1955-2011

If you haven’t heard by now then you’ll be sad to know that Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, has succumbed to cancer. There are a lot of words that are paraded in sentences before and after his name: CEO, pioneer, visionary, entrepreneur, Jesus. And yet, at the same time, so many other just as notable people have passed at the same moment, like Nobel Prize recipient Ralph Steinman, and civil rights activist Fred Shuttlesworth. Each of these man contributed greatly to the human conscious and yet only one retains the headline in the news (at least in the Western World).

So what is it about Steve Jobs that draws strong emotions from so many people that have never met him. His inner circle of friends is quite small and still diverse. Being a multibillionaire means you have armed escorts and an almost paranoid entitlement to privacy, yet there are stories after stories of meeting Steve in the mall, at a sushi restaurant, in the Apple store, on 1 infinite loop, etc. He was the best type of salesman, he sold the products he believed in, and he was very prophetic. To him the idea of 2,3,4 button mouses were stupid, computer specs were stupid to a population that didn’t care, blu-ray discs were also stupid (and as an owner of a PS3, I tend to agree).

He was the catalyst in breaking into new markets. There may have been early pioneers but their technology wasn’t very good. He saw what was possible, went into it, and made it better. No one remembers smartphones before the iPhone. There are some (yours truly) that were early adopters, but we paid for it in price, bugs, and stupidity. Competitors love him and loathe him at the same time. If Apple has entered your territory it meant 2 things, you have some serious competition and you have a much larger market. The former meant you were on a countdown to get your products up to snuff, the latter meant that users that didn’t consider your product before are all of a sudden interested (see Roku, Archos, Nokia smartphones).

In business Steve was aggressive, to his enemies he was wiley, to his family he was dad.

A box of screws, a hammer, and a green thumb

My apartment is one of the lucky ones in Paris to have a garden in the back. What makes it better that it is riddled with teak outdoor furniture all over. This probably doesn’t mean much to you but city living usually means seeing green is on TV, vacation, or at the park. But I haven’t been very good about it. Getting the house in order has been a challenge that I neglected the garden for too long. So this past weekend me and the family went to the garden center, truffaut to get some much needed supplies. With only 35sq. meters my garden isn’t very big so a huge ride on lawnmower was out of the question. But so was gas and even the little electric ones. I did get an inexpensive lawn trimmer; it’s electric and compresses down and folds up to fit in the original box. I also picked up packets and packets of seeds. A lot more than I wanted to really, on the way home I realized that for the price we paid for the tomato seeds we could have bought a bag of fresh ones from the grocery store. Gardening is a very expensive hobby, the price at checkout is more than I’m comfortable sharing but it was a long walk back to the train station to get everything home.

So we’ve got seeds, we’ve got organic soil, and we’ve got some planters to get this thing going. What we don’t have is compost, and you need a lot of it. So I started researching composters, the ones in the store came in 2 varieties, the very expensive kind that does everything for you and the very cheap kind that could be done cheaper using things around the house anyway. Really, they were charging 26€ for a burlap sack. But it was dyed green. Realizing that I had everything at home to do the same I started looking into making my own composter. Unlike the huge one you might find on a farm this one had to be suitable to fit in the garden, couldn’t interact with the native vegetation, and had to be sealed from rodents. The last thing I want is a hovel for mice.

In the storage room I found a good equivalent to what I was looking for. A clear storage box approximately 40ccx40cmx80cm. The cover was cracked into a million pieces but who cares I can improvise anyway. First thing to do is wash it clean. This is going to be used to create the soil going into the plants we’ll eventually be eating so the dust and crap were washed out. I drilled what must have been 100 holes into the thing. A good aerobic composter needs plenty of fresh air. I settled it into the shadiest part of the garden, but I don’t know if this will be any good. The garden is southern exposed with our apartment on the west side. I then filled it with wet newspaper and some potting soil. The former will regulate the humidity, hopefully, of the soil by keeping or releasing water as needed. The later contains the microbes necessary to get this thing started.

