Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks

This year has been ... well it's sucked.  I'm not superstitious, but I'm entirely ready for this particular "13" to be over.  Regardless, I have plenty to be thankful about, and I want to give credit where credit is due.

Thank you, smart people.

All kinds, all flavors of smart people.  Smart philosophers who ask interesting and hard questions.  Smart scientists who seek to understand the nature of the universe.  Smart engineers who combine knowledge with craft and create new tools.  Smart businesspeople who enable small pockets to afford big ideas.  Smart politicians who balance demand with reality, present with future.  Smart educators who perpetuate smartness itself.

Everything I'm thankful for leads to some obvious (and many less-obvious) smart people I should thank.

I'm thankful for my wife.  A person couldn't ask for a better partner, and I feel lucky every day.  The main smart person to thank here is her.  Thank you, Kim!  Next come the smart people who helped her become who she is - her parents, her teachers, the various professors who helped her earn her various degrees.  Thanks to all of you!  Then of course there are the smart people responsible for a type-1 diabetic being able to live a normal life.  Canadians Frederick Banting and Charles Best were the first to make use of insulin, and a lot of people before and since have helped too.  Many thanks are needed to many people I've never heard of, living and dead.

I'm thankful for my work.  Programming is both something I enjoy and something I can do well enough that people will pay me to do interesting things.  I have my own set of family and teachers to thank, as well as people like the late Dennis Ritchie.  He created the C programming language and co-authored Unix.  (To me, that's like creating oxygen and co-authoring the atmosphere).  Elsewhere in the web of Newton's shoulders-of-giants are today's Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman, and Patrick Volkerding, back through Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace and beyond.  Thanks, all you smart geeks.  The fact that I get paid implies I have a string of smart businesspeople to thank too.

Just a couple items in, and already I'm hitting up Wikipedia to figure out whom to thank for what.  That means I should probably add Jimmy Wales.  Not that he single-handedly runs Wikipedia, let alone researched and wrote up the particular information I'm after.  Some "shoulders of giants" are actually "giant collections shoulders".  Thank you, giants, and thank you, shoulders.  That work rests on the web, which rests on the internet, which rests on TCP, which rests on machines and designs that join back in around Turing or so, giving me another bunch of smart engineers, smart mathematicians, and even smart statesmen (yes, including Al Gore) to thank.

At this rate, I'd never get through all the smart people I'm thankful for.  Whether you're a big name smart person whose deeds are clearly visible, an obscure smart person doing interesting things, or you're just smart enough to try and make the world a little better, I'm thankful for you.