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Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign

So I’m on the book-signing schedule at SXSW04 as part of a five-person signature cage match that will last until only one person is left standing!  Er, or something.  Actually, I assume they’re going to kick us out of there by 1:15pm to clear enough space for all of Cory Doctorow‘s screaming fans.  But hey, if you have a book you want to have signed by any of us, bring it along.  I imagine you’ll also be able to buy Eric Meyer on CSS at the Borders booth where the signing will be held, as well as any of the other books listed.  This signing comes just fifteen minutes after the panel in which I’m participating, so it looks like I’ll have to dash from one to the other.

When they asked me if I was game for a book signing, I did recommend that they get copies of Eric Meyer on CSS because it seemed beyond scummy to have them stock up the first edition of Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide when the second edition will be coming out within a week or two of the signing.  Hey, I’m lookin’ out for ya.  Now all I have to do is think up some witty phrases to inscribe.

(If you’re in the Austin area but aren’t going to be attending SXSW04, you can still drop by and heckle us for free by getting an iF! pass.)

In the past three weeks, I’ve tried to hack (with varying levels of success) XSLT, Perl, and JavaScript.  Since I’m no better than a middling-fair programmer in any of those languages, I suppose some confusion was inevitable, but it seems like it’s always XSLT that gets me.  Thankfully, Chriztian Steimeier provided a solution for my XSLT problem.  The way that templates get called and nest and interact with each other continues to befuddle me, but I hope that it will one day make a modicum of sense.

Fishing For Style

As a followup to yesterday’s entry, I thought I’d share some details on what will be in Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition (now available for pre-order!).  Here’s the Table of Contents, or at least a core subset of it:

  1. CSS and Documents
  2. Selectors
  3. Structure and the Cascade
  4. Values and Units
  5. Fonts
  6. Text Properties
  7. Basic Visual Formatting
  8. Padding, Borders, and Margins
  9. Colors and Backgrounds
  10. Floating and Positioning
  11. Table Layout
  12. Lists and Generated Content
  13. User Interface Styles
  14. Non-Screen Media
  1. Property Reference
  2. Selector, Pseudo-Class, and Pseudo-Element Reference
  3. Sample HTML 4 Style Sheet

Owners of the first edition will notice that the chapters have been rearranged a bit.  Thanks to the expansion of selectors in CSS2, it made sense to rearrange things so that they got their own chapter (which you can read in beta form from O’Reilly), and the parts about how CSS relates to document structure were folded into the chapter about specificity and the cascade.  The consolidation of floating and positioning into one chapter really helped cut down on redundancies, although that is the longest and most-enfigured chapter in the book.  (In second place, “Basic Visual Formatting.”)  “Table Layout” talks about how tables are laid out and styled, not how to do layout with tables.  The last two chapters are basically overviews with some detail, since user interface styles are almost certainly going to change radically in CSS3 and non-screen media support is limited or largely theoretical at this stage.  There’s still enough detail to satisfy, I think.

As for the other chapters, they’re largely the same as in the first edition in terms of topical coverage.  They’ve just been updated and expanded to match what’s in CSS2.1.  As an example, “Text Properties” covers everything that it did in the first edition, now updated for 2004; plus it adds information on text-shadow, direction, and unicode-bidi.

The technical reviewers for the second edition were Tantek Çelik and Ian Hickson, who were just as tough and thorough as I’d hoped.  Ian’s one of the people who pounded the inline layout model into my head until I got it when writing the first edition, actually.  I got similar treatment from both reviewers over the interaction of generated content with non-generated elements this time around, not to mention when I tried to figure out the value syntax for text-decoration.  It used to be simple, but oh no… they had to go makin’ it all fancy.

Anyway, I hope that will give some idea of what lies ahead for those of you who do me the honor of purchasing the book.

I occasionally toy with the idea of setting up a Cafépress store with CSS-related merchandise.  If anyone out there has bought stuff (particularly T-shirts and other articles of clothing) from Cafépress, kindly let me know what you thought of it in terms of quality and durability.

Making Book

This past weekend, the folks at O’Reilly and I wrapped up the final edits and adjustments to Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition.  The in-stock date is near the end of this month, so it ought to be physically sitting on shelves by the beginning of April, maybe sooner.  The page count listed on the O’Reilly page (as I write this) is an early estimate and too high; the actual page count will be closer to 550 pages.  There are a few reasons for this drop in pages:

