Category Archives: General

John Peterson – Rememberances

I learned that John Peterson, our Director of Systems Engineering and Operations, passed away yesterday evening.  I will miss John.  I can still see the sideways, quizzical glance and smile he gave me yesterday afternoon as the vending machine spit out 4 dollars in quarters.  I can still hear his voice as he said to someone else down the hall, “he just hit the jackpot”.

My first memory of John was from my first Management Team Meeting seven years ago.  There was general talk about planning and John popped off, “The mainframe will be going away July 1st.”  Everyone laughed and looked at Jack Duwe, our Deputy CIO and CFO.  I later learned that the mainframe was going away every year since John came to DoIT.  During the seven years we worked together, John replaced the mainframe with a new improved mainframe three times.

John had a great, level-heaed, realistic management style.  He told a story about his days when he was a Flight Deck Commander on an aircraft carrier.  They had a broken catch wire.  The ship’s captain was yelling at John on the flight deck telling him to get the wire fixed.  His guys were doing their job and fixing the wire.  The captain kept yelling to hurry up.  John looked up to the control tower where he could see the captain looking at him, took the battery out of his headset and flicked it over the side of the ship.  He tapped the headset and shrugged.  “Yelling won’t make a problem go away and it rarely makes it any better” he said about the incident.

John was a great story teller and he had a rich life of stories to tell.  I enjoyed when he would recount his days flying fighter jets or as a commander.  He told me once about racing to get to a dentist appointment.  He had a broken tooth and he didn’t want to miss the appointment.  It had taken him weeks to get in and it would be weeks before he could get another appointment.  For you or me, that means driving across town.  For John, that meant jumping in a fighter jet and flying to another city.  He got to the airport and was waiting to take off.  The air traffic controller told him that the approach lanes were all stacked up with flights.  There was no way to get him out of the airport and to his cruising altitude and cruising lane.  John asked, “what if I get to my altitude within the airspace of the airport itself.”  He really didn’t want to miss the appointment.  The controller said, “that would be fine but there was no way to do that.”  John said, “don’t worry, I’ll do it.”  He took off and hit the afterburners and headed straight up to 30,000.  He laughed because he could hear the controller over the radio saying, “Holy crap… Jesus…  look at that…”  “I really didn’t want to miss that appointment,” he said laughing and shaking his head.

I enjoyed running into John when he would take his flotilla of misfit dogs out to run.  He would pull into the parking lot in his SUV and dogs would pile out.  One old deaf cocker would just keep wandering off until John had to run after him.  One lab took off and John looked for hours trying to figure out where the dog had gone.  But John always stayed level headed in the mix of all this.

What did I learn from working with John?  I learned that you stay calm in the midst of adversity.  I learned to listen to the story and laugh with joke but also listen for the wisdom that the story holds.  I learned that there is the path forward that is obvious to you but that you must have patience while it becomes apparent to others.  Mostly, I learned that John was a great man to be around.

Rest In Peace John.  You will be greatly missed and well remembered.

Quantifying Me


from Flickr: Yester Prints photostream

from Flickr: Yester Prints photostream

There is a meme that has popped up or, at least, it has suddenly popped into my world – the Quantifiable Self.   The basis of the Quantifiable Self is that you measure things about yourself and then use that data to improve upon yourself.   We all do this to some extent.  We weigh ourselves daily or time how long we run and over what distance.    Some count calories or count steps. 

Some push this to great detail to track influences on complex diseases like migraines.   Alexandra Carmichael tracks 40 things about herself daily. There is (of course) a site dedicated to the Quantifiable Self.   

I already track a great deal about myself but I don’t measure the out-comes, the effects if you will, of all that I track.  The Quantifiable Self people are looking for the little butterfly wing beats that cause the tornados in their lives. To do this, I would need to resolve three issues.

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Jim’s Turkey Brine Recipe

I’ve had several requests for my turkey brine and herb paste recipes. In a just-in-time fashion, I’ve posted them below. I use an organic, range raised heritage turkey for my Thanksgiving turkey. I also use this brine for pork chops and turkey breasts that I cook on the grill.

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Old meets new – You can follow the New York Times on Twitter

I just discovered that there are several twitter feeds for the New York Times. These feeds include a main New York Times feed at

along with several specific feeds:

You can find most of them by going to the main URL and look at the “following” list on the lower right hand corner. You can then follow the NYT stories as they are published in each section in twitter. Pretty cool.

This continues with the general trend of “the content I want, where I want it, how I want it, when I want it”. The great mash-up continues.

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Etsy – On-line store for hand-made items

Etsy ( is a store where crafters can sell their objects to the public. Etsy also supports spaces for the crafters to work and share their skills and ideas.

The Etsy website also has cool navigation methods for finding objects. There is a color search system that lets you pick a color to start with. You can then throw and move the objects around to view and sort them. There is a geo-locater for you to search for crafters near you. Very clever web design as well as fun stuff.

