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Checking In

November 11, 2004
Progress: Book, 90%. Everything else, not so much.

I’d apologize, but for the fact that those numbers are exactly where they need to be right now.

In lieu of anything more to discuss at the moment (despite the growing backlog — later, later, always later, I say, until it’s inevitably too late) let’s try something new. You ask, I answer. Use the comments for anything that happens to be on your mind, and I’ll see what I can do to reply.

Ground rules: keep it clean, and keep it friendly. Dumb questions will be responded to in kind. Questions that require shorter answers are more likely to get a reply. And whatever you do, don’t ask about the Apple curse.

Update: That was a fun diversion, after months of technical writing some “fun” writing was exactly what I needed. Thanks all. Comments now closed.

Reader Comments

Dave S. says:
November 11, 01h


I think you already know the answer to that, you’re just looking for confirmation. If you want to work with the web, look into web design companies.


Spend the day with an eighteen year old brunette. Two birds with one stone, really.


Right, what #50 said. The work has been done, may as well spend that time doing more productive things.


The scallops on curry noodles might even have lasagna beat. But then, some people don’t like cilantro… it’s a toss-up.

November 11, 01h

How often do you scour the web for new reading material? Do you stick to the same sites or do you wander around a lot?

Manolo says:
November 11, 01h

Hey Dave, how do you find a sharp, clever and fun answer to every question? no matter how mean, direct, vague or silly the question is?

I sure will be reading your book pretty fast if you and molly write in the same style as in your blogs.

Malarkey says:
November 11, 01h

One last thing, did you get the idea for the Zen Garden when you were digging turnips in your uncle’s allottment?

Have you got an uncle and if so, does he wear aftershave?

Rod H says:
November 11, 01h

Who do you think in their prime was the better boxer, Ali or Tyson?

November 11, 01h

looking forward to the book…can’t wait to get my 15 seconds on fame in print ;)

Ryan says:
November 11, 01h

Can I get a “shout out” in your next book?

haha jk

Okay, a real question. How long did it take you to master designing websites with web standards? And are you almost legally blind because of this?

Dave S. says:
November 11, 01h


I never go out looking, I just stumble across new voices every now and then. Every so often I’ll clean up and drop those from my feedreader which have lost my interest, which creates room for more. There’s a balance though, and following more than 100 or 150 sites is too difficult.


If you look under your chair, you’ll find an envelope. In this envelope is a ticket with a coloured dot on it. If the dot is red, you win… oh wait, wrong answer.


It’s funny that you should mention turnips, actually. I was in the middle of roasting a pan of harvest root vegetables like turnips and sweet potatoes last weekend. The sherry burned off in a thick cloud of smoke that set off the fire alarm. This is the first time I’d managed to set that off, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s no battery to take out, it’s connected to the wall. I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off! So here’s me, running around the place grabbing anything small and made of cloth to stuff into the cracks to muffle it, and I hear the neighbours in the hallway grumbling outside their doors, as I’m throwing open the windows (despite the -40 degree Canadian winter) to air out the place, when all of a sudden the phone rings. NO, I WOULD NOT LIKE A SUBSCRIPTION TO “IN STYLE”, I manage to blurt to the surprised party on the other end who, through misunderstanding and confusion of the general situation, was actually calling to inform me my dry cleaning was ready for pick up.

So, in summary, turnips are tasty.

Dave S. says:
November 11, 01h




Are you kidding? You’re on the cover.


Sure. Check pages 345 and 348 when it’s out.

Rod H says:
November 11, 02h

Without looking it up what color is mauve?

November 11, 02h

You’re not seeing enough Vancouver industry people. Mark a day between Feb 1-6. I’ll even let you choose.

I know that wasn’t in the form of a question because well … it’s not a request so much as a demand ;)

November 11, 02h

Okay, how about this one: How do you help a (pretty much non-technical) client get their domain reg. and webhosting set up without being called every time they have a problem or question after the work is done and the pages are uploaded? Is the answer to just find a really cheap, really helpful hosting company to refer people to?

By the way, I love your city. We honeymooned there four and a half years ago. There was this one pizza place on Robson we couldn’t stay away from…

Ethan says:
November 11, 02h

Once and for all: “tuque” or “took”?

And what’s up with poutine? I mean, seriously.

