Friday, September 07, 2012

DjangoCon 2012

We met in Crystal City this year, adjacent Reagan Airport.  I came and went on US Airways.  Election fever was in the air, or at least lots of political theater.  I took a break from the MVP party in Steve's suite, to see what the prez had to say.  Then back up the elevator for more jocular banter.  I'd supplied the booze, though I knew my taxi driver had religious practices that forbade him to deal in alcohol.  He wasn't, these were separate transactions (cab fare versus supermarket).  Hyatt again.

I was most fortunate to reconnect with Glenn Baker, high school chum in the Philippines.  He'd been in Vienna, Virginia before Manila, in India, Turkey and Pakistan before that, another expat brat, like me.  His dad was USIS when I knew them, mine USAID, former UN, a free lancer.  My dad'd also worked for the Libyans, the Egyptians and the Swiss.  Glenn stayed with our family that time we were living in DC and I was rather newly into the Bucky stuff.  Glenn got a job with CDI, and formed better relations with Cuba.  I went on in software, developing applications in a proprietary Microsoft language (acquired, formerly FoxPro 2, another in the xBase genre), then migrated to Python, which is what brought me here, courtesy of The Open Bastion and my day job.

In supplying some drinks (including Dead Guy Ale) for this party, I was contributing as a private citizen to an event.  The Django Software Foundation (DSF) never commits funds for alcohol purchase (I think that's a bylaw) and some of its core developers have no use for the stuff.  This doesn't mean Django the product can't be used by gambling establishments that serve drinks.  The software license is one of freedom, and open source.  Coffee shops that offer games of skill and practice for charitable cause funding, are welcome to use Django.

Glenn and I checked out The Artisphere in Rosslyn, closed on Labor Day, where he spotted a friend of his in the lineup of exhibitors.  Then we found ourselves in Georgetown, almost by accident, exploring the "Exorcist steps".  This will be the topic of my presentation at our next staff Show & Tell I'm pretty sure.  These don't happen often (last one:  Bodega Bay, backdrop for Hitchcock's The Birds).  As The Story of Film remembers, The Exorcist pioneered new ground in helping audience members go crazy and faint or whatever it was (some kind of religious frenzy, as if possessed by some spirit).

I learned a lot about the limitations of current web technology.  Stuff I thought had become seamless, is far from it.  The question, from an engineering standpoint, is whether you're looking at JSON or HTTP stuff on the wire.  A Twitter or one of those will load the HTML and then just puppet with JSON, using web sockets or whatever.  That's right, up to our ears in geek speak as usual, happy to have our own language.  I sat next to such creatures at Princeton in the cafeteria, shyly with my tray, wondering what they were yammering about.  Was it English?  Maybe not quite?

At least the gender gap is closing.  Many other gaps are strongly in evidence.  PyLadies invited Steve for breakfast.  I was "slaying the Q" that morning (shop talk).  I was grateful to sit in on many of the talks.  FoxPro was SQL intensive, still is (a language for writing thick clients -- can also work server side).  I think a lot about Trucking (as in Truckology) in this context, not exclusively about medical data.

The talk on credit card industry standards, PCI, and the difference between A and D status, was enlightening.  To certify as a D, meaning you warehouse credit card info, is no easy task.  The Web offers many solutions, with more to come, whereby an A status merchant can sell to a cardholder without card numbers ever hitting her or his persistent storage devices.  This makes life much easier, should auditing happen.

I actually managed to space out my return date and lucked out, thanks to Expedia guy and US Airways.  Usually same day fares on busy flights are unavailable to exorbitant.  I was glad to help with ground control remotely by cell, when Lindsey's mom's plane came in late (LW, our visiting scholar and blog character -- and strong athlete in the "lifestyle Olympics").  I kept burners warm at the Math Forum, cooking up some steamy STEM stew (I think with a good aroma, healthful fare).

Eric Sterling proved an interesting interlocutor, one of our keynote speakers.  He joined our party at the top of the Hyatt, with our friends from Brazil, other places, and held forth on Quakers and Quaker history in an engaging manner.  His first job upon leaving college was with WILPF, where my mom works to this day.  Fascinating guy.  That's the kind you'll meet around DC if you're lucky.

Burning Man proved a theme, somewhat unexpectedly.  Ties within the Django community were somewhat anticipated (by me) but in the rear view mirror it makes sense.  "More Monty Python jokes and allusions in the literature" was one of the popularly agreed upon resolutions, at least in the circle I was lurking in.  My perspective is limited, as always.  Good hearing from Gagus (his Google name), my student in Indonesia.