Zope

Chris Ayer, Rebecca Haviland and Chris Anderson at a House Concert

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Two weeks ago I announced that we were no longer involved with Zope Corporation. That was supposed to mean not driving up and down I95 every month. Apparently, our love of music and friends didn’t get the message. Winking smile

Lindsie Davis runs regular house concerts. We’ve been lucky to have attended three of them (including last night). In addition to loving every one of the shows, we’ve become good friends with Lindsie, which in the long run (even the short run) is more valuable to us.

Update: Lindsie just forwarded three photos that she took. We’re in two of them. I’ll post the first here, then the others down below.

LindsieLoisRebeccaHaviland

Before we knew we’d be out of Zope, we were discussing coming to Lindsie’s next show, which she was trying to put together but hadn’t set a date yet. By the time the date was set, we were already out, but we decided to make the trip, and turn it into a going away party as well. I’ll cover the party aspect briefly after capturing my thoughts about the show itself.

Rebecca Haviland and Chris Anderson opened the show. They have now named their group Rebecca Haviland and Whiskey Heart (I guess that makes Chris’ name: Whiskey Heart). It works for me, but I’m probably just going to call him Whiskey from now on. Winking smile

RebeccaHavilandAndWhiskeyHeart

We see them perform a bunch, recently in a variety of configurations, but I have to admit that I was still taken by surprise last night (a most pleasant surprise). On March 21st, we saw them perform as a duo (for the first time) at Watercolor Café. The big difference last night was no vocal microphones.

Rebecca and Chris each had their instruments (electric guitar and electric bass respectively) plugged into amps. But, they had them dialed softly (perfectly). That Rebecca’s amazing voice could easily be heard above the amps was not a surprise. That Chris sang loud enough to be so perfectly balanced with Rebecca was the giant surprise. They sounded better together vocally than at any previous show. That means that Chris will have to sing louder, or the sound guy will need to crank him more, at future full band shows.

ChrisAnderson

The acoustics were perfect and every song was fantastic. After missing If You at the last show, they performed it last night. Even though it was new to probably 95% of the people in the room (it was a very well attended show!), this was the best crowd participation in singing the Oh, oh oh oh oh part (along with me, of course). Really great!

RebeccaHaviland

Whenever Rebecca was tuning, she was quite funny telling us stories and informing us that this was her first-ever house concert performance! I’m willing to bet that it won’t be her last. I have a strong suspicion that she had every bit the blast that we in the audience did. Chris Anderson is an old pro at this. In fact, he was at all of the previous house concerts that we attended at Lindsie’s.

ChrisAndersonRebeccaHaviland

After their set, Lindsie announced that there would be a 10-minute break to eat the amazing desserts and stretch the legs. Those rarely last only 10 minutes, so I was impressed that this one was officially ended (with blinking lights) at the 14-minute mark. Well done running a tight ship Lindsie!

PartOfTheZopeGang

Chris Ayer took to the stage (OK, the front of the room) and captivated everyone with his incredible songs, voice and guitar play.

ChrisAyer

Chris always gets a ton of requests for particular songs (many of them long out of his regular rotation). He told us about one guy in Europe who took to the Interwebz to hammer Chris when he didn’t get his desired song. That dude needs to chill (see, I’m still young at heart). Winking smile

Last night, Chris decided to finally perform two songs he’s been promising someone for a while now (two different people, if I understood, both of whom were at the show). One was Opening and the other was Warmer. Bravo! It’s such a treat to hear great songs that rarely get played live nowadays.

As with Rebecca, whenever Chris was tuning, he had us cracking up. Aside from his typical tuning, he complained that the capo the guy at The Guitar Center talked him into was a bad choice. I noticed it once, it doesn’t put equal pressure across the fret, so Chris had to play with it to tighten it, but also compensated by retuning the string it wouldn’t catch. That gave him plenty of time to make us laugh.

