Take a Break!

What’s new about that? Everybody knows that your mind & body needs rest otherwise you’ll burn out. However, as we go through our daily rituals, taking the time to relax can take a back seat as real life obligations pile up.

So what do you do, wait for retirement? While that certainly is an option, I wouldn’t recommend it.

What if you pre-planned one vacation EVERY month? I know, it sounds crazy. How could you possibly fit that into your already over capacity life? And even if you could, how could you afford such a luxury?

First of all, I’m not suggesting you jet off to another continent on a monthly basis. I am suggesting that you leave your city even if it’s just for the weekend. Regardless of where you live, I’m sure there are plenty of options. And it doesn’t have to be extravagant. Maybe you find a destination that’s an hour or two out of town where you stay in a motel and endure some long hikes.

Furthermore, if you pre-plan these excursions they can be cost-effective. Groupon offers many travel deals. Also, flights can be inexpensive as well if you’re able to be flexible with your dates.

Additionally, it’s no secret that we all have our bad days. Those days where you temporarily hate everything (including your job). When you have something to look forward to (like a vacation), it really helps to get through those tough times.

So why do this? It’s simple really. We all need to make time to take a mental (and physical) break from everyday life and the only way to do that is to escape real life. Don’t believe me? Think about the last time you had a work conversation with a co-worker at a location outside of work (maybe at a restaurant). I’m guessing the conversation was more open, honest, and productive simply because you weren’t in the office. There’s something psychological about stepping away from the environment.

The bottom line is this, if you don’t make time for yourself nobody will so you may as well make it a priority. Start planning your next vacation!

 

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Okanagan Wineries

I recently had the opportunity to visit 20 wineries in the Okanagan (Kelowna/Summerland/Naramata/etc).

My favourite wine was the Pinot Noir Reserve from Quails Gate.

The most interesting was the deep red sparkling Shiraz from Sumac Ridge.

The best winery (by far) was Mission Hill although Summerhill as the busiest.

Unfortunately my trip did not include Oliver & Osoyoos where a lot of red grapes are sourced from.

Here are some notes from each winery:

Indigenous World Winery
-Marechal Foch was velvety
-Sparkling Wine ended with a surprise of grapefruit
The Hatch
-Frenzy Pinot Gris & Meritage were ok
Volcanic Hills
-Merlot was well aged
-Riesling Ice Wine was good
Mission Hill
-Pinot Noir/Meritage/Qualtrain were all good
-I did not try the Oculus
Quails Gate
-Stewart Family Reserves are only available in the Okanagan
–Pinot Noir was fantastic
–Chardonnay was good
Fitzpatrick 
-Known for their Sparkling wines
-use a gyropalette to perform riddling
-mainly easy drinking wines
-had the opportunity to go down in their caves
Little Engine
-Good selection of Merlots
-Their fortified wine contains Brandy & Pinot Gris
Poplar Grove
-Good lunch spot with an amazing view
-decent Pinot Gris
-CSM was a cool concept (spin on GSM)
-Legacy had good tannins
-Barrel tasting was a good treat
Liquidity
-Reserve Chardonnay only available by the package
-Reserve Pinot Noir was good with a short finish
Noble Ridge
-Kings Ransom is their top end all of which were good
-Kings Random Cabernet Sauvignon was not available for tasting
8th Generation
-Integrity Frizzante was their spin on Prosecco
-One of few wineries to produce the Kerner grape
-Classic Riesling (dry) was better than the Riesling (off-dry)
Cedar Creek
-Platinum Chardonnay aged in Concrete was good
Summerhill 
-Cipes Brut was a decent sparkling wine and it contains Riesling
Tantalus
-Riesling was very good
-Very few blends
The View
-1 of 3 wineries in the Okanagan to offer Pinotage
The Vibrant Vine
-The Dragon was good
-Woops has an interesting story where the label is upside down
Sumac Ridge
-Black Sage Brand which most people don’t associate with Sumac Ridge
-Sparkling Shiraz/Zinfandel/Cabernet Franc/Pipe (port) were all good
Dirty Laundry
-The Hush (Rose) was not part of the tasting
-Merlot was good
TH Wines 
-No vineyards
-Nothing outstanding
Lunessance 
-One of few wineries to produce the Oraniensteiner Grape
-The only winery that seemed to use Slovakian oak
-Pinot Blanc was good
-Reds didn’t stand out

 

SAFe Training

Over the past 10 months I had the opportunity to participate in two SAFe courses; Leading SAFe, and SAFe Advanced Scrum Master.

Leading SAFe:

SAFe recommends that everyone should take this course prior to the start of a SAFe initiative. I absolutely agree. With that said, it can be somewhat frustrating when you’re bombarded with concepts and terminology that are unfamiliar to you. However, the upside is that you’re able to experience those “ah ha” moments when you come across these concepts in your SAFe journey.

Due to scheduling conflicts it can be difficult to start with this course. In fact, I’ve worked with some people that went through an entire Program Increment (PI) before they took this course. Since the organization should be staffed with SAFe Program Consultants (SPCs), my recommendation is that this course should be part of the on-boarding process.

