About Duffbert...

Duffbert's Random Musings is a blog where I talk about whatever happens to be running through my head at any given moment... I'm Thomas Duff, and you can find out more about me here...

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Co-author of the book IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide
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09/29/2007

Off to get lei-d...

Category Everything Else
Catch you all on the flip side!

:)

09/25/2007

3 more days, 3 more days, 3 more days...

Category Everything Else
Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - 3 more days, 3 more days, 3 more days...

Yes, I'm taking my laptop.

Yes, I'll probably blog my vacation.

No, I'm not planning on buying the internet package on-board ship.

Yes, this will be the longest I've been disconnected in years.

No, I wouldn't place bets on me sticking to the aforementioned plans.  :)

(unless you were betting that Duffbert fails)

09/24/2007

Product Review - Logitech VX Nano Cordless Laser Mouse for Notebooks

Category Product Review
This weekend I received a new toy to play with...  a Logitech VX Nano cordless laser USB mouse.  I was excited to give this a try, as I'm tired of working around the cord on my existing laptop mouse.  With the minor exception of packaging and the software CD, I give this a hearty thumbs-up.

Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - Product Review - Logitech VX Nano Cordless Laser Mouse for Notebooks

I already use a Logitech VX Revolution mouse on my desktop computer.  Without exception, it's the best mouse I've ever worked with.  The VX Nano follows in the same footsteps as its bigger sibling, only in a smaller package.  The sides of the mouse are rubberized and indented for better grip, and it's highly comfortable for me during extended use.  People with bigger hands might like a slightly larger mouse, but my smaller hands didn't mind it at all.  The scrolling wheel has the same smooth/ratchet option as the VX Revolution, so I can switch back and forth between those modes without a second thought.  The USB key that goes in the laptop port is extra-tiny, so there's little chance of getting it knocked off by accident.  There's even a small area in the battery housing that you can use to store the USB key for extended periods away from the laptop.  Nice feature, as you don't want to be misplacing it...  The battery life according to the configuration screen says that it has 170 days of power on a fresh pair of AAA batteries.  Time will tell if that's accurate or not, but I'd be VERY happy with that type of battery life.

The only two drawbacks had nothing to do with the mouse itself.  My laptop kept thinking the CD with the software was blank, and I couldn't load from it.  That was easily remedied by going to the Logitech site and downloading the latest version of the software from there.  Also, the packaging could be better.  It takes forever to get the mouse out of the box and plastic.  At first, I was a bit disappointed that they shipped without batteries, but then discovered (right as I was throwing the box away) that there was a storage bag, USB desktop adapter, AND batteries stashed away in part of the package that was completely surrounded by cardboard.  I can imagine that I wouldn't be the only person who would make the mistake of throwing away more than the box it came in...

My prior laptop mouse is now stashed in the back of my desk, hopefully never to reappear.  The VX Nano is perfect for working on my laptop, and I look forward to far less skipping and cord hassles than I had with my optical mouse...

09/24/2007

Some cool Hornitos swag...

Category Everything Else
As part of a buzz marketing promotion, I received a package of swag related to Hornitos tequila.  Being the tech geek that I am, I think this was my favorite item in the package...
Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - Some cool Hornitos swag... Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - Some cool Hornitos swag...



A 128 MB USB memory stick!  

While I don't think it'll make an appearance at work (would raise more questions than I care to answer), I have no doubt it'll make an appearance at Lotusphere in January...  I think I'll make sure to pick up a bottle of the real thing and bring it to Joe's Monday Night gathering.  I'm sure he can turn it into something wonderful with his bartending skills.  :)

09/23/2007

Book Review - The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Category Book Review
Based on a friend's recommendation, I picked up the novel The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.  It has one of the more unique and strange storylines I've read in awhile, but it was fun...

Thursday Next, a Special Operative in charge of literary crimes, has been called in to help solve a murder mystery as well as stop the destruction of a classic book, Jane Eyre.  The story is set in England in the mid-1980's, but there's a strange mix of old and new.  Animals are routinely cloned as pets, and Thursday's father is part of the ChronoGuard team that controls and protects time travel and time disturbances.  Travel is often by blimp, and everything seems to have a turn-of-the century feel.  Next is involved in this case as she's the only person who knows the killer, Acheron Hades, and isn't affected by his paranormal powers.  Hades uses a "Prose Portal" to escape into the pages of Jane Eyre, and he's threatening to kill off the main character unless he gets his demands.  Thursday follows him in, and the outside observers watch as parts of the manuscript appear, disappear, and change based on what is happening inside the story.  While her life is truly in danger from Hades, she's more concerned about making sure the manuscript and story survives intact with no tampering from the outside world.

The way the story shifts between the real world and the pages of the book, as well as how the characters drift in and out, make for a crazy read.  It's not like any sci-fi novel I've read before.  I'm not even sure sci-fi is the right classification, but it's the closest I can come to slotting into a niche for reference purposes.  You just have to start reading, be prepared for just about anything to happen, and enjoy the ride...

09/23/2007

Book Review - The Complete TurtleTrader by Michael W. Covel

Category Book Review
Back in the '80s, I wasn't following the stock market all too much.  As such, I didn't know about the Turtle Trading story.  But after reading The Complete TurtleTrader: The Legend, the Lessons, the Results by Michael W. Covel, I see why it created such a stir back then.  It also opens the door to the mentality that it takes to be a successful commodities trader.  It's not a world that I think I'd want to deal with day in and day out...

