February 2, 2015 — New Year, New Life.
So I spent the last 30 years in and around Houston, TX. Apparently, I’m done with that. On January 1, 2015, I boarded a flight with a one-way ticket from Houston to San Jose.
Now, I’m out here in California — Silicon Valley — working for the big G of all places. Six months ago, I had absolutely no inkling that such a future awaited me.
There are things about Houston and about my old job that I will miss.
I will miss having a big house, and paying very little money for it, and instead having a small apartment, and paying a fortune for it. I will miss having a garage of my own. But, it’s not that big a deal.
I will miss working on the linux kernel, or, at least on drivers for the kernel. In my new job, that does not seem to be something which I’ll be doing.
I will miss TX/RX Labs probably most of all. That place made Houston bearable for me for the last four years. You might think that Silicon valley would be home to some hackerspaces that would fill that void, but you’d be wrong. It’s kind of funny. In Houston, getting a hackerspace going is pretty difficult, because everybody who lives there has a garage of their own because real estate is pretty cheap (compared to the rest of the country). So, if you try to start a hackerspace, there’s going to be a period of time when you’re starting out when people who drop by kind of take a look around and say, “eh… I’ve got better stuff in my own garage,” and so it’s hard to get them to join up. But, at some point, you hit a tipping point, where you eventually get the space to a level that is beyond what almost anyone is likely to have in their own garage, and then things start taking off (I’m drastically understating the amount of work involved here.) And then, people start realizing that the big CNC mill they’ve got in their garage might get a bit more use if it were to hang out down at TX/RX, and also, that gets it out of the garage. I saw this kind of thing happening over the last four years with TX/RX Labs in Houston, and now it has grown into a truly world class hackerspace with something like 30000 square feet of warehouse space filled with all sorts of woodworking, metal working, electronics, computers, you name it. If you happen to find yourself in Houston and are into hackerspaces or the Maker movement at all, go check it out.
By contrast, here in Silicon Valley, things are quite a bit different. Almost nobody has a garage, and if they do, it’s probably a tiny one car-wide affair. So, any space at all that someone can come up with is likely to be appealing to a certain kind of person. But, because nobody has a garage, it’s also the case that nobody has a CNC mill sitting in their garage that they’d like to loan out to the local hackerspace. And then there’s the matter of rent, which is guaranteed to be sky-high, barring some local rich philanthropist helping out, so that means the membership dues are also going to be on the high side. And of course the place is absolutely crawling with software guys, and the hardware guys tend to be *computer* hardware guys. So the hackerspaces here tend to be on the small side, and *very* heavy on the software side of things, with a smattering of electronics and near zero woodworking or metalworking. There is Tech Shop, but they are a commercial venture, and not really like a hackerspace — there doesn’t seem to be the same sense of community that the hackerspaces are likely to have. Another cultural difference is that it seems like a lot of people at the local hackerspaces have “startup fever”, for lack of a better term (and, to be fair, I haven’t spent a *lot* of time, so I may be rushing to judgement there.) People don’t seem to be at the hackerspaces out here in order to have fun. They’re there to network with other people, and to work on their startup project. So the vibe is in general a lot less fun, and a lot more business, or so it seems to me.
As for the job, it’s … different. Boy is it different. The people are in general, rather smarter than the average bear, which is pretty nice. So far so good, but I haven’t been here for very long, not long enough to really know what the hell I’m doing yet. That is, I know what my job is, but I don’t necessarily know how to actually do it yet. There is a lot of custom software to learn the ins and outs of. But change is good, right?
2015 will be an interesting year.