We had burgers for dinner last night, and got into a conversation about hamburgers and their names, in general; how a hamburger isn't made of ham, and so a burger made with bear meat (for example) could, in fact, not necessarily be called a "bearburger".

During this conversation, somehow the trademark name of a burger came up in topic: The Quarter Pounder.

I asked Riley where one might obtain a Quarter Pounder.  He answered, "Jake's Wayback?" It's a local place that makes great burgers.  But obviously not Quarter Pounders.

Abby was quick to reply, "I know where to get Quarter Pounders, but I don't want to say because then Riley will know."

"Oh, really?" I asked.  "It's OK if Riley knows where they come from.  Where is it?"

"Cheeburger Cheeburger," she said, triumphant sounding.

+2 points for the parents.

It was an interesting weekend for us; there was a lot going on.  Both Riley and Abby had sports events.  On Saturday Riley had a baseball game at Hickory Park and Abby had a soccer game at Fellowship Fields (at which I was "coaching").  Shortly after Abby's game, Riley and I left for Camden to camp on the battleship New Jersey with a group from Pack 32.

Battleship New Jersey

Visiting the USS New Jersey was definitely a unique experience.  The boys from Riley's cub scout pack (and their dads) got to experience a lot of the ship.  The evening tour after mess was pretty exclusive, too.  We got to tour areas of the ship that you don't get to see on a normal walking tour, like the areas inside the gun turrets where the ammunition is prepared and sent to the firing stations.  The tour guide was very knowledgeable, and thankfully very patient with our precocious boys.

We learned a lot of interesting factoids about the New Jersey.  The whole ship is made primarily of steel, which is pretty obvious if you think about it.  But the amount of steel used is astonishing.  Some of the armored doors and walls on the ship are made of solid steel 17 inches thick.

Just one of the three primary turrets weighs the same as a destroyer from the same era as the New Jersey.  That's like having three destroyers on board the ship!  Each gun in the turret fires a huge shell, propelled by 600 pounds of gun powder.  If fired straight up, the shell would reach 17 miles high.

There are "smaller" 5-inch caliber guns on the sides of the ship.  The shells for this gun are stored in the lower decks and raised to those turrets with constantly-moving chain elevators.  These shells are primarily used to shoot down enemy aircraft.  The nose of each shell contains a small vacuum tube that detects when the shell gets near metal, kind of like a poor-man's radar.  When the shell is near metal, like the hull of an enemy aircraft, the shell detonates.  This function of the US 5-inch shell was a closely guarded secret throughout World War 2, and wasn't even shared with our allies.  The shells were never fired over land for fear that one would land, unexploded, on the ground where the Nazis could recover and study it. It is amazing to me that the Axis did not have similar technology, seemingly having all of their shells detonate based on timed fuses.

The New Jersey was in service from 1943 through until the early 90's.  It had been retrofitted with modern weapons from the time.  There were Gatling guns mounted in several places on the sides of the ship for shooting down incoming missiles.  There were Tomahawk missile mounts on the ship for firing these very advanced weapons.  There were even rumors that the New Jersey had nuclear capabilities, but the Navy won't confirm whether this was the case.

One of the most interesting rooms on the ship was the CEC, the Combat Engagement Center. This is where all of the on-board weapon systems were controlled.  The room is the same eerie blue with all kinds of radar screens that you see in movies.  The kids had a lot of fun sitting at the consoles and firing missiles at their enemies.

I had always thought that the doors on a ship were round because of some reason related to water.  Of course, our tour guide said that if water was high enough to be a bother to a door, there were much bigger problems to worry about than the shape of the portal.  No, the door is round because it is structurally more sound.  If a door was rectangular, then when the ship's body has torque - either from weapon impact or heavy seas - then the steel would tear from the corners of the door.  Instead, a round door keeps the ship's body intact under pressure.

We learned how to navigate the ship using signs about the compartment locations.  We toured the captain's quarters, the admiral's quarters, the mess hall, the officer's mess, medical (including an unusually large dental area), and the bridge.  We were able to see inside the turrets at the top, where the guns were aimed and the ammunition was loaded into the barrels.

This was an overnight trip, so we all had to sleep in bunks on board.  The bunks were stacked three beds high, and were claustrophobically small.  Riley and I took bottom beds in separate bunks because that's all that was left by the time we arrived.  Still, the experience was authentic.  At lights-out the lights didn't go out, but instead dimmed to an eerie red color.  All through the night, you could hear the sound of people banging themselves against the steel bunks trying to get comfortable.

The only thing that was a little disappointing was the food.  We usually get such great (too great, sometimes) meals when we camp with the scouts that the chicken finger dinner and hashbrown breakfast were a little small and disappointing.  But a meal is a meal, and we got to experience the chow line first hand, which is interesting in itself.

There was a lot more that we saw and did on the ship, and I'm sure even then that we didn't get to see everything since the ship was so huge.  In all, the trip was pretty great.  Riley had a great time, as he usually does on scouting trips.  I'm not sure I'd sleep over again - not wanting to subject myself to the steel coffin bunk and ensuing back pains in the morning - but I'd definitely visit again, perhaps to join a different tour and see other parts of the ship that we missed.

The kids had a lot of summer vacation.  I think it was pretty filled this year.  We had a couple of project weeks, where we organized some activities and research for the kids each week at a time.  These weeks were occasionally interrupted by holidays, trips to the beach with the grandparents, organized day camps, and play dates with friends.

In the beginning of August, I shuttered my consulting practice and took on a full-time position with ownCloud.  I spent a week in Berlin at the yearly developer conference, and got to meet a lot of my remote co-workers.  So far, the work has been constant, interesting, and rewarding.

Vacations and travel.  People have asked about us going anywhere this summer.  We hadn't really scheduled anything long-term and vacation-like for the summer months, although we took a couple of weekend trips, to Johnstown and the Delaware beaches.  We also visited Hawk Mountain for a hiking excursion, which was fun.

Possibly the most exciting thing now is the promise of fall.  September - with school starting, sports, scouts, conferences, and other activities - looks really busy.  Looking at the September calendar of events is a scary, scary, exciting thing.

I got a mysterious Tweet from someone I don't know after I posted a photo of our recent back yard camping experiment:  "@ringmaster Check out that Flickr gallery using Flickrock!  flickrock.com/asy"

So that's odd.  Why are my copyrighted photos appearing on this other person's web site? Hey, look! All of my friend's public Flickr account photos are being re-published there, too! That's not cool. 

Even worse, it looks like anyone on Twitter that posted a link to a Flickr photo page was a target for their Twitter spam. In fact, more than 200 people were spammed - being told that their Flickr photos now appear on a completely unauthorized site - since I posted my photo!

I tried to politely ask them to remove my photos. Long story short, they got belligerent about doing what is a seemingly innocuous tweak to their code to prevent the URL for my photos from working.  Seriously, it's a single line in their Varnish config, or a trivial change to allow an opt-out list. But no, they feel entitled to do what they want with my photos unless I hide them from search via Flickr's API settings. Here, read the transcript:

I'm not the only person having problems with Flickrock's behavior.

After poking at their site and looking at both Yahoo!'s and Flickr's Terms of Service documents for both my rights/expectations and their permissions/resposibilities, it seems pretty clear-cut that Flickrock is breaking the terms of their agreement with Flickr regarding the use of Flickr's API.  I mean, at the very least, Flickr explicitly forbids the use of "Flickr" as part of a service's domain name!

I subsequently sent a message via Flickr's API Abuse form.  It reads as follows:

I'm reporting abuse on the following pages:




This site is using the Flickr API to publish all of my public copyrighted photos, whether marked "all rights reserved" or otherwise.  I have not authorized this use of my photos, and only found out about it when they sent me a message that I should use their service via Twitter.  Apparently, they are publishing ALL photos of ALL users within their site design, probably without authorization.

Example offending photos that appear on their site at the pages listed above include (but are not limited to):




I politely asked the site operators to remove my photos from the site and they have not.  They have made no offer to remove the photos or restrict access to them at all.  And although it may help protect my photos from this site and others like it, I do not wish to opt out of the Flickr API because I use other services that make use of this API and I authorize their use.  I simply do not authorize Flickrock any use of my photos.

Flickrock is in violation of section a.ii. of Flickr's API Terms of Service (http://www.flickr.com/services/api/tos/ section 1.a.ii.): " In ALL cases, you are solely responsible for making use of Flickr photos in compliance with the photo owners' requirements or restrictions."

I have marked all offending photos (the default) on Flickr as "all rights reserved".  These photos should not be used or displayed anywhere other than where I have authorized them.  I have not authorized Flickrock to display those photos.

