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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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10/31/2012

I'm Coding... Dead or Alive...

Category Humor
(with apologies to Bon Jovi...)

Coding Dead Or Alive


They're all the same, only the variables will change
Everyday it seems I'm wasting away
Another place where the bugs they are so old
I'd code all night just to get back home

[Chorus]
I'm a coder on the ethernet I ride
I'm coding dead or alive
Coding dead or alive

Sometimes I sleep, sometimes it's not for days
And the programs I meet always link their separate ways
Sometimes you tell the day
By the Maalox that you drink
And times when you're alone all you do is think

[Chorus]

I walk the code, remote access on my back
I code for keeps, 'cause I might not grok the hack
I been everywhere, and I'm slouching tall
I've seen a million string types and I've rocked them all

I'm a coder, on the ethernet I ride
I'm coding dead or alive
I'm a coder, I got the deadline on my side
I'm coding dead or alive
And I code, dead or alive
I still code, dead or alive
Dead or alive [x4]

10/27/2012

Book Review - A River Closely Watched by Jon Boilard

Category Book Review Jon Boilard A River Closely Watched
A River Closely Watched

I'm not quite sure how I came to get on a list for this novel... A River Closely Watched by Jon Boilard.  I'm guessing it came from a publicist, but I've misplaced the release that came in the envelope.  Regardless, seeing an albino snake on the cover gets your attention. :)  Rather than set it aside, I decided to give it a read.  The writing was excellent if you're looking for something that is dark and gritty.  The story didn't do quite as much for me...

The story takes place in a backwoods community located in the South.  Bobby DuBois comes from a family of men who are not exactly shining examples of moral or civic responsibility.  His father is a drunk and physically abusive, and his uncle lives in the woods on the run from the police.  When Bobby's father is arrested for killing a police officer, Bobby hooks up with his uncle to avoid being put in foster care.  In short order, everyone is looking for Bobby... the police, Bobby's father (who has managed to escape), a tracker... In the midst of all this turmoil, he has to decide if he wants to follow the same generational paths of his family, or if he wants to break the cycle and make something of himself and his life.

In terms of style, A River Closely Watched is easy to get sucked into.  Boilard paints a dark, bleak existence for everyone involved, and the dialogue only enhances the picture.  None of the characters are particularly likeable, and Bobby's father and grandfather are truly evil.  When it comes to the story itself, I was less impressed.  The momentum was slow, and it was hard to get emotionally invested in any of the characters.  The resolutions I hoped would happen at some point never really did, and the book ended with more of a whimper than a bang.

My inclination to want action and resolution in a story puts A River Closely Watched in my "your mileage may vary" category. If you're more nuanced and subtle than I am, you may appreciate the story flow and find deeper meanings than I did.  The writing style (which I enjoyed immensely) is what made this book readable for me.  Your mileage may vary... :)

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Publicist
Payment: Free

10/27/2012

Book Review - Spy the Lie: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Detect Deception by Philip Houston, Michael Floyd, Susan Carnicero, and Don Tennant

Category Book Review Philip Houston Michael Floyd Susan Carnicero Don Tennant Spy the Lie: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Detect Deception
Spy the Lie: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Detect Deception

You ask someone a question... is what comes next an honest answer? The challenge is figuring that out so as to determine the actual truth.  Spy the Lie: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Detect Deception by Philip Houston, Michael Floyd, Susan Carnicero, and Don Tennant lays out a method that cuts down the chances of you being led astray by lies.  There's no perfect way to detect a lie vs. the truth, but they show there are ways to tip the odds significantly in your favor (provided you're the one asking the questions).

Contents:
Welcome to Our World; The Difficulty We Have in Calling Someone a Liar; Navigating the Deception Detection Obstacle Course; The Methodology - It All Comes Down to This; The Deception Paradox - Ignoring the Truth in Order to Find the Truth; What Deception Sounds Like; The Most Powerful Lies; The Wrath of the Liar; What Deception Looks Like; Truth in the Lie - Spying Unintended Messages; You Don't Ask, You Don't Get; Managing Deception to Gain the Advantage; Let's Be Careful Out There; A Textbook Case of Deception; Okay, So Now What?; Appendix I - Suggested Question Lists; Appendix II - A Sample Narrative Analysis Based on the Model; Glossary; About the Authors and Writer; Index

The method outlined in Spy the Lie was developed inside the CIA by people who are recognized experts in polygraph testing and interview techniques.  Based on how the mind works and responds when faced with questions, they catalogued a number of deception behaviors that people use when trying to avoid the truth.  The number of these behaviors that arise within the first five seconds of a response are a strong indicator of whether someone is trying to hide something. A single instance isn't enough to say someone's lying.  If two or more show up, and show up repeatedly in the answers, it's time to dig deeper.  The interesting thing is that it's not necessarily the exact words that are said, but the types of answers that qualify as deception indicators.

