You’ll believe a man can fly

One of my favorite childhood movie memories was seeing the first Superman movie. We had been living in Brooklyn, NY for almost a year after moving from Virginia. It was New Year’s Eve and it was snowing lightly. We went for a long walk in Bay Ridge and arrived at a movie theater that would later become a fur store and finally a racquetball club.

There were giant posters for the Superman movie everywhere and I immediately wanted to see it. I was eight. My parents said no. I’m sure I complained and probably even cried before my dad bent over and “found” four tickets for the next showing. He had them all along.

Years later, my dad would tell me what he remembered most about the movie. He looked over at my sister during the romantic scene where Superman takes Lois Lane flying and my five-year-old sister’s mouth was hanging open. “Can you read my mind?” was playing. She was completely mesmerized. It was magic.

I watched Margot Kidder on the premiere of Smallville a few days ago. She played an assistant and ex-girlfriend of Dr. Swann, the billionaire astrophysicist who knows more about Clark’s Kryptonian origin than Clark does. (The name “Swann” is a tribute to the late Curt Swan, the definitive Superman comic book artist from the late 50’s to the early 80’s.) I hoped he would make more appearances on the show.

Christopher Reeve died yesterday of complications from a systemic infection that is common to people who suffer from paralysis. His mother told the media, “He put up with a lot. I’m glad that he is free of all those tubes.”

You can pick your friends and you can pick your apples…

Last weekend we needed a break from work and medical misfortunes, so Niki, Jack and I headed to Connecticut for some apple picking. I could have sworn she said we were going to the “Apple Store,” but it turned out to be an amazing afternoon anyway.

Jack ate apples off of trees and had a blast at their petting zoo. While other kids were running away from goats, pigs, buffalo and emus, Jack had no fear and gladly offered handful after handful of feed to the animals. It helps that he lives with two cats and two dogs.

First Peter Gabriel, then Jeffrey Zeldman

Amnesty USA picks some pretty cool people to work with. Even Jason used to work with them.

Happy Cog Studios started Amnesty’s redesign project nearly a year ago. Even though I have been a “lead developer” on Happy Cog projects, Amnesty already had their own sprawling international content management system and my lone contribution to the project was information architecture: “Learn. Join. Act.”

Fortunately, they had Jeffrey on board for design. Left up to me, their site would have looked a lot like Human Rights for Dummies.

Munch and run

This morning in Norway, two masked armed robbers stole Edvard Munch’s famous movie poster painting of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.

There wasn’t much security in the museum — the thieves just plucked the paintings off of the walls and walked out the front door to their escape car.

Our local Applebee’s bolts three-dollar posters to the wall so they don’t get stolen. But a $75 million painting is just hanging on a wire in a museum in Norway and “it took a long time for the police to come.”

Isn’t it enough to make you want to, oh, I don’t know, shout?

No can do

Last month, officials at several military bases were concerned about the security risks of a Coca-Cola contest that rigged Coke cans with cell phones and GPS chips. The NSA and Army bases including Fort Knox declared these cans a threat to security and advised engineers and soldiers to examine their soda in advance and to leave them at home if they contained any of this eavesdropping technology.

Now that’s not practical for a caffeine addict like myself. You can’t open a can of Coke at home and expect it to still be fresh when you get to work. A caffeine addict’s motto is: never open a two-liter bottle that you can’t finish today. Tomorrow morning, it’s just not the same. It’s well on its way to flat. It has lost that certain, oh, I don’t know what, but I know the French have a nice way of putting it.

Anyway, caffeine addicts don’t really drink tiny little cans of soda and that’s not my point.

Well, they finally figured out what was going on. It had nothing to do with cell phones or GPS chips. Somebody was worried that if you put two cans of C2 next to each other, you get C-4.

The thrill is gone

I turned on Blues Clues and it was a huge disappointment. I was expecting a CBS-style drama — like CSI or Without a Trace — starring guitar heroes like B.B. King and Eric Clapton. It turns out the show is about a cartoon dog and a goofy live action guy who solve puzzles with a notebook and a pencil. There’s also some kind of controversy about whether the new guy is the old guy’s brother. Great.

I was told that my great-grandmother had a similar experience in the seventies when she tuned in to watch Charlie’s Angels and it was a bunch of women in bikinis fighting crime — not the religious program she was expecting.

Periodic table usage

In a recent comment, the otherwise likeable Photomatt gave me grief for having a single table in my HTML for Weblogs, Inc. layouts:

I would love to see the designs stop using table layouts from the late 90s. 😉

The sites actually use a great fluid CSS+XHTML rounded corners layout and were table-free until a few months back.

The trouble is (when you run a real-world CMS at a company that needs to work as a business) there are still some browsers that suck at using CSS for layout.

Just because a site shows seven sample CSS column layouts that work with 50 words of Lorem Ipsum dummy text doesn’t mean that they won’t break in spectacular ways when bloggers jam 600px wide images into a 400px column or when someone types the letter “g” 700 times in a row without a break in a comments form. Both situations blow apart CSS “columns” and neither one does the same damage to a layout that has a wrapper table. Browser support for min-width is probably 10% (meaning everyone but IE) and I’d love to have a table-slamming, standards-championing site here and say that IE isn’t the best browser for viewing our sites, but that’s not practical.

If you save this page and remove the wrapper table, there’s a great structural design at work. But I finally gave in and put a table around the columns when I saw the following happen in IE:

  1. At a certain width (or with certain content), the content column would drop down below the floated right-hand navigation column and readers would have to page down three times to see content. (That means they’re leaving the site since they think it’s empty.)
  2. Shrinking (not expanding!) the window, the content would miraculously find the room it needed to come back up and sit next to the navigation column.
  3. Shrinking the window a little more, the content would no longer have enough room to fit next to the navigation.

How is a designer supposed to code for that?

My readers are more important than the year I’ll spend in purgatory for using a single table in an otherwise modern layout.

I’ve already decided that if/when we redesign, I’ll be using the same compromise/cop-out that every other marvel of standards design uses these days: a fixed-width layout.

Get your motor running, Autoblog

Since my blog is one of the top results for searches on “man I feel like a woman chevy commercial” (okay, it’s the number one result), I figured I should be the one to announce our newest Weblogs, Inc. site: Autoblog.

It’s packed with news for anyone interested in cars, trucks and everything in between and we’ve got some talented (car-obsessed) bloggers feeding the system a steady stream of great entries.

Seize the week!

I was on a site that still serves banner ads earlier today — one of the ten remaining sites that hasn’t switched to Google AdWords — and I saw an ad that started out completely white. Slowly a bunch of letters rotated in place to reveal the message, “Seize the week.” In the next frame, they were replaced by a Business Week logo.

I was shocked. Not because the ad had been poorly resized, but because I made that ad — probably five years ago — and I hadn’t seen it since. It was like a reunion or a message from the great beyond…

So, with about four hours remaining, I decided that I was going to seize the week.