Hello! I made a blog. It has CSS. I have no idea what I'm doing.

I’m very excited to have a review of my LISA talk up on the USENIX blog. This makes my day.



I went to LISA 2017! It was excellent! I vowed to write a shorter trip report this year, but there was so much good stuff so whatchagonnado /o\ Here’s the notes I took about what I saw and what I liked. They might not necessarily represent the most important parts of the talks; they’re just what made an impact with me. If I have any errors in here, please let me know and I’ll fix it. Here’s what I saw:


A single candle flame in the dark.

I really enjoy the style of conference talk which is a very small number of words over a large number of beautiful pictures, but oh my god it can take a long time to find the right images. For example, I spent more than an hour trying to illustrate the idea of “emergency disaster supplies” with a picture that wasn’t visually noisy, was ok to be be used commercially (my talk’s not commercial, but my employer is), and wasn’t licensed as CC-SA (because I can’t release my slides under the same license). I was happy with the one I found but wow that took a lot of time.

The holy grail is when you get a picture that doesn’t require attribution, because then you don’t need to overthink how to put extra words on the slide without distracting from the message.

It’s easy to see why people avoid using pictures, and I love watching talks made entirely of big splashy text-only slides. Having a single thought in a huge font on one slide jumps out – it’s incredibly effective at focusing the message – and it’s fun to photograph and tweet about the talk. I want to try writing a talk in that style some time, but I haven’t done it yet. For now, some sites I use for pictures:


Between travel, meetings and other commitments, I didn’t get to see as many SRECon EMEA talks as I would have liked to this year. But I liked what I saw! These summaries are assembled from handwritten notes and may contain lies or nonsense. If I’m misrepresenting anyone, please let me know and I’ll fix it.

I’m including links to the abstract for each talk; most of those will include links to videos once they’re available in a few weeks.

Here’s the talks I saw:


Look, I made my stupid game a bit less stupid!

Screenshot of a very simple computer game and some code.

I wanted to learn how to have two separate sections that behaved differently, so I added a little area to display the score. And a second character, so there’d be some purpose to having a score. It’s still not the world’s most exciting game, but there’s at least some element of competition now. And now I know how to have multiple surfaces in pygame.

Adding a second character turned out to be trivial, which made me feel pretty good about my previous over-engineered object oriented life choices.

Code at https://github.com/whereistanya/pygame_adventures

(Yeah, I’m procrastinating on something actually important I should be doing. But this is way more fun.)


Another train journey, this time the lovely Sunset Limited across the West Texas desert. I’ve been playing with Pygame and it’s just as much fun as I’d hoped.

In a couple of hours I threw together the world’s stupidest game: you move a character around a grid, avoid obstacles, and pick up items by walking on them. When all the items are picked up, you win. And then it changes colour and makes sounds so you know that you won. And then it invites you to play again. Amazing! Remember me for all the indie game awards this year.

Screenshot of a very simple computer game and some code.

Getting started with pygame is fantastically easy. I recommend the tutorial I used, http://www.nerdparadise.com/programming/pygame, but if you just want a thing to try out, I’ve tested this code on python2.7 and python3:


part of the interior of a Viewliner train roomette, showing a raspberry pi and an amazon fire tablet precariously plugged in beside the fold-out sink.

My absolute favourite thing to do is to go places on sleeper trains. People love to hate on Amtrak, but I’ve taken overnight trains in four continents and its sleeper experience as good as most and better than some. The food’s surprisingly decent, the conductors are lovely, and you can’t beat looking out the window and watching Colorado or Utah or the Hudson Valley go by.

Today it’s mostly trees and Georgia and Alabama, but that’s good too! The sun is streaming in the window, the Crescent is chu-chunking along, and I brought along my raspberry pi to see whether pygame could make the touch screen do something more interesting than displaying cats. Well, so far I’ve mostly just fought python3 (print is a function now!), but eventually I’ll internalise the differences and make things work again.

I love coding on trains. It’s peaceful and pretty, and you get a good long distance to stare into when you need to think.


A picture of a raspberry pi with an attached screen displaying an image of a sleeping cat.

The problem with shopping at Adafruit is that you go there to buy a battery and three days later when the box full of your impulse purchases arrives, you realise that you forgot to buy a battery. Haha, whoops! But such good impulse purchases they were! The best was this 2.8” PiTFT capacitive touch screen, which I’ve been having a lot of fun with this morning.


Four Amazon Dash buttons aligned vertically on a wooden wall with musician names written on them on sticky labels.

Amazon Dash is a neat idea. When you’re running low on teabags or detergent or whatever, you push a little button and Amazon sends you more. 

Sonos speakers are also a neat idea. They’re speakers that sit on your wifi network, and you can stream music to them from your phone or Spotify or whatever. They have a nice, low-drama interface and mostly just work. We’ve got two.

A while back, my excellent friend and crossword buddy Rob showed me how he’d set up a Dash button to start and stop his wife’s favourite radio station on their Sonos. This was extremely relevant to my interests! My kid has very strong feelings about the Moana soundtrack and it plays in our house almost constantly. It occurred to me that if she had a way of starting it herself, without needing an adult, then that would be the four year old equivalent of getting car keys or internet access for the first time. Who can imagine having such independence and power! So I made her a Moana button.


This blog has existed for three months, and so far I think Jekyll is pretty good. You kind of have to work to make it do things, but usually the work is fun and not too annoying. And it forced me to learn some CSS, which was, well, hilariously awful, but interesting.

But it’s a bit annoying to have to get to my github account every time I want to post something. This evening it finally occurred to me to look for an Android app

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