Archive for April, 2004

Black Pepper and Other Notes

I put black pepper on just about everthing. Pasta, soup, salad, pizza — you name it. I love the stuff. Especially that of the freshly ground variety, expertly cracked by one of my prized possessions — a cherry mill by drum stick manufacturer Vic Firth. So you could also say that I like black pepper.

I wonder though, if there are adverse effects to ingesting large quantities of the spice. Plenty of studies have been done I’m sure — and perhaps I don’t want to know their outcomes. I’m sure it can’t be any worse than a few cups of coffee a day (of which I drink none).

Other Notes

  • It’s merely April and I’ve already had the worst sunburn of recent memory.
  • Had the pleasure of meeting up with Ethan and the visitng Dunstan this past weekend where we were greeted by a large fish on the sidewalk of a Boston pub.
  • For a recent project, I used a modified version of Brad Choate’s wonderful tip for Doing your whole site with MT. After seeing how easy it is, I’m going to start using this method more often (using the Category field to automatically create folders and files). Each entry becomes an editable web page, with all the available fields to plug into a single template. I should write this up someday. Too lazy right now.
  • The new version of iTunes is worth checking out.
  • Shaun Inman’s Inman Flash Replacement technique (IFR) is fascinating and promising. And further adds more reason for me to get a handle on Flash.
  • Keith sparked a very informative thread over at Asterisk* regarding the pros and cons to using XHTML Strict vs. Transitional
  • I’m happy to hear that The Sydney Morning Herald redesigned using web standards. Congrats to Peter Ottery and team.
  • And lastly, I thoroughly enjoyed Hellboy, going into it knowing really nothing of the comic. Ron Perlman was fantastic (and surprisingly funny — although maybe the character has a dry wit in the comic book as well).

SimpleQuiz › Part XV: Conclusion

For the first time, the last SimpleQuiz had over 100 comments. Wow. And once again, “lists” prove that they are the most easily debated when talking about semantic markup.

Not because it was the first comment — but because it was the first comment to suggest a method that many others agreed with, the free T-shirt goes to compuwhiz7, with this comment:

For example, you could have done this:

    <h2>First Step Title</h2>
    <p>First step description goes here.</p>

Many agreed that using <hn>s and paragraphs would be a nice way of showing the relationship between the step title and step description, while still using an ordered list. Another variation that seemed popular was the nesting of a single definition list within each list item:

      <dt>First Step Title</dt>
      <dd>First step description goes here.</dd>

While it may seem a bit weird to have a series of one-item lists — I’m never one to argue that a list can’t contain just one item.

If I could afford it, T-shirts would’ve also been handed out to (among others) Tantek, for his organized analysis that I could’ve copied verbatim as the conclusion — and also to Chris Schreib (1,2,3) for perhaps the longest comment in the history of long comments :-).

Thanks to all that commented on this one, and for (as usual) providing a fascinating discussion.

All SimpleQuiz questions and conclusions can also be viewed on one page.

SimpleQuiz › Part XV: Numbered List Pairs

This quiz is certainly one of those grey areas — a comparison that may have some begging that there must be a better way to spend one’s time.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Still with me? Good. Last December, we sort of touched on this topic, with a question on Multi-Paragraph List Items. But for this question specifically, take a look at Figure 1. The goal: to present a numbered list, with each list item containing a bold title, followed by a description on the next line.

Seems like an ordered list (<ol>) would be the best choice, but how to handle the description on the next line is the head scratcher.

I’ve run into this dilemma several times in the past few months, asking myself which is better. Again, each method may be splitting hairs, but I’m curious what you, the esteemed readers of SimpleBits thinks.

As added incentive, and to reward at least one person that, like me, actually enjoys ruminating about the subtleties of hand-crafted markup — I’m giving away one (1) free official SimpleBits T-shirt, hand-drawn by yours truly at pixeltees. Since there is no correct answer, I’ll be selecting one comment to feature in the Conclusion of this particular quiz. If your comment is chosen (for whatever reason) — you get the free shirt.

