Wednesday Mar 31, 2010

Blog is Moving.....

After moving most of the non-work related content over to my personal blog, I've decided to consolidate three different persona into one place: Snowman On Fire, the alter alter-ego of the Morning Snowman.

I've found that with blog entries being posted as Facebook notes, tweets announcing new blog posts, and multiple blogs, I have not been writing nearly enough, have fractured the viewing/reading audience, and generally created too many distractions. Everything is now in one place, from squid in a bag to thoughts on student internships.

Wednesday Jan 27, 2010

Non-Work Blog Content Is Moving

I'm in the process of moving all non-work related blog content off of and into the snowman's own front lawn. Music, movies, books, sports, travelogues and comments about social networks will go there and join other semi-technical, semi-literate commentary.

Thursday Jan 14, 2010

Channeling Relief to Haiti

Local tragedies have a way of uniting us globally. I was first made aware of this when Roberto Clemente, much beloved Pittsburgh Pirate, was killed in a post-earthquake aid and goodwill ambassador role in his native Nicaragua. All of baseball mourned #21, who was just responding through the goodness of his heart.

This week's disaster in Haiti calls for the same global response. Thanks to fellow Tiger Melinda Millberg for the following list of advocacy groups who will get practical, functional aid to Haiti. I'm a huge supporter of Cameron Sinclair's Architecture For Humanity (disclosure: Sun helped build his website and architecture sharing content management service as part of Cameron's TED prize), and clean drinking water will likely become a rate-limiting factor for survivors.

American Jewish World Service Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund

Partners in Health, already on the ground in Haiti and mobilizing their relief efforts.

CARE's Emergency Relief Fund

Doctors Without Borders

Action Against Hunger. Text "HAITI" to "90999" from the US to donate $10 to the Red Cross. The US State Department very quickly put together this number to channel relief contributions directly to first responders.

Wyclef Jean's Yele foundation to permanently improve the lives of the most impoverished in his home country of Haiti. Text "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 to Yele Haiti.

United Jewish Appeal (Federation)

Architecture For Humanity Cameron Sinclair and his non-profit Architecture for Humanity can be found at virtually every developing world disaster site on the planet. These guys are a collection of design and housing geniuses who work tirelessly to provide shelter for the most deserving.

Charity Water works to bring clean water to the 1 billion people on the planet who don't have it. Recently, the organization's founder, Scott Harrison, traveled to Haiti to commence operations in that country and already thousands of Haitians have clean water to drink.

Sunday Jan 03, 2010

The 2009 List

It's that time of year again. And what a long, strange trip of a year it's been. Some thoughts from 2009:

Work moment.Trip to India in April, at the tail end of a tour that took me to Mexico City, Johannesburg, Mumbai and Bangalore. While meeting with the technical managers in the Bangalore office, someone mentioned that "innovation is a bad word now." The ensuing discussion - of how innovation is not a substitute for direction, leadership and strategy, nor is innovation in the form of disruption necessarily a strategy in itself - was frank and bi-directional. The "new isn't better unless it informs strategy" maxim shaped much of my thinking around cloud computing as the year progressed.

Family moment. There were more than a few this year: watching the Devils implode in the strangest playoff game I've ever seen, with my son there for mutual comfort; getting to see Renaissance in concert for the first time ever, and seeing Yes for the umpteenth time; spending a long weekend in Atlantic City with my wife, daughter and sister, and laughing until we were exhausted every day; watching my son play football for the first time, and seeing him earn a varsity letter in hockey, the first in our family since my sister lettered in x-country letter 25 years ago; going to a Yankees playoff game with my daughter, sitting closer to the airplanes departing LaGuardia than the field, but loving every second of it. Tops, though, was an afternoon and evening spent slicing, dicing and eating and our way through the Chef Allen's reality cooking experience, as my wife and I celebrated our anniversary by working for our dinner.

Nerd toy. Tie between the old school and new school. Old school: drum set, purchased from a work friend and representing one of the biggest challenges to my marriage in more than two decades. Not a good thing to have down the hall from your home office when you're doing a podcast. New school: USB 8-track Alessi mixing console, prompting the completion of the basement "Studio Zero".

