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How would you like your menu?

I'm working on a site design for a client who is also a friend. I want it to be perfect, of course.

This must be why I designed three menus: one pure css, one hybrid, and one traditional dhtml. All had some issues in older browsers, but the main difficulty is that she's an author with a lot of books to brag about--in other words, a lot of links on the front page.

I'm still not satisfied that even with the dhtml menu I have the clean look I want. I did come up with two textured backgrounds that really capture the mood of the books.

I'm still at the drawing board, as working-demo day approaches, rapidly.

September 26, 2003 in web design | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Mass Experience

My ears are numb.

Springsteen concert last night. Seats on the floor at the brand new stadium at Rentschler Field.

On a calm night before an expected hurricane, an unexpected hurricane of sound. I am rendered subverbal, fragmentary, still undulating in the layers of raspy vocals, hot greasy saxophone, myriad guitars, hyperbolic violin.

More when I remember how to speak.

September 19, 2003 in influences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


A course by any other name

As I've been developing and refining the materials for the course I've been calling "Dramatica Unbound" I find myself leaning towards a name change.

More and more, "unbound" seems an umbrella for everything I'm doing with the theory and software. As Armando Saldana Mora continues to write his handbook for using the software in screenwriting, debunking the theory's impenetrability as only he can, the Basics course I run seems less necessary. I will continue to add to it and support it, for the sake of all current clients, but, like my longtime correspondent and virtual colleague, I'm finding that it's time to move away from a strict defense of the theory as it was conceived. 'Unbound' has always meant many things: a play on the ethereal nature of online learning in general, a signal that my approach will be "off-book" on some points, and in general highlighting what is always my goal as a writing mentor: to free writers from what keeps them from the work.

As a "theory"--and I know some would dispute that it is a sufficiently academic aggregate of ideas to be called a theory--the cluster of ideas behind the software asks what a story is, why we tell stories, and in a sense, begs the question of why we tell certain stories over and over.

This is a point that has always interested me: why do we like certain stories so much, that we tell them over and over? I don't think it's laziness--though there are lazy artists and producers out there--anyway, this course, the one that will launch mid-October, is about using Dramatica for adaptation or re-telling, which is, in my opinion, where the theory is most practical. My approach will be "off-book", but perhaps more prescribed in its outline than the title "unbound" would suggest. I'm thinking of calling the thing Dramatica Retold.

September 15, 2003 in dramatica | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Face of a course blog

Well, I have the interface for the Unbound course nearly finished:


The menu for navigation drops down from where it says "seminar links":


Now to get to work on populating pages and integrating with TypePad....

September 12, 2003 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Coding like Oscar Wilde

Ever feel like Oscar Wilde, who said, of a day's work:

"In the morning I put a comma in and in the afternoon I took it out."

I've been busy prototyping the Unbound course. It began as a strict variation of other Hit Those Keys identities, changed color schemes several times, and has gone from having a utilitarian jump menu to a nice dhtml dropdown.

I am absurdly pleased with the logo:


By the way, if anyone has been dogging my pages for news of this course, yes, it is still a go for mid-October. Email me at unbound [at] hitthosekeys [dot] com to discuss if it's a good option for you.

September 11, 2003 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


snippets, modules & notes

More digital housekeeping...

After a bit of a hiatus from Tinderbox I've opened it up again and am using it to organize ALL the text from my various Hit Those Keys sites. Up until now, I haven't felt that strong a need to have a central container for this text, (which is a hefty amount, if you include my hidden sites that only clients see, I have over 300 pages out there...) but I am coming around to the view that to manage it all this is exactly what I need to do.

My first encounter with Tinderbox led to my starting Wild Keys: most blogging tools were too generic to be part of a site I had gone to a fair amount of trouble to design. Movable Type would have been an appealing option, but my current web host doesn't let us work under the hood as much as MT requires. So Tinderbox and the weblog templates let me figure out the anatomy of a blog and how the parts might fit together. So I cobbled together comments from one place and site stats from another and started manually maintaining my new, frequently changing, pages.

Enter TypePad. So cool, TypePad. Open up those Advanced Templates and go to town. The template codes turn out to be fairly easy to figure out (not so different from Tbox codes) and although it's still disconcerting not to have a view of my site structure and directories, I find I'm able to keep a fairly good mental map of it all.

