Friday, January 15, 2016


My friend Aubrey posted this post about music. Being moved and affected by music as much as I am, I simply had to post my own. So here goes...

Name 10 bands/singers you like:

  1. Better Than Ezra
  2. Live
  3. Metallica
  4. Frank Sinatra
  5. Styx
  6. Toad the Wet Sprocket
  7. Missy Higgins
  8. Bastille
  9. Cannons
  10. Linkin Park

What was the first song you ever heard by 6 (Toad the Wet Sprocket)?
"Good Intentions" is the first I can remember hearing, although "Walk on the Ocean" may have popped up for me around the same time.

What is your favorite album by 8 (Bastille)?
I only have 1 album by them, Bad Blood, and I loved it, so I suppose that's it. That album helped get me through some rocky times this past year.

What is your favorite song by 5 (Styx)?
"Show Me the Way", although "Mr. Roboto" and "Come Sail Away" come in close seconds.

How many times have you seen 4 (Frank Sinatra) live?

What is your favorite song by 7 (Missy Higgins)?
"The Wrong Girl", The beat is jaunty and runs counter to the story the lyrics tell, which always intrigues me. I also love some of the lyrics, such as:

Now the house is quiet as a hollow head
and I'm walking around bumping into things you said
this has not as easy as I thought it would
I'd be cooling down the fire if I thought I could

Is there a song by 3 (Metallica) that makes you sad?
"Mama Said"

Mama, now I’m coming home
I’m not all you wished of me
A mother’s love for her son
Unspoken, help me be
I took your love for granted
And all the things you said to me
I need your arms to welcome me
But a cold stone’s all I see

What is your favorite lyric that 2 (Live) has sung?
From "Where Do We Go From Here?":

I wanted a mountain, you gave me a sea 
I wanted a hurricane, you gave me a breeze 
I wanted to run, made me stand there and breathe 
I wanted to dream, you made me sleep 
I wanted to touch the bottom, but it was too deep 
I wanted a revolution, you said I was already free 
Oh, yeah 

What is your favorite song by 9 (Cannons)?
"Evening Star"... it was my first by them and still my favorite. Something about the bass and vocals on that song just hits me in the right spot.

How did you get in to 3 (Metallica)?
Back in my freshman year of high school, living in California, I had a neighbor name Jeremy, his brother Nathan, and their circle of friends. A lot of the guys in that group were big fans of Metallica, and in an effort to fit in, I gave them a listen. I got hooked pretty quickly.

What was the first song you heard by 1 (Better Than Ezra)?
"Good" was the first I heard (tons of airplay back in 1995).

What is your favorite song by 4 (Frank Sinatra)?
I think "I've Got the World on a String" is my favorite. It has a nice beat, easy to sing, and always puts me in a good mood (as does most Sinatra).

How many times have you seen 9 (Cannons) live?
None, as I don't live in LA where they perform. Maybe someday...

What is a good memory you have concerning 2 (Live)?
There was the time I saw them in concert, with my friend Amanda. I can also remember plenty of times I drove around at night listening to either V or Secret Samadhi.

Is there a song by 8 (Bastille) that makes you sad?
"Things We Lost In the Fire" is my favorite and the saddest. I was going through a divorce at the time, and this song perfectly sums it up with a mix of sad and sentimental.

We sat and made a list
Of all of the things that we had
Down the backs of table tops
Ticket stubs and your diaries
I read them all one day
When loneliness came and you were away
Oh they told me nothing new
But I loved to read the words you used

What is your favorite album by 5 (Styx)?
Greatest Hits probably, with The Grand Illusion coming in a close second.

What is your favorite lyric that 3 has sung (Metallica)?
So many... how to pick just one... how about from Unforgiven III:

These days drift on inside a fog
It's thick and suffocating
This seeking life outside its hell
Inside intoxicating
He's run aground like his life
Water much too shallow
Slipping fast down with his ship
Fading in the shadows now a castaway
They've all gone away
They've gone away

What is your favorite song by 1 (Better Than Ezra)?
Favorite is hard to pick, and because I have different favorites for different moods and reasons. "Porcelain" is the saddest, "WWOZ" the sweetest, "Juicy" the most upbeat, but I think "Recognize" is the most fun:

Next thing I recall well I was hanging from a cliff
When an angel came and rescued me and held me in her grip
She said everyone that's ever loved you gets hurt in the end
Then she smiled and said "forgive me" as she let go of my hand

What is your favorite song by 10 (Linkin Park)?
Again, different songs for different mood, but "Roads Untraveled" is probably my favorite.

Weep not for roads untraveled
Weep not for sights unseen
May your love never end and if you need a friend,
There's a seat here alongside me

How many times have you seen 8 (Bastille) live?
None. I don't go to concerts much.

What is your favorite album by 2 (Live)?
Probably V, with Secret Samadhi very close behind. While Secret Samadhi was my introduction to the group, V was "my" first album that I discovered on my own.

What is a great memory you have concerning 6 (Toad the Wet Sprocket)?
The Saturday I bought P.S. - The Toad Retrospective, I drove to a friend's house. It was a sunny spring day, and there was something so perfect about the mix of the music, the nice weather, and the open road.

