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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.

Green Destiny

Simon Jessey has confessed he wrote the Amazon review I mentioned on Thursday, and furthermore says he pictures me mostly as Li Mu Bai with a little Jen Yu thrown in.  Hmmmm… that’s definitely an interesting image.  Anyway, I’ve created a new presentation option for the site to celebrate being called “The Li Mu Bai of Cascading Style Sheets”: please enjoy wo hu cang long.  Note that this new theme has a layout bug in IE5/Mac which appears to be related to the alternate-style switch, and not the CSS itself.  There isn’t much I can do about it, as the bug doesn’t happen in static test documents.

On the other hand, Robert Kirkpatrick wrote in to advise me that I should work to be the Cheng Pei-pei (who played the Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) of CSS.  Of course, we’re mixing actual people and characters here—in the movie, of course, Li Mu Bai is the more skilled, but in real life it’s likely Cheng is more skilled than Chow.  Either way, I’m flattered.

I’m also feeling under the weather, which is ironic given how nice a day it is today.  Off to the couch for tea with lemon and maybe a movie.  The Killer is always a good choice.

Lookin’ Up

In response to my rantings yesterday, David Hyatt has stated unequivocally that the Safari team did not, in fact, co-opt Netscape evangelism efforts during development.  I’m really very glad to hear that’s the case, and if I hadn’t had such a bad day Tuesday, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned the rumor in the first place.  Then again, the end result of my ranting is a negative rumor laid to rest, so perhaps it was all for the best.  That’s what I’ll tell myself to feel better about the whole situation, anyway.

To make it formal: I apologize for casting any unwarranted aspersions on the Safari team, Apple, etc.  With any luck this will help stamp out the rumors that were reaching me.

On to more trivial matters!  This is quite possibly the coolest review I’ve yet received:

Last year, I watched “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and I was amazed at the swordsmanship on display. Swords were no longer weapons, but extensions of arms – as if they were new appendages grown especially for the task. Eric Meyer can wield CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) in just the same way as those actors could wield swords.
–Amazon reader review for Eric Meyer on CSS

Being a big fan of the movie, I can’t help but be deeply flattered.  I’m just wondering if said reader pictures me as Li Mu Bai, Yu Shu Lien, or Jen Yu.

Getting Mixed In/Up

Remember the redesign competition I mentioned (along with a lot of other people) a while back?  They’ve announced the prizes up for grabs, and I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the Grand Prize package includes a copy of Eric Meyer on CSS.  I do have to wonder how much use it will be to someone who can successfully restyle another person’s site with CSS… but hey, no complaints here!  Good luck to all the entrants.

Contrary to what Zeldman has to say, I generally don’t wish I were not writing a book.  When I’m writing a book, I enjoy it because it’s something I like to do and because I wouldn’t have agreed to do it if I weren’t excited about the project.  When I’m not writing a book, I enjoy the time off, but usually get back to the authorial keyboard within six months or so.

Rewriting a book, though… that’s a whole other story, and one with distinctly fewer comedic overtones.  I hate having to revise my own work, because my deep-seated impulse to tinker usually drives down the quality of the text.  The dread spectre of endless revision is tempered by the glimmer of needed new material, but to me, it’s like mixing chocolate syrup into a thick vanilla milk shake: the end result isn’t as awful as it could have been, but Lord, it sure isn’t good.

(It may help your understanding of the previous paragraph to know that I loathe chocolate.  No sympathy is necessary, because believe me, I’m not missing out on anything.  Call to mind a food that you truly despise; something that, if you accidentally got a mouthful, you would instantly spit out and then try to scrape off your tongue.  That’s what chocolate is like for me.  Kat couldn’t be happier, because I never try to steal her dessert.)

Reviewing other people’s work isn’t bad.  I’m currently reviewing two books, and this morning I started getting severe dèjá vu.  The chapters I was reviewing for both books referred to the same sites, and even had screenshots of those sites that were taken on the same day.  I’m about 98% certain it was all just a big coincidence.  Either that or the computers that run the Matrix are getting less creative.

December 2015