Contents:
Nurture versus Nature; Prince of the Pit; The Turtles; The Philosophy; The Rules; In The Womb; Who Got What to Trade; Game Over; Out on Their Own; Dennis Comes Back to the Game; Seizing Opportunity; Failure Is a Choice; Second-Generation Turtles; Model Greatness; Appendix 1 - Where Are They Now?; Appendix 2 - Related Websites; Appendix 3 - Turtle Performance Data; Appendix 4 - Turtle Performance While Trading For Richard Dennis; EndNotes; Index

The Turtle Trader experiment was launched back in 1983 when Richard Dennis and William Eckhardt had a disagreement as to whether star traders could be trained or whether it was an inherent talent.  Dennis, the "nurture" advocate, selected a wide variety of people through a simple job ad in the papers.  Some were already familiar with trading and financial markets, while others didn't have a clue.  The partners spent some time training the newly hired traders in the Turtle philosophy and system, and then set them loose to trade for Dennis' firm.  The initiates were judged on how well they followed the system and pulled the trigger when necessary, as opposed to how much money they made or lost.  The book follows their ups and downs, the rivalries and conflicts, and the odd decision to shut down the program after Dennis suffered his own major trading losses.  The author also follows up with how the Turtle experiment affected the careers of the traders going forward, along with an analysis as to how trend trading is viewed in today's market.

The book reads like a documentary rather than a dramatic retelling of the story.  For this type of book, it works well as there's not any manufactured hype on minor decisions that were just that at the time....  minor.  On the flip side, the book would be best appreciated by someone who already knows the basic story of the Turtle experiment or who is active in the trading scene.  Even though I enjoyed the read, I felt that I was missing a bit since I had no previous knowledge on the subject.  I *do* know that after reading this, I don't think I'd like to be responsible for trading millions of dollars based on trends, knowing (and hoping) that your down months will be offset by the up months.

In any case, anyone who is interested in financial markets and commodities trading will be interested in this book...

09/22/2007

My take on the Lotus Redbook controversy...

Category IBM/Lotus
Many have talked about the decision to phase out the Lotus Redbook residencies.  I know that I have benefitted from Redbooks over the years.  It used to be that there was a mad dash at Lotusphere to get the actual bound copy of the "must have" title.  Then it was the mad dash to get the CDs that had a collection of the hot titles.  Now I just find myself going out to the Redbook site to download what I need when I need it.  But I'm still old-school...  the first thing I do is print it out.  :)

If given my choice, of course I'd like to see them continue to be produced.  But as any tech publisher will tell you, tech book sales aren't a booming business any more.  It's a lot of cost and risk for what could be a significant loss.  In IBM's case, it's a lot of cost for *no* monetary payback, as the books are free.  Yes, I know the intangibles of developer education, good will, etc.  I'm simply saying it's a significant cost to bring in experts for a residency with no financial return on investment.

Are there alternative models for doing the same type of things that the redbooks accomplish?  Yes.  Will they work, be adopted, and flourish?  Maybe, maybe not...

Think about a Lotus wikipedia-style site.  Let users contribute to the knowledgebase, add documentation, give practical details on software, etc.  The experts that contributed during a residency would still be able to contribute here, just not with all the technical support that IBM provided onsite.  I could pretty much guarantee that cryptic error messages that have plagued Notes users for years would be much better covered using this type of "publishing" than anything else that's existed to date.

Think about self-publishing...  Chris Miller did it with the Sametime Gateway software.  It used to be that going the "vanity press" route meant a significant investment of your own money to get the book created.  Now with print-on-demand, nearly anyone can write a book on a subject, publish it on POD sites (or even Amazon if you're so inclined), and there's no major outlay of cash to pull it off.  With all the bloggers we have in the Notes community, you can't tell me that we couldn't publish 6 to 12 focused titles a year on various aspects of Lotus technology.  Even the major bugaboo of self-published titles, the lack of decent editing prior to publishing, could be handled with peer review in this community.  If bloggers can do one thing right, it's review technical information and offer opinions.  :)

And it's not even necessary to write a "book" any more.  O'Reilly has their Shortcuts series, which are PDF files between 50 to 100 pages for prices under $10.  The investment on their part is significantly less than going to press with a full book, and niche subjects can be covered in more depth than a single chapter in a book.  Imagine what might happen if a number of the writers in our community started pitching Notes titles to O'Reilly for short cut offerings.  That approach starts to overcome the "you don't see Notes titles in the bookstores any more" argument.  It also makes the process of sharing your knowledge profitable without forcing people to plunk down $60 for a book.

I realize this goes against the prevailing "the sky is falling" attitude surrounding the Redbook decision.  I'm not thrilled with it myself.  But instead of only complaining about the decision by IBM, think about what alternatives might work and be successful to the larger Notes community.  If something like a Lotus wiki started up or a tech publisher started to carry a Notes line of titles, then I might even venture to say that the lemons that were handed to us made a great lemonade and lemon meringue pie...

09/22/2007

Book Review - It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh

Category Book Review
My wife and I have been struggling lately with the "too much stuff" syndrome...  too many clothes, too much clutter, etc.  The book It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff by Peter Walsh caught my eye on one of the personal improvement blogs I follow.  I think Sue and I now have a handle on how we need to approach our clutter situation, and it's not a matter of organizing the junk we have...  :)

Contents:
Part 1 - The Clutter Problem: This Is Not My Beautiful House; Excuses, Excuses; Imagine the Life You Want to Live
Part 2 - Putting Clutter in Its Place: Step 1 - Kick Start - Tackling the Surface Clutter; Step 2 - Hash It Out!; Step 3 - Conquer Your Home; Room 1 - Master Bedroom; Room 2 - Kids' Room; Room 3 - Family and Living Rooms; Room 4 - Home Office; Room 5 - Kitchen; Room 6 - Dining Room; Room 7 - Bathroom; Room 8 - Garage, Basement, and Other Storerooms; Step 4 - Maintenance; Step 5 - Cleanup Checkup; Step 6 - New Rituals
Afterword: Take What You've Learned into the World; Acknowledgements

Walsh is a professional organizer who is part of the show Clean Sweep.  So this isn't just a hobby with him.  It's his life.  Many of the people he works with have significant issues with hoarding, to the extent that it affects their day-to-day existence in the house.  Rather than just going in and throwing stuff out for them (which would just mean they have more room to hoard with), he works with their emotional issues that put them in this predicament in the first place.  By imagining the life you want to lead, you can start to figure out the way your space needs to be laid out. Then dealing with the emotional attachment behind why certain things are compulsively saved, you can begin to discard stuff without suffering from major trauma as the trash man hauls it away.  :)  I liked his progression from clearing surface clutter to looking at what you actually use (rather than what you think you might use one of these days).  Once you get things down to a workable level, then you can practice the "something comes in, something goes out" philosophy.  Bottom line, by using these techniques and dealing with the underlying causes, you *can* have a life that's less cluttered and more peaceful.