Incidentally, the Flickrock site is also in violation of sections 1.b. i., iii., and vi., and 3.a and b., having attempted to replace the essential user experience (photo viewing) of Flickr.com, displaying more than 30 photos on a page, violated the copyright of my photos, used "flickr" in their product name and host name of "FLICKRock", and failed to prominently display the API use notice on pages that actually use the API.

I have discovered that any user's photos (including those of professional, for-hire photographers) are available via Flickrock's interface, not as the result of a useful search, but with the intent to display the photos in a different layout on their own site.

According to the Yahoo! Terms of Service (http://info.yahoo.com/legal/us/yahoo/utos/utos-173.html section 9.b.): "However, with respect to Content you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services, you grant Yahoo! the following worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive license(s), as applicable: ... With respect to photos, graphics, audio or video you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services other than Yahoo! Groups, the license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Yahoo! Services solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available."

This does not include a license for display on 3rd party websites via API, which I must grant separately to those sites.  Once again, I have not granted that license to Flickrock.

This is a clear abuse of the Flickr API, and Flickrock's rights to use the Flickr API should be immediately terminated, according to the preamble within the terms of use.  I am not only a long-standing pro user of Flickr, but an early adopter of and developer on the Flickr API, and I hope that this matter will be dealt with seriously and promptly, as it undermines not only my copyright to my photos, but Flickr and Yahoo!'s service and reputation. 

Maybe if Flickrock is re-posting your photos (oh, they are), you should send a message as well.

A month or so ago, I took a walk around the neighborhood with Berta, as we often do after dinner when there's still light out and the heat isn't overbearing.  These walks often contain what feels like awkward silence, or rather, they would if I would ever shut up.  For whatever reason, regardless of the breathlessness the pace and incline induces on my completely out-of-shape and asthmatic self, I can't help but take the opportunity to fill the silence with some chatter.  At some point, I'll have to ask Berta if she feels this is my habit and whether she'd rather walk silently, since although she does contribute, I feel like she'd rather just walk with her thoughts unpolluted.

Anyway, it was on this one walk when I found myself resisting the urge to offer the usual rhetorical diarrhea, and instead focused on some of my own internal contemplation.  It was actually a really nice day, I remember.  The temperature was just what you'd want in an early summer evening.  The sky was not cloudless, but full of colorful pink and purple twilight-lit clouds.  No cars on the road and a gentle, comfortable breeze.

Whatever the cause, I was in one of those weird "imagine if" mental scenarios, like the kind where you imagine yourself in an alley at night in the city fending off muggers, and you imagine in vivid detail the things you'd say and moves you'd execute to disarm and disable the attackers, and the results and cost of the scenario afterward.  Except this scenario wasn't about muggers; it was a what-if about having a regular job.

I've been contracting on my own for two years, and the work I've done has been rewarding.  No doubt.  The ability to see the results of my own drive and tenacity have been both exciting and revealing.  No concerns there.  I think it's important to say that I know, and others who I'd care to prove it to know, that I can do it.

But I wasn't thinking about it in the abstract.  I was imagining a concrete present where I was an employee somewhere, working on a project.  I imagined the unexpected freedoms that come with not having to find my own work, receiving regular pay, and being able to take a vacation. 

Seriously.  I've said this to people before, but I don't know if it really sinks in.  When you work for yourself, any time you're not working, you are also not being paid.  There is really no such thing as a "paid vacation".  Sure, you can plan out paying yourself to the point that you can be "paid" while you're not working, and that all works out.  But for me, I've never been able to shake the idea that when I'm not working, I'm doing something wrong.  It causes stress.

Imagining vacations and not having to worry where the next job comes from and a horde of other things... very attractive.  I even imagined some of the potential concessions of this kind of employment, and I must say, the idea of being generally a better person (for a certain personal definition of "better") wasn't entirely off-putting.

I dunno.  I probably should have written about this right after the walk, because it's not coming out right.  It's not as simple as, "Oh!  Employment could be easier!"  There are other things in this imagined scenario about who I could be as a person, and how that could be better if given a chance to be someone different in one significant, catalyzing way.

I came around a corner thinking how great it would be to just be different.  And weirdly, things were different.  Just the way I thought about it was enough.  Now I'm looking for hooks for changing habits to transform my life.  Radical changes, really, spawned by small catalysts.  Maybe it doesn't seem it on the outside, but I'm hoping I get there.  I hope that one day Berta and I can be on a walk and she'll realize these changes, and maybe say to me, "You've changed a lot since that walk back then.  I like it."