Never to young to start?

30 October 2007

asheville family lego

I volunteer each week at my son's school, where he's in a gifted class. Lately, they've been working with Lego Mindstorms, as part of a unit on robotics. I'm helping with the "programming" parts. The kids assemble the robot according to the directions, and then we connect them to a Windows machine through the USB port.

The default programming environment is this drag'n'drop IDE where you connect blocks of actions, which can be parameterized.

If you want to see "agile development" in action, watch some 10-year-olds program robots.

They jump right in, drop in a block for a random-number generation, and then, um, they turn a light on, and move the robot forward a few seconds. Notice, the random number is never used. The kids just liked the look of that programming block. It was orange, and looked pretty next to the green block to drive the motors.

It's agile, but with YAGNI reversed. Who cares if they aren't going to need it?

Being a new-fangled "gifted" class, it's all about hands-on learning with very little pure instructional time. I quite had to fight the urge to teach the kids about use-cases and requirements engineering. I don't think you can even write unit tests in the visual Lego script.

They are only 10, after all, and it's Lego.

Of course, when you see ill-thought-out, buggy code in 15 years that has arbitrary un-used calls to Random.nextInt(), you can blame me, I guess.

Just Comes Natural

26 August 2007

asheville events fame family lego north-carolina

As a child, a friend of mine (my Attorney) and I were in the local paper for building a sprawling Lego city across my rumpus room.

This morning, my son continued the legacy, by winning a bring-your-own-Lego(tm) Transformer(tm)-construction competition.

The Asheville Citizen-Times wrote it up nicely.

HENDERSONVILLE – For Noah McWhirter, building Lego figures just comes natural. “I just build things with my wild imagination,” the 10-year-old Vance Elementary School fourth-grader said. “I don’t even think about them. I just make them.”



Of course, I think part of the winning strategy was bringing The Intimidator Professional-Grade Toolbox, when most kids had some flimsy Tupperware or burlap sack. Bonus points for packing it to the gills with 1970s-era Lego(tm), inherited from dear ol' dad.


Occupational Heritage

01 May 2007

day-job family

ricky_gervais2.jpgToday is May Day, also known as International Workers' Day. It seems like a good time to reflect upon work.

Particularly since I don't get the day off.

My wife comes from a long line of railroad workers. Her father worked at the railroad until his recent retirement. His father also worked at the railroad until he retired. In this family, "the railroad" of course means specifically Norfolk-Southern. Growing up, my wife's dad wanted his daughters to work for the railroad in some capacity. Alas, neither did. But they are still a "railroad family".

My father didn't go into work from 9-5 at an office. He was gone before I woke, home mid-afternoon, normally worked holidays, and could be found at any one of three different hospitals when he was on the job. In general, I didn't grow up with a father who "went to the office". His father was in the military, and then worked as a county extension agent. In both cases, he would probably be found in a field, and have his work-hours dictated by sunlight. Coming from a small family, I simply wasn't exposed to people who went into the office.

I'm proud to be continuing a long line of people who "don't go into work" since I work from my basement office and deal with people across 7 hours of timezones. I tried an office job. Once. Didn't like it. Won't do that again.

Even if you have a radically different career than your ancestors, is there some strain of commonality in your occupational heritage?

Ignorance of Crowds

19 March 2007

behavior family google social

This weekend, the wife suggested we go as a family to see the movie Bridge to Terabithia .

I'd never heard of it, so I googled using the searchbox in Firefox. I wasn't thinking very clearly, and just typed "road to ter" and up popped some suggestions:

Picture 9.png

Of course, the movie is named Bridge to Terabithia, not Road to Terabithia.

Enough folks have gotten this wrong that Google has decided to suggest leading me down the wrong path. If I actually pick one of the suggestions, perhaps I'll be encouraging Google to lead others astray. Plus, Google has provided positive reinforcement towards me thinking the movie is actually named Road to Terabithia, ensuring that my own ignorance is further cemented.

Thanks Google!

Of course, I spent 98% of the movie wondering why it wasn't called The Rope-swing to Terabithia.

Father & Son Flight:

07 January 2007


Get your flying pants on. You do have flying pants, don't you?

Anyhow, it's the 21st century, and I have a son on the verge of turning 10 (10?! holy crap). Definitely time to start some advanced father/son projects. But I'm a project-based worker anyhow, and a geek to boot. So this father/son project will be an agile project and have a blog.

What is this project?

For Christmas, Noah got a Flywheels XPV. It's a hunk of foam with 2 fans and a remote control. It's neat. But we decided we could do better. So we're going to be building our very own from-scratch flying machine.

As mentioned above, there's a blog. It's all explained there. So I hereby announce

And yes, it completely goes against my own point about syndicating columnists instead of running special-purpose blogs. I'm allowed to change my mind.