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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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Monthly Archives: May 2005
When last we spoke, I talked about pulling the next release of The Beast off the calendar. I’ve since sat down everyone involved and debriefed them (“okay, what did YOU think was going on?”), and the responses have been illuminating.
The real issue, once I’d had a couple of 12 hour sleeps, was that the project had gone OOB earlier, by at least three weeks, but I’d hit one of my famous tunnel vision modes where I was going to make the date, no matter what. Reality is, it was gone (through no real fault of anyone — certain aspects of the project simply took longer, we made some UI changes along the way (because it was the right thing to do), and we had to divert resources to hardware installs to scale capacity on short notice (which should have red flagged the release, right there, but I didn’t. oops. has anyone noticed I can be a bit headstrong at times?).
First thing I did was sleep, then over the weekend, headed down to SoCal to visit the family — I’m trying to get down there every couple of months, just to see how things are doing and help out on things they can’t do as easily for themseves these days. I’m finding that by doing this, it also cuts some of the intensity of “trying to do projects” on the christmas trip, and things get a lot more sane.
I also took a couple of extra days, so I could relax — and I spent friday off at Disneyland. 12 and a half hours at the park, followed by another 10 of sleeping. More on that later…
I’m a firm believer in meeting commitments, which is a laudible attitude — to a point. When you can turn the knob to 9, you can do things some folks feel are miracles, and they like you. let the knob slide over to 11, and if you aren’t careful, you don’t realize it until the dilithium crystals splatter your crew onto the walls of your engine rooms. I find sometimes, I’m still dialing in on the difference.
There are days when The Beast drives me crazy — starting with, sometimes, having to call it The Beast and leaving it at that; but the reality is, I love the challenge (we’ve grown by a couple of orders of magnitude in three years, and it continues to be adopted all through the company as fast as we can bring people on board — to give a sense of growth, about a year ago, I did a tech review for management with volume projections looking out two years, and the growth numbers were seriously questioned; we proceeded to pass the two year number six months later, and we’re now handling about double the two year number, a year later. and I thought I was being aggressive about growth when I did the numbers… And — starting to look another year, or two out, we’re likely to doble again at least once, maybe twice, and that’s going to require different ideas to keep scaling…)
Even more important to me, though, are the people. I’ve been pretty lucky in my career, compared to a lot of people I know, with generally good managers and co-workers. This group, I think, may be the group I like best, and am closest to. I’m surrounded by folks I not only enjoy working with, but hesitate to call friends. That’s one reason I ‘go to 11′ so willingly — even when I probably shouldn’t.
And the project — the phrase I use iwthin the group says it all: how often can half a dozen people fundamentally change how a company does business? And in many ways, that’s what we’ve ended up doing. And it’s a damn fun hack.
One of the things that’s been fueling a low-level sense of frustration with me recently is a feeling that I’ve had no time to to deal with personal projects (and things) that were MY priorities, because life and work have combined to suck up all my time.
For instance, my weight. I set out in 2004 to get serious about my weight, and set what I thought was a reasonable goal of 40 pounds. Early on last year, that got sidetracked, and I never really got serious about it again.
Yet, when I saw my doctor last week, he was thrilled — I lost 15 pounds in the year between visits. I was grumpy, because it was only 15 pounds.
Who’s right? well, we both are, but mostly, he is. Even I have to admit that. Most of his patients never lose any significant weight. And of those that do, almost all of them gain it back.
Me? I started somewhere north of 380. I’m down in 2 years to 345. Whatever goals I set, that result can’t be ignored, and it’s a good start. (there are, by the way, some interesting studies (which I can’t currently find) indicating that taking off that FIRST hunk of weight reduces the stress on the circulatory system, cutting your health risks significantly. Which is not to be considered a reason to stop, but may indicate some increase in the margin of error. OTOH, I still have at least 80 pounds I need to take off, and last week, my blood pressure finally showed a noticeable rise into the areas where doctors take notice (that, however, might have been caused by other factors; see previous post). I’ll know tomorrow, when I see him again, as we sit down for a bit to discuss strategies on how to accelerate the weight loss.
