Monday, September 24, 2012

New site design

I just uploaded a completely new website for The Rots (, and I'm planning on using the same styles and layout for my kid's illustration site when I get there. I'll be changing the colors to go with the branding I've already designed, but the fonts and layout of the new site will be very similar to The Rots'. I'll have some other changes too, just because I won't be creating pages for the same things, but there will be enough similarities that I'll be able to use the general idea.

I spent a long time getting these pages together and working. My original site was built completely in Flash (, but that was years before Steve Jobs decided the iPads he wanted to sell in the future wouldn't include the ability to view Flash. And I, like so many others, really need to listen to Steve. The portfolio parts on my kid's site are still in Flash, so I need to get those little guys up to speed.

I also had to build separate style sheets for tablets and other mobile devices, because those also weren't much of a factor when I built the original site. But it's finished, and I'll tweak if necessary, and the next step will be optimizing images for

Unfortunately, that's probably going to take a while. I'll post here when it's up and running.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Double-spaces after periods

Stop it! Just stop it!

fig. 1
For those of us (meaning: you) who don't know yet, back in the day when we (meaning: us old people) were learning to type, we were learning on that antiquated mechanism called a "typewriter" (see fig. 1).

Typewriters used monotype lettering, meaning, no matter what the letter, every single letter took up the same amount of space. So an ittie bittie lowercase "i" needed to be just as wide as a monstrous capital letter "M" (see fig. 2).

fig. 2
So that the periods at the end of the sentence stood out a little easier before the beginning of the next sentence, we learned to put an extra space after the period. I guess the idea was that it was too hard to distinguish where one sentence ended and the next one began, so we gave that little period a place to breathe.

What happened then was computers. Computers started getting smart. Not only were they able to use type that wasn't hampered by physical limitations, but they also knew how to give each letter the spacing it needed for optimal reading. They didn't need us to tell them about the extra spaces we had been using after a period. It already knew how much was necessary and said in a condescending kind of way, "Yes. I know."

Problem was, the people who learned how to type on typewriters (meaning: us old people) kept teaching new typists (meaning: those of you who grew up learning to type on a computer keyboard) that double-spaces after periods were the way it was done, mainly because we didn't know any better.

fig. 3 Typographers should avert their eyes from ¶ 1
But now we do, so stop it. It isn't necessary, and it causes empty spaces to stick out through your text when you do it that way (see fig. 3). A block of text should have an overall gray tone, but those extra spaces break that overall gray up in a way that gives typographers the hives.

If you want to fight this change to the death, here's a few good lines taken from the link above:

Using a single space means that you understand that technology has changed since the decades ago when you first used to type. A single space means you realize not everything your teachers taught you in high school still holds true. A single space means you have respect for the journalists and designers who are working hard to take those extra spaces out of the drafts you're sending us.

And who wouldn't want to show their high school teachers that they know better?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Scary mushrooms that pop up overnight

When I came back from an early morning run, I found these three little guys growing rampant in our front yard.

They weren't growing there the day before. It might be hard to see in the photo, but the largest one measured 7" tall (the next largest one was 6"). I think they were deposited here by aliens. They'll take over soon enough.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

@neilhimself and geekiness and what one is willing to do about it

I guess it's official: I've become a writing geek. I don't know any other kind of person who would keep themselves awake until all hours just to nab tickets to see a writer talk.

I found out a couple of weeks ago that Neil Gaiman was going to speak at the Carnegie Music Hall at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh nine days after my birthday. My reaction involved many, many exclamation points which, I've learned, real writers are expected to avoid.

To add to the overuse of punctuation, Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures were also going to have a post-lecture party where you could actually meet Neil and he would sign a book for you. (Oh! Get out!) The problem was, you had to buy a VIP ticket to get in, and the Music Hall isn't all that big (1,950 seats total), and there would be a limited number of VIP tickets for sale, and they were expected to go fast, and they were $55 each.

When I explained all of this to my lovely husband, he said, "I think you need to get the VIP tickets." And, being the lovely husband that he is, agreed to go with me and give me the tickets for my birthday! (How do you finish that sentence without using an exclamation point?)

The tickets were to go on sale at 12:01 AM, August 27. That was wonderful, except that I'm brain dead by 10 PM, and can't remember the last time I willfully stayed awake until midnight. But it was imperative that I did.

I had the site up by 11:30 just to get a feel for what I would have to do, which in the end didn't really help much. When my computer clock hit 12:01, I hit "Reload" on my page and went to work. I picked "Best seats available" and "2" tickets and "VIP" and clicked to go to the next page, and a little ticker up in the right-hand corner started counting down the amount of time I had to finish the sale before the tickets would go back in the pool.

No pressure or anything.

O.K. 14 minutes.

But the next page asked for my login information. That's when the panic started to set in. I had lost my hard drive a few months ago where I used to keep a .doc file with all my user names and passwords listed. I've been slowly building the file back up from scratch, but I hadn't bought tickets from Pgh Arts & Lectures since the hard drive funeral, and I had no idea what my login information used to be. I had the bright idea that I could just register a new account, and when I typed my email in and made up a new password, the site informed me that I already had an account.

13 minutes. 12 minutes.

I decided to have them reset my password, but that meant they had to email me a link to do that.

11 minutes. 10 minutes. 9 minutes.

(Yes, I was feeling the sweat, too.)

With my password reset, I double-checked my order (quickly) and gave them my credit card number.

8 minutes. Ugh!

But one final click and happy ending! The beautiful bundle arrived in the mail a few days ago:

And you see that staple up the left-hand side? That means something very special was attached to the back of the ticket.

Something very, very special.