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One of the oldest forms of storytelling is that of re-enactment, donning the costumes of the story's subjects, miming their actions, performing a narrative before a live audience. Whether organized by history enthusiasts, government offices, religious groups, or just for fun, military battles and religious events are the most popular subjects for re-enactment. Collected here are recent performances from around the world, covering a few events from the past 2,000 years. [36 photos]

Actors wearing military uniforms of the Hungarian and Austrian Hapsburg dynasty reenact the first stage of the 1849 Battle of Isaszeg, Hungary, on April 6, 2013 during the Isaszeg Historical Days event. The battle was part of the Spring Campaign of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 between the Austrian Empire and the Hungarian Revolutionary Army. (Peter Kohalmi/AFP/Getty Images)     

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In today’s photos, children watch as Tropical Storm Isaac approaches the Dominican Republic, a family in Indonesia changes the clothes on a mummified ancestor, a convicted murderer gives a right-wing salute in Norway, and more.

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I suppose What You See Is What You Get has its place, but as an OCD addled programmer, I have a problem with WYSIWYG as a one size fits all solution. Whether it's invisible white space, or invisible formatting tags, it's been my experience that forcing people to work with invisible things they cannot directly control … inevitably backfires. A lot.

I have a distinctly Ghostbusters attitude to this problem.

Ghostbusters-logo

I need to see these invisible things, so that I can zap them with my proton pack. I mean, er, control them. And more importantly, understand them; perhaps even master them.

I recently had the great privilege of meeting Ted Nelson, who gave me an in-person demo of his ZigZag project and his perpetually in-progress since 1960 Xanadu project, currently known as Xanadu Space. But one thing he mentioned as he gave the demo particularly intrigued me. Being Ted Nelson, of course he went much further than my natural aversion to invisible, hidden markup in content – he insisted that markup and content should never be in the same document. Far more radical.

I want to discuss what I consider one of the worst mistakes of the current software world, embedded markup; which is, regrettably, the heart of such current standards as SGML and HTML. (There are many other embedded markup systems; an interesting one is RTF. But I will concentrate on the SGML-HTML theology because of its claims and fervor.)

There is no one reason this approach is wrong; I believe it is wrong in almost every respect.

I propose a three-layer model:

  1. A content layer to facilitate editing, content linking, and transclusion management.
  2. A structure layer, declarable separately. Users should be able to specify entities, connections and co-presence logic, defined independently of appearance or size or contents; as well as overlay correspondence, links, transclusions, and "hoses" for movable content.
  3. A special-effects-and-primping layer should allow the declaration of ever-so-many fonts, format blocks, fanfares, and whizbangs, and their assignment to what's in the content and structure layers.

It's an interesting, albeit extremely hand-wavy and complex, alternative. I'm unclear how you would keep the structure layer in sync with the content layer if someone is editing the content. I don't even know if there are any real world examples of this three layer approach in action. (And as usual, feel free to correct me in the comments if I've missed anything!)

Instead, what we do have are existing, traditional methods of intermixing content and markup ala HTML or TeX.

PDF vs. TeX

When editing, there are two possible interfaces:

  1. WYSIWYG where the markup layer is magically hidden so, at least in theory, the user doesn't ever have to know about markup and can focus entirely on the content. It is an illusion, but it is simple enough when it's working. The downside is that the abstraction – this idea that the markup is truly "invisible" – is rarely achieved in practice and often breaks down for anything except the most basic of documents. But it can be good enough in a lot of circumstances.
  2. Two windows where the markup is fully visible in one window, and shown as a live rendered preview in the other window, updated as you type, either side-by-side or top-and-bottom. Users have a dynamic sandbox where they can experiment and learn how markup and content interact in the real world, rather than having it all swept under the rug. Ultimately, this results in less confusion for intermediate and advanced users. That's why I'm particularly fond of this approach, and it is what we use on Stack Exchange. The downside is that it's a bit more complex, depending on whether or not you use humane markup, and it certainly takes a bit more screen space and thinking to process what's going on.

What I didn't realize is that there's actually a third editing option: keep the markup visible, and switch rapidly back and forth between the markup and rendered view with a single keystroke. That's what the Gliimpse project reveals:

Please watch the video. The nearly instantaneous and smooth transition that Gliimpse demonstrates between markup and preview has to be seen to be appreciated. The effect is a bit like Expose on the Mac, or Switcher on PC. I'm not sure how I feel about this, mainly because I don't know of any existing IDEs that even attempt to do anything remotely like it.

