Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Web Site 

I know, I know, it was supposed to be up 2 weeks ago.

It's all my fault.

Well, and the fact that we didn't get the codes to actually use the web publishing tool we bought until day before yesterday. And we still don't have the address and permissions to use the hosting domain we paid for or confirmation of the domain name, yet - but that's coming!

But, you know, I can't really blame it all on those factors, because if we had them in place, the web pages would still not be up.

I'll tell you why.

I am a total computer ditz.

Yes, yes, I know, I worked for more than 3 years as a computer tech, phone help - and I was very good at my job, had one of the highest first time fix rates, and had the fewest call-backs for repairing the same problem. That's because I was so computer stupid, I didn't know the proper techie terms for everything, and I spoke the same "you know, the TV screen thingie" language my callers spoke. They understood me because I wasn't computer literate. I knew how to fix their problems, because I had really good training, and I was given really good tools to help me.

Problem is - none of that training or work or experience had anything to do with building web pages.

I used a wonderful "baby" tool called Hot Dog Junior. And if you ever want to build a web page all quick and pretty without learning a single HTML, XHTML, DTML, or CSS code or Java Script or flash or such, this is the tool to use. It makes good looking web pages, allows you to put in pictures and music and links and all really simply.

But, while Hot Dog Junior is great for personal pages, it's too restrictive for the needs of a business page. That's why we're using Hot Dog Professional.

Soooo, I've been teaching myself HTML, XHTML, DTML, and CSS code inorder to use this much bigger tool. (I am not Tim "The Toolman" Taylor, nor do I have scriptwriters so I can play one on TV, so it's not coming easy for me.)

Our site will have an index/site front page that links in to the 13 other pages within it, and I'm thinking internal frames or a frame-look so we can keep the navigation sidebar on each page will work best. Two local artists are working on creating some of the art, although we'll use photos for the most of the graphics - new ones, frequently updated.

One of the vertical divider lines is really great, though - it's anchored by a loaf of bread or bowl of soup, and the rising steam is Celtic style knotwork. With DTML, I think I can make the steam pulse slowly so it really looks as if it's rising, and it doesn't take any time at all to load. Right now, it pulses too fast, and looks like steam on steroids. I want it slow and lazy.

The horizontal dividers are more varied, usually rows of cookies or pastries.

I may also have to learn and buy Adobe so I can create downloadable documents for the Homeless Resource Center. That is going to be put on hold for a while.

The information for that web section is scantier than I'd like for many valid reasons. Much of the information will be available inside the Cracked Cauldron but permission to post a lot of it on the web has not been granted.

I can understand that. Both the people who offer resources for the local homeless and the local homeless themselves feel the information is best kept on a local level and I agree with them.

What good does it do to inform people in Los Angeles that this apartment complex will waive deposits and offer a discount if recommended by us in Oklahoma City? What good will it provide people in Nashville to know that homeless hungry people can redeem coupons for a substantial meal at the Cracked Cauldron? The homeless Los Angeline will not be able to get to that apartment, the hungry Nashvillan will still be hungry.

So, we post general information, statistics, useful tips, government and general resources, and so forth.

The physical Homeless Resource Center will be inside the Cracked Cauldron.

Having been homeless, we understand what it can sometimes take to overcome that. Not all homeless people are drug addicts or mental patients or criminals. Some of us were recently divorced moms with small children, or families who suddenly lost homes in a disaster. Remember the May 3 tornado? Many people were left homeless from that, and not just short term homeless, either. Some people took years to recover from that loss.

Not all disasters are weather-related. Some disasters come in the form of a catastrophic illness: cancer or heart disease or diabetes. The need to pay for the expensive medicine can put a family on the street very fast - and they don't qualify for welfare assistance because often, both parents are working and earn too much to get help.

That isn't the end of the disasters that can strike a family and leave them homeless. The economy and downsizing in it can either lower one's salary or take jobs from a once hard-working family and leave them desperate for work. Minimum wage cannot support a single person, let alone a family. I know this from personal experience.

And wait - it doesn't stop there! A large number of homeless people have work, they are employed. They either have too much debt to be able to afford a place to live (for divorced people, this is sometimes caused by too much debt coupled with child support payments - they'd rather go homeless than deprive their children by having the child support payments re-adjusted to reflect their new circumstances), or they lost a former well-paying job through downsizing, and took any job they could find. At their new lower income, they couldn't afford the payments on their original home, and slowly lost it all. Now, they can't afford the deposits to get into even a cheap place.

These people are called the Working Poor. Many are homeless, not in the on-the-street kind of desparation, but close. They are living with relatives, or rooming with other equally poor families, and all are living on the edge; one argument or one paycheck away from being on the streets.

Because they are working, they often don't qualify for most assistance, either because they make "too much money" (that was my personal downfall - "if you quit your job, you'll qualify for housing assistance and food stamps and utility assistance" ...I don't think so, I'd rather be homeless and employed than unemployed and on welfare, thankyouverymuch!) or because they haven't the flexibility to take off the hours and hours of time it takes to apply for and stay on assorted help programs such as food stamps.

Our welfare system isn't designed for the working poor.

The Cracked Cauldron's Homeless Resource Center focuses on these "working poor" people, offering resources and connections that make life easier for them, and maybe helps them get ahead a bit.

Life isn't fair. But we can be.

Being in that class of "working poor" ourselves, we haven't the funds to just set up this Homeless Resource Center and support it in the style it needs. And because the people we want to help fall between the cracks (part of the reason for our name!), funding for this sort of thing also falls between the cracks. We had to find a way to fund it ourselves.

Manager and I both can bake really well. When I was much younger, I apprenticed with a baker before I apprenticed with an apothecary, and I kept the recipes and methods learned in those fragrant, floury days, sharing them with Manager.

It was the frequent requests to cater this party or to provide treats for that birthday or event that led Manager to thinking along the lines of opening a bakery.

Several years and much research (and many satisfied guinea pigs)later, that's what we're doing.

The Cracked Cauldron is a bakery and coffeehouse that has delicious and unique breads and pastries and soups to please the palate of our discriminating customers, and each purchase will help someone live a better life.

We are baking memories in layers: yummy memories for our customers that make for happier memories for the working poor who benefit from the sales of those baked treats.

It's layered, like our web pages will be. The surface is simple and easy and fun, but the more you dig into it, the more goodness you'll find of a different sort.

You'll find stories in the web site: stories about our local artists and performers, stories about our local farmers and ranchers who supply the ingredients to the foods we prepare and sell, stories about our customers who enjoy our baked goodies, stories about the people whose lives were changed by the existence of the Cracked Cauldron.

You'll find pictures. Lots of pictures. Collages of customers.

And you'll find fun things like games and trivia and helpful things like bread history and recipes and resources.

So, that's why the web page isn't up yet, but will be soon.

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