Monday, November 30, 2009

Why is position:relative necessary when you're positioning absolutely?

So I'm reading Dan Cederholm's new book, Handcrafted CSS: More Bulletproof Web Design). I'm really liking it.

There was a small example that deals with absolute positioning that I want to highlight. He's talking about formatting a list of coffee drinks that have a title and a price. The goal is to have the link be the entire line so that it makes it easy for readers to click on their desired cup of coffee.

The original code looks like this:

<ul class="lst">   
<li><a href="#"><em>2.79</em> Latte</a></li>
<li><a href="#"><em>2.99</em> Cappuccino</a></li>
<li><a href="#"><em>1.80</em> Cafe Americano</a></li>
<li><a href="#"><em>2.00</em> Espresso</a></li>
<li><a href="#"><em>10.49</em> Caramel Macchiato</a></li>

Cederholm suggests using absolute positioning, with code much like the following (his is part of a larger web page and so I've adjusted it to appear on its own):

ul.lst li {

ul.lst li a   {
     position: relative;
     padding: 7px;
     border-bottom: 1px solid #f3f2e8;
     font: .9em Verdana;
ul.lst li a:hover {
ul.lst li a em  {
     position: absolute;
     right: 7px;
     top: 7px;

The result can be seen here.

And though Cederholm says the position:relative line is necessary, he doesn't explain why. The reason is that when you position an element absolutely—in this case the coffee prices, which are em elements—their position is calculated with respect to the nearest positioned ancestor, or if there is none, to the body element. Since he wants the prices to go in the same line as the a element that contains them, he must position the a element. By adding position:relative to the definition for the a element, it becomes positioned, and any descendants that are absolutely positioned will be positioned relative to it. This happens even though he's not defining any offsets; the a elements stay in their natural place in the flow.

You can find more information about relative and absolute positioning on pages 178-179 in my HTML, XHTML, and CSS, Sixth Edition.

Also note that Cederholm concludes this example by showing how absolute positioning is not very flexible for text elements. That is, when the text is enlarged, the name of the coffee and its price overlap each other. Instead, absolute positioning makes more sense if one of the pieces is a static image whose size can always be accounted for.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Publishing a Blog with Blogger: Visual QuickProject Guide, Second Edition

Publishing a Blog with Blogger: Visual QuickProject Guide, Second Edition, coverHot off the presses, I got mine today.

This brand new Second Edition of Publishing a Blog with Blogger: Visual QuickProject Guide is completely updated and covers all of Blogger's great new features for writing, designing, and earning money from your blog. Perhaps the most important of these is the ability to add new page elements (or widgets) to your blog, and then customize and reorder them to make your blog look and act just like you want it to. You can use these new widgets to add blog rolls, slideshows, search boxes, polls, tag clouds, custom HTML or JavaScript, and many other elements. This book will show you how.

You'll also learn how to use Google's visitor tracking tools to see how many people visited your blog, what they looked at, and where they came from—even what they typed to find you. You can use this information to better assess how effective your blog posts are and what your readers are interested in. And then you'll learn how to add Google ads to your blog with AdSense to earn money from your writing.

The great thing about Visual QuickProject Guides is that they show you—through copious illustrations—just what you have to do, without bogging you down in lengthy explanations. Here's what a sample spread looks like (click to download the PDF):

Sample spread of Publishing a Blog with Blogger: VQJ, Second Edition

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New transparent navigation bar for Blogger

Blogger creates a navigation bar (or navbar) up at the top of your blog by default. Your visitors can use it to search, follow, share, or report your blog, and, as long as you're logged in, you can use it quickly jump to the add new post or change layout settings pages.

The default Blogger navbar is blue with white text and blue links:

Blogger's default navigation bar

For a long time, you've been able to choose Tan, Black, and Silver as well. Now, you can have the navigation bar be transparent, letting your blog's background shine through. The Transparent Light navbar has dark links and the Transparent Dark navbar has light colored links. Choose the one that works best with your blog's background.

Blogger's Light Transparent Navigation Bar

To change the navbar, go to Layout | Page Elements and click the Edit button in the Navbar element. Then choose the desired navbar design in the NavBar Configuration dialog box.

Blogger's Navbar Configuration dialog box

Save changes and view your new layout!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Easy homemade Maple Granola

A friend of mine gave me her recipe for granola a while back: 1 big round box of oats, 1 cup of maple syrup and 1 cup of olive oil, and I've been making it ever since. But since I buy organic oats in bulk, I never quite got the proportions right. Sometimes I don't put enough maple syrup and it comes out rather dull, other times I put too much olive oil and it comes out greasy. I swore I would figure it out systematically, but it took a few years to actually do it AND write it down.

