The Martini — A One-Act Play About the Origins of the Famous Cocktail

You’ve probably heard about how the martini was first mixed in Martinez, but perhaps you’ve experienced doubt because of fake news coming out of San Francisco or New York. If you value the truth, you can experience the real story soon by attending a performance of The Martini presented by Onstage Theatre at the Martinez Campbell Theater in June.

The play outlines key moments in the history of the martini, from its discovery in 1849 to how Professor Jerry Thomas came to document it in his book to how the legend grew to include Richelieu’s Saloon. Along the way, the performance treats the viewer to the rich personalities of Martinez history. You will meet Colonel Smith and Captain Walker, both brave California warriors. You will witness famed mixologist Professor Thomas learn the recipe of the martini on Lincoln’s Day of Thanksgiving. You will wonder at the suave stylings of Monsieur Richelieu as the events described on the famous plaque are replayed for your enjoyment.

Regarding the veracity of the work, playwright Leon Atkinson poses a philosophical question about the nature of truth that descends into incomprehensibility, using words like epistemology. While definitive documentation of the martini history may be beyond reach, there is little doubt that in these situations people turn to inspiration. Both the martini and Martinez enjoy significant reverence from their devotees.

Anyone who imbibing the famed cocktail likely acknowledges the unwritten ingredient called The Spirit of Martinez, a force propelling Martinez residents towards fraternity, benevolence and good cheer. Local personality Joseph Tully has been known to reply “no effect” when asked about the strength of a prepared martini. The consensus opinion concludes that the strength of The Spirit of Martinez overwhelms the relatively weak effects of alcohol.

Are the people of Martinez mistaken, or are they tapped into a source of knowledge others cannot perceive? It’s a topic that deserves further research. Your two best opportunities for learning more are enjoying a martini in a fine Martinez establishment (such as The Lane) and attending a performance of The Martini. This second, limited opportunity can be exploited only from June 2nd through June 10th.

Performances of The Martini are part of a three-part festival of one-act plays. All performances are at 636 Ward Street in Martinez. Specific times are as follows.

  • Friday, June 2 at 8PM
  • Saturday, June 3 at 8PM
  • Sunday, June 4 at 2:30PM
  • Thursday, June 8 at 8PM
  • Friday, June 9 at 8PM
  • Saturday, June 10 at 8PM

Playwright Leon Atkinson is expected to attend opening night June 2nd as well as the final performance June 10th.

You are encouraged to phone 925-518-3277 to make a reservation. Payment for tickets is made at the door.

Ode to a Sump Pump

The sump pumps in my french drain
Of my existence are the bane,
The cause of too much pain,
But only when it rains.






Szeder XMAS 2016


It’s time for John Szeder‘s year-in-review Christmas poem!


‘Twas the night before christmas, and before it all ended,
Half of the internet found itself unfriended.

We are still waiting for the year of VR.
It’s stuck in traffic, in a self-driving car.

Blogging is out–all that writing is tedium,
Unless, of course, it was posted on medium.

Or else it was twittered, or if you like, tweeted:
140 characters, invariably deleted.

The buyers keep buying; the sellers keep selling.
Amazon has less of us leaving our dwelling.

People are talking about new services and toys.
The signal is indistinguishable from all of the noise.

So what could all of this possibly mean?
What is the statement for 2016?

What is this “The Year Of”, What is new? What is trending?
What thing do we humblebrag in tones condescending?

Is IoT enabling your elf on the shelf?
Did you run all the numbers on your quantifiable self?

Can you control your video games with a gesture or thought?
Are your interactions meaningful with your conversational bot?

I watch it all crawling forward, I sigh and I shrug.
2016 is The Year Of We All Need A Hug.

So go wrap some arms around whoever is near,
And have a merry Christmas and happy New Year!

— John Szeder 2016

Sales Totals for Core PHP and Core MySQL

Long, long ago, I wrote a book about PHP. Actually, it was the first book about PHP. And it was a success. It lead to two more editions and another book about MySQL. Zeev, Andi and Monte each graciously helped with reviews, writing and endorsements. Being a best-selling author of the first PHP book has been great for landing gigs. Facing a range of criticism, especially in Amazon reviews, was a valuable learning experience.

Having last published a book in 2003, you might guess that sales have dropped off. The royalty checks are small. Even though the effort to write the books was immense, the rewards more than made up for it, especially for the first edition Core PHP. Despite diminishing returns, I might have continued the pattern of writing a new edition for each major version of PHP, but better books came out and PHP 6 never did.

As a perspective-setter, I offer all-time sales totals for the four books I wrote.

  • Core PHP 1/e (1999): 19,448
  • Core PHP 2/e (2000): 16,714
  • Core MySQL (2002): 5,773
  • Core PHP 3/e (2003): 11,456


Factors Affecting Code Quality and Estimation

Last September, ZeroTurnaround released analysis of a survey focussed on tools and practices of developers. They reported on how these affected the quality of code and how predictable delivery dates were. The Developer Productivity Report 2013 is a long read with lots of details. In the end, the data support what most developers already know. If you’re a programmer like me, does any of this surprise you?

  • Pair up with another coder sometimes
  • Automate unit tests and keep on top of failing tests
  • Minimize meetings
  • Use source code control
  • Use an issue tracker
  • Use an IDE and a debugger
  • Do code reviews of new code
  • Estimate as a group, but exclude the managers

I accept all of this with the except that I have not found IDEs to be a significant improvement to my productivity. Sometimes I wonder if exposing all the prototypes through popups doesn’t prevent developers from mastering a system and internalizing it. On the other hand, having memorized all the random parameters to PHP’s function might have been a waste of brain space. I’ll probably be fine for now with Geany and grep.

There’s a remarkable nugget about testing (slide 7):

Automated tests showed the largest overall improvements both in the predictability and quality of software deliveries. Quality goes up most when Developers are testing the code (also discussed in Sven Peter’s talk “How to do Kickass Software Development” at GeekOut 2013), which means that you shouldn’t just leave testing to QA team, but bake it into the development process as well. The rest of the measurements were more or less insignificant, although we don’t recommend letting yourcustomers/users test your software for you.

If you can convince your developers to do testing, there’s a big advantage for quality.



Subscribe to RSS Feed Follow me on Twitter!