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2002, Part 1

Wednesday, 2 January 2002

I decided to wait until day 2 of 2002 to post. Mostly because I have a weird thing for numeric patterns, even ones that don't make a lot of sense. Every time my RSA SecurID widget gives me a token that features some sort of repetition or matched pairs, I get an obscure glow of pleasure.

Okay, so I'm strange.

The holidays came and went, and we're all still here for now. I scored high on the Swag Meter at Christmas, but I'd gladly give it all away for something completely outside my power to either give or receive. Anyone know where I can purchase the remainder of a full life and have it gift-wrapped for a loved one?

Thursday, 3 January 2002

New at css/edge: boxpunch. Be sure to progress on to the second page of the demo.

Whenever I get a new CD, I usually listen to it semi-continuously until I get tired of it, or I get a new CD. That much is known. But I am now seriously, seriously hooked on Spiritual Machines, the latest from Our Lady Peace (a Flash-dependent site, sadly). I really liked their first three albums, sure, but this one is something else. I found myself intentionally seeking out other albums to listen to today, just so I wouldn't overdose. It didn't take too long for me to go back to Spiritual Machines. I'm like some kind of audio junkie all of a sudden, and it's a touch disturbing. So hurry up and buy a copy for yourself, so I don't feel so alone, okay?

Thursday, 10 January 2002

<style type="text/css" media="quantum-foam">
   cosmos {color: #A1E8CD;}
</style>

I just thought you'd want to know that. (Confused? There's an explanation.)

Friday, 18 January 2002

Last night, Kat and I were lying in bed talking (honest!) when we heard a deep, distant rumble. Even though we hadn't seen a flash, we guessed it was thunder from an energetic snowstorm over Lake Erie, which happens sometimes. It wasn't thunder. Our house is located almost two miles from University Hospitals, with a hill between us.

Monday, 21 January 2002

A new look for a new year. Readers of my next book may notice some similarities between this and one or two of the projects.

If the text is too small for you to read, try the "Advanced setup..." link in the sidebar. There you can define a default pixel size for this site and have the value stored in a cookie so that for the next year, you'll see the text at that size.

No tables were harmed, or even used, in the making of this design.

Update: I've made a few adjustments to the design to step around bugs in IE6/Win. Apparently, the MS programmers fixed most of the parsing bugs from the 5.x line, but not too many of the layout bugs. To make things worse, the parsing bugs are fixed in both the strict and quirks modes, so none of the traditional workarounds (like the "box model hack") work, and so I can't hide styles from IE6 at all. If their layout engine were as good as, say, IE5.1/Mac, then that wouldn't be a problem. No such luck.

(Thanks to my father for first discovering the layout problems in IE6, and for helping me figure out that I couldn't work around the bugs without changing my design approach.)

Thursday, 24 January 2002

Here's a good way to improve national security: arrest people who admit to inadvertently taking potential weapons onto airplanes. Yeah, that will really encourage people to be helpful. So let's say, just hypothetically, that I or somebody I knew had accidentally taken a utility knife or knitting needles or whatever on a flight or two, and airport security missed it. If I report this fact in the interests of improving screening procedures and helping authorities identify weak points in airport security, I could face jail time. What a great idea!

In a novel, this state of affairs would be tragicomic. In 2002 America, it's deeply stupid and somewhat scary. To paraphrase Ellen Ripley, did IQs just drop sharply when I wasn't looking?

Friday, 25 January 2002

Last night, I announced the creation of a new mailing list devoted to practical discussions of CSS called, ingeniously enough, css-discuss. In the first two hours we'd picked up 150 subscribers; two hours after that the list size had doubled. As I write this, we're passing 700 subscribers and still climbing. If I'd known it was going to be like this, I probably never would have done it!

Of course, it wasn't just me. Major thanks go to John Allsopp of Western Civilisation for providing the server resources and setting up the list. John and I will try our hardest to keep up with this runaway train, and we hope you'll hop aboard!

