Monday, day 1 of quarantine for me. The kids have been off of school for a week, but this was the first day I was told to stay home from work. So, what did I do?

Mostly… worked. On either work (IRAD supervision, resume tweaking for a staff member, phone meeting to get news of quarantine, pulling together ideas for kids & STEM) or our church website (solved some email problems for folks, updated a page or two). Got Cameron up and harangued him for not going to therapy. Planted some seeds. Got in a workout (burpee hell!). Got in a run. Listened to a webcast on cyber machine learning. Snuggled some cats. Uh, wrote a blog post.

Ultimately, stayed pretty busy. 4 more days to go this week…….!

Folks who are paying closer attention to this blog than it warrants may have caught notice of a link in the left navigation to a ‘Kubernetes 101‘ presentation. That link came about when I was asked a year or two ago to give a presentation at work on Kubernetes. I built the presentation deck based on a presentation I’d put together at a previous company which they were kind enough to give me access to again, and THAT presentation was a recap of some training materials I’d built out for a customer. So, I’ve gotten to present on Kubernetes a few times.

I’m now on my third project making use of Kubernetes, or k8s for short. The first go-round, I helped developers understand how to deploy things to it and someone else stood up and maintained the cluster. The second project, I built tools (“operators”) to run within k8s, as well as built scripts that automated the deployment of our clusters. This go-round, we’re using a new k8s distribution, with its own tooling for deployment and administration, and part of my role is to figure out whether our team found all the bits I’d been able to turn on in previous installations. (Auditing, for the record, is a good thing…). With each new project, k8s has matured and my angle for working with it has changed, so I get to learn and try new things.

That’s generally how software and systems development works… no one (or at least, vanishingly few) ever really knows a tool or language inside and out completely, particularly in connection with its full ecosystem. I’ve gotten to write Golang, Ansible, and Java (via k8s’s client-sdk). I’ve used REST APIs invoked via curl or hit the same endpoints using kubectl and its command syntax to interrogate k8s internal state. I’ve figured out how to query Prometheus using PromQL, and then how to interact with a time series database to which we’d exported the Prometheus data. Oh, and with each new release of k8s (they’re about to release 1.18), the capabilities and APIs change.

I got to interview an internship candidate today, and she (yay!) asked me what sorts of things you have to know to be a good candidate for our company. I told her a few of the technologies our current interns are using, but tried to make clear that the biggest thing about a career in technology is that you have to keep learning. That you have to keep humbly realizing you don’t (and can’t!) know it all. That you keep plugging away at deepening and widening your experience. That sometimes your experience tells you to bring in someone whose breadth and depth hits the problem from a different angle than your own.

Today was a fun day. Can’t wait to see what projects 3, 4, … and n, in k8s or other things, bring my way.

I’ve concluded that the metric by which God will assess my life isn’t dollars but the individual people whose lives I’ve touched.

Clayton Christensen, in an article for Harvard Business Review, “How Will You Measure Your Life”

Mr. Christensen is most famously known for writing “The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail”. He passed away yesterday.

How Will You Measure Your Life

Check the article for how he answered three questions, and why he thought they were the right three questions:

  • how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career?
  • how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness?
  • how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?

I’ll keep thinking on the three, and perhaps answer in a later post. Will just say up front that his questions are worth pondering.

It seems fitting after a long day of responsibility and leadership that I should look down at my feet and see wiggling ears on my socks. I remember that I paired these socks’ color with an executive ensemble designed to give a good impression in the office today. I put on my black boots to pair with my slacks, and the boots and the slacks covered the ears. But now the boots are off, the day is done, and the ears can wiggle. I am pleased in an illogical sort of way.

I spent most of last weekend at my alma mater, UMBC. Friday night, I met some new mentees through the CWIT mentoring program, and Saturday and Sunday were spent at HackUMBC. So, lots of opportunities to observe undergraduates in action and answer questions about what sorts of things my company does and who we hire.

