Friday, 26 October 2012
In early 2006, after years of progressively worsening chronic pain due to a damaged lower back, I had surgery to remove the lumbar disc at the L5/S1 level of my lower spine. The failed disc was replaced with a new device – a three-piece metal joint called the Kineflex Lumbar Disc – which was under FDA study as an alternative to fusing the two bones together.
The artificial joint, which is made of a strong, durable cobalt chromium alloy (and should last longer than I do, I am told) maintains the natural movement of the back and that joint, where a fusion locks that joint up and grows the two bones together into one. In theory, the result is better overall since a fusion results in transferring the load and movement (and resulting wear and tear) to the adjacent joints.
The stuff that didn’t work…
This all came to pass after repeated attempts at less-invasive therapy and surgical procedures. From medication to physical therapy, then on to anti-inflammatory steroid injections (hot topic these days) and surgical procedure called a microdiscectomy, the pros tried many different approaches (and I suffered through even more pain and troubles) before we eventually settled on serious surgery. And even then it was still a tough decision.
Looking back on it now, I really waited too long before pulling the trigger each step of the way. Too long to go to the doctor in the first place, too long to get the first steps of treatment, and too long to get to a spine orthopedic specialist. I was beyond miserable, barely able to get on my feet (and sometimes unable to get up off the floor). I was quite literally in constant pain, and my mind and body had compensated – as the brain tends to do – by tuning out all but the worst of it from conscious awareness. But pain is still pain, and the lack of sleep and physical consequences of always compensating for it were just too great and went on for too long. By the time I had the ADR surgery, it was well past time to do something.
My doctor – Dr. Reginald Knight, who I hear now practices medicine somewhere on the east coast – Was awesome. I went up to Seattle and met with him. He evaluated me and determined surgery was the best remaining option in my case. He offered up the medical trial device as an option to fusion of the joint. In fact, it was a lottery-style program: I would either get the Kineflex device or another artificial disc, and I would not know which until after the surgery (since they were randomly and blindly assigned).
It was a pretty heavy duty procedure, known as an anterior approach (good description here), which involved cutting me open below my belly button and moving all my guts and stuff out of the way in order to get access to my spine from the front. Then they cut the ligaments along the joint, removed the badly damaged disc (a shock-absorbing-like structure between the vertebrae) and replaced it with the artificial disc. That process consisted of cutting some slots in the bone, spreading the joint out, and sliding the new artificial joint in place. Then they sewed me back up.
As I wrote about at the time, the first few days were pretty rough. But quickly I started to heal and within a few weeks I was getting better and better. Within an month and a half, I was travelling internationally and was well on the way to being “normal” again.
Life after the surgery…
I wrote about my status a year later, and commented on how much better things had become. Since that time, my back has only improved. I regularly ski and do anything I want. In fact, 99% of the time I forget I have the artificial disc at all. For a year or so after the surgery I would get some odd joint clunks and pops, but over time my body has adjusted and anymore it’s just part of me. Everything else seems to have aligned and adjusted.
When doing heavy-impact sports, such as skiing on icy or very hard surfaces, the jarring motion on my back can cause some inflammation. I have to watch out for that. But it’s more of an aggravation than a problem. I just have to remember that there’s no more shock absorber there – It’s all hard metal now. Once a joint is damaged as badly as mine was, you’ll never be 100% better I think, but I am consistently 90-95% like new, and that’s something I’m grateful for.
There are a few things people ask me about regularly, so I’ll list those here with some answers.
Q: How do you deal with airports? Do you set off metal detectors or get into trouble on those new millimeter-wave scanners?
A: No problems at all. The metal is non-ferrous, so it doesn’t set off magnetic sensors, and the millimeter-wave scanners look at surface items, not into your body. So I’ve had no issues at all, not even once. And I fly commercially a lot.
Q: What restrictions did your doctor place on you, and for how long?
A: Now every patient will get specific instructions from his/her doc, but mine were clear: My doc told me that I had missed out on enough life, and that I needed to follow some common sense rules post-surgery about not bending over or lifting anything for a couple weeks (mostly aimed I think at making sure my incision healed without tearing), but within a few weeks he told me it was time to get out and do whatever I wanted. If it was uncomfortable, I’d know not to go there. But, he said, no restrictions (literally) and that was it. I took him at his word and went to Germany for work, where I climbed the 400+ stone steps to the Heidelberg castle and walked mikes and miles.
Q: Have you placed any restrictions on yourself?
A: Since the trip to Germany in 2006, I’ve done nothing but stay active with skiing, boating, jet skiing and a variety of other crazy, stupid activities. I did give up my motorcycle, however (the street bike, not the dirt bike hah – I still have that one!). I found that when I rode it I was focused on what could happen to my back if I was in a motorcycle accident. If that joint was damaged, fixing it would not be much of an option. I’d rather not take that chance and I found that the mental distraction was not exactly safe, either. So that’s the one thing I gave up. For now, anyhow. :)
Q: Are there dangers and side effect of the surgery?
A: All major surgery has risk. Anesthesia, bleeding problems – these are real any time someone goes under the knife. In particular this procedure has some risk related to blood vessel damage, since there are some key vessels to watch out for. In addition, there’s a risk of possible nerve damage that men especially should be aware of, since it can affect fertility and – well – let’s just call it “plumbing operations.” You can look it up if you like. Sometimes the damage is self-correcting over time, other times it’s permanent. Don’t avoid talking about the possible issues there. While it’s rare and occurs in a very small percentage of cases, once a guy is affected he is 100% affected - and probability just isn’t relevant at that point.
Past writings for people who are interested…
For people who are looking for information, or for anyone who cares to read back in time stalker-style (hah), I documented my surgery experience and early recovery, plus my one year results, here on this site:
I also documented the mess of different things the docs tried, but which failed – much of the stuff that led up to the major surgery:
Thursday, 26 November 2009
I spent the afternoon and the better part of the evening with my friend Dave the other day. We're close friends of ten years, both pilots and generally good buddies. We spent the day keeping each other company and - although we only briefly spoke about it - supporting each other through the anniversary of a difficult, life-changing day. It's so hard to believe it's actually been ten years - Both an eternity and a blink of the eye, all rolled into one. So much has changed in that time, yet so much seems the same.
Life can make remembering the good stuff difficult, if we let it. My son died suddenly the day before Thanksgiving so many years ago. He was 15 years old, and Dave was his good friend in high school. While much has happened and changed in both our lives in the intervening time, there's a slice of us that was sort of put on hold back then - almost as if one dimension of time simply stopped still while others kept on moving along. We both miss Brian, but we're also thankful for the times we had together.
So, the Thanksgiving holiday is always a bit of a rough time for me - one with mixed and conflicting feelings. Every year, however, I purposefully try my best to remember what this holiday is all about and to reflect on all the things in life for which I am truly grateful, and there are many. One of the ways I accomplish that is by writing and re-writing these words annually, adding to them and making them paint a picture of life at the time. I do this partly for me, and in no small part for others who might be feeling much the same way and just happen to run across this. So in some ways I'm repeating myself here, but that's what it's all about really - to keep looking back, reflecting on progress, changing and growing as we move forward.
Life's not perfect, and from the depths of the desperate situations and experiences that substantially change us - often things that we would never wish to have happen again, to anyone - we are destined to learn and grow, and hopefully to become better people in the end. I know I have experienced that over the years, and my life is quite different as a result.
Not too long ago some friends of mine impressed upon me the importance of adopting an "attitude of gratitude" in life. What they meant - at least in part - was that the place where you focus your thoughts is pretty much where you'll end up, and that being grateful for what you have - rather than obsessed or angry about what you don't have - is a good thing. For the most part I think they're right. This time of year I tend to think about a lot of different things, some difficult and some pleasant. But every year I try to take some Thanksgiving time to remember that even though life is crazy and our time is often too-short, there are so many things in life for which I am grateful and give thanks.
So, ultimately this message is supposed to be about what I am thankful for. About gratitude. So let's get to that.
This has been an amazing year for me. So much has changed in my life. I am thankful for Laura, my new and amazing wife who somehow understands me and has truly changed my world for the better. And for Megan, Nick and Sam, three of the greatest kids one could possibly hope for. I only hope I can be what they need me to be. They mean so much to me and I love them all very much.
I am also grateful for our many terrific friends, my (now much larger) extended family, my job, our home, my goofy dog, and now another goofy dog. I'm thankful for flying and wakeboarding and skiing and concerts and so many special things we get to experience. I'm grateful for doctors who fixed my damaged body a few years ago and for people who cared enough to put their lives on hold and help me when I needed it. I often wish I was better toward those who have been so good to me, and I strive to find ways to both give back and pay forward. I truly appreciate them, and am thankful they are a part of my life.
There are many, many people in this world much better than me, and a few of those good people I've had the privilege to know personally. I am thankful for them, even if I don't or can't always show it when it counts. I only hope in the future I can be more more worthy of their qualities.
Thanksgiving doesn't have to happen just one day a year. We can - and should - remember these things every day. But in a busy world of hurrying to get from here to there every day it can be easy to forget, so a little reminder never hurt anyone.
I'm grateful for my life - all of it. The people in it, the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, and for all the possibilities of the future - whatever those may be. I've been lost and found again. Even though I'm not sure how or why, I think I've come out of it all at least a little bit better of a person. At least I hope so. Our experiences and what we do with them when he times get tough make us who we are. I've been very fortunate in so many ways, and am truly thankful for that.
As they say, "With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."
Yes, it is.
Monday, 08 June 2009
After a year and a half of doing some fun security and IT consulting (along with taking some valuable personal time off), last week I returned as a contractor to work full-time at the "parent" of the company I used to work for. Fiserv acquired CheckFree last year, shortly after CheckFree acquired Corillian - which was the company I at worked for about eight years.
My new responsibilities involve working on enterprise security strategy for the company as a whole. I'm excited to be back working with a bunch of people I respect and admire. Completing the full-circle path this transition represents, I'm even sitting back at very the same desk I occupied when I managed Corillian's IT department several years ago. Funny how these things happen! It's been fun to catch up with my old coworkers and to get back in the seat.
Who knows... I might even be inspired to write more here in the future, now that I'm getting my brain back into technology again full-time. :)
Monday, 02 March 2009
As of this evening, I am among the ranks of those who call themselves licensed pilots.
"Wow, what a day! I woke up this morning and started in on some non-flying related stuff that I had on my list, and at about 8:45 this morning my instructor, Kelly called me. Turns out one of the local FAA examiners that conducts check rides for private pilot candidates had today open and so he wanted to see if I could be at the airport for my FAA check ride at 1pm today. It wasn't quite where my mind was focused at the time the call came, but I quickly started shifting gears in my brain and agreed to be at Twin Oaks Airpark to meet Kelly at noon so we could make sure all the paperwork was in order."
Read the whole story about the exam and check ride on my flying blog.
Monday, 24 November 2008
It seems like just yesterday in many ways, but it's actually been nine years - An eternity and the blink of an eye, all rolled into one. So much has changed in that time, yet so much seems the same.
My son died suddenly on November 24th so many years ago, and while much has happened and changed in the intervening time, there's a slice of me that was sort of put on hold back then - almost as if one dimension of time simply stopped still while another kept on moving along. I miss Brian, but I am also thankful for the time we had together.
So, the Thanksgiving holiday is always a bit of a rough time for me, one with mixed feelings. Each year, however, I purposefully try my best to remember what the holiday is all about and to reflect on the things in life for which I am truly grateful, and there are many. One of the ways I do that is by writing and re-writing this, partly for me and in no small part for others who might be feeling much the same way. Over the past couple years I've published versions of the words things I'm repeating here, but that's what it's all about really - looking back, reflecting on progress, changing and growing as we move forward.
Not too long ago some friends of mine impressed upon me the importance of adopting an "attitude of gratitude" in life. What they meant - at least in part - was that the place where you focus your thoughts is pretty much where you'll end up, and that being grateful for what you have - rather than obsessed with what you don't have - is a good thing to do. For the most part I think they're right. This time of year I tend to think about a lot of things, some difficult and some pleasant. But every year I try to take some Thanksgiving time to remember that even though life is crazy and our time is often too short, there are so many things in life for which I am grateful and give thanks.
Life's not perfect, and from the depths of the desperate situations and experiences that substantially change us - often things that we would never wish to have happen again, to anyone - we are destined to learn and grow, and hopefully to become better people in the end. I know I have experienced that over the years, and my life is quite different as a result.
But, this is supposed to be about what I am thankful for. About gratitude.
I am thankful for my friends, my family, my work, my home, my goofy dog. I am grateful for doctors who fixed my damaged body and for people who cared enough to put their lives on hold when I needed it. I sometimes wish I was better to those who have been so good to me, and I strive to find ways to give back and pay forward. I truly appreciate them, and am thankful they are a part of my life.
There are many people in this world much better than me, and a few of those good people I've had the privilege to know personally. I am thankful for them, even if I don't or can't always show it when it counts. I only hope in the future I can be more much more worthy of their qualities.
Thanksgiving doesn't have to be just one day a year. We can - and should - remember these things every day. But in a busy world of getting from here to there, a strong reminder never hurt anyone.
I'm grateful for my life, the people in it, the goods and the bads, and for the possibilities of the future - whatever those may be. I've been very fortunate in many, many ways, and am truly thankful for that. As they say, "With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."
Yes, it is.
Monday, 17 November 2008
Thursday, 25 September 2008
Note: While I'll likely cross-post the occasional flying post here (or maybe I'll just mention a few highlights), I've started a whole new blog called Coordinated Flight where I'll publish all my flying-related stuff. That way this blog won't get overloaded with long, detailed flying stuff.
The past couple days I've spent a little time down at Twin Oaks Airpark, a small private airport located on the far west side of Portland, Oregon. Yesterday I spent an hour there, and today I went for about two hours. Both days I learned and flew with my new flight instructor, Kelly. I've always wanted to learn to fly and over the years I've spent quite a bit of time in small aircraft. But now I'm going to put the time and effort (and expense) into learning and practicing everything one needs to know to safely fly a small aircraft.
Yesterday was what they call an introductory ride. Kelly met me and we went to the airpark office, where we chatted with Betty Stark. The Stark family owns the airpark which is on an old dairy farm and has a single runway, several hangars, classrooms and a fuel station. Then we went to our aircraft for the day, a Cessna 150. Kelly showed me the aircraft and together we went though the walk-around checklist. The Cessna 150 is a two-seater and is a smallish aircraft, but is a very common trainer. After checking out the aircraft we climbed in and started the checklist for starting the aircraft. I turned the key and the prop started spinning. Kelly explained some more necessary details about the controls and told me what was going to happen. And then we were off.
We taxied from the ramp to the end of the runway and did the engine run-up and final checks on the list. Kelly radioed the local traffic to let anyone flying in the area know we were departing, and he told me to put my hands and feet on the controls so I could feel the aircraft as we departed. He explained each task he was doing as he performed them, from the time we walked up to the aircraft until we were in the air. I think I've found a great instructor. He clearly knows his stuff and is confident. That gave me a feeling of confidence, too.
Once we were in the air, he told me he was going to hand the controls over to me. The next thing I knew I was flying the airplane. Of course, Kelly was still there, light on the controls in case I screwed something up. He didn't overwhelm me with information, but instead balanced the doing, the explaining and the having fun and looking out the window. We spent about 30 minutes in the air (and a little rain from the clouds that were well above us) and then returned to the air park. I learned about the traffic pattern for Twin Oaks (it's a left pattern with a 45-degree entrance). It was a lot of fun, and probably just the right mix of time, information and experience for a first flight.
Kelly gave me a quick-read intro book with some basic information to learn: Controls, attitude, parts of an airplane, climbs and descents, turns. He assigned it as homework and we arranged to meet again the next day at 3pm for two hours - starting with a quick ground lesson followed by some time in the air.
When I arrived today, we went into the small classroom and Kelly explained some of the performance numbers I need to start getting familiar with. It clear to me that there are a lot of pieces of information that will need to become second nature. Today's classroom lesson focused on common airspeeds and engine RPMs for different basic flight maneuvers, plus an introduction to flying the traffic pattern and the proper aircraft configuration for landings. I had a chance to ask questions and took some notes and we headed out for the aircraft (another C-150, but not the same one).
Today our time at the aircraft was a bit different than yesterday. Kelly handed me the checklist and rather than having me following him as we did the first time, he followed me as I did the walk-around inspection, checking the aircraft from nose to tail, top to bottom. He told me that the next time we meet, he may have me do the pre-flight walk-around on my own (I'm sure he'll check my work, too). After the outside inspection, he then moved the plane to a safe spot on the ramp and we climbed in. Once properly buckled up, we returned to the checklist and started the process of making sure everything was working, properly configured and ready for flight. I turned the key and Kelly showed me how the ground controls work. It's pretty counterintuitive to get out of a car and climb into an airplane: To steer in the ground you use the two foot pedals (and toe brakes when needed). If you put your hands on the control yoke (wheel), nothing happens on the ground. I'm sure looked pretty funny when my brain automatically told me hands to turn the wheel left or right. I had to force myself to use my feet. Once I took my hands completely off the yoke, however, it got a little easier.
I was taught how to do turns on the ramp, with and without brakes. After that, Kelly had me taxi the plane down the taxiway to the end of the runway, where we then entered the runway and taxied all the way to the end, did a couple turns, and then did the same thing all over again. It was a good opportunity to try to get my brain around driving the aircraft on the ground with my feet. I think some future practice will be helpful in overcoming some of the counterintuitiveness.
Kelly then had me stop on the ramp at the end of the runway, where we did our engine run-up and other checklist items. Then he made the radio call and told me to taxi onto the runway and line up on the center line for take-off. I managed to line it up and then let it point left a bit. After correcting for that (I bet it looked pretty dumb from outside the plane, heh), Kelly walked me through applying full throttle and he controlled the plane with his feet as we sped down the runway. "Okay, you feel that? We're doing a wheelie now," he said as the nose started to lift. A little pull back on the yoke and we were in the air, climbing out. When you depart to the south out of twin oaks, you have to start a turn soon after departure due to a noise abatement area (you'd think if you buy or build a house next to an airport you'd know what you're getting into, but oh well). So after a gradual left turn we straightened out and continued climbing. The airport is at about 270 feet above sea level, and we climbed to about 2200 feet.
The main in-air lesson consisted of progressively moving through various maneuvers and maintaining proper attitude of the aircraft: Climbs, gradual turns, medium turns, descents, trimming the aircraft for hands-off flight, and then combination maneuvers: climbing turns and descending turns combined with ending each of the turns on specific compass headings and returning to straight and level flight. It was really fun.
We were almost right on top of the airport before I even recognized it. That whole awareness-of-where-you-are thing comes with time, they say. For now, it;s enough to pay attention and apply what my instructor tells me.
By the time we were ready to enter the landing pattern, my brain was on the edge of overload. 45 minutes of information and sensory load was enough for my feeble brain I guess, so it was good that Kelly was handling all of the landing. I just kept feet on the pedals and fingers on the yoke to feel the controls move. Kelly explained what he was doing as we followed the landing pattern (upon passing the end of the runway on the downwind leg turn carb heat on, throttle to 1500 RPM, flaps to 10 degrees (three seconds pressing the switch), add nose-up trim... then on turn to base leg, dial in 10 degrees more more flaps, engine speed will increase as work load decreases so a little less throttle to maintain RPMs, maintain 70mph, look for the end of the runway on your left and prepare to turn to final... then your final turn, check airspeed and ensure you're moving straight for the numbers on the end of the runway (that they're not rising or sinking), add or subtract throttle as needed and line up... after that, work some voodoo magic, flare the aircraft a bit and put the wheels on the ground without breaking anything - I figure the details will become more clear as I get more experience, heh... then keep the aircraft moving straight down the runway with your feet (back to those feet again) and when all the tricycle wheels are on the ground and it's safe apply a little gradual brake as needed to slow the airplane and taxi off the runway...)
Now I have my first textbook in hand, which is the basis of the ground school lessons (which I am looking forward to). I took a ground school class several years ago at Portland Community College when I was thinking about learning to fly helicopters (I then did the financial math and decided maybe I should wait), and I am hoping some of that will come back and help me this time around. I'm flying to Philadelphia this weekend for a family get-together, so I'll have plenty of time for reading the first couple chapters and answering the questions for each - while on the plane.
I borrowed all the pics here from the Twin Oaks web site. Sometime I hope I'll get comfortable enough to be able to take some quick pics of my own (but for now all I can really think about are the tasks at hand in flying that chunk of metal through the air).
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
Now and then I think back to an old song, a not-quite-as-old television commercial, and a little league baseball "career" that happened years before. In each of our lives there's that song, that toy, that event, or what have you - Something from our past that somehow pulls us back, and returns our minds directly into a piece of our past that has some real meaning.
For me, one of those timeless reminders is a song and a Pizza Hut commercial from the early 90's. I recall seeing the commercial on TV, and it's on the old VHS video tape of the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. The song is called "Right Field," and it was originally performed by Peter, Paul and Mary (here's an iTunes link
for ya). I'm not sure who's singing in the Pizza Hut commercial, but the combination of the visuals and the music is priceless, and it just takes me back.
I think when I was much younger, I even looked a bit like that kid. Maybe a somewhat skinnier head, but close. Watching that commercial truly takes me back. I wasn't a great baseball player by any stretch of the imagination, but I truly enjoyed the game. I remember taking a couple fast pitches to the face, and standing in right (or left, or center) field, the ball high in the air and coming down at me. I was always at least a little amazed when it landed in my glove. I remember my best friends with me on the team and out on the field. The cottonwood fluff floating in the air, just like in the commercial. Lots of rubber bands, oil and a ball wrapped in a new glove, crammed under the truck tire overnight. And I remember, quite clearly, our dads (who were also our coaches) taking us to -- you guessed it -- the local Pizza Hut after games, where we pigged out (that's the term we used back then), belched a lot of soda bubbles, and generally had a great time. I remember playing Space Invaders and Asteroids and Missile Command on the table games there when they were brand new.
Years later as an adult, when the Pizza hut commercial was created I remember watching it with a couple of my foster sons. It was baseball season for them, and they loved it as much as I did. Of course, the fact that it was on the beginning of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video tape helped (since they loved that, too). I was helping coach by then. When the kids weren't around, I sometimes played the commercial over and over a few times. I know it sounds weird, but like I said - Each of us has those little things that truly take us back.
A lot of people don't realize the original song is one of many great songs by Peter, Paul and Mary. I have no idea who recorded the actual music used in the commercial spot. Many people also often don't realize there are additional verses. The final verse and chorus, with a minor modification, if what they used in the commercial. That's my favorite part, but the whole song is great and I think anyone who's a fan of the song would like to hear it or read the lyrics. Here's an iTunes link
. The original lyrics appear below, and I've added a bonus YouTube link -- video of PP&M performing the original song
Saturday summers, when I was a kid
We'd run to the schoolyard and here's what we did
We'd pick out the captains and we'd choose up the teams
It was always a measure of my self esteem
'Cuz the fastest, the strongest, played shortstop and first
The last ones they picked were the worst
I never needed to ask, it was sealed,
I just took up my place in right field.
Right field, its easy, you know.
You can be awkward and you can be slow
That's why I'm here in right field
Just watching the dandelions grow
Playing right field can be lonely and dull
Little leagues never have lefties that pull
I'd dream of the day they'd hit one my way
They never did, but still I would pray
That I'd make a fantastic catch on the run
And not lose the ball in the sun
And then I'd awake from this long reverie
And pray that the ball never came out to me
Right field, its easy, you know.
You can be awkward and you can be slow
That's why I'm here in right field
Just watching the dandelions grow
Off in the distance, the game's dragging on,
There's strikes on the batter, some runners are on.
I don't know the inning, I've forgotten the score.
The whole team is yelling and I don't know what for.
Then suddenly everyone's looking at me
My mind has been wandering; what could it be?
They point at the sky and I look up above
And a baseball falls into my glove!
Here in right field, its important you know.
You gotta know how to catch
You gotta know how to throw
That's why I'm here in right field
Just watching the dandelions grow!
A simpler time, not a worry in the world. Just a ball, a bat, a group of kids, a field and a few dandelions to distract some of us. We may never get back there in real life, but it's fun to revisit it from time to time in our minds.
I'm also reminded, strangely enough, of something that happened many years later. Several years ago I was in a conference room with my IT team, assembled as a panel to interview a candidate for a position on our IT help desk. We'd asked the common technical and background questions of the candidate, whose name was Aaron. We then threw a couple behavioral questions at him, including the classic, "Why are manhole covers round?" A semi-blank look came over Aaron's face, and after several moments he blurted out his answer: "Because Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles like pizza???" I turned to the guy next to me and declared, "He's the guy." We hired him the next day. His other interview questions and excellent answers had a lot to do with that decision, but the pizza answer was really what made it stick for me. Anyone can answer technical questions. That answer was a classic. And for the record, he turned out to be a great hire, too.
Whether it's a song like "Right Field" or a movie ("Stand by Me" comes to mind) or something else, each of us has our memory triggers. I'm just glad YouTube has that old commercial online, so I don't have to buy a VHS player just to load up this old TMNT video tape that I still have on my shelf. I'm not even sure if it would play anymore, but one thing's for sure: I won't be getting rid of that old tape any time soon.
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Today the trucking company showed up with my oh-so-cliché-midlife-crisis mobile, a 1969 Mustang convertible that I recently purchased from a good guy in Pennsylvania. I made a trip back east a couple weeks ago to hand over the check, transfer the title and drive the car a bit, and then painfully left it there to wait for a vehicle transport company to pick it up and deliver to Oregon.
The car made a long and round-about trip all over the country, and it got pretty grungy while in New Mexico thanks to a dirt road construction zone detour in the desert. I used to live there, so I understand. The soil in the desert, if you can call it that, is very fine and it gets into the air and can find its way on and into everything. When the car came off the truck today, it looked so dull and gross I almost couldn't stand it. But, after two complete washes it looks quite a bit better. It will need another good hand wash and them some detailing and a good wax, but it looks pretty nice already. These pictures were taken after the second wash and a hand-drying.
Most of my day was spent on the car: Receiving it from the back of the truck, washing it the first time, getting title and registration taken care of at the DMV, fueling up and washing it again, driving to town and giving some friends rides, stopping by the 60's-style corner soft ice cream and burger place with outdoor tables in the town I live near, and driving home on twisty-turny roads through the woods. It's a powerful, cool sounding and fun-to-drive machine, without a doubt. It's several years since I owned a convertible and I forgot how much fun and how relaxing it is on a nice day to just put the top down and drive. Add the raw power of this car's engine, and wow... A pretty darned good day, if I do say so myself.
And a bonus, which I only discovered when I got it home tonight: It fits in the garage with just about 12 inches of room to spare, nose to tail. Phew! Looks like I need to relocate some shelves.
Saturday, 24 May 2008
I recently acquired a restored 1969 Ford Mustang convertible in an eBay auction, and now I'm trying to decide which method I should use to get it across the country, from Pennsylvania (where the person I am buying it from lives) to Oregon (where I live).
I have some flexible time right now before and after the Tech-Ed conference, so one option is to fly there and drive it back. It turns out I have family very close to where the car is (within about 30 miles), so I could visit with them while there, as well. The other option is to have it put on/in an auto-moving trailer and shipped to me, no travel to Pennsylvania required. A third option is to fly there, drive it around a bit and visit with family, and then leave the car with the transport trucking company and fly home.
There's a certain appeal to driving this car cross-country and seeing the countryside this time of year (as well as a certain amount of anticipated fear, since although it's a solid and mechanically sound car, it is
a 1969 vehicle). I've considered asking a couple people if they'd like to join me on a road trip, since that would make it even more fun. But, that's about a week of flying and driving to make it realistic.
The car's a nice one. It's a muscle car and built to perform like one. Not a show car, but more like a parade-quality one (meaning it gets driven on an actual, real roadway now and then). Leaving a classic convertible exposed to the elements (and seasonal storms) on a trailer for probably three weeks as it gets hauled all over the country doesn't exactly appeal to me, so I'd want to ship it in an enclosed rig, which means bigger bucks. Flying there and driving the car back means lower cost, but it also means putting almost 3,000 miles on the vehicle and possibly dealing with older car issues.
So - Hmmm... Thoughts? :)
Monday, 10 March 2008
Several months ago I described a number of things I wanted to do during my work sabbatical, which will be coming to an end sometime soon. I've spent that time in a variety of activities, including doing some contract consulting work. But a significant portion of the time has been spent just remembering to enjoy life a little, and getting some much-needed rest. For anyone who knows they need some R&R and happens to have an opportunity to take advantage of, I recommend it highly.
So, what's my report card look like for the past several months?
I made a list back in September of things I wanted or needed to do, and here's a little detail about how each of those has worked out:
Stuff I need (or want) to get done
- Get some real rest (succeeded)
- Finish the bonus room
floor and trim at home (thanks to a great friend, the trim and floor are done)
- Finish the shed at home (umm, no progress here yet - still on the list)
- Add a deck to the side of the house (did some designs, but have not pulled the trigger)
- Travel somewhere in a 18-wheeler with my friend Broc (I did that, and it was fun - to California and back)
- Dust off the cameras and get back into the photography swing (have done some of this but not quite as much as I thought)
- Sell my street motorcycle (2004 CBR600RR - still for sale as of this post - email me if interested!)
Finish reading this darned Koontz novel that I started 9 months ago, heh (done - it was "Intensity" and it was a fun read)
- Read another book or two - one for enjoyment, one for furthering myself (done - read quite a few, actually)
Things I need (or want) to learn
- Learn a programming language, at least at a starter level - I an thinking C# - any ideas? (Ummm, no real progress here)
- I need to study up for a couple certification exams that the whole we-got-bought-busyness process pushed off my schedule, and then reschedule the exams (I've done the studying part...)
Things/places I need (or want) to do/go
- Visit family in Colorado (done!)
- Visit family in California (done!)
- Visit New Mexico (where I used to live) (still pending)
- Visit a few friends and colleagues in Seattle (done!)
I've also done a whole slew of other things since September. I've traveled to Spain and London, went to see the Patriots beat the Chargers during a weekend trip to Boston, went skiing a bunch of times, recorded a bunch of podcast shows, and a lot more. All in all, it's been a good experience.
Now it's almost time to get back at it, work-wise. I'm in the process of weighing options and deciding what's next. I'm actively involved in a couple ventures that are challenging me and those might be what I decide to do full-time, but have not made decisions yet. Time will tell.
At any rate, I can say with hindsight that I am glad I allocated some meaningful time for myself. I was quite fortunate to be able to do that. Here's to shifting gears!
Friday, 18 January 2008
Over the past year I have become more and more aware of the value of doing some of those things that I've always wanted to do, yet have never quite gotten myself to execute on. I certainly have my limits, but I've worked to push myself a bit and to welcome this likely-midlife-crisis with open arms -- just jump right in and live a little. What the heck, eh?
So, this weekend I'm flying with a friend to Boston and we're going to the playoff game between the Chargers and the Patriots for the AFC championship. A couple lucky tickets combined with frequent flier and hotel credits make for a
cheap relatively affordable weekend of fun. We were darned lucky to be able to line it all up last minute with flights and rooms available purchased with mileage credit, etc. The idea didn't even cross my mind until right after the Chargers beat the Colts last weekend.
For those not intimately acquainted with American Football, the winner of the game we're going to will play the winner of the NFC championship game in the Superbowl in a couple weeks. the Patriots are undefeated this year, and I certainly hope San Diego shows up and makes it a fun game to be at.
The temperatures in the Boston area Sunday are supposed to be in the teens or lower 20's (Fahrenheit), but hey it could be a lot worse. The NFC championship is being played in Green Bay, Wisconsin (Packers vs. the Giants) and the temperatures there are supposed to be considerably lower, with a wind-chill in the hell-frozen-over range. ESPN has a great article on cold-weather football with lots of good trivia for anyone interested.