ChrisAyerTuning

While I could recite Rebecca’s set list by heart (but won’t), Chris provided his official set list for Lois to photograph:

ChrisAyerSetListChrisAyerSetListFlipped

Our host with the performers:

RebeccaHavilandChrisAndersonChrisAyerLindsie

Our host with us and Chris Anderson:

ChrisAndersonLoisHadarLindsie

It was a great show, well worth the long drive down (unreal traffic once we got into Friday afternoon Washington rush hour). Afterward, we headed to our friends’ house in Leesburg, where we spent the night (and where I’m now typing this). Shortly I’ll be off to watch the older son play baseball (he’ll be the starting pitcher) and then after lunch, the long trek home.

OurGreetingParty

Back to the party aspect of last night. We reached out to a bunch of current and former Zope employees and their families. 15 of us met for dinner at Portabellos in Arlington. Wow, such a great meal, excellent company and everyone in the restaurant was nice and treated us very well.

PortabellosDinnerParty

After the meal, 13 of us headed to the house concert. So, Zope was very well represented at the show. In a nice twist, one of the current Zope employees (Satchit) won the merch raffle, so he walked away with two of Chris Ayer’s CDs and two of Rebecca’s. Score!

SatchitRebeccaHavilandChrisAyerSatchit

An absolutely fantastic night, beginning to end. So glad we never hesitated to make this long drive to implant those memories.

AnneDonFamilyMembers

Starting a new life, Post Zope Corporation

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Starting a new chapter is a common expression. Lois and I have had a different expression to describe the transformations we’ve experienced as a couple and as individuals, over the 30 years that we’re together. We say we’ve lived many lives. We’re about to start a new life (to us, not just a new chapter in an existing one).

In 1997 I contacted Digital Creations, a small Python shop in Fredericksburg, VA, to ask if they were looking for an investment. I was looking to put some personal money into an innovative software company. We hit it off, but I was new and naïve about angel investing and they were overly-cautious and the deal never happened.

I fully credit my involvement with that initial failure for giving me the taste for technology venture capital. A couple of months after our deal disintegrated, I made my first investment. That turned into me founding a venture capital firm. I never lost my interest or desire to be involved with Digital Creations. I approached them again in 1998. Digital Creations ended up being the fourth investment in my new VC firm.

In 2001, we renamed the company Zope Corporation, to reflect the success that our product, Zope, had in the market. Most of the people reading this will probably have never heard of Digital Creations.

Also in 2001, the company repurchased the shares of two venture capital firms that invested in late 2000. That left the company with limited financial resources in a very difficult time. Lois and I dedicated ourselves to operational roles to help rebuild the company. We believed that we were making a one-year commitment to working at/with/for the company. Here we are, nearly 11 years later.

Back in 2001, it was my idea to make the offer to buy out the other VCs. This time, my old playbook was employed by rest of the management team, who felt that they were in a position to make me a similar offer. After working out myriad details, a deal was struck. The transaction closed yesterday afternoon.

Lois and I are no longer involved with Zope Corporation, after it was the central part of our working lives in our most recent past life.

We wish them continued success in everything they do, as a company and as individuals who we have known and loved for a very long time.

A natural question is “What will you do in your next life?”. The honest answer is I have no idea. After all, I’m a newborn again. I have some time before I’m expected (or able) to walk. Come talk to me when I’m crawling and we’ll see if a plan has formed.

Girlyman at Birchmere

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This time around, we only had to wait a day to see Girlyman again. I’m glad to say we made it. 😉

While Gravity Lounge is a small, intimate place, Birchmere is cavernous. The other difference is that Gravity Lounge is concert style seating (everyone facing the stage) and Birchmere is dining table style (most people have a shoulder facing the stage and need to twist to have a full stage view).

Birchmere can seat 650 people. Given the economic hard times, and the generic fact that Girlyman’s style of music (Alt-Folk/Pop) doesn’t typically draw gigantic crowds (though it most definitely should!), I was marginally worried that the place might feel a bit empty.

I should have had more faith (after all, they sold out the Barns at Wolftrap in March, a nearby venue that seats 400!). We sat right up against the stage, so it was a little hard to gauge an accurate count (though I tried). My best guess is that there were at least 350 people there, possibly 400+. That generated the same feel as a sold out house, because there are many tables that are way off to the sides, and the entire center section (the bulk) had very few empty seats.

