Jamie Thingelstad's personal website

Month: October 2006

Google Reader — Thumbs Up!

Google released a new version of the Google Reader a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been using it for the last few days. I think that I’ve finally found a web-based RSS reader that I can live with now.

I’ve wanted to move my RSS reading to a web reader so that I can access it anywhere, particularly on a mobile device. Google Reader in it’s previous incarnations just didn’t hit it right to me. The significant redesign they did really hit the usability issues right on the head.

If your looking for something a bit more sophisticated, and mobile, than the RSS functions of Thunderbird check out Reader. I don’t think you’ll be dissapointed.

First RUM Meeting

I attended my first Ruby Users of Minnesota (RUM) meeting tonight. I’ve wanted to go for a long time but the meetings seemed to always fall on days when I was typically out of town for business. It all worked out this time so I was excited to go. I’ve been on the mailing list for a long time and it’s a really good group of people.

Of particular note was my friend Dan presented a side-project he did using rex and racc (Ruby versions of lex and yacc) to create a parser and validator for math equations written in LaTeX on Road Sign Math. This was pretty cool. He hacked it up quickly and solved most of the hard problems. He got to the point so he can evaluate that "3 \times \sqrt{4} = 6" is a valid statement. It will be a nice thing to wrap into Road Sign Math 3.0 when the time is right.

I left the RUM meeting feeling a little scared though. I sat next to a kid named Chris who I can only imagine was dropped off by his Dad since I can’t imagine he was old enough to drive. He was obviously brilliant and immersed in all things Internet, Ruby, Mac and whatever else. Why scared? It’s so amazingly hard to stay on top of the things that you need to know in this world of computer geekdom. Anyway, I’m not going to dwell on that but instead continue to be involved in these sorts of activities that expose you to new thinking.

I have about a dozen of URL’s, notes and such to followup on from the meeting and am looking forward to the next one. (OmniGraffle Pro, parse tree, Gruff for Ruby, Nick Sieger, fuzz testing, Rinda)

Funny side note — I did a count of laptops in the room. 11 Mac laptops (mostly MacBook) including me (one of only 2 black ones) and a whopping 2 Wintel laptops. :-)

Triple Caffeine Shotgun to the Head

The title of this post is a reference to what one of my friends calls my regular coffee order. Iced Triple Espresso. It doesn’t get me hot in the summer, in fact it’s refreshing. It has enough caffeine in it to shock a horse. In fact, since the espresso is cold you can take a drink and hold it in your mouth, swishing it around. This will give you a caffeine buzz extra fast as it absorbs through the tongue (for best results, hold underneath your tongue as well). Not that espresso is all about caffeine. It does taste good after all. And I recently decided that I wanted to be able to have the espresso experience at home. So I ordered a DeLonghi Magnifica fully-automatic espresso machine.

Fully-automatic is essentially like having a coffee shop in your home. This thing requires nothing of you other than hitting a couple of buttons. Occassionally you need to dump the grinds out, add some more beans and top off the water reservoir. But typical usage just involves turning it on, and a couple minutes later hitting the single shot button.

So far I’m really happy with it. Everything works exactly as advertised. I relied heavily on the user reviews on Amazon and this machine got nothing but good comments. We’ll see how it stands the test of time.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying effortless cups of espresso with perfect crema every time.

How Many of Me?

This site showed up in one of my RSS feeds recently, How Many of Me? It is a fun little site that takes census data to do rankings of people with the same name. For example, did you realize there are 49,535 people with the name John Smith. That is bigger than my home town. You could fill a medium sized city with John Smiths.

According to the census data, there are no people in the US with the last name Thingelstad. There are however 328,466 people with the first name Jamie. Of those people, 69.86% of them are female. This is something that Tammy loves to tease me about all the time, even before she had the hard data to back it up. This usually presents itself as me paying at a restaurant and the waiter not knowing who to give the card back to.

My name is the 182nd most popular first name. While Tammy’s name is compltely unambiguous — 100% of Tammy’s are women — her name is 144th most popular so not quite as creative. Of course her actual name, Tamara, is much less popular ranking 421st. However, we know from Name Voyager that neither Jamie or Tamara (Tammy) were creative for their time since they peaked in popularity when we were born.

Mazie enjoys a very rare name. There are only 4,500 Mazie’s in the US (100% are female) and it’s the 2,762nd most popular name.

