I am often asked, what do you do? I typically respond, I am in computers. I have no idea why this is an appropriate response but in the beginning it was quite literally true
I learned beginners programming (BASIC) in 1977, where the Dec-Writer was king and the ribbon was always broken. You literally got your hands dirty if you wanted to get anything done. I then took an after school job at Oliver Office Equipment Company, an original typewriter repair company that sold and delivered office supplies.
The ugly part of fixing typewriters was crawling around the basement of the store to find a replacement part from the hundreds of broken buybacks. I was just beginning to learn how to repair the IBM Selectric (with its million or so unique parts) when the first shipment of Kaypro II computers arrived. As an employee, I got the 50% discount and my first real box for about $850.00. I still have this computer on my window sill and it still works (although half of the 360K, 5 1/4″, single sided, single density are de-maged). Taking that bad boy apart and putting it back together was alway fun.
Then there was my work study job at Syracuse University with the campus computer services department. Day 1, I was given a cool briefcase full of tools and handed a bunch of trouble tickets and sent out to fix terminals. About half of the tickets were to replace ribbons on old Dec-Writers around campus and the other half was reseating video cards in volker-craig terminals. Then there was the day where a friend of mine tried to replace a card on terminal where he had inappropriately grounded the static discharge. And calling the ambulance after he flew across the room convinced me it was probably time to get out of being in computers.
So what do I do? I read, I write, I hack, I invent, I think and I teach. Creativity is a part of who I am. As an mathematical artist, I find beauty in music. I love its patterns and symmetry. I am interested in the layers and complexity that I hear and feel effortlessly. The math of technology is harder for me. I love simple logic, truths, repeatable certainty. I am fearful of complexity in that it can be a huge distraction. I am a fan of good field position, keeping your eye on the goal, and getting it done and while I dispise the notion of “good enough”, as an adult I understand it. The essence of Zen is on not identifying with one thought or its opposite, it is about getting to the awareness that is behind the thought.
I leave you with this thought: A distraught man approached his master. “Please, Master, I feel lost, desperate. I don’t know who I am. Please, show me my true self!” But the teacher just looked away without responding. The man began to plead and beg, but still the master gave no reply. Finally giving up in frustration, the man turned to leave. At that moment the master called out to him by name. “Yes!” the man said as he spun back around. “There it is!” exclaimed the master.
So today, I woke up as usual, ran thru the morning rituals, ate breakfast, grabbed the keys and phone and out the door I went, A very typical day. I jumped on the train, found a seat and then started my work day (I get 1 hour each way, 5 days a week, 4 weeks a month. So I basically work an additional 40 hour week on the train).
First I check my phone and notice it is off. I try to boot it a few times and realize, no power, way lo battery as it flickers off. Who knows why, maybe the charger wasn’t really plugged in or maybe some-one switch batteries on me (again!). Like I said a typical day. So I pull out the laptop, as this is Ubuntu 12.04 LTS release time, now is a great time to play with it. As I open the lid, I notice that it is powered off. Like the phone, I try to boot and cant get passed the bios check. Like the phone, another device is dead again. Next up I the iPad and it’s batter meter is red with 5% left. I try using it a but but shortly device #3 is doa. So I pull out my workout iPod nano, at least I can tune out the trip. Guess what, another fail.
Holy moly, did we have an EMP burst? So here I sit on the electric train with no electronics to use. Perhaps its time to read. I check my bag and no books, no mags, no papers except an old paycheck envelope. So I grab a pen and begin to write, Old school. Why does the simple act of writing with a pen seem like such a luxury in 2012. Here I sit on a quiet train, traveling with my thoughts and the time to compose and record them by hand (which is beginning to hurt since its been a long time since I’ve written more then a signature). As I look around I notice I am the only one with a pen, in hand. Everyone is glaring at the tiny devices; tablets, phones, laptops, etc. I am surrounded by energy and yet I have none of my own. I guess this is the real reason why, I don’t like Mondays. Ive always know that I had no real power. It’s a good thing we don’t need to remember to recharge ourselves.
Live Long and Prosper
From my trip to San Francisco, Dreamforce 2010
Monday December 6th, 2010
So for this trip I took both my iPad and my laptop. I finally signed up and powered on the AT&T wireless cellular plan (the cheapest one) as I am sure 30,000 people on wifi may not really work all the time. I have every intention of trying to not really use the laptop (if I can) we shall see.
I am not loving the WordPress app on my iPad. Sitting here, 7 miles high tapping away, sharing my thoughts on a westbound AA flight to the San Francisco high-tech homeland to attend a “global gathering” feels so familiar, and yet so different. A simple finger brush off of the writing surface and my unsaved local draft has vanished (for the second time). Oh well, more time to kill while I retype it in. I guess it must be a feature of “airplane mode”.
On another note, i got this free book on my iPad and have been reading about quantum physics and reality, awesome stuff. No wonder I often feel lost in space.
Tuesday December 7th, 2010
So the conference is off In full swing and today I decide to carry both devices. Of corse, my bag is now extra heavy. Good thing I did a full workout this morning. All morning I use my iPad, writing, tweeting, chatting answering emails, using apps like clipboard (my new best friend). Connectivity is somewhat spotty. Sometimes I can get a signal, sometimes it fades and I switch to cellular (which also works 50/50). The only missing element is a camera. Ok I still carry a blackberry and it has one so a quick email and were in business. I wonder if I can pair the two using Bluetooth. Have to try that later.
Now it’s afternoon and I am listening to a session on what’s coming in the next version of chatter. The dude speaking is the primary developer so at this point I whip out my laptop and load up my dev environment so that I can make noted and code changes right here. Sorta glad I had the laptop cause typing code snippets on the iPad is a little painful. It is evident that if I am going to use this as mobile device I probably need to invest in some sorta keyboard.
Wednesday December 8th, 2010
Today I decide to leave the laptop in the hotel. This causes me issues on many fronts. First, I am paranoid and am always concerned about theft. So I feebly hide my laptop in some dirty clothes in my suitcase cause it make me feel better and I am off to the races. I get a good seat at the keynote and establish connectivity early. The keynote starts about 15 minutes late and guess what happens. People are tweeting about things that have not yet happened. Talk about great marketing, poorly executed. Not too many people really notice or if they do they don’t think its real important.
Later in the day, as Stevie Wonder and Bill Clinton speak having the iPad to watch the feeds in real time is awesome.
By the way as, even though I am a republican, I will always be a friend of Bill C.
Wednesday December 9th, 2010
Mornings uneventful, conference ends and I am off to the airport. Once again even though there is free wi-fi, it is not as available and clean as it is in NY. So here I sit in the plane home, tapping out this entry. Of corse since I eat with my hands the screen is getting a bit salty. All in all I am convinced, if your not writing code you can probably leave the laptop at home.
If any one has thought on this I would love to hear about it. In the meantime I think I’ll go back to reading “butterflies are free to fly” by Stephen Davis.