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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lazy Weekend

Christmas has already come and gone. Every year there is a huge build up beforehand, and when he big day comes around so much time is spent reciting the script of "tradition" that it's almost impossible to enjoy the actual day. Everybody has their routine for the day, and as a newly-married couple Dana and I spend our time driving back and forth to participate in all of it.

As Scrooge-like as I can be, it can be a pleasant day when you get down to it. The giving and receiving of gifts is always fun, and it's interesting to see what kinds of stuff people think that other people will want/use/appreciate. Knowing the recipient well enables the gift-giver to give a better gift then those who do not. Also, having a maintained and well-advertised Amazon wishlist can help improve your odds of getting the things that one wants.

Geoff wins the award for most novel gift (or at least the most novel delivery). He bought me MegaMan 9 and Lost Winds for the Wii. He paid the points and had the games downloaded to my console on Christmas morning. I've played Megaman 9 a little bit since then and am markedly terrible at it. I can't tell if my platforming skillz have substantially degraded since the 90s or whether 9 has a so much higher a difficulty level then some of my favorites (2, 3, and 4) did.

Dana's mother, always the consumate gift-giver, got a bunch of small but useful things for me. I picked up a few new CDs for the long commute, a few good technical books, and a few videogames. Dana and I have spent the last few days playing Guitar Hero 3, Wii Fit, and the new Mario Kart. I'm sure I'll write more about some of the books I got in the coming weeks as I read through them more and start applying the cool new things I learn.

Lazing around is great since I've been a little bit under the weather, with a fever and swollen glands and the whole works. Tomorrow isn't as lazy since we have Dana's family coming over for lunch and we have to clean the apartment. I haven't done any work on Wikibooks or Parrot this weekend, which is a little bit unusual for me. I usually manage to fritter away a few hours each weekend on one or both of those projects, but I guess I just needed the time off. Instead, I've been catching up on old episodes of Questionable Content, a fun webcomic that I've become completely addicted to. I've spent a few hours reading from episode 1, and I'm already up to episode 720. Only about 300 more episodes to get through until I'm completely caught up!

No idea what we're going to do for New Years, I'm sure I'll have something to post about it as we get closer.

Friday, December 19, 2008


So I completely garbaged up my computer today. Here's what happened, I warn you that this is going to be computer-oriented and boring:

When I first bought my computer, I didn't realize it was 64 bit. It didn't say so in the advertisement or on any of those annoying stickers that they put all over new laptops. You really have to look to find the information, and I simply didn't look. I've never had a 64-bit computer before, so I just assumed it was 32. I was wrong.

So the first weekend I had it, I set up a dual-boot situation with Ubuntu. I downloaded the ISO image, burned it to CD, and installed it on a new partition. What I didn't know at the time was that the default download for Ubuntu was 32 bit, and the installer didn't give any kind of notice or warning that I was trying to install it on 64-bit hardware. I realized the problem a little while later, but stuck with it, no sense going through some kind of messy upgrade if I didn't have to.

But then I had an epiphany: Let's crank this baby up to a triple-boot system, and add a new 64-bit OS on yet another partition. So I download the new ISO, write a new CD, and install the system. I test it out a little bit, but there isn't much difference from my 32-bit partition but all my settings were missing and I couldn't mount the other Ubuntu partition for some reason. I looked on google and the prevailing wisdom was that to uninstall the new OS the best and easiest way was just to delete the partition it was on and reallocate it for something new. GRUB existed in the MBR I was assured, so I didn't have to worry that it would get ruined.

But it did. I deleted the partition and restarted the computer. GRUB Error 22. Great. Deleting that partition did ruin my MBR so it wouldn't boot. I had my Ubuntu install CD so I booted into the Live version, and followed some instuctions I found on the internet. It wouldn't work, GRUB couldn't find my HDD, and so I couldn't repair it without reinstalling it. I found a tutorial online that said I could reinstall Ubuntu, but instead of reformatting the drive I could mount my old partitions instead, so I decided to do that. But when I got to the partition menu, it said that there were no existing partitions to be mounted: my old Ubuntu install was gone forever. Good.

I took the opportunity to convert over to the 64-bit version for good. Most of the afternoon so far has been spent trying to get all my settings back in place and all the necessary software installed (and trying to get hiveminder to stop sending me reminders to write more blog posts!)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Many little things

So many little news items to report, so little time.

  1. Dad's back from the hospital. I haven't been checking in too much (probably not as much as a "good son" should) but I hear he's doing good. I hknow that health deteriorates as people get older, but it's still sobering to see people who seemed so healthy be rendered so helpless in a hospital bed.
  2. Dana's been sick these last two days, and stayed home from work today. The weather has certainly not been helpful in this regard. We went from like 20 degrees F one day to barely-above-freezing rain the next two. Quite miserable, if you're a white blood cell.
  3. Sold my first book! At least, the first book that wasn't sold to me. Erik Moeller, wiki volunteer extraordinaire, bought a copy for the WMF bookshelf. He found a lot of the same bugs that I have already reported, and wants to buy an updated copy when those get resolved. It helps to show the development progress of the feature.
  4. I'm the release manager for Parrot 0.8.2 which is coming out on Tuesday. I've been practicing the release process, and should be ready to go with it when the time comes. Updates will come!
  5. I've also got a new version of my Book Designer gadget at Wikibooks coming out this weekend. I got a lot of good changes made, but still have't gotten drag'n'drop working on it. I'll post another update about this when I release it.
  6. Got a few other great pieces of news to report, but they aren't finalized yet and I don't want to jinx anything. Look for updates in the coming days.
That's some of what's going on in my life. I'm sure I'll be posting a lot of updates in the coming weeks ad days.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Long weekend recap

It's been quite a long weekend. This was the weekend when we were supposed to go up to Geoff's graduation. It's quite a long trip up to Lockhaven, but Dana and I were willing to do it for Geoff. Plus, we had a hotel room up there, so we wouldn't have had to do the round-trip all in one day.

Those plans went out the window on Thursday. I got the call from my mom that my father was in the hospital. I'm not going to go into all the details (smells like a HIPA violation to me!), but the whole weekend changed. My parents decided not to go up to the graduation, so Geoff basically put a nix on the whole thing. He and Kara still went up for the weekend to see some friends, however.

Last night the weather came in, and we got a few inches of snow. Dana and I met my parents at the hospital for a visit. With the snow as bad as it was, mom couldn't drive her little car home, so we brought her home and stayed the night. We took her back to the hospital in the morning, said our goodbyes, and came back to the apartment for the rest of the day.

I spent the rest of the day doing some shopping with Dana, doing some Javascript work at Wikibooks, and some idle browsing through the Parrot JIT code. Working on dinner now, and then it's sleep and work through the week.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas Spirit

I told Dana that she had to wait until December to start decorating the apartment for Christmas. I personally would wait until the week before and "decorate" by putting a string of colored lights somewhere where they were visible but didn't cast a glare on the TV. Dana pushes the christmas spirit pedal to the floor, however. We have a tree up with all the fixins, little decorationhomes here and there, and wrapping accoutrements strewn all around the living room. Dana's been spending time writing out holiday cards, and getting wedding pictures printed out to stuff in them.

I got my new laptop as an early christmas gift. Dual core, super-mamma-jamma laptop. It's fantastic. Dana got a super-hot digital camera. The only other thing I want for christmas is some time to get down and use the laptop. I've got code to develop, books to write, people to interact with.

Last night I had a great conversation with Cormac Lawler, Pete Baker, and Patrick O'Shea using Skype. I finally have a computer that's decent enough to use Skype, so this was a cool experience. Naturally, we all talked about Wiki, and a few other things that I'm not ready to talk about just yet. More details to come, I hope!

Probably have more to write about, but can't think now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Half Day!

Hiveminder says it's that time again, so a'bloggin' we will go.

I had a half day today, don't think I've said that since grade school. It wasn't even because of the snow either. The Raymour & Flannigan repair guy came over today to look at our damaged couch, and I had to be here to let him in. He gave me a window for 12 - 3, which basically cut my work day in half. I woke up a little early, got to work about an hour early, and left work at 11.

I've been getting good work done here, although I probably have about an hour or more to do before the day is done (that is, if I want to break even for the day, which I don't necessarily need to do).

Had a bit of a snafu last week that has started to manifest itself as a problem this week. Last week there was a site install for one of our new customers. The morning of the install, when our engineer was on site (in the snow and the cold, as he reminded us frequently), it was decided that we had to update our software for the new units. I don't generally like to make last-minute changes to anything, especially when there isn't sufficient time for rigorous testing. But, the man ws on the ground and it was time to make things work. One of the changes I had to make was to add a feature to our satellite messages that we had never used (and never tested) before. I drafted a change following an example I found, did a quick test or two to verify that things weren't blatantly broken, and shipped them out to the installer.

Well, it turns out that there was a problem with the data we're getting, so we need to redo it. There are two options: Go back to the site and update the software, or send updates over the air. The first method always works, but is costly. Plus, it's the week of thanksgiving, and getting on a plane is going to be unpleasant at best. The second option is untried and untested, but theoretically possible. So, I spend all yesterday testing and planning, and I spend today sending out experimental commands over the satellite and trying to verify the result. It takes about 10 hours, on average, to send out a command and verify the result (and it seems to have only about a 50% success rate per attempt), so it's slow going. But, I'm proud to say that it is working. When people are reminiscing years from now, nobody will remember the year Andrew used a satellite and high-technology to save Thanksgiving.

