Showing posts from 2009

Hasn't the world ended yet?

We Americans have a unique talent for narcissistic hyperbole. Every problem we face, every political statement or person we disagree with, seems to portend the end of the world, or at least the end of the American Way of Life as we know it. Regardless of color, creed, or political persuasion, this one thing unites us: I want to proudly do what I want to do without interference, but if you're allowed to do what you want, well, that's it: the world's gonna end. And I will loudly complain to anyone within earshot about your plans for world domination and/or destruction of my way of life until I run out of breath, in the hopes that they will join my revolution against the forces of darkness.

I'm tempted to say that this is a recent phenomenon brought about by the Clinton administration, but as that would just be another example of this problem, it feels a bit redundant. The fact is, we've been railing at each other since before we were a country, when the Whigs and …

Unemployment, Interrupted

Well, there go all of my semi-retirement plans: I got a job! Now I have to put on pants and go back to the office, which really throws a wrench in my previous plans to ride my bike, walk around in shorts and sandals, and spend every morning smiling serenely over my newspaper at everyone as they rushed in and out of Starbucks. I even considered taking my laptop down there so I could pretend to be working on another book!

[Sigh], I suppose I shouldn't complain too much. After all, the job came to me before I even got around to looking for one, while other people can do nothing but look. I guess God has his first assignment ready for me already. Exploring Boulder County by bike will have to wait.

My New KPIs

Working as a financial services consultant for the last six years, I learned to love metrics. We measured everything: the site's performance, response times, down time, up time, wait times, peak times. We measured return on investment, return on capital, expenses, revenues, client satisfaction, and call volumes. If you could assign a number to it, we tracked it, and if you couldn't, we made one up (they call those "composite metrics"). But the most important numbers were the KPIs, Key Performance Indicators. If you wanted to call yourself a project manager, then you had to get yourself a set of those. KPIs measure the success of a project. They tell you whether the last six months of meetings, late nights, arguments, and design debates were worth it. They also tell your boss (or in my case, your client) whether you're worth the money they're paying to keep you around. You watch those numbers pretty closely. Now that I'm voluntarily unemployed and living i…

Into Thin Air

So this is it. We're really leaving Boston after 12 years to move to Boulder, Colorado, a place we've visited exactly once, for a long weekend. This would seem stupid if it didn't almost exactly mirror the move to Boston 12 years ago. Of course, last time it was just me and my wife, moving from a small rental house in Tacoma to an even smaller hotel room in Harvard Square. That time, we had only visited Boston once, overnight. But it felt right, and other than the bitter cold (-40 wind chill the night we arrived) and a mild case of pneumonia for the first couple of weeks we were here, it all worked out amazingly well. Who needs planning, or lists of pros and cons, or… housing?

Yeah, we're moving to Boulder without a place to live -- though I'll settle that before the family arrives -- without a job, and without really knowing anyone in the area. We're going because it feels right, like our time in Boston has come to an end and God has a new assignment for us in …

Ride to Wingaersheek

Here's what I'm doing this weekend:

Lexington to Wingaersheek
Find more Bike Rides in Lexington, Massachusetts

Gotta get my beach time in before we head to the mountains for good.

We leave for Boulder in 17 days! Woo-hoo!

Pics from the 2009 Best Buddies Hyannisport Challenge

Best Buddies just posted a bunch of photos from this year's Hyannisport Challenge. You can view the entire set here.

Our fearless leader (Danny) at the starting line. This was the last time that he was seen near the front.Bob at the start. He's the worried-looking one on the left (#332).Some Patriot Pedalers with our favorite celebrity, Maureen McCormick. Bob looks a little happier here.
Clearly, everyone had a fun time. It's nice to look at these pictures and not think, "Ugh, I'm glad I survived that one." Let's hear it for nice weather, and go Best Buddies!

