The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Friday, September 15, 2000

A Good Idea Marred by Hideous Implementations

Since I took over the technical editorship of DaveWorld I took it upon myself to clean up not only the organization of the site, but to clean up the HTML on the pages themselves. I downloaded the site, cleaned up the HTML and put it back up on a private site and asked for comments from the more technically and designed oriented members of DaveWorld.

Number one complaint: What did I do to the fonts?

All I did was remove all the <FONT> tags, leaving the font to be the browser default. That alone peeved the graphic designers on the list. Back to the drawing board.

I then decided, for whatever reason, to use style sheets. Exclusively. Despite the warnings. Meaning, no tables for layout, no <FONT> tags, no alignment attributes. Just simple HTML.

I've come to the conclusion that Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), defined way back in 1997, is a lot like Java: A Good Idea Marred By Hideous Implementations.

My intent was to use correct typographical conventions, one of which was that the leading paragraph is not indented but succeeding ones are. Easy enough to specify, along with font information and other stylistic concerns.

Internet Explorer (IE) managed to center the text correctly, although the paragraphs with leading (indented) were shifted to the right. Netscape had the paragraphs aligned correctly, but neglected to actually center them on the page. Also, the interline spacing between paragraphs was off, making the page look horrible. Adjusting the interline spacing to 1 fixed that problem, but now the lines were bunched up. Livable. But it still refused to center the paragraphs on the page.

The only way to get Netscape to center the paragraphs was to use a table. Which kind of defeats the purpose of CSS. But I tried anyway.

Netscape now aligned the paragraphs correctly, but that just triggered a bug in IE—the paragraphs where aligned correctly, but selecting a link would cause the page to jump to the right. What the—?

Try as I might, I couldn't get a stylesheet alone that worked properly between the two.


Dark Side of Oz

For the past few years I've heard the rumor about Pink Floyd and “The Wizard of Oz.” You know, the rumor that their album “Dark Side of the Moon” syncs up to the 1939 MGM release of “The Wizard of Oz,” staring Judy Garland and Ray Bolger.

Not having much to do this night, Mark and I decided see if that rumor is true. I have a copy of “Dark Side of the Moon” and we can rent “The Wizard of Oz.”

At Blockbuster it took us a while to find a copy. Let's see … musicals, no. Classics? No. Drama? No. Family? Yes. So with video in hand, we head back to Mark's house, cue up the video and at the MGM lion's third roar, cue up the CD.

Despite about 30 seconds of added text to the credits (gee, thanks. Like the video distributor couldn't add that before the film?) the CD synced up just enough to convince us that there possibly is something there. Track 5 starts up when Dorothy is leaving the house to enter Oz. “Fool on the Hill” when she meets up with the Scarecrow. Something about keeping your balance she's walking along the top of the fence. The lyric “Is she black? Is she blue?” syncs up—“Is she black?” you see the Wicked Witch of the West. “Is she blue?” the film immediately cuts to Dorothy.

There's enough there that both of us were convinced that something was up. But our primary question is Why? Why did they do this? And other than Pink Floyd, who would ever know? I mean, until the advent of video tapes, it would be nearly impossible to get this to work (say, on television broadcasts interspaced with commercials) unless you could get a print of the film, which I doubt just anybody could do.

Then again, on second thought, I've only heard this rumor in the past few years. Maybe it is just coincidence.

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[The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades]

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