the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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359/365: Anticipation

359/365: Anticipation

Claire decided that instead of cookies, this year we'd leave maple bacon donuts for Santa Claus. (Santa wholeheartedly approves, by the way.) So we zipped over to Peace, Love, and Little Donuts and picked up a box, and I got my photo on.

I've started locking down pictures of Claire again, so you'll get a few extra shots of her being ridiculously photogenic if you're flagged as either a friend or family member once you've clicked through.

Six! Days! To! Go! And Christmas in the morning, woo-hoo!

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299/365: Top of the World

299/365: Top of the World

We finally attended one of Greenhouse Tavern's pop-up restaurant events, Brauhaus in a Beer Garden, and were simply blown away by the awesomeness of the evening. A collaboration with Chef Jeremy Nolen of Brauhaus Schmitz, this culinary adventure brought us outstanding beer and round after round of mind-blowing small plates. We delighted to:

  • Laugenbrezel mit Obatzda - soft pretzel, Bavarian cheese spread, salted white radishes
  • Stopfleberwurst - foie gras liverwurst, pickled black grapes, rye bread
  • Kalbsbries Schnitzel - Sweetbread Schnitzel, quail egg, anchovy-caper vinaigrette, buckwheat spätzle
  • Entenbratwurst mit Sauerkraut - duck & smoked barley malt sausage, duck cracklin (aka "crispy duck bacon", OMG), savoy cabbage sauerkraut, spicy beer mustard
  • Himmel und Äd aka "Heaven and Earth" - blood sausage, celery root-apple puree, Tavern beer vinegar gastrique

The surprising Indian summer weather made for perfect conditions on the rooftop at Greenhouse Tavern, and so (yet again) I had a great opportunity to shoot a lot with the 35mm. I really struggled to pic a favorite from the set--I have about a dozen that I really love!--but there's something about this one of Chef Sawyer looking out from the rooftop of his restaurant, enjoying the crowd and energized by his success, that speaks to me.

66 days to go!

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98/365: Excess

98/365: Excess

Convenience drove me to Five Guys for lunch yesterday. I ordered a single-patty burger and the smallest portion of fries available. I was rewarded with the offer of a second patty for free (I declined) and a "topper" of fries that more than doubled the already-slightly-too-large "regular" portion.

As someone who can still remember how comparatively small a large drink or side was in the early 80's, I am increasingly aghast at the out-of-control portions we're served at restaurants, which we're compelled to consume in the name of "getting our money's worth".

I've hit a place where I'd honestly be happy to pay two-thirds the price for half the food--the restaurant's margins would be fatter and mine would be slimmer.

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Processing PyCon 2008

Originally uploaded by mikepirnat.

The security line at O'Hare was almost non-existent, so now I've got a bit of time to kill and (since "free wireless network" doesn't seem to want to give me any DNS) have the laptop open, it's probably time to digest and process my PyCon experience.

Overall, I felt strangely disconnected this year. I didn't end up dining with any of the circles I'd overlapped with in years past, didn't go to any parties, didn't stay up late hacking on personal projects, didn't hang out on the IRC channel (thanks a lot, wonky wi-fi), didn't have a presentation to worry about, and didn't end up being able to wake up in time to get my name on the list for Lightning Talks. Heck, since I didn't have the laptop out much, I barely even took notes this year.

What I did do was shoot a lot of photos, some of them acceptable, nearly filling my 2GB card over the course of the conference. I've only had time to upload one as I just haven't had the time, motivation, or energy to sort through everything at the hotel. (And it's not like uploading via the sippy-straw of the hotel's in-room wireless would have been terribly practical either.) I enjoyed briefly meeting Ted Leung before the opening keynote, and was amazed (and somewhat intimidated) by the number and variety of fancy camera toys he'd brought with him as he performed his duties as official photo dude. A number of folks stopped me and asked me questions about my camera and flash; I tried not to sound like too much of a moron when answering them. The weird thing is that everyone assumes if you are toting a DSLR around that you can't possibly take bad pictures with "a camera like that," when in reality shooting with a DSLR is the fastest way to find out exactly how much you suck at photography. I can get some good (and sometimes above-average) results, but I really have to work at it, so I try to stay humble. Also it helps to never show anyone your bad shots. ;-)