But I finally figured it out: 4 (generous) cups of oats, 1/2 cup of maple syrup and 1/2 cup of olive oil. I often make a triple batch: 12 cups of oats, 1 and 1/2 cups each of maple syrup and olive oil. Then mix it all together, spread it out on two cookie sheets, and bake at 225°F for an hour and a half. I use the Convection Bake option on my oven, which turns on a fan that helps make the granola crispier. I also leave the granola in the oven until the oven and the granola cool down. This also helps with the crispiness.

Store in air-tight jars.


I like mine plain, but it's also good with sunflower seeds, nuts, raisins, cranberries, bits of peach or raspberries. Ooh, and my personal favorite is to eat it with plain yogurt and maple syrup.

I did try to grow my own oats this year, and they did really well right up until the moment when the turkeys came and ate them all. Sigh.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dear Driver who hit my sweet cat, Sky, last Tuesday night,

on the curve right in front of my house. I know it was an accident. It happened to me once. I was driving in Vermont, on one of those straightaways where the speed limit was about 50. All of a sudden a cat came out of nowhere and fairly bolted right under the car. I didn't have time to react, and I will never ever forget how it felt. I stopped and went back and found the poor cat. It was dead. I felt terrible. My very curious two-year-old was in the car and I dreaded the questions that would come. And I felt really sad for the cat and for its family. I didn't know what to do. There was nobody around. So, I drove on. But I didn't stop thinking about it for a long time.

Nightie, Sky, and Sir EdmundI wonder if you thought about Sky. If you wondered if she had a home. She did. We got her when she was a tiny five-week old kitten from the shelter. She had two brothers with her, and the idea was to take care of them until they were old enough to be adopted officially, but of course the official adopters turned out to be us. Sky was the prettiest—a tortoise-shell—and the feistiest. She had a little checkerboard pattern on her mouth that made her look a little bit like a court jester, though you'd never say that to her face.

Sky in the woodsShe was not always the most affectionate. If someone got too close to her face, she might bat at them and even scratch them if they didn't back off. She was so mean to our Newfoundland that the huge burly dog would stay in the corner rather than cross paths with tiny Sky. It was a little tricky when we went on walks in the woods, because both of them liked to join us.

Sweet SkyBut Sky was also loving. She spent many afternoons in my studio, basking in the sun in my big orange chair. She would spread out on my keyboard—like all good cats—and let me rub her belly. She was happy, and purred loudly. If I went up without her, I would see her prowl around the paddock, balancing on the rail to see if she could find any mice or voles down below. She'd meow at me to let her in when she was tired, or climb up onto the window screen. I'd give a short whistle and she'd reappear at the door. I loved her. She was my friend.

At first, since you, too, drove on, we didn't know what happened to Sky. I knew right away that something was wrong, because she always came right away when I whistled, and that night, she didn't come. I spent a long time whistling, walking up and down the street. Worried. We put up signs and talked to the neighbors, we imagined terrible beasts and hard feelings. We worried.

But, a kind neighbor found Sky in the ditch near our house. She wrapped her up and brought her to our house. We weren't home so she left a discrete note on the door. And then when we bumped into each other downtown, she told me what had happened. I can't tell you how much that meant to me. Because not knowing makes it all ten times worse. Wondering if I just put up more signs, or talked to more people, or went whistling on more long walks, if there was just something more I could do to find her, is like slow torture.

SkyWe buried Sky yesterday near her favorite paddock. It really helped to be able to say goodbye, as we told stories about her, and cried.

So next time, dear driver, leave a note. Even if you don't know where the cat came from, leave a note at the closest house you see. We neighbors talk to each other. I won't blame you. I know how it happens. And if you want to take it easy coming around that curve, that wouldn't hurt either. My kids walk on that street, too.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Peaches from our tree!

Absolutely glorious!
Peaches from our tree!

Permission to Learn

A homeschool web site that I often visit posted a link to Yale University's online course offerings. Intrigued, I followed the link and began one of the videos of particular personal interest, "The Civil War and Reconstruction Era".

At first, I was instantly transported back in time to my own days in college. Days when I remember the world feeling like a huge menu, filled with tantalizing dishes, all within reach of my grumbling stomach. And the professor, David Blight, was well spoken and quite interesting. I couldn't stay focused on the content though. All I could think of was that the 280 kids in that class were paying something like $45,000 a year for the privilege of sitting in that class while I was watching for free, in my bed on a Saturday morning.

What were they getting that I wasn't?