I hope that was interesting. Questions welcome.

Thanks Aubrey for the idea, and make sure you check out her blog at star-shaped,org!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Define "Test Automation"

First thing in the morning, while I am waking up from sleep, my brain begins a conversation. I don't know who the conversation is with, and the topic seems to range, although often it is either explaining a movie/TV show/game/song, or is a conversation that I want to have with someone but haven't yet. These conversations are usually pretty clear (probably since my mind is not yet in its usual cluttered state) and lead to most of my best "ah ha!" moments.

A few days ago, someone in line at the office cafeteria (who was in the office from another company for a sort of mini-conference) asked me what I do for a living. When I say "Test Automation" to most normal people, they contort their face in confusion. Suffice it to say, I have mentally earmarked the question to ruminate on in the future.

Also, this week I signed up to volunteer at my son's school. I did this last year and loved it. They give you a schedule, and for the day, you float from room to room, with each teacher putting you to work with a small group of student son whatever they need you to help with.

So combining those things, I started to think about how I'd explain what I do for a living...

"I do Test Automation, or as I say it, 'I make stuff do things all by themselves'. I write software that does things just like a user, in order to test other software. So, let me give you an idea of what that's like."

"Now, I need a volunteer." Several kids raise their hands. I choose one from the front row, and wave her up to the front of the room with me.

"What's your name?", I ask.

"Allie", she says.

"Hello Allie", I say to her with a smile, and then turn to the rest of the class. "Alright, Allie is going to be our test subject, and you all are going to by my Automation Engineers. Now, Allie, stand over there." Allie moves over to stand near a desk in a row of desks nearby.

"Okay, now engineers, listen up: the objective of this test is to get Allie to the door. In order to do that, we need to come up with an algorithm to get her there. Does anyone know what an algorithm is?"

The class stares silently, slight confused.

"An algorithm is a set of steps to perform an outcome. We need to come up with a set of steps that will get Allie to the door. So, who has an idea of how we could do that? Raise your hands if you do." I see several children think through this, and a few begin to raise their hands.

I point to a boy in the middle of the room, "She should walk down that row, make a right, and then walk to the door."

I smile, "Okay, good answer. So let's talk about what Allie knows. Does anyone know what concrete and abstract concepts are? A concrete concept is something that is real, physical, and existing in time and place. An abstract concept is something that doesn't exist in reality... an idea. So, Allie here understands concrete concepts, such as the desk, the floor, and the walls. She does not, however, understand many abstract concepts, such as what a 'row' of desks is. Let's say for simplicity, she understands directions such as forward, backward, left, and right. So... for what she doesn't understand, we need to be more explicit about."

I pause for a moment, and then ask, "So, let's try again. He's got the right idea, how do we break that down into more specific instructions?"

The kids think of a split seconds before I see a couple more hands. I point to another boy mid-line of the room.

"She should walk forward 5 desks, turn right, and then walk past 3 desks.", the boy answers with a smile.

"Good answer! Miss Allie, when I say go, I want you to do exactly what I tell you to do, okay?" She nods.

"Alright, Allie walk 5 desks forward. Count them out loud as you go and stop after the 5th desk."

She nods, and walks forward down the row in front of her, counting out as she goes, "1... 2... 3... 4... 5."

"Allie, turn right now." She turns right.

"Okay, Allie, walk forward 3 desks, counting them as you go."

She begins walking, counting "1... 2... 3.", and stops right in front of the door.

"Awesome Allie, please come back up here. Good job engineers! You have just performed what we call the 'happy path'. If the shortest, simplest, and most straightforward way to achieve our objective. Now, let's talk about what happens off the happy path. What if, Allie being here was dependent on the last test that ran, and that test didn't complete the way that should have?"

"So Allie, move one desk to your right, and one desk forward." Allie moves to the designated location. "Now Allie, follow the same instructions as before."

Allie begins to walk up the row, counting desks, but stops at 4. She turns to me confused, "There's only 4 desks."

I turn to the class, "Alright engineers, Allie has just reported an exception. She expected 5 desks, and only found 4, and now she has no idea what to do. So, we need one of three things: Either we need a set of instructions that will work wherever Allie is in the room... that would be best, or we need to check our instructions as we give them to ensure they can be followed and do something if they can't, or we need to check that Allie is where we expect her to be before we do anything and do something if she isn't."

"Now, first option is our best option as it means our test can be done any time no matter what the conditions. The second and third options are less desirable because it means that the test can't be done... which means either some poor person will have to do it by hand, which can be time consuming, or we just don't have that test, which means we don't know what will happen if some user does that. So... here is our challenge... we need a set of instructions that will get Allie to the door, no matter where she is in this room." I motion to Allie for her to come back.

You get where this is going. The challenge is having the students write adaptable, fault-tolerant code. This is a simple example of some of the types of challenges I deal with day-in and day-out; only instead of navigating students through a classroom to a door, I am simulating mouse clicks, key presses, and calling APIs to impersonate user interaction.

