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Thursday 20 November 2014

Yes, I'm actually in training this week that is required of everyone at my level. This morning we did an exercise on meeting planning. Our table came up with the following responses to the "Meeting Expectations/First Five Minutes" part:

  • Show appreciation for the meeting: "Mr. Wirtz, thank you for taking some time to meet with me today."
  • Confirm available time for meeting: "You mentioned you had about 15 minutes this morning. Is that still the case?"
  • Offer a look back...how did we get here? "As you will recall, yesterday we discussed releasing my godson from the personal service contract he has with you, in exchange for $10,000 in cash."
  • Briefly state the goals / objectives for the meeting: "I was hoping that we could revisit that conversation today, and that you would reconsider your position."
  • Agenda: "To help us meet these goals, I thought the following agenda might help us. First, I will make you an offer you can't refuse, and second, you will sign the release my attorney has prepared."
  • What other areas to be covered? "I assure you, if you do not consider my offer, you will cover the release in a personal and compelling way."
  • Brief introductions of...
    • Your firm's capabilities: "I am not sure you know about my organization, but perhaps I could provide a brief overview."
    • Your team/colleagues in the meeting: "Let me introduce you to my colleague, Luca Brasi."
  • Have a few "Killer Questions" that initiate dialogue: "Now that you understand Luca's role in this meeting, would you please sign this release now?"
  • Listen, be present, and probe; be "sincerely curious" in your follow-up questions: "I insist that this is the best offer you will ever receive from me, and I am eager to learn your position on it immediately."
  • Begin to wrap up with a few minutes remaining: "Thank you for your time. I am pleased that we were able to come to an agreement so quickly."
  • Summarize what you have heard: "I understand that you are also pleased with the outcome, and that $2,000 is a sufficient release fee, as we have just agreed."
  • Define specific next steps and, if appropriate, schedule follow-up meeting: "You will very likely not see me again, but I assure you, if a subsequent meeting is needed, perhaps because you have discussed this meeting with your colleagues or the Attorney General, Mr. Brasi will follow up with you in a timely and decisive fashion."

The other scenarios we batted around the table were more, ah, risqué, to say the least.

Thursday 20 November 2014 10:35:07 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Jokes | Kitchen Sink | Work#
Monday 17 November 2014

And no, I didn't lose a bet.

Monday 17 November 2014 09:26:10 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Work#
Sunday 16 November 2014

I didn't even realize until just now I failed to post anything yesterday or today. I guess the weekend intervened. (Maybe the 18,000 steps I took yesterday had something to do with it.)

This coming week I'll be in all-day training from Tuesday to Friday, which may have some effect on posting. Or not, depending on how interesting the training is.

Sunday 16 November 2014 16:11:49 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Work#
Wednesday 12 November 2014

The Redmond giant stunned the software development world this week by opening up several core technologies, including the entire .NET platform, to the public:

We are building a .NET Core CLR for Windows, Mac and Linux and it will be both open source and it will be supported by Microsoft. It'll all happen at https://github.com/dotnet.

Much of the .NET Core Framework 4.6 and its Reference Source source is going on GitHub. It's being relicensed under the MIT license, so Mono (and you!) can use that source code in their .NET implementations.

Dr. Dobbs is impressed (as am I):

Of these platforms, Linux is clearly the most important. Today, Microsoft earns much of its (record) profits from enterprise software packages (SQL Server, SharePoint, Exchange, etc.). By running .NET on Linux, it now has the ability to run those apps on a significant majority of server platforms. Except for Solaris sites, all enterprises will be able to run the applications without having to add in the cost of Microsoft Server licenses.

But perhaps more important than the pure server benefit is the cloud aspect. VMs on the cloud, especially the public cloud, are principally Linux-based. Windows VMs are available, too, but at consistently higher pricing. With this move, .NET apps can now run anywhere on the cloud — or said another way, between servers and the cloud, the apps can run anywhere IT is operating.

The big winners of all this goodness are C# developers. In theory, .NET portability favors all .NET languages equally, but it's no secret that C# is the first among equals. (It is, in fact, the only language that Xamarin supports currently.) Microsoft has been an excellent steward of the language, evolving it intelligently and remarkably cleanly. Among developers who use it regularly, it is uniformly well liked, which distinguishes it from most of the other major development languages today, where an appreciation that borders on ambivalence is the more common experience.

The big loser is certainly Java. Java's stock in trade has been its longstanding ability to run without modification or recompilation on all major platforms. In this valuable trait, it has had no major competition. If Microsoft's port of .NET provides a multi-platform experience that is as smooth and seamless as Java, then the JVM will have some very serious competition.

