Frequently Asked Questions

This page will address known problems and concerns with the website. It will also answer the more common questions that friends and family have asked me concerning the website.

Contacting me

To get in touch with me with comments or questions, I have a contact web form just for you.

Website history

I started this website over 25 years ago in 1998 while a physics undergrad at LSU. My parents had AOL, and they gave us the ability to manually create webpages. I used AOLpress to start off with until I could pick up the underlying HTML. When faced with creating the content of my index page, my fingers hovered over the keys. "What should I make a site for? What am I the authority of that isn't already online?" Well, me, I suppose. So without much thought, I typed out the page title, "Worldwide Center for the Study of Leif", and began creating a fictional organization whose sole purpose was documenting my life.

Over time, I created departments for art, biology, computer science, geography, history, human ecology, literature, music, and physics as a way to organize the things I wanted to post online. I even had an "Office of the Founder", a Visitor Information Center, a news division, and something I called "Friends of Leif". The site grew to be quite large and, eventually, irrelevant and somewhat embarrassing. By early 2010, I decided it was time to replace it all.

We had been working on developing a PHP website framework at work along the lines of WordPress or something. We were also dabbling in XSL. But I wanted a lightweight template framework that allowed me to inject PHP code as well as simple HTML/JS/CSS without having to work with content stored in a MySQL database and a complex admin section to edit the content. I wanted a global template, so if, for example, I wanted to change the header graphic on every page, one change to a single template file would be the only change I needed to make. I figured I could develop this myself without much trouble.

My first attempts involved XSL, but then I noticed search engines weren't indexing and caching my pages correctly. My site visits plummeted. (Yes, I do have an .htaccess file to make permanent redirects for my old URLs.) So instead of waiting for search engines to work with the new technology — a more efficient, low-bandwidth technology — I redeveloped my framework to output straight HTML, JS, and CSS.

I base my design on content blocks. Some examples of blocks are the header graphic plus main menu, the footer with date last modified, and the right column of ingredients on the recipe pages. Every requested webpage is a file which instantiates a WebPage object and then adds blocks (divs) to the object in linear fashion. Each page also decides which template to use. (In the end, templates became somewhat pointless as I only use one, an HTML5 one.) Each block is in a separate PHP file implemented with a PHP class with static methods and properties that extends a Block superclass. It has a list of CSS and JavaScript files that it requires for proper display and functioning. Not the most brilliant framework, but it suits my needs.

It was in early 2011 when I got an iPhone and realized my website wasn't mobile-friendly. I read a lot on best practices and realized that there really isn't a best way to go about this. I went with an "m." subdomain over a "mobile." one and made some pretty straightforward additions to my .htaccess file. After some fiddling, I narrowed down my solution to some PHP checks (hiding large graphics if it's a mobile request) and two sets of CSS files (one for the mobile site and one for the full site). There are still some pages that display poorly on a small screen, but for the most part, I've got what I want.

My site content now focuses on the things I currently enjoy: plants, travel, food, and, to a smaller degree, recording music. I've kept some news articles I find particularly amusing.

Facebook "Like" button

I noticed something when I first added that "Like" button on the top right of all pages. (Note that the mobile site doesn't display it. Only the full site does.) It won't actually work if you have disabled third-party cookies in your browser. If it's important to you to Like something publicly, you should enable third-party cookies. In some browsers, it may be possible to just allow this type of cookie by domain, so you can add Facebook to that list. Ask a younger relative for more information on this topic.

Internet Explorer issues

To be honest, I've made this website to work in Firefox and Chrome. This website will not work as intended if you decide to use Internet Explorer. I will do what I can to address the simpler problems, but if the fault is obviously Microsoft's or if it would take too long or too much code to work-around, I will not change it. Known problems are:

Privacy concerns

While not really a question anybody's actually asked me, I do want to make note of what information the server collects from you and how it's used. Each page request you make is stored in an Apache access log file. Each HTML (or PHP) file request runs some Google Analytics JavaScript that performs some unknown magic. [UPDATE: I disabled tracking on 2019-06-23.] For these two systems, the information collected is the requested file, what webpage you were on that referred you to the requested file (i.e., what page the link was on), your IP address, your user agent (i.e., what browser you use and all information it sends to identify itself), and the time. (I'm pretty sure that's all.) I was reluctant to let Google know about page requests, but their Analytics reporting is pretty cool.

Because this data is generated by you, I feel ethically obligated to let you view this data as well. What I intend to do is use Google's API to pull data and display it on my site. I haven't started this and I'm not sure when I will, but this is something I'd like to do.

Additionally, you may get warnings from some pages asking for your permission to share your location. This website does not receive this data from you and so stores nothing. It is actually Google which is getting this information, so there's no telling what they do with it. Without researching this, I'm assuming they collect at least your latitude, longitude, and altitude/elevation.