Monthly Archives: April 2012

Skipping Stones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every so often you skip a stone across water. If done successfully it creates ripples and circles showing the stone’s path across the water. Perhaps if you are good it leaves 4 or 5 or even 6 circles. Each of the circles has a beginning and end in and of itself. The circles rarely touch each other and the stone continues until it sinks to the bottom at some remote spot on the water.

We all have circles and sometimes maybe they do touch and we see the pattern to it all; but I think most of the time we’re too anxious to move along to the next spot. Work, home, family, personal life are circles. Sometimes the circles are well-formed and intricate and the stone leaves a great mark as it passes on to the next. Other times, the circles are ragged and the stone acts glad to leave that particular circle for the next chance at making a better mark.

I think none of the life circles are ever as perfect as the ones above in the water. The stone strikes too hard, too soft, or we miss the mark.

There is always time to pick up another stone and learn.

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A week to go

Another week to go at the current place. Remaining project requirements closed down. Going to be departing on 4 May. I feel like I got a lot done and like I blogged before, I have this sublime feeling of accomplishment. I also will miss this rich team at Microsoft IT which made even the hardest times bearable. I realized a long time ago that I don’t take work home with me too well. My soon-to-be ex-wife would treat me to an hour of reprisals most walks we did with issues with work, issues with me, issues in general. Given that I walk over an hour now, this got to be unbearable. Walking was supposed to be fun and relaxing and enjoyable. Yesterday I walked for 1.5 hours at work. I just find walking in Mountain View truly enjoyable. The Stevens Creek Trail is a fabulous place to walk and its enjoyed by legions of folks each day I walk it. If you check out the map below, you can see Moffett Field to the east and the trail splits between Moffett and the campuses of leading technology companies. Interesting physical location.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That bit of walking is always good for me. I get back to the car and am so pleasantly tired, hungry, wanting my Friday  beer exercise. I stopped and ate a sandwich, watched people streaming to the Shoreline Ampitheatre for a concert, ate in my car with the seat back, KFOG blaring. I don’t know why this is enjoyable to me. I could catch a meal at a nicer place than the car; but each Friday I do the same that I walk at work.

Yesterday, I left for my walk at about 3:50pm and got back to the car at 530pm. Great distance, beautiful weather yesterday to walk the Trails. I’m gonna miss the trails and the water all around the walks. At one point of the walk, I exit the the Stevens Creek Trail and end up on the San Francisco Bay Trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trail is split into regions and my walk is in the South Bay part of the trail. I basically walk to where I cannot go any further and meet the bay. Birds scream at me overhead. Ducks waddle and Geese honk. Then I turn back.

Turn back to the end parts of the walk. Back to the Google-plex and back to the car.

What’s next? Well, Cisco sounds like its next. Its a great job and its so within my sweet spot of things I want to do, have been wanting to do for someone else. I could be starting as early as 16 May. Before then though, I hit the rails. I’ll plan a trip for a few days to clear out of this place. There is really nothing worth saving at this place besides my kids. Everything else is waiting on 16 August to come. And I’m good with that. No hidden denial. No acceptance either. I just learned to live with it finally. Human evolution is blessed with adoption and adaptation.

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Safeway Parking Lot at 130pm

Well here I am. At a parking lot with my Xoom. Obligatory photo shot out the Window of the car. Just me, the Xoom and tmobile.

And Safeway. Such is life.

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Cisco and Me

I started interviewing at Cisco for a new position around project management for IT services teams. I have one more interview which will go for 20 minutes and I think next step is an offer. This consulting position is different from any previous. It runs all year and then I’m renewed.. I’ll be working on Linux servers, business and technology project management, and aligning virtualization goals for new internal customers.

My current work ends on 4 May and my new gig starts around the 16th.

Time to travel! I’ll be hitting the rails here for a week or so.

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That’s me ;-)

Kicking it back at some beach in my bear suit.

