Controlled chaos

Wednesday, 29 August 2012 10:01 pm
My world seems to ebb and flow with varying amounts of chaos. Sometimes, it's a bit much.

I wish I'd taken a photo; my study was a disaster area. Last night I was due to be on a conference-call on queer Quaker outreach. So I started prepping 10 minutes before the call was to start- lots of time to re-read the agenda, call up my notes, find my headphones... We'd used the same conference calling number a bunch of times, but somehow I mis-remembered it was a toll-free number. Nope, it's a regular US number. Oh right, I had bought a calling card to deal with that, last fall when I was last on these conference calls. ...Oops, this was going to be a problem.

1) My cellphone's long distance to the US is something like $0.45/min, so that was a non-starter. 2) I tried both of my cheap calling cards, and they had expired or ran out of money, probably in May. 3) I tried skype; but my account had JUST been marked 'inactive' due to no calls in 180 days. It took me a few minutes to figure that out, but they sent me an email last week telling me to log in before yesterday. Oops. Now it was time for the conference call to start. 4) Could I find the parts for my VoIP system, which is only 1 cent a minute? Yes, I can! I plugged in my VoIP box, stringing wires in a mess, dragged out the speaker phone from the closet (which was nicely put away under a pile of other stuff, a pile which became strewn all over the floor), found a phone cord (another mess in the closet), got everything hooked up, and dialed in, only a couple minutes late. ...The call was useful and good, but I was sort of distracted by the bomb that had gone off in my study! So I'm not sure what I learned from this experience. I really like the look of my desk without a phone on it, and I'm glad we got rid of the land-line. I did reactivate my skype account, which would have worked without any wires. And I'm glad I have a backup backup backup plan.

--

We have met all of the conditions for the house sale! The inspection found a leak in the main-floor bathroom, so we knocked $500 off the price rather than needing to deal with plumber / re-inspection / etc. possibilities. They are doing a title search and the house is to close September 19th! (Or earlier, if they decide they want to). I'm still sort of numb that it's finally wrapping up. Yay! But now our line of credit (on the house) goes away, and we immediately had to figure out where we were going to stash the large pile of money until the condo registers in December. (The answer? Canadian Tire Bank. Yes really. 1.8% interest savings account, and the interest is not paid in Canadian Tire Money.)

--

My parents are coming in 4 days. We discussed this option last weekend, decided it wasn't practical for them to rush to get here on the September long weekend, that we'd find another time we're all free... and then yesterday they decided hey, why not do it while they know we're all free, especially if they offset their visit a day to give us a bit of breathing room after our stressful weeks. So they're arriving Sunday and leaving Tuesday! I'm excited to show them the new place, and I'm glad this is working out, since I think we all had a premonition they wouldn't otherwise make it here until 2013.

--

We are starting to have neighbours on our floor. Last night dan brought by a couple, half of whom is living down the hall. They felt a bit like they were out of a soap-opera, and not in a bad way really, just a bit much. Don't get me wrong; I am very happy at the mix of people we've met in the building- young, old, gay couples, straight couples, singles, dog-owners... I agree with dan. This was the right choice.

Just so long as we don't end up as extras in someone else's soap opera.
da: (bit)
I've given up on using LJ for my RSS feeds. I've got 88 of them, which means I sometimes don't see real people posts for pages and pages. I'm jumping to Google Reader. Google Reader will import "OPML" data, so that's how I wanted to do the transfer. This is a how-to.

(If you are hoping to read your LJ friends list directly from an RSS reader, you might instead try this exporter, which grabs the necessary data for friends- it doesn't include feeds and is beyond the scope of this how-to.)

The short version:

1) if you're handy with Perl, grab the code at the bottom of this entry, change the user name, and run the code.
1b) if you're not handy with Perl, give me a shout and I'll run it for you on my server. :)

2) Output is a list of RSS URLs. To translate these to OPML, feed them to this page. Copy and paste them into the big text box, then hit the "Create OPML" link. Seconds later, you will have an output file, which you should save to disk (the file name doesn't matter).

3) Optionally, open the file in a text editor and change the "title" parts from the URL into a sensible title for each feed. Yeah, I was too lazy to write my own OPML and fix that.