  • The support charts have been dropped.  When the first edition came out, it made sense to include that kind of information in an appendix, so we did.  As I recently wrote on www-style, the world is much different now, and the day of nifty support charts may well have passed.  In the CSS realm, anyway.  To even present a simple yes/no support chart for CSS2 would have been a dozen pages long, and a nuanced chart with notes would easily have run five times that long.  I still have notes and warnings about particularly egregious problems sprinkled through the text, though.
  • The “CSS In Action” and “Look Ahead” chapters were also dropped.  There is plenty information available these days on how to actually use CSS, so we decided not to be redundant.  As for looking ahead, even a high-level overview of where CSS3 is headed could be a hundred pages long, and out of date the minute we printed it.  Better to wait and see where things end up than make a lot of ill-informed guesses.
  • By rearranging the way information was presented, I was able to cut a lot of redundancies that bedeviled the first edition.  I also cut out some material that seemed important back in 1999, but has long since become irrelevant (like notes about what IE3 does or doesn’t do).
  • The figure count has been scaled back.  There are still a few hundred figures throughout the book, but I went to some effort to combine several points into a single figure when I could, and not illustrate every little point I made.  You really only need to see so many examples of “boldface text,” you know?
  • The text doesn’t spend time on things that were in CSS2 but aren’t in CSS2.1, and that nobody will likely ever support.  This means that some paged-media properties like marks weren’t described, and I didn’t waste time on the CSS2 marker-styling features since they will almost certainly die out and be replaced by a different approach in CSS3.  I did cover properties like font-size-adjust and text-shadow, but not in major detail.

So the second edition is an update of about 380 pages of the first edition, once you subtract out the stuff that was cut.  Every chapter of the first edition was reviewed and, in most cases, significantly overhauled even if it wasn’t expanded (for example, the Fonts chapter didn’t gain a lot, but it was still reworked to reduce the number of figures needed and to clarify some points).  There are four all-new chapters, five chapters with significant additions or revisions, and five more that were lightly to moderately revised.  So it’s practically a whole new book.

That’s even more true of the book I have coming out in mid- to late April from New Riders: More Eric Meyer on CSS, a sequel to Eric Meyer on CSS.  And when I say “sequel,” I really mean it: this is a collection of ten entirely new projects, so it is not a new edition of the older book.  You can own one without the other, although of course you should buy both!  Baby needs a new pair of shoes, after all.  (Okay, that’s a lie; she’s too little to be wearing shoes.  But you know what I mean.)  I’ll have more details as they become available.

Turning Points

As the calendar turns to another year, I’ve reached a major goal.  I just now finished writing the preface and dedication for the second edition of Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, which means that the primary writing is fully and completely done.  Some chapters have already been through technical review, copyedit, and author review, and are moving through production.  Others are queued up for me to deal with in the next several days.  So it looks very much like we should be able to put the book on shelves, and into your hands, before summer gets underway.  This is, for me, a major relief.

As for the sequel to Eric Meyer on CSS, that’s suffered some setbacks due to Carolyn’s arrival, so I’m not sure when it will be finished and published.  Half the projects are already written, and the sixth has the working files all set up.  That leaves just a few more to write.  I’m hoping to get them finished before January is done, but I’m feeling less and less optimistic about meeting that goal.  We’ll see what happens.

Speaking of Carolyn, she’s suffering through her first cold, so we stayed home last night.  There are certainly worse ways to spend a New Year’s Eve than with your wife, new daughter, and a home-cooked meal.  We didn’t even bother to watch the ball drop, although the shouted countdowns from our various neighbors let us know exactly when the new Gregorian year began.

As Kat and I lay in bed last night, Carolyn miserably gurgling and wheezing between us, I kept saying to myself, “It’s just another day.”  There was something about the change to 2004 that hit me hard, a realization that this is the first year in which Mom has always been dead.  Throughout 2003, even though she was gone, she’d been a part of that year.  When that last digit changed, artificial though the division of time might be, there was suddenly a sense that I was farther away from Mom, that I’d crossed a boundary that was suddenly like a wall between us.

But it is, in the end, just another day.  Mom doesn’t have to be any further away from me than she was yesterday, or the day before.  She is always as close as I choose to allow, as close as my memories of her will permit.

Rolling On

As an experiment, I’ve added a ‘blogroll’ to the home page of meyerweb.  Those of you using IE/Win and the default theme (Eos) won’t see it because of positioning bugs in IE/Win, and you’ll get slightly incorrect display in a couple of other themes, but people using more conformant browsers should have no trouble.  This isn’t the list’s final form by any means—as I say, it’s an experiment.  It’s actually pushing me toward YAR (Yet Another Redesign), truth be told, one that compacts the sidebar content so that I can introduce new stuff.

Suddenly I have an idea for an update of the classic “Yar’s Revenge.”  In this new version, you control a Web designer who runs around the screen avoiding validation errors, font-sizing bugs, table-layout fanatics, CSS-layout fanatics, wandering usability experts, and snarky bloggers while trying to collect as many design components, standards powerups, and “help points” as possible in pursuit of your ultimate goal: a new redesign that’s accessible, attractive, and uses very lightweight markup.  Every level is a new redesign, each one requiring more standards and components than the last one.  Anyone who makes it past five redesigns without giving up in frustration earns the title “Web design guru.”  Once you attain that rank, you’ll have about ten times as many bloggers trying to tear you down in subsequent levels.  Have fun!

For some reason, I’m strongly reminded of the writing I’ve been doing this weekend.  I said a while back I had one chapter left to write in the second edition of Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide.  I still do, although said chapter is (at the moment) about 80% done.  It’s the chapter on table presentation, and let me tell you, it’s definitely my least favorite chapter.  I think I did a decent job explaining things, but the subject matter itself is… well, I don’t like it.  Both of my technical reviewers expressed their sympathies to me before I started writing it; that ought to tell you something.

