Book Review – Brilliant HTML & CSS

Brilliant HTML & CSS Brilliant HTML & CSS by James A. Brannan

So far this has been the best book on Web Design/ programming languages I have come across. It is very well designed, arranged and simple to use. You can dip in and out of any relevant section and it does not confuse you with unnecessary jargon or too much irrelevant information. Great for anyone new to CSS.
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XX Alone

I am sitting here in my dusty, claustrophobic study with web design books, magazines and course material strewn chaotically all around me imitating the disorganised mess that is my current existence. The dreamy, haunting sounds of English indie rock band XX are floating out of my tinny monitor speakers via the add filled yet free and therefore viable music service Spotify. I say viable as I am currently broke, in the financial as well as psychological state.

One could look back at my life and report that I am usually broke. It depends on how you define broke. However you choose to define it (in terms of more debt than savings or higher expenses than income or high income and high expenditure, take your pick) no one can deny the financial challenge that should be staring me in the face from a multi coloured array of spreadsheet cells in my Family budget file. As it is I am taking a leaf out of my wife’s book and resorting to denial. I should be downloading our bank account and credit card balances to these complex self made spreadsheets but as I know they will only paint an even scarier picture than the one they painted last Saturday, I choose to ignore our impending financial doom and instead surf the net joining various social networking sites such as Plurk and Moolta with my Second life avatar as I am feeling particularly lonely tonight.

The psychological breaking down and current loneliness has much to do with coming back from an insightful yet intensive therapy session to an empty, eerily silent house. The children’s toys are there, littered across the well worn lounge floor, but there are no children playing with them. The wok and saucepans are piled up on top of our ancient electric hobs and various utensils and ingredients are lying about but no one is cooking. The only sound in the whole 3 bed suburban semi is of my stress out pent up mind, swelling with conflicts, anxiety and confusion, overheating and getting ready to blow a gasket. I feel like a faulty Toyota in desperate need of repair just waiting to be recalled before my broken accelerator pedal drives me into a self destructive brick wall.

The loneliness can be attributed to my wife and daughter staying with my mother-in-law to comfort and support her, in deepest rural Woking. My father-in-law is still in hospital and still in a bad state following his major stroke last October. The air of empty silence and haunting alienation of this house is much better than the thick fog of depression permanently hanging over my in laws home as life gets harder and more emotionally and psychically challenging day by day. The financial costs of supporting a stroke victim are not low.

The financial burdens of a South west London suburban family with a mortgage, growing child, constant 70 mile round trips to Milford Hospital in an age of ever rising petrol prices are also becoming less and less compatible with my continuing unemployment. I got a job that would have plugged the outflow of cash for a little while, giving us breathing space, only to have the job offer callously ripped from me due to miscommunication between HR departments and the business managers who desperately needed me.

The spiral of increasing problems and stress has resulted in a sudden relapse of my Irritable Bowel Syndrome and I need to get some acid to pump through our lime scale ridden blocked up toilet discharge pipes before they overflow again (don’t try and visualise it, not a pretty sight, i can promise you.) My bouts of sudden inexplicable fatigue are also increasing. I am back to job hunting, but in this market it is even more depressing than it usually would be. I can’t tell my wife how broke we are. She doesn’t have the time, energy or motivation to read this blog so she will never know, unless the bailiffs arrive early. She will probably be in the hospital anyway so I will find a way to blag it.

It would be nice to hug her after a long, dreary day of depressing chores and job hunting and to snuggle up to a movie or Episode 1, Series 4 of Northern Exposure. As it is I am left to find some friendly conversation online with random geeks who like to create digital art and funny freakish animals in Photoshop and play Star Trek online. That would be one way of escaping my enforced isolation but unfortunately it seems that tonight even the geeks aren’t talking to me. So I have resorted to talking to myself by throwing a few thoughts onto electronic ink and composing this blog.

4 Diet Pepsi’s and many happy pills on from my fatigue relapse this afternoon and I feel myself drifting off into a surreal computer generated world where no one has cancer or strokes and being unemployed and geeky is a virtue not a mark of failure and anxiety.

On a lighter note, at least all my web surfing in the name of my web design course has lead me to discover this great website dedicated to the early 1990’s TV Comedy Drama Northern Exposure:

http://www.moosechick.com/

Second Life Home

Even Virtual Worlds have loneliness

Re education

In 10 minutes time the course advisor from Home Learning College will arrive at my house. His aim is to sell me his courses, my aim is to re train as a Web Desinger plus refresh my rusty Bookkeeping skills. The modern world and it’s ever amazing technology mean that I don’t have to leave the chaotic mad house that is my home to gain new skills that will hopefully help me get a job and start earning again.

Job hunting in this adverse economic environment, with all the ever increasing obstacles in my way, has not been easy. At least it has got easier to blog, with the amazing WordPress 2.0 iPhone iBlogging app. As my life is is a state of permanent chaos, being able to blog on the move using my iPhone is very useful. iBlogging is the way forward, just like iTwittering and the Google Chrome web browser with its spell checking facility that ensures my pots are readable.

With regards to my failure to find gainful employment, I sincerely hope the number of obstacles to job hunting will reduce as I keep trying to be resourceful and develop my skill set whilst staying positive in very depressing times. It has been anything but easy.

