Selfies from Around the World! …and home

Alright let’s make it a little weird! Here’s a gallery of a ton of selfies from over the years, trips around the world and some from just hanging around town. Most are of me, many of Corrie and I together and some just randomly snapped. Enjoy!

Some of My Favorite Web Design Books

These are a few of my favorite books on web design. I’m a huge fan of Dan Cederholm‘s writing and approach to crafting CSS and HTML; he’s not a half bad ukulele player either. I couldn’t find my copy of “Designing with Web Standards” Book by Jeffrey Zeldman, but at this point in the web design world, that book would probably be thicker than the phone book of a very large city.

P.U. The stinky, antiquated Yellow Pages.

Remember those? I always thought they of sort smelled weird. Was it the ink? Was it the paper? Was it the fact that they just threw it on the front doorstep outside my house in a bag? Sorry I digressed …that’s probably why Jeffery switched over to this new format of the “A BOOK APART LIBRARY“; otherwise today’s edition of “Designing with Web Standards” would be, no joke, probably eleven inches thick. As you might have seen from the featured photo, I nabbed the first two of probably many more ABA books so I can continue getting up to speed and staying on top of all things web design.

The “A Book Apart Library”
The “A Book Apart Library”

A little backtracking here but…Speaking of the smell of books, the good smelling book smell I mean, although I have the digital versions of “HTML5 for Web Designers” and “CSS3 for Web Designers” I also grabbed the hardcopies of them because – this is weird but I’m going to admit it – if you haven’t figured it out already, I love the smell of new books. The smell of old books isn’t bad either, but there’s something about new paper and fresh ink in a new book smell I can’t resist. Someone needs to make a candle or a perfume scent of that. Maybe they have, I’m too focused to ask Siri to google that right now. Anyway, although I’m all about minimizing stuff in our lives and I am finally starting to read more and more on my iPad Pro and Kindle, for some books it’s hard to compete with being able to quickly flip through a book and find what you are looking for – am I right? Plus, iPads and Kindles: they don’t have that book smell do they? They probably have scented cases. I need one. I wonder if people said this sort of thing about records, tapes or CDs? Probably not. Bookshops smell so good but last time I stepped into a music or a video store and took a deep breath, well, it wasn’t pretty. Blech!





WordPress Sites: Mobile Plugins vs. Responsive Design

The way people view and interact on the web has changed significantly in recent years; we’re not just sitting at our desks surfing the web on our computers anymore – we have truly gone mobile. Making web content available to anyone, on any device, is the name of the game and doing so is an all-around win. When websites meet accessibility standards, they widen our potential audience and engagement. Additionally, mobile-friendly sites are rewarded by search services. Google, for instance, gives preferential treatment to mobile-optimized sites, listing them over other sites that are not. Ensuring content is accessible by users on desktop computers, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, for the vision-impaired using screen readers, and now even car dashboards and whatever else is next – AR glasses and wristwatches – is essential. Being mobile-friendly is paramount because the more accessible and usable our websites are, the more people we are enabling to consume our content – which in turn means the potential for more traffic, more social shares, more email and/or blog subscribers…more students enrolling! By making our WordPress sites mobile-friendly we are taking the first step towards greater accessibility.

The End of Pinching, Zooming and Poking at a Website on Your Phone: Mobile Usability Options for WordPress

There are two main methods of going mobile with WordPress; the first and currently the most common is by installing a mobile plug-in such as Jetpack or WPtouch which enables your site to display a separate mobile-friendly theme when viewed from a mobile device. The other option  is to use a responsive theme that responds to the size of the viewport and adjusts accordingly.

I started with the latter, opting to install the default Twenty Seventeen theme and various other responsive themes to see how they would behave on my iPhone and iPad. Right from the first page load, I liked viewing and using the theme Twenty Seventeen more on my phone than in a desktop browser – the desktop versions almost seemed too large. The Twenty Seventeen theme was snappy and responded well to touch inputs. The layout of the menus and content looked natural and well thought out. As soon as the site popped up, it looked and felt very familiar, and I knew I was in the right place.