So what about that cover? It’s completely destroyed and without the pile will dry out and instead of rich compost you’ll get desiccated fruit rinds. The solution I found was a ripped, old burlap bag. It’s white which should keep the sun from backing it too much and it’s naturally ventilated. I cut that old thing to the size I need and using some screws I attached one side, permanently, to the box and the other is loosely attached. I’ll rig a clasp to the other side so the burlap top fits snug and will need to put a point or curve in the top so the water rolls off instead of  pools in the center. I’ll check the progress in a few weeks to see how my pile of renewable resources is working out.

Friday night at Patrick’s Irish Bar

The other day I got an invitation from a member of Github hosting a party in the 11th at an Irish pub. Me being an introverted programmer means I don’t get out too often and thought this would be an interesting way to meet other programmers. And I was not disappointed.

The guys I met, and they were mostly guys, were very open to talking about industry, programming, and international politics. Topics ranged from the direction of mobile development, embedded development, and history of mobile development. When we weren’t talking about programming we covered areas such as international finance and being a quant. Occassionally someone would make fun of the Symfony attendees. Since they were familiar with each other and we were not it felt good to break the ice by going after the insiders.

All in all, a great night out with a great bunch of people. As a developer you rarely get to meet other developers except online and the occassional conference. The sharing of ideas is very rewarding and I hope to do it again.

PS: It also helps when someone else is paying for drinks, so a big thank you to Github.

TV Weekend

The past weekend was another Chin TV weekend. Since I’m sort of late getting caught up on watching my favourite programmes (can you taste the britishness) every now and then I dedicate the entire day to watching what’s left of the TV shows in my queue. This weekend happened to be Veronica Mars S1 and Heroes S2. I tried to follow VM a long time ago when I lived in Miami and Boca. But I just didn’t have the time.
The advantage of living in a subtropical area is you have a reason to go out. To the beach, to the mall, to the race track, you just go somewhere. Paris is cold and gray at the moment. You only go out if you have a death wish and love the cold. Plus, getting Mac ready is like putting a coat on wet noodle. In the end I lose because all the time I spent getting him ready is for not. Now he’s hungry/wet/sleepy and it all has to be undone. So TV weekend it is.
I did make it to the BHV. And bought power tools. Lots of them. I’m still on the look for SMD desolderers and extra fine point soldering tip. And some electronics to hack.
I can’t wait for the next productive TV Weekend

Done and done…

I just took the time to upgrade my blog to Movabletype 4.0. It seems like it was ages ago I upgraded to 3.2 from 2.3. Before that I was writing blogs in pure html. Before I was really sure what blogging was. A lot has changed since those early days.

2007 is done. Long live 2008

2007… for me it was one of the best years I’ve ever had. I got a real salaried job in Paris with a company that actually appreciates me. My son was born. And life in the Chin household is on track. It’s been a hectic year too. I see that I wasn’t posting as often as I wanted to on my blog. I still have the same camera that I started 2005 with, but I’m not taking as many pictures as I hope. I built a computer after sitting on the fence for ages (but it will never replace the love I have for a Mac).
Windows Vista proved to be as much of a disappointment as I had experienced it would be. I’m still burned that my laptop has a “Windows Vista Capable” sticker on the palmrest. Seriously, Microsoft, Acer, and I have a very different opinion of what capable actually means. I gave it a go, tried all the tweaks, but still couldn’t get the performance that was mentioned on the brochure. Good thing it was a MSDN copy, because I would be really pissed if I spent money on it (which if you really think of it, I did)
I’ve come to the realization the Acura that I added to my resolution in 2005 wasn’t going to happen in the near future. I’m a Parisian now. I’m limited to buses, the Metro, and Vespas. All the money I would need to finance, insure, and maintain a car are out of reach once you buy/rent property in the city. But you never know. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll buy a nice home with a garage and see to the car situation.
My son. he’s growing up incredibly fast. It seems like yesterday I was coaxing him to drink a bottle. Now he’s moved on to eating with a spoon. And he actually has preferences and not just fruity or chocolate milk. I guess as you get older times seems shorter. When I was a freshman in highschool graduation seemed a lifetime a way. When I was a freshman in college graduation seemed like a lifetime away. Now it seems like a year has gone by in the blink of an eye.
But this also affects how I see business. With my limited amount of free time I have more to do before the end of the day than I ever imagined. 30 days comes and goes so quickly. I’m glad I have my wife to help with keeping the bills in order. I used to laugh about subscribing to those automated bill paying systems (really, who would pay money for that?) but now the idea doesn’t seem so far fetched.
The party in the appartement was a real blast. I used to try to go to the best places to spend new years eve: Times Square, South Beach, Champs Elysée, etc. But now I realize the best place to spend New Years is not with a crowd of strangers but with the ones you care about the most.
–Happy New Years