For example, someone may fail to answer the actual question that was asked.  A person may have a problem making a direct denial when asked a question.  There's repeating the question (trying to gain time to think), making statements that are non-answers, making inconsistent statements, going into attack mode, asking a question as an answer, making overly specific answers, inappropriate levels of politeness, and a number of other indicators.  These types of statements, by themselves, are not a red light.  But if a number of them occur repeatedly, especially as a response to a single question, there's a good chance that you have someone cornered.  If these indicators are followed up with the right types and styles of questions, there's a very good chance that a confession will be forthcoming.

The information in the book is excellent, and the authors do a good job in using well-known examples where these indicators could be tracked.  They admit that no method is 100% accurate, and that this is something that can *help* discover the truth, but not guarantee it.  I approached the content with some concern for the hindsight bias.  It's relatively easy to find examples where you can point to textbook cases of the method working.  However, how many people (say, deep cover agents) have been faced with questioning like this and still continue to do their job? The negative can't be proved, and it's something that should be kept in mind when reading the book.  I was also a bit bothered by the number of "we'll be covering that shortly" lines in the book.  The points were covered, but it's a personal nit of mine when I'm repeatedly told I have to keep reading to get more info.  

If the concept of "lie detection" is of interest to you, Spy the Lie is worth reading.  Rather than just feeling that politicians are lying when accused of something, you'll be able to explain why you feel that way. :)

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Free

10/20/2012

Book Review - Stolen Prey by John Sandford

Category Book Review John Sandford Stolen Prey
Stolen Prey

It's been a while since I've opened up a Lucas Davenport novel by John Sandford. The last few weren't up to the enjoyment level I had with the earlier installments.  I picked up Stolen Prey from the library hoping that Sandford and Davenport were back on track.  It might be due to the break I took on the series, but this one was better than I expected.  It's not vintage Davenport, but it may be that the character has evolved to a point where that's no longer possible...

This installment starts out with the gruesome murder of a family in Wayzata, Minnesota.  The brutality and signature of the crime points Davenport and his team towards Mexican drug lords, even though there's no obvious reason as to why the family would have been a target.  The Federales ask to be part of the investigation, and two agents join the team.  But can Davenport and his men trust them?  Are the agents leaking information back to the drug lords?  Most importantly, is the death squad still looking for answers to questions Davenport hasn't figured out yet?  The pressure continues to mount, both politically and professionally, to end the killing spree...

I miss the earlier Davenport, when he was the hands-on detective trying to solve the mental challenges of the crimes that landed in his lap.  Now that he's the head of a small crime team that is more political in nature, there's not the same immediacy to his character.  Stolen Prey had more of that "hands-on" feel to it, but not anywhere like it used to be.  Another frustration with the story is the way it jumped around.  I'm used to having a point-of-view change signaled by a chapter break or a significant paragraph break.  Stolen Prey often goes from Davenport to killer mid-page with a regular paragraph break, and there's no indication that the viewpoint of the story shifted.  It's a little jarring and disruptive to the flow.

Having said all that, Stolen Prey was a decent read (especially measured against my past souring on the series).  The story line was interesting with good pacing.  I still have questions on a few plot points, but that could just be me having missed something along the way.  I won't be chomping at the bit for the next Prey novel, but I won't ignore it either.  On the other hand, I can't wait for Sandford's next installment in the Virgil Flowers series... :)

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Free

10/16/2012

The Rise Of Women In Tech...

Category Everything Else
In my technical circles, I don't give a second thought about the gender of my colleagues.  In fact, for the longest time I never released there was even an issue of bias against women in technology.  They were my coworkers, and they were female... so?  It wasn't until a few high visibility incidents in the larger tech world opened my eyes, that I became aware of the larger problem and the inherent sexism that's constantly in play.  It's not a matter of whether a female tech worker is good... it's that they end up having to be significantly better than others to be perceived as equal.  And unfortunately, that's just a mild version of the problem.  Some of the vile slander and sexism that can be found in the male tech community is truly disgusting.

