Posts from December 2003

A Multitude of Blessings

Published 20 years, 5 months past

First off, our deepest thanks to everyone who’s linked, commented, e-mailed, or has otherwise expressed happiness over our happiness.  We may not respond right away, but your good wishes and blessings for Carolyn have meant the world to us, and one day will to her, as I’m keeping a copy of everything for her memory box.  So watch your language!

The first night with Carolyn went very well; she let us sleep for a few hours at a time, and only woke us when she was hungry.  It’s obviously too early to say what kind of baby she’ll be, but so far she’s pretty quiet, fairly mellow, and just as precious and cute as every parent fundamentally believes their baby to be.

Lest you wonder, this isn’t going to turn into a baby blog.  I won’t ignore her presence, of course, but I’m not planning to have her take over this journal.  Much. I have plans percolating in the back of my head to set up a page for Carolyn—what else would you expect?—where we can put up pictures, share the latest baby news, and all that kind of fun stuff.  I never had a page about pets or babies, even when I first started out on the Web, so I guess this is my chance to make up for lost time.

I haven’t quite decided if I’ll come up with a unique design for Carolyn’s page-to-be, but if I do, I guess I’ll have to use CSS like Jay Allen proposed (and which was just too darned funny; why didn’t I think of that?).

I’ll have to think carefully about what I post about her, though.  Derek Powazek pointed out to me a few weeks back that today’s kids are really unlucky, because anything they do that’s posted on the Web gets archived and preserved pretty much forever.  So if I write a post about the contents of her diapers or something similarly stupid and personally embarrassing, it could end up printed out and taped to her high school locker.  And all of her friends’ lockers.

Maybe by then kids will be so used to the lack of historical amnesia that it won’t bother them, or even occur to them to try such tactics.  Maybe my concerns will seem as dated and goofy as parental concerns about their children being persecuted over the family’s having emigrated from Germany instead of Poland in the late Thirties.  I can hope, but in the meantime, I have to act as though it will continue to be a concern for decades to come.

I’m used to taking a long-term view, but the focus of that view has certainly changed in the last twenty hours.


Published 20 years, 5 months past

Kat and I are now parents.  Earlier this evening, we welcomed four-day-old Carolyn Maxwell Meyer into our home and our hearts.

Kat sits in a chair and feeds our new daughter for the first time.

We named her Carolyn in honor of my late mother, a plan which we conceived (so to speak) shortly after Mom was diagnosed with cancer.  We kept it to ourselves for a while, hoping to make it a surprise.  Last Christmas Eve, realizing that Mom would almost certainly not live to see our first daughter, I told her what we planned.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  It was a tacit admission that Mom had only a few months to live, and that she would never, despite our best efforts and a good deal of medical intervention, get to be a grandmother.

The middle name, Maxwell, is in honor of Kat’s late grandfather Max.  It was he who gave Kat her middle name, and instilled in her a deep love of jewelry.  Kat remembers him taking her for long walks through Brooklyn and talking to her like an adult, and how he would let her play with gemstones on black velvet workpads in his workshop.  Both Kat and her mother loved Max very much, and Kat had decided to honor him with a namesake long before we even met.

We’ve had Carolyn home for just a few hours, and already the cat is annoyed.  But she’ll adjust.  In the meantime, we’re still trying to grasp that this tiny little person is actually ours, and that she’ll be staying for quite a long time.

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Rolling On

Published 20 years, 5 months past

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…

Now That’s A Switch

Published 20 years, 5 months past

From macosxhints, via xlab: how to restore Mac OS X to a little more sanity in the form of switching the keyboard shortcuts for “New Folder” and “New Finder Window.”  Contrary to the tip’s assertion, you will need to restart the Finder for the change to take effect, but it does indeed work.  Also, since the tip is somewhat ambiguous about what you should have in your file when you’re done, here’s what I have:

	<key>New Finder Window</key>
	<key>New Folder</key>

Those seven simple lines are all it took to remove one of my last major complaints about OS X: now I can hit cmd-N and get a new folder instead of a new Finder window.  I shed a tear of joy.  All I have to do is figure out what to hack so all of my new windows open in minimized List view, and I’ll be pretty much golden.

(As I also discovered, you can alter your shortcuts with TinkerTool‘s “Menu Shortcuts” panel, but I prefer directly hacking the OS.  It makes me feel all tough and manly.)

Now for a tear or two of sorrow.  Thanks to Jeffrey Zeldman, I went and read the New Yorker article about post-conflict Iraq, “War After the War.”  I’m pointing to the printer-friendly version, which should be a lot easier on the eyes than the narrow-column main article.  It’s a disturbing, disheartening piece that will likely not go over well with many in the right wing of the audience, but not because it’s slanted left.  It isn’t.  It’s a factual, first-hand report of what’s going on, in detail and from the mouths of soldiers and diplomats, in Iraq.  Some of those mouths are already stilled forever.

The personal downside is that, if you read the article all the way through—and it’s a long, involved piece, so don’t expect to rip through it in five minutes—you may have the same reaction I did, which is an almost overwhelming mixture of sorrow, anger, frustration, and helplessness.  Even worse, I’m not sure anything can be done at this point; even replacing the current administration would likely be too little, too late… and that assumes that the Democrats put up someone I would regard as a better choice than Bush, which is by no means assured.

Meanwhile, the sister-in-law of a friend of ours just got shipped to Iraq on almost no advance notice.  This person is a member of a National Guard unit that was classified “non-deployable.”  Whether or not such a distinction should exist, apparently it did.  Now the unit is being deployed, the very thing she was told would never happen, which is the only reason she decided to enlist; she has a husband and three children that she had no intention of leaving even temporarily.  When I hear such things, it makes me wonder if maybe the news from Iraq is more positive than the situation warrants.  Why else would the military choose to deploy a “non-deployable” unit?  That’s the sort of act I associate with desperation.

Ten Years On

Published 20 years, 5 months past

It was ten years ago this evening that I marked up my first HTML document.  I know this because I did the whole thing using Microsoft Word on a Mac laptop in the course of a Friday evening at the CWRU Film Society, and I put a “last updated” line on the document.  I never really changed the page after that first burst of effort, because it wasn’t long afterward that I started to get really busy with setting up and running the first Web-only incarnation of and, a short time thereafter, writing the first of three HTML tutorials.

A lot has happened to me in the last decade.  Did you know I was the project leader for the online conversion of the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History and Dictionary of Cleveland Biography, and that it was the first encyclopedia of urban history to be fully and freely published on the Web?  Or that I worked with some CWRU co-workers to create the Borealis Image Server in 1995, which led to a paper presentation at WWW5 in May 1996, where I saw the CSS presentation that changed my life?  I could do those things because I worked for a university, particularly one as advanced (Internet-wise) as CWRU.  I missed out on the dot-com bubble, I suppose, but it was worth it for the low pressure and intellectual freedom that an academic setting promotes.

Even in the real world, a decade is a long time; in Internet years, it’s practically forever.  So when I get, as I sometimes do, crabby and reactionary, just remind yourself that I’m ancient.  Damn kids and your fancy-schmancy gigahertz chips and gooeys… why, when I was a young buck, we were lucky to have a command-prompt system that would compile PASCAL programs in under an hour, but did we complain?  Hell no!  We felt lucky to have so much computing power!

Sorry, I drifted off there for a second.

So, want to see that first document of mine?  It’s right here, still serving after all these years.  Does it validate?  Oh dear Lord no, not even when you force the validator to use HTML 3.2 and ISO-8859-1 character handling.  That was back in the wild days when I thought (as Bill Amend still does, apparently) that <p> was just a shorthand way of writing <br><br> and you could wrap any element around any other element, like putting a named anchor around a heading instead of inside it.  I’d never even heard of a DOCTYPE, let alone “DOCTYPE switching;” my first exposure to CSS was still two and a half years into my future; and David Seigel had yet to show us how to create “killer” Web sites.

Back then, the killer browser was NCSA Mosaic.  Mosaic Communications Corporation was being formed—it was only later that legal wrangling forced a change of name to Netscape Communications.  I still fondly remember the slowly spinning panes in the upper right-hand corner of the first MCC betas, and I wish they’d just changed the “M” to an “N” and kept the animation.  After the name changed, they replaced that interesting and aesthetic effect with a big ugly “N” that went from outset to inset and back, thus causing a mass coinage of the term “throbber” to describe the little animation that tells you the browser is busy doing something.

