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wshaffer
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25th-Jul-2016 12:41 pm - Odd Crew
calm, metal
I arrived in my office this morning to find a CD entitled "Mark These Words" by Odd Crew sitting on my desk. It had a note with it from the director of my department, who just returned from a trip to Bulgaria, saying that one of my colleagues in Sofia had asked her to bring it to me.

Odd Crew appear to be one of Sofia, Bulgaria's more successful heavy metal bands. They hadn't crossed my radar before, but I've listened to a few songs on the album and found it quite enjoyable.
19th-Jul-2016 10:38 am - Blogger Talk Episode 3
RTFM
The VMware Information Experience team has started a new video series called Blogger Talk, where we interview VMware bloggers about their favorite topics. I talked to Mike Foley about vSphere security topics like why a VM escape is unlikely on ESXi, how to deal with internal security threats, and how to use the vSphere Hardening Guide.

Please like, comment, or share if you are so inclined.

4th-Jul-2016 09:08 pm - Slow-cooked sweet potatoes
cooking, food
I was braising some chicken in the oven this afternoon for dinner, which involved having a pot in the oven at 300 degrees F for a couple of hours. I scrubbed a few sweet potatoes, pricked them a few times with a knife, and put them on a foil-lined baking sheet in the oven for 2 hours while the chicken was cooking. They were probably some of the best sweet potatoes I've ever eaten - sweet, slightly smoky, and so tasty that we ate them without any additional toppings. (Although, they'd probably be even more delicious with a bit of butter.)
running, shoes
Took my nephews climbing yesterday at The Peak of Fremont with some friends of mine and their kids. The Peak is a pretty cool little climbing gym - notably, it has 9 auto-belay routes, which is handy if you're short of belayers. (We had 6 kids and 5 adults, two of whom could belay, so the auto-belay was kind of a necessity.)

I think the nephews had a good time with the other kids, even if they were occasionally impatient at having to share Aunt Wendy's belaying services with other people.

Younger nephew very sweetly tried to console a 4-year old who was disconsolate because she couldn't manage a 5.11 route: "When you're big like me, you'll climb that with no problem!"

After climbing, we took the kids to a nearby pizza place. The boys were initially not keen on pizza, but when I explained to them that they could get a personal pizza and pick any topping they wanted, they got very excited. Older nephew chose tomato sauce, pepperoni, and cheese. Younger nephew chose tomato sauce and cheese.

Older nephew was very impressed that I had a booster seat in the trunk of my car for his brother.
Older nephew: Do you just keep that there just in case?
Me: Yeah. Do you remember that time I drove you a few blocks in my car and I didn't have any booster seats? I felt bad about that.
Younger nephew: Why?
Me: Well, because I want you to be safe and comfortable in my car.*
Older nephew: And besides, you don't want to break the law.
Me: Well, yeah, I guess not.
Older nephew: When I break the law, I feel bad. It makes me sick to my stomach.

I was too busy getting Younger nephew settled into his seat to inquire about what sort of life of crime Older nephew thinks he's been living. I do think this conversation demonstrates that Older nephew is Lawful Good alignment whereas Younger nephew is definitely Neutral Good.

Older nephew also described to me with great interest the political coverage he'd been reading in that morning's New York Times. He's passionately interested in the presidential election campaign. Perhaps we ought to just give nine year olds the vote.

*Actually, it was also that Younger nephew slouched down in his seat and proudly proclaimed, "The police won't be able to see me!" I wasn't sure if I was fostering the correct respect towards law and order.
23rd-Jun-2016 05:10 pm(no subject)
weights, deadlift
I went to the gym and did pushups, power cleans, bent-over rows, and weighted carries. I now want to eat everything in sight and I think I can actually feel my upper back muscles growing in real time. (I know this isn't really possible - if I'm feeling anything, it's just post-workout inflammation.)
talent, pencil
Of all the things I've ever published, my poem, "Icarus", originally published in Strange Horizons in 2000, is the one that seems to generate the most continued interest. I still get the odd email about it from time to time. It's also been reprinted at least 3 times: in the first Best of Strange Horizons anthology, on a website devoted to different artistic interpretations of the Daedalus and Icarus myth, and in an English textbook for high school students in Australia.

