Caster's Corner - Livestreaming on Twitch

Friday, November 30, 2018

Let's Play Wing Commander! Enyo Mission 1, Welcome to the Vega Sector

Welcome to Wing Commander and the Vega Sector! I may have mentioned just a few times before that this is one of my favorite games of all time. These first few missions I could almost do blindfolded. Almost.

Remember, this is a game that came out in 1990. The first two missions in Enyo are the closest thing to a tutorial that the game has. We start off with a basic three point patrol. There are a few flying bullseyes (Dralthi) at Nav 1, some asteroids Nav 2, and a few Salthi light fighters at Nav 3. Pretty basic stuff.

One of the things that made Wing Commander unique was wingmen with personality. Shotglass will tell you that Spirit is a good wingman. She may be a little more chatty than a wingman should be, but unlike some of the folks you'll fly with, she's really good about not shooting through you to hit an enemy target.

Back when Wing Commander originally came out, the game box came with these lovely blueprints for each of the four fighters that you flew. Very official looking, and very cool. I wish I knew where mine had gotten to over the years.

The Hornet too, is a fun little fighter. Definitely something I prefer over the Scimitar, but that's a commentary for some later missions. The Hornet is quick, maneuverable, and decently armed. I'm not fond of going up against anything tougher than a Krant in one, but both Gratha and Jalthi are doable if you're smart and aggressive.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

End of Season - 1,123

1,123. That's the total number of miles I put on my Harley this year. Give that it's snowing and below freezing here, I'm fairly certain that's going to be my final tally for the year, despite putting the old girl on a batter tender to keep her ready, just in case.
That mileage number doesn't include the miles I rode on demo fleet bikes, including my dream bike, but even so, I was still under 1,200 for the year.

That's definitely not one of my better tallies. I didn't get out and ride nearly as often as I would have liked this year, for a variety of reasons. Most of these reasons were good - rides conflicted with kid sports nights, family outings, or other things. Cutting down my commute, while great in general, also cost me around ten miles a day during riding season.

I didn't do an Iron Butt ride this year, and I didn't make any road trips up to Minneapolis or down to Kansas City. I didn't even ride down to Sioux City like I did last year.

It's not like the fun is gone, I just had an off year. I think the moral of the story is that if I want to get my miles up more next year, I need to plan more rides, not just trust that they'll just spontaneously "happen."

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Let's Play Valkyria Chronicles - Chapter 1 - Get Cinderella To The Ball!

As expected, Chapter 1 still has a lot of tutorial stuff going on. However, it does introduce Valkyria Chronicles 4's new unit type, the Grenadier.

I don't know why they didn't call this unit a Mortar carrier, or something similar, because "Grenadier" has traditionally been a term associated with team members or whole units focused on throwing grenades/carrying a grenade launcher/being heavy assaulters. None of these things are true of the VC4 Grenadiers. I refer to them as mortar units in-game most of the time. Scouts, Machine-gunners, and mechanics all carry grenades.

Regardless of the terminology issues, the Grenadier/Mortar unit is a really fun addition to the game. They unlock some great indirect fire strategies, and can help slow down enemy units with reactive fire during the enemy's turn.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Around The Web - Make Less, But Do More Meaningful Work?

Interesting article that I found by way of Alan Page's Tooth of the Weasel blog - 9 Out of 10 People Are Willing To Earn Less Money To Do More Meaningful Work.

I'm not sure I agree with some of their conclusions. In particular they say that a majority of people would happily take a 20% pay cut to do more meaningful work. Maybe that's just me being the 1 in 10 individual.

However, it definitely dovetails with Todd Olson's All We Need Is Product Love talk that I heard at Agile + DevOps. Which I still need to fully unpack into its own blog post, because there's a lot of meat there.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Let's Talk About D.Tube - Monday Vlog 2018-47

I've been experimenting with a new video service called D.Tube. Considering my concerns about having all my videos in Google's questionable care, having a backup plan seems like a really good idea.

