Parlez vous HTMLese?

First the good news. My Italian is coming along molto f*cking bene (that’s really how they talk, I’ve found my place in the universe).

I’ve decided to get gonzo with my ‘vanity language’ by attending free community Italian classes for foreigners five days a week at the local high school. It’s me, a Romanian chick, a trophy wife from Lithuania and six Chinese kids, all of whom have moderate to severe ADD.

We move along at a sub-Special School pace – we’ve been stuck on a food, cooking and ordering at restaurants theme for almost two weeks. The teacher spends about half the class either telling the ADD casualties to shut the cow up or pleading with them to do something, anything, having to do with the lesson plan rather than play with their cell phones, MP3 players or video games which they carry in convenient, quick-access holsters like Batman protégés.

I’ve only had two Italian oopsies in the past week; once when I commented on how my landlord’s youngest daughter looked like a ‘cute pomegranate’ and again when I described President Bush as being a ‘nose puppet’, which may or may not be true, but that’s not what I was trying to say.

Moving on to this week’s mental trauma, I’m being beleaguered by yet another language; HTMLese. Eight years ago, I taught myself just enough about HTML code and the web design software package Dreamweaver to make web pages that probably any four year old could make these days. I employed these skills to great acclaim while I worked at the Federal Reserve – which isn’t saying much at a place where you can routinely overhear doosies like “what the hell is ‘Excel?'” coming out of the analyst cubicles – and later put to good use on my quick and dirty online travelogue.

However, I had a rude awakening recently (barring involvement by my new Italian TV girlfriend Michelle Hunziker, is there any other kind?); while I was trying to bring a number of web projects to life, including the sorry attempt at “design” you’re looking at right now, it became painfully clear that I’m right back at the bottom of the HTML learning curve.

It all started when I rented myself a discount plot of cyberspace three weeks ago and, in addition to finally transferring my beloved travelogue off Geocities, I launched my very own, soon to be award-winning, travel guide web site for Romania and Moldova, drawing on my voluminous knowledge of travel and living in those two countries, which as luck would have it, is completely within in the boundaries of my non-competitive clause with Lonely Planet. More importantly, if this business plan comes to fruition, in two years this web site should provide me with something approximating a normal income – for a college sophomore… in 1989.

Getting the latter going required a whole new set of competencies, mainly with things like templates, cascading style sheets, ads, affiliates, stat counters, server know-how and sometimes tricking Dreamweaver into doing the things I wanted it to do when I exceeded its design limitations and had to force the issue by writing raw code.  By the way, the only reason why this blog doesn’t look totally dismembered right now is due to the prompt and proficient assistance provided by Bertine (stupid cascading style sheet!).

Just like eight years ago when I was immersed in a similar mess, I’ve started having regularly scheduled dreams featuring webmaster catastrophes. The usual theme is that I have a simple design problem, like correcting text alignment, that mushrooms and degenerates like an episode of “Three’s Company” until the entire site is in a shambles, Crissy is locked in the Roper’s bathroom closet while they’re making whoopee  and agents from three governments are looking for me after I crash the entire internet. Alas, this is eerily similar to how things have been going in real life – without a scantly-clad blond doing the straight-woman shtick.

Last week, I spent three helpless days locked out of the administrative area of this very blog due to me performing a perfectly innocent (read: fuck-wit) bit of fiddling that resulted in me somehow forwarding the sign-on screen for my admin area to a completely different site. Having essentially erased all access to my admin page, I had no way to undo the disaster. I ended up spent the following three days attempting some very nervous database edits with a server tool I’ve never used before, which led to two more screw ups, then pathetic beseeching for help on two different support forums, submitting a support request ticket to my web host (that was unceremoniously ignored), before magically correcting the problem by making a basic database change I swear I tried right after I messed things up that didn’t work the first time for whatever reason.

Throughout this, I’ve come to believe that HTMLese should be recognized as its very own language. Getting this gibberish straight has the makings of learning any foreign language, without the luxury of being able to sort of wing it and get by using elaborate pantomime, which is how I get through a typical day here on Sardinia. Namely, there’s spelling (not my strong suit, by the way), grammar rules (of sorts), the tiniest mistakes completely changing the ‘meaning’ of a ‘sentence’ and the fact that you can make jokes in HTMLese that only other people who know the language will get – exposing us webmasters as the unsung nerds that we are.

They say that once you start speaking a foreign language in your dreams, you’ve reached a satisfactory level of fluency. By that definition, I now speak Spanish, Romanian, Italian (that’s right bella!) and HTMLese. Quite frankly, I’d like to divorce myself from the last one as the agitation level that goes with these dreams is something I could certainly live without, quint-lingual good vibes be damned.

In closing, please visit my new Romania and Moldova web site and book the most expensive rooms you can find through my accommodations affiliates programs. I need to jump-start the revenue stream, so I can have artfully nude pictures of myself delivered to Michelle’s office. I’m already not allowed within 500 meters of her house – fastest restraining order ever.