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Jane Austen, Tailwind and modern full-stack development

Some of us are so old that we grew up before npm existed. In fact, I’m so old that I went to university and studied English Literature because we had things called “books”. As part of this, we had to read some 19th century novels so I chose Jane Austen, because she’s funny and because her books are 10% of the weight and boringness of peak noveltwats like Dickens, Thackeray or Walter Scott.

Anyway, not many people in modern full-stack development have read much English literature so may not know that Tailwind, the extra-wonderful replacement for CSS, is actually named after a 19th century euphemism for “fart”. From Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (Chapter 7):

Miss Bennett, shall we take a turn around the garden ? The air in this ballroom has become somewhat rancid, methinks”.

Elizabeth blushed. “My apologies, Captain Cadbastard”, said she ; “I do confess that when you whirl’d me round in the last cotillion, a small tailwind eked out from beneath my seventeenth petticoat”.

Pride and Prejudice is all about the mindset of anachronistic developers who think that the only language they know is the only one that counts (the ‘pride’) and also that “CSS isn’t really a language” (prejudice). See the famous opening:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a developer not in possession of a basic knowledge of the foundational languages of the Web, must be in want of a framework and cumbersome build process.

Reading List

Windows Backup did not complete successfully

This took me ages to discover (and hat-tip to Sarah Bourne for the answer) so I’m posting it as it might help someone else.

If you suddenly start getting this error when doing backups on Windows 7, run a full security scan and kill any quarantined viruse. (I use the free-to-download Microsoft Security Essentials.)

Why the error message is so stupidly unhelpful, and why Windows back-up doesn’t simply carry on in the legitimate assumption that you’d rather not backup quarantined viruses, are just two of the many mysteries of the universe.

On the HTML5 logo

The W3C has released a logo for HTML5. I’ve been broadly supportive of this since I was told about it last year, but can’t help feeling a little disappointed that wrapped up in there are references to CSS in there.

Mashable reports that

logo designer Michael Nieling said in a statement, “The term HTML5 has taken on a life of its own; there has been significant confusion…as to what exactly HTML5 is when the term is used outside of simply referring to the spec itself”


In order to alleviate that confusion, let me point again to my video rant HTML5 != CSS3 rant:

For more on this, see Two cheers for the W3C’s HTML5 logo.

But I’m not going to be churlish; I shall be putting the badge on this site too. And getting the new outfit that Cole Henley so kindly mocked up for me.

If you’d like HTML5 badges to appear by magic on sites with an HTML5 doctype, my friend and fellow Operative @ourmaninjapan has an Opera Extension. For those with other browsers, he has a Greasemonkey/UserJS.

First impressions of Tokyo

As I wearily stepped off a plane in which I’d been sandwiched between the two fattest Germans since Goering for ten chuckle-filled hours, my first sight outside the airport was the smiling visage of Web Directions organizer and all-round nice guy John Allsopp, who assisted me on the 70kms journey to my posh Ginza hotel.

Like two years ago when I travelled to Jakarta for the first time, I was weirded out by how familiar it felt: the elevated roads, skyscrapers and purposeful crowds reminded me of the four years in spent in Bangkok.

Just like two years ago, it was extra-strange when I realized that I had no language. I’m fluent in Thai, so it’s immensely frustrating not to be able to speak to people here.

Of course, after the superficial feeling of familiarity, the differences became apparent. The streets aren’t full of pot holes. The food is very different. There are ten bajilion vending machines where n Thailand there would be noodle vendors. The toilet in my hotel has more controls than the bridge of the starship enterprise. It’s not all different though: the women are, like Thai and Indonesian women, jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

The Japan-resident HTML5 Doctor, Oli, picked me up and we rode a pleasantly non-crowded train to Satoshi’s house, where I’m drinking a very welcome cold Kirin beer before dinner and writing this on John’s iPad.

I’ve wanted to visit Tokyo for twenty years and now I’m finally here. Yay!


Turkey, and old friends

My family and I had 10 days in Hisarönü, near Fethiye where I used to live in the early 90s. The resort itself was as I remembered it: a depressing mass of restaurants offering “full English breakfasts with real pork sausage!” but the hotel had a swimming pool, the mountains gave some cooling breeze, and it was easy to get to Fethiye, Ölüdeniz or the melancholy beauty of the deserted Greek village, Kayaköy.

I tracked down my old friend Asiye, who taught me lots of Turkish in 1993, and who I hadn’t seen since the year 2000 when we bumped into each other, utterly by chance, in the street in Bangkok. (Her Fethiye clothing shop, Şaman, has the strapline “there are no coincidences”.)

I think we can safely say that in 17 years neither Asiye nor I have changed one jot. Then:

Asiye and me, on the beach at night, Fethiye, Turkey 1994


Asiye, Şaman shop, Paspatur, Fethiye

And I’m delighted that there was no reason for my earlier holiday trepidation.

WordPress loses comments

for some reason, WordPress has decided to lose all comments on this blog.

It happened after my web host restarted the database server because of one of those occasional “error establishing a database connnection” errors that WordPress blogs seem to randomly spew out.


Thanks to Calcutta Seo: Search Engine Optimization for the answer. The answer lay in cpanel: My SQL option and “repair database”.

And thanks to Rich Pedley for recommending the DBC Backup plugin, which allows me to schedule a once-a-day backup to be emailed to me.