T-shirt. Jeph Jacques "Bear Monster" shirt, followed closely by his "Robot Family Tree" shirt. Bear Monster has become my preferred travel t-shirt. Also found out that I'm not the only one who thinks it's important to travel comfy: Cory Doctorow told me he can't understand why anyone who would thousands of dollars for a business class airline ticket, fly in a suit, only to arrive looking rumpled and uncomfortable.

Reading. Finished Neal Stephenson's Anathem to start the year, and it was one of the best books I've read in ages. Worked my way through his Baroque Cycle, all 2,700 or so pages of it, and it was enjoyable but egregiously long. When the stock market was close to its bottom, and New York City was easy to nagivate due to reduced commuter traffic, Cory Doctorow slipped me an advanced reader copy of Makers and it reset a lot of my expectations around work, value, and doing what you love.

Email. None of mine, and not really an email (again). Our daughter got a message that opened with "Congratulations" and was from her first-choice university.

Thoughts for 2010: Striving for "balance" between all parts of my life and those of my family members. Laughing as hard as I did over the July 4th weekend. Spending time on micro-sized projects, whether it's helping the band with their website or getting a friend's consulting business represented in a blog, or investing in economic bootstrapping through Finishing up Professional WordPress and trying hard to write a little bit, each day, along with exercise, eating fruits, spicy sauce, and vegetables daily, and cheering for the home team. A decade ago, we felt that bubble-induced sense of everything being directionally wonderful, and yet almost everything went pear-shaped from our sense of security to the economy to our trust in government institutions. Ten years after, when at times it feels like many things are going wrong, it's time for Randy Pausch's head fake, realizing that we have the means to drive the course correction we want.

Tuesday May 05, 2009

Free (Technology) Agents

Had breakfast with a friend this morning who commented on the state of the economy in and around our neighborhood by saying that "there are many free agents available." He wasn't talking about the Yankees, Mets, Devils, Rangers, Knicks, Nets, or any other sports franchise that funnels ticket revenue into the hands of free agent players who haven't delivered a local championship since 2003 (Devils, Stanley Cup). His perception was that with many technology people on the move, the market is ripe for new ideas coming to fruition in new (and old) companies; cyclical unemployment injects strategy and experience into companies that invest in newly available players. Friend's summary comment: "In two years, we'll see another wave of breakthrough innovations." It would be an early indicator of technology helping the economy innovate its way out of the current slump.

Why would this work for technology companies and not sports franchises? Quite simply, the acquisition of a free agent is unlikely to change the basic strategy of a team or the rules of a game. Strategic changes in a game almost always result from a lack of talent, not the sudden availability of creative people.

Int this current NHL season, the NJ Devils changed from a defensive-minded style to a goal-scoring, offensive strategy when goaltender Martin Brodeur suffered an injury requiring four months of recovery. Late San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh perfected the West Coast Offense (read Michael Lewis' The Blind Side for a compelling story wrapped in a West Coast Offense) and forced strategic defensive changes in the game. And the grandfather of several current NBA offensive schemes is Pete Carrill's Princeton Offense. What do all three have in common? They were designed to deal with a deficit of talent or skill: goaltending and first-rate defense (Devils), rushing (West Coast Offense), and height (Princeton Offense).

The barriers to entry for new ideas have never been lower: you can develop your idea using a wealth of open source software, deploy it to test in a cloud infrastructure and leverage social networking mechanisms to spread awareness. It's a ripe environment for engineers to give us something (locally) to celebrate.

Wednesday Feb 25, 2009

Small-Scale Art For Small-Scale Recovery

My father retired from a long career as a dentist to become at various times a painter, fisherman, gardener, cook, runner and Klezmer fan. I don't have his aesthetic sense or attention to fine artistic detail, which is why my art ends at geometric doodles on hotel note pads. But my father spends good chunks of the New Jersey winters painting in his basement studio, working off of pictures that various family members and friends email to him as potential e-muse-ments. A few times a year, he frames a cross-section of his work and submits it to a show, or occasionally finds a gallery owner willing to take a few pieces.

Last week I got a smile-generating email from Pops: He sold a painting. On the home studio scale, it's a nice deal; it's as much a boost to the artistic ego as to the weekend (and weakened) cash flow. The second line of my father's email put it in context, though: He was proud to sell a painting when the "real art" market seems to have tanked worse than the local housing market. Sotheby's and Christie's can't move the "name" artists now, with nearly a third of recent auction pieces going unsold.

