Apr. 12, 2009

Mar. 14, 2009

Mar. 10, 2009


4:12 am

We called it the Rubber Duck method of debugging. It goes like this:

  1. Beg, borrow, steal, buy, fabricate or otherwise obtain a rubber duck (bathtub variety).
  2. Place rubber duck on desk and inform it you are just going to go over some code with it, if that's all right.
  3. Explain to the duck what you code is supposed to do, and then go into detail and explain things line by line.
  4. At some point you will tell the duck what you are doing next and then realise that that is not in fact what you are actually doing. The duck will sit there serenely, happy in the knowledge that it has helped you on your way.

Works every time. Actually, if you don't have a rubber duck you could at a pinch ask a fellow programmer or engineer to sit in.

Andrew Errington, from an awk list-serv discussion on debugging. (#)

Mar. 8, 2009


5:45 am

When you talk about how much you like a tune, you don’t say: “That’s a great MP3”. You say: “That’s a great song”. The MP3 is the delivery mechanism, not the creative work; just as in type a font is the delivery mechanism and a typeface is the creative work.

Stephen Coles, typography enthusiast and contributor to Font Feed, on the distinction between the terms "font" and "typeface." (via Jeff Croft.) (#)

Mar. 5, 2009


6:59 am

We’re just a million little gods causing rain storms, turning every good thing to rust.

I guess we’ll just have to adjust.

Arcade Fire, from the song "Wake Up." (#)

Mar. 3, 2009

Mar. 2, 2009

If you’re like me and you’ve been following ExpressionEngine’s Knowledge Base article on porting an EE site from one server to another, let me share a secret. You’ve been doing it the hard way.

Keep reading. // Leave a comment.

Feb. 28, 2009


3:09 pm

There is an unacknowledged war that goes on every day in the world of programming. It is a war between the humans and the computer scientists. It is a war between those who want simple, sloppy, flexible, human ways to write code and those who want clean, crisp, clear, correct ways to write code. It is the war between PHP and C++/Java. It used to be the war between C and dBase. Programmers at the level of those who attend Columbia University, programmers at the level of those who have made it through the gauntlet that is Google recruiting, programmers at the level of this audience are all people who love precise tools, abstraction, serried ranks of orderly propositions, and deduction. But most people writing code are more like my son. Code is just a hammer they use to do the job.

Adam Bosworth, from a 2004 speech on the primacy of simple, sloppy systems over rigid, perfect ones. (#)


2:43 pm


TNF has gotten the short end of the stick since Meg and I became parents. (I’m planning for that to change, for what that’s worth.) The lack of action here is partly due to the fact that I launched another site, Dawsoning, a week or so after Asher was born.

Keep reading. // Leave a comment.

Feb. 26, 2009

Feb. 4, 2009


8:08 pm

The bursting of the housing bubble caused the current crisis, but the underlying problem began much earlier—in the late 1970s, when median U.S. incomes began to stall. Because wages got hit then by the double-whammy of global competition and new technologies, the typical American family was able to maintain its living standard only if women went into the workforce in larger numbers, and later, only if everyone worked longer hours.

When even these coping mechanisms were exhausted, families went into debt—a strategy that was viable as long as home values continued to rise. But when the housing bubble burst, families were no longer able to easily refinance and take out home-equity loans. The result: Americans no longer have the money to keep consuming. When you consider that consumers make up 70 percent of the economy, the magnitude of the problem becomes apparent.

What happened to the money? According to researchers Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, since the late 1970s, a greater and greater share of national income has gone to people at the top of the earnings ladder. As late as 1976, the richest 1 percent of the country took home about 9 percent of the total national income. By 2006, they were pocketing more than 20 percent. But the rich don’t spend as much of their income as the middle class and the poor do—after all, being rich means that you already have most of what you need. That’s why the concentration of income at the top can lead to a big shortfall in overall demand and send the economy into a tailspin. (It’s not coincidental that 1928 was the last time that the top 1 percent took home more than 20 percent of the nation’s income.)

Robert Reich, on the root cause of current economic woes in the US. (#)

Jan. 20, 2009

Jan. 19, 2009


2:31 pm

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will bless us with tears—tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless this nation with anger—anger at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort at the easy, simplistic answers we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be fixed anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility, open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance, replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.

Bless us with compassion and generosity, remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.

And God, we give you thanks for your child, Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for all people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our ship of state needs a steady, calm captain.

Give him stirring words; We will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking far too much of this one. We implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand, that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity, and peace. Amen.

Episcopal Bishop Gene Robison's prayer opening the "We Are One" concert that kicked off the festivities for President Obama's inauguration. (#)

Jan. 9, 2009

Dec. 21, 2008

I’m now just over two months into my Django experiment and about halfway into my first client project. I’ll admit to anyone who even feigns an interest in listening that I’ve never had this much fun working on the web. The framework never fails to impress. Take for example the problem I was confronted with in building an online registration system for an after-school program at a local elementary school.

Keep reading. // Leave a comment.

Dec. 19, 2008


7:38 am

Stress comes from dissonance. When two things in your mind can’t be resolved and you start thinking you’re going to be stuck with the incongruity forever, you stress.

But, as much as our minds and our hearts encourage us to believe the fault goes to our will or our lack of industry – rather than our thinking and cognition – the true cure for stress is to cut the Gordian Knot. To change your mind about at least one thing you think you’re not allowed to change your mind about.

Merlin Mann, on relieving stress through the practice of total honesty. (#)

Dec. 16, 2008

Dec. 9, 2008