Thursday, 31 January 2002

It was a week ago that John Allsopp and I announced the existence of css-discuss. In that time, we've gone from 1 subscriber (me) to 1,301 subscribers. There was one message on the list when we started—my initial test message. Since then there have been 1,013 messages posted, many of them utterly fascinating. Several subscribers have commented that they've learned a lot about CSS from the list in its first week. That goes for me too. While the posting volume does seem to be slowing a bit, it's still close to 100 messages per day, indicating that there is more interest in CSS than I had dared even to dream.

So I'd like to thank each and every member of css-discuss for already making it an amazing, vibrant, useful community of learning. I don't think I could have asked for much better.

Speaking of CSS, I've added three more presentation choices to the menu, all of them variations on the basic layout. "Darkfall," at least, presents a very different look to the site. I also managed to squash a couple of bugs in the site's minimal Javascript, with help from Bill Pena and co-worker Bob Clary, so you shouldn't be seeing errors any more, assuming that you did at all. Remember: if the text is smaller than you'd like, go to the "Advanced setup..." page and set your preferred font size. (If you don't see the advanced setup or any theme choices, you might want to read about this site. If you get my drift.)

Monday, 18 February 2002

A big gap in writing means a big update. I'll try to keep it brief. Wait, who am I kidding? I'll be as long-winded as usual.

Travel: Kat and I just spent a weekend together in New York City, after I met with various people within Time-Warner to introduce the Netscape Evangelism team. Jeff's head cold prevented us from seeing him and his gal for dinner (although I'd seen him earlier in the week), but we did get time to hang out with a variety of Kat's friends. On Saturday, we fought our way through packed masses of people to see the Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown. It was there that I found a new definition of "pathetic." The parade turned out to be two very short dragons, a guy hitting a cymbal, and some local businessmen in suits. Front to back, the entire parade was about twenty feet long. Seriously.

We also got to see Kat's parents for brunch on Sunday morning, which is always nice. The Inn at Great Neck has a great buffet-style brunch, including oysters on the half-shell and some really amazing jumbo shrimp.

While coming in for a landing at Hopkins, I composed a blank-verse poem. I'm not sure why. It was as wretched as my other poetry, so I let it go, but what is it about recent months that has made me more poetic? Or at least made me think I am?

The Written Word: People have been asking about my writing, and there are quite a few rumors floating around, so here's the latest scoop straight from me. (I'd just like to pause a moment to reflect on the fundamental oddity of there being rumors about me and my work. Okay. Let's move on.)

The biggest news is that I'm writing a CSS book for New Riders; if you want to waste a few minutes for no good reason you can check out my author profile on their site. This book will not, as some have speculated, be called "CSS Magic." This is entirely because I couldn't live with the format restrictions that series places on its authors. Instead, the book will preserve the spirit of the Magic books but be presented more like a narrative text that walks the reader through the creation of a design, or an important aspect of one. The feeling the reader should (hopefully) get is of sitting next to me while I work through a project, seeing how the styles are built up and, when necessary, changed. Every chapter will be a project, and labeled as such. Code fragments will show what's added or changed at every step. The entire book will be in full color, and I'm aiming for an average of about one screenshot per page. Code fragments will show what's added or changed at every step. Sidebar notes and warnings will point out other things to try, or certain caveats, and so on. So in many ways, it will be very much like a Magic book. But it won't be called "CSS Magic."

We're aiming to have it on shelves this summer, with writing projected to be finished by the end of March. It's about two-thirds done already. As a bit of a teaser, the book will incorporate at least three of the demos found in css/edge, in whole or in part. I'll leave you to guess which ones made it in.

As for Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, there will not be a second edition before 2003 at the earliest. The problem is that expanding the book to cover CSS2, as I would pretty obviously have to do, means I'd have to write a lot of "this is how things should work, but no browser gets this right yet" or "only one browser will handle this, the rest will gack up a hairball." Even in a book like CSS:TDG, which is concerned as much with theory as practice, I vastly prefer to cover theory that can actually be put into practice. Who wants to read a 20-page chapter on generated content when it isn't fully supported by any known browser?

So that's a big factor in when the writing starts and when a second edition might hit the shelves. The release of IE6/Win actually delayed this process, because it added so little in the way of new and correct CSS support.

