IE5.5 Prevents Well-Formed HTML

Author’s Note: This obsolete article has been retained for posterity.

The technique mentioned below applied only to Internet Explorer 5.5 and earlier. As of 2012 (ten years after this article was originally written), IE5.x market share has fallen well below 0.01% of all browser clients, and there is no justification to implement solutions for such ancient Web technology. Nowadays, a well-crafted style sheet solves the problem easily — and still allows for well-formed code, so there is no more dilemna.

If you’re a real web designer or developer, you’ve undoubtedly come across one or two problems that have incessantly plagued you — no matter what you did you just couldn’t make it turn out right in the browser.

Here’s one such example that I know has tortured quite a few developers. You’re working on a form such as a standalone select box or text input box, you want it to be very tightly integrated with some particular part of your design, and no matter what you do, either it keeps pushing down HTML elements underneath it or you can’t get it to vertically center within that part of your web page. There’s just this dåmn gap that won’t go away!

It’s actually pretty simple, but you literally have to think outside the box. Nowadays, writing well-formed code (code that has all open and close tags in the proper order) is a must. You can’t work with XML without being well formed, and it’s a fundamental requirement of the XHTML standards. Unfortunately, in this case, the real world (along with the world’s leading browser) forces you to occasionally create code that is not well formed in order to achieve the desired result. It goes against everything you’ve been taught, but put your HTML tags in the following order:


Your closing FORM tag actually ends up outside the table cell.

Naturally, this is an IE-only issue. Thanks again, Microsoft, for making all developers lives so much easier by introducing these quirks into your browser, so that we developers and designers have to work that much harder to obtain our stylistic goals!

Gilligan’s Island: Fugitive Drug Dealers

Most of us older than the current teen Britney Spears’ fan generation know every word of the signature iconic theme song to Gilligan’s Island:

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip, that started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship. The mate was a mighty sailin’ man, the Skipper brave and sure. Five passengers set sail that day for a three-hour tour… a three-hour tour.”

Source: Wikipedia

Only a three-hour tour? Are we sure about that? Even the original pilot episode was contradictory, debuting a best-forgotten, Caribbean-folk-like jingle penned by renowned composer John Williams, and highlighting a “six-hour trip” instead.

“In tropical sea is a tropic port. Vacation fun is the favorite sport. This is the place where the tourists flock, renting the boats at the busy dock. Two secretaries from the U-S-A, sail on the Minnow this lovely day. A high school teacher is next aboard, all taking trip that they can not afford. The next two people are millionaires. They got no worries. They got no cares. They climb aboard and they step inside, with just enough bags for a six-hour ride.”

There was no scuba gear aboard the tiny ship, so it couldn’t been a diving tour. The ship had to be far enough from shore that it couldn’t escape the incoming storm in time to be swept far from Hawaii’s coasts, so it certainly wasn’t a scenic coastal tour. So what were they doing out there in the middle of nowhere?

Not that the island really was out in the middle of nowhere — a lot of people already knew about the “uncharted desert island”. Remember the plethora of unusual visitors? An exiled president, an actor, a magician, Zsa Zsa Gabor, a mob leader, a painter, a singing group, a mad scientist, a Hollywood director, a butterfly collector, a big-game hunter, and hordes of natives from nearby islands. Don’t forget about the surfer who rode in on a wave all the way from Hawaii! There were many long-term tenants on the island: a long-lost aviator, a Japanese sailor from WWII, a jungle boy, and countless others.

Several world governments knew about the island, too. The tropical getaway was the intended strike zone for a new missile, the location of a transcontinental telephone cable, and the landing site of both a NASA satellite and a Russian space capsule, and the isle was home to experimental plastic explosives, robots, and jet packs. Even foreign spies made trips to the island.

OK, so obviously the island wasn’t really “uncharted”.

Why “The Minnow”? Mr. Howell and his wife weren’t exactly the kind of people that chartered dinky little sea-going boats manned by two inexperienced ex-Navy men. No, they were the luxurious yacht type. Thurston was a Northeastern Yankee millionaire; why was he on board with suitcases full of hundred-dollar bills and enough clothing to last months? Traveling alongside “Professor” Roy Hinkley, with his luggage full of test tubes and beakers, and an amazing knowledge of synthesizing chemicals from local plant life? An unlikely coincidence? It seems so, especially for a high school teacher researching a new book called Fun with Ferns out in the middle of the open sea where there just aren’t many ferns.

The Howells needed a skipper who — for a few extra bucks shared with his trusty first mate Gilligan — would deviate from the standard “three-hour tour” to rendezvous with someone somewhere else. Mr. Howell and his wife were drug smugglers who chartered The Minnow to make a multi-million-dollar drug deal. The Professor came along to ensure the quality of the goods. The Skipper was on Mr. Howell’s payroll, and had an incentive to foil any attempts at rescue. So, obviously, did his Little Buddy, Gilligan, since both the Skipper and Gilligan had knowledge of Mr. and Mrs. Howell’s plan to smuggle drugs. Episode 36 reveals that the contents of at least one of Thurston’s suitcases are packed full with bottles of “medications”.

Why didn’t they just lash together a raft and leave? Oh, sure, they half-heartedly tried it once — during the first episode — but Gilligan successfully sabotaged the attempt and the islanders never tried again. Heading back to the mainland would have been problematic for the Howells; they had arranged to be stranded on the island in order to wait out the statue of limitations for drug running.

Photo © CBS Television

But if the deal never went down, why continue with the “castaway” charade when they were all alone on Gilligan’s Island? Undoubtedly, one of the island residents was not like the others. The Howells, the Skipper, Gilligan and the Professor were in on the sham. That only leaves Ginger and Mary Ann. Ms. Grant was an aging, failing, money-grubbing, B-movie actress. She was either the Professor’s bit o’ crumpet, or Thurston’s bit on the side.

Kansas native Mary Ann Summers, on the other hand, had a fishy tale: she had supposedly won a Hawaiian vacation in a contest at the last minute (aren’t contest prize tickets always given out in pairs?) — and yet her fiancé stayed at home and no one else accompanied her, not even a friend? Mary Ann had been briefed that the five-passenger, two-crew 1960 Wheeler Flying Bridge Cruiser had only one vacancy remaining. Flying the mission solo, Mary Ann was a mole planted by the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics, patiently vying for irrefutable incriminating evidence to convict the ex-multi-billionaires and their accomplices.

It’s always the innocent-looking ones you can’t trust.