Turn up the Temperature of your Thinking!

How to Approach Problems with a Creative Twist

The kitchen sink wasn’t draining. The Super Bowl was about to start, and a pile of dishes and pre-game food prep was queued up on the counter. “Well, this is great,” I said to myself. I could hear SpongeBob commenting about the pre-game show. Yes, that’s right, we tuned in to Nickelodeon, as all sports enthusiasts would do.

Several years ago, I bought a drain cleaning machine to help clear roots out of our side yard area drain. It’s one of those drum type with a motor and a 75’ auger cable. It has paid for itself ten times over for things like this. I went to the garage and wheeled it to the super small clean out drain opening. I fed the cable into the drain and watched the sink start to slowly drain. As I have done in the past, I added a garden hose to increase the water pressure and ensure the line was clear. The sink was draining. The crisis was over. Well, or so I thought. As I began to pull the cable back out, something happened. It locked up. I tried pushing it back in, but it wouldn’t budge. I wanted to get a look, so I needed to pull the water hose out to see. Oh no! It was stuck too! I pushed, pulled, and even switched the auger direction. Nothing. Then it happened, water started backing up too and was spraying all over me. I felt like I was in one of those cartoon sitcoms where everything goes wrong. I started imagining if I just cut the hose if that would help, but then that would likely permanently clog the drain. I sat there on the back patio, staring at the problem, covered in drain goo.

Large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT are complex systems that use artificial intelligence to predict answers based on context. You provide a statement or question prompt, and it will attempt to answer it. It is like an elaborate function call. The input is the prompt. To derive the output, the model feeds the input into its neural net. The network produces a set of possibilities as to the “next word” (token). Some of those next word options can be equal or similar in probability. It randomly picks one of them. A model parameter that you can use to influence that randomness is called “temperature”. The higher the temperature, the more diverse and unpredictable the output. Using 0.7, as is the default for ChatGPT, provides the model with some creative freedom (including some hallucination). A setting of 0.0 will create nearly identical responses. Turning it up to 0.9 or even as high as 2.0 will produce pure creative output, possibly with little technical relevance.

I’m not a large language model, and even my intelligence may be suspect. At least that is what I was thinking, sitting there in the pile of goo. But maybe I just need to turn up the “temperature” on my thinking. I stopped for a minute and thought about those math problems that you just couldn’t solve. After 5 pages in, you were still unable to reach the conclusion. You were stuck. The only way to proceed was to reframe the problem itself. Start over. Pick a more improbable path and see where it takes you. That’s what I needed to do. I looked at my “stuck drain” problem and decided to turn it over. Literally. I twisted the hose and the cable together. Pop! I heard the cable unwind deep in the wall. It was unstuck and began draining again. And all in time to see the Super Bowl kickoff at Bikini Bottom. I mean, that is, after a shower.

Do you ever get stuck? Does that frustrating problem seem to have no solution? Well, turn up the “temperature” of your thinking! Reframe the problem and approach it from a completely new angle. Explore the less probable path and see if it unwinds the knot and sets the problem free.

Keep Growing

Keep Growing - Green plant growing in the glow of technological advancement.

What are your skills? I recently saw some research by IBM that suggests that general skills typically have a “shelf-life” of about 5 years. More critically, technical skills expire in about 2.5 years! Fundamentally that means that for us to stay relevant, we are always re-skilling, learning new things and mutating our skills to meet the fast-evolving landscape of technology. How does that feel to you? Exciting, exhilarating and well, maybe even a bit exhausting? I agree!

Constant change is the very nature of life and all of creation. Life and creative energy strive to grow against the gravity of the status-quo, branching and evolving to become more than it was before. Each generation breaks through the bedrock of normalcy and sends roots into the unknown and absorbs it, learns from it, and flourishes. Our generation is no different. Even today, we are on the verge of a vast shift in terms of technological change and disruption.

But there is a danger. Life yearns to become greater, yet our rival, death is in the shadows, lurking to devour us. Progress demands energy and determination, but it is difficult, and the burden can become heavy, sapping away our enthusiasm. There will be the temptation to stop, to stand still, or to give up. That negative propulsion tugs on us every day. But we have a choice. We can defy gravity. We can send our roots into the unchartered unknown, learn from it and grow. How do we do that?

