RIP hen #1

For two years now, I’ve been letting my hens free range around in a fenced-in section in my back yard during the day. They love it.

Went out to check for eggs today after work and found one of my girls had been killed in the coop.

Head bitten off. No other signs of predation. Internet forums say this was likely a possum or a raccoon.

Going to set up a live trap tonight. And some wire snares.

I raised these girls since they were a day old. Can’t really remember the last time I was this angry and sad.

What’s good and bad about github issues

Ticketing / workflow / bugtracker systems are always nasty. Github’s is pretty good. Maybe the best of what’s out there. But it ain’t perfect.

Here’s what I like:

  • It’s ready to go immediately once you start your github repo.
  • You can link a commit to an issue by mentioning the issue number in the commit.
  • Labels let you store a TON of metadata.

And what I dislike:

  • No obvious way to tell if somebody is actively working on an issue. More generally, no “status” field exists on an issue.
  • No obvious way to do a query like “label X or label Y”.
  • No command-line interface.
  • Since github doesn’t include a built-in mailing list, github issues often get used for support requests. Then when somebody explains “here’s how to do … “, the issue gets closed, and that helpful expensive-to-write documentation is hidden away. The solution here is for github to host a mailing list for every repository.

I really like my gardening boots

You don’t need many tools to start gardening. You can dig holes with a stick or a sharp rock. You can start seeds in tin cans. You can use all sorts of stuff to carry water. You really only need dirt, sun, and seeds. So don’t run out and buy a bunch of stuff!

But when you realize you’ve got the gardening bug bad, there’s a few tools that really help. First off, you need some rubber boots. Otherwise, you’re going to track mud everywhere. That’s going to make your significant other very annoyed!

I bought these boots in 2006. They’ve held up very well over the last seven years. They’re waterproof, thick enough to block thorns, easy to hose off, and the sole is thick enough that I can push on a shovel with them.

They’re made here in Illinois, USA, by Boss Manufacturing Company. They’ve been around since 1893!

You can order them on Amazon. You can’t order them direct from the company.

Note: I will get some commission if you order the boots from the link below, so if you hate me, you should not click on that link.

old-school code checklist

You can’t call it old-school code unless a majority of these are true:

  • global vars are all registered at the top of the file, and are used to track state
  • Comments contain author’s initials and a date
  • Last line of the file is just the number 1;
  • Uses LDAP
  • You recognize the dude that wrote it because you’ve seen his email address at the bottom of some man pages

Obscure python syntax error

Been writing python for a long time. When I wrote this code, I could not figure out why I was getting a syntax error.


d1 = dict(
    user_id=99,
    display_name='Matt Wilson',)

d2 = dict(
    email_address='matt@tplus1.com',
    **d1,)

It is the trailing comma after **d1. It is not OK. Which is really weird, because the trailing comma after display_name=’Matt Wilson’ is just fine.

We need to make our conference presentations more accessible

When I say “more accessible” I mean any of these:

  • useful for people with hearing / reading / seeing / cognitive / anything differences
  • approachable for people at many different skill levels
  • not intimidating. not insulting or offensive or exclusive.
  • useful for people that are studying the material afterward
  • Help me out here — what are some more examples?

I’m not an expert on how to do this, but I know this is a problem. I want help figuring out solutions, so please get in touch with me if you can help with that. I will ignore defenders of the status quo.

More detail on the problem

We pump a lot of energy into making really cool presentations for conferences, and then, when the conference is over, a lot of times, that great content usually just disappears.

Or if it doesn’t disappear, we don’t do a good job of getting it out where more people can benefit from our work. Maybe there’s a zipfile with our slides on a page for our talk on the conference website afterwards.

Maybe the slides (without most of the commentary) will show up online in one of those flash widgets.

Or if you’re really lucky, a video recording of the presentation will show up. And that’s great. For example, Next Day Video records and edits the PyOhio presentations, and does fantastic work, but just a video is not sufficient for all audiences.

A video recording is great for some things, but not for others. It isn’t easy how to copy a URL mentioned in a video, for example, or copy-paste a block of code. Or bookmark something 25-minutes in.

Consider that for every person in your audience, over the next few years, there’s probably at least 10 or a hundred or maybe even a thousand people that will be doing searches online for the facts you’re covering right now.

A lot of those people might be brand new to the language or library. A lot of those people might not be native English speakers. And maybe they’re on slow internet connections too.

A few ideas to make this better

I have a few ideas for what to do, listed below, but I’m more interested in getting feedback from readers. So please, let me know how what you think we should do.

Anyhow, my ideas:

  • Require presenters to submit something like a paper, not just a stack of LOLCATS slides for their proposal.
  • Bundle the materials from the presenters as soon as possible and get those out on the web. The SAS Global Forum does this, and it is great. I have read nearly all the papers presented at their conferences, because they make it so easy to get their material, and because everybody is writing actual papers, not doing stream of consciousness performance art.
  • Use open formats for text. Avoid PDFs, power-point slide desks, and similar stuff like the plague. Take SEO to heart. Not because we want to sell advertising, but because we want to share our knowledge.
  • Encourage attendees to critically react to the presentations. Maybe even consider the presentation material as open-source. A presentation contains some code sample that confuses people in the audience, then people should rewrite that with something more intuitive and more obvious.