Short story: “Death Plays A Game”

This was my response to this post on Reddit.

“A game, really?”

“Yes. Any game. You win, you go back…you lose…well…”

How does one respond to that? Better yet, how does one respond to Death? Not death, as in the end of life. Death as in the (un)living embodiment of the hereafter. This sure isn’t the way my day was planned when I woke up.

“So, what will it be?”

“Well, that depends. What are the rules? I’m sure this isn’t entirely fair.”

“Oh, to be sure, it is fair. 100%. No gimmicks, no gotchas. You call the game, we play. You win, I send you back.”

I study the…man? woman?…thing in front of me. It’s DEFINITELY not what you expect. Death, contrary to popular opinion, is not a skeleton in a black robe carrying a sickle. It’s hard to nail down, because the face is constantly shifting between masculine and feminine aspects. But the eyes…the eyes never change. Bright white, dark gray, and as deep as every ocean on every planet and moon in the universe.

“We’re wasting time here. You have to make a decision…we don’t have eternity here.”

“Ok. Seeing as I have nothing to lose, I choose Russian roulette.” A cocky choice maybe, but I’m dead already, I can’t die again here in Purgatory…can I?

“Interesting choice. I don’t think we’ve ever had anyone choose that before. Do you have a choice of weapon?”

I could have sworn I saw a look of concern cross Death’s ever-changing face.

“Well, my dad had a Colt Army when I was young. I would play with it when no one was around…until I shot a hole in my parents’ bedroom wall, and my dad started locking it up. That should do nicely.”

Before I could blink, the gun appeared on the table between us, a single bullet standing on end next to it. It was exactly as I remembered, as if it was my dad’s gun.

“It is his gun,” Death said, reading my mind. “Shall I load, or would you prefer to do it yourself?”

“I’ll do it thanks.” This is what I was hoping. I know this gun, know how the cylinder spins. I know exactly which chamber to put the bullet in. “Since you’re my host, I defer the first turn to you. It’s only proper.”

Death is taken aback. It’s as if he’s scared to pick up the gun from where I laid it on the table.

“Perhaps there’s another game…”

“Nope. You said it was my choice. This is my choice…pick up the gun, cock the hammer, and pull the trigger.”

Slowly, Death picks up the gun, studying it, trying to figure out a way around putting the muzzle to it’s temple.

“Don’t forget, you have to spin the cylinder.”

“Of course.”

Death spins the cylinder, and snaps it into position. I try hard to stifle the grin that’s creeping across my face.

“Whenever you’re ready…what was it you said, we don’t have eternity?” The grin is more than obvious on my face now.

“Fine.” Death places the muzzle against it’s temple, closes it’s eyes, and pulls the trigger.

I sit bolt upright in bed. I grab my phone, and look at the date. Son of a bitch…Death wasn’t lying. Next to my phone is a note, written in the neatest script I have ever seen…

“See you soon. -D”

The future of the CTC plugin

I’ll say this, it’s been a hell of a ride!

When I created my plugin many years ago, I never thought it would be come so popular. I figured I’d get a few downloads here and there, but as of this afternoon, it’s been downloaded 97,586 times…that’s amazing! It also makes what I’m about to say even harder.

As of today, Feb. 7, 2013, development is officially over (for me, anyway…more on that in a bit). The plugin was made to scratch an itch I had way back when WP first released the tag cloud feature. I’m honored that so many of you have downloaded and used this plugin on your sites. That said, with work and life being what they are, I just don’t have the time to dedicate to it any more. The plugin does what I set out to accomplish. Are there things I would like to see it do? Yes…people have asked for an exclude option for years, and I never got around to figuring out how to accomplish that…but by and large, it does what it’s supposed to, and IMO it does it well. But don’t worry, the plugin isn’t going away. I will leave it’s page here up as long as my site is active, and it will remain in the WP Extend repo, so it will always be available.

So, where do we go from here? Well, I would love to see someone pick up from where I’m leaving off. Someone who has the time to devote to make it better than it is. Do you think you’re the one for the job? Drop me a line and let’s talk…

Mini Book Review: “WordPress Plugin Development Cookbook”

Got an idea for a WordPress plugin, but not sure how to start? Packt Publishing has you covered with their new release, “WordPress Plugin Development Cookbook” by Yannick Lefebvre. Through it’s 11 chapters, Yannick takes you from setting up your development environment through publishing your plugin in the official WordPress respository.

