Monday, December 22, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I'm still working on that "blackberry flip vs ipod" blog post. I will still write it some day and I am still using the flip for my music player. I recently discovered that the flip has another minus against it, in that it has no "repeat 1" unless you make a playlist containing a single song and put that on repeat.

I've been kind of hooked on Stagger from the Street Dogs (it's on Back to the World) for a few days. This is the first song on the mix CD I have in my car at the moment, and I've listened to it every morning at the start of my ride to the train station. I don't know why in particular I've gotten so hung up on this song, although the opening is especially beautiful. It's not even my all time favorite Street Dogs song, so... who knows. Taste is weird.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

christmas card photo shoot

christmas card photo shoot
Originally uploaded by wck

Today was the one day that comes only once, each November. Yes, the annual "take a cute picture of my sister's kids for her christmas card" day. Dresses are pulled out. Squeeky toys to attract their attention are gathered. Lights are clipped to doorframes. And then it's total chaos. This was the first year I shot this in digital, which I suppose made it marginally more workable, although I do miss the black and white photos I usually take.

Anyway, we all sort of survived, and I'm sure next year's photo shoot day will be here in the blink of an eye.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

more music!

I think's possibly been over a year since I've posted anything about music to this blog. Which is insane, because I started it to write about music I listen to, and I certainly still listen, constantly. Probably more now that I have that looooong train ride to sit and enjoy an album.

Here's the mix that I listened to this morning. I've FINALLY got one device that does phone calls and plays music... and it's not an iphone. It's a blackberry flip, and in a week or so I'll write a review of it- I'm still figuring a few things out. I originally wrote about my desire for this kind of gadget in March 2005. Hello progress, nice to see you three and a half years later.

town pants So gadget snark aside, this could almost be a St Patricks day mix. I've been a bit heavier than usual into the Celtic punk/folk thing since our trip to the virginia beach irish festival 4 weeks ago.
  1. Phoenix Park - The Tossers
    A new album to me, which was stupid because they're a wonderful band and it's been out since forever. I love the beautiful melody. I want to wake up to this song every morning

  2. Smokin' Bowl - The Real McKenzies
    Two summers ago, walking down 8th ave in NYC, I remember a few weeks where I played this song over and over and over and over several more times.

  3. Rise Above - Black Flag
    see above comment, sans the hook

  4. A Rainy Night In Soho - The Pogues
    Rum, Sodomy and the Lash... is, I don't know... perfect. I adore this album. I know this is considered an "important" album, but I have such a deep personal connection with it. Walking in the evening, listening to this- I love most of the songs on here too much.

  5. Upstarts and Broken Hearts - Drop Kick Murphys
    One of my favorite songs ever

  6. Blue Period - Smithereens
    amazing use of strings. I listen to this one over and over and over.

  7. Galway Girl - Town Pants
    they played this at the festival, and wow- the hook from this one got stuck in my head for a few days

i voted

This is my 4th presidential election I've voted in. I was 19 in 1996, so I campaigned for Clinton in New Hampshire and voted for him, and I've voted Democratic in every election since. It's been exciting to see so many other people my age who never bothered to register or vote to actually follow through and do both of those this year.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I have finally- thanks to a 5 year old who was too inquisitive with my point and shoot digital camera and the rising costs of film development- broken down and gotten a DSLR. Yes, I'm the last photo nerd on the planet to get one, I know. I still adore film, but Kate's doing in of the lens on my little digital elph pushed me to just get a DSLR.

My new camera has one of the built in dust sensors, so over lunch today with another former art major (like me now slumming as a software person) we discussed how you used to deal with dust with film developing and printing. If you had a speck of dust on a print that you just couldn't get rid of, you had to manually paint it out. With a real paintbrush and ink. I'm serious! I spent so many hours hunched over my black and white prints before a show, with a teensy paintbrush, making tiny dots with a bit of ink to simulate film grain over dust spots. My eyes ache just thinking about it. And really... talk about an arcane skill! This is one of those spots where I guess digital technology really has a massive advantage over film.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Until the trip to Seattle this summer, I had been perfectly content to think of pistachio macaroons as a Paris thing. However, when I was out poking around Pike Place Market, I discovered that Le Panier now carries macarons. Hmmm... and they're delicious.

