the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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Since You've Been Gone

All Gone

To everyone who now has Kelly Clarkson stuck in your head, you're welcome. (I know what it is you see, for it is in my mind also.)

Thanks largely to last year's 365 project, I posted a record 382 entries here on the old blog in 2012. So it feels strange that this is only my third post for 2013--and I missed February entirely!

What the heck happened to me? Life!

  • The first half of January was dominated by CodeMash and the eight-hour Django tutorial that I helped put on.
  • Mid-January through mid-March were consumed by preparations for the half-day web app security tutorial that I presented at PyCon.
  • I've also been crazy-busy preparing for and running our company's annual Hack Day event. We did a whole secret agent theme, going so far as to produce some extremely low-budget but nonetheless epic video segments in the style of the Bond films. Our audio team even made us a theme song, which I'm not ashamed to admit I enjoyed playing on a loop on my phone while I walked around the office in a tuxedo during the event.
  • I've been building lots of Legos with my daughter! She rocks the Lego Friends sets on her own, and helps me with my Star Wars and Lord of the Rings sets.
  • Speaking of Lego Lord of the Rings, I kind of got hooked playing the Xbox version. So good...
  • I got a RaspberryPi at PyCon! So the kiddo and I have built a case for it out of her spare Legos, and I've shown her a little bit of Python and Scratch. Now we need to find a project, because she's really excited about building something with it. (Thanks, PyCon!)
  • I made a little URL shortener for my domain before I realized that does it all for free and then some. That's okay. It gave me a chance to learn about Flask. I'll probably write a little bit more about it at some point later.
  • I made a little RSS-to-Twitter gizmo to automatically tweet links to my blog, using my shortener for links. I'll probably write a little bit about it too.
  • I got all excited at PyCon and made PythonIpsum, a lorem ipsum generator with a Python-flavored vocabulary. Patches welcome!
  • I've been bitten by the site refresh bug and have started tinkering on a responsive-ish layout so that this place won't look so daft on a phone.
  • I've got a photography backlog from CodeMash and PyCon that I hope to address shortly. And then I want to get back to shooting regularly (though I've got a case of gear fever, so right now I'm mostly obsessing about which lens I'd like to pick up).
  • The kiddo and I have been watching Clone Wars and Dr. Who together. She's been really enjoying watching them with me, and I've really enjoyed helping to counter the influence of the Princess Industrial Complex.

In short--death by bullet points! Hopefully with the big conference season behind me, I'll get back into the swing of things shortly and won't be quite so much of a stranger here.

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320/365: Ain't No Party Like a Hobbit Party

320/365: Ain't No Party Like a Hobbit Party

I've been meaning to shoot this ever since the Series 8 Lego minifigs brought us Lederhosen Guy and a LotR cellopack provided the keg. But now that I have tickets to see The Hobbit, I figured it was finally time to celebrate!

This was originally set up with just Frodo and Lederhosen Guy, but then I decided to invite a few more friends over and throw a proper hobbit party... Because there ain't no party like a hobbit party, 'cuz a hobbit party don't stop (don't stop). (audio)

45 days to go!

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310/365: Journey's End

310/365: Journey's End

Once upon a time, I started reading The Lord of the Rings to my daughter at bedtime (at her request, I should add). I'm overflowingly proud to report that at long last, our journey is complete! I'm really pleased by how much she loved having the story read to her. She's about hobbit-sized right now, so she really identifies well with Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin. She's also been fascinated by looking at the maps with me (we talk about where everyone is and the path they've taken along the way). She opted out of the Appendices for now, which I think is all right, though I may try to sell her on the tale of Arwen and Aragorn at some point.

Her next request? "Daddy, now that we're finished with Lord of the Rings, I think there are more Harry Potter books. Can we do one of those?"

She's the best.

55 days to go!

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Potter-Related Setbacks; 24 Hours With Apple TV; Shutterfly Freebies

I'm really excited by the amount of progress I've made over the last couple of weekends, hacking away at what for now is known as Shindig, a group management blog/calendar app written against TurboGears. Its primary purpose is to be something easier and faster for me to maintain than ClePy's current Plone site. I'm sure much of what it solves has already been done, but I want something exactly tuned to giving me the most streamlined workflow possible, and, let's face it, it's just plain fun to write code.

So ordinarily, I'd be psyched about how much I'd be able to get done this weekend... Except that the stupid Harry Potter book is showing up in the mail tomorrow, and that basically means that it will consume every waking, lighted hour until it's done. I love the books, I really do, but it's really putting a crimp on my Python geek-out sessions. But I have to be done reading by Monday, that's for sure, or else I will have to gouge my eyes out to avoid spoilers. My predictions: Snape dies (he's obviously been set up for a hard-core double-agent redemption arc, so he'll probably save the day somehow), Harry lives (and will be the best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher ever), and Ron and Hermione will finally succumb to the powerful call of teenage hormones and romantic comedy conventions and hook up in a major way.

Oh, yes, and I'm going to see Howard Shore conducting the Cleveland Orchestra in performance of his Lord of the Rings Symphony tomorrow night, so that knocks out a couple more hours of potential coding time. Which I guess I can live with; enjoying some of my favorite music, conducted by its composer, performed by one of the world's foremost orchestras, under the night sky, with a picnic and a nice glass of wine... Should be a real treat.


