10/31/2017

Tennis League

The tennis season ended today at the new club.  I signed up for mens singles 4.5, scheduled to play 6 matches.  Due to hurricane Irma, matches got shifted.  Turns out I won 4 out of 4 plus a forfeit and someone dropped out.

Today they announced the winners, I received first place.  Picked up a prize. A new insulated cup.


Its been about 10 years since last competitive league, even though not in great shape, was fun to play some tennis.  Sitting behind a keyboard all day, good to get oxygen flowing.

Not sure what's next as far as leagues, play it by ear.

And there you have it!

10/29/2017

Securing the Data is Top Priority

The recent data breach at a major information store house company should send alarm flags to every major business today.

If they can hack an almost impenetrable system, chances are, yours could be next.  I once heard that any device connected to the internet is hack-able.  And it's playing out in real life.

If I was responsible for securing data, I would go out and hire the best security team available and set up a fortress, best that money could buy.  It's easier to defend before an event happens than to clean up the mess down stream.

Security experts should be well employed from here until eternity.  Yes, having great data converted to insights to increase sales, reduce costs and streamline process' is great, but if hackers can access your data dump on the internet and your business shuts down, that's not too good.

Data breaches are real.  They happen every day.  To some of the biggest orgs out there, especially the ones that have valuable data for exploitation.

Security first!  That's the way I see it.

And so it goes~!

Barriers to Entry in the Workforce

What would you like to be when you grow up?  I'd like to be CEO.

What are the barriers to entry?  Well, you most likely have a degree or two or three and tons of business experience.  So why aren't there more CEOs?  Limited number of positions.  Why aren't there CEO positions listed on the job boards?  There are different barriers to entry.  CEO's are not filled the same way most jobs are filled.

What are the barriers of entry to most positions?  College degree, industry experience, entry level, or lateral moves.

Many people have a comfort zone.  This is what I do, this is what I did, this is what I'm going to do.  Typically, not much variation over the long haul.  Perhaps some upward mobility depending on your work ethic or lack of, your ability to play politics and your ability to get things done.

In the world, there are 3 typical jobs.  You make something.  You service something.  Or you sell something.

Some jobs overlap.

Musicians make music.  Artist make art.  Authors make books.  Bakers make goods.  Chefs make meals.

Medical profession is in the business of service, yet they tend to sell things, discretely or not, to their patients, or customers.

Sales people sell things.  Shoe salespeople sell shoes.  Umbrella sales people sell umbrellas.

Although the roles are segments, they tend to overlap.  And good workers are skilled in all three areas.

Programmers make programs.  They also service programs.  And perhaps they sell those programs.  Or they sell their ideas or service to other departments internally.

Back in the day, a programmer sat behind a fortress, was provided specifications, and worked for months uninterrupted to produce a final product.  They were the gatekeepers as they held proprietary information and, the ability to translate business process into machine code in form of application, which had value to users.

Now programmers must service their clients, whomever they may be, as well as sell themselves, their skills, their value.

Typically, those versed in writing code have been intellectual if you may.  Programmers tended to be introverted or socially inept.  No more, now programmers must have social skills and sales skills if they wish to survive.

Not only that, what are the barriers to entry?  College degree, real world experience and perhaps know someone.  Once you get foot in the door, college degree becomes irrelevant for the most part.  Either you provide value, by making something, servicing something, or selling something.  Or a combination of all three.

Can you enter the world of programming without College degree?   It's possible.  If you have ability and knowledge to solve problems, there are jobs waiting available, as IT has shortage of qualified workers.

If I was going through the system today, I'd probably skip the traditional 4 year college diploma.  First, it's costly.  Second, they teach you the basics.  Third, you delay entry into the workforce, losing out on valuable time.  Forth, by the time you graduate, the world of IT has already changed and you're behind the curve.

If it were me, I'd learn as much as possible in High School before graduation.  I'd get involved with industry experts through networking, take on some free projects to gain real world experience, by creating a side business.  I'd attend classes on the internet, perhaps some certifications, so I had the necessary skills out of the gate.  Completely bypass the traditional 4 year diploma.  Perhaps in time, attend courses at night, maybe get an AA degree, perhaps Bachelors, maybe MBA, who knows.  PhD, most likely not.

Programming computers has a lower barriers to entry than many occupations, with one of the biggest upward mobility potential.  You can increase salary quite a bit in a short time, so long as you have the skills, motivation, work ethic and understanding of how business run.

I wouldn't stay at the same job very long, as that's passe.  Pensions went away, no use in staying put for very long.  Here's why.  

