Summary

Writing: Submitted a story for an anthology on Thursday. The anthology's idea is to cross robot stories with a non-SF genre. My Wodehousian take (Cheerio, J33-V5!) was rejected this morning. That's fast turnaround, for which I'm grateful (though disappointed). Generally, these things take months to find out the results. The deadline for submissions is the 4th of April, so there's almost enough time to submit something else: Maybe "Robots for Chocolate," "The Death of Artemio Robot," or "Robots of Redwall" will fit the bill.

Movies: I have to say that if I were MIT, I'd sue the movie 21 for defamation of character. Granted, it's been many a year since I've been in a diff eq class, but I don't think that lame discussions of probability really fit into the curriculum. In addition, if I had paid all that money to have a professor spew brain teasers stolen from the Sunday newspaper supplement, I'd have gone into yak herding. Kids, if this is what MIT is like, give RPI a look-see, 'k? (Also, it seems to me that if I were a poor kid whose big dream was to get into Harvard Med, I'd have tried to shine in a liberal arts undergrad school somewhere instead of taking the robotics track at MIT. Or if I did MIT, at least I'd have gone the bio-mechanics route.)

Restaurants: Shane's is a nice fast-food bbq joint in Laurel that we visited for the first time this weekend. The picture of the oversized owner is a bit off-putting though. I don't want a reminder that I need to diet just as I'm entering a meat emporium. At the other end of the fancy scale, we tried the Oz Chophouse, which went out of its way to show us that we were not welcome and were wasting our money. Sure, the food was good, but we spent a lot of money for very very little service. (And how can parents afford to take their kids to a place like that?)

Pub: Speaking of expensive, we also dropped by Victoria's GastroPub last Thursday. It's worth the trip up to northern Columbia, even if the food is a little froofy.

Blossoms: Tried to get down to the Alan Bennet play at The Studio, but missed it by ten minutes. So we joined the hordes at the Cherry Blossom Festival. The best bit was tuning into 1670 AM to hear Park Ranger John speaking with Paddles the Beaver. I am not making this up. Paddles really wanted the kids to know that sitting on the trees, pulling off their flowers, and trampling on their roots are all really harmful to the poor trees. Really. Funny that Paddles failed to mention her own species' involvement in cherry tree damage. Yet another government cover-up.

9 1/2 Miles, not Weeks

Took a short 9.52 mile ride this morning and got a flat in the parking lot of the high school on the way back. There are an insane number of churches along this particular route. It's amazing.

With that comment as an example, I'm thinking about renaming this blog, "Another Reason I'll Never Be Elected President."

Confluence Help Needed

If there are any Atlassian Confluence geeks lurking out there who happen to also know some groovy, I need advice. I am trying my darnedist to get the current user's userHistory in the midst of a groovy script on a Confluence wiki page. And I just can'g figure out how to get the dang object.

Don't Forget Earth Hour

Turn off the lights at 8 eastern on Saturday, 29 March.

I Am a Blogger and You Can, Too

Hey! You want to get in on this whole blog revolution? Well, aside from being five years late, you don't really know what to talk about do ya? huh? huh?

Well, luckily, ole Taleswapper (note that I said "ole", not "old") has a couple of suggestions for ya to help get you started. It's too late to set up a blog devoted entirely to misplaced quotes or apostrophes or gloves, but here are two more ideas that I don't think have yet been taken:

The Bad Parking Blog

Post pictures of bad parking jobs. You'll be amazed at how easy it is to find a new picture every day. (Caveat: I take no responsibility for any damage that may occur to your camera or person if you are discovered in the process of snapping the picture.)

Pictures My Cameraphone Took When I Wasn't Looking

Even more exciting than blogging is photoblogging, but it's hard to come up with something new to shoot every day. So just let your camera do the job for you. If it constantly takes pictures of the inside of your trouser pocket or purse, let us see them!

Yes, the web is a mighty and wonderful thing! Get out there and pile on!

Amsterdam (Ian McEwan)

The flight from Denver was delayed by some mechanical deficiency that was major enough to keep us on the tarmac for an extra hour, but not so dangerous as to deplane us or provide a new vehicle. No doubt a few dabs of Super Glue and a roll of duct tape will keep the wing in place for most of the flight back to BWI.

At any rate, the delay in a super-heated airplane numbed the brain enough that I found it difficult to follow even the fluffy movie-on-board once we got underway. Skeptics might suggest that any picture is hard to follow if you elect to watch without sound, but I tell you that there's little the sound could have done to distract from the odd blinking. Watch Becoming Jane some time without sound and imagine that every character's blink is a clink. You can vary the timbre, if you like. Perhaps the women sound like the toasting of champagne glasses and the men like the clanging of hammers on the front quarter panel of a Corvair. It'll drive you mad, believe me.

If you really want to drive yourself over the edge, add to the mix a bored pre-teen boy kicking at the back of your airline seat with an irregular beat. I heard on Radio Lab that rats eventually learn to deal with electrical shocks if they know when to expect them, but you can drive a rat to check himself into St Elizabeth's if you make the shocks seemingly random. The kicking brat was a lot like that. Are you with me? Now, imagine that it is illegal in your country to smack other people's children.

