Sunday, July 12, 2015

Codestock 2015: A Different View

A Typical Balmy Day In Downtown Knoxville

A brief review (mostly for my benefit) of Codestock 2015 in Knoxville, TN. It was a two day event covering all the latest things in the world of software development. A great deal of the focus of the conference was on emerging trends on the Web, and Javascript in particular. For someone who works in the embedded realm, this was a good time to see what's out there since the scope of my focus tends to not see that part of the world. Additionally, there were many courses that we on my personal radar as I continue to grow myself professionally. It's been increasingly clear that my people (or soft) skills are very strong and where I desire to grow in.
The keynote speaker was Scott Hanselman. Being a Microsoft guy, he used Azure as a springboard to discussing the concepts of how software development has grown into what it has and where it's going. Essentially, the virtual machine is continued outgrowth of the services that a standard operating system provides. The evolution of it has allowed developers to utilize more and more sophisticated services bundled into more scalable solutions. The idea being that as we continue to expand the services and bundle them into a virtualized entity in the cloud, the more powerful solutions we as developers can provide. In some ways this is intuitively obvious but also necessary to step back and contemplate where we are going and from where we have been. Scott was also amazingly entertaining and set the right tone of humor for all of us "geeks" utilizing memes, science fiction references and amusing stories from the "trenches" that would clearly resonate with the crowd. This was very much a great kick off to the conference.
3D Printing: Machines Building Machines? 

I first attended a few tech heavy talks that were clearly hitting the sweet spot for most of those in attendance. Angular, Node.js, "Design For The Non-Artistic" were some that I attended but it became continually clear to me that the ins and outs of new technology though very interesting was also not hitting my own sweet spot. I used to question myself in terms of why this is, but as I attended other talks, it was clear to me that my actual sweet spot was somewhere else - working with people. Interacting and using technology to be part of the bigger picture. Neither viewpoint is less important, just different.
The clearest experience that drove me to this conclusion was a fun talk by Jennifer Marsman. Her talk was focused mostly on the Emotiv EPOC+ EEG. Basically, it was a device that read your brain waves. This in of itself brought a lot of interest as this touches on some potentially exciting and scary things simultaneously. Her study was on using the EPOC+ and the software tools to create a rudimentary lie detector (with her test subject being her husband - interesting...). Being from Microsoft, she also leveraged the Azure Machine Learning tools to create a logic model to see if she actually could use the EPOC+ as a lie detector. In the most basic terms, the answer was yes. That was both cool, scary and a springboard for additional study. What happened later was quite interesting in that after the conference, I did a little Uber driving which I use as a little side job and to continue to keep my entrepreneurial juices flowing. Ironically, my first fare was Jennifer Marsman. Since I was driving her to the airport we were able to talk more about the conference which reinforced my drive to focus on people. It sparked ideas of possibly teaching a class at Codestock next year; looking into being more of a technical lead; focusing on more of my entrepreneur interests; or even possibly become a technical evangelist. Obviously I don't know where this will take me, but it does give me hope of the direction that God is taking me in life.
Additionally, there were four other talks that I found highly beneficial. Some of their content overlapped, but they all were quite stimulating for me as they engaged me in thought processes that I've been working through for quite a while. I have quite a few notes from each of these talks that intend on keeping handy going forward. A few action items for me from these talks: continue to work on active learning; try to find places to practice public speaking; blog more (hey, I can check that off the list!); find a career mentor (I'm open to suggestions!); intentionally reflect on things; focus on what I'm passionate about; consider the Pomodore Technique; read Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends And Influence People; recognize there's power in pressure; and be excellent in all you do.
Like I stated above, this post was mostly for my own benefit. Putting it down accomplishes the reinforcing that my mind needs and also putting it out there means that it's public and something for me to follow up with. I know that these are mostly processes and not ends in of themselves. I am thankful that God is still not done working on me and that He continues to teach me new and bigger things. So on wards to Monday and a another step in the journey!
Did I Just Use A Selfie Stick? Scary!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Five Great Places To Catch A Ballgame In The South

Spring is in the air and with it comes the renewal of my favorite pastime - baseball. Obviously, with the Giants winning three World Series in five years heightens my excitement of the game going into the new seas. onSince I no longer live near my favorite team, and live in an area that doesn't have major league baseball, I've become a much bigger fan of minor league baseball. The crowds are smaller and the feeling is much more relaxed. No matter what, it's baseball so I really have grown to enjoy it. Wherever I travel the first thing I look for is local sporting events. I've seen lots of minor league hockey, basketball and football at all levels and even have seen baseball in Japan!

