Thursday, March 26, 2020

Letter to My Parents

Dear Mom & Dad,

Please practice social distancing, and adhere to calls to shelter-in-place. Early results from clinical studies indicate a significant number of people infected with SARS-Cov2/COVID-19 show no symptoms. These carriers are unsuspectingly spreading the virus and the disease it causes. Already, there are 16 positive tests confirmed in Lancaster, California as of Tuesday, March 24th. Today, LA County reports 1,216 confirmed cases, including 21 lost souls. Compare that to Illinois which was at 1,285 positive tests confirmed 3 days ago, and today is nearly double at 2,538 positive tests confirmed; across both urban and rural areas of Illinois.

Our duty to slow the spread of this virus is two fold: 1) buy time for a cure and vaccine to be produced and distributed, and 2) prevent our existing medical structure from being overwhelmed. Remember that while this pandemic is occurring, people still have urgent medical needs. The current system has finite capacity in terms of people (doctors and nurses), equipment (particularly personal protective equipment), and appropriate physical space for patients (with necessary equipment and proper hygiene). Even before this pandemic, emergency department visits due to influenza-like illness are high this season. This particularly bad flu season exacerbates the situation at our medical facilities.

We do these things not only to benefit ourselves and our family, but as our Catholic duty to be neighbors to our friends, enemies, communities, country, and humanity.

At the very least, please continue to diligently wash your hands, disinfect surfaces, and practice overall good hygiene.

Thank you for listening!

Kathleen & Andre, Alexis, Valerie.

Monday, March 16, 2020

SARS-CoV2 COVID-19 Don't Panic

I am trying. I am doing my best not to panic, to keep anxiety at the level of concern. But it's difficult and I'll tell you why. Right now, social distancing seems to have started, fueled, and caused by communities needing to act. They feel that need to act because we have no faith in our government leaders at any level. We have no faith in our government leaders because they did not have a plan, nor have proposed a plan, nor have put into action anything resembling a plan. We don't have a plan because it takes hard work and determination, it takes grit to create and maintain a plan against a future foe that will take an unpredictable form. And nobody in the government took that time and effort and grit to create the plan. And since we have no plan, we have no leadership. And since we have no leadership, we have no faith in leaders. And since we have no faith in leaders, we simply return to basics. We look after ourselves. We selfishly do the things we can to control what we can control given the little education that we have available to us, no matter how unsubstantiated or outrageous.

Yes, I am trying. But this ship is sinking and I can only bail water from this small pail I happen to have.

Sadly, protecting those most at risk is only a secondary concern for me because the panic is pounding on the door. I know it's morally wrong, but it seems socially acceptable in our current environment: that we're looking at deaths by the numbers, and not the people that they are. I'm stupidly drinking the sand not because I'm thirsty, but because I can't tell the difference. The signal-to-noise ratio is completely whacked... I mean, why are comedians like John Oliver and Trevor Noah my beacons, and not journalists like Korva Coleman and Judy Carline Woodruff, or political leaders like Governor JB Pritzker or #45?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Nettelhorst Elementary School Stampede Fundraiser

Alexis will be participating in the Stallion Stampede walkathon on May 11th

Please help support her school. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Happy Fourth Birthday!

Dear Alexis,

The past year you have experienced an immense amount of mental growth. From speech to emotions, you have been inundated with many difficult situations. For me, it's a harsh reminder of the black-and-white views of my own past, and the difficulty (near impossibility) to instigate change in people. On the optimistic side: as parents we learn and employ varying tactics to help you gain empathy, and for you to learn to keep an open mind in this seemingly unfair world set against your joy and happiness. 

Regardless of how you act/react, I always love you. At times you have bent me beyond my personal breaking point. Looking back it's difficult to understand the exact factors both within and outside my control leading to that point. But because it's you, I must find ways to deal with it and move on. There's no giving up. I must have pliability both with my memory and my emotions. Despite the absurdity of your stubbornness and your demands, we still need to understand or find the underlying cause of your troubles, and help you deal with that situation. More often than not, we fail. But as you experience intense emotional situations, we always strive to grow your arsenal to handle what life throws your way. 

You have an increasing social awareness. Contrary to fears of you "inheriting" my shyness, you display a healthy amount of extroversion. You enjoy playing with friends at school, and chatting with family you have not seen or heard in weeks. On the playground you enjoy leading others around. Around strangers you will lower your voice, but respond to questions and comments. You have an acute awareness of conversations and social situations. Like majority of the population you hate feeling left out. 

As I stumble through changes to being a better father, you relentlessly drive forward to being a better daughter. As mentioned in the past, your presence truly drives me to a better place. The experience and change of parenthood is indescribable, and seemingly inconceivable. Yet, here I find ourselves growing and learning from each other on all levels. Thank you! 

