Post-Descriptive Terminology

Bowie Mike commented recently about explaining to kids that we actually used to have to roll down the windows. I was going to comment that I think it's interesting that I still call it "rolling down the windows" even when electrified and I wonder if young-uns are going to start calling it "closing the windows." (Do they ever even open them any more, with this fancy air conditioning that's going around? Oh, yeah, there's the drive-through...)

And, of course, our Civic still has window handles, as do half the cars I rent...

Do other people still say "dial a phone number?" We haven't really dialed in a while, and, for the most part, I use the address book feature to call people these days, but if I call a new number, I still think of it as "dialing." There must be a word for words that hang on after their descriptiveness has waned.

There must be other words that fit this category, or (like rolling up windows) are on their way. Put some in the comments section.

The National Hotel

We're back in Nevada City for some more house-hunting. We're staying at a Best Western tomorrow, but tonight the only place we could find was the historic hotel downtown. The light fixture is nice:


The wiring must be historic, too:

note in hotle room

The sink's faucets are fascinating:


And the TV has these weird round doo-hickeys. The Brunette thinks they're called "knobs", but I think she's pulling my leg.

old tv

But at least we found a room. There's some sort of equestrian thing going on, so the hotels are all packed.

A Test

Good for bikes and testers:


You Make Bathtime So Much Fun

Our cooperative is resurfacing our tub for us today in preparation for selling the house. They came up with a nice way to keep water from dripping into the tub.

The smell is overwhelming in here. I'm having trouble thinking straight. I had this strange thought: What if Starbuck were a girl? Wouldn't that be cool? I know, crazy-talk. It's the fumes, I tell you.

Setting Free the Bears (John Irving)

Where did that cover come from? "If you were being tortured by an unknown assailant, would you be able to make a list of possible names from your past to try to identify the torturer?" I was with Leadbelly, my imaginary great uncle (on my sister's side). He was supposed to be packing, but once again I was out in the hallway with him. The Republican Retirement Ranch and Rest-home Rodeo was a warren of condos riddled with random hallways and corridors. (Don't believe for a second that I think there's a difference between hallways and corridors; it just seemed to flow there.) I've always pictured the place as a sort of old folks' zoo, a monkey house for OAPs.

"Your mind never stops squeaking, does it, boy?"

"I've just been reading Setting Free the Bears, and it makes me think -- "

"That's the problem right there, you see. Reading gets your brain working. Do you really think that's good for it?"

"Well, Great Uncle Leadbelly, I don't see it as a dangerous thing, no."

"That book you read is all about the War. If people read it and start to think about making another war, that'd be bad, yes?"

"Why, Great Uncle, I thought you were all pro-war and stuff."

Leadbelly halted his progress in the middle of the hallway. "Anyone who had charged up that hill with Teddy knows that, though war is sometimes necessary, it is never to be courted."

"Neither one of us has been anywhere near San Juan Hill. Still, that's awfully --"

"Unless the fight's against the commies, of course. Those Reds made their choice."

We had made it to Great Aunt Iva's condo. Leadbelly tapped lightly on the door and waited. There was no response. He pulled a key out of his pocket with more stealth than I like to see him display.

"I didn't know you had a key to Great Aunt Iva's place."

He shushed me. We entered the apartment. I returned to the subject of the book.

"At any rate, the book is about more than war. There's motorcycle riding, and a human chicken, and a plan to set free animals from a zoo."

"And these are things you're not really allowed to do, either, right?" He stood over Iva's cage of hamsters in the corner of her living room. Their names were Tom, Dick, and Harry.

"Just because people read something doesn't mean they'll do it."

"Oh?" Great Uncle Leadbelly lifted the door to the hamster cage and bellowed, "Fly! You're free!"

Tom, Dick and Harry stopped chewing and stared up at this vision of a prune of a human all red in the face and flapping his arms. Great Uncle Leadbelly beamed down at the hamsters. They did not seem impressed with their newly granted freedom. Tom extended a whisker to the paper towel tube, but withdrew it immediately.

"Go forth!" Great Uncle Leadbelly boomed. He made shooing motions with his hands. "'Fly on proud bird; You're free at last.'" Dick and Harry feigned attention, but Tom was distracted by the water bottle. Great Uncle Leadbelly sighed and pulled each hamster out of the cage. He placed them gently on the floor. They sat still, butt-to-butt, barely willing to wiggle their noses. The great expanse of open floor lay before them and they were unable to grok it. Leadbelly harrumphed. "This was not the stampede I was hoping for."

"You read the book!" I accused. But then my legs locked up as I heard a key in the door. I wavered a bit and fell over.

