Posts Tagged ‘me’

EA Schedule

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Just in case any Red River College students are reading this, I figured I’ll post my schedule here.

My email is similar to the other instructors’.

Typographic Masturbation

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

I’ve sometimes said I’m sick with Typography. When I look at type too much, I get that feeling like I’m just doing it too much and it’s working me instead of me working it. Typographic masturbation, is what it is. You just can’t do that too often.

When I was going to the Fringe Festival with my younger brother, he had pointed out a sign somewhere, and I was dissecting the typeface. I think it must have been Clarendon. Then he smacked me, and I realized that the sign was printed in English, and that it was telling me something. It’s like my mind has narrowed to three or four topics: I’ll keep an eye out for typography, logos, and design, and I’ll completely miss all the other stuff around me.
So yes, a return to basics is necessary.

When walking up to the side door of my brother’s house, I noticed a “USE THE SIDE DOOR” note by the front porch, out of the corner of my eye, and knew instantly that it was set in Calibri. The first thing I said to my brother, when I walked in, was to ask if he had recently purchased Microsoft Office 2007.

Yes; he had.

Typographically, it was like blowing my nose and then staring at the damp tissue. I’m an embarrassment to myself.

Christmas!

Friday, June 25th, 2010

This is my current Christmas List, updated as of October 19, 2010.

  1. Hyperactivitypography is pure type candy, and I want need it.
  2. Wacom Bamboo Pen+Touch looks to be smaller, sleeker, and better overall than my old Graphire. I want pen and touch, even though the one-or-the-other packages cost less. You can get a Pen+Touch on sale for $80, if you keep your eyes open.
  3. Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which is awesome.
  4. Hard-Boiled Web Design, by Andy “Malarkey” Clarke, which has a limited run of 2500 prints. This is going to be the best book on this subject all year.
  5. Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames is Mother Goose rhymes transliterated to pseudo-French.
  6. Kingston DataTraveller Ultimate 3.0 flash drive, 32GB (or 16, I guess). Follow the links to Amazon or NewEgg.
  7. I’d really love a 160-lumen version of the flashlight I have now, but it seems nearly impossible to find something like that.
  8. Windy31 USB Router is actually more of a ‘maybe’ item for me, but I’ll include it here anyway.

To-Learn (As Opposed to To-Do)

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

I caught up with my reading again.

With nothing on my mental To-Do list (except such vague ideas as ‘work on something’), I’ve had the opportunity to do random stuff. I picked through my To-Read bookmarks, where I put everything when I was swamped with reading. It turns out a lot of that becomes completely useless to me, after reading a thousand other things over the last few months, so most of it can be deleted. Other things required me to have time in abundance, so that I can research some topics and possibly apply a few ideas.

While I was doing that, I decided that the only way I was ever going to learn the stuff I didn’t feel comfortable with was if I spent some time using it.
I want to know absolutely everything about HTML, but I don’t even know about half of the elements and attributes. So, I’m going to use it all; I’m going to memorize the big list of things (199 elements, at the moment).

I’m currently going through a whole smack of W3C specs, and a few Wikipedia articles. I’m going to find every proprietary tag I can, and try to find out which browsers use which.

You see, I constantly feel as if I have nothing to contribute. I don’t have any opinions of my own, and when I’m reading about all sorts of HTML things and the authors of those pages ask questions, I’m never able to add anything they don’t already know.

Things I need to know:

  • How browsers work, on the code-snippet level
  • All the differences between at least the main five browsers
  • All the differences between versions (Firefox 2, for example, doesn’t support display: inline-block)
  • What the heck all these RFCs are
  • The ability to quote an RFC’s requirements
  • The current issues in the HTML5 and WHATWG working groups
  • All the different types of ‘accessibility’ (blind, paraplegic, cognitive)
  • User psychology, UX, and other human-brain things
  • All the different ways to do things (javascript, server-side, different languages)
  • Different ways of coding (lisp-style, queries, procedural)

I need to learn the internals of:

  • JavaScript
  • HTML
  • PHP
  • Perl
  • Java
  • C
  • Ruby
  • Erlang
  • Clojure

Where I’m at right now:

  • I know roughly how browsers do what they do
  • I know some obscure browser trivia
  • I’m part of the W3C HTML5 lists, and am trying to keep up-to-date
  • I’ve got a base in A11y and UX
  • I know a lot about HTML
  • I’ve got some Java, PHP, and JavaScript under my belt
  • I can name a good deal of the more obscure browsers

I’ve still got a long way to go.
I want to teach this stuff, at some point. That means I need to know everything. All the tiny, obscure details. I need to know that the SVG 1.0 spec says that negative attributes are an error, while the 1.1 spec says that negative attributes are ignored.

