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Starts.

As I sat there on the first day of my second semester of college in 1987, I wasn’t in the best of moods. I was no longer a Music Education Major at SUNY Fredonia; disagreements on what I thought my singing voice should sound like clashed against what others felt I should sound like, coupled with feeling completely out of my element with an advisor who just didn’t “get me” ended with the declaration that I would be an Education Major with a liberal arts focus instead of a Music Education major. It just felt wrong. Since I was tagged with the “Liberal Arts” tag (which isn’t a bad thing, but it was to me at the time), I figured I would make the best of it and start exploring my rapidly growing interest in computer technology. Already on my second personal computer (a Commodore 64!) and having already discovered the world of online social connections, my fanatical obsession with bits and bytes was leaping 10-fold.

Then why the heck was I sitting in a beginning computer class where the professor was lecturing us on the difference between a keyboard and a floppy disk. We were spending an entire day talking about the power switch. I was going to go mad.

My interest in computers began at Wegmans. Back in the mid 1970s, Wegmans installed cash registers that scanned items. This was wicked cool. The process was fairly slow, the cashier had to be rather deliberate with the way the item was scanned and the register would usually fall behind and complain about the speed in which the cashier was doing their job, but my goodness that was wicked cool to me. I wanted to crack the barcode. It was seeing that that got me interested in all things technology related and I started comparing how Wegmans did their checkout thing versus our local P&C Foods (which didn’t have scanning, heck they didn’t even have electronic registers at the time).

I touched my first computer as a freshman in high school. It kind of looked like this:


The computer lab in 1983 had 10 or so Apple ][+s and a couple of Apple ][es, which were in high demand because they could display lowercase lettering. We used these machines to run a BASIC program that coached us on what we learned in French class.

WHAT IS THE ORANGE?
L’ORANGE

We were told to ignore accent marks.

I was able to stop the program and look at the code within 15 minutes of starting my first lesson. I was hooked. Yeah, yeah, the French thing was mildly interesting but this computer was cool.

I took a couple of computer classes my senior year of high school and I honed my programming skills: Apple stuff at school and Commodore VIC-20 at home (budgetary concerns and all that). I had three really good teachers in high school; I shared programming ideas with the French teacher who had written that first program I had hacked into, I learned lots from my official computer teacher and to this day I still hear the echoes of the third who criticized my code structuring style, ultimately resulting in my writing more efficient code. My first programs emulated what I saw at the various grocery and department stores and they became robust enough that they actually developed into an accounting system that was used at the family store.

So why was I sitting in that Introduction to Computers class? Because I had to. Prerequisites and all that. “You don’t have the experience to take Computer 102.” I dropped the class the second week. I had already done the “Hello, World” thing. Heck, my “Hello, World” had been dancing around and transmitted to the other end of the country at 300 baud.

I was told many times that I would never amount to anything because I ultimately dropped out of college and I had no letters beyond my name to back up the skills I claimed I had. I wasn’t formally trained, so what could I possibly know? I decided to prove myself and interviewed for a job that required a two-day self-paced training program and rigorous exam. They were smug, but I was even more smug. I finished the whole thing in three hours and aced the exam. The resulting contract gig was good and it put some good entries on my resumé. But then prospective employers started wanting the letters again.

Long entry short, I finally found my way to where I am today and I think I’m making a really good contribution to my company and I love what I do. I’ve proved what I could do and I found my way by talking lots and being charming. It’s what I do.

Why am I rambling on about this?

I’ve heard mention of Edward Snowden’s dropping out of high school and not having a degree and the amount of surprise that some have because he was able to accomplish many things and work in important jobs within the CIA without letters behind his name. Agree with him or not, he’s one smart cookie and obviously talented.

I’ve seen men and women make lots and lots of money for their employers by being the smartest one in the group be passed up for a promotion or raise because there are no letters behind their name. I’ve been told that it’s impossible to do something in a computer program and that I didn’t know better because I wasn’t a computer science person, and then I was able to make what they wanted to make happen, happen.

Had I continued to listen to the folks that told me that I couldn’t be a computer guy because I didn’t have the educational background, I don’t know where I would be today. I know that I wouldn’t be as happy as I am in my career right now. I’m happy that I decided to stop buying what others were offering and to build my own path. Am I conventional? Hardly. But I’m here and this is where I want to be.

And I feel just fine, even with no letters following me around.

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Real.

I feel this everyday.


Today, with the Supreme Court decisions striking down DOMA and California’s Prop 8 as both being unconstitutional, my feelings have only magnified. I shouldn’t need validity of what I know to be true, but it’s good to now be afforded the same federal rights as other married couples. Should the need arise, my husband now has full access to my pension. As I mentioned on Facebook, with it he can buy a monthly nice, cold pop (that’s a whole different blog entry). Taxes will be less of a nightmare and social security will go where it is suppose to go.