But thankfully, things are changing...  This infographic from MBAOnline shows positive trends that give me hope that one day gender may really not matter when it comes to IT:

The Rise Of Women In Tech

For my Nerd Girl friends and colleagues... thanks for pushing back and making us aware of the changes that are needed.

10/15/2012

For what it's worth, my views on the whole Notes 9 tempest...

Category IBM/Lotus
(Warning: very much a tl;dr - too long, didn't read - post ahead.  You've been warned.)

I told myself I would stay out of this... so much for *that* self-promise.  Let's see if I can be rational and measured here...

To state up front: I completely understand there are various ways to view this situation, and that people I respect and are friends with have completely opposite opinions.  That's fine.  If we were friends before, this changes nothing.  This whole event means diddly-squat in terms of life.  This is my *opinion* on the situation, and I expect that your mileage *will* vary.

In terms of what Volker posted, I have no problems.  

Now for the whys...

Volker has been "blogging" for longer than most of us, and he's also been a tech journalist over that time.  It took me a long time to understand vowe.net and the large readership. When I had my entire professional being and self-worth tied up in Lotus Notes, I used to react with "what gives him the right to take shots at Lotus?"  I followed, unfollowed, and refollowed a number of times.  I pretty much disagreed with any negative Notes thing he posted.  I wondered why IBM even gave him the time of day.  I was emotionally charged and ready to defend the citadel at all costs.  The problem was... if I was honest and reviewed things he posted in the prior 12 - 18 months, I had to grudgingly admit that he was often either right or wasn't that far off.

Over time, I got to know Volker on more than just a "words on a page" level.  Yes, he has a style that is very direct and can alienate people who don't expect that.  But he's also done some things for the Lotus community "behind the scenes" that went far beyond what anyone else in the community was doing for those who were in need.  I've seen the effects of those efforts, and they aren't forgotten.  Even some who have demonized him have unknowingly been the recipients of his efforts to make things happen when others didn't step up.  The phrase "vowe is a good mother" is very well deserved.

In terms of this particular event... Yes, he reported something that was told to others under NDA.  He took steps to fact-check beforehand.  He did what any journalist would do... he reported it and protected his source.  *HE* was not under NDA.  The problem of something under NDA being disclosed is a real problem.  The person to blame is one step before Volker.  And before you get your panties in a twist over the "negativity" thing?  I don't think this particular disclosure was negative.  IBM did what many wanted them to do for some time.  This information was actually welcome by many.  It's more a matter that IBM wanted that news kept to a smaller group, and someone broke ranks.  And if you think that Volker is "all negative, all the time", then don't read this or this.  It'll screw up your world view.

Yes, IBM will probably make changes in the way they share information with people, and that could include sharing less information with fewer people than they do currently.  Yes, it will probably give some individuals and partners less influence and "in the know" clout.  But some of the postings I've heard make it sound like Volker's post triggered the Mayan apocalypse.  Can we all just take a step back, take a deep breath, and then discuss this without predicting the end of the world?  

As for the secondary question about who should and shouldn't be included on PlanetLotus.org...

On this matter, I'll claim a bit more insight than some other people as I've been a "Lotus blogger" for nearly ten years.  Back in 2003 when I started blogging, the whole "Lotus blogger" term meant pretty much one of two things.  You were either a blogger talking about Lotus, or you were a Lotus person who blogged.  Some people blogged *just* technical info, while others blogged about both technical and personal issues.  I'm in the second group.  I make no apologies for that, but I understand those who chose to keep it technical.  The term "Lotus blogger" covered both.

In ten years, people change.  Blogs change.  People who used to be part of the Lotus community started posting technical content of a different sort, but people were interested.  Others started blogging more or less.  People found new interests and started to share those.  Personally, I read a few more books than other people. :)  And yet, in most cases, you can still find those people listed on PlanetLotus.  For those blogs I don't follow via RSS, PlanetLotus gives me a quick "who's doing x and is interested in y" overview.  If I'm not interested, I don't read.  Nobody is forcing me to read every entry.  That's my choice.

It's true that a significant percentage of Volker's material is not directly related to Lotus.  If you want to make the argument that the percentage should bar him from PlanetLotus, then it's time for a major clean-up.  I would be gone along with a number of other seemingly well-followed and well-read blogs.  If I started book reviewing now, it'd be on a new and different blog.  It's the reason why I started a new blog for my SharePoint stuff. But it doesn't bother me that Warren posts about LEGO or that Darren now works for Microsoft and posts related material to that.  I don't care if you want to make a "Lotus material only" rule for inclusion on PlanetLotus.  Just be prepared for a MUCH smaller list of people on the site.  Maybe that's what you want and the rest of us should use Google Reader for Turtle's rabbit posts.  No problem... just be consistent with your requirements, and be prepared for a much different landscape.