Drew says:
November 11, 03h

Here’s one:

Jimmy is a snail. From his north-facing starting position, Jimmy crawls 2 metres forward, and then turns 45 degrees to his left. He proceeds 0.25 metres before turning a further 45 degrees in a southerly direction. Following this immense spurt of activity, Jimmy naps for 34 minutes before crawling off for a further 4 metres. Due to high winds from the south, Jimmy is blown off-course by 1 degree for every 30cm he has crawled since his nap.

For 200 house points:- what is the name of Jimmy’s half-brother?

November 11, 03h

Ideal design environment? (Include furniture layout, hardware requirements, weather/temperature, software suite(s), and anything else you might include when putting together the perfect design studio.)

Dave S. says:
November 11, 03h


The same color as Schrodinger’s cat.


So what I hear you saying is that you’re offering to pay for dinner and drinks for me and 30 of my closest friends.


Non-technical clients can be that way. There’s really no way around it. Set per-incident rates up front so they know that calling you costs real money, and they’ll be a bit more willing to explore other options before jumping on the phone. Of course, if you haven’t set a price up front, you’re going to have a tough time imposing a pricing structure… best of luck.

You mean the little Italian place by the chocolate store, pizza and a beer 8 bucks? Yeah, I like that one too.


Toque, pronounced “took”.

And who doesn’t love curds on their gravy? (True story: McDonald’s up here did poutine a few years ago. No, I have no idea how nasty it was.)


Trick question. Everyone knows gastropods are incapable of moving more than 2 metres within a 12 hour stretch. Admit it, “Jimmy” had a motor.


I’m still looking for that. Ideally, a well-lit space with high ceilings and plenty of plant life, and in close proximity to dozens of interesting little spots with really good take-out. Well-ventilated of course, with a decent thermostat and a high-end espresso machine.

G5’s all the way, and since we’re dreaming, a 30” Cinema display on every desk. A solid suite of Adobe software, Macromedia Studio, and tons of photo CDs and fonts from the coolest distributers and foundries.

And hardwood is nice, but I’m partial to thick carpet to facilitate all the walking around without shoes. Socks are IN, baby.

November 11, 04h

Do you know where I can get a cheap copy of Photoshop?

November 11, 04h

With regard to client calls and incident rates - how do you work this?

Do you have a set fee per call/time of call/call length.

Do you bill them once the invoice reaches x amount or how?

Thanks :)

I’ll be changing my mobile number soon, and redirecting the old one (with a polite message saying “GET LOST YOU FREAK ITS 10PM - I’M AT THE PUB”) to my office number which will be put on silent after about 5:30 each day just to cut down on the out of hours calls.

Dave S. says:
November 11, 05h




It’s not about the money at all, really. It’s about placing a perceived value on your time. If you’re answering the phone for free, of *course* you’re going to be taking calls all the time.

I’d far rather dial your number and be assured I’m getting the right information, than go back and read a two-page email from you and rely on my own interpretation. But if there’s a cost associated with each call, well I’m far more likely to take the extra second to see if I can’t figure it out on my own first.

So pick a method that seems easiest to deal with from a logistic point of view and run with it; you won’t get rich off of support calls, but you will cut down on time spent answering questions that distract you from your regular workflow. That’s really all it’s meant to accomplish.

November 11, 05h

Is this daughter of Frank cute? And somewhat my age (~22)?


Mike says:
November 11, 05h

Hey Dave-

On a lonely Saturday evening, late at night, do you sometimes open your window and use sign language to communicate to Paul Jarvis?


seth says:
November 11, 05h

I revisited this post after a few hours and decided to read comments bottom-to-top. This gave me the unusual perspective of getting to read your (Dave’s) comments out of context.

My favorites?

“Have you tried under the pillows of the sofa?”

“The same color as Schrodinger’s cat.”

and (drum roll please):

“Spend the day with an eighteen year old brunette. Two birds with one stone, really.”

Dave S. says:
November 11, 05h




No. (Not since he moved, anyway.)


Two paperclips, an old cigarette butt, and half a croissant.

(In response to the unasked question, what would MacGyver need to break into Fort Knox? And to continue the lack of context, of course.)

Martin Alderson says:
November 11, 06h

Firefox: is it good or is it whack?

PS: You have a problem with comments. If you don’t put an email address in and try to post, it’ll take you to an error screen, which is pointing to an ‘old’ folder which doesn’t exist.

