VGrid for CSS nerds

Here’s a little something I just whipped up for my own uses, but you might find it useful as well: vgrid.css, a CSS style sheet for handling vertical height of objects by em, as a sort of companion to the 960 grid. It’s got vgrid_x classes from 1 to 100; if you’re assigning onscreen elements to be more than 100 lines high, this probably isn’t the tool for you.

I mainly whipped it up for use with input forms with textareas, so that I could easily assign a height to textareas, but it’d probably be useful for other sorts of line-by-line layout as well. I just thought someone else might find it useful.

If you’d rather just cut and paste, the CSS is below:

.vgrid_1{ height: 1em; } .vgrid_2{ height: 2em; } .vgrid_3{ height: 3em; } .vgrid_4{ height: 4em; } .vgrid_5{ height: 5em; } .vgrid_6{ height: 6em; } .vgrid_7{ height: 7em; } .vgrid_8{ height: 8em; } .vgrid_9{ height: 9em; } .vgrid_10{ height: 10em; } .vgrid_11{ height: 11em; } .vgrid_12{ height: 12em; } .vgrid_13{ height: 13em; } .vgrid_14{ height: 14em; } .vgrid_15{ height: 15em; } .vgrid_16{ height: 16em; } .vgrid_17{ height: 17em; } .vgrid_18{ height: 18em; } .vgrid_19{ height: 19em; } .vgrid_20{ height: 20em; } .vgrid_21{ height: 21em; } .vgrid_22{ height: 22em; } .vgrid_23{ height: 23em; } .vgrid_24{ height: 24em; } .vgrid_25{ height: 25em; } .vgrid_26{ height: 26em; } .vgrid_27{ height: 27em; } .vgrid_28{ height: 28em; } .vgrid_29{ height: 29em; } .vgrid_30{ height: 30em; } .vgrid_31{ height: 31em; } .vgrid_32{ height: 32em; } .vgrid_33{ height: 33em; } .vgrid_34{ height: 34em; } .vgrid_35{ height: 35em; } .vgrid_36{ height: 36em; } .vgrid_37{ height: 37em; } .vgrid_38{ height: 38em; } .vgrid_39{ height: 39em; } .vgrid_40{ height: 40em; } .vgrid_41{ height: 41em; } .vgrid_42{ height: 42em; } .vgrid_43{ height: 43em; } .vgrid_44{ height: 44em; } .vgrid_45{ height: 45em; } .vgrid_46{ height: 46em; } .vgrid_47{ height: 47em; } .vgrid_48{ height: 48em; } .vgrid_49{ height: 49em; } .vgrid_50{ height: 50em; } .vgrid_51{ height: 51em; } .vgrid_52{ height: 52em; } .vgrid_53{ height: 53em; } .vgrid_54{ height: 54em; } .vgrid_55{ height: 55em; } .vgrid_56{ height: 56em; } .vgrid_57{ height: 57em; } .vgrid_58{ height: 58em; } .vgrid_59{ height: 59em; } .vgrid_60{ height: 60em; } .vgrid_61{ height: 61em; } .vgrid_62{ height: 62em; } .vgrid_63{ height: 63em; } .vgrid_64{ height: 64em; } .vgrid_65{ height: 65em; } .vgrid_66{ height: 66em; } .vgrid_67{ height: 67em; } .vgrid_68{ height: 68em; } .vgrid_69{ height: 69em; } .vgrid_70{ height: 70em; } .vgrid_71{ height: 71em; } .vgrid_72{ height: 72em; } .vgrid_73{ height: 73em; } .vgrid_74{ height: 74em; } .vgrid_75{ height: 75em; } .vgrid_76{ height: 76em; } .vgrid_77{ height: 77em; } .vgrid_78{ height: 78em; } .vgrid_79{ height: 79em; } .vgrid_80{ height: 80em; } .vgrid_81{ height: 81em; } .vgrid_82{ height: 82em; } .vgrid_83{ height: 83em; } .vgrid_84{ height: 84em; } .vgrid_85{ height: 85em; } .vgrid_86{ height: 86em; } .vgrid_87{ height: 87em; } .vgrid_88{ height: 88em; } .vgrid_89{ height: 89em; } .vgrid_90{ height: 90em; } .vgrid_91{ height: 91em; } .vgrid_92{ height: 92em; } .vgrid_93{ height: 93em; } .vgrid_94{ height: 94em; } .vgrid_95{ height: 95em; } .vgrid_96{ height: 96em; } .vgrid_97{ height: 97em; } .vgrid_98{ height: 98em; } .vgrid_99{ height: 99em; } .vgrid_100{ height: 100em; }