Q: Which of the following methods would you choose for marking up a numbered list of titles and descriptions?

  1. <ol>
      <li>First Step Title<br />
      First step description goes here.</li>
      <li>Second Step Title<br />
      Second step description goes here.</li>

  2. <dl>
      <dt>1. First Step Title</dt>
      <dd>First step description goes here.</dd>
      <dt>2. Second Step Title</dt>
      <dd>Second step description goes here.</dd>

  3. <ol>
      <li>First Step Title
      <p>First step description goes here.</p></li>
      <li>Second Step Title
      <p>Second step description goes here.</p></li>

Trigger Happy Tunes

One of the things I’ve noticed about listening to digital music, whether it be on iTunes or my iPod, is that my attention span is dwindling. Lately, I’ve been running iTunes in shuffle mode while working — it’s fantastic, like my own radio station playing along all day. But I find that even if I’m listening to a great song, I’ll click to the next track before it’s finished. I know the next song is going to be even better. Sometimes it is.
Digging through open windows to find the iTunes interface can be a pain though — even using Exposé, where I have a keystroke to show all windows, click the window, then click the forward button.
If you click and hold the iTunes icon in the dock, a pop-up menu will appear with a “Next Song” option. That worked for me for awhile.
Synergy in the menubarBut then I discovered Synergy, a little app that puts the iTunes controls up in the menubar. No more wading through windows to get the next song or pause. There is also a ridiculous amount of configuration options for such a small application, including 10 or so different button styles, transparent windows that pop-up telling you what song is playing, etc.
No I can fast forward through all of my favorite tunes.

Sometimes, A House of Cards

Two hours go by and I still couldn’t figure out why the navigation links weren’t clickable in IE/Mac. This was one of those times I find myself cursing, putting off lunch and cranking Journey until I figure it out.
Process of elimination got me nowhere. Remove one rule, they work — but the layout is off. Remove the same rule, along with 10 others and they don’t work — but the layout remains stable. Repeat.
Another hour passes. Journey’s Greatest Hits is on shuffle (there is something about the combination of Steve Perry and CSS. I can’t quite put my finger on it). Aha! If I remove position: relative; from the element that follows the navigation — everything works. Of course.
The preceding scenario doesn’t happen every day, but when it does, it’s a roller-coaster ride of sheer anger, followed by the greatest elation one could possibly receive from writing code. Don’t take this the wrong way — I love CSS. I couldn’t get by without it, but on those rare (or sometimes not-so-rare) occurrences when a complex CSS layout becomes a “house of cards”, it can sometimes be enough to scare you into realizing, “whoa, I just spent three hours trying to figure out this one small problem for one browser”.
You may be wondering about the specifics of my aforementioned troubles. But I couldn’t begin to document the 4,723 steps it took me to get to where I was and the equal number of steps to get back only to fix the problem with a single rule deletion. *Sigh*.
Doug waxed poetic on this subject back in January. That it’s wise to factor in extra time when planning for cross-browser CSS debugging.
What’s amazing to me is that changing one rule, that by all obvious appearances has nothing to do with the problem, can sometimes be all it takes to fix the entire issue. The lesson here? When something doesn’t work, try the obvious — but don’t forget the unobvious.

Open for Business

You may or may not remember that I was searching for a job back in February. I’m not searching anymore. Have I found a job? Sort of.
business cardSimpleBits will still be the site it’s always been — but in addition, it’ll now act as the umbrella for my consulting business. After searching for the perfect job for awhile, I came to the realization that I might as well give it a try on my own and see what happens.
I found it interesting that many companies (in the Boston area, anyhow) often farmed out their design/interface work to contractors. Many “web designer” positions have been cut in favor of hiring outside help. Not everywhere of course, but it certainly seemed like a trend.
But I think that’s OK. My hope is that I can work on more of a variety of different projects — and that the variety of stuff I’m working on can reflect more of a variety in the content of this site.
So for those that I’ve told “no, I’m not interesed in contract work right now” in the past — I was lying. Although, it’s funny to end a post about giving self-employment a shot with this: I’m really busy right now. Working on some cool projects that have me occupied at present. But I’m banking that being busy is not always going to be the case — and that’s the reason for this post.

