Friday, February 23, 2007

Exciting Developments!

I've just accepted a new position, Technical Architect for The new job expands my possibilities and I'm grateful for opportunity. Life in general has dealt me new cards every so often -- rarely does it deal me aces like this. Work is a huge part of life. In general, you spend more time at work than at just about any other activity short of family -- and I tend to put a lot of passion and creativity into my work.

The new role is more of a consulting bend than prior roles, although I've been in and out of several companies in North East Ohio -- and the word "permanent" as a job description continues to baffle me. If the company is out of business (like, say, Redicon corporation -- 1992-1996) was the job "permanent"? Is any technologically focused discipline "permanent"? Our language has not kept up with the times. I strive for permanence in my life, but continue to see the technological landscape as such an ever-changing thing that none of our usual constructs can apply.

I start on my birthday (I consider this to be a good sign). Stuff like this used to stress me out quite a bit -- now I view it as a gift -- so the stress, comparatively so, is very minimal. Other things take their place. Family issues, my wife's Mom in the hospital, for example, are far larger items.

The message here is that everything has perspective. Getting through complex things in the past, such as chaning jobs, has prepared me for this moment. I look back over the past 2 years with gratitude for all that has transpired. Remember this when the crazy-ness of your life overwhelms you. You're here for a reason -- and although that reason may not be apparent to you in the present, you have to know that sooner or later you'll have the explanation.

Monday, February 05, 2007



You get the feeling that cars are just so unsafe these days, and the magic bullet is technology. Here's a nice quote from our Friends at CNN/Money:

Great. Let's augment cars to have features to make up for insipidly lame drivers. I see all the gadgets coming -- soon cars will brake when they see you tailgating (some cars have this already), slow you down when you're speeding (Bonus points to the first manufacturer who integrates the cruise control with a radar detector) and automatically stop when you fall asleep at the wheel.

Speaking of which: Are we going to be allowed to drive in the future?

Let's put some of my sarcasm in perspective. I drive a Mustang GT in the snow around Ohio. Think it's dangerous? Possibly, but no more so than an unloaded 60's era pickup truck (Yeah, I know I'm reaching pretty low for comparison there, but bear with me). It makes up for it on the 99% of other days when the pavement is dry, or marginally wet in the summertime (I'm sure it's still dangerous for morons that forget they're pushing over 300 ft-lbs of torque).

What I'm driving at (sorry, couldn't resist the pun) is driver responsibility. We're packing cars with a ton of electronics, safety controls and the like and I'm sure that in the future some deaths *will* be avoided thanks to these devices. And that I suppose is worth something (We are, after all, talking about human life here). But I can't shake the feeling that a part of the drive to push this crap into vehicles wasn't manifested by people of the passive generation learning to drive. These people think of the steering wheel of their car like the remote on their TV, or worse, the game controller on their PS3 -- they can't imagine that the SUV they've been driving just might have its origins in heavy duty trucking hardware. Stuff like that had all of the precise handling characteristics of decent Lowe's handcart whilst giving you the ability to drive over logs in a forest. It was a decent trade off in the beginning of SUV-land.

Yeah, I know it didn't have to be that way, but there is a root in what I'm saying here: Heavy hardware comes at a price. So one solution is simple; Make the future generations of SUVs off of car chassis and let the buying public imagine themselves to be the off-road types in safer hardware (before you get outraged at this bait and switch, this happened already, just in case somehow you missed the news over the past, say, 5 years).

Face it -- 99% of these puppies will never see mud in their lifetimes, which is just as well, given the payload. No, I'm not talking about hauling golf clubs or computer hardware or some other fragile payload -- I'm talking to any parent of 3 that has ever done time cleaning the back seat of a station wagon (er, sorry, cross-over-SUV!) that has seen items like jelly sandwiches and soda pop smeared over 80% of the area -- and we're talking smooth freeway driving here. Take that same trip and payload off-road for a few minutes and we'll see the backseat *painted* in jelly with a soda-pop veneer. The coverage will likely be closer to 100% and if you've leased the thing you'll need an extra clause in your insurance to cover cleanup.

What I'm really saying is that it's too bad it has to come to this. The solution for some of this could be had with a bit more emphasis on good driving techniques. Let's try not tailgating people, for example. Maybe slow down in heavy traffic situations -- get off the damn cell phone while we're at it.

I do a lot of driving and it's amazing to me how many drivers are on a cell phone around me on the freeway. I have a bright yellow Mustang GT -- the 3 times it was almost smacked all had one thing in common -- a driver on a cell phone. The thing is so obvious its like driving a warning beacon with stripes, yet people are oblivious when they're talking away.

I gotta wonder, too, what the road conditions are going to be like with all of this safety hardware. Maybe this is the only way. Possibly when the machines take over driving to and from destinations, things will in fact be better.

We inch closer every day. Remember life without cell phones? Neither do I. Driving without traction control, anti-lock brakes (yeah, these things are good) -- a lot of things are quickly popping into existence, and soon we'll see a point where the amount of computer hardware in a car will rival that of a data-center today. We've already crossed that line a few times in the past, so this isn't all that hard to predict.

I don't know where I was headed here, except to whiners'-ville. Maybe I'm just wondering out loud if a bit more common sense could be shoveled into the equation where it belongs, and less of this computers-know-best interference and demand could be avoided. Maybe I just like the crudeness of my pony-car, and worry that someday it'll shut down on me when I'm trying to enjoy myself. Whatever the fear, it's getting more real by the year.

Please Ford, keep stuff like this out of the Mustang Experience -- I'll take a bit of crudeness and joy, any day.