Enterprise Service Bus by David Chappel Book Review

This past week I finished Enterprise Service Bus by David Chappell.

ESB by David Chappell

First I must mention that I read the book via O’Reilly’s fantastic Safari online book service that I have access to for being a Professional member of the ACM (only $99/year). I can’t recommend this service enough. The selection of books is amazing and to be able to add a book and begin reading immediately gives you great ability to get knowledge if the mood strikes.

David Chappell is a vice president and chief technologist for SOA at Oracle Corporation. Though this book was written back in 2004 it is still quite relevant today. It provides a very good introduction to service oriented architectures. I first heard about the Enterprise Service Bus back when I attended JavaOne back in 2005. At that point it didn’t seem like the idea was fleshed out all the way based on the presentations I heard (though this book disproves that since it was written prior). I just couldn’t wrap my head around how something like this would fit in my company’s current tech model.

Many years of learning and experience later, reading this book gave me a new perspective on this model and how it could integrate into our environment. One of the best things about this book is that it approaches this integration in a realistic manner. It doesn’t recommend ripping out your complete architecture (like most pay by the hour consulting shops come in and recommend). It proposes adding these concepts in at the edge of your operation. The first steps actually involve adding them in so transparently that the applications that begin conversing across the ESB don’t actually know anything has changed.

Then as time allows and as experience with this style of architecture grows, you can kudzu the bus across the organization. Many of the scenarios and specific patterns that Chappell demonstrates and models are exact copies of problems that I’m encountering first hand at work. Reading this book has caused me to start looking at all of our applications with an eye towards how I can apply SOA principles as we make changes to existing code.

The book was a very quick read and the writing style and diagrams helped me get through the book with ease. I highly recommend reading it if you are looking for a great introduction into the Enterprise Service Bus concept.

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Starship Troopers (the novel)

After having seen the movie and hearing over the years of people talking about the controversy around the book, I decided to pick it up from the local library and see for myself what all the fuss is about. This post will describe some of my thoughts on the book not really a full book report style review.

Starship Troopers Book Jacket

The book was written in 1959 by Robert A. Heinlein but if you didn’t know that, you would think it was written in the last couple of years. The technology, tactics, and mindset he describes all fit with our current time. Pretty impressive for a 50 year old novel to accurately depict our reality. Makes you wonder if he predicted the future or the future modeled itself on him.

An interesting concept that the book lays out (one of the central themes) is the concept of being a citizen of your nation. Everyone from birth is considered a civilian. This classification gives them access to every right and freedom save two. They cannot vote and they cannot hold public office. To gain these two rights requires enlisting in federal service (joining the military) for a term of at least two years (the term is open ended if the nation is in conflict and needs you longer). Further, while you are doing your federal service, you cannot vote. So career military men would not be able to vote until their retirement.

The interesting thought of this setup is that the acting military does not get a say in the future of conflict or military infrastructure. Thus they cannot vote in their self-interest. All those that do get to vote are former military men that have seen the good and bad and put their own necks on the line. They should have a clear picture of what it really means to fight and die and can vote with that knowledge. It seems like a much better setup than some ivy league lawyer in Washington committing troops to some location without any first-hand knowledge of the reality of what that means. Also this would seem to prevent the concept of the military-industrial complex from being able to take hold since active military cannot vote.

Another thing this would seem to prevent would be the continued expansion of the government payrolls. This reminds me of Philip Greenspun’s recent post on Should Government Employees Be Allowed To Vote?. Employees of the government will always tend to vote for anything that expands or improves their employment situation. If the number of employees grows too large, then you create a situation where those kinds of votes will always pass. I think I would have to agree with Philip that the Constitution probably would have explicitly addressed this if they thought it possible for this to ever happen.

Also in this completely voluntary federal service commitment, they try to make it very difficult to join and easy to quit. They intentionally try to discourage everyone from signing up. If they fail at that, they make it as easy as possible for an individual to drop out. The only repercussion of dropping out is you can never sign back up and try again. This ensures that those that are in the service are very committed to the idea of putting themselves on the line for the good of the nation as a whole and really want to be there. This reminds me of Zappos paying new hires cash to quit.

I would definitely be on board with our current military adopting this kind of setup to see how it changed the shape of our military. With an all volunteer force, it seems a bit strange to change the rules the second you sign the dotted line. You are free to join, but not to leave. If it didn’t work, we could always go back to the old way of doing things, but I would imagine this would lead to an even higher quality force than we have currently.

