Holding Patterns

I watched the entire RNC, sober. I think that qualifies for some sort of reward. And the reward is to watch the entire DNC! Hurrah! Political masochist right here, you see. At least next week is likely to have less fire and brimstone.

Oh, also my first dental work in the USA! Go me! And more tomorrow. You’d think I’m trying to get it all done in a short time-frame, wouldn’t you? Well—[REDACTED. Nice try — Ed.]

Meanwhile, I have a mice problem. I am acutely embarrassed by this, as I tend to veer close to the OCD side of cleanliness in the kitchen. Yet they are here, and they seem to be here in numbers. There have been ultrasonic devices, bait traps, and as of Friday, exterminators, yet they keep coming back.

It’s starting to wear me down, to be honest. I have almost zero desire to cook in that kitchen, I’m beginning to actively hate the house, and at the moment I have little to take my mind of it except the downfall of the Republic and the West.

Which might explain why I’ve spent today building time-adaptive versions of count-min sketch for Rust, Ruby, and Elixir. They’re all a touch rough at the moment, but I should have them up on GitHub in the next couple of weeks. It’s nice to be able to read a paper, think ‘oh, I could knock that up’, and actually do it the next day.

I’m hoping that the coming week will make things less uncertain. Let us hope, anyhow.

Not A Kinder Egg

An unexpected last-minute trip to Cincinnati, then. And things happened!

Firstly, a return to Jungle Jim’s. Except, this was a totally different location. There’s more than one! (okay, there’s only two. But still, that’s a lot of supermarket). This one was a touch smaller, but still had its fair share of surprises. One such surprise was the almost-complete absence of Cadbury products as opposed to the other location. I wonder if Hershey got to them?

And here was the other surprise, in the Germany department:

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(apologies; it got a little squished in the suitcase)

Does it remind you of anything? Anything at all?

And here’s the inside:

Not a Kinder egg!

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Which contains, in disassembled form:

A photo posted by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

There you have it. If you have a deep need for Kinder Eggs, Cincinnati can get you hooked up for a knock-off at least. Just don’t expect wonders from the ‘chocolate’ shell.

(seriously, I can still taste the horror an hour later)

Anyhow, when I last went to the area, we discovered that a new board game café, The Rook, was opening the week after I went home. Curses! But! Return trip!

It’s not bad! I haven’t been to Thirsty Meeples in Oxford (my excuse is that it opened after I left the UK), but I imagine it’s a similar set up - drinks, food, and board games. Oh, so many board games. Everything from Guess Who to Terra Mystica.

A word of advice, though: don’t attempt to learn Terra Mystica in the middle of a loud board game café. It will lead to sadness and misery. May I suggest Cyclades instead? Fairly easy enough to pick up, a good game, and one of the proprietors of the shop may compliment the pair of you on your choice!

(which is good, because I felt bad for suggesting Terra Mystica to Tammy in the first place!)

All this and the heart warming tale of an Septapus and his three hearts. What more could a weekend need (it could do with less of pins and needles all over my body and more of getting sleep, but apparently that wasn’t on the agenda). And! Being able to go outside for more than five minutes and not hating my choices in life! Heat without insane humidity! It’s crazy!

Tomorrow: the dentist. Run away!

The Three-Day-Wasp-War

They came on Thursday morning. Three of them, occupying the hallway, the chocolate room and the kitchen. My standard procedure in the case of a wasp infiltration is to hide until the wasp goes away or gets so sleepy that I can drop a container on it (see also: England Made Me).

This time, though, it was a problem. Three of them at once, none of them sleepy in the slightest, and all seeming quite angry with the world at large.

I did not shrink from my destiny. I knew what I had to do to restore order to this house.

I promptly barricaded myself into my bedroom, stopped all the gaps underneath the doors and prepared to wait them out.

I am 37 years old.

Friday morning came and went…but they weren’t leaving, and they weren’t dying. I escaped from the bedroom and went off to Home Depot to buy supplies. But while I found all sorts of sprays to destroy a wasps’ nest, I overlooked getting something that would work inside to kill them.

So I spent Friday night in my bedroom, slipping out at times to get drinks. To be fair, they were getting a little sleepier at this time, but still not exactly willing to be approached with containers for extraction.

By Saturday morning, it was getting silly. After being pointed to exactly the right to of spray to obtain, I made my third visit to Home Depot in three days, loaded myself up with Raid and came back to reclaim the house.

Two of the wasps fell easily, but the third had vanished. I looked around the kitchen in vain and then went on with my day.

Five hours later, I was emptying the dish washer and I caught it in the corner of my eye, wandering around the sink (as is traditional, I jumped about five miles in the air, and had I been holding a chicken leg, I would have caused some serious damage1). Now, I couldn’t spray into the sink, and the wasp was happily sitting on something that made it impossible to drop a container down and prevent it from flying off.

There was only one thing to do. One terrible thing. I gently tilted the kitchen tap in its direction, switched it to full spray, and then turned the tap on full.

I drowned a wasp and sent it down the sink.

I’m not proud. But I have my kitchen back, after a fashion.

All this and Portugal won Euro 2016. A terrible week, all told.


  1. There’s about ten of you that will get this reference. You’re welcome. [return]

Self-Promotional Post

As of today, I’m looking for a new position. If you’re looking for somebody to do Big Data / Spark / Storm / Scala / Hadoop / Ruby / Elixir / Docker / Mesos / AWS work, then I’m available! Ideally, I’m looking for a remote position, or otherwise in Durham (downtown very much preferred).

Some people have been asking, so just to point out that I’m also available for consultancy on any of the above.