I already know a key factor there are lifestyle changes. Um, see previous post. But we’ll see what other options we decide are useful. But it’s become increasingly clear the stress and hours I’ve been investing in the project are not sustainable. I’m tired of coming home and turning into a vegetable, and it leaves no time or energy to get an exercise program going. So I”m not unhappy, I guess, to be able to call a halt and rethink the calendar, because you can bet we’ll keep those considerations in mind as we rebuild the schedule, too.
I”ve always made the somewhat snide comment that I’m most likely to be carried out of Apple on my xServe, not with it. The last few months, however, I’ve really come to feel that as being very likely — and that some people have decided that’s okay, as long as stuff gets done sooner. I admit, however, one of those folks has been me.
Another aspect of that is the growing frustration of various home projects that seem to be going nowhere. Some of that is true: the “server migration” that’s been ongoing for months, when in fact, all I need is about 10-12 hours of concentrated work to finish it. And the living room that would not die. or finish. or get moulding.
But in reality, while many projects stalled badly in 2004, 2005 has seen some great progress — it’s just that I”m still seeing the lack of progress from last year hanging over me. Both bathrooms here at home have been in various states of remodel seemingly forever, ever since installing the vanity in one bathroom required the demolition of the vanity in the other (long, long, sad story) — but in reality, both bathrooms are now plumbed and the fixtures are in and the shelves and towel racks, and all I have left to do in both is mouldings and replacing a noisy exhaust fan, and some wall prep, and we can paint both of them (although in the first, we’ve decided to pull the towel bars and rethink the accessories a bit again).
Out back, we’ve had all the concrete removed and a new patio poured, and added new teak furniture and a new BBQ — despite losing a month to rain, and seeing the rainy season continue well into May. Lots of work for the summer out back, but where normally we’d be trying to plant tomatoes now, we probably won’t be ABLE to plant them until June, given current cool weather. The workshop in the garage is finally functional: small and cramped, but I’ve figured out the workflow so I can do most things (I still prefer to chop up plywood on the driveway, just to get more space, but once I do those cuts, I can finish stuff up inside again).
And in the living room, the fireplace is almost done, and the bookshelves moving forward. I could have it ready for paint in July, if this continues. Given we started the process in 2001 with a new front door and by ripping out the carpet (and the floors underneath it) — I’m ready for the room to be done.
And we can see the end of the remodel work in general: the kitchen needs done, and laurie’s office and my office and the library, and we want to build a new closet into laurie’s office, and then a new master closet, and replace the carpet in the maaster and the junk room, and paint — and at some point, upgrade the electricity service, the only piece of infrastructure we haven’t had done yet. If I don’t hit significant stops again, we could be done in a year. so figure (since I suck at scheduling), 18 months.
Thursday was a day of mixed blessings for me. We’ve been in crunch mode trying to make our June date for the next major release of The Beast. We were pushing a tough deadline — we started later than I wanted to, took an aggressive schedule and were trying to keep to it despite external contingencies.
One of the client groups, though, started insisting on some late changes to the release. It’s generally a very, very bad idea to start insisting on change to a release in May that’s due to go live in June, and in this case, previous change requests had eaten all of our schedule slack (and beyond, I think) — originally, this was (I had thought) agreed to be a no-feature release, but instead a technology migration, so we could retire some of our older systems in favor of everything sharing the Beast. But almost from the beginning, we had people kibbitzing about things I thought had been agreed would be left alone — and some of them made sense, and I hate saying no. But tthen we had requests for specs that shouldn’t have been necessary, since there wasn’t anything in the plan for review of those features (but they insisted) — and we decided to accelerate bringin live a half dozen new machines (which, really, means *I* got to bring them live), since we needed the added capacity, without, of course, changing the master schedule.
So we were more or less on yet another death march to make the date. So when these latest requests came in, we said no. And we were told that wasn’t an option. I let them know that any attempt to modify the schedule to fit in the new features would result in us pulling it off the calendar until all of the issues were resolved. They said that wasn’t an option, either, that the schedule would only slip by a day or two to fit in these new features. And then I was told I had no say in the discussion, so they weren’t going to discuss it with me any more.
