Moving On – Staying the Same

Over the last few years I’ve had a really cool and challenging job – My job was in IBM research.  I worked to help our researchers get their innovations to market via customer engagements and trying to get product teams to take those assets and integrate them into products.  The basic idea was that we have tons of really valuable technology in research that is struggling to drive high revenue growth for the rest of the company, since it was not a fully supported product.  I was really lucky to focus in areas of technology that I love, Internet of Things and Cognitive Technologies. I also helped drive a new process that allowed research assets to be exposed publicaly on the cloud, so customers could experiment with these technologies.  The roll was really fun and exciting, but as with any really large corporation, sometimes it is hard to get things going as fast as I’d like.

Well now that I feel we have a good, and repeatable process, for getting these research capabilities into the hands of customers via the cloud, I am moving on to a new challenge.  The new challenge will be focusing on the Internet of Things and Cognitive technologies, but from a brand persepctive.  I will be working on “big plays” – meaning things that move the needle financially, in these two areas for the Watson IoT business.  And I know that I will be leveraging research… So now I will work to get research assets to market in order to drive financial growth and success.

I like to think of this transition in the following way… the last few years I was pushing research capabilities to the business to drive growth, and now I will pull research assets into the business unit to drive growth.  I love working for a company where I get these opportunities.  

Let’s do this!

Is an increase coming for Electric Bills

Over the last 18 years, we’ve investigated putting solar panels on our house many times. Unfortunately, there are many reasons we have not installed them:

  • The house is facing the wrong direction, we can get around this by putting the panels at an inclined angle, but living in the Hurricane state, this would be like putting a sail on the house. When high winds come in, it would rip off our roof (not an attractive option).
  • We have too many trees, and we don’t to lose them.  We could cut them down, but see the first bullet.
  • We have been talked out of it by our general contractor. He claimed to have been a big supporter, but lost so much money in the 90’s that he could not support installing them anymore.

Well, North Carolina is one of the top states in the country using solar.  I believe one reason is Apple built a new data center in the state, that uses solar.

One of the things we see around the globe is that the costs for the electric grid are spread out over years and consumers.  As Germany has installed tons of solar, the existing grid is being impacted by lost revenue.  When I saw the report today that Amazon is starting to put solar panels on all their warehouses, I had a crazy thought.  As more and more businesses install solar panels, their use of the Grid will drop.  As their use drops, the consumers will be burdened with more and more of the fixed costs of running the grid.  Raising our basic rates.

Somehow we need to accelerate the adoption of solar by home users.

Freedom of the Press

This will be a biased blog post.  The bias will be mine.  The bias is formed by my life, my education, and my beliefs.

When the United States was young, very young, we wrote a document called “The Constitution“. The purpose of this document was to correct the many problems that were identified by our first attempt at starting a government with “The Articles of Confederation“. (For those who don’t remember these, they were an attempt to make the states the center of the country and to grossly limit the powers of the federal government).  Part of getting “The Constitution” accepted, was the creation of a the first 10 amendments.  These amendments are know as “The Bill of Rights“.  

The “First Amendment” was created, in my mind, as the MOST important amendment.  While the NRA and other gun rights supporters may feel that the “Second Amendment” is the most important, I tend to disagree.  

The first address a few issues that were critical for a representative democracy. Let’s look at the words:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

First, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”.  With much of the country being settled by families that had lived under monarchies (who were “legitimized” by god, i.e. by a religious fiat), removing this aspect and allowing people to worship in the matter which is aligned with their own beliefs and conscious, was critical to allowing ideas and thoughts to grow.  With no establishment of religion, people can also choose NOT to believe in a good or religion.  That is there right.

Second, “or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press;”.  Again, when your prior government was announced to be anointed by god, and therefore unassailable, the freedom of speech and the press phrase shows that the people are allowed and encoured to speak up, and have an advocate in the press.  We see this point challenged quickly with the “Alien and Sedition Acts.”  The idea of voter suppression was a key part of these acts, the Federalists were worried that too many people were becoming citizens and would change the direction of the company.  Three of the four acts will quickly repealed after Thomas Jefferson became president. 

And third, “or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Governament of a redress of grievances.” And finally with a thoughtful and vocal populous, the writers of this amendment encourage us to question the government and petition for change.  

I am a supporter of the first amendment. I got my undergraduate degree in Journalism.  I podcast. I blog. 

When I see the behavior of government officials attacking the press, because they don’t agree with questions or stories, I look back at the first amendment and like to call BS. We have these right, and even when we don’t agree with people, they have the right to speak their minds.  Free speech, can be done thru words and actions.

