Well, I suspect that yesterday will be my last bicycle commute of the year. It was fully dark for the last half-hour of my ride; from inside the District along Rhode Island Avenue into Maryland and up the NorthEast Branch Trail, I depended on my lights to keep me safe.

The trail is adequate. It keeps me off the road, which really helps through Riverdale because the traffic lights/traffic really slow things down. However, it's a narrow trail in comparison to others and in the dark running into other users is an ever-present danger (I nearly ran down a pensioner walking home with groceries). It sure would be nice if they lit the trail.

Rhode Island brings its own dangers in the dark, of course. The section inside the District is worrisome because there's little room for maneuvering when people are getting in and out of cars, but at least the lane is mostly clear and it's very much down-hill! Across the line into Mount Ranier, the ride is nice, with a marked shoulder north of the circle. Still, I don't trust the drivers in the dark.

For a month now, I've been biking once or twice a week. Yesterday was my best time: 1 hour 35 minutes. I doubt I could beat that by much, I was pretty lucky with lights and there was little traffic backup to slow me down. Since I usually ride about 10 miles an hour, 14 miles in 1:35 is about right. My worst time was something like 2 hours 15 minutes. But that trip was full of stops and starts because I didn't know where I was going and because my bike kept falling apart. At any rate, I look forward to the spring when I can ride again.

Also, you can tell Thanksgiving is coming! My route takes me by Union Station and the bus terminal. Boy, was that a madhouse.

ClearCase and Nobody Else

You may remember me whinging about a problem with ClearCase the other day? It seemed I was having some problems with creating derived objects: ClearCase was assigning them to the group called "NOBODY", when it should have been assigning them to my primary group.

I tried the user groups, Rational's on-line sites, and Rational's very own helpdesk. Unfortunately, I had no success in acquiring an answer.

Until today, that is. I am so proud of myself, I want to brag. And that's what a blog is all about, friends: whinge and brag, whinge and brag.

At any rate, the trouble was my primary group. I used the default network group: Domain Users. This group works perfectly well for all of the other ClearCase operations I could come up with, but with derived objects: no dice.

I changed my primary group to "CCUsers," put myself in the group, and added the group to the VOB. Ta-da! Everything works as expected.

My theory is spaces. The view server process must not handle spaces in the group name!

La la la la la la la la.
(That's my song of joy)

(That's my dance of joy)

Now, I can go forth and train again with no worries!

First Things First

While we lived in Glasgow, we had the "joy" of riding the ugly red bus. Some parts of the city were upgraded to the nice new white buses, but we apparently lived in the underbelly of Glasgow and so we couldn't be trusted to ride the new buses. We lived in Kelvinside. Now that we're here in Maryland, I've not had the fun of riding an MTA or Metro bus. In fact, I've never ridden a commuter bus in America. I wonder what it's like? Do you have to hold out your hand to stop it? Do smart cards work on the buses? Can you get an all-day pass? So many questions, so little concern for finding answers. At any rate, I was driving around the industrial park in Beltsville the other weekend. In between an empty warehouse and a floor tiling outlet, sat Montgomery County's Ride-On bus maintenance facility. Aside from wondering why Montgomery County's buses have to come to Prince Georges County for fixing, I was surprised to see the company that was doing the maintenance. It is such a small world.

Nobody Knows ClearCase Derived Objects

Tried to get to the Rational Developer Network, but the server seems to be down.

Well, I've got me one o' them there dynamic views that ClearCase does so well, and I'm creating me some o' them yummy derived objects, but they ain't agreeing with my VOB's stomach!

A quick and easy way to create a derived object with a configuration record and all, is to use clearaudit like this: clearaudit /c copy test.txt test.bak Then, ya get tracking of the copy activity, including what version of test.txt was copied. Whee!

M:\login_view_dyn_3\MyVOBToBackup\TestFolder>cleartool lsdo 21-Nov.10:41 "test.bak@@21-Nov.10:41.56"

Now, I take me a look at this here object, and it tells me that although it was created by my group (Domain Users), it ain't owned by nobody. This means my VOB won't accept it. Tsk!

M:\login_view_dyn_3\MyVOBToBackup\TestFolder>cleartool describe test.bak derived object "test.bak@@21-Nov.10:41.56"
created 21-Nov-03.10:41:28 by login.Domain Users@mycomputer
User : OURDOMAIN\login : rwx
Group: NOBODY : rwx
Other: : rwx
references: 1 => mycomputer:c:\ClearCase_Storage\views\ OURDOMAIN\login\login_view_dyn_3.vws

PS. If you're interested in what I mean by tracking ... the copy activity, you can look at a configuration record to see versions and stuff used in the action. So, I know that version 2 of test.txt was the file that was copied!