Dana and I are doing easy (read: frozen) dinners this week to save some energy for the big turkey day. I've got some pizza to throw in the oven later, and some pierogies from last night to reheat. Le Gourmet has taken the week off, apparently.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

2008 Technology

It's finally happened, I'm officially using modern computing technology again. Yesterday, Dana and I went out and bought myself a new laptop. It's a real beauty, and is plenty powerful. The last time I got a new computer, I was a brash young high-school graduate with a lousy GPA. The argument could be made, and maybe successfully so, that my first laptop really turned me around. I was connected, and open to the internet where so much self-learning and self-actualization was possible.

My first laptop was a Toshiba with a 1.3Ghz celeron and a 14" screen. It was nice and suitable for what I needed. I taught myself how to program on that computer, C, C+, FORTRAN, Perl, PHP, DOS Batch Script. Quite a lot of memories there. My second laptop was a second-hand IBM with similar stats but with a smaller footprint and much lower weight: perfect for lugging around to class, and my apartment, and my parent's house and Dana's house. This same laptop, that I bought used abour 4 years ago, was the one I've used almost every single day until yesterday.

This laptop is almost incomparably better: Dual-core 2.0Ghz Intel Core processor. 320Gb harddisk. 4Gb RAM. With this laptop, for the first time ever, I felt comfortable doing something I had never done: set up a dual-boot system. My IBM was running Ubuntu, and this was perfect for most of what I had to do. However, every now and then I would run up against a barrier where it seemed like Windows actually did something better. Now, I just boot into Windows to do what I need, and then boot right back into my good-ole' Ubuntu. No muss, no fuss.

Anybody who is interesting in setting up a dual-boot system, I used this tutorial and I highly recommend it.

Before I wrap this post up, I want to say first that we didn't just buy me a laptop, we also bought Dana a new DSLR Nikon camera, that she's absolutely thrilled about. It's a cool camera, and I'm sure we're going to make a lot of memories with it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Hivemindered, adj. Having your life be completely and efficiently organized by using Hiveminder.

Seriously folks, I'm on the path to organizational nirvana, and it's name is Hiveminder. I wasn't properly utilizing it for a while, but as I get more and more of my life in there, I almost can't remember how I lived without it. Every Wednesday I'm getting a reminder to write a blog post. What did I do before, decide to post randomly? Not write anything for days and weeks because I forgot? I've got about 4 or 5 blogs that I'm actively involved with, and every now and then some of them would get terribly neglected because I get so overwhelmingly busy that I just don't remember.

And I am pretty overwhelmingly busy. I do it to myself, and I'm definitely not complaining about it, but I have got a lot of things on my plate. At least I won't be accused of not taking good opportunities when they come across my path. Prime example: I've been thinking about writing a book about Wikibooks for some time now. In fact, the book has been in planning for damn near two years now. Yesterday, I finally wrote up a proposal and sent it in to a publisher for consideration. Wouldn't you know it? But I got a reply right back expressing interest, asking questions, and offering suggestions. Even if this book project never gets off the ground (and I have plenty of reasons to think now that it will), at least I can't ever say that I didn't try.

Wikibooks has been eating up a lot of my time, in a good way. I've been getting back into regular writing, and I've been creating and editing book "collections" for use with our new print-on-demand service. People, listen closely: You can write books at Wikibooks, get a community of people to help review and edit it, and publish it through I've heard from our publisher that we can write books and have them subsidized for shipping to impoverished places like rural India for rediculously cheap. You can help write a book that could end up in classrooms in India, Africa, South America. With print-on-demand and world-wide shipping, we can get free or crazy-inexpensive books to the people who need them the most, and I find that amazingly empowering. That's the kind of thing that keeps me motivated. That, and the fact that I've scheduled my Wiki-work in hiveminder!!

Parrot is going well but slowly. I'm digging around in the function-calling code now, trying to simplify some of the calling conventions and algorithms that Parrot uses. It's very tricky stuff, and I can't say I understand all of it, but I am making steady progress (with some help from my colleagues when I need it!). I joke sometimes that I do more programming at home then I do at work, and I'm a software engineer! Actually, it's not really a joke, just the irony of a poorly-designed business card. I have a lot of trouble saying that the VB.NET stuff I do at work is really "programming" anyway.

Hiveminder says my next post here is scheduled on Wednesday, but I may post before that if I have news.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Status update

With so much going on in my life, you'd think I'd make a few more blog posts explaining them all. Not so, I've been a little dis-motivated to make any blog posts recently.

My motivation pendulum has swung back towards Wikibooks, because recently there have been some major changes there. The new print-on-demand extension that's been installed there is amazing, and as we speak my first book is in the mail. After all this time it's going to be amazing justification for me to finally have a book with my name on the cover. Of course, I'll only be credited as an "editor" on the work, even if I know deep down that I'm responsible for the vast majority of the authorship as well. Such are the caveats of working in a collaborative environment like Wikibooks: you don't get the winner-take-all credit that a traditional author gets from their books. Also, I don't get any royalties. What I could do, of course, is try to get the source files myself and take those to a publisher, get my own deal and get royalties from it. I doubt there is any real money for an amateur like me to be making from the kinds of books I've written thus far.

Yesterday was a harrowing one, Geoff's girlfriend Kara missed her flight back to the USA. This happened after my parents received a call that her connecting flight from Chicago to Philly, so everybody was highly confused. To top off the situation Geoff's microphone was busted, so he couldn't talk to us by Skype, so I had to coordinate the powwow between Geoff on IM and my parents on Cell. Kara should be flying into town tonight around midnight.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Welcome Home

I don't think too many people read this blog, but some people may have accidentally added it into their aggregators in times past. Forgive me this post, which promises to be long and rambling, and feel free to skip past it if your eyes start to glaze over.


Yesterday afternoon we landed back in Philly airport from Cancun Mexico. The honeymoon, which lasted about 6 days and nights, was a great one. At least, I assume it was great, I've never been on a honeymoon before so I have nothing against which to compare. We went to some cool all-inclusive adults-only (but not clothing-optional) resort, and really had a blast. Not having to carry my wallet around all the time and worry about how every drink and every meal would affect my bottom line was quite liberating. I don't know when or if we will be able to take a similar trip in the future, but I hope we do.

The service at the resort was exemplary, although Dana and I both agreed that some of the food didn't quite meet our expectations. Of course, the problem could easily have been on our side of the table, since we have become a little snobbish in our burgeoning foodyism. I had an issue too with the consistency: The average quality of the daily breakfast buffet was far surpassed by the quality of the dinner entre selections, for instance. I will say, for what my opinion is worth, that their asian restaurant was some of the best asian food (including sushi) that I have ever had. On the other end of the scale, their Italian foods were just short of appalling, so you can't win them all.


The election is tomorrow, and I'm sorry to report that I probably won't be able to cast my vote. I registered in south Philly back when I was still living there as a student at Temple. I never moved my registration to Chester County when I moved in with my parents, and by the time I moved in with Dana in Mongomery county, it was past the 30-day deadline to get it switched. I don't know why I didn't do it sooner (I should have!), and even if I was registered in Chester County where my parent's live, that's where I work and I would have been able to get to the polls without any problem at all. 4 long years have passed where I could have updated my registration, but it was never at the top of my todo list because it never seemed like it was a pressing move to make. Now, when it's most pressing, I'm kicking myself for not taking it more seriously before.

For what little it's worth I'm a supporter of Barack Obama, but as a non-voter, I don't really have any standing to preach about this issue any further here on my blog. When 2012 rolls around, I definitely won't make the same mistake.


The wedding was fantastic, and pictures are already finding their way onto facebook. When we get more pictures up, I'll try to post links or something. Dana made quite the gorgeous bride, and a really fun time was had by all those who attended. All the planning that Dana and her mother put into it was well-rewarded.

By the by, if there are any lovebirds in the greater Philadelphia area looking to get hitched, let me know because I could make a few recommendations about various vendors that we dealt with.


Got word today that the FSF released a new version of the GFDL which includes a migration clause for moving our wiki projects to the CC-BY-SA instead. This is great for a number of reasons, but it also raises some practical problems. One issue that I'm trying to deal with now is the issue of book donations. There are a number of authors who have donated books to Wikibooks, and now their works could be migrated to CC-BY-SA if things move that way. Many of the books I've worked with (including the UNDP-APDIP books) are already dual-licensed GFDL+CC-BY-SA, so there isn't an issue with them.

Before the wedding, I had a great phone conversation with people from the World Bank about donating one of their books to Wikibooks, and now I have to get back in touch with them about it to know about this additional detail. Hopefully I can put them in touch with some of my contacts at the UNDP-APDIP to help smooth the way for this cool project.

There are lots of other wikibooks-related projects going on in the background too, but the time is not ripe to talk about any of those yet.


The fledgling Parrot Foundation is having an in-person meeting for some of their contributors later this month at Google Headquarters in Mountain View CA. I am hoping that I would be able to make it too the meeting (how cool would that be!!), but it's such short notice and I'm completely out of vacation time now after the honeymoon. I have to see if I can find some amenable flight plans that would get me there and back without having to miss any work (or very little).

Anyway, that's all my rambling for now, I'm sure I'll have more posts to make in the coming days once more details flood into my head.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The big day

This is it, the big day. This time tomorrow, I'm going to be married (and completely exhaused). It's something I've been prepared for, but I'm still amazed that the day came so quickly.

After the wedding tonight, we're seeing some family on Sunday, and taking off for a honeymoon in Mexico. It's going to be fun and relaxing, but I won't be bringing my computer. This means no fun blog posts, no programming, no wikibooking. I dread the thought of what my email inbox will look like when I get back!

