Life lessons from the island

Don’t mix plan B with plan A
Your backup plan should never be part of the primary plan. In diving, some divers carry a backup air supply called a pony bottle. And some of those divers actually plan to use the pony bottle at the end of the dive. To me, plan B is the “oh shit” plan – the “how to I prevent total failure” plan. The primary plan should be aggressive, but achievable.

Offsite Backup – Just Do it.
I heard an amazing story from a software developer who works on banking software here in the caymans. The Cayman Islands are an international banking center. You’ve seen movies and TV shows refer to “the bank account in the caymans”. It turns out that most of the banks here run on Access 97 and Visual basic for Applications. When Hurricane Ivan hit two years ago, many banks were offline due to storm damage. People worked tirelessly for days scavenging backups trying to rebuild databases. Unfortunately, Access isn’t an enterprise database server – one thing is doesn’t have is database replication. There is a massive movement in the banking industry to move to SQL Server 2000, and a .Net 1.1 app – just to get database replication to sister banks in case of another hurricane.
Recently, while doing some electrical work in my house I had discovered that rodents had eaten up several power runs. One of the runs looked like it had arc’d and caught fire. It reenforced the need for a home backup solution which includes an offsite backup. Currently we replicate our laptops to a NAS, with important data backed up to an external drive. We then swap that with a drive in the safe. We need to add an offsite into that mix.
Be smart – backup.

Don’t confuse quantity with quality
“How deep did you get on that dive?”, “What was the deepest you’ve dived?” Depth?
“I’m an instructor candidate with 35 dives. We’ve done 10 dives a day in order to get the 100 required dives we need for dive master.” What did you learn?
“I wrote lots of code, like 10,000, for that project” – Um…
“I create 10 bugs a day”, but how many were fixed?
“How many k-locks have you done this week?”, k-lock – thousands of lines of code.

Rarely is there a quantitative measurement of quality.

Challenge established technique
There are several things that bug me about diving technique – First, you can use the BC dump valve, it’s not bad diving… Second, You can bend your knees when kicking – I can move while in a sitting position – for taking pictures. Third, you can use your hands to move – especially if it prevents you from damaging the reef. I’ve heard other cases – woodworkers who say use scrapers instead of sandpaper; Aquarists who say there’s only one way to build your aquarium; C++ programmers who say you can’t use friends, gotos, or void pointers.

find your own path
Divers scare fish. If you follow the group – the fish are going to be gone. Go a different way. Of course, this lesson applies to all walks of life.

Good tools cannot compensate for bad technique
I’ve seen lots of photographers over the week. Taking pictures underwater is very difficult. First, you have to be a good diver with good buoyancy control, navigation skills, fish finding skills and second – you need to be a good photographer. Any one failure can result in bad pictures, reef damage, or even a dive accident. I’ve seen people buy new gear trying to get better pictures without going back and focusing on the basics.

Look
Look around – the world is a beautiful place. The caymans have some of the best reefs I have ever seen – LOOK AT THEM. Some people we were diving with weren’t looking at the reef – simply interested in going deep, or swimming through caves…

Listen & follow the rules
When the dive master lays down the rules, you better have a good reason to break them. When someone says “depth limit is 100 feet”, that doesn’t mean 102, 112 or 122. A good diver can follow the rules.

The sun sets in the west – even considering island time
Funny story – We saw an airplane in the sky flying towards the sun at sunset. I said “It is probably heading to mexico”, while someone else said “No its heading to the US”. um… We all laughed.

mind the legend
Kathy & I were driving around the island today. We spent 20 min looking for the west bay bypass so we didn’t have to drive through georgetown – the main city on grand cayman. Well – the west bay bypass is a proposed road, per the map legend.

Beware of the facade
Georgetown is the big city on grand cayman. Each day as many as 7 cruise ships pull into port and drop off as many 3,000 people per ship. The Georgetown port has turned into a big mall – of jewelry stores and souvenir shops – all selling the same stuff. When the boats recall the passengers, the port shuts down – it becomes a ghost town. On days where there are no ships in port – the port barely opens. Tip – This is not island life.

asking for the time can be expensive
We did spend some time in Georgetown before a dinner cruise on a pirate ship (arrrgggg!). We went into a jewelry store to ask the time – Kathy got a anniversary present 🙂

break for iguanas and chickens, oh, and drive on the left
While driving around the island, I had to stop several times – for iguanas and chickens crossing the road… Dude, driving on the other side is weird…

go to hell
Hell is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. It is in a small town in the north west of the island – and the site of a volcanic rock formation which is pretty cool looking.

Leave 2 hours between international connections
No matter what the airline tells you, leave 2 hours.

Bring bug spray
I got eaten alive.

We’re home now. Time to recover from the vacation.

Wireless in Paradise

It’s nearly midnight, and I’m lounging on a beach chair by the rocky protected diver cove at Sunset house on the island of Grand Cayman. The dive gear is prepped and Kathy is asleep, but I couldn’t help but sit here and post… It has been quite a month – the last thing on my mind was the blog. I finally have some time to update it.

It’s been one of those months where life seems to be conspiring against you – Everything seeming to come at you at once. We have seen it all – births, deaths, taxes, surgeries, emergencies, fire drills (literal and figurative), house problems… We’ve also had quite a bit of good stuff too – family photographs, visits with friends, friends moving into town, and my parents & brother came to visit.

The last few days have been really calm – we’re on vacation celebrating 5 years of marriage. (Thanks mom & dad for sitting for the kids so we can have a vacation!)

I look forward to diving with my wife. Relaxing. And doing some introspection as I contemplate the “grand master plan”.

I’ve been trying to write some technical posts for the last few weeks – Centering around CoreFoundation & CoreGraphics. I seem to be going nowhere fast on those posts. Hopefully I’ll have something soon.

Anyway, off to bed.