Biography, Technical, Technology

November, 2010

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/12/01/november-2010/

Monday, November 1

Potentially nifty: a text-to-speech utility that writes its output to an audio device, which you could set as your system’s sound input. This way you could have “conversations” in your headphones via VoIP or Skype without having to make disruptive noises or emitting sensitive information in a shared environment like an open office or a library.


sudo apt-get install epos
sudo /etc/init.d/epos start
say "this does not work"
sudo apt-get remove epos

sudo apt-get install espeak
espeak "hello there"

But it appears there is no good way on Linux, anyway, to tell a command to dump its audio output to the microphone. Bah.

Wednesday, November 3

I got my sutures out the other day. I’ve still got the band-aid on my chin, cleaning and re-dressing twice a day, until the skin is no longer broken. Doc said I’d be shaving regular next week.

Thursday, November 4

Nice: I got the WordPress for Android App working thanks to Dan at Automattic pointing out I had an SVN-corrupted xmlrpc.php file.

Annoying: No idea how I can possibly type < or > with this nice-but-crippled G2 keyboard.

I made it up to San Bruno today, aboard Caltrain. Today is the first time I took my bike on Caltrain and it really wasn’t as bad as a colleague made it sound. The yellow tags are impossible to find though, so I made a couple labels to stick on my bike indicating what stations I ride between. In San Bruno, I stopped at the curb where I face-planted last week. Nothing special about it. I got to the office way faster than I have by walking. Probably 20 minutes compressed to 5 or not more than 10. The only unpleasant part is crossing El Camino. The crossing I chose had a crosswalk on only one side, so I had to cross against traffic to get rolling across the street.

Friday, November 5

Well, I finally have a new watch band . . . my old one broke such that it would no longer attach to my wrist, but I could dangle it off my belt. Now I have to get used to looking at my wrist again.

Monday, November 8

Some days I just feel blue. Like a dark cloud is over my heart. Not unlike overcast weather. Fortunately I often have the self-awareness to understand that, whether or not I know its origin, this is likely just a passing cloud, and the best way to weather it is to just take life on as a normal day, perhaps with an added dash of industriousness to stave off the natural slothitude that a funk brings on.

Just bought an mp3 on Amazon.com. Thanks, Bruce, for the pick-me-up.

I was just reading in The New Yorker about different ways that salaries are determined. I identified with having accepted the “authority ranking” or feudal model earlier in my career, when what I valued most was the opportunity to work, to serve and build and learn. Back when I still kind of hoped that wages were fair, that bosses valued the contribution of their employees. Back in 1999 this even seemed true: the startup I was working for noticed that I was kicking butt, and ramped my salary up by 20% after my first six months on the job, and again after a year . . . everything was noble and virtuous.

But nobility and virtue don’t often last. Recessions hit, money dries up, eager young employees burn themselves out and haven’t a clue what to do about it. Layoffs come . . . a decade later I have left for greener pastures as many times as I have been layed off. Welcome to the “market pricing” model of economic interaction.

I find some difficulty feeling passionate about being a market priced, employment-at-will agent. Just as sex feels better with someone you love than when you’re getting paid for it, so too does work. Fortunately, the current gig offers competetive compensation, likely stability, and the chance to relate to coworkers over several years. I guess that is as close to “married” one can get in our industry . . . and yet of course I keep my eye out for new opportunities.

And I frequently worry about getting too comfortable, getting a little flabby in the skill set because there is plenty of work I would have to do at a startup that is off-my-plate at a large company. Better attain depth where I needn’t worry over breadth, eh?

Thursday, November 11

I had a meeting today that I haven’t been looking forward to. Basically, I have spent most of my career at smaller companies, where I tend to have a lot more say over how we do things, and where the simple, obvious, light-weight solution will tend to carry the day. But at a large company, there are enough competing interests that the way we do things is often not up to me, and is far more complex and open to error (in my view) than how I would go about doing it.

Note an editorial bias, right? Of course I have a high opinion of my own way of solving a problem. Doesn’t mean my approach is the right one . . .

So, at the end of this meeting, I got McCoy in my head. “I’m just a simple country Doctor.” Well, I’m just a small-shop sysadmin, serving on a corporate flagship. I don’t really understand or approve of everything that is going on, but that isn’t my problem. I focus on getting my own job done and I am happy to give Captain Kirk a piece of my mind, but at the end of the day the Captain gets what the Captain asked for.

A Simple Country Doctor

Wednesday, November 17

From today’s work log:

Scout around a bit as to the advantages of managing system configuration
files in git. Git’s strength appears to be strong branch and merge
capabilities, working offline from the central repository, and the
capacity for fine-grained commits. Disadvantage is a steeper learning
curve. Anyway, we could potentially allow staff to grab a local branch
make several changes, review changes and reject those that proved
infeasible, then submit changes back to the central repository. Later,
a change management team could review differences between the central
repository and the stage / production repositories, then selectively
merge changes to the more stable environments in an appropriate manner.

I had lunch with Mei today at a Chinese place on Castro St in Mountain View. At the next table I overheard some guys talking about the size of the Oort Cloud if Earth were the size of a grain of sand . . . hard-core nerdy lunch conversation. I recounted that when I got off the light rail the other day I heard one guy explaining to another guy the theory behind anti-matter reactions that power the warp propulsion system in Star Trek. When you live here you live in the pulsing underbelly heart of nerd-dom. I kind of like it.

Thursday, November 18

My bicycle lights came in from Amazon.com and I tried them out yesterday on the ride to the light rail. (Between the weather and a recent injury I’m usually reluctant to ride all the way to work.) The front light was somewhat occluded by the basket so last night I moved it to a helmet mount, which required some careful trimming of a cross-member atop the helmet so the thing would fit, but nothing likely to compromise structural integrity.

Yesterday I also received my replacement G2. I got it up and running and it went and updated itself. It made a big todo about “wifi calling” which . . . uses minutes? Really? REALLY?! So, I’ll provide the bandwidth and you’ll charge me . . . but it also quietly enabled Tethering, via USB and WiFi. I’m using it now. I heard a rumor that T-Mobile was fixing to charge an extra fee for tethering. Hopefully though at the moment they’re content to charge customers to make telephone calls via their home wifi networks.

(Oh yeah, and I’m on the light rail at the moment, though updating a blog is hardly much of a test of tethering.)

I wish I wish that carriers would simply figure out a monetary equivalence between bandwidth and minutes, then just let me pay a transparent rate for what I use. Eventually I guess someone will drop the shenanigans and attract customers like me. As it is I’m miffed that I pay more per month for a calling plan I rarely use than I do for the data surcharge, which as far as I am concerned is the primary point of carrying around a location-aware pocket computer.

Telephone calls? Not my thing.

Later, I was looking at Google’s announcement regarding improved navigation UI. The improved transit overview is nice, but then I happened to request the bike route between work and home, and now that Google has caught on that the Bay Trail North of Moffett is open, it suggests that at the first choice, despite it taking ten minutes longer than more direct options. Anyway, it is nice to know now that my bicycle commute is 11.6 miles in 56 minutes. (I think it takes me a bit longer as I usually take a little break along the way.)

Bicycle Commute North of Moffett

Saturday, November 20

Learned some basic git, and used it for updating the web site.

Installation to more-current-version of git:

sudo yum install gettext-devel expat-devel curl-devel zlib-devel openssl-devel
git clone git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/git/git.git
cd git
make install

(Update path to include $HOME/bin . . .)

Using git:

git init
git add .
git config user.email dannyman@toldme.com
git config user.name "Danny Howard"
git branch somefeature
git checkout somefeature

(Edit files . . . test . . .)

git diff
git add changed files
git commit
git checkout master
git merge somefeature
git branch -d somefeature
git log

The big thing being it is trivial to create branches and switch among them in your working directory. So, you can start working on some feature, put it on the shelf, work on a different feature, and basically submit only the changes you feel are baked back to the main line.

