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Agile Open Northwest 2013

I just spent three days attending the Agile Open Northwest conference. It was the best conference I have ever been to. In fact, I haven't been to very many conferences because the few I've attended felt flat and didn't give me many takeaways.

The success of the conference was, I think, entirely due to the Open Space format. In a nutshell, you show up on the first day, and there are zero sessions planned. Every attendee can come up with a session idea (or in some cases 4 or 5 session ideas), announce it to the group, and make it happen.

One thing that made this a great experience was the options I had during each 1-hour time slot. I did not want to wind up in any sessions where the discussion was around semantics, or where someone had strong opinions about The One Way To Do Agile. Frankly, the agile community can be pretty pedantic, and I haven't read all the literature. My interest in agility is not academic, it's very practical: how do I identify and solve problems in my workplace? But this was the pervasive attitude among the attendees and only a few sessions suggested that I was not the target audience. There were many developers at the conference (even other female developers—they exist!), so there were even some sessions about coding or related topics.

AONW wall of sessions
Look, options!

I also surprised myself by hosting a session. The reason I signed up for the conference to begin with is that there are aspects of managing a software team that don't come naturally to me, and I have no pattern for how to approach these problems. I wanted to talk to my peers about some of these challenges and perhaps feel less alone, so that's how Managers Who Hate Managing came about. It was great to find out that I'm not alone in my struggles and talk to other people who are in similar boats.

All in all, I couldn't be more pleased with the conference. I learned about some crazy ass things like mob programming (which we'll be trying at my office), and heard hundreds of ideas for improvements that people have made to their own work environments. Who knew that a conference I feared would be useless would give me new excitement about my job—even the parts I hate?

Hooker, or ninja? I can't tell.

Ninja?  Really?
Who the hell can do sneaky ninja stuff in those shoes?

I'm guessing this costume is on sale for a reason. What kind of ninja wears something like that? Clearly, I'm missing something. Clearly, the idea for Halloween is no longer to dress up so that you look like a recognizable character or wear a clever disguise. Now, apparently, the idea is to find a street corner and make a few extra bucks. (Unless, of course, you're a guy, and then you pretty much get to wear whatever you want.)

Apparently, the trend is pervasive, according to an article (subscription required) in the Fashion section of the New York Times.

"The trend is so pervasive it has been written about by college students in campus newspapers, and Carlos Mencia, the comedian, jokes that Halloween should now be called Dress-Like-a-Whore Day." (Emphasis mine.)

Fellas, I'm sure this is a trend that benefits you, and I've certainly worn short skirts on Halloween myself from time to time. But when we get to the point where women feel like they need killer abs to dress up like a ninja, it just seems less fun somehow.

Then again, it's only $28.99 for that costume. It'll pay for itself in no time.

Cinematic green card

From Howdy:
"I work with a Dutch guy who has a real green card, but I have occasionally taunted him about satisfying the requirements for a cinematic green card (i.e. the essential movie credentials that make one American). Robin and I already made him watch the Wizard of Oz. I'm soliciting suggestions for movies that should be watched to earn this cultural badge of honor."

Here were my suggestions, though I know I'm missing dozens upon dozens of movies here. Anything marked with an (x) is something I think just about everybody my age has seen, but probably sucks 25+ years after the fact.

Photo from Rebba's photostream.
  • The Princess Bride
  • Better Off Dead
  • The Jerk
  • E.T. (x)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • War Games
  • The Godfather
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th St.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Casablanca
  • Top Gun (x)
  • Bringing Up Baby

What movies would you require in order to earn a cinematic green card? The definition of "essential" is fairly debatable. But generally speaking, it would be "a list of movies you would expect someone roughly your age to have seen and understand references to," according to Howdy.

The crazy ending game

Something I haven't been doing much of lately, is write. You may have noticed the dearth of blog posts around here. My journal that you don't get to see has had one entry in the last six months. My folder of short creative writing is virtually empty. It's not because I don't think of stories. I think of the beginnings of 2-4 stories a day. I just haven't been making the time to write them down. Also, I've learned from experience that beginnings don't always turn into anything.

One of the things that makes me a good programmer is that I'm good at troubleshooting. I can look at a desired end-result and come up with a reasonable way to get there (usually). I've decided to attempt to combine this with writing in order to get my creative juices flowing.

That's where you come in. I need crazy endings. Then I can imagine some sort of logical (or illogical but amusing) path that led to a particular ending, and write the beginning of the story. The stories will be posted here, on the assumption that at least one person will be interested.

Here's a sample crazy ending: "So there Shiela was, running through the airport with an enormous stuffed giraffe tucked under one arm and the door from her glove box in the other. She had never been happier."