July 28, 2007

I'm Engaged

Kathleen at Yosemite Though I changed my relationship status from "In a Relationship" to "Engaged" a few weeks ago in my Facebook profile, it's time that I just came out in a more public forum.

So here it is: I'm engaged to be married to a truly amazing woman later this year.

While we started dating late last year (mid-October to be exact), I've been pretty quiet about it online. That's partly because I didn't want to expose Kathleen to an audience of a few thousand people without knowing what might happen--she has little of an online footprint. And it's partly because it's my own damned business and private life, and sometimes there has to be a line between what's public and what's not. I'm sure you understand. :-) Oh, and I didn't want to jinx it!

Of course, the few of you who follow my Flickr photos may have seen a few pictures of her now and then, but that's really been it.

But enough about my on-line life. What you're really wondering about is who she is (and what sort of mental disorder compels her to spend time with me!). I could tell you countless great things about her (many of which I tell her on a daily basis), but I'll be brief. Kathleen was born a mere 2 weeks before me, grew up in the state of New York, attended MIT undergrad, has a PhD from Stanford, and works as a research scientist in the Bay Area. She's also a glider pilot and working on her single engine rating. She's smart, beautiful, kind, caring, and fun to be around.

We have a lot in common aside from a love of flying. We have very similar goals for the future, religious views (or lack of them), geographic preferences, choice of pets, tastes in food, vacation ideas, hobbies we wish we had time for, thoughts on whether or not (and when) to have children one day, and more. I could go on.

In short, we're very compatible. So much so that it's scary (in a good way) at times. I'd try to cite specific examples, but I'd honestly expect you not to believe me. Seriously. I can't count the number of times I've thought to myself "I can't possibly be this lucky..."

But I am.

We've had a few bumps in the road, of course. Some of them were the likely the result of the fact that I simply hadn't made dating a priority for a long time. You may recall Flying as Therapy and On Balance and Changing in recent months. There are deeper stories behind them, and I'm still in awe at the public and private responses that second one elicited. But each time we've come away stronger, knowing each other better, and even more confident about our future. It's all part of the journey.

I'm incredibly happy that we managed to find each other at times in our lives when we were both ready to find each other. But even more than that, I'm excited about the future we're going to have together.

After we've worked out more of the details, maybe I'll write a bit about our unconventional wedding plans. :-)

This is already longer than I thought it'd be, so I hereby return you to your regularly schedule geeky stuff, flying pictures, strange news, and occasional ranting--as soon as I come up with something.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:25 PM

July 26, 2007

The Cat of Death

I was rather amused by this AP article in SF Gate: Oscar the Cat Predicts Patients' Deaths. It describes a cat that was adopted by the nurses in a nursing home as a kitten. Since then it's proven to have quite a knack for figuring out which patients are hours away from dying.

His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live.

You might think that this is a bad thing, but apparently it's quite helpful for the families.

"Many family members take some solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one," said Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University.

And the patients themselves aren't likely to notice.

Doctors say most of the people who get a visit from the sweet-faced, gray-and-white cat are so ill they probably don't know he's there, so patients aren't aware he's a harbinger of death. Most families are grateful for the advanced warning, although one wanted Oscar out of the room while a family member died. When Oscar is put outside, he paces and meows his displeasure.

Of course, the cat is better than the professionals too!

Oscar is better at predicting death than the people who work there, said Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University, who treats patients at the nursing home and is an expert on care for the terminally ill.


I wonder if we'll ever figure out how animals can figure this out...

Posted by jzawodn at 07:28 AM

July 25, 2007

Yahoo's Hadoop Involvement and YSlow Release

Over on the YDN blog we have news of a couple items. I won't say a lot about them here, since I wrote the first one and I'd just be duplicating information in either case...

  1. Open Source Distributed Computing: Yahoo's Hadoop Support begins to lay out the story behind Hadoop and Yahoo's involvement in the project. Hadoop is an Open Source grid computing system that's making it easier and easier to build large clusters of data-crunching servers.
  2. YSlow Release on YDN talks about the release of YSlow, a kick-ass Firefox extension that helps to analyze slow pages and recommend ways to improve performance.

Both of these are big news for completely different crowds of people and both are another step in sharing the technology that we use internally at Yahoo every day. Check 'em out.

Expect to hear more about both Hadoop and YSlow on the Yahoo! Developer Network.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:37 AM


ascii jeremy zawodny Apparently someone has seen fit to make an ASCII Art Text Painting of me and a bunch of other bloggers.

There's some weird satisfaction in seeing an ASCII art rendering of a high resolution image, taking a screen shot of it, and then re-posting it again as a PNG file. It's kind of like buying music from iTunes, burning it to a CD, and then ripping the track back to an MP3 file so that you can use it on any device you actually want. Except without the RIAA being involved.


In related non-news, dot matrix printers are still around.

Bored? Read more about ASCII Art on Wikipedia or spend a bit of time in this ASCII Art Gallery.

