Monday, November 28, 2016

Women in Coding Article

"For girls, you cannot be what you cannot see," says Reshma Saujani...

I think this is tough, because it has to be hard to measure in less than a 10 year cycle. I wouldn't think you'd see results, or even a trend, until a new cycle of students makes it to college and the career pool. There are some sharp...extremely sharp...developers, who happen to be women, on my team, and I talk to more of them in the new grad and intern college screenings every year. Anecdotal of course. I don't keep analytics. And there is usually a strong showing both in the Python classes I teach - although coworkers might send their female offspring more often given it's a safe environment and we're predominantly tech oriented - and the Hour of Code I mentor (and there, it might be that it's semi-mandatory participation, so everyone attends).   I'm hoping by the time my daughter makes it to the career pool STEM has corrected itself (with a lot of effort from proponents and mentors) in terms of women in tech.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


This is pretty cool.  Luna Lee playing Another Brick in the Wall on a gayageum via Laughing Squid.  Per Wikipedia a gayageum has 12-21 strings, up to 25, and 21 is common in North Korea.  You can get a 25-stringer on Amazon for about $4,000.  And $63.25 in shipping.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Bug to the Head

I was bicycling last week, just before dusk, when a bug hit me in the glasses so hard it actually caused me to rock my head back a bit.  It was hard to see out of one lens after that and I thought it was just a smudge. But when I took the glasses off to clean them, the bug mark wouldn't come out.  It's etched into the plastic. Must have been a beetle.  Glad I wear the glasses as often as I do, although I'm disappointed to lose my lenses.  Fortunately, Ming helped me pick out a set on RAGBRAI that came with four additional sets of lenses (although two are fairly clear), so I have an immediate backup.

Monday, August 08, 2016

This is not a RAGBRAI Post! - Intertech 25th Anniversary

Last week (Wednesday, August 3) I attended Intertech's 25th Anniversary   Peculiarly, two of my coworkers were there as were their wives.  The Twin Cities tech industry is mighty small.  I asked Sanjay if one of the two women at the end of the row in the rather short skirts was his wife and he laughed because his wife told him about the two women I was asking about.  In my defense, they looked like interns (young), so I was wondering exactly how young Sanjay's wife was.

Presentations included Jim Karg on IoT.  Lonnie Weaver-Johnson on Organization Benefits from Agile and Scrum Adoption.  And Tom Salonek, who runs Intertech, on Delivering High Performance Using Employee Engagement.  There was a little bit of good information in each presentation, although they were at a higher level then I tend to like.

Jim referred to the Gartner 2015 Hype Cycle, which I always forget exists.  It worries me that hybrid cloud computing and machine learning are over the hump given thsoe are spaces I'm working in lately.  Those others things - I'm not even close to worrying about them.
It was a good presentation on battery tracking in golf carts.  I wasn't quite sure how you get enough golf carts under IoT to make it worthwhile, but perhaps golf cart purchasing/selling or storage is more centralized than I understand.

Weaver-Johnson was pretty basic Agile/Scrum.  We've been Agile-ish for going on 3+ years with Hussman's help, so it's old hat, even if we're constantly refining our process.  Amusingly, I had a group that went back to our old testing-signs-off-on-stories process despite quality having had a more free reign on one of my teams.  All stories, even 0 points/days get a quality review/signoff and estimate.  Maybe that's more agile.  It's hard to say.  But I know the team likes it and is more efficient using the process and they talk more, so those better communication chains are what really matter.

Weaver-Johnson referred to the Cuckoo Effect.  It's a variation on our culture training where we're taught to look for how to make something work, not what's wrong with the idea.  I don't think it's a good metaphor - because when cuckoos invade your nest, there's a positive side, baby cuckoo birds.

I liked Salonek's presentation best.  He has a new book, The 100: Building Blocks for Business Leadership.

I haven't read it yet because I'm knee deep in: Analytics, a Foundation Novel I started on RAGBRAI, a Saunders book I took to RAGBRAI but haven't finished, the end of Disrupted, and Elastic, Angular2, Python, D3, AWS, Eureka, and Spinnaker documentation.  And a little bit of ANTLR and other nonsense.  It's queued up.  I'll get there very soon.