A lot of this came from my mistake upload that cost me a channel strike, but I've also been looking for a YouTube alternative since Vid.Me shut down earlier this year.

Unfortunately, while I like D.Tube and I think it's got promise, there are three major issues that I've run into which prevent them from truly being competitive with YouTube.

1. No upload scheduling.
2. Per the TOS, videos aren't necessarily permanent.
3.  Upload process is really buggy.

There are a number of things to like, however, such as the ability to take live screencaps of any portion of your video, and better payouts than YouTube for a small channel. At the moment, I would say that the best plan would be to look at D.Tube as a secondary channel that complements YouTube.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Let's Play Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance - B7M4 - Killing Another Death Star!

This is it! The big moment! Everything that's been building up, leading to this final run through the interior caverns of the Death Star II to blow this battlestation up and rain flaming chunks down on Endor, thus triggering the great Endor Holocaust.

Ehrm, this is supposed to be happy event, isn't it?

Anyway, the mission itself is pretty straight forward, unlike the tunnels that you'll be flying through. These tight, debris choked corridors are going to kill you. Again, and again, and again. Then, just when you think this will be the final run, they'll kill you a few more times for good measure.

Fortunately, you can at least blast most of the obstacles out of the way. That knowledge would have made my life a lot easier, if I'd realized it on the first series of attempts. Oh well. Good luck, and May the Force Be With You!

Also, happy Black Friday to all American shoppers out there! We'll be back next week with a brand new Flight Friday Let's Play series!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Let's Play Valkyria Chronicles 4 - Prologue

Last week ended my LP series for Ash of Gods: Redemption. While that was fun, now it's on to a game that I have excited about ever since it was announced for a Western release: Valkyria Chronicles 4!

Part squad level turn-based strategy, part anime cartoon, Valkyria Chronicles draws heavily on World War 2 history for its inspiration. The original game pitted a Gallia (standing in for Great Britain)
 analog against the military might of a continent spanning power (think Germany). "Darksens" stood in for Jews, and the story revolved around plucky Gallia's war retain their freedom.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 abstracts the war a lot more as it's based more in the battles on the Eastern Front. This time players step into the boots of Claude Wallace, commander of Ranger Squad F in the Federation army. They are part of a massive land strike force attempting to push through the heart of Imperial territory to take the capital before winter slows things to a crawl.

Anyone who remembers their WWII history can take a guess at how well that initial plan is going to go.

In this scenario, the good guys should win out in the end, but it's going to be a challenge getting there!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Around the Web - You Have Time For What You Prioritize

Early last week, Caleb put up an excellent post on the LoneWolf Distributors blog. While his column technically fell under the category of “Shooting Advice”, his words should bear weight for anyone who’s ever lamented the lack of time to get fit, learn a new software technique, or whatever.

“The problem with that statement is that you, I, and everyone who has ever said it does have the time to become good at something.”
This what what I made time for this year. I sacrificed a lot of game time, and a fair bit of good riding weather to hit the goal. The next goal is going to take even more work.

What Caleb didn’t say in his blog, was that the day before those words went live, he joined an extremely exclusive club when he became FAST Coin Holder #18. For those who don’t obsessively follow the shooting sports world, the FAST drill is a defensive shooting drill that involves drawing your pistol from a duty or concealment holster, and engaging a target seven yards away. The shooter first fires two shots to a 3x5 card, executes a slidelock reload, then finishes by firing four shots at an 8" plate. Earning a coin requires executing this drill twice, on demand, during one of Langdon Tactical’s classes, in five seconds or less.

It took my brother six years to achieve this goal. There were a few bumps along the way that probably slowed his progress by a couple of years, but that’s almost beside the point. He had a goal, and he kept at it.

I doubt that I’ll ever earn a FAST coin of my own. That’s okay, my goals are different than my brother’s, though they may require similar time to achieve. But like Caleb says at the end:

“The moral of the story is simple: don’t tell yourself you don’t have time to accomplish the things you want. You do, but it’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to sacrifice that time for something else.”