Hey, I’m only senior architect and lead geek. I don’t have any real interest in the project.
In any event, my organization declared the release out of bounds, and we pulled it off the calendar until the issues that exist — not just the features, but the process (or lack of it) where features seemingly get added at whim. I like being responsive to customer needs, but there’s an inherent conflict between taking aggressive schedules and adding stuff as it comes up. In this case, I made a mistake letting additions in early, even if they were good things to do, because I think it set an expectation that it could continue. Next time, I guess, I’ll just be a hard-ass. The other issue on my end was the death march aspects; despite the additions, and the added projects created by the hardware installs, we had made a commitment to try to keep to the original date. In reality, we were likely to slip by a week, maybe 2. My projects always seem to come in late — which isn’t osmething I’m proud of, frankly, but it’s a combination of adding stuff after we set schedule (without changing the calendar), taking on aggressive schedules in the first place, and the fact that, basically, I never schedule enough contingency time for stuff outside the development tasks or to handle things that inevitably come up (like new hardware).
But I’ve come to the realization after three years of this, I’m tired of the night and weekend brigade. So while I was more than willing to make the date, or do everything I could to try to, when people started telling me THEY could slip the schedule at their convenience, but I had no options but to continue the deathmarch to make the date, I kinda had it. After making it clear they didn’t want to open up pandora’s box here, they did.
Whatever new schedule we do will be based on reasonable dates again, not the original ones, and take into consideration that my evenings and weekends are mine, not theirs (and that hardware has to get installed, and… and…). And god help somenone who tells me I don’t have any say into how the project I’m running gets run.
But the good news is, after I spent saturday brain-dead and semi-comatose, the energy level’s started rebounding, and I got some good work done on the living room remodel, and now, the blog, where I’ve finally gotten my Flickr stuff going. I m ight even get my server move finished soon (nah. never happen).
One of the things my group’s committed to is that now that we’ve halted things to figure out how to fix this release (not that I considered it broken. to be honest — but now it is, of course) is we’ll build the new schedule based no non-crisis development times. And on top of that, there are days of work that simply don’t exist in the new calendar: I’d convinced myself ot cancel a trip south to visit the family to try to keep things moving forward. Now, I’ve not only confirmed that, I added a day. Just as well, since mom’s airport network is acting up, and I can’t fix it remotely. So there’s about 30 hours of my time, just in these two weekends, now gone forever, and when it comes back, it’ll be in a more rational form. Instead of the end of june, I dunno. August? September? Depends on when we agree on what the new requirements are, and they get through the approval process. which currently doesn’t exist…
But maybe I won’t be constantly so tired that I have no energy to blog. which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your view….
In any event, monday we’ll sit down and regroup. Thursday, I head to LA for a long weekend, and Friday I’m going to Disneyland (and try to finally see California adventure) with the new Digital Rebel XT. We’ll see what kind of photos come out of that…
And maybe I’ll find the energy to do more than linkblog….
Some days, I’ve found, you really can go home again.
Saturday, I went to a baseball game. Not just any game — a Giants game as San Jose muni (see, San Jose already has a baseball team, and it’s not the A’s). That may not seem like a major thing, but it was, for me. Laurie and I used to be season ticket holders at San Jose, where we’d hang out for upwards of 40-50 games a season. Minor league baseball is different, especially A-ball. 3500 is a huge crowd, and the parks are small and intimate. Our season tickets were row one, over the home dugout, which means maybe (maybe) 50 feet from the foul line. So in a very real way, you aren’t watching the game, you’re in it (and if you stop paying attention, it’ll remind you of that — we had any number of baseballs come visiting, and one bat. I didn’t keep the bat, but I should have. I just tossed it back and told him to start using pine tar). Being in that size crowd and that close, by the way, you KNOW they hear you (Ian Lamplugh, phone home. I’ve lost your email and I want to know if you’re still in Victoria, because I owe you dinner for making it to the bigs, guy…)
But as Laurie and I got busier in our lives with work and hockey and other things, going to the games started feeling more like a chore than a joy. And I became increasingly disillusioned with baseball in general as I watched the caretakers of the major leagues continue to screw it up. And then the baby Giants had a couple of awful seasons, and then a couple of people who worked on the team needed to get a real life and real jobs (getting married does that to you), and… we ended up one year not renewing, but planning on going to a few games a year.
