Beginning Ruby on Rails – Resources Explored

English: Ruby on Rails logo

English: Ruby on Rails logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m learning to program!

It’s taken a fair bit of work, but I’m finding that many of the concepts of strategy consulting map to the object oriented programming framework (Ruby on Rails in this case).

I was hoping that may be the case.  Some initial similarities (and yes I know these stretch a bit):

  • MECE (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive) == DRY (Do not Repeat Yourself)…everything goes somewhere but only once
  • Pyramid Principle == STI (Single Table Inheritence)…make sure your taxonomies map in a logical fashion and make sure likes are at the same level
  • Elegant communication means the output gets shorter, not longer


Initial resources I’ve used to explore:


  • One Month Rails: Online class…was $20.  Found it got me in enough to get started and then I needed to know waaaaay more…but it got me started for 20 bucks so it was a good value
  • Ruby on Rails Tutorial by Michael Hartl:  I’m most of the way through — I bought the screencasts.  It’s really amazing to see the difference in my understanding in the video form vs. just the book.  This is an amazing resource — like having a great coding teacher walking you step by step through the building of an application.  I’m starting to understand why Khan Academy gets the results it does
  • Ruby on Rails 3 Essentials by Kevin Scogland ( Great pair with Michael Hartl’s course — Michael takes you through the building of a website and shares rails concepts through applied learning — Kevin’s a great way to step back and get the higher level picture of the function and what it does/ how it works in a more holistic way
  • Code School: Number of online courses to actually type in the code (e.g., Rails for Zombies).  It’s good practice in applied learning — although I am a little frustrated by their engine not allowing you as much freedom as you may like…it’s kind of like when I took spanish with an ok teacher — she would mark me wrong when I answered in a less “regurgitative” way…however, it actually forces practice through regurgitation and taking the next straightforward step and that’s a good forcing mechanism to keep me from going down a rat hole
  • Just signed up (still a bit advanced for me) RailsCasts - great place to see that I can do some more advanced stuff that is triggered by the current courses — helps me push a little further in exploring the approaches to solve the requirements to execute Chefalytics v1

Hope this list helps some of you learning to code in Rails — I’ve been stumbling along for a while wanting to do it and it feels great to know that I’ll be able to code soon if I keep applying myself!

Oh yeah, my other big stumbling block was that the Rails community doesn’t really support Windows, and so my initial stuff kept breaking.  Bought a macbook and pace of learning has gone up substantially and frustration is receding.



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Been fascinated by RoR and the concept of being able to quickly prototype and roll out working (if maybe not scalable) web applications.

My initial project is to build a tool for my wife’s Los Angeles catering company to help her make it more scalable.  At her volume, the app doesn’t need to scale to enable her to (lol).  Essentially it’s creating an automated workflow that helps to plan the week’s work in the kitchen — to date this takes hours of cross-referencing across client jobs, recipes, staffing schedules, and inventory (largely in excel or paper) to generate:

  • Staffing requirements (hours of prep work to be done)
  • Order list — ingredients that need to be ordered
  • Master prep list for week
  • Individual prep list for each chef
  • Packout list — to get the right food to each client event

Objective of the “Chefalytics” project is to utilize Ruby on Rails to streamline our kitchen ordering and production operations through more precise planning.

Next posts will focus on the journey through this project…stay tuned


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Back to blogging

I’ve been away for a while, but realizing that blogging keeps my thoughts a bit more clear.  Will begin blogging on at least an every two day basis to help keep my thoughts straight.  Look forward to sharing with you!


As I compare best practice software development to best practice project management…I can’t help but think that many of the scrum approaches would be well suited to business product development in a way that Gantt charts and Microsoft Project never really seem able to pull off in the real world.

Anyone use scrum outside of software?

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John Wooden: On success

John Wooden: a consummate teacher and wonderful human being.  Thank you Coach for reminding us that true success is about each of us achieving our potential, and that our life’s path is enjoying the journey paced by the cornerstones of industriousness and enthusiasm.