He talked quite a bit about culture fit for new hires.  Intertech does a lot of screening and looks at Key Result Areas (very specific goals) and TTI Success Insights (DISC based - you know my opinion on  those sorts of things - they're talking tools, not science), Tom noted that as far as pay was concerned, aim for slightly above market and make sure pay isn't an issue.  That's exactly what Dan Pink says in Drive.  It's all the more compelling given I just had another employee leave to do contracting.

Enjoyable.  I'm glad I stayed for the presentations and free beer and I won 4-5 days of training at Intertech while I was there which I'm jazzed about.  I can't decide if I'm more interested in Angular 2 or .NET Core.  I think .NET core, although the description still says there's a focus on MVC which bores me to tears.  Well...not quite tears.  But I don't want to learn more MVC.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

RAGBRAI 2016 (LXIV) Table of Contents

RAGBRAI 2016 - full series...RAGBRAI XLIV (how many RAGBRAIs is that so far, Ming?):

RAGBRAI Packing: (to be updated in the next day or two with duct tape, phone vs. camera (watch your storage), tent pole kit, $/day [inflation], plastic ties, potentially a black marker, take a picture of the town name despite gps (for now) - e.g. a bit of advice as well...

RAGBRAI - Day 7 - Washington to Muscatine - (49.7 miles, 1314 feet of climb) - End of Ride (+420)

Day 7, the last day.  Washington to Muscatine.  Our goal was to finish before noon.  The only downside to that was we beat the truck set up in again and Ming didn't get to experience what the end of the ride is like when there's a crush of thousands (or at least hundreds at a time) of people trying to dip their tire in the river.  That's something to be experienced, if only once.

One more picture of packing in the dark - I think we were on the road by 5:15 a.m.on the last day.  Adam looks like he's packed fissionable materials.  He had a new tent this time, so he didn't have to worry about trying to pack up a jumbled collection of busted poles.  Ming, however, had a fiberglass pole tent that didn't survive.  He was generally patching it together with duct tape and sticks until Tun loaned him a pole repair kit.  At which point Adam remembered he had a kit as well, he'd just been reserving it in case his own pole broke before loaning it to Ming (actually, he forgot he had it).

My sandals.  Pictured solely to remember they gave their life.  During the trek to the laundromat, one of them lost the grip on the bottom.  Only an issue on the slippery morning baggage truck ramp and when trying to walk evenly on two shoes of different heights.  I pulled the bottom off the other one.  And then it's strap broke.  However, I could velcro the straps together which kept them functional for an hour or two at a time before re-jiggering. Farewell, sweet princes.  May you rest in the Washington landfill peaceably.

Time lapse photo of a bunch of riders.  Adam makes an appearance and there's a fun rider who gives me the peace sign and a big smile.  Made me wish I'd had her on regular speed filming.  That was someone who was certainly happy to have done the ride.

The Columbus Junction swinging bridge.

Ming on the bridge.  He accused me of shaking it on purpose.

Another view of the bridge - total strangers.

Here's me crossing the bridge with some wobbling only to find Wisconsonites on the other side.

More bridge video, just because I had it.  Filming was sort of dubious - I was worried I'd tip over a side or drop my phone.  Those people in clipped shoes crossing the bridge - very daring.

When we pulled into Muscatine, this was taped to the ground  Must be a bicycling team - I just hadn't heard of them before.  Yep - looked 'em up.  25 members.  But no one I know.  I was familiar with Team Roadkill and Team Loon.

End of the ride - tire dip in the Mississippi River.

Ming took this nice action shot of me within a few dozen feet of the finish line.

The three of us dipping our tires.

The luggage as Jen came to pick us up.  I didn't take a picture of it, but my bag, which I've had since RAGBRAI 2007, took a beating getting dumped off the truck each evening.  This reminded me of it because it was one of the first bags on that morning, but we had a hard time finding it as it had rolled down the time scale.  I used Adam's duct tape liberally to patch up four big new holes, not including one that ripped through the handle area and bent the handle.  It lived a good life.