Fortunately, my wife and I are not at the stage of many of Walsh's clients.  But we could be doing so much better, and be so much happier.  After we get back from our vacation, I think that the trashman is going to start getting a major workout.  I already started today by going through all my clothes and culling out half of what I owned.  Given the entertaining style of writing and practical advice dished out here, I think we're well on our way.

09/22/2007

Book Review - X-teams by Deborah Ancona and Henrik Bresman

Category Book Review
Much of the literature you read on building teams in the workplace deal with the internal interactions of the group...  how they get along, building morale, etc.  Deborah Ancona and Henrik Bresman offer up a different take on team success in the book X-teams: How to Build Teams That Lead, Innovate and Succeed.  Given my experience over the years, their methodology is likely to be more successful than the conventional approach.

Contents:
Part 1 - Why Good Teams Fail: Into a Downward Spiral; A Changing World
Part 2 - What Works: X-Team Principle 1 - External Activity; X-Team Principle 2 - Extreme Execution; X-Team Principle 3 - Flexible Phases; X-Factors - The X-Team Support Structure
Part 3 - How To Build Effective X-Teams: Tools for X-Teams - From Theory to Action; Crafting an Infrastructure for Innovation - The X-Team Program; X-Teams - Distributed Leadership in Action
Notes; Index; About the Authors

The most noticeable difference between the conventional team and the X-Team is the focus of their activity...  external.  Instead of spending time waiting for the team to gel and feel secure, waiting for the rules and directions to be established, Ancona and Bresman advocate for an external focus.  Get out in the field immediately and start talking to the potential customers and clients.  This tilt towards immediate action may well lead to a moderate level of confusion and frustration on the team in the early days, but the net result is a quick start and insights that can't be gleaned from existing knowledge.  Couple this with active "ambassadorship" and flexible membership and team roles, and things get done rather than just being talked about.  The authors have done a lot of study and research in this field, and many of the examples (both good and bad) are real companies with actual teams that created successful products.  This emphasis on real world results is good, as otherwise this could come across as a nice academic exercise with no track record to back it up.

This would make a good read for team leaders and management who are dissatisfied with how their teams are currently functioning (or not, as the case may be).  There's no promise that following these steps will make your next project smooth and successful, but it could significantly increase the odds of showing results.

09/22/2007

Book Review - The Empty Carousel by Scott T. Mueller

Category Book Review
So what happens when you show up at the airport after a flight, and your luggage decided to take a different itinerary?  Those are the questions and issues that Scott T. Mueller deals with in his short self-published book The Empty Carousel: A Consumers Guide to Checked and Carry-on Luggage.  This is a very quick read that doesn't guarantee you *won't* lose your bags, but you'll be in a much better position to deal with the situation after reading it.

Contents:
Baggage Check-in - Proper Identification; Luggage and Locks; Before You Pack; Luggage Damage - What's Covered? What's Not?; What Thieves Target and When; Domestic vs. International Compensation - What's Covered? What's Not?; Luggage Security at the Carousel; Where Does Luggage Go When It Disappears?; Filing a Luggage Claim with the Airline; Make the Best of Your Travel Experience

Mueller shares his nearly 20 years of experience in the airline industry when it comes to how the luggage handling system works.  When it comes to dealing with lost luggage, he's seen it all...  including lost cremated remains of husbands and favorite pets.  His goal here is to help you pack properly to avoid damage and expedite the process of reconnecting you and your luggage should you become separated.  The first couple of chapters are probably familiar to anyone who's traveled a bit.  But when you start into the Before You Pack chapter, you start to see things from the "other side" of the desk.  You learn what things the airline will not cover in case of loss (it's a larger list than you'd expect).  You'll find out that your definition of luggage damage and the airline's definition are probably different (luggage is designed to protect the contents, not to avoid wear and tear).  The process for filing claims is more complex than you'd imagine, and the documentation required to prove value of certain items probably doesn't exist (like receipts for that leather jacket!).  Knowing all this going in, you can pack appropriately to decrease the chance of irreplaceable loss, while giving yourself a better chance of a happy outcome should the bags take a different vacation than you did.

My only knock on the book is the size.  At 80 pages, it's not very long.  Add in the fact that the font type is relatively large and the lines are double-spaced, and you're almost dealing with a bound article instead of a book.  That's not meant to diminish the value of the information.  In fact, it's likely that the size and format will lend itself to actually reading the material at one sitting.  Still, you need to keep that in mind so you're not disappointed when a very thin book shows up in your mailbox.

As my wife and I get ready for a vacation, we'll be using the information we learned here to guard against loss.  Hopefully we won't have to use it, but better to be informed and prepared.

09/20/2007

Book Review - IT Risk by George Westerman and Richard Hunter

Category Book Review
Finally...  a book on Information Technology risk that didn't put me to sleep or infuriate me to no end...  IT Risk: Turning Business Threats into Competitive Advantage by George Westerman and Richard Hunter.  This book and approach makes sense, and weighs options in conjunction with the business rather than in an ivory tower.