Is it any wonder I prefer the company of imaginary people?

Speaking of imaginary people, I tore my eyes from the blinking in order to give my ears a rest and noticed the woman in the window seat. She had let her head slide back to the half-closed window near her headrest. Her jaw hung open slightly and I heard small grumbling sounds emit therefrom. I understood immediately what was wrong.

"I can understand completely your response," I told her loudly. I like to speak clearly on airplanes so that I am understood above the background thrum of the plane. I imagine my fellow travelers appreciate my effort, but I'm imagining all of this, so I might be careful about trying this in real life.

At any rate, I could tell my rowmate appreciated my volume because she jerked awake ready for highbrow conversation.

"What? Huh?" she said.

"You dropped your book," I said. "You know, I, too, have read McEwan's Amsterdam, and although I enjoyed it immensely, I'm afraid I could see how it might be a bit masculine for a woman's taste."

"What?" she asked again.

"Oh, sure, the connective tissue of these friends who tear themselves apart was indeed a woman, but she dies rather immediately and the rest of the book reeks testosterone...which probably explains why they acted so stupidly," I mused.

"Oh, I don't know," said the bloke in the row in front of us. His head popped up over the seat and stared down at us. My rowmate dropped her book again and knocked her head on the window. Poor thing. "It didn't seem like realistic manliness, you know?"

"Not really, old chap," I replied. I have a horrible habit of picking up the accents of people I'm talking to. It often leads to uncomfortable confrontations.

"Well, look at that poet, for example," he said. Funny, he suddenly lost his accent and started speaking like me. "If you met some old geezer who knew your ex-girlfriend thirty years ago when she was sixteen, would you assume that they'd slept together?"

"No, I suppose I would not, but I'm hardly a normal guy," I said. I would have loved to have gone on, but the woman at the window interrupted us with a coughing fit. "There, there, dear," I said. "Shouldn't drink so quickly." I turned back to the bloke. "At any rate, that incident aside, the self-destruction -- or should it be mutual destruction? -- of their relationship as the result of poor decision making following the woman's death is the crux of the book and he --"

"I'm sorry to interrupt," interrupted the kicking child, his head looming large over the backs of our seats. "But the book isn't about any of that relationship junk you people keep going on about --"

"Oh, really?" I said in my loud voice. Kicking my seat is one thing, but disagreeing with me in public? Don't kids these days have any respect? The attitude of the child obviously distressed the woman at the window: She started rooting around in her seat pocket, no doubt for the air bag.

"But it is," objected the bloke in front. "It's a fascinating story about two men who make bad choices and the consequences those decisions have on each other."

"Pshaw," said the boy. I'm so out of it that I didn't realize that the term was in vogue with the whippersnappers. "That relationship junk is just a cover. The book is really about the irrelevance of old media. It won't be able to compete with new forms of communication and the timetable of modern life. Their need to turn to scandal and flash are just the last moans of a dying dinosaur. Television and now the internet will prevail. That's why this is a story about a few old guys flailing about for relevance."

"I dunno," said the bloke. "If that were true, why have the thing hinge on a postcard? If your theory were correct, wouldn't it have been an email or some such?"

"What do you think?" I asked the woman. I had noticed that she must feel left out of the conversation because she was slowly curling into a ball. She looked from me to the kid to the man in the front row. She shook her head.

"I think I need to use the lavatory," she said, quietly.

"Ah," I said and stood to let her pass. She must have been desperate to go because she practically flew down the aisle. The three of us watched her until she was out of sight.

"Well," said the kid, "that was another good discussion."

"Yeah," I responded. "But the airfare is much too expensive."

"Sure," agreed the man in front. "Maybe next time the book group could meet on a bike path or at the Baltimore Harbor or something."

"There's always Amsterdam," I said.

"We should have met in the Amsterdam Falafel Shop," suggested the kid.

"Sure, but I wanted to get this down on paper quickly," I responded. "And I haven't been there, yet."

"Paper?" the kid scoffed. "How antediluvian." And he went back to kicking my seat.

The Secret Garden

So, let me see if I understood what was going on: Captain Kangaroo lives in a haunted house with a cross-dressing child and a pair of Irish siblings pretending to be from Yorkshire? Into his life comes a stubborn little girl who talks to birds and increases his ghost population by 1500%?

The City of Alexendria was out in force last night packing The Little Theatre to the breaking point. There were a lot of children in the enthusiastic crowd, little girls dressed up in shawls and sparkly slippers.

The woman next to me came all the way from Memphis. Actually, she's been here for a year, but she isn't really adjusting to the rapid pace. It'd be nice if the theatre had a place for her to put her cane. She was a little offended by the audience member who kept telling her to leave her dang purse alone, it was making too much noise.

I liked the set, but the sound was erratic, sometimes too soft to hear (especially Colin) and sometimes painfully loud (especially in the group numbers). And whatever happened to enunciation? Geez, I could barely understand any of the singing done by Dicken or Lily. On the other hand, Rose's singing was clear and lovely and was well-supported by her acting. Now we're starting to doubt whether she should be allowed to have children. Martha and Mary also did well.

