Blog-o! Notes from

Thu, 30 Aug 2007
The Hands of Karma

As I was riding to work today, just after crossing the railroad bridge, heading on to Summerhill, I noticed a man poking at his bicycle. I stopped, and asked if he needed a hand, and sure enough, he did. He seemed to have gotten his chain wedged around his Bottom bracket, in such a way that the arms of the Spider were attempting to push the top and bottom pieces of the chain through the chainstay. That obviously wasn’t working, so I grabbed my multitool, and attempted to use the largest Allen key to try to lever it out. When that too failed, I pulled out the one tool in my collection I’ve never used: The Chain Tool. After a few tries, I eventually got the chain apart, after which it was an not-so-easy matter of threading it out through the gap between the spider and the chainstay, re-threading it onto the chainring, and re-connecting it. As a final gesture of goodwill/parting gift, I gave him my last 2007 Bike Map. (Yeah, I know the link is to the 2006 page. They really have to update that sometime...) After all that, I got to the office 15 minutes late. (Well, 15 minutes later. I didn’t have a meeting or anything, and our core hours don’t start until 10:00.) But I’ve got to say, that was 15 minutes well spent, since it made the rest of my ride in seem extra-pleasant.

[Posted at 13:14 by Blake Winton] link
Thu, 16 Aug 2007
Deck Party!

And now the details:
When: September 8th, 3:00 until 8:00 (or later)...
Where: redacted
What: Beer, pizza, some kind of munchie thing, and some sort of fancy blended drink (originally scheduled to be Margaritas, although I don't know if I'm up for tequila (shudder), so maybe Piña Coladas, or some sort of Daiquiri).

RSVP, so that I know how much beer/munchies to buy. Or just show up and take your chances.

Oh, and one thing I forgot to mention in the email, since Amy and I have two kids, feel free to bring whatever little ones you have along, and they can all look at each other distrustfully, or run around screaming, or whatever it is children do when they get together in large groups.

See you there,

[Posted at 10:06 by Blake Winton] link
Wed, 15 Aug 2007

I’ve recently started using bzr as my go-to version control system, and as a newbie I’ve run into a couple of small things I’ld like changed. Fortunately, bzr is written in Python, and comes with an extensive set of unit tests, so it was easy for me to jump right in and add the feature I wanted. To be honest, I started off by writing it up as a bug report, with a trivial patch (by which I mean one without any tests). The comments on the bug led me to write up an actual mergable set of changes (which seems to be called a bundle by the bzr folks), and submit it for review. What followed was a few back-and-forths where various people pointed out things I hadn’t done correctly, or hadn’t really understood, and I fixed them. As a result, I think the code in the most recent bundle is pretty good, and is certainly far better than anything I would have produced on my own.

[Posted at 10:14 by Blake Winton] link
Sat, 11 Aug 2007
The Cottage

The girls and I just got back from a week at the cottage — Blake was there for the first few days but he had to come back for work mid-week. We stayed a full week and had a great time.

We stayed on the same beach as last year, but in a different cottage; this one was further up the beach on a rockier bit, which meant we had to trek down the road a ways to get to the sandy swimming beach. The beach we were on, though — the backyard of the cottage— had a sandy part for sitting and reading or digging in, and also lots of rocks for climbing and collecting and sliding on, so it was by no means a disaster.

The cottage had two bedrooms on the main floor and another double bed and single bed up in the loft, a little room amateurishly cobbled together in the rafters, accessible by a ladder-like staircase. Blake and I and Delphine slept there for the first weekend; after Morgan and Erik and Blake left the girls and I moved into one of the main floor bedrooms and I got to experience the quiet but deep satisfaction of falling asleep to the sound of my children's breath.

The place was pretty cottagy; I don't understand this love of wood panelling. Nostalgia, I suppose. Zaida went to scope out a different cottage for next year. It had been freshly gutted and decorated with, you guessed it, wood panelling. Nice, new wood panelling. I would slap gallons of white paint around if I had one of these places. This cottage did have some of the midcentury furnishings I favour; two beautiful pairs of wood armchairs in a fine, elegant Danish style. I couldn't get Blake to see past the orange vinyl on one pair and green tweed on the other to appreciate their airiness and elegantly tapered legs, though.

We spent a lot of time on the beach. I stupidly got sunburned twice but the girls weren't at all; they are just a little tan. Delphine was a superstar in the water; by the end of the week she was getting bowled over by waves and just picking herself up and facing the next one. Perhaps this is more interesting if you know what a fraidy cat she normally is! It's satisfying to see her face her fears and enjoy herself.

Cordelia wasn't so hot on the water; I think she doesn't like to be cold. I have lots of pictures of her looking variously forlorn, miserable, cranky and disgruntled on the beach. (I will post pictures soon.) Cordelia did have some fun playing with Zaida in the waves, but Zaida is extremely good at finding the fun for little people.

We ate well; barbecued ribs, burgers, chicken, and hot dogs; freshly picked corn on the cob, watermelon, ice cream, new potatoes, field tomatoes. Beer. Every day we tried to eat up the leftovers and every night the fridge was fuller than ever.

Baba and Zaida had some friends over on the last night we were there, two couples. Delphine was very apprehensive about meeting them, but when I exhorted her to be brave she pulled herself together and both girls were very nicely behaved and charming. Another fear conquered! Delphine took it upon herself to take care of Cordelia; when Cordelia said she was done eating Delphine wiped her up with a napkin, very officiously. Delphine was also very happy to show the guests down to the lake. As a special bonus I got to talk to adults about brainy things like computers and books. Hooray! I need to make some new friends, or perhaps just reaquaint myself with the friends I already have.

So another successful trip to the cottage, and Zaida already has next year's cottage picked out. We refine our requirements every year; by 2015 we will have identified the perfect cottage.

[Posted at 20:31 by Amy Brown] link
I Read Some More Books!

Compared to the first half of this year, in the last couple of months I've been reading like a demon!

Dangerous Planet: Natural Disasters That Changed History by Bryn Barnard. This is another book by the Outbreak dude, and I didn't like it as much but probably just because I have more of an affinity for disgusting pustulent diseases than I do for scary natural (and other) disasters. This book has the same basic format; each chapter is dedicated to a different disaster, describing how the disaster happened and how it changed the course of history. Among other things, Barnard discusses the Great Fire of London and its effect on how buildings and cities are constructed; the two (not one but two!) typhoons which devastated the army of Kublai Khan and protected Japan from invasion in the 1200s, leading to a certain sense of invincibility in the Japanese; and of course the classic asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs.

This book is beautifully designed and well-illustrated, clearly written and informative.

Your Four-Year-Old: Wild and Wonderful by Louise Bates Ames. I had to read this to see what it had to say about four-year-olds, which my mom friends and I have already observed are bossy and braggy as hell. Ames agrees, although she gives it a more positive spin; she says if you can view your four-year-old's noisy, pushy arrogance with as much amused detachment as you can muster the year will go much more smoothly.

As usual the observations in this book are spot on, and very helpful in distinguishing your child's personality from the phases she's going through. It gets a little dated sometimes but that's part of the fun of it.

Thankfully, the next book in the series is subtitled "Sunny and Serene". Hooray!

The Mac is Not A Typewriter by Robin Williams. I only read this because Blake had it out, and a lot of it was stuff my brother taught me back in Grade 11 ("The Amiga is not a typewriter!"); don't use underlines, don't use spaces when you should use tab stops. Williams also gets into fancy stuff like Kerning, and she is very keen — perhaps obsessively so — on curly quotes and em-dashes. She uses some very strong words to describe straight quotes, words which make me think I am dealing with an ill person and should perhaps disregard her advice. Really, they're quotation marks.

I am also leery— born perhaps of having been introduced to computers through Unix in the early nineties — of using non-ASCII characters, really ever, but especially in email and on the web. Williams even suggests using curly quotes in filenames! I'm sorry, I don't even use spaces in filenames. That's craziness. Excuse me, I am going to go and grow a long beard now, and perhaps refrain from bathing for a few weeks. I must dust my green-screen ASCII terminal.

At the cottage last week I read Home Leave by Libby Purves which was fantastic and I loved it; it's about four siblings, the children of a diplomat, who were hauled all around the world when they were young. It's about what home means, and of course I related to the situation of having your sibling as your only constant for your whole childhood. There is a lot of talk of children and babies in the book and Purves writes so realistically and richly about children; they don't disappear or only feature as plot or characterization devices, or worse just as noisy perplexing ciphers, as they so often do in novels. Purves knows how to write about how children change you and affect you for better and for worse. I loved the characters and the stories and the ideas. And the ending; the ending was immensely satisfying.

I also read Pug Hill by Alison Pace which was pretty disappointing after the Purves. This is a book about a thirty-one year old in Manhatten looking for love and sorting herself out. The protagonist annoyed the crap out of me with her whining and self-absorption and judgementalness and immaturity, and she didn't get all that much better through the book, although I think she was supposed to. It was like Bridget Jones in Manhattan, except blessedly free of talk about dieting.

[Posted at 20:03 by Amy Brown] link
Wed, 08 Aug 2007
I’m Back!

Ah, the city. How I love it. I’ve just gotten back from a trip to the cottage my parents’ rented, and while the house is sort of lonely with just me there, I’m really enjoying being able to flush the toilet, and have a long shower, and run the air conditioning, and all those other conveniences of modern life. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the cottage. I think I had more fun there this year than I have since I was a kid, but it is still nice to be home.

I think the main trick will be keeping on top of everything so that I’m not making a mad rush to get everything done on Sunday morning, before Amy and the kids get home. It’ll be an extra-special trick, since Trevor’s on vacation this week, so I’ll be the lead server developer for the two products that we’re trying to release in the next week or so. Ah, well. It wouldn’t be fun without some stress, right?

[Posted at 09:59 by Blake Winton] link