Our future just got even brighter.

I didn’t think I would get really emotional about the ruling announcements today, but some tears were shed in my cube as I saw the news go across the ticker.

Congratulations to the United States for taking another big step toward equality across all of your 50 states. Welcome to the 21st century.

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Thoughts, Y’all.

Last night I discovered that SkyNews was added to the Apple TV in the bedroom. A 24-hour news cable and news organization based in the UK, it’s much like CNN, MSNBC and the like except for the UK part. And the UK part is a big part of why I like the news organization. As one that follows the news with an alternating sense of urgency to an overwhelming sense of passivity, I find that I get better news coverage from organizations based outside of the U.S. The BBC, SkyNews, Al Jazeera; these are all organizations that are looking from the outside in and just reporting what they observe. While there’s always a bias present, there is less political bias from these non-American news organizations. It’s just the way things work, I guess.

The one thing that I immediately noticed is that Paula Deen’s face is not plastered all over SkyNews.


There, I made my American readers feel more comfortable by giving her a little plaster time in my blog.

CNN, MSNBC and the like are bringing up her name every seven minutes or so. The latest, breaking developments as to what her sponsors are doing are blurbed out to electronic devices from sea to shining sea, all because she admitted that she made racial derogatory remarks years ago while testifying under oath on a case that accuses her of doing the same within her company.

Here’s the deal. Paula Deen shouldn’t have done that. Using the “N” word (god I hate that term) is not very nice and shows a certain lack of compassion and understanding. I get that. I know that. As a gay man that has been called a “faggot” (what, no “F” word?) to my face on countless occasions, I understand that words can be hurtful, especially when they’re delivered with a bucket full of hostile emotions.

That all being said, I challenge ANYONE to stand up and say with a straight face that while they might not have said the “N” word, they have thought it. It’s not a good thought, by any means, and I’m not defending any sort of that behavior at all, but there’s some passage about glass houses, throwing stones, purple mountains majesty, amen that addresses this very situation.

She’s apologized. She’s human. But because she’s a fairly famous human, those that are not famous and probably irritable in many respects of their lives are anxious to tear her down, label her a sinner and, if it were still allowed, dunk in her in the nearest pond three times to see if she floated or not.

Give the woman a break. She’s learned her lesson. Hopefully it’ll sink in and she’ll learn a little more compassion and become a better person as a result of all of this. But shredding her across every television screen in a constant stream of exhausting banality is excessive. Aren’t there more important things going on in the world?

Oh yes, the Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Cuba yesterday didn’t have any alcohol. Nor did it have Edward Snowden. From what I’ve heard about Aeroflot, we should be lucky the seat had seatbelts and that both wings were attached (but that’s just based on gossip and rumor so I insert these things with an intent of wit.) I heard it mentioned many times on the news that there was no alcohol on this flight. Oh, and no Snowden.

Where in the world is Carmen Santiago, anyways?

While everyone is getting lured into the whole “find Snowden” thing, why isn’t there more focus on the fact that the government was doing illegal monitoring of its citizens’ communications? I don’t understand why that’s not the lead story in all of this. THAT is what should have journalists outraged, not the lack of crew juice on an Aeroflot flight.

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Shade.

Does anyone know what kind of tree this is? My Grandma and Grandpa Country had a couple of these trees around their house back in the day and I have always enjoyed sitting in the shade under one of these trees. I might have to go scouting around the local nursery to figure this out.


It is Monday and it is lunch time already. I am working from home today and I have to admit that while the weekend went by way too quickly, I’m feeling pretty good today. I feel like there’s a thunderstorm thinking about forming for the afternoon, as the hazy, lazy days of summer are definitely upon us. The fans are doing their best to keep us cool here at The Manor. They are mostly successful.

The outside thermometer says its 95ºF. Seems like it’s a good day to sit in the shade.

Tayto.

So all of a sudden I am having a really strong craving for Tayto crisps. I haven’t had these in a very long time and when I did enjoy these delightful crisps, it was only on one occasion at a convenience station somewhere near Limerick.

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So now I am on a mission to find a case of Taytoes (or is it Taytos?) here in the United States. Unless a gentle reader from Ireland would like to help a fine lad out.

One ironic thing about this sudden craving is that apparently the Tayto people recently announced a Tayto chocolate bar!

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I am very intrigued by this and am eager to try it. Even if we have to fly to Ireland to do so. (That might get a bit pricey, though).

Oh.

Today is Thursday. I keep thinking today is Friday but a quick check of the calendar confirms that which I feared, today is Thursday.