Your Dad

Monday, December 7, 2015

Progress in United States

To Senator Dick Durbin, Senator Mark Kirk, and Representative Mike Quigley, In light of US Attorney General investigations into Chicago PD, I want to know what is being done to protect both the rights of citizens and the lives of our law enforcement personnel? How do we balance the 1% of criminals ruining the every day lives of the 99%? It's understanding that this is a difficult question but changes must be made towards progress in the United States. As a constituent I urge that we work in small strides towards the ultimate goal of eliminating private ownership of firearms. RE: Similar incident happened to a friend that was riding a motorcycle. What's worse: his incident included a helicopter with night sun, and a taste of pavement as an officer dug a knee into his back to detain him. As they left the officer muttered, "you fit the description of someone fleeing police on a Ninja motorcycle." He was riding a Yamaha, not a Kawasaki. On the flip side, the job of law enforcement is not to be taken without suspicion. Stories of officer shootings are all too common, and some very disturbing ( We train officers to respond to worst-case-scenarios with assault weaponry because it's the current norm of society. Something needs to change. We cannot continue as-is because the current laws by which we're governed and the state of our current societal norms: all are barely hobbling through year by year, day by day, minute by minute, second by ticking second. Innocent people are being wounded, some are sadly dying. It will be a long journey to a better US but we know it will be worth the effort. Please help us get there by proposing and/or supporting legislation that continues progress into a better future for me and my wife, our daughter, US society, and humanity in general. Regards, Andre Alforque

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Review: Scrum by Jeff Sutherland

Quick book review:

This book inspires me to be a better Scrum Master for the team. It provides solid advice to incrementally improve not only our team performance but also my personal skills.

Biggest takeaways: Work as a team in an honest, safe environment. Find weaknesses of the process to solve missed deadlines, poor performance, or large amounts of technical debt. Always improve or evolve, never be complacent with status quo.

Pros: Great anecdotes regarding Scrum origins, and also successful transformations from waterfall into Scrum. Sutherland discusses common struggles of implementation, and prescribes fairly simple cures.

Cons: Overly optimistic view with little to no stumbling once Scrum is in place. Very few concrete demonstrations of blocker removal in a software development environment. Large assumption that Scrum implemented across entire organization.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year 2013

It's difficult to reflect on the past year. Many aspects remain in flux. I minimized my belongings by releasing all cycling equipment. I left Tribune Company into an unknown world of contracting. I picked up golf, again. I acquired technology that exponentially improved productivity and quality. Yet with all these changes I feel more distant from family and friends, and more disconnected from reality.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fleeting Memories

As an amateur photographer, why are there so few pictures of my daughter? The simple answer is time.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

One-Year-Old Lessons

Parenting has a way of motivating (scaring) you into openness and learning: growth. Even with the head start of nieces and a nephew, there are aspects of parenting never discussed that emerge; mainly: the relationship with your partner. While the barrage of emotions is not new, the mad pace at which these emotions arrive felt like being a child all over again. Especially since we both were dealing with situations completely foreign.

My biggest misconception? The amount of control I would have over any situation. All it takes is one fever to feel immensely powerless and useless. For panic to take over. For target fixation to narrow my view on only one symptom: the temperature reading.

And even little decisions have me reeling because of their novelty. When do we change diaper size? What solid foods should we feed her? Which stroller should we buy? What should she wear today? Does she need heavier layers of clothing? Will she be too hot? Where can I get diapers and wipes the cheapest?

The biggest luxury we've lost that we didn't know we had is time. Time to sleep. Time alone with our thoughts. Time together. Time for work. Time for family & friends. Time for a movie. Time to prepare and cook a meal. Time to sleep. Time to eat. Time to watch our favorite TV show. Time to sleep (did I mention that already?).

It's easy to see why people turn conservative after having children: it's easy to take the "black and white" path, where answers come quickly. But I've tried and continue to take the more difficult path of questioning issues, experimenting methods and tactics. I'm coming to grips with the reality that there is no "right" path to raising a "perfect" child; there is only the direction of loving and raising our child.

I don't know how we could do this without the help of family and friends. I'm eternally grateful for the candid conversations, and advice and guidance, and reality checks, and sympathy and empathy, and motivation, and generosity.

Friday, March 1, 2013

UX Checklist (WIP)

- Assess influence
  - 1%, 5%, 10%...
  - complete UT Project Charter
  - set expectations
    - learning experience
  - hypothesize personas
    - traits
    - behaviors
    - goals
- Recruit
  - build rapport
  - determine likeness to personas
- Interview
  - continue rapport
  - discover
- Analysis
  - Brainwriting (written, silent) not brainstorming (vocal)
  - grouping
- Presentation
  - tell a story
  - back the story up with data