Another excuse

If you need one more excuse to make the trip to visit Mariposa Baking Company in Oakland, here you go:

The Wine Mine, next door to Mariposa, now carries Green’s Beers. I have written about Green’s in an earlier post, and they are terrific (albeit expensive) choices for gluten-free beer lovers.

Mariposa remains the one spot in the Bay Area that I can sit and have coffee and a pastry and feel like a normal human. While there, I noticed three bottles of Green’s sitting on the counter with a note stating that they were available for sale next door. I asked about ’em and they said the Wine Mine would open at 11. I’d definitely wait around for that.

I’m a fan of good, cheap wine finds, and it just so happens that The Wine Cave specializes in this realm. Awesome – I now have two reasons to come to this part of Oakland now. Met Dave, the proprietor, and he gave me a brief description of where things were at in the shop. Saw some of my favorite Shiraz varietals and picked up a Cab/Shiraz blend from Jip Jip Rocks of Australia on Dave’s recommendation plus a few bottles of Green’s of course, and had a nice look around. The shop is full of great finds, and a quick scan found many of the excellent and inexpensive wines that I have identified through prior trials.

Apparently Dave is hosting wine tastings from 2 to 5 on Saturdays. This sounds like a good opportunity to discover some new wines and maybe grab a slice of gluten-free pizza and a week’s supply of bagels next door beforehand. Time permitting (cough, cough), I’m going to try and make some of these events.

It occurs to me that when one business advertises the relevant products for a business next door, both benefit. A symbiosis is created – a hyperlink from business A to business B – and I now have all the more reason to visit both stores. I think more of these “real world hyperlink” techniques should be employed in neighborhood business networks, because I think there is a model here to help small businesses thrive through active cooperation. Brick-and-mortar shops are almost by definition stovepipe solutions for commerce. Active cross-pollination of each others’ relevant products could rekindle the local small business concept. Even direct competitors could benefit: Highlight what each other is lacking and fill in the respective voids to build and refine your niche markets. [How’s that for a bunch of annoying, vapid marketing buzzwords?!? Get out your Bingo cards… ;-)]

Dogs and cats, living together. Mass hysteria.

Wha?

There has always been somewhat of a dichotomy in the world of web professionals between design & development.

Designers do their thing making pretty pictures, drinking cocktails at lunch, having social cliques, and little romances within the group. They frolic away in the meadows of Photoshop and Dreamweaver Design View, paying little attention to the nuances of the mechanical underpinnings of their creations. Or so I hear…

Meanwhile, the code monkeys toil away in the dark, unseen from the public eye, in caverns and closets and in back alleys where you dare not travel. Typically found unshaven in the wild, they hack away in text editors such as TextMate and Vim, write their code from scratch, and make jokes about algorithms in C in an Erkel-esque voice from behind Coke-bottle glasses. (Mexican Coke bottles, since apparently north of the border we’ve lost our flair for nostalgia and authenticity and now mostly distribute the plastic bottles which are unfit for ocular correction.)

I’ve had this debate at least six or seven times in my career, in some form or other, about this separation of church and state. Oil and water. Dogs and cats.

Stephanie Sullivan recently wrote this:

The root of my story and my point is — it’s the rare individual that has all the strengths needed for one web site. It’s the team that matters. Should everyone have a basic understanding of the other member’s jobs? How they work? What they can accomplish. Oh yes. Absolutely. Should they be able to do them? That’s just ludicrous. Absolutely not. Surround yourself with people more brilliant than yourself. Always learn. Work hard. You, and those around you, will be enormously successful.

Now granted, she’s posting this in response to the guys at 37signals, who by definition are an opinionated group making opinionated software. That’s why their stuff is so great – they set some constraints and they live by ’em. I’m not sure which posts she was referring to, but this could be one of ’em. And this is true. Designers who have strong developer kung fu are better designers for it. And developers who understand the issues of design are correspondingly empowered.

But I tend to agree with Stephanie. The reality of it is that there are a wide variety of personality types out there, and that translates into varying abilities and motivations for crossing over into the design or development realms one way or another. As a musician, I myself come from a deeply creative side (with some early code hacking expertise in the Atari days,) but have come around to being mostly a developer at this point in my career. I draw heavily on my design background when working today. But I certainly would want to get a good, web-experienced designer on my project. And I think that’s where the core of the debate has led to: Web designers who understand The Code create designs that make better sense within the constraints of the digital medium, and understand what the user interface objects are that the web-surfing masses are familiar with. Conversely, pencil-necked code monkeys understanding design principles won’t shackle their creations with masses of cruft and flotsam just because it worked 9 years ago and why not copy/paste that in?

There are so many faceted roles now applied to the web production line. We are all part designer, part coder, part marketing stooge, part librarian. There is no escaping that. But if the Industrial Revolution has taught us anything, it is that things will continue to specialize in the name of efficiency and progress. Multitasking sucks. For some of us (moi,) it sucks more than for others. It takes time for the brain to switch gears between the too-sexy-for-my-shirt design aesthete and the l33t h4x0r. Throw having to be a project manager, writer, or manager into the mix and you get all kinds of crazy flying around.

My take on it all is: Embrace what you are good at. Do what your passion dictates. Challenge yourself frequently, but never lose sight of your foundation. If your foundation migrates, then great! But always be aware of yourself and live in The Nowβ„’. If you do what you love, you are more likely to get good at it, more likely to stick with it for the long term, and good things will tend rise up around you.

Browser Joy

Downloaded Firefox Three Point Oh this evening and I must say I’m impressed. Last check was a few beta revisions ago, and this is much improved in the one area I am most concerned with: stability. I have been running it all evening and she’s been perfectly stable so far.

PPK has posted a quick roundup of the current browser state of affairs today. Seems we have beta 2 of IE8 due out in August, which is good because I don’t want to deal with it until then. πŸ˜‰ Of course Firefox 3 is out and looking fabulous, and a Firefox 3.1 alpha is now available with alleged full CSS3 selector support. Safari 4 is a developer preview, and Opera 9.5 is already live.

So the great news is, things are not stagnant – things are moving forward at a lovely clip. IE6 is soon to be ancient history – two revisions old – and the rest of the browser market is vibrant and embracing standards and innovating on coolness all around.

Gruber has noted that when you hit the Firefox 3 page you get a comparison with Safari if you’re on Mac, and other users seem to be getting the IE to FF comparison.

Most of my essential plugins are working great. There is a Firebug 1.1 beta available on the releases page if you’re missing that. ScribeFire and the del.icio.us plugins seem to be fine and really the del.icio.us plugin wins in the most improved category. Still no HTML Validator yet for Mac, but I’ll be watching the skies on that one…

OK back to to practicing…

Taking a little break

The past three years have been grueling. Working full time, taking classes towards a masters degree, and being a dad all at the same time was taking a toll. The last few months were especially interesting since I was working on a book project on top of everything.

Well, life has returned to a new kind of normal for the past couple of weeks, and it is good to have a little free time again. The masters degree is done – I am now a graduate of of the University of Denver in computer information systems, with concentration in web design and development. And the book is done – an introductory guide to standards-based web development. More on the book details in a later post…

So it is nice to experience a little rest for a change. I actually have had time to relax a bit and get back in touch with cooking, taking the kids on excursions to places like zoo and the Exploratorium, reading a geek book or two that I actually want to read, and of course practicing.

Hey, perhaps I’ll even have more time to post items here in the ‘ol blog! But don’t hold your breath… πŸ˜‰