Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Blind Squirrel Theory… or Blind Pig Theory?

I have heard this saying thousands of times “Eventually a Blind Squirrel finds a nut.”  But even as I say this, I know the saying is wrong.  The original saying was even a blind pig finds a nut.  Blind Pig I remember the origin of when i learned the saying.  I was in high school, and was playing tennis.  I had to play a girl Sandy Stein.  All I heard was that she was going to beat me etc.  Well somehow I managed to beat her, and my friend Scott said “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut”  Yep it might be true, but for that day, I had a blind squirrel day.

I later heard Dennis Conner use the line “Eventually a Blind Squirrel finds and Acorn” was he was able to managed to win the 4th race against the Aussie’s winged keel boat in 1983.   Liberty (Dennis’s boat) won the first 2 races because of equipment failure against Australia II.  Australia easily one the 3rd race.  The forth race Liberty managed to win by under a minute, and led to Dennis Conner making the quote.  He knew they had a far superior boat.   It also led to Dennis Conner to saying sailing was on it way to becoming more of a science then an art.

There are dozens of other variations and stories I heard about blind squirrel/pig, and some compare the saying to a broken clock is right twice a day.  To me this is different, the blind squirrel gets lucky, the clock has the exact right combination, its just waiting for the world to come to it.    To me being right or victorious once does not mean much, but it definitely can make some interesting results.  What make march madness (for those who don’t know what it is, just google it ) so exciting is that anyone can beat anyone on any day.   My dad used to say this to me all the time.  And in March Madness, you do not need to be the better team, you just need to be the better team for that one game.  Sports that have the best of 7 series, its harder for a lessor team to win.

Being good or great means consistency.   Having a great game or great year is wonderful, but strive to be consistently good throughout your career.  This truly will make you the opposite of a blind squirrel.

My world famous disclaimer…  so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  I do moderate all comments, and try to remove anything that is not in the spirit of the site.  Thanks for reading

Sometimes you paint the fish, Sometimes you paint the car..

When I was in college i heard a story about one of my favorite cars, the Mako Shark corvette.  In particular how the paint job was finally agree upon.  You can see the story here  The jist of the story, Bill Mitchell the head of the team, wanted the car painted like the Shark he had on the wall, and the team tried.  Each time Bill would compare the fish to the paint job, and say it wasnt good enough.  At one point the team took the fish, painted the fish and the car the same.  When Bill went to compare the two, they were a perfect match, and he said “finally you got it…”

What does this mean, any time you are asked to compare two things, make sure you are changing the right thing.  Know your target, and sometimes you need to change your target.  One example was we once built a new system, and we were told that we need to compare it to the output of the old system.  For days we were struggling, but then we took a step back.  We looked at the code and calculations of the old system, and realized the calculation was wrong.  Getting the business to compare the old versus the new, would be useless when one is completely incorrect.   We finally were able to convince the business to start comparing it to what the answer should be, not the old data, and got back on track.

My world famous disclaimer…  so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  I do moderate all comments, and try to remove anything that is not in the spirit of the site.  Thanks for reading

 

Bruce Lee… And Defeat…

In April of 2017 my daughter was playing in the semi-finals to win a national championship for hockey in Michigan.  The team was tired, a short bench, and younger kids playing up in age group.  The survived the round robin, and won a quarterfinal game.  In the round robin game 2 we find ourselves down by 1, and managed to strike back.  In game 3 we were down 2, scored one late in the second, tied in the third, and won in over time.  But What does this have to do with Bruce Lee, we will get to that later.

Which leads us to the semi-final game.  Before the game, the coach was told that due to our record in the round robin, we had secured a bronze medal already (if we lost.)  In the semi-final game we found ourselves down by 2, how we got there is not material.  We had come back from down 2 before, so it should not have been the end.  But in between the 2nd and 3rd period during the ice cut, one of the players announced we were going to lose the game.   This was from one of the girls who was looked to as a leader.  Needless to say, other than 1-2 girls we came out flat and lost the game.

Once i heard the story I remember what Bruce Lee once said “Defeat is a state of mind; No one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.”    The game was not over, yet once there a player or two decided it was, there was no chance to win.  And even in defeat to those who quit didn’t see any victory.  For those who fought hard till the end, who left it all on the ice trying to win, celebrated the bronze and can look back on the success.  For those who quit, will never look back and have that enjoyment, as it they will be reminded of what they could have tried to do.

My daughter was incredibly upset at losing, but more upset of those who quit, and others that serve to place blame.  Within hours she realized how far the team came, and what a successful season it was, and no longer accepted it as a defeat, but a victory to how far they got.  She turned to find a way to celebrate the season instead of harping on the loss.  Even Kurt Warner said his biggest regret was after losing the Super Bowl with the Rams was not celebrating how far they had gone that year.   Here is hoping the team gets together to celebrate what they achieved and will not be defeated.