Stay curious! Move forward, do new things, try new ideas, open new doors. What is current in tech? Explore it and learn about it. A world of endless possibilities lies ahead. We are made for this! To grow, to explore, to experiment, and to enjoy life and all creation. And yes, I know, we are but imperfect dust, stardust to be exact. But that stardust was reborn with a glorious purpose to shine and make a difference, to help each other, to learn, to build, and to grow into what has never been before.

The frontier awaits! Technology doesn’t stand still, it keeps moving, powered by human imagination and energy. Embrace the challenge and keep learning, keep growing.

Imagine 2029

Imagine it is 2029. Describe it to me. What is going on in your life, your family, your job and in the world? What were those amazing things you dreamed about in 2024 and did those dreams come true?

Five years ago, Gene Kim, a good friend and mentor of mine, challenged me to do a thought experiment. He asked me about my goals for 2024. I started off giving general aspirational goals around making a positive impact in the world, at work, supporting my team and my family. He dared me to get specific. He told me to imagine my future self 5 years from now. What would I be proud to have accomplished if it could be anything in the world? Write it down, he said, so you can pull them out in 2024 and compare your dreams to reality. It was so clarifying, so motivating and so powerful.

When I started this exercise in 2019, I confess, I thought some of my goals were audacious if not ridiculous. But as my friend challenged me, I wrote them down anyway.  Here is what I imagined in 2019 about my 2024 future:

  1. My team and I helped Disney deliver a large new guest delighting product that wouldn’t happen without our SRE efforts.
  2. I became an author of a book and several papers on leadership and using DevOps practices to accelerate business.
  3. My team and I partnered with our businesses to expand the impact of SRE and our SRE approach to toil reduction.
  4. I’m an inventor listed on a published patent and have several patents pending.
  5. My family and I enjoyed several vacations together, managed to stay out of debt and were able to fund college.
  6. I’m the maintainer for at least one Open-Source project with over 100 stars and an active community on GitHub.
  7. We updated our home with energy efficient windows, solar panels, and built a domestic robot to help our family at home.

Not all my dreams have come true. But many of them have. In fact, all but one! My robot is still a bunch of lines on a paper, a 3D printed arm and a pile of wires in the garage. Still, I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t have accomplished even half of those things if I hadn’t listened to my wise friend and made note of my goals.

We hunger for a mission and objectives that we believe in. We prioritize time for what we think is important. State your mission. Define your objectives. Make those dreams come true, one step at a time. But it requires that first step… Imagine.

Are you ready? Let’s dream into 2029. Take a breath. Close your eyes and push out all other distractions. What will make you happy? What do you want your world to be like? After imagining that, open Notes or your favorite note taking tool with the title, “Goals for 2029” and write down 7 things. Do you believe in them? If so, save your dreams, revisit them every year or so and make them happen!

12 Days of Christmas

Christmas living room with a Cocker Spaniel sleeping on a blanket in front of a warm fire. Photo by Adobe Firefly.

Last week ended the 12th day of Christmas and Epiphany on Saturday. I sat by the fire this weekend, in the frigid 40 degree Southern California weather, contemplating my plans for our holiday decoration removal. Unintentionally poetic, we have ended up with 12 large bins that store our lights, trees, ornaments, greenery and candles. It’s beyond ridiculous. We don’t have any lords a leaping, but we do have some ladies dancing and if you will listen closely to our Scottish background music, there might be some pipers piping. I tripped over a few turtle doves on my way to get some coffee by the maids a milking, all in an attempt to amplify my motivation. 

Lighting hooks, ladders, boxes… logistics were flooding into my mind like those drummers drumming. I knew I needed to get moving, but my head was swimming around like those seven swans a swimming. I took a stroll outside to survey the outdoor décor removal. It was dusk, so likely nothing would happen today but I was building my mental checkbox and dropping items into my packing list like those geese a laying.

