Hello 2017

It turns out that a good way to impress a Star Wars producer is to explain a probabilistic counting algorithm to them 35,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean. For extra points, implement a Ruby version of one during the lunch service.

I’m back in the US again, after what felt like a short trip back home to Bicester. Mince pies were consumed, cats grew to (mostly) tolerate my presence, friends came by to visit, and family gatherings were had. Now I’m back in Durham, all alone except for BBC documentaries from the early 1980s. 2017 is starting the way you expect me to (also upcoming this year: Six Plays by Alan Bennett and the classic 1990).

Not entirely sure what I have planned for 2017 just yet. Looks like I’ll be heading off to San Francisco and Cincinnati in January, and I have Chicago booked for March (after which, I’ll have seen Los Campesinos on the east, west, and middle of the country). So while there’s no concrete plans, things seem to be filling up rapidly.

Oh, and posting off my citizenship application this week. May we all live in interesting times…

2016 In One Sentence

I’ve grown afraid of everything that I love.

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)