I don't want to turn this into a "how to fix PlanetLotus" thread.  Yancy has provided an incredible service to our community for years, but I don't envy him over the last week or so.  Regardless of what he did/does, it seems like half the community will think he was wrong.  I'll simply say thank you to Yancy and buy him a drink if I see him in Las Vegas next month. :)

So... that's my two cents on the issue.  I don't expect you to change your mind based on this, nor will I let comments get nasty or out of hand if they show up.  I feel better for having given a voice to my feelings, and that's why I write and blog.  The most I would hope for (provided I hope for anything from this post) is that you would gain a bit more insight as to how others view the situation, and realize that in the larger picture of life, this means very little.

In the words of Felix Baumgartner as he stood on a tiny piece of fiberglass 128000 feet above the earth before stepping off... Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are.

10/14/2012

Book Review - Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Creating and Implementing Real-World Projects

Category Book Review Jennifer Mason Christian Buckley Brian T. Jackett Wes Preston Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Creating and Implementing Real-World Projects
Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Creating and Implementing Real-World Projects

It's one thing to be able to build a Hello World application using a new technology.  It's another thing entirely to take the next step and build something that is actually useful.  That's the jump that Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Creating and Implementing Real-World Projects makes.  The authors, Jennifer Mason, Christian Buckley, Brian T. Jackett, and Wes Preston take ten different business scenarios, explain the business requirements, discuss the different architectural options (along with why they chose a particular path), and then proceed to build the solution in a step-by-step fashion.  The book isn't perfect, but I think it has some significant value for SharePoint developers.

Contents:
Introduction; Building a Project Management Solution; Building a Training Registration Management System; Building a Basic FAQ Solution; Building a Learning Center; Building a Help Desk Solution; Building a Remote Teams Activity Site; Building a Team Blog Platform; Building an RFP Response Solution; Building a Contact Management Solution; Building a Resource Scheduling Solution; Resources; About the Authors; Index

SharePoint is flexible in that you can accomplish a task or build a solution in multiple ways. That's also a problem because you could easily build yourself into a corner without understanding how you got there.  Having a real-world solution architecture analyzed by experts is extremely valuable, and you can apply those concepts in many other areas.  I also appreciate how the analysis of the business requirements takes place, as it gives you a feel for how SharePoint can be applied to your own organizational needs.  The actual solution they build is almost secondary to the value I get from those first two points.

A number of the reviews have mentioned that there are errors when trying to follow the step-by-step instructions on building the solution.  That's unfortunate,as people new to SharePoint will end up getting confused more than they already are.  This is a case where I'd recommend getting the e-book version and then bookmarking the errata site.  If this was one of many tech books covering the same topic in the same fashion, I would probably recommend bypassing it.  But there's too much value in the overall content here to go that route.  I'll take the value of the analysis and real-world scenarios, and figure that the troubleshooting is just a bonus. :)

I'm looking forward to working through all these sites and making them available as demos for my customers.  Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Creating and Implementing Real-World Projects will definitely improve my overall SharePoint skills.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Publisher
Payment: Free

10/13/2012

Book Review - The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World by Frans Johansson

Category Book Review Frans Johansson The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World
The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World

Business books that purport to offer up the key to success are a source of frustration for me.  Take a company like Apple or a leader like Jobs, analyze it/them, and come up with a five step plan to replicate their outcomes in your situation... easy to follow and results guaranteed!

Not so much...  The problem I have with those books is that, while the information may be sound, they ignore the multitudes of unknown failures... companies, ideas, and decisions that *didn't* work out.  The outcome isn't necessarily directly related to the steps taken or the method follows.  Sometimes success is random, based on a moment in time where something just clicks.  Frans Johansson does a good job in making that point in his book The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World.  There's a lot to be said for remembering that not every outcome is rational or logical.

