Thursday, November 17, 2016

My chosen profession over the past 35 years, is in computer programming.  The jobtitles have changed over the years, but it all comes back to making computers do what someone wants them to do.  I came to this career almost by accident, but it is something I am suited to, and thoroughly enjoy.  It leverages both my technical, and creative tendencies.  And it also leverages my tendency to want to help people, as well as solve problems.

To do this job, you have to be good at finding root causes and filtering past the static.  I recently worked on a problem where the output of a process was almost nonsensical.  Years in this profession train the eye to see in unpredictability, certain patterns that lead to the root.  Very frequently, a result that looks completely out of whack is just one missing line of code, a small error in language syntax, or the data is formatted slightly wrong.

The recent problem showed a number of records as duplicates, but they clearly weren't.  My understanding of the type of process that was involved implied a possible shift of data.  There was enough similarity in the results to say that the process was simply "seeing" the input data wrong.

After reviewing the data versus the definition of the data structure used to drive the process, I found that indeed a new column of data had been introduced into the input since the program had been written, and this caused a number of columns to shift right, and some of the wrong data was being interpreted.

These kinds of problems and solutions are common in the job that I do.  At the root is knowing to look past the, sometimes massive, ripple effects that can be created by a small error.  A pebble sometimes brings what appears to be a tidal wave.

This is not to say that all of life fits neatly into this mode, but something I do see in relationships of all sorts, is that there is a tendency to get lost in the noise.  Once enveloped in this noise, it can be hard to delve deep and find the root source.  Often, the root source is much smaller than the final outcome.  Often the final outcome can result it the perception that "the whole processe is screwed up!"

I get that a lot from clients, and it's understandable.  They don't spend their time "deep in the details" and processes, they just see the mess at the end.  Often, if a small problem remains unchecked, the results of the errant process just get worse and worse over time.

After the contentious election cycle, I have been trying to get down to the root of all that had happened.  Of course, this is not just a simple computer process that can be debugged, but I feel the need to try to unravel all of the vitriol and contention, and help to uncover some root problems.  Of course, it is naive to think that it is all so simple, but I think I can benefit from peeling away the layers of frustration and the outwardly vast differences I see, and understand root problems.  I know friends from all ends of the political spectrum, and I see so many different reactions to what is happening now.  The root causes are often the same, and even the ultimate desire to fix them is the same, but the interpretation both of problem and solution is very different.

Each morning, I get up and write some of my ideas and observations down.  Some are of value, some are red herrings.  But that is always part of the process of debugging a flawed process.  Our current political process is flawed on so many levels.  I know that, as I continue to try to make sense of where we are right now, and how we got here, peeling back the layers is helping me at least in understanding, and understanding is the always first step to finding a reasonable, actionable solution.

I take comfort in placing the discipline of logic around complex results.

File under "for what it's worth."

Sunday, November 13, 2016

My last post was September of 2014, over two years ago.  I posted about life in the shadow of the loss of my wife DeDe.  A post about a trip my kids and I took to Idaho as we took to the task of healing from losing her.

So much has happened since then.  I was a traveler as a young man, before I married, and that became an element of DeDe and my life together after marriage.  Raising kids and maintaining a job necessitated a certain stability in my postal addresses at times.  Now, with my kids grown, I find myself searching, looking past fixed addresses and just loving the act of discovering new places, new people, new experiences.

I find myself facing a new day.


There is a part of me that wants to be carefree and just travel through the rest of my life pursuing my passions.  Chase the rising sun, eyes fixed on the sky.  But the realities of our current world make it hard to simply follow the things that make me happy.

These concerns came to a head last week.  A president was elected who ran on a platform of exclusion, a man whose rhetoric was at direct odds with my belief that, as our United States forebears asserted, all people are created equal.  I believe we have been made great by our very diversity, and that it his growth and inclusion and loving of all people in need that will continue to help us to stay vital in this rapidly changing world.

I am watching as people who "don't fit the mold" are being singled out and victimized in the shadow of the election, and this infuriates me.  I know some amazing people who happen to be Muslim or Hispanic or other groups that have been recent targets.  I know some people who do not fit into the simple definition of heterosexual male and female, that live amazing, loving and fine lives, raising families, helping their communities.  People who I respect in the highest.

I look back on the contention of this United States presidential election, and the contention that has continued since, and I try to make sense of it.  I try to find my place in it.  I see at the foundation a lack of understanding, despite the fact that the challenges that we face are very similar.

I haven't found an answer, and I'm not even sure I fully understand the questions.

It will probably not be served by writing a blog that a couple (very nice) people read (and thank you in advance!)  But writing has always been a haven for me.  As I wrestled with the election process and its ultimate outcome last week, I turned increasingly to writing my ideas down.  I thought to post them, but the limited size of a Facebook post would not support the ideas.  They would be simply another "run on" post that no one would finish.  Why bother?

So, I am considering writing a blog that no one will read instead!

A blog about the complexities of a rapidly changing country and the fears we share, or perhaps those where we see things very differently.  A blog about being a father to amazing adult children who are struggling with their own challenges.  A blog about travel.  A blog about food and beer and poetry (not necessarily in that order.)