Wooden's Pyramid of Success

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Pediatric polysomnography
Image via Wikipedia

This is post 3 in a series highlighting my journey from physician to consultant to entrepreneur

I write this in a period of reflection — when I try to figure out what’s next for me as I reflect on my career to date.  My calling is the fixing of our broken health system.  However, as but one individual, how to do so in a way that allows me to build something of immediate value while taking care of my family is a complex challenge.  My goal is writing this is to help highlight my somewhat strange career path, as I’ve been contacted by a number of physicians at all stages of their careers.

While applying for medical school, my goal was to be a preventive medicine pediatrician: I wanted to keep kids healthy and make sure they never got sick.  This perspective, even in interviews for medical school, got me in trouble…great doctors were supposed to be tremendous diagnosticians with ability to memorize vast facts and prescription/ procedure options.  I never really understood why…for me the challenge was in understanding how to change basic behaviors early…so the bread and butter things that impacted the majority of people either occurred later or never.  I questioned the impact of the things we spent 80% of our time on…and needless to say it didn’t make me popular in an environment where people were conditioned to jump through professional hoop after professional hoop.

It all crystallized for me in a few places:

  1. I had a pediatric orthopedic surgery rotation with a bunch of “SCFE” kids.  SCFE stands for Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis.  Basically, these kids were so fat (and they were a bit more than “husky”, that their growth plates attaching the ball (in socket) part of the hip bone with the leg part of the hip bones cracked…and needed to be pinned to keep the kid’s leg in place.  What I saw was extraordinary technology to get the leg pinned and some followup with rehab.  What I didn’t see was any effort to get the kid’s weight under control (it is horrifying to see that a 12 year old is on the verge of type II diabetes)…although they did note they would put them on insulin if they tipped into diabetes.  I was pretty disgusted with how doctors were trained to view the world.
  2. I had a 5 yr old 110 pound girl (and no, that’s not a typo) on an ENT rotation in for a tonsillectomy to clear airway so she could breathe.  The ENT was executed beautifully.  The child’s health?  That was someone else’s concern…surgeons must move on to their next case once a patient comes off the table.  When I bothered to try and figure out in my busted Spanish what was going on, it all made sense.  The child was 110 pounds and had no teeth because her parents thought soda was better for her than water.  This was the moment I decided I didn’t want to practice in a system that defines success in a way where the patient may not have survived.
  3. I came across the book “Demanding Medical Excellence” by Michael Millensen.  This was my first concrete exposure to the inanity of a health system where better results (on a cost-plus basis) often equate to a bankrupt organization.  The need to change business models in health to reward EFFECTIVENESS vs. EXPENSIVE ACTION dawned and me…and has become the cause to which I’ve dedicated my career.

Late in my 3rd year, I decided not to apply to residency.  It came with much heartache and second-guessing at the time, but while doors closed others have opened that have led to a passionate-filled and interesting start to my career…

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HTC Droid Incredible now shipping by May 21

HTC Incredible now shipping 5/21

Update: Verizon cancelled my order via email and now I’m in the queue until early June.  Had anyone done less to try to keep the customer happy than the big wireless providers?


Just ordered my HTC Incredible from Verizon Wireless.  Been blown away by the great reviews and a quick trial in the Verizon store (alas, I played with the demo version a few minutes too long…the last one in the store was sold to the person in front of me in line…argh!)

Now, unfortunately, the stores still don’t seem to be getting any and the online version won’t be available until 5/21.  I had been hoping to sneak into a batch going to the stores ahead of the old 5/14 ship date.  Apparently this has backfired.  Decided to bite the bullet and just order online…I’ve had my blackberry since late 2006, so nothing’s really going to change that much in the next couple weeks.

Looking forward to finally being able to take pictures and access the internet off my phone!

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A statue of Asclepius. The Glypotek, Copenhagen.
Image via Wikipedia

This is post 2 in a series highlighting my journey from physician to consultant to entrepreneur

I write this in a period of reflection — when I try to figure out what’s next for me as I reflect on my career to date.  My calling is the fixing of our broken health system.  However, as but one individual, how to do so in a way that allows me to build something of immediate value while taking care of my family is a complex challenge.  My goal is writing this is to help highlight my somewhat strange career path, as I’ve been contacted by a number of physicians at all stages of their careers.

