Markdown versus DITA

March 31st, 2015

Tom Johnson has another very interesting post about authoring techniques and technologies – this one comparing authoring using Markdown in Jekyll versus authoring in DITA in OxygenXML. I’m only vaguely familiar with Markdown, but will probably start using it more once I upgrade this blog to a more current version of WordPress. I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of using DITA at work because it seems too complex and difficult to implement in my current circumstances. Based on Tom’s post, Markdown looks like it might be something I could use.

In my previous post, I noted a new series in which I plan to compare Jekyll versus DITA. In this first post, I want to debunk the myth that Markdown formats with static site generators like Jekyll are more limiting than DITA. This is a point discussed in the Content Content podcast that I referenced in the series introduction. This is also a point that I myself was hung up on for a long time.

To an extent, yes, Markdown itself is more limiting than DITA. But Jekyll doesn’t just process Markdown on a page — you can write in Markdown, HTML, Liquid, or JavaScript. With these options, you have a lot of freedom and flexibility — even more so than DITA.

I hadn’t heard about Jekyll until recently. For an introduction to Jekyll, see this blog article by Scott Nesbitt.

Rave of Thrones

March 30th, 2015

I didn’t know that Kristian Nairn, who plays Hodor in Game of Thrones, is a DJ and a damned good one. He did a set at a party a couple of days after the 5th season premier in San Francisco, reviewed by Wired. The article has links to several of his mixes if you want to check them out. I like them, though my tastes run more to the ambient side of electronica.

Nairn himself is incredibly imposing. At just under seven feet tall, he doesn’t really need a stage or a DJ booth to tower over everyone, but there he was, bouncing along to his music, shuffling around sounds, cueing up tracks, and fiddling with knobs. Unlike many modern DJs, he doesn’t use a laptop. It’s just him and his console of buttons and knobs—a setup that keeps him less separated from his crowd, and more in tune with their mood.

Nairn’s particular style of progressive house may fold in a few dialogue samples of his character—and at one point the music dropped out to leave only a chiptune variation of the Game Of Thrones title theme—but mostly he’s just lost in the trance of a continually pulsating rhythm. And instead of cyclically building the beat to a drop that unleashes the abrasive screeches so prevalent in dubstep, Nairn is a throwback to the golden days of British house music, with extended running times, seamless hour-long mixes, and a focus on keeping the energy level high but not exhausting.

Download the SXSW 100

March 29th, 2015

South by Southwest or SXSW was held in Austin a couple of weeks ago. Even the mayor of Toronto went. NPR was there and the hosts of All Songs Considered have put together a play list of 100 songs from some of the performers. You can stream the songs or download the whole thing as a .zip file until April 2.

There’s a lot of music on this page — 100 songs, to be exact, each from an artist worth discovering at this year’s SXSW Music Festival. It’s more than six genre-defying hours of music.

Still, we started out with far more to choose from. It took an enormous amount of effort to get here: Thousands of acts play SXSW each year, enough that winnowing them down to 100 required months of seeking, listening, culling and decision-making. What remains are some of SXSW 2015’s most thrilling discoveries and highlights — and you can download them all from right here, either individually or in one 795 MB .zip file, until April 2, 2015.

Checking some credentials

March 27th, 2015

So, you see a science story on FOX News and another on PBS. Which one should you trust. Compare the credentials of their reporters. Here’s a sample from the article.


  • Joe Palca, who worked as an editor for Nature, a senior correspondent for Science Magazine, and a science writer in residence at the Huntington Library, and has won the National Academies Communications Award, the Science-in-Society Award of the National Association of Science Writers, the American Chemical Society James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Prize, and the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Writing. Palca holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California at Santa Cruz.
  • Rob Stein, who worked at The Washington Post for 16 years, first as the newspaper’s science editor and then as a national health reporter. He’s also been a science reporter for United Press International (UPI) in Boston and the science editor of the international wire service in Washington. He completed a program in science and religion at the University of Cambridge, and a summer science writer’s workshop at the Marine Biological Laboratory, and has been honored by the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association of Health Care Journalists.


  • Jenn Gidman, a “creative editor, writer, blogger, and content manager”. Her specialties include, “social media analysis”, “blogging about entertainment”, “parenting”, and “branding/marketing”.
  • Brian Mastroianni, who received a journalism degree “with a concentration in arts and culture reporting”. Skills and interests: “basic video shooting”, “digital editing”, “HTML and web page design”, “newspaper/magazine page design”, and “on-camera reporting”.

How Long Does Food Last?

March 24th, 2015

A lot of food gets wasted unnecessarily because the best before dates on packages are usually very conservative. Here’s a site that will tell you how long you can safely use almost any food. The information includes whether the packaging has been opened or not and whether the food has been kept refrigerated or frozen.

We are a group of contributors from the kitchen and classroom communities who set out to answer the question, “How long does food really last?”. From the best ingredients to the ordinary, we provide you with a diverse and informative perspective on food shelf life, food safety, expiration dates, recipes, substitutions, food storage and more. We are focused on helping you save money, eat healthy, and debunk the myth of expiration dates on food.

The 12 Ultimate Tips for Composition in Art

March 23rd, 2015

In photography, one of the things that separates great photographers from the merely good is their eye for composition. It’s something that you know when you see it, even if you can’t explain what makes it work. Some people have a natural talent for composition, others have to learn it. There are guidelines and tips that you can follow that will help to improve the composition of your photos (or your art, if you are an artist). I’ve seen many articles about composition and The 12 ultimate tips for composition in art is one of the better ones.

A strong composition is crucial to a successful piece of art. It’s what will attract a viewer’s eye, and what will hold their attention once they take a closer look.

It can mean the difference between an action-packed piece of art and a solemn, contemplative one. But how do you make a composition convey the mood you want, and what is it that makes a composition successful?

There are a many long-standing rules regarding what makes a good composition, such as the Golden Ratio, the Golden Spiral and the Rule of Thirds. But they aren’t really rules at all!

Think of them as suggestions… or better yet, as optional templates. Traditional methods like these are just one answer to a problem which has an infinite number of solutions. Their purpose is just to offer a simple method for an artist to use to make a more pleasing image.