A whirlwind at Reading station in 1840

As well as the super statue of the World War I soldier at Paddington by my namesake I also spotted this at Reading station last week. It's on platform 4 but you have to look quite hard to find it.

Faulty LiveScribe pen

I bought a 4GB LiveScribe pen from Amazon uk on May 11th. The first time I used it worked but repeatedly refused to allow me to register online. The second time I tried to use it refused to record audio and it continues to refuse. I phoned the LiveScribe support number on June 22nd and after navigating my way through several "press 1 for this, press 2 for that" menus I spoke to a human being. I was asked to send details of the pen, my computer (a bog standard MacBook Pro), and a log file. I did this immediately.

It's now June 29th, seven days later and I have heard nothing. Not even an email acknowledging receipt of the details I sent. So I rang again today. I spoke to the same lady in technical support. She explained that she had forwarded the information I sent to technical support but that they were backed up with work which was why no one had got back to me yet. This doesn't sound promising - John Seddon would call that Failure Demand.

She said she would escalate the case and promised someone would contact me tomorrow. We will see. Stay tuned!

Thinking ahead - I'm wondering how long should I give them to fix it. And if they can't whether I'll ask for a replacement or a refund...

Update. They called back as promised. They talked me through doing a firmware upgrade (which I had already tried to run and fortunately still had in my download cache). Part way through I got a message saying "your pen is not recognised". Despite appearances I was told this was not a message from the firmware upgrade, but from livescribe desktop which was also open. And on a manual firmware upgrade the livescribe desktop can apparently interfere with the firmware upgrade (which is no doubt what happened to me the first time). So I closed livescribe desktop and restarted the firmware upgrade. And this time it worked! Hoorah. I have audio recording back. So less than top marks for it not working first time, but nearly top marks for helpful support.

Charles Sargeant Jagger

I was at Paddington station a few days ago and I stopped to look at this superb statue (it's at the edge of platform 1). I noticed it was by Charles Sargeant Jagger!

The Hávamál

translated from the original by Björn Jónasson ISBN 9979-9070-0-2. As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
The ethics of the Hávamál are above all rooted in the belief in the value of the individual.
Attending a feast: No man should call himself clever but manage his mind. A sage visitor is a silent guest. The cautious evades evil. Never a friend more faithful, nor greater wealth, than wisdom.
Happiness: He is unhappy and ill-tempered who meets all with mockery. What he doesn't know, but needs to, are his own familiar faults.
Financial sense: Become not a beggar to the money you make. What's saved for a friend a foe may take. Good plans often go awry.
Moderation and prosperity: Moderately wise a man should be not too crafty or clever. The best of lives is led by those who know the measure of many things.
Shyness: A log's flame leaps to another fire kindles fire. A man listens thus he learns. The shy stays shallow.
Foresight: A man should know how many logs stubs and strips of bark to collect in summer to keep in stock wood for his winter fires.
The use of power: A prudent man wields power in modest measure. With brave men he finds that none is foremost or excels in all things.
Everyone has his use: The lame rides a horse the maimed drives the herd the deaf is brave in battle. A man is better blind than buried. A dead man is deft at nothing.

Winner or loser?

As well as running an evening CyberDojo at the NDC 2010 conference in Oslo last week I also attended an excellent morning workshop run by Matthias Skarin. He used several experiential exercises one of which was a simple rally-car driving simulation. In the game everyone stands in a circle and has to choose "Hi" or "Lo". Then you find out what the person to your left and to your right chose and look up your score. For example, Left=Hi, Me=Lo, Right=Lo, check the sheet, Hi-Lo-Lo = 2 points. Then repeat 15 times, each time adding your points to your running total, and rearranging the circle lowest-score to highest-score, slowest driver to fastest driver.

The points table was cleverly structured so there was a tension between working for yourself or for the whole circle. After a few rounds I had an idea. I decided to play the game by trying to maximise the score of the person to my left even if it meant coming last. I have to admit part of the reason for this was I was only half awake, (I hadn't had enough coffee), and figured I wasn't going to do very well anyway. Each round I simply explained what I was doing to the person to my left and asked whether they would like me to pick a Hi or a Lo.. The effect was dramatic - I rapidly became the slowest car as people overtook me. And because we were standing in a circle, in no time at all, the person to my left was the fastest car. Then there was another dramatic effect - since the person to my left was gaining a significant advantage from me each round they rapidly accelerated ahead of the second placed car. At the end of the game two cars had noticeable scores; mine because it was so low, and Paul's (the person to my left) because it was so high.

Afterwards someone pointed out that I had been the driver of the slowest car. I explained how I had played the game and suggested that maybe I had been the navigator in the fastest car!?