And before you ask... No, I'm not going to spend the incredible amount of money it takes to go to the Superbowl these days. That's why they make HDTV. :)
Wednesday, 19 December 2007
Here we are again, right up against the holidays and I am not ready yet... as usual. On Friday afternoon I'll be jumping in the truck and starting the drive from Portland to Colorado, where my mom and step dad live - as well as my brother and niece, two stepbrothers, and related extended family. My mom had knee replacement surgery just yesterday (which she says went well according to the doc), and so there are a couple important and good reasons to be down there this Christmas.
My good friend Cory, who lives in Portland but whose family is in Minnesota, is going to make the road trip with me and we're going to spend a couple/few days on the slopes in the Keystone area after Christmas before we head back. We're pretty excited and looking forward to the trip. We were going to travel by air, but decided to drive instead for a number of reasons. Renting a four wheel drive in Colorado that week is obscenely expensive as it turns out, and we plan to be in places where it's likely necessary. By the time all is said and done, it's a little less costly and we get to spend more time in Colorado if we drive. Plus we have not done a road trip this year, and we have this tradition thing to keep up.
I recently obtained a HD video camera that I have not used yet beyond taking it out of the box, charging the battery and making sure it works, so I will be taking that with me. Maybe I will do some filming on the slopes and see how HD video does when making YouTube videos or something fun like that. I better do some quick research to see how to best deal with the video for web publication.
Nothing brightens and warms the heart during the holiday season quite like a summons demanding appearance at the United States Federal Courthouse for jury duty. I received my official letter of "congratulations" (yes, they actually use that terminology) in the mail today. I have to appear on the morning of January 8th.
I hope it's not one of those trials that never ends. Fingers crossed. :)
Actually, I believe in the importance of the jury system and take seriously the duty. It's just such a schedule crusher, is all. Luckily I have nothing specific planned that week (or the next), or at least nothing that can't be kept flexible.
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
A couple weeks ago I rounded up three of my younger, somewhat crazier friends and (without telling them where we were going or what we were doing) jumped on a train to go from Portland to Seattle. This was our Secret Plan day, which sounds kind of stupid but really is a lot of fun. Especially for me, since I am the only one who knows the secrets, and the plan.
It works like this: I picked up my the guys - Broc, Cory and Dave - early in the morning on Thursday. All they knew was that they had to keep Thursday and Friday completely free. That's it - the rest is pretty much all trust and blind faith. But hey - what are friends for, after all? Broc and Dave I have known since I moved to Oregon (they were good friends of my son's years ago), and Cory I have known for a few years (he was in the Navy with Dave).
The whole time, each step of the way, they had no idea what was happening next, where we were going or what we were doing. After picking them up we went downtown and parked. We started walking and ended up at the Portland Union Station. I already had the train tickets in my cool Top Secret folder (heh), so we got on a train (which luckily was not announced out loud while we were in the building, so the guys didn't even know for sure which direction it was going), and pulled out of the station. It turned out we were heading for Seattle.
A few hours later we got off the train and wandered around a bit. We grabbed some burgers and then went to the Pirate Store at Pier 57 on the waterfront, and finally ended up at the Seattle Underground tour for an hour or so, which is pretty fun and interesting. There's a fascinating and surprising history to the City of Seattle, and if you have not done the tour and find yourself in the area I recommend it. From there we checked out a kilt store next door (random, I know - and not part of the plan, heh) and then found our hotel over near Seattle Center.
By this time it was getting to be evening, and we headed out to find some food before the next secret plan stop. Of course, I was guiding us to the general area we needed to be in, but not telling why. We found a good pizza place near the Space Needle and went in. Then, once everyone was seated I told them I had to leave take care of some things and that I would be back. Oh, and that they should not get too drunk or anything since they'd have to walk from the pizza place.
I went out in the cold, found the will-call ticket window at Key Arena (which opened more than half an hour late - why is it that Key Arena staff never seem to be able to get information right, anyhow? Right-arm/left-arm issues are rampant, but I digress...). After freezing my butt off for a while, I had what I had come for (less a half-hour of much-needed time). So, I started running back to the pizza place with almost no time to spare.
I gathered they guys and told them we had to split (like right now), and we started walking toward Seattle Center. The frustrating thing about Secret Plan Day is that at times it's nearly impossible to actually keep the secret - Eventually you want to say something because you're excited and don't want to keep it to yourself anymore, but you can't do that or you'd ruin the whole concept, ya know. Anyhow, I was pretty excited about the next part, so I waited (it was difficult) until we were standing just outside key arena before I took out the next part of the plan and showed it to them: Second row tickets for Dane Cook, who is one funny guy that these three friends of mine really like. The looks on each of their faces when they realized where we were going and what we were doing made it all worthwhile.
Then I pulled out the four back-stage passes and the looks got even better. Heh.
Since the title of this post makes it seem like it should be about Dane Cook, let me say that the back-stage meet and greet things they do with these special tickets (I won them in an auction) is really cool. We got to say hi real quick, shake hands and have our picture taken with him, which was cool. He autographed our tickets and stuff, too. And then we headed out onto the arena floor for some of the best seats in the house and really enjoyed the show. He did a lot of new material, which made it even more fun. It was a great performance. I was able to take a couple of pictures before my camera battery died... I really need to buy an extra battery.
It was a late night, and the next day we boarded another train and headed back home. It was a pretty cool couple of days. Hanging out with just your friends can be a really fun thing to do. Surprising them is even better.
Wednesday, 21 November 2007
Funny how eight years ago can feel like yesterday. My son died the day before Thanksgiving so many years ago, and while much has happened and changed in my life in the intervening time, there's a slice of me that was sort of put on hold, almost like one dimension of time has just stood still while another kept on moving along. I miss Brian, but I am thankful for the time we had together.
So, Thanksgiving is always a bit of a tough time for me. Each year, however, I try my best to remember what the day is all about and to reflect on the things in life for which I am truly grateful, and there are many. Last year I said many of the same things I'll say here, but that's what it's all about really - reflecting, changing and growing.
Not too terribly long ago some friends of mine impressed upon me the importance of taking on an "attitude of gratitude" in life. What they meant - at least in part - was that the place where you focus your mind is pretty much where you'll end up and that being grateful for what you have - rather than obsessed with what you don't have - is a positive thing to do. For the most part I think they're right. This time of year I tend to think about a lot of things, some difficult and some pleasant. But every year I try to take some Thanksgiving time to remember that even though life is crazy and time is often too short, there are so many thing in life for which I am grateful and give thanks.
Life's not perfect, and from the depths of the situations and experiences that substantially change us - often things that we would never wish to have happen again - we are destined to learn and grow, and hopefully to become better people in the end. I know I have experienced that over the years, and my life is quite different as a result.
Sometimes we learn and grow quickly, other times a little too slowly. I still make mistakes. Fear is a great motivator, one that can be leveraged for good or bad. Best to try for good.
But this is supposed to be about what I am thankful for. About gratitude.
I am thankful for my friends, my family, my good career, my home, my dog. I am grateful for talented surgeons and for the people in my life who have cared enough to stop their lives and take care of me when I was truly in need. I sometimes wish I was better to those who have been so good to me. I truly appreciate them, and am thankful they are a part of my life.
There are many people in this world better than me, and a few of those good people I have the privilege to know personally. I am thankful for them, even if I don't or can't always show it when it counts. I only hope in the future I can be more much more worthy of their qualities.
Finally, I am grateful for my life, the people in it, the goods and the bads, and for the possibilities of the future, whatever they may be. I've been very fortunate in many, many ways, and am truly thankful for that. As they say, "with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."
Yes, it is.
Friday, 19 October 2007
I grew up in northern New Mexico. Green chile was everywhere, and found in everything. I remember for a while my dad was on this kick where he dreamed up all kinds of green-chile-in-it dishes. Random, crazy stuff like green chile pancakes and ... well ... you name it. He had a condition where he couldn't taste much of anything, so I think it was the texture and spice that he liked. Anyhow, long story short: For the longest time I was completely burned out on green chiles.
Then I moved away from the area, and slowly the desire to eat good New Mexican food with green chiles in it returned. By far the best green chile in the whole wide world is from Hatch, New Mexico - a small farming town that's fairly close to where I grew up (well, close in a New Mexico sort of way). There is no debate on this one, by the way. Hatch chile is the best chile. Period.
The other day I decided to make some posole (my current recipe for which is below), and I used chiles in a can from the local (meaning Oregon-based) Safeway store. the posole turned out good, but honestly the green chile leaves a lot to be desired. I was spoiled, ruined, and spoiled again as a kid by Hatch.
I went online yesterday morning to the Hatch Chile Express web site at www.hatch-chile.com and ordered 14 pounds of roasted, peeled, diced and frozen Hatch green chiles from the Chile Capital of the World. You can also get whole chiles there, but unless you're making rellenos there's no point - Get diced and save the hassle of cutting and tossing out parts.
Today, almost exactly 24 hours later, the box arrived via FedEx. The shipment was very carefully and well-packaged, in a strong container with Styrofoam insulation and a frozen cold pack inside, and the 14 one-pound bags of chile were still perfectly frozen and went straight to my chest freezer (after some inspection and sampling of the goods, of course). I ordered mostly medium (since that's what I usually cook with) plus a few bags of hot and mild for good measure. Just the smell of this frozen chile confirmed I'd made a good decision.
Not often I get excited about putting food in my freezer, but as weird as it may sound I was excited today. Hatch chile is that good.
I also ordered some mild and medium variety seed for planting next spring (although the climate here will likely make for a challenging growing season). They threw in a book of recipes (which includes instructions for roasting the chiles if I can get them to grow) as well as several dish options and a handwritten note on the invoice about the varieties I had requested. It's nice to know you're interacting with a real, live person. :)
If you want the best green chile the world has to offer, you go to Hatch, New Mexico. If you can't get to Hatch, then you go online to Hatch Chile Express at www.hatch-chile.com -- and you'll be glad you did. By the way, you can also order wreaths, ristras and a bunch of other cool looking holiday-season stuff there. Highly recommended, check them out. And no, they're not paying me to say that - I am just that impressed and I think if someone sells something great, letting others know is a good thing to do. These are local farmers, actually in Hatch (not some large reseller in some city somewhere), and it's a family-run business. Their phone number and email address are on the web page. There's really no better way to do business.
Here’s my updated and current Posole recipe (an edited version of the one I posted here in 2004), archived here for myself so I won’t lose it, and for anyone else who’s interested and wants to try it:
- Two #10 cans (108oz) Hominy (Juanita's or a similar Mexican style preferred, fresh or frozen/bagged is even better)
- Two large yellow onions, sliced and cut up (not diced)
- One tablespoon (or so) minced/chopped garlic
- One teaspoon dry oregano (Mexican oregano if you can get it)
- One envelope/package menudo spice mix (a few ounces, optional)
- One quart (or less if you prefer) of frozen or canned green chiles, diced, preferably hot or medium strength (do not use jalapenos – use real green chile)
- Salt (plenty)
- Pepper (plenty)
- Two pork tenderloins, about 4-5 pounds each
- Olive oil
In a large stock pot (16 to 20 quarts size), combine the hominy, onions, garlic, oregano, and green chile. Fill with water to cover the ingredients, plus a little more (don’t get too worried about the water – just make sure it’s pretty full). Salt and pepper the heck out of it, and plan to do so again later. Turn on the heat and bring to a boil while preparing the meat.
Cut the pork into small cubes or similar shape pieces (like you can cut pork into cubes, yeah…).In a frying pan, heat a small amount of olive oil and brown the pork slowly, adding some salt and pepper to the meat.
After browning the pork, add it to the stock pot contents, and stir the meat in.Once it boils, turn the heat back to simmer the stuff. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stir, and boil again. Do this twice, then simmer again on low heat.
Now comes the hard part – leave it alone until the cows come home, stirring about every 30 minutes. Keep it on low heat, just enough to bubble a little, to avoid burning the food at the bottom of the pot. "Until the cows come home" translates loosely to anywhere between say five or six hours and overnight (depending on what time you start, I suppose). Trust me – let it cook down, it needs it. Add some water as needed to keep the stock covered. It will thicken up a bit as it goes.
And don’t be stingy with the salt and pepper in this recipe – you’ll need it. You will probably find you need to add some salt while cooking one or more times. Stir it in and cook for a few minutes, then stir again and taste.
Serve with tortillas, and if you want grate a little cheese on top when you serve it up.
Tuesday, 02 October 2007
I have realized more and more that the time I'm taking off from working right now is time I need to spend doing the sort of things I can't realistically do while employed full-time. For example, I'm actually considering taking the time (and the expense) to get my private pilot's license. We'll see. That may be a bit of a stretch (and the rainy season is coming). But every time I see Jeremy Zawodny post about airplanes and flying, I get excited about it again. Darn you Jeremy!
I've always wondered what it would be like to travel the highways in a big truck. I'm writing this from northern California because I am on the road this week with my friend Broc (he's the goofball in the picture). He drives a 18-wheeler for his family's moving company. We left Portland on Tuesday and we're driving someone's household items to Modesto, California. Then we turn around with a different trailer and load and head back home by the end of the week.
I'm not sure exactly what it is about traveling from here to northern California in a semi truck that interests me this much. Seriously, we could be going anywhere and it would be an adventure for me just traveling over the road in the semi for the first time. Add to that the fact that I have never made the trek from Portland to California on the ground (it's always been by air) and it certainly makes for something to look forward to. In fact, I have never driven further south in Oregon than Eugene before today. Considering I've lived here for pushing nine years, that's kind of sad. And the chance to hang out with a friend for a few days is pretty darn cool, so I'm glad he asked.
It was a great drive today - nice scenery. Mt. Shasta is incredible and huge. It was amazing to be able to see it off and on for such a long time as we approached it and drove past. The peak is at more the 14,000 feet and much of the surrounding area sits down around 3,000 feet more or less, so you can imagine how it stands out. Shasta Lake is very, very low right now. Like maybe even 100 feet low, it's crazy. But it looks like a great place to bring the boat for an extended trip next year. It's on the list.
What would you do if you had unlimited flexible time? I'm always open to new ideas. :)
Saturday, 08 September 2007
I have started to form a couple lists of things to do or learn while I am on my self-induced break time. My typical methodology is to keep lists in my head, which worked well when I was a little younger and could remember things. Not so much the case these days. Ah, oldness. Gotta love it.
So I am organizing a couple lists. One if stuff I want to get done. The other is things I want to learn. Oh and and another one is things to do, which is a sort of people to see and places to go list.
Suggestions are always welcome. What do you think I should do during this unique time?
Stuff I need (or want) to get done
- Get some real rest (making great progress on this one)
- Finish the bonus room
floor and trim at home (floor's done!)
- Finish the shed at home
- Add a deck to the side of the house
- Travel somewhere in a 18-wheeler with my friend Broc
- Dust off the cameras and get back into the photography swing
- Sell my street motorcycle (2004 CBR600RR - email me, heh)
Finish reading this darned Koontz novel that I started 9 months ago, heh (done - it was Intensity and it was a fun read)
- Read another book or two (one for enjoyment, one for furthering myself)
Things I need (or want) to learn
- Learn a programming language, at least at a starter level - I an thinking C# - any ideas?
- I need to study up for a couple certification exams that the whole we-got-bought-busyness process pushed off my schedule, and then reschedule the exams
Things/places I need (or want) to do/go
- Visit family in Colorado
- Visit family in California
- Visit New Mexico (where I used to live)
- Visit a few friends and colleagues in Seattle (I'm about half-way on this one)
I'll add to this list over time. I'm not nearly as concerned about accomplishing all of these things as I am about listing them out where I can see them and whittling away at them over the next little while.
Wednesday, 05 September 2007
Change happens, and I'm living that fact right now. The company I work for was recently acquired and after a long stretch of doing my part to make sure everything went well with the integration process, I spent my last day on the job Friday of last week. I worked at Corillian for the past eight years, to the month. It was a great experience and I am grateful to all the good people I had the opportunity to work with and learn from. I truly appreciate the people I have worked with as well as the ones I have met over the past year during the transition process. Thanks for everything you've taught me and for some great times.
So the short version of this story is that I chose to move on find the next thing, and that by my own choice I'm on sort of an extended vacation from work right now. To be honest, a break will be good for me. Some amazing work opportunities have been presented to me recently and there are a number of people who are probably surprised I am not starting a new job immediately, but overall fit is important to me in a job and as such I will be carefully pursuing options in the near future. At this point I have to think about a variety of aspects of my life as well as work.
I plan to take a few weeks to relax and do some non-work things, followed by getting back on the work track. That means taking some time to get things done around the house, visit with some people I care about in person, do some writing and generally decompress from a year or two of extra-hard work. I'm looking forward to it.
And then, I'll be back on the trail.
Sunday, 08 July 2007
Went out this evening for a hour or so ride with a friend on the dirt bike and ATV. Had a great time, but I need to remember when I come to a sudden end of a road, the front brake is not the first one to grab. I can't believe I did that.
Ouch. Thank God for helmets and gloves. Sorry for the detailed picture. A reminder's a reminder. And it's a knee, if you're trying to figure that out.
I've had one past motorcycle mishap that resulted in injury, which involved a deer in the roadway. This one was just me being stupid. I also had a ATV screw up once that I got a bit of a bruise on, and that's about it. This time, a couple bruised and beat up knees, some scrapes on my chest and a sore, sprained wrist are pretty much all the injuries I walked away with (plus a bit of a sprained ego, I suppose), which is excellent considering I went over the bars and straight into the packed gravel road. I did what I learned in sports as a kid - walked it off and got back on. And took it really easy the rest of the ride, heh.
Anyhow, I am posting this embarrassing moment to serve as a reminder to me and to others not to be a sloppy idiot on a motorcycle. The rear brake is down there by your right foot. Right foot good. Right hand bad.
Right foot, right foot, right, foot right foot, right f...
Friday, 06 July 2007
Another Fourth of July has come and gone. This year - as I have for several years past - I operated a public fireworks display, this time for the community of Walla Walla, Washington. It was my first time there, and I enjoyed the place and people. It was also my first time running a show in the state of Washington - the past seven or eight years of this have all been shows in Oregon. We shot the show in a sports park and school area on the VA grounds, and the audience was able to sit and watch from all angles around. There's a great hillside under a water tower nearby that makes for an optimum viewing spot.
My crew was terrific, and despite the fact that it was extremely hot (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny all day as we set up the show as well as the next morning while we finished cleaning up), we all had a good time and the show went off well - safe and to the cheers of the crowd. That's what we want. Even the playground sprinklers that came on automatically at around midnight while we were still cleaning up were no big deal, heheh. We just went back to the hotel for the night and returned in the morning.
Update: Travis wrote a bit about the crew experience at the show and Jenn posted some pretty terrific pics she shot.
Below is a video with some excerpts from the show. The video is five minutes long, which is a little more than one fifth of the actual length of the show (which came in at just under 25 minutes, right on target). So, you get a good flavor of the opener, mid-show shots and volleys, the build up to larger shells, some layered height effects, and of course the finale - which was pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself. Several thousand shells and pyrotechnic components from one inch to four inches in diameter made up the show.
I'll add a couple show setup pictures later today or this weekend. Enjoy. : )
Monday, 25 June 2007
Ah, fireworks. It's that time of year again. Some of you probably know that I'm a licensed pyrotechnician here in Oregon, where I live. That's what lets me run and operate public fireworks displays - the big ones, you know? Like here and here and here. Not the stuff you buy at the local stand or up on the reservation (common way around purchasing issues in these here parts), but rather the kind of explosives that make for huge (and expensive) shows. It's something I've been involved with for several years now, and a number of my friends like to help out on the Independence Day shows I do each year as well as the occasional other occasion. It's a lot of fun.
Well this year the fireworks display company I work for needs me to do a somewhat larger show in Walla Walla, Washington (yep it's a real town, not just a Bugs Bunny reference). So, in order to be able to run a show in Washington, I took my exam recently to be licensed in that state. Today (just in time, I might add), I got my license in the snail mail. I guess I passed the test. :)
Operating these shows is a big responsibility, and there's a lot of critical safety items to watch out for every time, but it's also a lot of fun and I do enjoy it when I get the chance to blow up someone else's stuff and not get in trouble in the process. I mean, where else can you destroy what someone else buys for thousands of dollars and have everyone cheering when you're finished? Heh.
For anyone in the Portland area that might be interested in spending your July 4th this year helping with a show, let me know and I will put you in touch with my friend Norm at Western Display and he'll probably be able (and glad) to set you up to assist with a show somewhere. Or, if you want to join me in Walla Walla for a couple days and don't mind making the hike over there, let me know as well and we'll see what we can work out. Or if you're in Walla Walla, even better. I'll be making a three-day deal out of it, including travel and setup and stuff. My cell phone is 503-970-1753. Call or text me. And you can find out a little more about what's involved in being a crew member at this link from a show last year as well as the links above.
Thursday, 31 May 2007
As I mentioned recently, I went to a sleep study center a couple weeks ago and stayed overnight, where I learned I have an apnea problem. A couple days ago I returned to the sleep center to spend another night, this time with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine and a mask. It was in interesting night.
A little pill helped me fall asleep that night, but throughout the night I woke up from the weirdness of the mask on my face. Sometime in the middle of the night I had a pretty bad "mouth leak," meaning my mouth was opening so the air pressure from the machine and mask over my nose was flowing right out my mouth. So the technician came in and put a chin strap contraption on me, which was a bit too much - I have to say I felt like I was in a head cage or something.
But it did work - Even with the interruptions, I felt noticeably more refreshed than ever the next day as I drove to work and went about my daily work routine. I also had some super-crazy dreams on that first night with a CPAP machine at the sleep center, ones which I actually remembered. And that pretty much never happens to me these days. My doc told me my REM sleep (deep sleep where you dream) was pretty much too broken up to be of any good to me based on the number of apnea episodes I was having, so he was not surprised at the dreams, or the intensity/craziness. He said there's a theory of REM rebound, where a person who has had badly fragmented sleep suddenly is able to enter extended REM sleep, so the brain has a lot of clutter to clean up and the dreams can be intense or active.
I was sent home with a CPAP machine (actually it's a BIPAP machine that has a humidifier - more on that later) and a couple different masks to use. One of them is very small and fits under the nose, and the other one is more of a traditional full-face mask. I tried the nasal pillow model last night with limited success (it made the lower bridge of my nose pretty sore by morning), so tonight I am trying the mask that covers both the nose and mouth in hopes it will provide better results since I am told I am a "mouth breather." It turns out there are a lot of masks out there, with new ones coming out all the time, so it's a matter of trying them til you find the one that works best for you. Most take some getting used to, they say.
At some point here I'll get all geeky and write about the hardware and what it does (the BiPAP machine is computerized and has a smart card like thing that I can pull out and take to the doc so he can see how well I am doing on the machine - pretty cool). I'm lucky to have really good health care insurance that recognizes the preventative value of this stuff and covers the significant majority of the equipment cost
Any CPAP tricks out there that people know of? How long did it take people to adjust, I wonder?
Sunday, 20 May 2007
Snoring and sleeping are two things that fall on a very short list of items that one cannot observe about oneself. Because of that, there's a strong tendency toward denial. It's a natural human tendency.
As I mentioned the other day, on Thursday night I went to a local sleep lab and spent the night there hooked up to a bunch of wires and stuff to find out what might be going on with me. I've been waking up tired for some time, feeling like I am getting little rest, etc. You can read more about that in the original post.
Anyhow, as you can sort of see in the bad-angle and bad-hair picture there on the right, I got a zillion wires, sensors and bands stuck to me (which it turns out was not as bad as people thought it would be) and fell asleep after spending the evening watching some TV and taking a Lunesta provided by the physician.
I remember waking up a few times throughout the night, which is pretty typical of me. Once the technician (who was very cool, by the way) had to come in and re-attach an airflow sensor that worked its way loose from my face, but overall I figured I slept as well as I do normally, or maybe even a little better than normal. I'll chalk that up to the pill.
The way the study worked was if you exhibit severe apnea within the first few hours they hook you up to a CPAP machine for the rest of the night. That didn't quite happen with me, so I was not woken up for that change of equipment. So in the morning I did the typical rationalization things and figured I was in the clear, no problems, must just be my head or something.
But when the doc came in the next morning (It's a great arrangement by the way - You fall asleep and the doctor shows up first thing so you don't have to come back for another office appointment), he showed me the data printouts and graphs from the night. Turns out I am waking up about 60 times an hour due to breathing problems - Apnea to be specific. People tend to be surprised by the facts since they can't observe it themselves, so when you can see your own stats and see that, hey look - I stopped breathing completely there for like 5 or 10 seconds and then make a loud snore and took a huge gasping set of breaths... My blood oxygen level dropped to like 80% in many cases. Well, let's just say the evidence speaks for itself.
I actually remembered waking up maybe 4 times or so because that's how many times I was awake long enough to form a memory and to become fully lucid, the doc explained. The other several hundred times were enough to be awake but not long enough to remember.
According to the doc I have at least moderate sleep apnea. Because I shifted off my back to sleep my side for most of the night, the apnea signs were probably not as bad as they would have been otherwise (it tends to be worse if you are positioned on your back, and during the time I was on my back the data shows it was in fact worse).
Apnea is simply the closing of your airway while you breathe during sleep. When you sleep your body relaxes, and that includes the muscles that shape the upper part of your airway (the part above the Adams apple is flexible, the rest is rigid). If the airway closes you get no air. If you get no air the brain is not happy. If the brain is not happy it wakes you up to move the muscles needed in order to open the airway. If this happens often enough, you never get long enough sleep to enter that REM phase, or deep sleep, which is needed to get "real" rest, or restorative sleep. And if that happens you have to deal with the problems of sleep deprivation. As mentioned earlier, you don't wake up long enough to remember anything, so it's hard to know when this is happening unless someone else sees it and knows what to look (and listen) for.
My doc said to think of the collapsing airway as being similar to the effect of trying to suck a milkshake through a straw: The straw collapses from the negative pressure and nothing can get through. The same is true for the throat for many people. That's really what snoring is - a collapsing or blocked airway.
So, long story short (too late), I will be going back to the sleep study place in a couple weeks for one more night, during which they'll hook me up to a CPAP machine. That stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It's a thing you wear on your face to blow some air into your airway to maintain enough positive pressure there to keep the airway open. I have spoken over the past few days will a surprisingly large number of people (some of whom commented here) who tell me they use a CPAP machine when they sleep and it's changed their lives. Well, worth a try then I guess. I have to admit I am not thrilled about the idea of wearing a mask when I sleep (it seems to me to be such a tied-down option) but I will try it if it might help. You never know.
More in a couple weeks, after the next phase of this whole deal is complete. Meanwhile if you ever need to do the sleep study thing, Oregon Sleep Associates is a good group of professional people and the sleep center is nice - not at all hospital like and easy to relax in. My doc's name is Scott Fromherz, MD and he's great at explaining things and answering questions. Definitely recommended if you find yourself needing a place to fulfill the need.
Thursday, 17 May 2007
I snore. A lot. Or so I'm told, quite frequently. Years ago I used to go to the movies with my son and drift off to sleep in the theater, just to wake up to him laughing, usually along with the neighboring moviegoers, because I had started snoring and snorting myself awake.
Fast forward about eight years and I'm still snoring, still tired most of the time, and still being told by anyone who observes me sleeping that I snore. I have to believe them, I guess - I can't imagine there's some vast snoring accusation conspiracy that everyone I know has waged against me for that many years.
Recently I have even woke up suddenly catching my breath at the end of a loud snore. Ahh, proof. I often wake up tired and feeling heavy. I get morning headaches. Something's crappy feeling about all that. So I went to see a sleep specialist doctor after a couple people (my mom and someone I work with) both told me they found out they had a sleep apnea problem and got help via a sleep doc and study.
So here I am, sitting on a bed in the Oregon Sleep Associates sleep center in downtown Portland. They have five private rooms here and it's not like a hospital though. It's more like a hotel room. There's a TV and DVD player and the main unusual stuff is the video camera on the wall and all the boxes and wires and stuff over on one of the nightstands. In a few minutes someone will come in to "hook me up," meaning they'll be sticking EEG and EKG stuff to me, a microphone to record sleeping and breathing sounds, strap around my chest to measure breathing, and other stuff. Then they'll give me one of those Lunestas or something similar, and off to sleep I will go.
Tomorrow morning I will know more. If there's something related to my snoring or other sleep problems that are related to the physical symptoms I have, at least there will be options to maybe do something about it. If not, well then I will know it's time to find more ways to reduce stress I guess. Heh.
Have you ever done the sleep study thing? How did it go for you? I'll write more about my experiences once it's all said and done.
Friday, 13 April 2007
One of my favorite people in the whole world, Scott Hanselman, has launched a campaign to raise donation funds for Team Hanselman's goal of $50,000 in this year's Step Out to Fight Diabetes fund raising walk.
Last year, Scott's team raised around $12,000 on a goal of $10,000. This year Scott's pushed way ahead and has more than quadrupled that amount for the team's current goal. You can help! Go to:
... and provide your assistance there. Here is what Scott has to say on his blog about the walk and the goal:
This year Team Hanselman, led by myself and my wife, Mo, who had this whole idea, will be walking to fight diabetes on Oct 20h, 2007. We have set a goal of raising US$50,000. Crazy, huh?
If only 2500 of you, dear readers, gave US$20 to this cause, we've met our Team Goal. If only 1000 give US$50, well, you get the idea. If you can't donate, that's OK. Post about this on your blog, spread the URL http://www.hanselman.com/fightdiabetes or put some of our Diabetes "Flair" on your site!
Last year this time, there were over 5000 people subscribing to this blog (for the technical content, I assume) - this year there are over 14,000.
Let's see what we can do to add to the pot. There are more than 14,000 daily viewers of this web site, as well - so if there is anything you can do to help, even just a couple bucks, please consider making a donation!
Read more about the walk, Scott's own motivation and battle with diabetes, and get all the details at Scott's site.
A few weeks ago I had to fly with a coworker down to Santa Barbara. It was a last-minute trip. Of course, if you absolutely have to fly somewhere for work at the drop of a hat in March, Santa Barbara's a pretty darn nice destination. Good weather, good food, interesting people. We spent almost all of our time there indoors, but we did get an evening outside to enjoy the nice weather and check out the town.
Anyhow, this particular story actually starts right about the time we arrived at the airport for our return flight back to Portland. My co-worker Matt and I finished up our work and dropped off our rental car. We headed for the terminal at the last minute. In the process, Matt found out first-hand why one shouldn't pack liquids in carry-on bags (heh).
Immediately we were faced with a departure delay. Now, I'm not sure what the rest of the world's experience is with SkyWest Airlines (a regional commuter airline that operates and flies the smaller aircraft fleet for the "bigs," in this case United Express), but my consistent experience over the past year is that they do a pretty poor job of being on time and they generally come across as semi-pro. They're just a bit too casual. By contrast, other regional carriers for United Express have always been quite professional and timely. Your mileage may vary, I suppose.
Anyhow, eventually the aircraft showed up from it's previous leg. When it came time to board the airplane, an E120 turboprop, we waited in line as instructed, like impatient school kids waiting with eager anticipation five minutes into a fifteen-minute recess to be told they can run onto the play field, staring out at our aircraft. Our anticipation was interrupted a few minutes later as we were ushered back indoors and directed to take a seat again. "They have to reboot or reset something or another with the airplane, but they didn't tell me what it was," the gate agent informed us. "We'll let you know when it's time to go." Breeds confidence. Nice.
No less than two minutes later they got us back up, hurried us back into line (by now it really did feel like first grade), rushed us to the airplane like a herd of cattle. I looked at my watch. We were nearly an hour behind schedule by now, and it was very unlikely we'd make our connecting flight in San Jose.
Fast forward about 45 minutes to our landing in San Jose and sure enough, we hit the ground five minutes after our connection had already left for Portland. Nice. We headed over to Alaska Airline's service desk (because that's who had the ticket for the flight we'd just missed) and the agent there quickly told us that she would not be able to help us find a flight, that we had to go down to United. There's probably some rule or something that says who has to deal with the ticketing that I am not aware of, but I can tell you that it seemed as if she really just didn't want to be bothered (although the lady standing next to her was quite nice) and was brushing us off without any real concern to the next counter, but what the heck. I'm a frequent flyer with United and have what they call "elite status" with them (I easily broke the 100,000 mile mark last year), so we marched with our bags in tow down to the United ticket desk.
