More redesign angst

My new site design appears to crash IE 5 on the Mac, and I think I know why—it looks like a problem with the custom list CSS that I use to show the category buttons in the sidebar. If I suppress that section of the sidebar, the page loads, but the same code doesn’t render correctly in the header. I will work on this later; in the meantime, if you are having problems reading the site, try the print friendly version.

Signs of the apocalypse

A bunch of disturbing trends in national security over the last few days:

Snow falls; Seattle surrenders

joy and jefferson in snow

It’s so quiet here this morning. Except for the dogs, who are having their usual morning romp, in spite of the thin snowfall. Yeah, sadly, the first real snow we’ve seen in Seattle is hardly “real.” The area under the tree shows nothing but green grass, and the stuff that fell on our skywall has already been washed off by the rain. But it’s still pretty.

And, apparently, a hazard to Seattle drivers. Area blogger Jake’s girlfriend Kymberly writes on his blog that her work declared a snow day today. Apparently the “up to four inches” might “test the resolve” of Seattleites. I’m remembering trudging to grad school in Boston with a foot of unshoveled snow on the sidewalks and I’m laughing hard.

I’m a reasonable man, MacArthur, so I know this isn’t a website

We bought a new Whirlpool washer yesterday. I thought I had taken down the dimensions at the store, but can’t find them now, so I went on line to try to find them. And tried. No reference to the model number (LSB6400LW—well, now there will be at least one) is found in Google. And the Product Literature page at doesn’t work. At all. There is a pop up from each of the links for the Use and Care Guide and Installation Guide, which goes to a page with links that don’t work on Safari, and that lead to a broken page on other browsers.

It’s the 21st century, folks. No excuse. Fix your damn pages. There’s no reason that your content management system, or whatever, should generate such client-hostile links.

Last ski of 2003

Just got back from a quick morning’s skiing at the Summit at Snoqualmie. Regular readers of this blog will recall that I very quickly started writing about other resorts shortly after our visit last January. That was because Snoqualmie lived up to its nickname, “Snow-crummy”—less than 3 feet of base snow, coupled with rain.

Today, Lisa and I left the dogs in their crates for four hours and made a blitzkrieg assault on the slopes at Snoqualmie—elected because of its proximity (less than an hour away) and because the snow conditions are so much better than they were last year. The base at Summit West, which last year stalled around 30″ all season long, was 63″ today, with more falling later this week.

We fell right back into the routine. After one cautious descent, we quickly moved up to more difficult blue runs. Given our short time on the slopes, I don’t anticipate too many aches and pains, but we didn’t really have the time to stretch out and explore more difficult runs. Still, if you had told me two months ago that I’d be able to ski even a few hours so soon after getting our dogs, I’d have thought you were crazy. It was really nice to get in one last ski before the calendar year ended.

Jefferson’s prescience; Bartram’s spleen

Contrasting notes from my reading over the holiday. I found a passage in Peterson’s Jefferson that I think is pertinent to the current arguments about restrictions of liberty during wartime. Writing during his vice-presidency in the hostile Adams administration during a British war scare, concerning to the Alien and Sedition acts (which entrenched xenophobia in the law and criminalized criticism of the government), Jefferson feared that the intent of the law’s framers was to trick the people into surrendering their power to the government:

The system of alarm and jealousy which has been so powerfully played off in England, has been mimicked here, not entirely without success. The most long-sighted politician could not, seven years ago, have imagined that the people of this wide-extended country could have been enveloped in such delusion, and made so much afraid of themselves and their own power, as to surrender it spontaneously to those who are manœuvring them into a form of government, the principal branches of which may be beyond their control.

On an entirely different topic, Alan Bartram’s Five Hundred Years of Book Design is an ill-titled, delightfully snarky romp through the sacred cows of typographic fame. Slagging such luminaries as Aldus Manutius (“ham-fisted production”), Plantin (“awkwardly aligned spreads”), Franklin (“confusing reading”), Fournier (“a little boring”), Didot (“the well-leaded verse cannot quite decide whether or not to look centred”), William Morris (“ponderous and solemn…the vegetation is beginning to resemble the monstrous growths dreamt up by H G Wells in these same years”), and Bruce Rogers (“effectively incomprehensible…unconvincing pastiche”), as well as a rogue’s gallery of forgotten also-ran book designers, the book applies modern production standards to often lauded works of typography. Of the greats, only Bodoni, Baskerville, and Gill seem to receive consistent praise for their combination of aesthetic and practical concerns. At $35, the book is a bit steep; better reading from the library, I think.

Reactions, and clarification

George calls my new design “cleaner” and says the new graphic is “cool.” Greg tweaks me, pointing out in his “on the side link” that the site now, for the first time almost since its inception, “features [an] actual house.”

About that graphic (I’ll add this to the FAQ): the photo is not the Jarrett house, or even a Jarrett house. I took the picture in 1998 or 1999 on the Manassas battlefield in Northern Virginia. The house is a dwelling that survived the battle, despite heavy fire. Something about the day and the picture spoke to me, and I used it as the navigation graphic for the whole site in the previous iteration. When I was looking for a new site logo graphic, this one leapt out at me. I think the appeal of the graphic is a combination of nostalgia (I took the photo the fall before I left Virginia for business school) and aspiration (the desire for a house, and a family, that would last through war, fire, and time).

Redesign: heavy lifting done

I think that most of the work on the redesign is done. As you can see, the site now sports a new logo, new fonts, a different design, streamlined navigation, some new pages, and a bunch of other goodies.

So what’s left to do? There are always a few things. I think there may be some weirdnesses on IE Win that I need to fix. I need to fix a few graphics here and there.

But the biggest thing, ironically, is that I’ll have to repeat the rendering exercises that I did over the last two weeks all over again, so that all the static pages pick up the new design. Sigh.

Redesign, Phase 1

It’s time. I’m pulling the trigger on the site redesign. Doing it incrementally isn’t really possible, but I’m rolling out the first phase separately anyway: doing away with the news item department icons on each post. Their time is up.

New iPod, old iPod

A reader, Hartley Odwak, found my iPod Surgery photo album and reported that he found the same problem with his unit. He wrote:

My ipod charges, but neither of my macs will recognize it. I am certain that it is the port; hence why i dismantled mine!

What I see where my Firewire port attached to the logic board are (1) four larger connections at each corner of the port, all of which are loose (are these supposed to be soldered to the board?) and (2) Six very thin pins running parallel, and down from the port, conecting the port to the circuit board. Some of these are loose.

Should I make sure all 10 connections are soldered tight to the board? The thin ones may be too hard for me to solder, as I have never worked on such tiny connections, and as such may take it to a shop to have them do it.

His solution, which I would recommend to anyone over my experience, was to take the unit to a local independent Mac shop to get the soldering repairs done. It cost about $40 and the unit works again (unlike mine), so well worth the $.

Some notes on my new 10GB iPod to round out the story:

  • The backlight is very cool.
  • The solid state, no moving parts controls took virtually no time to get used to. I like the solid state wheel a lot better than the original moving one.
  • I did have to get used to the new button placement; having everything around the wheel was a little easier, I think.
  • One gripe: the new unit doesn’t work with the old remote control, so I’ll have to buy a new one.

Overall a slick little unit.

Longer than 4 hours 50 minutes? Oh my aching keister

A thread on Plastic collects pointers to news about Peter Jackson’s Return of the King, including a tip about the running length of the extended cut: “the DVD version of Return of the King will be longer than 4 hours and 50 minutes.”

Say what? I already had to split my viewing of the extended versions of the previous films over several nights. Looks like I’ll have to have a long weekend to actually watch the last one in a single sitting.