Monday, November 19, 2018

Home Again, Home Again! Vlog 2018-46, Agile + DevOps East 2018 Wrap Up

I can usually count on Delta to get me home on time, with a minimum of fuss. I mean, there was that one incident, but when God answers your question "Should I move here?" with a line of thunderstorms stretching from Washington D.C to Atlanta, then you can't really hold it against Delta for not getting you to your connecting flight on time.

The Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld was probably the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in. Great service, excellent venue, I definitely recommend them. They put a lot of thought into the little things: the concierge handing you a cold bottle of water when you check in, and a rack of water and towels by the front door in the morning for runners being just a couple of examples. This isn't a paid endorsement or anything, by the way, I just really appreciated my stay there.

Like I said earlier, Delta did their usual solid job getting me home. Thanks to the well stocked IFE, I even finally got to watch Deadpool. Now I understand all the love for that movie. Time to rent Deadpool 2, I guess.

Happy early Thanksgiving to all my American readers!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

We Can't Be High-Functioning Alcoholics Forever - Agile+DevOps East Day 6 AAR

The final day of Agile + DevOps East 2018 dawned to something a little different. The Agile Leadership Summit was expressly designed to have a different feel than the main conference, with a pair of presentations in the morning followed up by brainstorming some ideas and solutions to issues that those of us in the Thursday night networking session had identified.

I had my doubts about my participation in this day. I’m not in a position at my company where I’m anything but an individual contributor, and for the most part that’s exactly what I’m comfortable with. No more, no less. What was I doing at a leadership summit anyway?

Anne Hungate’s presentation called Lead Yourself First erased my doubts straight away. This may have been one of the most important talks of the whole conference for me personally. One critical point: my company sent two people to this conference. That’s well less than 1% of our total workforce. We may be primarily IC’s in our jobs, but other members of our teams are now looking to us to show that we learned something over this week. The lessons that we’ve acquired shouldn’t just apply to us, we should be evangelizing them throughout our teams and finding ways to make everyone better because we attended this conference.

For the afternoon, I joined a group looking for solutions to Technical Debt. In talking to my fellow test engineers over the course of the week, one of the things that really stood out was practically all of us were struggling with technical debt and finding time to build the automation that our companies needed. By far the dominant solution among my fellow TEs was that we ignore it, get pulled into manual testing and dev tasks, and buy rounds of drinks while commiserating with our peers. Since most of us don’t actually want to spend the rest of our careers as high-functioning alcoholics, any ideas for fixing this problem are a good thing.
"Oh, you think you've got tech debt? Let me tell you a story..."
"You win bro. I've got this round. Dilly dilly."
Image via Holly's Cheat Day

We ended up with a very interesting, diverse group of individuals from the UK, Netherlands, and the US, representing the defense, banking, consulting, and insurance industries. Andrea Goulet joined our table to contribute her thoughts as well.

Did we solve the technical debt problem? Of course not. This isn’t something that going to be solved for all companies in a single afternoon at a technical conference. We did, however, come up with a few creative ideas that may help us push some solutions forward within our respective companies. One of the biggest points that we made over and over was that technical debt needs to be treated like a real-world maintenance problem: for example, you can ignore changing the oil in your car, but eventually that small, ignored bit of maintenance is going to lead to a big, expensive breakdown.

I ended the day with a visit to Disney Springs for a bit of shopping. Can’t go home to The Terror Team empty handed. After three years of cold, snowy winters, hearing Christmas music and seeing Christmas decorations while walking around a gigantic open-air mall wearing shorts and a t-shirt was fairly jarring. Eating a meal outside was nice, but I won’t feel like Christmas is actually a month and or so away until I’m back home glaring at the snow on my lawn.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Soft Skills Matter Too: Agile + DevOps Day 5 AAR

Thursday morning dawned as the second official day of the conference. I’d cut my post-conference networking down significantly after Tuesday’s little adventure, and was ready for the first Thursday event of the day: a 6:45am group run.
The scenary for running was a nice change from my usual South Dakota views. One of the years I'll be back with time and
budget to ride this monster!

