Monthly Archives: June 2007

summertime … and the livin’ is busy

Wow – busy weekend. 

Friday, my dad and I went to see Ken Griffey Jr.’s return to Seattle, as the Reds demolished the Mariners 16-1.  The pregame stuff was nice, but the game itself was the ugliest I’ve seen.

Yesterday was Kayla’s tenth birthday.  In just six years, she’ll be eligible to drive (eeek!).  We had a nice, low key day.  She and I went over to the nearby state park, and did a 5k together and enjoyed a pancake breakfast.  Evening saw us heading out for a nice Italian dinner, followed by cake and stories.

I got up early this morning to join my teammates doing the Mountains to Sound Relay.  That’s a 100 mile relay from Snoqualmie Pass, up in the Cascade Mountains over to Golden Gardens Park on the shores of Puget Sound in Seattle.  It includes a 23 mile mountain bike ride, 42 mile road bike ride, 12 miles of kayaking, a half marathon, and then a glory run of 10K.  I only knew the team captain (we’d run together), so I’d looked forward to the dual adventures of the event, and getting to know everyone.

As it turned out, I bailed on the team right after doing my part (the mountain bike ride).  So much for my team spirit.  Lots going on around home though, so it couldn’t be helped.

As predicted, the race was an adventure.  At least the part I was present for was anyway.  We met at our team captain’s house early on the morning of the event.  Due to a last minute change of plans, we were 40 minutes later than planned in leaving.  So, after several wrong turns (hard to do that on such a direct route), almost losing my bike (oops – didn’t strap it in properly), and barreling up I90 at 80 mph (thanks Moin!), we arrived at the start with five minutes to spare.  That was just enough time to pee and line up.

The route was all downhill, along the Iron Horse Trail, from Hyak to Rattlesnake Lake.  It was a steady 1-2% grade and not very technical at all.  One twist was a 2 mile trip through a very dark, damp, and crowded railroad tunnel.  Picture several hundred overcaffeinated mountain bikers hurtling through the dark at 20+ mph, all shouting "on your left" at once.  Nope – not dull at all.

After coming back out into the light, I settled into a pace group of about 20 bikes.  Not having been part of any bike events to speak of, I didn’t quite have the pace group etiquette down.  The person in front of me seemed to go a little too slow for me, but after running to the front a couple of times and burning through my legs, I decided a little too slow was better than a little too fast.

The course featured a couple of old trestle bridges.  These guys were a couple of hundred feet up, with nice high fences on each side, but that same rock they put under railroad tracks.  It was like riding on a bunch of golf balls, except they were a lot more jagged, and shot up from the rear wheel of the guy in front of you. 

As we approached the first one, someone shouted out "BRIDGE!!!".  I thought "wow – that’s unusual, are they going to give a shout out to all of the geographic features of the course?".  As we hit the aforementioned rocks, I understood why the bridge warranted a shout-out.  It was impossible to control the bike at high speed, so I slowed down (as everyone else did), but managed to stay on the bike as we crossed.

We almost stacked up on the second bridge.  The guy in front of me fishtailed wildly, and then wiped out.  I managed to hit my brakes and avoid him, but not the curses of the guy directly behind me who didn’t anticipate the sudden change in speed.

Other than those little bits of excitement, and getting covered head to toe in mud, it was fairly uneventful.

I finished 9th (of nearly 40) in our division, keeping a pace of over 20 mph.  That’s pretty good, and I should be content with that.  But being a type A person, I complained bitterly under my breath that I would have placed third in a masters division.  That’s what I get for racing with the younger folks.  Great fun, in any case.

Kris and the girls met me at the transition.  Then we drove to Seattle to pick up my car.  Then the girls and I headed to Whidbey Island for an outing with the baseball team.  It’s always a great time riding the ferry, even when the weather’s a bit dodgy.  We picked up lunch stuff and went out to Double Bluff Beach.  The original plan was to run around in the tidepools, but it was too windy and cold for that.  Instead we played around in some driftwood forts for a while.

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Then we studied some things that washed up from the sound.

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When the second wave of rain began, we drove over to the South Whidbey Community Park, where we picnicked and played games.  Check Rachel’s touchdown run out!

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Everyone ran around and enjoyed the sunshine.

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Later – some pirates showed up too.

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After running around a lot, we braved the ferry line for the trip back to the mainland.  It wasn’t too bad, and most of the team was on the same ferry as we were.

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The girls liked watching the ferry depart the dock at Clinton.  It was pretty cool watching the car ramp go up, and the ship push off through the pilons.

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We caravanned to a school in Mulkiteo and let the kids run a bit before grabbing some dinner.  Finally got home at around 8:30 – a very long day!  Also incredibly fun.

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running in a friend’s footsteps

Two years ago this week I was taking in a Father’s Day baseball game with my dad in Seattle.  Right around the second inning, I got a phone message which shook me to my core.

My work and running colleague Peter had been in a bad bicycle accident while doing a century ride east of Seattle.  He passed away twelve days later, leaving behind family and friends who miss him very much.

I think about him sometimes when I’m out running, because he was good company, and also a very good athlete.

I reflect sometimes on the experience of watching people rally around him, and on saying goodbye.  More than that though -seeing the hole he left in the hearts of his loved ones, his colleagues at work, and his community of friends reminds me that each person touches the lives of many others.  You leave more of an impression and make more of a difference than you can know. 

