We went to the Washington County Fair on Saturday and had a blast.  There’s something about going to the fair that’s just generally fun.  This time, they had this great show called “The Pirate’s Parrot Show” going on when we got there.

The Pirate’s Parrot show is this great show where this guy brings out something like 15 parrots of different varieties and, dressed as a pirate (of course), shows you different tricks with the parrots and educates you about them.  None of the parrots are caged - they all just wander around however they want to - and the highlight of the show is him letting them fly freely around the area, passing very close overhead.  It’s definitely not something you see every day.  The whole audience was sort of baffled about why the birds wouldn’t just make a break for it, but he explained that with an analogy: “Why do your kids come back when they wander off?”  At the end of the show, he lets you hold and pet the parrots and answers any questions you might have about them.  All in all, a fantastic show.

Of course, we also had to partake in the fair food - BBQ pork sandwiches, fresh lemonade, and funnel cake.  It really doesn’t get much better than that, though I’m glad we walked all over the place so at least I could say I worked off two or three bites of that funnel cake.  I’m sure my arteries are still irritated with me.

A heck of a lot of fun, and, as Tom Peterson says, “Free is a very good price!”

media, music, auto comments edit

For my birthday, my lovely wife Jenn saved up and got me a new car stereo - an Alpine iDA-X001.  I’ve been wanting a stereo that has direct iPod integration for quite some time now so she took me to Car Toys and we picked this one out.


It’s more of a controller than anything else, relying on external peripherals to supply the music source.  It’s got a USB connection that you can use to connect pretty much anything to (they have adapters) - iPod, USB memory stick, Zune.  It’s also got an iPod-specific connector that you have to use with older generation iPods (that’s what I have to use).  It doesn’t have a CD player on it, but that’s okay because I don’t really listen to CDs anymore - basically they’re only around long enough for me to put them on the iPod, then they get archived.

What I like is that you control it just like your iPod - you can browse your playlists, listen to your podcasts, the whole bit.  Love it.  The thing that sold me, though, is that this unit has this “MX” feature (“Media eXpander”) that takes the music and “rebuilds” it, making compressed sources (like MP3s and such) sound much closer to the original source.  It’s definitely noticeable, and it’s one of the features I was specifically looking for.  It’s very similar to the functionality of the DFX Audio Enhancer plugin for Windows Media Player.

It also has the ability to plug into a bajillion external devices and control them - Bluetooth, XM Radio, HD Radio… it seems like it can control just about anything.  Only downside is that each of the boxes that you have to get to enable these features run around the $200 - $250 range.  So, like, if I want to control my phone through Bluetooth, I have to buy a $220 box.  If I want to listen to HD Radio, that’s another $250.  You get the idea.  They really get you coming and going on that stuff, but I can’t really complain - the modularity of the thing makes it such that you only really have to buy the bits you want and ignore the stuff you don’t.  I’d consider getting the Bluetooth box, for example, but probably will pass on the XM Radio.

While I was there, I also got an amplifier and a 10” subwoofer with a custom box for the trunk.  I had the stock Bose stereo that came with my car, and it was decent and all, but the bass… sounded great when you were sitting still but disappeared as soon as you’d start driving down the road.  The new amp/sub combo has me back in action.  Thanks, Jenn!

GeekSpeak comments edit

When you’re working on a software project, there are times you’re faced with decisions:  Do I implement this functionality or not?  Do I add this feature or not?  How far do I take the feature I’m working on?

Since you’re trying to ship product, sometimes you have to take shortcuts in the name of pragmatism.  What will get me to a shipping state faster?  Decisions get made on the YAGNI (You Ain’t Gonna Need It) principle:  If the functionality doesn’t get me to the goal, I won’t implement it.  In an agile environment, this can sometimes mean “If this doesn’t get us to the goal of the end-of-sprint-demo, add it to the backlog.”

This is generally not a bad thing.  After all, you want to be successful, and success is meeting your goals and shipping.  That said, you have to use this as a general guideline, not a hard and fast rule.  You have to adapt your view of what pragmatism means in light of current circumstances.

For example:  While it isn’t something that can be demonstrated at the end of a sprint to a business user, setting up your source code repository structure and other infrastructure items (build server, etc.) is not generally something you can put off until later just because it’s not demonstrable.

Another example:  If a change to the codebase has half the team in a non-functioning state, it’s probably not OK to push forward on development until the whole team is productive again, even if it’s only a week until your demo and even if it means you might not make the goal.

In some cases, you may have to adjust your sprint goals.  That’s what it means to be agile - to be able to adjust and accommodate change, not use the principles as a crutch.  If you’re demonstrating the UI of the application and you don’t have a solid deployment mechanism, that’s probably OK.  On the other hand, if it’s only building on your local development machine and the rest of the team can’t get it to work, that’s a little less OK.

Don’t use pragmatism as an excuse to avoid work.  Let common sense prevail.

media, movies comments edit

We went out last night to see Transformers for my birthday.  I had heard from some friends that they liked it, so I went in sort of interested and came out feeling like this was the coolest thing ever.

The idea is that the Transformers are robots from another planet that have come to Earth in search of an energy cube called the All Spark that gives them life.  If the evil Decepticons get ahold of it before the friendly Autobots do, the world’s in serious trouble.

Yeah, it sounds sort of lame.  But it really wasn’t.  For people even mildly interested in sci fi robot movies, I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  There was all of the robot battling and transforming you would expect to see - it was an effects extravaganza.  Lots of action, as expected from Michael Bay, and at no time did I feel like I was bored or losing interest.

For fans of the cartoons it’s even better.  They got Peter Cullen, the original voice of Optimus Prime, to do the voice in the movie and it’s definitely something you notice.  When he whips out the “Autobots! Roll out!” you get the shivers of positive childhood memories.  They throw in a couple of references to “More Than Meets The Eye,” too, which is cool.  (When they say it, listen to the theater crowd.  The people who snicker are the kids who grew up in the 80’s.)  And if you paid close attention to the names, you’ll even notice that the original show had characters with the last name “Witwicky” (the main character in this movie was “Sam Witwicky,” played by Shia LaBeouf).

The human actors (funny that I have to qualify that…) are also pretty good.  Shia LaBeouf is a great high school nerd character and Megan Fox plays a popular high school girl character.  Both are very entertaining to watch.  Josh Duhamel plays an Air Force captain and does a great job, too (I’ve only ever really seen him on Las Vegas).  You have to imagine Duhamel saw the script and didn’t even read it before accepting - no child of the 80’s could pass up the chance to be in a freaking Transformers movie.  No way I could.

At the end we clapped, because, you know, the actors can hear you clapping in the theater.  I think that’s actually how you know you liked the movie - you feel like clapping at the end.  Jenn claims to have been slightly disappointed because they didn’t play the original theme from the TV show at any point, but besides that, they gave us everything we wanted.

I definitely got my money’s worth and I’m hoping this hits HD DVD sooner rather than later.  Good times.