My friend is gone

On Monday, July 28, 2014, as I was walking into work, two managers met me at the door. They hustled me into a conference room and told me that my friend in our group died over the weekend. Everyone knew we were work friends, and the managers didn’t want me to go into work and hear about his death from someone else. I could have gone home but I decided to wait out the day.

Often you have personal friends who are like you in fundamental ways. They share your views of the world. Sometimes they share your avocations. Sometimes they are in the same stage of life as you. Personal friends often have similar life experiences.

Work friends can be different. My work friend grew up here, like me. I left the area as soon as I could. Even at a young age, I knew I could not have the life I wanted, if I stayed, for many reasons which I will not go into here. I went away to college, and worked here summers. After graduation I lived in various places – Austin, Texas and California are the ones that count, the places in the world that feel like home. I moved back to Pennsylvania in 2009 for my elderly parents. I am still here. I live in the home I inherited from my parents, that I own with my sister.

My work friend grew up here, like me, and after a stint in the coast guard (so not me) he never left. He built his house not far from his parents. And by built, I mean built. He had the foundation done and the plumbing, but almost everything else he did himself, with his dad and (I believe) some friends. He was an avid boater. He built a new garage to hold his most recent boat, a garage with water, electricity and some insulation – so beautiful it looked like a little house. “In law unit”, we joked.  He had a million friends in the area. He knew his neighbors; they were friendly and they socialized, particularly in summer. I guess when you build your house on a little mountain, in an area with a lot of trees and lots of property maintenance, people get to know each other. He was married, no kids. He loved the outdoor work of maintaining his property, getting rid of dead trees, making it nice. I’m reasonably sure his politics were not my politics, but we never talked about it. He loved summer – on that we were in agreement. He loved tropical vacations by the ocean. He was younger than me, but not a kid, middle aged.

We started work here in the same group, almost two years ago. We went through all the reorganizations that happened here. We are on our third manger. My friend helped me get through hard times; he was there for me. Currently, he was going through some hard times himself and I was there for him. On work stuff, we agreed on some things and disagreed on others, but we always worked it out. In our latest work set up, he was in a workspace next to me. I said hello to him every morning and goodbye every evening. He was an early birder – I drag myself in as late as you can reasonably come in around here – 8 amish.

He brought in treats – he loved sweets. I brought us cashews.

He was the nicest man I ever met. He was good at dealing with people, colleagues, internal customers, vendors. Everyone liked him.

In a different life I would have never known him. Aside from growing up here, and being the same race and (generally) class, and having some similar experiences growing up, we were different. We would have never socialized, never become friends. But that is what happens at work. You become friends.

I will try to remember to hook up the trickle charger he gave me. Because, in case you do not know (he told me), I will get more for my dad’s car if I can start it. My dad’s car has been sitting in my garage for over a year, and odds are good it will not start. My friend wanted me to get a good price for my dad’s car. After I get the car started, I am supposed to put a little new gas in it – old gas gets thick and sluggish? I do not know.

Brian, I will miss you.

Kauai Beach

Kauai Beach, not sure of the name. Taken late 1999s. Posted in honor of Brian, who loved tropical vacations by the ocean.

Pandora jewelry is like the iPhone – hack your bracelet!

I make jewelry as a hobby, some bead stringing, a bit of knotting, some wire work.
On an internet forum I’m on, we talked about Pandora Jewelry. Pandora is known for their bracelets. The most popular bracelets have a sterling silver base, a fat chain. You buy glass beads, metal beads, enamel beads and charms to add to the bracelet. There are a multitude of charms designed to commemorate moments in your life, getting a degree, getting married, learning a sport – that sort of thing.

The product is nicely designed and good quality. The glass beads have an art glass appeal; they look like Murano glass beads. Everything in the product line fits, both from a design and a construction perspective. And you can buy the bracelets everywhere, in Pandora specialty shops and department stores (in the US), online. I am not going to link to the product as I’m not interested in Pandora jewelry links coming from my site. The links are easy to find, if you are not sure what Pandora bracelets look like.