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Almost Bought a Kindle Fire Today

Back when I saw the Kindle Fires emerge, I thought they looked like a pretty good media alternative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having a Xoom already which is classified as a Google Experience Device means that it gets updated pretty regularly and since its a WiFi model it seems to get the updates much faster than the 4G model on Verizon. What was it about the Kindle that made me almost buy it and that I am still considering? Well, Its not a tablet in the simplest state like the Xoom. It has no Android Market or Play Store or whatever on it by default. IIt does sport the Amazon App Store. It also does not run Ice Cream Sandwich which I think on the regular tablets is a huge performance and use increase and enhancement. What the Fire is though is a media device and not a tablet per se. If you want a streaming media device to take advantage of your Amazon experience than this is the thing. If you want the regular tablet experience, the one I am looking at now is the new 7 inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. This offers a much smaller tablet experience than the 10 inch jobs like the Xoom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What draws me to this is the form factor. This fits into smaller space when traveling, it provides a great user experience still while maintaining the required defaults for access to the so-called Google Play Store. You can add in applications like Netflix or Hulu to watch the media and add in a MicroSD card and place your own movies on it. I did this with a whole group of movies I like watching. Call them “Mikes Old Time Favorites”. On the SD card on the Xoom, I can add in whatever movie I want after ripping it from my DVD collection. I can also use Netflix to watch it stream across the internet which is nice.

People do complain about the size factor though and it seems the 7 inch tablet form will be easier to travel around with. What I really want and am waiting to see is the tablet Google comes up with and its form factor. The real battleground will not be the upper level of tablets but the the tablets which pack in a huge value at less than $200. Once we reach that point with compelling alternatives; watch how the next year unfolds.

I may not get the 7 inch Samsung Tab 2. Who knows what will come next and its getting to be a great season for new releases already. We’ll just watch and see.

 

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Filed under Android

How the Habilis Works and Plays

Back then in the old days, there was a creature called Homo Habilis or the tool user. The tool user made great strides in building a repertoire of tools as this site shows so graphically and beautifully. So what tools did these folks use?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the edges and realize that these are advances not only at a technical level but at a cultural one as well. The art of buliding flaked stone tools meant that people could augment their hunting and gathering with a set of sharp-edged stone that could be repaired, re-used, and then modified as the user learned more about the properties of the stone.

Now flash forward to the current habilis tools we use. We run the whole gamut of technical, social, and cultural tools. The computers of yester-year looked like this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They were useful and people used them. Imagine though these early habilis if they could flash forward in time and see what we use now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow! How our tools have changed in the space of 30 some years.

Remember we used flaked-stone for tool assemblages for some number of thousands of years or longer. We may have refined the shapes, how we built the tools, what we did with them. But the social and technological transformation caused by the evolution and revolution has produced a change over the course of 30 years or so which is significant.

This has marked our lives for the better and worse. The old habilis tool users wandered their worlds; were perhaps connected in mystical and other ways with the deserts, mountains, forests. We’re connected with Google, Facebook and Linkedin. How do we travel our worlds? Do we update our status on facebook or use email or perhaps send tweets? The whole pattern of how us recent habilis tool users work and play has changed. But not after thousands of years. This jump is incredible.

Now we facilitate data transfers half way around the world. We download at speeds never imagined. We talk across geo-political boundaries. We see cultural transformation in Egypt and Syria in real time. We’ve progressed from sitting around real fires methodically building assemblages of tools targeted for a set of uses to building assemblages of technology where the uses flower out to global exchange.

Consider this when you login to a computer as you flake the metaphysical stone of your world. We are all habilis. We are the new tool users.

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Filed under Anthropology, Ideas

Task and Goal Management the Mike Way

Everyone sees the holy grail in creating and managing their tasks and goals. Some say that GTD is the way to go. It tells you to first empty your brain and then create sets of contexts, projects, etc. A site I’ve used as a reference point before lists these things that must be done to use the zen of GTD:

  • Capturing anything and everything that has your attention
  • Defining actionable things discretely into outcomes and concrete next steps
  • Organizing reminders and information in the most streamlined way, in appropriate categories, based on
    how and when you need to access them
  • Keeping current and “on your game” with appropriately frequent reviews of the six horizons of your
    commitments (purpose, vision, goals, areas of focus, projects, and actions)

I’ve never been able to do the first thing. Things flit in and out of my attention at the speed of ideas. Ideas seem to be able to travel faster than the speed of light and trying to capture them using either paper or some tool seems doomed to failure. I also cannot seem to really define things that are actionable and then define what I should do to accomplish them in concrete next steps. Projects I have managed start out with actionable steps but if you have ever managed a complex project, you know every one has those unintended things called risk and change. I cannot do the second bullet.