The show had a similar feel to the night before. However, as I expected (and was delighted to be correct), Girlyman mixed it up enough to keep it fresh even for the few of us (possibly just Lois and me?) that saw them on consecutive nights. The set list had at least three additions to it, and the one song that was on the set list the night before, but wasn’t played (James Dean) was done last night.

In addition, the requests that they played last night were different, so there were at least a half dozen different numbers. The tuning songs were different too, but there were actually fewer of them both nights than usual. I ascribe that to there being more new material, which might not require as many drastic re-tunings of the guitars/banjo/mandolin as the older stuff. Here’s a photo of a tuning song:

Girlyman Tuning Song

Girlyman Tuning Song

The music was fantastic (the acoustics at the Birchmere are wonderful). Their banter (and general stage presence) was perfect as well. In fact, playing to a significantly larger crowd can make the banter more difficult, since comedic tastes can be that much more varied, and there’s a slight reduction in intimacy. That wasn’t a problem, as the crowd universally and uniformly ate up every bit of the act, which fed the energy on the stage.

It’s hard (if not impossible) to describe a song. Lois really wants me try, so here goes. 🙂

One of their newer songs is Everything’s Easy (it’s on their new/current Live CD). It’s a great song in general, but also very special. Each of them sings one verse alone. Nate starts, then Ty sings a different melody. Doris sings a dramatically different melody (alone as well, the first time). Then, after blending together a bit, and starting to build in volume (and passion), they sing simultaneously (in harmony), but each singing their own verse.

Not only are they singing wildly different words, they are singing entirely different tunes (as opposed to singing in a normal harmony, where you are mostly just offset from the main melody). It’s stunning. The focus that they each need to maintain is incredible, but we shouldn’t care if it’s hard for them, we should care whether the result is sonically gorgeous. It is, in every way. Bravo!

If you’re interested in checking it out, go to their MySpace page, and the second song (at least as of this writing) is Everything’s Easy. Enjoy!

When they got to the request section (they do that at every show), I yelled (twice, at the top of my lungs) Hold It All At Bay. I was only five feet away from Doris, perhaps 10 from Ty, so I know they heard me. Unfortunately, lots of other people yelled out lots of other song requests, and I don’t think I heard any other requests for Hold It All At Bay.

I love so many of their songs so much, that it somehow feels silly to say “My favorite song of theirs is Hold It All At Bay”. And yet, I can say it with no caveat or hesitation. While there may be two dozen close seconds, from the first second I heard that song, it remains the most played song on my iPod, and it moves me (lyrically and musically) each and every time I listen to it.

I hadn’t heard them sing it live in a while, and I fully expected to miss out again last night. While I might never be sure, I want to believe that they chose to give me a personal gift when they decided to play Hold It All At Bay for the first request. They couldn’t have played it better! Thank you Girlyman! 🙂

Since they knew that they didn’t pick the most called for song, they were kind enough (and connected enough with their audience) to select another song for a request after that as well.

They closed the show with Joyful Sign. When they returned for the encore (as the result of a standing ovation) they played Nate’s new song (the one I didn’t know the title of in yesterday’s post). I think he didn’t mention the title last night either, but he did give the same cute intro. Lois and I are calling the song “My Eyes Get Misty” until we hear differently. They skipped the typical Girlyman Benediction song (which I love) and went straight to their stock closing number Son Of A Preacher Man (which they nail, every time!).

In total, they were on stage for 110 minutes. This was fantastic. It wasn’t just the extra five minutes over the night before, but they also came on later due to the opening act (different from the night before) being on stage significantly longer.

Girlyman

Girlyman

The opening act last night was Chelsea Lee (we didn’t know there would be one until we showed up). She came out at 7:30pm accompanied by Todd Wright on guitar (and harmony). Chelsea has a stunning voice, truly extraordinary. Todd is a good rhythm guitarist, whose voice complements Chelsea’s on their harmonies, perfectly. Unfortunately, since she’s the star, and they’re not officially a duo, he doesn’t sing nearly enough with her. Not that her voice isn’t amazing all by itself (it most definitely is), but their blended voices are even better.