Below is a video that describes Etsy. I know that I’ll be doing shopping at their store – it is too much fun.

From Laughing Squid.

Doris Kearns Goodwin on Leadership

Doris Kearns Goodwin opened the EDUCAUSE general meeting this morning, recounting her years as an intern in the Johnson White House and talking about Abraham Lincoln. She received a standing ovation at the end of her talk – the first that I have ever seen at EDUCAUSE.

Her talk was full of great stories from her time as an intern along with stories from Abraham Lincoln’s and Johnson’s life. She brings great humor to her subject and the ability to reflect historical facts against current events and current issues.

She recounted her list of leadership qualities that she learned from researching Lincoln:

  1. Listen to disparate opinions. Allow debate but once a decision has been made, move on. Seeking consensus can be disabling.
  2. Learn on the job. Learn from mistakes.
  3. Share credit for success.
  4. Shoulder the blame for your subordinates.
  5. Set deadlines for action.
  6. Lincoln wrote hot letters that he would not send. He would vent his anger but not act on it.
  7. Possessed the strength to adhere to his fundamental goals.
  8. Know how to relax and re-energize yourself.
  9. Managed by walking around. Lincoln visited the troops in the field.

At the end of her talk, I instantly put her new book in my Wish List. I wonder if there was a mini-rush on the book at Amazon.

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This explains a lot –

I just took the Learning Style Survey at It explains why I’m an I.T. Architect I think. I like diagrams patterns and I have an artsy side.

The results of Jim Phelps’s learning inventory are:
Visual/Nonverbal 36 Visual/Verbal 32 Auditory 26 Kinesthetic 30

  • Your primary learning style is: Visual/ Nonverbal Learning Style
  • You learn best when information is presented visually and in a picture or design format. In a classroom setting, you benefit from instructors who use visual aids such as film, video, maps and charts. You benefit from information obtained from the pictures and diagrams in textbooks. You tend to like to work in a quiet room and may not like to work in study groups. When trying to remember something, you can often visualize a picture of it in your mind. You may have an artistic side that enjoys activities having to do with visual art and design.
  • Learning Strategies for the Visual/ Nonverbal Learner:
  • Make flashcards of key information that needs to be memorized. Draw symbols and pictures on the cards to facilitate recall. Use highlighter pens to highlight key words and pictures on the flashcards. Limit the amount of information per card, so your mind can take a mental “picture’ of the information.
  • Mark up the margins of your textbook with key words, symbols, and diagrams that help you remember the text. Use highlighter pens of contrasting colors to “color code” the information.
  • When learning mathematical or technical information, make charts to organize the information. When a mathematical problem involves a sequence of steps, draw a series of boxes, each containing the appropriate bit of information in sequence.
  • Use large square graph paper to assist in creating charts and diagrams that illustrate key concepts.
  • Use the computer to assist in organizing material that needs to be memorized. Using word processing, create tables and charts with graphics that help you to understand and retain course material. Use spreadsheet and database software to further organize material that needs to be learned.
  • As much as possible, translate words and ideas into symbols, pictures, and diagrams.

The Ze Frank music show

This is one of my favorite Ze Frank episodes. Though, it is a “final act” of sorts. The songs play off of the history of Ze Frank. You won’t get the humor unless you have watched a bunch of the previous episodes.


I miss Ze Frank. Ze did a year of short videos. They were political, humorous, silly, insightful and great fun. If you missed the year of Ze Frank, you can still watch his archive. He was very amusing.

Ze also performed at TED in 2006.

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EDUCAUSE SAC – SOA Presentation

This is a 90 minute presentation on Service Oriented Architecture that I gave at the EDUCAUSE Seminars on Academic Computing in Snowmass Village, Colorado. This talk was given on August 9, 2006

The link below is to the PDF version of the talk.

EDUCAUSE SAC Presentation on Service Oriented Architecture (PDF)

Centers of Excellence – Human Integration

I was struck by a line out of a Burton Group document that I’m reading.

>… the creation of user groups… are the human equivalent of a technology integration strategy.

In Service Oriented Architecture, I.T. Portfolio Management and Model Driven Architecture; Center’s of Excellent (CoE) are a key part of the infrastructure. A key to the CoE is that it has broad representation and derives its expertise from both technical and business experts. A key outcome of forming CoEs is that you begin to form integration points between the PEOPLE in various parts of the enterprise. The CoE should bring in end-users and business experts and connect them with the correct technical experts.

DoIT (the Division of Information Technology at UW-Madison) spends 62% of our budget on interfaces and integration according to our Deputy CIO who handles finances. I wonder what part of our budget is spent on integration and interfacing the people within the enterprise?

One of the key things that I.T. Architecture does is to help form these integration and interfaces. We try to gather input from across the enterprise. We form groups with representatives from business, end-user and technical areas to formulate road-maps and gather requirements.

I guess this quote made me realize the importance of this activity and the importance of the various Centers of Excellence that we are working towards.