Regardless, the chapter should be done by the end of the weekend.  Then all I’ll have to do is write/create the last few appendixes (no big deal) and go through the author review stage, where I look over the copyeditor and technical review comments and make any necessary changes.  And then it will be really and truly done.  I’m no longer sure how long it will take to finish up those last few bits, but I still hope we’ll have the book on shelves before next summer.  Keep your digits crossed…

We Live To Serve

Yesterday, Jeffrey Zeldman was nice enough to point people toward meyerweb’s redesign, and also to say some kind words about yours truly that he’ll probably regret some day.  I know I have already, because when goofy rendering errors were reported in IE6/Win, I kind of felt obligated to do something about them instead of just shrugging and saying, “Eh, not my problem.”  Curse you, El Jefe!  I shall be revenged!

Two days ago, I got an e-mail message that had me falling out of my chair, I was laughing so hard, and I simply can’t resist sharing it with you.  I’ve edited the text a bit for clarity, and the name has been removed to protect—well, the guilty, really.  In a legal sense, I mean.

I’ve spent some time reading and working with several CSS books….  and I have to tell you that Eric Meyer on CSS is the best…. if I want to know how to do something and refer to the pile of books near my left hand, it is the one that most easily produces the answer.

It has one other great advantage over all the others as well:  it is by far the best book to roll a joint on.  Shape, size, thickness, glossiness, flexibility, and color are all excellent and [far] ahead of the competition.

It’s amazing how a well designed book serves all purposes.

Well.  Glad I could help out.

A day or two before that fascinating bit of e-mail arrived, I was standing in clothing store located in a brand-new shopping mall just recently built a couple of miles from our house, when the following lyrics came over the store speakers:

Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.
—Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi”

…and I thought to myself, “Is someone trying to be ironic?”

Advance Planning

Regional linguistic variations are funny.  The BBC News UK Web site has an article with this lead paragraph:

US President George W Bush has launched his bid for re-election, filing papers declaring his intention to contest next year’s vote.

Here in America, the usual meaning assigned to “contest,” at least in this context, would be “challenge” instead of “strive to win”—so to us Yanks, the implication is that Bush is already preparing to challenge the results of the next election.  Sounds like an Onion story, doesn’t it?

Speaking of linguistic variations, I now have in my possession copies of Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide in Polish, Bulgarian, and Korean.  Two of each, in fact.  The surreal part is that all the examples and screenshots are still in English, while the main text is in something not English.  I have to wonder how that affects the book’s utility for local readers.

So not only will I be speaking at The Other Dreamweaver Conference (TODCON) next month in Las Vegas, I’ll be giving two technical sessions and delivering the conference keynote.  Some other speakers you might know will also be there, including Molly Holzschlag, Murray Summers, Massimo Foti, and Angela Buraglia, among others.  It should be an interesting time, what with me giving talks to all those Dreamweaver power users when I, you know, don’t actually use Dreamweaver.  Haven’t touched it in years, in fact.

We’re headed off to see The Matrix Reloaded tonight, and as expected it’s already causing hugely polarized reactions among those who’ve seen it.  I have pretty low expectations, so I ought to be all right.  As with the first one, I expect a lot of goofy exposition and nonsensical backstory mixed in with some eye-popping special effects sequences.  Hey, it worked well enough the first time, so why not draw from the same well?

New Review, Old Author?

There’s an interesting review of Eric Meyer on CSS at Linux Journal.  Instead of just reviewing the book, Russell Dyer also asked me some interview questions and wove my responses into the review.  I really like the format; it allows him to make points about how and why the book was written in a certain way without just guessing.  It also means that a reader will get a better sense of the book’s purpose through the author’s words.

Thanks to Nick, I found out what operating system I am.  [You are HP/UX: You're still strong despite the passage of time.  Though few understand you, those who do love you deeply and appreciate you.]  I’m wondering how much time constitutes a passage, since I don’t feel that old.  Yet.  As for few understanding me, that’s no surprise.  Nobody gets me.  I’m the wind, baby.

I thought about incorporating a graphic displaying the current U.S. Homeland Security Advisory System level into my site design, but in the end decided I didn’t want John Ashcroft getting anywhere near my Web site.  Thus I continue to shore up a pleasant illusion that he couldn’t have someone crack into the server’s file system and download everything in about nine seconds if he felt like it.  All in the interests of defending liberty from those who would destroy it, of course.

Although it occurs to me to wonder who that someone might be.  The Department of Justice?  The National Security Agency?  (Side note: one of the funniest things I’ve seen lately is that the NSA has a privacy and security notice on their Web site, and it’s sort of a shame that it doesn’t just say: “You have none.  Get over it.”)  The Department of Homeland Security?  Probably any of them.  It bothers me that the only safeguard to my personal privacy could well be an interdepartmental fight over who gets to invade it first.

July 2017