Khaos

Archive for January, 2010

$foo Interview

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

The new edition of $foo magazine has been released and it contains an interview on the current state of The Perl Foundation.

“Nach 2008, 2009 gibt es jetzt zum dritten Mal ein Interview zum Thema “State of TPF”. Für diese Ausgabe stand neben Richard Dice auch Karen Pauley für das Gespräch zur Verfügung.”

An English version of the original interview has been published on the $foo site.

This was the first time I have ever been interviewed and I found it difficult. I worry if answers are too short or too long, too glib or too detailed, or just too boring.   I probably worry too much.

Snowy New York

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Yesterday morning I went for a walk through the snow in Manhattan.  It really was postcard perfect, especially along the river front.

Hudson River Bank

Hudson River Bank

Shopping in Manhattan

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

This afternoon I decided to brave the Century 21 department store.  I had a pleasant morning and an enjoyable lunch with Marty and Nozaki-san, so today was a good day to try it.  I would love shopping to be a pleasant experience, but with a slogan of “fashion worth fighting for”, Century 21 is not the place to go if you are looking for calm.

The horror started as soon as I entered the store. I tried to find some new socks for Marty but got fed up really quickly of getting pushed out of the way by the men shopping there.  Maybe they didn’t see me, but it seems that good manners are left outside the shop.

I moved to the handbag section and tried to find a new bag.  There were some lovely things and they were certainly inexpensive but I didn’t see anything I liked enough to fight my way through the crowds.  I did overhear an argument between a member of staff and a customer.  The customer was asking the sales assistant to please not kick the baskets at her. The sales assistant was standing with her hands on her hips saying “I didn’t kick anything”, sounding horrifying like a defiant child.  I moved quickly away from that fight and went to look at ladies clothes.

It was chaotic and disorganised and I was disgusted by how much damage had been done to some of the dresses.  Beautiful dresses made from high quality fabric with plucks and tears.  I did manage to find some clothes and went to try them on.  Well, wasn’t that an experience.  Someone took the clothes from me to make sure that I wasn’t hiding items.  They don’t trust the customers to be truthful about the number of items they have.  They also take everything from you when you leave so they can count the clothes again, and then hand back the items you wish to purchase.  But the strangest thing for me was hearing the sales assistants talk about the customers stealing things, and the big signs up about shop lifters.  There are ways of checking clothes that don’t make your customers feel like suspected criminals.

My final stop was at the shoe department.  I haven’t quite worked out how you are supposed to try on shoes that are joined together with cable tags and I yelped the first time I didn’t notice the security tag at the back of one shoe I tried on.  I only managed to put shoes on my right foot, but even if I had managed to put on both it’s not like there was room to walk around.

When I went to buy the shoes the sales assistant didn’t actually speak to me or even look at me.  She continued a conversation with two other assistants about one of the customers in the store.  The words old and fat were used.  Truly delightful.

And why did I put up with this?  I’m now the proud owner of a beautiful Calvin Klein suit that cost me about 25% of the original price and a pair of Stuart Weitzman evening shoes that cost $21 instead of the retail price of $340.

Food, Glorious Food

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Eating in America often seems to be about quantity.  I have been told that people expect large portions but if there is too much food on my plate I lose my appetite.  I think part of the problem comes from my childhood where I was told that I needed to eat everything that was put on my plate.  Knowing before I start eating that I’m never going to finish makes me reluctant to start.

Last night we went to the Palm Restaurant in TriBeCa.  The quality of the food was really good and I did order the smallest steak – though at 9oz it was still a bit big for me.  But it was the size of the dessert that horrified me.  Thankfully they brought it on a separate plate with a large knife making it look as if they didn’t really expect me to eat it all.  It tasted amazing but I brought most of it back to the hotel with me in a box.

I still have at least half of the cake.  I did eat some of it after lunch but I probably won’t be able to finish it all.  I hate the waste and I have wasted so much food in the past week.  I left half of my lunch today and we are now trying to work out what to do with the remains of the our carry-out dinner.  We got one meal between the two of us but Marty ordered soup as a starter and ended up with about a litre of it.   We don’t have a fridge in our room so most of it will end up down the sink.  And the phrase “waste not, want not” keeps running through my head.

Perl Oasis++

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

There are times I wish that the world was a smaller place or that I lived closer to the conferences I want to attend.  Getting to Orlando took a long time.  I was flying from Tokyo via Seoul and New York.  The detour to Seoul added about 5 hours to the trip but it did mean that I was able to fly in business class.  I am willing to trade the extra time for the ability to sleep on the plane.   It was a bit horrifying though to fly over Tokyo 10 hours after I had left my apartment that morning.

