The Agile Architect
Our Agile Architect Saves the World!
This is the completely true and not at all exaggerated story of how I, the Agile Architect, saved the Earth from complete and utter destruction. I'm sure there's an agile lesson in there somewhere.
- By Mark J. Balbes, Ph.D.
This is a true story...
As my Agile Architect editor for these many years, I implore you to read my tale below and come to my aid, lest I disappear from this Earth forever.
I had a small adventure recently in which I saved the world from total destruction and performed other similarly mundane tasks. However, I find myself in need of your kindly help to extricate myself from a rather unpleasant situation.
An Unremarkable Start
It all started, as many things do in my life, at a Boy Scout event which in this case happened to be an adult training conference. Out of some small curiosity and a tedious sense of boredom, I decided to audit an advanced class for Unit Commissioners, those stalwart front-line volunteers who help Cub Scout Packs and Boy Scout Troops maintain a quality program.
And so I found myself in a class with an instructor who is an experienced Unit Commissioner surrounded by other Unit Commissioners eagerly listening to his every word. And as he dispensed his wisdom, I strained to feign attention as he discussed tips and tricks of the trade. Indifferent, that is, until he began talking about how unit commissioners should report their activities to their supervisor, the District Commissioner.
For, you see, I myself am a District Commissioner. And what he said astonished me. He talked about how the report should contain all of the good deeds that the Unit Commissioners are doing for their units, how much they are enjoying their jobs and interacting with their units, and what unit activities they will be going to in the future.
Roused from my lethargy, I felt compelled to speak. "That's not incorrect, sir!" I shouted. "Why should I care about all of that? I am a District Commissioner and I can tell you that none of that is important for your report."
"But of course it is," replied the instructor. "How else will you know that we are doing our jobs?
"I don't much care to know if you are doing your job. I care much more about the health of the unit. Does it have a good program? Are the Scouts having fun? Are the adults engaged? Is there a succession plan for the leadership? Do they have a reasonable budget? In other words, is the unit healthy or do we need to provide them with additional support?"
"Nope. That doesn't sound right," said one of the participants. "The instructor's an expert. You should listen to him."
"But ... but ... I am a DISTRICT COMMISSIONER. You are writing these reports for people like me."
"It's a good thing you're in this class, then," said the instructor.
Recognizing I could not prevail, I sat silently through the rest of the class and then headed home.
The entire trip home, I had the curious sensation I was being watched. There was nothing specific but the hairs on the back of my neck vibrated with a tingling sensation that I had never in all my years felt before.
Finally, walking from my car to my home, I began to feel warm. My eyes felt like they were drowning and I had a peculiar sense of weightlessness. Realizing I was about to black out, I....
... I awoke lying prone in a stark, white room. There was a general hum coming from the walls. Realizing that I was immobilized, I called out. An imperceptible panel in the wall slid open and in walked three creatures the likes of which I had never encountered in my life. Covered in a thick pelt of fur with no perceptible face, walking on two legs but sporting six arms, they shuffled into the room.
As I recoiled with a natural revulsion, one of the creatures reached out a furry hand and quite quickly thumped me on the chest. "Ow!" I exclaimed.
The same creature looked at me, or at least I think it was looking at me. Then it started to speak. "You see," it said to its companions, turning towards them. "It's still alive."
"Ask it some questions," said another.
The first one turned back in my direction. "What are you called, creature?"
"People call me the Agile Architect," I replied hesitantly.
"Yes, yes, the Agile Architect. Tell me. Do you have any children?"
While I didn't see the relevance of the question, I decided there was no harm in answering. "Yes," I stated unequivocally.
"You see!" said the third creature. "She might just do."
"Might do for what?" I asked perplexed. And for clarity added, "And I'm not a she. I'm a he."
"You must be a she if you have children," retorted the first creature. "And you might just do for food, of course."
"I have children and I am a he. And what do you mean by food?"
"Food. As in, we are hungry and you have a planet full of plump, juicy food. Now, get up," the first creature ordered as it untied the straps restraining me. As it approached, I could see the red hourglass marking on the back of its hand and a spider-like face leering at me. Realization began to dawn on me.
"I am a man and I have children!" I stated emphatically. "You cannot eat me or my children will grow up without a father!"
"Children with a father!" guffawed the third creature. "What an insane notion. Fathers are for mating."
"And then they make a nice snack!" volunteered the second creature.
"I'm afraid," said the first one, "she's just like the others. Completely insane."
The creatures started kibitzing fiercely. I could hear small bits of their conversation. "just like the others ... how many ... insane ... almost half ... not safe ... contagious...."
Suddenly, the creatures grabbed me. Fear gripped me lest they rip me apart. I clutched at the bed that had supported me throughout this whole encounter. Unfortunately, my hands grasped upon a scrap of material, a bag of some sort, that was not secured to anything steadfast. With no more thought than one would cast out a piece of trash, I was thrust out a doorway only to find myself falling through the air. Looking up, I could see I had been on some contraption of an air ship that, even as I fell, was swiftly leaving the confines of the Earth.
I fell. I fell and I tumbled and I screamed. And I am slightly ashamed to say that I once again blacked out.
