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 Today was the rather anticlimactic release of PolicyCenter 3.0.0.  Anticlimactic because we took the release branch about two weeks ago, fixed maybe four issues in it, took a release build on Friday, didn't find any issues in it, and quietly annointed it the official release today.  As a coworker of mine pointed out, the releases everyone notices are always the ones that are the hardest to get out:  when everything is going smoothly, no one notices because it doesn't affect their day-to-day work in the least, and the release just kind of slips out without anyone on the development side paying any attention.  So the calm is just a sign of the fact that things are going well.

But honestly, it's a pretty big deal.  We started essentially rewriting the product from the inside out over a year ago, and the first part of the payoff is here in the form of a stable release where the bug list really has quiesced like it should on a well-engineered product, released on-time with no last-minute surprises.  We're able to look forward to building out the feature set in the next release, and the performance testing and tuning is going well so far on this one.  It's pretty much a best-case scenario, based on where we were 12 months ago, and I (and hopefully everyone else in the development organization) can take a lot of pride in that.  Turning something around like that is one of the hardest things you can do as an engineer, and it required not just skill and hard work by the team but also a lot of patience and courage by other people in the organization to pull the strings and make the tradeoffs and sacrifices necessary to give us the chance to do it.

So tonight, I went home and bought a nice steak, opened a nice bottle of wine (the Benziger '05 Puma Springs Cab . . . if you've never tried any of their reserve wines, you better aks somebody), skipped out on the gym, and relaxed with my fiancee.  You've got to celebrate when you get the chance.
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 I have a few minutes here in the middle of the night as I tediously clean up my work computer's hard drive over remote desktop, so I figured I should write something before I get lazy again . . .

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Last Wednesday was the yearly JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge race, which I've run every year that Guidewire has participated (I think I'm now the only one that can say that).  I ran the 3.5 miles in 28:16, which was slower than my time last year (I believe it was 27:30 or so) but still very good for me.  My splits were 8:06, 8:15, 8:25, 3:30, so I really left it all out there in the last half mile, which felt good.  Hopefully I can find a way to train just a bit harder this next year and get back under 28 for next year's race.

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Two weekends ago I went out to New York to see the men's semifinals of the US Open with a friend of mine from high school (my old doubles partner, actually).  The hurricaine rolling up the Eastern seaboard, however, made for an interesting change of plans, since the storms were supposed to hit Satruday afternoon or evening.  The matches were Federer v. Djokovic and Nadal v. Murray, who were ranked 2, 3, 1, and 6 coming into the open and 2, 3, 1, and 4 exiting it (I believe), so it was about as high-caliber as you'll ever see.  Normally the semifinal matches are played back-to-back on the same court, starting at 1 PM, but because of the storm threat they started at 11 AM instead.  We'd read that they might try to play both matches concurrently as well, and around 12:30 (about the end of the second set of Federer/Djokovic) they did just that, starting the Nadal/Murray match over on the secondary court.  Since there weren't any scheduled matches in that stadium, there were no reserved seats, so it was a first-come-first-served free-for-all, and we ended up about 7 rows back from the court sitting in the middle of the baseline.  Score!  That's the closest I'll ever be to a match of that caliber, I'm sure, and it was pretty epic being there, even if we had to miss the second half of the first semi-final.  The match eventually got halted by rain in the third set with Murray up two sets and Nadal up a break in the third, but we were able to come back the next day to watch the completion of the match (Nadal held on to with the third set, but was broken in the last game of the fourth).  All in all it was a lot of fun, and it made me want to come back some time earlier in the tournament, when there are more matches on the field courts to wander around.

Aside from that, being in New York involved the usual assortment of wandering about the city, staying out too late at night, and hanging out with whatever friends I could manage to see (plus a little unexpected bonus drama, just for kicks).  All in all a lot of fun; it had been about 18 months since the last time I was there, which is definitely too long between trips, since I always enjoy it when I'm there.

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One weekend ago, I was back up in South Lake Tahoe doing wedding planning.  Wedding planning is, as everyone knows, a ton of work; there are just a lot of decisions to make and logistics to iron out.  We hadn't done much work since we set a date and a venue, so it was time to get to work on photographers, djs, florists, cake, accomodations, rehearsal dinner sites, and activities for people while they're visiting.  We somehow managed to be busy all day Sunday and all day Monday, meeting with vendors and visiting various places.  It was gorgeous up there, as it always seems to be when we go, but we didn't get to do anything outdoorsy.  Every time I'm up there, though, I think about how Lake Tahoe compares to all the other most beautiful places I've been around the world, and it really still manages to be pretty much at the top of the list.  So I'm definitely excited to get married there.  The planning can be a grind, so I just have to keep reminding myself that I really enjoy throwing parties, and this is really just a huge, elaborate, pathologically-expensive party.
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Yeah, apparently I totally lied, seeing how I haven't posted in over 3 months.

