I’ve been slacking off a little bit in recent weeks with actually sitting down to write. As is usual a little of life gets in the way of blocking a good thing but the important thing is that I’m back and making an effort to get back in the habit. In truth, it helps that I’ve returned to my regular schedule of sitting on the edge of the pool whilst the big one takes his swimming class which gives me a few moments to reflect without interruption.

So where do we begin?

I guess, let’s work backwards, and see where we end up. In truth both personal and professional life has been taxing in the last few weeks so let’s just start writing honestly - and I’ll worry about whether any of this gets published at a later date. That’s probably the best idea. I need some writing therapy.

The week of childhood disease

Last weekend, I could have conceivably sat down to write had the kids not been both inextricably sick. There seems to be a bout of influenza going around the city’s schools and daycares which is leaving kids with high temperatures and fevers for 3 to 5 days at a time, before the invariable mutation and return to sickness.

When I took the little one to daycare on the Wednesday, I knew that there was going to be a 50/50 chance that I’d be getting a phone call to come pick him up - in the end, I simply received an email making sure that I wasn’t going to be picking him up super late. So I canceled the last few meetings in the office and made sure I picked him up early.

However, having then gone over to school to get the big guy I knew we were in for trouble when he was quiet on the ride home. Inevitably, the big guy ended up crashing and falling asleep on the sofa around 5 PM.

The little guy went crashing not far behind him.

I braced for a rough night of many interruptions to my sleep.

Invariably, some Tylenol later I had both kids with me at home on Thursday. Their mother managed to cover the only essential meeting of my morning, before she disappeared and I was left to play nurse for the rest of the day. Not a challenging job, and to be honest, Netflix did most of the nursing.

I pushed the big guy back to school on the Friday, but the little one stayed with me again on Friday - this time without any parental overlap thanks to Friday being her day of teaching and group meetings.

Pushing the big guy back to school was perhaps pennywise, pound foolish. Although he as a pain to have at home on Thursday, and him being mostly recovered on the Friday morning, going back to school wiped out his immune system and he crashed again Friday night. This lead to having two sick boys for a fun filled weekend of being just healthy enough to drum up trouble, but not being healthy to go out and actually do anything.

Parent teacher night

In the middle of all of this disease, we had a parent teacher night for the big guy virtually over Teams. What was supposed to be a 15 minute appointment was automatically reduced to under ten after thanks to connection issues and teachers changing appointments and then mixing up the connection links. Ergh!

Anyway, once we managed to get connected we were welcomed by his primary teacher and a special education consultant - which is interesting considering that the school refuses to officially acknowledge that there is a special needs class or any special treatment.

I could tell me were in for a special treat when the teacher was showing visible signs of nervousness and fidgeting. The conversation started with the inevitable set of a downfall

Now… we just want you to know that we really enjoy having < name > in our class and academically he’s doing great

I could practically count the seconds until the, big, giant “but…”

The teacher went on to explain that he has problems paying attention in class and seems very distracted.

Nothing new there.

But it seems that it has got notably worse in the last few months and they just wanted to know if it had got worse at home too.

I confirmed that this was very much a “you” problem.

So I pushed on for details.

It would seem that in subjects that he doesn’t care for, he struggles to finish tasks and is prone to getting up and walking around the class - potentially disrupting others.

So I ask. “When he gets up and walks around, what do you do?

It would appear, that they politely invite him to return to his desk and finish the task.


And if he doesn’t, what happens?

“Ahhhh… well… we politely invite him to return to his desk a second time.”

< eyeroll > Right.

They don’t tell him. They don’t shout at him. And this school doesn’t believe in detention or negative feedback - so there’s zero real consequences then.

I push on. “So what happens, if he’s still got too much energy?

“Well typically we would then send him to the gym to run off some energy”


What a mark of genius. When he acts up, he gets rewarded by being sent to the gym to play and do whatever he wants - positively reinforcing the bad behaviour.

I mean, sure it removes the distraction for the other kids in the classroom, but it’s sending him the wrong message and almost entirely guaranteeing that the behaviour happens again.

At this point the special educator feels the need to take over the conversation and begins asking us if we could speak to our paediatrician.

My good, lady wife suddenly awakens to the conversation and immediately jumps in with

Are you saying that we should medicate our child?

Oh boy! I haven’t seen someone backpedal so fast in quite some time.

No, no, no… I’m not saying that… I’m say that the paediatrician might be able to send the school some tactics that would be more effective

That’s damn right! You’re not a licensed medical professional, and you cannot legally be handing out medical advice.

It took a good deal of my willpower to not say something quite offensive at this point. Something like, “I believe in old-fashioned parenting” or “I’m not afraid to tell my kid to shut up”. Or something really crazy, that would likely get me flagged as hostile such as “and how does he respond to male role models in the school?

The whole thing is just so spineless. Doing this polite (and dare I say), woke dance around a subject rather than confront the problem directly.

If my kid has a problem, tell me. Don’t try and hide it in some compliment sandwich.

If you want to get him assessed for some medical condition. Just say so. You see way more kids in an average week than I do. Heck you even got a degree in educating kids.

I just find it so frustrating. As a manager of teams - all of us deeply flawed human beings, I don’t manage a single member of my team the same way. I learn individual ways of motivating every single member, and I frequently change strategies and communication styles in the face of the situation. Sometimes in the same conversation or even the same sentence.

Yet, a children’s specialist has one way to talk to kids. And if that doesn’t work. Well then, you’re on your own kid.

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What distinguishes you from other developers?

I've built data pipelines across 3 continents at petabyte scales, for over 15 years. But the data doesn't matter if we don't solve the human problems first - an AI solution that nobody uses is worthless.

Are the robots going to kill us all?

Not any time soon. At least not in the way that you've got imagined thanks to the Terminator movies. Sure somebody with a DARPA grant is always going to strap a knife/gun/flamethrower on the side of a robot - but just like in Dr.Who - right now, that robot will struggle to even get out of the room, let alone up some stairs.

But AI is going to steal my job, right?

A year ago, the whole world was convinced that AI was going to steal their job. Now, the reality is that most people are thinking 'I wish this POC at work would go a bit faster to scan these PDFs'.

When am I going to get my self-driving car?

Humans are complicated. If we invented driving today - there's NO WAY IN HELL we'd let humans do it. They get distracted. They text their friends. They drink. They make mistakes. But the reality is, all of our streets, cities (and even legal systems) have been built around these limitations. It would be surprisingly easy to build self-driving cars if there were no humans on the road. But today no one wants to take liability. If a self-driving company kills someone, who's responsible? The manufacturer? The insurance company? The software developer?