Once I'm done with the deliverable that's due tomorrow, I may download the .NET Framework and take a look. I'll also spin up an Azure VM and play around with Visual Studio 2015 before the end of the week.

Wednesday 12 November 2014 17:27:27 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Software | Business | Cloud | Cool links | Work#
Monday 10 November 2014

From last week's trip, here's Oslo Harbor at sunset:

The Nobel Peace Center:

Our hotel, a well-known meeting-place for literary types for some reason:

I didn't have a lot of time to take photos, so there won't be too many others.

Monday 10 November 2014 12:42:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Travel | Work#

Lots more travel this weekend, including Parker and me spending two days in a place without Internet. (My phone at least had a little from time to time.)

Now back home, I have to figure out the rest of my day before rehearsal. Parker, for his part, is sleeping on his own bed right now for the first time in more than a week.

Monday 10 November 2014 10:38:28 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Parker | Travel | Work#
Friday 7 November 2014

Well, we made it to Heathrow only an hour late, and scrambled to get our initial findings out to our director in the 45 minutes we had available in the lounge...until our flight to Chicago was also delayed an hour and fifteen minutes. Really I just want to get on the plane and sleep. But then I also want to get home with enough time to nap before an event I've been looking forward to. So, here's hoping the published delay right now is the real delay, and I still have a couple of hours to unpack and change.

Also, I was off just a bit in my surmise how the credit card transit tickets worked. It's not that Norway has less transit theft than other countries (though I suspect this is true anyway), it's that you have to swipe your credit card to get out of gates when you arrive. Still, we left the hotel at 5:20 and got to the airport by 6. That's pretty impressive.

Friday 7 November 2014 12:03:34 GMT (UTC+00:00)  |  | London | Travel | Work#
Thursday 6 November 2014

I like traveling to Europe because it reminds me that technology can combine with public services in ways we will not see in the U.S. for 30 years. Yesterday it was a magic button that made a taxi appear in seconds. Today it was a bit of wasted time that led to two discoveries, one of which was that I wasted time.

My business colleague and I, used to very long lines to get paper train tickets as well as some predictions about our cognitive abilities at 5:15 tomorrow morning, decided to swing by the local train station to get our airport express tickets. It turns out, they don't use them. You simply swipe your credit card at a small kiosk and—bam—you have a ticket good for six months.

In other words, we could have simply walked to the train station tomorrow morning, swiped our cards, and climbed aboard, without waiting in line and without getting a paper ticket.

My colleague, having noticed that coming in from the airport no one challenged us for our tickets, asked, "how does that even work?"

I thought about it and realized that in Norway, very few people steal public services. Also the conductors have handheld computers that can read credit cards and match them with pre-payments.

Imagine if Metra did that. It might be convenient. Or if Metra and the CTA could get their asses moving on making Ventra cards good for both. It might wind up being something like the Clipper Card in San Francisco, a transit card that works on most public transport.

The basic point is, how much lost productivity do we have in the U.S. because we under-fund public services to the point where they can't invest in cost-saving technology? And what will it take to get Americans to stop voting for people like Bruce Rauner, who is guaranteed to try starving Chicago-area public transport for four more years?

Thursday 6 November 2014 15:53:01 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Chicago | US | San Francisco | Travel | Work#
Wednesday 5 November 2014

Except for one minor problem, this has been a good trip. I'll have photos of the super-cute hotel probably this weekend. And the meeting today went surprisingly well, notwithstanding the 10 times I had to leave the room.*

One amazing thing happened: at the end of the meeting, we stopped by reception and asked about getting a taxi. The receptionist pushed a button on a small device, which promptly spat out a receipt, which she handed us. By the time we got outside the building, there was a taxi waiting. Amazing. Why don't we have these things in the U.S.?

* The minor problem seems to have come from a salad I ate Monday for lunch, and has has made it unlikely I'll get to experience any great dining here in Oslo. I am not pleased.

Wednesday 5 November 2014 18:34:52 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Work#
Tuesday 4 November 2014

It's coming up on 11:30 am back home, so it's 18:30 here in Oslo, and I'm finally settled and unpacked. The bed looks so tempting. I have to stay up until 9pm, I really do.

Photos and stuff eventually. Right now I really, really need a shower.

Tuesday 4 November 2014 18:27:54 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Travel | Work#
Monday 3 November 2014

Posting will be sporadic the next couple of days, to say the least. At least Norway is a more advanced country than ours, with ubiquitous WiFi, so there will be some new items here.

