Older blog entries for Rich (starting at number 54)

Mussolini On the Produce Aisle

This requires just a little explanation. This is about the awkward situation that arises when you encounter someone from a past, and, in this case, very unpleasant, chapter in your life, and the difficulty of making small talk. Everything serves to remind you of something from that time. Which got me to thinking - what if I were to encounter a dreadful historic figure at Kroger. Hitler? Too obvious. I know ...

Mussolini On the Produce Aisle

I saw Benito
- he's going by Beni now,
sort of a break from the past -
waiting for his swiss

You don't mention
death camps in the deli,
it just isn't done.

So I made small talk,
asked if he had been
hanging around Milan lately.
Realized, apologized for the faux pas,
made my excuses,
went to find the rigatoni.

Saw him again
looked at the zucchini,
trying to decide
or non-organic.

I complimented him on his
black shirt.
Again realized too late,

escaped to look for the
alfredo sauce.

I didn't realize he shopped her.
Might order pizza for dinner instead.

Syndicated 2013-09-29 23:47:19 from Notes In The Margin

Raspberry Pi, Day 1

I got another Raspberry Pi, for the express purpose of luring Z into being a bit more inquisitive about computer things - perhaps learn some programming. He's primarily a consumer when it comes to computers - games, videos, and so on - but he's *so* creative, it seems like he'd be a great hacker, given the right incentives.

I tried to make sure that it was instant success, but of course we ran into some hurdles. The install went smoothly, but it turns out that I don't actually have any wired mice any more, and the wireless ones just didn't work. So, over to see Jenn and borrow a mouse. Thanks Jenn.

We did the initial setup using the TV, because when I had tinkered a little before he came home, I wasn't able to get the HDMI output working immediately. After we got the OS installed, we unplugged everything and took it up to where the ancient Windows machine is, and plugged it into that monitor. Monitor worked immediately, but for some reason there were errors in the boot sequence, saying that USB wasn't loading.

We were out of time by then, and Z headed to bed, but I brought it downstairs and plugged it back into the TV, and everything booted fine.

So, tomorrow, we try again. Not sure what was going on, but I think we're pretty close.

Next steps - after successful boot - is to see what video editing stuff we can get running on there, since putting stuff on YouTube is Z's latest passion. We're trying to steer him towards content creation rather than content consumption, so video editing is a very good thing for him to get into.

Also of interest is Scratch, which comes with the Pi, and is an environment for learning to program. Apparently some of his friends are already using it, so perhaps that's a good place to start.

Syndicated 2013-09-25 01:51:46 (Updated 2013-09-25 01:51:47) from Notes In The Margin


Your title here...


At three in the morning
most cities look the same --
like the back of a taxi-driver's head
on the way to the airport.

He also takes me places I'll never see myself

A dive bar in Harlem,
where Dizzy Gillespie plays his horn
to a packed house

Or growing up in Somalia
one meal away from starvation
or enscription
or a lucky break in the new world,

Or the guy so Nigerian you can see Lagos
reflected in his eyes, who insists
he is American
and then shouts at the radio in Yoruba.

And Mr Patel, complete with Ganesha
swinging from the rear view
who asks me in a deep Georgian drawl
if I caught the Braves game last night.

And that dude in San Diego
who used to be a Java programmer before the bubble burst.
Now he sets his own hours and is home
when the kids get off the bus.

Most times, though,
at three in the morning,
we sit in silence, each of us thinking
of home.

Syndicated 2013-09-24 01:02:30 from Notes In The Margin

Standing up to jerks

This week there was yet another incident where a male presenter at a tech conference acted like a middle schooler and exhibited poor taste and lack of judgement. This shouldn't surprise anyone.

It should never surprise you to find a jerk in any community. Jerks are everywhere. What's important is how we - the non-jerks, and particularly the men - respond to the jerks.

I tweeted:

Do you have the guts to stand up and say something if you're in a talk that needs to be stopped? Someone needs to. http://t.co/dKep8taqNZ

— Rich Bowen (@rbowen) September 8, 2013

And I've been thinking about this quite a bit since then. What would I have done in that situation?

There's several options available to you. You can simply leave. You can be quiet about it, or be loud about it. You can stand up and speak about about it. You can ask the representatives of the conference in the room to step in and throw the bum off the stage.