Dana's father called me this morning, and asked "are you ready?" My response, in classic me fasion, was "Yeah, I'm getting there". This was a fact, I had just gotten out of the shower and was slowly getting myself ready for the day. "No", he said, "are you mentally ready?" This is such a tough question to answer: How do you mentally prepare for something that you've never done before and hopefully will never have to do again? I am ready though, I've been ready since the day I popped the question. I'm too much of a forethinker to get myself engaged to a woman I wasn't ready to marry.

Last night was the rehearsal dinner, and it was a blast. It's been so long since I had all those guys in the same room together. We talked and joked and had a really good time. Every time I turned around, another white russian appeared at my place, so I got pretty well lubricated by the end of the night. I'm not much of a drinker normally, so it was a pretty rare evening for me.

The boys are due to get to my place around 12:30. We're going to hang out, grab some lunch, and slowly meander our way to the hotel or whereever to get changed into our evening best. Dana's probably in the middle of her multi-hour hair and makeup marathon by now, and I don't envy her one bit. She's going to look gorgeous when it's all over though, so I'm looking forward to that.

Don't know when my next blog post is going to be. Sunday night if I have time, or Early next month otherwise.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The beginning of the end

This is it, the last week before I'm married. On Saturday, we're tying the knot and then it's off to Mexico for a week in the sun with my darling bride. I haven't been keeping up with my blogging recently, and several blogs languish because of it. I wish more volunteers were interested in blogging about Wikibooks, or Wikimedia Chapters.

I've been reading The Art of Agile Development, and it's such a cool book. It reminds me instantly of how things work (or should work) at Wikibooks. Volunteers doing what they want in ill-defined roles just getting the job done. I've been thinking for a long time that I wish Wikibooks took it even further then it does. I wish I had the kind of time necessary to set up the necessary infrastructure!

Taking a semester off (second semester coming up!) gives me plenty of time to think about my life. Something big on the horizon like a wedding really helps to put life into focus. I definitely want to go back to school eventually, but I have so many more questions then I have answers. First I have to pick the subject i want to study, then I have to find a place to go that teaches that, then I have to get accepted there, and then I have to figure out a way to pay for it all. I doubt my work has any kind of program to pay for continuing education. I definitely can't go back for any more school until I find a way to pay for it. Finances are tight enough without adding in another expense like that.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The food I eat

The last time I had to buy my own food was down in the city, my dinky little apartment in south Philly. I had an all-you-can-eat meal plan at Temple's cafeteria. The food was lousy, but i could eat as much of it as I could possibly cram into my face.

Dinners in my apartment were a miracle of frugal spending. Raman noodles, cans of Hormel chili, and all sorts of other little freeze-dried meals. Most dinners were less then 1$, except I would go up to about 3$ to 5$ when I had something to celebrate. I would splurge on donuts and other sweets sometimes to snack on, but I kept my food budget very low.

Now I'm out in the real world and buying my own food again, but things have changed a little. The food I'm buying is a little more expensive, but better and overwhelmingly better for me. I'm learning things too about my palate that I've never known before. For instance, I don't like rice milk (really really don't like it), and I don't like Guava yogurt. I do however love Vitasoy chocolate soy milk. I'm also liking organic food, but it's only a mild preference. I'll only buy organic stuff if it's just as good and not overwhelmingly more expensive.

It's also more difficult to get dinner on the table every night then I had given credit for. It's maybe not as tough as I've heard people bitch and moan about over the years, but staying creative and not falling into a rut is a little difficult. It's so tempting to just declare every thursday to be porkchop night and not have to think about what I'm going to cook while I'm staring into the freezer blankly.

We do have more food shopping options then my parents do. My mother, for years, has been trapped with only a sub-par Giant near enough. In less then the same space, I have three supermarkets to choose from. This means I have more options, and can try new things. Being able to try something new means the creativity comes more easily: Doing something new with chicken and apple sausages is easier then doing something new with chicken breasts.

I'm off to cook some dinner now, hopefully it turns out alright.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Between McCain's adds which basically call Obama a terrorist and a dishonerable person who hates our troops, to Sarah Palin's fear-mongering and demagoguery, this whole presidential race has gotten very ugly. Misfortunately ugly.

For a lot of years I really liked John McCain. I liked how he was centrist, how he avoided some of the most hard-line stances taken by his party. I liked how his public persona was that of a person who truely put America first, before his own party and before politics. You really got the impression that he cared about the country in a way most other career politicians did.

Now, we're several months into a presidential candidacy that people are calling "bizarre" at best. His off-the-cuff style, which is endearing to some, seems so off-putting in the face of global economic disasters. His advertisements, which started off extoling the virtues that he and Sarah Palin had, have turned so amazingly negative, while Obama's advertisements seem (at least on the channels I watch) to be significantly more positive and more focused on issues.

Sarah Palin spends more then half of a political rally explaining in detail how Obama is connected with "terrorists", and can't seem to put out any specific details about our ailing economy. She doesn't even hardly pause when people in the crowd yell things like "Traitor" and "Terrorist" and "Off with his head!".

I really thought that McCain cared about this country, I thought he was an idealistic American who truely wanted to do good things for the country he loves. But as this campaign gets more negative, as people invoke more racism, and as tempers start getting hotter among the latently racist elements, I can't help but feel that McCain and Palin are doing a great disservice to this country.

They're behind in the polls, and they're despirately grasping at anything they can use to change their fortunes. Losing the presidency again might be pretty disappointing to McCain, but taking the whole country down in flames with him is so much worse.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Today I started playing around with, and I'm pretty impressed by it already. I'm a big fan of RT too, so it was easy to sell me on something that Best Practical made.

For those who don't know, Hiveminder is an issue tracker or a to-do list. Except it's better then that list you hang on your fridge. First, it's on the internet, and the internet is awesome, right? It lets you group and categorize tasks, make notes about them, schedule due dates and repeated events. I list all the things that I want to do, I say when they are due, and it sends me emails and stuff to remind me.

Anyway, I'm going to take this for a spin and see if it works out for me.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Visual Web Developer

The title to this blog is also the newest line on my resume. As of today, one of my job responsibilities is to develop webpages for my company (most of which are for engineer's eyes only, admittedly) using Microsoft's Visual Web Developer.

I've been doing all my rapid prototyping in Perl, which is good because I can get results very quickly to some very challenging problems. I don't have a lot of time in my day, so speed is key: I can't waste time playing around with some tool, I need to be able to make it work, and quickly. However, for all the speed and beauty of Perl, it just isn't something that I can hand off to other engineers because they don't know it. I'm the only one in the office that does. Plus, everything I write is command-line based, and apparently none of our engineers are comfortable working on a commandline (how can this be?) For good or ill, Microsoft's visual studio is the de facto development platform at my place of business, and Visual Basic is the language in use by my department. For web, everything is done in ASP.NET/C#.

Well, not everything. Some of our backroom engineering websites are done using a product called "CodeCharge Studio", which is a visual rapid development tool for webpages. It's not bad per se, but it's proving to be a tool that's more trouble then it's worth. We have two web platforms: The production website which is being programmed using ASP.NET/C#, and this backroom stuff that is being developed using this CodeCharge Studio. Some of the engineers, at least the ones working in this environment, are getting kind of tired of this situation. It doesn't help that some of our "web developers" are not web developers at all: I had to explain to one the difference between GET and POST methods in HTML to one.

So, I'm embarking on a task to start convertings tools en masse to C# for use on our production website. I'm not unfamiliar with C#, but I've never done too much of it before. Now, I'm taking the crash course in it, and am hopeful to be getting some utilities converted and webified soon. I'm just happy to be doing some more code work now then I have been, and learning a new language is always fun.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

King of the Castle

It's only been three days since we moved in to our new apartment, and already tonight I'm at my parent's house? You might think Dana has thrown me out already, tossed my sorry ass out into the night. I can't blame anybody for thinking it, but that's not what happened at all. Tonight is Dana's rescheduled dress fitting, after her last one went so disastrously.

The seamstress who was supposed to work on her dress had a few screws loose (I met her, it's no joke). Instead of dealing with Dana's dress personally, she "outsourced" it to another seamstress who wasn't aware of all the specific details and requests that had been made at the previous fitting. Needless to say, the alterations were made incorrectly, Dana was pissed, had to reschedule. If I learn no other lesson about marriage in this life (and at this rate, that's about all I will learn) it's that you don't mess up a bride's dress.

The fitting is relatively late and it's near her parent's house, so she's just going to sleep there. I stopped in at my house for dinner since I would rather be here then at my apartment alone, although everybody is late getting home from work now and I'm alone anyway. This is the third blog post I've written in peace, and history should prove I'm never short on words!

Last night we went out and bought a brand-spanking-new 37" LCD TV. It's big, it's nice, and it's ours. Comcast got the cable installed yesterday too, so we've got working internet and cable TV. We aren't doing a landline because we've both got new cellphone plans, and I don't see a reason for phone redundancy like that.

Both of our commutes are much longer then they had been, but it's the price we had to pay to live together. At least we're right in the middle, and neither of us has an unfairly long ride.

