Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Sad Day

This week someone I work with announced his resignation and I'm not happy.

Over roughly 20 years in high tech and 4 years in college I've worked for several companies, and with some truly brilliant people. I hope none of those people will be offended when I say that no one I have ever worked with or known - anywhere - is as amazing as David Schairer.

The experience of working with David is unlike any other I have had. I once likened working with someone else to drinking from a fire hose. That individual was a source of amazing amounts of information in his field, but there was no ability to control the rate at which the information came out. He could do his job well, but teaching was not something you wanted him to try.

David is entirely different.

First, he's a true polymath, astoundingly well versed in a huge number of topics, ranging all over the technical map and going beyond into classics, languages - both modern and ancient - and vast realms between. British naval history, whiskey, oddball web comics, and any number of other things are stored in his head. In depth. Every conversation with David is a new window on the world, full of twists and turns, unexpected connections, and an amazing variety of facts.

Beyond that, David has the ability to read others and throttle back if he's overwhelming those he's talking with. Truth be told he doesn't always do so - he's so far beyond most of us that it's hard for him to slow down - but he can present just about any information in clear and concise ways, keeping it interesting, lively and relevant. He can entertain, enthrall and teach all at the same time. This ability makes him an powerful mentor, even if he's not thinking of himself in that role at a given moment.

Of course there are some things that David doesn't know, and when those come up he's honest and says so. It doesn't stop him from contributing to a discussion, but you always know where he stands. This particular trait is related to - and probably springs from - an underlying honesty I find particularly appealing.

Another of David's abilities is idea generation. Present him with a problem - "How do we do X?" - and he will supply multiple approaches before anyone else has come to grips with the problem. His ability to see solutions to the kinds of issues we encounter is second to none.

On a personal level, David has been someone I can ask questions of at work - almost regardless of the topic - for my entire time at Concentric. He's one of a core of supremely gifted individuals that make working here so interesting, and who keep me on my toes all the time.

Now, I'm sad to say, David has decided to move on. My job will not be the same, and we who remain will miss him, both professionally and personally.

There are still brilliant people here. That was one of the attractions of Concentric, and why I came back here when I returned to work, but David's departure will leave a gaping hole to fill, and it will not be easy.

I look forward to following David's exploits in the future. And if it should come to pass that I can work with him again, I will be thrilled. He's one of a group that created a level of personal loyalty and intellectual challenge that I have never found anywhere else.

All the best in your future endeavors, David. I'll miss you.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Tech

So just days before HTC introduces 2 new Android based cell phones we bought new G1 phones from T-Mobile. So far we're very pleased even if we missed the latest and greatest.

I love the integration with gmail, google calendar, and google contacts. It means I don't have to back anything up and I can see my wife's calendar without any effort at all. That's really good. The built in web browser is perfect for the inevitable lookup of something while out somewhere and away from a "real computer".

In addition, though, the phones just seem to work, with nice features - particularly once the 1.5 version of the firmware got installed. They integrate well with all kinds of networks including our home wi-fi.

Some of you will know that I have no love of Apple or Microsoft. With the G1 I get a nice alternative that lets me do what we want, and which gives us an excellent user experience to boot.

Sorry if this post comes across as an ad. I'm just happy to finally have something that lets me carry my address book, calendar, and what-not in a single device that simply works. I used to be able to do this with a Palm Treo, but this puts those old Palms to shame.

The new Palm Pre looked nice, but for me the keyboard was too small and the Sprint sales guys weren't hungry enough. The G1 had a nicer keyboard and an great UI too.

Anyone considering taking the smart phone plunge should at least consider the G1. I can't claim it will change your life, but it could, and it's awfully nice in any case.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

On Old Dogs

I just read a lovely article about old dogs that should be shared. Please read it.

To those words can add only one thought. Weingarten mentions people who "seem unmoved by the deaths of tens of thousands through war or natural disaster will nonetheless grieve inconsolably over the loss of the family dog." He goes on to suggest a reason for this seemingly odd behavior. And I agree with him, but I want to add a second reason.

We all do this to some degree, though not necessarily over the family pet. The loss of someone close to us - a spouse or child, a close friend or relative - affects us much more than the deaths of those farther away. It's simple human nature, and those of us who are close to our dogs have simply included them in the circle of companions we'll miss more intensely when they're gone.

I've got some familiarity with old dogs, and they often have a certain accepting dignity about them. I hope I can show some of that as I age.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Fire Department BBQ

I honestly don't know how many readers this blog has but it's already proven to be more than I expected, so I'm going to take a moment and plug a generic cause that I believe in.

Until a couple of months ago I was an active member of my local volunteer fire department. Right now I'm on leave, but that's beside the point. I joined the department - and support it still - because what it does is incredibly important.

While I was responding I went to innumerable vehicle accidents and on many medical aid calls. Those were the day-to-day events we saw. Less frequently we went looking for smoke or fire when someone thought something was out of place and called 911. Sometimes we found fire and did the arduous work of putting it out. A few of those fires were in houses or garages, more were outdoors - wildland fires. Most were small but every single one had the potential to get away. One finally did last year, before anyone even knew it had started: the Summit Fire, the event that prompted me to start this blog in the first place.

I don't tell you this to brag - in truth I was a small part of a team, and nothing I did by itself was of particular consequence - but instead to show you the nature of things that your fire fighters do, every day, for you.

I know that many places - in the US at least - have paid fire fighters, and I appreciate them. I worked with paid professionals all the time, and loved doing so. But here in California - with the budget woes and financial crisis - volunteer fire fighters save our counties money as they save lives and property. They give back to the community every single day in ways large and small, and they deserve your support. Who else do you know that gives their time, money and effort to make you and your neighbors safer, occasionally risking their lives in the process?

On Sunday, June 7th, my local volunteer fire department is hosting its annual BBQ fundraiser. it's the only fund raising activity we do, and the proceeds help fund the department for another year, buy equipment, hire trainers, and so on. Yes, we get county funding too, but money in our accounts stays in our community, and it directly helps you, the residents.

If you live in the Summit area and are served by Loma Prieta Volunteer Fire and Rescue, please come join us on Sunday, July 7th, at the gazebo on Summit Road for lunch, a chance to meet your fire fighters, see the equipment they use, and thank them for their service. I'll be there somewhere, helping keep people fed and happy.

If you don't live in my area, you may have a volunteer fire department where you live, and they will, no doubt, have fundraising activities. Please support them. Their work is important and you're better off for their efforts.

This is a cause I really believe in. Your volunteer fire department might save your life someday, but I am certain they are working to make you, your family, and your friends safer every day.

Thanks for reading this. I hope you can support your local volunteers.