I’ve tried also to organize reminders and I get trapped in the tool trap because I am a habilis by nature so I hunt down tools to lessen this need. Then I want the tool on smartphones and tablets and desktops and web. You can see the trap here. By the time I solve all this, the entire concept of the category and what I need to solve by setting these reminders has flown by.

I also cannot seem to do the reviews. I sometimes doubt I have a purpose, my vision is often cloudy, my areas of focus shift all around because they are impacted and effected by things outside of my control. Projects are interesting though. You can apply these things and I define a project as actionable. Where it falls apart is the assumption that projects are these orderly states from predecessor to task to deliverable. My lead at the PMO office and I disagree about this point but my take is that projects by their very nature as actionable have sets of actions we can control and then there are those which act independently which do not fit into any of the horizons above. Why do you think projects have things called “risk mitigation” and “change management” anyways? That’s our way of seeking some management over things which occur outside of our GANTT charts but have an effect on the things inside our GANTT charts. Every project I have ever managed has both risk and change embodied. The difference is we use our brains, senses, and ideas to bring these things into focus. If you are a project or idea manager, think about how you solve things outside of your control. Some things may lend themselves to sitting down, assigning contexts and next actions. Other things arrive and depart quickly. Do you do it the GTD way or just become agile and build your solution? Who has the priceless time on projects with immediate risks to manage and deal with it write down their contexts? Solve the problem using the brain that God gave you for heaven’s sake.

Lets get down to what I think works. Absolutely nothing. Don’t give in to organizing and blanking your mind and writing down contexts and next actions unless you are not a habilis type guy. If you can find order in the chaos, go for it. My take is you will get bored with it sooner or later though. Instead use the Mike approach summarized below:

  • Projects are actionable but the actions are outside of your control sometimes. That’s okay and manage them accordingly
  • If it helps to create some list of things go for it. If not, you got a brain, right? What the hell do you think its there for?
  • Contexts are phony baloney. Things cross over because life is not isolated in sets of contexts. Life is a rich and interwoven process and if you think that its all organized into contexts and actions I got this bridge for you.

Enjoy the time and stop worrying about getting things done. Just do them. Keep a list if it helps but these things tend to enslave you into a process which may or may not work and soon you are doing the things not because they get things done  but because you are slavishly following what some expert said works for him or her. Life is too short to sign up for these things. Do what works!

That’s the task and goal management approach using the Mike force. Screw the GTD.

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Be known by your works

The Bible says that. In the past few years of work, I never really felt connected to the work I did. At the previous place, work seemed to be focused toward mere survival at a place which I am sure shares a surreal level of dys-function and still does I bet. Its funny that people that proclaim all the right things over and over again; are mostly guilty of all the wrong things when practice makes perfect.

I finished a project at Microsoft today which was difficult, stressful, but finally I felt that rare feeling. I had accomplishment and the team thanked me more than a few times. Normally, I would be leaving the place since the contract is over. That’s not the case though. There is another project falling upon me there so I will stay for a few more weeks.

I’ve interviewed at a few places but it appears that this rather large maker of network routers and switches will offer me something totally cool around Linux and VMware. These are places I’ve played for years and to be invited almost immediately for a follow-on interview in person bodes well for me. In the new place, I would evangelize Linux solutions in particular, assist internal business units move to virtual environments, manage IT projects which built up the paradigm for virtualization using VMware. I also get to run Linux there as a laptop or desktop OS. Because, well, everyone else does there with the group I would be supporting. My boss hopefully to be told me there is not much Windows except for in virtual sessions. Yay!

