Notes and Reflections by feoMike

what i did on my first furlough day

what i did on my first furlough day

yesterday was my first day of furlough in the 2013 government shutdown. during the day i did the following things;

  • watched as my wife go off to work before me for the first time in a long long time;

  • made breakfast for my sons and walked them to school;

  • played around w/ the json library for python;

  • tested the number of inserts per second postgres can handle in a single threaded situation (i am getting ~1500 or so inserts a second);

  • began training myself on noSQL document structures for collecting time, space, attribute values;

  • went to pick up one son who came home from school sick;

  • dug out part of my driveway that i am replacing;

  • read some news about the shutdown, and followed some web ste closures/opens in particular;

  • picked my other son up from school;

  • made dinner;

  • helped the boys with homework;

  • watched some of how ‘the universe works’ with my oldest;

  • went to bed

i think it is safe to say i am a fairly active member of the government open data movement. in this context, one thing in particular struct me as i was going through the list above, and in particular reading some of the web site closures; IT has changed radically during my career.

imagine, it used to be that systems, computer systems, were so big that only government investment could afford to implement them. it used to be that running a web site took so much back end that that it took 100s of staff to manage them. it used to be that big data was 28,000 rows. it used to be, in my field, that running a complicated analysis, took not just days, but $10s of thousands of dollars in software and $100s of thousands of dollars in hardware. it used to be that the ONLY place i could have run such an analysis would have been a BIG institution like the government or a major tier 1 university; a place with enough investment to make these kinds software and hardware of resources available.

there was a time when there was no way i could begin to train myself tools like a new library or testing the number of inserts into a data base (skills i need to keep current in my career) without a large infrastructure and huge investment. there was a time i had to be on a closed network (agency only network) to perform these kinds of tasks. this was the case, not just because that was the only place that could afford that kind of infrastructure, but also because software licenses were limited to the purchaser only, and could not be implemented in a distributed way; say during a government shutdown.

today, i can do these kinds of activities on a common laptop w/ downloadable open tools. investment to implement technology is pennies on the dollar today and require next to no capital investment compared to when i began my career. today, my older son comes home and says, i need to create a google doc for homework. tomorrow i imagine my twins (who are 2 years younger than my older son) to not even know what MS Word is.

while the government shutdown continues w/o end in site, i will not stand idly by and let skills or personal investment lapse. i can do this, because we no longer live in a closed world, we live in an open world. innovation will not be stifled during a shutdown, because of openness.