Beauty and Time

Are you afraid of getting older?

I was struck today looking at two pictures of my woman Linda and her mom Keiko: one taken in July 1982, and the other in May 2013, just a few months before Keiko died.

Keiko and Linda making manju, July 1982
Keiko and Linda, May 2013

In both you can see the connection between mother and daughter, and though age had changed both of them in the later picture, the shared beauty between them remained very similar.

I think we have a distorted view of aging in the US; it seems as though most people feel it is something to be avoided, or that we should somehow pretend that it doesn’t apply to us. To some degree I am part of that too: I color the grey out of my hair, mostly because I’m in a career where most of the people I work with are my kids’ age, and I’m afraid I might scare them! ūüėČ ¬†But I certainly don’t deny my age; instead, I am proud that after 56 years I am still strong and active (more so than many of the people I know who are 20 or even 30 years younger than I), and find that my 56-year-old woman is more¬†vibrant, witty, and attractive than¬†any woman I have ever met.

How about you? I assume you’re planning on getting older than you currently are, so how are you going to deal with it? Is aging¬†something you fear?

PyCon 2014 Review

mirror.jpgBetter late than never, right?

PyCon 2014 happened two weeks ago, and I’m just getting around to write about it now. Why the delay? Well, I took a few days of vacation to explore and enjoy Montr√©al with my woman after PyCon, and when I returned I found myself trapped under a mountain of work that had built up in my absence. I’ve finally dug myself out enough to take the time to write up my impressions.

This PyCon (my 11th) was different in many ways, not only for the fact that for the first time, the US PyCon was not in the US! It was held in Canada in beautiful (and cold!) Montréal. It was the first time in years that I did not arrive early enough to help with the bag stuffing event, which has always been a highlight of my PyCon experiences. I arrived late Thursday afternoon, and just made it to the Opening Reception, where I not only touched based with my fellow Rackers, but also ran into dozens of Python people I have gotten to know over the years. PyCon is special in that regard: while I have technical contacts at many of the conferences I attend, I consider many of the people at PyCon to be my friends.

I was pleasantly surprised by the bold choice for the opening keynote: John Perry Barlow, one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

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He pulled no punches, and let the audience know exactly where he stood on matters of security, openness, government spying, and free information in a society. I enjoyed his talk immensely, but I knew that some with more conservative views might not respond positively to the anti-corporation, anti-BigBrother tone of his talk, and judging by the sight of several people leaving during the talk, I think I was right. Still, I appreciated that the primary conferences for one of the most important Open languages took that risk.

I attended several sessions, and bounced between them and my duties at the¬†Rackspace booth in the vendor area. We were once again a major sponsor of PyCon, and this gives me great pleasure, as I had first convinced¬†Rackspace to become a sponsor shortly after I joined the company 6 years ago. We benefit so much from Python and the work of the PSF, it’s only right that we give something back.

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I won’t go into detail about¬†the individual sessions, but I would encourage you to check out the videos of all the talks that are available on the pyvideo site. The quality of the presentations keeps getting better and better every year, which is a great reflection on the talk selection committee, who had to select just¬†95 talks from a total of¬†650 proposals. That is a thankless task, so let me say “thank you” to the folks who reviewed all those proposals and made the tough calls.

I would also like to note that this year 1/3 of the speakers were women, and by some estimates, the percentage of female attendees was nearly as high! (They don’t record the sex of a person when they register; hence the need for estimates). This is a phenomenal result in the traditionally male-dominated tech industry, and it isn’t by accident. The PSF has actively encouraged women to attend, both by creating (and standing behind) a Code of Conduct, as well as offering financial assistance to those who might not otherwise be able to attend. And this year was another first: onsite child care¬†during¬†the main conference days. I think this is an amazing addition to PyCon, even though my kids are grown. It allows many people to come who would otherwise not be able, and also encouraged more families to travel together, making PyCon the hub of their vacation plans.

That’s exactly what I did, too. Linda flew into Montr√©al on Saturday evening, hung around PyCon for the closing session so that she could get a glimpse into the strange geek world I inhabit regularly, and meet some of my friends. We spent the next few days exploring this city that neither of us had visited before, enjoying ourselves immensely. Coming from South Texas, we could have done without the near-freezing temperatures and snow, though! Here was the view from our hotel window:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was a wonderful vacation, but much too short! We’re really looking forward to returning next year for PyCon 2015!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

You are dead (well, almost)

You’ve seen human skulls, right? Well, look in a mirror, and imagine your own skull. Can you see it underneath your skin? Once you do, notice how your eyes suddenly look like gelatinous blobs, how your skin looks like a leathery cover for the macabre structure beneath it, how your hair seems like so much extraneous fluff stuck on top.

Now take any type of food, and watch yourself eat it. See your fleshy lips surround the food as you place it in your mouth. Watch your cheeks and gums as you chew it. Consider that you need to do this several times a day just to remain alive.

I’m having a very existential moment right now.

Sales Should Not Equal Sleaze

I like to lease automobiles. I could go on at length about the financial pros and cons of leasing versus buying, but I’m not trying to convince anyone here. Just saying that it works for me.

