The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

September 26, 2012

Pride Goeth Before the Fall

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:37 pm

Even though Labor Day is frequently regarded as the unofficial end of the Summer, the official end of Summer doesn’t come until roughly three weeks later with the Equinox.  Of course, if you’ve been paying attention to the trees, you’d think Autumn began back in the middle of August.  I think we all have a pretty good idea that the leaves on the trees are supposed to change colors and fall off somewhere around this time of year, but most people don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the process until they wake up one morning and suddenly everything is yellow and red, and a third of the trees are already bare of leaves.  At some point, you begin looking for the changes just so you don’t get caught completely off guard by the whole thing, but that mostly just serves to make you silently lament the passing of Summer into Fall.

On the other hand, as the seasons change, it seems inevitable that people start asking themselves if they really made effective use of the Summer while they had it.  I know I do this, even though I find it’s probably just best to not dwell on such things.  After all, unless you happen to have spent your entire summer inventing outlandish contraptions in the backyard every day while somehow avoiding getting busted by your parents for it, the chances are good that you are going to weigh your Summer in the balances and find it wanting.  Most responsible adults (I do find it necessary to impersonate one of these on occasion)  have jobs that do not afford them the luxury of being able to take the whole Summer off work, so you end up pretty much getting your Summer in where you can, which tends to be in relatively small chunks in the evenings and weekends, and maybe a week or two of vacation if you can get away.  This may not seem like a lot when you compare it to the vast expanse of Summer vacation that you got back when you were still in school, but if you use it judiciously you can still get plenty done… in theory at least.  Of course reality tends to ensue, and as a result we never seem to quite accomplish everything we wanted to during the Summer.

Normally this wouldn’t be a problem for most people, but around here we live in a climate where we tend to get about 3 or 4 months of nice weather per year, 2 or 3 months of so-so weather and the remainder of the year filled up with the usual crud.  As a result of this, there always seems to be this nagging sense that even in late June when we’ve got practically the whole Summer in front of us that our Summer is being served to us in a glass with a slow leak in the bottom.  Sure we’ll eventually get a refill, but it’s quite a long way off.  At this particular point in the year I wouldn’t say that the glass is completely empty just yet (after all, we’ve managed to get a few surprisingly nice days out of this September) but we’re definitely down to the last few drops.  And even though I’ve never been a big fan of Autumn (especially the part where it starts getting dark by 5pm,) I do have to admit that the season does come with its own set of charms as well.  When you’re sweating through 90 degree weather in the middle of August the thought of settling down on the couch with a nice blanket and/or a significant other to snuggle up with never seems to come up for some reason, but give ita few months and it starts sounding like a great way to spend an evening.  And then, of course, there’s the Holiday season, which even though it kind of tends to get usurped by Winter in much the same way Memorial Day gets usurped by Summer even though there’s still close to a month of Spring left when it happens, really belongs a lot more to Autumn.  Then again, I suppose if we didn’t arbitrarily assign the Holidays to Winter then it would kind of turn the whole thing into three months of bleak disappointment.  Unless you’re a skier, then you’ve at least got an excuse to look forward to the Winter for something.

Unfortunately, short of pulling up stakes and heading for Florida for a few months during the Fall and Winter, there’s not a lot we can do to get away from it, so we might as well make the best of it while we have it.  Or at least’s that what we’d do if we had any idea how we’re supposed to actually do that…  Oh well, at least Summer is now less than nine months away, right?

September 12, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Cooking Time: Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

Filed under: Cooking, Food — Brian Lutz @ 9:03 pm

This is a post that I’ve been meaning to write here for quite a while now, but haven’t really found the opportunity to do so until now.  I’ve dabbled with food blogging on this site a few times with my recent food truck project and a scattered recipe or two (in fact the chili recipe I posted on this site way back in March of 2008 has been viewed nearly 6,000 times since I posted it, and I presume that at least one or two of those people might have actually tried making it at some point,) and I’ve meant to do more of it, but the main problem I have with recipe blogging is that I just don’t have a whole lot of interesting recipes to work with, and even though I find myself the principal homemaker in my household of one, sometimes it can be hard to find the time and/or the motivation to do as much cooking as I would like to.  As a result of a general lack of time during the rest of the week, most of the “big” cooking that I do tends to happen on Sunday afternoons.  Even then, it’s rare that I will end up doing something as elaborate as this.

Even though chicken enchiladas are one of my favorite dishes to make and eat, I tend to make them only rarely.  This is partially because this is one of the more labor-intensive dishes in my repertoire, and partially because the ingredient I consider to be the most vital (the Hatch green chiles from New Mexico) are so hard to come by around here.  Although me and my family have now lived here in Washington for longer than we ever lived in New Mexico where I grew up, the green chile is one of the few things we all miss about living there.  Fortunately, in recent years a number of local stores have begun to carry Hatch chiles when they are in season (roughly mid August through September,) and the Whole Foods Market in Bellevue even roasts the chiles on site, having set up a proper chile roaster in front of the store like you find in front of many stores in New Mexico during chile season. 

In addition to stockpiling some chiles for future use during their relatively short window of availability, I decided to use this opportunity to make my green chile chicken enchiladas as well, and document the process as I go along.  To be honest, I can’t really take a whole lot of credit for this one as my sister is really the one who came up with the basic recipe, but I have made a few changes here and there, mostly in the procedure.  That little disclaimer out of the way, it’s time to get cooking.  You’ll find the recipe after the jump.

