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Monday, February 26, 2007

Anatomy of a Blog Template

I know most of you probably won't find this very interesting but I thought I would share a few tricks that I use in my Blogger and Wordpress layouts. I believe that most people think that the vertical and horizontal lines on the background of the pages that I draw actually "hold" the text areas in place. Well, that's completely untrue in a CSS (cascading style sheets) layout, I can put the text anywhere on the page. It is true however when using a table based layout. With CSS you can place the text virtually anywhere you want on the page, the images are just there as a background decoration.

This is a Blogger template I'm working on today for my friend Desy over at Afro Nerd. He liked the first one so much he wants me to build another and set him up with a theme switcher, so visitors can switch the themes back and forth.

The first image is the original comic book cover he wanted used, but it needed a lot of Photoshop editing to make it useable. Once I was done editing the text and cropping out the unwanted sections, I drew up the entire page layout around the image, which you can see in this second image.

That image is the entire page including the heading text but it isn't quite ready for use yet, it has to be sliced up into 3 pieces to make up the different sections of the page. There's the header (top section), the content (middle section that can expand up and down as the page gets longer) and the footer to dress out the bottom of the page.

In the next 3 images you can see what each piece looks like after it's all chopped up and ready for use.
This is the header below:

The very narrow strip that makes up the center or content section actually "tiles" in all the way down the page as far as it needs to to fill out the page. Anything thicker would just be a waste of bandwidth and take longer to load.

This is the center section below:

This is the footer below:

And the footer image just caps off the ends of the columns to give the page a cleaner, finished appearance. A lot of designers leave that out and just let the columns run right off the page. That's personal preference though, most people probably never scroll all the way to the bottom anyway. Sometimes, I insert small "surprise" images in the footer to go with the theme.

There are several tricks involved in using this method to do page layouts and not too many people do it this way. I like it because it allows me to use subtle shadows and glows and complex borders and I can simulate a more 3 dimensional aspect to the layout. This helps achieve a more dynamic affect with higher visual impact. And you'll notice that it easily allows me to put the action figures in this example, in poses that makes it look like they're stepping out of the frames and overlapping into sections that you wouldn't normally see. However, a very attractive blog or web page can be built without using any images at all. Background colors and borders can all be written into the code to set the overall appearance.

If you'll notice, the sidebar will have to come way up and over the right hand side of the heading image so that it ends up just under the red title "Afro Nerd". I'll use negative top margin numbers to pull that text up to precisely where I want it within a single pixel of accuracy.

Personally, I just enjoy manipulating images in Photoshop and bringing them to life on the web, It's a lot of fun. The very first thing I do to start a design is draw up the entire page background before I write any of the code. That's just the way I do it! Hope I didn't bore you guys too much!
Monday, February 19, 2007

A Little More Like This...

I'm all over the map today and I'm so busy with blog orders I can't hardly see straight. My buddy Johnny Dain has a very funny take on Britney Spears shaving her head. He thinks she's a Klingon and I think he might be right, he has pictures to prove it! He's got quite a warped sense of humor, kinda like me. LOL I did the design for his website a while back. I just wish he would post more often.

A while back Wal-Mart stole nearly $300 from my bank account by using a Mastercard debit card number that I had once used for a legitimate purchase. The billing didn't list any items purchased, just money "removed" very weird! I knew immediately it had to be someone on the store end that got into my account info because that card has never been out of my possession and to use it even online you have to have the card in hand for the 3 digit security number on the back. That means the only way they could have gotten that number was through the Wal-Mart records. I disputed it and the money was returned about a week later. My bank told me that Wal-Mart had 45 days to dispute the charge back. I kept worrying that they would give me trouble over it but I finally got notice that the grace period was passed. So I guess I get to keep MY frikkin' money, how nice of the bastards! It was a relief though, I just wish I could press charges for the theft. Can I send Wal-Mart to jail? Now that would be cool!

It's Mardi Gras here, ho-hum... LOL I have yet to go to a parade, maybe I will this weekend. I've been enjoying the King Cakes though, damn those things are so good! Chewy and gooey and delicious, just what I need for my expanding waist line. Don't swallow the plastic baby inside!

I was going thru some of my photos and came across a few that I took in New York on one of my visits to see Lisa. I don't think I ever posted them. One night we went out to watch Deni of Last Girl on Earth blog play at a gay bar near downtown New York City. They were having some kind of gay, wacky costume contest and not only was Deni playing violin but she was one of the judges of the contest. That contest was strange! The bar was strange, everything was strange! I just stayed real close to Lisa and luckily no one hit on me LOL Now that I think back about it, should I be insulted? Hmmm. We actually had quite a good time, but I don't think I would go back. hehehe

That was pretty much one of the coolest violins I've ever seen and she really can play it too! I'm looking forward to my next trip to visit Lisa and Deni and hopefully Julie too, I hope to go sometime soon.

See ya'll!! =)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Too Cold For You?

UPDATE: We had a tornado blow through the New Orleans area last night that did a lot of damage but I'm fine, it didn't hit us directly. It passed about 5 miles away, the sound of the winds woke me up about 3am, very spooky! We now return you to the regularly scheduled post...

I've noticed a lot of people complaining about the deep freeze going on around most of the country, but not here! It has been so warm here lately that more often than not I'm running the A/C just to stay cool. Being that It's January and February, that sucks! Big ones! I hope that doesn't mean we're going to have a hotter than usual spring and summer ahead. I would rather be cool than hot, given the choice.