4) in Google Reader, the left-hand lower corner, choose "Manage Subscriptions". Choose "Import/Export". Browse and upload your OPML file.

Done!

So far, I like the google reader interface, and now I can actually pay attention to the real people on my list who do still post. (I appreciate y'all! I did this for yoooou!)

---
Don't bother reading the rest unless you want technical details; mostly here for google searching. Let me know if this helped anybody!

The code:

#!/usr/bin/perl

use strict;
use WWW::Mechanize;

my $base_url = "http://da-lj.livejournal.com/profile";

my $m = WWW::Mechanize->new ( autocheck => 1 );

$m->get( $base_url );

my $profile_html = $m->content;
my @feed_lines = ($profile_html =~ /watchingfeeds_body.*/g);
my @feed_urls = ($feed_lines[0] =~ /href='(.*?)'/g);

foreach my $lj_url (@feed_urls) {
    $m->get( $lj_url );
    print $m->find_link( text => 'XML' )->url() . "\n";
}


And that's it. I'm using WWW::Mechanize, which is the bee's knees if you have to do screen-scraping in Perl.

I started off with a manual grab of my "watching" page, a word-processor search-and-replace, and was about to run a batch of 'wget's to grab the lj-feed pages when I realized it would be quicker in perl.

The biggest drawback to this method is the cost of installing WWW::Mechanize in the first place. CPAN makes it easy(ish) but it has a tonne of dependencies. ...I guess it's just one step if you're on a reasonably recent Debian/Ubuntu.

Anyhow.

Minecraft

Saturday, 19 March 2011 10:12 pm
da: (bit)
I've been playing Minecraft. This game seems to suit me. If you've never heard of it: it's world-building/exploring, first-person, with a fairly sophisticated physics engine. And intentionally blocky graphics, as you can see in this picture with a duck [ETA: chicken].



The waterfall was created when a nasty-bad blew up right next to me, also killing me in the process. The explosion took out a roughly 6x6x6 sphere of ground. Since it was next to water, the water rushed in to fill the hole. But fluids seem to flow forever, without equalizing pressures, which leads to interesting effects.



Here's the same area from a different perspective. I'm perched atop 30 or so blocks to make this shot. There are big, fluffy, square-edged clouds just off-camera. They always drift East to West.

You can see my working inventory at the bottom of that screenshot. Much of the game mechanics involve crafting items. For example, the bow was made from string and sticks. The sticks were fashioned out of processed wood, from trees which I cut down with my bare hands. The string was acquired by killing a few giant spiders, which was possibly the most exciting experience in game so far. I was experimenting with pouring water on the heads of the spiders when I got caught in the down-flow and trapped in a cavern with a monster-generator. I am surprised I survived.

I'm sticking with the one-player mode for now, because I've heard too many people getting their creations blown up by other players in multiplayer.

Meanwhile, I'm digging up a storm- that hill is basically my home. There are three doors to it in that screen-shot, though you'd have to know what to look for to find two of them. You also can't see the reason I adopted this hill. On the other side, there's a lava flow coming out of the cliff that's really pretty at night-time.

open data

Sunday, 13 March 2011 11:19 pm
Guess what? I'm too tired to make a very coherent post. Busy weekend. Very social.

Yesterday afternoon, I went to an "open data codefest"- I had a blast learning, though I didn't write any code.

What's open data? It's a philosophy that public data should be machine-readable, so people can produce software mashups such as smartphone apps or websites that repackage the available information for (different, perhaps unexpected) purposes. Think realtor websites that incorporate municipal property data and walkability scores... or lots of things Google does now, such as maps incorporating transit schedules and bike paths. Or there's this LCBO search app that has indexed all the liquour stores in Ontario, to give you inventory search results in a more clean way than the official LCBO site.

So, I wanted to work on transit data, but we don't yet have a clean data-source. The best available is "screen-scraped" (unofficial, therefore suspect for accuracy and legitimacy). So instead I learned about GTFS, the common format for transit feeds. I learned how to geo-locate via web-browser (not just mobile; it works from the desktop, thank you googly overlords).

The region is investigating what sorts of data they can open up; apparently a few region staff-members were present earlier in the day.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays out!

