Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2013-14 Opening Day

Today was the opening day of the 2013-14 ski season here in Steamboat, and as opening days go, it was one of the better ones. With plenty of snow through October and November the mountain was able to open with 600+ acres of terrain, including my favourite tree run - shadows.

The snow was a little crusty in places but this run down Storm Peak face into Triangle 3 was very nice.

Here's the GPS track.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


The debacle seems like a textbook case of everything that can go wrong in a large software development project, especially in the public sector where the procurement rules make it almost impossible to apply the hard lessons the software industry has learned in the past forty years—although some mistakes are inexcusable, like failing to appoint a single executive who was responsible for this and this alone, all day every day, with the authority to get it done. That's the quickest way known to mankind to screw up a project like this.

I might blog on that and other mistakes at length some other time, but for now I'm more interested in what happens next. I can't help but laugh at the Obama administration's promises that it will all be fixed by the end of this month.

I have been designing, planning, and implementing large, complex, mission-critical government systems for the past twenty years. If I had been planning this project, I would have allowed at least three months for testing and fixes. By the end of this month, they won't even understand what all the problems are, or even have a concrete plan to fix it, let alone have time to actually fix the problems.

Testing systems that have thousands of inter-dependent functions in them is hard, and it requires a very methodical approach. You need a plan that ensures you test as many of the different paths through the process as possible. If the system has lots of rules and options and interfaces with other systems, and this one does, testing becomes a major project in its own right, and unless you apply the same discipline to testing any fixes, you run the risk of introducing more bugs without knowing it.

I don't have any inside information, but I ask myself what's going on inside this project right now, and my answer is that they are all running around like headless chickens in response to the enormous political pressure they must be feeling. Which means they are just spinning their wheels and that each week that passes doesn't bring the problem a week closer to resolution, it just pushes the true resolution date out another week.

My prediction is this thing won't be working in any meaningful sense of that word for at least three months and probably six.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My latest novel

My latest book, now available on Amazon.

Of course, you need to read part 1 first if you haven't already!

Monday, April 01, 2013


Today, April 1st, would have been my Mum's 71st birthday. Sadly she passed away three months ago, in the early hours of New Years Day, after a two and a half year battle with cancer.

Three days after, a massive bushfire tore through the small village where she had lived. This was what was left of her house.

As I remember Mum on her birthday, my thoughts are best expressed in the words I said at her funeral.
Today we are here remember my mother Barbara Hill with our words and our presence. They are never really enough to honor someone we love, but they are all we have left.
She was christened Barbara Ann Graham but she was known to her family as "Dick". I only discovered the reason for that two days ago when talking to Mum's brother, Geoffrey. It seems when she was small she had an Aunt Victoria nearby--Aunty Vic--but Vic came out as Dick and the name stuck.
My late father David, called her by many names, but they were all filled with love and affection. To myself and Joanne and James she was always Mum. To others she was a beloved mother-in-law, Auntie, sister, sister-in-law, and to many a true and loyal friend.
What do you say about your mother's life? My perspective on her is dominated by that wonderful experience of a mother's love - constant and unconditional. She worked incredibly hard at being a good mother. She often struggled to suppress her natural instinct to wrap us in cotton wool, knowing that she needed to let us fall, and that the best thing she could do as a mother was be there to pick us up. Her own childhood had its challenges--something I only came to fully understand in recent years--but she never used that as an excuse, but rather as motivation to always do the best she could by her kids.
Perhaps it is better to sum up her life in her own words: "I've lived a life I could never have imagined as a child," spreading her wings far beyond Pottsville, the sleepy seaside village in which she grew up. She could however see the irony in ending her days in the sleepy seaside village of Dunalley.
After raising a family Mum went back to study and became a librarian, a job which gave her real satisfaction and pleasure. Mum and Dad travelled extensively, although sadly Mum never got to make that one last trip. Of course if she had, I'm sure there would have been another "one last trip" because she wanted to see it all.
At heart Mum was a creator and an artist. There was pottery and painting and her garden--which went a little crazy once Dad wasn't there to restrain her--and her bonsai trees, some of which she had been growing for thirty years, living works of art that to me best captured the true spirit of a wonderful woman.
At least by Mum's telling, she was a bit of a rebel in her early years. That's pure hearsay--inadmissible in a court of law--but I can swear from first hand observation over many years that she didn't know how to give up. As was her nature she went out with one hell of a fight.
As most of you will know, a terrible firestorm tore through Dunalley on Friday and the residence affectionately known as "The Shack" is no more. I am so thankful Mum wasn't here to see the place she and Dad poured so much love into destroyed in one hellish afternoon. Without her presence, though, it's only a building that has been lost, a timely reminder of how much more we have truly lost in Barbara's passing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sliding into Spring

It's spring here in Steamboat which means the snow is slowly sliding off my side roof. Fortunately there's no access to that side of the house, so I don't have to worry about it falling on someone, but it still makes a hell of a noise when it hits the ground.