Friday, November 28, 2008

The Christmas Tree

Globe with Glitter

Today I had my sisters Anne and Kate over. We spent a couple of hours this morning visiting stores in with high hopes of finding red and silver accoutrements for dressing the Christmas tree. With some persistence we managed to purchase some great looking decorations. After a nice lunch of left over Thanksgiving stuff, we worked on decorating the tree. I think it looks great. Kate and Anne are quite the team, and I sure appreciate them caring enough to make sure that my home is appropriately decked for the holiday season.

You can see a few out-takes from our decorating session over at flickr.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

To Pay the Piper

I just finished reading an editorial from today's edition of the New York Times titled New Jersey's Painful Lesson. It is indeed surprising to read that elected officials still do not understand simple rules of budgeting. Money always comes from somewhere and at a price. I applaud Gov. Jon Corzine for pushing a difficult agenda of budget cuts with his legislature. In an economy fraught with both moral and economic decisions to make, it becomes very difficult to tell people that they have to learn how to do more with less, or worse, that services needed by citizens are simply not available.

Financial responsibility is key to any economy be it the economy of a family, state, nation or world. Just as I have to pay my bills each month, so does my state, and our nation. It seems to me that we've gone far too long without seriously considering the financial impact that legislation and policy make on our lives. I am not against government. I fully understand that legislation and policy are tools by which our land and freedoms can be protected. I worry that those making these important decisions may not always have the best interest of the whole in mind.

Decisions impacting personal, state and federal budgets should be carefully considered not just for the impact of the moment, but in the long term. Like most, I hope for a healthy economy capable of supporting growth and great innovation for many years to come. I also believe that this dream is not possible without careful and very intentional planning. We should always be saving for the future, even if it means we don't have everything that we want in the here and now.

I agree with the opinion of the Times. "... it is not too late for other states and thousands of cities, towns and countries to learn that politicians who have little trouble running up a big tab have a terrible time paying it off when the bill, as it must, finally comes due."

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Free Time

Being at the tail end of a great week spent on vacation, I've allowed myself more time than I usually would to think. It was fun to get out of town, and tend to the lighter things in life, but at the back of my mind I kept being nagged by the should do's and need to do's that I've not been so diligent about keeping up with. That's not to say that I'm lazy in general, but professionally I've not been nearly as ambitious as I had hoped that I would be.

At the time I graduated I thought that it would be cool to try to learn a new programming language each quarter just for kicks. I also thought it would be a good idea to read at least a book a week be it recreational or work related. Rather than keeping up with these lofty goals I fell into a trap that most working American's know well. Television. There's always something on, and if there isn't something on right now, the DVR or iTunes can easily cure the problem. I love my HD television, but truth be told I spend too much time with it. It's just too easy and brainless. With a movie the television makes for an easy date. With a season or three of a sitcom or drama the television makes for more than several evenings of hanging out with friends. This is not to say that television and one way media consumption doesn't have its place, but I do question what that place should be.

Clay Shirky gave a presentation at the 2008 Web 2.0 Expo that seems to have gelled some of my thoughts regarding my current use of time. Shirky calls it "cognitive surplus" or "free time". He talks about how much time we, as a society, spend masking that surplus by watching television rather than investing it in other endeavors. He quoted some "back of the envelope" calculations that the wikipedia project has an investment of 100 million hours of human thought. Then stated that America spends 200 billion hours a year watching television. Shirky then went on to speak about the evolution of society and how we're just now beginning to experiment with new ways to invest that 200 billion hours in an "architecture of participation". This architecture of participation would include things like wikipedia, facebook, flickr, twitter, world of warcraft, google reader or blogging the list is virtually endless. He posits that people like to produce and share. This thought resonates with me.

Deploying my cognitive surplus in front of the HD television is easy indeed, but spending it creating, reading, writing and participating in global conversations feels much more rewarding. There's a certain feeling of accomplishment after I've posted a new blog entry, or commented on the flickr photo stream of a friend. I feel pride in the fact that I contributed or participated.

So maybe for the next week, I'll try to limit the time spent on my couch. Rather, I'll read, write, and live a bit more, with the expectation that it will enhance my experience and possible that of others as well.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

IBM Commands Attention?

Just finished listening to episode 182 of the Java Posse podcast.

I don't know who to attribute the quote to but thought it noteworthy none the less.

"You can't really discount the size of IBM as a market force. And IBM just as a company hasn't even really moved."

The statement was made during a discussion with regard to new JRE adoption specifically about how IBM and its customers are so slow to move. I think that the comment is relevant. As a software engineer working for a company that is beholden to IBM's WebSphere, we can only move as quickly as IBM will let us. Currently we're in the middle of a conversion from WAS 5.1 to WAS 6.1 which does give us a 1.5 JRE, but the conversion has not been without its own pain. It would be nice if IBM were able to support the bleeding edge, however when they insist on writing their own implementation of the JRE, speed isn't going to be there. Then again, the whole J2EE app server world seems heavy and slow to change.