M:\login_view_dyn_3\MyVOBToBackup\TestFolder>cleartool catcr test.bak
Target ClearAudit_Shell built by login.Domain Users
Host "mycomputer" running NT 5.1 (i586)
Reference Time 21-Nov-03.12:04:31, this audit started 21-Nov-03.12:04:31
View was mycomputer:c:\ClearCase_Storage\views\ OURDOMAIN\login\login_view_dyn_3.vws
Initial working directory was M:\login_view_dyn_3\MyVOBToBackup\TestFolder
MVFS objects:
\MyVOBToBackup\TestFolder\test.txt@@\main\2 21-Nov-03.10:41:28

Shed a Tear

More Moving Adventures

More than two and a half years ago, we sold our house in Beltsville, Maryland, sold as much of our stuff as we thought we could live without and put the rest into a storage unit. We then took off on a bike trip halfway across the US. As we wrapped up our affairs in our Beltsville house, we surely shed a tear or two over the memory of the five years we spent inside the walls. After the bike trip, we moved off to Scotland to live for nearly two years in Glasgow. We eventually packed up our things and shipped them back to the US, as I mentioned earlier. When we left our wee house in Kelvinside, we certainly misted up a bit. This weekend, we looked forward to our new barn/shed being delivered to our back yard in College Park by removing all of our things from that storage unit we first rented in the early spring of 2001. We got everything out, gathered up our lock, and told the owners we were vacating. We had used that shed for longer than we lived in Scotland. Did we shed a tear as we left? Nope. No sentimentality at all. Sure, I had a little something in my eye, but it was just the wind.

Let it be a Sweet, Sweet Sound

I wanted to tell you about my imaginary friend, Bertie. Because of national security concerns, I can't tell you what Bertie does. Let's just say he's a steadfast member of the entertainment industry. Bertie's current project seems to have something to do with creating a new hybrid television format combining some aspects of science fiction with other aspects of today's el-cheapo productions. He calls it "Alternate Reality Television."

At any rate, my imaginary friend Bertie tells me that there are sound reasons behind the use of music in public places. (Bertie likes those kinds of obvious puns.) He was telling me this the other day as prelude to a business proposition.

"We could make a killing," he told me. Now, I've tried to explain to Bertie that the use of graphic imagery like that is not likely to persuade me to join him in his schemes, but he persists.

"Who will we kill this time?" I asked.

"Restaurant owners!" he replied. "They're just waiting to be touched."

"I can think of a few restaurant owners who are already touched," I said. "What's your plan?"

"We'll sell them music," he replied, and sat back, foolish grin taped to his face. I waited. Nothing.

"Dude," I said, "Restaurants already have music."

"Sure, sure," he said. "But their music is dead. It doesn't stand up and do anything. Think about movies. In movies, composers are always making music to control the audience. Want a little sadness? Put in some strings. Want the audience to be thrilled? Bring up the brass, or something. It's gotten so you don't really even need actors any more."

I told him I didn't think people were so easily led as all that.

"Think of that new movie, The Matrix Revolutions," he said. "That was one long cartoon. The war scenes were hokey, right?"

I had to agree.

"But, even so, wasn't your stout heart stirred by the battle scenes? Do you think that was because of the acting? Hah! It was the music."

I told him I'd give him the benefit of the doubt, but I didn't think restaurant owners would want their customers to be too bold and aggressive.

"No, of course not," he said, stealing my last fry. "What they want is to sell. Surely, if a composer can make us care about Keanu Reeves, he can make us want to order some pie."

It was an interesting argument, but I reminded him that I was short on dosh. The new job and all, sorry to be so sad a friend, and all that. He nodded and said he was sorry I'd miss out on the fortune. We exchanged a few more pleasantries, but once he saw I wasn't coughing up, his mind wandered.

I didn't see him for a few weeks, until he wandered into our local Atlanta Bread Company. I was munching on a tasty bagel breakfast sandwich. When I noticed him step through the door, I cautiously slipped my napkin over top my as-yet-untouched cinnamon nut raisin roll. I'd have to put off the sugary bliss for a few moments. Bertie was carrying a shoe box. Reluctantly, I asked him what was in the box.

