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16 Jul 2013

Summer Holiday 2013, Day 3

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Sunday. We weren’t really sure what we wanted to do today, but we had talked about doing one of the “bus to bus” walks in Brighton where you could take a bus to one of the stops and then do a country walk in the Sussex downs to somewhere else that a bus runs, and catch that back into town. As a family, we’d done the Ditchling Beacon to Devil’s Dyke walk once. I’d done it on my own once, and ridden it with Si before.

Over our usual breakfast (at brunch time), we talked it over, and based on the timing eventually decided that we’d be hard pressed to do that whole walk and still get home in time for an appointment that Carolyn had made for Sam to see her friend Anjali. So, we cooked up another route leaving from Patcham. Fortunately, we’d remembered to bring our local Ordinance Survey map back with us, so knowing where the bus might let us off or pick us up made it easy to do some route planning.

On my Friday night supper/drinks with the guys, Si had mentioned a willingness to get together again, and I knew him to be a bit outdoorsy, so we invited him along. I’d hoped he’d be able to bring Leah and her daughter Isis as I’d heard about them on Friday, but Isis was with her dad and Leah had a bum ankle.

Still, Si was able to make it, and met us at one of the bus stops in Patcham.

Near the beginning of the walk was what I had remembered as a football pitch, but when we arrived, it was clearly now a cricket pitch, and a game of cricket was going on. Si patiently explained aspects of the game to us — things Jim had probably explained to us a couple of years earlier as we’d played with him and his kids in Queen’s park. The likelihood that the subtleties that we learned today will stick are, however, still approximately nil. After watching that well past the time that Sam got bored, we started to hike along toward the Chattri — a memorial for British Indian soldiers.

It was a hike through open fields, and the heat wore on all of us, especially Sam. At one point, the trail passed through a herd of cattle, one of whom was standing in the middle of the trail. We kept going, working our way around this guy. By the time we got to the Chattri, I was concerned that this might just be an out-and-back hike. But we unpacked and ate lunch there which helped revive the flagging Sam. That allowed us to continue northward joining the Sussex Border Path up to the South Downs Way where we at least made it to the Ditchling Beacon. I managed a good amount of time to catch up more with Si; a treat to be sure.

When we arrived at the Ditchling car park, we had some ice creams from the entreprenurial “Mr. Whippy” who parks there summer weekends to service weary travelers just like ourselves. Alas, on Sunday, the buses run only every hour, and on our arrival, we found that we had missed the previous bus by scant minutes. Fortunately, Leah had offered to pick us up — an offer which we’d gratefully accepted.

Si and Leah dropped us at our flat in time to allow a little bit of recouperation before we headed out to meet Anjali and her parents Chulanthi and Bob who were all just back from a little time in London. It didn’t take Sam and Anjali long to reacquiaint themselves with one another and soon they were rolling down the hillside together. The intent had been to take the girls to the beach, but they had so much fun in Palmeira Square that we didn’t really make it to the beach.

One of the traditions that we indulged in during our 2010 life in Brighton was on Sunday we’d often get Bombay take away to eat back in our flat watching either some World Cup football or Top Gear depending. It was definitely a favorite in our household and one of the things that we wanted to reprise on this trip. (Only we’d decided we’d eat there instead of doing take away.) Bob had other plans, but Chulanthi and Anjali joined us, and the girls continued to entertain themselves while the adults got at least somewhat caught back up. After dinner and a walk back dropping Anjali and Chulanthi off, we headed back to our flat where we reprised one of our other favorite foods of the British Isles — sticky toffee pudding. And, we got ourselves packed up. Our too-short stay had come to an end, and we need to get to France tomorrow to begin that leg of our holiday.

16 Jul 2013

Summer 2013 Holiday, Day 2

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Saturday, we awoke late after a mixed night’s sleep. We ate our breakfast procured from Waitrose the day before. Yogurt and blueberries for myself while Sam and Carolyn had Muffins with Bonne Mammon, clementines and milk. We confirmed that trains to Lewes were frequent and headed up to the station. We got our tickets there and boarded a Southern “local” train with a few stops before we even got to Lewes. It amuses me that there’s more than one train station in Brighton. But you can stop at London Road, and Falmer and maybe even one or two more places before arriving Lewes. And last time we were here, we rode our bicycles back from Lewes! (With Sam on the trail-a-bike.)

