Showing posts from 2013

Today I Learned my Family has been in America since Jamestown

To Maria and Grace, my lovely daughters,

Today I learned your blood runs very deep in this country, and deep in Kentucky.  Here is your lineage:

Your father's full name is Harold Ray Combs, born in 1978 to Harold Gene and Dottie (Haddix) Combs.

Harold Gene was born in 1953 to Bryan and Cora (McIntosh) Combs.  (We tend to say the 'McIntosh' part of the line is where our crazy comes from, but I'm not so sure.)

Bryan was born in 1919 to Prince and Lizzie (Keene) Combs.  I remember him as a loving, kind man of good humor and many stories with supreme strength of body and character, taken well before his time at only 66.  Bryan's brother, James, served in Patton's army in World War 2, and still lives.

Prince was born in 1883 to Luther and Gemima (Thomas) Combs.

Luther was born in 1839 to Seburn and Margaret (Gross) Combs.  Luther Served in the Civil War when he was 23.

Seburn was born in 1820 to Benjamin and Martha J. (Brown) Combs.  Your Great-uncle Bryan "Se…

Lightbulb: Agile *has* no project managers

So, I broke down and took one of the online courses offered at my work on Project Management basics.  I kept hearing domain language from managers, former project managers, and true project managers from our other (non-software) function.  I wanted some info on their thoughts and methodology.

So, during that, I had a light-bulb moment:  Agile software has no project managers.

Seriously.  Back-up and read that sentence.  They don't exist, and if that gives you the heebie-jeebies, keep reading.  If you have agile and project managers, then you're doing it wrong, at least as nearly as I can tell.

Taken from my notes on the course, this is the role of the project manager.
Leader —> Clear understanding of direction & purpose, from customer or client perspective of its value.  You have a sense of ownership.Manager —> Administrative functions affecting time, budget, scope, and quality.Facilitator —> Help the team get its work done.  Create an environment conducive to wor…

Cranky Rant: On Process

Have an test requiring me to fast at 3pm today, so no eating for me.  CRANKY!

It occurred to me today to add-up all the time I've spent in the last 2 years trying to define processes.  Then I realized if I did, I'd probably become violently ill or just violent. 

My last attempt.  Seems like it should be this simple:
Have a list of crap for people to do.  Whoever populates that list is THE BOSS, whether his/her title says so or not.  If bad stuff gets on that list and causes you to fail, that person accepts responsibility. Make sure someone [competent] covers each item.  In the world of fairy farts and gooseberries, he'll choose from that list altruistically.  In the real world, someone takes a bite out of the crap sandwich and gets assigned work.When people don't get their crap done, they feel consequences. If they can't ever get their crap done satisfactorily, you fire them.When people do get their crap done, regularly, you promote them.  When they stop getting th…

On Dr. Who

A couple of things hit me tonight:  First, I've never written anything about my experience in Cebu last October, which is a travesty.  Second, I've never written anything about Dr. Who, which is near an unforgivable sin.

(Above: Billie Piper and David Tennant, the 10th Doctor)

As I was about to leave for Cebu, October 2nd 2012, I noted my wife wasn't speaking to me.  I was about to fly halfway around the world (12 hour time difference) and leave her holding the bag:  Three kids.  New house with a mold problem.  New middle schooler. 

Not.  Good.

I had, at least, figured out that Amazon gave away streaming video to every Amazon Prime member, and set-up both our Blu-Ray player and the piddly Vizio flatscreen upstairs keyed to our account.  I noted on the penultimate night of my residence in North America that she'd idly looked-up Dr. Who.

"You realize there are like 50 years worth of these things, right?"  I asked.  Control freak that I am, I didn't want to …

The Day 1 Corinthians 14 came to Bedford Acres

So, the family and I have been attending Bedford Acres since July of this year, and I've been consistently amazed at what service has been like.   I've often wondered what it would be like if revival came through past church homes.   Basically, it'd be like a regular Sunday at BACC.

And today, the curveball.

The minister gets up on stage and announces, "I'm not preaching a sermon today," and this was the verse on the screen (1 Cor 14:29-31):

29 Let two or three prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said. 30 But if someone is prophesying and another person receives a revelation from the Lord, the one who is speaking must stop. 31 In this way, all who prophesy will have a turn to speak, one after the other, so that everyone will learn and be encouraged
So, he posed to us: "What would happen if we did that today.  If you have something to say, a prayer, a thanksgiving, a confession, go for it.  This is completely unscripted, and I d…

Reading list: "Cryptonomicon" and "Anabasis"

The laying-down of the phone continues to bear fruit, except at my waistline which seems to be expanding in direct proportion to my distance from having a woobie smartphone.

