Organizing my life

I've been slightly side-tracked from my quest to host my own blog by the search for a good calendar and todo list application. It is still sort of relevant, because I'd like to embed my calendar in my blog. It's really useful to point family members to a web calendar and say, "You pick a free night for us to have dinner."

My current setup is just not working. I've been keeping my todo list and events in a plain text file in a git repository. I usually only check the file when I'm adding a new task or event. This means I'm suddenly faced with the mountain of undone tasks during a (usually) stressful moment. It's no wonder I've slowly started avoiding looking at that file at all. I need something pretty that I can bear to look at every morning.

I'd like to have a nice GUI to display my calendar and todo list, and a way to do offline edits for both. A way to publish my calendar on the web and keep some events private is a must.

I've found a partial solution with Google Calendar + Sunbird + GCalDaemon + Remember the Milk. As of today, I can view and edit my Google Calendar with Sunbird, and I can view my Remember the Milk (RTM) todo lists in Sunbird. The only thing lacking is the support to edit my RTM todo lists in Sunbird, both online and offline.

Screenshots of the integrated goodness:

Having separate work and personal todo lists is wonderful because I can hide the tasks by unclicking the RTM calendar that they're associated with. Now I won't think about putting out the garbage when I really should be figuring out how to use the signing-party package to sign Matthew Wilcox and James Perkins' GPG keys.

The public side of my Google Calendar can be found via html here or via ical here. Please don't stalk me.

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Remaining improvements
The only thing that is less than ideal in this entire setup is not being able to edit my task list in Sunbird. GCalDaemon has an open syncing API, and Remember the Milk has an open web API. The only thing that needs to be done is put the two together. People have been talking about this since January 2008, but no one has done it, as far as I can tell. Fixing this involves Java and web API, which is the only reason I'm not jumping right into hacking it together.

I'll try the RTM web interface and see how awful it is to use two programs to edit my tasks. I might even try the Gnome-based RTM editor (as long as I don't have to switch to Gnome from KDE). I'll let you know how it works out in a couple weeks. Hopefully this combination of software will make me more productive, and less likely to worry about my todo list.
you are not your livejournal

Blogging software

Livejournal's recent decision to stop offering Ad-free blogs to new users has only made me more confident in my decision to switch to hosting my own blog.

I asked around about blogging software at the last planning meeting for the Linux Plumber's Student mini-conference. Jen (Andy Grover's wife) had just done some blogging consulting. She said she hates Drupal because it's too bloated and hard to install, and she also didn't like Wordpress for various reasons. She recommended I look at Six Apart's Movable Type and PyBlosxom, which is written in Python. I'm leaning away from Movable Type because it's not free as in beer. Plus I'd like to get as far away from livejournal and six apart as possible.

This morning I briefly looked at PyBlosxom. My first instinct was to find blogs that use PyBlosxom and see if they were totally ugly. The PyBlosxom website has a list of blogs that use PyBlosxom, so I perused that. There was the normal mix of simple, cluttered, and crazy layouts, but I did find several blogs that looked really nice. The fact that good layouts exist, and that most of the blogs didn't look too awful, gives me some hope that I could get PyBlosxom to do what I want. You can look at my delicious bookmarks that are tagged with PyBlosxom to see the blogs I liked. I particularly like the eye candy on this blog.

Later I'll start looking at the technical details. Someone mentioned there were Markdown plugins, which is a big plus for me. Markdown is perfect for turning simply formated text into clean HTML. It also allows a user to embed HTML in their original text, which is great for those HTML control freaks. ;) It's the best wiki syntax I've run across.

I'll post more about PyBlosxom later. Maybe I'll actually make to the Beer 'n Blog this Friday and come away with more blogging software recommendations.
london, explore

Today is a wonderful day because...

My big presentation went well yesterday. I presented to all the managers in my group and Imad. (Imad runs the Open Source Technology Center (OTC) and is my manager's manager's boss.) My manager said that he didn't think anyone was bored, and it was the right level of technical detail. Go me! It was my first real exposure since I joined OTC in August. Now it's over, and I can relax and get back to hacking.

Right now I'm sitting in the Tao of Tea, drinking wonderful organic tea and hacking. We really need to have a Linux Coffee Shop Day again.

I got sexy new reading glasses today. For the past couple of weeks, I've developed headaches after staring at my computer all day. I feel fine today, and I can tell that my eyes aren't straining to focus. As an added bonus, I can shrink the fonts on all my applications. Yay for more code per square inch!

I bought a new bike. :D I'm so excited because it's my first new bike in 8 years. My previous new bike was a Target-special that my parents bought when I got too tall for the bike that had training wheels. My new bike is a Jamis Coda, which is a hybrid with 24-speeds, a steel frame, quick releases on the tires, and holes in the frame for a front rack, back rack, and fenders. (Wow, I just rattled that off the top of my head. I'm becoming such a bike geek.)

