Benefits of growing older

yep, that's meYep, that’s me–all wrinkled up like a Shar-pei. Ah, to have the life of a dog, a flappy-skinned little Shar-pei. But when you’re a wrinkled old biddy like me, people don’t run up to you, scratch behind your ears, and exclaim, "Aren’t you just the cutest thing!"

All those wrinkles are no doubt increased because you just can’t sleep as much as you used to when you get older. So much less beauty sleep is bound to have an effect, right?

I’m currently working on a project with some folks two time zones to the West of me. Today I got up at 4 a.m. and sat down at the computer to work. By 8 a.m. I had half a day’s work done, and my co-workers weren’t even out of bed yet. I thought that opening your eyes, wide awake and ready to rock, at 4 a.m. was a drawback, a handicap.

Yesterday, however, I heard a story about a woman who turned the peculiar sleep needs of the aging into a boon. She gets along fine on a couple of hours sleep now and then, so she hires herself out to sleep with newborns. She spends the night in the baby’s room and crawls out of bed to feed and change the little darling as needed. Mom and dad wake refreshed in the morning to take over. During the day she is busy living her normal life. She sleeps with the baby until it is sleeping through the night, then moves on to a different newborn.

From the perspective of a teacher, I’ve seen some interesting people in my classroom. Some of them are pliable and do things exactly the way you instruct. Some of them maintain their own peculiarities in spite of everything that happens around them. They have their own ideas about what makes sense as web navigation, what looks good on a web page, what uses the web can be put to. It doesn’t hurt teachers to get the occasional reminder that what seems to be a handicap or a problem can often turn into a good thing. Success comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s good to trust that even the average student may find a way to make life sing using the skills learned in your classroom; unless, of course, they’re sleeping in class.

Personal Reflections

I don’t get no respect, to quote a well-known comedian. Have I made a difference in spite of that?

I’ve been reflecting on the success of my book, which I hoped some colleges would use as an instructional text in basic HTML classes. I’m running with some very big name competition in my effort to gain a foothold in this field. There are highly successful people writing about the same thing I’m writing about–Liz Castro’s HTML book has been a best-seller for years, Eric Meyer has published umpteen books so valuable that he has reached deity status in the area of CSS, Molly Holzschlag has written 30 books on this topic, Lynda Weinman is a whole industry unto herself with books, movies, and CDs that top the charts.

All that makes me one little no-name author with a single book, not so much about a technology, but about how that technology should be taught. As a writer, it feels like being in a bike race with Lance Armstrong.

And yet…and yet.

I see changes in the publications coming out in this field now. New books are moving the chapters teaching the deprecated HTML to the back of the book, instead of teaching it first. New books, in addition to mine, are appearing with both HTML and CSS in the title. Molly released one recently. The CSS Hands on Training book from is being written by Eric Meyer. Hopefully, that means no more gawd-awful table structures, font tags mingled with inappropriate CSS, and other "Code View" horrors that were the hallmarks of the Dreamweaver Hands of Training books for quite a while. Liz Castro’s last book, a two chapter masterpiece in Peachpit’s Visual QuickProject series, taught HTML and CSS simultaneously.

Does anyone besides me remember that I was a voice in the wilderness saying that’s the way it ought to be done for a long time before things finally began to change? I don’t think so. I think people have decided that it is so obviously the right way to do things that everyone is doing it now because it is obviously right. Okay, I can accept that. I can live with the idea that I don’t get no respect. It is enough to hold on to the knowledge as a secret satisfaction that I made a small measure of difference in the pedagogy of teaching HTML and CSS. When you are as introverted as I am, secret satisfactions do just fine.

Italian Photography and Journaling adventures

anonymous tourist by windows

I just returned from three weeks in Italy taking a Photography and Journaling class at La Romita School of Art near Terni. The instructors were Helen Gwinn and Lynette Watkins, both accomplished fine artists. I learned a lot about composition, line, texture, color, and how to be more successful with my camera in this class, and I got to see a lot of Italy in the process. I’m going to use some of my photographs as background images on my home page, which is badly in need of a makeover. Here’s a sample photo.

Publication Day for Integrated HTML and CSS

Integrated HTML and CSS: A Smarter, Faster Way to Learn by Virginia DeBoltCelebration time! Today is the eagerly awaited publication day for Integrated HTML and CSS: A Smarter, Faster Way to Learn. I wrote the book based on several years of teaching HTML and CSS at the college level.

The other books available for teaching HTML generally teach you all about HTML first and all about CSS later. I believe that the two go hand-in-hand and should be learned at the same time. There are several reasons I chose this approach:

  • Almost the instant that students manage to get one word to appear on a web page, they start demanding to know how to make it look better: how to change the color or the font or the placement. The only way to meet those demands with standards-based code is by using CSS.
  • Having the awareness of what you intend to do with CSS as you create XHTML helps you write web pages that are CSS-ready. It helps you structure your pages with various hooks, handles, and holders meant for styling with CSS.
  • Learning to write XHTML with CSS in mind helps you design pages that work in modern browsers, download quickly, are accessible, and hold up well over time. These are design skills that help students when they reach the job market.

This book is for beginners in HTML and CSS, or for people who already know HTML but are beginners at CSS. My great hope for the book is that teachers and students will find it valuable.


I’m grateful for many things on this Thanksgiving Day: most importantly the family and friends that fill my life. I’m thankful to be in good health and able to do for myself those simple tasks that consititute everyday life.

It’s probably completely weird of me, but I’m thankful for something that most people don’t care about at all: HTML and CSS. Not the book I’ve got coming out in December (although I am certainly thankful about that) but the subject of HTML and CSS as a fascinating mental pursuit. I don’t know what it is that makes people become hooked on a topic to the point that they want to endlessly know more and more about it. For some people its coin collecting, or baseball stats, or salsa dancing. For me, its “View Source” and code views. I’m not a computer geek, I don’t understand programming. My background is in education and writing. But somehow this HTML and CSS thing got my full attention and I’ve been having a ball with it for several years.

There’s a TV show called “It’s Good to Be…” where they dissect how good it is to be whoever because they make a lot of money. When I watch it I think about things like Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson: a poem about a rich and admired man who commits suicide. It’s only money, people.

It’s good to be me today: good to have people I love who care about me in return, to be American and free, to be healthy, and to have a never ending source of interest in HTML and CSS.

Web Teacher to Write Student Edition for Dreamweaver MX Visual Quickstart Guide

After a happy collaboration with Peachpit Press for HTML for the World Wide Web with XHTML and CSS and author Elizabeth Castro on the Student Edition for that book, Web Teacher just signed on to write the Student Edition for another Peachpit Press book: Macromedia Dreamweaver MX for Window and Macintosh. The Dreamweaver MX Student edition is for the Visual Quickstart Guide by J. Tarin Towers.

The Student Editions contain a Student Study Guide within each chapter, providing Learning Objectives, Get Up and Running Exercises, Class Discussion Questions, and Review Questions. For instructors, Peachpit supplies a Visual QuickStart Guide Instructor Edition which provides the tools to help you guide and evaluate your students throughout your course. I’m writing this part of the Student Edition as well.

Accessibility and Web Design Tools

I have written elsewhere about choosing tools to make your efforts at designing for accessibility easier. However, since I wrote my article, the W3C has stepped up with Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. The guidelines give information about making the design tool itself accessible, and what the design tool should do to help the designer create accessible sites.