# Friday, 25 July 2008
I noticed today that my book Code Leader: Using People, Tools, and Processes to Build Successful Software (Programmer to Programmer) is now available for Amazon's eBook reader, the Kindle. Cool.
Friday, 25 July 2008 13:46:27 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Friday, 25 April 2008
My new book Code Leader: Using People, Tools, and Processes to Build Successful Software is now available and in stock at Amazon and hopefully soon at stores near you.  The initial outline for the book came from a post I did a while back, This I Believe, the developer edition.  Writing up that post got me thinking about a lot of things, and I've continued to expand on them both in the book and in presentations since then. 

There is a lot of content in the book about working with tools like SCC, static analysis, and unit test frameworks to build better software more efficiently.  I think if I were to sum up the focus, it is that we as developers owe it to our project sponsors to work efficiently and effectively, and there are lots of incremental changes that can be made to the way we work, both in terms of tools and processes to make that happen. 

The reality of modern software development (mostly) is that since the physical constraints like CPU time and memory/disk space have largely fallen away, the goal of any development project (from a technical standpoint) should be optimized for developer productivity.  That includes a wide array of factors from readability of design, how clear developer intent is to future readers, and how resillient our software is to future change to reducing barriers to developer productivity like implementing a good CI process.  Working together as a team across disciplinary and physical boundaries is at least as big a challenge as writing good code. 

I agree very much with Scott that the why and how of software development are often just as important (and harder to get right) than just the what.  I hope that I have something to contribute to the discussion as we all figure it out together...

Friday, 25 April 2008 11:31:59 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
# Thursday, 10 April 2008

First, there was a few ideas rattling around in my head, then there was a blog post, and now you can buy the book. :-)


The most difficult challenges facing most of us these days are not about making code work.  That's relatively easy, compared to making code that you can work on and maintain with other people.  I've tried to bring together a bunch of issues and practical solutions for writing code with a team, including defining contracts, creating good tracing and error handling, and building a set of automatic tests that you can rely on.  In addition, there's a bunch in here about how to work with other developers using source control, continuous integration, etc. to make everyone's lives easier and more productive.
Thursday, 10 April 2008 10:41:33 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Monday, 09 July 2007

I haven't had a whole lot of time for either lately, but have squeezed in a few. 

Books

  • I'm in the midst of Scott's copy of Barry Eisler's Killing Rain.  Good fun, as always
  • I'm about half way through Herman Melville's Typee, about his jumping ship in the South Pacific.  Quite the adventure story, and much quicker pacing than the Melville I've read before (i.e. Moby Dick)
  • Sandor Ellix Katz's The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved.  A very informative read about the state of the "underground" American food revival.  There are a lot of people out there trying to reclaim traditional and sane eating practices.  Good to know.
  • I just finished Carl Hiaasen's Tourist Season.  He can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned, and I've loved every hilarious thing I've read of his.

Movies

  • Less to tell here, I'm afraid.  Not too much has wowed lately
  • I finally saw 300, and it blew.  Totally.  Very sad.
  • My favorite of late has been Road to Perdition.  I never would have thought I'd believe Tom Hanks as a gangster, but it was a great film.  Fantastic camera angles, interesting cast, great script.  Well done.
Monday, 09 July 2007 14:30:30 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Thursday, 15 February 2007

I just finished a couple of pretty interesting books...

 


The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks

The Devil's Teeth is all about a journalist who gets involved with the biologists studying great white sharks in the Farallones, islands about 20 miles due West of San Francisco.  It's an interesting portrait, not only of the harsh reality of life for a shark, but of the harsh reality of the people who live to study them.  Not an easy job.  Unfortunately, the author's obsession with the sharks leads to her violation of the rules of the study, which ultimately result in the lead biologist losing his job.  I notice that part gets downplayed significantly.  Other than that, it's a very well written account.

 


Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea

 Adrift is about the truly remarkable adventure of Steven Callahan, who survived in an inflatable life raft for 76 days in the North Atlantic.  Only one other man is recorded as having survived at see that long solo.  Callahan's sailboat was sunk (he thinks by running into a whale) while only a few days out from the Canary Islands, headed for the Caribbean.  Using only the tools in his raft and survival kit, he manages to provide himself with enough food and water to make it all the way to Guadeloupe, where he was rescued by some fishermen.  Callahan showed some pretty amazing competence and ingenuity, which makes this a very interesting read.