Before the show, we munched at Eamonn's, which certainly seemed like an authentic chip shop, except that the Brunette thought the fish was too high quality to be truly representative of the type.

OK, Zombies, do you think you could maybe start working a little closer to home?

Name That Satellite

Hey! NASA wants us to name its new satellite. You can suggest as many as you like. I suggested "Alice" and "Looking GLAST". I decided not to suggest "Lancelot Link."

What do you suggest? Hurry, you only have until the end of March.

Undeployable Confluence Plugin

So I've been having a blast making Confluence plug-ins. This week, I've made a plugin that will allow a user to view a tree of folders stored in a Subversion URL and any externals that are defined there. Assuming the externals are all URL-based (and accessible), the tree will show their contents, too.

I started using the usual notation of 1.0-SNAPSHOT for the plug-in version, but after a bit of testing, I thought I'd release it to my customer early. I didn't want to tag the thing with a SNAPSHOT version, but I really didn't want to call it 1.0, either, so I changed the version number down to 0.1-SNAPSHOT and tried to deploy again.

The deployment failed without error. That is, the build worked and didn't complain, but the server doesn't show the plug-in. I tried again, same result. I restarted the Confluence server. Still no pretty plugin. What's going on?

Well, turns out that the server kept the 1.0 version around as a temporary copy and wouldn't let me upload a smaller number. Buh. But easy to fix, I just went to the directory in which my data is stored and removed the jars from the temp directory. (In my case, that was C:\confluence-2.7.1-std\data\temp).

Reran the deploy build and it worked marvelously!

CM Internationale

OK, so forget about all the whinging from last week. My abstract was accepted and so I'll be speaking at the British Computer Society's annual CM conference in July. I submitted two abstracts. They took a pass on "Continuous Integration and Wikis as Gateway Drugs to CM" (can't imagine why) and chose to let me speak on managing multiple components in Subversion using the externals property.

Yay, Subversion!

Rejected! An Angst-Filled Self-Indulgent Post

Man, if I want to be a writer I have to figure out how to deal with rejection, eh? Three rejections already this year: abstract for a technical conference and a short story. It's hard to dig out of this well, but you have to.

Right?

And Tubby! My poor cat's claws are so long that he's sticking to the bedspread like Velcro. I am a bad pet keeper.

Next opportunity for rejection is Friday of next week.

When Men Wore Hats

As someone who writes about adventures with imaginary friends, relatives, and commuting book groups, I'm doubly surprised when I'm spoken to in public. We have a friend who has this (to me) mystical ability to strike up conversations with anybody at any time. For a year and a half, we had lived in Scotland without speaking to a soul, and our friend visited and was chatting up every dour Scot we passed. When we rode the canal boat to visit the Falkirk Wheel, the boat owner let our friend drive.

By contrast, I am painfully shy and introverted. I am sure I give off body language signaling my intention to play in my own little world, thank you very much, and I'm rarely approached. But it does happen.

A few months ago, a man on the Metro commented on the book I was reading (Everything is Illuminated). I was so freaked out that I never wrote an actual Book Tale about that one.

This morning, only a week after I'd made the decision to officially become a hat person (I now own two), a man stopped me at the Fort Totten station to ask, "Are you an archaeologist?" When I shook my head with bewilderment, he pointed to my Tilley. "The hat," he said. "Archaeologist, right?"

It wasn't until later that I started coming up with better answers that the "Uh, no" I used this morning:

  • Actually, it's even more exciting: I'm a configuration manager.
  • Not really, but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
  • Thanks, but I'm not that old.
  • Only in the sense that anyone who stores bones in his basement is...

TR and Roses

I find myself left to my own devices this week. Feeling lonely, I wandered around Teddy Roosevelt's island in a vain attempt to clear the mind. The island of "the other Roosevelt" might be my favorite place in DC, but the state of flora at this time of year is not really conducive to plotting out a light-hearted short story that does its best to honor Bertie and Jeeves (in a space station with a robot).

Indeed, one is presented with scenes like the one above. I'm fascinated by doors in the piers of bridges -- what do they protect? is there some forgotten and magical land just the other side of the lintel? -- but the key component of this scene is the abandoned bouquet. Were it spring, I might build a story around the immediacy of passion and how it drove two lovers to rush away forsaking mere symbols. But in late winter, I cannot imagine these roses to be a sign of anything positive. No doubt, they represented an unwanted advance from an unexpected corner or were an ill-fated attempt at reconciliation. Poor flowers.

And so, instead of a gag-packed short story, I'm a writing moody blog entry. Ah, well, at least I got a little exercise and a bit of fresh air.

After the island, I got a salad at Sweet Greens and ate it while sitting on a wall next to the canal and contemplated my own memorial. I like the canal because it reminds me of both Glasgow and university. For my memorial, I like the way the plaza emerges from the woods as if it were some abandoned piece of civilization giving into the wilds or a secret gathering place of the organized. I could do without the statue, though.

I managed to pull out a few paragraphs of "J33-V5 Saves the Day" after all.