Contents:
Part 1 - An Unpredictable World: The Moldavian Theory of Success; Serena's Secret; The Nokia Mystery; The Twilight of Logic; The Conspiracy of Randomness
Part 2 - Seizing Opportunity: The Three Random Moves of Diane von Furstenberg; Click Moments; How to Create Click Moments; Purposeful Bets; How to Place Purposeful Bets; Complex Forces; How to Harness Complex Forces
Epilogue; Acknowledgments; Notes; Index

I got the most from the first part of the book.  Johansson does a great job (in my opinion) in explaining why success in business doesn't work the same way as the process explained in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers book.  10000 hours of practice works when you're dealing with a skill where the rules are set, finite, and don't change much.  Personally, I also think it only works in individual pursuits.  In business, interactions are complex and change frequently.  Click moments occur when unrelated or chance moments happen and someone puts together two concepts that didn't occur to anyone else.  Howard Schultz changed the direction of Starbucks when he visited Milan and saw the role that coffee houses played there.  Nike took off when a running coach poured latex on a waffle iron to make a spikeless tread for running shoes. In a less known example (at least to me), Microsoft was betting on OS/2 until two programmers met at an MS party and made fixes to an "unfixable" version of Windows, turning it from a dying software project that was fatally broken to the operating system that defined desktop computing.  These click moments don't follow a five step plan or guarantee on-going success.  They happen, and you have to be ready to act.

Part 2 of the book explains how to structure your business and cultivate a mindset that allows for more click moments to occur.  There are ways you can allow for more interactions and encounters that might cause click moments.  Johansson calls them "purposeful bets."  I agree with that general concept, but there still seems to be a tenancy to "prove" these bets work by pointing out examples where they did.  I'm certain there are people who have tried to make these moments happen, yet no breakthrough events occur.  It still comes down to randomness.  You can increase your chances but you can not ensure success.

Even though I don't think it's necessarily a "perfect" theory, I think The Click Moment comes much closer to explaining "business success" than many other books and frameworks.  I'd recommend it as required reading to get a more accurate view as to how life and business really works.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Publicist
Payment: Free

10/13/2012

Starting a new blog/Twitter account for sharing SharePoint jobs...

Category SharePoint
In my life as part of the IBM Notes/Domino community, I run a blog called Lotus Jobs.  This was a "pay it forward" project of mine to share potential job opportunities I'd run across on Google News Alerts, in hopes that people who were out of work could find a new home somewhere.  I worked at Enron at the time of the implosion, so I know what that unemployed feeling is like.  It's NOT pleasant...  I post whatever I find in a single daily post, and then tweet it on an account called @LotusWatch.  That account follows no one, as it's more of a broadcast mechanism to reach people who are interested.

I'm taking this concept and starting the same thing on the SharePoint side.  I realize the effort of finding a SharePoint job is far easier right now than finding a Notes job, but still... if it helps someone, it's worth doing.

The new blog is SharePoint Jobs.  The new Twitter account is @SPJobWatch.  When I make my daily job post on the blog, I'll tweet it on my personal Twitter account along with the @SPJobWatch account.  I'll probably also put a link on Google+ just to make things more visible.

If you're interested, feel free to follow the Twitter account, subscribe to the blog, put the blog on your RSS reader, etc.  I've done the Lotus Jobs blog concept for over a year, so it's an ingrained habit.  Unless I get some major negative feedback over this new effort, I think this should become part of my daily routine.

10/13/2012

Book Review - The Book of Neil: A Novel by Frank Turner Hollon

Category Book Review Frank Turner Hollon The Book of Neil: A Novel
A picture named M2

The Book of Neil: A Novel by Frank Turner Hollon deals with a question I've thought about on occasion.  If Jesus were to return to today's world, would he be noticed, followed, or written off as a psycho?  The answer is probably all three (as that was the reaction 2000 years ago), but it's interesting to bring it into a modern setting.  The Book of Neil wasn't something that caused me to stay awake at night, but it's a well-done treatment of the question.

Neil is a normal guy with an unhappy life.  His wife hates him, and his daughters are whiny and ungrateful.  He meets Jesus out on the golf course, where Jesus is part of the foursome right ahead of him.  They end up partnering up, and of course Neil has more than a few questions for this strange guy in a robe and sandals (who is playing golf).  Jesus is lamenting the fact that since he's returned, no one notices him or takes him seriously.  Those who do notice him write him off as a street person who has a few screws loose.  Neil thinks that Jesus's description might actually be accurate, but he can't deny that Jesus makes him feel something that he hasn't felt in a long time.

