Older blog entries for robey (starting at number 21)

Whew, long week. But it's barely ended and the next one is already set to begin.

My friend Rabbit visited from D.C., arriving on Tuesday. We promptly went out to the "Trannyshack" (a fun drag show on Tuesday nights in SF) with Walt, Rupe, and a few other people. Greg was feeling sick and couldn't go (which would prove to be an ominous sign). The show was great! Possibly the best one i've seen. Afterwards we usually just drink another beer or two and leave, but Rabbit got the dance bug and basically danced and chatted people up until 3am. It's funny, he gets really extroverted when drunk, and will just run up to strangers and start talking to them. Finally we went by the Rusty Penny for sobering up and got home at 5.

The next day i felt really light-headed and sleepy, but i figured that was just from staying out drinking the night before. Yakk and i talked about say2 for a while at work, and he got me psyched to do the next major chunk of work on it (splitting the channel server from the registry server), even though i knew i wouldn't have time that week. He and Mike are the only Eazel people who have expressed any interest in what we're doing, so it's encouraging to get feedback.

Since Rabbit is the only bassist Dead Dog has ever had, we always try to play a show while he's in town, so this time was no exception: Matt hooked us up with a two-night gig at the illustrious New Hack City on Friday and Saturday. So that night, we started practicing in earnest, even though we all suspiciously felt light-headed and sleepy. I was a bit nervous about the number of songs we planned to play, but we got it trimmed down pretty well and started to make real progress.

By Thursday morning, it was definite that we were all starting to get the dreaded Greg plague, so we pumped ourselves full of medication, and Matt handed out liberal doses of hippie vitamins, and slept a lot, and tried to practice. Finally our drummer (Orange) showed up -- first practice with any drummer ever! I was extremely nervous that having a drummer learn the songs the day before a show might be a disaster, but we plugged through each song one by one, and by the time we finished with the set, i felt a lot better about it. Orange didn't impress me much at first, but he caught on so fast and threw out so much energy that i started to think, "This is going to work!"

Friday morning i felt better. Probably better enough to go back to work but i decided to recuperate instead and live with the guilt. It was either sleep + practice or work + practice and i decided to let sleep win a round for once. Once i was rousted, we packed up, drove to SF (horrible traffic -- i could never live in that city) and set up in NHC. We got through another practice round (that's two!) before people showed up, and then played a somewhat satisfying but fairly sloppy set. By sloppy i mean that i messed up a lot (probably everyone else was playing fine). This crowd was mostly friends of Matt, including Strick, who had just arrived from his most recent trip to Asia. Afterwards we went to a cool nearby bar called "Pow!" and then drifted toward the End Up, which has changed so much since i was last there that i was fairly disgusted by it.

Of all the weird coincidences, while i was there, a guy came up to me and said "Robbie?" I thought, this is probably another eggdrop kid who has only seen my name in writing and doesn't know how to pronounce it, so i corrected him. He said, "from Tennessee, right?" (Huh?!) "It's Bradley!" Whoa!! It was one of my best friends from high school! He was the one who first dubbed me Robey. He moved out here a while ago but didn't know how to contact me! I invited him to Saturday's show, which must've been a trip for him. He's also apparently dating a member of the Killkenny Cats (an old Athens band) which just completed the 360 degrees of absolute weirdness.

Saturday we chilled and then played another set, much tighter and more together and far fewer mistakes by me (though still enough). K8e (a girl we met the night before) did a few opening songs for us, and we're hoping to include her as "part of the band" (as much as there's any meaningful membership here) next time we play or record. Matt got it all on Minidisc, so i'm looking forward to hearing how the show came out, when listened to in the cold light of day. This night the crowd was mostly yak people and some of my friends, including a fairly perplexed Bradley.

That night we drove back down to Mountain View, picked up food at Jack, lamented about the lost hour, and then stayed up to watch varying amounts of Meet the Feebles (if you haven't seen this movie, go watch it now!) -- most of us fell asleep before it was over. I think i managed to watch almost 100% of it, though. Early Sunday morning, Rabbit had to leave to fly out to D.C. again. I wish we could play with him and Orange more often now.

I have typed far too much for even the most patient person to read, so i'll stop now.