I also wish that travelling was more pleasant.   To travel you have to be willing to queue for hours and to allow people to go through your luggage.  You have to be prepared to remove your shoes and belts and to let a stranger run their hands over your body.  You have to be pleasant while someone asks you questions about your intentions and takes your picture and finger prints.  And you have to be prepared to put up with whatever silly security precaution the airports are going to run with next.

The new procedures for flying into America seemed pointless to me.  All my hand luggage had been x-rayed so I don’t know what they expected to find by opening up my handbag and having a quick glance inside.

Thankfully, Perl Oasis was an excellent conference and worth the time spent travelling.

I attend a lot of conferences and I’m always on the look out for the things that improve the attendees experience.  At this conference I loved the basket of travel accessories that was at the registration desk.  The organisers had put together the sorts of things that people forget to bring with them and were giving them away for free.  It’s a lovely idea and I took a packet of anti-histamine tablets as I keep forgetting the air conditioners in hotels drive my sinuses mad.

Essential Items

Essential Items

Time to Travel

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

After being home for just over two weeks it’s time to travel again.  Perl Oasis takes place this weekend in Orlando.  It’s smaller than most of the other conferences I attend and I’m glad.  It’s much easier to get to know people in a small group.  I’m looking forward to hearing Miyagawa talk on Plack, and Matt talking on trolls and mountains

Marty is also talking but I am never sure how I feel about that.  He may be amazing or he may decide he wants to insult every member of the audience, who knows?  But I suppose if nothing else he won’t be boring.

And the thing that amuses me most about the conference?  At the minute the Perl Mongers group with the most confirmed attendees is the Japanese group Shibuya.pm.

L is for Left

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Every time I knit something for myself I pick a pattern that contains either a new stitch or a new technique.  I want to improve and to eventually get to the stage where I’m an expert.  But I have a problem, I’m left-handed and I knit left-handed.  Knitting patterns are written for right-handed knitting.  If I want to follow a pattern, and I want my finished piece to match it, I need to be able to read things in reverse.   If I don’t, I will end up with something that is a mirror image of the original pattern.

I’ve been knitting lace and I have been trying to work out why people think that left-handed knitters should always reverse lace charts.  The patterns I’m knitting are symmetrical.  I haven’t reversed the current pattern I’m working on and it’s incredibly difficult to see that there is a difference in my finished product than the pictures of the design.  I also don’t know why following every pattern to the letter is so important.  Who cares if my beautiful piece of lace was created using left-slanting decreases instead of right-slanting decreases?

The problems come when I’m trying to match a diagram and I suddenly realise that my added on piece is on the wrong side.  I’ve been working on knitted on boarders and all the instructions are for right-handed knitters.  I need to try to reverse these pictures in my head and I am not good at doing that.  Even something simple like “my new piece will actually be on the left and not the right” isn’t an easy thing for me to understand.  I know what all those words mean in English but something about the words “left” and “right” makes my brain freeze and begin to panic.  If I try to read the written instructions it might use the words “left” and “right” 10 times in one paragraph. At that point I turn into a robot out of a bad sci-fi movie who just wants to say “does not compute” over and over again.  Thankfully I live with someone who can understand and reverse diagrams, even if he doesn’t knit.

I have been trying to get more information on left-handed knitting but often the only advice is that you shouldn’t do this.  I have tried to knit right-handed. Knitting was taught in the primary school I attended, when I was about 7 years old.  I was the only child in my class who couldn’t knit.  I can still remember how frustrating it was to not be able to produce squares like the rest of the class.  My teacher realised that my problem was that I was left-handed and taught me how to knit the basic left-handed stitches.  In no time at all, at least it appears that way in my cloudy memory, I was the best knitter in my class.

Recently I tried this again thinking that maybe my right hand will work better now.  It doesn’t.  I can’t even make the needle go through a stitch.  It would be comical if it didn’t confuse me so much.  I also can’t use a pen in my right hand.  I thought it would speed up my knitting if I used my right hand to record rows for me.  All I had to do was write tally marks or the number one on a sheet of paper.  I find it hard to hold a pen correctly in my right hand.  I also can’t draw anything that looks like a straight line and since it takes me about three attempts to write the number one it’s much quicker to set the knitting down and use my left hand.

