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Showing posts from 2012

2012 Christmas Card

Merriest Photo Grid Christmas Card Click here to browse Shutterfly Christmas card designs. View the entire collection of cards.

A Better Burndown Chart For More Accurate Sprint Planning

The Scrum method of Agile development is excellent. I have used it with my teams for more than 5 years now, and we deploy successful sprint after successful sprint, each and every month. One of the secrets of that success is that I have varied from the traditional burndown chart and sprint estimation suggestions that are taught when a person learns about Scrum. Fortunately, the original Scrum books state that Scrum is not "prescriptive" - meaning that it is not a hard and fast set of rules that are set in stone. We are suppose to modify and adapt it to work in our organization. If you have had issues with making accurate burndown charts that reliably tell you when your sprint will finish, then perhaps my suggestions can help. The traditional definition of a Scrum team is that of a self-managed team that does not have set roles. The team is supposed to decide who will perform each task. That is a great concept, except that some people have developed careers as software d

Road Test: 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan

Have you ever seen the traction control light come on in your car? The little picture of the car with squiggly tire tracks that blinks at you when the car is trying to save you from yourself? I have seen that light come on once in a while if I am driving "enthusiastically" in an unfamiliar car, but usually only once or twice. The rest of the times that I see it come are when I do something on purpose, but that is another story. Last night I drove a vehicle that blinked its traction control light at me almost constantly. Was an AMG Mercedes? A V12 BWM? Maybe a Porsche 911? Nope. It was a minivan. My wife's car is in for service and the shop gave her a loaner vehicle - a 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan with only 3200 miles on it. This van is a base model. I don't think that it has one option on it. Scratchy, hard plastic interior, not even a center console with a lid - just the basics. One thing that all 2013 Grand Caravans do have, however, is a 285 hp, 260 ft lbs of torque

Scout Planning Meeting - A Lesson For Adults

Last weekend I attended our Boy Scout Troop's Annual Planning Camp Out. This is a meeting that the Scouts run, and they plan out all of the activities, advancements, service projects, and outings that they want to complete in the next year. The meeting was held in a cabin at Three Tree Point and was pretty low tech. The majority of the meeting was done with paper, pens, and Post-It Notes. The amazing (and slightly embarrassing) part is that this meeting, that is run by the kids, accomplished more than most "professional" planning meetings that I have attended in my software career. The Homeowner's association at Three Tree Point set aside space for the Youth Cabin, and volunteers built the cabin decades ago. Over the years, many, many Scouts have had the opportunity to stay there, and various plaques bear testimony to the many Eagle Scout projects that have helped to improve it. Our plan was to have the meeting over a two day period, and to camp out there at the

Selling Boy Scout Popcorn

It is the time of year that we take part in the annual Boy Scout Popcorn Sale. Part of that experience usually involves setting up a table in front of a grocery store and attempting to sell popcorn to people who are coming in and out. Interacting with the public is always an interesting experience, especially when you live in such a diverse city like Seattle. Just throw all of your preconceived notions about people out of the window because you just never know who you are going to meet. Last weekend my son and I were selling popcorn in front of a grocery store in an older, well to do suburb. It was a sunny, warm, Fall afternoon so the parking lot was like a mini car show. We saw a 1960's Mercedes SL, some old muscle cars, some custom Harleys, and other gems that only come out of the garage on nice days. One older gentleman parked his Harley, walked right up to me, and asked if I was gay. I just said, "No," so he turned to my son and asked, "Do you get a badge f

Hurricane Ridge

In September we made a family excursion to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park . I have lived in the Seattle area for 21 years now, and I can't believe that I never went there before now. It is absolutely amazing. The only challenge is that news of The Internet and GPS technology do not seem to have reached the Olympic National Park. They do have a Web site, but their maps and directions are terrible, and there is no address for the ranger station so you can't punch it into your GPS. You will just need to go to Port Angeles on Highway 101 and follow the signs. The road to Hurricane Ridge intersects with Highway 101. From Seattle to Hurricane Ridge is about a 3 to 4 hour drive depending on ferry crossings and traffic. Driving in the Olympic Peninsula is always nice. Any of the towns that start with "Port" are worth seeing, and there are plenty of things to do and see. The road up to Hurricane Ridge is scenic - which in a National Park seems to translate

4x4 iPod

I recently traded in my fleet of vehicles (The Rabbit, The Fire Truck, and The Country Squire) on a new Ford truck. It came equipped with a Microsoft Sync system which has a owner's manual as thick as the one for the truck. I keep discovering new ways to use it and today I have figured out how to make my truck into an iPod. I enjoy the NPR show Car Talk , but I can never seem to be in front of the radio when it is on. I have iTunes set to download the podcast every week, but then I have to actually play them somehow. For me, this works best on my daily commute. So the question becomes, how to play Car Talk podcasts in the truck while driving to work. As it turns out, there seem to be no less than 7 or 8 ways to play them on the Sync equipped radio, but I think that I have worked out the best way. When iTunes downloads the podcasts, it saves them as mp3's. If you copy those to a USB stick and plug that into the USB slot on the dash, then the radio will index them, after warn

