the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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231/365: Monument to Rock

231/365: Monument to Rock

Liz got us up early and downtown for the OROC 5k race, which meant that I got to go crazy shooting in the morning light at the Rock Hall. I ended up with a lot of shots I liked, but I kept coming back to this one. I have comparatively little in the way of architecture subjects in the 365 so far, so I'm all right with this.

Of course, if I felt like cheating I'd use this picture that Liz took of me and Claire getting our rock'n'roll on, but I didn't feel like bending my rules that much.

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Mass Effect and Doctor Who: Separated at Composition?

After finishing Mass Effect 2 yesterday (thanks, Bioware!), I found myself with the moving "Suicide Mission" music from the game's finale stuck in my head. But in a surprising twist, my brain suddenly shifted it, and before I realized what had happened, it had transformed into Murray Gold's "I Am the Doctor" theme from the recent Doctor Who series.

I've spent the past 30-some hours going back and forth between these two pieces, sometimes aloud and sometimes just thinking through them in my head, mostly just letting them dance in and out of one another and, frankly, starting to go a little crazy with them.

So now I'm trying to excise the madness by passing it on to you. (You're welcome.)

Start by listening to Jack Wall's "Suicide Mission" from ME2, starting around 42 seconds in up to about 2:10:

Okay, got that?

Now listen to the first 48 seconds or so of "I Am the Doctor", before it takes off into the wild, bombastic stuff:

Hopefully your brain just exploded a little bit.

But wait, there's more! There's a whole choral bit in each as well!

Take a listen to "I Am the Doctor" from 2:15 through 2:50:

And then "Suicide Mission" from 3:16 through about 4:15:

There's even a quieter, more subdued choral bit in each, just in a different order; "I Am the Doctor" gets it from about 2:50 through 3:40:

And "Suicide Mission" chills out from about 2:09 until 2:48:

The piece from the series 6 finale, "The Majestic Tale (of a Madman in a Box)", takes the similarity even further by pulling down the tempo and cranking up the brooding epicness:

What do you think? Am I high? On to something? Bit of both? Do you have a favorite piece that feels borrowed from somewhere else? Comment away! (Note: James Horner or Danny Elfman scores need not apply, unless incorporating or being incorporated by another work.)

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66/365: Victory Not Vengeance


I cut short my PyCon travel by a day so that I could see VNV Nation in concert before getting on a plane the next morning. While this proved to be a stark reminder that I'm not as young as I was when I discovered them, the show was epic and I had a fantastic time, and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat.

Also, achievement unlocked--I'm posting this from the sky thanks to Delta's onboard wi-fi. It's totally the future, you guys!

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Girls Rock

Yesterday, my daughter asked me, "Daddy, would you make me a CD of rock and roll music with girls singing?"

First off, I'm pretty sure that this is awesome, because:

  1. She's interested in music
  2. She's already tapped in to the whole gender empowerment thing
  3. She's trusting me to help her find good stuff

There are a few obvious things that are favorites of mine that immediately come to mind, but I'd love to take suggestions as well. Keep in mind that she's four, so at least some level of taste is necessary (I'd probably be okay with the Letters to Cleo cover of "I Want You to Want Me", but not with anything off of Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville, for example.)

So, what awesome girls rock your music world? Comment away!

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Let's be honest--I have a problem, and its name is

In case you haven't discovered it yet, Turntable is a social music discovery service that takes the form of a DJ party. You log in, join or create a room, pick some songs you like, then hop up on stage and, when it's your turn, impress everyone with your superlative musical taste. Every "awesome" vote gives you a point, which converts immediately into ego-boosting gratification and eventually into fancier choices of little cartoon avatar; too many "lame" votes and your song ends immediately and the spotlight moves to the next guy in the line. And down in the corner is a chat window, so that everyone in the room can interact, discuss, be silly, or help keep the room running smoothly.

Sometimes rooms have a permanent, genre-based theme; sometimes they do theme nights ("Death or Cake" is still one of my favorites); sometimes they're totally freeform. I really enjoy either doing themes or just riffing on whatever got played before me--the creative constraints can be demanding but ultimately very rewarding.

I first started hanging out in some small rooms with friends and coworkers, but soon discovered that Neil Gaiman would occasionally visit and thus I started gravitating to some of his rooms, which had collected a nice group of smart, open-minded, and polite folks. Neil doesn't seem to be on quite as often any more, and his rooms have died down, but core chunks of refugees seem to have banded together to start other rooms that are just as much fun. I've found myself quickly making new online friends that I look forward to "seeing" and spinning with regularly--much the same kind of bonds that I remember forming with the random strangers I'd meet when playing MUDs long, long ago.

