“Oughta See” by General Fuzz

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Well, well, well… I’m very happy to discover that General Fuzz just put out yet another album. Tonight was a great first-listen, and I know this will make a happy addition to tomorrow’s quiet Sunday morning first-coffee. Thanks, James!

Click here to jump over to the music and listen for yourself. On principle, his music is free-to-download, so try it and if you like it, help spread the word.

(ps: if you like this album, check out his *6* other albums, also all available for free download on the same site – donations welcome!)

BBC’s Panorama coverage of The Spaghetti Harvest

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(“Panorama” is the very-serious-current-affairs program of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and has been running continuously since 1953, making it the longest running current affairs program in the world.)

On 1st April, 1957, Panorama ended its show with a brief ~3minute segment on the early harvest of the Spaghetti trees along the Swiss-Italian border.

It is believed to be one of the first times an April’s Fool joke was played on television viewers, and caused quite the stir at the time. Excellently put together, with great attention to detail, and a script echoing an earlier segment about the French wine harvest, I found it a great fun 3minute watch.

Enjoy!

More details on Wikipedia and The BBC.

Respect

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Summit is coming.

Summit is exciting. With so many people scattered around the world, this gathering of Mozillians… this summit… is a rare chance for people to get together face-to-face.

Summit is scary and stressful. It is a total change in location and routine, which can be stressful. It forces everyone into a high-volume-of-contact… not anonymous contact like a crowded street in New York… high-volume-and-intense-contact with lots of people you work with, closely or intermittently, on a shared project that we all care about passionately. It’s exciting. It’s invigorating. It’s overwhelming. In the coming days, even extrovert people will need a quiet time or two… more introverted people doubly so. Add some small factors like: jet-lag, sleep deprivation, language barriers, change-of-routine, and it’s easy for people to get frayed at the edges.

With that context, I’d like to offer the following thoughts:

  • Respect of self (1): Despite all the great things going on, keep a mental track of how *you* are doing. If you are feeling stressed/overwhelmed with everything, take a few minutes to walk outside in the sunshine, read a book in your room, go for a jog in the sunshine, call family back home, go for a swim… everyone is different, so do whatever works for you. I’ve done this at every conference I attend over the years, and it really helps me recenter. It also lets me mentally process all the inputs so far, and gives me time to remind myself what is important that I still need to do when I go back in the crowd. After all, we’re all here to connect.
  • Respect of self (2): Don’t quietly put up with unacceptable behavior. If a conversation or a situation is making you uncomfortable, make a mental note of it, regardless of whether it’s directed at you, or something you observe/hear being directed at someone else. Politely say “I’m starting to feel uncomfortable“. It may not be intended, so this is a great way to give others a chance to quickly learn, self-correct and grow (without risking offense to either party). If that doesn’t fix things, politely excuse yourself with “That’s an interesting opinion, but I have to leave now” and disengage. Some people, at Mozilla and elsewhere, enjoy trolling… but keep in mind that you don’t have to feed the trolls if you don’t want to. Nicole’s presentation is just great, I re-watch it often. If you think the situation merits it, please do let any of the Mozilla Conductors or Site Hosts know.
  • Respect of others: Lively, honest, debate is a great way for smart people to quickly solve complex problems. When it works, it’s magic. True magic. And to be encouraged. Sometimes, however, these can spiral out-of-control. The difference, as far as I can tell, is respect. Don’t impose your thoughts/intentions where they are not welcome. To be clear, I’m not saying that people should stop having honest conversations, and suddenly be all super-politically-correct. Just be respectful. If you find yourself in a heated discussion with someone, and you’re not getting anywhere, try the following:
    • Wait, wait, wait. We’re repeating ourselves here, and clearly not agreeing, so lets take pause and reset.
    • Then wait a few seconds, and take a few deep breaths!
    • OK, to reset context, can we assume that we both are professionals in our areas? Can we assume that we both want the best outcome for Mozilla? Agree?” (It is important to have these be asked, and answered, honestly and with “yes” from both! If you cannot even agree to this, you’ve got a different situation to resolve.)
    • Once you get a “yes”, then speaking calmly, ask “ok, so using different words, can you tell me why you care about xxxxxx? And I promise to not say *anything* until you tell me you’re finished. Then afterwards, we’ll switch, so I’ll speak without interruption, and you listen. But you first…“.
    • Listen. Take notes if it helps. Allow the other person time to pause and collect their thoughts without interruption. Literally no interrupting.
    • When they finally say they’re all done, then say “ok, here’s what I heard you say – is this correct?” and paraphrase it all back to them. Adjust for corrections and repeat if needed, but make sure to state the full end-to-end one last time after last corrections, so they clearly hear you say their entire opinion/concerns *once* perfectly, in one uncorrected pass.
    • Now, reverse roles. “ok, now it’s my turn to speak without interruption, while you listen“.
    • Make sure they can paraphrase back to you, accurately like you did for them.
    • Almost every time I do this, we instantly find that we were actually solving unrelated *different* problems… problems which just happened to overlap in one small area. No wonder we couldn’t agree! We were two smart professional people who were each actually solving very different problems. This tactic helped debug *which* problem we were each solving, and typically cleared things up right away.
  • Respect of Mozilla: I didn’t create Mozilla, but I’m super glad that Mitchell, Brendan and others did years ago. Imagine for a second… if this was a organization that you had created, and nurtured over the years, how would you want yourself, and everyone else, to treat each other? With that thought in mind, go out into the great crowd and engage.