Sign My Grill, Won’t You?

We had some family over for lunch last weekend and I dug out the giant George Foreman grill that we purchased to skirt around the issue of outdoor cooking on a third-floor deck.
A signed grillLast Fourth of July, I had everyone sign the grill, right alongside George’s decorative signature. It just seemed right at the time — and something I’d like to turn into a yearly tradition.
However, now that we have a house and a first floor deck and no rules — I simply must get a charcoal grill. You just can’t beat the flavor of charcoal, and no matter how convenient a gas grill is, it just doesn’t quite match up.
So the George Foreman will be saved for rainy days, and for ceremonial signings only. Perhaps someday I will place it for sale on eBay. I could say that the grill had been signed by twenty of the most famous grillers in the history of grilling. And you should be so lucky as to gaze at their penmanship while frying meat from both sides — on an angle, so as to catch the fat that drips into the companion “drip tray”.
Ah, the wonders of the George Foreman grill.

SimpleQuiz › Part XIV: Hex Challenge

This one is purely for fun. There was going to be a prize for this quiz, however I realize I have no way of knowing whether you cheat or not. But it’s worth giving it shot without viewing source or firing up and image editor.

If you’re like me, you start to know colors by their hex code, picking them out on TV, billboards, album covers, etc. Is Oprah’s dress in #360? No, it’s more of a #690… yes, definitely in the sixes.

Match each color swatch to it’s web-safe hex code:

    1. #333366
    2. #069
    3. #369
    1. #630
    2. #993333
    3. #363
    1. #ccc
    2. #999
    3. #333
    1. #999966
    2. #9c6
    3. #693
    1. #963
    2. #c60
    3. #fc6

Harold Bluetooth Gromson

While searching for info on Bluetooth, I came across this little nugget of info from University of Utah. I had no idea that…

Bluetooth® is named for Tenth Century Danish king Harald Blåtand, known in English as Harold Bluetooth Gromson, who is reputed to have been so fond of blueberries that his teeth were stained blue. The Bluetooth symbol is a bindrune that combines the runes for Harald Blåtand’s initials — “h” looks like an asterisk.

I have no doubt that eating a large amount of blueberries regularly would stain the teeth blue. However, I’m not exactly sure how that relates to cutting-edge wireless technology.

Bluetooth logoRegardless, one of the reasons I was doing a little Harald Blåtand research (I’m going to refer to the technology by its original Danish name) was trying to find out if the Apple Wireless Keyboard and Mouse work with two Macs. Meaning, if I have my laptop and tower in the same room, can I control both with the same Bluetoo– excuse me, Harald Blåtand keyboard and mouse.

One issue I could imagine would be that typing and controlling the mouse would happen simultaneously on both computers. That could be a problem — but perhaps there’s a way for it to work. I’ve had a tough time finding an answer online, so if anyone has already experimented with this, be sure to leave a comment.


The uncomparable Todd Dominey has recently implemented the accessible image-tab rollovers technique for the main navigation of — and it’s probably the best example to date.
PGA.comFirst, it successfully solves the IE/Win flicker problem that surfaced for those employing Pixy’s single image rollover trick (IE/Win flicker has also been thoroughly documented by Ryan Carver).
One way of getting rid of IE/Win’s flicker (an issue when background images are hovered) when using Pixy’s rollover method with an unordered list, is to assign the background-image to both the <li> and <a> elements.
In addition to eliminating the flicker, Todd also made a few tweaks to please IE Mac OS9/Classic users — and of course the navigation also looks stellar. Nice work!
If you’ve tried using image-based CSS navigation in the past and have run into IE flicker and/or IE OS9 problems — be sure to check this design out.
Go tabs, go.