Turntable is still in beta as I write this--you need to be Facebook friends with someone who already has an account in order to play. If you do choose to check it out, I'm on as "ExileJedi (@mpirnat)"; in the evenings, I'm usually in Scarytrousers' Laundry Service, and by workday I'm occasionally in AGI The Cave with coworkers. Now and then I'll start up ExileJedi's Epic Win, whose main rule is no songs under seven minutes. There are a few other dynamics I want to experiment with--a "Thunderdome" room with a two-DJ max for intense back-and-forth action, and probably a room capped at three DJs, as I've discovered that three players yields a surprising amount of joyful chaos.

This is a powerfully addictive and very fun service, and it stirs a particular feeling that I haven't felt since my glory days as DJ on WRUW--that pure, joyous rush of finding just the right thing to play is so, so gratifying. The immediacy of the feedback makes it all the more potent. It's eaten many of my waking hours, and frankly, most of my sleeping hours as well.

And, yes, when your favorite author gives you an awesome vote, it feels great.

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Reflections on CodeMash 2011

I spent most of last week at CodeMash in Sandusky, Ohio. I felt a little foolhardy setting out on the drive during the worst part of a snowstorm, but there was no way I wanted to be late and miss out on anything.

Now in its fifth year, CodeMash is a language-agnostic, polyglot-friendly software development conference that aims to expand participants' minds by opening them to new platforms and technologies that they hadn't been exposed to. There's a lot of .NET and Java, a fair amount of Ruby, a mix of web and desktop and mobile (iOS, Android, and even Windows Phone 7 were well-represented), and if you look hard enough there are even some Python talks. There seemed to be a lot of interest in Scala as well. All are welcome--the official anti-discrimination statement even covers your choice OS and text editor!

CodeMash features a "Precompiler" day much like the PyCon tutorial days, with four-hour sessions that allow deep dives and intense focus.

In the morning, I attended the introductory iOS development session, a fast-paced "type-along" that walks through the creation of a simple iPhone app and some basic tricks. I've been a Mac user for years, but since I'm mostly focused on Python and the web, I've never even cracked open Xcode, nor really spent more than a few moments glancing at Objective C code, so this was a pretty rewarding experience for me. I will say, however, that spending four hours in Objective C makes me really appreciate exactly how much Python has spoiled me--Python is so clean and readable, and Objective C is a twisted nightmare by comparison. (You have to wrap square brackets around method calls? Seriously??) But the session was fun, so I had a great time and learned a lot.

I spent the afternoon in Jim Weirich's excellent "Git Immersion" session. The first hour was a Powerpoint-driven thought experiment that began with the question, "How would you build a version control system?" Starting with the idea of taking a snapshot/backup of the codebase, Jim carefully layered on one concept after another, gradually and organically building up the pieces until we had arrived at a beautiful, powerful, and elegant system, and suddenly we understood git, in a natural, logical, "of course that's how it should be" way. Really a profound moment. Even rebase made sense! The next portion of the class was a self-paced series of exercises that I enjoyed working through, occasionally sharing my lightbulb moments with my neighbors. Lots of "aha!" and "oh, that's cool" murmurs. The session wrapped up with a quick discussion of some of the more advanced features like bisect and reflog, and I walked out feeling great, really turned on and excited to use this powerful tool.

The next couple of days were, quite honestly, a little bit of a letdown after the engrossing Precompiler activities. I got the feeling that there was the same content-to-talk ratio regardless of the length of the talk. Then again, it's possible that I just picked a bunch of losers, which seems consistent with my experiences picking checkout lines. The keynotes were kind of lackluster as well, though apparently I missed the good one while escaping the long lunch line for other arrangements.

The stand-out talks that I attended were Jon Stahl's "Agile From the Top Down" (about how your senior management should be doing Agile too), Joe Nuxoll's "Rules for Good UX Design" (which ought to be required if you're building, well, anything), Richard Harding's "Celery: Harnessing the Power of RabbitMQ" (a welcome burst of manic energy and humor at the end of a draining three days of learning), and Gary Bernhardt's "A Modern Open Source Development Environment" (Gary's talks are always a treat).

The "Mobile Smackdown" session was a fun idea as well; three devs--representing iPhone, Windows Phone 7, and Android--gave competetive walkthroughs of building a basic Twitter client in 15 minutes. While the iPhone's Objective C code was clearly the ugliest looking code, I noted with some interest that it looked like the Windows Phone 7 dev hardcoded some things that the iPhone didn't, and that the Android guy didn't quite get done in time. (In fairness to the iPhone, The giant pile of Windows Phone 7 XML also made me want to puke pretty badly.) Plans are already afoot for holding a three-way simultaneous coding duel in the plenary space next year.