When you move jobs, you learn new ways to do things, you meet new people, and solve new problems.  Within a few years, you have enough real world experience, projects under you belt and flexibility to climb the ladder of your own terms.  You can't depend on the company to provide that upward mobility.  

Reason being, they want immediate results, they'd rather hire from the outside than train internal people, hold carrots to entice loyalty.  Now that healthcare is available outside the corporations, there are really no immediate ties which handcuffed a good chunk of the workforce prior.  People got lazy, they liked their seniority, x weeks off a year, corner office.  They preferred the pecking order and lack of change, how people hate change.  Many folks worked harder at keeping the job they had, avoiding actual work, primarily for job security.  Those days are over.  Job security is dead.

If I was going through the system today, I'd find a way to make it happen, by self learning how to program a variety of different technologies and claw a way into the work force, and relentlessly learn new skills.  As today's corporate ladder doesn't go up, it goes sideways and down.  You have to own your destiny and not rely on outdated models.

And so it goes~!

10/14/2017

With All our Technology Why haven't We Improved These

We talk about technology helping mankind in amazing ways.

Why haven't we found an easier way to remove garbage and waste from society?  We sure do produce lots of plastics and empty packaging and waste.  In a Consumer society, at some point, everything becomes waste.  I imagine we won't have museums in the future, as none of this stuff will last that long.

Why haven't we found a better way to feed society.  Agriculture got us out of the savanna and on to farms, how many people do you know that are full time farmers?  In that regard, why haven't we created synthesized foods, that bypass the need to have cattle and dairy and fruits and vegetables.  How about a pill wash down with glass of water?

Why haven't we created a better mechanism for the standard Toilets.  Seems like people have been using bathrooms for a very long time.  This is the best we can do?

These three are very basic needs.

How about others?

Why haven't we centralized the health care records.  This one seems like a no brain'er.  We certainly have storage, software, networks, security (maybe), and some really smart people.  Imagine how much savings could be had.  And perhaps better care, faster, more efficient.

Why aren't children considered adults sooner.  Why must children wait until 18 years of age?  Seems like children could be fast tracked and become adults much younger?  Once they reach puberty, they could become parents.  Why do we have 12 grades of school, locking kids into the system until adulthood?  Why not become 'legal' adults sooner.  Does this rule seem a bit outdated?  Like when we needed a dozen kids to work the farm to get the crops in.  I'd say, in the interim, if parents sign waver, child becomes adult when they say, otherwise, wait until 18.  If parent signs waiver to drink alcohol, join military, clergy, etc. make it happen.

Why don't we have an additional 'legal' status, before becoming married.  Like 'sort of married'.  Can have a ceremony, gifts, cake, dancing, except the two are not united in holy matrimony, until death do they part.  They're just trying it out, see if it's a fit.  Sure would cut down on the divorce rate.

Why do people get drivers licences at 16 years old, and never tested again?  Seems like a test now and then wouldn't hurt.  Just to verify the eyes and ears and reflexes are still performing.  And new rules appear all the time on the road, people don't keep up with new rules.  Why not have classes and tests periodically keep people up to standards.  Maybe reduce a few wrecks here and there.

And so it goes~!

Some Questions about Robots and their Role in Society

Assuming Robots enter society, what is our approach towards their mental health.

Will Robots get depressed?  Will they feel fatigue?  Will they feel euphoria?

Assuming Robots had emotions, could they love?  Could they hate?  Would they become spiteful, jealous, envy, revenge?

I could see a Robot in conflict, two prime directives, unsure which takes priority.  Sort of like having someone dipped in freezing water below the waist and excessive heat above the waist.  Body doesn't know how to respond as too much stimuli, not sure which to fix first.  Do they attempt to get out of the freezing water first, then take care of the heat?  What sort of mental dilemma would the Robot experience.

Robot, go to the store, pick me up a box of pop tarts.  Robot gets there, they are out of pop tarts.  Should they get an alternative instead?  Should they go to another store?  Should they return, order on the web?  How would a Robot decide If-Then-Else when the variables are greater?

Would Robots have preferences?  Robot 1 prefers the color Green Robot 2 likes Blue.  If the Robots shared a room, what color would they paint it, Green or Blue?  Perhaps Robot 1 stabs Robot 2 in his/her sleep.

How would that be handled?  Would Robot 1 go to court, hire an attorney, be locked up in prison?  What if Robot 1 was instructed by a human to stab Robot 2, or perhaps their Spouse or Partner?  Robot 1 performed the deed, could the person dictating the order be held responsible?