Not that I had a detailed memory of it, but Lewes was as I remembered. A cute little village with an easy station at the bottom of the hill, a bit of a climb up a narrow road lined with pubs and boutique shops up to the short high street that leads to the castle entrance.

After paying our entrance fee, we headed onto the castle grounds. Seeing a group head for the Barbicon gate, we headed for the shell keep/mott for the first. The building is small enough, and the bits open for visitors constrained enough, that it was hard to imagine medieval life there. One thing was clearly represented though – the way property was (re)distributed after William came to rule, and the resultant forced labor in a feudal empire.

I got a couple neat shots of the interior from one of the rooms where you can see the slits for firing arrows from, but probably nothing I didn’t have from earlier, except, perhaps for the iPhone’s panorama mode.

After the shell keep, we went over to the Barbicon gate. For both edifaces, it’s really just a spiral staircase with a couple of rooms of it — one at each level. In the Barbicon gate, they had another model of the castle as it would have been when it was inhabited, and they had a model medieval crane that kids could use to hoist foam “bricks” into place. Last time Sam was there, she had no interest in it. This time, it was probably the highlight of the castle for her. They also had some period fancy dress, but we didn’t indulge.

At the top of both towers were some impressive views of Lewes and environs. I had forgotten that you can see a prison from there — the most famous resident of which was Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones.

After descending from the gate, it was late afternoon local time. We were still a bit jet-lagged and didn’t really know what time it was, but we knew we weren’t going to make it to dinner without having some sort of snack, so we walked along Lewes’ high street until we came across the Cosmo Cafe. Breakfast anytime, so Sam had some scrambled eggs and toast, while Carolyn and I got some hummous and pita and cheesy chips to share. When the chips came, I was disappointed to see that it was just grated cheese sitting on top of the chips, but as the chips were actually quite hot, the cheese did start to melt, and it became quite a tasty snack.

We returned the way we came, back along the high street, back down to the station, and a Brighton train was arriving in the station just as we did. We hopped on it, and were quickly back in Brighton — well, pretty quickly. It was still a local train.

We had known we’d wanted to go to the beach today, so we headed back to the flat for a quick change into bathing suits and headed out to the beach just across Kingsway from us. We plopped ourselves down on the edge of one of the little plateau that get formed by the tides. Carolyn watched and took pictures while Sam and I ventured into the water. We each made it as far in as to get the water up to our thighs. It was so cold that I was ready to get out about as soon as we got in, but Sam wanted some play time, and blew bubbles. Eventually, I went a little further out, and dived in. I swam a little ways out and then back in, done. I was hoping to just sun dry, and while it had been a pretty hot day, by this point it had started to cool off slightly, so while I did dry, it wasn’t the warm sun radiating off your skin kind of dry so much as the cool, almost-cold, but no longer wet kind of dry.

Finally, we knew that we were going to need to leave for dinner soon because we wanted to get back to Morocco’s for ice cream, and they closed at 23:00. We set out, swinging by the flat to change into something dry (and warmer). Originally, I’d wanted us to go to Pinochio’s so I could get their “Tortalloni Gratanati” — A dish Carolyn has tried to replicate for me at home with at least some success, but Carolyn had seen that they were closed on an earlier outing. So we set out for a spot in the lanes where we knew that there were a couple of Italian restaurants. We were rebuked by the first one, and would have had a 35+ minute wait at the second one. So we finally decided to wait the slightly smaller amount of time required to get a table at “Fat Leo’s”. If you want to have a birthday party in Brighton, apparently Fat Leo’s is the place to go. They sung for at least three different tables while we were there, one right next to us.

Still, we had a nice meal. Carolyn had some gnocchi, I got a pizza, and Sam some pasta. The adults split a half-bottle of wine, which seemed small when they brought it to the table, but we still ended up leaving some on the table when we left.

