Sixteen

Well, he made it. There were times in the past when we weren’t sure what he would be like at 16, but we are very proud of the young man David has become. Despite our best efforts, David did not want a big party. In fact, he preferred to not have much of a party at all. He just wanted his pie.

The gifts this year turned more musical as David pursues his passion for drumming and Rock Band. I have to admit (although I am biased), the kid has talent. I am blown away by his ability to pick up beats and riffs quickly and play them well. Some day he may even let us listen in while he practices!

You can see more pictures from his birthday in the gallery here.

Happy Birthday, Son. You are making us proud and we can’t wait to see what God has in store for you!

 

Ten Down, Two to Go

I have been remiss in not updating you all earlier, but David has passed another milestone in his educational career. Oregon state law specifies that homeschoolers are tested by a third party after the third, fifth, eighth, and tenth grade years. David took that test last month and, once again, did quite well.

You get all kinds of strange numbers to measure his scoring, but the most easily understandable is the “Grade Equivalent”. If he receives a GE of 11.3, that means he scored as well as the average student in the 3rd month of the 11th grade would have scored on the same test. 13.0 is the maximum and implies the student did as well as a college student would have on the same test.

The battery of tests includes two focused on reading, two focused on language arts, and two focused on math. His GE score was 13.0 on all but one of those and the outlier was still ranked 11.4. The overall GE was 13.0. A smashing success in all respects.

What makes this year even more exciting is that this is the last year David will have to take the state test. He is about to enter his junior year, so we actually have more pressing matters to plan. Up next in the coming school year will be the SAT and the ACT. The SAT didn’t scare David until I explained that he would have to arrive at the local high school at 8:00 AM on a Saturday morning to take them. That is, by far, the worst part for him.

To say that we are proud of his accomplishment is an understatement. He continues to do better and better each year and we can’t wait to see how well he does on the “bigger” tests. The implications are staggering for us, though, too. The fact that he will be taking the SAT and ACT within a year only means that college is right around the corner. That’s just amazing that it has arrived so soon.

Way to go, David! Keep up the great work!

Flashback

For those who may not know me well enough, my childhood was heavily influenced by Lego. I loved Lego sets. I craved more pieces and more variety. I was constantly building spaceships, cities, and anything else that came to mind. For a little while, I was taking pictures of them so I could rebuild them later. I never did, though, because my imagination was always urging me on. Lego were possibly the most creative outlet I had until I discovered software engineering.

So, when I stumbled across this article at Gizmodo the other day, it really brought me back. I used to pore over the catalogs imagining how cool it would be to have every Lego Space set at once or what I could build with the large Technic sets they were marketing to pre-teen boys like myself.

The video attached to this story shows a quick tour through the Lego vault where they have one of almost every Lego set ever manufactured in off-the-shelf condition. That’s 4,720 different Lego sets. At 12, I would have been in heaven. Now, it just makes me choke up. This quote sums it up:

These weren’t just simple boxes full of bricks. These were tickets to ride a time portal to emotions and simpler days long forgotten.

Hmm, now where is my big, denim drawstring Lego bag?

WWDC 2008 – Day Five – Postscript

I couldn’t pass up posting a picture of this guy. I saw him earlier in the conference, but he just walked by the next table over so I took a quick picture. Some people grow out of their nerdier tendencies. Obviously this guy hasn’t:

Yes, that’s right, he has a custom-made wristband for his iPhone

I think he’s set back geek chic twenty years.

WWDC 2008 – Day Five – Winding Down

Okay, now it feels like a library. I’ve been sitting at the same table with power and networking for about three hours now. I’ve just been working away on some iPhone software and having a good old time. I looked around just now to see that it’s really thinning out, now. The beanbag lounge I’m in at the moment has maybe twenty or thirty people in it. It normally holds over 100. People are making plans for dinner or rides to the airport. Here’s what five days of this stuff has done to me:

There are still a few, like me, that are writing code and trying to squeeze one last bright idea out of the time here. These conferences are a little like going to a Christian retreat. It’s great to remove all the distractions of daily life and just focus hard on one particular area. You feel productive and energized and capable of great things. The first timers will figure out that, when you get back to your real job, though, life is much messier. I suspect those hanging around here know all about how the return to real life disrupts that feeling and want to take advantage of a few more quiet hours. I get that.

Still, as much as I love writing software and as much as I love getting to rub shoulders with so much brainpower, I am not built for living in this environment for long. I would blame it on age, but I’ve been this way since college. Even there, I recognized the breed of student who could experiment and tinker on things until 4am and then still pass their classes. That wasn’t me. I respect those folks, but I’m not willing to neglect the rest of my life, which I would have to do, to live that way.

My wife and son are more important than these geek-outs. The family God has adopted me into is more important than becoming a high-performing social misfit that is admired by many, but friend to none. In short, I had fun, but I’m sure glad to be heading out.

Stef and David, I’m coming home.

 

WWDC 2008 – Day Five – Lunch

Sorry for the late post today. I had to check out and get my luggage to the convention center. That took a little more time and I was a little winded when I get here.

That said, the morning went well. There was a “bash” for all the attendees last night that included beer and wine. The breakfast tables were quite empty this morning. I don’t know how much of that was attendees leaving overnight and how many were just hung over.

So, I’m done with both of the sessions I wanted to attend today. The first was just more detail about a particular programming area for iPhone, but the second was a “Tips & Tricks” session that included a mishmash of various techniques and ideas for building nice interfaces. It was fairly packed, so I’m guessing most of the iPhone developers have not gone home yet.

The rest of the day will consist of me wandering for the best power/network connection that includes a comfortable chair (they aren’t always in the same place). Other folks here will be leaving and others will loiter in the labs for as long as they are allowed to get advice and input on their killer app.