Exploded

Sunday, 7 November 2010 11:12 pm
[livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball, who is spending the next day on a work trip in Indiana, sent a link to a neat article about where he was to be exploring next, the architecture and art of Columbus, Indiana. One tantalizing photo is an exploded diesel engine from the lobby of Cummins, Inc, a diesel engine manufacturer. Which is very cool; and reminded me of something else, though I couldn't place it.

Googling the piece, and the artist, Rudolph de Harak, led to a neat essay on the history of exploded-view art.

It pointed me to one aspect that I've always loved; lego construction diagrams. I loved, loved the visual language of lego instructions.

Then I realized what I was reminded of: Tron. The new version, out in mid-December. Which I'm sorta kinda looking forward to, even though I expect it will suck. One of the previews, which I saw a few days ago and can't find just now, did the animation of someone "turning on" their light-cycle, and it looked sort of like it was stitched together in the inverse of an exploding diagram.

...Sorry, at the moment I ain't got a more deep post than that. :)

Personal Light Cone

Friday, 5 March 2010 04:09 pm
OK, this is seriously geeky, but I love it:

Exhibit A: Distance of stars from us, in light-years, and other information.

Exhibit B: definition of Light Cone.

Exhibit C:Your Personal Light Cone RSS feed.

"From the moment of my birth, light (that I could have influenced) has been expanding around the Earth and light (which could influence me, from an increasing distance of origin) reaching it -- this ever-growing sphere of potential causality is my light cone." My light cone has 61 stars in it. The next star to be reached is Beta Leonis, 4 months from now.

Hat-tip to [livejournal.com profile] james_nicoll.
da: (bit)
I ran across a site with some non-intuitive iDevice tips.

http://www.todaysiphone.com/2010/01/vid-iphone-101-%E2%80%94-how-to-set-up-multiple-emails/

If you use gmail, gmail address book, and google calendar, they will all link two-way with your Touch/Phone. I never set up the address book and calendar, so I gave it a go. It works, quite well! Now my non-phone is good for two more things, offline! (I had set up gmail, previously. But I really rely on google calendar.)

All it requires is setting up a new email account with "Microsoft Exchange" (instead of the "gmail" choice) and supplying 'm.google.com' as the server. The link above has a video demo/instructions.

--
I remain a neutral observer on the iPad release. It certainly isn't billed as a do-everything device. Which is ok; maybe that will happen with v.2 or v.3. v1's success will depend on how people react to actually having it in their hands. I was fairly "meh" about the Air until I saw one in person. (And then [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball notes that it isn't really a full laptop replacement either).

I'm unconvinced that it will be a credible business device, unfortunately. Could it be a traveling laptop display extender? It's exactly the same height as my 15" macbook. I've seen displays that work over ethernet; if it's fast enough for full-screen video, it's probably fast enough to handle display extending over wifi. ...so then you have a little monitor you can carry around the room and connect to different machines at once. Hey?

It might be an OK device for creating things. [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball suggests that it's apparently been constructed as a device to buy and consume things created by others. I am not so certain that's a hard limitation; if text input isn't too clunky, and their iWork applications aren't so clunky, and the developer kit makes it possible to DESIGN good creative apps... I'll just say if I had a lot of free time, I would enjoy trying to develop for the platform (casts jealous eyes at the iPhone devs around).

This and That

Sunday, 13 December 2009 07:45 pm
Last night I went to see my friends Jason (aka [livejournal.com profile] mrwhistlebear) and Karen perform at the Registry Theatre, as Gaedelica (named from a Gaelic book of poetry, Carmina Gadelica). They are both quite talented. One of their pieces was an original arrangement of The Huron Carol, which I hope they record. Great job guys!

They were followed by a Celtic band, Rant Maggie Rant, which I knew nothing about, other than the evening theme was "Celtic" and "Christmas music". If you know me well, you might know this pairing might make me apprehensive. It did, but I'm glad I stuck around. The Registry Theatre was packed to the gills; they were turning people away when I got there (20 minutes before the show). The band was talented, very energetic, and their two lead singers were attractive, too. One sort of looked like a slightly more fey version of Sting. The other singer made me want to start wearing vests- he wore his well- black vest, black dress shirt, purple tie, gray slacks. Porkpie hat.