Tonight marks 24 hours since the arrival of the Apple TV. So far, I'm very, very impressed. I have modest needs, primarily to replace an aging SlimP3 that's prone to chronic buffer under-runs ever since I replaced my dying firewall, and it solves all of my most common use cases with total aplomb. I've been delightfully impressed by its streaming performance, which, even with an 802.11b/g setup, is nothing short of freaking amazing. I'm also very satisfied with the image quality out of the component video cables (chosen since our altar to the television gods predates HDMI by a generation or so). My advice so far, to any prospective owners, boils down to two points:

  1. Don't do your initial sync over wireless if you don't have 802.11n hardware. Wired ethernet is your friend by orders of magnitude.
  2. Its case serves as its heat sink, which is to say it gets hot like you wouldn't believe. Don't set it on top of your DVD player or other hardware (unless you want to cook your gear), and make sure that it gets plenty of airflow. Honestly, I used oven mitts to bring it upstairs to wire it into my switch to finish the initial sync. Yikes!

Beware of the YouTube integration; Liz and I must have spent an hour tonight watching videos of cats doing stupidly cute things. It is a powerful and addictive time-sink.


Finally, I'm happy to report that the first of two freebie poster-size prints from Shutterfly arrived today and it looks great. I picked up a 50mm prime lens for my Canon (Digital Rebel XT) recently, and the folks at Amazon threw in a coupon for one free 11x14 and 16x20 print. The 16x20 (which I expect sometime Saturday or Monday) will probably end up framed and in our dining room, next to some other wine-related art, and the 11x14 (which showed up today) will probably find a home in our living room. I'm really quite tickled--I've never printed any of my work larger than 5x7 before--but I fear that I could start going poor making prints of my better photos. Oh well; Liz said I should find a hobby.... ;-)

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Of Rings and Regular Expressions

Keeping busy. More than a little stressed. The next couple of days are (as usual) critical. So far so good, though...

I've graduated from being assigned weird shifts for monitoring the farm during Val to being on call 24x7 for the duration; I'm not sure if this is an improvement or not, but it allowed me to attend the Lord of the Rings symphony on Saturday night. Liz and I met up with friends for dinner at the Severance Hall restaurant (tasty, though I had the world's dullest steak knife) and then marvelled at how tight the symphony had gotten since we'd first heard it. The Cleveland Orchestra brought their "A game" and really rocked my socks; I got all weepy-eyed in all the right places. Beautiful, and a great early Valentine's gift to ourselves!

I spent a bit of time today fixing up some geeky things that have been bothering me. I twiddled's CSS a bit to be better behaved in IE, moved my IE-specifc hacks into a separate stylesheet to help get me ready for IE 7. And I finally managed to hunt down the bug in that was causing it to mangle content so badly (any "<br />" ended up getting doubled twice by its "cleanup" routines, and some bits of nearby text and other tags would get similarly repeated). I filed a bug with a very simple patch, so hopefully it'll get folded into the main release at some point, so no one else will have to suffer. It's amazing how different <(\S+?)\s*?/> (bad) and <([^\s>]+?)\s*?/> (good) can be.

Other than that, nothing exciting (other than watching the Canadian women's hockey team annihilate pretty much everything in their path). At this point, I'm just hoping to survive the next two days!

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Adventures in Indiana

Originally uploaded by mikepirnat.

We're now back from our adventures in Indiana. Friday was occupied with the drive down (filled with an amusingly punch-drunk loop of "are we there yet?"), and capped off with a bit of prosecco and tasty eats at Agio, which we selected based on its proximity to our B&B;, the immediacy of seating, and the volume of grumbles from our stomaches. After dinner--surprise!--the nearby sky was filled with a fireworks display. It was a nice echo of our string of early fireworks-related dates.

We had a wonderful breakfast the next morning, then it was off to the Indiana State Museum for the Lord of the Rings exhibit. I was prohibited from taking pictures inside the exhibit, which took a lot of self-control as it was all one delight after another, from props to costumes, models, maquettes, and concept art. This will show what a geek I am, but I got a little chill as I stood before the shards of Narsil, and next to it the reforged Anduril, Flame of the West. The One Ring was presented very effectively, suspended in mid-air in a separate chamber, ringed in darkness and fire, whispers of the black speech echoing all around. Kids seemed to quite enjoy the motion capture demonstration, and I got a kick out of getting my picture taken with Liz on the "Gandalf's cart" photo booth.

Once through the exhibit, we had a nice walk along the canal and crossed over the river and visited the zoo, which was a nice recap to our reception five years ago at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo. Sadly, seahorses just aren't as cool as those jellyfish (sorry, Indianapolis).

Dinner that night at Scholar's Inn was simply excellent. The bottle of Iron Horse vintage 2000 Blanc de Noirs "Wedding Cuvee" set the stage for an evening of delicious treats. Highly recommended!

Sunday, another nummy breakfast, and then we were on the road again to head back to Cleveland. Liz drove while I read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe aloud to help us reconcile our distant childhood memories of the book with our expectations for the upcoming movie. We paused along the way to visit DeBrand for a chocolate fix; if you happen to find yourself in Fort Wayne, you should do the same.

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