There you have it: the latest writing information. I should probably restructure my "Books" page so it has room for this sort of thing, and allow me to keep interested parties more up-to-date on what I'm doing. Maybe when the New Riders book is done...

On a related note, Owen Briggs (thenoodleincident.com) and Eric Costello (glish.com) are also finishing up a practical CSS book, and I believe it's due out in April. I don't know much more about it, except that given the uniformly excellent work the both of them have published, I'm confident it will be a worthwhile addition to anyone's library.

On another related note, Meryl K. Evans has posted a new article, Blast Sites with User CSS Sheets, which was written with some input from me and was apparently inspired in part by my presentation "User Stylesheets: A Tool for Design (and Destruction!)" last November at Web Design World 2001. You can find the original Powerpoint files for that presentation on my Talks page, but read Meryl's article for a much more friendly and thorough look at how user stylesheets can be a useful too in the hands of a savvy designer.

css-discuss: Although the pace has slowed quite a bit, we're still adding members; the count is now over 1500 subscribers to the list. The ebb and flow of the list has been fascinating, and I think we're starting to evolve the kind of community I'd hoped to create. It will still take some shepherding, but I think people have caught on to what I'm about. Word.

On yet another related note, Al Sparber, founder of Project VII and a highly respected Dreamweaver guru and real-world standards advocate, recently started up a CSS discussion newsgroup on the PVII NNTP server. I presume the group will be primarily focused on using CSS in a Dreamweaver environment, and certainly in conjunction with Al's DW extensions and design packs, but I bet it will also be a good place to get information about using CSS in general. You can find it at news://forums.projectseven.com/css. (Thanks to Shirley K. for reminding me, by dint of her blog entry, that I'd forgotten to post this before my trip to NYC.)

Tuesday, 19 February 2002

Remember the Martian Sphinx? Well, now we have similarly incontrovertible proof that Hallmark is controlled by alien beings. Never mind watching the skies—keep an eye on your local drug store!

Thursday, 28 February 2002

Ohio is forcing everyone with old-style license plates (three letters, three numbers) to get the new "Bicentennial" plates, which are still six characters long. From what I can tell, the difference is that with the new plates the first and third character pairs go from AA through ZZ, and the middle pair from 00 through 99.

About a week ago, as I pulled up to a traffic light, I noticed the car in front of me had the license plate AA31FF. Without even thinking about it, I did the translation in my head and came up with a shade of purple. Then I burst out laughing at myself. I fear I'm going to spend the next ten years seeing sporadic colors while driving, which is as strange a route to pseudo-synaesthesia as I can imagine.

When I went to reluctantly pick up my new plates, they didn't bear a hexadecimal number.

Monday, 4 March 2002

The other day I got e-mail containing this amusing vignette:

I took my four-year-old to Borders Bookstore today because I needed three books (Dreamweaver 4 Bible, Heinle's latest JavaScript book, and your CSS book). Because he can spend almost forever in the Children's Section, I told him that we had to get my books first.

I find the JavaScript book, then manage to find the DW book. But I can't find yours. (Of course, this is Borders' computer section...loaded with books not always organized.) [My son] is getting bored...it's not much fun for him in this section. He starts looking at different books and liking the O'Reilly ones because of the animals on the covers.

I reach his limit...he's ready to go. So he reaches up, grabs a book, and says, "This is the one we want."

And he was right...it was your book.

So you can honestly say that the popularity of your book extends to young and old alike.

As a result, I've decided that I'm going to follow Zeldman's example and term myself "Friend of the Developers' Children."

Thursday, 14 March 2002

Kat and I just flew back from a weeklong vacation in the Cancun region, and boy, are my arms red! No, really—my sunburn has yet to completely fade. We might actually write up a review of the place we stayed, which is only a few months old. If we do, of course I'll post the link. First I have to dig throught the 2,407 e-mail messages that piled up in my absence.

While I was gone, John Manning wrote to point out that I need to correct an earlier posting, so I'll do it here:

<style type="text/css" media="quantum-foam">
   cosmos {color: #FEF8EA;}
</style>

Turns out the previously-posted value was the result of computational error. Oopsie.

