[Musee D’Orsay, Paris. Source: https://benfa.smugmug.com/]

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” — [Attributed to] Mark Twain.

Warning: I didn’t understand any of this as I was living through it. You won’t, either, when it happens to you.

It would be fair to say that I’m proud of my thirty five year career in the computer industry. I’ve had the pleasure of working with thousands of brilliant people and, thankfully, have…

How many do you recognize in your own projects?

Antelope Canyon. Page, Arizona.

“There is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.” — H.L. Mencken. 1880–1956.

I retired from the computer industry four years ago. I’ve continued to advise a few startups but, truth be told, I’ve spent more hours on a bicycle than behind a desk; and that’s just the way I like it. My days of hands-on management of engineering teams are over. At best, I can offer words of advice to a younger generation.

I had a very successful career and am proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past forty years that I’ve…

It’s time to move our elections online

Figure 1

As we live through one of the most historic elections in US history, I can’t help but return to a theme that has occupied me recently, namely that we are trying to keep this 250-year-old “house” up on its creaky stilts and we insist on doing so using not just rules created in a different era but also processes and tools designed back when it took a month to send a message cross-country.

If the elections have proven anything, it’s that our electoral system is showing its age. I’m not talking about controversial issues like the electoral college and gerrymandering…

A New Team of Rivals

Leaked transcript of upcoming Biden speech, copied from one of his rehearsals. Video forthcoming. This is big! Pass it around.

[Biden speaking to the camera]

Folks, here’s the thing. This is not a normal election year. We’re not going to be able to do things the way we’ve done them for decades. Instead of stadiums full of delegates and renditions of the American Anthem, we’ll be delivering our speeches directly to you, the voter. Welcome to the 21st century.

The ultimate question you need to answer for this election season of 2020 is whether you will vote for me or…

“We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.” — George Orwell. In Front of Your Nose. Tribune (22 March 1946).

January 3rd, 2020 is a date which shall live in infamy; not because Trump killed Iranian General Qasem Suleimani in…

The invention of lying, the fallacy of multitasking, and an instruction manual for mind control

“Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac.” — The Elements of Eloquence. Mark Forsyth.

Complex human thought, by definition, requires linguistic capabilities. Language gives us the ability to name objects as well as the power to reason about them: That’s a river. That’s a dog. That car is coming towards me. Each and every one of those concepts has a name and represents something we…

We are the sum total of our decisions in life.

“Could I have been a parking lot attendant?
Could I have been a millionaire in Bel Air?
Could I have been lost somewhere in Paris?
Could I have been your little brother?
Could I have been anyone other than me?” — Dave Matthews Band. Dancing Nancies.

Rene Descartes, the French philosopher, asked himself: How do I know I even exist? What if everything I’m experiencing is just a figment of someone else’s imagination? What if it’s all just a dream? His response, famously, was: I think, therefore I am. Cogito ergo sum.

The pronouncement was the only thing standing between…

Nietzsche was right after all.

Paul David

This is a story about my friend, Paul David, his cycling accident ten years ago, and his amazing recovery. But, to put his story in perspective, I first need to tell you a story about my own cycling accident.

Back in March of this year, I had a head-on collision with a car while going downhill at about 15 mph on a quiet street. The Tesla driver, coming up the hill from the opposite direction, “had the sun in her eyes” and never saw me as she turned directly into my path. …

[Source: https://benfa.smugmug.com. ]

“He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.” — Gabriel García Márquez. Love in the Time of Cholera.

I often mention to friends and family that I have almost zero recollection of my childhood years. Ask me about pretty much any event at age ten or twelve and I remember it in vivid detail. Drop back a year or two and… nothing! I don’t remember anything! It’s not a gradual drop-off. Childhood before the age…

Now that you know, what are you going to do about it?

“Not everything that can be faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed that is not faced.” — James Baldwin. I am not Your Negro.

Anger is often nothing more than the external manifestation of our feelings of frustration projected towards others. If I’m angry, chances are I feel frustrated about something in my environment, something I can’t change. Instead of dealing with the root cause, I choose to unleash my frustration on someone else. The situation may not improve but it sure feels good to get the anger out of my system.

Of course, we’re all born with…

Ben Fathi

Former {CTO at VMware, VP at Microsoft, Head of Engineering & Cloud Ops at Cloudflare}. Recovering long distance runner, avid cyclist, newly minted grandpa.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store