I just stumbled over a blog post on macaron reviews in NYC: In Search of the French Macaron in NYC…. Now I forsee a side trip to Rockefeller Center at some point.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

food and security

Via emergent chaos, a blog post on foodies and security nerds.

I find it interesting that security people and foodies are strongly correlated. Or at least are strongly correlated among the ones I know.

Too funny. So here's my list. Bold is food that you have eaten.

  1. Venison
  2. Nettle tea
  3. Huevos rancheros
  4. Steak tartare
  5. Crocodile
  6. Black pudding
  7. Cheese fondue
  8. Carp
  9. Borscht
  10. Baba ghanoush
  11. Calamari
  12. Pho
  13. PB&J sandwich
  14. Aloo gobi
  15. Hot dog from a street cart
  16. Epoisses
  17. Black truffle
  18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
  19. Steamed pork buns
  20. Pistachio ice cream
  21. Heirloom tomatoes
  22. Fresh wild berries
  23. Foie gras
  24. Rice and beans
  25. Brawn, or head cheese
  26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
  27. Dulce de leche
  28. Oysters
  29. Baklava
  30. Bagna cauda
  31. Wasabi peas
  32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
  33. Salted lassi
  34. Sauerkraut
  35. Root beer float
  36. Cognac with a fat cigar
  37. Clotted cream tea
  38. Vodka jelly
  39. Gumbo
  40. Oxtail
  41. Curried goat
  42. Whole insects
  43. Phaal
  44. Goat's milk
  45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more
  46. Fugu
  47. Chicken tikka masala
  48. Eel
  49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
  50. Sea urchin
  51. Prickly pear
  52. Umeboshi
  53. Abalone
  54. Paneer
  55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal
  56. Spaetzle
  57. Dirty gin martini
  58. Beer above 8% ABV
  59. Poutine
  60. Carob chips
  61. S'mores
  62. Sweetbreads
  63. Kaolin
  64. Currywurst
  65. Durian
  66. Frog's Legs
  67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
  68. Haggis
  69. Fried plantain
  70. Chitterlings or andouillette
  71. Gazpacho
  72. Caviar and blini
  73. Louche absinthe
  74. Gjetost or brunost
  75. Roadkill
  76. Baijiu
  77. Hostess Fruit Pie
  78. Snail
  79. Lapsang souchong
  80. Bellini
  81. Tom yum
  82. Eggs Benedict
  83. Pocky
  84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
  85. Kobe beef
  86. Hare
  87. Goulash
  88. Flowers
  89. Horse
  90. Criollo chocolate
  91. Spam
  92. Soft shell crab
  93. Rose harissa
  94. Catfish
  95. Mole poblano
  96. Bagel and lox
  97. Lobster Thermidor
  98. Polenta
  99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
  100. Snake

-the HTML is via a handy form that will generate the html for you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Soho to Penn Station

Viviane suggested that I blog this information, so here goes. She wanted to know how to get from our office at Broadway and Houston to Penn Station, buy a NJT ticket, and get on her train. I've optimized this route to pieces, so here it is.
  1. enter the Broadway Lafayette station at Broadway and Houston
  2. Go all the way down the first set of stairs past the turnstile to the BDFV Uptown platform. wait just behind the stairs
  3. Get on the first train that comes and go 1 stop to West 4th
  4. When you exit at West 4th, the escalator that skips the mezzanine is right there. Get on it and go to the ACE Uptown platform
  5. walk down to the other end of the platform. take a C or E train.
  6. exit at 34th Street/Penn. you will be very close to the turnstiles, go out them and down the half flight of stairs
  7. you're now on the lower level of NYP Station. Walk straight ahead, and take the first corridor that goes off to the right. That corridor starts off with LIRR tracks, and the NJT tracks are at the far end
  8. Near track 6ish or 4ish, there's a set of ticket machines that will rarely have a line. Buy your ticket there.
  9. There are NJT monitors nearby- watch them for your train. You will see the track announced 10 minutes before it will leave NYP

