Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Single Consonant

I was really taken aback when Lux started saying "buh buh buh" recently. It shouldn't have been surprising—I think it's pretty much normal for six months—but something about those particular syllables seemed suddenly grown up, in a way that none of the previous half-year of sounds had stood out.

The sound "b" is plosive, and of course Wikipedia identifies it properly as a voiced bilablial plosive: made by both lips, sounded by the vocal chords, and resulting from a released stop in airflow. And no, you don't find this sound anywhere else in the animal kingdom.

It's interesting that six months of shrieks and wails and cries and howls and gurgles and giggles and coos had not until now produced a sound which was uniquely human. Suddenly, with the introduction of this particular consonant, Lux's burblings become personal: quite literally, she's a person now—from a speech perspective.

Here's Lux on day 203:

Day 203

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Yahoo! and Hadoop

I loved this recent post from Eric Baldeschwieler on the Yahoo! Developer Blog. Eric heads up the Hadoop effort at Yahoo!, and sums up why the company has nearly 100 people working on the project. What does Yahoo! get from this investment in open source?

  • help recruiting world-class scientists;
  • help building Hadoop and new tools;
  • access to trained talent, and easier collaboration;
  • avoiding obsolescence; and
  • good will from doing good.

This was music to my ears. A year ago when making the transition from Google to Twitter I published a couple of posts about this exact issue. In "Learning or Earning" I wrote

Over time, though, [the proprietary] advantage naturally erodes in relative terms. The open source stack grows ever thicker and by now includes pieces of technology like Cassandra, ZooKeeper, HDFS and Pig (and indeed the Hadoop project in general). The principles of huge-scale computing on commodity hardware are being better understood, and the open stack becomes ever-more viable for real-world work.

As the gap between commodity and proprietary narrows, the downsides of a homegrown stack become increasingly palpable. It takes longer to migrate acquired companies to your platform. There's no liquid talent market into which to tap when hiring. Maintaining a custom toolchain becomes burdensome. You risk making your engineers feel like outsiders in the broader tech community—ironically despite the hyper-advanced technology with which they work. Your existing employees may even resist or resent developing skills which aren't marketable elsewhere.
and I'm chuffed to hear directly from Yahoo! that the theory is true in practice, and converts into measurable value at the company level.

At Twitter I use Hadoop to analyze interesting tweeting phenomena. I get personal value from the fact that for Pig and Hadoop there's a public community of users producing amazing documentation, best practices, tips and tricks and tutorials on the technology. You don't get that when working on a proprietary framework.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Golden Gate National Cemetery

I've been to the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno twice now. I went for the first time in July 2010, just before Lux was born. I took a set I was proud of that time but I knew I'd be back.

I finally made it down there last weekend, with Lux in tow and now just over six months old. We spent an hour or so wandering around the 162 acres, in amazing February sunshine. I took another set of pictures, and here are a few:

National Cemetery

There are a few more on Flickr.