Time Out

14 Aug
This weekend… was kind of down time for everyone.  Robin’s friend from Colorado is coming up on Tuesday so – had to get a few things going.  Like… the lawn mower.  Tip #2131 from the book "Zen and the Art of Lawn Mower Maintenance"… few things will cause engine problems like a five year old oil soaked air filter.
Replaced it – and the old girl was running like a champ after five years of storage.   I did about 1/3 of the yard – Haakon jumped in and got another 1/3 – the rest needs to be done after we get the apples up that are all over the front of the yard.  In the event of apocalypse, between the cherry trees, the apple trees, black berries and the peaches — we may starve, but we won’t have scurvy.  Until the apocalypse however, we’ve got enough apples on the ground that walking without breaking an ankle is just laughable.  I tried mowing over there for a bit – but the air smelled like a can of 2 year old green apple potpouri.  I’ll dig out the rake and a wheel barrow and get it next week.
In the mean time … we hit the beach near picnic point for – of all things a picnic.  Now I’ve been to the ocean and was well aware of the fact that it looks prettier than it smells.  But the rest of the clan got to experience the scent of drying kelp and fiddler crabs first hand. Robin found a Jellyfish along the beach and a larger crab discovered her Crocs.  So – she was the big winner of  the "She Sells Sea Shells…" award.  All in all – pretty dang good times.
You’d think that I would not have gotten much work done – but I took the slow time to do some light reading (you name it – Levenshtein, Hamming, Sellers, Daverau … and a dozen or so other names you’d need to be familiar with) – as a result I can now understand the basics of what our resident genius has been trying to get into my thick skull over the last month.  Now mind you, a lot of this has nothing to do directly with what we’re doing but it’s good background reading and I’m one of those old fashioned stubborn PMs that actually likes to be able to follow the calculations on the white boards. 
So my time off was mostly spent getting back up to speed with math skills I’d like to say I haven’t seen in a while – but let’s face it 95% of the population has never seen these and the other 5% is usually bluffing when they say they can actually understand them.
Bottom line is – I can now code prototypes with a better level of understanding than just "use the API provided".  When we’re done I can pretty well say we’ll have something no ones ever seen before and that’s really cool for me.  All the theory work in the world doesn’t excite me half so much as "can I use this stuff practically??", and for me before I’ll put my seal of approval on it – I want to know that the prototype I’m building works and why beyond an API with documentation.
Like the rule of the Lawn Mowers – sure it’s good to know that a Air Filter will fix it, but if the air filter hadn’t been the culprit I’m not afraid to strip the dang thing to bare parts and reassemble it if necessary to get things going.  And it’s not smart to field strip something if you don’t really know how it works.  I know some people do it but unlike some people I do know the differences between a Briggs and Stratton and a Tecumseh motor – how small engines work best – tolerances and so on.  I have done small engine repair professionally, and it’s a matter of pride in knowing those details to the degree I can safely hear an engine and say, "Air Filters plugged".
Programming, or any use of a computer in the IT industry should – to me anyway have that same level of skill applied if the end product is going to be given to the general populace to use.  For me – that means I should know enough about the code in the API – to at least be able to code up something functional on my own before I go trying to sell it to other groups for inclusion.  A PM needs to be part developer, part project manager, part politician, part futurologist and part end user to be any good at their job.  This is the philosophy that brought me to MS – and its one I’m glad to see is endorsed by them in something beyond just sales pitches to prospective recruits.
Anyway – final summation for the weekend – family time, geek time, and productive life time.  I even spent time with my son’s buddy Dave the Pool Duck. (Went in the pool of my own free will… like a normal person relaxin.)  Can’t get a lot better than this can it? 
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Posted by on August 14, 2006 in Life


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