Slowly crawling up the learning curve

May 20th, 2012

Man, XCode development is hard. And fun.

XCode is the suite of development tools that Apple gives away for its OSX and iOS operating systems. It lets you write programs for OSX or iPhones/iPads/iPod Touch, in other words. It’s free, but it’s a serious bunch of software. Writing code with it is not like writing a Visual Basic application (well, except for when it is). The language behind it is Objective-C, which is a variant of the old C programming language. I’ve got some familiarity with C, but most of my software writing experience is using languages like PHP and Python and Perl (love them P languages) that handle a lot of things for you automatically, like pointers.

A pointer is a concept in programming languages that helps make programs more memory efficient. In C, you can say the following:

int x = 10;

That means you’re declaring a new integer value named ‘x’ which starts with the value of 10. Integer values can hold whole numbers.

All well and good. But most of the time in iOS, you’re not dealing with simple little things like integers. You spend a lot more time dealing with very complex objects that consist of lots of simple numbers as well as other objects – like UIView. UIView is an object that’s responsible for displaying stuff on your iPhone or iPad. It takes up a lot more memory than an int, so when you declare one in Objective-C, you create a pointer to it, like so:

UIView *myView;
myView = [[UIView alloc] init];

The “*” on the first line means that you’re not creating a variable that is a UIView; it means you’re creating a variable that points to a different memory location where the UIView is actually being created – a pointer. A pointer doesn’t contain a value that you can use; it contains a memory address where the value that you want to use actually lives.

PHP, Python, and Perl don’t (typically) make you use pointers. Any variable that you create in them is just a variable that you can play with directly. The problem with pointers is that they can potentially allow you to accidentally reference a chunk of memory somewhere else that may or may not still be the variable that you want to be working with. The old adage is that C gives you enough rope to shoot yourself in the foot – pointers are a great way to do that.

Anyway, all this is really saying is that I’m still coding and still learning. Hopefully something useful comes of all this. I need coffee and chocolate.

More coding than knitting

March 13th, 2012

I haven’t knit anything in ages. I’m in the process of moving right now, which has disrupted one of my current side projects – namely learning to knit on a Brother knitting machine. That got sidelined a few weeks before the Madrona conference because I wanted to be able to show people a proof-of-concept app that I’m working on. There are sooper sekrit projects underway that hopefully I can fully talk about come summer.

Pursuant to one of these sooper sekrit projects, my girlfriend and I travelled to meet some folks this weekend to discuss ideas and directions, and also to help one of them prepare for a fiber class that’s going on this week.

On the way, we met Mona. I have heard that camels are nasty animals, but I will testify in court that not only was she extremely friendly, she has the softest nose it has ever been my pleasure to smooch.
Mona and me

A Retraction

January 6th, 2012

This is long overdue.

Back in 2003, when I was working on my Sweater Project sweater, I posted this:

It was meant humorously. But some recent conversations that I’ve been following in the blogosphere, particularly on science blogs that have been talking about issues of discrimination against women, made me realize that I fell in to a very common behavior for men on the Internet, and I need to apologize for it.

In that post, I made a tongue-in-cheek comment about Kerry Ferguson’s sexuality. My complaint was that the pattern she wrote didn’t work out for me. But I completely deviated from valid criticism of the pattern in that post.

It’s very common for people to get criticized on the Internet. But lately, my eyes have been opened to the fact that women disproportionately get personally attacked in criticisms in ways that have nothing to do with the subject matter being discussed. I was wrong in that post, and I am very sorry for my choice of words. Ms. Ferguson, if you see this post, please accept my apologies. I was out of line and I will not make that mistake again.

More photography than knitting

January 2nd, 2012

I haven’t been doing that much knitting, but I am getting better with my camera.

Fauntleroy at night

Yes, Virginia, I still knit

December 31st, 2011

Testing, testing – is this thing on?

It’s been five months since my last post. I wish I could say that I’ve been productively knitting the whole time, but I’ve been slowly plodding my way through my Jaywalker socks most of that time. I did do a couple of other side projects on the way – I did a couple of hats – but I have not had knitting in my hands very often. I am realizing that as a practical matter this is going to have to change since I live in Seattle now, and I still eschew pants for the much more fashionable kilts.

Did you know Seattle is cold? Cold is relative, I grant; a resident of Manitoba is going to read my assertion “Seattle is cold” and shake their head while saying “Oh you poor, ignorant fool. You don’t know from cold.” But for someone who lived most of his life in the middle of Texas, Seattle can be right frigid. And since my vestments of choice leave my legs exposed from above the knee to the ankle, this means that I need lots of warm knee socks.

I am running low on knee socks. There are not a lot of companies making socks for people in my situation, and the product selection is somewhat disappointing. So, if I want to be properly dressed to both A) look good and B) not freeze, I need to start turning out the hose.

These socks aren’t hose. But they are darn comfy inside my hiking boots.

Jaywalker Socks

I hate inconsiderate campers

July 25th, 2011

Last weekend, my girlfriend, her son, and my dog went camping on the Olympic peninsula. To make a long story short, we drove for about five hours looking for a campsite. We finally found one at Seal Rock.

