Showing posts from 2011

Sayonara 2011

Perhaps I came out of the womb worrying.
Pehaps it's learned behavior.
Luke 12:25 says: 5 And which of you by worrying can add a single[a](C)hour to his [b]life’s span?26 If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? What does this have to do with 2011, anyway?

I worried alot this year.  I worried about myself, my wife, my kids, my parents, my job, my church obligations.  And, frankly, I freaked-out.  Often.  So often, that yesterday and today, I talked myself through "this is usually the part where I freak out," because the triggers were all there. Self-awareness is all that I have sometimes whenever I see fear, rage, selfishness, hate, guilt, jealousy, betrayal, disappointment, anger, etc. building.  I finally can see it coming  and I believe I can choose something different.

In summary, in 2011, I stopped believing life was fair.  The church-y answer there is, "I'm glad life's not fair; it it was fair, I deserve dea…

Stream of Consciousness Randomness

Some things are stories.

Some things are not.  There are facts I remember about my idiosynracies and ticks, and those of my fellow humans that just don't go anywhere.  They're kinda just...there.

These are those:

I once roomed with a guy D.E.F.  D had this curious Pavlovian response to riding in a car for any length of time > 2 minutes.  He'd go to sleep.  My other roomie once took him on a road trip from Georgetown, Kentucky, to Jackson, TN.  D slept the entire way there and the entire way back.I hate the blue ring optometrists use for glaucoma checks.  Basically it goes like this: They dilate your eyes, you can't open them for love or money, and then you need to open like a droog from Clockwork Orange so the optometrist can move this DEATH MACHINE towards your eyeball.  Really, it looks like a scene out of a Bond Movie, complete with bad dialog.  Only here the thing--it's not Sean Connery's penis they're going to ginsu, it's YOUR EYEBALL.  Usually, …

Death by Pound Puppy

When I was about 5 years old, my mom decided to drop me off with my aunt at her office while she did business in town. As my aunt worked in the District 10 Department of Highways in Jackson, Kentucky, her job was utterly regular and somewhat dull unless something extraordinary happened-->lots of overtime, somebody got fired, that sort of thing.

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 As it was the middle of summer, nothing like that happened. Anyway, my mom rented a VHS video of Pound Puppies and dropped me off.  My Aunt took me to the big conference room in the middle of the cinder-block building and plopped me in front of the television, daring me to move.

Of course, I moved.  I was a fat, indolent kid, but curious as hell.  The room was fascinating--there was a huge map on the wall showing the toll plaza at Slade, Kentucky, an IBM PC/XT with a Daisy Wheel printer in the corner, and the TV itself.  The TV was a pretty big jobber for back then--probably 25", and atop it sat this massive VHS VCR, …

Outrageous statements on Java: Guava, Modularity, Build

I'm rolling off a 16 month stint as the sole proprietor of a Java library used internally where I work.  Yep, it was an almost unheard-of situation within corporate America: I had no project manager, no marketing rep, no support staff, no unique testers.  I was responsible for API design, test plan, interfacing with multiple teams, delivery, support, infrastructure.  The works.

In short, I loved it.

I loved getting to code 6 to 12 hours a day, every work day, working through design decisions, collaborating with other teams.  I'd go to bed noodling on design problems, I'd often get insight into them over coffee, then I'd have them implemented by that next night.  Most of the people I worked with were colleagues of mine from way back.  My only mandate was "make them happy," and take care of my own stuff.  I had a project manager for the first month or so; once he was satisfied I had my stuff together, the reigns were off.

(Insert maniacal laughter here)

Prior …
Wow, the interface sure has changed since the last time I posted!

Well, to catch-up a few things:

My job title is now 'Software Architect'.  This is avowed to be one of the most despised roles in all Software, since Developers resent architects' unrealistic, out-of-date ideas, and managers resent anyone besides them directing their teams.  Yay, me.I had a motorcycle residing at my house for ~1 week in late June.  This was one of the worst episodes in  my life, and rocked me to my very core.  In a true case of 'be careful what you wish for', I lied and manipulated my way to take advantage of a tragic situation (my uncle's motorcycle accident) to come by a bike that I didn't really want.  My inner King Baby came to the fore in many ways.  I hurt everybody.  The bike left a week later, and relations with my parents haven't been the same since.Joey is now a Webelos II, the last stage of Cub Scouts before becoming a Boy Scout.  We attended the di…

Tech Companies' Dutch Disease

Definition: Dutch Disease

After reading Alan Greenspan's book last year, one concept that's remained with me is Dutch Disease, which I (over-)simplify to mean: When you have one huge cash cow industry/revenue stream, then all your other industries suffer.

Combine that with this article on tech crunch.

I see a similarity there, in that tech companies that were formerly innovative latch onto a current upper-bound revenue source (Let's say MS Office) and short-change other opportunities, or (worse yet) view them in terms of the current technology.

It's interesting to look at one company that hasn't fallen prey to this: Amazon.  Amazon survived the dot-com bubble, and looks to survive and thrive through the Great Recession, too.  Why?  To me, the answer is counter intuitive:  They do the opposite of "focusing on [their] core competencies]".  They do off-the-wall stuff.

