It’s nice having a few days off for Thanksgiving! Yesterday we had a nice family Thanksgiving dinner. Afterwards our family tends to break into two parts, those who want to watch sports on TV and those who don’t. I’m the latter group of course. We played a variety of games including a four hour marathon session of Mexican Train dominoes. I lost pretty badly this time (but I expect to make a comeback during the Christmas holidays).
My niece also tried out us old folks on an iPhone app that guesses the names of real or fictional characters by asking a series of questions. The trick is, even if you beat it, the app learns the identity at the end and adds the personality to its growing database, making it harder for the next person to win. Susan tried first with a fictional British spy but it guessed Napoleon Solo pretty quickly.
I had better luck with a fictional character from the 1930 pulps. After asking a zillion questions, it finally gave up, making me the only winner of the evening. Who was my character? Professor Jameson, an Earth scientist who was the first fictional character to be put into a cryosleep-like state after death; awakened millions of years later by a machine race called the Zoromes who placed his brain into a robot body and reactivated it. An obscure character but an important one, inspiring both Asimov’s robot stories and Robert Ettinger, the “father of cryonics” in the real world. Collecting a fairly complete set of Professor Jameson stories is only possible with the help of eBay and a lot of research. But it was kind of cool to point out afterwards that I had authored a fair amount of the Wikipedia article on Neil R. Jones, author of the Professor Jameson stories.
Besides holiday fun, there’s been a quite a lot of activity since my blog post last month. The TEDxSMU project went very well. There’s a nice TEDxSMU recap. with links to photos and video over on the Dallas Makerspace blog. Speaking of Dallas Makerspace, we also pulled off a successful first annual open house. Blog post and video will be up soon. We’re estimating between 150 – 200 people were there; way more than we expected. We also did a small art and technology discussion at Art Bytes, part of the Dallas Museum of Art’s late night program.
The downtime during the holidays has also given me time to ponder my over optimistic list of 2010 New Year’s goals and plans. But it’s not too late and I still hope to check a few more of them off before 2011 rolls around. In fact, I better get to work on that right now…
On Thursday we had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at our house. In addition to Susan and myself, my brother Randy and a friend of his attended. After eating turkey and dressing, we played a dominoes game called Mexican Train that’s perfect for holidays since it can takes hours to complete. In the evening Susan and I drove to my sister Vicki’s house where we visited other relatives including my parents and my sister Kelly’s family.
Susan and I spent the rest of the weekend on our own. We’ve been playing more games in our spare time lately. We’ve read a lot of articles lately suggesting they’re helpful in keeping our brains going. It also seems to be a good way to de-stress after work. Let’s see, we’re playing Scrabble, Mancala, and a variety of card games. One game I’d really like to start playing is Go.
We ventured out to a few Black Friday sales but tried to avoid any places that looked too busy. We picked up a pre-lit Christmas tree for the office that we set up and decorated Saturday night.
I also squeezed in some time to work on mod_virgule for the first time in nearly a year. I picked up where I left off in early 2008 with the rewrite of the HTML parser. I now have the libxml2-based parser working quite well. It needs a little more work to purge some remaining XSS holes. It already looks a lot safer than mod_virgule’s built-in parser.
I hope everyone had a nice Turkey day. Ours went fairly well. We ate a lot of food, visited with friends and relatives, and ate more tasty food. I also went for four entire days without doing any work. I did stop by my office once but only to check email. Speaking of email, I notice spam levels continue to rise. Our mail server blocked 32,614 spams during November – and I still ended up with 30 or so per day making it to my mailbox. I’d say the majority of the SMTP traffic on our network is now spam.
Well, it turns out that even though DMOZ/ODP provides “open content” they do it using closed software. So no luck with my offer to help them debug the RDF export problem. They had plenty of other offers to help from editors who were also hackers but all the offers of help in the world won’t do any good if they keep their source code secret. I posted links to some Free Software/Open Source propaganda in the hopes it might change a mind or two but I’m not going to hold my breath.
Time to get the news on my home page caught up again before someone accuses me of abandoning it! November passed mostly uneventfully. I spent a couple of weeks being sick with a sore throat which turned out to be tonsillitis. It took several doctors to figure this out. I guess they weren’t expecting it since most people have had their tonsils removed by my age.
Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. This one was spent at a larger than usual but relatively painless family get-together. And, of course, we had the required Thanksgiving left-overs for dinner for a while afterwards.
Things have been slow at work as well. The most interesting thing I’ve been working on lately is reverse-engineering a large database with around 1600 or so fields in about five tables. Once we get it all figured out and implemented on our PostgreSQL server we’re going to transfer about 50k records to it from a MS SQL server.
As of today, our Christmas shopping is officially completed. We’ve mailed the last of our Christmas cards and letters. And I’m hoping to find some time over the holidays to get some work done on robots.net – my ToDo list for that site has gotten rather large.