At this point, I need to mention that we welcomed a new girl into our family this Christmas. Her name is Elizabeth and she is a Cocker Spaniel we adopted from the local animal rescue center in Santa Paula. She is a sweetheart and I can’t help but sometimes call her Ms. Lady, from Lady and the Tramp. Anyway, she was helping me with the survey mission but as the cold wind blew, she talked me into going back inside. As is her new custom, she drug her blanket over to our fireplace and began walking in fast and determined circles on it like those five golden rings, until it was “just right”. Off to sleep she went. I shut the door and wondered what she would think about missing those beautiful black birds that had landed on our lawn. Maybe she was dreaming about the French hens instead.

Oh no! Somehow Epiphany became Sunday and the runway was running out to get all the holiday goodness packed up and stored. Oddly, it didn’t seem quite right. I discussed with my family and my true love said to me, “I’m not quite ready to take it down.” I was elated! Looking at the cheerful twinkling lights, glowing candles and shimmering ornaments, I agreed completely. It was clear that the décor needed to be enjoyed and age a few more days before it was ripe for picking and packing. 

I know what you are thinking. You have neighbors like us. They keep the lights up way to long. Yes, to keep the season special, it must be put away to be enjoyed again next time. We normally do that sort of thing religiously, but sometimes it is good to give yourself some license, some kindness and grace to pause and enjoy the moment. We wanted to sip a little more on the beauty that is all around. Do you feel it too? It’s wonderful! 

We will pack tomorrow, but today, we will enjoy the wonder of the season for a bit more. I encourage you all to do the same. Even if your holiday wares are all packed up and tidy, spend a few minutes this week reflecting, meditating and appreciating the goodness and joy that every season brings. Life is glorious, precious and can easily be missed. Enjoy it!

Oh yeah, and I’m still looking for the partridge in the pear tree…

Have a great week!

Christmas lights on a house, tress ans bushes in the evening with a snow covered yard. Photo by Adobe Firefly.

23.5 Degrees

“On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact mid-point, everybody stops and turns and hugs. As if to say, ‘Well done. Well done, everyone! We’re halfway out of the dark.’ Back on Earth we call this Christmas.” – Doctor Who


As many of you know, I’m a big fan of solar power and energy storage systems that extend the sun’s amazing power throughout the night. We installed our solar array and batteries in 2021 and I can’t help but watch and measure the incredible energy we see from our friendly thermonuclear fusion reactor in the sky.

23.5 degrees. That’s the tilt of the earth that pushes our daily spin more directly to the sun, or away from it. Ironically, due to the earths elliptical orbit, we are actually closer to the sun in the winter than the summer, 92 million miles instead of 95. But the tilt makes a huge difference. It causes the sun’s rays to hit us in the northern hemisphere at an oblique angle, bouncing off of our terrestrial globe instead of being absorbed. It’s hard for us to sense it, but the solar panels feel it! We saw a peak of 51 kWh of energy per day during this summer, now we barely get 13 kWh. That’s a quarter of what it was during peak production! The sun didn’t get lazy, we just stop getting its rays.

We have all been observing the growing blanket of darkness that pulls over us, stretching deeper into our mornings and evenings. Days get shorter and nights grow longer. As we tick inescapably towards our winter solstice on December 21, we feel the cold wind, the fading colors and the melancholy shadows that scrape against our souls. Darkness is here.

Light a candle. This isn’t our first trip around the sun. Our human family has witnessed this solar dance since our beginning. We measure the sky and plot the stars to know where we are. We embrace the rhythm of the year by decorating it with celebrations and traditions. In the darkness of the winter, we light our lights. We illuminate our winter journey. We adorn our homes with fragrant greens, twinkling lights, cheerful ornaments and glowing fires. All the while, we know, the light is coming again. The glory of the sun will return! But for now, we celebrate.

It’s almost here. The dead of winter has arrived. Cuddle up with a warm cup of coffee or tea, your loved ones and a glowing fire. The light will return. We are halfway out of the dark! Celebrate it. 

Merry Christmas!


Here is the solar energy year as seen by our solar panels via my Powerwall-Dashboard.

My Space Camp Adventure

I always wanted to go to NASA’s Space Camp. As a kid, I saw the movie SpaceCamp and dreamed of one day being able to go and learn about astronaut training and missions first hand like the characters in the movie. Maybe I’d even end up in the cockpit of the Shuttle during an FRF (Flight Readiness Firing). No, that didn’t happen, but it was fun to dream about. And of course, I never thought I would get to actually go… but then it happened!

