Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Winter Garden

As, I've mentioned before in this space, one of the benefits of gardening in Austin is the ability to have something in ground all year round. In August, we put in a variety of heat resistant tomato, and we've now got many fruits on the vine. With temperatures still in the 80s during the day, and dipping into the 50s at night, we're hoping they'll ripen quick. With luck, we'll have some fresh tomatoes for Thanksgiving. In addition, we planted a few rows of bush beans, and they are starting to produce as well.

A couple of weeks ago, Heather and I spent a Saturday in the garden, preparing the ground, and getting ready for the fall/winter planting. We put in garlic, peas, spinach, and a couple of varieties of carrots. Hopefully, the birds will leave the seeds alone long enough for the plants to grow, and we'll get a good harvest over the next couple of months before a deep frost hits.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Books and more books

In addition to everything else that's been going on, I've been doing a bit of reading over the last few months. Here's some of the most recent titles:

Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans
Upon our move to Austin last year, I decided to learn more about the history of the area. I was recommended Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans by T. R. Fahrenbach. It is an interesting book, but not for the faint of heart. Even though it was updated in 2000, the work still reads as it did when published in the 1960s. This makes for slow going in places, which, combined with the book's 600+ pages, can make it a bit hard for a casual reader to get through. In the end, though, Fehrenbach's treatment of Texas and the people of Texas helped me gain valuable insight into the history of the state, and how that history is impacting current events.

Washington: The Indispensable ManContinuing my series of U.S. presidential biographies, I also just completed James Thomas Flexner's Washington: The Indispensable Man. This is the one-volume condensation of Flexner's four-volume work on the life of the first president. Being an abridgement, the book maintains a fairly quick pace through the major events of Washington's life. Although the text is 400+ pages, it moves fairly quickly, and provides interesting insight into the personality of the father of our country. What impressed me the most about Washington was his great desire that the government be close to the people, and his faith and determination that the republican form of government would succeed in the United States. I recomment this book for anybody interested in learning more about George Washington.

I also read another one of Stephen Ambrose's books: The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany. While not an incredibly intellectual read, it was entertaining enough, and gave me new insight into the lives of bomber pilots in World War II. A short book, I picked it up while at my parents' house one weekend, and finished it rather quickly. It was a nice break from the depth of some of the other books I was reading at the time.

That's about it for now, although I've since picked up Ambrose's one-volume Eisenhower, and it should keep me occupied for a while yet.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Summer of Code Roundup

Google Summer of Code ended a few weeks ago, so I suppose a note here is appropriate. I completed my assigned project, but like most programming projects, it is never really done. By going through it the first time, I now have a better grasp of the issues, and hopefully a better understanding of how to solve them. With luck, I'll be able to implement a more complete solution before we branch for Subversion 1.5.

There are also a couple of articles about my Summer of Code work, as well.

I'm also looking forward to the t-shirt. :)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Super Secret Project

Let me preface this by saying that sewing is generally not considered a "man" activity. Growing up, I observed my Mom working on any number of textile products, from smocking to quilting to making matching shorts for my brothers and I. She even went so far as to teach us to mend buttons and sew our own patches on to our Boy Scout uniforms. When I married Heather, one of the things that impressed me was her ability to create beautiful works of art out of ordinary fabric. It's a talent I admire very much.

With that out of the way, I'd explain one of our family traditions. When we visit places, we generally try to find two types of souvenirs: a fridge magnet and some kind of embroidered patch. The magnet goes on the fridge, where we and others can see it, and the patch goes in an envelope, awaiting some kind of use as part of a project.

Until now.

2005 PatchesOver the past few weeks, I've been working on a project to make use of the patches, and the block for 2005 is finished. The end goal is to have a block like this for each year, a sort of pictorial chronicle of our family adventures. Maybe one day they will become part of a quilt or blanket, but for now, it'll be fun to just look at them.

The block for 2005 contains patches from a mountain hiking trip (Mount Whitney), our honeymoon (Grand Teton National Park; Yellowstone National Park; Cooke City, Montana), a day trip (Timpanogos Cave National Monument) and our Christmas road trip (Carlsbad Caverns National Park). 2006 will be forthcoming, and we've already got quite a stash for 2007. Hopefully, we'll continue to have some grand adventures to add to the collection.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Roadtrip report #1

We've almost completed the first part of our summer roadtrip. So far, we've climbed Black Mesa in Oklahoma, been to the family 4th of July celebration, and enjoyed the past 3 days at the Wright family reunion. After a hike tomorrow, it'll be on the road again to New York.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Peppers and Tomatoes

I seem to be posting a fair amount of content relating to our garden. My apologies if that is to the neglect of more weightier topics.