While I'm still on the camera talk, I learned that I need to bring extra batteries for the flash, recharge the camera battery while I sleep or bring a spare, and that I should probably buy a spare memory card so that I don't feel any last-day storage pressures when I've been too lazy to dump things down to my laptop. I've also learned to swallow my pride and kick the camera over to automatic metering when the lighting is tricky and I need to shoot quickly--I have some almost-good shots ruined by camera shake that could have been avoided if I hadn't been trying to be all manly and shooting in full manual with no flash. Finally, a happy discovery--the bad-ass heavy-grade Gorillapod that my wife gave me for Christmas makes an excellent hybrid of monopod (albeit rather short) and grip/brace. I found that I could keep the camera very steady by placing two of the legs against my body and supporting the camera with the third, making it easy to track and shoot moving subjects without too much wobble.

On the dining front, the huge posse of Cleveland folks managed to get out to some tasty meals. On Wednesday night we lucked into an unheard of thirty-second wait for a table at Frontera Grill and enjoyed a meal that simply cannot be described in words. Friday night we (along with Bill Zingler, a compadre from the Turbogears sprint in '06) hoofed it down to Ram, a grill and brewhouse, where the beer and food were pretty good. We didn't stay for too long though as we were greatly outnumbered by a vast sea of douchebaggery--drunken BMW-driving jerks in their sport jackets acting out a sad, strange re-enactment of their college (or more likely high school) days. We rounded things out on Saturday with a visit to the local Giordano's for deep-dish pizza, a first for one of our number, where we proceeded to annihilate their supply of Fat Tire.

Gosh, that's an awful lot of text without really even talking about the conference... Which might in itself be a comment about the conference.

Everyone knows the wireless network was stinky, so I won't spend too much time one that. It wasn't until this afternoon that I was able to even connect in any way approaching reliability. By then, really, there wasn't much point.

It seems like the consensus is that the Lightning Talks really suffered this year from the overwhelming dominance of the (lackluster) sponsor talks, to which I can only agree. It was really disappointing to see so little time available to community speakers during what, to me, is really the heart and soul of PyCon. There were a few gems on Friday and Saturday, but mostly... ho-hum.

And I was underwhelmed by a lot of the presentations too. A lot of things that I thought would be really useful or deep ended up being too light, too dull, or just not well presented. I seemed to have a knack for picking a lot of duds. Even two thirds of the tutorials that I attended (Eggs and Testing) were letdowns, due to the lack of being able to do any of the exercise material thanks to the network (Eggs), and the repetition of material from last year's PyCon (Testing).

The big wins for me were the Advanced SQLAlchemy tutorial (slide runner rocks! and if it's possible to be in love with an ORM, I think I am!), Kevin Dangoor's talk about TG2 and Dojo, and John Harrison's insanely cool Halloween laser-zapping extravaganza, which was probably the most fun presentation I've been to in four years of attending PyCon. The first two will have practical benefit for me in my daily existence, and the latter--complete with head-tracking, 3D VR goodness--was just frickin' awesome. A note to future PyCon presenters when coming up with your proposals--lasers, lasers, LASERS!

I don't mean to be so down on PyCon. I had a good time, I was just exhausted from one end to the next. Exhausted before I even left, exhausted while I was there, and (surprise surprise) exhausted now that I'm home. I did really enjoy meeting folks, networking a bit, and soaking in the vibe... It just didn't manage to leave me as energized as I'd gotten used to, spoiled as I've been by PyCons past. Though stumbling across the excellent performance of "Stairway to Heaven" in the atrium thoroughly lifted my spirits. So few people seemed to even notice that it was almost like a private gift just for me.

I've got about seven hundred photos to wade through to find promising candidates to share; please bear with me as the lucky few take their time to escape into my Flickr stream.

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I might be old, but dammit, I ROCK!

Yes, I just completed the solo guitar tour on Rock Band, and even though I was only playing on medium, it feels pretty freaking awesome. My wife (goddess!) sprung for an Xbox 360, and my mother-in-law (what a sweetie) sent me Rock Band, and I've basically been playing three hours a night since the goodies arrived.

We had a bunch of folks over Saturday evening to rock out, and lo, the rock was out in force. A buddy of mine gave me a drum throne to make the experience even better. Liz also scored some great wine to share with us (mmm, vintage Grand Cru Champagne....) and cooked an amazing meal (mmm, beef tenderloin; mmm, Guinness chocolate cake) that all enjoyed. Meanwhile, our daughter (angel!) slept through it all (miracle!).