I would have laughed harder at the article "Item Found In Garbage To Be Turned Into Lamp Someday" except it hit a little too close to home. When we took possession of our house, there were several boxes of trash on the treelawn left by the previous occupants. For no apparent reason, I looked through the boxes and actually salvaged something for later conversion to a lamp. What was it, you ask? Let's just say it's plastic, brightly colored, and covered in Grateful Dead stickers.

Monday, 18 March 2002

Kat wrote up a short account of our recent trip, which includes a detailed review of the resort where we stayed in case you're thinking about heading for Cancun. I marked it up and scanned in a few pictures to make it prettier. It's all in the "Miscellaneous" section.

Tuesday, 2 April 2002

I waited a day on posting this, just to make sure nobody thought it was an April Fools' joke. Go to http://www.section508.gov/, which is the central hub for information on the piece of U.S. Federal law that mandates accessibility in all Web sites of government agencies, and of those businesses and organizations that do business with or receive money from the U.S. government. Look at the bottom of the document: "This site best viewed with MS Internet Explorer 5+".

What?

So I ran the site through the W3C's markup validator, and got back a report that their markup is broken. Go figure. Neither does their CSS validate, and I'm not just talking about the metric ton of warnings the page generates. No wonder their site looks best in IE5 (for Windows, I assume): odds are it's the only widely available browser sloppy enough to tolerate their slipshod authoring practices.

It's things like this that really sap my faith in the intelligence of my fellow man. Well, that and the e-mail response I saw from the maintainers of the site, which basically said, "IE is the biggest gorilla on the Web so the other 10% of our users can sod off. And so can you." I expect that kind of thing from 14-year-old fanboy site authors, not the people in charge of the government Web site about how Web sites are supposed to be open and accessible to all users.

I'm going to say it right here and now: "this site best viewed in browser X" is shorthand for "this site's maintainers are too lazy to think about standards compliance, user experience, or cross-browser design." Before I get all kinds of "pot, meet kettle" e-mail regarding meyerweb and how it's designed, you'll note that I never claimed the site would look better in one browser or another. If anything, this site looks best in a browser that supports W3C standards. And I have nothing against their font-sizing widget; I use one myself. What bothers me is that they can't be bothered to take simple steps towards the very principles their site espouses, and the browser favoritism they show as a result.

"This site best viewed with MS Internet Explorer 5+"... cripes. Some days I wonder why we even bother.

Thursday, 4 April 2002

The 508 Follies, Take Two: I got e-mail yesterday morning from a U.S. government Web developer who was reacting to Tuesday's semi-rant. In addition to expressing embarrassment over the state of the Section 508 Web site, he pointed me toward an article on Government Computer News—a site I hadn't known even existed, but plan to visit from now on—titled "Section 508 site takes own advice." (That constitutes 100% of your recommended daily allowance of irony, by the way.) As my correspondent said about the article: "Apparently they recently redesigned their site and the old one was actually worse."

For some reason I'm put in mind of the song "Don't Worry About the Government":

Some civil servants are
Just like my loved ones
They work so hard and they
Try to be strong

For those of you in the civil services who are still working hard and trying to be strong, which I suspect is a lot harder these days, a tip of my hat and most heartfelt thanks to you.

Wednesday, 10 April 2002

Revenge of The 508 Follies: So the U.S. government's Section 508 Web site has removed its "best viewed with" line that caused me such angst last week, which I suppose is a positive step. Unfortunately, they have yet to fix either their HTML or CSS to be valid. I'd rather they had fixed the code and left the annoying text... but I suppose I should be grateful that some improvement has occurred.

Friday, 12 April 2002

This just in: a large area of nightfall was spotted over west central Lake Erie late this morning, reducing visibility and confusing the heck out of everyone in the area. Doppler radar registered the following at 10:52am local time:

From The Weather Channel: A big black square blotting out most of Lake Erie and the north edge of Ohio

By early afternoon, the unexpectedly large area of nightfall had developed into a line of thunderstorms that moved slowly out of the area.