I like the product, somewhat – but there is something about the product that makes me uncomfortable. When I look at Pandora jewelry I think – damn, what an amazing business plan, marketing plan, their pricing. The supply chain works beautifully. And there is something about the pieces that make you want to stay in Pandora’s world. What is going on?

Pandora jewelry is designed to keep you in the Pandora world. You are never done. You can start small, a bracelet, a bead or two, a charm, and add to it. New beads and charms come out, periodically, that you can buy to celebrate the events in your life. Marking your life moments with a charm (in my opinion, a too obvious charm) is appealing. People like to commemorate events in their lives. You can take beads and charms off and add new ones (I think you can, I don’t have any Pandora jewelry). Your friends and family can give you a new bead or charm – you can buy them everywhere. The design is such that everything goes with everything. The design is recognizable. You can look at a Pandora bracelet from across the room, and you can recognize the Pandora of it – brand is big with them. From a design perspective, I don’t like the metal on the glass beads, but this is another opportunity for branding; the word Pandora is on the metal surrounding the bead hole.

What it feels like to me, more than anything – an Apple consumer product – iPhone, iPod, iPad, iTunes. Everything Apple is deliberately designed, and designed to work together. Life is good for you if you never stray from the Apple space. And you are never done with Apple – you can upgrade your device (not exactly like Pandora) and get something else on iTunes. Your friends and family can give you an ITunes thing. This is not a perfect comparison because so many of ITunes things are thought to be cheap enough that you buy them yourself. People are also not sentimental about an electronic thing the exact same way they are about jewelry.

Pandora is like that. It even has something of a proprietary aspect to it, just like Apple! Their beads have an unusually wide hole, to accommodate the fat Pandora chain, so your standard Murano glass beads are not going to fit. This is an imperfect analogy, but you get the idea – though by now, there are bead shops that sell beads that will fit on a Pandora bracelet chain.

Pandora jewelry has a sameness to it. This works well from an “everything goes with everything” perspective, but the look borders on sterile, safe. Where are the square glass beads, the oblong beads, the knobby beads? Where are the beads that aren’t all shiny and new? And I don’t think you get much, for what you pay for – but one can say that’s the same for all jewelry, for all consumer products – perhaps for all material goods. You always pay for the brand. If you ever go to a bead show, you realize how much the markup is on jewelry, and I don’t even have a wholesaler’s license.

In my ideal world, Pandora bracelets would be the gateway drug for getting people to experience more in the world of jewelry. Go to that craft fair, go to a bead show, haunt the internet for wonderful things. See what else you can put on your bracelet. Hack your bracelet!

Until I buy a Pandora bracelet chain to hack – here is a simple bracelet I made, using glass beads I bought from a vendor at the Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival – recent link – Palo Alto Clay & Glass Festival 2014. I’m not sure of the year, late 1990s to 2000s, maybe. The rust colored sparkly beads are goldstone. The bracelet is strung on sturdy stretchy elastic – designed for jewelry making. I’m also showing some earrings I made, using glass beads from the same vendor.

Bracelet and earrings I made.  Photo, July 2014

Bracelet and earrings I made. Photo, July 2014

Hack your bracelet.

Interop 2010 New York was fun

Javits Convention Center. Registration for Interop New York 2010. It’s a big space. October 2010

I went to the Interop 2010 conference in New York City, for the day, on Wednesday, October 20th.

I’m not Interop material.  I’m not someone running a data center or a network, nor am I someone paying the bills for one.  I’ve mostly not been on the computer operations side of the fence.  Still, I like to keep up.  I like to have educated opinions on technology.  It’s fun to see what this world is up to.  I also hope, one day, to make business decisions about these things.

I went to the keynote presentation, with speakers James Whitehurst, President and CEO, Red Hat, Ben Gibson, Vice President Data Center/Virtualization, Cisco, Dirk Gates, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Xirrus.

