Orchestrator vs. Leader

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I came across a leadership podcast a few weeks back wherein there was a description of leadership that seems to fit the type of leadership that a ScrumMaster or agile advcocate needs to exude. I lost my notes on which podcast it is for the necessary attribution but the notes that stuck with me contains the following (paraphrased) content:

During a performance show, an orchestrator (conductor) is somebody whom everybody in the group looks up to, following every flick of the wrist for the correct entry into the symphony. The choreographer on the other hand only teaches the vision of the dance, corrects any mistakes during the practice sessions, and then sits back in the audience to see the dance troupe interpret the visions, sometimes in ways that even exceeds what was practiced.

conductor-baton

Image courtesy of freerangestock.com

The choreographer aspect seems to fit what the agile advocate needs to do. This follows the mandate that in an agile team the scrum master is a servant-leader, a person who influences without any direct mandate. For those who finds that hard to comprehend, it is the same type of authority that friends form over their experiences, wherein a select few of the pack is looked upon for inputs on what to do next. That only comes with trust that the “choreographer” knows what they are saying and that they will not lead the pack into ruin.

The only resistance is the inherent inertia that most of the corporate organizations still pine for the command-and-control structure which gives the “feel good feeling” that everything can be boxed into a specific plan. This makes organizations make more open to the idea of putting seasoned managers as conductors of delivery in order to control every aspect and cadence of the team. They are not entirely wrong but the unpredictability of the human mind and real life means they are also not entirely right.

The conductor can still be a person of trust but normally the conductor’s authority is proportional to their perceived reputation. The reputation is a double edged sword as that can be the initial hump that the team needs to overcome to start being comfortable with having the “conductor” as part of the team.

On Memories

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Personal memories are biased. They are, whether consciously or otherwise, what we have chosen to preserve in our mind for later recall. There is a kind of satisfaction when traipsing down memory lane but beware that sometimes memories encase the reality with the best interpretation we wish to see. We often hear that truth has two sides (yours and mine) and this gets more pronounced when we factor in the dulling effect of time has on memory recall.
sign-post

But what fun is it to go down memory lane, to revisit friends and moments that have made an impact to who we are.

Catch-22

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Classic policies that results to a head scratching moment.

  • Your network connection suddenly drops because the authentication software invalidate your session and prompting you for your credentials.
  • You enter you credentials but is unable to get a connection because your anti-virus software definition is not updated.
  • You cannot update the definition because you dont have a connection.

Bonus points: the AV definition should have been automatically updating but for some reason it stopped doing that.

Bravo.

From one password to another

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From being a set of personal questions for validating the identity, the self-reset password of a company has moved to a self-service password mechanism.

Brilliant. Absolutely Genius.

I cant imagine how forgetting a password you use everyday or has just set will make the chances of remembering another password that you barely use much more likely. I guess if one will write it down on a post it it will be easier to retrieve. But why wasn’t it done for the everyday password?

This is the reason I keep stuff in a password manager like LastPass. If O wilI forget a manually entered password then I have the PW manager’s password (which I dont use anywhere else) to fall back on.

Brewing Kombucha : not so short guide

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Drinking Kombucha (fermented tea) is an acquired taste as it range from slightly sweet (less fermentation) to tart (apple cider) and also sour (like apple cider vinegar). The health benefits however are being touted for centuries. The TL;DR; is that is it a fermented product so it has micro-nutrients and amino acids that your body cannot product on its own. For the long version, try reading this article from draxe.com which also has a video near the middle that summarizes the main points of the article.

Kombucha is considered a health drink which translates to being expensive. In Manila, a 500ml bottle can fetch somewhere in the Php250-300 range. Brewing kombucha however is very easy as soon as certain rules are followed. For all intents and purposes it is sweet tea fermented by adding a colony of organism that will eat the sugar and poop out beneficial organics. What makes its expensive is the brewing period and the fancy labels and packaging. Enough talk, lets start with the guide.

1. Pre-requisites

  • SCOBY – or “Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast” for long. It is also called mushroom due to its appearance. Or brainmatter by some. 😉 It is the living colony that will convert your sweet tea to kombucha. You can look for brewers in your area who has some to spare or some enterprising individuals that sell scoby and some starter kombucha brew.
  • tea leaf – preferrably of the black variety. Green tea can also be used for a more delicate brew. Stay away from herbal teas or flavored/fusion ones as they contain oils that can become rancid or kill the SCOBY.
  • Sugar – white or brown cane sugar is best. Don’t use honey as its anti-bacterial properties will kill the scoby. The scoby will eat the sugat so dont worry about using the real thing.
  • Brewing vessel – pots or pans for brewing sweet tea. If these are metal, try to stick to stainless steel ones.
  • Stirring implements – preferrably wooden, plastic or ceramic ones. It is ok to stir the brewing tea with metal spoons but under no circumstance should the scoby touch any metal surface.
  • Brewing containers – where the sweet tea with scoby will be left to ferment. If this has a spigot, make sure that the spigot is plastic. Try to have wide-mouthed containers as a narrow mouth can slow the brewing period.

2. Brew the tea and ferment

  • What I normally do is heat water to the point before it boils briskly (only a few bubbles starts forming). I read somewhere that using a fully boiled water in tea is frowned upon but I have used briskly boiling water without any issues.
  • Once the water has reached the desired temperatre, add 1-2 tablespoons of sugar for every liter of water and stir. This can be increased if desired. The SCOBY will eat the sugar anyway. Don’t reduce the ratio further though as it can starve the SCOBY which can lead to its death. Remember: sugar = scoby food.
  • Once the sugar has dissolved, add your teabags or tea leaf in your favorite infuser. My ratio is 1 teabag per liter of water. I normally use black tea or roiboos. Steep the tea. Some say to limit it to 15 mnutes but I have accidentally left the teabag overnight. The brew was still usable.
  • Cool the sweet tea brew. Then transfer to the brewing containers. Then add the kombucha starter brew (or from a fully fermented batch) so it makes up 20% of the total sweet tea brew. If there is no starter brew, white vinegar can be used to jumpstart the acidity/pH level of the mixture.
  • IMPORTANT!!! : Cover the mouth of the brewing canister with cheesecloth or table napkins then secure them with string or rubberband. It is important to let the brew “breathe” otherwise it can die if it suffocates. The scoby eating the sugar will product carbon dioxide so a tightly covered container will cause oxygen deprivation and build pressure that can shatter the container.
  • After 5-7 days, taste the brew if its tart enough. Make sure to take the liquid sample from the mid to lower part of the container by using a straw.

The fermentation period will vary on several factors like temperature, if the container is exposed to sunlight, the amount of sugar in the sweet tea brew, and the size of the scoby. Quick fermentation is not always desirable as it can produce a very sour brew. Some brewing guide recommends up to 30 days but I find 7-14 days is the sweet spot (pun intended) for me and my wife to consume the kombucha.

3. Consume or do a second fermentation

Kombucha can already be consumed as is when it is tart enough. To stop or slow the fermentation, transfer it to another container that has a tight lid and then put it in the refrigerator. It is now ok to have a tight lid as this will cause the carbonation of the drink or the formation of the “fizz” found in soft/soda drinks.

If the Kombucha was too sour (i.e. left to ferment for longer than expected) then another option is to do a second fermentation. The second fermentation is also desirable if you want to make flavored kombucha. The way to do it is to mix it with your preferred fruit juice and then put a tight lid. My preferred ratio for the second fermentation is 20% juice (normally grape or black currant), 70% kombucha and 10% water. Letting the mixture brew from overnight to 24 hours is usually enough to have a fizzy drink. Serve with ice or refrigerate before consuming. 🙂

4. Notes and where to go from here

Here are some items to take note:

  • Dont consume all of the liquid. Reserve some for your next brew.
  • When starting the brew, there is probably only be a small amount of kombucha with the scoby you procured. Start brewing a liter first and then use that to start brewing a larger batch.
  • The scoby can float or sink. That is normal.
  • It the floating scoby starts developing dry spots, see if you can remove it if it has not touched the liquid. That is already mold and harmful to humans. If the mold has already touched the liquid then throw the batch and start anew.
  • During fermentation the scoby will grow or might spawn a “baby scoby”. The baby scoby can be used to start a fresh brew when it is large enough.
  • Extra scoby can be eaten like a tasteless jelly or can be added to salads. Or better yet give them to a friend or sell them. 🙂

Enjoy!

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