2009 Best Buddies Hyannisport Challenge Ride Report

At last, here's the promised ride report. It's a few weeks late, but hopefully entertaining for all that. If you haven't seen the previous reports, you can find a full list of links here. Enjoy!
So, here we are: my fifth Best Buddies Hyannisport Challenge! Looking back over the past five years of ride reports, I notice that the content has changed. The first couple of years were all about the pain: riding a long distance was a visceral challenge (much like living in Arlington) full of trials, cramps, and long, painful climbs. Just to finish was a victory, whether I did it alone or with others. The fact that I finished the first couple of rides alone, trailing behind many of my teammates, may have had something to do with that. Then I figured it out: new bike, new training regimen, new ability to maintain a paceline (did I mention new bike?). Suddenly, the tone of the ride logs shifted: it wasn’t about survival anymore, but rather camaraderie. The pleasure of riding with oth…

Slowest. Ride log. Ever.

Again, my apologies for how long it's taking to get this thing written. I hope it's worth the wait. If you're wondering why it's taking so blasted long to write a simple ride report, here's a hint.

I told my family that all I wanted for Father's Day was some time to write, so I hope to get this done before the end of the day and posted soon after.

Thank you for your patience, cycling fans!

It's coming, it's coming...

Several people have asked about this year's Best Buddies ride log. All I can say is: it's coming, don't get your bike shorts in a bunch. I started writing, but it was a busy weekend and I didn't get the couple of hours alone that I need to finish it. So hang in there, faithful readers, and it will be here soon.

In the meantime, here's a tidbit to tide you over:
Tyler, meanwhile, is using the weather as an opportunity to convert others over to his freakish practices and sees a potentially willing convert in Bob:

Tyler: Rainy days like this are why I shave my legs
Bob: What?
Tyler: Yeah, you see, when it's wet like this, you can coat your legs with Vaseline. It works as well as wearing rain pants, but you don't have to worry about taking them off later! If I didn't shave my legs, then that would just be gross.
Bob: Are you sure that's the only thing you're using the Vaseline for, Tyler?
If you need a bigger fix, you can go here for links to previous…

I still won't grow up!

I just came back from a visit to Boulder, CO, and I was blown away by a couple of things:
About 53,000 people think that running a 10K (the Bolder-Boulder) at 5400' elevation is a great idea.A whole community of passionate people has gathered there to build cool software and have fun doing it.I thought that idealists like this died out in the Great Technology Ice Age of 2001, when it suddenly became uncool (or maybe just unprofitable) to enjoy your work. I guess a few survived, or maybe these folks are just too young to remember those dark days.Well, thinking about this on the plane ride back reminded me of a piece I wrote a few years ago. Since I'm probably the only person who ever read it, I figured I'd bring it out of cold storage and share it again.
I Won't Grow Up!I have to say, I am so grateful for the grownups in the business world. They have taught me so much and helped me to mend my foolish, childish ways. You see, I used to actually think that people were suppo…

Let's get ready to ride!

It's that time again: time to roll with my Best Buddies to Hyannisport! This will be my fifth year riding with the Patriot Pedalers (and Senator Kerry, of course). As usual, we plan to have more fun on the ride than we do at the clambake afterwards, but that, as they say, is just how we roll.

We're expecting good weather for once, which makes for great riding but a slightly less entertaining ride log. I'll try to make up for it by getting lost or crashing into someone famous (maybe the senator again, if he doesn't have those Secret Service guys with him: they have no sense of humor!).

I'll also be posting updates to Twitter and Facebook throughout the ride, so click on the box at the right to follow me if you want to feel like you're part of the joy, pain, grease, and grit of a 100-mile bike ride.

For those bike geeks who want to see the route, it's available below:

To quote Hopper in A Bug's Life: Let's ride!

PS - It's not too late to support me and…

Time to go the distance

Spring is in the air (finally), and this young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of... mileage.

It's time to dust off the bike shorts, grease up the chain, and start riding. Actually, it's been that time for about a month now, but now is when it gets fun because now it gets real. The Best Buddies Hyannisport Challenge is only five weeks away, and I'm preparing to ride 100 miles on May 30 to raise money for Best Buddies International. This weekend, my weekend training distance will be 45 miles, and I'll be adding another 5 miles every week until the end of the month.