I'm looking forward to getting folks together again soon (regularly?), but for now, this little rock star needs his beauty sleep.

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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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NYC Photos and Recap

Originally uploaded by mikepirnat.

I've uploaded the photos from our trip to New York. After my day of hacking in the hotel (during which we had a great rain storm), I met up with Liz and two of her classmates after their exam for beer and munchies at Luna Park. It was humid as hell, but I had the best grilled cheese sandwich ever, and discovered that, for being somewhat mass-market, Stella Artois is an acceptable beer. Sadly, our delivery Chinese experience later than night was pretty poor (after waiting two and a half hours, they delivered it to the wrong location), and the Cavs just couldn't manage to get any traction against the spurs, so the late evening kind of fell apart.

The next day we went to Bliss for massages (nice) and then bopped up to the Fifth Avenue Apple Store, mostly so I could take pictures. We wandered a bit at FAO Schwartz, where we encountered some awesome LEGO sculptures. After lunch at BLT Steak (too expensive, but delicious), I got all spontaneous and we took a carriage ride through part of Central Park. A pre-dinner visit to Vino (an awesome Italian wine shop) resulted in a fun conversation and a few more bottles to add to the cellar. Unfortunately, our meal at I Trulli was fairly uneven: while all of Liz's dishes were pretty decent, two of mine (a duck prosciutto appetizer and Piedmontese hanger steak) were serious misfires, and I found myself reluctantly slipping into the feeling of being an "Iron Chef" judge on a bad day. The service and pacing weren't jiving either. The wine, however, was quite nice--if only the rest of the experience had lived up to it! Alas.

My overall dissatisfaction with NYC was further reinforced by our discovery that, once you go through security at LaGuardia, you don't have any meal options that include protein. If you happen to be traveling with a pregnant woman at lunch time, this is, politely, less than good. As an added bonus, the TSA folks gave Liz a bunch of crap about going through the security line a second time after leaving to get something edible. Luckily, the cats were happy to see us when we got home. And really, that's what matters.

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Washington State: Part One

After a long, long Friday night of staying up burning CDs for the rental car, and a long, long Saturday of airplanes, airports and power naps, we arrived in safely in Seattle and found our way to [info]wolffire and [info]gr0m1t's (very lovely) house without incident. After a bit of catching up we walked to nearby Circa, a West Seattle alehouse with supremely tasty food; I'm very satisfied with my choice of a Boundary Bay Blonde and the halibut tacos, a nigh-religious experience after a day of airplane food.

Today we have an appointment at Chateau Ste. Michelle and a bit of sightseeing planned, and then dinner at Beàto. In the morning, we head off to the other side of the state to start the wine visits in earnest. We're very happy to have made a better rental car selection than on our Napa trip (do not drive a Ford Taurus on windy, windy roads, kids); the comfy seats should be a nice bonus as we drive all over creation this week.

More later -- must eat breakfast and get going.

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Birthdays, Exits, and New Years

Had a lovely weekend.

Gorgeous day yesterday, perfect for taking care of some last-minute errands and running down to West Point Market with Karla to pick up groceries for Liz's birthday dinner.

Did some errands with Liz today (frame shop, Radio Shack, etc.), enjoyed helping set up her Tivoli iPod radio gizmo, played some Wii (the Rayman: Raving Rabbids game is quite recommended from our house), and did some maintenance on her laptop.

Bad news: my mother-in-law's dog passed away this morning. :-( He was a good friend, and will be missed.

Super-nummy birthday dinner for Liz tonight with Karla. We did a trio of cheeses--Ewephoria, Mimolette, and Brie--with provencale wafers, bosc pears, pink lady apples, and an olive medly and nicely matched to a cremant d'Loire; main course of prime rib (sooo pink and tender) matched with a roasted mix of carrots, parsnips, and potatoes, and perfectly paired with Katherine Kennedy Lateral (a luscious Bordeaux-style blend). Followed it all up with chocolate raspberry parfaits from Michael Angelo's. Yummy!

We'll spend the rest of the evening chilling out and enjoying some quiet time together, making plans for 2007 and getting ready for the adventures ahead.


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