Unwelcome guest

In addition to the very welcome family guests we had the last couple of weeks, there has been a more recent unwelcome guest at our home. A virus. I don’t get sick very often (all that clean living), but both Kathryn and I have been down with some kind of a virus for the last 10 days. I think we’re on the recovery side of things, but the sinus problems and general bodily weakness due to this thing keep hanging on. We’ve had to renege on a couple of fun get-togethers with people just so we wouldn’t infect them. Like many emotionally-mature decisions, that one isn’t much fun.

I’ve used the down time to get some reading and writing done, but that’s losing its appeal quickly. Cabin fever is setting in.

Say it ain’t so

(OK, this has nothing to do with travel, but it’s such a big deal to me I had to write about it. We’ll return to our regular programming in the next post.)

I read something today that has left me stunned. Amazed. I was reading an article on deep learning networks and AI by a brilliant guy named Jeffrey Dean, from Google Research. In that article he highlighted a fact that I was unaware of. A big, surprising fact, at least for me.

I should digress. I’ve spent my entire professional life working with a few truths in mind. For example, your reputation is everything, so don’t do anything to mess it up. That’s a truth. But the one I’m focused on today is called Moore’s Law. In the early 1980s Gordon Moore of Intel observed that computing power and efficiency was doubling every couple of years. At the time he made that observation, it was interesting but not earthshaking. But as the years went by and Moore’s Law was observed to be true for 10, then 20, then 30 years, it became one of the only constants in an ever-changing technology world. I can’t tell you how many times I quoted or took Moore’s Law into account as we were planning the technology future of one company or another.

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So, to see this chart in Dean’s paper highlighting the end of Moore’s Law was a real shock to me. How is this not in all the newspapers? Dean is saying (showing, based on evidence in his paper) that it will now take twenty years for the next doubling of CPU/GPU speed instead of two. That’s…amazing. And amazingly bad, from my point of view.

Moore’s Law has driven the technology companies and economies to gigantic heights over the last 40 years. If it’s now over, what does that mean for tech companies in general? It will take a while for the effects to be noticed, but this will have an effect. It’s truly the end of an era.

 

Fire and Rain

With a nod to James Taylor, our long annual dry spell is finally over. It’s raining here in Socal, the first rain in six months. Hopefully this begins a four to six month pattern of cool days and sporadic rain, ending this year’s fire season.

Even after thirty years here it’s hard to get used to the compressed Socal seasons. There are only two seasons – a cool and mildly wet “winter” and a long, hot and dry “summer”. Spring and fall are conspicuously missing. I find that I like the winters here a lot and have come to hate the summers. Part of it is that I tolerate heat less and less in my dotage, making me wonder “why do older people move to Florida? Or Phoenix?”. The other part of it is that with summer comes the threat of Socal wildfires, a quite recent existential threat to those of us daring to live in areas with trees.

But I digress. With each first rain I feel a palpable sense of relief, a sense that everything is OK again. Six months without rain wears on me.

Postscript, 11/20: About 24 hours into our first “major” storm of the year we’ve gotten two tenths of an inch of rain. Color me unimpressed.

Postscript 2, 11/10: Ok, we got almost an inch of rain and some solid thunder and lightning this afternoon. I’m happy.

And just because I still love the song, here are JT’s immortal, poetic words from 1968 (!):

Fire and Rain
Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone
Susanne the plans they made put an end to you
I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song
I just can’t remember who to send it to
I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again
Won’t you look down upon me, jesus
You’ve got to help me make a stand
You’ve just got to see me through another day
My body’s aching and my time is at hand
And I won’t make it any other way
Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again
Been walking my mind to an easy time my back turned towards the sun
Lord knows when the cold wind blows it’ll turn your head around
Well, there’s hours of time on the telephone line to talk about things
To come
Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground
Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you, baby, one more time again, now
Thought I’d see you one more time again
There’s just a few things coming my way this time around, now
Thought I’d see you, thought I’d see you fire and rain, now

Deja vu

On Nov 12 and 13 this week I found myself drawn back into the land of corporations – a land full of meetings, conferences, esoteric experts, Powerpoint and vats of bad coffee. I attended the TechVision Research (TVR) inaugural technology conference in San Diego. I have some deep connections with TVR – part-time consultant for them, investor, and occasionally an author of technical advisory notes. I also led a panel discussion on the topic of analytics, something I still find fascinating.