Monday 3 November 2014 16:46:12 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Travel | Work#
Saturday 1 November 2014

It's hard to overstate how much we live in a sci-fi world. In 24 hours, I've booked a trip to Oslo, Amazon has delivered an inexpensive guidebook, and Weather Underground has already forecast the weather through next weekend. (Oslo will have very similar weather to Chicago, owing in part to the record heat they're having in Europe recently.)

But where's my flying car?

Saturday 1 November 2014 15:07:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel | Work#
Friday 31 October 2014

Well, the travel ambiguity resolved just a couple of minutes ago, and I'm now booked to Oslo, Norway next week. We're doing a site visit and writing the technical diligence report before we land back in Chicago about a week from right now.

This is unusual, but not unprecedented. We do technical diligences all over the world. And it's not really a problem for me personally, because I'd already planned to be in Los Angeles next week anyway. It's just rather farther than California.

Oh, and our site visit Wednesday starts at 8:30 am local time—which is 1:30 am in Chicago. I'm going to start banking my sleep in just a few minutes...

Friday 31 October 2014 15:48:50 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel | Work#

I mentioned yesterday that I may travel next week for a technical diligence. We've got our team ready to travel Monday, we've got our flights picked out (but not bought), we've got our agenda and our hotel, but we haven't got a signed work order. If that doesn't come by noon today, it's going to be very difficult to do this work.

I don't actually mind last-minute travel orders. But hearing a week out "be ready to travel" and then not knowing for certain makes it hard to schedule anything else.

Updates as the situation warrants.

Friday 31 October 2014 09:40:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel | Work#
Thursday 30 October 2014

For the record, I hate Hartsfield-Jackson airport. More specifically, I hate the people who are responsible for signage here.

Mostly, they forget to put up the last sign in a sequence, both inside and outside the airport. Say there's a turn, followed by a straight path, then a Y-shaped fork, then another straight path to the destination. At ATL, they'll have a sign telling you which way to make the first turn, a sign along the straight path, and then...nothing.

I know now what lies along every fork at the airport.

In other news, the diligence effort for next week looks extremely likely to take off. But yesterday at this time, I'd have said I was 95% certain of going to L.A. next week. So, you know, consulting.

Thursday 30 October 2014 08:39:00 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Geography | Travel | Work#
Wednesday 29 October 2014

I did another technical diligence today. Obviously I can't comment on what company we looked at, why we looked at it, or even precisely where it is (though I can say I'm in Atlanta right now). I can say that this guy observed the whole process:

Also, I may have another diligence effort next week that is too cool to jinx by writing about. I'll find out in a couple of hours if it's going forward. Stay tuned.

Wednesday 29 October 2014 17:32:23 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Travel | Work#
Wednesday 15 October 2014

Ubiquitous WiFi is of the benefits of flying on American's new 737-800s, especially on 4-hour flights between the West Coast and Chicago. And early-morning flights have a large proportion of business travelers. So imagine the collective despair of all the laptop-toting worker bees on my flight this morning when the entire entertainment system (which includes WiFi) was dark and inert.

Then, suddenly, the entertainment system rose like Frankenstein's monster and a wild hope leapt into our hearts.

Yes! We can post to Facebook from this airplane.

Oh, and we can work on our PowerPoint presentations, too. Yay.

Wednesday 15 October 2014 11:32:41 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel | Work#
Tuesday 14 October 2014

I'm on my first of four flights over the next week. I expected the trip I'm on right now (to L.A.), but didn't have any confirmation until Friday. The trip Thursday, to the Ancestral Homeland, was planned in late August.

Despite the efficiency of getting from home through the TSA checkpoint at O'Hare in under 45 minutes, I still really would rather have slept another two hours this morning.

One other thing: the 7am flight is popular with business travelers, as evidenced by the 26 people on the upgrade waiting list. I have never seen an upgrade waiting list that long. The only people in first today either paid for their tickets or paid for lots of others to get Executive Platinum status. I don't anticipate—nor do I especially want—that level. But it would be nice, occasionally, to get bumped up when I have work (or serious napping) to do.

Time for more caffeine...

Tuesday 14 October 2014 08:31:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel | Work#
Monday 6 October 2014

I'm on another diligence effort in Indianapolis today, and possibly going back to L.A. tomorrow. Posting, therefore, will be light. Will this be the month the Daily Parker goes below 40 posts? No!

Monday 6 October 2014 09:08:33 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Travel | Work#
Wednesday 1 October 2014

The apotheosis of modern aviation's intersection with modern communications—in-flight internet service—is a tease sometimes.

For $50 a month, I get unlimited in-flight internet on American an U.S. Airways. And I'm on a brand-new 737-800, with a functioning seat-back entertainment unit that says I'm over south-central Utah.

However, because I planned to have in-flight internet on this flight, and the internet connection appears to have dropped completely, I now have no way to communicate with my team and therefore no way to finish the task I thought would take half an hour.

I hope this is temporary. Until it comes back, I will contemplate the amazing ability of the human mind to take miracles for granted.

Wednesday 1 October 2014 10:21:17 MDT (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Software | Travel | Work#
Tuesday 30 September 2014

Friday's fire at the Air Route Traffic Control Center outside Chicago caused massive disruptions in U.S. aviation, but the FAA handled it pretty well:

O'Hare is among the busiest airports in the world, and a main hub for United Airlines, one of the largest carriers. Hundreds of flights were cancelled, and tens of thousands of passengers delayed or stranded as the wave of flight disruptions spread beyond Chicago.

Yet by early this week, the situation was already improving. One of the FAA's most important facilities may have been badly damaged, but the agency quickly redeployed workers to other air traffic control centres. By Sunday, the agency was bragging that its controllers "safely managed about 60% of typical traffic...at O'Hare and over 75% at Midway." Those numbers continued to improve on Monday, and the FAA said it had "set a target" to return the damaged facility to full operations by October 13th.

My flight today (the one I'm on right now) got off the ground on time, with no problems. That's one of two advantages of early flights: the airplane has to be there the night before, which gives the airline plenty of time to notify passengers of cancellations or delays. (The other advantage is surface traffic. I got from my house, to O'Hare, and through security, in 48 minutes, which I think is a record for me.)

Also, I'm on one of American's brand-spanking-new 737-800s, and it's kind of cool. I wish the monitor at my seat showed something other than a hung "waiting for content to load" screen, but the larger bins, LED lighting, and new seats are all kind of cool.

Tuesday 30 September 2014 08:35:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Travel | Work#
Monday 22 September 2014

Poor Parker. I picked him up from boarding yesterday afternoon, and he had to go back again this morning. I've got a one-day trip to Pittsburgh early tomorrow morning. So not a lot of time at home.

Today's lighter at work than any last week, fortunately. Just prepping for tomorrow.

I'm hoping for a more regular, Chicago-based schedule once my project kicks off again.

Monday 22 September 2014 11:09:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Work#
Thursday 11 September 2014

We live in a wondrous age of travel. The mobile phone has revolutionized it: You can get travel alerts, boarding passes, taxis, delay notifications—everything you need.

Against that you have the state of the human brain at 5 in the morning.

According to my mobile phone, I actually woke up at 6. But I'm not in my home time zone. Nor have I exactly gotten enough sleep this week. So when I woke up at 6, I started executing the Leave Louisville Plan, which did not, unfortunately, include checking my mobile phone for flight delays.

It's only a one-hour delay. But it's an hour I could have stayed in bed.

Smart phone, dumb guy.

Thursday 11 September 2014 07:56:45 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Software | Travel | Work#
Tuesday 9 September 2014

West Monroe Partners (my employer, who have no editorial control over this blog, nor do they endorse anything I write here) has a thriving mergers and acquisitions practice. In order to provide appropriate advice to our private equity clients, we perform "diligences," which are thorough investigations of a company's strengths and weaknesses. Almost always, the target companies have technology assets that we evaluate as part of the diligence. Which is why I'm up at the crack of dawn in a hotel outside Phoenix.

Obviously I can't disclose anything about a diligence effort, or what kind of transaction is contemplated, or even what industry the company is in. In fact, sometimes I won't even know who the target is until I get there, as is the case today. So I am able to say nothing more about today's work than I'm in Arizona.

Still, the work is really interesting. We get pretty deep into the target's processes, methodologies, even sometimes their actual code and infrastructure. As a technology professional, it gives me exposure to different ways of doing things, especially what works and what doesn't. And it gets me out of the house for a day or two.

Of course, this will slow down posting a bit this week...

Tuesday 9 September 2014 06:38:02 MST (UTC-07:00)  |  | Software | Business | Travel | Work#
Sunday 7 September 2014

I haven't posted a lot this weekend because the weather has been too nice. Yesterday and today Chicago has had temperatures around 23°C, sunny skies, and gentle breezes. It's hard to stay inside, even with the windows open.

And in the evening, our annual cicadas are finally out. Talk about getting a nice buzz on a late-summer evening...

Yesterday Parker got more than two hours of walks; today he'll get at least an hour, though I'm likely to get a lot more as well. (My phone's pedometer says I got 13.3 km yesterday and only 3.9 km so far today.)

Posting might be slow this week because of an odd travel schedule, too. More on that later.

Sunday 7 September 2014 13:04:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather | Work#
Wednesday 20 August 2014

I'm waiting for Azure to provision a virtual machine for me, so I thought I'd solve a nagging annoyance.

