Sunday, December 31, 2006

writing prose or code, it's the same.....

I just read that Donald Murray died - I was one of those readers not in his age group who really enjoyed his writing. I had been too busy to read his columns lately, but linked to his recent columns - this one captures how I feel about coding. Coding feeds my innate insecurity - just as he says, every time I sit down to a problem, I'm never sure I can solve it. As a corollary, if I already know how to solve it when I sit down to code it, I'm bored before I begin and the task is infinitely harder. Sometimes people think they're doing favors to programmers when they tell them how to do something, but giving someone the answer ahead of time spoils the fun.

I echo his wish for us in 2007 - may we all find something we can't do. That's the only way we know we're achieving the most we can.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


I was as they say "bone tired" before Christmas. I was working hard and getting less and less effective because I needed a break. And getting more and more stubborn about not taking one. But finally the lack of Christmas shopping reached a sufficiently perilous state that I finally started vacation halfway through the Thursday before Christmas. Right up to Christmas Eve, I was very busily shopping.

Christmas morning, the boys actually slept til 9. All six were home, which was very rare, and we had a very nice day and dinner all together. I can't say I've accomplished all the things I wanted to since Christmas - I haven't played the viola every day, I haven't spent enough time on the elliptical machine, but I have slept in, baked some cookies, reached the yoke of the Icelandic sweater I'm knitting, and feel much better than I did a week ago.

In the first few days of vacation, my work would try to push through my mind, but I was able to push it back. Even Lotusphere could be put on hold - I know roughly what I want to say and demo, and while there's still lots to do, I'm not panicked (yet).

I remember Pete telling me once right after we shipped R5 that he needed to take a break so coding was fun again. That really rang true for me this week as coding had ceased to be fun before Christmas.

I haven't rebooted my laptop since vacation began. There in the task bar is my development environment. An hour or so ago, I maximized it, just to look at something quickly to put a thought to rest.... Before I knew it, I had a file checked out, a new file created, and here I am in the thick of it again.

I think it's fun again :-)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

still a wii little boy....

The Wii I promised to my son on his birthday 3 days after its launch finally arrived yesterday (after persistent pursuit, I finally managed to find one online at retail price!) He's 19 now, but has definitely grown up with Nintendo, and this was his one wish for his birthday. It was late, but quite anxiously awaited.

He was so excited, it was really fun to see. He had his first Wii related injury within 5 minutes playing the tennis game - he managed to scrape his knuckles on the ceiling... He was still up when we folded for the night, and when we got up this morning, we found him curled up on the couch, the Wii remote dropped out of his hand. All I could think of was when he was four, refusing to nap, but finally falling asleep in place in a similar pose.

It was nice to see the little boy inside the gruff teenager. Good to know he's still in there.

Friday, December 01, 2006

the music is on again

My mother noticed long ago that she could tell how I was doing by watching how much I listened to music. In a particularly dark period, my stereo went unconnected for two years. That is so not me, that she knew that things were wrong.

I used to code to music most of the time. In the past year, with more meetings in my life, I have gotten out of the habit of turning on the music when I get those precious chances to code.

Today I remembered... And at the end of the day, my code was working, and I felt better and less fragmented. The music is going to be staying on!

Monday, November 27, 2006

cyber monday thoughts.....

I spent more than a bit of time on a variety of websites in desperate search for a Nintendo wii for my son's birthday this past weekend. That effort was fruitless, but I also found the UI of many of these sites was driving me out of my mind.

There are some great applications of mouseover effects, but it's being overdone, and not in a considered manner. I'm pretty darn good with a mouse, but I often found a popup obscuring what I was aiming at in the website's zeal to provide me with dynamic content. I'd hate to think how my mother (who frequently calls with "I lost my toolbar" kinds of mouse accidents) would navigate these sites.

Just because we *can* do something technically doesn't mean we should do it everywhere!

Friday, November 24, 2006

this was unexpected...

You have a classic style, but you're up-to-date with the latest technology. You're ambitious, competitive, and you love to win. Performance, precision, and prestige - you're one of the elite,and you know it.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


I am so glad I'm not a manager. Managing engineers (particularly those who are ex-quantum mechanics) must be very difficult. When will this task be done? Unless the task is as meaningless as a string change, the honest answer always has a probably in it. And I am particularly difficult to pin down - Heisenberg made a strong impression on me.

But as a product nears completion, you can feel a shift. The tasks are done, and you continue to polish til it is ready to go out the door, but part of the energy starts shifting towards the next release. As work begins in earnest on the next release, it becomes an annoyance to go work on the product that is done in your mind, but not yet in deed.