As it turned out, it wasn’t so much a group run as people just heading out and running. At least I got to see a few people I recognized from the conference heading in opposite directions. The area we were staying in is almost exclusively hotels and resort housing, so it was neat to see other members of my extended #FitFam who made the decision to pack our workout gear and not let fitness take a vacation.

On to the meat of the day, starting with a keynote presentation from Andrea Goulet of Corgibytes. Her presentation about the role of empathy in software development proved to be one of my conference highlights, and deserves an entire post unto itself unpacking the concepts there. I don’t agree with everything she said, but her focus on the concept of Rational Empathy was both refreshing and realistic. As an industry pro, she recognizes that most software developers view empathy as being one of those soft, fluffy skills that’s about as useful in software development as a broken keyboard. Andrea’s talk made a compelling argument for why that isn’t the case.
Another soft, fluffy, usually neglected skill among us introverted developer types is making friends. It's amazing how
much we have in common once we get to talking and find that despite being from different areas and radically different
industries, we're all facing a lot of the same problems!

Other interesting presentations of the day included a case study in running without a QA department by Nate Custer at The Testing Consultancy, a presentation of commonalities of Agile and DevOps Transformations for Large Organizations by Robin Yeman and Suzette Johnson of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, and What Aircrews Can Teach DevOps by Gerie Owen and Peter Varhol.

The conference closed with a final keynote called All You Need is Product Love by Todd Olson (Pendo CEO) who challenged us to believe in and love the products we’re creating. And if we’re not feeling that way now, to take a hard look at our organization and figure out if the problem is with our products, or if it’s that we’re feeling disengaged from the cool stuff that our products actually do. This was another really challenging talk that I’m still mentally unpacking ramifications from. More on that in another future blog post, I suppose.

The day ended with a networking and discussion event for the Leadership Summit that would consume Day 6. More on that tomorrow!

Let's Play Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance - B7M3 - Clearing the Way!

Now that the Executor has been destroyed and the shield is finally down, it's time to commence the attack on the Death Star properly. First, there's another fighter screen and a Star Destroyer to clear out of the way.

This is basically Mission 1 redux, only with a Star Destroyer to beat, and the need to get to the initial entry position within a time limit.

It's not terribly difficult. Focus on the fighters, then go after the shields on the Star Destroyer. With the Falcon's turrets, dealing with the fighters isn't too difficult, and you should be able to make it to the nav point with a minute or two to spare.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Phoenix Project Isn't a MacGyver Reference - Agile + DevOps Day Four!

In the interest of full disclosure, I may possibly have networked just a little too hard after Day Three of the conference. At the very least, I got a “delightful” reminder that at the start of Day Four that I’m no longer twenty-two, and recovering from a late night sometimes takes a little more than chasing a handful of Vitamin I with a liter of water, a quad-Venti mocha, and horking down a breakfast burrito or a couple of Egg McMuffins.

Onward and upward though, because Day Four was the first official conference day of Agile + DevOps East! No half-day class sessions today, just traditional hour-long sessions, with breaks to visit the Expo hall, chat with vendors, and schmooze with colleagues.
Did I mention swag? Because the eighteen vendors at this conference gave out more and better items than I collected
from the hundreds of booths at PAX East combined. Best of all, everyone here understands how to use a shower, and
people weren't standing in a sweaty mob 200 deep for a foam sword.

The opening Keynote session, called Beyond the Phoenix Project by John Willis, added a solid stack of books to my reading list, plus a new entry in my “Favorite Quotes” list. The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win vaulted way up my list. I’m going to try and get this read before the year is over.