Remember the first Kindle?  Totally ahead of the market, and totally against their current …

Central Ohio Software Symposium 2011 Wrapup (No Fluff, Just Stuff)

I attended the Central Ohio Software Symposium in Columbus, Ohio this past weekend.  What follows are my reviews of the event overall and the individual sessions I attended.

Overview Most conferences suck, frankly.  They're usually put on by a single company, and are a combination of too much marketing pitch, too little content & reality.  As it's name would suggest, a No Fluff/Just Stuff conference is none of that.  No vendors.  No showy crap.  Just industry-leading experts presenting what they're doing and how they're doing it.
This conference was at the Embassy Suites Airport.  I found the rooms and venue nice (It's a Hilton Hotel!), though the conference rooms themselves were too cramped for the # of attendees.   This conference was sold-out, and it showed. 
Day 1
Executable Specifications: Automating Your Requirements Document with Geb and Spock by Matt Stine
This session was a passionate examination of how specs/requirements/stories get lost in translation to c…

What I've been doing lately

Cleaning-up my life, mostly.

Next week will mark 9 months on the upward swing, moving from a place of depression, passivity, and "life of quiet desperation" to a place of reality, assertiveness, and self-confidence.  I'm not "there" yet.  Likely, I never will be, fully--that's the humility that comes with this process.  Growing-up and gaining contentment (NOT complacency!) is a continuous process.

Things that have helped me along the way, so far:

My wife.  Really, I can't say enough about her.  She is my match, in all ways, and I know now why God put her in my life, and BACK in my life.  She's taught me logic and certainty.  Her belief is the bedrock of everything she does, and it's led me back to God.  Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth (Ps 5:18)My children.  It sounds like a platitude, perhaps it is: Having kids changes you forever.  Joey made me understand vulnerability and self-control.  Maria saved me from my…

What pisses me off about...the 24 Hour News Cycle

In a phrase: It obviates your need to think.  It encourages you to simply react.

I'm reading this great book by Andy Hunt called, Pragmatic Thinking and Learning.  A key thesis in Chapter 5 is "Think, Don't React".  Reaction is emotional, and involves the fear-based lower brainstem, engaging in stuff like "Fight or Flight," Territorialism, Hissing at problems.  If you've read my blog from years past, I've done plenty of hissing at a problem.

My assertion is this: There's a certain speed at which the human mind can absorb and process events.  With the 24 hour news cycle, we surpass that mark and enter a land where Rachel Maddow and Rush Limbaugh compete with one another for the next superlative villification of another thinking, breathing human being, alternately lionizing their own cause and demonizing their opponent.  Reaction breeds reaction, leading to escalation.

It's a national Jerry Springer episode, and I'm glad I'm no longer …

Hi, My Name is Harold, and I'm an Intuitive Thinker.

This is part confessional, part "working it out on paper".

I am an intuitive, synthetic problem solver.  That is, more often than not, a holistic solution pops into my head.  I don't really work it out; I just wait for inspiration to strike and then try like hell to keep up with it.  It oftentimes feels like someone else solved the problem when I'm done.

So, what's the big deal?  I mean, the problems get solved, and my paychecks keep coming, so what of it?  Well, it's tough being a Computer Scientist with this frame of mind.

"Computer Science" so my old professor used to say, is misnamed.  Really, computer science is "Algorithmics," as in the study of Algorithms.  Algorithms, simply, are a sequence of unambigous instructions for solving a problem in a finite number of steps.  The steps in the algorithm must be simple and unambigious, because the Computer Scientists job is to express, code, and combine them in such a way that they can be ex…

SCRUM, two months (or years?) into it.

I've been part of two SCRUM rollouts so far.  One was a grassroots effort, the other organizational.  I have some thoughts I'd like to share, in no particular order.

It's no silver bullet.  Repeat that last sentence 10, 50, 1000 times until you believe it.  If your work habits, talent, training, and support roles suck, your (insert work product here) will still suck using SCRUM.  On the bright side, you'll understand that in 2 weeks to 2 months, instead of years after the product is in the fieldSCRUM teams: 10 people max, and that's pushing it.  Five is better.  I was on a 6 person SCRUM team, and it was great.Team of Specialists versus Team of Generalists?  I've no idea.  I've arguments for either approach, and no one answer fits everywhere.  Yay, "It depends."  I could be a consultant.The team must see the value in SCRUM.   It's a lightweight process, but it requires them to think and communicate on a level they haven't before.  If it'…

Instantaneous midlife crisis, and the reply thereto

So, the other day, Whitney and I found ourselves at the UK Arboretum enjoying one another's company and remarking on how little clothing 18-22 year olds wear while exercising.  As part of our walk, we discussed the next step in our lives.

