Alan Porter's minimal net presence

January 2016

After the holidays, we returned to work under a new flag… we’re Cisco now! Our work will change – our previous mission made sense for a small company like Lancope, but Cisco will have different plans for us.

In what started off as a scheme cooked up by the Salem Middle School drama kids, we took the girls to see “Book Of Mormon” at DPAC. Their drama teacher joined us. It’s a pretty raunchy show, from the creators of “South Park”. Many would argue that it’s not appropriate for teens, but we decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. As expected, it had very funny parts, and other parts that could’ve been toned down without messing with the story.

Every year, Lancope has a kick-off party to get everyone aligned for the new year. They usually have a lot of fun with it, and this year was no exception. They celebrated the 15-year life of Lancope with a New Orleans style funeral. Fitting, as it’s both a beginning and an end.

The third musical play on our agenda this season was “Matilda”, and the girls were very excited about seeing it. However, it snowed, and although the show did go on, we couldn’t get there to see it.

After 13 years of AT&T DSL service at home, we finally got fed up with lackluster bandwidth and downright evil marketing techniques (for example: redirecting all internet traffic to their marketing site until we called – really messes with a VPN or other non-www traffic). While we were switching providers, I also got a new “ZBox” Linux mini-server to replace my old “Fit PC”… same concept, but more powerful, and with solid-state storage.

February 2016

We attended the Science Olympiad regional competition. Sydney’s team showed up in full force, but we initially panicked when no one from Audrey’s team showed up at all. Later we learned that their high school team competed at a different location (oh no!) and on a different date (whew!). The Martin Mustangs did well in the competition, taking home 4th place (which earns them a trip to the State competition in April).

Our nephew Jian Kai will be graduating high school in a few months, and he has applied to several universities. He visited us during spring break so he could tour NC State’s campus.

March 2016

After many weeks of practicing, Sydney’s school drama club performed “The Music Man”. Sydney played a school board member. Later in the play, the school board transforms into a barbershop-style harmony quartet.

Audrey’s school drama club did “The Addams Family”. She worked on the makeup crew. Considering the number of zombies in the cast, this was a big responsibility!

Six weeks after her false start, Audrey’s Science Olympiad team went to their regional competition at Campbell University. We spent the day hiking all over the campus for the various events. In the end, Apex took home first place! So they will also attend the State competition next month.

We went to my parents’ house for an Easter lunch. In addition to the normal Easter festivities, we got to meet their new puppy, Molly. She is a Bichon, just like Beau and Maggie.

For Spring Break, our family went to Williamsburg, Virginia. We spent a couple of days in Colonial Williamsburg, and also saw the Jamestown settlement and the Yorktown battlefield. When we visited three years ago, most of this history was new to us. But this trip allowed us to dig a little deeper.

April 2016

After a few days of learning history in such a rich environment, it was time to blow off some steam. So we spent a day at Great Wolf Lodge. After wearing themselves out in the water park, the girls ran all over the building playing games.

This month, I celebrated my personal odometer passing 1.5 billion seconds.

Audrey and I went to see The Barber of Seville at the NC Opera. It was entertaining, but did not inspire me to become a regular patron. I hate that I missed Madama Butterfly when it played last fall.

When we got back from Spring Break, I started work at my new office on Cisco’s huge campus in Raleigh. It hosts 6500 employees, three cafeterias, an on-site gym, a doctor’s office and vision center, and a scenic lake with a three mile jogging trail. Being on the main campus makes us feel a lot more like Cisco and less like Lancope.

Our old dishwasher pooped out, and so we replaced it. The new one is so quiet, it has a light to tell you that it is running. Otherwise, we would not be able to tell.

Audrey went to the Atlanta Heritage Music Festival with the Apex chorus. They almost needed to rent a trailer to haul back all of the awards they won. And… they had fun doing it, too.

We visited our old pals at Salem Middle School for their production of the musical “Hair Spray”. Then we went to Enloe for “Into the Woods”.

Both girls were on winning Science Olympiad teams this year, and so we advanced to the state competition held at NC State University. It was a long day of walking and waiting (for me) and testing (for them). Audrey won 8th place in “It’s About Time”. We enjoyed watching the Scrambler cars, which had to drive a precise distance and then stop.