Its a nice contract too with decent pay, not a bad commute; and most of all its Linux! But not an open source company. I probably will never work for another open source company again. Been there a few times. Supporting Linux for a company that uses it to their advantage I like. Trying to make it a business is hard work folks.

There were some trick questions during the interview today. The manager asked me:

What’s your favorite Linux distribution? Debian? yeah, I like the rpm-based ones too.

We stopped there and he waited. I laughed and then he admitted that it was a test. I’ll be supporting mostly Centos and Ubuntu systems which is fine with me. I know them. Hell, its Linux. I get to advise and assist and evangelize Linux virtualization to internal customers and businesses.

Man… Very f’ing cool.

But the main thing is; thanks to Microsoft. Thanks to the guys there that gave me so much to be thankful for. After a few job endeavors which were miserable, Microsoft came along and supported me, made me feel good about myself, and then let me do the job. All of this happening while going through a divorce and its feelings.

Amazing. Thanks guys at Microsoft IT! You all rule.

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Riding the Rails

After 27 April if all works as planned, I’ll be hopping on the Amtrak Coast Starlight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But where should I go? North? South? Or should I join to another one of the rail corridors? I’m thinking of riding up to Seattle with perhaps a stop in Portland first. I’ve ridden to Portland before and the scenery is breathtaking. Its another 3 hours or so up to Seattle. I could then hop the Vancouver train on the Amtrak Cascades Line.

 

 

 

 

 

I could actually hop the Cascades line before Seattle and ride on up to Vancouver as well. I’ve not done that line ever before and that could be interesting as well.

What I’m really after though is not a destination. The destination is a by-product of the leaving. The real thing is what happens within the departure and arrival. My friend Art and I talk about train travel a lot and I always enjoy telling him about a trip I want to take on the rails. The gain from traveling via the rails is the ease and relaxation and speed. The world goes by you at a speed you can account for. You can sit and rest in a booked room or wander and talk with others. Eating can be fun too.

Coming back, I would cash in some flyer miles on United and let them upgrade me to business class from Seattle or Vancouver. That’s easy to do too. Flights are rarely full and I have a set of miles which is like cash in the flying bank. I will save miles for a trip I want to take back to Asia.

No matter what; its getting away from here. Saying “Sayonara” to what happens around here. The only thing that could stand in the way is another contract. I have some interesting options there and I may not get the trip after all. Luckily, traveling by rail normally does not mean booking in advance that much.

I’ll decide on the parameters as I go. Where I stop, what I do. How it all works. I may book the trip in segments. Don’t know and it don’t matter.

 

 

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Finished today!

A milestone was reached. The Microsoft Project GANTT chart went to 100% for almost every deliverable. A feeling of accomplishment and pride was given. Kudos were handed out by the PMO team lead, by my manager, by our Lab and data center manager. We finished! We moved 1100 servers, survived all kinds of unusual issues. Had critical staff depart at various times. In the end, we finished.

I think its fair to note that at CustomWare I never felt a single moment of accomplishment in looking back. Everything was stolen from me by the blame factor that seemed to hover over my head. I could not do right for forever doing wrong. Customers though told me how much I was appreciated and would be missed. Intel, BMC, Symantec. It makes a lowly project manager feel good. I once noted that a project manager should never get a 10 rating but a developer or architect should get close. The reason for this being that project managers should not become favorites by customers or clients. They should maintain a degree of friction to ensure that the hard things are accounted for. These things seem to be the lingo we all talk as PMs:

  1. Risk.
  2. Change.
  3. Scoping.
  4. Requirements.
  5. Cost.

These all come together in projects. I mentioned to our senior PMO lead at Microsoft that I had never managed a project that did not have associated risk. Its true though. Without risk, you don’t have avoidance. Without avoidance you don’t understand the scoping. With no scoping, requirements go all bonkers. With no locked in requirements; cost goes crazy. There is a continuum and a lifecycle of a project. They have stages that they enter and leave and sometimes they go backwards or jump forwards.

Anyways, its been a lot of fun at Microsoft. It meant more than mere survival for me. It gave me back something I had been missing.

Accomplishment.

 

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