So, i guess the most interesting thing to happen since my last journal entry is:

  • we shipped Nautilus 1.0
  • we had massive layoffs
...of course, each event on the same day, within hours of each other. After working like a dog on the installer (which still had a couple of nagging problems when it shipped), i was much too zonked to take in all of it. Eskil and i were supposed to get Wednesday through Friday off as a vacation after the installer madness -- i came in for a final lunch on Wednesday and then bailed for the rest of the week, though i couldn't resist popping back in on Friday afternoon to find out what was going on (too much curiosity). Eskil managed to stay away for the rest of the week. It really sucks that it happened on release day (worst timing i've ever seen), and i miss a lot of the people who left.

On the same day (Tuesday), we were looking at upcoming shows and i found out that Idlewild was playing that night! So i called up Greg and we went off to see them -- they rocked! Maybe i was just in a completely exhausted, defeated mood, and their anger was what i needed. The opening bands sucked beyond belief: some SF band that desperately wanted to be all the lame parts of the Beastie Boys with none of the cool parts, and then some totally poser Brit band called "brassy" that was mostly just "assy" (came up with that myself, ha ha, i'm so cool). They were all attitude and no music. But Idlewild kicked everyone's ass and then kept going -- yeah! I've had "100 Broken Windows" in my portable CD player for a while, when i go biking.

The skeleton crew that remains at Eazel has focused on a system involving running python bundles inside a Nautilus view. It made me skeptical at first (especially the part about python) but i've become a convert since then. Python isn't so bad, but it's still no perl. Sadly the GTK bindings for python are way better than the C bindings. I've spent some time doing wrappers for parts of trilobite so that they're accessible from python, and done an enaml binding for python and a little bit of say2 client binding.

Need to get dinner now, more later.

Well, i'd started writing a diary entry last weekend, but PG&E decided that last Sunday night would be a good time to hit Eazel with a random power outage, so the entry got lost before i submitted it. Yes, PG&E does this even when there's not a power crisis. My lost entry started out saying that it's still raining all the time, but in the last week, it's dried out and warmed up, so most of last week was very nice. Hope it stays this way for a while.

Finished reading "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius", and it was pretty good, but i often got tired of his overly pretentious writing style. I think that may be unavoidable in anything done by my generation (and the author had obviously read David Foster Wallace stuff before). The Modern Humorist website mocking the book ("Harry Potter and the Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius") is laugh-out-loud funny.

Nautilus 1.0 ships this week and it's been completely insane around here. As usual, the installer is the flakiest part of it all, and not heavily tested until the last possible minute. Since it takes more time to track down and solve an installer bug than a normal bug (because of the way it's built and the elaborate methods needed to reproduce bugs), it always ends up being a disaster. This time, there were several bug reports about the installer exploding at random -- these were extremely aggravating because they're almost impossible for me to reproduce, and seemed to be non-deterministic. The pressure around all of this was driving me up the wall (we haven't had any downtime since the last pressure-cooker situation around the PR3 release).

Maciej saved the day by casually mentioning that he thought static-linked imlib was buggy, relating to a visual problem in one of the dialog boxes. After i got a few stack traces for the random installer crashes, they all seemed to be crashing in imlib, so i bothered Maciej about it again, and gears started turning in his head. It seemed hopeless to me: if a fundamental piece of gnome is fundamentally broken (and this happens more than i'd like), how much can we do with less than a week left? But Maciej stayed up all night and hacked imlib out of the installer, cut-n-pasting a bunch of code and removing a bunch, and the next morning we had something that seemed to work! The week improved considerably from that point on (which also coincided with the end of the continuous rain).

Eskil continued to work at a steady (and, for anyone else, unsustaintable) rate on other weird glitches, and suddenly we've reached a point where i think what we ship won't be so bad after all -- in fact will actually be pretty good. It's been even weirder because most of the rest of the Nautilus team has been finished for a week or more, so they've already started unwinding from the crunch (and got suckered into helping on the installer from time to time). Looks like i'll get a few days off next week for my own unwinding, and i'm having warm-fuzzy dreams of just waking up, wandering downtown, having coffee, reading a book, and pretending not to speak english.