A feel good movie, but so much more

This past weekend I finally got to see the movie “Hidden Figures” – the true story of three African American women in the 1960s who worked at NASA and helped send John Glenn into orbit, and safely back to earth.  As you may know, I work at IBM, and IBM helped provide some resources for this movie, but this post is not about IBM’s part in the movie.  

While the movie hit all the right points of making you feel good about people being given a chance to perform at their very best, people over coming the adversity of institutional racism, and the advancement of society as a whole, I did come away with a few other impressions.  I loved this movies, and will certainly add it to my movie collection once it is available for purchase.  It made me cry and swell with pride on the triumph of smart people achieving great things.  Watching the closing credits to see how far the three women advanced in NASA, with many firsts among them, lifted my spirits after a long hard week of work.

Having said this, the other take away was that we, as a society, have not really advanced much and we have back slid in some areas.  First, we have the constant advancement of technology and its impact on people’s jobs and livelihood.  There are two groups of computers at NASA:  The East (all white) and West (all African American).  When the IBM computer starts getting installed, one of the characters, who have is also skilled in mechanical engineering, not only takes it upon hereself to fix some wiring (which has caused many delays in the getting the IBM computer installed and working) but also spends time to learn how to program in FORTRAN, as she sees that if she doesn’t learn she will lose her job.  She not only teaches herself to program but she setups classes to reach the rest of the West computing group to program, there by saving their jobs.  The East group does not do this, and ultimately has to come to her to get trained and get a few of the staff jobs in programming. We have seen this play out time and time again in our society, technology advances, and those who don’t retrain fall behind.  A former IBMer I had the opportunity to work with years ago, recently posted a blog post on this thought as it relates to AI; – Thanks Irving Wladawsky-Berger.  Navigating these transitions can be scary but as we’ve seen in the past, we’ve managed before.

Second, if we look at the tech industry we continue to hear about the disproportional amount of guys who are programmers and engineers.  When we look back at history there are multiple great examples of women who did great things and we don’t celebrate enough to drive diversity in the industry.  The creator of COBOL Dr. Grace Hopper was female and Ada Lovelace was instrumental in founding programming working with Charles Babbage.  But somehow, the number of women in computing, mathmatics and science continues to be low.  We need to celebrate achievements and continue to drive more and more of our talents kids and teenagers to these fields.  If we don’t do this, will be able to make the next transition as technologies advance, or will we continue to fall back to more and more social disparities.

Finally, the 1960’s and 70’s drove the US to break down racial barriers. We had common goals and a rising social consciousness which got people to break down the Jim Crow laws, integrate schools and businesses, and focus on our raising all people out of problems caused by segregation.  Beginning in the 1980s and continuing to now, we have been slowly resegrating parts of our society.  We see this thru things like redlining and the drawings of congressional districts.  This slow restablishing of social segregation, drives sterotypes and prejudices. 

Hopefully, we can address all three of these society issues thru continued and renewed focus on learning and education.  If we help all people learn to the maximum of their potential, we can establish a workforce ready for the new jobs of the future.  As people work in these new jobs they will go to the areas where the jobs are (via social mobility) and hopefully this break down the tendency to restablish residential segregation. 

As a kid, I was considered different because I liked school.  As an adult I continue to love to learn.  Hopefully movies like “Hidden Figures” will get more people to focus on the careers and technologies of the future.

Latest Musings (January 2017)

OK, this post may rub people the wrong way, but my goal for this blog has always been away of thinking out loud.  My thoughts are just that, my thoughts.

We have just witnessed a huge, tremendous, historic election and inauguration. Well, it wasn’t huge in turn out, with a lot of people sitting out the election.  In my opinion people sat out for one of three reasons:

  1. Frustration with the selection of candidates.  I was not a major supporter of Hillary Clinton, and I never understood the visceral hatred that she engendered with a whole swath of the electorate.  I was a fan President Bill Clinton, I even had the opportunity to see him twice… once when he was running for President in 1992 (got to shake his hands) and once a few years ago in North Carolina.  He oversaw an impressive era of growth and transition.  But he wasn’t running. I was never a fan of Donald Trump, to me he represents the worst of worst.  In my opinion, his public persona on his reality TV show is the epitome of the entitled CEO.  He ran a campaign appealing to the base hatred of the masses, racism, sexism, isolationism, and nationalism. All things, I believe, have driven horrible behavior in people since the dawn of time.
  2. Systematic gerrymandering of state election practices.  Both parties republicans and democrates have practiced this over the years, but the republicans have perfected this over the last two decades.  When we look at the results of the popular vote and the electoral college vote, there is a disconnect between what the people want and what they got.  I don’t believe we should only look at the popular vote, as this impacts minority and underrepresented voters, in the election of their representatives in congress, but this gerrymandering was set up to play to the extremes of both parties.  And now we see the results.
  3. Focusing on personalities instead of policies.  When the majority of the republican primary was driven by attacks and bullying by Donald Trump against the other candidates, “lying Ted”, etc.  This same behavior was passsd into the election with “Crooked Hillary”, which caused people to not engage.  The focus on email servers, which were proven multiple times to not be different behavior than the prior two Secretaries of State, seem to me to force people to focus on playing into the personality discussion instead of the policies.  On the Trump side, he once again played to fear, uncertainty and doubt instead of detailed policies.  I am wondering if in the next two years, we see a major backlash to the outcomes of the policies that follow.

Since the election is over, we now are seeing major backlash from the progressive supporters.  I expect given the systematic gerrymandering and playing to the extremes of both parties, we would have seen similar backlash on the far conservative right too.  

I went to Journalism School and have long been frustrated that cable news has gone from news to opinion.  My belief is that this “business” focus of news has been the cause of the loss of respect that the news has gotten.  It is why I don’t call it “the media”.  The media includes entertainment, the news is about facts.  Dan Rather has been doing a great set of blog posts on Facebook for the last year.  Reminds me of Walter Cronkite.  I enjoy NPR and the BBC. Both of which provide long form news stories and in depth analysis.  The Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC’s of the world to me are more entertinament then they are news.  I hope what we are seeing with the total lack of respect for the “forth estate” on holding our government accountable doesn’t cause even more people to bow out of the election.  If it does, I am afraid we will see more “Donald Trumps” in government.  Years ago we saw the rise of the MBA President (treating government as business) which I believe is a big mistake.  I’d hate to see what comes next with our current trajectory.

2016 The year in Review

Wow, what a year 2016 has been! While politics and work have had their major ups and downs, I did get a ton of good reading in this year. I figured a great way to wrap up the year would be to go back thru the books and just think about them here. Enjoy.

January 5th – I finished reading “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation” by Bill Nye. While Bill Nye is at times a pompous ass, this book was very thoughtful and entertaining. His ability to take complex issues and explain them for the average person is a trait he inherited from Carl Sagan. I had started this book in 2015, but finished it in 2016 so I am counting it this year. If you have a scientific mind – read this book.

January 26th – I finished reading “The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution” by Jonathan Hennessey. This is my first full book of 2016. Like a good Pilsner, this book is a light, tasteful read. Like a IPA, it can leave a great buzz in your brain – the buzz of knowledge. And like a nice Stout, you finish the book satisfied. If you’ve not gotten into reading “historical” comics, perhaps this is the one for you. Read it with your favorite beverage in your other hand.

February 4th – My friend Ian Hughes (AKA- ePredator) published his second book in the story of Rosin. “Cont3xt” by ePredator is that book. It is a worthy sequel to his first book – Reconfigure. The story of Rosin continues and immediately expands the universe in a logical manner. What I really like about ePredator’s books is it uses a lot of relevant and current references without naming names, this should allow future readers to enjoy this book too.

February 7th – One of many free ebooks I started reading this year from many lists – “The Wolves of Paris” by Michael Wallace. Cashing in on the werwolf phenom of late, this book is well written, but not really my style. If you like werwolf love stories… this one is for you.

February 15th – I finished Felicia Day’s “You’re Never Weird on the Internet“. I had the great pleasure of meeting Felicia Day at a conference for work many years ago. Her story reminds me of many parts of my own life, except for the home schooling, and the successful internet celebrity. What blew me away was all the trouble that was going on in her life when I met her, that didn’t show in her attitude and public appearances. Reminds me that we are all human. Go read this book!

February 24th – Time for some technical work reading – “The Practice of Network Security Monitoring: Understanding Incident Detection and Response” by Richard Bejtlich. I worked on this book for about a year, as I didn’t really have a need to read it, but had picked it up while I was at RSA in 2015. More of a manual with background than a book to read, but it certainly opened up my eyes on how a SOC must work.

February 27th – While work is hard, having a nice glass of wine is the reward. I read “Reading Between the Wines: With a New Preface” by Terry Theise while traveling overseas. I did a bit more traveling in 2016 than I wanted to, but at least it gave me some time to read. I tend to like red wines, this book got me thinking I should go back and try a few more German white wines.

April 16th – The second of my “free” ebooks for 2016. “Breakers” by Edward W. Robertson. A science fiction novel that took a while to get going, but really enjoyed it in the end. Once the story got past all the exposition, it seemed to kick into a higher gear. May have to check out the rest of the series, which is the reason for giving it away as a free ebook.

May 13th – Another book about wine! So far I’ve had beer and wine this year, and the second book on wine is also a winner. “A Hedonist in the Cellar” Adventures in Wine” by Jay McInerney is a series of essays by the author. While the book was 10 years old, it gave me ideas for new wines to try. Hope I can find a few of them.

May 13th – My second technical book of the year. I was trying to figure out why my OS X Server was not working as I expected, imaging my delight when I found “Take Control of OS X Server” by Charles Edge, JR. The take control series of books are great for getting thru some of the features of a Mac/iOS environment. Highly recommended.

May 30th – Science, I love science! The book “Cosmic Legacy: Space, Time and the Human Mind” by Greg F. Reinking, was a very tough read. I got this book a few years back and kept dipping in and out of it. This year, I promised myself I would read the whole thing thru. I did, and it was well worth it. While I have the hardback version, the link above takes you to it online, where it is now available for free.

June 8th – Back to some mindless fun reading. Another ebook I got this year, was the book “The Kennedy Secret” by Steve Richer. This thriller takes you into a fun conspiracy based on the Kennedy family. And no, it is not real, it’s a fiction.

June 28th – My first re-read of the year. During my travels this year I got to rewatch the movie based on the book “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” by Michael Lewis. I had read this book when it first came out. Michael does a great job of explaining the complexity behind the financial meltdown of 2007-2008. If you watched the movie, go read this book!

August 1st – Those who know me, know I love Dragons. Another free ebook was “Rise of Dragons (Kings and Sorcerers, #1)” by Morgan Rice. I got this book and whole slew of other books from Morgan Rice by signing up for her new letter. I have no real memory of actually reading this book. But it is in my GoodReeds tracking. Maybe I will re-read it in 2017 and see if it was any good.

September 1st – I know many people who are huge fans of Neil Gaiman. To be honest, I should be, but I had not remember actually reading any of his prior work before I got this book from my wife as a gift. “The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction” by Neil Gaiman is a series of essays and speeches that Neil Gaiman has given in his life as a writer. Amazing! I now have a list of great books that he has written and that he recommends in these pages. I even picked up a copy of the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe on my iPad to go thru after this.

October 1st – Hmmmm. June to October where crazy busy at work and in life. I didn’t get much time to actually read so It seems that I was able to read another book. This technology / business book by Don Tapscott was “Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin is Changing Money, Business, and the World“. Nope it’s not a pretensive title, I do believe that blockchain has the potential to change a ton of things. My biggest worry about Blockchain is that it will be hijacked by large financial institutions and many of the potential positives that Don and his son talk about in this book will fail to be realized.

October 16th – “Post-Human Series Books 1-4” by David Simpson. This book took me almost a full year to read. No, it wasn’t a bad book, it was a compendium of 4 books, and I really enjoyed it. It is not high art, but for a good pulp about AI and Science Fiction it was enjoyable.

November 12th – “Wild-born (Psionic Pentalogy, #1)” by Adrian Howell. This young adult fiction was a good palette cleanser. The book tells the story about a child who discovers he has telekinetic powers. This discover opened up a whole new world where some people have the power, some people don’t and every one wants to control Adrian.

December 4th – We are getting down to the end of the year and I am getting into some interesting stores. “Evensong (Merits Trilogy #1)” by Krista Walsh is one of those stories. The premise of this book is a typical sword and sorcery story, until the author get’s pulled into the world of their own creation. We now have to deal with the world that being manipulated by the author realizing who he is, and how his powers can be used to fit a few festering problems.

December 16th – I read this book as another free ebook, but it was out of sequence. I have since added all the rest of the series to my reading list. “The Last Firewall (Singularity Series Book 3)” by William Hertling was awesome. William works at HP during the day, and has spent time writing, what I consider, a great book on how Artificial intelligence (or as we call it now – Cognitive technologies) could end up changing humans. As ePredator helped kick off the year of fiction with AR/VR, William helps ended it on Cognitive technologies. Highly recommended.

December 26th – The last book I finished this year is “Black Panther #1” by Ta-Nehisi Coastes. This graphic novel helped me get re-aquinted with Marvel’s Black Panther comic. Incredible art work, and the with Ta-Nehisi writing the storyline, it is much more engaging than many comics lately. Seeing a positive technological perspective of Africa, even if it is a comic, I hope get’s people past their backwards views of other cultures.

As I said when I started this post, it’s been an interesting year. I hope that 2017 is a relaxing / boring year.