Contents:
IT Risk and Consequences; The 4A Risk Management Framework; The Three Core Disciplines of IT Risk Management; Fixing the Foundation - Strengthening the Base of the Pyramid; Fixing the Foundation - Simplifying the Installed Base; Developing the Risk Governance Process; Building a Risk-Aware Culture; Bringing the Three Disciplines Up to Speed; Looking Ahead; Ten Ways Executives Can Improve IT Risk Management; Notes; Index; About the Authors

I'm a software developer, and I'm paid to design and build solutions for our organization.  I love what I do, and I *do* realize that there are risks inherent in the choices I make in terms of design.  Where I get frustrated is when numerous people review code or designs, and come up with an endless list of "risks" that are posed by your particular design.  But at some point, choices need to be made as to what's an acceptable risk and what isn't.  And that's where the process often fails.  It's safer to discuss and do nothing than to assess risk and choose a path.  The 4A framework proposed by the authors help get to this point.  The four A's are Availability, Access, Accuracy, and Agility.  These areas make up the risk profile for an organization, and allow both the business and IT to talk about risk from the same angle...  what benefits the business, what could harm the business, and what are the tradeoffs.  These areas are framed against three core disciplines of risk management...  the process, an awareness of risk, and the foundation of the IT base.  Again, the explanations of these disciplines are clear and concise, and deal with practical reality rather than a theoretical elimination of any and all risk to an enterprise.  Because as any IT person will tell you, there is no way to eliminate all risk.

I could see this book being useful for a company that hasn't really addressed a structured risk management process for their IT assets.  Time spent here will save you plenty of time, money, and headaches down the road.  And for those IT departments who seem to be paralyzed with fear, this could help you break the logjam and start dealing from an angle of practicality.

09/19/2007

Looking for a Project Manager job working for a cool company?

Category Everything Else
I was pinged by someone at O'Reilly Media about this job, and I told them I'd post the info to see if anyone was interested...  If I didn't break out in hives when I try to herd cats, I'd be interested myself.  :)

O'Reilly Media, Inc is seeking to add a dynamic Project Manager to the team. Ideal candidate has a solid software developer background in web based, open source technologies using Perl, Java and/or Python, XML, and MySQL. Must have 3 or more years experience managing small to medium sized projects using project methodologies. Work closely with the software development team and non technical business units to define requirements, realizing milestones and deliverables. Position located 65 miles north of San Francisco in Sebastopol, CA. For more info go to http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/j/142 or email your resume to jobs@oreilly.com.

09/15/2007

Book Review - The Traveler's Gift by Andy Andrews

Category Book Review
My boss at work knows that I devour books, and dropped this one off at my desk a short time back...  The Traveler's Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success by Andy Andrews.  I read it straight through yesterday (it's short), and the first thing I'm doing after this review is ordering my own copy.  This is a book I'll not quickly forget...

"Gift" is a personal improvement book that's written in story form, similar in nature to a parable.  The main character, David Ponder, is 46 and has hit rock bottom (or so he thinks).  Deep in debt, fired from a menial job, and concerned over a sick child, he considers taking his own life so that the family can collect on the insurance policy.  As he comes to after the car wreck, he finds himself transported back in time, into the office of Harry S. Truman during the Potsdam conference.  Truman is the only person who can see him, and Ponder's appearance was expected.  Truman's job is to present Ponder with a written "decision", a statement that David must internalize and live out.  Once the paper is read, Ponder is moved on to the next person and time.  This time travel happens seven times, giving David 7 pieces of wisdom that will change his life if he lets them.  Before he's brought back to reality, he's offered a glimpse of the future of his home town, a future that was possible with the seven decisions that Ponder internalized then shared with the world.

The cynical reader will likely see this as a bunch of happy talk fluff that isn't realistic.  But I would counter that it's more realistic than most other philosophies and self-help books you'll ever read.  The people used in the story are perfect matches for each of the learning points, and you realize that a single decision *can* have consequences that reverberate down through history and time.  And the people who make the decisions are often ordinary individuals like you and me.  The only difference is that they *made* the decision rather than accept the status quo.

The path to success isn't easy, but it's a matter of decisions you make on a day-to-day basis.  Andrews captures this truth in a style reminiscent of Og Mandino's writings.  I loved this book, and will be revisiting it on a regular basis...

09/11/2007

Book Review - The Flip Side by Flip Flippen

Category Book Review
Talking about capitalizing on a name...  :)  The Flip Side: Break Free of the Behaviors That Hold You Back by Flip Flippen.  This was a book I picked up on in one of the personal productivity blogs I follow, and it is one of the most practical, easy-to-understand books on personal change that I've read recently.  Even better, he goes into how *you* can react and respond more effectively to each personality type.  And trust me, you'll find your problem coworker/friend/acquaintance in here with no problem.  :)

Part 1 - Understanding Personal Constraints: Something Is Holding You Back; The Foundations of OPC (Overcoming Personal Constraints); The Five Laws of Personal Constraints; Overview - The Top 10 Killer Constraints
Part 2 - Identifying Personal Constraints: #1 - Bulletproof (Overconfident); #2 - Ostriches (Low Self-Confidence); #3 - Marshmallows (Overly Nurturing); #4 - Critics (Too Demanding, Nitpicky, or Harsh); #5 - Icebergs (Low Nurturing); #6 - Flatliners (Low Passion, Vision, or Drive); #7 - Bulldozers (Overly Dominant); #8 - Turtles (Resistant to Change); #9 - Volcanoes (Aggressive, Angry); #10 - Quick Draw (Low Self-Control, Impulsive)
Part 3 - Overcoming Personal Constraints: Building Your TrAction Plan; Constraints Are Personal - My Story; Personal-Constraint Combinations; OPC Starts at Home; OPC in the Workplace; Personal Constraints and Culture; Listening to What Others Say - The Power of Honest Feedback
Conclusion - Raised in Captivity; Next Steps; Acknowledgments; Index

I'm sure glad I don't have any of these...  NOT!  :)

Each of the constraint chapters uses a couple of examples (some historical, some personal from the author's work) to show how a particular trait can play out and limit one's effectiveness.  This is followed by the "Are You ..." checklist, which has 10 questions you can ask yourself to see where you fall in terms of that constraint.  If you're on the high end of the scale, you'll be interested in the "So I'm ...  Help Me!" section that follows.  That's where Flippen lays out specific actions you can take to change this part of your behavior.  Even better, that section is followed by a "How Can I Deal With A ... Person?".  That's where you get to find out what types of communication and actions you can take to make your interactions with that personality type go better.  The goal isn't to change them (although that would be nice), but it's more like survival skills so you don't get caught in the debris and aftermath of their limitations.

