You can also see the photos from our trip to
Thailand, or our sailing adventure around the
Virgin Islands. You can also take a look at some of the
articles Ive thrown together about politics
and technology. Beware, I'm considered somewhat opinionated...
Thu, 21 Apr 2005
In Memory of Syd, My First Pet
Im sad to have to write that one of my pets passed away today. His
name was Syd, and he was the first pet that I had as an adult. He was a
textbook cockatiel - grey body, yellow head, and bright orange cheeks. He
also loved sitting on Michelle's head, as you can see in the photo below.
Click on it to see others pictures and video of him:
I found him at the Humane Society. He was, believe it or not, a
stray bird... which is fairly rare, although one of my other 2 birds is
also a stray. They didn't know for certain, but they think he was five
years old when I got him. That would make him 15 this year. I know that's
average for his breed, but it was still such a shock. He was happy and
singing last night, not one sign of illness or age. It looks like he
passed away peacefully in his sleep.
I have 2 other cockatiels, but Syd was everybody's favorite. Not
because he was the nicest of birds, but because he had the best
personality. Despite being completely tone deaf and the worst composer
ever, he was frequently singing. He was also quite sneaky, sticking his
head out of the cage so you could pet him, then pulling it back at the
last second. Then putting it back out again too see if you'd fall for it
again. And when he was out of the cage, he refused to go back in unless I
bribed him with his favorite treats.
He would whistle, and chatter, and chuckle, and bob his head up and
down like a woodpecker listening to heavy metal music.
He was definately a character, and a wonderful pet, and Im going to
miss him a lot.
As a christmas gift to myself, I decided to purchase a
Dell Axim 30.
Ive always wanted something like a PDA to help me get my contacts and todo lists
organized... and this thing can also play MP3s, OggVorbis, photo slide shows, take
voice memos, it comes with WiFi, infared, and Bluetooth, its smaller than a Palm,
faster than an iPaq, and only $250. That's less than an iPod, and I might be able
to hack it to even play music through Michelle's Bluetooth enabled Mini.
It has just about everything I need in a pocket computer.
It should be arriving next Friday, so in anticipation Ive been searching the
internet for links to applications, and developer tools. I'll probably hack away
with Python on it, but if I develop any 'serious' apps, I'd probably use C#.
Christmas time is here again, and as usual nobody knows what to get the really
picky guy... So I decided to throw together a small list which I hope to update a
few more times as I think of things I'd enjoy.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 4
Arrested Development, Season 1
Lord of the Rings, Return of the King (Widescreen)
I must say, that our wedding in Seattle was just about the best wedding
I have ever been to, or heard of. I cannot imagine how it could have been
The cake, the food, the church, the staff, the music, the ceremony,
the flowers, the photographer, and especially the guests... everything was
perfect. We got so many compliments about everything... so many people
saying it was the best wedding they ever went to (including their
Everybody was having a great time... even those who knew
almost nobody there fit right in and enjoyed themselves. Perhaps the fact
that we were giggling through most of the ceremony helped set the
relaxed, whimsical mood... or perhaps it was just the open bar. Either
way, it was great!
We have a handful of photos
online already, but they are extremely limited. I was too busy
socializing to take very many, and Shelia (my new sister in law) took
ones mostly of Michelle's side of the family... so my family
will have to wait until our photographer sends us the negatives before
they'll see themselves in much. Sorry guys! After the honeymoon, I
Next up is the party in St Paul. It probably wont be as amazing as the
reception in Seattle... but since a lot of the same folks will be
attending, it will still be a great time! See you there...
For our honeymoon, Michelle and I will be speding two and a half weeks in Tahiti! Everbody has
heard of Tahiti, but Ive gotten several questions about where it actually is on the map. I think I
found the perfect map to illustrate its locale:
It reminds me of a great clip from the
They were talking about the Lord Of The Rings, and how its a great boost to
tourism in New Zealand... and John Stewart responded, "you know what else would help New Zealand?
Being closer to the REST OF THE WORLD."
Well, I goaded the Cragmore Crew into all taking personality tests... its the closest we guys
can get to actually talking about out feelings without risking a punch in the mouth. Here are the
results, in order of who is coolest:
I share this type with Haydn, Mark Twain, and Dr. Seuss. Quite an odd
mix... and not a scientist or computer geek among them. I apparently have more in
common with MLK and Ghandi than any US President. I guess I could live with
that... Some quotes:
"Close enough is satisfactory to the ENFP, which may unnerve more
precise thinking types, especially with such things as piano practice.
Amazingly, some ENFPs are adept at exacting disciplines such as
"ENFPs hate bureaucracy, both in principle and in practice; they will
always make a point of launching one of their crusades against some
aspect of it."
"ENFPs have what some call a 'silly switch.' They can be intellectual,
serious, all business for a while, but whenever they get the chance,
they flip that switch and become CAPTAIN WILDCHILD"
"They have a strong need to be independent, and resist being
controlled or labelled."