And home by 10:30.
--

This weekend's main project was cleaning my home office floor. I rented a carpet vac, followed the instructions, and hey, the carpet is clean! ...-er, at least. I'm worried about the off-gassing- my last attempt to clean carpet in this house resulted in a severe reaction from dan, and while it didn't smell like anything yesterday, today there was something like new-car smell, so I went over it again with the vac with just water instead of soap. And there was a distressing amount of dirt picked up the second time around, as well. I suppose this is a cost of dog ownership. Yeah. I'm blaming the dog. She's the main reason we still have one room with carpet- it would make her unhappy if we took it out, because she uses it as her towel when she comes in from the rain and snow (after she's already been dried off).
--

Also yesterday I made fudge for today's Christmas Desert Potluck at Quaker Meeting. I was, once again, apprehensive (it's been years since I've made fudge), but it got a number of accolades, including people coming around asking who made it, so I'm happy. Meeting was good, too.
--

My desk is a disaster area. I haven't gotten back on top of the scattered papers since getting back from two weekends away, and we're reaching critical density. Ack.

At least the house is otherwise clean. Except for the furniture from my office which I moved out to clean the floor. Hm, I guess I should put that back when the floor's dry, or dan will be surprised.
--

Dan comes home on Tuesday! Yay!

--
I finally upgraded my laptop to Snow Leopard; the "family pack" DVD has been sitting on my desk since dan did his upgrade. It wasn't as painless as I'd hoped, because when I last swapped drives, I apparently used the wrong default partition map (Apple Partition Map instead of GUID) so Snow Leopard said I had to wipe the drive. So I babysat a reformat/recopy/upgrade (in the process discovering that my backup was not, in fact, bootable as I had thought; whoops.)

Apple did an excellent thing with this release, by the way- I was still running 10.4, and the upgrade DVD jumped me up to 10.6. They didn't have to make it this easy, and in Windows and Linux, I would be looking at either a sequential two-step upgrade, or wiping the disk and reinstalling my software and data; both probably a more fault-prone process than whatever Apple had to do to make this upgrade work in one step.

And I like Snow Leopard.

(Although, chatting with dan in iChat, we discovered the graphic for :-P looks like a big smile-and-tongue, which is just wrong. I don't know if it was that way in 10.4, but NOW IT IS WRONG.)

Ahem.
I want 43things.com crossed with a project-management tool. Crossed with delicious.com social-tagging. A crowd-sourced life coach.

Does anything like this exist already? Is the idea insane?

[The following won't make much sense if you haven't looked at 43things. Check 'm out; I'll wait here.]

What I'm picturing:

You're prompted for a goal you're working toward. (Such as "Learn Japanese.")

Then you're prompted to supply a list of things (sub-projects) you need to do before you can complete the goal. You can type in a list, and there is a pre-populated list aggregated from other people working toward the same goal; which you can tick "Need to do this" or "Already did this" (or, "what? this has nothing to do with my goal. Bury it.")

Then you go into each of the sub-projects, and fill in what you need to do to complete that goal. Also pre-populated with other peoples' suggestions. And so on, until you've mapped out a tree of the concrete details between where you are and your goal. Ideally, the terminal nodes are either already done, or "Next Actions" you could take right now (in the right environment; more on that in a bit).

Alternatively, you can start at the beginning, making a numbered list of steps. The site can present your project in either direction- detail-first or big-picture first. The problem with a numbered list of steps is it can artificially limit the order you do some tasks- so this site has to make it easy to rearrange tasks and look at your goal in many different ways. (Some folks do this with mind maps; I'd hope this system could switch from entirely text to a visual mind map as well).

A task might also need to specify a context in which it makes sense to do it; necessary conditions that are environmental, not items you do. ("At the office", "After September 1st".) With that addition, we've built something based on "Getting Things Done". But there's the social aspect, which is lacking from GTD, and a big part of my motivation for describing this.

Projects and sub-projects could have "testimonials" from people who successfully finished them,
as 43things.com currently has - such as "I did this and it was easier than I thought. The key thing was..." "achieving this made me feel ... " and "people who are doing this are also doing ..."