CodeMash also seems to be a pretty swell place for social interaction--open spaces were buzzing, folks were meeting, and (I hear) that parties were pretty crazy. I had great fun playing mini-golf and Guitar Hero with coworkers. I mostly stayed away from the late-night party scene, opting on Tuesday night to write show notes for From Python Import Podcast and on Wednesday and Thursday to take in the band and awesome jam session. We were graced by the awesome presence of The Womack Family Band, who did a phenomenal job of not only kicking ass, but incorporating musically-oriented conferencegoers into the act--witness Matt "Snowdog" Gibberman playing drums on "Back in the USSR"! I was pretty happy to pick up their CD and get autographs.

Overall, CodeMash was great, well worth the treacherous, snowy drive, and though I wish I could have done even more Precompiler sessions, I'm already looking forward to next year.

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He Who Rocks and Puts Away Lives to Rock Another Day

The kiddo has had a pretty strong musical interest for a while now, but in the last week or so she's gotten really excited by my Rock Band controllers, which have been hanging out in the corner of the family room, right where they're easy for her to get at if she wanted to. I'm content (thrilled, in fact!) to have her noodling around with my original Rock Band 1 controller (of the woefully busted whammy bar), but I'd like to keep my pair of RB2 controllers in good shape for as long as possible.

So, off we went to Guitar Center to pick up a couple of guitar hooks to hang the controllers on the wall, safely out of reach from curious little hands.

I'm not sure if I'm more embarrassed by buying guitar hooks for my fake guitars, or by the fact that we'd worked up an elaborate tale of how I'd recently inherited a (fictional) ukulele collection (to explain my concerns about whether the hook would be narrow enough to hold the guitar head). Sadly, no questions were asked about my purchase, so we never got to try out the story.

So, here you go--photographic evidence that I am, in fact, pretty much a total dork. Enjoy.

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I haven't been posting much lately because I've either been too busy to write anything or too not-busy to have anything worth writing about. So here's a quick recap of what I've been up to, in more or less random order.

I'm thinking of moving our blogs to private hosting on WebFaction, partly because I like WordPress, and partly because the sale of LiveJournal to SUP makes me uneasy about paying LJ any more of my money. I've been hacking on a Python program to crawl my journal and re-emit it as a WordPress XML export file, suitable for slurping up into WP with just a few clicks, and it's pretty much done. I just have a few decisions to make (should I keep userpics attached to all my exported entries?) and then I think it'll be time to pull the trigger.

At work, we've wrapped up our first big run of cafeteria-free lunches (58 straight lunches, of which we had a repeat-free streak of 56 lunches before hitting some of our "greatest hits" before the end of the year). Naturally, we're blogging it so that we remember where we've gone.

Claire continues to grow and change. Having just passed the 100-day mark, she can now sit in her Bumbo chair, enjoys standing practice, and is really excited about grabbing her toes. I continue to shoot and post tons of cute photos.

We've been doing weekly videoconferences with my parents instead of phone calls. They get to see Claire, and Claire gets to stare at my screen and be confused. Plus my parents get to be the envy of all other long-distance grandparents that they know, who are in awe of their "technical savvy." So, kudos to iChat for making it stupidly easy.

I am in love with Rock Band and want to marry it. If that's not possible, I'd settle for going over to my friend's place to play it on a regular basis. (Turns out that after a couple beers, I am pretty decent on vocals--scary!)

Egad. I have almost 8 GB of music (over four days' worth!) in my "new and unrated" playlist needing review. When am I going to have time for that?

Last night we watched Paprika, the latest film from anime director Satoshi Kon. I'm utterly blown away by it. The coolest thing I've seen in a long time. It's a little bit Dreamscape, a little bit Ghost in the Shell. Good, good stuff.

Not sure if it's the kid (probably) or what, but I've fallen off the deep end of the Christmas season and am starting to scare Liz with my sunny holiday cheer. Usually I'm pretty down on the consumerism and not too hip to whatever religiosity seeps through the month-long shopping orgy of December, but this year things are different. I'm giggling as I wrap presents for Liz and Claire, and--much to Liz's annoyance--bouncing off the walls waiting for the big day to arrive. Is it Christmas yet? Is it Christmas yet? IS IT CHRISTMAS YET???

Speaking of Christmas, I'm happy that I managed to get the annual card produced and out the door relatively on-time. One of these years, I'm going to have inspiration and time in November so that I can get full-bleed, professional printing done, but I'll take what little victories I can get. I may post the images or a PDF at some point if I get motivated enough. (Here's your opportunity to convince me...)

Finally, if it's at all possible, I'd like to be your personal penguin.

Okay, enough of this foolishness. Time to go be Dad for awhile. Cheers!

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