Even though I travel a lot, I don't have a good carry-on-sized bag. My medium-sized travel bag, which has been around about ten years, goes into the hold of the airplane and sometimes I don't see it again for an hour after landing at my destination. This is especially irksome when I go on a 3-day business trip.

So I've been thinking about replacing my medium-sized bag with a smaller one. I've got it nailed down to two: the REI Wheely Beast Duffel and the Travelpro Luggage Crew 9. Both are about the same size, have good (independent) reviews, cost about $150, and would allow me to donate my current medium-sized travel bag to whomever wants it. (That last bit is because the bag actually belonged to an ex.)

This isn't the biggest decision I'll make all year, but the reduction in irritation it brings will be welcome, especially given the number of 3-day business trips I expect to take this fall.

Wednesday 20 August 2014 10:47:25 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel | Work#
Friday 15 August 2014

Two of my favorite authors, Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan, recently had a long phone conversation (which Harris transcribed) about Israel. I haven't finished reading it, but as I respect both men, I consider this a must-read.

Also, I'm back in Chicago, possibly for two whole weeks. That said, the Cleveland Client was pretty happy with our work and may move to the next phase, so I may be going back there soon.

Friday 15 August 2014 10:46:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | World | Travel | Work#
Wednesday 13 August 2014

Yep. As I feared, the Indians game last night got postponed, but not before the Tribe got ahead by one. And then:

In the moments shortly before the Tribe's game against the D-backs was postponed, [Cleveland players] Aviles, Kipnis and Chisenhall sprinted from the dugout, ran across the tarp and slid headfirst through the puddles and raindrops to the delight of the fans who remained. It was an entertaining ending to a game that was wiped out following a delay that lasted three hours and 40 minutes.

Cleveland's lone run came courtesy of an RBI double in the third inning by Kipnis, who no longer has that hit on his statistical record.

That may or may not have made him easily swayed by Aviles.

"I lost my double, so I was emotional. And an RBI," Kipnis said with a smirk. "I didn't know which way was up. I was easily influenced."

So, everything that we saw there yesterday...didn't count. Because in baseball, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes...it rains.

Regardless, thanks to the Cleveland Client for taking us to Progressive Field. And in no small irony, the tickets we used were from a previous rain-out, so if they want, the people who took us can go to the game today at 4:05 pm. Which—wait for it—might be rained out.

Wednesday 13 August 2014 08:51:56 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Baseball | Travel | Weather | Work#
Tuesday 12 August 2014

(Hm. That didn't quite work, did it?)

We're now in our final weekend (for the time being) in Cleveland, and another person from the client has offered to take us to another Indians game. Two things:

1. I hope they play. Tonight's forecast calls for thunderstorms and rain.

2. If they do play, I hope they do better than last week.

The Indians are at .500, dead-center in the league, the division, and in all of baseball. Tonight they're (scheduled) to play the Diamondbacks, who are just one game ahead of the Cubs and so not a particularly threatening opponent.

Come on, rain. Go away.

Tuesday 12 August 2014 13:05:18 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Baseball | Cubs | Travel | Work#
Saturday 9 August 2014

As a city boy, the country occasionally surprises me. The Cleveland client has an office well outside Cleveland in rural Geauga County where we've spent some time over the last few weeks. One of the senior guys there hunts. And this is how I got to taste fresh, smoked pheasant last week—complete with a warning about birdshot:

Saturday 9 August 2014 09:29:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Work#
Wednesday 6 August 2014

Score one for the client. We got to go to tonight's Indians game at Progressive Field. Nice seats, too.

Sadly, the Reds won 9-2, and we got rained on. And the Indians kind of played like Cubs.

Nice client, though.

Tuesday 5 August 2014 22:24:04 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Baseball | Travel | Work#
Tuesday 5 August 2014

Two housekeeping items.

Number 1: Walking to the airport. I finally found a path through the parking garage that looks intentionally constructed. It took me about a city block out of my way, but also prevented me getting run over by cars.

Number 2: Suburbistan dinner options. Thanks in part to Yelp, I wound up at Taza Lebanese Grill in Woodmere, Ohio. I'll write a Yelp review later this week. In sum: very good hummus, tasty kifteh, and bold-as-brass sparrows that actually took pita right off my table. Because honey sparrow don't care.

Tuesday 5 August 2014 08:37:15 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Work#
Monday 4 August 2014

We put in ridiculous hours last week on my Cleveland project so that today we only had to polish and sand a few spots to feel like we're in a good place for a client presentation first thing tomorrow. So tonight my PM is heading to a workout class and I'm having a good dinner.