Hopefully people find these thoughts helpful. Disclaimer, this is an area I’m still working on myself, so any feedback/suggestions/improvements are very very welcome… either here or in email or (yes!) in person!

Travel safe, see (some of) you soon, and lets have a great Summit!

Respectfully
John.

ps: Some additional links I found helpful are: Bob Sutton’s No Asshole Rule and Laura Forrest’s “5 Hacks to make the most of Summit”, bsmedberg’s “Mozilla Summit: Listen Hard”… and yes, of course, I would be remiss to not include this great song:

Yoda does powerpoint

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Concise. Accurate. Perfect. Just perfect.

(credits: Looks like graphjam.com is now part of cheezburger.com empire, which confused tracking down the original author. Digging around, I found a few versions of this on different sites going back through 2011. I *think* its originally from Nathan Yau on flowingdata.com, or Garr Reynolds, posted here but if you know anything about the original author, please let me know.)

HOWTO: Use crutches

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I spent the best part of 2 years on crutches after a venom bite and an unrelated fall. Thankfully, I’ve made a full recovery. With all that time on crutches, I built up some tips/tricks. Since then, whenever I see someone on the street who is obviously new-to-crutches, I strike up a casual conversation about how long I spent on crutches, and if things feel ok, then I share the following suggestions. This happened recently with someone in the office, and afterwards, they encouraged me to blog this in case it is helpful to anyone reading who is also newly on crutches.

1) buy fingerless cycling gloves
Sore hands from pressure of the crutch handle is a problem. Some people prefer to pad/wrap the crutch handle, but I found this still left lots of friction / movement-under-pressure while using crutches. Over time this friction led to blisters in exactly the spot that you needed to press your weight on while using crutches. Painful.

Padded cycling gloves solved this problem. These are padded in exactly the right area… between the base-of-thumb and forefinger…and they’re cheap! Being fingerless, I could still type and answer my cellphone with them on. And the mesh backing kept my hands from getting too hot while wearing them indoors all the time, so I could just easily leave them on all day.

2) be aware of possible nerve damage to armpits
If you get sore hands (see above), its easy to then start resting your full weight on your armpits on the the top of the crutches. Every now and then is typically ok. However, its easy to get into the habit of resting your full weight on your armpits on the crutches. Dont. Leaning your weight on your armpits on your crutches can lead to nerve damage in your armpits, which will seriously limit future use of your arms and hands.

From wikipedia, “A condition known as crutch paralysis, or crutch palsy can arise from pressure on nerves in the armpit, or axilla.[2][3] Specifically, the brachial plexus in the axilla is often damaged from the pressure of a crutch…In these cases the radial is the nerve most frequently implicated; the ulnar nerve suffers next in frequency” and also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axillary_nerve

Use your arms to hold up your weight. As a fulcrum point, pin the top of the crutch between your upperarm and ribs – without contact to your armpit. Start with short distances. Over time, build up to longer sustained use of crutches as your arms build up strength.

Look on the bright side: when I finally came off crutches, my arms were in the best shape ever. And I had no nerve damage in my arms and hands!

3) buy a jogger fanny pack, specifically one that has holders for full-size water bottles.
One of my most frustrating episodes soon after being on crutches was my first attempt to “have a normal day at home”, by myself, making my own coffee and hoping to sit at the computer with my leg elevated. It was tricky to wrangle the machine/filter/coffee/water while on crutches, but the brew smelled great – and the first sip was wonderful.

Success! If I can make my own coffee, how bad can life be?! Then I realized I had no way of getting from the kitchen to the chair, on crutches, while holding my prized mug of coffee. Foiled!

Weeks later, I had a brainwave. The water bottle holders in fanny packs also fit most car coffee travel mugs. Coffee in a travel mug in a fanny pack doesnt spill while you are on crutches.

Make coffee. Pour into travel mug. Put travel mug into fanny-pack-bottle-holder. Rejoice.

ps: While you have this fanny pack, you might as well also pack it with:

  • house keys
  • powerbars
  • cellphone
  • tissues

Thats it. Hope those hints help someone out there… and of course, if you have other tips or hints, please email me or add them to comments below.

take care
John.

Pina by Wim Wenders

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I rarely go to the movies, and even more rarely do any movie reviews on this blog, especially in an area I know little about. However, after seeing this in movie in 3D at a local theater recently, I still cant get it out of my head.

Luscious imagery. Great choreography. And a soundtrack I eventually had to buy and keep looping around and around… I’m still listening to it right now, weeks later.

Very different. Hope you enjoy!

More details about Pina Bausch here on wikipedia.

Are you a night owl?

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I was not a participant in either of these two medical studies.

Caffeine Disrupts Sleep for Morning People, but Not Night Owls
“…for the early risers, the more caffeine in their bodies, the more time they spent awake during the night after initially falling asleep. This was not seen in the night owls.”

‘Morning people’ and ‘night owls’ show different brain function
“…In morning people their cortical excitability actually decreased throughout the day. It was highest in the morning and lowest in the evening,… It was the opposite for evening people; their brain activity was highest at 9 p.m.”

Those of you who know me, all know that I am a night owl who drinks a lot of coffee, and routinely finishes a pot of coffee before going to sleep. I used to think it was only me. However, after reading these medical studies, I wonder how many others out there are also night owls with a high tolerance for caffeine?

We are all “remoties”

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[UPDATE: The newest version of this presentation is here. joduinn 12feb2014]

At the Mozilla Summit in sept2011, we ran a session on working remotely at Mozilla.

I was surprised/stunned/honored by needing to run this session *twice* because of popular demand, the sheer volume of interaction in each session and the ongoing interest since the summit.

Writing these slides, I realize how much I care about this topic… and how many careful subtle habits we’ve developed within RelEng over the last ~5 years.

During the summit, and again last week in Toronto, I had a chance to meet with Homa Bahrami (Senior Lecturer, Haas Management of Organizations Group, Haas School of Business, Berkeley). Apart from being a great person to talk with, she has lots of organizational and behavioral science background to help explain why the things that we felt were helping, were in fact, something she would expect to help!

PDF of slides
(click image for PDF of slides; keynote available on request, but its large!)

As I said at the start of each session, at first it felt odd for a Release Engineer to be talking about work habits of distributed groups… until you think about how physically distributed Mozilla’s Release Engineering group is. I note, for the record, that *none* of RelEng are “in headquarters”. While there are occasional miscommunications, RelEng is fairly well plugged into whats going on… after all, we *need* to be in order to do our job of shipping software quickly, reliably and accurately.

To me, this feels like it actually is about working together in clearly understood ways. The suggestions here have helped “remote” RelEng people in clear and obvious ways, but they *also* help “local” RelEng people work together better.

Please let me know what you think. And of course, if you have ideas or suggestions that I missed, I’d love to hear them.

(Apologies to those who’ve been pestering me to post these over the last few months. Last week’s “remoties” day reminded me how important this is to post – even in its rough state. I’ve fixed the most egregious errors/typos, and merged in some feedback I got in the Q&A sessions. However, these slides still need further work. If you spot anything to fix, please let me know!)

Back online, after my WordPress blog was hacked

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I’m back online again, after lots of cleanup and reset work. Just what I didn’t need to soak up waste my “free time”. Grrr….

Given my day job, I’ve found myself to be very sympathetic to updates-to-fix-security problems, reacting more like “oh, goodie a fix” instead of “grrr… oh, not another update”. So, I found it interesting to note that I know I was already running the latest and greatest WordPress at the time of the breakin. As of now, I’ve reset the entire site, cleaned out the filesystem to remove malware, reset all passwords and done fresh installs of latest-versions of only-the-essentials. Other installed but not running software has been removed. And while I was at it, I added some extra monitoring to see if this happens again. Probably should have done all that the first time, but thats hindsight for you.

In case this happens to someone else reading this post, I recommend reading the following, which I found helpful: (tip-o-hat to lsblakk for the pointer):

Be safe out there, on the World Wild Web!

“Miles tones” by General Fuzz

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Well, here’s a nice surprise – another album from General Fuzz. Click on the album cover to jump over to the music and listen for yourself.

Tomorrow, I’ll load this new album up and see what I can crank out in the office with headphones on. Thanks, James!

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