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February, 2011
After a week of outage, Cosym is back up, in my basement. Normal service restored.

A month in, the new year's going very well. I've almost entirely wrapped up my involvement with the project that made me (professionally) miserable for most of 2010; all that's left there is pulling a few more computers from a rack and shipping them when the recipients are ready. The first half went out today; that felt very good.

Getting back into the groove of doing actual, productive work on my own projects, I seem to have fallen into a pretty stereotypical schedule: wake around 10-11, do reading, research, and futzing around most of the day, dinner around 6pm, productive work from about 7pm to 3am. I've been getting a lot done, but I do somewhat wish I could shift those productive hours to happen during daylight a bit more.

I'm also working through some ideas for combining my tech interests with my food interests: I may be doing some software for the Community Supported Agriculture group I've been volunteering with for the past few years. That's still very speculative, but it's nice to explore those interactions.

My current project, though, might be a bit more familiar: I'm working on creating a consumer-grade web interface to coop/bank. I expect a not-really-usable-by-normal-people, very rough first draft of basic functionality by the end of the week.
New Year's Day. We mark every year with a day where things are supposed to "flip", old to new. We don't get any older in this 24 hour period, the earth doesn't move any farther, it's not any more full of potential than every other day. But it's a sign, or a reminder, and those are important for us. They help us remember the potential in every day.

I have a list of specific things I want to accomplish over the course of the year. Last year, inspired by a friend, I made a "10 in '10" list. Statistically, I didn't do very well, but it was a useful tool for focusing regardless. I've made a similar list this year. In addition, though, I've been thinking about other, less tangible things. So, a few things I'm going to work on over the course of 2011.

I will stop postponing things just because I can. It's true that some things are done just as well later as now, but it's even more true that done is better than not. A clear idea of a destination is important for a successful journey, but course corrections are easier once in motion.

I will have workdays. I will structure my time so that I can get things done in a reliable fashion in predictable times. I will take the things I choose to undertake for myself at least as seriously as those I choose to undertake for others.

I will not love secretly. I will continue to love strongly, exuberantly, easily, and in many different ways, but always openly. I will not secret away the greatest gift I've been given, nor deny its impact on me.

I will claim my strengths, not just my weaknesses. Understanding my own weaknesses has been a great asset to me. But without an appreciation of our strengths we can't really gauge our grasp. I will work to make the most of the characteristics within me that give me strength.

Happy New Year, everyone. May you each grab the potential hidden in every day.
Did a dinner party for the adults working with the youth at FPC, the church I've been working with for a bit over a year now. We had about half the expected turnout, but it was wonderful anyway. Four varieties of veggie sliders, roasted beets, salad, and vanilla ice cream with brandied cherries and goat's milk dulce de leche. It seemed to be a hit all around. I realized during cleanup that I'd meant to make yam fries and totally forgot. Given the turnout, I have leftovers for most of the week; maybe I'll make the yams to go with leftover sliders.

This is one of those months where being home just feels like being between trips. I did a west coast tour for the past two weeks (Seattle for a conference, Portland for Emma (and Ankoor and Emily), and Davis for Cynthia (with a side trip to SF for Monica)). The trip was awesome, but I did much less "sleeping in" than I'd have expected. I'll be leaving again on thursday or friday for a family wedding in NJ (and general visitation). I'm looking forward to (most of) that trip, but it just doesn't feel like enough time to catch my breath.

I'm apparently pretty good at non-team Taboo. Who knew.

I'm ending my main paying contract at the end of the year. It's been months since I enjoyed anything about the job, and I told them about three weeks ago that I just didn't want to continue. That means I'll get to again only spend time on technical projects that I love. Which is good, because I've learned that spending time doing computer work that I hate makes me not want to do any computer work. 2010 has seen almost no work done on my own stuff, and that's just not okay. So I'm really looking forward to that; now I just get to figure out how to pay my bills.
Saw scott Pilgrim vs The World a few nights ago; I haven't laughed that hard in a movie in years. If you've ever loved comic books or old-school video games, you will love this movie. But I don't think that's any sort of requirement; most of the humor stands on its own just fine. Go check it out.

