Explore My Notes

Why do browsers render "chuck norris" as a colour? | @foone | Twitter

Man, what a fascinating thread on the bizarre reasons that browsers will parse words into colours. To sum it up:

  • Any word will be parsed into a hex code in order for things like color: red to work with backwards compatibility in CSS;
  • The way that conversion works is to change any non-hexadecimal letter into a 0, i.e. "chuck norris" becomes "C00C0 000000";
  • But that leaves codes that are too long for the hex code format, so the next step is to shrink the string down to the maximum six characters;
  • However, rather than just shortening to six characters, first the parser increases the number of characters until the total is divisible by three, then it splits the string into thirds, then concatenates each third into two characters and stitches it all back together again 🤯
    • Why tho? 🤷‍♂️
  • So you end up in a situation where "chuck norris" becomes a vivid red, whilst "chuck norr" is a slightly ill shade of yellow...
  • And all of this matters because of hidden text in email spam (yeah, wow); if colours parse out differently, then spam is harder to identify, so the whole weird algorithm is an offical W3C standard. Brilliant 😂

The markup de-crapulator | Ian Lloyd

A humorous but useful tool that strips out all the mess that things like Styled Components and React make out of HTML and lets you properly view the source of a page. (and yeah, I use those same tools and processes, and yeah it still irks me that I'm part of the problem😁)

💩 ➡ 🥇

Three ways to autofocus in React (that almost always work) | Daniel Johnson

Whilst accessibility means you largely want to steer clear of autofocus on web forms, sometimes it can be beneficial. In HTML, we can now reach for the handy autofocus attribute, but as I recently learnt that doesn't always do what you expect when dealing with a shadow DOM (in this case, React's equivalent). Daniel's article was by far the best at both describing the issue and offering some solutions, though even here it only works most of the time (Firefox does something which I feel is logical but unfortunately not consistent with either the W3C spec or what most people would want to happen).

So here are the (confusingly more than three) techniques:

  • The autofocus attribute (😉) for input elements that are always present (elements loaded later have some weird cross-browser differences);
  • The focus() DOM API that allows you to select an element using JavaScript and force focus on it i.e. element.focus(), which works almost always but can be tricky to target correctly (and reliant on client-side JavaScript);
    • FYI remember that the opposite of focus() is blur(), and both can be handily combo'd with select() for some even better UX!
  • The React autoFocus prop, which effectively mimics the HTML autofocus attribute but only triggers it when a component mounts, helping with the cross-browser issues but meaning that if you mount before visually showing an element it can steal focus incorrectly;
  • The useRef hook, which is effectively just using the focus() API within React's own life cycle;
  • The useCallback hook, which does the same thing as useRef only with more control. This appears to be the most universal option in React right now.

Firefox and SVG fill for CSS | Matt Crouch

I ran into a bug recently where some SVGs on a website were seemingly ignoring a fill request. A quick check in dev tools showed that the CSS was being applied so... what gives? Turns out Firefox has implemented an overly literal interpretation of part of the (I believe) SVG spec, causing it to add additional child <svg> elements in certain circumstances (which are hidden from dev tools by virtue of reasons). Matt does a better job of explaining the why, but the fix is to do something like this:

.class-name use > svg {
   fill: #FFFFFF;

Or, based on our existing patches when I looked that already including overrides for g > svg and some other variations, perhaps simply:

svg.class-name * {
   fill: #FFFFFF;

What does 100% mean in CSS | Amelia Wattenberger

A super useful recap of the main ways that CSS calculates percentage for element layout, each with a brilliant slider-based demo. The tl;dr:

  • The width and height elements are based on the parent's dimensions;
  • So are positioning attributes such as top and right;
  • Both margin and padding attributes inherit from the parent, but only use the width value (even for things like margin-top);
  • The transform property uses the element's dimensions.

📆 17 Sep 2020  | 🔗

  • HTML & CSS
  • CSS
  • width
  • percentage
  • height
  • positioning
  • layout 

Fantasy kindreds of Saynim | Into the Wonder

Darrell is one of those authors who really considers the world-building side of their work, so I've long found their blog fascinating. Recently, they've released a series of posts on the background of individual "kindreds" from their world of Saynim (kindred here replacing the problematic use of "race" across a lot of fantasy works), each of which is worth reading, but combined form a series of ideas, mythological tidbits, and even anthropological theories that I wanted to capture. I'll create a list of relevant links at the end. I've skipped taking notes on humans, though I do really like Darrell's take on them as a minority underclass renowned for "outside the box" thinking.