A blog about coming together, instead of coming apart.  A blog about understanding why there is so much misunderstanding between good people with so very much in common.

For now, selfishly speaking, it is enough to be considering it.  I know that many of you, both in the US, and in other countries share my concerns in your own way, either looking at events in the US, or in your part of the world.  Perhaps you are struggling with where you can "go from here" too.

And maybe it is enough to share these ideas with you now, then see where it goes from there.

Mostly, I want you, my friends who took the time to read this, to know that I care about you, and I'm thinking of you, in relation to all these things that concern me.

And I suppose that is "enough said" for now.

I am thinking of you all, and I am rooting for you, and I'm rooting for us.  By creating divisions, we will never really fully grow, it is by creating bridges that we will be unstoppable.

Craig

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sunrise and Sunset

It may come as a surprise to most of you, but I tend to like a good sunrise.



And a good sunset.



Big surprise, right?

Lucky for me, the average life is blessed with about 25,000 sunrises, and almost exactly the same number of sunsets.  As long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the change-of-the-guard from day to night and vice-versa.  I have a fond memory from when I was around five years old, being the only person in the house who was up, standing at the large front window to a house we lived in only briefly, and watching the sun emerge in the distance.

I've mused on it in verse and in prose, I've expended more film on it than I care to consider, and now over half of the pictures I have taken on my new camera and my phone are of it.

I suppose some could say I am descending into obsession.

So be it.

This week was great for a sunrise-sunset obsessed man such as me.  Beautiful rains masked the sunrise on Thursday, but as so often happens, it gave way to a spectacular display on Friday morning.  I spent a lot of time and a significant amount of memory card on Friday's show.

I suppose I will remain fascinated, passionate, obsessed and in love with the pivot points of each day for as many days as I remain on this earth.  And as long as people will put up with it, I'll share that obsession.

Here is a sample from Friday, September 26th's, morning offering.






I love a story with a happy ending...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Along the South Side

This was a full week.  Considering my recent life, saying this by comparison says a lot.

Work had some big ups and downs, I bought a new camera, I realized that a planned upcoming trip to be with my brothers is at the same time as some tickets I bought for a concert that I was going to see with my son.

But all of these things worked out, and beautifully so.

Then there was this concert here in San Jose on Tuesday.  Concerts are fun, they are a great escape, they are a way to get lost in the dynamics of the euphoria of a large group.

Sometimes concerts are more than this.


Back in April, I bought tickets to see the band Yes at the Civic Center.  Yes has been a part of the soundtrack of my life, and especially of my life with DeDe.  And when they said that the band would be performing the albums “Close to the Edge” and “Fragile,” two amazing albums, which we knew would not be easy to pull off live, well DeDe and I had to go.

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you probably know that between April and now, I lost my precious lady.

I didn’t lose the tickets.

I considered not going for a time.  I thought it might be unbearable, less than two months later, to go to an event we had planned with such relish.

Loss of a loved one affirms the power of the human memory in a jarring way.  It plays on us through the grieving and the growing in the days that come after the loved one is gone.  It stabs us and strokes us in the many difficult and mundane things we need to take care of in the short shadow after that person has said thier last goodbye.

My daughter Cyn, a bonafide Prog Rock fan, and very much her mother’s daughter, agreed to come along with me.  We ate some tasty food at the venue and thoroughly enjoyed the opening act, Syd Arthur, who we met when Cyn bought their two albums and had the band members sign them.

And though Yes had band members who were not on the main two albums they played (Jon Davison on vocals, Alan White on drums, Geoff Downes on keyboards) every one of them “brought it.”

Chris Squire, a bassist extraordinaire, is also a great performer and brought many a laugh intermingled with displaying his virtuoso style.  The way he played a sweet little bass progression to the hushed audience, then he looked out at the crowd and lifted his right eyebrow about a quarter of an inch was priceless, and brought a convulsive laugh from me.

Steve Howe is the ultimate “cool nerd.”  The guitar geek in me appreciated how he used a modern modeling guitar and amp rig to coax the many sounds that he provided in the original albums.  The way he goaded an authentic twelve string acoustic tone from the little electric six string guitar reaffirmed his ever-present musical sleight-of-hand.  His slight frame, and the way he looked out over the crowd through his thick glasses, was a wonderful counterpoint to hefty and charismatic Squire who roamed the other side of the stage working the crowd.

I am so, so grateful that I went to the show, and so grateful to have Cyn as company.  At times, I got lost in the music.

Other times I stared at the rafters of the Civic Center and thought back in time.

The band Yes has moved on, and continues these many years past their forming back in the 1960s.  Do they sound the same as they did back then?

Yes and no.

But in the end, with their white hair and aging bodies, they managed to rock it, and bring the Civic center to life with music and life.


As I listened to “South Side of the Sky,” I was transported back to a barracks room in Augsburg West Germany, listening to one of my favorite albums of all time through my Bose 501 speakers, admiring the many amazing sounds and the orchestration of the music with a lady who would soon be my wife.

The barracks are now gone.  The band Yes has changed.  Even West Germany is materially changed, now reunited with the East.