The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears and other native american proverbs

is an excellent book by Guy A Zona (isbn 0-671-79730-1). As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
I seek strength no to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy - myself. [Tribe unknown]
The more you give, the more good things come to you. [Crow]
The song is very short because we understand so much. [Navajo]
If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself. [Minquass]
You are never justified in arguing. [Hopi]
No answer is also an answer. [Hopi]
Every fire is the same size when it starts. [Seneca]
The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives. [Sioux]
Seek wisdom, not knowledge. Knowledge is of the past, wisdom is of the future. [Lumbee]
Force, no matter how concealed, begets resistance. [Lakota]
Everything has a beginning. [Kiowa]
God teaches the birds to make nests, yet the nests of all birds are not alike. [Duwamish]

Macbook plug design flaw? No

I was on a train recently and I tried to plug my macbook plug into the socket. Nope. The depth of the plug was too great. As it happened I had a 4 way adapter in my backpack so I was able to get power anyway!

Update! Thanks to Phil's suggestion I checked my cable drawer and found the other cable :-) I popped it into my laptop bag and found myself on a GWR train again yesterday. No need for a 4 way adapter this time (which I didn't have anyway - I only carry that when I'm running a CyberDojo).

What Did You Say?

is an excellent book (subtitled The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback) by Charles and Edith Seashore and Jerry Weinberg (isbn 0-924771-33-X). As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
If you're not absolutely sure they want your feedback it's best not to offer it.
When the data and their model don't match, most people discard the data.
We structure our world so we will not receive feedback that threatens our view.
We don't even wait to ignore feedback, but actively take steps to prevent such feedback from ever happening in the first place.
We tend to learn only in new situations. In new contexts.
The more we try to control, the less influence we are likely to have.
Don't concentrate on giving feedback; concentrate on being congruent - responding to the other person, to yourself, and to the here-and-now situation.
The less investment you have in changing the other person, the greater the likelihood that each of you may grow.
Improving a relationship doesn't always mean making it closer.

Viking Ship Museum

I went to the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo a few weeks ago. As I arrived a group arrived on a bus. They were led round the museum by a man who talked about the exhibits and viking life in general. I quietly attached myself to the group and listened to what he had to say. It was really fascinating stuff. For example, at one point he mentioned that Norway has the highest incidence of multiple sclerosis in the world. And that the countries with very high incidence seem to be the countries the Vikings invaded!

Implementing Lean Software Development

is an excellent book by Mary and Tom Poppendieck. As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
If you focus on driving utilization up, things will slow down.
We've watched CMM and ISO 9000 as their focus changed from quality improvement to certification.
Toyota believes that consistent excellence in product development starts with "towering technical competence in all engineers". At Toyota "Developing people is fundamental to the managers job."
If you expect teams to meet aggressive deadlines you must limit work to capacity.
The behaviours that ranking systems encourage are competition, hiding information so as to look good, and hiding problems so as not to look bad.
There is at least as much knowledge created by experiments that fail as is created by finding a solution to the problem.
Western companies think of knowledge as something that is written down. Japanese companies think of written knowledge as only the tip of the iceberg; most knowledge is contained in subjective insights, intuitions, hunches, and mental models. This tacit knowledge does not come from studying, it comes from experience.
Probably the biggest mistake we can make is to regard refactoring as a failure to "Do it right the first time".
The mark of an excellent organization is not that they are without problems; it is that they are without systemic problems.
In The Living Company, Arie de Geus points out that the average life expectancy of a multinational corporation is between 40 and 50 years. People live for an average of 75 years, so they can expect to outlast perhaps three quarters of the companies that existed when they were born.
If the learner hasn't learned the teacher hasn't taught.

The hole isn't in my part of the boat

After the XP2010 conference in Trondheim its nice to back home and walking Patrick to school each morning. I collect rubbish on the walk back. A whole carrier bag full after one week away. It's a four minute walk. And I live in the country. People must actually be winding their car windows down just to throw out rubbish! :(

XP 2010 cyber-dojos

I had a great time at XP 2010. I ran one cyber-dojo (on the left) with Jeremy Lightsmith and another (on the right) with Olve Maudal. Both went very well and had up to 18 players at a time.

Every time I run a cyber-dojo I learn new things. And new ways to make it simpler. For example in Olve's cyber-dojo one player had to leave early and one of the laptops was their laptop. In a normal code-dojo that would be a problem. But in a cyber-dojo it's not an issue. You just fire up another laptop and carry on where it left off.

Olve also invented a much simpler way to do the musical chairs. Instead of having one timer to rotate the keyboard driver within each group and another timer to shuffle the groups we now have just one timer. When it dings the keyboard drivers in each group have to get up and find a new group - which they then join in a non-driver role. Much simpler!