You are viewing stuff tagged with tumbledry.


Ok, I’m about to start posting an 11-month backlog of pictures and videos. By way of explanation: I usually am off by about three months, maximum, on posting stuff we have captured with our phones. But, last fall everything came together for us to invest in a Synology DS1517+, a network-attached file server. It took me months to set the entire thing up to my liking, including storing our Photos and iTunes libraries on sparse bundles. In the meantime, posting here was on hold as those libraries were in flux.



Rash decisions always feel like sure bets before you act on them: I recently went “you know what, upgrading this server’s Ubuntu LTS won’t be a big deal — I’ve done all these package updates for the past few years with nary a hiccup… I think I’ll just purge my PPA repo (since ffmpeg is officially back in 16.04.1), open a screen session, and get going! And, for a multitasking win, I’ll do it in between seeing patients!”


Traditional Blogging

I can’t believe how much I’ve changed since I started writing this site. When I began jotting down my thoughts in 1999, I hadn’t been to high school, undergrad, or dental school. I didn’t have student loan debt. No car. No home. No bills. I paid no insurance. No paycheck. My biggest concerns were how fast the summer seemed to pass by and how much homework I found myself working on the other part of the year. My writing showed few reflections on what drove me to try so hard in school, or where I wanted to go in life. And anyway, the style of writing online at the time was simply to recount what you’d done that day, a literal journal of events, and I always talk about trying that again here but never quite seem to gather the courage to simply go back to that: “Here’s what happened today.” I always seem to be pursuing giant revelations, trite truisms articulated thoughtfully, advice to myself, or all three in an exhausting, overwrought, unholy blend. No matter how many times I edit those hackneyed paragraphs, it gets published as tangled prose, heavy writing. Let’s try the old way this week, ok?


Content and Presentation

I just finished revisiting some regex code that begins like this:

preg_match_all('%{\$([^} ]+?)}%u', $template, $templateTags);

and becomes a rather bit more complex after that. I wrote it back in 2008. That aging code was sound but needed some updating; actually, I remember walking through Saint Paul, on my way to workout at St. Thomas (at a gym that no longer exists), puzzling through the right way to do nested parsing of template code. I wanted to be able to write these nice clean templates that this chunk of code would then take a look at and replace with content. What I mean is, if you can keep content apart from presentation, you are afforded a lot of flexibility. So, if in the future webpages are written in a completely different language, or if I want to produce an archival version of the site (say, a printed book) in a different format, then this code is the bridge between raw information (content) and final output (presentation).


13 Years to 1.0: Building an 80 Year Blog

I’m 13 years in, trying to build a blog that will last my entire life. I’d like to share what I’ve learned about thinking and coding for the long term.

In late 1999, I was 14 years old, and had just spent the last few months absorbing TI BASIC and trying to grok Z80 assembly. Seeking a community of like-minded individuals, and lacking the wide net or social aspirations to find one locally, I was also hard at work assembling an archive of TI Calculator software using free web site hosts like Angelfire and Tripod. I won’t link the results because, wow, are they embarrassing.


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Tumbledry, circa 2008

I don’t have really many screenshots, mock-ups, etc. at all of what this website has looked like through the years. I do have a 9-year-old desktop computer that probably still contains those things; perhaps I will compile them sometime. Anyhow, this lack of documentation is somewhat ironic, because I run tumbledry to write about my life. Apparently, writing about myself is enough navel gazing for one place; adding another layer by contemplating the tool I’ve written for contemplation would be quite narcissistic, wouldn’t it? All that said, here’s a screenshot of how tumbledry looked not too long ago:



Eleven days ago, my piece about serving millions of hits with limited resources hit the top of the popular Hacker News website. The visits to tumbledry went from 42 the day before the article to 29,000 the day after. Since then, comment spam has been continually left by what are most likely automatic little programs called bots.



An experiment in my writing: parsimony of language. I’ll be trying to say more with fewer words because I’ve picked up a bad habit of mid-level writers: upon learning four ways to state an idea, use all four instead of choosing the best! Such writing is a recipe for boring communication.

