What I Did on my Winter Vacation

This entry was posted by on Tuesday, 2 January, 2007 at

Lots of things!

I spent a lot of time rolling on the floor with my son. That’s good.

I did a bunch of work on a new 2nd Edition of the Subversion Book, which is busy being updated to send off to O’Reilly in the spring. We’re not only updating it to cover Subversion 1.3 and 1.4 features, but doing a pretty big reorganization of the outline and topics as well. We’re also going to put a bunch of “best practices” recommendations into it, which people have been asking for.

I start experimenting with new features on my camera, which I discussed in a previous post. Lots of fun.

I finally finished my wife’s Cookbook Recipe Database, now online at last! It only took me four years and four complete restarts to get it done! First I wrote a bunch of homemade LAMP stuff (my own SQL stuff, my own python object model, my own CGI scripts…), but it turned into a huge mess. Then I tried Zope, but that was too complex for me. Then I tried Plone , which was great, but pretty much overkill. I wasn’t writing a content management system, just a simple web-based database. Finally I discovered Django, which is effectively “Python on Rails”. It was exactly the wheel I had been trying to invent way back in my first attempt! In a matter of an hour or two, I had crafted the whole database in some simple python declarations. Anyway, all the site needs now is some CSS, poor ugly thing.

I supercharged my banjo during the break too. After nine months of playing the one, I finally put new strings on the beast. And while on vacation in North Carolina, I discovered brass fingerpicks in a store (instead of the usual nickel ones)… as well as metal thumbpick, instead of the usual plastic ones. Finally, as a holiday gift I got a torque wrench that allows me to evenly tighten all the screws on my drum head to a precise tension. So between the tightened head, the brass picks, and the new strings, the banjo sounds even better than when I first got it. At last Friday’s jam, someone said it sounded “like a laser beam” from across the room. Woo!

4 Comments to What I Did on my Winter Vacation

  1. eric h says:

    January 2nd, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Are you telling me you can hear the difference between nickel and brass finger picks?!

  2. Mark says:

    January 2nd, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    I’d be surprised if he couldn’t–just about any alteration in the composition of the pick on a guitar makes a significant difference in sound, and I would assume it’s the same with a banjo. It’s funny, this is something you never hear much about, but string players can get really obsessed over their picks. Some of it is no doubt psychosomatic (or just plain psycho), but there really is an audible change (probably partly due to the material’s interaction w/the string and partly due to subtle changes in technique caused by changes in weight and feel).

    For the record, it’s Clayton Black Jazz .80s for me when playing Trad melodies, and either Black Jazz .63s or Dunlop ‘Turtle’ .71s for acoustic rhythm or any electric guitar.

  3. Ben Collins-Sussman says:

    January 2nd, 2007 at 11:19 pm

    Yeah, there’s definitely a difference between nickel and brass. I should post an mp3 comparison for people to hear.

    What’s really killer, though, is upgrading the thumbpick from plastic to metal. The thumb tends to hit most of the downbeats in the music, and suddenly it went from a ‘tubby’ sound to a ‘laser twang’ sound. It’s amazing!

  4. Pierrick LE GALL says:

    January 3rd, 2007 at 4:41 am

    About Subversion Book version 2 Ben said:

    > We’re also going to put a bunch of “best practices” recommendations
    > into it, which people have been asking for.

    Great, I’m one of this people having asked you this addition 🙂 Thanks for taking this request into account.