That's a good thing - we release a more stable product if development actually slows down before delivery, and that's how we build software. But a side effect of that is that when the product actually ships, it's more like a whimper to the engineer. When a product ships now, I sometimes feel like I've missed that moment of birth - it's an oh yeah, it's out the door now, rather than the excitement of being currently focused on that product and being completely overjoyed with its shipment. A release should still end with a bang, not a whimper!

Sunday, October 29, 2006


When I first heard the news about the wind causing possible power outages this weekend, I turned into a flurry of activity. I did the dishes at midnight rather than wait til morning, started a load of laundry, filled some pitchers of water (we're on a well), and nested. All Saturday, a part of me was in wait while the power stayed on through heavy rain and wind.

Today the power went out for a couple of hours because a tree fell on wires on our street. When the power went out, my initial reaction was excitement - it feels like an adventure (at least if it's only for a few hours!) We made tea over a camp stove, and I walked away from the computer with a burst of energy that I didn't know was pending, and started sweeping the stairs, and when I finished that, I tackled the top of my dresser, which was beginning to look like a leaning tower of clothing. I heard the power come back on, turned on a light to be sure, but because I wasn't ready for it yet, I turned the light back off and kept going.

The world is different without electricity - and in some ways, it's better. I think when the power went out, my energy burst was a refocusing of the energy that usually gets focused on electronic devices. It's neat to do something different with that energy - to feel a different part of life.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

poor blueberry

I wish I had just stopped him from driving today. It's a very rainy, stormy day. Steven was running just a quick errand.... I didn't want him to go out in the storm, but at 18 you have to start letting them go.

Too soon after he left the house, the phone rang, and he had been in an accident. Probably not his fault, and no one hurt on either side. Except Blueberry again (and the other car looked worse than Blueberry).

I could drive her home, so I think she's fixable. When she's fixed, I think he has to drive a car that means less to me. I have a newer car, but Blueberry is like that old comfy Aerosole shoe that fits just right.... And they don't make Camry wagons anymore, so she is truly irreplaceable.

I feel like my priorities are all messed up. I am grateful no one was hurt, especially Steven. I am fortunate that my biggest worry is my car - I haven't lost sight of that, and I feel guilty to be so upset over a car. But upset I will be til I drive her home in one piece again.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Gym class, revisited

I was never good at gym. I dreaded gym day throughout grade school and high school. I just was not interested enough in any of the activities to actually care enough to put any effort into them. And I felt not very good at it, which gave me another reason not to put effort into it. Even now, when looking at my kids' report cards, I just don't care about their gym grades - it's not academic so it's just not important to me.

I have not had a lot more luck showing Batman. He got two more points at a second show, but in the shows since, I've had trouble getting him to stand still when he's supposed to... Today he won his puppy class, but when it came time to go back in the ring with the winners of the other classes, he just didn't want to cooperate.

A lot of this is in my own head, I think. I'm feeling like I'm not good at this, so I don't approach the task with confidence. I feel far more confident in front of 6000 people with my computer at Lotusphere than I do with Batman in a show ring with only 10-2o people watching. Just like I would have far preferred to go to any class other than gym at school...

I have to show him again on Thursday - I'm going to try a new approach - confidence. He's my dog, I'm entitled to walk him wherever I want. If I want him to stand, he will. I want him to do well, and he needs me to be confident to do that.

And if that doesn't work, I can always retreat to my laptop.

Friday, October 06, 2006

we did it!

Midweek this week, I had a good solid case of post-partum depression.

This would be why:

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I'll join the fray

Pete and Dave have posted their top ten favorite songs. This is actually very hard to do and I think the list may vary greatly with my current mood. But at this snapshot of time, my top ten are:

James Taylor - Gaia
James Taylor - In My Mind I'm Goin' to Carolina
Ellis Paul - Conversation with a Ghost
Ellis Paul - Weightless
Dar Williams - Playing to the Firmament
John Gorka - Flying Red Horse
John Gorka - Morningside
Eric Clapton - Layla
Byrds - Chestnut Mare
Tom Rush - No Regrets
Carly Simon - Bound for the Island

Yes, that's 11. I thought of the Carly Simon song after I was done, but couldn't take any other off the list. If it works for Spinal Tap, I can do it, too. The order is only slightly significant - if I heard any of those, the words coming out of my mouth when I heard it would be "that's my favorite song!"

Ask me tomorrow and you may well get a different list. As I look at that list, many (but not all) of those songs are associated with different events in my life. Odd to think of music as a soundtrack to a life, but it's true :-)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

this is probably not a good thing

I grew up in Buffalo, which may be the target of many jokes, but it has a number of distinctive foods. Most everyone is familiar with Buffalo wings, which were certainly a staple when I went to school. But there are a number of other foods that I grew up with that I just can't get here and still crave. Weber's Mustard (, Ted's hot dogs (, real pizza, beef on kummelweck

I'm not alone in these cravings - when I was last in Buffalo, I stopped at Ted's Hot Dogs, and the woman ahead of me in line was born in Buffalo, now lived in Colorado, and her first stop in the area was at Ted's. I understand completely.