After most of a year spending my time on non-technology things, these two days back in corporate-ville felt pretty strange. Familiar, but strange. Full of terms like hypervisors, elastic search, devops, APIs, workflows and microservices. They (we) speak a foreign language in the land of corporate technology. Fortunately I still understand that language but I found myself wondering “why?”. Why should I bother to stay up to date on this when I’ve pretty much left that land and focused on other aspects of life?

My reasons for making this journey back are pretty thin. One, it’s hard to break the habits of 30+ years. I’ve studied and evangelized digital technology my entire adult life, and it’s hard to leave it behind. Two, I am on the board of one technology company and invested in another, so there’s that. Third and finally, because I can. I get satisfaction from understanding how digital systems work, so an occasional refresher in that feels good.

I get so much satisfaction from digging into tech that I’ve often thought of dedicating another blog/website to observations on technology, but…that’s not the direction I want my life to go. I want more writing, more family and more self-improvement, not the deja vu satisfaction of technology cred.

Fortunately, this journey was a short one. I spent two short days in Corporate-ville, then I traveled back to a steady diet of KY basketball, reading, writing, travel, golf and plain old laying about. In other words, retirement.

 

Staycation part two, 11/9/19

One trip that all our visitors wanted to take was the short drive up Palomar Mountain to see the observatory. It had been years since I was there so I was looking forward to it.

It was only an hour from our house, a nice though curvy drive climbing 5000 feet up to the observatory. Upon arriving we went immediately to the main event, the 200 inch Hale Telescope. It’s still an amazing engineering feat, even 70 years after its inception. And it’s still very, very relevant in terms of astronomy. Caltech scientists have been able to keep it working and competitive all these years by installing new detector systems at the business end of the scope and by maintaining the basic system faithfully.

In the picture below (not a great one; taken through a glass partition) you can see a person climbing around in the operator’s station right under the mirror itself.

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We were lucky to be able to attend one of the observatory’s Saturday lectures while we were there. A docent spent about 45 minutes giving us the history and some inside stories about the telescope’s beginnings and its current use. We all came away with a great appreciation for the “big science” investments made decades ago and how they’re still yielding knowledge and discovery dividends.

Recon country

Yesterday we had the distinct honor of attending the graduation ceremony for Marine Amphibious Recon Class 5-19, in which our nephew Capt. Erik  Christensen was one of the graduates. It was an inspiring ceremony and really makes one appreciate the rather extreme training the men and women in service go through. Congrats Erik!

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Staycation, 11/4-11/5

My brother Mike came to town for a visit this week and we’re taking advantage of that to do some touristy things. Touristy isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a description of things that we typically do to show off our hometown (county) to visitors.

The first thing I did for the visit was break in the new smoker and cook a prime brisket. Thanks and kudos to my friend Terry for tips on pro-level brisket smoking with a Traeger smoker. My first effort turned out great – very rich, tasty brisket.

Mike and I took a classic touristy trip to the La Jolla area one day, visiting his happy place, the Torrey Pines Gliderport (which is coincidentally right next to my happy place, the famous Torrey Pines golf course). The gliderport is a unique spot and was a great place to get some practice in with the new camera. I’m happy with the results.

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From there we went to another picturesque spot, La Jolla Cove. The cove never fails to deliver stunning views of wildlife and the rugged coastline in a mostly-serene setting. We were there on a perfect day – clear skies, cool temperatures, lots of seals, sea lions and birds on display and a crystal clear ocean. It’s pretty much an urban paradise. I was really happy with how the Fuji zoom lens performed here, but you be the judge.

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We ended our touristy day with a visit to my favorite Socal taco place, Puesto in La Jolla. The food there is very good, with rich and unique taco creations. The kicker for me is that they have a great wine list full of Guadalupe wines, completely unique in my experience. Having just come from the Valle I couldn’t resist getting a bottle of Lomita Tinto de Hacienda, one of our favorite Guadalupe wines. Both Puesto and the Lomita delivered, comprising a great meal.

We returned home happy with our touristy day. Sometimes I wonder why we bother to travel much, as Socal has so much to see and do. But it’s a big world out there.