Personal Log - January 2009

Those who read my blog regularly may have noticed how I normally refrain from posting articles concerning my own life. I used to have a more blog-like web site, but things changed: “Who would want to read about my life, anyway?” — That’s what I always thought. Hence, I focused on writing general-interest, computer-related articles about programming in Ruby, about some IT book which came out, or about the latest chapter in the Browser Wars. You’ll find all this in the articles.

On the other hand, I thought it may be useful for my own sake to keep a more personal log of what happens in my life, so here it is, the first of hopefully many personal log post, covering January 2009. ### Being social

Call it a New Year Resolution or simply an unexpected change, I joined Facebook on December 31st 2008, after years of adamant opposition against the popular social network. What I didn’t realized is the amount of people who use it regularly. This may sound naive to the Americans reading this blog, but as an Italian, I was really shocked to discover that about 80% of the people I know here in Italy, here in Genoa use it.

When I started using Twitter, I really couldn’t find many people I knew in “real life”: Andrea Gandino was the only one I vaguely remembered from uni, but none of the people I knew from elementary school was there, of course! Why’s that? For one because Twitter has always been more geared towards geeks, and also because Twitter is not available in Italian. Believe it or not, this makes the difference. Immediately after I joined Facebook my dad joined it too, and found people he knew from school.

Enough with the sensationalism now, Facebook is old news and the more I write about it the more I sound out-of-the-loop. Anyhow, I quickly discovered how annoying Facebook apps can be and I immediately learn how useful the Ignore button is. Are there people actually using those apps on a daily basis? I can’t believe it. Facebook is good for contacting people, that’s about it. That’s all I can say after 1 month of moderate usage.

The other funny aspect of this is the way people react to my status updates and everything I allegedly put on there. Let’s clarify this. I do NOT provide any content just for Facebook:

  • I update my status every time I post on twitter
  • I post a link every time I save a bookmark on delicious
  • I post lengthy notes every time I post to my blog

That’s the truth. I consider it normal, but I find it amusing when some colleague of mine comments to my status asking But… What is Data Mapper?. No one on Twitter would do that. Simply because the wide majority of people who follow me on Twitter are Rubyists.

What about Twitter then? I’m using it more than before (that’s part of the same New Year Resolution) and I am actually following some complete strangers! It’s nice, in a way. I never did it before because I couldn’t keep up with the tweets coming up, but now I can. Here’s how:

  • Following these instructions I quickly crafted a special feed which now sits permanently in my Google Reader and updates me with all the tweets from everyone I’m following.
  • I started using Tweet Replies so that every @h3rald reply goes straight to my mail. It works perfectly.

Wedding Planning

Let’s move on to something much more important and life-changing. I am getting married this July, in Ireland, after 5 (five!) years of engagement with my beloved Roxanne. We’ve also been living together for over a year, and it has been awesome (so far), so we both decided it’s the right time to tie the knot and get on with it!

The wedding is just six months away and we’d better get something done, and quick. We already booked the church and the reception, so far, so the main things are sorted. We also attended our pre-nuptial course with our local priest, another 8 couples plus three quite obnoxious “expert” couples for 7 (seven!) weeks, every friday night (those people are nuts). If we survived this, we can survive everything, I tell you.

Because we’re getting married in Ireland, we have to take care of some extra things like taking my relatives abroad (it’s definitely easier than bringing 70 O'Mahoneys, Quinns, etc. etc. here, that’s for sure), organizing car rentals, et al. But it will be great, it will be fun, and I can’t wait!

Writing and Programming

On the programming side, I was actually thinking about learning Haskell, once and for all. I have a deep admiration and respect for the language and what it can do, but I’ve always been somewhat overwhelmed by its functional purity, monads, and similar. After reading Learn You a Haskell (an excellent read), I moved on to Real World Haskell, and I was understanding everything, amazingly.

Then I decided to take a break and try coding a little bit in Ruby (I had to prepare a small script for work), and that was enough to motivate me to start working on RedBook again. I was determined to polish it up and put a shiny 1.0 badge on it, but I decided to stop and re-think the whole thing. I originally thought of it as a simple daily logging program to record timestamped entries to a YAML file, but then added more and more features until I finally realized that _perhaps_I could have used SQLite as its backend. It turns out I was right: when I started coding RedBook about a year ago, I didn’t know much about Ruby, andI didn’t want to use a relational database because it seemed too unnecessary cumbersome for a beginner. It turns out I was totally wrong and DataMapper proved to be an excellent, simple and powerful choice.

RedBook might be ready in a few months, when also all its documentation is ready, too. As a technical writer, I really cannot afford to release any amateur pet project to the while without documentation, it would be a bad example, wouldn’t it? To make the whole thing more fun, I’ll try (try I said, I may change my mind) to write the RedBook Manual using LaTeX. It shouldn’t be too complicated as I’ll need only 10% of its features, and hopefully the result will be pleasant enough to read.

That’s it for this month, I think. For those who think this is just a long note on my Facebook profile, check out the real deal on my web site (did I say Facebook is totally useless for web promotion?).