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June 29, 2005

Becoming a Manager (Technical)

It's been in the works for a few months now (academia moves so slow), but this Friday I officially become a "Technical Manager" for the Tufts University Sciences Knowledgebase (TUSK).

What does that mean? I have a job description that goes into the details of my responsibilities, but the gist is this:

30% - managing development team and process
30% - new technologies exploration and planning
15% - systems architecture, internal and external installations
15% - participation in Tufts IT iniatives
10% - reports and analysis

As my manager has said a few times, there really isn't going to be much of an organizational change. I've been spearheading a lot of these responsibilities for awhile now despite the fact that my job description didn't specify them (I was formerly a programmer and sysadmin).

The two biggest differences (in my opinion):
- there is no allocation for programming, or any hands-on technical work in the responsibilities (which means I will only get to do hands-on when I can get away with it)
- the developers now report to me, making me a full-on manager, not just the senior person who weighs in on decisions

We currently only have two in the development team, but have two positions open, which means at full capacity we're a team of four.

The announcement was made yesterday, so at lunch I went out to get some light management reading and stumbled into Skills for New managers, which is an easy (somewhat hokey) read to at least get me thinking about management. Pete's recommended a number of books but I never see them in bookstores and just haven't gotten around to ordering them.

Management is going to be an interesting challenge. It's such a soft science, and so closely tied to a persons personality. I hope I can be a good manager for the developers here. I have a meeting with a person from Organizational Development and Training to talk about management training.

Posted by mike at 10:06 AM

June 21, 2005

Production of Pro MySQL Complete

Last night I finished proofreading and making changes to the last PDF from the production folks at Apress for Pro MySQL. All that's left is the review of the index, which Jay is doing the bulk of because I'm closing on and moving to the new house on Thursday.

It's hard to believe that the book is written, and that after the index on Thursday all that remains is for it to be printed and delivered to bookshelves.

I've been really impressed by the Apress folks and process. Each chapter has been read and reviewed at least twice by a handful of folks; production manager, editor, technical editor, copyeditor and production editor. After that there's a proofreader that gives it one more read to make sure it all fits together. I've talked to other folks who've published books who were pretty much on their own, and the press only gave them one shot to review the text before printing. I was delightfully suprised at how much help Jay and I got in putting our ideas down on paper. It didn't mean writing 700+ pages was easy, but it did mean that a lot of different people helped in shaping the final product.

Now that the book is behind us, Jay and I are going to redo the Pro MySQL site to add more value than just a list of chapters. At a minimum we'd like to put the static book information up there along with an aggregation of our MySQL-related weblog entries.

Posted by mike at 4:33 PM

June 19, 2005

This Weblog is a Topic of Conversation

One thing I realized at the Slice of Life conference I recently attended in Portland, OR is that this weblog is a topic of conversation.

It started on the first day. After the formal portion of the Slice of Life conference was completed for the day I sat down with a few folks to look at the technical details of exchanging data between systems at a few different medical schools.

Peter Green, Executive Director for Medbiquitous and Associate Dean for Emerging technologies at Johns Hopkins Medicine joined us for the meeting and suprised me by starting the conversation by asking if I was blogging the meeting. This launched into a discussion of weblogs and their significance. Apparently my entries about the last Medbiquitous conference got some attention, enough that a search for Medbiquitous was likely to turn up one of my entries instead of their homepage. Peter seems to appreciate and respect what people with active weblogs are doing.

At two other points in the conference I ran into folks who made comments about my entries here and that they'd done some reading and discussing amongst co-workers.

On Friday, the day I left, I was approached by a speaker scheduled for Saturday who wanted my permission to use a screenshot of my weblog in his presentation. I have no idea what he said, hopefully I can find out from someone who was there on Saturday.

My manager, who doesn't read my weblog regularly, found all these comments about my weblog fascinating and spent part of one afternoon reading. It actually led to some interesting conversation between us.

Posted by mike at 10:13 PM

June 17, 2005

Applying Gaming Technology to the Virtual Patient

At Slice of Life listing to Jean-Marc Gauthier who's speaking about the NYU School of Medicine and their use of gaming technology in virtual patient simulation. Jean-Marc is actually from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.

They started with Maya and doing 3D rendering, but once a 3D clip is rendered it was difficult to change. They recieved a research grant from NYU to create what they call the dynamic virtual patient, a 3D model that can change dynamically with input.