A fair bit's happened since then:
  • Beth finished grad school
  • Beth and I took a trip to Ireland and Spain
  • We set a wedding date and location
  • Beth got a job
  • The 3.0 release of PolicyCenter exited feature development and entered QA, where things have gone more smoothly than we could have expected
  • Jeremy and I co-hosted what will certainly live on as an epically . . . interesting vodka- and gin-themed all-night cocktail party
  • Many hills were run up (or rather, many trips were run up the same hill), many weights were lifted, and many movies (most of them good, most of them also violent) were watched on Wednesday nights
  • I've done my best to post about once a week on the Guidewire development blog (http://guidewiredevelopment.wordpress.com)
Life's been pretty busy, in other words, but overall it's been good.  It does seem to have gone by awfully fast, though.

Personally the most gratifying has been the way the PC product has gone.  We took a lot of big bets as far as architectural changes with the product, and they've pretty much universally paid off so far by reducing complexity and thereby improving the quality of the implementation and our ability to add features and fix bugs.  And since pretty much all of those bets were things I pushed for or otherwise pulled the trigger on (and universally they're things that I would have accepted the blame for if they didn't work out), it's very personally gratifying to see all those things work out as well as they could have.  On top of that, I'm hopeful that we'll get things ironed out for the next release as well:  everyone is basically on board with the plan for the new, more agile process and the tools are all in place to help keep us on track.  It's still not going to be easy, but we really have a chance now to build out a really solid, full-featured product, and that's about the best outcome we could have hoped for when all this madness started about 14 months ago. 

I wish I could write more publicly about exactly what we've done, what mistakes we made to get into the situation we were in, and how we've managed to accomplish the nearly-impossible task of turning a project of that size and complexity around, but the world of enterprise marketing and sales would probably not look kindly upon such candor.  So if you're working on your own software project or trying to manage the difficult transitions involved in growing your number of employees and customers, or transitioning from a single-product company to a multi-product company, I've got some stories to tell you . . . but you'll have to ask me in person.  Otherwise you'll have to be content with my musings on our development blogging about unit testing, managing complexity, language design, and other such things.

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Has anyone else heard of or seen this MTV show "The Paper."  It's, um, about a high school newspaper.  Seriously.  Having been on a high school newspaper, I can assure you that it is, in no way, good fodder for a TV show

Having broken new ground in focusing exclusively on fairly geeky kids doing things I did back in high school, I eagerly look forward to MTV's forthcoming shows "The Debate Team" and "The D&D Group," which I will also not watch.
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Another first sign of summer is the first time I really have to put on sunscreen to go running . . . which is really always the second time I should have put on sunscreen, since it means I got burned the last time.

Running today, however, turned out to be an unfortunate idea:  my frail constitution is apparently not yet acclimated to our new, hotter weather and I just died after 4 miles (out of 5) and had to walk for a few minutes before jogging the rest of the way back.  Weak . . . I guess it's a good thing we didn't try to tackle The Hill today . . .

And now it's off to devhouse (or at least in a little bit) before going to see The Kills, which I'm incredibly psyched about:  I saw them once at Coachella and they were awesome, so a sold-out show at Slim's and a killer new album ought to make for a killer set.
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Since I have nothing better to write about, my four favorite songs so far this year:

The Raveonettes - "Blush" - The whole album, "Lust, Lust, Lust," is definitely my favorite so far this year.  I have yet to succeed in getting it out of my head, but this song sticks out more than the others.  Seeing them live definitely helped change the album listening experience; it's best listened to turned up to 11 while sinking into a bit of a trance.

Titus Andronicus - "Titus Andronicus" - Gotta like a song with the chorus "your life is over!" screamed out by a guy who sounds like he's got more than just a few screws loose.  The frantic, crazed, messy recording gives it an immediacy that something more polished never could.  I really wish these guys would tour out here (they're playing in New York and DC, apparently . . . and in DC they're playing with Times New Viking, who is absolutely unlistenably loud and jarring recorded but is probably kicks all sorts of ass live.