After dinner tonight I'm heading back to the apartment to watch my awesome new TV and try to figure out how to get my damn Linux laptop to connect to my wireless router (yes, it's become a problem). In to work tomorrow, wash, rinse, repeat.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Condensed Soup

Not much time to blog right now (at work). The move this weekend went well, and the apartment is very nice. Most of our stuff is moved in, but we have some organization and stuff to do still. There is no internet connection, which explains why I haven't been posting updates all weekend long. The Comcast guy is coming out tonight to hook everything up though. I'm leaving work early for. I'll post more once my connection gets up and running.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The debate

Yes, it's time to talk politics here, a topic that I tend to avoid in public fora. It's not that I don't know politics, or that I don't care, but that I personally don't feel the need to go out preaching my beliefs. Call it one of the remaining vestiges of my childhood introversion.

I watched the debate tonight between John McCain and Barrack Obama and, less fortunately, I've also been watching some of the post-debate commentary. It's obvious to see how much the commentators are trying to be non-partisian. So worried are they of accusations of bias that they seem to be skirting issues that they need to be tackling head on.

I've been reading fivethirtyeight for a little while now. It's amazingly informative, and as an engineer I'm happy to see lots of graphs and charts and numbers. I like to see technical analysis. This, in a nutshell, is my kind of politics. According to Fivethirtyeight, McCain has been polling terribly for the last week. States that had been leaning his way, like NH are now leaning democrat. States like CO that were in play are shifting more to the left. It's not been a good week for him. What McCain really needed to buck this trend and build some momentum was a knock-out performance in the debate tonight, and nobody is saying that he got it.

What I'm worried about is that McCain's campaign appears to be one of gimmicks now. Maybe it's a brilliant strategy, but he's been playing the media as a tool in a way that I'm not sure I've ever seen. I'm not going to say that Sarah Palin is unqualified to be president. Frankly, I'm not sure how a person becomes qualified for it anyway. Like they say, people rise to their own level of incompetence, and any great senator or great governor could easily be promoted to be an incompetent president. Qualifications aside, is anybody going to tell me that in terms of sheer resume that Sarah Palin was the best choice for VP? Sure she's probably capable. Sure she's probably qualified. But is she the best choice for the job, or was she a gimmick to grab media attention?

This week, John McCain suspended his campaign to focus on the financial crisis. Some people say he was just doing this to gain some more prep time for this debate. I think he could have used it, the numbers say he needed a much better performance tonight then he earned. I see this as being another gimmick, an attempt to look honorable by focusing on the country instead of focusing on the race. As Fivethirtyeight says, he confused the concept of a tragedy (something unpredictable like 9-11 where people would suspend politics as usual) and a crisis (a mounting problem where politicians need to be in high-gear). This move didn't grab the kind of media attention that I'm sure McCain was hoping for.

The point I want to make here is that campaigns are not some kind of honest and transparent process. People Lie, as House would say. Obama is lying. McCain is lying. Neither of these two men are the same as they were before, and neither of them are able to be the way they will in the oval office. Candidates say what they need to say to get elected. They change their minds to pick more popular positions that will appeal to more people. They spend more time nitpicking each others misspoken words then they spend talking about the country and the people. This, in a word, is politics. I think McCain is being a little more risky with his gimmick gambles then Obama is, and I think that as these recent polling numbers start sinking in, and as these debates fail to give him the kind of boost he wants, his gimmicks are going to get bigger and more obvious. Diversionary tactics are just another political ploy, and unfortunately they work well enough to justify their continued use by modern politicians.

Tonight I think was good for Obama. Obama has had good momentum building through last week, and tonights tied debate isn't going to shift anything.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The great purge

I'm moving out of my parent's house in two days. I've moved out before, but this is the first time I've moved out with the intention not to be coming back at the end of the semester. I'm also moving to a degree that I've never done before. When I went off to school, I left most of my "stuff" and furniture here. Now, everything that can go with me is going. My mom said she wants my room "cleared" when I leave, or shortly thereafter. God only knows what kind of obnoxious decorating ideas they have for it after I'm gone.

Clearing one's room out to move is a chance for a great many things, and I have decided to enact a great purge. There are so many things that I've kept, unused and unwanted, for so long. Now is my chance to rid myself of these weights once and for all. Growing up, my father was an absolute packrat, who couldn't stand to throw anything away that perchance might contain some utility. He would keep old broken furnature and lighting fixtures with the half-hearted promise that he would try to fix them some day. He would store furniture for people who needed a little extra space, long after it was clear those people were never coming back to collect their items. We still have furniture from my uncle in the basement, that we've had since he divorced his wife and moved into a small apartment: over 10 years ago. We have entire areas in the basement filled with broken lawn furnature, or incomplete bed frames. We have a garage filled with pieces of scrap wood and piping from jobs long since completed, cabinets and chests filled with tools nobody remembers how to use, and closets filled with cleaners that are so old that their labels have since worn off. Now, the only way to find out what is in those bottles is to spray them and see what comes out. Our shed contains all sorts of overflow, two gasoline power generators (one is irrepairably broken), a power-washer sidwalk cleaner (we no longer have a pressure washer that I know of, and we've never had a sidewalk here), two snow blowers (neither of which work), a metal grinder wheel that isn't connected to a motor, and a thin veneer of discarded tools that never made it back into their appropriate drawers. My dad, in short, never found a piece of garbage he wouldn't try to store forever.

My mother was the polar opposite: She was a ruthless cleaning machine. When she got into one of her modes, there was nothing to do but watch in horror as all sorts of things went flying into the trash can. She would point and say "what is this?", but wouldn't care what it actually was. In my mother's world there was, as she was fond of saying, two categories of stuff: keep and trash. If something wasn't in the keep pile, it was in the trash pile. If we didn't know what it was, or what it was for, or when the last time we used it, it was most certainly not in the keep pile. It wasn't long ago when my mom threw away a car recall notice that I received from Honda because she wasn't sure if it was junk mail or not, and the default setting for all mail is junk. If I am not the first person to make it to the mailbox, chances are good I will never see most of my mail.

Like all people, I've picked up some traits from both parents. Like my mother, I tend to view things in terms of their utility, and I do throw enough away to keep from getting cluttered. Like my father, I have a tendency to hoard certain types of things, like CD cases or Videogames (and their related paraphernalia). Digging through my drawers I found a new collection of Windows 3.1 install disks (eight floppies in all) sealed in their original bag. How many people do you know that still have that laying around? I found two new, unopened, printer cartridges for printers that we don't even own anymore. Research papers left over from school that I'm never going to read again, clothing in the bottom of my drawers that isn't even mine. There's lots of weird crap in my room that's managed to stay out of harm's way for years, and now it's all going the way of the dodo.

I'm off to do some more packing now, I'm sure I'll be back with stories.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Shower Weekend

This weekend was Dana's sister's baby shower, the baby who is due precariously close to our wedding date. I helped out with a lot of the preparations, and I think I impressed a few people with my chocolate fondue recipe. I say "recipe", but like all my culinary creations it was a shot from the hip. I never measure anything and rarely have more then a vague idea when I start making something in the kitchen. Lucky for me, the end result usually turns out nicely.

Bought some last-minute necessities for the apartment. We're moving in next weekend bright and early, so anything we don't have now we might be without for the first night. The kinds of things you almost wouldn't think of may prove to be obnoxious if we had missed them, like a shower curtain liner or a trashcan or a lampshade. We still need to get the first month's rent together. We have the money, we have plenty of money. What we don't have is the money in a format that is going to be accepted by the apartments: For the first month's rent they are only accepting a money order or cashier's check. My primary bank, USAA, doesnt have a physical branch anywhere that I know of, and therefore doesn't have cashiers. I wouldn't even know how to go about getting a cashier's check made up for me, or if it's even a service they provide anymore. Getting a money order, apparently, requires cash, and that's also a huge problem. I can't take out enough money to cover it from an ATM either, at least not in one trip. I wired the money to Dana's account (Citizen's Bank, which does have a physical location near her house) and she's going to get the cashier's check. I did get added onto her bank account, and we priced out getting renter's insurance for our new place.

That only leaves 5 days before we move in together, the step that I consider to be the largest in a relationship. A marriage is a nice ceremony, a piece of paper, and a legal status. We're already monogamous, have been for years. When you live together, everything changes. That's when you really get closer to a person, when you learn more about them, and when you've added them as a full-time fixture in your life. In 5 days we're going from seeing each other mostly on weekends, to seeing each other every day of the week, and that's a mind boggling change that marriage cannot possibly compare to.

This week is going to be a busy one at work. Most people from the office are heading out to the RSI trade show in Chicago to show off our wares and see some of the other related technological developments. I've opted to stay back at the office and work through a few additional issues that I've been worried about. We just moved to a new manufacturing partner, and the first unit we got off their production line doesn't work 100%. If this RSI show generates the kinds of sales numbers that people have been anticipating, we need to iron out our production issues ASAP.

Not to mention that I'm not a big fan of traveling. If I can be helpful and productive from home, this is where I would rather stay. It's not like I come home from work, pop open a beer, and turn on the TV. I come home and I work: writing books, developing software, organizing an international fleet of volunteers. I've got a lot going on in my life, and I need to be able to draw a clear line between where my work ends and where the rest begins. I've got things to do in the hours I'm not working, and I don't give that up if I don't have to.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I've been introduced to the website, a networking site for professionals. On first glance, it seemed like another on the list of social website popularity contests. I'm already an occasional user of Facebook, if I waste any more time being "social" I won't have the time to get out and actually interact with people at Parrot and Wikibooks like I want to.

I'm starting to come around though, and I'm really starting to appreciate the service Linkedin has to offer. It's not just keeping in touch with friends from highschool, most of whom I would actually prefer not to be in touch with. It's a place where I can post information from my resume, form professional connections with like-minded people, search jobs, and track my career. And I'm just getting started with my career, so there is a lot of room for growth here.