"Football is played on a GRIDIRON, baseball is played in a park."
George Carlin

Locally, minor league baseball thrives well with the Southern League, South Atlantic League, the PCL and even short season rookie ball (Appalachian League) within a reasonable driving distance of me. To encourage all of you to come visit and catch a ballgame with me, here are my top baseball stadiums in my neck of the woods:

AT&T Park (Chattanooga, TN home of the Chattanooga Lookouts) and Smokies Stadium (Kodak, TN home of the Tennessee Smokies)
Both of these stadiums are great modern stadiums with comfortable seating and nice settings. Neither have any really outstanding features, but they both are great places to catch ballgames. AT&T Park is in downtown Chattanooga which provides a nice place to catch a good meal and see the river all within walking distance of the park. Smokies Stadium is my defacto home ballpark. Nestled in the foothills near the Great Smoky Mountains, it's a great launching point to many other tourist attractions in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

Historic McCormick Field (Asheville North Carolina home of the Asheville Tourist)
This stadium is an older one - hence the monikor "historic", but is in one of the most beautiful cities around. There are lots of mountain views, a lively downtown with great food options and art galleries, and the Biltmore Estates. The stadium doesn't have many modern amenities, but is quite charming and the outfield view is of a forest of trees. Of note is that this is the stadium that the fictional character from the film Bull Durham, Crash Davis, finished his minor league career. This is a charming, small, older park that is in one of the jewel cities of the south. Definitely worth a visit for those baseball movie buffs. The only complaint I have is that the stadium is on a hill and parking is a bit of a chore.

AutoZone Park (Memphis, TN home of the Memphis Redbirds)
This stadium can be lumped in with the "retro" classic stadiums that have become popular lately. Modern amenities with the charm of stadiums of old. The downtown location makes this stadium a great one to enjoy all of sights, tastes and sounds of Memphis - most of which are within walking distance. Graceland is within driving distance, by the way. This views of the city buildings are wonderful with lots of brick and it seems as if the stadium has always been part of the city landscape. I found myself caught up between innings just taking in the city site lines. This is a stadium that rivals major league parks.

Rickwood Field (Birmingham, AL - prior home of the Birmingham Barons and the Birmingham Black Barons)
First they only play one professional game per year (The Rickwood Classic) featuring two Southern League teams in period uniforms so catching a ballgame will take effort. It does host several tournaments and local high school games but this is
"America's Oldest Baseball Stadium" pre-dating Fenway and Wrigley Field. The names of the players who have played here is like reading the rolls of the Hall Of Fame. Of note is that a teenaged Willie Mays played here. This is a historic gem that few know about and even fewer visit. I have to admit feeling a bit in awe standing in centerfield thinking that I'm where Mays once roamed. Catch a Barons game in Hoover where Micheal Jordan played but also be sure to visit this gem of a stadium. It does feel like you're stepping back in time.

Flour Field (Greenville, SC - home of the Greenville Drive)
This one is located in the West End of Greenville with great places to eat and shop. It's walking distance to the park and also to downtown. There's also a beautiful waterfall in the West End to check out. Being Greenville, this is the hometown of Shoeless Joe Jackson (there's a statue of him a few blocks from the stadium). His home has been moved directly across from Flour Field and definitely worth a look. As for the park, it is another retro classic stadium but with a huge design influence: the Greenville Drive is the Single A team for the Boston Red Sox and they designed the field to the exact dimensions of Fenway Park! So they have their own Pesky Pole and their own version of the Green Monster (with a mechanical scoreboard). I personally think that Fenway by the slightest margins over Wrigley Field is my favorite ballpark so visiting this stadium was a treat. I even caught both a home run over the Monster and Fenway Single where the hitter ended up caught between first and second on a line drive that could likely have been a home run in other parks. That was fun to watch and made the experience even better than I'd hoped. This is a must see place to catch a baseball game.