This will be my fifth year riding with the Patriot Pedalers in the Best Buddies Hyannisport Challenge, and I've recorded the experience here on this blog:
2005: The Year of Freezing our Toes Off2006: The Year that Got our Hopes Up2007: Payback's a Breeze2008: In Which We Finally Ride a CenturyBest Buddies is a non-profit organization founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver in 1989, dedicated to help…

Lessons from the road

I haven’t had the chance to play road warrior much in the past few years -- what with having children and all -- so the past couple of weeks have been a refresher course for me in the joys and frustrations of business travel. Here are a few things that I have learned about the new world of the business traveler. Take the power outlet whenever you can get it. You never know when it will be available again. Ditto for the wireless network. A cellular modem is a lifeline, but it’s a slow, painful one. Remember AOL circa 1995? It’s like that, but without all the fun sound effects. People with iPhones like to make fun of people who still need a computer to get their mail. Fortunately, you can get revenge on them by asking how their battery’s doing around 4:30 in the afternoon. Even an iPhone can’t help you find the right office building in Brooklyn if you don’t know which way you’re facing. There’s a big difference between being treated like a passenger and being treated like cargo. I great…

You've Got Mail (Like it or Not)

One major difference between "pure Agile" (the idealized process with its roots in small software companies) and Agile for the Enterprise is the necessity of managing distributed teams. In a multinational company with thousands of employees, it's nearly impossible to get an entire project team -- not to mention that ubiquitous cloud of stakeholders -- to work in one place. In this environment, asynchronous communication (through email, wikis, discussion forums, etc.) is critical to project success. To be a truly effective force for good in your projects, you need to be able to use these tools – and the short written message – to clearly communicate, coordinate, and collaborate with your project team.

So what’s the big deal about email? We’ve all used it for years and some of us can barely remember a time when it didn’t exist. Can’t we just send email at work just like we do everywhere else? Well, that’s the problem: some people do write emails at work just like the ones t…

Go forth and be Agile!

As Thomas Hobbes observed in the 17th century, “Life under mob rule is solitary,
poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Life on a poorly run software project is
solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and hardly ever short enough.
- Steve C
McConnell, Software Project Survival GuideEveryone who has worked in software for more than a few years can probably relate to this observation. Software projects seem to lend themselves especially well to two things: fantasy-based planning and painful and repeated collisions with reality. Smart development organizations, tired of hitting their heads against the same wall over and over again, are looking at a new way of building software: Agile development. But life on an Agile project is different, and people need new skills to succeed when the easy stages of the waterfall are stripped away and they dive into the Agile whirlpool. Here are the five Agile commandments that every team member should know (we had ten, but we broke them into two releases):

I. Thou s…

Brother, Can You Spare Some Change?

Jumping off the waterfall and moving to an Agile approach is an exercise in organizational change, and let's face it: human beings hate change. From the earliest caveman to his modern equivalent in the ratty "Evolve or Die" T-shirt, the whole of human history is a long, losing battle against change. Empires rise and fall, civilizations are built up and ground into the dust of the ages, but one constant remains: there's always someone at the top trying to get everyone to knock it off and be satisfied with the way things are.

Of course, few people will admit this dirty little secret, even to themselves. We like to think of ourselves as dynamic go-getters, innovators -- dare we say it? -- change agents! No one wants to be accused of perpetuating the status quo, making the same old mistakes in the same boring ways. The truth, though is that we like things in their places: this always goes there, my project dashboard is always green, and I always do that on Tuesdays a…

Jumping off the Waterfall - An Intro to Agile Development

This is the first in a series of articles I plan to write on Agile development, software development in general, and generally getting things done in the workplace. Hope you enjoy.

For decades, the waterfall project model has been the accepted way to build software in large companies. In this traditional approach, every phase of a project follows logically after the previous one, building upon the work that has gone before in a nice orderly flow. At the end of every phase, the entire extended project team gathers together to review the results of that phase, nod together in agreement that the deliverables are satisfactory, and sign off on those deliverables before moving on to the next phase. It is a calm, rational approach that appeals to project managers, CIOs, and accountants. And if everything goes as planned, it truly is the most efficient, predictable, and repeatable way to work.

Of course, if everything were that predictable, you could hire a precisely calculated number of monkey…