Archive for August 2009

Carnegie Mellon Orientation

Just got back from a long weekend in Sunnyvale, CA for Carnegie Mellon’s incoming student orientation. It was a fun weekend – filled with seminars and workshops. Nancy went with me and spent the time visiting her family.

The orientation opened on Friday morning with class pictures and a “mixer” activity designed to help students get to know each other. You can see photos and videos of the various activities on CMU Silicon Valley’s Facebook page.

Friday featured a teamwork exercise that required each time to build a castle out of Lego bricks according to a specification. Each time had to have a project manager, QA manager, warehouse manager, construction engineer, and process analyst. Our team did reasonably well although we had a costly integration mistake at the end (one of our towers was rotated 90 degrees which caused all bricks in the base of the tower to be counted errors).

The completed castle

The completed castle

Saturday started off with a guest speaker – the CEO of CollabNet. I thought he did a great job as he discussed various aspects of managing a business. It was just the right blend of business/tech insights for our mixed group of software engineers and software managers. On Saturday evening Nancy and I attended a barbecue for staff and students. I chuckled a bit as Nancy interacted with the CMU folks who were an interesting combination of professors and tech geeks with the occasional spouse or NASA researcher thrown in for good measure. I don’t think Nancy has experienced that level of nerd conversation before – we discussed the relative difficulties of Linear Algebra or Differential Equations, the merits of the band Journey, and whether or not Software Management students should practice managing a team of Software Engineering students. When one of the guys started talking about “stochastics” I could see Nancy mentally deciding that it was time to go. Look on the bright side Nancy, at least we didn’t subject you to a discussion of Captain Kirk vs. Captain Picard!.

On Sunday morning we had to participate in presentation workshops. I signed up for the executive presentation workshop where we had two minutes to pitch a team of executives on a particular product, service, request for funding, etc. We then received feedback from the execs on our pitch as well as a rating by our peers. I felt I did reasonably well although I fumbled the close a bit because I felt pressed for time and struggled to find a nice crisp ending to the pitch. The feedback from the execs was brutal but necessary if I’m going to improve. I got a pretty good rating from my peers so overall I was pleased.

We flew back home yesterday in time to get the kids dinner and put them to bed. It was a fun yet tiring weekend. Now I launch straight into classwork, assignments, and team meetings. It will be pretty much a non-stop process for the next two years including summers. I just hope I can hang on for the ride.

Contrasts

Driving to work today I saw a license plate holder that said the following:

I see it, I want it, I throw a fit, and I get it

While obviously intended to be funny, the sentiment struck me as a glorification of selfishness and childishness and that one would not consider putting such a sentiment on one’s license plate holder unless there was an underlying current of truth behind it. Contrast the sentiment on the vehichle with that expressed by Paul in 1st Corinthians:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things 1 Corinthians 13:11.

There is also a commercial playing on the local radio lately that encourages people to go out and buy things, anything, if they can afford it. It states that by buying things you’re helping your neighbors. Again, contrast that sentiment of consumerism and instant gratification with this counsel on provident living from Elder Hales in the latest General Conference:

When faced with the choice to buy, consume, or engage in worldly things and activities, we all need to learn to say to one another, “We can’t afford it, even though we want it!” or “We can afford it, but we don’t need it—and we really don’t even want it!”

Obviously, all economic activity is based on mutual exchange between parties (i.e., buying/selling/trading) and there isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t “buy” something (heat for our homes, water, energy, etc.). Thus, the counsel to focus on needs and not on wants, even if one can afford it, need not be construed as “go be a hermit, spin your own yarn, and never purchasing anything from anyone”. That being said, the contrasts between sentiments produced by the philosophies of men and sentiments produced by scripture and modern prophets are still stark.

Beets

Today was the day I decided to break in my new pressure canner by doing beets. We planted two rows of beets and most of the seeds sprouted so we had tons. We started off using the beets by making Borscht and beet salad. They were really good but we grew tired of beets pretty quick so Brian told me to just go ahead and pick the rest of the beets and can them. So this past Thursday I went and plucked all the beets from the garden, laid them on the grass and cut off the greens and cleaned them off good with the hose. I then filled a bucket of water and put the beets in it and left it over night in the garage. I would have brought them inside and prepared them further, but by the time I was done picking and cleaning them I was behind on all my other chores that day so I left them for later. I decided to can them today because I did not feel like doing any of the other chores around the house that needed my attention. So here are a few pictures that show the fruits of my labors.

beetcanning2

beet canning3

Beetcanning1

A Little Light Reading

I just got the reading/course material for classes this fall. I have two classes: Elements of Software Management and Metrics for Software Managers. The books for the Metrics class are:

Balancing Agility and Discipline: A Guide for the Perplexed
Agile Management for Software Engineering: Applying the Theory of Constraints for Business Results

The books for the Elements of Software Management class are:

Strategic Market Management
Finance for Managers
Beyond Software Architecture: Creating and Sustaining Winning Solutions
Strategic Management

It looks like I’ll have plenty of bedside reading for the next 4 months. Fortunately, I’m desperately interested in all of these topics so that should make the load seem a little lighter.