My world famous disclaimer…  so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  I do moderate all comments, and try to remove anything that is not in the spirit of the site.  Thanks for reading

Revisiting Plan your dive.. than dive your plan

One of my original posts has to do with planning…  Revisiting it and adding a little to it

When i was starting out in IT, I took a lot of classes to get certifications.  Most I realize were kinda dumb and not worth it in the long run.  In fact I think most of the certifications are for companies and software that no longer exists.  But back to the story.

When building and releasing applications the teacher used a metaphor of Diving.  Being a diving instructor as well as teaching IT, he stated I am going to teach you to plan your dive, then dive your plan.  He wanted us to make sure that our turnovers went smoothly, he taught us how to make sure we created install scripts, and tested them.  He wanted each step to be documented, and timed to the minute.   Once the scripts and the instructions were completed, we had planned our dive.   The next step, dive to the plan or execute the turnover.

This has stayed with me for over 20 years of building IT projects, and does help me get things done.  But sometimes you have to know when to “alter” your plans.  Each plan needs to come with some checkpoints.  These checkpoints have to be early than often.  You dont want to go 2-3 months into a project and realize the target has changed.  Do not be afraid to change course, but only change course after you have done some evaluation

My world famous disclaimer…  so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  I do moderate all comments, and try to remove anything that is not in the spirit of the site.  Thanks for reading.

Graham Cracker Theory

I forgot about this one when working on the book, which is funny as I use it often.  The Graham Cracker theory is very simple, if you are in the desert, and have not eaten for 2 days, and someone gives you a stale moldy graham cracker, it is the worlds best cracker you ever eaten.  I used this to describe the World Cup of hockey (as it really wasn’t the world cup – more just the world of NHL cup) and dozens of other situations.

In your personal life, you need to be aware of any situation, that you are not starving for something so much that you take it as the best thing in the world.  Understand and control your appetite.  I have heard the expression do not go shopping on an empty stomach, it is sorta of the same thing.  I have seen it time and time again, where people are making decisions just because they are starving for an answer.  Learn to be patient, and learn to understand what is good versus what just happens to be there.

My world famous disclaimer…  so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  Thanks for reading.

Why Management is so “stupid”….

I have seen this in every company I have been, though some of the senior manager were technically the brightest people I know, at some point they seem to be clueless.  Everyone underneath is always saying “why can’t they see X or Y” when its horribly going wrong.  And at the end of the day it turns out more to be ignorance versus brains.

Let start with most of the places I worked for them fathom themselves as a Meritocracy.  And managers try to promote and pay “key players.”  One thing about this is that anyone who is smart is only going to inform management of good things, and successes.  Anything going wrong they will try to hide and fix themselves in a vacuum.  Once fixed, they don’t let managers know as it is not that important.   Sometimes these hidden “gems” or issues are not fixed, and people move off or leave the projects, leave this technical debt for someone else.  Telling managers they made a mistake or there is an issue (whether it is their fault or not) managers often to shoot the messenger,

So this leads to often lower level people not telling their direct manager there is an issue.  Often until its “too late.”   Of course this goes for each level of management.  As each manager in a hierarchy going up gets less and less information.  Thus the senior management often is least in the know of what is wrong.   Hopefully there aren’t people telling management that “Every thing is perfect” who are outside the project, adding to the confusion.

Good senior management can not only see through the bull they is being thrown, but has gained the trust of his employees that he wont shoot the messenger.  In fact they reward people for digging in and finding issues before it causes a widespread problem.  Good management goes back to the phrase sunlight is the best disinfectant.  Its not easy to do, as often when someone gives you bad news, you don’t want to believe you are there, how you got there, and how much there is to fix, but in the end of the day, fixing the problems are key, and rewarding employees for success whether it is adding a new feature, or resolving a large problem creates a great working environment.

My world famous disclaimer…  so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  Thanks for reading.

Does your dog bite…

One of the funniest scenes ever was from the Pink Panther where Peter Sellers asks an innkeeper if his dog bites.   If you have not seen it, please watch and then come back, it will only take a minute.

Now that you laughed, you should have learned an important lesson.   When problem solving, are you asking the right questions? And are you solving the right problem?  Often I find developers never ask the right questions (good reason to have business analysts) they ask questions like “What do you want to see?” or “What do you do?” or “How do you do it?”   It is amazing how many times I am asked “why” and even I forgot to ask the user.   In fact there is a saying called “5 whys” which was developed  by Sakichi Toyoda for the Toyota Motor Corp.  It is also used by Six Sigma.

Asking why someone does something often gets to the root cause.  I am reminded of this a lot when taking my kids to the doctors when they have a cough.  They are usually given two medicines, one for the cough (the what) and often an antibiotic for the infection (the why.)   If you only solve the what, the root cause will persist, and the problem may never go away. In developing software, not solving the why gives the user not much better experience than he/she already has.