The best cover letter I've ever written

Smashing Magazine (who are an awesome force for goodness in the design world) put a thing on Twitter looking for writers. I responded and they told me to send them “an email with a brief introduction”. So I popped open Gmail and tossed this off a minute ago. Hopefully the Smashing folks will dig it, but even if they don’t, this is going to be my cover letter forever.

Following your Twitter instructions, here is my email with a brief introduction. (This is the brief introduction to the email with the brief introduction to who I am.)

Me: Joshua Ellis, responds to “Josh”. Writer, web designer/developer. I was a columnist for eight years for the Las Vegas City Life alt.weekly; my column started as a sort of tech op-ed thing and turned into whatever I felt like writing, which apparently made the Nevada Press Association so happy that they gave me several awards for Best Column (Non-Staff) Of The Year, which is a very silly award to win, but I have plaques, so…yeah. I was also nominated for a Pulitzer for a two-part series of stories I co-wrote about homeless people living in the storm drains under Las Vegas. My publisher nominated me, but it was still an honor and I totally cried.

Have also written for, The Unofficial Apple Weblog (, Coilhouse, Mondo 2000, Mindjack, Axcess, What’s On…all sorts of publications, online and etched into the dead flesh of trees. I also contributed to the Underground Guide To Las Vegas by Jarret Keene and wrote much of the political protest section of Worldchanging’s User’s Guide To The 21st Century, which was in the Top 1000 on Amazon (actually, it was #13) and had an introduction by Al Gore, which means I’m welcome at the ranch in Tennessee at any time.

As a designer/developer: I’ve been making websites since Netscape 1.0. I’ve been doing PHP/MySQL and Flash/Actionscript for about a decade. In 2003 I co-founded, one of the early online music stores for independent artists — I was the creative director and vision guy, as well as the visual designer. That tanked in 2006 when our parent company, BitPass, got bought out by Digital River.

Since then, until March of this year, I’ve been freelancing as both a writer and designer/developer. Currently I work as a UI engineer for MedWeb, a telemedicine company. [Sentence redacted because I was being cutesy about my day job.]

I write fast, I don’t misspell, and I’m pretty good at explaining complicated things to people in a way that they will remember laughing at later, even if they don’t remember what I was trying to explain. And I live in Las Vegas, which is about one-fifth as cool as you think it is.


You can obviously reach me by email at [address deleted damn you spammers], on Twitter at jzellis, and if you open your window, hail a pigeon, and slip a fifty under his wing, he’ll deliver me anything you can write on a Post-It note. It’s a trick I learned in the war.

Josh Ellis

(P.S. You did say *paying* gig, right?)

Help me crowd-produce the "Scatterlings + Refugees" video!

There seem to be at least a few fans of Red State Soundsystem out there, right? So I’ve had an idea, and I’m hoping you’ll help me with it.

The song “Scatterlings + Refugees” is maybe my favorite song I’ve ever written, and it’s going to be on the debut RSS album, Ghosts In A Burning City, which is dropping very, very soon. I’d like to make a video for it. I have access to decent cameras and I can edit and post-produce it myself, thanks to my clever ability to run Final Cut and AfterEffects.

However, rather than just making some moody, forgettable video of me looking haunted in, I dunno, an old factory or some silly bullshit like that, I’d rather do something that speaks to what the song is actually about: namely, the way that people scattered across the world can form a tribe.

So here’s what I’d like you to do.

