Encore une fois

Back on April 8, 2006, I wrote about how I was tackling life after Sun:

First, information gathering. I’m going to talk to many colleagues — ex-Sun, still at Sun, never at Sun — about the state of the computer business: who’s hiring, what’s hot, and how they see things shifting between on-shore and off-shore, US and international, full-time and contract, in-house and consulting, and so forth. At this point, I’m trying to keep an open mind about almost everything. As part of this, I’m flying out to California for a few days at the end of the month.

And three years later this is what I’m doing again. I’m in the middle of two weeks of extensive discussions with friends, colleagues, and contacts here in the Seattle area; then on March 30th I’m flying down to SFO for a week of networking in Silicon Valley. If you’d like to get together while I’m down there, drop me a line….

Time to dump the New Scientist

I’ve always thought that a few British journals were outstandingly good at conveying complex ideas in an accessible and well-written manner. The Economist did it for economics – even if they have lurched to the right politically – and the New Scientist did the same for science.
How have the mighty fallen.
The once-respected New Scientist has gone completely off the deep end. First, they ran their misleading/pandering “Darwin was wrong” issue. Next they run – and then censor – a perfectly sensible piece on the agenda of pseudo-scientists. And now they’re trying to use their recent “image” as part of their self-promotional material – to say, in effect, “this is who we are”. As Jerry Coyne suggests, it’s time for a boycott to register our disapproval. PZ agrees:

When New Scientist ran their misleading “Darwin was wrong” cover, we hammered at them and pointed out that they were doing us no favors — they were giving ammunition to creationists who would never read the contents, but would wave that cover at school board meetings. And they did. We chastised the editor, Roger Highfield, and we had the impression that he was penitent, but it turns out we were completely wrong.

New Scientist is now using that same cover again in their promotional material to flog magazines.


Today is a day for the making of lists. For checking lists. For arranging to get hold of hard copies of all the documents that I used to keep in electronic form on my work-supplied laptop.
Here’s a useful hint: save PDF copies of all of the output from your company’s on-line self-service tools – payroll, benefits, stocks, etc. – and email them to your home system. I was pretty careful about this, but not as scrupulous as I should have been. Mea culpa. Never mind.
A head-scratching item. I’m a book lender – I always have been. And I don’t bother to keep any records of what I’ve lent to whom; someone comes by my office with a question, and I grab the right book from my shelf and say, “Read this – let me have it back when you’re done.” Sometimes they do, but people are forgetful. And there’s no real rush, is there? So when my office is cleaned out, and my books are brought down the hill to me, I know that there will be half a dozen missing. Oh, well.
And now I must run off to have coffee with a colleague. A lot of people want to talk….

Decisions, decisions

Well, 24 hours after my unexpected departure from Amazon, things are looking pretty good. I’ve been talking (generic term for communications via telephone, email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blog, and old-fashioned face-to-face speech) with many people, and there are a number of interesting prospects on the horizon. I’m still trying to decide what I want to do and when I want to do it. Should I plunge straight in, or take a break and then hope that the opportunities will still be there? Take a vacation? (I can’t remember the last one.) Full-time or consulting? Write a book? Stay in Seattle, or move?
(I’m irresistibly reminded of the lyrics from the Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls”:

Too many shadows, whispering voices
Faces on posters, too many choices
If, when, why, what, how much have you got
Have you got it do you get it
If so how often
Which do you choose
A hard or soft option
(How much do you need)

Too many choices. I hope that’s not an illusion….)
Never mind; there’s no rush. In the meantime, thanks to all who have wished me well, requested my résumé (an interim version of which is here), and asked to stay in contact. If you’re in Seattle, drop me a line and we’ll have coffee. (I tend to hang out at the Starbucks by Union Station; they know exactly how I like my quad espresso macchiato with extra non-fat foam.)

Well, that was unexpected

I’m leaving Amazon.com, effective today. One more statistic of this economy…. Anyway, if anyone’s interested in hiring or consulting with someone who’s been thinking about how to put “tier 1” services in the cloud, drop me a line. I understand that it’s a rather hot topic.

50 Reasons To Reject Evolution

Via the Barefoot Bum, Bobbie-the-Jean gives us 50 hilarious reasons to reject evolution. My three favourites:

12.) Because the fact that science is self-correcting annoys me. Most of my other beliefs are rigidly fixed and uncorrectable.

17.) Because I’m 100% correct about everything 100% of the time and there is 0% chance that some snooty Oxford educated scientist with numerous honorary doctorates could possibly know something that I don’t.

19.) Because I don’t understand why, if we share common ancestry with chimps, there are still chimps. And when someone with more than three brain cells in their head inevitably replies: “for the same reason Americans share common ancestry with Brits but there are still Brits, I can’t follow the logic. It’s just too big a leap. Who am I, Evil Knievel?

Probably the best spy novel I've ever read

I just posted a review of an outstanding new novel: The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer:

Back in the early 60s, I remember reading a variety of spy novels. On the one hand, there were the exuberant and exotic romps by Ian Fleming; on the other, gritty and cynical pieces like Len Deighton’s Horse Under Water and The Ipcress File. Perhaps my favourites were the early works of John Le Carré, such as The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and The Looking Glass War. From the mid-70s onward I stopped reading the genre, however: Le Carré seemed to be more interested in studying varieties of deep personal failure, while writers like Ludlum and Forsyth focussed on action at the expense of realism. And don’t get me started on the techno-thrillers.
So “The Tourist” is the first real spy novel that I’ve read in years. And it’s amazing. I read it in a couple of sittings, and I was completely mesmerized. It’s a complex story, with many actors collaborating and deceiving each other, but Steinhauer keeps everything crystal clear. I never felt the need to backtrack to check something, nor that the author had tried to slip anything past me. The story is seamlessly interwoven with real contemporary geopolitical events; if you’re looking for a primer on the state of affairs in Sudan, this may fill the gap. The complex motivations of the key characters are utterly convincing, and the outcome is sadly satisfying, in the way that Le Carré used to do so well.
I have to say that this feels like the best spy novel I’ve ever read. I’m going to try to get hold of some of the early works of Len Deighton (most of which are, inexplicably, out of print), just so I can compare and contrast. “Best ever” or not, “The Tourist” is outstanding. File it under “Fiction”, rather than pigeon-holing it.

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger

Mars Hill is a nice low-key blog run by Paul Burgin over in Baldock (Herts, England). Most of the postings are about British politics, but he also runs an interesting series called “Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger”. For the most part, these aren’t the “A list” blogs: they represent the diversity of ordinary people who have found that blogging gives them a way of expressing themselves. People like Andrew Sullivan and David Carr may argue about the relationship if blogging to journalism, but there are plenty of bloggers who have no pretensions to being members of the Fourth Estate. They just want to write.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying that Paul has just posted my “Twenty Questions” interview here. There’s nothing startling or revelatory here: no “25 things you don’t know about me” or other blogmeme stuff. I think that’s why I really enjoyed doing it. Thanks, Paul.