Chelsea Lee

Chelsea Lee

As spectacular as Chelsea’s voice is, her material (mostly, if not all written by her) doesn’t live up to the same standard. It’s actually reasonably repetitive, both in general feel/sound, as well as brooding theme. She would do better playing in a real Blues Club (in my opinion) than in a place like the Birchmere. She’s a cross between Blues and Jazz. While Todd’s guitar playing complemented her really well, I couldn’t help but think that if there was a soulful grand piano accompanying her, in a blues club setting, she might have come across more authentically.

Todd did something that perhaps other musicians do regularly on stage, but I am generally unaware of the technique. Because we sat so close to him, I was able to see it clearly (this time). On one number, he clicked a switch with his sneaker on a board full of switches. Apparently, that started recording what he was playing. After a few bars, he clicked another switch and the previous recording started playing back in a loop. He literally took his hands off the guitar, but the sound kept coming out of the Birchmere speakers accompanying Chelsea.

Then, after a few seconds, he played a little lead guitar, supported by his own strumming, which he had just recorded live. After a few more bars of that, he eased back into strumming along with the recording, and when that was sync’ed up correctly, he turned off the recording and was back to strumming live only. It was an interesting and cool experience, which might be going on more often on stage than I previously realized.

Todd Wright

Todd Wright

Regarding Chelsea again, one more nit to pick. She’s not really comfortable on the stage. She’s not awkward either, just not comfy. She’s not leading/controlling the crowd in any way, she’s just settling herself down between numbers, building up the courage and focus to perform the next one. Last night’s crowd was extremely respectful of her, and clapped generously, so it ended up being fine. I could easily see her losing control of a crowd if she opened for someone other than Girlyman, who draws wonderful people wherever they perform.

She joked (awkwardly) a few times about how old the crowd was. When she was hawking her CD, she babbled about how we (the audience) were likely too old to be users of MySpace (uh huh). She and Todd spent a good deal of time teasing each other (including about the difference in their ages). Still, we didn’t know how old she was (if you already checked the link I gave above, the next paragraph will be anti-climactic for you).

I tried to guess her age, and figured something between 21-25. It turns out she’s 17! Wow. That certainly explains the lack of stage presence (not that 17-year-olds can’t have it, as Taylor Swift clearly demonstrates). She’ll likely get there. Hopefully it won’t take too long.

As talented as she is (vocally), she was still just an opening act, with the vast majority of the people in the crowd breathlessly awaiting Girlyman’s appearance on stage. In my opinion, Birchmere gave her too much stage time. She was on for 55 minutes. That’s long, even for a well-known opening act. Given that most of her songs have a very similar sound/feel, it dragged a bit, and a true Girlyfan would have to wonder whether it was eating into Girlyman’s time.

You already know the answer to that. Thankfully, Girlyman gave us every drop of value for our money. Whew!

If you read yesterday’s post, you know that Lois and I brought ten friends to see Girlyman at Gravity Lounge. Last night, we brought 13 people from Zope Corporation (including some family members). We drove three of them up with us and got there at 4:25pm (doors open at 5pm) to pick up our tickets and get a number to be seated early. I had asked the rest of the gang to be there no later than 5:45pm (the doors to the concert hall open at 6pm when they call people in for dinner in the order that they picked up their tickets).

Here are our car guests:

Zope Guys

Zope Guys

I was amazed (and really appreciative) when every single person in our party was there by 5:40pm. We were number five to be called in. However, since we had 15 people, we couldn’t sit together center stage. We chose two tables at the left edge of the stage and split our group. Each table could seat 12, but we put seven at one table and eight at the next.

