Sunday, June 16, 2013

Why I do What I do: Thanks Dad!

This post has both nothing and everything to do with why and how I do data forensics. I hope you'll take a moment to read it. 


I am a tenacious do-it-your-selfer in many areas of my life, including home repair, veterinary medicine (just ask my poor dogs), and data forensics. Some of it I even do reasonably well once in a while (even a broken clock is right twice a day, right?). There has been a strong influence in my life that lead me inevitably to this station in life: my father.

My father is a retired firefighter--scratch that--fireman.  Some would say he was tough on me while I was growing up.  I'm sure I've said that myself more than once.  But it would be more accurate to say that from an early age, my father instilled in me a strong sense of right-and-wrong and as self-reliance.  No excuses, no B.S.  He never failed to try to teach me, never missed an opportunity to impart wisdom that came from much experience.  He saw some of the worst life had to offer and lost friends in the service of his city, and I think he was hell bent on helping me avoid the pitfalls of life.  Unfortunately, my career choices betray how closely I listened to the "avoiding harm" lessons: I became a soldier and then a police officer!

Our relationship during my teen years was rocky at times, with frequent arguments over differences of opinion on important life matters (so important, that I can't remember a single one of them).  I didn't know it then, but we argued because we were so alike.  We have a lot of the same qualities: strong wills, the desire to be right (not for the sake of being better than others, but for the sake of not being correct in what we believe, do, and say), and the wish to pass what we know onto others. It was really just our point of view that differed.

My father doesn't just talk-the-talk, though.  He, above all, walks-the-walk.  I admire him greatly in this, and I strive to be more like him in this way.  He put his family first: I can remember how happy it made me when he bought a HiFi stereo system with all the bells and whistles, not because I had a new stereo to play with (oh no, DO NOT touch the equalizer settings!), but because he finally, after something like 15 years of my life, spent money on himself for something non-essential!  It made him happy, and that made me happy, too (and eventually, I was permitted to touch the equalizer... once I was schooled in the proper shape of sound).

So, on this Father's Day, I choose to write a non-technical post, but an important one because it acknowledges the source of my beliefs:

  • Thanks Dad, for making me care about right and wrong: I may take a little too long to reach a conclusion in a case, but I'm not likely to state something untrue because I have checked and double-checked the facts to the best of my ability.  
  • Thanks Dad, for giving me and insatiable curiosity for the world around me, so that I can now study a file or file system and come to understand how they work (or hours, days, and sometimes weeks trying!).
  • Thanks Dad, for teaching me to do for myself, so that now I can write programs to solve forensics problems to get investigators and prosecutors the essential information they need.
  • Thanks Dad, for teaching me so I know how to teach others, so that all that I have learned I willingly pass on and hopefully advance my field, if only a little.
  • Thanks Dad, for helping me find perspective in what I do, not letting work step in-line ahead of my family (the real reason I am no longer a gunslinger).

Happy Father's Day.  I hope I grow up to be just like you.