Showing posts from 2016

Cleanup in aisle 2016!

For my birthday yesterday, my son shattered a glass jug of chocolate milk, spraying the sticky, spiky, dangerous mess all over our garage.  As I spent the next hour helping him clean it up, I was struck by how appropriately this moment summed up the whole year.  It feels like 2016 has been the Superfund site of calendar years, with one toxic mess following another across the national stage as well as my family's life.  But when you start your year like this...

... the best that you can hope for is that things will get better from there.  In many ways, they didn't. Yes, we went to Hawaii for Spring Break thanks to the generosity of my parents-in-law, but we also got to find out just how Hawaiian expensive emergency rooms are (answer: very!) when my daughter fell on the peak of Mt. Haleakala.  2016 was the year of expensive medical treatments, with my ACL repair, my daughter's tropical ER visit, and my wife's back surgery.  Even the dog got in on the fun, tearing ligame…

The Holiday Lights Project

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
On September 11, 2011, I was sad: haunted by memories of the events of ten years ago, grieving for my country's lost innocence.  I felt like I needed to do something to remember the friends, colleagues, and classmates who died that day, to brighten a world that seemed to darken every time this date rolled around on the calendar.  I needed to find a way to fight that darkness.

So I walked into a nearby IHOP and I asked for the manager.  When she walked up, wondering what anyone could possibly be angry enough about to actually come back in to complain about, I said, "I'd like to buy everyone's breakfast.  Could I do that?"

She was shocked.  "Everyone?"  She gestured at the restaurant full of Sunday brunchers. "Everyone in here?"

"Yes," I said.  "Can you help me do that?"

"Um, sure!&quo…

Trump won. Now what?

President Tr--.  Nope, I still can't make myself say it.  Maybe in a year or two.  Or four.

Like 48% of American voters, I'm... let's go with "disappointed" by yesterday's election results.  This wasn't how I expected it to play out.  I thought that we had better taste in leaders, I really did.  But, there it is.  The votes are in and our candidate lost.  I was upset, I didn't sleep well, and I was a little distracted at work today, but the sun still came up and the second Civil War didn't start overnight.

From the angry and overwrought messages in my social media feeds, I'd say that quite a few other people are upset, too.  Since I've carefully curated my feeds to eliminate views that I find obnoxious, rude, or crass, I can safely say that 99.9% of people like me -- I kept one conservative friend from college to prove that I'm open-minded -- are pretty pissed and scared right now.

I already asked everyone to take a deep breath last …

Let’s take a break

OK, Blue America, time for a hysteria break.

This isn’t the end of the US or the beginning of the Apocalypse. We won’t repeal all 27 amendments to the Constitution tomorrow. We still live in a diverse country of immigrants with more institutional freedoms than most of the rest of the world enjoys. We can still dissent without fear of arrest and work through our differences compassionately and reasonably.
The people who crawled out of the darkness to celebrate the worst aspects of human nature haven’t taken over, nor are they suddenly multiplied a thousandfold. They were always there; they always have been there, lurking in the dark corners of humanity since Cain killed Abel in a fit of jealous rage. They have crept out into the light again because they think that this is their time, but it isn’t. They haven’t been given the keys to the country, they have just been given a slightly louder voice by a man who seized an opportunity to win by whatever means necessary. When this election i…

Being Donald Trump

A lot of people are very angry at Donald Trump right now.  For the sake of our collective blood pressure -- and let's face it: as a country we really can't afford it to get any higher -- I want to help.

Being angry at Donald Trump for the things he does is like being angry at a shark for eating.  The anger that we feel is based upon an objective measure of right and wrong, what come people call a "moral compass."  Donald doesn't have this.

