About Me, Featured, Good Reads, Sundry, Technical

Week of January 31, 2010

Sunday, January 31

I slept in, but Mei was catching up on sleep from her night shift, so I wandered down to the Tea Lounge. After she got up I met her at Cheryl’s for brunch, then we picked up groceries, and she ran off to the gym as I cleaned my desk area, and began writing holiday thank you cards, as she returned and cooked up food for the week.

1.0h Frontline

Monday, February 1

I was pretty productive at work, most notably cleaning up the mess I made on Friday moving my project from stand-alone Django to hosting via WSGI. The big win was in adding this to my WSGI handler:

# So, usually in django you can have print statements in your code to
# aid in debugging, but this cause trouble for WSGI, so we'll direct
# print statements to stdout instead to stderr, hopefully landing them
# out of the way and in the error log.  -dannhowa
sys.stdout = sys.stderr

Mei made her macaroni and cheese from scratch.

Later, while watching Frontline’s “Young and Restless in China” I was struck by and admired Jingjing’s concise and honest account of a tragedy in her personal life:

I’ve been through a difficult time. My fiancé and I are both very, very busy. Actually, I focused more on my work than my relationship, and it faded. He gave up. I could feel it. His heart wasn’t here any more. There were new temptations, probably a better woman than me. I felt like I was the one who always blamed or criticized him, but the other woman flattered and admired him.

He said it first: “let’s just end it.”

I tried really hard to get him back, but I just couldn’t.

Fortunately, Mei and I are both aware of the danger of putting work ahead of personal relationships.

Pushups: 34
0.75h Frontline
0.25h Saturday Night Live

Tuesday, February 2

I was glad to hear that the groundhog bit the mayor last year.

This blog got hacked for the second time. This time I am running the most current version of the software. An edit was made through the “admin” account to link an entry to some web site in Russian. I reverted the edit and deleted the “admin” user. I should probably update my plugins.

Pushups: 41
0.5h Daily Show
1.5h How Much Do You Love Me?

Wednesday, February 3

This morning I was thinking that winter might help make people liberal: they understand that suffering is universal and temporary, we are proud of our survival skills. Sometimes people need a hand, though, and you ought to help them out because we’ll all be doing better come spring time.

Where the weather is always warm, suffering is more often regarded as a consequence of personal failure, and personal failure is often inherited from shiftless parents. Helping out the hopeless just gets in the way of one making the most of long pleasant days: a noble distraction for some, but nothing one should be burdened with in the form of taxes.

It is certainly more complicated than that, but there is a gradient where you see the great social democracies at the Arctic Circle, and as you move closer to the Equator that capacity for efficient government seems to evaporate. (Also, necessity being the mother of invention, collective action being a prerequisite for mere survival in Sweden.)

Pushups: 31 + 21 + 25
Situps: 100
1.5h Barack Obama versus The GOP
0.5h Daily Show

Thursday, February 4

Advice to a coworker wondering if he should sue Toyota or request rental car reimbursement:

They might could loan you a car, being a car dealer and all, but really the fix takes about a half hour, except the government’s thinking it might be an issue with the computer, possibly caused by electromagnetic interference, so good luck figuring that one out. You might consider disabling excess electronic junk in the passenger compartment: put your mobile device in airplane mode, etc. (Personally, I would just man up and accept that my mortality is bound by fates beyond my understanding, though personally I avoid driving anyway.)

But what I really want is to hear the Governator slur it just right:


If recalls bother you then you might be better off with a used car, which has had several years for any consumer defects to have been detected, analysed, and amended. My father, who spent many years repairing electronic systems, always preferred cars from the junk yard with minimal electronics because he KNOWS they’re failure prone in unexpected ways, and he figured that after the nuclear war his car would still be driveable. (What with the EMPs . . . )

After dropping Mei off at work in the evening I finished off an open bottle of dessert wine, and watched a bunch of TV, including several episodes of “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report” and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” which featured a two-part episode where the Mooninites stole Carl’s hypno-rims and hypnotized him into sodomizing himself with a broom. Now, “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” is pretty “out there” but mid way through the second part I just had to turn that crap off.

Friday, February 5

This morning I received an unexpected phone call from a stranger in Dublin who explained that the directory link count on a Unix filesystem indicates the number of directory entries contained in that directory. Two of those are . and ... This might also explain why you can only use symbolic links for directories, since the link count field has a different purpose.

Technical Debt — A term coined by Ward Cunningham to describe the obligation that a software organization incurs when it chooses a design or construction approach that’s expedient in the short term but that increases complexity and is more costly in the long term. The technical debt vocabulary provides a way to communicate with non-technical staff in an area that has traditionally suffered from a lack of transparency. Shifting the dialog from a technical vocabulary to a financial vocabulary provides a clearer, more understandable framework for these discussions.

“Woonerf” – Anarchy the Key to Safe Streets? — Europeans are experimenting with an idea that tearing out sidewalks and sharing road space between vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians can improve both safety and speed of travel in towns with fewer than 15,000 residents. The safety is achieved by slowing vehicles to a maximum of 20 MPH-a speed at which drivers can react effectively and the human body is most likely to survive an impact. Vehicles gain speed because they can move efficiently through intersections without waiting at traffic lights.

Saturday, February 6

Today I went in search of adventure. I started walking, following the directions allowed by traffic lights, and made my way down Flatbush, right on Church, past Ocean Parkway then down past Cortelyou to Ditmas where I happened upon the hobby shop I have wanted to visit, Trainworld. That was a groovy place and I was tempted to maybe buy a ready-to-run holiday trainset or a Bachman set with a Norris locomotive but aside from not-needing-to-spend-the-money there’s also that where-would-I-put-it-anyway. At one moment I thought how my calculus for spending money on things that don’t have an obvious place to live would be changed if the request were made by my children, and I reckoned I will one day say yes to them a little more easily, but that when I was a kid I learned that since parents say no, it is important to consider the cost and value of different wishes, and that something is gained when a child learns to choose their battles.

After flirting with my boyhood fantasies and leaving the shop empty-handed, I walked toward the adjoining elevated train station, but postponed my train trip to watch several fire trucks and a small crowd of people respond to a fire in a small building. Smoke poured out the doorway and the firefighters knocked out windows and brought in a hose, while two guys climbed the fire truck ladder onto the roof, I guess for tactical reasons. Everyone admires the heroism and strength of firefighters, and for a boyish instant I wanted to become a firefighter too. While this particular fire didn’t look like much, everyone in the crowd was glad at the chance to see these men entering a burning building to make things right.

After the smoke had mostly cleared I hopped on the train and rode the F out to Coney Island, which was rewarding because that station is built in the style of the grand train terminals you still see in Europe, with possibly a dozen tracks alongside each other under a soaring ceiling, trains coming and going constantly. I hopped an N train back North, which didn’t offer the scenic view I had had on the F, because it ran in a ditch. But I did get to see the operator reach out the window at one stop to press the “local” button, which I imagined was rigged up to set the switches for the train to run on the local track. Seeing this little detail of the MTA operations was a thrill. Though, I was a little disappointed that we ran local, because the subway map says the N runs express up to Pacific Avenue. Along the way there were darkened trains parked in at the express tracks in the stations, and I wondered if they might be trying to keep some of the extra trains warm, or maybe they were doing yard maintenance and were using the express tracks for storage.

2.0h New York: Episode 2
1.0h Dirty Jobs

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