Heck, let us jump upon the social media bandwagon. If you don’t “get” Twitter then I’d say that Twitter is pretty much what you make of it. And for me, that’s a distraction where I can pop in and see if anyone I follow has come up with anything entertaining to say, and I can share a thoughtlet of what is on my mind, and then as quick as it came, Twitter is gone and I’m back to the rest of my day.
The following are entertaining bits I have seen fit to “re-tweet” and share with others during 2010, and now I’ll share them with you.
I took Mei to Europe. We visited London, Paris, Lyon, Rome, and Venice. Then the volcano erupted in Iceland, so we visited Florence, and camped out at Lido, near Rome’s airport.
We also made it out to visited Dad and Gwen in Colorado, and Mom and Grandma visited us in Brooklyn.
Poland lost much of its executive branch in a plane crash, and BP began spilling oil into the gulf of Mexico.
Mei learned to ride a bicycle. I got to tour the New York’s abandoned “City Hall” subway station. We began fostering two older “rescue” kittens, Maxwell and Maggie, in an attempt to “socialize” them to living with people. Mei’s folks visited to attend her graduation from residency, and a week later I took her to Coney Island.
On May 19, a young man, Ronald Glover, was murdered around the corner from our apartment. BP continued spilling oil in to the Gulf of Mexico.
One weekend after brunching at Two Boots in Park Slope, Mei and I were walking through Prospect Park. I asked her to stop, got down on a knee and asked if she would marry me. With tears in her eyes, she accepted my proposal, and we kissed.
BP continued spilling oil in to the Gulf of Mexico, while we watched world football games on television.
Mei and I trekked to Hoboken, New Jersey, to watch the fireworks.
In Oakland, BART police officer Johannes Mehserle received a light sentence of manslaughter for his shooting death of Oscar Grant. Oakland, to its credit, failed to riot. Mid-way through the month, BP stopped spilling oil in to the Gulf of Mexico.
As Mei was finished with her residency, and I was still employed by a San Jose-based company, we prepared for our move back to Northern California.
ROAD TRIP! We drove all of our belongings in a Penske rent-a-truck from New York City to Mountain View, CA, stopping in Chicago and Pueblo, CO along the way.
So, how does working from home compare with working from the office? Working from home allows greater productivity, because you skip the commute and can just grind away for several hours with few interruptions. It can also get a bit lonely at times. At the office, I’m not as productive as I was at the home office, but I get more opportunities to collaborate with colleagues: sharing skills and refining ideas. I’d say that for technology, a 40-80% telecommute could be ideal, but I haven’t had the chance to experiment, as our first Mountain View apartment was a one-bedroom.
The landlord never answered my letter, but instead filed a civil suit of unlawful detainer against us. I talked to a bunch of people in Virginia to establish that they had made a billing error and undercharged our November rent, and they wanted me to pay the difference, plus a late fee, plus re-pay the December rent, plus their legal fees. I talked to some lawyers who indicated that we had a good case, so I compiled an answer, and am looking forward to the hearing.
However, the stress of worrying over an eviction proceeding over the holidays was a bit much, so we took the opportunity to seek out and move to a bigger apartment in a nicer complex. Since nobody wants to move the week before Christmas, they gave us the first month’s rent free.
Mei was notified that she had passed the medical Board Exam for which she had been studying since finishing her residency. To say that she was elated would be an understatement.
Congress repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and there was much rejoicing.
We made it home to Chicago for the holidays. There was much eating and visiting family and friends.
Automation saves time both by getting tasks done more quickly and by ensuring consistency, thus reducing support calls.
Start with a script that outputs the commands that would do the task. The SA can review the commands for correctness, edit them for special cases, and then paste them to the command line. Writing such scripts is usually easier than automating the entire process and can be a stepping stone to further automation of the process.
A simple script that assists with the common case may be more valuable than a large system that automates every possible aspect of a task. Automate the 80 percent that is easy and save the special cases for the next version. Document which cases require manual handling, and what needs to be done.
There have been times in my career when I have felt that people look at automation as a one-off task. “Write a script to automate this task.” Other times I have been asked how I go about automating things, and my answer is that automation isn’t a task so much as an iterative process:
I try to do the task at least once, maybe a few times.
Along the way I document what I had to do to get the job done.
From there, I follow the documentation, and refine edge cases as I go.
After that I’ll write a script, and get it working. (do)
I revise the documentation to explain how to use the script. (document)
And then, I use the script to complete requests, fixing the script when it fails. (refine)
Often enough I have been called upon to help another group automate something. That is a little trickier because I may never get the chance to do the task. Hopefully the other group has written some documentation, otherwise I’ll have to tease it out of them. The whole refinement process is the most obviously collaborative. I’ll document “use the script . . . it should do this . . . if it does something else, send me details.”
There is also the question of what-is-worth-automating. I believe it is the “Practice of System and Network Administration” which breaks tasks in to four buckets: frequent-easy, frequent-difficult, infrequent-easy, infrequent-difficult. You get the most payoff by focusing your automation on the frequent tasks. Easier tasks are generally easier to automate, so go ahead and start there, then turn your focus on the frequent-yet-difficult tasks. If you regard automation as an iterative process, then infrequent tasks are that much harder to automate. This is doubly true when the task is sufficiently infrequent that the systems have a chance to evolve between task execution. Infrequent tasks tend to be adequately served by well-maintained documentation in lieu of an automated process.
A last note for infrequent tasks. Part of the difficulty for these can be a combination of remembering to do them, and finding the correct documentation. One approach to “automating” an infrequent task would be to write a script that files a request to complete the task. This request should of course include a pointer to the documentation. For example, I have a cron job which sends me an e-mail to complete a monthly off-site backup for my personal web site. The e-mail contains the list of commands I need to run. (And yes, the daily local database backups are executed automatically.)
The man spends a few hours in the morning posting to his blog, and the rest of the day wandering the streets of New York City, his senses keen for prey, which he captures with the bravery of asking a stranger if he can take their photo.
How does he pay the rent? The video doesn’t get in to that. For me it is enough to see a guy has found his particular thing, that he’s in his element, and that he is this human archetype, the lone hunter wandering his territory in search of a prize.
I have that uneasy feeling that I am forgetting something. I guess it may have something to do with the fact that after having resigned herself to my loyalty to my beat up old round-the-world college backpack, Mei had me empty it so she could take it in for repairs as a birthday present. Subtract that missing element from the new apartment I’m still unpacking in to after the holidays . . .
Or its that yesterday I spent some time at the hospital visiting a friend from older days, hanging out with his folks and keeping them company while their son, my age, drifted in and out of sleeping off the stroke he had on Friday. I remember the time spent in Colorado when it was Dad’s turn to shake off his own stroke.
And then there’s the Congressman shot clear through her left lobe. I listen attentively when they explain that, as with my friend and with my father, the left is where language is. One question is whether there is motor control in the right hand, since the hand is controlled next door from language.
I worry about my friend, but I know he will be okay, one way or another. One way he won’t be able to work, and may even need some personal assistance. Another way is that between his youth, spirit, and clean living, he will rehabilitate so well that years from now he will have difficulty convincing people who hadn’t seen it that he had once had a stroke.
Only time will tell. For now his folks are taking turns sleeping in the reclining chair next to his bed in the critical care. The son is there to rest and cooperate with the Doctors. The parents are there because there really is nowhere else in the world they can be right now. They attend to the details of managing their son’s life and care while he is down. I worry more about them, because I have some idea of where they are, and their needs can be better understood without a medical degree.
That may be it. I feel like I am missing something because instead of the hospital I am headed to the office. I would rather wait around at the hospital. Fortunately my friend and his family are inundated by visitors, and dropping by for a while in the evening after work, I won’t be in the way.
I was up ’til 1am working on some diagrams to help illustrate a book. At 5:30am the cat started jumping on us for breakfast. That’s not right, so I expressed my disapproval and locked her out of the bedroom.
But I had to hop out of bed and engage her a few more times with the spray bottle before she stopped trying to dig through the door.
Then she started crying. And I worried that maybe the neighbors might complain.
Last month I “cut and copied” the following letter printed in the Palo Alto Daily News. (Or I think its called the Daily Post now.) Now I shall paste, transcribe and share:
The text reads:
Bike changed a life
Dear Editor: A recent letter on “bikes vs. cars” stated that the over-50 crowd was “not about to go out and buy a bicycle” to replace their cars. Read on. Three years ago, I got in my car to go to an appointment and discovered that I had a dead battery. Frustrated (my wife had our other car) I slammed the car door only to notice right above me was my son’s old mountain bike hanging from the garage rafters.
I got it down — both tires were flat — pumped them up and rode off to my appointment.
Until that moment, I had not been on a bike in 40 years. After three or four blocks I wondered why it had taken me so long to get back on a bike. It was fantastic!
Several days later, I purchased my own bike on Craigslist and was soon riding to and from work — 15 miles round trip — taking the bus on days it was too cold or to dark. I’ve lost weight and never felt better.
After two months, my wife and I realized we could get by with one car, so we sold my car and used the money to put solar panels on our house. I now pay nothing for electricity. We’ve lowered our carbon footprint significantly. I’m 57 years old.
The market has been doing well lately, but even I am surprised.
Back in March 2009 when things were looking their bleakest, I scratched together less-than-my-usual-amount of cash and bought shares in a market index. On that occasion, QQQQ (Nasdaq 100) at $28.17/share. Today I noticed that, at $57, that stock has more than doubled in value since I bought it.
Three things come to mind.
1) Yay me! (Though, I have seen plenty of my money evaporate in stocks, so I won’t get too smug.)
2) Warren Buffet’s advice, to “be greedy when others are scared, and scared when others are greedy.” Since people are getting greedy, I shouldn’t feel too bad selling stock at this height to cover wedding expenses.
3) My perpetual ambivalence about the stock market as a gambling parlor that doesn’t reflect true economic value, but is really a bunch of rascals trying to trick each other. The real value in our economy is in the workers and the planet, and the stock market on a good day is an ethically blind attempt to influence the direction in which the workers will direct their work.
The G2 is fast as heck. It has all the cool new Android apps, and T-Mobile let’s you do tethering out of the box. We moved our apartment last month and setting up a wireless access point on my phone was braindead easy and plenty fast while we waited for the DSL installation. Everything works faster, and the battery life is better to boot.
The keyboards has a generally nice feel to it. But . . .
The biggest drawback is the lack of a number row on the keyboard. Really irritating to have to press ALT to type numbers. Entering “special” characters is a bitch-and-a-half. For example, to type a < you have to type ALT-ALT-long-press-j. WTF? Also, I miss the scroll wheel. There is a button on the phone that sometimes-but-not-always works as a directional pad to surf through a text field but I have learned to stab my thumb at the screen until I manage to land the cursor where I want it. (What I really miss is the Sidekick 2 direction pad.)
It is a very very nice phone with a short list of dumb shortcomings.
I was on my way out of the office when I noticed a bright green sticker on a car in the parking lot.
It looks like someone gets paid to drive around the parking lots at 2AM and keep track of how many days anyone has parked anywhere. I can not say enough good things about that. But I would note that while the car was promised to be towed on Thursday morning, I made my discovery on Friday afternoon.
Didn’t look like an abandoned car, either. A Shiny, pastel blue Volkswagen Beetle . . .
The approaching Lunar (Chinese) New Year is the Year of the Rabbit, which is the same as the Lunar New Year in which I was born. The red envelopes are called 红包, (literally “red envelope”) and they are for gifts of money given to kids.
“Gung Hay Fat Choy” I believe is a Cantonese transliteration of 恭喜发财, which in Mandarin is gong1 xi3 fa1 cai1. A further clue is that the Chinese characters on the chalk board are the traditional Chinese characters, used outside of the People’s Republic of China, and more familiar to past generations of Chinese immigrants, often from Southern China.
You can see that the traditional characters (top) look very similar to their simplified counterparts (bottom):