I’m already in weekend mode. I hope I remember to come to work tomorrow.

In the meanwhile, let’s dance.

CycleZen.

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When I started actively riding my bike again late last year I made a conscious effort of riding in the morning before work. I figured that this would be a good way to motivate me and to have a better, more productive day. By getting the blood moving, the muscles working and the juices flowing early in the morning, I’d be a top-notch soldier of life, just like those in the Armed Forces that I admire.

This approach has worked quite well for me and I believe that the results are paying off, both physically and mentally. However, over the past couple of weeks I have been struggling with my schedule again; sometimes 0530 just feels too early to me and conversely, 2130 (9:30 p.m.) just feels to early to go to bed when there’s still daylight until 10:00 p.m. (Curses, Daylight Saving Time!)

The other thing I have been struggling with is the jarring of an alarm clock. Normally I wear my FitBit on my wrist at night and that has a gentle little vibration thingee that wakes me up at a prescribed time. Unfortunately my FitBit died (I think it finally gave in to the ride it had in the washing machine a while back) and I’ve had to rely on my alarm. It’s kind of humorous to realize that I had forgotten how much I dislike any sort of audible alarm in the morning.

I’m digressing.

Anyways, because of the struggling I’ve been doing with the morning thing, I have opted to ride my bike after supper a couple of nights this week and the results have been quite satisfactory. Not only have I gotten the physical exercise that I was looking for (albeit on a more manageable schedule), but I have really stretched the mental muscles while exercising and it has been quite nice. Riding my bike always puts me into a certain headspace where I can be more creative and the like, but the past couple of rides have been really zen like. Things have drifted in and out of my head, problems have been resolved and logistical problems with my projects at work have worked themselves out, all whilst riding my bike. I’ve lost myself in these zen moments so much that I’ve “come to” a couple of times and not realized how many miles I have pedaled at that moment and have quickly had to make the determination to head back home. Now before anyone gets overly concerned, my safety has never been in jeopardy, I’m always fully aware of my surroundings, but I have been able to lose myself in that moment, which has helped me find a really sweet spot in my head.

I don’t lose myself in the moment nearly as much as I used to. That’s rather unfortunate.

One of the reasons that I love road trips in the Jeep is because not only can I satisfy my road geek/road warrior/road scholar needs that are always present, but my road trips afford me much of the same zen-like moments that I am enjoying on my bicycle. Because of these zen moments this week, I have accomplished more this week at work (and reorganized several personal, extraneous matters that were niggling at the back of my mind). Given a few moments away from the noise of iDevices and ringing phones and IMs and the like, I feel like I’m able to conquer the world again.

And with a few more of these zen-like experiences, I must do just that.

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Tuesday.

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So I’m sitting here thinking about this blog entry when I’m distracted by a rumbling sound coming from the distance. It’s not an approaching thunderstorm; the rumbling is going on for too long at a time. The screen door to the patio rattles just a little bit which makes me briefly wonder if we are having some sort of little earthquake. I don’t think that’s the case either. I then deduce that they must be testing repaired jet engines again at the near by former Air Force Base. They can get quite loud and the wind must be blowing from the right direction or something.

Today is Tuesday and I am feeling good. I just told a friend online that I am feeling rather feisty today. Right before lunch I sent an email that contained the sentence, “since I have much cents today, here’s two more.” Just as I do on my blog from time to time, I tend to write in a colorful manner when provoked to do so. Now that I think about it I probably speak in the same way when giving presentations and the like. It’s just part of my wiring. It’s a nifty option if you can get it installed.

Our cat Tom must have glanced at the calendar and realized that it’s almost summer time because he has now begun his fair-weather routine of exiting and entering the kitchen through the screen door to the patio a minimum of three dozen times during my lunch hour. He isn’t as quick as he used to be at it, he only saunters up to his food dish instead of tearing through the kitchen to grab a quick bite, but for an 18 year old cat he’s holding his own. As long as he’s still around he can do anything he wants because as far as cats in my lifetime go, he’s been around the longest. He’s earned the right to act like a senior citizen. However, he has not earned the right to dig a hole through the new screen in our new patio door. I think he’s still planning a way to make a hole in that screen though, even though he strives to look innocent.

I am using my iPad as my full-time mobile device these days and am trying to use my older MacBook Pro for DJing. I made a tactical error last week by upgrading the laptop to the beta version of OS X Mavericks. It’s not quite as ready for full-time as I originally thought. It’s working fine, but there are glitches here and there than can be frustrating. I’m definitely not moving to iOS 7 on my iPad (when it’s available as a beta) until the final version is out. Maybe I’m not as adventurous as I used to be or maybe I’ve found some more common sense.

It’s good to have some sense to share once in a while.