News and Views

From my kids accomplishments, to my heretical perspective of the world

News and Views header image 2

Post Retirement Career

November 13th, 2014 · 6 Comments

When I retired from Intel 14 years ago I didn’t have any plans other than not doing what I was tired of doing. I had no idea of the opportunities that would open up for me.

Here’s a brief update on my “career” since then.

Arizona Neighborhoods
For several years, I helped my friend Don Bates develop a set of thousands of websites, each focused on one subdivision in the Phoenix area (AZNB.COM). That was fun and challenging, and I still help out with a little maintenance from time to time, but there haven’t been any major developments for a few years.

Soon after I retired I met the husband of one of Gisele’s friends. Les is a professor of plant biology at ASU (Arizona State University). I should say “was” since he just retired last month. Les and I both shared interest in hiking, which soon developed into a friendship and subsequently into a research partnership, with my part being mostly programming. Les and I have worked together on several projects, some of which led to published papers. For example:

— I wrote a program that queried the database of plants to plot locations where specific species were found on a map of Arizona. I later found that other teachers at ASU were using this program in their classes as an assignment. (Derek’s girlfriend, Stephanie, came to dinner one night telling how her biology professor gave the class an assignment to go to “…”. She was quite surprised, to say the least!)

— We developed another program that simulated plants growing in a desert environment. You could vary attributes such as how much water it needed, how quickly a seed would germinate after getting wet, how heat affected it, etc.. We presented this at a couple of biology conferences.

Proximity Correlation
— We recently created a program that would query the database of plants to find those that often grow together, in an attempt to describe “biomes” — typical environments such as Pine Forest, Chaparral, Riparian, etc. These biomes have been described before but just based on observation and intuition. Ours is the first attempt we are aware of that tries to quantify these ecosystems. One interesting feature is that if you have an animal or insect with location information you can add it to the list and determine which plants the animals were most likely to be associated with. We have just submitted a paper describing the project for publication in a major international journal, (TAXON).

— One of my biggest projects was called “SALIX” (Latin for willow). Les is (was) the curator of the ASU Herbarium. A herbarium is like a museum or library where hundreds of thousands of plant specimens are collected and stored, each flattened and glued to a large sheet of heavy paper. On each sheet is a label indicating data such as the scientific name, who collected it, when and where it was collected (descriptively and often including latitude, longitude and elevation), other plants in the vicinity, and several other bits of information. There are no standards on how the information is arranged or labeled.

There is a big push in the scientific collections world to database this type of information and make it generally available for research. SALIX is a program that can read the label and identify the information, determining which is the collector’s name, when and where it was collected, etc. The program was used extensively at ASU for adding their specimens to the database. The alternative to a program such as SALIX is manually reading and typing the information into a form, which is slower and more prone to errors (typos) and abbreviated information.

Recently another major herbarium has provided us funding to create a web version of the program so that it can be used anywhere by anyone. I am deep into that project now, and hope to have a usable version by early next year.

Next month I’m flying to Florida State University (Gainesville) to participate in a working group developing methods to improve the databasing of scientific collections.

So if you’ve read this far you have a small idea of what I’ve been doing for the past 14 years. It’s been more fun than I ever imagined!

Tags: Family Updates

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Richard // Nov 13, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    You titled this as “Post Retirement” but it sure doesn’t sound like retirement to me. You’re still working but just at another career. Glad you are able to do something you enjoy and that is beneficial as well.

  • 2 Don // Nov 14, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    So much fun! You and I are a lot alike in our love or programming.

    Are you still doing raw PHP or have you moved to a framework? CodeIgniter just released version 3.0. It’s very easy to learn compared to other frameworks.

    Laravel is another popular framework but I have never used it.

    What did you program everything in? C or C++ or ?

  • 3 Daryl // Nov 15, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Web programming is almost all PHP, with a little Javascript here and there. Otherwise I program in C++.

    Haven’t tried any of those new-fangled frameworks; “Been doing it this way for 20 years, don’t see any reason to change now”! 😉

  • 4 Don // Nov 19, 2014 at 8:20 am

    Old dogs and new tricks. I know it well. 😉

  • 5 Donna // Nov 19, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    You’re sure busy in your “retirement”. I know you are doing something you love. That’s the perfect recipe for life!

  • 6 Les // Nov 27, 2014 at 10:29 am

    I glad you have been drawn into the plant/biology world. A lot of of people and organizations have benefited.
    You didn’t mention you citizenship/language classes that you do on Wednesdays, nor the basket ball.
    Makes me tired to think about it all.

Leave a Comment