I get to celebrate a handful of anniversaries today, this month, and this summer, and I thought I'd reflect on them.
Back in February (my birthday month), my wife had the ingenious idea of getting me a monthly pass to our local recreation center, which has a pool. They had just tentatively reopened after Covid, and as I discovered, hardly anyone knew they were open. On February 25, I made my first trip to go swimming. This kickstarted a looong-overdue effort to exercise again.
As I've gotten older, I naturally have gotten heavier, but the pandemic era was particularly bad for me. I sat at my desk for two years, basically, and shoved food into my face the whole time. At the beginning of the year—resolution time—my wife asked what I wanted to accomplish. My answer was that I wanted to lose enough weight that I didn't gasp when I tied my shoes. Hence her idea of the swimming pass.
I started tracking my exercise and my weight in order to stay motivated. As the weather got warmer, and as the pool became more and more crowded, I switched my exercise regimen to walking. In the last 6 months, I've swum 45 miles, walked 650 miles, and climbed 13,000 stairs. I've also started playing occasional pickleball and I recently replaced my stolen bike and started riding again.
This was part of my overall ELEM plan: eat less, exercise more. In addition to moving more, I, er, adjusted my diet. I ate less, and I substantially cut down (but didn't eliminate) sugar, rice, pasta, bread, and alcohol.
At the six-month mark, I can say that I achieved my goal. I lost 13% of my body weight and, hey, I can now tie my shoes without gasping.
This month marks my five-year anniversary at Google (or Googleversary, as we say at work, since we Google-ize everything). The time sure went fast, boy howdy.
People often ask how I like working at Google. My answer is that I've enjoyed this job as well as anything I've done in decades. I really do love editing, and I get to edit engineers who are doing interesting, complex, high-impact things for customers. Back when we were still going into the office, we would get into fascinating discussions about all manner of topics, since the editing crew and the folks who sat near us had widely diverse backgrounds. (Well, the humanities is probably overrepresented on the editing team, it's true.)
Doing this type of work under the auspices of a large company has also been great. Unlike the situation at some (many?) companies, we're treated like adults—people who have lives outside of work that we also need to look after. I have appreciated this aspect of Google immensely.
Anyway, I don't want to blather on too much about this phase of my career, because another anniversary is …
I went into the tech world in the summer of 1982, meaning I've been at it for 40 years this year. I'd been in graduate school and had gotten a summer job working for a company that did [*waves hands*] computer stuff for law firms, using a minicomputer. When I decided to quit grad school in June of 1982, it was easy to move full time into computers.
The timing was fortuitous. The IBM PC had just come out and there was a lot of interest among professionals—like, oh, law firms—in what people could do with these things. The place where I worked got hooked up with a company that made a database product for the PC, and we put together some applications for document tracking and such-like. So I started doing work on the PC. I did training, I did support, I did a bit of coding. It was all new in those days, the demand for computer stuff far outstripped the supply of people who had formal training, so many of us learned on the job. (And pre-internet, I guess I could add.)
I was in my go-go 20s then, and for the next couple of decades I put in very long hours. That first job gave me (and the family) an opportunity to spend a couple of years in the UK. I moved around in the industry—Asymmetrix, Microsoft, Amazon, Tableau, now Google—doing mostly documentation work at different places.
Portrait by my friend Robert
Forty years is a long time to be in any type of work, and I've certainly considered retirement. My financial guy claims I could do it if I wanted. (He and I differ in how rosy our view is of the coming global economic meltdown, haha.) But I have no urgent reason to retire—I like the work, and it seems like I can now do it from almost anywhere on the globe. I still learn new things all the time, which is definitely an upside to working with such smart people. Another plus is that I experience twinges of impostor syndrome only rarely now. :) And to be honest, I worry slightly that retirement would remove me from a stimulating and rewarding environment. For now I'm playing it by ear. Check back in a bit.
September 1 is also the anniversary of the date on which I arrived in Seattle. I've reflected on that in the past, so I'll just link to an earlier post about that.