Friday, November 19, 2021

books & old age

Let's start out with 'books.'  

When supporting the activity and the linked video I was reminded of my many office-mates during the work-from-home, namely


'books.'  I thought that the confinement of working from home would give me more of a chance to catch up with my reading backlog, but invariably the work-load seems to have increased with the time saved from having done my commute.  

Also, the shelves and my person are much more cluttered and in shambles that a similar view from a couple of years back 

I am a bit comforted by this disparity of 'owned' to 'read' books, though, after reading sentiments like Umberto Eco and his anti-library
"The library should contain as much of what you do not know".  

On that theme of variety, to me it's important to sample the humanities, such as good literature and philosophy, to remind myself what it means to be human, as it is to dive deeply into both my technical domain and the adjacencies. The latter is especially important as innovation often happens at the seams between two domains, and texts that go deep into my domain are often rearview mirror & retrospective, not forward looking. Forward looking includes fusion and leverage of alternate domains into my field.  Think some technique of mathematical logic that can be applied to system software, for example.

Another book that has pleased me during this confinement is "Software Engineering at Google" Although a read the dead tree version, a colleague let me know this week that there is a free PDF download, too. In addition to leveraging many aspects of the wisdom therein for my day job, such as code review practices, I really enjoyed the 3 'always'.  Always deciding, always scaling, and always leaving. The first helps but not falling into analysis paralysis and admiring problems too long but instead just 'doing something.' The 2nd I use to ensure that my activities can have the largest leverage & impact. And the final one, 'always leaving,' seemed a bit confusing at first blush. Given the 'great resignation' and other perennial wars for talent, this struck me as something corporations wouldn't endorse. In closer reading, though, 'always leaving' really means doing your job in a way that you can 'leave' for a broader role, typically within the same organization. In absence of mentoring folks, building a bench, documenting you work, etc., you are stuck in the same role and cannot leave as you may become a Single Point Of Failure (SPOF). The latter is not good for the business, especially given the 'hit by a bus' risk and other reasons someone might leave. Sometime I see folks 'Always digging in' versus 'leaving' where they relish the guru/goto person status and their singular ability to fulfill a role. That's a corporate anti-pattern IMHO. To me I try to embrace this sentiment of always-leaving through well-commented code, documentation (e.g., specifications, design documents, white papers, papers, books, prezo's,....) and most importantly, interaction with colleagues. 

Books are also something of a lifestyle, too. Living in the Seattle area and with the advent of so many online purchasing opportunities, the brick-and-mortar bookstores are becoming rarer. Growing up in Houston I often found refuge in the dusty, disorganized shelf of the local Half-Price Books which was within bicycling distance. Once I could drive, my choices became even broader. After moving to the Pacific Northwest in 1997, my favorite haunt was the Half-Price Books on Roosevelt in the University District in the shadows of UW Seattle. I would often visit that store, both as part of sojourning from the south sound to Seattle for my masters work in the late 90's and as an excuse to go north. The store had the advantage of receiving stock from the local tech worker diaspora and both students and teachers from UW. I miss that haunt Now that my daughter is living on campus at UW, I have a new favorite reason to visit the area, of course. 

So with time things change stores close, and other occurs mark signs of 'old age' increasing.

Another aspect of my biography in the first link above also mentions retro computing. I have regrettably accumulated an original IBM portable, a 21264 Alpha server, an HP dual-socket Itanium, .... and too many more to mention. These computing devices also remind me of the arc of technology. I still recall how I was in awe of companies like DEC in 1988 or so when I was a electrical engineering student at Cornell and many DEC engineers were allowed to take a year off to study for a 'master of engineering' degree at Cornell. I also read about the accomplishments in IEEE journals and even acquired my first IEEE 'student' membership while an undergrad.  Below is a status from my present IEE profile history:

    Start Date:
 01-Nov-1990 | End Date: 31-Dec-1992

Fast forward to the 21st century and paper

   Date of Conference: 
20-24 July 2020

Almost 30 years from 'student member' to having a publication hosted by an IEEE venue.  Quite the span of time. Given that span of time, you'd think I would generate the energy to apply for 'senior member' or somesuch, but like my career, advancement in that domain seems sluggish these days.

Speaking of spans of time, I also just qualified for Intel's 'rule of 75' 

Or one of the benefits for 'retiring.'  

So now I'm setting on 30 years of retro computing and a tech career with things like 'retirement' options sitting in my inbox.  Quite the passage of time indeed.

Speaking of time, better quit blogging here and get back to work.

No comments: