Posts from March 2004


Published 20 years, 2 months past

I can’t, or more likely don’t want to, believe that there are still six and a half months to go before the U.S. presidential election is held.  My usual approach to such election years is to tune out everything until early in the actual year in which the election is held; I steadfastly refuse to pay attention in calendar years before that one (so I wasn’t paying attention to the campaigning that happened in 2003).  I take a surface reading of the situation as the party conventions approach, and between conventions and election, I dig into the positions of the two candidates, tolerating the flying mud in the process.

At least, that’s the usual plan.  This year, though, the race is basically settled and the muck is already thick in the air.  Is Kerry more or less of a flip-flopper than Bush?  Which candidate has the better or worse economic plan?  Who will be a better or worse leader in the “war on terror?”  Who can tell?  If I believed everything each side said about the other, I’d probably conclude that my clear duty as a patriot was to practice my sharpshooting and plan to attend both party conventions.  Or else flee the country.

Not that the latter idea hasn’t already occurred to some who are being made to feel a lot less welcome these days.  (Thanks for the pointer, Phil.)  I wonder: would gays be willing to give up the right to marry if conservatives gave up the right to divorce?  ‘Cause most of those leading the fight for “family values” have had more than one family, and apparently believe so deeply in the “sanctity of marriage” that they’ve gone back for more sanctity, if you catch my drift.  I’ve also sometimes wondered if women would give up the right to abortion if those opposed to abortion would give up the right to reproduce.  It seems like a place to start negotiating, anyway.

The media, as usual, isn’t helping in the slightest.  Know how much Bush’s plan to go to Mars will cost?  No, you don’t.  The trillion-dollar figure we’ve heard so often is about as accurate as Percival Lowell’s maps of Martian canals, and based on math that makes about as much sense as planning to cut deficits by raising spending while reducing revenue.  So while getting to Mars certainly won’t be cheap, we’ve all been handed a thoroughly false picture of just how not-cheap it might be.  What else is getting lost in the shouting?

I do have to wonder how many times we’re going to see former Bush administration officials claim that the priorities there are or were sorely off kilter, and then have those still in the administration dismiss the critics as partisan, wrong, irresponsible, mentally deficient, or (more usually) all of the above.  (See: Richard Clarke, Paul O’Neill, et. al.)  I mean, sure, every boss has former employees that don’t like him, but there does seem to be sort of a trend emerging.  When it’s paired with the recent statements by current and former IAEA officials, the brow does furrow with a bit of concern.  But hey, the IAEA site uses valid XHTML and CSS for layout!  So that’s cool!

Should I be worried that the valid IAEA site seems like cause for celebration?


I do feel oddly proud that I suspected it was a validating, tableless site the instant I laid eyes on it, and my diagnosis favelets simply confirmed that impression.  It’s an odd thing to get a feel for the underlying nature of a page just by looking at it.  If only I could translate that skill to evaluating investment opportunities.


Published 20 years, 2 months past

CSS seems to be the theme of late, so I’ll keep running with it and bring back the meyerweb themes of old (as several people had e-mailed to ask if I could do).  They won’t be available for the general site; instead, I’ve set up an example page where you can play with them for yourself.  As noted, some images used in the themes are copyrighted, while others are not.  The thematic styles themselves are now explicitly under a Creative Commons license, so do as you please with the styles, assuming you stay within the license terms.  Which shouldn’t be difficult; it’s a straight NonCommercial license.

Two of my favorite movie-and-music moments happen in the same film: The Matrix (which itself inspired one of the old meyerweb themes).  The first is the sparring program scene, where the upbeat video-game-like music goes along perfectly with the video-game flow of the sequence.  The second is the lobby shootout scene, where the video-game-like music goes along… you know.  The music used for the lobby scene is “Spybreak!” by The Propellerheads, albeit an edited version.  In fact, the version on The Matrix‘s soundtrack CD is edited down from the original Propellerheads version, which is almost twice as long, off of the album “Decksanddrumsandrockandroll”.  A while back, I assembled a personal mix called “Der Funkengrüven”, and it ended with the soundtrack version of “Spybreak!”, the only one I had available.

I’ve always wanted to use the album version instead, but I was never sure if it was worth it to buy the CD just for that song.  So I dropped into the iTunes store, called up the album, listened to the high-quality half-minute excerpts available there, and have decided to buy the album.  My only real dilemma now is whether to buy it via the iTunes store for $9.99, or to spring for a couple of extra bucks to get the physical disc in a jewel case and everything at  It’s my first real experience with the iTunes store, and I have to echo what everyone else has been saying: Apple got it right.  The store just works.  I wish the excerpts were a little longer, say 45 seconds or even a full minute, but that’s just picking a nit.  If I didn’t harbor lingering affection for owning albums in a physical form, I’d already have paid to download it, and I still might.  For an oldster like me, that’s saying something.

Sadly, I can’t use the iTunes store to replace my long-lost copy of “The Bobs“, but maybe I could use the store to acquire some Neil Young music…

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Return of the Fish

Published 20 years, 2 months past

An image of the cover of Cascading Style Sheets, Second Edition I have in my hands a physical copy of the second edition of Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, bound with a RepKover lay-flat spine and everything.  So I figure it should be shipping out to folks within the next week or two.  If you’ve pre-ordered, there ought not be long to wait!  (And if you haven’t, then what are you waiting for?)

As I mentioned yesterday, the ‘diagnosis’ favelets I used during my SXSW04i presentation generated a lot of comment, so I now have the underlying style sheets on a “Favelets” page in my “Tools” section.  For those of you who know how favelets work, just grab any or all of the style sheets you want and go for it.  For those who need some assistance, I wrote a “Favelet Creator.”  You plug in the URL of a style sheet you want to have applied to whatever page you’re viewing and the name of the favelet as you want it to appear in your toolbar.  Then you drag the resulting link into your favorites toolbar.

All this really does is create a javascript: link that, when invoked, will dynamically write a link element into the head of whatever document you’re viewing.  That link points to a style sheet, and so the styles are applied.  As an example, you could point it to a style sheet that sets borders for tables and table cells.  When you click on the favelet, all of the tables and table cells in the currently-viewed page become visible.  Figuring out exactly how a table-based page is laid out thus becomes a snap.

So if you don’t like the styles I created, you can write your own (or modify the ones I provided) and create your own diagnostic style sheets.  The favelet creator should make it even simpler.  Either way, I hope these will be helpful.

SXSW04i Wrap-Up

Published 20 years, 2 months past

Having taken some time to decompress, play with Carolyn, and generally recover from the trip, I present some thoughts, impressions, and memories gathered at SXSW04 Interactive.

  • There’s still a lot of interest in social networking, and as much interest in doing it right.  The attention XFN gathered (see D. Keith Robinson’s comments about hallway buzz) indicates that people want to make assertions about their social connections, and that they aren’t satisfied with the currently popular mechanisms for doing so.
  • The interest in favelets/bookmarklets caught me totally off-guard; apparently, of everything I said in my ten minutes, the use of favelets for diagnostic purposes was the things that fascinated people the most.  It’s easy to forget that such a simple thing can be unknown.  I’ll be posting some of the ones I used in the near future, but in the meantime, you can’t go wrong with Tantek‘s or Jesse Ruderman‘s Bookmarklets (“ancestors” is flat-out brilliant).
  • Once I managed to pry him away from his fans (a picture of Min Jung Kim acting like a teenage Japanese fangirl on one side of Scott Andrew while Dinah Sanders does a more American fangirl thing on the other side), I chatted with Scott Andrew about the latest goings-on in the CSS world.  I mentioned that Dave Shea and Doug Bowman are (deservedly) getting a lot of invitations to speak these days to cool events in other countries with travel expenses paid and everything.  “That’s the rock star treatment,” said Scott.  I groused a bit that I didn’t get that kind of treatment.  He looked at me for a second and said, “Yeah, but you know, you’re the guy who’s been around forever and inspired all the new up-and-comers.  You always get credited as an influence but you never get to the top of the charts.  You’re basically the Neil Young of CSS.”
  • I got a picture of Photo Matt as he was taking this picture.  This fact amuses me completely out of proportion to its actual significance.
  • The ratio of Mac laptops to everything else at the conference was about 10:1, maybe higher.  I say “everything else” because I know of at least a couple of Intel-based laptops that were running Linux, not Windows.  Brian Alvey came up with the idea of inventing a glowing Apple-logo sticker that non-Mac users could stick on their laptop lids in order to blend in.
  • While standing outside the Webmonkey party, I saw a guy ride up on a bike with what looked like a heavy metal pole over his shoulder.  He pulled to a stop, dismounted, and put his burden down while he locked up the bike.  I was completely floored when I realized that he’d brought his own bar stool.  Now that’s a self-sufficient man.
  • I ended up at the Iron Cactus two nights in a row, and both nights I found myself shaking my head over the sign outside advertising low-carb margaritas. A lighted sign that reads "HAVE YOU TRIED OUR LOW CARB MARGARITA" That’s right, folks, they take out the alcohol and pass the inflated profit margin on to you!  It’s kind of a brilliant sales tactic, really, and I applaud them for overcharging customers in an honest yet sneaky way.

Frankly, the whole low-carb mania is starting to seriously tick me off, as it did Nick Bradbury; and yes, I know people for whom it’s worked.  A cousin dropped 70 pounds and halved his cholesterol on Atkins, and my father has been very happy with the related South Beach Diet.  That’s no excuse for the herd mentality I keep encountering.  For example, Schlotzsky’s, whose sandwiches I love, now has low-carb options.  How’s that work?  They take away the distinctive sourdough bread (to use their own marketing phrase) and put the sandwich contents on a bed of lettuce.  Um, isn’t that just a drastically overloaded salad?

North By Northeast

Published 20 years, 2 months past

I’m back home in Cleveland and got my Carolyn fix, arriving just in time to be able to hold her for a few minutes before putting her to bed, so all’s right with the world.  There’s a good half-foot of snow or more on the ground, and that makes things even more right—it’s mid-March, and that’s a time for snow.  I’ll appreciate spring when it comes, as I did a year ago tomorrow, but for now I want to enjoy winter.  Even if it did mean having to dig my car out from under a whole lot of wind-sculpted snow.

Now that I’m home, it’s time to list my SXSW04 XFN (those who are newly rel="met", anyway) in the order they came to mind:

If we met for the first time at SXSW04 and I neglected to list you, get in touch and I’ll make with the fixing.

Friends Galore

Published 20 years, 2 months past

This morning’s panel seems to have gone well, although since I haven’t seen the audience feedback I’m basing that impression on the nice comments I got from people who talked to me afterward.  There was also a very low walkout rate during the session itself, which is always a good sign, especially in an audience as crowded as was ours.

At the Web Awards last night, where Dave Shea quite deservedly walked away with the Developer’s Resource and Best of Show awards for the CSS Zen Garden, Jennifer Neiderst Robbins‘ son Arlo got passed around between Jeff Veen, Anitra Pavka, and Steve ChampeonJeff Veen holds Arlo in his hands as they give each other inquisitive looks.  It was kind of odd to watch somebody else’s child be subjected to a round of Pass The Baby, and fun to be able to watch the holders without having to worry so much about the baby.  (It’s a parent thing—when someone else is holding your baby, you watch the baby to see what it does.  And to make sure it doesn’t get dropped.)  Arlo never did make it over to me, but that’s okay.  I’d far rather hold Carolyn.  I miss her, and I miss Kat.

During the end-of-day sessions, Tantek delivered a short presentation on XFN during the panel titled “Ridiculously Easy Group Forming.”  Strangely, he was really the only one to directly talk about the easy part, although the Easy Journal portion of the panel did cover ways in which the service is easy.  The audience seemed quite interested in XFN, which was very cool.  Of course, Tantek did a great job of presenting the important core lessons of XFN in relation to social networking solutions; these were, in effect:

  1. Tackle a small problem and solve it in a simple way.
  2. Release the solution into the wild.
  3. Watch adoption spread and tools multiply.