9 million hits/day with 120 megs RAM

Here’s a quick summary if you haven’t time to read the whole thing:

Solaris 5.11 (virtual: Joyent SmartMachine)
PHP 5.3.6 with PHP-FPM: 4 instances running, 10meg APC cache
nginx 0.8.53
Pax 1.0 (my silly self-coded website software… and yes, oops there’s already software with that name)
120 megs of RAM used
Load tested using blitz.io: 9 million+ daily hit capability


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Happiness Limits

Since the humidity and heat decided to die down for a day, it has been feeling downright cool outside — 70° with a pleasant breeze. Things smell different — there’s a crispness that isn’t fall but isn’t the oppressive July heat, either.

Halfway through yet another rotation (pediatric dentistry), I’m beginning to realize that there is a point in my life when I’ll be done with dental school. At that point, I’ll have a world of options in front of me. Like a river delta opening into the ocean, my life will have 1000 directions where there once was one. Invigorating, right? Well, I suppose. More on that in a minute. Here’s something I wrote almost four years ago, on the private changelog for my software that powers tumbledry:


Screw Hashbangs: Building the Ultimate Infinite Scroll

I’m just a student in a field unrelated to computer science, but I’ve been coding for years as a hobby. So, when I saw the current state of infinite scroll, I thought perhaps I could do something to improve it. I’d like to share what I came up with.


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Tumbledry 1.0

And here we are. A brand new design for a… well it was going to be “for a new year”, but that didn’t work out so well. Anyhow, I’ll be squashing software bugs and refining things over the next few days.

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Tumbledry Teaser

The following image is a teaser for the new tumbledry. It was cropped from the top right of the new design.


The actual new tumbledry is decidedly less bovine than this image might indicate.

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For about the past twelve months, I’ve been convinced that I could design a better tumbledry than the one you see in front of you. With help from Mykala, Hoefler & Frere Jones, and Dive Into HTML5, that idea of improvement is becoming reality. I’m excited.

Looking Back

I wrote this meditation on attitude nearly seven years ago. Reading past the grammatical errors, attempts at grandiose style, and overwrought imagery, I think there’s some nascent wisdom.


Regardless, right now I’m listening to the Norah Jones song I referenced in there. It’s like stepping back in time to my Cretin Hall dorm room. Seems like another lifetime. Seven years ago.

Changing course

Using this website, I can tell you that 7 years, 4 months, 26 days have passed since I got stung by a bee during a power outage at my high school.

These types of posts are not exactly what I had in mind for tumbledry. I’d like to look back on old posts and see how I was feeling, not necessarily what exactly happened. A journal primarily of emotions and secondarily of events is going to be much more fun to look through in 10 years.


When John Gruber linked my piece on unscientific laptop repair numbers just before Thanksgiving, traffic at tumbledry jumped significantly. It was fun to finally, truly test my homebrew website code (when Gruber links a site, the traffic tends to crash the site of interest) — I’m happy that the code I wrote can survive a decently large torrent of traffic. How large? Year over year on November 24, traffic here was up 30,000%.



dooce just opened the community section of her website. Looks really cool! Her quote:


Is exactly what it feels like to get a website (no matter how small) live. Now then, back to studying.


Did some code refactoring here at tumbledry over the past few weeks, and fixed a few bugs, too. If anything isn’t working right, please let me know! I’ll be updating server software here soon, and then I’ll have no time to think about tumbledry maintenance for another 11 months!


Upcoming Anniversary

The public archives of tumbledry go back to my embarrassingly rudimentary scrawling in October, 1999. By that calendar, we’ll turn 10 in October of this year. However, I only registered the domain tumbledry.org on July 22, 2003. At the time, I was smack in the middle of leaving high school times for college life. My intensely narrow understanding of the world around me expanded agonizingly slowly; however, something during that time made me think it would be a good idea to hop on the evolving internet and get a proper website going. Before that, this space was called “Alex’s Website.” I’ve some mortifying splash pages from that era. Perhaps I’ll share those if I get time. Before that, dating to sometime around the beginning of 1999, I put together a site called TI Chip. It was mostly an archive of 1200+ calculator programs. I loved piecing together websites on Angelfire and Tripod, two free hosting sites of the day.


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