I like this idea, though it doesn't go far enough. Psychology tells us if you want to achieve something difficult, you will need to break it down. And the further you go into detail, the more likely you are to succeed. I saw this when I was making phone-calls for Obama: they had us ask "do you know when you're going to vote tomorrow? Do you have a plan for how you'll get there?" and the claim was that asking these questions would improve turnout by 25%. So, yeah. Motivating a task by breaking it down into little pieces is powerful.

But I want more. Once you have a recipe for achieving a big goal, not only could it build you a map to get you there; it could also aggregate for many people. As I said previously, it could suggest sub-projects from others. Things you hadn't fully thought out yet; an intervening step you missed; or different options for doing the same thing.

With aggregation, you can browse. Find out what other goals are made possible by your goal. This is a choose-your-own-adventure for REAL LIFE things people have done. And where that eventually got them. This is a powerful motivator, I think: in addition to breaking down your project into sub-projects, it's a step-by-step story of other peoples' successes.

So. Finding patterns. One example: if you spent a bit of time checking off things you've done, it could list you some easy "new projects" characterized by few additional steps. Sure, lots of them won't appeal; but I imagine some could be inspiring surprises. And building the list of accomplishments could make you feel pretty good about things you've done and forgotten, or mentally discounted as unimportant.

Some large amount of 43things seems to involve doing something repetitive, like "go to the gym three times a week." For that, the social motivator could be a little calendar where you tick off the days you met your goal, and show a little public "43 weeks successful at goal" progress-marker. There are certainly lots of tasks that just involve bearing down and doing it; perhaps all those websites to track peoples' progress at exercise or whatever are relevant here.

A bit about how realistic this is. It's possible the aggregation would be impossible. At least there are these gotchas: how to accurately match up the same goal with slightly different text; and whether all goals with the same text are actually the same goal. Perhaps the matching is made on both the text of the goal, and what kinds of sub-goals it has- it can track and differentiate multiple goals with the same text, depending on whether aggregates of people pick certain sub-goals. (I'm thinking of "Proposal to Partner." Either you toss the sub-tasks "get on one knee" and "buy a ring" or you toss "determine full spec" and "book conference-room." Maybe that works?... At least it gives the user an amusing moment when they see the suggestions.)

[Edit to add: I forgot something important. Many steps aren't binary "did this" or "have to do this." There has to be a state of "working on this." So you can see a view of "what am I currently working on?" This isn't exactly the same as "this is a sub-project with sub-items and some are done." Maybe it's close, though. Perhaps if you ticked "I started this" and there aren't any sub-items, it could warn you after some period of time with no change, "are you sure there aren't any sub-items you need to identify?"

I also didn't mention "I am not going to do this." Which is a valid and useful thing to acknowledge about projects you changed your mind on.]

So... yeah. Can you build this for me, dearest interwebs? Thanks!

I would consider prototyping this in some web 2.0 language, coming up with a clever name, and seeing what happens, but I have enough experience with my idea-backlog to say that I'm perfectly happy if the idea is just out there for somebody to take if it sounds good to them.

I'm curious what you think, even if it's "why would anybody bother?"

lo

Thursday, 29 October 2009 08:59 pm
ARPANET, it is claimed, was born on October 29, 1969, and the first message sent was supposed to be "login", but it crashed before they got to "g."

I learned this in today's Globe and Mail, which comes to me on large sheets of bleached paper printed with soy inks. Yeah- woah.

ARPA, Advanced Research Projects Agency, became DARPA, a Defense projects agency, the year before I was born. It was the parent agency responsible for GPS, Gallium Arsenide integrated circuits, and of course for the Internet.

They are also responsible for stealth bombers and the mechanical elephants that ravaged Vietnam and led America to military victory oh wait maybe not.

Some months ago, I read an opinion piece (I wish I remember where) claiming that DARPA held [edited to clarify] distinction among US government agencies for successfully funding innovative R&D for over 50 years. DARPA goes for high-risk/high-reward projects, with flat hierarchy, tiny labour pool (fewer than 150 employees), and a distributed development model. "Cool," thought I, "if only they cloned the model for non-military agencies."

This evening (in [livejournal.com profile] googleblog) I learned of ARPA-E, which hopes to have the same success in the Energy sector. Visiting his friends at Google Headquarters, the US Energy Secretary announced $150 million in grants, high-gamble projects in projects like energy storage, carbon capture, fuels, and desalination.

