I read The Pleasure Trap earlier this year, and was amazed at what its authors have to say about the dangers of modern food. It’s very hard to avoid unhealthy food. I wanted to get to know the authors a bit better so I searched YouTube and found this excellent hour-long video about the Dietary Pleasure Trap. It’s worth a watch if you’d like to eat better, help someone you know to eat better, or just understand why so many people are overweight. The book goes into it much more deeply and in my opinion is well worth the time it takes to read.

I just watched Corey Haines’ lightning talk from this year’s acts_as_conference:

He makes a lot of really good points in a short amount of time. One of the things he says is that if we have to look at documentation for a technique, we’re unlikely to use that technique when we’re in a time crunch. I think this is a very good point. Another time when I might not use the documentation is when I’m just dabbling.

To learn things, he suggests doing arbitrary tasks repetitively to get them engrained into our minds.

I spent a number of hours doing arbitrary tasks with vim, and I’ve gotten pretty good at using vim IMHO. I wish I could say I was as good at jQuery, but I haven’t got it down as well despite doing real projects in it. I think perhaps it’s best that I pick an arbitrary task, or at least do a real, but small, task repetitively, or keep trying to improve it, until I start to really get the hang of it.

On a side note, Corey Haines’ has quit working a regular job and started traveling around and pair programming with people in exchange for room and board. He calls himself a Software Journeyman. It will be interesting to hear what he learns from the experience. I hope his journey takes him to Arizona at some point!

Today I got a chance to try out Ubiquity. What a neat concept! It’s a GUI command line like QuickSilver, only it’s implemented as a Firefox extension instead of a desktop application.

The demo movie is impressive.

Ubiquity for Firefox from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.

I like how it shows information based on the text typed as I’m typing it. This functionality, called preview, is used extensively in the map command. In fact, most of the time the map command doesn’t even need to be executed, because a small map can be viewed and added to documents without executing a command. I think the preview functionality will be especially useful for looking up programming documentation.

The preview functionality is also used in the built-in twitter command, which posts an update to the microblogging site Twitter. It shows how many characters are left before you hit twitter’s limit. The built-in twitter command, however, uses 160 characters for the limit instead of the 140 character limit on twitter’s website. The 160 character limit for API’s is provided in case a long URL is included in the tweet, which twitter will auto-shorten using tinyurl.

I often post long tweets and don’t want to guess at whether one is going to be too long, so I created my own command, tweet, which uses is.gd for URL shortening. It uses the longest length of is.gd URLs to calculate what the size of URL will be, and bases the number of characters left on that. It replaces any occurrence of the string isgd with an is.gd link to the current page.

It was very easy to write, in large part due to being integrated into Firefox, and having Firefox’s JavaScript environment. It also is written with JQuery and command writers have jQuery available to them.

Ubiquity might not be the embodiment of a totally new concept, but I find that since it’s a Firefox extension, as opposed to being a desktop application, it’s a lot more convenient for me to use and develop for.

Watch Dexter, Anybots, Inc.‘s self-balancing robot. Then watch the video of Honda’s Asimo robot walking and then falling down while attempting to climb stairs (I know they’ve had successful stair-climbing demonstrations since). Quite a contrast, isn’t it? Dexter’s walk looks like a human walk, a pretty feeble human, but a human walk. The Asimo robot’s walk looks like a souped up robot’s walk.

Both robots have their advantages. I’d like to see Dexter get the ability run off battery power. It would also be interesting to see other combinations of the two types of robots. But I will always remember Dexter as he is right now when I think back to the day that I first saw a self-balancing biped robot.