In a development that surprised nobody, Youngstown area Representative James A. Traficant phoned in from the planet Mars to blame the entire situation on vindictive federal prosecutors out to get him and anyone near him. The U.S. Department of Vindictive Prosecutions could not be reached for immediate comment.

Monday, 15 April 2002

Hooray! It's Income Tax Day in the United States, which means that carping and whining about our tax burden will be at an annual high. Boy oh boy, what could be more fun? How about griping about a closely related topic? I'm here for ya!

Personally, I don't get most of my fellow Americans. Compared to most countries in the industrialized world, we have a fairly small tax burden, while still expecting basically the same level of service from our government. In addition, our gasoline is incredibly (some would say criminally) inexpensive compared to most countries. Our income tax averages around 30% of direct income, with some shifting on either end of the wealth/poverty scale. I can't speak to capital gains taxes, but my general thinking has always been that if you're well-off enough to have capital gains at all, then you can darned well afford the taxes on them. Ditto the inheritance tax, only more so.

If we want government services, then taxes are inevitable. If we don't want those services, then enough people need to elect enough representatives to cut the unwanted services. Then the taxes can drop. (Assuming the debt's been paid off, which of course it won't be any time soon, but that's an entirely different gripe of mine.) If there aren't enough such representatives, then the "will of the people" must be to keep the services. Ergo, the taxes need to be able to support the expenditures on those services. It all seems kinda simple to me.

And hey, if you don't like the value received for the money you're required to pay, then nobody's forcing you to live here. Find a better country. Ever think you'd hear a liberal say that?

Thursday, 18 April 2002

My God, has nothing been learned?

Tuesday, 23 April 2002

Despite being a techogeek of the second order, I've long been opposed to the Strategic Defense Initiative. It never made sense to me that a few satellites, or even a few hundred, could protect the country from a missile attack by the Soviet Union. Suppose the SDI system managed to survive an opening-round EMP pulse (which is highly unlikely) and had to defend against a first strike of 5,000 ICBMs and 30,000 decoys. Now suppose that the SDI system somehow managed to shoot down 99.5% of the incoming vehicles, warheads and decoys alike. In that case, 25 missiles would make it through, not to mention 150 decoys, all of which will do at least some kinetic damage when they land. Oops.

Even today, SDI makes little to no sense no matter what you call it. If a "rogue state" obtains a nuclear weapon and wants to hit us with it, they're going to smuggle it into (or even just really close to) America and then set it off. Why leave a very obvious ballistic trace on NORAD's radars when you can fly/sail/drive/walk the device up to your target? The only real purpose to SDI seems to be propping up a few aerospace companies, and maybe making the Chinese more tense.

Now we have one more reason to avoid putting weapons in orbit: post-battle debris. If you blow up stuff in orbit, it doesn't just vaporize like in Star Wars—all the shrapnel has to go somewhere. Like into orbit around the Earth. We'd get pretty meteor showers for a while, but is that really worth taking down the entire global communications and positioning infrastructure, not to mention imprisoning ourselves on this increasingly stupid planet for several centuries?

What I find really depressing is that it's probably too late: the technology is available today, assuming you're satisfied with putting up comparatively crude weapons. If it hasn't been done already, it will be done by somebody within the next 50 years or less. Then everyone else will have to follow suit.

And just to top off a bad situation with a pitch-black cherry: the Orbital Debris Program Office, which is the agency that keeps track of the small-scale junk we've already put in orbit, is due to be shut down this year for lack of funding. Now there's a good idea. Hey, why not shut down the air traffic control system while we're at it? I'm sure nothing could possibly go wrong with that plan, either.

I'm beginning to see how Earth eventually becomes the Planet of the Apes. I just wish the apes weren't already running the show.

Wednesday, 24 April 2002

Apparently my recent posts have lead some people to think that it's time to resurrect my former title of Mr. Bitter, so the following two items come just in time.

