Category Archives: Pals

Week 2207

Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee vs Donald Trump. No matter who wins, it will not be a progressive 4 years.

Met our neighbors Tim and Nicole – I think we met before, but it’s been a while. Talked about his very cool wakesurfing boat. He is way more conservative than me but very nice.

At work I’ve been working on a side project to improve documentation and it’s starting to really come together. I’m going to pitch it as a thing that should get funded with a team and see what happens. It’s hard to see a fun little project turn into something that is going to be implemented by more folks, but the tradeoffs on my time mean that once I’ve blazed out a rough trail it makes sense for other folks to lay down the rails and ties and get it productionalized. Projects where I’ve done that have had a good life after I’ve created them, so it always pays for me to hand them off and work on other big initiatives.

We’re also re-engineering tons of things. I’ve been looking at how we managed incidents and issues because relationships often get pegged to how a team performs in a crisis. In addition to incorporating some of my work like How to do a crisis call in technology, other people in the team turned me onto Crew Resource Management, which is how the folks in a cockpit handle similar situations.

Max finished his first ever chapter book! 90 pages of reading, a chapter or two at a time. He was really proud of himself. Just today as I’m writing this he’s one chapter away from finishing his next chapter book. His behavior has generally been really good too!

Zee has memorized Mr Nogginbody Gets a Hammer and she now wants to read to us for bedtime! She’s also asked me to teach her to read, so I guess it’s time to get into the ABCs again. We’ve put up letters on the fridge for her and some magnetic poetry for him.

Her counting is getting pretty good and we’ve been doing m&m math every time she goes potty. One worry with Zebus is that she’s started being really bitey – lots of little bites and nibbles and licks to indicate when she’s frustrated. Also, a little bit of hitting. It’s ok now with us, but if she was in a daycare I’m sure we’d be getting a call about it.

Week 2206

Politics

I donated money to the Alex Morse campaign, a progressive candidate who’s trying to unseat Richard Neal, a greedhead Democrat. That happened earlier, but recently it appears that there was a sex scandal accusation against Morse. He’s accused of having consensual sex with adult students at the university he teaches at that are not in his class and also messaging people he’s met on Tinder. Sexual harassment and consent are incredibly important, but weaponized accusations are exactly the sort of thing that conservatives have professed concern over. In Alex’s case, the investigation by the Intercept certainly makes it seem like people who want to work for Richard Neal have been manufacturing a scandal instead of uncovering one.

Other campaigns I’m looking closely at:

  • The State Slate – The great slate didn’t do great in 2018, but I still like these ideas and I’m willing to give again. These candidates are all good chances to flip a district and any campaigning they do is good for upballot races.
  • Donna Imam – an engineer who might be able to flip a texas district.
  • Dani Brzozowski

Family

The fam out at the Esopus Creek trail

We’ve been doing more hikes again. I’m trying to make sure the little monsters leave the house every day. We’ve been going out to the village a little bit as well. I haul the kids in our expandable wagon and we can eat at an outside restaurant called The Partition.

We’re getting an eensy bit more social (in safe and measured ways).

ZZ had an extended encounter with a nice lady named Alexa and her dog Chacho. They spent an hour hanging out and I can’t recall having a nicer meal in ages. Here’s pro tip – if you hang out with the children and amuse them while we have drinks and dinner I’m grabbing your bill!

Beer Club had a mini executive retreat when Ray showed up in Rhinebeck! We took the Ho’s to the FallingWater trail where I finally got to meet Finley! He loves Max and Zelda loves him.

The Scott’s dropped by! We took them out to Fallingwater as well, where Max and Ben got along really well and explored up the waterfall all the way to its source. Zelda is in love with Zoe and asks about her.

Max and Ben never usually play together, but for some reason this day was just perfect. Everyone got along famously.

DIY

Around the house, we’ve been struggling a little to knock out more projects. It just seemed like we lost steam. So we dug out the back yard next to our house and put in a bunch of marble rock chips over garden cloth. Now things are better looking and won’t require any weeding – instead of a dirt patch next to the house we have clean white stone which doesn’t need maintenance.

We cleaned out the trampoline, which had been under a mulberry tree, trying to become a mulberry jam strainer. Yecchh.

We spent a couple of meeting looking at adding solar panels to our roof – I really like it for a lot of reasons including my predilection for distributed systems over centralized ones. Sadly, the tradeoffs right now don’t seem worth it. Even with incredible financing and all sorts of incentives it would take forever to pay off the panels and require trimming trees.

This helped me feel like we can really start getting going again. I’m gonna finish that Patio!

Code and nerdery

Great news here! I’ve been thinking at work about ways to better handle and test documentation across multiple languages. The key here is to make sure that you can extract code samples from documentation and then push it out to a testable format.

I found mkcodes, an excellent tool for pulling code out of markdown documents. It worked great, but only for Python. I submitted a pull request extending it to work with multiple language code blocks and it was a real treat to work with Ryne Everett on getting this live. Which is to say, now it can handle java, dotnet, any other language you like that’s embedded in your docs. Expect more on this as I make progress building a docsite with eleventy.