"What are you, a fainting goat?" Great Uncle ran to the closet. I recovered enough to jump in behind him. "This isn't right. She's supposed to be at fencing lessons." We peered through the cracked door to watch Great Aunt Iva entered her home. She immediately noticed the empty cage and the floor-bound hamsters. They had made a wild dash, too, in the confusion, and moved six or seven inches from where Leadbelly had placed them.

"Leadbelly!" Great Aunt Iva yelled; a cavernous, dark yell, full tilt with her head thrown back. "You low-down, stupid, ugly varmint."

"I guess Iva knows her torturer list pretty well," I whispered. We cringed in the closet and awaited our doom. I found myself urging the little hamsters to move. They didn't seem interested in freedom. Perhaps they preferred the safety of the cage. I think Leadbelly and I were hoping for a little safety, ourselves.

Early Fist-of-Five

Rune stone, Krogsta, Uppland, Sweden (~6th century AD)

La La La

I rarely wish I lived in North Carolina, but this is awfully tempting: PowerPoint Karaoke.

With a Little Help from a Friend

A boy and his dog sit in the sun in Grass Valley, California.

The boy looks like he's ready for some serious water sports.

California Dreamin'

So, we're here in Northern California and after a couple of days of customer interaction, we were able to head northeast for some house hunting. Along the way, we stopped in Sacramento.

Here is the view from the hotel window in Sacramento.

We won't be moving to Sacramento.

We looked at house with interesting neighbors:


His deck was all decked out as the prow of a pirate ship with two huge bells mounted to the left of the tree in the photo. Ropes led from the boat to long knockers that could be launched at the bells. I imagine that's more fun living next to than a church.

At least one hopes the bells don't go off every hour.

The water in the lake we liked so much last trip is a bit lower this time. But at least the ducks have found a home.

ducks on a boat

After a long day of wandering around, we returned to the hotel at Grass Valley to find that not everyone is very good at identifying car makes and models.


Do You Know the Way?

This was a quick two day session with the customer, then we're heading up to the mountains to look at houses. I took the time to make a little dude though.

This guy's been drinking something caffeinated I expect.

computer dude

We can try to pan out a bit to see where the heck he is.

Number Nine, Number Nine

9: Animated post-apocalyptic movie about nine zippered golems trying to survive in a world without humans.
Theater Location: Beltway Plaza (Greenbelt)
Noise Level: adequate
The Skinny: Amazing atmosphere in search of a plot. It was awesome to look at, but the thing was filled with too many logical problems to maintain a proper suspension of disbelief. But it was nice eye candy. I wouldn't miss it on the big screen.

And my grumpiness has nothing to do with the fact that they offered me a senior citizen's discount...

More Snarky Pics

This one is in the restroom at Austin's airport.

Do not leave children unattended

I suppose when there is an elevated security alert, unattended children may be removed and destroyed. Don't accept children from people you do not know. And please be sure that children fit in the overhead bins or under the seat in front of you.

I stopped at this restaurant because the advertising was too much to pass up.


Since it was the only bar-b-q I've had in Texas, I can neither confirm nor deny the allegation.

What Would Terry McMillan Do?

Passed a church today. The sign outside reads:

Men's Night Out

How Abaham Got His Groove Back

So, if I understand correctly, the church is getting men together and telling them what they need is to go have sex with their maids.

The Brunette pointed out, before I could get any ideas, that Abraham got his wife's permission first.

Disturbing on Two Levels

So, this video is disturbing. You can watch it if you like, but I'll describe it: There's a traffic light in the upper right corner. The camera is mounted on a bus. The bus stops at a red light. The light turns green. A Wisconsin lawmaker in an SUV runs the red light in the orthogonal direction just as a biker legally enters the intersection. That's the first -- and awful -- level of disturbing. The cyclist spent a week in the hospital but seems to be OK.

The second level -- and indicative of the world around us -- is that the report ends with the talking head reporting that a witness claimed the cyclist was at fault. I can only assume that the cyclist was at fault simply for existing because it sure looks like the light was in the cyclist's favor. Remember this video next time someone says that an accident was the biker's fault. Or next time someone tells you that bikers are dangerous because they don't follow the law. Looks like you should be saying that about people who drive FUVs.

Reblogged from WashCycle.

Preventing the Spread of Flu

Here in Austin, the dogs know how to prevent the spread of flu.

dog and sink

A Modest Proposal: Ancillary Artifacts

The other day, someone asked me if it were against agile-lean principles to create a software description document. What a question. I can't believe that anybody would tell you that creating anything is completely against principle in every possible situation. I suppose there are those who might say that such an artifact might be waste in the majority of situations, but I think it's possible you might find yourself in a place where creating a software description document is vital to the delivery and maintenance of your product.

