Archive for March, 2006

The Raisin Has Ruined the Oatmeal Cookie

This evening, my wife baked an epic batch of oatmeal cookies. Let me explain why they were so good: there were no raisins in sight. The raisin has plagued the oatmeal cookie like a parasite, stifling its untapped potential as a (if not the) premier baked good of our generation.

Contrary to what you’ve probably heard, a raisin is nothing more than a shriveled grape. And its inclusion here just oozes controversy. Like a concerted front against the oatmeal farmers (?) of the world. “How do we ruin the oatmeal cookie? We’ll add dried, shriveled, rubbery fruit to it. Good. It’s settled then”.

It’s why we don’t see oatmeal cookies more often, and it’s also why the oatmeal cookie isn’t as popular as other, non-fruit-bearing treats. Smart bakers will often utilize the “chocolate chip switch”, swapping chocolate chips for raisins. Brilliant. The recipe adjustment might have done more harm than good however, due to the visual similarity between chocolate chips and raisins when they’re sitting in the finished cookie. I can never be sure whether they’re chocolate chips or raisins, and there’s no way I’m taking the chance. It’s now preferred to substitute peanut butter or butterscotch chips to avoid confusion.

Bottom line is this: leave out the raisins and start enojying a pretty darn good (if under-appreciated) cookie.

Seven

I have yet to download and install an IE7 beta, but it sounds like it’s actually time to start paying attention to the latest release (Beta 2 Preview). We’re hearing reports from MIX 06 that the browser is essentially done in terms of CSS implementation:

Really interesting stuff from the above links. I’m impressed with what we’ve heard regarding the now-standards-aware IE team. On the flip-side, Roger Johansson brings up an excellent point: whether we’ll need a new way to self-clear floats in IE7.

Wow, this is a bit frightening, as I’ve been using the easy clearing method extensively, finding it to be pretty rock solid and predictable. It’s especially handy to use this to group components that use complicated floats and most importantly keeping them independent as self-contained, bulletproof “modules”. Being self-contained means they’re not dependent on subsequent elements in order to clear, and can then be moved around at will. Handy stuff.

So, it appears we’ll need a way to self-clear floats in IE7 that doesn’t use the still unsupported :after pseudo-element and the now fixed height: 1%; trick that previous versions of IE/Win so lovingly accepted. Here’s hoping there’s an alternative out there (aside from floating the container among others). I’m sure there will be, but even then this particular method would now feature 3 different declarations in order to work across browsers (actually add a few more in if you’d like IE5/Mac to work).

Update: Roger has posted an update, where a solution using display: inline-block; instead of display: inline-table; seems to do the trick for IE7. It’s a tad more complicated as to why this works, so be sure to read Claire Campbell’s informative write-up.

Arkanoid Edition

Another year, another realignment. What started out as a long-term desire to take better advantage of the footer (putting content chunks that were previously in the sidebar down near the bottom) quickly turned into more of a CSS refresh. This version is dubbed “Arkanoid Edition” (coined by Ethan and will make sense to anyone that spent their afternoons at the arcade in the 80s).

There are too many dusty corners to clean up, and so there very well might be some areas that still need attention. But somehow this feels more comfortable right now. The colors are toned down a bit, columns feel a bit more readable, etc. Surely not everyone will be a fan, but such is the life of a web site. Change is good. But it can also be disorienting.

Boxy, but Nice

One of the struggles with the SimpleBits logo is that it’s not a logo at all. It’s an icon. And works terribly in print unless it’s enlarged properly. I’ve debated changing the logo, always settling on maintaining the brand, and instead embracing its pixellated charm. Hence the square, blocky treatments that will likely warm the hearts of 8-bit fans and yet turn away the warm-and-fuzzy brigade.

Fluidity

I’m no longer straddling the fixed/fluid fence! Previous versions of this site featured a little toggle up in the top right corner enabling you to switch between a fixed or fluid width by means of a little Javasript and an alternate stylesheet. How diplomatic. With this new design, I thought I’d try a centered, fluid layout, using left and right padding on the body using a percentage value. That coupled with a conservative max-width set at 900px makes for a wider-but-not-too-wide solution. If only max-width (and min-width) worked in IE (aside from the Javascript fixes that exist).

Hiding from IE/Mac

I’ve also decided to intentionally hide all CSS from IE/Mac this time around. It’s not that it would be impossible (or even that difficult) to get this particular design working. It’s just that, for this site, it’s time to move on and have one less set of hacks to worry about.

What’s great, is that it’s dead simple to hide CSS from IE/Mac using the commented backslash hack just before importing your styles. Here’s my main stylesheet, screen.css, which imports the master styles as well patches for IE/Win.

/* import stylesheets and hide from ie/mac \*/
@import url("master.css");
@import url("ie.css");
/* end import/hide */

IE/Mac won’t get any of it because of that backslash at the end of the opening comment. And this is certainly OK for SimpleBits. Your site’s statistics may vary.

Posterity

Archived for posterity, and a comparison for those arriving here today for the first time, is a screenshot of the previous design.

Degrees

I’ve always assumed that everyone suffers a little from the “grass is always greener” syndrome. Here in these Northeastern United States, I know we do.

I grew up dreaming of tropical lands — especially when in the middle of a frozen arctic winter. Recently, we’ve picked up hobbies that embrace the snow (e.g. cross-country skiing) but it’s inevitable that you’ll go a little stir-crazy come March. Add a baby that’s supposed to have limited travels to the mix, and you’ve guaranteed yourself some cabin fever.

Then there’s a day like today. It’s approximately 67°F. That’s pretty much a rarity in early March around here. But it’s always amazing when it happens. People seem friendlier. And it’s when a day like today comes along where I wonder if I wouldn’t appreciate it if it happened more often.

We talk about the weather a lot in New England[1]. I’m constantly watching forecasts. So, I wonder what it’s like to not think about the weather? To wake up and know it’ll be roughly the same as yesterday. Is it boring?

I both love and hate the swing of the seasons.

[1] For instance, I’ve devoted this entire entry to the weather.