New glass finally added to what will be the Durham Hotel at 315 E. Chapel Hill Street!

I don’t quite understand why the new glass looks to be so much closer to flush with the vertical elements. It looks funny compared with the more recessed previous glass. Or maybe my memory is faulty.


October 30, 2014

One of those glorious days wherein I had a block of like 4 hours without meetings. So I spent the whole thing making a slide deck for a talk I’m giving next week. The event is “ignite-style” so I went ahead & did the 20 slides/5 minutes thing. Or, rather, I did the 20 slides. I actually have no idea what I’m going to say.

[Not strictly true. I have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to talk about, but I haven’t written an outline or started timing stuff against the deck yet.]

Work is about the most stressful that it has ever been, and I thought I was handling it pretty well (no anxiety attacks, GERD nice & under control, not drinking that much more heavily than usual) but then I noticed a vaguely familiar itch & now I’m 70% sure I’m getting Shingles. But hey, at least nowadays I do most of my work at a standing desk, so if I need to spend the next 3 weeks standing up 24/7, I can probably handle it.

Dinner at Toast, followed by yet another unscheduled trip to WXDU to reboot a server – this time the streaming server was all zombified, sorta serving the Icecast status page, letting me move the mouse around onscreen but not actually interact with windows, etc.

Power-cycled it & then while watching the system log I remembered that I’d installed InfluxDB on it. Remembered because the log was showing InfluxDB repeatedly failing to start.

Once I figured out what was broken, I went home & actually documented the config of that server. Sort of.

At All Things Open last week, I saw a great talk about Chef, which started with the following:

The Sys Admin’s Journey

  • ssh
  • Store notes in ~/server.txt
  • Move notes to the wiki
  • Write some scripts (,, etc.)
  • Golden images and snapshots
  • Policy-driven configuration management

When it comes to WXDU, at least, I’m still somewhere between the notes & the wiki stages, with occasional forays into “write some scripts.” Sigh.

October 30, 2014

October 29, 2014

What’s that? They “edited out” the white guys from the catcalling video because somehow mysteriously every example of a white guy had bad audio or some other technical flaw? Yeah right.

Which doesn’t diminish the fact that it’s a real problem, but does diminish the effectiveness & trustworthiness of that video. Sigh.

I forgot to mention in yesterday’s update that I voted yesterday. Apparently every judge in the state of North Carolina was up for reelection at the same time. I know a lot of lawyers (there was a period in the 90s when law school was what library school was a little later on) but beyond that circle, I can’t imagine many other people being able to successfully navigate that list of 25-30 different names.

I took a list supplied by a friend of mine, compiled via input from a couple of her trustworthy friends who work in & around the judicial system. Even so, I don’t know that our signal is going to be distinguishable from the noise.

In other news, fuckin Wayne Coyne is going to come to the Carolina Theatre in December to personally introduce a screening of The Night Porter.

Which has been on my list of things to get around to watching one day, although now that that jackass is coming to introduce it, I don’t know that I’m even mildly interested anymore.

October 29, 2014

October 28, 2014

Spent an hour or so this morning writing a short essay about why I believe cumulative GPA matters to companies who hire students & recent graduates. It’s here on tumblr, a couple of notes up in my timeline, if you haven’t already read it & wish to.

After lunch we got this video:

I haven’t even looked at the YouTube comments, because the peripheral junk from dudes on Facebook & etc was more than enough for me. Dear dudes who are all innocent-feigning, like “why can’t a guy say hello to a woman on the street?”: DIE IN A FUCKING FIRE.

I say this as someone who is himself on a personal mission to say hi to, or otherwise acknowledge the presence of, more strangers whom I see on the street. I’ll usually say “hey, how ya doing?” to men, but with women I typically just smile, without even really going out of my way to make eye contact. Sometimes they smile & nod back, sometimes they don’t. Either way I can’t imagine acting like some of the egregious assholes in that video.

But as bad as those jerks in the video are, I think the asshole on Facebook who managed to be racist, classist *and* sexist in one obnoxious mansplainy comment is probably worse. I’d link or excerpt his comment, except I was so aggravated by it that I blocked him.

I have friends who like to engage with ass-backward assholes on the regular, but I’m sorry, life is hard enough as it is.

October 28, 2014

Why I think cumulative GPA matters

I wrote this in response to a question on quora, but I want to stash it here for future reference:

I have given this question a lot of thought over the years, and have gone back & forth in my opinion about the importance of GPA, and particularly cumulative GPA. At this point, the culmination for me of all that thinking is that I *do* believe that cumulative GPA is an important criterion.

To explain why, you’ll have to indulge me for a few paragraphs of seeming digression. I promise there’s a point coming. If you must, you can skip down to the bullet points below, although you’ll lose some of the context.

The nature of our industry has changed enormously over the past 30 years. There was certainly a time in the past when the standard operating procedure in the tech industry involved hiring lots of coders, sticking them in a windowless room somewhere, and feeding them stacks of detailed technical specifications which they converted into code, with the assistance of pizza & caffeine.

One formal name for that process was the “Waterfall Method” of software development, in which some non- or semi-technical person talked to the customer, gathered their requirements, handed them over to a somewhat more technical person who translated them into a tech spec, which was in turn handed off to the coders to code. Their code was then handed off to the testers to test against the original requirements, and if all the tests passed, the end result was delivered to the customer with a handshake and a wave goodbye, possibly a year or more after the project started.

