Fun coding with Apache Whimsy

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve done non-open source blogging here! Most of my time is spent at Community Over Code or speaking at conferences, building a new consulting gig up (more on that soon), or continuing work on a variety of Apache work at the Foundation level.

But I have been coding!

Of course, I was a developer for years at $previous-employer (we don’t mention that name here), but unfortunately all the code I wrote was secret. And the only volunteer time I had for Apache was working on trademarks or board issues, not digging into code.

But not being employed gives you lots of extra free time, even after spending a lot of time with family! So I’ve started writing code, but now it’s on Github and under the Apache license!

The Apache Whimsy project builds a number of web tools that visualize internal data at the ASF, and automates a number of organizational tasks for Apache projects and members. Think managing new project graduations, changing PMC membership, and running board meetings efficiently. Now that Whimsy has attracted some development interest, there are a whole host of various tools that Apache committers rely on we’re improving and bringing into the current century!

In any case, while my coding work is on and off (there are lots of other things behind the scenes at the ASF), it’s finally something I can share on Github, along with my other website work there.

Thank you, Great Uncle Louie!

This Memorial Day in the US I’d like to post to thank my great uncle Louis, my grandfather Edmond’s brother and fellow West Point cadet of the class of June 1943.

I’d also like to thank everyone who is or has served in the US armed forces. No matter what your position was, and no matter where you served, please know that we appreciate your service.

My grandfather Edmond and his older brother Louis Anthony Curcuru were both appointed to West Point in the same class by the Congressman from Michigan, which is fairly rare. While Edmond turned towards paratroops – eventually serving in the 101st at Bastogne, Louis turned towards the Army Air Force during his time at West Point.

Sadly, Louis gave his all to his country, and died in a flight training accident while he was serving at West Point. His Howitzer entry reads:

“Louis ‘Lou’ Anthony Curcuru

Louis Anthony Curcuru, USMA Jun43

My great uncle Louis Anthony Curcuru, who died while serving at West Point.

On October 29, 2942, Lou Curcuru died doing the thing he liked best – flying. That is good to remember, for not all men is granted such high fortune. However, there are other things to remember: experiences in Beast Barracks, Yearling Summer Camp, primary training, and the years stretching between these landmarks in our friendship.

Academically Lou ranked high, but he was more than a fine student. Matured, orderly, attentive to duty, and purposeful, he possessed a rich fund of jovial good humor and an unforgettable rollincking laugh.
His real love for music and his cultured baritone voice made him an asset to the Chapel Choir, Also, there are memories of truck trips, football trips, maneuvers, and Sunday night sessions when no ‘harmonizing’ was complete without ‘Louie’.

Athletically above average, lou won his numerals in soccer; and, during the winter of plebe year, helped drive ‘F’ Company’s ‘Flaming Devils’ to the intramural hockey championship.

All these things characterized him; but if we think clearly we will think of Lou first in terms of his steadiness and dependability. No, these are not spectacular virtues – but they are invaluable. How many of us can claim them as he could? His quiet, persevering ability was axiomatic; ahd this is the quality which will define him in our minds.

Lou Curcuru: student, pilot, athlete, and singer – but above all, a true and sincere friend to whom we looked always with certain confidence. Through the years we will do well to remember him.”

Thanks to great uncle Louie and to all who serve.

It was the strangest day this weekend

The twisted bad dreams certainly didn’t help. They weren’t the usual nightmares, with the obvious fears and the inability to run; they were really twisted combinations of fears. This made for a fine if slightly unsettled morning, meaning I was late as I was…

Driving down Rt. 2, the forest of left-merging brake lights ahead of me made me question my sanity: could it still be Friday? Traffic is only like this at rush hour, and I was pretty sure today was Saturday… Oh, I see. An accident – one that just happened, judging from how quickly the brake lights appeared, and from the wide swath of ex-car parts littering the roadway, and the dazed look as people got out of their now ex-car.

Are we predestined to wonder about fate at moments like that; thinking that if I hadn’t had bad dreams, I might have been on the highway just 30 seconds earlier? Or is it free will that makes us wonder what parts of life we choose to do versus which parts are done to us.

In any case, the day got a lot better as we took a family drive in the beautiful weather, shopping in Nashua. We browsed all the applicable models, checking out each one – it was quite the surreal showroom with all the models standing side by side, in the back room, and even in a basement room. After serious comparisons back and forth, we finally made a decision to buy right then and there.

I bought a piano!