Got a favorite piece of ASCII Art? Drop a link in the comments. Hopefully it doesn't involve me. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 06:28 AM

July 23, 2007

Google Docs vs. the Hassle of Microsoft Office and Friends

Last week I lost a ton of productivity because the hard disk on my laptop failed. There's a long story behind this.

The short version is that I knew it was failing for a few weeks and, yes, I had backups. The IT folks got me a new notebook (an HP nc6400 which isn't bad, really) and I've spent quite a bit of time getting my stuff running again.

But I had backups, right? Yes. But let's be honest. The vast majority of Windows applications make it quite difficult to migrate from machine 1 to machine 2 and preserve all your settings, customizations, and preferences. Notable exceptions to this are Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird , both of which were designed to be cross-platform from the beginning. With them I simply need to copy my profile from the latest backup over to my new machine after I've installed the latest version. It's almost trivial.

Compare that with something like Microsoft Office, where I always find myself having to fuck around in the settings to disable all the "helpful" auto-formatting defaults and other nonsense.

When I wrote How To Add Good Expires Headers to Images in Apache 1.3 earlier, I loaded up my trusty and recently installed AbiWord only to find it hanging for some mysterious reason. I let it sit for a while and eventually killed it off after waiting about 15 minutes. In the meantime I loaded up the bloatware known as Microsoft Word to compose that little blog post.

For whatever reason, Word had a different problem. When I clicked the font list (I hate the default font), it hung. The UI became completely unresponsive. Having less patience, I killed it after a couple minutes of waiting.

Neither of those problems are likely to be easy for me to debug (do they write out a timestamped log file that I can read?).

It was at that point that I basically said "screw these freshly installed desktop applications on this brand new notebook... I'll just use Google Docs to compose the damned blog post." You can understand my state of mind, already having invested far too much time in what should be an appliance that does what I need.

And you know what?

It worked quite nicely. I'd used Google Spreadsheets before, but this was my first real use of Google Docs. No auto-formatting crap to turn of. No annoying load time. No disk swapping as the software pulled in a ton of libraries. Heck, my browser was already open anyway. And I was writing with the intent of publishing to everyone, so who cares about security?

It was at that point that a shift took place in my thinking. I'm simply not going to bother with the hassle, trouble, expense, and complexity of desktop applications when an online substitute will do the job anymore. Life's too short already.

I have to say, this on-line office stuff is starting to seem very, very real. I wonder what Microsoft will do about people like me...

Posted by jzawodn at 04:01 PM

How To Add Good Expires Headers to Images in Apache 1.3

powered by apache During a meeting at work today, we looked at my web site (as an example) to see if there are ways the performance could be improved. I was surprised to see how many things could be done to make it a big faster.

One of the most trivial changes involved adding an Expires: header which specifies a time far enough in the future so that clients (browsers) won't try to re-fetch images that haven't changed.

Since I'm running Apache 1.3, I dug up the old documentation on mod_expires and made a few simple additions to httpd.conf:

ExpiresActive On
ExpiresByType image/gif A2592000
ExpiresByType image/png A2592000
ExpiresByType image/jpg A2592000
ExpiresByType image/jpeg A2592000

That asks Apache to set an Expires header that's roughly one month from the moment at which the browser requested the image. Here's a quick test to show that it worked:

root@litterbox:~/w/i# telnet localhost 80
Connected to localhost.
Escape character is '^]'.
HEAD /i/mini-softie.jpg HTTP/1.0
Host: jeremy.zawodny.com
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2007 22:03:35 GMT
Server: Apache/1.3.34 (Debian) mod_gzip/ PHP/4.4.4-8
Cache-Control: max-age=2592000
Expires: Wed, 22 Aug 2007 22:03:35 GMT
Last-Modified: Tue, 29 May 2007 15:51:04 GMT
ETag: "95c67-5995-465c4be8"
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Content-Length: 22933
Connection: close
Content-Type: image/jpeg

Excellent. August 22nd is about a month from now.

In theory I could go quite a bit farther into the future since I almost never replace images on my site.

Posted by jzawodn at 02:14 PM

July 17, 2007

Getting off the Web 2.0 Hype Treadmill

In Why We're Like a Million Monkeys on Treadmills, Steve Rubel doesn't exactly say why we're like the monkeys, but does talk about something I noticed quite a while ago...

The Web 2.0 construction boom is bigger now than it ever was. Techcrunch, Scobleizer and Mashable leave me all breathless. It's like watching the cranes of Dubai rise. We're a million monkeys running on treadmills, chasing the latest banana. Myself included! The breathing apparatus in the photo above reminds me of my Google Reader stream!

I left a comment on that entry that I'll republish here:

...only if you choose to read them, Steve. The information and sites exist to serve you, not to make you feel overwhelmed. Feel free to use the unsubscribe button now and then. You'll be surprised at the sense of relief if provides.

He went on to say:

These days, I am far more interested in what people do with technology rather than on what the latest new "shiny object" is. My friend Brian Reich calls this "Shiny Object Syndrome." That's why I am writing longer pieces once per day rather than many short posts.