And in case you're wondering, I have marshmellow-y tendencies with a little flatliner and turtle thrown in...

I think that any book that helps you categorize or examine your behaviors can have a positive influence.  The Flip Side seems to work better than most in that you don't have to struggle to see yourself or others in the scenarios, and the advice and actions are concrete and do-able.  If you're looking to kick things up another level in your life (or avoid kicking someone else in frustration), I'd recommend this book...

09/11/2007

So he's not starting the fights any more...

Category Everything Else
He's trying to break them up once they start.  :)

Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - So he's not starting the fights any more...
Ebert Photography ©2007

Ian's been refereeing for awhile now, but this last weekend was his first opportunity to work a Norpac game at the Tier III A level.  I'll hand it to him, he has no fear when it comes to putting himself between two players who are (usually) taller than he is.  :)

09/10/2007

How would you "tag" me if I were a Technorati post?

Category Blogging
I was cruising through blog feeds this morning, and saw a post titled Tagged.  In it, Erica Rios talks about the tags she would have if she were a web page.

Which got me to thinking...

If I were a blog posting, how would you "tag" me?  Feel free to leave your answers in the comments, and I encourage anonymity on this one.  I promise not to check or trace IP addresses.  :)

If/when I get responses, I'll recap in a separate post along with my reactions...

09/09/2007

I tempted fate today... and WON! :)

Category Everything Else
I've been very open about the fact that home repair chores I attempt don't normally end up well.  I either hurt myself or spend hours doing something that should take 15 minutes.  And you would think that with a cruise coming up in three weeks, I'd steer clear of anything that might endanger that trip in any way...

You'd think...

So what was on tap today?  Repainting the peeling shutters on our gable window...  2nd story...  on a ladder.  After reading two prayer requests at our church for people who are recovering from injuries...  after falling off ladders.

We were able to reach the one shutter from inside the room, but the other shutter was on the opposite side from where the window is hinged.  So we got out the ladder, extended it to the full 17 feet, and I cautiously climbed to the top to start the scraping and painting.  This was after I was emphatic that my wife would not be going up the ladder.  The neighbor across the street is over 90, and he climbs up and down his ladder all the time.

Yeah, it's a pride thing.  :)

Surprisingly, it all went flawlessly.  The scraping was quick, and the primer went on quickly with me on the ladder and Sue holding the paint from inside the window.  One more time up to repaint with the trim color, and I was done.  No one got injured, nothing broke, and I felt like a normal person doing a home repair.

And I won't be doing anything that risky again before our trip.  :)

09/09/2007

Book Review - Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis

Category Book Review
I figure that someone recommended this title to me, as it's not the type of book I would normally pick up on my own...  Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis.  I don't think I'd necessarily say it was the best novel I've ever read, and I'd be cautious to recommend it to someone due to its very raw nature.  But in terms of creative and unique writing style, this ranks right up there.  

The story involves Michael McGill, a struggling private investigator in New York, who is described as a "shit magnet".  Because of his unwanted ability to turn up in situations involving the seamy, ugly part of human activities, he's hired to track down a special book.  The book is an alternative Constitution to be used if and when the original version stops influencing society.  A whacked-out chief of staff to the President brings him up-to-date on what the government knows, and McGill has to pick up the cold thread from there.  Half a million dollars for expenses and a tattooed girlfriend with unique views on sexuality, and he's off on a cross-country trip that exposes him to practices and kinks that he didn't know existed.  Along the way, he has to confront his ideas as to what is right and wrong, what should and shouldn't be allowed in a free society.  

The book isn't overly long (280 pages in a format about 2/3 the page size of a regular book), so the read is quick.  The language would give it an R rating from page 1 if this were a movie.  And the kinky practices...  These are some things I've never heard of nor imagined.  What's scary is that a search of the internet confirmed that these things are truly fetish practices, complete with pictures (ewww...)  There's a deeper message that Ellis is trying to convey (I think), but it's definitely not a message or philosophy that would mesh with my own.  For me, the best part of the book was the writing.  It's reminiscent of a dark 50's PI novel, only with a bizarre cast of characters and plenty of cynicism.  His prior work involved graphic novels, so it doesn't surprise me that he is able to paint a scene with few words but an abundance of detail.  If you can pull off a chapter that has a single sentence and have it work, you know your stuff...

Not a book to read if you're easily offended or looking for some action-adventure mind candy.  But if you're wanting something out of the mainstream with some great writing, check it out...

09/08/2007

Book Review - Influencer: The Power To Change Anything

Category Book Review
I had the opportunity to look at an advance reader's copy of the book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.  If you always thought that "influence" meant that you could talk anyone into doing anything, this book will quickly dispel that notion.  There's so much more to influence than just "persuasively talking".

