Sunday, December 31, 2006

Activity Stats

Inspired by Paul Mayne. I wasn't quite sure how to end out the year, this seems as good as any.

So without further ado...

Blog Posts: 361 (Since 8.23.2004)
iTunes Songs: 1,102 (4.72 G)
flickr!: 410 photos
Comments I've made: 840
Favorites: 330
Magnolia Bookmarks: 60
twitter messages: 75

I've really slacked off on my online doings in the last few months. Work and school have seen that I've stayed out of trouble. Here's to a prosperous and happy 2007!

Monday, December 25, 2006

An update... or two

Heh, it’s been a while. I really haven’t been the greatest of writers in the past few months. It seems that once you get out of the habit of writing your thoughts on paper every day, the muse seems to leave, and you simply find other things to do with your time, and days turn into weeks.

So here it is, my (hopeful) return to a somewhat more regular blogging schedule. Some of you may recall the failed re-design in July. It was rather discouraging; I had to revert back because what I had done just wasn’t working. This time around the design is simple, and hopefully you like it. It came together quite quickly, but I think that I will be happy with what it does.

I got rid of the side bar in favor of the becoming-more-popular footer. The flickr and Google reader content is still ongoing; however, I figure that interested parties can find that via RSS. There are links at the top of the page, and that should be sufficient. I’m quite excited about the addition of my latest twitter update to the very top of the page here. I’ve tried to get a few of you going on twitter, but it just doesn’t seem to get the traction. I think it’s fun, and now it will allow me to very easily put something new on the blog each day, even if it isn’t a full blown post.

In other news, the finals came and ended. Though I don’t have grades in all of my classes, I am confident that I passed. It was a challenging semester; some of the challenge came as a result of my change to full time employment. Putting in a 40 hour work week and taking a full load of classes at the university isn’t a trivial matter. A schedule like that really has the ability to take the wind out of one’s sails in a hurry. One late night can throw the entire week off, let alone three. I’m grateful to say that it is behind me, and looking forward to what is coming in the New Year. Two more classes at the university and I will have my bachelor’s degree in computer science. At this time, it seems like it is still a dream, and April still feels a good way off, but it is close enough to cause me to start thinking about what life after school will hold for me, certainly there will be work, but there will also be a lot of time that I haven’t had in years.

As far as today went, it was a great Christmas day. There was family, food, friends, more food, toys, and time to relax. I also got to have a brief but good conversation with my brother who is living in Russia right now. It was great to hear his voice, and feel of his excitement for the important work he is doing. Holidays give us time to pause and reflect. I’m grateful for that opportunity to let things slow down just a little bit, to live the moments more richly, and to realize how very good life has been to me over the years. My cup is filled to overflowing, and for that I can’t be grateful enough!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Welcome December

Merry Christmas


Ahh recycled photos! So great. This one has been around since 2001, and is a crappy scan from a magazine cover I shot many moons ago. But it has my school's distinctive logo on it, and it makes me happy so there.

As I was mentioning to my sister earlier this evening, the great thing about life is that even though one moment may not be the greatest, at least tomorrow will be a new day and it might even be better than today. At this point, I'm just hoping I can get the next two weeks under my belt in some reasonable amount of order. Projects to do, assignments to finish, exams to take, but on December 14th it will all be over. There's a good deal of comfort in that. One day at a time. Doing the best that I can.

If all goes well, it means that I'll only have one more semester in school, and that's truly a happy thought.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Into the Void

Into the Void


The holiday has been so nice. I've eaten more than I should, stayed up later than I normally do, and slept in far longer than what any self respecting person would consider reasonable. And now it's 4:30 on "black Friday". The reality that there's still plenty of "real life" ahead just hit me like a ton of bricks.

There are two written assignments to do this weekend.
There is progress that needs to be made on a term project.
There is a programming assignment to do.
There is a test to prepare for.

I have an inkling that rather quickly I'll be sinking back into this wonderful thing called sleep debt.

I need to give a shout out to my sister Anne, who was a very able assistant on the above posted photo. We had a blast. It was really quite a bit of fun to use the camera creatively.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thankful

Fall-2006


Indeed there is a lot to be thankful for. Books being one of them. The books in that pile represent my excuse for not bing a very faithful blogger over the past few months. Between my full time job, and my full time school, my life has been all consumed. I'm grateful to be busy, even if at times that seems like more of a curse than a blessing.

Not to be stuck up, or snotty, but I live a pretty good life. It may not all be cherries, but if I take a moment to really look at how things are, and where I am, I really shouldn't complain.

Here's to beauty, love, and many things to be grateful for.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Better

"With a little bit of luck, With a little bit of luck,
He'll be movin' up to easy street.
With a little bit...with a little bit...
With a little bit of luck, He's movin' up.
With a little bit...with a little bit...
With a little bit of bloomin luck!
"
-With a Little Bit O' Luck, My Fair Lady

Things are trying to look up.

I don't have an answer to a 1024 bit Blowfish encryption key (I am still incredulous to the idea that 1024 bit keys are an option for Blowfish, but time will tell). But I do have a web application for school that isn't leaking memory, and the kernel now has a fork function that works. All in all, not bad. Not bad at all.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Verbs


  • ache

  • desire

  • help

  • hope

  • hunger

  • influence

  • long

  • love

  • need

  • save

  • serve

  • wait

  • want

  • yearn

Thursday, November 09, 2006

So I've upgraded

To the new version of blogger...

What will its future hold?

I was really hoping to find some cool new canned template I could use. Maybe that is scheduled for later.

Three hours of sleep, after being awake for 24 straight hours. Somethings gotta give.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween


Pumpkins carved by my Sister and my Father


Looks like we've almost made it to November.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Weekends are for reflection

frosty grass



Listen! the wind is rising,
and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings,
now for October eves!
- Humbert Wolfe


Recycled photos and a quote found on the internet. It doesn’t make for the most original of blog entries, but it will suffice for the day. When I went out to my car this morning at 8, there was still frost on my windshield, not the kind that can be wiped off with the windshield wipers, but the kind that had to be scraped off. I suppose this means that fall is really upon us, and winter is just around the corner.

School marches forward.
There was so much to do last week, that finding time for it all really was a mess. Hopefully this week will be better. On the plate are preparations for an exam in Operating Systems, making progress on the OS kernel, and a checkpoint in Databases.

It’s not a bad thing, but school is requiring much more “thinking” at this point. The mere accumulation of facts isn’t going to be enough to make it through the semester. The requirement of “thinking” is a good thing, but it isn’t something that can be crammed in a Saturday afternoon. It usually takes days and weeks of careful and “thoughtful” preparation.

But that’s enough of school, now, back to the weather. As I cleared off my wind shield this morning I couldn’t help but remember “Autumn” from Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”. Specifically Op. 8, Concerto No.3, “Autumn”, II. Adagio. The way the harpsichord contrasts with the subtle strings is really quite sublime, and I think it paints a very nice aural picture of the frost that drapes the world, early on a fall morning.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I've Been Thinking (a very little bit)


  • It really would be fun to work on some hobbies again. Like photography, recreational reading, or web design.

  • Most things that are worthwhile don’t happen over night, or even in the span of a couple of days or weeks.

  • 13 hours of coursework taught at the graduate level, is not the same as 13 hours of coursework taught at the undergraduate level, even if you are only getting undergraduate credit for them.

  • Every good coder should either learn to be proficient at UI/graphic design, or they should make friends with someone who is.

  • Good intentions don’t get the project done, nor do they make for good excuses. People (professors and bosses) want results.

  • Though important, sleep is over rated, or maybe if you’re so busy that sleep doesn’t fit into the schedule well, you’re doing too much.

  • All of the “academic” “sanitized” reading in the world won’t teach you everything that you need to know about a topic, as much as Amazon is great, sometimes you just need to get out there and get your hands dirty with the practice of the art or trade.

Friday, October 13, 2006

10 Days Is Too Long...

To go without posting around here. I used to be so much more dedicated to this venture. I still think it has value, but there is this odd combination of not feeling like I have anything valuable to say along with this really crazy business of late that keeps me from writing.

I had a test in my Data Bases class this week, it was far more theoretical than I had prepared for. Unfortunate for me. I guess I need to spend some more time "thinking" about the implications of the material presented in class.

Next week presents an exam in Networking. It would be nice not to be caught off guard with this class. Right now it looks like Saturday will be spent in the library with a pile of books and some assignments.

