December 29, 2012 Leave a comment

This tastes incredible and gives me sustained energy.  All the ingredients are anti-inflammatory.  So good and healthy!


Anti-inflammatory smoothie

  • 1/4 cup of almonds (soaked for several hours)
  • 1 cup of coconut water
  • 1/2 cup of water + ice
  • 1 (or 2) medjool date
  • 2 teaspoons of mesquite powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ginger powder and/or fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla powder
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • A pinch of cloves
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
Categories: me stuff

cool tools, cool project

November 30, 2012 Leave a comment

i’ve had the good fortune to work on a green field Rails project. Here are some of the “i would not want to do without” tools used on this project

  • ruby 1.9.3 – so much faster than 1.8. wow. 
  • rails 3.2 –  rails just keeps getting better and better.
  • mini-profiler –everyone should want a fast app. found lots of unoptimized queries.
  • sass — sass makes css fun!
  • coffeescript — coffeescript makes javascript feel like ruby.  that’s a good thing IMO.
  • poltergeist/phantomjs – headless javascript testing. so much better than having Firefox popup.
  • rspec — i love the rspec DSL.
  • capybara — super useful for our request specs.
  • devise — it works.  easy to use.
  • vcr — essential for service tests. call out once, but cache after that.
  • cancan — great role system, easy to use.
  • kaminari — works great for paging (along w/ jquery.pageless)
  • sendgrid — send notification emails, easy w/ sendgrid
  • librato — low level metrics like rows written on some models,
  • machinist — love blueprints that are either persisted to db or not.  easy to use.
  • redis — super fast key value storage.  great for caching.
  • resque & resque-scheduler.  for asyn and cron jobs, easy to use, fast.
  • simple_form — a great improvement over standard Rails forms
  • airbrake.  you want to know when exceptions happen!
  • activeadmin.  most everyone needs a admin backdoor to their app right?  here it is!


Neat stuff that we use that i’m not huge on

  • inherited_resources — i prefer seeing the controller actions explicitly.  it makes peer review on-boarding new people easier.  less magic.

Other essential tools & practices

  • a great, easy to use CI system.  We use CircleCI.  nearly turnkey and hooks into github nicely. 
  • incremental checkins.  We use git, github, topic branches, pull requests, and ey cloud deployment commands.
  • peer review of pull requests:  either the code is pair programmed or the pull request is peer reviewed prior to merging into master
  • Pivotal Tracker.  A great simple tool that does the job.
  • NewRelic:  essential for app performance monitoring.
  • Mixpanel:  great for funnel analysis.  we measure all activities in our app and important properties for those activities.
  • Twitter bootstrap.  it’d be great to have the luxury of a talented designer, but we didnt.  this did a great job.  it’s important to get a designer in there eventually, or your app will look like a twitter bootstrap app.  this might be ok for a captive audience, but not mass consumption.

Using this great toolset has made this project a joy to work on.  Hope this helps others.

Categories: tech

our development team having some outdoor fun together

Our development team knows how to have fun. wahoo!!! What’s life but lots of tiny fun moments strung together? I think that doing non-work, outdoor things like this together creates the most durable of team bonds. And helps encourage each of us to get regular (outdoor) exercise which makes for stronger brains, body, & smiling personalities. Fun + stronger body & brain + team bonds equals a great place to work!

Here are a few pics from a recent thursday evening mountain bike adventure. We rode together, we helped each other when there was #Fail, we had fun with each other. Times like this strengthen the team.

Categories: tech

code smells

Here’s a slide deck on code smells in ruby I recently put together to show our development team.

Once everyone has an idea of why understanding and reducing code smells is important, then the benefit gets distributed when others use knowledge in pull request reviews.

Categories: tech

open source

made a open source contribution to the Chronic gem last night.  as always, feels good to help out the community.  we use other people’s open source work, we give back.

Categories: tech Tags:

a great software development project

I’ve had a long history of working on software projects. This history started off in C & then moved to Pascal, C++, C#, and now to Ruby/Rails. I’ve worked in consulting, IT, a handful of big name software shops (Microsoft, Amazon, RealNetworks), and smaller name software shops (Symyx, G5). I’m currently very pleased with the project i’m on, and wanted to share some of my observations of what i think makes this great software project, and a few other observations I’ve learned along the way.   I consider the below points a team & project recipe for keeping good people happy and delivering value.   My current company is G5.  My current project is G5 Reputation Manager

Here goes..

