Homestyle

I actually managed to get to bed yesterday at about 4:00 AM. Okay, it’s not really that early, but considering that I’ve been sleeping through most of the day for the past week or so, this was a welcome change. I woke up at about 5:30, however, and was unable to return to any peaceful rest, be it sleep or just laying in bed. By six, too much light was peeking through my small apartment’s shades that I knew I could no longer get sleep. Besides, I had some errands that needed running since I’d been putting them off somewhat and if I did manage to get to sleep then, it would ruin my whole day.

I went to my computer and surfed the web for a while, checked to see who was online, read some email, looked over some of my freelance work for a few clients and began planning my day. While online, I came across something personally disturbing and was briefly unsettled, to say the least. It was 7:50 AM now, and being at home while the sun rose for another day — unsettled, no less — was sure to put me in a bad mood.

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On Beauty

As has occasionally been the case, Danica has recently been unsettled by her own opinions of her body image. I came up with this haiku on beauty the day after she encouraged me to write more poetry. While possibly not of the highest caliber, I do happen to like it and I think it is quite a good result for one of my first atempts at writing a haiku.

The real beauty in
beauty is its uniqueness.
Natural beauty.

This is therefore dedicated to my love, Danica, whom I think is naturally the most beautiful person I have ever seen.

Busybusybusy.

Um, yikes. Lots’a work to do. And it’s fuuun. :)

On a related note, I am quickly gaining very important experience. I was confronted with a very old web site, BasilRouskas.com and begun trying to convert it to an XHTML/CSS mix. Educationally, I determined it would be no better that way, because the design of the site is thoroughly bad. Or, more objectively, there is almost no consistent design element anywhere on the page. Except for the fact that adding some CSS could potentially increase the site’s accessibility, it would be no help in terms of ease of maintenance.

That said, if it were designed accessibly in the first place, and this is was the final design, it’s an example of a web site which I would much rather view in a text-only browser.

Thankfully, InsideManagement.com is not at all like that. It was very obviously designed by computer programmers, not web designers. I can tell by looking at the markup their PHP is producing. None the less, the overal design does lend itself nicely to CSS, and recoding it has been fun. I have learned some lessons from this recoding attempt too, such as not to even attempt to re-create a site pixel-for-pixel. Why? Because sites are often designed improperly the first time around. Not just visually, but their internal organization is often just plain off, or they have made concessions to the integrity of the markup to accomodate out-dated design techniques (like splicing images into table-cells). Web design is easy and fast with CSS. If only IE wasn’t such a major browser. ::sigh:: I can dream…

Poetic Encouragement

Yesterday, Danica called me late at night. During our conversation I mentioned that I had begun writing periodically again. Though I meant to say "prose," I had a bit of a Freudian slip and it came out as "poetry." I suppose she was intrigued because, though I did clarify what I had intended, she told me to "Come up with somethng" and recite it to her, then and there.

After struggling for a few moments, I concluded that I needed my keyboard. I have a ton of trouble concentrating on anything, especially language, if I can’t see immediate feedback as to what I’m doing. Writing a sentence out on the computer offers the opportunity to edit it in real time. If I simply speak, I too easily "forgets" what I said a few seconds prior and my train of thought breaks down because it isn’t being guided by anything.

As an aside, that’s a very interesting basis for a more conceptual discussion about racing thoughts. I shall have to come back to that one time…. Anyway.

Back to the point, Danica quickly interuppted me and told me not to use the keyboard, get back into bed and just speak without thinking and come up with a poem. I moaned and groaned somewhat, but ultimately obeyed and tried a little harder.

What I recited did not look like this at all. Only the subject is the same. Even though I was convinced that my utterings were horrendous, Danica insisted that she liked them, and encouraged me to recite more poetry on the spur of the moment. I didn’t then, though I thanked her and said I’d probably work on what I already thought of. If it proved fruitful, I could try again with something new and then edit it later.

Below is editted piece, after a few moments of tinkering with the memory of what I recited, typed up on my computer.

Placed with purpose at the bed of a river,
Each stone waits. Their patience is molded from the calm
The river loans them, and at the end of their journey
No stone has moved. But their shape is perfect.

I judge the defendant fruitful. The sentence: he must recite more poetry off the top of his head, not record it in any manner, and then edit the piece soon thereafter. ::grin::

Friendster Testimonial

I just wanted to share this, a 1,000 character description of my love.

Danica’s name means “morning star.” Like a star, she is serenely beautiful outside and chaotically so within. She has a subtle, almost imperceptible strength that draws everyone she likes towards her. Those fortunate enough to be caught in this inescapable gravity well will be left speechless by the breathtaking adventure they will soon undertake, for they will learn what it is like to be in the presence of a celestial being. She is kind and selfless to a fault. She can be a friend, a confidant, a lover, and a partner in crime all at once and in as many ways as she has friends. Like the morning sunlight, her cheery nature can wax and wane. Occasionally it is covered by mists of sadness and self-doubt. In these times she struggles not to die like a star collapsing in on itself; she knows she will only emerge as a black hole. So far, she has succeeded. She has been my morning star for some time. I hope that should I awake tomorrow I can see her radiant smile once more.

