January 22, 2023

Fungible Tokens

Many years ago, there was some belt-tightening during a downturn at the (large) company where I worked. My boss was recruited to help look for cost savings. Reviewing records for the cafeteria, he spied an outlier. “Oho, what's this? Why are we paying this guy so much?!” Um, that's the guy who makes the Eggs Benedict ... “Say no more.”

In the tech sector it seems that nearly every company “over-hired” during the height of the pandemic, and now they have buyer's remorse. Their regrets play out in jobs lost and lives upended—but not the jobs or lives of the people who miscaluated in the first place.

So what's a company to do? What does the company value?

Perhaps the easiest approach involves taking a hard look at the product portfolio, and dropping some. The associated jobs are no longer needed, so eliminating all of them is straightforward.

Or a company might start by apologizing and paring down the people who were over-hired.

Maybe it will focus on job performance, parting ways with people who don't measure up.

Whatever the approach, there will be a real, human toll.

Late last year, I spoke on a panel for our extended team about work-life balance. They're stressed under normal circumstances, and news about layoffs at other companies was spooking people.

I opened with a hard truth: The company pays you in return for the work you do; it doesn't owe you anything else. For many of us, it's easy to get our identities entangled with the work we're doing (speaking from experience); when you leave (voluntarily or not), the process can be gut-wrenching.

This being Silicon Valley, one can imagine another approach. The scale of the hiring and the laying off (tens of thousands of people) begs for a computational solution. (It's really just a math problem; no fancy generative AI needed.) Focus on how much money would be expended on each employee over some fixed period of time vs. how much money it would cost to send that person packing instead. Rank everyone accordingly. [Well, almost everyone. Leave the executives out of this.] Factor in protected class attributes (race, age, gender, etc.) to achieve a non-discriminatory balance. Crunch the numbers, draw a line, and in the wee hours of the morning, send a personalized form letter to every surplus person.

How efficient! How tidy! No need for uncomfortable face-to-face meetings. No need to witness anyone's distress.

Ah, well, I don't know how the sausage is made (as they say). I do know that, despite the hard truth I shared with my colleagues last year, it still stings to be cast aside.

And I also know that the company I joined on this very day, well over a decade ago, is but a treasured memory.

January 10, 2023

Our Turn

The power went out shortly after 2 a.m. The ferocious wind hurtling rain horizontally at my south-facing windows gave me a fright; I considered relocating to a less-exposed room, but ... my bed was warm and the house would just be getting colder without any heat. [Note to self: Next time there's a forecast like this one, get cozy away from all that glass.]

When I woke up after daybreak, I heard some sirens and noticed the lack of traffic (no electricity, no school?). I also noticed that passing vehicles were slowing, making a u-turn, and re-routing. After breakfast, I stepped outside to see a towering oak tree blocking the road. There were no detour signs, and only a pick-up truck from the local utility company positioned alongside the tree. [Without that, more than a few drivers would likely attempt to pass through. Read on.]

I bundled up, pulled on my rain boots, grabbed an umbrella and decided to head toward town.

I quickly saw why I'd heard sirens.

It was that driver's lucky day; the tree cracked the windshield, landing just shy of the passenger compartment. No injuries.

Hmm, maybe going for a walk today wasn't the best idea ... Until now, I'd never mused about the health of the massive trees that are squeezed into a narrow patch of dirt between a curb and the sidewalk. I gave more thought to the route I was taking.

Another tree down; I'd strolled that stretch of sidewalk just yesterday.

At an intersection, the town had blocked one lane to send drivers in the other direction. So, what did they do? Instead of turning left, one car drove around the barriers—on the wrong side of the road—followed by (count 'em) two more. The word dummkopf came to mind.

Without power, the vaunted 5G cellular network was overwhelmed and unusable; I thought I might have a better chance for a signal in the business district, but the whole town was dark. Since it wasn't particularly windy, nor pouring rain, I decided to walk alongside the creek. I wondered if I would find the reservoir spilling over [nope], but there was plenty of water all the same.
Despite having hiked along that trail many times, today I noticed a few things for the first time. Walking kept me warm. Back at home, power was finally restored at 4 p.m.
It's been a catastrophic week for so many local communities: floods, mudslides, multi-day power outages. We're the lucky ones.

January 9, 2023

Dodging the Drops

As one storm after another sweeps through the Bay Area, roads flood and winds topple trees whose roots lose their grip in the saturated soil.

We do need the water, but ... not all at once?

I took advantage of a break in the weather yesterday, once the roads dried out, to go for my first ride of 2023 (21 miles, 300 feet of climbing).

Almaden Lake was brimming with muddy water, its shores ringed with debris (natural, and not). The Santa Teresa hillsides are turning bright green, and streams of water they can't contain seep onto the streets.

I'd chosen this route, in part, because there would be little exposure to toppling trees. [So I thought.] Next time, I'll stop for a photo of a mighty one that had been cut back to clear the road (and, the bike lane) after it fell.