I also type this on the linux laptop as I managed to resize partitions without destroying anything. I thought 80 gigs would be enough for my Ubuntu partition, but it seems to be growing and I had to give it a few hundred more gigabytes to grow.

Hosting better screencasts in WordPress

When I was writing up a note about pingplotter I figured I should show how it works because that’s much better for understanding it.

This gobbled up an incredible amount of time, so I’m writing it down so I never have to figure it out again.

There’s a few terminal screencast recorders out there, but I picked asciinema since it seemed simple, it recorder everything as text, not an image and it seemed a very light format to playback. These things are true, and the pain I felt is mostly unrelated to any failings of asciinema.

Asciinema is great. I can record a session locally, play it back to check locally and then upload it to their hosting to share. All pretty cool!

# record a session, but skip pauses over 1 second
asciinema rec -i 1 pingplotter.cast
asciinema: recording asciicast to pingplotter.cast
asciinema: press <ctrl-d> or type "exit" when you're done
# type a bunch of things to demo
# then ctrl-d to stop recording
asciinema: recording finished
asciinema: asciicast saved to pingplotter.cast

# time to check to see if it was any good
asciinema play pingplotter.cast
# the saved session plays back

# good enough!
asciinema upload pingplotter.cast 
# asciinema gives you the URL of the upload
# you can give it a description and make it public

Since this website is still powered by WordPress, I wanted to share it here. The Asciinema url didn’t embed automatically, so I figured I could either embed a script from Asciinema or add a plugin to do the embed code.

Both of these failed – somehow the javascript from Asciinema wasn’t working in my Firefox. It worked in Chrome, but that’s not good enough. I figured I should just host the cast myself! Why do I need to embed this tiny file or load javascript or install plugins to do this?

I found a neat utility to convert an asciicinema screencast to an animated SVG.

Listen, SVG and animated SVG is incredibly powerful, and if you don’t know, you should learn about it. Animated gifs are heavy, don’t resize, and are full of rendering artifacts. SVG are vector graphics, which mean they are infinitely scalable up or down crisply in a much smaller size than most gifs. Every modern mobile and desktop browser supports them.

The cool utility is svg-term. It lets you take an asciinema file and turn it into an animated svg.

It’s very nicely made, but is unfortunately distributed with npm, a package manager designed to ruin you. The instructions svg-term gives you to install it are incredibly dangerous unless you know to set up your npm install to not install packages with root privileges, WHICH FOR SOME REASON ISN’T THE DEFAULT OR EVEN POSSIBLE. I looked at the npm documentation for something like pip install --user, but it doesn’t exist. Instead, the solution is to redefine global installs to mean user local installs. I’m not kidding.

I don’t want to ever have to figure this out again either, so I added it to my jumpstart script so it will be ready for the next computer I use.

cat pingplotter.cast| svg-term --out ~/pingplotter.svg

This worked great! I went to upload it to my WordPress site to share with you. It did not work great!

WordPress very reasonably recognizes that while I enthusastically love SVG, it can be a security hole. SVG files can embed all sorts of foolishness like JavaScript and other loopholes to escalate privileges. So WordPress prevents them from being uploaded. I opted to allow them with a plugin that sanitizes SVG files to remove the dangerous stuff but allow the rich graphical goodness. This worked great!

I then decided to demo using tmux and glances, which meant I had to do a lot more typing in the demo, which expanded the size of the screencast. Poor svg-term began to crap out because I was exceeding the size of the javascript heap by feeding it a file larger than 1 mb. Fair enough, I don’t want to have a big file anyway!

The solution here is to script as much as possible ahead of time. The asciinema commandline takes a -c command argument which makes it execute a command as soon as it startes recording. Since tmux also lets you script up what you want it to do, I ended up with this.

asciinema rec -i 1 -c 'tmux new "pingplotter ; read" \; split-window "glances ; read" \; select-layout even-horizontal' pingplottertmux.cast

I’m telling asciinema to open up tmux and start recording. I’m telling tmux to start with pingplotter in a window, then open a new pane with glances and make the layout side-by-side. Each of those panes will close when the command they are running is done. Now I can just use ctrl-a <space> a few times to rotate the layout, ctrl-c to kill the panes, tmux exits and asciinema stops recording.

The file size ended up being small enough for svg-term and now you get this!

Anyhoo, black people are human beings with real lives and I don’t want my tax dollars to be used to murder them. Please, call your city representatives to urge them to shrink the police budget and use that money for social services that prevent crime and pain. If you can’t figure out your local representation, please learn how. If you won’t, please at least call your federal reps to ask them to stop giving the city police things like machine guns and tanks.

Pingplotter

I need to see if my remote connection to work is healthy and if my remote connection to video conferencing is suffering.

I wrote a little utility to handle that in the commandline. It’s dumb but it works. Let’s call it pingplotter. It’s in the public domain, go nuts.

It’s fine to just pop in a terminal you have open, but it plays really nice with tmux and glances (I use both).

