Showing posts from 2015

2015: A Work Year in Review

It's been a fascinating, sometimes frustrating year.   Today's my last official workday; I'll probably check email from here on out.

Some highlights to share:

Code activity

That pretty much tells-the-tale.  Up through July I was hot and heavy on of our projects, then I had a week of vacation (which was awesome...I really recommend Nags Head, NC.)  Throughout that time, I was working with a very sharp team, and we had a go-live with our changes on April 23d.  I didn't sleep much that night.  
Things would go downhill from there.  I can't go into much detail, but from April -> August, we were on an effort to move the hosting of our solution, and it got aborted when the company made a switch in strategy and the entire Ops group supporting us left.  This left us high and dry, and we eventually retargeted on another path that delayed us 6 months.
In early September, I got shifted from my previous position to one with our Retail Publishing Platform .  This has been an…

Swimming: A Year In

Except for a 1 month break during the summer, Maria and I have been swimming every weekday morning, and I'm quite proud of our progress.

In January, we could barely make 1 half-lap of a 25 yard pool without being totally out of breath. Maria was very scared--she could barely swim--and she would only do kickboard stuff at first.  I was a complete goof, and the thought of doing even a full 25-yard stint frankly scared me.  I couldn't coordinate my movements, I couldn't breathe properly, and everything felt like a struggle.  I honestly didn't know if we'd make it out of January still swimming.

As I sit here today, we're both up to 1/4 mile in the pool each week day apiece.  Maria's confidence is much higher, and she participated in a local swimming club in the summer.

 As for myself, today marked the first time I swum 11 Fifty-yard lengths without using a kickboard.  I've just about gotten bilateral breathing on the forward crawl, and my technique is impro…

Corporate Games & Your position

Once upon a time, my employer decided I was enough of a naive workaholic to put me on a list.  This list contained other people who were naive workaholics.  They decided they should herd us together and teach us to be more effective, slightly less naive workaholics.
The guy who taught the class had many nuggets of wisdom, but this one stuck with me.  He drew this simple diagram on a pad of paper at the front of the class.
 Simple enough?  He went on to explain.
"How many jumps are there between you and the CEO?  4?  5? More?   Let me tell you something:
Everyone between you and the CEO is playing a game.  The CEO doesn't have to; everyone works for him. You don't have to, because you're the lowest man on the totem pole.
Everyone else is playing a game.  What's maddening is the # of games one has to play to get anything done.

Christian Doctrine: Justification versus Sanctification

Yes, I'm still alive, as my twitter stream would substantiate.

Felt led to share this.

First, some background: I'm a Protestant Christian.  As such, I follow the doctrine of Justfication by Faith (Sola Fide).  Justification by Faith, broadly defined, means that we are 'justified', that is, redeemed or saved, by Grace from God alone through Faith,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:9, ESV).   So, there's that.  Simple enough?

Well, yes and no.  So, if I'm "Saved," through no action of my own, then it seems that my actions before and after such Justification are immaterial.  If I'm a member of the elect, might I just as well go on doing things that feel good and still punch my ticket to Heaven?

The answer is maddeningly simple:  Yes, you might do that, in that Christ's atonement is sufficient (Calvin's objections t…

Ecclesiastes Moment: The Truth, Narcissist, is that No One Cares

This is sort of a follow-up to my On Steve Jobs post.

I write this with myself as the audience, after getting slapped with fish by life for the past 10 days.

No one cares.
You've been raised in child-centric America, from 1990 to the present.  You're behaviorally Millennial; you don't remember a time before computers, minivans, or helicopter parents.  You've always felt entitled to speak your mind, in whatever the situation.

When affronted, you're either aggressive or passive aggressive.  Unlike your Gen-X forebears, you can't take critique as the standard 'Wah-Wah' din of parents, superiors, or peers.  No.  You feel the need to respond.  And those same people better listen to you, dammit, because you're _________ (insert your name here, Snowflake).   You'll either run your mouth off or go to some form of social media to complain and find surcease.

Ibid: "No one cares."