There were many good questions about the structure of XFN from the attendees, to the point that Tantek was afraid he’d hijacked the panel.  I told him that the audience asked about what interested them the most.  In the cheap swag department, Matt printed up stickers and badge inserts that were large versions of the “XFN Friendly” image to distribute, and I spotted several attendees’ badges marked as being friendly.

After the day’s sessions I headed to the “Long Live Webmokey!” party, where I proudly wore my Webmonkey toque and finally met some of the staff members (like Kristin and Evany) with whom I’d swapped many an e-mail back in the day.  When the smoke drove me out of doors, I spent some time chatting with Steve Champeon and Pableux Johnson, who congratulated me on Carolyn’s arrival and were curious to know why Kat and I wanted children.  Even though I’d already had to think about and answer that question last year, I realized I didn’t have any better answer for them than, “It was important to us.”

Feeling worn down, I took in an excellent Italian dinner at Carmelo’s with Molly, Christopher, and Anitra, and then retired to my room for the night.  Shortly thereafter, a thunderstorm swept in from the west, driving rain through the streets.  I spared a sympathetic thought for all the people trying to get from one of the numerous parties to another, and enjoyed the lighting flowing from cloud to cloud and silhouetting the Austin skyline.

[Sorry this update is tardy, but the internet access died on my floor of the hotel last night, and once I reached the conference cloud on Tuesday morning I was too busy saying goodbye to everyone to get online, so posting had to wait until I got home.]

Austin City Events

Published 20 years, 2 months past

So here I am in warm, sunny Austin, which has been chilly and rainy.  I actually don’t mind, as the weather is quite nice for the time of year, compared to back home.  I have similar reactions in San Francisco, which every November I’m there is chilly but feels great to me, so I’m walking around without a jacket while all the locals are complaining bitterly about how cold it is, and I scoff at them.  But anyway, SXSW04 is well underway and things are as crazy as expected.  We had a fun css-discuss / Webdesign-L / WaSP / W3C / random folks gathering at the Iron Cactus last night, and I finally got to meet SImon Willison.  Actually, I’ve been expanding my rel="met" roster quite a bit, so that’s cool.

So after that gathering, which was organized by James Craig, a bunch of us headed over to the party thrown by frog design.  Wow.  It was very loud, extraordinarily crowded, and had just the right amount of decadence.  There was this big screen on which they were projecting some kind of frog design promotional video, all quick cuts and rapid strobing and MTVesque everything, except it featured stuff on which they’d worked, including the iPod.  Then the video player crashed, and they had to reboot the system.  I got a picture with Tantek standing in front of the screen as it started up.  Tantek Çelik stands silhouetted in front of a projection screen on which can be seen a giant Windows XP bootup screen.  Thanks to the folks at frog design for giving us one of the funniest moments of the conference to date.  (This one’s for you, Scoble.)

When we entered the party, hostesses gave us little plastic cups with fake money in them.  Apparently you could gamble in the back, and with enough of this frog money could get little door prizes.  Or something.  I was amused by the fact that Tantek just walked around the party with a cup in his hand, and people kept stuffing their frog money into it.  He didn’t ask, didn’t say anything about the money one way or the other; he just kept being given more for no apparent reason.  Considering who employs him, that seemed somehow appropriate.

On Friday night I made a pilgramage to the throne of Lord British, or at least the temporary throne set up in Room 18AB of the Austin Convention Center.  Richard Garriott (whose works claimed many, many hours of my youth) and Warren Spector (ditto) talked about the current and future state of electronic gaming.  That was definitely enjoyable, as both men were good speakers and had just-different-enough views on the industry to make the session interesting.

I was encouraged to hear that they’re moving toward making online games less massively multiplayer, allowing people to find groups of friends and then let those groups continue playing without having to interact with the rest of the people online.  That sounds antisocial, but it’s actually more social than the current games.  I’ve avoided online games largely because I don’t want to have to deal with all the pre-teens killing my avatar and crowing about how I’ve been “0wnz0r3d.”  Sorry, kids, I have better things to do with my time.  If I could play interesting games with a restricted group of friends, though, I might be seriously tempted.  If Half-Life 2 comes out for Xbox with a good multiplayer component, that plus Halo 2 will probably be just about all she wrote.

Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign

Published 20 years, 2 months past

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.

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