I think I spent nearly as much time making these screencasts as I did writing the shell script. I should blog that too, if only so I don’t have to research that again.

Max silhouetted against glorious fireworks

Plague update 2

I didn’t think America was ever going to take black lives seriously in my lifetime. I’m close to thinking we might. There was finally a murder so slow and egregiously awful by police that it seemed fewer people came out to defend it than normal. People protested – which has happened before, but this time the police responded swiftly and brutally all over the nation, which helped more people realize the urgent need to demilitarize and defund or abolish police departments all over the nation.

More people have been murdered by police and by right wing activists. More people are seeing that there is significant infiltration of right wing racist groups into military and civilian armed forces like the police and the national guard. Significant effort seems to be put into either pretending the grievances we list are fake or that protesters are the same as rioters or into sparking riots to give a chance for crackdowns or to trigger broader societal conflict and breakdown.

The plague of systemic racism is getting acknowledged and the movement is being recognized enough to be co-opted. Many states have decided to paint a road with “Black Lives Matter” which is nice. None have revoked qualified immunity. Still, this co-option is a good sign – people are uncomfortable enough to start making the most basic gestures. DeBlasio still sucks. He can’t get the road painted in front of Trump Tower because he sucks. He and the City Council failed to defund the NYPD, instead shuffling money and police officers around.

Still the streets fill with people angry that they have to fight for simple recognition that black lives matter and the police are not here to protect or serve them. Even in the tiny village of Saugerties, people are showing up every day to stand vigil with their plague masks on.

I hope that we can skip reforms and channel some of our vast wealth into things that benefit people instead of control them.

In our home, we are much more settled into a routine. I’ve got a space to work. Max has rules around how he can earn precious screentime by doing workbooks or reading a new book. Zelda has similar… She’s learning to count and does M&M math with me because she’s insatiably into chocolate. Sam’s growing an impressive number of things outside, where the filthy dirt is. I’m no farmer, but it’s really nice to eat a sandwich with your own lettuce in it! Today she showed me where beans are coming up near some corn.

It’s been a ton of activity around here for home improvement. I’ve built a pretty large stone patio by leveling one stone at a time. Sam came up with the idea of putting an outdoor rug over it and it looks great – gotta finish the edges somehow though.

Sam’s gardening has been huge – we’ve got plants everywhere and it looks amazing. Together, we built some raised planters and they are full of the three sisters: corn, beans and squash. She tore out our old sink since there was a leak that screwed up the cabinet and we put in the replacement. We also tore out the old vent exhaust light and put in a new one – plus a better light for the entranceway. Sam bought a tiny washer and got it installed near the kitchen so we can continuously wash clothes. Speaking of continuously washing, we have to continuously wash dishes since we don’t have a dishwasher and don’t want to be set upon by insects.

We celebrated July 4th in style with a TON of fireworks. The neighbors applauded.

I’m working too many hours because work bleeds into everything when it is so close. I also think we are all sick of sitting around the house – the newness has worn off and we crave change. I started running with Zombies, Run to explore the neighborhood. I registered for a virtual fitness championship, and tomorrow afternoon I’m going to try to submit my first workout.

We’re still getting out and exploring.

That picture is from earlier on the 4th. To get here you park your car by the side of a road on the path through the Catskills on the way to hunter mountain. You hop a guardrail and navigate the rock fill to get down to this paradise of mountain streams and waterfalls everywhere.

Hike down a bit and we came to little pools dug into the bedrock, natural water slides and everywhere it was gorgeous.

It was amazing. The mostly black and brown families around us had managed to bring music, barbecues, hookahs, kids – it was amazing. We left as it got packed. When I got to the road, of course the police were ticketing and towing cars. We got a $75 ticket.

Worth it.

The federal government is paralyzed from the top down, offering no solutions, only misinformation and confusion. As NY is beginning to be less wildly dangerous, other states are beginning to see their lax policies have the same payoff as Cuomo and DeBlasio’s initial bungling. Here in Saugerties I see some restaurants reopening with “social distancing” but it’s very poorly observed. Here’s an idea: people can’t be trusted to make smart decisions when they are drinking. So no wonder I’m seeing even in big open spaces people hopping from group to group, saying hello and hugging with masks around their necks. Places that haven’t seen ice trucks holding bodies are probably going to have to experience it for themselves.

I told Max we might not be back in Brooklyn for a long time or that we might sell our place so he could have a place with a backyard and more room. He seemed heartbroken by the idea – I think I really messed up. He could articulate that he missed it and it was special to him. But given that we think there’s very little chance the schools can safely reopen by September, what can we do? I think about how I never felt attached to the second place we moved to in Colatown.

As always, our problems pale in comparison to what’s happening around us.

Since my internet connection is crucial to my work these days, I wrote a little utility to graph ping time so I can see if things are going wrong early. I’ll neaten it’s up and share it.

Just looked up and realized it’s tomorrow so I’m gonna schedule this to publish in a few hours and get some sleep. Let this be a reminder to me to never mess with .htaccess rules again.