Archive for the ‘geekery’ Category

Brewed Some Beer On Saturday

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Brewed my second batch of homebrew ever. It was the same bbq wit as before, with fresher spices. I’m hoping it turns out as awesomely as the first batch. The second batch is harder though because sanitizing becomes that much more important. I’ll know in a week and a half.

I followed the basic outline for brewing an extract beer from beerdude, which worked really well last time.

Here’s it steeping some grain.

Summer BBQ Wit II: A New Beginning

Mountain West Ruby Conf

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Badge & Breakfast

Mountain West Ruby Conf last week rocked. It was well organized as always–props to Mike Moore(@blowmage) for putting it together and Confreaks for recording it and all the other people who made it the awesome conf that I like coming to every year(e.g. Jeremy Nicoll-Smashing Photographer).

CHE-UP my friends.

More seriously, Zed’s talk made me think more carefully about my open source contributions in terms of who benefits from my work. Am I just a sucker for working on stuff like Dubious or am I just doing it because I find it interesting and engaging. I think he crafted a really good talk and a good meme(CHE-UP) and made a good point about being aware of the motivations behind projects you contribute to. Now I just need to find some suckers/contributors to help me with my plans for world domination ;).

Mind Monkey Patching

David Brady’s talk about head hacking reminded me that I need to finish Pragmatic Thinking & Learning, a good book I’ve been reading off and on for more than 6 months now. I need to try using that crazy cat picture (the one with too many eyes) to trigger hardware interrupts at interesting times. Might be fun.

“Web” Development

Wayne Seguin’s talk was very topical as MWRC is my favorite conference to meet new and interesting Rubyists. I feel like I did some definite “web” development while I was there. I met new people and spent more time getting to know better some of the people in the community I’d met at other conferences.

I came away from the talk feeling inspired to do more looking at teaching and mentoring, something I looked at a little at RubyConf.


Concurrency was a big theme at the conference with Ilya Grigorick talking about more advanced concurrency models, and Preston Lee presenting about using the GPU and CUDA to solve embarrassingly parallel problems.

Ilya talked about the Actor model, which Erlang uses as well as Pi-Calculus/CSP which is what Go uses. Both deal with concurrency by providing constraints on what you can do within them. Interestingly, their constraints are very similar, but have different abstractions with regard to what is named.

In the Actor model,

  1. Name every process
  2. Every process has a mailbox
  3. Communicate via messages

In the CSP,

  1. Processes are anonymous
  2. Every channel has a name
  3. Processes communicate over channels

He wrote a gem that acts like CSP called agent



I ran in the 5k. I slept through it last year and decided that I had to do it this year. There were 13 of us. It was very dramatic.

Rounding the last corner

Rounding the last corner (pic by

I think I was last.

Mirah & Dubious

Mirah and Dubious were represented. I did a lightning talk on Dubious Thursday and Joe O’Brien showed off what is going on with Pindah as part of his Ruby on Android talk. I got to introduce a few people to Mirah and Dubious which was pretty cool. It seems like people are getting more interested in Mirah and projects written in it, which I think is pretty awesome.

Some other thoughts

Redis is a pretty cool project that I’d like to look at more than I have.

Wood cuts make for nifty slides.

Figs are killer.


Thanks again everybody for a great conference.




RubyConf X and Associated Activities

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Tomorrow RubyConf begins. And, I will be there. I’m speaking, though not listed in the schedule yet(I’m filling in for John Woodell again). I’ll be talking about Dubious, a web framework written in Mirah, along with Bob Aman, who will be talking about AppEngine and Google’s new discoverable APIs.

I’ll also be doing some ruby processing + DRb stuff like we had at mountain.rb. See video:

I think this is the biggest conf I’ve been to so far, and I’m really looking forward to it.

It should be awesome and a lot of fun.


Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Mountain.rb At The Boulder Theater

My first local conference, right here in Boulder. I had a lot of fun. Thanks Marty for a great conf.

Ada Lovelace Day

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Hey it’s Ada Lovelace day. I found out about it from 2d goggles, a web comic that follows the awesome adventures of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage.

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging (videologging, podcasting, comic drawing etc.!) to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science.

Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines, whatever they do. It doesn’t matter how new or old your blog is, what gender you are, what language you blog in, or what you normally blog about – everyone is invited.

The two women I thought of are Rear Admiral Grace Hopper and Barbara Liskov without whom computing would not be where it is today. They rock.

I use concepts they came up with every day. e.g. The Liskov Substitution Principle: If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and needs batteries, it’s probably not a duck. Or for Grace Hopper, compilers and the idea that computing machines could be used for things other than arithmetic (read calculating bomb trajectories).

Some Quotes

I had a running compiler and nobody would touch it. … they carefully told me, computers could only do arithmetic; they could not do programs.

— Grace Hopper [more]

It’s much better to go for the thing that’s exciting. But the question of how you know what’s worth working on and what’s not separates someone who’s going to be really good at research and someone who’s not. There’s no prescription. It comes from your own intuition and judgment.

— Barbara Liskov [src]

Check out some of the other posts for Ada Lovelace day at

Mountain West Ruby Conf Rocked This Year

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Mountain West Ruby Conf this year was awesome. I totally had a blast.