We made it back to Morroco’s with a couple minutes to spare when Sam had that classic kid moment. She and Carolyn both got single scoops. Carolyn got a chocolate, Sam a mint chocolate chip and we had no sooner stepped outside when Sam licked the scoop right off of the cone and watched forlornly as the scoop plumetted to earth. To her credit, she did not melt down. Didn’t even cry. I take my napkin, pick up the whole scoop and toss it in the rubbish — something we could see that other parents hadn’t bothered with as there were a couple of different places that there were stale puddles of ice cream.

One of the things I struggled with as a kid was asking for what I wanted. Even as an adult, I’m pretty open-minded and easy going, with the hope that things will work out based on that. Genetic or not, I’m a little sad to see how much Sam has that in spades. Rather than cry or even just ask for a new one, she suggests that she can just nibble on her cone — “It’ll be all right.” I get the coins out for another scoop while Carolyn explains to the staff what happened. They generously refill her cone and don’t take my money. While we had a slow and frustrating dinner there however many years ago, the ice cream service has been exceptional.

We sat on one of the benches facing the seaside, chatting and eating our ice creams. Finally, we head back to the flat for a well-earned rest. This night, I slept all the way through, even if I did get a late start to the night.

13 Jul 2013

Summer 2013 Holiday, Day 1

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Alas, there was no day 1 post, so this will have to suffice for both, at least for now.

I wish I were more observant about the mundane, because in some important ways, I think it’s the mudane that matters far more than the extrordinary. At least in story telling.

We left Philadelphia Thursday evening. We flew from the international terminal at PHL on USAirways. We were originally supposed to fly from A6 at one end of the terminal, and shortly after we settled down there, an announcement came over the PA that there was a gate change and we needed to switch to A23 at the other end of the terminal.

The gate area was hectic as we came to it, but calmed somewhat as two different flights to Ireland (one to Shannon, one to Dublin) boarded within 10 minutes of each other. We boarded without incident and took our seats. We were in row 36, seats AB and C. The plane’s seating arrangement (in economy) was a 2-4-2, so Sam got the window, and Carolyn and I got isle seats across from one another. A family of four was split in 37C and 36D,E, & F. The two kids were about 2 years old. I gladly gave up 36C for 37C, though it was far enough in the back of the plan that it’s where it had narrowed so that it became a 2-3-2 instead. I therefore didn’t have a very clear area for my feet because the seat supports between 36C and D were right in front of me.

The flight itself was uneventful. We all tried to sleep shortly after takeoff, ignoring dinner as we’d already eaten and it was late. (A 10 PM departure — already 5AM in the UK!) Still, none of us got any sleep until they turned the lights out after a round of drinks, dinner, then drinks again. Sleep was fitful at best, but we all got at least some. I woke when the lights came back on and the PA announced that we were an hour from landing. They came around with muffin tops and juice and we landed a bit before 10AM BST.

Getting out of Heathrow was similarly mundane. It takes an age to walk to the immigration area from the gate. Once there, the line is long and annoying (at least for non-EU residents), but it generally continues to move. Our passports were reviewed without interest — Sam and I both have new passports since our UK Visa time. We picked up our bags which had already been pulled from the carosel and found our way to the Central Bus Terminal. The coach to Brighton was a couple minutes late, but also uneventful as we’d booked and printed tickets in advance. I do so dislike taking the coach from the Central Bus Terminal (“747″ is the route number). It’s probably a good 20 minutes from when the coach leaves the Central Bus Terminal until it shows up at the next stop — still in Heathrow. It has one more stop elsewhere in Heathrow before then going on to Gatwick and stopping there twice. I so much preferred when we were able to fly into Gatwick and just take the train straight down into Brighton.

We finally did show up at the Pool Valley Coach Station, disembarked, gathered our luggage and walked to our Airbnb destination. We actually loitered for a little while at 27 Brunswick SQUARE instead of 27 Brunswick TERRACE, but eventually we got ourselves straightend out, met owner Greg who let us in and gave us a whirlwind tour.