The problem, of course, is that once you break a habit, it tends to break in a big way. And I was pretty burnt out on baseball in general, so we never did. For a few years, we just didn’t think about it. For the last three, we did — but somehow, it turned into August. And, you know? after a while, it’s like “it’s been so long, what will they think if we start showing up again? Or will they even remember or care?” — and that sort of inhibits you.
But this year, laurie and I had agreed, it was time to start going again. There’s no way we’d survive season tickets, but we can get in half a dozen games, plus we’re going to head up to Sacto and amybe down to Fresno for games. Just to start the habit again. My god, I’m even watching baseball on TV again, where in the past years, I watched if laurie turned it on. And I’ve been at that point in the current project where I hate my job, I havte having no life, I hate having no time to myself, I hate working evenings and six and seven day weeks, and I hate computers (this is, FWIW, actually fairly normal for me, and it usually passes as we get closer to GM, but it’s not a development cycle without a lost weekend to exhaustion and a crisis of faith. My boss is used to it, mostly. One of these days, I probably won’t get over it, and then I’ll know it’s time for a new gig).
And Saturday laurie headed up to Seattle again, and the Giants had an afternoon game, and while I had work to do, it was time for some time out. So I wandered on down and bought a ticket, then grabbed dinner at Turkey Mikes BBQ off the left field line, then wandered off and found a place to sit and watch the game. I saw a few of the old regulars — but it was a busy night, and I kept missing them in the crowds. It was a pretty good game — Giants win, combined 1 hitter with the hit coming in the 9th inning (would have been my second no-hitter; good news it was a legitimate, solid hit, and the two errors were also legit). And in the last couple of innings, I started wandering more, just taking in the feel, the character. I finally did run into a couple of my old friends from the earlier days, too, and had nice chats.
One of them saw me walk by, and got the big round eyes and smiled (and to be honest, it felt nice to be recognized like that), and we sat and chatted to the end of the game — his first question was “where’s your needlepoint?” (which is a whole ‘nother story, but I was famous for showing up and doing needlepoint during the slow times. It drove some players crazy to see me pull it out…). And his daughter is married, and his son, who last time I saw him had just hit puberty, lost his baby fat and gotten his teenager-attitude, is now on scholarship at a good baseball school as a pitcher.
And it was almost as if I’d missed a homestand, not the better part of a decade. And we talked about that — it was a weird feeling; for all of the things at the park that were different (the people, the players, the staff, etc) — it felt as if nothing had changed. Kind of a time warp.
That place was, as my friend so noted, “Cheers”. and it’s why it keeps drawing us back to it. Like a comfortable pair of shoes, being there just makes things better.
I was made to promise that I would return (this season!) and show up earlier to talk more. And bring Laurie. And I will.
And in some ways, it’s too bad. The park is showing its age a bit, and the city (who owns it) is primarily interested in going “big league” with the A’s, so investing in the old Muni park is not only not a priority, it’s not really an option. Yet most folks don’t know (or care) about what they have already, only that they don’t have the 40,000 seat sterile, impersonal cavern of a major league park (where you can pay double for your beer and 10X for your ticket for seats in the next county). Eventually, I guess, either the stadium will fall apart or the A’s will move in town, and either way, it’ll go away. But taht’s no excuse for not enjoying it for now.
And so, I hope, I will. As should you, if you love the sport. It is not, by any means the best baseball you’ll see on a technical basis — but minor league ball as an experience blows away anything you can get in the majors. And it’s full of really fun, neat people —
who’ll remember your name, if you give them the chance.
I’ll have an order of garlic bread, and later, a churros.. for old times sake. And blue, shake your head. Your eyes are stuck again.
May also brings up another special date in my life, with another special person.
20 years ago this month, Laurie chose to move out to California and share my life. I honestly don’t know who I’d be today without her in my life, but the person I am is one I’m quite proud of, and her sharing my life is a big part of what I’ve become.