As they talk about life, Jesus presents Neil with his plan... he wants to hold up a bank.  Neil can keep the money, and Jesus isn't going to run away.  He just wants to get arrested so that he'll be in the news and have a chance to share his story.  To Neil's surprise, he actually wants to be part of this.  But once the hold-up occurs, his doubts start taking over, and he's not sure *what* he wants from Jesus.  Meanwhile, all the people who are part of this case have various and conflicting feelings over who this Jesus really is... Is he really the messiah?  Is he a deranged criminal with no past?  How will people behave around others who don't see Jesus in the same light as they do?

Pretty much all the same questions that have come up in the last 2000 years...

Hollon does a good job on the writing, and I like the mechanism he uses.  The chapters are named and numbered like books of the Bible, such as Neil 1:1, Neil 1:2, Becky 1:1, and so on.  It permits the story to be told from various viewpoints without awkward point-of-view transitions.  Some of the characters are a little surprising, and the implications of their choices have interesting ramifications if carried out.  I wasn't overly enthused with the ending, but I think I understand the "why" behind it.  To keep the book short and concise, there are tradeoffs to be made.  Doesn't mean I have to like them, however. :)

The Book of Neil is worth the read, and it won't take an overly long amount of time to finish it.  The underlying questions are interesting, and you'll probably think back on this book the next time someone makes the news by claiming they are Jesus Christ.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Publicist
Payment: Free

10/13/2012

Book Review - Wicked Portland: The Wild and Lusty Underworld of a Frontier Seaport Town by Finn J. D. John

Category Book Review Finn J. D. John Wicked Portland: The Wild and Lusty Underworld of a Frontier Seaport Town
Wicked Portland: The Wild and Lusty Underworld of a Frontier Seaport Town (OR) (The History Press)

I have a fascination with the history of Portland Oregon, especially as it relates to the 1800's when Portland was growing up.  Finn J. D. John has a great book on that topic, titled Wicked Portland: The Wild and Lusty Underworld of a Frontier Seaport Town.  When you think of the wild west "anything goes" stereotypes of towns during that time, you can pretty much figure that Portland not only met those images, but completely redefined the limits.  With the glasses of nostalgia, it's entertaining.  Probably not so much if you were living through it...

Contents:
A Wide-Open Frontier Town; Portland's Municipal Rascal - Jonathan Bourne Jr.; Portland Saloons and Gambling Dens; North End Girls; America's Most Pernicious Shanghai City; Fixing the Police; Mayors Behaving Badly; World's Dumbest Drug Smugglers; Wicked Politics; The End of the Golden Age; Source Notes; About The Author

When you read about Portland's history, you realize that greed, graft, and money ruled everything (gee, has anything changed?)  City politicians were bought and sold, vice was rampant, and you could get away with just about anything if you knew the right people.  John's way of telling the stories makes Vintage Portland a book that's hard to put down, as there's a continual stream of headshaking amazement over the audacity of some people and events.  One example that qualifies would be the bordello that belonged to Nancy Boggs. Liquor was heavily taxed, and she didn't want to give up those profits.  Rather than subject herself to the politics of the various "towns" that make up the area that is now Portland, she built her bordello on a barge, hauled it out into the middle of the Willamette, and hired rowers to bring people over. If any police raid happened (and she usually knew about them beforehand), she simply moved the barge to the other shore and avoided the jurisdiction of the group after her.  Everyone was happy... she had her business, men in Portland had their "entertainment", and the police were able to show that they were trying to shut down crime.  Only in Portland...

But even with some of these more humorous stories, John doesn't gloss over the very real human suffering that occurred.  Portland was well known for shanghai'ing men to work on sailing vessels.  Unsuspecting loggers or visitors to the city were "befriended" by men known as "crimps".  The liquor would start flowing, and often the person would wake up to find themselves on a sailing ship, "contracted" for a number of years to pay off their debt that they somehow incurred without knowing it.  Life on board a ship was basic slavery, with no legal protection of any sort.  In fact, escaping from the ship made you a deserter and a criminal.  Many lives were ruined and lost to that "business".  Again, fascinating to read in historical retrospect, a human tragedy if you were living through it.

At 142 pages, Wicked Portland doesn't take very long to read.  But if you live in Portland (or find that historical time period interesting), this should be on your "to be read" list.  It's recharged my interest in digging deeper into some of Portland's past, and it's reminded me that I *have* to sign up to take the tour of Portland's underground shanghai tunnels.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Free

10/12/2012

From the Notes Migration Blog: Recent Notes/Domino Blog Posts, and Why I Care, But Not Really.

Category IBM/Lotus
Because of the immediacy of tweeting and/or facebooking (shoot me now, I just made FB a verb) articles, I don't often blog about specific posts or stories any longer.  But this one was just too good to pass up...

