Inflection point: Opportunities go whoosh

The last 60 or so days have been kind of crazy. It has me thinking about a lot of different things. I’m not going to apologize for my poor grammar or even spelling it is one of those in my face kind of stream of consciousness things. First let me level set you.

The last day of November my wife wakes up with chest pains. Heart rate is fast, breathing is shallow, so we drive to the hospital. Yay, it’s not a heart attack, boo it is cancer.

The following weeks involved near daily visits to the hospital for tests as the prognosis came more into view day to day. All of this culminated in our family trip in the works for the entire year not happening. Even worse Christmas got ruined by bookended medical tests involving time in the hospital the day before and the day after Christmas.
Christmas was a gloomy occasion and I dare say ruined in some ways. Fear does not make for a cocktail of cheer and joy. We had lots of fear to go around.

Add my sons blowing their first semester not realizing due dates mean due dates in college. General work stuff mixed with general life stuff starts to fall away as trivial. Yes my sons fixed their grades. Re-work sucks.

With the start of January chemotherapy and something called rutuxin therapy started. Mind blowing pain for my wife became more tolerable. Her heart rate slowed, the drugs masked the original chest pains. She says it only hurts a little bit then cries. She started talking to her family more and more and the general malaise would soon envelope her every action. Much ice cream was procured and consumed during this period. You can see her story in her own words in other posts. I’m not nearly as strong as her. There is no compass for what to do.

She ended up mid January getting her long luxurious trending toward silver highlight hair cut back to a short bob. A few weeks later now near the end of January chemo therapy kicked her hair out and it started shedding in double handfuls. After two days of her being in chemotherapy again I still haven’t got our home clean.

Go ahead and mix in the anniversary of the death of my first son (February first) the announcement that my new company is being sold/acquired, and the wife going into chemo within a few days. Looking over at a graph of my personality type my employer made me take and if I read it right it says I become more analytical under stress. Not that I should be feeling any stress. The red herring of logic says there are plenty of people out there with more on their plate than I. Listen I get that stress is not all bad and I’m pretty damn lucky. But, change is hard.

So, one of co-workers comes in and starts talking about a security person, and another co-worker who is visiting starts taking about other people in the security world. I’d met the person who know much closer and we talked about that a bit. That conversation was met by the other evening me watching this video.


The video talks about four stages of life. Where people are wondering if they have made any difference and working towards making a difference, or they have given up on that and transferred the baton to a protégé or other. Add all of that to Dr. Eugene Spafford a few days ago sending out nominations for the Cyber Security Hall of Fame and their being no area where I or any of the people who do what I do (security operations) would fit within that framework of fame. This isn’t about credit it is about legacy teetering on the relative merits of a newly acquired sense of mortality. No, none of this should make sense because it is raw emotion and logic is for the after action.

There I am thinking about security people and telling how this guy Jericho and Josh Corman gave one of the coolest presentations I had ever seen at ThotCon.  With humor, humility, and a dash of reality they debunked things I’d been talking about for years. I really used to like to go to the security conventions of various hackventions because I liked seeing the thinking of the people. Out of the box thinking. There I am thinking about that and how in my opinion the vendor space of presentations has spoiled the analytical and functional thinking skills. There is some characteristic I personally can’t define but realize as a void in the discussions. Created when vendors started taking over the stages from the more eclectic thinkers. Change is hard and I accept the change in the various conventions.

I don’t drink, drug, or smoke so the conventions always had a huge penalty for me in the socialization aspect. I usually just hid in my suite, or went exploring when presentations were going on. Now I am a lucky bastard as one of my co-workers buys all of the convention videos and I can search our media stack and watch any convention I want to watch if it was recorded. I can be more selective but I miss the stumble into a small ignored room and find something truly unique. No, I’m not sure where this is going.

When the squirrel presentation happened I might have missed an inflection point. That may be the moment I decided to get back in government as I suck as an academic. Oh, I can teach really well. I can do research really well. I got tenure early. I even get along with academics pretty well. I just do other things much better. Whether it is defining metrics and scoping a new security program, or responding to bad guys on the wire. I can’t hack but I chase hackers pretty well. Though I am getting older and care less about the chase. Maybe it is puzzles? I don’t know. Sitting around teaching the same topic year in and year out would suck.

So, if I missed an inflection point, a place where the unique thinking I was seeing, witnessing, understanding was happening what is the issue?  I can’t remember off the top of my head who said it, but “You can’t use the same thinking to solve the problems that thinking created.” Unique out of the box thinking can be just as wrong and harder to evaluate but it represents a pantheon of options that the inside the box claptrap is just going to continue. So, I left academia and went back to government. Obviously I’m in industry now but trying and failing at change is normal in Washington DC.

Thinking back to that inflection point and maybe making more out of it than I should I wonder about other points. Deciding to get married the first time. Doing my first assist on computer crime case in the 1980s. Not staying in law enforcement, working in a family business, and across numerous industry segments, and getting divorced and married again. You can look at things as an adventure or adversity. Perspective is the salve of distance.

Losing a child, having twins, being the father of two step children taught to hate my every breath. The circle or square of options cycling out of control always driving towards another minute, another second, another moment in the future. Seeing things I worked on in government driven into the dirt, policies abandoned, solutions that are less than ill considered. Having to balance those thoughts on the reality of the way I think may not be the way it should be solved. Coming back to the office and trying to think of a new, best, better, kinder or just hopeful way of doing things.

The closure of DerbyCon a life cycle in security conferences where people who don’t know me but I know them. I liked the family values with open bar vibe of DerbyCon. There is a treasure trove of people who believe and cycle through security in a wasteland of careers.

Is there a legacy lost or not created? Is it a fools errand to think any person can make a difference in the world where hate filled speech and people walking around looking to be offended rule the air waves? Is there no hope of change when acts of contrition are met with derision? That a sin of minimums is an error of fatal proportions. Where being a child no longer allows for mistakes?  Do we live in a time where legacy is only notoriety?

Regrets are ghosts of mistakes past. Did I miss a confluence of events that might have changed history? Likely. I’m never going to be able test that and I must let the sunshine of today melt the cobwebs of yesterday. I’ve got a great team, I’ve got a great job, and challenge and opportunity allow me plenty of rewards in seeing them flourish.