Jon Phipps’ not-an-NSDL blog

May 25, 2007

The graduate

Filed under: Personal — Jon Phipps @ 12:46 pm

RebeccaOur younger daughter graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia last weekend with a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish, summa cum laude!

We’re very, very proud of her.

On Saturday, we had a great time wandering around the Italian Market Festival (I found myself missing the Italian neighborhood I sort of grew up in) and then to celebrate we went to dinner at Bar Ferdinand for excellent tapas and a good wine selection. Very noisy on a Saturday night, but highly recommended.

If she looks a little tired in the picture it’s because she put in a large number of all-nighters in the last few weeks.


May 15, 2007

Blogging like it’s 2003

Filed under: Personal — Jon Phipps @ 8:58 am

I have a couple of blogs that I had almost forgotten about and haven’t updated since 2003. I’m putting links here just to make it a bit easier to find them.
I’m not using the Radio Userland software anymore — it started to chew through my system resources when it was running — but they’ve been great about keeping the blog up. Radio was a great tool in its day, and maybe still is. A personal, public, secure web server on the desktop is still a pretty interesting idea.

You can also find here some stories there that I wrote in early 2002 trying to reground myself after being in NYC on 9/11. Warning: the stories are encoded in ISO-8859–1, but the pages self-identify as UTF-8 (one of the little flaws in Radio or maybe the author) so you have to change it. One of these days I’ll fix that, along with a couple of typos I just found, and also maybe post the stories somewhere else. Oh, and parts of the 9/11 story still bring tears to my eyes 5+ years later. I guess that’s a warning too.
My very first non-Userland experiment. At the time, I didn’t think much of the software or the service, so there’s only one ancient post. But I claimed it in technorati anyway. Maybe I’ll use it for something, someday.
For a brief period of time, back when I was working for NSDL Core Integration, I blogged about the NSDL on my own domain. I stopped when I left, and now the blog is lousy with comment spam. While trying to remove the spam i discovered that the version of WordPress I’m using isn’t compatible with PHP5 and my ISP kindly defaults .php to PHP5 now. Maybe I’ll fix that someday. Best I could do was turn off comments and trackbacks.

May 8, 2007

The view from 900 feet

Filed under: Personal — Jon Phipps @ 11:55 am

We have an environmentally insensitive hot tub outside in the backyard that’s surrounded on 3 sides by a ‘privacy’ fence. We also live about 4 miles from a small airport, and it’s not unusual at all to have a plane fly by at a fairly low altitude. So I didn’t pay any attention to our airspace today as I stepped out of my robe and into the hot tub, until the plane flying overhead cut his (her?) engine and circled, slowly, with my hot tub at the center of the circle. Of course I could just have been imagining that I was briefly the center of someone’s attention, but still, I looked up and waved. Then went back to watching the far more interesting barn swallows chasing each other around the yard. After completing the circle, the pilot resumed the plane’s original heading and things got quiet again.  

Sometimes there’s a lot less privacy out here in the country than there would ever be in the city.

May 4, 2007

Big projects, little time

Filed under: Personal — Jon Phipps @ 3:08 pm

This is just an observation and I certainly don’t mean to whine, but it can be pretty tough to make continuous progress on a very large project like the Registry when working half-time and half of that time is taken up with academic administrivia — writing/reading papers, conferences, grant proposals, meetings, trying to keep up with new ideas and technology.

I have nothing but admiration for anyone who manages to get something real accomplished under those circumstances. I live in somewhat constant fear that I won‘t be one of that august group.

Back to blogging

Filed under: Personal — Jon Phipps @ 3:00 pm

It’s been busy, so I haven’t been blogging. I also had some essays kicking around in my head that I just didn’t have time to write up, and so I wrote nothing. Well, the essays are still there but it’s a tad less busy so I’m going to try some small posts and see if I can get back into it.

Some of what I write will be more personal and thinking-out-loud than in the past too. So you should expect even more crap than usual.

December 7, 2006


Filed under: Personal — Jon Phipps @ 7:36 am

“Looking for an idiot at [pick any store/location] is like looking for a needle in a needle-stack”

That just makes me smile every time I read it..

May 3, 2006

The Hardest Lessons for Startups to Learn

Filed under: NSDL Registry, Personal — Jon Phipps @ 7:47 am

I find it useful to think of the grant-funded projects that I’m working on as if they were nascent startup companies. This helps me keep my head out of the typical “we’re only funded to do this research for 2 years and then we go do something else” mode and stay focused on what we really need to be doing — attracting and providing useful services to real users in a way that will keep them coming back for more — and the fact that life’s too short to just be messing around doing work that’s only ephemerally “interesting”.

In this light, Paul Graham has made a list of counterintuitive points he routinely shares with startups that’s well worth reading.

Here’s just the outline…

  1. Release Early
  2. Keep Pumping Out Features.
  3. Make Users Happy.
  4. Fear the Right Things.
  5. Commitment Is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
  6. There Is Always Room.
  7. Don’t Get Your Hopes Up.
  8. Speed, not Money

And the salient point…

“So why do I spend so much time thinking about startups? I’ll tell you why. Economically, a startup is best seen not as a way to get rich, but as a way to work faster. You have to make a living, and a startup is a way to get that done quickly, instead of letting it drag on through your whole life.

We take it for granted most of the time, but human life is fairly miraculous. It is also palpably short. You’re given this marvelous thing, and then poof, it’s taken away. You can see why people invent gods to explain it. But even to people who don’t believe in gods, life commands respect. There are times in most of our lives when the days go by in a blur, and almost everyone has a sense, when this happens, of wasting something precious. As Ben Franklin said, if you love life, don’t waste time, because time is what life is made of.

So no, there’s nothing particularly grand about making money. That’s not what makes startups worth the trouble. What’s important about startups is the speed. By compressing the dull but necessary task of making a living into the smallest possible time, you show respect for life, and there is something grand about that.”

The Hardest Lessons for Startups to Learn.

January 29, 2006

Hello world!

Filed under: Personal — Jon Phipps @ 11:22 am

Checking out a new blog and we’ll see how this goes. I’m looking at web development frameworks these days, noodling around in Python, getting much more intimate with PHP5 and MySQL5, looking a bit at PostreSQL. So there’ll be some thoughts about those things here.

Oh, and the title? My oldest blog, still amazing available, was started just after I joined the National Science Digital Library Project at Cornell (NSDL) and I called it Jon Phipps’ NSDL weblog and this one is definitely going to be not-so-NSDL oriented.

Blog at