Thursday, 15 February 2007 10:30:00 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, 15 December 2006

I just finished Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales, and would heartily recommend it to anyone who participates in any kind of outdoor or adventure activity, or anyone interested in the psychology of survial.  I was a little skeptical, since the book jacket made it sound like it was mostly case studies of survial situations.  While those certainly play a central role, the book is really more about the latest in brain science and psychology, and how that explains the way people behave when they get lost in the wilderness, or have to face other kinds of survival situations. 

Mr. Gonzales has definitely done his homework.  He's obviously spent a huge amount of time reading accident reports, and accounts by survivors, and picks out trends from both categories.  He then ties those trends back to the underlying brain science, which goes a long way toward explaining the (seemingly) irrational behavior often observed in people under stress. 

As someone who enjoys wilderness backpacking, as well as someone involved in disaster preparedness, I found this book completely fascinating. 

The book ends with a list of 12 tips for how to make it through a survival situation, which I found quite valuable.

Friday, 15 December 2006 15:50:15 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 18 September 2006

I'm pretty much a sucker for a good vampire novel.  I'd even go so far as to include the works of Ann Rice in that set, although perhaps in the guilty pleasure category.  I just finished The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, and it's right up there at the top of the pack.  Maybe almost as good as Already Dead, the previous front runner. 

The Historian is a (dare I say) lavish twist on the Dracula myth, filled with exacting detail.  The author supposedly did 10 years of research while writing this book, and it certainly shows.  Lots of work went into this novel, which demonstrates a detailed understanding of the history of the Ottoman empire, Byzantium, and other aspects of Balkan/Near East history, so it might appeal to history buffs regardless of the vampire content. 

I actually listened to the Audible audio version, which was very long (something like 24 hours) and was read by two different actors who portrayed a set of 3-4 different characters, so it was very engaging to listen to.

There is a great twist towards the end that I totally didn't see coming.  It made the book that much more enjoyable.  Well worth checking out if you're into vampires, history, or both.

Monday, 18 September 2006 10:51:07 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 02 August 2006

Yes, it’s happened again.  Yet another technology/trend which appeared in Neal Stephenson’s seminal novel Snow Crash has come to (almost) fruition.  I think he called it “sintergel” or some such.  This new technology joins the burbclave and a host of other trends that Stephenson predicted back in the day. 

Liquid Body Armor By End Of 2007

The company Armor Holdings is developing a liquid-type of body armor to either replace or enhance the current tough fiber and polymer armor that's in use today. The liquid can be smeared on a person, or a person's clothing, and stiffens when hit by an object. [Gizmodo]

Wednesday, 02 August 2006 09:54:15 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
# Thursday, 16 March 2006

I was glued to my couch this morning trying to finish Charlie Huston’s Six Bad Things : A Novel.  It’s quite a ride, and the last 50 pages or so really go like gang-busters.  It’s a sequel to the equally frenetic Caught Stealing : A Novel.  On the surface they seem like just faced pace, hard boiled crime fiction (possibly more violent than most) but having now finished both books I think that there’s deeper meaning at work. 

<potential spoilers>

I think these novels are really about how easy it is for an average guy to turn to a life of violence and crime.  The main character keeps getting caught up in progressively stranger circumstances, and to protect first himself and then his parents he sinks deeper and deeper into this plot of drugs and casual violence.  He starts thinking of himself as a violent individual, but it doesn’t happen all at once.  Each time he finds his back to the wall he finds it a little bit easier to take the violent way out, until in the end he finds himself killing without remorse.

</potential spoilers>

So, if you like crime fiction, these are definitely worth checking out.  There is supposed to be a third book in the series coming out later this year, and given how the second one ended I’ll be interested to see what happens next.

Thursday, 16 March 2006 12:52:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 08 March 2006

I’m most of the way through Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums, and a couple of things really strike me about the book.  This is the first time I’ve read Kerouac, so I can’t compare it to his other works (although I’m interested to read On the Road now) but having just finished a biography about him during the period he’s writing about, the whole book is really just lightly fictionalized auto-biography.  That makes for interesting reading, and Kerouac’s style is certainly entertaining. 