My new bike should be great for commuting back and forth, and ok for biking trips this summer. I want to do a weekend trip to down the Columbia River Gorge, and a week-long trip down the Oregon Coast. I also want to participate in pedalpalooza this June and go on more bike rides with the Portland bike groups. Deepak wants to do a bike ride down to a penguin themed bar somewhere south. Should be fun!

garden, flower


Today, I got the OK from Mike to build a tiered garden in the front lawn. Here's some pics of my plan:

Blue represents usable land and green is my proposed garden. The right border is slanted because that's where the gas line comes in. (I had the utility locater service come in and mark up the front lawn.)

The garden will have two tiers, with room in the middle in case I need to kneel between the beds.

I didn't get the perspective quite right, but you get the idea.

I'm so excited! I've wanted to have a real garden for years. Jamey and I will be renting from Mike for at least another two years, and it makes me less antsy to get a house if I can grow something.

Next step: digging a trench to find out how deep the upper tier needs to be. Then I can create a bill of materials and see how much this project is going to cost.
lost, bike

"Toto, I think we're not in Kansas anymore."

Today I decided to try a new bike route from Washington Park to Sunset Transit Center. I got really lost:

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I got to work about an hour later than I normally do. That isn't too bad, considering says that my route was 11 miles long.

It was a tiring morning. On the bright side, the bike route from Washington Park Max Station to Sunset TC is pretty fun (now that I actually know where I'm going). It's mostly downhill, or on low-traffic streets. I think I'll try it again on Monday.


How to beat a bad grade

I started to explain to my sister how to calculate her grade in a class she was having trouble in, and then I realized it was semi-complicated. It's a very important skill to know when you need to drop a class to protect your GPA, and it's not one they teach you in Freshman Inquiry.

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For all my geeky friends, markdown rules. Livejournal was generating awful bulleted lists because it was automatically inserting paragraph tags in the middle of them. So I just typed that up in vim, with simple indented lists (starting with a dash) and ran it through markdown to get clean html. Now if only I could have an automated way of editing the markdown and regenerating the html. I'm certainly not going to get that from Livejournal. Yet another thing to look for in blogging software.

you are not your livejournal

Ignite Portland 2 was a blast!

The video from my talk is up. I'm disappointed that they didn't show my slides in the video, but man did I rock! I think that was the best speech I've given yet. I hope that talking about the Portland State Aerospace Society in front of 750 Portlanders will lure people to a PSAS meeting.

(Yes, 750 people. They hit the fire code limit and had to start turning people away.)

I met some cool people at Ignite Portland. I saw some women I had previously met at a pdx geekchix lunch. One of them told me to check out Code 'n Splode, a group of (mostly women) programmers who get together to talk about whatever they're working on. I met a guy (Justin maybe?) who told me about beer and blog, a newly formed group that meets every Friday at the Lucky Lab to talk about blogging.

I've been thinking that maybe I've outgrown livejournal. I'd just rather have control over my blog style, Ads, and content than let livejournal handle that. I love my LJ friends, but I'm not connecting with the local Portland geek community. Justin argued that it's better to join a social networking site and host your own blog than let the blog site decide your audience. I would probably host my blog on Jamey's domain ( and have an RSS feed for it.

Speaking of blogs, PSAS needs one! I had someone say, "Oh, yeah, I'll check out the website, maybe subscribe to the RSS feed if it has one." I think we talked about having a news page with an RSS feed, but it was never implemented. It would be cool to have each team have a blog, and have it feed into the news page. It would be cooler if we could have a git post-hook for automatically sending out an email to the teams list when the blog is updated. I know it would be helpful for me! Half the time I don't know what the airframe team is up to.

Justin also said that he might be able to make the PSAS wiki look prettier. It's just ugly. Plus our front page looks stale. *sigh*

Ignite Portland 2

Last week, I heard that my presentation proposal for Ignite Portland 2 was accepted. The idea is that you present your passion in 5 minutes with 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds.

I was originally going to do a standard (if very compressed) introduction to the Portland State Aerospace Society. Where we started, what the different teams are, and what does open source, open hardware, and an open community mean. However, I think my proposal was interpreted a little differently. The quote from the Oregonian Living section is "An electronics guru will describe how to build a rocket."

I had originally thought that my audience would be a little less technical, and wouldn't be interested in the details of actually *making* a rocket that would go into space. Of course, I thought the video of the talk at Ignite Seattle on the multi-person pogo stick was pretty awesome.

So, should I go more technical? The audience and the Oregonian seems to expect me to. This is a pretty geeky audience. Blah, I've got to get the slides done before tomorrow, so I'd better make my mind up fast.