One thing that I don't like about Linkedin is that it doesn't have any real allowance for the things that get done outside of work. For instance, there isn't any real way to show the work that I've done with Wikibooks, or the Wikimedia Chapters Committee, or The Parrot Foundation. With only a few months in a full-time job, these experiences are the most valuable on my resume and are worth a prominent place on it. The solution I found, which I copied from some other people I saw, was just to list these non-profits as jobs. I do meaningful work with these groups, so I think it's fitting.

I've been a member of Wikibooks for over three years now, and I'm approaching my 40,000th edit. Within the next few months there is an opportunity for me to get some grant money to do some specific authoring work there, and there also might be an opportunity for some book writing that I'm doing to be published. I'll post more information as I get it, of course.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Productive Weekend

We had a "relaxing" weekend this weekend. "Relaxing" here is just a euphemism for "worked on things that weren't the wedding". Most of the weekend was spent with the plumbers who were installing their new heating system, and the rest of the weekend was spent lazing around (good!) and running a few errands. We managed to pick up a few more odds and ends for the apartment, too.

This weekend I found out that one of my books on Wikibooks, "x86 Disassembly" was promoted to featured status. It's quite an honor, I think, because featured books are advertised on the main page and get a few other cool messages as well. Wikibooks has about 3600 books (by one count), and we have only about 64 featured books now. Some of these "featured" books are really legacy from years ago, and don't really meet our current standards anymore, although the effort hasn't been made to remove them yet.

I've been talking with some of my Wikimedia compatriots from Wikiversity today and yesterday, and apparently a little bit of hell is breaking out there. Infighting between some of the members there has come to a head, and people were asking me for some advice. Unfortunately I didn't have enough time to really get involved in the situation, although I am following along with the drama tonight.

Speaking of Wikibooks and Wikimedia, I applied today for a "microgrant" related to Perl 6. The project I applied for is to write a book about Perl 6 at Wikibooks. I've found that there is a relative dearth of information about Perl 6 on the internet, except for the infamous "Synopses" that form the majority of the language specification at this point. I'm hoping that a well-written book can help bring Perl 6 to the masses. Writing this book is something that I've been planning to do for a while now, and if I could get some grant money for it, that would be icing on the cake. Plus, a formal grant would help keep me on an aggressive development pace for it.

Anyway, that was my weekend so far. Next weekend is Dana's sister's baby shower, and the weekend after that we are moving into our first apartmnet together. Exciting times!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Google Chrome

I downloaded Google Chrome today to give it a quick spin. A lot has been written about it, it's interface and it's performance, so I won't duplicate any of that here.

One of the first things I wanted to do was test it for compatibility with some of my JavaScript gadgets on Wikibooks. Lo and behold, it had exactly the same compatibilities as Safari. Since they are both based on Webkit, that makes good sense to me, although I thought Chrome had a different JavaScript engine. One of the problems that Safari has always had was that i couldn't download an edit window and embed it in a gadget, and I never knew why. Firefox did it fine, and I could even manage (with a little back-door hackery) to make the feature work in IE too. But for some reason, it never worked in Safari.

So, I was feeling a little bit disappointed because I was starting to think that Chrome was basically Safari but with less resource demand and a slimmer interface. That is, I was disappointed till I found the developer tools. Unlike Safari (at least, so far as I could find) Google has JS debugging tools built in. Finally, I was able to figure out what the problem was in my scripts for all these months.

The problem, it turned out, was that Firefox was allowing a particular behavior (moving a node from one document to another without being imported first) that isn't technically part of the spec. Webkit is more strict apparently, and doesn't allow this. So, I went back to do things The Right Way, and of course that's introduced some more bugs for me to work through. I'm hoping to have it tonight, and then the only bugs left will be IE-related (go figure).

All in all it is a neat little browser, but I'm not going to switch to it from FF3 yet. Especially not after some of the amazing things I've heard about FF3.1Beta.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Staying busy

It's been a few days since I have been able to post an update here, and now that I have the free time I don't know what to write about.

I almost got sent to Pueblo Colorado this week because of the units from work was malfunctioning. However, a technician who was stationed out there did a simple examination of the terminal and found the problem. Thus, no trip out to Pueblo.

Last week our water heater here at the house started leaking, so dad bought a new one. Of course, he decided that we were going to install it ourselves. I'm a pretty handy guy, and I'm damn good with solder (I am now!) so the project actually went pretty well. We have reliable hot water now, but it's not as hot as it used to be (which wasn't as hot as anybody wanted it to be). I think there's some kind of a problem with our tempering valve, but that's a different project for a different day.

We got our new refridgerator yesterday also. They had bought the fridge before the water heater went, otherwise I can't imagine that they would have had both going on in the same week.

The house used to have two water heaters: One normal heater, and one that was a solar-powered heater. The solar one hasn't really worked for a long time (and hasn't been connected to water for a while) and it started leaking so we're removing it. This is a slow process, dad wants to drain all the water out of it trip-at-a-time with the shop vac. The hold up with the solar heater is that it's a closed-system: The fluid that travels to the solar panel on the roof isn't water: It's propylene glycol. That's going to require some special disposal that I haven't even started to plan for.

In the free time that I do have, I've been doing a lot of work on Parrot, my wiki bot program and Wikibooks. Specifically, I've been using my wiki bot to help edit a wikibook about Parrot. The world of open content textbooks has had a lot of exciting news recently, and I've got a "virtual meeting" on line coming up with members from a few other like-minded websites. I'm all about synergy, but I go in with the realization that Wikibooks is probably the black sheep: Almost every other open content textbook organization uses a CC license, while we're stuck with GFDL. It's gotten to the point that I almost derive sexual excitement when thinking about license unification.

Don't know what else to write, but as soon as I click "Save" I'm going to have a flood of ideas. That's how things always go.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Holy Toledo

It's not really a phrase that I would say myself, but after my recent trip to Toledo Ohio everybody seems to find a lot of humor in saying "Holy Toledo!" The trip was relatively uneventful, and when I have more time I will post some information about it.

No sooner did I get in to work this morning then the boss was talking about shipping me back out the door. This time, he wants me to head out to Pueblo CO to find and diagnose a malfunctioning unit, and swap it out with a new working one. What makes the matter all the more upsetting is that there is a team of no fewer then 3 field technicians at the very place they are going to send me to, all of which are more then qualified to diagnose any of the problems we would have in the field.

The units we are making are satellite tracker units. As a gross oversimplification, they are like GPS relays, taking GPS position information that they get from the GPS satellites and transmitting it to us over a different satellite. The list of possible things that can go wrong with the unit are separated into two basic types: Internal failures and external failures. The internal failures are things that have gone wrong on our end, either during design or manufacture: Things like faulty hardware or software design, faulty construction, bad configuration, etc. External problems are things which we would typically have no control over such as physical trauma or satellite blockage.

Any field technition can take a look at the unit and determine if there is such an external problem. In fact, if I could get a reliable set of photographs of the unit, I could make the determination from the comfort of my own desk. Internal problems are much harder and typically would require some amount of disassembly and analysis that can only be done in the lab. In other words, there is no real reason to send me to Pueblo, because there isn't anything that can be learned from doing so.

Another problem with the plan is that they want to send me to Pueblo with a new unit, that I can use to replace the old one with. However, because of the volatility of the batteries, they are sending me out with a unit that has none. My job will be to take the batteries out of the old device and put them into the new one. This is a fine plan, unless of course the batteries themselves are the problem. In which case I end up with two non-working units and a pair of batteries that don't work and cannot be transported anyplace meaningful.

On top of all this, I worry that I'm being shoehorned into some kind of "Field Service Tech" job, something that I do not want, and that I feel is doing a great disservice to my intended career path as a whole.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Interesting Potential Projects

There are two interesting project ideas that I would like to try my hand at eventually, as I get more free time:

1) Closures for C? It's an interesting idea that is being developed elsewhere. I would love to find a way to add this, as some kind of optional parser mixin, to Parrot's C implementation. I could copy the syntax that's being used for this in Clang and llvm-gcc, to increase interoperability with those projects
2) Alternate Syntax for C++, which has been developed by none other then Damian Conway. I would love to see this implemented as an alternate parser for C++, which could share almost everything (except the parser) with a "standard" C++ implementation. Implementing both in parallel would be very fun (and if I could combine with #1 and give C++ some closures too, that would be hot).

Sunday, August 31, 2008

McCain's Veep

I normally try not to talk about politics here on my blog, but my sense of cynicism superceeds any political beliefs I may harbor.

