Another year goes by. In the interim...
- redid the front yard
- changed jobs
- travelled to Machu Picchu, the Amazon, and the Galapagos
Maybe I'll update the blog at some point and continue with our Italy trip! It's only several trips behind at this point...
NOTE: Vernazza has since had a terrible mudslide that buried the main road through town with over 13 feet of mud. If at all possible, please donate to help them recover: Save Vernazza… or better, visit them and bring some tourist dollars back in to the community. END NOTE.
The next day was spent traveling to Vernazza. After we had arrived and moved in (a little difficult getting in touch with the lady renting the flat), we went down to the pier. It was roped off and the waves were crashing over the rocks:
It was amazing and beautiful and awe-inspiring and… cold.
The next day we took the train into the northernmost town where there was a laundromat. We dropped off our clothes and hiked back to Vernazza. The walk had breathtaking views, but also some very narrow paths with steep drop-offs. Wendy's fear of heights came back in pretty strong force, and by the time we made it back to our room we were pretty tired. The views, though, were amazing:
The next day was spent exploring the town a little - they have a small castle that was used to ward off pirates - but it was also cold and rainy. We also were completely worn out by the day before, so it was a nice, slow day. Even so, the hills around the town were inspirational:
The seas were amazing (and so was the company!):
But all too soon it was time to leave. This place is my second-favorite on my travels. I only wish we had spent more time there.
It has been three years since my last posting here. Can you believe it? In the interim…
- we got married
- we bought a house
- bought a new car
- travelled some more
- I changed jobs
Maybe I'll update the blog at some point and continue with our Italy trip!
Yes, it's been a long time since the last post. What can I say, I've been busy! If I were to leave a post up for six months, at least it was one as awesome as the preceding entry. That being said, back to Italy journals!
Day Three in Florence started out giddy and happy. Wendy and I were having a grand time! Witness the expression on her face:
Why was she so happy? She had acquired a lily pad frog!
We carefully wrapped up the specimen in my camera bag and proceeded onwards to the Basilica of Santa Croce. There was actually a sizable line when we arrived as a large Italian school group had managed to usurp us (by virtue, I'm assuming, of alarm clocks. We were on strict "no alarms unless necessary" vacation rules).
The fascinating thing about Santa Croce isn't its beautiful outside (like most of Florence, these are just façades from the 19th century). Instead, there are a surprising number of notables entombed within. Galileo, Michaelangelo, and Raffaello all have their final resting places here. Other legends have markings here but are actually buried elsewhere - Dante and Enrico Fermi.
Some of the tombs are amazing ornate and worshipful. Others express beauty and sadness with more simplistic statues:
Afterwards we ambled around and eventually decided to climb the campanile. For the record, Wendy has slight acrophobia. She was a trooper, even if a sad one at the top:
However, even she agreed that the view was well worth the exertion:
As always, there are more photos in the Florence set. This day concluded our stay in Florence. Tune in next time to hear about my favorite location in Italy, and perhaps anywhere else that I have travelled... which is no small sum of places.
So one of my closest college buddies, Dan Salz, was getting married in Ithaca this past July Fourth weekend. He and Jessie had an amazing wedding in front of Taughannock Falls. The day before the wedding Wendy and I drove out to Buttermilk Falls State Park and hiked up the trail to the far side of the falls a little bit. It was fascinatingly beautiful:
I started shooting shots of Wendy in front of the falls using a fill-flash. It was having a lot of fun - both the camera and the flash were on full manual. Digital cameras are awesome - I was able to check each shot until I got what felt like a good balance, but the light was constantly changing, so I kept on having to readjust:
We were joking around and having a really good time when I made some quip like "[blah blah] when we're married [blah blah]" to which Wendy replied "You'll have to ask me first." I said, "OK, well, actually...," rambled for a bit, and eventually dropped to one knee and asked. She had the happiest, brightest look in her eyes and said, "Yes!" Happily staged photo follows (camera perched on a stump, but the emotions are evident).