I couldn’t believe it

Virginia Tech. What else is there to say that hasn’t been discussed on televisions, chatrooms, newsgroups, and among friends. I left that pokey town 4 years ago next month and I’ve missed the college town feel. But that was the old Virginia Tech. Unfortunately, crazed gunmen have a way of ruining that college vibe. I envision in the future secured campus, high fences, locked doors, and suspicious looks. Gone are the days when you could pop into a classmates room to pick up DiffEq notes. No longer will it be simple to borrow a car for the weekly beer run. For the current and next batch of students college life takes on a new meaning.
For me it was perfectly normal to go to pop into 7-11 to get vitamins for those all night crams. It was perfectly normal to go places we weren’t supposed to go (I’m looking at you steamtunnels). And it was perfectly normal to have that guy in your dorm that looked a little crazy because he didn’t take his meds. That guy is gone since no university is going to want to be associated with any student with a mental condition, at all.
33 stones for 33 victims. I include the shooter in that count. I think he was a victim of insanity. Something pushed a guy in college right over the edge into lunacy.
Through all of this. its still a good school and I can’t wait for the day my soon goes to one of those institutions.

Bronzed and broke

I’m back baby. I survived the Thailand heat and humidity and can truly say I’m ready for more. 2 week vacation wasn’t long enough, next time I’ll try and go for a serious amount of time to study buddhism or something along that line.
For now, I’ve got things to unpack. people to call. and get back to my dreary Paris dwelling until something better comes my way.

…the Greatest rapper of all died March 9th

Coming from where I’m from there is two days on my calendar where I take time to reflect on the events of my past. Its not Christmas and New Years. Those have their own importance and I’ll make that clear later. For me, the day is March 9th and November 17th. The two greatest rappers ever died less than 6 months apart. At the time I was a highschool senior, just itching to get outta Florida and go to college already. The rap game really changed after that for me. It went from “these niggas are loosing their damn minds” to “government conspiracy”, and the “Tupac and Biggy is in witness protection because the record industry wants them dead.” It seems the last one is the most correct and most flawed.
But back to March 9th, 1997 can you remember what you were doing that day? I had school, taking the bus to work (I had just crashed my car…go carrot!), and more work to do. Life goes on, but some memories stay with you for the rest of your life.
As for New Years, a lot of youth died for me on that day in 1996.

Accountability

Another blaze in Paris has taken a few more lives. And it’s nothing that couldn’t have been avoided. I remember growing up and always having to endure another fire-drill in primary school. Career day was neat, the fire truck would come by. Some bright student would be selected/volunteer to try and put on a firefighter’s coat/hat/trousers, it weighed a ton. And then they would tell us about making plans to evacuate the building, checking our smoke alarms, and doing simple things to extinguish a small fire.
And why was all of this done, simply accountability. Not for you and me, but for the insurance companies. I’m sure there was some number cruncher in the great halls of All-State or Metropolitan who thought it would be cheaper to install a $25 smoke alarm rather than pay out insurance claims all the time. And those massive fires at the beginning of the 20th-century moved the government to put in legislation on fire prevention. Smokey the Bear and Clifford the Dog, your message hasn’t gone to waste. I’m still reluctant to start a campfire and I can STOP, DROP, and ROLL with the best of them.
So with four fatal fires this summer in Paris what has the government done to prevent this tragedy? Evict poor immigrants from their homes thats what. Most of the apartments were slums and I’m sure if they could have left they would have done it a long time ago. No, they are being evicted and put on the streets.
So come on France, where is the basic prevention? The programs in school, signs in the hallways pointing to evacuation routes, and those god-awful fire alarms that detract from the decor of dilapidated buildings. It’s the 21st-century and people shouldn’t have to roast because fire alarms aren’t a requirement.