I also recall the day I found out that typing about:fishcam in Netscape’s address bar would get you The Amazing Netscape Fish Cam.  When I got to create a redesign for the Fish Cam page early this year, it was like a dream come true.  Okay, not really, but it was a thrill.  To remake a page that I remembered so clearly, that wowed me and intrigued me—that alone would have made taking the job at Netscape worthwhile.  (If you’re interested in seeing one of the camera feeds, you should probably go do that as soon as possible.  There’s no way to know when the Fish Cam, rather like Netscape itself, will suffer a pulled plug.)  A close second was when I ended up taking the lead editorial and design role for DevEdge, another early site that I visited quite a lot.

Now that I look back, it seems like fish have been a recurring theme; after all, Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide has a pair of fish on its cover.  Not only that, but they’re different fish than were initially marketed, because I apparently pulled off the impossible in persuading O’Reilly’s “Animal Lady” to dump the original design and use my idea instead.  I didn’t know it was impossible before trying it, which is no doubt why I succeeded… but that’s a story for some other day.

You might think that after a decade I’d be sick and tired of the Web, but not so.  I’m gearing up for the next ten with my new consultancy, including some awesome clients that induce the same thrills I had working at Netscape; working on a new forum for bringing detailed and useful information on standards-oriented design to you; contributing to an interesting new social-networking technology; and exploring some ideas for ventures that will build on what I’ve already done.

Professionally, it’s been an amazing ten years, and I’m convinced the next ten will be even better.  However much I might complain about writer’s stress or proprietary solutions or what have you, I still enjoy what I do and look forward to doing it.  I’m not always quite sure how I got to where I am, but believe me, I’m deeply grateful that I’ve had the chance to do what I do, and even more so that so many people have supported me over the years.  Thank you, one and all, and I will do my utmost to continue earning your respect and trust in the years to come.

Gotham Goodness

Published 20 years, 5 months past

Thanks to friends and family, we had a great weekend in New York City.  There was barely enough time to breathe between each visit, but seeing everyone was a great way to recharge ourselves and remember all the things for which we are thankful.  Adam Greenfield and Kat Meyer help Carrie decorate the Zeldmans' Christmas tree.  It was also rather surreal to watch Adam Greenfield (whose picture I’d seen on not too long ago), his wife, and my wife help Carrie decorate the Zeldmans’ Christmas tree.

Not as surreal as seeing the first part of The Two Towers played at one-eighth speed, mind you.

Back at the beginning of the year, Jeffrey proclaimed that every author wishes he (or she) were not writing a book, and I said I generally felt differently, that when a book was underway I was glad to be writing.  Now I understand his pain.  Until now, I was writing on weekends for the most part, with a nice long writing schedule, and had a full-time job to keep my brain doing other stuff during the week.  Now writing and working are all mixed up together, and in a valiant effort to finish primary writing by the end of this year, I’m working on two books simultaneously.  This means I spend at least a few hours of every day writing, and still put in a lot of writing on weekends.  It’s really wearing me down, and I have every intention of taking a nice long break from book writing come 2004.  I’ll get back to articles, I hope, but I expect that books will go to the back burner for at least six months.  Well, except maybe for one that I’m thinking about co-authoring.  But other than that, nothing else, I swear!

Roadmarks II

Published 20 years, 5 months past

Random observations and thoughts from the drive from New York City to Cleveland:

  • There are these signs along Interstate 80 in northern New Jersey that read, “UPGRADE – MAINTAIN SPEED.”  They come just before each hill, and I thought they very nicely captured what it’s like to be a computer user.
  • Peppered along the Pennsylvania stretch of I80 (all six hours of it), there are signs that read, “BUCKLE UP – NEXT MILLION MILES.”  My first thought was, As compared to what reference point?
  • In the middle of Pennsylvania, we discovered that hunting season is underway.  There were a lot of cars pulled off to the side of the interstate, and we saw quite a few men wearing faded camoflauge and bright orange vests, which seemed like the ultimate in contradictory clothing choices.  Later on, we saw a truck with a deer carcass lashed to a platform extended from the back bumper, right underneath the rear window and its stickered slogan: “Life’s a bitch – then you die.”
  • I’ve decided that if you’re a civilian and driving a Hummer, you’re basically piloting a giant self-propelled declaration of just how big a jerk you really are.  (I considered words other than “jerk” but this is, at least most of the time, a family site.)  As a civilian, you have no reason to own one, and even less reason to have it on the road.  That goes double for the H2, frankly.
  • On a very related note, I spotted a bumper sticker that said, “Supprt OPEC: Buy an SUV.”  No kidding!  I can’t tell you how pleased I was to learn that Saturn plans to introduce a gas/electric hybrid next year.

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