  • How weird is the world? Try Mr. Elmo goes to Washington. This is one of those news items that proves to me that I didn't really miss anything by passing on recreational chemical use. Is it a sign of the End Times that we have unkempt sock puppets testifying before Congress? (Besides Rep. James A. Traficant, I mean.) Speaking of the Apocalypse...
  • How weird are people? Try publishing an article claiming that PURE EVIL lurks in every Apple Macintosh. (Scroll down a bit to get to the largest section, titled "Apple Macintosh.") I haven't laughed this hard in weeks. What makes it even better is this: read through the whole article, taking special note of the points about how the core of Apple's new OS is a type of Unix and thus runs "daemons" in the background and contains the "secret code" chmod 666. So obviously Unix is a tool of Satan, and no God-fearing Christian could possibly consider associating themselves or their data with any such operating system. Got all that? Now go to the root level of the server, and check out the OS information at the bottom of the page. Now that's funny!

So don't worry: the world is too amusingly surreal for me to stay permanently bitter. I get outraged sometimes, but that's because I want the world I inhabit to improve, not deteriorate—and I want it now more than ever.

Thursday, 9 May 2002

A long couple of weeks, including a trip to California that got cut a little short.

I fixed the link to the orbit debris story, which disappeared shortly after I linked to it. Here's what I find interesting: I linked to it on 23 April. The URL of the story indicates it was published on 3 May. So far as I'm aware, I haven't been time-traveling, so what happened? In addition, the text of the article is very different than it used to be, including (among other things) a removal of any information about the closing of the Orbital Debris Program Office. Why would an article literally disappear for ten days and then come back with a much different tone? I don't mind writing followup pieces that incorporate new information, of course, but this isn't a followup. It's a replacement. What happened to the original? I wish now that I'd saved the original to my hard drive, just to be able to compare.

I'm feeling a little paranoid about this. Of course, that might be due to watching All the President's Men last night.

I also notice that the links to the "pure evil in Macs" Web site aren't working. I seem to have the ability to evaporate pages and sites just by linking to them. Boy, if that were true, I'd start linking to so many extremist sites it would make both our heads spin.

Friday, 10 May 2002

Issue 144 of A List Apart ("for people who make websites") has been published and contains an article by yours truly. Title: "Going to Print". Subject: creating print-specific styles for A List Apart, thus illustrating how to style documents for print so that no "click here for a printer-friendly version" page is needed. In tone, "Going to Print" is very similar to the projects in my forthcoming book, Eric Meyer on CSS, so you could consider it a very short preview of what to expect there.

Monday, 13 May 2002

Molly, like us and just about everyone we know, is going through a very difficult period in her life. In a block of text that blurs the line between prose and poetry, she pours a small portion of that turmoil into her Web site.

For some reason Molly's words made me think of a painting that, without her, I would never have seen: Lu Jian Jun's oil-on-canvas work "Deception" "Ear Drops". The small image of the painting cannot hope to convey the subtle, exquisitely vibrant luminosity of the original, which I saw at the Weinstein Contemporary Artist Gallery in San Francisco two weeks back. They have a number of other paintings by the same artist, every one of them beautiful. If you have the chance, go see the paintings, and do it quickly. There is a show dedicated to Jun's work coming soon, and I would not be surprised if every piece is gone by the end of the show. I didn't buy "Deception" myself because it would have cost more than the averaged value of an entire floor of my house... but I very much wished that I could.

Tuesday, 21 May 2002

Kat and I just got back from a six-day trip to be with her family, to celebrate her father's birthday. I returned to 1,334 messages in my personal mail account, most of them from mailing lists. But about 345 of those messages were spam. I'm reluctantly coming to the conclusion that if there's one hanging offense on the Internet, spamming is it.

Granted, I've been online almost a decade and never really went to much trouble to disguise my e-mail address, a policy for which I am now paying every day of the year, as I try to clear my Inbox of crap without accidentally throwing away messages from people who legitimately want to talk to me—about CSS, about what I write here, about life in general. It's an annoyance I really could do without, but it's way too late now. The spam will stop when I go permanently offline, and not a day before.