This also seems to be the time of the week when I start to get philosophical. I tend to think about what the grand message for the week was, what do I take away from the event, and what I will tell my boss on Monday. Of course, these events always have implications on our future plans. Sometimes it’s small (we can’t use the new stuff until it’s more widespread) or very big (that fundamental technology we depend on is going away or changing radically). This is somewhere in between. There are changes afoot, but nothing we need to worry about today.

I’ll check back in later as my philosophical side kicks in. I almost certainly won’t be updating from the SFO airport, though, as wi-fi is not free there.

WWDC 2008 – Day Four – The End is Near

Three more down. This afternoon I did two more iPhone sessions and learned quite a bit. I had to skip the really buzz-worthy last session of the day to go learn about something unglamorous, but more valuable to Inspiration at the moment. As I waited for the first afternoon session, though, I took some snapshots of the line forming to get in:

This line is right next to one of the lounge areas they have here. I actually spotted a couple of guys doing something other than checking email or reading code:

After this session and before the next (in the same room), I had a flashback kind of moment. First, you have to understand that they play music in each of the rooms between sessions. By the end of the week, you begin to hear the same songs over again and start to get tired of them. They’re usually modern pop and alternative songs that won’t offend or be too annoying. Today, though, someone dug up an old playlist. I had a flash back as I heard, in order: Video Killed the Radio Star, Kids in America, Sweet Dreams, I Melt With You, Planet Earth, and Higher Love. Wow. That made me feel young again.

Then, on the way out I got these shots of that big session emptying:

I expect tomorrow to be very laid back. Again, with the baseball metaphor, this is the time of the season when all the teams know how it’s going to end and they’re either getting ready for next year or planning for the playoffs.

I’ve seen a wide range of developers this week and they’re all over the map. For some, this was all brand new and they weren’t sure what to make of it. I’ve seen guys working on code and developing apps during the sessions. Then, I spotted one guy looking up terms on Wikipedia that any first year software developer should know. For others, this was the little bit of info they need to go take on the world. I’m excited to see what’s ready to go when the iPhone App Store goes live in a month. There’s going to be some fun stuff. I hope I’m rooting for something I worked on!

 

WWDC 2008 – Day Four – Home Stretch

I’m feeling like I’m in the home stretch now. Three more sessions today and two tomorrow. I was successful in finding power during the second session this morning, but only because it more lightly attended. It was easily the least populated session I’ve seen in the big room. I think it proves a point about developers, though: We all think we write perfect code. The session was about debugging and analyzing iPhone applications. I figure most folks think they’ll never have to worry about that and, so, didn’t bother attending. I know better.

I think I have a plan for Friday as well. Getting an earlier flight turned out to not be possible. However, I did discover that, while the last sessions will be ending at 3:15, the convention center is staying open for attendees until 6:30. So, I’m planning on basically loitering here with the fast and free Internet access (and power) until it’s time to go. I’ve already scheduled an airport shuttle to pick me up. Should work well!

Time to run to the next session, though, so I’ll try to follow up with more data later.

(See, you can see it’s the home stretch because my entries are getting lazier, too!)

WWDC 2008 – Day Four – Slowing Down

Here’s where we separate the men from the boys. I notice that the breakfast hall is slightly emptier than it was at this time yesterday. Those who sprinted out of the gate on Monday and Tuesday are starting to feel the drag now. It’s the marathoners that will survive to the end of the show on Friday.

I did witness something humorous while eating this morning. Like cold men huddling around a fire in a trash can, I noticed knots of attendees huddled around small tables away from where the bagels and danishes were being distributed. Upon further inspection, I discovered they were toasters. There’s just something funny about watching highly skilled software developers try to decipher the $15 Black & Decker bagel toaster.

Today will involve more crowd fighting than yesterday as I will be spending four of the five sessions in the big room learning more about the iPhone. The trick today will be power. There aren’t nearly as many power outlets in this room, so I’ll have to be clever about saving power and where I sit. I’m now sitting about three rows from the front, but I’ll reposition myself before the next session to grab one of the primo power outlet seats so I can make it through the day. These events will become much easier when laptop batteries start regularly lasting more than twelve hours.

I hope to post again during the lunch break.

WWDC 2008 – Day Three – Wrapup

Wow, in retrospect, this was a really good day for getting information.

The iPhone sessions are still heavily attended. My last session of the day was just such a session and was still pretty busy even though it was about developing web applications specifically for the iPhone and not native apps, which is where all the buzz is. One way or another, everyone wants on the iPhone. The more I learn the more I want to go build software!

I took some reference photos so you all can get a sense of the size of this place. Here’s one of the larger meeting rooms other than the main room where the keynote was:

This is the crowd right after leaving that session. The Apple Design Awards are tonight, so lots of folks were hanging around to see that.

Then, I turned the corner and realized something else was going on. What were all these people milling around for?

Ah, of course. What else would cause geeks to stand around in groups?

Incidentally, this was the first hot food they’d served us all week. Now, when I turned around, there is this cool thing I’ve walked by all week. This is the network operations center for the entire conference. These guys are responsible for keeping the network up for over 5000 attendees and the employees. That includes a whole raft of wireless hubs, wired hubs, and whatnot.

They have these screens set up just to look pretty and tell you stats about the network as it goes. That’s live data updating constantly.

This is looking out of the second floor:

This is the Yerba Buena Gardens across the street from the convention center:

Finally, here’s the ground floor as I left tonight and the sidewalk outside:

So, I’m well over the hump now. I’ll have a fairly full day tomorrow and just two morning sessions on Friday. There is a third session after lunch, but none of them look terribly interesting. I may even try to get an earlier flight home if I can do it on the cheap.

Onward!