D. A. Smith says:
November 11, 06h

What do you like most / least about web design?

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in web design?

November 11, 06h

Hey Dave, have you ever been to Mexico? If yes, where did you go?.. if not.. why not? hehehe

BTW I really enjoyed your “went to sydney” special


November 11, 06h

I’m grumpy today… how do you kick start a bad day?

Inspiration that gets you on track and focused on work/design?

Dave S. says:
November 11, 07h


Good. Very good. Getting better all the time. (comment form should be fixed.)


What I like the most: flexible hours, flexible working locations.

What I like the least: the complete and total lack of island hideaways, arch-rivals, spandex, and capes.

When I knew: after reading a book by my current co-author. True story.


Mexico: Not yet. I’ve been *over* Mexico, and within spitting distance of Mexico, but never within country borders.


Kick start a bad day with a brisk walk in the cold to your favourite custom omelette restaurant, and get something loaded with chorizo and cheddar. And salsa. And a really, really big cappuccino on the side.

Getting on track involves deadlines. Nothing more, nothing less. Hey, I didn’t say it was a GOOD system…

Jeff S. says:
November 11, 07h

As it’s 10:30pm, and I’m still at the office, this question is ever-present in my mind:

How do you say no to a project? What makes you say “This project just wouldn’t work out”? Since *I* can’t say no, can you recommend a 12 step program?

Thanks for the Garden, Dave. It’s been all CSS for 6 months - I’ll never look back.

November 11, 08h

What is your neck of Canada like? Any sort of local Design Community? Do you hate America as much as the rest of the world?

November 11, 08h

How much time did it take you to make that progress indicators and how did you do them?

November 11, 08h

How guilty did you feel about taking the time out from writing the book to design those snazzy little progress meters?

Dave S. says:
November 11, 08h

In response to #1:

I’ve never met anyone who left Vancouver hating it. It’s the San Francisco of Canada, as I like to call it. Warmer climate, friendly people, and surrounded by mountains. It would take a lot to get me to leave.

Local design is fragmented — there are a few larger shops, but mostly smaller companies like myself. I know embarrassingly few of the locals, something I keep thinking I need to change with local meetups or something.

I have many American friends (and I’m ahead of the curve, I even married one and brought her up here) and I know that we’re all pretty much the same. I love the US, I’m just frustrated with it. Crossing the border is becoming more and more unpleasant; I was ready to cry bloody murder upon going through the international line in LA, until I realized as a Canadian I don’t actually need to be fingerprinted… yet.

Jenna says:
November 11, 08h

It would be very cool if those status indicators were dynamic.

Dave S. says:
November 11, 08h

In response to #2 and #3:

They were built in Photoshop, although I’m increasingly turning to Fireworks for incidental graphics like that; it handles anti-aliasing much better. It’s possible to hack up Photoshop to get the look just so, but Fireworks is more graceful about it.

And they took about a half hour of incredibly guilty pixel-pushing. But sometimes you just gotta create, you know? It feels good to have something more than words to show for your time (unless, I suppose, you’re a writer by trade.)

November 11, 08h

Are there any web design organizations that you might recommend as far as participation and membership? I’ve just been curious as I feel I’m lacking in getting involved with this “community” as there are very few of these web-design conferences held in Texas where I’m located.

November 11, 08h

Have you ever seen a grown man naked?

Dave S. says:
November 11, 08h

In response to #7:

Charles, only the biggest web design conference there is happens in Texas. South By Southwest is in Austin, in March, and everyone will be there. This year is going to be huge.

November 11, 08h

I have a nasty cold. It’s not getting better. If it hasn’t cleared up by Saturday morning - when I’m supposed to head to London in advance of watching England vs Canada at Twickenham (woohoo) - I’m going to drink chilli sauce until the cold germs give up and die.

Dave S. says:
November 11, 08h

In response to #8:

Oh, and one more rule: no Airplane! references.

Dave S. says:
November 11, 08h

In response to #10:

Of course, there’s always that.

November 11, 08h

Do you feel that this is currently the best way to interact with other developers in the web design field? I’m faced with other issues in relation to this conference (I’d have to go alone as my wife is currently working and couldn’t take the time off nor does she have anyone in Austin she could spend time with while I’m in all the sessions). I’m also the only web developer at my current employment and so to get that time off myself would be difficult (especially as they only pay for accredited courses). I’m trying not to sound like I’m whining, but it is frustrating at times since just about every other field has these huge well-known gatherings.

