dave's blog

New Photos

Apparently its been a long time since we've transfered photos to the internet.  Here's a bunch including Chinese New Years and a bigger Caper.


Lions come to scare away bad things
Caper's cool outfit
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Stuff White People Like

Now we like to think of ourselves as two people who are very inclusive, we push the boundaries of convention, and we try to break out of the molds of the stereotypes that we find ourselves boxed in.  

However, yesterday Debbi came across this really funny blog: Stuff White People Like.   It's only been in existence for 2 months, and there are already 87 posts on what defines white people (albeit it's probably only white people between the ages of 20-35).  Looking through the full list we find that between the two of us 67/87 of these things apply (or did apply at some point) to us.   This means that we are 77% white.  Geesh!  Maybe we are more run-of-the-mill, white bread, plain jane, ordinary, vanilla, regular white people than we realize.  

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Drupalcon highlights

I'm waiting in Newark international for my connecting flight back to HK, and I just want to sleep. Its been six days since I arrived and I never got past the jet lag. I want to be sleeping right now, I should be sleeping right now (HK time), but I don't think they'll let me do that in this restraunt that I'm waiting in. Furthermore for every hour we get closer to the scheduled departure, the real departure gets pushed back an hour. By the time I actually get settled on the plane I'll be wide awake since my body is alternating from tired to awake every 4 hours. This has been the story all week. So I'm significantly more insane than when I left. Oh and the other reason for that is because I've been hanging out with Drupal geeks all week.

Some of you wanted to know what the highlights of the conference were. The rest of you might want to stop here, before you get confused / bored to death. It was pretty crazy: 1000 people excited about making great websites for everything from little blogs, to internal university wikis, to ginormous news sites. There was even a 14 year old kid there leading a session. I was nowhere near that smart at 14. Actually I'm still not that smart.  I only got to see a small sliver of the presentations.  At any given time there were 5 sessions and 6-12 smaller scheduled discussions, not to mention all the unscheduled discussions.

First day:

Drupal Multimedia - you can do so much with multimedia content in Drupal. However it seems that I'm already familiar with the techniques so I didn't learn much here.

Keynote - Dries Buytart - Drupal Project Lead - The reason Drupal has done so well is because this dude has such an accurate vision for where things need to be in 5 years, what our next challenges will be, and how to lead such a huge community to get through those challenges to where we need to be.

Mapping business requirements to Drupal modules: a gap-fit process - Boris Mann is a very smart guy in this area. Hopefully I'll be able to utilize some of these approaches to deliver a product that better matches our users' needs.

Panels 2 and Nodequeue - Earl Miles is the author of so many of the essential Drupal modules. He showcased a few cool techniques in the new versions of these modules

Drupal in China, the how, who and why - I had nothing to do with this session. There are three other groups of people that have recently setup offices in mainland China. I got a chance to meet (or re-meet) them all. Hopefully I'll be able to get some advice from them on how to build a Drupal User Group in Hong Kong.

News Industry Meetup - food, beer, and drupal talk

NGO Meetup - more food, beer, and drupal talk

Day Two:

Client work kept me occupied for the first half of the morning. But then:

Keynote Speaker: Chris DiBona - Google Open Source Programs Manager - Explained all the reasons why Open Source is poised to succeed. There is no longer any question.

Performance tuning and optimization of high traffic Drupal sites - most of this stuff was sysadmin related that was a bit over my head. I was hoping for more delth on query optimizations.

Skirt.com : Affiliated content for magazines - these folks have taken a different approach to the problem of affiliate sites in a multisite configuration. If I had known about this before we did politicker.com, we might've headed in a different direction.

Drupal powering hosted services - I felt like there's some hosts out there that are kicking Advomatic's butt in the areas of new techniques (though this isn't my area of expertise either, so a lot of this went over my head). But with that said, I don't think any of them are working on the same scale that we are, and if they are, they aren't focused on just Drupal.

And then more client work in the evening

Day 3:

I slept through most of the morning. It was probably a good thing.

