Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Yeah, Jenn!

Accepted at Northwestern! 2/2 on the schools we've heard from. More news due this week...

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Bigtime Geek Weekend

Ok, so I did some serious hacking this weekend. Most people probably wouldn't think of me as a geek, but I definitely had a busy geekend.

I got the PHP to work after installing Apache (local only) and the phpMyAdmin worked flawlessly with mySQL. What I discovered was that the Berkeley DB XML is a database that will natively store "lots" of XML documents. That then begs the question of why try to use a relational database when I can go native (XML).

As with so many computer projects, the nested subtasks run deep. I found it difficult to get anything with dbxml working other than the command line -- which worked great, and very quickly highlighted the potential. I struggled to get the PHP to work, even installed the MS C++ compiler to try to do the build. Even caved and wrote to tech support, well after I'd exceeded my "30-minute rule." They didn't really help.

So, plan L. Use the debian distro under VMware player and build dbxml from source. If this works, then I'll have to look very seriously at running the database, web server, etc., under Linux.

As if hacking was enough, I also did some serious reading about computers (ok, also hacking.) I started a thread on Cray's new architecture, which tends to amalgamate SIMD, parallel, distributed, and multithreaded. They cited a new intelligent compiler and parallel programming model called Chapel. Looks like it's supposed to understand the hodgepodge of hardware -- seemingly hierarchical -- and then enable the user to be more productive in writing code.

Even though I'm deep in Linux Clusters, I came across some things I'd never heard of before. UPC (unified parallel C), PGAS (partitioned global address space), CAF (co-array FORTRAN), and a problem that makes this all pertinent -- the Buffon-Laplace needle problem. I have a little light recreational reading to do while I wait fot the dbxml to compile. Wait -- it's done! Back to hacking...

Friday, March 24, 2006

21 Hours -- What Timing

Up at 4:15, back home to bed at 1:15 next morning. Short trip to Boulder in between. News later...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Day Trip to Boulder

I'm looking forward to a 21-hour day on Thursday to go to Boulder and back. Crazy? Most likely!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Time Flies

The only thing that goes by faster than a two-day weekend is a three-day weekend. I did get to do all the things that I wanted to do, and feel pretty well-rested. Well, mostly.

I took a side trip from the XML study which took me to mySQL, which went very smoothly for an install. Also took a trip into PHP, which didn't go quite so well. The PHP is way too complicated, although I'm sure it's quite powerful. I really only wanted the front end to mySQL that a PHP tool is offering, but I couldn't get the "client side" of PHP to work.

In hindsight, that makes sense as you really don't want your browser to have the ability to run local executables for security purposes. So, I suppose that's why the architecture takes us to server side tools.

I discovered something fairly important on Friday. In the spirit of props (learned in Yoga) I stumbled across the notion of something to remind me to hold posture in piano. As much as possible, I try to capture the position that my body is in when my playing stumbles. Often, I find that I'm starting to slouch forward.

When the yardstick that I found in the house -- all 27" of it -- wasn't long enough, I scurried over to the hardware store where I discovered that wooden yardsticks are a thing of the past. So I found a 36" x 2" piece of balsa that (and don't laugh) I can slide down my shirt and position against an elongated spine. It requires engagement of the core muscles and a renewed focus on breathing. (By the way, I know I've never mastered breathing and playing with the exception being when I sing what I'm playing.)

The reminder to keep the core engaged enabled a number of other things to happen in my playing. It provided good posture for reading from the music desk. It allowed better connection between hands, shoulders and back. While I wouldn't want to start a recital by sticking a long piece of wood down my shirt, I was excited by the discovery of the benefits of this practice technique. The final note on this is that the wood is not a brace, so it takes active engagement of the core and a mental check to remember that the spine should be mostly flat against the wood.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Word for Today

Phytosanitary. Did you know that you can take an interactive course on the WTO's agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures? Other interesting discourse on this topic at their web site.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

There Is Hope!

I was so happy to read the following article, where a group of 8th grade students demonstrated higher order critical thinking skills than an adult who took a position that demonstrated a view so narrow that barely a beam of light could pass through. The retort to Ms. Carlin's editorial brought forth the open-mindedness of the youth.

In my original post:
The Power of Searching I highlighted how one voice could be amplified disproportionately to the value of content. There is hope in that the voice of reason can be equally heard.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Need for Active Breaks

Recently, I've found myself doing marathon tasks at work. The back to back sessions are usually pretty intense and require a lot of focus. The deep technical stuff requires even more focus, and tends to be dry as it's usually presented. Nevertheless, it is possible to stay with the program, but not without breaks.

Going for an extended session is okay in the morning when fresh, but by midday it has taken the toll. I'll wonder off in search of calories, and then find it challenging to resume. It's as though I've gone through an intellectual anaerobic exercise and all I'm left with is a fresh supply of lactic acid. (Yeah, I'm sure it doesn't work quite like this.)

One of the techniques that I've learned in Yoga is relax by breathing and assimilate (the practice) in savasana. At home, it's easy to take a brief savasana in between tasks. I find this very refreshing while working on piano. At work, I have plenty of room to walk around and things to do, but there isn't an easy mental escape as I'm sure to come across "additional opportunity" in the hallway.

With that, I remind myself to remember the importance of the active break, taking the time to assimilate the learning and content from the previous event, and to arrive at each new session fresh, open and receptive.

Monday, March 13, 2006


There's not a lot of new things happening, but plenty of the same. And, that's okay. If anything, I may be just a tad overloaded. This is an easy conclusion to come to when, on Monday, I've already decided to take Friday off.