Last fall, I asked her to marry me again, and she said yes. As it turns out, trying to plan out the ceremony given our mutual schedules started driving us crazy, so rather than let that screw things up, we deferred it (intentions may be honorable, but logistics are a bitch).
I still felt it important that I do something — not just to celebrate that we’ve stayed together 20 years, but because I wanted to show her I want to spend the next 20 years, too. So I sat down with my jeweler and started scheming.
Last week, we went out to one of the restaurants we frequent, and as we were eating, I asked her if I could ask her opinion of something. And I pulled out the box, and asked her what she thought of this:
As soon as she saw the box, she looked at me with that little look of hers and said, lovingly, “you bastard!”
The ring has a double-band, soldered together, based on a design by one of the local designers who does limited edition pieces. Since Laurie and I both prefer colored gems to diamonds and are both to some degree gem geeks, I chose as the center stone a 1.14 carat tsavorite garnet in an emerald cut. We then surrounded that with four 1/4 carat diamonds (for the geeks, they’re H color, VS2/SI1 clarity).
I’m happy to say she likes it.
I also had a new band made for myself.
It is gold, with 3 5 point diamonds in it. It is my way of saying to the world “I am proud to be married to a very special person”.
Laurie has made the last 20 years so special. And I am looking forward to making the next 20 years special for her.
Today is a special day for a special person in my life.
I was, from the start, difficult, and many (myself included) would say nothing’s changed. A tough pregnancy, and I popped out blue, with a hole in my heart. The expectation was I wouldn’t live to be old enough for the surgery to fix it — but mom was a fighter, and I did; and then the hole healed itself, a 1 in a million shot.
And that’s my mom — no matter what, she never gave up, and always fought to give me and my family opportunity; whether we took it was up to us. She was a big believer in education, and pushed us to be the best we could be. She taught us to think, not what to think. She taught us question, observe and challenge — but with respect and honor.
As I grew up and started becoming me, we didn’t always see eye to eye — but she tolerated my growing pains and accepted my right to make my own mistakes, helping me learn from them if I asked (which I usually did, although sometimes years later).
And a funny thing happened. Along the way, she stopped being my mom, and became my friend. And she still is, one of my best. We still disagree on things, but with a few exceptions (which we simply have chosen to stop talking about, like politics), it’s a disagreement of peers with respect.
This month, she’s celebrating her 49th anniversary with my dad (and if you think my arguments with her over politics are crazy, mom’s a diehard republican conservative, and dad’s a classic democratic liberal — no wonder I ended up moderate). In a day of serial marriage and casual divorce, it might have been the most important life lesson she taught me.
A few years ago, she got hit with a nasty bug — seriously damaging her lungs, and forcing her onto oxygen. They think she picked it up on one of the cruises through the pacific, but they never figured out exactly what. I remember the day she emailed me asking me to research information on it. I looked up the first pages in Google and freaked. Today, much to the amazement of her doctors, she’s almost completely oxygen free. It was a commitment to not give up, a refusal to let it stop her.
Then last year, she slipped and fell — and seriously damaged some vertebra (already damaged by years of arthritis and the heavy steroids her lung problem forced her to take). She spent a week on asprin and heating pads before admitting how serious it was and going to her doctor — who freaked, of course, that she could survive the pain, much less walk. Her spine too damaged for fusing the vertebrae, she was told she might never walk again.
It took her months — but today, she’s almost free of her walker, he doctor keeps telling her to quit pushing her exercising so hard, and she and dad are going on another cruise this fall (23? 24? I’ve lost count). In her 80′s now, she’s not old, she’s just not as spry as she used to be.
It was her example that gave me the ability to take on middle age with (I like to think) grace and (mostly) a positive attitude. When things have gotten tough, her toughness has been one of the things I’ve used to give me the strength to keep fighting. And when I’ve felt like giving up, her refusal to — and her success by doing so — has been a key reason I’ve found a way to keep going, and succeed.
She’s my friend as well as my mother, and if there are things you like about me, you can congratulate her for them (if there are things you don’t like, it’s probably because I didn’t listen). And I say thank you to her a lot, but it’s never enough.
So thanks, and enjoy today. You’ve earned it.