Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Computer languages and facial hair

There's a fun entry by Tamir Khason over at Microsoft Israel on the link between successful computer languages and facial hair. As a former wearer of a big ol' bushy beard and as a geek, I found this hilarious.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Heavy Load

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:29-30
When you think of how many burdens each of us carry around when living this life the world's way, it's hard to believe that more of us don't take advantage of this offer from Jesus. There are three primary points that I take from this verse. First, I think that it's interesting that the Lord emphasizes his meekness. I believe that he does this to reassure us that we are free to approach him even if we think that our problem or need is too small for the king of kings and lord of lords. Secondly, we learn that his yoke is easy. What is his yoke? It's his word and the teachings therein. The New Testament teachings are actually pretty easy to keep; we just don't like keeping them. Third and last, is the fact that we need to take an action to receive the fulfillment of this offer. The offer is freely made, but if we don't personally take his yoke, then we find ourselves still with our heavy worldly yoke.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

An accidental pastor

It was never in my plans to become a pastor. Going further back, it was never in my plans to join the Church either. Obviously something happened to change that and this is (a condensed version of) that story.

See, there I was enjoying my IS career when I meet a nice family with an even nicer daughter. Well, they invited me to go to church with them and for some reason I said yes and started attending regularly. It didn't take long and I got baptized and then not too long after that I received the Holy Ghost. To prove that good things come in threes, I also married their daughter. (You saw that one coming right?)

So, there I am, a fully signed up, card carrying holy roller. Not in the plan, but it felt pretty good and I was happy with that. I love the people of God and enjoyed being in the family.

Next, I felt directed of the Lord to study. I wasn't sure what to study, so I asked my pastor and he directed me to study our organization's ministerial home study material. There was lots of good material there and for the next couple of years I enjoyed studying and reading.

A few years after that, I felt directed of the Lord again to up and move to the next state over and take a job at the big employer in that city. This I did and discovered that we had a home missions church in that place. The lovely Sister Geek and I attended the church and helped out however we could, including at least six months of teaching the mid-week lesson because pastor had to work second shift. It was around this time that I started saying things like "I'm glad I'm not a pastor!"

Roll forward a couple of years and I get duped, err, blessed with being appointed as the editor for the district newsletter. This is not something that I'd ever done before, but the district board bribed, err, encouraged me by supplying a brand new Mac computer with all of the software I would need for the job. I was then also required to attend district functions including several minister only events. I remind you that I was not licensed at that time, so it was quite an honor to be invited to such events. After having the opportunity to spend so much time with pastors and other ministers, I was more certain than ever that I did not want to be a pastor. This feeling was due to the behind the scenes view that I was given of pastoring, not from any lack of respect of the position of people filling those positions. The more I saw of pastoring, the more I realized that it was real work and involved a good deal more than just droning on for a while on Sunday mornings.

Things were good, albeit much busier now that I was the district editor. My anonymity was an early casualty and I quickly had to get used to folks recognizing me at events, coming over and commenting on the newsletter. Thankfully the comments were almost uniformly appreciative, so that helped.

Sister Geek and I, by now, were the longest continuously attending saints in the congregation and were still helping out in every way we could. As pastor was busy with his own district level position that meant lots of helping was required. Sister Geek was regularly playing piano during mid-week services and I was starting to get lots of preaching practice filling in for pastor.

Looking back, after the way that everything had been building up, we should have seen it coming, but it was a complete and total surprise when it happened. We had been invited over for lunch after Sunday service (and the annual business meeting if I remember correctly) and we were relaxing after an excellent meal when our pastor told us that the Lord had told them that they were to move to a different city on the other side of the state and take the pastorate there. This was quite a shock to us, but not as much of a shock as when they explained that the Lord had also told them that we should take over the pastorate for this city! We were pretty much speechless for the next half an hour or so. After that, I got right to work seeking the Lord and asking for a confirmation of this call. After a couple of weeks at a Sunday afternoon prayer meeting, I got the confirmation that I sought. This was the start of life getting much more interesting.