And that's all he wrote.  2016 RAGBRAI come and gone.  Ming's looking at another non-Iowa location next year.  I'm conflicted.  I like the every-town-has-something nature of RAGBRAI and the 8500 week riders + day riders aspect.  You're never far from trouble.  You're never far from a fix.  You're never far from food.  You're never far from another bicyclist, even if you lose track of your own team.  I figure in another few years another friend will ask me to go again and I'll reassess then.  In the meantime I'm going to take a look at one of the mountain rides and get a taste of something different.

RAGBRAI - Day 6 - Ottumwa to Washington - 68.5 miles, 2541 feet of climb)

Day 6, Ottumwa to Washington, was a relatively easy day of riding despite being a little longer and steeper than the previous day.  I think the difference was that we'd crossed into the decreasing elevation zone (so you had more descent than ascent), we were stronger after 6 days, the weather was a bit better, and there were plenty of strong riders to hang with.  I spent a lot of time with two Team Cuisine riders who were averaging pretty much 20 mph spot on.  Everytime I dropped below 20 I had to speed up to catch them, so I knew that was about their pace.  Even uphill they seldom dropped below 16 mph.  When I pulled in later, Ming was only a minute or two behind me and Adam, although we missed him, wasn't too far behind.  This was a really nice day of bicycling, and what I look forward to on RAGBRAI, even if the best pie was the day before.  I sort of wished it was longer, but in retrospect once that sun kicked in, it was pretty darn hot again.  We managed to beat a lot of the heat to hang out in coffee shops and the theater.

Ming getting ready at Ottumwa in the morning.  He looks like a chupacabra, ready to devour your bicycle, just like the real chupacabra devours goats.

The baggage truck in Ottumwa.  I think this really captures how early we were usually awake and packed.  And we were never the first.  Plenty of folks clacking tent poles and the baggage truck dropping it's ramp before we were awake.  The worst part about leaving this early (in addition to not having lights on my bike) was that we sometimes got lost trying to find the route because there wasn't anyone to follow.  Ottumwa was a good example - we ended up routing around the north (?) end of the campground instead of taking the trail out like intended.  Only added a mile.  We got better and better at find the route signs, but it took some practice.

Packing in the dark.  My flashlight died - I was extremely happy my battery for charging my phone had a built in light so I didn't have to use my phone to see.  That's always an invitation to break it.

We stopped for breakfast at a turn off that wasn't obviously the stop.  Ming and I had to turn around and pedal back.  This is where I learned about the history of Chris Cakes and automatic pancake cooking.  It was threatening rain at this point, but we never got wet.

My least favorite stop.  There was no free water just "at your will" payment for water and watermelon and eggs.  Admittedly, you could pay $0, but that seems a bit of a hit to the high school kids running the stop.  I heard a few other folks talking about people filling their water bottles from plastic bottles of water later in the ride.  No one appreciated it.  If you look toward the back of the picture, you can catch a guy peeing in the corn field.  There were many father's taking pictures of their kids wandering out of the cornfield after doing their business.  I can only imagine those show up in graduation slide shows later in life.

Another picture of the town without water.  There wasn't much left to this town - everything seemed to be shuttered.  Reminded me of Donnybrook where my maternal grandfather lived.  When Ming and I biked there several years ago it was in a similar state of little left to see.

Adam pondering the next stretch.

We stopped in another town for pie.  It wasn't too long after breakfast, so I didn't think I was going to have any pie, but after Ming disappeared to the bathroom for over thirty minutes, it became too tempting.  Turned out he was talking with a former FBI hostage negotiator at a table nearby.

West Chester.  The town we all sprinted into I mentioned earlier.  Cool use of existing materials to create something unique.  My primary concern here was that there was a confederate flag proudly on display outside of town.  I wanted to ask the rootbeer float stand I visited whether they were affiliated as I wasn't keen on my cash going to racists.

A good photo of the wire bicycle parking setup in West Chester that's mimicked in almost every town.  It doesn't work so well for my sport bike because of the handlebar configuration.  But if you've got a roadbike, it's great.

Ming, running over a goat in West Chester, in line with the chupacabra comment earlier.  He had a root beer float as well.  It was a very good find at this point on the ride.