Afterwards we headed back to the hotel and stopped off to watch a beautiful sunset. Wendy was incredibly happy...
...because we got the opportunity to enjoy the after-engagement bliss with this magnificent sky:
So we're getting married! Mr. and Mrs. Pfile, say hello to your incredibly happy and weird future son-in-law:
Day two in Florence was spent at the Uffizi Gallery. We had purchased tickets (at great expense) online several weeks prior to arriving. This turned out to be one of the best decisions we made. By the time we arrived for our fairly early viewing the "non riservo" line had a several hour wait. We waited about five minutes....
The collection itself was astounding. We spent hours in the first few rooms before realizing there was no way we could view the entire collection at our current pace... unless they let us stay the week! We hiked up our pants and breezed through the rest of the museum while still trying to appreciate the artwork. This was a bit of sensory overload. My two favorite pieces were Leonardo's unfinished Adoration of the Magi and Botticelli's Primavera. The first had such dynamism and emotion compared to the rest of the works shown (clearly groundbreaking work in its era). For the second, I loved the way Zephyr and Chloris are portrayed. This detail doesn't do it justice, but will give you an idea.
After the Uffizi we visited the Institue and Museum of the History of Science. Unfortunately most of the exhibits were closed for renovation and what was there was slightly boring and disappointing. I'd like to think of it as the Franklin Institute with less funding.
Finally we made our way up to the center of historic Florence, gazed in admiration at the Duomo and Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise.
All in all, a pretty busy day. Unfortunately since we spent the majority in the Uffizi Gallery where photography is verboten I decided not to lug along my camera gear. Wendy's point-and-shoot did a wonderful, job, though, so I've posted five more photos to the end of my Florence set.
Just wanted to let you all know that this coming week is WWDC 2008. I'll be giving the talk Controls, Views, and Animation on iPhone on Wednesday at 10.30 in the Presidio. I'm pretty nervous about this. Just a few years ago I was paying to attend WWDC, and now I'm giving a talk there... but it should be fun. Hope to see some of you all there!
Day Three of our trip in Italy was spent traveling from Venice to Florence. We took the vapparetto from our hotel just east of Piazza San Marco up the Grand Canal, past the Rialto Bridge to the train station. From there we purchased our first Trenitalia tickets (easy!) and eventually boarded an empty train to Firenze.
Once we reached Firenze we promptly got lost, double-tracked, walked against massive city traffic (quite a shock coming from Venice), and found our hotel. We can just say that we do not recommend the residence. The next day we decided to relax for a bit, but eventually got bored. We ended up visiting Palazzo Pitti and the fabulous, amazing, and beautiful Boboli Gardens.
I've posted another 38 photos, entirely from that time.
As I spend more and more time with Wendy in our apartment, I'm so... relaxed? happy? ... that I keep wanting to improve the place. I've never really felt this way about any of my other tenements, and I know I've stayed in far worse places. For some reason, though, I just want to make this place better.
My latest beef is with the windows. They're leaky (meh, I'm in CA) and they're difficult to open or close. They are all casement windows and so use the fancy pinion and sprocket with a long lever arm. Unfortunately, they are also several decades old, have never been serviced, and are either stripped or on the verge of stripping. It's like driving a car with bad synchros - even the good ones keep trying to pop out of gear.
So I tore one apart today hoping to improve it, but it doesn't look like it's user-servicable. Browsing on the net shows the same results. Replacement is the vast recommendation, and new units seem to be a thriving industry. And herein we get to a reason not to rent.
I don't mind putting in free labor to improve this place. It's a relaxation for me and it enhances my environment. But any money I put into it is money lost. I'll never see a return as it's not my domicile, I'm just renting. And so I'm stuck with stripped crank handles everywhere I turn.
... this is one reason the Camaro is still not track-ready ...