Thursday, July 31, 2008


ana & me
Originally uploaded by wck
Nerd glasses on me and nerd glasses on my niece! I did always say when she was little that I knew she was going to be a programmer when she grew up.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

trains, ferries and buses

Riding on the amtrak cascades train to PDX. It occurs to me that this trip isn't even half over, and I've racked up a pretty good set of transportation methods.

ferry dock

* Commuter rail: to NYC last Wednesday, to EWR
* subway: within NYC
* monorail: EWR airport train station to terminal
* airplane: to Seattle
* taxi: to downtown
* bus rapid transit: downtown Seattle transportation
* bus: out to Greenlake
* car: driving out to anacortes ferry
* ferry: to and from the islands
* train: to and from PDX
* streetcar: MAX service in PDX

Not bad, 11 modes of transportation, but I'm missing bikes. Last night I could have borrowed my friend's bike, but I chose to walk around the neighborhood with Bandon instead.

Monday, July 21, 2008

summer weddings

When I graduated college and started working at amazon, my very first office was a big room I shared with the rest of the production QA team. There were 5 of us there. Geoffrey, who was already married. And David, Jason, Russell, and me. 9 years later, and I've been to each of their weddings. (Well, except Geoffrey, who had beaten everyone to the punch!) It kind of made me pause and think about how blessed I've been to have such great friends.

David - Aix-en-Provence, June 2002

Church steps

Jason - Seattle, August 2005

Jason & Jen's First Dance

Russell - Orcas Island, July 2008

san juans

view from mt constitution
Originally uploaded by wck
This is the view from the highest point on orcas island, looking eastward at the rest of Washington State. Insanely beautiful. I love the PNW.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Happy 4th

Originally uploaded by wck
So it's the 6th already... Happy 4th a few days late! I went to Norfolk to see my sailor. This picture is the Elizabeth River at sunset, taken from the ferry just after dinner. The river is so beautiful in the evening, I'm always tempted to stay on the ferry to do a few more round trips.

Friday, July 04, 2008


Originally uploaded by wck
Gorgeous, no? I actually sold two prints on etsy! Amazing. One of them is this print. I had them printed up at Duggal on W23rd, which was kind of fun. They take a lot of care with your prints, so it was fun to go get the print color corrected and printed up nicely on some matte paper. Ooooh... I need to get a photo of the print, as it's just too nice.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dipping my toes into ecommerce!

Well. 9 years after getting a photography degree, I'm giving the "selling my art" thing a twirl on Etsy. I've loved Etsy since I first heard about, so it seemed like a good place to list a few prints.

Etsy's "Pounce" is endlessly addictive, I can spend hours poking around in the Storque, and it's an all around fantastic website full of amazing things. So, we'll see how this goes. It's really cheap to just list a few things so I'm putting up a couple of my photographs that have been popular on flickr, and we'll see.

Here's my spiffy etsy badge!

Friday, June 20, 2008


this is tripit:

I love it to pieces. I travel way too much (how this happens even with Sailor and the nieces and nephews on the same coast as me is beyond me) and I'm a secret information organization nerd. AND, they have very sweet customer service. I sent them a feature request and got a nice little note back from them. Awwwww. Anyway, if you fly too much too, try it out. Quite handy.

I still keep all my travel itinerary stuff in my little blue notebook, but now I just print off the agenda the night before and slap it on in, rather than writing out everything by hand.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why women quit technology careers

Boing Boing Gadgets blog on a non-gadget topic, Why women quit technology careers.

There are two things I can think of in response to this specific article. The first is just "Duh." Really, we need studies to tell us this? Why? (I am old and cynical now I suppose. Different from young and cynical.)

And second, remember how USCG culture is different from dotcom culture? I flat out don't want to say that women in the military never face this stuff, because I know that they do. However, it always appears to me that the institutional culture of the military allows technical women so much more growth, more role models, more respect. I would never, in a million years, swap the dotcom culture I've always worked in, but I will admit to some wistful wishing that we would up and learn a few things sometimes.

But still, my final reaction to that article remains the same as that first response.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


My very first rose bush ever has BUDS on it. With pink peeking out! Wow.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Occurs tomorrow and Friday.
The solar event causes the sun to set in alignment with Manhattan’s street grid.

