Monthly Archives: September 2009

More Outback Pictures

We’re leaving for tropical weather, beaches, snorkeling, and diving tomorrow, so I thought it might be good to share some more pictures of the outback before we leave.

Another Palm Valley View
If it’s wet year-round, it’s something very unusual in the outback
where they can get less than 8 inches of rainfall a year

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Ayers Rock/Alice Springs: The Real Outback

Yesterday we flew from Perth into Ayers Rock and then drove down to Alice Springs.

Ayers Rock is the big red rock you see in movies when they want to show the outback. We had planned on spending about an hour at the rock — I mean, it’s just a rock — and then driving over to Alice Springs.

When we got there, they wanted 25 bucks a person to visit the rock. Thanks but no thanks. The lady at the entrance was very friendly “But you’ve come all this way! It’d be a shame not to go in!”

I told her they had a really nice rock, but it looked pretty good from the roadside. I’m not sure it was going to get 50 dollars better up close.

Ayers Rock
What can I say? It’s a big red rock



The drive to Alice Springs was, well, interesting. All the Aussies drive on the wrong side of the road, and there’s just a lot of nothing between Ayers Rock and Alice Springs. When I say “nothing” I mean nothing. About 300 miles of desert. Maybe 3 places for gas. A few rest stops and overlooks. The speed limit was about 80mph, and you’d see a car coming the other way every ten or fifteen minutes or so. And this highway was a well developed road with lots of traffic!

We passed Mount Conner, which I found to be a much more interesting large red rock than Ayers Rock. Mount Conner, Ayers Rock, and another rock formation are called the main things to see in central Australia. I didn’t get a picture of the other rock formation, although we saw it. At the time we didn’t realize it was such a big deal.

Ayers Rock
What can I say? It’s another big red rock



We passed a “road train” a couple of times, which I understood to be a tractor-trailer. But the term “road train” really conveys it: these are tractors with several trailers hooked in tow, just like a big tractor-trailer train that moves along the road. God only knows how they turn or back up those things. The first one we passed looked like five tanker cars all strung together.

We also passed a turnoff to go see a metorite crater, supposedly a huge impact area — one of the largest existing craters on earth. But it was getting dark, and the road was not paved. Call me chicken, but I didn’t want to be driving 15 miles through the desert on an unmarked road in a strange country where there there wasn’t any help for 100 miles. I’m just that kind of person.

Outback Sunset
We stopped at a rest area and took a few pictures



It’s easy to say that since there aren’t great pictures that somehow this part of the trip was wasted, but I don’t agree. We’re getting a chance to drive around on our own and see the middle of the country — a place where most weekend tourists never get to go. Walking around Alice Springs this morning we saw a lot of aborigines and got a taste of the local culture.

In fact, this has the feeling of hanging out in somebody’s back yard. And where else is a better place to get to know somebody than in their back yard?

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Perth Pics

We visited King’s Park in Perth and saw the park and botanical gardens today. We also took a walk along the beach. Lots of great stuff to shoot!

Kangaroo Feet
Neat red flower called Kangaroo’s Feet I think



Perth Beach
Nice shot of the beach



flowers
Flowers




Walking along the Indian Ocean was incredible



wildflowers
More flowers



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Book Review: The Trusted Advisor

Just got through reading a great book on consulting: The Trusted Advisor.

Reading about consulting skills is a bit of an oxymoron — consulting is all about putting your client’s interest ahead of your own, and if you’re spending a lot of time worrying about your “craft” or learning tricks or techniques, you’re no longer focused on the other person. The old saying is: “The trick is, there is no trick”

Having said that, there are things that you need to know — how to engage, how to bring up issues, how to develop deeper relationships. These “soft skills” are much more important that content knowledge, at least in my opinion. Lots of folks are smart, but few people can take those smarts and really have an impact in the world with other people.

Unfortunately, everybody wants to emphasize book smarts instead of people smarts. Clients hire based on encyclopedic knowledge of an issue. I had a client once who told me that their consultants had better be able to walk on the water! He was convinced that consulting was a game where you acquired a bunch of knowledge and then dispensed it sparingly.

Instead, what I’m finding is that at the highest levels of consulting, nobody knows the answers. Having a vast, broad knowledge of an area is just the beginning of being able to help a client. Content knowledge is just the cover charge — it’s not knowing how to dance.

“The Trusted Advisor” is a great book for those of you out there just getting started in your career. It will finally explain to you the difference between those folks who are kicking butt in their career and those who are merely meandering through.

Highly recommended.

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Sydney Tour and Harbor Photos

View of the Sydney Opera House
It’s a rule: you can’t visit Sydney without taking a picture of the Sydney Opera House



View of Luna Park
Little-known Luna Park was built here and modeled after Coney Island (in New York)



Jack and Katrina get their picture taken
Mom! Do we have to get our picture taken again?



Jack and the Endeavor
The maritime museum looked like terrific fun, but we didn’t have time to go.
Here’s Jack with a replica of the famous HMS Endeavor, the
ship Captain Cook used to discover Australia and New Zealand



Beach cliffs at Sydney
When there are big fences and signs for the suicide hotline, you figure this
must be a place where a lot of folks decide to take the plunge



View of Bondi Beach from trail
The boat tour was everybody’s favorite part of the day



Sydney Opera House
One more for good measure



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More Bondi Beach Photos

Today was a travel-recovery day. The rest of the family went to the aquarium. I stayed back and went for a hike on the beach. Time for more photos!