Here’s the gang that sat at the first table:

Zope Table 1

Zope Table 1

And, table number two:

Zope Table 2

Zope Table 2

The food at Birchmere is Southern-style Comfort food, and they do it really well. I had the Pulled Pork sandwich. When I went over to the other table to survey what they had ordered, I said that my pulled pork was fanastic but greasy. Our CTO pointed out that I used the word but incorrectly in that sentence. He was right, and I corrected it to “my pulled pork sandwich was fanastic and greasy”. 😉

Everyone seemed to like their food, and it all looked great. A number of us had decadent desserts as well (I succumbed), but we had to do what needed to be done…

Of the 13 people we brought along, only two had seen Girlyman before. While it’s hard to know whether people are being polite, our group all said that they thoroughly enjoyed the show. One of the guys said that while he liked the music, he loved all of the non-music parts (which are significant in any Girlyman show).

Interestingly enough, most of them were not as kind (polite) about Chelsea’s performance. While the majority did praise her voice, they found little else to compliment. When asked what she thought, one person actually answered “I wasn’t paying that much attention…”. I didn’t love it, but I think I enjoyed it more than most (if not all) of them did.

After the show, seven of us waited in line to say hi to Girlyman. I got to thank them directly for playing Hold It All At Bay, and tell them how perfectly they did it. We took a customary photo with them, which included the youngest member of our group as well. She was a last-minute substitute when her dad got caught in a business trip and she joined her mom (who works at Zope). Ironically, it is the mom and the little one who had seen Girlyman before in NYC (nearly a year ago).

Girlyman and Us

Girlyman and Us

As with the previous night at Gravity Lounge, we ordered a copy of last night’s live show and I’m sure we’ll do the same at Joe’s Pub. Yes, we’re seeing them again on November 5th! 🙂

We talked about the show with our three car guests for the next hour on the ride back to Fredericksburg. For us, it was a perfect evening. We hope our guests enjoyed it at least 10% as much as we did. 🙂

Update: The little one’s mom just emailed us a great picture of Girlyman with her daughter. Here it is:

Little One Girlyman

Little One Girlyman

New Machine

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On April 23rd I announced the christening of my new server. At the time, I put the percentage of services that had been ported over at 95. It’s been at least 5 days since I’ve been at 100%, so the new machine is definitely “official”. Everything has been updated to point to the new machine, and all but one thing are running as expected.

The only problem I have is with one VoIP provider. I can’t get any audio to work between us, and the problem is definitely on my end, which is the main reason for not naming the provider. I can still connect reliably to them from my old server, from a different server that I control, and from a softphone as well, so something is broken on my new server in the config for them. That said, all other providers work, including identically configured ones, so it’s not a firewall problem, nor generically a broken Asterisk install. I’m not happy with this, because I can’t think of anything more to test. I’ve written twice to the Asterisk mailing lists, with no useful suggestions left to try. 🙁

I could probably write for hours on the experience of building the new machine. Very few people would maintain interest in that, I’m sure. I also don’t need it for a cathartic release, because I took very copious notes on the whole thing in a Google Notebook.

So, I’ll try to boil the essence down here, with the hope of not losing your interest too quickly. 🙂

The purpose of the change was to upgrade the OS from Red Hat 9 to CentOS 5.0. That worked well. I actually installed CentOS 5.0 Beta first, and then did an upgrade through yum, which worked fine!

My first real disappointment was attempting to build OpenPKG on the new box. The concept sounded really cool to me. The biggest reason for moving from RH9 to CentOS5 was that newer RPMs were harder and harder to find for RH9. OpenPKG held out the promise that one wouldn’t have to worry about this in the future, with the added benefit that you would never accidentally step on the operating system’s packages.

Unfortunately, I ended up wasting a ton of time on it, and it eventually failed to install itself, claiming that gcc couldn’t create executables on the system. Of course it could, as I built quite a number of packages from source… So, great concept, just not right for me at this time…

Had a minor glitch with SELinux (first time I’ve been on a system that was running it). Had to temporarily disable some of the checks to get a package installed and running, but was able to turn it back on afterwards, and haven’t had a problem since.