It will be interesting to see what happens as Java continues to compete with newer and different languages. The pod cast did a great job at discussing the issues from various angles.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

It's Time

The easiest way to damn progress is to put off to another day what you should just start working on today. It is very easy to get into the habit of using situations as justification for not working on those things one wants. One may say: I'll work on it when I have more money in the bank, or when work isn't quite so busy, or when things are precisely how I expect them to be. The fact of the matter is, typical situations aren't ideal, and while waiting for that ideal moment, opportunities may be lost. Today is as good as any, life doesn't get any easier. Take control of the situation and make the best of what you've got.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Are you your own problem?

Yet another insightful post by Amy Hoy. I'm intrigued by the last paragraph:

Is there something you're claiming can't be done, just because you just don't want it bad enough? A project you're trying to (unsuccessfully) brute force from the wrong direction—where the right direction requires a skill set other than the one you're most comfortable in? Or a situation where the stumbling blocks in your way are largely of your own devising or imagination?

What do you stand to lose by admitting what's really happening?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Software Requirements

I had a brief discussion with a family member this evening in which the following Henry Ford quote was used. "If I'd asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a better horse." I had mentioned that at times building business software is difficult because the target is never fixed, and with changing requirements it becomes difficult to deliver the project to the satisfaction of stakeholders. It is humbling to see a different perspective on the same problem. Rather than expecting business sponsors to be able to deliver a comprehensive set of requirements, I was challenged to learn the business so that it could be applied to the problem to anticipate what business may need. Business is great at identifying needs, but they may not know what the solution should look like. That's where grounded knowledge of business and good engineering can come together to meet needs in new and awesome ways. This thought really resonated with me this evening. In theory this gives the engineer more responsibility and equity in the work she does. It also should deliver a product that meets or exceeds requirements, bringing growth and change to an organization. I think that there's some good stuff here. I've clearly got some changing to do.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Will REST Provide a Better Experience?

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is an architectural style that promotes loose coupling of business processes through services independent of platform, time and location. When business discussion turns to SOA, web services are often used as the classic example for producing these loosely coupled components. What usually is not discussed are the challenges presented with SOA implementation based on classic web services. Some vendors have created tools to ease implementation, but it is important to understand that with a classic web service there's a lot happening behind the scenes and the programmer should have knowledge of how it works.

Classic web services are built upon the following five standards.
- SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol)
- XML (Extensible Markup Language)
- HTTP (Hypertext Transport Protocol)
- WSDL (Web Services Description Language)
- UDDI (Universal Discovery Description Integration)
Keep in mind that while there are standards for the languages and protocols, each implementor may go about creating the solution in a different way. This is particularly important when it comes time to maintain your web service. Some solutions do a better job at hiding the complexity than others. Bottom line: There's very little that is simple about the classic web service.

When I approached traditional "web services" in school, I was in a .NET environment. Credit must be given to Microsoft with their implementation. It was so simple. The wizards were intuitive, changes were easy to make and all of the hard stuff was carefully hidden from the user. I should have understood that given the list of standards involved there was a lot of 'black magic' happening.

Having approached traditional web services professionally, it's always been a severe pain point. The java tooling (at least that provided by IBM) attempts to hide the complexity from the user, but it's been my experience that things never work quite as they should. This forces the developer to play with the "black magic" which never provides me with a really good, warm feeling inside.

I've been doing some preliminary reading on REST. This looks good. Really good. I'm up for anything that still provides platform independent exchange of information without the pain of RPC.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

My $.02

I've been following the "Is Java Dying" debate that seems to have been swirling around the web with more fervor in the past several weeks. I tend to agree with the camp that believes that language evolution is inevitable, but this is not damaging to the Java community. There's a LOT of Java code out there. There are still a LOT of people writing new Java code every day. There are some great new languages out there, but I don't yet see a reason to move to a newer language or stack. There's still a lot of promise in the Java world. I'm particularly excited by a couple of projects released under the auspices of the great Google: Guice and GWT. Both of these projects show us that there's new and innovative stuff being done in Java every day.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

January Yuck

I'm feeling somewhat numb. Again. Not in the physical sense, but certainly in the mental. It's really hard to go back to work after a vacation. I set out to do all sorts of great stuff this week, and it seems that fate would rather have me work on other things. It's frustrating when you can't stick to your own schedule.

I walked through a condo last night that I am very tempted to make an offer on. We'll see where things end up. I need to think about it for a few more days. I would like to get out of this numbness before making any big decisions however.

Perhaps this is what January is all about.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

One More Lazy Day


Slept in - When you're used to being up at 5, sleeping in until 9 feels luxurious.
Spent most of the day reading and staying warm.
Made chicken enchiladas for dinner.
The regular program continues tomorrow.