The hackathon was a very interesting experience for me. Participants got started after lunch on Saturday and turned in their projects Sunday at 1. There was no guidance on what to build or who to build it with, other than that teams could consist of 1-4 participants. There were a few prizes offered by sponsors such as ourselves for which a team could go after – ours was for best data visualization but others sought best hack using Docker, best use of public financial data, or best use of Google Cloud Platform, just to name a few. There was nothing stopping a project from applying for multiple categories: I know we saw a project for our data visualization judging that used financial data and Docker containers – not sure if they hosted anything on Google Cloud Platform.

The goal of a hackathon isn’t only to win prizes, of course. It’s also supposed to give teams a chance to learn and apply new skills. The team that won our prize used Unity, a gaming engine. Other teams used d3.js or plot.ly or Google Maps + some HTML or even Minecraft (linking directly to that project – innovative idea). Some teams got farther than others: one team had a great concept and a locally installed Jupyter notebook (via Docker, if I remember correctly: check off a potential prize category) with a well-built out machine learning model that they could reason about and defend. But they just hadn’t gotten to hooking up their prototype UI to their data. Another team had a drop-down list to trigger a visualization, but could only as yet talk to their concept of the visualization. That didn’t win them our prize, but still gave those teams a good bit of interesting experiences to talk to us about.

Remember, these students had 24 hours to bring together a team, put together a project concept, and then execute on their concept. Now, I know practically that some of these folks team regularly together. And at least one team indicated they’d been scraping Twitter data ahead of the event to give them a leg up on building out their display that needed geo-located tweets. Still, though: I saw team formation happening in the hackathon Slack channel and at the tables in front of our sponsor area.

What was more amazing to me was that a few teams came up to our table and asked my guidance on what tools to use. Some of that happened late in the afternoon on Saturday. Meaning, they were picking their toolkits on the fly, and then building out their app without prior experience in at least portions of the stack. For a project that had a hard timeline, though admittedly loose requirements. Wow – the very thought gives me personally the shudders, were I in their shoes. Uh, I’d want to form my team knowing that folks had complementary skills that could come together to solve a generic set of problems. One team told me they didn’t know how to interact with databases and knew they wanted one, so they coded up a flat file database on the fly. I have to believe I’d have taken a different route, but kudos to them for pulling something off with it.

I’m trying to imagine how to use that hackathon idea for an event at my company or through BWIC. I’d have a hard time personally carving out a full weekend: attending the event during the day was a big enough lift, but many of the students stayed overnight. One indicated to me she’d had a great idea and burst of energy after her 20 minute power nap. Ugh. Been there, done that, don’t wanna go back! But maybe spreading it out over a week would work. Or constraining it to a day. It just looked like so much fun!

Today I turned 45. Usually on these 5 year mark birthdays, my hubby and I do a big birthday shindig, seeing as he turns the same age just some 12 days later. But this year he’ll be away on our “both”-day, as well as on his birthday. So this year’s celebration is a little more muted.

Markers for 45:

On Friday, I picked up eyeglasses. I finally realized that blurry vision while driving isn’t so good. And now realize I’ve generally been compensating in life – every time I take off my glasses I’m quickly reminded that my eyes don’t work as well as they used to. Somehow it wasn’t _quite_ so obvious before glasses.

On Saturday I went to the gym with my daughter, after doing a Crossfit workout earlier in the day. On Saturday I set a new PR. Still pushing my max forward so I can keep telling Cam I can bench more than he weighs.

On Sunday Clementine did her thing. 5 years ago, Clementine wasn’t even yet an idea for me. Now she’s a regular part of my life that I find most enjoyable. I’m even bringing in a little money with her this year, maybe just enough to cover what I otherwise spend…

On my actual birthday, I did the work thing and melded software to my will. Although I’ve had opportunities to step away from a technical path, I find it highly rewarding, both mentally and economically. After work, I did a Crossfit workout that had me doing 50 kettlebell swings and 50 burpees. I hate burpees – have since first introduced to them in college. But I think some 30+ years after first introduction, I’m doing them at least as well as I did then. Oh, and I PR’ed in my back squat, too.