The thing that strikes me the most is that here were a bunch of guys who were worried that the combination of suburbia and television were turning Americans into anti-intellectual, under-educated drones who never went outside.  And this was FIFTY years ago!  Well, unfortunately they’ve turned out to be largely right.  TV hadn’t even been around more than a few years then, and already its effects were being acurately predicted.  Sigh.  <rant>Stop violating your minds with television, people! Go outside!</rant>

I find it interesting that the antidote that Kerouac and the other Dharma Bums suggested was essentially voluntary homelessness.  Not something that’s easy to do these days.  However, I think I now understand a lot more about one of my uncles.  He totally fits the Dharma Bum profile.  I had no idea. :-)

Wednesday, 08 March 2006 11:11:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 27 February 2006

Over the weekend I finished a very interesting book Poets on the Peaks by John Suiter.  It’s about a set of the famous “beat poets”, mostly Gary Snyder, Phillip Whalen, and Jack Kerouac, and time time each of them spent working as fire lookouts for the Forest Service in the North Cascades.  It’s a fascinating storey about not only the poets (whom I didn’t know very much about) but the history and geography of the North Cascades.  It’s inspired me to pick up copies of both The Gary Snyder Reader, and The Dharma Bums, which is largely about Kerouac’s time in the mountains, and hanging out with Gary and Phillip (and Allen Ginsburg).  Poets on the Peaks is accompanied by some fabulous B & W photos of the poets and the North Cascades, some of which come from archives and some taken by the author in the lat 90’s. 

The one I’m currently chewing through (it’s hard to put down) is Charlie Huston’s Six Bad Things : A Novel, which is the sequel to the hard core page-turner Caught Stealing : A Novel.  If you did action/crime writing, these are really worth checking out.  Kind of “North-Northwest” meets “Pulp Fiction”. 

Monday, 27 February 2006 10:52:52 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 09 January 2006
I’m a big fan of both the detective and the Vampire genres, so it’s pretty cool to see them both together.  In his new novel, Already Dead : A Novel, Charlie Huston combines the two seamlessly.  The protagonist, Joe Pitt, is the archetypal hard boiled gumshoe/tough guy who just happens to also be a Vampire.  I was impressed that Huston manages to stay true to both traditions without losing anything in the process.  And if you happen to be into zombies, there are some of those two.  Only they’re zombie Goth girls.  Better and better.  A good fast page turner.  Be warned, however, that in the tradition of the hard boiled detective, it can get pretty graphic, so probably not for the weak of stomach. 
Monday, 09 January 2006 16:52:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 06 December 2004

I just finished Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, and what a ride it was!  Snow Crash is one of my favorite books ever, but I was pretty underwhelmed by The Diamond Age, so I’ve put off reading Cryptonomicon.  I now see that was a mistake.  I enjoyed the whole book, and couldn’t put it down for the last 100 or so pages. 

Stephenson employs the fabulously wacky use of language that he did in Snow Crash, but along slightly less absurdist lines.  Snow Crash was cool, but definitely felt fictional (although not that far off from where we are today, frankly).  Cryptonomicon, on the other hand, is a bit more down to earth in it’s subject matter, even though it’s certainly fanciful.

I thought he did a great job of capturing modern nerd culture, and was gratified to see that Randy the geek turns out to be the hero of the tale in the end.  A great read.  Now I’ll have to start the Baroque Cycle…

Monday, 06 December 2004 13:04:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, 20 February 2004

I'm just pages away from finishing Drop City, by T.C.Boyle.  This is one of the more riveting novels I've read in quite a while.  It's been hard for me to put it down.  It portrays two completely different sets of people who really have the same goals, but come at it from two totally different perspectives. 

It's set in 1970, and the two groups of people are a hippie commune from Sonoma County and the residents of Boynton, Alaska, 150 miles from Fairbanks where the roads stop.  The health department shuts down the commune, which decides to relocate itself to Alaska. 

The focus of the story is really around how the long term residents of Boyton, and the surrounding bush, are just as "dropped out" of mainstream society as the hippies are.  They too are looking for personal freedom, and escape from the rat race and rapidly plasticized society of the late 60's early 70's.  The difference between them is in their approach.  Libertine vs. Libertarian.  Peace love and brotherhood vs. live free or die.  It's a very interesting and original juxtaposition, IMHO.

I grew up in Marin in the early 70's and I remember first hand what the peace love and brotherhood crowd was like.  Boyle does a great job of capturing not only the ideal of hippieness, but also the factors that inevitably crushed it. 

If you remember the hippies, are into Alaska, or just looking for a diverting read, check it out.

Friday, 20 February 2004 13:58:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  |