Next, I installed the Jetpack plug-in, activated it and headed back to the site on my phone. Jetpack actually does a nice job of creating a navigation menu, formatting the text and content, but it looks and feels like a different website because much of the styling, colors, fonts and typefaces are replaced with generic settings. Jetpack (and WPtouch) offer experiences that are much better than being relegated to swiping all over the page to see the content you are trying find but something seems to be missing. While these plug-ins absolutely deliver on what they promise and both of them do generate a functional mobile experience, I think it’s the fact that the WordPress site has been translated into more of an app-like style interface instead of the look-and-feel of the original site itself which creates a sense of disconnection.


Plug-ins for Mobile Themes

  • Plug-ins are really quick and easy to implement
  • Plug-ins are low/no cost

Responsive Themes

  • More cohesive user experience
  • Pretty much guaranteed to work across all mobile devices

The Verdict

So which is better? A mobile plug-in that adds a second theme to your site which is only seen by mobile devices, or a single responsive theme that responds to the size of the viewport and adjusts layout accordingly?

I think the plug-in route is a great fix for an immediate need because it’s so fast, low/no cost, and so easy to install that you can be mobile friendly in a few minutes. That said, because mobile themes rely on the device being detected, when new devices come out they may not work with your website. With a responsive theme you don’t have that worry because again, by design, it responds to the size of the viewport and adjusts website layout accordingly. Since websites eventually need updating anyway, I definitely am in the camp of finding (or developing) and implementing a responsive theme.

In the end, it’s all about building a better experience for our users – regardless of the device they use – and any steps we take to becoming mobile friendly is step in the right direction.

Additional Resources

Google On Being Mobile Friendly

To test and see if your website is mobile friendly, Google has created the Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. If you run your website through the test and it doesn’t pass, using the plug-ins or a responsive WordPress we’ve talked about here will do the trick. Also you can check this article on Google’s Webmaster Central blog that goes over all the criteria for being mobile-friendly.

The Difference between Web Site Usability and Accessibility

A great article on UsabilityGeek by Justin Mifsud about the distinction between usability and accessibility.

Ireland Day 7 (Wednesday)

Woke up to traffic noises today instead! At breakfast, John’s wife gave us coupons for the Jameson Experience, so… why not?!? It was nice and close, with good roads. Went on the 11:00 tour, which was A W E S O M E. Seriously. Our guide took us through the old buildings which were shut down in 1975. Saw the largest pot still in the world – the world – and it’s made completely of copper. Free tastings after, including side-by-sides of Jameson, Johnnie Walker black, and Jim Beam 7. Went to the distillery store and got Dani her Midleton Very Rare and got to register it in a locked book – fancy! I got some Jameson Distillery Reserve and they personalized it for with my name for me.

Drove next to Cahir Castle. Cool old ruins, but we couldn’t get to the top – it was blocked off. Then over to the Rock of Cashel, the main part of which was built in the 12th century! Saw St. Patrick’s cross, and grave markers that spanned hundreds of years. Finally headed for our last *sigh* B&B – Oakleigh House in Portmarnock. Have to get up early tomorrow to get to the airport in time and return our rental car.

After unpacking and repacking our bags, we took a short walk along the coast. None of the restaurant options were appealing, so we tried to drive to Howth, but due to a closed bridge we turned around and drove to Malahide, where we found a pub called Duffy’s. Had our last pints of Guinness, then back to our room for journaling and a good night’s sleep!

Ireland Day 6 (Tuesday)

A loud, possibly sad, cow woke us up before our alarm. We got ready and had breakfast – fuel for the boat trip! Drove to the marina in Portmagee to find our “ship,” the Anchorsiveen. 12km = 1 hour ride out to the Skellig Islands. Paused at the smaller island; the puffins had already left for the season so it was covered in stinky gulls instead. Corrie did NOT make it to the islands without getting seasick. Yup. She donated all of her breakfast and unhelpful ginger pills to the Atlantic.

Finally made it to Greater Skelling/Skellig Michael. The landing was rough, and Corrie barfed on some small pink jellyfish, but was super happy to reach solid ground! Sat for a bit to catch her breath, then we both started the 600-step climb. Had to stop at the first turn because Corrie had a meltdown and cried (boats are not her thing and neither are heights we’ve extremes of both) but then felt better and kept going all the way to the top! Spent awhile checking out the monks’ “beehives” and graves and paths, etc. Took a polaroid (yeah, a polaroid) with a friendly girl from San Francisco, Helen. I took a LOT of pictures while Corrie rested, then started the climb down. Made it to the bottom safely (yes, obviously, because we lived to tell about it, but this is just for the record). Corrie chatted with their equivalent of the park ranger and found out they work for 2 weeks on, 1 week off, weather permitting, from May 1 to October 2. This particular guide had been doing this for 10 years, and the guide at the top had been doing this for 30 years! Had a less “eventful” ride back to the marina, but still rough. Ugh.