Day Two of our trip to Italy is now posted. This day saw us spending time in San Zaccaria church, eating lunch in a nice sandwich shop, going through St. Mark's Basilica, wandering (the best thing to do in Venice), and ending up on a gondola ride. Unfortunately, this was our last full day in Venice. In the next installment we will head for Florence.
So... Wendy and I went to Italy in April. Or, to put it better, for April. We left on the 4th and returned on the 28th for a total of 24 days of bliss. It was quite a (successful!) test.
This was the perfect opportunity for me to exercise my photo skills and try to get better at translating my visions to reality. Lord knows I need a lot of work at it :) Practice makes perfect, though. In the past two years I have averaged about 1500 photos/year, or 4 photos a day. Not bad, eh?
In 24 days in Italy, I took 3044 photos! That's more photos than I have taken in the last two years! A puny average of 127/day. The only real issue is that I've gotten a lot better, and so the photos themselves have gotten better, and there are fewer easy trashes.
Now that it's almost a month after we've gotten back, I figure it's about time I put some of these online. So today, I put the first day only online - our first full day in Venice. The 22 photos can be seen in my Venice set on my flickr page.
-- my life is amazing.
Did you know there were people who profess to prefer dumb quotes to proper ones? You only need working eyes to realize there are many people who don’t care, but to flat-out prefer them?
(Via Daring Fireball.)
I don't prefer dumb quotes. That would be foolish. I do, however, prefer a nice IBM Selectric. So, if a preference for dumb quotes gets me a Selectric, then I definitely prefer dumb quotes. I accept UPS or FedEx, and you're welcome to take away my computer, provided you leave me with my iPhone.
Jeff Atwood on his Coding Horror blog says “Why Doesn't Anyone Give a Crap About Freedom Zero?” I'll write a full answer at some point, but I'll just say this: I have yet to see anything come out of the OSS movement that is truly, amazingly beautiful and revolutionary. I think it's a side-effect of the community. There are so many little things that people care about, and so many different voices on a project - you end up with such a diverse set of goals and directions that it's nigh on impossible to focus. Without focus, you can't get quality products out.
This, of course, doesn't preclude so-called "Freedom Zero", but there's a second part to this - in order to get such strict focus, you have to have either a single driving point or an insanely well-coordinated team. Teams can almost never last that way, unfortunately - inevitable differences in opinion will split the group. So to have a long-lived incredibly coherent beautiful idea, you have to have a single source. And it is incredibly rare for a single source to have the capital and means to achieve the idea. There are a few exceptions to this, and they are incredibly well known: Burt Rutan, Richard Branson, Dean Kamen. I'd also put Steve Jobs in that list. When someone figures out how to structure society so that we can achieve the same quality of products as those that these folks produce yet still be able to be Freedom Zero'd.... sign me up. I'd be stoked. Until then...
I have finally had enough of DreamHost. They have been good at times but, like a Dickens novel, there is also the worst times. The final straw (after things like "Oh, sure, we give you tons of bandwidth per month, but we divvy it up so much you would have to be damn lucky to ever get near our limit") was their "accidental" overbilling. I was billed for two years into the future, even though I am currently paid in full.
They claim it was an accident and, to their credit, they have a very transparent attitude (even if the attitude reaks of smarmy asshole). But with their recent rants in the community, my continuing issues with them, and the lack of comfort with their entire operation, I have decided it was worth slightly more money to move to a hosting service where I had control over things, and where things worked. So now I am on a host that is fast (enough for me, at least), has a high data rate, and seems to be very reliable. And so far, I could not be happier...