One of my stronger cravings is for milk chocolate sponge candy ( There are some lame imitations in New England that they call Krackle. I stopped at a local candy store this weekend (Hebert's). I saw a display of candy bars and blinked. The label didn't say Hebert's, it said *Fowler's*. In disbelief, I read the label. Made in Buffalo, NY. All self control gone, I went up to the counter and asked if they were going to carry the sponge in the winter (it can't be made in warm weather). He said yes, as soon as it was cold enough to make it, it would be there. So will I.

I need to start dieting now to make up for some anticipated chocolate sins.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

the shape of things to come

I've been meaning to post this since I got back from Advisor... We've made some good progress on the Domino Designer in Eclipse front. This is not the final form, but thought I'd share the progress, because it's pretty exciting. What you're seeing is a real Eclipse navigator, showing the design elements in a Notes nsf, and the Eclipse navigator is active and opening up the Notes editors for the listed design elements. It will get prettier in time :-)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

My dog show debut....

Batman was entered in the Cape Cod KC show in Falmouth today - for both his and my first time in the ring. We'd been to two handling classes together, but I still felt pretty unprepared about where to be at what point in time, etc. Still, he got his bath this morning, and we braved the butterflies in my stomach, and made our way to Falmouth. On the way down, he chewed up his show leash (he's just under ten months old, and still will chew anything in reach!), which seemed like a bad omen. So our first task was to tie as much of the old lead together as we could so we could actually leave the car, walk him around, find the concessions, and find a new show lead. Luckily we did, and we walked around a bit more to get the feel of the new lead.

We found our way to the ring with the official armband number (no small feat if you don't know where you are supposed to get them!). Way too soon, it was our turn to go in.... It was obvious to all concerned I was new at this, but the judge was kind, and told me what to do when. Batman did better than I did - and actually left with four ribbons.... First place, Winners, Best of Winners, and Best of Opposite Sex. Best of Breed was his mom, Georgia, who fortunately didn't get too bothered by her son's antics.

I think this show thing could be fun :-)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Nine years....

I've been in my current office for nine years. When we first moved into the Westford 5 building on July 21, 1997 (I know this because I just found a little compass commemorating that move!), I was briefly in an upstairs office as the downstairs area was not yet complete. By fall, I was in my first floor office, and have been the first and only occupant since. On Wednesday, I am moving upstairs to an office near my team. It will be good to be near the team, but I am oh so sad and feeling very sentimental. My husband says that he can't imagine feeling this way about an office, but when I think back on nine years....

I did my R5 Domino Designer work here, with Pete on one side of me, and Ned on the other. R5 was a long march, and I spent many late nights here (this was before the days of laptop working at home). There's a champagne glass on my shelf from the day R5 shipped. V6 Domino Designer was built here, too, with a few new and continuing team members. Next to the R5 champagne glass is another (somewhat smaller) glass for the V6 ship. Then V7, too, until I decided to spread my wings into Workplace Designer. And on my corkboard, the six calendar pages of my children's birthdays that have been in each of my offices since I returned from each maternity leave.

I have to clean today - I am a bit of a packrat, and when choosing between doing some code or cleaning, the choice has always been easy. But today I have to make up for the lost cleaning time. The archaeology is going to send me right down memory lane, I'm sure there will be some tears shed. It's been a good nine years - I hope the next office brings me as much luck in finding good work and good people to do it with. I know for now I'm fine - we have a great team and great work to do, but what will the world be like if I stay in my next office nine years? I know in the fall of 1997 I probably couldn't even carry on a conversation with my 2006 technical self, how will we all be different in 2015?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

sweet sixteen

Being home the first week of school I imagined lots of meaningful conversations with my children as they arrived home from school to find freshly baked cookies and a clean kitchen. I should have known better.

My youngest is 14, home of the monosyllabic response. "Do you have a favorite class yet?" "No." "Do you have a least favorite class yet?" "No." He exits the kitchen, heading towards the computer to IM his friends, at least carrying a cookie.

It's not like this is the first time I've had a fourteen year old. Each time I've been saddened and worried by the lack of interaction. Somewhere between 15 and 16 we'll get back to full sentences, and I hate to wish time away, but I can't wait.

losing the battle

I'm on vacation this week. The first week of school always seems to be a busy week, and I was desperately tired from the summer and from not taking any vacation yet this year, so this is the week. Since I don't know how to just stop, and because my house has suffered from my uber-attention to work, my vacation goals are somewhat mundane - find the kitchen. With a little luck, paint it from the orange that was here when we bought the house (and that I said I would immediately change because I hated it).