No One Tells New Parents About Explosive Stealth Poo Tar

In our house, I take the kids to school and daycare in the morning, and my wife picks them up in the evening. The baby, now 6 months old, is usually happy, and our middle-school son is really self-sufficient, so this is not difficult, even for me. Once in a while, however, the baby's Morning Constitutional lines up with our time to leave and there is an Incident.  Modern diapers are truly amazing and they normally work very well. When modern diapers fail, however, they cease to be diapers and become Poo Vectoring Systems. They no longer catch, hold, or even slow down the poo - they just redirect it out and upwards like a shaped charge explosive. My son's normal, er, movements are so loud that everyone in the house knows that they have happened. He has, however, developed an Explosive Stealth Mode Poo where no one hears anything, but thanks to the diaper forming a Poo Vectoring System, he manages to coat his back up to his shoulder blades in what can only be described a

How To Make School Lunches More Nutritious: Re-Define Words

If you are a parent of a child who attends public school in Washington, and if you have even a vague recollection of the food pyramid , you probably will have noticed that the lunches that are served in school cafeterias are frequently at odds with the rules of good nutrition. The school is not wrong, however. They have just re-defined words and you are not keeping up. Pop quiz:  Cheese belongs to what food group? *bzzz* - wrong. You said that cheese was in the diary food group , right? No! Pbth! How boringly accurate of you. Cheese magically transforms into a protein when it is served on pizza or in a bread stick! I know that you may be dubious, but I contacted Wendy Barkley, RD,  who is the Acting Supervisor of School Nutrition Programs in the State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and she assured me that it is so. To quote her email to me: " Pizza remains an option for schools for their menus.  The cheese on pizza is counted as a protein in t

Are Your Papers In Order?

Today my son started his first day at middle school, but it almost didn't happen. My son attends a school in the Highline School District that has the endearing trait of pretending that they have never seen you before every year when school starts. So we went to enroll and received the stack of forms that we always get and gave them the information that we always have to give them. Yes, in 2012, in this very high tech area, you have to take off of work, drive to the school, and pick up pieces of paper and fill them out with all of the same information that you have given them every year that your child has been in school. Oh yes, they also assume that every family has a parent that can take off work and come to the school any time for any reason - but that is another story. Anyway, there was a brand new piece of paper this year and it asked about all of the health conditions that a student might have. Like an idiot, I was honest and checked the box for Asthma. Alex has very mild

The Weedwacker

This is me teaching Alex (age 12) to use the Weedwacker yesterday. Me: "So at this end you have what is a spinning blade, essentially, and it can cut off your fingers." Alex: "Great" Me: "At the other end you have a gas burning engine that can burn you." Alex: "What kind of machine is this?!" Me: "So do you want to use it?" Alex: "Well, yeah!"

Boy Scout Ban on Gays Is A Mistake

Today I looked on Facebook and saw that the mother of one of my son's friends had posted that the Boy Scout's re-affirmation of their ban on gay people had re-affirmed her decision not to let her boys join Scouts. This was followed by many posts and likes from other mothers of my son's friends who feel the same way. There was quite an outpouring of animosity. Boy Scouts used to be right up there with America, apple pie, and baseball. Norman Rockwell even featured the Scouts in numerous paintings. How could Boy Scouts go from near-universal love and respect to an organization that gets shouted at by parents for recruiting at schools? The Scout Law says that: "A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent." Every Scout and adult leader swears to follow the Scout Law. How is banning gay people consistent with the Scout Law? Is that kind or friendly or helpful or loyal? No. Some pe

A Summer Program That Works for Kids and Working Parents

I find that many schools and summer camp providers assume that each child must have at least one parent that is unemployed and able to show up at any time of the day to pick up kids or volunteer or attend an event. I have seen several such camps that have "full day" program hours that are something line 9:30 AM to 1:30 PM, or they meet only on Tuesdays at 1 PM, or twice a week at 10:30 in the morning. I don't know about you, but I have to be at work longer than that. One might imagine that delusionally short, summer camps might be cheaper, but that would be naive. The the cost of the program - be it science, art, theater, or space, seems to be inversely proportional to the length of each day's camp. I suppose a 5 minute long camp might cost $2000 per week, but I could be wrong. Anyway, there must be people that sign up for such things because those camps don't seem to go out of business - but they should. For the last several years, my oldest son has gone to the

Tuesday Night Skiing

I recently recovered some old backups and found this Web page that I made in the 1990's before marriage and children. I have edited this original page to fix broken links and remove old email addresses. Weirdly, the only Web address that was still valid is the one for SETI, and they are nearly out of funding. The snow line telephone number, however, is still the same. I don't do Tuesday night skiing any more, but I hope that some people do. It really is a lot of fun. Please note: the lift ticket price listed is from 1994. Expect to pay more, now. ------------------------- Tuesday Night Ski Expeditions FAQ Background: The Tuesday Night Ski Trips started in 1994 on the premise that night skiing is cheaper and less crowded than weekend skiing. A small group of hardy adventurers (some might say "fools") set off into the mountains in winter, at night, in a storm in search of killer slopes. While this may seem to run contrary to the rules of common sense an