Washington was a nice town.  Probably my favorite stop, despite the two confederate flags we saw on this leg and a bunch of All Lives Matter nonsense.  I say nonsense because it's easy to discount the specific theme of "our lives matter too" when your state is something like 97.5% white and RAGBRAI seems to be even less diverse (anecdotal - could be more diverse).  And seriously, confederate flags in Iowa?  You're not that f-ing far south despite being in Southern Iowa.  The only thing I could intuit is that you were disappointed you never made slaves harvest corn.

They had a pig theme going on.  Here's the central park where they had entertainment and all the vendor stands.  There's a coffee shop on that corner up there where I hung out waiting for Adam and Ming because they went to the fancy showers and I used the closest possible shower to the tents.  You'll see that later.  But to continue my ALM theme (sorry, a bit of politics - I didn't start it), while I was waiting in the coffee shop two riders got into a heated argument about BLM and ALM.  The ALM guy was wearing a watermelon bike helmet, so I think he lost some credibility.  It got very loud until the BLM leaning rider said simply "I'm not going to talk to you anymore" at which point watermelon head grumbled "You've ruined my whole day and my whole ride.  This day is no longer fun for me."'re an idiot.  You don't want your whole ride ruined, don't start the political crap in the cafe with other riders (and he did start it).

During the entertainment later, one of the musicians on stage also took some time to explain All Lives Matter.  That ended how long I was sticking around.  Tun came up to us somewhat incredulous they'd do that during the ride.  Ming, meanwhile, was being creepy and looking for a geocache in the middle of a square crowded with people.

While we were leaving the coffee shop - excellent smoothies by the way and they stayed open after their normal hours to serve RAGBRAI riders - Adam pointed out that the "woman in panties" he'd seen during the ride was inside.  Ming and I turned around and pretended we were looking for things we'd left at the table so we could see who he was talking about.  I think they were more custom shorts than panties, but they could definitely be classified that way.  Frills and colorful fabric and short.  Ming said she was too tall for him which led to a joke about him bouncing off her underboob.  It was  funny thing to imagine.

But, prior to the politics, and afterwards, we had a good time in Washington.  For lunch, we hit one of the local restaurants.  There were actually two Chinese restaurants in town.  Ming was sure we needed to hit the buffet.  Adam and I wanted the big shiny non-buffet restaurant.  Ming gave in and admitted our choice wasn't too bad as far as Chinese food went.

And we got to see the other 85 minutes or so of Tarzan after seeing the last 5 earlier in the week.  The theater was pretty cool, having been in operation something like 119 years.  Looked a bit like the Pantages or State Theater inside with a balcony.  I took a few power naps during Tarzan.  It really wasn't very good.

Back at the campsite, they underestimated the amount of sewage a bunch of riders could produce.  The smaller shower house on the fairgrounds reeked of sewage until this team came in to figure out how to drain it all away.  You can get a baked potato down there in the lighted area - mmm....baked potato with sewage smell.

Other than that hiccup, the fairgrounds were very nice.  This is some local entertainment that did covers of upbeat female-centric country songs.  I sat there for quite a while listening to them.  They got their start on RAGBRAI a few years earlier.

It was a small crowd, so better than the crowded venue downtown.  But just as bad dancing.

I've RAGBRAI-ed in fair grounds before.  People take every opportunity to find some shade, including dropping tent in barns and animal stalls.  I'll intersperse a few examples further down.

The distance to bathroom was surprising.  I think it was almost 1/3 of a mile (or more).  I went twice during the night and was worried I might not make it.  There was a Hyvee nearby where we had dinner (we actually ate something healthy) and during the night Ming lost his way to the bathroom  and ended up at Hyvee instead.  But having to trek all the way to the porta potties did allow me to find the Spam Bus, which I've managed to find almost every year I've been on RAGBRAI.

This is where I took my shower.  No pictures from inside, but I can describe it.  It's where you'd wash the cattle (or horses).  A big cement area with nozzles and a truck of hot water hooked up.  There's a men's side and a women's side separated by black plastic.  Someone noted that this was the first time they'd seen volunteers having to watch for drones.  Not for the men's side, but for the women's side, as there was no roof on the cattle washing space (go figure, cows don't mind being naked in public).  Never occurred to me that tech might cause an issue for a traditional RAGBRAI showering option.