I think McCain's choice in VP, Sarah Palin, is a big mistake. This is for a few reasons:
  1. Longevity. I don't mean to be morbid or anything, but seriously: John McCain is old and in non-optimal health. You may claim he's in "Great health", but "great" is relative to age. Great health for a 72 year old man is far different from great health in a 40 year old man. His odds of being incapacitated due to age-related health issues or his reoccuring skin cancer, indicate that whoever he chooses to be his VP is more likely then normal to be president within a 4 year term. This is the reality of the human condition, and it's irresponsible to blindly assume that McCain will make it through a 4-year term on his feet at this point.
  2. Hypocracy. The republican's most common attack so far has been directed at Obama's inexperience. Now, McCain has picked a VP with far less experience. At the very least, the Republicans lose this important attack vector. At the worst, the direction of attack is reversed because now the Democrats can attack the low experience level of Governor Palin.
  3. Pandering. Tell me that this doesn't smack of pandering? John McCain is trying to attract disenfranchised HRC supporters, so he picks a woman running mate. This rings of the failed "Anybody but Bush" compaign from 4 years ago: If you're willing to vote for anybody, it's hard to rally behind anyone. Palin is exactly what McCain thought he needed: any woman. So what he gets is just any woman. I think it's disrespectful, and I hope intellegent women throughout this country see that.
  4. Palin was selected to tow the party line: Anti-abortion, pro drilling in alaska for oil. In fact, in days of hearing her analyzed on the news, I have no idea what else she believes in. What McCain wants to say is "Look, I've found an alaskan who agrees with drilling in alaska", or "I've found a woman who is pro-life". It's as if finding one counterexample proves his point. It's telling just how deep he had to look to find a person who fit the bill. I doubt her's is the majority opinion among Alaskans (in terms of drilling) or women (in terms of abortion).
I'm not all lovey-dovey about Obama either, and maybe I'll level some criticisms in his direction a little later. What people need to really think about is this: because of his age, the probability is good that if McCain is elected, Palin will be president within the 4 year term. With that in mind, we need to think about whether she was selected because she would make a good president, or whether she was selected as some kind of token woman so McCain could pander to both women and the conservative right. I'm not sure that we need a president who's only value is being able to pander to very specific groups of voters. In fact, I'm sure we need somebody better.

Correction: I erroneously put that McCain was 82 earlier. This was an arithmetic error on my part. McCain is 72.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


NIN absolutely rocked tonight. It was killer, they played a ton of songs from all their albums, all the way from Pretty Hate Machine up till Ghosts. The visual effects were amazing, the energy of the band was fantastic. It was a show that I will never forget, and I recommend that any NIN fans catch a live show sometime.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Nails Tonight

For my birthday, Dana surprised me with tickets to an NIN concert. The concert is tonight, and I'm waiting for Dave to get here so we can hit the road. The weather is lousy, but I'm not letting that get me down. I'm heading out to Dana's tomorrow morning for the three-day weekend. We got the delux package too: catered box seats, preferred parking, the works.

Got paid yesterday too, and payday is always the best. Unfortunately, since I only get paid once a month, these moments are few and far between. My next job will not pay monthly (I've said that at least once before), but I dont know when this mythic next job is going to appear.

I'm off now to eat and prepare.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Version Control Woes

I'm hardly an expert on version control, but I've been using it now pretty regularly and I think I've picked it up pretty quickly. I use SVN every day, between Parrot and some of my other projects. Even if it's just a quick update or merging in the day's changes to a local branch. I use Wikis too, which I realize now to be a very large and elaborate version control system with a very specialized interface.

At work we use version control too, although it takes the form of a large and disorderly mismash of various filesharing and group collaboration tools. Microsoft Groove is one of the major tools that we use, and I've written about it before. Groove is interesting because it allows quick intra-office communications, it allows distributed file sharing, and a few other easy-to-manage tools and forms. We use Groove for a lot of things around the office, including keeping track of the calendar and making purchase requisitions. I'm still very interested that we keep using Groove though, it's a program that I don't find to be particularly good at anything, other then mashing together several functionalities that otherwise would be handled separately.

The way we use Groove to organize files at work is terrible, literally terrible. If you don't already know where something is, you will never find it. Files are versioned manually, so when I make an update to a file I have to rename it. So we have folders with "file_version1" and "file_version2", etc. Our software is stored in a subfolder of the software documentation folder. The software documentation folder also contains documentation for all other aspects of our project including hardware, installation, application notes, etc. These are just a few examples but trust me, it's bad. Also, the choice as to whether to use email or groove to send somebody a message is usally pretty arbitrary, and the fact that I am expecting communications through both vectors regularly means I need to pay attention to them both. Every day I wish there was some kind of plugin to interface Groove and Outlook to help demultiplex my messages into a single inbox. Somehow, I doubt it's ever going to happen like that.

We have a file sharing server in the office that we can use to store large files that are not suitable for use in Groove. There are some problems with the default permissions on this, however. We can add and modify files and folders, but we cannot delete them remotely. I also don't know where the server is physically located (nobody else seems to know either) so I can't manage it locally either. Without being able to delete things it's quickly become cluttered and obnoxious. However, it's still a very fast way to move things between computers in the office, especially those computers without groove. All the flash drives in our office seem to have been infected with some obnoxious virus too, making this file share all the more important. Virus writers, as I've said before, are the scum of the earth.

We also use regular source control, we have two source control programs that are in use. One is used by the engineers, poorly, and one is used by the website people. I say the engineers are using the source control poorly because they are: Groove is used to store current revisions of our software (manually named by version number, as I mentioned above), while our source control is only used to store current production versions. This is because the projection and manufacturing devision take the current version of the software out of source control when they commission a new unit, so we can't have anything in there that isn't "perfect".

It's amazing to me that so many people, especially so many decision-making engineers are so inept when it comes to using tools like these. I know this kind of stuff isn't taught well in school, but it only takes a little bit of experience using them to learn what best practices (or at least better practices) should be. I realize people are probably paralyzed with the intertia of the status quo, but if I had the opportunity I would rip it all out in a heartbeat and start over.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Turn on my laptop today, and start up with my daily routine. I log in, check some email and stuff on my family computer, and then click the icon in the corner telling me I have software updates to install.

I open the update manager and read through the list of updates, like I always do. I actually take the time to read through the updates I install unlike most users, I'm sure. The update has something to do with the kernel development header files, and maybe some update to a library (I don't remember now). It looked relatively harmless, so I clicked install. Install goes quickly, and then I'm prompted to restart my laptop so the changes can take effect.

Restart. Boot up. log in. blackness. Nothing appears on my screen for several seconds, then I get an error message from GNOME: "The GNOME session manager was unable to lock the file '/home/andrew/.ICEauthority'. Please report this as a GNOME bug. Sometimes this error may occur if the file's director is unwritable, you could try logging in via the failsafe session and ensuring that it is." I click OK, and it kicks me back to the login screen.

So I try again, same error. I try logging into the failsafe session, same error. Good. I try logging in to a different user account, and that works but it's not what I want. I don't like having my one administrator account locked because of a software problem. So I go looking through the internet and find a series of people who have also received this error, and a series of unhelpful responses. People offer solutions and I try every single one. I create directories, I throw around chmod and chown. nothing works. More then one person suggests the solution to the problem is a fresh install. I find that to be severely upsetting

It's a few minutes later and I'm still fighting with this issue. I'm going to be very upset if I can't get my laptop working again without having to do a complete system reinstall.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Genuine Confusion.

I keep getting spam emails to join AARP, emails about Cialis, and emails about mortgage relief. What exactly is the target audience for these people? The poor, impotent, and elderly must be more gullible online then I can even imagine. Add gullible to the list of problems these people have.

Friday, August 22, 2008

That's retarded.

"Do you mind if I say something crass?" he asked as he looked around to make sure nobody else was in the office.

"No". I said it with a suppressed smile, thinking about some of the particularly crass things I've said in my life.

"Well, if you're going to fuck somebody", he said without hesitation and without breaking even the slightest smile, "you fuck them as hard as they let you fuck them."

This particular conversation was not about sex as it might appear immediately, but was actually about work. His point was a simple one: You take what they let you take, you work as little as they let you work. You slack off as much as they let you slack off. As Peter Gibbons famously said in Office Space, "work just hard enough not to get fired". It's an interesting point of view for a worker at such a small company. People tend to work at startups if they are energetic and, dare I say, passionate. It doesn't surprise me that people seem to work so hard or work such long hours. It feels like there is always so much to be done. However, it does take some real discipline to realize that there is more to do then can be done in a day, and to put things down for continuance tomorrow.

Speaking of crassness, my boss is a really funny lady who says the word "retarded" when she gets's angry or frustrated. She always drops to a whisper when she says it, covers her mouth and giggles a nervous giggle. Like it's the worst thing a person could possibly say. Retarded, literally, means delayed in development. It's frequently used to describe people who are delayed in mental development, especially those with Downs Syndrome. This second use is a slang use of the word. However, there's another popular slang use of the word: A person who is inebriated with alcohol. With this third use, saying that something is "retarded" is really no worse then saying that the creators of that something were "drinking lots of alcohol", and nobody would call that particularly obscene.

I propose therefore that we divorce the use of the word "retarded" from pertaining to people with stunted mental development. It isn't nice and isn't particularly apropriate. Instead, we use the word to describe people who function as if they are loaded with alcohol, or things which are created by such people. Saying "This printer is retarded" or "Those people at company X are retarded", or "My kids can be so damn retarded sometimes" isn't bad or obscene, and it certainly isn't necessary to say it in a whisper.

That's just my two cents anyway. But who knows, I may just be retarded.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Work Miscellania

Got a spam email today with the subject "More flesh on your pole". I didn't open it, but it did make me laugh. The lengths that some spammers go to so they can avoid the spam filter. What's more funny, I think, is that the business of embiggening [sic] one's penis is such a huge business that all these spammers pursue it so ferociously.