What if we had a Robot army?  Would Robots feel remorse or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?  Would a Robot be paid for services?  Would a Robot seek Mental Health counseling, assuming it had Insurance?

Could humans purchase Life Insurance on a Robot?  Will Robots have warranty periods and expiration dates?  What if a Robot receives a faulty upgrade patch, goes off the deep end, who gets held responsible?

Would a Robot have thoughts?  About life and death?  Existentialism?  Would it feel remorse?  Or happiness?  Could it plan future events to steer outcomes such that it would benefit over another Robot or Human?

Would a Robot sleep?  Or would it work 24/7?  Would it get time off to pursue interests?  Would a Robot get married?  Divorced?  Polygamy or Monogamy?  Could it adopt little Robots or Human children?  Could it have pets?  Could it earn salary?  Have  a bank account?  Could a Robot run for elected Office?  Could a Robot have a funeral?

Keep in mind, when we discuss Robots, we are encapsulating Artificial General Intelligence beings, that are self aware, autonomous and have free will, to a degree.

So we have legal questions, property questions, health questions, family questions, liability questions, just about every question imaginable.

Robots are on the horizon.  Are we ready?

10/13/2017

Slaying Dragons

Have you ever tried to untangle a knot?  It's a difficult task indeed.  You must have patience, attention to detail with meticulous steps to outsmart your tangled knot.

Solving puzzles is sort of fun once in a while.  Especially the difficult ones.

Sometimes at work you get a tough challenge to solve.  Typically with short deadline.  Like the production server is down, could you please fix it, for example.

When solving a problem, its a good idea to have quiet space.  So you can concentrate.  For focus and attention.  However, there are times, before you can fix that problem, you need to fix another problem.  Sometimes related, sometimes dependency's involved, sometimes unrelated.

And before you can work on those issues, you have to fix this, this and this.  So you can imagine, pressure times pressure times pressure.

You have to peel the layers of onion problems to get to the core problem.  These can potentially be stressful situations.  Some people run from these.  Others role up their sleeves and set forth, into the unknown.

When all the messes are cleaned up, the seas quiet down and all is well, you can sit back and reflect, and have meeting to assess damage, how to prevent in future, document, and of course, assign blame.

And when you retire and sitting around, you can think about your war stories, tell people how you got your ulcers and high blood pressure, and slayed many a dragon in your prime.  And that's really all that matters.

Slaying dragons!

And so it goes~!

10/11/2017

Tennis is Life

For some reason I signed up for the tennis league at the club.  Played the first match, seemed to go a lot easier than I thought it would.

We had a bad stretch of weather and hadn't played in a while.  Got an email to schedule next match.  Got there a few minutes early, decided to stretch out as that's the one ingredient most people conveniently forget.  Ran the lines a bit, reminded of my younger self 30 years ago.

We warmed up briefly, started play.  They stuck us on the back courts, away from most players, except the clinic on the courts across the way.  I was relaxed and focused.  Possibly from multi tasking all day concentrating on the reports and trying to get numbers to match and write code and attend meetings and cooped up all day.

Out on the courts, free as a bird, my mind was quiet.  I had glasses on and could see the ball early.  Got to the ball in plenty of time.  The balls hit to me were not hit hard, they had some air and took a while to get there, so I could run to each ball, track it down, hit a steady shot back, nothing fancy.

I tend to run down every ball and get everything back and this match was turning out that way.  Would hit the ball side to side, down the line, hit it short, make him stretch, run to each shot, keep the ball low.  Each point ended with a well placed shot, not powerful, just well positioned.

Although the weather was warm, humid in fact, sweating through the shirt in no time, I didn't feel slightest bit tired.  The first set ended quickly, 6-0.

Next set, we were tied 1-1, I went up 2-1.  We chatted between games.  Although a competitive match, it was friendly, the thought of losing never entered mind.  I have never played this focused, where the ball went where it was supposed to, every single time, without much thought or effort, the only points I lost when the ball went slightly out, going for the line and just missing.

Not sure people realize how much I trained as a kid.  My coach Cid, during private lessons, would have me hit 25 forehands cross court, ball had to land behind the service line, in the box.  Miss one, start over.  Then down the line forehands.  Next, backhands, cross court and down the line, 25 balls or start over.  Volleys, overheads, serves.  I enjoyed the lessons more than matches.  My career record did not match my level of play during lessons.  Perhaps no pressure, maybe better focus, no fear of losing, not sure.

The match I was playing was similar.  I could hit the ball all day long, didn't want it to end.  But it did, 6-1 in the second set.  We thanked each other, good match, play in the club tournament, see ya next time.

