January 9, 2019

UGears Locomotive

Over the holidays I assembled the UGears Steam Locomotive moving model. It was my second UGears project. I assembled the Chronograph a couple years ago. UGears models are very intricate and the working gears, mostly driven my rubber bands, add a fun aspect to them.

The Chronograph was 107 parts and the Locomotive is four times more at 443. I found the Chronograph directions confusing numerous times. The Locomotive was much more complex, but UGears has vastly improved their manuals.

I made one mistake with the side panels, putting them on the wrong side and reversing the text. I realized too late and didn’t want to try and disassemble it to fix it.

The Locomotive has an impressive set of gears. I haven’t had great luck getting the rubber bad engine” to smoothly move the gears. You use a lot of candle wax as lubricant for the wooden gears, but mine catches too much to work reliably.

The coal car has doors that rise up when you move the lever on the side.

The doors that open and even a retractable ladder are nice details.

Here is the Locomotive sitting next to the Chronograph.

December 30, 2018

Maybe Blot?

There is a bit of a trend on micro.blog to use Blot for longer form blog hosting. I’ve not dug in too deeply largely because it seemed to put Dropbox in the middle of everything, and my initial impression was that it would be a bit too simplistic. Blot has added git support as an option outside of Dropbox, and I really like how they did it. Your Blot site is a Git repo by itself, so there is no dependency on GitHub. If you add an iOS app like Working Copy to the mix you can have robust editing on mobile as well. My other concern about being overly simple is just good user experience. There is a lot of power where you need it, but you don’t have to dig through it all to get the basics.

I’m going to give this a go as well. For some of my sites, particularly my photography one, I think this might be a very good fit.

December 27, 2018

Book: When Breath Becomes Air

I’ve had When Breath Becomes Air” sitting at our cabin for a while, but decided to pick it up and read it on winter break. The book is a memoir by Paul Kalanithi told in two parts. The first part is his path through medical school and becoming a neurosurgeon, being close to serious illnesses, and dealing with death as a Doctor. The second part is after his cancer diagnosis with stage IV lung cancer, which causes his death within 18 months.

There were two things that struck a chord in me while reading this.

I kept thinking back to Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. I’m sure it was in part because Kalanithi, like Gawande, is a Doctor. The first part of the book had many references to the Doctor’s perspective when diagnosing a patient with a terminal illness. This book did too. Being Mortal is a very different book, and one that I highly recommend reading, but this touched on similar topics with a more personal perspective.

The other thing about this book was more personal. It reminded me in so many ways of the path of my friend David Hussman, who passed away earlier this year. He had the same diagnosis, stage IV lung cancer. I’m pretty sure he even had the same EGFR mutation and received similar treatments. Similar to Kalanithi, he did remarkably well for a long while after getting treatment. Enough that you could kind of forget a bit. But the cancer is just held back a bit. I was wishing I would have read this book when I got it, as it would have given me some deeper perspective when talking with David.

September 27, 2018

Goodbye Chase

On Friday evening we had to say goodbye to our dog Chase. We adopted Chase into our family in 2007. The adoption agency had given him the horrible temporary name of Lurch. When we met him, the couple that had been fostering him had named him Chase. I had the fancy idea that a somewhat geeky name like Comet would be better. After a day of trying that out, we realized that he was Chase. It just fit. Chase was a Black Lab / Border Collie mix. Smart, loyal, and full of energy.

We don’t know exactly when he was born, but he was in full puppy mode when he came to us. If Mazie left any wooden toy on the floor, he would chew it to nothing. We learned the hard way that he shouldn’t be allowed on the couch, after the couch upholstery was so trashed it had to be redone.

He was always looking to please. He never ran off, not once. He liked the snow. The Border Collie in him wanted the family always together. He listened well and only barked when he needed something. Almost always a single bark. Our neighbor called him the One Bark Dog” because he would just give a single bark, after waiting a couple of minutes at the door to come in. He even stood in for photos once.

I had grown up around dogs but had never had one. Chase was my first dog and he and I had our rituals. I always fed him in the morning. On the weekends I get up early, and he’d hang out with me while I did whatever. At the cabin we would go down to the dock in the morning with a cup of coffee and look at the water and the occasional bird or fish jumping.

