Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
(Site last modified February 18, 2003)
My home page was born in fall of 1994, when I was teaching a lab class on computer basics. At the time, the Web was just on the verge of exploding, but hadn't quite got there yet. I created a page to show the students what they looked like, and it contained my office hours and a list of links to interesting Web sites like the WebMuseum. Unfortunately, that page has been lost in the dim recesses of the past.
Since then, I revamp my page about once a year, since I figure that's about how long it can go before the layout starts to look stale and old-fashioned. And regularly redesigning the page helps me keep up with the technology on the Web.
For the curious, I've kept the index pages from the last several incarnations of this site, along with some comments about how they were made.
If nothing else, this page will convince you that I've gotten better at Web design. If I recall correctly, the layout was inspired by the cover of Introduction to Algorithms, more familiarly known as the "CLR book."
The photo was taken in early 1994, and is of me sitting at my desk in East Quad dorm at the University of Michigan. In the background you can see the fan we used to circulate air through our very stuffy room, even on the cold days (for you Californians, that white stuff on the roof opposite is snow). It was the only reasonable close-up I had to work with.
The quote from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is one I always thought very aptly described me. Edgar Lee Master's George Gray (from the Spoon River anthology) is pretty accurate, too.
I'm a sucker for Victorian art and architecture, and over Christmas 1997 I tried to revamp my Web site to reflect that interest. Unfortunately, I'm not an artist, so I had to make due with the graphics I could find, which led to this somewhat unsatisfactory layout.
My father had just gotten some new image processing software, and as you can see I worked the old photograph over to make it look even older. Lastly, changing the font to Garamond provided an antique (but still legible) feel to the page.
The section title "The High Aesthetic Line" is from Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta Patience, while "I Sing of Myself" is from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass -- just in case you were wondering.
The Blue Period
I wasn't satisfied with the way the Victorian pages turned out, so a few months later I tried again -- this time something that would look sleek and new. This somewhat simpler purple-on-white look was the result.
In fact, this version of the site underwent several minor revisions itself, and what you see here is the last one. Originally, the links on the home page were graphical (and they looked better), but I started experimenting with cascading style sheets as a way to get rid of the heavy graphics and this was the result.
I dropped the photo because it made the download time for the index much longer, and also because it wasn't really in keeping with the rest of the site. I thought that the addition of an Images section would make up for it.
The Current Site
The old order passeth, giving way to new,, and even though I felt the blue site worked pretty well, it eventually got stale. I got so sick of seeing it I decided to tear it up.
Even though I am using style sheets to control the fonts and tables, I decided to go back to a graphical index page. Images of text are just plain sharper than anything you can do with HTML or style sheets, and since the image files came out very small (on average, about 1k), I felt the improvement in appearance was worth it.
Each revision takes longer than the last one, and this has been no exception. Changing the layout takes very little time, but updating the text, and in many cases rewriting it completely, takes time. Most sections have remained intact, though The Book List was extracted from the Interests section, since it has gotten so large over the last couple of years.
I've reintroduced an image on the index page, though not of me. This is Sidney Paget's illustration of Mycroft Holmes (Sherlock's older brother) from Arthur Conan Doyle's The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter as published in Strand Magazine. He's tall, brainy and Victorian, and I think he adds a little gravitas to the page.
As with previous versions of the site, I wrote the HTML and the style sheets by hand, using XEmacs on my Windows 98 machine. I've tried several WYSIWYG HTML editors, but in the end I'm most comfortable tweaking the markup myself, and often I can't get just what I want by dragging and dropping. The graphics were done in Macromedia Fireworks, just because I've been evaluating it for use at work. In the past I've used an old version of Microsoft Image Composer or xv.