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I’m off this week, and while loafing around the house I took an hour or so to search the web about Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), a former employer. That was a mistake, because it got me thinking about my past. This was fun for a while, and then it got sobering.

I worked for DEC from February 1978 until August 1996. During the glory years (before 1986) it was an adventure. We were on a world-changing mission. The code I wrote would live on and the work I did was so cool. Working for DEC was like working for Microsoft in the ’90s or ’00s, except that nobody hated your company. It was like working for Google except that nobody thought you were evil. It was like working for Amazon but pretty much everyone loved working there and it seemed like the world rooted for you to succeed. Most of all, everything we did clicked. There were some bad decisions, but the company always recovered and went on to greater glory.

I wrote CPU microcode for the VAX-11/750 and VAX 8600, worked on some cancelled projects that nobody will ever know about (ECL microprocessors, large ECL mainframes, a new RISC architecture), and my last project was working on Windows NT at DECwest.  In its day the VAX 8600 micropipeline was the coolest thing since sliced bread. How many people today know or care about it? Zip.

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We recently adopted two cats. One of them, Faith, is a monkey head who loves to play all the time. Play play play play play play play.

Two mornings ago, I came home and was unable to find her. Looked high and low. Looked in every room, under every furniture, under the blankets in the closets in the garage, basement, attic, outside three times, shook the cat food container, called her name.

I panicked, and texted the missus, “Come home ASAP, Faith must have gotten outside, SHE’S GONE I CAN’T FIND HER.”  She texted back asking if I checked here or there, were the doors left open, etc. COME HOME NOW SHE’S GONE.

I was frantic with worry.

The missus tells me to get back to work, she’s on her way home, we’ll find her.

I’m beset with worry. If anything happened to Faith, I would never forgive myself. She must be in pain somewhere. She got outside and a dump truck ran over her. Oh no oh no nonononononono….

So five minutes later, I’m sitting at my desk trying very hard to concentrate on work, but failing.

In walks Faith, looking to play. Like, “I heard you calling me for 30 minutes but ignored you. Let’s play.”

That little $%^&^&*)(&*(_)&^&*$^%$^*(^&*)(^%^#$^&*!

Faith the monkey head

Faith the monkey head


Now and then, I regret the tip I’ve left at a restaurant. Virtually every time this happens it’s because I thought I had been a little cheap.

The server did a great job, the pre-tax total was $24.00, and I left $4.75. Or the server did an OK job, the pre-tax total was $36.00, and I left $5.00 or $5.25.

I saved myself 25 cents or whatever. Big deal! The savings won’t affect my lifestyle. What am I trying to prove?

That extra bit would mean more to the server than it would to me. I enjoy giving money to street performers, so why don’t I tip better in restaurants?

Maybe because, like some people, I think tipping is a silly custom. Maybe that’s what it is: I think it’s silly but go along with it anyway, because that’s how we conduct restaurant business in the US.

By not liking it, but doing it anyway and being cheap, I’m not making anyone happy. I’m not delighting the server, and I’m giving myself a mental itch. I need to get off the fence and pick one side or the other. Either don’t tip at all, or, do it right.

I’ll start tipping better from this moment forward. When in doubt, I’ll round up. There. Side chosen!


I’m not doing much blogging lately. Obviously.

I’ve spent lots of time at work. We’re doing a big release in January, and there’s no end of bugs to fix, features to tweak, and QA logs through which to grep. It’s not a death march by any means, but it is, I admit, a bit of a grind. Far more time is being spent on technology integration than is ideal, and I had expected.

It’ll be good to get it behind us. I’m looking forward to being able to make some strategic technology and process choices afterward.

I’m looking forward to replacing my 2008-vintage MBP at home with a new model, probably in February.

End of report.


Personal and professional integrity matter. They’re the most important gifts you can give yourself.

I’m reminded of this by an article I read today about a firm. I know a lot about this particular company. The article was, essentially, a marketing puff-piece, the kind of thing you read in a rag like the Puget Sound Business Journal. The news is always positive, everything’s great, and the future is so bright they have to wear shades. (Companies that go ventral fin up from poor strategy, execution, business models, marketing strategy, malfeasance, or outright stupidity never get written up.)

I expect spin from such articles. It’s OK. There’s a time and place for everything, including positioning a corporate brand or reputation, and spreading news about business opportunities.

But there’s a line you don’t cross. You don’t claim something that is not true. Period. Once you’ve done that, your credibility evaporates. Losing credibility is like losing privacy — once it happens, it’s awfully hard to restore. I have a long memory for negative-credibility moves, as do many (most?) others.

I counted three statements in this article that I know are false. A couple of others were borderline. I also know the company spokespeople interviewed in the article know they were false.

Such behavior is pathetic. Yeah, this is a hot button of mine.

Principles only mean something when you stick to them when it’s inconvenient.

– Laine Hanson, “The Contender”

Here’s a rule: Never lie. Never say something that’s not true. If you’d rather not talk about it, say that and move on.


We said goodbye to Max today. I thought I’d be able to go in to work afterward, but I had to take a PTO day.

The rest of the week will be WIPO application importing and parsing, and entity naming heuristics. Today I didn’t want to deal with any of it.