We unpacked, got mildly settled, and quickly set back out again. We went to the bank (HSBC on North St? Rd?) where we closed our joint account (leaving open my personal ones), then headed to Waitrose to pick up some tea, scotch, biscuits, and a few other essentials.

No sooner had we arrived back with our bounty, it was time for me to head out again. I was meeting my Singing Horse Studio mates. At my suggestion, we met in the Sussex Yeoman — I had a hankering for their sussex burger. It was such a pleasure to spend time with H, Si and Johnny again. Doing so made the trip feel worthwhile right there. Each of them are continuing the adventure in their own way, and soon SHS will be just H’s. Also, I was astonished to learn that both H and Si had stopped drinking. That’s got to be tough in such a pub culture, but hats off to both of them. Johnny looked quite a bit fitter as well.

Back in the flat, I had some of the previously mentioned biscuits (Fox’s custard creams), and went to bed. Alas, sleep wasn’t very easy as I woke a bit after 02:00 and remained awake until around 05:00. I passed some of the time reading. I’m re-reading “A Fire Upon the Deep” by Vernor Vinge on my Kindle. Definitely a favorite.

Oh, and telephone woes. I brought my (unlocked) Nexus One, but it continues to restart itself when I try to do anything with it. And the foreign data rates for Verizon border on data-usery — $25.00 per 100M of data. Ouch.

14 Oct 2012

Big Ta Ta’s

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Or “How to proofread a job posting”.

I came across this posting on the python group I’m a member of on (in?) Linked In.

The first typo, was a bit awkward, but I could see how it would happen during an editing/revision session when that session wasn’t followed by a proofreading. “Our client is a leader in the worldwide leader”. So, what you’re saying is they lead?

But what actually cracked me up was the simple substitution of a “t” where a “d” should go. And just how different a career in “Big Data” would be from a career in “Big Ta ta”. (Check the email address.)

20 Feb 2012

Still Runs

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About 20 years ago, my grandfather “(Grand) Pop” died. I still remember packing up his model trains with my dad and some of the rest of the family. The specific bit of his legacy for me. They hadn’t been unpacked since. Instead, they followed me from place to place still in the boxes we packed back then. For the past several years, they were stored with the inlaws who recently kindly suggested that maybe it was time for them to come home.

We picked them up last weekend, and tonight I decided to unpack some to check them out and to let Sam see them. I was thrilled to find that they still run, and pleased beyond measure at Sam’s interest in them, and getting to share them with another generation. I know “Pop” would have been delighted.

Sam with Pop's trains

20 Feb 2012

VP Operations

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I started a new job last week. I’m the VP Operations for Perrone Robotics. There are many things that I’m responsible for. Internal IT and Network Infrastructure, Quality Assurance, Release Management and Customer Deployments. It’s a handful, and like any good job, understaffed. But it’s going to be fun. And I’m going to learn lots. I’m quite excited by the undertaking. Not to mention, it means we get to stay in Charlottesville a bit longer :)

14 Dec 2011

Stop SOPA

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I’m opposed to most things that congress does. I find this one especially appalling. In light of abuses before they even granted themselves this power, this MUST be stopped.

25 Nov 2011

Come not-shopping with me

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Today ls “black Friday.” There are a lot of people out shopping today. I’m not one of them.

However, I’m also not part of some ideological movement in opposition to shopping today. I just don’t like crowds. I can’t be bothered.

I was invited to a “buy nothing” day on Facebook. I suppose if the point is to raise awareness of needless consumerism, I’m a fan. But in this era of anti-capitalism, of the “99%”, I’m wary.

Because when it comes to capitalism, I’m a huge fan. Capitalists do several important jobs. Even the “1%” do important work for the rest of us. And I do mean us. I’m no 1%-er. My earned income this year will put us just over the federal poverty line.

But you won’t find me occupying (wherever). I ADORE the fact that back in the 80s the 1% were willing to spend several thousand dollars on a mobile phone that all it did was make crappy phone calls. Because they did that, a market evolved, parts got cheaper, prices came down and capability went up. Now I can buy an iPhone for a couple hundred dollars and have a device several times more powerful than my first computer.