Operating Systems is my most interesting class this semester. Not trivial at all, but motivating none the less. I am working on the project with a friend from the class, and we managed to run our first "hello world" program on our OS kernel on Wednesday night. It might not sound like much to you, but it really represents quite an accomplishment. In the next three weeks we need to get context switching up and running.

Work is Work. Interesting and challenging as always.

Four to five hours of sleep each night isn't something one should thrive on. I am living on adrenaline, caffeine, and a prayer.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Informal Update

Started memory mapping in our OS kernel today.

Finished up an interesting Database Systems exercise.

Learned that 87,000 records can create the need for 160 M of heap space in the JVM, and that where I work, that’s too much. Later found that a query with some joins would accomplish the same thing, leaving the memory footprint in the database tier and not the EJB tier. That’s why I’m a noob.

Taking Thursday and Friday off for the university’s fall break. Friday (and maybe Saturday) I’ll volunteer for the Special Olympics though.

I think I’m getting sick. Hopefully the NyQuil will give me a good night’s rest, and the “AIRBORNE” herbal remedy will kill this funk ( I really hope I am not getting sick).

- The one who needs more sleep.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Week Wrap-up

    Music that must be heard:
  • E' Tão Gostoso Seu Moço, by Tania Maria

  • Bach: The Cello Suites, performed by Yo Yo Ma

  • Shostakovich: Symphony Nos. 5 & 9, performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic

  • Stars I Shall Find arr. David Dickau – good luck finding a recording, I heard it live at a university choral concert, but if you find it let me know.



With the music out of the way, I should say that the weekend was quite nice. I didn’t accomplish as much as I had hoped to on the college reading front, or the recreational reading front, but it was restful and that should count for something. I went to see a cousin sing with her choir at the university, it was really great. I left the concert feeling better about a lot of things. It brings out the chorus geek in me. It is really cool to see a group of people working together in such a way as to make beautiful music.

Last week I finished a P2P file sharing program for my networking class. Not feeling up to the battle of C or C++ I wrote it in Java, and found that socket programming in Java really is a dream. If you thought that it was easy in C#, you aint seen nothing yet. I am pleased with my program even if it is just a toy. One of the things that professional coding has taught me is that there can be a pretty significant difference between the sorts of things that one is asked to make for a school project and what one must do for a truly viable commercial application. So, I look at my toy P2P program and look at all of the things that I would have to change to make it “real” and feel that in some ways the students are getting blinded to what the application would have to do in the real world. On the positive side, at least it was something that one could program in a few evenings rather than weeks of meticulous labor.

I am feeling somewhat guilty about some of the side projects I have had to back burner in the last couple of weeks to make room for school and work, hopefully those people involved with me on those projects won’t feel too badly. Next weekend I may have a bit of time to look at some of that stuff.

The days are long, but the weeks seem to just fly by. Can you believe we are at the end of September?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Day in the Life - Saturday Edition

My flickr photo set for today. A very good day if you ask me. A great way to start a new season.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Must Hear Music

I think that there are some songs that every person should hear at least once in their lives. Last year I had the opportunity to go to hear the Utah Symphony play Mahler’s fifth symphony in C Sharp Minor. The fourth movement of said symphony is one of the most powerful themes I have ever heard. A little bit of classical music does everyone some good.

Last weekend on public television there was a documentary on about Leonard Bernstein. Throughout his life, he really had a love for Mahler, and they showed him conducting the Adagietto(fourth movement) from the fifth symphony. I was reminded of how powerful the piece really was. I already had a recording, but tonight I had to go and get the one with Bernstein as the maestro.

Take a moment for yourself, visit iTunes, buy the track, and give it a careful listen.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I'd Like to Get Back

CodeFin. Get yours at flagrantdisregard.com/flickr


I'd really like to get back to taking photos. Maybe I need to start carrying my camera with me again. I spent all of that money on the blessed DSLR, I really should put it to use. At the end of the Summer, I got to do my sister's bridals, it was really quite a bit of fun, even if it was expensive and somewhat stressful. I learned quite a bit and they came out ok. If I tried to take at least a photo a day, I bet that I'd find some interesting stuff at the end of the week.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Life Update (mostly school and work)

Tomorrow marks the fourth week of fall semester. For some reason that I have yet to understand fall is always harder for me than spring. Maybe it has to do with the changing weather from warm to cold, or that somehow over the summer I forget how much work school is, or maybe it is just that I psych myself out. Regardless of the cause, it is just hard. I don’t think that the homework burden is any different, but it just seems like it is a real challenge. Four weeks ago I wrote that I would talk about my classes.

I am enrolled in three classes Operating Systems, Networking, and Database Systems. All of the classes are on the 5000 level, taught concurrently as a 6000 level course for first year graduate students. So far, the homework load hasn’t been too heavy, just two written assignments, but that promises to remedy its self this coming week. One thing I have noticed about these quasi-graduate courses is that many more assumptions are made about the base knowledge of the student. Also, there seems to me much more reading to do than what I’ve seen in the CS program over the past three years. Operating Systems and Database Systems both have term projects. The latter is a web-based application that uses a database; the requirements were left vague on purpose. In that class I’ll be working with friends that I have done projects with before. We haven’t solidified our project idea yet, but that will probably happen in the next week or so. The term project in the OS class is to write a simple kernel. It sounds simple, but I don’t think that it will be so in practice.

Work continues to stretch and challenge me. I am learning a lot, and getting more and more comfortable with the J2EE way of writing web applications. I got to work some AJAX into an app that I have been working on. It was pretty exciting as I was the first person on our team to get AJAX code out and running in the live environment. As one would expect, projects in the “real world” are much more complex and time consuming than those found in the classroom. I am having a good time, and that should count for something.

Schooling and working full time has put a real crunch on my free time. Most days, I am up by 5:30 AM, and am at work by 6. From that point on, I could either be at work, or at school depending on the day. It is usually a mix of the two, and results in me getting home somewhere between 6 and 8 PM. The paychecks are nice and the experience I am gaining is too. It does however mean that I have to be quite diligent about using what free time I do have to do my homework.

I have some other projects brewing along on the side, but I am finding that giving them the time that they deserve is really challenging. I may need to cut them out entirely, or just realize that they might not get done on the timeframe that I had expected. When these things frustrate me, I have to remind myself that there are lots of things that are going well. I’ll graduate in the spring. I won’t have any debt. I am having good experiences at school and work. I get to do what I love. There may be stresses there, but there’s a lot to be grateful for too.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Double Yellow

One of these are mine the rest belong to photographers far more talented than me. I was going through some of my flickr favorites in this afternoon and noticed that within two pages, I had selected this theme three times as a favorite photo. I am not sure why I find the road with double yellow lines painted in the middle so pleasing, but I do. Maybe it has to do with the thrill of the journey, or the mystique of not knowing what comes next. Maybe it is just a thing that I have for contrast and that for some wierd reason I really like gray/black with yellow. I couldn't really stick my finger on it. But this is Sunday's post. Some roads with lines on them. Thanks to the great photographers who made it possible.


by jstar



by darkmatter



by LeggNet



by me

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Flickr Geo Tagging

So I have been somewhat inactive with the flickr photo community as of late, mostly because I have been busy (and still am) with other things. I noticed quite a bit of mention in my feed reader about flickr supporting geotagging via yahoo maps yesterday. The flickr folks have made it very easy for one to geo tag their photos in from within the flickr site by dragging and dropping photos from the organizer onto the map. Pretty dang cool if you ask me. What is even more cool is that you can 'explore' the photos from the maps if you so choose.

Yet another way to spend productive hours. I'll have to get into the geo tagging thing when life calms down a bit. Though, if you do have a few minutes you should go check out/try out the new features.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Geek Quote

Anyone who has had to do anything with DB2 will understand.

"You can't make me work on DB2. It won't last and it will wreck my carreer."
-- Willie Favero (1983) when an IBM VP told him he was taking him off IMS and moving over to this new product called DataBase 2.

Found here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

CodeFin.net Turns Two

So at the one year anniversary I worked on having a new template set up, and it was quite exciting. As you may or may not have noticed, I tried to launch a new template at the beginning of the summer, and it just did not work for me. Well, not exactly for me, but for people using IE, and people who don’t believe in SIFR, or more bluntly people who use some add blockers that stop ALL flash from being rendered on a page. The summer just got busy, and re-visiting the site design didn’t make it to the top of the priority queue. Therefore, CodeFin.net turns two today, and we’re subject to the same visual theme you’ve been seeing for the past 365 days.

