Archive for March, 2008

Not leaving on a jet plane

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Maybe I’m just a big softie, but I can’t help but feel sorry for the guys at Heathrow Terminal 5. Only a few weeks ago I was hearing about how it was a shining example of how to do things right, and how it had been helped by the use of Agile methods (which I talked about back here).

And now we discover that they are following another Agile principle – failing fast!

Good luck Heathrow chaps. May the force be with you.

Happy Easter

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

ping Jesus

Jesus is alive!

(This is a really corny computer pun. If it means nothing to you, don’t worry about it.)

I’m a rambling man

Friday, March 21st, 2008

Monday was St. Patrick’s day, so I was off work for the day. And instead of lying in bed for half of the day, I got up early and went off for a walk in the hills of North Antrim with the walking group from our church.

It was a beautiful day, with bright sunshine, blue sky,  and beautiful views from the top. And Alan was right – a few days later what I remember is what a beautiful day it was, and how much I enjoyed the walk, and not the fact that I could hardly get up the stairs on Monday night.

View from the top

This is the view from Tievebulliagh looking out towards the sea. To the left of this, we could see Scotland, and from the opposite direction we could see Lough Neagh. It was cool!

Arthur C. Clarke

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

I heard the news last night that Arthur C Clarke had died. Although he died an old man at 90, it’s still sad news. He was a proper science fiction writer, not just someone who wrote imaginary stories set in the future. I guess he will be most famous as the author of the story that led to the epic film 2001, but that doesn’t really do him justice. He probably ought to be more famous for conceiving the idea of the geostationary orbit, on which all of our satellite communications is based.

Although I have to admit that in my mind he’ll always be associated with his television series Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World, which I dimly remember from my childhood. I don’t remember much about the content of the show; only the image of the mysterious crystal skull from the opening titles, and a tone of hushed awe for these phenomena that science couldn’t explain. I suppose nowadays it would all be a bit channel 5, but it obviously struck me at the time.

But perhaps in these troubled times in which we live, what we will miss most is the loss of a gifted communicator who looked into the future and believed that science could help us make a better world.

Hotel Showers

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

I spent most of the week staying in a hotel this week. It was quite a nice hotel. But as usual, it was impossible to have a shower without flooding the bathroom.

What is the deal with hotel showers?? Why is it so difficult for them to work out how to put up a shower curtain that keeps the water in the shower, instead of all over the floor? I don’t understand why almost every hotel is the same. What is wrong with these people?

And I can’t believe I have chosen to talk about shower curtains on the internet.

Nurse – sedate the patient!

Agile Development

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

This week I’ve been on a course on Agile Development (or Agile Delivery, or whatever they want to call it). This time round, it looks like the brainwashing is taking hold much better, and I think I’m starting to accept it a bit.

The key principle that I’ve taken to is that of accepting improvement, not expecting perfection. I have all sorts of arguments against Agile, but when they are challenged against that principle, I have to acknowledge that we don’t do them perfectly now, and we will continue to not do them perfectly in the future, but we may not do them any worse, and it’s possible we may do them better under Agile. (That sentence was clearly too long. I apologise to any reader who suffered mental trauma in reading it.)

From my own perspective in software design, Agile definitely has a significant risk of getting the design wrong because enough time wasn’t taken over it, and then having to re-develop based on a corrected version. But this happens anyway. The difference is that in Agile, the developers should only get 2 weeks down the road before it will be spotted, so reversing it shouldn’t be a major crisis. Or at least that’s what the theory says anyway.

The idea of accepting improvement also seems like a reasonable idea in life. Often we over-analyse a situation trying to find a perfect outcome, which may not actually exist or be achievable. Sometimes, it’s enough that things get better.

So long, fairwell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

I guess if I’m going to live in Northern Ireland and have a blog, I’d better say something about the announcement last week of Ian Paisley’s resignation from front-line politics.

It’s a big deal for Northern Ireland. For as long as I have lived (and longer) he has been the single constant fact of local politics. Northern Ireland politics without Ian Paisley is almost unthinkable, as he has been such a feature for such a long time. Having continued until now (at the age of 81) I’d started assuming he’d go on until he died.

And I have to admit that I had reckoned for years that we’d never see progress in Northern Ireland until Paisley died, such was his unremitting opposition to anything that he believed threatened the status of Northern Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom.

But I was wrong. Recently Ian did the last thing anyone expected, and changed his mind. He went into government with his political enemies, and has been successfully working with them. I truly never believed that it could happen, and he has earned my respect for doing it. The irony of course is that at the same time he has lost the respect of many of his supporters, but that’s another story.

It’s much too early to say what his legacy will be – after all, he still has a couple of months to go, and anything could happen. But I hope that among everything else, he will be remembered for showing us that the two sides of our divided community really can work together. If Ian Paisley can set aside a long history of enmity and work with former IRA members, then maybe there really is hope for Northern Ireland after all.

Books: The Protestant Revolution

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Today I finished reading The Protestant Revolution, a book I got at Christmas. My knowledge of the history of my own religion is a bit poor, so when I saw this I thought it was a good opportunity to improve it. The book goes into reasonable depth about the theological twists and turns of the story of protestantism, from its difficult birth through to it’s impact on the world through some significant people like William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King. It also goes down some of the side roads and dead ends along the way, which is always interesting. It’s definitely a history book more than a theology book, but it’s a good balance, and I know more than I did before I started.

It’s interesting to note that Martin Luther himself only ever intended to
reform the Catholic church, and never intended to create a split from it. It’s depressing to read about the history of the religious wars that raged across Europe as various rulers tried to assert their faith over their people.

But the part that I found most interesting was the difference between the
magisterial reformers and the radical reformers, and how that continues to echo through lots of contemporary situations. The magisterial reformers believed that all of society must be reformed, and so were compelled to force their beliefs on other people to “bring them into the light”. However, the radical reformers were happy to break off from the main body of society (or the church) in order to follow their beliefs on their own.

I think this fits into a lot of situations where we have the choice of trying to change and improve something from within, or walking away and starting again. It also raises the question of trying to impose the rules of your religion on the wider society. If that is anti-slavery, it’s a good thing, but if it is anti-gambling, or against Sunday shopping, is it still as valid? And is it our duty regardless? Where does religious freedom fit in, and respect for other beliefs.

The one good thing that all those wars did give us was that the people in charge decided that the cost of state religion was too high, and they gave us the freedom to make our own decisions on matters of faith. It would nice if that kind of freedom existing everywhere in our troubled world.


Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

I suppose this would be a good time to introduce myself. My name is Norwin (this is an actual name, as provided for me by my parents, and not an internet nickname, just so you know), and I live in Belfast.

I work in the IT industry, I’m a Christian, and I don’t like onions. These facts are not related. I’d rather like a religion that hated onions, but I suppose I wouldn’t like one that forced its adherents to write software, even though I might quite like it myself.

I’m not convinced that the world either wants or needs to know what I think about it, and the many things it contains. The world certainly hasn’t shown much interest in or respect for my opinions in the past. However my friend Karen is a fairly prolific blogger, and she encouraged me to start one when I visited her last year. And so here we are.

I don’t have any particular plans for this blog in terms of content, so I can’t give you a thrilling preview of what’s to come, or even the themes that may develop. To be honest, I’ll be surprised if anyone but me reads it.
But we’ll see what happens. Good night.