Archive for the ‘Transistion’ Category

Rise, Walk, Swim, Rinse, and Repeat

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

A typical morning sequence

Even though abnormally hot during the previous Santa Clarita day the cooler night air cascades through the open window and over me in my bed. In these predawn moments I anticipate the alarm; it will be unwelcome and abrupt.

Then, 4:50am – it blasts; I can tolerate one push on the snooze bar without being too late to my swim. I do it, one push.

Roll out of bed and stagger to the bathroom; wash, and brush. I am moving around, but barely awake. I have found that my early morning swimming is just an extended form of waking… even once swimming I will feel lost in a transitional state.

Even as the morning sky is lightening, yellow, pink to blue, to night overhead, the planets, Venus and Mars, still shine brightly, unwilling to yeild to the approaching sun, yet they will – inevitably, they do.

Socks and shoes on the porch, poised like firemen’s gear, ready to go, always. Two squirts of hand lotion to counteract the drying effect of the chlorine.

The walk begins towards the gate, and then out into the wilderness. As the gates swings shut behind me I scale the steep embankment to start my 2 mile hike through relatively untouched Califronia Coastal Range terrain. Still in Northern Los Angeles County, and yet I live next to wild country.

Up to the first prominence, the highest point in my trek. A pause to deeply breath in the morning air. I turn slowly and I can scan the entire horizon. Pockets of low lying fog fill in small portions of the valley. Otherwise the sky is clear, and as it will be for the entire day.

Rabbits scurry through the brush. I’ve seen rattlesnakes, and I’ve heard them – whenever that happens I am glad for the warning. Evidence of coyotes, but no sightings. They leave rabbit carcasses and scat; they roam, and stick to their pack. This is their land, theirs and the other wildlife, yet, I walk through it as if it is mine.

Time goes by fast as I approach the pool, invigorated by my pre-swim walking warm-up.

Then poolside… I adjust my goggles, secure my earplugs, and then launch. I dive, limbs fully extended and my body sleek, I pierce the surface of the water. Immersed, alive, several dolphin kicks before starting my stroke. I will work hard; perhaps several thousand meters in 90 minutes, and yet it is as if I am still asleep.

It won’t be until after I’ve hauled myself out the water and showered, and started the hike back home, that I can claim to be fully awake. I will do this all again tomorrow.

For me, this is being fully alive, yet knowing – this is transition. Between sleep and wakefulness, conscious and engaged, but as if in a dream.


If writing is good for me, why is it depressing me?

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Hand, Hawk Feather, Horizon, Moon

Investing the energy required to revitalize this blog has been good for me. It’s been on my list of projects for a while, and I am happy to be up and running again.

I feel good about my ability to write, even to choose interesting subjects and provide useful information or insight. As a creative person, who also plays guitar and draws, it is good to make something from nothing, and to be productive.

So, if writing is so good for me, then why is it depressing me now?

I know it is not the act of writing itself. I’ve written regularly before, and I’ve enjoyed the process; online collectible-card-art reviews, and personal essays for example.

I think the difference is that now I am writing with purpose. Everything else I’ve written, aside from work, has been for fun, nothing was at stake. Write to provide some insight into artistic merit? Sure, no problem. Thought I had an interesting story to tell? Absolutely, go for it. So I did, and each time I got all the rewards I wanted and or needed. Neat and tidy.

This launch is different though. I seem to be on a mission, writing with purpose. Now I am seeking to discover a voice as I navigate through uncertain times. That purpose includes tackling issues related to being unemployed at a particularly vulnerable point in the typical career arc. For that voice to be meaningful it must at least speak to me and my needs. So I write for myself as an audience, however, not just myself. How much better if that voice would speak to others as well. People who might be in a similar position. People who find themselves in transition, and who are trying to become the better person that they need to be for their own future.

Even while I strive to be positive in writing, and even inject a little humor when possible there is no denying that part of this mission touches sensitive areas and sometimes opens old wounds. The starkness of facing the reality of the situation after decades of life investment into a career that was supposed to last up until a normal retirement age is itself palpable.

Also, in order to provide honest insight as part of this mission, some things I write might not reflect well on either myself or my former industry. Either of these mightn’t bode well for me if a recruiter or other possible employer stumbles upon this blog.

So if you happen to be recruiter, a prospective employer, or even a former colleague, know that I do not mean to alienate you; I simply mean to write with a mission. If however you find yourself offended, remember I am not writing for you, or to you – I am writing for myself and for anyone else who might benefit from my experience or insight.

Since this seems a valid mission and if dealing with a little depression is the price to pay, so be it. Writing this time, with purpose, the course of my future is at stake. I know the personal rewards will come, because if nothing else, I have already benefited from the process.

Oh, one last thing – “Go at Throttle Up!


[PS: thanks to for the help that they’ve been in the process. Revitalization of this blog commenced when I attended my first meetup with them. On that occasion they announced a month-long contest to encourage members to either start, or re-vitalize their own blog, with the goal being consistency in posting. Along the way Chris, the organizer of the group, as well as other members, have been a great help.]

A Brief Introduction to Systems Engineering

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Systems engineering is a specialized set of skills that deal with how large and complex projects are acquired for customers like the US Government. Often applied to the development of weapon systems by the defense industry, this approach was also applied for a time in the software development community.

The benefit of the approach, when practiced properly, is that large acquisitions will be more efficient during their development, they will be more likely to be delivered within their cost and schedule constraints, and they will more likely function as required once deployed.

Introduced in the late 1970’s the approach relies on use of diagrammatic models as a means of understanding the context of the systems, its interfaces and its functional requirements. A seminal textbook on the underlying modeling technique was Structured Analysis and System Specification, written by Tom DeMarco.

The goal for a system, as a prerequisite to full-scale development is to have a complete, correct, and executable specification. To do that, the system’s context, boundary, external entities, interfaces, functions, and data needs are defined throughout the process of modeling the system.

The method uses the power of abstraction to define each level appropriate to its implementation. Abstraction means that only the level of detail required is dealt with at that level, and subordinate details are abstracted and pushed down to the correct level where they are meaning full. For example if the system is military airlift, the highest specification only speaks to the distance, volume, frequency and reliability of transport that is required. The fact fact there may be a new airplane as part of the acquisition, or a ground transportation infrastructure, those are to be considered as lower level components and are separately modeled and specified.

Once potential problems are identified and solved in a process called functional analysis, the resulting models can be converted to a common language set of specification that represent each applicable level of implementation.

Realities of the modern economy, changes in acquisition, including likely reductions in defense funding will affect, and possibility displace, many in the workforce. Even though not in vogue outside of defense, the method still has merit. It simply remains as a challenge to the engineer in transition (from defense to commercial) to discover what concepts and portions of the method are reusable and will complement current commercial development techniques. Understanding these systems engineering concepts will be helpful in preparing for that transition. Although specific techniques may have evolved, the need for correctness in understanding the system being built has not.