Last week my wife’s uncle died and I went to his funeral. My father in law is still in hospital recovering slowly from his major stroke. We were living in 2 houses trying to help my mother in law. That only added to the chaos. My daughter is ill with a viral infection, my IBS and CFS have returned with a vengeance. Money is running out!

Anyway I better go as the man is here!

Escape into Reality

Chewing on my weight watchers friendly homemade smoked ham sandwich and listening to Radio 1 I have decided to update my blog.

The theme of my blog and indeed its very purpose has never been made clear to the cyber sphere or even me. The main aim was to provide me with an outlet to express my pent up thoughts and feelings. This would help clear my head and aid the process of clarifying my increasingly hazy, frazzled thoughts, tangled up in the complex web of lies, facades, masks and inner conflicts swirling within my unstable psyche. That is not a clear aim. It does, however, make for interesting reading, if the author is entirely honest and open with his audience about the experiences he has undergone. Having been transported to the edge of my own precarious sanity and staring down into the deep, spiralling vortex of self destruction, I find it hard to be honest and open without fear of sending myself and my readers into a fit of horror.

I want to be honest. I need to be honest. However, it is not that easy. My current myriad of problems, both physical and psychological, can all be attributed to years of hiding my inner truth behind thickets of masks and facades, acts that i put on to tell people what they want to hear and what I think the world wants me to be like. I only ever wanted to fit in. The irony is that the more I lied to those around me, the deeper the masks penetrated into my soul, the more I alienated myself form, well, myself. Cutting through the jungle of half truths and cloaks with the scythe of self awareness and new found insight has been a painful process, and I am not ready to tell the tales that have scared me to the point I find myself in today.

I need to get a job. Yes, you heard it here first. Although I am struggling to battle ill health, debilitating Irritable Bowel syndrome diarrhoea, chronic fatigue syndrome, yo-yo weight loss and gain, and depression, making it hard to have the energy and motivation for even the most basic tasks, I am so close to the edge, and so lonely, that even me, the king of isolated contemplation, wants to get back into the real world and connect with other people and feel that I have some useful purpose in life, other than watching documentaries about World War 2 or Hunter S. Thompson.

I have read one too many psychologically complex short story and need to escape into conversation with characters less troubled and scarred than the cast of a Dostoevsky novel. Yes, the real world can be dull, it can be mind numbing and soul destroying, but at least it is real. Too much time spent in virtual online worlds like Second Life, or in the lives of emotionally inept protagonists form a William Boyd short story, is not good for the soul either.

I love to write, and I will still write, but I need to go out there and earn some real money. I need to reconnect with the everyday rat race of suburban London life. It will not be fun and I won’t like it, but i am starting to feel that I need it. If I sit in this claustrophobic, dusty study surrounded by the mess of a failed business enterprise and unfiled receipts, trying to spend 8 hours a day working on my novel, all I will end up doing is going even more insane and producing nothing but an incoherent diatribe of angst ridden prose. Reality stimulates me, even dull reality, on the subconscious level, and I need that stimulation. I also need to talk to someone, anyone. Even if it is about a Dan Brown novel. (OK maybe I don’t need to go that far).

I like my alone time, and I thrive on it, but not this much alone time. Everyone else is out there doing things. I am stuck here in a self absorbed daze relating to Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson and analysing why they pulled the trigger and killed themselves. That fascinates me. It is a dangerous fascination.

So what’s the plan? How can I pull myself out of this self absorbed physical and psychological mire? I plan to try and find a local part time job in finance, to give some structure and routine to my life. Then I plan to teach myself wed design and go on web development courses. I may even resurrect my once famed website form the early noughties, Razweb.com, which has disappeared so far into the cyber ether that even Google cannot find it anymore. If i can re-train as a web designer then at least I can have a career that is creative, interesting and stimulating, I can then be energised enough by my work to come home and sit at my desk in a disciplined fashion and devote at least 2 hours a day to writing. I have already typed up the synopsis of the 2 novels that make up my first work of fiction. All the characters are there, living, breathing, talking, going through life changing conflicts and resolutions. I just need to bring all the pieces together. To do that I need a clear mind and a stable heart. No more panic attacks and rapid heartbeats and insomnia ridden nights of breathlessness and wheezing.

I have no idea if any of the new treatments I am undergoing to battle my Chronic Fatigue will work but I will try anything. Optimism and hope are the best weapons I can bring to the battle.

I am starting to feel like my life is beginning to find its feet once again. Any new found stability and certainty will greatly lessen the burden on my increasingly nervous and anxious wife, who has her own pressures, and will mean I can spend less time lying to my family and putting on a brave face and assortment of masks to cover up why I am at hope all day too tired to even go for a walk round the block.

On that note all I have left to say is that I am thoroughly enjoying reading “The Woman in the Case” a collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov, the king of short stories. He can transmit an entire philosophy and range of human feelings in just one line, and is a true literary genius. I am also planning to meet up with my wife’s cousin, who is himself a published fiction author, and I have started reading his first novel, “The Bus Stopped” by Tabish Khair. It has already caught me in it’s magical grip and transported me back to the exotic and contradictory land of my forefathers. I can’t wait to delve deeper into it once I push myself and make that walk round the block.

No more running away from life. I need to jump into the sea of reality and swim with the tide, no longer against it. Maybe this way I will finally realise my goals and get to the shore I so desperately seek.