Books Technology Writing

If only

It’s been slow going getting another book deal. The publisher I’m currently talking with about a book on MySQL/PHP wants to include a provision in the contract to bill me if I’m paid royalties on books that eventually get returned from the book stores. Normally, the returns are more than compensated for by new book sales in any given quarter, so this is a non-issue; most publishers don’t ask for this. Nowadays, though – everyone wants a sure thing.

My counter to them is to hold back a percentage of the royalites against return; any of the amount still remaining when the book’s shelf life ends is then sent to me in one lump sum. I don’t like doing this–the royalites we get are so small as it is–but I can’t be looking forward to a royalty check only to get a bill, instead. Hopefully the publisher will accept this counter-proposal.

I need a book, though. More than just the money, I need to get back into working on a book. I’m so eager that I considered, briefly, putting my name into the list of CSS Luminaries that Eric Meyer asked for recently, for work on a new book on CSS. Of course, we all know I’m not a CSS luminary; I’ve spent much of my last few years working the server-side of the development teeter totter. But don’t discount my CSS skills. Rusty they may be, but I’ve been working with CSS as long, or longer than any of the other existing stars in our web design firmament.

For instance, Eric Meyer’s first article on CSS was for the October, 1997 edition of Web Review. I was already writing on CSS, as you can see from a March 28,1997 article from the same publication. Eric stayed with CSS, while I drifted off to other technologies, such as ASP and Java, Linux, and of course, weblogging and RDF.

If only I had stayed with CSS. I think of that now, especially when I’m having a hard time finding a book. If only I had stayed with any one technology – enough to become established as a ‘luminary’ in the field. But like a blackbird, always attracted by some new and shiny thing, I would soon grow bored with technology once mastered, and look for something new and challenging.

However, I have been playing with CSS a bit more recently. I decided to do two new themes for Burningbird – one representing my feminine side, one my masculine.

The Paths: Book of Color theme represents my feminine side– with wide open areas; lack of constraints; a rejection of absolute centering; and the sensuously combined colors of purple and orange, with just a touch of crimson. Notice that the sidebar doesn’t close, either at the top or bottom. Notice, also, the positioning of the content – not completely to the side, but not centered, either. The changing character of this new theme is represented in the backdrop, randomly pulled from my “path” photos.

My new masculine theme is Route 66, and I do think it’s quite nice. The colors are rich, and subtle, and even quite adventurous. It’s also been the most difficult to create because it forces all parts of the page into a centered box, with no open spaces between the components–and this isn’t easy, as many of you know. It is precise, constrained, centered, and very controlled.

Feminine open, and masculine controlled. This doesn’t necessarily reflect common viewpoints of male and female. But I’ve always seen my femininity tied to that part of me which longs for new roads to travel; that burns with a desire to knock down arbitrary and unnecessary walls. It is the practical side of me, but also the passionate–the part of me that tilts at windmills and dragons with equal enthusiasm. My masculinity, though, is that part of me that wants to control and constrain. It is bound with my sense of honor and duty, and desire for finding order in chaos. It’s the side that says to me, “But what about the bills”. My masculine side wants to lead, while my feminine side just wants to do its thing. The only emotion both sides share is a dislike of maudlin sentimentality – the masculine because it’s contrived, the feminine because it’s cheap.

Of course, for others, the reflections of their masculine and feminine sides are as unique as the people. Some may see their feminine side as controlling or ordered, while their masculinity is loose, and unrestrained. Isn’t it funny how the same terms can mean something so completely different to each of us?

“I won’t have eleven children,” she asserted; “I won’t have the eyes of an old woman. She looks at one up and down, up and down, as if one were a horse.”

“We must have a son and we must have a daughter,” said Terence, putting down the letters, “because, let alone the inestimable advantage of being our children, they’d be so well brought up.” They went on to sketch an outline of the ideal education– how their daughter should be required from infancy to gaze at a large square of cardboard painted blue, to suggest thoughts of infinity, for women were grown too practical; and their son–he should be taught to laugh at great men, that is, at distinguished successful men, at men who wore ribands and rose to the tops of their trees. He should in no way resemble (Rachel added) St. John Hirst.

At this Terence professed the greatest admiration for St. John Hirst. Dwelling upon his good qualities he became seriously convinced of them; he had a mind like a torpedo, he declared, aimed at falsehood. Where should we all be without him and his like? Choked in weeds; Christians, bigots,–why, Rachel herself, would be a slave with a fan to sing songs to men when they felt drowsy.

“But you’ll never see it!” he exclaimed; “because with all your virtues you don’t, and you never will, care with every fibre of your being for the pursuit of truth! You’ve no respect for facts, Rachel; you’re essentially feminine.” She did not trouble to deny it, nor did she think good to produce the one unanswerable argument against the merits which Terence admired. St. John Hirst said that she was in love with him; she would never forgive that; but the argument was not one to appeal to a man.

Virginia Woolf’s “The Voyage Out”

I was thinking on this last week when that great storm brewed up on Monday. I could see the clouds when I left the house for my walk, and almost turned back for my camera. It was late, though, and I kept going.

At Powder, after finishing my walk, I could see through the lower layers of mist to this tall cloud, tall, tall, reaching up to the sky as far as the eye could see. I knew then that this storm was going to be something special. I took off in the car to find a place to watch it, but couldn’t find a place to even pull over; not until I turned into the parking lot of a medical center to turn around and found that the back of the lot opened up to a completely clear view of the entire valley. And the storm, that magnificent storm.

I parked not far from a truck also pulled over to watch the storm and several car lengths away from two cars with four young guys. The guys had been skate boarding down the hill next to the medical center; when I pulled in, though, they were all looking at the sky and one of them saw me and started shouting something about the storm, pointing up to the sky.

I walked over to them, as we watched one funnel cloud form and then break apart. And then another. And another. The front of the storm was huge, and the clouds were actually rolled under, as if they had been turned about by forces unseen. One of the guys yelled out, “Let’s get out of here! That’s a tornado that’s forming!” I yelled back, “Why leave? This is incredible!

“You only live once!”, I shouted at him.

“Yeah! Live! That’s what I want to continue doing!”

They piled into their cars and took off, as I stood in the lot looking up at the clouds as the boiled above me, thinking what an odd thing for that young man to say: being afraid of a storm after spending who knows how long riding a skate board down a very dangerous hill. Understandable though: it’s the degree of control. You control what you do on a skateboard; you have control over your life. But a storm – no man or woman controls a storm. They had chosen the masculine path. I had not.


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