Isn’t the Internet so much fun? :-)

Birth of a Painting

Right around 4 months ago Tammy and I spent the evening at our neighbors house with a really cool local artist named Erik Sletten. Our neighbors have several of his works and we were celebrating with them the arrival of two new ones. That night I got to do something I had never done before — flip through an artists sketchbook. I was flipping through Sletten’s sketches and as I turned the page in the middle a sketch caught my attention in a unique way. A couple of weeks passed and we decided to commission the work.

This last weekend we got to do another first. We joined Erik in his studio as he started to introduce color to our piece. It was a fun evening, and a unique opportunity to connect with him and the art. Tammy and I had mixed feelings about joining him while painting. As I told him, I want the painting he would paint, not the painting I would suggest him to paint. But Erik is a cool guy, and very chatty to boot, so it was a lot of fun.

Here is our painting being birthed in raw lines. I can’t wait to see it finished. For scale, the canvas is 5.5 feet square.

Sore Thumbs!

I am a frequent CrackBerry user. That’s the slang term for a BlackBerry for those that are not “in the know”. In recent months though I’ve started to look angrily at my CrackBerry. I’m starting to get pain in my thumbs on a pretty regular basis.

Any of you that have seen my various computers know that I have an eye to ergonomics. I use a trackball instead of a mouse because it eases my wrists. I have a split keyboard so that I’m more comfortable. I had a mild bout with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the early 90’s that woke me up to these issues and I’ve taken them seriously ever since. I’ve not had any hand pain issues since then, until the BlackBerry entered the scene.

A quick search on Google for blackberry thumb pain results in dozens of articles on the topic. It’s obvious that there is a problem here. The thumb wasn’t intended to type! I’ve found recently that even spinning the scroll wheel up and down is a problem. I’ve resorted to reading the shortcut tips to reduce my keystrokes and simplify things. However, I think the real solution is to just use the thing less.

Thats the rub! The CrackBerry is named that for a reason — it’s addictive. On top of that, people at work have expectations that you have it with you. I’m going to manage it and pay close attention to the pain in my thumbs.

Holiday MinneDemo

Minneapolis is becoming a much cooler place to be a techie geek, startup business sort of guy. Thanks to the hard work of a very small group of people last year Minneapolis had it’s first ever minnebar. MinneBar is a BarCamp event, also known as an “unconference”. The idea is simple, a bunch of people of like interests (in this case all things geek) convene on one spot and self-organize into a worthwhile conference. It’s like wiki meets conference.

Anyway, the 2nd edition of the more frequent and shorter minnedemo has been scheduled for December 11th at Acadia Cafe.

Minnedemo is different than minnebar in that it’s shorter, somewhat more social, and features short demos rather than longer form presentations. I missed the first one due to a business trip, but I’m definitely going to be at the 2nd edition!

Check it out, sign up, and meet some great people. Plus, Road Sign Math is a sponsor. :-)

East Coast Adventure '06 – Day 37

On September 30, 2006 our Great East Coast Adventure came to a conclusion when we arrived back home on Saturday evening. After 37 days, 5,890 miles of driving and 8 different beds we finally got home. It was great trip, but it was equally great to finally get home and relax.

We were curious to see how Mazie would react when we got home. 5 weeks is a long time for a 15-month old kid and we thought she may just think it was another hotel. She proved us wrong when her face lit up after seein her toys and play area. You could tell she was noticably relaxed to be home.

I did a final update to the Google Earth Great Adventure with all the relevant interesting stops from the trip.

Georgia Aquarium

On the way back home from the Great Adventure we took a slight detour through Atlanta specificially to see the new Georgia Aquarium. This is the largest aquarium in the world, and after our visit I was very glad we took the detour. If you are in Atlanta, this is an absolute must see.

I’ve seen several aquariums and always enjoy them, however the Goergia Aquarium sets a new level that all others should aspire to. When you enter the aquarium you come into a space that is relatively dark and at one end there are two aquariums on either side of a relatively small door. The two aquariums have schools of fish swimming with the current toward the door. You join the fish and enter an amazing space.

This aquarium will likely always be known for it’s monstrously large viewing window in it’s equally large oceanarium. This 6 million gallon saltwater tank has a viewing window that is 23 feet tall and 61 feet wide (oh, and 2 feet thick!). You could spend an afternoon in front of that window, it’s incredible.

However, my favorite tank was the reef tank. I love reefs and theirs was the best I’ve ever seen in an aquarium. The design of the tank was great, and the health of the fish and the reef was exceptional.

I could go on and on but words aren’t as good as pictures for this type of thing. Unfortunately the Georgia Aquarium website has almost no good photos. Luckily, flickr comes to the rescue with great photos.

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