If you're seeing this paragraph, it probably means that you're using a browser that doesn't understand CSS and exciting modern stuff like that (or you've turned stylesheets off, as with ctrl-G in Opera). This may make the page look sort of boring and black-and-white, but hopefully it's still readable.



(I'll be in somewhat unusual circumstances again for the next few days, unfortunately not involving Maine this time, so updates may be missing for a while. Or not. Depending.)

So I read that there 99.9% of Websites are Obsolete article, by that there Zeldman dude, and not wanting my website to be obsolete I decided to look into all this Modern Shiny XHTML and CSS stuff.

Ripping considerable code from Ian, I started to construct a version of the weblog that did pure CSS layout, with none of this obsolete table abuse.

I failed.

If anyone can figure out how to reproduce this format using pure CSS rather than a table, I'd love to see it; I'll plug your web-design skillz in the log, where at least six people will read it. (Doesn't have to be pel-for-pel, but it does have to (for instance) have the "log" banner across the top all in dark-on-light, and then a light-on-dark navigation column on the left, and the main body in light-on-dark on the right, and I have to be able to put images in the lefthand column so that they line up with particular paragraphs in the righthand column.)

So failing that, I thought I'd at least make something that validated, even if it still used a table for layout. In that, I succeeded; you can see it here. Some notes:

  • It was kind of a fun exercise, in a "making stuff work" sense.
  • It's not quite pel-for-pel. One puzzling difference is that the text above the input box is too small. Making it one CSS size bigger makes it too large. I could probably have given an exact point-size, but that's Evil, and the point of the exercise is to not be Evil.
  • It looks pretty flat and monochrome in old browsers, but it's readable. I even included a little nattering "you're using an old browser" paragraph at the top for those using old browsers (Opera users can ctrl-G to see the CSS-less layout).
  • More importantly, permalinks don't work for those with old browsers, because some rocket scientist at w3c decided that the old "name" element should be renamed "id"; pretty annoying, and as far as I can tell completely uncalled for.
  • I can't even use the permalink format that I'm used to, as in "log.20020906.html#20020906", because someone, probably that same rocket scientist, decided that the value of an "id" tag can't start with a number. Again this seems completely uncalled for.

So you can see the modern-shiny version of the page validating, both its HTML and its CSS. But since as far as I can tell the modern-shiny version has considerable disadvantages in terms of old-browser support, and no advantages at all that I can think of, I don't think I'm going to be switching the whole site over any time soon.

Next I thought I'd try to at least make the table-based non-CSS design validate as old-fashioned HTML 4.0 Transitional. But it turns out that since FONT is an inline tag, you can't (as far as I can tell) make a font-change apply to more than one paragraph and have it still validate (no paragraphs inside FONT elements). So while old-fashioned browsers have no problem with a FONT tag changing the font of a whole bunch of paragraphs, that HTML won't validate as 4.0 Transitional. If anyone knows a way to change the font of a whole bunch of paragraphs in a way that both works under old browsers and validates (and doesn't involve reasserting the FONT tag on every new paragraph!), lemme know.

So for now we shall continue with the same old non-validating HTML we've been using all along, and as far as I can tell the only disadvantage is that it doesn't validate. Neither any user (you), nor any content producer (me) suffers in any way. There's no browser-dependant code, nothing that's especially hostile to text-only browsers or screen readers, and the code's pretty clean. Which makes me sorta wonder how valuable validation as it's currently set up really is.

Keep that computer-buying advice coming!

So sometimes I think that maybe I'll just gradually stop doing this here weblogging stuff, just do a little less and a little less until it's down to one entry every week or two, and then none at all. After all, there are now thousands and thousands of people doing it, millions of little snippets of life and love and poetry and random spewing out there, and that's good, and it doesn't need me to keep it going.

Then, usually, I remember that anything at all really does mean anything at all, and that anything includes nothing, so sure I could post a long long stream of empty (not even the date, nothing changing at all) weblog entries, as a sort of performance art, and that would count (even with the Eagles?), but that's just one of the infinite number of choices I have, and I might not want to choose that one.

So here are some story ideas about that guy with the box and all (and I've been mining it for Interesting Things for the kids at night).

He starts going to the box (the center compartment) for advice. The first few results are (either obviously or subtly, depending on how cruel the storyteller wants to be) very bad. He realizes he needs to go to it for good advice.

He gets some good advice, perhaps useless or perhaps useful, and starts doing it more and more often, becoming dependant on box advice for all his activities, until he draws out a piece of marble in which is engraved "Stop Asking for Advice". (ref. the episode of "Arthur" with the fortune teller / cootie catcher.)

He's good for awhile, but eventually can't resist and, after a shorter or longer struggle with himself, reaches into the box for something to make him immortal, and draws out a pencil and a pad of paper. (Side remarks about literature and storytelling.)

Unhappy with that sort of immortality (ref. Woody Allen), he eventually goes to the box for "something that will make me immortal, not through words, but through my flesh, my bones, my hair". He pulls out a small blue jewel. The box then stops working.

Eventually they eat all the food in the house, and spend all the money in the house on more food, and the man decides he must sell the jewel. On the way into town, he helps a young woman (sprained ankle, broken bicycle, chased by wolves, whatever fits the setting the story's being told in), and they fall in love. The next time he tries the box, it works again. They marry and have children.

One day (having not thought about the whole jewel and immortality business for years) he's watching his children playing in the yard, and he remembers the jewel, and he has a vision of his children, and their children, and their children, in a long line stretching into the infinite future (ref. perhaps Indra's Net (nice picture), for the visual image and the reference to infinity), and he realizes (or perhaps doesn't realize, or perhaps the storyteller doesn't say whether or not he realizes) that the box did give him what he asked for.

(The rest of that site with the Indra's Net picture is worth poking around on, by the way. Almost makes me want to get out Bryce and fritter away hundreds of hours on it again. Almost.)