Recent Notes/Domino Blog Posts, and Why I Care, But Not Really.

I don't know the name or person behind this blog, but I've been following it for quite some time.  Their situation seems to mirror my own... long time Notes/Domino professional forced to move into a new technology, namely SharePoint.  There have been a number of posts I've liked for various reasons, but this one resonated deeply given my feelings over the latest tempest in the Lotus community over the last 48 hours.

Passions run deep when it comes to IBM(/Lotus?) collaboration software, and those of us who have been committed to it for years understand the value it brings to an organization.  It's also easy to shift from technical expert to emotional evangelist for the software (and that applies to *any* software), tying your identity, ego, and emotional well-being to a logo.  Vendors and bytes take on good vs. evil personas, and any questioning or dissent must be crushed so as to defend the truth.  

Yeah, I used to be there.  I now find that I've moved closer to here:

What it comes down to for me is that all of my work in Notes/Domino, SharePoint, and general web application development… it is all “just work” to me. But this was not always true.

I have found that tying my own ego to any technology is a very dangerous path. It adds stress to my life, and makes me get out of whack with the whole work/life balance concept. I used to be passionate about specific technology platforms, but at the end of the day, I ended up with a split personality — highly confident in my Domino skills, but fearful that I did not know other technologies, and lacking confidence in anything outside of the IBM realm.

On days when I'm not doubting myself (I have a handful of those days each year), I know this to be the truth:

Well, the truth is a nice middle ground – I am a competent programmer. I am competent in Notes/Domino, competent in .NET, competent on SharePoint, competent in Python, competent using HTML5 and CSS, and competent in JavaScript. I don’t claim competence anywhere else, but I am confident that I can learn if and when needed. And on some platforms, I am more than competent. But it doesn’t help me to focus my ego on that fact.

Not all of those initials and platforms apply in my case, but two of them do... Notes/Domino and SharePoint.

*THIS* is the value I want to deliver and be known for:

Instead, now that I am “over” the technology stack, I can actually care about the businesses I work with. I can stop fretting over tech, and start looking at what we are doing with it. And I can really listen to the needs of the business, and offer them a true consulting relationship, wherein I try to learn the business needs and drivers behind their technology, to offer them better solutions. Usually on whatever platform they already have, but also on migrations to new ones, when appropriate.

And frankly, I like it better this way. I feel more valuable, I feel like people listen more to what I have to offer, and I am able to truly engage in open, strategic discussions about what direction an IT shop should take with their technologies.

Yes, I want to be active in whatever software community(s) I'm working in.  Yes, I want to write about them.  Yes, I want to speak at conferences on them.  I want to be known as an approachable resource (dare I say "expert"?) that people can talk with.  The IBM/Lotus community taught me the value of that.  It's a great feeling.

What I *don't* want to feel any more is the constant "flight or flight" feeling when people reject my software of choice (and therefore reject me because I've tied my identity to it).  I don't want to worry about whether a vendor's strategic direction will negate everything I've stood for over the last decade.  What I don't want to do is claim that I am one of the few who know the truth, and that everyone else is living in a deluded fantasy.

Been there, done that... it's not healthy.

To whoever writes the Notes Migration blog, thank you so much for posting this.  I'm sorry I quoted so much of your post, but I couldn't say it any better.

10/09/2012

Book Review - Don't Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman

Category Book Review Daniel Friedman Don't Ever Get Old
Don't Ever Get Old

Unlike a couple of other books I've recently read and reviewed, I would have been thrilled for Don't Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman to go on for another 100 pages.  It was a great story with a memorable cast of characters (especially the main protagonist, Buck Schatz), excellent dialogue, and perfect pacing.  What's even more amazing is that this is Friedman's first book.  If it's any indicator of future direction and success, I'll be grabbing new Buck Schatz installments as soon as they're available.

Buck Schatz is an old (as in close to 90) ex-cop who defines the word curmudgeon.  He has all the typical faults you'd expect from someone that old... failing memory, body parts that don't work as well as they used to, etc.  But underneath it all, he's still a cop who can't ignore a mystery that needs a answer in order for justice to prevail.  In this case, it revolves around whether a Nazi guard who tormented him in a World War 2 death camp actually survived the end of the war and kept a fortune in gold bars.  Schatz was under the impression that the Russians had killed him, but a fellow camp survivor (who Schatz never liked to begin with) makes a death-bed confession to Schatz that he was bribed with gold to let the guard escape.  The possibility that it might be true is enough to fire up Schatz's cop hormones... He needs to know the truth.