There is no "right" or "wrong" in Donald's world.  In his world, there are things that Donald Trump can do:
Grope, sleep with, and occasionally marry beautiful womenBuild large structures, like Trump Tower in New York or Trump Wall along the Rio GrandeRun for President of the United States In Donald's world, these things are good.
There are also things that Donald Trump cannot do: Grope or sleep with Megyn KellyPay for all of the work to build his large structuresBe President of the United States (it …

Quittin' Time

(Note: I know that this is not an easy topic to discuss, but I wouldn't be much help to people if I only wrote about happy topics.  Should Hemingway have avoided writing For Whom the Bell Tolls because it was about war?
And now you're thinking, "Did he just compare himself to Ernest Hemingway?" No, I didn't.  Well, maybe a little.  Anyway, if Hemingway wrote about quitting, he would probably say: Quitting is bad.  Don't quit.  Unless you should.I'm going to use a few more words than that, but that's the gist of this article. Thanks, Ernie.)
(Note 2: this is not a “Quit your job to found a startup and live a more fulfilling life” article. If you’re looking for confirmation of that decision, move along)

Every parent with a child in sports has lived through this scene: a player makes a bad play or the ump makes a bad call and the coach completely loses his mind.  His screeching voice echoes in the uncomfortable silence as parents, players, and officials st…

Egoless, but Full of Pride

When we were children, the adults asked us, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  We gave answers like, "A fireman!" "An astronaut!" or "A professional baseball player!"  No one said, "I want to be compassionate!" or "I want to be a good member of my community!" Well, there was that one kid who was already planning to be the youngest senator in the history of the United States, but even he was already defining himself in terms of his occupation.
As we grew older, we went to college and tried to find a major that would lead to a career, or at least to a good graduate school that delayed that career for a few more years.  In our sophomore years, we questioned whether we really wanted to spend our lives in advertising, or chemistry, or teaching history, and our parents said we were having an identity crisis.  Apparently, we weren't just questioning our field of study, but our very identity itself.  We learned in that mo…

Paying the Piper, Techie-Style

Growth based on debt is unsustainable, artificial. -- Jose Manuel Barroso
Debt is beautiful only after it is repaid.
-- Russian Proverb
Technical debt.  It sounds like a scary new investment mechanism that too-big-to-fail banks created after the whole CDO/credit swap/Big Short thing ended... poorly.  But it's much scarier than that.  It's the time bomb lurking in every software product, waiting for the right time to jump out and take down your newest beautifully crafted feature.  It's the source of zero-day security holes, back door hacks, and plain old everyday performance issues.  It's a fact of life for every software company and the bane of every application architect's existence.  In my office, it's also the prime catalyst for torrents of muttered (or not) curse words.  Sometimes, it even comes with a name, usually the name of the person who thought he'd found a brilliant shortcut... at the time.

So what is it?  It's old code, shortcuts that felt neces…

In Defense of the Plan, Part 2

I wrote recently about the need for long-term planning, even (perhaps especially) in an Agile development environment.  I left you with a choice: plan or fail.

The fun part about writing on the internet is that you don't really have to solve problems: you just have to point them out so that other people can agree with you that yes, there is a problem there, and someone should do something about it.  I'm a problem-solver by nature, though, so I can't just leave it at that.  If I'm going to tell people they need to do something, then I'm constitutionally required to help them do it.  So we've already covered why you need a plan for your product development.  Let's talk about how.

Let's start with a few objections, because I never met a straw man I didn't like (to poke holes in):

I can't tell you when we'll have a whole feature set done because we're using Scrum/Kanban/Lean Agile/some other Japanese-sounding development process.I can't…

In Defense of the Plan, Part 1

Have you ever sat down with a pile of Legos and tried to build something with whichever pieces came to hand?  I have, and it turned out looking something like this:

I didn't really know where I was going with it, and then I couldn't find any of the round pieces to use as wheels, and pretty soon my car became a house, then it was just sort of this rock/tree stump thing with stuff growing out of it.  When I was a kid, though, I used to buy the Lego kits.  You know, the ones that could build a spaceship or a race car or, if your parents were rich, a medieval castle.  When I followed all of the steps, I ended up with this:

It took a lot of work, and the instructions weren't always helpful, but I had a plan.  I knew what I would have to show for my efforts, and with the application of some patience, concentration, and some judiciously applied glue to fix the pieces that I broke trying to force them into place, I got my spaceship (with bonus moon rovers!).  I had a great sense …