That's where things changed. As it turned out, there were no more flights that night from San Jose to Portland (save an Alaska flight later that night, and I was not about to go back there). But the United desk agents jumped right in and saved the day. They hired a town car (on their dime) to drive Matt and me to the San Francisco International airport (a 40-minute drive) and got us on a flight to Portland that evening. Even better, we ended up in first class and got home the same day (it was late, but at least is was not a day later).
The fact is that traveling for work is not the super-fun thing that people who don't travel sometimes assume it is. More often than not I get to see airports, the insides of office buildings, hotel rooms and lobbies, and the scenic drives through often industrial areas from the airport to the hotel and back. Several months back I started to make a point of scheduling some extra time at my own expense in places where I know I would regret not seeing the sights and taking some time for myself (and Lord knows if I didn't take vacation time that way I would pretty much never get any).
But it's nice that all that flying means I can count on United to be there when things get tough. They may not have the most comfortable seats on their aircraft (Alaska's got them on that one for sure), but the people are consistently great and believe it or not they almost always get me there and back on time, even with all my flights that go through Chicago, which is pretty good in this day and age. So -- Thanks, United.
Do you have a favorite airline? If so, why?
Wednesday, 11 April 2007
Exactly forty years ago my mom and dad brought me into this world. As I recall (from their stories, not from personal memory), my dad went to park the car and by the time he got to the delivery room I was already in preschool (not really, but it was a very fast delivery and dad actually got there real quick). I'm told that when they handed me to my mom, I peed in her face, and the rest is history. What a great way to kick things off, eh?
It's been quite an interesting journey so far, with lots of life lessons, trials, tribulations, successes, fun and great experiences. I am blessed by the many terrific people, friends and family members who are and have been a part of my life - and for that I am truly grateful. Thanks everyone. I only hope I can give as much back.
I suppose it's just about time for a mid-life crisis, so... I think I will sell my motorcycle. How's that for backwards? And the spur of the moment trip I made this past weekend to Las Vegas with my good friend (and with less than an hour's notice)... Well, lets just try for a bit more of that kind of fun.
Mostly it's just another day, and it's always nice to keep adding those on - one at a time. I don't plan to do anything particularly special, other than to maybe getting outside and enjoying the day for a while and hanging around people I work with and a couple friends.
Maybe I should shave my head or get (another) tattoo or something?
Or maybe not. Heh.
Here's to another forty, if I'm lucky enough.
Tuesday, 20 March 2007
We all have tell-tale signs that the level of difficulty, stress, work or just plain old "stuff" is too high. Maybe we spout off, maybe we forget things - It's different for all of us.
For me it happened on Sunday: I got in my truck, drove down the driveway, turned right and headed for town. A few minutes into the drive something just didn't seem right, and after trying for several seconds to put my brain on what was amiss, I realized I was still wearing my slippers. Luckily I had fresh socks on and shoes in the car. Heh.
Ever done funny or crazy things thanks to the amount of active clutter going on in your brain and life? Here's your chance to admit it. :)
Tuesday, 20 February 2007
Well, I have had the luxury over the past couple months of not having to travel too terribly much, but this week it's back-on-the-road for me. Time to start racking up those frequent flier miles again, heh.
This week I will be in New York City (arriving this evening - I am on a plane in Chicago on a ground hold, just waiting to take off for LaGuardia... Nice to sit on a plan on the ramp for an hour and a half eh?). I'll be back home for a weekend on Mt. Hood with the youth group from church, and then Monday morning it's right back on another plane to head for Atlanta for a few days.
My hope is that I won't have to live the same crazy travel schedule I did last year, but my job calls for it, so a certain amount of it is to be expected (and accepted). If we ever get off the ground in the plane, that is. Maybe I'll spend the rest of 2007 here eating peanuts and working via Verizon broadband and a Cingular wireless phone. I guess it could be worse. I mean, they do have three (bad) movies in the tape library.
If you're in New York or Atlanta, let me know. I won't have a lot of free time but its always fun to try to meet people on the road if I can.
Thursday, 15 February 2007
On February 15th, 2006 I was wheeled into a surgical suite to have the intervertebral disc between the L5 and S1 vertebrae removed and replaced with a three-piece mechanical replacement joint. The Kineflex artificial disc was in FDA trials at the time, so I was a test subject for an all-metal design that was working its way to market. As of the time of this writing, it's still working though the approval process. If my own personal experience is any indication of what ought to happen, then the Kineflex disc should be approved and shipped to the market as soon as possible. Granted, it's important that the device be used only where appropriate, but for people who today stand in the same shoes I wore up until a year ago, the artificial disc replacement (ADR) is a miracle, and can be a true life gift.
I have 15 degrees range of motion in the L5/S1 joint, which is excellent. My doctor told me at my one-year visit the other day that people with seven degrees or more range of motion are doing very well. So, that's good news. He's also very happy with the level of activity I have been able to take on since the surgery.
It's taken some time for me to get to where I feel pretty much "normal" (whatever that is). Shortly after my surgery I started to feel much much better. As time went on, I realized just how much pain I'd been in. And over the intervening months I have just gotten better and better. A couple weeks ago I went skiing with my friend up at Timberline on Mt. Hood, and was taking some of the smaller jumps without pain and without really even thinking (or at least without being concerned) about the fact that I have this metal contraption in my spine (and that, my friends, is the telling attribute of my experience).
The fact that there are days where I don't even think about my back is amazing. Who would have thought that I could go from being unable to sleep more than an hour or so at a time, and living with constant debilitating pain, to an active and almost pain-free person who can once again do almost anything I want. People who work with me and my friends can tell you how pathetic and practically crippled I was before surgery. Today they say I am a new person. When my doctor told me to go out and live my life, with no real restrictions (but to be sure to take good care of my back), I took him at his word. Nowadays I lift things the "right" way and I'm careful to respect what remains of my natural spine. But mostly I simply don't have to think about it too much.
The surgical procedure for ADR is a serious one, and not one to be taken lightly. Really, everything else should be tried before resorting to surgery of any kind. In my case they did injections, physical therapy, exercises, shrinking the disc in size... you name it. Even just medication. None of the other options helped. So, my choices were fusion of the two vertebrae or a prosthetic artificial disc replacement that was fairly new-fangled (at least in the United States, where many medical technologies actually get to market very late in the game).
I recently received an email from one of the creators of the Kineflex artificial lumbar disc, Malan de Villiers. That was cool, hearing from someone who actually designed the device that has changed my life so dramatically for the good.
I have my life back. That's something to be grateful for.
Monday, 12 February 2007
I did something today that's quite a bit out of character for me: I went to the WWE Raw live performance this evening at the Rose Garden here in Portland. As in professional wrestling.
And I had a blast.
You see, recently a friend of mine kind of got me watching a bit of the Monday Night Raw TV show now and then. I've always kind of laughed at the whole pro-wrestling thing for a variety of reasons, but tonight I can honestly say that the performance and the whole show was a lot of fun.
Donald Trump himself even showed up in the arena to challenge the WWE boss to a match at the Wrestlemania thing on April 1st (which the boss rejected, so they came up with a decent alternative - they'll each choose someone to wrestle on their behalf and loser gets his head shaved right there at Wrestlemania).
Fireworks were everywhere in the arena and the whole experience was pretty darned well put together. And it was live on national TV to boot.
Probably the highlight of the evening, I am almost ashamed to say, was the final bout - An eight-man tag-team event that had some pretty huge dudes fighting it out. The cool guy of the bunch is John Cena, and as hilarious as it is to hear myself say it, it was a lot of fun to see him and the others perform. Afterward I asked my friends Rogan and Cory what they thought the best part of the whole night was, and they both had the same thought as me: It was at the end when John Cena stood on the ropes and looked right at us. Rogan and Cory were holding a big sign that had his name on it. It was actually kind of cool.
So there you have it. I confess. I went to Monday Night Raw live and in person, and had a great time.
Wow. That's kind of scary eh? Heh.
Tonight's show will be on TV this week on Thursday evening (for some reason it's a shifted schedule this week and they taped rather than going live).
Thursday, 01 February 2007
One of my all-time favorite coworkers and human beings is Phillip Forteza, who works in the QA department. He's started blogging, and I'm excited about it.
Phil is one of those guys that smiles, smiles, smiles - regardless of the day or the situation. He is a truly good person, one of the kindest I have ever met, and I am always glad to see him. I only wish I was as up-beat and positive as Phil is every single day, though good and bad. If I'm every feeling down and out and I happen to run into him, it's a guaranteed fact that his powerful attitude will lift me up and remove that monkey from my back.
Check out what Phil has to write, it's more than worth the read. We need more people like Phil in this world, but alternatively more spreading of The Phillip Way is a pretty good option.
Friday, 05 January 2007
Scott tagged me and four others on this tell-me-something-new meme, so now it's my turn. In no particular order, here are my five things you (seriously) didn't know about me. Not the easiest thing to do, but as they say, I am bound by honor to post and tag...
- I took only one computer class in college, and didn't pass it. In fact, it was so boring and elementary I could not stand to be there. Instead I spent the semester figuring out how to get an Appletalk network to communicate with a bunch of IBM 5150s that we had networked with 10-Base-2 coax. The grade killed me, but the alternative experience was worth so much more.
- I was a foster parent for many years. Fourteen kids, over about eight years. Single parent style, almost all of them special needs kids. All of them were terrific in their own ways. I lived in a foster home for a very short time when I was a teenager, and the people who I lived with I have never thanked. I need to do that. They influenced me in a unique way that no one else ever did, for the good. Their selfless act motivated me to do a lot of things that I hope helped others in some way. My desire (or need, or whatever you chose to call it) to help others in ways similar to the manners in which others have helped me has been the root of both pain and passion for me over the years.
- My senior year in high school I played Tony in West Side Story. Like as in the lead, sang all the songs and did all the dance and acted all the lines. Orchestra in the pit, chain link fence massive set, the works. Yes, I can still sing the songs. People look at me with a blank stare when they hear this. I was also an all-state tenor that year. These days I limit myself pretty much to singing with my guitar at home and the occasional church hymn from the pews.
- I've been a halftime highlight on ESPN and a major television network twice, and I was injured both times. Once was when I was photographing a NCAA tournament I was landed on by a player who was fouled (hard) under the basket. The other time I was pummeled by a football player who was out of control coming off the field while being tackled. He tackled me, but good. Oh, and I used to be a photojournalist and did a lot of sports and news photography for about eight years.
- After working as a photojournalist, I was a police officer for about 7 years. You could say I chased ambulances and then did something close to driving them, I guess. It was a great experience and I have nothing but the utmost respect for the good people who do that job. I was pretty good at the job, but it was not so good for me. So, here I am - a professional computer jock. Or manager thereof, I suppose. Ah, how I long for the days of doing respectable, real work. Heh.
Oh, wait... I'm tagging Brent, Matt, Rich, Simon and Alex. Alright guys - You're it!
Monday, 01 January 2007
Just a few goofballs hanging out on New Year's Day. We watched WWE, played the 20Q game, did party poppers, ate nachos, and whatever. And hey, goofball is fun. Above: Greg, Rogan and Cory hanging out at the place (listed in order seated in the picture, left to right and I explain that just so Cory doesn't get upset about being last, heh).
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
I just realized something interesting. This year I had a completely non-techie Christmas. Of the gifts I received, only one was even remotely computer related (but hey, no need to go cold-turkey, right?). I think that's kind of cool. Plus this Christmas was a good one once again, spent at home with friends.
My friend Cory (who appears to have started blogging for Christmas, heh) points out that the act of giving is a good one to practice. I agree.
Of course, receiving is quite fun as well, and I received some very thoughtful gifts this year. Perhaps my favorite (it's hard to choose you know) is a painting that Cory made for me to hang in my office. It's based on a painting by Peter Pongratz from Austria - we saw a bunch of his (rather interesting and crazy) art at the Belvedere museum in Vienna a couple months ago in a display called Sweet Home Vienna. Cory took the Pongratz-style phrases in the painting and replaced them with Office Space lines. Heh. Pongratz and Office Space are a lot alike.
An analog Christmas. Nice.
Monday, 04 December 2006
My friend and coworker, Matt, experienced something last week that no one should ever have to go through, and which we all hope never happens to anyone - whether it be us, or someone we know, or any other person. His parents' house, the one where Matt spent most of his growing-up years, burned down one week ago.
Luckily his folks made it out okay. Sadly, their dog did not and the damage to the house was extensive. They've been piecing things back together (as much as you can do that after a major house fire) for the past week, but I can only imagine what it must be like for them. As a police officer, I experienced many traumatic situations, but when it's a friend it just feels different.
Matt wrote eloquently about what happened, and I am pointing to his blog entry here because I think it's important to be thankful for what we have and the family in our lives, and also because it's important to know that it can happen not just to others, but also to ourselves.
Matt said it best:
"It's very true what they say. A tragedy is just an event until it happens to you. I recall seeing at least one report of a house or apartment fire every holiday over the past few years and thinking how terrible it must be for the affected people, but then I change the station and life goes on. Never did I think that could one day be my house on the news and my family standing in the cold. And while we now have to deal with the task of rebuilding and piecing back together some sense of normality, I've very thankful to have my parents around to help with that."
Amen to that. Read his story here.
Sunday, 26 November 2006
Okay, okay so you can stop emailing and IMing me to ask if I am alive, heh. The blog post shall resume. I am in fact alive and I am back home, and yeah Europe was a blast (both the work and the vacation parts). Pictures are coming, and there's a zillion of them but I need to get them uploaded to Flickr first, and I've seriously been busy with lots of other stuff since returning home.
Here's a quick list of where we ended up going during a whirlwind week of see-as-many-places-as-possible travel. European trains, by the way, are awesome.
- Vienna > Venice
- Venice > Rome
- Rome > Bern
- Bern > Zurich
- Zurich > Fussen
- Fussen > Munich
- Munich > back to Vienna
More Europe trip short stories and stuff soon, after I get pics and whatnot uploaded.
Thursday, 23 November 2006
Not too terribly long ago some friends of mine impressed upon me the importance of taking on an "attitude of gratitude" in life. What they meant - at least in part - was that the place where you focus your mind is pretty much where you'll end up, and for the most part I think they're right. This time of year I tend to think about a lot of things, some difficult and some pleasant. But every year I try to take some Thanksgiving time to remember that even though life is crazy and time is often too short, there are so many thing in life for which I am grateful and give thanks. Even the stuff I've screwed up.
Life's not perfect, and from the depths of those situations and experience that substantially change us - often things that we would never wish to have happen again - we are destined to learn and grow. I know I have experienced that over the years, and my life is quite different as a result.
Sometimes we learn and grow quickly, other times a little too slowly. I still make mistakes. Lots of them. Especially this year, as I have just recently begun realizing. Fear is a great motivator, one that can be leveraged for good or bad. Best to try for good.
But this is supposed to be about what I am thankful for. Gratitude.
I am thankful for my friends, my family, my good job, my home, my cat and dog, and the many years I had to spend with my dog Buddy, who died earlier in the year. I am grateful for surgeons and the people in my life who cared enough to stop their lives and take care of me when I was truly in need. I sometimes wish I was better to those who were so good to me. But I do appreciate them, and am thankful they are a part of my life.
I'm especially thankful that my friend Matthew, who had brain surgery on Monday this week, is already home and doing well. And I am thankful for the great food we'll be eating at their house in a couple hours, heh.
There are many people in this world better than me, and a few of those good people I know personally. I am thankful for them, even if I don't or can't show it when it counts. I only hope in the future I can be more much more worthy of their time and attention.
Finally, I am grateful for my life, the people in it, the goods and the bads, and for the possibilities of the future, whatever they may be. As they say, "with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."
Yes, it is.
Tuesday, 24 October 2006
If you happen to be looking for me over the next month or so and can't find me, don't panic or anything. It's probably because I'm not around. Seems to have been that way for the past several months now. Not much is changing in that regard. Anyhow, I'll be all over the place for next next while...
I've was gone on a (great) trip to Minnesota and back for more than a week until this past Friday, and then was back home for two nights, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Then I was back on the road again, at the Marriott in Newport, Rhode Island (nice hotel) where I was speaking Monday at a conference on the topic of multifactor authentication and security. Then I flew whirlwind-style back home Monday night. Next I'm off to New Mexico on Wednesday for a work meeting, and back home late Thursday night and off again to Europe on Saturday very early in the morning. Hopefully on Friday I can work from home a little and then get ready for the Europe trip.
The European jaunt is a couple weeks long and will include Vienna, Austria as well as visits to a variety of places in southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland and northern Italy for a week plus a couple days of vacation time, before I have to be back in Austria for a few days of work stuff.
When I get back from there, it'll be just two or three days back at home, then I'm off to Las Vegas for a few days (again for work). And - if all goes as planned - after that I can stay home for a while. I sure hope so, anyhow.
So, there ya go. If you work with me you'll probably hardly see me until mid-November (sorry). I guess that's why we have cell phones, though.
For those that are wondering where all the tech posts went, I've been wondering the same thing. I'll try to get back to them again. I guess I have been a bit burned out lately on technology stuff, but it's not gone from my mind.
Sunday, 22 October 2006
Today was not my coffee day.
First of all, I got one halfway decent cup of coffee all day, and that was the one at the filling station on Industrial Ave in Longview Washington at about 6:30 a.m. on the way to the airport. I drank less than a quarter of that and left it in the truck when my friend dropped me off for my flight.
My next cup was on the plane, the first one that is. As the flight attendant handed me the filled-to-the-rim styro cup, we hit a bump and the hot coffee splashed all over me in 14B and the nice, attractive woman sitting in 14A (note: reference edited because I realized I found it slightly distasteful myself upon re-reading...). Just my luck. It provided an opportunity for me to apologize several times, but that's not exactly the optimal way to get to know someone. Plus it was strong coffee, so I am sure that coffee-soaked clothing smell was just wonderful for her. Ugh. When offered coffee later on the flight I turned it down. I couldn't bear the idea of a second assault on my seat neighbor.
I got to Chicago and had an hour-and-a-half to wait for the next flight to Providence, so I went to the Red Carpet Club to get online, check a few emails, grab some snakes, and put down a safe cup of coffee sans-turbulence.
Someone had procured the little floor table near the chair I sat in, so I set the coffee on the arm rest and stated watching the Pittsburgh/Atlanta football game. It was fourth quarter and tied up - deja vu kind of situation. Anyhow, I ate my snacks, reached to pick up the garbage, and knocked my coffee straight into the leather chair I was sitting in. The cup dumped its contents right between me and the arm rest. Wonderful, I thought. Then I realized I was sitting in hot coffee and jumped. The lady across from me cringed. Well, at least she didn't laugh.
After that, I gave up on coffee for the rest of the day. OJ only for me. Until tomorrow, that is.
Wednesday, 18 October 2006
I'm helping a friend move from the upper-Midwest out to Oregon, and that means a long road trip. We decided to take a scenic route back, and yesterday we stopped at Mt. Rushmore in Wyoming. That was after driving in 40-50mph headwinds on an interstate at about 75mph. My truck does well on the road, but a combined 120 mile per hour head/crosswind is a bit of a pain, not only in terms of driving between the painted lines, but also on fuel.
Good thing fuel's cheap in South Dakota. In South Dakota they also have hotels with these water parks inside. You know, water slides and pools and stuff. We stayed at one the other night and had a blast. Felt like I was 10 again (which is especially weird when I look in the mirror).
At any rate, the real point is that we went to Mt. Rushmore yesterday afternoon. I'd never been there before. My friend Cory had been there (he says) like 25 times, because he has family down the highway and he lived nearby for a while. So I had a tour guide of sorts. We grabbed cameras and took some shots and walked the trail loop.
Mount Rushmore is an amazing work of art, demolition and commemoration all rolled up into one.
The flickr set including these pics (and some more) is here. The last one on the page was shot by Cory (who has quite an eye for pictures).
Friday, 13 October 2006
Today I drove half way to my destination in Minnesota. I saw a lot of amazing stuff and places, but since I am on a bit on a mission to get to my destination (and plan to take the leisurely route back), I didn't stop much.
The leaves are just now changing along the mountains of the Continental Divide in Montana and Idaho, so on the return trip the view should be pretty darn spectacular in that stretch.
We're likely to spend some time at Yellowstone. Never been there, always wanted to. And there are a bunch of other interesting places to go in these parts. Should be a fun week. No real plan, no set schedule, no real rules...
Especially the no set schedule part. Heh.
Thursday, 12 October 2006
Well, I have about 2,000 miles ahead of me (and I'm later getting started than I'd hoped due to a few unplanned items that came up in the past 24 hours), followed by a couple days hanging out in once place and then 2,000 miles back home.
This will be the first time I've had the opportunity to drive across the northern states out west, like Montana and North Dakota, so I am looking forward to it - and it's the perfect time of the year. I'll be doing the quick drive out and the scenic drive back.
So, blogging here will be light for the next week or so. Unless i get some great pics along the way, of course.
Friday, 25 August 2006
I'm a professional geek, and manager of many like me (only they're a lot smarter and more talented than I). But I have not been a computer jock all my life. Before this particular career I was a cop (or "police officer" if I want to be politically correct in my terminology). Before that, I was a professional photographer - a job I had for around eight years. I went to college to study photojournalism, and did sports and news photography, was published way-back-when in magazines and newspapers all over the place, etc. etc. etc. I was pretty good at it. My employers liked all the awards I won for them. I didn't care so much about the awards. But I felt good when I made pictures that people liked and remembered. Even more so when they seemed to matter or make a difference.
But while photography was fulfilling, starving to death was not so appealing. Besides, I'd always wanted to be a cop, and so I went from being a figurative ambulance chaser (a news photog) to being something loosely akin to an ambulance driver (except that police cars are a lot faster and you get to chase people in them - ambulance rig drivers don't do that too much, and then there's the whole catching bad guys thing, and you actually get paid to do all that - crazy). It put a notable few more bucks a month in the bank and was a great job, but it was also a bucket of stress and (eventually) painful experiences (I did a lot of child abuse investigations, and in the end it was me or the job -- I chose me).
Then came computer work. Pays a lot better and without bullets flying at me or my car. Not such a bad deal.
But I miss the creativity and fun of photography probably even more than I miss catching bad guys. So, after spending some time breaking out the old camera and lenses and messing around with them on vacation a week or so ago, I have a renewed hankerin' for doing it some more. Not as a job - I have a good job and career. More like as a passion - something more than a hobby. Just to get back into it something like the way I used to be. Of course, in order to do it right I'll have to do some investing. There's a ton of mediocre cameras and lenses out there. I like my Nikon D70 for a basic digital SLR camera, but in my photo world there's a need for something more if it's really to be taken seriously. And I'm a very serious guy. Zoom lenses? Screw that noise.
I'm still a bit of a digital photography nay-sayer. If I was an old dude, I'd probably be going off on something like "Why, back in my day, we didn't have no fancy digital cameras... All we had was cellulose film. And there we were, a bunch of chemical-burned, dry-skinned film developers, cleaning skin flakes out of the darkroom. But we liked it that way!"
Or something like that.
Anyhow, it's all digital now. But I do miss the darkroom. I was good at that. Hmmm, might need to set one up despite the ease of the digital photography world. Not instead of digital, just in addition to. For nostalgic reasons, sure, but also because as good as digital photography has become, it's still not quite up to the quality and subtlety of using a good quality film.
So what's my point? Well, nothing really. Heh. Except that I think I may start looking for some good, quality used Nikon lenses and another digital body. Then make some more trips off to The Middle of Nowhere. Anyone have a good clean AF300 f/2.8 Nikkor you wanna sell? Heh.
Thursday, 24 August 2006
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is found in northeastern Minnesota, along the border with Canada. They call Minnesota the Land of 10,000 lakes, and the many lakes that make up the BWCA are just some of those thousands. It's a beautiful place, and as far as I am concerned everyone should go at some point in time in their lives. Just let me know when you're going and make sure you all schedule it on the same day. I'll plan my trip at another time, so I can enjoy the peace and quiet. Heh.
Actually, the number of people are parties that can enter the wilderness area on any given day and from any given entry point is pretty heavily limited. The regulations are intended to protect the area and make sure it's maintained as a relatively pristine wilderness area, which is a good idea. Some of the regs seem a bit extreme, but whatever. On the Canadian side of the lakes, it's a lot more expensive and even more restrictive in terms of the regs.
Anyhow, my good friend Cory and I spent a lot of time all week in canoes and fishing. I was feeling (and smelling) pretty strong by the second half of the week. A large part of the time it was just the two of us in the canoe, and other times we were in the boat along with Cory's dad. It just depended on the day and who was in camp at the time. One evening Cory, his sister and I went out for the evening after eagles in a canoe. We earned our eagle chaser badges that night.
Cory paddling on Disappointment Lake
Evening light on the water
I caught this northern pike on our first day out
Sunset from camp
Tuesday, 22 August 2006
One of the highlights of our canoe trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota was a family of bald eagles that frequented the area around our camp for a couple of days. Being a former sports photographer (a long story for another time), I still have a couple lenses that I use on a D70 digital body, and I was glad I brought them with me on the trip.
I have always been quite impressed with an amazed by bald eagles. Getting a chance to be so close in the wild (they came as close as about 40 feet to where I stood) was a lot of fun. I wonder if you can get paid to watch and photograph eagles for a living. I bet some people do.
For the photo geeks, these images are with a Nikkor 180/f2.8 lens on the Nikon D70 body. These particular images are not public domain. Click each one to view a slightly larger size. A number of people are emailing asking for copies, which is fine, just let me know.
Edit: Okay, so some people freaked out a bit when they read this, so let me just say that this was a great trip that allowed me to look at my life and priorities in a new way. Work was taking up way too much time and I realized how much I was not enjoying life. That's about it. It was a great experience that let me evaluate where I'm at in life and why. So please don't freak out, I'm not going nuts or anything. Sheez. Heh.
I'm starting this post while on an airplane, once again. I'll finish it after I get back to Oregon. Heading home - as they say - from a place I've never been before. The last week was spent with one of my best friends in the wilderness and experiencing several of the most important things life has to offer: Nature, friends, and some stark realities of life.
As I travel home to my house and my job, I recognize I am leaving something incredibly important behind. My life has was fundamentally changed in the last week. I can feel it in my bones. It's subtle, but it's there. And I am not just saying those words, I mean it.
Here and in the next few posts are images I shot while on vacation with my friend Cory in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northern Minnesota for seven days last week. It's one of the most amazing places I have been to. We went with Cory's dad, Andy, who has been a guide there for many, many years. It was the experience of a lifetime. We fished, we threw hatchets, we ate well, we jumped off big rocks into cold, deep water, and we talked about lots of things. We saw nature and wilderness in the Land of ten thousand lakes. I know this is supposed to be a technical weblog, but for a short time I plan to document some of the things I saw and experienced.
John Denver put it this way (and yes, I know I am showing my age here). For the first time I think maybe I really understand what he meant...
He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Comin' home to a place he'd never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door
I'm not 27 years old anymore, that's for sure, but the idea is still the same. Sometimes we see and experience things that so effectively disrupt our ritual lives and the ruts we fall into that the best word to describe the experience is epiphany. We realize suddenly that everything in our little worlds is not quite what we thought, and that it's time to do some serious searching of the soul. In a nutshell, that's what the week was like for me.
It's pretty much a classic Murphyism that returning home from a terrific vacation took me through five airports instead of two, and that it would result in arriving a day later than I was supposed to. But despite all that, the vacation I just completed was the best week I have had in a long time, and it taught me a lot about many things.
Several things to post about out of the week and a half in Minnesota, coming shortly. Pictures and thoughts, for the most part.
Suffice it to say, I found I wanted to stay there - And for a few moments, I seriously thought I would do just that. Let the soul searching commence. More soon.
Friday, 11 August 2006
My name is Greg, and I am a workaholic. It's been two years since my last escape vacation.
By vacation, I mean taking a trip to get completely away and check completely out of my world. One that does not include work travel on one end or the other (that's more like work plus a side trip, doesn't really count for decompression time). So, now I'm in the Portland International airport, on my way to Minnesota (by way of Phoenix, because that costs a lot less than flying direct, and how exactly does that work by the way?) where my friend Cory will pick me up and we will go north to The Middle of Nowhere, which is where he lives, almost. The airport is running like a finely tuned watch, by the way. When you consider the happenings of yesterday and the resulting increased security measures, it's good to see things moving and that people are not getting stupid or scared or otherwise freaking out.
Anyhow - vacation. Yeah.
We're spending about a week in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness doing some fishing (that with an"F" not a "Ph" - like I said, no work). I have never been there, but I am told it's amazing and have always wanted to go. The fishing should be fun:
"The Canadian Shield lakes of the border waters gives an angler a wide variety of fishing opportunities. Fishing experts attest to the fact that the smallmouth bass fishing can't be matched anywhere. The deep cold lakes are home to the lake trout. Every lake has northern pike waiting to give you a battle while walleyes are sitting on the reefs ready to fill your frying pan . Don't overlook the slab-sized panfish. Spring and fall fishing is usually the best, although because there is very little fishing pressure on most of the lakes, fish can be caught at any time."
Most of all I am looking forward to catching up with my friend and spending a week resting the brain. See ya when I get back. Meanwhile you can just be jealous or feel good for me, whichever your personality supports, heh:
Located in Northeastern Minnesota, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) includes around a million acres of wilderness, with over 1,000 pristine lakes and streams, and over 1,500 miles of canoe routes. It is considered by some as the most beautiful wilderness they have ever seen. National Geographic named it one of 50 Destinations of a Lifetime. In other words, a vacation you do not want to miss.
The BWCA is a true wilderness experience, without motors, no electricity, no telephone lines, and no roads to the inner lakes. Summer and Fall are wonderful times to visit the Boundary Waters and its surrounding award winning resort communities of Ely, Gunflint, Grand Marais, Isabella/Finland, and Crane Lake.
Tuesday, 18 July 2006
Last week it was Toronto, and this week I am headed to Atlanta. I'll leave Portland in the early morning Wednesday and fly across the country and then back, once again. This time I decided to use a couple of those 500-mile class upgrade vouchers I've been earning and hoarding, since this is the last flight I have scheduled for at least the next few weeks (I have over 100,000 total miles accrued on my frequent flier account, including about 70,000 real, actual miles flown since February and 45 flight segments flown since the beginning of the year - sheez). I've been flying my body into a deep, dark pit of cramps and generalized pain. So, I figure I might as well try to make this trip a nice one, eh? Then when I get home and spend a couple or few weeks in my own bed maybe I'll eventually get back to "normal." Whatever that is, heh.
So... I'll be in the Columbus and Atlanta, Georgia areas Wednesday night plus all day Thursday and Friday. Then it's back home again. If I am lucky, my travel calendar will remain fairly close to what it looks like today and I won't have to fly again til sometime in August. Fingers crossed!
The travel can get in the way of fun. My friend Norm called me tonight to see if I could help shoot a big fireworks show (on a river barge) this Saturday but I had to say I'd better not unless he gets in a bad bind for crew members, since I don't get back home til late on Friday night. All this travel really takes a lot out of me, and I'd hate to only be partially effective while everyone else on the crew was out there working their butts off. At any rate, I do wish I could work this fireworks show - it will be a fun one, and with a good crew of people. Oh well - next time!
I think maybe United Airlines owes me something more than a few upgrade coupons and some miles that can only cash in on a limited set of flights/seats. What do you think airlines should do for their customers that travel a zillion miles a year on their flights?
At least they aren't charging to use pillows and blankets like Canada Air was on my last trip. Wow, talk about penny-pinching. It's not very attractive.
Sunday, 16 July 2006
My lab, Buddy, died today. He was one of my oldest and best friends and lived more than 13 years, which they say is old for a lab.
He was a good dog, and a true friend. I'll miss him more than I can say.
People always commented about how well behaved he was. I trained him to do all sorts of things and he was very smart. One of his favorite things was to hold some sort of snack or food on his nose, balanced for as long as it took until you told him it was okay to toss it in the air off his nose and catch it mid-air. He practically always caught it, and would always wait for the okay, no matter how long it took. One time my son had him waiting, and got engrossed in a TV show and forgot buddy was standing there, patiently and neurotically waiting for someone to give him the okay. A huge puddle of drool soaked the carpet under his feet. He always aimed to please, even if he couldn't control his drool.
Buddy came into my life one afternoon when my first foster son and I went to the local animal shelter and there he was, a tiny little black furball exactly eight weeks old. I could hold him in one hand, he was so tiny.
At any rate, I think everyone that ever met him over the past 13 years truly liked him, and when all is said and done, that says a lot. He'd been getting and appearing older and quite tired and worn out, and it was becoming obvious that time was catching up with him. People who met him before know that's unusual. He'd been almost like a puppy until about a year ago, and in recent weeks his breathing had become quite labored and he had slowed down a lot.
Now he's gone. Tonight I'll take him down to be cremated. My friend Tyson, whom I've known as long as Buddy, is going to meet me. I'll miss him, I'm glad he was my friend.
Tuesday, 11 July 2006
Yesterday at work, I had the privilege of spending a couple hours with this cool kid named Connor. He's the son of a friend and coworker, and is an all-around good kid. Every now and then he'll come to work with his mom for a day and we'll hang out for a bit. It sure beats back-to-back meetings, heh.
Sidebar: For what it's worth, I'd kill to be eleven years old again (if I could stay that age, that is - no point in going through all those intervening years again, heh...).
True to form, he asked if we still have an XBOX. People kind of freak out when I tell them I bought an XBOX 360 for work. We actually have a couple of them on campus. "Video games at work??" they ask me. Heck yeah - it's a great way for creative minds to take an occasional and much-needed brain break (as long as it doesn't become something that's overdone), and some of the best idea-generating conversations happen when you're kicking someone else's butt in DOA4 or some other game. It's also of great interest, it turns out, to eleven-year-old kids. Yeah, go figure.
But most of the time we spent hanging out on Monday was occupied with trying to find a clean whiteboard somewhere in the building that didn't say "SAVE" on it (what the heck is up with THAT anyhow?) and then talking about computers and networks and how they work. Teaching kids something they have yet to learn about is really a lot of fun. I explained the underlying technology basics of how web browsers and web servers work, using analogies like phone books (for DNS), mapquest data (for routes) and phone numbers (for IP addresses) to try to describe some pretty complicated, intangible and abstract stuff in a way that makes some sort of sense. You know - looking up a name in a phone book and finding the phone number is like looking up a URL in DNS and getting an IP address, and using mapquest to figure out how to get from one place to another one step at a time is a lot like finding the route to a web server... We got a little more detailed than that, but you get the idea. His face really lit up when - all of a sudden - he "got it."
Next thing I knew, he was explaining how it works to me. Which was really cool. :)
I used to teach middle school kids back in the day, and there's something about those "getting it" moments that are a lot of fun to watch. Seeing reality expanding itself in a kid's mind is a pretty amazing thing. They sure do learn quickly.
At any rate, Connor will be back again sometime soon, and we'll see who's teaching whom whenever that day comes. For my part, I'm betting on the kid.
Monday, 10 July 2006
I'll be on the road (well, in the air actually) Wednesday through Friday this week, as I am traveling to Toronto, Ontario (Canada, of course), where I'll be speaking at a conference this Friday on the topic of strong authentication for web sites and the role of web site users in the security process. They say there will be somewhere around 2,000 attendees, so it should be an interesting conference. I've been doing a lot of this kind of presentation recently - there are many changes in the works in the financial services industry for performing strong authentication of people who access online banking and other secure web sites. That's pretty much everything I've been doing for the past year or so, in fact.
It's been several years since I have visited Toronto, so I am looking forward to the time there. It's always been one of my favorite cities - clean and attractive.
If anyone happens to be in the Toronto area later this week and wants to try to catch up, be sure to let me know. Email and phone info are in the menu bar on the right side of the page on this site.
Saturday, 08 July 2006
I'm feeling rather thoughtful and somewhat random today. I even cleaned the island counter in my kitchen. Well, sort of. How's that for unusual? It's nice to have a "down" day, for sure.
So anyhow, this morning I took this Jung personality type test online after surfing around on Portland craigslist for random stuff and finding a not-where-you'd expect link to the test on there somewhere (no idea where, craigslist is this infinitely random web of always changing complex stuff where one can always go to see how much more screwed up than oneself people really are). I took the profile test for kicks, and basically just because I like those sorts of things. They make me think. I ended up classified as type INFJ, which it seems is pretty much spot on when I read the description. I don't especially like everything about the fact that it's right on the mark, but hey - what can ya do? Heh.
Then I took the short version of another online profiler that assesses your entrepreneurial business type. the results of that were also interesting. I'm fascinated with the questions these profile systems use, especially the whole group of them in combination. Depending of how the answers pattern out, I can see how one could accurately draw certain conclusions. Not sure how accurate these are in reality (they sure seem to hit the mark), but they are fun to run though nonetheless. It makes me think.
Hmmm, always interesting to see what the robots think of you, eh?
So that got me thinking about something else that always seems to be on my mind: What do I want to be when I grow up? Sure I'm 39 and turning bald and grey (prematurely by the way, I really don't feel this old). But there's a part of me that wants to do things that matter - to somehow change the world, if you will. So, I have to indulge that part of me from time to time, if for no other reason then just to stay happy and sane. To make me think.
Earlier this week we did a big ol' fireworks display for the Clatskanie (Oregon) Heritage Days on July 4th, which was a lot of fun and quite successful. One of my friends from the pyro crew - Brad - brought along a friend of his who had not worked a fireworks show. Jake is his name and he works for a non-profit called Action Without Borders, and they have this interesting and cool web site at idealist.org that is basically a clearing house for, well, non-profits and idealists. Check it out, it's cool. It makes me think.
Anyhow, I enjoy what I do today because there are parts of it that "matter," and that drives me to do more. There are many other things I'd like to do someday - other things that might in some way change the world, or something like that. But I'll leave the descriptions of those things for another time.
Ask yourself this: How can you change the world? What will you do? What makes you think?
Wednesday, 05 July 2006
Today was a good day - more so than most. I realized this a few minutes ago as I stood in my freshly-mowed front lawn and surveyed my work.
First of all, the fact that the sun was still out and I was actually standing in my front yard (heck, the fact that I was even on my own property at 6pm on a weekday) was a minor miracle. Between extensive travel and the time spent at work catching up on all the stuff I miss while traveling, time spent at home has been very little. So a better-looking lawn and the fact that it's still plenty light out as I type this are both great things.
On top of that, an old friend from back when I lived in New Mexico - John Turner - called me today out of the blue. Seems he'd been searching for "Redneck Yard of the Week" and found my blog. Hmmm, interesting psychological questions about that search come to mind, heh. But anyhow, JT's one of my all-time favorite people and it was great to hear from him after a few years of disconnect and to catch up on the phone. People ask me why I put my cell phone number on this blog - now you know. JT mentored me (whether he knew it or not) and was a big factor in convincing me back in '98 and '99 to leave law enforcement and move into computers and technology. Mostly he helped me get past the risk/fear part and into the take-action part. Plus he believed I could do it and make it work when I was not so sure. He was also there for me during some very difficult times, and I will always appreciate that. He's an awesome dude and all around good people, and it's great to be back in touch.
Finally, I had a day where my schedule at work wasn't meeting after meeting after meeting. I am realizing more and more just how much endless meetings rob from your soul. So it was very nice to be able to sit still and catch up with the people I work with and to close a few loops.
And to top it all off, I am at home and done with yard work in time to catch a full hour of South Park on Comedy Central. The dogs were shocked to see me and to get a chance to play around, and the crazy cat is trying to get me to play fetch (what a weirdo). Ahhhh, the life!
Saturday, 01 July 2006
A Gnomedex discussion took place earlier in the conference about sharing intimately personal things on weblogs and in public forums. There was a lot of other stuff in the conversation, too - but what I took away from it was the "what do you write about, why, and is it a good idea?" theme.
Some people are a truly and completely open book (crime, sex and all) on the Internet, while others who used to be quite open in their blogging have since changed and have pulled all the personal stuff back in, only writing about things that are not descriptive of real life. Kids these days (that's my old dude comment for the week) seem to post all kinds of things that some find both shocking and concerning.
For my part, I write both. I would never write about certain things that are definitley best kept private, and there are a number of specific things that happen in my life which I choose not to post here. But people do sometimes comment about things I write that are quite personal. It really doesn't take courage (people often say "I wish I had the courage to..."), just some common sense and a desire to think things through sometimes, which I find works out well by writing.
I often write (both the personal and the tech stuff) to clear my plugged up brain so I can sleep better. So I guess whatever comes out just comes out. With a filter. Like it or not. Good or bad.
Sunday, 18 June 2006
I called my dad this evening to wish him happy Fathers Day and we talked for a while, which was cool. We don't get to do that as often as we'd like sometimes, and I always enjoy chatting with him about whatever's going on. Right now they're busy completely renovating a house they bought - like as in gutting the whole thing and redesigning and rebuilding. Quite the project.
Anyhow, it's Father's Day, and it's a complicated day for me. When I called my dad passed along my wishes to him, he reflected them back to me. I think he knows how important that is to me, or at least I hope he does. Most people don't know about me being a dad, and the whole story behind that. I don't often get a chance to talk about Brian, my foster son whom I adopted several years back. He died about six years ago. Some people would say he died of depression. Suicide's a hard word to say out loud in context. It's been a journey, both before and since he died.
The one things that's kept me going in the years since is the group of guys Brian knew before he died, people whose lives he touched enough for them to stick around and hang out with me from time to time, even these many years later. They're all older now, adults out on their own in one way or another. One's on an aircraft carrier on the Pacific today. Another is driving a big rig to southern California right now. Others are here in town going to college and working, still others have moved on, and so it goes. In their own ways, they each stay in touch. I am proud to call them my friends.
A co-worker sent me a quick email on Friday, and it has to be one of the most thoughtful, nicest things anyone's said to me in quite a while. And she didn't send it because she works in HR and has to do these things. She sent it because she really cares. She remembered and went out of her way to say something. You can't put a value on that...
"Just want to reach out to you with a few words given that Father’s Day is Sunday. I hope that you celebrate knowing that you’ll forever be a Dad. And not only did you touch your son’s life, but you continue to touch the lives of those boys with whom you interact today, and this blessing should be celebrated. May the times you spent with your son fill your heart always."
I am grateful today for friends that care, for Brian's friends that have stuck around over the years, and for the time I had the opportunity to spend with him, however short and however difficult. I hope he's in a better place. I am sure he is.
To all the dads out there, hug your kids, no matter how old or young. And to those of you with dads, if you haven't made that phone call yet or dropped by to say hi, you still have a few minutes and it doesn't have to happen just one Sunday a year. Make the call. Pay the visit. Today or tomorrow, it all counts for the same.
Happy Father's Day.
Thursday, 08 June 2006
I've made three trips from Portland, Oregon (where I live) to Washington DC in the past month. I love DC, but that's enough for me for now. Especially when you add in all the other trips I've made in-between. Try expecting to fly from DC to Omaha, but getting to Chicago and finding out your flight to Omaha was cancelled, so you decide to fly to Kansas City and drive to Omaha. at 1 a.m., then five hours later you get back on a plane to fly to your next stop
Crazy. I have spent most of the past couple months on the road. Or in the air, as the case may be.
Anyhow, time for a couple days off, no matter how much I may be needed elsewhere, so I am heading up to Scranton, PA to catch back up with my friend, Mary Beth. Her brother's getting married at West Point this weekend so we'll be up that way for a couple of days. What a cool place to get married. He graduated there last year and is an officer in the U.S. Army in Arizona. It will be a fun weekend.
Then it's back home so my dogs and cat can stare at me in disdain again for a day or two. Heh.
Tuesday, 30 May 2006
I was in Washington DC today (in fact I still am - our flight through Chicago is delayed by a few hours) for a business meeting at the OCC. After the meeting ended we had some time to spare , so my coworker Milind and I spent an hour or so checking out a few spots around the city.
Our last stop before heading for the airport was Arlington National Cemetery. Milind had not been there before, and it had been more than a year for me. The last time I went, they were just closing for the evening, and also at the time I did not get a chance on that trip to find out where my grandpop and grandmom are buried.
But today we had plenty of time, so I went to the location office and the nice people there pulled out the old rolls of microfilm (seriously - someone should digitize all that for the cemetery, for free, as a donation. It's sad that they have to use Microfilm for anything before 1999) and found my grandpop's burial location.
I'd hoped our flight in on Monday would arrive in time to let me go there on Memorial Day, but no such luck, so today - Memorial Day +1, so to speak - was a good day to go.
He served in the U.S. Army - including service during World War Two and Korea. My grandmom and their three kids - my mom and her two younger sisters - traveled to Germany when he was stationed there. I'm told they moved around a lot. Probably typical army family style.
At any rate, what I remember of Grandpop was bouncing on his knee when I was very small. That and him singing "Little David Play on your Harp" to my little brother (David, of course). Of my Grandmom I remember much more. She was a very nice lady and a good person.
Anyhow, it was good to go there and spend a few minutes. Their marker (it's a shared one, because they intern couples together at Arlington) is under a big tree, and it's just a beautiful place. I snapped a few pictures before I left. I'm sure I will go back again, hopefully soon.
Arlington National Cemetery is simply an amazing, thought provoking, emotional place.
Milind and I went to the U.S. Capital building earlier in our trek, and walked in the east-coast summer heat for a while and took some pictures. The capital city has moved into that hot and muggy phase of the early summer, and today was a perfect example. We just don't get that kind of humidity in Oregon. Thank goodness.
The Capital Building
Milind's presentation style pose
Sunday, 28 May 2006
Take the time this Memorial Day to remember. Put the memories of those who have sacrificed or gone before you at the front of your thoughts, and their families and friends in your prayers.
This day I remember many who have gone before me: My grandfather, who served in two wars and rests in Arlington National Cemetery and whose grave I hope to visit in the next couple weeks when I am there. My son. Family. Friends. And many people I never knew, who made a decision to sacrifice their lives to make ours better and - in their own very individual ways - to do the right thing.
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General from Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours very sincerely and respectfully,
A. Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864
Do not stand by my grave and weep ... I am not there;
I do not sleep.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds
circling in flight.
Do not stand by my grave and cry ...
I am not there. I did not die.
Monday, 22 May 2006
If you're not into x-rays or thinking about surgery and stuff like that, you can just skip this one. Many people have had me promise to show them pictures of the artificial disc that was implanted in me three months ago once I got them, so - well - here you go. This is a pretty amazing and relatively new (in the USA anyhow) area of medicine.
The Kineflex artificial lumbar disc is a three-piece metal-on-metal mechanical replacement, which is used to treat chronic and severe lumbar pain due to degenerative disc disease. It's in FDA trials right now, which makes me a bit of a guinea pig. It's not the kind of surgery you decide to do without a lot of serious thought and only after trying every other option. It replaced my natural disc, and now my severe back and leg pain that I lived with 24 hours a day for years is practically gone - and as a bonus I am a little bit taller than I was before the surgery. As I've said here before, I have my life back thanks to the doctors and the people that built this little device.
How'd they get it in there? The made an 8-inch horizontal incision just below my belly button (yep, they approach the spine from the front), spread the bones apart, removed the disc that was damaged, and put this new one in place.
You can click each image to view them larger-sized. I've removed any sensitive personal information.
Monday, 15 May 2006
I had to go to the Seattle area for my three-month post-op followup with my surgeon today. My back is in great shape he says (more x-rays were made today that look pretty darned cool), and the doc thanked me for doing so well. Heheh... I think maybe he had a lot to do with that, though. So I thanked him, again, for helping me get my life back. I owe him a lot.
After my appointment with the doc, I drive the ten minutes from the hospital over to the Microsoft campus and met up face-to-face with my online acquaintance, Trevin Chow. He's on the Windows Live ID team there, and I've always though he was a good guy. Come to find out I was right - we had fun meting and discussing a variety of things. And Trevin, thanks for the coffee!
Shameless plug time: Go read Trevin's blog - it's well worth the read. And, of course, subscribe. Here, let me make it easy for you: Subscribe to Trevin's RSS feed.
It was especially fun because although we'd never met face-to-face, it was much like the natural continuation of a conversation. Trevin emailed me this afternoon in reply to my saying thanks and said, "Your personality oozes into your blog, so you weren't a surprise in any way :) " Well, I hope it's not an infection, or we're all doomed... Heh...
Seriously though - that's exactly the impression I got from him. Glad to have met ya, Trevin. And he'll laugh that I posted all this, heheh...
Random Side-bar: Trevin has his motorcycle endorsement, but he's smart enough (read: much smarter than I) not to buy one because a couple people he knows have been in bad motorcycle accidents recently. I worry about that, too. If you ever ride a motorcycle, you must pretend you're invisible on the road - others simply will not see you. And even then, there's no guarantees.
So... Who was the last person you met, whom you met first online, but eventually caught up with face to face? And, who is the one person you've met online, but not met face to face, whom you'd most like to meet in person?
Sunday, 14 May 2006
My friend and coworker Alex and his brothers Robert and Ben are in Montana with family and most importantly their mom, who had a stroke last week and is not doing so well. It's a hard time, and I imagine it's both extra important and extra difficult today, since it's that one day a year we define as Mother's Day. Robert's been writing about some of the experience on his blog, and it's been a daily read for me. I don't know Robert as well as I know Alex, and I've never met Ben, but somehow it's good to know they're all together at an important time.
I talked to my mom today using the webcams I bought a few months back along with Live Messenger 8's video conferencing capabilities. She let me know yesterday she wanted to do the "video camera call thing" and I've been kind of bad lately about having my camera hooked up when she wants to do a call. She really likes being able to see the person on the other end. The things that many of us take for granted are really pretty special for others, you know?
We had a good conversation about it all today. Mom asked me why this video chat thing is free - almost like there must be something wrong with it if you don't pay for it. I explained it's not really free, there's advertisements and all. She said something like, "Ahhh" and then paused and got that thoughtful look on her face (which I could actually see, of course, since it's video chat heheh), and then she asked me the zillion-dollar question:
"Well if that's the case," she said, "why do people use telephones, then?"
Ah hah, she gets it! Heh... I explained the whole "telephone of the future thing" to her. She sees the light.
After talking throughout the day to people about moms, reading about moms, and of course sending my own mom some flowers and doing a live Internet video chat over the thousand-plus miles between us, I was left with one thought. Why do we relegate this celebration to one day a year? Moms truly deserve more than that.
I was thinking back about life recently. When I was a kid, my mom was a single parent faced with real challenges. I realized that it must have been a darn scary time for her, really. It took real courage and strength to handle a couple of growing boys like she did. She sometimes tells me she wishes it could have been better for me and my brother. For my part, though, I can't imagine having it any better than we did - with a mom who really and truly cares and who pushes on - even if it is scary, and hard, and tough.
Thanks mom. For everything. You're awesome. Truly.
Saturday, 22 April 2006
I thought this was just about the coolest thing ever when I saw it a couple weeks ago in Florida.
Many people park their boats in the water at a marina. But at the place where my aunt and uncle keep theirs in Florida, the boats are all stacked in these huge racks in a warehouse and are moved around by great big fork-lifts. Want to take your boat out on the water? No problem, they'll get it for ya. They drop it right in the water alongside the dock and pick it up from the same place. High, dry, and presumably safer from storms than if it was stored outside in the water. Sure keeps the boats nice and clean and secure. Pretty cool.
A couple weeks ago I visited my aunt and uncle, Gail and Scott, in St. Pete while I was in Florida for a work conference. We went out on the boat and hung out for a while on the beach. It was a great weekend.
Scott pilots the boat:
... and cleans it afterward:
Me and my aunt Gail on the beach - you can tell I'm not from Florida eh? I didn't pack any shorts.
Tuesday, 04 April 2006
It's been seven weeks since I underwent surgery on my lower back up near Seattle, Washington. I was the recipient of a Kineflex lumbar artificial disc, a three-part, all-metal mechanical replacement for the torn, herniated and collapsed (degenerated) disc between my L5 and S1 vertebrae. That's the lowest one in your spine.
This surgery has truly given me my life back.
Before the procedure, I was always - and I quite literally mean always - in pain. Real pain, the kind that wears you down every minute of every day. The kind of chronic pain that people can't fully understand until they've lived with it themselves. It wears you down, chews you up, and eventually spits you out. "Normal" for me was a lot like the "normal" road noise is for someone who lives right next to a freeway: Spend your whole life around it and your brain tunes it out just to cope, but it's always there. Sure, louder noises still annoy you, but the mind has a way of coping with whatever you throw at it, at least as best it can. But that background pain still has an effect, progressively more so over time. When the sound is gone, it's almost deafening. And when the pain is gone, you finally realize just how bad it's been.
I feel ten times better than I've felt in more than ten years. Seriously.
Yeah, I am a guinea pig of sorts - the artificial disc I was fortunate enough to receive was provided to me as part of an FDA trial - not very many people have this hardware in their bodies. I did more than a year of careful and critical research on artificial disc surgery before I decided to take the leap. I considered bone fusion (which is the classic and most common treatment for my condition) and I tried every other treatment that was available to me - physical therapy, exercise, medicine, cortisone injections, minimally invasive procedures, you name it. When it came down to it, it was a choice between bone fusion or ADR (artificial disc replacement) procedure. the ADR device allows the joint to remain mobile instead of locking it up permanently, and I am only 38 years old (well for a few days anyhow), so staying mobile is important to me. Because I had a 50/50 chance of receiving either a Charite or Kineflex artificial disc (they split the patients randomly, half and half), I also had to become confident in both technologies (the Charite is two metal plates with a plastic core, while the Kineflex is the same basic idea, but with a different design and a metal core). I can tell you that I was lucky and got the one I really wanted (the Kineflex), but either would have been okay with me.
Not everyone is the same, and surgery is rough stuff. The procedure is a serious one with potential side effects that one has to be ready to accept. Everyone's body is different and surgery is in large part an art, which means they all go slightly differently. Many people benefit from the new technology, while some are not so fortunate. That said, I am so grateful for my decision and to my doctors and the staff that have given me so much back. I did not fully realize how bad off I was until now, and still each day I keep feeling better. It will likely be many months before I can say I am healed and recovered, but I can see and believe that day's coming, which is something I had almost given up hope on before.
I write this from what used to be one of the most painful places in my life: An airliner seat at 37,000 feet. And guess what?
It doesn't hurt anymore.
Sunday, 02 April 2006
Last week I was in Dallas, Texas for a conference. Typical of my way of doing things, I landed at the DFW airport and headed for the hotel and realized that somewhere in the back of my mind there was a lingering thought that was hinting that Dallas, Texas might have some importance, like maybe there was something (in addition to the conference) I needed to do since I was there. You know what I mean: One of those "seems to me there's something important I am supposed to do if I ever travel here, but I can't think of what it is..." kind of things.
Eventually it popped into my mind: My mom had told me that my Aunt Marsha and Uncle Mike had moved to Texas a couple years ago. Maybe it was Dallas? My memory was not helping me much. I called them up, and sure enough they're living in Richardson, which is northeast of the big city. So, I got to spend a couple fun evenings at their home catching up, eating dinner and meeting their dogs. It was a good time.
During one of my visits, my aunt brought out some old family photos and things that she thought I might be interested in seeing. It was fun and interesting to run through the old photos, but there was also one piece of paper in the stack of things that especially caught my eye. It looked to be a family tree reaching back many generations, showing a history of the family dating back several hundred years. Wow! I've always wondered if something like this existed, and have never really known where to look. Score!
What I found our really caught my interest - Thirteen generations back, on September 6, 1628, my ancestors arrived at "Naumking" on the Massachusetts Bay (which they would eventually rename to "Salem") with John Endicott, who would become the first governor of the Massachusetts colony. They were the first group of Puritan colonists in Salem, and had left from Weymouth, England June 20 of the same year.
Encouraged by one sheet of paper, a few names and some rough dates, I have once again personally discovered the truly awesome power of searching with Google.
My Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather was named Charles Gott. Charles and his first wife, Gift and their two young daughters sailed from Weymouth, England, on June 20, 1628, aboard the ship Abigail with Captain Endicott. They landed in Salem, Massachusetts, on September 6, 1628 and the sea voyage must have been harrowing ("the sea roared and the waves tossed us horridly ... it was fearful dark and the mariners made us afraid with their running here and there, and there was loud crying one to another to pull this or that rope."). The passengers of the Abigail were Salem's first settlers, and in 1635 Charles was made a deacon of the first Puritan church established in America. Gift apparently died in about 1636, and Charles then married Sarah Mansfield, with whom he had three children. One of those children was named Charles as well, and the line runs from there.
I've located on the web - again thanks to Google - several people who have traced the genealogy of their families back to the Gotts, and who's lines intersect mine. Distant relatives. I'll have to start sending some email to those people and say hi. I'll also have to finish this research and post it here so people can do the same with me.
On a loosely-related note (no pun intended), I read recently where Buzz Bruggeman sent a DNA sample off to Family Tree DNA, and the service found some relatives of his in their matching process. I ordered a kit and yesterday I completed my ritual cheek-scraping and will be sending the samples back to the DNA lab on Monday. The test focuses on the paternal side, so I wonder what I will find out about my dad's side of the family? My wild guess is Ireland, but hey who knows? I'm excited to possibly find out.
Saturday, 01 April 2006
The other day one of my coworkers, Brent, asked me if I've given up blogging.
No, Mr. Sarcasm - I have not. But with the recent wholesale replacement of part of my spine, plus travel, work, a variety of stressors, the need to rest and a ton of other things, I have not been writing much here lately.
I have a lot to write about, though - eventually. I just need to get better caught up with life. Heck, we're losing an hour of sleep tonight. That doesn't help any!
So don't worry. I'm not dead yet.
Wednesday, 22 March 2006
Prior to my business meetings today, I was able to spend a short time with my friend Florian here in Germany. His parents hosted me at their home and shared a bit of real, small-town Germany with me, including some of the food and customs. Florian took me all over the countryside to a few places, including a few that most tourists never see - off the beaten path, as they say. It was a great weekend, one that I will remember for many, many years.
The Heidelberg Castle is a common tourist stop, but we went there anyhow, and I am glad we did. It was actually the second castle we visited (the first one, Hardenburg, I did not have a camera for). It's a pretty amazing place, and we first climbed the hill on the opposite side of the river from the castle (called the Philosopher's Walk), which has a great view of the old city and the castle. Then we crossed the old bridge and walked through the city, then up 315 steep steps to the castle. Given my recent condition, this was a healthy climb, to say the least. But I made it.
From the top one can walk through the castle and see all sorts of interesting things. There's a huge wine barrel in a lower level of the castle - like huge as in you have to see it to believe it. And of course the architecture is amazing.
Actually, the smaller castle we visited the day before, called Hardenburg (follow link for pics), while smaller and relatively hidden away at the far end of a valley in the town where we stayed (in an area called the Rhineland-Palatinate), was probably more fun to explore because it's not heavily visited and almost every nook and cranny is accessible, with the exception of part of the lower levels. It's interesting to learn about the history of the construction - and periodic destruction, typically by the French armies - of these castles. The Hardenburg Castle was built sometime shortly after 1200 A.D. That's some serious history.
Also in the same area is the Limburg Monastery, on top of another hill across from the Hardenburg Castle. It is a large and spectacular ruin, as well. It's been added on to recently, so some of the structure is a little too modern looking, but luckily you cannot see it while walking the grounds, at least once you leave the parking lot. This is a huge structure, and was built in the 9th century. It was first a castle of sorts and then was converted to a monastery for Benedictine monks. It's an interesting and rich history - the Hardenburg Castle was actually built illegally on Limburg land by the governors who were responsible for protecting it, but it seems that did not make the Limburg residents happy. Read more here. As is typical, the history is colorful and full of interesting stories over the years.
If you even get a chance to visit Germany, be sure to take some time to get off the common paths followed by tourists. While the Autobahn is fun (for us Americans with our annoying speed limits and all that), taking your time by taking the back roads through smaller German towns to get to your destination is worthwhile. It's there that you get to see Germany in it's full color, not on the superhighway.
We also visited a museum that has lots of aircraft (including an actual 747 you can walk though and a whole slew of military aircraft from around the world), a U-boat, and many fine cars on display. An amazing selection of very cool items.
Thanks to Florian and his parents for a terrific few days - I hope have the opportunity to visit again soon. Germany is a beautiful country.
I'll post a few more pictures and some details shortly from the other stops and things we did along the way.
Saturday, 18 March 2006
I had the pleasure of visiting the School of Science and Technology here in Beaverton, Oregon on Friday for the junior class career day. Along with a whole slew of other talented and much-more-interesting-than-me adults, I was able to converse with a wide variety of students about what they're about to face in their lives: Financial aid forms, the Real World™ and not really knowing what life has in store (but wishing they did).
It was a great time, and it gave me a chance to reflect on where I've been and how I got to where I am today. there have been many highs and lows in life along the way. But (and this is probably one of life's most important lessons) regardless of what all happens in life and why, I'm a better person for having experienced all the things that have happened around me over the years.
So, for the couple of you students who manage to find your creative and inquisitive ways to this blog, thanks for the opportunity and don't forget the open-ended offer: Send me an email or call me (the number is over there on the right) if you have more questions or want to see what the crazy world of software, Internet security, catching online bad guys, and IT is all about.
For everyone else: When was the last time you spent half a day at a local school talking with the students and staff? Everyone should do something like that at least once a year - participate in some event and give back a little of what you've got - your experiences, good bad or otherwise. Share it with the upcoming generation of geeks, actors, cops, lawyers, engineers, recruiters, sales execs, dentists, marketers, accountants, entrepreneurs, nanotechnology physicists, and rocket scientists. Call a school, give half a day. All you have to do is ask, and you might be surprised what you learn.
Okay. I'm outa here. Pray for WiFi on the airplane. Deutschland hier komme ich!
Monday, 06 March 2006
Update: You can read all of my posts about my Kineflex ADR surgery at this link.
Many of you who read this know that I had back surgery recently. The surgery was an Artificial Disc Replacement at the L5/S1 level, with a Kineflex artificial lumbar disc. It's been almost three weeks, and my current assignment from the doc is plenty of rest (and so I am at home almost all the time), combined with walking as much as I reasonably can, but without overdoing it. I'll soon be able to go into work part of the time for very light duty. Right now I am able to do some work from home, which is one of the things that helps to keep me sane day after day.
Progress milestones while healing - big and small - really stand out in a recovery like this. I was able today - for the first time - to walk the half mile trek to my mailbox and back. It's the longest single outdoor walk I have done so far. I live at the end of a long gravel driveway, up and down two steep hills. As I was climbing the first hill and neared the top, it dawned on me that I was not slowing any, and that it didn't hurt!! Wow! By the time I got back to the house, I was quite worn out (exhausted, really), but no worse for the wear physically. Progress! Not to mention it's a great psychological milestone. Before the surgery I would have been staggering, clumsy and in pain before I got a hundred yards into it. Three weeks ago I was re-learning muscle movement just to walk at all for the first few days.
So, slowly but surly, getting better. I just have to make very, very sure I don't over-extend myself or bend the wrong ways (I am limited in certain motions for now), and I have to pace myself so I don't wear out. Unfortunately when I do wear out it happens quickly and I tend to crash from an energy standpoint. Other than that, I feel much better overall than I did before the surgery and, despite some surgical side effects that take time to work themselves out, I'm encouraged.