It was hard to watch after a while. Not because it wasn't captivating, but because I've gotten so used to tapping several sources of information at a time. Perhaps the students present in the lecture hall were also simultaneously checking their email and Twitter streams, but I found it hard to focus with the rest of the Internet pulling at me. I found I wanted him to speak faster, to skip over the introduction, to get to the meat of the question. I've grown to expect a summary of a topic in a 4 minute YouTube video.

I have trained myself to judge content on the web so quickly, in order to weed out the chaff, that it was difficult to give this Yale professor the benefit of the doubt and listen through the slow parts. I had to consciously keep myself from moving on, using my faith in, really, our educational system, to hold out for the good parts.

Part of the difficulty was that the investment required was not only watching that first 45 minute video. There were 27 class lectures in all, and a syllabus with 13 books and several films. Would I really have the perseverance to see it through? And if not, was it worth watching the first segment?

With children rapidly approaching college age (OK, not that soon), I have been warily watching tuition skyrocket. As a homeschool parent, I can't help but wonder if it's really worth it. And if you can get it all online, why pay $20,000 (or $50,000!) a year?

My daughter had an answer right away: "Because if you pay for it, you have to do it." As I watched Professor Blight's lecture, that was the same conclusion I came to. If I was a student at Yale enrolled in his class, I wouldn't just drop out, in part because I had paid to be there. If I was watching from home, I might well let any other distraction—and believe me, there are many candidates—to keep me from completing the course.

I think I'm thinking about all of this because my life feels very unbalanced. I've been spending all of my time and energy and focus finishing my new book, and at the same time, I had committed to having a booth of my gourds at the Ashfield Fall Festival, which is this coming weekend. And I have pretty much stopped doing any of the homeschooling at all. It doesn't feel right.

Then my son said, "I can't believe you'd rather have money than your gourds." And of course, that's not quite right, but it does make me stop and think why I'm doing it. Why do I spend so much time crafting gourds that I will then sell for a tiny fraction of the worth of the time I spent on them... *if* I'm lucky!?

Do I need to sign up for a university course on crafting gourds, so I can give myself permission to work on them? Or can I just give myself permission?

The crazy thing is that I'm working on them so much right now because I committed to being at this show. Again, it's an external obligation that's keeping me focused. Which brings me back to Dr. Blight's online course. I know that his students are getting more out of their college experience than just the sum of knowledge from the courses they will take, which they could ostensibly get online. But do you really have to spend that much money to let yourself learn?

Maybe American private universities are so expensive exactly because it's the only way that we can give ourselves and our children the permission to take the time necessary to learn about such esoteric topics as the Civil War and Game Theory and Macroeconomics and Spanish History and all the other things I studied and that don't have a practical use in my adult life, but that still make me a happier, more fulfilled person.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Not Becoming My Mother

I just finished Ruth Reichl's Not Becoming My Mother, and I'll admit to not being able to resist a book with such a name, and I mean it as no offense to my own mother, but there's something about becoming the age I am and hearing my mother's voice in my own and my mother's sayings in my own that made me need to read such a book with that title.

And yet, it's only peripherally about mothers and daughters really. It's mostly about becoming one's self, and how essential it is to find a life's work that is fulfilling and meaningful. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Follow me on Twitter badge

So, I spent way too much time wandering about looking for one of those Twitter badges that say "Follow me on Twitter". And then I looked inside the code generated by one (which was really ugly!) and all it is is a link to one's Twitter account. Hey, I can do that.

So, if you want to add a Follow me on Twitter badge to your site, just use code something like this:

<a href="">Follow me on Twitter</a>

(And if you want to add it to your Blogger blog, just go to Layout | Page Elements, and then add an HTML/JavaScript gadget. Paste the link into the Content box and you're all set.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Jeremy Rifkin: Energy 2.0

Thanks to Vilaweb, a Catalan news service that I follow on Twitter, I came across an interview (in English) of Jeremy Rifkin, an American economist who has worked with several European governments. I was drawn to the video because of a quote in the article that says, "We have to stop obsessing over getting rich". I have long worried about corporations and other entities who only worry about the "bottom line" without taking into account the many very real costs associated with it.

It was refreshing to hear Rifkin compare the American Dream ("useful on the frontier") with the Europeans' desire for "Quality of Life" (a better, more sustainable future for society).

What I wasn't familiar with was his take on distributive energy policy (think Energy 2.0), which is what the bulk of the interview addresses. While he is in favor of centralized renewable energy plants--like large wind or sun collectors in the west, feeding electricity back east with high-voltage, and one must expect, very long cables--he believes the future lies in distributive energy, which he compares to Web 2.0 and the internet.

