Archive for February, 2008

Links and Forms: the fundamental building blocks of the Web

February 29, 2008

The Web is built around links and forms.

Links enable us to get information.  The mechanism for achieving links is HTTP GET.

Forms enable us to send information.  The mechanism for achieving forms is HTTP POST.

The world’s leading crop is sugarcane

February 28, 2008

The modern world’s leading crop is sugarcane.  Its annual tonnage nearly equals that of the number two and number three crops combined (wheat and corn).

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Using Stevia in recipes as a sugar substitute

February 27, 2008

Stevia is a naturally occurring herb (a friend once gave me a stevia plant; I chewed on a leaf and it was very sweet!).  When the leaves are dried, the resulting powder is something like 240 times sweeter than sugar.  Consequently, a little bit goes a long way.

Over the years I have experimented with using stevia in recipes.  I have found that if I completely eliminate sugar from the recipe and replace it with stevia, the result is very bland.

However, I have found that stevia works synergistically with sugar to enhance its sweetness.   So, if a recipe calls for, say, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, I reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup and add 1/4 tsp. of stevia.  That seems to work pretty well.

In the average American household, the TV set is on for seven hours per day

February 26, 2008

American children spend much of their time passively entertained by television, radio, and movies.  In the average American household, the TV set is on for seven hours per day.

In contrast, traditional New Guinea children have virtually no such opportunities for passive entertainment and instead spend almost all of their waking hours actively doing something, such as talking or playing with other children or adults.

Almost all studies of child development emphasize the role of childhood stimulation and activity in promoting mental development, and stress the irreversible mental stunting associated with reduced childhood stimulation.

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Constant repetition doesn’t make it true

February 25, 2008

Constant repetition of a claim may cause people to believe it, but repetition doesn’t make it true.

Unspun by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Learn XML to learn HTML to learn web service design

February 24, 2008

Ten years ago I was struggling to learn HTML. Then along came this new technology called XML, which quickly captured my attention and interest. As I learned XML, the questions I had with HTML vanished.

I have spent the last 10 years immersed in the XML family of technologies.

For the past year I have been revisiting HTML, and also learning its associated suite of technologies: CSS, JavaScript and DOM. As I learn the HTML family of technologies, the questions I have with building XML-based web applications are vanishing.

I am impressed with HTML. It is the most thoroughly scrutinized and most widely implemented markup language in the world. Spending time thoroughly learning HTML has been time well spent. It has helped me with designing better XML. It’s been a full circle: XML helped me to understand HTML, and HTML has helped me to understand XML.

The HTML family of technologies run within a browser. As I learn the HTML technologies, I have come to appreciate the browser as a remarkably flexible web application. By focusing on HTML and its family of technologies I have come to learn about flexible web application design.

My Recommendation

Building an XML-based web application or web service? Then study HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and DOM. Learn the principles of progressive enhancement, graceful degradation, and web standards design.

The Golden Ratio

February 23, 2008

Divide a line in two, such that the ratio of the small part to the large part is equal to the ratio of the large part to the whole line.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that the small part is 1 foot long. If the small part is 1 foot long, and the large part is x feet long, then the length of the whole line is obviously 1 + x feet long. The ratio of the small part to the large part is 1/x while the ratio of the large part to the whole thing is x/(1+x)

The Golden Ratio is where the ratio of the small to the large is equal to the ratio of the large to the whole, so we set the two ratios equal to each other: x/(1+x) = 1/x

Multiply both sides by x to get: x2/(1+x) = 1

Then multiply both sides by (1+x) to get: x2 = 1 + x

Subtract 1 + x from both sides to get: x2x – 1 = 0

This is a quadratic equation. The value of x which meets this equation is: (1 + √5)/2

This is about 1.618

Thus, take a line of length 2.618 feet and divide it up into two parts, the short part is 1 foot in length, the second part is 1.618 feet. The two parts have a Golden Ratio.

Zero, The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife

Testing your understanding of an author’s words

February 22, 2008

There is one other test of whether you understand the proposition in a sentence you have read.  Can you point to some experience you have had that the proposition describes or to which the proposition is in any way relevant?  Can you exemplify the general truth that has been enunciated by referring to a particular instance of it?  To imagine a possible case is often as good as citing an actual one.  If you cannot do anything at all to exemplify or illustrate the proposition, either imaginatively or by reference to actual experiences, you should suspect that you do not know what is being said.

Propositions do not exist in a vacuum.  They refer to the world in which we live.  Unless you can show some acquaintance with actual or possible facts to which the proposition refers or is relevant somehow, you are playing with words, not dealing with thought or knowledge.

How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren

XML stands for Extensible Markup Language, not eXtensible Markup Language

February 21, 2008

A couple days ago there was this interesting exchange on the xml-dev list:

Elliotte Rusty Harold wrote:

> The X stands for eXtensible.

Tim Bray (editor of the XML specification) responded:

> Elliotte, hang your head in shame, and write on the chalkboard 10 ** 10 times:

> XML stands for Extensible Markup Language
> The X is for the first syllable of Extensible
> eXtensible is a spelling error.

Stuck on a problem? Here’s how I get inspired with new ideas

February 20, 2008

I get my most inspirations by reading books. Oftentimes I will be reading a book on a totally unrelated subject, and it will say something that suddenly connects to a problem that I am working.

Stuck on a problem? Want to get inspired? Raid books for inspiration!