Station Identification

Hi, my name is Sean Gillies, and this is my blog. Blog is short for "web log". Individual posts to a web log are called "posts", not "blogs". I write about running, cooking and eating, travel, family, programming, Python, API design, geographic data formats and protocols, open source, and internet standards. Mostly running and local geography. I live in Fort Collins, Colorado, and sometimes in Montpellier, France. I work at Planet Labs PBC. I appreciate emailed comments on my posts. You can find my address in the "about" page linked at the top of this page. Happy New Year!

Eyeglasses

I finally got prescription glasses. I've needed them for a couple of years. Like a lot of middle-aged people I am slightly near-sighted. On top of this I have some astigmatism which is especially bad when I haven't slept well. I see pairs of stars at night, pairs of hawks soaring in the distance. It really messes with my ability to read text on a screen from the back of a room at the end of a long day.

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I'm wearing them while driving, shopping, watching movies (on our 4k TV), and reading text on the external monitor in my office. I don't wear them while running or reading a book before bed. While I'm still getting used to circular things not being exactly circular, I'm enjoying a sharper view of the world beyond my laptop screen.

Running in 2021

Early in 2020 I had the idea of registering for races outside Colorado in 2021. You know, after the pandemic would be over. One of the classic Mid-western ultra-marathons, if I won the lottery. Sadly, these races were cancelled in 2020 and no clear end to the pandemic was in sight at the end of the year. I decided to stick to races that wouldn't require flights and accomodations. I would run the relatively small races in my neighborhood, all of which I've run before, but in 2021 I would run all of them in 6 months and complete the Gnar Slam.

Here are the numbers for 2021 (as of 2021-12-27).

  • 410 hours, 52 minutes of running (18% more than in 2020).

  • 2001 miles distance (+15%)

  • 264,514 ft of elevation gain (+17%)

  • 6 pairs of shoes retired

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March's big snowstorm complicated training

My achievements for the year include:

  • Completing the Gnar Slam (Quad Rock 50 mile, Never Summer 100 km, Black Squirrel Trail Half-Marathon, Blue Sky Trail Marathon).

  • 3rd place Men's Grandmasters at Quad Rock, my first racing trophy.

  • New personal bests at Quad Rock, Never Summer, and Blue Sky.

  • Finishing my own backyard ultra-marathon, 7 x 4.16 miles in March.

The low points of my 2021 season were being injured for most of March and half of April, and mental fatigue from the corporate union-busting at my day job (gaslighting, vague threats, pervasive fear, uncertainty, and doubt are part of the playbook) which undercut my Black Squirrel training. Happily, I fully recovered from the injury just before Quad Rock, and found myself a new job just before Blue Sky.

Many things went right in 2021. I did a bunch of long alpine runs with Mike Thompson and look forward to doing more of that in 2022. I got a lot better at descending trails. I'm faster, more confident, and use less energy going downhill. I was only injured once and it didn't require a trip to the emergency room. I wasn't attacked by a mountain lion. All in all, a very positive year. I'm looking forward to the next one. I don't have a firm plan for 2022 yet, but will probably run a little less and not do any ultra-marathon event until the end of summer.

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Fresh mountain lion tracks on Horsetooth's South Ridge, March 24, 2021

I've gathered photos that appear in previous posts into a Flickr album.

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Milner Mountain, April 17, 2021

Gardening retrospective 2021

I'm inspired by Leigh Dodd's garden retro to write about my own gardening adventures in 2021. I was raised in a gardening family and have almost every year tended at least a small patch of something, even when we were on sabbatical in Montpellier. To be clear: I don't depend on my own produce to live and have huge respect for people everywhere who do, whatever the scale. I'm paid well to write and deploy software systems, and everything my family needs is available from grocery chains and local producers. I garden because I'm curious about the natural history of agriculture, for the connection to the earth and sun, for the daily excuse to get up from the chair in my home office, and because some vegetables are so much tastier when grown at home.

Fort Collins, Colorado, my home, at 1500 meters elevation, is marginal for agriculture. We're in the USDA's Zone 5b, like Albany, New York. We get all the sun anything needs and adequate water for irrigation thanks to reservoirs, but the growing season can be unpredictably short due to late or early frosts. Hail can be a problem here, too. Some populated places northeast and southeast of Fort Collins get hail six days annually on average. We get less, 2-3 days, but in tough years we've had our garden wiped out multiple times.

Growers have success with apples in some microclimates in Masonville near Fort Collins, but generally fruit growers on the east side of the Rockies have more success several degrees of latitude to the south. That's where Rocky Ford melons and Pueblo chiles thrive. Major crops around Fort Collins are winter wheat, alfalfa, corn, and in earlier times, sugar beets. Growers of anything that require a longer season or protection against spring frosts depend on greenhouses or cold frames. I don't have either, yet, so I muddle through the hard seasons and revel in the easy seasons. 2021 was one of the latter.

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Apricot buds in April

We had a mild winter and early spring. We always plant lettuce, radish, turnips, and snow peas as soon as the ground thaws here. A late frost nailed our apricot blossoms, but everything else did fine. The garlic I planted in fall thrived, too.