One of the things that has made this whole Artificial Disc Replacement surgery thing bearable is an online forum called the ADR Support Forum over at at ADRSupport.org. ADR is a newer technology in the United States, although it's been prevalent in Europe and other places for many years. There are lots of great people on the forum who have either gone though ADR surgery or who are looking into it and wanting to find out more, so it was a great resource for me pre-op and it still is after surgery. Highly recommended for reading and participation if anyone is considering an ADR procedure.
Friday, 17 February 2006
(This is not a techie post, but since there are many people out there asking how I am doing after surgery, I'll write about it here. It will also help me remember how things went and what happened when)
It's two days after my surgery, and I'm heading home this evening from the hospital, which I am looking forward to. This hospital is great (truly), but somehow the idea of having a fire in the fireplace and being in familiar surroundings is more appealing.
My body hurts, pretty bad. Like I got hit by a truck. but it's not the old pain, which is great. I can walk a short while (well, it's a lot like walking, but it's labored at best), and the physical therapist had me walk up and down a flight of training stairs. Who would have known it could be so much work? This is a lot like learning to walk all over again.
I was able to take a quick shower today (they do some fancy stuff with the incision when they close you up, and showering is actually a good thing to do once you're up to standing for that long). Thank goodness! The hot water helped relax some of my tense muscles.
Yesterday was hell. Starting with X-rays (which came out just fine), standing up was very painful - I had terrible muscle spasms in my lower back and legs, along with pain and nausea. Nothing like feeling nauseas and (forgive the graphical discussion) having to puke, which of course hurts like hell since your abdominal muscles contract hard each time. I'm glad that phase seems to be over with.
More than a few people have asked me what exactly they did to my back during this surgery. I've decided its not a big secret or anything, and that in fact it's really very interesting. First they removed the inter-vertebral disc in the lowest part of my lower back, at the L5/S1 space. Discs in your back are the softer tissues between the bony vertebrae that act as shock absorbers and allow your back to move in all directions. think of them as like a little pillow filled with squishy stuff (well, sort of). Mine was herniated (torn and pooching out into the space where the nerves run) and degenerated (loss of water and height, thinner than it used to be). In other words, pretty much all ragged and shot. The medical term for the thinning and drying out of the disc is "Degenerative Disc Disease." You body won't correct it on it's own - the physical damage is done and it usually just gets worse over time.
Once they removed the bad disc, they put in an artificial disc replacement implant - a spinal prosthesis, you could say. It's called a Kineflex lumbar artificial disc, and you can see a quick video of what it looks like and how it works here. The Kineflex device is a newer design, and I received it through a study program that is comparing the Kineflex disc to the Charite disc as part of a FDA clinical trial in the United States (email or call me if you want some details - contact info is in the right-side menu bar). I did a lot of research - on fusion options, artificial disc options, do-nothing options, individual surgeons, etc - before I decided to go this route. Artificial discs are - in the right patients - an alternative to fusion of the two bones. The ADR devices don't act like a shock absorber (neither does fusion, for that matter), but they do retain close to natural motion in the joint. As you might imagine, it's a fairly expensive procedure, and at least for now insurance companies in the United States are rarely paying for the procedure because it's too new for them (the first model to get FDA approval was the Charite and that was in the fall of 2004), and they instead prefer the fusion route. That's the way health care works.
And for those people looking here for technical posts - well, sorry. They'll be back soon enough.
Sunday, 12 February 2006
If the knife doesn't kill me, the stress just might... On Wednesday at around 7am I'll be up in the Seattle area on a table in a surgical suite, and with any luck about an hour and a half (or so) later I'll be hallucinating and stuff in the recovery room as the proud and successful recipient of a artificial disc replacement at the L5/S1 joint in my lower back. I get to lay around in a hospital bed for a couple/few days, then can head home to lie around a whole lot more.
It's not quite Steve Austin style stuff, but the plan is to replace a collapsed, herniated and generally failed lumbar disc with a mechanical replacement. I'll be like a scaled-down version the bionic man. Not quite six million dollars worth of work (more like in the tens of thousands), but I am told they can rebuild me, they have the technology.
Truth be told, I'm just a bit scared. I've never been through surgery anywhere near this extensive before, and the decision to do this has been a long and tedious process involving a lot of risk and personal decisions. In the past I've had epidural injections of cortisone, lots of physical therapy, a minimally-invasive microdiscectomy surgical procedure, more physical therapy, medication, rest, exercise, you name it. But when a body part's shot, it's just shot.
Since then I decided - after meeting with a few highly regarded and experienced surgeons who told me I'm just delaying the inevitable fusion or artificial disc surgery - to stick it out for a while and see if I could just deal with the pain. The problem is, in order to do that I've had to keep myself from doing a lot of the things one needs to do in a normal life from day to day, as well as a lot of the things that help make life enjoyable, and that's no good.
So, here I am. Surgery could mean a great improvement in my quality of life. Of course it's not without risks (you really want someone operating on your spine?), and the past year has been mostly about deciding whether the risks of the procedure are worth the potential benefits and avoiding surgery. The pain has not improved much if at all, it always limits me, and at many times it's quite unbearable. Life's no good like this. So, it's time. My doctor is very experienced and I have lots of confidence in him. The facility is great. No more excuses.
As always seems to happen (Ask Murphy why, I sure there's a law about it), workplace and life situations, stresses and pressures are coming to a head right about the time I have to do this surgery, but I've decided that I really only get one life, and one body for that life. Jobs are something that can flex and be molded and true friends will wait, so while I'm wanting to get back to work and life as soon as it's realistic, I have to take care of this other stuff first, slow and steady as they say.
But I'm not just worried and scared. I'm also excited. The prospect of healing and being able to do many of the things I used to take for granted is truly something to look forward to - things like loading the trash cans into the truck to take to the dump, or walking the dog more than a quarter mile, or riding a bike or my motorcycle, or sitting in a chair for more than 15 minutes at a time, or even just being able to pick things up off the floor.
That and not falling flat on my face in the hallway because I twist or step the wrong way, or because I drag my leg and pain shoots out my foot - That's just one of many things I am looking forward to no longer experiencing.
Anyhow, It'll be lighter than usual posting here probably for a little while 'til this is behind me. Maybe a little bit more to write over the next couple days, but come Wednesday I think I'll be rather out of it. Cross your fingers for me.
Monday, 30 January 2006
I had a layover at the Denver International Airport for several hours today, so I called my mom, who lives over near Boulder. She jumped in the car and drove over to the airport for coffee and lunch.
The Pur la France chicken pot pie in the main terminal upper level is highly recommended. And so are those deals where they announce they have over-booked and will give a round trip ticket to anyone who will volunteer to take the next flight. I got lunch with my mom, a free round trip ticket, first class seat for no extra charge on the next flight, and on top of that I am able to work right now in the airport during business hours instead of being on an airplane during the time that counts. So I was able to test a very cool new demo version of one of our security software products and test market it to my mom. She provides good feedback.
I sent her a Logitech Quickcam Pro the other day so we can do video instant messaging and calls with Live Messenger v8, and I was showing her how to use the notebook camera I bought for my end of the connection. That's her right there, snapshot taken with my notebook Logitech cam (which is a great little camera).
Well, off to North Carolina... Then back home to Portland.
Monday, 23 January 2006
Life, work and everything else is pretty crazy these days. I'm tentatively scheduled for some major surgery on my lower back in February, and my day (and evening) job is hectic and quite challenging in many ways (but I'm not complaining). Add everything else that happens in life into the mix, well... Recently it's been just a bit overwhelming at times.
I've traveled more than usual lately. One of the things I found made it more bearable (besides wearing my rigid back brace on airplanes - thank goodness for that stupid thing) is the new iPod video model I recently picked up. I discovered Battlestar Galactica, the revived show that everyone and their brother has apparently seen and raves about. Now I can see why they rave. I used to watch the original series when I was a kid - it was the greatest show on TV for a period of time, at least in my book. So, I purchased the pilot mini-series of the new, modern version via iTunes a couple weeks ago and watched it on my flights to Philly and Pittsburgh. What a great show. Definitely made a couple long flights much more sane. I downloaded the first season of the show the other night and will start watching that soon.
Some of you know I've had back problems for some time. I now have back surgery set for February 15th in Seattle. There are some tests that I have to get done before then, too (bone scan, labs, etc.). From what the doc says, I guess I will be relatively out of it for a while - at least a few weeks. It's quite an intimidating prospect, actually: I have never had major surgery before, so I am more than just a little nervous, even though the doc is terrific and has tons of experience. More on that later, maybe when the day gets closer. Afterward it will certainly make for an interesting and geeky bionic-man kind of tale, assuming all works out and the surgery actually happens. First things first.
Have you ever had major surgery? Care to share your experience? Mine will be an anterior (read: from the front) approach to the lumbar spine (at L5-S1), where they'll remove the disc and then do their handiwork. Not too common, but maybe there's someone else out there who's been through that sort of thing. If so, let me know.
Saturday, 17 December 2005
Scott Adams says he recently quit caffeine. It wasn't exactly pleasant for him. Sounds like it still isn't.
I can relate. Except that I have not quit.
I drink coffee like it was, well, water. Like it's going out of style. It's easy to do - there's tons of free coffee everywhere I go. Which means work and home. And church sometimes. Free coffee everywhere.
Coffee is The Devil. So I am not sure why it's at church.
If I don't get my requisite dose of caffeine in the morning, I (seriously) can't see straight. Like as in my vision is blurry and my head hurts. That can't be good.
I stopped smoking a couple years or so ago. I've quit other things before, many years ago. But caffeine, well man oh man... Painful.
For the record, cigarettes was the hardest from a withdrawl perspective. Freakin' BRUTAL. It still is from time to time. I tell people I *stopped* smoking. I don't say I "quit." Nothing is guaranteed, nothing is forever. For today I am stopped, and it's better that way.
I guess I've learned that much fairly well. Heh.
But, back to coffee - It's the one vice I have left remaining in my life, really. I know I shouldn't drink as much as I do, but it just won't let me go. I've tried it - Ringing ears, blurry vision, massive headaches, general lethargy, an *inability* to sleep (seriously), and on top of that no more coffee, which I actually like (and I never actually liked smoking that much).
Argh. Decaf doesn't really appeal to me. All the decaf I've ever had tastes like crapola.
Friday, 16 December 2005
I suppose there's a chance I'm the last person in the world to watch The Polar Express. I rented it tonight, I suppose due to a subconscious need to find a little holiday something or another.
If you haven't seen this movie, you're really missing out.
I can remember (vaguely) being the kid on this movie. Each of them, actually. I think that's why it's such a great story and film. And what a great message.
If you've not seen it, or if you know someone who doesn't believe anymore, rent the DVD, settle in for the night, and get a little bit of your life back. I think you'll be glad you did. This has to be one of the better movie experiences in some time. I can't believe I missed it til now.
And if you're lucky enough to be near an IMAX theater, you might be able to go see it there - in 3D, which Roger Ebert says is an incredible experience. Here in Portland, it's 2D at the OMSI OmniMax theater, but it's on the big dome screen.
Sunday, 11 December 2005
I'm supposed to be on my way to Portland by now, to meet up with the youth group for a evening thing, Christmas shopping and stuff.
Supposed to be. Just one minor problem.
My truck's sitting out there in the driveway, with my laptop, camera, phone, and everything else I might possibly need tucked inside. The engine is all warmed up, the heated seats are turned on.
And the doors are all locked.
And the extra key? Yeah, let's not even go there.
To solve this problem, after failing miserably at the Magic Wire Coat Hanger Method, I brought out the smallest Yellow Pages book in the United States and looked for a local locksmith.
I'm starting to see why there are times when it's easier to live in or near the city. My first call was to a guy who, it turns out, is over in the state of Washington. Another call or two went unanswered. My next call was to a guy three-quarters of the way to the city, and he said he'd be heading my way. That's about 30 minutes away.
Days like this make me happy I have that Hemi V8 under the hood, what with the truck sitting there in the driveway at fast idle for the past hour and all.
But hey, with the PC laptop locked up in the car, at least I can be glad to have this Mac sitting on my desk in the corner over here. And I can be glad I have time to apply the gazillion software patches and updates I apparently missed since I last used it who-knows-how-long-ago.
I just hope there's enough gas left by the time they guy gets it unlocked to get me to the closest gas station.
Okay, I'm done. How's your weekend?
Sunday, 20 November 2005
Just read a blog post over at HinesSight (a great Oregon-based blog, by the way) called "I pick up a hitchhiker." You know that feeling when you read or see something and you can literally feel your stomach bottom out? You know, the one's that stop you in your tracks and show you that your little world is not so bad after all?
Yeah, it's one of those. Read it, and remember as you go through like to take the time to stop, to take a personal inventory now and then, and to do what's right and good.
Sunday, 11 September 2005
Today I once again had the pleasure of working closely with Cops on Top, a non-profit organization that undertakes mountain climbing expeditions to the highest points in the world in order to remember and recognized the sacrifice of police officers killed in the line of duty.
Today expedition teams from across the United States and Canada took off for their respective state or territory high points to remember the first responders who were killed helping others on September 11th, 2001. We've enabled the teams to dial in via mobile or satellite phones, and their audio blogs are posted to the Cops on Top climber's weblog.
Congratulations and thanks to all the police officers and their team mates who undertook expeditions today. As a former cop and someone who's seen the positive impact the Cops on Top program has, I can tell you it means a lot to many people.
Thursday, 01 September 2005
From an IM session about 30 seconds ago:
could u imagine at school if u had that in your room.. u would be the coolest chic in the dorm..
Mary Beth says:
Ummm, yeah... I hope not.
Sunday, 07 August 2005
"I admitted I was powerless over my hair loss, that my scalp had become unmanageable..."
Yep. I'm in the cult, too. I accept it. Not much I can do about it, really. So, for those of us in that situation, here's a unique product that can help simplify our lives:
"The Coverup That's Got Nothing To Hide"
A perfect gift for directors, producers, band managers, aging performers, or anyone in the entertainment industry. Oh, and how about Father's Day?
Ok, so that's funny. And yes, they're actually for sale.
And for those of you lucky enough to keep your hair:
Good for you. Big deal.
But just so people don't assume you're covering up a deformity, I'm Not Bald™ hats are also available.
(These hats were found via an AdSense ad that showed up on my web site... Coincidence, or has Google figured out something we don't know about? Hmmmm....)
Sunday, 31 July 2005
Recently I've had a number of interesting (albeit often protracted) conversations with people about processes in business, and how formal, written procedures and established processes can be good (I agree, to a point) and can also be very, very bad.
I'll explain in a minute, and while I'm at it I'll do some tangential opining and show why I think Sarbanes Oxley and other process-intensive initiatives and guidelines don't always accomplish what they set out to do. In fact, in the case of SARBOX, I'd argue it doesn't even come close to accomplishing what it was originally intended for. But that's another story...
First a reminder and a bit of clarity: This is a personal blog, so anything I write is my opinion and mine alone.
Saturday morning telephone support call: Failed process illustrated...
Saturday morning I woke up at a criminally early hour (for a weekend anyhow). Since sleep apparently wasn't in the game plan I decided to call Vonage to see if I could actually get someone on the phone, and if I could convince them to listen to me long enough to troubleshoot a hardware/firmware problem I've been having with my VOIP terminal adapter.
For the record, I like Vonage. A lot. I recommend them. I'll refer you if you email me and ask. But I'll be honest - I'm never too excited about calling them.
But on Saturday morning, that's what I did. After umpteen layers of voice menus and hitting random keys to get pretty much nowhere, calling back after being disconnected (don't hit 'zero' in Vonage's voice prompt system...), and then finally getting someone on the line (whom I could not understand and who it seems could not understand me during the entire painful process of validating my account, name, billing address, etc.), we finally got around to troubleshooting the problem:
Vonage Lady: "Yes, hello mister huge-hess...
Me: (silently) <grrrrrrr!!!>
Vonage Lady: "...how can I help you with today?"
Me: "Okay, so I am having a problem with my Motorola VT1005 terminal adapter, about once a day it loses its connection with Vonage and I have to pull the power plug and plug it back in to get it to work, and several times a day the network data port stops communicating completely so my computers here at home cannot get to the Internet. I have to unplug the Motorola device and plug it back in in order to resolve that problem, too, and then it happens again later, a few times a day."
Vonage Lady: "Okay, so what I understand from you is..." (reads back a different version of what I just said, but leaves out all the key points, like the whole data connection problem, etc)
Me: "That's partly correct, but the worst part of the problem is that several times a day..." (I explain the loss of LAN port connectivity issue again)
Vonage Lady: (seemingly ignoring what I just told her) "Okay, I would like you to go to your router and unplug the wire from the PC port and so you will have the modem and the wire, and the Vonage router and then your computer, and I want you to plug a wire into your computer okay can you do that and tell me?"
Me: (wondering if I - a high-tech IT guy with lots of experience fixing crap much more complicated than this - really understand what she means) "Umm, okay, so... You want me to plug the ethernet cable that goes from the Motorola device on the LAN side into my computer directly then?"
Vonage Lady: (pause, pause, pause) "Uhhh, yes, I need you to put the wire from the PC port in your computer."
Me: (deciding the only logical thing to do is to go with my gut) "Okay, so I have done that, okay I am ready for the next step."
Vonage Lady: (seems to be shocked that the next step is already starting) "Ohh umm, okay, one moment please... Okay, I need you to open your Internet Explorer, and in the address bar at the top of the screen..."
Me: (I'm starting to quietly get a little frustrated now) Okay my web browser is open, you want me to type in an address?
"... I would like for you to type this address in the address bar."
Me: (I'm already on the adapter's admin web page, I think to myself, she's gonna send me there - slowwly) "Okay, ready."
Vonage Lady: "Okay, One-Nine-Two..." (pause, pause, pause)... "No, wait... H-T-T-P --"
Vonage Lady: "No, no no. AICH-TEE-TEE-PEEEE, COLON, SLASH-SLASH, ONE-NINE-TWO..."
Me: (waiting for more numbers) "... ... ... okay, i got that part, you can keep reading it to me."
Vonage Lady: "DOT-ONE-SIX-EIGHT-DOT-ONE-ZERO-TWOOO-DOT-ONE"
Me: (Thinking to self: Is there an echo in here?) Okay, I'm there.
Vonage Lady: "Oh well, now we need to go to the admin.html page, so to do that please click in the-"
Me: "Okay, I'm there."
Vonage Lady: "Oh, okay... Do you see a button that says Restore Factory Defaults on the page there then?"
Me: "Yes. I have a fixed IP address though, so if we do this it will stop working 'til I reconfigure."
Vonage Lady: "That's okay, push that button and tell me when it's done."
Vonage Lady: <she's now long-gone due to the fact that she just told me to kill my phone line>
Bad process and procedure? Most certainly. But what's the real problem in this story? Unfortunately it's one that we see happening more and more these days, over and over again with all the emphasis on building deep, complex, wide swaths of processes and supporting procedures.
I'm not here to argue against process. I'm here to argue for thinking.
When process hurts...
People have stopped thinking for themselves and doing critical analysis of the situation at hand. Instead, they read from a script. They follow a written procedure. They stay exactly between the lines, thinking the lines are the end-all-be-all of clarity in every situation. When I speak to people in my field about this, I describe it as being similar to walking around with blinders on.
We're suffering from a deficit of creative thinking and reasoning. But more on that in a few minutes.
What does this result in? Three things mainly:
First of all, people increasingly look at the world and the things going on around them as being bipolar in nature: black and white. In reality though, it's all about the infinite shades of gray. Oh, how simple the world might be if it was all pure black and white in nature, but in the real world it's just not so. Unfortunately, the desire to simplify things cognitively into black/white, us/them, good/bad is probably a greater part of the way people look at things today than it has even been.
Second, people have lost their sense of ownership and don't think for themselves. Pride goes soon after that. More and more the accepted method of teaching people how to do things has become the "hand-me-the-procedure" method. But, absolute processes and procedures are fundamentally flawed. There's simply no way to compute every possible outcome or input to a situation, yet we expect that by creating processes and procedures that *must* be followed, we can solve critical problems. The fact is that while they may ensure compliance most of the time, they can also often ensure lack of compliance some of the time - especially when the procedure or process doesn't exactly fit, but the person applying it doesn't stop to think about that fact. Or, even worse, they're not given the level of permission needed to stop, think, and evaluate situations on their own.
Third, we walk around with a false sense of confidence and safety. By assuming we are creating controls and processes to keep the bad things from happening, we do the one thing that police officers and security professionals have known better than to do for all time: We lure ourselves into that place where we believe everything will be okay, everyone will follow the rules, everything will be out in the open, the checks and balances will all work because the auditor signed a pieces of paper (not like the auditor had any real guidelines to audit against or anything...) and the bad guys won't be able to get away with anything anymore.
But it just won't work. Nope.
I'm sorry Senator, I have no recollection...
Example from the real world: The Sarbanes Oxley Act (SARBOX for short) was terrific for consultants, and lots of people are making lots of money off lots of companies that are shelling out big bucks for something that only minimally does what it needs to do (if that). The fact of the matter is that SARBOX resulted in huge expenditures and rampant development of crippling processes that offer little protection from bad, smart people who want to pull a fast one on investors. Even one of the sponsors of the act says it doesn't really accomplish what was originally intended. Hey, Senator, can we send you an invoice for the costs of this mandatory program that won't do what it's set out to do? Let me know. Thanks.
So, SARBOX is good for consulting companies, and expensive for business, and even though the rules and regs don't really fit small to mid-size businesses, they have to follow them anyhow. It doesn't really prevent another Enron from happening. In the end, it's costing the shareholders it was intended to protect a lot of money, and it's not really doing what it needs to do.
Hmm. That's like going to a store with no knowledge of tools, telling the sales person I need a something to help drive a nail into a wall, being sold a bunch of hard hats and yellow vests and thick gloves, along with a pneumatic nailing system and a whole stack of safety equipment and mandatory classes to make sure I use it right, and a certification that's required to issued by the government before I use it... And then six months later finding out there's this thing called a claw hammer...
Maybe we forgot what we set out to do. Maybe there's a short term memory problem involved. Or maybe too much vague, confuse, poorly-defined process got in the way of building (wait for it...) effective process.
This is starting to sound like "the meeting to plan the meeting."
Anyway, back to Vonage...
I made another call to Vonage (after I set up a fixed IP, reconfigured the TA, etc., and this time without getting disconnected), Communication went a little easier with the support worker I got this time, and within a minute of the same scripted process, I heard him pause for a moment. He stopped what he was doing and said, "Mr Hughes," (thought: do people who put time and effort into pronouncing names correctly also think more for themselves?), "I am going to transfer you to another number because I think they will be able to help you with this. I could go through all of the things I have here, but I really don't think they will help you."
There ya go, now that's thinking for yourself.
Within five minutes, another Vonage rep (who was quite knowledgeable and professional by the way) had deduced - after listening to my technical explanation and asking a couple follow-up questions - that my terminal adapter is pretty much on its last legs, and offer to send me a replacement.
I spent two hours on the whole deal, between the first phone call, phone menu prompt maze from hell, getting disconnected by the voice menu system, the first rep, getting disconnected by my hardware reset,. It took 10 minutes to solve it, as soon as I spoke to a couple people who were willing and able to think about the situation outside the script.
Now, I've picked on Vonage here just because they happened to be the company I called on Saturday. I have tales of woe from a slew of other tech support experiences, too. A friend just IM'ed me to vent about his phone call this morning to Dish Network. I like Vonage, I like their services, and I like their prices. I think they're doing a good job, and they are adding (literally) 10,000 new users a day (got that from the last guy I spoke to on the phone). They have more than a million users now. So don't take this to be a Vonage bashing post - it's not. But I do think it illustrates an important point.
So - what do we do now?
Okay, great so what are we supposed to do about the Blinders of process? It's simple: Let your employees take them off. Encourage them to!
In fact, it might be worth training employees in two basic skills that most people don't get any decent training in: Listening and troubleshooting. Think about how much time we spend learning to read and write, to speak in front of others, to read from the script. How much training in our lives, from school to professional adulthood, is spent learning how to listen well? How much time do we spend learning the nuances of critical thought or effective problem solving and troubleshooting?
Not much. Not enough, for sure.
But we'll have to save that topic for later.
Sunday, 19 June 2005
I'm in the Bay Area, flew down here yesterday to surprise my dad for Fathers Day. Yes, it worked - he was suspicious I think, but he was surprised.
I've had calls today from a number of my "other" kids, and that's truly made my day. I'm lucky to have all these great people in my life. I'm not worthy. But I'm grateful.
Oh, and here are some links for dads and their kids, for your amusement and entertainment. Dads, use these to amaze your kids - they'll make you a "cool" dad, for sure.
Sunday, 29 May 2005
A dedicated team of police officers is currently camped at 14,000 feet on Denali, also known as Mt. McKinley in Alaska. They are climbing the mountain in difficult weather on a memorial expedition, undertaken to remember the lives and sacrifice of two police officers who were shot and killed in the line of duty last year while trying to apprehend a shooting suspect in Phoenix.
You can use the power of the Internet to track the progress of the team as they attempt to carry a memorial plaque to the summit of Denali at 20,320 feet.
The PODCAST feed with enclosures is available here. They are audioblogging the climb with regular calls using a satellite phone whenever terrain and weather conditions allow. Their audioblogged updates are automatically posted to the climber's weblog on the Cops on Top web site. The team hopes to summit the highest mountain in North America on or around June 8th.
The team is made up of members of Cops on Top, a non-profit organization of peace officers who climb the worlds highest peaks to remember fallen officers, to ensure they are never forgotten. The expeditions are made to support the families and friends of the fallen officers, as well. I have the privilege of serving on the board and maintaining the web site for the organization.
For more information and the latest expedition updates, visit http://www.copsontop.com/
Saturday, 21 May 2005
I've had the unfortunate experience of being on two vehicle accidents in the past couple of years - both were accidents that I could not avoid in the moment, and for which the law found me not at fault, but the insurance industry says were my fault nonetheless. No tickets issued, just a couple of against-the-odds situations, two wrecked vehicles and insurance premiums that rocketed somewhere into the upper stratosphere.
The first accident involved a deer in a curve in the roadway at night, and I had to choose in a split second whether to hit the deer (with a motorcycle, mind you), or to try to go around it. I chose the latter option and ended up on the shoulder of the roadway, which would have been just fine except that (unbeknownst to me) the shoulder turned into a ditch, which is not exactly a good thing when you're on a bike. Thank goodness I had on all the right gear - helmet, gloves, armored clothing. Anyhow, the lawman on the scene said it was a no-fault accident (and tried to talk me into joining the reserves) and my insurance agent told me (dead-seriously), "You should have hit the deer." Jeez, never mind the fact that I walked away from it relatively unharmed, which would almost certainly not have happened hat I hit that deer (and for the record, I don't give a darn one way or the other whether or not Bambi was hurt or killed). The law saw it one way, but my insurance company uses a book of rules, rather than real-world common sense: My insurance rates went up, because I didn't hit the deer.
The second one involved a semi truck coming down a hill (again late at night) through some switchback curves, heading at straight at me in my lane as I was going up the hill. I swerved hard to the edge of the road to avoid being hit by the semi (I seriously though that was "it"), and somehow he (I am making a gender assumption here, please forgive me...) got back over toward his lane far enough to where the vehicles did not touch. He kept right on going and my smaller vehicle fishtailed a couple times before sliding off the road, head-on into the hillside where it flipped and rolled. It was truly crazy. Anyhow, the law came on scene, took a look around, made sure I was not drunk (I have not consumed alcohol in more than eight years so no chance of that) and said "not your fault" based on all the evidence (semi truck skid marks, etc), but the insurance company (not my agent this time, it was an adjuster) told me I probably should have hit the semi truck (What?!?!?), and again jacked up my rates.
Now, all-in-all I'd much rather pay obnoxious insurance premiums than be dead, so I guess the tradeoff is not all that bad in the big picture. But let me tell you - my rates skyrocketed and became what I would call truly outrageous.
Unfortunately, when it comes to my own personal finances, while I am quite responsible I am not one to put the pressure on and fight hard for better prices as a matter or course. I will do it in my job (where the company is the beneficiary of my efforts and it's not personal), but for some reason it's different when I am negotiating and shopping around for myself. For the record, I consider this a weakness in my own character, and I've progressively gotten better in recent years, but I still have to occasionally remind myself to look out for me in my spare time, if you will.
Anyhow, I woke up the other day pretty pissed off about my insurance bills, which is not a pleasant way to wake up, so I decided to do something about it.
Long story short (way too late, I know), I just changed insurance companies, from American Family to AIG, and on an apples-to-apples auto policy (same coverage, same accidents, etc) I cut my rate almost in half. Not only that, I was able to get lots of rate quotes and apply online, and once I had decided which company to go with, I just called them up and completed the deal (Not that I needed to, I could have closed the deal online, too, without ever having spoken to a person, but that would not have been as much fun because the helpful lady I spoke to at AIG was born the exact same day as me and was really, really nice on the phone - which does make a difference in an all-else-equal world.)
In the process I learned a few things about buying insurance:
- You must shop around to find out what kind of deals you will get. They vary greatly from company to company.
- Always check with your bank to see if they have a bank-sponsored insurance program, that's what I did (I bank with Wells Fargo online and just clicked through their link to get a quote at AIG). It saved me a significant amount over the insurance company's default premiums to go that route. The lady on the phone told me that was the way to go, among several other useful tidbits.
- If you have multiple insurance products (homeowners, umbrella policy, life insurance, etc) always see if putting them under one carrier will save you money - it almost always does.
- Ask lots of questions about specific details - towing coverage, death and dismemberment, thing like that are often double-covered if you have separate policies from work or health insurance that provide the same coverage, so don't buy the same thing twice if you don't need it - but make sure you know exactly what you have and what you are buying. If an insurance company's agents are not helpful, you should consider going elsewhere.
- If your rates have gone up substantially at your current company because of accidents or claims, it's probably worth shopping around for a new company. It's a competitive market and just like other businesses, insurance companies know that if they jack up rates, a substantial number of their customers will pay the higher rates and never look around at options.
At any rate, I learned something in the process and thought others might, as well. All I know is that I just added a chunk of change to my monthly grocery budget by doing a small amount of research and online work, plus one phone call. It was a good investment.
Sunday, 08 May 2005
Here's Me (right), my mom, my brother Dave and his daughter, Dara. All together in one place for Mother's Day 2005.
Saturday, 07 May 2005
A couple days ago, I planned a bit of a scheme to surprise my mom on Mother's Day this weekend.
Today I flew from Portland to Denver and then got a car and drove up to Boulder. Only my brother knew I was coming, because I called him and told him a couple days ago when I got the tickets.
My mom and stepdad just moved to Colorado from New Mexico this past week, and when I arrived at the new house and snuck in the front door, Mom was putting dishes in cabinets. I stood behind her as she was talking to my stepbrother's wife, Kate, and put a hand on her shoulder. She just kept talking to Kate, and after a few seconds stood and turned around to see who has placed a hand on her.
She was (to say the least) surprised. The look on her face was more than worth the place ticket and the fact that today I flew on my ninth airplane in the past six days, and tomorrow I'll have to add one more to the list.
Next trip - dad's place in California. Need to plan that one soon. He reads this now and then so it won't be a surprise, but I'm overdue to pay a visit, for sure.
Friday, 29 April 2005
In December I had a minimally-invasive surgical procedure done on my lower back to try to help correct a herniated disc down there in my spine at the L5/S1 joint (that's just below hip level). The end result was a limited success, and I am pretty much back where I was before the procedure nowadays, as far as the back/leg pain, numbness and reduced motor skills in my legs go.
The original procedure was no guarantee, but we had high hopes. I decided a minimally-invasive procedure - one that would not require any permanent changes, cutting or physical limitations - was a good first shot to take. It just didn't work out as well as I would have liked.
So, I have seen three highly-recommended doctors recently to talk with them about what can be done to help. I am in some level of pain 24/7, I wake up several times every night from the pain, and I am basically restricting my own activity so much that I am becoming fairly miserable and generally unhappy in life. I can't stand for any period of time, I can't stay seated for very long, walking any real distance is painful, lying down requires me to shift around constantly (hence waking up from pain), and really the only position that I can get into that gives me some relief is whatever position I am not in at the time.