  1. Download the song, below. This is a rough mix but it’s the final version, if you see what I mean; I may do some EQing on it, but this is the album version of the song.
  2. Go somewhere in the city or town you live in that you think is pretty or strange or representative of your home. Someplace that doesn’t just look like another Western suburb, in other words.
  3. Film yourself singing/lip-syncing the song. Use your cellphone, your iPhone, your digital still camera with the 30 second video option, your Flip, your high-def television broadcast quality shoulder-mounted Panasonic, whatever. Use an old PixelMotion if you’ve got one. Resolution doesn’t matter (though I’d prefer stuff that’s not too heavily compressed and blocky). Ideally your video should be at least 640 x 480, but if it’s really cool and low-res, I’ll be down for that, too. Audio doesn’t matter, as I’ll be dubbing over it with the song, anyway, of course.
  4. If your resulting video is small enough to send as an email attachment, send it to me at jzellis (at) gmail (dot) com. Otherwise, contact me at that address and I’ll send you to my private Dropbox account to upload it. Deadline for this is 11:59 Pacific Standard Time, Friday, July 31st.

When I get enough awesome clips, I’ll edit them together into a full-fledged music video, which will be available on this site and Vimeo and YouTube and Facebook and MySpace and everywhere else I can put it.

Unfortunately, I can’t offer you a free trip to Vegas or a chance to be on Cribs or anything like that. (Are they even still showing Cribs?) What I can offer is a signed CD to every person whose clip gets used in the video, plus a credit and a link on the video’s page here on Zenarchery, and my profuse thanks and an IOU.

I think this is a chance to actually put into practice a lot of the rhetoric going around now about crowdsourcing and making cool things for free on the Web. I hope there are enough of you who dig this song that you’ll help me make something really wonderful to share with the world.

So here goes: here’s the rough mix (128kbps stereo MP3), and below are the lyrics. Let’s do this thing.

lyrics and music by Joshua Ellis

We are scatterlings and refugees, we have never known peace
We have never known a home
Home is wherever we are when we’re together
Peace is the sound that we make when we’re alone

Well, I rang the New Year in
In a field out in the suburbs somewhere outside east Berlin
I watched the fireworks burn the night
And I wondered where you were and if you were alright

We are scatterlings and refugees, we are bastards, we are orphans
We don’t ever make a sound
Traversing the oceans in perpetual motion
Our feet don’t ever touch the ground

We went dancing
Old soul records playing in an alleyway
And we are old souls, you and me
Disappearing at the dawning of the day

We are scatterlings and refugees, we have never known peace
We have never known a home
Home is wherever we are when we’re together
Peace is the sound that we make when we’re alone


And when my telephone rings in the dark
You say “Hey, I’m at the White Cross
On Las Vegas Boulevard”
No matter where I am, I’ll get on a plane
I’ll go anywhere to see you again

We are scatterlings and refugees
We are angels, we are monsters
We never mattered anyway
We’re the patron saints of rented cars
And last goodbyes in airport bars
And in the morning, like ghosts
We slip away

We slip away

We live in the city of dreams…

Exhibit A: A column I wrote for the Las Vegas CityLife, all the way back in 2006:

Remember the months after 9/11? Imagine what would happen to this city if even a quarter of the tourists simply stopped coming one day. Las Vegas has precisely one major industry, and most of the people who work in it ain’t exactly switching over to exciting careers in nanotechnology if they lose their gigs as blackjack dealers and graveyard-shift cocktail waitresses and maids and convention-booth babes and porno-flyer dispensers. No offense, but it’s the truth.

The jobs go away, and so do the people, in droves. The fragile real estate economy here goes down like a Bangkok whore on roofies. Your shiny stucco McMansion — and whatever equity you’ve put into it — is suddenly worth less than the shoddy material it was built with. You’re jobless, probably homeless, and you can’t even afford to drive your big shiny SUV back across the empty desert to a place where you can grow your own food and sleep outside. Maybe you can live in it — park it out in the arroyos somewhere with the rest of the neo-Okies from Arizona and California and all the other places that rely entirely upon the fossil fuel economy in one way or another for survival. Learn to love the taste of cactus and flame-broiled Gila monster.

Proper fucked. You see what I mean.

Exhibit B: An article by Forbes Magazine on the abandonment of America cities:

For decades, Las Vegas, ripe with new construction and economic development, burgeoned into a shimmering urban carnival. Detroit, once the fulcrum of American industry, sagged and rusted under its own weight.

These days, it’s the worst of times for both.

Las Vegas edged Detroit for the title of America’s most abandoned city.


Will Las Vegas eventually suffer the same fate?