[Checks watch]

C'mon folks, it's been two days already.

(ARPA-E was actually created in 2007, but it didn't get kicked into gear until it got its first budget in Obama's first few weeks on the job.)

[Checks watch]

C'MON already!

updatey thing

Tuesday, 27 October 2009 11:14 pm
The last week has seen me:

* startle Neil Stephenson [1]
* have an annoying contact lens incident [2]
* apply the necessary teachable-moment to a kid outside my workplace who was messing around with my bike when I left the office
* meet Stewart Brand
* watch a superconducting toy train, a sort-of real quantum computer and a really pretty 3-d movie which was narrated by Stephen Hawking [3]
* document the activities of the zombies at City Hall. Well, the zombies attracted to City Hall by a certain video. This was surprisingly fun.
* play with a working reprap, a supposedly self-replicating machine. [4]
* be part of creating and solving various problems; technical, social; problems of planning and problems of execution. Be pleased with some outcomes. Be exhausted at work, but not too exhausted.
* see [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball off on his trip to Japan. Missing him a lot.
* not get enough sleep. Not get the rounds of bugs that are sweeping my workplace. Now if I can just get my flu shots before I have any flu symptoms, I'll be even happier.
* feel simultaneously lonely and not like talking to people. Sometimes I wish I were wired to be more social.
* spending quality time with Rover.

[1] I saw Neil Stephenson speak twice last week; afterwards, I thanked him for providing fun role-models for geeky people everywhere. I offered that I was occasionally inspired by Sangemon, the "hero" of Zodiac, whose style of bicycling in Boston traffic was over-the-top assertive. Neil looked a bit nervous at this- "I hope you do that safely." I laughed. Anyway, he was very polite.

[2] on second thought, I won't describe it. Not fun. [5]

[3] The toy train zoomed around a magnetic track. The "train" contained a super-chilled magnet and it was propelled by a shove from the demo-guy. The "quantum computer" was very poorly explained by a volunteer docent but it had an oscilloscope readout with a squiggle. And a plexiglass and metal assembly. Sorry, but that's all I got. I found my favourite part of the video, animated by NCSA - flying from the western spiral arm to the center of our galaxy. This was the most effective use of 3D I've yet seen.

[4] This evening I went off to the local nascent "hack lab" (clubhouse for tinkerers, more or less). I brought my arduino and stepper-motor. But I spent a lot of the time there socializing, playing with other peoples' toys [6], and such. It's a cool space, and my life isn't compatible with spending much time there, but I'm glad to see it exists.

[5] but my optometrist's office is 5 minutes walk from my office; and they gave me a new lens to replace the one that was stuck in my eye. Oops, I wasn't going to describe it. Well there you go.

[6] the reprap was a surprise to see in person- by the end of the evening, it was working, and it did "print" a plastic part used to make itself. Re-reading reprap.org, I had forgotten they only produce 60% of their own parts- yes it's a toy, but it's a fairly cool toy.

I'm missing some stuff in this update, but that's what I get for not posting frequently enough.
da: (bit)
Unclutterer reports that O'Reilly tech books has an ebook promotion for $4.99 per book you already own. This looks quite useful to me:

- O'Reilly ebooks come as a bundle of three common formats (mobi, pdf, epub)
- they are un-copyprotected, a.k.a. not locked to existing software/hardware readers
- while only a fraction of their books are currently available in ebook, some others are also available as pdf

To get the $4.99 books, you need to make an account on their site, register the ISBNs of your books, add them each to your cart, and use the 499UP discount code. I tested one book, and it appears to work.

I may just have to get busy with our barcode-reader at work, since that's where my O'Reilly books live now. I figure at least a dozen of my books are worth future-proofing in case I eventually buy a portable bookreader. :)
There are moments I get, that the world is full of promise. Anything is possible.

In this one, I will attempt to re-join my LJ.

I've been following my friends-list for the last while, but one thing and another, I'd not had time to really figure out what I wanted to say in this space.

Over the last month, my overall mood has been grateful.