Now while piano purchases aren’t an everyday occurrence, it may not seem that strange – but, oh, it certainly is! I have almost zero musical ability, and while part of my vague “you’ve won a billion dollars” fantasy includes a piano somewhere in the mansion, I certainly can’t play at all, and never could have imagined actually having a piano. But we have a daughter who is pretty good, and more to the point is motivated to practice with the true piano feel (it’s a Yamaha B3), an improvement over the electric keyboard she’s used for years. Of course, now the question is, where the heck will it fit in our small house (and what will the cats think of it?)

In any case, it was quite the strange lunch out afterwards, treating to a Bloomin’ Onion, with the handwritten receipt for a somewhat large purchase price for a piano – a piano!- sitting with us.

In any case, bear with me for a moment, and revel in us enjoying the odd feeling of having just bought a piano: a good day to be sure, but a little strange. We arrive home, and start planning where the piano will go, as we also enjoy our mostly clean living room rug. See, my wife treated me as an early birthday present to a little robotic vacuum, which we had left to run while we were out.

It will be nice to keep the cat hair down with less effort, although it has only done part of the living room so far, it seems, and…

Uh, where is the vacuum?

No, seriously: where is the robot vacuum that was RIGHT HERE WHEN WE LEFT? You did leave it on, right? Yes, it started right there, and it’s not here – not in the kitchen – door is closed, couldn’t have gone down the stairs…

“I for one, welcome our new robotic overlords.”

P.S. it had gotten stuck under the back of the couch, when an errant sheet of tissue paper got folded up over it’s sensors. It’s working fine now, and it’s staying right where it’s put.

I think it might be watching me.

PUBLIC NOTICE: Cell phone replaced

This serves as a public notice that my beloved Motorola Razr M phone died (no longer bootable; local data not recovered) a few weeks ago, immediately before flying to attend OSCON 2014. Since I was busy at the conference, and since I couldn’t decide on what to upgrade to, I took a while replacing my phone. It was a strange experience traveling without a cell phone, I must say!

Please note that as of now I now have a working Moto X, which I love, and which I’m still working through setting up.

This is important for various two factor authorization setups I have that used my old phone, which I now need to figure out how to re-create. Ugh.

Goodbye OSCON! See you next year!

It was an amazing week at OSCON – so many great people to meet and share ideas with, both people I’d never met (some who knew me!) and plenty of old friends. Unfortunately I missed traveling out early to attend the Community Leadership Summit, a mistake I will not repeat next year – I’ll see folks there!

While my OSCON talk submissions on brand didn’t quite make the cut (they had an amazing number of great CFP submissions), I was lucky enough to present an OSCON Ignite 5-minute talk on Why your project’s brand is more important than the code, or BRAND > CODE. Since the slides for the 5 minute talk (they auto-advance every 15 seconds) are mostly graphics, I’ve posted my BRAND > CODE script as well.

Oh, hey, OSCON Ignite videos are already up – yay!

Giving the talk was great, but what was even better was the number of people who have come up during the conference who mentioned they liked it and/or that it opened their eyes to thinking about the bigger story that your project tells to the world.

Hope to see some more folks when I get to speak at ApacheCon Europe this November in Budapest – the conference schedule is now posted! And I’m hoping to be speaking at OSCON again next year as well!

Life is awesome

Sometimes it’s hard to get things done. There tasks at work keep changing their goalposts. Way behind on Apache email – not just because the lists are all down, although that’s pretty bad too. Grey at home and tired, and allergies, and Amy is away on a trip, and the cats have an unnatural ability to shed more fur than their own weight every week. And while basic work gets done, none of the fun stuff seems to get done enough, not much of the creative and positive things I’m really interested in finishing and doing seem to be approachable.

But really, life is awesome. It just takes perspective. From the above, we find I have a job that pays me, a volunteer career that I love, a wonderful family, and a comfortable house, and cats. So really, life is pretty awesome, as in awesomely good.

Just a reminder to self, really, that being creative is a big cheer-er-upper for me, and focusing on writing more leads to being cheerier, which leads to more writing (and doing) and generally more awesomeness all around.

Plus: secret to productivity: swimming. Any day I get in my swim (insert $your-favorite-exercise here) in before lunchtime doubles the amount of productivity for the whole day. Next: finding comfortable underwater headphones…

The Ol’Wizard needs your wit and wisdom

My father – the self-styled Ol’Wizard – passed away over a year ago, and there’s been a lot of paperwork clearing up the estate. He also chose to bequest some funds for a few local charities in his estate plan, which I’m working on disbursing now. He wanted to both be remembered, and to help out both people and animals: in the first case, journalism students and Coast Guard sailors; in the second case, cats at a pair of local animal shelters.