After two days, the kitchen counters had been excavated, remaining treasures sorted, and things were looking good. Starting to think of what color it *should* be.

This morning I came down to the kitchen to find on the counter: two small rocks.

I fear I will soon forget again what these counters look like....

Monday, August 28, 2006

Eight miles high (almost)

JetBlue took me up over 40000 feet on the way to Phoenix - don't think I've ever been that far up before! Smooth ride, made all the better by my demo starting to work somewhere over New Mexico.

Went to Mike Rhodin's and Ron Sebastian's keynote this morning - very good summary of where we're going with really cool demos (I LOVE Ron's iTunes for Notes!) Exciting stuff.

While I proclaimed I just wasn't going to go outside in the 100+ heat here in Phoenix, I missed the sky - and walked around a bit outside the hotel. A hummingbird flew by which was very cool. I love the Phoenix area - the land is so different, starkly beautiful. And the sky. The sky is amazing.

And tomorrow after the presentations are over, I am going to go for a walk!

Friday, August 25, 2006

I've done it again

I've gotten absorbed by work. I haven't posted here in a few weeks, and I have been working frenetically - Workplace Designer is in crunch mode, and next week I am going to present both Workplace Designer (with Chris) and Domino Designer at the Advisor Conference in Phoenix. Lots of stuff to show in both products, and I always try to squeeze just a little more than is possible...

So I'm working hard on both the presentations and my day job of contributing to the product... When I'm deep into code, I feel like I'm gone - and those around me feel that way too. I love to code - I love that deep absorption that happens when at full throttle trying to get something done (can anyone say adrenalin junkie?) In that state, I forget how to balance, forget to actually look at the sky when I'm outside. This state that I love - it isn't good for me (at least when it continues for weeks as it has).

After Advisor, I am going to take a vacation. I am going to look at the sky, walk in the sand, and try to remember how to slow down.

But I do have some cool things to show at Advisor :-)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Folk Festival Musings

I'm not at the festival, but hearing snippets of it on WMVY - and keep hearing "Dunkin Donuts Newport Folk Festival."

Can we track the baby boomer's "evolution" through the sponsorship of the Newport Folk Festival? The folk festival began with the boomers, and seems to be morphing with them.

1959-1971, 1986-7 - no sponsorship
1988-2000 - Ben & Jerry's
2001 - Newport Creamery
2002-2004 - Apple & Eve juice
2005-2006 - Dunkin Donuts

The generation that first spurned corporate sponsorship, then accepted sponsorship from a new age company like Ben & Jerry's is now sponsored by Dunkin Donuts.

I was too young to be a hippie - by the time I got to college, people were starting to major in business of all things. But I can't help feeling like we've sold out.

And yes, I have stopped at Dunkin Donuts, too.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

softwear engineering

I spelled that the way I meant that :-)

I've been knitting since I was nine. I love to knit, and find it very relaxing. I knit socks, sweaters, Aran knits, and am currently attempting an Icelandic pattern I brought home from Iceland.

It occurred to me that it is not all that surprising that I like both knitting and programming. In many ways, knitting is very similar to programming - knitting is executing a design in yarn; programming is executing a design in a particular language. The designs are written down (patterns/specs). In both, it is best to know what you are setting out to do ahead of time, and the end result is hopefully useful. And it is the more experienced knitters/programmers who write the designs.

The similarities run deeper still. The state of mind I find myself in when knitting is similar to that I experience from coding, and I get similar rewards from looking at the finished product.

Perhaps there are things to be learned from knitters in programming. Imagine if the creation of a sweater was handled as a software product. Assignments would be doled out - this team member does the cuffs of the sleeves, another does the rest of the sleeves, another the back, another the front, another would be in charge of putting it together, and yet another fixing any issues that arose, and there would be someone in charge making sure it all hung together in the end.

But as a knitter, I would never ever pick up anyone else's sweater and start working on it. The knitting project is a very personal endeavor. Everyone's stitch is unique - if I started knitting in the middle of a sleeve on someone else's sweater, the sleeve would have a discontinuity. The other knitter would be highly annoyed. And the end result would be the less for it.

Today's software projects are usually way too large for a single person to build themselves, but the lessons to be learned from the craftsman are still important. The differences in knitters' stitches are a very visual clue, but the software product does reflect the programmers who put it together, too. When dividing up a project, we need to make sure that each programmer has something they can look at and say "I did that!" and feel the craftsman's pride in accomplishment. And we need to manage the boundaries between different areas of code to ensure that they fit together seamlessly (pun not intended, it just happened...) Those seams affect the feel of the product.