View of Bondi Beach from trail
The full view of the beach from the trail



A bird
Beats me what kind of bird this is.
He was there and so was I



Surfer
There were lots of surfer dudes out in the waves




Bird #2.



Surfer
I think it’s more fun to watch them wipe out than watch them surf



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Shooting Beach People

This should be an interesting entry, as I’ve been about 40 hours without sleep and just had two glasses of wine — so bear with me. If I confess to kidnapping the Linbergh Baby or being D.B. Cooper it’s just the lack of sleep and intoxicants.

We arrived in Sydney around 8am, which was 6pm to our internal clocks. Being the good American tourists we are, first we spent too much for a ride to our hotel (80 bucks!) and then we paid too much for rooms with a view of a brick wall (but they’re oceanside rooms!) Each time we were told what a great deal we were getting, and we were in no shape to argue, so we capitulated.

We were also told to stay up as late as possible today — it’s the best thing to get your body’s clock reset to a new time zone. So even though I know better, I drank a diet red bull and two coke zeros and we went for a walk on the beach.

Lovely beach, this Bondi beach in Sydney! Gorgeous setting, large beachfront, not too crowded, lots of foofey shops and a wonderful beach walk — who could ask for more?

I figured the best thing to do was to get back into shooting DSLR again. I love my DSLR, but it takes a while for me to get into the hang of it. Quite frankly, I’m more at home with landscapes: it appeals to my desire to set a million different parameters. So I felt a good start was to try to shoot people.

People are very tough to shoot.

Aside from the two topless women sunbathing (pictures not included), we saw a lot to shoot. Here’s Day 1 of Daniel’s Back-in-the-saddle DSLR exercise.

Bondi Beach Landscape typical shot
This is the type of shot most folks probably bring home from Bondi beach



Bondi Beach Landscape typical shot
These volleyball players gave me the best shots of the walk
I should have stayed around and shot them some more



Bondi Beach Landscape typical shot
This girl just came from nowhere, sat on a rock,
and stayed there until I had finished shooting 7 or 8 shots.
Then she left




I wish I had gotten some better action shots
I think beach volleyball lends itself naturally to practice people-shooting



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Losing Your Hunger

I’m amazed at the number of businesses, small and large, that have lost their hunger.

Over the last two months I have been looking for a SCUBA instructor. We’re headed to the Great Barrier Reef. I’ve always heard that you should dive it if at all possible.

I found a local shop about six weeks ago and started a conversation with the owner. I say conversation only in a loose term — although he had a yellow pages entry, was on the web, had a store, and sold lots of equipment, he was rarely around. It took days for him to respond to my voicemails, and getting the paperwork and everything else settled took weeks. By the time we were ready to train, our instructor had an aunt die and was unable to help us. Seeing as how there was no backup instructor, and the owner was away from the shop (again) we simply ran out of time. So sad. Too bad.

I’m not writing this to quibble with one shop owner. As part of this same trip I’ve had the opportunity to contact little hotels and shops all around Australia and New Zealand. Most of them were very cordial. Some were downright friendly.

But others weren’t so much.

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Vacation Optimization

Thursday morning my family will get on a jet in Virginia and, if all goes well, 35 hours or so later we’ll be getting off in Sydney, Australia. And for five weeks after that, we’ll be kicking around under the equator.

Here’s the general plan:

Dates Location Events
Sept 19-21 Sydney Harbor tour, Aquarium, City Tour
Sept 22-25 Perth Visit with friends, swim with dolphins, hang out
Sept 25-29 Alice Springs/Ayers Rock See the big rock, drive/hike in the outback
Sept 30-Oct 5 Cairns Dive, Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, Rain forest tour, relax
Oct 6 Sydney Reload for NZ
Oct 7 – Oct 18 Drive Tour New Zealand. Stops in Auckland, Rotura, Tongariro, Wellington, Nelson, Greymouth, Fox glacier, Te Anau, Invercargill Hike Tongariro, take lots of pictures!, local touring each stop
Oct 19-22 Sydney Hike, museum tour

Now that we’ve got the “what” out of the way, the more interesting question is “why?” Why take six weeks out of your life and spend it somewhere far away where nobody knows you and you have no comforts of home? Why travel and see a bunch of stuff you could easily catch one night on the National Geographic Channel?

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How to Really Measure Software Teams 3

Ever do the retrospective dance? You know the one, where at the end of the sprint everybody plays all the retrospective games: start-stop-continue, timeline, word-pong, or sprint-painting — and then nothing in your team actually changes? Maybe somebody takes notes, there’s an “action list”, you create new stories, or whatever, but the next sprint there you are with the same items all over again?

That’s a fun game, right?

Teams do this all the time. They’re really good at going through the motions of doing a retrospective — after all, everybody knows retrospectives are the most important part of agile — but they suck wind when it comes to actually improving themselves.

Makes you wonder: are these teams really agile?

There are all sorts of tests out there to tell if a team is “really” agile — the Nokia Test comes to mind as a popular example. Based on my experience, I have one simple rule for whether you’re an agile team or not: you have to be constantly improving through the use of an efficient feedback cycle.

If you are constantly improving, you can start with nothing and end up with a hyperperforming team. It might take a while, but it’ll happen. If you are not constantly improving, no matter how many of the rituals and behaviors you do, you’re never going to amount to anything.

Which gets us back to the retrospective dance.

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