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Small Cancers, Big Data, and a Life Examined

Socrates may have lived a little before Tim Berners-Lee and knew nothing about HTML or the WWW, but he was nobody's fool

"The unexamined life is not worth living."
Plato

There's no doubt that Plato was on to something. The observation, from Plato's Apology, is a recollection of the speech Socrates gave at his trial...and for all that Socrates may have lived a little before Tim Berners-Lee and knew nothing of HTML or the World Wide Web, he was nobody's fool.

Sometimes it is only by pure chance that some of us get a chance though to subject their own lives to Socratic scrutiny. In my case it arises because on this day two years ago I was operated on (successfully as it turned out) for the most lethal of all the cancers, pancreatic cancer – and if you can't scrutinize your life two years after having it salvaged by a sure-handed surgeon who succeeded 100% in resecting the tumor concerned, then when can you?

But here's the thing. In conducting my weekend scrutiny, I realized that most of my life – since my four children were all conceived (same wife, honest!) while I was relatively young – wasn't so much unexamined as unknown....to the kids, I mean. So I have decided to celebrate the two-year annivsary of my Whipple surgery by sharing with them some highlights of the life that I have been so very fortunate as to enjoy, and which two years ago today was given an extension that I hope I can somehow do justice to.

It's easy to deal with my education, since it took place in precisely three places: at my tiny primary school, St. Christopher's, followed by The John Lyon School, from which I went up to Trinity College, Cambridge.

Here they are, in order:

St. Christopher's School, Wembley Park, Middlesex
The John Lyon School, Harrow
Great Court, Trinity College, Cambridge

Quite a progression, in terms of architecture (and, admittedly, in terms of education too; Trinity College, which was founded by King Henry VIII, somehow survived my time there unscathed but only because long before my arrival it had already nurtured Sir Isaac Newton, Lord Byron, Ernest Rutherford, Wittgenstein, Vladimir Nabokov, Lord Macaulay, A A Milne, Andrew Marvell, Nehru, G E Moore, several British prime ministers, George Herbert, the mathematician G H Hardy, Thackeray, A E Housman, Bertrand Russell, and last but decidely not least no fewer than twenty-seven Nobel Prize winners in the sciences – more than the whole of France, as the Master of the Trinity in my day, the late The Rt. Hon. The Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, hugely enjoyed pointing out).

Traditionally one's education is followed by one's profession but in my case I was already, while at Cambridge, (far too) busily at work – having founded my own publishing company in my second undergraduate year, and having become, long before my final year, a creator of daily radio features for a commercial radio station based in what was at the time London's tallest office tower, Capital Radio (pictured below).

Capital Radio, London NW1

The popular success of my radio endeavors led in time to the start of my career at BBC Television & Radio (pictured below are BBC TV Center and BBC Broadcasting House, the two epicentres of my BBC years).

BBC Television Centre, London W12
BBC Broadcasting House, London W1

And those BBC activities were complemented by a delightful side-job as feature writer for the British national daily the Daily Mail, where I had the good fortune, under the then editor Sir David English, to write op-ed pieces about the vagaries of the English language.

Northcliffe House, Central London HQ of the Daily Mail


Next came the lure of book publishing, specifically academic book publishing...below are some of the many volumes in the long-running "21st Century Studies" series with which, guided by an incredible International Advisory Board of gifted visionaries and three very close colleagues who were highly accomplished forward-thinkers in their own right, I became most closely identified as Founder & Publisher:

Beyond the Dependency Culture Cover Image Chaotics Cover Image Rescuing All Our Futures Cover Image Changing Visions Cover Image The Evolutionary Outrider Cover Image
Beyond the Dependency Culture Cover Image Caring for Future Generations Cover Image Culture Cover Image Valueware Cover Image The Foresight Principle Cover Image
Praeger Studies on the 21st Century

- Praeger Publishers (now ABC-CLIO)

The appeal of analog publishing was steadily superseded by the lure of its digital equivalent, and so began the 13-year U.S. journey which began with magazine publishing but soon morphed into Web publishing. Below are just a handful of the 15 or so print titles that I had the good fortune either to edit or to co-create, before the print versions were retired in favor of their Web equivalents:


http://res.sys-con.com/story/oct08/698919/VJ_CoverMockUp.jpg

But no one said that technology magazines, whether published in print or online, would be sufficient to quench the thirst of Enterprise IT professionals for information, news, and analysis of the incredible trajectory of the Internet and all the many associated technologies it has over time fostered.

Accordingly much of the past decade has been devoted to helping produce different series of conferences and expos, from XML DevCon in 2000 and Web Services Edge in 2001 through SOAWorld and then AJAXWorld and Real-World Flex to Virtualization Conference & Expo and then, from 2008 onwards, the international Cloud Expo series, to which we've added Big Data Expo and (soon) SDN Expo.

These various shows, too, are most easily summarized visually. So here goes with a more or less random selection of shots from the 50+ shows that I have had the pleasure and the honor of "sharing and chairing"...

XML DevCon, New York City, 2000
Wireless DevCon, Santa Clara CA, 2000
Web Services Edge, Boston, 2005

1st AJAXWorld, New York City, 2006



6th AJAXWorld, San Jose CA, 2008
9th Cloud Expo, Santa Clara CA, 2010



10th Cloud Expo | Cloud Expo New York 2011
12th Cloud Expo | Cloud Expo New York - coming in June!


So there it is. A brief life-journey triggered by Small Cancer (that's what they term it when the tumor is only 2cm or less in size when they diagnose it...which is all too rarely the case with pancreatic cancer but I was one of the lucky few)...and which has ended in Big Data!

We will have to see if this counts as a life-examination – probably not, more of a very quick skimming of the surface...in which case my life remains "unexamined" by Socratic standards.

But at least it gave me the chance to dig out some old photos, and to make a start at least on making up to those four children (and their wonderful mother) for not often enough, over past thirty years, being on the same time zone as them...let alone the same continent!

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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