Using language anyone could understand, Yannick covers topics from the simple (creating the WordPress plugin header, so you plugin shows up in the admin interface), to the complex (setting up a web server on your machine to test your plugin). My only peeve would be the insistence upon using the NetBeans IDE. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s a personal preference thing. I love TextMate, and use it every day, but if I were writing a book, I’d make a mention of it, but not base large portions of text to it.

Overall, “WordPress Plugin Development Cookbook” is a worthy addition to your library if youre looking to get into writing WordPress plugins.

Book Title: “WordPress Plugin Development Cookbook”
Author: Yannick Lefebvre
Publisher: Packt Publishing
Cost: $22.94 (ebook only)/$40.49 (Print copy, ebook copy, and PacktLib access)

You can get a copy (either in print or any of several ebook formats, including epub and pdf) at Packt Publishing.

Disclaimer: Packt Publishing provided me with a promo copy of the book for this review.

CMS-like Admin Menu Plugin – Version 2.1 Released.

Another plugin update…this time for my plugin for rearranging the admin menu to bring the Pages menu to the top. With version 2.0, on WP 2.8, you got a doubled Category link, and it didn’t support custom taxonomies. As of version 2.1, it now does.

It was an easy fix, I just needed the time to get it done. I just committed the new version to WP Extend, so if you’re using the plugin, you’ll be getting the upgrade notice shortly. You can also find it on the Plugin page if you’d rather download it manually.

CTC – Version 5.2 Released

This is a quickie update to address a couple of issues. First off, you should once again be able to use the admin plugin update feature to get new versions, as I have now moved the plugin files out of the folder I had them in.

Secondly, as of version 5.2, all PHP short tags have been eliminated from the plugin. It didn’t seem to be a major issue, but if your server had short tags turned off you couldn’t use the admin panels to set your options.

Lastly, the individual link items inside the cloud now have their own class for styling purposes. You can now target a.ctc-tag in your stylesheet to apply styling to the links themselves.

As always, you can find the new version on the CTC Page, or you can grab it from the plugin page at WP Extend.

CTC — Template Tag Issue Resolved

My bad folks…looks like I let one slip by. The problem was the default options were not being set correctly at plugin activation. This has been addressed, but unfortunately, the automatic upgrade issue has not. To get the new version, head over to the CTC page and install it manually.

CTC — Automatic Upgrade Issues…

There is an issue when you use the automatic update feature. It creates an erroneous folder that contains the actual plugin folder. For the time being, please refrain from using the automatic upgrade. If you have already upgraded via the automatic method and the plugin disappeared from your plugins list, just ftp to your WP install, go into the plugin directory, and move the ‘tag_cloud’ directory from the ‘configurable-tag-cloud-widget’ directory to the main plugins directory. After you do this, you can activate the plugin as normal.

Sorry for the issues…I’m trying to find a fix, and will post agian when I figure it out.

CTC – Version 5.0 Released!

I just updated my configurable tag cloud plugin to version 5.0. The big news in this version is the widget has been brought up to date with the new Widgets API released in WordPress 2.8, and you can now limit the tags displayed in the cloud by the number of posts attached to each tag. This will stop the issue of having a few tags that overpower the cloud.

I haven’t updated the CTC page yet, so for now, you’ll need to either use the WordPress plugin update feature, or visit the plugin page at WP Extend to get the new version.

CTC — Upgrade Coming Soon

With the release of WordPress 2.8, a new widget API was released into the wild. The effect of this is the widget portion of my configurable tag could plugin doesn’t work the way it should any more. I have started working on upgrading the plugin to work with the new API, and it’s looking good so far. There will also be a couple of new features in the new version. I’m not quite ready to talk about those features, but I think they will be welcome additions.

That said, version 5.0 of the plugin will be released for WordPress version 2.8+ ONLY, so if you want the new features, you will have to upgrade your WordPress install. I figured out I could make it work for all versions of WP 2.3 and beyond. I have a couple of folks beta testing the new version, and when they give me the all-clear, I’ll release it so keep an eye out here or your WordPress plugins page for the notice.