Jean-Marc shows a screenshot of level design in HalfLife 2. They looked to video games, and shifted to use video game rendering to create their 3D models. He shows a few samples of their work on facial expressions available in gaming to allow the virtual patient to express pain, suprise etc.

Jean-Marc demonstrates a few different views of a human body where you can control the "camera," light, labels, annotations, etc. As you are "working" on the patient he is breathing.

Incredible, you can download it for free.

It sounds like there's a lot of work still going on, a new version coming in the winter with a slew of new features. Jean-Marc recommends Building Interactive Worlds in 3D as good reading for people who are interested in 3D modelling.

Posted by mike at 2:32 PM

Managing Digital Assets with HEAL Local

Sebastian Uijtdehaage (UCLA) is presenting this morning at Slice of Life about the state of HEAL (Health Education Assets Library).

HEAL was conceived 5 years ago (it sounds like it was at this conference). It's first incarnation is a centrally controlled, national digital library. HEAL Local is a new project that is focused on privately controlled data.

Managing digital media is tough, there isn't meta-data built into the images. Faculty need:
- tools for managing
- control over collections
- optional sharing
- searchable repository

Commercial solutions are expensive and don't fully meet the needs for digital asset management.

HEAL Local Provides
- faculty build and manage collections
- can remain private or within institution
- searching for shared resources
- can create Albums
- can create cataloging schemes

Heal Central and Heal Local work together, bring items down from the central server and push items up.


HEAL Local is written in Java and JSP and uses MySQL as a backend. Can use LDAP for authentication and includes HEAL metadata schema.


Posted by mike at 12:35 PM

June 16, 2005

At Slice of Life Conference

In Portland, OR for a few days for the Slice of Life Conference for Medical Multimedia Developers and Educators.

Flight in was delayed, didn't get into hotel until near midnight and without luggage (hoping it arrives sometime this morning).

There are a number of interesting presentations that I'm excited to see. The primary reason for attending is to meet with a few folks to discuss some work on standards for exchange of case simulation data. Meeting is tomorrow afternoon. Not sure how much I'll be able to write about, battery low on juice and have other things going on the laptop.

Posted by mike at 1:54 PM

June 7, 2005

On the Red Sox JumboTron at Fenway Park

Last Friday night we went to a Red Sox game with a large group of friends. Little did I know that a bunch of the group was in on a little secret. During the break between innings they always show announcements up on the jumbotron. We weren't far into the game when a bunch of people started yelling at me to look at it. Sure enough, there on the jumbotron was this congratulations for Heidi and my 11th anniversary.

Several folks had been put on "camera duty" to make sure they got a photo during the 10 seconds the announcement sits on the screen.

It was an excellent game. The Red Sox were down 3 runs for a good part of the game, and after tying it up at 4, they loaded up the bases and Damon hit a double that scored three runs in the bottom of the 8th. It's so cool to be at Fenway Park and feel the energy of the fans.

Oh, and yes. Heidi and I have indeed been married for 11 years now.

Posted by mike at 9:56 AM

Pro MySQL (the book) is Available for Preorder

I did a search for ProMySQL last night and was glad to see that the little site I put up is the top match. The chapter list has shifted just a little bit, will update that.

I was suprised to see that the book is already listed for preorder on Amazon, Bookpool (we order primarily from Bookpool at the office), WHSmith UK and now that I'm looking it's on a lot of other sites.

Some of them don't list both authors, which I do not like. Jay actually wrote more pages (not to mention they were the most in depth parts of the book).

Guess that means I should get those copyedit drafts and print proofs returned.

Posted by mike at 9:18 AM

June 2, 2005

Not Going to OSCON

It's been a hard decision to make, but I've finally decided I'm not going to attend OSCON this year. I've gone for the past three years, and spoke at the last two, but this year it just doesn't feel right.

The initial reason I considered not going was because I'm on vacation in July and then again in September, and being gone for a week in August seemed a bit much. It may also be that I'm just not as excited about the technical details of things as I used to be. The subject matter of OSCON has gotten less interesting to me each year I've attended. The fact that I'm not speaking this year also weighs in with the price of a badge not being cheap.

Another factor is that, although I don't travel that much, for awhile there it seemed I was gone every other week. Heidi and I have noticed that when I am away from home regularly the kids struggle with it. I think they get nervous when they don't have the stability of both parents at home.

Whatever the reason, I won't be among the thousands traveling to Portland. I think I will miss it, and feel the void as I read entries from folks attending. Tufts won't be completely out of it, Paul will be going this year, his first.

Posted by mike at 10:08 PM