Friday, July 28, 2006


Yesterday was an interesting day, in that "May you live in interesting times" sort of way. Normally i probably would have done a blog entry on the Floyd Landis situation. Last night i also had dinner with my martial arts instructor and our Sifu in celebration of my brown sash.

But the major event of the day was that my mom had emergency heart bypass surgery. It seems at this point that she's going to be OK, but she had to have at least a triple bypass so she's in for a long recovery. At 68 i realize that she isn't an unusual candidate for such surgery, but it's still hard for me to imagine. I don't really think of my parents as old even though they're retired and approaching 70. They don't have old-people habits and demeanor quite yet.

My mom is almost the same age as her father was when he died (of a stroke). Her mother is still alive and kicking in her mid 90s though. I always figured mom for the type who, like my grandmother, would live way beyond the normal life span just because she gets a lot out of life. I suppose it doesn't really work that way though. I don't really know at this point what the consequences of major heart surgery are. Obviously, she's not going to be running marathons and scaling mountains any time soon, but i don't really know how recoverable this kind of heart damage is.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


It took me quite a while, but i finally managed to take and pass the brown sash test at my martial arts school last night. I became the first adult brown sash at my branch of the school. The test was only about 1 1/2 hours long, but it was very exhausting. My arms and legs still hurt today. I think this test is so hard because of the abdundance of weapons forms and techniques.

Even though i figure i've got close to two years more to reach my black sash, i feel like this was an important milestone if only because i can more easily imagine reaching the black sash level now. It took me almost 4 years to reach this level, so i sort of imagine this as being my bachelor's degree and now i get to start on my master's degree.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Reporting To Me

After a few years off from the people-management thing, i find myself back in a technical management role. Why, i don't know. I really thought that i was done with that, because i didn't really like it much the last time 'round. It's not that i especially suck at it, it's just that i'm not sure i believe in hierarchical decision-making structures. There are times when it's convenient or more efficient to have an individual who must make the final decision, but i'm not sure that it leads to better decisions.

So far the hardest part this time is hiring people. There seems to be a dearth of really good Java programmers, especially those who have strong analytical capabilities. I get a lot of alphabet soup on resumes, but problem-solving skill is hard to come by. My company's interview procedure involves solving a relatively simple programming problem, and so far 4 of the 5 interviewees that i've had for senior positions have totally failed at it (we hired the 5th). This is *not* a hard problem. I posed the problem to my wife, who admittedly is quite intelligent but not a programmer, and she was able to describe a correct procedure for solving the problem without even benefit of pen and paper.

What's odder still is the many of these folks are very bright. They can conjure up obscure facts or calculations that are essentially irrelevant to the problem. What they lack is not intelligence, but some skill or trait that enables them to get to the point. They seem to have no apparatus for starting the problem. It's kind of like when my younger son Henry started playing soccer. He would quickly score 3 goals at the beginning of the game and they'd make him stop scoring. It wasn't that he was that much better at soccer, it's just that he seemed to understand the point of the game better.

Boy, i still really hate meetings too. Like a lot of companies these days we've got multiple management perspectives: the management of engineering, the management of projects, and the management of products. That basically means that any given engineer must deal with, at a minimum, 1 + 2 *(number of projects) people who can potentially call for meetings. At the technical management level that expands to the projects of everybody that reports to you, so basically life sucks.

My main motivation for this move were, i guess: 1) i liked the guy i worked for and he moved up, 2) i honestly think that the part of the business i work in is interesting and i hope to have some influence on it. Or maybe it's just because i'm old and it sounds better to say that i'm in middle management rather than a code monkey.