The point of all this is not just to whine, although I admit it feels a little better to have vented. The point is that if you really want to talk to me, don't give your message a subject like Hey there :), as one correspondent did in the last six days. I very nearly trashed it out of hand, along with a few dozen urgent appeals for help from Nigerian mining widows, detailed make-money-fast schemes, offers of herbal viagra supplements, and so on. Please, I beseech you, make your subject lines descriptive in some way, and try to make them unambiguous. Otherwise, your message may find itself in the bit-bucket.

Wednesday, 29 May 2002

Now available: the pre-publication Web site for Eric Meyer on CSS, which contains information about the book and its author, a preview of some project files, and more.

I was particularly proud of this morning's edition of "Your Father's Oldsmobile." You can grab a copy to listen for yourself by going to WRUW's Wednesday archive. It will be a 56kpbs copy of what I broadcast this morning, which for two hours of music still clocks in at almost 50MB—but if you like Big Band-era music, you might get a kick out of the show.

I realized just recently that I was out of my home state for 17 of the last 33 days, spread out over three trips. Bleah.

Thursday, 30 May 2002

I experienced a touch of techno-frisson this evening. The phone rang, and when I answered it, it turned out to be a sales call offering to refinance my mortgage. Just as the words "we're calling to offer competitive interest rates on mortgage refinancing" left the guy's mouth and grated across my eardrum, e-mail dropped into my Inbox with the subject line current mortgage interest rate.

I had no idea I seemed so desperate for a new mortgage. (Which I'm not, thanks.)

THIS IS SPAM Spam continues to stay in the forefront of my (mostly negative) thinking. I do have to give major honesty points to a message I received a few weeks back. When I opened it up (I still don't know why I did) I found what's depicted in the accompanying graphic. They may be the scum of humanity, but at least they're up front about what they do. I have to respect that. I admit I laughed out loud when I saw it, then took a screenshot and deleted the message.

The other thing I wanted to mention is from the "this is funny but I'm laughing as much at the audacity as the humor" department: The Onion managed this week to put a surreal perspective on current events. You know, it almost does make sense...

Brief correction: apparently the painting I liked so much isn't called "Deception" any more. Now it's called "Ear Drops". Personally, I think the original title worked better.

Monday, 3 June 2002

The power brick for our DSL modem fried itself late Friday afternoon, so now I'm sipping the Internet through a 45.2Kbps straw. Expect longer-than-usual delays in responses to e-mail and newsgroup postings. I hope to have a replacement brick in hand by tomorrow... keep your fingers (as opposed to your wires) crossed for me.

Tuesday, 4 June 2002

The power supply arrived today, thanks to a "I'll pay for overnight delivery" call to Arescom, and we're back on DSL. You can still expect me to take longer than usual to reply to any e-mail you may have sent, as I was effectively offline for three days and the latest session of my CSS2 course just started up on Monday. So I'm going to be a touch busy.

Monday, 10 June 2002

The last paragraph of Wired's article "Browsing Around for New Targets" caught my attention:

But one HTML contractor, who asked not to be named, illustrated the uphill battle the WaSP faces in getting programmers to lay aside their old browser-specific tricks: "Do you know how much I get paid for knowing this stuff?"

Yep. And can you imagine how much more you'd be paid if you knew how to code to standards, thus delivering a superior product with outstanding delivery capabilities? Not to mention what kind of reputation you'd build up for doing so, and how much more you could charge then?

Actually, it occurs to me that something the WaSP ought to do (if they haven't already; we'll find out tomorrow) is create an executive-level whitepaper that basically says, "If you're still shelling out for multiple versions of a site and 80KB HTML source, you're paying way too much for way too little. Stop paying people to know how browsers worked two years ago, and start paying for people who know how to make your site work two years from now."

Tuesday, 11 June 2002

Today, on the fifth anniversary of Navigator 4.x's release, the Web Standards Project rebirthed itself. Check it out—the sprightly new site is remarkably free of birthing fluid! And even this soon out of the womb, the WaSP has some things to say to you, not all of them soothing.

Speaking of NN4.x turning five, Scott Andrew has some things to say about that. Go now, before the day is over. In addition to some lovely digital artwork, it's haikuriffic!

