Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A busy month, before a busy month

I haven't had the time or presence of mind to post for the past few weeks. Burton Group had its annual North American conference in San Francisco June 12-16, so I was heads-down preparing and presenting. June also saw a trip to Orlando (IBM Rational Developers Conference), which was informative, but not so much fun without the kids (caught in the Disney trap).

I've just come up for air to write a short post before heading off on vacation later this week. It has been a rush to get things done so I can relax for a week. I'll leave the family at the cottage for a few days and fly to Europe to present at a Financial Services conference in the UK. I suspect I'll have several other meetings both in the UK and on the continent...a whirlwind that I enjoy. At a minimum, I'll be meeting with Ivar Jacobson's people in London to talk about the Essential Unified Process.

So, I've been loading up with books on London history, and making travel arrangements. When I travel somewhere, I like to have a deeper perspective on where I am. It helps to shake off the floating feeling you often get when wandering around as a tourist. My kids make fun of me for studying maps, but that's how I create my mental model of a place...takes some of the stress off figuring out where you are and where to go.

In the UK, I'll be presenting on a few topics: 1) a keynote address on Inertia and Innovation in financial services software development (focus on User Experience); 2) platforms (including discussion of mainframe migration strategies) and 3) Thin Clients (emphasis on RIA and Smart Client architecture). The presentations have been fun to put together, and should be informative.

The more time I spend thinking about these issues, the more I am aware that the solutions are to be found in the history of humans and their technology. There is much to be learned by studying how people have solved problems in the past, despite the tool in their hands. In many ways, software engineering is at a transitional stage from artisan to engineer. Best practices are still emerging out of the tacit knowledge of the artisan practitioners. It's just that the pace of change is much faster.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

keith jarrett changes

I've been a Keith Jarrett fan since I was in high school. There's something attractive about risk, like his moth and the flame, that I need. The first recording I owned was not the Koln concert, but Changes. I found it after seeing most of a video on PBS (Last Solo). I don't remember why I chose Changes, but it was probably because it was a "new release" at the time.

It was a good first choice. I didn't understand it at first, but was drawn into the eminor opening...very minimal, cellular motives, gradually opening up as Gary and Jack join in. It struck me that this was like the first colors of a painting (definitely dark green) laid down before details. I liked that development happened slowly, and the tonal framework was very restricted. Parts of it were pretty avant garde to my teenage ears, less so as time went on. I listened to it hundreds of times, each night in the dark. I wore that cassette out! It wasn't until I got married that I finally replaced that tape with a CD.

Since then, I've bought (almost) every kj recording I could find. Damn Amazon! Makes it too easy to spend money. It used to be that I'd stumble on his recordings in some out of the way place. For some reason, I distinctly remember buying Arbour Zena and Solo Concerts on a trip to Maine...Sun Bear concerts was a special order from Sam the Record Man in Toronto, all vinyl. Later on, Changeless (Winnipeg), Vienna (Vancouver), Standards in Norway (Des Moines), Live at the Blue Note (NYC), Sun Bear CDs (Montreal). Once I started replacing my vinyl with CDs, I gave all my old records to Walter at Schweitzer Lodge in Sutton, Quebec, including the big 10-record Sun Bear set. Who'd have thought I'd regret that? Walter was a kindred spirit, and has enjoyed them for sure. As I push 40, I find myself nostalgic for those fragile vinyl things, thinking they're somehow different from the CDs. It's led me on a quest to duplicate some of the collection (Solo Concerts, for example), and I think I'll call it done when I find a good Sun Bear vinyl set.

Like my other obsessions (Copland, Thai food, Donald Hall, etc.), kjs music has moved around in my consciousness. I go for months without paying much attention. When I am drawn back in, it's usually along familiar paths: Changes, Arbor Zena, Bregenz. The paths lead me to listen more closely to the new: Radiance, Inside Out, Up For It; and return to things I've forgotten: Paris, Munich, Ritual, Sacred Hymns.

From the beginning I've wanted to share the connection to kjs music with others, but it's an acquired taste. I can think about it academically, analyze it, connect it to philosophy. At the end of the trip, through, its the association of motives to memories that works for me. The 5/8 rhythms of Arbour Zena and the waves between Cape Breton and Newfoundland. Learning the opening of Bregenz in a hot practice room at McGill. Rehearing Paris on my way to Paris. Absorbing Summertime (solo) live at the Festival du Jazz in Montreal. These are my threads of Jarrett. Personal, and valuable.

Friday, June 02, 2006

peer pressure and theft

So, after resisting creating a blog, here I've gone and created one. Why resist? I guess it's because I spend so much of my time in front of a screen that when I journal, I want paper.

I was led over the edge by peer pressure and theft. Peer pressure: because lots of people I really respect are avid bloggers and it's a great outlet for them. Theft: because a month or so ago my briefcase was stolen in NYC, and one of my journals disappeared. It's bad enough to have a laptop stolen, worse to have a chunk of your brain similarly lifted.

Despite the admittedly ostentatious title and description of this blog, I intend to use it as a spot to brain dump about things that I find interesting. Sometimes thoughts will come out partially formed, and I reserve the right to edit myself over time! But, I've learned that it's important to have a record of what I thought, right or wrong, than to have no record at all. I hope anyone who cares to read these entries forgives the indulgence.