Drove back out of the Ring of Kerry, and made it to Blarney Castle and JUST had time to climb the stairs to the top and kiss the stone! Quickly checked out the gardens, but everything closed at 18:00, so we trudged back to the car and drove to Cork and met our host, John, at Kent House B&B. Got dressed up and headed back out the door for a fancy dinner at Fishy Fishy (bucket list item – check!). It was busy even though it was Tuesday, but we made the most of our 45-minute wait by trying some local beer (Kinsale Pale Ale) and gin (Kinsale Black) at the bar. Great dinner, long day!

Ireland Day 5 (Monday)

Woke up around 7:30 to get ready, then during breakfast asked Rosie about the name of the B&B. She said it’s pronounced “Cosh Fair-edge” and Cois = beside | Farraige = the sea. Boom! Learned something already.

Packed up and headed to the Cliffs of Moher. The drive was quick (less than 15 minutes) and the admission was included in our package – yay! Not many people around when we got there, probably due to the heavy fog, light rain and poor visibility – we couldn’t see more than 50 feet ahead! But we were patient and kept walking around, making good use of our rain jackets and waterproof hiking boots, and it finally started clearing up about 45 minutes later while we were hiking south on the non-park trail through puddles and along an electric fence. I know. Safe.

Since we could now see, we paid €4 to climb O’Brien’s Tower (cool!) and we could see for miles!!! Bought some postcards and a Christmas ornament at the gift shop – we are tourists, after all – then mapped our drive to the next B&B in Cahersiveen.

Just outside the cliffs, before even getting back to Lahinch, we made a sudden stop on the right to check out a fallen-in chapel covered in ivy with an ancient (but still in use) cemetery. Old celtic crosses were mixed with new headstones. Humbling!

Back on the road, we made another quick decision to stop off at Bunratty Castle (mostly because it was right off the freeway and admission was also included in our package). It was pretty touristy, but climbing the spiral staircases and checking out the different levels of the castle was fun! The view out of the top of the turrets was amazing, plus we discovered Durty Nellie’s.

One quick pit stop for gas and crisps and drinks, then drove all the way to our B&B with only one quick turnout on the Ring of Kerry to look across Dingle Bay! Arrived at Sea Breeze and met our hosts, Leesha and Tom, who gave us some dinner recommendations and brochures of the area. Dropped our bags, washed up and walked to supper at the Ring of Kerry Hotel/John D’s Bar. Wrote all of our postcards while sipping our Irish coffees for dessert, then walked into town to buy water, fruit, and cereal bars for tomorrow’s excursion lunch. It’s bedtime for nerds heading to Nerd Island!!

Ireland Day 4 (Sunday)

Set the alarm for 7:00, got dressed, and quietly made our way outside to see the morning sun on the water and green hills and sleepy sheep – we were quite close to the coast. Took some photos (this is a recurring theme), then went in for breakfast: sausage, ham, fried egg, fried soda bread, half a tomato, toast, coffee, and orange juice – whew! Got directions from Rosie and drove to the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge. Hiked almost a mile from the ticket counter to the bridge, then climbed over and up onto the rock island. So cool! Hung out a bit looking at the sea and the cliffs and the caverns.

Drove further down the same road to Giant’s Causeway, bought our tickets, and hiked down to the rock formations!! Climbed around for awhile, then waited in line for the bus back up the cliffs – well worth the €1.30 apiece. Bought some postcards and started our long (~6.5 hour) drive southwest. The car wifi didn’t work in Northern Ireland, so we used Mom & Dad Z’s borrowed map (thank you!) and the GPS on my phone to track our progress. It was SO WINDY!!!