The doctor who did the procedure in December told me he thought there were a few remaining possibilities for me: Live with it (always an option), maybe do a microsdiscectomy (an iffy proposition), bone fusion of the joint, or artificial disc replacement.
And, as it turns out, each of these three doctors I consulted with came to pretty much the same conclusion: The only thing that will work for me at this point is removal of the bad disc, followed by either fusing the joint or replacing the disc with an artificial one. Both methods have been around for a while. Artificial discs received FDA approval in the U.S. last year.
It's been very interesting (and enlightening) to visit three neurological surgeons with no information other than my MRI films and a verbal history of my pain and medical care, to see what they would tell me. I did not tell any of them what the other docs said or thought or diagnosed, but all three came up with the same result. That's encouraging, at least in terms of knowing where I really stand. Of course, the idea that I need a fairly major surgery to be better is a little intimidating. But, one further point of encouragement is the fact that all three doctors were quite confident that surgery would make a huge difference in my quality of life. All three said that I am practically the perfect candidate to benefit in a huge way from the procedure.
Then I started thinking about whether it's the "right" thing to do - Is it right to cut into your body and remove parts or put in fake parts? These thoughts keep going through my mind and I'm actually a bit surprised. I guess I just never had the chance to think them before now.
So now comes the decision. Oh boy, this is definitely not the easiest part. Deciding which doctors (it takes two - a vascular surgeon as well as the neurological surgeon), when to have it done (if at all), and which procedure is the best option for me. Not to mention the health insurance company part - who knows what they'll have to say.
A fusion means six to nine months of take-it-easy time, and a longer period of relative inactivity (that includes work). An artificial disc does not have the healing time (there is no fusion process to worry about) and so return to work/normal life is much faster. Fusion has been around for a long, long time. Artificial discs are newer - especially in the U.S. - but have been around for about 15 or so years.
The actual surgical procedure followed to do either the disc replacement or the fusion is pretty much identical. The only real difference is what goes between the vertebrae once they get to where they're headed - some metal cages, some bone, or the artificial disc. Getting in there and closing up is virtually the same.
Anyhow, if anyone who reads this also happens to have received an artificial disc (or knows someone who has), please let me know - I'd like to communicate with you. Also, anyone who's had a fusion, same deal - please contact me by commenting on this post, or click the mail icon over in the navigation sidebar.
Sunday, 06 March 2005
Update on my back surgery stuff for the four or five of you who are following and care...
Well, since my back surgery procedure things in December, I have had some relief from the pain I was experiencing. I even had a couple of days where I felt better than I can ever remember feeling.
But overall, while things are certainly better in many ways, overall it's not been better enough, if you will, to call it resolved. I have been doing physical therapy for two full months and the pain has increased and decreased somewhat a number of times. But overall, it's still a problem - weakness in both legs, pain reaching from my back into my legs and feet, and enough pain to keep me up at night and severely limit my ability to do the regular day-to-day things I need (and want) to do in life.
The procedure that was done in December was a minimally-invasive procedure, in which the doc went inside the L5/S1 disc and removed some of the material there, which was to allow some of the bulging material that is impinging on my spine to be reduced, relieving pressure on the spinal nerves, and therefore relieving pain. Unfortunately, while it's better at times than it was, it's still a pretty serious problem.
So, the doc ordered a new MRI a couple weeks ago. We saw the films the other day. And it looks like its time to see another surgeon. At least this surgeon says so.
Unfortunately, the images are not all that good. The disc appears to have extruded more material at some point, so the problem and pain are in the same general location (same joint), and it feels and acts very much like what I was experiencing before the procedure, except that the pain moves from one leg to another somewhat regularly. I guess after 12 or so years of wear and tear, this is just not going to be a simple process.
So, off to a few more docs I go. The minimally invasive route was, I think, worth it for a first step, but now it's time to see what - if anything - can be done to better solve the problem. My current doc has his recommendations (microsurgical discectomy to cut out and remove the herniation), and we'll see what other docs think is the best thing to do.
I just finished a 6-day pack or methylprednisolone, which is a super-anti-inflammatory thing. For a couple of days, when the daily dose was high, I felt fairly okay. Now that it's all gone and all I am taking is the regular anti-inflammatory stuff, it's back to being pretty darned uncomfortable and at times pretty painful.
I don't expect to be made completely better - not at all. But it would be nice to be able to lean over the sink when I wash my hands and brush my teeth, or to be able to bend over to put on my socks and whatnot. Not to mention the fact that things like pulling weeds in the garden can't last for more than 5 or 10 minutes on a good day, and if I actually decide to pull the weeds, I'll pay for it for days.
Again, I am glad I went with the minimally invasive route first. It has helped me overall, and generally speaking I am in somewhat less pain, which is a good thing. I'll just have to move on from here and see what's the next best thing to do.
Sunday, 20 February 2005
You ever have one of those moments, probably on a weekend, where you wake up and realize that there are like a million things left undone and waiting for you to tackle them? I don't mean that panicky feeling you get when you suddenly realize you're in way over your head... I've experienced that, too, and this is something very different.
I'm talking about the moment where you suddenly realize you can't possibly end up bored, because there are so many thing to do and look forward to.
I just had one of those moments. Wild.
Many of the things on my "clarity list" are related to home - things like finishing the bonus room completely (I am 90% done, and have been at that stage for several months). Stuff like finishing my Media Center setup, instead of running it in parts with wires everywhere. Building a shed. Fencing a yard. Adding a deck.
And other bigger things, too - things having to do with life, work and relationships. Possibilities.
It's funny, I guess, that my favorite room in the house has all but the last row of floating laminate wood floor laid down, has untrimmed windows and baseboards, and needs to have the last third of the lighting installed. Not to mention that the "furnishings" consist of my dining room table (which really should be in the dining room instead), a 15-year-old recliner and three bean-bag chairs. Plus my guitar - the acoustics in this room are awesome, but 14-foot vaults will do that for you.
I really need to learn to understand paint colors and how to do something other than one plain-old color in a house. Phil Weber's Flickr pics of his living room and media center show that someone somewhere knows what they are doing and have a better eye for that kind of stuff than I have. I don't want purple, especially, but that's not the point... I'm more of an "off-white-everywhere" style painter. I either need professional help (yeah, yeah - don't get started...) or else I need to marry someone with a knack for this. Hey Phil - who picked your colors?
Anyhow, days like this are nice to have. It's so much better to be able to look at things as possibilities than as difficulties or problems.
Monday, 17 January 2005
Dumm deee dumm dee dahhhh...
Seems like I need some "switch" background/theme music or something...
(oh, and don't read *too* much into this, heheh)
Wednesday, 12 January 2005
Forgive the non-tech post, but it’s a pretty good day today and apparently there are a large number of people who are keeping an eye out to see how I am doing after my back surgery last month. I have not posted much about it here, preferring to suffer in private, but for the first time today I feel like I am turning a corner, and it’s a great relief.
I’ve spent the past three weeks fighting what at times has been extreme pain, quite debilitating and agonizing. I had surgery on my L5–S1 disc, which was herniated and pushing pretty hard on the sciatic nerve roots in that joint. The condition made for chronic pain and occasional agonizingly painful periods where I would be left effectively non-functioning. It needed to be fixed.
I had the procedure done three days before Christmas, which was an interesting decision in and of itself, one that had more to do with insurance and coverage before the end of the year than anything. At any rate, after a couple days of feeling pretty good post-op, things got terribly painful the day after Christmas.
Apparently that’s not too unusual. It tends to get worse before it gets better, they say. But that doesn’t help me feel any better. And it got a lot worse for a while.
I have spent the past few weeks with friends living at my house to take care of me and carry me around, followed by dragging myself out now and then to do something like buy food or go to work for a little while. Last week I decided to work from home the last half of the week. I found I could do most (not all) of my work in bed, and that as long as the pain was reasonable I could be fairly productive. But staying at home all the time makes me a little stir crazy.
I went to work the past two days, found a couch to lie on with my laptop instead of sitting in a chair, and confirmed that taking it easy was – in fact – a good thing to do. Today I decided to stay home again and work from here (conference calls, VPNs, remote desktops, instant messaging and email are all amazing tools), and to go to my physical therapy appointment this afternoon.
Today is the first day in three weeks that I can say my pain level is below a 5 on a 10 point scale, all morning. That’s progress. Not to mention relief. There’s nothing quite like living in fear the pain will never go away, especially when you’re not sleeping and can’t put on your own clothes.
But the fact is it’s more about progress than about perfection here. And God willing, if today is an indicator, things are starting to look up – slow improvement, but looking up.
Of course, I have physical therapy in an hour or two, and who knows how I’ll feel after that. Probably worse, but if it means things get better down the road, I will just continue to suffer. With a smile on my face, of course.
Wednesday, 29 December 2004
My spirits were lifted this evening when I received this email from the Google AdSense Support team in response to the AdSense donation idea that Scott and I had – it’s just one step, but it’s a very positive one!
I know it’s not a trivial task for Google to put something like this in place, but I hope it happens, as do a number of others – It can make a very real difference!
Date: Wed, 29 Dec 2004 18:40:10 -0800
From: "Google AdSense" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [#18769680] AdSense donations for disaster relief - Google can make this easy - please read
Thank you for this excellent idea. A number of other AdSense publishers
have also brought your blog to our attention, and I have alerted the
AdSense team to your efforts.
As individuals, and as a company, we are committed to doing whatever we
can to assist with the tsunami relief effort. Google, as you know, has
recently set up www.google.com/tsunami_relief.html to aid our users who
are looking for more information and for ways to help, and we are
currently examining a number of other ideas.
Please know that I have forwarded your suggestion on to the appropriate
persons at Google, and they are currently investigating the feasibility of
such an endeavor. I will follow up as soon as I have more information on
On behalf of the AdSense team, I would like to thank you again for
proposing this selfless measure and for your generous commitment to donate
your AdSense revenue to those affected by the tsunami.
The Google AdSense Team
Merill Fernando lives in Sri Lanka, a country that was very hard hit by the tsunamis, and he exchanged emails with me this evening after he took the time to send a few kind words in response to the little bit of help this weblog has provided. He has also posted on his weblog about what even a small contribution can do to help people in need. You should read it, especially if you think you can’t afford to give enough to help others. Even if all you have to give is a five bucks, Amazon.com will let you easily donate whatever you can afford. Merill’s site will show you how much just $1 will buy.
Again, we are calling on all bloggers who use AdSense to pledge to donate your AdSense revenues for December or whatever time you wish to the relief and aid effort. Merill pointed the idea out on his weblog and agrees that it is a great idea – so please contribute and contact Google to let them know you would like them to help make this happen by providing an AdSense administrative option to donate funds at the end of this month. Whether or not Google participates in this effort, I am donating my revenue check. Please consider doing the same.
Together we can make things happen – that’s part of the power of the blogosphere. Give now, post your thoughts and plans to your blog, and contact others that can make a difference and ask them to help.
If you’re looking for places to give, just go here. And thank your for doing your part.
Monday, 27 December 2004
I have an idea, and a burning need to do something more to help those in need. I’ll email Google with this request, but I’m going to post it here, and encourage you to do the same thing on your site.
UPDATE: Google AdSense Support responded to this idea, and it’s at least possible!
I want all my AdSense revenue pending at the end of the year to go to help relief efforts in South Asia where the earthquakes and tsunamis have caused such devastation. If you use AdSense, I want you to pledge to do the same thing.
I think Google should make this an easy option for anyone with an AdSense account, and that they should do it in time for all of us to make our donations now, before the end of the year. It would be so easy for me to give that money to those in need, and Google can help many others do the same thing. Put a simple checkbox on the AdSense admin site that lets me choose to donate my AdSense funds. Do it for everyone.
Are you willing to donate your AdSense revenues? Comment here. Or post it on your blog or web site. Email Google and make it happen.
Scott Hanselman gave me this idea when he said he was thinking about donating his AdSense revenues. I had been thinking the same thing. Scott’s a good, kind person and I am willing to bet there are thousands more like him out there that would like to be able to do the same thing.
Hey Google people - call me if I can help make this happen. Seriously. My phone number is 503–419–6495. I have lots of time right now, as well as a little AdSense revenue to share. So, I hope you’ll help me help someone else. Anyone else who wants to help can call me, too. Make my phone ring.
|"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me... I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." -- Matthew 25:35,36,40 (NIV)|
Update – Several bloggers have already posted and signed on to pledge their earnings to recovery efforts. I'll donate mine whether Google makes it easy to do through them or not - but it would be awfully cool if they can make it possible. Making it easy for people will mean more people will participate.
Also – Turns out there’s no better way to mark one year of blogging at greghughes.net than doing something to help others. Just realized it was one year of blogging here on the 27th
People, please contact Google and ask them to make this happen, and then post a link on your blog, and if you use adsense, I encourage you to join us in donating!
Friday, 24 December 2004
Around my place we say “Merry Christmas.” But whatever holiday you celebrate in your life, I hope it’s a good one for you and yours.
Today at home it’s a fire in the fireplace, with posole** cooking on top of the stove, and over the next couple of days it’ll be wrapping presents, going to church, spending time with friends, and remembering what the holiday is all about.
“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
The guy who spoke those words was a good and decent man, and he was taught them buy another guy – who was also a good and decent man, and whose birthday we just happen to celebrate this weekend.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
** Here’s my Posole recipe, archived here for myself so I won’t lose it, and for anyone else who’s interested. This way I won’t have to call mom and ask (again) next time, heh:
- One #10 can (108oz) Hominy (Mexican style preferred, white is also ok)
- Two large yellow onions, sliced and cut
- One tablespoon (or so) minced garlic
- One teaspoon dry oregano (Mexican oregano if you can get it)
- One quart (or less if you prefer) of frozen or canned green chiles, diced, preferably hot or medium strength (not jalapenos – use real green chiles)
- Salt (plenty)
- Pepper (plenty)
- One pork tenderloin, about 5 pounds
- Olive oil
In a large stock pot, combine the hominy, onions, garlic, oregano, and green chile. Fill with water to cover the ingredients, plus some more (don’t get to worried about the water – just make sure it’s pretty full). Salt and popper the heck out of it. Turn on the heat and bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat back to simmer the stuff.
Cut the pork into small cubes or similar shape pieces (like you can cut pork into cubes, yeah
).In a frying pan, heat some olive oil and brown the pork slowly, add some salt and pepper.
After browning the pork, add it to the stock pot contents, and stir the meat in.
Now comes the hard part – leave it alone until the cows come home. That translates to anywhere between say six hours and overnight. Trust me – let it cook down. Add some water as needed.
And don’t be stingy with the salt and pepper – you’ll need it.
Wednesday, 22 December 2004
Well, it’s a done deal. I had my back surgery today, and now I am resting at home.
And – miraculously – most of the pain in my legs and lower back is gone!
You never really know how much pain you’re in, I think. until it goes away. Then you realize what you were missing out on. I am pinching myself every few minutes just to make sure this is all real and that I am not just dreaming
It’s truly amazing.
I’m not a proponent of surgery unless it’s absolutely needed. As testament to that fact, I have been dealing with back pain for several years, trying to deal with it in a variety of ways. As I said yesterday, it was time.
And so today I can stand on my own two feet without much pain at all, I can balance better, and I feel just great.
Really, it’s incredible. With any luck, as I heal things will stay this way.
The most amazing Christmas gift I could possibly get this year came early. My doctor (Dr. Olson) and my friend/neighbor (Mike, who spent the whole day driving me to Salem for the surgery, waited around for several hours and then drove me back home, all while making sure I was doing okay) really and truly provided me with something I needed today.
I have an attitude of gratitude, as they say – and am happy beyond belief.
Tuesday, 21 December 2004
Mid-day Wednesday I’ll be getting drugged up and surgically repaired. The time’s come for a microdiscectomy for my back problems (which I have written about here at a high level in the past). After trying exercise (ouch), stretching, medications, therapy, hanging upside down, chiropractors, you name it… Well, it’s just time.
What many people don’t realize is how incredibly debilitating back pain can be. My condition is a herniated disc at the L5–S1 joint, which is in the lower part of the small of your back. The disc is that flexible shock-absorber that sits between your vertebrae. The herniated part is bulging out and pressing on the roots of two nerves that go all the way down my legs and into my feet. When I have back pain, it’s not just in my back – It’s shooting from my back, down my legs, and out the tips of my feet. At times it’s the kind of pain that keeps me from being able to get up off the floor, or even from being able to move without screaming. At other times the symptoms are clumsy legs and twinges of shooting pain. Other times my back just aches.
Anyhow – after nearly 10 years off-and-on of real pain and discomfort, I am looking forward to the decent possibility of lessening the pain and related problems.
People have been asking me if I am nervous. Truth be told, I’m really not. I trust my doctor and have confidence there. It’s not complicated surgery, and I will be home under my own power the same evening. I won’t be able to drive myself because of the medications they use for surgery, but hey, that’s why God made friends, to drive you back and forth when you’re in bad shape, right?
So, with any luck, by this time tomorrow night I’ll be feeling less pain than I am now.
If that should come to pass, it will be the best Christmas present I could possibly wish for. I’ve been good this year, so I hope I get my wish.
Wednesday, 08 December 2004
Well, for those who have followed (for some reason) my back ailments here, an update: Surgery will happen on December 22nd.
So, Percutaneous Discectomy it is – removal of some of the material inside the disc at the L5/S1 space to relieve pressure on the nerve root there. The doctor will remove some of the material from inside, the bulge moves back toward the void left by the removal, and the pressure is reduced. Hopefully.
Nice thing is, it’s outpatient day surgery – I’ll walk out and go straight home within a few hours of arriving there. I’ll also be wearing a back brace for a while and will have to do several weeks of physical therapy (whoopee), but in the end I am hopeful it will all be worth it.
I’ve done pretty much everything I can in order to try to make things work without surgery, so this is pretty much it. While I am not big on the idea of surgery, I am very much looking forward to the possibility of some relief and maybe even getting back to where I can physically do the things I used to do.
Saturday, 20 November 2004
(Or, "Isn't it interesting the ways we meet the coolest people nowadays?")
The world's changing, and changing fast. How we meet people, how we get to know each other, how we communicate and stay in touch over vast distances, how we immediately connect with someone around the world... It not like it used to be when we (those of us who remember the first skateboards, that is) were kids.
Nowadays they have extra wheels on skateboards. We have instant communication of several types, and we share our lives online for others to read and relate to. Sometimes we meet people online that just seem to click, with whom we have something in common. People we want to meet in the carbon world, not just in the silicon one.
That happened to me.
For quite a while now I've linked to Jill's web site, which chronicles her family's progress as they remodel a fixer upper in a Portland suburb. I started reading her web site a while back when the writing style caught my eye. I saw it on ORBlogs, a web site that aggregates blog entries from people around Oregon, or who used to be here.
Charlie, Jill's husband, is a cop. I used to be a cop. Jill's stories (with the occasional Charlie prose tossed in) are hilarious, and paint a great picture of life in general, not just the process of repairing their rather unique fixer upper home, which she nicknamed their own little Kosovo.
Jill and Charlie also embedded into me the term "big ass honking truck," to the point where I have adopted it as my own, because it so perfectly describes what I recently acquired (yes, I know I owe pictures, they're coming...).
Anyhow, it also turned out (in this big small world we live in) that someone I work with and respect greatly is friends with Jill and Charlie. Funny how that happens, eh? You meet in the ether and someone made of carbon makes the connection.
I drove my Big Ass Honkin' Truck to Kosovo today, to go say hi to Jill and Charlie, to show off the Hemi and built-in bluetooth, and to tour the fixer-upper. It's quite a project, but a good one. The front deck is awesome. The fireplace is great. The trim is very nice. Downstairs is ready to paint. It's going to turn out to be very nice, I can tell.
It's fun to meet people you have something in common with - Things like a desire to write in order to clear your mind of the clutter and to think new thoughts is a process that drives bloggers everywhere. I also have a bunch of unfinished home projects (upstairs floor and painting in the "bonus" room, deck plans, yard, fencing... Ummm, you get the idea). Cops always have something in common that others can't quite experience unless you've been there - not in a bad way, just a real-world, seen-it-all kind of way.
So, I'm really glad I got to meet them in person. And the "kids," if only briefly (Random inside info: The anti-fart spray was a bonus, but vegan food will do that to ya. Go-Go Speed Racer. Heh. But alas, another story, for another time. And hey General - take your time and driving will come easily. You'll be fine.).
Have you ever "met" someone online, wished you knew them in person, but never got around to meeting and shaking hands? Stop putting it off. You'll know if it's the right thing to do. Do it and you'll be glad.
I know I am.
Thursday, 18 November 2004
Recently I described how, due to unexpected circumstances that unfolded over the past week or so, I had to find a new vehicle. Well, I did my research, made up my mind, and bought one.
I decided to go the Big-Ass Honking Truck route. A Dodge Ram truck. With a Hemi. With heated leather seats. With cup holders. And with Bluetooth.
Yeah, I said Bluetooth. Built straight into the truck.
That's right, my Big Ass Honking Manly Ranch Truck has the ultimate geek-out feature: Bluetooth built into the rear-view mirror (cabin microphone, computer and two push-button controls) and the stereo system (for high quality audio output to the speakers, text menus that compliment the female voice that prompts you to speak your commands, and more computer stuff). So, I have complete speakerphone voice-recognition and command control of my mobile phone.
I'm talkin' geek-out in a big way, heheheh... It's awesome.
The system is called U-Connect, and Chrysler has taken it from being an add-on knock-off style option to a fully-integrated system. It's all part of the car's fine fit and finish. In fact, if no one told you it was there, you'd probably never notice it til the phone rang and the system switched the audio from your in-dash stereo system over to the phone.
U-Connect is very cool. Friendly voice prompts walk you through the menus, and voice recognition software allows you to set it up, pair it with your Bluetooth phones (yes, you can use multiple), create speed dial voice entries, and all the other nifty stuff you'd expect from a relatively high-end piece of software and hardware that does the Bluetooth boogie. And the audio is very good, even when driving down the road. It's really quite cool, and on top of that it's extra safe - two small buttons on the rear-view mirror and your voice are all that's needed to make the system work.
Oh, and the rest of the truck is great, too. Did I mention it's got a Hemi? Woah, dude, a Hemi... Heh... Sweet...
Yeah, sure, the gas mileage kinda sucks, but everything else about it is awesome. As much as I drive, comfort and convenience matter these days, so I am glad for the extras. It's the best of both worlds: Geeky and Tough. So, it's all good.
Saturday, 13 November 2004
I have to make an unplanned vehicle purchase sometime in the next week or so, and I will be heading out of here in a few minutes to start looking around at what's available these days. I have no idea at this point what I am interested in.
But maybe someone who reads this will have some ideas of their own they want to share.
What I need and who I am:
I'm a guy who lives in the woods with a house at the end of a long gravel driveway. It snows up here. I drive around 80 miles a day going to and from work, and in the past I have used my SUV to pull a trailer.
I am not an anti-SUV person, and you won't be able to convert me to the hatred side of the force on principle. I am open to looking at what ever works for me (in other words, I am willing to be "for" a vehicle type, rather than being opposed to it).
I sometimes transport as many as four other people in my car. It has to be safe. After recent experiences, I'd say it has to be super, super safe (as Bill Gates would say). Let's just say I am glad/lucky to be alive and leave it at that.
So anyhow - If you're a Consumer Reports nut, have recently shopped for vehicles, or otherwise have some knowledge, experience, or opinions that you think would be valuable to me in my vehicle search, either email me (use the little envelope thing in the copyright message at the bottom of this web page), comment here where others can see (I will get an email instantly with your comment), or if its Saturday afternoon, you can even try calling my cell phone (hey, call even if you don't know me, it's all good) at 503-970-1753. Let me know what you think.
While I will be making my own decision on a purchase, I think it would be great to get some ideas from others.
Triva Note: Most of the feedback I get through this site seems to come in the form of direct emails, along with a few comments left on the site's comment system (see the bottom of this entry and look for the icon and click the link to leave your thoughts).
Saturday, 06 November 2004
Every now and then I am given a tangible reminder of why I decided to live way out in the sticks. Coffee on the front porch and a decent digital camera make it all worthwhile, even at 7:00 on a Saturday morning. Oregon's a great place to live.
Wednesday, 03 November 2004
I guess I should make those who know me from outside the office aware that I have accepted a new job where I work, since much of what I write here is related - albeit somewhat indirectly - to my job. That, and many readers of this blog tell me they keep an eye on this site because of my professional work and experience in that regard.
Note: Just a quick reminder that this blog represents my own personal thoughts, positions and beliefs alone. Nothing I say here is in any way associated with my employer.
Up until last week, I was the Corporate IT Director at a terrific software company in the Portland Oregon area, managing the team of people that makes all the IT systems the company relies upon work. The team there does a lot of work: They handle all company desktops and laptops, software, help desk and end user support, phones, servers, enterprise apps, intranet and Internet web sites, corporate web and software app development, networks, lab environments, infrastructure, network security, and a bunch of other aspects of IT at the company. I have had the pleasure to work with a talented and great group of people in that department, and am proud of all the employees there and the work they have done and will continue to do. One real sign of success as a manager is when you get to the point where you have one or more employees who are ready, able and even hungry to take your job away from you. I was privileged to be in that position as a manager with my employees, and as a result I am confident the department will continue to grow and serve the company well.
So what now? I have made the move to a new position at the same company as Director of IT and Security Operations. That means I will be focusing on working with a team that does amazing security work at Corillian, while continuing to work with the IT department in a higher-level guidance and strategic planning role.
It's a natural and positive move for me (I have been heavily involved in many aspects of security operations and planning over the past few years) and an opportunity to continue to learn and grow in a red-hot and quickly-expanding area. It also means I can maintain somewhat of an IT-planning focus and continue to stay on top of new and unusual software and technology. It's a challenge that looks exciting to me, and for which I am quite motivated.
And it means a slight change of pace, which will be nice. I've worked at the same company for five years, and a little change here and there is a good and healthy thing.
It also means this blog will likely take on an even stronger security slant and emphasis, but I intend to continue to cover IT and technology in general. In fact, it's hard to divorce the two from each other and truly stay in touch with goings on.
And besides, when it comes down to it, I'm really just a technology and gadget geek.
Tuesday, 02 November 2004
Well, after what I can honestly say was one of the best weeks of my life, I am back home again, quite tired but feeling great.
I got to spend time with a good friend, and made a new one, too. I saw the dedication, hard work, fun and shenanigans of the young people that make the USS John C. Stennis work. If you ever have a chance to sail on a US Navy ship for a cruise, take the opportunity, no matter what. You'll be glad you did.
Being home again feels both great and terrible. I could have spent another few weeks, easily - Mostly because of the people I had the opportunity and privilege to meet and spend time with.
From this cruise I take home a number of important things:
- Spending only a day and a half in Hawaii is as close as you can get to committing a sin without paying for it by going to hell. So, I have to go back. The north shore is awesome.
- Good friends just happen.
- Getting old sucks.
- Being old is a state of mind.
- The modern aircraft carrier is an incredibly amazing system, and a terrific example of the integration of people, process and technology.
- People make the world go round, and it takes all kinds.
- If you spend a week sleeping on a big ship on the ocean, don't be surprised if you wake up on land to the feeling of swaying. Woah.
- The F-14 Tomcat is FREAKING LOUD. It's also being retired, which is a sad thing. And end of an era.
People are emailing, IM'ing and calling me asking for pictures and how it went. Coming soon - I'm pretty wiped and still need to unpack my crap. Plenty of pictures and stories to come. Probably 20 of you will be interested in my trip, and hundreds of others will wonder what happened to the random technology posts. Oh well, it's my blog, and heck, I'm still trying to figure out why anyone pays attention anyhow! ;)
Sunday, 24 October 2004
I have to say, as someone who was just searched under a special screening procedure at the PDX airport, I'm glad the TSA is doing things the way it's doing them.
I'm a single passenger, with a one-way ticket to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, who changed his flight at the very last minute yesterday. So I got flagged.
I feel safer knowing that I was searched and singled out. Not because of who I am, but because of the situaion I created by choice.
After the special screening, not knowing why I had been singled out (and being the curious person that I am), I asked one of the TSA employees if the decision to search me was just random (at that point I assumed it was). She told me that no, it's not really random, and that's when I realized the profile/pattern I fit into.
And the Hawaiian Airlines gate person just called my name and inspected my paperwork to verify I had been properly screened.
I'm glad someone's paying attention.
Tuesday, 19 October 2004
I'll be going on vacation this coming weekend for a week plus a couple additional days. I'll be able to post the details when I get back, but for now let's just say it's going to be a very, very different kind of vacation, and I am definitely looking forward to the experience. That 5GB Seagate CF-II hard drive that I ripped out of the Rio Carbon MP3 player is finally going to get its real workout in my digital camera.
Thursday, 30 September 2004
It's about what you'd expect. A group of people from all over the country - well the world, actually - are converging on South Lake Tahoe for a couple days of Geek Fest. What do they want to do? Watch the presidential debates and have WiFi so they can blog about it while it happens. Heheh... Freakin' hard-core blodgers...
I might even join in on the debate action, except that I actually try to stay away from political positions on this site. I lean a little to the right (politically, now stop that), but mostly hang in the middle somewhere. I know who I like for this election (and am glad I feel that I have someone/thing to vote for, rather than having to vote against someone).
On a personal note, I had the opportunity to meet someone here whom I have always held in high regard, ever since we first conversed on the Internet back in 1996. [Sidenote: In our big-small world, it seems people tend to judge others without having actually met them. That has always bothered me, it's a mistake to do that. Forgive the analogy, but fact is you can't tell a book by its cover, and you can tell even less about a book from a picture of it's cover on Amazon. Believing its possible to know someone on the Internet the same way you would know them if you met them face-to-face is short-sighted and plain wrong.] So, while I have always suspected as much, I have now had the opportunity to confirm that Chris is a good and likeable guy, and a hard worker. And Ponzi is very cool, too. Oh and BTW Chris, it was PowWow by Tribal Voice - anyone remember that one??
There are others I am looking forward to meeting, as well - people with whom I have had professional or blogging contact frequently, but whose analog voices I have never heard and whose non-virtual hands I have never had the opportunity to shake. Thats the best part of this event for me - making the virtual relationships real.
By the way... The BlueGo Networks via Proto Networks WiFi hot-spots here suck. If I have to pay through the nose for WiFi, it sure as hell better work, and this service is worse than bad. Argh. It worked last night for the most part, and today it connects for 5 seconds and then drops out, then comes back for a minute or two, then drops. What a freakin' tease! Highly non-recommended.
Wednesday, 29 September 2004
The other day I mentioned about how I heard a rather popular blogger from Seattle on the radio, and essentially had a "wow what a 'big small world' this is" moment. The Internet has done that - effectively shrunk the world as we know it, while maintaining its true non-virtual size and mass.
Yesterday a co-worker, Steve, saw me in the elevator along with another co-worker, Scott. He said that he had just been communicating with someone he knows who lives in Alaska, and was talking about something interesting, when the friend asked him if the Corillian he works at is the same Corillian that employs the guy who tore apart his MP3 player for the hard drive inside. Steve was surprised and had a good story to tell. I bet that kind of thing almost never happened 40 years ago. Again, it's "big small world" we live in.
Today I'm leaving on a trip that will help turn the tables again and make my world just a little smaller again. Let's call it the "small big world" trip (it's subtle, take you time, heh). I'll be meeting people I've never had a chance to speak to face to face, and I am looking forward to it. There are people for whom I have great respect but have never met in person. I see this as a great opportunity.
If you think about how much technology (specifically electronics and the Internet and everything you can do with them) has changed the world in the past 10 years, it's pretty darn incredible. It makes me wonder what the next really big thing will be. I guess we'll just have to hang on and see.
Wednesday, 22 September 2004
Sean Gallagher writes at eWeek online. In his column, Root Access, he asks, "How connected is *too* connected?"
Do I have OCD? (Obsessive Connectivity Disorder) Do you?? My results are noted below, in-line... Damn Blackberries...
Gallagher: "I think that I've allowed myself to actually accumulate too much connectivity. As a remote employee of a highly-distributed organization, it's important for me to be as wired in as possible. But sometimes that may go a bit too far. As I sat in my car at a stop light responding to an instant message on my cell phone, I pondered exactly where I crossed the line into connectivity stupidity.
"Here's a simple test to determine if you have what I've come to call "obsessive connectivity disorder." The symptoms are listed in order from least to most severe; if you get more than halfway down the list, then you probably have OCD."
E-mail connectivity :
- You have more than one e-mail account that you check from work. YES
- You have more than one e-mail client running on your PC. YES
- You have more than one e-mail account that you check from a mobile device. YES
- You move information from one device to another by e-mailing it to yourself. YES
- You have read e-mail while at a sporting event. YES
- You have read e-mail while coaching a sporting event. NO
- You have read e-mail while participating in a sporting event. NO
- You have read an email while driving. YES
- You have responded to an e-mail while driving. YES
- You have responded to an email while home, in bed. YES :-(
- You have sent an e-mail from your phone to your Blackberry just to find it in your drawer. YES :-(
- You have more than one instant-messaging client running on your desktop PC. YES
- You have an instant messaging client running on your mobile phone. YES (in the past)
- You frequently see the AOL Instant Messenger alert, "Your screen name is now signed into AOL(R) Instant Messenger (TM) in 3 locations." And all of those locations are you. NO (AIM Sux0rz)
- You have more than two instant messaging clients running on your mobile device. And they're both active. NO
- You have instant-messaged yourself a reminder at your desktop from a mobile device. YES
- You IM your children to tell them to take out the trash. While you're at home. Uh - NO
- You have responded to an instant message while driving. On your cell phone. And it was more than just, "OK." YES
Monday, 20 September 2004
My first real job, and the profession for which I went to college, was photojournalism. One of my heros of the trade, Eddie Adams, died Sunday from Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS).
I've since moved on to other work, a decision I sometimes ponder when I am feeling especially creative without an outlet. But the extreme importance of the trade, which Eddie Adams personified, has stuck with me over the years.
Adams was probably most famous for his picture of a Viet Cong officer being shot in the head in the streets of Saigon, Vietnam in 1968. But his contributions to photojournalism and bringing the world closer to all of us went much further than that. He covered 13 wars, worked many years for the Associated Press and Time-Life, and photographed presidents and other heads of state during his extensive and colorful career.
In his own unique way he took the trade as seriously as anyone, realizing the power and responsibility of the lens and film. Writing about the famous picture from Saigon in '68 in Time Magazine, Adams said:
"The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. What the photograph didn't say was, 'What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?'"
If a picture was worth a thousand words, Eddie Adams' images are worth a million. He taught new photographers the trade, and passed his talents and values on to many.
I never met Eddie Adams personally, so I can't say I knew him, but I can say that he helped me to better know myself when I was learning the trade and craft of photojpournalism. Thank you, Eddie Adams, for always making me think, and for making life a little more real while you were here with us.
Friday, 17 September 2004
I'm on vacation, sitting at Powell's City of Books (9am-11pm every day of the year, which makes it 14/7/365 I guess?), in the coffee shop with my requisite dose of caffeine, using my wireless laptop to access the Internet for free. Here in Portland, we have this terrific thing called the Personal Telco Project, which self-describes itself as:
We are a volunteer group of Portlanders who believe that 802.11 (wireless networking, or "Wi-Fi") technology is both cool and empowering. We started out by turning our own houses and apartments into wireless hot spots (also referred to as "nodes"), and then set about building these nodes in public locations such as parks and coffee shops. Currently we have over 100 active nodes, and we eventually would like to cover the entire city of Portland, Oregon with even more.
So while my friend who is visiting from Germany (who happens to be a real book-freak - in the nicest sense of the word “freak” of course!) searches every aisle of books here in the largest independant bookstore in the world, I am able to take a load off my back, check email, avoid the VPN to work (:)) and send GMAIL invitations to the first six of umpteen people who correctly answered a trivia question and earned gmail invitations. To the rest of you, I have put you on my waiting list and will send your invites when I get them - thanks for playing!
Powell's Books, for those who have not experienced it, is an amazing place. New and used books by the hundreds of thousands line the shelvces of this full city block of bookstore. My favorite room in the whole place is on the top floor, just off of what they call the Pearl Room.
Behind a wood door and darker than the rest of the place is the Rare Book Room. This room is home to many first-of-the-first books (as in first edition, first printing). Old books sit on the shelves, and the most rare among them sit in the middle of each rack with a simple glass loked sliding door on each. If you ask, the attendant librarian will open the glass to show you a book that interests you.
These are not reading books though, unlesss you are filthy rich. My favorite book in the room (at least right now) is the original British first edition and printing of The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein. It's not like I can afford to buy it, or even touch it: That book is for sale for $25,000. But it is fun to look at.
Should you be a Tolkein fan, and want to invest in something a little more in the “gold” range rather than “platinum,” there is a 1st/1st 3-book set of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a little worn but in decent shape with dust jackets. This can be yours for $6,000. If you're more of an old-but-not-expensive person (read: early books but not necessarily original), a second-edition set in similar condition is available in sleeves for $600 - quite a difference in price.
I sit here looking at paper books and typing on an electronic keybord, sending my words to a digital storage where others can see them. While there is something exciting about the digital lifestyle, so is there something quite relaxing and seemingly more “real” about the book I can hold in my hand, the cover I can feel and the pages I can turn. The smell of old books is noticibly different from the smell of a laptop or computer monitor. It's earthy and feels more like it came from somewhere real, rather than from somewhere pretend. I like that, and I think in a way we all need that.
Monday, 13 September 2004
I'll gladly be taking the rest of the week off work, to spend some time with a friend visiting from Germany, Florian. He's the lead programmer on Admin Mod for Half Life, a server add-on for people who run Half Life and HL-Mod (anyone ever heard of CounterStrike?) game servers. I used to be the documentation and PR guy on the project back in the day, but a good guy names Dave has pretty much assumed the documentation role and does a great job with it, and PR is not exactly necessary anymore . So, I pretty much just hang out these days. We will be spending some time seeing the sites and cooking on the grill at least once, before heading up to Seattle to visit with Alfred, who originally wrote Admin Mod and now works at Valve Software, the company that created Half Life. He's been pretty busy lately. It will be the first time the three of us have met up in one place at the same time.
It's going to be a good week.
Here are some great ideas people have given for things to do while Florian is here. I think we will pick and choose a few items from this list and a couple other ideas that were passed along:
Wednesday, 08 September 2004
UPDATE: The Genesis space capsule crashed in the desert after a parachute system intended to slow it's descent failed to deploy. The plan was for a helicopter crew to hook the parachute in mid-air in order to prevent the capsule from impacting the ground even under parachute speeds, but without the chute the capsule impacted at nearly 200 miles per hour.
I grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico, which is home to Los Alamos National Laboratory. Scientists there do incredible research about many, many things - including our sun and such important and fascinating things as the solar winds, Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and solar flares. My stepfather pioneered the term CME and has dedicated years of work in the field. I have not had a chance to talk to him yet about what the loss of this experiment means to his colleagues, but I imagine it's a real heart-breaker. There is still some optimism that there will be usable solar matter collected from the mission, and my fingers are crossed.
At precisely 8:52:46 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), northwest of Bend, Oregon, a fireball will appear in the sky: a white-hot dot of light, brighter than the planet Venus, gliding across the blue morning sky.
No, it's not a scary movie, it's a space capsule returning to earth after being jettisoned by the Genesis spacecraft. Inside are samples of our sun's solar wind particles, which are being returned to earth for research.
If you live in Southern Oregon (from Bend to the southeast), Southern Idaho or Northern Nevada, look up in the sky at about 8:52 a.m. today - and take a video - I am curious what this will look like!
Sunday, 05 September 2004
It's another long weekend at home, and after pretty much nothing but clouds and rain Saturday, the great weather today means an opportunity to get some stuff done outside. Among the around-the-house items I have been tending to this afternoon, I harvested a bunch of garden stuff:
- The first (of many, it appears) ripe tomato
- About 20 ears of corn
- About 20 carrots
- 10 beets
- 12 bell peppers
- Uncountable sweet peas
- A few strawberries
And there's plenty more of everything where that came from, with the exception of the corn - the plants were a little too close together, it appears, and most of the ears are too small. But the ones that did grow are awfully good.
If the weather holds out, there's going to be a tomato give-away happening pretty soon - there's just no way I can eat all of those.
Oh, and the big sunflowers are topping out at about 18 feet at the tallest, with stalks almost as thick as my forearm. Those are some amazing plants!
Saturday, 04 September 2004
The forecast I received this morning on my trusty mobile device told me it would be 73 degrees and partly cloudy, and offered the same for the rest of the weekend.
So far it's been drizzling rain all day and completely clouded over. My garden needs some sun. The lawn is too wet to mow. I drove the motorcycle to the shop in the rain to get the brake recall thing done, and got wet. I turned on the heat for the first time in forever.
Trusty mobile device. Yeah, right.
If this is partly cloudy, what's next?
Friday, 03 September 2004
Don't know about you, but I've had enough for one week. Three days off. W00t!
Plans: taking the motorcycle in for a brake recall, visiting a friend's coffee shop, hanging out, mowing the yard, and we'll see what else.
What's everyone else up to?
Saturday, 28 August 2004
My friend Dian wrote to say she is thrilled to let everyone know that the new Urban Grind Coffee, in the Pearl, is finally open! They're done with construction and training and are fully operational. Head on down and check them out. Be sure to take your laptop - they're a Personal Telco site, so free WiFi is available!
Urban Grind Coffee is located at 911 NW 14th Ave. in the Pearl, on the corner of 14th and Kearny (Portland). The building is just one block north of the new REI store in a very cool part of town. Their business hours are:
- Sunday 7am-7pm
- Monday/Tuesday 6am-7pm
- Wednesday-Friday 6am-9pm
- Saturday 7am-9pm
Right now they're focusing on espresso drinks and pastries, but should be adding more breakfast and lunch items in the coming weeks. Desserts and wine/beer are a month or two away.
If you're in the area, stop in and check them out!
Sunday, 22 August 2004
Today's my dad's birthday, and so before I start my regular routine of trying to call him and leaving voice-mails everywhere , I just wanted to put this out here where I know he'll see it:
Happy Birthday, Dad!
Saturday, 21 August 2004
I took two days off from work at the end of this past week, so I am now in the middle of a four-day weekend. I've done pretty much nothing. I'm just taking a break from having to be anywhere or do anything, and chillin'. It's a nice change of pace.
I watched Office Space last weekend, and in its own special way it prepped me for the past couple of days. Probably three of the top five lines of all time are in that movie.
“Michael, I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything I thought it could be.”
I slept in a couple of times. Played with the dogs a bit more than usual. I even watched a little bit of the Olympics. Fencing is on now. I know someone who should be a real contender for that sport in the future. Met a friend for coffee. Sat on my butt. Drove to Astoria on a whim (actually just drove off on a whim and ended up there) with a friend and grabbed pizza before heading home.
So, I have no idea what I am going to do today. Basically nothing. Yeah, this is greaaaat...
Monday, 16 August 2004
Does blogging consume a measurable portion of your life? Well, then - what are you doing on November 6th?
"BloggerCon is an unusual conference. We don't have speakers, slide shows or panels. Repeat that please. No panels, no PowerPoints, no speakers. We do have discussions and sessions, and each session has a discussion leader."
Now, BloggerCon III really sounds interesting. And the site design is cool. I'll have to think seriously about attending this. It also sounds like a good excuse to visit the bay area and see my dad - he lives just a few minutes from Stanford, where it's being held. I'll have to give him a call and see what he's doing that weekend. It's also a good opportunity to use some of my vacation time that's accrued to the point of bursting at the seams. I've gotten to the point where I'm close to "topped out" on hours, so it's becoming clear that it's well past time to start using some of them up.
Other potential time-off plans for this fall and winter include:
- A week off work while hosting a friend who will be visiting from Germany.
- Another week off work on a Tiger Cruise, where I will be on-board a nuclear aircraft carrier underway from Hawaii to San Diego, with a friend who serves on the ship.
- An unknown amount of time off (probably a few days) getting my back operated on in one form or another, not yet determined.
- A day or two off to go jump out of an airplane with a friend.
- A few days off here and there to do house stuff.
- A week off over the holidays to travel to England for my cousin's wedding and a big extended family get-together.
So, it's going to be a busy rest of the year. But I'll have plenty to blog about!
Sunday, 15 August 2004
I realized I've posted almost all tech stuff recently, so I figured its about time to write about something a little less technical: My garden.
With three and a half acres, I figured I should do something. Besides, with my job being what it is, getting unplugged (at least mentally if not literally) on a regular basis is a good thing. So I started a small garden this year, mostly above-ground beds in the back yard, and it's working out pretty well.
- I have sunflowers that are 15 feet tall (not an exaggeration) and still growing
- I have three tomato plants that have a combined total of well over a hundred green tomatoes growing on them right now.
- I have more beets and radishes than I know what to do with
- I had something like half a ton (well it seemed like it) of broccoli and cauliflower
- The corn is growing pretty well (I think I have them too close together though)
- Gonna be some huge freaking pumpkins pretty soon
- Even the watermelons look like they're going to work out
- Peas and carrots abound
And it wasn't really all that much work, once the beds were put together and ready (thanks in large part to help from my great neighbors). I just seeded, watered and kept on watering. I pulled a few weeds here and there, but surprisingly few. It's been pretty fun. I like being able to walk into the garden when I am a little hungry and eat right off the plant. I'm not an organic farmer or anything, but I have not needed to use pesticides or anything. I used Miracle Grow on the hose just once, right off the bat, and the rest was just plain water and a little composty stuff, but I think mostly it's the good soil and regular watering.
I grew up in the desert - making things grow there was a true art form. My dad was the artist - I can remember that garden in the back yard when I was a kid. He even got peaches to grow there. Here in Oregon you have to try to kill plants if you don't want them, and even that can be a chore. So I've got it easy.
What I am doing now is letting some of the early-season plants (like radishes and broccoli) go to seed, so I can see if maybe they'll work again from the seeds they produce. I know that some plants will and others won't, and that is I wanted to I could probably look them up, but I just want to see what happens - it will be an interesting test.
If only the grass was as easy to keep green as the garden is to grow. Although the other night the lawn, whether or not it's as green as I like, made a decent carpet to lie on while watching the meteor shower (which was amazing).
Oh, and if anyone needs any tomatoes in a few weeks, I think I'm going to a be a little overloaded. Just let me know. Oh, and if you happen to be in New Mexico and want to trade some frozen roasted chilis from there for some home grown tomatoes, just say the word. I'm told by friends that the best chilis in the world can be had over the phone, though, and I am going to call them soon:
Perea Farms (in New Mexico)
505-565-1897 - at the chili stand
505-261-5887 - their cell
505-450-2535 - the chili farm itself
They'll roast, peel, pack and ship them to you. If you're a green chili fan and you actually believe the stuff you buy in the stores here in the northwest is worth a damn, you're wrong. Give it up and call one of those numbers. You'll be glad you did.
Friday, 23 July 2004
So, it was working out to be a great day - I took the day off from work and all was going so well... Then at around 6:00 or so this evening, problems came up at work that were unexpected. I had to help out with some decisions, and decided someone needed to be spoken to face-to-face, so I drove in on my motorcycle.
It was a great ride - it was around 96 degrees this afternoon. I got in, spent about 3 or 4 hours there, worked things out to my satisfaction and headed home.
It was late - around 11:00 pm - so it was dark out. I got about 5 minutes from work (it's a 45-minute drive home on the motorcycle), and was following behind a car on a rural road. I saw headlights coming toward me as well, and the headlights appeared to cross into the lane of the car in front of me. The headlights disappeared, I saw the brake lights from the car ahead of me light up and then swerve hard and jerk around. The oncoming car continued to roll toward me. I slowed, moved to the left, and slowed some more. The oncoming car continued slowly down the wrong side of the road and eventually skidded to a stop on the shoulder, dragging the broken front end on the ground.
The car was pretty badly damaged - the driver side front end was collapsed, and a man was behind the wheel trying to get out. I pulled off the road and called 911 on my cell phone, and then ran down to the car that I had been following. A man and two little girls were getting out of that car and his airbag had deployed. I saw child seats in the back seat of the car. Thank God for those.
Back to the other car, telling the dispatcher what I saw, how many people, what she'd need to send. Like I was a cop all over again. I got back to the first driver, and he had managed to get out of the car and was trying over and over to dial a cell phone. He smelled the way people smell when they've been drinking, and looked pretty hammered. He asked me if I had called the police, and I said yes, and he looked at me and said, "Why did you do that?" I told him he had hit another car, and pointed. "Another car?" he asked. "Yeah," I said. "Over there." I pointed and he staggered. I asked him again if he was hurt and he said he wasn't. "Why'd you call the police?" he asked again.
Babies and drunks, let me tell ya. Babies and drunks. It's a miracle no one was killed, not to mention that no one was seriously hurt. And I'm glad I leave plenty of room between me and the car ahead of me, especially when I'm on the bike.
Thursday, 22 July 2004
I've had two sets of epidural spinal injections to try to fix my back, and while I have had some relief, it's not solved the problem.
So, I went to the doctor the other day, and he decided its time to send me to the spinal surgeon. I guess there are a few procedure options - one of which involves heating up the intervertebral disc from the inside in order to cause it to shrink. The heated tissue scars and shrinks, so the protruding (herniated) part of the disc (which is pushing on the nerve roots where they attach to the spinal cord) recedes. The disc has a soft inner portion surrounded by a more fibrous shell, so to speak. A herniated disc is one where the fibrous shell gets torn and the center material bulges out. The bulging out part is what's pushing on the nerves. Oh, and it hurts (sometimes a lot).
Anyhow, the doctor that does this special heating/shrinking procedure (the more common procedure is a microdiscectomy, where they just go in with blades and cut out the bulging part) is in Salem, which is a good couple of hours from where I live. I guess there are a few docs in Portland that do something similar, but my doc wants me to go to this guy because its a newer procedure that heals faster and has shown good results (less scarring damage to the disc - it's more exact). So arranging visits and working with that doc will be a little complicated, and I don't even know for sure if I'll end up being a candidate for that particular method. But if it means pain relief, it's all good.
The craziest part of this problem is that most days I am uncomfortable - some pain but not unbearable. Other days (few and far between) I feel almost completely normal (I love those days). And on yet other days the pain is so unbearable it can't be described with words. Debilitating comes to mind, but that doesn't really paint the complete picture.
Anyone have any personal experience with any of these?
- Intradiscal Electrothermal Treatment
- Endoscopic laser foraminoplasty (ELF)
- Percutaneous discectomy (PAD)
Thursday, 08 July 2004
Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, whose son Garrett committed suicide last year, presented a youth suicide prevention bill in the US Senate today. It passed this evening. The senator made a tearful speech on the floor that brought back some awfully painful memories for me. I have supported this bill since it was first written a few months ago.
I have a personal connection and interest in this bill. My son Brian took his own life four years ago. He was 15. While the months and years since then have been very hard for those of us left behind, our pain cannot be measured against what he must have been feeling. Depression is not an illness that people need die from. Suicide is a terrible and permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people. It is often detectable and preventable. This bill, should it become law - and it should become law - will fund prevention and risk detection programs that will save lives. Young lives. It's important.
Please give this your support. Please tell Senator Smith "thank you" for championing an important bill during a time in his life that I know is wrought with emotional pain.
To Senator Smith - Thank you very much for what you're doing. I'm right there with you.
Saturday, 03 July 2004
Heading out to pick up a big truck with all the equipment for the fireworks show I'm responsible for firing tomorrow. A few people know that I'm a state-licensed pyrotechnician, and I occasionally shoot public displays around the region. Tomorrow we're in Clatskenie, Oregon (on Hwy 30 between Portland and Astoria) shooting several hundred 4- and 5-inch shells for their city 4th-of-July display. Should be fun! I might take come pictures or quick video and post later. If you happen to be in the area, stop by and enjoy the party the town is throwing. It sounds like a good time.
EDIT: A couple of pictures taken by Travis, showing the trench before and after the mortar tubes were installed:
Sunday, 20 June 2004
I want to write something about my dad. Nothing flowery, nothing earth-shattering. Just that I love him, that I am proud to be his son, and that I hope he has a great Fathers Day.
He's been there when I was at my worst, and for that I am grateful.
So - Thank you, Dad. And by the way, I can't find your cell phone number again, and I tried you at home and work. Call me, why don't ya.
Fathers Day is a hard one for me. I am happy for my dad and my relationship with him, and also sad for other reasons on this day each year. But for both of the people on my mind this day, I am truly grateful for those relationships and the time I have been privileged to spend.
I'm also lucky to have good friends who think about me on days like this. They dropped off a card while I was out this evening. On the face it reads, "Those we hold most dear never truly leave us." I believe that.
Days like today are important. They give us pause, to thank those who have meant so much, and to remember those who have gone before us.
Happy Fathers Day.
Saturday, 12 June 2004
My back has started to feel a lot better, off and on, over the past couple of days. I am not sure how long the relief will last, but I figure I will enjoy it while I can.
In that vain, I jumped on my motorcycle this evening (was a bit chilly!) and rode into town to return an Xbox game (RalliSport Challenge 2 - lots of fun). I've stayed off the motorcycle since my last spinal injections, to let my back heal and all that, but it actually feels pretty good to ride the bike and flex my lower back a bit. No long distances, and I will still take it easy, but it was a fun ride.
I think that beyond the physical stretching, the freedom one experiences on a motorcycle ride is something I need right now, as well. I've been feeling a little of that isolated-no-matter-where-I-am stuff, so it's good to finally be able to get back on there, even if just for a little while, and get out of my head.
Here's to hoping the weather warms up, and the back pain stays away.
Friday, 04 June 2004
Don't know why for sure, but I've been on this random kick recently about The Ultimate Answer and all that. Of course, we all know the answer, and how it was discovered:
The real question is, what was the question?
And that's the hard part.
“I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you've never actually known what the question is.”
If it takes seven and a half million years of Deep Thought to answer the question, but we don't know the question, then what do we do next?
It's all quite mind-boggling. Certainly does not invoke a feeling of infinite majesty and calm.
Who am I? What is my purpose in life? Does it really, cosmically speaking, matter if I don't get up and go to work?
Is that the question??? What is the question?
"Exactly! So once you do know what the question actually is, you'll know what the answer means."
In reality, I have been doing a bit of deep thought of my own, trying to decide what I am meant to do, what it is I am supposed to be doing with my life (assuming I am supposed to be doing anything). Through a series of trials, successes, tribulations and challenges - some random and some not - I've ended up in a place in life that I never would have predicted. I'm not complaining, mind you, just wondering what's in store, what's next, why, stuff like that. Seems like something's missing, and while I have guesses about what that “something” might be, it's hard to put my finger on it for certain.
Maybe I need to play a long game of Scrabble.
Tuesday, 01 June 2004
I can't imagine there are many people who care about my pain and suffering, but for the few that do and who have asked me to show pictures, here is a followup to my first spinal injection post from a few weeks ago.
And this time there's pictures! (Click on the image for more detail and pictures from the scene of the crime with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one to be used as evidence against... Oops, never mind. The red arrows point to the inserted needles.)
I went back in this morning and had a second round of injections done, only this time I skipped the IV pain killers and anesthesia/relaxation stuff. Last time they gave me this stuff that made me all calm, and a bit groggy. It's not that I wanted to avoid that medication this time, it's just that the nurse couldn't get an IV stick in me successfully. After a few painful attempts at finding a vain (I had not had enough liquids the day before and could not drink anything this morning before the procedure), we gave up and I decided I'd endure the pain of the procedure over the pain of he failed IV sticks.
That turned out to be a good idea.
My doctor's a funny guy. When he heard I was not getting the IV drugs, he paused for a second or two, said, “Well ohhhhhkayyyy then,” and started in. Yeah, it was more painful, but all in all not too bad.
The picture above is from the procedure, where they stick a needle down in my spinal column, about 3 inches, into in the epidural space where he injected a “nerve block” and some cortisone steroid stuff, which will reduce the inflammation and hopefully solve my problem of not being able to carry the weight of my body on my own two feet from time to time. Either that or figure out something else, but this is the first step (after trying medication and physical therapy - the first invasive step, you could call it).
For anyone who's avoided procedures to help with back injuries or degeneration (I have a herniated and degenerated disk), let me tell you this: You can get some relief (in some cases complete relief I am told). While my pain returned (I was told it probably would), and I have to go through this second round, the freedom from pain when you get it is worthwhile. I did not realize how much pain I was in until it was gone. Kind of like beating your head against a wall, as they say: It feels so much better when you stop.
Anyhow, totally non-tech, and so now we return you to your regularly scheduled blogram...
Monday, 31 May 2004
I recently got a new dog, a chocolate lab. He's typically puppy (read: sort of obnoxious but totally likable), and gets along great with my black lab, Buddy, who is about 11 years old.
When I last posted an entry about the new addition to the farm, I had yet to name him, but that's changed. I came up with a good name after much serious thought and consideration:
Tuesday, 18 May 2004
Every blog needs the obligatory picture of a cute puppy, and/or pet pictures. Here's mine.
He actually slept last night without crying or howling (unless I slept through it, that is). That's a miracle in and of itself.
Still have not settled on a name, but I am leaning toward Deeohgee.
Over a week ago my (new) cat escaped out of the house when a door blew open. She disappeared. For a couple of days, I could hear her off in the woods meowing and stuff, and a couple of times when I called she came sort of close, but never stuck around.
She's definitely a 'fraidy-cat.
Anyhow, after a week of not seeing or hearing the cat, I had to assume she was coyote dinner. I mean, she was pretty small and young, so death by dinner seemed the only option.
Wrong. Kat's still out there, still meowing.
And apparently eating well, from the looks of her. I have no idea what she's eating (mice and/or rats I hope), but it's keeping her healthy.
I tried to catch her and bring her in, but she jumped and ran when I tried. Hey, fine with me.
Anyhow, Kat Lives. Kind of reminds me of those Darth Vader Lives pins when I was in grade school (yeah, yeah, no old people jokes), only different.
Monday, 17 May 2004
New addition to the household that can't stand being away from people for more than ten seconds. Loud, funny, and - dare I use the word - cute. But hey, it's a puppy, so cute's ok. For now.
Buddy (my dog I've had for years) and he get along great. No, he does not have a name yet. Maybe I'll take suggestions at some point. Pics to be posted later.
Thursday, 13 May 2004
Well, ok, I don't actually hate them... Heck I live in a town called “Deer Island,” so I guess I can't really hate them... But the one last year that jumped in front of me, the one I drove around just barely, the one where I was on a motorcycle, and it was dark, and the ditch I drove into in order to avoid the deer, well, it had a big fallen tree branch in it, and I never knew you could total a motocycle just from the cost of the broken plastic...
Yeah, well anyhow deer are ok with me unless they're in the middle of the freakin' road in the woods at night. Then they just suck.
But anyhow, none of this matters, especially since I got right back on that horse again this year (or more specifically I got back on all 203.5 of them).
My real point is, I laughed out loud while reading a pretty funny blog entry. And I thought I'd share the laughter. The link was gleaned from several other blogs I read. Enjoy.
Not like anyone actually wants or cares to hear about my pain, but not much else happening right now, and this is (after all) my blog.
So, this would be the one where I talk about my subsiding back pain and start to think about blogging with audio: You know, I was really excited about getting the audioblog.com stuff set up (and I still am excited), but I find myself getting a little self-conscious about posting my voice on my blog for some reason. Have been thinking about how to use this capability - have a few ideas, but will probably think of more....
Wednesday, 12 May 2004
For now let's call it a pound of “ouch” with an ounce of “anticipation-of-relief...”
This was a first time for me, seeing as how I've never had any kind of surgery or anything similar to what you might call a surgical procedure. This was minor, though: Today I had epidural injections of a corticosteroid and a nerve blocker put into my lower back. I've had pain for years now, constantly, that ranges from annoying at times to completely unbearable at others. Having done nothing up to this point to try to fix the problem other than taking anti-inflamatories, I decided at the doc's recommendation to try these shots and see what happens. If they don't work, he and I will see what's next. I just know I can't live comfortably with the pain any more, it's just become worse as time goes on.
So, anyhow, went to the hospital, they gave me some stuff that made me slightly loopy, and I was awake the whole time. Lots of needles in the back, stuff injected into the epidural space in my spine, kinda hurts, and now I am fluctuating between feeling pretty okay and having shooting pain, especially as the blocker wears off and the numbness subsides.
I am told by the doc that the pain may get somewhat worse before I start to feel better, and so far, he's right. But hey, this is I guy I am highly confident in as far as his medical abilities, and since this is what he said would likely happen, I guess I am not really surprised. I'll ride it out and see how it goes over the next day or two.
Anyhow, there are people out there who have been asking about this, and although it's completely non-tech, I thought I'd just post an update. I'm okay, the pain is there, expect it to get better.
Friday, 30 April 2004
Thanks to the kind hearts of a large number of coworkers, friends and family, I was able to turn $2065 over to the Muscular Dystrophy Association Thursday as “bail” money to get me out of “jail.”
The money that was donated will be used locally to fight muscular dystrophy, and to make opportunities available to local kids who otherwise would not have a chance to do many of the things their friends are able to do. My personal story (in the email included below) is just one example among many thousands of how small donations can add up to provide big opportunities for these kids.
Four local children and youth will get to attend a special summer camp this year thanks to the donations. I can tell you, the MDA workers and volunteers down at the “jail” Thursday morning were ecstatic to have such a large amount donated by so many people, in such a short period of time. I was the first person today to successfully meet my “bail” goal and get out of jail. While there, I also received an invitation to attend the summer camp this year, and I think I may just have to take them up on the offer.
Again, thanks very much to all who contributed. If anyone was hoping to contribute but was unable to prior to my “arrest,” they can definitely still do so. Simply contact me by email, phone or in person, and I will be glad to make the arrangements.
Thanks again for making a difference,
From: Greg Hughes
Sent: Thursday, April 29, 2004 8:22 AM
Subject: Please help bail me out
Thursday, April 29, 2004
In about one hour, I will be stolen from my place of work and carted off to jail. I have not been able to raise the full bail amount necessary to buy my freedom. Although many of my friends, family and coworkers have contributed to raise more than half the set bail, and every penny is appreciated greatly, it just doesn’t total up to the $1800 figure.
Perhaps there is something you can do to persuade more people that a small gift to MDA is a good and important thing to do. As an example, each $550 raised will send one child with Muscular Dystrophy to summer camp for a week, where they will have an opportunity to experience the kinds of things that other kids get to do.
A personal story: When I was in college (and before I lost my hair), I worked at such a camp. I remember one boy from inner-city St. Louis who was unable to walk on his own and had some pretty severe muscular control problems. More than anything he wanted to go to camp and do what he had heard his friends rave about time and time again: To go into a deep, dark cave and spend an hour or two crawling through mud, seeing bats and cave formations, wading through cold ground water, and having an experience he could tell his friends about. I strapped him on my back (literally) and we went caving, with helmet and flashlights, just like all the other kids. You should have seen the look on his face. That’s the kind of experience these kids can have at these camps, and the meaning behind them (for the kids) is really something that can’t be fully measured.
At any rate, we’re not quite there yet, and I am truly hoping to be able to return to the real world today! Anything that anyone can do is appreciated. An email pledge for a specific dollar amount (sent to me and received on my blackberry while I am in jail starting at about 9am) would be great. And any amount helps make a kid’s life a little more special, and helps find a cure for MD.
Yours in Prison,
Sunday, 18 April 2004
Those who read regularly (all two of you) will remember that almost exactly one month ago, my neighbors gave me a cat as an early birthday present. Yeah, kind of a weird birthday present, given that it's a live animal and all, and it's kind of hard to re-gift a cat, but since it had less than 24 hours to live, I guess it was not a bad decision.
