Why I’m Not at Ruby East Today

Posted by amy on September 28, 2007

I am supposed to be at Ruby East right now, but, coincidentally, just like the other, more well-known Amy in the Rails world, I’m not there.

I had hoped to go to learn some new Ruby and Rails tricks, and to meet some people I’ve only met online, like Gregory Brown, and generally schmooze. Several-day conferences are not feasible for nursing moms (at least, not for this nursing mom, although I’m sure there are some moms somewhere who’ve done it), so there was no hope of going to RailsConf in May, or to RubyConf in November. I thought a one-day conference not too far away might be do-able.

I am sure that some people could have managed it; for me, it turned out to be logistically impossible. The four-year-old was going to stay at his grandparents’ house for two nights; they would have had to take him to preschool this morning, to which he is still adjusting, and to French class on Saturday morning. Max and I and the baby were to drive six hours to the outskirts of Philly yesterday afternoon, spend the night, and then I was to go to the conference, armed with a breast pump, and Max was to entertain Aya tooling around Philly all day, giving her bottles of milk I’d already pumped and frozen. Then he’d pick me up, we’d both go to Ales and Rails with Aya, and drive 6 hours home on Saturday.

Wednesday night came and I was out till 10 pm at the Ruby and Rails course I am helping to teach at Harvard Extension School. Aya had gone on a bottle-feeding strike and was hungry. I was tired; the course is great, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it, but being out at night is not my favorite thing in the whole wide world. There had been no packing of anyone’s things; I did not have much of a milk reserve in the freezer, and what I had I didn’t know if Aya would take, Ari has needed extra attention lately to help him with his preschool transition, and Max and I both hate, hate, hate long drives. So we called the whole thing off.

I keep thinking there should have been some way I could have managed it anyway. If it had been more crucial I’m sure I could have. We all would have survived. But in the end the schmooze and learning opportunity was not enough for me to make the extra push to get there. There will be other conferences in other years when my kids are older.

Every so often the Ruby community wonders where all the women are: why aren’t more women coming to conferences and user group meetings? And lots of reasons get tossed around, some (though definitely a minority) of them incredibly offensive and people argue about how many women are really out there in the community, and some people point out that most women, even those working full-time jobs outside their homes, are still the primary caregiver in their households. This means that getting to evening and out-of-town events outside of work, things that are a little bit more optional, is going to be harder for them. I’m not even working outside of my home full-time right now, and I would definitely say that Max and I are in the rare and enviable position of actually sharing childcare pretty much equally (though the balance has been different in the past, and will doubtless be again sometime). Still, I’m the one with the mammary glands, so there are some commitments I just can’t (and don’t want to) get out of. I am lucky not to have had to go to court, like this woman in my town did, to meet those commitments.

So there are women in the community (the Ruby and Rails course, for example, appears to be about 20% women, though course numbers haven’t stabilized yet because of Harvard’s complicated add/drop policies), but they’re not necessarily visible at community events. Like the Ruby East conference, at which I am not, currently, visible.

Popularity: 12% [?]

Beware Trac and Unicode

Posted by max on September 25, 2007

I just blew a frightening amount of time (mostly unbilled) tracking down the most aggravating problem I’ve seen in a while.

The way that the “production” version of Trac (which is at 0.10) works with Unicode is a bit dim. Somewhere laced in there it likes to use the default encoding of latin-1 instead of utf-8. (It’s not in the standard siteconfig.py location, though.)

The errors I was getting when trying to sync Trac to the SVN repository were like this:

2007-09-16 22:51:59,995 Trac[cache] WARNING: Revision 11 already cached: 'latin-1' codec can't encode character u'\ufffd' in position 43: ordinal not in range(256)

I tried a number of approaches, including rebuilding swig, subversion, python, and some others. None solved the damn problem, though I obviously encountered new ones along the way. Amy managed to refocus me properly on the goal by verifying that the problem was indeed caused by Unicode characters in filenames the Subversion repository, and by picking at the Trac code that inserts SVN data into its database. In attacking that problem I converted the Trac database to the utf-8 character set from latin-1, which would have been a problem. That still didn’t fix it, though.

It wasn’t until I tried resyncing using trac 0.11dev’s trac-admin tool that it finally worked.

Trac’s site does warn that 0.10 still has some problems with Unicode. There’s even a ticket pointing out a fix which I really didn’t want to apply myself, knowing it would get rebroken at some point. (One commenter noted that “this should be backported to the 0.10 line”, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to have happened.)

Update: I’m fairly confident that, had I started with a utf8 MySQL database to begin with instead of latin1, I would have avoided all of these woes. But that wasn’t my starting point. (Fun fact: Python calls them “latin-1″ and “utf-8″, while MySQL calls them “latin1″ and “utf8″. Strangely enuf, that difference didn’t cause me any problems.)

Popularity: 12% [?]

Fun Facts about Rails: nil.blank?

Posted by amy on September 02, 2007

$ script/console
Loading development environment.
>> nil.blank?
=> true
>> ''.blank?
=> true
>> [].blank?
=> true

That’s useful, but I had either never read it, or had read it and forgotten it. Apparently I’m not the only one.

Popularity: 15% [?]