Archive for August, 2004

Boston Geek Tea Party 2

The last one was a success, so Ethan and I thought it was time to organize another web standards, geek, tea lovers gathering once again in Boston.
This Thursday, September 2nd at 7:00pm (coincidentally International Web Standards Meetup Day) at the Cassava Lounge on Boylston St. (see Sidesh0w for all the details. DEE-tails or duh-TAILS?).
Plenty of boba tea will be available, as well as (hopefully) interesting conversation on all things web, design, code and perhaps other things. Hope to see you there.

Ode to the Breast Pocket

There are but a select few shirts in my wardrobe that sport them, but the ones that do are quickly becoming favorites. For I am here today, in the year 2004, to salute the single most groundbreaking development in garment history — the breast pocket.
shirtMy first shirt with a BP (people “in the know” will call it this) came at a young age, I’m sure. Perhaps the necessity of dressing up for a wedding called for a special shirt with a tiny, extra piece of the fabric sewn on three sides (sewing present on four sides is referred to as a “patch”).
Over the years the BP was always there, overlooked, its potential never fully realized. It was just forgotten decoration. Heck, most of the time there was a BP on the sport jacket itself. In which I’d also place nothing. It would never dawn on me to use this narrow, shallow receptacle for anything. Until recently.
The convenience of the BP is staggering. Take this scenario for instance: I needed to carry a beer, a bowl of popcorn and the TV remote to the couch. A quick examination of the items proved that the TV remote was the best candidate. I slid it in the BP, and made the journey in one trip. Brilliant. And just last week, after filling my car’s gas tank, I took the receipt from the pump and got back in car. Rather than the awkward motion of grabbing my wallet from my back pocket (a pain in the arse), I instead just slipped it into the BP and off I went. Now imagine plane tickets, toll-booth receipts, credit cards, business cards, Pop Tarts (?), hotel card keys and more.
After having realized the brillance of having a shirt with a BP, I now realize that I need more of them. During the warmer months, short-sleeved, collared shirts will work–albeit, they project a sometimes unwanted “dressy” appearance. I now need to invest in some “pocket tees”. A simple t-shirt, with a BP added.
For reasons I won’t go into, the BP has less of a popularity on women’s clothing.
So perhaps you too, may have overlooked the value of the breast pocket. If so, the next time you need to carry something small, flat, light and approximately 2 1/2 inches wide by no more than say, 6 inches tall–look no further than your own shirt. I have started to, and it’s paying off. Bigtime.
Next week’s fashion commentary: Does Anyone Really Use That Tiny Pocket Watch Pocket on a Pair of Five-Pocket Jeans?

Shuffle Theory

Way back in March of last year, I wrote a Notebook entry entitled My iPod Loves to Play Fugazi. And boy did it. I was convinced that the iPod (an original 5GB model) was playing me rather than the reverse. Fugazi (of which I have two albums in full on the iPod) would appear more often than any other artist–some of whom I have 5 or 6 albums worth of songs.

For instance, I have maybe 6 albums by the band Guided by Voices on there. A typical GBV album has approximately 3,267 songs on it. OK, maybe 20-30. They’re usually short, quick masterpieces. Anyhow, you’d think I’d hear GBV more often than Fugazi. But it was not so.

As a continuation of the theory, through the aforementioned Notebook entry, I was briefly quoted in today’s New York Times article, Tunes, a Hard Drive and (Just Maybe) a Brain (registration required). Turns out I’m not the only one who believes that shuffle mode may be possessed.

There are two corrections I’d like to point out from the article:

  • It’s Cederholm, not Cedarholm. (very common)
  • I still do like Fugazi. I believe I said I got tired of hearing them so often–but listen to anything in excess and it starts losing its charm.

I will say this, however. Just a few weeks ago, I purchased a new 4th generation click-wheel iPod–and I haven’t heard Fugazi once. Shuffling appears far more random, although maybe it just seems that way. And as the NYT article also points out, a “Shuffle Songs” option is now placed right in the main menu of the iPod’s interface, making it much easier to click once and go.

Unrelated to shuffling, sound quality seems to have been improved on the new models, and although I haven’t drained the battery yet, I’m sure hoping it’ll last as long as advertised.

Anatomy of an Icon

Since releasing some icons of my own, I’ve received quite a few messages asking “how do you create an icon?”. Well, I can’t tell you how to create an icon — but I can tell you the steps I take to create an icon. There may be easier ways. There may be better ways. Here’s a quick look at the methods and techniques I used to create an icon from the Overcast set.


the goalOur goal is to create an icon in two standard sizes: 16×16 and 32×32 (pictured, right). I choose to create the smaller version first, then double the size and clean it up (more on that later).


Accessibility Progress

Chip Adams was kind enough to point me (along with several other colleagues) to some pretty interesting (and positive) news.

Reported in an article at Excite News, titled Web Sites Agree to Be Accessible to Blind: Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, and have agreed to make significant changes to their sites specifically for those browsing with screen reading software and other assistive technology.