Friday may be the most interesting day, with the sun in perfect alignment just before it begins to disappear below the horizon. On Thursday, perfect alignment begins just after sunset has begun.

-Savor the sunset: Manhattanhenge is this week

Friday, May 23, 2008

geek tshirts

In a few months I'm going to the Open Source convention out in Portland (I'm pretty excited, it's a good nerd conference), and when registering I had to pick out my tshirt size. Suprise, they now offer women's sizes!!! It's the little things when you're a girl geek- all my previous Oscon tshirts are Men's Medium because they didn't even offer women's sizes the other times I went.

In my closet is an entire collection of unworn geek tshirts I've collected over the years, all in men's sizes. So I tend to see "do they offer women's sized tshirts?" as a bit of a equality-in-engineering metric.

Large Scale Data Munging

I don't believe I've ever posted a link to one of my favorite blogs, Datawocky. Great article today on super large scale data munging:

Yet the Map Reduce paradigm has its limitations. The biggest problem is that it involves writing code for each analysis. This limits the number of companies and people that can use this paradigm. The second problem is that joins of different data sets is hard. The third problem is that Map Reduce works on files and produces files; after a while the number of files multiplies and it becomes difficult to keep track of things. What's lacking is a metadata layer, such as the catalog in database systems. Don't get me wrong; I love Map Reduce, and there are applications that don't need these things, but increasingly there are applications that do.

-Why the World Needs a New Database System

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Food stores of Bleecker

I took the PATH train to Christopher and Hudson this morning, as I do pretty often when the weather is nice, and walked on down Bleecker to my office. You could gain 50 pounds just looking in the windows of all the wonderful food stores along this walk- The Kitchen blog has a nice writeup of some of the most famous ones.

Foodie Walking Tour of Bleecker

They missed a few other nice ones like Grom Gelato.

Alarm Clock Law

This might even reveal itself in the Alarm Clock Law: if another device can handle the task of a dumber gadget, it will replace it

- The Alarm Clock is Dead, Long Live the Cellphone

Been doing it when traveling for years, but I used to use a CD player alarm clock at home. I've recently switched to my ipod, plugged into computer speakers. So for years I'd kind of wanted one of those 'zen alarm clocks' that have nice chimes for the wakeup sound, but I could never really bring myself to spend that much for a simple alarm clock. Last year I had a brain wave, bought a MP3 album of chimes from the amazon MP3 store, and dropped them into a playlist on my ipod. Bingo- $8 zen alarm clock. I love it. Especially when it goes off at 5 AM every morning, prompting Declan to wake up and start demanding his breakfast.

Monday, May 19, 2008

NYT on email recommendations

Guessing the Online Customer’s Next Want

Very high level overview of a company that provides an email marketing solution based on customer's past buying habits. From the end:

“I still get e-mails from Amazon recommending books based on the Jared Diamond titles I bought three years ago,” he said. “But I get nothing about my interest in gardening.

Same Author recommendtions are much easier, an stronger, than same subject. And it's hard to notice shifts in customer interests- you might think that you're really interested in gardening, but you only buy 2 books on it, compared with dozens of another subject. I find myself frustrated with the same thing, even though I know I can look at the list of my purchases and searches and see a different pattern appearing there than I think there should be.

On the similar interests filtering topic, I first heard about this stuff via Firefly at the Media Lab. Wired has an article from long ago about its demise, Firefly's Dim Light Snuffed Out.

After all, Firefly is more than just another failed Microsoft Web venture. As far back as 1996, the technology, and the community that piggybacked on top of it, stood out as one of the most potent properties anywhere.
In essence, Firefly was a collaborative filter -- a technology that asked users what they liked, learned their tastes in music, then got them in touch with people having similar tastes.
Five years and several new paradigms later -- and following the company's 1998 buyout by Microsoft -- the light is going out for good on the forums. The underlying technology will live on, however, powering Redmond's e-commerce efforts.
Some of the service's users clearly long for the good old days.
"What the hell happened to the fly?" wrote one displaced Firefly user in an MSN forum. "It went down for a few days and then BLAM!!!!!! ... They decided to shut it down ... Does anybody remember when there was over 400 people on at one time in the fly?"
MIT professor Patti Maes does. She headed up the software agents group at MIT's Media Lab and led the development of the technology that would eventually spin off to become Firefly.

