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This page exists as a historical reference, and for those wishing to learn more about applying multiple themes to the same document. Links may be broken, and those that work will definitely point to pages that look nothing like this one. The themes, as well as the JavaScript that drives the switcher, are all located in the ui directory. Some images are copyrighted; see the CSS files for notes on which.


Principal consultant for Complex Spiral Consulting, Eric has been called "an internationally recognized expert on the subjects of HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)," but then he's also been called a "techno-fascist." Eric does as much writing as he can without burning out, and also does his best to keep up with CSS support in popular Web browsers. If you're interested in early Twentieth Century jazz and swing, you can catch his weekly radio show over the Internet. When not otherwise busy, Eric is usually bothering Kat in some fashion.


A Certified Nurse-Midwife, Kat currently works as the Eastern Cleveland regional coordinator for Birth and Beyond Doula Services, and as the Women's Health Nurse Practitioner at Oberlin College for Family Planning Services of Lorain County. She is also interested in the role that Kangaroo Care (KC) can play in promoting breastfeeding in newborns. Her work in this area has led to the publication of two professional articles and a poster presentation at a national conference. In her precious few spare moments, Kat does her best to spoil her cat, Gravity, and to keep Eric's ego in check—which, let's face it, can be a full time job.

Thoughts From Eric

Drifting Thoughts

Saturday, 17 January 2004

It snowed all day today. For the most part, the flakes drifted gently and steadily downward, but every now and then a burst of wind and snow would blur everything around the house. At those moments, white streamers of blown snow curled from the edges of rooftops all up and down the street. It was a beautiful day, and every time I looked outside I couldn't imagine living anywhere that such a sight would be impossible. To me, winter is profound in a way no other season quite manages, and I'm not sure that I could be truly happy without it.

But of course the price of such beauty is the clearing of driveway and sidewalk, and just as twilight approached the snowfall tapered off, so I went out, shovel in hand. The fading light, as filtered through the overcast skies, was a pale indescribable bluish gray, subtly erasing shadows and imparting the faintest hint of extra radiance to everything around me. As I worked, the light faded to a pale red, and then to dull orange, the mark of sodium-vapor streetlights all over the city scattering off of the ever-present cloud cover.

In a strange sort of gloomy synergy, the sun over northern Ohio disappears behind a persistent cloud cover just as Daylight Savings Time elapses, and doesn't return until the clocks spring forward. So not only do we have the earliest sunset times, but also the shortest days of the year, right at the point where the sun is almost perpetually absent. From October to May, we are one of the least sunny cities in America—but for the rest of the year, we're one of the sunniest. The phrase "you can't appreciate the light without the dark" takes on special meaning when you live here.

As is so often the case, the snow deadened all noise, so that the neighbor running his snowblower a few houses away sounded like he was half a mile distant. After a while, the snow's muffling quality worked its way into my heart, quieted my thoughts. It always does.

With night finally upon me, as the wind gusted and I paused to pull my Webmonkey hat down to better cover my ears, a sharp scent flared my nostrils. Someone nearby had lit a wood fire—a strangely autumnal scent in the cold winter air. I took a few deep breaths, enjoying the odd mixture of seasonal sensations. Then I bent back to my work.

I don't have any profundities that came out of all this; I didn't gain some deep insight into myself, my life, or my fellow man. All I got was a cleared driveway and piled snowbanks, a slightly sore back, and a hot dinner waiting for me when I was done. It seemed like enough—like more than enough. So I decided to share some of it.

Too Darned Cute

Thursday, 15 January 2004

As promised, here's a picture of Carolyn. A closeup picture of a baby girl's face in profile, looking off to the left with an expression not unlike wonder.  Or perhaps hunger. She's six weeks old today, and though the picture is from a couple of weeks ago, she's no less adorable. The yellow cast to the picture is due to my penchant of shooting with no flash and a built-in "Vivid" filter on the camera. I've switched it off recently, and although non-flash pictures still come out yellowish, it isn't as pronounced. Overall, it's fine with me. I like having warmer tones in my photographs.

I noticed a pointer to "What is Mac OS X?" over on Simon's site, and eventually got around to following the link. A lot of good information can be found there, there's no doubt— I particularly enjoyed the startup sequence breakdown, the mere appreciation of which would seem to firmly establish me as a total geek— but as Simon says, the site's design seems... familiar, somehow. Almost like I've seen something very much like it before.

Actually, a few people wrote to inform me of the "design theft;" apparently the site got some major exposure by being mentioned on Slashdot recently. I'm flattered that people recognized it as being a design I came up with, and I'm grateful that they took the time to let me know about it. However, this isn't really theft, so please don't report it to Pirated Sites. As I state in my newly established FAQ, meyerweb designs (but not the images used in them) are freely available for non-commercial use. Credit is not even required, although it's always appreciated. I always meant to get around to explicitly assigning them to a Creative Commons license, but since I'm planning to redesign soon and will retire most of the themes when I do, it may not happen. Or, then again, maybe when I retire them I'll license them.