Each individual building creates energy and then distributes what they don't need back to the grid. This is like folks creating videos and distributing them on YouTube. We'll depend neither on NBC, nor on Exxon. Sounds good to me.

But with the debates raging about universal health care and the evils of supposed socialism, what I keep thinking about is this emphasis on quality of life versus getting rich. The first is a much wider net: quality of life is dependent not only on one's individual circumstances, but on those around you, and thus requires broader thinking about what issues need our attention and resources. Getting rich is a much more narrow goal, and a much less satisfying one.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Formatting Blogger's Read More

As part of Blogger's 10th anniversary celebration, they announced last week that they had added an easy Read More feature to their popular blogging software. The Read More feature (also called a jump break) lets you limit the amount of a long post that will appear on your main page, and offers a link to the rest of your post for those who want to, well, read more. The Read More feature lets your visitors see the beginnings of several different posts at once instead of having to scroll through very long posts to see what else there is.

Using the Read More feature is really easy. First, make sure you're using the new Compose tab, as I described in Blogger's new post editor last month. Then, place your cursor in your 

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monetizing my blog

Or not. It's mostly an experiment. I'm working on the second edition of my Blogger book, and I'm trying to figure out how to help people make their blogs a money-making proposition. Of course, Google/Blogger have this AdSense program that places supposedly-relevant ads on a blog, but every time I see a page filled with those ads, I automatically think they're trying to scam me. So, I'm wondering a couple of things. Are there real blogs with useful content that include Google AdSense ads? And do the ads generate income for these folks? If you know the answer, I'd sure love to hear it.

Back in February, I wrote a Web site documenting every possible layout of an iPhoto Book.  At one point, it got mentioned in TidBITS, and I was getting several hundred hits a day, quite a lot more than normal. It's leveled off quite a

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Year in Barcelona: Hardware Stores par excellence

So, I'm testing backlinks as I update my book on Blogger. If a regular link goes outward to somewhere else, a backlink is a link from another site to your site.

It seems like backlinks are activated by default in Blogger. If you go to the Settings | Comments page, you'll see two options for backlinks that are on by default. But where do you find them? The answer is that you have to go to the

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Random tip: Mousing Leftward (Updated)

Some of my most useful tips (to me anyway) come from mistyping or being clumsy on the keyboard. The other day there was something leaning on my shift key while I was using the roller on my mouse and lo and behold, I scrolled sideways instead of up and down. Cool! I'm not sure if that's mouse-specific (mine's a wireless Logitech), but I thought I'd pass it on.

Hmm. It looks like the left-right mouse scrolling is at least application dependent. In Firefox, Shift makes the mouse scroll wheel go left and right (instead of the default up and down), but in InDesign CS4, the Shift key super-charges the scrolling wheel so you scroll faster, but still up and down. The Option key plus mouse scroll zooms in and out, and the Command key finally makes the mouse wheel scroll left and right. I can't find a place where you can change these mappings.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Logging into multiple accounts at the same time

The other tip I've been wanting to share is about dealing with multiple accounts. For example, for this new version of my Blogger book, I've created an example blog written by the fictional Sarah Cookwood. She has her own Google/Blogger account. But if I'm blogging from her point of view and blogging my own blog at the same time, I end up doing a lot of logging in and out.

Another situation where this might be an issue is if you share a computer with a partner or sibling. You log into your Gmail account and check your mail. Fine. But then the other person comes along and wants to log in. Again, there's a lot of logging in and out.

My solution is to use two different browsers... for example, Sarah can log in with Firefox and I can log into Safari. We can both stay logged in and let the browsers keep our accounts separate. If you're on Windows, one of you could use Firefox and the other Opera, (OK, or Internet Explorer).

You could do the same thing with Facebook, Twitter, or any other site that you need to log into with more than one account.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cousin Gonna

My great-grandparents came to this country from Spain in 1907—landing first in Hawaii where they worked in the sugar plantations for 15 years—and then to California. Though my grandparents were born in Hawaii, they grew up speaking Spanish, dancing with castanets, and playing Bresca. But because my parents divorced when I was little, I barely got to know that family. So about five years ago, I started a blog to collect stories from them. I wanted to hear what it was like when they first got here, how they worked, how they played.

That's how I first reconnected with my Cousin Bob, who I hadn't seen since I was about 3. He thought the Spanish Family blog was a great idea and was one of its first, and most enthusiastic contributors. He had lots of stories to tell

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Kiddie pool is perfect pig watering hole

Here was my problem: the pigs, who are right outside my office window, were constantly sticking their muddy hooves into the water bucket and dumping it over. I would watch, yell at them sometimes, and then end up going down to fill it up again. The book was never going to get done. In addition, the ground is so gravelly that the water we hosed in their yard to give them some relief from the (albeit very short) summer sun disappeared so fast that they barely got to take advantage of it.