Why is not the only question to ask  But observe with your own eyes.  Sometimes you see what other have missed, and other times people are so “involved” with the symptoms they are missing the root cause.   Or in Peter Sellers case, he was making an assumption that the dog was the innkeepers, which apparently was wrong.  Don’t be afraid to ask anything you don’t know, and some things you do know to make sure.  Plenty of problems are solved simply by asking a question that may sound like every should know, but just haven’t asked.  Peter Sellers should have asked does this dog bite?   Anyway it gives me a great laugh to watch, and a reminder to make sure I ask the right questions, ask why over and over, and make sure I am solving the right problems.

My world famous disclaimer…  so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  Thanks for reading.

LrAu

 

 

Gorillas and Bananas

The Gorilla and Banana Story.  I use this story a lot at work, I do not remember when/where I heard it first, so I cannot attest to its origin, the earliest i can find is in this book.  I work in IT, and one of the challenges we face often is that people seem to do the same thing over and over, this can be the business or even other technology.  They often don’t know why, the history, nor if it really is needed anymore.  When asked why do you do it, they say “cause someone showed me…”  The Gorilla story as told to me by an old boss.  A researcher had 3 gorillas in a cage, in the center of the cage there was a ladder, and on top of the ladder was some bananas.  The gorillas of course climb the ladder, but the researcher would shoot them with a hose.  After a while they gave up going to get the bananas.  At that point, he took one gorilla out, and put a new gorilla in. The new gorilla tried to climb the ladder.  What did the other 2 gorillas do, they stopped him.  Not wanting him to get water sprayed at him.  Once the new gorilla gave up, the researcher switched another old gorilla with a 2nd new gorilla.  The 2nd new gorilla of course wanted to climb the ladder.  And again the 2 gorillas, one new, and one old tackled the new gorilla.  Once the 2nd new gorilla gave up, the researcher did it again.  He took the last of the gorillas who got sprayed with a hose out, and put in a 3rd new gorilla.  The new gorilla climbed up the ladder, and the two gorillas who never were sprayed do what.. Yes they tackled the new gorilla.  Why, because that way it has always been done.

Now the story has different version, I have heard 4 or 5 gorillas, i have heard monkeys instead of gorillas.   But whether the story is true or not (I am leaning towards not) the lesson is there.  Just because something is working, doesn’t mean it is broken.  Dig into, ask questions and don’t accept the answer “that is they way they always did it”

This will have to be the disclaimer, so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  Thanks for reading.

LrAu

As Mark Twain said… “Eat a frog first thing in the morning”

 

Mark Twain: Eat a frog first think in the morning.

 

I often forget to follow this simple piece of advice.  Everyone has dozens of things they hate doing, and the procrastinate doing them.   Its a common problem, everyone like doing the easy thing.  In fact what i see is people often go read emails first, or do some surfing of the web.   They really avoid the biggest problem.  I eat breakfast and start reading emails.  Now at the end of the day I write the list of to-do’s for the next day.  And usually I get that list completed.  Often though its by the end of the day.

What I should do, is prioritize by what I don’t want to do first, and do that first.  The expression eat a frog first think in the morning, is saying do the thing you hate most first.  If you get that done first, the rest of the day can only get better.   Later in the day when you review your to do list instead of looking at the thing that you still didn’t do you and dread doing, it will be done.  Before you go home, and you are making the list for tomorrows to do’s the list will be shorter by one frog.

I did this for the last two days (Thursday and Friday) and found myself a little relieved.  I have changed my calendar a little bit, the one thing being I know block some time to eat frog along with my breakfast.

I should be adding a disclaimer, so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  Thanks for reading.

LrAu

Very few see the work, and less the mistakes.

I know I have told this story a lot.  I have an artist friend, he was amazing.  There were some paintings he did that were of chrome that was sick.  I mean, you swear it was a photograph it was that good.  I was fortunate enough to go to his house once and hang out with him and his wife.  I got to see more of his work, one painting was more impressive than the next.

After a while, I told my friends wife, that she is married to an amazing painter.  Then I found the secret.  She walked me to the backyard to the shed.  In the shed, dozens of broken up canvases, and an ax that he had used to trash them.  Those were all the mistakes that he had made.  For each successful painting that I saw, there was probably more than one bad canvases.   For the first time I realized that artists (and really good ones) were not perfect.  In fact they need to practice and practice, they make mistakes, they are human.   Before that moment, I really thought that they would start a painting, and finish it.

It made me realize, than in my job, I don’t have to get it right first.  I just need to get it right.  When I design screen, or system architecture.  I ask for opinions from other team members. I use the feedback, and sometimes go back and scrap the original design, or just make some changes.   I do not worry that people don’t like my first attempt, as long as we get the last one right.  I even now have a presentation on how one application went from initial design to final application.   So now people see the work that went into building the final project.

Just a reminder, I am not doing this for profit,  this is not my day job, I am just doing a brain dump.  I don’t spend any money on marketing, design or images.  I welcome comments (but moderate) and all I ask for you is to enjoy it.

My world famous disclaimer…  so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  Thanks for reading.