I’m glad that I didn’t grow up in a generation forced to use their right hand for writing.  If I can still remember how frustrated I was with not being able to knit I dread to think how badly it would have affected my academic progress if I had felt the same way about writing.

Conferences in 2010

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

I used to think of conferences as something that happened in the summer, and a northern hemisphere summer at that.  Now I know that there are conferences that I could attend in every month of the year, if I had the time, money, or inclination.

The first conference I’ll be attending in 2010 is Perl Oasis and it’s taking place in Florida next weekend.  I won’t be speaking.  It will probably take me until April to have new talks written for 2010.  I had also wanted to go to Frozen Perl, but I’ve decided that it’s a bit expensive.  Not the actual conference, it’s low-cost at $100 (US), but the flights and hotel would cost me more than $1000.  As well as the cost there is the cold.  It is being held in Minneapolis, which is expecting a low of -23°C today.  In the past this has appealed to me but I’ve already had enough travel hassle in the past month due to cold weather to make me want to avoid this where I can.

This year I’m not going to attend OSDC.tw.  I enjoyed the conference last year but the four days I spent in hospital with food poisoning after the conference has put me off, even though I know it wasn’t the conference that caused the illness.  I do want to attend some non-Perl conferences again this year but I’m not sure which ones yet.  Gabor has been organising an events team on behalf of TPF to attend FOSDEM and CeBIT but I’m going to be in America during FOSDEM and won’t be able to travel to Germany at the start of March for CeBIT.

The main Perl conferences of the year take place between June and September.  So far, there is no information on YAPC::NA apart from the fact that it will be held in Columbus, Ohio.  I’m hoping that it takes place some time in June as this year family commitments will prevent me from attending conferences in July and early August.  This means I won’t be going to OSCON and I won’t be able to attend YAPC::EU.  I’m disappointed that I will miss YAPC::EU as I’ve been to the past 9.

As for the rest of the year I haven’t decided yet.  There’s been noises made about a Vancouver Perl Workshop and I really enjoyed OSDC in Australia this year.  But I think I’ll wait until I finish my next trip before I make any more decisions.

Sleeping Habits

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

I wish I was one of those people who can sleep on command.  The first train has gone by the apartment and I’m still awake.  I haven’t managed to adjust time zones.  I could try forcing myself to stay awake all through the night and day, but since I change time zones again in just over a week, I don’t think I’ll be able to drum up enough will power.

I also can’t work out why I think I should be sleeping at 4:30am.  Why does it matter to me?  I’m not doing anything tomorrow that’s tied to a particular time.  I was going to start the day by answering some TPF email, but I can just as easily do that now.  But I still feel that being awake all night and sleeping all day is a waste of the day.  Maybe it’s some silly thing I was taught as a child to try to make me get out of bed in the mornings. I need to lose this feeling though.  Feeling bad about being awake makes me go to bed where I end up gazing at the ceiling for hours, driving myself mad. And that is a complete and utter waste of time.

Easy Living

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

I’m cooking Irish Stew for dinner tonight.  Marty loves this though he has annoyed me before by suggesting that it’s an easy option for dinner.  The problem lies with the word “easy”.  It’s true that there are no advanced cooking techniques required but it just took me an hour and half to get it to the stage where everything is in the stew pot.  In about another hour and a half it will be ready to eat.  That’s not my idea of an easy dinner.

Yesterday evening I got out one of my new knitting books, Victorian Lace Today, as I was keen to try out some of the beautiful patterns it contains.  I decided to start with something marked as an “intermediate” pattern.  After about two hours I decided that it was too difficult and I would start with something marked “easy”.  I have knit expert patterns before and I have also knit lace before so I was surprised that I was having such difficultly.  But then the word easy doesn’t really tell me very much.

The lace I’m knitting, just like the food, doesn’t contain advanced techniques.  It does, however, involve concentration and precision.  If every stitch needs to be perfect is the pattern really easy?  And when I say it doesn’t contain advanced techniques I suppose that depends on who you ask.  I know quite a few knitters who wouldn’t have a clue how to knit the lace as it involves stitches that are not taught to beginners and you have to know how to read a lace chart.

There is a cliche that says that says, “it’s easy when you know how”, but I’m not convinced.  Even a task that is easy can become difficult if you have to repeat many times.  As for the stew maybe it is an easy option for Marty.  All he needs to do is eat it once it’s finished and given how good it smells at the minute that shouldn’t be too difficult.