Pew Pew Laser Blog

Code. Glass art. Games. Baking. Cats. From Seattle, Washington and various sundry satellite locations.

Blogs about evangelism

The DL Element.


At a conference earlier this year, I was asked what my favorite HTML element was. In fact, I do have one: the Definition List, along with its children Definition Term and Definition Description. The definition list is great because it provides an inherent semantic relationship between two elements - the term and the one or more descriptions. I feel like these elements are under-used; especially considering that they've been around since HTML 4.01.

I was going to invent a clever example to demonstrate the definition list, but I don't think I can do any better than the one provided by the Mozilla Developer Network:

A free, open source, cross-platform, graphical web browser developed by the Mozilla Corporation and hundreds of volunteers.
The Red Panda also known as the Lesser Panda, Wah, Bear Cat or Firefox, is a mostly herbivorous mammal, slightly larger than a domestic cat (60 cm long).

Here is the source code for that:

  <dd>A free, open source, cross-platform, graphical web browser developed by the Mozilla Corporation and hundreds of volunteers.</dd>
  <dd>The Red Panda also known as the Lesser Panda, Wah, Bear Cat or Firefox, is a mostly herbivorous mammal, slightly larger than a domestic cat (60 cm long). </dd>

This shows one term (Firefox) along with two definitions of that term. Because it's a list, you can add as many groups of terms and definitions as needed for your content.

Cookies For Science.


I have been struggling recently with the question of how old can baking soda get before it's inappropriate for baking. I decided to do some science - and baked up these cookies last Sunday night.

Chocolate chip cookies with year old baking soda This picture shows the cookies made using the old baking soda, after having cooled on the rack for about half an hour. They're a little flat; they're tallest where the chocolate chips provide structure for the dough.

Chocolate chip cookies with month old baking soda This picture shows the cookies made the new baking soda (sorry for the poor focus). These cookies are puffy; the dough holds it's own structure.

Two cookies, side by side A cookie with old baking soda is on the left, and a cookie with new baking soda is on the right.

Six cookies, side by side As before, the cookies with old baking soda are on the left, and the cookies with new baking soda are on the right. The stack on the right is clearly much taller.

The Results

The results were clear to me - the old baking soda delivered a significantly worse cookie. The cookies made with old baking soda were too flat (they were puddles of dough clinging to chocolate chips), and dried out in just 2 days. The cookies with new baking soda were cookie shaped; and still tasty 4 days later. I hereby strengthen my resolve to buy new baking soda every 6 months.

The Recipe

Here is the recipe that I used:

Stir flour, baking soda and salt together. Cream the butter, shortening, white and brown sugar. Add eggs, one by one, to creamed mixture and beat until incorporated, then add vanilla. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Dish rough tablespoons of dough onto a baking sheet and baked for 9.5 minutes at 350° F (until golden brown and delicious). Allow cookies to set on cookie sheets, and to cool on wire racks.

Test Methodology

I prepared two mixtures of 5 5/8th oz flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and added 1/2 teaspoon of each version of baking soda to each mixture. I prepared two mixtures of 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 egg for each batch of dough.

I creamed the entire recipe of butter, shortening and both sugars together, weighed the total amount (with the bowl zeroed out), and spooned material out of that bowl until was split in half. While finishing the dough and baking, I stored the creamed mixtures and dough in the refrigerator.

The dough with the old baking soda got proper chocolate chips. I figured this would give them the best chance at being tall; as the chips provided some height. The dough with the new baking soda got chopped bar chocolate, which contributed to its darker color (and did help me to tell the cookies apart.)

Science is re-producible, so I urge you to preform your own experiments!

My Top 3 iPhone Apps.


I've had my iPhone for about a year now, and it's just as indispensable as my Palm used to be. Here are my favorite apps for the iPhone.

  1. OneBusAway. Based on the real-time location information from most bus lines (or train or ferry), OneBusAway tells me how long until my bus arrives. Then I can decide if I have time for breakfast at home or if I have to dash out the door. It does break down in very-slow-bus scenarios, such as snow or Sounders events. (Useful mainly in Puget Sound, but available for a variety of devices.) It's free!
  2. NASA. NASA's app is a great way to keep track of our space-faring activities. You can track launches, watch videos, and even look at daily pictures such as the APOD. The NASA app makes it super easy to save the pictures for use as lock screen / wallpaper images. (Available for iPhone and Android. Also, free.)
  3. 2Do. Yes, it's another to-do list application. But it's got a huge feature set. As a Palm devotee, I had very high demands for my to-list application, and despaired of finding one that met my needs. 2Do does everything that I need it to, and still has features left over.

1 comment(s).


After years of, I present to you, vindication! Reprinted directly from the daily Common Errors in English Usage email:

historic: an historic vs. a historic

You should use “an” before a word beginning with an H only if the H is not pronounced: “An honest effort.” It's properly “a historic event” though many sophisticated speakers somehow prefer the sound of “an historic,” so that version is not likely to get you into any real trouble.

2 comment(s).

Stuck in a Rut?


May I suggest reading something you wouldn't otherwise read? Last year I read several books that were well outside of my standard literary comfort zone of science fiction and web development. Here are the most stimulating books that I read over the past year:

Of course, you don't have to buy these books solely on my say-so. Do what I do - check them out from your local public library.

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