Aside from getting what the presenters are trying to tell me, I like to see what the presentations tell me about the industry, the subtext, the background.  So I noticed that the speakers were very polished.  They looked at the audience, they moved around the stage, they owned the space; they were in control of their shiny pretty presentations. They were sincere, compelling and enthusiastic.  The slides were colorful, with attractive graphics and the right amount of text for a presentation. I’m not slamming the presenters, not at all.  It’s just interesting to note that what I call “big tech” and Silicon Valley in general is very media savvy.  The presenters move and talk like actors, like performers.  And the place is beautiful.

Keynote stage, Interop New York 2010, October 2010.

Then I looked for the passion, what you might call the hype, the evangelism, the “next big thing”.  Tech has always had a messianic flavor to it.  It’s always been about…..wandering around in the wilderness, lost in the darkness, ignorant, and, then magically, because of a new thing, coming into the light.  It’s about being saved.  And this evangelism isn’t about glamorous stuff.  I remember the zeal about structured programming and relational databases, which is about a non glamorous as you can get!

The hype in the keynotes was a little more subdued this year, probably due to the economy.  Still, there were the obligatory “laws” referenced, such as Moore’s law, generally used to reference how fast computing power is growing (definition: the number of transistors that can be placed on a circuit doubles every two years –

My favorite “law” was from Dirk Gates, Amara’s Law – “We tend to overestimate the effect a technology has in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”  Interesting.

The new tropes, cloud computing and virtualization, were referenced.   Here’s a definition of cloud computing from Wikipedia – “Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand, like the electricity grid” –  There is still a fight over the definition over at Wikipedia, but it basically means that the computer hardware and software that you need to do stuff is somewhere else, rather than being under your desk or in the computer room downstairs.  You access it when you need it, on the cloud.  If you store some files on a Microsoft Skydrive (, you are accessing the cloud.

Virtualization is more fun.  From Wikipedia, “Virtualization is the creation of a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, such as an operating system, a server, a storage device or network resources.”  What this means is that a program runs on a machine that pretends to be another machine, it’s “virtual”.  There are technical reasons why you do this, but it’s still fun to think about – interesting that something so important could be all pretend!

Dirk Gates’ presentation was a bit more technical, though still accessible.  He spoke about developing an enterprise class wireless network, not the usual mix of wired and wireless components.  This is like the wireless network you might have in your home, but bigger, more robust, “on steroids”, as I would say.  My favorite comment from him – “it’s not your father’s access points!”  I felt old – my father doesn’t know about access points! Dirk also had a demo, which was pretty swell.

I went to a couple of the free talks, which were good, though they tended to be on the salesy side.  My favorite salesy talk was the presentation on Microsoft’s CRM, customer relationship management system, something you use to manage sales and customer support.  It makes sense that it was my favorite, as the product is geared to business functions rather than operations.

I went to one talk that was part of the paid content (came free with my ticket) – Key Issues in Wireless and Mobile, with Paul DeBeasi, Research Vice President, Gartner, Alex Wolfe, Editor In Chief,, Michael Brandenburg, Technical Editor, TechTarget, Inc, and Craig Mathias, Principal, Farpoint Group.  The presenters addressed issues such as device management, security, wireless 4G (super fast), the threat and promise of mobile applications….all kinds of issues.

Per the panel, there is a gradual migration away from the ubiquitous Blackberry phone to a multitude of phones, such as the iPhone and Android phones.  Instead of being satisfied with the traditional “my way or the highway” approaches of wireless operations, employees want what they want.  If the company won’t buy it, no small number of them will bring it in themselves.  They bring in their own phones, or they want the company to buy them what they want.  They want to put fun apps on their phones, such as the ubiquitous Angry Birds, which I talked about it on a previous blog entry.