Then I remembered the old kiddie pool that we picked up off the side of the road last year, ostensibly for Laika, who decided that although she has webbed feet, she really doesn't like getting wet all that much.

I pulled the pool into the pigpen. At first, the pigs only sniffed at it. But a few hours later, I caught them trying it out. They're frankly a bit unwieldy (ok, fat!) and they don't like the slide at all.  But they've gotten the hang of it pretty quickly... they climb in and out, they cool themselves off, they wallow.

Not only that, but their water bucket stays clean and upright.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Blogger's new post editor

As I was working on a new chapter for my upcoming second edition of Publishing a blog with Blogger: Visual QuickStart Guide I happened to be wandering about the Settings area of my example blog (Go to your Dashboard, choose Settings | Basic and scroll down almost to the bottom.) And there was this option I'd never seen before: "Updated editor: Check out the latest features".

Blogger's new post editor

I checked the radio button, saved my settings, and went directly to write this post. The thing I like best is the little resize box in the bottom right corner of the window.

Blogger's resize button aft

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Labels in Blogger blogs viewed as a Cloud

Blogger Labels List If you viewed this blog last week, you would have seen a rather unwieldy, definitely endless list of labels like the one shown at left. Labels are Blogger's way of helping you categorize your blog posts so that readers can jump to an entire set of posts of interest. However, as the list gets longer, and disappears off the bottom of the screen, it also gets a lot less useful.

Of course, the first problem is that it's not easy to label your posts effectively in the heat of the moment. For example, I have a number of labels for the individual animals on our farm, where really it would probably be a lot more useful to have a single "animals" label. You can go back and edit your labels either at the Dashboard or by editing individual posts. I'll leave that up to you. 

Blogger, for its 10th anniversary, has been rolling out some lovely new features, including the ability to display a cloud of labels. This means that your labels will be shown in various sizes, depending on how often you've used them. It gives your readers a clear, visual way to see which topics you

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How to create a Flickr slideshow (on Blogger) of any set of photos you want

Or, how to customize Blogger's Slideshow gadget...

Or, how to add an RSS Feed to a Blogger Slideshow...

Oh you say, you can do that really easily by going to Flickr, setting up a set of photos and then choosing Slideshow, and then clicking Share. Poof, there's your embed code, no problem.

Hmm. But that doesn't fit in a Blogger sidebar. Nor does it start automatically. It's not nearly as nice as Blogger's Slideshow gadget.

So how do you get Blogger's Slideshow gadget to show only the photos from a particular Flickr set? Maybe you have

Friday, August 14, 2009

Using new fonts from Kernest on Blogger

Are you sick of Times and Helvetica? Not to mention Trebuchet, Gadget, Arial, and Courier? It seems crazy in this day and age where you can output a gorgeous print document with beautiful fonts that the Web still be limited to a very short list of fonts. Especially since CSS has been capable of handling many more fonts for more than 10 years. But font foundries were wary of setting their fonts free and browser companies like Microsoft, Netscape, and Apple couldn't quite agree on what font format to support.

Thankfully, not everyone has been waiting around to see what shakes out, and have taken matters into their own hands. One of these guys is Garrick Van Buren, a developer in

Friday, May 29, 2009

Searching for Facebook Privacy

I love Facebook. I think it's an amazingly effective way of being present with long-distance or rarely seen friends. Still, figuring out the right balance of privacy and openness is not at all simple. But I've done some research into the various possible options and thought I had adjusted my settings to a comfortable degree.

The other day, however, I happened to land on the Public Listing that Facebook creates for me by default, and I wasn't that pleased. It listed a number of my friends as well as the

Friday, May 22, 2009

Color matching on Epson printer

I'm making some bookmarks and business cards for the Ashfield Farmers Market and noticed that the raspberry was coming out much more purple than red. I called Epson tech support with, honestly, little hope that they'd be able to help.

Boy was I wrong. I started asking the tech support person what sort of CMYK profile I should be using and if that could be the problem. She said that I shouldn't be using CMYK at all, but rather RGB. I admit I didn't believe her at first. Why would a printer with CMYK inks require that documents be in RGB to print correctly?

But it turns out that Epson's drivers do the RGB to CMYK conversion for you, and if you send it a CMYK file, it converts that to RGB and then back again, and in my case, makes it all purple. Send it a file in RGB, and it prints quite nicely.

