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Switching gears

Chimney Rock, Jtree
Chimney Rock, Jtree

I’m back at work from my Winter Break. I have one class this quarter. The reasons for my low class load are complicated, and best not discussed here. I can say however that enrollment at our college is down 14% across all programs. Enrollment in state technical colleges like ours is directly related to unemployment, which is also very low at 5%.  The one class I do have is fully enrolled. I love sharing my passion for the internet and all the clever things you can do with code.

Because of my reduced class load, I’ve decided to stop painting and focus my energies on web design, which has a better chance of earning me money in the short term. Painting full time was a dream I’d always wanted to pursue. And over the last year I got that chance. True, I was working 2 days a week, but that left 5 to paint, and I painted a lot…to the point where making art felt like work. Doing it full time literally took the fun out of it. I felt like every painting had to suceed because of that burning pressure to get good enough for a big show in a gallery.  Many, many of my paintings were just plain bad. In my wifes words: “A sixth grader could paint that”.

Chimney Rock, Jtree
Chimney Rock, Jtree

I did do some really nice work, and I treasure those moments of happiness when my paintings were going well and I knew I had a winner. But I never felt they were good enough for  a large gallery. I think a couple years in a fine art program would do the trick, but I really can’t afford to pull that money out of my savings…especially without a guarantee of sucess.  So for now at least, I’m spending my days off  studying new web technologies, and  updating my front end web skills to current standards. I’m not that far off, but my website definitely needs an overhaul.

I have a working demo here, but I can’t link to it because it’s been taken apart when the site when live. (edit 2-27-15)

It is fully responsive to changes in the viewport width, and features some unique transitions between thumbnails and full size images. I used to use a prebuilt jquery slideshow plugin. However this new webpage uses a thumbnail function that I wrote almost entirely from scratch. I’m still working some bugs out, but it’s been lot of fun creating a gallery page using my own code and ideas.

Specifically, the two main new functions I’m using are flexbox and column-count. They enable me to have variable height thumbnails that wrap in columns. I merged that concept with parent columns built with flexbox, and have nailed the classic: “In search of the holy grail of web design“…without using floats, or positioning.

In case you don’t know, the holy grail  in web design is to get 2 fixed width columns on left and right, with an expanding liquid center. It’s easy enough to do with floats and positioning. Since tables died out, I’ve been teaching that style of interface design for 10 years.

I’d been hearing from my students that there were new technologies coming online that made it easier. Things like the grid systems, and prebuilt web aplications like WordPress, which I use to manage this bog. They manage the columns for you, so you can concentrate on content.

But when I heard from a student last quarter about Flexbox, I decided it was worth a look.  I studied a couple training lessons at www.lynda.com and realized the browsers had finally matured enough to support real graphic design style column functionality.

I’ve got that nailed down pretty tightly, and I’ve got it fully responsive.

My Christmas break was super fun, and we had a great time down in jtree this year. Here are a few pictures, including recent backcountry snowcave camping trip. We got back from Cali’, and immediately went snowcamping.

Chimney Rock, Joshua Tree
Chimney Rock, Joshua Tree
Me climbing F8, Joshua Tree
Me climbing F8, Joshua Tree
Sue in the Iron Door cave, Joshua Tree
Sue in the Iron Door cave, Joshua Tree
Craig playing banjo on top of Chimney Rock, Joshua Tree
Craig playing banjo on top of Chimney Rock, Joshua Tree
Craig leading with his banjo, Joshua Tree
Craig hiking to the top with his banjo, Joshua Tree
Sue following a 5.8, Joshua Tree
Sue following a 5.8, Joshua Tree
Me with my painting New Years day 2016, Joshua Tree
Me with my painting New Years day 2016, Joshua Tree
Sue digging the snow cave
Sue digging the snow cave
Sue at our snow cave
Sue at our snow cave
My daughter cooking dinner
My daughter cooking dinner
Coffee is ready
Coffee is ready