That's the main theme. There are sub-themes, including full of joy, awed, stressed, frustrated, and ow. And I could write a post about all of these, but I will instead try for a one-liner: joy at time with dan and with other friends; awe at wonderful theatre; stress from repercussions of having too much on my plate; frustration with "this should be easier"; and "ow" at my body. Each, a side-note to the main-theme of gratefulness- Life? It is good.

And I have been enjoying the nudging I've been getting (from friends, from God, from readings) that being grateful is a perfectly fine response.

It doesn't make for gripping reading, though; so let me tell you a story.

[oh geez, why did I write that? Now I've totally written myself into a corner, I haven't even come up with what story I'll tell.]

[Back from Quaker Meeting, a ride home with [livejournal.com profile] beartalon, and a bit of lunch...]

This story is about the future.

Last week at work I was emailing with the campus bookstore about their print-on-demand service. They have a book-printing machine, and I was curious if it was reasonable to print this for me. They quoted $50 setup, $19.95 to make the book. But, since I said that co-workers would probably want additional copies, he added they could waive the setup fee if they deemed the book worth keeping in their library. Sounded great; he'd talk to his boss; I'd get back to him when I needed the book...

On Thursday, when I was in the midst of finishing programming edits on this month's project, I got an email from the bookstore, "We've printed a sample. Come and take a look."

Oh. Oh no. As I told [livejournal.com profile] dawn_guy: that was so totally unfair, I didn't have time to do that, I had a million things to do.

So I was an adult, and kept fixing bugs, even though in the back of my head, there is a book that wasn't ordered on my behalf, it was printed and perfect-bound on my behalf, and it was just sitting there waiting for me to go collect it. So, ya, I'm a bit of a book nerd, and I wanted to go kick the book's tires.

Just before 5pm, I dropped by [livejournal.com profile] dawn_guy's office and said, "I need a walk. Wanna go down to the bookstore?" And we did. And the book machine was sitting there, and Sean showed me the sample he made, which was pretty much exactly like the PDF, a slightly oversize paperback book, with a black-and-white cover-page because we didn't give them a colour page to work from. And Dawn and I realized the bottom edge was off by a couple of millimeters, and he checked with a level and yup, the cutter had gotten a bit out of alignment. And I was craning my neck to get a better look at the machine behind the counter, so Sean asked me if I wanted to go back and look at it.

And he ran off a copy of Heart of Darkness while I was there, just to show how it works. And it looks more or less like the video- from when you press "print", it plunked out a book in less than five minutes. More or less indistinguishable from any paperback, except the colour cover felt warm, and not quite dry yet.

Which feels yet another step closer to Matter Compilers in various bits of science fiction.

As I remarked to Dawn, I have seen the future, and it is slightly tacky.

The book will serve well. It is a well-written manual (also published by O'Reilly Press) for the revision-control system called "Subversion". Which is why I made a bookmark last week to "Subversion Best Practices", a title that slightly disappointed [livejournal.com profile] peaceofpie when he saw what it really was. :)

10,000

Thursday, 25 June 2009 09:31 am
My bike odometer just rolled past 215 miles, which means it's gone a total of 6,215 since I put the odometer on the bike nearly exactly 9 years ago. As [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball pointed out, that's 10,000 kilometers, so I'm going to reset to kilometers.

I wonder where the next 10k will take us.

Tomorrow, I'm off to IAD (Dulles) and ROA (Roanoke) thence to Virginia Tech for Friends Gathering. This year, as last year, I'm not taking a workshop, as I'm helping out the community instead. The week promises to be very full, very warm (Virginia! Summer! Oy.) and hopefully with surprises of the good kind.

(no subject)

Wednesday, 22 April 2009 10:43 pm

Liminal

Tuesday, 21 April 2009 08:42 am
My bike odometer just rolled over another 1,000 miles. I expected it to happen in the middle of the park, and I briefly considered taking a photo of the llamas/swans/bridge/whatever was in sight at the time, then decided it was unnecessary; I'd remember it well enough as I remembered the last 5 times and that was sufficient.

Probably that choice was for the best, because it rolled over on University grounds, just at the first path intersections where you've got loading-dock on one side and shopping-plaza Bank Machine on the other, with a side-helping of advertising signs. I'm all about the urban photography, but if you've seen one mini-mall you've seen them all.

