Black Mountain Brouhaha:
Much Ado About Nothing

Day 2, Monday, with Steve (40-49 years)

We started hiking in heavy fog from the Grizzly Flat trailhead of Upper Stevens Creek County Park. After 2.5 miles and a 1,000 foot descent, we came to the junction with Canyon Trail. Another mile and a half on the gently rising trail put us just south of Indian Creek. From there, we planned to head straight for the summit, without the benefit of any trails. This mode of travel is known as going cross-country. Many hikers find such travel rather intimidating. One does, indeed, need a good sense of direction and an ability to traverse steep slopes.

Dinesh climbing a steep, trailless slope

This slope is for the goats

I certainly didn't have to worry about Steve's ability in this regard. He is a real mountaineer and has climbed hundreds of peaks including Denali in Alaska and Aconcagua in Argentina. In fact, over the weekend, he had climbed a couple of hard peaks in the Sierra and he was just stretching his legs with me! If you are wondering about the kind of job he has that allows him to take even Mondays off, read on.

My non-linear career

I earned a BS degree in electrical engineering at Rose-Hulman back in 1980, then moved to Los Angeles because the defense companies recruited heavily from Indiana engineering colleges. I averaged 1.5 years per job for close to a decade, because no company ever let me do the analog circuit design I was trained to do. They had me writing specifications, testing software, even drawing integrated circuit masks with colored pencils. Early on I received an MS in electrical engineering from UCLA, which served as validation for my BS from an unknown college with no graduate department.

Finally I got fed up with the marketing guys getting bonuses when I finished a project on time by working weekends. I changed jobs and careers by becoming a software applications engineer for ECAD (now called Cadence). I supported more dollar sales than any application software engineer in their history, but I still got fired because I wouldn't take the fall for my boss.

On my own, I contacted all the customers I had supported and asked if they needed a consultant. My income went up 30% the year I got fired, and I never held a regular job again. Seven years later, I had moved from contracting to software sales. I wrote a go-between tool that allowed Cadence's simulator to run on Mentor Graphics schematics. These competitors never provided their customers with a way to translate data, but I retired on a single piece of software that connected their databases.

Somehow it seems better to fix toilets and collect rent for a living, but at one point I had direct software customers in seven countries. Rather than bet the proceeds on the fickle software market I bought rental properties and got off the bus.

We slowly made our way up the steep slope. At times, the slope was so steep, that I had to be on all fours to make any forward progress. But, eventually, we crested the top and indulged in a long leisurely lunch.

Steve resting, with a beer at hand, on the summit of Black Mountain

"For an ice-cold beer, I will hike even with a slowpoke."