Ah, summer. Wimbledon. Glastonbury. Strawberries and whipped cream.

But also, gardening. I hate gardening. It is a lot more fun than it used to be, though, because Alex enjoys playing outside so much. And when he sees me working, he wants to come and help. Today he was using a small garden fork as if it were a spade, pushing it into the ground, and stamping it down with his foot.

Also, no matter how much I dislike doing the garden work, it is quite satisfying to see the end results. Our jungle is slowly being transformed into something a bit more civilised…

RSS Midsummer Madness

Whenever I start thinking about RSS, I know I’ve been spending too much time in the blogging world, and it’s time to unplug for a while. The fact that I’ve just redesigned my home page, and started using SharpReader to track a bundle of tech blogs is all the confirmation I need.

Luke Hutteman, the brains behind SharpReader, is aware of what happens when your feeds get out of control:

“One of the problems with using an RSS Aggregator is that it gives the illusion of allowing you to keep up with a practically infinite number of weblogs. Whenever you find a link to a new weblog with an interesting entry, the temptation is high to subscribe to this blog to keep up with other writings on it. After doing this for a while, you end up with a huge number of subscriptions and find that there is a limit to what you can keep up with after all, even when using an aggregator.”

Once you get to that point you can either cut back, or you can go mad spending every waking minute trying to stay on top of your feeds. I was there back in March (with a lot less than the 200 feeds Luke has). I haven’t quite reached that same level of blogsessiveness yet, but I know that I need to check my consumption.

On the other hand…

Continue reading “RSS Midsummer Madness”

Site redesign in progress

Your blog is like your house on the web. Every now and then you feel like giving it a lick of fresh paint, and rearranging the furniture. If you’re reading this in your browser, rather than in a newsreader, you’ll probably notice that things have changed a bit. (You can still see the previous version for comparison.) I haven’t changed the archive templates yet, but I’ll drag them into the new format as soon as I have time.

Any comments on the new design are very welcome.

While I was designing the new look, the following sites, articles, and pages were invaluable references:

In the whole design, the single thing that caused (and is still causing, dammit) the most problems is the <select> list showing my archives in the sidebar. Honest, getting this to size correctly in IE, Mozilla, and Opera is a pain in the neck. You’d think that one of the fundamental HTML Form elements would be pretty well nailed down after a decade of specifications, but no… As soon as you throw CSS positioning with floated elements into the mix, you can just forget everything they teach you in web school. I may well abandon it at some point in the (near) future.

Update (26 June):

Consider it abandoned. The <select> list of archives, that is. It’s just not worth the pain. Also, the Quick Reviews section of the sidebar is now formatted with <div> blocks instead of tables (big “yay!” for css vertical-align:text-top), and all quick reviews in the sidebar should now have an image associated with them (big “yay!” for MT Macros). Upon Frank’s suggestion, I’ve shrunk the date headers in the main body. And finally, I’ve also made the text in the main body more black. It was HTML #222, but I looked at it on my LCD panel at work today, and it looked washed-out and faded. See this article at WOW Web Designs for a bit more information on this issue.

Harry F***ing Potter

Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixI’m very annoyed with myself because I bought the new Harry Potter book yesterday. The fourth book may have won the Hugo award for best novel, but I found it disappointing. It stomped over the same ground as the first three books, and it didn’t deliver any significant growth in the characters. Magic, Quidditch, Voldemort. Wooo, scary. Like there was ever any whiff of danger involved, or the possibility of Harry not winning through in the end.

Oh, and the book was way too long. You don’t need 600 pages to tell that story. But what can you say to the goose that lays the golden eggs? “Get an editor with some fucking backbone?” I think not.

I’m really not looking forward to The Order of the Phoenix. It’s over 800 pages long. I’m dreading the thought of another year going by at Hogwarts without the characters evolving in some way. Sure, the books are classed as “children’s” fiction, and she may be writing for a young audience, but the fact is that a large proportion of Rowling’s readership are grown-ups, and grown-ups have different expectations of a book than children do. Her publisher recognizes this reality. Does J.K.?

So why did I buy it? A certain completist tendency, I suppose. And the hope that not all of the 800 pages will be wasted by fluff about talking statues and spooky hallways. The book is going to have to work really hard to please me. I’m disappointed in myself because I don’t usually even start a book unless I think I’m going to like it. But there just isn’t much hope there.