Explains So Much

No wonder Americans hate Christmas music. Over here in the UK, things are a little different. Our Christmas is tinged with three-day-week Midlands glam and ruled over by a song that Radio 1 turned into a Christmas tradition by shear force of will. Plus, a surprising turn-out every year for those plucky, happy-go-lucky people from Minnesota!

And Back Again

A photo posted by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

Back home. Sports Personality of The Year. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

On Rails To The End of 2016

It’s that point of the year where it is all coming to an end, Heston goes one step further into the crazy than he did last year, and I’m gearing up to come home. The Season Finale, if you will, set against a background of the CIA twitter account screaming into the void.

Anyway, normally this weekend would just be a frenzied bout of packing and cleaning up. But this year! This year, a visit from Tammy, lunch with Luke and Stacie (in from Colorado), and then a wedding of The Doctors Marsh! All this plus homemade canelés, impromptu chicken and waffles, plus a journey to the newest Korean Fried Chicken restaurant in all of downtown Durham!1

Oh, and the official mascot of 2016 arrived.

This is fine. 2016.

A photo posted by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

Just a few more days left to go and then back home again.

  1. Okay, so technically, it’s the only Korean Fried Chicken restaurant in downtown Durham, but it is still quite new! And doesn’t have the ‘I am so uncomfortableness’ of the other new restaurant in downtown, Viceroy.

Pastry Fusion

Late night baking with left-overs…

A photo posted by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

A British rip-off of an Austrian pastry, made with a French dough and filled with an all-American Kentucky Bourbon caramel. Not bad for something made with kitchen scraps late on Saturday night.

Coming to the end of my last free weekend of the year, and I have…done little. I made some pastry things, I bought a new air filter, I went into a usual misery-spiral when something doesn’t quite pan out as hoped, oh, and I watched a forty-year-old television play because who doesn’t do that on Saturday night? Pausing here and there to see what fresh new horrors had been unleashed through Twitter, obviously.

And that leads to the oh-so-familiar feeling of wasting yet another weekend, of things that could have been done but weren’t. I think I’m going to need to act on those impulses more in 2017, for my own sanity if nothing else.

The evening closes on. Tea, then bed, and then tea again. Tenants of the house, Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.

Eight Days, Eight Flights

It has been a year of planes. I worked out that I’ve been to nine different states in the last 12 months (TN, CA, GA, SC, IL, KY, OH, MO, and NY).

My Thanksgiving was planned around limited travel. A jaunt back up to KY to spend the week with Tammy and Robert, cooking a fusion holiday dinner spanning both sides of the Atlantic Ocean (which basically would have meant adding roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings, but surely that’s good enough!). A few days there and then back to Durham.

The call came while I was waiting for a connecting flight in National Airport. My dad had had a heart attack. Thankfully, he was at school, and the ambulance managed to get him to the hospital within 6 minutes (which, if you know anything about Oxford traffic on a Friday afternoon, is something of a miracle in itself). My mum and my sister had just come back from the hospital.

I forgot what airport I was in, confusing everybody by mixing up Dulles and National and then assuming that Cincinnati International Airport would have a flight to the UK. In the end, I flew on eight different planes in eight days.

And I only broke down once, when my iPhone decided it was going to be helpful and play ‘Tank Park Salute’ after I had got out of the shower in Kentucky.

Dad is…okay. I helped put things together for the Christmas lights, got last in the John Radcliffe with mum picking Dad up, went shopping in Bicester’s new big Tesco, got threatened with menaces by Bonnie multiple times, and then came back on Friday. In some ways, it was like a (compressed) normal trip, but…it wasn’t.

I’ll be back home in three weeks for a more traditional Christmas visit. And a reminder that every one counts.

Baby, I'm Broke

To give you an idea of how I’m doing right now, I pulled this t-shirt out by accident on Friday and then had to go sit down for a while.