November 11, 08h

So I’m guessing that client work has slowed way down since writing this book huh?

Tom says:
November 11, 08h

Dave, I’m glad I’m not the only one who is so anal as to spend a half an hour on a graphic like that LOL.

And notice from the interest of other like-minded indivuals querying you about it - we are all equally crazy!


Dave S. says:
November 11, 08h

In response to #13:

SXSW is a great way, but what also works is just continuing to read the sites of others doing the same thing as you, commenting from time to time, and establishing dialogue with those that share your interests. We all publish on the web for a reason — to communicate, learn, share, and develop relationships. Nothing beats face-to-face dialogue, but if you can’t make it to the conferences, then it’s a close second.

In response to #14:

Yep. Not stopped completely, but priorities are a little skewed until the writing is done.

Manoloweb says:
November 11, 08h

Hello Dave. This is Manuel from Mexico. I recently released a project similar to the Zen Garden. I’m not planning to compete with your great project, but to be a start point for a lot of Hispanic designers who need a showcase for their CSS abilities, which in most cases are growing from scratch.

The project is called “Camaleon CSS”, and you can find it at

Full credit to your original idea, as well as a link, are stated in the body of the project’s page.

Feel free to drop me a line with your comments in my web site. I will translate if needed.


I’m on the waiting list for the book, so that 90% bar makes me feel closer to the moment when it is delivered to me. ;-)

Dave S. says:
November 11, 08h

In response to #17:

Good luck, it looks like you’re off to a great start. It’s always nice to see the rest of the world spreading the message. Are you accepting submissions from Spain too? I know there’s a lot of interest there, I’ve heard from many Spanish web designers recently.

November 11, 08h

Re the graphics - good on ya, sometimes you just need to itch.

Today I just couldn’t get anything done - supposed to be moving house soon, but properties keep falling through, and i’m starting to lose hope…

I cannot afford the time to house hunt, but having seen a few more agents and houses today, i feel much more positive and am more productive :)

Scratch itched!

November 11, 08h

I’ll still consider going to SxSW. I may just end up going on that Sunday just to see what it is about since I’ve never been to a conference before. As for your other suggestion, that’s what brought me here in the first place ;). I also read Jeffery Veen’s blog and Molly’s blog as well.

I guess it couldn’t hurt to get a design or two up on Zen Garden either.

P.S. I had put your book on pre-order, but I had included some other stuff and it was going to wait until the book to ship the entire order, so I had to take it off the list… I’ll probably put it back on soon and just make it an order by itself.

P.S.S. I also started my own blog just to record my thoughts on various things related to my work. I have a separate personal blog for family and friends.

Dave S. says:
November 11, 08h

In response to #19:

It’s amazing what a positive frame of mind will do. I was fresh off of a blitz of knocking down the remaining page count last night when I decided to whip that up. Little things, but they go a long way to preserving sanity.

November 11, 08h

Thank you dave for the garden, don’t know what I’d do without it…
Now on to the important part:

What do you suggest a high-school student do to get himself a good name as a designer/php developer? (did that come out right?)

Why is it that kidnapping is a federal offense, while catnapping is merely an enjoyable pastime?

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Why do you park on a driveway but drive on a parkway?

Which came first the chicken or the egg?

Why did Atkins die from a heart attack?

What is your middle name?

November 11, 09h

Is being married really as great as they say it is?

Where did you get your photoshop?

Mozilla or Safari?

Fixed-width or liquid?

Favourite San Francisco spot? (Mine is the Embarcadero)

Do you know a Michael Nesbitt in Vancouver?

Jason G says:
November 11, 09h

Aren’t you Kareem Abdul Jabbar?

Oh wait, I think I broke the rules…

Manolo says:
November 11, 09h

Hey Dave, that’s the mission. Spread the message.

And yes, we are accepting submissions from all over the world, obviously mainly from spanish speaking people.

The project was recently discussed in (spanish version of slashdot), and that brought hundreds of visitor from spain, and many of them already downloaded the participation kit (zip file), so we expect to receive a lot of great designs from Spain soon.


November 11, 09h

ooo… forgot one:
Where do babies come from? And if its the stork… where does he get them?