Feedback Welcome


October, 2010

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/11/01/october-2010/

Friday, October 1

Sign of a good commute!

Last night I dreamed that this pizza place I like to go to gave me an extremely awful experience, and wanted to charge me for an entire pie for a mediocre slice to boot, then said something about just because a slice had hit the floor that their floor was as clean as the average dinner plate. I threw down some cash and loudly declared how awful they were, and that although I had liked them before I was sorely disappointed and they had lost a customer. I was pleased with myself for stating my grievances so clearly, because I rarely complain to a restaurant. I stormed out of there. A part of me hoped that the manager might follow me to the street and apologize but I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

I figured I’d have the very last word by posting a negative review on Yelp, then realized that I was dreaming, and it would be unfair to post a negative review of a place based on a dream experience. But then, the place only exists in my dream, so . . .

I think the pizza place was actually a metaphor for the ex-wife, in which case running off to Yelp wasn’t quite the answer, either. My dreams have been somewhat anxious lately, and I’m not clear as to why.

And, yes, there were goats along my commute today, but on a side road gated off from the trail.

Wednesday, October 13

I am so happy to see these photos of the Chilean miners coming out of the ground. Goners brought back to their families. I just happened to scroll past comment 163:

“So many people are thanking God, but I want to thank all the engineers, scientists, and workers who spent months and years developing and deploying the technology and resources necessary to make this possible. Thank you for giving these men their lives back and for providing all of us with an example of triumph over great adversity.”

Thanks, Aurora!

Thursday, October 14

Most of our office is cubes. High, neutral-colored walls that evoke in my mind the cells of medieval monks. At the periphery are rooms with doors: conference rooms for meetings or private offices for managers, whose work lives are dominated by meetings. The individual contributors like me are the muscles, and the managers are the nervous system.

In my building, the naming scheme for conference rooms is famous comedians. Bill Cosby, Conan O’Brien, Carrol Burnett . . .

Any of these conference rooms / offices have a name plate outside the door, indicating either the occupant or which conference room is inside. My first confusion came when I was trying to find a quiet room for a phone call, and spotting a darkened room with a comedian whose name I didn’t recognize and sticking my head in to find someone’s unoccupied office . . .

The managers in my group know to keep their offices locked, while away.

This morning someone asked me if I knew where so-and-so was. Never heard of him. I asked, in all sincerity, “is he an employee or a comedian?”

In our monks cells, we’ll take what bland pasty humor we can get.

This morning I learned that my grand-uncle, Bill McConeghey, has passed. He had just entered hospice care following a stroke. This was his time to go and even though I never knew him so well I miss him. He was a good guy who looked after others, and had a decent sense of humor to boot. A good guy. A role model.

And as I wrote to a well-meaning Christian relative:

“This is a time for Atheists to do their thing according to their beliefs. This is a time to offer comfort to people where they are, and an opportunity for you to respect, observe and appreciate the different religious beliefs of a family who are grieving. Be quiet, listen, engage in the universal human relationship we can all share regardless of religion. In this way, if someone finds a need to learn more about your religious beliefs, your words will find a receptive audience.”

Thursday, October 21

Cisco ūmi. It is a HD webcam you hook up to your HDTV and you can talk to friends and family. Like Skype, but much better quality. Unlike Skype, which is free, you’ll need to spend $600 on the appliance, plus a $25 monthly fee. It is also Japanese for “sea urchin” and to spell this product-for-North-America properly you will need to render an unfamiliar glyph. (&#363)

I’m not quite seeing how this even remotely competes with Google TV, which will do all sorts of stuff like stream Netflix, along with HD video chat. The Logitech Revue will sell for $450. ($300 for the Revue, $150 for the camera accessory.) No monthly fee, that I am aware of, at least not for video chat. No glyphs, either. Revue is French for “review.”

I might be missing something but to me it looks like my employer has missed the ball really really badly here.

Thursday, October 28

Yesterday after 4:45pm I was hustling toward San Bruno Caltrain to catch the 4:52. I hadn’t figured I would make it at first but as I got closer to the station I realized I could totally catch that train so I stepped up the pace. I hustled through an intersection, studying the cars to ensure it was safe. Then my mind went somewhere else for a moment, like I was dreaming, and I found myself on the sidewalk.

“You okay?”

There was blood on my hand. Must have cut my hand.

“Are you okay?”

I fell down? Really? Okay. Must have tripped on that curb.

“You okay?”

I was in a daze. I answered by swearing a little bit. I got up. I figured out the blood on my hand was coming from somewhere else. My face.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah. I think so. I guess. You tell me?”

“That’s a pretty nasty gash. You’ll need stitches.”

Stitches? I should do that instead of catching the train. “So, I should call an ambulance to take me to the ER?”

“Don’t do that. They’ll charge you a lot of money.”

“Oh. Uhm. I have Kaiser.”

“There’s a Kaiser in South City. I could give you a ride. Would you like a ride?”

I didn’t want to impose and I was apologetic over the possibility of bleeding in the lady’s white Camaro. The guy in the red pickup truck thanked her for offering me a ride.

“There’s a Kaiser in San Bruno on El Camino by the 380,” I offered.

“That one doesn’t have an ER. It is just Dermatology and stuff.”

She explained which bus I could take back to Caltrain. I said I’d call my sweetheart to pick me up. We made small talk: jobs, where we’re from, and that neither of was “missing” the World Series. She offered to stick around long enough to see if I would be admitted. Then she conceded that there was no doubt I would be admitted. I thanked her profusely.

The lady put a band on my arm right through her teller window. I was buzzed past the waiting area to the triage nurse, who handed me a clean gauze pad and took my blood pressure. I was sent to wait a little while, and I was pleased to find my cell phone undamaged. I messaged Mei the situation, as I wasn’t sure if cell phones were all that acceptable in the ER. A nice lady cleaned out my wound and Dr Han stitched me up.

“Did you lose consciousness?”

My answer evolved from “I don’t know . . . I don’t think so” to “I must have, because I don’t remember falling, just the getting up. I’m really dazed.”

The standard for a concussion would be a brain scan, but given my youth and health, this would likely be a waste of radiation. In the car Mei explained that if I had fallen due to a seizure or something, that would be a big concern. I explained that I must have tripped on the curb, looking out for cars instead of the sidewalk, and I had been walking too fast to correct a stumble, which I am otherwise darn good at.

I marveled at the speed with which they had looked after me, that I had gotten the “express treatment” and the ER staff explained that this was because I had come in injured. “I’ll remember that for next time.” They charged me $35. I paid cash. I was happy, and grateful that I wasn’t in for worse.

On the way home I remarked to Mei that when I’d see the drawers labelled “rape information” in the various languages I felt badly about the things that happen to people, and I recalled the sad stories that Mei has brought home with her. “That’s why I have to unload,” she said.

“My life is mostly free from terrible burdens, so I’m happy to listen. I really respect you for the work that you do.”

She put me to bed early. This confused the cat, who started giving me the “breakfast call” around midnight, until Mei fed her around 8am, finally silencing our defective alarm clock. “It is probably just as well,” Mei explained, that the-cat-who-loves-breakfast was performing “neuro checks” on me to ensure that I wasn’t the worse for wear after my bump-on-the-noggin.

Our cat Maggie had been to veterinary Urgent Care just the day before. It turns out she had an asthma attack. Poor girl.

“Thank you Nurse Maggie!”


Friday, October 29

Last night I held Maggie as Mei examined her with a stethoscope. Maggie isn’t big on being held, but I think after her latest trip to the vet maybe she has established causality between feeling bad, going to the vet, being examined, and feeling better. Mei thinks that she has learned “stethoscope and being scruffed means hold still good kitty.”

Anyway, Maggie was huffing a bit, as she runs through the course of her asthma treatment, but it wasn’t bad enough to head in to the veterinarian.

We watched Community and SNL from last Saturday. The Weekend Update was hilarious. The Rent is Too Damn High, then a Ferkle is a Fat Erkle. “After you’ve had one you ask yourself: ‘did I do that?!'” I also enjoyed the description of “a coked-up gay candyland.”

Obama on Jon Stewart . . . Stewart could have I don’t know, asked him a few questions maybe like “you want to go through Congress? Really? A court fulfils your campaign promise to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and you gotta file an appeal? Could you explain that?” I think Obama handled himself well, and maybe reminded some progressive youths to schlep down to the polls and vote.

Speaking of which, I haven’t received a registration card or voter information . . . well, I got a thing from New York City explaining the issues there. I’ll tell you what the issue is in New York City: The Rent is Too Damn High. As for California I’ll figure it out and provisional ballot if I have to.

1 Comment

Biography, Excerpts, Religion

September, 2010

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/09/30/september-2010/

Wednesday, September 1

This morning I skipped the bicycle ride to work, figuring that inhaling auto exhaust is less advisable on a “Spare the Air” day. Then I got double-whammied by the VTA at Evelyn station, where I arrived just-in-time to have caught a train on the platform, except I had to buy a ticket first. And of course, once the train was gone my $5 bill slid right in and required none of the usual massaging and unfolding-of-the-corners.

So, I caught another train one stop out to Mountain View: the end of the line. Since it is one track at Evelyn, any train waiting to start its run from Mountain View has to wait. And wait it did, until we pulled up to the platform. The train I wanted to be on slid back toward Evelyn before my train could even open its doors. So, I waited another several minutes to leave Mountain View, but I got to pass the time reading, which I can’t do on the bicycle, so I’m not going to complain much.

When I got back from lunch I learned that the market had rallied, and my limit order to sell TSLA at $20.45 had finally executed. It actually peaked ten cents higher and then closed at $20.45. This is the second time I had rode Tesla’s fluctuations successfully and now that I’m no longer on the East Coast and the market starts its day before I wake up, I figured I’d cash out of this fancy-pants chicanery and buy DIA. But I placed a limit buy at $100, which is where it has been lately. “Name your price!”

Thursday, September 2

“The simple view is that medicine exists to fight death and disease, and that is, of course, its most basic task. Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And, in a war that you cannot win, you don’t want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don’t want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knew how to fight for territory when he could and how to surrender when he couldn’t, someone who understood that the damage is greatest if all you do is fight to the bitter end.”

–Atul Gawande
“Letting Go”
The New Yorker
August 2, 2010

Friday, September 3

Biked to work today. Ordered a tape recorder for the99ers.net and pulled an old picture from the Tellme days for the theme’s header image. Dinner tomorrow with a friend who is moving back to Chicago. Sunday I’ll drop Mei off at the airport so she can fly to LA for the week for her boards review course.

Monday, September 6

Not much to say.

From the Catacombs, beneath Paris.

I don’t like Flickr’s new interface. It used to be that if you viewed “all sizes” you could get the HTML to link to a photo. Now you have to click on a FAQ, then navigate back to the photo, and go down a different route to grab the HTML. Would it be so wrong to support the navigation habits of users who have been using the site for over half a decade? All the buttons that used to be just a click away are buried under a menu, and I sometimes have to scroll down to beneath the photo to change the title. I also miss that tags used to each be on their own line. The new interface seems like its been labotomized so that we can be filled in with a bigger photo, and more white space.


Okay, just wanted to let that out.

The sweetheart is away. I am copying some episodes of The IT Crowd over to play.

Tuesday, September 7

I took a different route to work today, up Stevens Creek, over to Ellis and then tracing along 237 and 101, first on quiet frontage roads and ultimately on dedicated bike trail. It was nice and had very little traffic stress compared to my Evelyn-Wolfe-Arquez-San Thomas-Tasman route. On the other hand, I end up breathing in 8 lanes of highway exhaust much of the way. Do I prefer the quick death of a vehicle collision or the slow death of lung disease? Hopefully we can repair that stuff in a few decades.

It is not that children are just smaller adults, it is that adults are larger children.

Thursday, September 9

I have an orthodontic consult this afternoon. Consequently, I am working from home today. I took my hardware VPN back in since I don’t need it any more, and can free up some desk space and power drain. Alas, I had to jump through a few little hoops to get software VPN working this morning. I have been back at the office for just over a month now and my commutes to San Jose and San Bruno have all been via public transit or bicycle, with the occasional ride home from a co-worker. This little bit pleases me.

Sunday, September 12

“It occurred to him that life, which he’d treated as a pastime, and which he’d thought he could yet outdistance, had finally caught up with him. And he’d discovered, much as he’d suspected, that once life caught up with you, you could never quite shake it again. It endeavored to hobble you with greater and greater frequency. How you managed to remain upright became your style, who you were.”

–David Bezmozgis
“The Train of Their Departure”
The New Yorker
August 9, 2010

Mei comes back tonight. I pick her up at the airport around midnight. After too long, I have gotten my hair cut, at a Chinese place where speaking English is sufficiently awkward that the lady skipped the usual foreplay of asking what I wanted and just got down to the business of cutting my hair. Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am!

Compared to Brooklyn, Mountain View is a sleepy, slow town, where people spend their time waiting for turn-arrows and a trip to the convenience store invariably requires one to stand patiently in line, as the lady carefully counts out exact change and labors over the implications of whether it is worthwhile to sign customers up for the club card, while I quietly wait in line, nostalgic over all the times in the past year when I had ducked in to a store, exchanged quick cash with the proprietor, and was back on my way. Club cards be damned. They have no place at a convenience store.

Hello, my name is sheep!

Monday, September 13

From the upcoming “Social Network” movie, via The New Yorker:

“Listen. You’re going to be successful and rich. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a tech geek. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.”

As someone surrounded by geeks, I’ve always known that if someone thinks I’m an asshole, it is because either I am an asshole, they are an asshole, or between us we’re just confused as to who the asshole is.

Tuesday, September 14

Advice sent to a loved one:

Aaaaanyway what I’d do, if anything, is thank the lady for her good intentions, and apologize that sorry, I can’t send her any money because of my discomfort over the quality of decision making made in the name of religion. It sounds like her mission is to overtly spread the idea that personal morality can not be guided by the innate human capacity to discern right from wrong, but by a confusing and contradictory corpus of Iron Age mythology mediated by a competing group of organizations which are at best patriarchal in nature and at worst openly practice terrorism and sexual violence. This approach to enriching humanity is a cause I could never support. I would explain that I would be strongly inclined to make contributions on the behalf of secular charities with morally clear missions like Habitat or MSF.

Its like, you can gently suggest that someone’s belief system is foolish and deadly without having to bring up the inquisition, the IRA, or 9/11. After all, she thinks you’re going to hell, so, whatever. If someone ever wants to throw down I’m sure you can get all Richard Dawkins on their ass.

Wednesday, September 15

San Bruno fire Captain Bill Forester’s Engine 51 was one of the first two teams on the scene; the other big truck got hot so quickly its windshield exploded. “This looks like Armageddon,” Forester recalled thinking Tuesday. “It was like they took a Saturn V rocket and tipped it upside down during blastoff.”

Terrified residents were fleeing down the hill with the fireball chasing them, firefighters recalled, many already badly burned and screaming for help. There were so few ambulance trying to keep up that paramedics began asking unhurt residents to drive people with smoldering burns to nearby hospitals. Police officers and firefighters kicked down doors to rescue anyone stranded in homes.

Even with the wail of sirens filling the background of one radio call asking dispatchers to issue a third alarm, it is the rising alarm in a firefighter’s voice that tells the truest story. “We’ve got multiple houses” on fire, he reports to the command center. “We’re trying to get close. We have extreme heat. We have possibly several blocks on fire at this time.”

There is silence on the radio for a moment. Grasping fully the nightmare that she can hear unfolding in an invisible chorus of voices, the dispatcher slowly replies, “Copy that.”

More than 15 minutes into the disaster, a dispatcher issues a fourth alarm, summoning fire companies from all across the Bay Area to respond to “a plane crash.” A firefighter asks whether it’s a “large aircraft or small aircraft,” but no one knows. This would affect the firefighters’ initial response to the blaze because the accepted method of dealing with a plane crash is to put it out at the source in order to save passengers’ lives.

Gas main fires are extinguished by shutting off a valve, and there have been reports that it took PG&E well over and hour to close this one.

“With a pipeline that big, even if you shut it off a mile away it could burn for another hour,” said Kevin Conant, a battalion chief with the San Jose Fire Department who was not involved in fighting the San Bruno blaze. “I think it was completely legitimate for them to consider that there was an airplane involved because of the amount of fire they had.”

First responders say the most frightening moment occurred when they tried to tap into the neighborhood fire hydrants and heard only a sucking sound . . .

Mike Rosenberg and Bruce Newman
“Tapes Reveal Frantic Scene”
San Jose Mercury News
September 15, 2010

Later, Bike Snob NYC made me laugh:

“Like coffee, religion props people up and gets them through their day, and in this sense I believe that religious institutions are like Starbucks in that there are way too many of them and they sell a lot of crap–the only difference is that at least Starbucks pays taxes and offers WiFi.”

Friday, September 17

I was a little surprised to see sfcitizen whining about the physical impossibility for driving 25 MPH, so I chimed in:

Once the speed limit hits 20MPH, then your chances of a fatal pedestrian accident become extremely unlikely. There is advocacy in Britain to expand 20 MPH zones:


If you keep light on the gas, it is entirely easy to drive slowly, and a pleasure to boot, because down in this speed range your mind can almost catch up with all that is going on around you: less stress! You just have to let go of the selfish idea that you have some God-given right to drive fast.

I just returned to the South bay from Brooklyn. I have to say, driving in Brooklyn at a constant 20-25 MPH, slaloming around double-parked cars, bicycles, and the rest, is a lot more relaxing than waiting two minutes at a left-turn light so you can tear down El Camino at 40 MPH.

Open your mind instead of the throttle. you might find you enjoy driving slow. Good luck!


Yeah, I know I’m a crackpot. And when I was younger I had a more leaden foot, but over the past decade or so my driving has mellowed a great deal, possibly because of the station wagon. When you’re driving a boat it is easy enough to relax and take it easy, and I maintain that style in smaller, more nimble cars.

Thursday, September 23

So, we decided to spend Thanksgiving with Mei’s folks in Hawaii and Christmas with my folks in Chicago, so I set up our Hawaii vacation for November. I have never been there myself but it should be easy to enjoy.

On Monday they opened up a long-closed bike trail up North of Moffett Field. This has been a long-awaited link in the Bay Trail project, and I am pleased because now instead of riding on streets and on a 237 frontage road I can ride up the Steven’s Creek trail, then around the North side of Moffett Field, then East along the Bay Trail and then along a canal to the office. That’s a bicycle commute that is over 90% off the street.

But . . . a lot of this new route is gravel. It takes more concentration to ride safely, and getting a flat on my road tires is more likely. The salt flats smell of salt, seaweed, and decay. But I’ll take the occasional flat tire and maybe a gravelly wipe-out or two over being killed by a distracted SUV driver, and the wetlands scenery is a greater pleasure for the eyes and the nose than riding through high-speed suburban street traffic and waiting for red turn signals. I feel lucky.

When I rode the trail home on Monday people would smile and greet each other as they passed, because hey, we had a new toy.

The other new toy I have this week is Civilization 5. I was able to play the first half of a game last night, and so far I really enjoy it. It is a pretty huge change in a lot of ways from Civ 4. Civ 4 is more of a simulation game with lots and lots of variables thrown in to keep a player challenged. I think the developers leaned back and said “Civ 4 is great, but it is pretty dang complicated. Let’s make it easier for new players.” So, Civ 5 has streamlined a lot of things. The graphics are really beautiful, and the tech trees and units are pared down. Diplomacy is re-worked and the whole religion-civics thing has been consolidated into a new set of “Social Policies” which you can enact as you amass more culture.

The interface has moved from the traditional sim-manager style to more of a “builder” paradigm. For example, happiness is now an aggregate for your entire Civ instead of something managed in each city.

Aaaaaaanyway . . . . . I want to understand the military and diplomatic interfaces better, and just get a few games done and out of my system.

Friday, September 24

“I think we are making a transition, the most important in the history of Homo sapiens — more important than our long walk out of Africa and across Europe and Asia. This is our moment. Anyone who died before 1930 never lived through a doubling of the human population. Anyone born after 2050 likely won’t either. We are in a 120-year transition that will require an emerging consciousness if we’re going to make it through.”

Wes Jackson
“Farmed Out”
The Sun, October, 2010

Monday, September 27

We purchased a humming bird feeder this weekend. Within about ten minutes of installation, the first little bird flitted over. They catch on quicker than the larger birds, who we can occasionally hear at the other feeder, spilling a steady trickle of seed on to the balcony.

Thursday, September 30

It is nearly noon and I am relaxing with the ever-studying Mei at my favorite coffee shop. My work hours today are going to be around 1pm-9pm, due to afternoon and evening deployment windows for software on our production networks. That’s my day job. Well, today my day job is slacker, and my evening job is deployment engineer.

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My Surname

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/03/24/holmgren-howard-2/

On the radio they are talking about the Census and taking calls from people on the topic: “What my name means to me.”

My surname is Howard, but if my grandfathers had followed convention my surname would be Holmgren. Back in the day the man who carried my Y chromosome married a woman whose surname was Howard, and he took her name for his own to avoid discrimination against dumb Swedes.

I have sometimes wondered about changing the name back to Holmgren, but it hardly seems worth the effort. There is no widespread anti-Swedish prejudice to stand up against in solidarity, and I have no special allegiance to patriarchy.

It seems that most Howards I meet are African American. I doubt they took that surname by marrying English. As best I can guess, their ancestors took their surname, as Howard University did, from Major General Oliver Howard, who fought in the Civil War, and later promoted the welfare of former slaves and war refugees as Commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

Perhaps there is even a little solidarity to be had in retaining a surname chosen by people who, to this very day, face discrimination.

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Week of 6 December, 2009

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2009/12/13/week-of-6-december-2009/

Sunday, December 6

I bought a bicycle. There’s a place not far away, Brooklyn Bike and Board, that fixes up old steel-framed bikes because they’re darn tough, then sells them for not a whole lot of money. I spent $250 on the bike, and some more on a front basket and a bike lock. I now have a white, steel, 1-speed bicycle made in France.

I had been avoiding the bicycle thing because Mei is not yet a rider, but on the Greyhound ride back, that college student had mentioned that he’d bought a “recycled” bike for fairly cheap, and rarely spent money on the subway. The prospect of riding around for my own pleasure and exercise pleases Mei. Come Spring we can find her some wheels and learn her how to ride.

Monday, December 7

A day that shall live in infamy or simply “Monday?” For “lunch” I rode up to drop off a bag at Goodwill, and I realized I had totally forgotten my helmet. Fortunately, I made it home safe, then stashed the helmet in the bike’s basket.

When I make coffee I dish the grounds into the filter, and then place the filter into the basket. This reduces the chance of accidentally slopping grounds down between the filter and the basket. Instead I have the occasional accident where I spill coffee grounds everywhere.

Every month or so my Grandmother forwards me another e-mail that has been forwarded to her via a chain of dozens of people who haven’t quite figured out how the Internet works, and these photos are from Miniatur Wunderland, in Hamburg, DE. That’s in the North of Germany, and may likely be on the itinerary of my next trip.

From an e-mail shared with my team at work:

While it is true that I wear dark-framed eyeglasses, post to my highly-customized blog, and Twitter, and uhm, have a 100% telecommute, and just yesterday I bought a “recycled” 1-speed bicycle, I don’t like to think of myself as a hipster, no. And the smart phone and the mini computer . . . gah! This is why I can’t own a Mac or an iPhone or grow a goatee . . .

Tuesday, December 8

Come on ride the snake! Ride it!
Come on ride the snake! Ride it!
Come on ride the snake! It’s a Python!

Wednesday, December 9

New York’s MTA is an excellent system for most parts of New York that existed in the 1920s, when the last major expansions were completed. That means airport service is sub-optimal: ride a local train as far as it will go, then catch a local bus that meanders to the airport.

Note that during peak hours they’ll run that bus line in pairs, but only one bus of each pair runs to the airport. The other goes somewhere else and if you’re lucky the driver will speak up and direct you to the correct bus. If you’re less lucky you can wait fifteen minutes for the next pair of buses.

Note also that if you’re running late and try to use the Virgin America self-service checkin kiosk, it will keep inviting you to try again after you swipe multiple credit cards at different kiosks. If you dig out and enter your confirmation code, it will invite you to try yet again. In this way you’ll not hear the lady announcing that if you want to catch your flight you should come over to the human being right now, because this is the last chance to make it on the flight.

Note also that if you wait behind a family with a newborn and plenty of luggage at security then stroll liesurely to the gate you’ll get to watch the plane you missed push back from the gate and taxi away. And yes, while Google is giving us all free in-flight wireless network access for the holidays, JFK expects you to pay several dollars for the privilege during your hopefully brief wait in the airport.

Thursday, December 10

I helped Todd find an appropriate box into which to pack the extra-large can of Sysco beans.

Friday, December 11

I needed change for Muni so I bought a to-go coffee at the cafe on the corner. I joined a little man at the bus stop as I waited for my cup to cool. He noted my coffee and explained that he was banned from that coffee shop. I offered him a sip, and he worked his way through the entire cup I had only bought for bus change anyway as he repeatedly introduced himself to me as a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Various neighbors passed, exchanging pleasantries with the Chiefs Fan, one saw him drinking from the cup, “that had better be Hot Chocolate.”


Apparently I delivered a cup of contraband to a guy who isn’t allowed to drink caffeine.

Saturday, December 12

Mei’s sick. Slept too much, and enjoyed riding my bike down to Roots in the 30 degrees.

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Week of 29 November, 2009

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2009/12/02/week-of-29-november-2009/

Sunday, November 29

After making it home and grabbing a shower, I roamed in search of coffee. Alas, the Tea Lounge was pretty packed, so I wandered down to 5th Ave and ordered a hot chocolate from Ozzie’s. After making sure I was “to stay” they served me in a paper cup with a plastic cap, no whipped cream.

Yeah well, I wandered home and around 4:30pm started watching Nova on the TiVo, but fell asleep hard on the couch.

Monday, November 30

Booked my travel to California for next week. Mei is working night shifts this month but I was able to take her out for sushi this evening.

Tuesday, December 1

Last night I dreamed I was driving an old Beetle in California. Mei was with me and we were going to pick Brian up to take him to dinner. Brian still had long hair but the sides of his head had been buzzed clean.

Wednesday, December 2

Notes from Facebook:

I can only respect a Libertarian if they have the faith in their convictions to homestead in Somalia.

The Constitution enshrines the right to bear arms, in the interests of well-regulated militia. Police forces are a fairly recent innovation, often used in the service of tyranny, like standing armies. Somalia’s system of locally supported militias seems awfully close to a “strict interpretation” Libertarian ideal of limited government, with the burden of personal safety being placed upon the individual.

I walked down to the Tea Lounge for lunch: a giant salad and a pain au chocolat. One man beamed at a friend that the Senate was going to vote today, after setting aside 4 hours for debate. I knew what he was talking about. “You heard about DC,” his friend replied. Later I read a cartoon: why didn’t the Army notice Major Alawi’s erratic behavior? Because he wasn’t acting gay! I laughed out loud.

Thursday, December 3

Today I booked my holiday travel, and this time it is Amtrak all the way. Just over $200 round-trip, but this time my ride to Chicago will be via Washington, DC, where I will switch trains.

On Wednesday I had a small cup of coffee at the Tea Lounge. And a giant salad. That’s the only coffee I have had this week. Trying to “detox” a bit. Quite unintentionally, I haven’t eaten any meat either. A lot of oatmeal. I love oatmeal! Mei is working nights so everything just feels weird. It didn’t help that I managed to watch the six-hour “The Prisoner” mini-series this week as well. I thought it was really very good, and goes well with alcohol, but that means I am out of Scotch.

Tonight I ate a half pound of frozen veggies. Delicious enough but I’m a bit gassy, so it is just as well that Mei is at work.

If I were maintaining a Christmas list, I would add “HP 60 color and black-and-white printer cartridges.”

Friday, December 4

I spent the last of my cash on sandwiches, sodas, flowers, and some whiskey on the theory that Mei might like some tasty sammiches before she had to go to work. Alas, she is off Friday and Saturday night. Doh! We figured we could go see the Mr Fox movie, but ended up relaxing indoors instead. Despite the promised weather report, it did not snow in New York City.

I went to bed with a nasty headache. I rarely get headaches.

Saturday, December 5

I woke up with a scummy throat, and Mei was feeling worse all day. I took her out to Cheryl’s where there was a substantial wait, but it was a deliciously good experience nonetheless. She bought a chicken and stock on the way home and as she set to cooking I went and moved her car, dropping the old printer and scanner at the Goodwill, then scoring a Christmas tree off a friendly French screenwriter outside of the Rite Aid on Flatbush. Back home I sorted through digital photographs while playing “Blazing Saddles” and “Ghostbusters” off Netflix Instant on the TiVo, after which we enjoyed a soup dinner together.

I did not make it to the bicycle recycle store up in DUMBO . . . maybe during the week. I did some Christmas shopping online and built a spreadsheet to track my Christmas gift spending, on the theory that I’ll transfer a certain amount from Savings to cover it all.

What I could also use for Christmas: a wireless Ethernet doohickey for the TiVo HD.

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Week of 22 November, 2009

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2009/11/29/week-of-22-november-2009/

I don’t narrate my life any more, whether for good or for ill. Well, maybe . . . I should try a weekly update. This has been working well at work, anyway.

Saturday, 21 November

On Friday I took Mei out to dinner, since we were going to not see each other for most of a week. We went to an Indian place up near the Kips Bay theater, where we then saw “Where the Wild Things Are”. I think the first time I saw that book I was impressed with its style, and so my Mom thought I liked the story and read it to me a bunch, but I always thought Max was kind of a spoiled brat. At the end of the movie I mumbled to Mei, “if my son pulls that crap he is not getting any chocolate cake.” When asked if he’d get any dinner, I responded that I wasn’t so sure. I wonder if the kid might have some blood sugar issues such that missing dinner may be a bad move.

Saturday morning, Mei was up early to go to work. I slept in a bit, and treated myself to brunch at Teddy’s, which served me two eggs, fried potatoes, Canadian bacon, rye toast, fruit salad, orange juice and coffee for $8.25. Now, Cheryl’s has some tastier food, so I’ll take Mei over there, but if it is just me, I stick with the cheaper, hearty meal.

I went home, washed the dishes and relaxed a bit, until around 1400 when I rode up to Penn Station to catch the 3:45 to Chicago. Now, a plane would have been faster and cheaper, but now that I live in New York, I can “afford” the relative luxury of a train ride home. The train was pretty full, and a guy named Don sat next to me. I got the modem working on my laptop and caught up somewhat on Internet reading. At Albany they took our engine off the train and shunted a series of cars from Boston onto the front. This was exciting to me, so I shot some dark, blurry video from the passenger area.

I treated myself to dinner in the dining car. Lamb shank, half a bottle of wine, dessert, coffee, and conversation with a cute college couple who were switching to the California Zephyr in Chicago, arriving in Emeryville on Tuesday to enjoy Thanksgiving in Santa Cruz. Robin the Film major and Miru the Art History major. They’re both minoring in Making a Living.

Despite ample legroom and a glass of Scotch from the Cafe car, I tossed and turned a great deal. (more…)

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Open Source Projects Could Augment CS Curricula

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2009/10/27/or-why-i-dont-care-about-snakeoil-salesmen/

Everyone is talking about Joel Spolsky, especially with his latest article.

Many appreciate what he has to say, but then again, he is basically articulating what we all know, and plenty figure that maybe his writing is no longer fresh, and he is just cranking out articles in order to shill his warez:

“This might be a neat opportunity to use Scrum. Once a week, the team gets together, in person or virtually, and reviews the previous week’s work. Then they decide which features and tasks to do over the next week. FogBugz would work great for tracking this . . .”

My position is that most stuff we read is mediocre, and Joel at least writes well, and Joel wears his ulterior motives on his sleeve, so when he starts figuring FogBugz can cure what ails CS curricula, I just figure “and now a word from our sponsors” and my brain hits the fast-forward button.

I think Tom actually has the best reaction to the issue Joel brings up, in that he adds that different people have different learning methods:

We all know there are students that are “visual learners”, “audio learners” and “kinesthetic” learners.

We all know what? Okay, yeah, and “everyone” is talking about this, right? Anyway, Tom, like me, is a learning-by-doing kind of guy who didn’t always “get” the formal CS curriculum:

When I took my undergraduate class on software engineering methodology I felt it was useless because I couldn’t see the point of most of what I was being taught. Most of my programming had been done solo or on a small team. I could not take seriously the problems that were being “fixed” by the software methodologies discussed in our lectures. “Code size estimation? Bah! Impossible, so why even try!”

In my CS days, the bits I enjoyed most were the learning-by-doing: compiling my first C program, bending my mind around recursion and functional programming to complete assignments in MIT Scheme, implementing a virtual spanning tree, and coming up on my own with the idea of a finite-state automaton to parse NWS weather forecasts. (Okay, that wasn’t a CS assignment and I didn’t know how to talk to girls.)

The parts where I fell completely flat were the theoretical classes where we considered bizarre hypothetical problems that didn’t make sense, using Greek letters that didn’t seem to have anything to do with reality. One day my ECE roommate asked how, as a CS major, I would go about sorting one million integers. My response was “why would you want to sort one million integers?” Later I slept through multiple lectures where the best methods of sorting integers were discussed at length. I skimmed the slides so I know that Quicksort performs well and in-place, but that Bubble Sort may work better if your data is mostly sorted, so in my mind that just means that if anybody asks how you would sort one million integers, the correct answer is to ask some questions as to why they need to sort one million integers.

Uh, yeah. Anyway, what was I nattering on about? Joel’s schtick is that CS students aren’t taught to manage large, complex, “real world” projects with lots of moving pieces. CS mostly focuses on the “interesting 10%” like how you would sort a million integers and skips over the boring 90% of hard work like implementing the interface for the customer to provide their million integers and retrieve the results. And Mark Dennehy’s reaction was “of course we focus on the interesting ten percent: the other 90% is constantly changing and best learned on the job!”

But, addressing the “how do you tackle big projects” thing, I think Joel has a point. And his point isn’t new. The point is extra-curricular activity.

Whether you’re a visual learner or whatever, the biggest secret to learning things is to find the thing that you are studying interesting. The very best computer programmers are all fucking fascinated by the challenge of getting the computers to do things within given parameters. Computer programming is fun because when you get down to it, it is a lot like computer games: a person at the interface banging away until they get their dopamine fix by either beating the level boss or getting the damn thing to compile and spit out the correct result.

Well, that is for the learning-by-doing types. Some computer programmers get their jollies by trying to fathom a new and novel method of sorting one million integers. Whatever floats their boat, I guess.

Anyway, long story short, I’m thinking the learning-by-doing types tend to get a little queasy after a few CS theory classes and end up majoring in English in order to score a bachelors degree, but they keep tinkering with the computers along the way, and end up, like Tom and me, as systems administrators, figuring out the best way to keep 1,000 computers running in order to make it possible to sort billions of objects with map-reduce algorithms in constant time.

Oh yeah, and that I agree with Joel that motivated CS students ought to find non-class projects that they are passionate about, and thereby gain chances to collaborate with others on the sort of “real world” challenges that they are likely to face in their professional careers. Back at Illinois the ACM played a big role in this. I myself did some time apprenticing at NCSA and at an ISP, and the big win these days it would seem are the oodles of Open Source projects ready to put interested volunteers to work. And that’s why Google’s “Summer of Code” just sounds like a fantastically great idea.

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On the Road Again . . .

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2009/07/27/on-the-road-again/

This time I am in a moving truck toting possessions of me and my lady to our new place in New York city, where we intend to live for one year for her work. She’s already out there, so it is just me, a 16′ Budget truck rental, and some $3 wifi access at a Motel 6. Hot diggity!

I have made this trek before, with and without my worldly possessions. This time through I own a crazy smart phone which is recording the trip via GPS, and I can upload progress to Google Maps, for all my friends and evil stalkers to see. I can send you a link: just shoot me an e-mail.

I am very happy with the Budget truck. It is a no-frills affair: the radio is just a radio. It has two power ports. I could gripe that it doesn’t have cruise control, but that might actually be a “feature” to keep the fool at the wheel alert. Best of all, it is a Ford, so I already know the dashboard!

This Motel 6 isn’t shabby either. I inquired at a casino just down the road, figuring room rates would be subsidized by gambling, but no. The Motel 6 is less than half the price and has all I need: a decent bed, toilet, shower, air conditioning, a desk and Internet access! (Oh and a TV.) They claim the lowest rates of any national chain, so I’ll have to research what they have down the road.

Ah yes, and as for work: I have received permission to work remote for my San Jose-based employer. As for my old apartment, which I love, a friend fell in love with the place and signed a lease. I left some furniture behind and some e-waste which I have to sweet-talk her into toting downstairs on a weekday, where San Francisco will collect it for free. Another blessing was the help of a trio of college friends who helped load the truck. I treated them to pizza and beers afterwards and we reveled in the pending home ownership of two of our friends. While this recession is hurting many folks, others who have been priced out of the housing market are finding their prudent patience rewarded.

Time to settle in for the evening so I can get on the road good and early tomorrow. The Motel 6 charges $3 for the wifi access, which is just the perfect price for a guy who’d like to kill an hour before bed!

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G1 versus Sidekick 2

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2008/10/24/g1-versus-sidekick-2/

Sidekick 2 versus G1

I have been a Sidekick user since the black and white days. Prior to receiving my G1 on Tuesday evening, I had used my Sidekick 2 pretty heavily for nearly four years. I loved its solid feel and the membrane keyboard. The applications mostly worked together pretty well, though the web browser was butt-slow. I have high hopes that as the spiritual reincarnation of the Danger team, the Android team will spawn a worthy successor to the Sidekick 2, which I regard as a peculiarly satisfying pinnacle in the evolution of the mobile phone.

I have been playing with my G1 for three days now. Here’s how it has been so far . . .


I fault the Quick Start guide for going over what the buttons do and the user interface, then half way through the booklet it tells you how to put the battery inside the phone. That was somewhat annoying because the very first thing I wanted to know is how do I get the battery in the phone and turn it on. Transferring the SIM card was easy enough, and the “tap the Android” process worked rather well.

Unfortunately, the night I tried to first use the phone there was a bug that surfaced in Google’s internal systems so I could not log on to the phone through my hosted domain account. It tossed out a bizarre error code and as usual Google’s support was no help: another customer with Premier hosted domains was incorrectly informed that the G1 didn’t support domain logons.

In retrospect, I should have tried T-Mobile technical support, who have through the years done a solid job at escalating Sidekick issues appropriately. I give the device an extra bonus point for putting the “factory reset” feature within the options panel, rather than making it a voodoo process that involves a paper clip.


I wish the Android could be incarnated within the Sidekick 2’s hardware. The Sidekick 2 is built like a tank, with a solid feel and rubber bumpers. You could bash a fool in the skull with a Sidekick 2 if you had to, wipe off the blood, and get back to writing an email on that awesome rubber membrane keyboard.

Sidekick 2 versus G1

The G1 is smaller in each dimension, and feels more rickety. It is solid enough, but it is no Sidekick 2. My biggest gripe is that the keyboard, while not truly awful, leaves something to be desired: there is little tactile feel and it took a little retraining to hold my right thumb further out over the keyboard in order to clear the right-side wedge. I am not sure how that will do for prolonged typing. The space key is also narrowed and at least once I have typed an ‘@’ instead of a space.

I like that it charges through the Mini USB port. Yes, I would prefer if it had a proper headphone jack, but that’s not a huge deal for me.

I really look forward to the day that the screen rotates based on how you are holding it.


The Gmail client is very nice: it integrates really well with Gmail on the web and my contacts list. If you compose a new message it can check not only your contacts list but also other addresses that you have corresponded with, which is nice. When I read a message on the phone it is marked as read in Gmail and vice versa. It is also easy enough to switch between tags.


The Sidekick 2 takes muddy pictures on a good day. The G1 has a 3 megapixel camera that takes some pretty nice photos under decent lighting conditions. Unfortunately, the G1 fails a few things the Sidekick 2 got right: the lens is right where I’m apt to put my thumb, there’s no flash, the shutter lag is substantial. The Pictures application is decoupled from the Camera application, so you need to switch from the one to the other to review your photos.


I was at first disappointed that there is no practical way to export my contacts from the Sidekick 2. I went through my Gmail Contacts list and cleaned everyone up, integrating phone numbers to email addresses. I had a lot of fun finding pictures of everyone on the web and cropping them into my contacts list. There seemed several instances where updates I made on the phone or on the web didn’t make it across. And one contact I swear got eaten and had to be re-added.

One feature lacking from the Sidekick 2 is the ability to put friends in groups. At the very least it is nice to be able to pull up a group of coworkers versus the rest of your friends. Maybe there is a “tag” feature I have overlooked, or things will improve in the future.

Another unfortunate bug is that in the Gmail interface, you can not add a photo to a contact who has only a phone number.

Web Browser

The Sidekick 2 web browser was horribly horribly slow, and would tend to get upset if a page had too much JavaScript. The G1 web browser is fairly zippy.

That said, the interface can be extremely frustrating: wide web pages require a lot of dragging up and down and back and forth. Sometimes columns of text will be shrunk to page width, but not always. You can not easily resize text. (You couldn’t do this on the Sidekick 2 at all.) The Google Reader app works well enough but there is no way to make the font larger. (I hate squinting.) I am not yet used to the zoom feature: you need to hold your finger down on the screen, without clicking a link or scrolling, then you need to go catch the + or – button that appears and hold that down . . .

The Sidekick 2 allowed for bookmark folders: the G1 web browser has no folders or even a provision to reorder the bookmarks. This is really frustrating because one of the great features to me was to have a folder of Nextmuni bookmarks so I could quickly pull up information on approaching transit vehicles. I look forward to this being fixed. It would be even more awesome if bookmarks could be synced with say a Firefox subfolder on my computers.

The web page links are often quite tiny, and my big beefy man fingers are constantly clicking on the wrong thing.


The G1 data plan includes I believe 400 SMS, whereas the Sidekick data plan was $5 cheaper and included unlimited SMS. I like that the SMS application groups messages by sender as in Gmail: tapping a thread brings up what amounts to a conversation with a contact. Deleting SMS messages is a little annoying: you get to confirm that you will delete an entire thread.

The Sidekick 2 supported AOL instant messenger and you could add a Yahoo instant messenger application. What it did do well was to proxy the connection through the Sidekick service so that if you lost reception temporarily messages would queue on either side and be delivered asynchronously. I do not know if the G1 does this.

The G1 supports Google / Jabber, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL within a single IM application. I prefer the way Pidgin works where contacts are grouped together regardless of their protocol. This IM application seems to require a lot of navigating up and down the hierarchy: I have no idea if it will be much fun if you are chatting with a friend through Google at the same time as you are chatting through Yahoo. Anyway, I don’t intend to use instant messaging much.


The Sidekick 2 had no navigation features. The G1 Maps application so far has been slow, inaccurate, and unstable: it crashed once and other times it would take a long time to inaccurately figure out its location. GPS is disabled by default to conserve battery power. There’s no turn-by-turn navigation. The first time I tried to grab directions the service was down, and the next time it took some fidgeting to figure out how to tell it that I wanted directions to the destination from my current location. (Click on the destination label on the map and then hit Menu > Directions.) Another frustration is that if I go to my location and then switch to Street View, I still have to click on the map near my location, and then figure out how to navigate the street view back over to the original location.

Map searches are very slow (often 10 seconds or more) even on the 3G network.

The Maps app could use some polish. I also need to get used to it. I am very disappointed that there is no transit support.


Yay! My mobile phone now syncs with my calendar! I can not really offer a thoughtful review of the Calendar application, because whenever I launch it the user interface makes me want to vomit. I guess it will take some getting used to.

EvilFidgety Touchschreen

The “desktop” pans across three screens, which offers some possibility. It is easy enough to trash the analog clock widget on the middle screen. Alas, the touch screen takes some getting used to. For example, the first dozen times I tried to trash the Google Search widget I failed and concluded that Google had hard-wired it so that I was required to keep that widget on my desktop. I didn’t want the widget, and I hated having it forced upon me: how evil! After ranting about that here I gave it another try and successfully trashed the thing. I’m sorry I doubted your integrity, Google! Unfortunately, the wide Google search bar on the right screen can not be trashed. I google-search from within the web browser. I do not need nor do I want a Google search bar widget on my phone “desktop”. Forcing it upon me is evil and Google should apologize.

Android Market

Both phones have a marketplace where you can shop for and install additional applications. The Android Market is new and somewhat sparse. Apps download and install in the background, and have ratings and reviews so you can avoid the schlocky ones. The “Translate” app is kinda cute and potentially handy. And “cab4me lite” promises to help you map out your location and then call a local cab company, which sounds awfully neat.

What I really want is a nice note pad–I was always scribbling notes on my Sidekick. I also want an SSH client: preferably one that supports key authentication. Give it some time. I guess if I urgently desire a notepad I should jump on the developer tutorial.


People ask me what I think of the G1. I answer that it is okay and it will get nicer with time. the conventional wisdom that it is “good for a 1.0 device” works for me. If pressed I say that I miss the solid feel and membrane keyboard of my Sidekick 2. I like to think that in the next two years the Android platform will mature and someone will release a model with a form factor more to my taste.


About Me, Biography, Relationship Advice, Religion

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2007/08/06/sunday-august-5-2007/

Sunday I slept in a bit because this is my last chance to do so for a bit . . . when I arose I bathed, then . . . I ended up writing about Tunji. I had learned of his death the night before. After my little impromptu memorial, I noted that I happened to be wearing black this day. I was dressed for mourning.

I headed out to the Tennessee Grill for brunch, it getting on towards 11:30. The Catholic church a few blocks downhill was ringing their bells: the call to mass. I detoured towards the Church . . . followed a lady in. Mass had just begun, and I followed other late arrivals into an adjoining little altar area.

They had votive candles burning, which had been what I had in mind. I lit one in Tunji’s memory and sat through mass. I enjoyed the community spirit, some of the songs. The liturgy was pretty light–the priest explained that temperance was avoiding excess. During one song I was overtaken by the beauty and the spirit and I cried quietly for my friend: the lives he had touched, the lives he would have touched had not fate taken him young. I lit a second candle for the lives Tunji touched: his family, us, his friends, and the people he would have served had he become a doctor.

A lady sat in front of me with two young sons. One she held in her arms and the older son, maybe four years old, played with her hair, casually trying to braid one side. I like the harmony: she was there for her purposes and he managed to entertain himself in a manner that hopefully felt pleasant to her.

The priest explained that Jesus had passed the bread around, take it. This is my body. By taking the bread you will spread the word. I figured out that people were getting up for Eucharist, and followed. I savored a Jesus Wafer to take communion for Tunji.

I walked down to the Grill, and had some French Toast and coffee. I had really wanted sausage. Yum!

Back home, read about bonobos in the New Yorker. Then scrubbed the shower out and bathed again after the dirty work, to head out to a date in the East Bay. I met the lady I have been dating the past three months, and she dumped me. I could see it coming and we settled things amicably. She paid for dinner. Classy lady, and too bad . . . I walked away feeling alright for having made a good effort and for having participated in some good times these past three months, and thought about how to work my next approach to dating.

Back home, I’m listening to the Avett Brothers. Surprisingly good bluegrass. They are singing now:

And I love you but I can’t remember why
And I’d love to find a reason to deny
I was a one hit wonder in my own home town

And I guess I might have made a few mistakes
But maybe that’s exactly what it takes
To get a little happy in this big sad world

How many have you made?
And which of those have you laid on down to die?

Well didn’t I say I need you?
I try to move on but I can’t
I try to think of bad times
Good memories are all I have

Not the most apropos excerpt for the moment, but a good tune anyway.

And so it goes. To bed soon, and up around 7am tomorrow to head off to the new job. The new company is about the last place I would ever have thought to look for work, but with an open mind and no agenda I went to interview, and I got on well with the team, and they got on well with me. I have good feelings, and I must make a sincere effort. :)


Biography, Featured, News and Reaction, Religion

RIP: Oyetunji Toogun

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2007/08/05/rip-tunji-toogun/

A photo of Tunji around 2004, that I stole from Tim.

Tunji was a friend of mine back at Allen Hall. He came to school from Nigeria when he was sixteen, so he was always younger than everyone else. He never lost his deep accent or dark sense of humor. A one-of-a-kind kid who liked to play chess online and was studying to become a Doctor. I don’t know if he made his MD or not . . .

Tim notified us that Tunji’s body was found in Lake Shelbyville Friday. It sounds like he fell off a boat and wasn’t recovered for fifteen minutes, by which time the CPR could do nothing for him.

Last time I saw Tunji he just happened to be passing by when he saw me getting arrested by the University Police.

Tunji was truly a one-of-a-kind man, whose uniqueness was only magnified by his distinctive accent. I never met his family, but I can only imagine how hard it is for your intelligent son and future doctor to die suddenly, and far from home. . . I have great sorrow for his kin.

I will update with additional information or reaction as I learn more . . .


Tim Skirvin: His parents live in Chicago, not Nigeria

Darren Hron: Really in shock . . .

The News-Gazette.com: Autopsy: Tunji Drowned also narrates more about the fatal accident:

“They had been out there all afternoon and were there into the evening. Apparently (Mr. Toogun) had been in the water in the afternoon with a life belt on. At this time, he was on the boat with friends and lost his balance and fell into the water,” Green said.

Contrary to earlier reported information, friends noticed immediately that he fell in.

“We noticed after a few seconds that Tunji did not surface and immediately six or seven of us dived in to attempt to find him. It was not until 15 to 20 minutes later that we did,” said fellow student and friend Lauren Jakubowski in an e-mail to The News-Gazette.

Tim Skirvin: Tunji Toogun Album, Tim is compiling of photographs of Tunji.

Tim Skirvin: Tunji is now Dr. Tunji Toogun. His degree has been awarded posthumously.



Week 1

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2006/07/29/week-1/

So, it’s 5:30 on a Friday, and someone brings me a beer. “This is just a clever ploy to get me to work late on Friday!” “You got it!” Well, maybe I’ll “work” on my web site.

So, I moved last Sunday, from the 100 degree heat of Walnut Creek to the 70whatever of the inner sunset of San Francisco. Due to the heat wave, there was no fog in my new neighborhood, so I could see the ocean!

Whilst waiting at the toll plaza to cross the Bay Bridge for my big move, a car of girls pulled up next to me to rave on my “Bin Laden Used Your Gas Money” bumper sticker. I noticed the passenger was toking off a glass pipe, and next I looked, the driver was getting her own hit, waiting to pay the toll. “Ahhh, welcome to San Francisco,” I thought.

Since then life has been quite a hustle of the new job, unpacking, going out . . . I’m not keen on giving a lot of details online, but let us just say that my first week in San Francisco features two first dates, and I haven’t even unpacked everything yet! So, I’m off to a good start and work is groovy too. It’s a sexy little dot-com downtown, and I get to ride the Muni L to work, which is cool for a Chicago boy like me.

I showed up at maybe 9:15 on Monday. Turns out the engineers tend to drift in around 10. So, I have been sleeping pretty well this week. Flex time, how I have missed you!

Let’s see. On my block there’s groceries, laundry, sushi, and a few blocks away is a bar filled with Irish people.

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Drifting Along . . .

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2006/06/26/drifting-along/

IMG_3059 So, this weekend Jessica and I joined other friends-of-Meghan to camp out and take a 10 mile canoe trip down the Russian River, to celebrate Meghan’s 25th birthday. It was an excellent weekend! Well, except I got a nasty sunburn on the top of my thighs. Fortunately, I had the good sense to avail myself of sun screen, and it was only after I hopped in the river to catch an errant paddle that I got in trouble when the pasty parts of my legs were relieved of their protection.

I also got to ride in Kaya’s Prius, which is totally Citroen inside! Anyway . . . I have no business with such an expensive cool car, but lately I have thought that if I were looking for a new ride, an older Cadillac convertible would totally be awesome. Basically, a sexy version of the station wagon?

In life, things are better. I confess that I have taken now twice to a dinner of cereal, with a dessert of beer, and that tends to put me to sleep way early. I’m going to try not to make a pattern of this. I admit, though, there is now a pile of unfolded laundry, a pile of un-opened mail, months of unread New Yorkers . . . and I keep missing my deadline to catch the morning bus and end up driving to work. Things to work on, but little symptoms that wake me up to the “don’t get into a bachelor funk” thing. I’ll fold the laundry tonight. The paperwork . . . (more…)

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Quiet Weekend

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2006/06/19/quiet-weekend/


So, my friend Jessica crashed at my place over the weekend. She’s getting past a failed engagement, so we are in a similar place. She also wanted avoid the heat wave of Mountain View. Somehow even without A/C my apartment isn’t so bad. I had promised her a leaky air mattress but that went with the ex-wife. So, she contented herself with the couch.

We went to the Crawdad Festival up north somewhere, me and three single Asian ladies. Well, it wasn’t that spectacular. The food was decent but the ladies couldn’t take the heat. Oh well.

We also spent some time checking out apartments in Oakland. Best as I can tell, I need to just give my thirty days notice and then cruise Craigslist every day, and pound on the first awesome deal I can score.

Today we saw a really nice place a little into the Berkeley hills. Nice nice nice just off 13, but, well, a mile and a half to Rockridge BART is pushing sub-optimal. Dang this lame commute! (more…)

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