Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sunday Morning Reflection

You might wonder what I am doing awake at 7:15 AM on a Sunday morning, but for me it just seems a regular part of my day. Since December, I have been getting to work each morning by seven AM. That schedule also works well with my current school schedule, as it means I can get three hours of work in before I go to my first class of the day. Being acclimated to waking up between 5:30 and 6:00 AM makes 7:15 feel like a luxury sleep in. I couldn’t have stayed in my bed any longer had I tried.

School is going well. I have three classes this semester; a class on algorithms, a class on compilers, and a group project class based on the C# .NET framework. So far the classes have been great. The fun part about these classes is that they are using skills and knowledge gained in other classes. It is fun to be able to put something that you learned to practical use. As an example, I have worked many inductive math proofs, but never had a real reason to use one until last week when proving the validity of a recurrence relation. At any rate, it is really nice to be able to apply the things that I have learned to something that I am doing. The amount of reading that is expected for this current set of classes is nearly crippling. Not that it is terribly difficult to understand, it is just so voluminous, that getting through it all is proving to be a large challenge.

Work is a lot of fun, albeit somewhat schizophrenic. I have been working on my first development project, where I am the developer for a couple of weeks now. It has been a total blast. I am applying my education, and learning new things each day. I love the development part of my job. The schizophrenic part comes from the fact that they haven’t let me go of my QA/Support duties. So my typical day has coding in it interrupted by support phone calls, and interruptions to test stuff. Yes, that was really a technical description “test stuff”. I would like to move over to development completely, but there are still politics involved, so I’ll take what I can get for now.

The photo show is almost ready to go. I picked up the framed work on Friday. All that needs doing now is for me to write a bio of myself, and print up the title cards for each print. I need to have the pictures hanging at the library no later than the end of this week. The pictures look so good in their frames behind glass. It has been so exciting to actually take a print all the way a finished presentation.

Life is busy, and I don’t sit down to write as often as I should. One of the things that I was thinking about this morning is how grateful I am for life. It is special, and there are many reasons to have hope. Yes, there is a lot of wickedness in the world today, but there are also very many good people striving each day to make the world brighter. Everyone needs hope, and everyone can have it. It is something that we’ve all been given, but how often do we overlook it? How often do we deny ourselves of happiness, because we for some reason we don’t think that happiness applies to us? Yes, there is the daily grind, but love, life and happiness can be found in it if we will live with the right perspective.

Things aren’t easy but they are wonderful and good and I am grateful for it.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Weekend Redux

It was a good and busy weekend. Yes, I know that many of you will have tomorrow off for Human Rights day; however, being an exceptionally poor student who needs to meet several looming financial obligations, I will be at work tomorrow. So yes, my weekend ends tonight.

This weekend was quite exceptional I feel that I got a lot accomplished, and am feeling good about the upcoming week. I got caught up on all of my class reading for school, I made some major progress on a project for work, and I finished choosing and printing the photos for my upcoming show in February. Quite a bit could be said about each of the above tasks, but I think that the most interesting are the photo show, and the progress on the work project.

The time has come for me to get serious about JavaScript. It seems that so many of the things that I want to do with the application that I am building right now are dependant upon it. It was fun this weekend to see the UI for my project actually become something that worked as I envisioned it. It still needs to be styled, but the guts are there, and that is what I was most worried about when I left work on Friday. It probably wasn’t the wisest choice to work on work at home where I don’t get paid for it, but I don’t know if my employer would have appreciated me spending 14 hours on the clock just figuring out how to make a particular JavaScript widget to work. At any rate, it does what I need it to do now, and it will be slick.

The photo show is getting closer every day. The frames arrived from Light Impressions on Friday, and now that they are here, I can’t really ignore the project much longer. Saturday, I got all of the pictures chosen and printed. Because my camera’s resolution isn’t too hot I can’t get good reproductions larger than 5x7, so I am choosing to print a 5x7 centered on an 11x14 piece of paper. Surprisingly, it doesn’t look bad. Tomorrow or Tuesday, I will be taking the prints and the frames to a local wholesale shop and having the art assembled. Originally I thought I would like to get the glass, mats, foam core, backing, hanging hardware, and assemble them myself, but have since decided I don’t have time to do it on my own. Still to do for the show is writing a bio, getting a head shot of myself, and making the title/price cards for each piece.

I am torn by the prospect of selling these prints. After all, they are just ink jet prints right? How does one put a price on that? An artist friend who has been doing this a lot linger than I have told me that it wouldn’t be self respecting to sell them at cost. I guess I have two weeks to think about that. I just can’t imagine people paying for this stuff. It just comes from me, I saw something cool, and made it into a picture. Perhaps, I will just decide not to sell them at all.

As far as the head shot goes, I hate getting my picture taken, without fail it is always a miserable experience for me, and the results are never what I want them to be. I have never gotten into the self portrait thing, but maybe I should. Time will tell on that one.

Church, School, Work, Photo Show, and what is left of my Social Life.
It will be a good week provided I can keep all of these projects in the air at the same time.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Find Your Interesting Photos on Flickr!

1. Power, Fence, Water, 2. Oil and Water, 3. Shoes Again, 4. Untitled, 5. Shadow, 6. Untitled, 7. Untitled, 8. Untitled, 9. Lunch at Borders, 10. Trees2, 11. Pull Quote, 12. Dial, 13. Water Spigot, 14. Composite, 15. Snowing, 16. Ugly Building, 17. Walking in the Snow, 18. Falling Snow, 19. Lunch, 20. Barn 2, 21. Untitled, 22. Untitled, 23. Untitled, 24. Playing, 25. blinds, 26. Moss Tree, 27. Leaf, 28. Stairs, 29. Shadows in the Parking Stall, 30. Big Cottonwood 1, 31. Big Cottonwood Sky 2, 32. Chairs, 33. Cosmos 2, 34. City Mural, 35. Painted Building, 36. The Tallest Tree, 37. Clouds and Blue Sky, 38. Bars, 39. Rays, 40. Texture of Rain, 41. Sidewalk Reflections, 42. Cosmos in the Garden

It seems to be all the craze as of late on flickr to make one of these. Pure vanity. But hey, it lets me update my blog without writing an essay about javaScript (which you still may get some day here in the future).


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Well Maybe Not as Dead as I Thought

Winter Path
Originally uploaded by CodeFin.
It was good to get out with the cameara. I suppose that I just need to make myself do it. I had fun, and it was nice to walk the gardens in solitude.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Photographically Dead

It seems that when there is feast in one area of my life, there must needs be famine in another. This past week has been enlightening for me on the programming front. Some nice things just clicked into place and it was great. However, the famine right now seems to be in my ability to see the world around me. You see, I think I am artistically dead right now when it comes to photography. I can’t even make myself take the camera with me when I leave the house each day. The mental decision goes something like this:

“You really should take your camera with you today; there must be SOMETHING out there that you haven’t seen before.”

“Yes, but that might require you to break the routine, which means you will have to take a longer lunch, or perhaps change the habitual way that you go about your day.”

“That would be too much work, and I won’t see anything anyhow, so I’ll just get on my way to work… I’ll worry about pictures another day.”

And that is how weeks manage to pass between the times that I last posted a photo to flickr, and the last time I bothered to try to take pictures of anything new.

I am in a major rut, a veritable famine of photographic creativity. I see beautiful stuff every day on flickr, so I know it is out there, but I am beginning to wonder what it will take to break me out of my rut.

Any Suggestions?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Spam Makes Me Angry

SPAM. Aside from some emails that I actually cared about today; that was what arrived in my mail box. I understand that there are people who get hundreds or thousands of these each day, but I am not one of them. In fact I make it a point not to get any spam, and for the most part, I succeed.

I have been toying with the structure of this website the last couple of days, and for some reason the captcha module that I had been using to protect my contact form wouldn’t work with the way that I had changed things. Not to mention, it was buggy anyhow. So in my cleaning I removed it. What a mistake. Now, I know that this site doesn’t generate too much traffic, but receiving 42 spam emails in a matter of 24 hours is pretty sickening.

I wish that people would take a more active stance against spam. People shouldn’t open those emails, buy anything that they advertise, or patronize any website that does. It takes bandwidth, wastes programming time that could be spent on useful problems, and fills our hard drives with garbage. I seriously dislike messages created by robots delivered to my mailbox.

That brings us back to the problem at hand, the desecration of my mailbox, to solve this problem; I found a new captcha program. This one works better, but was a bit more complex, and frankly, I didn’t want to spend the time to incorporate my pretty contact form into it. This means that now when you click on ‘contact’ your humanity will be challenged, and if you can prove your human’ness’, I will show you my email address. That will just have to work until I feel like spending some more time with PHP and JavaScript.

I wonder how many people have to waste their time each day cleaning up after spammers and the ilk that they spread on the virtual world. It is probably mind numbing. Also, I wonder how many of the kids in my classes at school are the miscreants who will go out and create more of these spamming robots. Really, it takes some intelligence to make this happen, couldn’t said persons find something more constructive to do?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Yes, I know that it is possibly one of the nerdiest things in the world to say that I have been having fun coding over the last couple of evenings, but I have. I guess that in the last little bit, some of the CS numbness has worn off, which allowed me to read a book.

If you have been anywhere near the web development community in the last year or so, one of the industry buzz words is AJAX. Well it isn’t exactly a word, but an acronym that stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. Though I agree with the camp that says this is a technique not a technology, I will say that it has to be one of the coolest techniques I have played with in regard to web architecture ever.

Curious to understand what exactly AJAX was and how it worked (yes, I am naive), I visited the local Barnes and Noble and spent the gift certificate that my sister purchased me for Christmas on Foundations of Ajax. It was a great book for several reasons. First, it wasn’t too long. Second, it was full of useful examples, generally stripped of any complexity. Third, it made the right assumptions as to what the reader would need to know. It wasn’t a book heavy on JavaScript, or server side code. It was simply about AJAX techniques. For the hard core web developer it may seem simplistic and very cookbook, but for a novice like me it was perfect.

For some time now I have wanted to have a link blog that didn’t pollute the content here. Not that I have said anything profound lately. Having a blog that uses the blogger engine as a CMS, I wasn’t sure how I could accomplish this, but the aforementioned book did a great job of enlightening me. So as a result of my reading and some toying around last night, I now have a link blog titled “elsewhere”. The coolest part about it is that I can read its ATOM feed using this nifty AJAX method and publish it here!

Now that AJAX has been de-mystified, I am actually more impressed with some of the world’s leading ‘AJAX’ applications, as I now know how much JavaScript went into making them go.

Now to find links for the newly christened link blog!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Some Random Thoughts on My Education

Last week, I read Joel’s essay on The Perils of Java Schools. What a stir this post caused on his forums.

Being a student at a school that is trying to decide what it wants to teach its undergrads, I think that I have a unique perspective on this one. In my first computer science class, we used Scheme. In my second computer science class, we used Java. In my first software practice class, we used C++. In my first Systems class, we used MIPS assembly. In my second Systems class, we used C, and IA-32 assembly. Last semester, I took a programming language course, and we used Scheme and O’caml.

I can say that my school has tried to expose me to many different technologies. However, the tide is shifting. The cohort admitted in the class after mine isn’t using scheme, deciding that Java is their language of choice. I won’t pretend to understand why they have made this choice, but I will say that I appreciate the fact that I learned the basics of programming and computing in Scheme. When I took my first upper division computer science course, we had to learn pointers, and in the last Systems course I took, without understanding pointers, I would have failed. Does this admit me to the club of computer science snobbery? I don’t think so. Do I have a particular affection for pointers? No. Do I like Scheme? You bet, when I want to write a quick proof of concept, or test an algorithm, Scheme rocks! Will the kids in the cohort below me suffer for not having learned Scheme? Probably not, because alll of the upper division courses still depend on the C based languages.

I agree with many of the poster’s on Joel’s forum that claim that though most programming jobs now days don’t require you to bit twiddle, it is important for the practitioner to know what is going on “under the hood”. It makes for smarter programmers.

Is Java a bad thing? No. Is exposing students only to Java a bad thing? Probably.
Will anyone care what I think about it? Probably not.

In short, I am glad for the education that I have received, and that my professors have seen fit to have me learn many of the classical themes and low level underpinnings of modern computer science.