Eli just dropped by my cube and pointed out that he never gets mentioned in my diary entries. I was going to say something sarcastic now, but actually he's been a good first line of defense, trying to narrow down installer bugs and delay people from filing them while i tried to machete through the pile i already had. Now to keep them at a minimal level until Monday.

More dreary rain. This time i'm up in the city (SF, for anyone reading outside the bay area). Greg and Erin's friend Andy is visiting after traveling around various parts of Asia, and so probably annoyed that most of the food in this neighborhood is some form of Asian cuisine. Breakfast was a comfort food of grilled corn scramble at Q, then a huddled march to Green Apple Books where we must've spent at least an hour. I picked up a copy of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" (yes, i'm a mass-marketed sucker, but it looked good) and a relatively small tome on Roman history.

The say2 webpage has been updated finally, with links to snapshots of the current perl (curses) client and the sephiroth server. Greg has finally checked in his prototype java gui client, which is looking pretty cool so far -- maybe a snapshot will be posted soon. Also i went to a little effort to describe the protocol better, now that clients are being written. Josh has started work on a Windows VB client, too, i think.

Work has been fairly annoying. The install stuff is shaping up pretty well, but it's all starting to be tested, and everyone thinks their bug has higher priority than anyone else's, and they're all "blockers" (bugs that block other people from working), which becomes a zero-sum game where i stop caring. Everyone in my group except me is going to Guadec in Copenhagen this April, and i can't pay my own way (i'll be lucky to get my taxes covered this year) so it's kinda depressing. I try not think about it. Also it's been hard to concentrate when i'm at my desk because our building has gotten so crowded now that there's a constant stream of people wandering through our cube and chatting.

Oops, let's talk about cheery things again. Greg got me the Final Fantasy anthology (games 5 and 6) as a late Christmas present, so i've been playing 5 a lot to unwind. Even with the crappy Nintendo graphics, it's a really engaging game, and i keep getting caught up in it.

Rain rain rain, it was cool for a while but now it's starting to get a little old. I hope some dam somewhere is saving up all this water for electricity uses. The halfway house got hit by a rolling blackout last week and my main Linux box was offline for two hours: no fun. The UPS kicked in, which ruled, but unfortunately all the hubs and routers were out, so nobody really got a warning that it was about to do a clean shutdown. Oh well i guess i can't be too picky about it: it cleanly shutdown twice.

Greg got "suspended" from work last week, along with another coworker, for having a bad attitude. (They had to return to work on Friday after everyone had chilled out.) Man, i wish that would happen to me -- i'd love to have a week off! He read books and rode his bike around and went to MOMA and played lots of FF9. And he started working on a java-based GUI say2 client, which he's been hacking on all weekend and is starting to be somewhat usable. The first GUI client, yay!

Work has mostly involved hacking on the bootstrap installer, which is sort of like a crumpled bike. I can keep banging on it and straightening the wheels and stuff, but it's never going to be a very good bike, only an acceptable one. It's not so bad though -- considering what a piece of last-minute crap the PR3 installer was, i'm surprised we didn't get that many bug reports about it. The 1.0 installer will be using the new install-lib guts, though, so i predict many corner cases will be discovered.

Marx Brothers' Room Service was on TV last night -- Direct TV rulez. :) Also can't stop listening to Idlewild and the New Pornographers lately. And picked up a CD by Death Cab For Cutie after hearing a catchy song on the radio in Atlanta over winter break, and the CD (while being nothing like that catchy song) is mighty fine.

I'm back from the grueling Nautilus PR3 death march. Actually it was more grueling for me than it really had to be, since Greg gave me the flu during the last week of it. I'd come into work even grumpier than usual and be all achey and tired and sniffly all day, and not get as much useful work done as i should have.

But luckily, i didn't get the flu nearly as bad as Greg did: he was sick for multiple weeks and is still coughing. I went on the offensive with mine, and ate pounds of zinc cough drops and echinacea, which was working for a few days until my poor weakened body gave up. Something i ate last Thursday night just pushed my poor stomach over the edge and i stayed up all night periodically expelling my stomach's contents. The good side of all that is that it pretty much scared the crap out of my flu. The flu germs all decided, "This guy is a mess! He's not gonna be a good carrier; he's just gonna die in the middle of the street somewhere. Abandon host!"