Sounds about right to me... the only thing I disagreed with was the listing of
which professions I should choose. Of the 10 least compatible professions to have, I
have already done 6 of them... and enjoyed them fairly well... hmmm... maybe if I
were 'right' for them, I'd still be doing them?
I took another online test, and it had the same results, except this one said I
was slightly more introverted. Im not sure I agree with that...
Either way, I suppose the lesson is that personality tests can be useful tools,
but they can never really tell you who you are. Or maybe that's just my ENFP
hatred of control and labeling shining through...
Michelle was out of town again this Saturday, so naturally I joined the guys
again for the Saturday night bike ride.
This one was a bit less adventurous... we rode from the Minneapolis U of MN
campus, to the St Paul campus. Yay. We pokes around the State Fair grounds, and
from that moment onward everybody had a yen for fried cheese curds...
We then hooked up with a few other people, and kept heading East. We eventually
hit a trail that could either take us to downtown St Paul, or all the way to dang
Wisconsin. We seriously debated the Wisconsin route... while we waited, one of the
bikers caused a smal ruckus. He didn't bring any food or water, but for some reason
he remembered to bring fireworks. The night sky was lit up... Tim admired his
Eventually we decided to head to St Paul, and we swung by the Capitol building.
Another fair was there, also closed, and also advertising cheese curds. Well, that
fixed it... we blasted down Univeristy Ave back to the Minneapolis campus, to the
only place in the city that sells cheese curds at 2 AM. And there was much
I hope I can ride with these guys again soon, but given my busy pre-wedding
schedule, I dont think it will happen for a while yet. Oh well...
As usual, some of the best talks were on Friday, to get everybody
to stay at the conference as long as possible. The keynote about
the David Rumsey map archive was unbelieveably cool. It recieved
a well deserved standing ovation. The security talk was excellent
as well, and the
best practices help solidify my resolve to evangelize their product
in our company...
Overall, the whole worthless 'Emerging Technology' jive that was so
at ETCON 2003
wasn't as prominent. This conference was about real technology, and
the presenters were not just some slick sounding snake-oil salesmen
looking for venture capital. They were actual programmers with
actual code. How novel.
Another thing that is becoming more and more obvious is that
the 'Alpha Geeks' dont really seem to care about Java anymore.
The panel with Eric Raymond, and Tim OReilly was not well attended.
There wasn't a single Java talk on Thursday, and the rest of them
were only partially about Java. The more Sun tries to clutch onto
control, the more people will move away from it. That's why Im
becoming a Python hacker.
What stuck Pete as funny was how political this place can be...
any time somebody is presenting new technology, they need to explain
why its needed. The answer is either because nothing like it ever existed,
or because what does exist is crappy and wrong. Well... the problem with
the latter is that the guy who wrote the
'crappy and wrong'
software is most likely in the audience. There are two kinds of
presenters - those who walk on eggshells, and those who suffer from
angry glares. Even Microsoft bashing is a little tough, because they
are a huge sponser of the event! On Open Source. Double plus wierd.
In closing, here are a handful of links to the tech goodies that
I learned about at the conference:
OSCON 2004 -
the home page for the conference. The presentations should be online
Todays talks were quite good. I heard some cool stuff about the
state of Python 2.4, and how great a language it is for
The talk about
Tsearch2 and POSGRESQL was interesting... although I dont
think its quite ready for us to suggest to customers. The talk on
PHP performance was a good high-level talk, and I picked up a few
new Apache performance tricks.
I picked up a few things about whats currently available in
the Python lightning talks, and about what's next at the state of
the Python union talk. Its a big Python love-fest. Making
something like CPAN for Python
would be a good idea to help the community.
I also had the opportunity to meet Jeremy White, my boss's
brother. He's one of the lead developers on the
Wine project, which allows
people to run Windows apps on Linux. Quite an important and
incredibly difficult project indeed.
The Dyson trio keynote was interesting. Its cool to see a great
Freeman Dyson talk about topics like the future of technology.
Although he's a bit of a science worshipper for my taste. If the
purpose of science is to serve mankind, then humility should be
considered a virtue on par with innovation. Just because we know
our way around a research lab, doesnt mean we always know what's
best for the world. Nevertheless, I was able to get a
photo of the two of us.
The second talk was pretty good as well. Bdale Garbee reinforced
the idea that its hackers and inventors that push the envelope
of science the best. People like Tesla, Goddard, or the Wright
Brothers did things that everybody else said was crazy... Bdale
tooted his own horn a bit about the amature satelites that he
helped launch. Dang. Just like the
the hackers are now after the final frontier!
The best sessions today were Mono-centric. The
release talk was interesting, hostorically speaking...
and the talk about
was well attended. Everybody hissed a bit when the author told
us that he was just hired by Microsoft to fix the .NET
engine... Im sure they'd rather he work on Mono, but we can't
all work for Novell!
The future of Java in the open source community is looking
somewhat grim. There was a panel with Eric Raymond and OReilly
and a few guys from Apache and Sun... developers are miffed
that Sun hasn't made Java more open... but at Java One the
developers were miffed that Sun hasn't put the kaibash on
forked versions of J2EE. Rock and a hard place, it seems.
The XML talks I attended were fairly good - PHP has some
really nice SOAP hooks in
Python hooks are not as good, and
looks like its trying to replace the verbose SOAP
altogether. It is a lot more powerful, and easier to secure
and use... but people love their SOAP because it goes over
HTTP, dont they?
The first keynote by OReilly was pretty good. He's still
pushing the internet-as-an-operating-system jive. His latest
theory is that the quality of the large databases (such as user
reviews of movies or books) is what seperates the 'ok'
websites from the 'great' websites. Obvious, sure, but frequently
overlooked. His theory is that they might be able to brand themselves,
and become the next 'Intel Inside' for web applications. If you
dont have one of the name brands, your web services will suffer greatly.
I agree to a point... but there's a big difference between Intel
and a data warehouse. Intel made a ton of money because they had
the manufacturing infastructure and research and talent to keep
the PC manufacturers supplies with chips. Its really hard to enter
that market... just look at how long AMD took to get off the ground.
Compare that to a database. Their power hinges greatly on who legally
owns the data. If I make a book review on Amazon, do they own
the data? Or do I own it? Should these reviews be totally open, and usable
by Barnes and Noble? Its a legal fine line, which makes it subject to
copyright laws and the whims of Washington. Their power could collapse
like a house of cards if they are not careful...
The second keynote was very funny, but he rambled quite a bit.
Robert Lefkowitz had a good point that 'Open Source' means different
things to different people, which causes a great deal of confusion in the
business world. However, he offered no real resolution. He did have
150 slides, however... so it may have been buried in there somewhere,
and I just missed it...
Like Monday, the Tuesday tutorials were a mixed bag...
The first tutorial was about
wxPython widgets, and it was very good. The widgets looked very
professional, and the wx libraries have been around for almost a
decade... so its stable and performs quite well. The only thing
that concerns me is deployment. Getting all the right libraries
on a vanilla system to get the UI to look good would be hard.
The second talk was disappointing. I had wanted to go to the talk on
advanced wxPython, but that was sold out. So I had to go to the one one
getting DBAs and programmers to play nicely. I have no idea who
the target audience was for that talk, but it sure wasn't me. I saw
very little practical advice for either DBAs or programmers. This
was very surprising, because the presenter worked on the human genome
project. He obviously knew his stuff... I just dont think he's a good
My first tutorial was about
object oriented programming in PHP5
was less about PHP5, and more about teaching PHP4 people
what object oriented programming is. I didn't learn much,
and had a hard time convincing the PHP5 guys that the
polymorphism in PHP5 is awkward and wierd. Oh well...
its not like its a real language anyway.
The second tutorial, about advanced topics in the
Python core framework was very good. It was a great
overview of tips and tricks for writing Python, as well
as a long brain dump of killer third party Python apps.
Paul Prescod really knows his Python. It really got me
fired up to use advanced Python a lot more.
Michelle is back in Seattle this week, so I decided to spend my Saturday night
with Alec on his Saturday Night Bike Ride. Thirteen people showed this week, and
we probably biked around 50 miles around the city... It was pretty high speed
We started at the Minneapolis U of MN campus, we went to St Paul along the
river, blasted through some trails by Fort Snelling, meandered into downtown St
Paul, and crossed the High Bridge.
At that point it was about midnight, and Alec wanted to head back to the King
And I for a cocktail and a snack... but the group wanted to keep going,
to know a great way to Minneapolis. Well, we went along the west bank of the river
for a while, and wound up in Mendota. Not the most direct route Id say... we
didn't get back to Uptown till 2:30 AM... of course, Chuck getting a flat didn't
speed things up any.
Most of the trails were pretty dark. Luckily Alec brought two headlghts, and
let me borrow one. That was a lifesaver, literally! We were really close
to home -
barely a mile - and wouldn't you know it... I took a nasty spill on the greenway. My left leg
and arm are a bit banged up, but that's life when you bike everywhere!
I hope to be able to do it again sometime... but I'll need a bit of time
to heal first...
I finally got some spare time to set up
PyBloxsom on Alec's
site this weekend!
Im still working the kinks out, but I got it to format the blog posts just the
same way that the rest of my site does. I also whipped out a little web based
Python script to allow posting via the web, and output the dynamic data to
static HTML files.
It amazes me how publishing static HTML pages is such an afterthought in so much
blogging software. How else could a small site POSSIBLY handle any traffic?
Anyway, Ive moved some of the news items over to the new PyBlosxom format, and
will hopefully set up the 'articles' section to use the same architecture. Lots of
people out there have nifty plugins for PyBlosxom... maybe I'll find something I
wont need to totally rewrite ;)