May 2016

For our third year in a row, Sydney and I volunteered at the YMCA Y-Guides (Indian Princesses) “Spring Outing” for first, second and third graders. This year, the theme was Music Festivals, and we ran the “record toss” event.

Sydney performed in the Martin Middle School spring dance performance.

We spent an evening “rescuing” six baby ducks that had fallen into a storm drain. We later found out that the storm drain opens up near the pond across the street, so they would’ve worked their way out eventually. But it felt great to be heroes for a day.

I spent a weekend at Moogfest, a celebration of “future sound” and “future thought”. I think I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more if I had put in some future thought before the event. Attending this kind of festival requires a lot more planning than your average street party festival.

A friend invited us to the Taiwanese American Heritage Week Performance in Cary. The Modern Art Dance group from Taiwan put on an impressive performance.

Apex High School’s chorus and band put on a joint show at Koka Booth Amphitheater.

We attended the Memorial Day weekend hot-air balloon festival in Fuquay. There were a lot of people and not many places to park. So we hiked in from way across town. Most of the balloons were grounded because of clouds, but the party on the ground continued.

June 2016

June was a crazy month, as school wrapped up and all of the kids’ activities had their final events.

Audrey’s voice teacher hosted a recital of her 14 high school students. Each sang a couple of solos, which varied from opera to show tunes.

The Cary Ballet Conservatory had their annual performance: this year was Anastasia. Sydney did a jazz dance and Audrey did tap. We had a little “life lesson” when we got to the venue and discovered Sydney’s costume was still at home!

Foong-Ha celebrated a milestone birthday with a pretty low-key gathering of friends. Her “big present” will come later this summer, when we travel to Europe.

The girls swam in the neighborhood swim meets again this year. This year, the swim team was more aggressive about getting parents to volunteer, so we worked several meets, “pushing” kids, running scores and selling concessions.

One of Audrey’s friends just graduated from Apex HS, and now plans to study cosmetology. She needs volunteer subjects to practice her art, so Audrey got a new haircut and a blue color!

Sydney spent a week at “Acting Out!” camp at UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. She stayed with her grandparents.

Audrey spent a week attending a theater camp at Apex High School. At the end of the week, they put on a very impressive performance of musical numbers.

Like last year, we dog-sat for some friends while they went on vacation. The two dogs are so different, the younger one is hyperactive and very protective, while the older one is mellow and sweet. They were a real treat to have around, but also a lot of responsibility.

We talked to a neighbor about how we wanted to rebuild our back deck, and he came over to look at it to give us some advice. Advice turned into demonstration, and that eventually turned into a complete volunteer project! It turns out we didn’t really need to rebuild the entire deck. He replaced the floor boards, and now it looks great!

Audrey celebrated her birthday with a spy-themed party. They played silly spy games, dodging yarn “laser beams”, being “assassinated”, and telling corning spy jokes.

July 2016

In July, I decided that I wanted to look for a different job, either within Cisco or somewhere else. Our original Lancope project had run its course, having been released as an early Beta, but discontinued after the Cisco acquisition. Our new work was being run by a team that we only had loose connections with. So I spread word within my network of geek friends, and pretty soon I was talking to a bunch of groups about potential new projects.

Sydney started work on her summer project to make a short film. She wanted to work through the process from script writing to final edit so she could learn what works and what doesn’t. She recruited some friends to be her actors, and filmed in our neighborhood over a couple of days. The editing piece ended up being a lot harder than we had expected, since we had to try out a variety of editing tools, each with their own learning curves and operational quirks.

Audrey attended summer school at Enloe High School. She took Chemistry over the summer so she could take AP Chemistry in the Fall. What a nerd.

We got excited when we saw utility crews digging holes in everyone’s yards. Most assumed that it was Google Fiber, but it turned out to be AT&T. I think it’s kind of crazy how each utility has to dig separately – I’ve heard that in some countries, if one company goes in, then others are offered the chance to split the cost and get it all done at once. But in the USA, that’s crazy-talk.