They really don't.  They may patronize you and listen to your …

Swimming, 6 Months later

I did a quarter mile worth of laps in a pool.  Holy crap!
Maria is now on a summer swim team, racing other kids her age.  Holy crap!
Got a good pair of goggles at Costco, and my breathing patterns are better, if only my cardio would come along with it.

PragmaticAndy Burns Down the House

I've been a software developer throughout the "Agile Revolution."  My first team lead, back in 2001 said these words to me and I've always taken them to heart:
I think the world's pretty done with us [Software Developers].  I feel like we've got about 5 years to get our act together or that's it. Apropos, that same year a highly influential group of practitioners signed the Agile Manifesto.   Amid waves of Dot-Com-Bubble-Bursting, offshoring, and right-sizing, they kept it simple:  Here's what works; apply liberally.

That was 14 years ago.  In the intervening time, much like Protestantism after Luther, factions emerged:  eXtreme Programming, Scrum, Kanban, Scaled Agile Framework.  Characteristically, 25-year-old me thought these were all leaps forward.   At 36-and-a-half, my cynicism grows: I've seen Agile roll-out to 1000+ developers in 2 world-wide organization across different corporate and civic cultures.  I'll gladly replace Sisyphus rolli…

Programming via Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes is Solomon's valediction as an old man.  From the purported wisest man that ever lived--gifted with wisdom from God Himself--comes a book that seems a real downer on the hollowness of nearly every pursuit in his hedonistic life.

Sometimes, having worked as a developer for 16 years, I'm reminded off Ecclesiastes.

With apologies to Solomon:

To everything there is a season:
  A time to build big, and a time to build small,
  A time to write, and lots more time to sustain,
  A time to break systems apart,
  A time to pull systems together.
A time to delete, and a time to merge.

Most telling is the author's refrain:  "All is vanity! There is nothing new under the sun."

It doesn't discourage me, but it does make me think:  Is this worth rewriting/redoing, or should I just use something off-the-shelf?  The thrill of just writing everything myself is gone, replaced by the understanding that whatever I write is more "mental surface area" for the rest…

Refutation: Go's Design is a Service to Experienced Developers

Reference:  Why Go’s design is a disservice to intelligent programmers

I honestly can't decide if this article is sarcastic praisefor #golang hitting every one of its design goals, because once you look past the ad-hominem crap, it's there:

"Similar to Go, the book is easy to read with good examples and clocking in at about 150 pages you can finish it in one sitting." Read: Go's easy to learn.  The documentation is excellent."I’ve always thought that the developers at Google are hand picked from the brightest and best on Earth. Surely they can handle something a little more complicated?" He misses the point entirely.  Those same devs choose to go away from the frills to get leaner and faster.  Code is a means to an end at Google, and they realize that it's going to be read by other developers many times more than it's written.  Simplicity and clarity surmount all else; Google's stultifying C++ style guide makes this apparent."There are n…

Journaling Some Work

It's 1:38 pm. But for a snowstorm on Thursday, this would be my 7th straight day at work.
I'm doing things that people variously term "unwise," "strange," or "nearly impossible."
I've nearly gotten them to work, but not yet.  That's why I'm here.

Sunday Afternoon at Work

"Well, sir, you certainly didn't have afternoons like *this*, when you were doing the Architect Gig."

Gotta love that inner critic.  There's always something.

My response:  Indeed, but I didn't *ever* have weeks like last week where we found and solved problems in realtime with a team of engineers, either.  It was lonely, and devoid of the kind of dopamine-enhanced highs I got.

Last week was hard.  Every day except for Wednesday, I was here 'til late.  On two nights, mine was the last car out of the parking log.   Snowpocalypse 2015 put us behind, and a Linux/PAM story that won't die put us even farther behind.

I'm enjoying it, but not today.  Today, I'm just tired.

Time to drive to Louisville to get Joey.

Swimming, 6 weeks in

So, Maria and I are swimming.

Maria tends to take after me, in that she can look at food and gain weight, and she rather enjoys food.  We both eat our emotions, and emotions we have aplenty.

Right after the new year, I noticed just how crotchety I felt, even at 36 years old.  My back hurt constantly, I had little energy, I couldn't deal with stress, etc.  Maria was enrolled in swim classes last year and we found out she had limited range-of-motion in her right arm, basically from atrophy.

