Thoughts About WordPress Reader

by Melanie and Jim

Do you use the WordPress Reader to keep track of your followed blogs? We do. Lately, there have been numerous ‘enhancements’ to Reader. In general, the Reader is going to a one-size-fits-all approach in order to fit content into the small mobile screened world.

Changes in recent weeks were not announced. They simply showed up for us to learn. Some of it has been confusing and illogical. We’ve been quite busy and might have missed the rollout announcement. Was there one? What follows are a few of our reactions to those changes.

Random Reader Views

We were both confused by the views presented by Reader when we clicked on a blog post. It seemed there were two possibilities. For some blogs the click went to a barebones view of the post, with white background and text and pictures. All of the widgets (sidebar information and links), related posts, tabs, and other formatting were removed, as well. Some other posts in Reader went directly with a single click to the actual blog set up by the writer showing the theme with the look-and-feel they had worked to present.

Here is an example, showing the difference between the view directly accessed from Reader, and what is seen as designed by the blogger. If I click on this (within Reader)

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 7.27.02 AM

it takes me to this:

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See how it is all white space? The actual blog looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 7.28.46 AM

There is nothing obvious at all about how to get from the white-space view to the blog. It was especially confusing because for some blogs, clicking from Reader would go directly to the blog, skipping the white-space version. Why were some treated differently than others? It appeared random.

As it turns out, another click on the post’s title (not the blog name — that doesn’t help!) in that barebones white view took you to the actual blog. Yes, there were links that would take you to their blog in one click. We didn’t notice them at first.

Eventually, we found a clue. Check out these two screen shots of one of our recent blog posts as presented in Reader. Notice one is slightly different in the red oval. Why is that?



By clicking the title or body text of the first one, Reader presented the simple white-space view and did not actually go to the blog. By clicking the title or body text of the second one, Reader presented the actual blog post showing the theme.

Speaking of Theme

Why put a lot of effort into selecting a theme so it looks the way you want? Why make the effort of adding tabs or sidebars with more information? Was Reader bypassing those efforts of many bloggers with the simple white layout? Why do that?

Changing Your Settings 

As noted above, if in Reader your blog shows “Visit [your blog] for the full post” clicks will go directly to the blog. This action is controlled in Settings on your wp-admin page. Choose Settings —> Reading. Then select Summary view in order to have Reader direct to your blog without the black on white view. Remember to Save Changes.


The Reader App

We have not found a way to view and read the actual blog site using the Reader app on iPad. Maybe someone knows how to do that. For us, it always presents a simple text on white view. No themes show for us.


Family Reunion 2015

Summer is a time for picnics and family reunions. On a recent mid-July Saturday, our family gathered at the home of our daughter in southeast Iowa for day 1 of our weekend reunion. It is a big family. Mom and Dad, no longer with us, raised nine children. They took us to reunions when we were kids. We felt their influence this time. Here is the family portrait, over 80 of us, except for one or two taking pictures who are not quite considered ‘family’ yet.


Preparations were monumental. There was plenty of delicious food brought by many. Two men worked furiously in heat and smoke to grill the burgers, hot dogs, and brats. Kids of all ages were running around having a great time playing. The weather was sunny and bright after an early threat of rain that did not materialize.

Some came from the midwest, while others traveled from Maine, South Carolina, Washington, Arizona, and Louisiana. A good time was had by all.

The location for day 2 of our reunion was about an hour farther southeast in western Illinois. My brother lives in a small town with a park across the street from his house. He reserved the pavilion for us. Early that morning a very slow moving rainstorm dumped over 3″ of rain on the town in about an hour and flooded the park and street. Fortunately, the firehouse next door was available. Two trucks were moved out and parked in the driveway. We set up our reunion party in the firehouse. Food was in the back room. Tables and seating were in the truck bays.

The weather cleared out. The rain stopped. Water drained away. Kids headed for the park to play. We posed for group pictures of families in front of the big red fire truck. There were almost as many in attendance as the day before.

Earlier Sunday morning, mass was said at the small country church where my folks attended all their lives. It was founded by great-grandparents on my mother’s side. After mass, a graveside blessing was offered for those who could attend. Mom and Dad would have loved this weekend party.

Tornado Funnel Cloud

Originally posted on JAR Blog:

We headed home late in the afternoon after visiting our daughters in southeast Iowa. A small thunderstorm was leaving the area we drove north of the town of Mt. Pleasant. We hadn’t paid attention to the weather notices since we were busy visiting. A severe storm watch had been issued. This small storm looked quite energetic. I remarked how the trailing part of a storm is often where funnel or tornado activity originates. Thank you spotter training 101. In all my years of watching weather, I have not seen a tornado in real time.


