Making Marica Grate Again!

As the cruel parents we are, tonight we decided to make Marica grate – again:

make-marica-grate-again

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

But after I thought of the pun, I think there’s a serious point here, along the lines of that P. J. O’Rourke quip: “Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes.”

Talking politics is all the rage today: pro-Trump, anti-Trump, this that and the other Facebook post. But life goes on, kids need putting to bed, and dishes need doing. Doing the small things right … that’s how to save the world.

The job front

In the last couple of months I’ve had a bit of a change job-wise (Franci said it was about time for me to write). I had been a software engineer for Oyster.com — now part of TripAdvisor — for just over six years, and decided it was time for a change and some new work experience while we’re here in the States.

So I started looking around, and interviewed with several companies: Google, Paperless Post, and a couple of others. Google was interesting to interview with, but they said no (at least for the role I was looking for). So I was looking pretty hard at the Paperless offer, but then my boss offered me a new role within TripAdvisor working on a different team and with different technologies … and for various reasons, that’s the role I ended up taking. TripAdvisor is a really good company to work for.

The role is with Jetsetter, another sub-company of TripAdvisor, and it’s still software development, though I’m not managing a team anymore. Jetsetter, like Oyster, is a hotel review website, but they’re more focused on “travel inspiration” and at least traditionally a bit more of a luxury brand. I’m using different technologies (see below) and the team culture is somewhat different, but oddly enough I’m sitting only a few metres away from where I was before. So a substantial change, just not a geographical one. :-)

For the tech geeks among you: to date Jetsetter is mostly written in Scala and Node.js and React, and has a microservices approach on the backend. (In constrast, Oyster has an almost exclusively Python-based, monolithic backend.) I’m introducing some Python on the team with my first project, a new photo import system and image web server.

I’ve been with the new team for about a month now, and it’s been good so far!

In other news, I’ve signed up to teach a computer programming class at our homeschool co-op. It’ll be an hour every second Friday, starting in September, continuing for the full school year. I plan to do a few lessons on computing history and the basics of how computers work (binary, computer maths, what a programming language is), and then spend the rest of the year teaching basic programming skills while working on a project — a little computer game or website or some such. Franci will be sitting in on the class too, which is cool.

Thanks for listening, and signing off for now!

The new GiftyWeddings.com

Most of you know that I (this is Ben posting for a change) run a little wedding gift registry website called GiftyWeddings.com. It’s been going for almost eight years now, helping several couples every month create nice simple gift registries that aren’t tied to a particular store.

The design of the site was never exactly stellar (being designed by yours truly), but with bigger computer screens (and smaller phones!) it had started to look pretty dated:

old-gifty.png

I do like old-school, but … it was definitely time for an update.

So I’ve spent the last couple of months of bus commutes rebuilding the site: a new design, new implementation, new server, and new payment system. Here’s what it looks like now:

new-gifty

Complete with a fun photo of my wife going down a flying fox (zip-line) in her wedding dress.

So I’m a bit biased, but I think it’s an improvement. And the user interface is also significantly nicer, and works well on mobile phones — great for when your guests are out shopping for your wedding gift and want to cross an item off using their phone.

So if you know someone who’s getting married, please help our small, family-owned side business and point them to GiftyWeddings.com. :-)

If you’re of a nerdy bent and want to know what tools I used to build the new site, this list is for you:

I have good things to say about all those tools. React was new for me and a good experience. Stripe Checkout is an amazingly simple service to set up — highly recommended.

Please contact me if you have any feedback about the new site!

Lego Tower version 1

Marica and Esther and I (Ben) have been playing with Lego on Saturdays. Marica’s built up a decent collection of small Lego sets over the past several birthdays and Christmases, and building things with them is one of my favourite inside things to do with the kids.

Marica loves building sets from instructions, I enjoy building more free form stuff, and Esther likes playing with the stuff that’s been made. Each to his own. :-)

Last weekend we made a 15-story skyscraper, using a good portion of the straight Lego pieces we have. The footprint was an 8×8 square, and our “rules” were that each story had to be of the same colour, have at least one window, have a floor, and be at least five bricks high. Here are some photos Franci took:

The following week we added 7 more stories out of mixed colors (and didn’t necessarily have great floors), but unfortunately we didn’t take any photos of version 2 before it crashed to the ground from a child-induced earthquake.

A hobbit comes of age

As everyone knows — well, at least everyone who’s a fan of Tolkien — a hobbit comes of age at 33. I turned this ripe old age the other day, and had a fabulous party, mostly organized by Franci, my lovely hobbit-wife.

No Admittance Except on Party Business

We had some great, down-to-earth hobbit food cooked by Franci with some help from Lillian: loads of mushrooms (fried in butter), homemade bread rolls with “Beorn’s” creamed honey and butter, Mum’s meatloaf (“dwarvish meatloaf”), punch (“Miruvor”), ale from The Green Dragon, “Sauron’s eyeballs” deviled eggs, and lots of other yummy things I’m forgetting.

I wrote a little speech that kind of paralleled Bilbo’s speech at his “eleventy-first” birthday party (and Frodo’s 33rd). There were a couple of Lord of the Rings-based games and riddles.

Gandalf quote

There was a small crowd of maybe 15 mostly from church and a couple from work. A few people even dressed up.

In true Hobbit-fashion, Franci and I organized and wrapped gifts for each of the guests (though there were no silver spoons).

Gifts for the guestsAll in all, a fun time! I highly recommend a Hobbit coming-of-age party for your next trend-setting event. :-)

 

Mr Rubik’s back

Marica and I went to the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City last Saturday to see their new Rubik’s Cube exhibition, which was being opened by Ernő Rubik, the inventor of the cube. I own a cube, but still have no idea how to solve it…

Mr Rubik seemed like a fairly unassuming guy with a mild Eastern European accent. We are more or less celebrities by association now, as we got to see his back — he’s the guy in the blue shirt:

Erno Rubik's backFranci said, “At least you got a good photo of the paparazzi!” Well, I did also get this photo:

Erno Rubik's sideThe guy to the left of him is Anthony Brooks, a world-record “speedcuber”, who solved seven cubes in under a minute while we watched:

Anthony Brooks solving cubes

Reuters has a short article and video clip in case you’re interested in further info.

Marica wasn’t fussed on Mr Rubik and the crowds, but she did enjoy some of the rest of the exhibit, including “programming” a robot to follow a line:

Marica programming a robot

Marica by the fake cubeMarica in front of the giant cube