February 5, 2004

Omit Needless Words

If I die I want it to be the result of an overly ambitious life. I want it to feel as though I bit off too much, more than I could possibly handle, and that somehow it caught up with me. Necessary to execute this plan is slight arrogance and a bit of self-worship. And hubris. And an overly confident sense of one’s abilities. To some these are vices, but for me I consider them a pretty damn good start.

Why? Because they’re always balanced with humility when they come into contact with reality. I have a lot of respect for the confident swagger of the childhood bully, of the punker, of the rocket scientist who points at a speck of light in the night sky and says yeah, we can go there. But every self-inflated sense of self necessarily encounters the real world at one point or another, and it is how one reacts to this uncomfortable intrusion that defines the history of humanity.

Any good idea, whether it be a journey across the ocean or a government by the people or packets of information broadcast from space, always starts with one someone, or a group of someones, who had the swagger to dream big. The only reason their ideas flourished while others perished was because they had the rocks and the cunning know-how to make their ideas become reality. The world can be a most uncooperative place at times, but it’s amazing how much control we really have when we admit it to ourselves.

I have planned on reincarnating further versions of Cromlech, but I am running into snarls that seriously compromise my vision. Most of these snarls have been fun things like dancing late into the night at the Leftover Salmon concert, buying a new pair of glasses, walking to work instead of driving, reading Hemingway, encoding Johnny Cash mp3s, and rubbing shoulders with the Haute Culture of Bend at the Sagebrush sponsor party. Let it be known that the haute culture of Bend wears jeans and brandishes a pint of local beer.

My main problem has been this: I want to reproduce past designs, but I don’t want to rework large swaths of my XHTML to do it. Over the past year I’ve been working hard to bring my HTML code up to snuff, to make it as semantically sensible as possible, and to minimize the number of cartwheels I need to perform to get things displaying the way I want. I want to reproduce these designs by overlaying wildly differing CSS files over the same semantic XHTML file, so I can have the exact same content displaying in a myriad of ways. I’m not willing to make large changes to my XHTML simply to accommodate short-term designs.

What’s more, if I can figure out how to create multiple designs that work over a single XHTML file, I can create a menu that lets ya’ll choose which design ya wanna look at. And, if I get distracted by shiny objects and suddenly lose interest in a particular design, I can ditch it without having wasted time restructuring my code to meet its needs.

My main problem spawns from my obsession early on with image maps, and CSS’s inability to recreate them without modifying the XHTML. I started working through a tutorial at alistapart.com on building image maps with CSS, but quickly realized that it wouldn’t work unless I added some semantically meaningless span classes, removed my hyperlinks from their unordered list, and implemented pain-in-the-ass absolute positioning (PITA is the official design term). Piss. Modifying my XHTML is a no-no because that will thwart my goal of multiple simultaneous designs, and besides, I know I can build these designs in HTML. I did it three years ago, and there’s no challenge in going that route.

Another junky problem I’ve been having is related to my Blackbox photo gallery design. I’ve been building a new one, version 2.0, where the text headline replaces the static text in the menu bar graphic, but CSS keeps adding dead white space around sub divs of my wrapping whopper element. There’s no reason it should do this, and yet every single browser (Firebird, Mozilla, IE, Opera) displays it the same way.

All these things, all these snarls, and yet the swagger remains. At the sponsor banquet tonight my name tag read “Dane! High-Powered Web Designer Extraordinaire.” When people asked what it meant I told them that “Master of the Universe” didn’t fit. My whiteboard at work features a zombie swinging my eMachine around by its cord and a kid with a chainsaw for a leg and a toaster plugged into his forehead. During a hot fit of dancing with a girl at Leftover Salmon my glasses flew off my head and got crushed under her pretty toenails. My snowboard students for Excelerator Sundays are doing so well that on their second day of riding they started popping 180s in Dilly-Dally Alley.

I tried to complement them on how well they were doing, but all they said was that they had a great instructor. My answer was a mash of English words slurred through cold lips. Incomprehensible to all but myself, it was a simultaneous declaration of “Ahh, shucks,” and “Damn straight!”

As such, it encompassed all the necessary facets of human effort.

New Photo Gallery: The South Shores of Helens