To that end, though: what in the world did people do before Yelp?

I'll tell you what we did: we had lots of bad meals while traveling. Even out here in the buttskirts of Cleveland, Yelp has located at least three restaurants worth trying. And I will.

Meanwhile, walking distance from my hotel—that means, within this shopping center, because I'm surrounded on four sides by unwalkable roads—are Chipotle, Abuelos, Chik-fil-A, and Olive Garden. So: thank you, Yelp. I mean it.

Monday 4 August 2014 18:07:12 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Work#
Friday 25 July 2014

I'm back in Chicago today, but catching up on all the things I couldn't do from Cleveland. Regular posting should resume tomorrow.

Also, at 6 hours and 15 minutes to get from the client site to my house door-to-door, plus renting a car in Cleveland and having to schlepp bags hither and yon, I'm wondering if I should just drive next time.

Friday 25 July 2014 12:37:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel | Work#
Tuesday 22 July 2014

Business travel has certain built-in costs. All we business travelers really want in a hotel is a decent night's sleep. Alas, alas. Here's the review I just submitted to TripAdvisor about how one engineering decision can make someone want to leave and never come back:

I'm now in my second stay at the Aloft Beachwood in as many weeks. As a traveling professional, I often spend time in places without cute bistros or even sidewalks to put them on, where four nights out of seven I'm surrounded by decor I can't even describe to my gay friends without making them cry, where—just a second, I have to wave my arms in front of the thermostat.

Welcome to the Aloft, where the thermostats are programmed to destroy your sleep. I imagine this saves the hotel money. You may imagine that this choice stands proxy to innumerable others that will make you wish for the luxury of a Hyatt Place or Marriott Courtyard.

(Hold on, I have to throw something at the thermostat again.)

On my first night here, last Monday, I discovered that the hotel put motion sensors in the thermostats to save money. I discovered this because, last Monday, the A/C would turn off just as I was almost, but not quite, asleep. Like tonight, the room was too warm to turn the A/C off completely; but last Monday, I didn't discover this until Midnight, so I didn't jam the A/C down to 65 and stack pillows next to the desk.

But the staff here are great, every one of them. They're the only reason I'm giving this sleep-deprivation-chamber 3 stars. Everyone who works here has been helpful, good-natured, and truly concerned that between the A/C and the master light switch controlling all of the lights in the room (including the reading lamps), Aloft has some changes they need to make. And if I ever meet the person who made the decision to put 3-minute timers on the thermostats, I'm going to—

Dang. A/C stopped again.

I wish I were exaggerating. The hotel opened eight months ago, so they've had time to fix this. That means this is a deliberate engineering choice, like Clippy or the Ctrl-F fail in Outlook.

Also, I'm a big believer in second chances, and in travel loyalty programs. But if I can't get this solved to my satisfaction in the next hour (meaning, if I can't get my room cool enough that I can turn the A/C off so it doesn't keep waking me up), I'm out of here in the morning. There's a perfectly serviceable Marriott walking distance away.

Monday 21 July 2014 22:43:27 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Travel | Work#
Monday 14 July 2014

I didn't sleep terribly well last night because, let's face it, the Cleveland Airport Sheraton is neither my own house nor the Ritz-Carlton on Park Ave. It is, however, in Cleveland, where my current client is also.

There are essentially two options for traveling: fly out the night before your meetings, or the morning of your meetings. And for me it comes down to one thing: Is the trade-off for one night at home going to be getting up at 4:30am to get a 7am flight from O'Hare?

That's not a trade-off I'm likely to make without serious counter-incentives.

So, expect lighter-than-usual posting this week. I hope nothing interesting happens in U.S. politics while I'm here...

Monday 14 July 2014 08:48:27 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel | Work#
Thursday 26 June 2014

A Comcast installer showed up this morning within the appointed time frame, and in about an hour had taken my apartment the Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters from this:

To this:

I almost want to dance around singing "A Whole New World" but that would be very disturbing to my self image.

Instead I'll head into the office, getting in a little earlier than I expected, and come home to real Internet speeds. In fact, I think right now I'll watch something on YouTube just because I can.

Goodbye, AT&T. Hello Comcast, you gorgeous thing.

Thursday 26 June 2014 11:36:51 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Software | Cloud | Work#
Monday 23 June 2014

As mentioned earlier, today is the first day of my new job. That means orientation, setting up a computer, navigating paperwork, etc. Then tonight the Cubs play Cincinnati at Wrigley (weather permitting), so I'll probably go straight from work to the field.

So I'll probably be a little slow posting things this week.