I can't imagine such a situation, but I wouldn't outlaw it out of hand.

I have a little suggestion: next time you're wondering about one of these kinds of things -- creating an ERD, documenting a peer review session, writing an allocated baseline -- instead of accepting it as a task, treat it as a requirement. I suppose you could then stick it into the backlog and prioritize it, but what I really want you to do right now is put it into the form of a user story. Figure out who is benefiting from the value generated by this feature you want:

As a standards auditor,
I would like a software description document
So that new software engineers can ramp up quickly.

That's just my suggestion for the description document. So let's take a look at that value (the so that) and user (the as a). They're disconnected, aren't they? How does the standards auditor benefit from having new engineers ramp up quickly? Aside from their general patriotic self-satisfaction, they really don't. And if they did, is the benefit of standards auditors valuable to our customer in any way? I don't think any auditor would really say that they should be the beneficiary of any software effort. They'd probably tell you that the as a should be the team or maybe the new software engineer.

Let's say that's true. I think it's valid to do stuff that's valuable to the team to get its job done efficiently. So you could take this user story, present it to your team, and the team could add software description documents to their working agreement.

But don't do that yet.

If you were a scrummaster and your product owner presented a user story shaped like that, what would you say? I'd say, "Hold on a sec, Bucko. That's not a what; that's a how." There's a whole lot of assumptions going on in there. The first two off the top of my head are that a) it's going to be necessary for this product and this team to have a mechanism to on-board new team members frequently and b) the document is the best way to achieve that. I'm curious how many developers who join a team really like to start by sitting down and reading a document. My experience is that they like to dig around in the code. I know I do.

At any rate, we need to figure out what the feature we're looking for really is. Here's a suggestion:

As a high performing team,
I would like a way to quickly familiarize new team members with the product code
So that we are not slowed down by the one new member we'll get every six months.

What's the best way to meet this requirement? I leave that as an exercise for your team to figure out. Feel free to brainstorm in the comments.

Insert all the normal disclaimers about doing what you have to do to meet regulatory, legal and other constraints. This is just a suggestion for thought...

Dangerous Clay

So, I was in line grumbling about the first TSA guy who had the temerity to wish me a "blessed day" when the second TSA guy shouted out, "Who owns the red suitcase?"

That would be me.

The guy took me to his little table and pulled out four little tubs of this stuff. Apparently, though I've been carting this stuff across the country for a few weeks now, the BWI TSA people are suddenly protecting us from the dangers of child's clay.

Honestly, that was his response to my comment about having brought the stuff from Denver last Friday: "The SOP has recently changed."

To be fair, he didn't have to confiscate the stuff. He offered to let me go back and check my luggage. I told him I didn't have the time, not so much on the front end but at Austin. He scoffed at me. "It takes longer to get your baggage?"

Why, yes, yes it does.

But it wasn't the scoffing that got me. It's the inconsistency. We already deal with the situation where it's somehow Kosher to bring in 9 oz of liquid if it's in three bottles that fit in a bag, but 4 oz in one bottle in the same bag is WRONG. But at least we can predict the response for that right up front.

With the clay, I was stopped at Denver on Friday, but she just tested it with her little swiper and let me go. Today in BWI it is verbotten. What's up with that?

It's worse. Because the same bag also contained this and they were going to happily let me go on my way with that stuff. The only real difference I can tell is that one comes in tubs and one comes in bags. The bags were somehow safer? Oh, please, TSA. We'd trust you to keep us safe if you could only be a little more consistent.

Greenbelt Labor Day 2009

As in years past (2005, 2006, rather extensively described way back in 2008), I took some pictures of our local Labor Day parade. The Greenbelt Parade is long for such a small community, but it was not so long this year as in years with major elections. We tend to pull a lot of political folks.

Which is cool, because it is a political holiday. I wish, in fact, it were more political. I'd like to see old fashioned debates and/or speeches on the common green. That would be cool.

Better than a knife fight, anyway.

Folks were gathered early. Unlike past years, the sky was overcast, which I thought was nice. Usually the sidewalk side of the street is scorching in sunlight. These folks are either worried about impending sunlight or waiting for a bus that will not come for 24 hours.

Bus Stop

I'm not sure this group needs any comment:

Sun-Dried Garmenenture Society

This year, the parade had not one, but two, bagpipe and drum bands:

You can keep your Justin Ross unruly mob. Che Sayles' crowd knew how to stick together:

Che Sayles Groupies

Apparently, I'm still drawn to taking pictures of sixes:

Hillside 6

This parade was big on all different kinds of vehicles:

girl on tricycle

I'm sure RPI could make it even classier:

solar vehicle

We even let the animals drive big scary vehicles:

dare to let the lion drive

Every year at the festival the PTA has a big used book sale (what are they gonna do when ebooks take over?) and during the parade (since it's the last day), they give out free books along the route.