Examining Separation Anxiety

It has occured to me that I need to wash my hair. Actually, it had—past tense—occured to me several days ago, though I have not yet actually done anything about it. This is because I do not have any shampoo in my apartment, and though it stands to reason that I should probably go buy some at the supermarket two blocks away, I have not done that either. Truth be told, I haven’t done anything in the past several days except work on web sites, eat, sleep, and fantasize about my sweet heart returning from California. I had been counting the days on my PDA‘s calendar, but that quickly got depressing so I stopped.

To help myself cope, I’ve been re-reading Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman. In it, he describes everything about emotions in neurological terms. Some might find this frightening or consider the idea that their most passionate, most depressing, and most pleasureable feelings are "nothing more" than chemicals in their brains, but I find the reverse to be true. It is enormously comforting to understand that all of what I am feeling is neurological, physical on some level, and thus under my control.

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The Tru(e)man Show

I suppose it was obvious to most people, but it wasn’t to me. That’s either the beauty or curse of individualism, depending on how you look at it. At 4:00 AM tonight, I started watching The Truman Show. I guess I just wasn’t tired. Last week, I was depressed—I had been for at least a couple of months.
I had just come back from a week-long vacation to California with my girlfriend. The vacation was wonderful, certainly destined for a memory of great happiness, but the months prior to leaving, and the few days after my return were becoming progressively worse.

I worked at the United Jewish Appeals Federation of New York, as a support team member in the TeleGiving Department. For those of you not familiar with UJA-Jargon, TeleGiving is the nice word for TeleMarketing, and support team members are part-time employees without titles, and usually without a team. My particular role was, more or less, computer operations support though in practice it turned out to be computer operations period.

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Compromise isn’t always a bad thing.

If you’re anything like me, you’re not very willing to compromise. At least, not on things like your happiness, your dreams, your ambitions, or your web site’s accessibility. Unfortunately, due to the less than ideal reality in which we live, compromise often seems less of a choice and more of a necessity.

Thus the story of the building of a web site.

Okay, enough dramatics. I recoded the whole thing to use a single, large-scale table for basic positioning needs, and then tweaked and proded with CSS to arrive at a solution that works for all parties. Amazingly, this solution may actually be better than the original code I came up with, and here’s where the philosophizing comes in.

First of all, though there were some very tricky problems I needed to (and successfully did) overcome which mostly centered around semantic markup and source-order, the table’s role in positioning the elements here is something I am far more used to. Using CSS as the styler with a table wrapper and nested divs where needed actually talk me more about using CSS than did positioning the layout solely from the CSS.

No doubt, this has only to do with my incomplete knowledge of CSS2 positioning, but the point here is that I made more progress in this recoding effort in terms of my own advancement than I had made in the first attempt.

It also felt a lot easier this time around.

Maybe that’s because I’m simply more knowledgeable now than I was 2 weeks ago. Still, this relatively insignificant difference does not, I don’t think, account for the vast improvement of the quality of my code. Even I can see my original attempts riddled with “errors.” Of course, the whole thing is subjective in the first place.

Better code is only different code. The question to pose is: better in what way?

It’s more semantically correct.

I was surprised, but this is actually true. This second recoding provided the opportunity to go over much of the markup and strip out unnecessary and thus “incorrect” code snippets. For instance, there’s no need to place a p tag around the one and only block of text inside a blockquote tag. This is at best redundant so all those extra tags went.

The CSS is more effective.

Naturally, this process of ripping out useless markup also helps in a variety of other ways such as page weight (a little), and the coming CSS’s effectiveness (a lot). Indeed, more than just extra tags were lost in this process. Excessive labelling of tags such as <p id="explanation"> went bye-bye, since they were actually useless too.

Instead of writing CSS rules specific to each individual element (possible, but laborious and excessive), with a sounder understanding of the possibilities I was able to far more eloquently select tags using descendant selectors and selector specificity to accomplish the same task with nearly half the CSS code as I had before. Although I must admit that some of this was due to the positioning property of the main table. Yet even the table element’s attributes such as width and background were all removed from the markup, leaving an easy to read, easy to style html page.

And, this was the real shocker, but it is actually easier now to re-skin the whole page since I started (as I probably should have done in the first place) with the big things first. Simple logic, but it takes experience and practice to get it right, even when I think I have it nailed.

Most important of all, I am focused once again.

Having the energy to devote to working on what you love can only be accomplished when you rid yourself of worries, anxieties, and fears. Easier said than done, but I shall leave it at that.

IEzilla Strikes Again

A little while ago, I’ve just completed a spectacular, four-column, semi-liquid layout without a single table in the markup what so ever. It is entirely semantic, utterly accessible, incredibly lean, visually stunning…and a disaster in only the one browser that 95% of the population uses. Internet Explorer for Windows. As this is my first major success with CSS-based design, this is nothing short of maddening.

As a compromise, I’m going to re-code the whole thing using a large scale table for basic positioning. With a few aces up my sleeve, I hope to preserve most of the accessibility features. Here’s hoping. :)