I got to go to Space Camp! I didn’t go as a trainee, but thanks to my good friend, JD Black, I was invited to Huntsville, Alabama as a guest author, along with Gene Kim, to see among other things, the US Space & Rocket Center campus and program. We had the privilege of talking to them about their mission, software development, reliability engineering, history and leadership. It was amazing. We toured the training facilities, explored the rocket engines, and spent time in the mock international space station watching the trainees learn to tackle real-world challenges through the application of science.

For my fellow science history nerds out there, we managed to get a behind the scenes tour with the archivist, looking at equipment, notes and design plans used in the Apollo program to get us to the Moon. We even got to see the slide rule and calculations used by Wernher von Braun to design the Saturn V launch vehicles! We went from that to the Artemis mission, the NASA program to take us back to the moon in 2024-2025 with the plans to have a sustainable presence on the moon by the end of the decade. It was an incredible experience.

To the moon!

This visit inspired and reminded me of the amazing things we can do when we pursue our dreams and work together to make it happen. As a species, humans are insatiably curious. We are restless. We love to explore. We can’t help but push boundaries and reset the impossible. We dream and take moon shots. We strive to go beyond ourselves and our own restrictions. No limits, no ceilings, no borders. We apply energy, passion and ambition to go where we have never gone before. To infinity… and beyond. I love human beings… and love being human!

Keep dreaming, keep going!


Jason Cox with Gene Kim and JD Black, attempting to operate the mock ISS at Space Camp

Jason Cox with JD Black and Gene Kim at U.S. Space & Rocket Center

Birthday Connections

My dad and I share the same birthday. I once asked him if he liked celebrating his birthday. Without missing a beat, he laughed and exclaimed, “It’s better than the alternative!” 

Growing up, we would count down to the date together. He loved to call a week before to remind me that our birthday was almost here. Nine years ago, I got that last call from him. He told me a joke. We laughed together. We talked about our birthday, getting old and his new aches and pains. We reminisced and celebrated the decades long journey together. Six months later, his body would give out and he would close his final chapter. He had reached the alternative.

Today as I celebrate yet another trip around the sun, I’m reminded of my dad. I know he would be laughing and tell yet another corny joke. I miss him and will always think of him on my birthday. It is a precious thing. A golden moment that I can hug and cherish every year. 

Many of you, like me have had to say farewell to parents, friends and loved ones. Today reminds me of how precious those connections really are. It can be small things, like that simple call on your birthday, that forge a shared experience that will last the rest of your life. Can you think of a way to connect with a loved one today? Invest in those small things. Create those future memories today. Reach out to your loved ones while they are still with us. Wrap up those memories. Hold them tight against your heart and open them anytime you need a bit of encouragement. They will be a source of laughter, smiles and yes, sometimes even a tear.

Make those connections. Capture those memories. Celebrate them. We have a finite number of times around the sun, let’s make the most of them.


My first birthday celebrating it together with my dad. First time for him too. And that’s Aunt Annie and a very cool car I seem to have misplaced. – Jason

Traditions

I confess, we are troublemakers. We think differently. And we like to do things that are different. We don’t adapt to the world around us, we attempt to adapt the world to us. We love to challenge the status quo, join the rebel alliance, experiment with new ideas and promote constructive discomfort. We sit at the helm of the ship, facing the wind, breaking the ice and steering toward a brighter future. Even setbacks and head winds, steel our resolve to go further, faster. That is what we do and how we continually evolve to elevate ourselves, our teams and our company.

But around us, behind us and beneath us are the planks that support that steady progress and resolve. They may be taken for granted or go unnoticed. They support us, bind us and encourage us in ways we can’t even fully imagine. They are the rhythm of our lives. They are the fabric threads that encourage our hearts, bind our wounds, calm our anxieties and fill our sails with powerful gusts of energy. They are our traditions, our habits, our memorials and spiritual devotions. We lean on them and grow with them, year after year. We celebrate them. We gather around them as a human family, warming ourselves by their perpetual flame of stability, belonging and continuity.