Or, of course, you can do nothing, which is what most of us do most of the time.

Speaking out is hard. It's uncomfortable. It's deeply awkward. You'll look like an idiot. People will resent you. You'll have nasty things said about you online. It's much easier to sink back into your chair and let it happen - perhaps even participate in the nervous laughter around you.

But it only takes one person to stand up and say, no, this isn't on. This isn't how we do things in our community. You are on the outside, and you won't be allowed to paint us all with your brush.

Several years ago, I was attending a conference. As it happens, it's one of my favorite conferences. I've spoken there numerous times, and a lot of my friends attend. This particular time, my wife was attending with me.

We stepped into an elevator and another conference attendee was in the elevator wearing a tshirt depicting a woman pole dancing, with the text "I support single mothers".

I didn't say anything.

I think about that frequently. Why didn't I say anything? I'm a respected member of the community. My words carry weight there. I could have made a point that he was making people uncomfortable. That he was being disrespectful to the women in the community. That, since he was on the way up to his room, perhaps this was a good time to change his shirt. I could have used my privilege as a man, as a community elder, as a speaker at the conference, to right a small wrong.

But I didn't. And so I was complicit in the women that were made uncomfortable, or didn't come to the conference next year, because this guy thought his little joke was more important than someone's dignity.

He was the middle schooler, and I was the grownup in that situation. When my son misbehaves in public, it is my job to correct him and make sure it doesn't happen again. This is not to say that he's not responsible for his actions - he is - but I'm responsible for my response. The young man in the elevator was responsible for his tshirt. He chose to put it on. I presume he thought it was funny. It was my job to educate him, and I missed the opportunity.

And so we come back to you, and how you respond to indignities and injustices that happen around you. Did anyone in the audience stand up and protest? I don't hear them on the video. Was anyone even uncomfortable? Did anyone think that it was a problem?

If you're one of the elder statesmen who, like me, attend a lot of these events, and have a loud voice in the community, you have an obligation to stand up to this kind of thing, rather than sink into your seat and cringe. Stand up. Say for the whole room to hear, we don't do that kind of thing here. Risk being uncomfortable. Risk feeling awkward. Risk people being angry with you, or not understanding why you thought it was important to spoil a "harmless prank" or "just a bit of fun." Because it's not fun to the people who are being othered by this kind of behavior. And, in the long run (and the not-so-long), it is harmful to the future of our industry when we make it clear that women aren't welcome.

It's fine to be indignant after the fact when these things happen. It's important to support GirlsWhoCode and other organizations that encourage other marginalized groups in technology, but how you respond at the moment that indignity occurs defines what's ok the next time.

Stand up and say something.

Syndicated 2013-09-09 14:30:44 from Notes In The Margin

For the ones who married young

Various of our friends post articles now and then about the joys of marrying young and growing up together in harmony. The most recent of these was here, and is a beautiful story, full of sweet moments and good advice.

We are truly, deeply happy for our friends who had that experience.

There were times, of course, when we each, separately, assumed that they were lying, just as we were, in order to tell the story that everyone around them expected to hear. Twenty years on, it's both delightful and deeply humbling to see that they weren't - or that, even if they were, they managed to work through it and build happiness on top of the sad times.

But that's not our story. This one is for those of us who married young and watched it fall apart. Because you need to know that there’s more to your story than regret, and watching other people get lucky and find happy--hard, but happy--the first time around.

We both married young and unwise, and, although beautiful things came from those years (most obviously our beautiful, brilliant, talented older children), those decisions were terrible, terrible mistakes. Mistakes that could have been avoided, at least for one of us, if we'd listened to those same dear friends, and actually opened our eyes to the various red flags.

But, as we mentioned, we were young, and so very unwise.

Our mistakes are put squarely in front of us, every single day of our lives. This is true even though my now-wife and I have found in each other a best friend, and each day is better than the one before. Our mistakes influence decisions we make every single day. My mistakes have a profound effect on my wife, and hers on me.