See...Cattle Barn.  Although we weren't under the awning, but out back.  I was a little worried about what sort of cooties I might pick up through my feet standing in an area frequented by livestock.  I guess we'll know in a few months.

More of their pig theme.  This was out back of the showers.  I'm not sure who they expected to see it.  I was only there because I was looking for the charging station.

More tents and bicycles in livestock pens.

And a few more.

Looks like their going to show their bike like some sort of livestock being judged.

One of the haybale pigs near the fairground entertainment.  Haybales are extensively used as art during RAGBRAI.  I didn't take a photo, but Ming has one, of the giant bear one town/group built out of like 5 or 6 haybales.

Washington Fairground central with light up bicycle art.

Spinny!  Reminded me of the Valentine's Day card Kyle and I built in High School out of 4x8s with flashing lights.  Maybe we could start careers as professional RAGBRAI decorators.

I'm not sure if it was because a lot of people were squirreled away in the livestock pens and elsewhere, but RAGBRAI seemed pretty sparse by Washington.  In Ottumwa and elsewhere the tents were packed.  One day someone even put their tent floor on Adam's stakes trying to wedge into a nice spot.  And around the high school and college earlier, all shaded spots were full and tents were everywhere.  This doesn't look typical at all.  Perhaps a lot of riders were from Ottumwa and just wrapped it up there.  I talked to a co-worker who rode with a team out of Muscatine and he said several people in his group wrapped up early due to heat and hills.  Or maybe people were just worried the next day was going to be raining.  There were flash flood warnings not too far from us the evening we were in Washington.

Larger Panorama View

A view from the direction of Hyvee.  You can't even see the porta potties in this picture.  They're way down the hill past that building on the right.

I can't remember whether it was this day, or another one.  As Ming and Adam say, the days start to flow together a bit.  But while I was riding I saw a woman with a Spring Valley jersey on.  I talked to her a while about Almanzo (I told Ming my tale of how far behind he was on the last hill keeps getting longer and longer - his time up the hill that is, not the time I tell the tale) and it turned out she was on the ride with her husband and they run the True Value Hardware in Spring Valley.  She'd had the jerseys custom made for the two of them.  Her husband sits on the board for Almanzo.  I also met a rider who's a teacher not too far from my sister's house (although not for my nieces) who had moved to Minnesota from Iowa. I like the license plates on many rider's bicycles that give you a starting point to talk to them about where they're from, why they're riding, how many rides they've done, and what they do off the roads of Iowa.

RAGBRAI - Day 5 - Centerville to Ottumwa - 57.6 miles, 1999 feet of climb)

ADDENDUM: I can't believe I forgot to add this, but Adam reminded me I left out one of the best parts of RAGBRAI Day 5.  While we were at the Ottumwa bridge, a nice couple on a golf cart offered to give the three of us a ride back to the camp site.  We piled onto the suicide seat and....the golf cart just sat there, the front wheels almost lifting off the ground.  With dozens of people watching, the cart slowly moved forward about a foot.  Then another.  Then just wouldn't do it anymore, much to the amusement of a few who shouted encouragement and advice.  That's what precipitated our long walk back past the McDonalds.

Day 5, Centerville to Ottumwa.  Other than the last day, this may have been our fastest day of cycling.  We flew through the route and ended up getting to the campground in Ottumwa ahead of the truck.  We spent a lot of time just hanging out where we intended to camp and talking to Tun about his $8000+ loaner bike.

Here's Ming using the porta potty in Rathbun.  These seems obviously to be color coded for men and women.  Sexist porta porties.  Ming defied color convention and used the pink one as Adam was already occupying blue.  A following day one of the stops had multi-colored porta potties - much more PC.

This is the Rathbun Dam on Rathbun Lake.  Beautiful.  But I couldn't get cyclists not to pedal in front of me and stop to take photos as they didn't want someone in their photo taking a picture.  Sort of dickish behavior. I was tempted to just wander ahead of this guy, but then I decided if I ever need a better picture I can just crop him out.  A beautiful place to catch the sunrise.  Reminded me a bit of the really long bridge Adam and I crossed during the 2013 RAGBRAI.

