Showing posts from 2018

Weird Software Engineering Proverbs

This is how I work in my career.  Some of these are counter-intuitive and require explanation.

Shipping code wins. On schedules: Picking an arbitrary deadline is often moreefficient than carefully planning things out.  I've spend 20 years decrying this, but if you add up the time you spend planning, negotiating schedules, then executing, it's less pain if you just work-to-deadline and throw features overboard in the process.On teams: A disciplined team of professionals cultivating mutual trust will outperform a team of talented jerks.  There are exceptions, but only if you're writing the Linux kernel or something requiring 10x insights daily.On technology selection: Always pick the technology 1 step behind the bleeding edge, because it's mature and documented For example, when everyone was going to Rails, use Spring MVC.  This will reduce your technical risk profile in every single case.  Treat everyone as though they might be your boss someday.Code only exists if it…

Is Dr. Who Done?

It's been tough to be a Whovian in the past few years.

First there was the Clara denouement, in which show-runner Steven Moffat demonstrated he cannot write for women.  Then, there was no Dr. Who in 2016, period, and we suffered through the rather uneven Series 10 and Bill the social justice warrior.  Last, we're in another break, as we wait for almost another year (October 2018) to see the first female doctor, Jodie Whittaker.

Taking a look at the Revived Era, from 2005 on, we've gotten regular installments of the Madman in the Box since 2010, especially during the Matt Smith era.  The irregularity of the Capaldi era removed the show from the cultural zeitgeist, and made it "that show we used to watch."

One could plot New Who like a fired artillery shell, with the Eccleston series 1 as the beginning, the Tennant  era as the meteoric rise, and the Matt Smith as the apex, and the Capaldi era as the fall to the target.  Truly, at times during Series 9, it felt lik…

Toyota Jumped the Shark Today


“With our rivals and the rules of competition also changing, a life-or-death battle has begun in a world of unknowns,” [Toyota CEO] Toyoda said during a fiscal update last week. “Cost reduction is crucial. It is a fight to restore our original strength.”
Dear Toyota USA
I read the article below and it sickens me. You are a great company well on the way to being FCA if you take your eye off product and think only of Expense controls. Having worked for a company that cut expense for 17 straight years (when it wasn't spending $3 Billion to buy companies it had no idea what to do with), let me be the first to say, this will not work, and it will drive your talent away. It's not employees' fault that Tundra is a dead stick. Chevy makes oodles of cash off the Tahoe/Suburban line and you can't move the metal. Your hybrid strategy is a money-losing mess. Y…

Two week review: 2018 Honda Civic LX 6MT

I've toyed with the idea of doing a video review of this car.  If you'd like one, leave a comment

So, I've had a 10th Generation 2018 Honda Civic since April 24th.  I had a little car trouble and found myself in need of a car.

Crap.  Nothing like buying a car in the middle of Spring, when everyone else is buying a car thanks to Tax Refunds.   Middle of the model year.  No incentives.  Yaaaaay.

My short list went like this:

Ram 1500GM half-ton with the 5.3 V8Buick LacrosseLexus GS350Honda Accord So basically: Truck or car?Practical or practical or practical. I needed something practical I could put my wife and girls in.  I was driving around in a sweet full size Chevy Impala, so I was feeling a car again, hence the Lacrosse being on the list.
I 86'd the GM as it drove too big, and Whitney homed in on the Ram and the Buick as her top 2.  On April 23rd I took off work and we went driving during the morning and early afternoon.  The accord was too stiff, but we drove some Ci…

On "Avengers: Infitnity War"

As the lights go up after a comic book movie, there are reactions one expects: Awed silence; various onomatopoetic words like "Whoa!," or (in the DC Universe) grim reflections that it either did or didn't suck as much as expected.
One does not expect seething, shocked anger like the gentlemen next to me, "Well, I'm glad I never saw Black Panther," or the repeated, mindless exclamation of a teen across the auditorium. This movie BROKE ME.  This movie completely BROKE ME.  I am Broken. Truly, after Infinity War, I think none of us will be the same again.  Our happy childhood of origin stories and side quests is over.  The reality (stone?) of us dutifully hitting the bar in our rat cages marked "comic book movie" with our $$$ since 2007 is  coming to pass. 

Or, as Master Mordo said in a (much better) comic book movie: "The bill comes due."