People have been asking me TONS of questions about the cat (many of them the same), so in the interest of full-disclosure and all that crap, here you go - Operation CAT Update:
- I have not been converted into Cat Person - I have never disliked cats per se, it's just that given a natural choice, I'm more of a dog person. However, I am finding that cats are kind of cool, even if they are conceited and annoying.
- I have not named the cat - Yeah, yeah, I know... Any number of people have already given me crap about not giving the cat a name. The only ones I've come up with so far are not ones that I would use in polite conversation, so to date no name. Besides, it's a freakin' cat; If I give it a name, it'll just look at me with disdain, swish its tail back and forth, and give me that “screw you and your damn names” look.
- I can live with the allergy - I'm a little allergic, but I can live with it, so far.
- I know she's a cat, but she thinks she's a dog - I have never seen a cat roll over on its back - over and over and over and over - like this one. Weirdo.
- Random access computing has a new meaning - I have several random browser bookmarks with names like “nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhg” because this darn animal won't stop walking on my keyboard when I'm not looking.
Overall, it's not a bad deal, and she's a nice cat, so I guess she can stay. We'll probably have to transition to being a semi-outdoor animal this summer, but we'll see.
Thursday, 15 April 2004
Yes, I jumped out a perfectly good airplane.
Yes, it was a blast.
Yes, I will do it again.
Want to see? Click here. It was a bad hair day, but hey - what the heck. These day's they're all bad hair days. Not enough to go around anymore.
If you ever happen to be in the Southern California area looking for a fun weekend, check out Jim Wallace's skydiving school in Perris. Jim, Gail Sims and crew are truly awesome. Jim has more than 17,000 jumps and more than 276 hours of free-fall time in his career - Number one in the entire world! He's the one in the yellow t-shirt in the video. And on top of that, he's a really great guy. Gail's also a world-record holder.
In fact, I had more fun this past weekend than I have had in a long time. Not only did I do the free-fall thing, I also had the opportunity to spend a few hours walking and climbing all over the USS John C. Stennis, a *huge* aircraft carrier, with my friend David, who is stationed on the ship. He's also the one I went skydiving with (we both had birthday's this weekend, and it seemed like both the best and craziest thing to do to mark the occasion). We spent four days pretty much just wandering around southern California with no real plan. Unplanned time - wow, what a concept, and quite a relief from the usual!
I also purchased a replacement for my digital camera that was stolen last year. I managed to find a Nikon D70 kit, which was quite a challenge because they have not shipped very many since its release a couple weeks ago, but we found one out in the middle of nowhere. It's a great camera, but more on that later. In fact, it was that camera-finding detour we took that routed us through the skydiving capital of the Western Hemisphere, or maybe even the whole world: Perris, California.
Our original plan had been to go to California Adventure up at Disney - that was going to be our fun for the weekend - you know, roller-coasters and stuff. While driving between the town where I bought the camera and Anaheim, David looked out the window and saw a bunch of parachutes. Now, understand that he works on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier and pretty much anything that flies is cool to him. So, since we didn't actually have a real plan or any kind of schedule to follow, we decided to take the nearest exit and check it out. Within 30 minutes, we'd decided Disneyland/California Adventure was for wimps, and that we were going to jump out of an airplane instead.
So, that's what we did. Captured on video for all to see. It was great.
And then we went ahead and drove to California Adventure, anyhow. Heh. This new Disney park is pretty cool - the big roller-coaster there is damn fast and they have some good fast-action rides. They closed at 10, so we ran over to the Disneyland park and did the obligatory Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean rides (classics and still great).
I wished I could have spent another week in California, but my Mom's birthday was Tuesday and she turned 60 (happy birthday, Mom), so I flew there from Cali and got to spend a couple of days catching up with family.
It was a great weekend. Not sure I can match that one again, but I am sure I will try sometime. Pictures coming soon.
Sunday, 11 April 2004
While heading for Disneyland, we changed our mind and stopped short. Found something that beats Disneyland hands-down. Got out at 12,000 feet, flew through the sky, pulled the cord at 5,000 feet, landed standing up. Fun way to spend your birthday when you're starting to feel your age, I highly recommend it!
Saturday, 10 April 2004
Found an open network. Skipping Disneyland, gonna do something more exciting. Film at 11 - April 11th that is.
At the gas station in Tecumunga or some name like that. Filling up the tank, $2.45 a gallon. Wow.
Wednesday, 07 April 2004
I've decided to go have a little fun, so I'll be traveling on a birthday whirlwind trip for the next week. My birthday falls on this Sunday (also Easter), my friend who is in the Navy and happens to be in port in San Diego this weekend has a birthday on Monday, and my mom's birthday (60!!!) is on Tuesday. So, I'm off to California Thursday night to spend the weekend hanging out there, then over to New Mexico to spend my mom's birthday with her, take her out to dinner, get her something nice.
If I can bring myself to spring for it (dunno when I got so freakin' cheap on some things) I may pick up a new digital camera to replace the one that got stolen last year, and in that case maybe I will have some pictures to post from the trip. We'll see.
For those of you who work with me, you know how out of character this vacation thing is, so please - don't call me, I'll call you. And thanks to Mike and Debbie for watching the animules for me.
I'm going to be arrested on April 29th. A warrant is being issued, and I'm going to jail at Red Robin, and I need you to bail me out. Seriously, if I spend too much time there, I'll get fat and stuff, so help me here, friends!
Apparently they'll be coming to arrest me at work, and I'll be stuck in holding til people help me out and I can post bail. Of course, it's all a fundraiser to benefit MDA, so it's for a good cause.
Wanna help? Contact me. I don't think I particularly care to share a burger with some guy in a flower dress named Bruno. Save me - Please.
I'll post more when I have it.
Sunday, 04 April 2004
I rented a tractor yesterday. They dropped it off here in The Middle of Nowhere(TM) at about 9 a.m. yesterday, and picked it up this morning. It cost me $200. Sure, that's a lot of money, but I've decided it's more than worth it. Here's why:
- I can stand up straight and I slept last night - I have a bad back. The doc says I'm not a surgical candidate yet. Operative word there. No pun intended. Anyhow, I'm not ready to go under the knife, and I prefer to be able to stand, walk, lie down, etc. without the extreme pain I've endured from time to time because I pushed myself too hard. I'd rather give my money to the rental place, and avoid the wasted time, pain and insurance deductibles.
- Got more than a few day's worth of manual yard and garden/other work done in one day - And I even made a trip to the store in the middle of the day, so in reality, it's was just a partial day of tractoring. Among the things it helped get done include moving 11 cubic yards of soil to several above-ground planting beds, excavating a flat space in a hillside for a new raised bed (otherwise a couple days worth of work by hand), repairing the quarter-mile gravel driveway (which runs up and down a couple of steep hills and tends to get ruts and bumps galore).
- Helped the neighbors - Last year I rented a heavy-duty rear-tine tiller to break up the ground for a back-yard lawn. It didn't work - the ground here gets so hard (clay soil) that even an 11-horse tiller can't break the surface. Horsepower means nothing if you can't get through that top layer. I saw yesterday that my neighbor had rented the same tiller as I had last year (coulda sworn I had warned him when it didn't work for me), and was attempting the same task. Feeling his pain, I pulled the tractor up and offered to rip the ground to make it easier to till, and he gladly accepted. Box scraper implements with big nasty digging teeth are amazing, and the neighbor was able to move on to tilling other areas of his yard. 'Nuf said.
- Tractors are Fun - Ask any guy who's used a full-size commercial tractor and they'll tell you, these are real men's toys. God Bless John Deere.
Back when I was a teenager I spent a couple summers helping out/working now and then on a horse farm that some friends owned. One of my favorite things about it was the tractor. It was cool then, and it's still cool today.
Thursday, 01 April 2004
I must say, I was just a little surprised at how many people actually thought I was being serious earlier today... I mean - DOG SEAT BELTS??? Come on!
My story was borrowed from a pre-planned radio show on 1190-KEX here in Portland. The radio personalities notified some listeners a day ahead of time, to have them help to make it that much more believable. It worked.
The first person I heard from among many today was my friend, co-worker and neighbor, Mike. He seemed shocked that my dog, Buddy, was in jail.
My reply: “Can you *believe* that crap????”
He wasn't the only one.
Once the radio show started this afternoon, not only did the phone calls start rolling in to the KEX studio, but the local and state police offices started getting a lot of phone calls, too. The Portland Police Bureau was warned ahead of time, and it sounds like they were ready, but the Oregon State Patrol wasn't aware or prepared for a bunch of phone calls from angry and confused people wanting to know what the heck was going on with this “new law.”
Anyhow, Happy April Something-or-Another.
I used to be a cop. I don’t have a problem with laws that make sense. I do, however, have a serious problem with stupid laws that go too far.
On Wednesday evening, I became a victim of Oregon's new PET RESTRAINT LAW.
This law requires that you restrain your pet (dog, cat, ferret, whatever) in special seat belts while traveling in a moving vehicle. Yes, that’s right, Dog Seat Belts. The cost of these special animal restraints runs anywhere from 20 to 30 dollars, if you can find one. Holding an animal in your lap is NOT acceptable. Animals are apparently also required to be restrained in the back of an open pick-up bed in an attached animal carrier. This law actually went into effect January 1, 2004 but only warning tickets were given out until March 1, and since then they've been writing citations for real. And I got screwed.
So now I owe a fine of $150 for my first offense and my dog was confiscated to the local animal shelter, and I have to go there to get him back, but I can’t do that until I show proof that I have a pet restraint in the car. Plus, I’m told that if I get caught a second time, they’ll take my pet from me permanently and charge me with animal neglect.
The stupidest part is that it wasn’t even a cop that saw my dog walking around in the back seat – It was someone working on a construction crew on a highway near my house. Any Oregon State police officer, city cop, OR roadside worker can act as a witness in court according to the statute. If the road crew sees you and calls the police, they can either find you and pull you over (like me), or they can send you a citation in the mail.
This sucks. How the heck do these laws get passed???
Update: See Hook, Line, Sinker ...
Thursday, 18 March 2004
Now I remember, pretty clearly, why I am not a cat person. Probably also why I (subconsciously) had not committed on my own to this animal.
No real sleep last night, claw marks in my hands (I was nice, they're just small and very sharp), cat pee in my carpet, meowing every five seconds since God knows when last night.
At least I have the Internet to figure out how to make this cat happy (if that can even be done - I'm probably naive here, which is just another sign that I am not a cat person).
And before anyone from the we-know-who's-really-in-control camp throws snide remarks, I realize that the problem may actually be that I am not a cat's person. I'm fine with that.
I dunno. Nice little cat, and a very nice gesture, but I just dunno ... We'll see.
Wednesday, 17 March 2004
In this day and age, it's not unusual for people who live next door to each other to not have the first clue about who their neighbors are, what they're names are, or anything at all about those people over there that apparently get in their cars and go someplace each morning (probably to work).
It's not that way for me. My next-door neighbors are great people, friends of mine, and pretty fun (sometimes down-right amusing) to spend time with. They have great kids and good hearts. We hand out and do things together now and then. So, I consider myself very lucky, indeed.
Case in point: My birthday is coming up in a few weeks. They wanted to do something nice for me (which is really very cool). So, what did they decide to do?
Well - long story short - I now have a cat. To go with my dog.
Now, before you freak out and cry foul, please relaize a couple things: First of all, I was asked about the whole adopt-a-cat thing a couple days ago. I just hadn't actually committed to doing anything about it. But that's cool. Also, I have been talking about getting a cat for a while now. So this is not completely out of the blue. And the standing offer is that if it doesn't work out, the neighbors will take the cat into their family (and then they'd have more pets than kids, heheheh), so I do have an “out” there.
Hey, but it's an awfully nice cat. Sharp claws, yes - but nice. And she's fixed (apparently yesterday), so no worries about more of the same down the road. And perhaps most importantly, she's alive. Had she not been picked up from the pound by my neighbor yesterday, she'd have been put down by now. So, all in all, it's a good thing.
Truth be told, I've always been more of a dog person, but cats are okay. Besides, I live in the woods, so there's plenty of practical reasons to have a cat or two around the house (Note: one is enough for now )
In reality, it's a very nice - and thoughtful - birthday gift. Pretty darn cool.
Sunday, 11 January 2004
I write this from my bed, only because I can't get out of it right now. Thank goodness for notebook PCs, better batteries and the advent of wireless networking. If it wasn't for these, I would have to watch TV, and that's not exactly a really exciting prospect on a Sunday morning, if you know what I mean.
Having finally made a run for it in 4WD-Low-range, I busted out of this snow hell with my neighbor, spinning tires and sliding out as I went. Fun. Worth it? ABSOLUTELY. You know, it's not that I mind being home all the time - that's actually not so bad. Rather, is the fact that I couldn't leave if I wanted to that bothered me the most.
Yeah, so - anyhow... We busted outa here late Friday evening. I promptly drove to the Honda dealership where another neighbor works and purchased the 4-wheeler ATV I have been planning to get for the past couple of months. I really should have acted earlier, but hey - oh well. The next time it snows like this (yeah, right), I'll be ready. And I won't get lost (or at least won't have an excuse to) since it has GPS on-board. Ohhhhh geek machines have hit the marketplace. W00t!!
Hmmm, seems I lost my train of thought. Ahhh, age - yes, that was it. Let's just say that if you already know you have an bad back, and you decide that - despite your physical condition - it would be really fun to load the new 4-wheeler up with snow shovels and stuff to clear the drive... Well, anyhow my lower back is keeping me in bed for now. If anyone has any muscle relaxants, let me know and I can fire up this nifty GPS on my really cool ATV and email you my latitude and longitude so your helicatoper pilot can find me out here in The Middle of Nowhere.TM
And since someone's bound to ask (in email of course since no one I know seems to understand the concept of blog comments, LOL), it's the green one. Well, “olive“ really. Got Windows Media? Here's a video.
Friday, 09 January 2004
I can't take it anymore! I'm making a run for it - cross your fingers!!!
EDIT: Dunno what I was thinking. 4WD and no traction - sliding everywhere. Must be crazy. Dog thinks so.
Thursday, 08 January 2004
This is almost enough to drive me crazy. I have been snowed or iced in for three straight days. Of course, so have a lot of other people. Now it’s warming up, but it may be some time before roads here are passable. It’s a mess. One big skating rink. Things started to thaw, but with all the snow that was on the ground before the ice started, the end result is a whole lot of really wet, icy snow.
Quite a storm. Portland International Airport closed for two days (so far). Fed Ex cancelled deliveries. Nike’s headquarters closed for the first time. The Jail Blazers cancelled a game. Woo hoooo…
My dog is glad I’ve been home, but I’ve pretty much had enough for this go-round. Cabin fever has started to set in. Unfortunately, the National Weather Service just extended our winter storm warning for the whole night because temperatures are supposed to drop back below freezing. I’m hoping it doesn’t happen.
But, regardless of the temperature tonight, it should warm up considerably tomorrow, and then all we have to worry about is flooding and mud slides. No big deal, right? Ugh…
The guys that work for me have been real troopers. Some have been able to make it into the office and the rest have worked from home like me. I am pretty lucky, really, to have a dedicated crew of employees, And they’re decent people on top of that. Okay, enough of that or it will go to their heads. Can’t have that.
On top of that, the Blazers continue to SUCK. I mean, come on! Trade Sheed!
Blah, blah blah.
Wednesday, 07 January 2004
Most people who read this (for the most part people who don't live here) have never seen an ice storm before. I've posted images and info about the huge amount of snow we have up here (more than in the city), but ice storms are different. I used to experience them back in college in the midwest, but not so much since then.
Well, It’s been holding at 32 degrees here for a few hours, up from 15 degrees last night. That means rain instead of snow, since a (very) warm front is moving in.
But the rain is freezing to anything it lands on. That’s not so good. It means an ice storm.
Snow at high elevation passes through warm air and changes to rain. As it continues to fall, it passes into cold air near the ground and freezes. If it doesn’t freeze in the air, it hits the ground, trees, etc. and freezes there - ice storm.
Needless to say, I am stranded here at home. It wasn’t too bad until this morning. Art that time there was about half an inch of ice on everything. Now, everything - including the ground and roads - is covered in an inch or more of wet ice.
The only really amazing thing so far is that we have not lost power out here, since we live in the forest. Last week we lost power for several hours one cold night due to the winter weather. If you think about it, it's amazing electricity transmission is as reliable as it is!
Hopefully it won’t be a problem overnight and we’ll come out of this relatively unscathed. I have had to work from home two days now, and at this rate another day is entirely possible. Unless it melts. I'm not holding my breath.
If the temperature drops overnight (fingers crossed and hoping not), it will be worse.
But hey, I’m sitting at home in font of the fire and getting a lot done, so it’s not so bad.
Tuesday, 06 January 2004
It's started. I can't see past the first row of trees. The snow is falling sideways. There is a drift behind my truck that's getting bigger each time I look. Good thing my internet connection works, for now. When the ice storm hits, all bets are off.
Monday, 05 January 2004
Where’s the snow?!?!?
It’s almost midnight now. It’s late on Monday night. Since last Friday the news media has been building the whole world into a frenzy over this massive snow storm that is supposed to hit. Earlier today, the media spent the entire day absolutely freaking out about a snow storm that was just about to hit our area and which was supposed to cause major problems. Schools cancelled more than a day ahead of time all over the area. Businesses announced closures, and people completely changed their plans. Businesses – big ones like HP – told their employees not to show up for work. People bought snow tires and chains like mad. It was supposed to start something like 8 hours ago. So where is the snow?
Thanks to this nifty weather station a friend of mine gave me for Christmas last year, I can tell you that it’s precisely 16.4 degrees outside, the humidity is 60% and the barometric pressure is on a downward trend - 30.34 inches and falling.
I put contingencies in place in case I could not make it to work tomorrow, since I live in the middle of nowhere and the roads suck. I am so wired (actually wire-less) these days, I can work from home and do literally 95% of what my job requires, if need be. I sent people home from work early who live a ways out, just to be safe.
That was 8 or more hours ago.
I just looked outside (again). I can see radio towers that are more than 20 miles away - in the next state. I can see the moon overhead. It’s nearly full, and is behind a little haze, but is lighting up the entire frozen countryside almost like it was daylight. Hmmmm…
Hey - wait a second…
People bought snow tires and chains! OMG!
It’s a scam! Is it possible? Maybe a certain Really Big Tire Company not only controls (via a well-paid lobby) the fact that people in this state can (and to hear them talk, should) completely and without good reason ruin our highways with snow tires they don’t need... What better way to really sell some tires and chains than scaring the crap out of people after one decent (but managable) snow storm by manipulating the media into dreaming up an even worse one???
We may just be witness to The Rise of the Third Evil Empire… Time will tell.
You’ll have to excuse me now. I’m going back to look out the window. It must be out there. I mean, it’s almost Tuesday, for gosh sakes!
Sunday, 04 January 2004
So, apparently the hill my house was built on used to be a popular spot for people who live in the area to head over to on a snowy day to go sledding, tubing or whatever. It’s been awhile since they had this much snow here (long before the house was built), and so there are a number of people who stopped by and asked if they could sled on the hill (and the neighbor kids from next door have been using it for a few days along with some others from nearby).
So, long-story-short, my house has become a minor winter park for the township of Deer Island, Oregon. Actually, I don’t know if it’s even a township, but that’s beside the point. For a few days this year, I am Disneyland. Or at least my front yard is. And I am meeting a bunch of people who live around the area, too. People have actually called their friends and family around here to tell them the hill is open. Hehehe...
It’s Sunday morning now, and it got much colder (like 19 degrees) late last night, and the sun came out for a brief little while this morning, but it’s still well below freezing. It doesn’t look like the snow will come back today – probably tomorrow (assuming those weather people are right this time). So, it should be a nice day to get outside for a while.
Here are a few pictures from Saturday’s sessions at DisneyNorthWest (And for the record and those who can’t figure it out, Disney is a registered trademark of a really big and nice company that I have absolutely nothing to do with, it just sounds cool. Don’t get confused )…
It won’t stop snowing! Interestingly, family and friends don’t seem to care too much about technology or anything interesting (heheheh), they just want to see snow pictures and hear about how I am snowed in. Sheez.
I will take more pictures and post them this weekend so everyone can see what a huge mess it can get to be when you live just 1000 feet above the rest of the world around you. And how much fun it is around the neighborhood.
And the forecast is for more and more winter weather, with temperatures dropping drastically over the next few days. Right now, heowever, it's just clody and foggy - but it's suposed to get very cold tonight. Just as long as the power stays on we are ok (It’s a very real concern here and was out for like 6 hours the other night). A generator is in my future, let me tell ya.
Meanwhile, here’s a few pics and one video (550KB, uses Windows Media player)…
It's been pretty gray out recently and the trees have a lot of wet snow on them - more than they are used to. All day long you hear a periodic CRACK! when a branch breaks from the load. The dark days when the fog sets in (and there's a lot of fog up here this time of year) are quiet and calm. It's great.
Some of the trees are huge. Luckilly, I think these ones have been around long enough to survive this kind of snow. Locals (I have only lived here a year and a half) say the last time this much snow ended up on the ground was 3 years aso, and it was like a decade before that the previous time. Kids and adults from all over the area are out enjoying it. More on that in another post, once I get the rest of the pictures ready.
My neighbors' car is prety well buried. We live at the end of a pretty darn long (like a quarter mile or so) gravel drive. Their car is stuck, probably for a while!
It doesn't look like it in the picture, but that's a big freakin' bird house - It's pretty much as tall as I am (ok, ok - no short jokes, please ). I wanted to try to point out that there was around 18 inches of snow on the ground, and it's wet snow now, so that's after it's compacted down a bit. It's heavy, too - I know, since I shoveled a whole bunch of it this morning. I had to, in order to get my 4WD vehicle into my driveway. The wet snow had been compacted over the past few days and had become slushy, then got snowed on more. The end result was a real mess, and no vehicle could drive up the hill. The only way to solve the proble was the old-fashioned way: Back-breaking shovel work. Luckilly I found a great snow shovel at Home Depot - it has two handles and make the work MUCH easier on the back - almost enjoyable if you can believe that!
Pathetic eh? Hey, the original nose was a pear, since I had no carrots (sorry Dad ). But we swapped noses the next day. This is what it looks like when you build a snowman in the front yard during a blizzard in the dark at 9:00 at night, and then it snow again. He's not the only one up to his knees in snow right now.
Monday, 29 December 2003
Two things happened today that amazed me. I was not present for either one. Where I live, it snowed a whole bunch. My 4-wheel-drive truck allowed me to leave my house today and work my way down into the valley to go to work, but without that capability – no way man.
The first things that happened was that I heard from my neighbor that the UPS guy stopped his truck at the end of the driveway, by the road, and WALKED a package through the snow up and down two long hills, a quarter mile to the neighbor’s house, because his truck could not make the drive. Wow. That’s dedication and service!
Then later I heard that Cora, the nice lady I have come to my house every couple week to clean things (Before you start, remember I’m a bachelor *and* a work-a-holic, so give me a break…), also hiked from the road to my house, CARRYING THE CLEANING STUFF THE WHOLE WAY. Apparently the neighbors saw them climbing the hill, but they were already half-way here by that time, so they did not have the heart to suggest they turn back and come back when the drive was passable. When I called Cora and thanked her, she laughed and said, “Well, I was already there, and my helper said she wanted to get out and play in the snow anyhow, so I thought oh, what the heck.” Uhhh, that’s more than I would ever ask for, and someone’s going to get a big tip. Way above and beyond!
These things simply would not happen in the city. There’s something about small-town and country life that is different. People watch out for each other, and they care about people and things.
Now I remember why I moved out here.
Woke up this morning to 8 inches of new snow – the roads were a killer, but it sure looks cool! And it was good snow. The neighbor kid should have waited 12 hours to attack. I would have OWNED!
My neighbor called me and asked if I was driving in, and if he could hitch a ride (I have the 4WD). As expected, once we hit the road we found that people around here don't know how to drive when the snow starts to accumulate. It took a lot longer than usual to get to work this morning, but sitting in the roadway behind a stuck semi truck, one is able to see things that one does not normally get a chance to see when moving along at 40 or 50 miles an hour. Hey - Where'd those train tracks come from??
I don't think I will be staying at work the full day. It sounds like the roads will freeze, which will mean much worse driving, so heading home early sounds like the best idea.
Maybe even make a snowman if we get back home in time? If the snow's still there. We'll see.
Sunday, 28 December 2003
It started snowing yesterday, and this afternoon it picked back up, and now all of a sudden we have nearly two inches on the ground, and it’s still coming down at a pretty good clip. Just a few years ago, if I read these same words I would have laughed and said something like, “What – two inches? So what???” But I am much older and lamer than that now, and the fact is that it almost never snows here in any appreciable amount, so I am kind of excited. Add the fact that I live in the middle of nowhere and the roads SUCK when it snows or gets icy, and I feel like a kid again.
Speaking of which, the neighbor kid (who’s really a polite, smart, well-behaved 10-year-old) rings my doorbell this evening at dusk. It’s like 30 degrees outside and it’s snowing like crazy, and he’s standing in the front lawn as I open the door and peer out, with this crazed-little-kid look on his face (you know, the look they get when they’ve stepped over an invisible line and just can’t seem to make themselves go back). He’s not saying anything, and has a strange look on his face like he's trying to make a decision - or maybe he's battling with one he's already made, so I ask him, “Why are you standing out there in the snow?” The psycho grin grows across his face, and next thing I know, a huge snow/slush ball is hurtling toward me.
I'm standing in my doorway, on the entry floor, no shoes on. Wet ball of snow hits the door frame next to my left shoulder. Ah hah!
It wasn’t until a few seconds later that he realized exactly what he’d done (or maybe he suddenly got to the consequences part of the think-cycle). He spun in the snow, screamed in panic, and ran off.
I found him 5 minutes later, hiding in the trees, crazed again and apparently waiting for me to come find him. He had 5 snowballs at the ready. It was almost dark, but I heard him sneer, “This is WAR!” and he then proceeded to miss me, five times. But it was a good try.
So, for my part I made sure he had plenty of snow down the back of his jacket before we finished, and all was good. And for the record he managed to hit me a few times with his snowball stash in the process. All in all, I think it's safe to say that while I came out on the dryer side of the battle, he won the war.
Cold weather will make you do unusual things, won't it?
Friday, 05 September 2003
Greg Hughes is a high-tech executive working in the Security and Information Technology fields. He lives near Portland, Oregon in the United States and grew up in the high-tech town of Los Alamos, New Mexico.
After working seven years in photojournalism, he shifted gears and became a police officer. After another seven or so years of being paid small money to take big risks and deal with mean people, he made the bold move to become a professional computer geek.
Without a regular dose of police adrenaline comes a desire to continue to find new ways to walk out there "on the edge," so now he also blows things up as a hobby. Not a bad way to have some fun, when you consider someone else pays thousands of dollars to buy the materials and you get to blow it up. "Win-win," as they say. Recently he also became a pilot and bought a used airplane for a great deal, so on a nice evening or weekend he might be found up in the air defying the laws of logic and leveraging the laws of physics.
These day's Greg is involved in some stuff he can't talk too much about, but it is security related and it's quite enjoyable. His recent work as the Chief Security Executive and VP of Security and IT at the world's leading online banking company allowed him to combine the managing and building complex and important technology with forensics and investigation, and his personal weblog (which you're reading now) combines security and technology with some personal thoughts and experiences.
People who meet him often wonder how he has managed to pack so many experiences into his life. When it comes down to it, Greg is one of those guys who doesn't want to miss out on all those things that most people dream of. Whether it's helping catch cyber-criminals, skydiving, blowing things up, teaching, working with at-risk kids, climbing mountains, catching bad guys, riding motorcycles, hauling up and down the river in a jet boat or on a jet ski, or being the halftime highlight on Sports Center because some lanky basketball player crushed him while he was shooting pictures on the court, there's a decent chance he's done it - because hey, life is all about the experience.
His friends say Greg is a kind, patient and pretty darned decent human being. I guess he's got them fooled! He's been a foster parent for 14 at-risk and special-needs kids, as well as a cop, photographer, skiier, geek, student, movie theater projectionist, paperboy, bakery cleaner, skydiver, camera salesman, volunteer, bionic man, pyrotechnician, pilot, wannabe snowboarder (retired), friend, and a whole slew of other things.
It should be noted that he is not the same Greg Hughes of Opie and Anthony fame, and he's not the same Greg Hughes who works for another security company called Symantec, and he's not the same Greg Hughes who wrote the iPhone program called Wifi-Sync. He's also not the state politician from Utah. Those are all other guys. Who knew there were so many Greg Hugheses out there?
Want or need to reach Greg?
Or, if I am online now on Live Messenger, you can chat with me here:
If you want to keep track of whatever Greg writes on this weblog, there are a couple ways you can do just that:
- If you use MSN Messenger, sign up for .NET alerts, which can be delivered to your Messenger program and/or mobile device. Click this button to start:
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© Copyright 2012 Greg Hughes
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
This page was rendered at Sunday, 30 December 2012 23:48:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
newtelligence dasBlog 2.1.8015.804
"Computers used to take up entire buildings, now they just take up our entire lives."
"So how do you know what is the right path to choose to get the result that you desire? And the honest answer is this... You won't. And accepting that greatly eases the anxiety of your life experience."
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On this page
|Six years after artificial disc replacement surgery – Status update
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|Happy Fathers Day
|Rocket Ride Back Therapy
|Search for the Great Answer - To Life, the Universe and Everything!
|Stick a needle in my spine, part two
|Name This Dog Update
|Someone else who's grown to hate deer
|Back better and AudioBlogging Use
|Stick a needle in my spine
|Got out of Jail - But not FREE!
|Operation CAT - One month later
|What I did last weekend (or, why my friends think I'm crazy)
|Everyone needs a mid-life crisis now and then.
|War driving in Cali
|California gas - OMG
|California (and New Mexico) Here I Come
|Warrant issued, someone bail me out [please?]
|Tractors are Fun (or why $200 a day is worth the money)
|Hook, Line, Sinker...
|I'm fighting da man, or why some Oregon laws are so freaking stupid
|How you know when your neighbors know you
|Note to Self: "You're not as young as you once was..."
|Portland or BUST (update: NOT!)
|Ice can be bad
|This is freakin' lame...
|I am Disneyland
|More and more snow!
|Another reason I appreciate living outisde the city
|Who is this Greg Hughes guy, anyhow?
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| Scott Adams' Dilbert Blog
Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert, and his blog is an incredibly smart, clever and often funny (sometimes very serious) look at the world. Everyone should read this blog.
| Alex Scoble
Alex is a former coworker who blogs about a variety of IT-related topics.
| Brent Strange
Brent is a cool dude and a great QA guy that I used to work with. His blog is, appropriately, focused on QA and testing technology.
| Chris Brooks
Chris was formerly my boss at work and is an avid board gamer and photographer. He always has some new info about top-notch board games you may have never heard of, so if you're into them, you should check out this blog.
| Chris Pirillo
Lockergnome by trade, Chris is always up to something new. If you are not familiar with the Lockergnome newsletters, be sure to check them out, too.
| Matthew Lapworth
Matt's a software developer and friend. He seems to enjoy extreme sports. That's fine as long as he doesn't, like, die or something.
| Milind Pandit
Milind writes about all sorts of interesting stuff. We worked toegther for eight years, and he worked at our employer longer than I, which pretty much makes him old as dirt in company time. :)
| MSFT Security Bulletins [RSS]
RSS feed for all Microsoft security bulletins provides an always-up-to-date list of updates along with complete descriptions of each.
Rory Blyth is one of the funniest and most thought-provoking bloggers I read. And I blame him for everything. Literally.
| Scott Hanselman
Scott's computerzen blog is a popular spot for all things .NET and innovative. I used to work with him, but then he went off to Microsoft. He's one of the smartest guys I know, and arguably the best technical presenter around.
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