White trash hotels

I recently took a new job, a couple hours from my home.  While we are house hunting and preparing to move, I have been staying at a budget hotel (I have to pay for it, so it is really cheap).  This has been going on for about 8 weeks, and it works well.  Up on Monday, return on Friday afternoon.  

However, it seems like I am always in a room next to a fighting couple.  One night around 2:00AM, it was loud.  This morning at 5:30AM.  

Please, leave your domestic discord at home, and let a traveller get some rest…

Product Owner barely being ready with backlog to start planning?

Just curious if I am unique.  I am the Director of Product Management, and have a staff of 6.  I am the product manager for our main product line (about 80% of our business), and I play the Product Owner.  Today was planning sessions, and as usual, I was working on my backlog until late last night.  It seems like I get it done in time, but it is always a crunch to get it done.  

Does anyone else barely get the coming iterations stories and acceptance criteria done on time?  I am fortunate that I have a deep well of ideas, and a knack of pulling it all together as needed, but all effort to get an iteration or two ahead have been thwarted.


Some tasks really can’t be done Agile

Sunday morning here, and I am working on my backlog in preparation for iteration planning tomorrow.

One of the major tasks is that a recent architecture change (that was SUPER for performance) heinously breaks our old model of licensing.  By old, I mean from the early 1990’s.  Way before we had cool stuff like the Internet, and ubiquitous access.  We had bandaged this process along until now.  However, this new change turned it on its head.

We could create a limiting mechanism to replace it with identical functinality (keeping the licensing tied to the server, and emanating from said server), or we could rip this wide open.  Create a special licensing service (either running on the main server, or on its own instance).  This is attractive for many reasons.  As time goes on, the concept of a single server, and a set of components that communicate with it is becoming quaint.  Fast WAN’s, intranets, geographically diverse deployments are becoming standard.  People expect to drop components where their business needs sit.

Cool.  But even the most foundational sub component of this is way too large for a single developer in a single 3 week sprint to accomplish.  And there isn’t really a way for me, as a product owner, to break it down at a high level.  This is going to take our architect probably 6-8 weeks to get built, and with the minimal functional feature set done.

I think we will make this work, but it will make for interesting planning poker tomorrow.

eBooks – Sony Reader & possibly the BEST SciFi novel of all time

I am a prodigious reader.  Have been since early in my High School years.  Science Fiction is my chosen escape.  

I have read most of the genre’s and deeply into some of the authors.  Heinlein, Asimov, Jordan, Pohl, Haldeman, and many many more.

There is one book that stands out.  Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner.  I have probably 3 copies of this book.  All of them are out of print, and I re-read it frequently.  It is the “near future” type of Science Fiction, and it is chilling in how accurately he predicted society about now.

The problem with this as an eBook, is that Brunner was a master of using typography as part of the layout of the novel  There are sections where formatting is altered to drive a point.  Tables, coordinated paragraphs and sentences.  All these have fallen flat on the scans I have, um, ‘acquired’ from dubious sources.

Now there is a real version, with the typographical performance pieces.  I am happy.  It was worth the $9.99.  Now it is on my Sony Reader, and my iPad.  


Vacations What they are about

I have been doing some R&R here in Sedona AZ, and one of the activities I have done was a jeep rental.  My wife and I rented a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, and did two moderate to advanced forest roads, one of them called “Outlaw Trail”.  Below is a picture from the trail.  Awesome.


By the way, I can’t recommend highly enough Barlow’s Jeep Rental.  Great people, and top notch gear.  Will not set you on the wrong path.

American Exceptionalism, my ass

If you listen to any politicians these days, they seem to be incapable of going more than 2 minutes without commenting on the veracity of “American Exceptionalism”.  Today, I am going to debunk that claim.

I am currently vacationing in Sedona, AZ, part of the “Exceptional America” (and I will posit that the views, the food, and the relaxation options here are indeed superb).  

To help with traffic flow, they have built roundabouts in many intersections.  This keeps traffic flowing, and reduces emissions, as cars don’t have to stop and idle waiting for their turn to go.

However, “Exceptional Americans” seem to have a brain freeze when they come to one of these traffic flow control devices.  Many STOP and wait until the roundabout is empty.  BZZZZT you merely wait until you can merge in.  Often there is no waiting.

Another thing I see is that there are tire marks where people have driven straight over the roundabout.  BZZZT You merge in, go around to where you exit, signal, and exit.

I know, some of you will call this “communist tactics imported from Europe”, but the truth is, they are vastly superior to keeping traffic flowing, and reducing annoying waits at stop lights.  For the love of god, learn to navigate Traffic Roundabouts.

From the “How come…” files – Why do the females in a relationship have 2nd rate gear?

I am on vacation here in Sedona, and I have noticed this twice so far.  We are out walking around, and a couple will come cycling by.  Invariably, the man has the uber cool, new, top of the line bicycle, and the woman will have the beat, old Trek that looks well worn.

Why so much assymetry in the relationship?  My wife has a better bike than me (and she rides more to boot).  

My MacBook Pro is feeling its age

Alas, as it nears its 3rd birthday, I have to admit that my trusty sidekick, my Macbook Pro (late 2008, unibody) is beginning to feel its age.  It has been through two OS upgrades (first to Snow Leopard, and lately to Lion) and a HD upgrade.  Working on the third battery (I believe this was the last iteration that had a user replacable battery.

I am eyeballing either a 13″ Air, or the tried and true 15″ MBP.  It will probably be a few months (say Q1 2012) but the day is coming.


Marriott Courtyard Hotels

When I do domenstic travel, I usually try to stay in Courtyard hotels.  It is not because of point, or miles.  It is because it is a decent room, at an acceptable price.  Just be sure you are not near the elevator or the ice machine, and it is as good as a room that goes for $50 more a night.

You get a comfortable bed.  There is a decent breakfast at a reasonable price in the morning (although I am as likely to go for a starbucks and a pastry), and the internet is included.

The wrinkle is:

Marriott Courtyards have the slowest, crappiest elevators.  New properties.  Old properties.  Properties they bought and rebranded.  Doesn’t matter.  Shitty elevator.  Slow.  Rickety.  Budget.

Makes you wonder…

Travel Notes – Ridiculous Air Conditioning

Livign in Tucson, I thought I was used to AC set low.  Some people keep their offices/homes cold enough to hang meat.

I just got to Austin for the ITEXPO conference (had to give a media interview, and will be participating in a panel discussion tomorrow), and I think I need a parka here.  BRRRRRR.  It is a comfy 104F outdoors (hey, I am from Arizona, that is comfortable to me), but it feels like low 60s indoors.  I have been in server rooms that were warmer.