"And the trouble is / We don't know who we are instead."

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Another weekly update

What I've been up to:

Emma! How can she, at a mere 11 weeks old (almost) detect when I'm standing and when I'm sitting so perfectly? If I'm holding her and sitting, she cries; if I'm holding her and walking, she's perfectly content! Amazing, really. She also likes to be held face down like a football. A foreshadow of things to come?

Casters! You know those little wheels on the bottom of shopping carts? Those are stem casters. You know those wheels on the little rovers that carry luggage around an airport tarmac? Those are pneumatic casters! Here at McMaster-Carr Supply Co., I am currently living and breathing casters, as I am decomposing our selection of approximately 4,000 of these whirly-gigs into their attributes and features, shapes and sizes. While some may faint or snore at the idea, it's actually not so bad, and a good exercise in information design and architecture.

To supplement the quasi-dearth of creative challenge at my workplace, I'm currently coding away for what will be stormpulse.com, a real-time updating hurricane tracking site. Nothing there yet, but my PowerBook is gladly accepting a pummeling of data as I build the MySQL back-end. This is an exciting project in many ways. From a social benefits standpoint, I truly believe people deserve better than the cartoon-like graphics and information they get from their local weather service. Technologically, it's loaded with challenges of integrating multiple data sources by fetching live feeds and simultaneously calling on the historical data that will be stored as well (all of the tracking information since 1851). For the geeks out there, it looks something like: Original input + fetched data (Cron jobs) --> [MySQL] <-- PHP --> [XML] <-- XML Connector --> [Flash]. Yesterday I downloaded 32,000 GPS coordinates for the state of Florida. Fun! :-D

I leave you with some random links of interest:

For everyone: if you even think you might like classical music (but just haven't realized it yet) and you don't have Rachmaninov: The Complete Piano Concertos performed by Tamas Vasary, spend $13.88 and buy it now! It is definitely the best rendition I've heard of these pieces. Via Wal-Mart.com, you can listen to 30-second clips of each track in the 2-CD set. When something starts like this, you know it's going to be good; and these measures compose my favorite phrase in all of music. (This recording also seems to receive high praise).

For the black and white photographers out there, if you haven't already bought LensWork or visited their website, do it now! I'm hooked on Brooks Jensen's audio blog.

I spent my first hours ever in a darkroom this past Friday night, developing some of my 4x5 negatives (primarily this one) into 8x10's for presentation during my trip west. There's something just wonderful about laying a fiber-based sheet of Ilford paper into Dektol solution and watching your image magically appear. Along the same lines, I recently picked up used copies of Ansel Adam's The Print and The Negative.

A blog I've taken to reading; a friend of Skye's through someone, somehow, that I've slowly gotten to know over time. He has thought-provoking things to say when he wants to, and he works at Microsoft. Neat-o.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

El Capitan approaches

Seventeen days and counting until I enter Yosemite National Park.

Also exciting is that I've managed to find a way to not have to rent a car — some couple from New Zealand that I've never met before will be driving me in, and I'll be hopping two buses, a local shuttle and then a Greyhound at 4:55am, to get out.

Oh yes, and I have yet to enter a darkroom. Still. But that's also changing soon as a friend of mine has decided to generously open up his private darkroom to me in order to develop a handful of prints before taking off for California.

In other news, the Gorillas fell hard tonight, 0-9. I had three singles, but we couldn't get anything on the board. :-( Woe is us. Next week we play a team composed entirely of employees from our company's warehouse operations groups. Me thinks we're in for a slaughter . . .

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

What have I been doing?!

So my wife commented the other day that, like every other blog I've ever had, I seem to have abandoned this one. Rather than do that, rather than let this thing die a miserable slow death, I will instead post this semi-random but hopefully meaningful post containing links of things that have been absorbing my time lately:

National Hurricane Center / Tropical Prediction Center — my latest web project involves hurricanes. Twelve hundred of them to be exact. Well, including tropical storms. Can't share much detail but the theme of the story is that I'm tired of the cartoon renderings that currently pass as meteorological forecasts and have embarked on a journey to bring information rich interactive displays using hurricane data to the general public. I've also been waking up between 4:00am and 5:30am in the morning to plug away at this, as my life with a now-nine-week old is rather full!

Softball! Yes, I play for the company team. We're the Gorillas, and we're 2-1. We have our fourth game of the year tomorrow night. I'm known as "Wheels" by some others on the team and am likely to wear #11. I play outfield. I need a bigger glove.

JavaScript. Writing all kinds of crazy things. Created a parser to move thousands of rows of product data into a tab-delimited Excel-ready format from a flat file of thousands of strings.

PHP. Wrote a script to automate some logical tedium at work. "If you don't have anything nice to say, code it" has become my mantra. ;-)

A wife — that deserves far more attention than I give her, has also been consuming a small amount of attention.

And lastly, one of my best friends Mamun just got married. He and his new bride live practically across the street (as across the street as you can get in suburban Chicago) — so for the last two nights we've hung out and had dinner together.

Aight, with that, I'm moving on to something else. But I promise more random updates in the near future. Or something . . . ;)

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Counting the cost

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, between 11,793 and 13,802 civilians have been killed. Since then, three million children have also died of hunger worldwide. What are our real enemies in this world? "Love your enemies; bless those who persecute you; pray for those who despitefully use you."

Great quote of the day: "North American governments are now planning to spend more than twenty billion dollars a year to fight terrorism. Twenty billion dollars a year just happens to be the amount the World Health Organization has estimated it would take to end hunger in the world. It's the amount of money we would need to spend to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry. We've heard a lot of talk since September 11th about how the terrorists are callous and heartless cowards. And here we are, blithely preparing to spend a sum of money so huge that with it we could rid the world of the scourge of hunger, and we're not even weighing that possibility." — Bruce O'Hara, "Tired of September 11th - A Canadian View"

Cleaning up after Frances, the approach of Ivan

My parents are cleaning up after Frances. Knocked down trees and no power for days. My brother is still without power and likely will be for at least a couple more days. For those of you not from South Florida, lacking power in this situation doesn't just mean no internet. No, it means that your house is one giant convection oven, as temperatures creep into the mid 90's (which is incidentally also the humidity), and your aluminum shutters (which you're of course leaving on even after the hurricane because another is on the way) make your house a cave of heatwave death. They were also without phone lines (land or cell) for a number of days, but finally (at least for my parents) all has been restored (well, except for the downed palm trees, ruined shrubbery and driveway deformations caused by uprooting). As far as I know, my brother still has to figure out how to get half a tree out of his pool. Fortunately the 50-ft. pine tree didn't fall into his master bedroom.

That all said, Hurricane Ivan has grown into a category 4 monster: GOES Water Vapor Atlantic Java Applet Loop, and looking at the current forecast models, I would place the chance of a west coast Florida landfall at 60-70%. Remember, what they show you on television is usually simply a global concensus, derived largely from the National Hurricane Center. The UKMET model is showing a direct hit on Punta Gorda — yes, the exact same place Charley hit on August 13th. The BAMM and BAMD models are showing east coast visits (you've gotta be kidding me!), while two show strikes on Central America. Nearly any way you slice it, Jamaica is about to be obliterated

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Hurricane Frances, Pt. 2

Goodbye, Vero Beach?

Looks like the National Hurricane Center is showing a 19% probability that the eye of Hurricane Frances will pass within 65 nautical miles of my family in West Palm Beach. That is the largest probability of any place on the eastern coast of Florida, which tells me that forecasters aren't sure if it's going to hit south or north of Palm Beach County, but they are more sure that it will have at least some impact on West Palm Beach than any other locality.

That impact may not be maximum, but anything over 100 mph is of course significant. Most homes are rated and designed to withstand 110 mph winds; sustained winds greater than 110 mph are likely to tear your roof off your home thanks to the same principle that allows an airplane to fly: high-velocity air currents along your roof lowers air pressure relative to that inside your home; consequently, the air inside your house pushes your roof off, i.e. your house explodes.

My family will soon be scrambling to protect my father's office as well as three homes in the area (owned by my parents and siblings). The joys of living in South Florida!