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Of course people don’t want war

"Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

— Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials


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On Programmers – you are one or you aren’t

I started college as a computer science student. I switched to the college of engineering because I knew "electrical engineers make all the money." One of the professors (actually, I think he was a department head) tried to convince me to stay in computers or "at least take one more class" to which I declined and he said, "you’ll be back." True to his word I returned, battered and bruised with a diminished gpa, to the college of liberal arts to study computer science. I asked why out of 500 students he tried to encourage me in such a way. He simply said, "you have a knack for computers." That remains on of the biggest compliments I have received.

I read more frequently articles that reference programmers and non-programmers. I read one that documented my case claiming that early in an intro to computer science course you can separate which students will succeed as programmers and the ones that will never understand.

But the dirty little secret of the software development industry is that this is also true even for people who can program: there’s a vast divide between good developers and mediocre developers. A mediocre developer can program his or her heart out for four years, but that won’t magically transform them into a good developer. And the good developers always seem to have a natural knack for the stuff from the very beginning. [Source]

I don’t have the ego to say I am a great programmer but my work frequently has me altering code done by lesser programmers and, although the teacher in me wants to reach out to them, I have to wonder if they wouldn’t be better served by a career change.

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Your Happy Meal Just Got More Expensive

Minimum wage has been increased from $5.85 to $7.25!

The vote was 315-116, with more than 80 Republicans joining Democrats to pass it.

The bill would raise the wage floor in three steps. It would go to $5.85 an hour 60 days after signed into law by the president, to $6.55 a year later and to $7.25 a year after that.


That means someone working a minimum wage job for 40 hours will get $290 instead of $234 or a week’s worth of work. Of course federal and state taxes must be removed as well as social security and medicare.

Do you remember your first minimum wage job? I think mine was $2.35 an hour. I seem to also remember a $2.85 per hour figure. One of my early jobs paid $3 per hour under the table and I remember being thrilled with it because it was over minimum wage.

Jobs I did prior to college included baby sitting and yard work of course. I also worked for a construction guy. He would have his high cost labor just leave debris all over the job site and then on the weekends I would come in and move trash to the dumpster. He (Steve Garvy) would also pay me for odd jobs like once he paid $85 for me to take a machette to a quarter acre of over grown land. The weeds were 12 feet tall. I washed buses (the small shuttles although there was one about 3 feet shy of a city bus). Too young to drive, my friend and I drove them anyway. Our duties expanded to include maintenance including repairing a defective car phone (yes it was wired in), checking fluids, and changing tires (yes, I bent the frame on a bus with the jack). I also slid one sideways in a snowy parking lot for fun. I worked at a Wendy’s for 2 months. I also worked at a K-Mart as a cashier, cashier supervisor, toys department, electronics department, floor supervisor, and night stockman (nothing more fun than playing dodgeball in a Kmart at 2am!). My favorite pre-college job was selling flowers outside of an Amish market in New Jersey.

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Off the wagon – Gimme the juice!

My first cup of coffee was at age 10 or 11 in Café Du Monde (wikipedia entry) eating beignets.

The cafe is open (has been since Oct 19, 2005) and trying to contact its employees. If you took in some Katrina victoms that are related to or know of people who worked for Cafe Du Monde, please let them know.

We are still trying to make contact with many members of the Cafe Du Monde team. If you are an employee of Cafe Du Monde please E-Mail us to let us know that you are O.K. and fill us in on your future plans. [Source]

That cup of coffee was horrible. I switched to hot chocolate and stayed away from coffee for nearly a decade.

In college I was very involved in dorm life. I became the treasurer of the Clement Hall Resident Association. I ran movie night introducing double features with animated cartoons during intermission. I would start of with a series of cartoons then we would show a popular movie, do a cartoon intermission, and finish the evening with an esoteric cult flick (wish I had written the names down). I also had a bootleg of the Rocky Horror Picture Show (before it was released to video) and we would periodically watch the show on Friday’s at midnight complete with a virgin call but not with the full regalia. Eventually I took a job as a desk worker with shifts of midnight to 4am and 4am to 8am. Later I would become a Resident Assistant for the 8th floor.

As a desk worker, sleep would call. Change would tinkle into the vending machine and coca-cola would keep me awake. Soon it felt like all the money I was making was going into that machine. One night the coffee pot caught my eye. It was ever present and best of all free. I tried it. Didn’t really like it but it worked! And better than the Coke. I was renewed! And hooked.