I've made a commitment that every time I get a free book from a parade, I'll read it through. A past example was pretty good, Three Came Home. This year, I am regretting my bold commitment:

romance book

Every parade should end with the most important vehicle of all: the street sweeper.

Clean Picture

Missed the Pride group, the bike cops, the dog people, and the Utopia film festival folks this year.

Have you not had your coffee this morning?

Warning: bad word at the end:

Another Labor Day

It's that time of year again: Greenbelt's annual Labor Day Festival is this weekend. It's the longest running volunteer-led Labor Day festival in the country.

It's the time when we hang up stuffed Animals:

stuffed Animals

Greenbelt is full of peace freaks.

Peace Balloon

Just because the town is full of hippies doesn't mean we don't respect rules:


And the best way to force people to obey is to scare them with giant evil clown heads:

Clown Head

It wouldn't be a festival without a Ferris Wheel.

Ferris Wheel

Don't forget the parade tomorrow, folks. The US Postal Service is going to unveil a stamp at the end of the parade.

Religion and Sk8ting

skating sign

I don't know about you, but to me this sign from Boulder looks like it's saying this is a "No Crucifying Skaters Zone."

Too Much Inside Baseball?

If you haven't been following along, here's the backstory: I'm traveling more these days and to keep busy I take a little clay, make a little figure, pose it somewhere in my host city, photograph it, then leave it and hope that people come upon it and find a smile or a thought. It's important to me that the figure is being left behind. It adds to the meaning, I think.

I was inspired by this guy, who is much more creative.

Last night, I rode a bike down to the location where I wanted to place this guy:

little actor guy

But when I got there, the place was overrun with people. There was a farmer's market going on, and some tables had been set up by political groups. Now, the market and political activity where in the next street over and in the field. But this guy's not in a field, is he?

a little farther back

This space was also being used. I'm pretty sure they were setting up to show a movie. But our little actor wasn't invited. And I doubt if I'd have put him down I'd have been able to take any pictures, let alone leave him behind.

actor on stage

So, I tried to get up early this morning to do the photo shoot. It's not too hard to get up early, because I'm based in the DC area, but this is Boulder, two hours behind the clock in my soul.

As you can see, this poor actor has no audience.

actor with no audience

The stage can be a very lonely place.

long shot of empty audience

But there are worse things than a missing audience...

trash guy

Everybody make the 'danh danh danh' sound now.

Great Sparks

My feed reader has long held a spot for the daily rambling of Samuel Pepys, a diarist from the mid-1600s. The diary entries over the last few years have been doled out like blog posts. Today was September 1, 1666:

Up and at the office all the morning, and then dined at home. Got my new closet made mighty clean against to-morrow. Sir W. Pen and my wife and Mercer and I to “Polichinelly,” but were there horribly frighted to see Young Killigrew come in with a great many more young sparks; but we hid ourselves, so as we think they did not see us. By and by, they went away, and then we were at rest again; and so, the play being done, we to Islington, and there eat and drank and mighty merry; and so home singing, and, after a letter or two at the office, to bed.

The last few days, Sam has been all excited about his new room/closet, but there's a whiff of the ironic about his fear of "young sparks." The next few days should be mighty exciting for our man in London...

A Good Ride

So after work I took my first long ride since 17 July. It was just under 15 miles, but it had a nice hill in the middle.

map of bike ride in Boulder

I followed the bike path up until it turned from cement to gravel. (I was given a road bike from the rental place. It's lighter than my cyclo-cross, but the tires are very skinny.)

rock at the end of the trail

Then I tried the road until I ran out of paved shoulder. At the time, it seemed as high as the road was going to go. (Ha)

The ride back down was a lot of fun, of course. They'll have to replace the brakes, I expect.

road goes down

On the Bike

I've not gotten any time on the bike since I started the Kansas gig way back in July. So last night I rented a bike for three days here in Boulder. It's awfully nice to be in a place where the drivers actually expect bicycles to be in the vicinity. Last night's shortish ride wasn't strenuous, but it was a good little jaunt around the town.

This morning, I rode into the office on the bike. It's very strange riding without a mirror. At any rate, I was congratulating the city in my head about how good Colorado is at respecting bikes. Then, I was cut off by a car that did not respect my right to be in the bike lane.

The license tag: Maryland. Figures.