My blog has moved over here; I’ve briefly explained why on the new site.
An after-action report on my participation in National Novel Writing Month -
I had high hopes. Oh, such high hopes. I had a team of fellow participants to egg me on, both in our community at large and specifically at school. The latter had even invited me to guest blog, and I posted a bit about my mixed anticipation and intimidation at the work and the goal.
So I started writing on the first of the month. Just after having caught a nasty cold on the 31st. I did manage to get to 2600ish words by the fourth, but for more than a week I just barely hauled myself to work, then came home and crashed. Death warmed over.
Then came Thanksgiving. And then the 15-page final paper in my course. And, and, …. I ended the month with less than 3100 words – not even two day’s scheduled output.
What are the lessons learned? First, have a stronger, more complete outline and plan before the beginning of the month. Second, don’t get sick. Third, try not to procrastinate my other essential tasks (like school work, or work work) such that they busy out the Eleventh Month.
But the real take-home is – I Just Gotta Write. “Every day, day in, day out … No excuses, no slacking off” – for 365 days a year. I hereby announce the start of PerNoWriMulMo – “Personal Novel Writing Multi-Month”. I don’t have an exact word-count goal – yet – but I intend to Just Keep Writing.
I’ll keep you up-to-date on the results.
What I said. I still stand by it. I will forever stand by it.
Today’s post is a short public-service announcement.
If you read the NYTimes website, and you’re annoyed (as I was) that you only get to see 10 articles per month before they ‘ ‘encourage’ ‘ you to sign up for an on-line subscription, here’s how you can get around the paywall.
Click on a link to an article, and after it fully loads (and that shadowy pop-over comes up saying “WAIT, THIS IS JUST GETTING INTERESTING“), look carefully at the URL. It should end with something like
gwh=653CAAB8F5824BB48DE43D79BE479E95 (the last 32 characters will vary, but they will all be from the set of A-Z and 0-9). Delete all this (and the preceding &, if any), and refresh the page.
Enjoy your toll-free reading. That is all.
Eric Raymond put out a call to all developers a while back, to work with him on what could become the next generation of ‘software forge’ – that combination of code repository, mailing list and/or wiki, and bug-tracking system that is the locus of a distributed, open-source, software development project. I said to myself, “Well, here may well be one of the last opportunities I have to prove my chops as a hacker. I better get on board with this.”
So I signed up for the mailing list for the project. And further said, “Now I guess I gotta learn Python.” Now almost 25 years ago I had taught myself Perl, and it wasn’t too tough a deal. So I figured that this wouldn’t be any worse, although I’m a quarter century older and cruftier, and I didn’t have a ‘work project’ as my driver. And this is how things sat for almost five months.
But something this week kicked me in the metaphorical seat of the pants. On my way home from work one evening, I stopped by our local big-box book store and dropped almost a benjamin and a half on some books.
I finally got serious the afternoon of Thursday the 5th by reading “Learning Python” by Mark Lutz (the O’Reilly rat book), starting at page one. (Cue the Von Trapp family – “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start….”) I opened a shell window and typed “python” to play along with the examples in the text. By page 91, less than two hours later, I was seriously impressed. D@mn! Built-in comprehensive documentation with dir() and help(); standard libraries for OS interface (abstracting the common abilities for Windows, Macintosh, and *nix); lists of mixed types, with methods like .remove (by matching value), .sort, and .map already ginned up for me; list comprehension – but wait, there’s more!
This is going to be fun. Inner programming geek goes “RAWR!” on savoring the fat-free, meaty texture of the language. Why didn’t I do this years ago??
(You may now insert your obligatory diss of obsolete programmers, citing old dogs and new tricks ;-} )
(We will leave it as an exercise for the interested reader to permute the “TF” into or out of each of the clauses of this slogan.)
So Eric Raymond over on his blog was talking about hosting a party at this year’s Penguicon for his readers, and passing out “hacker” ribbons, and …. One of the replies mentioned in passing that there wasn’t going to be a “Geeks With Guns” event this year (as there failed to be one last year also). Ratz! That was something I had been looking forward to, and it seems that the impediment was the absence of an event coordinator.