It's funny. Over a year ago I unsubscribed from Steve's blog because he had a habit of writing in breathless fashion about the latest shiny new thing--often several times a day. I made an conscious decision to drop virtually all "news" sources from my subscription list that felt like breathless hype machines that provided little new insight.

My mental state improved quite a bit after that.

It's great to hear that Steve is going back to a slower and more thoughtful pace. Perhaps it's time to re-subscribe. I see too many people I know getting caught up in the breathless hype and forgetting to think about whether the latest shiny new thing really matters in the grand scheme of things.

Sooner or later the treadmill is going to tire you out...

Posted by jzawodn at 01:25 PM

Yahoo! Pipes Hiring Perl, MySQL, and PHP Engineer

Yahoo! Pipes Back in February I wrote about the release of Yahoo! Pipes (see Yahoo! Pipes: Unlocking the Data Web):

So if you're interested in an interactive on-line data mashup construction set, check it out and have a look at the existing pipes developers have created. I think it's one of the coolest web apps we've released in a long time, and I'm not just saying that because I know the guys who built it. Not only does it make hard things easy (like Perl has done for years), the user interface kicks ass too. It's exciting both from a technological point of view and because of the implications for the web as a whole.

Since February, Pipes has been growing and improving (see the Pipes blog) and the team needs a few more people to help with the continued growth and features. We're looking for a good backend engineer (based in the Bay Area) to join the Pipes team--someone who really knows their RSS, Perl, MySQL, and PHP.

The official job post is here, but if you're interested send me your resume and I'll give it directly to the hiring manager.

Pipes is, in my opinion, one of the coolest things that Yahoo has released in quite some time and I'd love to see a kick-ass engineer join the team. If you're at all interested and have questions about Yahoo, feel free to ask me. I've been here for 7.5+ years at this point and will gladly answer your questions.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:39 AM

July 16, 2007

Cheap Cell Phone Replacement Parts

About a week ago I finally managed to snap the antenna on my Motorola V710. If you look at the date on that old post, you'll note that I've had the phone for nearly 3 years which is a long time in the cell phone world (I'm told).

The trouble is that I just love this phone. It does what I need (work on Verizon CDMA and the old AMPS network) and not too much else. And with the extended battery I bought a while back to replace the aging standard battery, it lasts seemingly forever. (I used to use it as a Bluetooth modem too, however I have since upgraded to a faster EVDO card.)

But with the snapping of the antenna, I had mostly resigned myself to the idea of replacing it and having to endure the hassle of manually re-programming 230+ phone numbers into a new cell phone. However, on a hunch, I headed to Amazon.com and typed in "v710 antenna" and was pleasantly surprised to find that replacement antennas can be had for less than $10!

That's way more cost effective than spending an hour of my life having to program a new phone and countless hours learning its quirky interface.

I love the long tail... and Amazon.com.

Posted by jzawodn at 02:30 PM

July 11, 2007

Spam of the Devil

gmail spam 666 I interrupt this previously announced vacation to provide my amusement for the day (especially since the weather was not conducive to soaring).

Checking my email a bit ago, I was surprised to see exactly 666 messages in my spam folder (or whatever they're called). And that, for some reason amused me more than it should have.

If you're one of the three people who read this site and care about gliders, aviation, and soaring, you'll find photos appearing in my Parowan 2007 photo set on Flickr.

This also reminds me that I need to write about my recent experience with Google Apps. That's on the TODO list...

You may now go back to reading things that matter. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 01:55 PM

July 08, 2007

In Parowan, Utah for the Week

Cedar Breaks, Utah Much like two years ago, I'm on the road back to Parowan, Utah for a week of glider flying and visiting the Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park.

I drove to Bakersfield, California last night after picking up my glider from Hollister. In about an hour I'll set out on the roughly 8-9 drive from Bakersfield to Parowan, Utah where I'll be staying at Victoria's Bed and Breakfast for the week.

I'm basically on vacation for my last full flying week of the year (no pun intended, but time really is flying this year), so posting here will be light. But I'll try to get some interesting and/or amusing tidbits online.

Last time I went away for a week, Yahoo got a new CEO, so who knows what will happen this week...

See Also:

Posted by jzawodn at 07:05 AM

July 02, 2007

Glider Landing in Thunderstorm [video]

As promised, here's another video of a hairy glider landing. This one occurred when a Genesis 2 pilot came back to land at CCSC during a thunderstorm during a contest.

According to what I've read, he was getting bounced around quite a bit and hit a ton of sink right near the field. As you'll see, it was raining pretty hard and the field appeared to be soaked. That's part of what made the resulting ground loop pretty uneventful--well, that and the fact that the Genesis has a very small tail boom.

Other pilots who landed shortly before this one simply stayed in the gliders, partly to stay dry and partly to keep "flying" them if the wind kicked up.

Last season I witnessed a Genesis 2 pilot come back to Truckee as a storm approached and watched him almost not make the runway because of massive sink.

Yikes. Fly safe, guys...

Posted by jzawodn at 07:45 AM