Oh, Oh The Places You’ll Go

When I found out that I had been accepted into the PhD program, my husband bought me a new laptop. It was sweet and very thoughtful and he said that he had no doubt that me and my new laptop would become the best of friends. And so far, we’ve been joined at the hip. Not specifically because we are co-dependent, but because I seem to be going for some sort of world record of how long I spend on these assignments.

I’m not at the point yet where I can tell you exactly what each declaration does — I’m still in trial and error mode. I think eventually it’ll click and I’ll inherently know that to move this, I have to change that.¬†And while Kellie has gotten to know DreamWeaver’s “undo” function, I’m flirting with the gold for the most uploads of my CSS. I find I’m in the habit of changing one thing and then uploading to see how it worked. That’s the beauty of the web. Instant gratification.

I have the basic coded outline of my text assignment. I pulled a basic one column html template from DW and coded in the nav along the bottom of the header. I changed the colors to match my new header. I’m still rocking the Latin placeholder text, but today, I plan to write out the text explaining Frances Glessner Lee’s impact on crime scene investigation.

I did a basic newspaper search from the 40s/50s/60s and found several interesting articles about her. Apparently, Harvard used her program as the means by which to reform the Massachusetts state coroner system in favor of instituting trained medical examiners. (For historians who study crime, coroner’s reports can be a fabulous source of primary materials–coroners were allowed to accept gossip and hearsay as evidence, so they are usually ripe with details about the person’s life. Alas, coroners were not at all trained in police work or medico-legal procedure and eventually went the way of the dodo.) I hadn’t thought about how these dioramas might affect the eventual migration away from the coroner, so this is a nice little twist for my project.


I’ve also been spending quality time with PhotoShop. Last Thursday, I drove up to Baltimore to spend the afternoon with the Nutshell Studies, which are housed on the 4th floor of the Baltimore Medical Examiner’s Office. Visitation is by special approval only, so I am very grateful to Jerry D for accepting my request and letting me roam the little exhibit room for 3 hours with a ridiculous amount of unnecessary camera equipment and Alexa, who was a most gracious helper.

Photo by Erin Bush, The Nutshell Studies/Red Bedroom

I’m still making my way through all the photos I took, but I did manage to get some that I really like. (Including my new header! Meet Marie Jones, a prostitute who met her untimely end at the point of a knife in the closet of her red bedroom. The packed suitcase and open bureau drawers makes me think she was packing in a hurry…)

Once I organize them all, I have to think about how I might use them. Eleven of the eighteen dioramas have female victims. I took pictures of seven of them hoping that I’d get enough imagery to represent four. (As you can imagine, the lighting was really tough.) I don’t have the official analyses/answers to these dioramas since they are still being used for training, but I do have my own opinions about the pertinent evidence from each.

Not sure if I’ll incorporate my own thoughts, but it’s fun to ponder. Anyone have any ideas on how I might use that info? I’m trying to pull together how these were used to change the face of crime scene investigation. With technological advances in forensic science, these seem a pretty low-tech way to go. Thoughts?

Success and Comments for the Week Ending 2/15

Update: thank you to those who helped me online and off. Thanks to Sasha, your suggestion to remove the quotation marks from the font URL string in my CSS worked like a charm, and Alex and Alexa, I got the opacity to work in PhotoShop! So now I’ve embedded the script font I wanted and have a header image. (Now I need to figure out how to center the header in the middle of the photo!)

As far as comments go, this week I agreed with Roger’s suggestion to suggest Lynda a few months out for future incoming ClioII students. M.C. Farrington’s post started an interesting discussion about the fate of design in today’s web world. And I dropped a couple of links on Sasha’s World of WebFonts post and
AnnaLise’s post on script-y fonts.

Goldfish and Squirrels

I am happy to report that my computer is still on my desk. I did *not* throw it out the window. It was close there a few times, but since I am now safely typing on it, I believe I survived embedding webfonts into my Clio II portfolio page.

First, I must thank you all for your comments in class last week. I took them all to heart and made some major adjustments. I followed the CARP principle, and moved some of the content boxes around. Namely, I floated my nav back to the left side of the screen to allow for proper eye tracking. I found a nice image of some policemen in training from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division and put it my header. I even ghosted the image a bit so that the red text would show up more. (Look at that, 3 weeks in and I’m crazy. Crazy with the Adobe Suite!)

I realigned all my text so that it’s not all over the place and increased the font. Actually, I changed all my units of measurement to em(s) so that it was consistent. Additionally, I added some red pieces for repetition, including the navigation links and the headline. As this design morphs, I hope to add some more red here and there.

As for the colors, I’m a bit unhappy with the fact that I went the route of the walking cliche and made a red, white and black site. I chose the photo and opted for simplicity and matching. I am happy to report that I am taking a field trip to Baltimore on Thursday to photograph the Nutshell Studies. Depending on how things turn out, I hope to use one of my own photos for the header image and will likely change the colors accordingly. From my initial research, the Studies are quite colorful, so I should have better options.