“I don’t think Vegas is overbuilt,” says Hallier. “Despite what everybody says, Vegas still has 2 million people.”

Time will tell if this sort of optimism is warranted. Cynics who’ve witnessed Detroit’s decline might liken Hallier’s opinions to another Dickens oeuvre: Great Expectations.

Yeah. So you know what, Las Vegas? Next time I tell y’all something, fucking pay attention.

Now quit whining, sell your shitty starter home, and move into a trailer on Boulder Highway. And don’t say you weren’t warned.

Japan Pledges To Halt Production Of Weirdo Porn That Makes People Puke | The Onion – America's Finest News Source

In what may signal a chastening within the industry, leading film producer Golden Dawn Global issued a press release this week voicing its “humility and bewilderment” and offering to cease international distribution of its blockbuster series Pregnant Ladyboy Sodomized Facedown In The Rice Bowl, a 23-part epic that has reportedly left thousands of viewers feeling repulsed, defiled, and forever doubtful about the inherent goodness of mankind.

“I’ve seen about a million of these films, and each one is worse than the next,” Portugal’s José Randulfo told reporters after receiving treatment for dehydration, caustic chemical burns, and fractured ribs—the result of a 45-minute vomiting spell he suffered after renting Naughty Ginza Maids Drink Cocktail Of Refuse And Bile. “The doctors say it may take months before I remember what normal genitals look like, and even longer before I remember how they are intended to function.”

“An apology from the government is fine, but how will they address the trauma I’ve already suffered?” asked Dallas resident Carter Landismann, citing the film Let’s Underwear Shop In Chinbo-Sho Medical District. “This stuff is disgusting. Like this scene here, with the latex-covered girl and the wolf and—oh, God, I’m gonna be sick again!”

via Japan Pledges To Halt Production Of Weirdo Porn That Makes People Puke | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source.

Light Aircraft On Fire

So here’s what happened.

My friend Chris Selcer and I were hanging out on my porch, smoking and chatting, when we heard a noise like the world’s biggest car backfire: BAP-BA-BA-BA-BA-BA-BAP! Chris immediately said “That’s a plane engine going out.”

We looked up…and there, between us and the Strip, was a Southwest Airlines plane…and the right (starboard, yeah?) engine was on FIRE. A tight, long (maybe 30-40 foot) stream of pure yellow flame ripping out the back. No smoke.

I think we both said “Holy fuck!” at the precise same moment. We jogged down to the end of the block to follow it. It was headed east-northeast, and it wasn’t gaining altitude — it was only 1000-2000 feet up at that point — and we thought it was about to drop out of the sky. We thought the pilot might try to make it to Nellis Air Force Base, north…but we didn’t think he was gonna make it that far. But we didn’t hear a boom and we didn’t see smoke.

Other neighbors and passers-by came over. One of my neighbors had a police scanner and he heard it was a Southwest flight and that the pilot was gonna try to circle around the city counterclockwise and come back to McCarran Airport. But we couldn’t see the plane.

And that was all, really, until I saw on Twitter — via local newsman Dave Courvoisier — that the plane landed safely.

But I have never in my life seen anything like that. I mean, I know that a plane can fly with one operational engine, but it was so loud and so…well, so totally on fire…that I thought it was gonna come down in suburban Vegas.

I’m glad all the passengers on Flight 273 got out safely, if Twitter is telling me correctly.

Tod Goldberg: 25 Random Things I Hate About Fucktards On Facebook I Don't Know In The Least But Who, Nonetheless, Are My "Friends"

Word. WORD. T-Go knocks one out of the park. (And unlike the rest of the fucktards, I actually know T-Go, which is why I know that he loves it when I call him T-Go, despite the fact that nobody else does and I’ve never done it before right this second, but it’s still awesome to be called T-Go. Yes.)

5. I hate that you poke me. Don’t fucking poke me. I don’t like it when my wife Wendy pokes me. Why? Because it’s annoying. Small, lost children and homeless people poke you. Do you want to know why? Because they don’t know you and they want something. What do you want? Huh? What the fuck do you want?

via Tod Goldberg: 25 Random Things I Hate About Fucktards On Facebook I Don’t Know In The Least But Who, Nonetheless, Are My “Friends”.