That’s of course great news. And I also found this quote rather interesting:

We hope it’s going to be influencing other companies throughout the United States so that the 10 million blind and visually impaired people can fully participate in our society at all levels. —Carl Augusto, president and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind.

10 million. For anyone who wonders if the accessibility of a site is important, or whether or not people browse your site with screen reading software–it’s an awfully large number of people to ignore. And that’s just in the U.S. alone.

Without extra effort, building on a foundation of lean, structured markup can do wonders for a site’s accessibility, and it appears that with Priceline and Ramada publicly acknowledging the importance–things are headed in the right direction.

The Motivator

Lately, there’s been music. I’ve been listening more, caring more, even buying a new, larger-capacity iPod to hold more of it. And it seems like it operates on a cycle. There will be stretches where everything I hear, I love. Alternatively, there will be stretches where everything sounds horrible.
But lately, music has been the motivator. It gets me from point A to point B while struggling with a design or CSS issue. Thank goodness for “shuffle” mode.
It’s been asked repeatedly elsewhere, but what music motivates you these days?
Recently for me, it’s been recent offerings from The Killers, The Hives, The Autumn Defense (thank you, Jeff), and “shuffle standouts” Wire. Although I have a confession that is likely to have me pelted with deprecated HTML elements: anything I’ve heard on MTV from Ashlee Simpson has been downright catchy as heck. Is this completely uncool? Most definitely, but there… I said it. And I feel better now.

Icon Set Updates

I’ve just finished a tiny update to both the Stockholm and Overcast icon sets. By popular demand, each set now contains a “printer” icon. Additionally, the Stockholm set now sports a “brown shopping bag”, suitable for your favorite electronic commerce applications.
I may periodically update these sets in the future, and such updates will always be free to those that have purchased the set in the past. That said, if you’ve already purchased Stockholm and/or Overcast, drop me a note and I’ll send you the new icons.

SimpleQuiz › Part XVII: Conclusion

In looking over the comments on the latest SimpleQuiz (after 17 of these, I do wish I had named it something different), it seems the original goal has been skewed a bit.

Instead of focusing on why certain methods are better than others, a majority of opinons focus on the fact that certain methods are outright wrong and you should be ashamed for even thinking about them.

The hard work of the W3C can sometimes be vague regarding certain elements (perhaps they have reasons) and certainly the use of some elements can be interpreted in a variety of ways. This can be frustrating for those seeking a “correct” way to handle x, y, and z. But really, through these quizzes, we’re just trying to get an opinion on why you’d prefer one method over the other–what are the consequences?

So with that, I offer a bonus question:

Q: Which response is more beneficial?

  1. ____, ____, and ____ are wrong.
  2. Your method is useless.
  3. I hate markup.
  4. Let me tell you why I prefer _____ over ____, ____ and _____.

Reality Checkout

Overheard near a display of iPods at the Apple Store, approximately two hours ago:

Well, Microsoft owns Apple… so I’m sure it has to work.

You learn something new every day.

Cycling: The First 100 Miles

I’ve ridden 100 miles (approximately) on a road bike. You may remember my proclamation of a few weeks back, inspired by Lance Armstrong’s historic sixth straight win over Le Tour de France, I had decided I needed a road bike.
A bike was then purchased, and as corny as it sounds, on the very afternoon of Lance’s familiar pose in front of the Arc de Triomphe.
So far, I’ve fallen twice. Hard. On account of the clipless pedals which lock your special shoes into the the cranks of the bike, requiring a delicate, almost graceful “twitch” of the heel in order to free them again. My problem: unlock right foot (so that I may touch the curb), but lean left — thereby tipping ever-so-slowly into the pavement. It’s the sort of fall that happens literally in slow motion. You know you’re going to hit the ground, yet you can (or choose to) do nothing about it.
Aside from the falls, I’m loving it. Hills are getting slightly easier, and thanks to my wife I’m going on some nice routes around the North Shore of Boston.
FigureThere is one scenario that’s maddening though. Consider the figure on the right. I’m riding along, and a huge SUV sits parked on my right. Just to the left of the SUV is a giant pothole. I have three choices here: Run into the back of the SUV, take my chances with the pothole or swerve out into the lane around both. Don’t worry, I’m extremely cautious when riding. But I’m presented with this situation constantly.
And that brings me to another topic: why is cycling more popular outside the United States? I’ll take a few guesses. I can’t speak for all of Europe, but when we visited Sweden recently, there were few or no SUVs in sight. Gas was roughly 3 times what it is here, making it more expensive to get out on the road. Less cars, smaller cars = more room on the road.
In New England–or in any location that has harsh, snowy winters–roads are horrible. Potholes are everywhere. Salt, gravel and snowplows make for bad riding during the other seasons. Road work is constantly being done. Certainly that has to affect cycling popularity in some fashion.
Regardless, it’s fun and it gets me exercising–which these days is a victory. Expect additional reports as the miles increase.