At my peak, I was drinking 2 pots of coffee a day. I would brew one in the morning and another about 8 in the evening. I thought all that shaking was due to unstable ground (Knoxville is on a fault line discovered in 1993). When I started having serious dizzy spells, I cut way back on the coffee. 4 or 5 weeks ago I stopped drinking coffee altogether. Since then I have had 3 cups. I also had a very minimal number of soft drinks. In recent years, I have had very little alcohol to drink.

A full pot of coffee sits on the counter now. Thanks Target! Stopped in Target last night to get dinner supplies and they had my coffee marked way down. I grew weak. I bought it. Today I shall be perky!

See also RHPS fan club.

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Night Hike at Alum Cave Bluffs

Years ago one January I drove to the Smokies with a female companion and we embarked upon a night hike of the Alum Cave Bluffs trail. Our only source of light was the moon and two cheapo AA battery $1 flashlights the first of which died on the hike up just as we emerged from the tree line.

• Alum Cave Bluffs Trail (11 miles round trip) starts off easy but become difficult. An initial one-and-a-half-mile trail takes you through Arch Rock’s erosion-created tunnel. the next 0.8 mile is steeper and leads to Alum Cave Bluffs which is a 100-foot high cliff. This last half of the trail is steep and, at times, hikers must grip trailside cables to traverse cliffs. The trail begins at the Alum Cave Bluffs parking area at Newfound Gap Road between Newfound Gap and Chimney Tops on the Tennessee side of the Smoky Mountains. Elevation gain is 2,800 feet. [Source

We conserved the batteries on the other light and chose to walk the rest of the way up by moonlight. It wasn’t long before we came to a thick, solid sheet of ice covering the trail. To our left, a steep ravine. To our right, a towering ice and snow covered cliff face.

I was pushing the boundary of my comfort zone. This was dangerous, we were ill equiped for such endeavors, and no one knew we were on the trail. I would have been more comfortable alone.

I am a strong believer that we grow by pushing our boudaries. We find the edge of our comfort zone and step just beyond it. That night we made it carefully up the slippery slope and, on the way down, we rode the trail like a surfer rides a wave. It was blast! Right after the ice the second flash light died and we had to hike the rest of the way in the forest blackness.

There is a fine line between pushing the envelop and stupidity. We can step outside of our comfort zones and still be safe. Personal growth comes through experimentation. By definition, nothing happens in stasis. Walk a different path to class. Drive a backroad to work. Wake up earlier than normal. Look at the tree outside your office building and study it. Create change in your life. Seek entropy. And try something that makes you uncomfortable. Live!

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Rattle snakes are real!

Rattle snake - not rubber

Pictures of a 13 year old’s recovery from a rattle snake bite (not lunch safe – gross) are circulating the Internet.

On July 21, 2002, just after my 13th birthday, I was bitten by a Western Diamondback rattlesnake. I was located on a trail in a hiking area near Yosemite National Park, California. The bite occurred when I was sitting on a small boulder at a distance of 4.5 miles from the trailhead with my cabin group at camp. I had my arms dangling at my side, and a 5 foot long rattlesnake bit me in the middle of my left palm.Source

I thought it fitting to post my family’s encounter with a rattler outside of Gatlinburg, TN. The snake sunning itself, the family as far back as the trail permitted studying the snake, Noah seems nervous, and ok, so all the kids look nervous.

As we visit the great outdoors, we have to remember, it is their home.

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Happy Anniversary Wife!

I first met Cathy on October 23, 1999. I knew she was remarkable at first glance! We probably exchanged 3 sentences and by happenstance were brought together by friends in the beginning of 2000 hoping we would dispense with some mutual angst and move on with our lives.

Guns N Garters - We married here!

Cathy and I dated approximately a year an a half. During that time she won me over and I put an engagement ring on her finger. A short while later we were watching the children play in the cove and questioned why wait. We had each experienced fancy weddings with our previous marriages. Noah was too young to appreciate a wedding; he has almost no memory of our trip to Disney World. Tommy was still too unpredictable and self-absorbed. The wedding would be meaningless to each of the boys, or so went our thinking. I checked some legalities and acquired a marriage license. Cathy and I told no one of our plan, had the grandparents watch the boys, and we took Sarah with us to Gatlinburg to Garter’s & Gun’s. We picked three nice costumes which velco’d on the back. They took our ol’ tyme photo. We went to a room decored as a chapel that could probably hold all of 10 people. The photographer performed a legally binding ceremony and Cathy and I became married on August 25, 2001 much to the disappointment and disbelief of many people.