I guess that I should mention that I worked in sales for many years, and have gone through several training programs that ranged from¬†the high-pressure adversarial sales approach to the helpful partnering style that I prefer. So I know enough to recognize when someone is using these tactics against me. And it goes without saying that I strongly dislike when I feel that I’m being played.

My current lease ends this month, and so recently I started shopping around for a new car. Since I don’t care about cars beyond the ability to get me around reliably and comfortably, I¬†talked to people I know who are much more knowledgeable about these things, did a little research, and then went to local dealers to test drive the cars. I liked a few models, including one from the dealer that is the focus of this post, so I asked for a quote on how much the lease would run.

Let me pause here to explain that I will not name the vehicle brand, dealers, or sales people that I am discussing in this post. My goal is not to publicly shame them, irrespective of whether they are deserving of such a shaming. If you know me and want details, I would be more than happy to share them with you privately. I will be telling everyone I know in the area who might be considering buying a car to avoid this particular dealership at all costs.

I received the quote for the lease: $179/month! The email said in nice bold letters: “I have¬†great news¬†we have the [vehicle type] ¬†in stock and available and you have been selected to recive [sic]¬†our Lease Special.

Wow! What a great price! It was around $100 less than what I was expecting! Aren’t I so lucky!

Yeah, and I was born yesterday. Still, even though I figured that the final price would be higher, I still liked the car, so I went in to iron out the details. Up until then, the sales person had been very pleasant and relaxed; not at all the stereotypically pushy type we all loathe.

All was going well until he brought a purchase agreement for me to sign. It had no numbers filled in, but stated that I was agreeing to purchase the vehicle from that dealer. Up until that point, the only number I had in writing was the $179/month quote from the email, and I was tempted to write that in and sign it, but instead pointed out that I wasn’t about to sign a blank commitment. He fumbled with an explanation, but I still refused. At that point he got up to “speak to his manager”, and about 10 minutes later returned with that sheet with a figure filled in: $354/month!

Now let me explain: if I had been quoted that price originally, I would still have been interested, even though it was a bit higher than what I would have been paying for one of the other car models I was considering. But the extreme nature of the bait-and-switch tactics employed just really turned me off. I don’t mind paying a fair price for things I want, but I absolutely refuse to do business with companies that use these sorts of dishonest tactics in order to trap you into doing something that may not be in your best interest.

After I explained that not only was the price higher than I was willing to pay, but that I felt like I was being duped, he went back to his manager for another 10 minutes or so. I probably should have walked out right then, but I guess I still had some glimmer of hope that they would at least realize that their BS tactics weren’t going to work with me, and would instead start dealing with me straight. Instead, he came back with a quote that was a little lower, but still way higher than anywhere else (yes, I checked other dealers before coming in!). The manager even came over to try to close me, but at that point I wasn’t having any of it. I got up and left.

I still liked the car, though, and looked online for a dealer over on the other side of town. Their website quoted me $326 for the exact same car with the same features. I contacted them online, and told them that I had just been through Salesman Hell, and was hoping that I could work with them. After a few emails and phone calls to iron out the details, I agreed to lease the car from them. Everyone I dealt with at the new dealership treated me with respect; they realized that I wanted to get a car, and that they wanted to sell their cars, so it was in both of our interests to work together to make that happen.

I feel sorry for businesses that are stuck in the mindset that the only way to get people to do business with them is to trick them. Unfortunately, there are many of these still around, and I just happened to run into one of them.

Cold Weather Sucks

Saturday was the Cystic Fibrosis Cycle For Life, which is a bicycle ride designed to raise money for research into a cure for CF. Last year it was the first distance ride I had ever ridden, and it was a great experience. I was looking forward to doing the ride again this year for several reasons: the chance to help support a worthy cause, and also to experience once again the camaraderie among the cyclists at an event like this.

Last year the ride started with temperatures in the mid-50s (14C), but quickly warmed up into the 70s ‚Äď nearly ideal. We weren’t so lucky this year. A cold front moved into south Texas on Friday, bringing a bunch of wind and rain, and dropping temperatures to the low 40s. I didn’t have the right clothing for riding in these temperatures, so I ran around to several stores getting what I needed in the days before the ride. Still, I wasn’t looking forward to riding 62 miles in the cold, wet weather, and apparently neither were most other riders, as there were only a few dozen riders who showed up, compared with several hundred last year.

start_of_ride

It was drizzling when we started the ride, and within a couple of miles I lost all sensation in my fingers. I’ve lived for many years in cold climates, and while I can handle the cold for the most part, my hands were always the most vulnerable. Fortunately, at the first rest stop some kind soul gave me a “HotHands” warmer I could slip into my glove, and slowly regained feeling in my right hand. I switched it to the left glove at the next stop, and my hands were OK for the rest of the ride.

The organizers had decided to eliminate the longer 62-mile course, so everyone did the 32-mile route. That was good, because by the time I finished my feet were numb, and I was chilled to the bone. The warm cup of coffee I had in the tent afterwards felt incredible!

warming_up

Now that it’s over, I’m glad I stuck to it and completed the ride, but it only served to confirm why I moved to South Texas in the first place: the warm weather! I can definitely do without another experience like this one.