Jeremy says:
November 11, 09h

Dave, I’m living in Winnipeg right now. I want desperately to become a web developer. I have looked into a couple of programs here, but they require a heavy amount of drawing, sketching. I’m not great at those, but I am pretty handy with Photoshop / XHTML / CSS and to a lesser extent JS and PHP/MySQL.

I’m looking into going somewhere for school. With your wealth of experience, is there any place that comes to mind? Or perhaps a good way to get an entry level web dev job?

Thanks for anything you may know. Excited for the book! :D

seth says:
November 11, 09h


Thank you very much for introducing me to the wonderful world of CSS.

It was only a year ago that I was just learning that CSS could do more than style fonts. Today, I freelance as a production designer and only create css-based, tableless layouts.

This site, and zen garden were very influential in my growth.

Seriously, thank you very much.

November 11, 09h

What… is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

John Y. says:
November 11, 09h

Way, way above, somebody asked about a good book on the business aspects of web design.

It’s a little old, so web design wasn’t really as big as it is now, but Cameron Foote has a book out there called “The Business Side of Creativity” that I found really, really helpful with a lot of stuff. I think there’s a new edition now, so he may even get into some web-specific concerns. But, really, on the business level design is pretty much design, be it web or print.

That, and there’ve been a few good articles on A List Apart.

I guess I’m supposed to use this time to ask a question. So: who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?

David says:
November 11, 09h

Shortest question of the night:


Michael says:
November 11, 09h

What advice do you have for a first-time attendee of SXSW Interactive? Best hotel? Parties not to miss? Free WiFi locations? Sessions not to miss?

November 11, 09h

What did you have for breakfast?

Dave S. says:
November 11, 09h


I think you should go back to your seat now Joey.

(We’re done with this now, right? Right?)


Always cool to hear that. Now here’s where you can send money…


African or European?


Last year was my first time, so for recurring “must-sees” I’m probably the wrong person to ask. Don’t stay at the Holiday Inn, though; make sure you don’t have to cross a bridge to get to the convention centre. WiFi is everywhere, just make sure you have some form of security like a VPN or ssh, otherwise you’re going to be sending your passwords unencrypted, and that leads to hackers and sniffing, oh my!

Best advice: you may learn from the sessions, but if you’re going for the social interaction you’ll probably get more out of it. (WE04 was the best conference I’ve been to for actual learning.)

seth says:
November 11, 09h

Send money?

Surely, you must be kidding.

(sorry, I couldn’t resist)

November 11, 09h

How much money do you earn with webdesign per month?

< $1000
between $1000 and $2000
between $2000 and $5000
> $5000

I know some webdesigners that are rearly great in designing websites too, but have to work on Starbucks or McDonalds to earn money for something to eat becouse they aren’t good at selling their work.

Dave S. says:
November 11, 09h


Enough that I don’t have to work at Starbucks.

(…even though I spend enough time there with the Powerbook that I technically do.)

November 11, 10h


On average, how long does it take you to (#1) design and (#2) code a site? (Break #2 into client-side and server-side coding.)

And what professional tools (software/hardware) do you use for on a daily basis? And for what?

Rob says:
November 11, 10h

How do you keep answering these questions and still get your work done? And where did you get those coconuts?

Dave S. says:
November 11, 10h


That sounds like the beginning of every email exchange I’ve had this year on the business side of things. Fact is, there’s no standard time — it’s all about what’s required. Each job needs a slightly different solution, and time varies based on how much work is necessary, how responsive the client is, and how responsive I am.

Tools are easier to answer. I’m on a Powerbook full time, which plugs into a second monitor when I’m not on the road. My software includes Photoshop, Fireworks on occasion, BBEdit, and that’s about it. Well, for creation anyway; I also run things like Transmit, NetNewsWire/MarsEdit, a variety of browsers, a variety of web server software, and so on.

Dave S. says:
November 11, 10h



Oh, and they’re migratory.

Pascal says:
November 11, 10h

How does it feel to write about the “nuts and bolts” of your everyday life? like the weblog? or is it different? in which way?

Dave S. says:
November 11, 10h

Alright, last one for the night, and depending on what happens overnight maybe last one period. (Sorry, Europe.)


The 12 steps of saying no:

1) “Gee, are you sure you really want to pay as much as I charge?”
2) “If by tight timeline, you mean done by the end of the decade, then sure I can fit you in.”
3) “Hey, I hear Doug Bowman is offering free work from now until the end of the month.”

Okay, that’s not quite 12.




Neither: PDF!
West Portal. Or, alternatively, anywhere with a Peet’s.
Who doesn’t!?


If you haven’t figured that one out yet, I suggest the wonderful educational value of spam. That’s right, simply by sharing your email address with a few hundred of your favourite mailing lists, you too can discover all the answers to your most burning questions about the origins of mankind.


There are plenty of schools that will teach you “web design”… that is, Dreamweaver, Flash, and a back end technology like ColdFusion. There are precious few that will teach you the stuff talked about around here, otherwise known as “the right way” to do it. There are some good ones on the coast, although I don’t know much about the situation in Winnipeg. Email me if you want more info.


Thanks for the tip. And, of course, no one is buried in Grant’s tomb.


Why not?


Raisin/oatmeal bagel with “Mystery Butter”, an all-natural blend of cashew and almond butters.

November 11, 10h

Does the fact that a Q&A on a respected web design blog has rapidly descended into random Airplane and Monty Python quotes give you as much a sense of belonging as it does me?



November 11, 10h

Hunh. Nobody asked. Being the sucker for reverse psychology that I am:

So what is it about the Apple curse don’t you want us to ask about? :)

Dave S. says:
November 11, 10h


You mean, taking questions like this as opposed to the regular format? It’s a fun change.




I can’t believe it took until comment #37. Every Apple product I’ve bought so far has either a) immediately been superseded by an upgrade, b) the subject of a recall, or c) both. And yet I keep coming back. I understand Mac fanatics now, and heck I suppose I’m becoming one, but it sure is annoying.

Malarkey says:
November 11, 11h


I know that this book writing malarkey is really just a cover story!

A good friend tells me that you recently auditioned for the role of Captain Fantastic in the up-and-coming movie of the Fantastic Four.

Please, is this true?

Malarkey says:
November 11, 11h

Oh, and have you seen my car keys anywhere?

November 11, 11h

Can you point to any resources (books, sites, whatever) offering details on the business side of design, e.g. writing proposals, meeting with clients, getting useful information out of clients, pricing, etc.? Or is it one of those learn-as-you-go type things?

November 11, 11h


Where do you get find/get all your photos and imagery used in your sites (mezzoblue, Bright Creative, CSS Zen Garden, client sites)?

November 11, 11h

And what are your favorite resources on the web for design?

Robert Heaney says:
November 11, 11h

Who cuts your hair?

November 11, 11h


I really like this girl but I dont think she is that into me… how can I make her like me too? I would like to have children someday.

Dave S. says:
November 11, 12h


You must be thinking of Cederholm. I hear he finally got his big chance. ( )


Have you tried under the pillows of the sofa?


I wish I could. For me anyway, that’s been trial-by-fire. Still is. Actually, if anyone could point out some of those to ME I’d appreciate it. (AIGA puts out some material, but I have yet to grab it, and it’s not that web-specific)

#42 & #43:

Veer,, and These days, that’s almost all I need it seems. Odd, but true. As far as resources, see the ‘Related’ section of this site. Just picked up recently, as well.


Frank, of Frank’s Barbershop. (Well, he’s recently taken ill unfortunately, so it has been his daughter lately.)


You can’t force love. Well, unless you cook a really mean lasagna… nobody can resist lasagna.

Ben Lumpkin says:
November 11, 12h

I’m graduating with a BFA in graphic design in may, it’s expected in my program that a majority of us will go into publication design(or speciality firms) after we leave and go out into the “real world”(which I’m sick of hearing, btw)…

What advice do you have for those (like myself) who are formally trained in graphic design AND knowthe ins and outs of css/xhtml/php/javascript and want to primarily work with the web, when trying to find a job?

Should one work for a web design company, or should one work for a graphic design firm that offers website design, or should one work for a graphic design firm in hopes of one day being able to use your web “production” skill?

November 11, 12h

I’m turning thirty years old tomorrow. What should I do to celebrate, and how do I keep myself from feeling the dragging weight of approaching middle-age?

Ben says:
November 11, 12h

Also just as a side question, why do most bloggers(especially the geekier ones) stick with MovableType, WordPress, Textpattern, etc, instead of developing their own sites/blogs?

