Archive for month: January, 2013

The Value of Re-Typing Code

10 Jan
January 10, 2013

Originally posted on WSOL.Com

Our civilization is built upon the foundations that were laid down long ago. Once we find something that works, we tend to emulate it in order to move forward. The world of web development is no different. In fact, it is probably worse. We steal borrow code all of the time. If we run into a problem, there is a good chance that someone has posted a solution somewhere on the internet, and our google-fu is strong.

Better understanding of what is going on

By re-typing the code, you start to get into the mind set of the person who solved the problem. And after all, isn’t that why you are there in the first place? To learn and understand? You start to see the patterns of good code, and recognizing bad code. And with better understanding, comes more intelligent observations, questions, and your own ideas on how to take it another step forward. I can’t tell you how many times something has “clicked”, and I understand something that had been eluding me to that point.

Muscle Memory

Don’t laugh at this one, it’s important. Raise your hand if you took typing in school. (Ok, guess I am showing my age. How about keyboarding, they still teach that, right?) What was the main thing you did during those classes? That’s right, copy text. That’s how you learned to type. How your fingers figured out where the keys were to make coherent words, without you having to go through the ‘hunt and peck’ torture routine.

Re-typing code is the same thing. Your fingers will get used to the routine of typing. Certain key combinations will become much easier, almost second nature.That, along with a better understanding of what the code is doing will help your coding speed improve dramatically. I promise.

Better Troubleshooting Through Typos

Don’t you just hate typos? There is nothing worse than spending half an hour to find that one command that had an “e” instead of an “i”, or that missing semi-colon. (Ok, there are a lot of things that are worse than that, but very few more frustrating. [Ok, there are many things more frustrating, but I think you get my point]) It’s funny, but finding those typos really does make you a better troubleshooter. It helps you recognize broken patterns in the code, which helps you understand what is going on even more.

Incremental Testing

Building an application, a web page, or anything else really is a pretty cool thing. Watching the pieces come together to make the whole is almost magical at times. When you are re-typing, you can test throughout the process. Find out what that last bit code did, and see it in action. Or watch the whole thing crash, and start the troubleshooting process knowing that it is easier to check ten lines of code than it is one-hundred.

So the next time you find that perfect code solution online, don’t just copy and paste it into your page, take the time to actually type it out. Obviously, project deadlines, client site development, troubleshooting, etc., don’t always allow us the luxury of retyping code, but when possible, the benefits are pretty great. You will find yourself a better programmer for it.

The Ice Cream Chronicles

06 Jan
January 6, 2013

Bourbon Brown Butter Pencan

For Christmas 2011, my mother-in-law gave me a Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment for our mixer ( It was something that I had asked for on a whim, never expecting to get one, but there it was, sitting there amid the pile of torn wrapping paper, staring at me.

This was actually my second ice cream maker. A while ago I had gotten one of the old bucket type ones, where you supply the ice and rock salt which freeze the ice cream. It even had an old-fashioned hand crank. The couple of times I tried making ice cream in it, however, neither turned out very good at all.

I had a vague desire to make unusual ice creams, but it wasn’t a burning need. So the new contraption sat in the box for a few months in the pantry. I would spot it every once in a while, feel guilty, and tell myself that I need to make some ice cream.

Around late spring, I bit the bullet and made my first batch. I scoured the internet looking for recipes, and finally decided on a lemon ice cream. Honesty, it was horrible. I like tart things, but this was too much even for me. It was icy, bitter, and just all around unpleasant. Not a great start.

My father’s birthday was a coming up soon, and I decided that I wanted to try again. This time fresh peach was on the menu. Here’s a tip for all of you would-be ice cream artisans…you have to churn it for more than five minutes, and it needs to actually freeze to be considered ice cream. On the plus side, this batch tasted pretty good, although it was more like a chilled soup than a tasty frozen treat.

Now a little bit about me, so you understand my position. I am not overly competitive. I like to win as much as the next guy, but it isn’t a driving force in my life. However, I hate being a failure at anything. I don’t have to be the best, but just not a failure, and there I was with two failed ice creams under my belt. I would have to keep trying.

A couple of weeks later, at the end of June, the temperature was climbing, and some of our best friends were having a Hawaiian themed birthday party. (They had just gotten back from the islands, and wanted to rub it in share the experience with everyone.) I decided to try to make a pineapple ice cream. Specifically, I wanted to make pineapple floats (a scoop of pineapple soft serve ice cream floating in glass of pineapple juice. Perfect on a hot summer night!)

This time, success!The ice cream was smooth, tangy, and just about perfect. It was the hit of the party, which is saying something, considering my lovely wife Tara (, who is a spectacular cook, had also made something almost equally tasty for the party.

Since then, I have made a different ice cream each month, for various occasions. Some have been more successful than others, but I have learned something from each batch. Tara and I decided that it would be a good thing to share the experiences, so that’s why I’m writing this now. I figure ice cream can fall under the “And More” portion of my blog’s tagline. So keep a look out for new experiments and recipes.