It’s important to make everything you do count – whether you’re doing work, running on a mountain trail, or spending time with the people you love.


how I will get fired

Whenever I get the chance, I’ll carve some time out of the workday to go for a run.  It’s a great way to break up the day, and it gives me time to think and refocus.  Today my friend Ben and I went out for a long slow run near work.  It was a bit drizzly, a bit cool, which makes for pretty good running weather.

When I finished up,I went back to my car to get some dry clothes.  I reasoned that I’d be better off just changing into another pair of shorts and a shirt, getting some work done and taking a shower later.

Well – the quickest way to do that is to close the car door, change, and hope that no one walks up next to you.

I was sitting in my front seat, pantsless with a towel draped over me, about to pull on dry shorts, when someone did walk up to the car.  Not just anyone mind you, but a guy who is interested in working on the team.

What do you say in a situation like that?  I’m not sure I remember.


little league season is over

Today was the end of season picnic for the little league team I helped to coach.  The weather cooperated, and everyone seemed to have a nice time.  Several of the moms made all of the arrangements.  They happened to pick one of my favorite nearby parks, we were close to the playground, the food was great, and the kids ran around and had fun.

My friend Landy, who managed the team handed out trophies, and said something about each of the kids.  It was very nice, thoughtful stuff about how each had improved in some big way, how they picked their teammates up, how they made a great catch sometime, had gotten better at hitting, or how their attitude made everyone a better player.

Then they gave the coaches some great keepsakes too.  There was a ball signed by all of the players, as well as a framed team picture (also signed).  Some of the people made a big deal about the fact that my dad and I helped to coach even though we didn’t have kids on the team. 

I have to say it was a really nice experience.  The kids were all nice kids.  The parents were all reasonable people, many of them pitched in, and many of them made all of the practices.  It was a chance for my dad and I to try something new, and have some fun playing baseball.  And I learned quite a bit watching my friend manage the team.  He’s an expert motivator, and does a great job at eliciting a best effort from everyone.  We practiced regardless of rain or mud, and usually had a good time.

You hear about a lot being wrong with youth sports today.  Hypercompetitive coaches, micromanaging parents, kids with bad attitudes … and there really was none of that.  Granted, the kids are only seven, and there’s plenty of time for these things to surface later.  But you have to think that it was a well-adjusted bunch.

Lots of fun!


politics as usual populism

Many of us in the technology field have been watching unamused as our elected officials have been duking it out over immigration.  They’ve concentrated on whether or not the president’s guest worker program should be included as part of the bill.  Yesterday prospects dimmed again.

The GOP folks seem concerned about providing a legal means for people to enter the country, apparently forgetting that we want the US to be the place where people want to come to work. 

The Democrats are focused on providing this means, but are ignoring all other facets of immigration – such as the H-1B visa program.  Also – they tend to worry about "losing American jobs" to foreign workers.

Why do I care?  Well – last December I traveled to Cairo Egypt for my employer to recruit some bright engineers to come and work for us in the Seattle area.  At a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, six of us went there, and invited candidates from Egypt and South Africa to come and interview.  We ended up extending full time offers to (I think) about 11 of them, and began the arduous process of applying for visas.  Back in April we received word that there would be a lottery for these visas, and that given the number of applications, there was a less than 50% chance for each candidate to get in.

The consequences of not getting in mean that a candidate must wait a full year for a new H-1B 1quota to open up.  Best case scenario is that an application is approved and the candidate starts work ten months after an offer is tendered.  Otherwise, it’ll be a minimum of 22 months.  You read that right.  These talented engineers who want to come to work here with us, pay taxes, and contribute to the economies of Washington State and the US aren’t allowed to do so because of our ‘protectivist’ laws.

And there’s a growing gap in the number of engineering school graduates vs. the number of available jobs (from http://www.wsechicago.org/02_novdec_socnews.asp):

Declining numbers of engineering school graduates, which dropped 25 percent from 1985 to 2000, will collide with boomers’ retirement plans and with growth in engineering opportunities. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts 138,000 additional engineering jobs in the next decade.

Yet, according to Engineering & Technology Enrollments, published by the Engineering Workforce Commission, the number of foreign nationals enrolling in engineering bachelor’s degree programs is increasing significantly. In the fall of 2001 the enrollment level of foreign national students rose 18.6 percent at the freshman level and 14.7 at the graduate level.

Get all that?  Fewer Americans are studying the engineering disciplines, more foreign nationals are coming here to do so, and more US engineering jobs are available.  For some reason we’re willing to educate foreign nationals (often subsidizing their education), but let’s not let them stay and pay taxes!

And there are unintended consequences.  Over the past five years, companies have significantly increased the amount of offshore R&D they do, as a means of tapping into those otherwise closed labor markets.  Microsoft has grown their development centers in India and China, while opening up many more.  They’re devoting significant dollars to training up engineers and management, with an eye to pursuing culturally-specific projects as well as moving more jobs where there are people to do those jobs.  Can you blame them?

All of this is a long-winded way to saying I think things are horribly messed up.

By the way, I received word yesterday that at least one of the H-1B applications filed for our candidates was denied.  Very very frustrating.