He dropped the box on the table and sat down. The breeze from the box drop pushed my napkin to the side. He pinched the roll.

"What's in the box?" I asked, louder. The music at the local ABC is classical, but it's terribly loud. It's darn hard to think.

"Speaking of rock," he said, "I've got the goods in the box!" He shook the box. I think that's what he said anyway. As I said, it was pretty loud in there. We shouted back and forth a bit, not getting any closer to understanding, so I called over to the manager. He was polite, but refused to change the music.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because," he bellowed, "We use it to give you the impression that this space is a fun and exciting place where all your friends hang out."

I looked around. Bertie and I were the only ones there. I noted this to the manager.

"Oh, sure," he shouted. "But doesn't it feel like a place where you'd like to order a nice sweet muffin? Besides, when the place is more crowded, you won't notice the music so much."

During this last, Bertie's face fell. He tried to cover the box with my napkin. It seemed all he could do to summon the strength to finish my roll. He made some quick excuses and left, shaking his head, and I was left alone with the noise.

I noticed his box and took a small peek. It was full of CDs. They were labeled "Music to Buy By." I shook my head, too. I guess he'd been scooped.

All that I could think to do was order a nice sweet muffin and go home. I took the box. Maybe I could interest someone over at the White House...

Advice: How to Blog

Read someone else's blog and mention it in passing.

Quote out of context

Make some witty, or outraged, or at least generally demeaning remark. Make it strongly declarative.

Hope for comments.

Strike While the Iron Is HOt

Whatever happened to duckpin bowling? In fact, whatever happened to the smoke-filled, blue-haired, cow-bell ringing bowling alleys of my youth? Are they still out there?

Yesterday, the company had a big meeting. It was scheduled to run from 1 to 8 pm. A long, hard slog by any standard (excpet for Cheney's, of course. I don't mean to be flippant about the war, you know), only made more intimidating because it was to be held in a bowling alley.

Horrible flashback to my youth spent in Baltimore bowling alleys staring at garish carpets while my parents smoke, drank, and threw small cannon balls at sticks.
Shake it off, shake it off!

At any rate, we wandered over to Bethesda for this meeting, and surprise! surprise! Bowling has been transformed into a hip activity again! Or at least, that's what Strike Bethesda wants us to believe. The place is set up with this whole retro-50s groove and two massive bars. The balls and pins are day-glow; there are running lights along the lanes; and the place is bathed in blacklight. Oh, and the whole scene is powered by driving beats from '80s shout-rock.

Oh, I had fun, sure. But I couldn't help feeling the place was trying just a little too hard. In the end, it was still only bowling. Does '80s music appeal to the kids these days?

What I really wanted to talk about was the bike trail. I've been taking my bicycle to work a couple of times a week and riding home. Major props to Metro for allowing bikes on the trains. It means I can limit my bike riding to one-way. Riding the 13 miles through DC hasn't been has hard as I thought it might be, but it isn't easy for a fat blogger like me to do and especially not twice a day. And even at that, I'm running out of daylight and can only do this twice a week.

So when we had a mid-day start to a long meeting in Bethesda, I thought I'd ride from work in Rosslyn.

And it was a great idea! From my office there are three blocks of road and across the bridge, and near the meeting there were maybe five slightly busy blocks. For the eight miles in between: Capital Crescent Trail

This trail is a dream. Sure, from the C&O Canal to Bethesda is pretty much up-hill, but it's a gentle grade, and entirely road-traffic free. The trail is very wide and well-maintained. It is set in picturesque woodland for much of the way. After the bowling (in the rain), I rode another two miles along the trail to the Bethesda Metro stop. It was dark, but the trail was easy to follow and felt safe because of its width. I couldn't help but feel jealous that my side of the city doesn't have such nice trails. Sure, we have the two Branch trails, but they are not nearly so wide, nor so well-maintained. I'm grateful that they're better than the "trail" along Michigan Avenue inside the district (a sidewalk studded with telephone poles is not my idea of a safe or useful trail), but they're not terribly useful for commuting. They certainly don't go in a useful direction. If the trail didn't peter out somewhere near the Arboretum and instead went all the way to the Potomac, then they'd be useful.

Why aren't our trails so nice as the CCT?

Maybe it's because I live on the side of the Beltway that still has the smoke-filled, blue-haired, cow-bell ringing clientele, and they don't ride bikes.


