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Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /hermes/bosnaweb19a/b2387/nf.birchgrovecreative/public_html/michael/wp-includes/classes.php on line 649

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Ceterum censeo…

Ceterum censeo…


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  • Michael's Blog
  • Michael's Curriculum Vitae

  • Warning: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected the timezone 'UTC' for now, but please set date.timezone to select your timezone. in /hermes/bosnaweb19a/b2387/nf.birchgrovecreative/public_html/michael/wp-includes/functions.php on line 11

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    11/01/2014 (12:55 pm)

    Why Frankenstein’s Monster is a horrible person.

    Filed under: Stories ::

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    My RSS feeds came up with an review of Shelley’s Frankenstein, which mostly went on about how horrible Victor is. I agree that Victor is a horrible person, and that Shelley’s writing has many flaws stemming from the fact that she’s basically an amateur author. But I’ll take up this point:

    Seriously, the monster should be the protagonist of this piece. It survives without any guidance, teaches itself language, and pursues its goals successfully across multiple countries and several years.

    I challenge the idea that the monster is any better a protagonist than Victor. I present two arguments to support this claim.

    Argument the First: The monster is really boring.

    By which I mean: it’s not that his dialogue lacks spark, or that he doesn’t get enough action sequences, or lacks a name, or anything meta. It’s that in-universe, he has the primary characteristic of being boring. He rambles on and on with using flowery turns of phrase to describe the misery of his life. If you met him at a party, you’d make excuses and slip away. The monster would think it’s because he’s ugly, and add this to his list of grievances which he’d recite to the next one who crosses his path. But nope, he’s just tedious. Get a hobby, dude. Better yet, show an interest in other people.

    Interestingly, this sticks with him across tellings. It’s baked deep into the archetype. The author needs to show that the monster is only a monster on the outside, and to show it they have him speak like a Romantic hero. But they also have life kick him in the teeth, because he needs to be miserable. And then it all needs to be recounted to Victor, so a proper guilt trip can be laid. So you end up with this self-absorbed droning using horribly overblown language to relate how unfairly he’s been dealt with.

    A recent story (which I’ll not name for spoilers) had the monster appear in an excellently shocking reveal, and then had him ramble on to the point that I wanted to skip ahead till the story picked up on something else.

    Argument the Second: The monster has some horrible gender views.

    The monster’s primary motivation is to get himself a bride. His logic is: a) I’m alone because I’m ugly, b) if I had another partner then we could be alone and ugly together, c) that’s happiness, therefore d) I should force Victor into doing this by killing people. It doesn’t enter his mind that maybe he shouldn’t inflict his horrible, horrible life upon someone else. Neither does it enter his mind that this second monster might have agency of her own, and not want to be with him.

    Again, this is baked into the archetype. The bride is a trophy to be won that will grant happiness. Typically, this aspect of the monster is only implied, because the bride is never created. Now, it could be that this is a feature which is ripe for deconstruction. Say, it could become the basis for a redemption story line. But it’s going to be a pretty grim storyline. Under ‘show don’t tell’, you need to have the monster rage at the bride exercising choice in partners. And given his standard reactions to being abandoned, I don’t think he’s going to settle with a yelling match.


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    Warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected the timezone 'UTC' for now, but please set date.timezone to select your timezone. in /hermes/bosnaweb19a/b2387/nf.birchgrovecreative/public_html/michael/wp-includes/functions.php on line 25


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    04/12/2014 (3:27 pm)

    Statement of Beliefs

    Filed under: Agile ::

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    While updating an out of date LinkedIn profile, I wrote this:

    I’ve spent most of the past two decades studying and developing systems within corporate environments. This includes both the technology systems, and the business processes they support. And the biggest system in my life have been the ones used to develop software.

    The software development systems are the ones that most attract me. No matter how good the starting point, there’s so much opportunity for improvement. Improvements in the ability to deliver software have so much potential to improve business processes. This needs to be the key focus throughout the IT industry.

    I’m looking for opportunities to make technology systems a key part of business success. I’ll know I’m there when there’s a clear, quick, pain-free line from “Wouldn’t it be great if…” to “And now we can…”.

    My guiding principles are:

    • Overwhelmingly, everyone is trying to help.
    • How people help is determined by how they see the local system.
    • Conflicts occur where local systems don’t connect properly.
    • Conflict isn’t bad, if everyone agrees with how it happens.

    No html in LinkedIn summaries, which was one of the things that really needed to be changed.