So, thinking this 45 thing is OK. My hair color is still my own (with the occasional white hair), my body still more than works, and I’m finding lots of interesting things to get into. Oh, and my dear hubby and kids still love me! Yep, liking being 45.

We have two kittens in real life, as well as a cat. In my dream last night, I was in a house that was I think mine in the dream, but wasn’t my actual house… In the dream, I found a door to a new room, and opened it, and both of our kittens slipped into the room.

Inside the room, I found lots more kittens. They were all the same black and white colors as our two, and all very friendly. They start following me around getting attention, and I realize I can’t now pick out our original kittens. I find another door that leads into another part of the house, and open it up, and the kittens follow me out. Somewhere about this time, I realize two things. One is that the kitten room didn’t smell like a litter box, which struck me as odd. The second more terrifying thought is that these kittens have had some food source other than cat chow, since I didn’t know they were in the house. Suddenly I’m not so excited about being followed around.

I woke up from my dream to a kitten pawing at me, and now one of the little buggers is purring in my lap in the kitchen, occasionally gnawing on my fingers…

Last month was my one year anniversary with ClearEdge. I had the opportunity to drive our company Tesla for one day… and I passed it by because I was crazy-busy working on a proposal.

Sweet Tesla ride!

My chance came around earlier this month again, and I passed it by.. this time, I’d managed to lose my wallet and license while driving my motorcycle. Since I didn’t have a license to present for insurance purposes, I had to let my chance slide by.

This week, though – well, this week I had my license AND a new promotion to a director-level position. I didn’t let it pass me by. That Tesla and I drove to all the happening places: church for VBS, the Chic-Fil-A drive-through where my daughter was working, breakfast with my hubby for our anniversary (21!) AND the Bruster’s ice cream stand. Because the new cyber technical director needs to go out in style!

So, Tesla uniqueness… electric car, ridiculously good pickup : 0-60 in < 5 seconds. SO comfy inside.. Streaming music. Quiet ride. App that lets you make your passengers’ seats make fart noises. Automatic lights and windshield wipers. Self-driving.

Self-driving: As a parent who relatively recently had to ride with a new teenage driver, I have to confess feeling that same panic when auto-steering was on. As a software engineer, I never want to think about computers being in control. Watching Tesla think that the car next to me was shaking and pivoting 30 degrees back and forth into my lane did not give me confidence as I rode past a guy walking along the side of the road. And auto-steering did mean auto-braking on the highway as cars ahead of me slowed; it did not mean auto-braking at the red light in my neighborhood. Thankfully, I was watching and testing for that…

My twelve year old is convinced we should buy one. My frugalness suggests I’ll pass. That said, if ClearEdge were to pull my name from the hat in September as the winner, I’d be happy to use the fart app all the way down the highway…

Exemplars of search history on Google: “alternatives to Terraform”. “alternative to rubber chickens”. The things that software engineers who are also clowns search for.

Update!!!! Further down in my Google search result for rubber chickens I find a blog post that crosses rubber chickens and software development: Why rubber chickens make for better meetings! Hmmm – might be time to expense some rubber chickens!

I’ve spent the last few nights searching YouTube and Pinterest for designs for a wolf balloon animal. Thursday, Clementine is doing a Blue and Gold dinner, and while I had a tiger and bear design, I hadn’t found a wolf that worked for me. Meaning, I found _great_ wolves that were beyond the time and skill level I can use in a room filled with 25-40 kids. Plus, I wanted the visual wow factor of the wolf to be in line with that of the bear and the tiger.

Several nights spent looking, trying, even doing some attempts at designing on my own. Lots of balloon detritus, no wolf.

Skipping to the good part: I present to you – my wolf!

Single balloon design, imagine him in grey…    Notice the lower jaw forcing his head up in a howl, and then the tripod body.

Really happy with how he turned out…  now to just practice him 10 or 15 more times to make sure he consistently turns out well.  The cost of a balloon or two per kid isn’t expensive, but for me there are always a whole lot of balloons left around the house as I work to get ready for an event.