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As for the EMBEDDED FONTS (yes, this phrase does deserve all caps given how much sweat and tears I’ve spent this weekend on getting the damned things to work), I really loved the Lynda tutorial. I’ve used Lynda in the past and always I’ve been impressed with the quality of instruction. I went ahead and took the SitePoint CSS Crash Course to help me really absorb some of the CSS nuances that were totally lost on me. So when it came time to embed like a fiend, I was excited.

And then I went font shopping. This distracted me for two days. I initially chose two fonts from FontSquirrel: England Hand and Mom’s Typewriter.

Like Laura, I really wanted to create some tension in my design and therefore opted to go with a lovely handwritten cursive title juxtaposed against a creaky old police-looking typewriter font. Trouble is, I could not get them both to work in my design using @fontface syntax.

England would work in my title when I removed the Typewriter font and vice versa. Maddening!

Our new friend, James, forgot to mention (in his otherwise great tutorial on using @fontface) where to insert the code in the CSS file. I found that where I put the @fontface declaration really made a difference. If I put it too early in my CSS, it wouldn’t read the rest of the formatting and I had content all over the place. It worked when I put it at the end, but like I said, I could only get one font to work correctly.

To get around this, I decided to scrap the pretty England Hand font and use a TypeKit cursive instead. My final H1 font is Learning Curve. This is a decent old-school cursive lesson-type font, which works. It’s not as decorative as I wanted, but it’s a better option than throwing my computer out the window.

I still don’t feel like I ‘get’ what I was doing wrong. This week, I’ll likely consult the Google and see what she has to teach me. Until then, does anybody have any insight or wisdom as to what I was potentially doing wrong? Anyone successfully embed two fonts using @fontface syntax? If so, please tell me how you did it..

My Project and My Exploration of the World of Victorian Color

(alternatively titled: Why Literal Isn’t Always a Good Thing)

I spent the evening with Dreamweaver and my brand new desktop app ColorSchemer Studio. Colorschemer is amazing and magical and dangerous. It’s one of those slick desktop color wheels that allows you look for color and find associated and related color families. For someone who isn’t totally confident in her ability to pick related or a family of colors, it’s a Godsend. It’s also very, very dangerous.

Let me back up. I’m a first-year PhD student. I received my Masters from GMU back in 2005. I entered the program about halfway through my required coursework, something that has been great and a bit scary, as I’m farther along than I realized. I still have some major hoops to jump through, but I’m at the point where I need to start solidifying a dissertation research idea.

My general interests are in 19th Century crime and gender. I’m avidly looking for interesting ways that gender issues and crime intersect. As such, a friend turned me on to the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, which are a series of miniature doll houses recreating complicated crime scenes. I’m 95% sure this is going to be the topic of my final project for class.

They were meticulously made in the 1940s by Frances Glessner Lee, a wealthy Chicago heiress with a passion for forensic medicine and Sherlock Holmes. She supported forensics and in the ’30s donated enough money to start a special program at Harvard Medical School, which included annual seminars led by Lee for police investigators. These seminars lasted a week and each attendee was given classes on proper investigation techniques, some classes included the use of these miniatures as teaching tools. The week culminated with a grandiose dinner at the Ritz Carlton served on $8000 china.

The doll houses alone are really interesting. So much so that a photographer published a beautiful book, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death and they feature prominently in an upcoming documentary film, Of Dolls and Murder.

I haven’t seen the movie, but the book, which an interesting collection of photographs of the miniatures and an impressive collection of factual research and interviews about Lee herself, raises several very interesting historical questions. Namely, how did this woman, a wealthy heiress foray into the work of homicide investigation and forensics? And how on Earth, given that she had only tangential experience with these topics through friendships with other people (and, apparently, a love of Sherlock Holmes and Perry Mason) did police forces and their respective captains take her seriously as someone who should be teaching these seminars? She was not a policewoman. Did these policemen just play along because she was older and wealthy enough to exert influence over institutions as grand as Harvard Medical School? Were they just playing along with an eccentric woman’s parlor games? Did these doll houses actually help them do their jobs better?

Obviously, I can’t answer all of these questions in one semester? But maybe I can find out a little bit about how the doll houses were used and what they meant to the policemen at the time.

These miniatures now live at the Baltimore Medical Examiner’s Office and I have requested access to photograph four of the eighteen remaining models for my project. I’m hoping to supplement the photos with some information about Lee and forensics in general. The world of miniatures also looms large as these certainly were a product of a specific time and interest in recreating important scenes in miniature.

So, because I can be a little too literal for my own good, I ventured into my fancy new color picker toy and thought I’d play with a Victorian doll house theme. I found all the “Victorian” colors in the wheel. Then I set about playing with my css template and tiled images. And I ended up with a Victorian doll house (on crack?).

Seriously.
My first portfolio attempt

My husband called it “unbelievably distracting.” And he’s not wrong. Because of the busy-ness of the tile, your eyes go back and forth between the roofing and never really land on the center content part.

So needless to say, I have a lot of work to do. However, the bright side of this entire exercise is that I successfully uploaded the site and the images. So I’ll call that progress and start over tomorrow.
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If anyone happens to be interested, they sell ColorSchemer Studio licenses for about $49 retail. If you are interested, there are student discounts available.