(Note: I'll try to avoid spoilers)
Too Many  The film opens with....geno…

An Open Letter to the Ford Motor Company on the Ford Fusion Hybrid Braking System

Dear Ford Motor Company, My 2010 Fusion Hybrid crashed today. No, I didn't smash into anything...the electric traction system in my car crashed in the computer sense as I was rolling towards a stop sign. I was left without power brakes. Thankfully this was at ~5 mph so just stomping really hard on the pedal yielded a stop. As I approached the stop sign in electric drive mode (engine off), my dashboard lit up light a Christmas tree, displaying warning lights I didn't know I even had. The display shouted 'SERVICE ADVANCE TRAC SYSTEM' and my brake pedal went almost to the floor. To fix this, I did the old IT trick: I turned it off and turned it back on. Problem "solved." This seems a rather serious failure mode, as without the engine running, there's no vacuum to power the brakes. As the car can run with the engine off up to 45 mph, I'd rather not imagine stopping from that speed sans a brake booster. Having been around embedded software, I can understa…

On Communication

Martin Lomasney, an old West End political boss from Boston, is best remembered for his warning to young politicians everywhere — “Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink”.

Review: "A Wrinkle in Time"

So yeah, let's spend 20 minutes flying around Pandora from Avatar but let's leave off the part that makes the plot work...

"There is such a thing as a tesseract" -- Miss WhatsIt

I'll never forget the day I read Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time for the first (and thus far only) time.  I was in 4th grade--11 years old--and I was in my Aunt Norie's house in Highway 205.  My mom dropped me off, and I was alone for hours.   I can't remember the occasion exactly, and especially the reason for my solitude, but it didn't matter.

I had a book.  I had the book.  I had A Wrinkle in Time.

Over the next six or so hours, I devoured the book.  I don't remember eating lunch or going to the bathroom.  L'Engle created not just a world, but a Universe, a story that spanned a galaxy and plumbed the depth of Love, Light, and Freedom.  I talked my poor mom's ear off about the book, then never mentioned it again.

The Nineties can have Harry Potter.  …

Age 39 Catchphrases

The following come to mind for being 39 years old ( I turn 40 in November )

"Killing yourself, one M&M at a time." Bonus points if you sing this to a "Fugees" tune and your coworker thinks you're having a stroke.
"The Advil Years".  Significant things cause you to be sore the next day.  Like walking.
"Remember when _____ didn't hurt all the time?" did these things pass design review?
"Yep, that's me."  You not only recognize the face in the mirror, you come to accept him.
"Remember when we didn't yell?"  Deafness.  Yep, that's what it is. Suuuure.
(Before Noon) "Coffee fixes....everything." 
(After 6pm) "Wine fixes...everything else."
"Teenage me was so naive."  Well, he was.
"Twentysomething me was so egotistical."  Yep.
(Tech-specific) "Remember the first two times they invented this same thing?"  It grows tiresome to write the same logic in a dif…

Git The Hence: A Programmer Dies and Goes to Heaven...

A programmer dies and goes to heaven, meeting a rather stern St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.

"You do know we have a record of every sin you've committed?" Peter says.

"Sure, whatever...I've got nothing to hide.  I lived a very clean life."

Peter continued: "...and your full git history of every commit."

The programmer just smiled.  "Great!  I'm quite proud of everything.  I practiced Clean Code."

"...and the full DAG.  No rewrites of history in Heaven."

Programmer: NOOOOOOOOOO!


I'm exhausted.

Yes, I know all the motivational crap about The 40% Rule.  I can (and shall) push through this, Lord willing, creek don't rise, coffee maker don't fail.

Some things to highlight for future reflection:

I've crested 270 pounds.  I'm nearly 90 pounds up from where I was in 2012, and 30 more than when I moved here in 2016.   I'm eating myself to death.My exercise routine is nonexistent.My sleep metrics seem good, but I get no rest.I don't read regularly.I don't have any effective hobbies.  I basically work, sleep, repeat....and yes, I happen to be on-call for my current team this week. I begin to wonder (far too late, I suspect) that the above is unsustainable.  Other people seem to do this life thing well, and I....don't.  I seem to just work.
Forgive my conceit, but I begin to wonder if my "life" is all just a fever dream of me lying in a hospital bed, lamenting I chose work over everything else.

Re: Espresso

So, a colleague brought in an espresso machine, a burr grinder, and some beans.

So, now I know how to make espresso.

Brilliant Idea: I need to setup an espresso bar beside a cardiologist's office and take 10% of their profits.  My EYEBALLS ARE VIBRATING.

Instagram is Weird

So, I've left Twitter and Facebook.  I had a flirtation with Blind that I've also given-up.

Detox has been weird.  I was used to having a hardwired line into the pulse of the internet.  Between my 4 (!) twitter lists updating constantly and watching Tweetdeck incessantly, I was a straight-up information junkie.

So....what's the methadone for this heroin?


Thus far, Instagram has a much different personality than either Twitter or Facebook.

Twitter: Unvarnished snark, though blessedly brief.Facebook: ALL THE DRAMA.  Political ranting.  Divorces in progress.  Passive Aggressive, Aggressive, Martyrs.   After a week off of it, looking at it is unbearable.Google+: A nightmare that's the perfect example of why Google doesn't get human beings. At all. Then, what about Instagram?  Basically, it's a trifling place, devoid of politics.  It's default-public (like Twitter), and people seem to share just moments from their …

On Leaving Twitter and Facebook

Well, as I sit here in 2018, it seems social media is an utter failure.  Given that I've been on internet chatrooms since 1993, this frustrates me.

This was basically the moment I knew I needed to get off twitter

Don't lie and say you care about the school shooting today.

It's been 1,866 days since Sandy Hook.

Since then: 1,576 Mass Shootings, including Las Vegas.

Restate: You *may* care. WE THE PEOPLE don't. — Harold Combs (@miniharryc) January 23, 2018
Yeah, that was the school shooting after Las Vegas, but before the one in Florida.  I'd had it.

Having Tweetdeck open every waking minute I was at my desk was making me genuinely crazy.

Then, the next week, Florida happened.  I posted the same screen on Facebook, and it was the same fricking arguments we all had after Las Vegas.  Same banal polarized arguments.

I'm done.

No more twitter.
No more Facebook.

I'll keep accounts there, but I'm going dark.

Enough is enough.

Get Over It; There's Always a Date

I say this after 19 years making software:  There's always a date.  Get over it.

I've lived through the Agile Revolution, and various schemes to sell consulting named: Spiral, Rational Unified Process, eXtreme Programming, Scrum, Kanban, and the Scaled Agile Framework.

Through it all, there's always some sort of date.  Words like:

MilestoneNeed by dateDeadlineStart of ProductionPromise DateCustomer PromiseStatement of Work Honestly, if they're not there, you should probably be worried.  Projects of significance require planning and planning requires dates.  If you haven't seen a date in quite sometime, you might want to join the rest of us getting paid oodles of money to ship features to customers who'll pay us.
Let's stipulate to one thing right now:  You may abhor this concept.  The people writing your paycheck live with both the concept of dates and the concept of missing them.   
People exist who understand resource planning to the same degree you unders…

TULIP, again. (Or, why I'll never be a Baptist in my Heart)

In sum, here's my problem:  I've joined a Baptist Church, but I'm no Baptist.

In detail it goes like this:

Baptists come from the Calvinist tradition.  You may have heard of "free will baptists."  These are not those.Calvinism is a very well reasoned Protestant doctrine based on Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion.  It further comes from the sole scrirptura tradition of the Reformation, in that it solely derives from points in the canonical scriptures, especially the New Testament.There are 5 major points to Calvinism, encapsulated in the acronym TULIP.Total DepravityUnconditional ElectionLimited AtonementIrresistible GracePersistence of the Saints When I queried the pastor, he reaffirmed he "believes in God's sovereignty," furthermore the sermon that same day had the theme that "God is the Author of History," leaning on the person of God as an omniscient and omnipotent active force in His creation.  A follow-up visit from the…


"Kentucky makes great bourbon.  And apparently, good Software Engineers."

Good stuff.

Option: Accept My Own Insignificance

Things seem....bad.

Offhand, enumerating the things that seem broken in my country right now:

Our government isn't really functioning.  The Constitutional Republican Democracy of 1787 seems like a failure at scale.We're more tribal than we've been since segregation, a process that's accelerating.We're in unending, global guerrilla war against people willing to kill themselves for an idea incompatible with our existence as a nation.We have roughly one mass shooting per day.  Yesterday, there was one in Kentucky.We've lost our ability as a society to dream of something bigger: The moon, world peace, whatever.  That seems like a 1960's fever dream at this point. What can I do about any of the above?  
I mean, I guess I can argue with people on the internet about it, for all the good that does.  

I could retain crushing anxiety about what might happen, much like when I was a kid having watched The Man Who Saw Tomorrow, convinced the world was ending.  …

Closing, 2017

So, 2017 is past.

As luck would have it, we decided today would be a good day for midwinter cleaning, as I'm halfway through my 2 week stint off work.  I dug through a box I had from our move back in June, and within was my first Employee Evaluation from Amazon.  I got to look at what I thought would be my 2017 and got to compare it to what I actually accomplished.

What an interesting idea.  So, let's do that for 2017.

Here are some things I wanted to do in 2017.  These are not New Year's Resolutions, but, meh.

Get out of that Rental.  We were paying 2k / month for a rather crappy rental with little insulation.  It leaked air like a sieve, had a back yard full of fire ant mounds, and had a proprty management company with all the integrity of your average Nixon advisor.  Status:  Achieved. We were out by June 30th.Get out of Austin.  I like Austin.  Sort of.  I dislike the concrete and traffic, but it's a place with style all its own.  That being said....the northern subu…