Since we’re on the topic of CodeFin.net, I thought I would take a moment to talk about how much fun this blog is for me. I haven’t been as dedicated about writing as I have in the past, but I think that this decision has a lot to do with my own insecurities in writing about software, and trying to find the mixture of personal/professional posts. As things got heated up with school and work at the beginning of this year, blogging was forced into the back seat. You see, I have this guilt complex that if there is homework to be done, or some other task that I am accountable for, it is very hard for me to sit down in front of the keyboard to bang out my thoughts into some set of cohesive words. I’ll try to find a better balance, just keep coming back. Anyhow, even though I haven’t blogged as religiously in the recent future as I have in the distant past, I still love it, and I’ll try to do better in the coming months.

And now for some brief updates:

  • I am still working on that website for my neighbor, though I got a template designed, I really didn’t find a pre-built paypal-compatable shopping cart that I liked, so I have been working to build my own. The site is “due” in a couple of weeks, so I really need to settle in and finish up. The catalog is done. Now I need to write the actual cart.

  • Fall semester starts today. I’ll try to write more about that tomorrow, after I’ve seen all of my classes. It will be interesting as I am going to try to do fulltime work/school this semester. My pocketbook is happy with this idea, we’ll see how the brain and body feel in a week

  • Don’t leave your RSS reader unattended for more than a couple of days. I just did this and had more than 300 articles to view this morning.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

One More Project Before School Starts

I am not quite sure how I got roped into this one. Perhaps it is the part of me that can't say no, or maybe it is the idea that I really could use some more experience with front end XHTML/CSS design, so I said OK. It's weird, you study computer science, and your neighbors think that makes you a wiz bang web designer. Unfortunately, most of us can't design our way out of a paper bag. That is why people go to design school.

Anyhow, this neighbor is really cool, and I think that this project should be a good deal of fun. She is an artist, so the she was able to come up with raw designs and art, then it became my job to figure out how to turn them into a web page. I have a preliminary version of the template going; she'll take a look at it on Tuesday. We'll see what happens from there.



If she buys off on the design, it will be time to play with the design of the CMS/Shopping Cart.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Monterey Day 3


Mission Window
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.
The itinerary involved:

- Several senic drives.
- A visit to Carmel and the old Mission they have there.
- Jamba Juice
- Room Service Dinner

I got some great photos, but I don't trust the LCD on my laptop for color correction, so I'll post more when I get home.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Monterey Day 2


Pacific
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.
It was a wonderful day. You really couldn't ask for more. I rented a car and took highway 1 down to Point Lobos State Reserve this afternoon, it was really amazing. One second you are in this forrested area, and the next you are right on the seaside. It was sunny, but there was a nice breeze to keep us cool. For dinner we experienced montrio. I'll have to write more about it tomorrow. I think I know why so many people have fallen in love with Northern California.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Greetings from Monterey


Marina
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.
It's been a great day! I got to meet some friends that I have known for several years but never in person. It was so very nice to walk around this beautiful marina, and talk face to face. We also enjoyed some very fresh sushi together. I had sushi for lunch today, I actually had the kind that wasn't in the rolls, it was really good!

Dinner was at this nice Mexican place. The food was authentic, and the guacamole was to die for. Needless to say, I have eaten well today!

The hotel here is very nice, the weather is great, and it looks to be a wonderful weekend. It's nice to get away.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Is there a better way?

So now that I am all converted to Google Reader I have SO many RSS subscriptions that it is a nightmare just trying to stay on top of it. I had a busy day at work, and didn't get to look at it until this evening... 166 unread articles.

Too much me thinks! Perhaps it is time to write an app on top of reader that helps with the filtering. Of course I opted into all of that stuff, but there needs to be a way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Towel Season

If you'’ve ever had the occasion to read Ron Carlson'’s At the Jim Bridger, you would understand what mean when I say that I feel something like the character Edison in the short story "“Towel Season"”, before he found himself, and was able to let go of his work long enough to enjoy the summer. I am enjoying the summer, but I wonder if I should put the programming books aside for a bit and just enjoy the warm summer nights, rekindle some old friendships, and have fun. Not that programming isn't fun, it just seems to be somewhat consuming, and it tends to make me feed a bit overwhelmed. No matter what I am up to, I feel like I should be working on something else. Maybe the week will provide more clarity on that one. I donÂ’t have a lot of control over the projects I am assigned to at work, but I have a great deal of control what I do with my time when I am not at work.

There must be a place for binary and towels as well.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Linux - It doesn't like me.

There are some advantages to having purchased a new hard drive for the purpose of playing with operating systems on the laptop. One of them being that when everything seems to be completely messed up, I can swap out the new hard drive for the old one and have everything be _exactly_ how I left it. That’s happy. It seems that every time I get this real fire under me to become a Linux user, I a day or so into it, and the wind leaves my sails. This time it worked like this.

New hard drive arrives.

Install Ubuntu Linux on the new hard drive.

Try to get things to work on Ubuntu, you know, the basics… fail miserably.

Install windows on the new hard drive, update windows.

Download SUSE Linux.

Install SUSE Linux.

Get audio/video/multimedia working on SUSE, things are happy.

Try to install ndiswrapper so that I can use my internal wireless card rather than the external PCMCIA card.

In the process of installing the ndiswrapper, hose the Linux kernel somehow.

Notice that the system doesn’t boot into SUSE Linux anymore.

Try to repair SUSE to no avail.

Try to re-install SUSE, to find that it just wants to further partition the hard driver rather than installing on top of what’s already there.

Try to delete partitions, notice that it isn’t working.

Try to reinstall again, to no avail.

Think about re-installing windows so that it will re-format the hard drive, and allow me to delete the Linux partitions so that I can start over.

Decide that re-installing Windows will take longer than I care for today.

Take out the new hard drive, put it in a box.

Put the old hard drive back into the laptop, notice that it happily boots to windows – completely configured with all of the software I need/use.

Sit down at the Desktop to write this blog entry feeling beaten by the Linux nerds.

Ponder what sort of sacrifice the Linux nerds want you to make in order to join their camp.


I really don’t know what the answers are. But it’s going to be a few days before I look at Linux again. The sheer power of the command line is so tempting, but I just can’t get it to do everything I want it to do, and currently the thought of going through two complete reinstalls is more than I think I can bare.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The quick brown fox...


The quick brown fox...
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.
In lieu of an entry, or otherwise. I think text makes for very interesting photos.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Evening

Forgive me for a personal moment.

A story told as only my little sister Kate could tell it. I found it quite moving. As I went though the evening I thought that perhaps I would try to soak up the event so that I could write to her and tell her what it was like. How I went to Old Navy and purchased new clothes, how the yard had been beautified, and what the foods on the tables looked like, and how it was good to re-unite with old friends. However, it appears that being one of us; she already knew what it would be like. Of course her words are far better than the ones I would have come up with, so I'll share them with you. We miss you dear Kate, but know you are doing great things.

Here’s what she said:
“I remembered that sometime tonight, while I’m asleep, there’s a party happening at my house. Alex mowed the lawn today, and Mom’s potted plants welcome people onto the porch and patio, which I assume someone swept. Turner barks in Mom’s room, checked on periodically. Maybe some kids pick up a basketball in the driveway. The food tastes incredible: the dense Mrs. Field’s recipe brownies, homemade chocolate chip cookies, quality bakery purchases, and probably some bowls of Tostitos and cashews. Mom and Dad probably feel a slight degree of awe at the critical mass the place might reach: Alex has so many friends. Alex acts kindly to all present, tries his best to treat them all as if they were the most important person there. I hope Jessica drew him a picture, and that Hadley laughs in some corner chatting with Annie. He’s leaving and I’ve already said good bye. People celebrate him and wish him luck somewhere very far away, and somewhere far away is where he is for a long time now; to me Novosibirsk and Salt Lake synonymously distant. I’m sure at the end of the night Mom will feel a degree of relief; the anticipated party over, the guests delighted at how nice the yard, how pleasant the company, how well planned. I suspect my siblings might feel how I do, after all this talk, all this anticipation. We’ll miss him terribly. In our various places, even if alone in our rooms, we will each cry.”

Goodness I love her writing.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Let's twttr

I sent out a few invitations for twttr this evening. Yep it’s another interesting social web 2.0 site. But this time, the web part is just a means to the end. Have you ever wondered what your friends and family were up to? Twttr will help you accomplish this, via text messages on your cell phone. You send a message to twttr, and they will forward that message to everyone that subscribes to your messages. It sounds fun. Now I just need to get some of you to come and join me in the fun. Here’s a link to my public page. Sign up and get messaging!