The Kills - "Sour Cherry" - Though really anything off of "Midnight Boom" could qualify, this might be my favorite track off the album.  "Alphabet Pony" is a very close second.  The song itself makes absolutely no sense, yet still manages to be 100% awesome; their songs remind me of the musical equivalent of "Kubla Khan" in that they manage to have a stream-of-consciousness feel while still hanging together.  I can't wait to see them on Saturday at Slim's.

The Mountain Goats - "Autoclave" - A sad, lonely song that manages to hit exactly the right notes of despair.
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I've been an emusic member for a while now; I didn't think it had been that long, but I checked my account and it's been almost exactly 3 years since I first signed up.  I really like the flat-fee model for music services; it forces me to spend money on something I love (music) without having to think about it or sign off on every little decision.  I also signed up for Rhapsody a few months ago and have found I enjoy that service too; I used Yahoo Music for a while but the player just sucked more than any other piece of software I've ever been forced to use, and then they dropped Windows 2000 support (back before I got my new machine), so that sealed the deal.

eMusic is great, though, because it's such a discover site; there are just a ton of things I wouldn't ever have been a fan of it wasn't for just going on eMusic and checking out the most popular albums for the month, or the newest additions.  My latest acquisitions are by Crystal Castles, Cut Copy, Titus Andronicus, and The Weepies.  All bands that I might have come across via some reviews on Pitchfork or metacritic, but potentially never would have really listened to had they not been on eMusic.

Current Music: The Weepies - Citywide Rodeo

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I'm sitting here watching one of my new favorite shows, The Ultimate Fighter, which I got into midway through the last season.  For those of you not in the know, it's a reality TV competition for mixed martial artists, with the winner receiving a contract in the UFC.  In pretty much every reality TV show that involves people living together, at least some of the contestants end up hating each other; often, they nearly come to blows.  The best part of a reality TV show revolving around fighting is that, naturally, when that happens they actually do get to try to beat the crap out of each other.
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It was a nice day outside yesterday, so we went out to lunch at a place on Broadway in Burlingame that Beth had been to before, but I never had.  The place is called Bonne Sante.  She assured me that they have the largest sandwiches you can imagine, and that despite my generally-voracious appetite that we should split a sandwich and a side of fries.  Indeed, she did not lie.  The two of us couldn't manage to eat the whole thing; after eating 2/3 of the massive pile of french fries we got, I didn't even manage to finish my half of the sandwich.  It's hard to describe exactly how big the sandwiches are; it's the sort of thing you kind of have to see for yourself.  Beth told me they were huge, but my imagination failed to do them justice.

Current Music: Crystal Castles - Magic Spells

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I'm really not the geekiest software developer ever.  At SuperHappyDevHouse events, I don't really fit in (though the whole "I write enterprise software in Java" thing doesn't help either), and in general I just don't do that many geeky things (at least not anymore).  I've been trying to have more fun with programming outside of work, though, since I think it's good for me to remember that it should be something fun and creative, which it just doesn't always manage to be at work.  I started reading through the online version of Dive Into Python at the last dev house, so I've kept working through that.  I'm toying with the idea of building some simple app in Python as a way to learn it better, potentially with the help of a couple of other people who are interested in learning, so I spent some time tonight poking around the web looking at different web/source control hosting options, reading up on git (the source control system originally written for the Linux kernel and now used to host a number of open source projects including Ruby on Rails), and trying to get some Linux solution to run on my Windows desktop.

I'd read an article about coLinux a few weeks back and was interested; I thought about trying to get a VMWare image up and running instead, but that seemed like more work and coLinux seemed like a cool idea.  So I tried installing andLinux, and so far so good.  There were a few hiccups, but otherwise it seems to go well.  It's a little weird, since I'm used to using the whole Linux stack, so just having random Linux programs running alongside my Windows programs is odd.  Very cool, though.  If you're a Windows user that's wanted to try out Linux, it's not a bad way to go.

Current Music: Holy Fuck - Royal Gregory

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User: akeefer
Name: Alan Keefer
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Recent Books:
Drive Like Hell - Dallas Hudgens (in progress)
Pattern Recognition - William Gibson
Collapse - Jared Diamond
The System of the World - Neal Stephenson
The Art of Project Management - Scott Berkun
The Confusion - Neal Stephenson
Quicksilver - Neal Stephenson
Terror and Liberalism - Paul Berman
American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis
Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood

Recent (Good) Music Acquisitions:
The Stills - Logic Will Break Your Heart
Wolfmother - Wolfmother
Pretty Girls Make Graves - Elan Vitale
The Sounds - Dying to Say This To You
Anti-Flag - For Blood and Empire
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