Every other month, Staff Notes Monthly spotlights a
stochastically chosen staff member. This month we profile Jeff Boote, an
SCD software engineer.
Jeff Boote. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)
How Jeff got hired:
Gradually. He spent much of his childhood in Littleton and finished high
school at Columbine. (Last year's tragedy was "pretty disturbing" for
him, although he didn't know anyone affected.) Then Jeff majored in
computer science at the University of Colorado. "I lived at the bottom
of the NCAR hill and thought, 'That'd be a cool place to work.' In 1989,
he and some classmates built a color editor for the NCAR Graphics
display package, as a class project toward their software-engineering
degrees. Jeff soon signed on as a student assistant, and about 18 months
later, he got a permanent position in SCD.
Jeff's current NCAR job:
"I wear a couple of different hats." One of them is working in the
Visualization Lab, which is now part of the new Visualization and
Enabling Technology Section. Jeff works with Tim Scheitlin, John Clyne,
and section head Don Middleton to translate NCAR science into high-
resolution, multidimensional animations.
Getting to know you:
Jeff says the Viz Lab does its best work after they've cultivated a
working relationship with the scientists they're serving. "When we start
out, we don't understand their science well enough to depict it, and
often they don't understand what we can and can't do. Through a back-
and-forth process, we can get to the point where we're producing
something useful." Before they run their models, long-time clients
consider the visualization component in deciding what variables should
be output and what resolutions are necessary.
How to visualize weather and climate:
Very carefully. For instance, a model might use sigma coordinates that
hug terrain instead of conforming to the standard Cartesian frame that
viewers consciously or unconsciously place atop an image. Modelers have
to decide whether to portray data as averages or instantaneous values
and how much temporal and spatial resolution to use. Each of these
choices can clarify or obscure the main scientific points at hand. "It
can be really easy to make a visualization that doesn't adequately
represent the data. Lots of times you can get a picture really easily,
but whether that picture is accurate is something else."
Jeff's other hat at NCAR:
Web wonk. He supervises the Web engineering group housed in SCD. So far,
it includes only him and UCAR Webmaster Andrei Rodionov. ("Big group,"
he laughs.) The group is one of several established in the wake of the
1998 Information Technology Council strategic plan, which called for
cross-divisional, task-oriented development groups to bring UCAR and
NCAR up to speed. UCAR money is now funding Andrei's position and
several new servers. For the recent redesign of the UCAR Web site, "We
helped organize the directory hierarchy and the redirect [messages]."
Why hasn't he been lured into the dot.com world?
"Freedom. I've got the freedom here to work on a lot of different things
and take on additional challenges."
Where he gets some of his best ideas:
At home. Jeff was a work-at-home pioneer during the early 1990s, and he
continues to spend about one workday a week there. "For about three
years I worked exclusively at home on an NCAR Graphics package. I think
I was probably more productive for that kind of work [at home]." The big
challenge when he started home-work in 1994: configuring his SGI/Unix
system for PPP (point-to-point protocol, a common method for dialing
in). "Not very many people were telecommuting at that time. Now it's
Most-loved distractions when working at home:
His two daughters, 4-year-old Rachael and 5-year-old Randi, who just
finished kindergarten. "She liked it a whole bunch for the first seven
months and then decided it was boring. Rachael was super-jealous of
Randi all year long."
Biggest recreational dilemma:
Whether to road-bike or mountain-bike. "I do both." He doesn't cycle the
52-mile round trip from Arvada to work, but he takes frequent fun rides
on evenings and weekends.
Jeff's tips for cyclists:
"One of my favorite mountain-bike rides is a loop around Gross
Reservoir," a few miles west of Boulder. "It's not that difficult, but
it's close, and it's never been that busy when I've been on it." When
time is short, Jeff does a quick loop from Highway 93 down Cherryvale to
Superior, passing through some county open space trails. "It's like an
inner Morgul Bismark route," he says, referring to the famous road-race
loop in that vicinity. For road biking, Jeff enjoys the loop around
Standley Lake, which isn't far from his house.
If he hadn't gone into computing:
Jeff might have been a professional musician. He came close to majoring
in music at CU while playing trombone in both the marching and
basketball bands. "The basketball band was a lot of fun, even though the
team almost always lost."