Thank you, Epson!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Planting Egg Gourds

Back in November, I showed you some of the egg gourds that I bought and cleaned and painted and made into ornaments. I've been patiently waiting for spring so that I could plant my own, but it was a bit heart-wrenching cutting a few gourds open to get at their seeds. I love their shapes. They're so perfect. And of course I picked the most perfect of them to open so that their offspring would be equally well-shaped.

I wasn't even completely sure what I'd find. When I shook

Thursday, May 7, 2009

One little lamb is no longer

But it's not what you think.

It's not what I thought. This is the sort of thing you dread in the country with a fox in the backyard. You come upon a big mess of fur or feathers, like this:

The remains of a lamb

and you think, oh rats! And then, what was it? And then rats

Robin's Egg Blue

Robin eggsSo, the other day some kids frightened a bird out of a small tree. I looked and noticed a nest, maybe 5 feet off the ground. I pulled out my camera with its lovely articulated viewfinder and found, wait, Easter Eggs?

Of course, they're American Robin eggs. Aren't they gorgeous!?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Fox and her Kits

This morning I went out to feed the sheep (who were bahing up a storm) and noticed that the chickens were making funny noises. It's strange, because it's not *that* different, but somehow I decided I should go check on them. Sure enough, there was a raccoon inside the barn, in the upper part of the coop (which thankfully only houses drying gourds right now and is separated from the chickens with chicken wire). The raccoon ran off, actually up the grain chute to the hay loft and

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Revolution is under hoof

I don't know, but there seems to be a lot of inter-species conferring going on:

The Revolution is under hoof

Monday, May 4, 2009

Laika meets the fox

This morning we were startled to see that Laika was out in the field talking to the fox.

If I let you catch a chicken, will you share? (closeup)

Perhaps we should backtrack just a moment and I could tell you that Laika is terrified of our cats, especially Sky. Sky doesn't much like Laika, but instead of sulking off in another direction, she routinely takes Laika on, hissing at her and even hurling herself at her if Laika hasn't already retreated. This generally eggs on the otherwise more easygoing Skittles and Night and all three of them jump on Laika at once. Laika mostly just cowers quietly as everyone screams, water bottles are produced, and the cats go away. Laika goes back in a

Friday, May 1, 2009

TimeMachine doesn't back up iPhoto (if iPhoto is open)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my travails with backing up my obscenely huge iPhoto library. It turns out that although Apple promises to "[take] care of everything else. Automatically. In the background." the truth is that Time Machine won't always back up an iPhoto library if it's open. In fact, it won't back up my iPhoto library ever if it's open. Is it backing up yours? I don't know. You should check.

I promised to get back to you when Apple got back to me. They did finally call me last week, and said, well, to solve the

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hide all Firefox Toolbars with a single click

I just clicked randomly in the top right corner of a bucket of windows and something funny happened: the address bar and navigation bars disappeared and the content part of the window took over. It was rather nice. Check it out:

Here's the before, with all Navigation Toolbar (where the Address box and Search boxes are), the Bookmarks Toolbar, and even the Web Developer's Toolbar.

Firefox - hide toolbars

Click that little button in the top right corner, and poof, they all disappear, giving you much more space for the Web site you're looking at (or taking screenshots of, or whatever):

Firefox - hide toolbars

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The best way to label photos

I'm not in the car often enough to listen to very many podcasts, but I have three favorites: This American Life, NPR's Sunday Puzzler, and Internauta.

This last is a program offered by Catalunya Radio and at least for me, serves the dual purpose of keeping me connected with Catalunya and keeping me up to date on technology there (and here).

The other day I was listening to an interview of David Iglesias, the head of the "Photographic Archive of Girona" about the best ways to organize and manage collections of photos. They have more than 3,000,000 photos!

There were a couple points I found very interesting. First, he recommended scanning positives, not negatives. Second,

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Switch tools in InDesign

This is a tiny tip but I love it. You already know that in InDesign you can choose the Selection tool by pressing the letter V and the Direct Selection tool by pressing the letter A. But what do you do if you're writing in a text box?

Hold down the Command key to temporarily switch to the Selection tool, click outside of the text box, and then press V or A, as you need.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Busy day on the farm

I woke up to lambs. Two cute little tiny ones. There's a boy that's mostly all black, who we're naming Birch, and a girl whose black and white curls mix all over her body. She's Maple. Her mom is Willow, you get the idea.

Birch and Maple

After a while, I went back in the house to make coffee and I heard the chickens complaining. I look out the window and there's a fox, 50 yards from the house, and a fair bit closer to said chickens. I grab my camera (of course!) but dh isn't playing around.