Who knows, maybe some day I will get to do this activity with a real class of kids.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

In which I contemplate being around people...

If this trait hasn't been well presented, know that I am an extrovert. In fact, I am so far along the extrovert scale that I need to be around people. This is no mere or simple want... it is a true need. I need the presence with others, the comfort of the crowd, the warm bustle of human beings.

I don't even have to be interacting with them... just being around people makes me feel a thousand times more at ease than being alone. Being alone is hard. I get anxious. I get bored. I get listless and I start climbing the walls.

Maybe that's why I'm here... sitting in a Starbucks, at a table for one, writing this. It's a decent alternative to sitting in the apartment alone.

Monday, February 23, 2015

In which I talk to myself, 8 years ago...

How about a writing prompt from reddit. Tonights selection is here:
Your current self and your self from 8 years ago sit down to have a chat in a cafe.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

On Eating Out and Losing Weight

A few weeks ago, my cousin and I talked about eating out and losing weight. She had originally assumed that I had stopped eating out when I started trying to lose weight last August. Quite on the contrary, I didn't stop eating out at all. I just had to change the way I approached and thought about things. From that conversation, I started thinking about some of the little lifehacks I learned, both from the dietician that I talked to, and from my own trial and error. I will share those with you here, but first...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

3 Reasons you should be watching Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet

I was flipping through a list of movies added to Netflix streaming this month, when I came across the 1996 Baz Luhrmann version of Romeo + Juliet. Immediately it was high school all over again... and while I still felt the familiar feeling that Claire Danes is, was, and will be the fox that she is now; I couldn't help shaking the dreaded feeling that it was time to go to school, I had a report due in AP English, and my poor 486 was long in the tooth. Then I remembered that its 18 years later, I have a job, and my computer is fine... and so I breathed a sigh of relief.

If somehow you missed this gem when it was in the movie theatre, and you're wondering, "Why should I watch an 18 year old Leonardo DiCaprio film?", then let me try to help you.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

My First GitHub Repo

This question on the learnpython subreddit requesting information on using Beautiful Soup prompted me to post first GitHub repo.

A few weeks ago, when the Steam Summer Sale was going on, I was faced with the same wish. I installed Beautiful Soup, and set out writing a script to parse the front page of Steam to get the list of games on sale. I envisioned this script being used as a simple console script, either run once to get the current sales, or run in a loop to get the sales and updated when the sales change.

Since my script uses Beautiful Soup, I decided to post my script, in the hopes that the other poster would learn a bit from my experience. This not not, by far, my best code... but it is functional, and I think a decent example of the subject material. Feel free to check it out yourself!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

My Conversation with Google Now

This is what I can see Google Now, Conversational Search, and more evolving into:

(Imagine I have named my Google services avatar, "Sancho")

Me: Good morning Sancho. How are you today?

Sancho: Good morning Josh. I am working within established parameters.

Me: Excellent. What's on the agenda for today?

Sancho: You have "Process Training" from 9am until 11am, "Lunch" from 11am to 12pm, and "Design Review" from 2pm until 3pm. Today is also your friend Robert's birthday.

Me: Where is the "Process Training"?

Sancho: It is at the office, in the Pinyon conference room.

Me: I have a few things to do around the house. How much time do I have?

Sancho: With current traffic conditions, you should leave by 8:30am, in 1 hour and 12 minutes.

Me: Got it. Hey, what's interesting right now?

Sancho: Checking. I see from your Music history that you like Metallica. Did you know that they are coming to town in 2 months? Let me know if you are interested in tickets. In the news, the prime minister of France is scheduled to meet with technology industry leaders yesterday, Star Trek Into Darkness is set to be released on DVD and Blu Ray, and there is a humorous viral video of a cat using Google Glass. Would you like to know more about any of those stories?

Me: Not right now, thanks.

Sancho: Is there anything else I can do for you?

Me: Yes, remind me to get flowers for the wife on the way home, and let me know if the traffic gets worse.

Sancho: I have set the reminder to get flowers for your wife on your way home. I will send a notification to your phone if travel time to work increases. Will there be anything else?

Me: No thank you.

Sancho: Excellent. Have a good day sir.

In short, I think I want Tony Stark's JARVIS from the Iron Man movies.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

System Building Lessons Learned

As promised, here are some lessons learned (or re-learned) on system building:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

In which I build a new PC...

A history of PC gaming and PC building...

Anyone who's known me for any amount of time knows that one of my main happy-makers in my non-work, non-child raising, non-husbanding time is gaming. I've been a PC gamer for a number of years, ever since I got my first PC back in 1995.
I've done 3 builds in my lifetime that I can think of, and a number of upgrades to those builds. Unfortunately, my strategy for part picking for the past few years has amounted to:
  1. What my friends have cast off that I can use
  2. What I can afford and get WOC (Wife Oversight Committee™) approval for that is better than what I have.
As a gamer, this generally left me disappointed with something that circled the low-spec realm of system requirements; and generally had me running eye-candy games at lowest settings.
This comic from XKCD sums it up my usual gaming experience:
Click this image to view the comic on If you like it, consider letting the artist know or buy something from his store.