At work, we've sold just one unit. One. It was supposed to be tracking a train that traveled from PA to NM. However, somewhere after Midville Ohio the unit stopped transmitting entirely. This was two days ago now. Geometrically, it should have a clear line of sight to two satellites, so transmission shouldn't be a problem (notice my judicious use of words like "should" and "shouldn't" here). The potential reasons for this are many: Improper assembly, incomplete waterproofing, hardware defect, software defect, out-of-spec temperature changes, being covered by a box or blanket or something, interference, a hobo hitting it with a sledge hammer, the incompetent department of homeland security hitting it with a sledge hammer, theft, crushing, avalanche, tornado, atomic explosive, or spontaneous combustion. We're sending a guy out to intercept it in Colorado and replace it with a unit that hasn't been sledge hammered. Needless to say that when we get the first unit back (if we get it back) that I'll have to spend a lot of time dissecting and diagnosing it.

One of my coworkers at work today said that the job posting that I responded to was very misleading. I agree with him. The original job posting was titled "Software Engineer" and listed as skills "Assembly language" and "C Programming". I don't use either of those two skills in my job. I don't really write any software, except for a few tools I've written for my personal use to facilitate my job. Before I got there, engineers used to spend hours in the morning going down rows in a table and counting messages. Now, I type in a single command and hit enter, and everything is counted and compared and graphed for us. My job description is more like a "Systems Engineer" or "Embedded Systems Engineer" because of the sheer scope of what I've been doing.

I got new business cards this week, "Andrew Whitworth, Software Engineer". Unfortunately, as soon as I get my cards, I had to move to a different desk that's closer to the lab. So, we had to rush around to get my phone number moved to my new desk. I would have just changed phone numbers except I now have a whole box of business cards with the old number on it. Plus, my cards now say "Software Engineer", even though I'm thinking that I'm really not a software engineer right now. Maybe things will change, however, in a case of life imitating art. Would sure be nice.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Daily Grind

Today was another in a series of days where it seems like the amount of work to be done is overwhelmingly large compared to the amount of time available in which to do it. Perhaps this is why they call it "the daily grind", because it's like I'm grinding my gears and never moving forward.

The problem isn't that I'm not getting anything accomplished at work. Quite the contrary, I'm busy as a beaver and I get all sorts of things done. What it is, is a problem of milestones. It appears that nothing ever gets accomplished because nothing ever gets checked off my to-do list. Nothing ever gets checked off the list because all the things on the list are huge things. Then, when smaller problems pop up and need to be overcome, it seems like the goal is never reached. By setting a series of smaller goals, I try to fix this problem, and towards the end of the day I felt like the strategy was working.

Spent part of the day in a sales meeting. Our sales department, Marjorie, wanted to get the various people together and standardize some of our lingo and our practices. I was there because I'm a very central part of the whole production flow process. It's my job to get newly-produced terminals installed with the necessary software, get the terminals properly tested, get them registered with our satellite tracking system, and get them assigned to various serial numbers. It's a lot of hands-on work, and I'm hoping I'll be able to aggressively automate it with some of my mad programming skillz. That's the plan, at least.

Tomorrow we're starting testing on a new hardware unit with more bells, whistles, and doohickies. I've also got some more software features to test, and some cables to make and run. going to be another fun day.

I think today marks the end of the Google Summer of Code project, so I'm wrapping up my work there. I'm not "done" with the project by any stretch of the imagination, but as far as Google is concerned it's pencil's up time. I'm going to stay a regular contributor to Parrot, and I'm going to work to ensure that my project gets finished eventually, but my monitary incentives are gone now. Maybe I'll be like some of the other big-time Parrot developers and get in on some grant money for my work. It's unlikely, but would be nice.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Things I've learned from Commercials

With the Olympics on now, I've been watching a lot more TV then usual. With TV, of course, comes the commercials, an onslaught of all sorts of companies trying to sell things that you don't know that you want or need yet. The techniques that some companies use in their commercials is so bizarre sometimes that I have to wonder whether any thought has gone into them at all. Sometimes, misfortunate secondary messages are made more obvious in a commercial then the primary "Buy our shit" message that commercials should be focusing on. Here are some examples:

  1. Geico: It's okay to discriminate against people who look different from you, especially if it helps you sell your shit.
  2. AT&T: The mother has to slave away in the kitchen and nag at people while the rest of the family gets to sit, eat, and disrespect her. Go Mom!
  3. M&Ms: You are what you eat, so don't you want to become short, fat, compulsive, and disgusting?
  4. Fiber One Cereal: People who work retail are idiots. That, or maybe the fiber really is "hiding in the honey clusters".
  5. Volkswagon: Drive a Volkswagon and get pulled over. It seems to happen every time. At least this particular cop doesn't appear to be a total jerk about it.

These are just some of the few I've seen and care to remember, I'm sure there are a lot more comemrcials that are this poorly written.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Software Engineering Hardware

My business card will, once it arrives, list me as a software engineer. The job posting that I responded to was labeled "Software Engineer", and in my interview I was questioned almost entirely on my programming skills and history. Besides some of the personal scripting work I've been doing, however, most of what I do is hardware.

And therein lies the truth of small companies: With so few people, everybody has to do a little bit of everything. I spent much of the morning today working on three basic projects:

  1. I was migrating all my "stuff" to a new laptop that my boss bought for me. No longer am I working on a little Eee PC, now I'm working on a nice Lenovo Ideapad. I'll talk more about this later. Getting the essentials (Perl 5.10, Notepad++, Firefox) goes relatively quick, getting all the other garbage I need (Microsoft Office and Groove, a series of proprietary design tools, satellite monitoring tools, and web authoring tools) takes much longer.
  2. Hardware testing and analyzing. We were using the battery voltage as a pullup bias for our input pins, but the trickle current makes our low-power goals infeasible. Now, we're looking to use one digital output as the bias for the other digital input, and using a regular polling function to read input instead. Saves power, but definitely not software-related.
  3. Cabling. I had to scavenge some old cat-5 cable that was strung up around the air conditioning vents, strip the ends, solder on new connectors, run them up to the roof and set up monitoring stations.
I spend the day working with the hardware engineer who used to write software, the software engineer who is becoming a manager, the manager who writes web applications, and the mechanical engineer who installs our electrical devices. My boss has a funny little pantomime where she takes off one imaginary hat and puts on another. It's quite fitting, really.

The truth is that in embedded systems, it's impossible to separate the software work from the hardware. To verify proper software operation I have to set up cables, pull out the multimeter and the oscilloscope, warm up the soldering iron, and start flipping switches. In a computer without a monitor, a keyboard, or a mouse, how else are you going to test and debug it?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Completely Sidetracked

I was planning on getting some good programming work done tonight on Parrot, but that's flown out the window now. Geoff is down in Mexico and decided that the most economical way to keep in touch is through Skype. So, he dutifully set out to buy himself a headset and a webcam so he can have videochats with his friends and family.

The problem is, of course, that his family doesn' t have Skype, a webcam, or a headset. That isn't the problem so much as it is a symptom of the general level of computing incompetence around here. Not just the people, but the computer itself is incompetent: One of those lousy spur-of-the-moment purchases-gone-wrong that my Father seems to specialize in. If corporations hired consultants for impulse shopping, my Father would be a millionare. I don't need to list out all the specs here, but suffice it to say that the computer (which is about 6 years old now) is not going to represent the USA in the computer olympics.

So I install Skype, and I have to say that the process was quick and painless. Skype's website was friendly and easy to navigate, the software installed painlessly, and I was up and running in an instant. Gave Geoff my number, he called me, and we started chatting. He had a webcam--I hadn't installed ours yet--so we could see him but he could not see us. This much should have been obvious. Here's the conversation, more or less as it happened:
  • (Mom, standing behind me. I was wearing the headset and had the unplugged webcam in my hands) Hey Geoffrey! *waves* *Waves HARDER* Can you see me?!?!
  • (Me) He can't see you, the camera isn't installed yet.
  • (Mom) Oh okay Geoff, Andrew says he hasn't installed the webcam yet
  • (Me, to geoff) Mom says hi, she says I haven't installed the webcam yet.
  • (Mom, leans in closer to the computer monitor and starts yelling) GEOFF, HOW'S MEXICO? Andrew, Where's the webcam?
  • (Me, I hold the webcam up) Right here, I haven't installed it yet.
  • (Mom, Looks into the webcam that is unplugged and in my hands) Hi Geoff, Can you see me? Can you hear me? I can't hear you!
  • (I put the webcam down on the floor where mom can stop yelling at it, unplug the headphones from the computer but keep the mouthpiece plugged in, and plug in the computer's speakers so everybody can hear).
  • (Me, to geoff) I plugged in the speakers, everybody can hear you now
  • (Geoff) Hey everybody!
  • (Mom, leaning in to the monitor and yelling) HI GEOFF, CAN YOU HEAR ME!?!
  • (Me, to mom) No, the microphone is right here. Hold on.
  • (I hand the headset to mom, she puts it on and adjusts the mouthpiece)
  • (Mom, into the mouthpiece) CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?
  • (Geoff) Yeah, too loud. You don't need to yell I'm right here.
  • (Mom) Oh, you couldn't hear me before.
  • (Me) That's because you didn't have the microphone
  • (Dad) Where's the webcam, is it installed yet?
  • (Dad, leaning into the monitor) Hi Geoff, can you see me?
  • (Me, pointing to where the webcam lays on the floor, unplugged) It's not hooked up yet, I haven't had a chance to install it.
  • (Dad) Can you install it now? I want to talk to geoff
  • (Me, pointing to mom who's engrossed in conversation with Geoff) I can't right now, I would need to shut down skype, and I would need to get onto the computer to install it.
  • (Dad, yelling at the monitor) Okay Geoff, we can't install the webcam right now, Andrew will do it by tomorrow. Can you hear me?
  • (Me) Dad, you have to talk into the microphone
  • (Dad) Where's the microphone?
  • (Me) It's on the headset that mom's wearing.
  • (Dad, yelling at mom) Geoff, can you hear me?!?!
Seriously, I can't make this kind of shit up. I got the webcam installed soon after and, lo and behold, our computer can barely operate it. Whatever, it's not really my problem. I don't need people watching me work on the computer anyway.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Things and stuff

I'm sensitive to light now, and my vision is a little blurry. So, if you see any serious typos in this blog post it's not because I didn't proofread first. Soome misttakkes Looookk righht to mee. I just got back from my exam at the optometrist, and it turns out my vision is the same as it's ever been. I feel like they could have just asked me, "Are you having problems seeing stuff?". Instead, I have to sit through a whole battery of tests: some which are fun and the rest which must build character.

