Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Chicks!

The girls are growing like crazy! These were taken last Friday and they're already noticeably bigger. Francine and Delilah pretty much look like full grown Bantams... But since they are standard size chickens, they'll get even bigger! Enjoy!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Heads Down

Well, its one of those times. Time when your work goes into "project mode" - a deadline looms in a calendar and a large amount of output needs to be present by that date.

I enjoy what I do, and have moved away from hopping from project to project in the consulting world, always chasing deadlines and crowing about money. Even so, project deadlines arise, and I fully understand that a push is necessary to deliver. So, I'm in the midst of a 6 week final push to get an Alpha release into the the hands of our QC group.

What's this all about? Well, I'm a software engineer, as they say here, but to me its just programming. Cranking our minimal code for maximum features and double-checking your requirements and stability along the way. Nobody using a computer today is immune to the pitfalls of "bad software". So, that's what keeps me employed: Doing existing work in a new way: more automation, faster, better, etc.

At the moment, our progress is moving along quickly, and I'm busy writing a few features, but also responsible for reviewing all the new code from 4 other programmers for potential issues. I have a slew of tools available to help me, and using them is educational - when I end up writing my own code, it tries to follow "good rules of programming" from the start.

I'm in a group of 5 guys here, and I'm the only "senior" person among the ranking - which I'm a bit shy about. I certainly don't mince words about people's code, and I'll send out emails asking everyone to avoid repeating mistakes when I find them, using someone's code as an example. I also make an example out of my own mistakes, which keeps me alongside everyone else in humility about "knowing how to get it done".

Programmers are an odd lot. They usually spend long hours figuring out how to make a machine perform tasks. This can jade them to new methods that come along later. It's a slippery slope, since embracing new tools to replace the ones you've painstakingly written yourself means moving your trust. Ever trust in a new program to handle your photos, email, spreadsheets, etc? When it breaks, you want to go back to the "old" way. In the software world, these decisions happen all the time. In fact, you sometimes need a Plan B,C and D forming while still testing Plan A.

Through our push these days, we've cut scope out of the final delivery many times. Each time, we step down from Plan A to B. We're at something like Plan G at the moment. But given how complex the request is for the final product, it's good to see the core of the software run well, rather than a lot of pretty windows that crash.

You won't hear much more about all this - the actual software's functionality is kinda cool ("electronic data discovery" is the industry term) - but when this push is over, I'll be happy to spend more time at home doing other things - like reintroducing myself to the family, hah.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

H2Meyer Photography gallery is up and running!

This has been on my "to-do" list for years, but it's finally done [for now, anyway]. Please check out my new photography portfolio and by all means let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Retirement part 1 and more chicks...

On June 1st, at the ripe old age of 35, I gleefully retired... Today is day three of my new life of leisure, and it's good times all the way. The weather hasn't really been cooperating lately, but that's okay. On Sunday we roasted in the hot sun to get the veggie garden started, so the cooler weather and rain is a welcome event.

Much to my surprise I'm spending nearly half of my day with the chicks... either cleaning the brooder, refilling/cleaning their food and water dishes, handling/playing with them to keep them used to people, or just watching them interact with each other.

As Francine and Delilah get bigger, we are increasingly concerned by the marked physiological differences... longer tail, shiny neck feathers, flat chest/butt... basically we think Francine is a Frank... and that just won't work for our purposes. We went to Pistils Nursery to get more chick feed and asked about getting another chick so Delilah wouldn't be lonely if/when we have to send Frank off to live on a real farm somewhere. Unfortunately, their chick season is over, but we got loads of good advice & a list of other places to get chicks, from both the staff and another customer. I followed their recommendation and went to Burns Feed store to pick up a 4 day old chick. The staff was very helpful and even offered to take Ellis for a walk and treats while I was in the "chick room".

While there, I learned that Rhode Island Reds are very bossy and that we should not have more than one. I was also told I should get two to introduce to the flock, as they always do better in pairs. Since there was a 3 week age difference, this made a lot of sense as I was quite concerned about two "teenage" chickens hassling the baby. I picked up a Black Sex-Link [which sounds like an x-rated website, I know] and a Silver Laced Wyandotte. We named them Foxy Brown and Betty Davis respectively.

Francine (l) and Delilah (r)

Betty Davis (l) and Foxy Brown (r)

Betty Davis eyes the camera

Foxy Brown is a little more camera shy

I was surprised to learn that we didn't need to keep them separated from Francine and Delilah. I was told to rub a towel on the older chicks, then rub the same towel on the babies and introduce them to one of the big girls at a time. If there was any pecking or aggression, take the aggressor out and put them in a dark place with no food or water for a few seconds. Then reintroduce. Keep doing this until they figure out it's bad to pick on babies... Luckily no one had to go into solitary confinement. The girls all got along right away. The problem is that as F & D get bigger, they're a bit gangly and unaware of their own size/strength. I decided that a day of rest was in order for the babes and put them in a separate box anyway, so they could get more sleep/food/water. They're all back together now, though, and seem to be getting along just fine.