Photos from the Glory Days of Software Startups

There are a lot of new software start-ups in Seattle these days, but none of them burn through money like the startups of the late 90's (I hope). There were so many excesses, huge signing bonus, and lavish parties. Investors who knew nothing about technology threw millions at companies that never had a chance at being profitable. I think that some of that still goes on today, but it is nothing like the "dot com" era. I recently recovered some very old backups and ran across some photos from a startup where I worked in the late 90's. We were making a "Unified Messaging" server and we needed some voice prompts recorded. A caller to the system would phone in and hear these prompts, and then use speech recognition to retrieve emails, and voicemails. Anyway, we needed a voice for our computer. Now who would a room full of nerds immediately think of when you ask them to find a voice for the computer? The voice of the Star Trek computer, of course. We started loo

How to Drop Your Children Off At School - a FAQ for Parents

I have noticed that quite a few parents are unclear about how to drop their children off at school. My oldest son finishes 6th grade this week, and I have been studying this issue since he started Kindergarten. I present to the Internet, A Parent's Guide and FAQ to Dropping Off A Child At School. Step 1: Preparation Like many things in life, preparation is key. Have your child prepare his or her backpack the night before. Make sure that everything is in the backpack. Loose items mean a disorganized vehicular exit when you arrive at the school. Q) As the parent, I get my child's backpack ready. Isn't that OK? A) No. Stop it. You child will never learn to get themselves anywhere if you do it all for them. Start in kindergarten, have them get their backpack ready the night before, and place it by the door. You have enough to do as a parent without having to do that, too, and your kid needs to learn responsibility. Will your kid forget stuff? Sometimes, but then they le

Owning an Android Phone - aka Living The Beta Test

After owning an iPhone and two Android phones, I have reached the conclusion that, when we consumers buy an Android device, we are not purchasing a finished product. What we are really doing is paying money to join Google's and Verizon's beta testing program. Do you remember beta tests? Software companies don't do them nearly as often as they used to do them, but basically a beta test is a test of software that is *nearly* finished. Prior to "going beta," software is just tested by the in-house quality assurance team, but public betas are open to end users. It might not be completely stable so there are bugs and it might crash on you, but if you just can't wait to get your hands on the latest and greatest, then you can join a beta test. You get to submit bug reports that go right to the developers and your feedback helps to shape and perfect the next generation of that product, whatever it is. One small point - because the software is not really ready for sale

Exterior Car Monitors - The Future of Posing

Lots of people like to modify their cars with improved "stereos" that include complete in-car entertainment systems. They put huge amplifiers on them so that everyone else can (in their mind) be impressed by their loud music, movies, etc. The one problem with this is that the stereos are inside the car. How can a person properly show off just how tacky  awesome they are if people can't see the movie that they are watching, or their family photos, or some other photo? I think that the next thing will be monitors placed outside the car, but you are probably thinking that they will look stupid and get snapped off on the freeway, or something. What if the body panels of the car *were* the monitors? Corning just announced a new, flexible glass . One of the uses could be for flexible monitors. Aftermarket customization companies already sell replacement plastic or fiberglass body panels for various cars, so I don't think that it is a stretch to imagine that someone will m

Global Entry - The TSA Trusted Traveler Program - or - How to Go In The Short Line At The Airport Security

Ever since September 11th, 2001, flying has been a hassle. With each failed attempt to smuggle explosives on an airplane, the TSA makes us get more undressed at airport security. In fact, for really early morning flights, we should probably all just show up in our jammies and then get dressed once we are through the scanner because currently we get up, get dressed, go to the airport, get half undressed, go through security, and then get dressed again. For quite some time, people have been asking the TSA so implement some kind of pre-screening program where travelers could have a background check in advance, and then be allowed to go in a shorter line. That day is finally here, and the TSA is now rolling out a Trusted Traveler Program known as Global Entry . In a nutshell, you pay $100, fill out some online forms, go in for an interview, present your proof of ID, and get fingerprinted and photographed. Yes, it sounds like some red tape, but then, every time you make an airline reser

Transportation Options

Like most people, I drive my own vehicle to work every day. I regularly explore alternatives to this because it feels like I am being inefficient or wasteful. I drive alone in a V8 powered, Ford F-150 pickup. Yes, I am that guy. The guy that all of the activists and politicians and electric car makers have their sites set on. I am in the target demographic, too. My round trip commute is under 20 miles, I am middle income, I usually buy new cars instead of used (not counting old fire trucks and Country Squires), and I like technology. For the record, I do think that global warming is real, however I also believe in capitalism. I want to save money on commuting, and I like being kind to the planet. A good alternative commuting strategy should decrease my commuting costs, not increase them, and it should not reduce the amount of time that I have with my family because the alternative commuting option is slow. Let's break down my options. My truck averages around 13 mpg in my norm