So that would make it 10 years ago when I was a junior or senior in college. This kind of recommendations filtering has changed a ton in that time, but it also has remained pretty static. Sure, now you can use MapReduce and we have several orders of magnitude more data, but at the root it's still the same basic algorithm.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

NYT article on women engineers

“Most people just don’t look at a woman and see an engineer,” Ms. Muller said.

- New York Times article on women engineers in the workforce (yet again, is this article in the Styles section because they assume only women will want to read it?)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Copyright years

Dear Developers, Don’t Hardcode Copyright Years

Ha. So glad that this annoys someone else. I wish I could remember how many first-Tuesday-back-at-work-in-the-new-year online pushes I've signed off on just to fix a hardcoded year. People, you're presumably using a template language of some kind. Take advantage of it!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

NYC, again

Last year I was mildly obsessed with Greenwich Village. This year, it's been my almost daily walks down Bleecker to Bowery to grab lunch. The last few blocks of Bleecker have a sort of hidden feeling to them... a few small stores, the backs of some large buildings, a really back corner, haphazard feeling... then you reach Bowery, and there's the old CBGBs (now a jeans store), the new Rogan store, the new Think Coffee, and all these little shops popping up in a small area. The sociologist in me is still mad obsessed with these blocks.

The sun finally came out again this afternoon, and I managed to snag a backwards facing window seat on the train, so I had a great ride home. The reason why a backwards facing window seat is so wonderful is that as you come across the meadowlands on your way to Newark you can sit and stare off in the distance at NYC disappearing.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

17 Mile Drive

17 Mile Drive
Originally uploaded by wck
Here's some more Monterey- a view of the pacific ocean as we whizzed along 17 Mile Drive. After stopping at 1 beach so that I could take photos, my sailor wasn't so interested in any further photo stops, hence the blurry pictures. Want to see what the ocean looks like at 35 mph? There you go.

Before this trip he finally got a briggs & riley roller suitcase after listening to me evangelize about them for, oh, the past 5 years, so we compared my older model to his new one. While checking out all the pockets on mine, he opened the address card holder and asked me when I thought I'd last changed the card in there. I thought for a moment and said, "it's still amazon." Nope... Google. Geesh. I need to fish out a new business card and think about what tags are on my other pieces of luggage...

NYC is warm but rainy today. I took the ferry across to Manhattan at 7 AM this morning when it was lightly drizzling and sat inside sipping my coffee. Nothing like a gorgeous short ferry ride in the rain to feel at home again.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Jellyfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Originally uploaded by wck
Against all odds, it's actually sunny and warm in Monterey today! Wow. I was fully expecting the weather to be the same as it was the last time I was here, in June 2000- chilly, foggy, and gray.

Let's see... I woke up early and had some coffee on our deck. Then we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, walked around for 2 hours and then took the 'behind the scenes' tour, which was very neat. Afterwards we had lunch and did the 17 mile drive. I got my toes and fingers into the Pacific, but wow- it was very very cold. I first saw the Pacific ocean about 10 years ago, in June 1998, so it seemed fitting to spend the afternoon scrambling around tide pools and lying around in the sunshine. So relaxing and wonderful, in so many ways.

It's funny, how peaceful water makes me feel. Growing up on the lake, I was basically submerged for 4 months each year, and I think I'll never outgrow the need to be near as possible to a lake or an ocean.

Monday, April 21, 2008


This is a picture of Kate that I took in March 2006. And this is a picture of Tom that I took on Saturday and posted to my blog this morning. It's uncanny watching Tom pick up the same mannerisms that Kate had as a toddler, like watching her childhood rewind and spool forward again in slow motion. On Saturday I took two rolls of film of Tom, one outside and one inside, and he was such a dream to photograph. Like Kate, he's very natural and doesn't wiggle around much. Ana will never that be that easy to take pictures of. My sister calls her our square peg, but... well, I'm too close to her to tell. My sharpest memories of her are all the times I held her and jiggled her to sleep in my arms, just a blurred stream of memories of her teensy body curled in my arms, endless rocking her. She's two and a half now, and she's finally starting to look a little bit older. She engages a little more with people around. She's always been listening, but seeing the responses from her now feel a little startling in ways. This weekend I was holding her on my hip and attempting to find my car keys in my huge work purse. I stood by the car, in the light drizzle, for a good two minutes, fumbling around through tissues and EVDO cards and headphones and my notebooks, and then yanked them out and held them up. She broke out in a huge laugh. We had such a funny moment, standing there trying to get the car open so that I could buckle her in.