In all my years, I never hit the ball that well, consistent, precise.  I may have only lost a handful of points overall.  Although 30 years have passed, I could sit out there all day chasing down balls, getting everything back, without getting tired.  Perhaps a form of meditation, mind and body in synch, running on instinct, getting lost on the courts.  I think that's how I got through high school now that I think about it.

After school, every day, at the club 3:30 till dark, then worked at the club sweeping the courts.  Or practice on the High School team or with the other Juniors in town with a coach from Bolleteri (now IMG).  Tennis was life.  School was a barrier to get through to get on the courts.  I disliked the school environment since the 8th grade, not fitting in all that well, except for a hand full of people that knew me and my humor.  Every day I played tennis and worked out, ran, weights, jump rope, weekends too.

This match made me think of the good old days, when the outside world didn't matter much, outside the courts.  The only thing that mattered was tennis.  Training, practicing, playing.  Trying to improve.  Challenging better players.  Getting stronger.  Winning.  Losing.  Play again.  Climb the ladder.

When I'm on the clay tennis courts, running around, focusing on nothing in particular, I abandon the real world, as the racket becomes an extension of the arm, the legs move on their own, the mind quiets down, perhaps an inner game of chess, floating around near the baseline, I chase down every ball, every time.  

Tennis is life.  I grew up on the courts.  Where life's problems disappear.  There are no limits on the tennis courts.  It felt good to be home, if just for an hour.

10/07/2017

Opportunity Costs Are Everywhere

What's an "opportunity cost"?

Imagine a youngster, involved in: Baseball, basketball, bowling, soccer, swimming. track, roller skating, violin and tennis.  

It's possible to become great in everything, chances are, not really.  In order to pursue greatness, one must focus on a particular skill set.  For me, it was tennis.

That was actually the suggestion of my mother, who drove me and my brother to practice every single day and with carpools.  She also financed my tennis lessons.  Private lessons, group lessons, leagues, tournaments, rackets, strings, grips, clothes, etc.  Probably could have purchased a few cars with that money.

I never won Wimbledon or the US Open.  But the point is that in order to get good as something, you have to drop other things.  And that's known as opportunity costs.

You can apply that to technology.  I started as programmer, databases and report writing.  The languages changed over time.  Eventually, I dropped programming to work specifically with data.    

Within data, there are a dozen different technologies to learn and master.  Some people like Extract Transform and Load, others like Reports, Cubes, NoSQL, Big Data, Performance tune, Data Modeling, Architecture, Developer, Project Manager, Supervisor, Manager.  And within each segment, there are a dozen different vendors and tools.  And those tools must integrate with other technologies and tools.

And then we have Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Streaming Data, Algorithms, Statistics, Visualizations, Graph, and so on.  So even within a specific segment of technology, Data, we have a couple dozen choices, vendors, roles.

You either try to keep up with all of them, become descent, or pick one or two and become great.  Keep in mind, as you choose, you are dropping your expertise level on the other technologies.  That is the price to pay, or cost, for your opportunity to specialize.

Or you could hit the lottery and that would take care of things just fine.

And so it goes~!

10/02/2017

Billable Hours

With 13 weeks remaining in 2017, decided to review billable hours for the year.

From high level, on current project, if you combine billable hours + travel and subtract out Holidays, Jury Duty, PTO, Admin time, looking at 120% billable hour rate capacity.

In other words, if you figure each week has 40 potential hours and I worked x number of weeks, I worked every possible hour plus 20% on top of that.  20% of 40 hours is 8 hours, so I've worked on average 48 hours per week for the past 30 weeks.  Although I didn't find time to get training last year or this year.  And last year I let some vacation go unused.

The thing is, although I bill 40 hours max, chances are, I work over 40 hours.  So that would indicate the % is higher.  Although the travel of 171 hours doesn't include the extra day layover on Sundays and I flew home on Friday's 9pm to save money.  And I stayed at AirBnB majority of nights when traveling.  

Found out this week my contract got extended until end of the year.

If you think about it, I taught that online Azure course over a year and a half ago, and till this day, I don't have a single line of code in Azure.  I taught the course on SQL Database, SQL Data Warehouse, Hadoop, HDInsight, Streaming Analytics, Power BI, AzureML, Data Factory, Service Bus, maybe some U-SQL and had a section on Artificial Intelligence.

But I've been writing standard SQL against AWS Data Lake Hive tables the entire project with some PowerBI.com.  SQL hasn't change much in 21 years.

Looking to close out the year, try to use up some of that PTO and start prepping for 2018.  Got some time off scheduled, head to the mountains.  Probably leave the laptops home!

And so it goes~!