Now, I could join the chorus of bitching. Or. I. Could. Do. Something. About. It. Penguicon is held in the next major city over (maybe 75 minutes drive time from my apartment), and, hell, I know a factoid or two about organizing events. Hence the opening statement above. I sent an email off to the con’s organizers, and offered to set up and run this year’s “Geeks With Guns”.
We’ll see if they take me up on the offer. And we’ll discuss the details in the comments of this post. If you are planning on attending, please let me know. I’m tentatively planning on earlyish Friday afternoon – 90 to 120 min. of loud noises, back in plenty of time for the FoA&D party. (Yes, I do ask that you register to comment on my blog. Just give me the handle or name you use on “Armed and Dangerous”, and a plausible email address, and I’ll hook you up.)
Cue the Beatles: “Happiness is a Warm Gun (Bang, bang! Shoot, shoot!)”
I’ve picked a new style for my blog. Within the limited palette given to me by 1 & 1 Internet, this one is much less cluttered and lays out better on the screen.
Hopefully, less distraction from the layout and more attention to the content.
My day job requires me to change my computer password twice a year. I’ve been reminded by the system golems that I have to do this within the next couple of days. Since I seem to always have some song running through my head (no iPod necessary!), the easiest way for me to pick and remember a password is to use a phrase from the lyrics of a tune, and then “‘l33t spell” it, or otherwise twist it up to make it even less guessable.
And given that I type that password dozens or more times each day, and each time that I type, that particular phrase of that song plays through my head, it end up becoming essentially my “theme song” for those six months.
A year ago, not very long after my house was foreclosed on, the song was CSNY’s “Carry On”, and the line I used was “To sing the blues, you’ve got to live the dues”. Boy, had I! Six months ago, when there were other, even crazier issues thrashing my life, and I had fantasies of escaping, it was a hack on the last line of the chorus of Bruce Springstein’s “Born To Run”.
But now what? What should be my theme song for the next six months? What idea do I want to reinforce and celebrate through this winter and spring? In a lot of ways, it acts almost as a meditation, reminding me all of the reasons I picked that song to remind me how I use one of the most important tools in my life, and by extension and consequence, how I want to live that life.
Steely Dan’s “Do It Again”?
Tears for Fear’s “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”?
Adele’s “Someone Like You”?
Got it! That hauntingly, presciently beautiful duet (Woops! Linkrot – fixed!) by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, for the movie “An Officer and A Gentleman” -
her: Who knows what tomorrow brings
In a world few hearts survive
him: All I know is the way I feel,
It’s real – I keep it alive.
The road is long
There are a mountains in our way
But we climb the steps every day
both: Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry,
On a mountain high,
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world below ….
I’ll let you all know in six months how it turns out.
My late father was a veteran of the US Army during the Korean War. My late father-in-law was a veteran of the US Army during the Second World War. Each of them was extraordinarily lucky and didn’t have to face combat. I came of age during the Vietnam War and was able to avoid the draft. I now regret that I didn’t do what I should have, and pay my dues for being a citizen of
the finest nation on the planet.
I never did properly thank either of them for what they did. But today, in public, I wish to state for the record -
Thank you, David Bell and Emeric Pausic, for your service to our
country. May you rest in peace, and in the knowledge that you are remembered fondly (in part) for how you put our country before yourselves.
And I would like to extend my warmest greetings and thanks to all our other veterans (Hi, Mike P.! and Mike L., Doug, Philli, and Martin!) and current servicemembers on this special date. Regardless of our personal political beliefs, or our opinions about the `correctness´ of the conflict at hand, these men and women daily put their lives on the line “between their loved homes and the war’s desolation” — for all the rest of us. We should remember Lincoln’s timeless words:
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
Warmest Greetings on this Veterans’ Day.
I have a cherished quote from one of my favorite authors (Robert A. Heinlein), which goes -
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
I recently toted up my score. Not counting the last two abilites (which I hope to not have to test for a l o n g time), I can conservatively give myself a 15 out of 19. I even was able to parlay this quote, and some of my accomplishments, into a self-promotion (one of my assignment for school).
So now a two-fold challenge for my readers – first, how do you score on Bob Heinlein’s list? And second, create a list of your own of 20 or so things every competent human should be able to do (and of course, score yourself on it).
Put your lists and scores in the comments. Think outside of the box – remember, “specialization is for insects.”