I now, for the first time ever, have a nice pair of sunglasses. Over the weekend Dana and I meandered into the Sunglass Hut, tried on a few pairs, and each walked out with some nice shades. The last pair of sunglasses I had I got from the mall kiosk for 10$. The pair before that was bought at Bonaroo for two beers and a promise to do some guerrilla advertising. But now I've got myself a great pair of glasses, one more major life purchase to check off my to-do list.

Work today was uneventful. Everybody who I normally work with is out of the office. Susan, my boss is out for the week on vacation. Steve, the EE who seems to know the most about our hardware system, is in Chicago on business. William, the manager who seems to have plenty of engineer in him, is with Steve in the windy city.

I spent much of my day hacking around on my Perl scripts. I can do now with a click what used to take hours every morning. Where we used to have pages of hand-scribbled results, we now have full-color graphs and automatically generated spreadsheets.

Chatted with Jason today. It's amazing to me how we're still on the same wavelength. We glide effortlessly in and out of 1337, Lol, conversation-enhancing XML () and ordinary english. We always have plenty to chat about in the realm of gadgets, programming, and life. Jimmy is coming over tonight and has every tuesday in recent memory. We've been getting together to watch the new show Wipeout. If only I could get dave out from under his bridge not feed him after midnight (That's right dave, you've become both a troll and a gremlin) it would be like highschool all over again. That is, it would be highschool if we added some alcohol.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Can I haz bugz plz?

To put it short, we're having a bug problem. Out front we uncovered a subterranean yellow jacket nest. It was right outside our frontdoor and was causing a number of problems. They stung my mom's ankle yesterday morning, while she was doing some routine weeding out front. They also stung our new dog, Jack, but that doesn't matter as much because I don't like Jack. That's another rant for another blog post, however. I use the past-tense when discussing the yellow jackets because one whole can of Raid later, they appear to have moved to the great bug hole in the sky.

Walking out my garage yesterday morning, a pine cone fell at my feet. At least, I thought it was a big pine cone, but it was actually a huge mamma-jamming cicada. These bugs are huge and disgusting, and they're absolutely obnoxious with their noises. However, they aren't the most huge and disgusting bug in the yard anymore....

The award for most creepy gigantic bug goes to the natural predator of the cicada, the cicada killer wasp. These are the biggest freaking wasps I have ever seen.

Wikipedia claims they are solitary creatures, but there are dozens of them in my back yard, burrowing little holes in the ground all around the path between my driveway and the back door to my house. You can't go walking around outside there without getting swarmed, although people assure me that they do not sting. That's good to know, but I'm definitely not going to put the theory to the test anytime soon.

Besides all the bugs, this has been a good weekend. It was a little boring at times, however. Kara hung out with us for a few days after Geoff left, which is good because she's a good guest to have: Polite to a fault, creative with her cooking, and willing to put up with the unique brand of shit perfected by my brothers and I.

Tomorrow starts another week of work. However, next week my boss Susan is away on vacation and I'm in charge of the testing work we've been doing for the past few weeks. Hopefully it's not too hard a week.

The images from this post are from Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Enter the Asus Eee PC

Today was the worst day of work I've had so far. It was a pretty misfortunate day that I hope does not represent how the rest of my tenure at Ionx will go.

I was informed yesterday that we were going to be bringing in a contractor to help do some development work on the company website. Since the website--which serves as a tracker for our GPS-enabled device-- is a key component of the long-term business strategy, it only made sense to get some more hands working on it. I could have helped myself, but ASP.NET is not in my core area of expertise and the learning curve would have been higher then necessary. The problem is that we didn't have a spare computer for the contractor to use. We decided that the best approach was to give the contractor the PC that I had been using (which was used before I got it, and wasn't in great shape software-wise), and buy a new laptop for me to use.

Let me diverge here to talk about the computer set-ups that the other engineers are using. Most of them have laptops, all of them have large flat-screen LCD monitors. Some engineers have two or even three such monitors. I'm very used to my 1-screen setup at home, so I'm not dying to get lots of extra monitors put on my desk. My desk is relatively small anyway, and would become crowded if I added too many.

So yesterday I got a list of all the software our new contractor would need, and started setting up my computer for him. I got software installed, uninstalled some stuff that I had been using, created the new user account, and moved the PC over to the new desk. A new laptop was coming, and the contractor would be here early.

When I came in this morning, I was greeted by a sight so preposterous that I could barely believe it: On my desk was a shiney new Asus Eee PC. Just shy of 9 inches of economically-priced hardware. "What is this?" I asked, flabbergasted. "It's your new laptop." Good. They told me not to worry, I would get a bigger monitor, a keyboard and a mouse.

The day went slowly, tediously. The Eee boasts a 900 Mhz Intel Celeron and 1Gb of RAM, but it's performance was not what I would have expected from those numbers. It suffered from intermittent pauses of 5 to 10 seconds where the entire computer would freeze and become unresponsive. Installing even the bare essentials (Perl, FireFox, Notepad++ and the necessary ODBC drivers) took a good portion out of my morning.

And every single person in the company had to stop by and take a gander at my precious little misfortune. "It's so small!", "Look at how small the screen is!", "Where did you get that, a box of Cracker Jacks?". It's like I had nothing better to do then play tour guide.

To say that my productivity was quartered is possibly an understatment. A trackpad is a poor excuse for a mouse. The little keyboard was far too small for my fingers (and my fingers aren't large by any stretch), and everything I typed was riddled with typos. It is, in short, not a computer that I can be doing any real work on. I did manage to find an old keyboard, and a wireless mouse that didn't have any batteries. Maybe, tomorrow things might go a little better.

The boss was changing his mind all day. First he said this was just a "test", and that I would be getting a regular laptop in a while. Later, he said that I would be keeping the Eee until the contractor left and I could reclaim my old computer (in about 6 weeks). Later still, he mentioned to somebody else that he was looking to buy a new computer "and maybe give it to Andrew W, if there isn't another need for it". I'm going to have to make it clear that it's just not a computer I can be expected to do any serious work on.

Now, I don't want to sound all negative about the Eee, it's a neat little piece of engineering and I might like to buy one for myself one day. It's light and very portable, and it's a capable 32-bit computing platform. If I had my own I would definitely replace the default Windows XP with Linux, but that's a small point (I would do that to any new computer). However, and this is worth repeating, it isn't a computer that I can do 40 hour work weeks on. It isn't a computer to sit at a desk under florescent lighting and crank out code.

Hopefully tomorrow goes better, hopefully this computer is just a (very) short term ordeal.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Keeps on going on

Things at work are going well. I've been informed today that I would be getting new business cards. This prompted a few moments of trying to figure out some important details: what, exactly, is my job title? What is my desk phone number? I mean, I know my phone's extension, but I didn't know what the number was to reach it from the outside. Now, I know. I asked my boss what my job title was, to which she replied, "I dont know, what would you like it to be? What is mine? I'm probably a senior software engineer, I guess". Well, I guess that makes me a "Software Engineer" then, which is fine by me.

I've also been informed that I'm going to be getting a new laptop and widescreen monitor. This is a little bit depressing, because it's taken me so much time to get my current computer set up properly. Of course, I won't complain about having a big second monitor, a single screen is barely enough to contain my productivity (or stimulate my interest).

Had lunch with Johnny today. He's uncharacteristically busy now, summer is normally a down-time for him. Apparently, and this is a correlation that I would never have made myself, people who are feeling the effects of the down-economy are spending more time in their own lawns and gardens, and less time traveling for vacation. Hence, Johnny has been busy making people's gardens more picturesque. He's also been doing a lot of cool work on Wikiversity too, something that I am envious of. I rarely have any time to log on and wind down with a little Wiki with work and Parrot eating up all my time.

I'm hoping that once Dana and I move in together I will be able to use my weekends more productively. I certainly have a lot of projects on the back burner that I would love to pour more attention into.

Johnny and I went to Mino, the nice little sushi joint in my neighborhood. They always have nice specials, and reasonable prices, so it's a big bonus. I was half expecting to see Geoff and Kara there, since they are both home now and Kara was talking about it yesterday. However, I find out today that they went to Capos instead. Capos is an awesome little italian deli that makes fantastic hoagies. After exchanging stories, I was envious of their lunches, and they were envious of mine. A delicious hoagie and a little tiramisu would sure hit the spot, but I don't want to be spending so much money on lunches. Sometimes I just need to buckle-down and brownbag it.

My Parrot progress hasn't been going as well as I would like, and I am having severe doubts that I will be able to "finish" my collector by the end of the GSOC program. chromatic has said he's satisfied with my work despite my inability to finish. It was a hard project, and maybe the expectation was never that I would get it all done on time anyway. I'm still working on it, but progress is obviously going slower that my time is taken up with a "real job".