From my perspective, mobile devices are becoming a person’s “everything”, a thing for work communication, personal communication, work pastimes and fun pastimes, including games, videos and music. It makes sense that fun would be included, when what you use for work blends into the rest of your life.  And people are more resistant to have the company’s wireless department tell them what to do.  I recognize the significant issues with managing a wireless network, but I thought there was an interesting subtext among some of the presenters and the audience, on wanting it like the old days, when people did what IT told them to do.  One member of the audience asked, rather plaintively, if he could convince people at his company to use the new Microsoft OS smartphone, rather than an iPhone, as it has a touch screen, like the iPhone.  The argument is that Microsoft OS devices provide more tools for wireless management.  The panel was not optimistic that he could do this.

As always, the expo area was gorgeous.  The booths were colorful, eye catching, futuristic.  When people want to sell you expensive products in tech land, this sort of thing happens.  I enjoyed walking around.

The Expo floor, Internet New York 2010. Futuristic. October 2010.

I’ll conclude with saying that I scored the best swag!  At the ScriptLogic booth ( I got a token for a tee shirt, a monkey, and I won a drawing for an American Express Gift Card!

A monkey and a gift card, shown with my plants from California. November 2010.

Droid Love, it’s like Palm love all over again

In February 2010 I bought a Motorola Droid smartphone.  I’m way into Droid love, which is like tech love, but more specific.  The Motorola Droid is a wonderful thing.

Even more wonderful, all this Droid love takes me back to the old days of the Palm PDA (personal device assistant!).  I loved my Palm devices.  I had a number of them, starting with a Palm Pilot and ending with a Palm TX.  I remember the websites, the print reviews, and the endless talk about what to get for your Palm.  These devices are all about apps, about what you put on them.  Most of the apps I put on my Palms were either inexpensive or free, just like the Droid.

I was a member of a Palm user group.  We had monthly meetings at Palm company headquarters.  2001 to 2005 were especially good years.  There were refreshments — pizza, cookies, chips, soft drinks and water. There were demos of new apps using a projector, with magnification and special lighting.  New devices got passed around.  We exchanged tips on how to do things.  My Palm user group was in Silicon Valley (northern California) but there were Palm user groups all over the world.

I went to three Palm development conferences, which were extra fun because I had no business or work relationship with Palm.  I took notes, using the Palm I had at the time.  Memories.

PalmSource Expo 2002.  The general public could attend.  Here’s the press release I copied to my calendar: “The PalmSource Expo, which will open its doors to the general public on Wednesday and Thursday, showcases the hottest new Palm Powered™ devices, software, peripherals and accessories – all in one place. More than 100 exhibitors present everything from handhelds, smartphones, and other mobile devices, to some of the most innovative travel, personal information management, education, entertainment, health, lifestyle, hobby and game software available for any platform”.

Wow – takes me back.

PalmSource Developer Conference 2004.  I went for one day because I got an affordable one day pass on eBay.   I still have the notes from the conference, note I took on my Palm.  Reading my notes – interesting – there’s starting to be a focus on “wireless” – that too takes me back!  In the old days, you got data on your Palm by connecting it to a PC.  Wireless was a new thing.

PalmSource Mobile Summit & DevCon 2005.  I went for free because I spent part of the time doing volunteer work, counting the number of people in a conference room.   We got a mini flash drive for attending.  We got PDF files of the talks, and MP3 files of the Computer Outlook Radio talk show, the shows that were done at PalmSource.   There are 17 sessions of about 20 minutes each, all talk.  Maybe we had longer attention spans in 2005.  I’m listening to one now, the interview with Howard Tomlinson from Astraware. The speakers are clear, but I can hear the conference going on in the background.   Howard is talking about Bejeweled for the Palm.  I still play that game

It was a Palm thing, now it’s a Droid thing. The Droid makes me feel the same way, though I don’t belong to a user group where we meet every month, and I’ve never been to an Android conference.  For a look at Droid love, look at the droid forums on  People talk about the Motorola Droid and about other Android OS phones, with the save loving and obsessive zeal that I’ve seen with the Palm.  And the OS is open source and you don’t have to go to one place for apps, though the Android market is quite nice.