My main paying contract right now is a startup web site. Among other things, I'm responsible for system test, and we're going through our second round of it now, getting ready for a launch later in the month. As is common for new web sites now, these guys appropriately want to make sure that their site works on the platforms that aren't traditional PCs: particularly smart phones and the iPad. So they bought me one.
The thing really is very slick. It's got flaws, to be certain (many of which are fixed wit the pending iOS update), but using it, you get the impression that it's a work of fiction. Interacting with the screen so directly makes a whole newest of experiences possible. A whole lot of things just seem very natural and obvious, in ways that they never could with the indirection created by a mouse. It makes for some really fun game controls, too.
I still won't say everyone needs to run out and get one right now; I probably wouldn't have on my own. If you've already got a nicely portable laptop, there's a lot of usage overlap. But if I was starting over, the iPad would almost certainly get a place in my setup. If you're coming due in your upgrade cycle, give it a thought. And if you've been considering a netbook, you want one of these instead.
so, there's this oil spill going on. and while BP and their sub-contractors can argue all they like about who gets blame for lovely things like skipping all sorts of important checks, the reality is that we all helped cause it. we all help supply the demand that drives BP (and folks like them) to cut corners to maximize their profits on obviously risky practices. we can do better.

nuclear power in the states is a mess. we stopped approving new reactor technology a few decades ago. newer technology produces vastly less waste, and, more importantly, the waste remains dangerous for years instead of centuries. it's not theoretical, either: these designs are in production in europe and asia today. for a long time i thought our best bet at an energy shift away from fossil fuels was nuclear power, as a transitional step until the efficiency of truly green energy sources got to the point where they could supply the bulk of our consumption.

turns out my thinking on the subject is more than a little out of date. i just discovered the Land Art Generator Initiative. among other neat things, they've got a pair of very interesting maps showing land areas needed to power the world with entirely wind or solar generation. the wind map was pretty much in line with what i'd expected: there isn't really any reasonable way to get that much of the world to produce off-shore wind plants. that's not to say they shouldn't be part of a mixed-source strategy (and i do love seeing the windmills), but even getting a substantial fraction of this coverage would be a stretch.
the solar map, however, is a very different story. this coverage is downright practical. given a decent distribution, it seems like we can do much better than this, in fact - and this is 2030 estimated consumption.

while this was a great find overall, it's somewhat depressing that the only thing stopping us from entirely green power today is political will and moneyed interests. we can do better. i think we're in the middle of a great object lesson of why we need to do better.
i've been working with a great church out here; the guy who runs the youth stuff is Kurt. a friend of Kurt's from college (high school? something like that) works in the White House, organizing transportation for Obama's various visits all over the place. On friday, Kurt got a call saying they were short a driver for Obama's upcoming trip to the Cleveland area Monday (now yesterday), and asking if Kurt would like to drive. of course he said yes.

in exchange (as if you needed anything beyond getting to say you drove in the president's motorcade), Kurt got 3 VIP-section passes and ~15 regular-section passes for the event, and gave me one of the VIP section passes. and by chance, we got really great placement in there. i got to shake his hand on the way in and the way out; the girl two down from me (Kurt's girlfriend, end of the line in this shot) was the first and last person to do so.

Obama's even better in person, at least in that sort of venue. he interacts with the crowd so well, in ways that the cameras don't pick up, or at least that don't make the final cut that hits the news. there's a clip of him saying "we need courage" that's actually pulled directly from an exchange with someone calling it out a few minutes earlier, and he worked the heckler's "show us the plan" into the actual description of the plan.

