Yearly Archives: 2008

Things to do over Christmas

I’ve got about a hundred things that I’d like to get done, and I’ve got a couple of weeks off. There’s lots of family stuff, things to learn about (especially now before classes start up again), and plenty of Christmas traditions, new and old. There aren’t any rules here: categories overlap, things will get added and deleted, and whatever I say goes. I’d better get started.


  • Get to know baby Kaylee
  • Play with Kaylee, Emmy, and their cousins
  • Take Pictures and movies to share with family
  • Have a Wii Bowling Tournament
  • Have a Mario Kart Tournament


  • Build a snowman
  • Get up early on Christmas (and wake up Beth if I have to)
  • Watch BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl
  • Crack lots of nuts on Christmas
  • Watch the greatest Christmas movies, including Ernest Saves Christmas, Elf, and Christmas Vacation (and many others, of course).
  • Sleep In
  • Eat Junk food and work on puzzles for New Year’s
  • Take Emmy to see Santa Claus


Wow, that’s lots to do. I can’t wait. Since classes start next month on the 20th, that gives me one month.

Django From the Ground Up

There’s a cool series of screencasts to watch to learn about building an event website in Django, a web development framework built in Python. The folks at have a rather new site, and the archives just isn’t there yet. This series of screencasts is a great example that has good information for any Django project, so if you want to learn Django in quick, easy lessons, let this be your guide:

  1. Episode 1: Setting Up Version Control
  2. Episode 2: Settings and Models
  3. Episode 3: Why Customize the Manager?
  4. Episode 4: This is the Fun Part (urls, views, templates, and more)
  5. Episode 5: URL Reverse Resolution
  6. Episode 6: Debugging
  7. Episode 7: What’s the Downside?
  8. Episode 8: The Foundation for Social Networking
  9. Episode 9: Reusing a Function to serve customized data
  10. Episode 10: Generic Views and Pagination
  11. Episode 11: Advanced QuerySet Techniques
  12. Episode 12: Adding AJAX
  13. Episode 13: Deployment

I’m a huge fan of Django, but I’ve only had time to work on one site. The best reason to learn how to use Django is that creating websites can be fun again!

Beginning Django

As I move on from the stage of just “getting my feet wet” with the Python-based web framework Django, I’ve found a lot of good resources for learning that weren’t very obvious initially. Although everyone’s case may be different, I’ve found the following strategy to be very helpful for my learning.

Get your hands dirty. After getting a feel for what Django is, start the tutorial. I recommend skipping version 0.96 and going straight to the development version of Django because there have been a lot of exciting new features added since 0.96. As long as I’ve been sure to keep up to date with recent changes, I haven’t had any problems using this development version.

Back up often! Make sure you keep copies of different versions of your files. Doing this will help your programming from the beginning, and it encourages you to improve your code instead of being afraid to touch it for fear of breaking something.

Read the Manual. I admit that I usually don’t understand the things I’ve read in the Django Documentation. However, the more I play around with Django, the more I start to understand in the documentation.

Get to know the community. Subscribe to the Django Community feed and find some authors you like to read. Skim the articles that come across and browse through blog archives for more information on subjects you aren’t familiar with yet. Some of my favorites Django authors are James Bennett and Malcolm Tredinnick, although there are plenty of others worth reading.

Take a look at other’s work. One place to start is the DjangoResources page on the wiki. Find a simple application and open it up – figure out why it works the way it does. There are plenty of places to look for this type, including Django Pluggables and Django Sites.

Don’t be afraid to ask! If you can’t find help on a given topic, try a few web searches. If that doesn’t give you what you’re looking for, ask for help on the django-users mailing list. As you learn more, be sure to give back to the communities that have helped you get to where you are now because there are new users who won’t have your experience, and sometimes freshly-learned information can be easier to share with newbies since you’ve been in their shoes recently.

As Django moves toward a 1.0 release in just a few months, there’s never been a better time to learn Django.