New JavaScript in Drupal 6: AHAH and Drag and Drop - There's some new rad stuff

Creating custom workflows for Drupal applications - taking advantage of core hooks and context - This actually had nothing to do with workflow, it was about context (site sections) and how to maintain context as the user browses to different pages. These guys had some great ideas for Drupal 7.

Scalable Theming: Theming for 100s of node types, CCK fields and views - Some great ideas here. I'm gonna write up a best practices doc for Advo.

Evening - Just hung out at the hotel. We needed a bit of downtime.

Day 4:

A Developer's Assistant - Using Coder for Module Developers and Maintainers - I already knew that coder rocks, but it also does some cool stuff in terms of module upgrades. As a case study we used coder to walk through an update of View to Drupal 6.

Information Architecture to Drupal Architecture - apparently I went to this. Don't remember a thing about it though.

Hostmaster 2 - This Birds of a Feather (small table discussion) was awesome. Bright/Raincity are re-starting hostmaster from scratch. This install profile has some really revolutionary tools to mange 1000s of sites accross several servers from a single master site. This obsolutes my multisite_maintenance module. Unfortunately there isn't working code yet (though this might have changed since yesterdays code sprint). I'll be looking in to this for politicker.

Zen and the Art of Drupal - some of the lullabots did a great presentation on how to ensure that your contributions to Drupal last for the long term.

Wrap Up - The winners of the site showcase were anounced. Advomatic had a few in the honourable mentions, but no winners this year.

Evening - shopping. Had to get some presents to take back.

Day 5:

Code sprint - It was real cool to be working in the same room as 400 other developers. I met a lot of smart people and had a chance to ask people questions face to face. I spent my day writting unit tests.

Phewf! I'm tired.

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Our sick house

Everyone but me is sick right now.  My dear wife every two years gets this itchy rash all over her body that lasts for about a week.  Apparently its been two years since the last incident.  Cause: unknown.  Cure: unknown.  She spends most of the night awake scratching.  It's pretty terrible.  And our dear little puppy has this issue where every day he spends 30 seconds dry heaving.  Then he's fine and back to running around and biting my ankles.  Very bizarre.  

But they're both snoozing right now.  They look so darn cute.  

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Geek Trip

So its official.  I've booked my flight, got a room, paid my fees.  I'm going on a geek trip.  Destination: Drupalcon Boston 2008.  This probably does not excite you as much as it excites me.  I'll be hanging with some of the brightest web developers in the world, learning new techniques, writing cool new stuff.  And, due to the oddities of working for a distributed company, I'll be meeting many of my coworkers at Advomatic for the first time.  After having been working with Advomatic since last spring, I've met only one of my ~15 coworkers, and that was Yashesh when we were traveling through Mumbai.  It will be interesting to see what people are like in person.  Will the impressions of people that I've built up over the last 10 months of email and IRC resemble anything like the real thing?  

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Yay, new look

So I spent the evening creating a new look for the blog.  The last one was pretty and all, but had nothing to do with chickens or eggs.  Those of you who have ever got an invite to one of our parties will recognize the line drawing style as that of the beautifully talented Debbi.  We then took photos of the drawings and I played with them in The GIMP.  

Hope you like it. 

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Finding A Place To Live

As Debbi mentioned earlier, due to the fact that S. Korea is suddenly changing their requirements for obtaining a visa for English teachers, we can't go there anymore. So we need to find another place to live. We have about 2 weeks before we need to be there, so we need to decide fast. And basically the world is our oyster; we could go anywhere. Well anywhere where that Debbi can find a job, probably as an English teacher, and I can do my work (building grassroots, progressive, political, oftentimes American, sometimes left-wing websites) without fear of being thrown in a gulag. This has ruled out a few possibilities including Saudi Arabia and Mainland China.

Having anywhere in the world is too many options, so we're leaning towards East Asia, cause that's where we are now, and getting back to N. America is pretty easy (as opposed to say central Africa). So I've been doing research on the different options from my point of view, while Debbi is simultaneously investigating the job market.

