Posts from June 2003

We Live To Serve

Published 16 years, 2 weeks ago

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?”

Eos Rising

Published 16 years, 2 weeks ago

Yep, I finally did what I’ve hinted at for some time now and updated the site design.  Behold: Eos.  It’s sort of an in-joke, one that I would expect exactly four other people to get straightaway, along with perhaps a few others who happened to see the pictures.  Checking the styles might help those who are really curious to unravel the mystery, but trust me, it’s not really that interesting if you weren’t there in the first place.

So anyway… the new design is based around positioning, as opposed to the old one, which was based on floats.  The underlying structure of the site has barely change, with one exception.  The navigation/presentation portion of the pages is now found at the end of the document, instead of the beginning.  This seems more accessible to me.  If you want to see what the raw, unstyled page looks like, pick the theme “void(style);” from the menu.

Note that not every theme is guaranteed to work in your browser.  I stuck to the CSS standards as much as possible, and I did do cross-browser testing.  This uncovered some weird whitespace-sensitive bugs in some browsers.  It also showed that not every technique works well in all browsers.  I’m open to hearing about workarounds for broken displays in browsers, should you find them, so long as they’re based on standard CSS and don’t break the display in too many other browsers.

A few other notes:

  • Unlike the old design, the new themes are intended to have notably distinct layout approaches.  Almost all of them put the sidebar on the right, but that’s just because I prefer righthand navigation.  With the old themes, each one was basically a different set of colors and backgrounds for the same layout.  This time, I wanted to be a little more original.  I’d credit the CSS Zen Garden with prompting this, but I’ve been slowly working at this change since last fall.
  • The cookies that store the theme name and base text size (if you change it) changed their names to be a little more verbose.  You can of course deny said cookies; the site will be completely navigable without them.  The theme switcher won’t work, that’s all.
  • Only one of the themes uses pixel-sized text: “Classic MW.”  Since the theme is intended to reproduce the old design as closely as possible, I figured I’d leave its 11px baseline text.  You can always override it with text-zoom features, or else on the advanced setup page, like before.
  • Some themes use ems or percentages to set the body element’s text size to be smaller than the user’s default.  I did this to prevent the sans-serif fonts employed in those themes from looking stupidly big in default browser installs.  If you object to this approach, then pick a theme that doesn’t override text size—the default theme, “Eos,” is one of these—or set your preferred base text size on the advanced setup page.  Or both.
  • When switching from one theme to another, you may run afoul of bugs in various browsers that let styles leak from one theme to another.  If you see a totally horked display, reload the page to see if that fixes it.
  • Although I was tempted, I didn’t end up using any PNGs to create the translucency effects in various themes.  I didn’t use background-attachment: fixed, either.  It was a lot more challenging to figure out ways to let IE/Win users see the translucent effects with scrolling backgrounds and regular old JPEGs.  I may write a tutorial on how I managed this, but anyone who can’t wait is free to tear into my CSS and figure it out for themselves.  And to copy the technique, if they so desire.
  • Despite it not being the default theme, I think my favorite is Aware.  The name is not necessarily the English word meaning “having knowledge or cognizance,” but is instead a Japanese word meaning “the sense of poignant beauty arising from an ephemeral thing.”  Since I think the latter is only possible with the former, I find this to be a wonderful intersection of cross-linguistic meaning.  Thus you can take the title to mean whichever of the definitions appeals to you most.  For me, it changes back and forth over time.

There may be adjustments to the themes in the future as I find techniques I like better, or as I fix up oddities in and add extra visual frosting to the more experimental themes (like “Matrix”).  Meanwhile, please feel free to share and enjoy.

Images and Words

Published 16 years, 2 weeks ago

Having owned a digital camera for less than two months now, I find myself taking random pictures of interesting patterns, just on the off chance I might use them some day.  Why not?  But the dark side of this activity is the creeping impulse to establish a photo gallery where I can display these abstract patterns and images for all the world to see.