  • I had always believed that "human-like" elves were very much a Tolkien invention, but apparently the earliest references in Germanic folklore have them as human-sized, fair creatures that were more often allies than enemies of humans. Also, in Old English, the word for "elf" was a generic used for classical myths of nymphs, fauns, satyrs etc. so intelligent, humanoid nature spirits.
  • Cherokee folklore contains the Nunnehi, elf-like beings that live high in the mountains of human features and enhanced beauty, with a love of dancing. Considered "defenders of the people" and actually tied to accounts of "vanishing" peoples/towns during European invasion, being saved from the invaders and taken to a realm of magic (there are parallels here with the first folk of Irish myth).
  • Interesting to see that "elves" in Western folklore have slipped from beautiful allies to monstrous enemies by the time of Beowulf, and then further still to the pixie-like fairies of mischief and comedy in the 1600s. Why the change in status? Christianity is certainly partially to blame (though I find it interesting that elves of more traditional folklore seem almost more akin to angels, and wonder what might have been had their appropriation and explanation gone in that direction instead).
  • Not sure I like the link to Neanderthals for dwarves, particularly as Neanderthals were typically pretty tall, but it's certainly a neat idea and I'm also fond of the (totally nuts) theory that fae folklore is vestigial memories of Neanderthal culture and interactions. The inclusion of late erectus for more animalistic species like giants and ogres is a fun concept too.
  • I hadn't realised that there is no evidence for Neanderthal-born hybrids (i.e. the mother was Neanderthal), only human-born hybrids. As Darrell points out, that either infers that hybridisation in that format was problematic (infertility or possibly other complications) or (more interestingly) that those hybrids were more commonly raised within Neanderthal society, therefore the lineage was lost with their species' extinction.
  • Trolls are apparently very hard to define, being a catch-all term in European folklore for humanoid creatures with supernatural powers and at least some visually distinct difference to humans. I like the idea of them therefore being a highly variable kindred, with variation in horns, fangs, eyes, pigmentation etc., as well as being cunning tricksters.
  • I'm aware of the Tuatha Dé Danaan of Irish folklore, but not of the Fomori, who are apparently at least a little trollish (and occasionally intermarry).
  • The term "pygmy" originally derives from the Greek for "cubit", or 18 inches; hence Darrell's use of "Ell" to collectively describe the little fae folk (brownies, leprechauns etc.), coming from the Old English ell, a measurement roughly the length of a man's forearm.
  • I'm also a big fan of the use of "goblin" to describe the hybridisation of the various "Neanderthal" subspecies (Ells, Dwarves, Trolls). What a neat world building fix!


  1. Elves
  2. Humans
  3. Dwarves
  4. Trolls
  5. Ell Folk
  6. Goblins
  7. Giants & Ogres

📆 16 Sep 2020  | 🔗

  • World Building
  • fantasy
  • race
  • elves
  • dwarves
  • ogres
  • giants
  • world building
  • Tolkein
  • neanderthals
  • homo erectus
  • folklore
  • Tuatha de Danaan
  • myth
  • trolls
  • goblins
  • Cherokee
  • Fomori
  • fairy
  • fae 

Accordion rows in CSS Grid | Eric Meyer

It feels good to me, having two sets of rows where the individual rows accordion open to accept content when needed, and collapse to zero height when not, with a “blank” row in between the sets that pushes them apart.

When Eric first tweeted about the new design on his site, I thought something a bit unusual was going on with the CSS layout. I actually dove straight into the source that day and learnt a little about using negative row/column indices that I'd not really considered before. Still, I missed this clever trick he's using. By having a set of rows at the top and bottom of the page that may or may not contain content, he creates an "accordion" like layout. If content exists, the row expands to give it space; if it doesn't, the row collapses to nothing. The trick is having one row in-between those groups with a height of 1fr, thereby expanding to fill/fit all the necessary content.

Eric does point out that, in theory, it seems like leaving out that flexible middle row should still work, but he has a niggling suspicion it'll cause issues. Which is funny, because I have the same (unfounded) suspicion 😁 As I was reading down the article, my reaction was initially "you can't do that with rows" and then "aha, that flexi-height row will make it work". I'm just not sure why...

The problem with time and timezones | Tom Scott

And at that point, generally the programmer will start to hold their head in their hands and realise what they've got themselves into...

A wonderful recap of why you should just never try to support timezones in any program ever. And that's before you even get into calendar fallacies 😭

(Also, I love that my birthday used to be the British New Year in the middle ages 👍)

Your calendrical fallacy is... | Dave DeLong

A fun list of the all the irritating edge cases that can crop up once you start dealing with dates and timezones. I'm a particular fan of the more obscure information on the Hebrew Calendar, with leap months, months that change length depending on how cloudy it is (moon visibility), and one month that can be shorter than a standard week. Talk about a headache 😂

Submitting a form with datalist | adactio

The <datalist> element is super useful for autocomplete-like functionality, but there's no native way to automatically submit a form when an option is selected. Jeremy has come up with a neat logic flow that can enhance the element to do just that:

  1. Store the input element's character count and keep it updated;
  2. Each time an update occurs, compare the new count to the previous value;
  3. If the new count is greater than the previous one by > 1 it means the user has either pasted in additional characters or has selected something from the datalist, so compare the string to the datalist options;
  4. If there is a match, submit the form.

There are some issues. Jeremy points out that a selection that is only one character different won't trigger the autosubmit, which seems fair. I can also see potential issues with substring matching that could occur in certain situations. But as he says, it's a great enhancement to native functionality that provides plenty of fallbacks if needed.

He also provides a rough outline of his code, plus there's a Gist if useful:

document.querySelectorAll('input[list]').forEach( function (formfield) {
  var datalist = document.getElementById(formfield.getAttribute('list'));
  var lastlength = formfield.value.length;
  var checkInputValue = function (inputValue) {
    if (inputValue.length - lastlength > 1) {
      datalist.querySelectorAll('option').forEach( function (item) {
        if (item.value === inputValue) {
    lastlength = inputValue.length;
  formfield.addEventListener('input', function () {
  }, false);

Famous colleges | Seth Godin

Parents can do their children a favor if, from an early age, kids hear them say “famous college” instead of “good college.”

Because there’s very little data that shows that colleges with big football programs or lots of Nobel prize winners are actually good at doing what a college should do for an undergraduate.

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