Now that I was confirmed by the Lord that I should take over the pastorate of the church I was attending, there was the small matter of not being a licensed minister. I got my confirmation in mid-March and needed to take over the church by July. Thank goodness the Lord had already caused me to get all of my required studying out of the way years before. Our current district had a couple of extra requirements and I was able to go through them in short order, so I was meeting the district board in June and was approved for my local license (the first level in our organization). I took over the pastorate in July 2007.

It has been an interesting journey since last summer. There are so many things that you don't learn about pastoring from any other source except real life. I suppose that those who have an opportunity to be an assistant pastor for a while first may have it easier, but I didn't get to do that, so I'm not in a position to be certain.

I like the term accidental pastor because it reflects the fact that while I do now love the role and even the responsibilities that come with it, it was not something that I sought out in any way.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Green Shift

Reg Braithwaite over at raganwald has a great post about Green Shift. What is Green Shift? Well, it's a term coined by Scott Ambler (back in 2006 writing for DDJ) for a wide-spread corporate anti-pattern. The pattern does like this:

Nobody likes to report bad news to the layer above them, so managers (it's usually managers, most programmers are brutally honest) take the reports they are given and spin them positively. Repeat this for a few layers and a massive compound interest of spin will accumulate until the report that reaches the highest level has no similarity to the reality being reported on.

The reason that it's called green shift is from the "traffic light reports" that modern project management likes to employ for their reports to senior executives. Green means everything is good, yellow means there are issues to be addressed and red means serious problems. If the programmers on a team report problems, that should turn the report red for that project. This would reflect badly on the project manager, so they will often report it as yellow with a written note that they are confident that the current batch of issues will be addressed successfully in the near future. See how this is close to the truth, just with a very positive "glass half full" kind of perspective? The problem is that this is now a subjective rather than objective report. The next layer will take this report and take the project managers expectations and read them as cast-iron guarantees that the problems will be solved before the project is delivered. This layer will then pass on their report with the project status as green, because they believe that everything will come in fine at the end and that there is nothing that senior management needs to worry about. Again, they feel that they haven't lied, but have just taken a positive view of the report they received.

The more layers there are between the programmers and the CIO, the worse the effect gets. Unfortunately, this is a very common occurrence within Corporate America. I have seen this everywhere that I've worked and it seems to be getting worse.

This may come as a surprise to many programmers who think that it's only IS managers who suffer from this form of insanity, but it is in fact so widespread that there are classic Internet jokes about it:
In the beginning was the Plan.
And then came the Assumptions.
And the Assumptions were without form.
And the Plan was without substance.
And darkness was upon the face of the Workers.
And they spoke among themselves, saying, "It is a crock of sh-t, and it stinkith"
And the Workers went unto their Supervisors and said, "It is a pail of dung, and we cannot abide the smell."
And the Supervisors went unto their Managers, saying "It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong, such that none may abide by it."
And the Managers went unto their Directors, saying, "It is a vessel of fertilizer and none may abide its strength."
And the Directors spoke among themselves, saying to one another, "It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong."
And the Directors went to the Vice Presidents, saying unto them, "It promotes growth, and it is very powerful."
And the Vice Presidents went to the President, saying unto him, "This new plan will actively promote the growth and vigor of the company with powerful effects"
And the President looked upon the Plan and saw that it was good.
And the Plan became Policy.
And that, my friends, is how sh-t happens.

[A tip of the hat to the Jewish Humor and Joke Page]

Sunday, April 20, 2008

It's All Good

Have you ever thought about the word "good"? It's used 720 times in the King James Version of the bible and represents (if my arithmetic is right) 49 different Greek and Hebrew words. This tells me that it's a very versatile word, used to describe many different aspects of that concept. The fact that the word "good" is used to describe the works of God and as one of the attributes of God, suggests to me that we have been undervaluing this fine word. During the creation, when God had finished with each day's work, he reviewed it and saw that it was good. Jesus was described as going about "doing good". Lastly, Jesus described himself as the "good shepherd". Next time you see the word good used in the bible, remember that it means bigger and better things than it's small size might normally indicate. God is good!

Saturday, April 19, 2008