More than ever, we need art. I'm tired of graphs that go down and to the right; I don't want to look at red numbers on a screen because there's only a backwards-looking story in them. Art is healthy. Art is something that makes us laugh, think, feel uncomfortable, or remember what it was like when we took that picture we consider postcard-worthy. Supporting local, small-scale artists will do more for the economy than buying a museum piece because you'll help a starving artist fund supplies or entertainment, pumping that money right back into the economy. My contribution this week: one not-so-scary Bear Monster shirt from Jeph Jacques' repertoire. Topatoco, Jeph, UPS, and wherever Jeph spent some of the proceeds on art-enhancing food and drink get small-scary benefits; I just look more bear-like. Both are good things.

Sunday Feb 15, 2009

How To Fix The Housing Market

I'm pretty uncomfortable with the sum of money being given to the US banks as part of an economic recovery plan, because I haven't seen any proposals for the banks that outline what they'll do differently, better or more quickly this time around. If the Obama administration wants to inject liquidity into the housing market, it has to make the market function, which means ensuring there is a rebalancing of supply and demand. In areas hardest hit by the economic crunch, there's little supply at a reasonable price (because people are holding on to over-priced assets) and not enough demand (because there are too few buyers entering the market, due in part to holding on to those houses in losing positions).

Part of this stagnation is due to the IRS provision that precludes you from recognizing a loss on your primary residence. Quite simply, if the IRS would allow homeowners to deduct the loss on a primary residence up to (hypothetically) 50% of your taxable income, up to $100,000 year, for up to 5 years (a $500,000 loss could be written off over 5 years provided the homeowner has AGI of at least $200,000 in each of those years). The reduction in income taxes immediately creates disposable income at the local level, in individual's hands, where it can be invested in local goods and services. That's how you stimulate an economy; you get people to buy things they've been avoiding. It effectively creates additional buying power for people looking to trade houses (up, down or sideways), and above all, it encourages homeowners to price their houses at the market, to sell to new buyers at fair prices, and to re-invest themselves with the implied tax benefits of selling at a loss. This even fits the current trend in the mortgage market of pushing 5-year ARMs; consider taking each year's tax savings and making a balloon payment on the principal, forcing the mortgage to be re-evaluated or setting it up for a re-financing before the first major adjustment.

The best part: it doesn't depend on any outside forces or new business models; banks will originate mortages; real estate agents will drive buyers around; all of the infrastructure services that benefit from a robust housing market will get a local boost. Isn't that how government is supposed to help us?

Tuesday Jan 20, 2009

Inaugural Optimism

I am breaking a few self-enforced "work rules" this morning, and I feel no shame or guilt about it. I have the television in my office turned on to watch the inaugural proceedings, sound turned down, but a distraction anyway. I should be preparing for an upcoming conference call, but I'm blogging because I'm captivated by what's happening in Washington. Thoughts in no particular order:

Listening to the screams - not just cheers, but screams - of the crowd as the motorcade progresses, it's audibly clear that Obama is bigger than the Beatles.

NBC commentators mis-identify Michelle Obama's brother Craig in the crowd. The black and orange scarf gets a locomotive cheer.

Long-lived institutions - governments, universities, religions - change in time scales relative to their own existence. They remain immune to change as long as their constituents refuse to repair pre-conceived notions of leadership or longevity; you have to embrace the diversity of a larger whole to benefit from it. As I frequently tell prospective students during interviews, Princeton didn't admit women as undergraduates until 1969, and it was nearly another 30 years until incoming classes reflected the gender demographics of the larger body of global university students. But Princeton is a decidedly better place having made the change. What tenets of "Washington as usual" will the Obama administration challenge?

I'm eagerly anticipating an administration that embraces science, that encourages innovation, that names a national CTO, that used modern grass roots support mechanisms to truly grasp the spirit of the American people. Despite parallels drawn to JFK (age and appeal) and Lincoln, the better Presidential model is Andrew Jackson. His inaugural party was the subject of high school history classes; an open party in the White House then is a multi-million strong crowd on the Mall today. Obama is truly a President reflective of the larger whole of the American people. To be fair, he's not going to single-handedly going to fix the financial environment, the global ecological environment, or the economic situation. But if we're encouraged, empowered, and enabled to create change, the fixes can emerge. Obama's inauguration is an historic day, and I'm hoping it's only a leading indicator of the history to be written.