I am still studying Linux, and waiting on the new hard drive I purchased for the laptop to arrive.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I took a picture on Saturday


3 Pears
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.
Pears are good to eat, and pleasing to look at. Enough said.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

More on Linux

So what is all of this excitement about Linux really about anyway? I know that I am coming to the conversation late, but it for some reason I feel like this is something that I need to know and learn but I don’t have a really solid reason as to why yet. In recent years the Linux folks have advanced their operating systems by leaps and bounds, but upon closer inspection there is still a lot that needs doing before it really is the free answer to Windows and OSX. As a follow-up to the news that two influential Mac users were switching to Linux, John Gruber has written a couple of very thorough essays in which he tries to talk about why a person may choose one operating system over another, and I really agree with what he has had to say on the issues.

As I have thought about where I stand with the programs that I use at work, school and at home, I am not sure that there’s a strong basis for switching from my current Windows world. In my work world, it is all done in Windows.

At home I use Windows because that’s what’s there, and it isn’t as complex to manage as Linux, and is less expensive than Mac.

At work I use Windows because like most workplaces it is the standard, though I can see places where it would make a lot of sense for us to be using Linux. For example the servers that build our applications, host our version control, track our bugs and serve our apps to the company. But that’s another story, and I am sure that when they went with Windows they had some good reasons for doing what they did.

At school I am really at the mercy of the professor teaching the class. In most cases, the work we do there can be done in the Windows world quite comfortably. Sometimes it is even requisite, for example when we are writing programs specifically for Windows using Microsoft products. Where it gets blurry is when you get into the language and systems classes. Then there is more of a slant to the Linux world. Those professors may use Macs because of the Unix command line that they supply. This is when our assignments may be programmed in Java on a Windows machine, but for grading they had better work on the department’s Linux machines. As a result, I know enough about the Linux command line to build a basic project in C/C++/Java or whatever the language-du-jour may be, but I don’t know much more about the environment.

This is where my Linux fascination begins. I know that in reality, I will need to have a dual boot system because when work needs to be done in Windows, I’ll need windows to do it, but I think that personally having a strong background in Linux wouldn’t be a bad thing for a computer science major to have. The Operating Systems class that I am taking this fall will certainly all be Linux based, so it might not be a bad idea to become very comfortable in that area. I am confident however, that if I don’t try to use it exclusively for a little while that it will be like my attempt to learn Linux last year, which meant that I only used it when I absolutely had to.

I’ve done a lot of reading in the last couple of days. I even purchased a couple of Linux magazines at the bookstore today. There is so much information out there; the problem is finding the good and necessary stuff. How for example, am I to find and install the programs that I want/need? What communities are really the best for learning this stuff, or is it just every geek for his or her self? I am excited for what the future may hold, but there are still many unanswered questions.

Perhaps my approach should just be to dive in and go for it, but that brought on a lot of frustration last time. This round, I am going to try to get some education first before taking the plunge.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day Projects

Happy Independence Day!

Two blog entries that really have had me thinking in the past couple of days:
One about ways to protect your data in case of computer failure, and another about adopting Ubuntu Linux as your full time operating system. Both are topics that have been on my mind, and they really have given me the encouragement to make some plans and move forward.

The article about protection in the face of computer failure is mostly about having a backup plan. It frightened me enough to dust off that stack of blank DVD’s and burn off my music, photos, documents, and source code form the last year or so. It took a lot longer than I would have liked, but at least it is done, and I can sleep more peacefully knowing that my important data isn’t living singly on a disk drive that could fail. Things should also be happier having defragged the drives.

I am still a bit hazy on which image program I want to buy. I am currently looking at Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image. My requirements keep changing, but I think that the easiest option for the imaging would be to image the laptop’s disk, and the desktop’s primary disk to the secondary drive on the desktop. The sales propaganda at the two sites hasn’t made it completely clear that this will work. I’m also not completely sold on the idea of spending $140 so that I can image my disk drives. I guess what I am saying is that maybe my data isn’t worth that much. I suppose that a secondary answer would be to buy an external hard drive and back up that way. I do really like the idea of images though, as sitting through another install of XP has little appeal to me at the moment, and everyone knows that it seems at least every year or two every windows OS seems to get hashed to the point of needing a format and reinstall.

The article about the switch to Ubuntu Linux really has given me some hope. Last year for a systems class that I took, I managed to install SUSE Linux on my laptop and desktop as secondary operating systems. I’m grateful that I got SUSE to work, but I never managed to get EVERYTHING working as I needed it to in order that it be a replacement operating system. Perhaps I am just not 1337 enough to make it work, or maybe I’m just not that great of a hacker, but there were too many things that didn’t work the way that I expected them to in order for me to adopt it as a full time OS. The article I read made it sound like it was doable, and this was coming from a long time Mac user who defected because of the proprietary lock-in that Apple has been adopting as of late. Until reading this article, I was really holding out for an Apple, as I know that it has a Unix shell, but this Ubuntu thing sounds like it could be doable.

I am still somewhat baffled by all of the different *nix flavours, and don’t understand the difference between all of them. If I go for a *nix solution it needs to be sufficiently easy that a bone-head like me can install it, get software for it, manage it, and use it for everyday applications. Additionally, it would be great if I could do some development in that environment as well. I’m registered for an OS class this fall, and the assignments will necessitate using a *nix box, I would like to be over my fear by then. I may purchase a book on Ubuntu, and see if I think it is workable. Maybe with a guide, I might make it past the setup. But before I do that, I need to get my current laptop hard drive imaged somewhere else so that I can try it as a single boot, dedicated system.

I’ll let you know how it goes. If you have any suggestions, I’d be glad to hear them.

In other news, I listened to Capitol Steps this evening. If you have a liberal streak, or enjoy listening to parody, I suggest you listen to What a Difference DeLay Makes.

Cheers!

Monday, July 03, 2006

AS/400

What is an AS/400 you ask? Here's a pretty great Wikipedia article about it. I've worked with one for four years, and had never bothered to see if there was a Wiki article on it until today. Of interest was to learn that OS/400 defines pointers as 128 bit! Can you imagine designing that hardware? Also of interest to me is that the ILE compiler supports a lot more than good 'ol RPG as far as programming languages are concerned. Most of my CS professors won't recognize RPG as a programming lanuage or OS/400 as a system, but thinking about how many people still use the 400 every day to do their business I have to question that line of thinking. No I'm not advocating the 400 for all that needs doing in the business world today, but I am suggesting that there is value there.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Clean, Clear and Concise Code - part I

I can’t remember a programming assignment in school where somewhere in the list of requirements there wasn’t a point made about clean, clear, concise and commented code. That isn’t to say that sometimes you have to write some pretty large functions with multiple levels of nesting conditionals, but I would expect that there should be some hints to a future reader (possibly yourself) as to what you were thinking when you wrote the code. I think that more often than not, it seems that programmers get under a time crunch, and say things like “I’ll document later”, or “My code is so straightforward, no one will need comments to navigate it”. Maybe you are one of those types that is so brilliant you can remember every line of code you wrote and why you wrote it, but chances are, you aren’t and even if you can, what about the dude who will be picking up your code in a month or ten years, what then? Will that poor junior developer be able to quickly come up to speed with your code, or will he/she spend hours trying to figure out how to channel your chi to know what you were thinking when you wrote that triskaideca-nested(13) if then block, and what exactly it accomplishes.

Being the most junior of developers on a team, I am seeing a lot of different code, written by many different developers. Some of the code is relatively new; some of it may as well be archaic. Some of the developers took the time to carefully comment, others didn’t. Some observed a very consistent naming and formatting scheme, some code has been through some code has been through so many hands that it doesn’t have _a_ style.

I suppose that my point this evening is that I can sympathize with the need to get a project done, and I understand that reading code that you didn’t write is really the last thing that any developer really wants to do. Further, writing good code in a project that isn’t “yours” may also present you with a challenge, after all, if it isn’t your project why should you care what the code looks like? But you see, this is how the problem starts. Maybe you added 75 lines, that’s innocent enough isn’t it? Then again, the next developer thought the same thing, and before you know it, you’ve had hands all over the code, and it really is an unmitigated mess because no one ever bothered to think about maintainability in the long run. All the while, this code is doing important work, and it has been tried and true. It may be harder than hell to read, but it does the job. Perhaps you, sick of looking at that code would go to your manager and ask if you could just re-write the whole thing, but does that really solve the issue at its root?

Every developer that actually believes he/she is one would agree that the answer is a resounding no. The root of the issue is writing clean, clear, concise and commented code. It really is easier said than done, because writing code in this way requires some extra effort on the part of the programmer. It isn’t simply a matter of what gets the job done now, but also what makes for easy expansion in the future, is presented in the most simple and beautiful way, and will be understandable to anyone with reasonable coding skills sometime in the future.

I’ll motivate with a story from school. At the end of my sophomore year in school, my friends and I were taking a computer systems course. It wasn’t a full OS course, as we were just addressing small pieces as isolated units, but one of the most interesting assignments was to write malloc and free functions. Anyone who has gone down that road can attest to the fact that systems code of that nature is some of the most interesting, and non trivial code that a student can write as part of a classroom curriculum. Anyhow, our group of friends split into teams, and got to work. One of the guys was really into the project and coded up a skeleton malloc function and handed it over to his partner to complete the assignment. There was only one problem. This code written in C had no comments, and the variable names were un-intelligible to any person that wasn’t the programmer. One letter variable names, all pointers- in short a nightmare to anyone trying to figure out what was going on. As it turned out, my two friends had to be together in the same room to finish the project because the one who wrote the code had to be in the same room for the other friend to understand what he had written. Needless to say, we gave him an endless amount of torment over his coding style. He is extremely bright, gets amazing grades, works hard, and knows his code, but it was just impossible to read.

Fast forward a year and we are in a compilers course. This time it is just me and my super bright friend. We are working on the compiler together, but something changed this time around. He decided to comment the code, and use variable names that were intelligible. I don’t know what he would say about the experience, but I will still thank him for making it possible for me to understand what he was doing in the code. The final phase of the compiler the code-generator along with a register-allocator was some of the most complex code that we had ever written/seen, it was really cool at the end of the semester to see it actually working, and I don’t think I would have been able to do my part nearly as easily had my friend not taken the time to clearly document and write his code.

Yes, in the commercial world there is pressure to ship the product. Often the desired due date is yesterday, but I still do not believe that this is a ticket to write bad code. Every programmer knows what “spaghetti code” is, and at one time or another we have all contributed to the pasta bowl, but maybe now it is time to repent.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Two Steps Forward One Step Back

So I took the site a step backwards this evening. There were some things about the other layout that really weren’t perfected, and the more I saw it, the more it really started to grate on me. I am not really happy with what I have going on here either, but at least its degenerate cases aren’t as ugly as the degenerate cases on the “new” layout. I hadn’t considered what a simple thing like an add blocker could do to a site. That speaks strongly to the idea that everything should be driven completely by the HTML/CSS, I don’t want to follow that road too far though because that’s the same camp that says you shouldn’t use JavaScript either, and that is a proposition that I don’t think that I could tolerate. JavaScript is actually making the web useful as a realistic application platform.

So, I guess I need to go back to the drawing board and re-think how I will design this site. I really liked the simplicity of the design, but it was too reliant on sIFR. Of course, the folks who tout sIFR also remind their users that they need to have something that looks good before the original text is replaced, so maybe I will get to thinking about that. In the end, I want something that looks cleaner and more professional, but above all, it needs to work well for most configurations and not look dastardly just because someone has decided that flash isn’t for them.

When motivation strikes again, I’ll take a go at revising it again.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Reader

So I have been reading blogs now for a little over two years. I know that this fact makes me a little tike in the grand scheme of the world wide web and this thing called blogging, but I feel that I have been around long enough to have some opinions on a couple of things.

When this adventure started, I was using Internet Explorer, and had this ever growing list of “favorites” that I would compulsively click through each day to see if the author or content provider had decided to put up something new. Toward the end of 2004, my school friends convinced me that I needed to give up IE and give FireFox a try. I was hooked on first download, and most impressed by the “live bookmark” feature, as it allowed me to check the blogs that I read only by hovering over the live bookmarks to see what was new. The downside to this is that you had to move your links with you from computer to computer, and sometimes the live bookmarks didn’t quite work the way that you would expect them to.

So, I tried various RSS aggregators and wasn’t pleased with the results as they all had quirks in them that I though represented compromises to the way I wanted to read “stuff” on the web. I had heard about some of the popular online RSS aggregators that were out there, but I’ll be the first to admit I am stubborn when it comes to signing up for a new service, so I didn’t.

The story gets interesting when Google first introduces Reader. It was around the same time that they were pushing Google desktop, and I was (and still am) disappointed with the idea that Reader and Desktop didn’t talk to each other as far as the feeds that they read, and dismissed both products in favor of the FireFox live bookmark.

Still, reading more blogs, and hearing about how Reader now has the ability to share, I decided to give it another go (no I still haven’t re-installed Google Desktop). This time around I have been completely wowed. It appears that the Google team has put a significant amount of effort into Reader since its conception. I am pleased with the way that it keeps track of my feeds, and very impressed with the ability that I have to share items with my friends. It really brings my blog/news reading to a new level.

When you get in there, you can take a look at my starred items, and also the starred items of my friend, Curtis. If you already use reader, and have a feed to share, let me know, I would love to see what you’ve been reading!

You too can harvest the power of feeds and sharing, give Reader a try today! If you still haven’t caught onto the great Google bandwagon and need an invite to get an account, I can help you out with that too.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Changes

Well, I have decided that it was time for the site to don a new skin today. It is more simple than what I had before. I am not sure if I am in love with it yet, especially the part about having photos at the bottom of the page, but it is different, and different is at least well... different. I haven't remodeled the about page yet, but that is sure to come in the future. We'll give this a go and see what turns out, if you like it, or hate it, or worse if I broke something, speak up and at least your voice was heard.

Cheers!

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Great Day

A day in which you can write programs, solve programming puzzles, take photographs, work hard, ride your bicycle, chat with your best friends, and eat good meals is a very good day. It isn’t every day that I get to enjoy so many of my favorite things to do.

I feel like I got a lot done. At work I only have a few hours left programming in no IDE land. Hopefully I can take care of that tomorrow morning. My legs are tired, and telling me that they got a good workout this evening. Wasatch drive was a lot more challenging than it was a week ago when I rode it last.

Things aren’t perfect, but tonight (and most every day if I really think about it) there is more to be grateful for than to complain about.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

I Finished!


For the first time in more years than I would care to admit, and certainly the first time in my “adult” life, I participated in a public sports event as an athlete. Though calling me an athlete is probably a bit of an exaggeration. Two months ago I said that I wanted to ride the Salt Lake City Bike Tour, which is an event associated with the Salt Lake City Marathon. I didn’t have a bike, nor had I ridden one in 6 years, but a Saturday morning trip to the bike shop fixed that in short order.

The event was a blast! The temperature was great, the crowd was excited, and the route showed off a few of Salt Lake’s most interesting neighborhoods. The parts of the course that I was most worried about turned out not to be so bad, I’ll chalk that up to the adrenaline of the event. In a place where I would normally travel at an average speed of 15-18 mph, I was riding 20-23. It was totally cool!

I blew out a tire on the course, and of course I was stubborn and hadn’t learned how to use my CO2 cartridge, and didn’t have a bicycle pump. It’s a good thing that my father and one of his work associates were on the course with me. They helped me get things fixed up, and I really couldn’t have finished had it not been for Dave’s bicycle pump!

It was a great event for a great day. Today’s distance/time was the farthest/longest that I have gone in this new re-birth of biking. I am pretty tired, but have a good idea of where I would like to go next. It would be really cool to keep working hard so that I could be in shape to do a century ride (100 miles). I guess that it just has to do with time invested in training.

Cycling is good for me. Not only is it something that doesn’t involve the rigors of writing code, or sitting in front of a computer screen but it’s also a great stress reliever. It is a good feeling to know that I can push my body to do things that it didn’t think that it could do. After the race, I was pretty tired, and felt like I wanted to vomit, my dad told me to take it easy and drink some water, Dave remarked, “Isn’t it a great feeling to know that you worked so hard you want to throw up?” I think that though it sounds weird, I think that the answer to the question is yes. Anyhow, biking is fun, and I hope that this is just the first of many future events! Maybe someday I’ll run the marathon, but for now, I’ll just be happy that I could bike it.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

IDE's Are For Wimps?!?

I do not believe that as a programmer one realizes how much the tools that he/she uses make life easier for him/her until those tools are no longer at their disposal. I seem to have hit this wall in the last couple of days at work. You see, it all goes like this. I was handed a project to finish up, the only problem is that we don’t have an IDE that supports development for this particular project, so I am pretty much using a text editor with syntax highlighting to write/modify the code, a build tool to compile it, and then deploying it to a full blown “test” server. What do I miss you may ask? Hot swapping code, a good debugger, the red squiggles that appear under errors in my regular IDE, this beautiful thing called code completion.

What is the point to my little rant? Well it is this, every programmer I know claims to be “hard core”, yet most everyone uses these very powerful IDE’s. I don’t think that anyone can really call themselves “hard core” until they have actually worked in an environment without all of their fancy tools. Do I advocate this as a regular thing? Absolutely not! In the “real world” it’s about producing high quality, solid, applications – quickly. IDE’s help with the speed with which a developer can write, and debug code. As nice as System.out.println() can be for small projects, when the deploy process takes 4-5 minutes, you have to be a little bit more thoughtful about what information you will need, and when you will need it, because inserting that next println isn’t as quick and easy as it was when you were in school.

Hopefully I will get this project wrapped up in a week or two. My boss today told me about how he coded in a text editor for four years after he graduated from the university. I am sure he learned a lot, as I am right now, but for project expediency, this just doesn’t feel like the best plan. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any free tools to speed things up.

Anyway – that’s the news. Work is fun and challenging.

Coming soon:
- News on the re-design
- New adventures in photography

Sunday, May 28, 2006

On Memorial Eve




"I have trod the upward and the downward slope;
I have endured and done in days before;
I have longed for all, and bid farewell to hope;
And I have lived and loved, and closed the door."


As I walked through the cemetary, I couldn't help but think about a song cycle called "The Songs of Travel" by Ralph Vaughan Williams, all of the songs are poems by Robert Louis Stephenson, the above poem was the last in the cycle, "I have trod the upward and the downward slope". If you ever get the opportunity to hear this beautiful work, it is an experience not to be missed.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Day Inside

It has been raining today in Salt Lake City. I didn’t get to ride my bike today as I had hoped, but it made some time to work on other things. I have had the itch to re-design my site here, so I started on it this afternoon/evening. I got the mockup all finished, and have a good start on the markup/style. The goal is to create a more simple and unified theme around here, something that looks more professional. Originally I thought that I would wait until my second anniversary in August to put out a re-design, but at second blush, I have decided to just get it going and to release it as soon as it’s ready.

No big plans for Memorial Day, but I do know that I have a photo assignment to complete: “something that really matters to you” and “something of which you have intimate knowledge”. It’s interesting how I spend way more time thinking about these themes than I do actually shooting them. Things worked out ok last time, so I have no reason to think that they won’t this time as well.

Monday, May 22, 2006

On Fitness and Stuff...

The bicycle training has begun in earnest now. I would like to get to the point that I am not embarrassed to accept invitations to ride with people. I have just got to get my lungs breathing and my legs pedaling a bit harder and faster. I have decided that the bike is very therapeutic. It reminds me of when I was young and on a swim team; the bicycle provides me with an outlet for my energy and frustrations. It’s great to be able to go and throw all of your troubles quite literally into the wind, or perhaps work them into the pedals.

Tomorrow I have spinning in the morning and photo in the evening. Spinning will be its normal torturous event, but it’s good for me, and eventually it won’t hurt as badly. The photo class may turn out to be very embarrassing, especially if everyone says that they hate the photos I will show. I wholeheartedly admit that I haven’t taken the assignment as seriously as I could have, but it is summer and I am not going to stress out about something I took for fun.

The folks that went to JavaOne last week were back in the office today. They had some interesting stuff to say. Maybe I will write a bit about that in the near future.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

dream

dream


A good thought for a good day, and in binary none the less!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Something in the Air?

Why are so many software engineers socially retarded, and completely stuck on themselves? I think I have read one too many supposedly technical blog articles this week that are all about software engineers griping about how their bosses don’t understand them, how their business owners couldn’t possibly create a reasonable set of specifications for their project, how their peers are all inferior to their amazing super-ninja code skills, how if you don’t program using x style y method or with z tool, you are a “bad” engineer. Seriously, do all professionals try to eat their own, along with those that give them their jobs?

This isn’t to say that I haven’t done my share of complaining here on this very blog (and that this post isn’t a complaint its self), but it is me asking why everyone has been so negative this week. Maybe there was something in the water, or everyone is particularly stressed out, or the caffeine in their beverage of choice wasn’t strong enough. Whatever it was, the attitude doesn’t seem to be helping anyone. I think this attitude may be one of the results that stems out of software’s unique position in the field of science and engineering.

Being a code ninja is quite the head trip, and there is quite a disparity between software engineers of different backgrounds, but you would think that in a market where the competition is fierce, and there is considerable pressure to bring products to the table quickly and efficiently; more time would be spent toward elevating and motivating the team than complaining about what doesn’t work.

With my experience on a team building several large projects at once (from the QA perspective), it seems to me that there isn’t a silver bullet for project management, team motivation, development processes. A good team will communicate openly, help each other, and work for the good of the whole; usually picking a mix of various styles and methods that seems to work for them in a very organic way.

Yes, computers are exact, as are the laws of logic. It’s a good thing, and something that makes them understandable and programmable. However, in the real world, there isn’t always an on or a off. Programmers are the people who get to figure out how to take the gray, and figure out how to translate gray from black and white. Sometimes they get so stuck in their black and white world that they forget what it is like to see color, or to have a healthy dose of ambiguity in their lives.

To the developer ambiguity is just evil, it makes things harder, and requires creativity and thought to express it in the black and white world. Perhaps this is why developers want the world to conform to their list of “practices”, and why if a person can’t conceive something the way that they do, said person is “inferior” or a “bad programmer”.

The argument can certainly be seen from both sides. Best practices bring software engineering more into line with the traditional engineering disciplines, which is something many of the greatest minds in computer science argue is needed. Formality and rigor allow for definitive proof about a system, and it would be really nice to be able to prove that a system worked before you ever wrote code for it right? From this perspective the rules have a firm foundation.

Which brings me back to the question of attitude with regard to software engineers and the way that they interact with the world. Are engineers in other disciplines as quick to eat their own? Do they argue with the people who have the deep pockets that write their paychecks? Do these other disciplines talk about graduating bad “material scientists”? I would be interested to find out.

In the mean time, I may give my RSS reader a bit of rest because though there is a lot of great information out there, the reading this week is causing me to loose faith in my colleagues. There is a place for “this is dumb and here’s why” (this post is one of them), but maybe if we worked harder to help each other rather than saying “you’re a bad programmer if…” the engineering world might take the software folks more seriously.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Random Ramblings

I am not completely sure where this entry will take us tonight, but I feel like putting something up on the blog, and it has been a few days since my last post. For some reason, writing has become more difficult for me, the words don’t flow into my fingers like they once did. Maybe I lost my muse, but it is more likely that I am learning that unless you have something meaningful to contribute, perhaps you shouldn’t say anything at all. Yes, it is cliché, but the more I learn the more I realize that I really don’t know a lot. There are so many guru’s out there, who actually know what they are talking about, I am not sure what my experience and opinions bring to the table.

Being almost two weeks into my job officially as a software engineer has been interesting to say the least. My co-workers are supportive and patient, but also very demanding. The problems that one solves with regard to getting information to and from a database aren’t too difficult alone, but when you introduce the browser into the mix things get pretty interesting. I remember once upon a time saying that I wanted to know how JavaScript worked, and now I can say that I have played with it, I am getting better every day, it does some cool things, and that sometimes you just hate it. I am grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow professionally.

I broke down and purchased my DSLR. I decided on the Canon 30D. It has been a lot of fun, but now am realizing that shooting with my little point and shoot for the last year has changed some of the way that I see things. I got so used to the fact that what you see is what you get in the point and shoot, that the control the SLR gives me feels a little bit overwhelming. The camera is nice, powerful, and more than I really know how to use. My photographic seeing class started last night, and it should be an interesting way to re-connect myself with my love for photography. One of the big stretches that this class asks for is that we as photographers loose our fear and inhibition. The current set of assignments has me feeling uneasy, because I am not sure how to approach them in such a short period of time – but I’ll go out on a limb and give it my best try. I have decided to try and take the camera with me where I go… looking for opportunities. Sooner or later, inspiration will hit.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Good Eats


To celebrate the end of another semester, Curtis decided that the nerd crew (i.e. the people that I spend way too much time with at school) should get together and have a nice dinner. How could anyone turn down a dinner that they didn't have to pay for? Especially when it is sushi! The food and conversation were great. From left to right in the photo you see me, Andy, Curtis, Jon, and Chris (someday Curtis and I may convince the rest of them to start blogging). We give each other an endless amount of grief, but when it comes time to get a job done well, we become quite the team.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

TV and a Quick Update

If you haven’t been into TV at all lately, you really ought to catch up on my two favorite television shows. I have been a diligent ALIAS fan since season one, and at this point you can get all of the past seasons on DVD. In the next three weeks, we’ll see the end of that great show. You can’t help but love a show that stars Jennifer Garner and Victor Garber. I really dig the spy stuff, and it is told in such a way that it isn’t all special effects and shoot ‘em up scenes.

Secondly, everyone that works in an office must watch NBC’s The Office. It has a little something for everyone. Office comedy, office gossip, and office romance, of course it is dramatized, but every thing has some hint of reality that you really would see in your own little cubicle farm. Tonight’s season two episode knocked my socks off. Let’s put it this way. Every Jim needs a Pam, and every Pam needs a Jim. I’ll admit it, the tension in that relationship totally has me hooked on the show.

Of the stuff that pays the bills, and supposedly keeps the world turning ‘round. I am learning and growing every day. No, it isn’t like writing low level operating system code, but it is coding, and it is specialized. The projects are large, real, and meaningful. I am getting used to being in the office every day, and making some friends on my new team. It is a good job; I work with awesome people and am having a great time.

I would like to say that I have some project burning on the side here, but this week my time has been sucked up by trying to kick start my photographic eye, working long hours in the office (7 – 6 ish), and church duties. I went to REI with my Dad last night, where he pleasantly surprised me by gifting me the remainder of the stuff I needed so that I could ride my bike without worry about getting stuck and not being able to repair a flat. So I know that a bike ride is defiantly on the book for Saturday. I think that I’ll try a 12 mile ride and see how that suits me. So as far as side projects, I have some stuff in mind, but haven’t got anything firm planned yet. Time will tell. One week into summer, and it feels like I am just playing catch up with all of the life that I put on hold while working on school. I won’t complain, it could be a lot worse, and I am grateful for the opportunity to go to school. To any reader’s holding out that I post something of technical use, just hang in there… I know there is stuff brewing in my head, it just isn’t ready yet.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Distracted

It would make sense to be a more active writer around here since school is out, but it seems that other things have called my attention and even though I am not working on homework, I seem to be finding things to fill the void. The summer appears to be off to a great start, though I am currently feeling somewhat paralyzed as to what exactly I should be doing with my free time. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to wish time to hurry along its way, but I am excited for next week, as my photography class will start up. I also decided to take an early morning spinning class offered at the university. It meets two times a week and will be a great way to get some rigorous training as far as my cycling goes. Speaking of cycling, I have yet to take any major journey’s on my bicycle mostly partially out of my own laziness, but also out of the fear that because I haven’t bothered to purchase a portable set of tools, an extra tube, an air pump, and a “hydration system” that I’ll get going on the road and something terrible will happen. I just need to go visit REI once more and spend a little bit more cash, and I should be set to go… absolutely no more excuses. I said that I would ride to work, and it’s time that I kept that promise.

There is probably more to say, but it isn’t coming to mind right now, so I’ll leave it here. It’s probably time to sit down and formalize my summer life so that things aren’t in so much limbo. Then there will be time for writing, programming, reading, exercising, yard work, dating, photography, and all of that other good stuff. With a solid schedule perhaps I won’t be so… distracted.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Software Engineer

If you had told me 6 years ago that I would be a software engineer, I might have laughed at you. I enjoyed computers, and was pretty good at using them, but had never done any ‘programming’. Fast forward six years, three years into my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and I was offered (and accepted) my first job as a real “Software Engineer”.

Since January I have been splitting my time between development and QA, on Monday I will officially put my QA responsibilities and focus my work time in my new role as a developer. I am pretty excited, I have a lot to learn, and this is a great opportunity to do some learning. The great thing is that I still get to work with the great people that I have grown to know and love at my workplace; additionally I am gaining relevant work experience while still in school. I couldn’t have hoped for a better situation right now. They are understanding of my educational goals, and are willing to take me as a part-time employee during the school year. I wore the intern title for so long; I was beginning to wonder if I would ever find a job where I wasn’t an intern. I am certainly not at the top of the chart when it comes to software development experience, but that is something that comes with time, and now I am well on my way. I am sure there will be more jobs and opportunities in the future, but I am pretty excited for this one here and now.

In other news, I got my final grade in Compilers – A. Certainly can’t complain about that. The final was very fair, but still a good deal of work. I really enjoyed that class.

No news on my other two classes yet. Hopefully things will turn out equally as well. In the meantime, I will just decide to enjoy the moment. I have written about being a professional, and thought a lot about being a professional, it is very satisfying to have the professional’s title – now let’s just hope that I can live up to it.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Chill Music


I was in a music mood this evening, and resorted iTunes (like I always do). I found this totally sweet smooth jazz album by Chris Botti called When I Fall In Love. Some pretty great soft trumpet. I was an instant fan. What would I do without iTunes?

So, less then 24 hours to freedom (summer), I am studied out for this semester. I think that things will go well on tomorrow's compiler's test. My group project demo in the afternoon should also be just fine. Regardless of the outcome, barring any unfortuntate events, tomorrow will mark the end of my junior year (and my sixth as a college student - but that's another story).

Still no camera puchase. I guess I need to do more homework before I will be completely ready to make the purchase, but I'm sure it won't take longer than a couple of weeks. I really want a DSLR for this upcoming class.

More on free life tomorrow...

Friday, April 28, 2006

Five Days To Go

And this semester will be over, putting me squarely on summer vacation, and yes, I have a lot that I would like to do.

Today’s final in Algorithms that was promised to be 2/3 multiple choice 1/3 short answer ended up being 100% short answer, and was a total pain. I just hope I passed, because I really don’t have a lot of desire to take the class again next spring.

After the exam, I went to work where I had to take care of a lot of the stuff that I wasn’t been taken care of because I was out of the office from Tuesday to today. I guess that it’s nice to know that I am needed, yet at the same time, it was somewhat frustrating that most of my afternoon was spent taking care of things that others certainly could have done in my absence.

I also signed up for a photography course today. Still feeling somewhat photographically dead, I have decided that I need to see what I can do to remedy the problem this summer. A good friend is teaching a seven week course titled, Visual Awareness and Creative Seeing. Hopefully it will get me out of my slump. It will be something nice to do on Tuesday nights for a while once school lets out. I have also decided that I would like to buy a new camera. I have wanted a digital SLR for a while now, and this may as well be as good of a time as any to bite the bullet and go for it. I am looking at the Canon Rebel XT or the Canon D30, if anyone has any experience with either I would be interested in hearing what you have to say before I make the investment.

This evening I went on a nice bike ride with my dad. It was a good way to spend the last few minutest that it was light outside. You could say that today was the first real bike ride that I have been on with the new bicycle. I actually got farther away from home than a couple of blocks. As soon as school is out, I will have more time for it. I need to spend more time on it if I plan on riding the Salt Lake Marathon bike tour in a month or so.

Anyway, things are ok. I still have an exam in compilers next Wednesday, and a project demo after that, but those two should be much happier than today’s exam. Just a few more days, if only I could speed up the clock and get it over with.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

It's Nice Outside


Pink Tulips
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.
It is a really good think that school is done in a week. If I had to keep going to school when the weather is like it is right now, I think that I would go crazy. Though this picture was taken almost a year ago, the weather is like this, and these very pink tulips are blooming in my yard right now.

When things are so nice, it makes it very difficult to pay attention to things like Algorithms and Compilers, this is the time of year that you want to be in love, you want to enjoy evening walks, anything but sit in front of a computer and a text book.

How I ever went to school in the summer is beyond me at this point. One more week and I'm home free. Just need to stay on target, even if there are other temptations all around.

Monday, April 24, 2006

ATOM Feeds and Blogger - A Bug, or Not

Allow me to digress into something of a geek post for a moment. As you may have noticed if you visit this blog via visiting the page rather than reading it through a reader, since January I have been running this link blog in my side bar. I figured that it would be a great way for me to be able to post links to things on the net that I found interesting without having to write a whole bunch, or claim it as a post here on my main blog. No, the idea was not uniquely mine, but I where I had seen it I liked it, so I thought to give it a try. For the most part I have enjoyed it, and it has allowed me to feel like I have been doing something to keep presence here on my main page, even if I haven’t been dedicated to writing full-length blog posts here.

So, the way that I get those ‘elsewhere’ entries to cross over and post here on my main page is by using some JavaScript trickery. Well not really trickery, just use of the ever now ever-popular XMLHTTPRequest, which allows me to harvest from the ATOM feed of the other blog, and post the ‘syndicated’ contents however and wherever I choose. Great you say, didn’t you already post about this in January? Yes, I did. But in recent weeks something funky has been going on with the ATOM feed, and I find it quite perplexing as I can’t get an answer from anyone about it.

