Continuing the Growing up Geek Meme

I’ve been tagged by Brad Wilson to tell a bit about my geek childhood. Like most of you, I certainly had one 🙂

My earliest geek memories starts with watching Star Trek back in about 1972. It was Return of the Archons – the one where the zombies in robes wander around talking about “Being of the Body”. I remember being totally and completely fascinated by it, and being hooked on science fiction from that point on. That led me to finding the Heinlein juveniles, like Space Cadet, The Rolling Stones, Double Star, Citizen of the Galaxy and so on. I can honestly say that Heinlein’s attitudes about politics, religion, and life, as well as Spock’s general logical demeanor, were a huge influence on me back when I was somewhere near 10 or a bit younger.

A few years later, I learned about amateur radio somehow. I think it was a year or two before we moved from Des Moines, IA to St. Louis, MO. I remember buying The Amateur Radio Handbook, a highly technical book that was years too old for me — I must have been about 8 at the time. I wanted to get my ham license right then, immediately, so I started studying. Of course, electronic theory was a big part of the test, so I had to learn about stuff like Ohm’s Law. The only problem was that it kind of required algebra, and at 9, I hadn’t really learned that yet. So my 4th grade teachers, Mrs. Clark and Ms. Dean, sent me to the 5th grade teacher for algebra tutoring. I did finally get my license a couple of years later, after moving to St. Louis. A couple helpful hams in town taught me the last few bits I needed, including letting me practice Morse Code, and I passed my General test when I was 10 or 11. I was now WD0FDG 🙂 Over the next couple of years, I studied for the highest class license, the Amateur Extra, taking the test a couple of times, only to fail. On my last attempt, I missed the last two questions on the exam, pushing me over the limit by 1. Had I passed, I would have been one of the 10 youngest Extra class licensees in the country at that point 🙁

After that, I spent a lot of my time reading Heinlein’s more mature novels, talking on my radio, playing with electronics, playing violin, and other exciting activities for an early-teen boy.

I eventually did find sports and girls a few years later, but some things never change… I haven’t been on the radio on years, but I know I’ll get back to it some day. I did pick up amateur astronomy a few years ago, a similarly geeky habit, still read Heinlein religiously, if you’ll excuse the expression, and still watch Star Trek in all its forms. And now there is this computer thing that seems to eat up so much of my time 🙂

Well, that is the geek story of me. Hmmm, I guess I should tag a couple of other folks now… How about Cory Foy, Ade Miller, and Michael Feathers

(I’ll update this post with a picture of me as a kid once I get home!)

— bab

Top 10 Movie List — just for fun

My wife, Sharon, and I were talking about our top 10 movie list and what would be on it. The requirements were pretty simple. These had to be movies that we would generally stop what we were doing and watch together. Just because one of us like it wasn’t enough to make the list — it had to be both.

Here they, are in random order:

  • A Few Good Men
  • Field of Dreams
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Bull Durham
  • Remember the Titans
  • Top Gun
  • Back to the Future
  • Men In Black
  • Breakfast Club

No real point to this post, but I thought I’d share 🙂

— bab

How do you manage multiple project streams?

I’m looking for a tool of some sort that will allow me to manage all the different projects that I have going on. I currently have about 10 different efforts in which I’m involved, each of which has its own context and state. I find myself switching between these projects all the time, and it is difficult to keep each one’s current state in my  head.

Do you use a tool to let you manage things like this? Specifically, I’m looking for something that would let me track my  progress through a project, keep track of emails sent and received in some way, identify what the current state of a project is, what deliverables I have and when they’re do, what blockers I have and when I expect them to be cleared. I’d also like a single summary page that lists this information in some useful, rolled-up way.

Is there anything at all out there like this? Open source is best, OSX app second best, and anything else is still greatly appreciated.

— bab

I’ve started another blog

I’ve had a bunch of personal thoughts and ideas that I’ve wanted to post over time, but I’ve always refrained from posting them here. So, instead, I’ve created another blog. I’m not sure where I’m going to host it permanently, so I’m housing it temporarily on blogspot.

Check it out here if you’d like to read any of this. If you live in St. Louis, and especially the Rockwood School District, it is likely fairly relevant to you.

— bab

Another powershell quickie – removing all bin and obj directories beneath VS.Net projects

gci -recurse -include bin,obj . | ri -recurse

I was playing around with how to get this to work, and I couldn’t seem to figure out why these commands didn’t find the same locations to delete:

  • gci -recurse -include bin,obj .
  • ri -recurse -force -include bin,obj -whatif .

I finally got so baffled that I RTFMed remove-item, and there was my answer. In the fine print, nestled away in an example that did what I was looking for, and in the documentation for the recurse parameter was my answer…

-recurse <SwitchParameter>
Deletes the items in the specified locations and in all child items of the locations.

The Recurse parameter in this cmdlet does not work properly.

Ah ha! That’s when I went to the format that I finally settled on, and everything worked.

Another blog posting mostly written to help me remember how I solved this problem the next time I encounter it!

— bab

St. Louis Code Camp — huge success!

The St. Louis Code Camp was yesterday, and it went great. We had 72 people there, 14 talks, lots of good conversation, and we even gave away an xbox 360!

I’d like to thank everyone who volunteered, everyone who showed up, and all the speakers. A great time was had by all. The best news out of all of this is that people were practically demanding that we do this again in the fall!