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Early spring garden

We replicated our favorite feature of 2020's garden: an endless supply of cucumbers from a deep container in one of our garden's sunniest spots. We give these Japanese varieties deep soil, compost, sun, water, and some structure to climb on and they go nuts. We were picking 2-4 fancy $2 cucumbers every day for 3 months. This was the most profitable part of my garden by far. If you're interesting in growing cucumbers and have limited space, don't overlook the vertical dimension.

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All you can eat cucumber is a good thing

The spring and summer of 2021 were notable for the absence of hail and generally sunny and warm conditions. I rolled the dice on sweet mellons of two varieties, Charentais and "Minnesota midget", and we had plenty of each. It's unlikely we'll have such good conditions next year. Some of the Charentais melon were as good as I've had in the south of France. Growers in Lunel, Hérault, would have been proud.

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Baby melon

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Ripe Minnesota midget melon

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French Charentais melon with trompe l'oeil

My kids, who turned 13 and 16 at end the end of 2021, love cucumbers and sweet melons, but are deeply skeptical of zucchini or any other curcurbit that we cooks. I planted one zucchini plant this year and every fruit was grated in the service of zucchini fritters. Zucchini are reliable here, despite that we grew fewer than we did in previous years.

The season was going so well I planted beans after pulling up the garlic and there was plenty of time for them to grow and yield lots of tasty bean pods.

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Time to come out, garlic

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Late summer beans

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The highest state of bean

My tomato crop was very disappointing, a combination of exhausted soil and increasing shade from one of our backyard trees, but the pepper and basil crop more than made up for it. My father gave me Carmine and Aleppo pepper starts and they exploded at the end of the summer.

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August basil

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Carmine peppers in September

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The basil gets ground into pesto and goes to our freezer

At the close of 2021 all I have going on in the garden are dormant perennial herbs, chives, and scallions; garlic bulbs; and the potted rosemary bushes that we bring in the house at night.

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So long, 2021

What grew well? Lettuce, cucumber, melon, peas, beans, peppers, dill, basil, garlic, green onions. None of these shared the same soil except the beans and garlic, which seems to be a sign.

What didn't grow well? Tomatoes. Next year, I will plant them in a different, sunnier bed, or buy them from someone else!

What will I do differently? I'll grow more spring and fall greens like spinach, kale, and mizuna. I would also like to have a constant supply of cilantro and parsley. I can't expect such luck with melons, so I might skip the Charentais. Otherwise, no major changes.

Status update

I'm back at home and looking forward to a normal week without holidays or emergencies. Despite my backlog I'm still not working on software projects on the weekends, or at least am being very selective about what I do. Yesterday I did a lot of yardwork and today I went for a 2.5-hour run in the foothills.

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Westridge Trail

Boisé

I'm in Boise, Idaho, for the week, working from my mother's house and helping her and my stepfather deal with an emergency. I don't want to over-share, so let me just say that the situation is improving and we all feel lucky and grateful. I'm doing a lot of driving and am staying up late to catch up on work and stuff. As a little treat, I'm eating the famous potatoes and running on the fantastic trail system north of downtown.

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3 Bears Trail, Boise

Made it

I survived two weekends and a week of Zoom calls as a solo parent! I'm organizing my backlog and will be catching up as soon as I can.

Hello, Planet

Monday was my first day at Planet. I suspect most of my readers know a bit about the company. For those of you that don't, Planet operates several constellations (fleets) of satellites and sells imagery of the Earth captured by the telescopes and imaging systems carried on the spacecraft. Landsat 8, the US government's global imaging satellite revisits a place on Earth every 16 days, and will be joined by Landsat 9, reducing the revisit time to 8 days. The European Space Agency's pair of Sentinel-2 satellites revisit every 5 days. Planet's constellation of Dove cubesats revisit every place on Earth every day. It's a unique dataset. And one that is complemented by another constellation of satellites that can be programmed to focus on specific areas of interest. I've been a customer and user of this kind of imagery for years; it's going to be fun to switch to the other side. My position is "Senior Staff Engineer" and my home team is Developer Relations, led by Sara Safavi. I'll be on the services side, not the spacecraft side, of a talented team, doing a mix of familiar things at a new level, unfamiliar things, and things that have never been done before.

Current status

Current status: not working but busy. I postponed and deferred a lot of personal stuff in October and need to catch up. Ruth will be traveling for a week starting Saturday and I'll be solo parenting. Then, I'm starting my new position and will have many Zoom meetings to attend. In my free time I'm going to prioritize sleep, reading, and being outside. The leaves aren't going to rake themselves. Expect some delay if you mail me with a question or open a GitHub ticket.

New home for Rasterio

I've announced the move elsewhere, but have been late to mention it here. Rasterio has been transferred from https://github.com/mapbox to https://github.com/rasterio. Today I transferred the affine project, which rasterio depends on, from my own personal repos to the same rasterio org.

Before I left Mapbox, about 45% of the project's commits were authored by folks outside the company. Now, that number is closer to 90%. Moving the project keeps the code open and accessible to its developers and makes it easier to maintain. Making the case for the move at work was pretty easy. Teams at Mapbox that use rasterio want bug fixes and new releases. The Platform team has one less oddball CI configuration to support. I'm grateful for the attention and help of Mapbox's Legal and IT teams during a busy, busy time. It was fun to work with these folks on one last project.

I'm planning to stay very involved in these projects. Go and try the new 1.3 pre-release and report back if you find any new bugs.