My Django Test Drive

With school out for the summer, I’ve been spending some of my free time learning to program with Django (pronounced JANG-oh — the D is silent) and Python. Over Christmas break I had spent a lot of time playing with Ruby on Rails, and I really enjoyed it, but I made a promise to some friends to try Django before committing to Ruby on Rails. I’m glad I did, because it has been pretty easy and a lot of fun. I’ve done programming for plenty of websites before, and Django took everything I wanted to do and made it much easier. Since I had to pick up Python at the same time I ran into some snags here and there, but I’ve done enough to this point that I wanted to show off my work.

My new site is really just a relaunch of one that I was writing in PHP and never really finished. was supposed to be a quotes database of funny quotes from movies and TV Shows, but I was never able to expand its humble beginnings with just one TV show. Now the new quotational has been live for a few hours and I’ll progressively add features as I learn more about Django. The idea is to get the site out there so I can get some feedback, so if you have any suggestions let me know in the comments. I’ve got plenty of ideas for things to improve, but I’m more likely to work on features suggested in the comments.

So I guess this means I’m semi-committed to Django, right? Well that’s okay, because it’s been a lot of fun and the learning curve hasn’t been too bad. Thanks to the framework makers for making web programming fun again!

On Being a Kansas City Royals Fan

Although I certainly enjoy other teams (including the nearby Colorado Rockies, who I always watched on TV after we moved to New Mexico from Missouri), my favorite baseball team is the Kansas City Royals. A couple of weeks ago, Brian wondered how anyone could enjoy being a Kansas City Royals fan. Earlier this month, had an article about the failure dynasties, a list of five baseball teams that has earned a recent reputation for failure. Given that the Royals haven’t been to the playoffs since I started following them (I was four the last time they were in the playoffs, the year they won it all), why should I be interested in a team that hasn’t put up big numbers or employed superstars? Wouldn’t it be more enjoyable to just find a favorite player and follow him through his career, or adopt some new team who has more recent success stories?

It’s hard to explain why I like the Royals, but it all started when I was a kid. While I was growing up in Missouri, something about baseball struck a chord with me. We played baseball a lot with our neighbors in the field across the street from our house, and even though there were only four or five of us playing it was one of my favorite things to do. Tyler was a Cubs fan (probably because you could see so many of their games on WGN), Ray was a Cardinals fan, and I was a Royals fan. I chose the Royals because I liked their players and they were fairly close to where we lived so we could see some of their games on TV during the year. The sports section of the Joplin Globe often included stories about the Royals, and I read every one of them.

When we lived in Missouri I became more and more interested in baseball. The Royals were the third best team in baseball in 1989, just missing the playoffs. One of my favorite Christmas presents ever was the video game RBI Baseball 2 for the Nintendo. I collected a lot of baseball cards when I was a kid, memorized the statistics, and kept track of the players, but I kept my Royals cards in a separate binder, with all the George Brett cards at the front. In fourth grade we had to do a large research project for school, and I chose the Royals as my topic. My mom saw a note in the newspaper saying that two of the Royals players were going to visit a local bank, and they would be signing autographs! I thought this would be the perfect highlight to my Royals report, but unfortunately the players weren’t able to make it. I was disappointed, but they did send some autographed photos to hand out to the fans who showed up, which I promptly added to the cover of my Royals baseball card binder.

The Royals remind me of being a kid again. My family went to two Royals games when I was a kid, and I won’t forget how fun that was. My dad took us back once since we moved away, and I had just as much fun as I did when I was a kid. I loved Little League when I was little, and I was fascinated by the fact that Mickey Mantle played in the same town that I did when he was a minor leaguer for the Yankees. I continued playing baseball even until high school, and I loved every bit of it.

So fast forward to now. My favorite players from when I was a kid have all gone, but I’m still with the Royals. It’s been a while since they were very good, but that doesn’t stop me from following their team. I cheered with them through all their 100-loss seasons. Recently it’s been much easier because the Royals have some young talent that seems to be getting better all the time. I don’t only enjoy it because they win. Following a winning team isn’t what being a sports fan is about, it’s about being a kid again. It doesn’t take a playoff berth or a World Series banner for me to get excited about a team, although I don’t discount how exciting that can be for their fans. In my book baseball means fun from March to October. There are highs and lows for sure, but I’ll take a sweep of the Tigers any day over an over-hyped, over-paid team.