All this makes my newsgroup languish--such old, dull, technology!--and, except for email, do I really need my virtual account? Mmm. Well, right now I can use it as a testing server for sites I design for other people. But that function might have a more economical alternative. Email I could get through my domain registrar....

I wonder, how much of Hit Those Keys could run through TypePad? Nearly all, I'm thinking.

But to do it and still retain my own "look", I have to start thinking in snippets, modules & notes... I have to start thinking of bits of text as discreet objects and store them for ideal retrieval.

It had been that I thought I did too much post-production tweaking to use Tinderbox as a site maintenance tool. (I've always loved it as a brainstorming tool.) Now, as I've gained more experience with templates and css, I think it is going to be the perfect site companion.

September 9, 2003 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Plate Spinning

This is the week where I could have used some exciting plan for the kids. They are enjoying their desultory downtime before their school starts next week, but in the meantime their parents are already trying to set all the Fall things in motion.

I hate being late with things and I am late with a great many at the moment. Client feedback, a contract that was supposed to go out yesterday, sitework. I'm not fast enough moving from pole to pole, getting those distant plates spinning again before the nearer ones start to topple...

I hope this doesn't mean I'm going to be saying "my dog ate it" for the whole rest of the year. (It doesn't matter how valid, pressing, or out-of-one's-personal control a reason is -- to the person who's waiting, it all sounds like "my dog ate it.")

September 3, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Safari Bug?

Liz and Mena have been talking about a bug in Safari's form-posting that allowed Liz to inadvertantly propagate a spam comment into a post. I wonder if this is the same beastie that has swallowed several of my templates? If Safari capriciously highlights stuff in the form field(s) that we wouldn't expect, the weird scramble-on-saves I've experienced might be part of the same thing.

Back to IE?

September 3, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Happy New Year

Contrary to what the calendar says, the New Year does not come in ice, when December slips darkly into January.

The New Year is something that happens in September, when kids and teachers go back to school and everyone is all shiny and new and full of resolutions. The New Year is all about lunchbags, bookpacks, new shoes, sharp pencils.

This year the last few days of August were as perfect as late summer days can be: cloudless azure skies, the leaves on the buckeye tree already crumpling and falling, but everything else still green and crisp and colorful.

September 1 brought abrupt, chilly rain, as if summer had been turned off with a switch. In a way I don't mind; that day in September two years ago was like this year's last few days of August -- cloudless, purest blue -- and yet, as we saw, not tranquil. It seems right, this year, that the transition from the loose, elastic summer-time to the measured, bell-toned school-time be clearly demarcated.

Today is still rainy, but not disagreeable. Students have been moving into dorms all day and our dogs have yipped themselves hoarse greeting all the strangers. The first of three girls who will live with us has arrived from Singapore and is performing the yearly trick of seeing how many belongings will fit in one small room. Piled in boxes and suitcases, her things clearly take up more volume than the room itself contains. Somehow, though, the room is absorbing all those folded shirts and desk lamps and clocks and extra packs of Kleenex and containers of Snack Attack rations and stuffed toys from childhood. The Three Graces, the young lady's mother and two aunties, have been fluttering their small, perfect hands over these objects and the objects have responded by obediently tucking themselves into drawers and closets.

Two more girls move in tomorrow and we will have a full house: four Firkes, two dogs and three students. We are not a dorm, but rather a hybrid -- a private faculty residence, plus students.

Last week's faculty dinners and cookouts began, along with the buckeye tree, to signal the change of seasons. For Don, autumn doesn't usually start to have savor until he's taught his first class, which won't be until Saturday. For me, the new year starts today, with this annual ritual where our house, which all summer has seemed full, somehow opens itself to receive more. Like the house, I have to perform the same trick.

September 3, 2003 in dailiness | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Gaslighting a blog

Well, I went back and put back all the formatting that some glitch or other had removed and everything TypePad worked perfectly. All to reinforce the notion that I'm a crazy neep who can't code her way out of a paper bag and make me look foolish in front of tech support.

Wild Keys was going to shift over today, but I lost time restoring this blog, so it will be a bit longer. I'm also keeping me ears open for news about how the domain mapping feature might work. I don't want to promote a new url if I can keep the old one.

September 1, 2003 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack