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Day three of YAPC, and I'm attending Ingy's talk on YAML. The hecklers in the crowd just received one of the two microphones - they've received official status.

The evening of day two was fun, except for the minor issue of my room key not working. The professional and friendly staff at CMU sorted that out quickly. The conference dinner was at the Heinz field, with the usual TPF auction. The privilege of taking Larry Wall out for lunch was auctioned off for a thousand dollars, very impressive.

Today's sessions end at three, and then it's back to NYC. It'll be hard to go back to work on mostly closed-source stuff - YAPC is always motivating, and I always want to get more involved in the Open Source community when I return; but little tends to come of it.


Jun. 23rd, 2009 02:15 pm
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I am attending Jesse Vincent's talk on SD, a distributed bug tracker. In his talk, he just made a joke about git's manual pages.

This conference shows that git has totally won the distributed revision control war. But everybody complains that it is hard to learn and understand, and everybody who knows it claims to have a love/hate relationship with it.

I am in the middle of switching to git for some work projects, and so far I am liking it but agree it's hard to learn well enough to get started. I guess the hate part will come later, with experience.
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Day two of YAPC is starting. I'm currently enjoying Matt Trout talking about DBIx::Class, and today looks like a full schedule of interesting talks.

Yesterday's eye opener was David Fetter's talk on recursive SQL - solving the Traveling Salesman Problem and doing a Mandelbrot set in ISO standard SQL. But the best part is talking to all the many perl experts here.
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I'm in Pittsburgh today and through Wednesday, for the YAPC::NA 10 (the NA Perl conference). Larry Wall is about to start his keynote.

I arrived yesterday after an uneventful flight (those are the best ones). The bus from Pittsburgh airport to CMU worked well - better than the Newark to NYC bus. I had dinner with Chip Salzenberg (fun and educational).

The conference is just getting started - it'll be fun.


Jun. 21st, 2009 11:48 am
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I saw the Ozric Tentacles play at yesterday - nicely timed for the summer solstice. The show was excellent - the band was in good form, played old ands new songs, and appeared to have as good a time as the audience. I have listened to their albums and live recordings for years, but now have a new appreciation for how the band works - it's good to see them using many synthesizers and effect machines rather than just a single Macbook, and it was very interesting to see division of labor across two people working the synthesizers and guitar/base at the same time.

The Ozrics are rather better known in the UK than they are over here. It was perhaps telling that the marquee at BB King's had their name spelled wrong.

I had a good time and hope to see them again.
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Yesterday morning, the museum of Natural History had a member's breakfast in the museum. The tables with coffee, muffins and bagels were set up in the hall of Saurischian dinosaurs. That was unexpectedly good fun. There were no tours (that's generally an evening thing), but I did get to see the Extreme Mammals exhibit.

The AMNH is one of my favorite museums and things like this make me happy to be a New Yorker.
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Heidi and I are in San Francisco for four days to attend a friend's wedding. Our schedule is quite full, but I have two mornings free.

Today, I went book shopping and was impressed by Borderlands Books, a small store specializing in SF, fantasy and horror. I picked up some NESFA press books and some new releases. I was especially happy to find Jo Walton's "Lifelode", as I didn't even know it was out yet.

Following that, I spent some time in SFMOMA and I hope to visit the Ancient Art galleries in the Fine Arts Museum (the Legion of Honor). Besides that, all we're planning to do is spending time with friends: drinks, dinners and of course the wedding itself. Not the best way to see a city, but that's the way it is.
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Heidi and I are off on a two-week trip to Norway. One of her CSI friends, a Norwegian detective, is getting married.

We're flying into Oslo, spend three days there, then take the "Norway in a Nutshell" train across the country to Bergen. We'll have a few days there, including the wedding. After that, back to Oslo and New York.

Our last trip was in August. Given both our job stresses, it's about time we took a break from the city. And what better than to visit friends and a beautiful country?

The weird thing is, all of our trip this year will be weddings. Norway, San Francisco, DC, and Taiwan. We're in our late thirties - wedding trips are supposed to be over by now :-)
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I had a really weird dream last night. I was convinced there was an Iain Banks novel that I used to own, but that gotten lost when I moved from Europe to the US ten years ago. Not just that, but it was a great novel and I really felt an urgent need to re-read it. (It is far from clear to me why I hadn't missed it in the last ten years, but that's dreams for you.)

I even came up with he title, background and portions of the plot. The "lost" Iain Banks novel is called tthe Orraries of Skye (typo on purpose). The hero, in his late twenties, is returning to his home island after ten years and rediscovers the weird sect his family belongs to. His uncle is the non-speaking guardian of an unspecified object and all religious discussions have to be silent (again, don't ask). Then the uncle gets murdered and (worse) his books are thrown outside of his house for our hero to recover and puzzle through.

