Saturday, November 09, 2013

Coffeeshop Ramblings

I'm sitting in "The Joint," a somewhat new coffee place in Bethlehem, opened by friends, and local restaurateurs, Bill and Tabitha. It isn't all that new anymore, but I got out of the habit of hanging in cafes after I left Easton, and when Wired closed I really lost the habit, so this isn't my usual Saturday routine -- let's call it, if not quite "new to me," then "outside my usual third-space options." Anne probably eats lunch here once a week though, and I can see why: I just got a sandwich, and it was excellent.

Blogging Will Be Somewhat Light Last Quarter My usual habit for years was to blog during lunch at work, usually just a few short paragraphs a day, but trying for every day. They eventually blocked blogs at work, and, but I found a way to email posts from my Gmail account, and so the lunchtime posts continued, more or less, for quite a bit longer. Within the past few months, though, they started blocking Gmail as well at work... I guess if there were a will there'd be a way, but my blogging interest has waned, and so I haven't done much to find alternatives.

What's (Been) Up: Well, Anne and I spent much of the post-Ireland summer training, and we ran the VIA Half-Marathon in early September. I came in around 2:30, and Anne beat me by about 15 minutes. Once again, something I had a great deal of trepidation about, but when it was over I was glad I did it -- I may even do another one, but not for a while. One bad side-effect was that the biking suffered during the training period: I just didn't feel like going out for rides in the afternoon/evening after getting up and running 5 miles extra-early in the morning. Luckily, my cardio didn't suffer, though my technical skills sure did.

After the run I made a push to get my bike mojo back, doing a number of MTB rides in Jim Thorpe and other places, and having some fun watching the change of seasons from inside the forest.

Also: Just before the half-marathon, Anne and I got in one pretty big bike ride, a cycling tour to Philadelphia. Our original goal was Rehobeth Beach, but we had such a miserable time in the NJ towns south of Trenton (creepy and depressing, weirdly impoverished, no places to eat, skeevy motels, and on and on), and we realized on the second night that we'd have just enough time to cross the state, touch our destination and come back through the misery zone, that we changed plans and went to Philly. Great idea (though the ride through Camden was hot and unpleasant), and we spent two nights there, avoiding some rainy days and visiting with Ben & Jaime. The home trip was a bit tough, about 70 miles in one day (remember, we were fully loaded with touring stuff, clothes and camping gear etc), with hills. I was glad to be home!

'Puter Time: Remember that program from work that I was trying to understand? Well, the biggest problems with it were that it was written to accept data from punched cards -- no lie, it's that old, and the data formatting was never updated -- so the input format was cramped to the point of obscurity to fit in 80-character chunks, and major parts of the program were huge hodge-podges of nested IF blocks and GOTO statements mainly to parse that data, so I decided to look into rewriting these parts (in the original FORTRAN), and that eventually snowballed into rewriting the whole thing in C, taking XML data as input and producing output similar to the original program, but in a somewhat improved format. That's been going on for months, maybe for the whole past year, and lately I've gotten to the point several times where it was mostly done, except for maybe a bit of tweaking here and there... Well today I basically realized that it was done, it worked exactly right and did everything that the original program did, and more. (I added other connections, like our newer weld styles, and organized the program so that other new styles could be added easily, an impossible task with the old program.)

So now that I have it, what am I going to do with it? Not much! I've tried the program with a bunch of example projects, as well as some test cases (to see how well it handles bad data), and I'll probably play with it at home, using actual real world examples from work, but that's about it. I realized that I don't want to show it to anyone at work, because to show it -- show the code, that is; I don't think the program would run as-is on the machines at work -- is to basically give it away, and I think it'd be pretty hard to get them to pay me for this thing I did in my spare time. (I'm fine doing it for nothing, as long as I consider it an at-home professional development learning experience, but if it's to be used in a production environment I'd expect to be renumerated.) I'm also sure that the actual programming could be a lot better, and despite what I said about completeness, it's really not ready for prime time -- it matches the core FORTRAN  program, but there's no user interface, and no database lookup of material properties, things that we have at work thanks to a sort of "wrapper" program that prepares jobs for and runs the core program. Maybe that can be something I can work on now.

Meantime, I'm hanging out here, about to get my next cup of coffee. I'm on my own for the weekend, as Anne is off with her sisters and sister-in-law at a knitting convention. I went out last night with Doug & Lori, and Scott S; we went to Black & Blue, and had so much fun I think I might stay in tonight. I'll probably try to get in a ride somewhere tomorrow, as well as some autumnal yard work -- did I mention that Anne and I just built a shed? Well, she built it, but I helped...