This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

Monday, August 07, 2006


I plop into the end of the swimming lane at the YMCA. An older gentleman surfaces next to me and says "90 years old! How about that? I just did 10 laps!"

He has a bald head and a healthy, friendly energy. His eyes shine with presence. His voice has gravel and warmth.

"Wow, I'm impressed. I do 10 laps and I'm 30. You're 90!" I say. He proceeds to talk to me for 20 minutes as we both wait at the end of the swimming lane early in the morning, my goggles on my head.

He tells me how he's been in some form of the YMCA since 1962. He arrived in San Francisco in 1936 during the Great Depression. Tells me that he was a fireman for many years. He used to go up to a cabin, where there were hot springs and spoke about how in the 1920s you would take a horse and carriage from Calistoga up to the mountains.

I thrust my hand out: "I'm Brad."

"I'm Adolf," he says, returning my shake.

He says he used to swim a mile, but now he only swims 10 laps a day, and before I can stop him he says "Watch, I'm so healthy, I can swim again." While we were talking, another man, in his 60's, slips into the water in the adjoining lane.

Adolf shoots off into a swim; I can feel that he is trying to show off to me, show the young guy that he is on my level. It's very endearing. Before I can say anything, he swerves into the other lane and hits the other guy who is swimming against him in traffic, knocking heads.

Fuck; I think they knocked each other hard.

I feel a storm of emotions - when you're 90, something like that, you don't recover from as well, it can really cause problems. I'm also divided because I kind of saw it coming, but I didn't really shout anything. I didn't think Adolf could hear me, and I also wanted to respect his autonomy. I think that many times, people don't respect the autonomy and individuality of people who are older or younger than them. Two of my values, respecting someone's autonomy and also looking out for them, had a mid-air collision.

He comes back and I say, are you ok? He says, "yeah," but I think more than anything else, his pride is bruised more than his body, and as he gets out of the water and gets into the hot tub that runs parallel to the pool, I push off into the crawl. On each of my upbreaths as my face surfaces out of the water, I look over, and I ask God to take care of him, to make sure he's ok after that knock, and then anger runs through my body, through my heart. I feel angry at God, that God can create a unique human being like Adolf and then allow time to wear him away. I feel angry at God that God can create a human being like this, a spirit, and then take away his abilities as the years pass, and it makes me angry and confused.

After 8 laps, I look up at the clock and realize I'm running out of time on the parking meter, so I quickly get out of the pool. I try to find Adolf in the changing room, to see if he is ok, but I can't find him. When I get to my car I have a ticket on the windshield.

A Parade of Peacocks

It's great to be back in San Francisco.

Yesterday (Sunday), I was working on HyperScope from Ritual House Coffee Roasters, a trendy coffee shop down in San Francisco's Mission, and it made me realize how special this city is. Everyone's got their laptops set up; it's super trendy inside, and the diversity of the different kinds of people is amazing. I wouldn't even know where to start to describe them. Just every kind of subculture, everything going on. Open source geek, goth, Mission lesbians, Mission rockers, Castro boys, there's just so many different sub-scenes and mixtures between them. I would peek over at other people's laptops to see what they're working on; they're coding, creating, and building interesting things.

It's a unique zeitgeist we've got here. Something else that's interesting, I think San Francisco allows you to be younger and more self-defined, no matter what age you are. So, other people, in other cities are whatever age, 25, 30, 35, have settled down and are on a certain kind of path. In San Francisco, that's not necessarily true. You see people in their forties, they're doing their own thing, defining their own path. They're writing their own book. It's really unique.

Whenever I leave San Francisco, I come back and I see how what's here is not everywhere else.

Morning Coffee Notes

This morning I'm driving down to Google to have lunch with my buddy Joel Finkelstein. Joel's a massage therapist. He works at Google and him and his wife and their baby are moving to Santa Cruz in a week, which I'm really sad about. He does massage at Google and I'm going to meet him to grab some food. Afterwards I'm going to set up camp at Google and work for the rest of the day from there on HyperScope. Nothing like free food and free Wifi.

We're in the final stretches of the Engelbart project, so I've been working like mad. I actually worked like a dog in Paris, over the weekends, into the night, etc. and now I'm working more, so it's kind of intense. It's a lot of work, but an amazing project so I'm glad to put the time in.

Yesterday (Sunday) I found that our page load time of the HyperScope project was much too slow, so I did a lot of really intense profiling. Created a profiling infrastructure in the program, found the bottlenecks, and now I'm systematically eliminating the major bottlenecks.

The bottlenecks actually turned out to really be two major things. The first one is just the large number of files that we fetch on page load, such as Dojo's JavaScript infrastructure. This seems to be one of the biggest culprits for the performance of an Ajax application in general. I was surprised because I thought that having a large number of resources would only affect the first time you hit an application, but it turns out it also slows down every other time you access it, even after it's in your cache because the browser needs to ask the server if it's been modified. So, you get a bunch of 304 Not Modifieds, which creates high latency and prevents your application from starting up. So, my first big task has been merging most of our resources into one big file in order to reduce the number of files.

The other thing that's slow is the way that I take the results from our XSLT and show those in our document. Right now what I have is an iframe that I do a document.write() on and that shows our results. It turns out that this dominates the performance if you have large results. So, I need to find a much faster way to get the HTML into our results.

So I'm working on the optimization that I talked about, and the other thing is, I'm trying to stay grounded with all of the deadlines for work that are going on, so trying to do a lot of yoga and meditation. Right now, I'm driving down to the YMCA to get my swim on, to get some exercise before driving down to Google.

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