And equally valid, if you've seen one odometer roll from 999.99 to 0.0, you've probably seen them all, too.

The university exams continue this week. Students walking singly or in groups into the buildings, with palpable energy/fear/resignedness. I've been there and done that countless times as well; still have dreams about it, and who doesn't? Grateful for the opportunity to swing past, hold the door for them, go up to my office and do the work I can to make their profs' jobs easier.


lim-i-nal \ˈli-mə-nəl\ (adj) Latin limin-, limen threshold 1: of or relating to a sensory threshold 2 : barely perceptible 3 : of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition

da: (bit)
Check out the video for a new painting and sketching app for the iPhone/Touch. Very neat looking. It's got: infinite zoom (vector graphics), free rotation, a clever palette, and brushes that seem to work very much like real brushes (blending, washes, translucency.)

If I had an iPhone, I would be all over it, even though I, um, don't really draw; and not just because I know the author. Who happens to have an art studio in town AND a long history with writing software for artists. So I know the next version of Paintbook is going be even more sophisticated.

Anyhow, happy Monday!

Spinning Wheels...

Monday, 23 March 2009 11:39 pm
Not figuratively, literally. My bike has developed a (dangerous) tendency to lose its gear, often when I'm starting up from still, and also when I'm coasting. Not the chain, but likely the freewheel, according to [livejournal.com profile] elbie_at_trig, who was conveniently going home at the same time as me, just as I was thinking, "if only I could ask someone to jog along next to my bike..."

So, yeah. Tomorrow morning, cycle shop is my first stop on the way to work.

Otherwise, I feel like I'm not spinning wheels, quite the opposite.

Work is going, and the three active projects are interesting, if potentially long. But the structure of things allows me to interleaving the work, and I can't imagine getting bored with it. Really, this still feels like perfect job for me. And hey, I missed my boss, who was gone a week on vacation, but I can hardly fault her for that.

Life feels adequately social, these last weeks. Care and feeding of my introverted self- it sometimes feels like I need a push, but I'm getting most of what I need.

This Thursday evening is the third and final Quaker Seekers at Laurier session we have planned; we're speaking on Equality. I think there's an LJ post sitting in my brain, to help me organize what I'm saying in my two 6-minute pieces.

Last week I had a conference-call with co-organizers for the Quaker Quest Traveling Team. A month from now I'll be one of two presenters to a regional Quaker gathering, and in early May they're sending me to Pendle Hill for a weekend conference with other trainers. This work feels both like something I'm pulled to do, and a big side-order of "what the hell was I thinking when I said yes?" Where it goes nobody knows, but I am loving the finding out.

In late May [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and I are taking a vacation to Nova Scotia for my birthday; it's our first time to Atlantic Canada and I am already having dreams about rocky shorelines and whale-watching.

This week has featured two meals with duck (breast; and burgers), and two meals with pesto. It is a good life, my friends.

I'm midway through installing linux on a mac mini. I'm in love with this hardware; it's so quiet, runs cool, and is barely bigger than my hand. I'm putting Xen-enabled debian onto it, so alongside the web and email services it can run virtual servers such as Asterisk, or possibly freePBX. Anyhow, my coder.com server will move over some time in April, I hope.

Also in April, my geek crew of Perl Mongers are doing a hardware hacking workshop with Arduino microcontroller boards. So far, I've tested sample programs that play a simple tune; flash LEDs; and (sort of) replicate a Clapper but send a signal over USB to computer. My goals are to control a 600x200 pixel LCD display, and to precisely control a stepper-motor to... well, it'll be cool if it works, that's all I will say for now.

So, all you folks who haven't posted about yourselves recently- what's up with you?

Automation

Friday, 12 September 2008 09:20 pm
da: (bit)
As dan was making dinner, I told him how I just spent a frustrated hour fighting with Apple Automator, trying to convert a ten-page PDF into ten jpegs, which I could then run through the text-recognition program that came with my scanner to ultimately have a plain-text document to email. Whinge whinge ) Dan's response was, "You only need to get this to half a dozen people, right? Why don't you just make copies of the document and snail-mail them to people?"

*sigh*

Maybe he's right.

But in the meantime, I've been a good geek and learned this stuff good. )

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