You see, the last 5 years hasn't been all roses for us.  It's only in the past 8 months that I've gotten my head screwed-on straight about my faith, my place in this world, and my attitude towards life.  If you read enough of this blog, you can chart my up and downs like a sine wave, especially when I was 25->30.  Sometimes, I've been there for my family; other times, I've hidden at work or in my own destructive pursuits, leaving Whitney to be a single parent to 1, then 2, now 3 children.

I'd like to say all that's past now, and for 8 months this week, it has been.  Here on out, it's one day at a time of integrity.

The above is a long way of saying, my wife and I are in a really good place right now, praise God.…

Can you hear me now? "Big" and "Small" Economics

I went to college with a guy, M, who was homeschooled and had nearly perfect elocution.  Bizarrely perfect, in fact, since he came from Winchester, Kentucky.  To be precise M didn't have elocution, he had diction--his voice was distinctive and every word was measured.  He also spoke, as Peter Egan would say, as though he was holding a pencil clenched in his back teeth.

One day he was describing the next course in his Business degree.  I swore he said, "Mmmmkro".

Being the insufferable know-it-all that I was/am, I knew it had to be 'macroeconomics' or 'microeconomics'.  I probed on, "Uh...M, did you mean 'Macro' or 'Micro'".  He repeated, this time with more urgency, "MMMM-kro".  He might've shoved a schwa sound in there; I don't know.  In any case, I still couldn't discern his target economics class.

This went on for some minutes, with increasing levels of M's consternation and increasing emphasis from …

Mea Culpa, Dave Ramsey: We bought a bed. Okay, it's paid

I've been a Dave Ramsey follower for 9 years now.  Granted, I've never made it past baby step 3 because I'm a selfish spendthrift, but I've kept my debt load admirably low throughout that period.  We've pretty much saved-up for everything we bought in that time, aside from our Honda Odyssey, and I swore with that one that I'd let that sick, in-debt feeling stay with me so I'd never make that mistake again.

Okay, that lasted right until Grace was born.

Grace is my (hopefully) last daughter, born October last year.  Whitney and I rediscovered sleepless nights and random pain from sacking an infant and her jetsam around.  We also discovered that the mattress she brought with her to the marriage was on its last legs, mainly because I didn't put a third slat beneath the middle of the box spring.  That pillow-top beauty was sagging like my 401k back in 2008.

So, a new mattress & box spring was in order.  We set a budget.  We shopped.  Then, we went into t…

Apropos of nothing: Why isn't there an electric car race series?

What do cars and electronics have in common?

Pornography improves the breed.  

More generally, both benefit from something that captures the imagination and drives obsessive behavior and improvements to the delivery medium.  For electronics, this was VHS, DVDs, HDtv, internet, streaming video, etc.  For cars, this was racing.

Where did most of the technology we use today come from?  Rear-view mirrors, synchromesh transmissions, fuel injection, electronic engine controls, high compression/high rpm operation, turbochargers, ABS, traction control, stability control, all derived from the singular, "Racing improves the breed."

So, where are the significant electric racing series?  To my understanding, there are none.  A 24 Hours of Daytona, contested by electric-only cars would be a supreme test of current technology. "I just ran out on the banking at 150 mph.  Crap, my batteries are totally depleted."  I guarantee you, regenerative braking would improve by orders of ma…

The Best feature of the Toyota Camry...

The best feature of a Toyota Camry XV20?  External temperature gauge.

Yes, the car's practically perfect, in that annoying Mary Poppins way, but I love clicking that button on the dash and seeing the outside air temperature.

I killed my Facebook account today

I deactivated my Facebook account today.  Here are the reasons:

It's overwhelming.  The avalanche of minutiae from my fellow human beings was too much to process.    It's irresistible.  I'd find myself checking it each morning at 5am, each night before going to bed, and during lunch each day, in lieu of actual human relationships up to and including my own wife and kids.  You Social Network--er, Facebook-- guys have done your job.  You've invented crack for the mind.It's way too easy to be a voyeur.  The visual and emotional pornography available on Facebook far surpasses any romance novel or soap opera.  Seriously, you can watch people hook up, argue, and witness their marriages dissolve in slow-motion.  It's real-life, emblazoned and sanitized behind an online profile.  For myself, that kind of drama drains me.  Which leads me to...It dissolves actual relationships.  Sure, IRC, chat rooms, AOL, and--hell--plain old love letters have done this before, but Faceb…

Randomness, 01/03/11

Joey and I went to TRON: Legacy 3D last night.  On the way home, he posed the following question: "Hey Harold, so what if when I was a freshman in high school, I met some girl who had hair just like Quorra, and who looked just like Quorra, and who had a TRON outfit like Quorra?"  My reply: "Turn and run the other way as fast as you can."Yes, Olivia Wilde steals every scene she's in.Oh, and the 3D wasn't worth the extra $$$.  Tron in 2D on an appropriate screen is still a beautiful film, the minimalist counterpart to the sensory overload of Cameron's Avatar.Sometimes, gravity is not your friend. Ouch.I welcome our new Verizon overlords.I love the motorcycle shots in TRON (those in the real world, on the Ducati), but I think I'd like something more comfortable in real life.