Wednesday, 12 June 2002

Digital Web has published an interview with yours truly, conducted by Meryl K. Evans. I get to babble on for a bit about CSS, the W3C, Netscape, and my radio show. Now, if only I could figure out what they did with the picture I sent them... I just hope I don't get Photoshopped onto Salacious Crumb's body, or something. (Update: I found out what they did with the picture. Whew!)

Scott Andrew LePera's brilliant Netscape 4 birthday gallery has a new home on his site. If you haven't seen it already, go forth and partake of its artistically acid bounty.

Saturday, 22 June 2002

As some of you know, I have a weekly radio show on a local community/college radio station. We've been Webcasting for a while now. So yes, this is going to be another rant against the recent ruling of the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (or CARP; feel free to rearrange letters as you like).

It isn't necessarily the fees that I mind so much, although they obviously could be ruinous to any highly popular Webcaster. They also don't make a lot of sense, since we don't have to pay anyone to broadcast our air signal to (potentially) about two million people in the greater Cleveland metropolitan area. No, what I find so objectionable are the parts that regulate what you can play in a given period of time. For example (and thanks to Jim Gilliland for pointing me to this information), per Section 114(j)(13): In any three hour period, [a Webcaster] may not play more than:

  • three songs from the same record, two consecutively
  • four songs by the same artist, three consecutively
  • four songs from the same box set (even if "various artists"), three consecutively

On my most recent show, as it happens, I played a number of album sides and live recordings. When you're a non-profit, non-commercial radio station staffed by community volunteers, you can do that kind of thing. My playlist included:

  • Duke Ellington: "Small Band Shorts (1928-1935)" - Side 1 (soundtrack to the short film Black and Tan Fantasy)
  • Louis Prima: "1944" - Side 1 (recording of a live broadcast from 1944)
  • "From Spirituals To Swing" - Side 3 (concert recordings of various artists at Carnegie Hall, 1938-1939)
  • Benny Goodman: "On the Air (1938-1939)" - Disc 1, Tracks 2-11 (recordings of radio broadcasts from 1938-1939)

Under the new CARP rules, I spent two hours violating the law with that show. The same would be true of my D-Day special, which draws fairly heavily on the compilation "Swing Out To Victory." If I can't come up with enough war-themed recordings on different records or compilations, then I'll have to discontinue the D-Day special, which has become an annual tradition and always draws appreciative calls from listeners. Ditto for my occasional broadcasts of the first Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington concerts at Carnegie Hall. History? Eh, who needs it?

Of course, all this becomes moot if we stop Webcasting. So we have a choice: interesting and diverse music or worldwide reach. One gets the feeling that the media conglomerates, who obviously chose reach over diversity, are trying to impose that same choice on the rest of us.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for honoring the rights of artists, and seeing that they're fairly compensated for their work. The CARP ruling isn't the way to do it. For that matter, neither are the contracts offered by media conglomerates—but I suppose that's a whole different story.

Wednesday, 26 June 2002

The first review of my new book, Eric Meyer on CSS, is now available at Digital Web. The reviewer seems to have liked it. The book should be available this coming Friday, despite what Amazon says. Better to trust the information on New Riders site—I double-checked with my editor and she says it's on track to start shipping within the next few days. Two words: "ya" and "hoo." (Yodeling not required.)

Friday, 28 June 2002

I now have in my possession two real physical paper copies of Eric Meyer on CSS. It looks as beautiful as I could have hoped—better. 310 pages of practical CSS, divided into 13 projects, each and every page in glorious full color to really show what CSS can do. I'm really, really, really very happy right now.

Sadly, this joy is tempered by the fact that most e-tailers think the book will become available in August; Barnes & Noble is the exception, with a fairly realistic 9 July availability date. Even the New Riders Web site claims the book isn't available, and encourages you to search for a newer edition(!). Trust me, folks: this baby is revved up and ready to go. There just seem to be a few annoying roadblocks in front of the starting gate. If you're interested in ordering a copy, and of course I hope you are, please try again in a few days. I'm looking at the two copies as I type this (please excuse any typos), so I know the book actually exists.

Extras