People. Keep teams small, focused, autonomous.

Keep the team small Small teams collaborate and focus better. Hire people that can communicate. Keep people that can be entrusted with autonomy. As much as possible, separate corporate minutiae from your project. Find another building to locate to if necessary. In hiring,  I’ve seen much better team dynamics and productivity by avoiding the “ninjas, rock stars, hackers, big egos”. You can tell a lot about people thru their twitter feeds. Try to hire a developer on contract for 6 months before bringing in full time. Probe candidates on how interested they are in continual self-improvement. For teams, I think the ideal team size is 2 developers (4 max) and one business owner. That’s it. No QA team to throw code over the fence to, no PM team. The strongest of these team members is the lead. The lead keeps on top of the team’s cadence and best understands the business problem. The lead inspires great work from the team.

Tools. Stay mainstream, lightweight…and delighted!

I am not religious about Ruby & Rails and I prefer to not work with people that consider their tool a godsend and refuse to consider others.  That said, i’m super happy w/ the expressiveness and beauty of the ruby language.  The value of this cannot be understated.  It never ceases to amaze me how deep the Rails community is…there’s a gem for nearly anything you might want to do.  If not, build it and contribute!  On our Ruby Rails project, I’m using a mainstream toolset in our stack that works great (& is invaluable to my skillset):  Pivotal Tracker,  Rails 3.2.3, Ruby 1.9.3,  Rubymine (vi), git, mysql, redis).  You want to maintain rhythm on delivering value to your customers, not spending days worrying why your CI server isnt working w/ your SCM.    Stay on current version w/ ruby and rails!  it gets harder to upgrade in Rails the further you fall behind.  A great suite of tests is invaluable for upgrades.   Use frameworks (like Twitter bootstrap) to speed things along.    Use a collaboration tool like Campfire or FlowDock for team communication (but turn off your growl notifications!)   What i like about FlowDock is the message inbox & the git/airbrake-rss/PivotalTracker integration.  We use AirBrake for exception notifications.  This tool has been great to show us where test coverage is needed and where our customers might be experiencing repeated problems.   

Agile.  Stay lean, short iterations, measure and pivot.

Start the project with a MVP.  Make your best stab at scratching a 10X itch.  Build in ways to measure the features your customers are using.  Pivot, improve, or kill features or direction as early as possible.  What good is it to spend 6 months of your team’s time to build a product that isn’t scratching the right market itch?   Be ruthless about eliminating waste:  don’t do standups if you’re not getting value from them;  don’t insist on pair programming if your team doesn’t favor it.   Stick to the essence of agile:  short iterations, adaption, quick feedback.  The rest will work out.    

Work environment.  Kill the distractions.  Let in natural light.  

Don’t skimp on a quality work environment.  Distractions are the biggest enemy of productivity.  Give developers a quiet, distraction free workspace with lots of natural light.  Natural light improves mood, health, and productivity.   Provide a walking desk and standup pairing stations.  Also, most developers love to work at home occasionally.  If working at home is producing quality commits to git, i’m all for it.   If a developer goes dark, nip that problem early. 

Quality.  It’s not optional.

When we started this project, even under big pressure to deliver yesterday, we started it off not compromising quality.  All code is reviewed, either thru  pair programming or git pull request reviews.  We measure code coverage (simplecov) every few weeks to check for missing holes.  We use flog to measure code complexity and refactor the trouble spots.  Our project code is idiomatic Ruby & well-tested…mostly thru isolated unit tests, and thru some higher level acceptance tests.  I prefer TDD, but dont insist on it.   With TDD, you know your tests are good and you know you’ve written just enough code to pass the tests.   But, depending on the context, sometimes I like writing tests after the code.   I think it’s important to allow some freedom in how developers like to work.   No compromises on making sure your tests are fast!   We do this by isolate business code from framework code as much as possible, isolated unit test the business code and integration test the stack.  Tests are written to the same quality standard as production code.  Make sure everyone on your team is experienced in recognizing code smells, using design patterns,  understands the importance of tests.   Dont be afraid to call out quality violations.  Set the quality bar high early on.   

Leadership.  Ya gotta have it. 

The self organizing team is a myth.   I’ve seen countless examples of great individual skill assembled as a team flounder without a clear leader.  Find, cultivate, and reward developers that show a propensity to lead, understand the business, and stay on top of technology.  Rails programmers can be found at any time.  But a strong technical leader is worth their weight in gold.  

