Thu, 25 Dec 2008

Happy Holidays 2008!

We've been remiss this year in sending out holiday cards, the first time in some time. I'm going to firmly plant the blame on the weather (for one, it can't defend itself against my accusation), but I did take the time to put together a virtual card in lieu of sending out printed ones.

It's available in two varieties, a virtual Christmas card (note, this will resize your window, so open in a new window if you don't want your window resized), or as a 3.8MB PDF.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Name/Blog: rus
Title: very nice!

Name/Blog: The Arrasmith's
Comment/Excerpt: Thank you for sharing your digital card... Much love to Seattle, from Boulder!

Tue, 16 Dec 2008

Agile Shenanigans

One of my teams at work has been involved in a pilot project to deploy the Agile methodology, Scrum. If you're reading this far, I presume you have an idea what Scrum is, so I'll just come out and say it:

I'm calling "Shenanigans" on the "Agile Manifesto".

Simply stated, this is what the Manifesto says:
We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.
Now, I understand if some of these guidelines were necessary for the formation of the Scrum methodology. Scrum is tool- and technology- agnostic, so taking the focus away from those aspects which the methodology doesn't prescribe isn't surprising.

But, take the first element-- individuals and interactions over processes and tools... I'm far from a gearhead-oriented manager. My humanist management philosophy is well documented, so on the face of it, I would tend to agree with this statement.

Yet sometimes, the most important problem you need to solve on a team or in the course of conducting business is not "individuals and interactions", but "processes and tools"...

In some projects, comprehensive documentation may actually be a better artifact than "working software". You may want to "negotiate a contract" between parties if communication challenges (say with a vendor or a customer) will save time, hassle and energy. In some cases, it's far better to publish an API than to conduct "customer collaboration", for example, or to follow a plan if that's the most expedient way of solving the problem at hand rather than revisiting things that have already been decided and agreed upon.

One last example, and I'll end my rant... If Agile had been invented in the 1970s, then many of the folks working on software at the time may have developed code more productively and with less gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair.

But when Y2K came around, what do you think the remediators would be more grateful for? That there was "comprehensive documentation" about the date/time functions, or that the developers were able to launch "working software"?

If you would have told the developers 30 years ago that there was a "Y2K" defect in their code, in Scrum, that defect would be placed on a backlog, and be deprioritized so frequently that eventually any ScrumMaster worth his weight would have taken it off the backlog after a year or two. After 2-5 years, if not a decade or two, the people who originally may have realized there was a Y2K bug would have moved on, and the decision to take the Y2K bug off the backlog wouldn't have been realized until... you guessed it, a few years before Y2K when suddenly everyone was scrambling trying to figure out "are we vulnerable?"

And the teams responsible for remediating the problem? The 1970s Scrum teams would have focused not on documentation or negotiation of contracts or producing any artifacts that could be useful if only for software-archaeology purposes, but on code that met a 1970s "definition of done".

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big proponent of Agile, but because there are occasions to value items on the right more from time to time, it's probably best to put the Agile Manifesto on a "credits" page and grant it "historical anecdote" status rather than front-and-center in many slide decks about the Agile methodology.

Wed, 03 Dec 2008

(Updated) Timelapse of Christmas Tree

Inspired by Spencer, I decided to capture a time lapse of our decorating the Christmas tree. We picked it up Friday afternoon, let it sit Saturday while I worked on the dishwasher project (more on this in an upcoming blog post), and put the lights on Sunday and the ornaments on Wednesday.

I've also exported the movie down to only 3.4MB so it's a lot more download friendly.