Now I've gotten a request to reproduce the poem as part of an assessment test for students in Michigan. I feel kind of weird having written something that's apparently so tailor-made for school assignments, but since part of what I was trying to capture in the poem was the recklessness of adolescence/early adulthood, I guess it fits?
16th-Jun-2016 11:47 am(no subject)
calm, metal
Some days you* just need a fresh dose of Swedish symphonic metal. Spotify found this one for me. I'm rather taken with it - it pretty much adheres to the standard formula (mournful soprano + growly baritone + chuggy guitars + synthesized strings + noodly keyboard solo), but there's a reason it's a standard formula. It works.



* For values of "you" equalling "me". Your mileage may vary.
prattling
In a recent performance review discussion with my manager, she suggested that I do some work on my presentation and public speaking skills. Mine are adequate, but I think I'm more distinguished by my lack of fear of public speaking than by great skill. As a child, I was actually terrified by public speaking, and would do almost anything to avoid it. This fear was slowly ground out of me by stints on the high school debate team (I was terrible at debate), Constitution team, and various other academic competitions that required impromptu speaking; class presentations in college; and teaching during grad school. In the middle of my first year of grad school, I stepped onto a stage in a 150-person lecture hall on the U.C. Berkeley campus to deliver a pre-exam review. I looked into the lemur-like eyes of a full house of undergraduates desperately hoping that I would impart to them in the next three hours the knowledge that they had failed to acquire all semester. The atrophied remnants of my fear sighed heavily and slunk off somewhere down Telegraph Ave., never to trouble me again.

Anyhow, there was one obvious place to go to get some training for my fearless semi-competence: Toastmasters. People have been recommending to me that I do Toastmasters for years now, but I've always found some excuse not to do it. But my employer has their very own Toastmasters chapter, that meets right here on campus, so I decided that I would bite the bullet and go visit a meeting today.

The meeting started with someone giving a pre-prepared speech, which we all got to evaluate. Then there's this thing called "Table Topics", where someone comes up with a topic, and everyone who wants to can give a 1-2 minute speech on this topic. Our topic today was "reincarnation," and what immediately sprang to my mind was my character in the Legend of the Five Rings game I'm currently playing in, who has been repeatedly reincarnated. So, I began my speech with, "I don't believe in reincarnation, but I do play role playing games." I then managed to give a reasonably concise explanation of what a table top roleplaying game is, what Legend of the Five Rings is about, and how my character discovered that she was reincarnated. And then wrapped it up by observing that playing RPGs is sort of like being reincarnated, because you get to experience being many people. All in 1 minute 58 seconds.

At the end of the meeting, everyone voted on their favorite table topic speech. I was the winner. I got a ribbon and everything! Not too bad for my first try!
10th-Jun-2016 05:58 pm - Python!
RTFM
Just wrote my first script in Python. I was trying to extract the table of contents from a PDF file. I tried two different Ruby gems, each of which failed to work in a different annoying way. I eventually decided that continuing to troubleshoot would probably take me longer and be more irritating than installing Python, installing the PDFMiner library, and following the handy-dandy code example that showed exactly what I wanted to do.

Writing Python after achieving a certain fluency in Ruby reminded me almost exactly of trying to speak Italian in Florence after a lifetime of being steeped in Spanish. I could understand a lot, and generally make myself understood, but I could never pronounce the word "pollo" correctly on the first try.

Anyway, now I've gotta go read up on basic Python syntax so that I can actually do something useful with this information I've managed to extract.
9th-Jun-2016 05:13 pm - Deadlift PR!
weights, deadlift
I hit a new deadlift PR today: 205lbs.

Whee!
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