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Mostly, I'm a hacker. I get most excited when I work on computer projects designed to harness the power of computers to directly improve the quality of people's lives. But, if you squint just right, everything I have worked on has been a distributed system - there's something about action executed at a distance that gets me.
I'm very fond of this quote, from a curator of New York's Museum of Modern Art in the 1940s:
I've moved voice, file blocks, PostScript, pixels, video, animation,
film frames, data rows and grocery delivery trucks.
I've moved them across slow networks (1200 baud modems,
5MHz nano-cellular radio, SMS)
and fast ones (several HIPPI channels striped together) and most
The projects I work on always involve keeping track of a lot
of moving parts, even if those parts are "just bits".
At Xerox PARC, I helped invent the first generation of ubiquitous computing; at SGI I helped build the first all-digital animation studio; at Webvan I built the delivery management system. Recently, I've been exploring what you can do with GPS tracking data, radio, and gobs of computing power.
I think the whole "action at a distance" thing is pretty damned cool, and connecting a bunch of small systems to do the work of a large one is just fascinating.
I've been working with Unix since 1976 (I'm Usenix individual member number 1). I helped build Usenet, CSNet, the X Window System and Webvan.
You can find out just what long, strange trip it's been here.
When I'm not hacking, there's a good chance that I'm out in The Dimebank Garage, tuning a Triumph, rebuilding a transmission, or making some part for the Team Fat Performance Products catalog. I used to spend a fair number of weekends as Turn Marshals in the San Francisco Region of the SCCA, but it seems that 10 years of spending the weekends standing on the corner of some race track in all kinds of weather was enough.
I am the TR4A Vehicle Consultant for the Vintage Triumph Register. I hang out on some of the Team.Net mailing lists, dispensing free advice; good advice costs extra.
I love rallying. I'm far too old and don't possess enough talent to drive stage rally, but it sure does look like fun. I really would like to learn to execute a perfect pendulum turn.
In the meantime, I drive the FJ40 too fast down Forest Service roads, occasionally sling the 2.5RS around on gravel, and I do less-demanding TSD rallyes when I can. I enjoy driving them, but it turns out that I'm a pretty good navigator, so I find myself in the silly seat more often. In 2002, Steve Blair offered me the left seat in his Caterham Seven (it's RHD :-) and I co-drove the Guild of Motor Endurance Targa Liege - three days from Spa to Florence. That was great fun, despite mostly miserable conditions. The event was an interesting combination of endurance (three days, about 2000km total), TSD (detailed route book, but relatively loose timing requirements) and performance (you're often behind, so you are driving fast to make up time). The route took us over some very interesting and challenging roads, from Swiss mountain passes (Stelvio) to forest and farm tracks, to the Nurburgring and onto the course of the classic Mille Miglia.
I had never ridden with Steve before. I had never navigated this big a rally before. I had never tried to do it from the left seat in a RHD car on LHD roads. I had never used this sort of route book or operated that kind of rallye computer. How could I pass up the opportunity? :-) There's a reason that "they" say that co-drivers benefit from a certain lack of imagination.
Mostly, it's low-buck tours like the California Melee and Alpine 500.
A few years ago, I got my amateur radio license - I'm now K6DBG. I first studied for this in 8th grade, more than 30 years ago (1971!). The test has gotten a lot easier, especially since the code requirement was dropped. Now that I'm paying attention to the ham world again, I found APRS and am completely smitten - it feels like building Usenet and the Internet in the early 80s. So I've been building trackers and gathering hardware and knowledge to build solar-powered digipeaters in the backcountry. I got a crash refresher course in electronics as I learned to retune a crystal-controlled radio (Western Radio WR-154B and WR-155) into the HAM band... I also got seduced by the challenge of low-power (QRP) distant contacts (DX) so I studied Morse code and upgraded to General for HF access and then Amateur Extra for the DX. It's good fun. I'm using tools I bought and haven't used since undergrad school, and jostling a lot of neurons that thought they had retired...
Mountaineering and climbing
On the weekend, you'll probably find me in the mountains, where I participate in a variety of sports - hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, climbing, peak-bagging. Which means that there's a chance that I'm in the gym struggling with the Workout of the Day, flogging the ergometer, lugging water up a hill, or falling off a rock somewhere.
Search and rescue
I'm a member of the Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit. The Unit has been around for a long time, basically starting as a bunch of mountaineers who gathered together to do searches. Over time, it has gotten more organized and more formal; we're now associated with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, even though we have members spread all across the Bay Area. We do a lot of in-county searches, but what we live for is "mutual aid" work in the Sierra, summer and winter.
For example, a recent search involved getting up at 2am to arrive at the Boreal ski area command post by 7am. Our three-person team spent the day snowshowing knee-deep powder looking for a hiker on snowshoes who had already spent two nights out. We were out from about 0900 to 1700, covered about 8 miles and gained 1000 feet. Five of those hours were just getting to & from our assignment. The subject was found alive - by someone else.
It's good fun, a nice way to blend mountain skills and public service, and a great excuse to disappear from work to play in the mountains.
Didn't you used to be ...? My last name was "Kent" until February 1992. When my father came to the US (from Bulgaria, via Germany, in 1951), his name was Bozhidar Kantarjiev. After about a year of general difficulties with it, he changed it to Theodore Kent. I understood why, but always felt that a big part of my heritage had been lost in that change; after agonizing over the decision for at least 10 years, I changed it back. (Yes, I now understand even better why he changed it.) My mom, Auguste Kent, found it a bit strange that her son suddenly had a different last name than she did!
Apropos that, should you go googling for a baklava recipe, there's a really chance that you'll find some variant of this one that I submitted to mod.recipes long, long ago. It may be my most famous contribution to the web!
i see ribbons everywhere - red, yellow, red-white-blue, rainbow...
i will wear black.
Black to mourn all those dead because some ideologue needed to spill blood.
Black to mourn an America that stood for something better than secret
prisons in the dark corners of foreign countries, abused prisoners kept
incognito, and chemical weapons fired on people who don't matter because
they are the enemy.
i will wear black.
-- Pat Caruthers, Nov 2005
Last updated Mar 05 2010 by cak