Software and life, mostly life.

28 May 2008

Time for another break.

I'm was going through my personal site and doing some cleanup this weekend when I noticed something; all the sketches shown in this image come from one part of last year. Around the end of summer in 2007, I made a commitment to break my internet habits and stop all non-essential browsing (pretty much any browsing immediately necessary for programming). Right around the time, that is, of one of my longest bursts of technical creativity.

I talk a lot about wanting to create more. Games, art projects, arduino and physical interfaces, financial modeling and automated trading, adapting ideas from software writers I respect and admire (see Richard Gabriel - Conscientious Software [PDF])... Gah! It doesn't get done when my browser is filled with eight tabs of Reddit articles and blog posts.

I've produced some things I'm proud of but right now I've got ideas languishing for want of the time and motivation to give them life. It's time to back out again. Not so much quit internet cold turkey, because there's some value in knowing what's happening in the world and in the community I'm trying to get into (which spends a lot of its time on the web). I am ready to turn off the "show me something interesting" news, however. I am in an attention deficit situation, and that must be rectified.

What would I do with a summer sabbatical from distraction? Let's hope it can last.

26 May 2008

2008 05 25

Itinerary for Sunday, may 25:

  1. ride bike

  2. eat burrito

  3. watch spaceship land on mars

  4. eat ice cream

24 May 2008

Myers-Briggs Scores

Here's a blast from my not so distant past life as a DCE (Director of Christian Education) student. In the second year of the program, the spring of 2001, everyone in our DCE Seminar class took a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. Follow the wikipedia link if you want the gritty details. In short, it told me I'm an INTP: an introverted, intuitive, thinking, perceiver. The classic nerd personality type. (My wife is an INTJ, so we get along fine)

Going though an old box of class work from college, I came across the score sheet for the class. Just for the heck of it, I threw together a spreadsheet with the scores. Names have been removed to protect the innocent. Fun fact: out of 21 people listed on the score sheet, I'm the only T, although there are quite a few INFJs.

Check it out.

22 May 2008

Something to think about when starting a project

You Don’t Have To Be The Next Big Thing | How To Split An Atom
There is nothing wrong with building on a pre-existing idea.

You don’t have to be the “next big thing.”

Every idea doesn’t have to change the world as long as it’s changing something.

The idea of Baltimore Share Network is scary, because it's hard to think past what the "competition" is: Craigslist, iVillage, Freecycle... It's easy to fall into the trap of imagining that in order to go up against those existing projects, ours has to be bigger and better than all of them. The truth is that we have a simple idea which only requires a simple execution. The design process from the article lays it out well:
  • Have a clear idea of what you want to do.
  • Eliminate all those features that aren’t necessary to complete that goal.
  • Test incessantly, seeing which parts of your idea were right and which were wrong.
Constraints--self-imposed or external--breed a special kind of creativity. Constraining scope and goals will lead to a more elegant solution to the problem at hand.

20 May 2008


Bill de hÓra: Two classic hardbacks
I honestly don't think I'll even finish the Structure And Interpretation of Computer Programs. I'll read it who knows how many times, but i doubt I'll ever really be done with it. Personally I find SICP tough going sometimes, but it's time well spent.

I bought Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs for myself about a year ago with the goal of working through at least the first three chapters over the next 6 or 8 months. At the same time I made the decision to stop out of graduate studies (MS program for computer science at Towson University). That decision had a lot of things that went into it, but to continue paying to have someone slowly feed me the less challenging form of the material in this book was not making sense.

Now, one year later, I've made it through the first chapter. Not because the material is too hard to continue, although it is challenging, but because I slowed, then stopped. I figured I would start quickly and then settle into a groove, but I hoped I wouldn't completely drop it. To see the message from this post reiterated so often in the programming news circles I frequent is an affirmation that I chose the right book to start with. Two of the top reviews of SICP on Amazon are by Paul Graham and Peter Norvig, after all. But it's also slightly convicting because of the time I've taken off. I've said my goal is to eventually be working for myself. Whether that means starting my own company or becoming an independent contractor isn't clear yet. I know that without the ability to extend myself in the areas that will contribute to that, my stated goal will be empty speech.

27 years down, ? to go. How long will it take?

19 May 2008

Moving, Someday

Stranded in Suburbia - New York Times
Still, if we’re heading for a prolonged era of scarce, expensive oil, Americans will face increasingly strong incentives to start living like Europeans — maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of our lives.

[emphasis mine]
True words. We plan on moving from our current suburban location into the city in the next five years for this reason among others. The only problem is that work is about a mile from home right now, there's really no way we could move into the city without moving farther away. The way I see it, there are [] options on the table:
  1. Don't change anything.
  2. Ignore increased travel costs and move anyways.
  3. Move and become a hardcore bike rider (at least 7 miles each way).
  4. Move and change jobs to work closer to home.
  5. Move and work out a more favorable telecommuting situation (increase from one day a week).
  6. Move away away (Columbus OH, NYC, Portland OR, Pittsburgh PA, Cleveland, Ithaca NY are all options).
It looks like 4:1 moving to staying. But I'm real lazy, so staying put is still most attractive.

High oil prices are not a sign of "the bottom dropping out" or any sort of recession or dollar devaluation. It's simple supply and demand, the pace of oil discovery is slowing, therefore the supply of oil decreases. The only two possible outcomes are a change in price (upwards) or a change in demand (downwards). Unfortunately, higher prices must come before reduced demand.

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Baltimore, MD, United States
Husband and father, software developer in Baltimore, MD.