page when to execute this functionality, which is ideally on the load event:

jQuery(window).on('load', function() { /* Code goes here */ });

It works!

Happy 70th birthday to Geddy Lee of Rush!

I got seriously into Rush in late 1988, as a freshman in high school. But several years later — 2003, I think — when this 1984 tour film was finally released on DVD, I realized that I had seen it on TV (only once) circa 1985, presumably either on MTV or HBO, and had been completely enthralled with it as an 11-year-old. But since I never saw Rush again on TV, or heard them on the radio, I kind of forgot they existed until a friend (re)introduced me to them in high school, with a cassette tape of the then-new A Show of Hands concert album.

My jaw dropped the first time I watched this Grace Under Pressure Tour DVD, because I knew I had seen it before. Specifically, it was the video intro to “The Weapon” by Joe Flaherty as his SCTV vampire character “Count Floyd” that triggered the memory. Wow!

Geddy Lee was the reason I picked up the electric bass as a sophomore in high school. Happy birthday!

The curious case of my covid-induced loss of taste and smell

I’m writing this mainly for my own future reference, as I’m sure my memory of some of these details will vanish, much like my ability to smell onions has vanished this month.

I’m not sure how I (finally, after avoiding it successfully for 3 1/2 years) got covid. I know it’s more likely that I was exposed first, even though my wife tested positive several days before I did. It was probably the last weekend in June, when I subbed in a pit orchestra for a musical theater performance on Saturday, and then had a big band rehearsal on Sunday. I was in the presence of a lot of people over those two days, whereas my wife had not interacted with many people in the previous week.

On Monday I had an achy, fitful, mostly sleepless night, and was feeling run down for most of Tuesday morning, but by afternoon I was fine, and thought no more of it. Then on Thursday night, my wife got knocked out with a sudden fever and fatigue that we foolishly did not assume was covid, but the next morning she tested, and it was positive. She started isolating, but we both knew it was probably too late.

Although I felt totally fine, I started testing daily and was repeatedly negative. But that Sunday night I once again was achy and fitful, this time with chills added to the mix. I thought for sure I must have covid, but I still tested negative the next morning. On Tuesday I finally did test positive, even though — other than those two random nights, six nights apart — all I was feeling were the mildest imaginable cold symptoms. Those lingered for about a week, and that was pretty much it.


I believe it was that Thursday or Friday, a few days after I first tested positive, and was mostly already feeling fine again, that I noticed that most distinctive and curious of covid symptoms beginning to appear: I was rapidly losing my sense of taste and smell.

Mostly smell, honestly, but of course the two senses are linked. I noticed initially that I basically couldn’t smell anything, but I hadn’t completely lost my sense of taste. Sweet and sour were both maybe around 30% of their normal levels, and bitter (hurrah) was pretty much entirely unaffected. (Salty and umami were, for the moment, gone.)

It has now been over two weeks since I noticed the problem, and to some extent my senses have returned. I can now smell some things, and I can taste pretty much everything. But I am realizing that the loss has been very selective. In particular, I can smell many mild scents almost as normal, but strong odors, like raw onions, are almost completely undetectable.

Put it this way: I am the type of person whose eyes normally burn painfully and water copiously when cutting raw onions. But last week I cut an onion in half, put it right up to my nose, and inhaled as deeply as I could, and… well, there was an ever-so-slight suggestion of “onion.” But not only could I not smell it at all if it was more than a millimeter from my face, but I didn’t get any of the eye watering, either. My sensation of that particular volatile compound is just totally dead.

My sense of taste has fared better, as I can now pretty much taste everything — again, except onions — but I’ve noticed that certain things don’t taste like they’re “supposed” to, or that the tastes I perceive are only vague and indistinct. I can tell I’m tasting something, but I’m not sure what it is.

I think that comes back to the deadening of the “volatile compounds” sensation. It’s the complex flavors made from combinations of ingredients that are being affected. I’m only getting the broad strokes. Indian curries still taste good to me, but all the nuances of the layered spices are missing.

Which takes me back to about 10 days ago, when I first noticed there was one thing I could taste fully, just as it has always tasted to me.


I guess ketchup is essentially a fairly simple blend of sweet and acidic, without much nuance. (That’s probably why kids like it.) And since those senses never totally went away, it’s not surprising that would be something I could taste fully. For a few days, I put a lot of ketchup on most of the things I ate.

I haven’t spent a lot of time investigating other people’s stories of their covid experiences, but I’m wondering if most people who reported loss of taste and smell had this kind of “selective” loss the way I did. I assume that’s the case. And then, of course, I wonder why covid causes this loss of sensation of, most specifically, the kinds of odors that are more or less nature’s warning bells for things that are possibly dangerous to consume or be exposed to. It’s not like covid has a “plan,” but I wonder if this particular symptom has manifested because it gives covid some kind of environmental advantage that helps it spread, or if it’s just a random quirk, a side effect of the chaotic nature of viral mutation and evolution.

Anyway… I am thankful for the vaccines, which I am sure contributed to how mild my case of covid was, and probably prevented me from catching it at all before July 2023. And I’m thankful that other than a couple of bad sleeps, my symptoms were extremely tolerable. This smell/taste thing has been, more than anything, a curiosity to observe and study. But it is starting to get a bit old, so I’m hoping my senses fully return sooner rather than later.

I do realize of course that, although I think it’s unlikely, the loss may be permanent or semi-permanent. And so there, too, I am thankful that I have not completely lost these senses, because I can certainly live with things the way they are. I just might die early from eating something that’s gone rancid and I couldn’t tell. Ç’est la vie.

Update: Of course, after writing this, I did research the matter a bit, and it affirmed that I should never do that. I hadn’t considered, until now, that I am on a journey of recovery of these senses, and that possibly, months from now, I will enter a stage where I do regain my sense of smell, but everything will be distorted and unpleasant. Ugh. On a more helpful note, that Scientific American article does talk specifically about chemical sensing, which is different from sense of smell. This seems to be the essence of my loss; I could not sense the minty freshness of toothpaste at all for a few days. That is starting to come back, as well as my ability to sense hot peppers.