Stranded in Time
I awoke to find myself splayed abreast a rather uncomfortable cobblestone street, face up and rather damp from a light drizzle that was casting a terribly gloomy shadow.
"You're awake then," said a youthful voice.
"It appears as though I am," I respond, propping myself up on one elbow to look at my companion, a young lad of perhaps 10 years of age sitting cross-legged on the road next to me.
'You dropped your bag," he said matter-of-factly, holding it towards me.
"I see that. Thank you."
"Were you going to lie there all day?" he inquires.
"Perhaps," I joke. "Can you tell me where I am?"
"This is Maarweg Street".
"No, I mean, what city?"
"Don't you know?" he says, his timbre rising with incredulity. "Doodstil. In The Netherlands."
"Terrific," I mumble. "Can I borrow your cell phone. I would like to make a brief call."
"What's a cell phone?" he asks, mystified.
"A phone. Where can I find a phone? I want to call an Uber."
As he continued to stare at my quizzically, I began to review my surroundings more carefully. No power lines. No cars. No sign of industrial development.
"What year is this?" I murmured.
"You really are muddled, aren't you sir?," the boy said, standing up abruptly. "It is the year of our lord 1867."
"Good lord!" I retorted, choking back a gasp.
"Well, time to continue on to school," he groaned, reaching down to massage his ankles.
"A long way?" I grinned.
"Surely. Nearly half a mile."
"Why, that's nothing," I boasted. "I used to walk over a mile to go to school."
"Either you are joking with me or you have very sturdy feet, sir."
"Nothing to it, really," I continued. "Just a matter of keeping in shape and wearing the right footwear. I don't understand how a young lad like you could have any problem walking half a mile. That's patently absurd."
Bending down, the boy slowly pulled up his overly-long pants legs to reveal the painfully bulky wooden clogs engulfing his feet. "Well, that's just it sir. I'm in very good shape. But you should try walking a mile in my shoes!"
The Journey Home
I won't burden you with the details of my tedious journey back to America. Suffice it to say that there is no more threat of an undersea volcano nor an imminent attack by Atlantean were-fish.
Finally, by the good grace of God, I did make it back to the great port of San Francisco though still not in my own time. Taking a small respite among the great Redwoods of Northern California, I found that I still carried with me the small bag I had unintentionally acquired from my alien abductors.
With a sigh, I settled myself under a large Redwood. Digging inside the bag, I discovered a small device, much like a miniature gramophone. Fiddling with it a bit, I was startled by a voice behind me.
"Excuse me, but would you mind getting off my root?" the voice said.
I turned but the only thing near me was the tree. "Who speaks?" I enquired.
"Right here, sir. And may I say, I am quite uncomfortable. If you would kindly shift your mass to the right a bit, I might be able to have a bit of breathing space."
Quixotically, I move to the side. "I hope that's better but I still don't know where you are nor whom you are."
"Of course you know where I am. You were just sitting on me."
"Am I to assume," I continued, speaking to thin air, "that you are the oaken tree that nestles my bottom?"
"Not oaken, but yes."
I looked behind me at the majestic tree, a light wind bustling through its branches. I looked at the gramophone. Of course. How could I have been so stupid? I don't speak Dutch but I was able to talk with the little Dutch boy. Nor do I speak Atlantean. The device was translating. And now it was translating for the tree???
"You seem troubled," the tree continued.
"I am troubled," I admitted. "You see, I am 150 years too early for my next appointment."
"Why, that doesn't sound so bad," said my immovable companion. "Why don't you rest here with me? 150 years will pass in no time."
"150 years is an eternity," I groaned. "I shall expire well before then."
"Surely not," said my stalwart companion. "Why, I am 600 years old and still a sapling. 150 years isn't long at all. That's a mere 5 percent of my current age."
From this conversation, I surmised that Redwoods are not particularly good with math.
I replied, "Unfortunately, that may be true for a great Redwood tree but not for humans. Not for me."
I had unto now, never experienced a tree scoffing. It let out a loud guffaw. "Not possible. You simply haven't lived long enough to know. Just wait here with me. You'll see."
My companion continued, "Now, take my aunt. She is nearly 20,000 years old."
"That sounds aged even for your kind," I say skeptically. "I think I would be afraid to live that long."
"Afraid?" my lumbering companion said rhetorically. "She's positively petrified."
It is here, my dear editor, where I must stop my tale. For, though my tall friend could not grasp the significance to my wellbeing of 150 years of malingering, I realized that petrification could provide me with the means to return home. It is my intent to mineralize myself until such time as I can be restored. Despite his continued doubts, my companion has taught me the secret and I have attached explicit instructions at the end of this rather insipid tale.
With much affection and a bit of trepidation, I shall forever be,
Your Agile Architect
As with all of my parables, a happy ending ensues. I'm back. My editor really came through. She found my petrified form and, using the instructions I left, she warmed my heart with swashbuckling tales of agile adventures and lean legerdemain.
Lest you doubt that the preceding is in any way exaggerated or, perish the thought, completely fictional, I can assure you that everything I wrote is true. Don't believe me? Perhaps you don't know me as well as you think you do.