And so when we see these articles encouraging people to jump in with both feet while they're young and unwise, naturally, we don't have the same teary-eyed response that others might have. Our teary-eyed response is for years and opportunities lost. It is for the pain that our kids go through every time they talk about their parents, every time someone asks what their mailing address is, every time someone invites them to a birthday party and they have to figure out which home they're in that weekend. For the confusion that our youngest has when her siblings go away for days at a time and she doesn't understand why, and the stab of anger and sadness and whatever-it-is when she asks why she doesn't get to have two houses, too.

Please, don't stop posting those articles, particularly if they are written as compassionately as the one mentioned above. The compassion for those of us who failed made that one readable. And the advice in the article was also relevant to those of us trying to make another go of it.

And please don't ever, ever hear us saying that if you are having a hard time of it, move on and you'll find someone better. We are, as the Bible puts it, "as one escaping through the flames." Neither of us recommends it to anyone. Every time someone comes to us, as the presumed expert, to ask our advice about whether they should leave their spouse, it breaks our hearts. We can identify with the pain, but it is a jump from one flame to another, and nobody can tell you which fire is worse.

Please also understand if we don't "like" or comment on posts about early marriage on Facebook, or share them with our friends. Even on the other side of our respective tragedies, the flames can still burn.

But as we said, our story does not end with us looking back over our shoulder at what was irretrievably lost.

If you share our brand of brokenness, you need to know (if you haven’t learned it already) that there’s more to it than regret. There’s opportunity for healing and redemption (with or without remarriage); to see the glory of a Thing Made Whole Again, and when the light shines through the pieces, it’s a breathtaking sight to behold, especially from the Inside.

Syndicated 2013-08-08 17:58:39 from Notes In The Margin

Vanilla Forums: Email subject lines

Problem: Vanilla Forums sends out email on new messages and when a message has been commented on. The subject line is:

[Forum Name] rbowen started a discussion


[Forum Name] rbowen commented on your bookmarked discussion

Because the actual forum post title is missing, the chance of someone actually responding is pretty low.

So, I want to modify the subject line. However, Vanilla doesn't provide a simple way to do this, so I'll have to hack on the code itself.

Seemed like a good idea to document this, since I see the question asked a few places, but no answers.


1) Track down where that subject line is created.

Looking for the various phrases, it appears that the subject lines are created in applications/vanilla/settings/structure.php, around line 180. Look for the comment:

// Insert some activity types

2) Where is the email sent?

After some digging, it appears that this is actually done in the EmailSubscribe plugin, which would have been more evident, I suppose, if I had been the one that set up the forum. Oh well.

The trouble is, however, that the subject line is created in applications/vanilla/settings/structure.php (around line 180) as part of the event logging, and so we may have to recreate the subject line ourselves, rather than using the one that's passed in.

Around line 79 of plugins/EMailSubscribe/default.php, you'll see:

$Email->Subject(sprintf(T('[%1$s] %2$s'), Gdn::Config('Garden.Title'), $ActivityHeadline)); and I think that's where I'm going to want to ctually set the subject line. If it's a new post, I want it to be POST_TITLE , whereas, if it's a reply to a post, I'll want to have it be: Re: POST_TITLE So, first pass is to just do this:

                        // $Email->Subject(sprintf(T('[%1$s] %2$s'), Gdn::Config('Garden.Title'), $ActivityHeadline));
                        $Email->Subject(sprintf(T('[%1$s] %2$s'), Gdn::Config('Garden.Title'), $DiscussionName));
But that leaves off the Re: for replies, so I need to figure out when it's a reply. I will defeat you, EMailSubscribe

Syndicated 2013-08-06 18:28:45 from Notes In The Margin

The Mess

Ray wants to bake a cake.
Marguerite wants to float
on her gecko
in the pool.

These are, of course,
things, fun and profitable.

I must try to
think of the fun
and not the work it will create.

I must,
or they will remember
that I was

no fun.

So I must be sure we have eggs
and sunscreen
when he gets home,
and when she gets up.

Syndicated 2013-08-04 16:43:03 from Notes In The Margin

Setting your default printer

When I finally got printing working on my new HP5520, I discovered that apps like xpdf that print by invoking lpr directly would only work if I told them to use 'lpr -Php5520', which was a hassle. After some poking around, I discovered that the Cups web interface, at http://localhost:631/ let me set the default printer quite easily. Of course, you can do this via some config file or other, but this was easier. Here's how you do it.