I believe in an afterlife, and so though my lady’s physical presence is gone, I also know that this is just another change.  I felt her along with me at the Civic Center.

The moments seemed lost in all the noise
A snow storm, a stimulating voice
Of warmth of the sky, of warmth when you die

Were we ever warmer on that day?
A million miles away we seemed from all of eternity

(From Yes, Fragile, “South Side of the Sky”)

This week ended with an earthquake that shook Silicon Valley.  I don’t report this from my own eyewitness account, but from third party reports, including Cyn who posted to Facebook. 

I slept right through it.

Life goes on around us; some small things burrow into us, some big things slip right by.  Seldom do we really control which is which, and the best thing we can do is strap in as best as we can and continue to ride along to the next mile-marker.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Full Day in SV

It was a full day indeed.

It started early (like they always do) with some work to catch up on.  Got a lot accomplished.  Flash forward a couple hours, and I see the sky getting vibrant outside - a particularly beautiful sunrise emerging. 


Ran some errands around town, then came back and helped my son with his car.  Bought tickets to see Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Steve Winwood in October, then went to work.

The evening was lovely, having a nice dinner with my other son, then out for a walk.  Now, I'm back home with a cold beer in my hand.  Well, cold beer is not in my hand RIGHT now, as it's hard to touch type with one of those like that.

Any-who, all in all, a great day.

But the funny thing (funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha) was this deep, burrowing depression in the middle of the day.  Only lasted a few hours, but it was so intense.  To some degree, these come and go in my recent times, but it was strange how it popped in during a great day.  Or maybe it was the greatness of the day bookending the depression.

As I wrote her obituary in July, I had the phrase go through my head, "had I known her for just six months in the spring of 1981, I would certainly remembered her for the rest of my life, and been grateful for the brief friendship.  To have had 33 years, and a family, and to have shared so many joys and sorrows, is a gift beyond measure.  With that in mind, how could I be anything but grateful?"

And I am. 

It still hurts. 

But I am most grateful.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Empty Bottle Blues


Empty Bottle Blues
©2014 Craig Sorensen


Somehow
     The setting sun
          turned the clouds

Eggshell white
     charcoal grey
          tarnished silver

Between them
     a cobalt blue
          empty bottle

Scent still strong
     a rich bay breeze

Recalls the
     contents

Too recently

Evacuated

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Synchronicity


Over the years, I’ve caught bits of the movie Startup.com here and there, but never sat down and watched it end to end.

Each time I’ve seen these bits of it, I’ve gotten some sort of nugget of inspiration, seen something pertinent to my experience at the time.  So when I recently watched a part of the movie again, I also set the show to record on my DVR.  I’m planning to watch it soon with all the undivided attention I can muster, given my current life’s engagements. 

Hopefully I won’t be disappointed when finally I see the full movie in context, end-to-end.  That has happened to me with movies before.  But I digress.

For those who don’t know startup.com, it’s a movie about a well planned and funded startup of the late-last-millennium, leading up to the famous dot com bubble burst of 2000.  The once-thriving young company, loaded to the hilt with venture capital and great ideas, went down in flames along with so many other dot.com wannabes. 

The dot com-bubble-burst impacted the team that I managed at my prior job profoundly.  A well staffed team that was developing some rather sophisticated integrated marketing applications was on the chopping block entirely.  But at the morning of the cuts, I had ten team members.  By the end of the day, I had five.   It could have been worse.   We provided enough value to the company to remain in place, though dramatically altered.  So while my team’s personal experience in totality, was not a happy story, it was certainly a happier outcome than the ultimate collapse of govWorks, the company documented in Startup.com.


Anyone who has seen a movie that somehow resonates with them, and have watched this movie at different times, will understand how each watching can reveal new truths as your perspective grows with experience.  How it can help reveal the sort of synchronicity that can mark points on a life’s timeline like cities marked on a map used for a long distance voyage.

In 2000, when the dot com bubble burst, I had perspectives that related to the events laid out in the movie based on some startups I had dealt with, and based upon a certain perspective on the business world.

But now, in 2014, I am in a true startup, in many ways, like the company in the movie.  I’ve watched the venture capital process, and how the power of the board influences the vision of the entrepreneur who started our company.  As my life has changed to this “insider view” this new perspective makes me able to see things in the movie, and in life, as I never saw before.  As I watched the characters, dynamics, and interplay within the movie, I more personally relate to the tensions that lie behind the many changes.  I see the tip of the iceberg, but knowing a little more about what lies under the surface, I have a sense of the cold that is unseen.

Some of this synchronicity is a comfort.  Some is not.

But such is the reality of life general, and such is the reality of the startup world, for an old school guy like me.  Maybe that is, in part, why there are only a handful of us that are over 40 in the startup company I am with now.

The only thing I know for sure, is I have no regrets in moving to Silicon Valley, the most fertile soil of the startup, despite the cautionary tale of Startup.com.

This adventure continues, and promising results in Q4 of 2013 at the company I work for bring many, many new challenges in 2014. 

So I’ll watch this movie, now in its entirety, regard both the caution and hope, and continue starting up.