Finally, it is my belief that anyone who takes the course (as required by the organization) should be required to take and pass the exam. The organization has made the investment in training and the human resources should be required show that they made an effort to understand the concepts and hopefully apply them. The added benefit to the course attendee is that they achieve the SAFe Agilist certification.

SAFe Advance Scrum Master:

Due to my Agile experience I decided to forego the SAFe Scrum Master course and jump right into this one. This course is typically not offered at organizations and may require travel. The added complexity is that it is not highly sought after so it can be difficult to find an offering that does not end up getting canceled.

After a few attempts, I was able to find an offering in Chicago. I took the two-day course over a weekend. There were seven attendees most of whom were not currently “doing” SAFe. I found this odd that they were taking an advanced course on something they currently were not practicing.

The majority of the course re-iterated the concepts form Leading SAFe. It was definitely a good refresher. But the course also focused on key XP practices like Test Driven Development (TDD) and Pair Programming. We did not actually perform those techniques but the idea was that Scrum Masters should advise/teach/coach their teams on these valuable techniques.

Soon after the course I took the exam (and passed) which was much harder than the SAFe Agilist exam.

Agile2018

So this was my 3rd Agile Alliance conference and my 2nd in a row as a volunteer and every year is quite a bit different.

The location of the conference hotel worked out really well. It was a quick walk to get to the Gaslamp district as well Embarcadero Park. Last year at the Orlando there just wasn’t anything close to the resort.

In terms of attendees, it was great to see familiar faces from this and other conferences. Of course there were opportunities to make new acquaintances as well. In all the total attendance didn’t deviate much from last year and was around the 2500 mark.

There were some different tracks compared to prior years. It is simply impossible to attend all of them but the one that stands out the most is Audacious Salon. These type of talks go very deep and can be theoretical. It definitely isn’t for everyone but those that stuck around seemed to enjoy it.

I will be giving a formal Conference Debrief presentation at the Calgary Agile Methods User Group (CAMUG) next month which I am really looking forward to.

Next year it’s in Washington, DC. I hope to be there!

What makes us happy/unhappy?

Money:

What you may find surprising is that money doesn’t make us happy. Disagree?

According to Daniel H. Pink (author of ‘Drive’), as long as we’re compensated adequately, more money won’t incentivize us to work harder. People want autonomy in their jobs as well as more time off. However, for those that are under compensated they will likely be demotivated. So if you’re working a job that doesn’t fulfill you but you’re adequately compensated chances are you’ll eventually leave even if you are rewarded with a significant raise/bonus.

Relationships:

According to TIME magazine (The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries For A More Joyful Life), people in relationships are happier than those that are not. However, those that are in an unhappy marriage are worse off than being divorced.

In terms of holding grudges, Robert Waldinger indicated (in a TED talk) that grudges eat away at us and affect us negatively in many aspects of our lives. Relieving ourselves of grudges can go a long way in repairing relationships.

Material things:

We all look forward to buying new things whether its a new car, a new house, or maybe a new suit. Unfortunately, that feeling doesn’t last. We quickly become bored of material things. In fact, they never truly satisfy us because the more we have the more we want. It is often the case that the best part of the whole ordeal is the act of buying the item itself.

Spending money on more meaningful things tends to lead to more happiness. For example, taking a vacation provides us with stories that can retold over and over (even if it isn’t 100% true). For some people, the majority of enjoyment is felt in the anticipation of the vacation. So the lesson learned is, plan your vacations as soon as you can. You’ll enjoy it more!

ICGSE 2018

I was pretty excited when my submission for this conference was accepted. I’ve been trying for the last few years without success. One of the reasons I’ve been trying to get accepted is due to the ‘global’ aspect of this conference. This was a large focus in my Master’s thesis and I felt this would be a good way to leverage some of the research I’ve already done.

Since ICGSE was collocated with the ICSE suite of conferences, a proper conference facility was needed. The Congress Center Gothia Towers provided an excellent venue.

I gave my presentation (Effective Distributed Pair Programming) on May 28th which was less than week after I had given my presentation at XP 2018. My presentation was followed by talks from Google and Samsung. At the end of the entire time slot, each presenter was required to take a corner of the room to answer any questions. There was some excellent discussion and I did receive some requests for my presentation slides.

XP 2018

If you’re a fan of Port, this year’s venue for the XP conference in Porto, Portugal was definitely a treat.

The Faculty of Engineering at the University of Porto was an excellent compliment to the conference. As we get older and busier in our daily lives it’s easy to forget where we came from. Watching students go from class to class and take breaks in between was an excellent reminder of that.

Even though I didn’t get an opportunity to meet him, it was great to hear Kent Beck speak in person. Aside from his keynote, he also took part in a panel discussion around Mission Critical Agile. This definitely piqued my interest as I’m currently working on a Defence project.

It seems like the Agile Alliance organization has taken over the XP conference which was a surprise to me. That was not the case when I attended XP 2016. The merging of the two will likely make each other stronger.

I gave my presentation (Multiple Roles: Scrum Master as a Team Member) at the end of the day on May 22nd. Overall, I think it was well received. There were excellent questions and some of them turned into a discussion. Hopefully, I’ll have another opportunity to attend (and present at) an XP conference.