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Reduced to Efficiency

I’ve been trying to catch up on e-mail.  Astonishingly, after only a couple of days of sustained effort, I’ve managed to get to the point where I’m only two weeks behind on my Inbox!  This is to a large degree because I’ve been sending out terse responses, for the most part, and pointing people to css-discuss in case they need more help.  Out of the 300 – 400 messages that arrive every day, once I strip away the listserv traffic and ditch the spam, I’m generally left with anywhere from three to twenty pieces of mail sitting in my Inbox.  The average is somewhere just below ten.

So if you’re thinking about asking me for help with understanding CSS, my best advice is to go join css-discuss.  As much as I love to help people out, you’re more likely to get much quicker and more complete answers from the community than from me, especially this summer, which is shaping up to be one of the busiest of my life.

As if in answer to all of my past grumblings about XSLT being all icky and bloated and clumsy, Simon brings word of the Parsimonious XML Shorthand Language (or PXSL, pronounced “pixel”).  This language basically turns XML syntax inside out, introduces indentation sensitivity, and ends up with a smaller and much less cluttered language.  Consider this example, which I nicked straight from the PXSL documentation:

<xsl:template match="/">
  <xsl:for-each select="//*/@src|//*/@href">
    <xsl:value-of select="."/>
    <xsl:text>&#10;</xsl:text>
  </xsl:for-each>
</xsl:template>

Here’s the PXSL version:

template /
  for-each //*/@src|//*/@href
    value-of .
    text <<&#10;>>

Okay, maybe not as compact as I would like, but it’s still a lot better than the XSLT version.  True, it still has to use XPath, so the line-noise quotient isn’t as close to zero as it should be, and it won’t do anything about the template-nesting rules XSLT imposes for no apparent reason.  It is also true PXSL is dependent on indentation and that never makes me happy, being a veteran of BASIC (where there was no indentation), PASCAL (where it didn’t matter), and HTML (ditto).  If I were programming Python already, I probably wouldn’t bat an eye, but guess why I’m not programming in Python?

The fascinating part to me is that, if you dig far enough into the document (which isn’t actually all that long), PXSL was originally designed “to reduce the verbosity of XSLT stylesheets.”  Ay-men, brother!  I do have to wonder about its whitespace handling, though.  Fortunately, when I’m ready to learn more I can find out about it via the PXSL Community site, which employs both XHTML and CSS for layout, including a styled unordered list to set up the navigation.  Most excellent.

What a great way to start a week!

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