I have decided to push the design live, because I was not working on it anymore. It started and ended in a brief night of frustration. My previous solution used Sandvox - a nicely written and well-recommended web design program. I had figured that I was beyond the point of coding my own dirty code - I have a job to do that now - and that I would use a different tool to get things done. The thing is, Sandvox does not scale. I have gigs of movies on my site that I like to share - but the data model requires a separate copy of those and frequent pushes to the server, despite the movies never changing. The program also seems insistent in loading these movies into memory cache and reading them constantly (I assume to check integrity, or some such thing). All of this combines to make creating and editing of the site more tedious than it was before. Top this all off with a design that I did not like... You end up frustrated and with an impetus to change things. So change I did, back to some old ideas rewritten in newer styles.
I am trying to live my life a bit more fully recently - my personal life has gotten very full (and I am very, very happy for this), and I am working on making my work life more productive. What people do not realize when they say "work" and "personal" is that to me, at least, there is a third life. I suppose different tags on the first two work better: "work" and "social", although social would include intimate relationships. The third category is "meta", or "personal", or "self development". This is the area in which I believe I have stagnated, and I am trying hard to lift myself up to the next level. One of the more interesting things I have found to help me do this is unit tests. I have been trying to get a better success rate on these each day - my current percentage is abysmally low.
-- two cars, wonderful girlfriend, good job, still unhappy. Curse of the narcissist gifted?
Another site redesign, because I clearly don't have any other work to do... Kind of funny background behind this design. I had been reading Gruber's posts on typography and design so often that it made me realize how hideous my site was. I brainstormed for a while, and then sat down and sketched out a few designs, finally settling on one that took queues from my favorite sites but was uniquely mine as well.
So what happened? This looks incredibly generic, no? It is. As I was coding it up, the design evolved into something a bit more simple and fluid. It still definitely needs a fair amount of tweaking - sections aren't divided as nicely as I would like, for instance, and it probably looks like hell in browsers other than Safari.
So my apologies, Señor Gruber, as this may seem like a blatant rip-off. However, I do not consider myself a hack with this design for the following reasons:
I just have to remember not to use footnotes. I use them normally, but it might seem like a direct copy if I were to start doing it here too...
Just need to finish migrating over the old posts, comments, other content, allow viewing of older posts than the last N, and allow commenting... and I will be done!
-- perhaps too much gray?
Made my flickr address easy to remember:
Sorted through all my photos in Aperture, and I've decided to up a pic a day to flickr. Check them out here.
Today's photo - a self-portrait. Egads!
... to the Flickr revolution.
I've always enjoyed managing my own photo collections. But my life got to the point where it's just not worth my time. Now, instead, I sit in Aperture, and say "Export these into a new photostream", and it all "just works".
So a few new collections are online:
More to come in following days.
In other news, I took some time off this past weekend (sorry, Wendy, for leaving you on Valentine's Day). It was an awesome trip - I flew into Philly to celebrate my Dad's birthday, and was treated to an awesome show.
Romped up to NYC and hung out with my sis' (you rock!) at the MoMA, and then dragged her (in protest!) to Starbucks. Had a great time chatting and hanging out. Then walked 30 short blocks in twenty degree weather (brr!) to Tekserve. I'm not quite sure what I was expecting (something nice and big but not otherworldly), but that place was actually really awesome. Jeff, you've got a great place to work, and I'm stoked to see how happy you are.
Met up with Jeff and his fiancee Jeanie and had a few drinks (at Jake's? I don't remember). Then Ames, Chris, and Ashley hopped a train down (Chris coming all the way from New Hampshire!) and the weekend became even more awesome... Shydo, Brandie, Truck, etc.... it was a wild ride, and I'm so happy I had such great friends to make it all possible.
Thanks, guys. Seriously.
-- nothing worth living for is easy
So I bought a 60G Photo last year at Apple... the first time I bought a real, honest-to-goodness iPod. Yes, that's sad. I've been an Apple fan almost as long as I can remember - but I didn't own a real iPod (I had a Shuffle, though).