So there you have my list. Now if you're in the area, stop by and let's catch a ballgame!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Party On, Dudes!

"Be excellent to each other and PARTY ON DUDES!"
Abraham Lincoln

Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted Theodore Logan

No matter how many times (three to be exact) that this happens, the joy doesn't grow stale. Yes, I am now a grandfather for the third time! A very special welcome to Theodore Lewis Brow. You are now part of a growing and loving family. Just by being you, you have given me great happiness.

It seems that life at this point is like an avalanche with so much going on and so many problems to face. The gift of a grandson really gives me time to pause and celebrate. Somehow God has been so generous to me and he has given me the most amazing a beautiful daughter. Through her, I have been blessed twice with grandchildren. When I take stock of my life I tend to dwell on the negatives and despite them, God continually blesses me. His love truly knows no bounds. Since grandchildren have entered into my life I realize just how content I am - what I long for is connection with them and others that mean so much to me. Within these tiny precious lives God has taught me great and deep lessons.

A few important events that happened on April 14th (clearly it was not a good day in history):
1828 – Noah Webster copyrights the first edition of his dictionary.
1846 – The Donner Party of pioneers departs Springfield, Illinois, for California (that didn't end well).
1860 – The first Pony Express rider reaches San Francisco.
1865 – U.S. President Abraham Lincoln is shot in Ford's Theatre by John Wilkes Booth (died April 15th).
1912 – The British passenger liner RMS Titanic hits an iceberg in the North Atlantic at 23:40 (sinks morning of April 15th).
2015 - Percy Sledge American Singer passes away.

List of those who share Theodore's birthday:
1866 – Anne Sullivan, American educator (d. 1936)
1904 – John Gielgud, English actor, director, and producer (d. 2000)
1929 – Gerry Anderson, English director, producer, and screenwriter (d. 2012)
1941 – Pete Rose, American baseball player and manager
1960 – Brad Garrett, American comedian and actor
1966 – David Justice, American baseball player and sportscaster
1966 – Greg Maddux, American baseball player, coach, and manager
1968 – Anthony Michael Hall, American actor, director, and producer
1973 – Adrien Brody, American actor and producer
1996 – Abigail Breslin, American actress

So now, what should I call him? Reserving the right as Ojiichan to call my grand kids whatever I feel, here's my options:

Theodore - Beaver Cleaver, Theodoric Of York (Steve Martin sketch from the early days of SNL). A lot of sylables to get out and a pretty formal name. There's a high nostalgia factor in Leave It To Beaver and I loved the SNL sketches.

Theo - Theo Huxtable. Kind of cool, but for some reason doesn't feel right.

Thor - Norse God Of Thunder (may apply to an active boy), Marvel Comic Book Hero. Ariel's choice. Seriously cool sounding and heroic.

Ted - Ted Theodore Logan (Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure), Ted Buckland (Scrubs, Sad Sack lawyer). Lot's of positives here. Ted from Scrubs is a pretty funny but the real positive is the Bill And Ted reference. It's one of my favorite comedies, I can teach Ted the air guitar celebration while yelling "Excellent!" and when things don't work out, we can yell "Bogus!" It also has a great guiding motto for life: "Be excellent to each other and party on dudes!" I think we have a winner here. So, Ted it is. I can also call him Teddy when he's really little.

Reflecting on this time in my life, I see Ted's life and all of the possibilities. I pray that God will touch his life in a deep way. I hope that he will dream big and live it out. To that, I will leave the final word to Ted Buckland and the Worthless Peons and hopes that Teddy will find the Paradise that is somewhere, over the rainbow...