Anyway, I do get some nice namechecks from Amit, the site's proprietor, on his About page. One correspondent said he thought Amit was claiming to have come up with the designs himself, and I suppose one could read the text that way, but I didn't. As far as I'm concerned, Amit is welcome to use the design for his site so long as he doesn't try to sell the design or otherwise make money off of the design itself. And that goes for anyone else.

Fractional Styles

Wednesday, 14 January 2004

At the Web Design Meetup last week, Warren expressed annoyance that there are a limited number of fraction character entities. I pointed out that you can use MathML to represent any fraction you like, but of course it requires a browser that supports MathML. Those are kind of rare.

So absent MathML, it's easy to get a nice presentation of, say, one quarter (¼, a.k.a. character entity ¼), but how do you get a similarly nice rendering of thirteen thirty-seconds? As it turns out, you can at least get close with a bit of structural massaging. (That sounds so much better than "structural hacking," doesn't it?) Here's what I came up with:

span.frac sup, span.frac sub {font-size: 75%;
  vertical-align: baseline;
  position: relative;}
span.frac sup {top: -0.5em; left: 0.15em;}
span.frac sub {left: -0.15em;}

17 <span class="frac"><sup>13</sup><b>/</b><sub>32</sub></span>

That results in the following, which I recreated using inline styles just to make life easier when I archive this post:

17 13/32

Not too bad, at least in Safari, Mozilla, and IE5/Mac, but not great. In his own efforts along these lines, Warren uncovered the fraction-slash character entity (&#8260;), which could help improve the result. I also notice that my numbers are bigger than the numbers in the original entity. So I adjusted my styles, with the following result.

span.frac sup, span.frac sub {font-size: 60%;
  font-weight: bold;
  vertical-align: baseline;
  position: relative;}
span.frac sup {top: -0.5em; left: 0.1em;}

17 1332

So let's compare the one-quarter entity to the styled version.

¼   14

There are font-family differences, I admit, but they're pretty close to each other in the browsers I mentioned before.

The problem, really, is the markup involved, but I don't see how one can really reduce it any further. MathML's representation of fractions isn't noticeably less weighty, really, not even counting possibly required namespacing, which I'm not going to include here:


I suppose that if I wanted to show arbitrary fractions a lot, I could represent them in MathML and then transform the math markup into HTML before delivering it to browsers. I don't have a lot of need for such fractions, at least not so far, but it was an interesting exercise.

Now for a little cleanup with regard to previous posts.

  • Chuq pointed out that iLife was never totally free, but that Apple was allowing updates to old versions at no cost. In my case, iLife appeared to be free because it came installed on my OS X laptop, so I never overtly surrendered money for the product. I suppose the cost is somehow built into the cost of the operating system. Regardless, I still think that there was a bit of baiting and switching in letting people download major upgrades at no cost and then closing the gate. I guess what I want is consistency; I didn't realize I was benefitting from lax license enforcement, if that's what it was. I thought Apple was just making decent tools available for free to Mac users in order to draw more people to the Mac. That would make some business sense, even if it isn't what they were doing. After all, I haven't heard any plans to charge for upgrades to iTunes, and I don't expect that I will. Apple may be many things, but grossly stupid isn't generally one of them.

    At any rate, I'd still be interested in paying for just an iPhoto upgrade, especially since I looked at some programs readers e-mailed me to suggest, and they were all either not what I wanted, or too darned expensive. I imagine there are people who would pay to download GarageBand as a standalone, for example.

  • It turns out that there are a number of demonstrations of using behaviors to get PNG transparency in IE/Win. Here are a few that people sent me:

    I'm sure there must be others. Google could tell me, but I feel overloaded already.

Carolyn turns six weeks old tomorrow. I'll have to find a good picture to post, especially since so many people have asked for them. She'll get her own page sooner or later, but I've had other and much more pressing things on my plate. As long as I have it ready by the time she wants to start blogging...

iRant, But Not Too Much

Tuesday, 6 January 2004

From my point of view, the biggest news from Steve Jobs' keynote this morning was the announcement of iLife. More specifically, it was the new version of iPhoto, which I'd really been hoping would be announced. And so it was. It's much faster, more capable, enables photo sharing with Rendezvous—just about everything I'd hoped would happen. Unfortunately, it also came with something I hadn't expected: a price tag.

I have no problems with Apple charging money for a piece of software. What bothers me is the practice of releasing it for free and then, without warning, bundling it into a commercial suite. If they'd charged for it all along, that would be fine. If we'd known ahead of time that it would be free until Apple felt it was a product worth selling, at which time it would stop being free, fine. But that was never made clear, if it was even mentioned at all, and I find that annoying.

Further exacerbating the problem is that of the five iLife components, I have use for only two of them, iPhoto and iTunes, and the former of them is (for the moment) free. iDvd, iMovie, and Garage Band are completely useless to me as I have neither a video camera nor a garage band. So if I really want iPhoto 4, I have to pay $49 for it and a bunch of unnecessary code. That doesn't make sense to me. Hopefully, Apple will offer the iLife components separately, so that I could pay $9.99 for iPhoto and ignore the rest. Or, better still, they'll release an update to the free iPhoto that fixes the sluggishness but doesn't include the other cool stuff in the commercial version.

