I am the center of the Burningbird universe

As you might also notice, I’ve finished my all about me bar, which is now under the main title on all the pages.

The Feed Me page lists all the various ways to feed the bird, including hiring and sponsoring. I may have pulled ads, but I am open to sponsors–especially if its a product I can get behind. I’m still adding to the Writings page, but it gives a sampling of my work. The Resumé page is very detailed, and very long–much longer than normally recommended. However, a few years back, it wasn’t unusual for me to be working two or more consulting jobs, writing for a couple of publications, and working on a book, all at the same time. The resumé tries to cover all the different types of work and technologies I was involved with at the time.

I’ve also had people say they like my longer resumé and others say they don’t. Such is life — I’d rather give people too much, than too little.

(I think you can also see why no company will hire me for a permanent position–not with that much consulting and independent contracting behind me.)

Besides, I think it’s about time I started selling myself, rather than indulge in the all too typical female modesty, with all the disclaimers of “Aaw shucks, it ain’t no big thang”. If I continue, I’m going to female modesty myself right out of a car, computer, and Net connection. Then where would you all be? There’d be this dead void in your syndication feed lists where the Bird used to be.

Of course, having said all of this–I would like feedback on the pages. Especially that resumé page. What think? Does it help? Or hurt? I may be stubborn but I’m not mulish, and if it’s too long, or provides way too much info, I’ll cut it back.


Thanks to the kindness of those who have left comments, I have made extensive edits to the pages.


Give into the serifs

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I’ve changed my main content font to Georgia, and I like it much better. I have experimented around with serif fonts in the past, but couldn’t find the right combination of line height, font height, and color to suit. However, when I downloaded the CSS Zen Garden template, I liked what Dave Shea used immediately and decided to use it in Bb–without the text justification.

I’m also using a serif font for the title now, but still using Verdana for sidebar and new static menu at the top. I’m assuming mixing serif and san-serif fonts is not a page fashion faux pax*.

Another tidbit in “The Zen of CSS Design” is to use caution with letter spacing, especially with lowercase characters. I admit I am using a tight letterspacing with my post titles, but I found that the titles seemed to go on forever without it. Even after reading the warning, it’s a gamble I’ll still take — bring on the sheep!

In the end, though, it’s good to be aware of the rules of thumb and ‘laws’ of layout and design; then if you break them, it’s because you really want to, not because you’re unaware of the possibility that your site could look like shite on most people’s boxes.

*feedback would be welcome — and suggestions for the sidebar font.


Zen of Burningbird

I received a copy of The Zen of CSS Design: Visual Enlightenment for the Web from the authors, Dave Shea and Molly Holzschlag, and have been getting an intimate peek into the world of web page design the last few weeks.

This is a beautiful book, with an elegant and clever layout, and featuring many examples of the famous CSS Zen Garden. With each design, Dave and Molly have focused on one specific element and used this as a basis for whatever is the topic of that chapter: Imagery, Layout, Typography, and so on.

“Zen of CSS Design” isn’t a book for beginners, as it doesn’t cover the basics of CSS or HTML. It’s a book for someone who has worked with both and wants to take their web design beyond the basics–to explore, but to do so in a way that is cross-browser compatible, accessible, and that validates.

For instance, chapter 4 provides techniques to replace the text of a header element with a graphic, but still have the text accessible to screen readers, and search engines–something that was new to me. In fact, I thought I knew CSS quite well, but I found out there’s a whole new level of tweaking I wasn’t aware of, primarily because I don’t keep up with the many design and CSS mailing lists. Luckily Dave and Molly do, and have gleaned the best of it in the pages.

As for my design, I’ve finally been inspired to clean up my stylesheet and use the ID and CLASS selectors correctly. I’ve also been fairly weak with fonts, falling back on Verdana or Arial most times. In the book there’s a whole chapter on typography, and I have now discovered georgia, which will be appearing in my pages in the days to come. This will make Joe Clark happy.

An interesting coincidence: this week Dave wrote a post about accessibility and the “aaa” Bobby rating that’s shown in the CSS Zen Garden HTML template. A group of Italian designers had challenged this rating because some of the designs do fail with accessibility, primarily through the use of color. However, as he pointed out, in the post, this is addressed in the book, which includes a decent discussion on all the nuances that can make a page less than accessible. There’s more to accessibility than labeling your images and using headers correctly; for instance, one suggestion is that text in hypertext links should be able to stand alone without the context of the surrounding text. Something that doesn’t work very well within a weblog.

After my first glance through of the book, I was inspired to try my hand with the CSS Zen Garden template, using my own Floating Clouds as model for the design. You can see the result in this page*.

As you’ll see, I’m using Georgia, and it is a pretty font. I’m also using the Floating Clouds open page body blocks and have left the sidebar items unconstrained. Rather than force all of the items into a tight, squishy box, the proximity of the elements serves as grouping — providing a balance while still allowing an openness in the design. Well, at least that’s my philosophy.

I’ve also managed to incorporate my background switching code, and do it while not touching Dave’s HTML — a requirement for CSS Zen Garden. I did this by using an import on the PHP file as the first line in the CSS file:

import “photographs.php”

The header file returned by the PHP program sets the result to CSS:

// declare the output of the file as CSS
header(’Content-type: text/css’);

In addition, I also use the CSS3 “opacity” attribute for the quick summary element. This is supported in Safari and Firefox, and for those browsers where it’s not supported, the element is a solid white. Since the text is just as readable with both, and the solid white doesn’t disrupt the design, it seemed a good use of ‘edgy’ CSS. It also validates.

It’s a rather quiet design, but very readable–and at least it doesn’t hurt when you look at it, as can happen in this rather humorous look at the good old days of web design (note, lots of animated gifs in the page that opens from this link).

“The Zen of CSS Design” has been an eye opener for me and I’ll never approach web page design in the same way, again. I can strongly recommend this book — it’s definitely worth breaking into the piggy bank to buy.

*Note: I am not a designer**

**Further note: whole-hearted agreement with this statement will result in my hunting down and hacking your site. Consider the CSS Zen Garden entry I linked to. Now, think how your site would look with blooming peonies in the background.

Just Shelley

The trouble with neighbors

No, not the virtual kind…at least, not this time.

Our housing complex is a very quiet one, mainly families, older couples, and long time residents. We’ve always been lucky with the neighbors we’ve had, but our luck was bound to run out, and it did with the newest neighbor next door.

I’ve had to go over twice to tell them to turn down their music, and each time, they then spent several hours pounding up and down the stairs or knocking on the walls afterwards–once until 2:30 and the other time until 4am. There are two men living there and they’re gone most of the time, but when they’re home, it’s a constant party.

The management has informed them of the rules, and has asked me to call the police now when there’s a disturbance, so they can get official records of the events. With these, if the neighbors continue, the management will be able to kick them out. As vindictive as they’ve shown themselves to be, I’m not looking forward to seeing their reaction to my calling the police.

However, there’s a bright side to all of this: when I can’t sleep and it’s late at night, like now, I just put a DVD in the player, put on my headphones, and get lots of work done.