Monday 23 June 2014 07:38:19 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs | Blogs | Work#
Friday 20 June 2014

It certainly felt like I was playing hooky this morning when I spent an hour here:

...looking at this:

New York weather today will be clear and 27°C. I'm about to check out of my hotel, take a subway downtown, and do some intense nothing at a cafe.

Friday 20 June 2014 09:54:17 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Travel | Work#
Monday 16 June 2014

I am here:

Actually, despite being content to read on most flights, and despite being without a full-time job until Monday, I actually have some work to do for my oldest surviving and most loyal client. If I'm lucky, Orlando has WiFi, and I can upload the changes I'm making right now. If not, I'll have to do it tomorrow night in London.

This will be an unusual trip for me. Because I didn't know for sure if I'd have this week off until just a few weeks ago, it was challenging to book this trip on miles. I wound up booking two one-way trips, with indirect routes and with the return trip originating in a different country than the outbound arrival city. So today I'm going to London's Gatwick airport via Orlando, then Wednesday I'm taking the Eurostar to Lille, France, Thursday on the TGV to Paris–De Gaulle thence New York's JFK, finally returning Friday, again through JFK.

This will be the first time I've traveled through Gatwick since 11 June 1992, my first visit ever to Europe. American no longer travels there, and British Airways doesn't fly many North American routes from there. In fact, my flight tonight will be on the rare 3-class 777—so rare that SeatGuru doesn't even have the right seating plan for it.

Other than this patch that my client needs this week, I plan to do nothing of value for the next three days except read and ingest. (Writing blog entries counts as "nothing of value.") Allons-y!

Monday 16 June 2014 16:59:55 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Aviation | London | Travel | Work#
Saturday 14 June 2014

As of yesterday around 4:15pm, I'm no longer with 10th Magnitude. I start a new role as an architect with West Monroe Partners' technology practice a week from Monday.

So, I'm technically unemployed for nine days. Which means I have lots of free time, right?

Well, later this morning I have a three-hour rehearsal for tomorrow's performance of Verdi's Requiem in Evanston. Tonight I'm going to see Dar Williams Honesty Room tour. And Monday I'm going to Europe for four days.

Maybe I should have scheduled a little down-time...

Saturday 14 June 2014 10:04:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Work#
Thursday 5 June 2014

Long-time readers know I rarely post directly about my personal life, but this one is kind of big.

After nearly three years, I'm moving from 10th Magnitude to take a new position as a .NET Architect with West Monroe Partners. I've learned a lot working with 10th, and I wish everyone there the best in the future.

I'll have more to say about this in the coming weeks. I'm excited about the change, and looking forward to some totally new challenges with WMP.

Thursday 5 June 2014 13:34:04 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Business | Work#
Monday 28 April 2014

Or, a few reasons why the "Send to Kindle" button helps me get through the day:

Monday 28 April 2014 12:35:41 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US | Travel | Work#
Monday 21 April 2014

I don't know how this little snippet of code got into a project at work (despite the temptation to look at the file's history):

Search = Search.Replace("Search…", "");

// Perform a search that depends on the Search member being an empty string
// Display the list of things you find

First, I can't fathom why the original developer made the search method dependent on a hard-coded string.

Second, as soon as the first user hit this code after switching her user profile to display Japanese, the search failed.

The fix was crushingly simple:

var localizedSearchPrompt = GetLocalizedString("SearchPrompt");
Search = Search.Replace(localizedSearchPrompt, string.Empty);

(The GetLocalizedString method in this sample is actually a stub for the code that gets the string in the current user's language.)

The moral of the story is: avoid hard-coded strings, just like you've been taught since you started programming.

Monday 21 April 2014 15:31:25 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Software | Work#
Tuesday 18 March 2014

At 8:16 this morning, a long-time client sent me an email saying that one of his customers couldn't was getting a strange bug in their scheduling application. They could see everything except for the tabbed UI control they needed to use. In other words, there was a hole in the screen where the data entry should have been.

Here's how the rest of the day went around this issue. It's the kind of thing that makes me proud to be an engineer, in the same way the guys who built Galloping Gertie were proud.

The whole story is past the jump...

Monday 17 March 2014 23:26:14 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business | Cloud | Security | Windows Azure | Work#
Saturday 1 March 2014

Parker, 14 weeksI'm David Braverman, this is my blog, and Parker is my 7½-year-old mutt. I last updated this About... page in September 2011, more than 1,300 posts back, so it's time for a refresh.