This afternoon I walked to pick up a late lunch, down Bowery, past construction site after construction site, blocks and blocks. When I reached St Marks, I remembered all of a sudden what it reminded me of. The staircases and storefronts are exactly like Newbury St in Boston. Really, this had been bugging me for months, every time I walked through there I would get this odd "I know somewhere just like this" feeling about it. St Marks is a crazy place to get that sort of feeling about, in some ways it could be anywhere.


Originally uploaded by wck
11 months old already!

Friday, April 18, 2008

My Pumpkin Vine

My Pumpkin Vine
Originally uploaded by wck
That's my pumpkin vine from 2 years ago. We're supposed to have decent weather this weekend, so it's time to set up the summer veggie gardens! Mmmmmm yum.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

transit hubs

Seattle's new Olympic Sculpture Park has gorgeous views of Elliot Bay, but it also has a grassy elevated path which runs over some (rather heavily used) train tracks. I spent a lot of time sitting on the red chairs near that pathway, watching planes lining up overhead to land at SeaTac, and cargo ships pulling in and out of the port of Seattle, and the freight trains underneath. I loved that this one spot allowed visibility into so many transportation hubs. There's a place on the NJT rails where the M&E line runs next to the PATH rains and then splits off from the NEC line... which is also directly under the usual approach path to Newark Airport. I have a feeling that only transportation network geeks like spots like that.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Birthday Letters

Isn't it a bit weird how something can be so deeply a part of your life at one point, and then it slips away and you almost forget about it? And then the jolt when you suddenly are re-introduced to it... Marginal Revolution does a regular "what I'm reading" series, among other small series of posts, and today's contains Ted Hughes Birthday Letters, which is a book of poetry.

My sister gave the book to me for a 21st birthday present at the end of my junior year. The next year, I needed to do an indepent study project in the studio art department for my major, and I chose to do a series of digitally manipulated photographs inspired by on poem in the book. I lived in the darkroom and computer lab with that poem for months and months and so on. Then I graduated, and packed it all away.

There are two pieces from that project in my flickr stream, here and here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

On Contracts

I don't think that there has ever been a foray into legal territory on my blog, if I think about it. Which is a bit odd, because I'm not a lawyer, but my dad is, and I love talking about trials and legal things with him. The downside to having a trial attorney as a father is that I've never in my life won an argument with him, but there's a lot of upside to it in terms of dinner table conversation. All of which is a small introduction to a great WSJ article on Wal Mart's former video taping firm.

Candid Camera: Trove of Videos Vexes Wal-Mart

My dad is not terribly tech savvy, so I print out articles on legal topics that I find for him sometimes, and this one was way too good to pass up. We had a great dinner conversation about it today. Speaking of which, WSJ's Law Blog is always an excellent read. I'm not saying that because I'm thrilled that I've found another person who will admit publicly to arriving at work at 7:30 AM. Really!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Painted Powerbook 520

Painted Powerbook 520
Originally uploaded by wck
My white macbook has been looking a bit grungy recently. I wonder if I should pull out the laptop paints again?

The powerbook in the picture was my computer in college... yes, I have a Studio Art degree to go with my CS degree. Notice that the apple logo on the cover was upside down- they were all the way up through the powerbook g3s.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Amazon Web Services DCI - The Dog Computer Interface

This is Declan in early 2000 at

door desk dog

It was an early version of the DCI - Dog Computer Interface. Here is a later version, from 2003 or so:

door desk
(notice integration with Official Amazon Door Desks in this one, enabling each web dev to have a Declan available under their work surface)

And today, the AWS group announces the official release of the DCI - The Dog Computer Interface!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

"adserver on master"

I found this slip of paper in my perl cookbook a few mornings ago. It's probably from spring 2001 or so, and it was written by Brian & left on my desk.