There is one soliloquy in the book that is really potent (and makes it shocking this was written in 1959). It is about the term juvenile delinquent and the nature of what causes a young person to become delinquent. The argument is that to have a juvenile delinquent, you must have an adult delinquent that allowed this situation to occur by not using operant conditioning and discipline to mold the child into someone with a moral basis for behavior. He specifically talks about the removal of corporal punishment from youth and how purely at an animal/behavioral level this causes the individual to not properly learn the actions/consequences model that many of us learned at the end of a ruler or paddle. Fascinating stuff to ponder.

I did not find the book as controversial as the critics made out and thoroughly enjoyed it (only took 2 days to read it). Many criticisms have been made about its pro-military stance (Heinlein was an officer in the Navy), but I did not see it that way (with my background of never having been in the military). I saw it speaking of a more restrained military and federal organization than we have currently. Others critics disliked it saying it was more of an essay of Heinlein’s views versus an actual story arc. I can see part of this, but it was not very noticeable or distracting to me. It also might explain why Paul Verhoeven, who made the film version, is quoted as saying he never even finished reading the book (the movie doesn’t have much of the same story of the book).

I think this book is definitely worth reading if you have ever pondered what the responsibility is of the nation to its people and the people to their nation. It gives you some great food for thought and can spur some great discussions with friends. Of course there is Power Armor thrown in too so that is also a plus.

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Alvin T. Simmons 1922-2010

A couple of weeks ago, I received word that one of the most amazing teachers I ever met had passed away. His name was Alvin Simmons and he taught me high school Chemistry and Physics at Mobile Christian School. But more than teaching me just those subjects, he taught me about what kinds of qualities make an exceptional teacher. Though he was in his 70’s when I had him, he was able to relate and empathize with all of us crazy teenagers. He never had a problem maintaining control or order of his students and even the “bad kids” seemed to respect him. He was an incredible teacher and incredible person. He is even the person who named this blog.

Below is the obituary that was run for him:

SIMMONS Mr. Alvin T. Simmons-A native of Alabama and a resident of Mobile, died on Saturday, January 16, 2010. He was born on January 5, 1922 in Monroeville, Alabama. He received his B.S. Degree from Livingston State College in 1953, and a Masters Degree from University of Alabama in 1971.

Mr. Simmons taught Physics and Chemistry in the Mobile County School System for 31 years. After retiring in 1984, he taught 10 years at Mobile Christian School.

He served in World War II in the Pacific. Mr. Simmons was an active member of Regency Church of Christ and a volunteer Treasurer for 40 years. He was preceded in death by his parents Alvin T. Sr., and Eva Simmons, two sisters, Berniece Gaston and Laura Kathryn Roth.

He is survived by his wife, Wilma Clark Simmons, of 49 years; one sister, Dorothy Zorn, Mobile, Alabama and two nephews, George and Travis Roth, Tampa, FL. Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 10:00 AM from the chapel of Radney Funeral Home.

The family will receive friends at the funeral home 9:00 AM until service time. Interment will be in Magnolia Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The Alzheimer's Association Research Fund or American Cancer Society.

Funeral arrangements by RADNEY FUNERAL HOME, 3155 Dauphin Street, Mobile, Alabama 36606.

Some of the memories I recall of him were his impeccable dress. He always wore a jacket and tie during every classroom session. His wife would coordinate his outfits and he would tell us that when she would go out of town, she would number the jacket, pants, and ties, and then leave him a key as to which numbers to associate for each day she was gone. The man always looked sharp.

I remember him relating a story from his public school days of a kid that was sitting by the window in the classroom on the first floor, and kept throwing things out of the window. After being told to stop repeatedly and not listening, Mr. Simmons tossed him out the window. Probably shocked the kid more than anything. I would say he didn’t throw things out of the window anymore after that. Unfortunately that kind of thing today would get you tossed from the school system, but back then was a different time, and it seemed like a perfect way to not hurt anyone but set the tone for the classroom and his expectations.

I still remember the “factor-label” method he used for diagramming out solutions to conversion problems and that in his class, there was much tasking of the students to show their solutions on the board to the rest of the class.

It is amazing to think of how many lives he touched after 41 years of teaching. It definitely showed me the wide reach teachers can have. Truly a noble profession to those that take it on.

The last time I saw Mr. Simmons was a couple of years ago at my grandmother’s funeral (they attended the same church). He still had an incredible, witty personality. He seemed thrilled that I ended up with a minor in Chemistry from college and that my future aspirations involve a Ph.D. and teaching at the college level.