Here’s a picture, not of my Droid, but of my Droid case, taken with the Droid.  This was supposed to be a temporary case.  I didn’t even save the name of the company that made it.  I like it so much now I’m going to keep using it.  It’s colorful, it protects my Droid and it’s made with recycled products, whatever they are.  I brought the plants and the pots they are in from California.

Droid Case with my California Plants, March 2010, Pennsylvania

I love my Droid.

Interop 2009, Web 2.0 2009, New York City

On November 18th and 19th I went with a family member to New York City to attend Interop 2009 New York ( and Web 2.0 New York (  We stayed at one of the conference hotels, the Wyndham Garden Hotel Times Square South, Hotel, in the garment district of Manhattan (  It was a short walk to the convention center.

I’m not fond of New York City, which I describe as “Gotham City and not in a good way”!  I don’t like the concrete canyons and the crush of people.  This time I really enjoyed myself.  I loved the hotel.  I liked my block in the garment district.  I liked the walk to the convention center and the wonderful Thai restaurant across from the hotel, Royal Thai Cuisine II (  We saw a Broadway play, The Thirty Nine Steps ( and that was wonderful. I had a great time at both conventions.  I had a great travel companion.

I had expo passes to Interop and Web 2.0, which gave me access to the keynote speaker presentations, selected conference talks and the expo floor.

Interop is about business computer “stuff”, hardware, software, networks.  It’s targeted to the IT professional who has the authority to make decisions on the technical architecture and products for their company.  Web 2.0 is about “the web”, with a more inclusive definition of web stuff.  Think of the web as being at the center of what you do on the computer, both personally and professionally.  Web 2.0 is also about collaboration, social networks, updating information on the web in “real time”.  I think the term “Web 2.0” is also used to differentiate between companies that failed during the “dot com” bust, and companies still in existence doing web stuff, but that’s a personal opinion.

“Compare and Contrast” follows.

Keynote Presentations:  polished and professional, both at Interop and Web 2.0.  Interop had one main theme, cloud computing.  Web 2.0 had no overall theme.  The Interop presenters were senior executives at tech companies and other institutions.  The Web 2.0 presenters were a more varied group, writers, comedians, publishers, researchers, government types.  Interop did have one tech columnist, David Pogue, who was really good.

The presentations were all good, though the Interop presentations were consistently more compelling.  I think that’s because the world has changed.  Senior executives at big tech companies – they really know how to present.  Along with knowing their stuff, and wanting to sell it to you, it’s a media job.  Web 2.0 had more “talking heads” kinds of presentations (some funny ones too), also less polished slide content.  There were some gems at Web 2.0.  One of the most interesting presenters at Web 2.0 was Gentry Underwood from the famous design firm IDEO.  Gentry talked about designing for the web.

Focus:  Interop is focused on what I would call “things”, big things – electronic pieces of equipment, and the stuff to run them.  Web 2.0 is focused on communication.  This carried over to the personal space.  The fun presenter at Interop was David Pogue, who talked about and gave demos of fun applications for the iPhone, a piece of equipment, a thing.