November 11, 12h

I think I can safely field #49:

It’s not that we can’t write a great, feature-rich, user-friendly, standards-compliant CMS, it’s that people have already done it for us.

Why reinvent the wheel?

>You can’t force love. Well, unless you cook a really mean lasagna… nobody can resist lasagna.

I can cook lots of mean stuff, but have yet to try my hand at lasagna. Do you think any of my dishes linked below will do until such time as I master the zen of lasagna?

November 12, 01h

What software do you use to power this blog?

Where do you draw inspiration for layouts? I need to re-design my site (its just a slightly tweaked version of the default WP layout), and I have tons of ideas but I can’t seem to put them together into anything cool - they all seem to clash.

cam c. says:
November 12, 02h

Hey, Dave, glad to see the book is coming along; I hope we can get that Vancouver launch party thing together when you’re done…
As for the smoke detector, it’s incredible timing, but I burned a piece of toast this morning and set mine off… remembering what you had said about the thing being plugged into the wall, I headed straight for the breaker box and shut it off.
That’s the second good thing that’s happened to me as a result of reading the comments section on this blog…

Mark says:
November 12, 03h

Do you think responding to all these questions has actually now taken up more time than making a few posts and therefore the time you spent on the graphics is also wasted :P? Has your life just lost all meaning?

Get out your crystal ball and tell me when i can leave the darned computer retail job i’m in at the moment(and have to leave to work at shortly!) and actually do web dev and design as a way of life.

and also when can I get me a nice shiny new Apple instead of this Windows PC!?

November 12, 03h

Hey, West Portal is only a few blocks from my house! It’s a small world…

Do you know an old guy from Ireland called Michael Nesbitt in Vancouver?

What’s your main source of inspiration?

November 12, 03h

Do people in Canada care about the Scott Peterson trial? (He was convicted guilty, in case anyone hasn’t found out yet)

Ian Firth says:
November 12, 04h

Can you tell me why FireFox renders this CSS funny?
It’s been bugging me for weeks.

Lach says:
November 12, 05h

Being a fairly poor designer myself, I’m always interested in ways to improve my design skills. Obviously practice is the absolute number one, best way there is to do that.

So what should I practise at?

Greg Papuga says:
November 12, 06h

Dave, got a big question

I definitely want to use your approach to graphical headers on the next redesign for the corporate company I work for because of its simplicity and its Accessibility compliance. (I realize it’s not proven 100% compliant yet, but its the best out there so far)

While researching all the various methods out there, I also came across some mentions that you can not just put an “h1” tag around a header image with alt text and expect it to be accessible and semantic. (I believe this is true because of all of the intense research into making graphical headers Accessibility compliant). However on resent code study of the Mozilla site (mainly the FireFox landing page) I noticed that they are in fact doing this where they put “h1” tags around the header images with alt text.

Am I missing something, am I incorrect in assuming this is not Accessibility compliant or do the folks who are doing the Mozilla site have some confusion over how to make semantic accessible headers out of images.

Just want to verify my studies.


November 12, 07h

Favorite kind of coffee? (can’t say cappuccino, that’s cheating…)

November 12, 08h

Dave, does your family name point to an Irish heritage?

Also, what’s Vancouver like as a place to live? Greg Storey keeps going on about it, and he doesn’t even live there.

Dave P says:
November 12, 10h

Ian (#91):

Remove the line-height stuff from the li{} styles, add display: block; and set the desired height. (150% looks good to me.)

Problem solved.

AFAI can guess, firefox isn’t going to automatically stretch your li’s to keep the same padding just ‘cause you specify the line height.

This sounds similar to the way it the standards are specified with floats and stuff so is probably the “correct” way of doing things, and IE is “guessing”.

Yes I’m a different Dave.

November 12, 10h

Response to #41,
Check out the web design business kit, from Sitepoint. It’s great, I’ve got it.

matt says:
November 12, 11h

How do you adjust the line-height when you create a PDF document? (From 1.2 to 1.0 for example.)

David Robarts says:
November 12, 11h

Regarding Smoke Alarms (#58 & #96)

I’m an architecture student who has worked for a company specializing in plans for owner/builders. I’m not at all surprised to hear that the smoke alarm was wired; these days smoke alarms are generally required to be wired (with battery backup). Only in older dwelings will you still find smoke alarms that run on independent batteries. There should be a smoke alarm in each bedroom and one on each floor that has bedrooms in the area the bedrooms open into. I believe that all the smoke alarms in a dwelling are to go off if any of them go off, but I’m not sure if that includes smoke alarms in other units of a multi-family dwelling.

