!!con west

I had the pleasure of attending !!con west last weekend. I met a lot of incredible people and listened to talks that rekindled my joy in programming.

I took out my trusty Stabilo point 88 and started taking notes. The person sitting next to me complimented my choice of pen. I got very excited that someone recognized the pen and shared my interest in stationery. She then proceeded to show me her stationery collection from Japan (tiny scissors, a permanent marker, multicolor highlighter, and a twist top eraser). It was awesome! There is an indescribable joy in finding out that someone else shares your weird and quirky interests.

I got caught up with Thomas (author of Curtsies and a fellow lover of awesome CLIs). He gave me a demo of ObservableHQ which was very cool.

I met Aaron Wood who gave an engaging and entertaining talk about ancient Greek mathematics. I had a strange feeling that I knew him from somewhere else. Turns out he went to the University of Utah (my alma mater) and we both worked as math tutors in the same department nearly 13 years ago. What a small world.

There were a ton of interesting talks at the conference. Here's a synopsis of the ones I remember.

Wolf, Goat, and Cabbage In Two Styles!!

A brief showcase of two very different languages (!?) to solve the logic puzzle of transporting a Wolf, Goat, and Cabbage across a river.

The Ancient Greeks And Their Restless Cattle

A wonderfully hilarious talk about mathematics during the era of Archimedes and how it was solved with modern techniques before and after computers. Aaron did a great job of explaining the math behind Pell's equation and walked us through the history of various attempts at a solution and finally showed an implementation of the solution in Ruby. I would highly recommend this talk.

Plotty Bird - Making Modern Games on Retro Pen Plotters!

Pen plotters are old school printers that literally used a robotic hand to draw diagrams on paper. Wesley managed to purchase one of them and hacked it to enough to start printing delightful things. They then proceeded to implement flappy bird that could be played by the pen plotter. They had brought with them a real pen plotter for us to play with and it was quite a bit of fun. There was one statement that Wesley made during the talk that resonated with me. We used to do programming because it was fun and pointless. Now that I'm paid to write programs it doesn't seem fun anymore. We should go back to doing more programming for pointless fun.

Packages, but in 3D!

I had no idea that packaging for snacks is an art. There are books written about how to fold paper/cardboard to make a specific style of packaging. Tiffany wanted to try out some of the designs from these books. So she built an image to svg converter which then feeds the SVG to a packaging cutter (sort of like a laser cutter) to try out some of the packaging designs from the book. It is now a standalone program on the web.

All in all, I had a wonderful time at the conference and I can't wait for the next one. :)


Treat Others How You Want To Be Treated

Vian (3yo) is in the bathtub and I'm trying to get him to come out. Sempi (7yo) is already out and changing his clothes. I am losing my patience with Vian and he is losing his patience with this toy that he's trying balance on the rim of the bathtub.

After pleading with him for a while, I lost my patience and stormed out and turned off one of the lights in the bathroom. Although this didn't plunge the bathroom in darkness, this did darken the room just enough to cause Vian to yell and scream. Suddenly who comes running but Sempi. He asked in a compassionate tone "Vian are you ok? Is there anything I can do to help you?".

Clearly ashamed by my actions, I went back to the bathroom and got Vian out of the bathtub. I told Sempi that I'm proud of his actions and I wish I could learn from him. Sempi said in a serious voice, I could teach you. Here's his teaching:

Sometimes when things don't go according to your plan, you'll be tempted to do something bad to hurt the other person. But the way to control that is to remember that you should always treat others how you want to be treated.

He said the best way to practice this is to go to someplace new that I've never been to. In a new place, things won't go exactly as planned and I'll find myself often frustrated or angry. That's when I could practice being nice and not mean to everyone. He offered to go with me, so he can be there to support me.

I am speechless. My son is awesome!

Elevenses

One of my favorite items is sourdough toast with butter. This morning I decided to spread some jam on the toast as a treat. Vian enjoyed it quite a bit and came back for a second helping.

Vian: Appa can you make me a loaf of jam?

Me: You mean a slice, not a loaf.

Vian: Oh, can I have a slice of jam?

Me: Yes! Btw, it's a slice of bread with jam.

Vian: Ok. (licking his finger distractedly).

Creative Insult

Imagine a chubby 3 yr old with stubby legs and a cute smile. That's Vian. Vian can be a charming little kid when he chooses.

This morning I was helping him use the restroom. After he washed his hands I offered him a towel to dry himself. He refused the offer and decides to wipe his hands on his shirt. I told him with a hint of frustration that he should use a towel and not wipe his hands on his shirt. He turns around, looks me in the eye and says:

"No I won't, you fuzzy little mammal" and walks away while I stand there dumbfounded.

I'm lucky to say that I was present when a new insult was birthed into this world.

Kids vs Adults

It is raining in San Jose, there are little puddles of water on the sidewalk.

I'm walking with Vian in our neighborhood. I notice a small puddle and step over it to make sure I don't get my shoes wet. 

Vian walks right through the puddle. Stops. Turns around and jumps in the puddle for good measure and then runs over to hold my fingers as we proceed with our walk.

Wet shoes are a small price to pay for the joy of jumping in puddles. It is wonderful being a kid.