So this past week has been a nice breather: A good chunk of people (including i think a total of one engineer) were in New York for LinuxWorld, so the office was pretty empty. I spent Wednesday and Thursday relaxing myself into a total state of corba zen: becoming one with the corba. Then i rewrote large chunks of the corba interface to the installer with my newfound knowledge, and it felt nice. Much newfound confidence in it, and it looks like a lot less memory leakage.

Now it is time for breakfast.

Weird, i just noticed that it's been a long time since i posted a diary that wasn't on a single-digit or 20-something day of the month. Okay sorry, that was even more geeky than usual for me.

Typical Friday: I woke up early to make it into work in time for a special "lunch" my group is having, and i fail to notice when everyone leaves without me, assuming i know where it is or how to get there. Instead, i went back home and had an extremely productive day doing long-neglected housechores, so i suppose i should be thankful.

The clueless corporation that we rent from sent us a letter, just like clockwork, announcing that we had new landlords. How can a company be in such distress for so long? We get new landlords about every 6 months. This time the welcome letter contained not only the usual array of typos and mispellings, but a request that we write back and tell them just who the heck is living here. It makes me wonder: if we don't write back, will they assume nobody lives here and stop charging us rent? How can a company forget who it rented to? Unbelievable.

The PR3 crunch is coming up at work, but i postponed a lot of grunt work for 1.0, so i'm doing okay so far. The install view of Nautilus will look different, but will behave exactly the same as PR2. Massive changes in its behavior will hit for 1.0 (and i'm looking forward to them with glee). My friend Rupe noticed that at night, you can see the entire inside of one of Eazel's conference rooms (including the whiteboard contents) through the plate glass windows on the front of the building. He called it "the open source conference room".

This mention of cubicles is merely to please skef.

Saw "crouching dragon, hidden tiger" (or similar name) at the Metreon last weekend. (Insert standard rant about the Metreon.) Okay, so like, this is an artsy Ang Lee movie and it's in Mandarin, so why the heck was every bubba in the bay area clamoring to get into this movie? I was perplexed. I can only assume that some TV show somewhere said it was a great "action movie" or something. Once the subtitles started, there was a general grumbling about "I didn't know this was subtitled", and there were several points in the movie where people laughed at just inexplicably inappropriate times. At any rate, the great hubbub of Stallone fans didn't prevent me from enjoying what may be my favorite movie of the year: it somehow managed to have awesome kung-fu scenes and still be emotional and interesting. You actually cared what was going to happen to these people, and nobody was cast as absolutely good or absolutely evil. Highly recommend.

The next night we tried to get into the new Coen brothers movie (sold out), so we got in a really long line for "Traffic" -- i guess it was let's see a movie weekend in SF! This long line i could understand, though, it's a movie by the "Erin Brockovich" dude. And the movie was worth being in a long line and cramming into the crowded theater. But i think i'll pass on new movies for a while now until the crowds chill out.

Been back at work for a few days now and starting to get into the rhythm again. For the first day or two i felt strangely antisocial, probably just coming down from all the socialness of the holidays. Eskil's still out of town for another week (and then probably further weeks for INS bullshit) so i've been peeking around in his code, figuring it out and filling in some spots.

On New Year's, Greg found out about this "porn-e-okie" thing being held by Chicken John in SF. Not many people were interested in this kind of concept, but he was eager so i went with him and Walt to check it out. Turned out to be what the name suggests: karaoke done over bad porn movies. Some of the movies involved dwarves and clowns, which was more than a little disturbing. And the karaoke selection had obviously been chosen with care, since it included songs like "Like a Virgin" and "Hit Me With Your Best Shot". After i got into the goofy mood of it, it turned out to be a lot of fun. The yuppies all left before midnight, and it turned out to be just a group of goofy creative people.

Got DirecTV[tm] set up, and it kicks so much ass. Free cable could never be this good. Went out and bought the equipment on the 27th on an impulse, and got the dish roughly configured and reception working within a day -- not too tough but i wouldn't recommend it for anyone who doesn't fix things around the house. "Professional" installation was free through a promo they were running, but i wanted the instant gratification of setting it up the very day i bought it. (I'm like that a lot.) Plus i'd heard that the Food Network was going to be running a marathon of Iron Chef over New Year's Eve and i wanted to be able to tape as much of that as possible. :) Anyway the next day i bought some tools and bolted the dish way down into my balcony, such that it may never be able to be removed, and got it tuned to about 80% reception, which seems to be as good as it can get, but which is plenty good enough to receive everything with no visible glitches.