Atrophy at 8 years old.  Yikes.

The doctors recommended swimming as a low/no-impact full-body aerobic workout, and I readily agreed.  Every morning from 6:30 to 7:30 or so we're at the local rec center swimming.

I've got to admit: The first week nearly killed me.  Between getting up at 5am again and just the activity of swimming < 50m was exhausting.  Right before snowpocalypse 2015, I was really questioning if we were making any progress at all.  My weight was actually up, not down, a…

Quickshot: Joey Humor

It's been a stellar couple of days for Joey's sense of humor.  Representative samples.

"Yo' momma so fat, Arnold Schwarzenegger tells her to GET AWAY FROM DA CHOPPA!"

* * *

[Interior: The Combs Clan sits around the table]

Whitney (to Harold): You know, when you lie, you get spots on your face.

Harold: O RLY?  Tell me something and I'll lie in response.

Whitney: Yeah, say 'I like titty-twisters.'


Joey: Now tell us a lie.

Swimming with M

Contrary to popular opinion, I can swim.

I actually took snorkeling lessons in 3rd grade and was utterly "into" SCUBA-diving.  I loved the water.

However, I got awfully used to having swim fins, a buoyancy compensator, and a mask on.  Read: I got lazy.  Free swimming just didn't interest me, so I never learned to swim properly: diving, the basic 4 strokes, etc.

So, serendipity arrived this new year when Maria's PT announced that she needed to work-out, every day and that she needed to swim.

For the past two mornings, I've risen before 6am to take my daughter to our local parks and rec facility to swim.   It's been great, but my whole body aches in a way only an atrophied 36-year-old can.  It's not one specific joint; it's much of my chest and legs.

But hey, it's something.   Since changing my brain chemistry, I'm up 10 pounds.  I'm up an unbelievable 45 pounds since summer 2012, and I feel every ounce of it.

On Engineers

Bad engineers try to convince you don't have a problemGood engineers solve your problemGreat engineers help you understand the problem that caused your problem, then solve that. Yes, I'm trying to create those little office placards in my spare time.   I'm sure someone, somewhere has said this better, but it does seem to be true.  
I was thinking about some senior people, and what seems to differentiate the goods from the greats is that capability of seeing the heart of an issue and keeping perspective.

Update: 1 Month in

So I resolved to change part of my regimen about 4 weeks ago.  Let's chart the changes.
ProsI'm "me" again.  This is how I remember myself feeling and behaving prior to 2011.Coding (once I'm in "flow") is so...much...better.  Like "lightbulb coming on" better.  I've felt like my mind has been shackled for the past few years, and those fetters seem gone.My sense of humor and general perspective is much better.   My family genuinely seems to like who I'm being at home.I have actual emotions again.  As we'll see, that's also a 'con', but the world seems to be in color again, not Black-and-White.I can be "present" once again.  Fully, wholly, don't-care-what-the-clock says present. ConsI've gained like 10 pounds.  Yes, in 1 month.  I have appetite like a man starving, but yet I'm full.I have no idea what time it is, nor can I measure its passage accurately.  Like, time dilates into one hyper-focus sessi…

A Boy Named Ova

I lost my uncle on January 6th.  His given name was Ova Haddix, but he was always "Ovie" to me, and so he shall ever remain.

Ovie was born Nov 10, 1939 and died January 6, 2015 at age 75.  He was buried in Sterling Heights, Michigan just north of Detroit, his adopted home.   My Aunt Sue asked me to be a pallbearer and I was honored to serve.  It was the least I could do to serve a man who'd epitomized force of will and strength, whose earnest gaze and frank self assessment I needed as a child and adolescent.

Ovie wasn't a big man--wiry thin and just above average height--but he was larger than life.   He had a ready smile, and a booming voice, and an even louder laugh.   He was a a fount of endless stories and opinions, and he loved to talk, especially to his family.  As with many Jess and Dorothy Haddix children, he never met a stranger.

Throughout my childhood, he'd host us as we'd come to Detroit in summers and on holiday breaks to visit first at their hou…