Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Finally, CSS Demystified

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

If you’re a programmer type like me and have tried your hand at CSS, it’s very likely you’ve struggled like I have to understand how CSS really works. As I programmer, I’m used to writing code while visualizing in my head what the outcome of running the code is going to be (ignoring all those nasty bugs of course :-) ). However, with CSS, I was never able to get the feeling that I knew exactly what was going to happen when a page rendered. All the books I read until recently did not really help me – it seemed like the authors of the books were also as confused as I was as to how things exactly worked. The tone of the books was – “if you are looking for X, here is the CSS that does it”; well if you are not looking for X, tough luck :-(

All in all, CSS was a bit of a dark art until I recently read CSS : The Missing Manual.

This is an outstanding CSS book! It really explains how things really work with CSS. After reading the book, I’ve actually been able to write CSS and have the page turn out as I visualized in my head. The book is well worth the money just for the chapter on page layouts – very well explained. Now if only I could pick some decent colors and fonts to go with all those cool layouts …

Freedom at Midnight

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

I had read this wonderful book a long time back and wanted to read it again. Managed to get a copy recently and read it – as fascinating as the first time I read it. The book deals with the time period surrounding the independence of India and Pakistan (1946-1948) and is very relevant in the current context of the sectarian violence in Iraq.

The book describes the painful process of partition that the people of India and Pakistan suffered through and the role various actors played in the surrounding events. What struck me as I was reading it this time is the depth and stature of leadership that was involved in dealing with the crisis – Mahatma Gandhi, Louis Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru and others. These are some of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. Mahatma Gandhi singlehandedly contained and curbed seemingly uncontrollable levels of violence by fasting on two occasions (and nearly dying on the second occasion) – such was the respect and admiration of the common man for him. No Army (even the famed British Army that had prevailed in WW II) was up to the task.

When I look at the current sectarian violence in Iraq, I see very strong parallels with what happened in India and Pakistan during 1947. However, what appears to be missing (admittedly, I have a somewhat distant view provided by mainstream media) is a strong and capable Iraqi leadership that can lead the country out of its current crisis. In such times, baser instincts rule people and an endless cycle of revenge takes hold. And, going by historic precedent, it seems like even the presence of a mighty army like ours cannot really help quell the violence. What Iraq needs most is leaders that can calm her people down and make them see sense – until then I’m afraid we will only end up wasting the precious lives of our young men and women to no avail …