With another break in the rain today, I donned my boots for a walk into town—pausing to kick mud and leaves from blocking a few storm drains along the way. Some folks are still spreading a little holiday cheer, California-style.

Tomorrow, more rain. And, the day after that ...

December 26, 2022

Last Ride of 2022

The Bay Area, land of palm trees and ... holly. [Plenty of ivy, too.]

The forecast for the rest of this week is discouraging (very wet), and of course it's a work week.

Except for today. I had no particular plan; I'd considered a long ride, but realism carried the day. I haven't been on the bike in the past month. [An errand of nine miles doesn't count.]

My neighbor was keen to go for a ride, so I revised my plan: Bernal Ranch Park is a convenient place to turn around. By then, he'd be ready for a break. On the return trip, he ran out of gas about a mile from home, but mustered enough energy to continue after a short rest. [Effects of a low-carb (no carb?) diet.]

“I'm going to keep up with you in a few weeks!” he predicted. “Ah, then I'll pick up the pace!” I smiled. “Noooooooooooo!

Closing out the year, I may know more people who have contracted Covid-19 by now than not; cautious and fully boosted, I have managed to stay healthy. I even attended a Christmas Eve party at a friend's home, a tradition that we last celebrated in 2019. Responsible adults all, we agreed to test ourselves that morning. [All good.]

Twenty-five miles and 400 feet of climbing for my last ride of 2022, finishing out the year with more than 2,350 miles over the course of 95 rides. Fewer rides and less distance than last year, because ... reasons. Total elevation gain is harder to know with my current set-up. Something approaching 90,000 feet, give or take. I'm relying on stats from my Wahoo Elemnt Bolt these days; compared with my trusty old Polar S720i, I've found its readings inflated by as little as 2.5% or as much as 55.3%. [Due to lack of an accurate altimeter.]

The long-range forecast continues to trend wet. We certainly need the water, but I don't need to ride in it. Looking forward to my first ride of 2023, whenver that will be.

December 25, 2022

Ho Ho Hike

We started our day with a whale sighting. [Too early in the season for the real thing.]
I'd suggested the Cowell-Pursima Coastal Trail, heading south from the Cowell Ranch Beach access. Surprised that the lot was full (!), we found adequate roadside space on the northbound side of Highway 1. Being so close to Half Moon Bay, I'm guessing this trail is popular with the locals.

We recognized a stretch from a prior outing; then, as now, we descended the stairs to the beach. Either the tide was coming in, or the approaching storm was kicking up the waves. I kept a watchful eye on the sea. There isn't much sand down there, at the base of the cliffs.

Fine weather for a Christmas Day hike. We hadn't walked far before I was ready to peel off my jacket—most welcome after our recent spell of freezing temperatures.
Having started further south today, we continued down through the canyon at Purisima Creek and onward to the southern terminus of the trail, for a leisurely round trip of nearly eight miles.

December 4, 2022

Find That Holiday Spirit!

After several annual visits to the local “Fantasy of Lights” event, my interest had waned. Disappointed that the displays were the same year after year? Or a lack of holiday spirit?
Then the world turned upside down. No walk-through option in 2020. It seemed appealing, once again, in 2021—but I missed the chance to get tickets before it sold out.
How lucky it was that I chose Sunday! It was pouring on Saturday night (no rain checks). Still, we were pelted with a few drops tonight before the moon lit up the clouds.
Were there some new displays this year, or did I forget a few?
Plenty of old favorites, in their usual spots.
'Tis the season to be merry!

November 28, 2022

Be The Good

Last month, when I rode in the Asti Tour de Vine, one volunteer sported a t-shirt with words that drew my attention.


The event was run by the Cloverdale Rotary Club, and evidently this is one of Rotary's mottoes.

Those words came back to me this afternoon.

I was walking home from a late afternoon errand when—by pure happenstance of timing and route—I was startled when an elderly cyclist in the bike lane clattered to the ground, his helmet (evidently unclipped) rolling into the gutter.

A woman ran toward him, helping him crawl onto the sidewalk. I rushed over and lifted his bike and helmet out of the street. He was disoriented (naturally), but not injured.

Almost immediately, a driver pulled over and jumped out of his car. [A very nice, late model BMW convertible.] Had the cyclist been struck by a car, or run into the utility pole? he asked. No, I replied; he just ... fell over.

Each time he tried to stand up, he'd just topple over. He was in no shape to get back on that bike.

The driver insisted that he'd give him a ride home, but couldn't take the bike. The cyclist explained that he lived nearby, and was able to provide his address (and directions). The other woman said she'd take care of bringing the bike—without hesitation, gamely donning the helmet and tapping the address into her phone.

I eased his backpack off before we helped him to his feet, and then the problem became very clear. After helping him into the car, the driver turned to me. “Has he been drinking?” he asked. “Smells that way,” I nodded. It was a small miracle he'd made it as far as he did, navigating through traffic.

Many cars passed by, but three people did not.

There is good in the world. Believe it. Be it.