Archive for December, 2007

This takes an unexpected twist towards the end. Link via Ellen.

During the holidays, there is naturally a lot of talk of gifts and giving in our household. Kate and I also talk a good deal about the traditions we grew up with as kids and which ones we want our family to continue. We also talk about creating new traditions that are unique to our growing family. Well, unique in the sense that neither Kate or I grew up with them.

Last year we decided that it was important to include charitable giving into our holiday rituals. There are so many good charitable organizations out there, and we just can’t afford to give all the money that we would like to all of them (no, becoming a platinum member of the Hokie Club does not qualify as “charity”). So we decided to do a charitable lottery, of sorts.

Before Christmas day, each person in our family gives some thought to the charities to which they would like to donate. On Christmas morning, before any gifts are opened, we write down the names of the charities, put them in a hat, and each person gets to pull out one charity. We then send a donation to each charity that gets pulled. Once a charity has been selected, they are omitted from the drawing the next year.

In addition to being a fun tradition (everybody gets to kind of “root” for their charities to get picked), it’s also an attempt to mitigate the three ring circus that Christmas has become. I won’t be so hypocritical as to say we don’t enjoy giving and receiving gifts, but I want to try to help my kids understand that there are folks who need gifts that are so much more important than a Wii. Or a bicycle. Or a book.

I don’t mean this to be a “look at us we’re so great” post. Please don’t, because we certainly aren’t. I mainly wanted to ask for additional ideas for charitable giving. Anything is up for grabs. Get creative. List your favorite charity in the comments, and they just might make it into this year’s hat. I’ll get the ball rolling with our three charities from last year, and those that are in the hat so far this year.

2006 Winners:

2007 “Nominees” so far:

I posted something similar last year, but this one is so much better, it deserves to get posted again. Merry Christmas!

Need charts for your website? Google makes it easy!

And the sad part is, my answer to that question is: “No, I don’t need charts for my website.” And I STILL think it’s cool. Ooooo. . . pretty pictures!

Part 4 of the Music-Slave.com 2007/2008 Redesign Series

Designing the Archive and Contact pages was challenging because of the limited content those pages will hold. Normally the challenge is to take a bunch of information and cram it into a limited amount of space in a way that it is usable and easily accessible. In this case, my challenge was to take a small amount of information and present it in a manner that was attractive without looking stark, while retaining the aforementioned usability and accessibility.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Let’s start with the archives. When I had initially thought about this page, I wanted to provide a calendar-like interface that the user could use to select posts from individual days. Then I thought about how I use blog archives. How often do I look at a specific day to find a post? Never. Chronologically, do I post
often enough to justify having archives go down to a daily level? Not really. Would a monthly archive be sufficient? Absolutely.

I have seen some effectively implemented monthly archives, and I particularly liked the way that the archives are laid out on Veerle’s site. I decided to use a form of that, although without the “show all content” and with the more recent dates on the right, as if to emulate a time line. While this navigation will work fine for a little while, I will need to find a way to let users browse posts further back than 4 years ago. As it stands, that’s not currently an issue. Talk to me at this time next year. While it was easy to generate this mockup, dynamically generating this content through WordPress may be a challenge.

In addition to accessing archives chronologically, I also want to be able to access posts grouped by tags. Right now, this is a simple list on the right hand side of the page, but eventually may become the “tag cloud” that has become popular. We’ll see.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Finally, there is the contact page. I want to provide a way for users to contact me via my Web site. I’ll provide my email address (taking care to hide it from spammers), as well as a form that users can use that will drop a note in my inbox. I may eventually need to put a CAPTCHA on the page to prevent spammers from using the form. I also felt that it was important to have a photo of me on this page, so people could actually see who they were contacting. I feel like it helps people connect a little better. I’m not a fan of posting my picture, so it took me a while to find one that was acceptable. I picked one that had a nice distraction in it, too. So hopefully people will look more at Simon than they do at me.I’ve got all the mockups for the new site complete and have started work on the HTML/CSS templates. I’ve also secured the domain name and hosting through DreamHost.com. I hope to have the new site ready and running by the new year, but with the holidays and all the traveling that I have planned, I think that may be overly ambitious. Look for the new site sometime in January.

A Winter WonderlandI went to take the trash out this evening, and the “1-2” inches of snow that the forecasters had predicted was at least 2-3 inches high, and coming down harder than it had all day. It was dark out, and very nearly past his bedtime, but I decided I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take Simon out for some fun in the snow.

We tromped around for 10 or 15 minutes, just walking and making snowballs. Well, I would make snowballs, then he would have fun throwing them and watching them break. Once I got Simon to the point where he was plenty cold (yet still a couple stages away from frostbite), we gave up for the evening. We were greeted by Kate with a nice warm mug of hot chocolate for Simon and a couple of doughnut holes as his dessert.

As mundane as it sounds, this will be one of my lasting memories from Simon’s childhood. At least, I think it will. You never do know what will stick in this noggin of mine. Here’s hoping I manage to hold onto this one.

Hot Chocolate

VT LogoI briefly interrupt the current series about the redesign to bring you this late-breaking news. The Hokies are the ACC Champs! Huzzah!

The last minute loss to BC back in October is that much more galling now. If the Hokies pull out that win, they might very well be playing for the National Championship. However, there is a possibility that I’m headed to FL for the Orange Bowl, so that will be fun times with the old roommate and a couple of other friends, if we land the tickets. Go Hokies! Beat Kansas!