The old microwave oven, not really that old, unless you consider 5 yrs as "old" took a dump last week and refused to work. It was a pretty nice model, but it got replaced with a new one that had a burning problem, and I don't mean the food. It smelled like the innards were smoldering, like an electrical fire was going to break out at any minute. I'm not going to mention the brand name (Panasonic) but after a few days, it went back to the store for a different brand after it was realized that the acrid burning smell was getting worse. I hate having to stand by with a fire extinguisher when ever I nuke something, don't you?

The new one features some cool whiz-bang controls and does a great job, you can start this stainless-steel clad beauty up with one button push, as opposed to two on the old one. Yeah, I can just imagine the lectures... "When I was a kid, we used to have to push TWO buttons on our microwaves to heat things up. You kids today only have to push ONE. You don't know what hard work is!!"

I had a pretty nice, older Kenwood home stereo system for sale in the local paper last week. It was a receiver, 5 disc CD player and a double cassette recorder, yeah that's how old it was, freakin' cassettes. But it had remote control and it was all in awesome condition, and looked beautiful, sold the whole lot for $70. I was shocked when I learned that the girl that bought it didn't give a rats ass whether it worked or not. Just so long as it had a handsome face. It was going to become part of a movie set and wasn't even going to be plugged in. Yeah, maybe my old stereo system is gonna be famous! Maybe win an Oscar for best movie prop or sumshit, who knows? At least it can't give a long winded speech... I'll keep you guys posted...

This is one of the funniest things I've seen lately, a carbon-monoxide detector with a snooze button...

Like the new template? It's one of my creations called "Harley Grafitti" and it's a free download over at my "Free Blogger Skins" web site, yeah I give this shite away. The site has become pretty popular, get's thousands of hits daily which is pretty cool. I just thought it would be different to use one of my own freebies. LOL

The Scientific Blogging community web site is doing pretty good. It's still in beta phase but it already has some world class, famous scientific "egg head" types writing articles. Good stuff too, these guy are frikkin' schmart! I'm the official "design manager" and an admin over there. Yeah, I get to lord over a bunch of scientists. Hey! I don't like that article... "delete" LOL No, not really. I did the entire site design and layout. Cool huh? Got a hankering for some killer science, articles about global warming? Get over there and "bone" up. You can also create a personal account and get your own free science blog on the site as a columnist. How cool is that? The articles must be about science, although there is a "humor" category under "Culture".

Hope you guys are havin' a butt-kickin' weekend! =) Stay warm, or cool, or whatever...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

dancin' with gators - redux

Sorry folks, I'm still not feeling very well and I just heard from my doctors office this morning that I have to stay off the chemo for another 2 weeks because of severe anemia before I can continue with the injections, which sucks! So near yet so far. All I've got is a rerun of one of my favorite posts. Enjoy!

Take a bunch of cajuns, a fast boat, some waterskis and a rope and douse liberally with beer and booze and what have you got? A buncha crazeez that will do almost anything! One of our favorite pastimes was cruisin' out in a boat and finding an area where there were several alligators laying in the water near the bank. They were not hard to find at all, as they are quite plentiful. I lived in a small town named Theriot on Bayou du'Large, and I had a small house right on the waterway with about 100ft of waterfront. It had a really great view of the Intracoastal Inland Waterway and was basically slap in the middle of the swamps.

The way we played dancin' with gators was to try to hit a gator in the head with your ski or skis without falling. Yes, it does take quite a bit of nerve to purposely antagonize alligators, and be right there in the water with said gator, thats where the alcohol comes in. Actually hitting one was quite difficult because they can move or submerge a lot faster than you might think and they were really just as afraid of you as people are afraid of them. The big exception is during the time when female gators are guarding a nest of eggs, then you better be prepared to be chased or attacked. And you definitely did not want to step on one in the middle of a moonless night while out in the swamp, frog hunting, but that's a whole 'nother story.

The trick was to have someone in the boat spot ahead for a target (sleepy alligator) and point it out to you while you were being towed. The driver of the boat would then swing around in a u-turn so you could swing way out at very high speed and come around fast enough that the gator was taken totally by surprise. As I said, this was very difficult because they are quite wary of human presence but not so much afraid of boats because they pass constantly. What they are not used to however, is a crazee cajun with boards on his feet, swinging in for a kill at 50+ mph! Doing this was some of the best fun I have ever had. I never hit one myself although I tried quite a few times.

I can only recall one really good hit and that was by a buddy named Badeaux (bad-o) who crashed so hard in to the head of one that it made him flip over because his ski came to a dead stop and he kept going! He was now in the water with one VERY angry gator and he scrambled up on to the bank and ran like a mad dog. The gator meanwhile was actually scared as hell and took off up the bank and disappeared in to the swamp. Badeaux thought it was chasing him though and we kept yelling at him to run. Everytime he slowed down when he thought he was in the clear we started shouting "there it is, it's right behind you!!" from the boat and he would run some more. We kept this up until we thought he was gonna die from exhaustion and we were just dying from laughing so hard.

We nicknamed Badeaux "gator bait" and everyone called him that for years and probably still do to this day. I also had a "pet" gator for a while. He would swim by the house almost everday and beg for handouts, and we would usually toss him a hotdog or anything else we might throw from the fridge. We named him "Jaws" of course but he was fairly small and still quite young maybe 4 ft long or so. I have lived in some really cool places and living out on the bayou in southern Louisiana was one of the better places.

Have a great weekend everyone!