But I'd sure like to try it. As a software developer, it's incredibly frustrating to me that we have generational improvements in games like Skyrim and Battlefield 3 that render vastly detailed, dynamic worlds at 60 frames per second, yet our source code editors are advancing only in tiny incremental steps, year after year.

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Today is the vernal equinox, the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It also marks the end of "the winter that wasn't," as the past several months in North America have been dubbed. It was the fourth-warmest winter in the United States since record-keeping began 117 years ago. In accord with the unusual weather, this turn of the season brings us snow in Arizona and Saudi Arabia, while conditions remain sunny and warm in America's Northeast and Western Europe. Collected here are scenes from around the world as a strange winter gives way to spring. [40 photos]

The sun sets behind cherry blossoms which have come into full bloom due to the early warm weather in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 2012. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

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BROKEN APART
BROKEN APART: People walked on a destroyed road in La Paz, Bolivia, Monday. Heavy rains caused a hilltop to collapse in a poor neighborhood of the Bolivian capital Sunday, cracking roads, destroying at least 400 homes and burying people’s belongings under mud and debris. (David Mercado/Reuters)

ON GADHAFI
ON GADHAFI: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva Monday. She said Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi and his allies have ‘lost the legitimacy to govern’ by reportedly executing soldiers who refused to turn their guns on civilians. (Valentin Flauraud/Reuters)

YEMEN UPHEAVAL
YEMEN UPHEAVAL: Protesters demanded the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in San’a, Yemen, Monday. Mr. Saleh’s offer to form a unity government with opponents who want him out of office—provided protests against him stop—was swiftly rejected. (Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press)

CALLING OUT
CALLING OUT: A Bahraini Shi’ite woman shouted antigovernment slogans at the gate of Parliament in the Bahraini capital, Manama, Monday. Antigovernment protesters temporarily blocked access to the building and amassed outside the state-owned broadcaster. (Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters)

HARD AT WORK
HARD AT WORK: Children took the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education examination in Calcutta, India, Monday. Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee presented a budget Monday for the fiscal year starting April 1, 2011, and announced a 24% increase in funding for education. (Bikas Das/Associated Press)

NOT HOME
NOT HOME: African migrants stood outside an immigration center in Valletta, Malta, Monday. (Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press)

TAKING A REST
TAKING A REST: Mohammad Hanif, 80, held his two-year-old grandson, Wasif, as he sat on a railway line near their home in a Karachi, Pakistan, slum. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

DOWN TO THE RIVER
DOWN TO THE RIVER: One of the Chilean miners rescued from last year’s mine collapse was baptized in the Jordan River at the Yardenit baptism site in northern Israel Monday. Israel’s tourism ministry sponsored the eight-day trip. (Sebastian Scheiner/Associated Press)

SECOND PLACE
SECOND PLACE: Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland sat on the snow after placing second in the women’s 10-kilometer individual cross-country skiing competition at the Nordic Skiing World Championships in Oslo, Norway, Monday. (Patrick Seeger/DPA/Zuma Press)

PARADE TRAGEDY
PARADE TRAGEDY: Mourners attended the funeral Monday of 16 people killed during a parade in Bandeira do Sul in southeastern Brazil. The victims were electrocuted when a power line fell atop a packed pre-Carnival street parade Sunday, police said. (Zuma Press)

CROPPING UP
CROPPING UP: A farmer checked wheat seedlings in a snow-covered field in Chenzhuang village in China’s Shandong Province Monday. Widespread rain and snow in northern China over the weekend brought relief to drought-stricken wheat-producing areas in China, official media said. (Zhang Zhenxiang/Xinhua/Zuma Press)

TAKING SHELTER
TAKING SHELTER: Smoke rose from the chimneys of tents at a refugee camp during a snowstorm in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday. (Musadeq Sadeq/Associated Press)

DESTROYING DESTROYERS
DESTROYING DESTROYERS: A man looked at land mines waiting to disposed of near the Western Sahara village of Tifariti Monday. (Arturo Rodriguez/Associated Press)

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