Having been admitted to medical school, I now was immersed deep into the more academic curriculum of the first two years.  I have to admit I was tremendously disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the clinical piece of medicine.  Interacting with patients (even in our limited pre-clinical years) was an amazing process.  Donning the white coat opened up a whole new world of access into the deepest, most intimate details of a person’s life.  The tradeoff was the dimming of your own empathetic humanity…the role required that those deep details be used to drive medical diagnoses and services and a filter of “doctor” screen all normal human impulses and reactions.  This perspective would truly change my life and enforce the importance of time in generating enough of a rapport and relationship to really be able to help someone.

The academic/ science side was a different story.  What I thought would be an experience that built upon the dynamic understanding of physiology combined with how to achieve great results in real patients in the health system…instead was a flood of didactic memorization based on the deep (and largely irrelevant) details of our professors’ research.  There seemed to be a great focus on breadth in detail…providing a slurry of facts and figures without the focus on building a high-level framework that would serve as our foundation in medicine.  In an era where most of these details were available on my palm pilot, when they were relevant to anything I was doing, I found incredibly frustrating and largely a waste of time.  Where I wanted discussion and debate, I found a premium placed on memorizing what my elders told me…and substantial challenges at the points where I thought that the literature pointed to plausible alternatives to what I heard in class (e.g., my early suspicions that “mature” tissues like nerves and muscles could regenerate based on satellite cells and latent stem cells).  My love for science and probing mind had become a liability in the two year sprint through the basic sciences…and how I was frustrated by the intellectual challenges of science turning into brute memorization of things I didn’t quite believe.

What had happened was that the explosion of science had translated into a desire to cover all of life sciences, rather than to focus on the skills and evaluation frameworks that would ensure that we were lifelong scholars we could evaluate all of that research relevant to our patients.  As a happenstance of fate, our class of supposedly 150 at USC School of Medicine had somehow accepted our admits in a way well outside the bell curve.  We ended up with 180+ in our class, 2/3 men.  This meant that our lectures had to be videotaped and broadcast into a satellite room.  This provided me the opportunity to study instead of waste my time in class, read the textbooks and literature and go deep in areas of interest, while still being able to review lectures that I wanted to play back.  I became a virtual student…and memorized enough of what I was told to pass my pass/fail first couple of years.

What did I do with that extra time?  I focused on a few things…I spent a fair bit of time volunteering in the emergency room and I pursued a deeper understanding of how health care worked…not the scientific part but the people part.  This would be the element that would change my life and move me away from my initial calling in prevention-oriented pediatrics…but that will come in the next installment…

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Image by jstownsley via Flickr

The last few weeks, I’ve been sitting a lot…and finding that I really miss moving around more, but that its hard to do in a smaller office.

This brings me back to earlier dreams of a “treadmill desk” or even an “adjustable height desk”…something so I’m able to change positions and get the blood flowing a bit more.  My focus is as much on channeling unproductive energy (currently expressed as moving around to get a snack or drink) and turning it into energy that moves my work along…as it is also burning the calories so I can lose some weight.

Current hypothesis is that a treadmill desk would help me take off at least 10 pounds over a 3 month period.

Its very hard to buy right now…but there are a few options available.  Here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Adjustable height desk: looking hard at TreadDesk and the Geekdesk Mini .  I’ve ruled out hospital bed tables, as they seem a little flimsy and still considering either a bookcase shell or a drafting table as cheaper alternatives
  • Treadmill: Here I’m really not sure if I should get a standard treadmill and take off the arms or if I should go with a more dedicated model.  Given my smaller desk constraint (my space is <50 inches wide) I either need a treadmill I can easily move or something I can put a chair/ stool on top of.

I’ll post a followup with what I’ve decided on and how the experience goes.

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15_Cotton Candy Foie Gras
Image by shdowchsr via Flickr

Chef Jose Andres is a chef who loves to play with his food. It was great to watch his passion combining food and science into the molecular gastronomy movement.

One quote I pulled away from this was something similar to Jaime Oliver…chefs take care of maybe 1-3% of food that people eat. To really make a difference, we need to figure out how to help make the other 97% of meals both nutritious and delicious.

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