Fox in the backyard

He runs outside (as I snap madly) and encourages Laika, our huge dog, to chase the fox. Laika, however, is instead inspired to join in the chase of the chickens. Most of us laugh hysterically.

The fox, meanwhile, gets spooked and decides to fly the coop, so to speak. She's gone within seconds across the field.

I watch all day for her return, but she does not reappear. I'll close the little lambs in carefully, just in case.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Time Machine doesn't back up iPhoto

I've confessed before to having a scary number of photographs in my iPhoto library. However, since Steve Jobs promised that iPhoto could handle "hundreds of thousands" and since I only have a measly 40,000 I get downright testy when folks from Apple say I have too many.

This happened the other day. First, Time Machine just stopped working. Up and failed. Said it couldn't find the external drive

Monday, March 30, 2009

Formatting Cross-References in InDesign

For years I used FrameMaker to layout my books so that I could take advantage of its robust cross-referencing. I was so dependent on its power that I stuck with it as it crashed continously and made me jump through hoops to get images and color the way I wanted them. But when I got my Intel MacBook, I had to say goodbye... Frame wouldn't run on Classic and Adobe decided not to upgrade Frame for OSX. So, I went back to InDesign and marveled at how my fingers still remembered so many keyboard shortcuts from my PageMaker days.

But if you've seen any of my books since then, you'll know that I have really had to tone down my penchant for copious cross-referencing. No longer! Though I tend not to upgrade unless I have to, InDesign's new cross-references had me chomping at the bit. And I have not been disappointed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day, or On the Shoulders of Giantesses

Suw Charman-Anderson put out a challenge to her readers to honor Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer (ever!) by writing blog posts on March 24 about women in technology whom they admire. So, Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

Although there are many women in technology who I admire, among them Dori Smith, Molly Holzschlag, Robin Williams, and Lynda Weinman, there is one who was a particular inspiration to me: Laura Lemay.

I don't know Laura personally, but when I was just learning HTML, she had three or four books already out on the topic. And though I found the information in her books useful, among other sources, what really inspired me was her attitude. She was a really smart programmer, and wasn't shy to tell you about it. I loved that she was a woman. If she could do it, I could do it.

Thanks, Laura!

And now she has chickens like me!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

March Maple Madness

I'm driving along and I see steam pouring out of a sugar shack and I just have to stop. It's so beautiful the way it flows out of the roof and fills the air with the sweet smell of maple. And it's so magical to take tree sap and turn it into sweets. I've been making myself stop and take pictures, since they won't be boiling for much longer:

Lawton Family Sugarhouse, Williamsburg

I realized I still hadn't been to South Face Farm, probably the biggest Maple Syrup producer in Ashfield, and the weather was improving fast, so I took a detour on the way home. I was not disappointed. South Face Farm is a gorgeous place,

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Complacency, Listening for Signals, and Luck

I was talking with a friend the other day about chickens. She wants to get some, but not as many as a typical minimum order of 25. We want to get some more, so we thought we'd do an order together.

She's never had chicks before so I was giving her advice about equipment (a waterer, a container for food, a heat lamp, and most importantly a predator-proof brooder box for

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Do someone a favor by asking for a favor

I'm really into genealogy. Though it goes in phases, when I'm into it, I can stay up every night for weeks pouring through old census records and out of print books on 19th century Virginian families, of which I've yet to claim a link. I've traced my roots back to 17th century Maryland, Ireland, and Scotland, 18th century Holland, 19th century France and England, and both 20th and very early 17th century Spain.

I was recently in Estepa, in the south of Spain, the town from which my great-grandparents emigrated to Hawaii in 1907, thanks to a promise of steady employment in the sugar plantations there. After a couple of random emails to city government offices in Estepa, someone gave me the email of a guy who shares my last name but is no relation, as far as we can tell. But he was very friendly and

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

iPhoto's new Faces feature really does work!

I take a lot of pictures. If you've ever visited my Flickr site, you know that I take my camera everywhere and I'm a bit compulsive. I've tried different programs for organizing my photo files and always come back to iPhoto. I now have more than 42,000 photos, and no other program I've found lets me just type in a date or a person's name to quickly find the photo I need.

Course, sometimes the date is not enough, and I have been, well, less than diligent in labeling my photos. Honestly, you can't label 40,000 photos and still have a life. I am pretty

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Obama Effect?

So, I'm in this old taxi in Barcelona and on the radio they're talking football (as they're wont to do) and explaining some old feud between the two big Catalan teams: F.C. Barcelona and F.C. Espanyol... I couldn't quite get it all, but I guess it's been three years since they haven't talked to each other and one of them recently invited the management of the other to a big dinner and the other declined...