I passed! I am now a "Rational Certified Consultant on Rational Unified Process". How very exciting.

My initial fears were well-founded. It seemed to me that many of the questions revolved around rather ambiguous use of the English language. I forced myself to overcome my tendency to assume I knew an answer, even in areas I felt very secure with. I tried to compare the wording very strictly to that in the RUP tool itself, and that, I think, helped me.

But even with such careful, plodding checking and re-checking (the three-part test had 48 questions, and I took 3 1/2 hours to complete it), I only scored 85%. I haven't gone over the results closely yet (you're only told a score for each page, not which questions you missed), but I suspect many of the problems were with interpretation of the sentences.

You're not allowed to reveal the questions, but let me make up an example to make my point.

Example Made-up Question: Which of the following are major interstate routes in Maryland?
  • I-95
  • I-81
  • I-5
  • US-50

You are supposed to choose all the ones that apply. Now, obviously I-5 is not in Maryland at all, so it does not apply. I-95 is a major Interstate and it covers a large portion of Maryland, so it is probably right. However, I-81 is an Interstate, but is it major? even worse, is it one of Maryland's major interstates? It only has a few miles inside Maryland. And then, there's US-50. I'd like to leave that one off because it's not an "Interstate". However, the question didn't capitalize "interstate", so it could just mean a major route between/across states. US-50 is certainly that.

Only thing is, the RUP test was worse. And on top of that, there was the stress factor. The test is on-line and costs $295. For that price, you get two chances. Each return to the test is considered a chance, so the danger of breaking the connection was an ever-present worry for me. I worried about knocking out my network cable, about unplugging my compter, and about accidentally closing the browser window. Any of those things would have used up one of my chances. I was very afraid I'd get to the last question and accidentally shutdown, forcing me to have to do the entire 3 1/2 hours over without any kind of safety net. But none of that happened, so I guess I'm okay.

At any rate, that's behind me, and I'm glad I don't have to do it again. I think that reading the two books was terribly helpful to understanding and reinforcing my knowledge of the process, so I'm glad I had the time to do that.

Getting Testy

I've been asked to get myself certified in RUP -- the Rational Unified Process. RUP is a process framework for software development projects. It is use-case driven and iterative. Most people I speak to about the test seem to think it is very difficult and that few people pass it on the first try. (It's an on-line test. You get two tries in a four-week period.)

To prepare, I've read two books: The Rational Unified Process, An Introduction, by Philippe Kruchten, and The Rational Unified Process Made Easy, by Per Kroll and Philippe Kruchten. Made Easy is a much better book, in my humble opinion, though it is longer than the Introduction. In addition to the books, I've been tramping around the RUP tool in my Rational Suite. Also, I'm familiar with the artifacts, activiites and phases from my days in Scotland.

It's taken me a few days to navigate IBM's websites and such to get to the point where I can take the test. What with IBM's terrible navigation and their requirement that you be in a PartnerWorld company (which I am) and prove it (which was hard), and with Rational's site being intermittently available yesterday, I suppose part of the test is to see whether you can even get to the test.

At any rate, I'm ready to go, and am going to give it my first whack this morning!

A Moving Story

When we left the US for Scotland in the fall of 2001, our stuff followed very slowly. In fact, it took more than three months for the things we shipped from Maryland in September to show up on our doorstep in Glasgow. We knew that the ports had been hampered by closings because of 9/11 and chalked it all up to bad timing.

When we left Scotland for the US this summer, our stuff followed very, very slowly. In fact, it just arrived yesterday, after leaving our doorstep in Glasgow on 15 July. No terrorist activities could be blamed this time, this time, our stuff sat on a dock in England until early October. Just sat there. Well, some of it sat there. Some of it walked off.

A few things are missing. Not a lot, but enough to get us pretty angry. Some very nice dresses (my wife's!) and scarves, my favorite dress coat, and a couple of fish mobiles. What would someone want with our fish mobiles? My wife had hand-painted one of the fish-mobiles during one of our many visits to Craft Daft on a Raft. That's not easily replaceable.

Our things were unpacked and repacked while they were out of our control. We know this because 34 boxes left our Glasgow cottage and 40 boxes arrived in our Maryland basement. Somewhere, things were removed, stolen or lost. And all the moving company can do is shrug and allow us to fill out a claim form.

I think they rely on insurance companies so they can be sloppy. Why aren't insurance companies up in arms about this?