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September 7, 2012

Turning Over a New Page (Sort Of)

Filed under: Technology — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:56 am

The new Kindle Paperwhite, also known as “What I’ve been doing for the last six months”.

From back in one of the earliest of my many contracting stints at Microsoft, I can recall a recruiting poster on the wall of the building I worked in, looking for developers to deal with some of the really deep low-level portions of the development tools.  After the poster listed a few of the perks of working on this particular team (this was back in the day when Microsoft was still, by and large, the king of the proverbial hill in the software industry) this poster offered a slogan which has stuck with me over the years:

“Because you never want your mother to understand what you do for a living.”

Even though my career since then has taken me into some rather technical directions, but I don’t think I’ve ever managed to quite reach the point where I wouldn’t be able to eventually, with a bit of patience, explain to my mother exactly what it is that I do for a living.  In fact, of the various products I’ve worked on and roles I’ve been in, I am pretty sure that my current one would be among the easier ones to explain to someone unfamiliar with my field.  Of course, being able to explain this to someone, and being allowed to explain it to someone can be two different things at times, and particularly when you’re working on a rather well-known product, it’s quite common to find yourself telling people that you can’t tell them what you are currently working on.  Non-disclosure agreements are a fact of life in the fields I work in, especially when working with products intended for highly competitive emerging markets.  This means that when I have friends and family asking me about things pertaining to my job, quite often it means that I have to tell them that I’m not allowed to say anything.  Not that I would ever expect any of my friends or family members to go out leaking things to Gizmodo or anything like that, but to paraphrase an old quote (which I think has been attributed to at least half a dozen different people over the years,) it’s better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you an idiot than it is to open it and get yourself fired for saying something stupid that ends up on a dozen different Blogs within 24 hours.

Naturally, the fact that you’re not allowed to say anything doesn’t mean that people won’t speculate about things.  The various gadget blogs are particularly notorious about this, and when they’re not busy reporting breathlessly on the latest allegedly leaked component of the allegedly next iThingy they’ll be breathlessly reporting on soon enough, every once in a while you’ll find various speculation about whatever it is that you happen to be working on.  Naturally, it can occasionally be rather amusing to see people speculating on the tech Blogs about something that you happen to have sitting on your desk while you’re reading it (or, depending on exactly what it is you’re testing, quite a few of those somethings,) especially when they’re way off the mark.  Naturally, the speculation on the Blogs leads to even more speculation on the comments, and before you know it you’ve got the Internet equivalent of the old Telephone Game going on with rumors piling on top of rumors, eventually leading pretty much everyone down the proverbial garden path.  For those people with inside knowledge of the product  in a position of wishing to remain employed and/or employable, the only real option they really have in this situation is to just stay out of the conversation completely.

Eventually, if people are doing their jobs the way they’re supposed to be, there’s supposed to be a finished and hopefully marketable product at the end of the whole process.  In most cases, this product will make it out the door with some degree of fanfare, but this also depends a lot on exactly what it is you’ve been working on.  If said product happens to be version 2.3 of something that 99.99998% of the people on the planet have no idea even exists, chances are that people will probably put up a news release on the website then go out for lunch and/or a few beers and head back to the office to start working on version 2.4.  On the other hand, there are times when you happen to be working on a high-profile product that will be getting a high-profile introduction to a significant base of patiently waiting users.  Over the course of my career to date, I’ve worked on products at both sides of the spectrum, and plenty in between, but this is the first time I’ve worked on a product that has gotten the full-fledged press conference treatment. 

As you probably noticed if you read any of the tech Blogs or most of the news sites yesterday, Amazon held a major press conference in California, where Jeff Bezos took the stage to announce a number of upcoming new Kindle devices, including a number of new Kindle Fire models.  Also included in this product launch was the brand new Kindle Paperwhite, which just happens to be what I’ve been working on as a localization tester for the past six months.  Although I have also worked with other Kindle devices as well (including some testing on the refreshed version of the low-end Kindle device and an update for the now previous generation Kindle Touch that went out a few months ago,) the Kindle Paperwhite is the one that the vast majority of our team’s test efforts have been directed toward for most of the time that I have been there.  Most people will be raving about the new improved screen (now with built-in lighting) and the significantly overhauled user interface, but given the efforts that me and my colleagues have put into this, I do have to say that my favorite feature on this particular device is the fact that it will be shipping with support for eight different languages right out of the box.  Admittedly, I may be just a little biased on that one though…

Anyway, for those of you who will be buying this new Kindle when it comes out (which is currently expected to be on October 1st,) enjoy, and remember:  If there are bugs in it (which I’m sure there are, I’ve still got an article in the works on this subject that will become the next post in my software testing series), I’ll probably blame someone else for them.  But still, even though I happen to be moving off the localization team and into a different role within the Kindle team at this time, I have to say that I am quite satisfied with the way this one turned out.  Naturally, there are hundreds of people that have to work together to get something like a Kindle out the door, and even though I really only worked with a handful of them, I’m glad to have had the chance to work on this.  But still as always, technology will not stand still, so it’s on to the next thing.  It will be interesting to see what that turns out to be…

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