August 2016

August was jam-packed… interviews, travel, and then back-to-normal.

First, there were the interviews. I talked to a few companies, and each one wanted to talk on the phone, then meet informally, then spend a little more time. It meant shooting my normal schedule full of holes. And that week that Delta had the problems with their IT systems, I got stranded in Boston for a night (to their credit, they took care of everything).

Then, the Porters packed our bags and headed to Europe for a couple of weeks. The main stops on our itinerary were London and Paris, but because we flew Iceland Air, we got to stop over in Reykjavík for a day, where we visited a hot springs spa.

In London, we had the advantage of having two cousins who live and work in London. So we stayed with one cousin’s family, and experienced suburban London, taking the tube into town just like they do. We saw the normal tourist attractions, but also got to visit where our cousins work and some favorite hang-outs. We spent one Saturday exploring the countryside in Surrey. Favorites included the West End theatre district and the Shakespeare Globe Theater (notice a trend?) and the Royal Observatory.

In Paris, we were on our own. Fortunately, we had picked a hotel in the center of town, and it was easy to get around by metro. Again, we saw the normal highlights. I think the favorites were Versailles, the Louvre, Notre Dame and the view from Sacré-Cœur.

Alas, we finally had to return home. With no time to recover, we immediately returned to school and work. Audrey is excited to be taking AP Chemistry, and both Theatre and Honors Chorus. Sydney got into MMS Honors Chorus, and she’s also taking pottery. I returned to work and turned in my notice. Next month, I will be starting a new job. More on that below.

September 2016

September was a month of transition. Summer’s over, vacation is over, and the girls returned to school. I wrapped up my work at Lancope/Cisco and started at BitSight.

In the week in between jobs, I stained our back deck. The weather was clear, but very hot. We spent the better part of three days on the job, but now it looks great.

BitSight wanted me to go up to Cambridge for my first two weeks to get on-boarded. They assigned me a buddy and gave me some bugs to work on. The first week was pretty much filled with meeting my new colleagues, brain-dump sessions, installing tools, and signing up for various online accounts. By the second week, I was making small changes to the product, and I was happy to see them applied so quickly to their production web site. The pace of working on a SaaS product is so different from traditional product releases!

I enjoyed visiting Cambridge. I never needed a car – I walked to work, found food locally, and occasionally took the subway to venture a little further out. Once or twice, I took an Uber. The weather was fine for walking, mostly clear, and starting to cool for fall. I wonder if I would have enjoyed the city as much if my first visit had been in the winter.

My visit happened to coincide with the annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard, and I was asked to join BitSight’s officially-recognized delegation! We attended the simultaneously academic and whimsical ceremony in the historic Sanders Theater (built in 1877). The program featured a tic-tac-toe game between a rocket scientist and a brain surgeon, and an operetta about leap seconds. What a hoot!

While I was away, Foong drove the girls all over the place for dance and drama practices and other special events. They did not enjoy the nice weather that I had. It rained a lot.

I got back at midnight on the last day of September. I volunteered to be bumped from my original flight, and in return I scored a nice gift card! Glad I could be of service, Delta!

October 2016

October was filled with drama… not life drama, but actual plays. We saw the Cary Players perform “Oklahoma!”, a knee-slapping good time. It was the first time we got to see the girls’ middle school drama teacher, now retired, perform on stage. She played Aunt Eller.

We got a fair bit of rain as Hurricane Matthew rolled through town. The pond at the end of our street overflowed its dam, but fortunately was not damaged. It was nothing like what folks in the eastern part of the state endured.

BitSight’s Raleigh office is growing. We welcomed our fourth engineer, whose start corresponded with a lunch-time outing to the NC State Fair, so we introduced her to NC culture there. Note to self: fried pickles are OK, but we can scratch that off of the bucket list now.

For the fourth year in a row, Raleigh hosted All Things Open, a conference covering open source software and culture. I’m not sure if it’s because the conference is growing, because I have been several times, or because the market and my interests are changing, but I felt like I got less out of this year’s line-up than in previous years. It’s hard to put a finger on.