Naivety:  Web 2.0 had the idea that, somehow, a speech, even a speech in front of 2000 people, was a collaborative event.  At the keynote presentations a background screen behind each speaker displayed live tweets about the presentation from the audience, displayed during the presentation, real time.  (Tweets are electronic posts over the internet, using Twitter).  The tweet screens were distracting and annoying, and of course it went bad.  At a presentation I did not attend, the tweets become personal and disruptive.  At the presentations I went to, the day after the bad incident, the tweets were displayed behind the speakers, but the tweet stream was moderated, with a small time delay.  I thought the whole concept of a live commentary was naïve, also a misrepresentation of what it means to give a talk in front of thousands of people.  The keynotes were speeches at a conference, not a dialogue, even if people felt compelled to talk about it, electronically, as it was happening.  Electronic forums have their own challenges; when unmoderated, they almost always become antagonistic and disruptive.  There’s also the “class clown” syndrome.  It’s human nature for people to try to get attention.  Given an opportunity, one person will try to outdo the other.  Generally, at a conference, you set up a presentation to maximize people paying attention, given the distractibility of convention goers.  At Interop there was no attempt to make the presentations “collaborative”.  For one thing, no Interop presenter would agree to such a disruptive element.  I found the straightforward attitude at Interop refreshing.  The attitude of the conference and presenters appeared to be “I’ll do the best job possible presenting, and I hope you’ll listen”.

The Expo Booths:  Web 2.0 and Interop shared the same exhibit space, Web 2.0 on one end, Interop on the other.  This was good for companies that wanted to address both audiences, such as Microsoft and IBM.

Expo booths are designed to display products and get you interested in buying the product.  At the tech conventions I’ve been to, I’ve found the booths to be colorful and well designed.  Both Interop and Web 2.0 had good booths, but the booths at Interop were better, better as in more dramatic, eye catching, bigger, with better free stuff.  The best booth was the booth for Qwest –, a telecommunications company.  Advertising their “rock solid network”, you could get your picture taken as a rock star.  Qwest had all the requisite props to make you look like a rock star – tattoo sleeves, guitars, mikes, hats, dark glasses, feather boas (think 70s rock).  It was so much fun.

Why the difference?  I think the difference is due to the audience and the products.  Exhibitors at both conferences were showing their products so you’d get interested in their products and spend money, but there are differences in the nature of the products and the participants. Citrix, who had a booth at Interop, can sell you something small, but they really want to sell you big stuff, in terms of price and breadth — big computers (servers), virtualization software for your whole company.  So, they make a booth that looks like a spaceship.

I’ll conclude with some pictures:

Javits Convention Center, New York City, 2009. I like the space.

Citrix Booth, Interop 2009, New York City. Looks like a spaceship.

Expo Floor, Interop 2009, New York City

Qwest Booth, Interop 2009, New York City. We got to be rock stars!

Interop 2009, Keynote Stage, New York City

Web 2.0 2009, Keynote Stage, New York City

Wyndham Garden Hotel Times Square South, New York City, November 2009

Building, Garment District, Manhattan, New York City, November 2009

On being optimistic, tech, the quality of the light, good weather

I had lunch with a friend from high school, someone I had not talked to in years, except for a few brief words when I was back in town visiting my family. We ended up talking about whether we were optimistic about the future.

The economy is in terrible shape, jobs are hard to get if you don’t have one, and there’s a lot of scary stuff in the world. Even though my situation is less stable than before (looking for work will do that to you) – I realized that I am somewhat optimistic about the future – not as optimistic as some people I know (Hi Miki!) but reasonably optimistic. I see the same world as other people, but I think that my life, and the lives of the people around me, even the economy, will get better. I kind of see the glass as half full rather than half empty.

This isn’t a discussion about whether this is a correct or incorrect view, but in how we see the world. Sometimes I think that being optimistic has to do with the fields we are in, the work we do. Working for a tech company (like I did in the past) – it makes you optimistic.

There’s something about being in the tech world that makes you think that the future is full of possibilities, and you can do your part to figure it all out. Not only will you be happy, but, whatever you are working on, it’s going to make the world a better place, and even the non glamorous tech stuff is just so darn great! For some idea of what this is like, read the latest copy of PC World, quickly. Skim through it. Focus on the mood, the vibe, the feeling. Even when the writers at PC World are, understandably, complaining about the latest tech thing that isn’t working, you get the feeling that tech is swell! Tech is swell, and so the rest of the world must be swell too, because tech is in it! There’s a sense of optimism, a belief that the world is a good place.