It was the third time I’ve gone to it. It was my first conference and still is my favorite. I got to meet Matz, I gave a lightning talk, I met all sorts of interesting people and I learned a bunch of new things. To quote Matz, MountainWest RubyConfはすばらしかった。

Matz & me

Things to revisit

  • Rack(1.1.0 in particular)
  • Chef(looks better than the last time I poked at it)

New things(to me)

  • RVM(rvm looks pretty handy, especially for cross vm library development)
  • Hubris(this might be a neat way to get into Haskell development)

My lightning talk

Usdo. Misspellings turn into gem-fu practice

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Indian Paintbrush
A few weeks ago, during a period of frustration, I found myself repeatedly mistyping ‘sudo.’ So, in a fit of silliness I wrote a short script to insult me when I did it, and put it in the path.

Later, I packaged it as a gem, because a) I had never built a gem with an executable and b) gems are a great way to share things.

The end result?

It isn’t particularly smart, but I happen to find it funny. It also showed to me how far gem packaging has come. Gemcutter and Jeweler make building and distributing ruby gems freakishly easy. This is especially awesome in light of the recent announcement that gemcutter is going to be the default gems host(though at

How I put it together

I ran jeweler to create the default directory structure and added a bin dir to it, for the files I wanted to end up in the path.

$ jeweler usdo
cd usdo
mkdir bin

I put my gist from before in the bin directory, and set up git.

Set up my gem info in my Rakefile

#... do |gem| = "usdo"
  gem.summary = %Q{adds usdo command to ridicule mispellings of sudo}
  gem.description = %Q{...} = ""
  gem.homepage = ""
  gem.authors = ["Nick Howard"]

then did the jeweler gem initialization dance

rake version:write
rake gemspec
rake install

Testing it out:

$ usdo -l
    You mispelled sudo
    You can't do anything, you can't even spell sudo
    are you really sure you want to try running
    'sudo -l'????

Now that was working, to send it up for distribution.

Jeweler is awesome and now has gemcutter support. I followed the jeweler README‘s directions on uploading to gemcutter. Which makes pushing your gem as simple as

$ rake gemcutter:release


Check out my code if you want.

I loves me some music geeks

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

I saw OK Go last night at the Canopy Club. The show was a blast. The songs were awesome, fucking loud; there was much kick assery to be had. My favorite moments though, were the silly ones.

Went to ALA in Chicago

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Living with a library science graduate student has its perks.

Not Too Crowded

Two weeks ago I went to Chicago to see the big ALA conference. I came by train, armed with a backpack stuffed with clothes etc. And generally made off with the adventure having.

Friday evening I gathered up all the necessaries I had laid out in the living room the night before and stuffed them in my backpack. I walked to the station, a bit less than mile, through the neighboring neighborhoods.

It was the first time I rode in coach on an American train. It was slower and more cramped than the shinkansen, but felt more train-like with it’s conductors calling out the stations and big diesel engines.

I laughed at the Montana advertisement over the door into the terminal. Something like

– Few People Come Here
+ Few People Come Here

I took a taxi to the hotel. It was a little more complicated than I thought it would be because there were quite a few people on the train–significantly more than there were taxis. Also there were taxi barkers or something trying to get tips from people for helping them get a cab. It was a little crazy.

Saturday Morning 8 am

I snuck in to see Gregory Maguire talk about what he has been doing recently among other things. I wish I had taken notes because I don’t really remember much of it now. Depressing.

Afterwards, Sara and I went into the exhibition hall, fittingly called The Stacks. We looked at children’s books for a while and grabbed some galleys…

Did you know you can get free books at ALA?

Sara eventually went off to some official sessions and left me by myself in the stacks, until lunch.

Initially, I just wandered around. I had this strange suspicion that I would not be able to find an honest to goodness technical software book in the place and I wanted to test that suspicion.(Later I learned that O’Reilly usually shows up, but didn’t this year for some reason)

The reason I wanted to find software books or their lack was that my local public library’s section on software was rather meager and I suspected it had something to do with technical publishers not marketing software books to libraries.

In the end I found a number of technical publishers, but they were mostly peddling their database solutions, and they bring any of their software wares to show off.

Eventually that got boring so I started to talk to the software vendors.

Note: Lunch occurs somewhere in this period.

To summarize:

  • numerous data base vendors
  • ebook peddlers
  • language packages
  • SMS gateway services tailored to libraries
  • And an awkward demo of a set of keyboards intended to facilitate communications between deaf people

Telling people I was not a librarian, but instead a Software Developer sometimes elicited awe or confusion and other times a kind of oh well sort of feeling.

The best bit of the conference for me was the Newbery Caldecott Award Banquet. I shook hands with Neil Gaiman. I was among the 1200. And Sara got her graveyard book signed.

The second best bits were all the shoe conversations:

Shoes | Strange Comment Attractors?

“Whoah, those are crazy shoes.”
“My friend and I were wondering, are those comfortable?”
“Cool Shoes.”

Some Final Links
Integrated Library Systems:
Ex Libris
Cool Org/Com’s sites

RubyNation Etc

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

I am back from RubyNation and reapplying my nose to the grindstone, wheel to the asphalt and hands to the keyboard. I am still planning a big summary and commentary post based on my notes, but as I started working on that, I realized it might need more than one night to see to completion.

So, I give you this:

Hyatt Ceiling Pastry and Me in My Hat

Carrot Cake(Thanks Hyatt catering)

Mmm Carrot Cake

And Lys, the cat who is strangely fond of white ceramics.

Lys, Sink and You

Tune in some indeterminate point in the future for a fuller update. Or, you could just read this guy’s take.