i've also now used up 2 more seconds of my 15 minute fame allocation: they had a brief shot of me on tonight's PBS NewsHour (look about 25:30 in). glad i wore my new coat! for the first time, too. it was a good day.
okay, so maybe "about a day" wasn't quite realistic. regardless, we're back now, closer to home, on a faster connection, and in a real colo. much thanks to databasement.org for years of great cooperative hosting.
cosym will be down for about a day from tomorrow around noon. i'm leaving (or rather, officially, have now left) the databasement bandwidth collective that's providing the bandwidth and space for the server running cosym. tomorrow i'll be picking up the box, heading from NJ to OH, and putting it in my company's facility, i expect on saturday. should be about 24 hours of downtime.
i think i've talked about Julian Sanchez. his stuff is good overall, but his inquiry into the interplay between politics, law, and culture is particularly insightful (and well-written, to boot). he's started doing video stuff periodically, and has a new(ish) piece i really love on the evolution of remix culture. the central part of the video focuses on the progression away from source material in these three videos:
Original Lisztomania Brat Pack Mashup
Brooklyn Brat Pack Mashup
San Francisco Brat Pack Mashup
Sanchez warns "four minutes of pretty hipsters being quirky may seem diabetes inducing", which is not without merit, but i think they're more than accessible and relatable (for folks in our rough age and experience background) to make that risk worth it. the lockup of culture behind increasingly restrictive copyright laws has been a concern for me for a long time, but the progressive departure from "original" source material here is really fascinating. each level of departure adds meaning without obscuring where it's coming from. the final iteration is still entirely recognizable as referencing the first (especially the wall walking), and still has most of the same emotional connotations, but adds to it (even if thinly, since those of us outside the group lack the shared context). i also think it's interesting that the meaning added by the later two (individually) is really specific to the group involved (choice of characters and such, as Sanchez notes), yet still accessible to a much wider audience: i've absolutely been in social groups that i could see doing this, and the choices the participants here make prompt the same sorts of considerations about my own groups (past and present).

i love the fact that our culture is more malleable now than probably any time in history. there are large interests who're much less happy about that, and are fighting to undo it. they've already made some substantial progress (the DMCA, for example, extended copyright way beyond anything having to do with copies), but the public domain and shared culture is hard to fence in. i hope we, as a society, can accept the fact that information follows the same laws of thermodynamics as every other form of energy in the universe before we miss too much of this.
for the last 2+ years, i've had the slip of paper from a chinese fortune cookie stuck in the tachometer of my car, right front and center where i see it all the time. the side that aren't my lucky numbers reads:
It could be better, but it's good enough.
when i got this, i was in a very particular spot emotionally. i'd only recently moved out here, and i was feeling less close to a bunch of people i'd moved away from. i'm not very good about being active about making new connections, and i thought maybe this would help me make fewer comparisons to what i'd moved away from. i was a bit despondent seeing a bunch of long-standing personal institutions in disarray or decay. and then i got this fortune cookie with a message which seemed, to my slightly shaken psyche, to be offering a much easier view i'd never really grasped.

i spent much of the past 2+ years trying to get myself to believe that line. to believe that (in a charitable interpretation) even in the face of major problems, some inherent worth would shine through. that it was okay to leave messed up things alone. that i didn't have to worry about things being perfect all the time; that it was okay for them to just be good. that i could relax.

it even worked, for a little while. but i can't, not really. at my core, i'm a fixer. when i see things broken, even just a bit, i want to work on them. when i know how something can be improved, i want to do that. that's not without its down sides (most notably, for me: fixers are not inherently makers), and Lord knows i don't always get the execution right, but it's a big part of who i am. and, really, i like what it's done for me and who it makes me.

when i moved out here, i was all excited about household projects. i've done a lot of really interesting work on ASP, but i've never lived in a place i could apply any of that directly. i wanted to fix things. but my enthusiasm and energy for it was quashed pretty quickly by a response of what i took at the time to be disinterest. it was really confusing. i tried to come up with rationalizations for not wanting to fix what was broken, and had a really hard time of it. then along came this fortune cookie, and i thought "huh, maybe i'm just not seeing it right." i tried to take a step back, see the inherent goodness in what was there, and just enjoy things as they were.

you know what? i was right the first time. the uninterested response wasn't a zen okayness with the inherent brokenness of the world, or whatever. it was mostly a bad combination of depression and laziness. turns out that, no, the stairs really did need fixing, and leaves really are easier to rake before rain than after, and that emotional energy i spent on rationalizations would've been better spent on maintaining some focus.

trying to believe the fortune cookie had exactly the opposite effect on me i'd hoped. i didn't put the energy into things that i cared about, and (unsurprisingly, in retrospect) they didn't get done or didn't get better. the inherent goodness sometimes needs some help cutting through the muck. the work required can be daunting, and the change required can be frightening, but the fact that something's hard isn't a good reason not to do it. in fact, it's often a good reason to do it. i think, really, the point is this:

if you know something you care about could be better, you really ought to think about improving it.

because, y'know, you care about it. that means things, in real life. if it's just theoretical, it isn't real. "faith without works is dead" and all that. people really ought to work for what they love and care about, ought to want those things to be the best they can be, and ought to try and see if they can help get them closer.

now, note that i said "think about". it's not always the right call. like i said, change is disruptive, often painful, and if there's a lot that goes into the decision of whether or not it's worth it in any particular case. but the starting point should be that question. if you care about something, you should want to make it better.

there are things i can't fix. there are things that are beyond my capability or capacity, and there's a whole host of things which simply aren't mine to fix. i understand this, even if it's something i sometime struggle with. but when i'm at my best, i start with that question and ask it well.

i forgot that for a while. i remember now.
happy new year, everyone. had a very nice night out with some local friends, and met some new ones. 2010 is young, but the first two hours are looking pretty good. for your new year's consideration:
Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.
--Daniel Burnham, Chicago architect. (1864-1912)
that's what i'm focused on for 2010. i've been offered a pretty awesome job, but i think i'm going to turn it down, trading in a 90% chance at very good for a 10% chance at awesome. got a few big plans for how to make the year rock. getting started today, too. hope everyone finds whatever they seek and it works out well for you all.
Merry Christmas, everyone! out here in New Jersey, there's snow on the ground, although it's a few days old. if a white christmas is unobtainable, i'll settle for a white-bordered-by-ugly-grey christmas.
so far, it's been good. i'm back home again, which has involved plenty of family drama, but i got to see my goddaughter and her family last night, spent several hours yesterday with my dad, and went to the midnight service at church; it certainly feels like christmas now, even if it took until half way through christmas eve for me to get there. i have much candy to gorge myself on now. need to be careful there, since i'm cooking dinner, which we're having in the early afternoon with my dad. he just got back on normal foods less than a week ago, which is pretty exciting and pretty good timing.

i also had a great birthday. made dinner for some friends, and it worked out really well, if i do say so myself. roasted red pepper and walnut bruschetta, grilled marinated asparagus, two kinds of ravioli - sun-dried tomato with ricotta and a very nice artichoke one - from scratch. a friend supplied desert: vanilla ice cream with this wonderful fruit... um, spread-like thingie on top. despite not knowing how to describe it, it's pretty amazing.
i also got some pretty amazing gifts: a pair of cheese-making kits (one hard, one soft) and some supporting materials, and a set of measuring spoons that should last forever. the best, though, was that my dad called me - the first time he's done so since his stroke (excluding my mom dialing and holding the phone up next to his head). he's doing very well, mentally, although the physical side of things is still pretty bad. it was great to hear him, though, and to know that my birthday got him a bit of additional activity.