Contents:  
Part 1 - The Power to Change Anything: You're an Influencer; Find Vital Behaviors; Change the Way You Change Minds
Part 2 - Make Change Inevitable: Make the Undesirable Desirable; Surpass Your Limits; Harness Peer Pressure; Never Go It Alone; Design Rewards and Demand Accountability; Change the Environment; Become an Influencer
End Notes; Index; About the Authors

The traditional definition of influence tends to revolve around excellent speaking skills and positional power.  Thus, if you're high on the food chain and you're a good presenter, then you're an influencer.  The book looks at influence from a different perspective, however.  Influence is the ability to find the core behaviors that need to change or be followed to get the desired result, as well as the ability to make these behaviors desirable to the target population.  For instance, the guinea worm infestation in Africa is a particularly gruesome illness that has an incredible impact on the ability of a village to function effectively.  But while some villages were decimated with an ongoing infestation cycle, other villages not that far away had little to no evidence of the disease.  Why?  The simple act of filtering drawn water through material when pouring it into pots kept the eggs from being ingested.  They were also able to keep infected villagers from soaking their wounds in the water supply.  Sounds easy enough to change, but no.  The researchers explained this to the villagers in great detail, but to no avail.  Why?  They had no credibility with the audience, who didn't understand what they were asking.  There was also no peer pressure to make sure everyone in the village abided by these simple guidelines.  But when a respected village chief understood and presented the same message in a culturally acceptable way, compliance was 100% and the guinea worm infestation was eliminated.  

The authors use a number of studies to show how all this works from a scientific standpoint, but they also have a large number of real-life situations that bring the concepts to light in a concrete way.  The combination of theory and practical information gives the reader a solid basis for what they need to do, why they need to do it, and what options are available.  If you were to do nothing more than quickly read the material, you'd come away with a changed definition of how to influence others.  With a bit of study, it's quite possible that you'll increase your level of influence in ways you didn't know existed...

09/07/2007

Women of Tech: Hear Us Roar

Category Software Development
I got this press release from O'Reilly today, and it's something that probably should be followed by those of us who are of the male gender.  I didn't think that women in IT was that big of a thing until the Kathy Sierra incident a few months back.  That opened my eyes to the obstacles that women face in this industry, as well as just how male-dominated IT actually is...

---------------------------

Women of Tech: Hear Us Roar, A Special Series from www.oreillynet.com

The Mighty Voices of Sisterhood in Tech

Sebastopol, CA--There's no doubt that women coders, developers, designers, and programmers are a powerful force in the modern tech industry, despite their smaller numbers compared to men. At the same time many of the major impacts and innovations of women at every level of the development and evolution of technology -- from the first female coders to today's Web 2.0 pioneers -- aren't all that well known.

But starting now, O'Reilly Media aims to celebrate and give voice to the real-world experiences and concerns of these female trailblazers by publishing a new online series, "Women in Tech." The brainchild of Tatiana Apandi, an associate editor at O'Reilly, the series features articles solicited from technology's female side--and all focused on what it's like to carve out a career in technology.

The timely new series reveals the challenges, rewards, and, sometimes, frustrations of being a woman in an industry still dominated by men. "Each day, we'll present a different woman's story that I believe will open readers' eyes to her unique perspective," explains Apandi. "We have contributions from conference organizers, authors, programmers, developers, and more--women who have pioneered prosperous careers in technology."

"As the series progresses, I hope readers find that this myriad of female perspectives shows how valuable it is to hear different points of view," says Tatiana. "Whether readers think there are issues on which we need to work or that there are no issues at all, one underlying truth is that we need to support each other as individuals and help one another with our separate goals."

With clarity, honesty, and wit, this collection reveals what it's like to be in the minority of the male-dominated geek culture. Here are just a few of the voices in this upcoming series:

- Anna Martelli, Ravenscroft, Pythonista
- Audrey Eschright, independent programmer/designer/publisher
- CJ Rayhill, SVP of Product Management and Technology for Safari Books Online
- Dawn Foster, Director of Developer Relations at Jive Software
- Dru Lavigne, Chair of the BSD Certification Group Inc
- Gabrielle Roth, member of the Portland Perl Mongers
- Jeni Tennison, independent consultant and author
- Jill Dyche, partner and co-founder of Baseline Consulting
- Juliet Kemp, Systems Administrator for the Astrophysics group at Imperial College
- Julia Lerman, Board member of the Vermont Software Developer Alliance, runs the Vermont.NET User Group
- Kaliya Hamlin, unconference Shesgeeky.org organizer
- Kirsten Jones, webmaster for The Perl Foundation
- Lauren Wood, Chaired for the W3C DOM Working Group
- Leslie Hawthorn, works for Open Source Programs Office at Google
- Selena Deckelmann, leads PDXPUG, a PostgreSQL Users Group
- Shelley Powers, software developer/architect, photographer, and author

The "Women in Tech," series starts Sept 4. Find out what they have to share and join the discussion here:

http://www.oreillynet.com/womenintech/

About O'Reilly
O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.

09/05/2007

More Domino SMTP message madness...

Category IBM/Lotus
I was informed today that another specially crafted Domino SMTP message is making the rounds crashing servers.  I got pinged with the following IM from our admin group, along with the most current tech note URL and suggested short-term workaround:

Thomas W Duff (1:34 PM) - OK...  if you could let me know, that'd be great.
Collaborative Systems (1:35 PM) - Here's a link to the technote: Same sending domains as last time
Collaborative Systems (1:35 PM) -
http://www-1.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?rs=463&context=SSKTMJ&dcÖ00&uid=swg21266629&loc=en_US&cs=UTF-8&lang=en
Thomas W Duff (1:35 PM) - OK
Collaborative Systems (1:37 PM) - The other blogs quote you. Nice to be first, huh? :)
Thomas W Duff (1:37 PM) - It was a nice scoop.  :)
Collaborative Systems (1:37 PM) - Well, there are a lot of people "scooping" today. ;)
Thomas W Duff (1:38 PM) - I don't catch up on Google Reader until I get home, so I don't always find this out early.
Collaborative Systems (1:39 PM) - I believe this one started last night and through the morning. If I find out anything interesting in my meeting I'll let you know.
Thomas W Duff (1:39 PM) - Thanks
Collaborative Systems (2:10 PM) - Blocking these domains are the workaround
(subject to change):
Collaborative Systems (2:10 PM) - beaudette.info
www.balkrishmiki.com
skincare@consectary.net
skincare@delettanteism.com
awards@direption.com
awards@direption.net
Thomas W Duff (2:44 PM) - OK.. Thanks for the update.