Work continues to be a challenge. I'm glad that I've worked on my personal organization stuff with the XML project. It doesn't stop the work from coming in fast, but it does help with the downstream flow -- or, so goes the theory :)

I think I'm going to see if getting a little extra rest helps. Good night!

Saturday, March 11, 2006


I'm glad that I found my way to the weekend. During the week, it became clear that long hours of focused concentration, deskwork, phone calls, and general intensity was pulling on me. I managed to forget the lessons about frequent breaks, and taking the time to assimilate the event I'd just been through. It is a little tough when running back to back to take that pause to reflect on what just happened.

Our book club on Friday night was okay. The book we discussed was "The Time Traveler's Wife" which I enjoyed reading several months ago, albeit a somewhat long book. There was a good bit of discussion about whether the book was or wasn't science fiction, which branched off into a discussion about what qualifies a book for science fiction. One of the people did a survey into the history of time travel in literature, which was informative. Our next book to discuss is "The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America" by Erik Larsen. Haven't read it, and don't know anything about it yet.

I did enjoy my activities today, including French, Yoga, Piano, and advancing my XML skills. Also watched part of the UNC game, and went to Lowe's to buy light bulbs. (yawn!)

We also got the Miata fired up and the battery seems to be holding a charge.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

New Stuff

I finished learning the third part of Ravel's Sonatine, and got a fairly good review from my teacher tonight. My sound is really good, he said, and if I wanted to drill and prepare for performance that "it would be convincing." Since I don't have a performance planned, I'll take what I learned going through these three movements -- which has been quite a bit -- and move on to some Schubert.

French class resumes "a Jeudi" and I'm looking forward to resuming the study. I have been regularly listening to the news in French (podcast of national news) and to the FrenchPodClass. I have been reading the Bourse RSS feed (business news) but haven't been back to the book or to reading the Google News in French.

My non-work activity is getting a little dense: Yoga, Training, Piano, French, XML, Reading. Well, to be honest, my work activity is dense, too (You know it's hard out here for a pimp). That's okay, because I like all the things that I'm doing and learning about.

Busy Week

All weeks are busy, but for some reason this week seems even more so. I have found work to be a little more demanding than usual, but certainly very interesting. There has been a wave of minor respiratory illness circulating and I may be using some energy defending against this -- that I'm a little tired and don't know why feeling.

I'm very happy about the progress with the XML project. I have found a pretty consistent structure to my activities that I document and the tagging to put the document into form. The neat part is that I'm starting to get some facility with XSLT -- the transformation capabilities -- where I can take my tagged document, apply transformation rules, and yield XHTML. This sounds a little like gobbledygook, but with and XSLT style sheet I can turn my structured document into a formatted document for a web browser. The real power is that I can extract and sort sections of the document.

For example, if I have 15 "events" in my document, all on one customer, I can write the generalized transform to sort all the customers and group the 15 events into a single view while ignoring the balance of the document. You might have guessed that I spent the last couple of days working on this rather than blogging.

Time to go to work and start capturing more structured text!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Power of Searching

Today, the ability of the individual to easily access information is arguably unprecedented. Similarly, the potential for the individual to disseminate ideas follows suit. I bring these two concepts together with an example.

Using Google, I have a set of predefined searches which execute daily and the result is dutifully sent to my email. One of my searches is quite simple, and contains the lone term "Yoga." Even though this is a relatively recent search that I've dispatched, I've received a number of interesting hits. For example, I've learned how Britney Spears is seeking Yoga as a means to manage her body weight.

The article I read this morning was one that surprised me. I had never really thought of Yoga as a controversial subject -- if anything, quite the opposite. An opinion printed by a resident of Milford, Ma., found a way to justify why Yoga doesn't belong in [the] classroom. Her research led her to believe that Yoga is a religious practice and, therefore, shouldn't be practiced during school.

I won't take the time to counter with my opinion in this matter, although I may mentally prepare in case Ms. Carlin moves to Chapel Hill and takes issue with Yoga at CHHS.

So, in 2006, I can easily discover in the large world the small minds. From the broadest perspective I can find the narrowest point of view. And, for what it's worth, I have the same potential audience for my opinion as Ms. Carlin has for her's.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Inspiration -- Pass it On!

One of the things that I've learned to look forward to is the upside surprise of Friday afternoon. For a number of weeks, I have found that good things have surfaced on Friday. (Note: it may make sense to start expecting good things to happen every day, and then to start looking for them!) This Friday was no exception and I'm glad the trend is still intact.

I found myself "pushing" pretty hard this week, which really isn't as effective as "flowing" through the week. I suppose that one sprints at the finish, but I'm not really in a race right now. In my sprint, I finished "Good to Great" this week. I started my next book, "Seeing What's Next" which is my third Clayton M. Christensen book. In addition, I'm making good progress with my XML project. I've learned the basics of CSS, XPath, and have a reasonable data structure that may lead me to a database format. I also learned the idiosyncrasies of MS Word (the double quote is not a real double quote) and I saw the black diamond with a question mark in it on the N&O RSS feed. In case you're interested, that's the display of the "special character" in XML, the apostrophe. If you want an apostrophe in XML, you type '. I've now given up on using contractions!

Even with my accomplishments this week, the Friday afternoon upside started with the most glowing report from a customer on the work that one of my team performed. It wasn't just "thank you for doing a good job," but "thank you for sending somone with exceptional talent...I will remember many of the lessons taught for a long time." Wow. It wasn't just a job done, but changes were made driven by outstanding leadership.

I read on Sage's blog that she found a bountiful music source for her podcast and that she is revelling in the production of her third podcast. I'm very happy to know this is working for her.

And, I enjoyed seeing Jenn honored at the school board meeting last night for being a National Merit Finalist.

This was a long and arduous week, but it has really endidly splendidly.