Tomatoes and PeppersWe recently had the first harvest of tomatoes from our garden. This year, I've got to varieties in the ground, Early Girl Bush, and Brandywine. The Early Girl lives up to its name, our bushes are about 3 feet tall, and showing lots of fruit. I haven't done much pruning (partly because I'm new to this whole thing), so the bush has grown large, and is beginning to bear.

The Brandywine has grown up and over the top of the metal cage, and back down the ground, but we're starting to see fruit on it as well. Hopefully the heat won't kill the plants before we get back from our summer vacation.

Our pepper plants, California Wonder variety for those keeping score at home, as also doing well. I've picked a few peppers, probably a little early, but I want to get them before the bugs do. They should survive the hot Texas summer just fine.

We also managed to pick and eat some of the corn left standing after the series of storms that came through. Not as big of a harvest as I would have liked, but we'll try a second planting this fall and see if we can't manage to get a few more ears.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Garden-Variety Tragedy

A couple of nights ago, a decent-sized storm blew through Austin. It dropped a lot of rain, but didn't seem to cause to much damage. Until we went out to the garden last evening. The supports for the 7-foot trellis which holds our bean broke and the entire trellis blew over onto the neighboring plot. To add insult to injury, about two-thirds of our corn also blew down.

Garden after storm
Heather picking beans from the defunct trellis.

Beans PickedWe ended up spending most of the evening picking what beans we could before taking down the entire trellis, and all the existing bean plants. Tonight, we start again, with new seeds, and a new, lighter and more sturdy trellis design. Chalk another one up to experience.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Adding --parents

(Note: This is the first in hopefully a long series of more technical articles about the Subversion version control system. If you are one of our less technically inclined readers, feel free to skip it.)

The Subversion command line client is a jack-of-all-trades. For most people, it is their primary method of interacting with a Subversion working copy, and it has to be versatile enough to perform any action a user wants. The svn program itself has several subcommands which are used to invoke different client actions, such as svn add, svn copy, or svn commit. Each of these subcommands can also have a whole plethora of switches and options which affects the way it behaves.

As much as it does, the Subversion command line client often pales when compared to analogous Unix commands. This is understandable, given the extra versioning work that Subversion has to do, but most of our users would like svn cp to behave as close to cp as possible. (Due to Subversion's notion of atomicity, this turns out to be a non-trivial task. Making svn cp *.c dir work as expected is how I first got involved with Subversion development.)

The --parents switch is another feature that recently made its way into Subversion trunk. For Unix cp and mv, --parents will instruct the program to create any non-existent parent directories of the destination. svn cp and svn mv now behave the same way, for both working copy and repository destinations. This is useful if you want to create several nested server-side directories in the same revision, for instance. We've also added --parents sweetness to svn add, which instructs Subversion to recurse up the directory tree looking for a working copy and then version all the intermediate directories between it and the target of the add.

When used in conjunction with the sparse directories work, these features will hopefully allow you to version the exact bits of a complex directory hierarchy, without getting in your way.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Super-Mega Summer Roadtrip o' Fun

This summer is shaping up to be quite eventful. In addition to my research and Summer of Code, our family will be travelling a bit, too. My grandparents recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, so we'll be traveling to Utah for a family reunion. Toss in a trip to New York state to see Heather's family, and it'll be a pretty full summer.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Notes from the Garden

Garden - 4/25One of the benefits of living in the Student Apartments here at UT is the community garden. It was closed for maintenance over the winter, but reopened in mid-March to much excitement from the residents, myself included. The plots aren't big, just 16'x8', but big enough to give me something to do when I'm tired of doing homework and just want to get outside.

This year is kind of an experimental year, as we find out what works, what doesn't and how much of different vegetables we can use. Right now, we've got corn, peppers, pole beans, and two different varieties of tomatoes in the ground. In spite of a record cold spell a few weeks ago, we managed to avoid a freeze, and most of the plants are growing quite well.

Hmm...I can almost taste the fresh corn-on-the-cob now...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Summer of Code '07

I've been fairly active in the development of Subversion over the past few months, and I decided to attempt use this activity as a method of income over the summer. So, I applied to the Google Summer of Code program to work on Subversion, specifically the "Merge Tracking" component that is one of the big features of our next release. My work won't be part of that release, but will build upon those features for the future. It should be a good summer!