The end of the month was drama time… Audrey worked the stage crew for “Almost, Maine” at Apex High School, and Sydney performed in “Holes” with the Cary Applause! theater.

For the first time ever, the girls went their own ways for Halloween. Audrey went to a party, dressed as a pretty convincing Audrey Hepburn. Sydney dressed as a Raggedy Ann style doll, and hit the neighborhood with a friend. I stayed at home, dressed as a nerd… granted, only a slight exaggeration from my norm.

November 2016

November 2016 will certainly go down in history because of the surprise result of the American presidential election, after such a grueling and unconventional campaign. I was shocked by the result, as many people were. I am saddened that our country is now going to be represented by such an undisciplined and inarticulate bully. But I do understand that we needed a course correction, and this is what many people see as the better option for that correction. I disagree, and I think we’re going to pay the price for what was essentially a protest vote for a long time. Just like Brexit.

More than anything, though, I am infuriated by the deluge of intentionally false news stories, and the undiscerning public’s willingness to believe them, and to criticize any fact-checking attempts as themselves being misinformation. I feel that we have reached a fundamental watershed of our connected society, where “credibility” is going to have to be redefined for the digital age. We crossed a similar watershed in 1997, when “identity” became the primitive that was threatened by the digital age.

Enough politics. That’s how we all feel this November. We’re sick of it. Other things did happen in November. And below, I’ll recall the highlights.

It’s been a long time since we had a dog in our family. But occasionally we dog-sit for friends. We were happy to keep our neighbors’ dog Suzie for a weekend. She’s a very mild mannered Shih Tsu.

Sydney took a “triple threat” (acting, singing, dancing) class, taught at the Cary Arts Center.

One of my co-workers occasional plays keyboards for an 80’s rock band, so a couple of us went to see them perform at a local pool hall. That was a weird mind trip back to high school.

Meanwhile, at work, I am getting into more substantial feature work. Having worked through some initial lay-of-the-land bug fixes, I’ve started fixing some tricky performance issues. And now I have a mini-feature of my own, all web UI work.

Sydney’s school held a 5k race (the “Mane Event”) to raise money for the school. I had never been in a 5k race before, so I signed up. It was chilly and Sydney had homework to work on, so we had to support her school without her! I finished in 30m42s. Foong brought up the rear, as part of the “walking” crowd.

We had Thanksgiving with Mimi and Pops. Sydney celebrated her birthday with little fanfare. The girls are growing up, and birthdays are becoming less epic than they once were. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

December 2016

As always, December seemed like a blitz of end-of-the-year performances and wrap-ups, with little time left over for holiday preparation. Fitting in with a general theme of late 2016, our holiday was low key, with emphasis on the girls’ activities.

Martin Middle School presented a variation on A Christmas Carol, which mixed drama, concert band and dance into a single show. The Apex High School Chorus performed their annual winter concert.

We toured the NC School of Science and Math in Durham, with hopes that Audrey might be able to attend next year. It seemed like Hogwarts for nerds… which means it’s pretty awesome. Fingers crossed.

Sydney did the coolest thing this month. Someone at the Chinese school that she attends also works at the Duke University radio station (WXDU 88.7 FM), and they booked a slot for the kids to share their own content. Sydney read a story about her experiences making videos at school. She can return each month, if she wants to.

Our office had a holiday party at a fancy restaurant in downtown Raleigh. It was the first time that our office was big enough to have its own party.

At the office, I wrapped up my mini-feature (the ability to select multiple networks and tag them with a name or attribute for later reference). And since we’re still growing, the four (soon to be six) engineers moved to a temporary expansion room down the hall. The plan is for all of us to move into a hip new office in a few months, but we needed a little space relief until then.

We spent Christmas in Winston-Salem, like we do most years. It was a nice time to be with family. Gifts were not high on the agenda this year, but we did use this time to upgrade Audrey and Sydney to new laptops, which they will use more and more for school. Foong and I got ourselves new computer monitors for our home office.

Looking back at 2016, it was a year that was dominated by transition, a reboot. I am looking forward to my new job. The country rebooted, for better or for worse. The girls are upping their school games for their next levels. 2017 should be a fresh start.

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