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    Warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected the timezone 'UTC' for now, but please set date.timezone to select your timezone. in /hermes/bosnaweb19a/b2387/nf.birchgrovecreative/public_html/michael/wp-includes/functions.php on line 22

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    10/24/2013 (4:28 pm)

    A Take On Priority

    Filed under: Business Analysis ::

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    Recently I’ve been back in the Business Analysis space, which has meant (among other things) that I’ve been making lists of features and assigning priorities. Here are some approaches.

    In general I’m not happy using a High/Medium/Low. What does medium mean? When something is not as important as a ‘High’, but are more important than a ‘Low’, do you use ‘High-Medium’ or ‘Medium-High’? (This is not so much a real question, but more a ridiculing of the lack of granularity.)

    Another approach is the MoSCoW method: describe the features as ‘Must’, ‘Should’, ‘Could’, and ‘Won’t’. This isn’t too bad, although I’m on record as having a problem with ’should’.

    I struggled a bit to make these fit with the high level requirements I’m covering. While it’s entirely reasonable to talk about a function like ‘Display Current News Items’ as having ‘High’ priority, or as being a ‘Could’ function, it kind of falls apart when assigned to a supporting function. Let’s say ‘Review News Request Log’ is a piece of housekeeping required to keep the system in good running. Is it ‘High’ priority? No, because you’re not building the system to view a log. Is it ‘Low’? No, because (by assumption) it’s needed to keep the system running, and Low Priority items get cut, which is not needed. As for MoSCoW… having too many MUSTs ends up getting confusing.

    (Sidenote: I notice that I’m making an assumption that a majority of functions fall into this category of not a direct goals but are needed anyway. I wonder if that’s a necessary consequence, or a matter of personal style? Could I frame requirements so that the problem goes away? Would that be a net positive?)

    Anyway, I ended up rating these like this:

    • Primary - this is for main business goals
    • Secondary - this is for optional business goals, which aren’t justified on their own, but which are worth doing if you’re already in the space.
    • Tertiary - actually, I’m not sure what would go int here, but it’s suggested by the jargon. Maybe another business unit imposing something? (say, new security standards)
    • Supporting - this is for the trouble functions I describe above… needed for a Primary or Secondary goal, but not worth doing in it’s own right. Each supporting function should map clearly back to a primary or secondary goal.
    • Optional - this is for alternative ways of achieving a goal.
    • …plus other things as seems helpful (e.g. Policy)

    I’m finding this approach makes it easy to keep the reasons for doing a function in line.


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    04/25/2013 (6:25 pm)

    Photo archive: lost ninjas

    Filed under: Japan ::

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    Digging through some old photos, I found this one.
    koka-lost-ninjas.png

    Because lost ninjas is hilarious…


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    03/21/2013 (8:59 pm)

    Goodbye to Thailand.

    Filed under: Thailand ::

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    So… my time in Thailand is complete. Another international posting finished. I go home tonight, pack up over the weekend, and return to sporadically sunny Melbourne next week, where I’ll stay for the foreseeable future. Yay!

    So, looking back, I’ve…

    • delivered an application upgrade
    • ran some detailed negotiations leading to not providing a service (because it wouldn’t have been effective)
    • coordinated some cross company testing
    • enthused about function point estimation (twice)
    • seen that there are actually lifetime benefits from a strongly followed prescriptive process
    • had a couple of case studies in the primacy of the business case
    • missed more natural disasters (flooding this time)
    • learned to play golf (well… learned to sometimes not mis-hit the ball with a golf club)
    • went to a filming of The Daily Show
    • sent fiery lanterns swarming across the sky
    • grew a pretty horrible mustache for Movember

    (hmm… maybe I should share some of these experiences…>

    There’s a degree of ambivalence about the experience. After coming back from Japan, I was pretty enthusiastic about overseas postings, and would encourage the idea in others. But, as it turns out, these postings can have a significant downside. (Which I’m not going to go into, because this isn’t really that sort of blog.) So now, rather than being directly encouraging, I’d have to ask something like “how to you feel about taking risks you might come to bitterly regret?” Which I don’t, but I could see the land without a telescope. If risk can be accepted, then I’ll encourage.

    But I’ll stick with the idea from last time.

    It’s been hard.
    It’s been good an experience.
    It’s finished.
    I’m ready to go home.

    Time to do something different.

    (More specific sharings will follow if and only if the mood takes me.)

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