First up, Neal Stephenson's tome Cryptonomicon.  While written in 2002, this epic work (1168 pages paperback, though I read the kindle edition) presaged much of headlines circa 2013:  Cryptography, the emergence of 'technocrats' who seem to be running the world, and the importance of finding one's humanity amid it all.

I don't say "epic" lightly.  This is a book set partially in World War II ("The Second Great 20th Century Struggle for Global Hegemony") and partially in "modern" times, circa turn of the 21st century, but told with a generally 3rd person limited perspective that I found maddening at times.  Like the underlying framework--the study of hidden messages and the breaking of the codes that hide those secrets--the novel reveals itself s-l-o-w-l-y, and some…

On "Love"

1 Cor 13, v1-3
1If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not havelove, I have become a noisy gongor a clangingcymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy, and knowallmysteries and all knowledge ; and if I haveallfaith, so as to removemountains, but do not havelove, I amnothing.3 And if I giveall my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my bodyto be burned, but do not havelove, it profits me nothing.  If I ___, but have not love, it is nothing.

Initial response: "Wow, how screwed am I?"

"Love" there isn't sex desire (eros),  close friendship love (phileo), or family love (storge).  This is agape:
"Agape is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love"  In the sermon today, pastor LaHue brought up that 'Agape' love was used rarely prior to Christianity.  Pope Benedict XVI spoke on this at length here.

So what's the problem?

The unconditional part was and remains the problem.

I grew up with wonderful examples of love and d…

One of Those Days...In a Funk.

I just want to delete my internet presence entirely.  Over 15 years since I groped around on usenet, I'm sick of it.  I'll get over it, and I won't do anything rash.

I've already shutdown my Facebook account, as of Jan 1st this year.

I'm currently the #3 contributor on our internal social network at work, but I'm tired of the inevitable running jokes that putting yourself out there entail.   Getting people to talk to one another and share ideas is incredibly difficult, and people seem to carry the same stress, ego, and polarization from their personal life into the work sphere.  Throw in some language barriers and hilarity ensues!

Twitter's making me sad these days; I don't know why.   It's alot of people talking AT one another, not real communication, but I stay because it's where people I like interacting with are.

Google+ is....a joke.

* * *

Recent events have convinced me of realities that most people sort out for themselves at around 12 ye…

I Hate Shopping

Forgive me, I'm recovering from learning today that Peter Egan is retiring from Road and Track.

What I'm about to write is Dharmic revenge for my actions as an 16-25 year old: Ten years on from that, I hate shopping for anything durable.   I don't mind shopping for food, theatre tickets, or the average temporal thrill, but when it comes to something that's going to take-up residence at my house, I'd rather not.

Basically, I separate shopping from buying.  Shopping implies going somewhere, looking at something, maybe trying it out, then walking away and thinking about it.

This has a few distasteful outcomes for me:

Outright obsession.  Though better since I got a handle on my brain chemistry years ago, I can still obsess about some shiny object, night and day, for a remarkable time.  Mostly these are mechanical things: Guns, cars, motorcycles.  It's a fever, in my blood, with all the positives and negatives.Disappointment.  I'd been obsessing about something …

A Snapshot



Sturm und Drang

You said what you believed.  You gave suggestions.  You swore too much, and called "bullshit" at least once.

Good for you.  Old, impolitic, devil-may-care you arose and you had the "tough conversation."

Rant: The Google & StackOverflow Problem

George Carlin (God rest his soul) had this great bit about humanity.  From memory:
"How's the earth doing?" people ask.  "We're destroying the earth."  How's the EARTH doing?!  Earth is doing just dandy.  Four billion years and counting.  Like we're really going to hurt the Earth.  You wanna know how the Earth is doing? Why don't you go on down to Pompeii and ask those people frozen in place under Vesuvius.  The EARTH is doing just fine.  It's not going anywhere....we are.  (::Wild applause::)
Pack your S*@# folks, we're going away.  Time's up.  Earth needed oil, and we got the dinosaurs.  Then it needed plastic, so it got us.  It's got plastic, so...

So, today, I had a prolonged technical discussion with a colleague from India.  This guy and I are far from infallible, but I trust this man.  He's careful, diligent, and professional.  He told me "The Frobulator won't support foobar()."

We discussed i…

Giving up my SmartPhone, Two Weeks on

Here's a huge reason why I gave up my Smartphone two weeks ago:

I see this.  Everywhere.
You're not at the event, you're watching it through your phone's viewfinder.You're not interacting, you're looking at the palm of your hand.  It's quickly becoming normal to be 'social' while talking over or around a screen with 10% of your brain.You're not thinking, you're regurgitating what you can find on Youtube, Imdb, Google, or Siri.  While this information may be instantly correct, it obviates the need for you.  You're not driving, you're looking for the next point where you can zone out (straight stretch of road, stop sign, line at the drive-thru) so you can carry on whatever triviality you just hit on FB, Instragram, SMS, or whatever. So, I took a step off the running train.  Blowback has been both expected and encountered:
"What is that?  A Crackberry?""You did WHAT?""What?  Couldn't afford a real phone?"…

On LastPass After I lost the 2-factor Grid

So, since the first of the year, I've been a happy LastPass user, using the browser integrations in Chrome and Firefox.  It's great:
I never need to type a password --> Especially handy if you're projecting on screen.I never reuse a password across sites --> Even salted, hashed password files can get compromised.The 'Generate Password' feature lets me generate an arbitrary length password of arbitrary complexity--> Not vulnerable to dictionary attacks.You can use a neat 2-factor authentication system. I've also enabled 2-factor auth wherever I can (Google Profile, Twitter, etc.).

However, the thing with a two-factor authentication system is, you must have both factors to log-in.  In my case, factor 1 is my master lastpass password, which I have to enter whenever I launch a new browser.  This is something I know.  Factor 2 is an alphanumeric grid that lastpass generated for me and that I have with me in my wallet.  This is something I possess.

It's al…

Ch-ch-changes, 2013 Edition

The Dumb Phone As my tweet stated:
Quit my smartphone cold turkey at noon.  Wonder how bad the DTs will be #addicted One of the supreme joys of ADHD is the vulnerability you have to, well, anything that stimulates your limbic system.  Basically, early in the day (pre meds) and late in the day (when the meds tail off), my brain turns into this mush of neurons that's desperate for stimulation, for something to make the cacaphony of input from visual, auditory, and sensory signals even out and make sense.  However, early and late in the day is the only time I regularly see my family.

Not. Good.

Since I got my Atrix in 2011, I've been on an increasingly slack-jawed path to staring at YouTube videos and obsessing over the current trending topics on Twitter.  General pathology looks something like this:

The last thing I see at night and the first thing I see in the morning isn't my wife, it's my phone.  Forgive my bluntness, but that's fucked up.  I got convicted of tha…

To My Kids, On the World

I resolved to write down a few things to leave for my kids, some things I wished I'd heard from my parents.  This is the first of those.

My Darling Joey, Maria, and Grace,

I love each of you.  As each one of you came into my life, you taught me more and more about love, and about myself.  Joey, you taught me how to care so much it hurt, how to feel.  Maria, you taught me how something was more valuable than momentary happiness.  Grace, you taught me the simple joy of fatherhood, how each child is a gift from God, and how a laugh from your beloved child is greater than any physical gift in the world. 

My children, this isn't about my love for you, for that will not (and cannot) end.  If I am cast into the darkest, hopeless pit of hell, I will still love you until the last conscious bit of my soul burns away.  This is about "The World."  What I am to say is hard, but you need to hear it someday.

The world doesn't revolve around you.  Mom and I say this often, some…

On Houses

It's been said, "A boat is a hole in the water you throw money into."  Corollary: "There are two great days of owning a boat: The day you buy it and the day you sell it."
In my experience, the same is true of houses.  A house is a hole in the ground you throw money into.  But you own the hole, so it's okay.
Well, okay, after paying the bank 3x the purchase price over the term of a loan named after death, you own the hole.
Then, you decide you need a bigger/smaller hole in a same/different locale (It's like a MAD LIB!) and then you repeat the process.
Don't get me wrong, I love my house.  I just wish it wasn't so needy sometimes :-D

Et Tu, Google? (Google Reader screed ahead)

Ah, so, Google Reader.  It's going away in July 2013.
Yes, this is another rant decrying the shutdown of Google Reader.  However, it's my process for working through losing the app I've used every day since it was announced.  I mean that.  Every. Day.
I've used Google Reader so long, I don't remember what I used before it to read RSS feeds; I vaguely recall using NetNewsWire or some other installed application, but those never felt right.  Just as with email, the concept of sync'ing internet content to my PC never felt right.
I've gone on fasts;  I've been off facebook for years at a time, I've demurred and neglected twitter, but if I've had access to an internet-connected anything (PC, laptop, smartphone, Kindle), rest assured I was checking my feeds.
Why?  And why isn't twitter or something similar a good substitute?
Leaving aside twitter for a moment, the simple answer is speed and uniformity.  
Speed: Unlike most folks, the chrome and goo…

1Q in, how's that New Year's Resolution going?