Here’s where I need your help. In each case, the gift is at a level where I am offered a small sign or plaque to commemorate his gift. I need your help, dear readers, to come up with some witty sayings or words of wisdom from the Ol’Wiz to pass on his message from the beyond.

The first assignment is a set of short messages for the Northeast Animal Shelter, where dad’s donation covers the cost of several sets of cat and kitten cages in this great no-kill shelter. I’ve already arranged to sponsor two sets of cages: for the cats, three cages in a row on the top shelf, and then two cages in a row immediately below them. Similarly, there are four kitten cages grouped together.

As my father was fond of witty sayings, I was hoping to come up with a pair of short “stories” or Burma Shave-like quotes that would fit on these small plaques in order. Since the cages sponsored are right next to each other, I think this would also be memorable for people looking for just the right shelter cat (or kitten) to bring home.

Each of these plaques is a small plastic sign, hung at the top of the cage. Most of the other cages that are claimed have text like “In memoriam, with much love from our dear father John Doe” or the like. It seems like we could have either two lines of reasonable sized text (somewhat short), or three lines of somewhat smaller font on each plaque.

What say you, friends of the Wizard passed? Any good turns of phrase, or anything you can imagine Ol’Wiz exhorting some humans come to do the good deed of adding a shelter cat to their home?

Similarly, we have also sponsored a bench (to be placed outdoors, probably by the intake area for people dropping off animals) with a very slightly larger plaque, either three or possibly four lines of text depending on how the shelter prints the signs. Any ideas for an outdoor sign?

FOUND: 2011 BMW E90 in Vermillion Red! Whee!

With many thanks to the long-suffering patience of my wife, and especially the able assistance of BHD in evaluating and negotiating, I’m happy to report a very successful new car search!

My beautiful new BMW

I opted to skip the xenons and instead pay a small premium to get low low miles (under 12K) from BMW of Newport. Apparently it was previously owned by some company (it was a commercial title) that didn’t drive at all. It’s a 2011 328i sedan with xDrive, so it will be nice in the winter with the little bit of extra traction (to say nothing of BMW’s none-too-shabby traction control and the like!)

In any case, cars have come a long way in the past 18 years! Wow. While I will long miss the crisp and uber-responsive handling of my beloved 1995 E36 – unmatched in just about any other sedan made – there is a lot to enjoy in my new-to-me ride now. Bluetooth integration, heated seats and steering wheel, and tire pressure sensors (with run-flats) are just a few of the things that are pretty gee-whiz to someone used to driving a 1995 base model car.

Similarly, while I have mixed feelings overall about the engine and transmission (I caved and got automatic), overall the experience is definitely better. While it will take me a while to get used to the shifting quirks and occasional slow upshift in some situations with the default mode, overall there’s a lot more power in even the default mode, and the sport shift mode is almost as responsive as a manual.

The most important features to me, however, are twofold, and probably a bit surprising to most.

  • Power lumbar support. Sad to say, I’m at the point in life where this is a requirement in a daily driver. Nice and adjustable, I can really adjust the seat to push my back just right.
  • Folding mirrors. Not just mirrors that fold, mind you: pushing the tiny little button on the driver’s side actually folds both mirrors inwards AUTOMATICALLY! Amazing!

OK, yes, I admit, power folding mirrors are a pretty minor mechanical thing to have. What amazes me (and this shows the 18 years that passed since my last car was new) is that they come on what BMW essentially considers an entry level car! I mean, sure, I’d expect power folding mirrors on a 7 series, or Mercedes or Cadillacs, but on a 3-series? That’s just crazy! It’s like getting a working Gameboy system with your Happy Meal at a burger joint! Luxury is now available for everyone! OK, well, everyone who can afford a BMW, which I admit is not necessarily that large a percentage of the population these days.

In any case, I love it, and am glad that I won’t need to buy another new car for… well, maybe a decade, this time, instead of 15 years. And hopefully next time, it will be just because I feel the need, and not due to… an emergency or mid-life crisis occurring.

Next quest: figuring out which dealer to use for the covered/warranty service for the next couple of years. No-one seems to like Herb Chamber’s service dept., so do I drive to Gallery in Norwood, schlep all the way to Wagner in Shrewsbury (the only place I’ve actually heard good things about service), or take up BMW of Newport on their offer to dropoff a loaner and drive my car down for any scheduled service. While the convenience of having a loaner dropped off is great, I’m not sure I need the extra 200+ miles on my car when it needs the covered oil change done.