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.