Adserver preflight request

What is it? It's a small piece of the deployment system for the first amazon ad server. Brian and I worked on it together, along with a couple other amazonians, and we all sat on one hallway on the first floor of pacmed. I was probably out walking Declan when he pushed the latest ad server software and needed a sign off before it could go out, so he wrote this note and left it on my desk. Amazon basically has three levels of deployment. First there's a test server, where all the data is from the test domain. Then there's a "master" environment that this note refers to- and finally production. Code has to be signed off on by QA (that would have been me) on the test server and then on the master server again before it can be pushed.

I'm trying to remember how I let him know that I'd given my signoff... it was probably over email. I'm not sure that the ad server got an official sign off tracking form until it was a year or two old. You'll notice that at some point over the last seven years I doodled in red in the eyes of the smiley face. I have no idea when that was- possibly while I was running the preflight, waiting for something to load. I also noticed the "please" and "thanks" in this note - despite all the protests he'll give you, Brian is really a southern gentleman at heart.

This has brought back a lot of great memories from our initial launch of the ad server and the first year that it was up. Making apricot scones the weekend before launch for our Sunday AM bug bash. Our friend Greg, who was a web dev at the time, naming the templating language that we wrote ads in. (It's called "schusteranto" after Brian. Pretty cool that he has a programming language named after him, even if it is just an tiny substitution language.) Sitting directly behind PacMed's espresso stand, which was sooo handy sometimes. Declan learning how to play frisbee, instead of running away terrified from one when you tossed it. Walking home from work at 8 PM that summer, as the dotcom crash kept going, watching the sun setting while I walked up 2nd Ave. Seems like yesterday in some ways.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I've been thinking for a long time that I should blog a couple of the more amusing culture clash exchanges that my sailor and I have shared. Let's be serious, the dotcom world and the military are... um... different. Vast chasms of different. We've gotten a lot of humor out of how each of us lives in opposite worlds over the last several years.

My favorite of all time was in August 2004, when I was sitting on the floor of the bridge of a boat that he was XO on, wearing jeans and flip flops, and working on my laptop. There were a couple sailors visiting from a nearby station and I chatted with them for a while. They were talking about how sad it was that I was usually stuck in an office on land during the day. I countered with 'yes, but I go to work in flip flops all summer.' Sadly that didn't sell them on the wonders of dotcom civilian life. I think they must have been imaging slipping on the deck wearing flip flops during a big storm and falling into the water- not something I worry so much about in my job.

This morning Brian and I were talking about annual reviews and how our career goals could kind of be summed up as 'write a lot of interesting code.' My sailor is also writing his version of annual reviews, for the LTJGs who work for him, and he didn't think 'write interesting code' was a valid career goal. I think his exact words were 'honestly, if you were in the CG, you would be kicked out for that. it doesn't show leadership.' Yes, because leadership is exactly what you need when you have a crashing webserver. Well, ok, you need some leadership, but you have a more pressing need for super sharp nerds.


Originally uploaded by wck
A sunny sheltie for a sunny March day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

python dictionaries

This is yet another 'putting things on my blog so that i can find them again' post. And because I remember stuff better once I've written it out.

I'm really a perl developer at heart, so I think in terms of hashes (you can see the post right tools for how nuts I am). Python, which I'm using for a little project I dreamed up to torture myself make my life easier, doesn't Do Hashes like perl does. Instead, you use "dictionaries".

I just borrowed o'reilly's python pocket reference from another developer, and here are the notes from the dictionaries reference in it.

adict = { 'info': { 42: 1, type("): 2 }, 'spam': [] } ==> adict['info'][42] is "1"

adict = dict(name='bob', age=42, job=('mg', 'dev'))

adict = dict(zip('abc', [1,2,3]))


adict.has_key(k) or k in adict

print d.get('key', 'not found')

adict.setdefault(key, []).append(number) (use value if it's in there, otherwise add to it)

adict.keys() -list of keys
adict.values() - list of values
adict.items() - list of k,v pairs

adict.clear() - wipe it

adict.update(anotherdict) or adict.update(k1=v1, k2 = v2)

adict.popitem() - arbitrary item

adict.pop(k, [,x]) = get value stored at k (and remove k) if it was in there. otherwise, return x

adict.fromkeys(seq, [, value]) - new dictionary with keys from "seq" and values all initialized to "value"

adict.iteritems(), adict.iterkeys(), adict.itervalues() - go over the sets

(this is also mixed with things from the python cookbook)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

xsrf nerdery

I haven't posted anything interesting webappsec related in ages, so I'll make it up with this super fun link that I just found.