Amy was born on June 10, 2002. There has been speculation that she encouraged our marriage. This speculation is wrong. Suffice it to say, everyone responded to 9/11 in their own way.

Six and a half years fly by so quickly. As I look back, they have been fantastic years! As I understand, the milestone years in marriages are 1, 3, 7, 10, 14, and 21. Those the years with the greatest numbers of divorces. Our relationship is still magical and strong. If anything could stand improvement, I need to be a better husband, father and provider. I remain the wildcard that introduces instability into our family. I need to be more of an anchor, a rock, a foundation. Looking back on our five years of marriage, the only missed goals have centered around that instability. So before we blink again and see another 5 years pass, I must provide more stability. In all other aspects, we have a wonderful marriage and a wonderful live!

Happy Anniversary Cathy! I love you!

ps. "5 years is a wood anniversary." Uh…

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Parallel Parking Tip

Do you have trouble parallel parking? If you have a good hand brake and front wheel drive like this Honda Civic then you too can parallel park perfectly everytime! Or you could do it like they do in Japan. My favorite is the Mini-Cooper sliding into the space.

I went to 9th and 10th grade in Medford, New Jersey. I went to 11th and 12th in Germantown, TN. Because of the differing state laws on when you could get a driver’s permit, I missed out on driver’s ed and instead had private lessons. Johnny “Dr. Fever” Caravella pulls up to my house in a beat up Nova. To learn to parallel park we drove to Memphis State University where I practiced until we bumped into one of the cars then we would pull ahead to find another spot until we bumped into those cars and repeated the process. Eventually, I became pretty good at parallel parking.

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400 meter relay

When I was a freshman in high school I participated in track. I loved the thrill of the pole vault, and the challenge of the hurdles. Although the high jump was interesting, I just didn’t do well. I would have continued the track team throughout high school but in my sophomore year I was offered my first regular job and had to choose between practices and money; money, the great evil, won and took me down the wrong path.

One small winter track meet has so few competitors that for the 400 meter relay we raced 4 boys teams on the inner lanes and 2 girls teams on the outer lanes but officially the girls weren’t racing the boys. I was set as the anchor which meant I could bring the race home! Our first runner did well as did our second runner. As I watched him hand off to our third runner I was certain that we’d win the race. Then it happened. Our third runner set off in a hard jog. He seemed to be thrilled but we were all horrified. All 3 boys teams easily passed him and moments later the girls who had lagged have a track behind passed him. My dreams of winning had been crushed to a paniced desire to simply pass the girls and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do that. I set off in the hardest sprint of my life and I beat the girls and brought our team in last.

Never would I have thought that race would become the metaphor for my life. I’ve been running that race for so long and I’m so fatigued. My race is different. I feel like I also have spectators throwing things under my feet trying to trip me. Can I even beat the girls at this point?

I have 11 minutes before the first team crosses the finish line;The first team just crossed the finish line. I have probably 2 hours if I’m lucky and not tripped before I’ll cross the first finish line. I’m not even on the track right now.

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I don’t feel like living anymore.

Now that’s not a cry for help and no need to put me on a suicide watch. It means “the they” have won. I’m beat. Beat down.

I used to suck the marrow out of life. There was no challenge I wouldn’t accept and very little I didn’t want to do. Early on I set my eyes on hang gliding. Haven’t done that one yet and I have yet to “jump from a perfectly good airplane” either. But I was fearless and I have done much!

In the 9th or 10th grade I was at a school dance taking a break from the noise of the gym and talking with friends in the hallway. Something landed in my hair and I turned around and mouthed off at some muscle bound nimrod that had obviously thrown whatever it was. The first punched landed before I had fully turned my attention back to my friends and I momentarily blacked out as I slammed up against the lockers. Just as my vision returned I took another punch to the face and discovered blackness again. I received about five consecutive hits just under the left eye. Blackness returned to light just in time to see the fist, blackness, repeat.

I could not get a punch off and could not get my arms up to block the punches. I could hear a voice, “just walk away.” Is that where I am in my life? I am definitely taking repeated blows. Am I to “just walk away?” And for the literal readers, no, not family. I would never abandon family. I mean dreams. I mean desires. I mean Willy Loman. I mean Sam Lowry.

One week later, my blackened eye was traveling to Virginia to embarassingly visit relatives.

I don’t feel like living. I don’t want to hang glide or parachute anymore. I don’t even want to leave the ground. And I am tired of having to explain my blackened eye.

(Of course this post is a result of exhaustion, stress and economics. Let’s see how my tune changes if I ever get back on top.)