This was, of course, terrible, if the goal was to actually please the customer. Maybe the folks recording the requirements got it right – and maybe they didn’t. Maybe the person translating those requirements into a spec got it right – and maybe they didn’t. Maybe the coders were able to accurately convert that spec into working software – and maybe they weren’t. Maybe the customer’s requirements hadn’t changed during that year – but they probably had.

There is a reason why pretty much the entire industry has converted to variations of Agile software development, a process whose foundation is based on getting continual stakeholder feedback, and which by its very design puts the developers into more direct contact with customers.

Couple that with the rise of the web, and more recently cloud, and what you have is an industry where much smaller teams, consisting of a mix of coders, designers, testers, product managers & business people, are developing software over very short time-scales, and in intimate communication with their customers on a weekly or even daily basis.

Sounds like the recipe for a successful startup, right? It also sounds like the recipe for a successful Extreme Blue team, and that is intentional.

But what that means is that everyone on the team has to be good at a wider variety of things. Our software engineers need to be good at coding, but they also need to be good at:

  • communicating with teammates and customers, in clear language, using the appropriate level of technical detail depending on the audience
  • juggling multiple timelines and multiple, sometimes conflicting, deadlines
  • working with stakeholders to evaluate and constantly reprioritize pending work
  • understanding customer pain points and translating them into software solutions that actually solve those pain points
  • identifying roadblocks quickly, notifying stakeholders of potential risk, and asking for help

The more that I have thought about cumulative GPA over the years, the more I have concluded that while it’s by no means perfect, it is still a valuable indicator of a student’s ability to be successful at all of those bullet points above. Your required non-major courses [hopefully] help you learn how to communicate more clearly, and also give you perspectives that are different from your own – perspectives which might be similar to those of your future customers.

Having to juggle 4-6 courses per semester, and perform satisfactorily in all of them, is excellent training for the multi-threaded, multi-tasking nature of modern industry. Time management is critical to us – if we tell a customer we’re going to ship on a certain date, we either need to ship on that date, or we need to alert them as far in advance as possible that we’re going to miss that date.

And recognizing that you’re struggling early enough to raise the alarm, ask for help, adjust expectations, renegotiate priorities (or drop the class) is a critical part of that.

To be brutally honest, cumulative GPA also tells me how good you are at digging in & doing stuff that irritates you & which you would much rather not be doing. Because EVERY job has some of that. EVERY JOB. I love my job more than any other job I have ever had – I have told many many people that I think it’s the best job at IBM – but there’s still occasionally some stupid thing I don’t want to do. Thankfully my parents’ and teachers’ [unwanted] attention to my grades back in the day gave me the focus to power through the occasional TPS report & move on to the fun stuff.

Why I think cumulative GPA matters



This is a reminder that the Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted 13 months and the Civil Rights Movement took over 10 years, so next time you want to tell us to “get over Ferguson”, “its been long enough” “You’re not making any difference” remember that.

Brilliantly said.

October 27, 2014

This morning I thought that I might start this entry with an insightful commentary about Jian Ghomeshi, but I don’t think there’s all that much to say, other than that he would appear to be utterly full of shit. This is a good primer on the story as of this morning.

Except for ugghhghgh don’t read the comments unless you also want a primer on how Ghomeshi’s fan/apologists are defending him.

Had a 3-hour block of time this morning at work and actually managed to make use of most of it. I definitely can’t get anything done without at least 2 contiguous hours; need to do better about blocking my calendar to enable such things.

Today was the release date for the new Dawnbringer, so I listened to it three or four times. It’s different from the past couple – sadder, slower, more death-focused. I don’t have a clear view yet of where it will rest on my year-end list, but I’m fairly confident it will be there somewhere.

Night Of The Hammer by DAWNBRINGER

Wound up having dinner at Piedmont, in part because (a) they’re open on Mondays and (b) I had Dos Perros tacos yesterday. Cocktail was good. Sweetbreads & gnocchi appetizer was good. Pork loin was a giant slab of porkchop rather than the slices of loin I was expecting. I don’t like giant slabby porkchops, but it wasn’t bad. I think I let myself have dessert to make up for letting myself order an entree that I was skeptical of, but all I can say about that is that if your fried apple pie isn’t as good as the fried apple pies at Char Grill, then you might just want to stay out of the fried apple pie business.

I mean, I like Piedmont OK. They are very nice people and they are trying really hard, and the food has gotten much better and much more consistent than it was during its most hit-and-miss period. Most things are still too salty-sweet-saucy-intense, though. Being a farm-to-fork joint where the basic ingredients are overpowered by the sauces & seasonings is kind of a shame.

A friend asked me about our trip to LA this past spring, and I was reminded of how great the food was. Everything we had was so much more about the simpler flavors of the ingredients. Obviously they have a bounty of produce out there, year-round, but even in the heart of summer here, it’s rare to find a restaurant that will just let the vegetables do their magical thing.

This reminds me that I need to make Gocciolina reservations. I love/hate the fact that our go-to Friday night drop-in supper spot is so amazingly delicious and so absurdly cheap that it has gotten perma-mobbed & requires reservations just about any night – and more than a day in advance for the weekend.

I hope to hell that the endless hotel & condo development happening in Durham over the next 18 months brings with it more than the tiny handful of restaurants that have been mentioned so far, because otherwise every joint in town will be multi-hour waits on Tuesdays & whatnot.

October 27, 2014