I'm collecting information on things like quality of living, political stability, political freedom, internet availability and pollution. But man it's hard to find hard information on pollution levels. What I would really like to see is charts that compare air pollution and ground water quality for Asia's major urban centres measured over time. But such information is not on the internet. Part of the reason is that governments don't publish the data that they collect. It's bad for tourism apparently. Really ?!?!? But I might suggest that It's not the publishing of information that scares the tourists, it's the actual pollution. Everyone knows that Asia has the worst pollution in the world, whether you publish actual numbers or not. So all I have to go on are qualitative phrases in newspaper articles and blog posts. Which is probably specific enough for our needs.

So here's what we're thinking so far in no particular order. For those of you who are geographically challenged I also created a map.


This ranks high on our list. We had a stopover in Kuala Lumpur the other day and it was quite impressive. Low pollution (we just came from India so just about anything is low in comparrison). Littering is a punishable offence (also a sharp contrast from dirty India). And it ranks high in all our other categories. Oh and there's nice beaches there.

Hong Kong

We've done little more than ride the transit and go for dinner, but so far it seems like a great city. We want to look around a bit more, but this seems like a promising option. The tapwater is drinkable!


Also ranks high. Though I'm getting the impression that the pollution might be a bit higher in Taipei than Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur.


Singapore is always rated as the number one place for expats to live in surveys like this one by a big HR firm. However the primary language is English which means that expat English teaching jobs are scarce.


Haven't done much research on this yet, but it ranks high too.


It might be an option. Need to do more research.


It would rank high, however there's currently a low demand for English teachers. Also the high cost of living and low value of the Yen will cut into out ability to save.

Mainland China

China scores terribly in every category except the avaialability of English teaching jobs. So we likely won't end up there.

So we pretty much need to have this figured out bu Monday at the latest so we can book some flights, get there, find Debbi a job, find a place to live, and get me setup to be able to get back to work by year end.

Wish us luck.

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More adventures with transit

I can remember times back home when my seasoned traveler friends would gripe about the substandard transit systems in Alberta. "Nothing connects well; you always have to wait at least 20mins for a bus..." I always thought that they might have been overreacting a bit. After all, you can still get from one end of the city to the other in under 2 hours.

Well today we arrived in Hong Kong, and I have now experienced transit the way it was meant to be: Clean, efficient, lots of space, on time, and frequent. And you get these pre-paid RFID cards that you just hover over the payment machine as you walk by.

We needed to get from the airport (which is located on a huge man-made island) to the New Territories (read suburbs) where we're staying with Debbi's friend Ellen. Total distance is about 50km. And it only took about an hour. Hong Kong has 11 metro lines. Eleven! Calgary has two. We took three different trains. But it was super straightforward, even though we can't read Chinese. The whole experience is designed to be real usable: You get off one train, walk 10 steps across the platform and step on a train from the next line which has just arrived.

There's dynamic maps all over the place that update your current position, show the next stop, what side of the train the door opens, and what lines connect. Wow. And there's lots of room, even at 4 in the afternoon (cause trains come every 5 mins); A far cry from Mumbai.

The trains are about 100M long, and are basically all one car. I bet if you rode late at night when there's not that many people around, and brought your skateboard, you could do some tests of Newton's laws of thermodynamics. I think that if you got on at the front of the train, got on your skateboard and gave a little push right when the train started moving, you could ride all the way to the end of the train; basically staying in one spot while the train moves forward. Unfortunately I don't know how to skateboard, and I'm not gutsy enough to mess with the authorities.

Back to our trip. After the subway we got on a minibus. These little 16 seaters come ever 5mins. And they have seat-belts. Seat-belts, on a bus?!?! Crazy. And there's a numeric display above the driver telling the current speed of the vehicle. There's so many buses that there's so little traffic, so you get to your destination real quick.

Needless to say my inital impression of Hong Kong is pretty good.

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