Of course Chase wasn’t just my dog. Mazie loved Chase and would play with him a lot. Tyler declared Chase his best friend in Kindergarten and was hoping to take him to school for show and tell. Tammy liked Chase being around, going on walks and his friendly personality, although his shedding she could have skipped.

I didn’t realize that Labs live to about 12, more or less. I hoped we had more time. I knew Chase was getting older. He was slowing down and enjoyed long afternoon naps at the lake. He would find a spot in the grass and have a good day of it.

Sadly he wasn’t just getting old. We took him in because his teeth looked bad and his breath was beyond bad. We figured he just needed a dental cleaning. They found a growth in his mouth. Melanoma. They cut it out and asked us if we wanted to do cancer treatment. We declined, that seems to me like a hard thing for a dog, especially at his age. He also developed a number of other growths on his chest and stomach. To add to the challenges, he tore both his CCLs and for over a week he couldn’t walk up the stairs in the house. His whole life he also got rashes and sores on his skin. An allergic reaction of some kind. Medication usually helped, but with the cancer the meds didn’t do anything for that. For the last month we’ve had to help him out quite a bit.

On Friday we had a vet come to visit the house. We all went out on the deck. It was a cool evening, just gorgeous. We all sat with Chase petting and soothing him as the vet put him to sleep.

It was tough. I expected it to be difficult, but it was even harder. He was part of our family. Chase was everyone’s dog and we all felt the loss. 😢

I didn’t realize how much he was always there with us, and particularly with me. The mornings have been lonely without him there to do whatever was the plan. When we come home from doing something, there is no welcoming tail wagging at the door with eager eyes.

I miss my buddy.

August 23, 2018

Goodbye to my friend, David Hussman

The last time I saw my friend David Hussman we met at Red Wagon Pizza and enjoyed an extended evening of pepperoni pizza and several glasses of a delicious red wine. We initially sat inside to avoid some scattered rain, but then transitioned outside to enjoy a gorgeous evening, great wine and even better conversation. Like most times that David and I got together the conversation never had a gap and flowed all over the place.

I commented to David that he seemed remarkably well. It had been well over a year since David called to let me know about his cancer diagnosis. When he called he was talking weeks and months. Here we were drinking glasses of wine and laughing well over a year later. He was sharing stories of his recent trip to Italy with his family. It sounded amazing and I could almost be fooled into thinking that David wasn’t sick. But he definitely was.

I first met David when I was CTO for MarketWatch. One of the engineers on our team knew him and figured he could help us out with some of the things we were doing. I instantly liked David’s insight, his directness and ability to see through the messy stuff and get right to the problem.

David and I were able to combine forces several times over the next 25 years. We had what I would describe as a mutual mentor relationship. One of us would often ping the other with the vague request to get some hang time” and talk through some topic that was on our mind.

David was always understated. His work to bring agile methods to companies was exceptional, and as a thought leader and speaker his stage was global. He presented at conferences around the world and brought a tremendous amount of energy and fun to the sessions. I enjoyed every talk I ever saw David give. There are dozens of them on YouTube if you never got the chance to see him present. I was really excited when he agreed to give the Keynote at Minnebar 9.

Often times I thought it would be fun to build something with David, maybe do a project or something. Both of us were always busy with family and work things that pushed that off. I tried to get him to join my book club at one point but he deferred, citing his busy travel schedule.

The last year I was able to connect with David on a more regular basis. A terminal cancer diagnosis provides some urgency. He approached his cancer with an amazing resilience. I can’t even imagine how hard such a thing is, but from what I could tell his approach to life made the time he got at the end so much better.

David was often referred to as The Dude, in an admirable reference to The Big Lebowski. He even coined his own law, Dude’s Law, that Value = Why / How. In life David always seemed to have a good handle on Why, and he kept his How pretty damn simple. The rest worked out as best as it can.

You will be sorely missed Dude! v5.6.50

Here are some additional items I’ve indexed remembering David.

June 7, 2018

DevOps Minneapolis: Changing the Enterprise Session

I had a great time talking about Changing the Enterprise at this week’s DevOps Minneapolis Meetup with Heather Mickman and Bridget Kromhout! My mic wasn’t working in the beginning but gets fixed a little later in the video.

{% include embed/youtube.html youtube_id=“ZtMNWbugJCA” %}

It was a fun opportunity to talk about some of the concepts I’ve thought about with risk management, refactoring costs, how Agile and DevOps come together.