Yep. I haven’t updated this web site in, oh, about two years. Time slips away, as does the life that rides upon it. That, and I never got this version of the web site going as much as I wanted. I envisioned more sections, more blog posts, more content. . . All wonderful aspirations, to be sure, and I still have them. I just may be a bit more realistic about the time I have to commit to a web site that, well, perhaps no one other than me visits and enjoys.
So I’m in the process of revamping the site yet again. Could take days, could take weeks, could be months… if ever. When it’s finished, I hope it’s more modern and personal than this design. And although I speak of modernity, I miss the old site; it suggested more of, dare I say, a personal brand than this site ever did. As to what my personal brand is, I guess I have yet to figure that out. I need to ask those Babylon 5 classics of “Who are you?” and “What do you want?” Tough questions to answer, indeed, but so far, they have been fun to tackle. We’ll see what the answers ultimately produce.
If I was to define one particular theme for me this year, this would be the year of mindfulness. I first encountered the concept when my workplace offered a 5-week course entitled “Defrag Your Brain,” which, I thought, I absolutely had to take, for at the time, my brain felt more cluttered than usual. As it turned out, defragging my brain meant learning about the art of mindfulness and its basic practices.
Around the same time, while in the middle of a 10-week physical fitness program, I was reintroduced to the concept of mindfulness–in particular, mindful eating. Then after listening to David Rock give a talk at my workplace about Your Brain At Work, I read his book and, lo and behold, the core of his philosophy/research is mindfulness. When I tuned into a series of TED Talks called “Life Hacks,” Shawn Achor revealed five daily actions that are the “happy secret to better work.” One of those five actions is. . . you guessed it . . practicing mindfulness. In fact, there is an entire TED Talk devoted to mindfulness (and juggling).
So what is this mindfulness practice I keep running into?
Election day 2012 has come and gone. And I, like every other citizen of the United States, can breathe a sigh of relief, not necessarily because a particular candidate won or lost, but because the presidential election season is over. Well, at least for a few years. I think it all starts up again in 2014.
I’ve decided to jot down some reflections about this presidential campaign, mainly so I have something to look back on when we go through this madness again. I was going to try to keep my thoughts impartial so as not to bias my future self, but when discussing politics, even with myself, I’ve come to accept such impartiality as near impossible. So as I say to friends who ask me if I’m a Democrat or a Republican, “I’ll express my viewpoints; you can label me as you wish.” (more…)
Last week I gave a quick talk to the leadership at my place of employment about how my team is incorporating Open Source principles, Agile software development, and the Information Technology Infrastructure Language (ITIL) into the delivery of our web services. Although the audience laughed and applauded my jokes, especially the one regarding my tie,1 I think they also appreciated the core of the talk, so I figured I would start sharing my thoughts on the aforementioned topics and how one might go about mixing and merging them.
First, an admission: Open Source, Agile, and ITIL are nothing new to the realm of IT; all have been around for years, if not decades, and many industries have embraced them in some form or another. So the fact we are now incorporating these practices into our work might not seem exactly novel and, if I was strictly speaking about incorporating just the individual practices into our work, such an assertion would be correct. But I’m talking about merging all three, and a quick Google Search on “implementing,” “incorporating,” “combining” or “merging” this trinity doesn’t exactly return a cornucopia of results. So maybe what were doing is somewhat novel, after all.
But before going into any details–that I reserve for later posts–I wanted to give a brief–a very brief–overview of each of the practices, methodologies, standards, philosophies, or whatever you want to call them. Up first, Open Source.
Open Source is not only a practice, it is a philosophy, the mindset of baring a piece of software’s soul to the world. At the heart of Open Sourcing software is the act of distributing one’s source code so that the development community may download it, use it, but most importantly, modify it, then redistribute it so that others may download, use, modify, and redistribute their modified code, so on and so forth, ad infinitum. Although such a practice is often deemed synonymous with “free software,” Open Source code can be found in commercial products. For example, Red Hat founded its company by selling and supporting its own version of Linux, an Open Source operating system.
Agile software development is a team-oriented approach for iterative software development. Agile evolved when software developers began revolting against “traditional” project management methodologies, such as the waterfall model, in which development teams gathered requirements from their customers, retreated to their caves to bang out code for several months, then returned with a piece of software that no one recognized as anything that anyone ever wanted. At its core, Agile embraces the the awareness that those who believe they know how their software should work, actually don’t have a clue about how it really will work. And the only way to get around this is to approach the development of the software in iterations: Requirements are drawn up, software is developed, software is reviewed, the requirements are revisited, the software is refined, so on and so forth, rinse and repeat, until the final release.
The Information Technology Infrastructure Language arose in the mid-eighties when Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, instructed the government agencies to get their act together when it was determined that the disparate practices of their IT groups was costing the realm a large fortune. Four years and 8 billion pounds later, the Central Computer and Telecoms Agency came up with a suite of best practices that all IT organizations should follow. These best practices for delivering any IT service now form the core of ITIL.
To Be Continued…
As I mentioned: Brief and high level. I’ll go into more details about each in later posts, then describe how they are all coming together within our web team. 2
I’m pleased to announce the official release of my interactive fiction game, The Life (and Deaths) of Doctor M. The game follows the exploits of you, a dying soul, who must determine your fate as you wander a land somewhere between life and the afterlife. In the tradition of Infocom text adventures, Doctor M confronts you with a variety of puzzles, a host of characters, an intriguing narrative, and decisions that only you can make. Tied together, Doctor M weaves a tale of morality and choice that is ultimately dependent on you, the player.
Doctor M originally made its appearance in the 2011 Interactive Fiction Competition, written under the pen name of Edmund Wells. Out of 38 games, Doctor M placed sixth, tied for third for the Miss Congeniality award, and won the coveted Golden Banana of Discord. The game is also up for two XYZZY Awards, the interactive fiction equivalent of the Academy Awards, including nominations for Best Story and Best Individual Puzzle, the latter of which it shares with several co-conspirators.
The co-conspirators include Cold Iron, by Andrew Plotkin (as Lyman Clive Charles); Last Day of Summer, by Doug Orleans (as Cameron Fox); and Playing Games, by Kevin Jackson-Mead (as Pam Comfite). Together, the four games create a “meta-puzzle,” now known as “The Hat Mystery.” Although each game stands as an independent piece, a player can unlock a secret ending by combining elements found in all four games. A tip of the hat to Kevin Jackson-Mead who came up with the idea, and to Andrew Plotkin who conceived the actual puzzle.
For those interested in playing Doctor M, but who have never played interactive fiction before, I strongly suggest consulting the Beginner’s Guide to IF, and playing a few other introductory games. Doctor M assumes you’re an experienced interactive fiction player–that you know the language, so to speak. Even those fluent in interactive fiction have found Doctor M a challenge, albeit a compelling one, which it was ultimately meant to be.