The Daily Parker is about:

  • Parker, my dog, whom I adopted on 1 September 2006.
  • Politics. I'm a moderate-lefty by international standards, which makes me a radical left-winger in today's United States.
  • The weather. I've operated a weather website for more than 13 years. That site deals with raw data and objective observations. Many weather posts also touch politics, given the political implications of addressing climate change, though happily we no longer have to do so under a president beholden to the oil industry.
  • Chicago (the greatest city in North America), and sometimes London, San Francisco, and the rest of the world.
  • Photography. I took tens of thousands of photos as a kid, then drifted away from making art until early 2011 when I finally got the first digital camera I've ever had whose photos were as good as film. That got me reading more, practicing more, and throwing more photos on the blog. In my initial burst of enthusiasm I posted a photo every day. I've pulled back from that a bit—it takes about 30 minutes to prep and post one of those puppies—but I'm still shooting and still learning.

I also write a lot of software, and will occasionally post about technology as well. I work for 10th Magnitude, a startup software consultancy in Chicago, I've got more than 20 years experience writing the stuff, and I continue to own a micro-sized software company. (I have an online resume, if you're curious.) I see a lot of code, and since I often get called in to projects in crisis, I see a lot of bad code, some of which may appear here.

I strive to write about these and other things with fluency and concision. "Fast, good, cheap: pick two" applies to writing as much as to any other creative process (cf: software). I hope to find an appropriate balance between the three, as streams of consciousness and literacy have always struggled against each other since the first blog twenty years ago.

If you like what you see here, you'll probably also like Andrew Sullivan, James Fallows, Josh Marshall, and Bruce Schneier. Even if you don't like my politics, you probably agree that everyone ought to read Strunk and White, and you probably have an opinion about the Oxford comma—punctuation de rigeur in my opinion.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy The Daily Parker.

Saturday 1 March 2014 14:27:44 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Baseball | Biking | Cubs | Geography | Kitchen Sink | London | Parker | Daily | Photography | Politics | US | World | Religion | Software | Blogs | Business | Cloud | Travel | Weather | Windows Azure | Work | Writing#
Thursday 17 October 2013

The Chicago technology scene is tight. I just had a meeting with a guy I worked with from 2003-2004. Back then, we were both consultants on a project with a local financial services company. Today he's CTO of the company that bought it—so, really, the same company. Apparently, they're still using software I wrote back then, too.

I love when these things happen.

This guy was also witness to my biggest-ever screw-up. (By "biggest" I mean "costliest.") I won't go into details, except to say that whenever I write a SQL delete statement today, I do this first:

-- DELETE
SELECT *
FROM MissionCriticalDataWorthMillionsOfDollars
WHERE ID = 12345

That way, I get to see exactly what rows will be deleted before committing to the delete. Also, even if I accidentally hit <F5> before verifying the WHERE clause, all it will do is select more rows than I expect.

You can fill in the rest of the story on your own.

Thursday 17 October 2013 11:19:27 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Software | Business | Security | Work#
Tuesday 8 October 2013

I have a new post up on the 10th Magnitude developers' blog.

Tuesday 8 October 2013 15:38:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Blogs | Cloud | Work#
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On this page....
Management Training
I do not know why people are staring at me
Whither the weekend?
Microsoft's impressive code drop
Oslo photos
Catching up
Uncomfortable flight delays
Life in an advanced nation
Oslo, day 2
Long day
Jeg drar nå for Norge
The modern world
Diligently pursuing my job
Consulting travails
Hartsfieeeeeeeld!
Another diligence, with help
Miracles sometimes cease
Nap time yet?
Interesting work if you can get it
Hey! My technological miracle stopped working for five minutes!
The FAA regroups after Aurora ARTCC fire
Back, for a day
Moments in travel derpitude; or, check your phone first
Cool part of my job
Not crickets; cicadas
In the bag
Harris and Sullivan talk about Gaza
Indians take the lead, and the skies open up
The rain in Ohio lands mainly on the bayou
Not a foul client
Unexpected baseball game
Follow up to yesterday
Home stretch in Cleveland
Meetings, meetings, meetings
My TripAdvisor review of the Aloft Beachwood in Ohio
Pro tip: business travel
Yes, that's an improvement (Comcast win!)
Going dark, or maybe a little dim, for a couple of days
A good day to skip work
This never gets old
Free time? Not yet
Quick personal update
Work overload link roundup
Head-scratching software bug
And the day started so well...
About this blog (v 4.2)
Small world
Integrating Multiple CRMs with One Azure Cloud Service (part 4)
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The Daily Parker +3295d 11h 02m
Parker's 9th birthday 206d 02h 11m
My next birthday 287d 06h 16m
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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All content Copyright ©2014 David Braverman.
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The Daily Parker by David Braverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License, excluding photographs, which may not be republished unless otherwise noted.
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