After covering a lot of territory and seeing some gorgeous countryside (with a couple of stops to stretch our legs), we finally made it to Cois Farraige B&B in Lahinch around 19:15. Our hostess here was also named Rosie! She pointed us to the beach walk and towards the town. Took a nice – albeit windy – walk along the coast, watched the waves and a brave surfer! Then to the main street to find a pub (there were more than five in a 2-block area) and settled on Kenny’s. I had the best seafood chowder of my life and of course more Guinness, while Corrie had cottage pie and Cloughmore Heather IPA – everything was amazing! Rainy walk back and climbed into bed. *yawn*

Ireland Day 3 (Saturday)

Woke up around 9:15am and had breakfast at the hotel. Drove through the border to Northern Ireland and up to Tollymore Forest – well, we TRIED to drive there. Google maps took us into the middle of the forest  – NOT to the Car Park/Visitors Center. Helpful. After getting thoroughly lost and driving across an old stone bridge and past some hikers, we turned around in someone’s farm (sorry) and found the main road – which sensibly led us to the entrance to the park. Got a map and followed the River Walk, which was supposed to be 5k and take 1.5 hours, but we took some scenic detours and lots of photos. Took in some old cool bridges, huge trees, beautiful and bountiful shamrocks, two sets of stepping stones, a meditation hermitage, and small cascades! While trying to find the White Fort, we met a friendly couple (Jerry and Lisa) from Denver and chatted for awhile.

We were quite hungry and thirsty after our hike, but the fish & chip food truck at the car park only took cash – which we didn’t have yet since we just crossed the border. Drove into the next town, Castlewellan, and found a free (what?!) place to park. There was a guy (Jared? Maybe? His brogue was the thickest we came across) collecting money for something, just standing in the street with a bucket, so I asked him about the parking, finding an ATM, and someplace to eat. He pointed us down the road to an ATM and then a pub, and he wasn’t even from the town! Had a lovely dinner at Maginn’s Pub including some beautifully-poured Guinness. Walked back to the car, thanked Jared (?), and headed for…

THE DARK HEDGES! Nerd alert!!! It was getting late, so we couldn’t stay long. Walked through and back, and took lots of photos. Took some narrow (say scary) roads to Garron View B&B. We were warmly welcomed by our hostess, Rosie, who also took our breakfast orders – 2 “full Irish” please!


Ireland Day 1 and 2 (Thursday/Friday)

Going to Ireland is the first overseas trip for me!

My Dad dropped us at GRR around 2pm for check-in to our flight. First flew to DTW, then overnight to CDG on an Airbus 330. Had to go back through security in CDG, where we had a friendly agent (he told me I was gorgeous) and then a scary TSA agent lady who threw away our water from the plane #whyohwhy… Had a bit of a layover and attached to the wifi, which was sponsored by AXA (Corrie’s broker-dealer)! Then finally boarded our little tiny stinky bumpy commuter plane to Dublin. Arrived in one piece, then got our Nissan Micra gray rental from Dan Dooley – had opted for the CDW inclusive insurance coverage ahead of time and it turned out to be some of the best money we ever spent!! More on that later… now into the drizzly day!

Our vacation package included a tour of the Guinness Storehouse, so we turned our Micra towards downtown Dublin. Had a bit of a rough start, because the parking lot was full and once we finally took several turns (while driving on the opposite side of the car and the opposite side of the road – yikes) and found some street parking, we couldn’t actually pay because we only had large bills and no coins to feed the meter. Bad planning and bad luck all around, so we left the big city and headed for Bru na Boinne.

On the way, Corrie 100% freaked out and I pulled the car into a gravel lot so she could get out and catch her breath (she’s still super sorry about that, btw). The lovely car park was next to a field with grazing cattle (nice) but also 2 burnt husks of cars (what?!?).

Finally made it to Bru na Boinne and grabbed tickets for the 16:15 tour of Newgrange. Had a few minutes to kill and starting to feel woozy from lack of sleep and unfamiliar roads, so got veggie soup, brown bread, and water at the tea room. Went over the bridge to the bus stop and chatted with a friendly bus driver who told us about the bus and train strike – turns out that’s why we couldn’t find parking in Dublin – and then his take on Ireland’s economy and tourism. Had our RAINY tour of Newgrange. Could barely hear the guide past the rain/wind/hail combo, but it was impressive and super cool! Walked around the outside of the tomb a couple of times once the tour of the inside was over.

Relatively short (12km) drive to Drogheda to our hotel. Thought we’d charge our phones for a bit and get cleaned up and head to dinner, but we fell asleep for the whole night. Oops…