Here’s my extended resumé, and you can reach me at ian@snappishproductions.com.

Cake…or Brexit?

This is what happens when I need to work through my feelings using the medium of pasty.

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(thanks to Tammy who ended up doing all 20 layers of the Schichttorte!)

England Made Me. And England Will Break Me

(note: this is basically a jumble. I need to write something, so this is something. If you’re looking for a great piece of writing that sums up how I feel in a better way, I direct you to Tom Ewing’s fabulous A to Z on the matter)

“Here, the intersection of the timeless moment is England and nowhere. Never and always.”

Watching your country crumble to dust on live television is, if nothing else, something. Exciting in the way that a 9.5 Earthquake is exciting in the brief seconds before it turns to terror. You could see it on the faces of Dimbleby and others on the BBC broadcast as Newcastle reported its results, and in the poor teller at Sunderland, her voice barely holding together as she signalled the defeat of Remain with only the second mainland result of the night. The hour before where we laughed about the 823 leavers in Gibraltar seemed another age ago.

Then the last three days, staggering tales of abuse, starting with children and teenagers turning on their parents, yelling ‘what have you done to us?’, swiftly escalating as stories of non-Britons being told to fuck off back home, pork thrown into the gardens of British Muslims, and worse. Many of these people have lived in the country for years, decades, born here even. As much right to live in the country as any of us. Suddenly other and subject to abuse that would not normally be acceptable. What has happened to us?

Things getting more and more insane, the pound experiencing the biggest drop since records began, market chaos, our Prime Minister toddling off into the sunset yelling ‘fuckitybye!’ in the general of Boris Johnson. Scotland running for the exits, Ian Paisley Jr. suggesting that people get Irish passports. I struggle to tell my American friends just how crazy that last sentence is to somebody who grew up during the Troubles.

I hate their hot takes, their casting of Brexit in the light of their own problems, whether it be Trump or Black Lives Matter, not even managing to determine the difference between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and getting petulant when somebody points out their mistake. It is apparently a victory for the left against the neoliberal European Union. It doesn’t feel like that here, or on the ground back home, especially as the Labour Party continues its stellar approach of approaching a crisis by jumping off the nearest cliff.

I feel alien. The United States is my home now, but it is not my real home. But that will soon be gone forever. Scotland will leave now, that much is almost certain, and who can blame them? The UK as I grew up in will be cast into a faded memory, three hundred years of Union blown up in order to bolster David Cameron’s re-election chances. Prime Minister Johnson of the United Kingdom of England, Wales, and perhaps N. Ireland. But isn’t he a legend, they will say.

In the end it’s not the future, But the past that’ll get us.

There is more, but I’m tired.

High Point - Ghost Town

I will never tire of this building. “So, we’d like a furniture showroom that is half an ocean cruiseliner and blacker than Darth Vader’s mask. That’s fine, right?”

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The view from the bustling High Point theatre. Not pictured: the throng and bustle of the crowd:

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But! It does at least have a charming, ‘old-time Americana’ train station:

A photo posted by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

At The Top Of The Summit

As I mentioned last time, I spent most of this week at Spark Summit in San Francisco (along with sampling custom Four Roses bottles and spending a fun evening feeling fragile and desperately hoping I wasn’t going to be sick). It was my first big conference! People from places like MapR, Cloudera, Ticketfly, LinkedIn, Netflix, Shopify, Google, and of course Databricks!

And what did I do?

Why, of course, I basically sat at the back for almost two days and barely talked to anybody. I did have a short, almost star-struck chat with Matei Zaharia (creator of Spark), but that was about it. In theory, I like the idea of conferences…but being so unable to talk to people, I might have been better off doing my usual thing and watching the talks when they go up online in a couple of weeks.

Still, despite all that, I did have a good time in San Francisco and the surrounding area (see the pictures in the last post). But I wish I was better at these things.

Back home, trying to catch up on sleep, failing, and wasting the weekend away. Another Sunday evening, it seems…

California Weekend

A photo posted by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

A photo posted by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

A photo posted by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

A weekend seeing much, much more of California than I imagined!

Tomorrow, I’m off to Spark Summit 2016! Come say hi! I’ll be the odd British person looking lost in downtown San Francisco!

Three Years In Driver

It’s coming up to the third anniversary of the time when I bought a house under the influence of vicodin. Halcyon days and all that. And finally, after all that time, the reasons why I don’t think I can ever love this house are crystalizing in my mind.

Mostly, it’s likely due to a quirk of my life back in the UK. Nobody else has lived in that house since it was built in 1978. Nobody. My parents moved in after it was built, and we have been there ever since. Which I know is atypical, but I think it’s formative.

Every part of 39 Avon Crescent is a memory we created. Every cupboard, every painted wall, even the newspaper lining under the carpet belongs to us. I can look at the ceiling in the kitchen and remember that the bump is where the kitchen used to end before the extension was put in. I know why there isn’t a door leading into the living room, and even now I know exactly what awaits me if I go under the stairs. Every part of it is ours. And even though I don’t live there any more, it takes me about 30 minutes to fall back into the way of things.

This is not something that the knotty pine kitchen does for me here in Durham. Nor the grass outside that just grows and laughs at me after it gets chopped back every two weeks.

The house is slowly changing. The furniture, the new rugs, the fancy new shower in the master bathroom. The way that we stripped the back room and turned it into a chocolate-making room. Posters on the walls for Helvetica and the Trellick Tower.

But it will never be my house.

Of course, working this out doesn’t really help me much. Answers on a postcard to the usual address: W12 7RJ.