(Oh, and many thanks to Google for funding the program.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Upgrading to Ubuntu Feisty Fawn (7.04)

A couple of weeks ago, I attempted to upgrade to Ubuntu Feisty Fawn. I've been running Ubuntu as my distribution of choice for two or three years now, and I generally upgrade around the beta release to help shake out any bugs which directly affect me. Usually, it's a painless experiece, but this time was different. I was left with a system which didn't even boot, but instead gave a modprobe error and promptly gave me a spartan BusyBox prompt. After a bit of research, I discovered that it was a known kernel bug which was due to my jMicron flavor of SATA controller.

Fast foward a couple of weeks. The bug is fixed, I'm itching to use some of the bleeding edge software available in Feisty, and I decide to attempt the upgrade again. I'm happy to report that this time the upgrade went off without a hitch. For the most part, all of my fourth-party software is still intact and runs happily, and I'm enjoying the new effects provided by Compiz, and significantly faster boot times (for the four times a year that I need to reboot :P).

All-in-all, it's been a great experience, and I'm excited to use it for the next few months.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Camping in the Rain

For a couple of months now, Heather and I have been planning a trip for Spring Break. With Hannah more than seven months old, and our recent relocation to Austin, we figured a camping/hiking trip would be a great way to get away and enjoy what is usually the best weather of the year in Texas. We decided to go to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, to do some camping and hiking, including a hike of Guadalupe Peak, the highpoint of Texas.

We left early last Monday morning, while most of the Hill Country lay in a foggy mist. The drive was largely uneventful, except for a break stop in Ozona, for a diaper change and a brief stretch of the legs. The weather on the drive alternated between overcast and mostly sunny, so we really didn't know what to expect in the mountains. By the time we drove up the final stretch of highway, the clouds lowered, and we were in a pretty good rain storm. We arrived at the park, snagged the last camping spot, and set up camp in the rain, but luckily, there wasn't any wind. We managed to make dinner during a break in the storm, and then went to bed.

Throughout the night, the weather got cold, the wind picked up, and the fly flapped around. We didn't get much rest, as we worried about the possibility of losing the tent fly and getting very wet. Around 6am, after the tent had buckled a few times, we decided to pack up, throw everything into the car, and retreat to lower climes. It was quite disheartening, as we realized that we wouldn't be climbing Guadalupe Peak any time soon.

Instead, we decided to visit a few other sites in West Texas, including UT's McDonald Observatory, home of the 4th largest telescope in the world. We also stopped and saw the Fort Davis National Historic Site, one of several forts established in Texas during the last half of the 19th Century. It was also fun to drive through some of the mountains in West Texas.

After another long drive through a couple of thunderstorms, we made it home late Tuesday evening, and enjoyed the rest of a quiet Spring Break at home.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

On blogging

In a recent comment, one of my friends asked if I had stopped blogging. In response, I've decided to take a moment to pontificate on the activity of blogging in general, and my participation in particular. If I wax too philosophical, skill to the end to see the answer to his question. :)

A blog is an interesting creation. It exists largely to disseminate information in a timely manner to a specific audience. The writer may have other motivations for blogging, but fundamentally a blog is just another piece of third-rate quasi-journalism, with a several of very important differences from traditional distribution media:

First, a blog can be published by anybody. Unlike a newspaper, a magazine, or even direct market mailings, writing a blog is something that requires no previous skills or experience. The cost of entry is incredibly low, and anyone with an internet connection, mediocre typing skills and sufficient quantities of spare time can write about anything he cares to. The end result is lots of people, spending lots of time, writing about lots of stuff, which they probably know little about.

That said, blogs can still contain useful information. I've learned much after combing the web for a little-known hack for MapServer. Many very intelligent people write lots of intelligent stuff, which can often be useful and instructive. By and large, though, most blogs are junk. Worse yet, the global signal-to-noise ratio goes down the toilet as the amount of junk increases.

Although the information posted to them is often very transient, blogs have the potential to be archived indefinitely. By using proper measures, one can avoid such things, but generally, once something is out on the 'net, it is infinitely harder to put the genie back into that bottle. For that reason, I tend to be overly conservative when it comes to what I post, and how I post it. Of course, there will always be content which is applicable and appropriate, and which I feel comfortable posting.

Third, a blog is an investment by the writer, not a source of income (for most). Whether it be hosting fees, time spent writing, or simply the thought put into generating content, a blog requires something in the way of cognitive cycles and resources. In some respects, living life is largely about the economics of time, and I don't have a whole lot of it these days. In the constant tug of infinite wants versus finite resources, blogging often gets the short end of the stick.

So what does this all mean? Am I done blogging? Will this space ever have more content again?

The answer is: the status quo will probably continue. Hubris dictates that I do have something interesting to say, and this forum is as good as any to say it, I suppose. Hopefully, I'll be a bit more diligent about posting relevant material here as I generate it.

How's that for an answer?