Sometimes you see this happening in B-School – MBA land, though less often, recently. Perhaps it has to do with the idea of control, that you can do something to make things better and you can make a good living too. I enjoy the belief that you can make things good in the world and not suffer.

Then there’s the quality of the light, and good weather. In my admittedly limited experience the people from my life in California were more optimistic than not about the future. Since tech (and at the time a better economy) is threaded all through my time in California, I can’t separate out the tech optimism and the better economy from the optimism that comes with the wonderfulness of California. I like to think that being in the land of amazing natural light, low humidity, outdoor natural beauty and outdoor comfort – it makes you a happier and more optimistic person. I like to think that the Pacific Ocean and a Mediterranean climate make a person happy. I have absolutely no idea if this is so. Perhaps I would like it to be so, or perhaps that’s just how it was with me. California brought me a life of promise and a life of wonder, though of course there was also the not great stuff that we all have in our lives. You can read my blog post to see what I thought about California –

The challenge is to keep that wonder and promise in my new life, not because it’s good or right, but because I want to do so. Can I still feel wonder and promise while living in eastern Pennsylvania (for now, might end up in New Jersey or Delaware). I think so. We’ll see.

Here are some photos on the quality of light.

A sparkling creek in Pennsylvania, near where I live now.   What an interesting reflection.

Creek, Pennsylvania, September 2009

Creek, Pennsylvania, September 2009









Sunset in the Palo Alto Baylands.  

Palo Alto Baylands, California, November 2008

Palo Alto Baylands, California, November 2008








Went for the day to Ocean City, New Jersey, with a family member. I love the ocean!

Seagulls at Ocean City, New Jersey, September 2009

Seagulls at Ocean City, New Jersey, September 2009

When the Present becomes the Past (I borrowed this line)

There are times when, as a family member of mine puts it, you can see the present become the past.  One day you work somewhere, you live somewhere, and then you don’t.  You can target the minute, the second, between “I work here” and “I don’t work here anymore”.
Yesterday was that day – when I stopped working at the educational institution where I worked for almost three years.   It’s interesting.  I think of myself as more of a private industry (publically traded company) kind of person, a person who works for a hi-tech company.  But you know, sometimes a place can work its way into your heart.
I did like it a lot better when we moved off campus, to a building in a lovely office park, with, obviously, parking, and the best place to eat, down the street!
Where I used to work, May 2009

Where I used to work, May 2009


My Weather Station

I wanted to get myself a treat, so when I was in my local Longs Drug Store (sells way more than drugs) I ran across an inexpensive portable weather station.  The weather station consists of two parts: a wireless thermometer that you leave outside, and an inside unit.  The inside unit displays inside and outside temperature, the date and time, and min and max temperature.  There is a backlight and an alarm feature, which I don’t use.  The inside and outside pieces can be separated by a maximum of 100 feet, 30.48 meters.

Weather Station

Weather Station

 Here is a picture of the weather station.  As you can see, the inside and outside pieces don’t register exactly the same temperature.

I put the outside device outside, near my door, hidden by one of the containers of my container garden.  The outside device will run a little warm because it’s next to a wall, protected from the elements.  I get no end of pleasure looking at the inside and outside temperative!


You might wonder – why do I bother?  I can open my door and see what the weather feels like.  I’m in and out all the time.  I know that, but I love looking at something that reinforces my addiction to the wonderful and magical weather where I live, the San Franciscso Bay area (not SF itself), northern coastal California.  The temperature doesn’t vary all that much, which makes it so  comfortable.  I love seeing how it cools down at night, even during the warm season.   The weather station doesn’t report humidity, but if it did, I’d see that the humidity is generally low.  I love California.

amarez – mszv

Knee Surgery – I love my Cane!

