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Case 146

Box Model

The nun Zjing had returned to her domicile in the lonely valley below the Temple cliffs. Yet telecommuting did not insulate her from the ongoing dramas of Temple life, and it was not long before the senior monk Wangohan began to bombard her with complaints about his longtime adversary, the monk Landhwa.

Wangohan messaged:

We were each given a new application to develop,
using the framework I introduced to the temple...
I have written numerous unit and functional tests;
Landhwa has written none, and he swallows exceptions
to avoid vomiting them on the screen...
I validate all input on the server-side;
Landhwa depends on Javascript to sanitize his data,
though his trickery can be disabled on any client...
I generate simple, standards-compliant HTML;
Landhwa stitches together slick JQuery plug-ins,
trusting the browser to render his mess...
We demoed our systems this morning.
All the customer’s praise unjustly went to Landhwa.
None went to me.

Zjing reflected on Wangohan’s tendency to poison those who irritated him.* To save Landhwa an unpleasant night on the bathroom floor, she replied:

Send me the URLs for both your systems.
I shall investigate.
- - -

The following day, Wangohan received a parcel from the nun containing two boxes. The first, a box of fine black lacquer, held a lunch that was the picture of supreme aesthetic harmony: eight tiny compartments in which were laid sauces, sizzling meat, and vegetables all evenly cut, arrayed around a square bowl of steaming rice garnished with flowers of appetizing hues. The second, a plain white box of oily cardboard, appeared to hold the same ingredients—yet the portions were chopped raggedly and tossed together with tepid rice in a most unappealing manner.

On the parcel a note was written in Zjing’s hand:

Choose and eat.
At the bottom lies your answer.

Wangohan devoured the contents of the box of black lacquer, but was puzzled to find no further note at the bottom. He was debating whether he was hungry enough to eat the contents of the second box when a sharp pain in his gut drove this thought (and all others) from his mind.

- - -

The following night, Wangohan—still bedridden—received another parcel from the nun. This he opened with some trepidation.

Inside were four small boxes of mint tea (their original wax seals intact), three articles on UI design principles, two thumb drives with the latest AngularJS and Bootstrap distributions, and the following note:

This was the meal that Landhwa prepared:
treacherous in the stomach, true,
yet pleasing to the senses beforehand.
While Wangohan serves honest fare
that would have sustained us on a day-long march,
had we but desired it.
The presentation is not part of the food,
yet it is part of the meal;
our introduction, our interface.
Embrace its purpose, and remember:
the chef does not carve carrots into dragons,
to improve their taste.
* See cases 84 and 120. Or just avoid his spice rack.