That very night BBC America ran a marathon of Red Dwarf, so we stayed in and watched.

Haven't worked on my projects (say2 or goo) recently, because of all the distractions. Looks like say2 will need some loving soon, though.

Mmm Phoenix.

Our flight back from Atlanta made its first hop without incident: to Phoenix. But then when it came time for the next hop (to San Jose), the fates were not smiling. No, they were frowning. One might even say they were having a little temper tantrum. Okay, actually it wasn't that bad.

I'd been bragging to my parents that i had figured out how to avoid the Christmas airline crap: fly America West, which always transfers through Phoenix. Phoenix has no snow, no wind, no rain -- no weather to speak of. Therefore your connection can never be messed up! Well, obviously this direct challenge to my bad flying karma could not be ignored, so on our flight from Phoenix, the airplane's computer system blew up and could not be fixed.

I get very depressed when something like that happens, because i know what follows: many hours without food, sleep, comfort, or any resolution about how they're going to get you home. But, against all my expectations, America West did an absolutely incredible job about resolving things. We were herded downstairs to the ticket counters and given hotel vouchers (for hotels that actually had rooms available!) and some food vouchers and info on our new flight, leaving at 7.33 the next morning, in virtually identical seats to our original ones.

Feeling better, we took the shuttle to the hotel, got settled into what was actually a very nice room, and set about getting food. The desk clerk suggested that Papa John's would deliver to the hotel, but a quick call corrected that misinterpretation. "Nearest food?" we asked various people, including hotel staff (who, i thought, might have a personal interest in the answer), and we were consistently directed to the ampm across the street. (East coasters: it's like a 7- 11.)

Walking around a few blocks of Phoenix was just like I remembered it from my last visit a couple of years ago: the city seems to almost always be completely vacant. City blocks were about 1km to a side, filled with short flat unidentifiable buildings (offices? stores? hard to tell), poorly lit and spread out over unimaginable space. So we hiked "across the street" (actually a good city block for normal cities) to the ampm, got cold turkey pita sandwiches and doritos and went back to the hotel to watch Galaxy Quest on cable before passing out.

At what felt like about 10 minutes later, the alarm went off and we stumbled off to the airport to catch our early worm flight. Just to tease me, the pilot announced that they were having computer problems and we had to wait about an hour before the plane actually got fixed and took off. ("What, is this the same plane?" Greg asked.)

Anyway, we finally got back. Yay. My faith in America West is restored -- they still kick Delta's ass to Pluto and back.

Whoops, been too long since i wrote one of these... Work got really busy right before i left for winter break, and the dialup connections from eastern Tennessee aren't exactly the fastest and most reliable ones in the universe.

The week before i left, the cable in my apartment went out and never came back on. Prognosis: TCI finally figured out that we never paid for cable. But still, that seems kind of rude. There ought to some kind of statue of limitations on free cable -- if TCI couldn't figure out in 3 years that they never charged us for cable, they should've long since forfeit their right to complain about it.

Oh well, i think i'm going to try to get DirecTV instead now. The old TCI was only worth "free", since it had crap-all for channels, and less than 50 at that. In my parents' town, those little tiny dishes are everywhere! My parents even got it, in addition to still having cable. [???] I played around with it, and it's definitely a lot better than TCI ever provided, so i'll probably buy a starter kit when i get back to Mountain View, and see if i can get it set up before the end of the year.

Greg and i flew into Atlanta on the 19th, and in retrospect the whole thing was hilarious. First, it was snowing when we got there so the whole city was in a shambles. (Yes, it may have been only 1-2cm of snow, but this is the deep south, so that's enough to cause massive chaos.) Second, we went shopping the next day and traffic was just completely out of control. It was way worse than any bay area traffic i've seen, and i'm not sure they were consciously trying to immitate it. It was just that nobody knew how to deal with traffic, so they would do the stupidest things to cause it to foul up even more -- wasn't too fun to be in but sure is hilarious to think about in retrospect.

More later.

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