Most New Year's Resolutions fail.

If you doubt this, look at your waistline, your bank account, and the amount you spend on your particular vice(s).

So, how are mine going?

Status at the moment:

Small Group leadership.  I've sucked at this one, at least in the short term.  I did ask my co-leader to take over, and he did a wonderful job.  I'm back at the helm through the end of this term, but I remain undeterred that I'm going to step out of small group leadership (and small groups) next fall.  Rating: Fail.Facebook.  I'm out, and I've stayed out.  The app is not on my phone, and I have no desire to go back.  Rating: Winning.Kindle Bible study.  This one was classic:  I did it like gangbusters for 2 weeks, then...uh.  Basically, I was on day 12 of my study in January,  then I loaded it this morning and I was on Day 12.  Rating: Fail.Writing code every day.  At this point, I'm writing code at least every week....Rating: Fail.Stop watching TV.  I have stopped w…

Winterjam 2013, or 'Wow, that Bass is loud.'

"Are these your kids?!" the 50-ish man leaned over and asked me.  Despite the din of 100+ decibel music, he seemed calm and his voice was clear.  We were second row back on the center stage, and Jamie Grace just got done strumming her guitar in a duet with Toby Mac.  My son Joey was star struck, and Caleb looked like he'd just wet his pants when TobyMac strolled casually in on his part of the song, Hold Me.

"Yup!  Well, this one is and the one in the green is a kid from our church."

"Want to come backstage with me?"

At that point, my mind went TILT.  Seriously?  Backstage...I told the boys to follow on and I passed my dumbstruck wife and mouthed the words.


* * *

How did we get here?  Remarkable coincidences abounded.

Once my wife saw on Facebook that Winterjam was coming to Rupp, she posed-up to get a group from our church together to go.  There are two ways to get in:  You can line up outs…

Selling FUD Doesn't Sell

I hear this today as a planted sales question:

"Why shouldn't I just use an Open Source solution instead of [my company's dooflotchy]?"
So help me, this is what I recall as being what the speaker wanted the salesperson to respond.
Well, first of all, you get what you pay for.  Would you really want to trust your sensitive data to a piece of Open Source?  We will support and stand behind our solution, and you have every opportunity to influence the product roadmap if you go with us. Yeah, I didn't really make it past the first two sentences either.  Of the last two, I have no complaints.  Of the first two I listened in disbelief.  What is this?  A 1997 Microsoft pamphlet?

Let me be as clear as possible:   If you lead with that, you will lose.  Selling anyone on fear unless the fear is real is a losing proposition.

Also, categorically, you're wrong.   You get much MORE than you pay for with alost any software you  buy, or (these days) that you download from the…

Reflections on Reflections of what started my Car addiction

I remember distinctly being in Don Napier's 6th grade Language Arts class in Sebastian Middle School in Jackson, KY and getting one of those writing assignments everyone hates.  
Write an essay arguing a position. It was the early days of the Kentucky Education Reform Act in Kentucky.  The Supreme Court of Kentucky (SCOK) had decided that the education system in Kentucky was unconstitutional, that our perennial position just above Mississippi on every aptitude test was not good enough, so out with the old, in with the new.

Write More! Went the mandate.  We'll no longer grade you on objective things (neatness, grammar, spelling, content) but on subjective things called a "writing portfolio."  Thus, prompt like the genius nugget above.

Let me put it further in context:  I was writing this paper out of sheer boredom.  A blizzard raged outside, an honest-to-God, Minnesota worthy 4-5 feet of snow with drifts.  It was so bad my Dad stayed in our tiny, 1000-square-foot ran…

Some New Years' Resolutions

The other day, I found myself wallowing a tad, and I cried out to God, simply: "God, please help me."

At the time, I was writing in my journal, some pretty negative, emotionally-charged stuff, like:

I feel like a failure as a husband.I feel like a failure as a father.My career isn't working out the way I really would like.  I'm certainly duller than I was in 2010, and I feel overwhelmed all the time.I'm not coding regularly anymore. Writing the above, I literally stopped in mid sentence and immediately wrote these words: So, fuck it.  What am I going to DO?  Blah, bah, blah.  I've been here, what, a dozen times before?  What the fuck to do? Here's (part of) what I plan to do.

I think it's time to step out of small group leadership.I strongly think going off Facebook+ again would be healthy.  I'm tired of seeing all the happy people of the world when I'm sad, and at the same time, I'm wasting inordinate amounts of time there when I could be wo…