Theory and Practice

Octopressing My Blogivator

Last week, I changed the look of this blog. And I’ll be making more changes soon, including more frequent posts.

Along the new look is a new platform. I’ve moved away from Wordpress to the Jekyll-powered Octopress.

Why did I decide to drop Wordpress?

  1. Simpilicity
  2. Speed
  3. Control

In this case, the simplicity refers to serving the site. Wordpress is build on PHP and every page view required the server to dynamically render that page. I was using a caching plugin, of course, which reduced the need to dynamic requests. But with Octopress, the site is always static after deployment to the web server. This makes for a faster, cleaner, simpler setup.

I also went for more simplicity by reducing the amount of stuff being plugged in. Gone are the Twitter and Flickr feeds and the comments. From now on, it’s pure content.

The simplification leads to better speed. There’s less work for the server to do, and less work for browsers. And the increased use of mobile devices and a focus on performance by search engines reminds that speed matters.

Lastly, I wanted more control over every aspect of the blog. I’ve been tweaking at lot recently and I wanted to be able to do the same here. And I have never really enjoyed digging around in Wordpress templates or messing with PHP all that much. Octopress is much more hackable and lets me work with HTML, CSS, Javascript, Markdown and Ruby, tools that I love to work with.

Know that I’ve switched over to Octopress, I’ll be spending some time over the next few days getting the look and feel to be more personal. The default Octopress theme is fine, but it’s time to put my own aesthetic on what it basically my voice on the web.

And I’ll be trying to write everyday.

They Grow Up So Fast…

The tyke had her first day of kindergarten today.

We were watching some home movies the other day, videos from when Zoe was one, two, three years old. It’s amazing to watch these moments from just a few years ago and to see just how much she has grown up. I can still see traces of the baby and the toddler when I look at her, but the kid we sent off to school today is so much more.

The first day of school seems to have gone well. When I asked her what her favorite part of the day might have been, the answer I got was “all of it.” And I’m pretty sure she meant it. The pride on her face when she revealed that today she was the designated door holder was a thing of beauty. I can’t wait to see what other new experiences excite and inspire her in the coming days.

Today We Are Five

Zoe turned five to today. It’s hard to believe how much she has grown and how far she has come.

As she put it earlier today, “When you turn five, you get to be a whole hand!

Sleeping on the Ground

We just finished our second camping trip of the year, a visit to Meadowbrook Campground in Maine. We camped with some good friends, folks we’ve spent time with out in the woods before, including a semi-disastrous trip earlier this year. Unlike that trip, the mosquitoes did not come close to bleeding us out this time.

The site was pretty nice: a rocky hillside with a view of an old beaver pond. The pond was the kind of place I could hang out all day, full of cat willows and frogs, frequented by several of our New England birds and dozens of dragonfly species. And at night, the frog chorus was just the thing after a long day.

We spent most of Saturday at Popham Beach, one of the few true sand beaches in Maine. And it was spectacular. The breeze off the ocean, the cool water, the sunny day. Just the sort of thing.

Beyond the site, this was our first try with the new tent. It’s enormous compared to the old three person we’ve used for the past few years. It’s a double-domed tent from LL Bean; it’s technically sleeps four, but there’s an integrated screen tent on the front. It was nice to be able to set move all of our gear into the tent and standing up to change was a huge plus over the old shimmy-and-pull. But the thing is pretty darn big and setting it up is a two-person task, no doubt.

We’ve taken a little side-trip on the way home, stopping in to see the in-laws, take a dip in the pole at their park and provide some technical support. And then it’s home to get ready for the week.

I really feel like a need a real vacation, but it was great to get away.

Iterating, Iterating, Iterating

I have been messing with the layout and design of, working little by little to improve the overall feeling of the site. I decided to take a “release early and often” approach, updating not just the code by the live site pretty much as soon as I made a new change. The result has been a relatively rapid evolution over the past few days.

The layout has undergone some tweaks to implement a responsive design that will work well across a range of devices and browser configurations. The design was already responsive to some extent, but after reading Ethan Marcotte’s handy Responsive Web Design, I decided that I could do more.

Feeling Crafty

My new denim iPad sleeve

We took a trip to D.C. in 2010, just a couple of days after I received my iPad. Of course, I didn’t want to be parted from my shiny new toy, but I hadn’t purchased anything to carry it in. So, the night before we flew out, I whipped up a simple sleeve using some craft foam left over scuba costume I’d built for the tyke the previous Halloween. Orange and black, machine stitched and suitably sturdy, I was pretty proud of my custom sleeve.

A T-Rex Dressed as a Fairy

A T-Rex dressed as a fairy

I love this latest artwork from the tyke. It captures exactly what I hope she will always have: a love of dinosaurs and fairies, all rolled up into one. The hard and the soft, blended to perfection.

Apple Device Relative Screen Sizes Redux

A few months ago I posted a showing the relative pixel dimensions of various Apple products. I created the graphic partially as an aid in my decision making process for buying a new MacBook Pro, but mostly because I feel a geeky compulsion to do it.

And now I’ve done a new version, available for anyone who might be interested.

A screenshot of the relative pixel dimensions page.

This time I did the whole this using plain old HTML and CSS. I used it as an opportunity to play around with a few CSS3 features, too. The means the it works best using a modern browser.

I also corrected some errors from the original, too.

If you find this useful, let me know.

Not With a Whimper, but a Bang

The last thing I expected for dessert was a 40 foot long tree trunk crashing into our tiny back yard.

The first sign that something was going on was a load “crack!”, followed by a series of sharp pops and bangs, and finally the unmistakable rustling and crashing cacophony of a tree falling to earth. We had just finished dinner, cleaning up the dining room table. Karen grabbed the tyke and hustled her into the kitchen. I’m not sure exactly what I did, but I recall that it was something lie jumping up and shouting “CRAP!” then scooting away from the back of the house.