now, downstairs for more family time. i hope everyone reading this is having a wonderful christmas. i love you all.
gave blood today, for the first time since just before my first india trip. the type of hepatitis vaccine i got for that banned me for a year, and then with the various moving around afterwords, i never picked it up again. the church i've become involved with runs a drive every ~8 weeks, though.
that church is going well. the youth ministry is smaller than the other two churches i've got much experience with, but they have a nice variety of sorts of things, have a good service focus, and everyone enjoys where they're at. as much as part of me didn't really want to find myself in another Presbyterian church, i'm feeling very good here. it's also been a very good way of meeting people here; i've got a bunch more local friends than i did two months ago, which is nice.
and now, of all times, someone wants to offer me a job that'd have me moving. i'm skeptical about that part, for a few reasons, but more on that job when i can actually talk about it. going for an interview in just under two weeks.
back on Cleveland, i finally got to the Cleveland Museum of Art this weekend. they're running an exhibit on Gauguin, and especially his work around the Paris 1889 World's Fair, that's very well done. the museum remains under re-construction, which made parts of it really awkward to navigate, but it was a great trip, and i intend to go see more of the museum. it was also personally nice that i went with a church friend and met a friend from the CSA there. my homework assignments are going quite well.
Happy Thanksgiving.
it was a weird one here. back at my parents house, and not cooking for the first time in a very long time. missing that much. ate out, at "the club" with my mom, sister, and some old guy i've never met before (who told me people with beards couldn't possibly get jobs). i ended up eating lots of appetizers and sides.
after dinner (which, as holiday dinners are wont to do, ended by 16:00), we (minus the old guy) went to see my dad, who got transfered into a sub-acute care facility yesterday. we played blackjack. i'm not sure whether he or my mom won, but i know i came in last. oh, well. tomorrow is for solving logistics (family finances and the like) and then back for another visit.

looking forward to Buy Nothing Day next.

right now, i'm watching Love Actually. first time i saw this film, it drove me to ask someone out i had a reasonable hunch had no real interest. the second time i got sappy, introspective, nostalgic. third, giddy from memory. the most recent time, horribly depressed. we'll see how this goes.
had a really great weekend. my first lock-in with the kids at Fairmount Presbyterian. i'd really missed lock-ins exhausting, and i spent most of saturday feeling not so much tired as like i was moving through wet cement. the lock-in was great, and i learned to play euchre. won my first game!
later saturday, a bunch of us went to the 2009 Fabulous Food Show. it was awesome: a decent wine tasting, some great demos, i picked up some absolutely fabulous oil and vinegar, got a zip-up hoodie type thing, and discovered sunflower butter.

i also spent a few hours over the weekend making grape jelly from grapes picked from the garden. i won't know for sure whether the seals on the jars took until tomorrow, but everything looks good so far; just shy of 5 pints. it was really fun, and at least so far tastes great.
Jennifer Knapp is back. my favorite Christian musician, and one of my favorites of any genre, has been essentially MIA for about 7 years, without much word of what's going on, but has started communicating again. she's done two shows, is back in the studio, and has posted two songs online - which sound great. i've seen her in concert a few times, and would love to see her again. very exciting!
back home, finally. two weeks away. the apartment is still in good condition, although my morning task tomorrow is cleaning out the fridge. it's slightly intimidating.

i don't really know what to say about the trip, overall. it isn't anything i would call relaxing: too much back-to-back travel, too little sleep, too much stress with my family once back in jersey. still, it was a really great trip, and i've returned feeling very energized. the two conferences were really good motivators to get something actually released to the world.

election day seems to have gone poorly. NJ elected a fraud and a hack. i know nothing about the VA guy except that he's a conservative republican, which is bad enough to start with. and Ohio passed all three of our constitutional amendments, two of which were awful. our constitution's already a mess. on the (small) up side, my county gets a new and better charter, resulting in a likely more efficient (and certainly cheaper) county government. that's something, anyway.
had a really nice Halloween. went into the city with schiff and some related friends. we spent the first half of the night at Saloon, which was a good time. only a handful of people got kicked out, including a boyfriend and girlfriend polo player who seemed to be trying to tear each other apart. watching all the costumes were fun. i got chatted up by a '70s basketball player and a pair of ladybugs who seemed nice enough, and might've been more interesting if we hadn't been 400 miles from home. still, it's nice when it happens.
spent the second half of the night at Love, which was still fun but a lot less so. just very much not my scene, even more than the bar: crazily dimly lit, so loud you have to yell in people's ears to hear anything, very thumpy music, no space, and a ridiculous cover charge. it would have been pretty frustrating if it wasn't halloween: that made the people-watching factor way better than it otherwise would have been.
this morning, we got to watch a bit of the New York City Marathon, which was fun. i would certainly not be up for watching much of a long distance race, but i can certainly appreciate why people do it and it's impressive to see the results. there were all sorts of neat bicycle-like devices, someone doing it in a powered wheelchair, and a few people doing it in their leftover halloween costumes, which seems like it should warrant a time bonus. and lots of bystanders who didn't seem to understand that there was a race going on, so walking in front of the runners was a bad plan.