So one of the radio people says, maybe they should take the lead from Obama, and instead of going back and forth with the same petty arguments, rise above the fray, overlook their differences, and work on finding a peaceful resolution.

Honestly, I can't remember the last time the US came up in a debate on the radio in which we were looked up to as an example to follow. What a difference!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


We've been studying Catalan History and since King Jaume I invaded and conquered Mallorca in 1229, I decided we should go there. I did so with some trepidation since the last time I was there, in 1987, I had gone to the town of Alcúdia (with 10 high school students under my care) thinking that the farther from the big city we were, the more peaceful it would be. Only huge hotels and British pubs greeted me in that town.

So this time, I was pleasantly surprised. After an insanely cheap flight from Barcelona (20 euros! = about $25), we rented an incredibly cheap car (7 euros/day) to an amazingly small town with a single narrow windy street (both from curves and wind) on the northwest coast, called Banyalbufar. Our hotel (which was neither insanely nor incredibly cheap) had a beautiful view of the terraced hillside, full of orange and lemon trees and sheep, all the way down to the coast.

Banyalbufar, Mallorca

You could hear the sheep before you saw them... they all wore cow bells (sheep bells?) that made a lovely tinkling noise

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Facebook, Barcelona, and Old Friends

It feels like forever ago since I got this link and read the article but it turns out it was only a few days. It's been on my mind. Every time we come to Barcelona (ok, and when we're in the US too, but perhaps less, because it feels slightly less intentional) I have to figure out what we're doing here. I mean, mostly I know this. We come to see friends, to surround the kids with cousins and Catalan, but above all, we come to maintain the connection with the people here we love. It's both exciting and exhausting to plan these full weekends of concentrated conversations that usually happen only once a year.

And it makes me wish they were all on Facebook so that I could have a little more of the boring middle time with them.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Candles and History

The Candle Store, est. 1761

So, around 1991, my parents and sisters came to visit me for Christmas, and they were still there for Three Kings Day which happens to be my sister's birthday. In Barcelona, the Kings actually arrive on a boat (from the Orient, of course) at the harbor on January 5th and then travel through the city (in an amazing parade) so that their royal couriers can collect the "please, can I have a ..." letters from the children along the way. The Kings' retinue is not limited to fancy mailmen, however. They have loads of servants and courtesans and a huge throne and jugglers and at the very end, there are real trucks full of real coal.

Which is all purely incidental to my story... but it turns out we were all in the center of the city watching the Three Kings Parade and realized that we should get some candles for my

Getting acclimated

We're not quite sure what to do yet, besides sleep at weird times of day. But flights to everywhere are incredible cheap (40 euros round trip to Mallorca!) so we may just decide to make it to that island conquered by Jaume I a thousand years ago after all. I'm off to the library to look up info...

Meanwhile, yesterday we wandered about a bit. While dh went off to play capoeira and soccer, the kids and I went shoe shopping (one pair of ripped snow boots just isn't enough). Unsuccessful, we ducked into a little cafe that I used to love that was recently reviewed by the New York Times, called Viena. It has pretty much turned into a slightly expensive Subway, but it was a welcome respite from the shoes. The

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How to cure a ham

We got to Barcelona this morning about noon. Our flight rather left New York about 3 hours late which made it pleasantly easy to fall asleep. I have never felt so rested, never been able to resist going to sleep during the day, but it is 11pm and I'm still pretty wide awake, though fading.

About 5 in the afternoon we went out for a snack and some emergency shopping (croquetas and olive oil to fry them in for dinner, nocilla (the Spanish version of Nutella) and cookies for breakfast, and fresh milk from the neighborhood dairy that had actual cows as recently as 1985. But first stop was the bakery/cafe where we got chocolate croissants and coffee... yum!

First Snack - Coffee and a chocolate croissant

Next to the market, mostly for the croquetas, but we were completely sucked in by the gargantuan fresh peas at one

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My Mary Ann

My Mary Ann died last weekend. She was my father's wife, my stepmother for most of my life. But those labels don't do it for me. For me, she was my Mary Ann.

I didn't want to speak at her Celebration Service. I hate speaking in front of a lot of people and I knew I wouldn't be able to do it without crying. But after my sisters got up, I realized I wanted to say something too. I sputtered a bit, both with words and tears, and afterwards I kept thinking of more things I wanted to say. Here's my chance.

What I did say was that Mary Ann taught me a lot about not following rules and conventions. She never followed them. It's

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