Sheri GermanHerding Cats

Or how I manage to maintain control in this crazy biz

Happy Halloween!

Posted Sunday, October 31, 2004 7:36:13 AM by Sheri German

Sheri, cat herder here, checking in to update you on the latest efforts to maintain control of my Web dev biz life. Things are really good today. The clocks shifted back an hour, and oh, how I loved gaining that time! Let's see: what did I do with it?

  • Set up a client with Contribute (made him a template to use for new pages, set his permissions, made him a connection key)
  • Answered the backlog of mail that has been accumulating while I participated in the new CMX JumpStarts product launch
  • Prepared next week's Dreamweaver and Fireworks class (this doesn't take too long because I have taught it many times before...it is just a question of updating to accommodate the latest developments)
  • Played with my Birman cat

OK, so I always make time for the last task on the list because Allegretta the cat flops on my computer if I don't. I have to tell you: Halloween AND a clock change all in one day? Life doesn't get much better than this.

Ah! I see my husband taking out his costume and my witch's hat so we can get ready to scare the kids as they come to our door to "trick or treat".

Happy Halloween!

Category tags: Web Business

A teacher's look at CMX JumpStarts

Posted Friday, October 29, 2004 7:21:23 AM by Sheri German

I have been teaching Dreamweaver, among other Macromedia programs, at the Government Printing Office and Trinity University for the last five or so years. Kim's post about "friends don't let friends use fonts" really got me thinking about the evolution of my curriculum for web related classes. Macromedia has released a lot of versions of its various programs during that time, and this means I've needed to keep revising the exercises I give my students.

At some point I realized that it wasn't necessarily in my students' best interest to show them every single bell and whistle in Dreamweaver. In my enthusiasm, I would demonstrate everything from layout view to automatic table formatting to HTML Styles, whether I thought they should use that feature or not. I finally came to the conclusion that teaching a "best practice" workflow, as opposed to revealing every possibility, gave my students real concepts they could hang on to after they finished the course.

This brings me to the revolution that probably brought the biggest change to what I teach: Web standards. I now take my students through a very prescribed set of exercises that begins with basic (X)HTML, progresses through hand-coded CSS, and ends with two template pages: one a hybrid CSS table structure, and the other a CSS positioned page. To relieve some of the seriousness, I give Fireworks breaks. The kinds of graphics we make are determined by the needs of our Cascading Style Sheet, but we try to have a lot of fun with effects and creative commands.

Why am I babbling about all of this? In addition to the fact that it's one of my favorite subjects, it is also because I am very excited about the new CMX JumpStarts. These are exactly the kind of learning experience my students (and we all) need. By examining the extensively commented files, students can deconstruct the very usable two column layout and get a crash course in how to make a CSS positioned page work well in all standards compliant browsers.

And that is something smile about. Because teachers don't let students use font tags...

Category tags: CSS, Dreamweaver

I thought the music business was bad...

Posted Tuesday, October 26, 2004 7:44:06 AM by Sheri German

I get up very early each morning to get the kids off to school and a houseful of pets fed (the latter being more willing respondents to the wake up call than the former--come to think of it, the pets are the wake up call). As soon as I drive my so-called walker son to the middle school at 7:55, I start right in with my work. Given that I shove down breakfast and lunch while I am typing and mousing away, you'd think I would be done with work in time to enjoy the evening with my family. So why is it that I am often doing the midnight madness thing?

I was a music major in college. I remember how a bunch of us would meet for breakfast, then race down to the practice rooms to claim our favorite pianos. We often put in five or six hours of practicing a day, but we had breaks! We made time to relax and enjoy each other--even if we tended to relax by putting on a piece of music one of us had been practicing, and sing along together at the top of our lungs. I used to think we were crazy, obsessed monomanics. I hadn't even begun to know what monomania really meant.

So here I sit, another Tuesday morning with a long to-do list in front of me, and three cats lounging on the bed where I am working on my Powerbook. Not one of the cats cares for any of the others, so getting them to cooperate is not in the cards. Nor do any of them particularly fear me when I issue a command such as "Move off the blanket so I can at least make this bed!"

Well, this web field feels a lot like trying to herd cats. It's a slippery business, nothing seems to stay in control, and the clients often feel like those immovable critters on the bed. But then one of the cats (they're a somewhat grateful rescue bunch) comes over and pats an adoring paw on my face, and I know I love them anyway. Now don't we feel the same way about this Web biz?

Oh, no! My Birman cat just flopped on my Powerbook and deleted all this text! I am gonna have to type this over...

Category tags: On the Personal Side

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