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The future of the government forges

The GSA is currently planning, which is widely assumed to be based on, the much-discussed collaboration platform from the Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA. is a pretty incredible idea: a single destination for testing, certification, and software development in the Defense Department.

It sounds obvious, but the idea remains revolutionary. For the first time, there would be a single repository for source code that could be shared between the hundreds of agencies, commands, and programs in DOD. Developers would be able to share their work in a familiar, web-based environment. A previous version of was pulled for unknown reasons, but the current iteration is based on the TeamForge product from CollabNet. If you’ve used SourceForge, you get the idea. The DOD is the largest consumer, and one of the largest developers of software in the world. Much of this software is redundant, locked up by vendors and integrators, can’t work with other software, and nobody remembers how to maintain it. There’s no doubt was long overdue.

Billy Graham’s Hard-Drinking Granddaddy’s House

Billy Graham’s Hard-Drinking Granddaddy’s House

Originally uploaded by Gunnar Hellekson

I wasn’t expecting to see this today, and certainly didn’t seek it out, but I’m glad I stumbled on it. It is, by the way, in the same town in which you can find the remnants of the PTL.

Google contacts in mutt and vim

I’m a long-time fan of the mutt email client. I’ve probably been using it for ten years. It’s quick, text-based, and does precisely what I want. I’ve been using the vim text editor for even longer than that.

In using mutt and vim, though, I surrender some of the convenience of a mail client like Thunderbird, or Outlook, which are fully integrated with contacts and calendars. Fortunately, mutt and vim make it easy to solve my own problem.

Finding Contacts

First, install goobook. It’s a python script that lets you easily query Google Contacts. Goobook returns results in abook format, which is great if you’re using that companion utility for mutt to provide email addresses to mutt before you draft your email. I prefer to just hit compose and get a blank email and fill in the To:, Cc:, etc. myself.

So what I want is to hit a key while I’m editing a message, have vim read the word that I’m on, and autocomplete that word based on my Google Contacts. First order of business is fixing the output of Goobook to something useful, which I do with this little script:


If I title this wrong, it will diminish the beauty of the photo.

[via ffffound]

My Latest Trip to New York

I’ve been there quite a lot, lately. This last weekend’s highlight was a spectacular time on the High Line.

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Didn’t Want To Let Go

Paige Bennethum holding the hand of her father during muster.

[HT: Neatorama]

My Toast at Chris and Carolyn’s Wedding

This weekend, I was lucky enough to be the best man at my friend Chris’ wedding. It’s the first time I’ve actually been part of a wedding party. The scariest part, for me, was the toast at the rehearsal dinner. It wasn’t the presentation that had me worried, it was the content. I wasn’t sure if it should funny, embarrassing, sentimental, or what blend of the three.

Two or three weeks before the wedding, though, a good friend sent along an essay by Andre Dubus, “Charon’s Wharf”. It spoke to me immediately. So here’s what I read at the dinner.

Tilt-Shift: Leave it to the experts.

I first ran into this tilt-shift effect in Harper’s Magazine a few years ago. You make a regular photograph look like a photo of small things taken by a macro lens. This is done by messing with the “focus” of the photo. Done right, the subject looks like an impossibly elaborate model.

I like that this is playing with assumptions that are built on artifacts of a technology. If macro lens users could have avoided it, they wouldn’t have so much of the photo out of focus. But they must, so they learn to use it to their advantage and we, the audience, grow to understand the fuzziness of macro shots as part of our shared visual language. And then Photoshop turns all that upside-down. Sweet.

Vincent Lafloret has my favorite example of this:

If I was better at model building, I’d do a series of photograph pairs, one of something real, post-processed with this tilt-shift effect, paired with a photo of a model with a macro lens.

Instead, thanks to, I started playing with the treatment with some photos I’d already taken.

So this photo from inside the Basilica in Montserrat:

Meridian Hill Park: Full of Fail.

Meridian Hill Park, which is also known as Malcolm X Park, is at 16th Street NW and W Street NW in Washington, DC. It was built from 1914 to 1936. I had been told that it was created as part of a campaign to make Washington the host of the Prime Meridian. Many cities were vying for the privilege of hosting the arbitrary marker, and in the same way that a city will build a stadium to encourage the Olympic Committee, Washington organized Meridian Hill Park.

Here’s a shot that captures the… sloppiness that can be found there:

Though it’s a little down-at-the-heels, Meridian Hill Park still has an air of importance. Even if it’s an importance that’s mostly forgotten. For that reason, I think it’s a very romantic place.

Or so I thought. Wikipedia tells me that I’m wrong. Completely.

“Meridian” in “Meridian Hill Park” does not refer to the Prime Meridian. It actually refers to the “Washington Meridian“, which runs through the US Naval Observatory. Somehow, it cuts through the Observatory and through the park, 10 blocks east, where we find this plaque: