All the best, Steve

When I was 15, I wrote my first really useful program. I’d written lots of cute little distractions, and followed tutorials to write code that made computers do neat things — my first when I was 11, I think. But during a 10th grade Computer Science class, when the assignment was to write a program that drew 4 different shapes on the screen, I decided to instead write a MacPaint clone. Using Turing. And not even Turing OOP, just crude old procedural code.
Of course I was no Bill Atkinson (nowhere close!) and my teacher, permanently frustrated with my lack of focus, actually failed me on the assignment. But it was pretty functional, and I was proud of it. So I e-mailed it to a guy I knew of, working at this computer company called NeXT, and told him I was going to come work for him some day:
This was years after he’d been ousted from Apple, and while NeXT’s technology was amazing, and hugely impactful behind-the-scenes in the technology world — NeXT workstations running in labs and at universities — they were never the press darling that Apple was. Still, I was very pleased when he replied:
“I’ll be keeping my eye out for you.
These days, Steve’s one-liner replies to apparently randomly selected e-mails he receives, of which I’m sure there are thousands daily, are still exciting enough to make most of the gadget sites and geek blogs. For a 15-year old kid, failing computer science because I couldn’t “follow instruction” it was the encouragement I needed to keep going.
When Steve Jobs came back to Apple as the “interim CEO“, bringing NeXT’s revolutionary operating system with him, and charging the brilliant designer Jonathan Ive to differentiate Apple’s sea of samey products in a marketplace full of beige and boring, he re-sparked the imagination of an industry. What he’s done since: from the iMac, to the iPod to the iPhone, delighted all of us, but surprised none who’d used the original Mac. We reasonably expect Steve to shake things up. It is his demanding, sometimes tactless, but visionary genius that shaped his company — and helped shape the industry.
I won’t pretend to be emotional about a man I don’t really know resigning from a company I don’t work for — unlike some of the press. But I will acknowledge that this is the end of an era. When Bill Gates resigned from Microsoft, the industry lost a brilliant thinker, engineer and businessman. As Steve winds down his presence at Apple, the industry is losing a brilliant creator, leader and artist.
I’m a little disappointed that I was too young to end up working for either of them — having missed Bill by a few years at Microsoft, and having followed a path not likely to end in Cupertino (save for that one night I crashed the bar where Apple employees hang out, Windows Mobile phone in tow!) But I’m proud to have the opportunity to occasionally stand in the shadows these titans still cast.

10 Years

10 years ago we were a pair of dumb kids, not yet done college, with big dreams about the future (and very little idea about what it would take to get there!) but we were surrounded by friends and family who loved us, believed in us, and helped us get this far.
10 years ago, in a little church in a little town near where Nic grew up, we committed to be together through better and worse. We’ve seen some of each — but most of it has been pretty great. And we’ve had some pretty awesome adventures along the way.
We’re 10 years older than the kids in this picture, so we’re a little wiser… and maybe not quite as trim (or functional!) as we were then, but we still have big dreams about the future, and still are blessed by friends and family in our relationship regularly. And we’re very thankful to be celebrating our 10th anniversary — and looking forward to another few decades together!
Love you, hun!
PS Our joint Facebook post for the day: 10 years, 9 homes, 8 cars, 7 churches, 6 hospital stays, 5 jobs, 4 roommates, 3 kids, 2 continents, 1 love.

Falling out of bed in a room with no floor

This has been an interesting summer. We’ve experienced a wide range of life: from births to weddings to hospital beds to new jobs. One thing we haven’t done is any sort of holiday. So, when I realised I had two days of meetings set-up near Cleveland, where some good friends live, rather than fly by myself and stay in a hotel on the company dime, we loaded up the family van and took a road trip to stay with our friends.


10 years ago, John and Karen, and their cherub-like children, Amy and Caleb were in our wedding as we started our family together. Now their kids are teenagers, and our kids are cherub…ish. We’ve been so fortunate to have the example and friendship of this family in our lives — practically since we started dating. They’ve demonstrated how to raise intelligent, Godly children in a loving home, while balancing a demanding professional life. While both Nicole and I have great parents who have also been great role models, the roads God has led John and Karen down often look a lot like where He has led us, so its so wonderful to compare notes, get advice, and discuss life with another family a little ahead of us in the race.

The roadtrip went well, the kids loved being with Amy and Caleb (and felt awfully lucky to each get to have sleep-overs in a bigger kid’s room), John and Karen took the kids for us for a night, so we could have a couple date-outings alone, and our two families got to spend some nice moments together. Over-all, well worth the 6 hour drive.

By September, we’ll have lots to look back on, and lots to look forward too. A recap of some of these things, for posterity:

  • To keep from sinking into depression after the accident, I picked up some code-consulting work on the side, for a friend’s small business. I was pleased to find that I’ve still “got it” and was able to pump out some pretty tight code. It reminded me that I still love the elegant problem solving of programming, and inspired me to keep that skillset up – in what little spare time I have.
  • This coming Saturday my little sister gets married here in London. Ben and Abi get to be in a wedding again, and we’re hoping that its even more special than the last.
  • I helped launch Church At Home – a new online ministry of our church here. I got to exercise some tech from my employer that I wouldn’t normally come across, tinker with networks, serve with a team, and troubleshoot every possible thing that could go wrong with a web stream.
  • I finished a very challenging year at work. The results were not what I worked for, and there’s sure to be some lessons in there, but I came out OK – good enough that I was able to move to a new role that should give me better opportunity to succeed. With the two-year commitment that role required, we’ve finally got some peace about our financial, and educational plans for the family.
  • Eli has settled into our little clan wonderfully. She’s on a healthy routine that let’s everyone sleep, but is flexible enough that we get to keep up with our lives. If she’d take a bottle every once in awhile, that’d be great. But nobody’s perfect.

My leg is on a slow but steady road to a near-complete recovery – they say I’ll eventually be as good as 95% – but we still were robbed of a summer. With acceptable results from last FY, and the extra work I picked up over the summer, we’re planning a real, actual family vacation in January:

We’re going to Florida. For like a month. To all our friends and family: consider this an open invite to come down and visit us…

On Social Justice

Call it the underdog syndrome, but I can’t help but look at the other side of every argument… and sympathize with the loser. When the Republicans were in power, I couldn’t help but agree with the Democratic viewpoint. Now that the Democrats are in power, I can’t help but examine the arguments of the other guys. I can’t say that I’ll ever be aligning myself with the Religious Right – frankly, I think they’re insane. But upon closer examination, I have to give some merit to some of their thinking.
Part of the blame goes to Ayn Rand – whose philosophy I could never subscribe to, but who’s opinions are interesting. I make it a point in the summer to include on my reading list material I do not agree with. Her sizeable novel , Atlas Shrugged, finally made it onto my list this year. A small sampling of her viewpoint is that man’s noblest goals are found in producing, and that our worst evil is found in taking (or supplying) that which is unearned. She believes in unbridled capitalism, and in her book, illustrates causation between regulation and forced social justice and the downfall of her (somewhat) fictional society. The polar opposite of her beliefs is a kind of industrial communism, and every bad guy in her books is educated, soft, produces nothing, and instead manipulates the system to steal from the producing rich to give to the undeserving poor.
The essence of the Republican viewpoint on taxation and social justice, taken to the extreme in Rand’s writing, is that to enforce restriction and taxation on the job-producing, market-creating rich is to erode a civilization’s ability to be self-sustaining. But to be fair to the opposition, Rand’s philosophy leaves no room for evil outside of “looting” – she does not acknowledge greed or avarice on the part of the wealthy, painting them only as completely noble for their efforts. Her self-created religion does not allow for the fallen nature of man… But neither does the Democrat’s.
The part that starts to make sense to me is the opposition to social justice as a new form of religion. That large companies these days generally have an altruistic arm, that political platforms are built on a regulated social justice policy, does seem to take from the individual the personal decision to act within their own means both for the provision of themselves and their families and the ability to choose to help others out of a greater moral compunction than a party or company activity. If giving to the poor is a function of paying our taxes, than why would we personally feel challenged to act outside of the systems put in place by organizational decision?
In short, I think lately I’m putting new emphasis on the value of paying one’s own way – recognizing that in my own life, were I to stop working, I believe I might stop existing… and that indeed in the examples I’ve seen of those who do not work, and live with a sense of un-earned entitlement and damaged self-worth as a result, that there may be something to the notion that personal accountability cannot be forfeited in the face of the social justice movement. But I’ll couple that with the notion that there is a place for compassion and grace, and lending a hand to another human being in need, whether he deserves it or not – but it’s not the place of government or company side-effort, rather it should be a personal activity, within the context of relationship: sacrifice for others, not because it’s socially or politically encouraged, but out of an overflow of Christ-like love for our fellow, fallen brothers and sisters.

New Role, Less Travel…

A few months ago there was an opening in the education team, working with a local company, among others, that I talked to my manager about going after. Unfortunately, by the time I was done talking, the position was filled. Well, that position re-opened last week, and this time I jumped on it. On the advice of my manager, director, some respected co-workers, and an external career mentor, and with the blessing of my GM, I’m moving out of the manufacturing industry, and into education.
This is exciting in a couple ways.
First, its a departure from the vertical that I’ve spent 12 successful years in. Manufacturing has been good to me, and I’ve built up a good network, good knowledge-base and command a solid degree of respect in discussions about manufacturing software. When my sometimes relatively youthful looks don’t lend the credibility I need, my resume gets me a seat at the table. To step out of that arena and into a new one is a little nerve-wracking. There’ll be new players, new terminology and different needs for the partners I work with. But I’m not entirely green to it either — having watched my dad, who’s a educator, enjoy and/or complain about the software he uses for years. It should be a fun challenge, but not an overwhelming one.
Second, as I mentioned earlier, the travel is much more local. I’ll have 4 partners I’m working with, but 3 are on the east coast, and one exciting one is right here in town. That means a 20 minute drive to meet with an important and agile influencer in this space — instead of a 6 hour journey across the continent!
Of course it’ll be hard to hand-off the great partners I’ve been working with, and the great pipeline of projects I’d invested in, but growth means change, and I positively savour new adventures. Nicole probably won’t complain too much about having me a little closer to home either.
I’m going to add, on the spiritual front, that, as per usual, I have no idea why God continues to bless my career — and its our hope and prayer that He’s going to do something with this equipping, other than just bless us. He definitely seems to have had this in play, even when I got hit by a car and had to sell my sweet, but totally unpresentable old beater, and replace it with a ridiculously ostentatious-looking, yet not-that-expensive, luxury sedan completely appropriate for visiting partner sites.