My tribute

I’ve been a tech geek since before I can remember being anything else. We had a computer in my house when I was 6. It was a Vic-20. Nothing to write home about. It got the job done, but it wasn’t special. When I got a chance to use an Apple II at school, that changed. There was something elegant about the way it did the same things my Vic-20 did. The first macs? Felt the same way. They were so different and so refreshing compared to the IBM PCs I had around the house. So much more functional without all of the tinkering.

As a teenager and young adult, tinkering was cool. I wanted to build my own PCs. I wanted to manage all of my own dip switches and memory banks. I wanted to know the refresh rate of everything and troubleshoot the problem of every strange noise and whir my computer made.

Until I bought my first real mac. Bought during the dark times of Steve Jobs exile to NeXt. The power mac 6116.  It was a great little machine. Fast. Intuitive. Everything my IBM workstation wasn’t. It was far from my last mac. I went on to own a few older 68K macs, a Powermac 8500 (which is in my basement), a Cube, a powerbook 5300, and just about every Apple laptop since. I was in attendance the day they announced the Titanium PowerBook G4 and bought one that morning. I am officially an Apple fan boy.

What did I learn from all those machines? They were tools. Elegant tools, but tools.  They allowed me to get my job done without having to worry or tinker over every little things on my machine. When Steve returned to Apple, his mission in life was to change how we used computers and more broadly how we integrated technology into our lives. He brought the NeXT OS, NeXTStep, with him to Apple and birthed Mac OS X. The iMac, iBook, iPod. iPad. iPhone. Macbook. MacPro. iTunes, iWork, iLife. MobileMe (and before it) and the various iterations of iOS that have been released into the world. Each and every one building from the success of its predecessor. Each one innovating the field again. All of them refining what a computer could be in our lives.

It wasn’t that Steve wanted to put a shine on an existing device. He wanted to reshape them. He removed the floppy drive. Eventually, he’s removed the DVD drive as well. He waited to add USB until it was useful/ubiquitous in favor of Firewire. He insisted that Thunderbolt be used in place of USB 3 because he saw a future in Thunderbolt and thought USB 3 was just the result of ‘me too’ design. The iMac wasn’t the first all in one in the world. It clearly wasn’t even the first all in one Apple ever produced, but it was so stylish and so easy to work with that it showed up everywhere. (ignore that stupid hockey puck mouse). The black powerbook was a trend setter in mobile devices. The current brushed aluminum look showed up on powerbooks and soon was everywhere.

It wasn’t sufficient for Steve Jobs to make things different just to say they’re different. They had to be different for a reason. A lesson I’ve since learned on my own and use that mantra in my daily life. The flurry of buttons and switches that exist on PC laptops? Nowhere to be found on a Macbook. Removable batteries? Gone because they can design larger batteries if they remove the latch mechanisms.  DVDs? Gone because they can deliver software digitally through the App store.  With every iterative change, there is a reason. Each change, leading to more and more simplicity.

Steve Jobs made me fall in love with Apple Computers when I was a kid. When I was old enough to buy them on my own, Steve had been sent off to create NeXt Cubes that I couldn’t afford. My love for Apple remained. Steve returned and made it cool to own an Apple device. Now? I wake up daily regretting the day I switched from my iPhone to an Evo.  It wasn’t about the speed or power of the devices he dreamed up with his cast of designers and engineers in tow, it was about making every thing simpler. Making our lives and jobs a little bit easier.

Every time I’m asked who my hero is or was, I’ve never had an answer. Given my reaction to hearing that Steve Jobs has passed, I never realized I actually had an answer. His influence in my life and my career was obvious but subtle to me. He’s my hero in the same way my parents are my hero. It’s easy to take that kind of influence for granted. Now he’s gone. RIP Steve Job 1955-2011

Writing More…

For a while, I was using Tumblr as a repository to keep some of my thoughts. I think what I got tired of is the high school mentality that seems to permeate the site.  Reblogs and reposts, quizzes and surveys, secret messages and nonsense. I just didn’t have the heart for it.  I guess I’m not social enough to get involved with social networking.  I’ve covered that thought here on my blog many times in the past.

Starting today, I’m going to start using my blog more often. I’ve restarted the Shrinking Me initiative.. I may start posting the occasional comic book review. Who knows. I need to post something. I miss having an outlet for my thoughts and figure my domain should be useful for something more than just email.

Some nights…

Last night, @dylissia and I put Megan to be around 830pm or so. That’s her usual bed time. Marie and I passed out (or started to) around 11 or so.  Marie was gone within minutes and I couldn’t get comfortable. Having to get up at 345am to catch a flight, I knew I needed to get some sleep.

I heard Megan stir around 1130pm or so. A whimper at first and then she started to call out like she needed something. I walked into her room to find her sitting up in her bed fully alert. She smiled as I came around the corner. I tracked down her pacifier and handed it to her. She smiled even more and popped it into her mouth. Then she looked at me like she wanted something.

Typically, marie and I would pick her up and take her into our room for a bit more of her bottle before she’d pass out but I needed to sleep. I patted her bed next to her and told her that she needed to lay down and go back to sleep. She looked up at me as I said that and I fully expected her to smile and reach for me.