Wednesday Dec 31, 2008

The 2008 List

As human beings we tend to like things that happen in multiples of 5 or 10; something to do with our (body's) digits and the fact that decades make a fairly interesting yardstick for measuring life. So -- this is the fifth time I've made a list of things I found memorable in the year gone past; it joins previous entries in the closest thing to a repetitive theme dating back to my first attempts to find an on-line voice that "worked."

This was a nasty year. But -- for every thing that made me shake my head, there was something else that made me smile, whether at work, home or riding the subway in NYC.

Work moment. Tough call, because there were a few of them this year, but two stand out: Glenn Brunette and his security team winning the Innovation Award, and the highlight of a staff meeting we held in Korea when the newest systems engineers greeted us with a song. The Korea team gets a slight edge, because their abundant enthusiasm for Sun, for their roles, and for the market as a whole was infectious.

Family moment. Trivially easy to pick this one: Celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary with my wife Toby and our kids, enjoying some overly rich desserts and laughing the whole time.

Nerd toy. Shazam iPhone application. Shazam has been responsible for as many music purchase decisions this year as friend recommendations. I tend to associate songs with specific events and locations, and now with Shazam I'm able to discover the whole under the musical snippets that provide background for in-game sports breaks, dinners, or long drives in rental cars.

T-shirt. The "crew" shirt from the 12-meter challenge. It was one of those 2008 events that I look back on with a solid smile.

Reading. Finished everything Neal Peart has written this year, which was a fascinating insight into how he dealt with tragedy, grief, and the rigors of a literal rock star life. Seeing him (along with the rest of Rush) twice this summer re-inforced the depth of his work. If all goes well, I'll finish Neal Stephenson's Anathem before this extended New Year's weekend is over -- so far it's one of the best reads I've had in a while. While those heavy doses of written an-neal-ing shaped a bunch of thoughts, the best "read" of the year was hearing Cory Doctorow read from Little Brother in New York City, with my son and some of his friends in tow. They all read the book; it was passed around and educated others in their circles of friends.

Email. Perhaps I should call this "message" because it derives from my Facebook inbox rather than one accessed through IMAP. Got a note from an old grade school friend telling me to go see Defiance, because two of the heroes in the movie were at our (shared) Bar Mitzvah back in 1975. It was a great way to reconnect. Second place: a note from Jack Falla himself, commenting on a blog entry I had written about one of his books. The hockey world lost one of its best vox populi with Falla's passing this year.

Thoughts for 2009: More reading, more writing, more punctuality (in everything from email responses to hockey practices), and more focus on things my friends, family, and I enjoy. Sometimes it takes making a list of those things to remind you of their importance.

Wednesday Jun 11, 2008

Joining the Asian Diversity Network

About three weeks ago, Bill MacGowan (the top of the Sun HR pyramid) sent out a note to all employees encouraging us to join Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Based on both my own views that networked communications are a (potential) tool to drive cultural understanding, and the fact that more than one-third of my Global Systems Engineering employees are affiliated with countries in our Asian Diversity Network (ADN), I asked to join. And last week I became the executive sponsor for Sun's ADN, a role for which I'm thoroughly excited. The ADN not only links Sun's employee resource groups to other, similar groups in our major work locations, but it's also driving an important sense of cultural awareness inside of Sun. My goal as executive sponsor is to make sure that we're using all of the communications channels available: internal and external wikis, blogs, Facebook groups, and one-one relationships including programs like Sun's formal mentoring relationships.

A bit of context is in order: growing up in central New Jersey, my exposure to Asian culture was limited to what passed for "Chinese food" (no Sichuan, only heavy Cantonese style dishes that had been Americanized), and trying to figure out the Indian scripture references in Yes' Tales from Topographic Oceans. The impact of a seemingly benign interaction sticks in the very deep, tape-based portions of my memory of that time: While working at Six Flags Great Adventure, I took a break and went to visit some friends in Ride Operations, hoping we could make plans for a post-shift beer. Thinking we had agreement, I made a hand gesture to signal "all good" to my friend in the control booth, knowing she wouldn't hear me over the electric motors and small kids. Her partner working the entrance gate told me "You just insulted her; in her family that gesture is nasty." Touching, bowing, eye contact, honorifics, hand gestures, and seating position may be things we don't consider every day, but they bound our first impressions and often govern others' strong first impressions of us.