Nothing else comes up, which is why I had to re-read the book. In my dream, I spent a good amount of time trying to find the book online, but apparently the author or publisher had withdrawn it (again, don't ask) so it could no longer be found.

Clearly I'm obsessed with books, and equally clearly I really liked both Whit and Crow Road. I'm not sure how all that translates to a vivid dream of actually holding the book, and my dreamed panic of not being able to find it. But I can hardly wait for somebody to actually write it :-)
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Heidi and I don't really celebrate Valentine's day. The main reason is that our first date was on February 11th, and celebrating that instead means restaurant reservations will be easy to get.

This year, we went to Cafe Perbacco, a great Italian place, close to where I used to live in the East Village.

Thursday was beer night with my friends, but on Friday night I brought home flowers and we drank some fine champagne to celebrate the log weekend (Heidi) and 1234567890 ctime (me).

Yesterday, on actual Valentine's day, I brought Heidi a "some assembly required" rib cage and heart card.
(Living with a physical anthropologist and overall CSI girl means that skull and/or bone themed gifts are always appropriate.)

For our Sunday brunch, Heidi is making me poffertjes, a traditional Dutch batter treat. We haven't had those since our trip to Holland, but my mom gave us the traditional cast-iron pan as a wedding gift almost five years ago and I guess it's time to use it.

So now we just need a nice relaxing thing to do tomorrow and we'll have the perfect quiet weekend. WHo said romance was dead?
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I still have a job. However, Heidi's job looks increasingly shaky - the city is going to lay off thousands of people (a newspaper headline said 26,000). Yesterday, our good friend Bubbette was fired from her sysadmin job - in a company with two IT staff, both of whom were busy. And it appears my company is going to lay off another 10-15% - my boss assures me I'm fine for this round, but who knows what will come next.

The impact of all the layoffs and lower Wall Street bonuses is visible around us. Restaurants and bars are significantly quieter; not all X-mas themed ads have been replaced; stores appear to have permanent sale signs or have closed. The 2001 recession had a much less visible impact on New York. This one is going to be brutal and it will be interesting (though are from fun) to see its social impact. I expect to see a lot more homeless people on the street once the winter is over.
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Ian McDonald, Brasyl. I put this down multiple times and it took me several months to finish. I'm not sure why this didn't appeal to me - it's clearly of on Ian McDonald's better books. Some of the main characters just didn't work for me. The central idea of the world being a simulation in a quantum computer at the end of the universe also doesn't appear fresh anymore.

KJ Parker, The Company. I really wanted to like this, as much of Parker's previous work is brilliant and I like the dark humor and dark fantasy backgrounds of his (her?) books. Two things held this book back: Parker didn't pull off having many distinct characters (they sort of blurred into each other) and the backflashes were more interesting than the main story line. Still, having pretty much all the main characters have a monstrous past is a good idea.

James Blaylock, The Knights of the Cornerstone. Loved it - quirky characters, a town full of Knight Templars, a hidden silver mine subsidizing the town for half a century without anyone appearing rich - just great. Blaylock is not as well known as he should be and I've been enjoying his books for over 15 years.

David Riggs, The World of Christopher Marlowe. A good biography and history, if maybe a bit dry.

Various, Seeds of Change. A nice collection of short stories. Ken MacLeod and Tobias Buckell are great as always, and I really liked Ted Kosmatka's story. There were two weak stories out of nine - not bad at all.

David Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel and Language. A good update on the state of research into Proto Indo European. I read the books by Mallory and Bellwood a few years ago, and clearly the subject is still actively being researched and debated. I'll keep reading the books as they come along.

Quiet time

Jan. 6th, 2009 09:42 am
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I'm back to work after a few weeks of mostly vacation. Since Heidi didn't have much time off (I get 5 weeks, she gets 2) I stayed at home and did very little. It was good to relax.

I spent a fair amount of time watching BBC TV series (documentaries, crime), which was fun. Thanks to BitTorrent for making a lot of content available that never makes it to the US.

It wasn't all brain-rotting activity, though. The Met has a great new exhibit, Beyond Babylon, that is very much worth seeing - culture and trade links in the Near East in the second millennium BC. The exhibit was good, but the catalog is spectacular, and the difference is sad - due to changes in US law, the amazing Syrian artifacts that the Syrian government was willing to lend to the Met had to be excluded. I don't understand the full background, but this sounds like a hiccup on the US side, and the note included with the catalog sounds like the Met is mighty pissed off.

The Morgan Library had some fun things (ancient Near East cylinder seals, book bindings, Babar sketches) and the museum of natural history is always good, so overall my time off felt well spent.

Apart from that, there was a lot of good food and drink - parties galore. My New year's resolutions include the usual "lose weight, exercise more" and as always my weight is at its top around this time of year. Mind you, with the budgetary restrictions that come from a 40% salary cut (ouch!) there will be a lot less dining out in restaurants and that ought to help.
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We have not been out biking for about two months, as it was just too cold. Well, today wasn't - last week we had snow, we're expected to have snow on Wednesday, but today it was in the mid-60s. This is about 25 degrees above average - good there's no such thing as global warming, eh?

In any case, we want out biking to Central Park in our bike shorts and a tees, and did a nice 6-mile loop. Given I hadn't expected to take out my bike until early spring, this was a nice surprise and a pleasant end of a long weekend. I expect that the next few months will only see me biking inside at the gym.
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[Error: unknown template qotd]

Many a time, alas. I frequently draft a reply to an annoying or policy-related question and then send the reply to my manager for review. I've had the embarrassing case occur that I forgot to drop the original sender from the mail, thus exposing them to the draft process. (Luckily, this time I did not have the phrase "will this shut the *** up?" in there).

I quickly responded by sending the incorrect CC a mail of the form "you see our review process in action" so no real damage was done.

Then there's the wurk email address auto-complete system. The risk here is that new people get hired with a name similar to people I'm used to mailing, and show up earlier in the auto-complete list. This you generally only find out if they respond by "Huh?" or "wrong recipient" and then you re-send.


Nov. 9th, 2008 03:33 pm
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Just finished Anathem. In my opinion, this is far from Neal Stephenson's best work - there's about 500 pages of story and 400 extraneous pages of talking. It could have done with some forceful editing.
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Heidi and I have iPhones, which in the US means we have AT&T as a wireless provider. We signed up for automatic payment on the second month and it's been working pretty smoothly.

Except last month. AT&T was three days late taking the money out of my account (which had a healthy balance - they delay must have bene on their end) and now they sent me a bill that specifies that I am (1) overdue on last month's payment and MUST pay this right away and (2) I should not pay anything because they will take the money out of my account automatically.

Whatever geniuses designed their billing system and form letter generation system need to have their heads examined. It'd be amusing if it weren't such a sad display of incompetence.
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Heidi and I were out walking yesterday when we saw a cement truck. I said that I'd always been fascinated by cement trucks as a kid, to which she replied that an obsession with trucks and heavy machinery must be coded on the Y chromosome :-)

This leads to an interesting question, though: in a world before museums with dinosaurs, before trucks, locomotives, airplanes other big machines - what were boys obsessed with? Heidi thinks they were probably too busy working to have time for that, but I am not sure - before the Industrial Revolution (and especially before the Reformation) the pace of life was not so crazy that kids didn't have time to play or days off.

I am afraid there will be very few sources that describe kids' fascinations in the Middle Ages and before (there's little enough on toys and play), but it's an interesting question.


Nov. 4th, 2008 09:17 am
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I am still reading CJ Cherryh - mostly on the train and in the gym, as the paperbacks are an easy size. I've gone through the Chanur series, the Foreigner series, the Faded Sun trilogy, and and now in the middle of the Morgain trilogy. Good stuff. I gave up on Downbelow station, as it just didn't grip me - I may give that another try after Cyteen.

I'm still following Jo Walton's advice on; last weekend, I re-read the first two Walter Jon Williams books, Ambassador of Progress and Knight Moves. He's long been a favorite writer of mine (especially Aristoi and Metropolitan, and his latest Implied Spaces was pure genius.) I will probably re-read all his other works once I'm done with Cherryh.

At home, I'm mostly reading hardcovers. I enjoyed Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains and especially Ken MacLeod's The Night Sessions - I cannot wait for the Second Enlightenment to happen in our world. I'm in the middle of the new Neal Stephenson, Anathem. It's good, but a little slow - he spends a lot of time building the society, but I'm probably missing a lot of good stuff that will only become apparent later. I really like the voice of the main character - somehow, it reminds me of the better Ian M Banks books. I'm pretty sure I will enjoy the book even more on a second read in a year or so.
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As I was trying to enter a crowded subway car this morning, two women close to the entrance tried to push me out of the car using their shopping bags. I pushed my way in anyway, and they acted most insulted. The car was crowded, but not as badly as on many other days; in fact, our section could probably hold 3 or 4 more people and still not be as busy as the next section one set of doors down. One of women made a point of slamming me with her bag as she left the train at the next station.

I am sure my behavior was quite impolite; but I am also wondering what led them to expect they had the right to an uncrowded subway car during rush hour.
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