Support the community. Find a way to contribute to open source.

Imagine life with ruby, rails, and the thousands of great gems out there.   We are using open source in our project and we owe something back.  It feels good to contribute. 

Organizational support.   A must have. 

It’s exciting when your CEO comes by your office and gives you real customer feedback on your project.  You’ve scratched a major itch!    It’s also exciting when your CTO pays you a personal visit at your home to let you know about a major customer event evangelizing your project.   It’s been a boon for us that all our project’s stakeholders have aligned priorities.   

Deployment.  Use the cloud. 

We’re using EY cloud.   Easy setup, easy deploys from git, and the best thing is easy spin up of staging clones to do topic branch testing.   When a topic branch is done, it’s reviewed, merged, and deployed.   It’s a joy that i can finish a topic branch, spin off a clone of production and test it there before deploying to production. 

Cadence.  Keep it reasonable & w/ smart use of time-boxing.

Give developers work-time/place flexibility and minimize distractions.  If > 40 hours are necessary, offer developers the option to be paid by the hour or gain a meaningful equity stake.   Dont expect more than a 8 hour day.  Even better is to measure on quality of output, not hours worked, and dont be a time-card puncher.   Treat your team with dignity and respect for their families and wellbeing.  Use meaningful deadlines & showcase-driven time-boxing (e.g., a trade conference where your product is being demonstrated) to maintain workable pressure and then celebrate when you’ve crossed the finish line.   But dont over use the time box or it will suck your team’s soul dry and you’ll find your developers quickly updating their linkedIn profiles.

Rest.  Enjoy.  And celebrate.

Humans are hardwired to pulse.  Pay attention to your physiological needs.  Take frequent breaks.  I like Pomodoro as a tool to encourage focus and force me to take frequent breaks.  Drink lots of water,  eat healthy, and exercise every day.  Sleep as much as your body needs.  Relax.  Your brain and body will thank you.   When you get great news from inside or outside your company, celebrate!    Do fun outdoor things with your team mates that dont involve coding!  Take frequent vacations.  Enjoy being alive and productive.

I hope others find this useful. p.s. I am indebted to my friend, Rails mentor, & co-worker Chris Kraybill, CTO at G5.

Categories: tech

mixed berry cobbler recipe

February 6, 2012 Leave a comment

This recipe is a synthesis of a various recipes i’ve seen on making cobblers.  i like mine to have less sugar so that you can really taste the berries.



  • 3/4 c butter
  • 2-3 cups of mixed berries
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup raw cane sugar
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • (opt) 1/4 c chopped crystalized ginger (in addition to where cinnamon is used)
  • (opt) 1/4 c chopped pecans (in addition to where cinnamon is used)
  • (opt) replace 1/2 cup of the flour with oats ground in a food processor

Mix the butter in with the flour & baking powder.  Add in the milk, mix into a ball, kneed a few times.  Put 1/3 of the dough on the bottom of the disk, sprinkle with 1/2 of the cinnamon.

Toss in the berries.  Sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon.

Add the rest of the dough to make the cap.  Mix the warm water & sugar, driizzle over the top.

Bake at 350 for 45 mins.  Sprinkle the top w/ a bit of sugar and bake for 20 more mins.

Enjoy with a good quality vanilla ice cream!

Note: another good fruit combination is pear and mango.  add blueberries too!

Categories: me stuff

great quotes from a NetFlix employee

January 5, 2012 2 comments

Great quotes from this article:

Who has teams spread over multiple sites and countries? We don’t. It adds communication and synchronization overhead that slows your organization down. For the geeks, think of Amdahl’s law applied to people. We have as many people as possible in the same building on the same site. 

Who has junior engineers, graduate hires and interns writing code? We don’t. We find that engineers who cost twice as much are far more than twice as productive, and need much less management overheadReducing management overhead is a key enabler for an innovative culture. Engineers who don’t need to be managed are worth paying extra fo

Who has to work with people they don’t respect? It’s much too disruptive. The only way to get high talent density is to get rid of the people who are out of their depth or coasting.  

That also applies to what you might call brilliant jerks. Even if they do great work, the culture can’t tolerate prima donna anti-social behavior, so people who don’t trust others or share what they know don’t fit in  So does that mean we value conformity? No but it’s really important to be comfortable as part of a high performance team, so we look for people who naturally over-communicate and have a secure confident personality type

We’ve trained our developers to operate their own code.