We stopped in Moravia for breakfast.  It was a nice little town.

Ming and I were excited to have something different for breakfast and the biscuits and gravy at the church with fruit was delicious.  Adam wasn't having it - he went for lighter fare.

My geotags aren't doing this service because this probably wasn't Troy, IA. I think it was Unionville.  This is the pie spread that greeted us.  One of the ladies had made something like 113 or 130 pies leading up to RAGBRAI in the last 24 hours.  $2 for pie.  $1 for ice cream.  Endless coffee was free.  An amazing set up - fruit pies, cream pies...I wish I hadn't eaten that heavy breakfast and could have done seconds.  Ming later opined that he should have just eaten half of two slices instead of a whole slice.

Look at it.  It is beautiful. That's the RAGBRAI pie experience you hope to find.

The campgrounds in Ottuma were excellent.  Huge park with old trees near a loop in the river.  Cool.  Quiet (comparatively).  Shady.  So nice compared to the open hot fields we usually inhabited.  After our tents were set up and we found a shower truck, we told Tun we'd meet him at the local BBQ place.  He biked over there - we chose to use the shuttle.  In retrospect, waiting 30-some minutes (or more) for the shuttle to go about a mile wasn't the best plan.  By the time we got to the BBQ joint, Tun had eaten his food.  But he stayed to chat while we ate.  And if we hadn't taken the shuttle Ming wouldn't have struck up his friendship with the Hyvee lady and we wouldn't have seen the guy who sat down at the shuttle stop in his bibs with a whole large pizza, and folded two slices in half like a sandwich and ate them, rinse and repeat, until he had one piece left he gave away.  That was a big appetite.

After BBQ we headed over to the local theater.  Ming and Adam went to the Star Trek flick I'd already seen, so I went to Lights Out, which was boring (and reminded me of a story in my George Saunder's book, just longer and with less capable acting). Lot of cyclists came in to use the A/C.  One guy came in speaking another language and the teenage ticket guy started talking to him in an Eastern language.  Apparently the guy was Polish and the ticket taker knew Russian and Ukrainian.  They talked, remarked how stupid each other sounded in their own language selection, and then got down to figuring out for the price of a ticket how the Polish guy could optimize his movie-watching experience so he didn't have to leave the theater for the next six hours.  Some very good natured theater staff.

This was a bigger town, so they had bigger entertainment.  On their bridge, Rick Springfield performed later.  We didn't catch that, but we wandered around, shopped for t-shirts for kids (found Eryn a tie dye one to replace the Elroy Sparta one she had as a little kid), found some food, and watch the entertainment prior to Rick.

The number of people downtown was fairly sparse, but if you got over to the bridge it was pretty solidly packed.

The pre-Springfield show was a bunch of folks dressed up like famous entertainers (Adam had to point out to me that the woman in the skirt was Katy Perry).  We watched them and all the "dancers" (quotes intended for irony) on a big screen right near where they were playing.  I think we could have turned around to see them if the food vendors hadn't been behind us.  At one point one of the guys sitting near us said (paraphrase), "Is it just me, or have they been playing the same song for the last 20 minutes?"  I don't think he was wrong - they were sort of jamming and dancing for a long time at one point.

We took the long path back when we got routed around the river and stopped at a McDonald's for a cone and fries.  They were out of cones, so I settled for more soda than any human should drink just to rehydrate.  A lady on RAGBRAI stopped at our table and asked why we were eating at McDonald's given all the RAGBRAI options.  She was there for a cone as well, so our goals were similar.  We told her we generally hit the churches and stands or local places.  We saw her again a day or two later and noted we were eating local.  There were a lot of people we saw multiple times - Dan K from Minneapolis who pulled a trailer behind him every morning, the McDonald's Lady, the aeroshell bike guy, MBA Trek woman, Ms. San Antonio, Ms Panties (Adam's nickname), the not-dressed-as-much-as-other-riders-and-very-tan pair (of women), some of the Cuisine riders, Tun (almost every day - he finished near the front of the pack)...sort of like being in a new town for a week.