09/03/2007

Book Review - Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich

Category Book Review
It's always a fun time when I can catch up on the adventures of Stephanie Plum.  In Lean Mean Thirteen, Janet Evanovich puts Plum into another crazy situation that allows her to destroy her quota of cars and buildings...

Plum is tasked to do a "favor" for Ranger, which usually means bad things.  She has to plant a bug on Dickie, her ex-husband, and the meeting between the two doesn't go well.  In fact, she has to be pulled off of him in a wild rage.  But the confrontation serves her purpose for planting the device.  But when Dickie goes missing and his house shows signs of a bloody struggle, Stephanie is top on the list of suspects.  Ranger and Morelli know better, but the alibi involves activities involving her, Morelli, and nocturnal activities.  Plum isn't the only person trying to find Dickie, either.  Joyce Barnhardt, Dickie's on-again/off-again squeeze, thinks he was worth $40 million, and thinks Stephanie killed him to get the money.  Stephanie has to balance her time and life between Ranger and Morelli to clear her name, find her ex, and determine if he really *is* worth that kind of money...

There's nothing new or surprising in this latest installment of the Stephanie Plum series.  But that's OK...  There's the typical sexual tension between her and Ranger, as well as her unfailing ability to be at the wrong place at the wrong time when it comes to cars being destroyed or buildings being burned down.  And there's the colorful assortment of FTA cases she's trying to apprehend in her own unique way.  This is a novel that Plum fans will enjoy and breeze through.  Throw it in your suitcase for a vacation or longer flight, and you'll be set.

09/02/2007

Book Review - The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs

Category Book Review
I recently got the chance to review an advance reader's copy of the book The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A. J. Jacobs.  While rather funny, your impression of the book will probably be flavored based on your religious leanings and background.

A. J. Jacobs is a writer for Esquire, and this is his second book-sized project.  His first was to read through, from cover to cover, the Encyclopedia Britannica (all 32 volumes).  This time around, he decides to do something a bit more extreme.  He is determined to follow the Bible's commands and laws as literally as possible for an entire year.  Having a Jewish background, he's not unfamiliar with some of the traditions and customs of the Old Testament.  But when he sets out to follow everything as exactly as he can, he finds that it's not easy in today's society.  His beard is the first visual sign of change, and is quickly followed by clothing (no mixed fibers) and dietary laws (good-bye to shellfish).  Interactions with others change dramatically, as you never know if the other person is someone who should be avoided due to ceremonial impurities.  His wife is none too happy about some of the changes (no contact with an "unclean" woman once a month), but surprisingly she lasts out the year.  Along the way, Jacobs meets and consults with a wide spectrum of priests, rabbis, pastors, and anyone else who has a definite view on how to literally follow the commands.  In the end, he's gone from being an agnostic to being a reverent agnostic, with noticeable changes in how he lives and views life.  He's more thankful, more considerate, and infinitely more tolerant of others that don't fit his preconceived niches of right and wrong.

If read just for entertainment value, it's pretty funny.  The extremes he goes to in many cases are humorous and somewhat crazy.  But as a Christian, I found myself asking on more than one occasion...  Am I guilty of ignoring parts of the Bible that aren't convenient or easy?  Agnostics and atheists will come away from the book convinced that this is the exact reason why they can ignore God and the Bible.  Jews would probably commend his efforts to reach God in this fashion.  Evangelicals would say he is putting works before faith, and that the Old Testament laws were fulfilled in Christ.  And with each one of those stereotypes I just made, there'll be a wide range of beliefs on both ends of the "practical vs. literal" spectrum.  For me, it was more a conviction of "are you even doing the things you *know* to be right in the first place?"

Even with the uncomfortable questions it raised, I enjoyed this book.  It's always good to step outside your own worldview and see things as others might see them.  That doesn't mean you're wrong and they're right.  It simply means that there are always people who will view the same things as you do, and come to an entirely different conclusion...

09/02/2007

Countdown to the Hawaiian cruise begins...

Category Everything Else
On October 8th, my wife and I will have been married for 25 years.  And yes, that's 25 years *to each other*, thank you.

To commemorate this increasingly rare event, Sue and I are going to take a cruise to Hawaii.  It'll be just the two of us, floating around the islands for 11 days, sitting on the balcony, and having a grand time.  Norwegian Cruise Lines, Pride Of Aloha, leaving Honolulu on 09/30 and returning on 10/9.  Hopefully the boys will keep the cats well-fed and watered while we're gone.  :)

Sue does all our vacation planning, so she's been living this event for about the last year.  I, on the other hand, start thinking about things three to four weeks ahead of time.  So it's been good to have her pushing me to make decisions on shore excursions, specialty dining, etc.  We've never been to Hawaii in all our vacation travels, so this'll be a new experience for both of us.

And because I know someone will ask the question...  Yes, I will take my laptop along, but at this time, I am *not* planning on buying an internet connectivity package like I have on every other cruise.  Having the laptop means I can download the pictures from my camera, still record thoughts and memories of our trip, and in case of emergency, still have the means to interact with Ian and Cam if needed.  But what we found last time is that the ship has cell phone service, so if we absolutely do need to be reached, there's that option.  

I'm looking forward to this vacation...

09/01/2007

Book Review - The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaver

Category Book Review
Jeffery Deaver writes a very good crime novel.  That trend continues in his latest book titled The Sleeping Doll.  This isn't so much a "who-dunnit", as you learn right off who is responsible for the killings.  It's more a "what-are-they-going-to-do-now" story with some nasty plot twists at the end...

Daniel Pell escapes from prison where he is serving a sentence for a Manson-style killing.  He does so by getting transferred to a lower-security facility for an interview related to the killing, and then using an accomplice to set up a diversion that allows him to flee.  Special Agent Kathryn Dance is put in charge of the manhunt, as she was the one who requested the interview that got him out of the max-security prison in the first place.  Dance is an expert in reading people during interrogations, but Pell is just as good as she is.  She has to match wits with Pell to figure out where he's going and where they might find him before he kills again.  She gathers up members of his "Family" who were with him at the time of the killings, so as to try and deduce his reasons for not leaving the area.  It all starts to come together when Dance is able to get an interview with the "sleeping doll", the only person who survived Pell's original mass killing.  But she always seems to be about five minutes behind Pell when it comes to capturing him, and that delay might end up meaning the deaths of her family and friends...

There's a lot of explanation in the story about human reactions when communicating with others.  If you've never thought about how someone can tell if another person is lying, then that aspect of the story is pretty fascinating.  It seemed to be a bit overdone however, as nearly every encounter she has with anyone includes her thoughts on what the person is *really* thinking or saying.  But that's more than made up for with the plot turns at the end.  I thought I was at the end about five times, only to find yet another surprise in store.  The best part is that they didn't seem forced or contrived.  It was just a matter of "I didn't see *that* one coming"...

If you want a true "who killed who" story, this won't be to your liking.  But if you're more interested into a battle of wits between a cop and a killer, then you'll end up getting sucked into this story in a big way...

09/01/2007

Book Review - The Navigator by Clive Cussler and Paul Kemprecos

Category Book Review
Seems like a number of my library "recreational reads" came in at once, so I've had some down time from my normal fare of reading material.  I finally made it to the top of the hold list for The Navigator by Clive Cussler with Paul Kemprecos.  If you're in the mood for a fast-moving action adventure novel, it works pretty well...

The main story revolves around a statue called The Navigator.  It was stolen from the Iraqi national museum but was recovered with the aid of a UN official named Carina Mechadi.  While on a ship bound for the US with the other recovered items, the statue is once again the center of attention when an armed group invades the ship, attempts to transport the statue off by helicopter, and sets the ship to collide with an oil drilling platform to hide the evidence.  But Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala of NUMA are able to pull off a dramatic rescue, saving the ship, the statue, *and* Ms. Mechadi.  The mystery of why someone would want the statue deepens as a tie is discovered between the statue, Thomas Jefferson, and the ancient Phoenicians.  When the statue is once again stolen and Carina once again kidnapped, Austin's full attention is focused on saving the damsel in distress one more time, as well as putting an end to the person behind it all.

Compared to Cussler's Dirk Pitt series, the Austin novel is much more sedate and comfortable.  There's definitely enough action to keep you turning pages, but every chapter doesn't end with someone about to die and/or pull off a miraculous MacGyver-esque escape.  The idea of Phoenicians being the first to visit North America isn't new in a Cussler novel (Serpent in 1999), but he does a nice job in putting together a Da Vinci-type mystery where people are willing to die to keep a secret.

If you're ready to kill off a few hours with a mental escape from reality, The Navigator should fit your needs well...

09/01/2007

Book Review - Forbidden LEGO by Ulrik Pilegaard and Mike Dooley

Category Book Review
Having a couple of close friends who are LEGO-maniacs, I couldn't pass up the chance to read and review this particular title in order to see what it's all about...  Forbidden LEGO: Build the Models Your Parents Warned You Against! by Ulrik Pilegaard and Mike Dooley.  I now understand why they find LEGO building so much fun, and it probably wouldn't take much to bring me into the fold...

Contents:
Introduction; How to Build Great Things; Project 1 - Paper Plane Launcher (PPL); Project 2 - Candy Coated Catapult (CCC); Project 3 - Ping-Pong Cannon (PPC); Project 4 - All-Terrain LEGO (ATL); Project 5 - High Velocity Automatic LEGO Plate Dispenser (HVALPD); Tips and Tricks

So what makes these projects "forbidden"?  There are certain rules that have to be followed in order for a LEGO model to be allowed to be marketed as a kit.  Some of these rules would be:
  •  Never launch a non-approved object into the air.
  • Never launch a non-approved object into the air with great force.
  • Never alter any LEGO part.
  • Never connect two moters to run together.
  • Never double the approved voltage.

And so on.  Generally speaking, a LEGO kit should not be able to injure someone, should be able to be built with standard pieces, and shouldn't use anything that doesn't come directly from LEGO.  In varying degrees, these five projects break some (or all) of the official rules.  Which is why they are appealing to the LEGO builder's inner-geek.  For as complex as these devices look on the surface, the authors do an excellent job in breaking things down into step-by-step instructions.  They start with a brief explanation of the project, some of the design hurdles they faced, what rules are broken, and what non-LEGO parts you might need.  From there, you find a full parts list (in color, complete with pictures and amounts) followed by a numbered series of steps.  The steps show what parts are needed for that specific step, as well as how they fit together with the growing assembly.  Surprisingly, they do this without directions...  just the pictures.  But the assembly is broken down into very small steps, so you don't have to make any major intuitive leaps to get from step 45 to 46.  And if you've been building with LEGO before this, I'll guess that you wouldn't have any trouble following along.  I could even see myself making any one of these, and I'm definitely *not* an engineering wizard.  :)  Oh, and another nice touch...  the binding is designed to allow the book to lay flat when opened.  So you won't be looking for weighted objects to hold the book open while you're building your next contraption.

I don't know that I'd want to give this book to a 10 year old for fear of what he'd do with the items once built.  But knowing the person(s) who I'll be giving my copy to after this, I should probably trust the 10 year old a bit more.  Great book, wonderful quality, and it should provide a number of hours of fun walking on the "wild side".

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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