I took a few days off Twitter, coming back on Saturday. That was probably too soon, but you have to get back into the stream eventually. And figure out what to do next. Which for me, means citizenship. There may be other things, but that seems like a proper first step.

To The End

I have donated, I have phonebanked. I have done pretty much all I am comfortable doing considering I’m not a citizen (yet). It looks like we’ve almost made it.


I did a talk this week at All Things Open, wherein I discovered that references to Blur albums from 1994 don’t necessarily resonate with an American audience. I spend at least 15 minutes adding that ’S’, you know (a good part of that was Photoshop crashing, mind you).

Anyhow, if you missed it, or just fancy reading some slides, you can find them here.

But wait, there’s more! Having received @b0rk’s debugging zine this week, I wanted to produce something for my talk. Due to…well, let’s call it interest in the upcoming election, I didn’t want to create a big zine, but how about an 8-page single sheet zine full of helpful hints on developing with Apache Spark?

Why, here you go!

But wait! Wait! Yes, there’s even more! Because if you’ve opened that PDF, you’ll have noticed that it’s actually two pages! If you print it duplex, you get a fold-out poster which has operational tips and tricks! Zounds!

(notably, the zine has information which I chopped out of the original talk’s 1hr 8m length, including fun things like upgrading Spark Streaming applications, some command-line GC options, and a brief discussion on broadcast/accumulator variables)

Times Square?

This year, I’ve worked in San Francisco and in a skyscraper in New York. All I’m saying is that as far as childhood goals go, 2017 will have to involve me holding a comic bearing a writer’s credit in order to top 20161. However, what I didn’t really consider when constructing these dreams of being a fancy developer / consultant in a NY skyscraper is that I’m scared of heights. Terrified, even. Which makes for an interesting meeting in the ‘corner office’ with floor-to-ceiling windows. Or even just attempting to close the curtains in my hotel.

Also, I still find it amusing how astounded people are when I use public transport. Next time, I’ll wander around with a copy of Vignelli’s MTA map to do it properly.

Oh, and I booked my Christmas flights home. I’ll be back in the UK from December 17th until December 28th. I probably won’t make it to the south Bank this time around, sadly! Maybe next year…

Tonight’s blog was brought to you by Shimura Curves. Just because.

  1. Admittedly, in most other respects, 2016 has been a tyre fire. But you knew that already. [return]

Area Nation Just Wants This Election To Be Over Already

Just another 16 days. Just days away. This election has broken me, and I spent 2000 on the Ops night shift at Oxford Brookes following the Bush v. Gore shenanigans. And you’ll remember that I got so freaked out at Obama’s abysmal first debate performance in 2012 that I sent a long angry message to Obama For America at 2am that night.

This time, I am sleeping. However, I’m managing that simply through Ambien, which I didn’t have access to four years ago. Otherwise, I have succumbed to Deep US Election Psychosis. Every minute from getting up to going to bed is overwhelmed by the need to check Twitter or elsewhere to see if there’s a new poll, something being said at a rally, or what the guy occupying the Ecuadorian Embassy’s women’s toilets is coming out with today (spoilers: likely to be tinged with anti-Semitism!). Then, once in bed, there’s a thirty minute period whereupon I continue to check my phone until I feel the pull of the Ambien.

This is not healthy. The only real respite for the past month has been sleep and the periods when I’ve been flying (and that leads to me wandering through an airport trying to check 400 tweets whilst attempting to catch a taxi). Just another 16 days to go.

This is all a lead up to me pointing out that I’m giving a talk at All Things Open this Thursday. Come and watch me talk about Apache Spark and see if you can spot the points where I’m thinking “But wait! WHAT IF 538 HAS UPDATED THEIR FORECAST WHILST I’M EXPLAINING HOW TO CONFIGURE THE G1GC GARBAGE COLLECTOR?”1 There will also be a take-home mini-zine for 30 people! And a PDF of it for everybody else afterwards.

Right, back to Twitter. On November 9th…I may be more sane. A little, anyhow.

  1. This will happen, almost certainly. [return]