We approached the rear of the storm as we drove north. The arrow in this radar map shows our location. The sky was bright to the west and dark to the east. A few cloud formations appeared low to the northwest. I was not driving the car and watched one funnel shape in particular. It was small…

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Pluto ♇ Comes Into Clear View

Jim in IA:

A short visit after a long journey…

Originally posted on JAR Blog:


It has been 85 years since the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in February 1930. It was but a tiny speck of light on glass photographic plates. Tombaugh systematically imaged a region of the sky in pairs of photographs. For hours on end, he studied the pairs to see if any objects shifted position. He used a blink comparator to quickly shift views of each of the plates. If any objects changed position, the blinking created the illusion of movement.

Lowell Observatory Archives

Improved View

Pluto remained a speck of light until the Hubble telescope images revealed it with some hints of varying patches of color as in this highly processed image. This was the best view until now.

NASA | ESA | M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute)

New Horizons

Humanity is finally getting a detailed closeup look at Pluto and its largest moon Charon thanks to the fly-by mission of the New Horizons spacecraft. A…

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The Day We Met | 7-8-1980

It was hot that July. I was attending summer school to earn my master’s degree. I sat down to lunch in the dorm cafeteria next to Dan, my resident assistant. Almost immediately, Dan asked if I had met Melanie sitting at the other end of the table. Oh, I had seen her walk through the cafeteria several times. I had definitely noticed her. We exchanged greetings and ate lunch.

Melanie and I got better acquainted quickly. I won’t go into detail except to say it got even hotter that July. Then, the darnedest thing happened. The AC in my dorm broke. I had to find a cooler place to study. I wondered if Melanie would let me study with her. Lucky for me, she was okay with that. What a great summer that was.

Now it is 35 years later. To celebrate the day we met, we decided to do two things. In the morning we visited the National Czeck & Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids, IA. It had suffered a devastating flood in 2008 sitting next to the Cedar River. By 2012, it was moved and raised and re-opened. Details are in a video in the link above. We had lunch nearby in the old Czeck Village at the Meat Market and Cafe. What great food it was.

After lunch we drove 15 miles through the rolling Iowa countryside to the town of Solon. We changed into hiking shoes and shorts for a brisk hike through the woods, prairie restorations, and along the shore of Lake MacBride. It was good to get out and walk off some of the food from our delicious lunch. Here are a few highlights of the scenes along the way.

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Ferns On The Palisades

by Jim and Melanie

We go to Palisades-Kepler State Park  in east central Iowa several times a year. Thanks for joining us this time. We like to hike along the trail more than 100 ft above the Cedar River. Parts of the trail are along the face of these rocks.


Each season brings out something different such as wild flowers in summer or colored leaves in autumn. This time it was an abundance of ferns. We’ve had a wet and cool spring.


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Independence Day

We all experience different levels of freedom in our lives. Obligations and commitments constrain most of us. Economic problems hold others back. Education and opportunity are not equal. We are not equally free.

It would do us well to remember that the Declaration of Independence was not an assertion of the individual’s right to freedom, but of the collective’s right. After describing the offenses of the king, it is declared:

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

The Declaration does not declare independence for the individual. Instead it enumerates the individual’s endowed rights as including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is our right to pursue happiness within the constraints imposed by the collective will, determined by our social institutions. Those institutions include government, cultural norms, religious expectations, and others.

Liberty, one of the listed unalienable rights, is not independence. Though we may be largely free from the authority of others, we still depend on them. On July 3, 2009 I submitted my letter of resignation to my employer. I still think of that as my personal independence day. But while I am free of work obligations, I am no more independent now than I was before resigning.

We are not independent as individuals, nor can we be. Even the most alone of us are connected to the whole in myriad ways. I believe we are best when we recognize that connection. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it this way:

Strangely enough I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way the world is made; I didn’t make it that way, but it’s like that. And John Donne recorded it years ago and placed it in graphic terms: ‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.’ And then he goes on toward the end to say: ‘Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind. Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’ Only by discovering this are we able to master the breadth of life.

We are interdependent by design. Kelly Witchen writes about “shameless reliance” for the site She describes the V-formations of flying birds and says, “We must learn what the birds already know: Admitting you can’t do it alone, and leaning on those around you is not a weakness — it’s restoration.”

Even the last sentence of the Declaration of Independence affirms this mutual reliance:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

When we recognize our dependence, as well as that of those around us, it may be easier to both ask for help and extend a hand. If we could celebrate our need for others rather than see it as weakness, we might treat them with a higher level of empathy and civility.

This Independence Day, commemorate the independence of these United States from the control of a monarch. Likewise recognize the dependence each of us has on the other, for food, health, and safety, for work and play, for support and defense. No one stands alone, and for that we should celebrate.