Suffice it to say, I was blown away by the difference that the real iPod made. I always knew they were easy to use, etc - but I hadn't really experienced it first-hand. I ended up using it a ton, and dropping it several times (hey, these things happen!). Something in it became fairly fubar'd, and even after getting some friends over in iPod land here at Apple to repair it for me, it still kept flaking out. But I was holding out, since the new iPod Video was still only 60G - and I didn't want to spend money on something that brought me little perceived benefit.
And then the 80G came out.
At 60G, my iPod was almost filled to the brim with music. I had stopped purchasing music and was thinking about trimming down my collection. But the 80G... I could put some of my TV shows on that I had purchased. I could go back to having my photos on the iPod!
So I took the plunge. Not only did I take the plunge, I figured I'd go all out. I ordered it in Black, and engraved. Unfortunately, the engraving can only fit so many characters, so my inspirational quote had to be trimmed to a point where it was still meaningful to me, but the random observer would just shrug:
Decide what to do with the time that is given to us
It's actually Tolkein paraphrasing Lenin through Gandalf's mouth, telling Frodo (unfortunately, this is from the movie, as I can't find the quote at the moment):
So do all who live to see such times, but we can't choose our time. We can only decide what to do with the time given us.
And in that, I have. I bought the iPod shortly after starting my latest job, and seeing its back constantly reminds me that, yes, my job is incredibly hard. Yes, I don't have the skills or experience that the entire rest of my team does. Yes, I am trying to work like a dog for the foreseeable future, with nary an end in sight. But I know what times were given to me, and I'm at a fork. I choose the road more difficult, but supremely more rewarding.
I just have to keep reminding myself that.
A few weeks ago, Roger Waters (oblig Wikipedia link) came to the Shoreline Amphitheater to play a few songs. If you don't know who Roger Waters is, please click on the links =)
It's hard to describe the intensity with which I've listened to Pink Floyd in the past. It started way back in CTY '96, when I fell in love with High Hopes from the album The Division Bell...
Beyond the horizon of the place we lived when we were young, in a world of magnets and miracles...
Leaving the myriad creatures trying to tie us to the ground, to a life consumed by slow decay...
At a higher altitude, with flag unfurled - we reached the dizzy heights of that dreamed of world.
I listened to that song constantly. It helped even more when Tarpy passed away, as it was a song we both enjoyed.
As time moved, I progressed to more angsty and cynical Pink Floyd albums, like their incredibly famous The Wall, which I still quote as my status message when I'm rather stressed (thank you, again, Jeff Blakeman, after these many years, for introducing me to the album):
I wanna go home, Take off this uniform and leave the show, But I'm waiting here in this cell because I have to know.... have I been guilty all this time?
And, of course, The Dark Side of the Moon. TDSotM is best known for its "integration" with The Wizard of Oz, but the songs on it are quite amazing in and of themselves. And many of the lines are still pertinent today:
"Forward!" he cried from the rear, and the front rank died... And the general sat, and the lines on the map, moved from side to side.
So all of this background and hullabaloo is just lead-up to say that, although my favorite Pink Floyd album is post-Roger Waters, being able to see Roger Waters in person, and not only that but to see him play the entirety of "The Dark Side of the Moon"... well, that's an amazing life opportunity. So when my girlfriend invited me to go, how could I possibly say no?
And I'm so glad I did. He did not fail to perform perfectly to what I expected. The backing band was quite good. The female vocalists were incredible. The lead guitarist danced along the delicate line of the crowd's expectations to hear the solos from the albums they're used to versus his own desire to infuse ingenuity and personalization into the licks.
By the end of the show, I was bobbing all over - absolutely ecstatic about the show. It's been a few weeks, and I'm still overjoyed that I got to see it. I highly recommend catching the act if you get the opportunity.
 Did you know that hullabaloo is a real word? Oxford Dictionary defines it as "a commotion; a fuss".
Did you also notice the other little tidbit I dropped in this entry?