It’s kind of funny how things go. My whole life, I loved computers. I wanted to design games, when I was young. I went into programming in high-school. I took a computer-based diploma program in college, and graduated in 2007.

I remember my online journal, which I created in 2005. I had no idea how to make links, or emphases, or any other stylization. But I learned how to make links, and then how to embed images. I took a class on HTML, and then one that included CSS, and then I made a couple half-hearted websites.

In 2009, I abandoned almost all that programming stuff and flew headlong into HTML and JavaScript and CSS and websites. I spent a great deal of that time designing, rather than programming.

When you find something you want to do, you’ll notice. But you won’t know what you want to do until you find it.
So try everything. Find what you want to do. Then learn everything you can possibly learn about it.

Your First Web Site

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Does anyone remember their first web-site?

No, not the first site you built; I mean the first you ever saw. It’s so completely commonplace and so far in our past that no-one ever thinks of it, but it must have been a pretty special event, when you get right down to it.

When I tried to remember, I thought back to the first computer I’d ever played with, and how it had that oddly-annoying “Please wait a moment” message. What’s a moment, anyway? I was only six years old.

I can’t remember the first computer I saw with internet, but I suppose it was one of the brand-new computers our lab was furnished with in our little village school in Vermillion Bay, Ontario.

I suppose, having been introduced to the computers and the internet, the first pages I visited would have been video-game-related.

Inspiration

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

The source of my inspiration is a man that I’ll never see, and who I can’t prove exists.
He is… Future Me.

I’ve written him a letter, a couple years ago. He hasn’t received it, yet, and won’t for another eighteen years. I do wonder what he’ll think when he reads it. I also wish I could get a letter back from him.

I also imagined what it would be like to send a letter to Future Me every day, and eventually tell him what Past Me was writing to me that day.
We should all have a broader relationship with our futures, because they have such unlimited potential, and because we can never know them completely.

Actually, you can do this today: Make a private blog, either as some separate WordPress(/etc.) installation or as a new blog on Livejournal or something. Write an entry each day, as if you were talking to the person you imagine you’ll be in twenty years.
Who is this person? Are they married? Do they have kids? With twenty years of fog between you, you just can’t be sure. Maybe you’ll feel daunted, because you imagine they’ll be a big professional who would look down on you.
Maybe look twenty years into your past and imagine what you’d say to yourself.

I think this would be a good experience for everyone. Most people don’t ever stop to think beyond the next two or three years.

Jack of all Trades…

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Jack of all Trades, Master of… All?

Lately, I’ve been putting together a list of all the different aspects of the Web. What do you need to get a website out there, and to have people use it (and like it)?
There’s a surprising amount:

  • System Administration
  • Front-End Design
  • Front-End Development
  • Back-End Development
  • Information Architecture
  • User Experience Engineering
  • Accessibility
  • Typography
  • Search-Engine Optimization
  • Social Media
  • Security
  • Business
  • Perhaps more?

It’s my goal to learn it all. Not just the basics, but full-blown expertise. It’s said that one needs to spend 40,000 hours on something in order to master it. I know it’s more complex than that, but it sounds like a good rule of thumb. That would be almost fourteen years, at eight hours a day. If I work on it for sixteen hours a day, I could reduce that to less than seven.

I’ve seen what’s out there, and I know I have a long way to go, but I can feel my future in my grasp.

Typography

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

A few months ago, someone mentioned that they looked at a Wendy’s ad and wondered why they used Verdana (or some other typeface; I can’t remember). The idea of someone identifying a typeface and attaching cultural significance to it astounded me, and set in motion a terrifying journey to the heart of Type.
I carry around with me a selection of specimens from every major typeface I can get my hands on. I’ve spent hours, in the past two or three months, looking at the curves and details in each letter.

One thing I’m missing, though, is cultural significance. What does it mean that they used this or that typeface? Someone might use Arial on signage because they can’t afford Helvetica; meanwhile, Verdana is a web font, and looks best on a screen—it’s not to be used on large, printed material.