I still remember one of the best things anyone ever said to me.... Speaking of ViP, a senior Lotus architect told me that he could see me in the product. That is one of the best things anyone can tell an engineer. When we divide up a software project, we need to make sure that every engineer can hear that!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

memory lane

As Carly Simon would say, "I'm home again, in my own narrow bed..."

I'm in Buffalo, and spent the day in the hospital in which I was born. My mom was there for a very different reason today, but she is now recovering from successful heart surgery. A scary day, but a good one since it went well.

It's odd being in Buffalo. I've forgotten so much, at least superficially. Yet when I missed a turn on the way home from the hospital, I maneuvered my way through some old shortcuts I used to know. Turn off the brain, trust the instincts, and found my way home. When I got home, I walked around the block. The names on the houses are different, but the houses are labelled in my head just as they were when I left home for grad school. I didn't recognize a soul, and I'm sure those who saw me had no idea I lived here for 21 years.

Tomorrow I am going to stop by Canisius on my way to the hospital. I've forgotten this part of me, this part that never touched a computer and had very different dreams. I certainly love my chosen path, and couldn't abandon it, but wonder how to synthesize in the rest of me. Those parts of me are as alive as the ingrained memories of the paths home.

Life is fragile, as seeing my mom connected to a host of monitors reminds me. We can't afford to let any bit of ourselves be neglected - maybe I do need to start that novel!

Friday, July 07, 2006

I was just bringing my son to an island violin maker to see if my old violin needed any work before he started taking lessons with it. It was my grandfather's violin, so is a bit fragile, but fortunately it just needed a string. The violin maker is an amazing craftsman, based here on the island. In telling the tale of my violin, I mentioned that when I was little, I had really wanted to play cello, but with the wisdom only parents understand (sometimes), was told that I should start with the violin (which I believe had more to do with the fact that we already had a violin ready for me to use). I took lessons for about three years, but never felt I had anything to say with a violin, and when I was a teenager, moved on to guitar. In the past few years, though, I've fallen in love with the tone of the viola. But I don't have time to play and much of what I once knew about playing the violin has been overwritten pretty thoroughly.

But then he showed me a viola he had made, gave it to me, and said try it.

It's home with me now for a trial. I have much to remember and yet to learn, but I think it's going to be fun :-)

Monday, July 03, 2006

at least I wasn't barefoot

It's been a pretty quiet morning. No (scheduled) work today, slept in a bit, did the dishes, let the dogs run in and out of the house to the fenced yard freely for a bit, sat down at the computer *well, it *is* here...), felt something soft under my sandal... Looked, piece of dark cloth? What has Batman found to chew now.... No, not cloth. A very wet but completely intact (but probably scared to death) baby mouse or rabbit. It seemed a bit dark for a mouse, but it may just have been wet.

And five spaniel faces looking at me, none confessing.

I'm closing the door to the outdoors before they find the rest of them.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


I thought it was a quiet, rainy Saturday. I was doing a bit of code, and glanced out the window to let a thought percolate. What I saw should not have been there.

A white clumber spaniel, strolling around the front yard. Not in the fenced back yard.

The house seems strangely quiet. If Wendy is loose, who else is? It's very quiet...

All five dogs have escaped the yard. I don't remember putting them outside. OK, breathe, one at a time. Get Wendy in the house. I put on a hat and go to the door. It's wide open, well at least now I know how they got out. Call Wendy. Go back to the door (chased dogs tend to run) and wait trying to breathe. Wendy appears at the door, with Batman. Not sure where he was, but that's two down, three to go.

Downstairs, the boys have become aware. Georgia walked by the other door, and they let her in that way.

That just leaves Woody and Zoe, brother and sister, partners in crime. Call, no pitter patter of soppy, wet feet.

OK, outside again, two leashes in hand, and a hat to try to keep some of the downpour off me. Walk up the driveway calling - notice two cars in the road stopped facing each other. My heart stops. too. At the end of the driveway appeared two smiling spaniels, very proud of themselves, apparently having just run through the space between the two cars.

Safe home. Breathing again.

Another graduation

This time my eighth grader, who for a reason I can't fathom, decided he wanted to wear a tux to his graduation. I've been to six middle school or eighth grade graduations now, and had a strong sense of the fact that this would be the last (til the next generation, anyway). It's strange that the baby will be in high school in September.

Tabblo: On to high school

Part of the deal with letting him wear a tux was letting us take pictures.

... See my Tabblo>

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Questions and Answers

I've noticed a trend in discussion databases. Someone posts a question. The first few responses are often of the form: you should have asked the question in this other place, you should have searched this database because the answer is here already, or you really should be asking this other question instead.