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
And the dreams that you dreamed of
Once in a lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow
Blue birds fly
And the dreams that you dreamed of
Dreams really do come true ooh oh

Someday I'll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Oh, somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
And the dream that you dare to,
Oh why, oh why can't I?

Someday I'll wish upon a star,
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That's where you'll find me

Oh, somewhere over the rainbow way up high
And the dream that you dare to, why, oh why can't I? I? 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It's Come To This - My First Blog List: 9 Things I Travel With

At this point in my blogging life, I have finally succumbed to the need to make an actual enumerated list. I've been doing a lot of travelling seeing family and have put a lot of thought into my travel gear. I'm still trying to nail down a good personal backpack that can easily store my stuff that I like to have easily accessible to me on flights, but for now, I have a small sling pack that I got from a trade show. I'd like to find one that isn't as large as the usual backpack as I've found those a little too big for my needs. I notice myself seeing what others are carrying in hopes that I can find some good ideas for this need.
Anyway, without further adieu here's my 9 travel accessories that fit my needs. I present them to help you find some ideas that work for you. Of note, I'm very much a "travel light" type person. I think there's something adventurous being able to make due with a small number of versatile items.

1. Dell 3147

Right now I'm on a connecting flight heading home and am composing this entry on my Dell. It has a ten inch screen and is used as my home desktop (with dual monitors), travel laptop and tablet (folding completely over and with Window 8, it has a touch screen capability). I had it upgraded to 8 GBs of memory and a solid state hard drive (quiet, and very low battery consumption). This has been by far the best computer I've ever had. Thin, light and versatile it fits my needs very, very well.

2. Rolling backpack

This backpack has literally been around the world with me. It is a relatively small carry on that is good for about 3 days worth of clothes. I find that even if I'm travelling for longer than that time frame, I wash my clothes during my travels. I admit that I'm a t-shirt, jeans/short and high tops type of person so the small size works well for me. I usually roll this bag but at times it's been nice to be able to throw it on my back. I've used it so much that I'm looking into replacing it because it is beginning to show some well earned wear.

3. Bluetooth headphones

I settled on the Power Beats 2 but I would consider any bluetooth headphones to work just fine. Wires are a pain and I do like listening to music so this is a great pick up. I use it at home on walks and runs as well. It has a microphone so it also is useful for hands free calls. There's also a few controls to activate some of the features on my iPhone (most notably, Siri). The sound quality for my taste in music is great!

4. Glasses case

I admit that I found this travel hack on another bloggers website: use old glasses cases as places to store your charging cables. I carry two cables (iPhone and micro USB), an SD card, a standard US wall plug and a car plug adapter in it. It's amazing how this can keep those cumbersome wires untangled and organized.

5. Bluetooth folding keyboard

I don't always carry this when I travel but when I want to go super light and forego my laptop, this keyboard is great. I'm pretty old school when it comes to data entry so a real honest to goodness keyboard is a must for any entry greater than a text. I got this on Ebay for less than $20.

6. Ear plugs

On flights the reduction in noise helps with travel fatigue. It's also nice when you want to sleep. I pack a pair in the glasses case I mentioned above.

7. iPhone 5c

This is almost a given. Versatile and portable, a smartphone serves so many purposes I probably couldn't list them all. A few handy apps are Flight Stats (for travel information), Uber in case you need a ride (and it's usually cheaper than a cab), and Google Maps (for directions).

8. Battery powered charger

This can be had for anywhere from $200 to $10 but is one of those things that gives a lot of peace of mind while travelling. With so many devices, besides WiFi one spends a lot of time looking for wall outlets. This little guy can be a lifesaver when you're smartphone is running out of juice. I have a $20 charger that I picked up at WalMart. It has a built in flashlight and does great in a pinch. I recommend something no bigger than your wallet so it doesn't take up as much space.

9. GPS

Even though I have Google Maps on my smartphone I like having a dedicated navigator to save on battery life and data usage on my smartphone. I got a Garmin for about $40 on Ebay. It's slightly out of date but again I use Google Maps as a backup.

OK, there you have it. My list of things I take when I travel. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Happy travels!