I am thrilled that there are capitalists willing to do the job of waiting for me. I wrote code for a large software project, and I got paid at the end of the month for it. I didn’t have to wait until the whole project finished and sold to the customer(s) to get my share. A capitalist paid me and did the job of waiting. They even took the risk for me. They thought there was a market for the product we were creating. But they might be wrong. I don’t have to care, I got paid anyway.

So, I may be a fan of minimalism, and of avoiding crowds (and sitting out on the back deck writing blog posts in gorgeous autumn weather). But I’m a fan of these things in the context of capitalism.

11 Nov 2011

Nothing but Everything

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My mood has been low recently. But it’s been lifted this morning by song.

Pandora

I’m listening to my “Everything but the Girl” radio station on Pandora. As Carolyn put it, “Is it nothing but Everything But the Girl”? Pleasant enough in itself, but thanks to Lexus, I’m enjoying it as part of a free trial to Pandora One. It’s funny how it’s the little things. For no particular reason that I can think of, BMW has always been the target of my automotive lust. Innovative, reliable, powerful, sexy. But thanks in part to Lexus’ “Engineering Amazing” campaign and the complimentary upgrade to Pandora One, they are starting to claw their way into that place.

10 Nov 2011

Steam Cracked

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I got a disturbing message on my Steam account, today:

…intruders obtained access to a Steam database in addition to the forums. This database contained information including user names, hashed and salted passwords, game purchases, email addresses, billing addresses and encrypted credit card information. We do not have evidence that encrypted credit card numbers or personally identifying information were taken by the intruders, or that the protection on credit card numbers or passwords was cracked. We are still investigating.

(emphasis mine)

I’m unimpressed. Credit card data was in the same database as user data, purchase history, billing address, etc? To me, that means either: 1)They kept a whole bunch of information in a PCI-DSS secured vault at great expense as getting data into and out of such a vault is difficult by design, or 2) They were storing credit card data outside of a PCI-DSS vault in direct violation of the guidelines set forth by Visa, MasterCard, etc.

I’m also disturbed by the cagey language. “We do not have evidence that … credit card numbers … were taken by the intruders.” Given that it apparently took them 4 days from the forum defacement until the general announcement, I’m insufficiently impressed with their reported forensics to think that their lack of evidence for some activity means an absence of that activity. Who knows how long they were in breach even before the forum defacement that caused them to stumble over the broader breach? I’m also curious what algorithm was used for the credit card encryption. And where was the encryption key kept? Was it potentially exposed as well?

Of course, I’m also sympathetic. When I was with Linden Lab, we suffered a database breach as well. We ended up forcing a change to everyone’s passwords, pulling an all-nighter to implement new password recovery measures, manning the telephones to personally talk with affected customers and help them validate their accounts and change their passwords. Credit card data, however, was never exposed, nor at risk at the level of penetration the attacker reached.

Ironically, I had a conversation with Valve nearly a year ago. I’d heard they were looking for some international payment expertise and I got in touch. They ended up not thinking that I was what they needed, but at least I was able to put them in touch with the great people at Envoy. They apparently didn’t connect either. I wish they’d gotten someone in though, and that someone had taken a good, hard look at their credit card processing and storage. They’d have been able to write a much less embarrassing letter. The full text of the note follows the break, but it ends with “I am truly sorry this happened, and I apologize for the inconvenience.” I believe they’re sorry it happened, but this is still such a milk toast apology. If I had to write that letter it would say something a little stronger, something like: “I’m deeply disappointed that we failed to maintain the trust you put in us when you shared your personal information with us, and we’re going to do everything we can to redouble our security efforts to ensure this sort of thing never happens again and to earn back your trust and loyalty as our most valued resource – our customer.”

In the meanwhile, if you have a Steam account, do yourself a favor:

  • Change your Steam password
  • Change your password anywhere else you used the Steam password (you know you did)
  • Remove your payment information from Steam until they can demonstrate they can be trusted with it
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