Who has a centralized push cycle and has to wait for the next “train” before they can ship their code? We don’t. Every team manages their own release schedule. New code updates frequently, and the pace slows for mature services. Teams are responsible for managing interface evolution and dependencies themselves

Who has project managers tracking deliverables? We don’t. The line managers do it themselves. They own the resources and set the context for their teams. They have time to do this because we took the BS out of their role.Managers have to be great at hiring, technical and hands on enough to architect what their team does, and project manage to deliver results.

Hire experienced engineers who care, and they will take care of code quality and standards without being told how to.

We don’t pay bonuses. We don’t have grades other than senior engineer, manager, director, VP. We don’t count the hours or the vacation days, we say “take some”. Once a year we revise everyones salary to their peers and current market rate – based on what we are paying now to hire the best people we can find

Some of you may be thinking this sounds expensive, but what is the value of being incredibly productive and able to move faster than your competition? 

Give people freedom, hold them responsible, replace the ones that can’t or won’t perform in that environment. Focus on talent density and conserving management attention span by removing the BS from their jobs.

Categories: tech

a tiny ruby retry class

December 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Here’s a tiny ruby retry class.

class Retryable
  def self.attempt(options = {}, &block)
    opts = { :tries => 1, :on => Exception }.merge(options)
    retry_exception, tries = opts[:on], opts[:tries]
      return yield
    rescue retry_exception
      retry if (tries -= 1) > 0

Usage is like this

Retryable.attempt do
     #something that might fail, but you want to try it a few times
Categories: tech Tags:

meditation, how to

November 20, 2011 Leave a comment

From Jack Kornfield’s instructions on mediation.


First select a suitable place for your regular meditation. it can be wherever you can sit easily with minimal disturbance: a corner of your bedroom or any other quiet spot in your home. place a meditation cushion or chair there for your use. Arrange what is around so that you are reminded of your meditative purpose, so that it feels like a sacred and peaceful space. You may wish to make a simple altar with a flower or a sacred image, or place your favorite spiritual books there for a few moments of inspired reading. let yourself enjoy creating this space for yourself. 


Then select a regular time for practice that suits your schedule and temperament. if you are a morning person, experiment with a sitting before breakfast. if evening fits your temperament or schedule better, try that first. begin with sitting ten or twenty minutes at a time. later you can sit longer or more frequently. Daily meditation can become like bathing or toothbrushing. it can bring a regular cleansing and calming to your heart and mind.


Find a posture on the chair or cushion in which you can easily sit erect without being rigid. let your body be firmly planted on the earth, your hands resting easily, your heart soft, your eyes closed gently. At first feel your body and consciously soften any obvious tension. let go of any habitual thoughts or plans. bring your attention to feel the sensations of your breathing. take a few deep breaths to sense where you can feel the breath most easily, as coolness or tingling in the nostrils or throat, as movement of the chest, or rise and fall of the belly. then let your breath be natural. Feel the sensations of your natural breathing very carefully, relaxing into each breath as you feel it, noticing how the soft sensations of breathing come and go with the changing breath. 


After a few breaths your mind will probably wander. When you notice this, no matter how long or short a time you have been away, simply come back to the next breath. before you return, you can mindfully acknowledge where you have gone with a soft word in the back of your mind, such as “thinking,” “wandering,” “hearing,” “itching.” After softly and silently naming to yourself where your attention has been, gently and directly return to feel the next breath. later on in your meditation you will be able to work mindfully with all the places your mind wanders to, but for initial training, one word of acknowledgement and a simple return to breath is best. As you sit, let the breath change rhythms naturally, allowing it to be short, long, fast, slow, rough, or easy. calm yourself by relaxing into the breath. When your breath becomes soft, let your attention become gentle and careful, as soft as the breath itself.


Like training a puppy, gently bring yourself back a thousand times. Over weeks and months of this practice you will gradually learn to calm and center yourself using the breath. there will be many cycles in this process, stormy days alternating with clear days. Just stay with it. As you do, listening deeply, you will find that mindfulness developed on the breath helps to connect with and quiet your whole body and mind.


After developing some calm and skills, and connecting with your breath, you can then extend awareness of all the foundations of mindfulness, fully opening to your body and mind. You will discover how awareness of your breath can serve as a steady basis for awareness in all you do.

Categories: me stuff
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