I’ve only got what I could absorb through osmosis, for now, but there are resources online. I’ve been reading Typedia, which holds a great deal of information. It’s a fairly new site, but more fontastic information is being submitted every day.

My Epoch

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Today, I’d probably be some low-level code-monkey in an office somewhere, with a sizable cache of money saved away, but I wouldn’t really do much in my off hours. I wouldn’t learn all that much new, besides some programming stuff, I wouldn’t have my own site, and I wouldn’t have my own WordPress blog.
Essentially, I’d have the most boringly plain life.

On February 19th, though, I read a blog entry about the CSS Zen Garden, which shot me off in a completely different direction. I learned about entirely new industries, and found the place I want to be. I call that date my epoch. Everything else in my life was just leading up to it.

But why did I visit that site?

  • I was half-heartedly making something for ‘my first client’, and maybe I wanted inspiration. If I wasn’t making a webpage for him, I might never have revisited the CSS Zen Garden, at least not in the same way.
  • The site was recommended by an instructor in a course that had nothing to do with that subject. If I had gotten a different instructor for that same class, I may have never heard about the Garden.
  • I had only made a serious attempt at a website because I was roped in by another friend, who I only met because of a strange time coincidence in his own life, and his own life-altering experience. He very nearly died before he met me.

(At the same time, I think web design did interest me, and it’s in my blood to push myself towards art. I have no clue if I’d have ended up deciding to learn web-page making in my off time, and then finding the community I found.)

The blog entry I had read was linked from Dave Shea‘s resources page: Doug Bowman’s write-up about his CSS Zen Garden submission. Today, I retraced my steps: After reading that, I had went to his blog. His latest entry at the time was a link to the blog of Eric Meyer, who pined about the need for a new way to lay out documents. His second link pointed me to Shaun Inman‘s post from 2006 that talks about making equal-height columns of content, and the javascript he had developed as a fix to do that. At that moment, I remember reading the comments and thinking to myself, “I have no clue who these people are, but that doesn’t matter. I’ll know them, eventually.”

Reading back on them today, I see very familiar names. Eric Meyer, of course, said something. There was Ethan Marcotte, also known as ‘beep‘ (the unstoppable robot ninja), who actually just got married on Saturday, and who was then still using the name ‘sidesh0w‘. I saw Andy Clarke, who goes as ‘Malarkey‘.

It strikes me that virtually everyone from this world is unknown to the average person. As far as computers go, everyone knows about Bill Gates and most people know about Steve Jobs, but that’s almost it. What about Jeffrey Zeldman, the Web Standards Pioneer, who created (and is executive creative director of) Happy Cog, the biggest web-design company in America? Molly Holzschlag, who managed to snag molly.com, and who worked to bring modern web standards to IE7 and IE8? Jason Santa Maria, the leading print-designer on the web, and creative director of A List Apart? And hundreds of other names I have no time to link to.

But that’s alright. The world is just such that we only ever learn a few names from the most powerful companies. But I know my own, and I’ve found my place.

Drawing

Monday, July 27th, 2009

I’m mainly a developer, but the artistic streak runs through my family. I was the only student in my grade, at my high-school, who stuck with band class until graduation. I sometimes draw. I was selected, for reasons I might barely understand (I was young) to be taken out of school for half a day each week or so to take art classes at the art gallery.

I have one defining piece, which I’d say really sums me up. In September of 2007, I decided I’d make drawing a hobby, or habit; whichever you choose.
I took a blue ball-point pen and some leaves of lined loose-leaf, looked on Google Images for a standard half-naked semi-muscular guy, split a page into four sections, and tried drawing the guy in the upper-left section. I shoved the image through a few filters to make it blue and white, so that it would resemble the pen I was using on the paper. It came out horribly, like some sort of headless mannequin resembling a human form only by suggestion.
I tried it again. In the upper-right section, I drew the same figure. This time, I managed to give him a head and keep him looking relatively human.
Once more, I drew the man. On the third attempt, he was shaded and properly defined and — I’d say — almost passable.
At that point, I got bored and left it.

And that’s how it goes. If I start something new, I can learn a tremendous amount about it in a short time, as long as I’m working on it. However, if I stop working on it, my skills quickly fade. I haven’t drawn since late 2008, and I’ve spent the last week tracing over circles and lines and figures in an attempt to relearn how to move my hand. I can already see a marked improvement.

My Definitive Drawing