Wow. That is about all I can say about Atwater. After years of small sites, this was amazing. Incredibly grippy concrete, large completely open site with no light poles... it is amazing the freedom that provides to a course designer. How about a straight where I can completely wind out second gear, and if I had better grip for braking, could have grabbed third for a good portion? Speaking of grip... I hate, I hate, I hate these BF-Goodrich KDWs. This was my first event with them in the dry and I am sorely disappointed by them. All they seemed to do was scream. Turn-in response was non-existent compared to the Ecsta MX tires with which I am more accustomed. Ultimate grip seemed likewise reduced. Watch the videos - it is just a mishmosh of sliding here and there. Oh well - by the last two runs I had formed a driving style that I think they liked... so it was a good learning experience! But I would rather not have to repeat it. So, on to 315/35/17 V710's it is...
I suck. That's all there is too it. I really, really suck. Well, I can claim non-familiarity to the speeds we ran at. I can claim that I'm not used to choosing a line through the cones. Which is true. Second run I slammed the outside cone... bad enough to break my exhaust. Am I an idiot? Yes. So I figure "I'll just go slower into it." Um, no. Early apex much? Bah. At least the good thing is that I know I have a lot to learn... Videos are in the normal place, and results are here. But do me a favor and don't look at them. Bah. Two more events this weekend (and they are bigger - third gear courses!).
I thought you might all get a kick out of the fact that cold rain followed me out here, and my first autocross was in a downpour. The good news is that in the heaviest of the rain I was only two second behind the national champion, Vic Sias. The bad news is he was probably on slicks :-) And in damp weather I was 5 seconds behind... but the courses are so much larger and faster that it took a lot of hutzpah to commit to a corner and slide through it in the wet. I know I lost a lot of time coming into the last hard left, for instance, as I braked hard, even on my fastest run, and the car seemed bored there... vids are in the video section, as always, and results are here. And just to rub it in... this event was on Sunday, and I had already missed four local events. And I'm going again on Sunday. I have to rub it in, because it's $30, members only, and you get 3 runs. 252 drivers at Sunday's event. In the rain! I'm going to miss the Glen Region's small, social events.
So it's been four months since I last updated this. My apologies. I had intended it to be a rather common thing, but as I never actually finished implementing it, frequent entries didn't occur. But I have a great excuse! Seriously! See, ever since I was a little boy, I dreamed of coming out to California and working for a specific computer company. I had been introduced to their products in the late eighties and found the integration and usefulness both amazing and eye-opening. Here was a product that made sense without fuss - elegant, concise, and powerful. So I finally made it through the rigamarole of youth (high school, uni, etc) and put some effort into achieving the dream of contributing to this company. I am now proud to say that I am an employee of Apple Computer and have been since January 10. My job is both interesting and time-consuming, hence my lack of updates. But I have a lot to cover! So look forward to their being signficantly more information in the coming weeks. Or, at least, that's my good intention, and we all know the road to hell is paved with them...
So... the question is this. If one were to want a standard format throughout the site, the easiest way would be to have a single page that generated that, and loaded the changing content in the inner frame. OK, so, with that done, things like the links on the side that need to be changed become a little more difficult - you need "inheritance" through the pages and whatnot. OK, with that done, how does one actually handle the content itself? This is an enigma - storage within the same DB makes sense, but what if that page is generated on the fly? Does one start to store the PHP in the DB, dump it to a temp file, and then include that file? And if so, when does one start caching, and is the whole ordeal becoming overly complex? Should you just stick with including base files? How do you handle references? Who has come up with a completely dynamic web content system that allows you to have complete flexibility in the pages themselves? I don't mean a Wiki, or CMS, or anything like that. I mean something where the pages themselves have intelligence and scripting. Back to the drawing board - and in the meantime, I apologize for the quality of the site.
Welcome to my new website. Hopefully this will be a little easier to navigate and update, as well as being more informative. Expect to see much more information coming soon about my many projects, from music writing to engineering to software design to...