Dave S. says:
November 12, 11h


Well, see, um… I *could* tell you that, um… but… HEY WHAT’S THAT OVER THERE!?!?!


Movable Type and PHP.

Whenever I’m short of inspiration I do what any great artist does: steal. That’s right, great artists steal. I’ll walk into Macy’s and pocket all sorts of watches and glassware and furniture. It’s wonderfully refreshing and the ensuing on-foot chase down the street is the best way I’ve discovered to get the creative juices flowing. Or, at least, the adrenaline.


Probably not. And besides, when is the last time I had this much fun? Wait, don’t answer that.

And for the answer to your second question, see answer to #89.


Looks like you’re covered. Thanks Dave.


Line-height adjustment comes from within.

tre says:
November 12, 11h

Dave, regarding #58 (smoke alarm)… I’ve got a similar alarm system (no batteries).

Opening windows helps, but taking a newspaper and fanning the smoke alarm itself (like 2 inches away) actually clears the alarm faster (or, if you know which switch it is, just hit the breakers).

November 12, 12h

What was there before the universe was created? And where did the stuff that created it come from? If it was created by the Big Bang, where did that come from? If it was created by magic, where did the magic come from?

Dave P says:
November 13, 02h


.pika{color: yellow !important;}
.pika {color: blue;}

reason being that if a new browser version comes it may not like * html…

X-Wes says:
November 13, 02h

What, Dave, is your opinion on the following code to hide CSS from IE?

.pika {
color : blue ; /* For IE */

*[class~=”pika”] {
color : yellow ; /* For others */

(I don’t know if this is a commonly-used technique, but I managed to unearth it myself. Hopefully it’ll be useful if it isn’t widely-used yet.)

(But I’m not a huge fan of hacks and filters though :p)

November 13, 03h


Did you really think this was a good use of your time? Honestly, do you really want to please your readers with just about anything interactive, even when you’ve more useful things to do?

We’re not going to walk away from you just because you’re busy and can’t post as consistantly for a while, you know. :-)

Good luck on everything, btw…

Raven says:
November 13, 04h

Or even better this one:

html>body .pika {color: yellow;}
.pika {color: blue;}


Nathan says:
November 13, 06h

Dave, first thanks for the garden etc.

Second and most important… Can CSS make me as popular as you?

Jim says:
November 13, 08h

Is the presentation of your book as good as those progress indicators?

November 13, 11h

Did you know that the human head weighs 8 pounds?

November 13, 11h


Do you miss the glory days working on decrepit old PII 400’s in an office at the back of a smelly building with only an ISDN line to keep us company?

Oh wait, I can asnwer that. NO.

How about, the “new office” with the coldest floors known to man? Or hacky sack on the front lawn?


November 13, 11h


I would suggest doing

.pika {
color: yellow;
* html .pika {
color: blue;

Krasimir says:
November 14, 01h

Do you have a list of all the websites you have made ever? And if “yes” - where is that list?

Johanka says:
November 14, 08h

Does your wife have a website (weblog)? If so, what’s the URL?

dan says:
November 14, 09h


1. This is a Zen Garden question: You use to take all designs right? Some official some not. Do you still, does a half decent descent design make it to the unofficial list?

2. As for networking in Vancouver…I realise it must be difficult for you because there’s not many people of your caliber. Even I have people contacting me to “network” but they are really saying: “I can’t find work and you seam to, can I have some?” But if you take the time, you’ll find good people, and to have someone near by to bounce ideas and designs, is invaluable, whatever caliber they are because the majority of people we cater to don’t know web design, so all opinions are valuable… Anyways we are here for you, but you gotta make the plundge.

X-Wes says:
November 14, 11h

Sorry to spam this comment list, but I’d like to respond to comments 112 and 113.

As far as I know, Dave P, !important is an accessibility feature somehow tied in with user style sheets and such. I’m not quite adventurous enough to duel with the actual users of my site quite yet :p

Well now… I think, Raven, that I may finally be able to clean up my CSS a bit. Thanks for the tip! *stores away his own code for a rainy day*