The One About the Burning Dishwasher

This is a long story, so I'm going to try a narrative style that attempts to convey what's been going on with my dishwasher in 5 minutes instead of an hour.
  • My dishwasher caught on fire.
  • It's only 4 years old, a Kenmore Elite Stock #17462. Model #665.17462.300. It's an OEM Whirlpool unit
  • I suspected something was up when I smelled a strong plasticy burning smell.
  • At first I thought it was a baby bottle nipple burning on a heating element
  • Opened the door to check, got water all over my floor as the dishwasher didn't stop
  • Pressed the cancel button. No buttons on the front are responding to input!
  • Tried the GFCI circuit. Didn't kill the dishwasher
  • Ran to the garage, tried to turn it off at the circuit breaker. Must have counted wrong cuz that didn't work.
  • Grabbed Christine, who was sleeping. (Did I mention it was 3am?)
  • Told her "let me know when the dishwasher goes off"
  • Found the switch that finally shut the thing off.
  • Christine thanked me for saving our house and our lives from fire, and went back to bed
  • I was too amped, and couldn't go to bed if the thing could still be smoldering
  • Called the Renton FD.
  • They pulled it out, cut the power cable, disconnected the water and sewer
  • They then left, but I was still amped so I opened it up. Photos below of the melted parts.
  • Called Whirlpool and Sears the next day. No recall. But they'll fix it for free (reimburse us) if we just pay the service guy.
  • Not a bad deal, they can be out the next couple days.
  • This sucks, we have lots of baby bottles to wash.
  • They show up, oops, don't have the parts they need. They'll order the parts.
  • WTF?
  • Parts begin to show up. They call back to reschedule the appointment.
  • They show up to install the parts.
  • Oops, they sent the wrong part.
  • WTF? I've been without a dishwasher for a month now!
  • Wait a few more days. Another part shows up.
  • They schedule to come out.
  • WTF? They sent the wrong part again!
  • But what's this? The part number is correct? They're mislabeling parts at the factory? WTF?
  • On Fri. 11/28, I ask "Can you guarantee that you'll have the correct part by Wed?"
  • Their response "Probably, but no."
  • On Sat. afternoon, I go to Lowes (screw Sears and their crappy Kenmore private brand and service)
  • Note to self: Don't buy a Whirlpool. It's the same thing, different skin.
  • Selection criteria: Which stainless steel models do you have in stock?
  • Wow, this one is really quiet. Let's get that one. Don't have it in stainless.
  • Damn. Here's one. Well hot damn that thing is expensive... But it's in stock and I'm not going to wait another month to get the one I got repaired. I'm going to install this TODAY.
  • OK, let me go get my hatchback, my sedan won't fit a dishwasher.
  • Damn. This thing won't fit in my A3... without taking out the floor panel for the spare wheel, and even then the hatch is open. Good news is Lowes is just a mile away from home.
  • I need to buy a dolly just to get this thing in my house single handedly.
  • OK, brought it in the house, moved the old one, shoot, the stupid firemen cut my electrical cable.
  • Whew, I jury-rigged the damn thing so that I can fit my dishwasher back there and the power just barely reaches...
  • Crap! The water line is 48" long and the connector on the new one requires more like 60" since it connects near the front. Run to ACE to pick up a braided steel 5/8ths water line.
  • Damn. The sewer drain is now making it hard to fit the damn thing in, and the previous dishwasher has damaged the particleboard flooring. Gotta pull it out and in and out and in releveling the feet.
Long story short, I finally wedged the dishwasher in (not fully up to spec just yet... It took me all told 6 hours to install and I stopped short of perfect)... I still need to a) pull the dishwasher back out, b) tear out the old particle board, c) put in new particle board platform, d) cut my hardwood floor (it's about a 1/4 inch too deeply laid to fit properly), e) install the surround plastic pieces, and f) install the kick plates. All told, probably at least another 2 hours of work...

Meanwhile I still need to fight the cretins at Sears to repair my old one so I can recoup SOME of my cost from the old one. And it occurs to me that even if I had signed up for the "extended warranty" it wouldn't have made my experience any better. More evidence that these things are scams. If they can't send the proper part to your house, what difference does the extended warranty serve except to illustrate only that much clearer that you've been screwed twice over?

This and my privacy trees (yet another blog post) and my car repair taking longer than I anticipated has resulted in a quite unpleasant November (excepting Thanksgiving which is always nice to spend with family).

Khan Klatt

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