Most of these responses are from those who know the answer, but instead of just answering, they don't include the answer, in seeming punishment for asking the question. Those who answer with the you should have searched this database response must have actually done the search to be able to say that - yet all too often the link to the answer is not included.

This is creating a culture where it isn't safe to ask questions.... Whatever happened to the "there are no dumb questions" attitude?

Sunday, June 11, 2006


I'm proud of him, and yet I can't shake the image of a little blonde four year old in a blue "Save the Humans" sweatshirt. I don't know how he ended up being a high school senior so fast, and now he's graduated.

I took a bunch of pictures... Before I start crying again, here's the tabblo!

Monday, May 29, 2006

island time

I was tired last week. Jet lag, leftover tasks that needed doing from before going to DNUG, catching up with stuff at home, overall pretty overwhelming. We had ferry tickets to take us to the island leaving Saturday morning, returning Monday morning. And a bunch of kids who didn't want to go.

So I gave in. I stayed home while Steve headed down to do some prep work on the house for summer. I made sure the nearly graduated senior didn't throw a party and that things were calm on the home front. And I slept decadently late on Sunday morning.

And woke up with energy.

I made sure all the kids were under control of the oldest one here (who is more than 21, so I'm not being terribly irresponsible!) And I left my laptop behind, put the puppy on the leash, and left for the island. The drive that seemed so daunting before sleep passed quickly, the tall New England pines slowly replaced by the scrub pines and sandy soil of the cape. Parked the car, hopped the bus to the ferry, and watched the water bring me home.

I remember endless summers stretching in front of me - and it felt like I should just stay forever. But reality calls me back, and I returned to America on the 10:45 this morning. But the island worked her magic, even in way too short a trip. My heart is lighter as I return, and it beats with an island rythmn now.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A sampling....

of Iceland pictures using Ned's new picture tool!

Tabblo: Clear and cool

See my Tabblo>

Saturday, May 20, 2006

the long way home

It's 10:15pm here in Reykjavik, and it's still light out. I'm taking the long way home from Karlsruhe, Germany, and it is just beautiful here. Clear, crisp, sunny, and a starkly beautiful landscape. Just what my soul needed after the past few weeks/months of intense work (my day job on Workplace Designer has also been pretty hectic!).

There will be more to say about the Domino Designer in Eclipse project, but Chris has done a great job filling in some details! We'll keep you posted, and be asking for feedback as we progress.

I did the Golden Circle tour today - walked between the American and Eurasian continental plates, saw the Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir and Strokkur geysers (though only Strokkur was feeling like spouting), lots of geothermal energy, volcanos and craters, a glacier, and even a bit of snow fell. A magical day!

It will be good to go back home tomorrow, though. Have to wonder why the kids were cleaning the house....

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

my working heart's desire

Ever since I moved to Workplace Designer from Domino Designer a little over two years ago, I've had a dream.... I had unfinished business in Domino Designer - there were things I wanted to do that could not easily be done within the existing code base in the amount of time allocated to a release. Specifically, to improve the script editing experience within Domino Designer.

Seeing what the Eclipse editors could do for the same experience in Workplace Designer out of the gate, it was clear to me what needed doing. I've been championing a cause inside IBM for a while, gaining support for it, and yesterday, I was thrilled to show a prototype of Domino Designer embedded in Eclipse.

The prototype was fun to build, and my team pitched in to help with some last minute requests - and if I read the audience response correctly, this truly is the right thing to do. It's the beginning of the road, but I am so happy that we are doing the right thing for our Domino developers.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Michaelangelos or Monkeys

I worked at Wang for 13 years, from boom through bust. Quarter after quarter of 34% growth felt like it would go on forever, but of course it didn't. Wang was good to and for me - I morphed from technical writer to engineer, fresh out of school student with no idea what a job was to a valued employee. But living through the fall was sad. I left of my own accord in 1992, just months before the bankruptcy.

As Wang was thrashing, they signed up hook, line, and sinker for the "Quality Leadership Process" program (QLP). Every employee in the company had to take an initial short introductory course, and were supposed to follow up with a multi-month course that took something like 20% of your time for that period. Employees in the intensive course were supposed to complete some sort of project that would make a positive impact on the bottom line.... One of the more famous ones was putting up signs encouraging people to take the stairs instead of the elevator if they were only going up one or two floors in the Tower...

I escaped the long course with a well timed maternity leave, and deciding to leave the company before I could get snared into such a time sink. I often wondered what would have happened had I taken the course and suggested that one of the better ways of making a positive impact on the company would be to stop wasting employees' time in that program....

So one of my scars from Wang is that I shiver at the word "process."