I realize that the ATOM has gone through some revisions, and many feed providers have been slowly upgrading from ATOM 0.3 to 1.0. Of particular interest to me is the idea that post contents are now appearing in a <summary> node rather than a lt;div> node. (Note that if I am miss-informed here, please correct me, as this is where I am so confused.) When my ‘elsewhere harvesting’ script first broke, I noticed that I was searching for a <div> tag, and that it needed to be changed to a <summary> tag. That was all fine and dandy, until a couple of weeks ago when I noticed that Blogger was creating feeds were the first <entry> node had a <summary> node, but all of the rest of the <entry> nodes had <div> nodes for the summaries instead of the <summary> nodes. What gives? What make the whole thing even stranger is that it is not consistent.

Today, I posted to my elsewhere blog about a review that someone had done on the new Intel based apple computers. When I came back to my main blog to see how the feed had published, I noticed again one of those funky feeds with both the first entry having a <summary> node, and all of the rest having <div> nodes. Then five minutes later, I check again, and the feed has changed now so that all of the contents are in <summary> nodes, as I would expect them to be.

Last week I posted in the Blogger Help, Something Is Broken group about this, and didn’t get any responses. Maybe I am just hallucinating this whole thing, but I can’t seem to find any information about this discrepancy anywhere in the blogger help files, or in the blogger group. At least the problem eventually “fixes itself”, but I would really like to know what is causing it to be this way, and if it is by design, or if it is actually a bug.

Any ideas?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Almost There

It’s crunch time boys and girls. There are less than two weeks in this semester, and provided that all things go as planned (and I’m confident that they will), I will be able to close the door on my junior year of computer science. Yes, summer is on its way and thankfully it doesn’t include school classes. Not that I don’t like the learning environment and the challenges that come with learning, it’s just that I am feeling somewhat burned out and am looking forward to a break.

In the past 16 weeks I’ve covered a lot of ground. It has been a lot of good fun. I just have to stay focused for a few more days and finish out the semester. Still on the to-do list are a short write-up about the last phase of our compiler, a written assignment, and a final in compilers; a final in algorithms; and a final project in team software practice, it actually is quite a bit of fun as we’re programming a game of steal the flag to be played with PDA’s on an ad-hoc wireless network.

I haven’t been on my bike since last Saturday. Things have just been that busy. Things for this weekend aren’t looking much better, but after spring semester is out of the way, I should be able to focus on some of those things that I haven’t given much attention to in recent weeks.

I have done quite a bit of reading on the web, and I am quite impressed with the number of excellent essays target at the pedagogy of computer science in recent weeks. I hope to be able to write more about this in the summer, not that I am one of the scholars whose opinion really counts on the matter, but I do have a lot of opinions to share.

A friend shared a poem with me a couple of days ago; I’ll leave you with my favorite lines:
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,


- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "The Rainy Day"

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Impulsive Buy... Possibly

But however impulsive it may have been I am now the proud owner of a new Specialized Allez Sport Triple.



Pretty darn exciting. So I have been telling people for a long while now that I wanted to get into cycling. I guess this makes it official. Now I have to get in shape. I decided to take it for a short spin after I brought it home, and I can say that I have some serious work ahead of me. I think that once the semester is over, I will ride every day to work, but before I let it become my major mode of transport, I really need to get my lungs and heart back into working. It appears that the last year or so have really taken a toll on my fitness. Though my brain can write some pretty impressive code, and my fingers can fly over the keyboard, my legs can't quite make the bike go as fast as I would hope.

Just to throw in a quick plug for the folks at Bingham Cyclery. They were knowledgeable, professional, and friendly.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Miles to go before I sleep...

Mountain Daylight Time – It’s pretty nice once you get used to it, but the getting used to it part isn’t so trivial. Once again, it is dark in the mornings on the drive to work, but on the flip side, it is light outside until six or seven. I suppose that it becomes a good trade when all is said and done, but my body is quite opposed to getting up at what it still thinks is four-thirty in the morning. Given another week or so, I should be accustomed to the change, and all things will get back to normal.

I have decided that I really enjoy being a morning person. I can get more accomplished at work between the hours of six-thirty and nine-thirty than I can the rest of the working day. Surely it has something to do with the number of interruptions that occur throughout the rest of the day. There have been studies about the damage that interruptions cause to one’s “flow” when working on a task, but I don’t think that I had ever really considered how drastically they cut into my day. Certainly some of my best thinking comes out of those early morning hours sitting in my cubicle at work, solving one problem or another.

It has been tempting to take some of those early mornings off from work, and give some focused, rested attention to my school work. Not surprisingly, when I do this, I find that my perceptions of my class work are much clearer than they are when I do the study late at night thing. Unfortunately, part of my lot in life is to work and go to school. Not that I have a severe distaste for either, actually I enjoy both my education, and my employment, it’s just that the consistent 18-20 hour days, are really taking a toll on my sanity and health.

Spring break may have just been a few short weeks ago, but I am already longing for the end of the semester in four more weeks. Surely that time will pass quickly, it’s just that there’s so much to do. I am reminded of a line in one of Robert Frost’s poems, Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


This isn’t an English paper, and I am sure that if I tried to analyze this passage, my English major sister would have something to say. The poem has a very religious tone when read by my eyes, but the last passage I like to interpret as a want to rest and enjoy the beauty around, but there are promises to keep, and things to do, before it’s time to go back to live with Him who gives us life. Perhaps, in some small way, there are things that I would like to sit and enjoy, but my current commitments have me completely taken at the moment. In four weeks, things will be slightly simpler, but I am sure that there will be other things to fill my days and nights with thoughts for tomorrow.

I have said it before, but maybe life isn’t so much about looking for tomorrow, (something that I do all the time) but about enjoying what we can while we can, just like the man in the poem. Indeed the woods are lovely, dark, and deep, but we do all have promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep. He saw, enjoyed, and then got back to work. Could anyone ask for much more than that?

Monday, April 03, 2006

An Open Letter

To the person(s) that thought it would be profitable, entertaining, or otherwise to break into my car:

I really hope that you enjoy the three CD’s you stole. The classical piano interpretation of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story by Richard Bayless has been one of my favorites for many years.

As you might also be able to tell from that which you stole, I am a big fan of classical music from the Romantic era. Certainly, you are now the proud owner of some very fine music. I hope that it brings you as much joy and happiness as it brought me. However, I must say your job was somewhat sloppy, as the best CD in the collection was still in the CD player. Shame on you for not checking.

As for the parking/ID cards that get me into my workplace, that was just mean. I do not think those cards will be of much value to you, as they will not be active here in an hour or two. Besides, there are not very many pawnshops near to my workplace, so you would have a ways to walk even if you did decide to use my parking pass.

May the golf clubs that you stole out of my trunk, bring you many hours of enjoyment on some of Salt Lake’s finest greens. Perhaps your life is less busy, and you will find more time to use them than I did. I found that golf was a great stress reliever, and a way to ‘vent’ when frustrated. I did not hit the course as much as I would have liked to, but I did find the driving range quite therapeutic when I did not have time to actually play the game.

After you got the CD’s, my work ID cards, and my golf clubs, I think that you should have been quite satisfied. I am not sure how much loose change was in my ashtray, but did you really need what was there. I am sure it amounted to less than anything else that you took last night. Besides, I usually use that as money to give to beggars. Had you asked, it certainly could have been yours.

This whole thing has been a bigger inconvenience for me than anything else. I am more pissed about the work Id cards, and the golf clubs than the music. I sure hope you use them, as if it is all for drug money you really are (a) looser(s).

Thanks for not breaking the windows on my car, that would have been even worse. I am curious however to know how you got in without setting off the alarm, as I know the car was armed. Some time, you will have to share your trick.

Peace Out,

Me
the ornery car owner

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tuesday Thought

Not that I have anything really meaningful to say this morning. I took the AM off to work on some pressing school stuff. I am making progress, but there are still many miles to go before I will reach my resting spot for the day.

Over the weekend, I was reminded of a book that I read around this time last year. gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson. I pulled the book off the shelf, and turned to one of several post-it flags I use to mark things that I find interesting. I am not sure what I was thinking when I marked it, but it seems relevant for the day.

"...This is real life. You can't stick a quarter in someone and push their nose and get any candy bar you like. People don't work that way. I mean, sure, there is cause and effect, but it isn't predictable." - p.80