In the intervening three decades, the world has become smaller as a result of networking, air travel and diversity on college campuses, but it's also become larger in terms of understanding the cultures, norms and preferences of the folks on the other end of the TCP/IP connection. One of my favorite learnings was working with a manager in our Beijing engineering office, who described a management situation with the Chinese phrase "Two tigers cannot inhabit the same mountain." To her, this was a statement about having a clear line of sight to one owner for a problem; to me it captured the fact that tigers are one of the few carnivorous animals that don't attack or eat their own kind, creating an effective conflict avoidance mechanism. The root cause of her issue was that the way in which Sun engineering culture would have stimulated a resolution to her issue created a larger cultural conflict; people backed away from what was perceived as the "usual way" in other parts of the world.

What do I hope to get out of the ADN? Two big things:

Cultural understanding. There are the obvious issues, like appreciating holidays, celebrations, whether or not asking questions is considered rude, the desire not to draw attention to an individual, loss of face (on both sides of the table), and whether or not a knife is a weapon with no place at the breakfast table. There are the subtler things, like the fact that "spicy" is effectively a logarithmic scale in parts of the world, or that organizational hierarchy determines who sits when and where at the table. The more you understand about your peers, the more effective you are in creating an environment where everyone contributes, feels valued, and forges strong connections. Failing to understand these differences is as bad as inviting your vegan friends to dinner at your favorite BBQ joint.

Avoiding monoculture. We need to spend time with people who are not like us -- not like us in terms of geography, world views, food preferences, musical interests, and engineering approaches. Monoculture in anything is bad, whether it's desktop productivity tools, search engines or local newspapers. What I've found amusing is that the further afield you look, often you run into something familiar -- my discovery of a synagogue in Shanghai, created when the Viennese embassay of Shanghai smuggled Jews out of Europe during World War II, or finding that my marketing buddy Carrie also listens to matzah-soprano Ofra Haza through a Facebook status update.

Put together, I hope I'm a more effective communicator and leader, and that what we learn in the ADN can be shared with other employee resource groups (in and out of Sun).

Thursday May 29, 2008

It's Not "Chief Either Or"

Jonathan's blog about making donations to the China earthquake relief effort seems to have seeded the usual maelstrom of comments. Roughly, they fall into three categories: (1) thank you; (2) why are you blogging about charitable giving when you should be fixing Sun; and (3) why are people criticizing an act of charity at a time of immense disruption and displacement with a more immense human cost?

The comments of the second type are yet another case of mis-applying the law of the excluded middle. For some reason, it appears that Jonathan cannot do anything other than think about running Sun; any act on a personal level must somehow detract from his time invested in being CEO. And that's both the fallacy and the danger in the assumption: CEO does not stand for "Chief Either Or." It's possible to run a company with a social agenda and a slice of humanity. The two are not mutually exclusive, it's not an either-or proposition. There are executives for whom execution is of singular and paramount importance.

I wouldn't work for one of them.

Monday May 26, 2008

Removing the Back(b)log

A quick look back at the month of May shows that until this weekend, I'd written exactly one blog entry, and it was tangential to my "day job." I could argue that my "day job" filled more than the usual quota of hours, but in actuality, I consider blogging part of my day job -- it's about providing transparency into what I'm doing, thinking and using to shape my views of systems engineering at Sun, replete with double dashes and parenthetical comments.

In the (limited) interests of full disclosure, though, here's where the time has gone: meeting with customers, working on FY09 messages and goals, meeting with various teams building technical communities, scribbling down notes for blog entries, books, and cleaning out my Somerset, NJ office in preparation for a major summer construction project. I've also been reading much more than writing, having gone through about half of the sci-fi volumes ordered two months ago.

But: blogging is writing, and writing is a skill like playing a sport or musical instrument that requires practice, experimentation and regular exercise. In various email exchanges with Cory Doctorow I've asked him how he manages to produce so much content on a regular basis, and his response was simple - he writes every day, aiming to produce about 500 "good words" a day. On the surface, that sounds like very little output for very large input, until you try it. It's one thing to zip off ten emails of fifty words each, quite another to fit 500 words into a story that's evolving over a period of weeks. My limited personal experience in writing technical books proved this true. When it got down to it, I spent weekends holed up in my home office writing and revising. Half a dozen book ideas and two dozen blog thoughts are floating around at any time in between Mac sticky notes, notebooks, sheafs of paper, the back of staff meeting agendas (sorry, Don, but when inspiration strikes I scribble it down), and in one case, the border of a story title page from Asimov's science fiction magazine. But without the desire and discipline to sit down and turn paper bits into oxide bits, nothing happens.

What uncorked the back log? Believe it or not, a really bad 3/4 round of golf (3/4 because I gave up after 14 holes, having incurred the wrath of the course marshalls, the foursome behind us, and at least three woods-dwelling small mammals frightened by what should have been fairway drives). While golf is a contact sport bordering on one requiring protective helmets for me, I'm not usually that horrendous -- just out of practice. As I am with writing. When you don't write, the comments and the emails die down; when you don't practice physical activities, the hoots and hollers increase.

Monday Mar 10, 2008

Everything I Need To Know I Learned In Wind Ensemble

Today was one of those "If you can read this, thank a teacher" kind of days. After blogging about the harmonic convergence of a high school band performance and my trip to Korea, I decided to track down Mr. Santoro (my high school band director); turns out he teaches at a school not far from my home, and we traded a few emails. His reaction to my recap of his "Band prepares you for life" mantra was "I didn't think anyone was listening."

Judging from the number of emails and comments I've received, I think quite a few band nerds were listening to Mr. Santoro and other Harry Dinkle-inspired band directors as well. Here's my list of what I remember from high school band:

  • Music keeps you sane. This one didn't dawn on me until we had our first child, who was the Colic Monster From Another Dimension. The only thing that settled her down was the University of Michigan Marching Band's CD of John Phillip Sousa downfields. I never knew that my 8-to-5 (8 steps to cover 5 yards) marching skills would come in handy for settling babies. I'm certainly still into a variety of music and while my sanity can be questioned, more than a few long road trips, late nights, or difficult design discussions were punctuated with something I first heard in high school.
  • Buy one [jazz] record for every three [rock] records. Your stylistic mileage may vary, and substitute "download" for "record" and it still makes sense and respects the RIAA. My father got me to listen to Sonny Stitt, I got my son to listen to Pat Metheny and Wes Montgomery, so there's something of an aural tradition waiting to be continued here. In its purest form, it's a case of Long Tail econonmics inspired recommendation: listen to something new with a reasonable relative frequency to the stuff on the heads of your playlists.
  • It's close enough for jazz. This meme has been part of my vocabulary for 30 years, even winding up in Managing NFS & NIS (p 395) as a nutshell summary of how to approach server tuning. The converse phrasing is "don't sweat the small stuff" but it also neatly conveys the law of diminishing returns. Don't over-engineer or over-design, just get it close enough so it sounds (and looks) good.
  • Band prepares you for life. In my most personal case, this is indirectly true. Band helped me discover how much I liked jazz; jazz got me into WPRB-FM; WPRB (in its commercial radio days) was where I found out that I liked sales. A systems engineer born out of the saxophone ranks. One of my fellow jazz band members combined a love of bass violins, carpentry and session work into a remarkable bass luthier business; he reproduces classic (now copryright-free) bass designs with modern techniques.

  • Not to be too senitmental, there were plenty of amusing things and completely useless trivia that I remember from band as well. I can still walk through most of the downfields we performed in the three years that I marched. Any time I hear "Hey Jude," "Nobody To Depend On," "Smoke On The Water" or the 20th Century Fox movie theme, I get the urge to step off from a nearby end zone and bleat quarter notes from a soggy sax. Perhaps I'm testing the boundary conditions on "sane" there. I learned that the basic laws of supply and demand apply to band fund raisers, despite our attempts to deny them and sell to someone with a last name different from our own. If there was little demand for holiday fruitcakes, then holiday votive candles, holiday decorative bells, and more fruitcakes were highly unlikely to find new markets. Marching bands often seem adept at fund raisers that raise the bar on non-consumption. And finally, while adding completely unnecessary glissandos to holiday music is funny (especially with a "guest conductor", A/K/A substitute teacher who was told he was getting a shop class), it's also artistically and perhaps morally wrong. Eddie Van Halen on the trem arm is a school of rock Eruption (listen about 1:00 in to the clip on the right); when done during a school band rendition of Silent Night it's grounds for ejection. Or perhaps there's a mash-up waiting to be made, and wind ensemble prepared me more for digital life than I would have guessed.