So, I guess we’ll start tihs all over again in a few months. Anyone want to speak???

For those of you who spoke, please send me links to content I can link to on my blog ASAP.

— bab


Chock full of bloglets

Hi, All,

This entry should have something in it for everybody, since I have a bunch of little things to say.

  • Friday is my last day at patterns & practices. I want to thank everyone there who has put up with me for 2–1/2 years. The experiences I’ve had there and the friends I’ve made there will last me the rest of my life. And hopefully I’ve left something of myself behind that will help them in their future endeavors. And if you’re ever in doubt, guys, just ask yourself, WWBD
  • I will be speaking at TechEd this year, so if you’re going to be there, please look me up. My talk is on Building Your Own Enterprise Framework. I intend to talk about things I learned, both good and bad, during my experiences in building frame^h^h^h^h^hlibraries like EntLib. You can expect this talk to have an agile bent to it
  • I’m headed down to Atlanta next weekend for the FIRST Lego League National Championships. Linsey, my 12 year old daughter, was part of a team of 4 students who won the Missouri state championship. Now they’re off to compete at the Nationals in Atlanta next weekend. And then 2 weeks after that, they’re off to compete in the European championships in Eindhoven as one of 5 US teams invited to compete there.
  • I’m doing a webcast Thursday on Building your own Enterprise Library Design Time. I don’t have the registration link yet, but I’ll post it as soon as I do as a separate blog entry.
  • My friend John Sextro gave a talk at the St. Louis Extreme Programming Users Group last night on the refactoring Move Embellishment to Decorator. In his example, John did the main part of the refactoring in one giant leap. I challenged him to do it in smaller steps, so that he’d have working code throughout the exercise. John took me up on the challenge, and he blogged about how it turned out. Great job, John!
  • This is my 100th blog entry! I’ve been trying to save up for something extra special, but I don’t have time to do a big blog entry right now, and I couldn’t wait any longer to blog these things. So, Happy 100th Posting to Me!

— bab


Taking a new direction…

I am very pleased to announce that I have accepted a position as the Vice President of Engineering at Asynchrony Solutions, Inc., a leading agile development firm based in St. Louis, MO, effective May 1st, 2006. I’m thrilled to take this new position, as the spirit, principles, and values of Asynchrony very closely mirror my own — honesty, integrity, agility, openness, and all that other good stuff. In my new role, I will be responsible for helping align the agile project processes and practices with the larger business goals of the organization, developing an entirely new training division specializing in agile development and management practices, creating a .Net development practice, acting as a mentor to Asynchrony’s growing body of agile coaches, and managing several development projects for our clients.

I am unbelievably excited about this opportunity. I will be stepping away from day to day development tasks in part (not entirely!!!), but I will be responsible for helping to set the overall agile direction of the entire company. My goal is to publish as much as I can about our successes (and failures if allowed ), further the art of agile project management, and develop an effective way to sell defense contractors on agility wrapped inside their CMM-based processes. I truly want to be as transparent as I can about my activities, as I haven’t seen anywhere nearly enough published about this part of agility.

The one downside to this (and it is a tremendous downside) is that I’m going to have to leave the patterns & practices team at Microsoft. I have had an incredible 2–1/2 year run with them, I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from some outstanding people (Tom, Scott, Peter, Brad, EdJez, and now Jason and Don, plus too many more to mention), and I would not trade that experience for the entire world. Contrary to what outsiders might think, Microsoft is an incredible place to work — everyone you meet is consistently brilliant, helpful, and they all get it. Think what you may about the corporation Microsoft — they have amazing people. And mostly, I want to thank Jim Newkirk for having the faith in me to bring me into p&p all those many months ago, despite the objections of Scott and Naveen  I’ve known Jim for 10 years and consider him to be a very close friend, and I do thank him for all he’s done.

I do intend to keep up this blog, still writing about technical topics as I can, but I’ll also expand its topics to include more management-based learnings. I’m excited about this, and I can’t wait to start.

Yours truly,

Brian Button
V.P. of Engineering
Asynchrony Solutions, Inc.

Astronomy versus Lasik?

I’m interested in hearing from any astronomers out there who have had Lasik surgery. I’m tired of glasses and contacts just aren’t as comfortable as I might hope they would be. I know Sky and Telescope did a big article on this subject in September, 2005, and I’ve read it, but I’d love to hear from people who have actually had this done.

If you’ve had Lasik, and you’re an astronomer, I’d be very curious to know how it affected your vision at the eyepiece. I’ve heard stories of aberrations, glare, starbursts, and other anomalies, but firsthand stories always carry more weight. So my basic question is this — was your eyepiece vision affected to the extent that you enjoyment of the hobby was reduced? And if so, was your overall quality of life improved so much that it was worth it???

Thanks a bunch!

— bab


What do you all do with your old magazines?

I, like most of you, get a ton of magazines per month. I get Dr. Dobbs, MSDN, Software Developer, Runner’s World, Sky and Telescope, Infoworld, CRN, and so on. Do you save them? Do you clip certain articles out of them and pitch the rest? Do you just pitch the whole thing when you’re finished and rely on the web to find them for you again later?

I’m genuinely curious to find out. I’m drowning in magazines, and I want to find a way out!

— bab