SiM ist wieder da!

My favourite German language podcast, Schlaflos in München, is back after a break of almost 3 months. Annik Rubens (nom de pod), its creator, took a break after 400 episodes of the original SiM.

Unlike the original, which was released on most weekdays, the new format is weekly and divided into different sections such as “Der Mann der Woche” and “Ratlos in München”. Two episodes have appeared already and so far I like it very much. The same wonderful voice with a new sense of purpose.

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Agile Day in Munich

I’m in Munich again visiting my major new agile enablement client. Today we discussed the most likely candidate for a pilot project, the makeup of the team (4 developers, 1 tester, the customer, the ScrumMaster and myself as coach and mentor) and Sprint 0 activities. These will include training the team, establishing the development and test environment and preparation of the initial product backlog etc.

Over the next few months, we’re going to have to solve some tough issues concerning how to integrate the agile team into the wider organisation. Today showed that key people are really committed to making this a success and I’m very much looking forward to working with this team. Sprint 0 will kick-off in January.

As part of this engagement, I’ll be facilitating a Scrum quick start, something that I’ve facilitated for several teams recently. This combination of customised training and facilitation is a very effective means for helping a Scrum team go from zero to starting their first Sprint, and hence starting to deliver business value, within days. I’m combining the quick start with ongoing coaching and mentoring which means that I’m there to support the team and other stakeholders when needed. I have some capacity free – please contact me if interested.

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New agile projects in the UK and Germany

The demand for agile method consultancy seems to be growing. I’ve secured two new clients during the last two weeks: one in Stevenage, UK and the other one in Munich, Germany.

This week I’m with the UK client, doing a Scrum Quick Start. Last week I introduced agile to some of the key stakeholders. Today, I’ve taught Scrum to the project team (two sessions of about 15 people each, with a mixture of business and developers). Definitely a good bunch of people and I think that they have an excellent chance of making this a success.

Tomorrow, I’ll be facilitating their first Sprint planning meetings and on Wednesday the teams will be starting their first Sprint. A Scrum of Scrums approach will be used to help coordinate the activities of the four Scrum teams. I’ll be supporting the teams with regular visits over the next few weeks. It should be an interesting engagement.

I’m also gearing up for my Munich engagement. Over several months I’ll be helping a household name select a pilot project and then transition to agile (again Scrum based).

Alan "Fluff" Freeman

The DJ Alan “Fluff” Freeman has died at the age of 79. Alan was known and loved by many for his BBC Radio 1 show “Pick of the Pops” which was broadcast from the launch of Radio 1 in 1967 until 1972. Alan relaunched the show with an oldies chart format in 1989. His catchphrases included “greetings pop pickers”, “alright” and “not arf”. I'm not normally a fan of catchphrases but Alan's lack of ego and that he seemed to be a genuinely nice bloke meant that they never became annoying.

My fondest memories of Fluff are on Radio 1's “Saturday Rock Show”, which he hosted from 1973 until 1978. This show's mix of progressive and heavy rock was so important in helping to define my musical tastes. We've now lost the three DJs who were most important to me: Tommy Vance, another host of the Saturday Rock Show; the great John Peel; and now Fluff. Thanks for the music guys.

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Bedtime Stories

One of the things that I enjoy about fatherhood is sharing bedtime stories with my son. When he was younger I made the stories up. They were filled with dinosaurs, hobbits, elves and wizards. I spun tales which mixed the universes of J.R.R. Tolkien and Anne McCaffrey with a little smattering of Jurassic Park for good measure!

More recently, I've been reading to him. He reads fluently and voraciously but at bedtime he likes to be read to. We alternate between German and English books. Discovering together some of the great  children's literature in German has been a special pleasure. Highlights over the last few months have been the Sams books of Paul Maar, and the books of Astrid Lindgren (of course she wrote originally in Swedish but we read them in German).

Astrid Lindgren is best known for the Pippi Langstrumpf books but some of her other books such as Die Kinder aus Bullerbü are simply wonderful in the way that they paint a picture of life in the Swedish countryside in a bygone age.

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DAB is back to 192 kbps on Radio 3

I'm back in the UK for a couple of days and on turning on my DAB radio this evening, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that BBC Radio 3 is being broadcast at 192 kbps again. A few months ago, the BBC dropped Radio 3 to 160 kbps to make room for a 24/7 looping trail
for Radio 5 Sports Extra.

While 160 kbps was just about bearable, I really enjoyed listening to this evening's edition of Mixing It. So much so that I just purchased some music from the wonderful Joanna Newsom on iTunes which was played on the show.

Of course, even at 192 kbps, UK DAB, which uses MP2 encoding, is not hi-fi and much worse than a strong FM signal received by a good tuner. Apparently some limited UK trials of DAB with AAC+ encoding have taken place. AAC+ based DAB at 128 kbps would provide very acceptable, audio quality – similar to CD quality for most listeners. Unfortunately, it is not yet clear when AAC+ will be rolled out in the UK, if ever.

4×4 drivers face huge charge rise

BBC News: “Vehicles causing the most pollution in central London are to face huge increases in the congestion charge, mayor Ken Livingstone has announced.
The daily charge for vehicles in carbon emissions band G – which includes 4x4s – is to rise from £8 to £25 from 2009.

In 2008, the charge will be removed for cars in Bands A and B which produce the lowest emissions, Mr Livingstone said.”

Nice one Ken.

How do we get these monstrosities off other roads as well? Personally I would favour a complete ban on 4x4s except for those who can demonstrate a clear need.

Drop Scones


Drop Scones

Originally uploaded by sjroberts.

As children we looked forward to autumn and winter Sunday teatimes. There would often be something special and sometimes that would be drop scones.

Here's a simple recipe:

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

  • 150g of self-raising flour or plain flour with a little baking powder
  • 25g of caster sugar
  • 25ml of golden or maple syrup
  • About 70ml of milk
  • 1 egg

Method:

  • Mix all ingredients except for the milk. You don't need an electric mixer – a wooden spoon will be fine.
  • Add the milk a little at a time, while continuing to stir, until the result is a creamy smooth batter that is much thicker than a normal pancake batter. It needs to drop off the spoon easily but not be runny.
  • Heat a little oil or butter in a large heavy frying pan.
  • Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the pan taking care that they don't run together. You will probably be able to cook 4 at once.
  • Fry for a couple of minutes until golden brown, turn over and fry the other side.

Eating:

Best eaten hot with butter. You can either slice the drop scones through the middle and butter their insides or leave them whole and butter the top.

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