    The Snowman Vote

    Chalk this up to the wonders of Google PageRank and the ability of the net to help convolve people with similarly evolved interests.

    Bob Eckstein, author of Today's Snowman blog as well as the History Of The Snowman book, has included yours truly in the current snowman vote. Eckstein found both of my snowman-oriented blogs through a Google search -- for something else, no doubt, as the set pages returned for "snowman" and "chip multithreading" for example, has the cardinality of a carrot nose. He and I have swapped some emails, some snowman pictures, and now I grace his blog in the same outfit that terrorized 4-year olds in our Somerset office.

    Good thing they can't vote.

    [update] Note that on Eckstein's site, people related to Burl Ives cannot vote either. He's a very funny snowman (Eckstein, not Ives, as the latter has already logged out).

    Thursday Jan 03, 2008

    The 2007 List

    Presenting the fourth installment in a continuing series dating back to 2004: the 2007 list.

    Best Parenting Moment: Son Benjamin's Bar Mitzvah, celebrated with lots of friends and family. He made us cry, he made his hockey coaches cry (something I hadn't seen before) and he played a mean guitar solo with the band.

    Best Work Moment: This was a hard one, because it was a remarkably fun year. I'll break with emergent tradition and declare a tie. Early in the year, it was my interview with Cory Doctorow, on the heels of introducing him as the keynote at Sun's Worldwide Education and Research Conference. The interview was carried in ACM Queue magazine and turned into an unedited podcast. Later in the year, I had the pleasure of promoting one of my own people to Vice President, a first in 18 years at Sun. SeChang Oh is one of those guys who has boundless energy and is a fountain of creative ideas. And he'll take your money on the golf course. SeChang's promotion was a reflection on him, his team, and our organization, and it had me smiling for weeks.

    Best T-Shirt: "Sudo make me a sandwich" available from the xkcd store. The best part was wearing this on a diagonal cross-country trip. Originating in Orlando, many people in the airport were trying to figure out which theme part featured stick figure characters; in Houston I got a few chuckles and finally in San Francisco it was old hat (but drawn well, to abuse the pun).

    Best Sports Moment: There were a lot of bad ones this year, from the Devils failing to show up for the Ottawa playoff series, to A-Rod using the World Series to stage a contractual publicity stunt, to the Mets choosing golf over baseball playoffs in October. The event that put the jock in jocular for me wasn't covered by any media (including our town paper) and didn't involve winning teams. Every year, hockey fans want to see their teams play into June, when the Stanley Cup finals fill the 10th month of the season. This year, my adult ice hockey team made the league championship tournament in Hockey North America, playing hockey in June in Toronto. After a few years of traveling to youth hockey tournaments, I got to experience one personally, complete with t-shirts, getting lost on the way to the rink, missing gear bags and a team dinner. A friend of mine once said that when you play sports as an adult, it's more about the guys you play with than winning or losing, and he was right -- the Toronto trip was a fun weekend with the guys, independent of finishing in the bottom of our round robin pool.

    New Toy: Long-time prognosticators would go for the Steinberger style bass guitar, sitting (unplayed) in my office. It was a find, but it's not the winner. Inside the envelope is a collection of random comic books I picked up at the MOCCA show in New York, on a hot Sunday afternoon when my sister (yes, I have a sister) and I visited every booth in the show, gets top billing. In this case, it's not so much the utility of the toy as the story surrounding it; we did nothing but laugh for three hours; I got to meet Richard Stevens of DieselSweeties fame; we had $6 coffees and didn't mind because it was the first true day of summer, marked by the end of the school year, making the stories worth remembering. Throughout the course of 2007, I re-discovered comics including DS and the above-mentioned xkcd, resulting in a comic-inspired t-shirt buying spree.

    Best Reading Accomplishment: I ran through a spanning tree of writers, mostly rooted at Cory Doctorow or Marc Donner from Google. During 2007 I exhausted Charles Stross, Rudy Rucker, Jo Walton, Vernor Vinge and a handful of books on the late 1970s World Series. I read way too much science fiction and sports history, but it fed a variety of thought experiments. Plan for 2008: more science, more history, and more fiction (although I did run through all of Michael Chabon's work this year as well).

    Happy 2008 to all, with hopes that it's filled with good friends, good books, and good cookies (edible or browser-digestible).


    Hal Stern's thoughts on software, services, cloud computing, security, privacy, and data management


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