Traditions. They are all around us. We are in the midst of the season of them right now. My family just celebrated several of them this past Thanksgiving week with rituals of family, fun and feasting around the dining room table. Like many of you, we celebrate with familiar holiday fare, play games, put together puzzles, participate in shopping excursions, go to the theater, watch holiday movies, bake cookies, send out Christmas cards, decorate the house and visit with family.

I love our traditions. They connect us to the past. They create bonds, shared values and experiences that forge us together as a stronger human family. Having traditions and looking forward to them brings comfort, hope and a sense of structure to our often unpredictable lives. I know what you are thinking. Yes, to be fair, there can be chaos in traditions too. But even those mishaps can add to the strength of our human story.

What are the traditions that bring you excitement, comfort and joy? Maybe you don’t have many? Well, guess what? You can make some new ones. Start this year. Assemble those planks under your feet. Stand up new guardrails of joy that you can count on and look forward to, year after year. Establish some personal or family traditions right now. Embrace some way that you can memorialize them and repeat them every year. I’m convinced that you will discover the same thing I have. The adventure is more rich, rewarding and enduring when you have traditions to keep, treasure and power you along the journey.

Happy traditions, everyone!

Feast of Life

It was time to head to the airport. The smell of ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon hung heavy in the air. I could hear the sound of an excited crowd as I rounded the corner and entered the lobby. There it was! A huge ginger bread carousel, slowly spinning around and surrounded by adoring fans. It was decorated with icing and comical Disney’s DuckTales characters. A huge grin hit my face as I watch the rest of Disney’s Beach Club Resort guests react to this delightful discovery. It was spectacular! It was like getting a warm holiday hug from a dear friend.

This week starts Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights that celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. I love that! And next week, many of us celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, gathering together to offer up our gratitude for the year over a feast of familiar favorites.

I love this time of year! As the days grow darker and colder, the warmth of friends, family, and festivities draw nearer. Now is a great time to soak in the gentle moments and reflect on the blessings of the previous year. We have much to be thankful for and much to celebrate.

Isn’t it wonderful to be alive? Each year we are given a feast of new things to enjoy, challenges to tackle, friends to meet, places to see, and experiences to remember. The table is full. Don’t miss these delicious moments. The ingredients and spices are different every time. Maybe you don’t love some of the flavors, but find the bits you like, seep and sip on those.

Now, before we launch into the Christmas season with all the black Friday shopping specials, carols, chaos, and cheer, we should take time to pause to remember. Be thankful and celebrate the feast of life that was this past year. The future is bright and more wonder awaits like that carousel in the lobby, but this year won’t come again. Remember it, cherish it, and celebrate it!

Have a great week… and Happy Thanksgiving!

Christmas Lights

It seems like yesterday I was just taking down the Christmas lights and storing them up in the attic. This weekend, I made that familiar journey back up those stairs. As is our custom, a multi week effort to holiday highlight our home begins the weekend after Halloween. Down come the boxes, lights, trees, stockings, ornaments, and dressings. Even the soundtrack changes. It is ridiculous, and I love it, every bit. Well, except for the dusty boxes and pesky cobwebs. But soon, twinkling lights, sparkling ornaments and festive splashes of holiday will fill every room. It even flows outside into the yard and onto the house as multi-color joy and gladness sing against the night sky. 

We are crazy. I admit that. Our neighbors stop at our house and laugh with me as I christen the Thanksgiving and Christmas season by hanging some of the first lights in the neighborhood. But I’m not alone. No, our zeal appears to be contagious. Before weeks end, fellow crazies are adorning their own houses too. And to be fair, go to any retail establishment or tune in to any streaming service (including our own) and you will see wall-to-wall holiday decorations! 

We need joy. These are dark times and getting darker. Winter is here again in the northern hemisphere. But I love this time of year! While the days grow cold and darker, décor becomes warmer and brighter. It’s like optimism stares in the face of doom and says, not today! Cheer illuminates the landscape. Lit trees and candles make their campaign against the growing shadows. The dark night is vanquished and hope eternal glows on.

How are you doing? Are these darkening days wearing on you? If so, add some light. Turn on the holiday cheer. Tune in to some festive ambience and embrace this time of the year as we make our well-worn path around the sun. Embrace the season and prepare for some fun. It’s time to make some new celebration memories… just watch out for the cobwebs. Here’s to a happy, hopeful, and bright holiday season!