yesterday i did the drive from my parents' house to cynthia's parents' house. i can't tell you how to do that drive; i couldn't remember when i got off the phone with her beforehand. but as soon as i got in the car, it was all muscle memory. i could do it with my eyes close. that drive - through jockey hollow, a bit of the great swamp, and washington's headquarters - is maybe my favorite in the country. especially during this time of year, the colors are just beautiful, and the driving is perfect, with low traffic and lots of gradual winds. it's also phenomenally nostalgic; it brings back some of the best memories i've got.

my dad's doing much better, all things considered. he's in Kessler for rehab. he's come a long way on his own: he can sit in a chair, sometimes swallow soft foods, have short, trivial conversations. but if he's ever going to not be in an institution again, he's got to start cooperating with the rehab program, which isn't really happening much. it's a long, frustrating process. he's in a lot of pain and doesn't always understand why. and i think my mom's driving him crazy. i know she is me, and i can go drive away.
i'm in Athens, Georgia for the International Workshop on Plan 9. it's a neat town. after the opening talk yesterday, we got a "tour" (really hanging out, poking around, and drinking their supplied beer and soda) of Coraid. they have maybe the neatest office space i've seen in person. big open space with included copper-top bar. lots of old fixtures, particularly windows, lights, and doors. the company's also got a really great culture and work environment.
on friday night, i'm flying out to California for the GSoC Mentor's Summit over the weekend. i wish there was more time between the two; i'm leaving IWP9 earlier on friday than i'd like, getting into California way later than i'd like, and missing the opening "social time" from the summit. still certainly worth the trip, but the travel schedule's getting me kinda tired.
after the Summit, i've got play time in the SF Bay area until thursday night, when Cyn and i are flying back to NJ. plans around all of that time are entirely nebulous, but i'm looking to stay in NJ until monday or tuesday, maybe down in MD monday night.

my dad's still in the hospital, but his recovery continues to beat the odds. which is not to oversell: it's still life threatening, it's still a certainty that we're looking at permanent physical and mental impairment. but he's got limited conscious control over his leg and can sometimes hold down (very simple) conversations. they're trying to find a bed for him in a rehab facility and a time slot for dialysis, and he's ready to transfer. that's likely to be another month once he's in (if it goes well).
my dad moved his left leg today! only while unconscious, but for an extended period of time (over an hour) and not just twitches. a week ago today they moved him out of the ICU and into respiratory therapy. he's now off oxygen (er, y'know, off explicitly provided oxygen). still quite loopy, falls asleep unexpectedly all the time, clearly at least somewhat delusional. his mental state's been pretty much stable for a bit over a week (which isn't a great level, but there's something there, and it's not deteriorating); this is the first significant physical progress since his breathing got under control. good signs all around.

in other news, i'm becoming increasingly happy with the church i've been going to for a few weeks. they have a functional 20s/30s group, which is a nice change, and a small but pretty active youth ministry i've started working with. it's a pretty diverse congregation, philosophically, but with distinct progressive leanings, especially among those in charge of things.

after spending most of september pretty depressed, lethargic, astoundingly unproductive, and semi-addicted to hulu, and other assorted problems, october's going much better. i'm getting some actual work done again, being more active, cooking, and so on. i've got a pair of work-related trips towards the end of the month, followed by recreational time in the SF bay area and then more in NJ (and likely Maryland).

i've also finally rebuilt my "get out of dodge" kit, after scavenging it to pieces almost a year ago. i need paracord and something to start fires with. i'm considering vaseline-soaked cotton balls (burn for several minutes each) and some striking steel.