Alternatively, I could hunt for a freeware replacement to iPhoto. At least one colleague has asked me why I use iPhoto at all, given its slowness and the bloated data files and directory structures it creates. The thing is, I really like the way iPhoto allows you to modify photos while preserving the originals, and the way album organization is handled. The transition effect in the slideshows is pretty nifty, too. In general, the whole iPhoto interface and feature set works pretty well for me—it's just the lack of speed that's a problem. Well, that and the lack of smoothly resized exports, but I've complained about that in the past. If I could find something equivalent to iPhoto, or at least darned close to it, I'd probably switch. If no such application exists, then I'd love to see some open-source coders get together and create one. Any takers?

Running Just To Stay In Place

Monday, 5 January 2004

The e-mail backlog has finally forced me to do something I've long resisted: the site now has an FAQ. I thought about calling it a QAF (Questions Frequently Asked) or maybe an FRE (Frequently Received E-mails). But in the end the weight of tradition got me to go with the traditional nomenclature. If you're thinking of sending me e-mail, please read the FAQ first to see if the answer is there. As much as I love correspondence, I just can't keep up any more. In fact, I couldn't even before Carolyn arrived, and so now I'm doubly unable to keep up. Hopefully the FAQ will help, just a bit. Thanks for your collective understanding.

This is truly excellent: arbitrary-element hovering in IE/Win. In other words, stuff like pure CSS menus and such can actually be used in real-world designs, thus reaping the benefits of dramatically reduced markup weight. The approach the behaviors take reminds me a lot of what we did to get the Netscape DevEdge menus working in IE/Win, except we did it in JavaScript, which may have made our technique a little weightier on the back end. Either way, they're both excellent solutions.

There's a lot more gold to mine in the behaviors/script/structural markup vein, I suspect; the melding of IE-specific behaviors with lightweight scripts and CSS could lead us to a great many advances in standards-oriented design. While it would be nice to see IE advancing so that we didn't need these kinds of solutions, at least they exist. Here's my short, off-the-cuff wishlist for things for which we can hopefully use behaviors to replicate CSS2 functionality:

  • Support for generated content; counters would be a truly awesome bonus
  • Fixing the box model in versions of IE previous to IE6
  • Better (read: more smoothly scrolling) support for fixed-position elements and fixed-attachment backgrounds than current scripts provide

I think there's a way to use behaviors to get alpha-channel support in PNGs, too. Can anyone confirm that? If not, it's something to investigate.

Now on to slightly more surreal matters. Sure, I'm fairly well known as an expert in CSS and Web standards, and some of you know that I do a weekly Big Band-era radio show, but how many of you were aware of my career as a shoe designer? Doug Bowman wrote to let me know that Matt Haughey had spilled the beans, so I'll own up to it here.

Okay, not really. But if you go to the Medium Footwear site, wait for the Flash interface to load, hit "Collections," and then click anywhere on the splash page, you'll see—and I swear that, like Dave Barry, I am not making this up— the Eric Meyer Collection. There are nine different models, and the really funny punchline to the whole affair is this: guess which of those shoe styles I like enough to consider buying? As it turns out, the "Structuralist" design. Seriously.

Building Blocks

Friday, 2 January 2004

Imagine my surprise to discover that an off-hours bit of work done with a couple of colleagues got a mention in the mainstream press. XFN, which seems to be spreading through the blog world and is generating some very good feedback, was mentioned in a Seattle Times article titled "Social networking beginning to take shape on the Web." I'm amused that years upon years of work on CSS, which is arguably a cornerstone of the modern Web, netted me (so far as I know) exactly zero newspaper coverage, while something to which I made minor contributions merited ink within a month of its launch.

With that article still fresh in my mind, I received something like my fourth or fifth invitation to join LinkedIn, which was mentioned in the very next paragraph after the bit about XFN. Since I'm rather interested in social networking technologies these days, I decided to set up an account and experiment a bit—do some compare-and-contrast between LinkedIn and XFN, from a user's point of view. It's interesting, but I'm not sure I quite grasp the point of it. Are links intended solely to deliver prospective clients to vendors? Or is it supposed to be a way to show who you know, and thus who they know, and so on? For myself, I've decided to limit my connections to people with whom I've had some contact professionally. So if you're a member and want to invite me, go ahead.

One of the people I did invite to link to me is George Nemeth, Cleveland-based superblogger extraordinaire. I dropped by his site to see what he's talking about, and spotted a link to a LEGO® recreation of M. C. Escher's Relativity. The same people also did Ascending and Descending, and a few others besides. Color me impressed! From there, I visited some other LEGO®-sculpture sites, finding at one point a really large model of a stegosaur, which was even more impressive, both from a sheer achievement point of view as well as a testament to the amount of free time some people have available. And check this out: the guy who came up with a model of the Nebuchadnezzar, a mostly working badger, and a whole bunch of other LEGO® sculptures besides, lives right here in Cleveland.

Like how I came full circle with that one?

Turning Points

Thursday, 1 January 2004

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.

Other Thoughts

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(If you care, there's even an archive of previous thoughts...)