It was a stone’s throw from the highway, which sucked. It was also right next to a campsite full of college kids who were blasting their stereo so loud we could hear it from the other side of the campground.

Jenn walked up to them and asked them to hold it down. Two hours later, I walked over and asked them to hold it down. At 11:30, Jenn went over again and TOLD them to hold it down – at which point, one of their party, a drunk girl, staggered to her feet and tried to get into a fistfight with her. Her logic was that people went to national parks to party, not to enjoy the quiet.

About an hour after that, they ran out of steam and we managed to get to sleep.

I freaking HATE inconsiderate people.

They have trees here

June 21st, 2011

They had trees in Texas too, don’t get me wrong – just not like they have up here in the Pacific Northwest. The trees here are HUGE. And they are green! All the time! And there are mushrooms!


I spent most of my childhood wishing I could see trees like this. Being able to just go for a walk and find them is wonderful.

In which I make dinner

June 16th, 2011

Last night, I got home before my girlfriend and immediately put on some rice in the cooker. The plan was to make a reprise of the chicken piccata dinner that I made this past weekend. When she arrived home, she presented me with a bag of groceries and announced that she did not want rice with the meal; she wanted scalloped potatoes.

I have not made scalloped potatoes before. At least, not without the aid of Betty Crocker. But, as she had provided potatoes in the groceries, I figured what the heck and dove in. The rice went into a storage container and thence into the fridge. I got a bowl and my mandoline and proceeded to scallop five lovely red potatoes.

Into a casserole they went, layered a little haphazardly, with periodic sprinklings of butter, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Once the casserole was packed, I added a 3:2 mixture of cream and milk, sprinkled the top with paprika, and it went into the oven.

As that was cooking, a fresh bunch of kale was washed and braised with balsalmic vinegar and lemon juice. I threw in a handful of slivered almonds and a little pepper. When that was done, I flattened some chicken breasts and sprinkled them with salt and pepper and a chile rub that my sister gave me last time we visited her in Albuquerque. (I decided later that the chile rub, while delicious, didn’t quite work in this dish – it will be omitted in the future.) I sauteed the breasts in olive oil and butter, then drained the pan, deglazed it with white wine and olive oil, and threw in a handful of capers and parsley. I sauteed that sauce until it thickened and then plated two servings.


I only set off the smoke alarm once.

Bad Day for Us

April 27th, 2011


Today President Obama released his birth certificate.

This is a really, really sad day in a lot of ways.

First, because an irrational argument carried weight. The whole Birther line of questioning was a lie from the start. It was not based on an argument that said there was evidence that President Obama wasn’t a US citizen. It was based on the argument that said that he hadn’t proven that he was a US citizen.

That’s the most paranoid argument I’ve ever heard. There is no positive reason to believe that there’s a problem here; nobody has come forward with evidence that the President was born elsewhere; nobody has produced witnesses saying that he’s been born elsewhere; there was no first cause for this argument other than to attack the man.

And the media, and the population, has eaten it up. This is fucking stupid. We, as a nation, should be smarter than this. And for the people who legitimately oppose the President – fine, legitimately oppose him! Attack him and his policies on legitimate grounds! I don’t care what either side does as long as it’s for the benefit of the country and it’s based in reason! THAT IS WHAT THIS IS ALL SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT. You can support the man because he’s advancing causes that you think are good; you can oppose the man because you think that his policies are going to weaken the nation and put its citizens at peril. Both sides have merit.

But come the fuck on. Base arguments in reason and evidence. Have some basis for making your arguments. Appealing to easily excitable emotions is crass and and indifferent to the whole damn country.

Almost as disturbing, Obama gave in to it. I’m not judging him lightly. I know that there was a lot of pressure on him. I know that I’ve been put in very difficult situations and I’ve responded to the pressure, and so done things and said things that I regret. I can’t say that I would have done anything different. But it’s a situation that nobody should ever be put in. It should not be necessary to dignify a baseless accusation with a response. But because we do get put in those situations, and because other people choose to dignify those accusations, we react to them. And when we give in, we legitimize the whole damn process.


February 22nd, 2011

I wish my grandfather was alive right now.

He was a career Air Force officer. He was one of the last commandants of Wheelus Air Force Base in Libya until Quaddafi closed the country to the United States. He was a very black-and-white kind of man; he and I would not agree on many things today. But I really wish he’d lived to see what is going on in that country today.

One of the few things he and I would agree on is that Quaddafi is garbage. I’ve seen yeast infections that were less opportunistic than that waste of air. The leader of Libya is an unapologetic terrorist who embraced the United States in the wake of September 11, 2001 and secured the release of his terrorist hound Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi in 2009 because of his new found partnership with the west. This week, Quaddafi has been denouncing the popular uprising in his country as the work of drug-addled US sympathizers and Zionist stooges.

He’s a piece of garbage. I hope he shares Mussolini’s fate.

I’m going to go pet my dog now.