Instead? She rolled over and fell asleep. I covered her up and 6 hours later she woke up again.  If it weren’t for the fact that I did a few other things after that before finally falling asleep, I might have convinced myself I dreamt it. I never, in a million years, expected her to actually go back to sleep on command. I’m willing to bet that it’s the last time that ever happens


Finish What I Started

I graduated high school in 1992. I had desire, passion and a goal. I wanted to be a college professor. The only thing I considered was where I’d teach. Graduating, getting a few advanced degrees and becoming a professor were all forgone conclusions. If only life had played out as it did in my head.

The list of schools I applied to was very short. I remember getting into all of them, but that could be hindsight and hubris talking. I’m pretty sure it isn’t though. My first choice was DePaul University in Chicago. I loved their computer science program. I loved the idea of living downtown. I loved the idea of being in the city. To say I was excited would be a gross understatement of how happy I was.

Continue reading “Finish What I Started”

Choppy choppy!

I have been eating food for 36 years.  I’ve been going to hibachi restaurants for just about the same amount of time.  I’ve been to chains and family-owned places. I’ve become an expert on how the process works. Or,  so I think.

My wife and family bought me a training session at benihana for Christmas.  It includes a private lesson where I can put 30+ years of observation to the test. In my head, I know how the process works.  I can see how everything is cut, prepared and served. We will see if my muscles have picked anything up in all my years of watching and following along.

The activity of the day will be followed on by a family meal next week. I get to cook at benihana for my family. I get to show what I learned. That should be fun.

The weird part of all of this? I can see every cut, flip and seasoning that goes into a meal. I’ve seen it so often that I feel there is muscle memory already in place.

When I Grow Up

Recently, I mentioned on Twitter that I’ve figured out what I want to be when I grow up. A few people asked for more detail about that particular tweet. One hundred forty characters isn’t nearly enough room to clarify.

For the vast majority of my life, I’ve maintained a singular goal that I want to be a college professor. I have gone back and forth on which subject I wanted to pursue. Would it be math or physics? Maybe I’d teach computer science. I’d be completely satisfied with any of those choices. I took a few years away from school to live life and pay bills. A few years ago, I went back to school online to restart my computer science degree. While going through the motions, I didn’t have a passion about the process. I was studying computer science because it relates tangentially to my profession. Beyond that, I didn’t care and I stopped taking classes.

A week and a half ago, I was talking with Marie when Imentioned in passing that I should study sociology. I was being flippant. Who on Earth wants to spend their days teaching in the Liberal Arts wing of a university and how silly would it be for someone that professes a general loathing for people to study sociology? We had a good giggle and carried on about our day.

Turns out that the idea has stuck with me. I’ve been thinking about it constantly. I think I now know what I want to do when I grow up and actually start living life. My attitude about people in general is less about them and more about my social anxieties. I really enjoy thinking about why people do things. In my corporate life, I’ve always been more interested in the dynamics of a meeting more than the outcome of the meeting. The more I think about this life path, the more I like the idea.

Incidentally, it also means I can go back to DePaul and finish the degree I started 20 years ago. I love the idea of coming full circle and finishing what I started. As I go through the process, I’ll make sure to write about the journey here. In a few years, I’ll be able to write the blog entry announcing I am graduating. I look forward to that.

ABCs of Me

The ABC’s of Me (My second try, first was a copy/paste fail!)

A) Age: 36

(B) Bed Size: California King

(C) Chore You Hate: Yes

(D) Dogs? Jack – Border Collie

(E) Essential Start Your Day Item: waking up (i have no ritual)

(F) Favorite Color: Red

(G) Gold or Silver? ugh.. Gold. (my wedding band is titanium)

(H) Height: 5’8”

(I) Instruments You Play: I can play Guitar Hero, not well.. but I can.

(J) Job Title: Mentoring Consulting Engineer

(K) Kids: 3ish – 16 yr old niece that lives with us, 5 year old step daughter, 9 month old daughter.

(L) Live: Oswego, IL

(M) Mom’s Name: Kathie

(N) Nicknames: Sam, Hey Guy, Hey You

(O) Overnight Hospital Stays? Tonsilectomy when I was 8 or 9

℗ Pet Peeve: There aren’t enough words.. so I’ll go with chewing with your mouth open.

(Q) Quote from a Movie: “I don’t know what your situation is but I wanted you to know what mine is not just to explain some rude behavior, but because we’re on a little boat for a while and… I’m soul sick. And you’re going to see that.” ~ Joe Versus The Volcano

(R) Right or Left Handed? Right.

(S) Siblings: 1 Older sister.

(T) Time You Wake Up? Depends on the day and the gig. Between 6 and 830am.

(U) Underwear: Boxers

(V) Vegetable You Dislike: Asparagus

(W) What Makes You Run Late: My eternal desire to procrastinate

(X) X-Rays You’ve Had Done: My wrists have been x-ray’ed more times than I can remember

(Y) Yummy Food You Make: A stuffed pork loin.

(Z) Zoo, Favorite Animal: Meerkat

Lots of thoughts.

In the past 48 hours, I’ve started quite a few blog posts. Most of them ended up being rambling messes. Some shifted focus pretty severely. None of them felt like the should be posted anywhere. I have a million thoughts in my head. No matter how many times I edit the entries, I’m still critical of them.

Of course, I could just post the pile of mostly edited unfinished blog entries.