Of the other sessions that I attended, Continuous Integration is Not Test Automation by Adam Auerbach was my particular favorite. Continuous Integration (or CI for short) is another one of those tech buzzwords that I’ve been hearing more and more of in the past couple of years. We mentioned it a few times in the Test Automation course as something that requires a rock-solid automation strategy for success, but didn’t necessarily get too much deeper than that.

This talk got a lot farther into the weeds of what CI is and is not, and more especially why CI isn’t test automation all by itself, and why neither CI nor a functional test automation strategy means the demise of QA in an organization.

One of the overall things I’ve gotten from this conference is a renewed excitement for where QA is going in the future, not to mention the need for effective test engineers. Something that stuck with me from getting laid off from Monolith was when the professional outplacer looked over my résumé and told me that my career experience was a mile wide and an inch deep. In 2011 and 2012, that made me a very tough sell. In 2018 that makes me someone with “T-Shaped Skills”, who can play a utility role in an Agile team and take some of the pressure of more specialized team members.

In 2013, I was told that the SDET (Software Developer in Test, a Microsoft term for Software Test Engineers) was all but extinct within MS, and that traditional QA would be done within five years. With CI, the explosion of mobile device environments, and more and more companies accepting the Gospel of Agile, SDETs and QA are more in demand than we’ve been in a decade, and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Chocolate and Legos Teach DevOps? How??? Agile + DevOps East 2018 AAR, Day 3

Day Three of Agile + DevOps East was my chance to branch out a little bit and check out a couple of half-day topics. My first stop would be Introduction to DevOps with Chocolate and Legos, taught by Dana Pylayeva.

Prior to this class, everything I knew about DevOps, other than it being a buzzword I’ve seen more and more, could be summarized by this cartoon:
In short, my understanding of DevOps was that it ended up putting some new names to the same old behaviors.

But Dana’s class changed all that. The brilliance of the class is that it’s totally hands on. The class was split into three groups: Devs, Ops, and Business. Then each table selected roles from a deck of cards. As developers, our tasks were to deliver packages containing a Lego animal and a piece of chocolate which would be built into packages by the Ops team and delivered to the Business so that we could get paid.

Simple, right? Everyone has a nicely defined role, we just do our thing and get paid. Why did I take this class again?

Then we didn’t deliver anything on the first Sprint. It didn’t feel like we were set up to fail either, we just followed our roles like good students and the failure just sort of happened. Requirements from the business were unclear, our big packages broke and got rejected, and the single Ops table got too backed up trying to deal with three Dev tables.

For the second Sprint, we tried some crosstraining. People got out of their rigid comfort zones, and things got a bit better. Everyone was more involved, and we were able to deliver a few things. But it wasn’t great.

For the third Sprint we got to simulate a Continuous Delivery model. Productivity went through the roof! We were slamming Lego creations and chocolate pieces into bags so quickly that we overwhelmed the business team, ran ourselves out of chocolates, and ran out of bags!

We were also all standing up, actively engaged, and talking to each other! Dev, QA, and Ops were huddled around tables, chairs pushed away, trying to get as much done as we possibly could.
This was our Sprint Two ending table. Total chaos, but happy learning.

When the exercise ended, I got it. Explain to me enough times how DevOps is supposed to work, and I’m sure I’d get it eventually. But by having everyone in the class actively participate in the exercise, an entire class got the major concepts in just a couple of hours.

My afternoon class was Agile Project Failures: Root Causes and Corrective Actions with Jeffery Payne. This was another good class, if not nearly as exciting as playing with Legos and chocolate. 

Jeff walked us through a couple of real world cases of major project failures featuring “Agile” development, and had the class discuss the causes and how to avoid or fix them.

Most interesting to me was that some of the issues that he covered were also covered in the Agile Automation course I had attended. The class was a great summary of many of the pitfalls that companies can run into when trying to implement an Agile transformation.

The day capped off with a networking event. Every night of the conference has featured some kind of networking event, and the opportunity to connect more with fellow classmates and meet new people has been one of the major highlights for me. I’m not an extrovert by nature, but making myself meet new people has definitely been rewarding.