He was truly a man that lived a good life and left the world a much better place than he found it. Definitely a life that can be an inspiration to us all. Thank you, Mr. Simmons, for all of the lessons and the ability to continue teaching me even now after you are gone.

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DIY Parallettes

Some time back I ran across a site devoted to various bodyweight exercises called Beast Skills. I’ve always been a big fan of any bodyweight type exercises (pullups, pushups, dips, chinups, etc.) and the tutorials on this site are incredible. Most of them are gymnastics related skills that require an incredible amount of strength and coordination.

One of the pieces of equipment that is used for improving various skills is the parallette. It is a small set of mini parallel bars that can be used for pushups, L-sits, planche moves, handstand pushups, and more. The set of parallettes demonstrated on that site are simple Do-It-Yourself models created out of PVC.

Today I set out to create my own set of parallettes so I could begin practicing various movements from the Beast Skills site. The cost to build a set of PVC parallettes is only about $20 and take 10-15 minutes to assemble.

I built mine out of 1 1/2″ PVC pipe and the pieces needed are:

  • 10′ section of 1 1/2″ PVC pipe
  • 4 T-joints
  • 4 90 degree elbow joints
  • 8 end caps (though I’m an idiot and only bought 4)

Here are 2 great tutorials about the actual build process though it is pretty self-explanatory.

Homemade Parallettes

DIY Parallettes

I did not use cement to put mine together and it doesn’t look like it will even need it. Plus, no cement, means I can disassemble them for easy storage. I used 18″ pieces for the parallel portion of the parallettes and 6″ pieces for everything else. I will probably change it to use 12″ pieces for the vertical sections to get a bit further off the ground and be able to do L-sit dips. 6″ is a bit low for that. Other than that I’m very happy with how they turned out.

As far as exercise routines for the parallettes, American Gymnast has a set of workouts on their site here (requires free registration).

This is their recommended beginner training guide (though I think I need the remedial training program):

  • Tuck Sit 3-5 sets of 10 seconds
  • L-Sit 3-5 sets of 10 seconds
  • Tuck Planche 3-5 sets of 10 seconds
  • Straddle Press to Handstand Against Wall 2 sets of 3-5 reps
  • Handstand Against Wall 2 sets of 30 seconds
  • Handstand Pushups Against Wall 2 sets of 5-7 reps
  • Push-ups 2 sets of 7-10 reps
  • Handstand Forward 1/2 Pirouette 5-7 reps

Probably take me a year to get worked up to that level of fitness (especially pirouettes without killing my self) but it is a good start and a great way to build my core. If you have a free afternoon, put a set of these together and get to training.

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Google Reader for RSS Feeds

For many years I have been hooked on the technology of RSS Feeds. These are XML based feeds provided by various websites that contain their content. Programs called feed readers allow you to subscribe to these feeds and then they periodically poll those sites looking for new content.

This technology allowed me to subscribe to a wide variety of information (Tech, Finance, Friends, Travel, etc) and have it presented to me in a simple format for reading. I have used this with great success to keep up to date on these topics.

Though there were always web-based feed reader programs, I have always preferred a thick-client installed application to present me more of an MS Outlook type interface. The app that I found which was my favorite was called Sauce Reader. It was built using Delphi and had everything I could ask for in a feed reader. Unfortunately the product was de-supported (though in just searching I see the company has posted their story and the executables are still there for download).

My laptop where I was running Sauce Reader on Windows XP recently crashed. I reinstalled Ubuntu Linux and have been looking for a replacement feed reader program. Unfortunately I did not have a backup of my subscription list of feeds, so I’ve had to piece them together from memory. I decided to give the Google Reader application a try and see if the web-based readers had improved.

I must say that I am highly impressed with how the application functions. It is very easy to use and imitates a thick client application by having very nice hotkey support built-in and a great interface. It will also look at the feeds you are subscribed to and make recommendations of other feeds you might like. Since this application is web-based, I can browse my feeds from any computer and still keep track of what I still have left unread. In addition I can even pull the application up using my iPhone. Now I can truly read my feeds everywhere.

If you have tried web-based feed readers in the past and found them to be lacking, I encourage you to give the Google Reader application a try. Of course a small caveat from my paranoid self. Google knows more about you than any other company on the web, so putting your feeds in their application just gives them a little bit more of a picture of who you are. But if that does not bother you, then please try it out and see what you think.

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