I understand that it must be hard to manage engineers - but I struggle with applying process to art. If there are too many rules, the creative process gets thwarted. The key is to give engineers enough creative freedom in a problem to enjoy solving it, without so much freedom that there is chaos in a project. And that's a tough balance to find. Programs like QLP have a formulaic approach to how to do software/business. But when things get formulaic, they lose their art.

I'm told that when Dave Cutler interviewed people at DEC long ago, one of his trademark interview questions was whether software was a science or art. Had I ever interviewed with him, I would have said quite firmly that software was art.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Out of the mouths....

Mom, why don't you just work at work? Isn't home for home stuff? I got that from my son this afternoon.

I remember asking Dr. Stanton - my p-chem (physical chemistry) professor - how I would know when I was working hard enough in a conversation where he was lamenting my tendency to do just enough work to get an A in the course, but no more. He said you were working hard enough if you found yourself thinking about work when you were doing other things. He didn't explain it any more thoroughly than that, but over time I learned he was right, and realized that was a reasonably elegant and perceptive answer. And over time, I also realized that he probably realized before I did that I was not meant to go on in Chemistry, regardless of being able to do well at it.

But when I'm deep into code, there's a background process in my brain working regardless of where I am and what I am (ostensibly) doing. Having found a subject I care deeply about, I can now understand what he was trying to say. And maybe tincture of time has brought me a limited amount of wisdom, too.

So now I need to ask him the next question - how do you stop your brain from working when it is already working hard enough?

Laptops. Chains or wings? Or as Dr. Dolan in one of my favorite courses in college (History and Structure of the English Language) would say - not either/or, but both/and.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Eternal vigilance

I've been cancer free for a little over 11 years now. I had a rare cancer - Merkel Cell Carcinoma ( and they initially told me I had a 50-50 chance of surviving a year. With further testing, I was staged at either IB or II (they were never 100% sure if it had reached my lymph nodes). I had Mohs surgery to excise the tumor (on my left temple), and followed it up with two different kinds of radiation therapy. My last dose of radiation was on St. Patrick's Day, 1995.

At first, I had monthly checkups with my dermatologist, then every other month, then every 3 months, then every 6 months, then yearly. It took a long time, but I finally began to feel safe again. One year, when the anniversary of my surgery passed and I didn't even notice, I realized that mental freedom was part of the cure - the increase in the number of years survived was no longer a significant event. My life was moving past the trauma of diagnosis and treatment.

But I just experienced a new release. One of the benefits of having a rare cancer is that the most prestigious doctors are *interested* in your case. While my dermatologist only sees current surgical patients, he has continued to monitor me - until this year. This year, I was told I could just see one of his associates. To me, that is the final return to "normal." It's as if the final rope tying me to cancer has been thrown off. I still have to watch and monitor, but my case is no longer interesting. And boring is good where health is concerned!

But I won't forget to wear sunscreen.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I forgot

that I am tall. I know that sounds odd, and it struck me that way when I realized that I was realizing that fact anew.

I'm just under 5'7. Above average height for a girl. When I was in my all girls' high school, I was taller than about 90% of the class.

But then I went to a recently coed college, where there were 10 times as many men as women, and I work in a predominantly male field. So I became accustomed to being shorter than most of the people I know. To add insult to injury, my youngest son finally passed me in height last fall.

But yesterday, I had to drop a note off at the high school, and I happened to be walking in the building at the same time as a flock of high school girls getting off a bus. I was confused to realize that I was taller than almost all of them. And then I remembered - nothing has changed but my perspective. I think I'm distressed that environment can change my perception so much!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Planning is for wimps

Today I participated in an internal career event where I served on a panel explaining how I got to "where I am." I was somewhat stunned to even be asked to be on such a panel. I can't say I have a career plan, and I certainly have not taken anywhere near the standard path to architect. My style is certainly winging it - maybe they wanted to show that there are many paths for many different people.... Chemistry major -> Chemistry grad school -> tech writer -> software engineer -> software architect.

I learned relatively early on that I have to follow my heart. If I don't care passionately about what I am doing, I don't invest the energy to do my best work. That may make me a spoiled brat, but it's how my mind works and I just have learned to stop trying to second guess my instincts...

I don't feel the need to climb the ladder per se, what I really want is to get better and better at engineering, and to learn more and more. And I like to have a say in the product that I am building :-) Whatever falls out from that is fine with me. The point for me is to stay happy, to always grow and learn, and to build something I really care about. That is all I need.

So my career decisions have been primarily focused on what I found interesting. My definition of my career success is that I have managed to work on many projects that I really believe in and care deeply about. ViP, Domino Designer, Workplace Designer... I still like what I'm doing now, so I'm not even thinking about "next." The experts may say I should be thinking five years down the line, but I like surprises. Maybe I will be on Workplace Designer v17 by then, maybe there will be something new. But I will make all the career decisions from now til then with my heart.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Blueberry will ride again!