I had knee surgery on Thursday, October 16.  I thought it was arthroscopic knee surgery, but it turns out that the arthroscopic part was for diagnosis, and the rest was regular surgery, darn it!  I’m not into medical terms, or medicine in general, so my translation of “arthroscopic” means “you heal faster”.   OK – just to be thorough – here’s a link, from medline plus –   I got squicked out just by reading the article!

I’m in the process of getting better.   Even though it was “regular” surgery, this is not expected to be a long drawn out kind of recovery.  Two things I really like are the following: artificial ice and my cane.

Artificial Ice.  I decided to ice my knee myself, instead of renting the “keep it cool” medical device you plug in.  The big breakthrough –  the blue stuff you put in a cooler, when you are going on a picnic.  At Walgreens I bought an artificial ice pack designed just for knees.  The freezer part has the liguid suspended in little globes on a sturdy piece of plastic.  Even after you freeze it, the sheet is bendable.  It comes with a velcro cloth pack.  You stuff the sheet of artificial ice into the cloth pack and attach it to your knee with the attached velcro strap.  The “ice” pack is easy to use and really swell.

I like my cane even better.  I got my cane at Walgreens, the same place I got the artificial ice for my knee.   I’d give you the brand name of the cane, but I took off all the tags.  My cane is a marvel of design – light aluminum,  adjustable, sturdy tip, padded handle, a strap, and it’s a pretty bronze color.  It’s so well designed that it fits over a door knob or the back of a chair, without falling off.  This is not the type of cane that you see on television shows like House, a cane just for pretty – this is a cane you can use.   I’m going to keep my cane in case I ever need knee surgery again.

Here’s a picture of my cane.  I shot it from the door of my place.  My cane is resting against the railing of the second floor walkway. 

My Cane

My Cane




I love my cane!









amarez – mszv

The buildings were sold – the best hi-tech company in the world

A friend of mine called me up the other day and told me that this was his last day in one of the original buildings of our former company.  The buildings were sold.  He was moving into another building, the next day.

It’s a common story – big hi-tech company is bought by another big hi-tech company.  Some of the technology remains, but the company is no more. The industry doesn’t stay the same. The landscape, the network, the mesh, the world, it changes.

I know that. People say “change is good”, as if it were a mantra, or a talisman, or a truth they want to believe.  In reality, change is change.  Some of it is good – some not so good.  It’s just change.

If you ask me, this big hi-tech company was the best hi-tech company in the world.  We had thrilling products.  It was a wonderful place to work.  We knew each other well.  We had a history.  We had a culture.  Don’t get me wrong – it was a real place, with real people.  Good things happened, but terrible things happened too.  That’s how real places are, with real people. 

If you never worked for a great company, then you can’t understand this.  I told people at my new place (an educational institution) the story of the buildings being sold. They tried to understand, but I don’t think they did.  Now, if I would have said – “well, what if our great educational institution was gone, after over one hundred years of existence –  would you tell me that change is good?”   “No”, they would tell me – “that’s different!”.

It’s not different.  The world changes, but that doesn’t invalidate what we had. I wish there would have been a way for the best hi-tech company in the world to continue, all by itself, successfully, happily, creatively, with me there too – but that didn’t happen.

Lest you think I’m being completely maudlin – I feel I need to say this – I’m not being maudlin, nor am I “stuck in the past”.  I’m working with good people (smart too!) on interesting things.  I’m making a difference. In everything I do in the work world, I try to bring some passion, a “you can make it better” vibe.  I believe in both technology and in our ability to make things better.  And I follow tech companies with interest, and yes, affection.  It’s a big world – there doesn’t have to be only one great hi-tech company in the whole world!

I’m ending this post with a tribute.

Today is Friday. Late Friday afternoon was a special time for us.  Here is what I did.  I brought up Google Maps, and I found the location of the original company buildings.  I switched to street view. I clicked on the map, modeling how I traversed the physical landscape of my company, at their headquarters in California.  I Google Map “drove” past the original buildings, and then I drove past the buildings in California where I used to work.  Then I opened a beer.


amarez – mszv