“Go ahead,” my ego whispers, “it will show you’re a Renaissance Man with diverse interests and talents.  People will love it.  You’ll get invited to show stuff in art galleries, just like Josh Davis.  Trust me!”  Meanwhile, the more pessimistic (or, more likely, realistic) portion of my brain sneers, “Yeah, just what the Web needs, another collection of pseudo-pretentious almost-art shots.  Like it hasn’t been done a thousand times before.  Would it kill you to be original for once?  I mean, honestly.”

I don’t know exactly what all this means, but it might mean that one day I’ll add “Gallery” to the navigation links of this site.  If so, please feel free to shake your head in sorrow for me.  Then  invite me to display my stuff in an art gallery.

Late last week, I was writing e-mail to a friend when I realized I’d changed the phrase “I’ll write down some ideas” to “I’ll type up some ideas.”  Now I want to know how, in the long slow evolution of the English language, two such similar activities ended up going in totally opposite directions.

Zen, Now, and the Hereafter

Published 16 years, 3 weeks ago

There’s a great theme at the Zen Garden: What Lies Beneath.  It’s very non-traditional (hint: you don’t scroll like normal) but very well done, nice and earthy.  There have been several other contributions since I last mentioned the site, all of them quite interesting.  The design process behind one of them has been explained in some detail by its author, Doug Bowman, who knows quite a few things about the power of CSS-based design.

Meanwhile, the Literary Moose has taken advantage of the CSS3 definition of content to show how text can be replaced with an image in a gracefully flexible manner.  If you just see plain text for the headline, follow the link to the screenshot, which was taken in Opera.  If more browsers supported this behavior, we could stop using <span>-based image replacement hacks such as those employed at the Zen Garden and other sites.  I’m not slamming said sites: such hacks are necessary if certain effects are to be achieved in today’s browsers.  It’s still good to have someone pointing out where we might be able to go tomorrow.

As you might have guessed, I’m back from TODCON MX Vegas, which was a real kick on many levels (but not the literal one).  That is one seriously unhinged and fun group of folks, and I’d like to thank Ray West for finally getting me there.  It seems my presentations were all very well received, which is always preferable to the alternatives, especially the ones involving torches and pitchforks.  I hope to get my files online in the next few days, particularly the ones from the “Redesigning” talk.  Pictures from the conference are already appearing over at, and I’d bet there will be plenty more to come.

I think that of all gifts one person can give another, trust is the rarest and most precious.  In a way that few other gifts do, trust creates a bond that is at once strong and fragile, and that very paradox is part of what gives it so much beauty.  The next time I’m feeling downcast about myself, I need only think of all the people who have trusted me with their thoughts, their feelings, with pieces of their lives.

Hot Hot Hot!

Published 16 years, 3 weeks ago

Greetings from fabulously hot Las Vegas, where TODCON MX is about halfway to done.  Another few degrees and it’ll be burnt.  Kat and I walked off the plane and the jetway was quite toasty, and then as we left it for the cool airport terminal, we were greeted by several rows of slot machines blinking and booping and warbling.  Right there in the terminal.  Within five steps I turned to Kat and said, “Okay, I officially hate this place.”

I feel the same way every time I’m on a casino floor.  Fortunately I’ve been able to largely avoid them, and concentrate on things like conference activities and wireless access.

So far I’ve given one talk and have two to go, the next one coming just after lunch today.  The brilliant and beautiful Angela Buraglia seems to have liked my keynote, which was nice to see—especially since her son also appears to appreciate my work.

This has been a particularly interesting conference because, with the exception of Molly, every one of the attendees is someone I’d never before met in person.  Many of them I know from online work and correspondence, of course, but it’s always good to associate a physical presence with a name.  Or, in this case, a whole bunch of names.

As for dinner last night… well.  This is definitely a fun group of folks, that’s for sure, and surprisingly difficult to offend.  The advertisements all claim that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but I may soon have some photographic evidence to the contrary.  (Insert evil chuckle here.)