"Racing to downgrade users to cookie-less authentication"

As I wrote previously; I discovered that in Firefox and Opera we can exhaust the cookie limit to delete the user's old cookies.

If we assume that we will have the user browsing both a site which degrades to cookie-less auth and our malicious site at the same time then if you think about this then you can see that there is a race condition between when the server sets the cookie and the user logs in (and in some applications between when a page is served and the next html request is made).

The question is; can we win this race?

I was hooked before I even got to that part, because this a great little article on exactly the type of security chaos and fun you create with a web browser. I'll add a note that I know that my current employer's website isn't vulnerable to this, and I know that solely because of some buggy JMeter scripts that I dealt with a few months ago. Something to play with anyway.

Enough browser silliness, here's a picture from my trip. I took this when my feet were pretty much walked off and I stuck over to a window of the Louvre to try to rest my toes by sitting on a nearby bench.


I love all the statues on the outside of the Louvre. On this trip I actually walked almost entirely around the outside of the building just to read the visible names of the ones low enough to street level.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Place Vendome

Place Vendome
Originally uploaded by wck
It's so spring like here! I'm wiped out from my long walk this afternoon and no sleep last night. If there is an "unable to sleep on airplanes" lifetime achievement award, I should really at least be in the running.

I've done nothing useful since I got here. I took the Air France bus down, and then went and vegged in the Jardin des Tuileries in one of those wonderful chairs with the semi-reclined back. Then I got a HUGE latte from Starbucks, walked for 2 hours, and returned to the tuileries to sit some more and snack on some macaroons. I had a look at the Paris-Visite pass line at the Louvre, but it freaked me out, so I'm pass-less for now.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Google Alum Network

From John Battelle's Searchblog
A Lot of Folks Are Leaving Google...
So it's about time to create an alumni relations program!

Indeed. I'm a member. It's an interesting idea, and I found it slightly amusing that they kicked it off in February so immediately everyone was asking about missing W2's.

The part I found most amusing is that I run an informal amazon alum group/email list on google groups - and at the moment the google alum group is mostly a google group as well. Google groups is great for email list hosting, but I really wish that they would work on the part that hosts files and pictures- it should be so much easier to create small custom websites, and have a little blogger instance, and maybe a wiki. Facebook and the massive increases of splogs and comment spam and whatnot have had me thinking quite a lot recently about walled gardens how they really aren't a new thing at all. WELL was a big walled garden, and we've been reinventing it in new technologies over and over and over.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

at work

1/2 closed door policy.
Originally uploaded by slimeduckling
A picture of our group at work by Lenny. I love how completely unawake I look there.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Dress A Day blog, on learning sewing:

(Remember, sewing is like perl: There's More Than One Way To Do It.)

Awesome. It's true, just never thought I'd see another blog talking about two of my favorite things in 1 sentence.

Monday, January 28, 2008


My backyard
Originally uploaded by wck
It's wicked cold here. I just got back from Virginia and it wasn't any warmer there.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Originally uploaded by wck
Isn't he just the cutest little boy in the whole world?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kate and Declan

Kate and Declan
Originally uploaded by wck
more "i miss summer" posting. it's freezing outside. so what did i have for lunch? a hagen dazs ice cream pop. i'm a genius... i even ate it outside, fighting the crowds up broadway through soho, because it's even better if your ears are frozen while you're eating an ice cream pop in January.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

"Help Is on the Way for New Jersey Train Problems"

NYT: "Help Is on the Way for New Jersey Train Problems"

You really have to read all the way through that. It's unbelievable how many things broke in one morning, even for NJT. I made it in ok, but then... I arrive at work at 7:30 AM because the trains usually break down after that time. I'm taking the ferry home today...