She's fixable, no frame damage. Expensive enough to be painful, but still less than you can get a replacement used Camry wagon for (they stopped making them in 96, and their resale reflects their rarity). Not that Blueberry could ever be replaced.

So we said go to the body shop.

She will be an island car when she's done. Driving maybe 5K miles a year, she should last a good long time. Though my son has already been trying to stake his claim. I will probably have to find the heart to let him drive Blueberry again, but it's going to be really difficult.

But I will be the first to drive her again!

Monday, March 13, 2006


As my working life progresses, I'm finding an increasing tension between architecting and coding. My problem is that I love both. My managers would be perfectly happy if I spent my entire day architecting. But I would be miserable without that real connection to code.

Code grounds me and connects me to the project in a way that architecting does not. And I tend to do my best architecting *while* I'm coding. Coding puts me in an almost meditative state of mind where I can do my best work. I think this breaks traditional rules of design first, code second, but coding puts me in the moment and lets me see the issues all in context.

And I love the creative control of architecture. I moved to coding from technical writing partially because I wanted to have a say in *what* got built before it was too late. I want to figure out what features belong, what features fit, how we can best solve customer needs, etc. I want to design. I don't want to code someone else's design, I want to code my own!

I would posit that you really can't architect without also coding. If I had only been an architect on Workplace Designer rather than coder and architect, I would not have had the skills to know what could be done - I needed to retrain in Eclipse and Java, to get that connection to what's real.

So I am going to have to be a rebel and be a coding architect.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

long may she run

Blueberry, as she is affectionately known, is my 1994 Camry wagon. I am unreasonably attached to her. Last summer, our son was in an accident that smashed in her hood and broke the radiator, the grill, and the left quarterpanel is pushed backwards. Major damage, except that he hit something tall, so it is all damage high enough to be away from frame stuff (we believe).

The debate has raged all fall and winter about whether or not to repair a car with 173000 miles on it. Today, her winter of waiting is over - she was towed to a body shop. Stasis has ended. I hope they tell us tomorrow that the cost to repair her is within reason. Though reason may not be the right word in this case.

Early this week the decision will be made. I am certainly leaning towards repairing her. But if nothing else, motion feels good. Wondering back and forth is tiring - spring is in the air, and it's time for life to begin again.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Still standing

The last month has been intense, to say the least. My mom has been sick, Lotusphere, the arrival of a new puppy and the hopefully temporary arrival of my mother's dog, lots of code to design and write....

One at a time....

Lotusphere. It was an amazing experience, as always. I was heartbroken that the OGS demo didn't go as I practiced it. Had there been anything I could have reasonably done from the stage to fix it, I would have. The machine I was working on needed to have its client drive mapped, and that would have just been ugly to do on stage and would have taken the time I needed to demo the next release (the general session was packed full of demos, and there was no time to borrow!). I tried to fall back to the previous deployment, but a demo reset after the last practice had been done incorrectly, and that path failed, too. Fortunately the demo of the next release went well.

Though it was painful to not have Workplace Designer 2.6 not be able to shine as it should, the experience did show me the kindness in our customers. Throughout the week, I was stopped in the hall and told very kind things about how I handled it, how they knew it really worked, etc. Feeling the support of this community really helped me recover from the disappointment!

And as always, I return from Lotusphere both exhausted and recharged. There are so many things to do - and I always want to do them all immediately. But focus helps, so I'll tackle 'em one at a time.

The new puppy, Batman, (my sons named him...) is now 11 weeks old and arrived a week ago. He's very cute, and I love the way he takes on life with gusto. He is beginning to sleep through the night, but we're still going through almost a roll of paper towels a day. My mom's dog is spoiled rotten; I can't wait for her to get strong enough to bring Abby back to her....

Need to get back to my code now :-)

Monday, January 16, 2006

less than a week....

Lotusphere consumes January every year (not to mention bits of December!) Preparing talks, demos, making sure the code is ready, hectic days, so not much blogging of late. All this preparation is both stressful and envigorating.

But I'm excited. It may sound corny, but connecting with customers is what gets me through the rest of the year. To find out how we may have helped, what we need to do better, what's really important, and what can wait a bit. Worth every bit of the stress of preparation, Lotusphere centers me.

I used to be very nervous about presenting, and to some extent, I still am. But then I read an amazing little book by Livingston Taylor called Stage Performance Now I'm an engineer, not a stage performer, but what that book drove into my head was that any stage fright was about *me* and that my main concern as a speaker was my audience. So now when I feel that fear, I can pretty quickly control it with putting things in perspective. And get back to getting that demo in shape :-)