I have been a very happy user of Courier-IMAP for years, and felt guilty about even considering an alternative (just a loyalty thing). But, I’d read a number of nice things about Dovecot, and it just went official 1.0 a few days before, so I decided to try it. I’m really happy with it. It worked correctly the first time, and configuration was as straightforward as I was led to believe. On the other hand, it wasn’t a quick config, because there are so many things that you can (and sometimes should) set. The single config file (which I like!) is huge, because it’s so well documented, that the choices are relatively simple. You just have to read all those darn docs… 😉

Also installed the latest Postfix 2.4.0. I’ve been really happy with Postfix for years, and had little intention of switching that.

One minor nit about Linux in general. It’s a little annoying that dependencies can get out of whack quite easily. Some system thing depends on openssl-0.9.7 (for example), and you know that 0.9.8e fixes some bugs, and perhaps some new software you’re installing wants that. So, now it needs to go in it’s own directory (’cause you can’t mess with the system one), and then every package has to be told where to find the new one, etc. It all works, but it’s still a PITA.

Installed the latest WordPress (which of course meant MySQL and PHP, etc.). This time, the email config problem that I had on the old machine just disappeared (hooray!). I didn’t config it any differently, so who knows what was wrong before…

Installed the latest Zope (2.10.3, not Zope 3), and had remarkably few problems slurping up my old Data.fs file from a Zope 2.6.x installation. Very cool.

Switched from one webmail client to another, even though I had been happy with the former for years. The latter does more, of which I’m sure I won’t partake of the additional functionality anyway. It works, so that’s all I care about. I rarely use webmail, but when it’s necessary, it’s also ultra convenient (and, as stated, necessary). 😉

One of the bigger odysseys was the installation of a Jabber server. This should probably be its own post, but if it was, I would never condense it, so I’ll do my best not to go on too much here. On the old machine, I was running jabberd-1.4.3 for years. Jabberd2 was just out at the time that I first installed 1.4.3 (they are not the same project). I was able to get jabberd2 to work at the time, but I could not get the AIM and ICQ transports to work, so I reverted to 1.4.3.

The jabberd14 project is still alive and kicking, and I could have saved a lot of headaches if I had stuck with it. But, for a while, I wanted to try ejabberd. It is the official server of jabber.org since February 2007, which seemed impressive to me. 😉

Ejabberd is written in Erlang, and is supposed to scale like crazy (not that I have the slightest need for scale). The concept intrigued me. I’ll spare you all of the insane problems I had getting it to work right. Suffice it to say that it was not my fault, which is rare in these situations. 😉

When I finally got it to work stably, I installed the Python-based AIM and ICQ transports (PyICQ-t and PyAIM-t). The AIM transport worked correctly, and the ICQ one was flaky (solution later on).

Then Rob Page asked me to take a look at Openfire (previously called Wildfire). It sounded cool, and since I was having a problem with the ICQ transport, I figured I’d give it a shot. Man, it installed so easily from RPM, didn’t touch a single file on the system, could be uninstalled trivially, etc. In summary, I liked it instantly. I wasn’t crazy about running a JVM on the system full time, but the load would be negligible, so I decided to switch to it. Of course, while it worked well, and the administration was wonderful, the ICQ plugin was experimental (the AIM one is production), and it behaved like an experimental plugin, which put me where the other one did. There were a few other small annoyances in Openfire as well.

That made me decide to go back and beat my head on the ejabberd server and transports. Long story short, after investigating my setup on the old machine (prompted by Z_God in the Python Transports conference room), I noticed that I didn’t understand how transports speak to the main server. I had them both speaking on the same port (which the sample config file showed!), but on the working server, each transport spoke to the server on its own port! I switched ICQ and AIM to speak to ejabberd on separate ports, and voila, it has been rock solid ever since. I have retired Openfire, and am a very happy ejabberd and python-transports customer! 🙂

That’s pretty much it (at least at a high level). I’m happy with the machine. As usual, more twists and turns than one hopes for, but also more learning experiences than I expected, and interesting ones at that, mostly ending in success. Now if I can only figure out that one SIP provider audio problem, I could get back to some serious poker playing. 😉