Of course, finding the truth is far more difficult than he expected.  A large and... "unique" cast of characters think that Schatz now knows exactly where the gold is, and is holding out to get his hands on it first. He keeps trying to tell them that he doesn't know if it exists, how much there is, or where it might be, but that's apparently not good enough.  As him and his grandson keep pulling on threads, people connected to the search keep getting murdered in gruesome fashion.  Schatz needs to figure out just how important it is to know what really happened, and whether at his age, it would even matter.  When you're close to 90, you're pretty much dead anyway...

As I mentioned at the top, this was a lot of fun to read.  Buck is one of the most entertaining lead characters I've seem in a long time, and the fact that he's a complete package of imperfections and crankiness makes the story work perfectly.  Friedman has a solid foundation on which to build a series, and his talent should take him a long way.  I hope that Don't Ever Get Old is just the start of many enjoyable hours of reading for me.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Publisher
Payment: Free

10/09/2012

Book Review - L: A Novel History by Jillian Becker

Category Book Review Jillian Becker L: A Novel History
Alternative history novels, while not my normal reading fare, appeal to me as it's an interesting mental exercise to imagine how a single changed historical event could alter the world in which we live.  With that draw, I selected L: A Novel History by Jillian Becker to read from NetGalley.  In short, this was a painful read...

It probably says a lot that while the publication date is listed as September 2012, I can find absolutely no reference to the novel on Amazon.  She has a number of books that are well-researched profiles on different people and groups in the world of politics and power.  L is a variation of that theme, in that it uses the scholarly research format to tell an alternative history of what might have happened had England's Margaret Thatcher not been able to retain power in the '80s.  A shadowy figure referred to as L pulls strings and orchestrates a anarchistic descent of England into a third world communist-type regime that decimates the population.  In and of itself, that might not be a bad story.  The problem lies squarely in the execution and style she uses.

L is written by a fictitious researcher looking back at the events and piecing together what is meant to be the authoritative work on L and how he led England and himself into ruins with his own bizarre philosophy.  Certain parts of the book work well as a novel, such as when the effects of the regime start to impact the day-to-day lives of the population.  Where it fails miserably (in my opinion) is in the lead-up to that part of the narrative.  Becker goes into deep examinations of L's "writings" as well as the political analysis of the era, and it feels like a painful poli-sci lecture by pseudo-intellectuals.  I found virtually nothing to spark any glimmer of enthusiasm, and I came thisclose to ditching the book at that point... and I don't normally consider stopping a book once I start it.  I had to scan large portions in hopes of finding something of human interest.  I eventually found it, but by then I was pretty well checked out on caring about what happened.  

*If* L: A Novel History ever makes it out into the general population (I'm sure that's an interesting backstory), I think I can safely recommend running quickly in the opposite direction.  My guess is that the early feedback they got from the reviewers caused them to cut their losses or send it back for some major weight reduction in terms of pages and content.  The only people I could imagine that would like it in the current state would be those who like to have "deep intellectual analytical" discussions that sound intelligent but are mainly platforms for trying to impress others.  Needless to say, that isn't me.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Publisher
Payment: Free

10/08/2012

Book Review - 12.21: A Novel by Dustin Thomason

Category Book Review Dustin Thomason 12.21
12.21: A Novel

12.21 by Dustin Thomason is one of those interesting beach reads if you're into Crichton medical thrillers or Mayan doomsday novels.  If you're into both, then this is perfect, as the plot line is a blend of both.

The main plot revolves around two events that become intertwined.  An unknown neurological disease breaks out in Los Angeles, and the mad cow-like condition kills off its victims in a matter of days as they can't sleep.  There's no cure, and it's highly contagious.  The story of the disease appears bound up in an ancient Mayan codex that needs to be translated to find the original cause (and potential cure).  Based on the rates of infection, a cure needs to be found by, you guessed it, 12/21/2012.  After that date, the tipping point occurs and mankind will be doomed.

12.21 isn't one of those "OMG THIS COULD REALLY HAPPEN!" novels.  The depth of the subject matter isn't something that will keep you thinking for days afterwards.  Having said that, the story is interesting, and Thomason does a decent job of pacing the action for this type of read.  If you like this type of story and have a few free hours (plane, beach, pool, etc), 12.21 would be a good choice to escape.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Publisher
Payment: Free

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